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Title: William Pitt and the Great War
Author: Rose, John Holland, 1855-1942
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "William Pitt and the Great War" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.

    Transcriber's Notes:

    Italics have been marked with underscores, like '_this_'.

    Greek passages have been transcribed, using '+', like '+atê+'.

    OE ligature and oe ligature have been changed to 'OE' or 'oe'.

    Corrections, as listed in the "ERRATA" paragraph, have been made.

    Page 4, "disance" changed to "distance" (owing to the long distance,).

    Page 16, "circulalation" changed to "circulation" (and many of them
      helped on the circulation).

    Pages 83 and 167, "Barrère" equalized to "Barère" (according to Index).

    Page 104, "imdiately" changed to "immediately" (which was immediately

    Page 208, "Möllendorff" equalized to "Möllendorf" (according to Index).

    Page 325, "brother in-law" changed to "brother-in-law" (Pitt, owing to
      news of the death of his brother-in-law,)

    Page 399/400, "arewell" changed to "farewell" (just after saying
      farewell to Clare at Dublin,).

    Page 419, "of couse" changed to "of course" (This proposal of course

    Page 422, "futher" changed to "further" (to make further concessions
      to that body.).

    Page 451, "symptons" changed to "symptoms" (From these extraordinary
      symptoms he augured).

    Page 456, Footnote 609, "Soo" changed to "So" (So, too, Tomline said).

    Page 496, "convicton" changed to "conviction" (But that he was drifting
      to this conviction).

    Page 528, "counsellers" changed to "counsellors" (and he and his
      counsellors saw far more hope).

    [Illustration: WILLIAM PITT, IN LATER LIFE. (From a painting by
    Hoppner in the National Portrait Gallery)]






    England and France have held in their hands the fate of the
    world, especially that of European civilization. How much harm
    we have done one another: how much good we might have done!
    --_Napoleon to Colonel Wilks, 20th April 1816._

    [Illustration: Publisher's emblem]






In the former volume, entitled "William Pitt and National Revival," I
sought to trace the career of Pitt the Younger up to the year 1791.
Until then he was occupied almost entirely with attempts to repair the
evils arising out of the old order of things. Retrenchment and Reform
were his first watchwords; and though in the year 1785 he failed in his
efforts to renovate the life of Parliament and to improve the fiscal
relations with Ireland, yet his domestic policy in the main achieved a
surprising success. Scarcely less eminent, though far less known, were
his services in the sphere of diplomacy. In the year 1783, when he
became First Lord of the Treasury and Chancellor of the Exchequer,
nearly half of the British Empire was torn away, and the remainder
seemed to be at the mercy of the allied Houses of Bourbon. France,
enjoying the alliance of Spain and Austria and the diplomatic wooings of
Catharine II and Frederick the Great, gave the law to Europe.

By the year 1790 all had changed. In 1787 Pitt supported Frederick
William II of Prussia in overthrowing French supremacy in the Dutch
Netherlands; and a year later he framed with those two States an
alliance which not only dictated terms to Austria at the Congress of
Reichenbach but also compelled her to forego her far-reaching schemes on
the lower Danube, and to restore the _status quo_ in Central Europe and
in her Belgian provinces. British policy triumphed over that of Spain in
the Nootka Sound dispute of the year 1790, thereby securing for the
Empire the coast of what is now British Columbia; it also saved Sweden
from a position of acute danger; and Pitt cherished the hope of forming
a league of the smaller States, including the Dutch Republic, Denmark,
Sweden, Poland, and, if possible, Turkey, which, with support from Great
Britain and Prussia, would withstand the almost revolutionary schemes of
the Russian and Austrian Courts.

These larger aims were unattainable. The duplicity of the Court of
Berlin, the triumphs of the Russian arms on the Danube, and changes in
the general diplomatic situation, enabled Catharine II to foil the
efforts of Pitt in 1791. She worked her will on the Turks and not long
after on the Poles; Sweden came to an understanding with her; and
Prussia, slighting the British alliance, drew near to the new Hapsburg
Sovereign, Leopold II. In fact, the events of the French Revolution in
the year 1791 served to focus attention more and more upon Paris; and
monarchs who had thought of little but the conquest or partition of
weaker States now talked of a crusade to restore order at Paris, with
Gustavus III of Sweden as the new Coeur de Lion. This occidentation of
diplomacy became pronounced at the time of the attempted escape of
Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette to the eastern frontier at Midsummer
1791. Their capture at Varennes and their ignominious return to Paris
are in several respects the central event of the French Revolution. The
incident aroused both democrats and royalists to a fury which foredoomed
to failure all attempts at compromise between the old order and the new.
The fierceness of the strife in France incited monarchists in all lands
to importunate demands for the extirpation of "the French plague"; and
hence were set in motion forces which Pitt vainly strove to curb. War
soon broke out in Central Europe. His endeavours to localize it were
fruitless; and thenceforth his chief task was to bring to an honourable
close a conflict which he had not sought. It is therefore fitting that
this study of the latter, less felicitous, but equally glorious part of
his career should begin with a survey of the situation in Great Britain
and on the Continent at the time of the incident at Varennes which
opened a new chapter in the history of Europe.

In the present volume I have sought to narrate faithfully and as fully
as is possible the story of the dispute with France, the chief episodes
of the war, and the varied influences which it exerted upon political
developments in these islands, including the early Radical movement, the
Irish Rebellion of 1798, and other events which brought about the Union
of the British and Irish Parliaments, the break up of the great national
party at Westminster in 1801, and the collapse of the strength of Pitt
early in the course of the struggle with the concentrated might of

That mighty drama dwarfs the actors. Even the French Emperor could not
sustain the rôle which he aspired to play, and, failing to discern the
signs of the times, was whirled aside by the forces which he claimed to
control. Is it surprising that Pitt, more slightly endowed by nature,
and beset by the many limitations which hampered the advisers of
George III, should have sunk beneath burdens such as no other English
statesman has been called upon to bear? The success or failure of such a
career is, however, to be measured by the final success or failure of
his policy; and in this respect, as I have shown, the victor in the
Great War was not Napoleon but Pitt.

To that high enterprise he consecrated all the powers of his being. His
public life is everything; his private life, unfortunately, counts for
little. The materials for reconstructing it are meagre. I have been able
here and there to throw new light on his friendships, difficulties,
trials, and, in particular, on the love episode of the year 1797. But in
the main the story of the life of Pitt must soar high above the club and
the _salon_ to

    ... the toppling heights of Duty scaled.

Again I must express my hearty thanks to those who have generously
placed at my disposal new materials of great value, especially to His
Grace the Duke of Portland, the Earl of Harrowby, Earl Stanhope, E. G.
Pretyman, Esq., M.P., and A. M. Broadley, Esq.; also to the Rev. William
Hunt, D.Litt., and Colonel E. M. Lloyd, late R.E., for valuable advice
tendered during the correction of the proofs, and to Mr. Hubert Hall of
H.M. Public Record Office for assistance during my researches there. I
am also indebted to Lord Auckland and to Messrs. Longmans for permission
to reproduce the miniature of the Hon. Miss Eden which appeared in Lord
Ashbourne's "Pitt, Some Chapters of his Life and Times," and to Mr. and
Mrs. Doulton for permission to my daughter to make the sketch of Bowling
Green House, the last residence of Pitt, which is reproduced near the
end of this volume. In the preface to the former volume I expressed my
acknowledgements to recent works bearing on this subject; and I need
only add that numerous new letters of George III, Pitt, Grenville,
Burke, Canning, etc., which could only be referred to here, will be
published in a work entitled "Pitt and Napoleon Miscellanies," including
also essays and notes.

                                                         J. H. R.
MARCH 1911.


  CHAP.                                                      PAGE

  I.       ROYALISTS AND RADICALS                               1
  II.      BEFORE THE STORM                                    29
  III.     PEACE OR WAR?                                       57
  IV.      THE RUPTURE WITH FRANCE                             85
  V.       THE FLEMISH CAMPAIGN (1793)                        118
  VI.      TOULON                                             143
  VII.     THE BRITISH JACOBINS                               164
  VIII.    PITT AND THE ALLIES (1794-5)                       195
  IX.      THE WEST INDIES                                    219
  X.       SPAIN AND HAYTI                                    230
  XII.     PITT AS WAR MINISTER (1793-8)                      265
  XIII.    DEARTH AND DISCONTENT                              282
  XIV.     THE YEARS OF STRAIN (1796-7)                       299
  XV.      NATIONAL REVIVAL                                   321
  XVI.     THE IRISH REBELLION                                339
  XVII.    THE SECOND COALITION                               365
  XVIII.   THE UNION                                          389
  XIX.     THE UNION (CONTINUED)                              411
  XX.      RESIGNATION                                        431
  XXI.     PITT AND HIS FRIENDS (1794-1805)                   454
  XXII.    ADDINGTON OR PITT?                                 483
  XXIII.   PITT AND NAPOLEON                                  505
  XXIV.    THE LAST STRUGGLE                                  534
  EPILOGUE                                                    559
  STATISTICS OF THE YEARS 1792-1801                           571
  INDEX                                                       573


                                                          TO FACE

  WILLIAM PITT, IN LATER LIFE. (From a painting by
  Hoppner in the National Portrait Gallery)        _Frontispiece_

  SEAT OF WAR IN FLANDERS.                                    141

  THE SIEGE OF TOULON. (By Emmanuel Toulougeon, Paris)        163

  THE HOUSE OF COMMONS IN 1793. (From a painting in
  the National Portrait Gallery by K. A. Hickel)              164

  THE HON. ELEANOR EDEN. (From a miniature)                   300

  painting by Sir T. Lawrence)                                484

  pencil sketch by Elsie H. Rose)                             554


  Page 180, _ad fin._, _for_ "Hamilton, Rowan" _read_ "Hamilton Rowan."
   "   311, line 1, _for_ "formerly" _read_ "brother of."
   "   311, line 2, _for_ "Lord Hood" _read_ "Sir Alexander Hood."
   "   551, line 11 from end, _for_ "6th" _read_ "4th."


ANN. REG. = "Annual Register."

ASHBOURNE = "Pitt: some Chapters of his Life and Times," by the Rt. Hon.
Lord Ashbourne. 1898.

AUCKLAND JOURNALS = "The Journal and Corresp. of William, Lord
Auckland." 4 vols. 1861.

BEAUFORT P. = "MSS. of the Duke of Beaufort," etc. (Hist. MSS. Comm.).

B.M. ADD. MSS. = Additional Manuscripts of the British Museum.

BUCKINGHAM P. = "Mems. of the Court and Cabinets of George III," by the
Duke of Buckingham. 2 vols. 1853.

CAMPBELL = "Lives of the Lord Chancellors," by Lord Campbell. 8 vols.

CASTLEREAGH CORRESP. = "Mems. and Corresp. of Viscount Castlereagh." 8
vols. 1848-53.

CHEVENING MSS. = Manuscripts of Earl Stanhope, preserved at Chevening.

CUNNINGHAM = "Growth of Eng. Industry and Commerce (Modern Times)," by
Dr. W. Cunningham. 1892.

DROPMORE P. = "The Manuscripts of J. B. Fortescue, Esq., preserved at
Dropmore" (Hist. MSS. Comm.). 7 vols. 1892-1910.

FORTESCUE = "The History of the British Army," by the Hon. J. W.
Fortescue. vol. iv.

HÄUSSER = "Deutsche Geschichte (1786-1804)," by L. Häusser. 4 vols.

HOLLAND = "Memoirs of the Whig Party," by Lord Holland. 2 vols. 1852.

JESSE = "Mems. of the Life and Reign of George III," by J. H. Jesse. 3
vols. 1867.

LECKY = "Hist. of England in the Eighteenth Century," by W. E. H. Lecky.
8 vols. Fifth edit. 1891-1904.

MALMESBURY DIARIES = "Diaries and Corresp. of the First Earl of
Malmesbury." 4 vols. 1844.

PARL. HIST. = "History of the Parliamentary Debates" (after 1804
continued in Hansard).

PELLEW = "Life and Corresp. of the first Viscount Sidmouth," by Rev. C.
Pellew. 3 vols. 1847.

PITT MSS. = Pitt MSS., preserved at H.M. Public Record Office.

PORRITT = "The Unreformed House of Commons," by E. Porritt, 2 vols.

PRETYMAN MSS. = MSS. of E. G. Pretyman, Esq., M.P., preserved at Orwell

ROSE G., "DIARIES" = "Diaries and Corresp. of Rt. Hon. G. Rose." 2 vols.

ROSE, "NAPOLEON" = "Life of Napoleon," by J. H. Rose. 2 vols. 1909.

ROSE, "THIRD COALITION" = "Select Despatches ... relating to the
Formation of the Third Coalition (1804-5)," ed. by J. H. Rose (Royal
Historical Soc., 1904).

RUTLAND P. = "MSS. of the Duke of Rutland" (Hist. MSS. Comm.). 3 vols.

RUVILLE = "William Pitt, Earl of Chatham," by A. von Ruville (Eng.
transl.). 3 vols. 1907.

SOREL = "L'Europe et la Révolution française," par A. Sorel. Pts. II,
III. 1889, 1897.

STANHOPE = "Life of ... William Pitt," by Earl Stanhope. 4 vols. 3rd
edition. 1867.

SYBEL = "Geschichte der Revolutionzeit (1789-1800)," von H. von Sybel.
Eng. translation. 4 vols. 1867-9.

VIVENOT = "Quellen zur Geschichte der deutschen Kaiserpolitik
OEsterreichs ..." von A. von Vivenot. 1873.

WRAXALL = "Memoirs of Sir N. W. Wraxall" (1772-84), edited by H. B.
Wheatley. 5 vols. 1884.




    Détruire l'anarchie française, c'est se préparer une gloire
    immortelle.--CATHARINE II, 1791.

    The pretended Rights of Man, which have made this havoc, cannot
    be the rights of the people. For to be a people and to have
    these rights are incompatible. The one supposes the presence,
    the other the absence, of a state of civil society.--BURKE,
    _Appeal from the New to the Old Whigs_.

    A constitution is the property of a nation and not of those who
    exercise the Government.--T. PAINE, _Rights of Man_, part ii.

In the midst of a maze of events there may sometimes be found one which
serves as a clue, revealing hidden paths, connecting ways which seem far
apart, and leading to a clear issue. Such was the attempted flight of
Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette to the eastern frontier of France at
midsummer 1791, which may be termed the central event of the French
Revolution, at least in its first phases. The aim of joining the armed
bands of _émigrés_ and the forces held in readiness by Austria was so
obvious as to dispel the myth of "a patriot King" misled for a time by
evil counsellors. True, the moderates, from sheer alarm, still sought to
save the monarchy, and for a time with surprising success. But bolder
men, possessed both of insight and humour, perceived the futility of
all such efforts to hold down on the throne the father of his people
lest he should again run away. In this perception the young Republican
party found its genesis and its inspiration. In truth, the attempted
flight of the King was a death-blow to the moderate party, into which
the lamented leader, Mirabeau, had sought to infuse some of his
masterful energy. Thenceforth, the future belonged either to the
Jacobins or to the out and out royalists.

These last saw the horizon brighten in the East. Louis XVI being under
constraint in Paris, their leaders were the French Princes, the Comte de
Provence (afterwards Louis XVIII) and the Comte d'Artois (Charles X).
Around them at Coblentz there clustered angry swarms of French nobles,
gentlemen, and orthodox priests, whose zeal was reckoned by the
earliness of the date at which they had "emigrated." For many months the
agents of these _émigrés_ had vainly urged the Chanceries of the
Continent to a royalist crusade against the French rebels; and it seemed
appropriate that Gustavus III of Sweden should be their only convert.
Now of a sudden their demands appeared, instinct with statecraft; and
courtiers everywhere exclaimed that "the French pest" must be stamped
out. In that thought lay in germ a quarter of a century of war.

Already the Prussian and Austrian Governments had vaguely discussed the
need of a joint intervention in France. In fact this subject formed one
of the pretexts for the missions of the Prussian envoy, Bischoffswerder,
to the Emperor Leopold in February and June 1791.[2] As was shown at the
close of the former volume, "William Pitt and National Revival," neither
Court took the matter seriously, the Eastern Question being then their
chief concern. But the flight to Varennes, which Leopold had helped to
arrange, imposed on him the duty of avenging the ensuing insults to his
sister. He prepared to do so with a degree of caution highly
characteristic of him. He refused to move until he knew the disposition
of the Powers, especially of England. From Padua, where the news of the
capture of Louis at Varennes reached him, he wrote an autograph letter
to George III, dated 6th July, urging him to join in a general demand
for the liberation of the King and Queen of France. He also invited the
monarchs of Europe to launch a Declaration, that they regarded the cause
of Louis as their own, and in the last resort to put down a usurpation
of power which it behoved all Governments to repress.[3]

The reply of George, dated St. James's, 23rd July, bears the imprint of
the cool and cautious personality of Pitt and Grenville, who in this
matter may be counted as one. The King avowed his sympathy with the
French Royal Family and his interest in the present proposals, but
declared that his attitude must depend on his relations to other Powers.
He therefore cherished the hope that the Emperor would consult the
welfare of the whole of Europe by aiding in the work of pacification
between Austria and Turkey now proceeding at Sistova. So soon as those
negotiations were completed, he would instruct his Ministers to consider
the best means of cementing a union between the Allies and the

Leopold must have gnashed his teeth on reading this reply, which beat
him at his own game of _finesse_. He had used the difficulties of
England as a means of escaping from the pledges plighted at the
Conference of Reichenbach in July 1790. Pitt and Grenville retorted by
ironically refusing all help until he fulfilled those pledges. As we
have seen, they succeeded; and the pacification in the East, as also in
Belgium, was the result.

Equally chilling was the conduct of Pitt towards the _émigrés_. The
French Princes at Coblentz had sent over the former French Minister,
Calonne, "to solicit from His Majesty an assurance of his neutrality in
the event ... of an attempt being made by the Emperor and other Powers
in support of the royal party in France." Pitt and Grenville refused to
receive Calonne, and sent to the Comte d'Artois a letter expressing
sympathy with the situation of the King and Queen of France, but
declining to give any promise as to the line of conduct which the
British Government might pursue.[5]

No less vague were the terms in which George III replied to a letter of
the King of Sweden. Gustavus had for some little time been at
Aix-la-Chapelle in the hope of leading a royalist crusade into France as
a sequel to the expected escape of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette. As
readers of Carlyle will remember, the Swedish noble, Count Fersen,
chivalrously helped their flight towards Metz; and deep was the chagrin
of Gustavus and his squire on hearing the news from Varennes. They
longed to strike at once. But how could they strike while Leopold,
Catharine, and Frederick William declared that everything must depend on
the action of England? The following significant sentence in Fersen's
diary shows the feeling prevalent at Brussels, as elsewhere, respecting
England: "We must know if that Power regards the continuation of anarchy
in France as more advantageous than order."[6] Fersen had imbibed this
notion at Brussels from Count Mercy d'Argenteau, the Austrian Minister,
whose letters often harp on this string. Thus on 7th March 1791 he
writes: "The worst obstacles for the King of France will always come
from England, which wishes to prolong the horrors in France and ruin
her." A little later he avers that the only way to save the French
monarchy is by a civil war, "and England (unless won over) will support
the popular party."[7]

In order to win Pitt over to the cause of neutrality from which he never
intended to swerve, Gustavus and Fersen persuaded an Englishman named
Crawford to proceed to London with letters for George III and Pitt,
dated 22nd July.[8] To the King he described the danger to all
Governments which must ensue if the French revolted with impunity. He
therefore begged to know speedily whether His Majesty would accord full
liberty "to the Princes of Germany and to those, who, owing to the long
distance, can only arrive by sea."[9] Evidently, then, Gustavus feared
lest England might stop the fleet in which he intended to convey Swedish
and Russian troops to the coast of Normandy for a dash at Paris. The
answer of George soothed these fears, and that of Pitt, dated August
1791, was a model of courtly complaisance.

Compared with the shrewd balancings of the Emperor Leopold and the cold
neutrality of Pitt, the policy of Frederick William II of Prussia seemed
for a time to be instinct with generosity. Despite the fears of his
counsellors that a _rapprochement_ to Austria would involve Prussia in
the ruin which the friendship of the Hapsburgs had brought on France,
the King turned eagerly towards Vienna; and on 25th July Kaunitz and
Bischoffswerder signed a preliminary treaty of alliance mutually
guaranteeing their territories, and agreeing to further the aims of the
Emperor respecting France. Frederick William was on fire for the
royalist crusade. He even assured Baron Rolle, the agent of the French
princes, that something would be done in that season.[10] Pitt and
Grenville disapproved the action of Prussia in signing this compact,
impairing as it did the validity of the Anglo-Prussian alliance of the
year 1788; but Frederick William peevishly asserted his right to make
what treaties he thought good, and remarked that he was now quits with
England for the bad turns she had played him.[11] On their side, the
British Ministers, by way of marking their disapproval of the warlike
counsels of Berlin and Vienna, decided not to send an envoy to Pilnitz,
the summer abode of the Elector of Saxony, where a conference was
arranged between Leopold and Frederick William.

As is well known, the Comte d'Artois and Calonne now cherished lofty
hopes of decisive action by all the monarchs against the French rebels.
But Leopold, with his usual caution, repelled alike the solicitations of
Artois and the warlike counsels of Frederick William, the result of
their deliberations being the famous Declaration of Pilnitz (27th
August). In it they expressed the hope that all the sovereigns of Europe

    will not refuse to employ, in conjunction with their said
    Majesties, the most efficient means in proportion to their
    resources, to place the King of France in a position to
    establish with the most absolute freedom, the foundations of a
    monarchical form of government, which shall at once be in
    harmony with the rights of sovereigns and promote the welfare of
    the French nation. In that case [_alors et dans ce cas_] their
    said Majesties, the Emperor and the King of Prussia, are
    resolved to act promptly and in common accord with the forces
    necessary to attain the desired common end.

Obviously, the gist of the whole Declaration lay in the words _alors et
dans ce cas_. If they be emphasized, they destroy the force of the
document; for a union of all the monarchs was an impossibility, it being
well known that England would not, and Sardinia, and Naples (probably
also Spain) could not, take up arms. In fact, on that very evening
Leopold wrote to Kaunitz that he had not in the least committed
himself.--"_Alors et dans ce cas_ is with me the law and the prophets.
If England fails us, the case is non-existent." Further, when the Comte
d'Artois, two days later, urged the Emperor to give effect to the
Declaration by ordering his troops to march westwards, he sent a sharp
retort, asserted that he would not go beyond the Declaration, and
forbade the French Princes to do so.[12]

To the good sense and insight of Grenville and Pitt, the Pilnitz
Declaration was one of the _comédies augustes_ of history, as Mallet du
Pan termed it. Grenville saw that Leopold would stay his hand until
England chose to act, meanwhile alleging her neutrality as an excuse for
doing nothing.[13] Thus, the resolve of Catharine to give nothing but
fair words being already surmised, the _émigrés_ found to their
annoyance that Pitt's passivity clogged their efforts--the chief reason
why they shrilly upbraided him for his insular egotism. Certainly his
attitude was far from romantic; but surely, after the sharp lesson which
he had received from the House of Commons in the spring of 1791 during
the dispute with Russia, caution was needful; and he probably discerned
a truth hidden from the _émigrés_, that an invasion of France for the
rescue of the King and Queen would seal their doom and increase the
welter in that unhappy land.

Pitt and Grenville spent the middle of September at Weymouth in
attendance on George III; and we can imagine their satisfaction at the
prospect of universal peace and prosperity. Pitt consoled himself for
the not very creditable end to the Russian negotiation by reflecting
that our revenue was steadily rising. "We are already £178,000 gainers
in this quarter," he wrote to George Rose on 10th August.[14] In fact,
the cyclonic disturbances of the past few years now gave place to a
lull. The Russo-Turkish War had virtually ended; Catharine and Gustavus
were on friendly terms; the ferment in the Hapsburg dominions had died
down, except in Brabant; the Poles were working their new constitution
well; and, but for Jacobin propaganda in Italy and the Rhineland, the
outlook was serene.

At this time, too, there seemed a chance of a reconciliation between
Louis XVI and his people. On 14th September he accepted the new
democratic constitution, a step which filled France with rejoicing and
furnished the desired excuse for Leopold to remain passive. Kaunitz, who
had consistently opposed intervention in France, now asserted that Louis
had voluntarily accepted the constitution. The action of Louis and Marie
Antoinette was in reality forced. Amidst the Queen's expressions of
contempt for the French Princes at Coblentz, the suppressed fire of her
fury against her captors flashes forth in this sentence written to Mercy
d'Argenteau (28th August)--"The only question for us is to lull them to
sleep and inspire them with confidence so as to trick them the better
afterwards."--And again (12th September)--"My God! Must I, with this
blood in my veins, pass my days among such beings as these, and in such
an age as this?" Leopold must have known her real feelings; but he chose
to abide by the official language of Louis, and to advise the Powers to
accept the new situation.[15]

This peaceful turn of affairs sorely troubled the French Princes and
Burke. In August and September 1791 his son Richard was at Coblentz, and
informed his father of the consternation of the _émigrés_ on hearing
that the Emperor declined to draw the sword. Burke himself was equally
agitated, and on or about 24th September had a long interview with Pitt
and Grenville, at the house of the latter. We gather from Burke's
"Letters on the Conduct of our Domestic Parties," that it was the first
time he had met Pitt in private; and the meeting must have been somewhat
awkward. After dining, with Grenville as host, the three men conferred
together till eleven o'clock, discussing the whole situation "very
calmly" (says Burke); but we can fancy the tumult of feelings in the
breast of the old man when he found both Ministers firm as adamant
against intervention in France. "They are certainly right as to their
general inclinations," he wrote to his son, "perfectly so, I have not a
shadow of doubt; but at the same time they are cold and dead as to any
attempt whatsoever to give them effect." The heat of the Irish royalist
failed to kindle a spark of feeling in the two cousins. He found that
their "deadness" proceeded from a rooted distrust of the Emperor
Leopold, and from a conviction that Britain had nothing to fear from
Jacobinical propaganda. Above all they believed that the present was not
the time for action, especially as the imminence of bankruptcy in France
would discredit the new Legislative Assembly, and render an invasion
easier in the near future.

Are we to infer from this that Pitt and his cousin looked forward to a
time when the monarchs could invade France with safety? Such an
inference would be rash. It is more probable that they here found an
excuse for postponing their decision and a means of calming an insistent
visitor. Certainly they impressed Burke with a belief in their sincere
but secret sympathy with the royalist cause. The three men also agreed
in suspecting Leopold, though Burke tried to prove that his treachery
was not premeditated, but sprang from "some complexional inconstancy."
Pitt and Grenville, knowing the doggedness with which the Emperor pushed
towards his goal, amidst many a shift and turn, evidently were not

At this time they had special reasons for distrusting Leopold and his
advisers. The Austrian Government had received a letter, dated Dresden,
27th August (the day of the Declaration of Pilnitz), stating that
England promised to remain neutral only on condition that the Emperor
would not withdraw any troops from his Belgic lands, as they were needed
to uphold the arrangements of which she was a guarantee. This
extraordinary statement grew out of a remark of Grenville to the
Austrian Ambassador in London, that, in view of the unrest in the
Netherlands, it might be well not to leave them without troops.[16] The
mis-statement was not only accepted at Vienna, but was forwarded to
various Courts, the final version being that England might attack
Austria if she withdrew her troops from Flanders, and that therefore
Leopold could not draw the sword against France until his army on the
Turkish borders arrived in Swabia. Some were found who believed this odd
_farrago_; but those who watched the calculating balance of Hapsburg
policy saw in it one more excuse for a masterly inactivity.

Still less were our Ministers inclined to unite with Catharine in the
universal royalist league then under discussion at St. Petersburg. The
Czarina having charged her ambassador, Vorontzoff, to find out the
sentiments of Pitt and Grenville on this subject, he replied that
England would persevere in the strict neutrality which she had all along
observed, "and that, with respect to the measures of active intervention
which other Powers might have in contemplation, it was His Majesty's
determination not to take any part either in supporting or in opposing
them." Now Russia, like Austria and Spain, had decided not to act unless
England joined the concert;[17] and this waiting on the action of a
Power which had already declared its resolve to do nothing enables us to
test the sincerity of the continental monarchs. As for the Czarina, her
royalist fervour expended itself in deposing the busts of democrats, in
ordering the French Minister to remain away from Court, and in
condemning any Russian who had dealings with him to be publicly flogged.
Moreover, while thus drilling her own subjects, the quondam friend of
Diderot kept her eyes fixed upon Warsaw. The shrewdest diplomatist of
the age had already divined her aims, which he thus trenchantly summed
up: "The Empress only waits to see Austria and Prussia committed in
France, to overturn everything in Poland."[18] Kaunitz lived on to see
his cynical prophecy fulfilled to the letter.

                  *       *       *       *       *

The reader will have noticed with some surprise the statement of Burke
that Pitt and Grenville had not the slightest fear of the spread of
French principles in England. As we know, Burke vehemently maintained
the contrary, averring that the French plague, unless crushed at Paris,
would infect the world. In his survey of the European States he admitted
that we were less liable to infection than Germany, Holland, and Italy,
owing to the excellence of our constitution; but he feared that our
nearness to France, and our zeal for liberty, would expose us to some
danger. Why he should have cherished these fears is hard to say; for to
him the French Revolution was "a wild attempt to methodize anarchy," "a
foul, impious, monstrous thing, wholly out of the course of moral
nature."[19] Surely if British and French principles were so utterly
different, we were in no more danger of infection from the Jacobins than
of catching swine fever.

This was virtually the view of Pitt and Grenville; for there were no
premonitory symptoms of infection, but much the reverse. Londoners
showed the utmost joy at the first news of the escape of the King and
Queen from Paris, and were equally depressed by the news from Varennes.
As we shall presently see, it was with shouts of "Long live the King,"
"Church and State," "Down with the Dissenters," "No Olivers," "Down with
the Rump," "No false Rights of Man," that the rabble of Birmingham
wrecked and burnt the houses of Dr. Priestley and other prominent
Nonconformists of that town. Only by slow degrees did this loyal
enthusiasm give place to opinions which in course of time came to be
called Radical. It may be well to trace briefly the fluctuations of
public opinion, to which the career of Pitt stands in vital relation.

The growth of discontent in Great Britain may be ascribed to definite
evils in the body politic, and it seems to have arisen only secondarily
from French propaganda. The first question which kindled the fire of
resentment was that of the civic and political disabilities still
imposed on Nonconformists by the Corporation and Test Acts of the reign
of Charles II. Pitt's decision in the session of 1787 to uphold those
Acts ensured the rejection of Beaufoy's motion for their repeal of 176
votes to 98; but undeterred by his defeat, Beaufoy brought the matter
before the House on 8th May 1789, and, despite the opposition of Pitt,
secured 102 votes against 122. The Prime Minister's chief argument was
that if Dissenters were admitted to civic rights they might use their
power to overthrow the Church Establishment.[20] Clearly the opinion of
the House was drifting away from him on that question; and it is a proof
of his growing indifference to questions of Reform that now, four days
after the assembly of the States-General of France at Versailles, he
should have held to views so repugnant to the spirit of the age.

Thenceforth that question could not be debated solely on its own merits.
The attacks made by the French National Assembly on the Church of
France, particularly the confiscation of its tithes and landed property,
soon aroused heated feelings in this country, though on a subject of a
wholly different kind. The result was that, while Dissenters peacefully
agitated for permission to act as citizens, they were represented as
endeavouring to despoil the Church, after the fashion of Talleyrand and
Mirabeau. A work by a Manchester merchant, Thomas Walker, reveals the
influence of this question on the political activities of the time. The
Nonconformists of that town and county hoped to gain a majority in next
session or in the following Parliament, while the High Churchmen, to the
cry of "The Church in Danger," declared the two Acts of Charles II to be
the bulwarks of the constitution.[21] This cry was everywhere taken up,
with the result that in the Parliament elected in 1790 the Tories gained
ground. Consequently, even the able advocacy of Fox on behalf of
religious liberty failed to save Beaufoy's motion from a crushing
defeat. Pitt spoke against the proposal and carried the House with him
by 294 votes to 105. This vote illustrates the baleful influence exerted
by the French Revolution on the cause of Reform in these islands.

A second example soon occurred. Only three days later Flood brought
forward a motion for Parliamentary Reform which the wildest of alarmists
could not call revolutionary. He proposed to add to the House of Commons
one hundred members, elected by the resident householders of the
counties, those areas being far less corrupt than the towns; and he
suggested that, if the total number of members were deemed excessive,
fifty seats in the smallest boroughs might be declared vacant. This
proposal differed but little from that of Pitt in the session of 1785,
which aimed at disfranchising thirty-six decayed boroughs and
apportioning their seventy-two members to the larger counties, as also
to London and Westminster. In a speech which might have been made by
Pitt in pre-Revolution times Flood declared that the events in France
showed the need of a timely repair of outworn institutions.

This was as a red rag to Windham, a prominent recruit from the Whigs,
who now used all the artifices of rhetoric to terrify his hearers. He
besought them in turn not to repair their house in the hurricane season,
not to imitate the valetudinarian of the "Spectator," who read medical
books until he discovered he had every symptom of the gout except the
pain. These fallacious similes captivated the squires; and Pitt himself
complimented the orator on his ingenious arguments. For himself, he
declared his desire of Reform to be as zealous as ever; but he "could
see no utility in any gentleman's bringing forward such a motion as the
present at that moment," and feared that the cause might thereby suffer
disgrace and lose ground. Fox, on the other hand, ridiculed all thought
of panic on account of the French Revolution, but he admitted that the
majority both in Parliament and the nation did not want Reform.
Grenville, Wilberforce, and Burke opposed the motion, while even
Duncombe declined to vote for it at present. It was accordingly
adjourned _sine die_.[22]

Disappointment at the course of these debates served to band
Nonconformists and reformers in a close alliance. Hitherto they had
alike supported Pitt and the royal prerogative, especially at the time
of the Regency struggle. In May 1789, when Pitt opposed the
Nonconformist claims, Dr. Priestley wrote that Fox would regain his
popularity with Dissenters, while Pitt would lose ground.[23] Now, when
the doors of the franchise and of civic privilege were fast barred,
resentment and indignation began to arouse the groups of the
unprivileged left outside. The news that Frenchmen had framed a
Departmental System, in which all privileges had vanished, and all men
were citizens, with equal rights in the making of laws and local
regulations, worked potently in England, furthering the growth of an
institution little known in this country, the political club. As the
Jacobins had adapted the English idea of a club to political uses, so
now the early Radicals re-adapted it to English needs. "The Manchester
Constitutional Society"[24] was founded by Walker and others in October
1790, in order to oppose a "Church and King Club," which High Churchmen
had started in March, after the news of the triumph of their principles
in Parliament. The Manchester reformers struck the key-note of the
coming age by asserting in their programme that in every community the
authority of the governors must be derived from the consent of the
governed, and that the welfare of the people was the true aim of
Government. They further declared that honours and rewards were due only
for services rendered to the State; that all officials, without
exception, were responsible to the people; that "actions only, not
opinions, are the proper objects of civil jurisdictions"; that no law is
fairly made except by a majority of the people; and that the people of
Great Britain were not fully and fairly represented in Parliament.[25]

The Church and King Club, on the contrary, reprobated all change in "one
of the most beautiful systems of government that the combined efforts of
human wisdom has [_sic_] ever yet been able to accomplish." The issue
between the two parties was thus sharply outlined. The Tories of
Manchester gloried in a state of things which shut out about half of
their fellow-citizens from civic rights and their whole community from
any direct share in the making of laws. In their eyes the Church and the
monarchy were in danger if Nonconformists became citizens, and if a
score of Cornish villages yielded up their legislative powers to
Manchester, Leeds, Birmingham, and other hives of industry.

Scotland also began to awake. The torpor of that keen and intellectual
people, under a system of misrepresentation which assigned to them
forty-five members and forty-four to Cornwall, is incomprehensible,
unless we may ascribe it to the waning of all enthusiasm after the
"forty-five" and to the supremacy of material interests so
characteristic of the age. In any case, this political apathy was now to
end; and here, too, as in the case of England, Government applied the

On 10th May 1791 Sir Gilbert Elliot (afterwards Earl of Minto) brought
forward a motion in Parliament for the repeal of the Test Act, so far as
it concerned Scotland. He voiced a petition of the General Assembly of
the Church of Scotland, and declared that the Presbyterians felt the
grievance of being excluded from civic offices unless they perverted. On
wider grounds also he appealed against this petty form of persecution,
which might make men hypocrites but never sincere converts. Henry Dundas
and his nephew, Robert Dundas (Lord Advocate for Scotland), opposed the
motion, mainly because it would infringe the terms of the Act of Union;
but Henry added the curious argument that, if Scottish Presbyterians
were relieved from the Test Act, then the English Dissenters would have
been "unjustly, harshly, and cruelly used." Pitt avowed himself "not a
violent friend, but a firm and steady friend" of the Test Act, as being
essential to the security of the Church and therefore of the civil
establishment of the country. Accordingly, Elliot's motion was defeated
by 149 votes to 62.[26] It is curious that, a month earlier, the House
had agreed to a Bill granting slightly wider toleration to "Catholic

While Pitt was thus strengthening the old buttresses of Church and
State, the son of a Quaker had subjected the whole fabric to a battery
of violent rhetoric. It is scarcely too much to call Thomas Paine the
Rousseau of English democracy. For, if his arguments lacked the novelty
of those of the Genevese thinker (and even they were far from original),
they equalled them in effectiveness, and excelled them in
practicability. "The Rights of Man" (Part I) may be termed an insular
version of the "Contrat Social," with this difference, that the English
writer pointed the way to changes which were far from visionary, while
the Genevese seer outlined a polity fit only for a Swiss canton peopled
by philosophers. Paine had had the advantage of close contact with men
and affairs in both hemispheres. Not even Cobbett, his literary
successor, passed through more varied experiences. Born in 1737 at
Thetford in Norfolk, Paine divided his early life between stay-making,
excise work, the vending of tobacco, and a seafaring life. His keen
eyes, lofty brow, prominent nose, proclaimed him a thinker and fighter,
and therefore, in that age, a rebel. What more natural than that he, a
foe to authority and hater of oppression, should go to America to help
on the cause of Washington? There at last he discovered his true
vocation. His broadsides struck home. "Rebellious staymaker, unkempt,"
says Carlyle, "who feels that he, a single needleman, did by his
'Common Sense' pamphlet, free America; that he can, and will free all
this world; perhaps even the other." Tom Paine, indeed, had the rare
gift of voicing tersely and stridently the dumb desires of the masses.
Further, a sojourn in France before and during the early part of the
Revolution enabled him to frame a crushing retort to Burke's
"Reflections." The result was Part I of the "Rights of Man," which he
flung off at the "Angel" in Islington in February 1791.[28]

The general aims of the pamphlet are now as little open to question as
the famous Declaration which he sought to vindicate. Paine trenchantly
attacked Burke's claim that no people, not even our own, had an inherent
right to choose its own ruler, and that the Revolution Settlement of
1688 was binding for ever. Paine, on the contrary, asserted that "every
age and generation must be as free to act for itself _in all cases_ as
the ages and generations that preceded it. The vanity and presumption of
governing beyond the grave is the most ridiculous and insolent of all
tyrannies." Further, on the general question at issue, Paine remarked:
"That men should take up arms, and spend their lives and fortunes, _not_
to maintain their rights, but to maintain they have _not_ rights, is an
entirely new species of discovery and suited to the paradoxical genius
of Mr. Burke." In reply to the noble passage: "The age of chivalry is
gone ...," Paine shrewdly says: "In the rhapsody of his imagination he
has discovered a world of windmills, and his sorrows are that there are
no Quixotes to attack them."

After thus exposing the weak points of the royalist case, Paine
proceeded to defend the mob, firstly, because the aristocratic plots
against the French Revolution were really formidable (a very disputable
thesis), and secondly, because the mob in all old countries is the
outcome of their unfair and brutal system of government. "It is by
distortedly exalting some men," he says, "that others are distortedly
debased, till the whole is out of nature. A vast mass of mankind are
degradedly thrown into the background of the human picture, to bring
forward with greater glare the puppet show of State and aristocracy."
Here was obviously the Junius of democracy, for whom the only effective
answer was the gag and gyve. Indeed, Burke in his "Appeal from the New
to the Old Whigs" suggested that the proper refutation was by means of
"criminal justice."[29]

Pitt's opinions at this time on French and English democracy tend
towards a moderate and reforming royalism--witness his comment on
Burke's "Reflections," that the writer would have done well to extol the
English constitution rather than to attack the French.[30] In this
remark we may detect his preference for construction over destruction,
for the allaying, rather than the exciting, of passion. Nevertheless the
one-sidedness of the English constitution made for unrest. So soon as
one bold voice clearly contrasted those defects with the inspiring
precepts of the French Rights of Man, there was an end to political
apathy. A proof of this was furnished by the number of replies called
forth by Burke's "Reflections." They numbered thirty-eight.[31] Apart
from that of Paine, the "Vindiciae Gallicae" of Sir James Mackintosh
made the most impression, especially the last chapter, wherein he
declared that the conspiracy of the monarchs to crush the liberties of
France would recoil on their own heads.

Fear of the alleged royalist league quickened the sympathy of Britons
with the French reformers; while the sympathy of friends of order with
Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette after the Varennes incident deepened
their apprehension of all change. Thus were called into play all the
feelings which most deeply move mankind--love of our richly storied past
and its embodiment, the English constitution; while on the other hand no
small part of our people harboured resentment against the narrow
franchise and class legislation at home, and felt a growing fear that
the nascent freedom of Frenchmen might expire under the heel of the
military Powers of Central Europe. Accordingly clubs and societies grew
apace, and many of them helped on the circulation of cheap editions of
Paine's pamphlet.

The result of this clash of opinion was seen in the added keenness of
party strife and in the disturbances of 14th July 1791. The occasion of
these last was the celebration by a subscription dinner of the second
anniversary of the fall of the Bastille. Both at Manchester and
Birmingham the announcement of this insular and inoffensive function
aroused strong feelings either of envy or of opposition. The Tories of
Manchester resolved that, if the local Constitutional Club chose to dine
on that day it should be at their peril. The populace was urged to pull
down the hotel on their heads, "as the brains of every man who dined
there would be much improved by being mingled with bricks and mortar."
Thomas Walker's control of the local constables sufficed to thwart this

But on that day the forces of reaction broke loose at Birmingham. In the
Midland capital political feeling ran as high as at Manchester. The best
known of the reformers was Dr. Priestley, a Unitarian minister, whose
researches in physical science had gained him a world-wide reputation
and a fellowship in the Royal Society. He and many other reformers
proposed to feast in public in honour of the French national festival.
Unfortunately, the annoyance of the loyalists at this proposal was
inflamed by a recent sermon of Priestley on the death of Dr. Price and
by the circulation of a seditious handbill. Dr. Keir, a Churchman who
was to preside at the dinner, did not prove to the satisfaction of all
that this was a trick of the enemy. Public opinion was also excited by
the discovery of the words "This barn to let" chalked on some of the
churches of the town; and charges were bandied to and fro that this was
the work of the Dissenters, or of the most virulent of their opponents.

What is certain is that these _hors d'oeuvres_ endangered the rest of
the _menu_. The dinner-committee, however, struggled manfully with their
difficulties. They had a Churchman in the chair, and Priestley was not
present. The loyalty of the diners also received due scenic warrant in
the work of a local artist. The dining-hall of the hotel was "decorated
with three emblematical pieces of sculpture, mixed with painting in a
new style of composition. The central was a finely executed medallion of
His Majesty, surrounded with a Glory, on each side of which was an
alabaster obelisk, one exhibiting Gallic Liberty breaking the bonds of
Despotism, and the other representing British Liberty in its present
enjoyment." The terms in which the fourteen toasts were proposed
breathed of the same flamboyant loyalty, the only one open to criticism
being the following: "The Prince of Wales! May he have the wisdom to
prefer the glory of being the chief of an entire [_sic_] free people to
that of being only the splendid fountain of corruption."[32]

The dinner passed with only occasional rounds of hissing from the
loyalists outside. But, as the evening wore on and the speeches inside
still continued, the crowd became restive. Stone-throwing began and was
not discouraged by the two magistrates, the Rev. Dr. Spencer and John
Carles, who had now arrived. In fact, the clergyman with an oath praised
a lad who said that Priestley ought to be ducked; Carles also promised
the rabble drink; and when a local humourist asked for permission to
knock the dust out of Priestley's wig, the champions of order burst out
laughing. A witness at the trial averred that he saw an attorney, John
Brook, go among the mob and point towards Priestley's chapel. However
that may be, the rabble moved off thither and speedily wrecked it. His
residence at Fair Hill was next demolished, his library and scientific
instruments being burnt or smashed. This was but the prelude to
organized attacks on the houses of the leading Nonconformists, whether
they had been at the dinner or not. The resulting riots soon involved in
ruin a large part of the town. Prominent Churchmen who sought to end
these disgraceful scenes suffered both in person and property. A word of
remonstrance sufficed to turn into new channels the tide of hatred and
greed; for, as happened in the Gordon riots of 1780, rascality speedily
rushed in to seize the spoils.

The usually dull archives of the Home Office yield proof of the terror
that reigned in the Midland capital. A Mr. Garbett wrote to Dundas on
17th July that the wrecking still went on, that the Nonconformists were
in the utmost dread and misery, and all people looked for help from
outside to stay the pillage. As for himself, though he was not a "marked
man," his hand trembled at the scenes he had witnessed. There can be
little doubt that the magistrates from the first acted with culpable
weakness, as Whitbread proved in the House of Commons, for they did not
enrol special constables until the rioters had got the upper hand.
Dundas, as Home Secretary, seems to have done his duty. The news of the
riot of the 14th reached him at 10 a.m. on the 15th (Friday); and he at
once sent post haste to Nottingham, ordering the immediate despatch of
the 15th Dragoons. By dint of a forced march of fifty-six miles the
horsemen reached Birmingham on the evening of that same day (Sunday);
but two days more elapsed before drunken blackmailers ceased to molest
Hagley, Halesowen, and other villages. Few persons lost their lives,
except about a dozen of the pillagers who lay helpless with drink in the
cellars of houses which their more zealous comrades had given over to
the flames.[33]

The verdict of Grenville was as follows: "I do not admire riots in
favour of Government much more than riots against it." That of his less
cautious brother, the Marquis of Buckingham, is as follows: "I am not
sorry for this _excess, excessive as it has been_." That of Pitt is not
recorded. He did not speak during the debate on this subject on 21st May
1792; but the rejection of Whitbread's motion for an inquiry by 189
votes to 46 implies unanimity on the Ministerial side.[34]

In the winter of 1791-2 various incidents occurred which further excited
public opinion. On 17th February 1792 appeared the second part of
Paine's "Rights of Man." He started from the assumption that the birth
of a democratic State in America would herald the advent of Revolutions
not only in France, but in all lands; and that British and Hessians
would live to bless the day when they were defeated by the soldiers of
Washington. He then proceeded to arraign all Governments of the old
type, and asserted that constitutions ought to be the natural outcome of
the collective activities of the whole people. There was nothing
mysterious about Government, if Courts had not hidden away the patent
fact that it dealt primarily with the making and administering of laws.
We are apt to be impressed by these remarks until we contrast them with
the majestic period wherein Burke depicts human society as a venerable
and mysterious whole bequeathed by the wisdom of our forefathers. An
admirer of Burke cannot but quote the passage in full: "Our political
system is placed in a just correspondence and symmetry with the order of
the world, and with the mode of existence decreed to a permanent body
composed of transitory parts; wherein by the disposition of a
stupendous wisdom, moulding together the great mysterious incorporation
of the human race, the whole, at one time, is never old, or middle-aged,
or young, but in a condition of unchangeable constancy, moves on through
the varied tenour of perpetual decay, fall, renovation and progression.
Thus, by preserving the method of nature in the conduct of the State, in
what we improve we are never wholly new; in what we retain we are never
wholly obsolete."[35]

This is a majestic conception. But, after all, the practical question at
issue is--how much of the old shall we retain and how much must be
discarded? Unfortunately for himself and his cause, Burke was now urging
his countrymen to support two military Powers in their effort to compel
the French people to revert to institutions which were alike obsolete
and detested. Is it surprising that Paine, utterly lacking all sense of
reverence for the past, should brand this conduct as treasonable to the
imperious needs of the present? Viewing monarchy as represented by
Versailles or Carlton House, and aristocracy by the intrigues of
Coblentz and the orgies of Brooks's Club, he gave short shrift to both
forms of Government. Monarchy he pronounced more or less despotic; and
under aristocracy (he says) the interests of the whole body necessarily
suffer; democracy alone secures the rule of the general will; and this
can be thoroughly secured only in a democratic republic. He then attacks
the English constitution as unjust and extravagant, claiming that the
formation of a close alliance between England, France, and America would
enable the expenses of government (Army, Navy, and Civil List inclusive)
to be reduced to a million and a half a year.

With regard to the means of raising revenue, Paine sketched a plan of
progressive taxation on incomes, ranging from 3d. in the pound on
incomes less than £500 to punitive proportions after £10,000 was
reached; while in his Spartan arithmetic great wealth appeared so dire a
misfortune that he rid the possessors of the whole of incomes of £23,000
and upwards. As for Pitt's financial reforms, he laughed them to scorn.
He also accused him of throwing over the fair promises that marked his
early career, of advertising for enemies abroad, while at home he
toadied to the Court. "The defect lies in the system.... Prop it as you
please, it continually sinks into Court government, and ever will."
Finally he urged a limitation of armaments, and prophesied that wars
would cease when nations had their freely elected Conventions. The cynic
will remember with satisfaction that, two months later, began the war
between France and Austria, which developed into the most tremendous
series of wars recorded in history.

The republican and levelling doctrines frankly advocated in Paine's
second pamphlet made a greater sensation than the first part had done;
and Fox, who approved the former production, sternly reprobated the
latter. It is possible that Government sought to stop its publication;
for Chapman, the publisher, to whom Paine first applied, offered him
£1,000 for the manuscript, and yet very soon afterwards declared it to
be too dangerous for him to print.[36] Certainly the work soon quickened
the tone of political thought. Already the London Society for promoting
Constitutional Information, which had died of inanition in 1784, had
come to life again before the close of the year 1791. And at the end of
that year a determined man, Thomas Hardy, a poor shoemaker of
Westminster, set to work to interest his comrades in politics. He
assembled four men at an ale-house, and they agreed to take action. At
their second meeting, on 25th January 1792, they mustered eight strong,
and resolved to start "The London Corresponding Society for the Reform
of Parliamentary Representation." Its finances were scarcely on a par
with its title: they consisted of eightpence, the first weekly
subscription. But the idea proved infectious; and amidst the heat
engendered by Paine's second pamphlet, the number of members rose to
forty-one.[37] The first manifesto of the Society, dated 2nd April,
claimed political liberty as the birthright of man, declared the British
nation to be misrepresented by its Parliament, and, while repudiating
all disorderly methods, demanded a thorough reform of that body.

So far as I have been able to discover, this was the first political
club started by English working-men at that time. But now the men of
Sheffield also organized themselves. Their "Association" began in an
assembly of five or six mechanics, who discussed "the enormous high
price of provisions" and "the waste and lavish [_sic_] of the public
property by placemen, pensioners, luxury and debauchery,--sources of the
grievous burthens under which the nation groans." The practical
character of their lamentations attracted many working men, with the
result that they resolved to reprint and circulate 1,600 copies of
Paine's "Rights of Man" (Part I), at sixpence a copy. On 15th January
1792 they wrote up to the "London Society for Constitutional
Information" to plan co-operation with them.

At first the ideas of the Sheffield Association were somewhat parochial.
But the need of common action all over the Kingdom was taking shape in
several minds, and when Scotland awoke to political activity (as will
appear in Chapter VII) the idea of a General Convention took firm root
and led to remarkable developments. For the present, the chief work of
these clubs was the circulation of Paine's volumes (even in Welsh,
Gaelic, and Erse) at the price of sixpence or even less. They also
distributed "The Catechism of the French Constitution" (of 1791), drawn
up by Christie, a Scot domiciled at Paris, which set forth the beauties
of that child of many hopes. Less objectionable was a pamphlet--"The
Rights of Men and the Duties of Men." For the most part, however, their
literature was acridly republican in tone and of a levelling tendency.
Thus, for the first time since the brief attempt of the Cromwellian
Levellers, the rich and the poor began to group themselves in hostile
camps, at the strident tones of Paine's cry for a graduated Income Tax.
Is it surprising that the sight of the free institutions of France and
of the forced economy of the Court of the Tuileries should lead our
workers to question the utility of the State-paid debaucheries of
Carlton House, and of the whole system of patronage and pensions? Burke
and Pitt had pruned away a few of the worst excrescences; but now they
saw with dismay the whole of the body politic subjected to remorseless
criticism by those whose duty was to toil and not to think or question.

This was a new departure in eighteenth-century England. Hitherto working
men had taken only a fleeting and fitful interest in politics. How
should they do so in days when newspapers were very dear, and their
contents had only the remotest bearing on the life of the masses? The
London mob had bawled and rioted for "Wilkes and Liberty," but mainly
from personal motives and love of horse-play. Now, however, all was
changed; and artisans were willing to sacrifice their time and their
pence to learn and teach a political catechism, and spread the writings
of Paine. Consequently the new Radical Clubs differed widely from the
short-lived County Associations of 1780 which charged a substantial fee
for membership. Moreover, these Associations expired in the years
1783-4, owing to the disgust at Fox's Coalition with Lord North. We are
therefore justified in declaring that English democracy entered on a new
lease of life, and did not, as has been asserted,[38] merely continue
the movement of 1780. The earlier efforts had been wholly insular in
character; they aimed at staying the tide of corruption; their methods
were in the main academic, and certainly never affected the great mass
of the people. Now reformers were moved by a wider enthusiasm for the
rights of humanity, and sought not merely to abolish pocket boroughs and
sinecures, but to level up the poor and level down the wealthy. It was
this aspect of Paine's teaching that excited men to a frenzy of
reprobation or of hope.

A certain continuity of tradition and method is observable in a club,
called The Friends of the People, which was founded at Freemasons'
Tavern in April 1792, with a subscription of five guineas a year. The
members included Cartwright, Erskine, Lord Edward Fitzgerald, Philip
Francis, Charles Grey, Lambton, the Earl of Lauderdale, Mackintosh,
Sheridan, Whitbread, and some sixty others; but Fox refused to join.
Their profession of faith was more moderate than that of Hardy's Club;
it emphasized the need of avoiding innovation and of restoring the
constitution to its original purity.[39] This was in the spirit of the
Associations of 1780; but the new club was far less characteristic of
the times than the clubs of working men described above.

The appearance of Paine's "Rights of Man" (Part II), the founding of
these societies, and the outbreak of war between France and Austria in
April 1792 made a deep impression on Pitt. He opposed a notice of a
motion of Reform for the following session, brought forward by Grey on
30th April. While affirming his continued interest in that subject, Pitt
deprecated its introduction at that time as involving the risk of

    My object [he continued] always has been, and is now more
    particularly so, to give permanence to that which we actually
    enjoy rather than remove subsisting grievances.... I once
    thought, and still think, upon the point of the representation
    of the Commons, that, if some mode could be adopted by which the
    people could have any additional security for a continuance of
    the blessings which they now enjoy, it would be an improvement
    in the constitution of this country. That was the extent of my
    object. Further I never wished to go; and if this can be
    obtained without the risk of losing what we have, I should think
    it wise to make the experiment. When I say this, it is not
    because I believe there is any existing grievance in this
    country that is felt at this hour.

At the end of the American War (he continued) when bankruptcy seemed
imminent, he believed Reform to be necessary in order to restore public
confidence and remedy certain notorious grievances. Even then very many
moderate men opposed his efforts as involving danger to the State. How
much more would they deprecate sweeping proposals which rightly aroused
general apprehension? He then censured the action of certain members of
the House in joining an Association (the "Friends of the People") which
was supported by those who aimed at the overthrowing of hereditary
monarchy, titles of nobility, and all ideas of subordination. He would
oppose all proposals for Reform rather than run the risk of changes so
sweeping.--"All, all may be lost by an indiscreet attempt upon the
subject." Clearly, Pitt was about to join the ranks of the alarmists.
But members generally were of his opinion. In vain did Fox, Erskine,
Grey, and Sheridan deprecate the attempt to confuse moderate Reform with
reckless innovation. Burke illogically but effectively dragged in the
French spectre, and Windham declared that the public mind here, as in
other lands, was in such a state that the slightest scratch might
produce a mortal wound.

The gulf between Pitt and the reformers now became impassable. His
speech of 10th May against any relaxation of the penal laws against
Unitarians is a curious blend of bigotry and panic. Eleven days later a
stringent proclamation was issued against all who wrote, printed, and
dispersed "divers wicked and seditious writings." It ordered all
magistrates to search out the authors and abettors of them, and to take
steps for preventing disorder. It also inculcated "a due submission to
the laws, and a just confidence in the integrity and wisdom of
Parliament." Anything less calculated to beget such a confidence than
this proclamation, threatening alike to reformers and levellers, can
scarcely be conceived. On 25th May Grey opposed it in an acrid speech;
he inveighed against Pitt as an apostate, who never kept his word, and
always intended to delude Parliament and people. The sting of the speech
lay, not in these reckless charges, but in the citing of Pitt's opinions
as expressed in a resolution passed at the Thatched House Tavern in May
1782, which declared that without Parliamentary Reform neither the
liberty of the nation nor the permanence of a virtuous administration
was secure. Pitt's reply, however, convinced all those whose minds were
open to conviction. He proved to demonstration that he had never
approved of universal suffrage; yet that was now the goal aimed at by
Paine and the Societies founded on the basis of the Rights of Man. The
speech of Dundas also showed that the writings of Paine, and the
founding of clubs with those ends in view, had led to the present action
of the Cabinet.

Undoubtedly those clubs had behaved in a provocative manner. Apart from
their correspondence with the Jacobins Club (which will be described
later), they advocated aims which then seemed utterly subversive of
order. Thus, early in May 1792, the Sheffield Society declared their
object to be "a radical Reform of the country, as soon as prudence and
discretion would permit, and established on that system which is
consistent with the Rights of Man." Further, the hope is expressed that
not only the neighbouring towns and villages, most of which were forming
similar societies, but also the whole country would be "united in the
same cause, which cannot fail of being the case wherever the most
excellent works of Thomas Paine find reception."[40]

Now, this banding together of societies and clubs pointed the way to the
forming of a National Convention which would truly represent the whole
nation. In judging the action of Pitt and his colleagues at this crisis,
we must remember that they had before them the alarming example of the
Jacobins Club of Paris, which had gained enormous power by its network
of affiliated clubs. This body again was modelled on the various
societies of the Illuminati in Germany, whose organizer, Weishaupt,
summed up his contention in the words: "All their union shall be carried
on by the correspondence and visits of the brethren. If we can gain but
that point, we shall have succeeded in all we want."[41] This is why the
name Corresponding Society stank in the nostrils of all rulers. It
implied a parasitic organization which, if allowed to grow, would
strangle the established Government. Signs were not wanting that this
was the aim of the new Radical Clubs. Thus the delegates of the United
Constitutional Societies who met at Norwich drew up on 24th March 1792
resolutions expressing satisfaction at the rapid growth of those bodies,
already numbering some hundreds, "which by delegates preserve a mutual
intercourse." ... "To Mr. Thomas Paine our thanks are specially due for
his first and second parts of the 'Rights of Man'; and we sincerely wish
that he may live to see his labours crowned with success in the general
diffusion of liberty and happiness among mankind." ... "We ... earnestly
entreat our brethren to increase in their Associations in order to form
one grand and extensive Union of all the friends of liberty."[42] It is
not surprising that this plan of a National Convention of levellers
produced something like a panic among the well-to-do; and it is futile
to assert that men who avowed their belief in the subversive teaching of
Part II of Paine's book were concerned merely with the Reform of
Parliament. They put that object in their public manifestoes; but, like
many of the Chartists of a later date, their ultimate aim was the
redistribution of wealth; and this it was which brought on them the
unflinching opposition of Pitt.

Nevertheless even these considerations do not justify him in opposing
the reformers root and branch. The greatest statesman is he who
distinguishes between the real grievances of a suffering people and the
visionary or dangerous schemes which they beget in ill-balanced brains.
To oppose moderate reformers as well as extremists is both unjust and
unwise. It confounds together the would-be healers and the enemies of
the existing order. Furthermore, an indiscriminate attack tends to close
the ranks in a solid phalanx, and it should be the aim of a tactician
first to seek to loosen those ranks.

Finally, we cannot forget that Pitt had had it in his power to redress
the most obvious of the grievances which kept large masses of his
countrymen outside the pale of political rights and civic privilege.
Those grievances were made known to him temperately in the years 1787,
1789, and 1790; but he refused to amend them, and gradually drifted to
the side of the alarmists and reactionaries. Who is the wiser guide at
such a time? He who sets to work betimes to cure certain ills which are
producing irritation in the body politic? Or he who looks on the
irritation as a sign that nothing should be done? The lessons of history
and the experience of everyday life plead for timely cure and warn
against a nervous postponement. Doubtless Pitt would have found it
difficult to persuade some of his followers to apply the knife in the
session of 1791 or 1792. But in the Parliament elected in 1790 his
position was better assured, his temper more imperious, than in that of
1785, which needed much tactful management. The fact, then, must be
faced that he declined to run the risk of the curative operation, even
at a time when there were no serious symptoms in the patient and little
or no risk for the surgeon.

The reason which he assigned for his refusal claims careful notice. It
was that his earlier proposals (those of 1782-5) had aimed at national
security; while those of the present would tend to insecurity. Possibly
in the month of April 1792 this argument had some validity; though up to
that time all the violence had been on the Tory side. But the plea does
not excuse Pitt for not taking action in the year 1790. That was the
period when the earlier apathy of the nation to Reform was giving way to
interest, and interest had not yet grown into excitement. Still less had
loyalty waned under the repressive measures whereby he now proposed to
give it vigour.

Thus, Pitt missed a great opportunity, perhaps the greatest of his
career. What it means is clear to us, who know that the cause of Reform
passed under a cloud for the space of thirty-eight years. It is of
course unfair to censure him and his friends for lacking a prophetic
vision of the long woes that were to come. Most of the blame lavished
upon him arises from forgetfulness of the fact that he was not a seer
mounted on some political Pisgah, but a pioneer struggling through an
unexplored jungle. Nevertheless, as the duty of a pioneer is not merely
to hew a path, but also to note the lie of the land and the signs of the
weather, we must admit that Pitt did not possess the highest instincts
of his craft. He cannot be ranked with Julius Caesar, Charlemagne,
Alfred the Great, Edward I, or Burleigh, still less with those giants of
his own age, Napoleon and Stein; for these men boldly grappled with the
elements of unrest or disloyalty, and by wise legislation wrought them
into the fabric of the State. Probably the lack of response to his
reforming efforts in the year 1785 ingrained in him the conviction that
Britons would always be loyal if their burdens were lessened and their
comforts increased; and now in 1792 he looked on the remissions of
taxation (described in the following chapter) as a panacea against
discontent. Under normal conditions that would have been the case. It
was not so now, because new ideas were in the air, and these forbade a
bovine acceptance of abundant fodder. In truth, Pitt had not that gift
without which the highest abilities and the most strenuous endeavours
will at novel crises be at fault--a sympathetic insight into the needs
and aspirations of the people. His analytical powers enabled him to
detect the follies of the royalist crusaders; but he lacked those higher
powers of synthesis which alone could discern the nascent strength of


[1] I am perfectly aware that the term "Radical" (in its first form,
"Radical Reformer") does not appear until a few years later; but I use
it here and in the following chapters because there is no other word
which expresses the same meaning.

[2] See Vivenot, i, 176-81; Beer, "Leopold II, Franz II, und Catharina,"
140 _et seq._; Clapham, "Causes of the War of 1792," ch. iv.

[3] B.M. Add. MSS., 34438; Vivenot, i, 185, 186. "He [the Emperor] was
extremely agitated when he gave me the letter for the King" (Elgin to
Grenville, 7th July, in "Dropmore P.," ii, 126).

[4] B.M. Add. MSS., 34438.

[5] _Ibid._ Grenville to Ewart, 26th July. Calonne for some little time
resided at Wimbledon House. His letters to Pitt show that he met with
frequent rebuffs; but he had one interview with him early in June 1790.
I have found no details of it.

[6] "Diary and Corresp. of Fersen," 121.

[7] Arneth, "Marie Antoinette, Joseph II, und Leopold II," 148, 152.

[8] Mr. Nisbet Bain (_op. cit._, ii, 129) accuses Pitt and his
colleagues of waiving aside a proposed visit of Gustavus III to London,
because "they had no desire to meet face to face a monarch they had
already twice deceived." Mr. Bain must refer to the charges (invented at
St Petersburg) that Pitt had egged Gustavus on to war against Russia,
and then deserted him. In the former volume (chapters xxi-iii) I proved
the falsity of those charges. It would be more correct to say that
Gustavus deserted England.

[9] B.M. Add. MSS., 34438.

[10] Martens, v, 236-9; "F.O.," Prussia, 22. Ewart to Grenville, 4th

[11] On 15th August Prussia renounced her alliance with Turkey (Vivenot,
i, 225).

[12] Sybel, bk. ii, ch. vi; Vivenot, i, 235, 243.

[13] "Dropmore P.," ii, 192.

[14] G. Rose, "Diaries," i, 111.

[15] Arneth, 206, 210; Vivenot, i, 270.

[16] Burke ("Corresp.," iii, 308, 342, 346) shows that Mercy
d'Argenteau, after his brief mission to London, spread the slander. Pitt
and Grenville said nothing decisive to him on this or any other topic.
Kaunitz partly adopted the charge. (See Vivenot, i, 272.)

[17] "F.O.," Russia, 22. Grenville to Whitworth, 27th October, and W. to
G., 14th October 1791.

[18] Larivière, "Cath. II et la Rév. franç.," 88-90, 110-17.

[19] Burke's "Works," iii, 8, 369 (Bohn edit.).

[20] "Parl. Hist.," xxviii, 1-41.

[21] T. Walker, "Review of ... political events in Manchester

[22] T. Walker, "Review of ... political events in Manchester
(1789-1794)," 452-79. I cannot agree with Mr. J. R. le B. Hammond
("Fox," 76) that Pitt now spoke as the avowed enemy of parliamentary
reform. Indeed, he never spoke in that sense, but opposed it as

[23] Rutt, "Mems. of Priestly," ii, 25. As is well known, Burke's
"Reflections on the Fr. Rev.," was in part an answer to Dr. Price's
sermon of 4th November 1789 in the Old Jewry chapel, to the Society for
celebrating the Revolution of 1688.

[24] It was more of a club than the branches of the "Society for
Constitutional Information," which did good work in 1780-4, but expired
in 1784 owing to the disgust of reformers at the Fox-North Coalition--so
Place asserts (B.M. Add. MSS., 27808).

[25] T. Walker, _op. cit._, 18, 19.

[26] "Parl. Hist.," xxix, 488-510.

[27] _Ibid._, 113-9.

[28] M. D. Conway, "Life of T. Paine," i, 284.

[29] Burke's Works, iii, 76 (Bohn edit.).

[30] _Ibid._, iii, 12. So, too, on 30th August 1791 Priestley wrote that
Pitt had shown himself unfavourable to their cause (Rutt, "Life of
Priestley," ii, 145).

[31] Prior, "Life of Burke," 322, who states very incorrectly that not
one of them has survived.

[32] "H. O.," Geo. III (Domestic), 19.

[33] _Ibid._ As late as 9th August a proclamation was posted about
Birmingham: "The friends of the good cause are requested to meet us at
Revolution Place to-morrow night at 11 o'clock in order to fix upon
those persons who are to be the future objects of our malice." Of course
this was but an incitation to plunder. See Massey, iii, 462-6, on the
Birmingham riots.

[34] "Dropmore P.," ii, 133, 136; "Parl. Hist.," xxix, 1464.

[35] Burke "Reflections on the Fr. Rev.," 39 (Mr. Payne's edit.).

[36] Conway, _op. cit._, ii, 330. The printer and publisher were
prosecuted later on, as well as Paine, who fled to France.

[37] "Mem. of T. Hardy," by himself (Lond., 1832).

[38] Leslie Stephen, "The Eng. Utilitarians," i, 121. I fully admit that
the Chartist leaders in 1838 went back to the Westminster programme of
1780. See "The Life and Struggles of William Lovett"; but the spirit and
methods of the new agitation were wholly different. On this topic I feel
compelled to differ from Mr. J. L. le B. Hammond ("Fox," ch. v, _ad
init._). Mr. C. B. R. Kent ("The English Radicals," 156) states the case

[39] "Parl. Hist.," xxix, 1303-9.

[40] "Application of Barruel's 'Memoirs of Jacobinism' to the Secret
Societies of Ireland and Great Britain," 32-3.

[41] "Application of Barruel's 'Memoirs of Jacobinism' to the Secret
Societies of Ireland and Great Britain," Introduction, p. x.

[42] "H. O.," Geo. III (Domestic), 20.



    I find it to be a very general notion, at least in the Assembly,
    that if France can preserve a neutrality with England, she will
    be able to cope with all the rest of Europe united.--GOWER TO
    GRENVILLE, _22nd April 1792_.

Indirect evidence as to the intentions of a statesman is often more
convincing than his official assertions. The world always suspects the
latter; and many politicians have found it expedient to adopt the
ironical device practised frequently with success by Bismarck on his
Austrian colleagues at Frankfurt, that of telling the truth. Fortunately
the English party game has nearly always been kept up with sportsmanlike
fair play; and Pitt himself was so scrupulously truthful that we are
rarely in doubt as to his opinions, save when he veiled them by
ministerial reserve. Nevertheless, on the all-important subject of his
attitude towards Revolutionary France, it is satisfactory to have
indirect proofs of his desire to maintain a strict, if not friendly,
neutrality. This proof lies in his handling of the nation's armaments
and finances.

The debate on the Army Estimates on 15th February 1792 is of interest in
more respects than one. The news of the definitive signature of peace
between Russia and Turkey by the Treaty of Jassy, put an end to the last
fears of a resumption of war in the East; and, as the prospects were
equally pacific in the West, the Ministry carried out slight reductions
in the land forces. These were fixed in the year 1785 at seventy-three
regiments of 410 men each, divided into eight companies, with two
companies _en second_. In 1789 the number of companies per regiment was
fixed at ten, without any companies _en second_. Now the Secretary at
War, Sir Charles Yonge, proposed further reductions, which, with those
of 1789, would lessen each regiment by seventy privates, and save the
country the sum of £51,000. No diminution was proposed in the number of
officers; and this gave Fox a handle for an attack. He said that the
natural plan would be to reduce the number of regiments to sixty-four.
Instead of that, the number of seventy regiments was retained, and new
corps were now proposed for the East Indies, one for the West Indies,
and one for Canada, chiefly to be used for pioneer work and clearance of
woods. General Burgoyne and Fox protested against the keeping up of
skeleton regiments, the latter adding the caustic comment that the plan
was "the least in point of saving and the greatest in point of

The practices prevalent in that age give colour to the charge. On the
other hand, professional men have defended a system which kept up the
_cadres_ of regiments in time of peace, as providing a body of trained
officers and privates, which in time of war could be filled out by
recruits. Of course it is far inferior to the plan of a reserve of
trained men; but that plan had not yet been hammered out by Scharnhorst,
under the stress of the Napoleonic domination in Prussia. As to the
reduction of seven men per company, now proposed, it may have been due
partly to political reasons. Several reports in the Home Office and War
Office archives prove that discontent was rife among the troops,
especially in the northern districts, on account of insufficient pay and
the progress of Radical propaganda among them. The reduction may have
afforded the means of sifting out the ringleaders.

Retrenchment, if not Reform, was the order of the day. Pitt discerned
the important fact that a recovery in the finance and trade of the
country must be encouraged through a series of years to produce a marked
effect. For then the application of capital to industry, and the
increase in production and revenue can proceed at the rate of compound
interest. Already his hopes, for which he was indebted to the "Wealth of
Nations,"[44] had been largely realized. The Report of the Select
Committee of the House of Commons presented in May 1791 showed the
following growth in the ordinary revenue (exclusive of the Land and Malt

  1786      £11,867,055
  1787       12,923,134
  1788       13,007,642
  1789       13,433,068
  1790       14,072,978

During those five years the sum of £4,750,000 had been allotted to the
Sinking Fund for the payment of the National Debt; and a further sum of
£674,592, accruing from the interest of stock and expired annuities, had
gone towards the same object--a crushing retort to the taunts of Fox and
Sheridan, that the Sinking Fund was a mere pretence. On the whole the
sum of £5,424,592 had been paid off from the National Debt in five
years. It is therefore not surprising that three per cent. Consols,
which were down at fifty-four when Pitt took office at the end of 1783,
touched ninety in the year 1791. The hopes and fears of the year 1792
find expression in the fact that in March they stood at ninety-seven,
and in December dropped to seventy-four.

For the present Pitt entertained the highest hopes. In his Budget Speech
of 17th February he declared the revenue to be in so flourishing a state
that he could grant relief to the taxpayers. In the year 1791 the
permanent taxes had yielded £14,132,000; and those on land and malt
brought the total up to £16,690,000; but he proposed to take £16,212,000
as the probable revenue for the following year. The expenditure would be
lessened by £104,000 on the navy (2,000 seamen being discharged), and
about £50,000 on the army; £36,000 would also be saved by the
non-renewal of the subsidy for Hessian troops. There were, however,
additions, due to the establishment of the Government of Upper Canada,
and the portions allotted to the Duke of York (on the occasion of his
marriage with a Prussian princess) and the Duke of Clarence. The
expenditure would, therefore, stand at £15,811,000; but, taking the
average of four years, he reckoned the probable surplus at no more than
£401,000. On the other hand, he anticipated no new expenses except for
the fortification of posts in the West Indies and the completion of
forts for the further protection of the home dockyards. On the whole,
then, he reckoned that he had £600,000 to spare; and of this amount he
proposed to allocate £400,000 to the reduction of the National Debt and
the repeal of the extra duty on malt, an impost much disliked by
farmers. He also announced a remission of permanent taxes to the extent
of £200,000, namely, on female servants, carts, and waggons, and that of
three shillings on each house having less than seven windows. These were
burdens that had undoubtedly affected the poor. Further, he hoped to add
the sum of £200,000 every year to the Sinking Fund, and he pointed out
that, at this rate of payment, that fund would amount to £4,000,000 per
annum in the space of fifteen years, after which time the interest might
be applied to the relief of the nation's burdens.

Then, rising high above the level of facts and figures, he ventured on
this remarkable prophecy:

    I am not, indeed, presumptuous enough to suppose that, when I
    name fifteen years, I am not naming a period in which events may
    arise which human foresight cannot reach, and which may baffle
    all our conjectures. We must not count with certainty on a
    continuance of our present prosperity during such an interval;
    but unquestionably there never was a time in the history of this
    country, when, from the situation of Europe, we might more
    reasonably expect fifteen years of peace than at the present

Imagination pictures what might possibly have been the outcome of events
if Great Britain and France had continued to exert on one another the
peaceful and mutually beneficent influence which Pitt had sought to
bring about. In that case, we can imagine the reformed French monarchy,
or a Republic of the type longed for by Mme. Roland, permeating the
thought and action of neighbouring States, until the cause of
Parliamentary Reform in England, and the cognate efforts for civic and
religious liberty on the Continent achieved a lasting triumph. That Pitt
cherished these hopes is seen not only in his eloquent words, but in the
efforts which he put forth to open up the world to commerce. The year
1792 ought to be remembered, not only for the outbreak of war and the
horrors of the September massacres at Paris, but also for the attempt to
inaugurate friendly relations with China. Pitt set great store by the
embassy which he at this time sent out to Pekin under the lead of Lord
Macartney. In happier times this enterprise might have served to link
East and West in friendly intercourse; and Europe, weary of barren
strifes, would have known no other rivalries than those of peace.

Alas: this is but a mirage. As it fades away, we discern an arid waste.
War broke out between France and Austria within two months of this
sanguine utterance. It soon embroiled France and England in mortal
strife. All hope of retrenchment and Reform was crushed. The National
Debt rose by leaps and bounds, and the Sinking Fund proved to be a
snare. Taxation became an ever-grinding evil, until the poor, whose lot
Pitt hoped to lighten, looked on him as the harshest of taskmasters,
the puppet of kings, and the paymaster of the Continental Coalition. The
spring of the year 1807 found England burdened beyond endurance, the
Third Coalition stricken to death by the blows of Napoleon, while Pitt
had fourteen months previously succumbed to heart-breaking toils and

Before adverting to the complications with France which were thenceforth
to absorb his energies, I must refer to some incidents of the session
and summer of the year 1792.

One of the most noteworthy enactments was Fox's Libel Bill. In May 1791
that statesman had proposed to the House of Commons to subject cases of
libel to the award of juries, not of judges. Pitt warmly approved the
measure, maintaining that, far from protecting libellers, it would have
the contrary effect. The Bill passed the Commons on 31st May; but owing
to dilatory and factious procedure in the Lords, it was held over until
the year 1792. Thanks to the noble plea for liberty urged by the
venerable Earl Camden, it passed on 21st May.[45] It is matter of
congratulation that Great Britain gained this new safeguard for freedom
of speech before she encountered the storms of the revolutionary era.

There is little else to chronicle except two occurrences which displayed
the power and the foresight of Pitt. They were the fall of Thurlow and
the endeavour of the Prime Minister to form a working alliance with the
Old Whigs. The former of these events greatly impressed the
contemporaries of Pitt, who likened the ejected Chancellor to Lucifer or
to a Titan blasted by Jove's thunderbolt. In this age we find it
difficult to account for the prestige of Thurlow. His legal learning was
far from profound, his speeches were more ponderous than powerful, and
his attacks were bludgeon blows rather than home thrusts. Of the lighter
graces and social gifts he had scant store. Indeed, his private life
displayed no redeeming feature. Everyone disliked him, but very many
feared him, mainly, perhaps, because of his facility for intrigue, his
power of bullying, and his great influence at Court. As we have seen,
the conciliatory efforts of the monarch had hitherto averted a rupture
between Pitt and Thurlow. But not even the favour of George III could
render the crabbed old Chancellor endurable. His spitefulness had
increased since Pitt's nomination of Pepper Arden to the Mastership of
the Rolls; and he showed his spleen by obstructing Government measures
in the House of Lords. In April 1792 he flouted Pitt's efforts on behalf
of the abolition of the Slave Trade; and on 15th May he ridiculed his
proposal that to every new State loan a Sinking Fund should necessarily
be appended. The Commons had passed this measure; but in the Lords
Thurlow spoke contemptuously of the proposal; and his influence, if not
his arguments, brought the Government majority down to six.

