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Reign of George III. (Continued.) page 9


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The great historian, accustomed to weigh the character of nations, foresaw the terrible consequences which must necessarily result from such a state of things. Surveying the social and political elements then effervescing in the United States, he said: - " Is it possible to doubt what sort of legislature will be chosen? On one side is a statesman preaching patience, respect for vested rights, strict observance of public faith; on the other is a demagogue ranting about the tyranny of capitalists and usurers, and asking why anybody should be permitted to ride in a carriage and drink champagne while thousands of honest folks are in want of necessaries? Which of the two candidates is likely to be preferred by a working man who hears his children crying for more bread? I seriously apprehend that you will, in some such season of adversity as I have described, do things which will prevent prosperity from returning. Either some Caesar or Napoleon will seize the reins of government with a strong hand, or your republic will be as fearfully plundered and laid waste by barbarians in the twentieth century as the Roman empire was in the fifth, with this difference - that the Huns and Vandals will have been engendered within your own country by your own institutions."

Unquestionably, if there be a divine ruler of the universe, the disregard of human rights by the Americans on the one hand, and of principles of political and diplomatic integrity on the other, will produce their certain punishment in terrors and convulsions; and it will, in our opinion, be only through such a purifying process that America will eventually rise to sounder principles and nobler sentiments (Written before the American Civil War.).

When the conduct of the American commissioners, in making a separate peace, came to the knowledge of the French government, great was its indignation. M. Vergennes, writing to the minister of France at Philadelphia, thus plainly expressed himself: - " You will surely be gratified, as well as myself, with the very extensive advantages which our allies, the Americans, are to receive from the peace; but you certainly will not be less surprised than I have been at the conduct of the commissioners. They have cautiously kept themselves at a distance from me. Whenever I have had occasion to see any one of them, and inquire of them briefly the negotiations, they have constantly clothed their speech in generalities, giving me to understand that they did not go forward, and they had no confidence in the sincerity of the British ministry. Judge of my surprise when, on the 30th of November, Dr. Franklin informed me that the articles were signed! The reservation retained on our account does not save the infraction of the promise which we have made to each other, not to sign, except conjointly. This negotiation is not yet so far advanced in regard to ourselves as that of the United States; not but that the king, if he had shown as little delicacy in his proceedings as the American commissioners, might have signed articles with England long before them."

On the 5th of December parliament met, and the king, though not yet able to announce the signing of the provisional treaty with France and America, intimated pretty plainly the approach of that fact. Indeed, lord Shelburne had addressed a letter to the lord mayor of London eight days before the articles with America were actually signed, that this event was so near at hand that parliament would be prorogued from the time fixed for its meeting, the 26th of November, to the 5th of December. It was, indeed, hoped that by that day the preliminaries with France and Spain would be signed too. This not being the case, the king could only declare that conclusion all but certain. He admitted that he had sanctioned a provisional compact with America, granting full independence. George said: - " In thus admitting the separation of those colonies from the crown of these kingdoms, I have sacrificed every consideration of my own to the wishes and opinions of my people. I make it my humble and earnest prayer to Almighty God, that Great Britain may not feel the evils which might result from so great a dismemberment of the empire, and that America may be free from the calamities which have formerly proved, in the mother country, how essential monarchy is to the enjoyment of constitutional liberty. Religion, language, interest, affections may, and I hope will, yet prove a bond of permanent union between the two countries; to this end neither attention nor disposition on my part shall be wanting."

This announcement drew from the opposition a torrent of abuse of ministers, who, in reality, had only been carrying out the very measure which they had long recommended, and which Fox, in particular, had been zealously endeavouring to accomplish whilst in office. Their censures appeared to arise rather from the fact that the war was ended without their mediation than from anything else. Fox upbraided lord Shelburne with having once said that, when the independence of America should be admitted, the sun of England would have set. Yet this had been the opinion not of lord Shelburne merely, but of numbers who now saw reason to doubt that gloomy view of things, and there was the less reason for Fox to throw this in the face of the prime minister, as he had been himself, whilst his colleague, earnestly labouring with him for that end. Burke declared the king's speech to be a medley of hypocrisies and nonsense, yet it only announced what Burke had himself warmly and long called for, and for which, with a strange inconsistency, he thanked the king before he sate down. Fox, on the 18th of December, moved for copies of such parts of the provisional treaty as related to American independence; but in this he was supported by only forty-six members.

On the 26th, the houses adjourned for a month, for the Christmas recess, and during this time the treaties with France and Spain made rapid progress. The fact of America being now withdrawn from the quarrel, coupled with the signs of returning vigour in England - Rodney's great victory, the astonishing defence of Gibraltar, and the offer of various parties in England, proposing to build ships and present them ready armed and equipped to the government - these things acted as wonderful stimulants to pacification. Spain still clung fondly to the hope of receiving back Gibraltar, and this hope was for some time encouraged by the apparent readiness of lord Shelburne to comply with the desire, as Chatham and lord Stanhope had done before. But no sooner was this question mooted in the house of commons than the public voice denounced so energetically the idea, that it was at once abandoned. Franklin did not omit, at the last moment, to throw in a farewell damaging influence against England. He strongly supported count D'Aranda, the Spanish ambassador at Paris, in his demand for the cession of the rock; he insisted that it ought to be one of the conditions of the peace, and put arguments into the count's mouth to this end. D'Aranda, under this guidance, became quite violent in persisting upon this point; but, finding it useless, he offered Oran, and then Oran and Porto Rico, in exchange. The English commissioner, Mr. Alleyne Fitzherbert, informed him that his government would consent to no terms for the surrender of the fortress; and, as France was resolved to complete the treaty, Spain was compelled, though sullenly, to acquiesce.

On the 20th of January, 1783, Mr. Fitzherbert signed, at Versailles, the preliminaries of peace with the comte de Vergennes, on the part of France, and with D'Aranda, on the part of Spain.

By the treaty with France, the right of fishing off the coast of Newfoundland and in the Gulf of St. Lawrence was restored, as granted by the treaty of Utrecht; but the limits were more accurately defined. The islands of St. Pierre and Miquelon, on the coast of Newfoundland, were ceded for drying of fish. In the West Indies, England ceded Tobago, which France had taken, and restored St. Lucia, but received back again Granada, St. Vincent, Dominica, St. Kitt's, Nevis, and Montserrat. In Africa, England gave up the river Senegal and the island of Goree, but retained Fort St. James and the river Gambia. In India, the French were allowed to recover Pondicherry and Chandernagore, with the right to fortify the latter, and to carry on their usual commerce. They regained also Mahe and the Comptoir of Surat, with their former privileges. The articles regarding the demolition of the fortifications of Dunkirk, in the treaty of Utrecht, were abrogated.

Spain was allowed to retain Minorca and both the Floridas, but she agreed to restore Providence and the Bahamas. The latter, however, had already been retaken by us. She granted to England the right of cutting logwood in Honduras, but without the privilege of erecting forts or stock-houses, which rendered the concession worthless, for it had always been found that without these it was impossible to carry on the trade.

With the Dutch a truce was made on the basis of mutual restoration, except as concerned the town of Negapatam, which Holland ceded. The preliminaries, however, were not settled till nearly eight months afterwards.

No allusion was made to the armed neutrality.

It was not to be wondered at that when, on the 24th of January, the preliminaries of peace were laid on the tables of the two houses, there should be a violent denunciation of the large concessions made by ministers. Spain had obtained better terms than in any treaty since that of St. Quintin. She had obtained the most desirable island of Minorca, with the finest port on the Mediterranean. She had got the Floridas, and had given up scarcely anything, whilst, had the English, now freed from the dead weight of America, pursued the war against her, she must soon have lost most of her valuable insular colonies. France had given up more, but she retained very important territories which she had lost, and especially her settlements of Pondicherry, Chandernagore, &c., in the East Indies; but America had conceded nothing, and yet had been allowed to determine her own frontier, and to share the benefits of the fishing all round our own transatlantic coasts.

