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who served under him and with him, yet hated and overthrew him, joining in order to do so the very man who had formerly dismissed him, and whom he had always, since his dismissal, fiercely denounced. Nor can we find them in Fox's support, as the colleague of Lord North, of the Treaty of 1783, in opposition to which Shelburne had been dishonestly defeated by Fox's machinations. Still less can we find them in the career of the man who declared that "if we can give one good stout blow at prerogative, I care not how soon we go out," yet becam so complaisant to his king that he declared, "I do not propose to vex my sovereign" by mentioning Catholic emancipation. And, finally, we are unable to discover them in the conduct of the man who, after having opposed the war with France almost to the point of treason, was able to recommend, nearly with his latest breath, its vigorous prosecution. We must crave pardon of Sir George Trevelyan, therefore, if we decline to accept the valuation he places on the merits of Charles Fox as a public man. We may, therefore, put him aside at present, in order to proceed directly to the consideration of these points in the history of the American rebellion on which so much has been laid in the volume under review.
In order to provide as solid a basis as possible for the support of his theory of rebellion, the author from the first insists on the "subtle despotism" of the king, the "subservience of Ministers, and the " 'corrup
tion" of Parliament. This may be politics; it is not history. The firmness of the king, his domestic virtues, his great industry, his regard for his people, his courage in confronting such riots as that of Lord George Gordon, his respect for law, his determination not to be controlled by cabals, were just the qualities required to secure to Great Britain a stable dynasty, which within a short period had been assailed by two rebellions and was threatened still by factions, by the spread of dangerous theories, by enemies abroad, and by obvious disaffection among a party at least in the Colonies. It may be very fine to call this subtle despotism, but reasonable beings will prefer a more righteous name. If the king's Ministers were subservient, their names are some guarantee that subserviency was not their chief quality. Chatham can hardly be called a subservient Minister; no king ever stood from any Minister such neglect and stubborn resistance as George III. stood from Chatham. Grenville as a Minister used to lecture the king at great length. North was constantly in private opposition to the king, and was accustomed to ask to have his resignation accepted. Fox finally forced himself on the king, and at any time can hardly be said to have been subservient. Rockingham and his friends were not subservient. Pitt was the most imperious Minister that ever a monarch had. In fine, no king with a taste for subtle despotism was ever so very frank and fearless
in making his policy public; nor was any such despot ever so constantly thwarted. That Parliament was at times corrupt we may admit- that is, corrupt means were taken to get there and keep there, and place was an element in conduct but it can hardly be contended that the corruption of Parliament ever extended to the point of encouraging sedition or favouring the dismemberment of the king's dominions. This was left to gentlemen who played small games with big counters, and who talked "patriotism" when they meant perfidy, and "liberty when they meant rebellion.
This, it seems to us, is what the author indicates when he says:
"But in the spring of 1774 events were at hand which broke the slumbers and tried the mettle of all true patriots in the kingdom. A controversy was at their door, unlimited in its scope, inexorable in its demands on their attention; and of all men, inside Parliament and out, to none did it come pregnant with greater issues than to Fox."
This controversy, so inspiring and awakening and pregnant and all the rest of it, was the American rebellion. Concerning that event, its origin, course, and conclusion, Sir George Trevelyan has endeavoured to precipitate into the minds of readers of to-day all the passions and prejudices of its own bad time. His method is ingenious enough, and he has the advantage of many pages and a felicitous style. But without burdening the small space at our disposal by many
quotations, we think we can follow and confute him as to the prime postulates of his thesis.
Stress is laid on the tyranny What had the of the king. "tyranny" of the king to do with the discontent in America? The colonies were, in fact, little republics, each having its own. charter or constitution, and each free to govern itself. The laws they lived under were in the main passed by themselves. The chief taxes they paid were self-imposed. There was not at any time previous to the Stamp Act and the tea-duty a single man from one end of America to the other who felt the slightest feather-weight of royal prerogative. And, taking all the proceeds of the objectionable taxes together, they would not have amounted to a penny per head. The very worst tyranny the colonies suffered from was the tyranny of their own amazing and cruel legislation, which restricted human liberty of conscience in an unprecedented manner. And this abominable legislation they had been free to pass under charters and constitutions, some of which were as old as Elizabeth, and which were probably unfamiliar to George.
We are given brilliant descriptions of the prosperity of the colonies, and of the superior character of the people, as.compared with ignorant and boorish Britons at home. The author constantly makes these comparisons as unfavourable as language can make them. As to the prosperity, which we admit, we reply that it is proof positive
that, as we had occasion to say in a previous article, the colonial system of Great Britain at the period of the rebellion was the best in the world. Compare the systems of France and Spain and Portugal and Holland at the same time, and see the difference in the freedom and prosperity of the American colonies. And as to the difference in manners and habits between the boorish Briton and the cultivated American of 1776, we shall proceed with greater particularity.
To justify the notorious smuggling in America, which was at the bottom of most of the New England patriotism, we are given a long dissertation smuggling in England and Ireland. But the author does not point out at the same time that smuggling was illegal in Great Britain as well as in America; that the Government did its best to put it down, even at the point of the bayonet; that when smugglers were caught they suffered the penalty of the law; and that if warrants could be issued in America to search for smuggled goods, they could be issued in England as well. In England smugglers were criminals. In America they were-Patriots.