Pitt was furious. Despite a letter from Windsor urging the need of
forbearance in the interests of the public service, he resolved to end
this intolerable situation. Respectfully but firmly he begged the King
to decide between him and Thurlow. The result was a foregone conclusion.
Having to choose between an overbearing Chancellor, and a Prime Minister
whose tact, firmness, and transcendent abilities formed the keystone of
the political fabric, the King instructed Dundas to request Thurlow to
deliver up the Great Seal.[46] For the convenience of public business,
his resignation was deferred to the end of the session, which came at
the middle of June. The Great Seal was then placed in commission until
January 1793 when Lord Loughborough, formerly a follower of the Prince
of Wales and Fox, became Lord Chancellor.

The dismissal of Thurlow is interesting on general as well as
constitutional grounds. It marks an important step in the evolution of
the Cabinet. Thenceforth the will of the Prime Minister was held to be
paramount whenever any one of his colleagues openly and sharply differed
from him. Thus the authority of the Prime Minister became more clearly
defined. Not even the favour of the Sovereign could thenceforth uphold a
Minister who openly opposed and scorned the head of the Cabinet. The
recognition of this fact has undoubtedly conduced to the amenity of
parliamentary life; for etiquette has imposed on Ministers the
observance of outward signs of deference to their chief, and (save a few
times in the breezy careers of Canning and Palmerston) dissensions have
been confined to the council chamber.

As to Thurlow's feelings, they appear in his frank admission to Sir John
Scott, the future Chancellor, Lord Eldon: "I did not think that the King
would have parted with me so easily. As to that other man [Pitt], he
has done to me just what I should have done to him if I could."[47] It
is not often that a plotter shows his hand so clearly; and we must
admire Pitt's discernment no less than his firmness at this crisis.
Would that he had found a more faithful successor. Possibly some
suspicion as to Loughborough's powers of intrigue led Pitt to make
cautious advances to that promising lawyer, Sir John Scott. To his
honour, be it said, Scott at once declared that he must cease to be
Solicitor-General, as he had received much assistance from Thurlow. In
vain did Pitt expostulate with him. At last he persuaded him to consult
Thurlow, who advised him to do nothing so foolish, seeing that Pitt
would be compelled at some future time to confer the Great Seal upon
him. With this parting gleam of insight and kindliness, the morose
figure of Thurlow vanishes.

More than once in the session of 1792 rumours were afloat as to a
reconstruction of the Cabinet. Early in that year, when the debates on
the Russian armament somewhat shook Pitt's position, it was stated that
the King desired to get rid of him. Gillray heard of the story, and
visualized it with his usual skill. He represented the Marquis of
Lansdowne ("Malagrida") as driving at full speed to St. James's Palace,
heralded by the dove of peace, while Fox, Sheridan, etc., hang on behind
and cry out, "Stop; stop; take us in." Pitt and Dundas are seen leaving
the palace. The rumour gains in credibility from a Memorandum of the
Marquis; but it is doubtful whether George ever thought seriously of
giving up Pitt, still less of seeking support from the discredited and
unpopular Lansdowne, whose views on the French Revolution were utterly
opposed to those of the King. Probably the King put questions to him
merely with the view of gratifying his own curiosity and exciting unreal
hopes. Certainly Pitt scoffed at the idea of resignation. On 3rd March
he referred to the rumour, in a letter to the Earl of Westmorland,
merely to dismiss it as ridiculous.[48]

Far more important were the negotiations that began in May-June 1792.
Pitt paved the way for a union with the Old Whigs by consulting the
opinions of the Duke of Portland and other leading Whigs, assembled at
Burlington House, respecting the proclamation against seditious
writings. They suggested a few alterations in his draft and he adopted
them. Fox alone declared against the whole scheme, and afterwards hotly
opposed it in the House of Commons. This step having shown the cleavage
in the Whig party, Dundas and Loughborough sought to effect a union of
the Portland Whigs with the Government. The Duke of Portland strongly
approved of it. Even Fox welcomed the proposal, but only on the
understanding that the Whigs joined the Ministry on fair and even terms,
sharing equally in the patronage. The Duke further suggested that Pitt
should give up the Treasury and allow a neutral man like the Duke of
Leeds to take that office. We can picture the upward tilt of the nose
with which Pitt received this proposal.

Lord Malmesbury, who was present at this discussion of the Whig leaders
on 13th June, himself saw great difficulties in such a plan, as also
from the opposition of the King and the Prince of Wales. On the next day
Loughborough met Pitt at Dundas's house, and reported him to be
favourable to the idea of a coalition. Pitt further said that the King
and the Queen would welcome it, except in so far as it concerned Fox,
whose conduct in Parliament during the last few months had given great
offence. Pitt further declared that he did not remember a single word in
all the disputes with Fox which could prevent him honourably and
consistently acting with him. He added that it might be difficult to
give him the Foreign Office at once, but he could certainly have it in a
few months' time. On 16th June Malmesbury saw Fox at Burlington House,
and found him in an unusually acrid and suspicious mood, from the notion
that the whole affair was a plot of Pitt to break up the Whig party.
Beside which, Fox said that it was idle to expect Pitt to admit the Whig
leaders on an equal footing. Malmesbury, however, maintained that, if
Fox and the Duke were agreed, they would lead the whole of their party
with them, at which remark Fox became silent and embarrassed.

Pitt, on the other hand, was very open to Loughborough, and expressed a
wish to form a strong and united Ministry which could face the
difficulties of the time. The chief obstacle to a coalition, he said,
was Fox's support of French principles, which must preclude his taking
the Foreign Office immediately. The remark is noteworthy as implying
Pitt's expectation that either Fox might tone down his opinions, or the
Revolution might abate its violence. Further, when Loughborough
reminded him of the ardour of his advocacy of the Abolitionist cause, he
replied that some concession must be made on that head, as the King
strongly objected to the way in which it was pushed on by addresses and
petitions, a method which he himself disliked. Further, he freely
admitted that the "national Aristocracy" of the country must have its
due weight and power.[49] These confessions (assuming that Loughborough
reported them correctly) prepare us for the half right turn which now
becomes the trend of Pitt's political career. In order to further the
formation of a truly national party, he was willing, if necessary, to
postpone the cause of the slaves and of Parliamentary Reform until the
advent of calmer times.

At this stage of the discussions, then, Pitt was willing to meet the
Whigs half way. But the chief difficulty lay, not with Fox and his
friends, but with the King. When Pitt mentioned the proposal to him,
there came the characteristic reply: "Anything complimentary to them,
but no power."[50] How was it possible to harmonize this resolve with
that of Fox, that the Whigs must have an equality of power? Grenville
was a further obstacle. How could that stiff and ambitious man give up
the Foreign Office to Fox, whose principles he detested? We hear little
of Grenville in these days, probably because of his marriage to Lady Ann
Pitt, daughter of Lord Camelford. But certainly he would not have
tolerated a half Whig Cabinet.

It is therefore strange that the proposals were ever renewed. Renewed,
however, they were, in the second week of July. Loughborough having
spread the impression that Pitt desired their renewal, Leeds was again
pushed to the front, it being suggested that he might be First Lord of
the Treasury. Finally, on 14th August, the King granted him a private
interview at Windsor, but stated that nothing had been said on the
subject for a long time, and that it had never been seriously
considered, it being impossible for Pitt to give up the Treasury and act
as _Commis_ to the Whig leaders. This statement should have lessened the
Duke's astonishment at hearing from Pitt on 22nd August that there had
been no thought of any change in the Government.[51] This assertion
seems to belie Pitt's reputation for truthfulness. But it is noteworthy
that Grenville scarcely refers to the discussions on this subject,
deeply though it concerned him. Further, Rose, who was in close touch
with Ministers, wrote to Auckland on 13th July that he had heard only
through the newspapers of the "negotiations for a sort of Coalition,"
and that he knew there had been none; that Dundas had conferred with
Loughborough, but there had been no negotiation.[52]

Now the proneness of these two men to scheming and intrigue is well
known; and it seems probable that they so skilfully pulled the wires at
Burlington House as to quicken the appetites of the Whig leaders. Dundas
may have acted with a view to breaking up the Whig party, and
Loughborough in order to bring about a general shuffle of the cards
favourable to himself. Malmesbury and others, whose desires or interests
lay in a union of the Portland Whigs with Pitt, furthered the scheme,
and gave full credence to Loughborough's reports. But we may doubt
whether Pitt took the affair seriously after the crushing declaration of
the King: "Anything complimentary to them, but no power." The last blow
to the scheme was dealt by Pitt in an interview with Loughborough, so we
may infer from the following letter from George III to the former:

                                 Weymouth, _August 20, 1792_.[53]

    I cannot but think Mr. Pitt has judged right in seeing Lord
    Loughborough, as that will convince him, however [whoever?] were
    parties to the proposal brought by the Duke of Leeds, that the
    scheme can never succeed: that the Duke of Portland was equally
    concerned with the former appeared clearly from his letters....

The King, then, looked on the whole affair as a Whig plot; and Pitt,
whatever his feelings were at first, finally frowned upon the proposal.
Doubtless, in an official sense, there was justification for his remark
to the Duke of Leeds, that the coalition had never been in
contemplation; for the matter seems never to have come before the
Cabinet. But as a statement between man and man it leaves something to
be desired on the score of accuracy. Annoyance at the very exalted
position marked out for the Duke, whose capacity Pitt rated decidedly
low, may have led him to belittle the whole affair; for signs of
constraint and annoyance are obvious in his other answers to his late
colleague. There, then, we must leave this question, involved in
something of mystery.[54] We shall not be far wrong in concluding that
Pitt wished for the formation of a national Ministry, and that the plan
failed, partly from the resolve of Fox never to play second to Pitt; and
still more from the personal way in which the King regarded the

The King meanwhile had marked his sense of the value of Pitt's services
by pressing on him the honourable position of Warden of the Cinque
Ports, with a stipend of £3,000 a year, intimating at the same time that
he would not hear of his declining it (6th August).[55] It is a proof of
the spotless purity of Pitt's reputation that not a single libel or gibe
appeared in the Press on his acceptance of this almost honorary

One brilliant recruit to the Whig ranks was now won over to the national
cause, of which Pitt was seen to be the incarnation. Already at Eton and
Oxford George Canning had shown the versatility of his genius and the
precocious maturity of his eloquence. When his Oxford friend, Jenkinson
(the future Earl of Liverpool) made a sensational _début_ in the House
on the Tory side, Sheridan remarked that the Whigs would soon provide an
antidote in the person of young Canning. Great, then, was their
annoyance when the prodigy showed signs of breaking away from the
society of the Crewes and Sheridan, in order to ally himself with Pitt.
So little is known respecting the youth of Canning that the motives
which prompted his breach with Sheridan are involved in uncertainty. It
is clear, however, from his own confession that, after some discussion
with Orde, he himself made the first offer of allegiance to Pitt in a
letter of 26th July 1792. He then informed the Prime Minister that,
though on terms of friendship with eminent members of the Opposition, he
was "in no way bound to them by any personal or political obligation,"
and was therefore entirely free to choose his own party; that he was
ambitious of being connected with Pitt, but lacked the means to win an
election, and yet refused to be brought in by any individual--a
reference, seemingly, to an offer made to him by the Duke of Portland.
In reply, Pitt proposed an interview at Downing Street on Wednesday,
15th August.[57]

At noon on that day the two men first met. We can picture them as they
faced one another in the formal surroundings of the Prime Minister's
study. Pitt, at this time thirty-three years of age, had lost some of
the slimness of youth, but his figure was bony, angular, and somewhat
awkward. His face was as yet scarcely marked by the slight Bacchic
blotches which told of carouses with Dundas at Wimbledon. Months and
years of triumph (apart from the Russian defeat) had stiffened his
confidence and pride; but the fateful shadow of the French Revolution
must have struck a chill to his being, especially then, on the arrival
of news of the pitiable surrender of Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette, and
the shooting down of the Swiss Guards at the Tuileries. No royalist
could look on the future without inward shuddering; and both these men
were ardent royalists. We know from Canning's confession that it was the
starting of the club, the Friends of the People, in April 1792, which
disgusted him with the forward section of the Whigs; and their
subsequent action completed the breach. Pitt's endeavour to form a
national Administration must have gained a new significance from the
terrible news from Paris. We may be sure, then, that the youth of
twenty-two years gazed with eager interest on the stately form before
him as at the embodiment of political wisdom, purity, and patriotism.

They shook hands. Then for a time they ambled coyly around the subject
at issue, and talked of "France and Jenkinson, and other equally
important concerns." Indeed Pitt seems to have been as nervous and
awkward as the novice. At length he plunged into business. "It is your
wish, I believe, Mr. Canning (and I am sure it is mine), to come in,
etc." On Canning bowing assent, Pitt remarked that it was not easy to
find an inexpensive seat, and commented on his expressed desire not to
tie himself to any borough-owner. Whereupon the young aspirant, with
more pride than tact, threw in the remark that he would not like to be
personally beholden to such an one, for instance, as Lord Lonsdale (who
first brought Pitt into Parliament). The Prime Minister seemed not to
notice the _gaucherie_, and stated that the Treasury had only six seats
at its disposal, but could arrange matters with "proprietors of
burgage-tenures." Thereupon Canning broke in more deftly. In that case,
he said, it must be made clear that he bound himself to follow, not the
borough-owner, but the Prime Minister. Here he more than recovered lost
ground, if indeed he had lost any. Pitt expressed his sense of the
compliment, and said that this could be managed, unless the young member
came to differ absolutely from his patron. Canning then frankly
confessed his inability to follow Pitt in maintaining the Test Act.
Equally frank and cordial was the reply, that he (Pitt) did not claim
exact agreement, especially on "speculative subjects," but only "a
general good disposition towards Government," which might be
strengthened by frequent contact.

Such was the course of this memorable interview. It sealed for ever the
allegiance of the youth to his self-chosen leader. He had prepared
Sheridan, and through him Fox and Bouverie, for this change of front.
The openness, the charm, the self-effacing patriotism of the Minister
thenceforth drew him as by an irresistible magnet. The brilliance and
joviality of Fox and Sheridan counted as nothing against the national
impulse which the master now set in motion and the pupil was destined to
carry to further lengths. There was a natural sympathy between these men
both in aim and temperament. It is a sign of the greatness of Pitt that
from the outset he laid the spell of his genius irrevocably upon

                  *       *       *       *       *

Deferring to the next chapter a study of the democratic movement in
Great Britain, we now turn our attention to the relations of Pitt to
France, a topic which thenceforth dominates his life story and the
destinies of mankind.

In the month of January 1792, there arrived in London an envoy charged
with important proposals from the French Government. It was Talleyrand,
ex-bishop of Autun. Pitt had become acquainted with him during his
residence at Rheims in the summer of 1783; but the circumstances of the
case now forbade anything more than passing intercourse with that most
charming of talkers and subtlest of diplomatists. Talleyrand, having
been a member of the first, or Constituent, Assembly, was prevented by
the constitution of September 1791 from holding any office for two
years after that date. Therefore his visit to London was ostensibly on
private affairs. The Duc de Biron was the envoy, and Talleyrand merely
his adviser. He was instructed to seek "to maintain and strengthen the
good understanding which exists between the two Kingdoms."[58]

This was only the official pretext for the mission, the secret aim of
which was to win the friendship, if not the alliance, of England in case
of a Franco-Austrian war. In the early days of January 1792 the
constitutional Ministry, holding office, though not power, at Paris,
seemed to be working for a rupture with the Hapsburgs, partly in order
to please the Jacobins, and partly to escape the ever increasing
difficulties of its position. The earlier causes of dispute do not
concern us here. As we have seen, the Emperor Leopold was far from
desirous of war; but the provocative attitude of the Legislative
Assembly at Paris and the humiliations of his sister, Marie Antoinette,
aroused his resentment; and, early in January, he was heard to say "that
if the French madmen were determined to force him into a war, they
should find that the pacific Leopold knew how to wage it with the
greatest vigour, and would oblige them to pay its expenses in something
more solid than assignats." Our ambassador, Sir Robert Keith, was,
however, convinced that this outburst and the westward march of troops
were but "empty parade."[59]

On the other hand Earl Gower, British ambassador at Paris, reported that
the Ministry, the Assembly, and the Jacobins Club (with the exception of
Robespierre and his clique) desired war.[60] In truth, there seemed
little risk in a struggle with the exhausted Hapsburg States, provided
that they had support neither from Prussia nor from England. De Ségur
therefore set out for Berlin, and Talleyrand for London, to secure the
friendly neutrality or support of those Governments. The latter envoy
was specially suited for his mission, as he carried on the traditions of
Mirabeau, who in the closing months of his life urged the need of an
Anglo-French _entente_.[61]

Talleyrand and Biron reached London on 24th January 1792. Before
reaching the capital they read in the English papers that they had
arrived there, and had been very coldly received by Pitt--a specimen of
the arts by which the French _émigrés_ in London sought to embitter the
relations between the two lands. Talleyrand had the good fortune to
occupy a seat in the Strangers' Gallery at the opening of Parliament
close to two ardent royalists, Cazalès and Lally-Tollendal. What must
have been their feelings on hearing in the King's speech the statement
of his friendly relations to the other Powers and his resolve to reduce
the army and navy?

Already Pitt had seen Talleyrand. He reminded him in a friendly way of
their meeting at Rheims, remarked on the unofficial character of the
ex-bishop's "mission," but expressed his willingness to discuss French
affairs, about which he even showed "curiosity." Grenville afterwards
spoke to the envoy in the same courteous but non-committal manner.
Talleyrand was, however, charmed. He wrote to Delessart, the Foreign
Minister at Paris: "Your best ground is England; ... Believe me the
rumours current in France about the disposition of England towards us
are false."[62] He urged the need of showing a bold front; for "it is
with a fleet that you must speak to England."

Talleyrand throughout showed the sagacity which earned him fame in
diplomacy. He was not depressed by the King's frigid reception of him at
St. James's on 1st February, or by the Queen refusing even to notice
him. Even the escapades of Biron did not dash his hopes. That envoy ran
up debts and bargained about horses _avec un nommé Tattersall, qui tient
dans sa main tous les chevaux d'Angleterre_, until he was arrested for
debt and immured in a "sponging house," whence the appeals of the
ex-bishop failed to rescue him. As Biron had come with an official order
to buy horses with a view to the impending war with Austria, we may
infer that his arrest was the work of some keen-witted _émigré_.

Even this, however, was better than the fortunes of Ségur, who found
himself openly flouted both by King and courtiers at Berlin. For
Frederick William was still bent on a vigorous policy. On 7th February
his Ministers signed with Prince Reuss, the Austrian envoy, a secret
treaty of defensive alliance, mainly for the settlement of French
affairs, but also with a side glance at Poland. The Prussian Ministers
probably hoped for a peaceful but profitable settlement, which would
leave them free for a decisive intervention in the Polish troubles now
coming to a crisis; but Frederick William was in a more warlike mood,
and longed to overthrow the "rebels" in France. Ségur's mission to
Berlin was therefore an utter failure. That of Talleyrand, on the other
hand, achieved its purpose, mainly because Pitt and Grenville never had
any other desire than to remain strictly neutral. It was therefore
superfluous for Talleyrand to hint delicately at the desirability of the
friendship of France for England, in view of the war with Tippoo Sahib
in India, and the increasing ferment in Ireland.[63]

On 1st March Grenville again assured him of the earnest desire of the
British Government to see the end of the troubles in France, and
declared that Pitt and he had been deeply wounded by the oft-repeated
insinuations that they had sought to foment them. All such charges were
absurd; for "a commercial people stands only to gain by the freedom of
all those who surround it." We may reasonably conclude that these were
the words of Pitt; for they recall that noble passage of the "Wealth of
Nations": "A nation that would enrich itself by trade is certainly most
likely to do so when its neighbours are all rich, industrious, and
commercial nations."[64] For the rest, Grenville defied the calumniators
of England to adduce a single proof in support of their slanders, and
requested Talleyrand to remain some time in England for the purpose of
observing public opinion. He warned him, however, that the Cabinet could
not give an answer to his main proposal.

More than this Talleyrand could scarcely expect. He had already divined
the important secret that the Cabinet was divided on this subject, the
King, Thurlow, and Camden being hostile to France, while Pitt,
Grenville, and Dundas were friendly. When Talleyrand ventured to ascribe
those sentiments to Pitt and Grenville, the latter did not deny it, and
he at once echoed the desire expressed by the envoy for the conclusion
of an Anglo-French alliance. That the greater part of the British people
would have welcomed such a compact admits of no doubt. On the walls were
often chalked the words: "No war with the French." Talleyrand advised
the Foreign Minister, Delessart, to send immediately to London a fully
accredited ambassador; for the talk often was: "We have an ambassador at
Paris. Why have not you one here?" Nevertheless, a despatch of Grenville
to Gower, on 9th March, shows that Pitt and he keenly felt the need of
caution. They therefore enjoined complete silence on Gower. In truth,
Grenville's expressions, quoted above, were merely the outcome of the
good will which he and Pitt felt towards France. But these words from
the two powerful Ministers meant safety for France on her coasts,
whatever might betide her on the Meuse and the Rhine.

On the day when Grenville spoke these words of peace, two events
occurred which portended war. Leopold II died; and an irritating
despatch, which he and Kaunitz had recently sent to Paris, was read out
to the Legislative Assembly. Thereafter a rupture was inevitable.
Francis II, who now ascended the throne of his father, was a shy, proud,
delicate youth of twenty-four years, having only a superficial knowledge
of public affairs, scarcely known to the Ministers, and endowed with a
narrow pedantic nature which was to be the bane of his people. He lacked
alike the sagacity, the foresight, and the suppleness of Leopold.
Further, though his inexperience should have inspired him with a dread
of war for his storm-tossed States, yet that same misfortune subjected
him to the advice of the veteran Chancellor, Kaunitz. That crabbed old
man advised the maintenance of a stiff attitude towards France; and
this, in her present temper, entailed war.

The last despatch from Vienna to Paris contained strongly worded advice
to the French Government and Assembly to adopt a less provocative
attitude, to withdraw its troops from the northern frontier, and, above
all, to rid itself of the factious minority which controlled its
counsels. If Leopold had hoped to intimidate France or to strengthen the
peace-party at Paris, he made the greatest mistake of his reign. The war
party at once gained the ascendancy, decreed the arrest of Delessart for
his tame reply to Vienna, and broke up the constitutional Ministry.
Their successors were mainly Girondins. The most noteworthy are Roland,
who took the Home Office; Clavière, Finance; and Dumouriez, Foreign
Affairs. The last was a man of great energy and resource. A soldier by
training, and with a dash of the adventurer in his nature, he now leapt
to the front, and astonished France by his zeal and activity. He was not
devoid of prudence; for, as appears from Gower's despatch of 30th March,
he persuaded the Assembly to postpone action until an answer arrived to
his last despatch to Vienna. Gower found from conversation with
Dumouriez that a rupture must ensue if a satisfactory reply did not
arrive by 15th April.[65] Four days later, as no answer came, the
Council of Ministers decided on war; and on the next day Louis formally
proposed it to the Assembly, which assented with acclamation.

Secondary causes helped on the rupture. Frederick William encouraged the
young Emperor to draw the sword, and led him to expect Alsace and
Lorraine as his share of the spoil, the duchies of Jülich and Berg
falling to Prussia. Catharine also fanned the crusading zeal at Berlin
and Vienna in the hope of having "more elbow-room," obviously in
Poland.[66] Further, the news from Madrid and Stockholm indisposed the
French Assembly to endure any dictation from Vienna. At the end of
February Floridablanca fell from power at Madrid, and his successor,
Aranda, showed a peaceful front. And, on 16th March Gustavus of Sweden
was assassinated by Anckarström, a tool of the revengeful nobles. This
loss was severely felt. The royalist crusade now had no Tancred, only an
uninspiring Duke of Brunswick.

Though France took the final step of declaring war, it is now known that
Austria had done much to provoke it and nothing to prevent it. The young
Emperor refused to withdraw a word of the provocative despatch; and in
his letter to Thugut at Brussels, he declared he was weary of the state
of things in France and had decided to act and put an end to it; "that
he should march his troops at once, and the French must be amused for
two months until the troops arrived; then, whether the French attacked
him or not, he should attack them."[67] Keith also wrote from Vienna to
Grenville on 2nd May, that the French declaration of war had come in the
nick of time to furnish the Hapsburgs with the opportunity of throwing
the odium of the war upon France.[68] Other proofs might be cited; and
it seems certain that, if France had not thrown down the gauntlet, both
the German Powers would have attacked her in the early summer of 1792.
Pitt and Grenville, looking on at these conflicting schemes, formed the
perfectly correct surmise that both sides were bent on war, and that
little or nothing could be done to avert it.

                  *       *       *       *       *

We must now trace the policy of Pitt somewhat closely. The question at
issue is, whether he favoured the royalist or the democratic cause, and
was responsible for the ensuing friction between England and France,
which culminated in the long and disastrous strifes of 1793-1801.

Dumouriez, as we have seen, threw down the gauntlet to Austria in the
hope of securing the neutrality of Prussia and the friendship of
England. Accordingly he decided to send Talleyrand on a second mission
to London. That skilful diplomat had recently returned to Paris; and the
Foreign Minister drew up, perhaps in concert with him, a Memoir entitled
"Reflections on a Negotiation with England in case of War," which
provided the text for Talleyrand's discourse to Pitt and Grenville. The
gist of it is that Talleyrand must convince the British Government of
the need of a French attack on the Belgic provinces of Austria as the
sole means of safety. For, while offensive in appearance, it is in
reality defensive. France does not intend to keep those provinces; and,
even if her conquest of them brings about the collapse of the
Stadholder's power in Holland, England will do well not to intervene in
favour of the Orange _régime_. For what good can the Island Power gain
by war with France? She may take the French colonies; but that will mean
a tiresome struggle with the revolted negroes in the West Indies.
France, meanwhile, with her new-born strength, will conquer Central
Europe and then throw her energy into her fleet. The better course,
then, for England will be to remain neutral, even if Holland be
revolutionized, and the estuary of the Scheldt be thrown open to all
nations. Or, still better, England may help France to keep in check the
King of Prussia and the Prince of Orange. In that case the two free
Powers will march hand in hand and "become the arbiters of peace or war
for the whole world."

This remarkable pronouncement claims attention for several reasons.
Firstly, it proves that Dumouriez and Talleyrand believed their sole
chance of safety to lie in the conquest of Austria's Belgic provinces,
where a cognate people would receive them with open arms. That is to
say, they desired war with Austria, and they did not dread the prospect
of war with Prussia, provided that England remained neutral and
friendly. Pitt and Grenville were well aware of this from Gower's
despatches. Our ambassador had warned them that France recked little of
a war with the whole of Europe, provided that England held aloof.
Secondly, this fact disposes of the subsequent charge of Fox against
Pitt, that he ought to have sided with France in 1792 and thereby to
have prevented the attack of the German Powers. For, as we have seen, it
was she who took the irrevocable step of declaring war on Austria; and
further, the details given above prove that all that Frenchmen expected
from Pitt was neutrality. By remaining neutral, while the French overran
Belgium, Pitt was favouring the French plans more than any British
statesman had done since the time of James II. Thirdly, we notice in the
closing sentences of these Reflections signs of that extraordinary
self-confidence which led Girondins and Jacobins to face without
flinching even the prospect of war with England.

What was Pitt's conduct at this crisis? He knew enough of the politics
of Berlin and Vienna to see that those Courts would almost certainly
make war on France. He adopted therefore the line of conduct which
prudence and love of peace dictated, a strict neutrality. But he refused
to proclaim it to the world, as it would encourage France to attack
Austria. At the same time Grenville let it be known that Austria must
not be deprived of her Belgic lands, which England had assured to her,
firstly by the Treaty of Utrecht (1713), and quite recently by the
Reichenbach Convention. As Grenville phrased it--"The Pays Bas form the
chain which unites England to the Continent, and the central knot of our
relations to Austria and Russia. It would be broken if they belonged to
France." Talleyrand and Dumouriez knew this perfectly well, and
prudently declared that France had no intention of keeping those lands.
Would that the Jacobins and Napoleon had shown the same wise
self-restraint! It was their resolve to dominate the Netherlands which
brought them into irreconcilable opposition to Pitt and his successors
down to the year 1814.

Statesmanlike though the aims of Dumouriez were, they suffered not a
little in their exposition. Talleyrand, the brain of the policy, was not
its mouthpiece. In the French embassy at Portman Square he figured
merely as adviser to the French ambassador, the _ci-devant_ Marquis de
Chauvelin, a vain and showy young man, devoid of the qualities of
insight, tact, and patience in which the ex-bishop of Autun excelled his
contemporaries. Had this sage counsellor remained in London to the end
of the year, things might have gone very differently. The instructions
issued to Chauvelin contain ideas similar to those outlined above; but
they lay stress on the utility of a French alliance for England, in
order to thwart the aims of a greedy Coalition and to ensure her own
internal tranquillity, which, it is hinted, France can easily ruffle.
Talleyrand is also charged to offer to cede the small but valuable
island, Tobago, which we lost in 1783, provided that the British
Government guaranteed a French loan of £3,000,000 or £4,000,000, to be
raised in London; and he is to suggest that, if the two Powers acted
together, they could revolutionize Spanish America and control the

Our curiosity is aroused as to the reception which Pitt and Grenville
gave to these schemes. It is not certain, however, that Chauvelin and
Talleyrand showed their hand completely; for events told against them
from the outset. Chauvelin bore with him an autograph letter from
Louis XVI to George III, couched in the friendliest terms, and
expressing the hope of closer relations between the two peoples.[70] But
before he could present it to the King at St. James's, it appeared in
the Paris papers. This breach of etiquette created a bad impression; for
it seemed that the letter was merely a bid for an alliance between the
two peoples. It is quite possible that Dumouriez, with his natural
impulsiveness, allowed it to gain currency in order to identify
Louis XVI with French democracy, and that in its turn with public
opinion in England. Further, we now know that Marie Antoinette, in her
resolve to paralyse the policy and the defensive power of France, wrote
at once to Fersen at Brussels that her consort's letter was very far
from speaking his real sentiments.[71] This news, when passed on to
London, must have made it clear that the two envoys represented the
Girondin Ministry, but not the King of France. Then again tidings soon
arrived of the disgraceful flight of the French troops on the Belgian
frontier, the new levies, at sight of the Austrian horse, rushing back
to Lille in wild disorder and there murdering their General, Theobald
Dillon. George III and Grenville wrote of this event in terms of disgust
and contempt.[72] It is therefore not surprising that the reception of
Chauvelin was far from promising; and Talleyrand doubtless felt that
the time was not ripe for discussing an Anglo-French _entente_ for the
control of the world.

In fact, the envoys were received coolly from the outset. The outbreak
of war on the Continent had caused almost a panic in the City. The Funds
dropped sharply, and Pitt ordered an official denial to sinister reports
of a forthcoming raid by the press-gang. A little later he assured a
deputation of merchants that England would hold strictly aloof from the
war. Chauvelin reported these facts to his Government along with the
assurance that the Cabinet had definitely resolved on neutrality. How he
came to know of that decision is a mystery; and it is scarcely less odd
that a copy of his despatch reporting it should be in the Pitt
Papers.[73] On the whole, then, France had good reason to be satisfied
with Pitt. Austria, on the other hand, disliked his conduct. Kaunitz,
with his usual acerbity, gave out that England was secretly hostile to
the House of Hapsburg; and Keith, finding his position increasingly
awkward, begged for his recall.

The first sign of friction between England and France arose out of the
King's proclamation against seditious writings, which we noticed in the
last chapter. Chauvelin complained of some of its phrases, and stated
that France waged war for national safety, not for aggrandizement.
Grenville thereupon loftily remarked that Chauvelin had no right to
express an opinion on a question which concerned solely the King's
Government and Parliament. The British reply irritated by its curt

Equally unfortunate were some incidents in the ensuing debates on this
topic. Some members emphasized their loyalty by adverting tartly to the
connections of Thomas Paine and English reformers with the French
Jacobins. On 31st May the Duke of Richmond charged that writer with
being an emissary from abroad, because he had advised the destruction of
the British navy.[74] There is no such passage in the "Rights of Man";
and the Duke must have read with the distorting lens of fear or hatred
the suggestion that, if England, France, and the United States were
allied, a very small navy would be needed, costing not more than half a
million a year.[75] But this incident is typical of the prejudice that
was growing against France. Grenville in the same debate declared that
the Corresponding Societies avowed their connection with foreign clubs
and were engaged in circulating pamphlets. The conclusion was obvious,
that close relations with France must be avoided. As to the feeling of
the Royal Family, it was manifested in an effusively loyal speech by the
Prince of Wales, his first speech at Westminster. In it he marked his
entire severance from Fox on this question.

Grenville's complaisance to the French envoys was perhaps little more
than a blind to mask his contempt for them and their principles. On 19th
June he wrote to Auckland respecting the "ignorance and absurdity of the
French mission," but suggested that the picking a quarrel with France
would only help the English Jacobins to introduce French notions. Even
if this mission were got rid of, some one else might come who might make
even more mischief. These expressions refer to the connections which
Chauvelin and Talleyrand had formed with the Opposition. As Bland Burges
remarked: "Talleyrand is intimate with Paine, Home Tooke, Lord
Lansdowne, and a few more of that stamp, and is generally scouted by
every one else." George III's words were equally contemptuous and marked
his resolve to have as little as possible to do with France.[76] Pitt
did not state his opinions on this topic; but he probably held those of

The prejudices of the King and the resolves of the two chief Ministers
proved fatal to an ardent appeal which came from Paris in the middle of
June. As the attitude of the Court of Berlin became more and more
warlike, Dumouriez put forth one more effort to gain the friendly
mediation of England and thus assure peace with Prussia. Chauvelin,
swallowing his annoyance at Grenville's recent note, pointed out that
Austria was making great efforts to induce Prussia, Holland, and the
lesser German States to join her in the war against liberty. The designs
of the monarchs against Poland were notorious; and it was clear that a
vast conspiracy was being hatched against the free States of the
Continent. Would not England, then, endeavour to stop the formation of
this reactionary league?

The occasion was, indeed, highly important. It is conceivable that, if
British influence had been powerful at Berlin, a spirited declaration
would have had some effect at that Court. Unfortunately our influence
had sunk to zero since the Oczakoff fiasco of 1791. Moreover, the
Prussian Government had by that time decided to break with France. Her
envoys were dismissed from Berlin in the first week of June, and it is
probable that Pitt and Grenville by 18th June knew of the warlike
resolve of the Prussian Government. In any case, after a delay of twenty
days, they sent once more a reply to Chauvelin's request, affirming the
earnest desire of His Majesty to contribute to the restoration of peace,
but re-asserting his decision in favour of unswerving neutrality. On
24th July Prussia declared war against France, and three days later the
Duke of Brunswick issued the famous manifesto to the French people which
thrilled the French people with indignation against the hapless
sovereigns at the Tuileries whom it was designed to protect.[77]

                  *       *       *       *       *

The outbreak of war on the Rhine and Meuse was an event of incalculable
importance. As we have seen, Pitt discouraged the bellicose tendencies
of the _émigrés_ and of the Austrian and Prussian Courts. But the
passions of the time ran too high to admit of the continuance of peace;
and State after State was soon to be drawn into the devouring vortex of
strife. Strange to say the first to suffer from the outbreak of
hostilities was Poland. That Republic entered on a new lease of life in
the spring of the year 1791. The constitution adopted with enthusiasm on
3rd May substituted an hereditary for an elective monarchy, and
otherwise strengthened the fabric of that almost anarchic State. Social
and civic reforms promised also to call its burghers and serfs to a life
of activity or comfort. But the change at once aroused keen dislike at
St. Petersburg and Berlin. Prussian statesmen resented any improvement
in the condition of their nominal ally, and declared that, if Russia
gained a strong position on the Euxine, Prussia and Austria must secure
indemnities at the expense of Poland.

The Czarina soon succeeded in heading them in that direction. After the
signature of the Peace of Jassy with the Turks early in January 1792,
she began openly to encourage the factious efforts of Polish
malcontents. The troubles at Paris also enabled her to engage the Courts
of Vienna and Berlin in a western crusade on which she bestowed her
richest blessing, her own inmost desires meanwhile finding expression in
the following confidential utterance: "I am breaking my head to make the
Cabinets of Vienna and Berlin intervene in the affairs of France. I wish
to see them plunged into some very complicated question in order to have
my own hands free."[78] Though her old opponent, Kaunitz, fathomed her
intentions, she partly succeeded in persuading the Austrian and Prussian
Ministers that their mission clearly was to stamp out Jacobinism at
Paris, while Providence reserved for her the duty of extirpating its
offshoots at Warsaw. In the Viennese Court, where the value of a
regenerated Poland as a buffer State was duly appreciated, there were
some qualms as to the spoliation of that unoffending State; but Prussian
politicians, in their eagerness for the Polish districts, Danzig and
Thorn, harboured few scruples as to betraying the cause of their allies
at Warsaw.

Little by little the outlines of a scheme were sketched between Austria
and Prussia for securing indemnities for the expenses of the war against
France; and it was arranged that Prussia should acquire the coveted
lands on the lower Vistula; also Anspach and Baireuth; Austria was to
effect the long-desired Belgic-Bavarian exchange, besides gaining parts
of Alsace; and it was understood that Russia would annex the Polish
Ukraine and work her will in the rest of Poland. The Polish part of the
scheme was, however, stiffly opposed by Kaunitz; and in the sequel the
old Chancellor ended his long and distinguished career by way of protest
against a change of front which he deemed unwise and disgraceful.[79]

Early in May everything was ready for the restoration of anarchy in
Poland. Catharine ordered her troops to enter its borders; and the
factious Polish nobles whom she had sheltered during the winter returned
to their land and formed a "Confederation" at Targowicz on 14th May for
the purpose of undoing the reforms of 1791. Daniel Hailes, our envoy at
Warsaw, kept Grenville fully informed of this affair. On 16th June he
reported Austria's desertion of Poland, the brutal refusal of the Court
of Berlin to accord help to its ally, the heroic efforts of Kosciusko
and the Polish levies to resist the Russian armies, and the despair of
the patriots of Warsaw, adding the cynical comment that at Warsaw
patriotism was only a cloak for private interest, and that the new
constitution was generally regarded as the death-blow to Polish
independence.[80] Whether he added these words to please Grenville, who
had always discouraged the Polish cause,[81] is not easy to say; but the
statement cannot be reconciled with Hailes's earlier enthusiasm for that
well-meant effort.

On all sides the Polish patriots now found indifference or hostility.
The Elector of Saxony (their King-elect) gave them cold words; and
Catharine demanded the restoration of the old constitution of which she
was a guarantor. King Stanislaus, a prey to deep despondency, saw the
defence collapse on all sides, and at the close of June the Russians
drew near to Warsaw. Many of the Polish reformers fled to Leipzig and
there prepared to appeal to Europe against this forcible suppression of
a truly national constitution.

Amidst these scenes Hailes was replaced by Colonel Gardiner, who
received from Grenville the following instructions, dated 4th August
1792. He informed him that Hailes had last year been charged "to confine
himself to such assurances of His Majesty's good wishes as could be
given without committing H.M. to any particular line of conduct with
respect to any troubles that might arise on the subject [of the Polish
Revolution]. The event has unhappily but too well justified their
reserve; and the present situation is such as to leave little hope that
the tranquillity of that unfortunate land can be restored without its
falling again into the most entire dependence on the power of Russia,
even if no further dismemberment of territory should take place."
Grenville then stated that Prussia's conduct was due to fear of a strong
Government in Poland; but the present alternative (a Russian occupation)
would probably be worse for her. He added these sentences: "No
intervention of the Maritime Powers [England and Holland] could be
serviceable to Poland, at least not without a much greater exertion and
expense than the importance to their separate interests could possibly
justify.... You are to be very careful not to do anything which could
hold out ill-grounded expectations of support from this country."

In these words Grenville passed sentence of death upon Poland. On this
important subject he must have acted with the consent of Pitt; but the
opinion of the latter is unknown. It would seem that after the weak
treatment of the Oczakoff crisis by Parliament, he gave up all hope of
saving either Turkey or Poland. If that was impracticable in the spring
of 1791, how much more so in August 1792, when French affairs claimed
far closer attention? It is worth noticing that several of the Foxites
(not Fox himself, for he was still intent on a Russian alliance),[82]
now revised their opinion about Catharine II and inveighed against her
for trampling on the liberties of Poland. Did they now discover the
folly of their conduct in previously encouraging her?

In despair of help from England, some of the patriots of Warsaw turned
towards France. But this added to their misfortunes. It gave the
schemers of Berlin the longed-for excuse of intervening by force under
the pretext that they must stamp out "the French evil" from States
bordering on their own. On hearing of the advance of three Prussian
columns, Catharine threw her whole weight into Polish affairs.

So closely did the fortunes of Poland intertwine themselves with those
of France. The outbreak of the Franco-Austrian war meant ruin for the
reformers at Warsaw. Had Austria held to her former resolve, to prevent
the triumph of Russia or Prussia in Poland, it is possible that Pitt and
Grenville would have decided to support her. As it was, they maintained
their cautious and timid neutrality. The reports of Hailes were explicit
enough to show that another partition was at hand; but, so far as I can
discover, they lifted not a finger to prevent it. The excess of Pitt's
caution at this crisis enables us to gauge the magnitude of the disaster
to the Polish cause involved by his surrender to the Czarina in the
spring and summer of 1791. By a wonderful display of skill and audacity
she emerged triumphant from all her difficulties, and now, while egging
on the German Powers to war with France, planted her heel on the
liberties of Poland. Her conquest was easy and profitable. The
restoration of order at Paris proved to be fraught with unexpected
dangers, and the German sovereigns scarcely set their hands to the task
before they discovered that they were her dupes. If the French war
worked disaster at Warsaw, the prospect of a partition of Poland
undoubtedly helped to lessen the pressure on France during the campaign
of Valmy. Hope of further spoils in 1794-5 distracted the aims of the
Allies; and Pitt was destined to see the efforts of the monarchical
league in the West weaken and die away under the magnetic influence of
the eastern problem. Well would it have been for him if he could have
upheld Poland in 1791. By so doing he would have removed the cause of
bitter dissensions between the Houses of Romanoff, Hapsburg, and
Hohenzollern. As will appear in due course, Revolutionary France
achieved her marvellous triumphs partly by the prowess of her sons, but
still more owing to the intrigues and feuds which clogged the efforts of
the Allies and baffled the constructive powers of Pitt.


[43] "Parl. Hist.," xxix, 810-15.

[44] _Ibid._, 834.

[45] "Parl. Hist.," xxix, 551-602, 1404-31.

[46] Stanhope, ii, 148-50, and App., xv.

[47] Twiss, "Life of Lord Eldon," ch. x.

[48] Fitzmaurice, "Shelburne," iii, 500-4; Salomon, "Pitt," 596. The
King later on teased the Duke of Leeds by a more compromising overture.

[49] "Malmesbury Diaries," ii, 454-64.

[50] "Leeds Mem.," 188.

[51] _Ibid._, 194.

[52] "Auckland Journals," ii, 417, 418.

[53] Pitt MSS., 103.

[54] I accept, with some qualification, Mr. Oscar Browning's
explanation, that Lord Loughborough had exaggerated the accounts of his
interviews with Pitt and the Whig leaders. (see "Leeds Mem.," 197,

[55] Stanhope, ii, 160.

[56] "Bland Burges P.," 208.

[57] Stanhope, "Miscellanies," ii, 57-63. Letter of Canning to W.
Sturges Bourne, 3rd September 1792. This interview is not referred to by
Mr. H. W. V. Temperley ("Canning," ch. ii), Mr. Sichel ("Sheridan"),
Captain Bagot ("Canning and his Friends"), or E. Festing ("Frere and his
Friends"). In "Pitt and Napoleon Miscellanies" I shall publish new
letters of Canning. One, dated 15th March 1793, declines an offer of
Portland to bring him into Parliament.

[58] Pallain, "La Mission de Talleyrand à Londres," 41.

[59] Keith's "Mems.," ii, 494. Keith to Grenville, 14th January 1792.

[60] "Gower's Despatches," 142, 143, 145, 149.

[61] Pallain, pp. xv-xviii.

[62] Pallain, 56, 57.

[63] Pallain, 106, 107.

[64] "Wealth of Nations," bk. iv, ch. iii.

[65] "Gower's Despatches," 165, 171.

[66] Sorel, ii, 216.

[67] Fersen, "Diary" (Eng. edit.), 255.

[68] Clapham, "Causes of the War of 1792," 231.

[69] On the Tobago proposal see "Dropmore P.," ii, 260.

[70] Pallain, 215-9. The original is in Pitt MSS., 333.

[71] Fersen, "Diary" (Eng. edit.), 316, 319.

[72] "Dropmore P.," ii, 267. See, too, further details in "Dumouriez and
the Defence of England against Napoleon," by J. H. Rose and A. M.

[73] Pitt MSS., 333. Chauvelin to Dumouriez, 28th April.

[74] "Parl. Hist.," xxix, 1522.

[75] "Rights of Man," pt. ii, ch. v.

[76] "Dropmore P.," ii, 282; "Auckland Journals," ii, 410.

[77] "Ann. Reg." (1792), 178-82, 225-32; Sorel, ii, 445-54; Heidrich,
pt. ii, ch. ii. I fully agree with Dr. Salomon ("Pitt," 537) as to the
sincerity of Pitt's desire for neutrality.

[78] Sybel, ii, 142.

[79] For the discussions between the three Powers on Poland see
Heidrich, 165-219; and Salomon, "Das Politische System des jüngeren Pitt
und die zweite Teilung Polens" (Berlin, 1895).

[80] "F. O.," Poland, 6. Hailes to Grenville, 16th and 27th June 1792.

[81] "Dropmore P.," ii, 142; see, too, ii, 279.

[82] "Mems. of Fox," iii, 18.



    It seems absolutely impossible to hesitate as to supporting our
    Ally [Holland] in case of necessity, and the explicit
    declaration of our sentiments is the most likely way to prevent
    the case occurring.--PITT TO LORD STAFFORD, _13th November

One of the first requisites for the study of a period whose outlines are
well known, is to bar out the insidious notion that the course of events
was inevitable. Nine persons out of ten have recourse to that easy but
fallacious way of explaining events. The whole war, they say, or think,
was inevitable. It was fated that the Duke of Brunswick should issue his
threatening manifesto to the Parisians if violence were offered to
Louis XVI; that they should resent the threat, rise in revolt, and
dethrone the King, and thereafter massacre royalists in the prisons. The
innate vigour of the democratic cause further required that the French
should stand their ground at Valmy and win a pitched battle at Jemappes,
that victory leading to an exaltation of soul in which the French
Republicans pushed on their claims in such a way as to bring England
into the field. History, when written in this way, is a symmetrical
mosaic; and the human mind loves patterns.

But events are not neatly chiselled; they do not fall into geometrical
groups, however much the memory, for its own ease, seeks to arrange them
thus. Their edges are jagged; and the slightest jar might have sent them
in different ways. To recur to the events in question: the Duke of
Brunswick objected to issuing the manifesto, and only owing to the
weariness or weakness of old age, yielded to the insistence of the
_émigrés_ at his headquarters: the insurrection at Paris came about
doubtfully and fitfully; the issue on 10th August hung mainly on the
personal bearing of the King; the massacres were the work of an
insignificant minority, which the vast mass regarded with sheer
stupefaction; and even the proclamation of the French Republic by the
National Convention on 21st September was not without many searchings of

Meanwhile Pitt and Grenville had not the slightest inkling as to the
trend of events. The latter on 13th July 1792 wrote thus to Earl Gower
at Paris: "My speculations are that the first entrance of the foreign
troops [into France] will be followed by negotiations; but how they are
to end, or what possibility there is to establish any form of
government, or any order in France, is far beyond any conjectures I can
form."[84] This uncertainty is illuminating. It shows that Pitt and
Grenville were not farseeing schemers bent on undermining the liberties
of France and Britain by a war on which they had long resolved, but
fallible mortals, unable to see a handbreadth through the turmoil, but
cherishing the hope that somehow all would soon become clear. As to
British policy during the summer of 1792, it may be classed as masterly
inactivity or nervous passivity, according to the standpoint of the
critic. In one case alone did Pitt and Grenville take a step displeasing
to the French Government, namely, by recalling Gower from the embassy at
Paris; and this was due to the fall of the French monarchy on 10th
August, and to the danger attending the residence of a noble in Paris.
Only by a display of firmness did Gower and his secretary, Lindsay,
succeed in obtaining passports from the new Foreign Minister,

That follower of Dumouriez had as colleagues the former Girondin
Ministers, Clavière, Roland, and Servan. Besides them were Monge (the
physicist) for the Navy, and Danton for Justice, the latter a far from
reassuring choice, as he was known to be largely responsible for the
massacres in the prisons of Paris early in September. Little is known
about the publicist, Lebrun, on whom now rested the duty of negotiating
with England, Spain, Holland, etc. It is one of the astonishing facts of
this time that unknown men leaped to the front at Paris, directed
affairs to momentous issues, and then sank into obscurity or perished.
The Genevese Clavière started assignats and managed revolutionary
finance; Servan controlled the War Office for some months with much
ability, and then fell; Pétion, Santerre, the popular Paris brewer, and
an ex-hawker, Hanriot, were successively rulers of Paris for a brief

But of all the puzzles of this time Lebrun is perhaps the chief. In his
thirtieth year he was Foreign Minister of France, when she broke with
England, Holland, Spain, and the Empire. He is believed by many (_e.g._,
by W. A. Miles, who knew him well) to be largely responsible for those
wars. Yet who was this Lebrun? Before the Revolution he had to leave
France for his advanced opinions, and took refuge at Liége, where Miles
found him toiling for a scanty pittance at journalistic hack-work.
Suffering much at the hands of the Austrians in 1790, he fled back to
Paris, joined the Girondins, wrote for them, made himself useful to
Dumouriez during his tenure of the Foreign Office, and, not long after
his resignation, stepped into his shoes and appropriated his policy. In
order to finish with him here, we may note that he voted for the death
of Louis XVI, and, as President of the Executive Council at that time,
signed the order for the execution. He and other Girondins were driven
from power on 2nd June 1793 (when Hanriot's brazen voice decided the
fate of the Girondins) and he was guillotined on 23rd December of that
year, for the alleged crime of conspiring to place Philippe Egalité on
the throne. Mme. Roland, who helped Lebrun to rise to power, limns his
portrait in these sharp outlines: "He passed for a wise man, because he
showed no kind of _élan_; and for a clever man, because he was a fairly
good clerk; but he possessed neither activity, intellect, nor force of
character." The want of _élan_ seems to be a term relative merely to the
characteristics of the Girondins, who, whatever they lacked, had that
Gallic quality in rich measure.

Chauvelin, the French ambassador in London, is another of these
revolutionary rockets. Only in fiction and the drama does he stand forth
at all clearly to the eye. History knows him not, except that he had
been a marquis, then took up with the Girondins, finally shot up among
the Jacobins and made much noise by his intrigues and despatches. With
all his showiness and vanity he had enough shrewdness to suit his
language at the French embassy in Portman Square to the Jacobin jargon
of the times. After the September massacres the only hope for an
aristocratic envoy was to figure as an irreproachable patriot.
Chauvelin's dealings with the English malcontents therefore became more
and more pronounced; for indeed they served both as a life insurance
and as a means of annoying Pitt and Grenville in return for their
refusal to recognize him as the ambassador of the new Republic.
Londoners in general sided with the Ministry and snubbed the French
envoys. Dumont describes their annoyance, during a visit to Ranelagh, at
being received everywhere with the audible whisper, "Here comes the
French embassy"; whereupon faces were turned away and a wide space was
left around them.[86]

Such, then, were the men on whom largely rested the future of Europe.
Lebrun mistook fussiness for activity. At a time when tact and dignity
prescribed a diminution of the staff at Portman Square, he sent two
almost untried men, Noël and, a little later, Benoît, to help Chauvelin
to mark time. Talleyrand also gained permission to return to London as
_adjoint_ to Chauvelin, which, it appears, was the only safe means of
escaping from Paris. Chauvelin speedily quarrelled with him. But the
doings of the French embassy concern us little for the present, as Pitt
and Grenville paid no attention to the offers, similar to those made in
April, which Lebrun charged his envoys to make for an Anglo-French
alliance. It is not surprising, after the September massacres, that
Ministers should hold sternly aloof from the French envoys; but we may
note that Miles considered their attitude most unwise. He further
remarked that the proud reserve of Grenville was almost offensive.[87]
We made the acquaintance of Miles as British agent at Paris in 1790 and
noted his consequential airs. In 1792 they were full blown.

The opinions of George III and Pitt on the events of that bloody
harvest-time in Paris are very little known. The King's letters from
Weymouth to Pitt in August-September are few and brief. On 16th
September, after the arrival of news of the massacres, he writes to say
that his decision respecting the Prince of Wales's debts is irrevocable.
After that there is a long silence. Pitt's reserve is equally
impenetrable. We know, however, from the letters of Burke that the
conduct of Ministers deeply disappointed him. Writing to Grenville on
19th September he says that the crisis exceeds in gravity any that is
recorded in history; and he adds these curious words: "I know it is the
opinion of His Majesty's Ministers that the new [French] principles may
be encouraged, and even triumph over every interior and exterior
resistance, and may even overturn other States as they have that of
France, without any sort of danger of their extending in their
consequences to this Kingdom."[88] Can we have a clearer testimony to
the calm but rigid resolve with which Pitt and his colleague clung to
neutrality? On the following day (the day of the Battle of Valmy) Pitt
frigidly declined the request of the Austrian and Neapolitan
ambassadors, that the British Government would exclude from its
territories all those who should be guilty of an attack on the French
royal family. On 21st September Grenville issued a guarded statement on
this subject to the _corps diplomatique_; but it was far from meeting
the desires of the royalists.[89]

Reticence is a virtue over-developed in an aristocracy--"that austere
domination," as Burke terms it. The virtue is slow in taking root among
democracies. The early Radical clubs of Great Britain regarded it as
their cherished privilege to state their opinions on foreign affairs
with Athenian loquacity; and the months of October and November 1792,
when we vainly seek to know the inner feelings of Pitt, are enlivened by
resolutions expressing joy at the downfall of tyrants, and fervent
beliefs in the advent of a fraternal millennium, the first fruits of
which were the election of Paine as deputy for Calais to the National

In the dealings of nations, as of individuals, feelings often count for
more than interests. This was the case in the last four months of the
year 1792, when the subjects in dispute bulked small in comparison with
the passions and prejudices which magnified and distorted them. The
psychology of the time therefore demands no less attention than its
diplomacy. Its first weeks were darkened by news of the September
massacres. Even now the details of that cowardly crime arouse horror:
and surely no part of Carlyle's epic sinks so low as that in which he
seeks to compare that loathsome butchery with the bloodshed of a
battlefield.[90] No such special pleading was attempted by leaders of
thought of that period. On 10th September Romilly, a friend of human
progress, wrote to Dumont: "How could we ever be so deceived in the
character of the French nation as to think them capable of liberty?...
One might as well think of establishing a republic of tigers in some
forest of Africa." To which the collaborator of Mirabeau replied: "Let
us burn all our books; let us cease to think and dream of the best
system of legislation, since men make so diabolical a use of every truth
and every principle."[91] These feelings were general among Frenchmen.
Buzot stated that the loss of morality, with all its attendant evils,
dated from the September massacres.

It seems strange that the democratic cause made headway in England after
this fell event. Probably its details were but dimly known to the poor,
who were at this time the victims of a bad harvest and severe dearth.
The months of September and October were marked by heavy and persistent
rains. The Marquis of Buckingham on 23rd September wrote at Stowe to his
brother, Lord Grenville, that he was living amidst a vortex of mud,
clay, and water such as was never known before--the result of six weeks
of unsettled weather, which must impair the harvest and increase the
difficulty of maintaining order.[92] Certainly the stars in their
courses fought against the _ancien régime_. The rains which made a
receptive seed-bed for the writings of Paine also hampered the progress
of Brunswick towards the Argonne, crowded his hospitals with invalids,
and in part induced that inglorious retreat. As the storms lasted far
into the autumn, disaffection increased apace.

The results serve to enliven the dull tones of our Home Office archives.
There one reads of bread riots and meal riots so far back as May 1792,
in which stalls are overturned and despoiled; also of more persistent
agitation in the factory towns of the North. Liverpool leads off with a
dock-strike that is with difficulty ended. Then the colliers of Wigan
stop work and seek to persuade all their comrades to follow their
example. Most threatening of all is the situation at Manchester and
Sheffield. There, in addition to disorder among the townsfolk,
disaffection gains ground among the troops sent to keep order. This
again is traceable to the dearness of food, for which the scanty pay of
the trooper by no means suffices. Here, then, is the opportunity for the
apostle of discontent judiciously to offer a cheap edition of the
"Rights of Man," on which fare the troop becomes half-mutinous and sends
in a petition for higher pay. This the perplexed authorities do not
grant, but build barracks, a proceeding eyed askance by publicans and
patriots as the beginning of military rule.[93]

The South of England, too, is beset by fears of a novel kind. After the
overthrow of the French monarchy on 10th August fugitives from France
come fast to the coasts of Kent and Sussex. The flights become thicker
day by day up to the end of that fell month of September. Orthodox
priests, always in disguise, form the bulk of the new arrivals. As many
as 700 of them land at Eastbourne, and strain the hospitality of that
little town. About as many reach Portsmouth and Gosport, to the
perplexity of the authorities. When assured that they are staunch
royalists and not apostles of Revolution, the commander allots shelter
in the barracks at Forton, where for the present they exist on two pence
a day each. Plymouth, which receives fewer of them, frowns on the
newcomers as politically suspect and economically ruinous. The mayor
assures Dundas that, if more priests arrive, or are sent there, they
will be driven away by the townsfolk for fear of dearth of corn. In
Jersey the food question eclipses all others; for 2,000 priests (so it
is said) land there, until all ideas of hospitality are cast to the
winds and the refugees are threatened with expulsion. Only in the vast
obscurantism of London is there safety for these exiles. A subscription
list is started on their behalf; the King offers the royal house at
Winchester for the overplus at Portsmouth: and by degrees the scared
throngs huddle down into the dire poverty and uneasy rest that are to be
their lot for many a year.[94]

Strange adventures befell many of the French nobles in their escape. The
Duc de Liancourt, commanding the troops at Rouen, was fain to flee to
the coast, hire a deckless craft, and conceal himself under faggots. In
that manner he put to sea and finally made the opposite coast at
Hastings. There, still nervous, he made his way to the nearest inn, and,
to proclaim his insularity, called for porter. The beverage was too much
for him, and he retired to his room in a state of unconscious passivity.
On his awaking, the strange surroundings seemed those of a French
lock-up; but as he crept down to make his escape, the mugs caught his
eye; and their brightness convinced him that he was in England. Such
was his story, told to the family at Bury, where Fanny Burney was
staying. Several of the wealthier French refugees settled at Richmond,
and there found Horace Walpole as charmer and friend. But the most
distinguished group was that at Juniper Hall, near Dorking where finally
Mme. de Staël and Talleyrand enlivened the dull days and long drives
with unfailing stores of wit. We shall later on make the acquaintance of
the French _émigrés_ in a more active and bellicose mood.

Such, then, was the mental condition of our folk. Depressed by rain and
dear food, beset by stories of plotters from Paris, or harrowed by the
tales of misery of the French _émigrés_, Britons came to look on France
as a land peopled by demons, who sought to involve other lands in the
ruin to which they had reduced their own. In this state of nervousness
and excitement little was needed to bring about a furious reaction on
behalf of Church and King.

The follies of English democrats helped on this reaction. Whispers went
about of strange and threatening orders of arms at Birmingham. A
correspondent at the midland capital informed Dundas at the end of
September that a Dr. Maxwell, of York, had ordered 20,000 daggers, which
were to be 12 inches in the blade and 5 1/4 inches in the handle. The
informant convinced the manufacturer that he must apprise the Home
Secretary of this order and send him a specimen of the weapon. Probably
it was the same which Burke melodramatically cast down on the floor of
the House of Commons during his speech of 28th December. The dimensions
exactly tally with those named by the biographer of Lord Eldon, who
retained that dagger, though Bland Burges also put in a claim to have
possessed it. The scepticism which one feels about this prodigious order
of daggers, which others give as 3,000, is somewhat lessened by finding
another letter, of 2nd October 1792, addressed to Dundas by James
Maxwell of York, who stated that he highly disapproved of the "French"
opinions of his younger brother (specimens of whose letters he
enclosed), and had just given him £500 so as to dissuade him from going
to Manchester to stir up discontent there.[95] This unbrotherly conduct
condemns the elder Maxwell, but his information to some extent
corroborated that which came from Birmingham. The whole affair may have
been merely a device to frighten Ministers; but report says that Pitt
took it seriously and ascribed to him the singular statement that
Ministers soon might not have a hand to act with or a tongue to speak

Certainly there was a good deal of discontent in the manufacturing
towns, but it is not easy to say whether it resulted more from dear food
or from political reasons. At Stockport a new club styled "The Friends
of universal Peace and the Rights of Man," issued and circulated a
manifesto asserting their right to inquire into political affairs:

    It is our labour that supports monarchy, aristocracy, and the
    priesthood.... We are not the "swinish multitude" that Mr. Burke
    speaks of. A majority of the House of Commons is returned by
    less than 6,000 voters; whereas, if the representation were
    equal (and we sincerely hope that it shortly will be), nearly
    that number will elect every single member. Not one-twentieth
    part of the commoners of Great Britain are electors.... We have
    a National Debt of more than £270,000,000, and pay £17,000,000 a
    year in taxes. More than one fourth of our incomes goes in

The Radical clubs also showed a desire to pry into foreign affairs;
witness the following letter from Thomas Hardy to Dr. Adams, Secretary
of the London Society for Constitutional Information:

                  No. 9 Piccadilly (London), _Sept. 21 1792_.[98]

    The London Corresponding Society having taken the resolution of
    transmitting to the French National Convention an address ... to
    assure that suffering nation that we sympathize with them in
    their misfortunes; that we view their exertions with admiration;
    that we wish to give them all such contenance [_sic_] and
    support as individuals unsupported and oppressed themselves can
    afford; and that, should those in power here dare (in violation
    of the nation's pledged faith of neutrality and in opposition to
    the well-known sentiments of the people at large) to join the
    German band of despots united against Liberty, we disclaim all
    concurrence therein, and will to a man exert every justifiable
    means for counteracting their machinations against the freedom
    and happiness of mankind.

    I am ordered by the Committee to acquaint the Society for
    Constitutional Information therewith, in order to be favoured
    with their opinions thereon, and in hopes that, if they approve
    the idea and recommend its adoption to the different societies,
    the publication of such a respectable number of _real_ names
    will greatly check the hostile measures which might otherwise be
    put in execution.

On 5th October the Society for Constitutional Information agreed to the
plan, and ordered the drafting of a joint address to the French
Convention. By this time the news of the successful stand of the French
troops against the Allies at Valmy and the subsequent retreat of the
latter greatly encouraged the English democrats; and a more militant
tone appears in their addresses. Thus in that meeting of 5th October a
letter was read from Joel Barlow containing these sentences: "A great
Revolution in the management of the affairs of nations is doubtless soon
to be expected through all Europe; and in the progress of mankind
towards this attainment it is greatly to be desired that the convictions
to be acquired from rational discussion should precede and preclude
those which must result from physical exertion."

Why "precede and preclude"? The two expressions are incompatible. It
seems that some more moderate member must have added the latter word as
a sop to the authorities. In any case the last words of the sentence
were clearly intended as a threat. On 26th October, John Frost being in
the chair, the same Society framed the following resolution:

    That the Secretary do procure correct copies of the Manifesto
    published by the late General Burgoyne while in America, of the
    first Manifesto lately published by the Duke of Brunswick in
    France, of the last Royal Proclamation against writings and
    meetings in England, and of the Emperor's recent proclamation at
    Brussels on the same subject; in order that these four pieces
    may be printed fairly together on one sheet of paper, and be
    transmitted by this Society to all the associated Societies in
    Great Britain.[99]

It was then resolved to publish this resolution in the "Argus," "Morning
Chronicle,"[100] "Star," "Morning Post," "English Chronicle," "World,"
and "Courier." These papers supported the democratic cause. In order to
counteract their influence Pitt and his colleagues about this time
helped to start two newspapers, "The Sun" and "The True Briton," the
advent of which was much resented by Mr. Walter of "The Times," after
his support of the Government.[101] Apparently these papers were of a
more popular type, and heralded the advent of a cheap and sensational
royalism. Sheridan wittily advised that the motto of "The Sun" should
be, not merely the beginning, but the whole of the passage:

                         Solem quis dicere falsum
    Audeat? Ille etiam caecos instare tumultus
    Saepe monet, fraudemque, et operta tumescere bella.[102]

The combined address from several patriotic (_i.e._ reform) societies,
arranged for by Thomas Hardy, was not read at the bar of the French
Convention until 7th November. It set forth that the five thousand
signatories indignantly stepped forth to rescue their country from the
opprobrium thrown upon it by the base conduct of the Government. In vain
did Ministers seek to overawe the timid and mislead the credulous: for
Knowledge and Reason were making great strides in England, so that
Britons now looked on Frenchmen only as "citizens of the world, children
of the common Father," not as enemies to be assassinated "at the command
of weak or ambitious Kings, or of corrupt Ministers." Their real enemies
were the destructive aristocracy, "the bane of all the countries of the
earth. You have acted wisely in banishing it from France." They (the
signatories) could not take up arms to help France, because the
Government had pledged the national faith that it would remain neutral.
The Elector of Hanover had joined his troops to those of traitors and
robbers; "but the King of England will do well to remember that England
is not Hanover; should he forget this, we will not forget it.... We
ardently wish a Triple Alliance, not of crowned heads, but of the people
of America, France, and Great Britain will give liberty to Europe and
peace to the world." The address was signed by Margarot and Hardy. It
and other addresses were reported verbatim by our _chargé d'affaires_,
Munro, to the Foreign Office.[103]

The democratic ferment in England speedily aroused a decided opposition.
Macaulay probably does not much exaggerate when he says that out of
twenty well-to-do persons nineteen were ardently loyal and firmly
anti-Jacobin. The month of November saw the formation of an "Ante
[_sic_]-Levelling Society, for supporting the Civil Power in suppressing
Tumults and maintaining the constitutional Government of this Country in
King, Lords, and Commons." Its programme leaves much to be desired in
the matter of style, but nothing in respect to loyalty.[104] The club
was founded by Reeves and others. Hardy notes in his memoirs that it
soon began to do much harm to the Corresponding Society.

Far aloof from this turmoil stands the solitary and inscrutable figure
of Pitt. At this time he was leading, almost with ostentation, the life
of a country gentleman, dividing his time between Holwood and Walmer
Castle. Very few of his letters of this period survive. Writing from
Walmer on 16th October to Grenville, he makes merely a verbal alteration
in an important despatch on which the latter consulted him. Indeed he
left the conduct of foreign affairs to Grenville far more fully than he
had done to the Duke of Leeds. I have found no draft of a despatch
written wholly by Pitt at the time, or indeed at the crisis that
followed. There is, however, a significant phrase in his letter to
Grenville, that, if the French retained Savoy, this would bring about a
new order of things.[105] For the most part Pitt at this time gave
himself up to rest and recreation at Walmer Castle. The charm of the sea
and of the Downs seems to have laid hold on him; for General Smith,
writing to Lord Auckland from Walmer, says that Pitt is soon in love
with the King's present and gladly spends there all the time he can
spare. Lord and Lady Chatham were with him and encouraged his passion
for that retired spot. A little later he had a flying visit from one who
was to become a devoted friend, the brilliant and versatile Earl of
Mornington. Coming over from Ramsgate and lunching at Walmer, he found
that Pitt had so far taken up with country sports as to follow the
hounds in chase of "a basketted hare."

Apart from the bad harvest and the spectre of want which crept over the
country, Pitt found little to alarm him at this time. In preparation for
the opening of Parliament, he distributed to each of his friends six
printed copies of his speech on the abatement of the Spanish armament
taxes, for the purpose of circulation in the country.[106] Clearly he
thought that the proposed economies in the public services would salve
the prevailing discontent. At the close of October the French agent,
Noël, reported to Lebrun that Pitt was not arming, and was still
inclined to hold aloof from French affairs.[107] In fact, so late as 6th
November, Grenville wrote to Auckland that on all grounds
non-intervention in continental affairs is the best policy for Great

                  *       *       *       *       *

But now a time drew near when anger was to expel calculation; when the
impulses of the populace flung aside the counsels of statesmen, and the
friends of universal peace helped to loose the dogs of war. This new
phase in the life of Europe opened up when the dense columns of
Dumouriez drove the thin lines of Austria from a strong position at
Jemappes (6th November). Mons opened its gates on the following day; and
the other towns of Belgium speedily followed suit, the French receiving
a hearty welcome everywhere. The conquest of the Belgic Provinces puffed
up the French with boundless pride mingled with contempt for the old
Governments; and these feelings awakened a formidable response in these
islands. The news of the conquest of the Pays Bas by the _sansculottes_,
received with bewilderment and disgust in Piccadilly, aroused wild hopes
among the weavers of Spitalfields. "The activity and insolence of the
French emissaries and their allies in this country have certainly
increased much with Dumouriez's success," so wrote Grenville to Auckland
on 26th November.

In these days we smile at the notion of foreign agents influencing
public opinion; but it seems certain that Chauvelin and his staff made
persistent efforts to fan the embers of discontent into a flame.[109]
Lord Sheffield declared that even the neighbourhood of Sheffield Park,
near Lewes, was thoroughly worked by French emissaries; but it is not
unlikely that landlord nervousness transfigured some wretched refugees,
on their way from the coast, into Jacobinical envoys. Certainly the town
which gave him his title was in a dangerous state. An officer stationed
there describes the joy of the men of Sheffield in celebrating
Dumouriez' victory. They roasted an ox whole, devoured it, and then
formed a procession, 10,000 strong, behind the French tricolour and a
picture which represented Dundas stabbing Liberty and Burke treading
down "the swinish multitude." He states that they were enrolled in
Corresponding Societies, had bought firearms, and were seeking to
corrupt the soldiery.[110]

Derby seems to have been equally fervid, if we may judge by the address
which on 20th November went from its branch of the Society for
Constitutional Information to the French National Convention, couched in
these terms. "It was reserved for the Gallic Republic to break the
accursed knot which has leagued Kings for ages past against the rest of
the world. Reason and Philosophy are making great strides; and precedent
and hereditary notions go fast to decline. By teaching mankind that they
are all equal in rights, you have dedicated a glorious edifice to
Liberty, which must hereafter prove the dungeon of tyrants and the
asylum of the oppressed."[111]

Still more seditious was the action of the London Corresponding Society.
On 28th November Joel Barlow and John Frost, deputed by that body,
presented an address to the French Convention, congratulating it on the
triumphs of liberty, and assured Frenchmen that innumerable societies
and clubs were springing up in England. "After the example given by
France," they said, "Revolutions will become easy. Reason is about to
make rapid progress; and it would not be extraordinary if in a much less
space of time than can be imagined, the French should send addresses of
congratulation to a National Convention of England." They then informed
the French deputies that 1,000 pairs of shoes had come from the Society
as a gift to the soldiers of liberty, and the gift would be repeated
weekly for the next six weeks. They also presented an address which
ended thus: "Other nations will soon follow your steps in this career of
improvement, and, rising from their lethargy, will arm themselves for
the purpose of claiming the Rights of Man with that all-powerful voice
which man cannot resist." Next came a deputation from the English and
Irish residents in Paris, which assured the French deputies that a
majority of the British people desired to copy their example, and that
the old Governments would soon survive merely as a memory. The three
addresses aroused immense enthusiasm, and a decree was passed for their
printing and circulation.[112]

These ecstatic praises of the Convention sounded oddly, as that body had
just been discussing a petition from several Parisians who had lately
been imprisoned without knowing why or by whom. And the Belfast address
of congratulation on the progress of religious liberty was followed by
the complaints of two members of the Convention that they had been half
drowned at Chartres for a profession of atheism.[113] But undoubtedly
these addresses by British Radicals caused exultation on both sides of
the Channel. Frenchmen believed that our people were about to overthrow
the Cabinet;[114] while the visitors returned home to trumpet forth the
triumphs of Reason and the doom of Tyranny.

Certainly the action of the French Convention seemed to assume the
speedy advent of a Jacobinical millennium. To the eye of faith the
headlong flight of the Austrians from Belgium opened up boundless vistas
of conquest, or rather, of fraternization with liberated serfs.
Consequently the month from 16th November to 15th December witnessed the
issue of four defiantly propagandist decrees. That of 16th November
enjoined on French generals the pursuit of the Austrians on to any
territory where they might find refuge--obviously a threat to the German
and Dutch States near at hand. On the same day the French deputies
decreed freedom of navigation on the estuary of the River Scheldt within
the Dutch territory, which that people had strictly controlled since the
Treaty of Münster (1648). In this connection it is well to remember that
the right of the Dutch to exclude foreigners from that estuary had been
recognized by France in five treaties signed with Great Britain since
the Peace of Utrecht. Further, by the Anglo-Dutch alliance of the year
1788, we had covenanted to uphold the rights of the Dutch in this and
other respects. Thus, the French Republic was taking upon itself to
rescind a well-established right of the Dutch Republic.

There is, however, another side to this question. The law of Nature, as
distinct from the law of nations, forbade the barring of a navigable
river to the commerce of aliens; and in this particular case the
exclusive privileges retained by the Dutch had almost strangled the
trade of Antwerp. Visitors describe the desolate aspect of the quays and
streets in a city which was clearly designed to be one of the great
marts of the world. Of this gospel of Nature, as set forth by Rousseau,
the French were the interpreters; but they would have done well to
appeal to Holland and Great Britain to abrogate this odious privilege,
adding also the assurance, formerly given by Dumouriez, that Belgium
would never become French.

Unfortunately the disinterested character of the crusade for liberty was
now belied by two additional decrees which created the worst possible
impression. On 19th November the French Convention declared its resolve
to "grant fraternity and assistance to all people who wish to recover
their liberty," and further ordered its generals to give effect to this
decree. Eight days later it rescinded the former resolution, that France
would make no conquests, by ordering the incorporation of Savoy in the
French Republic. The priest Grégoire was equal to the task of proving
that this involved no contradiction of the former principle, because the
Savoyards wished to join France and Nature herself had proclaimed the
desirability of union. By the same patriotic logic France could
rightfully absorb all parts of the Continent where Jacobins abounded and
natural frontiers were lacking.

These decrees brought about an entirely new situation. The annexation of
Savoy furnished a practical commentary on the airy proposals announced
on 16th and 19th November; but these alone were sufficient to cause Pitt
and Grenville the deepest concern. On the 27th the latter wrote to
Auckland at The Hague in terms which show his conviction that France
meant to revolutionize the Dutch Republic, and also, if possible, Great
Britain. Respecting the decrees of the 16th and 19th he wrote: "The
whole is a concerted plan to drive us to extremities, with a view of
producing an impression in the interior of the country."[115] That is,
he believed the Convention to be set on forcing England either to
declare war, or to give way disgracefully; and in either case the result
would be an increase of seditious feeling in these islands. This
continued to be his view. For on 4th December, after reading the
seditious addresses of the English societies to the Convention, he wrote
again to Auckland that the French evidently relied on the malcontents
both in England and Holland to paralyse the Governments; and, he added,
"This is above all others a reason for firmness in the present moment,
and for resisting, while the power of resistance is yet in our hands.
For the success of their unfounded claims would not only give rise to
new pretensions, but would give them additional influence."[116] Pitt's
views were the same, though he stated them more firmly and not as an
alarmist. On 9th December he wrote to the Earl of Westmorland, Lord
Lieutenant of Ireland, that the gross disregard of treaties shown of
late by France, her encouragement of the spirit of revolt in all lands,
and her public reception of addresses from English societies, "full of
treasonable sentiments," compelled the Government, though very
reluctantly, to add to the armed forces. He added these words: "I am
clear that the circumstances require vigour and decision both at home
and abroad. And the spirit of the country seems within these last ten
days to have taken so favourable a turn that I think we may look with
great confidence to the event."[117] Thus Pitt and Grenville equally
felt the need of firmness in resisting the French decrees, partly
because of their aggressive and illegal nature, but also because
surrender would inflate the spirits of British malcontents.

