« AnteriorContinuar »
connection, however, in opposition to the demands of England, necessarily gave rise to numerous disputes; and that the alliance they had entered into must certainly lead to war, the French ministry were fully convinced.
Although we will not strongly denounce the equivocation, artifices, and subterfuges so often revealed in the history of diplomatic negotiations, and of which France was doubtless guilty on this occasion, as being in a manner established by custom and to be expected also from her opponenty-yet we must not leave unnoticed a censure pronounced from another quarter with great earnestness and weight. “ The principle,” it has been said, “ of true, eternal right, according to which every disobedience to authority is prohibited by laws both human and divine, should alone have been permitted to decide. France was the first to sanction the principle, that subjects who are discontented with their government, or have reason to complain of it, may renounce their allegiance and revolt.” In this conclusion there certainly reigns the spirit of the school ; that is to say, all is exhibited in a connected, consistent, absolute manner; but to this abstraction (as I remarked before at the end of the preceding chapter) it is necessary there should be added contemplation and critical examination of the living and the multifarious. In fact human and divine laws equally forbid the tyranny of governments and of popular rebellions; and the school or schools which are always complaining and striving against the one, while they disregard, and through passion or wilfulness remain ignorant of the other, have scarcely apprehended one half of the truth.
Furthermore, it is historically erroneous to say that France then first gave the example of strengthening or sanctioning a vicious principle. From the assistance with which Athens furnished the Greek colonies in Asia Minor against the Persians, down to the recognition of the independence of Texas, examples are found in history of similar proceedings; and France and England in particular had already acted in a like manner with respect to the United Netherlands.
FROM THE BREAKING OUT OF THE WAR BETWEEN FRANCE AND
ENGLAND (1778) TO THE PEACE OF VERSAILLES (1783).
Views in England-Chatham's Death-Disasters of the Americans—Paper Money
- Rochambéáu, Arnold, André-Capture of Cornwallis—Treaties of PeaceResults.
After the disaster at Saratoga, the attacks of the opposition against the government in England became constantly louder, although they were by no means agreed among themselves. Thus one party, with Chatham at its head, wished to treat the Americans justly and put them on a level with themselves, but not to recognise their independence; while the second party, led by Rockingham, declared that this independence must be recognised, and that they must content themselves with an advantageous treaty of commerce. For, said they, North America can no more be conquered again, than Normandy or Brittany; and in no other way is it possible to make a good stand against France, who is certainly about to begin the war.
A plan of reconciliation, which ministers did not propose until France had joined America, was then of course rejected, as it did not include independence. When the Duke of Richmond, on the 7th of April, 1778, declared himself strongly in favor of this recognition, Chatham (who had long been prevented by illness
from attending Parliament) determined to make an impressive effort for retaining that quarter of the world which the force of his genius and character had won in the seven years' war. He was dressed in a suit of black velvet, and had to be supported to his seat by his son William Pitt and his son-in-law Viscount Mahon. All the lords rose out of respect, and greeted him as the first and noblest of English statesmen. With the greatest earnestness and eloquence he laid before them his views and convictions. His strength and voice then left him; he fell back, and expired on the 11th of May, in the 70th year of his age. The interest awakened by this event was universal; and bitter was the recollection, on comparing the glory and greatness of Great Britain in the time of his administration with its present deplorable condition. He was buried at the public expense, and a monument was erected to him in Westminster Abbey ; moreover, the debts of this disinterested public servant were paid, and a yearly income affixed to the earldom of Chatham.
* Belsham, vi. 365.
In America, in the meanwhile, the war was carried on not only against the English, but also amid greater sufferings against the Indians, who for the most part were connected with them. The English shifted the seat of war to the southern states; obtained possession of Georgia and Carolina; and, under the command of Lord Cornwallis, defeated near Camden, on the 16th of August, 1780, the weaker American army under General Gates. This again inspired the British ministry with the fallacious hope of speedily reducing all the colonies to obedience. Lord Cornwallis, too, losing sight of moderation and prudence, ordered that all the inhabitants who had supported the Americans should be punished in the severest manner. And in fact many were banished from the country, their property confiscated, their slaves stirred up against them, and even several of them hanged. By measures such as these the steadfastness of the better sort was confirmed; the timid were forced to be courageous; and the bravery even of the women was excited to such a pitch, that they encouraged their husbands to resistance and dared the greatest dangers.
At the moment when the Americans succeeded by redoubled exertions in arresting the progress of the English, they found themselves afflicted with a new misfortune. Immediately on the breaking out of the revolution, those at the head of American affairs perceived that it was not to be carried through without money. But since there was none on hand, and none was to be obtained from mines and commerce, or to be raised by taxes, it was concluded to issue paper-money, to be redeemed at certain intervals in gold and silver, and which at first (in the general enthusiasm and good understanding of the people) every one received willingly and at par. But now, when the war had been protracted beyond expectation, and when, as the promised times of redemption came round, the distress was becoming more and more pressing, and the issues of paper-money kept constantly increasing, its full value could of course no longer be maintained. The evil was augmented by excessive credits, by ignorance and error with respect to money and exchanges, by fraudulent counterfeits of the paper-money, and by its being made in the several states. It gradually became so depreciated in value, that 40, and even from 85 to 110 dollars of currency were given for one silver dollar.* All propositions to pay interest on the paper-money, to reduce it within certain bounds, or to do away with it altogether, failed of accomplishment; partly from want of means, and partly because the proposed amendments were crudle and unsatisfactory in themselves.* Just complaints were every where made respecting the rise of prices, the loss of pro. perty, and frauds and disputes betwixt creditors and debtors." In ihis state of embarrassment, Congress came to the erroneous and impracticable conclusion, that the price of labor, of produce, and of merchandize, might be fixed by compulsory laws, or that every one might be prevented from demanding or receiving more paper-money than hard money. Of as little use was the sale of public lands; since long credits usually had to be given, and the paper-money kept sinking in the meanwhile. Unhappily these mistakes and distresses led to carelessness in the fulfilment of engagements; to an habitual disregard of justice, which became almost a law; and to a lack of truth, honor, and good faith in trade and intercourse ;-evils which, even in the judgment of Americans, could not be rooted out in many years.
* Polit. Journal, 1781, pp. 102, 169. Gallatin on Currency, p. 26.
No one was at that time brought into greater embarrassment by this state of things than Washington. With paper-money the troops could no longer be paid ; and to purchase any thing. with it was still more difficult, since bad harvests and the inter. ruptions to agriculture had produced a dearth of provisions, which, in spite of all orders to the contrary, were sold in preference to the cash-paying English. Washington sought by firm. ness, patience, and mildness, to diminish as far as possible these great evils; and when a committee of Congress, entrusted with full powers, on coming to the camp confirmed the complaints of the commander-in-chief, and represented in the most forcible manner the want and hardships they endured, many (and in particular the city of Philadelphia) undertook to advance mo. ney; and arrangements were made to provide supplies, as also to raise a stronger body of militia, and to increase the army more rapidly.
The courage of the Americans rose still higher when, on the 10th of July, 1780, 6,000 French troops under Rochambeau were landed in Rhode Island, and the French government showed its willingness also to make advances of money.t But the hope of soon effecting any thing of consequence was frustrated in a great measure by the proceedings of the English ; who, by means of their naval superiority, shut up both army and fleet in that state, and compelled the Admiral Count de Guise to return to France.
It was almost wholly owing to a fortunate accident that the Americans escaped another great disaster. General Arnold, who had hitherto fought on their behalf with ability and courage, determined to deliver West Point on the Hudson (an American
* Life of Hamilton, i. 244.
| Between 1778 and 1782, France loaned 18,000,000 of livres at 5 per cent. interest, and became joint surety for a loan in Holland.-Laws of the United States, i. 100.
Gibraltar of the utmost importance), with all its stores, into the hands of the English. At first he bad fought under full conviction against his country's oppressors; but he considered that, in consequence of their defection from England, the wrong was now on the side of the Americans, and that this authorized him to go over to the royalists. Others denied the validity of these excuses, and maintained that his caprices, embezzlements, extravagance, and debts had brought him into such a state of embarrassment, that he adopted this desperate resolution in order to save himself. Invitations to the soldiers to follow his example were without effect. An English major named André-an excellent, talented, amiable man, who conducted the negotiations with Arnold-fell with his papers into the hands of the Americans. Arnold fled, and the treason was now easily frustrated. André, however, notwithstanding all the intercessions of the English in his behalf, was hanged as a spy, on the 20 October, 1780. By some this act was justified, and by others condemned; all however mourned the stern decree which put an end to so valuable a life.
This is not the place to recount the hardships and varying chances of the American war. On the 19th of October, Lord Cornwallis, with 7,000 men (of whom, however, only 3,800 were capable of bearing arms), was forced to surrender at Yorktown to Washington and Rochambeau. This most important victory, which caused the greatest joy throughout all North America, put an end to the southern campaign, and almost to the war itself. It was only against the United States, where the English were in the wrong, that they suffered disasters of every kind. Against the French, Spaniards, and Dutch, who enviously and selfishly hoped to utterly overthrow or at least to plunder that noble kingdom, they defended themselves heroically, and gained glorious victories. They were also able to maintain against the armed neutrality of the northern powers (which originated less in a love of freedom than in intrigues and underhand designs) those prin. ciples without which their naval superiority would have been ren. dered of no avail.
The capture of Lord Cornwallis, the total defeat of the French fleet near Guadaloupe (12th April, 1782, Rodney against De Grasse), and the abortive attempt of the Spaniards against Gibraltar, created in all the belligerent parties a desire for peace. As early as the 27th of February, 1782, General Conway's motion in Parliament against the American war was carried by a majority of 19 votes; sixteen years before, he had moved the repeal of the Stamp Act. On the 19th March, 1782, the ministry resigned ; and Rockingham, Cavendish, Shelburne, Camden, Fox, and others took their seats.
The preliminaries of the peace concluded with America on