TOWARDS HER DEPENDENCIES.
English Crimes against
Lecky, A History of
"It would be difficult in the whole compass of history, to find another instance in which such various and such powerful agencies concurred to degrade the character and to blast the prosperity of a nation."
In the history of
In order to accomplish this task, it will be necessary to throw a brief glance over some of the earlier phases of Irish history. I leave it to professed antiquaries to discuss how far the measure of civilisation, which had undoubtedly been attained
It was certainly a fatal calamity to
was confined and concentrated in the narrow limits of the Pale. The hostile power planted in the heart of the nation destroyed all possibility of central government, while it was itself incapable of fulfilling that function, and instead of that peaceful and almost silent amalgamation of races, customs, laws, and languages which took place in England, and which is the source of many of the best elements in English life and character, the two nations remained in Ireland for centuries in hostility.
It was inevitable, in such a situation and at such a time, that those who formed the nucleus of the English power, should look upon the Irish as later colonists looked upon the Red Indians — as being, like wild beasts, beyond the pale of the moral law. Intermarriage with them was forbidden by stringent penalties, and many savage laws were made to maintain the distinction. 'It was manifest', says Sir John Davis, 'that such as had the government of Ireland under the crown of England did intend to make a perpetual separation and enmity between the English and Irish, pretending, no doubt, that the English should, in the end, root out the Irish'. A sentiment very common in the Pale was expressed by those martial monks who taught that it was no more sin to kill an Irishman than to kill a dog; and that whenever, as often happened, they killed an Irishman, they would not on that account refrain from celebrating mass even for a single day.
It was not until the reign of Henry VIII. that the royal authority became in any degree a reality
over the whole island, but its complete ascendency
dates only from the great wars of
But these isolated episodes, by diverting the mind from the broad features of
the war, serve rather to diminish than to enhance its atrocity.
The war was
literally a war of extermination. The slaughter of Irishmen was looked upon as
literally the slaughter of wild beasts. Not only the men, but even the women
and children who fell into the hands of the English, were deliberately and
systematically butchered. Bands of soldiers traversed great tracts of country,
slaying every living thing they met. The sword was not found sufficiently
expeditious, but another method proved much more efficacious. Year after year,
over a great part of
It was a very unfortunate circumstance that the period when the English nation definitively adopted the principles of the Reformation should have nearly coincided with the events I have related;
but at the same time religious zeal did not at first contribute at all essentially to the struggle. The Irish chiefs repeatedly showed great indifference to religious distinction, and the English cared much more for the suppression of the Irish race than for the suppression of its religion. The Bible was not translated into Irish. All persons were ordered, indeed, under penalty of a small fine, to attend the Anglican service; but it was ordered that it should be celebrated only in English, or, if that language was not known, in Latin. The mass became illegal; the churches and the church revenues were taken from the priests, but the benefices were filled with adventurers without religious zeal and sometimes without common morality. Very naturally, under such circumstances, the Irish continued in their old faith.
The other cause which was called into action, and which in this state of
Irish history was much more important, was the confiscation of Irish land. The
great impulse which the discovery of the
strongly in the passion for Irish land. The idea
that it was possible to obtain, at a few hours' or drays' journey from the
English coasts, and at little or no cost, great tracts of fertile territory,
and to amass in a few years gigantic fortunes, took hold upon the English mind
with a fascination much like that which was exercised by the fables of the
exhaustless riches of India in the days of Clive and of Hastings. The
Government warmly encouraged it. They believed that the one effectual policy
The system was begun on a large scale in
Then followed the great plantation of
the government, whether falsely or truly is still disputed. There was no rebellion, but the earls, either conscious of guilt, or, quite as probably, distrusting tribunals which were systematically and notoriously partial, took flight, and no less than six counties were confiscated, and planted with English and Scotch. The plantation scheme was conducted with much ability. The great depopulation of the country in the last war rendered it comparatively easy, and for the first time in the history of the confiscations, some attention was paid to the interests of the natives, to whom a considerable proportion of the confiscated land, selected arbitrarily by the Government, was assigned.
The aspect of
famine of the present century. Besides this a new and energetic element was introduced into Irish life. English law was extended through the island. The judges went their regular circuits, and it was hoped that the resentment produced by recent events would be compensated or allayed by the destruction of that clan system which had been the source of much disorder, by the abolition of the exactions of the Irish chiefs, and by the introduction of skilful husbandmen, and therefore of material prosperity, into a territory half of which lay absolutely waste, while the other half was only cultivated in the rudest manner.
