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Reign of George III. (Continued.) page 11

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This was the state of things when, on the 17th of August, 1792, the French deposed Louis, and prepared for his death. Lord Gower was thereupon recalled, on the plain ground that, being accredited alone to the king, and there being no longer a king, his office was at an end; he was, however, ordered to take a respectful leave, and to assure the government that England still desired to maintain peaceful relations. Yet, at this very time, London was swarming with paid emissaries of the French government, whose business was to draw over the people to French notions of republican liberty. Nay more, Lebrun, the foreign minister, took no pains to conceal the assurance of the French, that Ireland would revolt, and that France would secure it. On the 18th of November a great dinner was given at White's Hotel, in Paris, at which lord Edward Fitzgerald and other Irish republicans, Thomas Paine, Santerre, and a host of like characters, English, Irish, French, and others, toasted the approaching national convention of Great Britain and Ireland, and, amid wild acclamations, drank the sentiment, "May revolutions never be made by halves!" The very next day, the 19th, the national convention issued its decree, declaring war against all thrones, and proclaiming the enfranchisement of all peoples. This was immediately followed by jacobinised deputations of Englishmen, thanking the convention for this proclamation; and the président, in reply, said, " Citizens of the world! royalty in Europe is utterly destroyed, or on the point of perishing on the ruins of feudality; and the Rights of Man, placed by the side of thrones, is a devouring lire which will consume them ail. Worthy republicans! congratulate yourselves on the festival which you have celebrated in honour of the French révolution - the prelude to the festival of nations! "

Before the close of this year it was resolved to send an ambassador to the United States to demand a return of the aid given to the Americans in their révolution, by declaration of war against Great Britain. M. Gen et was dispatched for this purpose at the beginning of the year 1793. Still, neutrality was maintained, though our ambassador was withdrawn from Paris, and M. Chauvelin was no longer recognised in an official capacity by the British court. That gentleman, however, continued in London, ignoring the loss of his official character, and officiously pressing himself on the attention of ministers as still French plenipotentiary. Lord Grenville was repeatedly obliged to remind him that he had no power to correspond with him officially. He, however, informed him privately, that, if the French government wished to be duly recognised in this country, they must give up their assumed right of aggression on all neighbouring countries, and of interference with their established governments. The French Girondist ministers took advantage of this letter, which Chauvelin transmitted to them, to send a reply, in which, however, having now invaded Holland, they gave no intimation of any intention of retiring. They even declared that it was their intention to go to war with England; and, if the English government did not comply with their desires, and enter into regular communication with them, they would prepare for war. Lord Grenville returned this letter, informing Chauvelin again that he could receive no official correspondence from him in a private capacity. This was on the 7th of January, 1793; Chauvelin continued to press his communications on lord Grenville, complaining of the alien bill, and on the 18th presented letters of credence. Lord Grenville informed him, in reply, that his majesty, under present circumstances, could not receive them. These circumstances were the trial and conviction of Louis XVI.; and on the 24th arrived the news of Louis's execution; and Chauvelin immediately received passports for himself and suite, and an order to quit the kingdom within eight days. The news of this order created the utmost exultation in the French convention, for the jacobins were rabid for war with ail the world, and on the 1st of February the convention declared war against England, and the news reached London on the 4th.

The declaration of war against England by the convention was unanimous. The decree was drawn up by the Girondists, but it was enthusiastically supported by the jacobins, including Robespierre and Danton. A vote of creation of assignats to the amount of eight hundred million livres was immediately passed, a levy of three hundred thousand men was ordered; and, to aggravate the whole tone of the affair, an appeal to the people of Great Britain was issued, calling on them to act against and embarrass their own government.

It must be confessed that it was impossible to keep peace with a nation determined to make war on the whole world. Perhaps on no occasion had the pride of the English people and their feelings of resentment been so daringly provoked. War was proclaimed against England, and it was necessary that she should put herself in a position to protect her own interests. By one of those fatal treaties which had become the fashion since William III. had engaged England in the quarrels of the continent, this country was, moreover, bound to defend Holland, if assaulted. This was the most un- fortunate point of the position of England. But though bound by treaty to defend Holland, Great Britain was not bound to enter into the defence of ail and every one of the continental nations; and, had she maintained this just line of action, her share in the universal war which ensued would have been comparatively insignificant. Prussia, Russia, and Austria had destroyed every moral claim of co-operation by their lawless seizure of Poland, and the peoples of the continent wêre populous enough to defend their own territories, if they were worthy of independence. There could be no just claim on England, with her twenty millions of inhabitants, to defend countries which possessed a still greater number of inhabitants, especially as they had never been found ready to assist us, but on the contrary. But England, unfortunately, at that time, was too easily inflamed with a war spirit. The people as well as the government were incensed at the disorganising and aggressive spirit of France, and were soon drawn in, with their Quixotism of fighting for everybody or anybody, to league with the continental despots for the purpose, not merely to repel French invasions, but to force on the French a dynasty which they had rejected. Here was our grand error, and we were not destined to perceive it till we had paid the penalty of it in oceans of blood, and mountains of treasure and of debt.

