« ПредишнаНапред »
doners, refused to admit any blemish on the fame of the victor of Culloden, and found no fault with his Royal Highness except that he had left too many Camerons and Macphersons to be made gaugers and custom-house officers. Scotchmen, (wrote a vigorous controversialist,) seemed to vie with each other in the business of fettering our fellow-subjects in America, and of subjugating a brave, a loyal, and a free people to absolute slavery and bondage; but their cunning and persistent efforts were really levelled not so much against the liberties of the colonists as against the liberties of Englishmen. “But, alas, since the demise of the Saviour of England, the late worthy Duke of Cumberland, — Wully the Butcher, as the Scotch call him, — an Englishman dare scarce look a Scotchman in the face.”] Such was the overcharged invective which habitually disfigured the public journals. Our progenitors, it must be admitted, occasionally came rather oddly by opinions which they held very stubbornly; and a vast number of Englishmen were confirmed and rooted in their friendship towards America because with some cause, but out of all measure, they envied and disliked the Scotch.
1 Letter by Toby Trim ; January 29, 1777.
SINCE the beginning of that century which now was far gone, the City of London, in time of war, had always been a centre of warlike feeling.
In 1701 it eagerly rallied to William the Third, whom it did not greatly love, when he proudly and indignantly accepted the challenge of the French King. In 1711 the butchery of Malplaquet had sickened the nation; and the national conscience was revolted by the wanton prolongation of the horrors of a war, the objects of which might long ago have been secured by a prudent and disinterested Cabinet. The new Tory Ministry, which had displaced Godolphin, was actually negotiating with France; and yet the City of London ade preparations for greeting Marlborough, as leader of the war-party, with a popular demonstration so aggressive and significant that it was very properly suppressed by the Government in the name of peace and order. During the Seven Years' War the Corporation supported Chatham with enthusiasm and devotion. After he fell from power, and was succeeded by ministers who thought that there had been enough fighting, he was honoured, - on his way to the Guildhall, and inside its walls, — with a reception such as no subject has ever experienced in English history. But in 1775 the hostilities in Massachusetts found City opinion sullen and recalcitrant; and that state of mind rapidly developed into angry and determined opposition.
All the four members for London voted steadily against the war from first to last. The Corporation
carried Humble Remonstrances to the foot of the Throne with so much persistency that George the Third would almost as willingly have seen at St. James's the blue and yellow uniforms of Washington's army as the red gowns, and furred caps, and heavy gold chains of the City officers. Every successive appearance of that all too familiar group at the door of his Presence Chamber indicated that he would once more have to listen, with some show of civility, to a long screed of manly common sense which he strongly suspected Mr. Alderman Wilkes of having drafted. The Recorder of London wore mourning in public “for the brothers whom he had lost at Lexington;" and his conduct so far met the view of those who had elected him that, when he died no long time after, the Court of Aldermen appointed a successor who notoriously held the same opinions. Through these trying months John Sawbridge was Chief Magistrate of the City, as well as one of its parliamentary representatives. He was a person of social consequence; a country gentleman, a Colonel of Militia in his county, and a high authority in the clubs of St. James's Street, where he was accounted the best whist player in town. Wealthy, proud, and honest, he was beholden to no minister, and afraid of no one. He had stood up in face of the Government majority at Westminster, in its most insolent moods, as often and as sturdily as did Barré, and Savile, and Dowdeswell; and only less frequently than Edmund Burke and Charles Fox. The courage and vigour with which, at the Mansion House and in the Commons, Sawbridge thwarted and rebuked the operations of the Cabinet, secured him enormous popularity as Lord Mayor, and a safe seat for life as a member for the City.
Sawbridge strengthened his influence among Liverymen by the somewhat unscrupulous audacity with which
1 “The day before the Sheriffs went to know when the King would receive the Address, he said to a young man who was hunting with him ; 'I must go to town to-morrow to receive those fellows in furs. They will not be very glad to see me, nor I them.'” Last Journals; Dec. 1781.
he asserted the privileges and immunities of the City in a matter about which almost all citizens were of one mind. At the outbreak of hostilities the Board of Admiralty was even more behindhand in its preparations than the War Office, and with less excuse. Lord Barrington, the Secretary at War, had always cherished a hope that the dispute would be settled by negotiation, and had done what he dared, (which was not much,) to bring that result about; whereas Sandwich, the First Lord of the Admiralty, -- who was in the inner counsels of the Government, and the spokesman for his colleagues in the House of Peers,—had consistently laboured, both in Parliament and behind the scenes, to embroil the relations between England and her colonies. He, at all events, was bound to provide that, so far as his own Department was concerned, the country should be in a position promptly, and strongly, to enforce by arms a policy for the adoption of which he himself was so largely responsible. And yet, as late as December 1774, he had deliberately reduced the Navy by four thousand men, on a total strength of twenty thousand, of whom a full quarter were Royal Marines. Eleven months afterwards he called on Parliament to vote an addition of twelve thousand men. The number of seamen was doubled in a single evening; and the process of violently and suddenly withdrawing so vast a multitude from their homes, their habits, and their avocations, paralysed commerce, and caused wide-reaching and unnecessary suffering to individuals.
The newspapers made known the story with a copious employment of those nautical terms which were familiar to a sea-going nation. Thirty sail of ships, (it was reported,) were “tumbling in Yarmouth Roads at single anchor,” without anyone on board any of them except the master, and a few little cabin-boys. As many more lay in Harwich harbour, losing their voyage at a time when there was a great demand for their cargoes in the London markets. A captain, who owned his vessel, and whose sailors had been taken
out of her by the press-gang in an Essex haven, paid fifty-six guineas for a crew to work her round to London; whereas, with his own people to help him, it would have been done for as many shillings. The mariners of the Northern counties, formidable in a strike or a Revenue-riot, were not submissive under this more serious invasion of their liberty. Hundreds of prime seamen left their families penniless in the ports of Durham and Northumberland, and ran off, with the project of remaining away until the heat of the Press was abated. But that time was long in arriving; for the maritime conscription grew more active and stringent as the necessities of the country deepened, and her enemies multiplied. Discontent after a while led to open violence. The impressed men, on board a tender in the river between North and South Shields, rose upon the crew, took possession of the ship, and carried her to sea under cannon-fire from her consorts, and from a fort which protected the entrance of the channel. A week or two afterwards a Lieutenant of the Royal Navy organised a raid upon the Colliers which lay in the estuary. A great number of sailors came to the help of the vessel which he first attacked, and mustered on the forecastle to repel boarders. The fight commenced with lumps of coal and billets of wood on the part of the defenders, answered on the other side by a blunderbuss, which first missed fire, and then killed a man at whom it had not been aimed. Newcastle citizens, who had learned by repeated experience the temper and quality of a Quayside mob, felt greatly relieved when they ascertained that Lieutenant Oakes and his party had escaped with their lives. 1
In and below London the misery was intense; and the resistance of the sufferers, though less determined, entailed a longer list of fatal accidents. Upwards of a thousand seamen were captured in the Thames alone.
1 Local Records of Northumberland and Durham; by John Sykes, Newcastle, 1832.
PT. II.--VOL. II.