Imagens da página
PDF
ePub

attain speedily to a happy pacification. That the Directory is ready to receive in this respect any overtures that shall be just, reasonable, and compatible with the dignity of the Republick.' On the head of what is not to be the subject of negotiation, the Directory is clear and open. As to what may be a matter of treaty, all this open dealing is gone. She retires into her shell. There she expects overtures from you; and that you are to guess what she shall judge just, reasonable, and above all, compatible with her dignity.

In the records of pride there does not exist so insulting a declaration. It is insolent in words, in manner, but in substance it is not only insulting but alarming. It is a specimen of what may be expected from the masters we are preparing for our humbled country. Their openness and candour consist in a direct avowal of their despotism and ambition. We know that their declared resolution had been to surrender no object belonging to France previous to the war. They had resolved, that the Republick was entire, and must remain so. As to what she has conquered from the allies and united to the same indivisible body, it is of the same nature. That is, the allies are to give up whatever conquests they have made or may make upon France, but all which she has violently ravished from her neighbours and thought fit to appropriate, are not to become so much as objects of negociation.

In this unity and indivisibility of possession are sunk ten immense and wealthy provinces, full of strong, flourishing and opulent cities, the Austrian Netherlands, the part of Europe the most necessary to preserve any communication between this kingdom and its natural allies, next to Holland the most interesting to this country, and without which Holland must virtually belong to France. Savoy and Nice, the keys of Italy, and the citadel in her hands to bridle Switzerland, are in that consolidation. The important territory of Liège is torn out of the heart of the Empire. All these are integrant parts of the Republick, not to be subject to any discussion, or to be purchased by any equivalent. Why? Because there is a law which prevents it. What law? The law of nations? The acknowledged public law of Europe? Treaties and conventions of parties? No! not a pretence of the kind. It is a declaration not made in consequence of any prescription on her side, not on any cession or dereliction, actual or tacit, of other powers. It is a declaration pendente lite in the middle of a war, one principal object of which was originally the defence, and has since been the recovery, of these very countries.

This strange law is not made for a trivial object, not for a single port, or for a single fortress; but for a great kingdom; for the religion, the morals, the laws, the liberties, the lives and fortunes of millions of human creatures, who without their consent, or that of their lawful government, are, by an arbitrary act of this regicide and homicide Government, which they call a law, incorporated into their tyranny.

In other words, their will is the law, not only at home, but as to the concerns of every nation. Who has made that law but the Regicide Republick itself, whose laws, like those of the Medes and Persians, they cannot alter or abrogate, or even so much as take into consideration? Without the least ceremony or compliment, they have sent out of the world whole sets of laws and lawgivers. They have swept away the very constitutions under which the Legislatures acted, and the Laws were made. Even the fundamental sacred Rights of Man they have not scrupled to profane. They have set this holy code at naught with ignominy and scorn. Thus they treat all their domestic laws and constitutions, and even what they had considered as a Law of Nature; but whatever they have put their seal on for the purposes of their ambition, and the ruin of their neighbours,

this alone is invulnerable, impassible, immortal. Assuming to be masters of every thing human and divine, here, and here alone, it seems they are limited, 'cooped and cabined in;' and this omnipotent legislature finds itself wholly without the power of exercising it's favourite attribute, the love of peace. In other words, they are powerful to usurp, impotent to restore; and equally by their power and their impotence they aggrandize themselves, and weaken and impoverish you and all other nations.

NOTHING can be more proper or more manly than the state publication called a note on this proceeding, dated Downing-street, the roth of April, 1796. Only that it is better expressed, it perfectly agrees with the opinion I have taken the liberty of submitting to your consideration'. I place it below at full length as my justification in thinking that this astonishing paper is not only a direct negative to, all treaty, but is a rejection of every principle upon which

peace

1. This Court has seen, with regret, how far the tone and spirit of that answer, the nature and extent of the demands which it contains, and the manner of announcing them, are remote from any dispositions for peace.

•The inadmissible pretension is there avowed of appropriating to France all that the laws existing there may have comprised under the denomination of French territory. To a demand such as this, is added an express declaration that no proposal contrary to it will be made, or even listened to. And even this, under the pretence of an internal regu. lation, the provisions of which are wholly foreign to all other nations.

• While these dispositions shall be persisted in, nothing is left for the King, but to prosecute a war equally just and necessary.

Whenever his enemies shall manifest more pacific sentiments, his Majesty will, at all times, be eager to concur in them, by lending himself, in concert with his allies, to all such measures as shall be calculated to re-establish general franquillity on conditions just, honourable and permanent, either by the establishment of a general Congress, which has been so happily the means of restoring peace to Europe, or by a preliminary discussion of the principles which may be proposed, on either side, as a foundation of a general pacification; or, lastly, by an impartial examination of any other way which may be pointed out to him for arriving at the same salutary end.' Downing-Street, April 10, 1796.

treaties could be made. To admit it for a moment were to erect this power, usurped at home, into a Legislature to govern mankind. It is an authority that on a thousand occasions they have asserted in claim, and whenever they are able, exerted in practice. The dereliction of this whole scheme of policy became, therefore, an indispensable previous condition to all renewal of treaty. The remark of the British Cabinet on this arrogant and tyrannical claim is natural and unavoidable. Our Ministry state, That while these dispositions shall be persisted in, nothing is left for the King but to prosecute a war that is just and necessary.'

It was of course, that we should wait until the enemy shewed some sort of disposition on their part to fulfil this condition. It was hoped indeed that our suppliant strains might be suffered to steal into the august ear in a more propitious season. That season, however, invoked by so many vows, conjurations, and prayers, did not come. Every declaration of hostility renovated, and every act pursued with double animosity--the over-running of Lombardy—the subjugation of Piedmont—the possession of its impregnable fortresses—the seizing on all the neutral states of Italy, our expulsion from Leghorn-instances for ever renewed for our expulsion from Genoa-Spain rendered subject to them and hostile to us—Portugal bent under the yoke-half the Empire over-run and ravaged, were the only signs which this mild Republick thought proper to manifest of their pacific sentiments. Every demonstration of an implacable rancour and an untameable pride were the only encouragements we received to the renewal of our supplications. Here, therefore, they and we were fixed. Nothing was left to the British Ministry but 'to prosecute a war just and necessary'—a war equally just as at the time of our engaging in it—a war become ten times more necessary by every thing which

happened afterwards. This resolution was soon, however, forgot. It felt the heat of the season and melted away. New hopes were entertained from supplication. No expectations, indeed, were then formed from renewing a direct application to the French Regicides through the Agent General for the humiliation of Sovereigns. At length a step was taken in degradation which even went lower than all the rest. Deficient in merits of our own, a Mediator was to be sought-and we looked for that Mediator at Berlin! The King of Prussia's merits in abandoning the general cause might have obtained for him some sort of influence in favour of those whom he had deserted—but I have never heard that his Prussian Majesty had lately discovered so marked an affection for the Court of St. James's, or for the Court of Vienna, as to excite much hope of his interposing a very powerful mediation to deliver them from the distresses into which he had brought them.

If humiliation is the element in which we live, if it is become, not only our occasional policy, but our habit, no great objection can be made to the modes in which it may be diversified; though, I confess, I cannot be charmed with the idea of our exposing our lazar sores at the door of every proud servitor of the French Republick, where the courtdogs will not deign to lick them. We had, if I am not mistaken, a minister at that court, who might try it's temper, and recede and advance as he found backwardness or encouragement. But to send a gentleman there on no other errand than this, and with no assurance whatever that he should not find, what he did find, a repulse, seems to me to go far beyond all the demands of a humiliation merely politick. I hope it did not arise from a predilection for that mode of conduct.

THE cup of bitterness was not, however, drained to the

« AnteriorContinuar »