Current events served to strengthen this opinion. France had hitherto
won all the points of the game by sheer audacity. Everywhere she had
attacked, and everywhere she had found unexpected weakness. Custine's
army had extorted a forced loan from Frankfurt. Dumouriez was
threatening Aix-la-Chapelle on the east, and the Dutch on the north. The
spirit which animated the French Foreign Office appears in the letter
which Lebrun, its chief, wrote to Dumouriez on 22nd November: "To the
glory of having freed the Belgian Catholics, I hope you will join that
of delivering their Batavian brothers from the yoke of the
Stadholder."[118] There can be no doubt that the general laid his plans
for that purpose, though he also sent pacific overtures to Auckland at
The Hague.[119]

To crown the indignation of royalists, there came the tidings that on
3rd December the French Convention decreed the trial of Louis XVI for
high treason against the nation. The news aroused furious resentment;
but it is noteworthy that Pitt and Grenville rarely, if ever, referred
to this event; and that, before it was known, they had declared the
impossibility of avoiding a rupture with the French Government if it
persisted in adhering to the November decrees. On this question the
final court of appeal is the despatches and letters of our Ministers. An
examination of them discloses the reasons for their firmness. On 13th
November, when the evacuation of Brussels by the Austrians was known,
Ministers assured the Dutch Government that they would oppose a French
invasion of Holland. They charged Auckland to declare that His Majesty
had "no hesitation as to the propriety of his assisting the Dutch
Republic as circumstances might require, against any attempt on the part
of any other Power to invade its dominions or to disturb its
Government." This declaration was to be published in order to discourage
the plots of the Dutch "Patriots," and to warn the French Government and
its general of the danger of a hostile advance. Auckland replied on 16th
November: "It is impossible to convey to Your Lordships an adequate
sense of the impression made by this voluntary declaration of His
Majesty's sentiments and intentions respecting the Republic on the
occasion of the present crisis. The generosity of this measure, which in
a few hours was generally known, and which to-morrow will be circulated
on the Continent in the newspapers of the Republic, is acknowledged by
everyone." The Prince of Orange at once wrote to thank the King for this
proof of his friendship, and added the suggestion that the anchoring of
a British squadron in the Downs would, more than anything else, tend to
"hold in check our enemies."[120]

Pitt and Grenville did not comply with this last request; and the
British declaration itself came just two days too late to give pause to
the National Convention, before it published the decree on the opening
of the Scheldt. Possibly in the days of telegraphs the warning would
have been flashed from The Hague to Paris in time. As it was, both
Powers publicly committed themselves on the same day to opposite courses
of action from which pride or conviction forbade them to recede. So
narrow sometimes is the space that at first divides the paths leading
towards peace and war.

The concern of Pitt and Grenville at the French conquest of Belgium
appears in their instructions to Stratton, our _chargé d'affaires_ at
Vienna, to confer with the Austrian Chancellor, Cobenzl, on the
threatening situation, setting forth the desire of George III to
contribute to the tranquillity of all the States of Europe. In his reply
of 22nd December Cobenzl declared that Austria and Prussia must have
indemnities for their expenses in the war, the restoration of monarchy
at Paris being another essential to a settlement.[121] These statements
were most discouraging: the former pointed to a speedy partition of
Poland; and the forcible restoration of the Bourbons was at this time
wholly repugnant to the feelings of Pitt.

Meanwhile the prospect of war with France had become far more
threatening. The decree of 16th November on the Scheldt, and that of
19th November on helping foreign malcontents, were a direct defiance to
all neighbouring States, and especially to Great Britain and Holland. In
the latter country the Patriots were, as in 1787, actively helped from
Paris, and threatened the existence of the Orange _régime_, of which we
were the guarantors. Moreover, the opening of the Scheldt was a serious
blow to Dutch commerce. Sir James Harris, writing from The Hague in
December 1784, when this very question brought Joseph II to the brink of
war with Holland, quoted the declaration of the Grand Pensionary, that
the Dutch ought to spend their last florin "rather than submit to so
destructive and humiliating a measure as the opening of the
Scheldt."[122] The effusive thanks of the Dutch when the Court of
Versailles opposed the demand of Joseph II, shows that they looked on
the control of that estuary as vital to their interests. This question
was brought to an issue on 23rd November, when French gunboats entered
the Scheldt, and, despite the fire of the Dutch guardship, made their
way up the river in order to assist in the reduction of the citadel of
Antwerp. The senior captain of the gunboats announced that he did this
by order of Dumouriez. On 8th December seven French ships sailed up to
that city, the first since the Treaty of Münster.

The affair of the Scheldt was not the only cause of alarm. The Dutch
authorities managed to get a copy of a secret letter (dated 20th
November) from Dumouriez to Maulde, French envoy at The Hague, in which
he assured him that he would do his best to keep him in that post
(despite the ill will of the Paris Government); for he had much need of
him for certain negotiations. He added these words: "I count on carrying
liberty to the Batavians (Dutch) as I have done to the Belgians; also
that the Revolution will take place in Holland so that things will
return to the state they were in 1788." The Dutch Government gave a copy
of this letter to Auckland, who forwarded it to Grenville on 23rd
November. It reached Whitehall three days later. Curiously enough,
Grenville did not hear of the French decree for the opening of the
Scheldt until 26th November. But on that day he wrote to Auckland a
despatch which shows his conviction that France meant to force us into
war, and that the chief question for Great Britain and Holland now
was--when should hostilities begin? Clearly, then, Grenville, and
probably Pitt, regarded a rupture with France as unavoidable, unless she
revoked the aggressive decrees. Nevertheless they decided to send a
special envoy to Paris, and drew up rough drafts undated and addressed
to some person unnamed, bidding him make careful inquiries into the
state of affairs at that capital.

We cannot wonder that Pitt took a gloomy view of things; for on 24th
November a "moderate" member of the French Convention proposed an
addition to the decree of 19th November (offering help to malcontents in
other States), so as to limit it to nations with which France was at
war. This proposal--obviously designed to soothe the apprehensions of
Pitt--displeased the "patriotic" majority, which disposed of it by
carrying the "previous question." After this the decree of 19th November
could no longer be treated as a meaningless effervescence of Gallic
enthusiasm; and, when taken with the disloyal addresses presented by
certain English clubs on 28th November, its reaffirmation produced the
worst possible impression.

On the 29th, Nagel, the Dutch envoy in London, proffered a formal appeal
for help, in addition to requests which he had made to Grenville a few
days before. He further begged him to order the assembling of a squadron
at the Downs, or at Gravesend, so as to assist the Dutch speedily, if
need arose.[123] Meanwhile our allies (as usually happens with small
States in presence of danger) sought to temporize; and herein, as also
in the caution of Pitt and Grenville, lay the reason why war did not
break out at once. No one can peruse the despatches of our Ministers
without seeing that they considered war inevitable, unless the French
retracted the obnoxious decrees. It is well to notice that at this time
the question of the trial of Louis XVI had not come up for
consideration. The dispute turned solely on the frontier rights of the
Dutch, which Pitt and his colleagues believed to be violated by France,
and which we were in honour bound to vindicate.

On 1st December, then, came the first of those precautionary measures
which not seldom precipitate the conflict they are designed to avert.
The Cabinet issued a royal proclamation, calling out part of the
militia. Ministers took this step partly as a retort to the seditious
addresses of English Radical clubs to the French Convention,[124] partly
in order to repress tumults. There had been rioting in a few towns, and
the reports from Scotland were alarming. On 22nd November Dundas,
writing to Pitt from Melville Castle, N.B., stated that sedition had
spread rapidly of late in Scotland, and he estimated that five regiments
would be needed to hold down Dundee, Perth, and Montrose. He added that
the clergy of the Established Church and their following were loyal, the
others far otherwise.[125]

Still worse was the news from Ireland. Early in 1792 the Dublin
Parliament repealed one or two of the most odious statutes against Roman
Catholics; but later in the year contumeliously rejected their petition
for the franchise. Consequently the mass of Irishmen was ready to join
the Society of United Irishmen, a formidable association founded in
Ulster in 1791 by Wolfe Tone. This able young lawyer, fired with zeal
for the French Revolution, conceived the statesmanlike notion of banding
together both Presbyterians and Catholics in a national movement against
the exclusive and dominant English caste. The conduct of the Dublin
Parliament made his dream a reality. At once the ultra-Protestant
traders of the North clasped hands with the Catholic gentry and peasants
of the Centre and South. This unheard-of union was destined to lead Pitt
on to a legislative experiment which will concern us later. Here we may
notice that the clubs of Irish malcontents proceeded to act on a plan
already mooted in the English societies, that of sending delegates to
form a National Convention in Dublin. The aim was to constitute a body
far more national than the corrupt Protestant clique that sat in
Parliament, and, after overawing that body, to sunder the connection
with England. The precedent set by the Ulster Volunteers in their
meeting at Dungannon in 1782 warranted the hope of an even completer
triumph than was then secured. The correspondence that passed between
Pitt and the Lord-Lieutenant, Westmorland, reveals the concern which
they felt at the news. Pitt advised the early meeting of the Dublin
Parliament, the proposal of concessions sufficient to allay discontent,
and a determined resistance to all attempts at intimidation. He also
suggested the keeping a close watch on the importation of arms, and
levying a Militia if it were practicable.[126] In reply Westmorland
stated (1st December) that the manifesto of a meeting of United Irishmen
in Dublin was most threatening, and that the "French mania" was
spreading everywhere. He added: "Belfast is, as always, noisy and
republican; but not above 200 or 300 Volunteers are there."[127] It
seems probable that the embodying of the Militia in Great Britain was
partly with the view of enabling a few regular regiments to proceed to

While taking these precautionary measures, Pitt and Grenville adopted a
tone far from unfriendly to the French envoy. Earlier in the autumn
Grenville refused to see Chauvelin on the ground that the French
Government which sent him no longer existed. But after some
_pourparlers_ he consented to receive him on 29th November. With his
usual _hauteur_ he prepared to teach the ex-Marquis his place from the
outset. He placed for him a stiff small chair; but the envoy quickly
repelled the slight and vindicated the honour of the Republic by
occupying the largest arm-chair available. After this preliminary
skirmish things went more smoothly; but only the briefest summary of
their conversation can be given here. Chauvelin assured Grenville of the
desire of France to respect the neutrality of the Dutch, though they had
fired on two French vessels entering the Scheldt. The opening of that
river, he said, was a right decreed by Nature, and confirmed to France
by the conquest of Brabant--a point which he pressed Grenville to
concede. He then charged England with unfriendly conduct in other
respects. In reply Grenville said that he welcomed this informal
explanation, but he declined to give any assurance on the Scheldt
affair. If (said he) France and England were not on good terms, it was
not the fault of the latter Power, which had consistently remained
neutral but declined to allow the rights of its Allies to be

Equally firm, though more affable, was the behaviour of Pitt in an
interview of 2nd December with a Frenchman who was destined to become
Foreign Minister under Napoleon. Maret, the future Duc de Bassano, at
this time made a very informal _début_ on the stage of diplomacy.
Despite many statements to the contrary it is certain that he had no
official position in England. He came here merely in order to look after
the affairs of the Duke of Orleans, especially to bring back his
daughter, who had for some time resided in Suffolk with Mme. de Genlis
and "Pamela." Maret's own words to Miles are decisive on this point: "I
was not a secret agent; I had no authority to treat, nor had I any
mission; and in declaring this to Mr. Pitt and to you I said nothing but
the truth."[129] With characteristic mendacity Lebrun afterwards
informed the Convention that Maret was a secret agent and that Pitt had
requested an interview with him. The interview came about owing to the
exertions of William Smith, M.P., a well-intentioned Whig, who hoped
much from an informal conversation between Pitt and one of the head
clerks of the French Foreign Office. Chauvelin viewed it with jealousy,
it being his aim to represent Maret as an emissary to the British and
Irish malcontents.[130] Pitt, when he granted the interview, cannot have
known of this, or of the design of Lebrun ultimately to foist Maret into
the place of Morgues at the French Embassy. Accordingly he welcomed
Maret cordially. No tactical skirmish about chairs took place, and Maret
afterwards declared that the great Minister behaved affably throughout,
brightening his converse at times by a smile. As the personality of the
two statesmen and the gravity of the crisis invest this interview with
unique interest, Pitt's account of it, which is in the Pretyman MSS.,
must be given almost in full.

    He [Maret] expressed his regret at the distant and suspicious
    terms on which England and France appeared to stand, his
    readiness to give me any _éclaircissement_ he could, and his
    belief that the present French Government would be very glad if
    means could be found by private agents, with no official
    character, to set on foot a friendly explanation.

    I told him that, if they were desirous of such an explanation,
    it seemed to me much to be wished under the critical
    circumstances; as we might by conversing freely learn whether it
    was possible to avoid those extremities which we should very
    much regret but which seemed from what we saw of the conduct and
    designs of France to be fast approaching; and I then mentioned
    to him distinctly that the resolution announced respecting the
    Scheldt was considered as proof of an intention to proceed to a
    rupture with Holland; that a rupture with Holland on this ground
    or any other injurious to their rights, must also lead to an
    immediate rupture with this country; and that altho' we should
    deeply regret the event and were really desirous of preserving,
    if possible, the neutrality to which we had hitherto adhered, we
    were fully determined, if the case arose, to give our utmost
    support to our ally.

    His answer was that he hoped nothing of the sort would happen;
    that he believed there was no design of proceeding to
    hostilities against Holland; and that it was much the wish of
    the French Government to be on good terms with this country;
    that they wished to _ménager l'Angleterre_, and therefore to
    _ménager l'Hollande_; that these were the sentiments of M. le
    Brun when he left Paris about 3 weeks ago; that he believed them
    to be those of M. Dumouriez; and that, from the despatches of M.
    Chauvelin, which he had seen while here, he believed they
    continued to be those of the _Conseil Exécutif_; that he thought
    a confidential explanation on this subject very desirable; and
    would either go to Paris or write to M. le Brun, to state what
    had passed in our conversation, and that he was persuaded they
    would be disposed to [send?] some other person here to enter
    privately into negotiations upon it. He afterwards dropped an
    idea that some difficulty might perhaps arise from the _Conseil
    Exécutif_ feeling itself pressed by the weight of public opinion
    to propose to us to receive some person here in a formal
    character. To this I observed that the circumstances would by no
    means admit of any formal communication, and that they would
    certainly see the necessity of avoiding the difficulties which
    must arise from such a proposal, if they were sincere in wishing
    an explanation with a view to remove obstacles.

    Towards the end of the conversation, on his repeating his belief
    that it would be the wish of the French Government to have such
    an explanation and to remove, if possible, the grounds of
    misunderstanding, I remarked to him that, if this was really
    desired, there was another point which must be attended to--that
    he must have seen the impression made here by the decree in
    France avowing a design of endeavouring to extend their
    principles of government by raising disturbances in other
    countries; that, while this was professed or attempted, and till
    we had full security on this point, no explanation could answer
    its purpose, and that such a conduct must be considered as an
    act of hostility to neutral nations. He answered that he knew
    the impression which this circumstance produced, and had seen
    the decree I mentioned with consternation; that he believed it
    passed only in a moment of fermentation and went beyond what was
    intended; that it could be meant only against nations at war,
    and was considered as one way of carrying on war against them;
    that he believed it was not conformable to the sentiments of the
    _Conseil Exécutif_, and that they might possibly find means to
    revise it. To this I said that, whatever were the sentiments of
    the _Conseil Exécutif_, the decree, as it stood, might justly be
    considered by any neutral nation as an act of hostility. He
    concluded by saying that he would immediately send to M. le Brun
    an account of what had passed, which he hoped might lead to
    happy consequences.

Maret prefaced his report of this interview by assuring Lebrun that Pitt
was decidedly in favour of peace, and in fact dreaded war more than the
Whig aristocrats; but, he added, Lord Hawkesbury and the majority of
Ministers were for war--a somewhat doubtful statement. Maret's
description of the interview is graphic but far from complete. He
reported Pitt's gracious effort to minimize the difficulties of form
arising from the lapse of official relations between France and England.
But (he wrote) the Minister's brow darkened at the mention of the names
of Noël and Chauvelin; and he finally suggested that Maret should be the
accredited French agent at London.[131]

Pitt's account does not name these personal details, and it lays more
stress on the difficulties caused by the French decrees opening the
Scheldt and offering help to malcontents. We must further remember that
Maret's words of warning to his compatriots on the latter subject were
suppressed in the version published at Paris, which therefore gave the
impression that Pitt was not deeply moved by recent events. This
_suppressio veri_ partly accounts for the persistence of the French
deputies in their resolves, which prevented the friendly explanations
undoubtedly desired by Pitt and Maret.

Bad news also came in from The Hague, to the effect that the French were
demanding a passage through the Dutch fortress of Maestricht. These
tidings caused the worst impression. Grenville wrote in reply to
Auckland on 4th December. "The conduct of the French in all their late
proceedings appears to His Majesty's servants to indicate a fixed and
settled design of hostility against this country and the [Dutch]
Republic." Equally threatening were "their almost undisguised attempts
now making to excite insurrection here and in Holland." Consequently His
Majesty had decided to arm in self defence, and he hoped that the Dutch
would firmly repel all attempts derogatory to their neutrality. The King
(he added), while taking these precautionary measures, would not omit
such steps as might lead to friendly explanations with France through
the private agents of that Government; but no ambassador would be
received.[132] Pitt and Grenville set little store by the soothing
explanations of Dumouriez and his friend, Maulde, who had made overtures
to Auckland which met with a guarded but not unfavourable response. On
their renewal, Auckland received them coldly, remarking that the whole
situation was changed by the late violent decrees of the French
Convention. At that time, too, the friendly Maulde was recalled and
replaced by Tainville, "a professed Jacobin with brutal manners and
evident indiscretion,"[133] Thus faded away the last faint hopes in that

Equally sombre was the outlook at Paris. The pacific reports sent by
Maret and Maulde from London and The Hague were before the French
Ministers at their meeting on 5th December. They had also the benefit of
a lucid and suggestive _Mémoire_ sent by Talleyrand from London a week
earlier, setting forth the desirability of a friendly understanding
between the two free peoples, who, advancing hand in hand, might give
liberty to backward peoples (especially Spanish America), and draw
thence boundless benefits. It was the plan which Dumouriez and he had
drawn up in the spring of that year. Probably the Executive Council took
no notice of it; for certain papers found in the iron chest at the
Tuileries cast doubts on the purity of Talleyrand's patriotism. Further,
as Pache, Minister at War, hated Dumouriez, personal bias told strongly
against the moderate proposals coming from London and The Hague.
Nevertheless the Executive Council now decided to defer for the present
the invasion of Holland, meanwhile chasing the Austrians beyond the
Rhine, and fortifying Antwerp. The last step was declared not to
infringe the principles of the Republic, "which oppose the spirit of

Obviously there was nothing to prevent the same liberal adaptation of
these principles to Belgium as Grégoire had proposed for the welfare of
the Savoyards. A few deputations of the liberated people, asking for
union with France, would enable some equally skilful dialectician to
discover that Belgium was naturally a part of the Republic. For the
present, however, the Belgians sent a deputation to demand unconditional
independence; and it taxed the ingenuity even of Barère, then President
of the Convention, to waive aside that request, with airy phrases as to
the alliance of the two peoples emanating from the hands of Nature
herself (4th December).[134]

Pitt cannot have heard of the French Cabinet's decision of 5th December,
but he must have read of the ambiguous treatment of the Belgians at the
bar of the Convention the day previously. It had long been a maxim at
Whitehall that the Pays Bas must never go to France. To prevent such a
disaster England had poured forth blood and treasure for more than a
century. Pitt's resolve two years before, to maintain Austrian authority
in those provinces, had deeply offended Prussia. Now he and Grenville
turned to the Court of Vienna, and on 7th December made friendly
overtures to Stadion, Austrian ambassador at London.[135] Thus, the
French menace ended the long period of estrangement between Great
Britain and Austria, though, as will duly appear, mutual confidence took
root very slowly.

On 9th December Lebrun sent off an important despatch to Chauvelin. With
respect to the decree of 19th November, it stated that France would
never demean herself by assisting rioters, but would respond to the
"general will" of a people that desired to break its chains. Further,
France could not reverse her decision concerning the Scheldt. She would
not revolutionize Holland, but she expected Great Britain not to
intervene in support of a constitution which the Dutch considered
"vicious and destructive of their interests." Finally, the French
Government could not recognize the guarantees of the Dutch constitution
undertaken by England and Prussia in 1788.[136] On the same day Lebrun
sent a message to Maret, who was still in London, adverting in ironical
terms to the military preparations in England, at which the French would
feel no alarm, and insinuating that the doctrines of liberty were making
rapid progress there. As to negotiations, the only bases on which they
could proceed were the recognition of the Republic, and the refusal of
the French Cabinet to treat except by a fully accredited envoy.

On receipt of this letter on the 14th, Maret at once showed it to Miles,
who urged him to request an immediate interview with the Prime Minister.
This was accorded, and at 8 p.m. of that day, Maret met Pitt again. I
have found no account of this interview. All we know is that it was
short and depressing. Maret had to impart the unwelcome news that all
the communications to the French Government must pass through the hands
of Chauvelin--a personal triumph for that envoy. Pitt on his side
declined to give any answer on the subject of Maret's communication, or
on that of receiving Chauvelin.[137] We can imagine that under that
stiff and cold exterior the Prime Minister concealed deep agitation; for
the determination of the French rigidly to adhere to their decrees, to
force Chauvelin upon the British Government, and to require the
recognition of the French Republic, meant war.


[83] Aulard, "La Rév. Franç.," 270-2.

[84] "Dropmore P.," ii, 291.

[85] "Bland Burges P.," 207, 211.

[86] Dumont, "Souvenirs"; Bulwer Lytton, "Hist. Characters"

[87] W. A. Miles, "Corresp.," i, 349-51; Sorel, iii, 18-20.

[88] Burke, "Corresp.," iv, 7.

[89] Sorel, iii, 139.

[90] Carlyle, "Fr. Rev.," iii, bk. i, ch. vi.

[91] "Mems. of Romilly," i, 351, 352.

[92] "Dropmore P.," ii, 318.

[93] "H. O.," Geo. III (Domestic), 19, 20.

[94] _Ibid._ In all, 3,772 French refugees landed in September 1792
("Ann. Reg." 39). The first subscription for them realized £1,468. Burke
gave £20.

[95] "H. O.," Geo. III (Domestic), 21; Twiss, "Life of Lord Eldon," i,
218; "Bland Burges P.," 203. Our agent, Munro, on 17th December 1792
reported from Paris: "Dr. Maxwell has at last obtained a company in the
French service, and I understand is soon to leave this to join the army"
(Gower's "Despatches," 260). Mr. Elgar has not been able to trace him

[96] Massey, iv, 45. This was said to be spoken to Bland Burges; but the
papers of the latter (p. 204) contain no reference to it.

[97] "H. O.," Geo. III (Domestic), 21.

[98] _Ibid._

[99] "H. O.," Geo. III (Domestic), 21.

[100] Miles ("Corresp.," 333) states that the editors of the "Argus" and
"Morning Chronicle" were regularly paid by the French Embassy and were
often there.

[101] "Bland Burges P.," 227-9.

[102] Virgil, "Georgics," i, 463-5. "Who would dare call the sun a liar?
In truth, he often warns of the approach of hidden seditions and of the
swellings of treachery and strifes yet unseen."

[103] "F. O.," France, 40.

[104] "H. O.," Geo. III (Domestic), 22.

[105] "Dropmore P.," ii, 322.

[106] "Auckland Journals," ii, 449, 455; "Dropmore P.," ii, 324.

[107] Sorel, iii, 143.

[108] "Auckland Journals," ii, 465.

[109] On 24th November Noël wrote from London to Lebrun: "Tous les
symptômes annoncent que les mouvements révolutionnaires ne peuvent être
éloignés." Quoted by Sorel, iii, 214. See, too, Ernouf's "Maret," p. 84.

[110] "Auckland Journals," ii, 481. Tomline, iii, 458, 459. Burke's
unfortunate phrase in the "Reflections": "Learning will be cast into the
mire and trodden down under the hoofs of a swinish multitude."

[111] B.M. Place MSS., vol. entitled "Libel, Sedition, Treason,

[112] "Moniteur," 29th November 1792.

[113] "Residence in France in 1792-5," by an English Lady, i, 190-2.

[114] Auckland says ("Journals," ii, 473) he has seen Paris bulletins
and letters which counted absolutely on a revolt in England.

[115] "Dropmore P.," ii, 344. Grenville to Auckland, 27th November.

[116] _Ibid._, 351-2.

[117] Salomon, "Pitt," 599.

[118] Rojas, "Miranda dans la Rév. Franç.," 3-4.

[119] "Dropmore P.," ii, 339, 341, 343; "Auckland Journals," ii, 471;
Lecky, vi, 70-4.

[120] "F. O.," Holland, 20.

[121] "F. O.," Austria, 31, 32. See, too, Vivenot, ii, 446, 447.

[122] "Malmesbury Diaries," ii, 89, 90.

[123] "Malmesbury Diaries," ii, 89, 90. This despatch, and the letter of
the Prince of Orange referred to above, correct the statement of Mr.
Browning ("Varennes," etc., 191) and Mr. Hammond ("Fox," 257), that the
Dutch did not call upon us for help. This was asserted by Lord Lansdowne
on 21st December, but his information was unofficial and is refuted by
that given above.

[124] Marsh, "Politics of Great Britain and France," i, 260-2. The
militia were not called out in Surrey, Herts, Berks, and Bucks
("Dropmore P.," ii, 348).

[125] Pretyman MSS.

[126] Pitt to Westmorland, 14th October and 18th November 1792, in
Salomon, "Pitt" (App.); "Dropmore P.," ii, 318, 320-3, 328, 330, 333,
336; "Mems. of Lord Ed. Fitzgerald," 155-60.

[127] Pretyman MSS.

[128] "F. O.," France, 40. For Grenville's account of the interview, see
"Pitt and Napoleon Miscellanies."

[129] Miles, "Correspondence," ii, 46; see, too, Ernouf, "Maret," 89,
95. This corrects the mis-statement of Lecky (vi, 94) on this topic.

[130] Ernouf, "Maret," 90.

[131] "Ann. Reg." (1792), 190-3; Ernouf, "Maret," 94-8.

[132] "F. O.," Holland, 41; B.M. Add. MSS., 34446. Grenville to
Auckland, 4th December.

[133] "F. O.," Holland, 42. Auckland to Grenville, 7th and 8th December
1792. See, too, Miles, "Correspondence," i, 382; Sorel, iii, 224.

[134] Sorel, iii, 204, 224.

[135] Vivenot, ii, 393.

[136] Sorel, iii, 225, 226.

[137] Miles, "Corresp.," i, 388, 389.



    La guerre aux rois était la conséquence naturelle du procès fait
    au roi de France; la propagande conquérante devait être liée au

The opening of Parliament on 13th December 1792 took place amidst
circumstances that were depressing to friends of peace. Affairs were
gyrating in a vicious circle. Diplomacy, as we have seen, had come to a
deadlock; but more threatening even than the dispute between Pitt and
Lebrun were the rising passions of the two peoples. The republican
ferment at Paris had worked all the more strongly since 20th November,
the date of the discovery of the iron chest containing proofs of the
anti-national intrigues of the King and Queen. Hence the decree (3rd
December) for the trial of Louis XVI at the bar of the Convention with
its inevitable sequel, the heating of royalist passion in all
neighbouring lands. It is one of the many mishaps of the revolutionary
movement that its enthusiasm finally aroused an opposite enthusiasm, its
fury begot fury, and thus set in a series of cyclones which scarcely
spent their force even at Waterloo.

An essentially philosophic movement at the outset, the French Revolution
was now guided by demagogues and adventurers, whose only hope of keeping
erect lay in constant and convulsive efforts forwards. Worst symptom of
all, its armies already bade fair to play the part of the Praetorians of
the later Roman Empire. Nothing is more singular at this time than the
fear of the troops. Amidst the distress prevalent at Paris, much
apprehension was felt at the return of the armies of Custine and
Dumouriez. In part, of course, this uneasiness arose from a suspicion
that these men, especially the latter, might take up the _rôle_ of Monk
and save Louis. But a member of the French Convention assured Miles that
the disbanding of those tumultuary forces would bring on a social

    War, [he wrote on 9th December] is to a certain extent
    inevitable, not so much for the purpose of opening the Scheldt,
    for that is rather a pretext in order to animate the people and
    preserve their enthusiasm, but to get rid of 300,000 armed
    vagabonds, who can never be allowed to return without evident
    risk to the Convention and Executive Council.... It is her
    opinion [Madame Roland's] and mine that we cannot make peace
    with the Emperor without danger to the Republic, and that it
    would be hazardous to recall an army, flushed with victory and
    impatient to gather fresh laurels, into the heart of a country
    whose commerce and manufactures have lost their activity, and
    which would leave the disbanded multitude without resources or

These words are noteworthy; for they show that prudential or party
motives led some at least of the Girondins, formerly friends of England,
to desire an extension of the war.

In England, too, the war spirit was rising. The traditional loyalty of
the land had been strengthened by the tactful behaviour of George III
since Pitt's accession to power. These feelings warmed to a steady glow
at the time of the King's illness in 1788-9; and now the trial of
Louis XVI, albeit on grounds which Britons could not understand, seemed
an act of contemptible cruelty. To bring Louis from Versailles to Paris,
to load him with indignities at the Tuileries, to stop his despairing
bolt for freedom, to compass his downfall, to attack him in his palace
and massacre his defenders, to depose him, and now to try him for his
life for the crime of helping on his would-be deliverers, appeared to a
nation of sportsmen a series of odious outrages on the laws of fair
play. The action of certain Radical Clubs in sending addresses of
congratulation to the National Convention also aroused deep disgust; and
(as Bland Burges wrote to Auckland on 18th December) Loyal Associations
sprang up on all sides.[139] A typical address was sent by the Dover
Association to Pitt, as Lord Warden, on 19th December, asking for
permission to take arms in defence of King and Constitution against
invaders from without or levellers within.[140] The example was widely
followed; and thus, as usually happens in this land, the puny
preparations of Government were helped on by the eager exertions of the

The revulsion in public opinion early in December was so marked as to
impress even Chauvelin. He warned Lebrun that within a month the English
had so changed as scarcely to be recognizable; but he added: "Pitt seems
to have killed public opinion in England." A conversation which Sheridan
had with him on 7th December ought to have disproved this fable. The
Whig orator sternly reprobated the French decree of 19th November,
offering aid to malcontents, and stated that the Opposition desired
peace with France, but not if she attacked Holland. Nine-tenths of the
people would resent any attempt to interfere with England or her Allies.

This patriotic utterance of Sheridan expressed the feelings of a large
part of the Whig Opposition. Parliament on 13th December showed marked
approval of the King's Speech, which, while affirming his peaceful
intentions, asserted his resolve to strengthen the forces. Lansdowne and
Stanhope struck a few jarring notes; but in the Commons the Opposition
was almost paralysed by a split between the New and Old Whigs. At a
meeting of the party, held on 11th December at Burlington House, the
majority decided to support the Government. Indeed Parliament would
probably have presented a united front but for the action of Lansdowne,
Stanhope, and Fox. Much depended on the conduct of the great orator at
this crisis. A warning uttered by him to French Republicans might have
had the most salutary effect. Unfortunately his conduct was such as to
impair the unity of English sentiment and thereby to encourage the
delusions of the men in power at Paris. In the meeting on 11th December
he asserted that there was no fear of a revolt (in which he was
doubtless correct) and that the calling out of the Militia was a mere
trick, which he would strenuously oppose. He admitted that we must
support the Dutch if they were attacked, and disapproved of the French
decree respecting the Scheldt, but strongly deprecated war on that
account. On the 12th he threw caution to the winds, and stated with an
oath that there was no address that Pitt could frame on which he would
not propose an amendment and divide the House.[141] This is party spirit
run mad; but it was in that spirit that Fox went to the House on the

There he made one of his finest flights of oratory. None of his speeches
excels it in beauty of diction and matchless energy of thought. Most
forcible was the passage in which he derided the ministerial maxim that
the canon of English laws and liberties was complete; that we might
thenceforth stand still, and call upon a wondering world to admire it as
a model of human perfection. Even more biting were his taunts at
Ministers for seeking to stamp out the discontent which their injustice
and violence had created.

    You have gone upon the principles of slavery in all your
    proceedings; you neglect in your conduct the foundation of all
    legitimate government, the rights of the people; and, setting up
    this bugbear, you spread a panic for the very purpose of
    sanctifying this infringement, while again the very infringement
    engenders the evil which you dread. One extreme naturally leads
    to another. Those who dread republicanism fly for shelter to the
    Crown. Those who desire Reform and are calumniated are driven by
    despair to republicanism. And this is the evil that I dread.
    These are the extremes into which these violent agitations hurry
    the people, to the decrease of that middle order of men who
    shudder as much at republicanism on the one hand as they do at
    despotism on the other.[142]

He then taunted Ministers with abandoning Poland and not opposing the
coalition of Austria and Prussia, and asserted that the Cabinet refused
to negotiate with France because she was a Republic, and her Ministers
had not been anointed with the holy oil of Rheims. The weakest part of
the speech was that which dealt with the existing crisis. For of what
use was it to point out where Ministers had gone astray months and years
before, if he did not now mark out for them a practicable course? In
truth, though the prince of debaters, Fox lacked self-restraint, balance
of judgement, and practical sagacity. The sole important issue was the
encouraging of the peace party at Paris, with a view to the revocation
of the aggressive decrees of the Convention. In private, Fox had
admitted that they were wholly indefensible; and yet, in order to snatch
an oratorical triumph, he fired off a diatribe which could not but
stiffen the necks of the French Jacobins. At such a crisis the true
statesman merges the partisan in the patriot and says not a word to
weaken his own Government and hearten its opponents. To this height of
self-denial Fox rarely rose; and the judgement alike of his fellows and
of posterity has pronounced this speech a masterpiece of partisan
invective and of political fatuity.

For how was it possible to recognize the French Republic until it had
withdrawn its threats to existing Governments? Pitt had reason to
believe that a firm protest against the aggressive decrees of November
was the only means of averting an overturn of international law. He took
the proper means of protesting against them, and his protest was
disregarded. In such a case, to recognize a revolutionary Government
which had just proclaimed its sympathy with malcontents and its resolve
to dictate terms to our Dutch allies, would have been a sign of
weakness. There was but one chance of peace, namely, that Parliament
should give so overwhelming a support to Pitt and Grenville as to
convince the tyros at Paris that they had to do, not with a clique, but
a nation. This unanimity the efforts of Fox impaired. Some of his
friends voted with him from a sense of personal regard; but the greater
number passed over to the Government or did not vote. Consequently the
Foxites mustered 50 votes against 290.

Equally inopportune was his motion of 15th December, for sending a
Minister to Paris to treat with that Government. His knowledge of all
that went on at the French Embassy in Portman Square was so exact
(witness his repetition publicly on the 13th of the very words of one of
Lebrun's despatches to Chauvelin),[143] that he must have known of the
informal communications between Pitt and Maret, and of the arrival on
the 14th of despatches from Paris, which negatived the requests of the
Prime Minister. Doubtless it was this last circumstance which curtailed
and weakened Fox's second speech. Grey, Erskine, and Whitbread
vigorously supported the motion; but there was a general feeling that
the despatch of an ambassador to Paris would be a weak acquiescence in
the French claims. The motion was therefore negatived. Pitt was not
present at these first debates, not having yet been re-elected by the
University of Cambridge after his recent acceptance of the Lord
Wardenship of the Cinque Ports. The defence of the Government therefore
devolved chiefly upon Dundas, Windham, and Burke--a significant
conjunction of names. On 16th December Burke for the first time took his
seat on the Treasury Bench.

A national party might now have been formed but for the inaction of the
Duke of Portland. During the meetings at his mansion, Burlington House,
he evinced strong disapproval of the views of Fox; and, as official
leader of the Whigs, he had it in his power to bring nearly the whole of
the party over to the Government side. From this course, which would
have placed country above party, the Duke shrank; and his followers were
left to sort themselves at will. There was a general expectation that
Portland would publicly declare against Fox; but friendship or timidity
held him tongue-tied. Malmesbury sought to waken him from his "trance,"
but in vain.[144] He lay under "the wand of the magician" (Pitt's phrase
for the witchery that Fox exerted), even when so staunch a Whig as Sir
Gilbert Elliot saw that the wizard's enchantments were working infinite

Owing to the wrong-headedness of Fox and the timidity of Portland,
Pitt's triumph in the Commons was not decisive enough to tear the veil
away from the eyes of the French Jacobins. Nothing short of unanimity at
Westminster could have worked that miracle. Surely not even that novice
in diplomacy, Lebrun, would have threatened to appeal from the British
Government to the British nation, had he not believed the Government to
be without support.

This delusion appears in the memorable decree of 15th December. The
French Convention thereby asserts its resolve to revolutionize all
countries where its armies are or shall come. It will recognize no
institutions alien to the principles of Liberty, Equality, and
Fraternity. All feudal dues, customs, and privileges are to be annulled,
and the liberated people will meet in primary assemblies to organize an
Administration. Arrangements will be made for defraying the expenses of
the liberating army, and for maintaining it while it remains.[146]
Finally France declares that she will treat as an enemy the people which
refuses to accept Liberty and Equality, and tolerates its prince and
privileged castes. The decree is at once followed by a proclamation
drawn up for the benefit of the subject peoples whom it may concern.
Finally, the Convention decides that the course of rivers must
everywhere be free, and directs its generals to enforce that principle
with respect to the Scheldt.

In view of this stern reiteration of the right to overturn all
Governments that conflict with revolutionary principles, it is
impossible to consider the decree of 19th November, offering assistance
to malcontent peoples, as a meaningless display of emotion. Subsequent
events threw a sinister light on it. The annexation of Savoy on 27th
November was not a convincing proof of altruism; and the refusal of the
Executive Council, on 8th and 9th December, to reconsider its decision
on the Scheldt, marked a firm resolve to carry out French policy in the
Pays Bas, even if it led to war with England. Now there came, as a
damning corollary, the decree of 15th December, which flung defiance at
all Governments of the old type. Like Mohammed, Lebrun stood forth with
the "Contrat Social" in one hand, the sword in the other, and bade the
world take its choice.

For England there could be no doubt. Pitt and Grenville had decided that
the only chance of peace lay in offering a firm front to every act of
aggression. In this they had general support. Fox might choose to
distort facts by declaring that Ministers were about to plunge the
country into war on a matter of form[147] (the refusal to treat
officially with the French Republic); but everyone knew that the first
aggressive action was that of France, directed against the Anglo-Dutch
alliance. The firmness of Ministers gained them support in unexpected
quarters. On 20th December, when they asked for a vote for 25,000
seamen, including 5,000 marines, Sheridan heartily declared that he
would have supported a vote for 40,000 seamen if that number had been
deemed necessary. He also made a suggestion that the British Parliament
or people should appeal to the generous instincts of Frenchmen to spare
the life of Louis XVI. The proposal came somewhat oddly in a debate for
increasing our forces against France; and it brought up Burke in one of
his most acrid moods. Such an appeal, he said, was futile, for Louis was
in the custody of assassins who were both accusers and judges: his death
was inevitable. Sheridan and Fox heartily reprobated this recklessly
vindictive language.

Pitt then pointed out that on 17th August George III had expressed an
earnest desire for the safety of Louis and the Royal Family of France in
terms which were then read out. The same was the desire of every Briton;
and the sentiments now expressed in that House would be heard and noted
at Paris. If any more formal measure were to be adopted, he suggested
the entering a protest in the Journals of the House; but any public
representation, he said, must be couched in terms of indignation which
must tend to defeat its own object. With this method of procedure Fox
and Sheridan expressed their entire concurrence.[148] It is therefore a
malicious falsehood to say that Pitt opposed their suggestion.[149]
Burke certainly did so, and in the worst possible taste; but Pitt
carried it out so far as was deemed desirable. If Sheridan and Fox
wished for a public appeal, it was for them to set it on foot.

I must here notice the vague and misleading statements in Godoy's
Memoirs (written a generation later) that Spain made strenuous efforts
to save the life of Louis XVI and opened "an unlimited credit" at Paris
with the view of bribing members of the Convention to secure his
acquittal. Further, that he, Godoy, secretly approached Pitt in order to
secure his financial aid, which that statesman obstinately refused.[150]
The story does not hang well together; for if Spain had already opened
an unlimited credit at Paris, why did she want pecuniary help from Pitt?
Further, the opening of unlimited credit, presumably with a Parisian
bank, did not consort well with the secret methods which were essential
to the success of the plan.

In order to probe this matter to the bottom, I have examined the British
Foreign Office archives relating to Spain for the months of December and
January. They are detailed and apparently complete. F. J. Jackson, our
_chargé d'affaires_ at Madrid, wrote to Lord Grenville every three or
four days, as the relations of the two States had been far from cordial
owing to friction caused by the cession of Nootka Sound, Captain
Vancouver having been employed to settle the boundaries and fix a
neutral zone between the two Empires. Grenville also wrote three times
to Jackson to express his apprehension that the timidity and poverty of
Spain would cause her to yield to the French Republic in the matter of
some demonstrations on the frontier. But there is no word implying that
Spain requested help from England, either pecuniary or diplomatic, in
order to save Louis. Early in January Charles IV made such an appeal to
the French Convention, but it was treated with contemptuous
indifference. At that time the Courts of London and Madrid were
beginning to draw closer together in order to withstand the demands of
France; but nothing passed between them officially respecting the saving
of Louis. Now, where the life of a King was at stake, any communication
must have been official, and if it were made through the Spanish
ambassador in London, Grenville would certainly have referred to it in
his despatches to Madrid.[151] We may therefore dismiss Godoy's story as
a cruel and baseless slander, due to the spiteful desire of a
discredited politician to drag down a great name nearer to his own

It is also worth noting that Malouet, who was then in close touch with
Grenville on San Domingo affairs, does not mention in his Memoirs any
attempt to involve the Cabinet in a scheme for bribing the
Convention--an action which the French exiles in England and Holland
were perfectly able to carry out themselves had they been so minded. The
only document bearing on this question is a Memorial drawn up on 7th
December by Malouet, Lally-Tollendal, and Gillier, stating their horror
at the King's trial, and their belief that his life might be spared if
George III and the British Government issued a Declaration stating their
lively interest in Louis XVI and his family, their resolve for ever to
refuse an asylum to all regicides, and to cut off all supplies of food
from France if the crime were committed.[152] The Memorial was probably
presented to Lord Grenville; but its inutility, or danger, in the proud
and exacting mood then prevalent at Paris, is obvious. The confidential
reports sent by "M. S." from Paris to Lord Grenville do not refer to any
such overture to the Cabinet.[153]

Lastly, there is the curious fact that the ex-abbé Noël, one of
Chauvelin's "advisers," came to Miles late on 18th December, and
affected much concern at the prospect of the execution of Louis. He then
suggested that Pitt should confer with a M. Talon, residing in Sloane
Street, who had immense resources and stood well with all parties in
France, in order to devise some means for saving the life of that
monarch. When Miles asked Noël how Pitt was to assist in this laudable
project, no answer was forthcoming. We must commend Noël's prudence; for
he had already stated that Talon was under impeachment in France. How a
man accused of treason could help his King, save by secretly using some
of his immense resources to bribe the deputies, is no more apparent to
us than it was to Miles. In fact he detected a snare in this effort to
associate Pitt with a wealthy French exile in what must evidently be
merely an affair of bribery. He therefore declined to bring the matter
before Pitt, whereupon Noël betrayed signs of satisfaction at finding
that the Minister really was neutral on French internal affairs.[154]
This little episode should open the eyes of detractors of Pitt to the
extraordinary difficulty of his position. Of one thing we may be
certain. The readiest way of assuring the doom of the hapless monarch
was to take up some one of the silly or guileful schemes then mooted for
pressing the British Government to take sides in the trial. Pitt's
rigorous neutrality was the best means of helping the advocates of Louis
in their uphill fight with the hostile Convention.

Reverting to events at Westminster, we note that Ministers, on 21st
December, introduced into the Upper House an Aliens Bill for subjecting
to supervision the many thousands of foreigners who had flocked to these
shores. The debates on this measure showed some approach to unanimity,
though Lansdowne and Lauderdale in the Lords, and Fox in the Commons
opposed it as a breach of the hospitable traditions of this land. On the
28th Burke spoke in its support with his usual passion, flinging down a
Birmingham dagger as a sign of the French fraternity now introduced
into these happy islands.[155] After a few alterations in committee, the
Bill passed on the last day of the year.

Meanwhile, on 18th December, Lebrun had sent to the Convention a report
on the negotiations, which was not adapted to soften the passions of the
time, being merely a piece of parliamentary declamation; but, as
declamation rather than reason held sway at Paris, some of its phrases
must be quoted. After citing with approval passages from the recent
speech of Fox, Lebrun referred to the eager interest taken by the
British nation in the triumphs of the French arms. "But," he continued,
"these glorious events have a quite contrary effect upon the English
Minister. In a moment, the dread and jealousy of our victories, the
entreaties of cowardly rebels [the French _émigrés_], the vile intrigues
of hostile Courts, and the secret suspicions that the numerous addresses
from all parts of England excited, determined him to more decisive
military preparations and to an immediate assembling of Parliament."
Lebrun then accused Pitt of seeking to stir up public opinion against
France, and of exciting, "by the most corrupt means, distrusts, doubts,
and disorders." A still more extraordinary charge followed, namely, that
Pitt and Grenville, while refusing to acknowledge the French diplomatic
agents, had "requested to see them confidentially, to hold
communications with them, and to grant them secret conferences."[156]
Lebrun then referred in contemptuous terms to the British naval
preparations, and stated that he had firmly maintained the decree
respecting the Scheldt. He then affirmed the reasonableness of the
decree of 19th November; and scouted the notion that France harboured
designs against Holland. In answer to this last he had said in effect:
"That it was much to be wished that the British Ministry had never
meddled more with the internal government of that Republic than we
ourselves wish to meddle." Finally, if these disputes led to a rupture,
"the war will be only the war of the British Minister against us; and we
will not fail to make a solemn appeal to the English nation." ... "In
short, we will leave it to the English nation to judge between us, and
the issue of this contest may lead to consequences which he [Pitt] did
not expect."

In the sordid annals of party strife this report of Lebrun holds a high
place. In order to furbish up the dulled prestige of the Gironde he
sought to excite national animosity, and to revive the former hatred of
the name of Pitt. What could be more criminal than to sneer at the
smallness of England's naval preparations? What more false than to
charge Pitt and Grenville with secretly begging for interviews with
agents whom outwardly they scorned? It is by acts like these that
nations are set by the ears; and generally they are at one another's
throats before the lie can be exposed. Lebrun's report was received with
loud applause. No one questioned the accuracy of its details; and these
blind followers of a blind guide unanimously voted that it should be
printed and widely circulated. On 20th December Lebrun sent a copy of it
to Chauvelin, along with instructions which lost none of their emphasis
in the note drawn up at Portman Square. He forwarded another copy of the
report to Noël, with this significant explanation: "This document will
keep you in touch with the ideas of this country and will show you that
I scarcely have this affair in my hands any longer."[157]

This admission is illuminating. The trial of Louis XVI had, as the men
of the Mountain foresaw, placed the Girondin Ministry and its followers
in a most embarrassing position. Many of them inclined to mercy or to
compromises which found little favour with the populace. Accordingly,
the procedure at the trial, as also the final verdict, turned largely on
the desperate efforts of the Jacobins to discredit their rivals, who
sought by all means to keep their foothold in the revolutionary torrent.
One of the most obvious devices was to represent the Executive Council
as the champion of ultra-democratic ideas as against envious and
reactionary England. If this notion gained currency, Lebrun and his
colleagues might hope still to ride on the crest of the wave.

Historical students will remember another occasion when a tottering
Ministry sought to keep pace with public opinion at Paris. The Duc de
Gramont on 12th July 1870 instructed the French ambassador, Benedetti,
to insist on obtaining from King William of Prussia an immediate answer
to a demand that was certain to arouse angry feelings; and he sent to
Benedetti the explanation that public opinion was _outflanking_ the
Ministry, and that "the effervescence of spirits is such that we do not
know whether we shall succeed in mastering it." Thus, twice within
eighty years France was hurried towards the brink of the precipice
because her Foreign Minister could not control an effervescence of
spirits which he himself had helped to excite.

Lebrun's missives of 20th December bore fruit seven days later in
Chauvelin's despatch to Grenville. As this document has often been
printed, only a brief summary need be given here. The French envoy
insisted that the conduct of France towards England had throughout been
correct and conciliatory; but the Executive Council had long observed
with concern the unfriendliness of the British Ministers, and now
pressed its envoy to demand definitely whether they held the position of
a neutral or an enemy. The only possible cause of enmity could be a
misinterpretation of the decree of 19th November, which obviously
applied merely to peoples that demanded the fraternal aid of Frenchmen.
As France wished to respect the independence of England and her allies,
she would not attack the Dutch. The opening of the Scheldt, however, was
a question decided irrevocably by reason and justice, besides being a
matter of small moment; and the British Ministers could not venture to
make it a cause of war. If they did, they would not be supported by the
British people. Chauvelin then demanded an official reply, and expressed
the hope that the British Cabinet would not engage in a war for which it
alone would be responsible and to which the people would not accord its

What Pitt and Grenville thought of Chauvelin's last effort on behalf of
peace will best appear in Grenville's despatch of 28th December to
Auckland at The Hague:

    The tone and language of Chauvelin's note of the 27th appear
    calculated to accelerate a rupture, and the same conclusion
    seems to follow from the circumstance of M. Maret's having
    informed Mr. Pitt that it was not intended by the _Conseil
    Exécutif_ to charge any private agent with any commission of the
    nature which he had himself suggested in his first conference. I
    have some reason to believe that it is now intended to bring
    forward immediately in Holland the same question of receiving
    formal and official communication from the _Conseil Exécutif_. I
    trust that the answer will be conformable to opinions
    entertained here; and, with the view of avoiding as far as
    possible, any difference, however slight, in the expression of
    our sentiments, I shall lose no time in sending to Your
    Excellency the copy of the answer to M. Chauvelin when it is

    I cannot conclude this dispatch without again urging Your
    Excellency to press in the strongest manner possible upon the
    Dutch Ministers the necessity of immediately bringing forward
    their whole force. It is evident that the present intentions of
    France are those of aggression. Whichever of the Allies is first
    attacked, there can be no doubt under the present circumstances,
    but that they must make common cause in order to render the
    calamity of war short, if it is unavoidable. And if the state of
    the preparations of the Republic is found inadequate to the
    emergency, the attack will certainly be first made there where
    least resistance is expected. Every circumstance therefore, of
    interest and dignity require [_sic_] that no exertion of which
    the Republic can be made capable, should be spared at such a
    moment as the present.[159]

Evidently Grenville looked on Chauvelin's note as an ultimatum; and it
is noteworthy that Pitt on 28th December refused to see Chauvelin. Our
Dutch Allies, however, were by no means ready. The separate Admiralties
of the Dutch Provinces had not enough men to equip, still less to man,
their ships; and almost their only defence lay in a British squadron
which set sail for Flushing on or about 29th December.[160]

For the present, then, Pitt and Grenville contented themselves with
sending a stiff rejoinder to Chauvelin's note. Grenville reminded him
that he had no official character in this country since the fall of the
French monarchy, and that the sinister meaning of the decree of 19th
November, as shown in the public reception given at Paris to the
promoters of sedition in this country, was in no wise cleared away by
his recent declaration, which still claimed the right to encourage
disloyalty. With regard to the Scheldt question, Grenville declared
again that it was of the highest importance both in point of fact and of
principle; of fact, because the action of France pre-supposed her
sovereignty of the Low Countries; of principle, because, if passed over,
it would give her the right to abrogate treaties at her will. The desire
of England to preserve strict neutrality in French affairs was
universally acknowledged, and he (Chauvelin) had not urged a single
circumstance in disproof of it. But, England (continued Grenville) "will
never see with indifference that France shall make herself, either
directly or indirectly, sovereign of the Low Countries, or general
arbitress of the rights and liberties of Europe. If France is really
desirous of maintaining friendship and peace with England, she must show
herself disposed to renounce her views of aggression and aggrandisement,
and to confine herself within her own territory, without insulting other
Governments, without disturbing their tranquillity, without violating
their rights."[161]

This stern rebuke to the flippant claim of the French Ministers to
settle the affairs of neighbouring States in accord with their own
principles has often been ascribed to Pitt himself. This is doubtful. I
can find no proof that he intervened directly in the affairs of the
Foreign Office after the accession of Grenville, as he had done in the
days of the Duke of Leeds. Perhaps the austere personality of Grenville
forbade any intervention; or it may be that the two cousins were in so
complete an agreement on principles that Pitt left all details to the
Foreign Minister. Certain it is that he himself remained almost passive
at this time; and all the acts were the acts of Grenville. It was well
known that the two men were in close touch. "I consider his lordship the
same as Mr. Pitt," wrote Miles to Aust.[162]

More important is the question--What were the aims of the British
Government for the settlement of Europe? Fortunately, we are able to
answer this without a shadow of doubt. For on 29th December Grenville
sent off a despatch to Whitworth at St. Petersburg referring to an
effusive offer of alliance from Catharine II. Through Vorontzoff, her
envoy at London, she expressed her admiration of the generous conduct of
George III, and her earnest desire to help him in restoring order to
Europe by means of a concert of the Powers, which might be formed at
London. At the same time she found means to instruct her partisans in
the British Parliament to relax their efforts against the Ministry.[163]
Pitt and Grenville were not dazzled by these proposals. The latter
generously declared to Auckland that he did not believe the Opposition
to be influenced by unpatriotic motives; and he doubted the sincerity of
Catharine's offer.[164] Nevertheless, in view of the imminence of a
French attack on Holland, Grenville decided to encourage the Czarina to
form a league of the Powers; but the instructions which he sent on 29th
December to Whitworth set forth aims very different from hers. He
suggested that the Powers not yet at war should invite the French people
to accept the following terms:

    The withdrawing of their arms within the limits of the French
    territory: the abandoning their conquests; the rescinding any
    acts injurious to the sovereignty or rights of any other
    nations; and the giving, in some public and unequivocal manner,
    a pledge of their intention no longer to foment troubles and to
    excite disturbances against their own Governments. In return for
    these stipulations the different Powers of Europe who should be
    parties to this measure might engage to abandon all measures or
    views of hostility against France or interference in their
    internal affairs, and to maintain a correspondence or
    intercourse of amity with the existing powers in that country
    with whom such a treaty may be concluded. [If, however, France
    refuses to give these pledges, then the Powers will take] active
    measures to obtain the ends in view, and it may be considered
    whether, in such a case, they might not reasonably look to some
    indemnity for the expenses and hazards to which they would
    necessarily be exposed.[165]

From this remarkable pronouncement it appears that Pitt and Grenville
harboured no hostility to the French Republic as such, provided that it
acted on the principles which it professed up to the end of October
1792. The ensuing acts of aggression and propagandism they unflinchingly
opposed, but in the hope that the combined remonstrances of all the
Powers would induce the French leaders to withdraw their untenable
claims. Above all, the British Cabinet did not refuse eventually to
recognize the new state of things at Paris, a point of view very far
removed from the flaming royalism of Catharine II and Burke. Whether a
concert of the Powers could have been formed on these moderate terms is
very doubtful. What is certain is that Pitt and Grenville saw in it the
chief hope of peace, and that they did not desire to force royalty on
reluctant France. For them the war, if it came, was not a war of
opinion--Monarchy _versus_ Republic. It was a struggle to preserve the
Balance of Power, which in all ages our statesmen had seen to be
incompatible with the sovereignty of France in the Low Countries. That
danger averted, they were content to let France settle her own affairs,
if she behaved with the like tolerance towards her neighbours.

Unhappily, these pacific and enlightened views were not accompanied by
conciliatory manners. It was the bane of Pitt, and still more of
Grenville, that their innate reserve often cooled their friends and
heated their opponents.[166] In the case of so vain and touchy a man as
Chauvelin a little affability would have gone a long way; and this was
especially desirable, as he had enough support at Paris to thwart the
attempt to replace him by some envoy less disliked at St. James's.
Nevertheless, they persisted in their resolve not to recognize him
officially; and the Executive Council made it a point of honour to force
him on the British Court. Personal questions therefore told against a
peaceful settlement. Even at the end of the year 1792 it was not wholly
impossible, provided that the questions in dispute were treated with
open-mindedness and a desire to understand the point of view of the

Undoubtedly it was for the French Government to take the first steps
towards reconciliation by retracting or toning down the decrees of 16th
and 19th November and 15th December, which had brought about the crisis.
Further, the Convention ought to have seen through and thwarted the
attempt of Lebrun to regain popularity by insulting Pitt in the report
of 18th December. Had that body been less intent on the party manoeuvres
centring in the trial of Louis XVI, it would assuredly not have
furthered the insidious designs of that Minister. It might have offered
to recall Chauvelin, and to substitute Maret, a man known to be a
_persona grata_ to Pitt. Finally, in view of the large concourse of
Frenchmen now in London, reckoned at 15,000, the Executive Council would
have done well to say nothing about the passing of the Aliens Bill,
obviously a precautionary measure called for by the emergency.[167]

The French Ministers took exactly the contrary course. On 30th December
they decided that Chauvelin should demand the withdrawal of that
measure, as contrary to the treaty of 1786; failing this, France would
declare that compact at an end. They also began to prepare for an
invasion of England, on a plan which came before them on 28th December;
and on the last day of the year, Monge, Minister for the Navy, issued a
circular letter to Friends of Liberty and Equality in the seaports. It
contained passages to the following effect:

    The English Government is arming, and the King of Spain,
    encouraged by this, is preparing to attack us. These two
    tyrannical Powers, after persecuting the patriots on their own
    territories, think no doubt that they will be able to influence
    the judgment to be pronounced on the traitor, Louis. They hope
    to frighten us; but no! a people which has made itself free, a
    people which has driven out of the bosom of France, and as far
    as the distant borders of the Rhine, the terrible army of the
    Prussians and Austrians--the people of France will not suffer
    laws to be dictated to them by any tyrant. The King and his
    Parliament mean to make war upon us. Will the English
    republicans suffer it? Already these free men show their
    discontent and the repugnance which they have to bear arms
    against their brothers, the French. Well! We will fly to their
    succour. We will make a descent in the island. We will lodge
    there 50,000 caps of Liberty. We will plant there the sacred
    tree, and we will stretch out our arms to our republican
    brethren. The tyranny of their Government will soon be

What did the famous mathematician think of this effusion in the heyday
of the Empire, when he became Count of Pelusium with a Westphalian
estate bringing in 200,000 francs a year? A collection of the frank
confessions of the _ci-devant_ Jacobins would form an entertaining

Not the least piquant of them would be the criticisms of a Breton
captain, Kersaint, on the bellicose speech which he launched at the
Convention on 1st January 1793. Admitting that Pitt really wanted peace,
while Fox only desired to abase his rival, he averred that the Prime
Minister would try to arrest France in her rapid career of land conquest
either by a naval war or by an armed mediation. War, said Kersaint, must
result, were it only from the perplexities of Pitt and the hatred of
George III for the French Republic. France, then, must threaten to free
the Scottish and Irish nations which England had so long oppressed. The
Republic could appeal with telling effect to the English sailors not to
fight against the champions of the Rights of Man. Further, France need
not fear the British Empire; for it is vulnerable in every sea, on all
the continental markets, while France stands four-square, rooted in her
fertile soil. Let them, then, attack the sources of British wealth which
are easily assailable. "The credit of England rests upon fictitious
wealth, the real riches of that people are scattered everywhere....
Asia, Portugal and Spain are the best markets for English products....
We must attack Lisbon and the Brazils, and carry an auxiliary army to
Tippoo Sultan." As for Spain (continued Kersaint) she could be paralysed
by the revolutionizing of Spanish America--the suggestion of Miranda to
Dumouriez. In fact, Frenchmen need not fear war with all Governments.
Open enmity was better than neutrality. This war would "regulate the
destiny of nations and found the liberty of the world." Accordingly he
proposed to offer to England either war or an alliance; to equip thirty
sail of the line and twenty-four frigates; and to form a Committee of
General Defence. The Convention assented to this last and referred the
other questions to it.

Thus opened the terrible year, 1793. The circular letter of Monge and
the speech of Kersaint furnished the weather-gauge for the future. In
them we detect the mental exaltation, the boundless daring, the
overwrought conviction of their neighbours' weakness, which were to
carry Frenchmen up to bewildering heights of glory and overwhelm them in
final disaster. We behold in awful perspective the conquest of Holland,
Italy, and Central Europe, the Irish Rebellion, the Egyptian Expedition,
the war on British commerce, culminating in the Continental System, with
its ensuing campaigns in Spain and Russia, and the downfall of Napoleon.
All this and more can be seen dimly, as in a crystal globe, in that
fateful phrase of Kersaint--"The credit of England rests upon fictitious

                  *       *       *       *       *

Turning to the last details that preceded the declaration of war, we
notice that on 7th January Chauvelin, acting on the order of Lebrun,
sent in a sharp protest against the Aliens Bill as an infraction of
Pitt's Treaty of Commerce of 1786. On one count Chauvelin certainly had
a right to complain; for, strange to say, the Act was put in operation
against Talleyrand, nominally his adviser, and the champion of the
Anglo-French _entente_. The ex-Bishop of Autun penned an eloquent
protest, which apparently had some effect, for he was not expelled until
March 1794.[168] Far more incisive was Chauvelin's complaint. We can
imagine his feelings when Grenville curtly declined to receive it.[169]
At the same time Grenville refused to discuss or explain the stoppage of
certain cargoes of grain destined for French ports. His private
correspondence with Auckland shows that this measure was due to the fear
that the French would store the corn for the use of the army that was
threatening Holland. That motive of course could not be disclosed to
Chauvelin; and Grenville declined to explain it at all until the
resolutions arrived at in Paris were clearly set forth.

On Sunday, 13th January, Chauvelin received from Lebrun a long despatch,
drawn up in less provoking terms than the last. He sought an informal
interview with Grenville, which was immediately granted. Grenville's
hitherto unpublished account of the interview may be quoted in full, as
it enables us to see the _nuances_ of the situation:

                                            _Jan. 13, 1793._[170]

    M. Chauvelin as soon as he came into my room began by stating
    that he was desirous of explaining that all his steps subsequent
    to the date of my letter of Dec. 31 had been taken in
    consequence of positive instructions from the _Conseil
    Exécutif_, given before they had received that letter. That they
    had seen in that letter one thing which had been satisfactory to
    them, notwithstanding the other things of which they might
    complain--this was the assurance which enabled them to reject
    the idea entertained by some persons in France of its being the
    intention of the Government here to declare war at all events.
    Under this assurance they had authorized him to give to their
    answer a form which was not liable to the exceptions which had
    before been taken. He then gave me the despatch from M. Le Brun.
    When I had read it I told him only that the circumstances were
    too critical for me to say anything as to its contents except to
    refer him to the answer which I should be [_sic_] to give to it.

    He then said that there was one other point which he was
    desirous of mentioning. That one of the difficulties of the
    present situation of the two Countries was the want of a proper
    channel of communication. That he himself, from having no access
    to the King's Ministers, was frequently unable to give accounts
    of their real views and intentions. That he was therefore to
    desire the permission to see me often _sous la même forme_ that
    he had now come [_sic_].

    I told him that this was a point on which I was unwilling to
    take upon myself personally to give him an answer; but that he
    should have one; and in order to avoid mistakes I repeated to
    him the phrase, that his request was to see me _sous la même
    forme_. He said "yes," and that this was conceived to be a means
    of arriving sooner at the object of his being allowed to
    present to the King the _lettres de créance_ with which he was
    charged. As he did not express this quite distinctly, I asked
    him again whether I understood him right; that his present
    request was only to communicate under the form in which he now
    came. He again assented to this, but in doing it threw out that
    he had _almost_ had direct orders from the _Conseil Exécutif_ to
    apply for permission to present his letters. He however
    expressly assented to my statement that the other was at present
    his only request.

    Nothing else material passed, except justifications of himself
    from the imputation of treating on public business with some
    persons in this country with whom he had connections of private
    friendship and intercourse, and complaints of the manner in
    which he was treated in the newspapers. To neither of these
    points I said anything.[171]

It is not surprising that Grenville asked for time to consult his
colleagues (probably also the King) before returning an answer to
Lebrun's missive; for, though unobjectionable in form, it re-affirmed
the French claims and justified all the proceedings of that Government.
Lebrun accused the Pitt Cabinet of raising difficulties of form and of
discovering hostile intentions where none existed. While repudiating the
notion of annexing Belgium, he firmly adhered to the Scheldt decree.
France, he declared, would respond to all appeals which emanated from
the general will of a nation, and he even asserted that she could treat
only with a Government which "is deemed the organ of the general will of
the nation governed." If her efforts for peace failed, she would fight
England with regret but without fear.[172]

In effect, then, this despatch held out no hope of a reconciliation.
There came with it, however, a long and rambling letter from Maret to
Miles, which was intended partly to threaten, partly to cajole the
Ministry. In its more dulcet passages the hope was set forth that the
Scheldt affair could be settled, and even that Chauvelin might be
replaced by the estimable Barthélemy. Miles, highly elated, hurried to
the Foreign Office on that momentous Sunday, 13th January, and found
that a Cabinet meeting was proceeding. Pitt came out and cordially
received Maret's note. He returned to the Cabinet meeting (at which,
strange to say, Burke was present) but came out again "furious,
freighted with the bile of the whole Cabinet," and forbade Miles to have
any dealings with the French Executive Council.[173]

How are we to explain this change from affability to anger? The
impressionable Miles believed that in that hour Pitt capitulated to
Burke and became a man of war. The reader who takes the trouble to
compare Lebrun's note with that of Maret will probably come to another
conclusion, namely, that the latter seems very like a device to throw
the British Ministry off its guard. The terms of the two notes are
widely divergent; and, in such a case, Pitt naturally accepted that of
Lebrun and scouted that of Maret, as of a busybody or an intriguer.
Grenville objected to this double-dealing;[174] and probably the
presence of Burke at the Cabinet meeting sharpened the demand for its

Another explanation of Pitt's fury is possible. Grenville and he may
have received news of the warlike preparations going on in the French
seaports and on the Dutch borders. I have found no proof of this; but it
is certain that by this time they must have had before them the
inflammatory appeal of Monge to French and English Jacobins as well as
the boastful tirade of Kersaint to the Convention. Having these proofs
of the warlike ardour of the French and of their reliance on British
reformers, how could Pitt and Grenville look on the philanthropic
professions of Maret as anything but a snare, and Miles as his dupe?
Miles had ever been officious. Clearly the time had come to stop his
fussy advances to an unofficial agent, which Lebrun might once more
ascribe to Pitt's secret fear of France.

It would be interesting to discover how far Pitt and Grenville were at
this time aware of the secret designs of the French Executive Council.
On this topic I have found no definite evidence. It is very unlikely
that on 13th January they knew of the aggressive plans which the
Executive Council had formed three days before. But it is certain that
such plans were set on foot on 10th January. On that day the Executive
Council drew up secret orders for Generals Dumouriez and Miranda. The
former was then at Paris concerting plans for the next campaign, not
for the purpose of saving Louis XVI, as he afterwards stated. Whether he
fanned the warlike ardour of the Executive Council will perhaps never be
known. But undoubtedly on 10th January the Executive Council bade him
order his lieutenant, Miranda, to prepare for the invasion of Dutch
Flanders and Walcheren within twelve days. Furnaces were to be supplied
to the French gun-vessels in the Scheldt so as to beat off the frigates,
whether English or Dutch is not stated.[175]

Why did not Miranda carry out this plan? Merely because he had neither
stores nor food[176]--a fact which justifies the British Government in
placing an embargo on the corn intended for France. Undoubtedly if he
had had supplies, Miranda would have seized the lands at the mouth of
the Scheldt, and cut off the retreat of the Stadholder to his place of
refuge, Walcheren. It will further be observed that these orders were
given at Paris three days after the despatch of Lebrun's and Maret's
notes to London. The design apparently was to amuse England until a
deadly blow could be struck at the Dutch. Auckland, writing on the 11th
at The Hague, expressed to Grenville the hope that war might be avoided,
or, if that were impossible, that the rupture should be postponed until
the Austrians and Prussians had re-crossed the Rhine. The preparations
of the Dutch were going on with the usual slowness.[177] Evidently the
French Government counted on their traditional inertia and on the
malcontents in Great Britain and Ireland. The private letters of Maret,
that _soi-disant_ friend of peace, breathe full assurance of

Grenville of course sent no answer to the last missive of Maret; but to
Lebrun he replied, on 18th January, that his explanations were wholly
unsatisfactory, as they maintained the right of the Executive Council to
annul treaties at will. Until satisfaction were granted for the
aggressions on His Majesty's ally, he would continue to take all
measures needful for their common safety. The terms of this reply were
doubtless due to the last news received from Paris. On 12th January the
arch-intriguer, Brissot, had fired off at the Convention a warlike
harangue in which he depicted the British Ministry as helpless in the
midst of a discontented populace and without a friend in the world.
France could therefore easily arouse Ireland and Scotland to revolt,
besides carrying liberty to India.[179] On the following day the
Convention ordered the equipment of 30 sail-of-the-line and 20 frigates,
and the construction of 25 sail-of-the-line and 20 frigates.

On his side Chauvelin saw the rupture to be imminent. In forwarding
Grenville's despatch to Lebrun on the 19th he described his situation in
London as intolerable, and added that no alternative but war was left.
His assistant, Reinhard, ended a letter of that day to Miles with the
words "_M. Chauvelin leaves_." That resolve must have been strengthened
by Grenville's haughty note of the 20th, stating that no special means
could be taken to protect his couriers and that he must rank "among the
general mass of foreigners resident in England." On the same day
Grenville informed Sir James Murray, who had gone on a special mission
to the Prussian headquarters, that war was likely to break out, as
France "insists on terms entirely inconsistent with the Government of
this country and His Majesty's dignity and honour." His Majesty is
strenuously making preparations and hopes to concert plans with Prussia
and Austria.[180]

Such was the state of affairs on 21st January, when Louis XVI laid his
head on the block in the Place de la Révolution. The news of this
tragedy reached London late in the afternoon of the 23rd; and the horror
which it aroused led to a demand at the Haymarket that the farce should
be put off. On the advice of the Cabinet George III now intervened. At a
Court held on the morrow at the Queen's House (on the site of Buckingham
Palace) an order was issued that Chauvelin, as the envoy deputed by
Louis XVI, should leave the country on or before 1st February. But on or
before 25th January, that is, before the news of this mandate can have
reached Paris, Lebrun had decided to recall the French mission from
London. On 25th January he wrote to Monsieur Greenville [_sic_] stating
that, as his plenipotentiary, Chauvelin, had orders to return to Paris,
Maret would proceed to London to look after the papers at the French
Embassy. This statement merits attention; for it shows that Chauvelin's
departure was hastened only a day or two by the King's command;[181]
and further it refutes the oft-repeated assertion that Maret came
charged with offers of peace to which Pitt and Grenville paid no heed.

It will be well to examine this latter question somewhat closely. In
order to understand the situation at Paris, we must remember that
Dumouriez was at that time hesitating between an attack on Holland and a
pacific mission to England. On 23rd January, while at Paris, he wrote
two very significant letters, one to Miranda, the other to Auckland. In
the former he states: "The Executive Council ... has thought of sending
me as special ambassador to England to make that country decide
definitely for peace or war. Consequently _an order has been given for
our ambassador, Chauvelin, to return_. To-morrow they will send a secret
agent [Maret], very well known to Mr. Pitt and Mr. Fox, to ask the two
parties (that is to say the whole nation) for a safe-conduct for me and
an assurance that I shall be welcome. As I have to ask for _yes_ or
_no_, like Cato at Carthage, this mission will not last more than eight
days." Pending the reply to the first question (says Dumouriez) he will
set out for Dunkirk, Bruges, and Antwerp. His second letter, of the same
date, is to Auckland at The Hague, stating that he knows him to be
desirous of peace, as he himself is. Can they not have an interview on
the Dutch frontier, near Antwerp, where he will be on 30th January?[182]

Now it is clear from Grenville's and Auckland's correspondence that
Ministers paid some heed to the offer of Dumouriez. Nothing came of it
owing to the arrival of news of the French declaration of war; but the
proposal was at least considered.[183] There is not a line to show that
Pitt and Grenville took Maret's so-called "mission" at all seriously.
For, in the first place, he had no powers, no authority to do anything
more than collect the papers of the embassy. He himself gave out to
Miles that he came on a "pacific mission," but he carefully refrained
from telling even him what it was.[184] His biographer, Ernouf, has
invested his journey to London with some importance by declaring that on
22nd January he (Maret) drew up and sent off a "despatch" to Chauvelin,
stating that the French Executive Council desired peace, and that he was
coming as _chargé d'affaires_ to the French Embassy in London. This
missive (whether signed by Lebrun is not stated) met Chauvelin on his
way from London to Dover; but it produced no change whatever in his
plans. He proceeded on his way to Paris, passing Maret in the night near
Abbeville. To assign much importance to his "despatch" is to overrate
both his errand and his position at Paris. Maret was only one of the
head clerks at the French Foreign Office and had no right to sign
official despatches. If he really was charged by Lebrun to tender the
olive-branch, why was not that despatch sent to London in a form and
manner which would procure credence and have some effect? Again, if
Maret came to restore peace, why did he not at once produce his powers?
The question was infinitely important and undeniably urgent. Instead of
taking decisive action, as any well-wisher of mankind must have done at
so awful a crisis, he declined to enter into particulars, and, on the
plea that Chauvelin was ordered to Paris (which he himself knew before
he left that city) waited for further instructions--which never came.
Finally he confessed to Miles that he came to prepare the way for
Dumouriez and to discover whether that general would be assured of
personal safety if he came to England.

    Parturiunt montes, nascetur ridiculus mus.

Such must have been the thought of Miles, when he heard this singular
admission. For what trust could be placed in Dumouriez, whose conquest
of Belgium--the source of the present difficulties--had by no means
sated his desire for its natural sequel, the conquest of Holland? That
Maret had credentials of some kind may be admitted; for he showed them
to Miles and claimed to be _chargé d'affaires_; but, as Miles found his
powers to be "extremely limited,"[185] we may doubt whether they
extended beyond the collection and transport of the archives of Portman
Square. If he had any authority to treat with our Government, it is
curious that he refrained from doing so merely on the ground of
Chauvelin's departure. "Apprehensive that this event might derange what
had been agreed upon, he despatched a messenger with a letter to Lebrun
stating that _under the present circumstances, he should not think
himself authorized to communicate with the British Ministers without
fresh instructions_."[186]

Notwithstanding the urgency of the case, he received not a line, not
even a newspaper, from Paris during his stay in London. In fact, the
_soi-disant "chargé d'affaires"_ of France knew so little of the real
state of affairs that he assured Miles of the desire of his countrymen
to give up Nice, Mainz, Worms, the Rhineland, the Scheldt, and the Low
Countries[187]--at the very time (31st January) when Danton carried
unanimously a decree annexing the Low Countries to the French Republic.

The explanation of the silence of Maret and the ambiguous conduct of
Dumouriez may be found in the Memoirs of the latter. He states that a
proposal came up in the French Executive Council at Paris on 22nd
January to send him to London; but it was negatived by three votes to
two. Nevertheless, he arranged with the minority (Lebrun and Garat) that
he should go to Antwerp and have _pourparlers_ with Auckland preparatory
to a mission to England, while Maret returned to London to pave the way
for him.[188] The scheme was a private venture, proposed by Dumouriez,
and favoured only by the minority of the Council. In such a case neither
Dumouriez nor Maret could be invested with official functions; and it
was only a last despairing effort for peace that led Maret to pose as a
_chargé d'affaires_ and write to Paris for "fresh instructions." This
praiseworthy device did not altogether impose even on Miles, who clearly
was puzzled by the air of mystery that his friend assumed.

In view of the facts now set forth, can we blame Pitt and Grenville for
declining to treat with Maret? He brought with him no proof that he had
any other function than that of taking over the archives of the French
embassy. Grenville stated to Auckland that Maret's presence caused much
dabbling in the funds, and that his presence was most undesirable if
Dumouriez really intended to treat for peace. Pitt afterwards assured
the House of Commons that Maret had not made the smallest communication
to Ministers.[189] Evidently they looked on him as an unofficial
emissary, to which level Chauvelin had persistently endeavoured to
degrade him.

Finally, on 4th February, Grenville ordered Maret to leave the country.
By this time news had arrived from Paris that France had laid an embargo
on British ships in her ports; and this portended more serious news. By
that time the die was cast. On 31st January Danton carried the
Convention with him in a fiery speech, crowned with that gigantic
phrase--"Let us fling down to the Kings the head of a King as gage of
battle"; then, in defiance of the well-known facts of the case, he urged
the deputies to decree an act of political union with the Belgians, who
were already one at heart with them. On the following day the Convention
confirmed this aggressive action by unanimously decreeing war against
Great Britain and Holland. By so doing the deputies of France merely
endorsed the decision formed by the Executive Council on 10th January.

                  *       *       *       *       *

The outbreak of war between France and England is an event so fraught
with momentous issues to Pitt, to the two Powers, and to the whole
world, that I have striven to set forth as fully as possible every
incident, every misunderstanding, every collision of interests or
feelings, that brought it to pass. No episode in the development of the
nations of Europe is so tragic as this. That two peoples should, within
the space of nine months, abjure their friendly relations and furiously
grapple in a life and death struggle over questions of secondary
importance leads the dazed beholder at first to grope after the old
Greek idea of +atê+ or Nemesis. In reality the case does not call for
supernatural agency. The story is pitiably human, if the student will
but master its complex details. It may be well to close our study with a
few general observations, though they almost necessarily involve the
risk of over-statement.

Firstly, the position of absolute neutrality which Pitt took up from the
beginning of the troubles in France was extremely difficult to maintain
amidst the rising passions of the year 1792. The Franco-Austrian war
soon led to a situation in which the future conduct of the neutral
aroused far more suspicion, and scarcely less hatred, than that of the
enemy himself. When brains reeled with rage against tyrants; when cheeks
flushed at the thought of the woes of Marie Antoinette, correct
neutrality seemed inhuman. In an age that vibrated to the appeals of
Madame Roland and Burke, cold passivity aroused doubt or contempt. Yet
it is certain that Pitt and Grenville clung to that position, even when
its difficulties increased tenfold with the fall of the monarchy and the
September massacres. Lebrun, on coming into office after the former of
those events, was careful to inform his countrymen that the withdrawal
of the British ambassador was not an unfriendly act, and that England
was making no preparations for war. Later on he chose to represent
Pitt's conduct as persistently unfriendly; but his earlier words prove
the contrary.

