Page images

BOOK hitherto perfectly easy and feasible, now became, XVII. by a change of circumstances, desperate and

hopeless; and on hearing the decision of this memorable day, it might with fatal prophetic certainty be pronounced, "TIME IS PAST."

This was the last debate of importance in the present session, which was terminated May 23, 1776, by a speech, in which his majesty was graciously pleased to intimate "his hope, that his rebellious subjects would still be awakened to a sense of their errors; at the same time expressing his confidence, that if due, i. e. unconditional, submission could not be obtained by a voluntary return to their duty, it would be effectuated by a full exertion of the great force entrusted to him." WAR, in its most hideous form, was now therefore waged, without any prospect or probability of accommodation. But though the ministerial majorities in both houses were so great, the nation at large might be considered as much more equally divided on this grand question. At the head of those who were zealous for the prosecution of the war in all its terrors may be accounted the KING himself; who, being most unfortunately and dreadfully misinformed and misled in the whole of this business, conceived that the DIGNITY of his CROWN was best vindicated by those measures of coercion which could be carried into effect only by the



devastation of his dominions and the slaughter BOOK of his subjects *. The powerful remains of the once numerous and now favored faction of the tories, including a large proportion of the landed interest, recently combined by a strange

*MACHIAVEL (whose famous treatise Del Principe is by many supposed to be designed, as it is unquestionably calculated, to hold up the character of a prince who makes his own aggrandizement the sole object of his government, to the detestation of mankind, and whose other political writings are unequivocally favorable to the cause of liberty,) thus in his History of Florence represents the Florentines expostulating by the mouth of an antient and venerable citizen with one of their sovereigns: "We are come, sir, in consequence of the order you have issued for assembling the people. It appears manifest to us, that you design by extraordinary means to obtain that which we have not been willing to grant to you. Your design is to enslave a state which has never yet lost its freedom. Have you well considered the importance which, in a state like this, the people annex to liberty, and how enthusiastically they are attached to its very name? This ardent love of freedom no force can overcome, no length of time can obliterate, no merit on the part of its destroyer can counter-balance. Consider the im

mense force which will be necessary to keep such a state enslaved. You must calculate on having all the inhabitants of the country your enemies. If your opponents were few in number, you might extirpate them by banishment and the sword; but against universal hatred there can be found no remedy. It is now for you to decide, whether you will attempt to enslave this people-to keep them enslaved will be impossible; no citadel, no guards, no foreign force will be sufficient-or be content with the authority which we have

BOOK political phænomenon with the veteran and XVII. faithful band of placemen, pensioners, and king's 1776. friends; and, in a word, all whose fortunes

or expectancies depended on the smiles of the court, were to a man cager and ardent in their

This we sincerely wish both
For once again remember,

voluntarily entrusted to you.
for our sakes and your own.
that no dominion is durable which rests on any other founda-
tion than the free and willing submission of the people."
The history informs us, that the prince to whom this dis-
course was addressed, obstinately persisting in his wild and
nefarious projects, was in a short time compelled to fly from
Florence, and to seek for safety in an obscure and ignomi-
nious exile. Delle Historie, lib. ii. p. 106.—" There is,"
says the same celebrated writer, in the treatise Del Principe,
cap. v. "no method of keeping possession of a conquered
country so effectual as to impoverish or ruin it. Whoever
becomes master of a state accustomed to freedom, unless he
adopt this method, may expect soon to be driven out of it.
For the name of liberty and their antient laws will be the
unceasing incitement to rebellion.-There will be an eternal
hatred, an eternal thirst for revenge, an eternal stimulus in
the memory of their antient freedom; so that the most sure
method of keeping them in subjection is to destroy or dissi-
pate them." What Machiavel thus ironically and in the
spirit of the most bitter and indignant sarcasm recommends,
the English court at this period seemed, in the excess of a
wretched and almost judicial infatuation, seriously to adopt
as the rule and measure of its dismal and barbarous policy,
"Est quod gratias agamus Machiavello," says lord Bacon,
"et hujusmodi scriptoribus, qui apertè et indissimulanter
proferunt quid homines facere soleant, non quid debeant."
De Augm, Scient. 1. vii. c. 2.



hopes and wishes to see America prostrate at his BOOK majesty's feet. A great majority of the clergy of the established church also entered into the views of the court, to which they were now cordially reconciled, with a degree of political fervor, heightened, as to many of them, into inexpressible malevolence against the colonies. by the indelible taint of religious bigotry. The Americans were perpetually branded by this class of men, as fanatics, hypocrites, puritans, or, in one word, as SECTARIES-a term which in the ears of an high churchman of the genuine stamp is far more hateful than that of infidel or atheist. The spirit of high-churchism, which is a compound essence exhaled from the ingredients of pride, ignorance, malice, prejudice and folly, has, during this reign, been in a regular and progressive state of increase; and as the same causes which have operated still continue to operate, it is probable that, until some violent convulsion is produced by a new Laudian or Sheldonian persecution, the tide will continue. to flow in the same channel and direction. clusive of these different classes of men, it must also be acknowledged, that a considerable number of respectable persons, who valued themselves, however inconsistently, upon their attachment to whig principles, joined the party of the court from a most erroneous idea, that the principles




BOOK of whiggism inculcated the doctrine of the oмNIPOTENCE OF PARLIAMENT; not considering that the essential and immutable difference subsisting in the relative situations of Great Britain and America made that doctrine, which, in opposition to the arbitrary power of the crown, was considered as the basis of liberty in England, the essence of tyranny to the colonies; and the unrestrained power of taxation in particular was on several accounts more likely to be abused by a popular assembly, in its exercise over a distant community, than by an absolute monarch.

On the other hand, the great body of the whigs, headed by various families of the highest rank, to whom power had been chiefly entrusted since the æra of the revolution till the accession of the present sovereign, held the war in abhorrence and detestation; and they conceived resistance to be equally justifiable to the tyranny of the many as of the few, or the mere will of a despot. The commercial part of the community, with the city of London conspicuous in the van, were for the most part extremely averse to the war, from which they experienced great inconvenience; and which, unfettered by the entanglements of political theories, they perceived by the clear light of common sense to have no rational end or object. A considerable

« PreviousContinue »