A new and surprising phenomenon was discovered in the attacks upon ministers for these concessions: Fox and North were in coalition! Fox, who so lately had declared North and his colleagues men " void of every principle of honour and honesty," and who would consent, should he ever make terms with them, to be called " the most infamous of mankind," now as warmly declared, that he had ever found lord North - this man void of honour and honesty - a man always " open and sincere as a friend, honourable and manly as an enemy, above practising subterfuges, tricks, and stratagems." Such is the value of the most solemn party protestations! Lord North, on his side, repaid the compliments of Fox, growing enthusiastic on the genius, eloquence, and generous nature of that statesman. " While I admire the vast extent of his understanding," exclaimed North, " I can rely on the goodness of his heart." The commons, on both sides of the house, were equally edified by the touching spectacle of this sudden attachment, and with the combined momentum with which the now loving foes came down on the existing ministry. Forgetting that Fox and Burke had a hundred times threatened North with the block for continuing the war, the whole coalition now, with one fell swoop, tore away every vestige of credit from this so long-demanded peace.

Lord John Cavendish truly represented that France and Spain were on the verge of ruin; that Holland was in an exhausted and helpless condition; and that as for America, it was in the very gulf of destitution, the people refusing to pay the taxes ordered by congress for the continuance of the war. And it was to such defeated and demolished enemies that ministers had conceded almost everything they had asked. Lord North turned more particularly to the concessions made to the French in the East Indies. It was in that quarter, he said, that he looked for a consolidated and expanding empire, calculated to recompense us, and more than recompense us, for the loss of America. From that splendid continent we had completely driven the French, and the soundest policy dictated their continued firm exclusion from it. Yet here had ministers most fatally re-admitted them, to renew their old plots and alliances against us, by which they would to a certainty continue to harass, thwart, and weaken us, till we once more went through the ruinous and sanguinary process of expulsion. He was equally severe on the surrender of Minorca and the Floridas to Spain, and the admission of the unconceding, anconciliating Americans to our own proper fishing grounds. Fox called on ministers to produce the treaty which he had sketched a few months before, and to see what very different terms he had demanded, and would have exacted. That the sense of the house went with these sentiments was shown by both the amendments of the coalition being carried by a majority of sixteen.

Pitt defended the treaty, drawing the most dismal picture that he could of our own exhaustion; but lord John Cavendish moved another resolution strongly condemning the terms of the treaty, but consenting that the peace now made should remain inviolate. This was also carried, by a majority of seventeen, being two hundred and seven votes against one hundred and ninety.

This majority of the coalition compelled lord Shelburne to resign; but the rest of the administration remained in their places, in the hope that Pitt would now take the premiership. In fact, the king, on the 24th of February, sent for Pitt and proposed this to him; but Pitt was too sensible of the impossibility of maintaining himself against the present combination of parties. The next day Dundas moved and carried an adjournment for three days, to give time for the arrangement of a new cabinet. Pitt continued to persist in declining to take the premiership, and on the 2nd or 3rd of March the king sent for lord North. His proposal was, that North should resume the management of affairs; but North insisted on bringing in his new friends, and to that the king objected. Matters remained in this impracticable condition till the 12th, when the king sent for North and proposed that the duke of Portland should be asked to form an administration; but this did not at all advance matters, for Portland was equally determined with North to maintain the coalition, and the king was resolved to have nothing to do with Fox, whilst Fox was equally determined not to admit the king's friend, lord Stormont, to any cabinet of which he was a member.

On the 24th of March Coke, of Norfolk, moved an address to his majesty, praying his attention to the damage to public affairs resulting from the distracted state of the government. This was carried almost unanimously; and the king, in reply, assured the house that his most anxious endeavours were bent on removing the difficulties of the situation. On the 31st lord Surrey moved a still stronger address, but this was rendered unnecessary by the announcement that Pitt had resigned, and that the king was prepared to submit to the terms of the coalition. The king, with deep and inward groans, submitted himself once more to the slavery of the great whig houses, and, as some small recompense, the coalition admitted lord Stormont to a place in the cabinet.

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