Again, was it practicable (as Fox claimed) for Pitt to forbid Austria
and Prussia to coalesce against France? Probably it was not possible,
without bringing Russia and Sweden into the field on the royalist side.
In the excited state of men's minds, an act so annoying as that of armed
mediation would have widened the circle of war; and, as we have seen, it
was the belief of Pitt and Grenville, in August-September 1792, that the
continental war might probably end from the inability of the combatants
to continue it. No one at that time foresaw the easy conquest of Savoy
and the Low Countries by the French troops. In one of the few references
to foreign affairs in Pitt's letters of the month following, we find him
stating that if France conquers and keeps Savoy, a new situation will
arise.[190] But he remained passive while the French drove the Sardinian
troops from Savoy; and his whole conduct at this time moved Burke to
indignation, if not despair. So late as 6th November Grenville expressed
to Auckland his firm belief in the policy of strict neutrality.[191]

What was it, then, that blighted these hopes? The answer must be that
the French victory of Jemappes (6th November) and the phenomenally easy
conquest of the Austrian Netherlands speedily brought about a new and
most threatening situation. It has been usual to say, with Goethe, that
Valmy was the birth of a new age. Far more truly may we say so of
Jemappes and its immediate results. That decisive triumph and the
welcome accorded by the liberated Belgians opened up vistas of
beneficent triumph that set the brain of France in a whirl. Hence the
decrees of 16th November-15th December, which tear to pieces the old
diplomacy, and apply to astonished Europe the gospel of Rousseau. In
place of musty treaties there will be Social Contracts; instead of
States there will be nations that will speak straight to one another's
heart. They do speak: English Radical Clubs speak to the heart of
France, the Convention; and Grégoire, President of that body, makes
answer that if the rulers of England threaten the delegates and their
comrades, Frenchmen will cross the Straits and fly to their help--"Come,
generous Britons," he cries, "let us all confederate for the welfare of
Humanity."[192] In the new age, then, political life will be a series of
_tableaux_ from the gospel of Rousseau. To the true believer there can
be no compromise. Relics of old-world customs, such as the closing of
the Scheldt by the Dutch, must vanish. Here, as elsewhere, Nature will
infallibly guide men aright.

It was the application of these principles to our ally, the Dutch
Republic, which Pitt refused to accept, especially as their corollary
made for the aggrandisement of France. In his eyes international law
imposed stringent obligations, which no one State, or nation, had the
right to revoke. Old world theories of life, when rudely assailed at
Paris, moved their champions to an enthusiasm scarcely less keen than
that of the Jacobins. Britons who fraternized with the new hierophants
were counted traitors to their King. Moreover, by a most unfortunate
coincidence, the British Government publicly announced its resolve to
support the Dutch Republic on the very day when the French Convention
passed the first of its subversive decrees. Thus, national pride came
sharply into conflict. Neither side could give way without seeming to
betray alike its principles and its honour.

Personal questions played a baneful part in embittering the feud. Pitt
and Grenville shrouded themselves in their insular and innate austerity.
They judged the English Radical clubs too harshly; they ascribed to
those who congratulated the Convention on 28th November treasonable
aims which can scarcely have arisen in England when the addresses were
drawn up. Apart from frothy republican talk, which should have been
treated with quiet contempt, those congratulations contained no sign of
consciousness that France was about to challenge us to conflict. We may
admit that Frost and Barlow showed great tactlessness in presenting
those addresses when friction between the two nations had already begun;
for the incident, besides stiffening the necks of Frenchmen, gave the
Reform movement an appearance of disloyalty to England which worked
infinite harm. Nevertheless, on reviewing these questions, we see that
Pitt treated the foolish ebullitions of youth as though they implied

Surely, too, he, and still more Grenville, were unwise in placing
Chauvelin under a political and social ban, which naturally led him to
consort with the bitterest enemies of Government in order to annoy
Ministers here and please his employers at Paris. A touchy and sensitive
nature like Chauvelin's is usually open to the soothing influences of
flattery. Grenville, however, drove him to open enmity, which finally
wreaked its revenge;[193] for it was Chauvelin's report on the readiness
of Britons to revolt which finally decided the Convention to declare war
on 1st February. We may also inquire why the Court of St. James's did
not make clear the course of conduct which it proposed to take in the
future respecting France.[194] As outlined in the despatch of 29th
December to Whitworth, it formed the basis of a practicable compromise.
If it could be stated confidentially to Russia, Austria, and Prussia,
why not to France? Probably the objections of George III to the faintest
sign of recognition of the French Republic[195] account for the fact
that these enlightened intentions remained, down to the year 1800,
secret except to those Powers. But statesmen err when they bury their
good intentions in the secrecy of archives and allow public opinion to
sympathize with the enemy. Here was Pitt's most serious blunder. At the
outset of the struggle, and throughout its course, he scorned those
tactful arts and melodramatic ways which win over waverers and inspire
the fainthearted. Here he showed himself not a son of Chatham, but a
Grenville. The results of this frigidity were disastrous. All Frenchmen
and many Britons believed that he went out of his way to assail a
peaceful Republic in order to crush liberty abroad and at home. History
has exposed the falseness of the slander; but a statesman ought not to
owe his vindication to research in archives. He needs whole-hearted
support in the present more than justification by students.

In this respect Pitt showed less of worldly wisdom than the journalists
and barristers who leaped to power at Paris. Their chief source of
strength lay in skilful appeals to popular passion. In reality their
case was untenable before any calm and judicial tribunal. But the France
of that age was anything but calm and judicial. It lived on enthusiasm
and sensation; and the Girondins and Jacobins fed it almost to
repletion. Unfortunately Danton, the only man who combined strength with
some insight into statecraft, was away in Belgium while the crisis
developed; and the conduct of affairs rested mainly with Lebrun and his
envoy Chauvelin. It is only fair to remember that they were thirty and
twenty-seven years of age respectively, and had had just four months and
eight months of official experience. In such a case pity must blend with
censure. The frightful loss of experienced men and the giddy preference
for new-comers were among the most fatal characteristics of the
revolutionary movement. Needing natures that were able, yet
self-restrained, bold, but cautiously bold, it now found as leaders
calculating fanatics like Robespierre, headstrong orators and
wire-pullers like the Girondin leaders, or lucky journalists like
Lebrun. To play to the gallery was his first instinct; and the tottering
fortunes of the Gironde made it almost a necessity. Hence his refusal
and that of his colleagues to draw back a hair's breadth from the
unjustifiable position which they had taken up. Behind them loomed the
September massacres, fatal to two Foreign Ministers of France; before
them shone the splendours of a liberating crusade. We can scarcely blame
men so ardent, so hard pressed.

But there are some rules of the game which even the most irresponsible
of Ministers must observe. Here both Chauvelin and Lebrun went fatally
astray. Chauvelin's _pique_ at the interview which Pitt had with Maret
on 2nd December led him flagrantly to misrepresent that incident, and
Lebrun, as we have seen, reported it to the Convention in such a way as
to impute to Pitt a discreditable and cowardly intrigue. This is the
climax of malice. An envoy and a Minister who scatter such insinuations
are the most reckless of firebrands. By this conduct both Lebrun and
Chauvelin inflamed the passions of their countrymen. In truth, it was
passion, not policy, that made the war. The charges which they brought
against England were of secondary importance--her demand for the
revocation of the decrees concerning the Scheldt and the encouragement
offered to malcontents, together with her stoppage of corn ships lading
for France, and her Aliens Bill. Such were the pretexts for the recall
of Chauvelin, which, as we have seen, was decided at Paris before the
Court of St. James's determined to dismiss him.

Another fact comes out clearly from a survey of the evidence given
above, namely, that the execution of Louis XVI was in no sense the cause
of the war. The question turned essentially on the conduct of France
towards our Dutch Allies. Before Louis was put on his trial Pitt and
Grenville had decided that the French must retract their aggressive
decree against Holland, backed up as it was by a claim to support
malcontents in any land. Failing this, war would have ensued, even if
Louis had not been condemned to death. The tragedy of 21st January made
no difference to the issue; for, as we have seen, the French Government
by 10th January decided to push on its plans against the Dutch Republic.
It is also impossible to attach any importance to the vague offers of
Dumouriez and Maret, at which Lebrun connived probably so as to be able
to say, without committing himself in the least, that he had done all he
could for peace.

We may therefore conclude that the wealth and defencelessness of the
Dutch Netherlands lured on the enthusiasts and intriguers of Paris to an
enterprise the terrible results of which were unsuspected by them.
Nothing is more remarkable than the full assurance of victory which
breathes in the letters of Dumouriez, the despatches of Lebrun, and the
speeches of the French deputies. Experienced statesmen were soon to
stand aghast at the triumph of the Republican arms; but it fell short of
the hopes of the French politicians. In this boundless self-confidence,
sublime were it not so disastrous, is to be found the chief cause of war
in 1793.


[138] Miles, "Corresp.," i, 385-7.

[139] B.M. Add. MSS., 34446.

[140] Pitt MSS., 245. Published in "Napoleon and the Invasion of
England," by H. E. Wheeler and A. M. Broadley, ii, App.

[141] "Malmesbury Diaries," ii, 475.

[142] "Parl. Hist.," xxx, 19-21.

[143] Miles ("Corresp.," i, 391), who also asserts that Sheridan echoed
words used by the French agent, Noël.

[144] "Malmesbury Diaries," ii, 478-81.

[145] "Life and Letters of Earl Minto," ii, 82.

[146] Chuquet, "Jemappes," 196-7, shows that the urgent needs of the
army in Belgium were the _raison d'être_ of the decree.

[147] "Dropmore P.," ii, 359-62; "Parl. Hist.," xxx, 126.

[148] "Parl. Hist.," xxx, 137-46.

[149] "Méms. tirés des Papiers d'un homme d'Etat," ii, 100. This false
assertion was adopted by Malouet ("Méms.," ii, 201), whence it has been
copied largely, without examination of the debate itself.

[150] Godoy, "Mems.," i, ch. vi.

[151] "F. O.," Spain, 25, 26.

[152] "F. O.," France, 40.

[153] "F. O.," France, 40, 41.

[154] Miles, "Corresp.," i, 398-400. Unfortunately, Lord Acton ("Lects.
on the French Rev.," 253) accepted the stories against Pitt. He states
that Danton secretly offered to save Louis for £40,000; that Lansdowne,
Sheridan, and Fox urged Pitt to interpose; and that Pitt informed Maret
that he did not do so because the execution of Louis would ruin the
Whigs. I must reply that Lord Fitzmaurice assures me there is no sign
that the first Lord Lansdowne urged Pitt to bribe the Convention, though
in the debate of 21st December 1792 he suggested the sending an
ambassador to Paris to improve the relations of the two lands, and
assuage the hostility to Louis. Further, Danton could scarcely have made
that offer; for he left Paris for Belgium on 1st December, and did not
return till 14th January, after which he was engrossed in the last
illness of his wife. Danton's name was dragged into the affair probably
by mistake for Dannon (see Belloc, "Danton," 200). Lastly, as Maret left
London on 19th December, and did not return until 30th January, he did
not see Pitt at the crucial time of the trial. And would Pitt have made
so damaging a remark to a Frenchman? Is it not obviously a Whig slander?

[155] "Parl. Hist.," xxx, 189. See ch. iii of this work.

[156] See ch. iii for a refutation of this.

[157] Sorel, iii, 241. So, too, Gouverneur Morris, then in Paris,
thought the French Ministers, despite their bluster, wished to avoid war
"if the people will let them." (Quoted by Lecky, vi, 114.)

[158] "Parl. Hist.," xxx, 250-3; "Ann. Reg." (1793), 114-16.

[159] B.M. Add. MSS., 34446.

[160] _Ibid._, and "Dropmore P.," ii, 361.

[161] "Parl. Hist.," xxx, 253-6; "Ann. Reg." (1793), 116-9.

[162] Miles, "Corresp.," i, 351.

[163] "Dropmore P.," ii, 363.

[164] B.M. Add. MSS., 34446.

[165] B.M. Add. MSS., 34446. Grenville to Whitworth, 29th December.

[166] Miles, "Corresp.," i, 441.

[167] _Ibid._, i, 439.

[168] I published it in the "Eng. Hist. Rev." for April 1906; see, too,
Fitzmaurice, "Shelburne," iii, 515. Bulwer Lytton, "Hist. Characters"
(Talleyrand), wrongly states that he was at once expelled.

[169] "Ann. Reg.," 122-5; "Parl Hist.," xxx, 259-61; Miles, "Corresp.,"
ii, 4.

[170] "F. O.," France, 41.

[171] Whether Chauvelin was guilty of any worse offence than
entertaining at his house the editors of Opposition newspapers (Miles,
"Corresp.," i, 440) is not proven. Maret admitted to Miles that some
scoundrels were sowing sedition in England; but he added the not very
comforting assurance that, in that case, they would cease to be
Frenchmen. Miles evidently believed those intrigues to be the work of
French emissaries, (_Ibid._, 450, 451).

[172] "Parl. Hist.," xxx, 262-6; "Ann. Reg.," 119-22.

[173] Miles, "Corresp.," ii, 28-36, 42. See, too, Sorel, iii, 258, on
Maret's letter.

[174] "Dropmore P.," ii, 366; but see Miles, "Corresp.," ii, 43, 44.

[175] "Corresp. du Gén. Miranda avec le Gén. Dumouriez ... depuis
janvier 1793," 3-8. See "Dropmore P.," ii, 371, on Dumouriez' plan.

[176] _Ibid._, 8.

[177] "Dropmore P.," ii, 365.

[178] Miles, ii, 36.

[179] "Gower's Despatches," 278.

[180] B.M. Add. MSS., 34447.

[181] "F. O.," France, 41. The order to Chauvelin must have been given
earlier, probably on 22nd January, as will be seen by Dumouriez' letter
to Miranda soon to be quoted. George III's order of 24th January
(endorsed by Pitt) for Chauvelin's expulsion cannot have the importance
which Mr. J. L. le B. Hammond ("Fox," 262-3) assigns to it. See "Pitt
and Napoleon Miscellanies" for Lebrun's letter to Grenville.

[182] Published in "Dumouriez, etc.," 159, 160, by J. H. Rose and A. M.
Broadley, from B.M. Add. MSS., 34447.

[183] Lecky, vi, 119-22.

[184] Miles, "Corresp.," ii, 55.

[185] Miles, "Conduct of France towards Great Britain," 108; "Corresp.,"
ii, 62.

[186] Miles, "Conduct of France towards Great Britain," 108.

[187] Miles, "Corresp.," ii, 62.

[188] Dumouriez, "Méms.," ii, 128-31 (edit. of 1794).

[189] "Parl. Hist.," xxx, 350. Fox admitted (p. 371) that Maret did not
think himself authorized to negotiate. See, too, Bland Burges in
"Auckland Journals," ii, 493. I cannot agree with Mr. Oscar Browning
("Varennes, etc.," 198), and Mr. J. L. le B. Hammond ("Fox," 258) as to
the importance of Maret's "mission." Lecky (vi, 126) also overrates it,
in my judgement.

[190] "Dropmore P.," ii, 322.

[191] "Auckland Journals," ii, 465.

[192] "Moniteur," 29th November 1792.

[193] Maret stated that "M. Chauvelin had shamefully deceived the
Executive Council, and that nothing but misrepresentations and
falsehoods had marked his despatches since he lost all hope of remaining
in this country" (Miles, "Corresp.," ii, 62).

[194] Wilberforce urged this ("Life," ii, 13).

[195] "Dropmore P.," ii, 339, 351, 378.



    The war is not only unavoidable, but, under the circumstances of
    the case, absolutely necessary to the existence of Great Britain
    and Europe.--PITT, _Speech of 11th March, 1793_.

In this chapter and the following, dealing with phases of the Great War,
the narrative may seem at times to diverge far from the life of Pitt.
But, in truth, his career now depended upon the issue of this gigantic
strife. Therefore an account merely of his domestic concerns, of the
debates at Westminster, or even of British and Irish affairs, would be a
one-sided and superficial sketch. For in reality his destiny, together
with that of Great Britain and of Europe at large, turned upon the
events that unfolded themselves in Flanders and the Rhineland, at Toulon
and Quiberon, in Hayti, Corsica, and Egypt. As these in their turn were
potently influenced by the policy pursued at Paris, Vienna, Berlin, and
Madrid, we must take a survey, wide but minute, sometimes to all
appearance diffuse, yet in reality vitally related to the main theme. In
order to simplify the narrative, I have sought to disentangle the
strands of war policy and to follow them severally, connecting them,
however, in the chapter entitled "Pitt as War Minister," which will sum
up the results of these studies on the period 1793-8.

If proof be needed that Pitt entered upon the French war with regret, it
may be found in the fact that on 5th February he and Grenville empowered
Auckland to discuss the pacific overtures of Dumouriez. Grenville, it is
true, saw in this move merely a device to gain time;[196] and we may
detect in the British reply the sanguine nature of the Prime Minister.
But his hopes ended on 8th February, when news arrived of the
declaration of war by the French Convention against Great Britain and
Holland. Thereupon Pitt entered into the struggle without a shadow of
doubt.[197] For him it was always a struggle to prevent the domination
of the Netherlands by France; and we may note, as a sign of the
continuity of that policy, that on it largely depended the rupture with
Napoleon in 1803. Pitt summed up the object of the war in the word
"security." In his view, as in that of his successor, Castlereagh,
national security was wholly incompatible with the possession of
Holland, or even the Belgic Provinces, by France.

In taking this practical view of the crisis Pitt differed sharply from
George III and Burke. They looked on the struggle as one for the
restoration of monarchy. The King on 9th February wrote to Grenville
that he hoped the war would be the "means of restoring some degree of
order to that unprincipled country," and Burke flung into an unquotable
phrase his anger that the war should turn on the question of the
Scheldt.[198] For the present the aggressive conduct of France welded
together these two wings of the royalist party; but events were soon to
reveal the fundamental difference of view. Indeed, it coloured all their
opinions about the struggle. Wilberforce reports Pitt as saying that the
war would be a short war, and certainly ended in one or two campaigns.
"No, Sir," retorted Burke, "it will be a long war and a dangerous war,
but it must be undertaken."[199] In his eyes the struggle was one
between two irreconcilable principles--democracy and monarchy. Certainly
the effort to force 25,000,000 Frenchmen back into the well-worn grooves
was stupendous. Further, the great Irishman, with the idealism and
chivalry which invest his nature with so much charm, urged the Allies to
abjure all thought of indemnifying themselves at the expense of France,
and to declare their sole aim to be the destruction of anarchy and the
restoration of monarchy, a course of action which would range on their
side a large number of Frenchmen and avert all risk of identifying that
nation with the regicide Republic. The new letters of Burke suggest the
advantages of such a declaration and most justly censure the Allies for
avowing their intention of taking land from France. The old man saw
clearly that by so doing they banded Frenchmen together for a national
effort. In the following pages the thoughtful reader will notice the
disastrous effects of this blunder. Here Burke stood on strong ground;
and Pitt was far from guiltless.

On the general question, however, whether the war should be for the
restoration of monarchy or the attainment of security, Pitt's position
is unassailable. For the mere suspicion that the Allies intended to
impose Louis XVII on France condemned monarchy in the eyes of patriotic
Frenchmen. Only amidst the exhaustion following on the Napoleonic wars
could an intensely patriotic people accept a king at the sword's point.
In the first glow of democratic ardour absolute destruction seemed
preferable to so craven a surrender. While, then, we join Burke in
censuring the procedure of the Allies, we must pronounce his advice
fatal to the cause which he wished to commend. Further, his was a
counsel of perfection to Austria, England, and the Dutch Republic.
Deeming themselves attacked by France, they were determined to gain
security from the reckless schemes of aggrandizing philanthropy now in
favour at Paris; and, viewing the matter impartially, we must admit that
they were right. The French having been the aggressors, the three States
justly demanded security at that weak point in the European system, the
Flemish border. Further, as Pitt limited his aims to the expulsion of
the French from the Low Countries, he might reasonably hope for a speedy
peace, the task which he set before himself being far smaller than that
of forcing a king back on the French nation.[200] Ultimately the
stiffneckedness of Napoleon brought all the Powers to the latter
solution; but no one in 1793 could foresee the monstrous claim for "the
natural frontiers"--the Rhine, Alps, Pyrenees, and Ocean--which
prolonged the struggle to the year 1814.

Pitt's optimism will appear not unnatural, if we review the general
situation early in the year 1793. The political atmosphere was
disturbed by two cyclones, one in the west, the other in the east, of
Europe. That which centred in the French Revolution seemed to have
reached its maximum intensity; and skilled observers augured from the
execution of Louis XVI a relapse into savage but almost helpless
anarchy. The recent successes of the French in the Rhineland and Brabant
were rightly ascribed to the supineness of Prussia and Austria; and
already the armies of Custine and Dumouriez were in sore straits. The
plunder of the liberated peoples by the troops and by commissioners sent
to carry out the decrees of fraternity had led to sharp reprisals all
along the straggling front from Mainz to Bruges; and now Danton's decree
of 31st January, annexing the Belgic provinces to France, exasperated
that people.

Further, the men in power at Paris had as yet shown no organizing
capacity. The administration of the War Department by "papa" Pache had
been a masterpiece of imbecile knavery which infuriated Dumouriez and
his half-starving troops. We have heard much of the blunders of British
Ministers in this war; but even at their worst they never sank to the
depths revealed in the correspondence of Dumouriez with Pache. In truth,
both Powers began the war very badly; but France repaired her faults far
more quickly, chiefly because the young democracy soon came to award the
guillotine for incompetent conduct over which the nepotism of Whitehall
spread a decent cloak. The discovery by the Jacobins of the law of the
survival of the fittest served to array the military genius of France
against Court favourites or the dull products of the system of

For the present, the misery of the French troops, the immense extent of
their lines, and the singular ingratitude of the liberated peoples,
promised a speedy reversal of the campaign of 1792. For the re-conquest
of Belgium, the Allies now had ready on or near the Rhine 55,000
Austrians under the Duke of Coburg. On their right were 11,000
Prussians, under Frederick of Brunswick-Oels, and 13,000 Hanoverians,
destined for Guelderland. These last were to be paid by the Maritime
Powers. In reserve were 33,000 Prussians, under Hohenlohe-Kirchberg. For
the invasion of Eastern France, Frederick William of Prussia marshalled,
near Frankfurt, a force of 42,000 of his own troops, together with
14,000 other Germans. Further south was General Wurmser with 24,000
Austrians. And this was not all. The Holy Roman Empire promised a force
of 120,000, whenever its Translucencies, Bishops, Abbesses, and Knights
could muster them; and further east there loomed the hosts of Russia. If
these forces had been used straightforwardly, France must have been

But the half of them were not used at all. Before the campaign opened,
the eastern cyclone drew to itself the energies which ostensibly were
directed against France. Just one week before the execution of
Louis XVI, five Prussian columns crossed the borders of Poland. This act
aroused a furious outcry, especially as Frederick William preluded it by
a manifesto hypocritically dwelling upon the danger of allowing
Jacobinism to take root in Poland. Fears of Prussian and Muscovite
rapacity had induced Pitt and Grenville to seek disclaimers of partition
at Berlin and St. Petersburg. Assurances enough were forthcoming. On
29th January 1793 Markoff sought to convince Whitworth that no partition
was intended.[202] But in view of the entire passivity of Pitt on the
Polish Question since his surrender to Catharine in 1791 the two Powers
laid their plans for the act of robbery which took place a few months

In this they had the rather doubtful acquiescence of Austria, provided
that they furthered the Belgic-Bavarian exchange so long favoured at
Vienna and resisted at Berlin. As we have seen, Pitt strongly opposed
the exchange; but, early in February 1793, Grenville and he heard that
the Emperor Francis II hoped to facilitate the transference of the
Elector of Bavaria from Munich to Brussels by adding Lille and
Valenciennes to his new dominion.[204] These tidings led them to adopt a
decision which was largely to influence the course of the war. They
resolved to commit Austria deeply to war with France by favouring the
acquisition of Lille and Valenciennes by the Hapsburgs provided that
they retained Belgium. This, however, was far from the wishes of that
Court, which longed for parts of Alsace and Lorraine, and viewed Belgium
merely as a sop to be flung to the Elector of Bavaria.[205]

Was there ever a more singular game of cross-purposes? Austria pursued
the war with France chiefly with the object of gaining Bavaria and parts
of Eastern France, Belgium (with Lille and Valenciennes) being allotted
to the Elector uprooted at Munich. Prussia and Russia promised to abet
this scheme as a set-off to their prospective plunder of Poland; but,
obviously, after securing their booty in the summer of 1793, they had no
interest in aggrandizing the House of Hapsburg. Further, England entered
on the Flemish campaign with motives widely different from those of
Austria. Pitt and Grenville sought to plant her more firmly at Brussels
by girdling her with the fortresses of French Flanders; but she sought
to recover Belgium only to fling it to the Elector. Finally neither
Russia nor the German Powers cared an iota about the security of
Holland. Their eyes were fixed on Warsaw or Munich. In truth, despite
all their protestations as to the need of re-establishing the French
monarchy, they were mainly bent on continuing the territorial scrambles
of former years. The two aims were utterly incompatible.

In comparison with the motives prompting the actions of States, treaties
are of secondary importance. Nevertheless (to finish with these
wearisome details) we may note that on 25th March Grenville and
Vorontzoff signed at Downing Street a treaty of alliance whereby Russia
promised, firstly, to use her forces, along with those of England,
against France; secondly, to prevent neutrals from helping France
indirectly (a clause which involved the lapse of the principles of the
Armed Neutrality), and thirdly, to grant to England a favourable
commercial treaty.[206] Agreement with Prussia and Austria was more
difficult, but at last, on 14th July and 30th August, compacts were
signed with them for military aid in return for subsidies; and in the
spring and summer of 1793 Grenville arranged similar conventions with
Sardinia, Hesse-Cassel, Spain, and Naples. In this haphazard manner did
these States agree to war against France. Their aims being as diverse as
their methods were disjointed, the term "First Coalition" applied to
this league is almost a misnomer.

Before describing the first campaign of the war it will be well briefly
to survey the armed forces of the Crown and the organization for war.
Firstly, we must remember that Pitt had devoted great attention to the
navy and to the fortification of Portsmouth and Plymouth. Despite the
hostile vote of the House of Commons in 1785, he had succeeded in
finding money enough to enable the Duke of Richmond to place those
dockyard towns beyond reach of a _coup de main_; and to Pitt may be
ascribed the unquestioned superiority of Britain at sea. Of the 113
sail-of-the-line then available, about 90 could soon be placed in
commission, that is, so soon as the press-gang provided the larger part
of the _personnel_.

The state of the army was far less satisfactory. Never, in all
probability, since the ignominious times of Charles II, had it been in
so weak a condition relatively to the Continental Powers. In the Budget
of 1792 Pitt asked merely for 17,013 men as guards and garrisons in
these islands; and he reduced even that scanty force to 13,701 men for
the next six months. The regiments were in some cases little more than
skeletons, but with a fairly full complement of officers. Nominally the
army consisted of eighty-one battalions; but of these the West Indies
claimed as many as nineteen. India needed nine; and on the whole only
twenty-eight line regiments, together with the Guards and the cavalry,
remained for the defence of Great Britain and Ireland. Efforts were made
in December 1792 to bring in recruits, but with little effect. The
defence of London, the dockyard towns, and other important posts,
depended of course partly on the militia; 19,000 of that useful force
were embodied early in February. But as the authorities forbore to
compel men to serve in person, there was a rush for substitutes, which
naturally told against recruiting for the Line.[207] Volunteer
Associations were also relied on for local defence, and for overawing
the malcontent or disorderly elements in the populace. The safety of the
coasts and therefore of the capital rested primarily with the navy; and
for England the war promised to be almost entirely a naval war.

Equally chaotic was the administration for war. Some time in February
1793 Dundas sent to Pitt a Memorandum respecting a new arrangement of
offices which had been mooted in the Cabinet. The need of some change
may be judged by the fact that Dundas was Secretary for Home Affairs
(down to July 1794), First Commissioner for India (that is, virtually,
Secretary for India), and Treasurer of the Navy, besides drawing glory
and profit from his airy duties of Groom of the Stole. What changes had
been proposed does not appear; but Dundas expressed himself as follows:
"First: That I should remain precisely as I am while the war continues,
provided the arrangement takes place respecting the Groom of the Stole
to Lord Chatham, together with all the consequent changes in other
offices. This in my judgment is by much the best for the public service,
and ought to supersede all other individual wishes." Failing this
patriotic arrangement, Dundas requested that he should have the first
claim for the Privy Seal for Scotland, provided that Lord Chatham did
not take the Stole. He (Dundas) would give up the latter but retain his
office at the India Board and the Navy. Or, thirdly, if he received the
Privy Seal for Scotland, he would give up his other offices except that
at the India Board. This last plan would involve a large reduction of
income, but he preferred it to the others except the two previously

Nevertheless no change of any importance took place. Dundas continued to
be a portly pluralist, utterly unable to overtake the work of three
important offices, with the conduct of the war often superadded; and
Chatham remained at the Admiralty until the close of 1794, to the
annoyance of all champions of efficiency. In the course of that year
Pitt urged the need of strengthening both the Admiralty and War
Departments; but, as we shall see, Dundas strongly objected to the
creation of a Secretary of State for War, because his duties would
overlap those of the other Departments, and important decisions must be
formed by the Cabinet as a whole.[209] I shall touch on this question
more fully in Chapter XII, but mention it here as a sign of the mental
cloudiness which led British Ministers for the first eighteen months of
the war to plod along with the most haphazard arrangements known even to
that age. The contrast between the boyish irresponsibility of military
management in England and the terrible concentration of power in the
hands of Carnot at Paris, after July 1793, goes far to explain the
disasters to the Union Jack after the first few months of the war.

The triumph of the French Republic and its transformation into a
military Empire cannot be understood until we probe the inner weakness
of the First Coalition and realize the unpreparedness of Great Britain.
Moreover, as the Allies believed that France would speedily succumb,
the allocation of the spoil claimed their attention more than
preparations for the hunt. The unexpected vigour of the French might
have undeceived them. While Coburg was leisurely preparing to drive the
levies of Dumouriez from the district between Verviers and
Aix-la-Chapelle, the latter laid his plans for a dash into the almost
unprotected Dutch Netherlands, where he hoped to find precious spoils
and valuable munitions of war.[210] Breaking up therefore from Antwerp
on 16th February, the Republicans quickly advanced towards the estuary
known as the Hollandsdiep, while two other columns marched on Breda and
Bergen-op-Zoom. As Dumouriez had foreseen, the torpor of the
Stadholder's forces was as marked as the eagerness of the Dutch Patriots
to welcome the invaders. Breda fell on 26th February; but he failed to
cross the Hollandsdiep, for there the Sea Power intervened.

On 15th February Auckland begged that the Duke of York might be sent
over with a few battalions. The Ministry at once answered the appeal. On
20th February seven battalions of the British Guards were paraded at
Whitehall; the Duke of York announced that the first three would go to
Holland, and asked for volunteers from the other four. The whole line
stepped forward. Huddled on to small transports, the little force
reached the Dutch estuaries in time to thwart the efforts of Dumouriez.
Their arrival heartened the defenders of the Hollandsdiep, and held the
French at bay. Meanwhile Coburg had bestirred himself, and, marching on
Miranda's vanguard on the River Roer, threw it back in utter rout.
Dumouriez, falling back hastily to succour his lieutenant, encountered
the Austrian force at Neerwinden, where the unsteadiness of the
Republican levies enabled Coburg and his brilliant lieutenant, the
Archduke Charles, to win a decisive triumph (18th March). A great part
of the French levies melted away. The Belgians rose against the
retreating bands; and in a few days that land was lost to France. The
failure of Dumouriez to turn his army against the Convention, and his
flight to the Austrian outposts, need not be described here.[211]
Suffice it to say that the northern frontier of France lay open to
attack. An advance in force in the month of April or May might have
ended the war.

But, as we have seen, the Allies were too jealous and too distrustful to
act with the necessary vigour. Austria refused to recognize the Prussian
scheme for the Partition of Poland; and the North German Power
retaliated by withholding its contingent from the support of
Coburg.[212] That commander, finding himself duped by the Prussians,
pressed the British and Dutch Governments to send him succour. To this
he had some claim; for it was the Austrian victory at Neerwinden which
saved Holland from the French; and the best method of protecting that
land was to capture the northern fortresses of France. The Dutch army
numbered on paper 50,000 men; 13,500 Hanoverians were marching towards
Guelderland; 8,000 Hessians were entering the British service. In such a
case it would have been disgraceful not to assist Coburg in completing
his triumph. Thus, as often happens with British expeditions, the scope
of the Duke of York's operations now greatly widened. His original
instructions of 23rd February ordered him not to move more than
twenty-four hours away from Helvoetsluys. On 19th March, as the danger
lessened, the War Office gave him leave to advance, moving on the right
of Coburg's army towards Antwerp and Ghent.[213]

The news of Neerwinden led George III to adopt even more vigorous
measures. True, he disliked Coburg's pressing demand for help, seeing
that no treaty of alliance was formed; but he permitted the forward move
on Ghent, and formulated a still bolder scheme, that the British,
Hanoverians, and Dutch should advance to besiege Dunkirk; for the
capture of that place would enable a siege-train to be brought easily to
the Austrians for the leaguer of Lille and Valenciennes.[214] To
Grenville he expressed the hope that these measures would speedily end
the war.[215]

The letter is important as showing the great influence of the King on
military affairs. It must be remembered that Pitt, Grenville, and Dundas
(the three leading members of the Cabinet) had no knowledge of these
questions, while that shadowy personage, Sir George Yonge, Secretary at
War, had no seat in the Cabinet. A more unsatisfactory state of things
cannot be conceived. It tended to subject questions of military policy
to that influential trio, which in its turn was swayed by the will of
the King. According to constitutional custom, the Cabinet was
collectively responsible for questions of war policy; but it is
difficult to say how far Ministers were individually responsible. Pitt
and Grenville certainly influenced the decisions arrived at; Dundas drew
up and signed the chief military despatches; but the wishes of
George III had great weight.

    [Illustration: SEAT OF WAR IN FLANDERS.]

In fact, questions of war policy turned largely on motives other than
military. The resolve of the King and his Ministers to share in the
invasion of France sprang not only from feelings of military honour,
but also from the exigencies of diplomacy. By the middle of March it was
clear that Russia and Prussia would acquire unexpectedly extensive
tracts of Polish land. Francis II vented his spleen at this rebuff on
his Chancellor, Philip Cobenzl, who was virtually disgraced, while a
clever but unprincipled schemer, Thugut, took his place.[216] Another
unwelcome surprise was in store. The Emperor had hoped to find in the
Belgic-Bavarian exchange "compensation" for the presumedly moderate
gains of his rivals in Poland. But to this plan, as we have seen,
George III and his Ministers stoutly demurred; and Grenville held out
the prospect of the acquisition of Lille and Valenciennes in order once
more to lay that disquieting spectre. As it also alarmed some of the
German princes, whose help was needed against France, the Court of
Vienna saw this vision fade away until Thugut hit upon the design of
conquering Alsace, and finding there the means of effecting the
longed-for exchange. Pitt and Grenville, however, clung to the policy of
rooting Austria firmly at Brussels, with Lille and Valenciennes as her
outworks, and this involved the effort of winning those two fortresses
for the Hapsburgs. Thugut suggested that, if Austria could not secure
French Flanders, she must find compensation elsewhere; and he declined
to satisfy Eden's curiosity on this threatening word.[217] It therefore
behoved us to strengthen Austria's stroke at French Flanders, especially
as she now acquiesced in the British contention, that the Allies should
neither interfere with the form of Government in France nor recognize
the Comte de Provence as Regent.[218]

The British Government, however, moved forward its troops into Flanders
reluctantly, firstly, because it wanted to use them in the West
Indies,[219] and also discerned the preference of Frederick William for
a Polish to a Flemish campaign. That monarch and his generals left the
Austrians to bear the brunt of everything on the banks of the Rhine, and
also in Brabant. His manner of setting about the siege of Mainz was a
masterpiece of politic delay, in which amorous dalliance played its
part.[220] When complaints came from his Allies, he hotly retorted that
Coburg had sent him only 5,000 troops from the northern army instead of
the 15,000 that were promised. The Austrians replied with no less warmth
that Coburg needed those 10,000 men because he had had no succour from
the Prussian force supporting him. The result was that the Duke of
York's corps was thrust into the part which the Prussian contingent
ought to have taken. Accordingly Pitt and some of his colleagues deemed
it preferable, now that Holland was safe, to withdraw the British troops
with a view to a series of expeditions against the coasts and colonies
of France. This problem called for a clear and decided solution. Nowhere
do we so much lament the secrecy of Cabinet discussions as on these
questions--should the meagre forces of Britain be used on maritime
expeditions (their normal function in war), or form a petty division in
the crusade of two great Military Powers; or, worst of all, should they
be parcelled out in both kinds of warfare?

All that we know is that George III, on 29th March, strongly advocated
the siege of Dunkirk, in the hope that the capture of that seaport would
assist the Austrians in reducing the fortresses of French Flanders, and
thus put an end to the war. On the other hand, the Duke of Richmond
counselled the withdrawal of the British force for use against the
coasts and colonies of France; and his two letters to Pitt, dated
Goodwood, 3rd and 5th April, show that Pitt inclined to that opinion.
The question was important in view of a forthcoming conference of the
allied commanders and envoys at Antwerp. The letters are too long for
quotation. In that of 3rd April the duke declares that Ministers must
soon decide whether to persevere in Flanders or in maritime expeditions.
"To attempt both is to do neither well." For himself, he would much
prefer to attack Cherbourg, Brest, l'Orient, Rochefort, Nantes and
Bordeaux; but he fears that the ardour of the Duke of York will lead him
into an extensive campaign in Flanders.

In the second and longer letter, Richmond warns Pitt that, if he prefers
to attack the ports and colonies of France (especially the West Indies),
he ought at once to warn the envoys of the Allies at Antwerp (who were
about to discuss the plan of campaign), that we could not long afford
succour to them, and trusted that after six weeks they could do without
it, or, at least, would need it only to a very slight extent. If, he
continues, Coburg and the Prussians demur to this, we must reply that
England was at first no party to the war, and entered into it only for
the defence of the Dutch; that participation in a continental campaign
is so unpopular and ruinous, that we may be compelled to desist from it;
that by means of naval expeditions we can help the common cause steadily
and effectively; and that we are in no position to act on the Continent
because "our army, cavalry and infantry, consists almost wholly of
recruits, no part of which (men or horses) have been raised two months,
and the greater part of which are at this moment only raising." Further,
if we clearly warn the Allies of our resolve to withdraw our troops,
they cannot complain of it. Pitt should therefore instruct Lord Auckland
to give clear expression to these ideas. Coburg will then probably argue
as to the extreme importance of clinching the successes already won, and
will therefore urge the Duke of York to besiege Dunkirk, Graveline, and
St. Omer, with a view to drawing him on finally towards Paris. But any
such proceeding is to be resisted. The German Powers will dismember
France; but we, having little military weight, shall probably gain next
to nothing. Far more advantageous will be our action elsewhere, _e.g._,
in the seizure of Cherbourg, Toulon, etc. Richmond ends by requesting of
Pitt the favour of an interview.[221]

Either the interview did not take place, or the duke's arguments failed
to lower the sanguine spirits of the Prime Minister to the level of
prudence. All the letters of Pitt at that time exude confidence from
every line. He hopes that Dumouriez will succeed in overthrowing the
regicides at Paris. The backwardness of the Prussians in supporting
Coburg does not deter him from ordering to Flanders all the available
British and mercenary troops, in order to besiege Dunkirk, and otherwise
help the Imperialists. As if this is not enough, on or just before 1st
April he treats with Malouet, the French envoy from Hayti, for the
transfer of that colony to the British Crown; he writes hopefully of
finding a force large enough to make an attempt on the French coast; and
a little later Grenville mentions a Mediterranean campaign. The King,
too, in referring to a recent offer of peace from Paris, writes that the
bounds of "that dangerous and faithless nation" must be greatly
circumscribed before such a proposal can be entertained.[222]

Thus France is to be attacked in Flanders, on the north or north-west
coast, on the Mediterranean coast and in Corsica, as well as the West
Indies, by an army which musters scarcely 20,000 effectives. In this
confidence, which wells forth into five distinct schemes, is to be found
the cause for the Jacobin triumphs which shattered the First Coalition.

Austria and Prussia were equally puffed up with unreal hopes. At the
conference at Antwerp in the second week of April occurred the first of
the many blunders which helped to rally Frenchmen around the tricolour.
Coburg's promise, in a recent proclamation to Dumouriez and the French
nation, that the Allies would not make conquests at the expense of
France, was warmly disavowed at the first sitting. Accordingly, a few
days later, Coburg issued a second proclamation, announcing the end of
the armistice and omitting all reference to his disinterested views. The
change of tone speedily convinced the French people of the imminence of
schemes of partition. This it was, quite as much as Jacobin fanaticism,
which banded Frenchmen enthusiastically in the defence of the Republic.
Patriotism strengthened the enthusiasm for liberty, and nerved
twenty-five million Frenchmen with a resolve to fling back the
sacrilegious invaders.

About this time the French Government sent pacific proposals to London,
which met with no very encouraging reception, Pitt and Grenville
probably regarding them as a means of sowing discord among the Allies,
of worming out their plans, or of gaining time for the French
preparations. It is indeed difficult to believe that they had any other
object. After the defection of Dumouriez and his Staff, France was in a
desperate state, and her rulers naturally sought to gain a brief
respite. Grenville therefore replied that if France really desired to
end the war which she had forced upon England, definite proposals might
be sent to the British headquarters in the Netherlands.[223] None was

Meanwhile, the jealousies of the German Powers, the delay of Austria in
coming to terms with England, and the refusal of Coburg to define his
plan of campaign, paralysed the actions of the Allies and saved France.
As for the British force, it was too weak to act independently; and yet
the pride of George III forbade its fusion in Coburg's army.[224] By the
third week of April the Duke of York had with him 4,200 British
infantry, 2,300 horsemen, besides 13,000 Hanoverians (clamorous for more
pay), and 15,000 Dutch troops of poor quality and doubtful fidelity;
8,000 hired Hessians had not yet arrived.[225] Yet the King and his
Ministers persisted in hoping for the conquest of French Flanders. The
War Office despatch of 16th April specified as the chief aim of the war
the re-conquest of the Low Countries by Austria, "with such extended and
safe frontier as may secure the tranquillity and independence of
Holland." But Pitt and his colleagues, far from concentrating on
Flanders, continued to toy with expeditions to Brittany, Provence,
Corsica, and the West Indies.

At first they pressed Coburg to consent to the deviation of the British
force towards Dunkirk; and only on his urgent protest was that
ex-centric move given up until Valenciennes should have fallen. The
Austrian contention was undoubtedly right, as the British Government
grudgingly admitted. The Duke of York's force therefore moved along with
that of Coburg towards that fortress and showed great gallantry in
compelling the French to evacuate the supporting camp of Famars (23rd
May). Early in June the siege of Valenciennes began in earnest. A
British officer described the defence of the French as "obstinate but
not spirited." They made no sorties, and Custine's army of 40,000 men,
which should have sought to raise the siege, did not attack, probably
owing to the unsteadiness and apathy of his troops.[226] This lack of
energy cost him his life; for on 10th July he was ordered back to Paris
and soon went to the guillotine.

At that time the Jacobins were in a state of mind in which fury and
despair struggled for the mastery. The outlook was as gloomy as before
Valmy in September 1792. Bad news poured in from all sides. The
Girondins, after the collapse of their power on 2nd June, appealed to
the Departments, and two thirds of France seemed about to support them
against the tyranny of the capital. Had not the Jacobins developed an
organizing power immeasurably superior to that of the moderates, the
royalists, and the Allies, the rule of that desperate minority must
speedily have been swept away. On 12th July the Parisian Government
declared itself at war with the moderates, who now had the upper hand at
Lyons and in neighbouring districts. On that same day Condé (a small
fortress north of Valenciennes) opened its gates. On 22nd July Mainz
surrendered to the King of Prussia; and six days later the Austrian and
British standards were hoisted on the ramparts of Valenciennes.

This event raised to its climax the fury of the Jacobins; and on 9th
August the Convention passed with acclamation a decree declaring Pitt to
be an enemy of the human race. This singular manifestation of Gallic
effervescence came about in the following way. The Committee of Public
Safety having presented a report on the scarcity of corn and bread, the
Convention was electrified by the doleful recital. In the ensuing debate
stories are told of men disguised as women who practise insidious
devices among the _queues_ at the bakers' shops. At once the Convention
decrees that men acting thus while in disguise shall be deemed worthy of
death. A deputy named Garnier then suggests that as this is clearly a
device of the infamous Pitt to increase disorder, it shall be declared
lawful to murder him. Couthon, for once speaking the language of
moderation, objects to this proposal as unworthy of the Republic, and
moves that Pitt be declared an enemy of the human race. This is at once
approved as worthy of the humanity and dignity of the Convention. The
decree, then, was obviously a device for shelving the stupid and
bloodthirsty motion of Garnier. The whole discussion may be compared
with Pitt's declaration to the House of Commons on 12th February 1793,
that the war, though undoubtedly provoked by France, would never be
waged by England for motives of vengeance, but merely for the attainment
of security.

Why at this time the name of Pitt should have driven the Parisian
legislators half frantic is not easy to see. Up to that time the
exploits of the small British force at Famars and Valenciennes had been
no more than creditable; and it was not till the end of the month that
the news of the entry of Admiral Hood's fleet into Toulon threw Paris
into a frenzy. The decree of 9th August therefore has merely a
psychological interest. When tyrants thundered at the gates of the
Republic, France needed some names the mere sound of which sufficed to
drive her sons to arms. In 1792 it was Brunswick or Condé. When they
ceased to be effective, the populace found others first in Coburg and
finally in Pitt. Other names waxed and waned; but that of the son of
Chatham stood fixed in a dull haze of hatred. Thus, by a singular irony,
the very man who in 1786 had branded with folly those Englishmen who
declared France to be our natural enemy, was now by her banned as the
enemy of the human race. And such he remains for the great majority of
Frenchmen. The hasty and fortuitous phrase of Couthon, which was
designed to save him from the assassin's knife, will doubtless be the
permanent catchword, irremovable by research and explanation.

The ravings of the French Convention would soon have ended, had not a
great organizer now appeared. On 17th August 1793 Carnot entered the
Committee of Public Safety, and thenceforth wielded its limitless powers
for purposes of national defence. He was an officer of engineers, and
had eagerly studied the principles of strategy. Throwing himself with
ardour into the Revolution, he became a member of the National Assembly,
and now was charged with the supervision of the War Department. At the
War Committee he had the help of officers scarcely less able. Among them
Mallet du Pan, in an interesting survey of French administrators, names
D'Arçon as largely contributing to the French triumphs at Dunkirk and
Maubeuge. He calls him a soul on fire and full of resource.[227] But the
brain and will of this Committee was Carnot. His application to work for
some twelve or fourteen hours a day, his hold on masses of details, and
his burning patriotism, enabled him to inflame, control, and energize
Frenchmen until they became a nation in arms. Moreover, Carnot had the
invaluable gift of selecting the best commanders. True, the Frenchman
was not hampered by a monarch who regarded the army as his own, nor by
clogging claims of seniority. The "organizer of victory" had before him
a clear field and no favour.

The most urgent danger for the Republic soon proved to be not in
Flanders, but in Brittany and la Vendée. There _la petite noblesse_ and
the peasantry still lived on friendly terms. They were alike shocked by
the expulsion of the orthodox priests and the murder of the King.
Summoned by the Republic to arms in the spring of 1793, they rushed to
arms against her. In la Vendée, the densely wooded district south of
the lower Loire, everything favoured the defence. The hardy peasants
were ably led by that born leader of men, the chivalrous Marquis de
Larochejaquelein, who had inspired the men of his neighbourhood with the
words: "If I advance, follow me; if I retreat, slay me; if I fall,
avenge me." With him was his cousin, Lescure, not less brave, but of a
cooler and more calculating temper. The ardently Catholic peasantry of
the west furnished as leaders a carter, Cathelineau, of rare ability and
generosity of character, and Stofflet, a gamekeeper, of stern and
vindictive stamp. Nerved by fanatical hatred against the atheists and
regicides of Paris, these levies of the west proved more than a match
for all the National Guards, whole columns of whom they lured into the
depths of the Bocage and cut down to the last man. As Victor Hugo has
finely said: "It was a war of the town against the forest." At first the
forest-dwellers threatened to overrun the towns. On 11th June they took
Saumur, a town on the Loire, after a desperate fight, and sought to open
communication with the coast and the British fleet by seizing Nantes.
This attempt, however, failed; and it is generally admitted that they
erred in not marching on Paris after their first successes. After
gaining a sure base of operations, they should have strained every nerve
in order to strike at the heart. And if distance and lack of supplies
and equipment shortened their reach, they might at least have carried
the war into the rich central provinces, on which the capital subsisted.

But the mistake of these poor peasants was venial when compared with
those of the Allies. On the capture of Mainz, Condé, and Valenciennes,
the Prussian, Austrian, and British commanders did not enforce an
unconditional surrender, but offered to allow the garrisons to march out
with the honours of war on condition of not serving against them for a
year. A better example of shirking present problems at the cost of
enhanced difficulties in the future cannot be imagined. By this
improvident lenity the Allies enabled the regicides to hurl fully 25,000
trained troops against the royalists of the West and deal them terrible
blows. In September and October the Republicans gained considerable
successes, especially at Cholet. Soon the Vendéan War became little more
than a guerilla strife, which Pitt fed by means of arms and stores, but
not in the energetic manner desired by Burke and Windham.

These ardent royalists constantly pressed him to help the men of Poitou
and Brittany, but had to deplore the wearisome delays which then clogged
all military and naval operations. Most bitterly did Burke write to
Windham, early in November 1793, that Ministers were so eager in seeking
to win indemnities from France that they had hardened the national
resistance of that nation, and meanwhile had not sent a single shipload
of stores to the brave men of Poitou. Of course it was less easy than
Burke imagined to get stores across a sea not yet fully commanded by the
British fleet, and through inlets and harbours closely watched by the
enemy. But the inaction of a force entrusted to the Earl of Moira for
the support of the French royalists is certainly discreditable to him
and to Ministers. Among them the Duke of Richmond, Master of Ordnance,
distinguished himself by his incapacity and his ridiculous orders.
Another obvious misfit was Lord Chatham at the Admiralty. But how can we
explain the inactivity of four regiments in the Channel Islands all the
summer? Surely they could have seized St. Malo or the Quiberon
Peninsula.[228] Such a diversion would have been highly effective. For
the Bretons and Vendéans, when supplied with arms, could have marched
eastwards and roused the royalists of Normandy, Maine, and Touraine.
With so potent a foe near to Paris, must not the regicides have been
overborne by Coburg in Flanders? Everything tends to show that the
Republicans feared the royalists of the West more than the Austrians in
the North. But, as will appear in a later chapter, Pitt and Dundas
decided to throw their strength into the West Indies. On 26th November
1793, Sir John Jervis sailed for that deadly bourne with 7,000 troops.

Events were soon to reveal the seriousness of this mistake. It was far
more important to strike at Paris through Brittany than to occupy even
the richest of the French West Indies. For a triumphant advance of the
Bretons and Vendéans must not only have lessened the material resources
of the Republic but also have deprived its defenders of one of their
chief advantages. Hitherto the Republicans had been better massed
together, while their assailants were spread over wide spaces. It is a
well-known principle in war that an army operating on an inner arc, or
what are termed interior lines, has a great advantage over forces spread
over the outer circumference. The Allies then held the Pyrenees, the
Maritime Alps, the Rhine, and most of Flanders, Brittany, and parts of
the South. The defenders, possessing the central provinces, could mass
their units far more quickly and choose the point on that outer curve
against which they would aim their blow.

This principle was thoroughly understood by Carnot. Near the centre of
the circle he massed the levies that were to save the Republic, and,
confiding them to zealots who were resolved to conquer or die, he soon
had on foot armies which, however contemptible as units, were formidable
from their weight and their enthusiasm. As in mechanics the mass
multiplied by the speed gives the effective force, so in the campaign of
1793 the _levée en masse_ multiplied by enthusiasm and impelled by the
brain power of Carnot begot a momentum which, when brought to bear on
light, scattered, and almost stationary bodies, proved to be
irresistible. For while Carnot trusted to concentration, the Allies
either sank into inertia, or made ex-centric movements which ultimately
played into their opponents' hands. The Prussians, after taking Mainz,
did little more than rest on their laurels, their only move being
towards Luxemburg. Coburg was inclined to follow their example on the
ground that an advance to Paris would unite all the French parties
against him, while the siege of the remaining fortresses in the North
would allow anarchy to run riot at the centre.[229] The argument is a
good example of political _finesse_ applied to a military problem, with
disastrous results. Coburg therefore set about the siege of Quesnoy.

Certainly he could urge in excuse that the British Government now
insisted on the resumption of its favourite plan, the capture of that
nest of privateers, Dunkirk. On receipt of the news of the surrender of
Valenciennes, an order was sent to the Duke of York to begin the siege
of that once important stronghold, and capture it for Great Britain,
though it might be allowed finally to fall to the Emperor as one of his
new Barrier fortresses, provided that we gained indemnities in other
parts of the world. French and German historians, with their usual bias
against Great Britain, have assumed that she had resolved to keep
Dunkirk. The contrary is proved by the despatches of Dundas to Murray,
and by a letter of Sir Gilbert Elliot whom Pitt appointed commissioner
to regulate affairs at Dunkirk. Writing to Lady Elliot on 10th
September Sir Gilbert says: "No further conquests are to be made in that
quarter in the name of Great Britain, nor is it intended to retain
Dunkirk after the peace."[230] A speedy capture of Dunkirk was evidently
expected, for the same despatch ordered that the Hessian corps, some
8,000 strong, then with the Duke, must be held in readiness to depart to
some other destination.[231] This referred either to the expedition in
the Mediterranean (soon to be noticed) or to another, also in course of
preparation, against Brittany. The Duke of York disapproved of the
divergence towards Dunkirk, and the withdrawal of troops from his

We here touch upon the weak side of Pitt's war policy. His aims at first
had been merely to defend England from invasion, and to use the fleet
and as many troops as could well be spared, to threaten various points
along the coast of France and to capture her colonies. From these
comparatively simple aims he had been drawn aside into a continental
campaign, owing to the desirability of re-establishing Austria firmly in
the Pays Bas. That is to say, a political aim drew him away from the
simple and effective plan of a maritime and colonial war. Or rather it
would be more correct to say that he tried to carry on a limited
continental campaign as well as the coast expeditions which promised to
paralyse the activities of large numbers of Frenchmen.

Accordingly, Pitt and his colleagues, instead of concentrating their
activities on Flanders, prepared also to harass the coasts and colonies
of France, and to withdraw part of the Duke of York's force for service
in the Mediterranean or the West Indies. Instructions to this effect
annoyed both the duke and Coburg. Most reluctantly did the latter
consent to the divergence of the British towards Dunkirk; but, as he had
already decided to spend the rest of the campaign in reducing the border
fortresses, the division of forces had none of those appalling results
which Alison and others have detected. The duke's corps, then, turned
off to the right, and, after gaining some successes over bodies of the
French, set about the siege of Dunkirk. If his siege train had arrived
in time, the town would probably soon have surrendered. But now Carnot
was able to utilize some of the forces raised in the _levée en masse_.
By the beginning of September the French relieving army amounted to
45,000 men under General Houchard; while the Hessians and Hanoverians
covering the siege operations did not exceed 9,000 men. These made a
most obstinate and skilful defence in the village of Bambeke, and
thereafter at Hondschoote; but the inequality of force was too great;
and they were outflanked and driven back towards Furnes and Nieuport
with the loss of 2,600 men (6th to 8th September). The garrison also
attacked the besiegers and received much assistance from French gunboats
moored near the shore. It was an unfortunate circumstance that a storm
on 1st September had compelled a British frigate and a sloop to leave
their moorings. Even so, the duke's force beat back their assailants
into the town. But the defeat of the covering army at Hondschoote placed
it between the French, the walls of Dunkirk, and the sea. Only by a
speedy retreat could he save his men; and at midnight he drew off,
leaving behind 32 siege guns and large quantities of stores.[233]

At once there arose an outcry against our naval and transport
authorities for not sending a squadron to cover the right flank of the
Duke of York opposite Dunkirk. Elliot reports that the duke violently
censured Richmond, head of the Ordnance Department, and Chatham, First
Lord of the Admiralty, the latter of whom was universally allowed to be
incompetent. Elliot adds: "I have seen Dundas and Pitt since the bad
news. Dundas seems much dismayed. Pitt tried to carry it off
better."[234] Certainly the delay in sending ships and stores was
discreditable to all concerned. But the decisive action was that of
Hondschoote, six miles distant from the coast, and that reverse was due
to the inability of Coburg to spare the reinforcements which Murray
pressed him to send. On its side the French Government was ill satisfied
with the success at Hondschoote. Censuring Houchard for not pressing his
advantage to the utmost and capturing the duke's whole army, it replaced
him by his young and energetic subaltern, an ex-draper named Jourdan,
who was destined to become one of Napoleon's marshals, while Houchard
speedily went to the guillotine. By these drastic methods France found
leaders who could conquer. For them the inspiring thought was--victory
or the guillotine.

The news of the failure at Dunkirk shattered Pitt's hope of a speedy end
to the war. That he faced the prospect of a second campaign with his
usual buoyancy appears from some notes which bear the date 16th
September [1793] and are headed: "Force to be employed in Flanders, or
on the coast of France in the Channel and the Ocean." He proposes to
increase 9 regiments at home to 800 men apiece, to raise 8 new
regiments; and these, along with Guards and troops from Ireland would
number at least 20,000. He also hoped that at least 20,000 more
Austrians and about 25,000 Bavarians would be available for Flanders,
raising the total force in that quarter to 175,000 men.[235] These
roseate views are apt to provoke derision; but we must remember that not
until the close of the year 1793 did the Republic put forth her full
strength and beat back her enemies at all points.

It would be tedious to follow in detail the rest of Coburg's operations
in Flanders. Early in September he took Quesnoy, and then drew together
his forces for the capture of the intrenched camp at Maubeuge. In this
he seemed about to succeed, when Jourdan's relieving force of 60,000
men, handled by Carnot, drove the Austrians back at Wattignies with much
loss, and thus saved the garrison at Maubeuge, now in dire straits. On
that day, 16th October, the head of Marie Antoinette fell at Paris.

As for the Duke of York's army, after remaining in a sorry plight near
Ostend, it moved forward to Quesnoy to prolong Coburg's right; but the
retreat of the main body involved his retirement towards Ostend, near
which town he routed some detachments of French. For a time the Allies
gained a few advantages and recovered lost ground. But the Republicans
more than made up for occasional losses by pouring troops into Flanders;
and, moving under cover of their fortresses, they often dealt heavy
blows. In quality the Austrians and British far surpassed the raw levies
of France; but these, having the advantage in number and position, could
take the offensive along a wide ill-defended front. Wherever Coburg and
the Duke of York attacked, they gained an advantage, soon to be lost in
face of the gathering masses of the enemy. As Coburg pointed out, France
sent forth another horde to take the place of one which perished or
melted away; and the Allies rarely had the chance of taking the
offensive. By this last statement he passed sentence against himself. An
able commander, even with inferior forces, will mass them so as to
strike with effect. Pitt and Grenville continually pressed him to form
some plan of action in conjunction with the Duke of York; but to this he
as persistently demurred.[236] Is it surprising that Pitt demanded the
removal of Coburg?

The Rhenish campaign, in which Austria took more interest, also
languished owing to the sluggishness of the Duke of Brunswick. This, in
its turn, resulted from political reasons. Frederick William, in spite
of his treaty obligations to England, refused to move forward until she
guaranteed his late gains in Poland and made further advances of money.
Then, too, he felt no interest in Austria's proposed acquisition of
parts of Alsace and Lorraine. Pitt and Grenville despatched Lord
Yarmouth to the King's headquarters to make a formal protest against the
proposed withdrawal of the Prussian army. Finally, Frederick William
gave the order to advance, but too late to gain the results which prompt
and vigorous co-operation with the Austrians should have achieved.[237]
In short, the course of events in 1793 affords the classic example of
the collapse of vast and imposing efforts owing to division of interests
and the intrusion of jealousies and intrigues. Pitt and Grenville did
their best to keep the Coalition united and active; but a Power which
granted only limited help could not impart that unity of design without
which great enterprises come to naught.


[196] "Dropmore P.," ii, 377.

[197] "Parl. Hist.," xxx, 565.

[198] "Dropmore P.," ii, 378; Prior, "Burke," 368.

[199] "Life of Wilberforce," ii, 11. Note the statement of George Rose
to Auckland (8th February, 1793): "Our revenue goes on gloriously. The
year ending 5th January shows £300,000 more than the year preceding....
We may suffer in some respects; but we must crush the miscreants"(B.M.
Add. MSS., 34448).

[200] "F. O.," Austria, 32 (Stratton to Grenville, 22nd December, 1792).
Cobenzl, Austrian Chancellor, assured Stratton that Francis II would
require from France "l'établissement d'une constitution quelconque
fondée sur les bases les plus essentiels du gouvernement monarchique."

In view of these considerations I cannot endorse Lecky's censure (vi,
134) on Pitt's "blindness" as to the character of the war.

[201] Sir James Murray, our envoy at Frankfurt, was assured on 1st
February that 138,419 Austrians were ready for the campaign.

[202] B.M. Add. MSS., 34448.

[203] See Martens, v, 530-5, for the Russo-Prussian treaty of 13th July

[204] Murray to Grenville, 19th January 1793; see "Pitt and Napoleon
Miscellanies," which also contain the new letters of Burke referred to

[205] Vivenot, ii, 498-506.

[206] Martens, v, 438-42.

[207] Hon. J. W. Fortescue, "Hist. of the British Army," iv, 77-83.

[208] Pretyman MSS.

[209] Chevening MSS.

[210] Murray reported to Grenville on 10th and 18th February that the
Allies at Frankfurt were disturbed by news of the negotiation with
Dumouriez. See too, Vivenot, ii, 489.

[211] "Dropmore P.," ii, 377-81; "Dumouriez," by J. H. Rose and A. M.
Broadley, 162-75.

[212] "F. O.," Austria, 32, Morton Eden to Grenville, 30th March.

[213] "War Office" 6, (7); 23rd February, to Duke of York; B.M. Add. MSS
34448, Grenville to Auckland, 23rd February; Calvert, "Campaigns in
Flanders and Holland," chs. i, ii.

[214] This letter (for which see "Pitt and Napoleon Miscellanies")
corrects Mr. Fortescue's statement (iv, 125) that Ministers alone were
responsible for the Dunkirk scheme. George III was morally responsible
for it.

[215] "Dropmore P.," ii, 387.

[216] "F. O.," Austria, 33, Eden to Grenville, 27th and 28th March, 10th
April; Vivenot, ii, 541; Häusser, i, 483.

[217] _Ibid._, Eden to Grenville, 15th April. This probably refers to
Alsace; but it may possibly hint at a partition of Venice which had been
mooted at Vienna before. A slice of Piedmont was also desired (Eden to
Grenville, 8th June).

[218] _Ibid._, Eden to Grenville, 30th March.

[219] The West India expedition was again and again deferred in favour
of that to la Vendée or Toulon (Vivenot, iii, 383).

[220] Sybel, iii, 38-40; Häusser, i, 488, 489.

[221] Pretyman MSS. I have published the letter of 5th April 1793 almost
in full in the "Eng. Hist. Rev." for April 1910.

[222] "Dropmore P.," ii, 388-93, 399.

[223] "F. O.," France, 42. I cannot agree with Sorel (iii, 405) in
taking the French overtures seriously.

[224] "W. O.," 6 (10), Dundas to Murray (now secretary to the Duke of

[225] Calvert, 80.

[226] Calvert, ch. iii; Fortescue, iv, 111.

[227] "Dropmore P.," iii, 493.

[228] "Dropmore P.," ii, 436.

[229] Sybel, iii, 136, 137.

[230] "Mems. of Sir G. Elliot (Earl of Minto)," ii, 159.

[231] "W. O.," 6 (10), 1st August, to Sir J. Murray, which corrects the
statement in Sybel (iii, 140), that England meant to keep Dunkirk.

[232] "Malmesbury Diaries," iii, 18.

[233] Calvert, 119-21.

[234] "Mems. of Sir G. Elliot," ii, 160.

[235] Pitt MSS., 196.

[236] Vivenot, iii, 352, 353.

[237] _Ibid._, 320, 321, 339, 379, 380; "Dropmore P.," ii, 470, 536. In
the last passage Yarmouth accuses the King of Prussia of deliberately
thwarting the action of the Austrian army under Wurmser.



    Delay leads impotent and snail-paced beggary:
    Then fiery expedition be my wing,
    Jove's Mercury, and herald for a King.
                --SHAKESPEARE, _King Richard III_, act iv, sc. 3.

The enterprise destined to develop into the occupation of Toulon arose
out of the negotiations for alliance with Austria, Sardinia, and Naples.
By the first of these England pledged herself to send a considerable
fleet into the Mediterranean, as an effective help to the military
operations then going on in the Maritime Alps and the Genoese Riviera.
Indeed, the Court of Vienna made this almost a _sine quâ non_ of its
alliance. On its side the British Government gained assurances of
military aid from Sardinia and Naples, the former of those States
agreeing to furnish 20,000 troops in return for the annual subsidy of

Here, then, were the foundations of a Mediterranean policy on which Pitt
and his colleagues began to build in the years 1793-4, with the singular
and unforeseen results at Toulon and in Corsica. Everything favoured
some such design. The French marine was enfeebled by mutiny, and, as the
spring of 1793 merged into summer, there came ominous signs of revolt in
the South against the Jacobin faction supreme at Paris. Accordingly
Grenville urged the Hapsburg Court, in return for British help in
Flanders, to assist an expedition of the Allies to the coast of
Provence. The conduct of the Austrian Chancellor, Thugut, was
characteristic. Far from strengthening the Imperial forces in Italy, he
prepared to withdraw some of them for the Rhenish campaign, now that a
British fleet spread its covering wings over the Kingdom of

Nevertheless the British Ministers persevered with their scheme; but
whether they at first aimed at Corsica or Toulon is uncertain.[239]
Certain it is that Pitt on 19th July proposed to detach three line
regiments from the Duke of York's force in Flanders and send them to the
Mediterranean along with one brigade of the Hessian corps and a body of
Würtembergers. He pointed out that the naval superiority of Hood and the
Spanish fleet in that sea would enable us to strike a telling blow at
Provence if we were helped by Sardinians, Neapolitans, and Austrians
from the Milanese. He admitted the strength of the arguments in favour
of our land forces acting together on one point; but he added: "What I
now mention seems to offer a fair chance of doing something material in
the South [of France], and, if we distress the enemy on more sides than
one, while their internal distraction continues, it seems hardly
possible that they can long oppose any effectual resistance."[240]

Pitt wrote thus at the time when Mainz and Valenciennes were on the
point of surrender, and the Bretons, together with nearly the whole of
the South of France, were in open revolt against the regicide Republic.
Equally characteristic of his sanguine temperament is his Memorandum of
23rd August 1793 as to the allied forces which ought to be available for
service against France in June 1794, namely, 30,000 in Flanders, while
50,000 marched thence on Paris; 50,000 to attack Brest, and as many more
to attack Toulon.[241]

It so chanced that on that very day the ardour of the Provençaux brought
about a very different situation. The arrival of Hood's fleet encouraged
the moderates to send two Commissioners, representing the two coast
Departments, to seek help from the British fleet. Thereupon on his
flagship, the "Victory," Hood drew up a public Declaration that, if the
ships-of-war in Toulon and Marseilles were unrigged and the French Royal
standard hoisted, he would take those cities under his protection,
respect private property and, on the conclusion of peace, restore the
warships to the French monarchy. He then sent to a Spanish squadron,
under Langara, cruising off the coast of Roussillon, with a request for
help. That officer soon had the promise of 2,000 Spanish troops, to be
detached from the army invading that province. The Jacobin forces under
Carteaux having crushed the moderates in Marseilles, Hood made for
Toulon, though as yet the Spanish ships were not in sight. He cast
anchor in the outer roadstead on 27th August, and landed 1,500 men near
Fort Lamalgue, east of the town. In the afternoon fifteen Spanish ships
arrived, and on the next day landed 1,000 men. On the 28th Hood also
issued a proclamation to the effect that he would hold Toulon in trust
only for Louis XVII until peace should be restored to France.[242] To
this the Toulonese assented; the opposition of some of their sailors and
troops soon collapsed; and a detachment of Carteaux' force was easily
dislodged from a strong position near Ollioules, north-west of the town
(31st August). Toulon therefore seemed a sure gain for the royalist

Yet Pitt and his colleagues were careful not to identify themselves with
that cause. Hood, having implied in his Toulon proclamation that one of
the objects of Great Britain was the restoration of the French monarchy,
Ministers warned him that "the true ground of the war was to repel an
unjust and unprovoked aggression against His Majesty, and his Allies,
and the rest of Europe, which had been evidently threatened and
endangered by the conduct of France." True, in the course of the
struggle England had supported the French Royalists, and might find it
prudent, especially in view of the events at Toulon, to assist in
restoring monarchy. "But," adds Lord Chatham, "it is to be considered as
arising out of the circumstances and founded on the considerations which
I have stated, and not as making part of the object for which His
Majesty originally took up arms."[243] This gentle rebuke to Hood (an
impetuous and opinionated officer), clearly shows the attitude of the
Cabinet towards that problem. For Great Britain the re-establishment of
monarchy was not an affair of principle, but solely of expediency. It is
also noteworthy that the inhabitants of Toulon retained the tricolour
flag, thus signifying their adhesion to constitutional royalism as
established in 1791.

The fortunes of the Republic now appeared desperate; and the Allies
would certainly have triumphed had they put forth a tithe of the energy
developed by the Jacobins at Paris. With ordinarily good management on
the part of Austria, Sardinia, and Naples, Toulon might have become the
centre of a great royalist movement in the South. That was certainly the
expectation of Pitt; and Langara, the Spanish admiral at Toulon,
expressed to his Government the hope that the war would soon end with

No one at first realized the difficulties of the enterprise. The
ramparts of Toulon were extensive; and the outlying forts, from Lamalgue
on the east to Mount Faron on the north, and the works on the west and
south-west, spread over a circumference of fully fifteen miles. Then
again the French royalist committee in Toulon was somewhat suspicious of
the Allies. In truth a blight seemed to settle on the royalist cause
when it handed over to foreigners one of the cherished citadels of
France. Loyalty to Louis XVII now spelt treason to the nation. The
crisis is interesting because it set sharply against one another the
principles of monarchy and nationality; and the sequel proved that the
national idea, though still far from mature even in France, had more
potency than royalism. A keen-sighted observer had very forcibly warned
the Marseillais against delivering their city into the hands of the
Spaniards, a crime which must ruin their efforts. Such was the judgement
of Bonaparte in that curious pamphlet "Le Souper de Beaucaire."

Other invisible agencies, those of time and space, told against the
Allies. Despatches sent by Hood were at least eleven days in reaching
their destination, and often far longer. Consequently, the plans framed
at home were always belated. The first tidings (received on 7th
September) found the Cabinet half committed to another enterprise, that
in the West Indies, which Pitt very reluctantly postponed owing to the
drain of troops to Flanders and Toulon. A further disadvantage was that
disputes between the British and Spanish commanders at Toulon were known
at Whitehall long after they had come to a head; and the final reports
of the sore straits of the garrison led to the despatch to Cork of
orders for the sailing of reinforcements five days after the evacuation
began at Toulon.

In these brisk and giddy-paced times it is difficult to realize the
difficulties which then beset British commanders warring in the
Mediterranean against an enemy who could send news to Paris in three
days. Now the telegraph has annihilated space; but then, as in the
campaigns of Francis I against Charles V, the compactness of France and
her central position told enormously in her favour. The defence of
Toulon was practicable, provided that adequate reinforcements arrived in
time. As will soon appear, Pitt urged the despatch of strong
reinforcements from Ireland; and, but for delays due to the want of
transports, things might have gone very differently at Toulon. He also
expected Austria to send succours if only as a means of protecting her
Italian possessions. In truth, if the Hapsburgs had discerned the signs
of the times, they would have taken steps to defend the Milanese at
Toulon. They were destined to rue their folly.

Further, on 14th September, despite bad news from Dunkirk, Dundas issued
orders that 4,000 Hessians, serving under the Duke of York, must be
withdrawn in order to strengthen the garrison at Toulon, their place
being taken by others hired at Cassel. On 28th September Dundas added
that the artillery sent for Dunkirk would be withdrawn from Flanders as
it was urgently needed at Toulon. Thus these two expeditions competed
together, and produced a dislocation of plans and ordering of troops to
and fro, which told against success in either quarter. By 27th October
Ministers definitely decided that Toulon, or la Vendée, was a better
fulcrum for their scanty forces than Flanders.[245] Even so, with all
these dislocations of the Flemish plans, Pitt and Dundas relied too much
upon Austria; and all too late found out that she was a broken reed. The
Sardinians, also, lacking due support from the Court of Vienna, were
afraid to denude their borders and therefore sent an inadequate
contingent, despite the fact that they had promised to place 20,000
troops at the disposal of England free from all expense.

Far different was the procedure of the French. Carnot determined to
retake Lyons and Toulon, even if the efforts against Spain and Sardinia
had to be relaxed. Further, on the 16th of September there arrived at
the Republican army west of Toulon the incarnation of warlike energy and
skill. At the bidding of the Commissioners of the Convention, Napoleon
Bonaparte had come from the arsenal at Marseilles to assist the few
artillerymen then before Toulon. On the 17th he was placed in command
of their insignificant siege artillery, and forthwith from the slopes
two miles west of the town he opened fire on the nearest ships. It is
incorrect to claim for him the origination of the plan of sinking the
fleet by a fire from the height behind l'Eguilette; for three days
earlier the Commissioners of the Convention had written that they would
secure a position whence the allied fleet could be sunk by red-hot
cannon-balls; and there was no point but the high ground behind Fort
l'Eguilette which dominated both the inner and the outer harbours.[246]
But it may freely be granted that Bonaparte clinched the arguments in
favour of this course and brought to bear on it that masterful energy
which assures triumph. It was the first occasion on which he crossed the
path of Pitt; and here, as always, he had the advantage of a central
position, and of wielding a compact and homogeneous force against
discordant Allies.

The worst difficulty confronting the defenders of Toulon remains to be
noted. There the Sea Power is at the mercy of the Land Power. To attempt
to defend that city at the head of its land-locked harbour, dominated by
promontories, was to court disaster unless the fleet had an army to
protect it. In such a case a fleet is a source of danger rather than of
safety. Its true function is to act where it can, either directly or
indirectly, command the land. It operates with most effect against low
and exposed coasts. St. Jean d'Acre affords, perhaps, the best example
of a town at the mercy of a fleet. Portsmouth, Sydney, Brest, and Toulon
cannot be held by an enemy unless he brings forces sufficient to hold
the neighbouring heights. In occupying Toulon, the Sea Power was
virtually putting its head into the lion's jaw. Only by degrees did the
authorities at home understand this all-important fact. For some time it
was veiled from Pitt; and, as we shall see, the Austrian Chancellor,
Thugut, never did understand it. To those who were on the spot, the need
of occupying the promontory behind l'Eguilette was apparent; and on 21st
September Lord Mulgrave and Rear-Admiral Gravina led a force to seize
the very height on which Bonaparte's will had already fastened. The
Allies crowned it with a temporary work dignified by the name of Fort
Mulgrave. The fortunes of Toulon turned on the possession of all the
heights commanding the harbour, but especially of this one.

    [Illustration: THE SIEGE OF TOULON, 1793, from "L'Histoire de
    France depuis la Révolution de 1789," by Emmanuel Toulougeon,
    Paris, An. XII. [1803]. A. Fort Mulgrave. A'. Promontory of
    L'Eguillette. 1 and 2. Batteries. 3. Battery "Hommes sans Peur."
    The black and shaded rectangles are the Republican and Allied
    positions respectively.]

Even before the arrival of Bonaparte the difficulties of defence were
very great. A British naval officer wrote on the 14th to Lord St.
Helens, British ambassador at Madrid, that the situation of the little
garrison was very critical owing to daily attacks from the 5,000 French
at Ollioules and the same number on the eastern side. The Allies, he
added, could not wholly trust the French royalists serving with them,
and they were glad to send away on four French sail-of-the-line some
6,000 French sailors who had bargained to be landed on the Biscay coast.
Having only 1,570 British and 3,460 Spaniards, they could scarcely man
the ramparts and forts, several of which, especially those on Mount
Faron, were not nearly ready. The houses of the town were far too near
to the ramparts; but the Allies dared not demolish them until
reinforcements arrived. Fortunately the Spanish Admiral, Gravina, was
alert, intelligent, and trustworthy; and Piedmontese were known to be
advancing over the Maritime Alps into the county of Nice. Part of Hood's
fleet was engaged in intercepting the supplies and stores destined for
the Republicans.[247]

The letter brings out vividly the perils of the garrison, which must
have evacuated Toulon had not reinforcements speedily arrived. On 26th
September Hood wrote that the Allies were kept in perpetual alarm by the
French batteries, which must be kept under at all risks, until more
troops arrived.[248] Fortunately the foresight of Pitt and Grenville had
provided the means of backing up operations in the Mediterranean. Apart
from the treaty with Sardinia, there was a compact with Naples, whereby
that Court promised a force of 6,000 men and 12 warships, the naval
expenses being borne by England.[249] By 5th October 1,350 Sardinian
and 4,000 Neapolitan troops arrived, thus enabling the garrison to hold
up against the ever increasing forces of the Republicans. On the other
hand, the fall of Lyons on 9th October set free large numbers who were
available for service at Toulon. Consequently the troops and seamen of
the Allies were persistently overworked, so that Hood was constrained to
hire 1,500 Maltese seamen, to take the place of those serving the
batteries. At first only 750 British troops could be spared from
Gibraltar; but by the end of October, when further help was at hand, the
allied forces (rank and file) stood as follows:

  British                           2,114
  French Royalists                  1,542
  Spaniards                         6,840
  Neapolitans                       4,832
  Sardinians                        1,584

So exacting was the service, and so unhealthy the season (it cost
Bonaparte a sharp attack of malarial fever), that the number fit for
duty did not exceed 12,000.

It is interesting to compare these figures with the estimate of Pitt
which is in the Pitt MSS. (No. 196).

                                                  _September 16._

    Force which it is supposed may be collected at Toulon by the end
    of October or early in November:

                                                          Rank and File.

    British Marines                                              1,500
      "     flank companies from Gibraltar                         600
      "       "      "        "  Ireland                         2,000[250]
      "     Two battalions from Flanders (to be replaced by
              detachments from the Guards)                       1,200
      "     Cavalry from Ireland                                   900
    Hessians from Flanders (to be replaced by the additional
      corps ordered)                                             5,000
    Spanish (suppose)                                            3,000
    Neapolitan                                                   6,000
    Sardinian                                                    9,000
    Austrian                                                     5,000
    Total                                                       33,200
                                                 [_sic_--really 34,200.]

    This Force may be estimated (allowing for some deduction) at
    30,000 men. To this may possibly be added some Force from
    Corsica, and probably early in the spring, an additional body of
    11,000 Sardinians, perhaps also of 10,000 Austrians, and some
    troops of Baden from hence. Possibly also a body of Swiss, and
    in the course of the next summer (if the expedition to the West
    Indies is successful) about 4,000 or 5,000 British on their
    return from the Islands. If 10,000, or 12,000, Swiss can be
    secured, it seems not unreasonable to expect that, by the
    beginning of next year, there may be an army in the South of
    France of near 60,000 men.

Pitt, then, regarded Toulon as the base of operations in the South of
France so extensive as to deal a decisive blow at the Republic. The
scheme was surely due to the influence of Bacchus rather than of Mars.
For how was it possible to spare 6,200 men from the Duke of York's
force, then hard pressed after its retreat from Dunkirk? The estimate of
the Sardinian contingent was based on the treaty obligations of that
Power rather than on probable performance; while that for the Spaniards
is strangely beneath the mark. How boyishly hopeful also to suppose that
the British forces destined for the future conquest of Corsica could
spare a contingent for service in Provence in the spring of 1794, and
that the nervous little Court of Turin would send an _additional_ body
of 11,000 men far into France. Thus early in Pitt's strategic
combinations we can detect the vitiating flaw. He did not know men, and
therefore he did not know Cabinets. He believed them to be acting
according to his own high standard of public duty and magnanimous
endeavour. Consequently he never allowed for the calculating meanness
which shifted the burdens on to other shoulders.

The one factor on which he had a right to count was the despatch of a
respectable force of Austrians from the Milanese by way of Genoa. The
Austrian Governor of Milan promised to send 5,000 men; but not a man
ever stirred.[251] Hood did not hear this disappointing news till 24th
November.[252] He at once sent off to London an urgent request for
succour; and orders were given _on 23rd December_ (the day after the
arrival of the news) for three regiments to sail from Cork for his
relief. Thus it came about that 12,000 Allies were left unsupported at
Toulon to bear the brunt of attacks of some 40,000 Frenchmen now
directed by a genius. O'Hara, who took over the command on his arrival
on 27th October, at once gave a verdict consonant with his pessimistic
character. Hood wrote on the morrow to Dundas: "General O'Hara has just
been with me and alarmed me much. He says our posts are not tenable and
that we are in a dangerous situation for lack of troops that can be
relied upon. And, what is very unpleasant, is the conduct of the
Spaniards, who are striving for power here." On 11th November O'Hara
reported that, in the absence of engineer officers, the forts had been
injudiciously constructed; that their garrisons began to suffer from
exposure to the bleak weather; that the broken and wooded country
greatly favoured the advance of the enemy, and hampered all efforts to
dislodge him; that the Spaniards and Sardinians had no artillery, tools,
or camp equipments; and that the only means of securing Toulon was to
have an army capable of taking the field.[253] Hood and he therefore
counted the hours for the arrival of 5,000 Austrians from Genoa, and of
troops from England.

The difficulties of the Allies were enhanced by the disputes which soon
arose between the British and Spaniards as to the command of the
garrison. The tactful Gravina having been badly wounded in driving the
French from Mount Faron, Langara put in a claim that his successor
should be commander-in-chief of the allied forces (23rd October). To
this Hood stoutly demurred, on the ground that he received Toulon in
trust before the Spaniards appeared; and, though it was true that the
Spanish troops outnumbered the British, yet the command of the
Neapolitan and Sardinian contingents belonged of right to the
subsidizing Power. He therefore claimed the supreme command for General
O'Hara. This matter caused much annoyance at Madrid, where that rankling
sore, Nootka Sound, was still kept open by the all-powerful Minister,
Alcudia. Hood's testiness increased the friction at Toulon. The
Spaniards were justified in claiming equality at that fortress; for only
by their arrival did the position become tenable; and the joint
proclamations of Hood and Langara formed a tacit admission of that
equality. But Pitt early resolved to take a firm stand on this subject.
On 17th October, in discussing the instructions for Sir Gilbert Elliot,
the British Commissioner designated for Toulon, he declared that we must
appoint him governor of that town in consequence of its surrender to

Pitt kept up this stiff attitude, and on 30th November stated to St.
Helens that, as Toulon surrendered to Hood alone (Langara having
declined to share in the original enterprise) England must appoint the
commander-in-chief, especially as she could not transfer to a Spaniard
the command of her subsidized Allies. The despatch concluded thus: "His
Majesty has in no case any view upon that place different from that
which has been avowed in his name--that at the conclusion of peace that
port should be restored to the crown of France and that in the interval
it should serve in His Majesty's hands as a means of carrying on the war
and as a pledge of indemnity to him and his Allies, including the Crown
of Spain, whose claim to indemnity His Majesty has so distinctly

These words were added because the French Royalists and the Spaniards
asserted that England's high-handed conduct at Toulon arose from her
resolve to make of it a second Gibraltar. The insinuation struck home
then, and has been widely repeated.[256] But, on the first receipt of
the news of the gain of Toulon, Grenville declared explicitly to the
Austrian Court "that whatever indemnification is to be acquired by this
country must be looked for in the foreign settlements and colonies of
France."[257] As we shall see in later chapters, Corsica and the French
West Indies were the acquisitions aimed at by the Pitt Ministry.

Some colour was given to this charge by the refusal of the British
Government to allow the Comte de Provence, the _soi-disant_ Regent of
France, to proceed to Toulon. Grenville even instructed Francis Drake,
our envoy at Genoa, to prevent him embarking at that port. At first
sight this conduct seems indefensible, especially as the Court of Madrid
favoured the Prince's scheme. It must be remembered, however, that the
British Government had consistently refused to acknowledge the Prince as
Regent, and was now exceedingly annoyed with him for announcing his
resolve to go to Toulon, without first applying for permission to
George III.[258] This violation of etiquette prejudiced his case from
the outset. Further, the Royalists of Toulon had declared for
Louis XVII, and a majority of them throughout France opposed the claim
of "Monsieur" to the Regency. The constitution of 1791 gave him no such
right on his own initiative; and, as Toulon stood for that constitution,
not for the "pure" royalism which he now championed, his arrival would
place the garrison "at the discretion of wild and hot-headed emigrants
and expose them to the reproaches and discontents of the Regent's
Court."[259] Besides, what could the Regent of France do in Toulon, a
town closely besieged and in danger of being taken? His dignity and
influence would be far better maintained by remaining at large than by
proceeding thither.[260]

Finally, the two princes had given no assurance or promise that they
would recognize the claims of the Allies to indemnities from France for
the expenses of the war.[261] On this last matter the _émigrés_ were
beginning to raise shrill protests at London; and it was certainly wise
to come to some understanding with the princes on this point before
they were put in possession of Provence. Pitt and Grenville were not
made of the same stuff as the Ministers in power in 1815, who demanded
no return for the sacrifices of blood and treasure in the Waterloo
campaign. None the less, it is certain that Pitt and his cousin had no
thought of keeping either Dunkirk or Toulon, save as a pledge for the
acquisition of some of the French West Indies and Corsica.[262] This was
hinted at plainly in the British Declaration issued at Toulon on 20th

    That altho' at the conclusion of peace, we shall think ourselves
    entitled to stipulate such terms as may afford just security to
    ourselves and our Allies, and a reasonable indemnification for
    the risks and expenses of a war in which, without any
    provocation on our part, we have been compelled to engage, yet
    that, for our part our views of indemnification can only have
    relation to places not on the Continent of Europe.

After this explicit statement, there ought to have been no bickerings
about British aggrandisement at Toulon. Some of the hot-heads in that
town (echoed by Fox later on at Westminster) chose to consider the
Declaration as an infraction of Hood's promise that he would hold Toulon
merely in trust for Louis XVII. The difference, however was not vital.
Pitt and Grenville intended to hold Toulon merely as a pledge that the
British claims to an indemnity elsewhere would be satisfied. Spain had
most cause for annoyance with the Declaration, inasmuch as she, though
having a superior number of troops in that town, was neither allowed to
consider it as a pledge for her future indemnities, nor to share in its
government. It was confided to three Commissioners--Sir Gilbert Elliot,
Hood, and O'Hara, Elliot being virtually Governor.

In one other matter the Courts of St. James and of Madrid were at
variance. The latter urged the need of speedily removing the French
warships from Toulon to a Spanish port, or of making preparations for
burning them. Whereas Pitt, who regarded Toulon, not as a windfall, but
as a base of operations for a campaign in Provence, maintained that such
conduct must blight their prospects. With phenomenal stupidity, Langara
allowed his secret instructions on this topic to leak out, thereby
rousing the rage of the Toulonese and the contempt of his British
colleagues. The Duke of Alcudia (better known as Godoy) expressed
sincere regret for this _bêtise_. But the mischief was done. The French
royalists thenceforth figured as traitors who had let in a band of
thieves intent only on the seizure of the French warships.

As if this were not enough, Hood quarrelled with our military officers,
with results highly exasperating to our land forces.[263] These last did
not shine during the siege. True, in the sortie of 29th November they
captured a battery recently erected north of Malbosquet; but, their
eagerness exceeding their discipline, they rushed on, despite orders to
remain in the battery, like a pack of hounds after a fox (wrote
Hood);[264] whereupon the French rushed upon them, driving them back
with heavy loss. O'Hara, while striving to retrieve the day, was wounded
and captured. His mantle of gloom devolved upon Major-General David
Dundas, a desponding officer, who had recently requested leave to return
on furlough on the ground of ill health and inability to cope with the
work. This general's letters to his ever confident relative, Henry
Dundas, at Whitehall, were always in a minor key. In his eyes the
Spanish troops were "everything that is bad"; half of the Toulonese were
hostile to the Allies; and the latter were heavily handicapped by having
to defend their own fleets. There was some truth in this; but the
whining tone of the letters, due to ill health, drew from the Minister a
stinging retort, to the effect that the occupation of Toulon had taken
Ministers wholly by surprise; that they had done their best to comply
with the new demands for troops, and expected their general not to look
at his own difficulties alone, but to remember those of the enemy and
endeavour to beat him.[265]

This was the spirit in which Hood faced the problem. Even at the close
of November, when all hope of the arrival of the 5,000 Austrians was
past, he refused to listen to David Dundas's advice for the evacuation
of Toulon; and surely this pertinacity was consonant with the traditions
of the British navy, and of the army in its better days; but out of
this question arose a feud between army and navy which developed in
Corsica with disastrous results. Ministers strove to send all the
succour available. But they did not hear until 22nd December that the
5,000 Austrians were being withheld. Henry Dundas's letter of the 28th
also breathes deep concern at the news that Sir R. Boyd had not
forwarded from Gibraltar the reinforcements ordered thence. Further, it
appears from an official estimate drawn up at Whitehall on 18th
December, that the troops already at or ordered to Toulon were believed
to be as follows: British, 2,828; Spanish, 4,147; Sardinians, 2,162;
Neapolitans, 8,600. Dundas also included the 1,100 British troops
ordered from Gibraltar (where at that time there was no chance of an
attack), and 2,361 men under directions to sail from Cork, but which
could not stir owing to the non-arrival of the transports.[266] The
resulting total of 21,198 is, of course, merely a sign of Henry Dundas's
optimism. But obviously Ministers were unaware of the acute crisis at
Toulon at the time of its surrender. In the age of telegraphy, that
disaster would have been averted. The delays of the Austrians, and the
muddles at Gibraltar and Cork, would have been known betimes.

Strange to say, there was at that time lying at anchor at Spithead a
force under Lord Moira's command, destined for Brittany, but held back
for various causes, which would probably have turned the balance at
Toulon, had Ministers known of the dire need of reinforcements. It is
mortifying to read the letters of Pitt and the Marquis of Buckingham
early in December, complaining that Moira's force is strangely
inactive.[267] Still more startling is it to read the hurried order of
23rd December (six days after the loss of Toulon), that the 40th
regiment, then unexpectedly detained at Cork, though detached for
service with Lord Moira, should set sail at once for the French
stronghold along with the other regiments also detained at Cork.[268]
What might not have happened, had those troops set sail for Toulon
before the close of November?

Hero-worshippers will probably maintain that, even if Toulon had been
held harmoniously by all the troops which the imagination of Pitt and
Dundas conjured up, nevertheless the genius and daring of the little
Corsican would have prevailed. This view is tenable; but the prosaic
mind, which notes the venturesome extension of Bonaparte's batteries in
November-December, until they presented their right flanks to the cliffs
and their rear to the open sea, though at too high a level to be
cannonaded, will probably conclude that, if Hood and Langara had had a
force of 20,000 men, they could have driven the French from those works.
As it was, the Allies, not having enough men, stood on the defensive all
along their very extensive front, and were overpowered at Fort Mulgrave,
which was some miles away from the city. Its garrison of 700 men
(British, Spanish, and a few Neapolitans) was assailed in the stormy
night of 16th-17th December by 7,000 of the best of the Republican
troops. The ensuing conflict will best be understood from the hitherto
unpublished account given by the commander-in-chief. After describing
the heavy cannonade from three French batteries against Fort Mulgrave,
he continues thus:

              H.M.S. "Victory," Hières Bay, _Dec. 21, 1793_.[269]

    ... The works suffered much. The number of men killed and
    wounded was considerable. The weather was rainy and the
    consequent fatigue great. At 2 a.m. of the 17th, the enemy, who
    had every advantage in assembling and suddenly advancing,
    attacked the fort in great force. Although no part of this
    temporary post was such as could well resist determined troops,
    yet for a considerable time it was defended; but, on the enemy
    entering on the Spanish side, the British quarter, commanded by
    Captain Conolly of the 18th regiment, could not be much longer
    maintained, notwithstanding several gallant efforts were made
    for that purpose. It was therefore at last carried, and the
    remains of the garrison of 700 men retired towards the shore of
    Balaguier, under the protection of the other posts established
    on those heights, and which continued to be faintly attacked by
    the enemy. As this position of Balaguier was a most essential
    one for the preservation of the harbour, and as we had no
    communication with it but by water, 2,200 men had been placed
    there for some time past. On the night preceding the attack, 300
    more men had been sent over, and on the morning of the 17th, 400
    were embarked still further to support it.

    When the firing at Balaguier ceased, we remained in anxious
    suspense as to the event, till a little before daylight, when a
    new scene opened by an attack on all our posts on Mt. Pharon.
    The enemy were repulsed on the east side, where was our
    principal force of about 700 men, commanded by a most
    distinguished officer, the Piedmontese Colonel, de Jermagnan,
    whose loss we deeply lament; but on the back of the
    mountain--near 1,800 feet high, steep, rocky, deemed almost
    inaccessible, and which we had laboured much to make so--they
    found means once more to penetrate between our posts, which
    occupied an extent of above two miles, guarded by about 450 men;
    and in a very short space of time we saw that with great numbers
    they crowned all that side of the mountain which overlooks the

In this despatch David Dundas proclaimed his own incompetence. For some
time it had been obvious that the Republicans were about to attack Fort
Mulgrave, which everybody knew to be essential to the defence of the
fleet. Yet he took no steps to strengthen this "temporary post" so that
it might resist a determined attack. He also entrusted one half of the
battery to the Spaniards whom he had declared to be "everything that is
bad." On his own showing, as many as 2,500 allied troops were near at
hand on the Balaguier or Eguilette heights to act as supports, before
Bonaparte's attack began; and 400 more were sent thither soon
afterwards. A spirited attack by those troops on the victors at Fort
Mulgrave on its blind side might have retrieved the day; but a panic
seized part of the supports, whom Sidney Smith describes as rushing like
swine towards the sea though the enemy was only in a condition to attack
"faintly." Hood was furious at this spiritless acceptance of defeat; and
in his despatch to Whitehall censured the troops for not making a timely
effort;[270] but as David Dundas had all along opined that the place was
untenable, he decided to hold a council of war. It registered the wishes
of the desponding chief. The officers decided that it was impossible
either to retake the two positions lost, or to establish a post on the
outer, or Cepet, peninsula, capable of protecting the roadstead from the
cross fires which the French would pour in from the Balaguier and Cape
Brun promontories.

During the next three days the evacuation took place amidst scenes of
misery for the royalist refugees that baffle the imagination. As many as
14,877 were crowded on board the British ships, together with some 8,000
troops. At the same time Captains Sidney Smith, Hare, and Edge, with a
picked body of men burnt or otherwise damaged 27 French warships left in
the harbour, while 18 were brought away by the Allies. Eleven of the
twenty-seven were not seriously injured by the fire, and they afterwards
flew the tricolour. But the loss of 34 warships and nearly all the masts
and other valuable stores was a blow from which the French navy did not
recover until Bonaparte before his Egyptian expedition breathed his own
matchless vigour into the administration. In ships and stores, then,
France suffered far more heavily than the Allies. Their losses elude the
inquiries of the statistician. They consisted in the utter discredit of
the royalist cause throughout France, the resentment that ever follows
on clumsy or disloyal co-operation, and the revelation of the hollowness
of the imposing fabric of the First Coalition. In the south of France
four nations failed to hold a single fortress which her own sons had
placed in their power.

The Nemesis which waits upon weakness and vacillation has rarely
appeared in more mocking guise than at the close of the year 1793. About
the time when Toulon surrendered, the Austrian Government finally came
to the determination to despatch thither the 5,000 men which it had
formerly promised to send. Grenville received this news from Eden in the
first days of 1794, shortly after the surrender of the fortress was
known. Thereupon he penned these bitter words: "If the first promise had
been fulfilled agreeably to the expectation which His Majesty was
justified in forming, the assistance of such a body of disciplined
troops would have sufficed to ensure the defence of that important post;
and the injury which the common cause has sustained on this occasion can
be ascribed only to the tardiness and indecision which so strongly
characterize the Austrian Government."[271] Most tactfully he bade Eden
refrain from reproaches on this occasion and to use it merely as an
argument for throwing greater vigour into the next campaign.

Events pointed the moral far more strongly than Eden could do. As by a
lightning flash, the purblind politicians of Vienna could now discern
the storm-wrack drifting upon them. The weakness of the Piedmontese
army, their own unpreparedness in the Milanese, the friendliness of
Genoa to France, and the Jacobinical ferment in all parts of Italy,
portended a speedy irruption of the Republicans into an almost
defenceless land where they were sure of a welcome from the now awakened
populace. So long as Toulon held out, Piedmont and Milan were safe.
Now, the slackness of Austria enabled her future destroyer to place his
foot on the first rung of the ladder of fame, and prompted those mighty
plans for the conquest of the Italian States which were to ensure her
overthrow and his supremacy.

Well might Eden dwell on the consternation prevalent at Vienna early in
1794. For, along with news of the loss of Toulon, tidings of defeat and
retreat came from the Rhineland. Able and vigorous young generals, Hoche
and Pichegru, had beaten back Austrians and Prussians from the hills
around Wörth and Weissenburg; so that the Allies fell back with heavy
losses towards the Rhine. Thus, on the whole, the efforts of Austria,
Great Britain, Prussia, Holland, and some of the smaller German States
had availed merely to capture four fortresses, Mainz, Condé,
Valenciennes, and Quesnoy. It is not surprising that public opinion in
England, even in loyal circles, became clamorous against the conduct of
the war.[272]

Not the least of the misfortunes attending the Toulon episode was that
the logic of events, and also the growing savagery of the Reign of
Terror, edged Pitt away from his standpoint of complete neutrality as to
the future government of France. How could the ally of the Toulonese
Royalists profess indifference on that topic? On 5th October he wrote as
follows to Grenville respecting the powers to be granted to Sir Gilbert
Elliot at Toulon:

    I do not see that we can go on secure grounds if we treat with
    any separate districts or bodies of men [in France] who stop
    short of some declaration in favour of monarchy: nor do I see
    any way so likely to unite considerable numbers in one vigorous
    effort as by specifying monarchy as the only system in the
    re-establishment of which we are disposed to concur. This idea
    by no means precludes us from treating with any other form of
    regular Government, if, in the end, any other should be solidly
    established; but it holds out monarchy as the only one from
    which we expect any good, and in favour of which we are disposed
    to enter into concert.[273]

These words are remarkable. Clearly, in Pitt's view of things,
"security" for England and Holland was the paramount aim; but he was
beginning to feel that the Republican groups which scrambled to power at
Paris over the headless trunks of their enemies, could offer no
adequate security. When the Revolution began to solidify, as it seemed
about to do in 1795-7, he was willing to treat with its chiefs; but
already he was feeling the horns of the dilemma, which may be described
in words adapted from Talleyrand's famous _mot_ of the year 1814:
"Either the Bourbons or the Republic: everything else is an intrigue."
The Toulon episode, more than anything else, bound France to the
regicide cause, and Pitt, albeit unwillingly, to the irreconcilable
Royalists. Thus the event which brought Bonaparte to the front,
shattered the aim of the Prime Minister to effect merely the restoration
of the Balance of Power.


[238] "F. O.," Austria, 33, Grenville to Eden, 11th June; Eden to
Grenville, 26th June.

[239] "Dropmore P.," ii, 392, 399, 407, 412. Spain hoped to find her
"indemnity" in Corsica. See too Fortescue, iv, 116, 117.

[240] See "Eng. Hist. Rev." for October 1909, p. 748.

[241] Pitt MSS., 196.

[242] "H. O.," Adm. Medit., 1793.

[243] _Ibid._

[244] "F. O.," Spain, 28. St. Helens to Grenville, 4th and 11th

[245] "W. O.," 6 (10). See Fortescue (iv, pt. i, chs. vi, vii) for
criticisms of these measures.

[246] The arguments of Mr. Spenser Wilkinson in "Owens College Essays,"
do not convince me that Napoleon alone devised that plan. Chuquet's
conclusion ("Toulon," 176), "Bonaparte partageait l'avis des
représentants," seems to me thoroughly sound. So, too, Cottin, "Toulon
et les Anglais," ch. xi.

[247] "F. O.," Spain, 28.

[248] "H. O." (Adm. Medit., 1793). Nevertheless Hood sent off a small
squadron to offer help to Paoli in Corsica, but with very disappointing
results. On 7th October he writes: "Paoli is a composition of art and
deceipt [_sic_]." He also dwells on the hostile conduct of Genoa and

[249] Martens, v, 473-83. In "H. O.," Secrs. of State, 4, is a despatch
of General Acton of 30th October 1793 to Sir W. Hamilton, stating that
when transports reach Naples, they will take off 1,200 more troops for
Toulon, making a total of 6,300. But ships and supplies of food were
wanting. The troops must be commanded by a Neapolitan, Marshal
Fortiquerri, whom Hood had censured for incompetence!

[250] On 15th September Pitt wrote to the Earl of Westmorland, Viceroy
of Ireland, asking him to send the flank companies (the best men) of the
regiments then in Ireland. Westmorland agreed on 18th September, but
said they could not sail in less than three weeks. As the crisis at
Toulon deepened, Pitt, about the middle of November, begged the Lord
Lieutenant to send the 35th, 41st, and 42nd regiments from Ireland to
Toulon. On 20th November Westmorland agreed (though pointing out the
danger of an Irish rising). On the 30th he said the two latter regiments
were ready to sail from Cork whenever the transports should arrive; but
the delays in the arrival and sailing of transports had always been
serious--a prophetic remark (Pitt MSS., 331).

[251] "Dropmore P.," ii, 471. Thugut took no interest whatever in Toulon
(see Vivenot, iii, 324, 327, 362, 363). Other proofs follow (pp. 381,
384) of the pressing demands which Grenville, also Mr. Trevor at Turin,
made for the fulfilment of the Emperor's promise. Some difficulties
supervened as to the provisioning of the 5,000 Austrian troops on the
march and the place of embarkation; but these were far from insuperable.
Clearly the operating cause was Thugut's conviction that there was at
Toulon a number of troops "excédant ce que toute place quelconque peut
exiger pour sa défense" (_ibid._, 385).

[252] "H. O." (Adm. Medit, 1793), Hood to Dundas, 24th November.

[253] _Ibid._ O'Hara to Hood. This reached London on 8th December; but,
as we have seen, Ministers up to 22nd December continued to rely on the
arrival of the Austrians as providing a sufficient reinforcement.

[254] "Dropmore P.," ii, 447; "Mems. of Sir G. Elliot," ii, 190, _et

[255] "F. O.," Spain, 28.

[256] Even by M. Cottin in his works, "Toulon et les Anglais,"
"L'Angleterre et les Princes."

[257] "F. O.," Austria, 34. Grenville to Eden, 7th September. So in his
letter of 4th October to Pitt he refers to "such other towns or
districts [in S. France] as may become objects of indemnity." See, too,
"Dropmore P.," ii, 412, 438; Vivenot, iii, 326.

[258] "Dropmore P.," iii, 487.

[259] "H. O.," 455, _ad fin._

[260] "Malmesbury Diaries," iii, 33.

[261] "F. O.," Spain, 28. Grenville to St. Helens, 22nd October 1793.
Cottin omits this despatch, which is essential to the understanding of
British policy. See for further details C. J. Fox, "Bonaparte at the
Siege of Toulon," bk. ii, ch. ii.

[262] "F. O.," Spain, 28. On 30th November Grenville instructed St.
Helens to express regret that Spain seemed to retract her wish,
previously expressed, that Corsica should go to England; and also to
advise that Spain should take her indemnity from France on the Pyrenean

[263] Fortescue, iv, 172.

[264] "H. O.," Adm. Medit., 1793.

[265] "H. O.," Mil., 455. Fortescue (iv, 175) vehemently censures Henry
Dundas, but I think without sufficient ground. The letters of David
Dundas called for reproof. See Mr. Oscar Browning's "Youth of Napoleon"
(App. iv).

[266] Pitt MSS., 331; "H. O.," Mil., 455.

[267] "Dropmore P.," ii, 476, 477; "Mems. of Sir G. Elliot," ii, 198.

[268] Admiralty. Out Letters, xiii.

[269] "H. O.," Mil., 455.

[270] "H. O.," Adm. Medit., 1794.

[271] "F. O.," Austria, 36. Grenville to Eden, 3rd January 1794.

[272] Pellew, "Sidmouth," i, 112.

[273] "Dropmore P.," ii, 438.



    The much better way doubtless will be, in this wavering
    condition of our affairs, to defer the changing or
    circumscribing of our Senate more than may be done with ease
    till the Commonwealth be thoroughly settled in peace and
    safety.--MILTON, _A Free Commonwealth_.

    But cease, ye fleecing Senators
      Your country to undo,
    Or know, we British _sans-culottes_
      Hereafter may fleece you.
                           THELWALL, _A Shearing Song_.

The outbreak of hostilities often tends to embitter the strife of
parties. Those who oppose war find abundant cause for criticism in the
conduct of Ministers, who in their turn perforce adopt measures alien to
the traditions of Westminster. A system founded on compromise cannot
suddenly take on the ways of a military State; and efforts in this
direction generally produce more friction than activity. At such times
John Bull, flurried and angry, short-sighted but opinionated, bewildered
but dogged as ever, is a sight to move the gods to laughter and his
counsellors to despair.

The events of the session of 1793 illustrate my meaning. In view of the
notorious sympathy of the Radical Clubs with France, Pitt proposed a
Bill against Traitorous Correspondence with the enemy. Both he and Burke
proved that the measure, far from being an insidious attack on the
liberties of the subject, merely aimed at enforcing "the police of war."
Nevertheless, it passed only by a majority of one--a warning to the
Ministry not to proceed further in that doubtful course (9th April
1793). Pitt had the full support of the House in opposing Grey's motion
for Parliamentary Reform, which was thrown out by 282 votes to 41. The
war spirit also appeared in a sharp rebuff given to Wilberforce and the
Abolitionists on 14th May. The institution of a Board of Agriculture
(which Hussey, Sheridan, and Fox opposed as a piece of jobbery) and the
renewal of the Charter of the East India Company were the chief
practical results of that session. But the barrenness of the session,
the passing of the Traitorous Correspondence Bill, and the hardships
connected with the balloting for the militia stirred the Radical Clubs
to redoubled energy; so that home affairs for two or three years centred
in their propaganda and in Pitt's repressive efforts. The development of
a keen political consciousness in the masses is a subject of so much
interest that I may be pardoned for dwelling on it somewhat fully, with
the aid of new materials drawn from the Home Office Archives.

    [Illustration: THE HOUSE OF COMMONS IN 1793. (From a painting in
    the National Gallery by K. A. Hickel)]

There we see the causes of unrest. Hunger, hatred of the militia laws,
chafing against restraints entailed by the war, all conduce to
discontent. The newly awakened Caliban is also a prey to suspicion. He
hates foreigners. Yet, either as refugees or prisoners, they swarm along
the south coast (there were for a time 5,000 prisoners in Winchester).
Fishermen are tempted to help in their escape, and a mariner of Emsworth
is arraigned for treason on this count. Even so far west as Bodmin the
prisoners are numerous and threatening. They convince many of the
townsfolk that England would be better off as a Republic; and two
patriotic ladies in fear and horror inform Lord Mount Edgcumbe
anonymously that Frenchmen cut a mark round the neck of King George on
all coins. The vicar of Ringmer, near Lewes, reports that the smugglers
of the Sussex coast carry on a regular intercourse with France. In the
Isle of Wight even the French royalists, who are there awaiting the
despatch of Lord Moira's long-deferred expedition to Brittany, figure as
murderous Jacobins. In Bath, too, the mayor, Mr. Harington, is troubled
by the influx of Gallic artists and dancing-masters, especially as they
mix in all the "routs," and dare even there to whisper treason against
King George. Another report comes that a French usher in a large school
near London--was it Harrow?--has converted several of the boys to
republicanism. Clearly, these are cases for the Aliens Act.

Even Britons, untainted by Gallic connections, are suspect. At
Billingsgate a soldier swears that he was set upon at night because he
wore the uniform of "a d----d tyrant"; and other evidence proves that
the service was unpopular for political reasons as well as the poor pay.
Farmers are plied by emissaries of the clubs as they come in to market.
Complaints come to Dundas that farmers and shippers on the coasts of
Lancashire and Cumberland sell corn to "the natural enemy."

The discontent takes colour from its surroundings. At Pocklington in
Yorkshire the villagers threaten to burn the magistrates in their houses
in revenge for the conviction of poachers. The rowdies of Olney in
Bucks. (formerly a sore trial to Cowper and John Newton) terrorize the
neighbourhood. Everywhere the high price of corn produces irritation.
The tinworkers of North Cornwall march in force to Padstow to prevent
the exportation of corn from that little harbour; otherwise they are
law-abiding, though a magistrate warns Dundas that local malcontents are
setting them against the Government. Multiply these typical cases a
thousand fold, and it will be seen that the old rural system is strained
to breaking point. The amenities of the rule of the squires are now paid
back, and that, too, at a time when England needs one mind, one heart,
one soul. At and near Sheffield serious riots break out owing to the
enclosures of common-fields and wastes, the houses of the agricultural
"reformers" being burnt or wrecked. On the whole, however, I have found
fewer references to enclosures than might be expected.[274]

As generally happens in times of excitement, the towns are the first to
voice the dumb or muttering hatreds of the villages. Parisians led the
Revolution in France, though its causes lay thickest and deepest in the
rural districts. Not until Paris "stormed" its castle did the villagers
attack theirs. So, too, in the muffled repetition of the revolutionary
music which England sounds forth, the towns buzz, while the country
supplies but a dull ground-tone. Dearness of food and scarcity of work
were the chief causes of discontent. The spokesmen for the Spitalfields
weavers, who number 14,000, sent up a temperate petition setting forth
their distress; but, as is often the case in London, their thoughts
turned not to politics, but to practical means of cure. They stated that
the trade in velvets, brocades, and rich silks would be absolutely
ruined unless steps were taken to revive the fashion in these fabrics.
In Liverpool there were far other grievances. There, as in all seaports,
the tyranny of the press-gang was sharply resented; and, early in
November 1793, the populace clamoured for the election of a
"liberty-loving mayor," Mr. Tarleton, who promised to keep the
press-gang out of the town.[275]

In general the malcontents urged their case most pointedly in towns and
villages, where branches of the Radical Societies had taken root. These
Societies or clubs continued to grow in number and influence through the
year 1793, the typical club being now concerned, not with faro, but with
the "Rights of Man." Some of the Reform Clubs sought to moderate the
Gallicizing zeal of the extreme wing. Thus, the "Friends of the People,"
whose subscription of two and a half guineas was some guarantee for
moderation, formally expressed their disapproval of Paine's works and
all Republican agencies--a futile declaration; for his "Rights of Man"
was the very life-blood of the new clubs. Working men had shown little
or no interest in the earlier motions for Reform. The Associations of
the years 1780-5 had lapsed; and it was clearly the joint influence of
the French Revolution and Paine's productions which led to the
remarkable awakening of the year 1792.

Besides the London Corresponding Society, started (as we saw in
Chapter III) by Thomas Hardy early in that year, there was another
formidable organization, the Society for Constitutional Information,
founded in London at the close of 1791. It, too, was concerned with much
more than the Reform of Parliament; for on 18th May 1792 it recommended
the publication in a cheap form of Paine's "Rights of Man"; and on 21st
November it appointed a Committee for Foreign Correspondence. A little
later were adopted some of the phrases used in the French Convention,
and St. André, Roland, and Barère were admitted to membership. It does
not appear that either this Society, or Hardy's, corresponded with
France after the declaration of war; for the Parliamentary Committee of
Secrecy, charged in 1794 to report on seditious proceedings would, if it
were possible, have fastened on so compromising an act. Its members
belonged to a higher class than those of Hardy's Society; for they
included Romney the painter, Holcroft the dramatist, Horne Tooke, the
humorous _littérateur_, and Thelwall, the ablest lecturer of the
day.[276] That these men had advanced far beyond the standpoint of the
Whiggish "Friends of the People," appears from a letter from one of the
Norwich Radical Clubs to the London Corresponding Society:

    The Friends of the People mean only a partial Reform, because
    they leave out words expressing the Duke of Richmond's plan and
    talk only of a Reform; while the Manchester people seem to
    intimate, by addressing Mr. Paine, as though they were intent
    upon Republican principles only. Now, to come closer to the main
    question, it is only desired to know whether the generality of
    the Societies mean to rest satisfied with the Duke of Richmond's
    plan only, or whether it is their private design to rip up
    monarchy by the roots and place democracy in its stead.[277]

These Societies seem to have put forth no definite programme. Their
defenders claimed that they adhered to the Westminster programme of
1780, championed by Fox and the Duke of Richmond. But Fox strongly
disapproved of their aims, and even refused to present their petition
for annual parliaments and universal suffrage.[278] In truth, the
actions of these bodies belied their words. They largely devoted their
funds and their energies to the circulation in a cheap form of the works
of Paine, 200,000 copies being sold in 1793,[279] and still more in the
following year. The Societies also adopted methods of organization
similar to those of the French Jacobins Club, and advocated the assembly
of a representative Convention. Every sixteen members of the London
Corresponding Society could form a division; and the divisions, by the
process of swarming-off, rapidly extended the organization. They also
sent delegates who conferred on matters of importance, either locally or
at headquarters; and the head delegation finally claimed to represent
very large numbers in London and affiliated centres. In the conduct of
details Spartan self-restraint was everywhere manifest. Members were
urged to be brief in their remarks and business-like in their methods.
Officials must give a solemn promise not to skulk, or make off, owing to
persecution; and members were warned that noisy declamation was not a
proof of zeal but might be a cloak for treachery. Above the chairman's
seat was suspended a card with the words--"Beware of Orators." One
would like to have witnessed the proceedings of these dully earnest men.

Both in the provinces and in London, reformers of the old type sought to
curb the more dangerous of these developments, especially correspondence
with the Jacobins' Club at Paris. Thus, the Manchester Constitutional
Society having published its address of congratulation to that body,
together with the reply of Carras, a member, George Lloyd, entered a
formal protest in these terms: "We are not a Republican Society; but
from such connection and correspondence we shall involve ourselves in
the imputation of Republicanism." He added that their aim was solely the
Reform of Parliament, and with that foreigners had no concern
whatever.[280] Nevertheless the Society kept up its foreign
correspondence, and received addresses from Jacobin Clubs in France.

Another threatening symptom was the attempt to excite discontent among
the soldiery. There being then very few barracks, the men were quartered
on the public houses; and several petitions were sent to Whitehall by
publicans (sometimes even by Corporations), pointing out the many
inconveniences of this custom. Thus in the autumn of 1793 the publicans
of Winchester complained that they had had to lodge as many as 5,000 men
during their passage through that city, besides the Bucks. regiment
stationed there, and they begged that barracks might be built. The
authorities paid the more heed to these petitions because local
malcontents "got at" the soldiery in the taverns, and brought home to
them their grievances, namely, poor pay, insufficient allowance for food
at its enhanced prices, and the severities of discipline exercised by
"effeminate puppies" drawn from aristocratic circles. In particular they
circulated a pamphlet--"The Soldiers' Friend: or Considerations on the
late pretended Augmentation of the Subsistence of the Private
Soldiers"--pointing out the close connection between the officers and
"the ruling faction," which "ever must exist while we suffer ourselves
to be governed by a faction."

When the war with France unexpectedly lengthened out, the Ministry
decided to erect new barracks, accommodating 34,000 men, at a total
expense of about £1,400,000. In the debate of 8th April 1796, Fox and
General Smith savagely assailed this proceeding as fatal to English
liberty. "Good God!" exclaimed Smith, "is every town to be made a
citadel and every village converted into a garrison?" Windham had little
difficulty in showing that the old barracks were in general badly
situated, and not adapted for cavalry. Buildings for the use of 5,400
horsemen were now erected; and on the whole question he asserted that
the men would live more cheaply, and would contract less vicious habits
than when lodged in inns. Above all, they would be removed from the
sedition-mongers, who now plied them with doctrines destructive alike of
loyalty and military discipline. Windham then quoted a phrase from
Molière's "Médecin malgré lui": "If I cannot make him dumb, I will make
you deaf."[281] The inference was that the inability of the Cabinet to
silence malcontents involved the expenditure of £1,400,000 partly in
order to stop the ears of the soldiery.

Lord Bacon, in his pregnant aphorisms upon sedition, does not venture on
a definition of that indefinable term. Where, indeed, shall one draw the
line between justifiable discontent and the inciting of men to lawless
and violent acts? We shall notice presently the claim of a Scottish
judge that an agitator may have good and upright intentions, and yet, if
his words and acts lead to general discontent, he is guilty of sedition
and perhaps of high treason. At the other extreme of thought stands the
born malcontent. He is generally an idealist, having a keen sense of the
miseries of mankind and very imperfect notions as to the difficulty of
peacefully and permanently ending them. In times of political excitement
the statesman has to deal with large bands of zealots nerved by these
irreconcilable principles. It was the misfortune of Pitt that he sought
to hold together a nation rent asunder by the doctrines of Burke and
Paine. Compromise was out of the question; and yet a British statesman
cannot govern unless the majority of the people is ready for compromise.
His position becomes untenable if, while upholding the throne, he
infuriates all friends of progress; if, when he seeks to remove abuses,
he is dubbed a traitor to King, Church, and Constitution. And yet, to
abandon his post because of these difficulties is not only cowardly, but
also an act of disloyalty alike to King and people.

As the political thermometer rose towards fever point through the years
1792-3, Government kept closer watch upon the political Societies; but
for a long time Pitt took no action against them. It seems probable
that, if they had confined themselves to their professed programme (that
of the Westminster Reformers of 1780) he would have remained passive. He
did not prosecute those which in November 1792 congratulated the French
Convention on the triumph of its arms in Belgium and the advent of a
Gallic millennium. What, then, were the developments which met with his
stern opposition?

But, firstly, we must ask the question, Why did not Pitt, in view of the
unswerving loyalty of the great majority of Britons, rely on the good
sense and weight of that mass to overbear the Jacobinical minority? It
is much to be regretted that he did not take that more intelligent and
more courageous course. But the events of the French Revolution seemed
to show the need of early taking decided measures against a resolute and
desperate group. At half a dozen crises in the years 1789-92 firm action
would have crushed the anarchic forces in Paris, Lyons, and Marseilles;
but, for lack of a strong guiding hand, those forces broke loose, with
results which all genuine friends of liberty have ever since deplored.
It is perfectly certain that, if Mirabeau had had a free hand, he would
have used coercive measures by the side of which those of Pitt's
so-called "Reign of Terror" would have been but as a pop-gun to a
cannon. Besides, to taunt Pitt with falseness to his principles of the
years 1782-5 is to ignore the patent facts that he advocated very
moderate changes in the representation. The Reform movement virtually
collapsed in 1785. That which now borrowed its watchwords was in the
main a Republican and levelling agency. The creed of the Radicals of
1793 was summed up, not in the academic programme of the Friends of the
People, the lineal heir to the earlier Associations, but in Part II of
Paine's "Rights of Man."

Here, surely, are the reasons for Pitt's repressive policy. He entered
on it regretfully, but he felt no sense of inconsistency in his change
of attitude towards Reform. The times had wholly changed; and that
movement changed with them. As Macaulay has well pointed out, Pitt never
declared that, under no circumstances, would he favour a moderate Reform
of Parliament. But he did declare that in his view Reform was at present
highly perilous; and he resolutely set himself to the task of coercing
those men and those agencies who advocated it in dangerous forms and by
lawless methods.

The first prosecution that need be noticed here was directed against
Paine for the seditious utterances in the "Rights of Man," particularly
in Part II. The Attorney-General made out a formidable indictment,
whereupon Paine, then a member of the French National Convention,
informed him that the prosecution might as well be directed against the
man in the moon, and that the liberties of the people of England were in
reality on their trial. After this impertinence the sentence went
against Paine by default, and that, too, despite a skilful speech by
Erskine (December 1792). The aim of Government of course was to warn
those who were circulating Paine's works that their conduct was
seditious and that they did so at their peril.

The Home Office Archives show that in very many cases the warning was
disregarded, and several prosecutions ensued, with varying results.
Still more frequent were the cases of cursing the King, sometimes in
obscene terms. To these we need pay no heed. Frequently the offence was
committed in taverns by democrats in a state of mental exaltation. To
this exciting cause we may probably ascribe the folly of John Frost, the
attorney with whom Pitt had some dealings during the Reform agitation of
1782. He was now charged with exclaiming excitedly: "I am for equality";
and, when challenged as to the meaning of his words, he added: "There
ought to be no Kings." In this connection it should be remembered that
Frost and Barlow had on 28th November 1792 presented to the French
National Convention the most mischievous of all the addresses sent by
Radical Clubs to that body. It ended with the statement that other
nations would soon imitate France (that is by overthrowing the monarchy)
and would "arm themselves for the purpose of claiming the Rights of
Man."[282] This piece of bravado must have told against Frost at the
trial; for it proved that amidst his potations at the tavern he spoke
his real mind. Erskine did his best to defend Frost by quoting Pitt's
letters to him of May 1782, on the subject of Reform.[283] The device
was clever; but obviously Pitt's association with Frost for strictly
constitutional purposes in 1782 could not excuse the seditious language
of the latter under wholly different conditions eleven years later.
Frost was condemned to six months' imprisonment in Newgate and was
struck off the roll of attorneys.[284] Other noteworthy trials ensued,
notably that of the "Morning Chronicle" newspaper, which ended in an
acquittal; but it will be well now to turn to the important developments
taking place north of the Tweed.

                  *       *       *       *       *

Scotland had now thrown off the trance under which she had lain since
1745; and her chief towns bade fair to outbid London, Leeds, Sheffield,
and Norwich as centres of democratic activity. There was every reason
why she should awake. She had very little influence in Parliament. She
returned 45 members as against Cornwall's 44; while the total number of
persons entitled to vote for the fifteen representatives of the Scottish
burghs was 1,303,[285] a number smaller than that of the electors of the
city of Westminster. This singular system was defended chiefly on the
ground of the turbulence of the national character. Even in 1831 a
Scottish member declared that Scots could never assemble without drawing
blood; and one of their champions, Lord Cockburn, made the quaint
admission: "The Scots are bad mobbers. They are too serious at it. They
never joke, and they throw stones." It did not occur to that generation
that the cure for this bloodthirsty seriousness was frequent public
meetings, not no meetings at all. That a high-spirited people should so
long have remained in political childhood seems incredible, until we
remember that a borough election like that of Westminster was absolutely
unknown in the whole course of Scottish history. Further, it was
notorious that the 45 Scottish members were the most obedient group of
placemen in the House of Commons; and their docility had increased under
the bountiful sway of Henry Dundas, whose control of patronage sufficed
to keep the Caledonian squad close to heel.

This political apathy was now to end. The men of Edinburgh, Glasgow, and
Dundee began to discuss the "Rights of Man," and to follow the lead
given by the London Corresponding Society. Thus, on 3rd October 1792,
Lieutenant-Colonel William Dalrymple presided over the first meeting of
"The Associated Friends of the Constitution and of the People," held at
Glasgow. Resolutions were passed in favour of an equal representation of
the people in Parliament, shorter Parliaments, and co-operation with
"the Friends of the People" in London. The entrance and annual
subscriptions were fixed at sixpence and one shilling. Thomas Muir of
Huntershill, an able young advocate, was appointed Vice-President. Other
Societies were soon formed, and on 11th December there assembled at
Edinburgh a General Convention of Delegates from the Societies of the
Friends of the People throughout Scotland. Its proceedings were orderly,
beginning and ending with prayer. Resolutions were passed deprecating
violence whether in language or action; and the presence either of Lord
Daer or Colonel Dalrymple in the chair showed that some, at least, of
the gentry were for Reform. This was exceptional. A little later the
gentlemen of several towns and counties asserted their loyalty in
flamboyant petitions; and the farmers of Dalkeith district at their
meeting added to their loyal toasts the following: "May we have no fox
in our fold or greys (wild oats) in our corn."[286] Sir Kenneth
Mackenzie on 3rd January 1793 informed William Pulteney that in the
North the towns were thoroughly loyal, with the exception of Perth and
Dundee, where certain ministers and writers led the people astray.[287]

Nevertheless, the authorities, notably the Lord Advocate, Robert Dundas,
took alarm; and on 2nd January 1793 Thomas Muir was brought before the
deputy-sheriff of Midlothian. Muir was a man of highly interesting
personality. The son of a Glasgow tradesman, he had shown marked
abilities at school and at the University, whence, owing to his advanced
opinions, he was forced to migrate to Edinburgh. There, in his
twenty-seventh year, he soon became a leader of the Scottish Reformers,
his sincerity, eloquence, and enthusiasm everywhere arousing keen
interest. Had his good sense been equal to his abilities, he might have
gone far; but events soon showed him to be tactless and headstrong. He
went far beyond the rest of the delegates assembled at Edinburgh,
namely, in bringing forward, despite the reluctance of the Convention,
an Address from the Society of United Irishmen in Dublin. Their conduct
much alarmed the authorities at Dublin Castle, who adopted stringent
precautions. Muir should therefore have seen, what his colleagues did
see, that any plan of co-operation was certain to irritate Government.
Nevertheless he persisted in bringing before the Convention the Irish
Address, which strongly pointed out the need of common action in the
struggle for Reform and urged both peoples to persevere "until we have
planted the flag of freedom on the summit, and are at once victorious
and secure." Further, the authorities accused Muir of circulating
Paine's writings and other pamphlets, including "A Dialogue between the
Governors and the Governed," which contained such sentences as these:
"The law is the general will--a new order." "Nations cannot revolt;
tyrants are the only rebels." "We will live without tyrants, without
impostors (priests)."[288] The writings were probably seditious in their
tendency;[289] but the evidence that he circulated them was of the
flimsiest character.[290]

Unfortunately, Muir left the country, though in no clandestine manner,
while legal proceedings were pending. After a short stay in London he
proceeded to Paris, in order (as he said at his trial) to try to
persuade the French democrats to spare the life of Louis XVI. The
credibility of this statement is lessened by the fact that he arrived in
Paris only the evening before the King's execution and remained there
long after that tragedy.[291] A letter from a Scot in Paris, James
Smith, to a friend in Glasgow, which the postal authorities opened,
stated that the writer met Muir in a _café_ of the Palais Royal; that
Muir did not hear of his indictment till the evening of 8th February,
and would return to face his trial, though he was loth to leave France,
as he had made "valuable and dear connections." "Mr. Christie advised
me," adds the writer, "to make some little proficiency in the language
before I begin to think of beginning to do anything."[292] Now, as a
clique of Britons in Paris had not long before drunk the toast of "The
coming Convention of Great Britain and Ireland," Government naturally
connected the efforts of Muir with this republican propaganda. His next
doings increased this suspicion. He left France on an American ship
which landed him at Belfast; he stayed there a few days, and landed at
Stranraer on 31st July, only to be arrested, along with his books and
papers, and sent to Edinburgh.

The ensuing trial, held on 30th and 31st August, aroused intense
interest, owing to the eloquence of Muir and the unscrupulous zeal of
the Scottish authorities in ensuring his conviction. They packed the
jury with men who belonged to a loyal Association; and it is said that
the Lord Justice Clerk, McQueen of Braxfield, welcomed one of them with
the words: "Come awa', Maister Horner, come awa', and help us to hang
ane of thae daamed scoondrels." The trial itself bristled with
irregularities; and Muir, who rejected the proffered help of Erskine and
conducted his own defence, fastened on them so effectively, that at the
conclusion of his final speech the Court resounded with applause. All
was in vain. The jury found him guilty, whereupon the Court of
Justiciary pronounced sentence of transportation for fourteen

Admiration of the virtues and courage of Muir must not blind us to the
fact that his conduct had been most provocative. His visit to Paris, on
the scarcely credible pretext that he went thither to save the King's
life, his connection with the United Irishmen, and his stay in Belfast,
told against him. Robert Dundas, in informing his uncle, Henry Dundas,
of his arrest, added: "I have little doubt that, tho' he avows his
intention of coming home to have been a view to stand trial, [that] he
is an emissary from France or the disaffected in Ireland."[294] The Scot
who first advocated common action with the Irish malcontents should have
paid good heed to his steps. Muir did not do so. Accordingly, though the
direct evidence at the trial told in his favour, the circumstantial
evidence weighed heavily against him.[295] At such a time men's actions
count for more than their words. It was the visit to Paris and the
dealings with the United Irishmen, far more than biassed witnesses and
the bullying of Braxfield, which led to the condemnation of this
talented youth. For his arrest occurred at the time when terror was the
order of the day at Paris, and when the issue of an inflammatory address
at Dundee spread panic in official circles.

Before adverting to this matter, we may note that Muir settled down by
no means unhappily at Sydney, and bought a farm which he named
Huntershill, after his birthplace. It is now a suburb of Sydney. A
letter from the infant settlement, published in the "Gentleman's
Magazine" of March 1797, describes him and the other Scottish
"martyrs"--Skirving, Margarot, and Gerrald--as treated indulgently by
the authorities, who allotted to them convicts to till their lands.
Shortly afterwards Muir escaped, and, after exciting experiences, in
which he was wounded, made his way to France. In Paris, early in 1798,
he published some articles on the United Irishmen, which Wolfe Tone and
other Irish patriots deemed most harmful to their cause. They therefore
remonstrated with him, but received the reply that he knew Ireland as
well as they did, and had the confidence of the United Irishmen as much
as they had. Wolfe Tone says of him: "Of all the vain obstinate
blockheads that ever I met I never saw his equal."[296] Fortunately for
his associates, Muir retired into the provinces and died in the year

Dundee played a leading part in the democratic agitation. Its
population, consisting largely of poor weavers, suffered severely in the
year 1793 from dearness of food and scarcity of fuel. On this mass of
needy operatives the doctrines of Paine fell like a spark on tinder.
Dundee became the chief focus of discontent in Scotland. A Tree of
Liberty was planted in Belmont Grounds; bread riots were of frequent
occurrence; and Dundas was burnt in effigy. In the Home Office Archives
is a statement that a local tradesman named Wyllie generously supplied
the waistcoat and breeches: "they was of satin."[297] In July 1793 there
appeared an "Address to the People," dated "Berean Meeting House,
Dundee," which painted the Government in the darkest colours, and
contained these assertions: "You are plunged into war by a wicked
Ministry and a compliant Parliament, who seem careless and unconcerned
for your interest, the end and design of which is almost too horrid to
relate, the destruction of a whole people merely because they will be
free.... Your treasure is wasting fast: the blood of your brethren is
pouring out, and all this to form chains for a free people and
eventually to rivet them on yourselves." On 1st August 1793 a
Government agent found the MS. from which this placard was printed in
the house of a liquor-seller in Edinburgh. It was in the writing of a
minister, Palmer: so were two letters referring to it.[298] Robert
Dundas therefore sent to have Palmer arrested. In mentioning this fact
to Henry Dundas, he added that Palmer was "the most dangerous rebel in
Scotland." It transpired in the course of the trial that the address was
originally written by a weaver named Mealmaker, and that Palmer re-wrote
it, toning down some expressions which he thought too strong. Mealmaker
was a witness at the trial, but was not allowed directly to incriminate
himself. The authorities preferred to strike at Palmer, a man of parts,
educated at Eton and Cambridge, who latterly had officiated as Unitarian
Minister at Montrose and Dundee. Doubtless these facts as well as his
association with the Scottish Friends of Liberty brought on him a
sentence of five years' transportation.[299]

If the authorities hoped to crush the Scottish movement by these
severities they were disappointed; for it throve on them. A spy, "J.
B.," who regularly supplied Robert Dundas with reports about the
Edinburgh club, wrote on 14th September 1793 that the sentence on Palmer
had given new life to the Association; for, after a time of decline in
the early summer, more than 200 now attended its meetings. On 28th
October he stated that nearly all the Scottish clubs had revived.
Dunlop, Lord Provost of Glasgow, also declared that discontent made
progress every day; that the soldiery were corrupted, and that there was
an urgent need of barracks.[300] Indignation also ran high at London.
Evan Nepean wrote to Robert Dundas: "There is a devil of a stir here
about Muir and Palmer." Braxfield's address to the jury was thus
parodied in the "Morning Chronicle" of 4th March 1794:

    I am bound by the law, while I sit in this place,
    To say in plain terms what I think of this case.
    My opinion is this, and you're bound to pursue it,
    The defendants are guilty, and I'll make them rue it.

Nevertheless, as another Convention had met at Edinburgh, Robert Dundas
wrote to his uncle on 2nd November 1793 strongly deprecating any
mitigation of the sentences. It was therefore in vain that the Earl of
Lauderdale, Grey, and Sheridan interviewed the Home Secretary and
pointed out that the offence of "leasing-making," or verbal sedition,
was punishable in Scots law only with banishment, not with forcible
detention at the Antipodes.[301] Henry Dundas informed his nephew on
16th November that he would refer the whole question back to the Court
of Justiciary, and if it defended the verdict "scientifically" and in
full detail, he would "carry the sentence into execution and meet the
clamour in Parliament without any kind of dismay."[302] Braxfield and
his colleagues defended their conduct in an exhaustive treatise on
"leasing-making," which the curious may read in the Home Office

What was the attitude of Pitt towards these events? Ultimately he was
responsible for these unjust and vindictive sentences; and it is a poor
excuse to urge that he gave Dundas a free hand in Scottish affairs.
Still, it is unquestionable that the initiative lay with the two
Dundases. If any Englishman exerted influence on the sentences it was
the Lord Chancellor, Loughborough.[303] He treated with contempt the
motion of Earl Stanhope on 31st January 1794 for an examination into the
case of Muir, when the Earl found himself in the position which he so
much coveted--a minority of one. On the cases of Muir and Palmer coming
before the Commons (10th March), Pitt upheld the Scottish Court of
Justiciary in what was perhaps the worst speech of his whole career. He
defended even the careful selection of jurymen hostile to Muir on the
curious plea that though they were declared loyalists, yet they might be
impartial as jurymen. He further denied that there had been any
miscarriage of justice, or that the sentence on the "daring delinquents"
needed revision. And these excuses for biassed and vindictive sentences
were urged after Fox had uttered a noble and manly plea for justice, not
for mercy. Grey bitterly declared that Muir was to be sent for fourteen
years to Sydney for the offence of pleading for Reform, which Pitt and
the Duke of Richmond advocated twelve years before. They sat in the
King's Cabinet: Muir was sent to herd with felons. This taunt flew wide
of the mark. Pitt in his motions for Reform had always made it clear
that, while desirous of "a moderate and substantial Reform," he utterly
repudiated universal suffrage. If those were his views in 1782-5, how
could he accept the Radical programme now that it included the absurd
demand for annual Parliaments? None the less Pitt was answerable for the
action of the Home Minister in referring the sentences back to the
judges who inflicted them--a course of conduct at once cowardly and
farcical. Pitt's speech also proves him to have known of the
irregularities that disgraced the trials. But he, a lawyer, condoned
them and applauded the harsh and vindictive sentences. In short, he
acted as an alarmist, not as a dispenser of justice.

It is easy for us now to descant on the virtues of moderation. But how
many men would have held on an even course when the guillotine worked
its fell work in France, when the Goddess of Reason was enthroned in
Notre Dame, and when Jacobinism seemed about to sweep over the
Continent? Here, as at so many points, France proved to be the worst foe
to ordered liberty. Robespierre and Hébert were the men who assured the
doom of Muir and Palmer. A trivial incident will suffice to illustrate
the alarm of Englishmen at the assembly of a British Convention. In
December 1793 Drane, the mayor of Reading, reported to his neighbour
Addington (Speaker of the House of Commons) that the "infamous Tom
Paine" and a member of the French Convention had been overheard
conversing in French in a public-house. Their talk turned on a proposed
visit to the British Convention then sitting in Edinburgh. At once
Addington sent for a warrant from the Home Office, while the mayor urged
his informant to hunt the miscreants down. The machinery of the law was
set in motion. A search was instituted; the warrant came down from
Whitehall; and not until the sum of fourteen guineas had gone to the
informant for his patriotic exertions did the authorities discover that
they had been hoaxed.[304]

The Edinburgh Convention, consisting of delegates of forty-five Reform
Societies, seems to have pursued dully decorous methods until 6th
November, when citizens Hamilton Rowan and Simon Butler came to
represent Ireland; Joseph Gerrald and Maurice Margarot were the
delegates from the London Corresponding Society; and Sinclair and York
from the Society for Constitutional Information which met at the Crown
and Anchor. A Convention of English Societies assembled at London about
the same time, and deputed the four delegates to join the Edinburgh body
and form a British Convention.[305] Accordingly, on 19th November, it
took the title, "British Convention of Delegates of the People,
associated to obtain Universal Suffrage and Annual Parliaments." The
statement of Margarot, that the London police sought to prevent his
journey to Edinburgh, should have been a warning to members to measure
their words well. Unfortunately, Margarot, a vain hot-headed fellow, at
once began to boast of the importance of the Radical Societies; though
fluctuating in number, they were numerous in London; there were thirty
of them in Norwich; and in the Sheffield district their members numbered
50,000. "If," he added, "we could get a Convention of England and
Scotland called, we might represent six or seven hundred thousand males,
which is a majority of all the adults of the Kingdom; and the Ministry
would not dare to refuse our rights."[306] Butler then declared that
Belfast was in a state of veiled rebellion; Gerrald, the ablest and best
educated of the delegates, also scoffed at the old party system, and
said, "party is ever a bird of prey, and the people their banquet." On
19th November a delegate from Sheffield, M. C. Brown, moved that the
next British Convention should meet near the borders of England and
Scotland. Thereupon Gerrald proposed that York should be chosen, despite
its ecclesiastical surroundings; for (said he), "as the Saviour of the
world was often found in the company of sinners, let us go there for the
same gracious purpose, to convert to repentance."[307]

All this was but the prelude to more serious work. On 26th-28th November
the Convention declared it to be the duty of citizens to resist any law,
similar to that lately passed in Dublin, for preventing the assembly of
a Convention in Great Britain; and the delegates resolved to prepare to
summon a Convention if the following emergencies should arise--an
invasion, the landing of Hanoverian troops, the passing of a Convention
Act, or the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act. These defiant
resolutions were proposed by Sinclair; and, as he afterwards became a
Government informer, they were probably intended to lure the Convention
away from its proper business into seditious ways. However that may be,
the delegates solemnly assented to these resolutions.

Scotsmen will notice alike with pride and indignation that the delegates
of the Societies north of the Tweed adhered to their main purpose,
Parliamentary Reform, until, under the lead of the men of London,
Sheffield, and Dublin, debates became almost Parisian in vehemence. As
reported in the "Edinburgh Gazetteer" of 3rd December, they gave Robert
Dundas the wished-for handle of attack. Then and there he decided to
disperse the Convention, so he informed Henry Dundas in the following
letter of 6th December: "Last Tuesday's '[Edinburgh] Gazetteer,'
containing a further account of the proceedings of the Convention
appeared to the Solicitor and me so strong that we agreed to take notice
of them. The proper warrants were accordingly made, and early yesterday
morning put in execution against Margarot, Gerrald, Callender, Skirving,
and one or two others, and with such effect that we have secured all
their Minutes and papers. Their conduct has excited universal
detestation."[308] The expulsion took place quite peaceably. The Lord
Provost informed the delegates that it was not their meeting, but their
publications, that led him to intervene. The Chairman, Paterson,
thereupon "skulked off"; but Brown, the Sheffield delegate, took the
chair, and declared that he would not quit it save under compulsion. The
Lord Provost and constables then pulled him down; and the meeting was
adjourned. Events ran the same course on the morrow, save that the
chairman, Gerrald, was allowed to wind up the proceedings with prayer
before he was pulled down. Thus ended the first British Convention.

The natural sequel was a trial of the leaders, Sinclair, Margarot,
Gerrald, and Skirving. Sinclair turned informer, whereupon his
indictment was allowed to lapse. The others were charged with attending
the meetings of the Convention which, "under the pretence of procuring a
Reform of Parliament, were evidently of a dangerous and destructive
tendency," modelled on those of the French Convention and with the like
aims in view. The charge was held to be proven, and they were severally
sentenced to transportation for fourteen years. The cases aroused keen
interest, in part owing to the novel claims put forward by the
prosecutor and endorsed by the Judges. The Lord Advocate argued that
these men, in claiming to represent a majority of the people, were in
reality planning a revolt; and Lord Justice Clerk finally declared that
the crime of sedition consisted "in endeavouring to create a
dissatisfaction in the country, which nobody can tell where it will end.
It will very naturally end in overt rebellion; if it has that tendency,
though not in the mind of the parties at the time, yet, if they have
been guilty of poisoning the minds of the lieges, I apprehend that that
will constitute the crime of sedition to all intents and purposes."[309]

To find a parallel to this monstrous claim, that sedition may be
unintentional and may consist in some action which the Government judges
by its results, one would have to hark back to the days of Judge
Jeffreys, whom indeed McQueen of Braxfield resembled in ferocity,
cunning, and effrontery. The insolence of Margarot at the bar to some
extent excused the chief judge for the exhibition of the same conduct on
the bench. But in the case of Gerrald, an English gentleman of refined
character and faultless demeanour, the brutalities of Braxfield aroused
universal loathing. In one respect Gerrald committed an imprudence. He
appeared in the dock, not in a wig, but displaying a shock of
dishevelled hair, a sign of French and republican sympathies which
seemed a defiance to the Court. Nevertheless, his speech in his own
defence moved to its depths the mind of a young poet who had tramped all
the way from Glasgow in the bleak March weather in order to hear the
trial. At the end of the speech young Campbell turned to his neighbour,
a humble tradesman, and said: "By heavens, Sir, that is a great man"; to
which there came the reply: "Yes, Sir, he is not only a great man
himself, but he makes every other man feel great who listens to him."

In truth, the Scottish trials were a moral defeat for Pitt and his
colleagues. Sympathy with the prisoners and detestation of the judges
aroused a general outcry, which became furious when Braxfield declared
that he had no idea that his sentence of transportation involved
servitude and hard labour.[310] The assertion implies an incredible
ignorance in the man who had packed the juries and sought to get his
victims hanged. It may be regarded as a cunning and cowardly attempt to
shift part of the odium on to the Government. Certainly the prestige of
the Cabinet now fell to zero. Ministers were held responsible for
Braxfield's wanton vagaries, and were accused of luring English
democrats into the meshes of the Scottish law. This last charge is
absurd. As we have seen, the London police sought to stop Margarot,
Sinclair, and Gerrald from going to Edinburgh. It was their presence and
that of the Irishmen which gave to the Convention almost a national
character, and placed it in rivalry to Parliament. Their speeches were
by far the most provocative. Finally, as the letter quoted above shows,
the initiative in arresting the delegates was taken by Robert Dundas and
the Scottish Solicitor-General. On 11th December Henry Dundas wrote to
his nephew: "You get great credit here [London] for your attack on the

Far different was the comment of the London Corresponding Society. On
20th January 1794 that body convened a great meeting which passed
protests against the war, the expulsion of the British Convention, and
the arrest of delegates. It also resolved that the general committee
should sit permanently throughout the ensuing session. Further, that if
the Government attacked the liberties of the people in the ways
described above, the committee should call "a General Convention of the
People for taking such measures under their consideration."[312] Equally
threatening were the resolutions of the Constitutional Society of
London.[313] Pitt resolved to take up the gauntlet flung down by these
two powerful Societies. On 24th February 1794 Eaton, a publisher of
Newgate Street, was tried for publishing in his periodical pamphlet,
"Politics for the People: or Hogs-wash," a little parable with which
that witty lecturer, Thelwall, had delighted a debating society. He told
how a gamecock, resplendent with ermine-spotted breast, and crown or
cockscomb, lorded it greedily over all the fowls of the farmyard.[314]
The parallel to George III was sufficiently close to agitate the
official mind; but the jury gave an open verdict, which implied that the
King was not hinted at.

The next prosecution, that of Thomas Walker, of Manchester, and six
others broke down in a way highly discreditable to the authorities.
Walker's services to the cause of Reform had, as we have seen, been
conspicuous alike in energy and moderation, and his enemies in the
Church and King Club made great exertions in order to procure a
conviction. The archives of the Home Office throw a sinister light on
their methods. A magistrate of Manchester, the Rev. John Griffith,
informed the Home Secretary that Booth, a man who was imprisoned in June
1793 for seditious practices, made a declaration against Thomas Walker
and McCullum, members of the local Constitutional Society. According to
Booth, McCullum had said: "Petitioning Parliament be d----d. You may as
well petition the devil to reform himself. The only way is for each
Society to send a number of delegates to a certain place, and there
declare themselves the Representatives of the People and support
themselves as such." Thomas Walker had also said that each member must
have a musket, for they would soon want them.[315] But it transpired in
the trial of Walker, McCullum, and others that Griffith had let Booth
see that he wanted to incriminate Walker. He not only offered Booth his
pardon for such evidence, but left him alone with Dunn, a malicious
perjurer, the falsity of whose charges against Walker was convincingly
demonstrated.[316] The case proves how far an unscrupulous magistrate
could succeed in getting charges trumped up against an innocent man who
opposed him in politics. Doubtless in other cases personal spite, or the
desire of a reward, led to the offer of false charges; and the student
who peruses the Home Office archives needs to remember the Greek
caution, +memnêsth' apistein+, as much as if he were perusing French

It is therefore with much doubt that one reads the declaration of a
Sheffield magistrate, in May 1794, that there was in that town "a most
horrid conspiracy against State and Church under the pretence of
Reform." A vast number of pikes and spears had been made and "cats" to
throw in the road to lame the horses. 2nd July was fixed for the
storming of the barracks and town. "It is a mercy the plot is
discovered. I am to be all night in the search." More detailed is the
deposition of a magistrate of Sheffield, James Wilkinson, that a
democrat named Widdison had made several pikes and sold twelve to Gales,
a well-known Jacobinical printer. Further, that a witness, William
Green, swore that a man named Jackson had employed him and others to
make spear-heads; they made twelve dozen or more in two days, and the
heads were sent to the lodgings of Hill and Jackson. Wilkinson wrote for
instructions how to deal with these men; also for a warrant to arrest
Gales. On 20th May Dundas sent down warrants for the arrest of Gales, W.
Carnage, H. Yorke (_alias_ Redhead), W. Broomhead, R. Moody, and T.
Humphreys; he also issued a warrant against Williams, a gun-engraver, of
the Tower, in London.[317]

In Birmingham, as we have seen, the two magistrates, Carles and Spencer,
were out and out loyalists; and, as they wrote to Dundas on 23rd May
1794 that there was not enough evidence to warrant a search for arms, we
may infer that the Midland capital caused the authorities less concern
than rebellious Sheffield. But even at Birmingham, with its traditions
of exuberant loyalty, there were grounds for concern. John Brook, the
mayor, informed Dundas that there were many malcontents in the
neighbourhood, especially at Dudley.

Turning to the East, we find signs that Norwich seethed with discontent.
From that city had come the first suggestion of a General Convention of
the People. On 5th March 1793 one of the thirty Societies of Norwich
wrote up to the London Corresponding Society advocating that step, which
Hardy and his colleagues approved "so soon as the great body of the
people shall be courageous and virtuous enough to join us in the
attempt." I have found no proof that either at Norwich or in London
these Societies used illegal methods. The seditious placards posted up
at Norwich may have been the work of some fanatic or of an _agent
provocateur_. But it is very doubtful whether the holding of a People's
Convention in the manner proposed was not an act of defiance to
Parliament, and therefore seditious. Individual members certainly came
within the ban of the law. Thus, Dundas received tidings that two
members of Hardy's Society, named Stone and Meakins, were circulating
seditious writings in Essex. When arrested they had with them one or
two military books, copies of the revolutionary song, _Ça ira_, and
similar papers;[318] but this fact does not incriminate the Society at
large. In fact, the reports as to the purchase of arms and secret
drillings are not very convincing. To take a few instances: information
was sent to the Home Office that a man named Kitchen had sixty pikes in
his house in George Street, near York Buildings; also that men were
drilled secretly at the house of Spence, a seller of seditious pamphlets
in the Little Turnstile, Holborn, and at that of Shelmerdine, a small
tradesman of Southwark; the arms in the last case were bought from
Williams, of the Tower, with a sum of £10 contributed by "a desperate
tailor of China Walk, Lambeth."[319] Did patriotism or private spite or
greed of money incite these reports? Drawings of pikes and spear-heads
also diversified the report of the Secret Committee of the Lords
appointed to investigate seditious proceedings, and probably convinced
lovers of realism that plots actually existed.

More alarming in reality were the preparations for a General Convention
of the People. The authorities knew that plans were actually on foot for
sending delegates to form such a body. On 27th March 1794 the London
Corresponding Society consulted the sister club on this question; and in
due course delegates from the two Societies passed resolutions in favour
of the scheme. Hardy thereupon sent a printed letter round to similar
bodies, probably early in the month of April 1794. It ran thus:

    Notwithstanding the unparalleled audacity of a corrupt and
    overbearing faction which at present tramples on the rights and
    liberties of our people, our meetings cannot, in England, be
    interrupted without the previous adoption of a Convention
    Bill[320]--a measure it is our duty to anticipate.... Let us
    then form another British Convention. We have a central
    situation in our view, which we believe would be most convenient
    for the whole island, but which we forbear to mention ... till
    we have the answers of the Societies with which we are in
    correspondence. Let us have your answer, then, by the 20th at
    farthest, earlier if possible, whether you approve of the
    measure and how many delegates you can send, with the number
    also, if possible, of your Societies.

    PS. We have appointed a Secret Committee on this. Will you do
    the same?[321]

In order to further the scheme, the London Corresponding Society held a
meeting on 14th April at Chalk Farm, when an ardent appeal was read from
Hardy to resist the encroachments on liberty recently made by "apostate
reformers"--a fling at Pitt. "Are they alone," he asked, "to judge of
the fit time for Reform?" The meeting then thanked Earl Stanhope for his
manly and successful opposition to the attempt to bring Hanoverian and
Hessian troops into England; it also condemned the late rapid advances
of despotism and the arming one part of the people against the other.
Finally it declared that in cases of necessity the safety of the people
was the only law. We may here note that a few Hanoverian and Hessian
battalions had been landed in Hampshire, as a temporary measure,
previous to their transference to other ships. This occasioned some
clamour at Westminster, Grey, Fox, Sheridan and others claiming that the
liberties of England were in the direst danger. Pitt refused to accept a
Bill of Indemnity for his action, and the House supported him by a great

The other reference at the Chalk Farm meeting was to the proposal to
sanction the subscriptions to the Volunteer forces now being raised in
various counties.[323] At the outset this noble movement had in view the
defence of the constitution no less than of the land; and this doubtless
accounts for the fact that Coke, Mingay, and other Norfolk Whigs
struggled desperately and successfully to break up a county meeting held
at Norwich for this purpose on 12th April, shouting down even so able a
speaker as Windham. In general, however, these meetings were an immense
success. That at Aylesbury realized £5,851 for a county corps; and one
at Epsom, for Surrey, brought in nearly double as much.[324] Most
noteworthy of all these meetings was one of 19th April 1794 at
Birmingham, where loyal sentiments crystalized in a rhetorical jewel of
rare lustre. The "Loyal True Blues" of Birmingham, in view of the
threats of the French "to insult the chalky cliffs of Albion and to
plant in this island their accursed tree of liberty, more baneful in its
effects than the poisonous tree of Java which desolates the country and
corrupts the winds of heaven," resolved to quit the field of argument
and to take arms as a Military Association. For nothing could be so
effective as "the decided and awful plan of the whole Nation rising in a
mass of Volunteers, determined to dispute every inch of ground with
their daring aggressors and to spill the last drop of their blood in
defence of their religion and their laws." They beg Edward Carver to
command them; they will choose their uniform, will arrange themselves as
grenadiers and light infantry; and, "to preserve the _coup d'oeil_, the
whole corps will be arranged with the strictest attention to the height
of the members."[325] Possibly the Royalists of Birmingham may have
known of the hint conveyed in Hardy's letter, that the National
Convention should assemble in some convenient centre, a phrase which
seemed to point to their town, which, indeed, the Chartists chose for
that purpose in 1839.

In view of the fervent loyalty manifested on all sides, Ministers might
surely have trusted to the majority to control the restless minority.
Auckland expressed the general opinion when he said that the country in
the proportion of ten to one was sound and loyal.[326] As the majority
was armed, while the malcontents had but small stores of pikes, there
was little cause for fear, though in the minority were some desperate
men. In particular, Richard Davison, a prominent member of the Sheffield
Constitutional Society, recommended the clubs of London and Norwich to
buy consignments of pikes in order to resist the "newly-armed minions of
the bare-faced aristocracy of the present Administration"; and it
afterwards appeared that he could sell them at twenty pence each.[327]
This letter was sent off on 24th April, 1794, seventeen days after the
holding of a mass meeting on Castle Hill, Sheffield, at which the
chairman, Henry Yorke (_alias_ Redhead), declared that, when the sun of
Reason shone in its fullest meridian, the people would turn out the 558
gentlemen from Westminster. The meeting resolved that, as the people
ought to demand universal suffrage as a right, and not petition for it
as a favour, they would never again petition the House of Commons on
this subject.[328] Contemptuous epithets were now constantly hurled at
Parliament. On 2nd May, that genial toper, Horne Tooke, of Wimbledon,
declared at a dinner of the Constitutional Society in London that
Parliament was a scoundrel sink of corruption, and that the scoundrel
Opposition joined the scoundrel Government in order to destroy the
rights of Englishmen. In order to add weight to his epithets he called
the company to witness to his complete sobriety.[329]

Pitt and his colleagues now decided to strike at the leaders who were
planning a British Convention. Of these the most formidable was the
Secretary of the London Corresponding Society. Accordingly, early on
12th May, some Bow Street officers made their way into Hardy's shop, No.
9, Piccadilly, arrested him, seized his papers, ransacking the room
where Mrs. Hardy was in bed. The shock to her nerves was such as to
bring on premature child-birth with fatal results. On the same day a
royal message came to Parliament announcing that the efforts of certain
Societies to summon a Convention in defiance of Parliament had led him
to order the seizure of their books and papers. Those of the
Corresponding and Constitutional Societies were brought, sealed up, to
the House of Commons on the morrow, whereupon Pitt moved for the
appointment of a secret committee to examine them. He himself, Dundas,
and nineteen other members soon drew up the Report. When presented on
16th May, it contained a statement of all the threatening symptoms of
the time, and so far ignored the legal efforts of those Societies as to
form a very alarming diagnosis.[330]

The fears of Ministers were further aroused by the contents of a letter
from the Rev. Jeremiah Joyce (tutor of Earl Stanhope's son) to Horne
Tooke, which the Post Office had seized. It announced the arrest of
citizen Hardy, and ended thus: "Query: is it possible to get ready by
Thursday?"[331] Some effort of the imagination was needed to figure the
Silenus of the literary world as a plotter against the lives of
Ministers. But they now decided to arrest him and the Reverend Jeremiah,
as well as Bonney, Richter, and Kyd, also members of the Constitutional
Society, besides Camage and one or two other democrats of Sheffield.
Davison, the would-be seller of pikes, had fled betimes.