But yet it needed little knowledge of human nature to perceive that the country was in imminent danger of drifting steadily to a fearful catastrophe. The unspeakable horrors that accompanied the suppression of the Irish under Elizabeth, the enormous confiscations in three provinces, the abolition of the land customs most cherished by the people, the legal condemnation of their religion, the plantation among them of an alien and hostile population, ever anxious to root them from the soil — all these elements of bitterness, crowded into a few disastrous years of suffering, were now smouldering in deep resentment in the Irish mind.
The great Irish rebellion broke out in
Catholics, resembling the massacre of the Danes by the
English, the massacre of the French in the Sicilian Vespers, or the massacre of
the Huguenots at St. Bartholomew. It may be boldly asserted that this
statement of a general and organised massacre is utterly and absolutely untrue.
As is almost always the case in a great popular rising, there were, in the
first outbreak of the rebellion, some murders, but they were very few; and
there was at this time nothing whatever of the nature of a massacre. It was
natural that these crimes should have been inordinately exaggerated in
predisposed the English to exaggerate to the utmost
the crimes of their enemies, and other influences of a more deliberate
character were at work. The rebels in
From the very beginning, the English parliament did the utmost in its power
to give the contest the character of a war of extermination. One of its first
acts was to vote that no toleration of the Romish religion should be henceforth
The Irish Parliament, which was the only organ by which the Irish gentry
could express their loyalty to the sovereign in a way that could not be
misrepresented or denied, was prorogued. Not content with denouncing
vengeance against murderers or even against districts where murders were
committed, the Parliaments, both in
If this was the spirit in which the war was conducted in
relieved and harboured, with all the corn and hay therein; and also to kill and destroy all the men there inhabiting capable to bear arms.' But horrible as were these instructions, they but faintly foreshadowed the manner in which the war was actually conducted. The soldiers, in executing the orders of the justices, murdered all persons promiscuously, not sparing the women, and sometimes not children. Whole villages as well as the houses of the gentry were remorselessly burnt even when not an enemy was seen.
In the north the rebellion was chiefly an agrarian war and a war of race. The confederation of the Catholic rebels in the other provinces comprised a large proportion of the English families of the Pale, and they drew the sword for the purpose of defending their religion from the destruction with which it was threatened and obtaining for it a full legal recognition. Though actually in arms against the Government, they disclaimed from the first the title of rebels, asserted their allegiance to the king, and were quite ready to be reconciled with him if they could only secure their religion and their estates. A third party, headed by Ormond and Clanricarde, remained firm through every temptation in their allegiance to the King, and before long a new and terrible party representing the Puritan Parliament rose to the ascendant.
In spite of the vehement efforts of the Lords Justices, and of the other members of the Puritan party, a truce was signed between the King and the confederate Catholics in September 1643, but the
complete reconciliation of the great body of the
Irish and of the Loyalists was only effected by successive stages in 1646,
1648, and 1649. But rebel and royalist sank alike under the sword of Cromwell.
It should always be remembered to his honour that one of his first acts on
The war ended at last in 1652. Out of a population of 1,466,000, 616,000 had in eleven years perished by the sword, by plague, or by famine artificially produced. 504,000 were Irish, 112,000 of English extraction. A third part of the population had been thus blotted out. Famine and the sword had so done their work, that in some districts the
traveller rode twenty or thirty miles without seeing one trace of human
life, and fierce wolves — rendered doubly savage by feeding on human flesh —
multiplied with startling rapidity through the deserted land, and might be seen
prowling in numbers within a few miles of Dublin. Slave-dealers were let loose
upon the land, and many hundreds of boys and of marrigeable girls, guilty of no
offence whatever, were torn away from their country, shipped to Barbadoes, and
sold as slaves to the planters. Merchants from
The worship which was that of almost the whole native population, was absolutely suppressed. Priests continued, it is true, with an admirable courage, to move disguised among the mud cottages of the poor and to hold up the crucifix before their dying eyes, but a large reward was offered for their apprehension, and those who were taken were usually transported to Barbadoes or confined in one of the Arran Isles.
Above all, the great end at which the English adventurers had been steadily aiming since the
The downfall of the old race was now all but accomplished. The years that followed the Restoration were years of peace, of mild government, and of great religious toleration; the prosperity of the country gradually revived, and with it some spirit of loyalty to the Government. But the Rovolution soon came to cloud the prospect. It was inevitable that in that struggle the Irish should have adopted the cause of their legitimate sovereign,
whose too ardent Catholicism was the chief cause of
his deposition. It was equally inevitable that they should have availed
themselves of the period of their ascendency to endeavour to overthrow the land
settlement which had been made. James landed at Kinsale on
It will hardly appear surprising to candid men that a Parliament so
constituted and called together amid the excitement of a civil war, should have
displayed much violence, much disregard for vested interests. Its measures,
indeed, were not all criminal. By one Act which was far in advance of the age,
it established perfect religious liberty in
Church of the small minority to that of the bulk of the nation.
If these had been the only measures of the Irish Parliament, it would have
left an eminently honourable reputation. But, unfortunately, one of its main
objects was to re-establish at all costs the descendants of the old proprietors
in their land, and to annul by measures of sweeping violence the grievous
wrongs and spoliations their fathers and their grandfathers had undergone. The
first and most important measure with this object was the repeal of the Acts of
Settlement and Explanation. The measure of repeal was speedily followed by
another Act of much more sweeping and violent injustice. The Act of
Attainder, which was introduced in the latter part of June, aimed at nothing
less than a complete overthrow of the existing land system in
It is not possible to say how that Act would have been executed, for the
days of Jacobite ascendency were now few and evil. The Parliament was prorogued
on the 20th of July, one of its last Acts being to vest in the King the
property of those who were still absentees. The heroic defence of
ruin of the old race. When the eighteenth century
dawned, the great majority of the former leaders of the people were either sunk
in object poverty or scattered as exiles over
(From Green, A Short History of the English People.)
After the surrender of
majority of the people of
During the first half of the eighteenth century two thirds of the House of
Commons was returned by a small group of nobles, who were recognised as
"parliamentary undertakers," and who undertook to "manage"
Parliament on their own terms. Irish politics were for these men a means of
public plunder; they were glutted with pensions, preferments, and bribes in
hard cash in return for their services; they were the advisers of every
Lord-Lieutenant, and the practical governors of the country. The Irish
Parliament had no power of originating legislative or financial measures, and
could only say "yes" or "no" to Acts submitted to it by the
Privy Council in
one of its statutes transferred the appellate jurisdiction
of the Irish Peerage to the English House of Lords. But as if to compensate
for the benefits of its protection,
The bitter lesson of the last conquest, however, long sufficed to check all
dreams of revolt among the natives, and the outbreaks which sprang from time to
time out of the general misery and discontent were purely social in their
character, and were roughly repressed by the ruling class. When political
revolt threatened at last, the threat came from the ruling class itself. At the
very outset of the reign of George the Third, the Irish Parliament insisted on
its claim to the exclusive control of money bills, and a cry was raised for the
removal of the checks imposed on its independence. But it was not till the
American war that this cry became a political danger, a danger so real that Englund was forced to give way. From the close of the war, when the Irish
Volunteers wrung legislative independence from the Rockingham Ministry,
also the sovereign of the other. During the next
The victory of the Volunteers immediately produced measures in favour of the Catholics and Presbyterians. The Volunteers had already in 1780 won for the Presbyterians, who formed a good half of their force, full political liberty by the abolition of the Sacramental Test; and the Irish Parliament of 1782 removed at once the last grievances of the Protestant Dissenters. The Catholics were rewarded for their aid by the repeal of the more grossly oppressive enactments of the penal laws. But when Grattan, supported by the bulk of the Irish party, pleaded for Parliamentary reform, and for the grant of equal rights to the Catholics, he was utterly foiled by the small group of borough owners, who chiefly controlled the Government and the Parliament. The ruling class found government too profitable to share it with other possessors. It was only by hard bribery that the English Viceroys could secure their co-operation in the simplest measures of administration.
In Pitt's eyes the danger of
"No strangers from other countries make this a part of their travels, where they can expect to see nothing but scenes of misery and desolation." Swift, ibid.
I am assured that it has for some time been practised as a method of making men's court, when they are asked about the rate of lands, the abilities of tenants, the state of trade and manufacture in this kingdom, and how their rents are paid, to answer, that in their neighbourhood all things are in a flourishing condition, the rent and purchase of land every day increasing. And if a gentleman happens to be a little more sincere in his representations, besides being looked on as not well affected, he is sure to have a dozen contradictors at his elbow. I think it is no manner of secret why these questions are so cordially asked, or so obligingly answered.
