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tion, and pursued with an amount of success, surpassing anything which had ever been known before. A combined movement, -- directed towards the improvement of our electoral system, and the extinction of those manifold facilities for corruption by which the Court kept in awe the Cabinet, and the Cabinet controlled the Parliament, — ran its course with growing velocity; and neither the Government at Whitehall, nor its adherents throughout the country, endeavoured to repress that movement either by penal legislation or by lawless violence. There were open meetings of Freeholders in the shires, and of Freemen in the cities; County Associations for the redress of grievances; Committees of Correspondence which maintained uniform and concerted action among reformers all through the kingdom; and public dinners with toasts so bravely worded as to ring like the challenge of a trumpet, and so numerous, when drunk in bumpers, as effectually to drown every vestige of caution and timidity. That such methods, without entailing any disagreeable consequences on those who employed them, should have been put in practice against a Ministry which was engaged in the conduct of an important war, is an indirect, but a most material, proof that the war itself was disliked by the nation.
The direct evidence is stronger yet; for at many County meetings there was a Resolution, at most banquets a whole string of flowery Sentiments, and prominent in every Petition and Address an emphatic paragraph, all of which denoted friendliness towards America, and exhaled hearty aspirations for an immediate Peace. At length, in December 1781, the Livery. men of London, in public assembly duly convoked, took action which has been so forcibly narrated by a contemporary historian that it is well to reproduce his description, italics and all.
They besought the King to remove both his public and private counsellors, and used these stunning and memorable words : 'Your armies are captured; the wonted superiority of your navies is annihilated; your dominions are lost.' These
words, (so the writer proceeded,) could have been used to no other king : "for no king had lost so much, without losing all. If James the Second lost his crown, yet the Crown lost no dominions.”1 The Address from the Livery was never presented; but the last had not yet been heard of it ; for a week afterwards, in Westminster Hall, a similar petition was proposed by Charles Fox, and adopted by a vast concourse of Westminster electors. The Footguards were held in readiness for the protection of Downing Street against a possible incursion of the Opposition mob, and not at all from an apprehension lest the war-party should invade the Hall, and attempt to break the heads of the peaceparty. Experience had often shown that there was no ground for anticipating any such contingency. Antiwar meetings always passed off quietly between 1776 and 1782; although there is no reason to suppose that our ancestors were more tolerant, or better-mannered, than their descendants. The Wilkes riots, and the Keppel riots, conclusively demonstrated what Londoners of the period were capable of doing for the promotion of disorder whenever they had a mind that way. There exists one tenable theory, and one only, to account for the tranquillity and security amid which those, who opposed the Government on the question of America, were able to carry forward their political operations. The rational explanation is that the disfavour beneath which, from other causes, the Ministry had long and deservedly laboured, instead of being diminished, was confirmed and aggravated by the war.
1 Last Journals; December 4, 1781.
THE TALK OF MEN. CONTEMPORARY HISTORIANS.
THE PAMPHLETEERS. THE CALM ADDRESS"
An Englishman who approved the war was quite willing that Englishmen who disliked it should be at full liberty to express their opinions; but he had no inclination whatever to conceal his own. The printed memoirs of the period are sprinkled thickly with scraps of many conversations; and brief selections from the familiar utterances of famous men have been deliberately reported for the amusement and enlightenment of future ages. From these sources it is possible to catch at least an echo of the bluff jolly talk which flowed round the tables of country houses, while the Gainsboroughs and Romneys, with their colours still fresh, looked down upon the company from the panelling of the walls. The disputants on either side met in a fair field and on equal terms, and handled the fiery topics of the war as unreservedly as their grandsons in the days of Peel argued about the Corn Laws. A gentleman in the Western Counties complained that the Dissenters, who in that part of the world were “as thick as mushrooms," not contented with the unmolested enjoyment of their own mode of worship, mixed themselves up with State affairs, and presumed to sit in judgement on the American policy of the Government; but, in spite of his disgust, he could not escape from
1 How people then talked about America, or, (what is the next thing to it,) how, in the view of their contemporaries, they seemed to talk,may be gathered from imaginary conversations written and published, generally with a controversial object, by authors belonging to both political parties. A sample from one of them, with a touch of liveliness and reality about it which renders it well worth reading, is given in the Third Appendix at the end of this volume.
hearing all that the Dissenters had to say.A Loyalist refugee from New England who, for want of something better to occupy him, spent much of his time in public places, described to a friend at Boston the sort of talk which went on around him in London. “America,” he wrote, "furnishes matter for dispute in coffee-houses; sometimes warm, but without abuse or ill-nature; and there it ends. It is unfashionable, and even disreputable, to look askew on one another for difference of opinion in political matters. The doctrine of toleration, if not better understood, is, thank God, better practised here than in America.” 2
During the earlier years of the American conflict people wrangled about colonial politics for the pleasure of unburdening their own souls, and of hearing vigorous epithets, and well-worn taunts, sounded forth by their own voices; for they had little expectation of converting an adversary. Starting from directly opposite premises, they entered the lists armed respectively with an entirely different equipment of facts.
Each man retailed what he found in his favourite newspaper; and the newspaper which was Gospel for the one seemed a magazine of mendacity to the other. Whigs proclaimed their distrust of every statement in the “ London Gazette," and their belief in many items of intelligence which they could not find in its pages. Tories as roundly asserted that Congress had bought the entire Opposition press through the agency of Arthur Lee; a Virginian, (so they described him,) who had been bred a physician, but had turned lawyer, and now was finishing as a rebel. Horace Walpole, with the impartiality of one who accepted nothing for truth but what he read in a private letter, said that it was incredible how both sides lied about the war. The distance
1 Letter from a Gentleman in Somersetshire to a Friend in London ; October 6, 1776.
? Journal and Letters of the late Samuel Curwen, Edited by George Atkinson Ward ; New York, 1845.
3 Letter of 9th August, 1775 ; Round MSS.
from the scene of action, and the uncertainty of communication by sailing vessels, gave unbounded scope to the audacity of any London penman who seasoned, and served up, contemporary military history in a form to suit his reader's palate. And so it came to pass that, when they were debating the events of the current campaign, men of contrary parties were seldom agreed as to the direction in which things were moving; although everybody admitted that they moved very slowly. Our ancestors were vehement in assertion, and not over choice in repartee; but there was a point in most controversies when discord and contradiction ceased, and an appeal was made to the ordeal of the wager. Fifty guineas even, that the war would terminate before Christmas 1779 without America being independent of the Crown of Great Britain ; thirty guineas to ten that Sir William Howe was not in possession of Philadelphia by June 1777; twenty-five guineas for every three months that France remained at peace with England from the first of March 1779 onwards; and a bet of fifty guineas, to run for three years, that Lord North died by the hand of justice before Mr. Hancock, the President of the Continental Congress; - those are a few authentic specimens of a characteristic national practice, the resort to which, at the critical moment in a dispute, restored the harmony of many a social evening, and averted the necessity of a hostile meeting at some dismally early hour on the morning of the morrow.
Many wars have ere this been waged, not by England only, in pursuit of inadequate and illusory ends, and have been carried on long after the course of events had made
1 " Don't you begin to think, Madam, that it is pleasanter to read history than to live it ? Battles are fought, and towns taken, in every page ; but a campaign takes six or seven months to hear, and achieves no great matter at last. I dare to say Alexander seemed to the coffee-houses of Pella a monstrous while about conquering the world. As to this American war, I am persuaded it will last till the end of the century.” Walpole to the Countess of Ossory; Strawberry Hill, October 8,