These were the circumstances which induced Pitt to propose the
suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act (16th May). The Report of the Secret
Committee having been read, he proceeded to exaggerate the import of the
more threatening parts of the evidence, and to convince the House that
these Societies, which had congratulated the French Convention, and
still aped its methods, were plotting to set up an authority openly
hostile to Parliament. With all the force of his oratory he pictured the
state of things that must ensue--"an enormous torrent of insurrection,
which would sweep away all the barriers of government, law and religion,
and leave our country a naked waste for usurped authority to range in,
uncontrolled and unresisted." Despite the warning of Fox that the remedy
now proposed was worse than the evil which it sought to avert; despite
the pleas of Grey and Sheridan against indecent haste in hurrying on
this arbitrary measure, it was forced through every stage in the Commons
at that single sitting; finally, at half-past three in the morning, the
numbers of the Whig protestors sank to 13, while the Ministerialists
still mustered 108 strong.[332]

This collapse of the Opposition was due to a sharp cleavage in its ranks
on the vital issues now at stake. As has already appeared, Pitt had
consulted the Duke of Portland and his immediate followers on subjects
affecting public order. Some of the Old Whigs, notably Windham, served
on the Committee of Secrecy; and the evidence there forthcoming led them
to propose a general support of Government both in its war policy and
the maintenance of order. Those eager Royalists, Burke and Windham, took
the lead in proposing an alliance with the Ministry. The question arose
whether the Old Whigs should support from outside or actually coalesce
with the Ministry, taking their fair share of power. Burke strongly
advised the latter course as the only means of assuring continued and
strenuous support. This opened a sluice gate of correspondence,
resulting in important changes in the Cabinet. I shall refer to this
matter later, merely noting here that the Duke of Portland took over
from Dundas the Home Office, which was thenceforth limited to British
and Irish affairs, Dundas becoming Secretary of State for War, and
Windham Secretary at War. The changes were most opportune; for they
strengthened the administrative machine and served to build up a
national party strong enough to cope with the growing difficulties of
the time. Thenceforth there was no danger of the overthrow of the
Ministry. Further, the panic pervading all parts of England in May 1794
was soon allayed by the news of Howe's victory, termed "the glorious
First of June"; while in July the fall of Robespierre caused a general
sense of relief. In view of these events, Pitt would have done well to
relax his efforts against the British Jacobins. He held on his way and
encountered sharp rebuffs. The trial of Hardy and others in October
dragged on to a great length; and, after hearing an enormous mass of
evidence (some of which proved the possession of arms by democrats) the
jury returned a verdict of Not Guilty. This result, due to the masterly
defence by Erskine and Gibbs, aroused a tumult of joy in the vast crowd
outside such as London had rarely seen. Hardy afterwards asserted that,
in case of a conviction, Government had decided to arrest about 800 more
persons.[333] This is mere hearsay; but it has been fastened upon by
those who seek to father upon Pitt the design of reviving the days of
Strafford and "Thorough." A fortnight previously Watt, once a government
informer, was convicted at Edinburgh of a treasonable plot to set the
city on fire, sack the banks, and attack the castle. Before he went to
execution he confessed his guilt.[334]

This was the only conviction obtained by Government. The trial of Horne
Tooke ran a course unfavourable to Ministers, the evidence for the
prosecution being flimsy in the extreme. Pitt himself was called to the
witness-box, and when closely cross-questioned by Erskine as to his
former connection with the Reform cause, admitted that he was present at
a meeting at the Duke of Richmond's residence, at which delegates from
county Reform Associations were present. The admission exposed him to
the charge of inconsistency in the eyes of those who looked only at the
surface of things. In reality, those who met at the Duke of Richmond's
house had nothing in common with the democratic clubs which proposed to
override the will of Parliament by a National Convention. Yet, as the
superficial view gains a ready assent, the fame of Pitt now underwent
an eclipse. Never again did he hear the whole-hearted acclaim which
greeted him in the years 1784-90. The roar of delight which went up at
the news of the acquittal of Horne Tooke was a sign of the advent of a
new era, in whose aspirations Pitt had no part.

The prosecutions against Bonney, Joyce, Kyd, and Holcroft were now
dropped. The charge against Thelwall was pressed home, but resulted in
another defeat for Government. Thus, except in the case of Watt, no
proof was forthcoming of treasonable designs, though the apprehension of
Davison of Sheffield might perhaps have led to discoveries of that
nature. In the main, then, Pitt and his colleagues failed to justify the
harsh measure of suspending the Habeas Corpus Act; and the failure of
the State prosecutions led to a marked increase of the membership and
activity of the London Corresponding Society, with results which will
appear later.

Nevertheless, Pitt's conduct is far from indefensible with regard to the
main point at issue, the meeting of a National Convention. In view of
the projects of some of the wilder spirits at London, Sheffield,
Norwich, and Edinburgh, it is presumptuous to charge him with
causelessly seeking to bring about a "Reign of Terror." He was face to
face with developments which might easily have become dangerous; and,
with the example of Paris before him, he not unnaturally took what he
thought to be the safer course, that of stopping them at the outset.
Indeed, we may question whether Fox, had he been in power, would have
allowed the assembling of a National Convention, pledged to press upon
Parliament measures which he reprobated.

It is when we come to details that Pitt is open to the charge of acting
with undue severity. Considering the proved loyalty of the great mass of
the people, what need was there to inaugurate a system of arbitrary
arrests? After all, England was not France. Here no systematic assault
had been made on the institutions in Church and State. The constitution
had suffered dilapidation, but it was storm-proof, and the garrison was
strongly entrenched. Moreover, the democrats for the most part urged
their case without any of the appeals to violence which wrought havoc in
France. There the mob delighted to hurry a suspect to _la lanterne_ and
to parade heads on pikes. Here the mass meeting at Chalk Farm, or on
Castle Hill, Sheffield, ended with loss neither of life nor of
property. So far as I have found, not one life was taken by the people
in the course of this agitation--a fact which speaks volumes for their
religious sense, their self-restraint even amidst deep poverty, and, in
general, their obedience to law even when they deemed it oppressive. The
hero of the year 1794 is not William Pitt, but the British nation.


[274] See "The Complaints of the Poor People of England," by G. Dyer,
B.A. (late of Emmanuel College, Camb., 1793).

[275] "H. O.," Geo. III (Domestic), 27, 28.

[276] E. Smith, "The English Jacobins," 111-3; C. Cestre, "John
Thelwall," ch. ii.

[277] "Report of the Committee of Secrecy," May 1794. The Duke of
Richmond's plan was the Westminster programme of 1780, which became the
"six points" of the Charter of 1838.

[278] See Fox's letter of 2nd May 1793 to Hardy in "State Trials," xxiv,

[279] M. Conway, "Life of T. Paine," i, 346.

[280] In the Place MSS. (Brit. Mus.), vol. entitled "Libel, Sedition,
Treason, Persecution"--a valuable collection.

[281] "Parl. Hist.," xxxii, 929-44.

[282] "Collection of Addresses ... to the National Convention of France"
(Debrett, 1793), 14.

[283] "Speeches of Lord Erskine," 293.

[284] "State Trials," xxii, 471-522.

[285] Porritt, ii, 128.

[286] "H. O.," Scotland, 7.

[287] _Ibid._

[288] "State Trials," xxiii, 118-26.

[289] I differ here from Lord Cockburn, "Examination of the Trials for
Sedition in Scotland," i, 147.

[290] _Ibid._, i, 162-5; "State Trials," xxiii, 146-8, 160.

[291] P. Mackenzie, "Life of Muir," does not state the reason for Muir's
visit to Paris.

[292] "H. O.," Scotland, 8. Dunlop, Lord Provost of Glasgow, sent it to
Robert Dundas on 12th March 1793. For this William Christie, who
translated the French Constitution of 1791 into English, see Alger,
"Englishmen in the French Revolution," 78, 98.

[293] See Campbell, "Lives of the Lord Chancellors," vii, 273, note, and
viii, 143-5, for criticisms on the judges: also Cockburn, _op. cit._, i,
147-80; "Life of Romilly," i, 23.

[294] "H. O.," Scotland, 8. Letter of 2nd August 1793. Dundas further
stated that Muir had several Irish handbills on him.

[295] Curiously enough, Lord Cockburn paid no heed to this in his
otherwise able examination of the case.

[296] T. Wolfe Tone, "Autobiography," ii, 285.

[297] "H. O.," Scotland, 7.

[298] "H. O.," Scotland, 8. W. Scot to R. Dundas, 1st August.

[299] See the "Narrative of the Sufferings of T. F. Palmer and W.
Skirving" (1794), and "Monthly Mag.," xvii, 83-5, for Palmer's
adventures. He died of dysentery in 1799.

[300] "H. O.," Scotland, 9.

[301] Their Memorial to Henry Dundas is in "H. O.," Geo. III (Domestic),
27. They did not claim that he was innocent, merely that the punishment
was excessive and unjust.

[302] "Arniston Mems.," 240.

[303] Campbell, _op. cit._, viii, 145, 147.

[304] "H. O.," Geo. III (Domestic), 27.

[305] For the instructions see E. Smith, "The Story of the English
Jacobins," 87.

[306] "State Trials," xxiii, 414.

[307] J. Gerrald had published a pamphlet, "A Convention the only Means
of saving us from Ruin" (1793). It is in the British Museum.

[308] "H. O.," Scotland, 9.

[309] "State Trials," xxiii, 766.

[310] "Auckland Journals," iii, 205.

[311] "Arniston Mems.," 242.

[312] E. Smith, "The Eng. Jacobins," 93-7.

[313] See "Report of the Committee of Secrecy" (17th May 1794).

[314] C. Cestre, "John Thelwall," 77.

[315] "H. O.," Geo. III (Domestic), 30.

[316] "State Trials," xxiii, 1055-1166. For technical reasons this
statement of Booth could not be given at Walker's trial. Besides
Walker's Constitutional Society, there were two others, the Reformation
and Patriotic Societies, founded in March and April 1792.

[317] See E. Smith, "The Eng. Jacobins," ch. vi, for the meetings at
Sheffield and the part played by Yorke.

[318] "H. O.," Geo. III (Domestic), 31.

[319] _Ibid._, 27, 29. Spence purveyed "Pigs' Meat," while Eaton sold
"Hogs' Wash." The titles are a take-off of Burke's phrase "the swinish

[320] _I.e._, similar to the one passed in Dublin against a People's

[321] "Report of the Parl. Comm. of Secrecy" (17th May 1794).

[322] "Parl. Hist.," xxx, 1363-91; xxxi, 1-27.

[323] _Ibid._, xxxi, 97-121.

[324] "Morning Chronicle" for April 1794.

[325] "H. O.," Geo. III (Domestic), 30.

[326] "Auckland Journals," iii, 213.

[327] "State Trials," xxiv, 588, 600, 601.

[328] "State Trials," xxiv, 626.

[329] E. Smith, "Eng. Jacobins," 116.

[330] "Parl. Hist.," xxxi, 475-97.

[331] "Life of Horne Tooke," ii, 119. It was afterwards absurdly said
that Dundas, Horne Tooke's neighbour at Wimbledon, had had the letter
filched from his house. Both of them lived on the west side of the

[332] "Parl. Hist.," xxxi, 497-505.

[333] "Life of T. Hardy," 42; "State Trials," xxiv, 717, 729, 762, etc.
The evidence fills 1,207 pages.

[334] _Ibid._, 1-200.


    PITT AND THE ALLIES (1794-5)

    The main object of His Majesty is the keeping together by
    influence and weight this great Confederation by which alone the
    designs of France can be resisted, and which, if left to itself,
    would be too likely to fall to pieces from the jarring interests
    of the Powers engaged in it.--GRENVILLE TO MALMESBURY, _21st
    April 1794_.

    The disgraceful failure of every military operation His Prussian
    Majesty has undertaken since the year 1791 has destroyed the
    reputation of the Prussian army; and the duplicity and
    versatility of his Cabinet put an end to all confidence and good
    faith.--MALMESBURY TO GRENVILLE, _20th September 1794_.

As in parliamentary life, so too in the wider spheres of diplomacy and
warfare, a Coalition very rarely holds together under a succession of
sharp blows. This is inherent in the nature of things. A complex or
heterogeneous substance is easily split up by strokes which leave a
homogeneous body intact. Rocks of volcanic origin defy the hammer under
which conglomerates crumble away; and when these last are hurled against
granite or flint, they splinter at once. Well might Shakespeare speak
through the mouth of Ulysses these wise words on the divisions of the
Greeks before Troy:

          Look how many Grecian tents do stand
    Hollow upon this plain, so many hollow factions.
    Troy in our weakness stands, not in her strength.[335]

Pitt and his colleagues were under no illusion as to the weakness of the
first Coalition against France. They well knew the incurable jealousies
of the Houses of Hapsburg and Hohenzollern, the utter weakness of the
Holy Roman Empire, the poverty or torpor of Spain, Sardinia, and
Naples, the potent distractions produced by the recent partition of
Poland, and the Machiavellian scheme of the Empress Catharine II to busy
the Central Powers in French affairs so that she might have a free hand
at Warsaw. All this and much more stood revealed to them. But they
grounded their hopes of success on two important considerations; first,
that the finances of France were exhausted; secondly, that the rule of
the Jacobins, fertile in forced loans, forced service, and guillotining,
must speedily collapse. On the subject of French finance there are many
notes in the Pitt Papers, which show that Pitt believed an utter
breakdown to be imminent. Grenville, too, at the close of October 1793,
stated that France had lost at least 200,000 soldiers, while more than
50,000 were in hospital. The repugnance to military service was
universal, and the deficit for the month of August alone was close on

Above all, Pitt and Grenville believed the French Government to be
incompetent as well as exasperatingly cruel. In their eyes Jacobins were
sworn foes to all that made government possible. The mistake was
natural. The English Ministers knew little of what was going on in
France, and therefore failed to understand that the desperadoes now in
power at Paris were wielding a centralized despotism, compared with
which that of Louis XIV was child's play. As to the Phoenix-like
survival of French credit, it is inexplicable even to those who have
witnessed the wonders wrought by Thiers in 1870-3. All that can be said
is that the Jacobins killed the goose that laid the golden egg, and yet
the golden eggs were laid. Let him who understands the miracle of
revolutionary finance cast the first stone at Pitt.

The Prime Minister also erred when he believed the French social
structure to be breaking up. Here again the miscalculation was perfectly
natural in an age which regarded kings, nobles, and bishops as the fixed
stars of a universe otherwise diversified only by a dim Milky Way. The
French were the first to dispel these notions. In truth the strength of
the young giant bore witness to the potency of the new and as yet allied
forces--Democracy and Nationality. In 1792 Democracy girded itself
eagerly against the semi-feudal Powers, Austria and Prussia; but the
strength latent in the French people appeared only in the next year
when, on the accession of England, Spain, and the Empire to the
Coalition, plans were discussed of detaching Alsace, Lorraine,
Roussillon, and Flanders.[337] To these sacrilegious schemes the French
patriots opposed the dogma of Rousseau--the indivisibility of the
general will. "Perish 25,000,000 Frenchmen rather than the Republic one
and indivisible." This perfervid, if illogical, exclamation of a
Commissioner of the Convention reveals something of that passion for
unity which now fused together the French nation. Some peoples merge
themselves slowly together under the shelter of kindred beliefs and
institutions. Others again, after feeling their way towards closer
union, finally achieve it in the explosion of war or revolution. The
former case was the happy lot of the British nation; the latter, that of
the French. Pitt, with his essentially English outlook, failed to
perceive that the diverse peoples grouped together under the French
monarchy had now attained to an indissoluble unity under the stress of
the very blows which he and his Allies dealt in Flanders, Alsace, and

For by this time the counter-strokes dealt by the Republicans were
telling with fatal effect on their adversaries. The failure of the
Spanish campaign in Roussillon and the irruption of a French force into
Catalonia dashed the spirits of that weak and wavering monarch,
Charles IV; and already whispers were heard that peace with France was
necessary. The disputes with England concerning Nootka Sound and affairs
at Toulon predisposed the King and his people to think with less horror
of the regicides of Paris. As for Sardinia, the childish obscurantism of
the Court of Turin had nursed to quick life a mushroom growth of
Jacobinism. The army defending the Alpine passes was honeycombed with
discontent; and the suspicious conduct of Austria towards her little
ally foreshadowed the divisions and disasters which quickly followed on
the advent of Bonaparte at that theatre of the war.

It was clear that only from London could come the impulse which would
invigorate this anaemic Coalition. Pitt sought to impart such an impulse
in the King's Speech at the opening of the Session of 1794. It had
throughout a defiant ring. The capture of three of the northern
fortresses of France, the gains in the East and West Indies (they
amounted to Pondicherry, Chandernagore, and Tobago, together with
Miquelon and St. Pierre), the blow dealt to her navy at Toulon, and the
impossibility of her continuing the recent prodigious exertions, were in
turn duly emphasized. And on 21st January 1794, when Fox moved an
amendment in favour of peace, the Prime Minister spoke even more
strongly of the madness of coming to terms with the present rulers of
France. Could any statesman not gifted with second sight have spoken
otherwise? At that time the Reign of Terror was approaching its climax.
The Goddess of Reason had lately been enthroned in Notre Dame amidst
ribald songs and dances. The schism between Robespierre and the
atheistical party was beginning to appear; and few persons believed that
France would long bend the knee before the lords of the guillotine,
whose resources were largely derived from the plunder of churches and
banks, forced loans from the wealthy, and a graduated Income Tax
resembling the Spartan proposals of Thomas Paine.

In such a case Pitt naturally repeated his statement of the previous
session, that he altogether deprecated a peace with France, unless it
possessed some elements of permanence, and secured due indemnity to
Great Britain. Nay, he declared that he would rather persevere with war,
even in the midst of disasters, than come to terms with the present
rulers of France, who were alike enemies of order and rabid foes of
England. They drove men into battle by fear of the guillotine; they
formed rapine and destruction into a system, and perverted to their
detestable purposes all the talents and ingenuity derived from the
civilization around them. He was careful, however, to correct the
mis-statement of Fox, that the Government was struggling for the
restoration of the French monarchy. While believing that that nation
would live most happily under a King, Pitt denied that a restoration was
the object of the present war. We have already seen that he held this
view in his correspondence with the Austrian Court. The House supported
Ministers by 277 votes to 59.

These declarations, backed by so large a majority, caused great
satisfaction at Vienna, and heartened that Government in the midst of
its many uncertainties. There was every need of encouragement. In that
age, when the great monarchs of the eighteenth century had passed, or
were passing, away, Francis II stood somewhat low among the
mediocrities on whom fell the strokes of destiny. He was a poor replica
of Leopold II. Where the father was supple and adroit, the son was
perversely obstinate or weakly pliable. In place of foresight and
tenacity in the pursuit of essentials, Francis was remarkable for a more
than Hapsburg narrowness of view, and he lacked the toughness which had
not seldom repaired the blunders of that House. Those counsellors swayed
him most who appealed to his family pride, or satisfied his other
dominant feelings, attachment to the old order of things and a pedantic
clinging to established usages. But the weakness of his character soon
became so patent as to excite general distrust, especially as he was
swayed by the wayward impulses of his consort, a daughter of
Ferdinand IV and Maria Carolina of Naples. From her mother she inherited
a hatred of French principles and the bent towards intrigue and
extravagance which wrecked the careers of that Queen and of her sister,
Marie Antoinette. Francis II and his consort longed to stamp out the
French plague; but they lacked the strength of mind and of will that
commands success. Our special envoy at Vienna, Thomas Grenville,
questioned whether the Emperor "had steadiness enough to influence the

According to the same competent judge, the Chancellor Thugut was the
only efficient Minister, being very laborious in his work, and indeed
"the only man of business about the Court."[338] Yet Thugut was rather a
clever diplomat and ideal head-clerk than a statesman. In forethought he
did not much excel his master. Indeed, his personality and his position
alike condemned him to aim at cheap and easy gains. His features and
figure were mean. Worse still, he was of low birth, a crime in the eyes
of nobles and courtiers who for nearly half a century had seen the
prestige of the Chancery enhanced by the lordly airs and whims of
Kaunitz. Fear of courtly intrigues ever obsessed the mind of Thugut; and
thus, whenever the horizon darkened, this coast-hugging pilot at once
made for the nearest haven. In particular, as the recovery of Belgium in
the year 1793 brought no financial gain, but unending vistas of war, he
sought other means of indemnity, and discovered them in Alsace-Lorraine,
South Poland, and Venice. The first was a concession to the pride of
the House of Hapsburg-Lorraine; but Thugut saw in Venetia and in the
land south of Warsaw the readiest means of indemnifying Austria for the
loss of her Belgic Provinces, which after the defeat of Wattignies
(October 1793) he probably expected and welcomed.

In this orientation of Hapsburg policy Thugut did but follow the impulse
first imparted by Hertzberg at Berlin. As we have seen, Frederick
William II entered on the French war in one of his chivalrous moods,
which passed away amidst the smoke of Valmy. The miseries of the retreat
Rhinewards, and the incursion of the French into the valley of the Main
taught him prudence, while the ease of his conquest of Great Poland
early in the year 1793 assured the victory of statecraft over chivalry.
Morton Eden reported from Berlin that, had the preparations for the
Valmy campaign equalled in thoroughness those for the invasion of
Poland, events must have gone very differently in Champagne. The
circumspection with which the Prussians conducted the siege of Mainz in
the summer of 1793, and the long delays of the autumn, have already been
noticed. The result of it was that at Christmastide of the year 1793
Pichegru and Hoche threw back Wurmser in disastrous rout, and compelled
Brunswick hurriedly to retire to the Rhine.

As always happens between discordant allies after defeats, Berlin and
Vienna indulged in a war of words, amidst which the Coalition would
probably have broken up but for the efforts of British diplomacy. The
Pitt Ministry had despatched to Berlin the ablest of British
diplomatists, Lord Malmesbury, with a view to strengthening the accord
between the three Powers; and the mingled charm and authority of his
presence did much to thwart the petty prejudices and intrigues prevalent
at that capital. He took Brussels and Frankfurt on his way to Berlin,
and his diary shows the listlessness or discontent which had infected
the officers of the British army. Many of them openly brought against
the Duke of York the most outrageous and unfounded charges, and it seems
that about fifty of them went on furlough to England, where they spread
those slanders and played into the hands of the Opposition.[339]
Malmesbury's converse with the Duke and others at Ath convinced him that
the commander-in-chief was striving manfully and generously against a
situation full of difficulty.

At Frankfurt, and again at Berlin, Malmesbury found signs that Frederick
William was ashamed at the ignominious issue of the campaign, and
professed a desire to take up the duties which the Duke of Brunswick had
so haltingly fulfilled. The King seemed rather pleased than otherwise at
the Austrian reverses in the north of Alsace, but by no means indisposed
to renew the attack upon France, always provided that England paid him a
sufficient subsidy. He assured the envoy that his _chef-d'oeuvre_, the
Triple Alliance of 1788, was still a reality, but he declared, on the
faith of an honest man, that the state of Prussia's finances would not
enable him to face a third campaign. In point of fact, out of the
reserve fund of 80,000,000 crowns which Frederick the Great had handed
on, only 20,000,000 or perhaps only 14,000,000 remained in the early
days of 1794.[340]

Other difficulties beset the Prussian monarch. Want of work had driven
the weavers of Silesia to a state of frenzy and tumult almost resembling
a _Jacquerie_; and there and elsewhere serfs and peasants talked openly
of casting off the restraints and burdens of Feudalism. In such a case
the veriest autocrat must pause before he commits his country to the
risks of a loan (that of 1792 had exhausted Prussia's credit), or to a
campaign where the losses were certain and the gains doubtful. On this
last topic various schemes had been bandied to and fro between Berlin
and Vienna. The debt of honour certainly bade Frederick William help to
secure to his rival a counterpart to Prussia's acquisitions in Poland;
but, apart from this consideration and the need of stamping out the
French pest in the Rhineland, the politicians of Berlin found few
reasons for prolonging the war. What wonder, then, that they set on foot
intrigues with the regicides of Paris? Marshal Möllendorf, the commander
whom Frederick William substituted for the weary and disgusted Duke of
Brunswick, proved to be a partisan of peace.[341]

Royalist at heart, but beset by advisers and mistresses who fanned his
jealousy of Austria and love of ease, Frederick William wavered under
the whims of the hour or the counsels of the last comer. Malmesbury thus
summed up the question now at issue in his letter to Pitt of 9th January
1794: "Can we do without the King of Prussia or can we not? If we can,
he is not worth the giving of a guinea for. If we cannot, I am afraid we
cannot give too many." Malmesbury saw no means of keeping Frederick
William steady up to the end of the war. Pitt and Grenville, however,
devised the following expedient. They offered the sum of £2,000,000 for
bringing 100,000 Prussians into the field. Of this sum Great Britain
would furnish two fifths (or £800,000), and Austria and Holland each one
fifth, the last fifth being advanced by Prussia herself until she
reimbursed herself from France at the general peace. The device was
suggestive of that of the rustic who tempts his beast of burden onwards
by dangling a choice vegetable before his nose.

Frederick William alone might have been attracted by the offer; but his
advisers haggled long and obstinately over details. Chief among the
objectors was a Councillor of State, Haugwitz, an oily, plausible
creature, whose Gallophil leanings were destined finally to place his
country under the heel of Napoleon and deal a death-blow to Pitt. For
the present, he treated Malmesbury with a moderation and courtesy that
deftly veiled a determined opposition. The British envoy was fully his
match. Finding that Haugwitz ascribed all difficulties and delays to the
Austrian embassy, he advised him to propose the transfer of the
negotiations to The Hague, where these annoyances would cease. Vain and
always prone to take the easiest course, Haugwitz swallowed the bait and
succeeded in carrying a point which was all in Malmesbury's favour,
especially as it saved time in communicating with Downing Street. After
annoying delays they set out on 23rd March; and with the aid of
twenty-two horses at each post traversed the 326 (English) miles to The
Hague in 120 hours during the days, 23rd-30th March, when the campaign
ought to have opened.

The prospects at Vienna were equally gloomy. Morton Eden's reports to
Grenville form an unrelieved jeremiad. Even amidst the alarms caused by
the disasters at Toulon and in the Palatinate, jealousy of Prussia was
the dominant feeling. The utmost efforts of our ambassador failed to
convince Francis II and Thugut of the need of humouring Prussia by
meeting her demand for an additional subsidy and by guaranteeing bread
and forage for the 20,000 men who formed her contingent in the Austrian
service. Into these wearisome quarrels we need not enter, further than
to note that they were envenomed by the acerbity of the Prussian
ambassador at Vienna. The Marquis Lucchesini, born at Lucca in 1752,
early entered the service of Frederick the Great, to whom he acted as
reader. He advanced rapidly under his successor. His commanding
demeanour and vivacity of speech, added to great powers of work, and
acuteness in detecting the foibles of others, made him a formidable
opponent. Further, his marriage with the sister of Bischoffswerder,
until lately the King's favourite adviser, added to his influence,
which, as was natural with a foreigner, inclined towards the attractive
and gainful course. Long afterwards the saviour of Prussia, Baron vom
Stein, classed him among the narrow, selfish, insincere men who had been
the ruin of nations.[342] Certainly he helped to ruin Poland; and now
his conduct at Vienna clogged the efforts of Morton Eden and Malmesbury
to strengthen the Coalition against France. Eden complained that he
behaved as an intriguing subaltern rather than as an ambassador; and
rumour credibly ascribed his tortuous and exasperating conduct to French

In the midst of his irritation against Prussia and her envoy, Thugut
heard with astonishment the British proposals, presented at Berlin early
in February, to bring 100,000 Prussians into the field. Urgently he
remonstrated with Eden, pointing out that Prussia had played them false
in two campaigns, and would do so again, witness her late contention
that France must not be weakened. On no account, then, must Frederick
William head a compact mass of 100,000 men in the Palatinate. He would
be the arbiter of the situation. He would be between the Austrian army
in Brabant and the Hapsburg States. Nay, he might march into Swabia,
reach the Danube, take boats at Ulm, and, sailing down that stream, have
Vienna at his mercy![343] So pressing were these anxieties that, at the
close of February, Thugut sent a special request to Catharine II to
guarantee the security of Austria's possessions in case Frederick
William withdrew from the Coalition.

Despite the utmost efforts of the British Ministry and its envoys, no
plan of vigorous co-operation could be arranged between the two German
rivals; the sole link connecting them was the clause of the treaty of
1792, whereby Austria, as having been attacked by France, claimed the
help of 20,000 Prussians. Frederick William decided that this force
must remain at Mainz, in order to guard the Empire from a French raid.
He promised 80,000 more troops to Great Britain and Holland, provided
that they were paid for. On one point alone the four Allies came near to
agreement, namely, that the main Prussian army should operate in
Flanders, so as effectively to defend the Dutch territory, secure
conquests in the North of France, and, above all, preclude the quarrels
which must ensue if it acted near the Austrians.[344] Thugut of course
assented, his great aim being to remove the Prussians as far as possible
from Swabia. Disputes on these subjects went on up to the end of March
1794, the time when an advance into French Flanders promised great

The reader will naturally ask--Can this be called a Coalition? A
Coalition implies some power of coalescing. But among the four Powers
there was far more of disunion than union. In fact, England was the sole
link between these wrangling confederates, and that, too, solely by
means of what Carlyle called the cash nexus. Grenville, using a more
homely metaphor, averred that the German princes turned towards England
as an inexhaustible milch-cow. The animal in this case could dictate her
terms; and thus the relations of the three Powers resembled those of a
rich but somewhat exigent employer to grumbling and distrustful
employees. Holland also, in return for her sacrifices in men and money,
demanded from Austria a better frontier on the side of Dutch Flanders
and Maestricht, to which the Viennese Court opposed a quiet but firm

It speaks volumes for the confidence inspired by Pitt and Grenville, and
for the tactful zeal of Malmesbury and Eden, that they induced the
German rivals to make one more effort. The Duke of York also played an
important part in the formation of the plan of campaign; for he it was
who persuaded Colonel Mack to accompany him to London, and there discuss
with Ministers the alternative schemes. The mention of Mack will excite
surprise among those who know of him only by the futile Neapolitan
campaign of 1799, and the frightful disaster of Ulm. In regard to
strategy and the theory of war he displayed much ability; and his
administrative talents and energy as Quarter-Master-General in 1793
should have screened him from the criticism that he discoursed
brilliantly on war in _salons_, and in the council rhetorically
developed specious and elegant plans.[345]

Mack's plan of operations was first submitted to the judgement of the
Archduke Charles, the Prince of Coburg, Count Mercy, the Prince of
Orange, and the Duke of York, at Brussels. Next, he proceeded, along
with Counts Stahremberg and Merveldt to London, and on 13th February
unfolded his plan to Pitt, Grenville, and Dundas. The Duke of York had
preceded him by two days, but was absent from this conference. It became
piquant when Pitt "playfully" remarked to Mack that a great general had
recently arrived at London whose appointment to the command of the
British force in Flanders would doubtless meet with his warm approval.
After a little more fencing, Pitt gave the name of the Marquis
Cornwallis, who had just returned from his Viceroyalty in India. Mack by
no means welcomed the proposal, and made the irreverent remark that the
best General, after fighting elephants in India, would be puzzled by the
French. Pitt thereupon observed that the Duke of York had not the
confidence of the army, to which Mack and Merveldt replied by praising
his character, and decrying his critics as a set of influential but
inexperienced youths.

The matter then dropped, and the Duke was present at the conference on
the morrow. Finally, Austria and England bound themselves to make great
efforts, the latter with at least 40,000 men, either British or German
auxiliaries. The Prussian and Dutch forces were to be increased so as to
bring the grand total to 340,000 men. Of this large number 170,000 were
to operate in Flanders with a view to a march on Paris; 35,000 held the
country along the right bank of the Meuse; 15,000 protected Luxemburg;
65,000 Prussians prolonged the line eastwards to the Rhine, which was
guarded by 55,000 Austrians. Certainly the plan called for a third of a
million of men, if all the frontier strongholds of Flanders were to be
taken before the march to Paris began. In regard to details, Pitt,
Grenville, and Dundas urged that Cornwallis should command the British
and subsidiary forces defending West Flanders--a suggestion which
George III warmly approved, on condition that the Duke of York, serving
with the main body nearer the centre of the long line, had a number of
troops proportionate to his rank and talents.

Thus the effort of Pitt and his colleagues to shelve the Duke of York
was foiled. On another and weightier matter he had his way. Coburg's
conduct had been so languid and unenterprising as to lead to urgent
demands for his recall; and it was understood that the Emperor Francis
would take the command, with Mack as Chief-of-Staff and virtual director
of the campaign. Pitt expressed to Mack his marked preference of this
arrangement to the alternative scheme, the appointment of the Archduke
Charles; for the extreme youth of the Archduke might hinder a good
understanding between him and his subordinate and senior, the Duke of
York. Seeing, then, that Mack declined absolutely to serve under
Coburg,[346] nothing but the presence of the Emperor could end the
friction in Flanders.

But alas for the monarchical cause! At the very time when the Kaiser was
to set out for Brussels, alarming news came from Cracow. The temper of
the Poles, heated by the wrongs and insults of two years, burst forth in
a rising against the Russian and Prussian authorities. Kosciusko, the
last hope of Poland, issued an appeal which nerved his countrymen to
dare the impossible. Rushing to arms, they astonished the world by
exhibiting in the last throes of their long agony a strength which, if
put forth in 1791, might have saved their land from spoliation. Even now
their despairing struggles turned towards Warsaw much of the energy
which should have trended towards Paris; and thus, once again, and not
for the last time, did the foul crimes of 1772 and 1793 avenge
themselves on their perpetrators. The last struggles of Poland helped on
the French Republic to its mighty adolescence. Finally, on 2nd April,
Francis II departed for Brussels. Thugut set out nine days later; and in
the interval, on the plausible pretext that Prussia would seize more
Polish land, he stopped the reinforcements destined for Flanders. He
also urged the Czarina on no account to allow a partition of

While the Continental States were thus pulling different ways, British
diplomacy won two notable triumphs at The Hague. By dint of threatening
Haugwitz with the rupture of the whole negotiation, Malmesbury induced
that Minister to countermand the order for the retirement of the
Prussian troops, which had already begun. He thereby saved the Allies in
the Palatinate and Flanders from very serious risks in view of the
gathering masses of the French.[348] Further, on 19th April, he induced
Haugwitz to sign a treaty which promised to revivify the monarchical
cause. Prussia agreed to furnish, by 24th May, 62,400 men, who were to
act conjointly with the British and Dutch forces in Flanders. For this
powerful succour the two Maritime States would pay a subsidy of £50,000
a month, besides the cost of bread and forage, reckoned at £1 12_s._ per
man per month, and £300,000 for initial expenses. As Great Britain and
Holland wholly supported this army, they prescribed the sphere of its
operations, and retained any conquests that it might make. The treaty
was for the year 1794; but its renewal was stipulated in a separate
article. Prussia of course still supplied to Austria the 20,000 men due
by the treaty of 1792.

If Malmesbury had not induced Haugwitz to sign the treaty then, it would
never have been signed at all. Almost alone in the Court of Berlin,
Frederick William desired to continue the struggle. His uncle, Prince
Henry, had always opposed war with France, and long before Valmy, had
prophesied that her untrained but enthusiastic levies would be a match
for any professional army. His influence and that of the Duke of
Brunswick, Lucchesini, and Möllendorf, were still cast against the
western crusade, so that Grenville believed Prussia to be dragging on
the negotiation solely in order to embarrass her Allies by throwing it
up early in the campaign.[349] Moreover, Malmesbury's treaty contained
its own death warrant. A Great Power can ill afford to hire out its
troops to non-military States, unless they lessen the humiliation of
such a proceeding by according the utmost possible freedom. But the
Hague Convention specified that the subsidized Prussian army must
operate where the paymasters directed; and they now decided on removing
it from the Palatinate to the valley of the Meuse near Dinant, or even
further west, provided that Austria could fill up the gap thus left in
the Palatinate.[350] In passing, I may note that this important decision
was due to George III, as appears in Grenville's final instruction to
Malmesbury: "The King's determination is finally taken not to agree to
any plan by which the Prussians would be employed more to the left than
the country of the Meuse."[351] No one who knows the rigour of the
King's resolves can doubt that he was responsible for a determination
fraught with unexpected issues.

It is alien to my purpose to recount the ensuing disputes. I can glance
only at the part played by Pitt. At one point his conduct was weak and
dilatory. Early in May, when Malmesbury proceeded to London for the
purpose of securing the ratification of the treaty and the payment of
the first subsidy to Prussia, he encountered most annoying delays. Pitt
and Grenville left him severely alone, probably because they were then
so occupied with the coercion of the English Jacobins as to have no time
for the plans which promised the overthrow of the French Jacobins.
Another topic engaging their attention was the hoped-for coalition with
the Portland Whigs, which shrouded from their gaze the needs of the
European Coalition. However we may explain the fact, it is certain that
during sixteen days (6th to 22nd May) Malmesbury, despite his urgent
entreaties to Grenville, could procure neither instructions as to his
future conduct, nor a promise for the payment of the first Prussian
subsidy. News of a British disaster in Flanders at last quickened the
laggards of Whitehall. On the 23rd Malmesbury gained his heart's desire,
and set out for the Prussian headquarters on the following day.[352]
Meanwhile, owing to this long delay (one of the most discreditable
incidents in the careers of Pitt and Grenville), Prussia took no steps
to carry out the terms of the compact. It so happened that on 24th May
her army in the Palatinate, commanded by Möllendorf, gained a victory
over the French at Kaiserslautern in the Palatinate; but that event set
them the more against Malmesbury's treaty, which implied a march of some
120 miles through difficult country, and across an enemy's front.

Moreover, as has been hinted, reverses had by this time overtaken the
right wing of the Allies, in West Flanders. At the centre, near the
Sambre, the campaign opened with promise, the British cavalry gaining a
brilliant success at Bethencourt. But Carnot, having drawn upon the
French troops in Lorraine and the Palatinate, threw his heaviest columns
at points on the extreme west of the French front, the result being that
at Turcoing the Republicans shattered the isolated corps of the Duke of
York and General Otto (18th May). The successes of the Prussians and of
the Austrian army, on the Sambre, saved the situation for a time. But
the prospects even in that quarter were overclouded by the resolve of
the Emperor Francis to leave his army and return to Vienna. News of the
critical state of affairs in Poland prompted this decision, the results
of which soon appeared in quarrels at headquarters and discouragement in
the rank and file. The Austrian soldiery saw in the withdrawal of the
Kaiser the end of his rule in the Netherlands. They were right. The
counsels of Thugut had now prevailed. South Poland was to be the prize
of the Hapsburgs. The tiresome and distant Netherlands were to be given
up, the pecuniary support of England, however, being assured as far as
possible by a feint of defending them.

Here we have the explanation of the half-hearted effort made by the
Austrians at Fleurus. There was every reason why Coburg, now again the
commander of the main Austrian force, should strike vigorously at the
French force besieging Charleroi. A decisive victory in front of
Charleroi would not only save that place, but would give pause to the
French forces further west, now advancing rapidly towards Ghent.
Accordingly Coburg, advancing as far as Fleurus, hard by the village of
Ligny, attacked the Republicans. He had on the whole the best of the
fight, when the arrival of news of the surrender of Charleroi led him
most tamely to call off his men and fall back. The retirement took place
in discreditably good order, not a single gun being lost (25th June
1794). A bold leader would have beaten the enemy and probably would have
saved Charleroi. With the same excess of prudence Coburg conducted his
retreat, several positions and strongholds being abandoned in craven

Meanwhile Pitt and Dundas made great efforts to save West Flanders. In
haste they despatched reinforcements to Ostend; and among the regiments
which landed there on 25th and 26th June was the 33rd, commanded by
Colonel Wellesley. The future Duke of Wellington found the small
garrison of Ostend in a state of panic; and his chief, the Earl of
Moira, deemed it best to meet the French in the open. By great good
fortune Moira, with most of the regiments, reached Bruges, and beyond
that town came into touch with Clerfait's force. Wellesley, taking ship,
sailed round to Antwerp and reached that column by a safer route and
earlier than his chief. His action is characteristic of a judgement that
never erred, a will that never faltered. In this campaign, as he
afterwards said, he learnt how not to make war. But success not seldom
crowns the efforts of him who has the good sense to probe the causes of
failure. Certainly it rarely comes to British commanders save after very
chastening experiences; and Wellesley now took part in what was, for the
Austrians, a fore-ordained retreat. Despite the manly appeals of the
Duke of York, Coburg declined to make a stand on the fateful ridge of
Mount St. Jean; and the name of Waterloo appears in the tepid records of
1794 at the head of a plan for arranging the stages of the retreat (5th
July) which the nervousness of Coburg soon condemned to the limbo of
unfulfilled promises.[353] Is it surprising that, two days later, the
Duke of York declared to him that the British were "betrayed and sold to
the enemy"? Worse still, the garrisons of Valenciennes, Condé, Quesnoy,
and Landrecies, amounting to nearly 11,000 men, were now left to their

Indirectly Pitt and Dundas were responsible for these disasters. They
weakened the British force in Flanders by sending large drafts to the
West Indies, as will in due course appear. They also allowed Corsica to
be occupied in the spring of 1794, and yet they made little or no use of
that island for expeditions against the Riviera, which the royalist
natives would readily have undertaken under an inspiring leader. They
also relied too much on the Austrians and Prussians, though the former
were known to care little for their Netherlands, apart from the prospect
of gaining the Barrier fortresses of French Flanders in order to further
the Belgic-Bavarian exchange. Above all, as we have seen, Pitt's conduct
towards Prussia was annoyingly halting. Malmesbury's treaty could have
no effect unless it led the Prussians to move at once. The delay of
sixteen days at Whitehall must rank as one of the causes of the failures
just recounted; and though Grenville was technically guilty, Pitt must
be blamed for not ensuring the needful despatch in an all-important
decision. It is curious that he never realized his responsibility.
Speaking at a later date of the campaign of Fleurus, he said that it
turned upon as narrow a point as ever occurred: that England was
unfortunate, but the blame did not rest with her.[354] This probably
refers to the surrender of Charleroi and the retreat from Fleurus. But
Pitt did not understand that the timely advent of part of the Prussian
force on the Meuse, or even its advance into Lorraine, would have
changed the situation; and for their inactivity he was in some measure

At times Pitt lived in dreamland. On 15th July, while the Austrians were
quietly withdrawing from Central Belgium, he drew up a Memorandum as to
the course of events. By the close of the year Austria was to bring
100,000 men into Flanders, a close alliance being framed on the basis of
her acquisition of the French border districts (Valenciennes had not yet
surrendered). England was to retain all conquests in the two Indies. The
Prussians were to march towards Flanders, which they obstinately refused
to do. Dutch and other troops were to be engaged by England, the
presumption being that the year 1795 would see the losses of 1794 more
than retrieved. The mistake of 10,000 in adding up the totals of the
troops (78,000 instead of 88,000) enables one to conjecture at what time
of the day this sketch was outlined.[355] One would not take it
seriously had not the Foreign Office soon despatched Earl Spencer and
Mr. Thomas Grenville as special envoys to Vienna to propose very similar
plans, Austria being urged on by the prospect of acquiring the French
Barrier fortresses from Lille to Sedan.[356]

They aroused in Thugut a spirit of greed, not of honourable emulation.
In a private letter to Pitt, dated Vienna 16th August, Spencer warned
him that that Government was "neither possessed of sufficient energy and
vigour, nor sufficiently actuated by the true principles on which the
cause in which we are engaged ought to be conducted" to justify the
demands of Thugut. They included British subsidies for Austria, though
she could well support the war, and the sacrifice of British maritime
conquests at the general peace as a means of ensuring the recovery of
her losses on land. As to Belgium, added Spencer, Thugut looked on it
"as irrecoverably lost and not worth regaining, unless with the addition
of a very strong and extended barrier, composed of fortresses which he
to-day plainly told us he did not think there was the least chance of
taking in the course of the war, but that they must be obtained as
cessions from France at the peace."[357] Thus Thugut expected that, while
the Austrians were ignominiously evacuating the Netherlands, the
British fleet should win French colonies valuable enough to induce
France both to retire from Belgium, and to surrender to Austria her
northern fortresses from Lille to Sedan or Thionville.

The capture of Valenciennes and the slaughter of the _émigrés_ in the
Austrian garrison was the retort of the French to these day-dreams (29th
August). The fall of Robespierre a month earlier, and the enhanced
authority now enjoyed by Carnot enabled the authorities at Paris to
press on the conquest of Belgium with an energy which set at defiance
the boyish miscalculations of Pitt and the wavering plans of the

Towards the close of July Pitt and Grenville saw the need of abating the
rigour of their demands on Prussia. For of what use was it to move
60,000 Prussians more than 100 miles to defend West Flanders when that
province was lost? Malmesbury therefore was empowered to pay the monthly
subsidy of £50,000 on behalf of Great Britain and Holland, provided that
Möllendorf's army attacked the French about Trèves, thus lessening the
pressure on Coburg's left wing. On 27th July he framed such an agreement
with Hardenberg. This statesman was destined to be one of the saviours
of the Prussian State in its darkest days, 1810-12; but now, as always,
his conduct was shifty; and it is questionable whether he, any more than
Haugwitz, dealt honourably with England. It must suffice to say that
Möllendorf made not even a demonstration towards Trèves. His inactivity
was in part due to the withdrawal of several regiments towards Poland,
though Great Britain and Holland still paid for the maintenance of the
full quota on the Rhine.

So flagrant was the breach of faith as to elicit heated protests from
Malmesbury; and Pitt, justly indignant at the use of British money for
what was virtually a partition of Poland, decided to remonstrate with
Jacobi, the Prussian ambassador at London. Summoning him to Downing
Street, at the end of September, he upbraided him with this
dishonourable conduct, declaring that, unless the Prussians moved
forward at once, the British and Dutch subsidy for October would be
withheld. Much as we may sympathize with this indignant outburst, we
must pronounce it unwise. For firstly, Pitt was intruding upon the
sphere of Grenville in making this declaration, which was far more acrid
than the despatches of the Foreign Secretary. Secondly, it was made in
the presence of Dundas, with whom Grenville was already on bad terms. Is
it surprising that the Foreign Secretary wrote sharply to Pitt
protesting against his acting on a line different from that previously
taken at Downing Street? In his despatch of 30th September to Berlin,
Grenville was careful to make the withdrawal of the subsidy strictly
conditional, and his protest was probably less sharp than that which
Pitt addressed to Jacobi.

So annoyed was Grenville at Pitt's interference during his own temporary
absence that he wrote to express his willingness to retire from the
Foreign Office if this would solve the difficulties caused by the
appointment of Earl Fitzwilliam to the Irish Viceroyalty. To that topic
I shall recur in a later chapter on the Irish troubles which now became
acute. Here it must suffice to say that Pitt declined to accept
Grenville's offer, and affairs at Downing Street righted
themselves.[358] But at Berlin the mischief was irremediable. Jacobi, a
born intriguer, and ever hostile to England, represented the words of
Pitt in the worst possible light. Accordingly Frederick William affected
great indignation at the conduct of Pitt, accused him of ending the
alliance, and discovered in his own ruffled feelings the pretext for
giving rein to the dictates of self-interest. He gave orders to end the
campaign on the Rhine; and though Grenville sought to patch matters up,
compromise was clearly impossible between Allies who had lost that
mutual confidence which is the only lasting guarantee of treaties.

At the autumnal equinox of 1794 Pitt was confronted by a far more
serious crisis than at the beginning of the war in February 1793. The
Republicans, after throwing back Clerfait beyond the River Roer, towards
Aix-la-Chapelle, compelled the Duke of York to abandon the natural line
of defence of Holland, the River Waal; and in the early days of October
the British retired behind Bergen-op-zoom and other Dutch fortresses.
These were found to be totally unprepared to sustain a siege. The
sluggishness of the Orange party, dominant in Holland since 1787, stood
in marked contrast to the eagerness of the Dutch Patriots to help the
invaders. Consequently in a few weeks the friends of the Stadholder saw
their hopes fade away.

There was but one chance of rescue. The Duke of Brunswick, who so
skilfully led the Prussians to Amsterdam in 1787, might be expected to
impart some courage to the Dutch garrisons and some show of discipline
to the disordered relics of York's and Clerfait's forces now drifting
slowly northwards. His position as a Field-Marshal of the Prussian army
also promised to interest the Court of Berlin in recovering some part,
at least, of the supremacy of the Allies in the Dutch Netherlands. As
the crisis in Holland had served to unite the two great Protestant
Powers, so now it might prevent the dissolution of that salutary
compact. Further, George III, though greatly disliking the substitution
of Cornwallis for the Duke of York, favoured the appointment of the
veteran Brunswick to the supreme command. Family considerations, always
very strong in the King, here concurred with reasons of state. Not only
had Brunswick married the sister of George III; but their daughter, the
Princess Caroline, was now the reluctant choice of the Prince of Wales.
The parents, both at Windsor and at Brunswick welcomed the avowal by the
royal prodigal of the claims of lawful wedlock. The Duchess of Brunswick
fell into raptures at the brilliant prospects thus opened out for her
daughter; and it seemed that both Hymen and Mars, for once working in
unison, conspired to bring from his inglorious retreat at Brunswick the
man whom that age still acclaimed as its war-lord.

Malmesbury therefore proceeded to Brunswick for the double purpose of
arranging the marriage and urging the Duke to take the command of the
allied forces on the Lower Rhine. Overjoyed at leaving the atmosphere of
intrigue at Möllendorf's headquarters, the envoy journeyed into the
northern plain in hopes of assuring the safety of part of Holland. Early
in November Pitt and his colleagues received a refusal from the Duke,
but now they sent through Malmesbury an offer to subsidize a corps of
20,000 or 30,000 Austrians in that quarter. These, along with the
British, Hanoverian, and Hessian troops, when marshalled by Brunswick,
might surely be trusted to stay the French advance. The crisis was
momentous. Brunswick well understood that in reality the fate of North
Germany was at stake; for the French, if masters of the Rhine and Ems
valleys, could easily overrun the northern plain, including his own
duchy. Self-interest, pride in the German name, hatred of French
principles, and, finally, satisfaction at the marriage alliance, bade
the Duke draw his sword before it was too late.

But here again the malign influence of Berlin thwarted the plans of
Pitt. In vain did Malmesbury ply the Duke with arguments and the Duchess
with compliments. On 25th November the Duke informed him that, as a
Prussian Field-Marshal, he was bound to consult Frederick William: and
"the answer he had received was not of a nature which allowed him to
accept of an offer otherwise so highly honourable and flattering to
him." He then handed to the envoy his formal refusal.[359]

Whether the elderly Duke of Brunswick could have withstood the impetuous
onset of the ill-clad, half-starved, but unconquerable peasants now
following the French tricolour in its progress through Holland, who
shall say? The exploits of Pichegru and his levies border on the
miraculous until we remember that half of the Dutch laboured on their
behalf, while the troops of York and Clerfait distrusted or despised
those leaders. This consideration it was that led Pitt to take a step
which he deemed most necessary for the public service as well as for the
reputation of the Duke of York. On Sunday, 25th November, he wrote at
Holwood a very lengthy letter to the King, setting forth most
deferentially the reasons which impelled him and his colleagues to
request the withdrawal of the Duke from Holland.[360] He touched with
equal skill and firmness on the unfortunate feeling prevalent in the
army respecting the Duke of York; and, while eulogizing His Royal
Highness, expressed the conviction of the Cabinet that, in his own
interests as well as those of the country, he should be recalled from a
sphere of action where the difficulties were wellnigh insuperable. Pitt
also suggested to the King the advisability of transferring the British
forces to a more promising sphere, Brittany or la Vendée. The King's
answer evinced considerable irritation, a proof that he saw little but
the personal aspects of the case. Pitt, however, held to his point, and
the Duke was recalled in order to become a little later
commander-in-chief, a position for which he was far better suited than
for a command in the field. At the close of the year Pitt showed his
regard for the public service by requesting from the King leave to
displace his brother, the Earl of Chatham, from the Admiralty, where his
lethargy had several times hindered the naval operations. Lord Spencer
became First Lord, the Earl of Chatham succeeding to Spencer's position
as Lord Privy Seal.

Pitt's magnanimous resolve to brave the royal displeasure rather than
keep a royal prince in a situation for which he was unfit met with
general approval. The times were too serious to admit of pedantic
trifling or unmanly shrinking. In quick succession there arrived news of
the definite refusal of the Duke of Brunswick to come forward, of the
incredible apathy of the Dutch, and of the demoralization of the Allies
in their continued retreat. To add to their misfortunes, nature gripped
that land of waters in a severe frost, so that the Dutch loyalists were
unable, even if they had the hardihood, to let loose the floods against
the invaders. In endless swarms these pressed on from the South,
determined now to realize Dumouriez' dream of conquering Holland in
order to appropriate its resources, pecuniary, naval, and colonial.
Pichegru it was who won immortal fame by this conquest, which in truth
needs not the legendary addition of his cavalry seizing a Dutch squadron
in the Zuyder Zee. A singular incident attended the journey of
Malmesbury with the future Princess of Wales towards Helvoetsluys, on
their way to England. Unaware of the inroads of the French horse, they
had to beat a speedy retirement, which, unfortunately for the Prince of
Wales, placed them out of reach of the raiders. A little later the Duke
and Duchess of Brunswick were fain to pack up their valuables and leave
their capital in haste.

Such was the French conquest of Holland and part of Hanover in the
winter of 1794-5. So speedy was it that Pitt and Dundas took no timely
means to ensure the carrying off the Dutch fleet. As no small part of it
was loyal to the Prince of Orange, who now fled to England, the
oversight is to be censured. Surely Flushing or the Brill could have
been secured. The Cabinet, however, as we shall see later, prepared to
rescue from the general ruin the most valuable of the Dutch colonies,
the Cape of Good Hope, the importance of which, for the safety of India,
Pitt and Dundas rated most highly. Meanwhile, under the command of
Abercromby, Harcourt, Cathcart, and Walmoden, the British and subsidized
German forces fell back towards the River Ems, and thence to the Weser.
Pitt, as we have seen, desired to recall the British regiments for
service in the West of France. But various considerations told against
this plan; and, as will appear later, the King obstinately opposed the
withdrawal of the British cavalry from the confines of his beloved
Electorate until the autumn of 1795. In April of that year the infantry,
now reduced to some 6,000 effectives by the rigours of winter, embarked
at Bremen.

Thus ended an expedition unprecedentedly fatal to the British arms. The
causes of the disaster are not far to seek. The campaigns of 1793-4 were
undertaken heedlessly, in reliance upon the strength of a Coalition
which proved to have no strength, and upon the weakness of the French
Republic which proved to be unconquerably strong. The Allies were
powerful enough to goad France to fury, too weak to crush its
transports. Their ill-concealed threats of partition bound France to the
cause of the Jacobins, which otherwise she would have abjured in horror.
Thus the would-be invaders drove France in upon herself, compelled her
to organize her strength to the utmost; and that strength, when
marshalled by Carnot, was destined to shatter the Coalition and overrun
neighbouring lands. She then learnt the fatal secret that she could
conquer Europe.

In a later chapter I propose to survey Pitt's conduct as War Minister.
Here I need only point out that his mistakes resulted mainly from his
unquenchable hopefulness. A singular proof of this admirable but
dangerous quality is seen in his effort during the months of February
and March 1795 to frame one more plan of co-operation with the Court of
Berlin, which had so cynically deceived him. To this proposal Grenville
offered unflinching opposition, coupled with a conditional threat to
resign. Pitt persuaded him to defer action until the troubles in Ireland
were less acute. But the King finally agreed with Pitt, and Grenville
was on the point of retiring when news arrived of the defection of
Prussia.[361] For some time she had been deep in negotiations with
France, which had the approval of Möllendorf and the officers of her
Rhenish army.[362] The upshot of it all was a treaty, which Hardenberg
signed with the French envoy at Basle on 5th April 1795. By this
discreditable bargain Frederick William of Prussia enabled France to
work her will on the lands west of the Rhine, on condition of his
acquiring a general ascendancy over North and Central Germany, which now
became neutral in the strife. Austria and the South German States
remained at war with France for two years longer, by which time the
tottering Germanic System fell beneath the sword of Napoleon Bonaparte.

Prussia's bargain with France marks a reversion to her traditional
policy, which viewed that Power as the friend and Austria as the enemy.
It undid the life-work of Prince Kaunitz, now nearing his end at Vienna,
and left the Hapsburg States enfeebled. True, they had a profitable
share in the third and last Partition of Poland, which soon ensued; but
this scarcely made good the loss in prestige due to the undisputed
hegemony of Prussia in the greater part of Germany. The House of
Hohenzollern, impelled by men like Lucchesini, Haugwitz, and Hardenberg,
took the easy and profitable course and plumed itself on over-reaching
its secular rival at Vienna. In reality it sealed the doom not only of
the truly conservative policy of Pitt, but of the European fabric.
Prussia it was which enabled the Jacobins to triumph and to extend their
sway over neighbouring lands. The example of Berlin tempted Spain three
months later to sign degrading terms of peace with France, and thus to
rob England of her gains in Hayti and Corsica. Thanks to Prussia and
Spain, France could enter upon that career of conquest in Italy which
assured the rise of Napoleon Bonaparte and the temporary ruin of
Austria. The mistakes of Pitt were great; but, after all, they might
have been retrieved were it not for the torpor of the Viennese Court and
the treachery of Prussia.


[335] "Troilus and Cressida," act i, sc. 3.

[336] "Dropmore P.," ii, 452.

[337] Thugut in the autumn of 1793 sketched a scheme for annexing the
north of France from the Somme to Sedan.

[338] "Dropmore P.," ii, 628. So, too, Morton Eden wrote to Grenville on
1st January 1793: "The steadfastness of the Emperor does not equal his
moral rectitude" ("F. O.," Austria, 32).

[339] "Dropmore P.," ii, 491; "Malmesbury Diaries," iii, 17-19, 69.

[340] "Dropmore P.," ii, 494; "Malmesbury Diaries," iii, 31, _et seq._

[341] "Malmesbury Diaries," iii, 50; Sorel, iv, 17.

[342] Seeley, "Stein," i, 65.

[343] "F. O.," Austria, 36. Eden to Grenville, 15th and 27th February.

[344] "Malmesbury Diaries," iii, 81, 82.

[345] Sorel, iv, 13.

[346] Vivenot, iii, 89-96; "Dropmore P.," ii, 505-7.

[347] "F. O.," Austria, 36, Eden to Grenville, 31st March, 9th April.
See, too, Vivenot, iii, 172, for proofs that Kosciusko sought to delay
the rising, and looked to Vienna for help against Russia and Prussia.

[348] "Malmesbury Diaries," iii, 85, 89.

[349] "Dropmore P.," ii, 516.

[350] "F. O.," Prussia, 33. Grenville to Malmesbury, 21st April.

[351] _Ibid._, Same to same, 23rd May.

[352] "Malmesbury Diaries," iii, 96.

[353] "W. O.," I, 169. See an admirable article in the "United Service
Mag." (Aug. 1897), by Colonel E. M. Lloyd, founded on the papers of
General Sir James Craig, Adjutant-General of the Duke of York.

[354] "Parl. Hist.," xxxii, 1132.

[355] "Dropmore P.," ii, 599.

[356] "F. O.," Austria, 38. Despatch of 19th July.

[357] Pitt MSS., 180. See, too, "Dropmore P.," ii, 617-20, 626.

[358] See "Pitt and Napoleon Miscellanies" for Grenville's letters. Pitt
was the guest of Grenville at Dropmore at the end of November 1794
("Buckingham P.," ii, 319).

[359] "F. O.," Prussia, 35. Malmesbury to Grenville, 25th November 1794.

[360] See "Pitt and Napoleon Miscellanies" for this letter.

[361] "Dropmore P.," iii, 26-30, 50, 57.

[362] Ranke, "Hardenberg," i, 258; "Paget P.," i, 95, _et seq._



    Unfortunately, the war was carried on on the old principle of
    almost undivided attention to what was termed British
    interests--that is, looking to and preferring the protection of
    trade and the capture of the enemy's colonial establishments
    rather than to the objects which had involved Great Britain in
    the contest with France.--COLONEL THOMAS GRAHAM'S _Diary_.

If we try to picture the course of the war as mapped out by Pitt, it
would probably have appeared somewhat as follows. Great Britain, after
lending to the Dutch a few regiments as a protection against the
threatened raid of Dumouriez, withdraws them, leaving the Dutch and the
subsidized German corps to guard the rear of the legions of Prussia and
Austria during their conquering march to Paris. England, in the
meantime, harasses the coasts of France, thereby compelling her to
detain considerable forces at the important points, and further cripples
her by sweeping her fleets and merchantmen from the sea and seizing her

In short, Pitt's conception of the true function of Great Britain in a
continental war was based on that of his father, who accorded
comparatively little military aid to Frederick the Great even in his
direst need, but helped him indirectly by subsidies and by naval
expeditions that stalemated no small portion of the French army. If
Chatham's tactics succeeded when Prussia was striving against France,
Austria, and Russia, how much more might Pitt hope to win a speedy
triumph over anarchic France during her struggle with Austria, Prussia,
Spain, Naples, Sardinia, and Holland? He expected, and he had a right to
expect, that these States would need British money, not British troops,
while the Sea Power restricted its operations to a "minor offensive"
along the seaboards of France and her colonies. Pitt's efforts in this
direction were constantly thwarted by the drain of men to Flanders; but
his letters to Murray, Chief of Staff to the Duke of York, evince his
anxiety to strike at Toulon and the West Indies, and not merely to
lighten the military duties of Austria and Prussia on the French
borders.[363] It would be tedious to recount his various attempts to
prepare an expedition for the West Indies.[364] Of more interest are the
requests for protection which he received from the French colonists of
Hayti, the western part of the great island of San Domingo.

As appeared in Chapter XX of the former volume, the decrees of the
National Assembly of Paris fired the negroes of the French West Indies
with the resolve to claim the liberty and equality now recklessly
promised by the mother-land. The white settlers, on the contrary, having
recently acquired autonomous rights, disputed the legality of that
levelling legislation, and rejected all authority but that of Louis XVI.
Amidst the ensuing strifes, the chief colonies, especially Hayti, were
menaced by that most horrible of all commotions, a servile revolt, when,
most opportunely, help arrived from Jamaica. The contrast between the
timely succour of England and the reckless iconoclasm of Paris struck
the imagination of the French settlers, and the Assembly of Hayti
forthwith drew up a declaration, setting forth the illegality of the
French decrees, the miseries resulting from them, and the resolve of the
colonists to sever a connection absolutely fatal to their welfare.
Citing the example of the United States fifteen years before, and
recounting the misdeeds of the mother country, they proclaimed to the
world the justice of the act of severance.

A copy of this declaration, signed by de Cadusey on 27th September 1791,
was sent forthwith to Pitt, with a request for the protection of Great
Britain. He received it at Burton Pynsent on 27th October.[365] One of
the chief delegates from Hayti was de Charmilly, who on 14th November
sought an interview with Pitt, and a fortnight later wrote to him,
earnestly begging the help of the only nation which could avert ruin
from those islands. France, he declared, had passed a decree of blood
against her own colonies and was powerless to stop its effects. The
National Assembly, having by its annexation of Avignon recognized the
right of that papal district to belong to whom it would, Hayti of equal
right now voted for union with England. He further advised that its
ports should remain open to all nations, a course of action which would
herald the dawn of commercial and political freedom among the Spanish
colonies of the New World.[366] These alluring prospects failed to
entice Pitt from the strict neutrality to which he had pledged himself.
So far was he from desiring to profit by the misfortunes of France, as
the French princes first, and after them the Jacobins, maliciously

Once more the deputies of France flung the torch of discord across the
Atlantic. By their decree of 4th April 1792 they declared absolute
equality of rights between whites, half-castes, and blacks, and sent out
commissioners to enforce this anarchic fiat. They forthwith took the
side of the rebels, who in Toussaint l'Ouverture found a leader of
terrible force of will. Martinique and Guadeloupe and the smaller
islands were also a prey to civil war. In sheer desperation the planters
and merchants of Guadeloupe sent over a delegate, Curt, to appeal to the
British Government for protection. Lord Hawkesbury accorded to him an
informal interview in the closing days of 1792. Curt pressed him for
official help, without which his fellow colonists must lose their lives
and property, and declared that he and many others abjured the name of
Frenchmen.[367] Malouet, once prominent in the National Assembly and
destined to become famous under Napoleon, also approached our Ministers,
but with more caution. He knew that in some of the islands the Republic
had many adherents; but after the outbreak of war in February 1793 he
too advocated the sovereignty of Great Britain under certain conditions,
and on behalf of the colonists of Hayti signed a compact with Dundas to
that effect.

Fear of a revolt of the slaves had induced Ministers to send out
reinforcements, so that, early in 1793, 19 battalions were in the
British West Indies. In the month of April a small British force easily
captured Tobago and restored that valuable little island to Great
Britain. An attack on Martinique at midsummer was, however, a failure.
These attempts, it may be noted, were made with forces already in the
West Indies.[368] Pitt and Dundas have been severely blamed for sending
further reinforcements to the West Indies.[369] But a letter which Pitt
wrote to Grenville some time in June or July 1793 shows that the news
of a French expedition having set sail to the West Indies, escorted by
six or seven sail-of-the-line from Brest, led him to urge the despatch
of a force for the protection of that important group of colonies.[370]

Besides, was a forward policy in the West Indies unwise? In these days
it is hard to realize the value of those islands. The mention of Hayti
conjures up a vision as of a ship manned by gorillas; for there and in
Liberia is seen the proneness of the negroes to aimless lounging varied
by outbursts of passion. But in the year 1789 Hayti far surpassed
Jamaica in wealth and activity. The French possessed only the western
third of the island; but the Spanish portion to the east was far less
fertile, and far worse cultivated. The French genius for colonization
was seen in the excellent system of irrigation carried on in the vast
and fertile plain, the _Cul-de-Sac_, east of the capital,
Port-au-Prince. But other portions, notably the long peninsula to the
south-west, were also highly prosperous. The chief towns equalled in
splendour and activity the provincial cities of France. Port-au-Prince
and Cap Français were the pride of the West Indies; and the rocky
fortress, Mole St. Nicholas, dominated those waters as Gibraltar
dominates the Eastern Mediterranean. The population of Hayti was
reckoned at 40,000 whites, 60,000 mulattoes or half-castes, and some
500,000 negro slaves. Its exports (chiefly sugar, coffee, and cotton)
were assessed at upwards of £7,500,000, or more by one third than that
of all the British West Indies. To some extent Jamaica flourished on its
ruin. For in May 1796 an official report stated that two
coffee-planters, refugees from Hayti, who had settled in the mountains
behind Port Royal, were introducing so many improvements as to bring the
exports of coffee up to 6,000,000 lb.; and they would soon amount to
50,000,000 lb.[371]

The colonists of Hayti, who offered this valuable prize to Great
Britain, were far from being unprincipled adventurers. Malouet, on whom
fell the chief responsibility, was an upright and able man; and both he
and his comrades were deputed by representative Assemblies which sought
to save society from sinking into a gulf of unutterable horrors. His
letters to Pitt[372] are instinct with the conviction that the men of
Hayti unanimously desired a British protectorate, and recognized that
the colonists must pay for the support accorded to them. As we were
framing an alliance with Spain, no difficulties were to be anticipated
from the Spanish part of that island. When five or six valuable islands
were to be had, to all appearance with little risk except from the
slaves, Ministers would have been craven in the extreme not to push on
an enterprise which promised to benefit British commerce and cripple
that of France.

Unfortunately, owing to the drain of the Flemish campaign, their action
was tardy. The schisms between Royalists and Republicans at the city of
Cap Français enabled the negroes to burst in at midsummer of 1793 with
fire and knife and glut their vengeance on some thousands of persons.
Even after these atrocities the Jacobin commissioners continued to make
use of the blacks in order to enforce their levelling decree; and the
year ended amid long drawn out scenes of murder, rape, and pillage. By
these infamous means did democracy win its triumph in the West Indies.

In their despair the French loyalists applied for further aid to
Major-General Williamson, the governor of Jamaica. He sent a force which
received a hearty welcome at the little fortress of Jérémie (19th
September), and a few days later at that important stronghold, Mole St.
Nicholas, then blockaded on land by the blacks. An attempt by the
Republicans at the capital, Port-au-Prince, to send an expedition for
the recapture of Mole St. Nicholas was thwarted; and late in the year
1793 five other towns accepted British protection. The rapid recovery of
prosperity in the district forming the lower jaw of the griffin-like
head of Hayti is seen in the official exports from the port of Grand
Anse at its tip. During the quarter 20th September to 31st December 1793
it sent the following quantities to British ports, chiefly Kingston in
Jamaica: Coffee, 644,751 lb.; Sugar, 91,593 lb.; Cotton, 56,339 lb.;
Cocoa, 66,944 lb. Even larger quantities of coffee were exported to
foreign ports.[373] In 1796 the produce of Hayti was valued at
£1,500,000; the colony employed more than 400 ships.[374] Was not this a
land for which some risks might be encountered?

Meanwhile the Spaniards from their part of the island had overrun
certain districts, especially those to the north of Port-au-Prince. In
particular, they for a time occupied the port of Gonaives, about midway
between the capital and Mole St. Nicholas, a step almost as threatening
to the British forces as to the French Republicans. It is hard to fathom
the designs of the Spaniards at this time. Their pride, their hereditary
claims to the whole of the Indies, and their nearness to this splendid
prize, all urged them on to an effort from which lack of men, ships and
money, and the hatred of the French and the blacks to their sway should
have warned them off. Seeing also that the French colonists had
officially handed over their possession to Great Britain, Spain should
have come to some understanding with her Ally before invading what was
now in effect British territory. She did not do so; and subsequent
events proved that her King and statesmen harboured deep resentment
against the transfer, and sought to thwart it by underhand means. For
the present, however, their inroad into the north-central districts
dealt one more blow to the power of the French Jacobins and their black
friends. These last were formidable only when the quest was plunder.
Even the iron will of their ablest leader, Toussaint l'Ouverture, could
infuse no steadiness into the swarthy levies, which, roving almost at
will in the mountainous interior, were wellnigh as dangerous to the
Republicans as to the British.[375]

It is not surprising, then, that Pitt and Dundas, despite the drain of
ships and men to Ostend and Toulon, did all in their power to secure
this colony, which had always been deemed essential to the prosperity of
French commerce. On 11th October 1793 Pitt reluctantly admitted the need
of further postponing the West India expedition owing to the uncertainty
of the fate of Ostend and the chance of a French raid on our shores. But
when these dangers passed away the original plan held the first place;
and it should be noted that, by the middle of November, when the
expedition was finally decided on, the position of the Royalists at
Toulon was thought to be satisfactory. Much, of course, can be urged
against sending troops so far away, when the loyal Bretons needed
succour; but Pitt, Grenville, and, still more, Dundas were bent on this
colonial enterprise; and, viewing the situation as it then was, not as
we with our knowledge of later events see it, their decision seems

On 26th November, then, Sir John Jervis (afterwards Earl of St. Vincent)
set sail with some 7,000 troops commanded by Sir Charles Grey. After
touching at Barbados he made for Martinique and succeeded in reducing
that island by 22nd March 1794. St. Lucia, Guadeloupe, Marie Galante,
and the Saintes surrendered in April, but after struggles which showed
that the Republicans, backed by mulattoes and blacks, were formidable
foes. This anarchic combination was already threatening the small and
scattered British garrisons in San Domingo. But, when further
reinforcements from England reached Mole St. Nicholas, a force detached
thence under Major-General Whyte made a dash upon Port-au-Prince.
Vigorously handled, and under cover of a violent thunderstorm, the
landing parties carried an important outwork in handsome style, and thus
assured the surrender of the whole place. The spoils were 101 cannon and
32 ships, with cargoes worth about half a million sterling (4th June
1794). This brilliant success cost the assailants very few lives; but
the heats of the summer and probably also the intemperance of the troops
soon thinned their ranks. The French, too, having received succours
which slipped out from Rochefort, recovered Guadeloupe in the month of
September.[377] And from this point of vantage they sought, often with
success, to stir up the slaves in the British islands.

Thus by the autumn of 1794 the position was somewhat as follows. The
British had secured all the French colonies in the West Indies,
excepting Guadeloupe. In Hayti they held nearly all the coast towns, and
maintained an intermittent blockade over the others; but their position
was precarious owing to the thinness of their garrisons, the
untrustworthiness of their mulatto auxiliaries, and the ravages of
disease. It seems probable that, with ordinary precautions and some
reinforcements, the garrisons might have held out in the towns then
occupied, provided that the fleet intercepted French expeditions
destined for the West Indies; and this ought to have been possible after
Howe's victory of 1st June 1794. The fact that the Republic strenuously
prepared to regain those islands at the very time when the Coalition in
Europe and the revolt in Brittany threatened its existence, suffices to
justify Pitt and his colleagues in attacking France in that quarter. A
colony which is worth regaining must be worth gaining. To the capture of
Louisburg, a weaker stronghold than Mole St. Nicholas, England devoted
several expeditions a generation earlier. Had Pitt and Dundas declined
to have as a gift this key to the Indies, what would not their critics
have said of their incapacity and cowardice? For the West Indies were
then far more highly prized than Canada.

Endless difficulties beset every expedition to the tropics, even when
forethought and care minimize the risks from disease. The story of
England's ventures in those seas is, in general, one of hasty action and
long repentance. No one had made a special study of the needs of white
men in that climate. In fact, the military martinets of those days made
little allowance for the altered conditions of service under a broiling
sun; and, until the advent of Abercromby, only slight changes took place
either in the uniform or the time of drills. Dr. Pinckard, in his
account of this enterprise, mentions cases of gross stupidity,
slovenliness, and even of dishonesty on the part of army officials in
those colonies;[378] and it is clear that to this cause the long
death-roll was largely due. The following figures at the close of 1794
are instructive:[379]

                                 BRITISH.     |        COLONIAL.
                          Effective.  Sick.   |   Effective.  Sick.
  Port-au-Prince             366       462    |      496        48
  Mole St. Nicholas          209       166    |      209        38
  Jérémie                     95        59    |      ---       ---
  St. Marc                    48        33    |      813       321
  Tiburon                     34        18    |      ---       ---
                             -------------    |      -------------
  Total                          1490         |          1925

It will be observed that the French and coloured troops were far more
immune from sickness. Indeed, the loyal French colonists felt much
annoyance at the comparative uselessness of the British force at this
time. Charmilly, after a long visit to Hayti, returned to London in
September 1794, and laid stress on this in several letters to Pitt. On
11th October he urges him to sanction a plan (already approved) for
raising a force of French _émigrés_ in service in Hayti. A month later
he complains that nothing is being done, though the loyalists of Hayti
are willing to pay their share of the expenses. As it is, they are
growing disheartened; for the British troops remain in the strongholds,
thus leaving the colonial troops in the country too weak to cope with
the roving bands of brigands. As for himself, he is weary of soliciting
help which is never vouchsafed; and he warns Pitt that opinion is
gaining ground in Hayti as to the uselessness of maintaining a struggle
in which the British people take no interest. The note of egotism rarely
absent from Charmilly's letters appears in his assurance that, if
something is not done soon, England will lose the splendid possession
which he has placed in her hand.[380]

There were good reasons why Pitt and his colleagues should not commit
themselves deeply to the Haytian embroglio. In that anxious time, the
autumn of 1794, the most urgent needs were to save Holland from the
Jacobins, to distract them by helping the Royalists of Brittany, and
from our new base in Corsica to clog their attempts at an invasion of
Italy. Owing to the slackness of our Allies, these enterprises proved
unexpectedly difficult. In truth any two of them would have strained the
scanty resources of the British army; and Pitt is open to censure for
not ruling out all but the most essential of them. But here a word of
caution is needful. For us, with our knowledge of the sequel, it is a
comparatively easy task to assess the gains and losses of the war, and
to blame perseverance in one course as wasteful folly or backwardness in
another as stupid slothfulness. If later critics would seek to realize
the amount of information possessed by fallible mortals at the time of
their decisions, the world would be spared floods of censure. How was
Pitt to know that the Dutch were about to hamper, rather than assist,
the defence of their land by the Allies; that Prussia would play him
false; that the schisms among the French Royalists would make Quiberon a
word of horror; that Paoli would stir up strife in Corsica; or that
Spain was preparing to ruin British rule in Hayti? With loyal
cooperation on the part of the Allies, all these enterprises might have
proceeded successfully side by side.

There were no solid reasons for distrusting Spain. The Court of Madrid
had eagerly taken up arms against the regicides of Paris; and Pitt, as
we shall see, early sought to avoid friction in the West Indies.
Otherwise, he would be highly blameable; for England's easy acquisition
of Hayti could not but ruffle the feelings of the Dons. No chord in the
highly strung nature of the Spaniard vibrates so readily and so
powerfully as that of pride in the retention or recovery of the
conquests of his ancestors. The determination of the Court of Madrid to
win back Louisiana and the Floridas, not to speak of Minorca, had
potently influenced its policy in the recent past, and the prospect of
seeing the Union Jack wave over Hayti and Corsica now envenomed the ever
open wound of Gibraltar. True, the French colonists of Hayti, acting
through their local Assemblies, had the right to will away their land to
England. Spain, at least, could not say them nay; but none the less she
longed to see her flag float once more over the western districts which
had slipped from her grasp.

Pitt and Grenville had early foreseen trouble ahead with Spain on the
subject of the West Indies. When affairs at Toulon were causing
friction, Grenville instructed Lord St. Helens, British ambassador at
Madrid, to urge that Court to secure the hoped-for indemnities in the
French districts north of the Pyrenees. As for England, she had in view
Hayti and certain of the French Leeward Islands. This plan, continued
Grenville, could not offend Spain, seeing that the Haytian or western
part of San Domingo fronted Jamaica and fell naturally to the Power
holding that island. But, as the Court of Madrid was known to cherish
desires for a part of Hayti, St. Helens must endeavour to ascertain
their extent so as to come to a friendly compromise.[381] The Spanish
Government, at that time incensed by the quarrels at Toulon, vouchsafed
no reply to these courteous overtures. They were renewed during the year
1794, but with no better result.

Meanwhile, Don Garcia, the Spanish Governor of San Domingo sought to
pour oil on the flames of civil strife. He allowed the bands of negroes
to retire into the Spanish districts, and replenish their stores. In
fact, his conduct was so openly hostile to England, that on 11th
November 1794 Grenville instructed Jackson, British _chargé d'affaires_
at Madrid, to demand the recall of that arrogant official.[382]
Charmilly also averred that the brigands often sallied forth from
Spanish territory to ravage the western districts.[383] Other facts
point in the same direction. Whence could the Republicans and their
black allies have gained supplies of arms and ammunition but from the
Spaniards? The survey of the British over the western coasts was close
enough to bar those supplies, at least in the quantities that the
negroes demanded. In truth, the enigmas of the Hayti affair can be
solved only by delving in the Spanish archives. The whole question is
closely connected with the extraordinary change that came over
Anglo-Spanish relations in the years 1795-6, a topic which will be
treated in the following chapter.


[363] See "Eng. Hist. Rev.," October 1909.

[364] "Dropmore P.," ii, 395, 438, 443, 444, 464.

[365] Pitt MSS., 349.

[366] Pitt MSS., 121.

[367] "F. O.," France, 40.

[368] Malouet, "Méms.," ii, 209-11; Morse Stephens, "French Rev.," ii,
481-4; "Dropmore P.," ii, 388.

[369] Fortescue, iv, pt. i, 77, 78.

[370] "Dropmore P.," ii, 402, 403.

[371] Pitt MSS., 349.

[372] Pitt MSS., 155, 349. In the latter packet is Malouet's letter of
10th March 1793 from Kingston, Jamaica, to M. Franklyn at London,
dwelling on the woes of San Domingo and Martinique--all due to the folly
and wickedness of one man, probably Brissot. He despairs of the French
West Indies. See, too, "Dropmore P.," ii, 388.

[373] Pitt MSS., 349.

[374] "Parl. Hist.," xxxiii, 586.

[375] The facts stated above suffice to refute the strange statement of
Mr. Morse Stephens ("Fr. Rev.," ii, 476) that the English invasion of
San Domingo was "absurd." It was not an invasion, but an occupation of
the coast towns after scarcely any resistance.

[376] "Dropmore P.," ii, 443, 454, 464.

[377] Fortescue, iv, pt. i, chs. xiii, xiv; James, i, 250-2.

[378] Pinckard, "Notes on the Expedition to the West Indies," ii,
especially Letter 15.

[379] Bryan Edwards, "Hist. Survey of S. Domingo" (1801), 204. Fortescue
(iv, 385) assesses the British losses in the West Indies in 1794 at
12,000 men, apart from deaths in battle.

[380] Pitt MSS., 121.

[381] "F. O.," Spain, 28. Grenville to St. Helens, 30th November 1793.
On 1st October Pitt pressed Grenville to open this question to the
Spanish Court ("Dropmore P.," ii, 433, 438).

[382] "H. O." (Secretaries of State), 5.

[383] Pitt MSS., 349. He added that in 1788, 584 European and 699
American ships set sail from Hayti: 37,447 negroes were imported.



    Are not Martinique, Mole St. Nicholas, and the Cape of Good Hope
    most important conquests?--PITT, _Speech of 9th December 1795_.

More than once it has happened that, after a time of national revival,
Spain has fallen under the dominion of a ruler led by wrongheaded
counsellors and intriguing favourites. Such was the case in the year
1788. Charles III, who then passed away, had restored the finances, the
prosperity, the navy, and the prestige of that land. But his successor,
Charles IV, proved to be one of the weakest and most indolent members of
that dynasty. Fond of display, and devoted to the pleasures of the chase
and the table, he squandered the resources of the State, and soon saw
his finances fall into hopeless confusion. Worse still, his consort, a
princess of the ducal House of Parma, and a woman of much energy,
conceived a violent passion for Manuel Godoy, a young private in the
royal guards, on whom she heaped favours and dignities, so that he
forced his way into the highest circles with the title Duke of Alcudia.
He was endowed with a dignified mien, handsome features, affable
manners, and good abilities, so that the British ambassador, Lord St.
Helens, happily characterized him as a Birmingham Villiers. The measure
of his importance and of the degradation of the Sovereigns may be gauged
from the fact that the paramour of the Queen became the chief Minister
of the King. In truth, the Queen, her lover, and her two confessors
governed Spain.

The habits of the favourite were as follows. He rose early, drove or
rode for an hour, and after breakfast transacted business for a time. He
then relieved the tedium of that time by witnessing exhibitions of skill
and daring by his private matadors, after which he spent about three
hours in the society of the Queen. He then devoted the same length of
time to the conduct of public business with the King; and the day ended
with dinner, fêtes, the opera, or the consideration of requests for
patronage. This function of State generally occupied three evenings in
the week; and on these occasions a crowd of some 250 suitors filled his
meanly lit ante-room with jealous expectancy and long baffled

Certainly the representatives of monarchy at this time of acute trial
were unequal to the strain. Catharine of Russia was supremely able, but
no less corrupt. Frederick William of Prussia equalled her in vice and
in nothing else. Francis of Austria had the brain of a master of
ceremonies; George III that of a model squire; Ferdinand of Naples was
in his place in the kennel; Victor Amadeus of Sardinia, in the
confessional. It is difficult to say to what place Charles IV of Spain
and his consort can most fitly be assigned; for they could not live
apart from Godoy; and with Godoy they would have been excluded from any
residence but the royal palace of Spain. The policy of that Court
wavered under his whims and devices. Hated by the grandees, loathed by
honest people, and yet fawned on by all alike, he sought to strengthen
his power by jobbery, with results fatal to the public services. Such a
man evades difficulties instead of grappling with them. He lives for the
day. "After me the deluge" is the motto of all Godoys.

The favourite soon perceived that the war with France pleased neither
the Court, the merchants, nor the people. Charles IV had gone to war for
the restoration of royalty; but, thanks to the perfidy of Prussia and
the vacillations of Austria, that ideal had vanished; and in its place
there appeared the spectres of want and bankruptcy. By the end of 1794
the Republicans had gained a firm foothold in Catalonia and Biscay; and
the prospect of further campaigns was highly distasteful to a Court
which kept up the traditional pomp of the Spanish monarchy. Even when
the Spanish forces in Catalonia and Biscay were wellnigh starving, the
Court borrowed £160,000 to defray the expenses of the usual migration to
San Ildefonso; and the British ambassador computed that the cost of a
campaign could be saved by a sojourn in Madrid for the whole year. But
parsimony such as this was out of the question. Accordingly the only
possible alternatives were, peace with France, an issue of paper money,
or a bankruptcy. Godoy inclined strongly to peace, and discovered in
Anglophobia a means of betraying the French House of Bourbon. England,
so he averred, had entered on the war solely for her own aggrandisement,
with the view of appropriating first Dunkirk, then Toulon, and, failing
them, Corsica and Hayti, to the manifest detriment of Spain. The
argument was specious; for Pitt's resolve to cripple France by colonial
conquests necessarily tended to re-awaken the old jealousies of the
Spaniards; and herein, as in other respects, the son had to confront
difficulties unknown in the days of his father. The task of the elder
Pitt was simple compared with that of humouring and spurring on five
inert and yet jealous Allies.

Among them Spain was not the least slothful and exacting. After the
quarrels between Langara and Hood at Toulon, the despatches from Madrid
to London were full of complaints. Now it was the detention of Danish
vessels carrying naval stores, ostensibly for Cadiz, but in reality, as
we asserted, for Rochefort. Now it was the seizure and condemnation of a
Spanish merchantman, the "Sant' Iago," on a somewhat similar charge.
England had equal cause for annoyance. The embers of the quarrel of 1790
were once more fanned to a flame by Spanish officials. Captain
Vancouver, of H.M.S. "Discovery," while on a voyage to survey the island
which now bears his name, had his ship and crew detained and ill-treated
at Monterey Bay by the Governor of California. The Court of St. James
warmly protested against this conduct as contrary to the Nootka Sound
Convention of 1790; and thereby inflamed that still open wound. Valdez,
Minister of Marine, the only rival of Godoy, now openly avowed his
hostility to England. Early in February 1795, in a conference with the
King, he hotly denounced British designs in Corsica and Hayti.
Thenceforth there was no hope of securing the co-operation of the
Spanish fleet for the blockade of Toulon and other duties too exacting
for Admiral Hotham's squadron. On 11th February Godoy handed to Jackson,
our _chargé d'affaires_, a state paper containing the assurance that
Spain desired to continue the struggle against France; but "if His
Christian Majesty finds another road less dangerous than that which he
follows, he will take it with the dignity becoming his rank; he will
exhaust the means he may have till he shall obtain the welfare of his
people; but he will not look on their annihilation with indifference, if
those who have a similar interest vary the mode of pursuing it." In
plain language this meant that, as Prussia was then treating with
France, Spain would follow her example when she thought fit.[385]

Thereafter the Spanish Ministers either manifested sullen reserve or
indulged in petulant complaints respecting the "Sant' Iago," Corsica,
and Hayti. The conduct of the Marquis del Campo at London was equally
sinister; his despatches represented the policy and conduct of England
in the darkest colours. In the hope of softening these asperities Pitt
and Grenville decided to send the Earl of Bute to Madrid in place of
Jackson, who desired to escape from the insolences of that capital. Thus
by one of the subtle ironies of history, the son of Chatham despatched
to the Court of Madrid the son of the man who thwarted Chatham's aims
respecting that same Power. Bute's instructions (dated 5th April) bade
him humour that Court, but none the less look out for any signs of a
Franco-Spanish compact, and discover at what place in the Spanish
colonies a blow might be dealt with most effect.

On 13th April, after receiving news of a Spanish success in Catalonia,
Grenville urged Bute to re-awaken Castilian pride by holding out the
prospect of gains beyond the Pyrenees, and expressed the hope that Spain
might renew her treaty with England, promising also to consider her
claims to parts of the north-west of Hayti. These hopes were futile.
Early in that year France and Spain began to draw close together. The
more moderate Republicans, Sieyès, Boissy d'Anglas, and Cambacérès, let
it be known that France would offer moderate terms. Barthélemy, the able
French envoy in Switzerland, furthered these plans, which came near to
fulfilment when Prussia signed with France the Treaty of Basle (5th
April 1795). Charles IV was only waiting for some excuse to follow suit.
As a relative of Louis XVI, he scrupled to take the lead; but he was
ready to follow the lead of Prussia. The sacrifices demanded of him in
March 1795 were considerable, viz., the province of Guipuzcoa and San
Domingo. But Bourgoing, the special envoy to Madrid, offered a prize
which far counterbalanced these losses. He held out to Godoy the bait
which in the more skilful hands of Napoleon was destined to catch both
him and his credulous master. Portugal was to be theirs if they made
common cause with France. Acting together, the two Latin nations would
overwhelm this "province of England," and together they would chase the
British from the Mediterranean. That Portugal had loyally supported
Spain in the monarchist cause mattered little. In place of the costly
war of principle, Godoy sought to substitute an effort with limited
liability, effective partnership, and enormous profits. He knew not that
in entering on this broad and easy path, he assured the ruin of Spain
and the ultimate loss of her colonial empire.

In this secret chaffering Pitt and Grenville were worsted as inevitably
as in the similar case of the Partition of Poland. The Power that cries
"hands off" to abettors of robbery needs to have overwhelming force at
its back; but both here and on the banks of the Vistula England was
helpless. There was no Court of Appeal. Christendom had vanished amidst
the schemes of the monarchs in the East, and under the stabs of
regicides in the West. Thus, while the champions of monarchy were
sharing the last spoils of Poland, France succeeded in detaching Spain
from the royalist league by inciting her to the plunder of Portugal.

Few moves have been more mean and cowardly; though the conduct of the
Court of Madrid in this matter touches far deeper depths of infamy. For
its present position was far from hopeless. With the help of the British
fleet the progress of the French troops towards Bilbao might have been
stayed. Affairs in Catalonia wore a hopeful aspect. England offered to
recognize the Spanish conquests in Hayti and to press for further
indemnities from France at the general peace. But all representations
were in vain. Godoy brushed them aside in order to compass the ruin of
the House of Braganza. On this enterprise he concentrated all his
faculties. He inveighed against the invasion of Hayti by British troops.
"His Britannic Majesty," he said, "ought to have abstained from any
interference with the island of San Domingo, upon the whole of which His
Christian Majesty had a well-founded claim; or, if any enterprize was
undertaken there by Great Britain, it should have been in the way of
auxiliary to Spain in order to restore to her her ancient possessions in
the West Indies." On other occasions he moaned over the heavy expenses
of the war, the misery of the people, and the impossibility of resisting
the superior power of France. But his chief theme was Hayti, and he
finally suggested that the British acquisitions in that island should
be held in trust for Louis XVII. He was not a little ruffled by the
reply that they belonged of right to George III, who would keep them as
compensation for the expenses of the war. Another significant fact was
the removal of a fine corps of French _émigrés_, some 3,300 strong, from
the northern provinces to Cadiz, on their way to the West Indies.

At the time of the arrival of Bute at that port (25th May), Fortune
vouchsafed a few gleams of hope to the Allies. Spanish pride having
kicked against the French demands, especially that of the province of
Guipuzcoa, Bourgoing's mission proved fruitless. The diplomatic
situation also improved. In February 1795, as we have seen, Catharine II
of Russia signed a defensive treaty with Great Britain, to which Austria
acceeded on 20th May. Thus did Pitt replace the outworn Triple Alliance
with Prussia and Holland by a more powerful confederacy. With these
bright prospects in view, and animated by the hope of rousing Western
France from Quiberon, Pitt had a right to expect some measure of
fortitude even in the Court of Madrid.[386] But Godoy remained obdurate.
On 11th June, in his first interview with Bute, he said he had no faith
in Russia; the vacillations of Austria were notorious; and Pitt was said
to be about to send Eden to Paris to sue for peace. As for Spain, she
was hard pressed; French and American emissaries had stirred up strife
in her colonies; and affairs were most "ticklish" in San Domingo. His
Government had therefore sought for a composition (not a definite peace)
with France. In fact, the war as a whole had failed, for whereas the
Allies had set themselves to crush French principles, they had succeeded
merely in uniting the French people in one common cause. On 11th July he
promised to recall the Anglophobe Governor of San Domingo; but he
declared the island to be in so distracted a state that both Spaniards
and British would probably be expelled. He then complained that somehow
England always got the better of Spain; witness Nootka Sound, Hayti, and
Corsica. In spite of Bute's assurance that he came to end these
jealousies, Godoy continued to drift on the tide of events. "No plan is
prepared," wrote Bute on 11th July, "no measures are taken. The accident
of the day seems to determine everything, and happy do the Ministers
feel when the day is passed." He therefore advised that Godoy should be

The advice came too late. Already the favourite had instructed Don
Domingo d'Yriarte, his envoy to the now extinct Polish Republic, to
confer with Barthélemy, the French Ambassador at Basle. The actions of
Yriarte, of course, depended on the secret behests of Godoy. On 2nd July
Godoy informed him that peace was the only means of thwarting the
efforts of the bad counsellors of the Crown; and four days later he

    Every day makes peace more necessary. There is no hope of
    restoring affairs in Navarre. Cowardice has unnerved our army
    and the French will dictate their terms to us.... I fear that
    their claims will be excessive, and condescension is our only
    resource if we are to succeed in saving ourselves even in part.
    Your Lordship need not take alarm at the rigour of the terms of
    peace; listen to them, accept them, and forward them to me,
    saying to yourself that perhaps they will not be so fatal as the
    results of a delay in the negotiation might be.[387]

Yriarte, a nervous valetudinarian, eagerly accepted this despicable
advice. Already one of his secretaries had allowed Barthélemy to see an
almost equally base effusion from Godoy; so that the French ambassador
on 21st July informed the Committee of Public Safety that the game was
in their hands. This was the case. Yriarte, after receiving two packets
from Madrid, hastily sought a nocturnal interview with Barthélemy by the
help of a dark lantern. The French ambassador received him with some
surprise, especially on hearing that he came to sign a treaty of peace
on terms not yet known at Paris. When the Spaniard insisted on signing
at once, Barthélemy examined the conditions, and finding them highly
favourable to France, consulted his secretaries, with the result that he
finally decided to conclude the affair.

Thus came about the Peace of Basle (22nd July 1795). Spain now waived
her former demands, the restoration of religious worship in France, and
French aid in the recovery of Gibraltar. The French, however, now agreed
to restore all the districts held by their troops in the North of Spain,
while the Court of Madrid ceded San Domingo. Spain also made peace with
the Dutch or Batavian Republic, and offered to mediate between France
and Portugal, Naples, Sardinia, and Parma.[388] Such were the chief
clauses of this astonishing compact. It dealt a deadly blow to Pitt. For
at the very time when he was building up a formidable league and rousing
Brittany against the Republic, Spain seceded from the monarchist cause,
and by surrendering San Domingo to France, doomed to failure his costly
efforts in Hayti. Further, as will appear in Chapter XI, by setting free
large numbers of the French troops at the Pyrenees, she greatly enhanced
the difficulties of the expedition of General Doyle to the coast of la
Vendée. Worst of all, it soon appeared that Godoy was bent on reviving
the policy of the Family Compact, making common cause even with the
murderers of Louis XVI in order to thwart England's expansion oversea.
Bute therefore warned our Government to prepare to strike a blow at
once, before the Spanish fleet should be ready to help the French either
in Corsica or Hayti. These precautions proved, for the present at least,
to be unnecessary. The degradation of the Court and populace of Madrid
may be measured by the joy with which the news of that inglorious peace
was received. The Queen, fearful that the failures in the war would lead
to the fall of her paramour, procured the speedy ratification of the
Treaty of Basle and decorated him with the title Prince of the Peace.

On hearing of the defection of Spain, Pitt at once took steps to guard
Hayti against a treacherous attack by detaching the greater part of the
British force then preparing to help the French Royalists of la Vendée.
The general opinion both in London and Madrid was that war must ensue.
Godoy kept a close watch upon Bute, who took a mansion in Madrid on a
long lease in order to lull that Court into security. It was of the
highest importance to avert or delay a rupture with Spain; for the
condition of the British West Indies was most critical. The French,
having recovered Guadeloupe and St. Lucia, despatched thence emissaries
to fire the slaves in the British islands with the hope of gaining
liberty and equality. The peril became acute in Jamaica. There about 500
negroes had escaped to the mountains, especially in Trelawny and
Charlestown Counties, and by night carried out murderous raids against
the planters and their dependents. So fiendish were the atrocities of
these Maroons, that the authorities in that island applied to the
Spaniards in Cuba for one hundred bloodhounds and twenty huntsmen in
order to track the Maroons to their fastnesses. This device proved
successful; the murderers were by degrees hunted down, and were
transported to British North America, £25,000 being voted by the Jamaica
Assembly for settling them there.

Nevertheless the use of bloodhounds, which placed Britons on a level
with the Spanish crusaders, aroused general disgust. Attempts were made
in the House of Commons by General Macleod, Sheridan, and Courtenay to
represent the Maroons as men worthily struggling for liberty. Dundas,
while pruning these sprays of rhetoric, declared that Ministers would
thereafter prohibit the use of bloodhounds. These troubles with the
slaves prejudiced Parliament against any change in their condition. In
vain did Francis, in one of the last speeches of an acrid but not
discreditable career, press for the amelioration of their lot. At the
outset he showed the bitterness of his enmity to Pitt by charging him
with the betrayal of the cause which, in his oration of 2nd April 1792,
he had irradiated with the beatific vision of a regenerated and blissful
Africa. Why, he asked, did not the Minister resign office after his
failure to realize his heart's desire? He then charged him with
insincerity on the whole question, and urged the House to be content
with alleviating the condition of the slaves by giving them the
rudiments of education and some rights of property, above all by
securing the sanctity of their marriages. Fox followed with a speech
aimed more against Pitt than the slave-owners. The Prime Minister then
replied. Ignoring the charges of his opponents, he pointed out that the
proposed improvements were utterly inadequate to remedy the ills of the
negroes so long as Parliament allowed shiploads of these unhappy
creatures to be cast into the West Indies every year. What was needed,
he said, was the abolition of that hateful traffic, indeed of the whole
system of slavery. For himself, he still hoped that Parliament would
adopt those measures, which alone could be effective. Wilberforce was
absent through illness. Francis, having elicited in the main mere
personalities, not declarations of principle, withdrew his motion.

The lapse of the question of Abolition in the years 1795-6 was a public
misfortune; for the slaves, despairing of justice from England, turned
to France. For the good of the cause they murdered men, women, or
children, with equal indifference; and, when hunted down, died with the
cry _Vive la République_. Here was our chief difficulty in the West
Indies. Owing to the refusal of Parliament to limit the supply of slaves
or to alleviate their condition, we had to deal with myriads of blacks,
exasperated by their former hardships, hoping everything from France,
and able to support climatic changes which dealt havoc to the raw
English levies. In truth, the success of the West India expeditions
depended on other factors besides military and medical skill. It turned
on political and humanitarian motives that were scouted at Westminster.
The French Jacobins stole many a march on the English governing classes;
and in declaring the negro to be an equal of the white man they nearly
wrecked Britain's possessions in the West Indies.

For a great negro leader had now appeared. Toussaint l'Ouverture, though
probably not of pure negro blood, was born at Breda in the north of
Hayti in 1746. His mental gifts were formidable; and when sharpened by
education and by long contact with whites, they enabled him to play upon
the elemental passions of his kindred, to organize them, to lead them to
the fight, to cure their wounds, and to overawe their discontent. A
barbarian in his outbursts of passion, and a European in organizing
power, he became a zealot in the Republican cause. A quarrel with
another masterful negro, Jean François, forced him for a time to retire
into the Spanish part of San Domingo; but he soon returned, and proved
to be our most formidable enemy.

The position in Hayti at the close of 1795 was somewhat as follows. The
Republicans and their coloured allies, often helped by the Spaniards,
held or ravaged the greater part of the territory which the French
Royalists had invited us to possess. Their hopeful forecasts had led
Pitt and Dundas to send far too few troops for what proved to be an
increasingly difficult enterprise; and at this time British authority
extended scarcely beyond the reach of the garrisons. The French
Royalists had not given the help which Malouet and Charmilly had led our
Ministers to expect.[389] And on the other hand, Victor Hugues, the
Republican leader, managed to spread revolt in St. Vincent, Grenada, and
Dominica. In this critical state of things, the Cabinet decided to
accord to Major-General Williamson, Governor of Hayti, a long furlough,
and to place in supreme command a man of great resourcefulness and power
of character.

Sir Ralph Abercromby was at this time sixty-one years of age; but in
zeal and ardour he excelled nearly all the junior officers. His
toughness and energy had invested with dignity even the disastrous
retreat from Holland early in the year. He was not a great commander;
for he lacked both soundness and firmness of judgement, and he had no
grasp of the principles of strategy; but he restored the discipline and
prestige of the British army; and in him Moore and Wellesley hailed the
dawn of a brighter era. "The best man and the best soldier who has
appeared amongst us this war," was Moore's comment after Abercromby's
glorious death near Alexandria.[390] Pitt has often been charged with
lack of judgement in selecting commanders. Let it be remembered, then,
that he sent Abercromby to the post of difficulty and danger.

Unfortunately, delays multiplied at Spithead. Though the Cabinet
withdrew the marrow of the Vendean expedition, yet not enough troops
were available to complete Abercromby's muster; and when the men were
ready, the ordnance and transports were not at hand. What Department and
what officials were answerable for this scandalous state of things it is
hard to say. Buckingham, who had several correspondents at Portsmouth,
suspected Abercromby of shiftlessness. However that may be, the autumn
wore away amidst recriminations and growing discontent. When the fleet
at last put to sea, it encountered a terrible storm off Portland;
several transports were dashed to pieces on that point; while others in
the van were flung back on to the Chesil Beach or the shore near
Bridport (18th November). The horrors of the scene were heightened by
the brutality of the coast population, which rushed on the spoil in
utter disregard of the wretches struggling in the waves. The rest of the
convoy put back to Spithead; and not till the spring of 1796 did
Abercromby reach Jamaica. Dundas had instructed him first to recover St.
Lucia and Guadeloupe, whence Victor Hugues had flung forth the brands of
revolt. Ultimately the flames shrivelled up the colonies of France; but,
for the present, they were more formidable than her fleets and armies.
It was therefore sound policy to strike at those two islands. In a
"secret" despatch of 4th November, Dundas also warned Major-General
Forbes closely to watch the Spaniards in San Domingo, and, though not
attacking their posts, yet to support the French Royalists with arms and
money in case they desired to do so.

Among those who sailed from Portsmouth early in 1796 was Colonel
(afterwards Sir John) Moore.[391] He found the West India service most
unpopular. Yet the energy of Abercromby and Moore brought about the
surrender of that almost impregnable fortress, Morne Fortunée, in St.
Lucia. Moore was left as governor of the island, but with a garrison
insufficient to complete the subjection of the fanatical blacks. General
Whyte found the conquest of the Dutch settlement of Demerara a far
easier task than its retention. Abercromby then relieved St. Vincent and
strengthened the defences of Grenada, that island having been recaptured
by General Nicols. Abercromby and his comrades thus saved those
possessions from the most imminent danger. His services were almost as
great in the quarters as on the field. He adapted the cumbrous uniform
to the needs of the tropics, and, by abolishing parades and drills in
the noontide heats, and improving the sanitary conditions of the camps,
sought to stay the ravages of disease, of which the carelessness or
stupidity of officials had been the most potent ally. On 21st April 1796
Sheridan moved for a return of the troops who had succumbed to disease
in the West Indies. He asserted that several of them, on landing, were
without shoes and stockings, that hospitals crowded with sick were
without medicines or bandages, and that in one case a hundred patients
had to spend the night on the bare beach. Dundas's reply was virtually
an admission of the truth of these charges.

The declaration of war by Spain in the autumn of 1796 brought about a
new situation. The Republicans and their black allies regularly took
refuge and found their supplies in the central parts of San Domingo now
ceded to France; but when the British sought to follow and attack them
there, they were assured that it was neutral territory. The British
Government warmly protested against this duplicity. Either the island
was Spanish, or it was French. If the former, then Toussaint and his men
had no right to retreat thither. If the latter, the British could attack
them. In point of fact, plans for the transfer of San Domingo to France
were at that time dragging slowly along at Madrid: and when the French
General, Rom, failed to bend that Court to his terms, he departed for
the island under the convoy of a Spanish squadron. This incident was
typical of the recent policy of Madrid. In every possible way it
favoured France. Early in 1796 seven French warships underwent extensive
repairs in the royal dockyard at Cadiz. Merry, secretary of legation at
Madrid, further reported numerous seizures of British merchantmen by
French privateers which brought them into Spanish harbours. Twelve ships
were thus brought into Alicante in the winter of 1795-6; and English
merchants could get no redress for these seizures. French privateers
also fitted out at Trinidad to act against Grenada and Tobago.[392]

Provocations were not all on one side. Early in 1796, three Spanish West
Indiamen were overhauled by two English frigates and taken to Bermuda,
in the belief that war had broken out. They were, however, at once
released. Godoy protested angrily against this indignity, and early in
March hinted that Spain's neutrality would cease on the establishment of
a French Government. Two months later Bute found that Spain was seeking
to form a Quadruple Alliance, namely, with France, Denmark, and Sweden,
a scheme which Ehrenthal, the Swedish envoy, warmly furthered. The news
of Bonaparte's victories in Italy and of the financial troubles in
England evidently puffed up Godoy with the hope of playing the part of
an Alberoni for the humiliation of England; and in 1796 Spain had better
prospects of worsting the islanders than in 1718 when they had the
alliance of France, Austria, and Holland. In truth, no period was more
favourable for a revival of the Latin races than the years 1796-7, when
England was in dire straits, when Austria succumbed under the blows of
Bonaparte, and the Dutch, Danes, and Swedes opposed the British Power.
With singleness of purpose and honesty in their administrations, France,
Spain, and their Allies should have wrecked the lifework of the two

The British Ministers felt the gravity of the situation. In view of the
collapse of the Austrian Power in Lombardy, Pitt wrote to Grenville on
28th June in unusually despondent terms, that it was hopeless to expect
Austria to prolong the war after the present campaign. We should be left
alone to confront France and Holland, "probably joined by Spain, and
perhaps favoured more or less openly by the Northern Powers."[393]
Accordingly we must see to our home defences, and also consider the
possibility of a general peace. Grenville therefore urged Bute to seek
by all methods compatible with his dignity "to preserve the good
understanding of the two countries." In fact, Pitt and his colleagues
now decided to bring about a general pacification; and, as will appear
later, they held to that resolve, in spite of the strong opposition of
George III. But, on 5th August, while they were discussing details,
Bonaparte won a crushing victory over Wurmser at Castiglione, and,
eleven days later, Godoy definitely sided with France. Pitt feared that
the hostile league would include Denmark and Sweden; and, but for his
foresight in gaining over Catharine, this would have been the issue of
events. Even so, Godoy hoped to form a Quadruple Alliance with France,
Holland, and Prussia. He therefore took a high tone with Bute, declaring
that England would not be allowed to attack San Domingo, as it was still
Spanish, and there was a necessary connection between France and Spain;
but he would not hear of Bute accepting that statement as a declaration
of war.

Clearly, Spain was trying to gain time; for reports from Cadiz showed
her fleet to be far from ready, several of the ships being leaky. The
repairs to the French ships at that dockyard also went on in the most
leisurely manner. But on 4th August all was ready. Admiral Mann with a
small blockading force having been called by Jervis into the
Mediterranean, the French ships set sail, escorted by twenty Spanish
sail-of-the-line. The French squadron made for the Bank of Newfoundland
and inflicted great damage. Why it did not proceed along with the
Spaniards to the West Indies is hard to say. The impact of twenty-seven
sail-of-the-line in that quarter would have been decisive; but probably
Godoy did not yet feel warranted in throwing down the gauntlet. Pitt and
Grenville decided to overlook the gross breach of neutrality at Cadiz,
and even now hoped for a change in Godoy's mood. On 26th August
Grenville informed Bute that, though England had good cause for
declaring war, she would await the result of the recent proposals to
Spain. On or about that date Las Casas, the Spanish ambassador,
pettishly left London on a flimsy pretext; and two days later Dundas
warned the commander-in-chief in Hayti of the imminence of war.
Nevertheless, while taking every precaution, he was not to attack the
Spaniards until definite news of a rupture arrived. Further, on the
31st (as will appear in the following chapter) Portland despatched
orders to Sir Gilbert Elliot, Viceroy of Corsica, to prepare for the
immediate evacuation of that island.

It is therefore clear that Pitt and his colleagues used all possible
means to avert war with Spain. Bute, acting on orders from London,
carried complaisance to lengths derogatory, as he thought, to the honour
of Great Britain, and Godoy humoured him to the top of his bent. Thus,
on 10th September, in the course of a singular interview, Godoy assured
him that, even if war broke forth, it would be brief. If (he continued)
England had not annoyed Spain by her naval and colonial policy, the
latter might have arranged to find some indemnity, either at the expense
of Holland, or else "something on the coast of California. You English
have a passion for California, and the trade is in the most flourishing
state." Half amused by these dilatory tactics, Bute sought to find out
the real state of the case; and he discovered that the Franco-Spanish
compact aimed at the joint conquest of Portugal as well as of Naples,
Sicily, and Gibraltar, while England was to be compelled to surrender
Honduras and Hayti. On the 5th of October he received from Godoy the
Spanish declaration of war. It laid stress on the disputes at Toulon,
England's seizure of Corsica, Hayti, and Dutch Demerara, besides the
founding of British mercantile posts on the River Missouri, which
evidently aimed at securing the routes to the Pacific.[394] Of these
schemes, the conquest of Portugal lay the nearest to the heart of Godoy.

The rupture with Spain is an event of prime importance. Because her
fleet was disastrously beaten by Jervis off Cape St. Vincent in February
1797, it has too often been assumed that she counted for little in the
war. An examination of the British Records reveals the error of that
assumption. The evacuation of Corsica and of the Mediterranean by the
British forces resulted solely from the Spanish offensive. Though weak
in herself, Spain held so strong a position in Europe and the West
Indies as to endanger British enterprises at many points, besides
threatening the coasts of Ireland. In truth, but for Spanish support in
the Mediterranean, Bonaparte could never have ventured upon his Eastern
expedition. Thus the defection of the Court of Madrid changed the
character of the war. Thenceforth it revolved more and more around
colonial questions, to the weakening of the royalist and republican
motives which had worked so potently in its early stages. The oriental
adventure of the young Corsican was to emphasize the contrast between
the years 1793 and 1798; but the scene-shifting began with the intrigues
of Godoy. In a sense Pitt himself helped on the transformation. He did
not regard the struggle against France as one of political principle. He
aimed solely at curbing the aggression of the Jacobins upon Holland; and
the obvious device of weakening France by expeditions to the West Indies
further helped to bring events back into the arena of eighteenth-century
strife. Now that Spain, the protagonist of the French Bourbons, deserted
their cause and attacked the Power in which they most trusted, all
pretence of a war of principle vanished. The importance of the change
was not perceived at the time, though signs of it were not wanting. Both
in France and England democratic enthusiasm speedily died down, and the
discontent, which now and again flared forth in both lands, was but a
feeble sputter compared with the devouring flame of 1789.

In the West Indies the effects of the rupture with Spain were speedily
felt. On 9th September 1796 Dundas instructed Forbes, commander-in-chief
in Hayti, to help the Spanish settlers if they resisted the transfer of
their part of the island to France. He also enjoined the utmost possible
economy in public expenditure, and urged that the French settlers should
have a large share in the conduct of local affairs. This zeal on behalf
of local self-government was markedly opportunist. It arose from a
suggestion of Colonel Wigglesworth, Commissary-General in Hayti, that
the expenses of that colony would not lessen until there was a regular
Government. In the midst of the financial strain at home Pitt and his
colleagues desired that the French settlers should bear their share of
the expense of maintaining bands of native auxiliaries. By one of the
unaccountable impulses that sway the negro mind, a considerable force
was now available; but it could not be utilized owing to the rigid
economy enjoined by the Home Government. As the financial outlook
darkened, Portland and Dundas sent urgent warnings to the new Governor
of Hayti, Major-General Simcoe, bidding him concentrate the whole of the
British force at Cape Nicholas Mole, the probable objective of the
French and Spaniards. The military administration must be withdrawn to
that fortress, the British cavalry being sent home. Further, as Great
Britain could in no case bear a larger financial burden than £300,000 a
year for Hayti, expenses were to be reduced on all sides, the residue
falling to the share of the colonists. A larger naval force would,
however, be sent; and Simcoe was advised to seize the island of Tortuga
and to alarm the Spaniards by feints against Havannah.

This was the beginning of the end at Hayti. Ministers, in despair of
pacifying that racial cauldron, now looked on the Spanish colonies as an
easier prize. Dundas therefore ordered Abercromby to capture Porto Rico
or Trinidad; and he even dallied with a fantastic scheme for shipping
the Haytian colonists to Porto Rico. Abercromby, however, who again set
sail from Portsmouth in November 1796, decided to make for Trinidad, and
by a brilliant stroke captured its capital, Port of Spain. The attack on
San Juan, in Porto Rico, met with unexpected difficulties, and ended in
failure (February and April 1797). Matters now became desperate in
Hayti. The rebels captured several posts near Port-au-Prince, largely
owing to dissensions among the defenders. Simcoe, despite a serious
illness on his way out, worked miracles with his skeleton regiments, but
both he and his subordinates failed to cut down expenses as the Cabinet
demanded. Accordingly, on 9th June 1797, Portland and Dundas reminded
him that no further reinforcements could be sent out, and added this
ominous sentence: "It is but too obvious that ... the immense sacrifices
this country has made for the protection of the French part of San
Domingo have too frequently been diverted from purposes of public
utility to answer the worst ends of private peculation and inordinate

In a recent debate in the House of Commons St. John assessed the
expenses of Hayti for January 1797 at £700,000; and stated that, for the
discharge of judicial duties, a Frenchman was receiving £2,500 a year,
which he was now squandering in London. Pitt remained silent. Dundas did
not deny these allegations, but begged members to recollect the great
difficulties of our officials in Hayti.[395] This was undeniable. It is
the curse of a policy of retirement that waverers haste to leave betimes
with all the spoils obtainable. The signs of abandonment of Hayti caused
a stampede, demoralizing to all concerned. On 1st January 1798,
Portland and Dundas penned the order for the evacuation of Hayti, owing
to the impossibility of making good the loss of troops or of recruiting
in the island. After dwelling on the impossibility of reducing the
expenditure to the requisite amount, Ministers explained that they had
deferred the evacuation of Hayti "as long as the negotiation which His
Majesty had opened with the enemy at Lille, and the disposition of a
majority in the two Councils of Legislature in France, left a hope that
some immediate arrangement might be made with that country, which in its
consequences might operate to relieve England from the intolerable
burdens by which the British part of St. Domingo is retained, and to a
certain degree to ensure to its inhabitants a continuance of security
and protection.... The rupture of the negotiation and the avowed system
of the present Government of France appear on the one hand to render the
attainment of this desirable end precarious, if not remote, whilst on
the other they impose on H.M.'s confidential servants an additional
obligation of reducing the heavy burdens of a war, the continuance of
which is unavoidable, within the narrowest limits, in order to be able
to persevere in it until adequate terms of peace can be obtained; and it
is certainly their first and essential duty to appropriate the resources
of the country with such management and economy as may ensure the
preservation and defence of the essential possessions of the Crown...."

The good faith of Pitt in the Lille negotiation appears clearly in this
interesting statement, which further proves that he held on to Hayti in
the hope of ceding it to France on terms satisfactory to Great Britain
and the colonists. Doubtless it was the perception of this truth which
led many of the settlers to decamp after spoiling the Egyptians. The
thankless duty of evacuation devolved on Brigadier-General Maitland, who
carried it out with skill and patience. Especially admirable is his
secret bargain with Toussaint, whereby that able chief agreed not to
molest the British either in Hayti or in Jamaica, while in return he was
to receive provisions at certain ports under his control. Ministers had
not advised any such proceeding, but they cordially approved of it,
despite the clamour of the West India planters at a compact with a
negro.[396] Thus was laid the basis of that good understanding which
subsequently enabled Toussaint to defy Bonaparte.

The success attending this agreement shows what power England might have
wielded had not her King, her Princes, and her Parliament insisted on
maintaining intact the institution of slavery. They thereby aroused an
enemy more terrible than yellow fever, the negro. France profited by the
blunder; but she rushed blindly forward, using the black man with a
recklessness which gave him the mastery. On the other hand, if Pitt and
Wilberforce had succeeded in carrying out their programme in the years
1790-2, the incendiary devices of Brissot and Victor Hugues would have
come to nought. In that case the transfer of Hayti to England would have
placed at her disposal myriads of devoted blacks, ready and able to
plant the Union Jack on every fortress in the West Indies, and to
conquer the colonies of Spain if she changed sides. It was not to be.
Far from gaining an accession of strength in that quarter, England lost
heavily in men and treasure, and at the Peace of Amiens retained only
Trinidad in return for all her sacrifices.

In no part does Pitt's war policy appear to more disadvantage than in
the West Indies. He entered into those expeditions when the army at home
was unable to meet the demands of the service in Flanders, and on the
coasts of Brittany and Provence, not to speak of the needs of Ireland
and the East Indies. He allowed Dundas to send out levies which were far
too raw to withstand the strain of the tropics. This fact, together with
the stupidity of the regulations and the inexperience, or worse, of the
medical staff, accounts for the waste of life and the barrenness of
these tedious campaigns. At no time had England in the West Indies a
force sufficient to withstand the ravages of disease and to overcome the
Republicans and their black allies. Nevertheless, while the conduct of
the West Indian campaigns is open to censure, it is difficult to see
what other course could have been adopted towards those important
colonies, in view of the resolve of the French Jacobins to revolutionize
them. The attempt was made and partly succeeded. Could Pitt and his
colleagues stand merely on the defensive, while incendiaries sought to
stir up a war of colour? Was it not the natural and inevitable step to
endeavour to extirpate those fire-brands? And when so attractive an
offer as that of Hayti was made by the royalist settlers, could the
British Government hold timidly aloof and allow that rich land to breed
revolt? Surely a servile war could be averted only by intervention at
the natural centre of influence. If from Guadeloupe, after its recapture
by the French, the seeds of rebellion were sown broadcast, would not
Hayti have become a volcano of insurrection? Finally, it is
unquestionable that the change of front of the Court of Madrid in the
years 1795-6 blighted the whole enterprise at the very time when success
seemed attainable. On Godoy, then, not on Pitt, must rest the
responsibility for the lamentable waste of life in the West Indies and
the ultimate lapse into barbarism of their most fertile island.


[384] "F. O.," Spain, 36. Bute to Grenville, 26th June 1795.

[385] "F. O.," Spain, 36. Jackson to Grenville, 2nd January and 11th
February 1795.

[386] "F. O.," Spain, 37. Grenville to Bute, 5th, 12th, and 19th June.

[387] Del Cantillo, "Tratados," 660.

[388] "Papiers de Barthélemy," vi, Introd., xv, 71, 77-85.

[389] "W. O.," vi, 6, which contains other despatches of Dundas cited

[390] "Diary of Sir John Moore," i, 208, 221, 233, 243; ii, 18, 19.

[391] "Diary of Sir John Moore," 2 vols. Edited by General Maurice.

[392] "F. O.," Spain, 39, 40. Merry to Grenville, 20th and 25th December
and 19th January, 10th February, 6th and 29th March.

[393] "Dropmore P.," iii, 214.

[394] "F. O.," Spain, 44. Bute to Grenville, 10th September and 21st

[395] For the disgust of Pitt and Dundas, see "Dropmore P.," iii, 390.

[396] Malouet wrote to Pitt on 24th June 1798: "The wisdom of General
Maitland's measures, the perfect order in which he has conducted the
operations have lessened the disasters attending it, and by means of a
truce and convention agreed on with the Republican chiefs, not an
inconsiderable number of inhabitants has been induced to remain on their
plantations" (Pitt MSS., 146).



The French Jacobins early laid stress on the weakness of the British
Empire. An official report issued in January 1793 at Paris advocated a
close alliance with Tippoo Sahib, the Raja of Mysore, and recommended
that the French force sent to assist him should threaten or secure the
Dutch possessions at the Cape of Good Hope, and in Java and Ceylon.
"There," it continued, "you would meet only with men enervated by
luxury, soft beings that would tremble before the soldiers of liberty."
The French conquest of Holland and the capture of the Dutch fleet in the
winter of 1794-5 brought these schemes within measurable distance of
fulfilment. Failing to save a single Dutch fortress or warship, Pitt and
his colleagues became alarmed about the Dutch colonies; and when the
lethargic Stadholder and his consort Wilhelmina landed in England,
Ministers conferred with him on this topic.

On 7th February 1795, shortly after his arrival at Kew House,
thenceforth the scene of his debauches, he drew up an order for the
Governor of the Cape of Good Hope, bidding him welcome the arrival of a
friendly British force, which would save Cape Town from the French. That
important post belonged to the Dutch East India Company, then virtually
bankrupt, and altogether unable to maintain its neutrality amidst the
struggles for a world-empire now entering on a new phase. The officials
of the Company at Amsterdam on 3rd February issued warnings to all Dutch
ships in British ports to set sail forthwith, and further requested the
French Government to secure Dutch vessels from attacks by its war
vessels or privateers.[397] A few days later the invaders of Holland
laid hands on British ships and detained even the packet-boats. In fact,
though the Dutch did not frame an alliance with France until 16th May,
it existed in effect from the month of February.[398] These facts
explain the action of the Prince of Orange, which is otherwise
unjustifiable. It was a natural retort to the conduct of the Dutch
authorities. The British archives also show the alarm of our India Board
and of its president, Dundas. On 5th February he urged the British East
India Company to send in duplicate urgent messages to India. On 8th and
10th February he inquired whether the extra troops needed for India
could sail on three of their ships now ready in the Thames; and he
requested that some of the Company's troops stationed at St. Helena
should proceed to India, their place being taken by drafts from

Foremost among Dundas's plans for assuring British supremacy in India
was the acquisition of the Cape. Not that he valued the Cape and Egypt
on their own account. That generation regarded them merely as
half-way-houses to India, witness the curious statement of Sir Francis
Barings, Director of the East India Company, to Dundas, that the Cape
was of no advantage whatever to us, and might be a dangerous drain upon
our population; but in the hands of France it would most seriously
menace our interests.[400] Of how many prosperous British colonies has
not this been said? For similar reasons we took possession of large
parts of India and Canada, not to speak of Malta, portions of Australia,
New Zealand, and the Egyptian Soudan.

Early in March Commodore Blankett set sail from Spithead with four
ships, having on board part of the 78th regiment, besides marines. The
"Sphinx" was to join them at St. Helena. The land forces were commanded
by Major-General Sir James Craig. Early in April Rear-Admiral Sir Keith
Elphinstone sailed with a larger force, and a further expedition was in
preparation under the command of Major-General Alured Clarke. The
Cabinet expected little or no resistance, and even referred to a
friendly reception as the probable issue. They had some grounds for
hope. The Dutch force at the Cape consisted of about 800 German
mercenaries, whose pay was far in arrears. It was suggested that we
should take them into our pay, and quiet the people by the promise of
abolishing the abuses of the Dutch Company. These hopes proved
excessive. Craig, on making False Bay on 11th June, soon found Governor
Sluysken totally unaffected by the Stadholder's letter. He was a man
"of the most uncommon _sangfroid_" professing affection to England and
dislike of France, but resolved to keep a firm hold of Cape Town. He
offered to give the squadron all it wanted, and begged for time to
consider the British demand.

Meanwhile mounted burghers poured in from the eastern settlements, and
greatly strengthened the Dutch camp, situated in a pass half way between
the town and False Bay. These sturdy farmers hoped to win entire
independence; for indeed the Dutch East India Company cramped the life
of the settlers at every turn. Despite the wealth of that land in corn,
cotton, wine, and cattle, it made little progress. The fisheries might
have been productive but for the regulations which forbade the colonists
even a pleasure boat. The Company claimed one-tenth of the produce of
all sales and had the right of pre-emption and of fixing the prices of
goods. Settlers might not even kill their own cattle for food without
the permission of officials. Cape Town was the only market for foreign
commerce, and all products going in and out were subject to heavy
dues.[401] Far from thriving on these exclusive rights, that corporation
found its funds crippled by the very regulations which impoverished and
irritated the burghers. In fact the first aim of the Boers was to trek
beyond reach of the arm of the law. Thus came about the settlement of
the remote townships, Swellendam and Graaf-Reinet, and thus was
implanted in that virile race the resolve to secure complete
independence of the enfeebled motherland.

The time seemed to have come when the British force menaced Cape Town.
The Boers, no less than the Governor Sluysken, regarded the letter of
the Prince as a forgery and the whole affair a mere trick. In vain did
Elphinstone and Craig offer guarantees for good government. The
officials and soldiery were impressed by the offer of enrolment in the
British service, but the armed farmers proved intractable. Not having
artillery or sufficient troops, Craig awaited the arrival of
reinforcements from St. Helena; but on 14th July he landed about 1,600
men at Simon's Town, and somewhat later began the advance towards Cape
Town. With little difficulty his men drove the Dutch from a strong
position in the Pass of Muysenberg. On the next day the Dutch advanced
from Cape Town with all their force and eight guns, but failed to
dislodge Craig, despite his lack of artillery.

A period of much anxiety ensued, owing to the delay in the arrival of
the reinforcements under Major-General Alured Clarke, without which an
advance on Cape Town was perilous. The Dutch meanwhile received supplies
from interlopers, concerning whom Elphinstone wrote with nautical
emphasis: "The seas are infested with Americans, Danes, Genoese,
Tuscans, etc., or in other terms smuggling ships, mostly belonging to
Britain and Bengal, entrenched with oaths and infamy, who trade to the
French islands [Bourbon, etc.] and all the ports in India, changing
their flags as is most convenient to them."[402] He therefore forbade
any of them to touch at the Cape. On the arrival of Clarke's force Craig
took the offensive. About 4,000 strong, the British pushed on towards
Cape Town, amidst a dropping fire from the mounted burghers, until they
drew near to Wynberg. There the Dutch prepared to offer a stout
resistance; but the diversion caused by three British ships entering
Table Bay, and firing at Cape Town, unsteadied them; and, after little
fighting, they retired towards the capital, crying out that Sluysken had
betrayed them. Early on the morrow he offered to surrender; and the
Union Jack was hoisted on 16th September.

The conquest was delusively easy. The mounted Boers, who were the heart
of the defence, rode off with their arms, vowing vengeance against the
invaders; and some hundred of the foreign mercenaries, who entered the
British service, soon deserted. On 22nd September Craig wrote that,
except the six principal merchants in Cape Town, all the population was
hostile, and would certainly join the French, if they appeared, Jacobin
ideas being rife alike in town and country. He hoped that the abolition
of "the abominable monopolies" would have some effect. After Clarke and
most of his troops sailed on to their destination, India, Craig viewed
the future with concern, as Cape Town and the neighbouring bays needed a
considerable force for adequate defence. The population of Cape Town and
district then amounted to 4,957 settlers and their children, 6,068
servants, and 9,049 slaves. In the whole colony there were 14,929 free
settlers, 11,555 servants, and 19,807 slaves. The oxen numbered 418,817.

The news of the capture of Cape Town caused great relief at Whitehall.
Dundas on 16th January 1796 assured Craig that His Majesty would have
preferred a peaceful acquisition. The remark does not evince much
sagacity; for in that case the Boers would have represented the
occupation as an act of trickery concocted with the Prince of Orange. As
it was, the Cape was conquered after a fair fight. Undoubtedly in the
month of August the burghers might have beaten Craig had they been
either well led or enterprising. Dundas also instructed Clarke to leave
a strong garrison at Cape Town, and forwarded news of the capture of
Trincomalee, the Dutch stronghold in Ceylon. The Dutch soon sent a force
of 2,000 troops convoyed by six warships, for the recapture of the Cape;
but, while sheltering in Saldanha Bay, some fifty miles north of Cape
Town, it was surprised by Elphinstone's squadron and capitulated (17th
August 1796). The news of this disaster hastened the surrender of the
burghers of Graaf Reinet who had defied British authority.

In order to mark the permanence of British rule, Pitt decided to send
out as Governor Lord Macartney, who previously had undertaken a mission
to "Louis XVIII" at Verona. His arrival in May 1797 helped to check the
growth of discontent which was again becoming formidable. Macartney's
difficulties were great. The Dutch held sullenly aloof, in the belief
that England must give up her prize at the peace. Our military and naval
officers disliked Cape Town, owing to the lack of amusements, the
dearness of provisions, and the badness of the roadstead. Admiral
Pringle declared to Lady Anne Barnard that, as a naval station, it was
the worst that the devil could have contrived; that the people were
objectionable, and the animals vile, even the hens being unable to lay
fresh eggs. The soldiers grumbled at the high prices; for, though beef
was only fourpence a pound, and good wine sixpence a bottle, yet an egg
cost threepence and a dish of cauliflowers eighteenpence. Readers of
Lady Anne's sprightly letters will note in germ the problem that has
beset the British in South Africa.[403] They formed a restless minority
among a people curiously unreceptive and suspicious. They were bored by
the surroundings, puzzled by Dutch elusiveness, and doubtful as to the
future. The war was going far from well; and the alliance of Spain with
France in the summer of 1796 facilitated attacks from the Canaries and
Monte Video. These difficulties were enhanced by the cold and tactless
behaviour of Macartney.

Nevertheless Pitt resolved at all costs to hold the Cape. Signs of
disgust at the state of affairs in Corsica and the West Indies early
figure in his letters; but as to the retention of Cape Town he never
wavered. Bonaparte's capture of Egypt in 1798 showed that India was
about to be assailed by way of the Red Sea. The greater, then, was the
need to retain the stronghold which dominated the sea-route to the East
Indies. The resolve of Pitt to assure the communication with India by
one or other of the two routes will concern us later. But we may risk
the assertion that he would certainly have avoided the blunder of the
Addington Ministry in 1802 in giving up the Cape and neglecting to
secure Malta against recapture by Napoleon. Early in the course of the
Napoleonic War, Pitt resolved at all costs to retain Malta and to
re-conquer the Cape. During the negotiations of 1805 with Russia he
refused to allow the discussion of our title to Malta; and in the
parleys with Prussia a little later he distinctly excepted the Cape from
the list of the conquered colonies which Britain might be willing to
restore at the general peace.[404] Six days before Pitt expressed this
resolve, Nelson won his last and greatest triumph, thus enabling the
Prime Minister to deal with full effect the blow which won Cape Colony
for the British flag. It is clear, then, that Pitt discerned the
enormous importance of that station as an outwork of India. In fact,
after the expedition of Bonaparte to Egypt and the renewal of his
oriental schemes in 1803, no statesman worthy of the name could fail to
see that either Egypt and Malta, or the Cape of Good Hope, must belong
to the mistress of the East Indies. In the last resort, then, it was the
world-policy of Napoleon which planted the Union Jack for ever both at
Malta and the Cape of Good Hope.

                  *       *       *       *       *

Naval campaigns almost of necessity resolve themselves into a series of
experiments; and after the failure of the attempt to hold Toulon, a blow
at Corsica was the natural sequel. At a time when Great Britain had no
post within the Mediterranean, that island was a most desirable prize.
Its supplies of naval stores to the dockyard at Toulon were of the
highest value to the French; and Nelson declared the occupation of
Corsica to be imperatively necessary, as it furnished that dockyard with
the decks, sides, and straight timbers for ships.[405] Accordingly,
after the evacuation of Toulon by the Allies in December 1793, Admiral
Hood decided to effect the reduction of the island for the royalist

Already, while at Toulon, he had received an urgent invitation from
Paoli, the leader of the Royalist, or British, party in Corsica, to help
the islanders in driving out the French. Victor in the long feud against
the Bonapartes, whom he expelled at midsummer, Paoli now resolved to
root out the Jacobins, and his Anglophil leanings induced him to offer
the crown of Corsica to George III. Both the King and his Ministers
received the offer favourably, Pitt and Grenville regarding Corsica as
one of the indemnities to be exacted from France. Sir Gilbert Elliot,
the King's Commissioner in the Mediterranean, was therefore charged to
administer Corsica. Disputes between Admiral Hood and General Dundas, the
commander of the British troops, somewhat hampered the sieges of the
three French garrisons still holding out; but by August 1794 Calvi, the
last hope of the French, succumbed to the vigour of the attack of
General Stuart, effectively helped by Nelson, who there lost the sight
of his right eye.

Subsequent events in Corsica, although of great interest, are not
closely connected with the life of Pitt; and I therefore propose to
describe them and the details of the Quiberon expedition in the volume
entitled "Pitt and Napoleon Miscellanies." In this chapter only the
incidents which more particularly concern Pitt will be noticed.

The attempt to rule that most clannish and suspicious of Mediterranean
peoples first called forth the administrative powers of Sir Gilbert
Elliot, first Earl of Minto. Acting as Viceroy of Corsica, he sought to
promote contentment by promulgating an excellent constitution and
administrative reforms. But, being hampered from the outset by the
factious behaviour of Paoli, he, with the consent of the Cabinet,
deported him to England in the autumn of 1795. An equally serious
complication was the feud between the British army and navy. These
disputes, originating at Toulon, grew apace in Corsica. Elliot sided
with Hood, and was therefore detested by Dundas, his successor, Sir
Charles Stuart, and their coadjutor, Colonel Moore. This brilliant young
officer, by nature somewhat a _frondeur_, was finally guilty of
expressions so disrespectful as to lead to his removal shortly before
that of Paoli. He carried his complaints to Pitt, who bade him set forth
his case dispassionately. Indeed, so impressed was he with Moore's
abilities, that he decided to employ him in the West Indies, and
afterwards advanced him to posts of high importance.

Pitt took little interest in Corsica, leaving it to the intermittent
attentions of Portland. Consequently that interesting experiment had not
a fair chance. The possession of the island was also nearly useless in a
military sense; for the British garrison could spare no detachments,
which, even with the help of the loyal Corsicans, could effectively
harass the French forces campaigning in the Genoese Riviera. Elliot
entered into relations with the Knights of Malta, and in other ways
sought to develop a Mediterranean policy; but in this he met with scant
support from London. In excuse of Pitt it must be said that he had his
hands more than full elsewhere. Moreover the peace between France and
Spain, framed in July 1795, caused him great concern, especially as the
Court of Madrid manifested deep resentment at the British occupation of
Corsica. In October 1795 Pitt inclined strongly towards peace, and
thenceforth carried on the war mainly with a view to securing
indemnities. Corsica apparently he now looked on as burdensome; for in
his speech of 9th December 1795 he did not include it among the three
valued acquisitions of the war--Martinique, Cape Nicholas Mole (in
Hayti), and the Cape of Good Hope. Dundas always looked on the
occupation of Corsica as prejudicial to the colonial efforts which held
the first place in his thoughts. Accordingly it was not utilized in the
spring of 1796, when expeditions ought to have set forth to hamper the
march of Bonaparte's ill-equipped columns along the coast from Nice to

The opportunity then lost was never to return. Bonaparte's triumphs in
Italy enabled him to prepare at Leghorn to deal a blow for the recovery
of his native island. Checked for the time by the other claims of the
war and the presence of Nelson, he kept this aim in view; and the
conquest of North and Central Italy at the close of that campaign
compromised the safety of the small British and _émigré_ force in
Corsica. The final reason, however, for the evacuation of the island was
neither the menace from Italy nor the discontent of the islanders, but
the alliance of Spain with France. As Nelson foresaw, that event
endangered the communications with England. Ministers also knew that a
plan was on foot for a French invasion of Ireland, which, as we shall
see, was attempted at the end of the year. They therefore determined to
concentrate their forces for home defence and the protection of the most
important possessions, a decision which involved the abandonment of the
Mediterranean. Accordingly, on 31st August 1796, Portland sent orders
for the evacuation of Corsica and of Elba. For a few days in the latter
half of October Ministers revoked these orders, and bade Elliot hold
firm, their hope being to tempt the Empress Catharine to active
co-operation against France by the cession of Corsica to her. Whether
that wily potentate saw through this device is doubtful; for she died on
16th November. Her death put an end to the fleeting hope of opposing
France with an equality of force; for the bent of her successor, Paul I,
was at first towards peace.

Despite the comparative neglect of Mediterranean affairs by Pitt at this
time, they exerted a profound influence upon his career. In view of the
many claims upon the British navy, it was perhaps impossible to exert
upon the coast of Nice and Genoa the pressure which Elliot desired; but
the failure to do so in the spring of 1796 enabled Bonaparte to win the
triumphs which changed the history of the world. Further, the British
occupation of Corsica, scarcely less than that of Hayti, aroused keen
jealousy at Madrid, and thus helped to set in motion forces which for
the time checkmated England in the Mediterranean. Not until the
Spaniards were beaten by Jervis and Nelson could she stretch forth her
trident over that sea, first from Minorca and finally from Malta. The
loss of Corsica was keenly felt. For, had England made full use of that
island as a base of operations, Bonaparte could not have carried out his
Egyptian expedition in 1798. Austria also ascribed her overthrow in
Venetia and Styria to the withdrawal of the British fleet from the
Mediterranean. That step seemed a confession of pitiable weakness,
though in reality it enabled the Government to concentrate the fleet at
points more important than Bastia and Ajaccio.

Amidst the disasters at the end of the Flemish campaign of 1794 Pitt
sought to divert the energies of England to a more promising field.
Thwarted on the Lower Rhine by the vacillations of the German Powers and
the torpor of the Dutch, he hoped for success among the Royalists of
Brittany and la Vendée. He framed this decision reluctantly; for it
involved co-operation with the French princes, the Comte de Provence and
the Comte d'Artois, and with the swarms of fanatical _émigrés_ who had
long pestered him with mad projects. Further, he had always been loath
to declare for the restoration of the Bourbons. To do so would be to
flaunt the _fleur-de-lis_ in the face of a nation which hated all that
pertained to the old régime. Besides, it implied a surrender to the
clique headed by Burke and Windham, which scoffed at the compromise
between monarchy and democracy embodied in the French constitution of
1791. Pitt, with his innate moderation and good sense, saw the folly of
these reactionary views and the impossibility of forcing them upon the
French people. Nevertheless, as an experiment in the course of that
bewildering strife, he had recourse to the _émigrés_.

The accession of Windham to the Cabinet, in July 1794, had strengthened
their influence at Westminster; and incidents which occurred in France
during the winter of 1794-5 evinced a decline of Jacobinical enthusiasm.
The sentiment of loyalty, damped by the chilling personality of
Louis XVI and the follies of his brothers, revived now that the little
Louis XVII was being slowly done to death by his gaolers in the Temple.
The rapacity and vulgar ostentation of the Thermidorian party, then in
power, provoked general disgust; and despair of any satisfactory
settlement began to range friends of order on the side of the monarchy.
The late American envoy at Paris, Gouverneur Morris, informed Bland
Burges at our Foreign Office, on 28th June 1795, that the state of
France was so desperate as to admit of cure only by the restoration of
the old dynasty; that the recent death of Louis XVII was a benefit to
the cause inasmuch as his mind had been completely brutalized; and
finally the envoy heartily wished success to every effort to overthrow
the despicable Government at Paris.

Though the Royalist leaders in the west of France early in the year 1795
made a truce with the Republic, yet the resumption of the civil war in
that quarter was known to be only a question of time. Windham,
therefore, urged the despatch of an expedition to Brittany. His royalist
zeal had now developed his powers to their utmost. Early in the course
of the French Revolution the chivalry of his nature detached him from
the Foxites. The glow and beauty of his periods marked him out as the
successor of Burke in the House of Commons; yet in no respect did he
attain complete success. His speeches were too refined and subtle for
that audience; and, worse still, his diffidence or torpor led him often
to miss opportunities of effective intervention. The sensitiveness of
his nature appeared in his falling in love at first sight with a
Highland girl whom Burke and he casually met during a tour. His loss of
her made a painful impression on him.[406] The butt of an unkind fate,
he seemed destined also to be the leader of lost causes; and the proud
and penniless _émigrés_ found in him their most devoted friend.

Despite the opposition of Dundas, and the doubts of Pitt, his views
prevailed; and preparations began for an Anglo-French expedition to the
coast of Brittany. During the winter there had arrived in London a
Breton leader of gigantic stature and considerable mental powers, the
Comte de Puisaye. He had fought devotedly for the constitutional
monarchy in that great province and had the confidence of its
inhabitants, whether nobles or peasants (_Chouans_). But French princes
and the cliques of "pure" Royalists looked on him, as Marie Antoinette
looked on Mirabeau, merely as a rebel who had partly seen the error of
his ways. Secretly they resolved to make use of him, as he had gained
the confidence of Windham and Pitt, but to throw him over at the first

Meanwhile the Cabinet began to equip regiments of French Royalists
destined to form the spearhead of the "Royal and Catholic Army." Various
causes delayed the preparations, the chief being the absence in North
Germany of seasoned corps of _émigrés_ whose presence in Brittany, was
essential. Puisaye therefore urged Ministers to allow him to enrol
recruits from among the French prisoners of war in England--a dangerous
device which, unfortunately, was adopted. Undoubtedly the initiative in
this matter rested with him; and it is noteworthy that other royalist
leaders had tried the plan, hitherto with no untoward results.[407]
Prisoners were not forced into the new corps; but it is clear that some
of them enlisted in order to get back to France. As for the finances of
the enterprise, they were partly met by the manufacture of royalist
_assignats_. Whether they were like the forged _assignats_ manufactured,
with the connivance of Government, near Hexham and Durham, is not clear.
It is alleged by royalist writers that they bore a mark ensuring
identification, so that, in case of a monarchist triumph, they would be
duly honoured. The chief aim, however, certainly was to discredit the
republican notes and to embarrass the Parisian Government. That Pitt
should in any way have countenanced these underhand devices is

Owing to the declaration of war by Holland (May 1795), the vacillations
of Spain, and the determination of George III to keep troops in
Hanover,[408] very few British were available for the enterprise. It is
worth noting that the King disliked the _émigrés_ and often shocked
Windham by assertions at Court that they would prove false. His
influence was used steadily against all attempts in their favour. There
were, indeed, good grounds for suspicion even at this time. Seeing that
Charette and other Breton leaders still observed the truce with the
Republic, the risks of a landing were great; and this explains the
reluctance of the Cabinet to allow the Comte d'Artois to proceed with
the first contingent.[409] It was charged to occupy the Quiberon
Peninsula as a base for further exertions, to supply arms to the
Bretons, and thus prepare for a general rising, the effect of which
would be clinched by the arrival of a larger force. The vanguard set
sail from Spithead on 17th June 1795. It consisted of some 3,800
_émigrés_, under the general command of Puisaye, though by some mistake
in drafting the orders, considerable power was given to Comte
d'Hervilly, the senior officer of the subsidized regiments. At first all
went well. The convoying fleet under Lord Bridport, after capturing
three French sail-of-the-line off l'Orient, made Quiberon Bay and
assisted in the capture of Fort Penthièvre, commanding the narrow
isthmus (3rd July).

Disputes now began between Puisaye and Hervilly, the former desiring to
push on boldly, while the latter insisted on remaining in the peninsula.
Time was thus given for the republican general, Hoche, to collect his
forces and make spirited attacks upon the invaders, who soon fell a prey
to schism and discouragement. The doom of the expedition was decided by
the treacherous surrender of the fort to Hoche's men at the close of a
night attack (21st July). As day dawned the Republicans drove their foes
into the peninsula. Wild scenes of panic ensued. A storm having
compelled the larger British warships to keep in the offing, Puisaye
went off in a boat to beg succour from Admiral Warren. The defence
speedily collapsed. De Sombreuil, who was left in command near the tip
of the tongue of land, unaccountably surrendered, though a British
corvette, the "Lark," and gunboats were effectively covering his flank.
At the instigation of Tallien, the French Convention disavowed the
promise of its officers at Quiberon to spare the lives of those who laid
down their arms; and 712 Royalists were shot down in cold blood at Auray
and neighbouring places.

The evidence proves that the Pitt Ministry had done its best for this
expedition, which went to pieces owing to the quarrels of its leaders
and the refusal of Charette to stir a finger on behalf of Puisaye, whom
he detested. For the final massacre Tallien and the French Convention
are wholly responsible. Yet it suited the tactics of the English
Opposition to accuse Pitt of planning the death of the French Royalists.
Fox, in one of his wildest outbreaks, charged Ministers with
deliberately sending noble gentlemen to a massacre. Sheridan, too,
declared that, though British blood had not flowed, yet "British honour
had bled at every pore." These reckless mis-statements have been refuted
by the testimony of La Jaille, Vauban, and Puisaye, royalist officers
who escaped.

Before these horrible events were known in England, Ministers prepared
to succour the vanguard at Quiberon. News that Spain had made peace with
France in a highly suspicious manner weakened this second effort, it
being necessary to safeguard the British West Indies from a probable
attack by the Spaniards. As no more than four newly raised British
regiments could be spared for the Biscay coast, the Earl of Moira threw
up the command, which General Doyle then accepted. It seems probable
that by 3rd August Pitt doubted the expediency of sending a second
expedition to Brittany or la Vendée. Nevertheless, the Comte d'Artois,
who about that time arrived at Spithead from North Germany with a force
of _émigrés_, desired to make the venture, relying on Charette, and
other royalist chiefs who had once more aroused the men of the West. The
Count also cherished the hope that the numerous bands of malcontents in
Paris would overthrow that tottering Government.

Events turned out otherwise. The first plan, that of occupying
Noirmoutier, an island close to the Vendéan coast, proving
impracticable, Doyle sailed to a smaller island, Yeu, farther out at
sea. There the 5,500 troops, miserably cramped and underfed, waited
until the Comte d'Artois should make good his boast of throwing himself
into a boat, if need be, in order to join his faithful Charette. It was
soon apparent that he preferred to stay in Yeu with his mistress, Mme.
Polastron. In vain did the Bretons under Puisaye and Vauban, and the
Vendéans under Charette, beg him to join them. Meanwhile, amid the early
autumn rains the troops deteriorated, and the royalist rising at Paris
proved a miserable fiasco, some 30,000 National Guards being scattered
by a small force well handled by Bonaparte and Barras (5th October).
Finally, a deputation of Bretons proceeded to Yeu, and begged Artois to
place himself at the head of the numerous bands of devoted gentlemen and
peasants who still awaited his appearance. All was in vain. _Je ne veux
pas aller Chouanner_ (play the Chouan) was his reply (12th November). On
the morrow he informed Vauban that he had received orders from England
to return at once. This assertion was at the time generally believed to
be false; the letters of Grenville to the Prince prove it to be grossly
exaggerated. To the despair and disgust of his soldiers he departed, and
finally sought refuge from his creditors in Holyrood Castle. The British
and French royalist regiments were withdrawn with much difficulty during
the storms of December 1795. Nearly all the horses had to be destroyed.

Undoubtedly Pitt and Grenville had become disgusted with the torpor of
Artois and the follies of the French Royalists. In particular the absurd
failure at Paris seems to have prompted the resolve of the Cabinet to
withdraw the British troops from Yeu. Pitt's letters of the latter half
of October also evince a desire to pave the way for some understanding
with the French Directory. As that Government was firmly installed in
power, an opportunity presented itself, for the first time since the
opening of the war, of arranging a lasting peace. These hopes were to be
blighted; but it is certain that Pitt cherished them; and, doubtless,
among the motives operating in favour of peace the foremost was a
feeling of disgust at the poltroonery of the French Princes and the
incurable factiousness of their followers, in whom the faculties which
command success were lost amidst vices and perversities sufficient to
ruin the best of causes. Pitt continued to support the Chouans by money
and arms; but, despite the frequent protests of Windham, not a British
soldier was landed on that coast.[410]


[397] "F. O.," Holland, 57.

[398] "Cape Records," i, 98.

[399] "W. O.," vi, 67.

[400] "Cape Records," i, 17, 22.

[401] "Cape Records," i, 23-6, 138-40; Cory, "Rise of South Africa," i,
ch. ii.

[402] "W. O.," i, 323. In "F. O.," Holland, 57, is a memorial of
Elphinstone and Craig to Grenville, stating why they had detained at the
Cape the U. S. ship "Argonaut," whose owners now prosecuted them for

[403] "South Africa a Century ago." By Lady Anne Barnard.

[404] "F. O.," Prussia, 70. Pitt to Harrowby, 27th October 1805.

[405] "Nelson Despatches," ii, 5.

[406] "Corresp. of Sir John Sinclair," i, 141-3.

[407] Puisaye, "Mems.," ii, 594-603; Forneron, "Hist. des Emigrés," ii,
13, 14.

[408] Cornwallis, "Corresp.," iii, 289.

[409] "F. O.," France, 44. Grenville to d'Harcourt, 19th June 1795.

[410] On 19th January 1798 Pitt, Windham, and Canning agreed to give
£9,082 and £9,400 for the discharge of debts due for services of the
Royalists in France, incurred in England and France respectively,
leaving a balance of £8,000 for future payment. The following sums were
paid to the Duc d'Harcourt for the support of "Monsieur": in 1796,
£3,000; in 1797, £9,000; and after May 1798 at the rate of £500 per
month (B.M. Add. MSS., 37844). I have not found the sums allowed to the
Comte d'Artois.



    Si vous affaiblissez vos moyens en partageant vos forces, si
    vous rompez en Italie l'unité de la pensée militaire, je vous le
    dis avec douleur, vous aurez perdu la plus belle occasion
    d'imposer des lois à l'Italie.... La guerre est comme le
    gouvernement, c'est une affaire de tact.--NAPOLEON, _Letters of
    14th May 1796_.

In estimating the services of Pitt as War Minister during the first
phases of the conflict we must remember that the ambition of his life
was to be a Peace Minister. Amidst the exhaustion caused by the American
War, he deemed it essential to ensure the continuous growth of savings
and investments which, under favourable conditions, advance at the rate
of Compound Interest. His success in the time of peace 1783-93, may be
measured by the fact that, despite the waste of war, the rate of
progress was not seriously checked in the years 1793-6. A Scotsman,
MacRitchie, who travelled through England in 1795[411] was surprised to
find the large towns in a most flourishing state; and it is well known
that the exports of cottons largely increased in the last decade of the
century. Seeing that the war became "a contention of purse," the final
triumph of England may be ascribed to the reserve of strength which Pitt
had helped to assure. He did not live on to witness the issue of the
economic struggle brought about by the Continental System of Napoleon.
But a study of the commercial war of the years 1806-13 shows that Pitt's
forethought enabled Britain to foil the persistent efforts of her
mightiest enemy.

Military critics will, however, reply that Pitt's economies in the
earlier period so far weakened her army as to lead to the failures of
the Revolutionary War. There is some force in this contention. A closer
examination, however, will reveal facts that necessarily weaken it.
Firstly, England had never kept up a large army in time of peace.
Dislike of a standing army was almost inconceivably strong; and it is
certain that an attempt by Pitt to maintain an army in excess of the
ordinary peace establishment would have aroused a powerful opposition.
He therefore concentrated his efforts on the navy; and the maritime
triumphs of the war were due in the last resort to his fostering care.
As for the army, he kept it at its normal strength until the spring of
the year 1792, when he decided to effect some reductions. In one sense
this decision is creditable to him. It proves that he neither desired
nor expected a rupture with France. In his view the risks of war were
past. After his surrender to the Empress Catharine in 1791 peace seemed
assured. Further, his decision to reduce the British Army was formed
before the declaration of war by France against Austria (20th April
1792). After the rupture of France with Sardinia and Prussia it appeared
the height of madness for a single disorganized State to enlarge the
circle of its enemies. Consequently, up to the second week of November
1792, Pitt and Grenville were fully justified in expecting the duration
of peace for Great Britain. Here, as at many points in the ensuing
struggle, it was the impossible which happened.

Is Pitt to be blamed for effecting economies which led to a reduction of
taxes and an alleviation of the burdens of the poor? The chief danger of
the years 1791, 1792 came not from the French Jacobins, but from their
British sympathizers; and experience warranted the belief that, with a
lightening of the financial load, the nation would manifest its former
loyalty. On 23rd August 1791 Grenville wrote: "Our only danger is at
home, and for averting that danger, peace and economy are our best
resources."[412] These considerations are political rather than
military. But it is impossible to separate the two spheres. The strength
of the army depends ultimately on the strength of the nation.

It is also well to remember that systematic preparation for war was an
outcome of that struggle. Conscription was a bequest of the French
Revolution. Planned first by Carnot, it was carried out by Dubois Crancé
and others in 1798. But in 1793 the days of large armies had not dawned.
It was usual to maintain small forces of professional soldiers, together
with a more or less inefficient militia. In England methods not unlike
those of the age of Falstaff still held good. War was an adventure, not
a science. In France first it became an intensely national effort. The
Jacobins evoked the popular enthusiasm; the Committee of Public Safety
embodied it in citizen armies; and the science of Carnot and Napoleon
led them to victories which shattered the old-world systems and baffled
the forecasts of Pitt.

Let us briefly survey the conduct of the war by Pitt in its chief stages
up to the year 1798. The first period is from the declaration of war in
February 1793, to the Battle of Fleurus, near the close of June 1794. At
the outset he is alarmed by the irruption of Dumouriez into Holland, and
hastily sends a small British force under the Duke of York, solely for
the defence of Helvoetsluys and its neighbourhood. It answers its
purpose; the French are held up at the Hollandsdiep, while the Austrians
crush their main force at Neerwinden. Thereupon Coburg claims the Duke's
assistance in driving the Republicans from the fortresses of French
Flanders. Pitt and his colleagues give their assent, because the
enterprise seems easy after the defection of Dumouriez, and Dunkirk is a
tempting prize near to hand, but mainly owing to their urgent desire
that Austria shall find her indemnity not in Bavaria, but in the French
border fortresses. Thus, for reasons which are political, rather than
military, the Cabinet embarks an insufficient force on what proves to be
a lengthy and hazardous enterprise. Further, while the British push on,
Prussia holds back; so that the Duke of York virtually takes the place
of the Prussian contingent. Unaware of the duplicity of Berlin, and
trusting that the Allies will soon master the border strongholds, Pitt
and Dundas prepare to harry the coasts of France, and to secure her most
valuable colony, Hayti. These are their chief aims in the war. But,
while preparing maritime expeditions, they also drift into a continental
campaign, from which they find it hard to withdraw.

The efforts put forth at Toulon and in Corsica were the outcome of the
treaties with Austria, Sardinia, and Naples, which required the
appearance of a British fleet off the coasts of France and Italy. While
seeking to strengthen both the Coalition and the Royalists of Provence,
Admiral Hood's force found an unexpected sphere of action at Toulon. In
August 1793 that city admitted the British troops and a Spanish force a
few days later. Thereupon Pitt claimed the help which he had a right to
expect from his Allies. Naples and Sardinia sent contingents deficient
in quality or numbers; and the Court of Vienna, after promising to send
5,000 troops from the Milanese, neglected to do so. Quarrels and
suspicions hampered the defence; but the arrival of the Austrian
contingent would probably have turned the scale. Owing to the length of
time required for despatches from Toulon to reach London, Pitt and his
colleagues did not hear of the remissness of Austria until 22nd
December, that is, five days after the fall of that stronghold. Had they
known it a month earlier, they could have sent thither the large force,
then mustering in the Solent, which on 26th November set sail for the
West Indies.

This seems an unpardonable diffusion of efforts. But Ministers must
already have regretted their readiness to take up the duties incumbent
on Prussia in Flanders; and doubtless they resolved not to play the part
of the willing horse at Toulon. In the early days of every league there
comes a time when an active Power must protest against the shifty ways
which are the curse of Coalitions. Besides, Pitt had to keep in view the
interests of Great Britain. These were, firstly, to guard the Low
Countries against French aggression, and, secondly, to gain an indemnity
for the expenses of the war either in the French West Indies, or in
Corsica. The independence of the Low Countries was a European question.
The maritime conquests concerned England alone. Were Britons to shelve
their own interests for a question of international import? The
statesman who does so will not long hold the reins at Westminster.
Besides, no device for weakening France was deemed more effective than
that of seizing her wealthiest group of colonies. On the other hand,
there was pressing need of armed help for the Royalists of Brittany; and
on this ground we must pronounce the West India enterprise ill timed. A
still worse blunder was the continued inactivity of Moira's force in the
Solent and the Channel Islands. The reports of an intended French
invasion form a wholly inadequate excuse for his inaction. His troops
could have rendered valuable service either in Brittany, Flanders, or at
Toulon. The riddle of their inaction has never been solved. Ultimately
the blame must rest with Pitt, Dundas, and Lord Chatham.[413]

In 1794 Pitt hoped to retrieve the failures of the first campaign and to
wear down the French defence. For this purpose he liberally subsidized
Austria and concluded with Prussia a treaty which, with better
management, might have brought a second highly efficient army into
Flanders. The compacts of that springtide warranted the hope that
340,000 allied troops would advance on the north and north-east
frontiers of France. They were not forthcoming; but, even as it was, the
Imperialists and the Duke of York routed the French levies in Flanders
and seemed about to open the way to Paris. Earl Howe's victory, named
"the glorious first of June," ensured supremacy in the Channel. Brittany
and la Vendée were again aflame. The Union Jack replaced the tricolour
on the strongholds of Corsica and in the most fertile parts of the West
Indies. In April-May 1794 the collapse of the Jacobins seemed imminent.

But these early triumphs of the Allies were almost as fatal as their
later disasters. Indeed they were largely the cause of them. Believing
that they had the game in their hands, Prussia and Austria relaxed their
efforts at the very time when France girded herself for a mightier
struggle. Moreover, the emergence of the Polish Question in an acute
phase served once again to distract the German rivals and to weaken
their efforts in the West. Moreover, the Anglo-Prussian Treaty of May
1794 prescribing the valley of the Meuse as the sphere of action of the
62,400 Prussians subsidized by England and Holland was so rigid as to
furnish their generals with good excuses for refusing to march from the
Palatinate across the front of the French columns now pressing forward.
The upshot was that England and the Dutch Republic got nothing in return
for their subsidies, while the Prussians on their side chafed at the
insistent demands from London and The Hague for the exact fulfilment of
the bargain. The situation was annoying for military men; and the
British Government erred in tying them down too stringently to a flank
march, which was fraught with danger after the long delay of Pitt in
ratifying the compact (6th-23rd May); while the postponement in the
payment of the first subsidies gave the Prussians a good excuse for
inaction.[414] His remonstrance to the Prussian envoy in London, at the
close of September 1794, was also unwise. For it exceeded the more
measured protests of Grenville, and furnished the Berlin Court with the
desired excuse for recalling its troops from the Rhine. In short, the
campaign of 1794 failed, not so much because the French were in superior
force at the battles of Turcoing and Fleurus, as because the Allies at
no point worked cordially together. The intrusion of political motives
hampered their generals and turned what ought to have been an
overwhelming triumph into a disgracefully tame retreat.

The disasters at Turcoing and Fleurus open up the second stage of the
war. Realizing more and more the difficulty of defending Holland and
Hanover, Pitt seeks to end that campaign and to concentrate on colonial
enterprises and the war in Brittany and la Vendée. Experience of the
utter weakness of his Administration for purposes of war also leads him
to strengthen it at the time of the union with the Old Whigs. They
demanded that their leader, the Duke of Portland, should take the Home
Office. On Dundas demurring to this, Grenville generously assented to
Pitt's suggestion that he should vacate the Foreign Office (6th July).
Fortunately the Duke declined to take it; and Pitt resolved to make
drastic changes, especially by curtailing the functions of the Secretary
of State for Home Affairs, and creating a War Ministry of Cabinet rank.
Some change was clearly requisite; for of late Dundas had supervised
internal affairs, including those of Ireland, as well as the conduct of
the war; as Treasurer of the Navy he managed its finances, and, as
President of the India Board, he sought to control the affairs of that
Empire. As for the War Office, it was a petty office, controlled by a
nonentity, Sir Charles Yonge, who was soon to be transferred to the

In the haphazard allotment of military business to the
Commander-in-Chief, Amherst, to the head clerk of the War Office, Yonge,
and to the overworked pluralist, Dundas, we discern the causes of
disaster. The war with France being unforeseen, Pitt had to put up with
these quaint arrangements; but the reverses in Flanders and the incoming
of the Portland Whigs now enabled him to reduce chaos to order. He
insisted that the Secretary of State for Home Affairs should cease to
direct the course of the war, but consented that colonial business
should fall to his lot. On the other hand he greatly enlarged the
functions of the War Office. His will prevailed. On 7th July Portland
agreed to become Home Secretary, while his supporter, Windham, came into
the re-organized War Office as Secretary at War, Dundas becoming
Secretary of State for War and the Colonies. Despite the obvious need of
specializing and strengthening these Departments, the resistance of
Dundas was not easily overcome. His letter to Pitt on this subject
betrays a curious cloudiness of vision on a subject where clearness is

                                  Wimbledon, _July 9, 1794_.[415]

    ... The idea of a War Minister as a separate Department you must
    on recollection be sensible cannot exist in this country. The
    operations of war are canvassed and adjusted in the Cabinet, and
    become the joint act of His Majesty's servants; and the Secy of
    State who holds the pen does no more than transmit their
    sentiments. I do not mean to say that there is not at all times
    in H. M.'s Councils some particular person who has, and ought to
    have, a leading and even an overruling ascendency in the conduct
    of public affairs; and that ascendency extends to war as it does
    to every other subject. Such you are at present as the Minister
    of the King. Such your father was as Secretary of State. Such
    you would be if you was Secretary of State, and such Mr. Fox
    would be if he was Secretary of State and the Duke of Bedford
    First Lord of the Treasury. In short it depends, and must ever
    depend, on other circumstances than the particular name by which
    a person is called; and if you was to have a Secretary of State
    for the War Department tomorrow, not a person living would ever
    look upon him, or any other person but you, as the War Minister.
    All modern wars are a contention of purse, and unless some very
    peculiar circumstance occurs to direct the lead into another
    channel, the Minister of Finance must be the Minister of War.
    Your father for obvious reasons was an exception to the rule.

    It is impossible for any person to controvert the position I now
    state; and therefore, when you talk of a War Minister, you must
    mean a person to superintend the detail of the execution of the
    operations which are determined upon. But do you think it
    possible to persuade the public that such a separate Department
    can be necessary? Yourself, so far as a general superintendence
    is necessary, must take that into your own hands. If it was in
    the hands of any other, it would lead to a constant wrangling
    between him and the various Executive Boards.

The illogicality of this letter would be amusing if it had not been so
disastrous. Because war depends ultimately on money, therefore (said
Dundas) the Chancellor of the Exchequer ought to control its operations
and act virtually as Secretary of State for War. Then why not also as
First Lord of the Admiralty? No sooner is the question formulated than
we see that Dundas is confusing two very different things, namely,
general financial control and the administration of military affairs. In
fact, Dundas still clung to the old customs which allotted to the
Secretaries of State wide and often overlapping duties. He did not see
the need of a specialized and authoritative War Office, though the
triumphs achieved by Carnot and the Committee of Public Safety during
the past twelvemonth might have opened his eyes. Fortunately, Pitt
discerned the necessity of strengthening that Department; and, as we
have seen, he made Dundas and Windham War Ministers, with seats in the
Cabinet. Thus from July 1794 military affairs had a chance of adequate
treatment in that body; and Pitt deserves great credit for remodelling
the Cabinet in a way suited to the exigencies of modern warfare.

Why did he not appoint that experienced soldier, the Marquis Cornwallis,
Secretary of State for War? The answer is that he designed him as
successor to the Duke of York in Flanders. As has already appeared, Pitt
framed this resolve in February 1794, on the return of Cornwallis from
India; and, though rebuffed then, he continued to revolve the matter
until the beginning of the autumn, when the opposition of George III and
of Francis II of Austria prevented the appointment of that experienced
soldier to the supreme command of the Allies. As for the accession of
Windham to the War Department, it seems to have been merely a device to
satisfy the Old Whigs. Probably the question was not even discussed
until 4th July, when the Duke of Portland first named it to Windham. As
it finds no place in the Pitt-Grenville letters until 7th July, we may
infer that Pitt and Dundas accepted Windham with some reluctance as an
ardent partisan of Burke and the _émigrés_. Windham now persistently
urged an expedition to Brittany; and the Quiberon and Yeu enterprises
were largely due to him. Pitt and Dundas, after their experience of the
_émigrés_, had no great hope in these efforts; and after the defection
of Spain they discerned the increasing need of concentrating their
efforts on home defence and operations which safeguarded British
interests in the East and West Indies. To these causes may be ascribed
their decision to withdraw the British force from the island of Yeu. The
indignant letters of Windham to Pitt in 1796-8 show that, after the Yeu
fiasco and the beginning of the peace negotiations with France, his
advice was slighted. His moanings to Mrs. Crewe over the degeneracy of
the age also tell their tale. In October 1796 he merely "drags on" at
the War Office until he sees what turn things will take.

Pitt's determination to ensure efficiency in the services appears from
two incidents of the closing weeks of 1794. He deposed Lord Chatham from
the Admiralty in favour of the far more efficient Lord Spencer; and he
removed the Duke of York from the command in Holland. Another change
remains to be noted, namely, the retirement of the Master General of the
Ordnance. The Duke of Richmond had for some time ceased to attend the
meetings of the Cabinet. During six months Pitt put up with this
peevishness; but on the receipt of alarming news from Holland, he
exerted his authority. On 27th January 1795 he informed Richmond that
his long absence from the Cabinet and his general aloofness would make
his return unpleasant and "embarrassing to public business. This
consideration," he added, "must decide my opinion ... and at this
critical time it seems indispensable to make some such arrangement as
shall substitute some other efficient military aid in so important a
Department."[416] This cutting note produced the desired result.
Richmond resigned and Cornwallis took his place at the Ordnance and in
the Cabinet. No change was more beneficial. During the next three years
the Ministry had the advice of the ablest soldier of the generation
preceding that of Wellington. Unfortunately the Cornwallis letters are
so few that his share in the shaping of war policy is unknown; but it is
clear that he helped Ministers finally to override the resolve of the
King to keep the relic of the British force for the defence of

To conclude the survey of these changes, we may note that the Duke of
York, after returning from Holland, became Commander-in-Chief of the
British army, a situation in which he earned general approbation. Thus,
when it is asserted that Pitt altogether lacked his father's power of
discerning military talents, the reply must be that he rendered an
incalculable service by organizing a competent War Ministry, that he
put the right men in the right place, though at the cost of offending
the King, the Duke of York, a powerful nobleman, and his own brother;
and that he quickly noted the transcendent abilities of Moore even when
under censure for acts of disobedience in Corsica. The results attained
by the elder Pitt were far more brilliant; for he came to the front at a
time when the problems were far less difficult and illusory than those
of the Revolutionary Era; but, if the very diverse conditions of their
times be considered, the services of Pitt will not suffer by comparison
even with those of his father.

                  *       *       *       *       *

The torpor of the Dutch in defending their country and the refusal of
the Duke of Brunswick to organize the defence of North Germany virtually
ended the war on that side. In one respect the defection of Prussia in
April 1795 proved beneficial; for she undertook to keep the States of
North and Central Germany entirely neutral. Had George III condescended
at once to place his Electorate under her covering wing, the whole
British and subsidized force might have been withdrawn in the spring of
that year. Pride, however, for some time held him back from that politic
but humiliating step. Consequently several battalions remained in
Hanover for so long a time as to weaken the blow dealt at Paris through
Quiberon. This was highly prejudicial to the Breton movement, which
would have found in the troops detained in Germany the firm nucleus that
was so much needed. Even after the ghastly failure at Quiberon, had the
French _émigré_ corps arrived at Spithead at the end of July instead of
August, the expedition to the Vendéan coast might have ended
differently. It is usual to blame Pitt or Dundas for the delay in those
preparations. But George must be held finally responsible. As to the
Quiberon disaster, it has been proved to result from the hot-headedness
of Puisaye, the criminal carelessness of Hervilly, and the ceaseless
schisms of the Royalists.

With the alliance of the Dutch and French Republics in May 1795, and the
almost open avowal of the French cause by the Court of Madrid in July,
the war entered upon a third phase. Thenceforth the colonial motive was
paramount at Westminster, for Pitt and his colleagues questioned the
wisdom of holding Corsica. On the other hand they sought to safeguard
India by seizing the Cape of Good Hope, and to preserve Hayti from the
inroads of the French, to whom Spain handed over her possession, San
Domingo. Unfortunately the greater the prominence accorded to colonial
affairs, the wider grew the breach with Spain, until in October 1796 the
Court of Madrid declared war. Is Pitt to be blamed for the rupture with
Spain? From the standpoint of Burke and Windham he is open to grave
censure. Surveying the course of events from their royalist minaret,
these prophets ceased not to proclaim the restoration of the Bourbons to
be the sole purpose of the war. Let there be no talk of indemnities. Be
content with crushing Jacobinism and restoring order. Such was their
contention; and much may be said for it.

On the other hand, we must remember that at first England was not a
principal in the contest. It was thrust upon her by the aggressions of
the Jacobins, and perforce she played a subordinate part in continental
campaigns, the prizes of which Austria and Prussia had already marked
out. The reproaches hurled by Burke and Windham were the outcome of
ignorance as to the aims of the powerful Allies, whose co-operation,
illusory though it came to be, was at that time deemed essential to
success. Further, in striking at the French colonies, Pitt followed the
course successfully adopted by England in several wars. But here again
his difficulties were greater than those of Chatham. Indeed, they were
enhanced by the triumphs of Chatham. Where now could he deal the most
telling blow? Not against Canada; for his father had reft that prize.
The French settlements in the East Indies were of small account. It was
in Hayti, Martinique, and Guadeloupe that French commerce could be
ruined. At them, therefore, he struck. But in so doing he reopened the
old disputes with Spain. In vain did he seek to avert bickerings by
suggesting a friendly understanding about Hayti. Godoy was determined to
bicker. And, as the war changed its character, the old Latin affinities
helped that adventurer to undermine the monarchical league and to draw
back Spain to the traditional connection with France.

The Spanish declaration of war in October 1796 opens the fourth phase of
the struggle. Thenceforth England stood on the defensive in Europe in
order to guard and strengthen her Colonial Empire. She abandoned Corsica
and Elba; she withdrew her fleet from the Mediterranean so that Ireland
might be screened from attack. Pitt's views also underwent a change.
Foreseeing the collapse of Austria, he sought to assure peace with
France and Spain by conquering enough territory oversea to
counterbalance the triumphs of Bonaparte and Moreau in Italy and the
Rhineland. If he could not restore the Balance of Power on the
Continent, he strove to safeguard British interests at all essential
points. Failing to save Holland from the Jacobins' grip, he conquered
and held the Cape. This was the bent of his policy during the peace
overtures of the year 1796. He struggled on reluctantly with the war,
opposing as inopportune the motions of Fox, Grey, or Wilberforce for
peace, but ever hoping that France would be compelled by the pressure of
bankruptcy to come to terms and surrender some of her continental
conquests on consideration of recovering her colonies. Wilberforce heard
him declare that he could almost calculate the time when her resources
would be exhausted. On the philanthropist repeating this at a dinner
party, one of his guests, de Lageard, wittily remarked: "I should like
to know who was Chancellor of the Exchequer to Attila."[418] This remark
shore asunder Pitt's financial arguments and reveals the weak point of
his policy. He conducted the war as if it were a Seven Years' War. It
was a Revolutionary War; and at this very time a greater than Attila was
at hand. Bonaparte was preparing to use the spoils of Italy for the
extension of the arena of strife. Nelson, then seeking to intercept the
supplies of Bonaparte's army in the Riviera, foresaw the danger and thus
graphically summarized it: "Italy is the gold mine; and if once entered,
is without means of resistance." As by a flash we see in this remark and
in that of de Lageard the miscalculation which was to ruin the life work
of Pitt and almost ruin his country.

Despite the opposition of the King and Grenville to the negotiations for
peace, Pitt held firm; and early in 1796 advances were made through
Wickham, our enterprising envoy in Switzerland. They were foredoomed to
failure; on 26th March the Directory declared its resolve to listen to
no proposals involving the surrender of any of the lands incorporated in
France by the terms of the constitution of 1795. This implied that she
would retain the Rhine boundary, along with Savoy, Nice, and Avignon.
Grenville received the news with satisfaction, remarking to Wickham that
the Directory had acted clumsily and "in fact played our game better
than we could have hoped."[419] The effect on public opinion was even
better when it appeared that France expected England to surrender her
colonial conquests. That France should gain enormously on land while the
British acquisitions oversea were surrendered, was so monstrous a claim
as to arouse the temper of the nation. Even Fox admitted that if France
retained her conquests in Europe, England must keep those gained at sea.
As Pitt pointed out in his speech of 10th May 1796, the French demands
blighted all hope of peace; and we must struggle on, "waiting for the
return of reason in our deluded enemy."

Pitt regarded the French conquest of Italy as counterbalanced by the
triumph of Jervis and Nelson at Cape St. Vincent in February 1797; and
he therefore refused to consider the cession of Gibraltar to Spain.
Wholeheartedly he sought for peace in that year. But it was to be peace
with honour. In fact, Great Britain fared better after 1796 than before.
As Allies fell away or joined the enemy, her real strength began to
appear. The reasons for the paradox are not far to seek. Open enemies
are less dangerous than false friends. Further, the complexities of the
war, resulting from the conflicting aims of the Allies, vanished.
England therefore could act in the way in which Pitt would all along
have preferred her to act, namely, against the enemy's colonies. In
Europe her attitude was defensive; and for a time in the summer and
autumn of 1796 fears of invasion were rife. Accordingly the
Quarter-Master-General, Sir David Dundas, drew up a scheme of coast
defence, especially for the district between Pegwell Bay and Pevensey
Bay; he also devised measures for "driving" the country in front of the
enemy. In November of that year he recommended the construction of
batteries or entrenchments at Shooter's Hill, Blackheath, on the hills
near Lee, Lewisham, Sydenham, Norwood, Streatham, Merton, and
Wandsworth. The failure of Hoche's attempt at Bantry Bay and the victory
off Cape St. Vincent somewhat assuaged these fears; but, owing to the
alarming state of Ireland, England remained on the defensive through the
years 1797-8, until Bonaparte's Egyptian expedition enabled her to
strike a crushing blow at the chief colonial enterprise of her
antagonist. That adventure, together with the aggressions of France at
Rome and in Switzerland, aroused the anger or fear of Russia, Austria,
and Naples, and thereby led up to the war of the Second Coalition.

                  *       *       *       *       *

Amidst the conflict of aims which distracted the Allies in the First
Coalition, Pitt's foresight was not seldom at fault. But only those who
have weighed the importance of the diplomatic issues at stake, and have
noted their warping influence on military affairs, have the right to
accuse him of blindness and presumption. The problem before him was of
unexampled complexity, and its solution could be effected only by a
succession of experiments. That he put forth too many efforts at one
time may be granted; and yet in each case, if the details are fully
known, the reasons for making the attempt seem adequate. Did not Chatham
fail in most of the expeditions which he sent against the coasts of
France? Even those who censure Pitt for his blunders in the war will
admit that the inspiring influence of his personality and patriotism
nerved the nation and Parliament for the struggle. True, the Opposition
indulged in petty nagging and in ingeniously unpatriotic tactics; but
they only served to throw up in bold relief the consistent and
courageous conduct of the Prime Minister. It was an easy task to refute
the peevish efforts of Fox to justify the French Jacobins alike before
the war, throughout its course, and in their rejection of the British
overtures for peace. But in every encounter Pitt won more than a
personal triumph. He proved that the war was forced upon us; that on our
side it was a defensive effort; and that despite the perverse conduct of
Prussia and Spain, England had won notable gains oversea and might
expect an advantageous peace, provided only that the nation persevered.

One question remains. Why did not Pitt call the nation to arms? The
reasons for his caution are doubtless to be found in the ingrained
conservatism of the English character, and in the political ferment
which marked the years 1794-5. The mere proposal to merge Line, Militia,
and Volunteers in one national array would have seemed mere madness. For
the populace had recently been protesting against the facilities given
to the loyal to arm and drill themselves. It was rumoured that, by way
of retort, the men of Sheffield, Southwark, and Norwich secretly
mustered for practice with pikes. In such circumstances, conscription
might well spell Revolution. Here was the weak place in Pitt's armour.
By parting company with the reformers, he had embittered no small
section of his countrymen. In 1794, as we have seen, he was considered a
reactionary and an oppressor. He therefore could not appeal to the
nation, as Carnot did in France. Even his Bill of March 1794 for
increasing the Militia by an extension of the old custom of the ballot
or the drawing of lots produced some discontent. A similar proposal,
passed a year earlier by the Dublin Parliament for raising 16,000
additional Militiamen in Ireland, led to widespread rioting, especially
in Ulster. Not until 1797 did the Scottish Militia Act ensure the
adoption of similar methods by Scotland, though regiments of Fencibles
were raised in the meantime.

The preparations for national defence continued to proceed in these
parochial ways. Pitt's authority at Westminster was at no time more
firmly founded than at the time of the meeting of the new Parliament in
the autumn of 1796. Yet the piecemeal methods went on as before. He
proposed to raise by means of the ballot a levy of 15,000 men in order
to recruit the navy and the Line regiments; and he further asked for a
levy of 60,000 men as a Supplementary Militia, one tenth being embodied
by turns so as not to withdraw from work too many hands at one time. Nor
was this all. For the purpose of strengthening the irregular cavalry, he
proposed that every person who kept ten horses should be required to
furnish one horseman and a horse for such a corps, and those who owned
more than ten horses were to subscribe a proportionate sum towards its
maintenance. He also required gamekeepers and those who took out
licenses to shoot either to serve on horseback or to find a substitute.
In all he expected to raise 20,000 horsemen by these means.

The attitude of the House was on the whole highly favourable to these
proposals. Fox accused Ministers of raising an invasion scare in order
to compass their own nefarious designs; but Pitt's first proposals
passed without a division; that on the cavalry by 140 votes to 30.
Nevertheless, Pitt did nothing towards securing cohesion in these
diverse forces, except by a provision which obliged Volunteers to enrol
in the Supplementary Militia, to take the oath as such, and to train by
turns for twenty days at a time in any part of the country, instead of
training once or twice a week in their own towns. This must have been
beneficial where it was carried out; but, as the Militia was controlled
by the Home Office, it is doubtful whether enough energy was thrown into
the scheme to ensure success.

These arrangements are miserably inadequate in comparison with the
_levée en masse_ of Carnot, which baffled the calculations of foreign
statesmen, flung back the armies of the Coalition, and opened up the
path of glory for Bonaparte. Here the popular armament did not become in
any sense national until after the renewal of war in 1803. The
possibilities open to England, even in that trying year 1795, were set
forth by Major Cartwright in a suggestive pamphlet--"The Commonwealth in
Danger." After pointing out that, having been deserted by Prussia and
Spain, we must now depend on ourselves alone, he depicted the contrast
between England and France. The French Republic, relying on the
populace, had more than a million of men under arms. Great Britain was
"a disarmed, defenceless, unprepared people, scarcely more capable of
resisting a torrent of French invaders than the herds and flocks of
Smithfield." How, then, could the danger be averted? Solely (he replied)
by trusting the people and by reviving the ancient laws which compelled
householders to bear arms. But this implied the concession of the
franchise. Be bold, he said. Make the Kingdom a Commonwealth and the
nation will be saved. He continued in these noteworthy words: "The enemy
is at the gates, and we must be friends or perish. Adversity is a school
of the sublime virtues. Necessity is an eloquent reconciler of
differences.... By saying to Britain--Be an armed nation, she secures
her defence and seals her freedom. A million of armed men, supporting
the State with their purse, and defending it with their lives, will know
that none have so great a stake as themselves in the Government....
Arming the people and reforming Parliament are inseparable."

At first sight this seems mere rhetoric, but on reflection it will
appear the path of prudence. By the talisman of trust in the people
France conjured up those armed hosts which overthrew old Europe. At the
stamp of Napoleon's heel a new Europe arose, wherein the most potent
defiance came from the peoples which drew upon their inmost reserves of
strength. That these consist in men, not in money, is clear from the
course of the struggle against the great Emperor. Spain, Russia, and
Prussia adopted truly national systems of defence, and quickly forged to
the front. Britain and Austria clung to their old systems, and, thanks
to Wellington's genius and Metternich's diplomacy, they survived. But
they did not play the decisive part which they might have done if
George III and Pitt, Francis II and Thugut, had early determined to
trust and arm their peoples. Unfortunately for England, she underwent no
military disaster; and therefore Pitt was fain to plod along in the old
paths and use the nation's wealth, not its manhood. He organized it
piecemeal, on a class basis, instead of embattling it as a whole. In the
main his failure to realize the possibilities of the situation arose
from his abandonment of those invigorating principles which nerved him
to the achievements of the earlier and better part of his career. It is
conceivable that, had he retained the idealism of his youth and
discovered a British Scharnhorst, Waterloo might have been fought in
1796 and won solely by British troops.


[411] "Diary of a Tour through Great Britain in 1795," by W. MacRitchie

[412] "Dropmore P.," ii, 172.

[413] In "H. O.," Geo. III (Domestic), 27, are Dundas's instructions to
Moira, dated 20th November 1793, appointing him Major-General in an
expedition to Guernsey, with Admiral MacBride, taking with him a Hessian
corps as soon as it arrives. He is to seize St. Malo or any place near
it suitable for helping the Royalists and harassing the enemy. If he
deems success doubtful, he is to await reinforcements. The aim is to
help the cause of Louis XVII and lead to a general pacification.

[414] "Malmesbury Diaries," iii, 96-8.

[415] Chevening MSS.

[416] Pretyman MSS.

[417] "Cornwallis Corresp.," ii, 289.

[418] "Life of Wilberforce," ii, 92.

[419] Sorel, v, 41; "Wickham Corresp.," i, 269-74, 343. Some
mis-statements of Sorel may be noted here. On pp. 39, 40 of vol. v he
states that Pitt was intent on acquiring Malta and Egypt (though he was
then in doubt whether to retain Corsica): also that, after the insult to
George III in London on 29th October 1795, Pitt proposed a loan of
£18,000,000 and new taxes, which Parliament refused. The facts are that
Pitt asked for that loan on 7th December 1796, and it was subscribed in
twenty-two hours. On the same day Parliament voted the new taxes.



    The Waste Land Bill will turn the tide of our affairs and enable
    us to bear without difficulty the increased burdens of the
    war.--SINCLAIR TO PITT, _13th March 1796_.

On 29th October 1795 occurred an event unparalleled within the memory of
Englishmen then living. An immense crowd, filling the Mall, broke into
loud hissing and hooting when George III left Buckingham House in the
state carriage to proceed to Westminster for the opening of Parliament.
The tumult reached its climax as the procession approached the Ordnance
Office, when a small pebble, or marble, or shot from an air-gun, pierced
the carriage window. The King immediately said to Westmorland, who sat
opposite, "That's a shot," and, with the courage of his family, coolly
leaned forward to examine the round hole in the glass. Similar scenes
occurred on his return to St. James's Palace. The mob pressed forward
with an eagerness which the Guards could scarcely restrain, calling out
"Peace, Peace; Bread, Bread; No Pitt; No Famine." With some difficulty
the gates of the Horse Guards were shut against them. Opposite Spring
Gardens a stone struck the woodwork of the carriage; and the intrepid
monarch alighted at St. James's amidst a commotion so wild that one of
the horses took fright and flung down a groom, breaking his thigh.
Thereafter the rabble set upon the state carriage, greatly damaging it;
and when George later on proceeded in his private carriage to Buckingham
House, he again ploughed his way through a din of curses. Pitt kept
discreetly in the background, or he would have been roughly handled.

A loyalist caricature of the period gives an imaginative version of the
incident. In it Pitt figures as the coachman whipping on the horses of
the royal carriage amidst a shower of stones, eggs, and cats. The King
sits inside absolutely passive, with large protruding eyes; Lansdowne,
Bedford, Whitbread, and others strive to stop the wheels; Fox and
Sheridan, armed with bludgeons, seek to force open the door; while
Norfolk fires a blunderbuss at the King. The sketch illustrates the
fierce partisanship of the time, which stooped to incredibly coarse
charges. But scarcely less strange was the insinuation of Lansdowne,
immediately after the affair, that Ministers had themselves planned it
in order to alarm the public and perpetuate their despotic rule. The
same insinuation found favour with Francis Place, a rabid tailor of
Holborn, and a prominent member of the London Corresponding Society, who
charged Pitt with imperilling the life of George III in order to keep
office. "It is a curious circumstance," he wrote, "that Pitt carried all
his obnoxious measures, silenced or kept down his opponents and raised
vast sums of money by means of the alarms which he and his coadjutors
had created. The war was commenced after an alarm had been created, and
it was kept up by the same means."[420] Fox and his followers often
uttered similar taunts.

The insults to the King were but the climax of an agitation which had
previously gone to strange lengths. On 27th October 1795 the London
Corresponding Society convened a monster meeting in the fields near
Copenhagen House, Islington, in order to protest against the war and to
press for annual Parliaments and universal suffrage. A crowd said to
number nearly 150,000 persons assembled under the chairmanship of John
Binns, and passed an "Address to the Nation," which concluded as
follows: "If ever the British nation should loudly demand strong and
decisive measures, we boldly answer, 'We have lives and are ready to
devote them either separately or collectively for the salvation of our
country.'" Outwardly the meeting was orderly, if that epithet can be
applied to a monster meeting which advocated civil war. But probably
less than one tenth of the assemblage heard the resolution. Equally
threatening was a hand-bill circulated in London on the practice of
"King-killing." Place says nothing about this, and ridicules the
"Address to the Nation" as a foolish production, which he had opposed no
less strongly than the convocation of the meeting. This was the usual
attitude of Place. He sought to figure as the apostle of reasonableness,
deprecating all unwise acts and frothy talk on the part of his
associates, but minimizing the follies of British democrats, which he
usually ascribed to the insidious advice of the emissaries of Pitt.

Let us enlarge our survey. From the Home Office Records it is clear that
dear food and uncertain work had aggravated the political discontent of
the years 1792-4, until the autumn of 1795 witnessed almost an epidemic
of sedition. To take one significant episode. An inflammatory placard,
dated Norwich, 16th October 1795, was widely circulated. That city, as
we have seen, was a hotbed of Radicalism. There it was that the
democratic clubs sought to federate with the view of forming a National
Convention. One of their members, named Besey, now posted up the
following placard. After stating that the prevailing misery is due to
the present unjust and unnecessary war, the number of abuses and
sinecures, and "the monopoly of farms which disgraces this country," it
continues thus: "The Minister would gladly instigate you to riot and
plunder that he might send against you those _valiant_ heroes who
compose his devoted Volunteer corps.... This would accelerate his
darling object of governing us by a military aristocracy. The countries
which supplied us with quantities of corn now groan under the iron yoke
of the Tigress of the North or lie desolate from this infernal war. We
send immense stores to the emigrants and the _Chouans_. Those rebels,
not satisfied with traitorously resisting the constituted authorities of
their country, have desolated the face of it. These honourable Allies
must be fed, as others of the kind are paid, by us." He then urges them
to form popular Societies and demand redress of grievances. He concludes
thus: "You may as well look for chastity and mercy in the Empress of
Russia, honour and consistency from the King of Prussia, wisdom and
plain dealing from the Emperor of Germany, as a single speck of virtue
from our HELL-BORN MINISTER."[421]

In view of these facts, is it surprising that Ministers decided to issue
a royal proclamation against seditious assemblies and the circulation of
treasonable papers? Sheriffs, magistrates, and all law-abiding men were
charged to apprehend those who distributed such papers and to help in
the suppression of seditious meetings (4th November). Six days later
Grenville introduced the Treasonable Practices Bill, while Pitt in the
Commons moved the Seditious Meetings Bill. The Prime Minister stated
that, as soon as the Habeas Corpus Act came again into operation, the
political clubs renewed their propaganda and brought about the present
dangerous situation. In order to suppress gatherings of a definitely
seditious character, he proposed that, before a meeting of more than
fifty persons which was not convened by the local authorities, notice
must be given by seven householders and sent to the magistrates. The
Bill also required the presence of a magistrate, and invested him with
power to stop any speech, disperse the meeting, and order the arrest of
the speaker. But this was not all. The authorities had been alarmed by
the popularity of Thelwall's racy discourses, resumed early in 1795,
which represented Government as the source of all the country's ills.
Whether his sprightly sallies were dangerous may be doubted; but Pitt,
with characteristic lack of humour, paid Thelwall the compliment of
ordaining that lecture-halls must be licensed by two magistrates; and a
magistrate might enter at any time. The Bill was passed for three years.

Equally drastic was the Treasonable Practices Bill. Declaring the
planning or levying war within the kingdom to be an act of substantive
treason, it imposed dire penalties on those who devised evil against the
King, who sought to coerce Parliament or help the invaders. Even those
who spoke or wrote against the constitution came under the penalties for
treason and might be transported for seven years. As Fox indignantly
exclaimed, if he criticized a system which allotted two members to Old
Sarum and none to Manchester, he might be sent to Botany Bay. The alarm
of Pitt at the state of affairs appears in a request which he and
Portland sent to the Duke of York, on 14th November, for reinforcements
of cavalry. They asked him to despatch three troops of the 1st Dragoon
Guards from Romford to Hackney, replacing the Pembroke Fencible Cavalry,
which was utterly useless; to order up two troops of the Cornish
Fencible Cavalry from Barnet to Hampstead and Highgate; to despatch the
11th Light Dragoons from Guildford to Ewell or Kingston, and the 1st
Fencibles from Reading to Uxbridge. These, along with the Lancashire
Militia at Lewisham and Greenwich, and the Guards in London, would
suffice for the crisis.[422]

Such were the conditions under which the debates on the two Bills
proceeded. They turned largely on the connection between the Islington
meeting and the outrage on the King. Canning stoutly affirmed that
connection, which Sheridan and Fox no less vehemently denied.
Wilberforce on this occasion supported the Government. Pitt showed
little zeal in defending his Bill, promising to safeguard the right of
public meeting when lawfully exercised. The debate in the Lords elicited
from the Bishop of Rochester the significant statement that he did not
know what the great mass of the people had to do with the laws except to
obey them. The Earl of Lauderdale pilloried this utterance, thereby
consoling himself for being in a minority of 5. In the Commons Fox
mustered 22, as against 167 for the Government (6th November-14th
December 1795). Meanwhile monster meetings of protest were held on 12th
November and 2nd and 7th December, the two last in Marylebone Fields,
which now form the greater portion of Regent's Park. The orderliness of
these vast throngs, comprising perhaps a quarter of a million of men,
affords a strong argument against the two Acts. Lord Malmesbury much
regretted that there was no rioting, now that all was ready for its
repression. After the passing of those "barbarous bloodthirsty" measures
(as Place called them) the country settled down into a sullen silence.
Reformers limited their assemblies to forty-five members; but even so
they did not escape the close meshes of the law. Binns and Jones,
delegates of the London Corresponding Society who went to Birmingham,
were arrested there; and the Society soon gave up its propaganda. All
but the most resolute members fell away, and by the end of 1796 it was
£185 in debt.[423]

Undoubtedly these measures mark the nadir of Pitt's political career.
Nevertheless, the coincidence between the London Corresponding Society's
meeting at Islington and the attempted outrage on George III was
suspiciously close in point of time; and a dangerous feeling prevailed
throughout the country. Pitt, as we shall see, took steps to alleviate
the distress which was its chief cause; but after the insult to the King
he could not but take precautionary measures against sedition. After
such an incident, a Minister who did nothing at all would be held
responsible if the monarch were assassinated. Some coercive measures
were inevitable; and it is clear that they cowed the more restive
spirits. Among other persons who wrote to Pitt on this topic, Wilson,
formerly his tutor at Burton Pynsent and Cambridge, sent him a letter
from Binfield, in which occur these sentences: "The Sedition Bills also
have had so good an effect. Our farmers can now go to market without
being exposed to the danger of having republican principles instilled
into them while they are dining." Apparently, then, the loyal efforts of
Berkshire magistrates extended to the interiors of inns. Whether the two
Acts were not needlessly prolonged is open to grave question. Certainly,
while driving the discontent underground, they increased its explosive
force. General David Dundas, in his Report on National Defence of
November 1796, states that at no time were there so many people disposed
to help the invaders. Perhaps we may sum up by declaring the two Acts a
disagreeable but necessary expedient during the time of alarm, and
mischievous when it passed away.[424]

The insult to the King was but one symptom of a distemper widely
prevalent. Its causes were manifold. Chief among them was a feeling of
disgust at the many failures of the war. The defection of Prussia and
Spain, the fruitless waste of British troops in the West Indies, the
insane follies of the French _émigrés_, the ghastly scenes at Quiberon,
and the tragi-comedy of Vendémiaire in the streets of Paris, sufficed to
daunt the stoutest hearts. By the middle of the month of October 1795,
Pitt decided to come to terms with France, if the Directory, newly
installed in power, should found a stable Government and exhibit
peaceful tendencies. His position in this autumn is pathetic. Reproached
by the _émigrés_ for recalling the Comte d'Artois from Yeu, taunted by
Fox for not having sought peace from the Terrorists, and reviled by the
populace as the cause of the dearth, he held firmly on his way, shelving
the _émigrés_, maintaining that this was the first opportunity of
gaining a lasting peace, and adjuring the people to behave manfully in
order the more speedily to win it.

This advice seemed but cold comfort to men and women whose hardships
were severe. Political discontent was greatly increased by dear food and
uncertainty of employment. The symptoms had long been threatening. At
midsummer of the year 1795 the men of Birmingham assembled in hundreds
opposite a mill and bakehouse on Snow Hill, crying out: "A large loaf.
Are we to be starved to death?" They were dispersed by armed force, but
not without bloodshed. At that time insubordination in the troops was
met by summary executions or repression at Horsham, Brighton, and
Dumfries. In July a drunken brawl at Charing Cross led to a riot, in the
course of which the mob smashed Pitt's windows in Downing Street, and
demolished a recruiting station in St. George's Fields, Lambeth. The
country districts were deeply agitated by the shortage of corn resulting
from the bad harvest of 1794. A report from Beaminster in Dorset stated
that for six weeks before the harvest of 1795 no wheat remained; and the
poor of that county would have starved, had not a sum of money been
raised sufficient to buy cargoes of wheat which then reached Plymouth.

The suffering was increased by the extraordinary cold of that midsummer
which destroyed hundreds of newly-shorn sheep and blighted the corn.
Driving storms of rain in August laid the crops. On heavy land they were
utterly spoilt, so that even by October the poor felt the pinch. From
all parts there came the gloomiest reports. In Oxfordshire there was no
old wheat left, and the insatiable demands from the large towns of the
north sent up prices alarmingly. In November Lord Bateman wrote from
Leominster that the wheat crop was but two thirds of the average, and,
if Government did not import wheat directly, not through fraudulent
contractors, riots must ensue. Reports from Petworth, East Grinstead,
and Battle told of the havoc wrought by blight and rains. At Plymouth
the price of wheat exceeded all records. Lord Salisbury reported a
shortage of one third in the wheat crop of mid-Hertfordshire. Kensington
sent a better estimate for its corn lands. But the magistrates of
Enfield and Edmonton deemed the outlook so threatening that they urged
Pitt and his colleagues (1) to encourage the free importation of wheat,
(2) to facilitate the enclosure of all common fields and the conversion
of common and waste lands into tillage; (3) to pass an Act legalizing
relief of the poor in every parish by the weekly distribution of bread
and meat at reduced prices in proportion to the size of the family and
of its earnings.[425]

The protests against the Corn Laws are significant. In 1773 the bounty
system of the reign of William III was revised, the average price of
wheat being reckoned at forty-four shillings the quarter. If it fell
below that figure, a bounty of five shillings a quarter was granted on
export, so as to encourage farmers to give a wide acreage to wheat, in
the assurance that in bountiful seasons they could profitably dispose of
their surplus. But when the price rose to forty-four shillings
exportation was forbidden, and at forty-eight shillings foreign corn was
admitted on easy terms so as to safeguard the consumer; for, as Burke
said: "he who separates the interest of the consumer from the interest
of the grower starves the country." Unfortunately, in 1791, Government
raised the price at which importation was allowed to fifty-four
shillings the quarter. The upward trend of prices may have called for
some change; but it was too drastic. In view of the increase of the
manufacturing townships, Pitt should have favoured the import of foreign
corn, though not in such a way as unduly to discourage agriculturists.
England, in fact, was then reaching the stage at which she needed
foreign corn when nature withheld her bounties at home, and it is well
to remember that 1792 was the last year in which England exported any
appreciable amount of wheat. During the Great War she became an
importing country, and at no time was the crisis worse than in the
winter of 1795-6. Early in the year 1796 the best wheat sold at six
guineas the quarter, or four times its present price; the inferior kinds
were very dear, and many poor people perished from want if not from
actual starvation. So grave was the crisis as to evoke a widespread
demand for Free Trade in corn. This feeling pervaded even the rural
districts, a report by John Shepherd of Faversham being specially
significant. In the towns there was an outcry against corn merchants,
who were guilty of forestalling and regrating. Possibly but for these
tricks of trade the supply of home wheat might almost have sufficed.

Pitt seems to have thought so; for he wrote to the Marquis of Stafford,
stating his desire to have powers for compelling exhaustive returns of
the wheat supply to be sent in. On the whole, however, he deemed such an
expedient high-handed and likely to cause alarm. He therefore decided to
call for a special committee to inquire into the high price of corn, and
explained his reasons to the House of Commons on 3rd November 1795. He
urged the need of modifying the old and nearly obsolete law relating to
the assize of bread, and he suggested the advisability of mixing wheat
with barley, or other corn, which, while lessening the price of bread,
would not render it unpalatable. As to prohibiting the distillation of
whiskey, he proposed to discontinue that device after February 1796, so
that the revenue might not unduly suffer. The committee was equally
cautious. In presenting its report eight days later, Ryder moved that
the members should pledge themselves to lessen the consumption of wheat
in their households by one third. These proposals appeared wholly
inadequate to Bankes and Sheridan, who urged that all classes should be
compelled to eat the same kind of bread. Francis, however, asserted that
the poor in his district now refused to eat any but the best wheaten
bread. There was therefore every need for a law compelling bakers to
make bread only two thirds of wheat. Nevertheless, the House agreed to
the proposals of the committee. Members also bound themselves to
forswear pastry, and by all possible means to endeavour to lessen the
consumption of fine wheaten flour. History does not record how far these
resolves held good, and with what hygienic results. An external sign of
the patriotic mania for economy in wheat was the disuse of hair-powder,
which resulted from the tax now imposed on that article. Thus Rousseau,
Pitt, and Nature are largely responsible for a change which in its turn
hastened the disappearance of wigs.

Pitt and his colleagues sought to check the practice of forestalling.
But, as usually happens in a struggle with human selfishness, success
was doubtful. More fruitful was the expedient of attracting foreign corn
by granting large bounties on imports. As if this were not enough,
British warships sometimes compelled neutral corn-vessels, bound for
France, to put in at our harbours and sell their cargoes at the high
prices then prevailing, a high-handed practice which prepared the way
for the Armed Neutrality League of 1800. These exceptional expedients
seem to have been due to what Sheffield called "a sure little
junto,"--Pitt, Ryder, and Jenkinson. He further accused them of taking
the corn trade out of the hands of the merchants and then dropping State
management prematurely. Over against this captious comment may be placed
the undoubted fact that, early in the year 1796, wheat sold at six
guineas the quarter, and by the month of May was down nearly to normal
prices. In that month Pitt deemed the crisis past; for the King's Speech
of 19th May, at the end of the last session of that Parliament,
congratulated members on the success of their efforts to afford relief
to the people. The harvest of 1796 was more abundant; but confidence
was not restored until late in the year. As Whitbread pointed out, the
increase of large farms at the expense of the little men led to the
holding back of the new corn. The small farmer perforce had to sell his
corn at once. The wealthy farmer could bide his time.[426]

In these years of dearth, when the troubles in Poland restricted the
supply of corn from that natural granary, the importance of the United
States became increasingly obvious. Pitt had consistently sought to
improve the relations with our kinsmen, and in 1791 sent out the first
official envoy, George Hammond. The disputes resulting from the War of
Independence and those arising out of the British Maritime Code during
the Great War, brought about acute friction; but the good sense of Pitt,
Washington, and John Jay, his special envoy to London, led to the
conclusion of an Anglo-American Treaty (7th October 1794). Though hotly
opposed by the Gallophil party at Washington, it was finally ratified in
September 1796, and thus postponed for sixteen years the hostilities
which had at times seemed imminent. For the present the United States
sent us an increased quantity of cotton wool, but mere driblets of corn
except in seasons of scarcity. Lancashire benefited from the enhanced
trade, while the British farmer did not yet discern the approach of
times of ruinous competition.[427]

                  *       *       *       *       *

Agriculture had long been an occupation equally fashionable and
profitable. No part of the career of George III deserves more
commendation than his patronage of high farming. That he felt keen
interest in the subject appears from the letters which he sent to "The
Annals of Agriculture" over the signature of "Ralph Robinson," one of
his shepherds at Windsor. A present of a ram from the King's fine flock
of merinos was a sign of high favour. Thanks to this encouragement and
the efforts of that prince of agricultural reformers, Arthur Young, the
staple industry of the land was in a highly flourishing condition. The
rise in the price of wheat now stimulated the demand for the enclosure
of waste lands and of the open or common-fields which then adjoined the
great majority of English villages. The reclamation of wastes and fens
was an advantage to all but the very poor, who, as graziers,
wood-cutters, or fishermen, dragged along a life of poverty but
independence. Though they might suffer by the change to tillage, the
parish and the nation at large reaped golden harvests.

The enclosure of common fields was a different matter. Though on them
the traditional rotation of crops was stupid and the husbandry slipshod,
yet the semi-communal tillage of the three open strips enabled Hodge to
jog along in the easy ways dear to him. In such cases a change to more
costly methods involves hardship to the poor, who cannot, or will not,
adopt the requirements of a more scientific age. Recent research has
also shown that villagers depended mainly on their grazing rights. Now,
a small grazier does not readily become a corn-grower. Even if he can
buy a plough and a team, he lacks the experience needful for success in
corn-growing. Accordingly, the small yeomen could neither compete with
the large farmers nor imitate their methods. While the few who succeeded
became prosperous, the many sank into poverty. These results may also be
ascribed to the expense and injustice too often attending the enclosures
of this period. Far from striking off at one blow the fetters of the old
system, as happened in France in 1789, English law required each parish
to procure its own Enclosure Act. Thus, when the parishioners at the
village meeting had decided to enclose the common fields and waste,
there occurred a long and costly delay until the parochial charter was

Then again, the difficult task of re-allotting the wastes and open
fields in proportion to the rights of the lord of the manor, the
tithe-owner, and the parishioners, sometimes furnished an occasion for
downright robbery of the poor. That staunch champion of high-farming and
enclosures, Arthur Young, names many instances of shameful extortion on
the part of landlord and attorneys. Where the village carried out its
enclosure fairly and cheaply, the benefits were undoubtedly great. The
wastes then became good pasture or tolerable tillage; and the common
fields, previously cut up into small plots, and worked on a wasteful
rotation, soon testified to the magic of individual ownership. A case in
point was Snettisham, near Sandringham, where, as the result of the new
wealth, the population increased by one fifth, while the poor-rate
diminished by one half. Young also declared that large parts of
Norfolk, owing to judicious enclosures, produced glorious crops of grain
and healthy flocks fed on turnips and mangolds, where formerly there had
been dreary wastes, miserable stock, and underfed shepherds.

The dearth of the year 1795 brought to the front the question of a
General Enclosure Act, for enabling parishes to adopt this reform
without the expense of separately applying to Parliament. To devise a
measure suitable to the wide diversities of tenure prevalent in English
villages was a difficult task; but it had been carried out successfully
in Scotland by the Act of 1695; and now, a century later, a similar boon
was proposed for England by one of the most enterprising of Scotsmen.
Sir John Sinclair was born in 1754 at Thurso Castle. Inheriting large
estates in the county of Caithness, he determined to enter political
life, and became member for Lostwithiel, in Cornwall. Differing sharply
from Pitt over the Warren Hastings affair, he adopted the independent
line of conduct natural to his tastes, and during the Regency dispute
joined the intermediate party known as the Armed Neutrality.

Above all he devoted himself to the development of Scottish agriculture,
and began in 1790 a work entitled "A Statistical Account of Scotland."
He also founded a society for improving the quality of British wool, and
in May 1793 he urged the Prime Minister to incorporate a Board of
Agriculture. Young bet that Pitt would refuse; for, while favouring
commerce and manufactures, he had hitherto done nothing for the plough.
He lost his bet. Pitt gave a conditional offer of support, provided that
the House of Commons approved. The proposal won general assent, despite
the insinuations of Fox and Sheridan that its purpose was merely to
increase the patronage at the disposal of the Cabinet. Sinclair became
president, with Young as secretary.[428] The Englishman complained that
Sinclair's habit of playing with large schemes wasted the scanty funds
at their disposal. But the Board did good work, for instance, in setting
on foot experiments as to the admixture of barley, beans, and rice in
the partly wheaten bread ordained by Parliament in 1795.

With the view of framing a General Enclosure Act, Sinclair sought to
extract from parochial Enclosure Acts a medicine suitable to the myriad
needs and ailments of English rural life. His survey of typical
enactments is of high interest. He summarizes the treatment accorded to
the lord of the manor, the rector or other tithe owner, and the
parishioners. Thus, in the case of three parishes near Hull, namely,
Hessle, Anlaby, and Tranley, the wastes and open fields, comprising
3,640 acres, were divided by an act of the year 1792 in a way which
seems to have given satisfaction. Commissioners appointed by the local
authorities divided the soil among the lords of the manors, the
tithe-owners, and the parishioners, the landlords retaining half of
their portions in trust for the poor. Other instances, however, reveal
the difficulty of the question of tithes. Young and Sinclair felt
bitterly on this subject, as their recent proposal to give a detailed
description of the lands of every parish in England was successfully
opposed by Dr. Moore, Archbishop of Canterbury.

Pointing out the need of a General Enclosure Act, Sinclair claimed that
of the 22,107,000 acres of waste in England and Wales, a large portion
could be afforested, while only one million acres were quite useless--a
very hopeful estimate.[429] In order to investigate this question, a
Select Committee was appointed, comprising among others Lord William
Russell, Ryder, Carew, Coke of Norfolk, Plumer, and Whitbread. The
outcome of its research was the General Enclosure Bill introduced early
in the session of 1796, which elicited the sanguine prophecy of its
author quoted at the head of this chapter.

The measure aroused keen interest. On 15th March the London Court of
Aldermen urged its members to assist in passing some such measure with a
view to increasing the food supply, and providing work for the poor, as
well as for soldiers and sailors discharged at the peace. The proposals
were as follows: The present method of enclosure would be extended so as
to enable the parties concerned to frame an inexpensive and friendly
agreement. In case of disagreement the Bill would enable the majority of
the parishioners, voting, not by head, but according to the value of
their rights, to decide on the question of enclosure. But, in order to
safeguard the rights of the poor, the choice of commissioners charged
with the duty of re-allotting the soil would rest with the majority,
reckoned both according to heads and value. The lord of the manor could
not veto enclosure; but his convenience was specially to be consulted in
the re-apportionment of the land. Sinclair also pointed out to Pitt
that, as tithe-owners were now "much run at," their interests must be
carefully guarded. As for the cottagers, they would find compensation
for the lapse of their fuel rights by the acquisition of small
allotments near to their cottages. The poor also would not be charged
with the expenses of enclosure, and might raise money on loan to fence
the plots awarded to them in lieu of their share in the waste and the
open fields. To insist, said Sinclair, on four acres being annexed to
every cottage was really harmful. Finally he expressed the hope that,
under his plan, the legal expenses of enclosure would on an average be
£5 per parish as against the present burden of £500.[430]

Pitt's treatment of the General Enclosure Bill is somewhat obscure.
Again and again Sinclair urged him to greater activity. In April 1796 he
begged him to consult with the judges so as to meet the objections of
tithe-owners. In May he warned him of the general disappointment that
must ensue if no measure of that kind passed in that session. He asked
him whether the Bill, as now amended by the committee, would not answer
its purpose. Pitt gave no encouraging sign. On the contrary, he
gratified the country gentlemen by opposing a Bill for the Reform of the
Game Laws. The proposer, Curwen, sought merely to legalize the killing
of game started on ground farmed by the occupier. But the squires took
alarm, asserting that every small farmer could then pursue hares and
rabbits from his ground into their preserves, and that country life, on
those terms, would be intolerable. Pitt took their side, averring that
sport was a relaxation well suited to the higher Orders of State, but
likely to entice farmers away "from more serious and useful
occupations." Much may be forgiven to a Prime Minister shortly before a
General Election, which, in fact, gave to Pitt a new lease of power.

To Sinclair the election brought defeat and chagrin. He travelled
northward to the Orkneys to seek a seat there, and, writing from
Edinburgh on 6th July, tartly informed Pitt of his rejection after a
journey of nearly a thousand miles. He must (he adds) either obtain a
seat elsewhere, or take no further interest in the Board of
Agriculture. If Pitt approves of his labour at the Board, will he show
it in some way? "If, on the other hand," he continues, "you feel the
least hesitation about giving it support, your candour, I am persuaded,
will induce you to inform me at once, that I may no longer be tempted to
waste so much time and labour in such pursuits.... I still flatter
myself, however, that you will see the object in such a light that you
will give the President of the Board of Agriculture a seat either in the
Upper or the Lower House, that he may be encouraged to carry on the
concerns of that useful institution with redoubled energy." Pitt's
comment on the back of the letter is suggestive: "That he has lost his
election, but flatters himself that a seat will be given him either in
the _Lower_ or Upper House, or he must decline taking further concern in
the proceedings of the Board of Agriculture." A little later Sinclair
renewed his appeal for a seat either at Midhurst, or in Scotland.
Failing that, he hinted that the President of the Board of Agriculture
ought to be a Peer. Is it surprising that Pitt fulfilled the suggestion
by giving his influence in favour of Lord Somerville, who displaced
Sinclair at the Board in 1798? Loughborough it was who suggested the
change;[431] but Pitt must have approved it; and thereafter the Board

In truth the thane of Thurso had become a bore. His letters to Pitt teem
with advice on foreign politics and the distillation of whisky, on new
taxes and high farming, on increasing the silver coinage and checking
smuggling, on manning the navy and raising corps of Fencibles. Wisdom
flashing forth in these diverse forms begets distrust. Sinclair the
omniscient correspondent injured Sinclair the agrarian reformer. Young
treated the Prime Minister with more tact. His letters were fewer, and
his help was practical. A pleasing instance of this was his presence at
Holwood in April 1798, when Pitt was draining the hillside near his
house, so as to preserve it from damp and provide water for the farm and
garden below. Young drew up the scheme, went down more than once to
superintend the boring and trenching, and then added these words: "I beg
you will permit me to give such attention merely and solely as a mark of
gratitude for the goodness I have already experienced at your

Sinclair, now member for Petersfield, brought his General Enclosure Bill
before Parliament in 1797. In order to meet the objections of
tithe-owners and lawyers, he divided it into two parts, the former
applying to parishes where all the persons concerned were unanimous, the
latter where this was not the case. Even so the measure met with
opposition from the legal profession; and on 13th May he wrote to Pitt
expressing deep concern at the opposition of the Solicitor-General. In
July he besought Pitt to make the Bill a Cabinet measure in order to
"prevent either legal or ecclesiastical prejudices operating against
it." Nevertheless Pitt remained neutral, and the Bill was lost in the
Lords, mainly owing to the opposition of the Lord Chancellor.[433] In
December Sinclair announced his intention of bringing in a Bill for the
improvement of waste land; but, he added significantly, "I should be
glad previously to know whether it is your intention to support that
measure or not." Pitt gave no sign, and the proposal did not come

Pitt's treatment of one of the most important questions of that time
deserves censure. We may grant that the fussiness of Sinclair told
against his proposals. It is also true that the drafting of a Bill
applicable to every English parish was beset with difficulties, and that
enclosures, while adding greatly to the food supply of the nation, had
for the most part told against the independence of the poorer villagers.
But this was largely due to the expense and chicanery consequent on the
passing of parochial Acts of Parliament; and what objections were there
to facilitating the enclosure of wastes and open fields by parishes
where everyone desired it? In such a case it was the bounden duty of
Parliament to end the law's delays and cheapen the procedure.

That Pitt did little or nothing to avert the hostility of bishops and
lawyers in the Upper House convicts him either of apathy or of covert
opposition. He is largely responsible for the continuance of the old
customs, under which a parish faced the expense of procuring a separate
Act of Parliament only under stress of severe dearth; and, as a rule,
the crisis ended long before the cumbrous machinery of the law enabled
the new lands to come under the plough. It is, however, possible that he
hoped to inaugurate a system of enclosures of waste lands by a clause
which appeared in his abortive proposals of the year 1797 for the relief
of the poor. His Bill on that subject comprised not only very generous
plans of relief, but also the grant of cows to the deserving poor, the
erection of Schools of Industry in every parish or group of parishes,
and facilities for reclaiming waste land. His treatment of the question
of poor relief is too extensive a subject to admit of adequate
description here; but I propose to return to it and to notice somewhat
fully the criticisms of Bentham and others.[434] It must suffice to say
that the draft of that measure bespeaks a keen interest in the welfare
of the poor, and indeed errs on the side of generosity. Abbot,
afterwards Lord Colchester, was asked by Pitt to help in drafting the
Poor Bill; and he pronounced it "as bad in the mode as the principles
were good in substance."[435]

After the withdrawal of Pitt's Poor Bill, nothing was done to facilitate
enclosures until the accession of Addington to power. His General
Enclosure Act of the year 1801 afforded timely relief in the matter of
food-supply, a fact which shows that the difficulties in the way of such
a measure were far from serious. The passing of that Bill, it is true,
was helped on by the terrible dearth of that year, when the average
price of wheat was close on 116 shillings the quarter. But Pitt was
content to meet the almost equally acute crisis of 1795-6 by temporary
shifts, one of which exasperated the neutral States of the North and
prepared the way for the renewal of the hostile League of the Baltic.


[420] B.M. Add. MSS., 27808.

[421] "H. O.," Geo. III (Domestic), 36.

[422] "H. O.," (Departmental), Secs. of State.

[423] B.M. Add. MSS., 27808; "Hist. of the Two Acts," 330 _et seq._

[424] Pitt MSS., 190; "W. O.," 113.

[425] "H. O.," Geo. III (Domestic), 36.

[426] "Parl. Hist.," xxxii, 235-42, 687-700, 1156; Tooke, "Hist. of
Prices," i, 185 _et seq._; Porter, "Progress of the Nation," 147, 452.

[427] "Dropmore P.," iii, 87, 243, 526-30; "Report of the American Hist.
Assoc." (1903), ii, 67-9, 354, 375, 440 _et seq._, 552-8; E. Channing,
"United States," 148-50; Cunningham, 512, 694.

[428] "Mems. of Sir John Sinclair," i, ch. iv; ii, ch. i.

[429] "Mems. of Sir John Sinclair," ii, 60-4, 104; Sinclair,
"Address ... on the Cultivation of Waste Lands (1795)"; "Observations
on ... a Bill for facilitating the Division of Commons." He first urged
this on Pitt on 10th January 1795 (Pitt MSS., 175).

[430] Pitt MSS., 178.

[431] "Corresp. of Sir John Sinclair," i, 124.

[432] Pitt MSS., 193. Sinclair raised two corps of Fencibles. The list
of his works, pamphlets, etc., fills thirty-two pages at the end of his

[433] "Mems. of Sir John Sinclair," ii, 106-9.

[434] "Pitt and Napoleon Miscellanies."

[435] "Lord Colchester's Diary," i, 82.


    THE YEARS OF STRAIN (1796-7)

    Torn as we are by faction, without an army, without money,
    trusting entirely to a navy whom we may not be able to pay, and
    on whose loyalty, even if we can, no firm reliance is to be
    placed, how are we to get out of this cursed war without a
    Revolution?--CORNWALLIS TO ROSS, _15th December 1797_.

The year 1797, which opened with events portending the overthrow of
Austria and the financial collapse of England, brought a passing gleam
of sunshine into the gray life of Pitt. For some time he had been a
frequent visitor at Eden Farm, Beckenham, the seat of Lord Auckland. It
was on the way to Holwood, and the cheerful society of that large family
afforded a relief from cares of state not to be found in his bachelor
household. His circle of friends, never large, had somewhat diminished
with the wear and tear of politics. His affection for Wilberforce,
perhaps, had not quite regained its former fervour. As for the vinous
society of Dundas, a valuable colleague but a far from ideal companion,
Pitt must in his better moments have held it cheap. He rarely saw his
mother, far away in Somerset; and probably his relations to his brother
had cooled since he removed him from the Admiralty. In truth, despite
his loving disposition, Pitt was a lonely man.

The voice of rumour, in his case always unfair, charged him with utter
indifference to feminine charms. His niece, Lady Hester Stanhope, who
later on had opportunities of observing him closely, vehemently denied
the charge, declaring that he was much impressed by beauty in women, and
noted the least defect, whether of feature, demeanour, or dress. She
declared that, on one occasion, while commending her preparations for
the ball-room, he suggested the looping up of one particular fold. At
once she recognized the voice of the expert and hailed the experiment
as an artistic triumph. Hester's recollections, it is true, belong to
the lonely years spent in the Lebanon, when she indulged in ecstatic or
spiteful outbursts; and we therefore question her statement that Pitt
was once so enamoured of a certain Miss W----, who became Mrs. B----s of
Devonshire, as to drink wine out of her shoe. But Hester's remarks are
detailed enough to refute the reports of his unnatural insensibility,
which elicited coarse jests from opponents; and we may fully trust that
severe critic of all Pitt's friends, when, recalling a special visit to
Beckenham Church, she pronounced the Honourable Eleanor Eden gloriously

    [Illustration: THE HON. ELEANOR EDEN. (From a miniature)]

To this bright vivacious girl of twenty years Pitt's affections went
forth in the winter of 1796-7;[437] and she reciprocated them. Every one
agrees that Eleanor combined beauty with good sense, sprightliness with
tact. Having had varied experiences during Auckland's missions to Paris,
Madrid, and The Hague, she had matured far beyond her years. In mental
endowments she would have been a fit companion even to Pitt; and she
possessed a rich store of the social graces in which he was somewhat
deficient. In fact, here was his weak point as a political leader. He
and his colleagues had no _salon_ which could vie with those of the Whig
grandees. The accession of Portland had been a social boon; but Pitt and
his intimate followers exerted little influence on London Society. He
and Grenville were too stiff. Neither Dundas nor Wilberforce moved in
the highest circles. Portland, Spencer, and Windham held somewhat aloof,
and Leeds, Sydney, and others had been alienated. Accordingly, the news
that Pitt was paying marked attentions to Auckland's eldest daughter
caused a flutter of excitement. Her charm and tact warranted the belief
that in the near future the Prime Minister would dominate the social
sphere hardly less than the political.

Among his friends who knew how warm a heart beat under that cold
exterior, the news inspired the hope that here was the talisman which
would reveal the hidden treasures of his nature. The stiff form would
now unbend; the political leader would figure as a genial host; the
martinet would become a man. Assuredly their estimate was correct.
Pitt's nature needed more glow, wider sympathies, a freer expression. A
happy marriage would in any case have widened his outlook and matured
his character. But a union with Eleanor Eden would have supplied to him
the amenities of life. We picture her exerting upon him an influence not
unlike that which Wordsworth believed that his sister had exerted upon
his being:

      thou didst plant its crevices with flowers,
    Hang it with shrubs that twinkle in the breeze,
    And teach the little birds to build their nests
    And warble in its chambers.[438]

It was not to be. After toying with this day-dream, Pitt suddenly broke
away to Downing Street. His letter to Auckland, written there on 20th
January 1797, announced the decision of the Minister in chillingly
correct terms. In pathetically halting and laboured phraseology he
implied that he had throughout observed a correct aloofness. After five
long sentences of apology to the father he proceeded thus:

    Whoever may have the good fortune ever to be united to her is
    destined to more than his share of human happiness. Whether, at
    any rate, I could have had any ground to hope that such would
    have been my lot, I am in no degree entitled to guess. I have to
    reproach myself for ever having indulged the idea on my own part
    as far as I have done, without asking myself carefully and early
    enough what were the difficulties in the way of its being
    realised. I have suffered myself to overlook them too long, but
    having now at length reflected as fully and as calmly as I am
    able on every circumstance that ought to come under my
    consideration (at least as much for her sake as for my own) I am
    compelled to say that I find the obstacles to it decisive and

Auckland had a right to feel the deepest pain at this official missive.
The matter had been discussed in newspapers. Indeed, a caricaturist
ventured to publish a sketch showing Pitt as Adam conducting Eve to the
nuptial bower in the garden of Eden, while behind it squatted Satan as a
toad, leering hatred through the features of Fox. It is to be hoped that
Auckland did not know of this indelicate cartoon when he replied to
Pitt. That letter has very properly been destroyed. But we have Pitt's
second letter to Auckland, in which he again assures him how deeply he
is affected by hearing of "the sentiments of another person, unhappily
too nearly interested in the subject in question." He adds these moving
words: "Believe me, I have not lightly or easily sacrificed my best
hopes and earnest wishes to my conviction and judgment." Auckland's
reply of 23rd January reveals the grief of his wife and daughter. For
two or three days they remained in absolute solitude, and that, too, in
a household remarkable for domestic affection. To Pitt also the decision
was a matter of deep pain and life-long regret. Thenceforth he trod the
path of duty alone. On 7th February the Archbishop of Canterbury wrote
to Auckland (his brother-in-law) that Pitt lived in seclusion and seemed
dreamy. At a recent Council meeting his face was swollen and unhealthy
looking. Probably this was the time at which Pitt informed Addington
that he must take the helm of State.[440]

We can only conjecture as to the insuperable obstacles to the union; but
it seems highly probable that they were of a financial kind. In the Pitt
MSS. (No. 196) there is a brief Memorandum in Pitt's writing, of the
year 1797, which must refer to his yearly expenses, either at Downing
Street or at Holwood. It gives the liquor account of the steward's room
as "£300 and upwards," and states that the other expenses of that room
might be reduced from £600 to £300, those of his own wardrobe from £600
to £400, and those of the stable from £400 to £300. These figures do not
tally with those of the Downing Street or Holwood accounts for the
latter half of 1797, which will be stated later; and the loose way in
which Pitt estimates his expenses is highly suggestive. We now know that
he was heading straight for bankruptcy throughout this period; and
probably on looking into his affairs he discovered the fact. It is also
certain that he lent money to his mother. She seems to have lost on
farming experiments at Burton Pynsent; for she charged her sons to
defray her just debts incurred in this manner, and the Bishop of Lincoln
in July 1801 stated that she owed to Pitt the sum of £5,800 on which she
ought to pay interest but did not. Chatham also borrowed £1,000 from
Pitt in August 1791, and the fact that he paid not a penny to help to
discharge the debts of his brother in the year 1801 seems to show that
he himself was still in low water.[441]

Piecing together these fragments of evidence, we may infer that Pitt's
near relations were a source of considerable expense, and that his own
heedlessness had by this time further served to embarrass him.
Therefore, his conduct towards Miss Eden, which at first sight seems
heartless, was probably dictated by sheer financial need. We may also
reject the spiteful statement in which Lady Hester Stanhope represented
Pitt as saying: "Oh, there was her mother [Lady Auckland],--such a
chatterer! and then the family intrigues! I can't keep them out of my
house; and for my King's and my country's sake I must remain a single
man." This is mere romancing. Pitt went to the Aucklands' house, not
they to his. As for the remark about Auckland's intrigues, it clearly
refers to the painful days after 1801, when Pitt broke with the
household at Beckenham.

There was only one method whereby Pitt could have assured his marriage
with Eleanor Eden, namely, by condescending to political jobbery. It was
beyond the power of Auckland, a comparatively poor man, burdened with a
large family, to grant a dowry with her unless Pitt awarded to him a
lucrative post and sinecures. Of course any such step was wholly out of
the question for either of them. In fact, Pitt opposed Auckland's
promotion, opened up by the death of Lord Mansfield, President of the
Council, though the public voice acclaimed Auckland as the
successor.[442] Equally noteworthy is the fact that, early in the year
1798, Pitt appointed Auckland Postmaster-General, with an annual stipend
of £2,500, but required him to give up his pension of £2,000 for
diplomatic services.[443] It is pleasing to record that their friendship
was not overclouded, except for a brief period.

There, then, we must leave this painful incident, but with heightened
admiration for Pitt. Outwardly his conduct appears frigid in the
extreme. Those, however, who probe the secrets of that reserved soul see
that his renunciation of conjugal bliss resulted from a scrupulous sense
of honour. As to the tenderness of his feelings at this time,
Addington, who knew him well, gives striking testimony, averring that in
his disposition there was "very much of the softness and milkiness of
human nature." That was the real Pitt.

                  *       *       *       *       *

Finance was the all-absorbing question in that gloomy winter of 1796-7.
The triumphs of Bonaparte in Italy and Hoche's attempt to invade Ireland
sank into insignificance in comparison with the oncoming shadow of
bankruptcy. The causes of this phenomenon are too technical to receive
adequate treatment here. Certainly the Bank Crisis of February of 1797
was not due to the exhaustion of the nation; for the revenue testified
to its abounding vitality. The Permanent Taxes maintained nearly the
high level reached in the prosperous year of peace, 1792, and the
figures for British Imports and Exports told the same tale, but the sums
of money borrowed in the years 1796, 1797 undoubtedly strained the
national credit.[444] Austria also applied to England for loans to
enable her to continue the war; and Pitt helped her to borrow in London
the sum of £4,600,000 in 1795, and £4,620,000 in 1796.

In one particular Pitt's action was unprecedented. In July 1796, during
the interval between the seventeenth and eighteenth Parliaments of Great
Britain, Austria sent urgent requests for pecuniary help so as to stay
the triumphs of the French in Italy and Swabia. Pitt yielded and
secretly remitted the sum of £1,200,000 as a loan. Undoubtedly this
opportune help enabled Austria to make the surprising efforts which
flung back the French to the Rhine, and checked the triumphal progress
of Bonaparte. Nevertheless, Fox threatened his rival with impeachment
for this unconstitutional action. Pitt replied with irresistible cogency
that the crisis called for bold handling, and that England helped her
ally to save the Empire and to maintain the contest in Italy. The House
condoned his action by 285 votes to 81, a proof that he dominated the
new Parliament as completely as its predecessor. He has been accused of
lavishing money on the Allies; but, except in this instance, he did not
by any means satisfy their claims. Moreover, they were justified in
expecting England to provide money in lieu of the troops which her War
Office failed to raise. Austria also solemnly covenanted to repay the
loans; and her neglect to do so occasioned a bitter dispute which long
held the two Powers apart. Pitt also refused her request for a loan in
the year 1797. As far as possible, he discouraged the raising of war
loans in London. Early in 1796 he did so in the case of Portugal from a
fear that the export of bullion would impair credit.[445]

At that time a novel expedient was shaping itself in his mind. On New
Year's Day he drove Sir John Sinclair from Dundas's house at Wimbledon
up to town; and on the way the baronet suggested the raising a great
loan on easy terms by an appeal to the loyalty of Britons.[446] The need
of some such device became increasingly apparent; for sinister symptoms
began to appear amidst the alarms of the autumn of 1796. The threats of
invasion led the Ministry to propose a special levy of 15,000 men to
reinforce the army, of 20,000 irregular cavalry, and of 60,000
supplemental Militia (18th October). These expenses, in addition to the
ever growing demands for the public services, involved a deficit of
£18,000,000. It was most important to raise this sum promptly in order
to uphold the credit and display the loyalty of the nation; for, as we
shall see, Pitt had recently opened negotiations for peace at Paris in
the hope that the late successes of the Austrians both in Italy and the
Rhineland (which proved to be only temporary), would induce the
Directory to accord fair terms to enemies who thus evinced their energy
and vitality. After consultation with the officials of the Bank of
England, he decided to raise the required sums, not by means of
"contractors," but by appealing direct to the public. Accordingly, on
1st December, he adopted the unusual course of appealing to the Lord
Mayor and the Directors of the Bank of England to encourage in every
possible way the raising of an extraordinary loan of £18,000,000. The
rate of interest, 5 5/8 per cent., seems somewhat high in the case of a
"Loyalty Loan," especially as Consols rose from 53 3/4 in September to
57 in November; but competent authorities agree that it was not too

The response was most gratifying. The Bank subscribed £1,000,000, the
Directors in their private capacity further contributing £400,000.
Similar feelings were displayed in the City and in the provinces.
Before the hour of 10 a.m. on 5th December, when the subscription list
was opened at the Bank, the lobby of the hall and even the approaches
were crowded with eager patriots, who fought their way towards the
books. Those in the rear called to more fortunate friends in the front
to inscribe their names. Within an hour and twenty minutes the amount
which could then be allotted was made good, and hundreds retired
disappointed. Similar scenes ensued on the two following days, the whole
sum of £18,000,000 being subscribed in less than fifteen and a half

It was under these encouraging conditions that on 7th December 1796 Pitt
made his Budget Statement, which included the proposal of further
advances of £3,000,000 to our Allies. As a set-off to this, he pointed
to the yield of the taxes and the Imports and Exports for the quarter as
affording gratifying proof of the strength of the country. But, he
added, "this flourishing state of our affairs ought not to lessen our
moderation or abate our desire for peace." Those who blame him for
continuing to pay £200,000 into the Sinking Fund, while he had to borrow
large sums at a ruinous rate of interest, should remember that he
believed this costly device to be only temporary in view of his efforts
for peace.

The usually dull details of finance are at this point enlivened by the
ingenious suggestions poured in upon Pitt for opening up new sources of
revenue. The aim of financiers then being to press on the taxpayer at
all points with the imperceptible impartiality of air, the hints as to
the taxation of neighbours and rivals are of refreshing variety. Among
the less obvious are duties on barges, pawnbrokers' takings, toys,
theatre and concert tickets, buttons, corks, glass bottles, umbrellas,
sheriffs and under-sheriffs, county commissioners and attorneys who keep
clerks. On behalf of the last suggestion an anonymous writer points out
that it would enhance the dignity of the legal profession. Another
correspondent suggests a similar impost on physicians, surgeons, and
chemists, ranging from ten guineas in London to three guineas in the
provinces, in order to discourage the entry of illiterates. He also
urges the need of stopping the increase of luxury and amusements by
taxing hot-houses, horses and carriages let out on Sundays, organs,
pianos, and all musical instruments, as well as the owners thereof, on
the ground that this step will lessen the alarming growth of
bankruptcies and divorces. A tax on armorial bearings is suggested as
one which will not be resented by the rich. A fourth correspondent
advocates a graduated Income Tax, ranging from 6_d._ in the pound on
incomes under £400, up to 5_s._ in the pound on incomes of more than,
£30,000 a year, and estimates the total yield at £62,625,000. The same
writer urges the need of a tax on sinecures and pensions, and finally
begs Pitt for a place for life, devolving on his son.[449]

The Chancellor of the Exchequer therefore had the choice of the direct
attack on the purse or the increase of atmospheric pressure. For the
present he chose the latter method, enhancing the duties on tea, wines,
sugar, spirits, game licences, glass, tobacco, and snuff, besides
raising the "Assessed Taxes" by ten per cent. The produce of some of
these imposts is curious. Hair-powder yielded £197,000; the extra tea
and wine duties £186,000 and £923,000, severally; those on tobacco and
snuff only £40,000. Pitt's procedure in December 1796 was very cautious.
He carefully watched the yield of the new taxes, in order to see whether
the increase of price checked consumption. Finding that this did not
happen in the case of tea and spirits, he further raised the duties on
those commodities; but, on behalf of the poor, he exempted the cheaper
kinds of tea. On the other hand he proposed to check the consumption of
spirits by imposing an extra duty of five pence a gallon along with a
surcharge on distillery licences. Further, as the duties on bricks,
auction sales, sugar, bar iron, oil, wines, and coal had not lessened
consumption, he again increased them. A questionable experiment was an
increase in the postage of letters and parcels, and in the duties on
newspapers, stage coaches, and canal tolls. A new House Duty, levied in
proportion to the number of servants, is open to less objection. On the
whole he expected the new taxes to yield £2,138,000. The total supply
asked for was £27,640,000.

The financial outlook grew darker in the year 1797. At the close of
January came the news of Hoche's expedition to Bantry Bay, which
revealed the possibility of revolutionizing Ireland. On 4th February
Pitt heard of the triumph of Bonaparte at Rivoli. The tidings told
disastrously on markets already in a nervous state. A correspondent of
Pitt attributed the decline to the action of the Bank of England at the
close of 1795, in reducing their discounts. Fox and his friends ascribed
it to the export of specie to Vienna; while Ministers and their friends
gave out that it resulted from the fears of invasion, and the desire of
depositors everywhere to withdraw their money and place it in hiding.
Privately, however, Pitt confessed to Auckland that the export of gold
brought matters to a climax.

The amount of specie in the Bank of England, which was nearly £8,000,000
in 1795, fell to £1,272,000 in February 1797. In reality the Bank was
solvent, but it could not have realized its securities; and on several
occasions the Directors warned Pitt that any further withdrawals of
specie would bring on a crisis.[450] The final cause of alarm was a loan
of £1,500,000 to the Irish Government, the first occasion on which any
large sum was raised for that Administration.[451] On 25th and 26th
February, then, crowds rushed to withdraw money from the Bank into which
eleven weeks before they thronged in order to procure shares in the
Loyalty Loan. So serious was the crisis that Ministers decided to
intervene. On Sunday the 26th a meeting was held of the Privy Council,
which issued an Order in Council empowering the Directors to refuse
payments in cash until Parliament gave further orders on the

For a few hours there was the prospect of a general collapse; and as
the Bank issued no notes for less than £5, though Sinclair and others
had advised the issue of £3 and £2 notes, small traders were threatened
with a recurrence to barter. Fortunately on 27th February the Directors
published a reassuring statement, and the Lord Mayor presided at an
influential meeting on the same day, which decided to accept banknotes
as legal tender for any amount. Thus a crash was averted. But Fox,
Sheridan, and the Opposition ably accused Pitt of leading his own
country to the brink of bankruptcy, even while he proclaimed the
imminent insolvency of France. They thundered against the export of gold
to the Emperor, and demanded a searching inquiry into the high-handed
dealings of the Minister with the Bank and with national finance. "We
have too long had a confiding House of Commons," exclaimed Fox; "I want
now an inquiring House of Commons." Despite Pitt's poor defence of his
loans to the Emperor, the Government carried the day by 244 votes to 86
(28th February); but the unwonted size of the minority was a sharp
warning to curtail loans and subsidies. Apart from a small loan to
Portugal in 1798, nothing of note was done to help Continental States
until Russia demanded pecuniary aid for the War of the Second Coalition.
In order to provide a circulating medium, the Bank was empowered to
issue notes for £2 and £1, and to refuse cash payments for sums
exceeding £1 (March to May 1797).

Meanwhile, shortly after the Bank crisis, came news of the failure of an
American, Colonel Tate, with some 1,400 French gaol-birds, to make a
raid at Fishguard in Pembrokeshire. A later legend sought to embellish
this very tame affair by ascribing his failure to the apparition on the
hills of Welsh women in high hats and scarlet cloaks, whom the invaders
took for regulars. