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the monarchy. The war was maintained on other grounds. It was maintained because the robbers in possession had carried on and improved upon the policy of the old master of the house; because the Republic and the demon of French national ambition had so readily coalesced; because under the Republic that demon had started to new life and formed more audacious plans; and because these plans were actually being executed, and that with extraordinary vigour and persistency. The character of the war had completely changed. The change had begun with the victory of Fleurus; it was clearly perceived in the last six months of Burke's life : and in the year which followed it was made plain to the dullest of politicians by the unprovoked seizure of Switzerland and the merciless sack of Rome. Had Burke lived to see '98, he would have seen the fullest confirmation of the main principles he had laid down. He would then have seen his character of the rapacious, conscienceless Republic amply verified: he would have seen England once more animated by a determination to crush its dreadful force, and placing herself resolutely at the head of a second coalition armed in defence of the public rights of Europe. But he would also have seen that the English people were no longer filled with that burning hatred of Jacobinism' and

Regicide' which animated him, and with which he had done his best to animate them. And in such a case the people are generally in the right.

Burke has provided us, in one short sentence, with a gauge of the varying soundness and hollowness of his argument. “France, he wrote in '93, 'is not formidable as a great republic, but as the most dreadful gang of robbers and murderers that ever was embodied.' Burke was wrong. Whether the particular citizens who moulded its destinies were robbers and murderers, or patriots and philosophers, it was as a great republic, if at all, that France was formidable. She had forced the whole of Europe to acknowledge her as a great republic. Even England, though she had not made peace with her, had virtually acknowledged her as a great republic ever since the negotiation at Basle. But although the old Regicide argument, so far as European public opinion was concerned, had thus been cast into the shade, it did not follow that Burke was bound to cease from employing it. For him, at least, it was as valid and cogent as while the guillotine was still wet with the blood of the Son of St. Louis. It was equally valid and

cogent for thousands of English men and women, who read in the recent events in France the doom of the old political system of Europe. That doom had been pronounced by a decree which no war could reverse, though waged in the name of Chivalry and Christianity, supported by all the religious philosophy of both Churches, and by all the wealth of both Indies. The old political system of Europe, which Burke loved so much, was rotten to the heart; and it was the destiny of the French republic to begin the long task of breaking it up, crumbling it to dust, and scattering it to the winds. Burke had lived to see a practicable breach made in its outworks: and the sight filled him with grief and dismay. He believed that this breach might be repaired: that the enemy might be kept at bay: that the deluge which impended might be stayed. It was not so. The old cycle was run out: the times of refreshing were at hand. A century and a half earlier, one of the greatest of Englishmen 1 had described revolutionized England as a noble and puissant nation, rousing herself, and shaking her invincible locks, like a strong man after sleep: like an eagle, mewing her mighty youth, purging and unscaling her longabused sight, and kindling her undazzled eyes at the full beam of noon. Aptly indeed might that splendid imagery have been now transferred to France. Such transformations are rare in history: and when they occur, they may well baffle the keenest eye, and confound the strongest understanding. In our day the grandeur and significance of the French Revolution need no explanation: and equally intelligible are the astonishment and repugnance which the French Revolution excited in the mass of contemporary Englishmen.

None of the four Letters of which the present volume consists, can be considered a finished work, complete in all its parts. The First most nearly approaches completion: and the Second was hastily written as a supplement to it. The First and Second Letters may really be considered as a first and second part of the same work. The Third and Fourth are merely grand fragments, running in each case into a continuation patched up by another hand out of the author's remains. The book on the Revolution (Select Works, vol. ii) similarly consists of one or two colossal fragments of a whole that only existed in Burke's vast imagination. The reader unavoidably compares the Reflections on the Revolution

i Milton, Areopagitica.