Fox and his party still maintained a vigorous and per- severing endeavour to remain at peace; but he weakened his efforts by professing to believe that we might yet enter into substantial engagements with the French, who had at this moment no permanent, settled government at ail, but a set of puppet ministers, ruled by a convention, and the convention ruled by a mob, flaming with the ideas of universal conquest and universal plunder. If Fox had advocated the wisdom of maintaining the defensive as much as possible, and confining ourselves to defending our Dutch allies, as we were bound, his words would have had more weight; but his assurance that we might inanition a full and friendly connection with a people that were butchering each other at home, and belying ail their most solemn professions of equity and fraternity towards their dupes abroad, only enabled Pitt to ask him with whom he would negotiate - Was it with Robespierre, or the monster Marat, then in the ascendant? " But," added Pitt, " it is not merely to the character of Marat, with whom we would now have to treat, that I object, it is not to the horror of those crimes which have stained their legislators - crimes in every stage rising above one another in enormity - but I object to the consequences of that character, and to the effect of those crimes. They are such as render a negotiation useless, and must entirely deprive of stability any peace which could be concluded in such circumstances. The moment that the mob of Paris comes under a new leader, mature deliberations are reversed, the most solemn engagements are retracted, or free will is altogether controlled by force. Ail the crimes which disgrace history have occurred in one country, in a space so short, and with circumstances so aggravated, as to outrun thought and exceed imagination." In fact, to have made an alliance with France at that moment, and for long afterwards, would have been to sanction her crimes, and to share the infamy of her violence and lawlessness abroad. But a wise nation would have avoided the other extreme error, of interfering in the internal arrangements of France, and of banding with governments equally infamous for injustice, to this end.

In the presence of this great exciting cause, the remaining business of the session of the English parliament appeared tame. Mr. R. Smith introduced a petition for parliamentary reform from Nottingham, and this was followed by a number of similar petitions from other places; but whilst French emissaries and English demagogues were preaching up révolution, nobody would listen to reform, and a motion of Mr. Grey, to refer these petitions to a committee, was rejected by two hundred and eighty-two votes to forty-one. On the 25th of February Dundas introduced a very specious statement of the affairs of India, declaring that dependency very flourishing, notwithstanding the continuance of the war with Tippoo; and this was preparatory to a renewal of the charter of the East India Company, which was carried on the 24th of May. Francis, Fox, and others, opposed the bill, and made very différent statements in vain. The real condition of India was not destined to force itself on the nation till it came in the shape of a most sanguinary insurrection, and seventy million pounds of debt, more than sixty years afterwards.

On the 6th of March the first blessings of war began to develop themselves in the announcement, by Pitt, that his majesty had engaged a body of his Hanoverian troops to assist the Dutch; and, on the 11th, by his calling on the house to form itself into a committee of ways and means to consider the propriety of raising a loan of four millions and a half, for issuing four millions of exchequer bills, in addition to the ordinary revenue, to meet the demands of the y car. Resolutions for both these purposes were passed; and, on the 15th, a bill was introduced, making it high treason for any one to sell to the French any monuments of war, bullion, or woollen cloth. Fox and his party opposed this bill, but it was readily carried through both houses.

The repulse of the French in their attack on Holland, and their repeated defeats in Belgium, induced the French government to make overtures for peace with England, but in a secret and most singular way. Instead of an open proposal through some duly-accredited envoy, the proposals came through a Mr. John Salter, a public notary of Poplar. This notary delivered to lord Grenville two letters from Lebrun, the French foreign minister, dated the 2nd of April, stating that France was desirous to accommodate its differences with England, and, provided the idea was accepted by England, M. Maret should be sent over with full powers, on passports being duly forwarded. A Mr. John Matthews, of Biggin House, Surrey, attested that these notes were perfectly genuine, and had been signed in the presence of himself and Mr. John Salter. Lord Grenville, suspecting a correspondence coming through so extraordinary a medium, and believing, at best, that the design of the French was only to gain time, in order to recover their losses, took no notice of the letters, and, as the jacobins were then following up their attacks on the Girondists from day to day, he saw no prospect of any permanence of that party in power. In fact, they were expelled by the 2nd of June, and, on the 22nd of that month, Lebrun was in flight to avoid arrest.

Before the close of April a great commercial crisis had taken place in England, and ministers were compelled to make a new issue, by consent of parliament, of five millions of exchequer bills, to assist merchants and manufacturers, under proper security, manufactured goods being considered such, and these were to be deposited at London, Bristol, Hull, Liverpool, Glasgow, and Leeds. The shortness of the circulating medium was assigned as the cause; but no doubt the prospect of a continental war, without a prospect of any definite conclusion, was the more real one.

Fox did not suffer the session to close without another powerful effort to avoid the war with France. A petition had been handed to him for presentation to the commons, drawn up by Mr. Gurney, of Norwich, and signed by the Friends and other inhabitants of that city, praying that peace with France might be concluded. Fox not only agreed to present it and support its prayer, but he earnestly exhorted Mr. Gurney and his friends to promote the sending of petitions from other places for this object, as the only means of influencing the house, bent determinedly on war. On the 17th of June, only four days before the close of the session, Fox moved an address to the crown, praying that, as the French had been driven out of Holland, peace should be made. In pursuance of his object - a great one, if attainable - he did not spare his former favourite, the empress of Russia, and the other royal robbers of Poland. Burke replied that Fox knew very well that the defence of Holland was but a very partial motive for the war. The real obstacles to peace were the avowed principles of the French - those of universal conquest, of annexation of the kingdoms conquered, as already Alsace, Savoy, and Belgium; their attempts on the constitution of this country by insidious means; the murder of their own monarch held up as an example to all other nations. To make peace with France, he said truly, was to declare war against all the rest of Europe, which was threatened by France; and he asked with whom in France should we negotiate for peace, if so disposed? Should it be Lebrun, already in a dungeon, or with Clavières, who was hiding from those who were anxious to take his head? or with Egalité, also in a dungeon at Marseilles? He represented that you might as well attempt to negotiate with a quicksand or a whirlwind as with the present ever-shifting and truculent factions which ruled in France. The motion of Fox was negatived by a large majority, and on the 21st of June the king prorogued parliament.

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