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SIR GEORGE TREVELYAN AS A HISTORIAN.
THERE is in Hans Andersen's worker in a great cause. Long Fairy Tales a very suggestive after even American historians fable. A certain hobgoblin of eminence in our time have once made looking - glass abandoned most of
of the old which had the quality of caus- Whig theories of the Revoluing everything that was good to tion and most of the hysterical look small and everything that paragraphs of the Declaration was bad bigger. His pupils of Independence, he comes forcarried this looking-glass about ward to restate every one of with them everywhere, amusing them with a vigorous confithemselves with its distortions. dence that leaves us in doubt They even attempted to carry whether to be amused or indigit up to the angels. It feil nant at his amazing credulity. from their hands, however, and The reader of these
pages broke into a million of pieces. may perhaps think that it is The tiny atoms, getting into not worth our while to write, people's eyes, made them see or his to read, a refutation of through a distorted medium. oft - refuted stories, misstateWhat was bad seemed good; ments, and misunderstandings. what was good seemed bad; But we must beg a moment's and the world has suffered attention. Our history as ever since from that remark- colonising empire is not at an able catastrophe.
end. Our interests as a mother We do not desire to be too country of self-governing dompersonal; but after reading Sir inions, colonies, and dependenGeorge Trevelyan's first volume cies are still at stake. We are on the American Revolution, perhaps but in the beginning of we cannot help suspecting that a period of growth that may
one of the victims of lead to change, of change that the hobgoblin's mischievous may lead to the alteration of mechanism. He has presented our attitude as a parent State. to the public a volume which It can hardly be wise to permit contains in every chapter, and to pass uncontradicted into our almost on every page, a wrong national literature set of view of every important event theories that are false, a relation in one of the most interesting of facts that is inaccurate, and and most familiar periods of our a philosophy of government national history. Long after that finds its logical conclusion every historical student with in no government at all. It
conscience has relegated can serve no good purposeCharles Fox to the limbo of it may serve a very
bad failures that might have been to see popularised without prosuccesses if they would, he test ideas concerning our govbrings him forward as a seri- ernment of colonies in the ous statesman and an effective eighteenth century which may
be used—nay, will most assur- Europe might indeed be made edly be used—to discredit our part of the Life of Pitt, for Pitt government of colonies in the impended over Europe during twentieth century.
The virus the most momentous period of of vindictive criticism which its modern history. But the the friends of the American career of Fox was only an epirevolution, in England, infused sode of Whig politics in Enginto the minds of their followers land. No American historian did not exhaust itself in the has ever given to Fox special parliamentary conflicts which prominence in the history of his ended in the Treaty of 1783. country's struggle for indepenIt animated them during the dence. The name of Chatham, conflict with the French Revol- the name of Burke, the name of ution and with Napoleon I., Barré fill some space and share making them in effect the ene- some reverence and regard; but mies of their country. When the name of Fox has to be that period had passed, the dragged in and magnified outvirus, still active and malignant, rageously in order to occupy animated all those who any place of pride in Americouraged disaffection in
in the can history. Even Sir George colonies that remained to us. Trevelyan, as far as he has The mischievous effects of Whig gone, finds little to say of him. theories of colonial rule are to Fox enters late into the story, be traced in every disturbance and does not linger long. The
Ꮎ that has taken place from the very opening sentence of the Canadian rebellion of 1837 volume challenges our instant to the very latest kick against contradiction. “ When Charles “Downing Street rule that Fox," we are told, “left office may still be hidden in the de- in the February of 1774, the spatch-boxes of the Colonial first marked period of his poliOffice. What mischief there tical life came to an end. From may lurk in the popularisation that time forward he moved of these mischievous theories across the stage a far wiser we may fear, but may not real- man, pursuing higher ends by ise till their consequences rise worthier methods. " We have up to confront us. This is the to put in at once a peremptory chief reason that moves us to go protest. Fox did not " leave once more over beaten ground, office in 1774. He was disand to expose once more the missed. “ His Majesty has inaccuracy and untruthfulness issued a new Commission of the of old-time affronts to our in- Treasury in which I do not see telligence and our loyalty. your name, wrote Lord North.
It is not necessary to quarrel That was not exactly “leaving with Sir George Trevelyan office." And as to the higher about the literary form of his ends and worthier methods, we work. To make the History of are unable to find them in the the American Revolution part career of a man who made
perof the Life of Fox is indeed sonal animosity to Shelburne preposterous. The history of the principle of his political life,
who served under him and with tion” of Parliament. This may him, yet hated and overthrow be politics; it is not history. him, joining in order to do so The firmness of the king, his the very man who had formerly domestic virtues, his great indismissed him, and whom he dustry, his regard for his people, had always, since his dismissal, his courage in confronting such fiercely denounced. Nor can we riots as that of Lord George Gorfind them in Fox's support, as don, his respect for law, his dethe colleague of Lord North, of termination not to be controlled the Treaty of 1783, in opposi- by cabals, were just the qualition to which Shelburne had ties required to secure to Great been dishonestly defeated by Britain a stable dynasty, which Fox's machinations. Still less within a short period had been can we find them in the career assailed by two rebellions and of the man who declared that was threatened still by factions, “if we can give one good stout by the spread of dangerous blow at prerogative, I care not theories, by enemies abroad, how soon we go out,” yet becam and by obvious disaffection so complaisant to his king that among a party at least in the he declared, “I do not propose Colonies. It may be very fine to vex my sovereign” by men- to call this subtle despotism, tioning Catholic emancipation. but reasonable beings will preAnd, finally, we are unable to fer a more righteous name. If discover them in the conduct of the king's Ministers were subthe man who, after having op- servient, their names are some posed the war with France al- guarantee that subserviency most to the point of treason, was not their chief quality. was able to recommend, nearly Chatham can hardly be called with his latest breath, its vigor- a subservient Minister; no king ous prosecution. We must crave ever stood from any Minister pardon of Sir George Trevelyan, such neglect and stubborn retherefore, if we decline to accept sistance as George III. stood the valuation he places on the from Chatham. Grenville as merits of Charles Fox as a pub- a Minister used to lecture the lic man.
