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sisted on the madness of the policy which Parliament had adopted, and held up to reprobation the ministerial and military blunders which prevented that policy from being crowned with even a transitory success.
As opposed to all this spontaneous ardour, and unfettered intellectual activity, there was very little independent talent on the side of the ministers. It was their own fault. In Parliament, and in literature, they had bought up everything that was for sale ; and they found themselves in the position of a general when he has overpaid his mercenaries, and cannot get volunteers who are disposed to fight for him, and willing to subject themselves to the necessary discipline. Doctor Tucker, the Dean of Gloucester, was a declared adversary of the Rockingham party. His pamphlets had a large circulation; but he took a line of his own which sorely embarrassed the Government. A disinterested man, he possessed a cultured and original mind, with a singularly accurate perception of the direction in which the world was moving. When his gaze swept a sufficiently wide horizon, he gave proofs of a foresight which is the wonder of those who have learned by frequent disappointments what their own political prophecies are usually worth. He was, however, woefully deficient in tact; and his ignorance of the motives which guided the action of contemporary public men, and parliamentary parties, was hopeless and complete. He appears sincerely to have believed that the opponents of the Court, whom he called the Modern Republicans, were in point of fact Jacobites who admired Doctor Price as their predecessors in the reign of Queen Anne had admired Doctor Sacheverell. Doctor Price wrote much and well in favour of reconciliation with America; and Dean Tucker was never so happy as when belabouring him
1“I have observed,” (Dean Tucker wrote, “that measures evidently right will prevail at last. Therefore I make not the least Doubt that a Separation from the Northern Colonies, – and also another right measure, viz., a complete Union and Incorporation with Ireland, - (however unpopular either of them will now appear,) will both take place within half a century."
and Edmund Burke on account of their partiality for the New England colonists, whom the Dean himself cordially abominated. But his blows seldom got home upon either of his antagonists; and the cudgel with which he laid about him dealt back-strokes that hit a ministerial, and occasionally even a Royal, head.
Here, (argued the Doctor,) is a discontented and riotous population, three thousand miles away across the ocean, who do not like us, and do not want us. We may flatter them, and cajole them, and try to appease them by making one concession and surrender after another; and then, when we have eaten a mountain of humble-pie compounded for us by the philosophers and orators of the Opposition, the Americans will perhaps graciously consent to pretend that they will abide a while longer in their allegiance to the British Crown. But, as they increase in strength and numbers, an army of fifty thousand, and before long a hundred thousand, English-born soldiers, (and none others can be trusted,) will scarcely be sufficient to keep their turbulent spirits in awe, and prevent them from breaking forth into insurrection at every favourable opportunity. And how could such an insurrection be quelled? What British officer, civil or military, would be so foolhardy as to order the troops to fire on a New England mob, with the assured prospect that, if any of the bullets carried straight, he would be tried for his life on a charge of murder before a New England jury?1 Mr. Burke, (said Tucker,) would deserve much better of his country if, - in place of giving the colonists fair words in print, and speaking respectfully and affectionately about them when he was addressing the House of Commons, - he would bid them cut themselves loose from Great Britain, and thenceforward go their own ways, to their inevitable loss and ruin. That was Dean Tucker's logical position; and that was his advice in the year 1774.
He undoubtedly made Burke very angry; but Lord North and the King would sometimes have been quite as thankful
1 Dean Tucker's Fourth Tract ; 1775.
if their reverend ally had only been pleased to leave the Cabinet undefended.