But since with regard to the affairs of this Kingdom, I have been using all endeavours to subdue my indignation, to which indeed I am not provoked by any personal interest, being not the owner of one spot of ground in the whole Island, I shall only enumerate by rules generally known, and never contradicted, what are the true causes of any country's flourishing and growing rich, and then examine what effects arise from those causes in the Kingdom of Ireland.
The first cause of a Kingdom's thriving is the fruitfulness of the soil, to produce the necessaries and conveniencies of life, not only sufficient for the inhabitants, but for exportation into other countries.
The second, is the industry of the people in working up all their native commodities to the last degree of manufacture.
The third, is the conveniency of safe ports and havens, to carry out their own goods, as much manufactured, and bring in those of others, as little manufactured as the nature of mutual commerce will allow.
The fourth, is that the natives should as much as possible export and import their goods in vessels of their own timber, made in their own country.
The fifth, is the liberty of a free trade in all foreign countries which will permit them, except those who are in war with their own Prince or State.
The sixth, is, by being governed only by laws made with their own consent, for otherwise they
are not a free People. And therefore all appeals for justice, or applications for favour or preferment to another country, are so many grievous impoverishments.
The seventh, is, by improvement of land, encouragement of agriculture, and thereby increasing the number of their people, without which any country, however blessed by Nature, must continue poor.
The eighth, is the residence of the Princes, or chief administrators of the civil power.
The ninth, is the concourse of foreigners for education, curiosity or pleasure, or as to a general mart of trade.
The tenth, is by disposing all offices of honour, profit or trust, only to the natives, or at least with very few exceptions, where strangers have long inhabited the country, and are supposed to understand, and regard the interest of it as their own.
The eleventh is, when the rents of lands, and profits of employments, are spent in the country which produced them, and not in another, the former of which will certainly happen, where the love of our native country prevails.
The twelfth, is by the public revenues being all spent and employed at home, except on the occasions of a foreign war.
The thirteenth, is where the people are not obliged, unless they find it for their own interest, or conveniency, to receive any moneys, except of their own coinage by a public mint, after the manner of all civilised nations.
The fourteenth, is a disposition of the people of a country to wear their own manufactures, and import as few incitements to luxury, either in clothes, furniture, food or drink, as they possibly can live conveniently without.
There are many other causes of a Nation's thriving, which I cannot at
present recollect; but without advantage from at least some of these, after
turning my thoughts a long time, I am not able to discover from whence our
wealth proceeds, and therefore would gladly be better informed. In the
mean time, I will here examine what share falls to
It is not my intention to complain, but barely to relate facts, and the matter is not of small importance. For it is allowed that a man who lives in a solitary house far from help, is not wise in endeavouring to acquire in the neighbourhood the reputation of being rich, because those who come for gold, will go off with pewter and brass, rather than return empty; and in the common practice of the world, those who possess most wealth, make the least parade, which they leave to others, who have nothing else to bear them out, in showing their faces on the Exchange.
As to the first cause of a Nation's riches, being the fertility of the soil, as well as temperature of climate, we have no reason to complain; for although the quantity of unprofitable land in this Kingdom, reckoning rock, and bog, and barren mountain, be double in proportion to what it is in England,
yet the native productions which both Kingdoms deal in, are very near on equality in point of goodness, and might with the same encouragement be as well manufactured. I except mines and minerals, in some of which however we are only defective in point of skill and industry.
In the second, which is the industry of the people, our misfortune is not altogether owing to our own fault, but to a million of discouragements.
The conveniency of ports and havens which Nature bestowed on us so liberally is of no more use to us, than a beautiful prospect to a man shut up in a dungeon.
As to shipping of its own, this Kingdom is so utterly unprovided, that of all the excellent timber cut down within these fifty or sixty years, it can hardly be said that the Nation has received the benefit of one valuable house to dwell in, or one ship to trade with.
Ireland is the only Kingdom I ever heard or read of, either in ancient or modern story, which was denied the liberty of exporting their native commodities and manufactures wherever they pleased, except to countries at war with their own Prince or State, yet this by the superiority of mere power is refused us in the most momentous parts of commerce, besides an Act of Navigation to which we never consented, pinned down upon us, and rigorously executed, and a thousand other unexampled circumstances as grievous as they are invidious to mention. To go unto the rest.
It is too well known that we are forced to obey some laws we never consented to. Thus we are in the condition of patients who have physics sent them by doctors at a distance, strangers to their constitution, and the nature of their disease: And thus, we are forced to pay five hundred per cent, to divide our properties, in all which we have likewise the honour to be distinguished from the whole race of mankind.
As to improvement of land, those few who attempt that or planting, through covetousness or want of skill, generally leave things worse than they were, neither succeeding in trees nor hedges, and by running into the fancy of grazing after the manner of the Scythians, are every day depopulating the country.
We are so far from having a King to reside among us, that even the Viceroy is generally absent four-fifths of his time in the government.
No strangers from other countries make this a part of their travels, where they can expect to see nothing but scenes of misery and desolation.
Those who have the misfortune to be born here, have the least title to any considerable employment to which they are seldom preferred, but upon a political consideration.
One third part of the rents of
to a full half of the income of the whole Kingdom,
all clear profit to
We are denied the liberty of coining gold, silver, or even copper. In the
As to the last, or fourteenth article, we take special care to act diametrically contrary to it in the whole course of our lives. Both sexes, but especially the women, despise and abhor to wear any of their own manufactures, even those which are better made than in other countries, particularly a sort of silk plaid, through which the workmen are forced to run a sort of gold thread that it may pass for Indian. Even ale and potatoes are imported in great quantity from England, as well as corn, and our foreign trade is little more than importation of French wine, for which I am told we pay ready money.
Now if all this be true, upon which I could easily enlarge, I would be glad to know by what secret method it is that we grow a rich and flourishing people, without liberty, trade, manufactures, inhabitants, money, or the privilege of coining; without industry, labour or improvement of lands, and with more than half of the rent and profits of the whole kingdom annually exported, for which we receive not a single farthing: And to make up all this, nothing worth mentioning, ex-
cept the linen of the North, a trade casual,
corrupted and at mercy, and some butter from
Let the worthy Commissioners who come from England ride round the Kingdom, and observe the face of Nature, or the face of the natives, the improvement of the land, the thriving numerous plantations, the noble woods, the abundance and vicinity of country-seats, the commodious farmers' houses and barns, the towns and villages, where everybody is busy and thriving with all kind of manufactures, the shops full of goods wrought to perfection, and filled with customers, the comfortable diet and dress, and dwellings of the people, the vast number of ships in our harbours and docks, and shipwrights in our sea-port towns. The roads crowded with carriers laden with rich manufactures, the perpetual concourse to and fro of pompous equipages.
With what envy and admiration would these gentlemen return from so
delightful a progress? What glorious reports would they make when they went
But my heart is too heavy to continue this journey longer, for it is manifest that whatever stranger took such a journey, would be apt to think himself travelling in Lapland or Iceland, rather than in a country so favoured by Nature as ours, both in fruitfulness of soil, and temperature of climate. The miserable dress, and diet, and
dwelling of the people. The general desolation in most parts of the Kingdom. The old seats of the nobility and gentry all in ruins, and no new ones in their stead. The families of farmers who pay great rents, living in filth and nastiness upon butter-milk and potatoes, without a shoe or stocking to their feet, or a house so convenient as an English hog-sty to receive them. These indeed may be comfortable sights to an English spectator, who comes for a short time only to learn the language, and returns back to his own country, whither he finds all our wealth transmitted.
Nostrâ miseriâ magnus es.
There is not one argument used to prove the riches of
of them are infallibly undone. Hence the daily increase of bankers, who may be a necessary evil in a trading country, but so ruinous in ours, who for their private advantage have sent away all our silver, and one third of our gold, so that within three years past, the running cash of the Nation, which was about five hundred thousand pounds, is now less than two, and must daily diminish unless we have liberty to coin.
"Ye are idle, ye are idle," answered Pharao to the Israelites, when they complained to his Majesty that they were forced to make bricks without straw.
I think it a little unhospitable, and others may call it a subtile piece of malice, that, because there may be a dozen families in this Town, able to entertain their English friends in a generous manner at their tables, their guests upon their return to England, shall report that we wallow in riches and luxury.
Yet I confess I have known a hospital, where all the household officers grew rich, while the poor for whose sake it was built, were almost starving for want of food and raiment.