We may, therefore, king at great length. North put him aside at present, in constantly in private order to proceed directly to the opposition to the king, and consideration of these points in was accustomed to ask to have the history of the American his resignation accepted. Fox rebellion on which so much has finally forced himself on the been laid in the volume under king, and at any
hardly be said to have been In order to provide as solid subservient. Rockingham and a basis as possible for the sup- his friends were not subservient. port of his theory of rebellion, Pitt was the most imperious the author from the first insists Minister that ever a monarch on the “subtle despotism” of had. In fine, no king with a the king, the “subservience" taste for subtle despotism was of Ministers, and the “ corrup- ever so very frank and fearless
in making his policy public; quotations, we think we nor was any such despot ever follow and confute him as to so constantly thwarted. That the prime postulates of his Parliament was at times cor- thesis. rupt we may admit
- that is,
Stress is laid on the tyranny corrupt means were taken to of the king. What had the get there and keep there, and “tyranny
“tyranny ” of the king to do place was an element in con- with the discontent in America ? duct — but it can hardly be The colonies were, in fact, little contended that the corruption republics, each having its own of Parliament ever extended to charter or constitution, and each the point of encouraging sedi- free to govern itself. The laws tion or favouring the dismem- they lived under were in the berment of the king's dominions. main passed by themselves. This was left to gentlemen who The chief taxes they paid were played small games with big self-imposed. There was not at counters,
and who talked any time previous to the Stamp “patriotism ” when they meant Act and the tea-duty a single perfidy, and “liberty when man from one end of America they meant rebellion.
to the other who felt the slightest This, it seems to us, is what feather-weight of royal prerogathe author indicates when he tive. And, taking all the prosays :
ceeds of the objectionable taxes
together, they would not have “But in the spring of 1774 events amounted to a penny per head. were at hand which broke the slumbers and tried the mettle of all true
The very worst tyranny the patriots in the kingdom. A contro
colonies suffered from was the versy was at their door, unlimited in tyranny of their own amazing its scope, inexorable in its demands and cruel legislation, which reon their attention ; and of all men,
stricted human liberty of coninside Parliament and out, to none did it come pregnant with greater
unprecedented issues than to Fox."
And this abominable
legislation they had been free This controversy, so inspir- to pass under charters and coning and awakening and preg- stitutions, some of which were nant and all the rest of it, was as old as Elizabeth, and which the American rebellion. Con- were probably unfamiliar to cerning that event, its origin, George. course, and conclusion, Sir
We are given brilliant deGeorge Trevelyan has endeav- scriptions of the prosperity of oured to precipitate into the the colonies, and of the superior minds of readers of to-day all character of the people, as comthe passions and prejudices of pared with ignorant and boorish its own bad time. His method Britons at home. The author is ingenious enough, and he has constantly makes these comparithe advantage of many pages sons as unfavourable as lanand a felicitous style. But
guage can make them. As to without burdening the small the prosperity, which we admit, space at our disposal by many we reply that it is proof positive
that, as we had occasion to say draw the conclusion that Blackin a previous article, the colonial stone did not teach rebellion ; system of Great Britain at the that if Americans read much period of the rebellion was the law they should have exhibited best in the world. Compare some regard for it, instead of the systems of France and exercising every form of inSpain and Portugal and Hol- genuity to avoid or violate it. land at the same time, and see There was much personal oppothe difference in the freedom sition to the king and the Parand prosperity of the American liament and the law in England. colonies. And as to the differ- In England the weight of royal ence in manners and habits and parliamentary and legal between the boorish Briton and authority was felt by the indithe cultivated American of 1776, vidual. The king's policy was we shall proceed with greater personal within a certain range. particularity.
Constituencies were kept withTo justify the notorious smug- out their chosen members. gling in America, which was at Ministers were dismissed. The the bottom of most of the New prisons were pretty full. Men England patriotism, we
But there never given a long dissertation on
hint of rebellion in smuggling in England and Ire- consequence. We may be told land. But the author does not that England was well reprepoint out at the same time that sented in Parliament. That is smuggling was illegal in Great not quite true.
There were Britain as well as in America ; large cities that were not reprethat the Government did its sented at all. But there was best to put it down, even at not a village from Massachusetts the point of the bayonet ; that to Virginia that could not speak when smugglers were caught through the mouth of Chatham, they suffered the penalty of the of Barré, of Burke, and, if you law; and that if warrants could will, of Fox. Nevertheless they be issued in America to search must rebel. The virus of refor smuggled goods, they could bellion had gone over in the be issued in England as well. Mayflower, and it sprang In England smugglers were into life whenever legitimate criminals. In America they authority was exercised, or a were—Patriots.
demand made for the fulfilment To justify the persistent and of a duty. systematic opposition to the To justify the hostility of the legitimate authority of simple and industrious colequitable monarch and a legalonist to his brethren in Great Parliament, we are told that Britain, we told by the the Americans were fond of author, in great detail, that the study of the law, and read society in the older country many copies of Blackstone.
was vicious, extravagant, ostenWe are all quite familiar with tatious, and corrupt. But a that fact; but Sir George Tre- hundred witnesses can be called, velyan does not seem able to all American, to show that