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terests, which so profoundly affected the relations between the mother-country and her colonies, had been very superficial. He once comforted a friend, who was anxious about the effect of the war upon trade, by assuring him that, if we had no commerce at all, we could live very well upon the produce of our own island. On the connection between taxation and parliamentary representation, which his treatise was ostensibly written to discuss, he argued like a man who had not the most elementary conception of, or sympathy with, the principle of self-government. He was fond of saying that a gentleman of landed property did well to evict all his tenants who would not vote for the candidate whom he supported. If he himself, (so the great moralist once put it) were a man of great estate, he would drive every rascal, whom he did not like, out of the country, as soon as ever an election came.
When “Taxation no Tyranny” appeared in print, most of Johnson's admirers perused the piece with regret, and with something of apprehension. They began to fear that, as a writer, he had seen his best days; and they never recovered their confidence in his powers until, some years later on, his “Lives of the Poets" were given to a charmed and astonished world. There he was on his own ground. There he revelled in the consciousness of supreme capability. He cast aside, at that late moment, the elaborate and florid diction of his early and middle period. During the half of every day, and of every night, since the welldirected bounty of the State had made him his own master, he had been discoursing on every conceivable topic to all who were privileged to listen; and he had insensibly acquired the habit of writing as he talked. He now had an ideal subject for a biographer endowed with his vigorous common-sense, his vast and insatiable interest in the common things of life, and his acute perception of the rules which ought to govern conduct. We may well doubt whether so delightful and instructive a book as Johnson's “Poets," on a large scale and
of serious purpose, was ever commenced and finished in the two years that precede, and the two that follow, the age of seventy.
Johnson's pamphlet, by indirect means, obtained a startling notoriety. His bolts fell innocuous; but his thunder awoke an echo which was heard far and wide. Of all people then living, – of all, perhaps, who ever lived, no one had so profound an acquaintance with the state of opinion at home, and in America, as John Wesley. He knew Scotland well, and England as a man must know it who preached eight hundred sermons annually, in all corners of the island; who, fine or rain, travelled his twelve-score miles a week on horseback, or in public vehicles, which for him was a more perilous mode of conveyance; and who lodged, - an easily contented, an affable, and a communicative guest, with the farmer, the tradesman, and the cottager. Soon and late, he more than fifty times crossed the Irish Channel. He had passed nearly two years in America; and he had learned by personal experience how long it took to get there; a fact ill understood by those ministers who had misgoverned our remote colonies in peace, and who now were attempting to reconquer them by war. Wesley relates, in the first pages of his incomparable " Journal,” how he and his comrades took ship at Gravesend on the fourteenth of October, 1735; and how, on the following fifth of February, God brought them all safe into the Savannah river. The voyage was long enough for him to learn German, and
Carlyle completed his Frederic the Great when close on seventy ; but he had been working at it fourteen years.
2 Wesley had reached old age when the American war began; and thenceforward he more frequently rode in a post-chaise, or a mail-coach. It is worth a reader's while to count the number of his carriage accidents, if only as an occasion for going through the last volume of the Journal once again. Sometimes he made a safe journey, as from Coventry in July 1779. “I took coach for London. I was nobly attended. Behind the coach were ten convicted felons, loudly blaspheming, and rattling their chains. By my side sat a man with a loaded blunderbuss, and another upon the coach."
increase threefold the number of communicants who attended his ministrations on board. Ever since that time he had been kept minutely informed of what was passing in America by disciples for whom it was a privilege to correspond with him, and a sacred duty to write him the truth.
As recently as the year 1770, — when New England was already in a state of dangerous effervescence, and the military occupation of Boston had actually commenced, - John Wesley stated in print that he did not defend the measures which had been taken with regard to America ; and that he doubted whether any man could defend them either on the foot of law, equity, or prudence. So he openly told the world; and in secret he dealt very faithfully indeed with the advisers of the Crown. He addressed to them a series of most impressive letters, in which the exalted diction of an old Scriptural prophet added force and dignity to the solid arguments of a sagacious and patriotic Englishman. He warned them plainly that the Americans were an oppressed people, asking for nothing more than their legal rights; who were not frightened, and would not be easily conquered. As fighting men, (he said in so many words, they were enthusiasts of liberty, contending for hearth and altar, wife and children, against an army of paid soldiers “none of whom cared a straw for the cause wherein they were engaged, and most of whom strongly disapproved of it.” And he had gone so far as to implore the Prime Minister, for God's sake and for the King's sake, not to permit his sovereign to walk in the ways of Rehoboam, of Philip the Second of Spain, and of Charles the First of England.
That was John Wesley's view, as conveyed to Lord North on the fifteenth of June, 1775. Before the summer was over there appeared a quarto sheet of four pages, professing itself to be “A Calm Address to our American Colonies by the Reverend John Wesley, M.A." It was sold for a penny, and was bought by forty
1 Wesley's Free Thoughts on the Present State of Public Affairs.
thousand purchasers, who were amazed at finding it nothing more nor less than an abbreviated version of “Taxation no Tyranny,” published without any reference to the original whence it was derived. The little piece was redolent of Johnson's prejudices, and so full of violent and random assertions that no room was left for those temperate expostulations which the title promised. Wesley assured the colonists, — and it must have been news to Samuel Adams and to John Dickinson, that the discontent in America was not of native origin. It had been produced, (he declared,) by the books and pamphlets of wicked and artful writers resident in England, whose object was to overset the British Constitution; and, considering that the chief among those writers was Edmund Burke, to whom every tittle of the British Constitution was as the Law to a Pharisee or the Koran to a good Mahommedan, there was something exquisitely ludicrous in such a statement. The nearest approach to an argument in Wesley's tract was an appeal to the people of New England, whom, with less than his customary shrewdness, he appears to have esteemed a very simple-minded folk. “You say that you inherit all the rights which your ancestors had of enjoying all the privileges of Englishmen. You are the descendants of men who either had no votes, or resigned them by emigration. You have therefore exactly what your ancestors left you; not a vote in making laws nor in choosing legislators, but the happiness of being protected by laws, and the duty of obeying them.” It would be difficult to compress into so few words any theory of citizenship less satisfying to the political aspirations of Americans, either past or present.
Wesley's change of attitude bordered on the grotesque, and to some of his followers was perfectly bewildering. At the general election of the previous year he had advised Bristol Methodists to vote for the candidates who were in favour of conciliation with America; and he had urged his friends to procure and study a pamphlet called "An Argument in Defence of the Exclusive
Right claimed by the Colonies to tax themselves." That circumstance Wesley had forgotten; as a man of his years, and his enormous and multifarious occupations, might be excused forgetting anything. Rudely accused of insincerity, he examined his memory, and admitted that he had read the pamphlet in question, and had agreed with its conclusions. In answer to the charge that he had recommended it to the attention of others, he quietly replied: “I believe I did : but I am now of another mind.” Wesley's candour failed to disarm his opponents. The “Calm Address " aroused a tempest of controversy; and during several publishing seasons the great preacher was exposed to hailstorms of wild calumny, and unsavoury abuse. He was furiously denounced as a wolf in sheep's clothing; a Jesuit and a Jacobite unmasked;' a chaplain in ordinary to the Furies; and a Minister Extraordinary to Bellona, the Goddess of War.
John Wesley contemplated this explosion of passion with mild surprise, in which his adversaries detected a touch of irony; for his intention, (he said,) had been to pour water, instead of oil, upon the flame, and to contribute his mite towards quenching the conflagration which over-ran the land. He reminded his younger coadjutors that Christian ministers should be peacemakers, loving and tender to all, and not addicted to either party. So anxious was he, according to his own account, to avoid the possibility of offence, that, when invited to preach about a matter which savoured of politics, he took the precaution of writing down his sermon beforehand; but, all the same, those opponents of the Ministry who chanced to be present were told from the pulpit that they had screamed for liberty till they were utterly distracted, and their intellects quite confounded. At a later moment in the war Wesley bethought himself of
1 It was not the first time that Wesley had been called a Jesuit. He once was preaching at Dublin to a large assemblage. "One of them, after listening some time, cried out, shaking his head: “Ay: he is a Jesuit; that's plain.' To which a Popish Priest, who happened to be near, replied aloud: No; he is not. I would to God he was!'” Journal for May 15, 1748.