To conclude. If
Price, Essay on
The object of this war has been often enough declared to be "maintaining the supremacy of this country over the colonies." I would observe that this supremacy is to be maintained, either merely for its own sake, or for the sake of some public interest connected with it and dependent upon it. If for its own sake, the only object of the war is the extension of dominion, and its only motive is the lust of power. All government, even within a state, becomes tyrannical, as far as it is
needless and wanton exercise of power; or is
carried farther than is absolutely necessary to preserve the peace and to
secure the safety of the state. This is what an excellent writer calls
Governing Too Much; and its effect must always be, weakening government by
rendering it contemptible and odious. Nothing can be of more importance in
governing distant provinces and adjusting the clashing interests of different
societies, than attention to this remark. In these circumstances it is particularly
necessary to make a sparing use of power, in order to preserve power. Happy
would it have been for
The Colonies were at the beginning of this reign in the habit of acknowledging our authority, and of allowing us as much power over them as our interest required; and more, in some instances, than we could reasonably claim. This habit they would have retained: and had we, instead of imposing new burdens upon them, and increasing their restraints, studied to promote their commerce, and to grant them new indulgences, they would have been always growing more attached to us. Luxury, and together with it, their dependence upon us, and our influence in their assemblies, would have increased, till in time perhaps they would have become as corrupt as ourselves; and we might have succeeded to our wishes in establishing our authority over them. But, happily for them, we have chosen a different course. By exertions of authority which have
alarmed them, they have been put upon examining into the grounds of all our claims, and forced to give up their luxuries, and to seek all their resources within themselves. And the issue is likely to prove the loss of all our authority over them, and of all the advantages connected with it.
In the 6th of George the Second, an act was passed for imposing certain duties on all foreign spirits, melasses and sugars imported into the plantations. In this act the duties imposed are said to be given and granted by the Parliament to the King; and this is the first American act in which these words have been used. But notwithstanding this, as the act had the appearance of being only a regulation of trade, the colonies submitted to it; and a small direct revenue was drawn by it from them.
In the 4th of the present reign, many alterations were made in this act,
with the declared purpose of making provision for raising a
by a power which would not suffer itself to be questioned, which eased itself by loading them, and to which it was impossible to fix any bounds, they were thrown at once, from one end of the continent to the other, into resistance and rage.
Government, dreading the consequences, gave way; and the Parliament (upon a
change of ministry) repealed the Stamp-Act, without requiring from them any
recognition of its authority, or doing any more to preserve its dignity, than
asserting, by the declaratory law, that it was possessed of full power and
authority to make laws to bind them in all cases whatever. Upon this, peace was
restored; and, had no farther attempts of the same kind been made, they would
undoubtedly have suffered us (as the people of
But the spirit of despotism and avarice, always blind and restless, soon broke forth again. The scheme for drawing a revenue from America, by parliamentary taxation, was resumed; and in a little more than a year after the repeal of the Stamp-Act, when all was peace, a third act was passed, imposing duties payable in America on tea, paper, glass, painter's colours, &c. This, as might have been expected, revived all the former heats; and the Empire was a second time threatened with the most dangerous commotions. Government receded again; and the Parliament (under another change of ministry) repealed all the obnoxious duties, except that upon tea. This exception was made in order to maintain a show of dignity. But
it was, in reality, sacrificing safety to pride;
and leaving a splinter in the wound to produce a gangrene. For some time, however,
this relaxation answered its intended purposes. Our commercial intercourse with
the Colonies was again
recovered; and they avoided nothing but that tea which we had excepted in our repeal. In this state would things have
remained, and even tea would perhaps in time have been gradually admitted, had
not the evil genius of
The East India Company having fallen under difficulties, partly in
consequence of the loss of the American market for tea, a scheme was formed for
assisting them by an attempt to recover that market. With this view an act was
passed to enable them to export their tea to
Had our governors in this case satisfied themselves with requiring a compensation from the province for the damage done, there is no doubt but it would have been granted. Or had they
proceeded no farther in the infliction of
punishment, than stopping up the port and destroying the trade of
All who knew anything of the temper of the Colonies saw that the effect of all this sudden accumulation of vengeance would probably be not intimidating but exasperating them, and driving them into a general revolt. But our ministers had different apprehensions. They believed that the malcontents in the Colony of Massachusetts were a small party, headed by a few factious men; that the majority of the people would take the side of government, as soon as they saw a force among them capable of supporting them; that, at worst, the Colonies in general would never make a common cause with this province; and that the issue would prove, in a few months, order, tranquillity, and submission. Every one of these apprehensions was falsified by the events that followed.
When the bills I have mentioned came to be carried into execution, the whole Province was
thrown into confusion. Their courts of justice were
shut up, and all government was dissolved. The commander-in-chief found it
necessary to fortify himself in
So strangely misinformed were our ministers, that this was all a surprise upon them. They took fright, therefore, and once more made an effort to retreat; but indeed the most ungracious one that can be well imagined. A proposal was sent to the Colonies, called Conciliatory; and the substance of which was that if any of them would raise such sums as should be demanded of them by taxing themselves, the Parliament would forbear to tax them. It will be scarcely believed, hereafter, that such a proposal could be thought conciliatory. It was only telling them: "If you will tax yourselves by our order, we will save ourselves the trouble of taxing you." They received the proposal as an insult, and rejected it with disdain.
At the time this concession was transmitted to
Under this conviction our ministers did not dread urging the
and to take up some of their leading men. The attempt
was made. The people fled immediately to arms, and repelled the attack. A
considerable part of the flower of the British army has been destroyed. Some of
our best Generals, and the bravest of our troops, are now disgracefully and
miserably imprisoned at
(From G. O. Trevelyan, The American Revolution.)
"It is allowable and perfectly
justifiable, to use every means which God has put into our hands." The
Throughout the years which elapsed between 1775 and 1782 war raged all the world over, and military reputations were made, and unmade, with startling rapidity. And yet, as far as England was concerned, the most distinguished names which have come down to us from that stirring time are those of civilians, and not of soldiers; for, in the full sense of the phrase, the toga was then more powerful than the sword. In the course of our long parliamentary history the two great parties in the House of Commons have not unfrequently been led by rival statesmen each of whom was an orator of the first order; but, except during the period which coincided with the American Revolution, such a pair of champions as Burke and Fox have seldom indeed fought side by side in the same ranks.
The question of the relations between Great Britain and her American Colonies had thrown all other questions into the back-ground; and it was a problem by which Burke, with his vast knowledge and his all-embracing sympathy, was sure to be attracted, and which he was pre-eminently competent to handle. That disastrous controversy would never have reached an acute stage if King George's Cabinet had acted in obedience to those great principles of exalted common-sense which were the main articles of Burke's creed. He had been constantly repeating, in a form of words which all readers could understand, and with a force and pregnancy on which no writer who over lived could improve, that the temper of the people whom he governs should be the first study of a statesman, and that magnanimity in politics is the truest wisdom. Parliament (so he freely admitted), had a constitutional right to tax America: but it was a right which, in the condition of feeling that prevailed beyond the Atlantic, no British Minister in his senses would dream of exerting.
When war had broken out between Great Britain and her colonies, and when
France and Spain had thrown themselves into the quarrel, Burke directed his
attention to those elements of the situation which lay in his habitual line of
thought, and with regard to which his advice was especially valuable. He left
it for Charles Fox to animadvert upon the strategical operations in
our island; and he confined himself, as his own
particular province, to what may fairly be described as the moral aspects of
the war. From the summer of 1778 onwards the ministers of George the Third
finally and deliberately abandoned their attempt to reconquer the Northern and
When Lord Carlisle and his colleagues, leaving their mission unaccomplished,
withdrew themselves from
by that body with an indifference which bordered on
contempt. Before taking their passage back to England they exhaled their
vexation, and endeavoured to salve their wounded dignity, by the issue of a
valedictory Proclamation which they circulated, in an enormous number of
copies, throughout the
This extraordinary production, which excited anger rather than uneasiness
among the Americans whom it was intended to frighten, was read with
consternation by all sensible men in
the Government had provided himself with copious extracts from Puffendorf
and Grotius to prove that the burning of unfortified towns, "which were
the nurseries of soldiers", was perfectly consistent with the accepted
rules of war; but all the respect and deference due to those antique pundits
was swept away by the flood of indignant rhetoric which poured from the lips of
Edmund Burke. "The extremes of war," he said, "and the
desolation of a country, were sweet-sounding mutes and liquids; but their
meaning was terrible. They meant the killing of man, woman, and child; —
burning their houses, and ravaging their lands, and annihilating humanity from
the face of the earth, or rendering it so wretched that death was preferable.
They exceeded all that the rights of war, as observed between civilised
nations, would sanction; and, as no necessity could warrant them, so no
argument could excuse them." The impression produced by Burke was so deep,
that the Prime Minister, and the Attorney-General, rose successively to assure
the House that an interpretation had been placed upon the Manifesto which the
words would not bear; but they were roughly contradicted by Governor Johnstone,
who had been a brother Commissioner of Lord Carlisle, and who therefore spoke
with an authority which there was no gainsaying. He had returned to
fiercely and repeatedly that, whatever might be alleged to the contrary, the Proclamation most certainly did mean a war of destruction. "It meant nothing else; it could mean nothing else; and, if he had been on the spot when it was issued, he would himself have signed it. No quarter ought to be shown to the American Congress; and, if the internals could be let loose on them, he would approve the measure." No Minister of the Crown was able to gainsay a man who knew so accurately what he was talking about, and who (as North and Wedderburn were both aware), gave expression to the exact sentiments held by their own strong-willed and masterful Sovereign.
Burke performed a still more notable and durable service to mankind by his protest against the employment of savage auxiliaries in a warfare between civilised Powers. His statesmanlike and impassioned oratory produced an immediate effect upon the opinion, and an ultimate and permanent change in the practice, of our own and other nations. It was said at the time, and it has been repeated since, as an excuse for Lord North's Government, that French and English commanders in former years had often taken the field, or more properly speaking the forest, with a large contingent of Indian warriors in their train. British generals had used red men as scouts for the purpose of exploring the woods, and covering the flank of their columns, during an advance through the wilderness. But the Indians had hitherto been exclusively employed in aid of regular operations directed against an
armed and disciplined foe. It was reserved for Lord
North and his colleagues to send them forth as executioners to punish a civil
population for the crime of rebellion. Cherokees and Senecas, under injunctions
That statement was made in the House of Lords in November 1777; and, before
the year was out full particulars of the catastrophe of
a crowded and entranced assembly. Those Indian
tribes, (he said), had in the course of years been so reduced in number and
power, that they were now only formidable from their cruelty; and to use them
for warlike purposes was merely to be cruel ourselves in their persons. He
called attention to the salient distinction between their employment
"against armed and trained soldiers, embodied and encamped, and against
unarmed and defenceless men, women, and children, dispersed in their several
habitations" over the whole extent of a prosperous and industrious
district. He attributed Burgoyne's defeat to the horror excited in the American
mind by the prospect of an Indian invasion. The manly and resolute
determination of the
civilised comrades; and over a circuit of many miles around Burgoyne's camp they plundered, and butchered, and scalped with entire indifference to the sex, the age, and the political opinions of their victims. Burke told the story of the poor Scotch girl's murder, on the eve of her intended marriage to an officer of the King's troops, with an effect on the nerves of his audience which perhaps was never equalled except by his own description, during the trial of Warren Hastings, of the treatment inflicted by the Nabob Vizier on the Oude princesses. Many of his hearers were moved to tears; — a spectacle which, in the British Parliament, is seen hardly once in a generation; and Governor Johnstone congratulated the Ministry that there were no strangers in the Gallery, because they would have been worked up to such a pitch of excitement, that Lord North, and Lord George Germaine, must have run a serious risk from popular violence as soon as they emerged into the street from the sanctuary of the House of Commons.
And then Burke changed his note, and convulsed his audience by a parody of Burgoyne's address to the Indians. He related how the British general harangued a throng of warriors drawn from seventeen separate Indian nations, who, so far from understanding the Burgoynese dialect, could not even follow the meaning of a speech made in plain English; how he invited them, — by their reverence for the Christian religion, and their well-known, and well-considered, views on the right of taxation in-
herent in the Parliament of Westminster, to grasp their tomahawks, and rally round His Majesty's standard; and how he adjured them, "by the same divine and human laws," not to touch a hair on the head of man, woman, or child while living, though he was willing to deal with them for scalps of the dead, inasmuch as he was a nice and distinguished judge between the scalp taken from a dead person, and from the head of a person who had died of being scalped. "Let us illustrate this Christian exhortation, and Christian injunction," said Burke, "by a more familiar picture. Suppose the case of a riot on Tower Hill. What would the keeper of His Majesty's lions do? Would he not leave open the dens of the wild beasts, and address them thus: 'My gentle lions, my humane bears, my tender-hearted hyaenas, go forth against the seditious mob on your mission of repression and retribution; but I exhort you as you are Christians, and members of a civilised society, to take care not to hurt man, woman, or child.'"
The walls of the chamber fairly shook with applause; and Colonel Barré declared that, if Burke would only print the speech, he, on his part, would undertake that it should be nailed to the door of every parish church beneath the notice proclaiming a day of general fasting and humiliation on account of the surrender of Saratoga. That speech would explain, far better than the homily of any courtly bishop, the real causes of the disaster which had brought the nation to dust and ashes.