The destitution to which ministers were reduced for want of advocates obliged them to accept assistance from a very questionable quarter. John Shebbeare had now during nearly two generations been a scandal to letters. His coarseness and effrontery in the give and take of private society have been faithfully portrayed by Fanny Burney, a judge of manners as indulgent and as uncensorious as was compatible with native refinement and feminine delicacy. Shebbeare made his livelihood by defamation and scurrility. His first literary effort was a lampoon on the surgeon from whom he had received a medical education; and his last was entitled “The Polecat Detected;" which was a libel, and not, (as might have been supposed,) an autobiography, During the reign of George the Second, Shebbeare had been severely, — and, indeed, arbitrarily and most improperly, — punished for a fierce attack upon the House of Hanover. He now enjoyed a pension of two hundred pounds a year; and he was aware of the conditions on which, for such as he, the payment of his quarter's stipend depended. Throughout the American war he vilified the group of great statesmen, whom George the Third persisted in regarding as adversaries, with the same ill-bred vehemence which he had formerly directed against that line of kings who were the rivals and supplanters of the Stuarts. Shebbeare was the man whose name Thomas Townshend, in the House of Commons, had coupled with that of Samuel Johnson, on the ground that they both had once been Jacobites, and both now were pensioners; and Townshend's ill-natured remark had called forth from Charles Fox an eloquent and indignant
1 On the 20th February, 1774, Miss Burney and some of her friends, one of whom was a very young girl, were unfortunate enough to find themselves guests in the same drawing-room as Shebbeare. “ He abso. lutely ruined our evening; for he is the most morose, rude, gross, and illmannered man I ever was in company with." Much of his conversation, as reported by Miss Burney with her transparent fidelity, was incredibly brutal; and still worse passages were crossed out in the manuscript.
protest which, to his dying day, Johnson gratefully recollected.
There were members of the Government who had long been anxious to enlist Doctor Johnson's literary skill, and personal authority, on behalf of the Government measures. In this case there was no compulsion. The King entertained a true regard for his eminent subject, and felt a lively satisfaction at the thought that his own generosity had enabled a great author, — who had long known want, and sorrow, and the slavery of
of his days in conversation, and travel, and the desultory and fragmentary reading which he so dearly loved. It was Johnson himself who conceived that his duty towards his Royal Master required him to do a good turn for those ministers who possessed the Royal favour; and he intimated his willingness to assist the Cabinet with his pen. The subject of each successive pamphlet was suggested to him by great men in office; but the opinions which he enunciated were unmistakably his own. Indeed, Johnson was so strong a partisan that the censors of Downing Street interfered with him only to tone down his declarations of policy, and to blunt the edge of his satire. One cutting and contemptuous epigram in his “Thoughts on the late Transactions Respecting the Falkland Islands” so scared Lord North that the sale of the first edition was stopped after only a few copies had got abroad. In the spring of 1775 Johnson brought out his “ Taxation no Tyranny,” which, as the title implied, went down to the root of the quarrel between Great Britain and America. It was revised and curtailed by the ministerial critics,
1 The words which did not please Lord North related to George Grenville, and originally stood thus : " Let him not, however, be depreciated in his grave. He had powers not universally possessed. Could he have enforced payment of the Manilla ransom, he could have counted it.” In the second edition the sentence ran : “He had powers not universally possessed ; and, if he sometimes erred, he was likewise sometimes in the right;” which is true of every public man that ever lived, and does not require a Samuel Johnson to say it.
who struck out of the text one passage as unnecessarily insulting and alarming to the colonists.1 Johnson's sturdy good-humour was proof against a trial which would have touched the vanity of a more susceptible author. If, (he said,) an architect had planned a building of five stories, and the man who employed him ordered him to build only three, it was the employer, and not the architect, who must decide.
The utmost severity of expurgation would have failed to convert“ Taxation no Tyranny" into a felicitous performance. Admirable, and thrice admirable, disquisitions on State affairs have been published by famous literary men who descended for a while into the arena of political controversy. Such were Swift's "Examiners; " and Addison's “Freeholders ;” and, (better still, and nearer to our own times,) Sydney Smith's “Plymley Letters ” on the Catholic Claims. Nor was any more ably composed, and entirely readable, State paper ever issued than that Memoir, in the French language, in which Gibbon, at the request of ministers, towards the commencement of 1778 submitted the case of England, as against France, to the judgement of Europe. But Johnson was not even potentially a states
He had never thought deeply, or wisely, on politics; and his everyday conversation abundantly proved him to be peculiarly ill adapted for arriving at a just conclusion upon the American question. He was incapable of maintaining a rational and considerate attitude towards any great body of men with whose opinions he disagreed. His vociferous declamations against the Americans were annoying and oppressive to the companions with whom he lived. He might be heard, (they complained,) across the Atlantic. The study which he bestowed upon the commercial in
1 «He told me," wrote Boswell, “ that they had struck out one passage which was to the effect : *That the colonists could with no solidity argue, from their not having been taxed while in their infancy, that they should not now be taxed. We do not put a calf into the plough. We wait till he is an ox.'”