To justify the persistent and systematic opposition to the legitimate authority of an equitable monarch and a legal Parliament, we are told that the Americans were fond of the study of the law, and read many copies of Blackstone. We are all quite familiar with that fact; but Sir George Trevelyan does not seem able to
draw the conclusion that Blackstone did not teach rebellion; that if Americans read much law they should have exhibited some regard for it, instead of exercising every form of ingenuity to avoid or violate it. There was much personal opposition to the king and the Parliament and the law in England. In England the weight of royal and parliamentary and legal authority was felt by the individual. The king's policy was personal within a certain range. Constituencies were kept without their chosen members. Ministers were dismissed. The prisons were pretty full. Men lost places. But there never was any hint of rebellion in consequence. We may be told that England was well represented in Parliament. That is not quite true. There were large cities that were not represented at all. But there was not a village from Massachusetts to Virginia that could not speak through the mouth of Chatham, of Barré, of Burke, and, if you will, of Fox. Nevertheless they must rebel. The virus of rebellion had gone over in the Mayflower, and it sprang into life whenever legitimate authority was exercised, or a demand made for the fulfilment of a duty.
To justify the hostility of the simple and industrious colonist to his brethren in Great Britain, we are told by the author, in great detail, that society in the older country was vicious, extravagant, ostentatious, and corrupt. But a hundred witnesses can be called, all American, to show that
every single phase of British and European extravagance, &c., prevailed in America. Cock-fighting, gambling, horseracing, drinking, the frenzy of fashion, the fury of personal ambition, the vices which sprang from a wild life in the woods and from the slave institutions of the South, all prevailed in a remarkable
manner in the colonies before 1776, and were increased in intensity after the struggle was over. We have the books at our hand and the list of the pages; but the reader would not care to have the quotations inflicted upon him.
To justify the hostility of Americans to the English in the colonies, we are told that strangers in England were treated with rudeness if they did not travel in coaches. Tramps of any of any kind have never, save in our own day, had much consideration. But if Sir George Trevelyan will consult the pages of any American historian, he will find that strangers dreaded the horrible rudeness, dishonesty, and inhospitality of the Dutch in the Albany district as much as they dreaded the savages. And the unfortunate Chevalier Pontgibaud could tell him how, coming to America to fight for American liberty under Lafayette, the ship he came in was plundered by Southern patriots, his personal baggage stolen, and himself committed to the "charity" of the people by Thomas Jefferson!
To justify the use by Franklin
of the Hutchinson letters, the author gives us a long dissertation on the misuse of the mails by Ministers in England at the time. He does not face the fact that every nation in the world has laws to prevent its mails from being misused. And he ignores the well-known fact that in the colonies in those days it was the common practice of even the very mailcarriers to read the letters they carried; and that Washington and his friends corresponded in cipher for mutual protection. Franklin was perfectly familiar with the practice. And when the Hutchinson letters came into his hands, he very deliberately used them in such a manner as to make their ultimate publicity certain. He cunningly endeavoured to avoid personal responsibility. He imposed a quasi-secrecy on his American correspondents as to copying, but not as to reading. And he did not avow his share in the transaction in England till after a duel had been fought regarding it. His conduct has been palliated, but never defended or excused. The author in sequence gives us the old story that Franklin wore at Versailles on signing the Declaration of Independence the very coat which he wore when he was insulted regarding those letters by Wedderburne in the Privy Council. Mr Wharton, in the appendix to his 'Digest of American International Law,' has long ago, it seems to us, disposed of that story. It ought so to die.
We are told at great length that the destiny of America was
"A very little study of long-forgotten politics will suffice to show that in filibustering and gerrymandering, in stealing governorships and legislatures, in using force at the polls, in colonising and distributing patronage to whom patronage is due, in all the frauds and tricks that go to make up the worst form of practical politics, the men who founded our state and national governments were always our equals and often our masters."
Sir George Trevelyan's studies in this direction have evidently not gone very far.
But they included at least a letter of
Washington's which ought to have quickened his intelligence. In October 1776, when the "patriots were engaged in actual conflict for their " liberty," Washington wrote:
"Such a dearth of public spirit and such a want of virtue; such stock jobbing and fertility in all the low arts to obtain advantages of one kind or another in this great change of
military, I never saw before, and I pray God's mercy I may never see again."
A letter like that should have checked the desire to justify rebellion in America because there was corruption in England. But the science of logic suffers much at our author's hands.
The dearth of public spirit to which Washington refers arose from an obvious cause. The country at large had been committed to rebellion without its
The popular heart was not in the enterprise. The greatest number of people, the greatest amount of property, were on the side of the Crown.
But all the rebellions of history have been made by noisy and aggressive minorities; and the minority in the Colonies was noisy, aggressive, organised, and interested.
Some were bank
rupt, some were under summons to appear before the courts, some aspired to jobs of the social prominence of the in the army, some were jealous Tories, some (and Washington was among the number) had 66 crows to pluck" with the regular officers, who had not cordially recognised their mi
litia rank. That there were some who were zealously and honestly in arms no one need doubt; but they were few in number. The ranks were filled with criminals, foreigners, and failures in the industrial occupations. The wonder is that they all fought so well. The "Tories" were not all on the side of the Crown, though There against the rebellion. were Tories who claimed that