with the Letters on a Regicide Peace. Difficult as the comparison would in any case be, this condition of incompleteness and mutilation renders it more difficult than ever. But one thing will be abundantly clear to any one who reads the present volume through. Utterly wrong were those contemporary critics, chiefly among the Foxite Whigs, who saw in the "Reflections' the beginnings of a distorted view of things which in the Regicide Peace' letters culminated and amounted to lunacy. The intemperate heat, the factious preoccupation, and the precipitate judgment which vitiate so much of the 'Reflections' are indeed to be traced more or less in the 'Regicide Peace. But the question is altered: and a far bolder, wider, more accurate view of its elements predominates. It is a view which reminds us strongly of the writer's arguments on the American question. In the Reflections' Burke was avowedly writing in a partial and prejudiced sense. He took upon himself to expound on the spur of the moment the unreasoned creed and the traditional sentiment of the ordinary Englishman of his day. In the present volume Burke for the most part relinquishes this John Bull' masquerade, and writes as a statesman, a scholar, and a historical critic. The reader will find more than one of his early arguments repudiated. This was the natural result of wider experience. In the 'Reflections,' for instance, he had declared it to be the tendency of the new French state to crumble into separate republics. That argument was blindly adopted by Lord Auckland: and in the present volume it is treated with the greatest scorn, and directly confuted by a reference to facts. In the present volume, though Burke writes with opinions in the main unchanged, he also writes with knowledge vastly enlarged. He writes, moreover, with a deeper and more sustained sense of the importance of the question at issue, both to England and to Europe: and with a solemn sense of personal responsibility natural in a veteran statesman consciously taking his leave of the world. These qualities, combined with a degree of eloquence and logical ability which is at least equal to that displayed in the earlier work, have been thought by some to entitle the Letters on a Regicide Peace, fragmentary as they are, to rank even before the Reflections, and to be called the writer's masterpiece.

LONDON, February 21, 1878.










[Second Edition. RIVINGTONS, 1796.]


On the Overtures of Peace.

[ARGUMENT. INTRODUCTION, pp. 3–21. Difficulties of the philosophy of history.'

p. 3. Rise and successes of the Regicide Republic, p. 6. England often at her strongest when she believes herself to be weakest, as in 1757, p. 9. The nation to be awakened, p. 10. Double aspect of the Wealth of England, p. 12. England cannot act apart

from Europe, p. 13. Discreditable issue of the war hitherto, p. 14. Disaster abroad reflected in distemper at home, p. 16, which is explained by the want of high-principled leaders, p. 18. The peculiar character of a war with a Regicide State, p. 19. This leads the author (Part I) to review the history of the Overtures for Peace already made by the English Government, and to show from them that no Peace is seriously contemplated by France. Thence (Part II) to show that these Overtures cannot accord with the sentiments of the English nation, and lastly (Part III) to show that the nature of the Regicide Republic is such that no Peace could be made with it.

PART I, pp. 21-46.

HISTORY OF THE OVERTURES FOR PEACE. Indications of French temper. Bird's mission, p. 22 ; Hamburg declara

tion, p. 24. ist OVERTURES. Speech from the Throne, Oct. 29, 1795, and reply of

5th Pluviose (Jan. 25, 1796), p. 25. 2nd OVERTURES. Note of March 8, 1796, from Mr. Wickham to M.

Barthélémy, and answer of the latter, March 26, p. 30. Downing
Street Note of April 10, p. 35. Disasters of the Summer, and failure

of rumoured Prussian mediation, p. 36. PRESENT OVERTURES. Lord Grenville's request, through the Danish

Minister, for a passport for an English plenipotentiary, Sept. 6, 1796, p. 37. Refusal of the French Government, Sept. 19, p. 38. Lord Grenville applies directly, by the note of Sept. 19, and the passport is despatched on the 11th of Vendémiaire. The first manifesto, issued at the same time as the passport, proves the futility of going on with the negotiations, p. 40. These views confirmed by the second manifesto of Oct. 5. p. 42. Burke mournfully contrasts the present with the former attitude of the Government, and quotes the famous WHITEHALL DECLARATION of Oct. 29, 1793, p. 44.

PART II, pp. 46-68. THE OVERTURES DO NOT REPRESENT THE FEELING OF THE BRITISH Nation. They are contrary to the policy of England, p. 46, and to the disposition

of the nation, p. 47. The Jacobins a minority, p. 50. Dulness and inaction of the sound part of the nation, p. 51. A popular war, such as the Spanish War of 1739, is produced by superficial causes: the deep causes of the present war require to be explained and

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