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the English people for the introduction of arbitrary government. The successive steps of the process, by which that result was being brought about, are set forth in the last five paragraphs of the Letter to the Sheriffs of Bristol with the fullness and exactness of a political philosopher, and the incisive vigour of a practical statesman. Those paragraphs, indeed, are too long to quote; and it would be a literary crime to abridge or to paraphrase them; but the conclusions at which Burke had arrived are more briefly and roughly stated in a couple of sentences wherein he thus commented on the American rebellion. “We cannot,” he wrote, “amidst the excesses and abuses which have happened, help respecting the spirit and principles operating in these commotions. Those principles bear so close a resemblance to those which support the most valuable part of our constitution, that we cannot think of extirpating them in any part of His Majesty's dominions without admitting consequences, and establishing precedents, the most dangerous to the liberties of this kingdom.” 1
Horace Walpole, with whom the chief men of both parties freely conversed, had no doubt whither the road led which the stronger, and the worse, members of the Cabinet joyfully followed; and down which the less perverse, and the more timid, were irresistibly driven. He never was easy about the political future of his country, until North's Government fell, and the danger disappeared. During the winter when Howe and Washington were contending in the Jerseys, Walpole complained that his life at present consisted in being wished joy over the defeat and slaughter of fellowcountrymen, who were fighting for his liberty as well as for their own. Thirty months afterwards he spoke still more gloomily. It was bad enough, (he said,) to
The manuscript, which is in Mr. Burke's handwriting, is thus docketed by the fourth Earl Fitzwilliam : “ Probably this was intended as an amendment to the Address to be moved after the campaign of 1776." In that case, the paper must have been drafted at the precise point of time wbich this narrative has now reached.
be at war with France and Spain because we would not be content to let America send us half the wealth of the world in her own way, instead of in the way that pleased George Grenville and Charles Townshend. But the subversion of a happy Constitution, by the hands of domestic enemies, was a worse fate than any
which we could suffer from the foreigner; and that fate, unless the nation recovered its senses, only too surely awaited
Walpole emphatically declared that the freedom of England had become endangered, and her glory began to decline, from the moment that she “ran wild after a phantasm of absolute power” over colonies whose liberty was the source of her own greatness."
It was an ominous circumstance that the Jacobites and the Nonjurors were open-mouthed against America, and, one and all, were ardent supporters of the war. The members of that party, which professed the doctrine of passive obedience, had transferred their allegiance to George the Third, honestly and undisguisedly, from the moment that he made manifest his intention to select his own ministers and govern for himself. They stood by the Court, (as readers of Junius are aware) throughout every turn of the conflict which raged around the Middlesex Election. They were frequently taunted, in very good prose and extremely poor verse, with having deserted the shrine of their ancient loyalty; but the course of action which they adopted was to the credit of their common-sense and their consistency. The Jacobites of 1775 were not dreamers, nor dilettantes. Only half a life-time before that date they had been formidable enough to shake the State to the very foundation; and, now that they had suited themselves to their altered circumstances, they were a redoubtable party again. Men who had been Jacobites in their youth, and who were the friends of arbitrary government still, constituted a strong minority in the Corporations of
1 Walpole to the Countess of Ossory, Jan. 26, 1777. Walpole to Sir Horace Mann, June 16, 1779; and to the Countess of Ossory, June 22,
some towns, and a majority among the Justices of the Peace on not a few Petty Sessional benches in the northern counties. They did not amuse themselves with a ritual of wreaths and rosettes, or trouble themselves about the Christian name of the monarch whose health they drank. Their creed was a serious and genuine devotion to the principles in accord with which they thought that the country ought to be administered. If they could not have a Stuart, they were willing to accept a Hanoverian who pursued the Stuart policy; and they were quite ready to put their money on the White Horse, so long as he galloped in what they conceived to be the right direction. When once the American war broke out, it became evident to them that there were no lengths to which the King was not prepared to go: and there were most certainly none to which they themselves would not eagerly follow. Testimony to that effect was given by a witness who knew, as well as anybody, what the Jacobites were thinking. In one of the last letters which he wrote, David Hume, with the solemnity of a dying man, prophesied that, if the Court carried the day in America, the English Constitution would infallibly perish.2
Historians, who understand their business, when seeking to ascertain the trend of national opinion at any crisis in our history, have always laid stress upon the confidential reports of foreign emissaries accredited to St. James's, and on the conclusions which were
1 “The Scots address and fight now with as much zeal in the cause of the House of Brunswick as they did, during the last reigns, in that of the House of Stuart. This proves that it is not the name, but the cause, for which they ight. The Scots are in hopes that extinguishing the very name of English liberty in America will secure the destruction of the constitution in old England. In the present auspicious reign they think themselves nearer the completion of their wishes, and are therefore more insolent, and more ardent, in the pursuit.” Extract from the Gazetteer and New Daily Advertiser of 1776.
