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most populous and flourishing provinces of Europe. They did not merely hold the Austrian Netherlands as conquerors: a law incorporating these with the French Republic had been among the last acts of the Convention. The Convention had a passion for abolishing old names and substituting new ones in their place. They called their conquest by the name of Belgium, a name long appropriated to the Netherlands by Latin-writing diplomatists and historians, but henceforth exclusively applied to the Austrian Netherlands. It was worth the while of Austria to go on with the war if there were any prospect of recovering the Netherlands. But there was small prospect of this after the spring of 1794: and month by month that prospect had been diminishing. Austria, staggering under her reverses, was fast drifting into a peacemaking mood; and in April 1797, even while Burke was writing his famous Third Letter, England's only ally was arranging at Leoben the preliminaries of that ‘Regicide Peace' which was consummated in the autumn at Campo Formio: a peace which yielded to the French everything for which Burke was urging England to fight, and diverted the whole force of the enraged French nation to her sole antagonist across the Channel. England had been slow to join the Coalition : she was now the only member of it who was in earnest. ·British interests,' as the phrase now goes, would have lost nothing by a peace. On the contrary, they would have gained : for what England had won beyond seas, she might, if she were so minded, have retained.
On the question of the war with France, English public opinion had been passionately divided. Fox had opposed it from the beginning with the utmost force of his eloquence and his authority. It was when this war was looming in the distance that Burke had formally confirmed his alienation from Fox, and finally broken with that great party to which he had formerly been bound by his convictions, his personal associations, and his public acts during a career of nearly thirty years. Fox had denounced the war even before it began. On the 15th December, 1792, he had made his motion for sending a minister to Paris, to treat with the Convention. That motion, which was seconded by Grey, involved the entire question now at stake. Speaking on that motion in his most eloquent mood, and animating the majority by his usual arguments for an inexpiable war with
France, Burke had quoted some lines of Virgil which might serve for the key-note of his subsequent utterances :
• Tum vos, O Tyrii, stirpem et genus omne futurum
Imprecor, arma armis : pugnent ipsique nepotesque.' Lansdowne had raised a similar discussion in the Lords ; but in both houses the disposition to war predominated. When the war actually broke out, the question was debated with redoubled ardour. But the advocates of peace were nowhere. In vain did the calm, penetrating, practical statesmanship of Lansdowne, based upon his unrivalled knowledge of continental affairs, protest to the Lords against England being made the cat’s-paw of Europe.' Nor had the heated sympathies of Fox any more effect in the Commons. The nation was pledged to the war; and for a while it prosecuted the war with vigour.
In these early debates on the war Burke had brought the Ministry an important accession of strength. When he seceded from the Whig ranks, he carried with him a large and respectable section of the party: the Portlands, the Fitzwilliams, and the Windhams. Like Burke, these men served the cause of general liberty and good government with a firm and genuine devotion: like him, they believed that cause to be disgraced and profaned by the crimes committed by the French government in its name. Like Burke, they believed in an England flourishing at home, but so using her wealth and her power as to make herself potent abroad: in an England who would not tamely suffer by her side aggressors who defied the public law of Europe, insulted its diplomatists, and rearranged the relations of its peoples by the standard of their own rapacity, or convenience, or caprice. These were the most strenuous supporters of the war. The original following of Mr. Pitt was less in earnest.
Pitt never loved the war.
He never bent to it the whole force of his powerful mind. Conceiving the war to be mainly the business of those great military powers who had been robbed of their territories by France, he thought his part done, so far as concerned Europe, when he had persuaded Parliament to vote them their subsidies, and equipped a small contingent to help them. He was for extending the power of England, on the old Whig principle, through its commerce and its colonies. Tidings of the capture of islands in the West Indies, and comptoirs in the East, were more welcome to his ear than tidings of the occupation of Toulon and the beleaguering of Dunkirk. Beyond seas, the war-ships of England were as irresistible as the legions of Pichegru and Buonaparte. As years went on, England gained one by one those rich and productive settlements whose growth had for a century and a half been her envy and her temptation. She left the French not a single colony. She stripped the Dutch, rejoicing in their new servitude, one by one of those famous possessions whence they had drawn the fatal wealth which had demoralized and blotted them out from the powers of Europe. Pitt lived to become master, according to a sarcasm then current, of every island in the world, the British Islands only excepted.
So long as the Allies were successful, the war was popular enough. When the Coalition was defeated, and that process of defection began which ultimately left England standing alone against the victorious Republic, the tide of opinion naturally turned. Burke's idea of a war for the old régime, steadfastly and sternly waged until the old régime should be restored, had gradually fallen into disrepute: and in the end it may be doubted whether any one believed in it except himself and Lord Fitzwilliam. Europe had made a cat’s-paw of England: but it wanted that convenient instrument no longer. And Pitt's real impulse to the war was counterbalanced by the damage it wrought on commerce and manufactures at home. For in Pitt's yiew the war against France was almost as much a war of plunder as in the view of the Emperor or the King of Prussia. The French cared little for their colonies. 'Perish the colonies, rather than a single principle,' had rung through the Assembly, in a famous debate on the consequences of granting political rights to the Haytian mulattoes: and the sentiment gained thunders of applause. Pitt was for conceding to the French their beloved principles, so far as these tended to put England in possession of the French sugar islands. He remembered the days, thirty years ago, when his father had annexed Dominica, and Grenada, and Tobago, amidst the applause of English merchants and politicians. But England in the present war had been less successful:
so little successful, hitherto, that it was beginning to be thought
Grey had stated his motion too categorically. Pitt was determined neither to accept nor to reject it. He honestly wished to end the war: but he did not wish to be driven to it by Mr. Grey. He did not wish to tie himself to negotiate immediately, or to negotiate at any definite distance of time. He wished to persuade the nation, at the same time, of his own willingness to end the war, and of his own fitness to decide on the time when, and the persons with whom, and the circumstances in which, any negotiations for ending it should be undertaken. He therefore carried an amendment, resolving to prosecute the war' until a pacification could be effected, on just and honourable terms, with any government in France capable of maintaining the accustomed relations of peace and amity with other countries.' This device neither helped nor retarded the disposition for peace in England. It only embittered the politicians of the Convention, and deepened their belief in the duplicity and the Punic
faith of England. They had long believed extravagant falsehoods contrived to poison them against England. Here at least there was no room for doubt. England was still full of her old animosity: she was still resolved on an inexpiable war with the Republic. The interpretation put upon this in France was simply that England was determined to take advantage of her naval position to harass and impoverish France, on pretence of restoring that tyrannous and detestable government from which France had escaped. At the same time, England had not the honesty to confess this in the face of Europe. That England should be so nice and delicate, so anxious to avoid the contagion of Regicide, must have seemed ridiculous indeed. The sovereigns of Prussia, of Spain, and of Naples, not to mention lesser ones, were known to be willing to treat with the Convention, stained though it was with the blood of, a king. The Emperor was on the point of negotiating: the Pope himself could not be regarded as irreconcilable. England, a republic in all but name, ruled by men whose halls were hung with the portraits of Cromwell, of Hampden, and of Sidney, whose great grandfathers had seen their monarch perish on a scaffold, whose ministers had always feared the people more than they feared Crown or Assembly-England was making the Regicide Government a mere stalking-horse to cover her greed and her ambition, to gratify a jealousy pent up during twenty years, and to avenge on France the loss of that fairest empire an European nation ever grasped, now grown into the independent United States of North America.
These considerations were not without an impression on thoughtful people in England. On the 6th of February, 1795, Grey again returned to the charge. The previous question was moved, and he was again defeated. It was not a full house: but the majority against him was numerically less. And it was less in moral weight by one vote, that of Wilberforce, who on this occasion divided with the minority.
When Parliament met for the Session of 1794-1795, though the failure of the Coalition was plain, its dissolution was only fore
It took place, as we have seen, during the spring and the summer. When Parliament next met in October 1795, all Europe, save England and Austria, had made peace with France: