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the hasty generalisations of sanguine, or of despondent, partisans. All those who sturdily push their way through the thickets of that ancient controversy find such fruit growing in profusion on every bush. A Whig in Devonshire wrote out to Philadelphia that the whole nation was mad, and that he could scarcely meet one man in twenty who did not wish to see Great Britain, and himself, bankrupt rather than not bring the colonies to the feet of Lord George Germaine. John Wesley, on the other hand, while heartily agreeing that the nation was mad, gave as a proof of it that a great majority of Englishmen, Irishmen, and Scotchmen were exasperated almost to insanity against the King and the King's policy. Anything may be proved on either side by a judicious selection of individual utterances that were made in all good faith, but too frequently from very imperfect knowledge. More profitable results are to be obtained by minute observation of certain facts and circumstances which are beyond dispute; and the significance of which can be tested by those who, whenever the England of their own lifetime has passed through a period of warlike excitement, have kept their eyes open to what went on around them. Twice in the memory of men over sixty years of age, and once at least in the experience of everyone who reads these volumes, Britain has been engaged in a war on which the interest of the nation was eagerly concentrated. All who have noted the features and incidents of the Crimean war, and the Transvaal war, — and who have studied the parallel features and incidents of the years which elapsed between 1774 and 1782, — may estimate for themselves whether the American war, as wars go, was popular or not.
Before commencing that inquiry, there is one preliminary remark which, on the face of the matter, it is permissible to make. The House of Commons, at the last, with the warm and very general approbation of the country, put a stop to hostilities, and recognised the independence of America. The British nation had been
tried in the fire before then, and has been tried since ; and it has never been the national custom to back out of a just quarrel for no other reason than because Britain, at a given moment, was getting the worst of it. In 1782 our people solemnly and deliberately abandoned the attempt to reconquer America on the ground that it was both wrong and foolish; and that fact, to the mind of everyone who holds the British character in esteem, affords an irresistible proof that a very large section of the people must all along have been fully persuaded that the coercion of our colonists by arms was neither wise nor righteous.
The surest criterion of the popularity attaching to a warlike policy is afforded by the prevailing tone and tendency of the public journals. So long as a people have their hearts in a contest, newspapers which oppose the war are few, and for the most part, timid; while the newspapers which support the war are numerous and thriving, and very seldom err by an excess of tolerance when dealing either with critics at home, or with adversaries abroad. Books or pamphlets, however large their number, do not supply an equally important test of national opinion. For on the one hand, it is notorious that Ministers of State in the eighteenth century were in the habit of paying an author to defend them and their proceedings; and, on the other hand, a man who, from public spirit or private spite, is opposed to a Government, thinks little of spending ten or twenty pounds in order that his fellow-citizens should be able to peruse his views in print, however few among them may care to avail themselves of the opportunity. But a newspaper lives by being read; and, in the great majority of cases, none read it, and still fewer buy it, unless they agree with its opinions. The first quarter of a century in George the Third's reign was to a marked degree an age of newspapers. Whatever good or evil the King might have done, he had lent, most unintentionally, an extraordinary impulse to the activity and influence of public journalism. During the long constitutional agi.
tation, of which the Middlesex Election was the outward and visible symptom, newspapers had played a commanding part. They had multiplied in number; they had grown in size; they had perfected themselves in the art of producing matter acceptable to their readers ; and they had greatly increased their circulation. Between 1760 and 1775 the stamps issued by the Treasury had risen, from less than nine and a half, to considerably over twelve and a half, millions a year. In 1776, - after some experience of a war conducted beneath the eyes of a vigilant press, - the Cabinet, needing money much and loving newspapers but little, raised the stamp duty to the amount of three halfpence on every half sheet. Still the sale went upwards; and it was not until Lord North retired from office, and the long argument between the Crown and the people was thereby concluded, that the growing demand for newspaper stamps began to flag, and at length actually fell.
Among London newspapers the largest, the most attractive, and quite incomparably the most in request, were opposed to the American policy of the Cabinet. The "North Briton," indeed, was no longer in existence. Number Forty-five, the dearest scrap of printed matter on record, — for it cost the Government, soon or late, a hundred thousand pounds to suppress it,
suppress it, — had been burned by the common hangman amid public excitement so vehement that the hangman himself was with difficulty saved from being burned as well. But a whole covey of Phænixes rose from its ashes, eager to avenge their defunct predecessor with beak and talon. The London “Evening Post," the “Public Advertiser," the "Morning Chronicle and London Advertiser," and the “Gazetteer and New Daily Advertiser,” gave the Court and the Bedfords superabundant cause to regret that they had not left Wilkes and his newspaper alone.
Most of the leading journals, mindful of their origin, were careful to insert the time-honoured name of “Advertiser" in some corner of their title. They had commenced existence as advertising sheets, containing little
news and less politics. But it was far otherwise with the imposing pages which, on every other morning during every week that the American war lasted, came rustling forth from the London presses. They did not altogether disdain to inform the world where purchasers might hear of desirable house-property, and seasoned hunters, and drafts of fox-hound puppies, and pectoral lozenges for defluxions, and Analeptic Pills for gout, and Catholic Pills for everything; but they devoted very much the larger part of their ample space to more flaming and fascinating topics. Their varied columns teemed with news which could not be found in the “ London Gazette,” and which the Ministry had frequently the strongest personal reasons for concealing. In communicated articles; in spicy paragraphs; in epistles of inordinate length, signed by old Roman names of the Republican era, — they flagellated the Prime Minister and every one of his colleagues, and denounced him for having begun an unjust war which he was totally incompetent to conduct.
The “Morning Post and Daily Advertiser” had been converted into a ministerial paper by Henry Bate, the editor. Bate was a clergyman by profession, and was reasonably enough viewed in Whig circles as one who did not rise to the obligations of his sacred calling; for very eminent Tories, in his own day and afterwards, have admitted that at this period of his career he was nothing better than a bully and a ruffian. Dr. Johnson, who fought for his Sovereign's policy strenuously, and even fiercely, but who always fought fair, spoke of Bate with scathing reprobation; and Mr. Croker, who had no Whig prejudices, has written an account of the young man's performances which confirms Johnson's strictures upon his character. If we except the damaging advo
Chapter vii. of English Newspapers, by H. R. Fox-Bourne; London,
2 " Sir,” said Johnson, “I will not allow this man to have merit. No, Sir; what he has is rather the contrary. I will, indeed, allow him courage ; and on this account we so far give him credit. We have more respect for a man who robs boldly on the highway than for a fellow who jumps
cacy of the “Morning Post," and the official sterility of the "London Gazette," Ministers had not much for which to thank the newspapers. The little “ London Chronicle," a square foot in size, treated them with a friendliness tempered by its abhorrence of Lord Bute and the Scotch, whom, (like English mankind in general,) it persisted in regarding as the secret inspirers of George the Third and his Cabinet. The "Public Ledger" announced itself as a political commercial paper, open to all parties and influenced by none; and it bestowed on Lord North an occasional word of praise, accompanied by much good advice which he seldom heeded. And yet even the "Ledger" excused the American invasion of Canada as a step to which the colonists had been driven in self-defence. There were journals which, while they disapproved the war, still continued to speak well of the Government; but in the whole circuit of the London Press no newspaper could be found which adopted the line of being in opposition to the Government, but in favour of the war.
In estimating the balance of British opinion during the American Revolution great importance must be attached to the views expressed by the newspapers; but not less significant was the impunity with which those views were given to the world. It has happened more than once that an Administration, already on the decline, has become powerful and popular when a war broke out, and has retained its advantage so long as that war endured ; and, under the Georges, an accession of strength,
out of a ditch, and knocks you down behind your back. Courage is a quality so necessary for maintaining virtue that it is always respected, even when it is associated with vice."
This left-handed compliment, - the best that was to be said for Bate, – is to be found in the seventy-ninth chapter of Boswell's Life of Johnson, as edited by the Right Honourable John Wilson Croker. Croker gives a short narrative of Bate's proceedings in a note subjoined to the passage. To the end of his days, which were many, " Parson Bate" was a famous patron of the prize-ring; and his prowess had been tested in many chance encounters. His admirers assure us that the professionals were much relieved by his refusal to step inside the ropes. Late in life he was made a Baronet. To such base use did that ancient, but unfortunate, order come at last.