2 Histoire de l'Action Commune de la France et de l'Amérique pour l'Indépendance des États-Unis, par George Bancroft: Tome III., page 200. The Paris version of this work is described as “Traduit et annoté par le Comte Adolphe de Circourt ; accompagné de Documents Inédits.”
borne in upon the mind of the potentate to whom those reports were addressed. Our knowledge of English feeling, during the years that preceded our own Great Revolution, is largely derived from the secret correspondence of the French Ambassador at the Court of James the Second; and, in like manner, the correspondence of the Prussian Minister in London, at the time of the Declaration of Independence, throws an important light upon British politics. Indeed, of the two diplomatists, Frederic the Great's envoy is the safer guide. The Count de Maltzan was better qualified to distinguish between material facts, and party gossip, than de Barillon, who habitually dabbled in political intrigues at Westminster; and Frederic, in a very different degree from Louis the Fourteenth, was an employer to whom it was much less safe to tell a doctored and flattering tale than a disagreeable truth.
Frederic had observed every turn of the constitutional struggle in England as closely as he watched the variation in numbers of the Austrian or Russian armies, and with as good cause; and he now was firmly persuaded that the fears of Burke and Chatham with regard to the precarious condition of our public liberty were not exaggerated. It might have been supposed that the prospect would have left him indifferent; for assuredly he had no desire to set up a Parliamentary opposition at Berlin, or convert his own Kingdom into a limited monarchy. But he was in the habit of looking to results; and, in his eyes, the suitable form of government for any country was that, and only that, which produced strong and capable administration. The England, which Frederic the Great desired to see, was an England taking a continuous and intelligent interest in Continental movements; commanding the esteem and confidence of her neighbours; and able, with all her enormous resources well in hand, to make her influence decisively felt. But, under her then rulers, our country was a cipher in Europe; distracted by internal dissension, and spending in a foolish quarrel
with her own colonies the strength which had so recently made her the arbitress of the world, and which, — at the rate that she was lavishing men, money, and reputation, — might soon be hardly sufficient for the protection of her own coasts and arsenals.
Frederic, moreover, had a special grudge of his own against the system of government which had of late been inaugurated in England. That nation, under the inspiration of Lord Chatham, — the statesman who now was the prime assertor of its imperilled liberties, had fought the earlier campaigns of the Seven Years' War side by side with Prussia, and had helped her, in her dire extremity, with a supply of British gold which was only less welcome than the assistance of the British sword. But when George the Third ascended the throne, and as soon as he could get a minister to his mind, he tore up that glorious treaty of alliance; stopped the payment of a subsidy which to the English Treasury was a pittance, but which seemed a mountain of wealth to the thrifty Prussian War Office; and, in the hottest moment of the chase, threw Frederic over to the wolves. Those wolves, in the end, found him a tough morsel; but he never even pretended to forget that the first overt act of Personal Government in England had been to play him a trick which came very near to be his ruin. Detestation of Lord Bute, and of Lord Bute's Royal patron, and a very genuine love and admiration for Chatham, rendered the Prussian King an earnest and far-seeing friend of British constitutional freedom. If the nation, (such was the tenor of his predictions,) allowed the Sovereign to act according to his good pleasure, and abandoned the colonies to the lot which he destined for them, that lot would sooner or later be shared by England; for the policy of George the Third was the same everywhere, and he was pursuing despotic courses in all portions of his dominions. “ It appears,” Frederic wrote, “from all I hear, that the ancient British spirit has almost entirely eclipsed itself, and that everything tends to a change in the form of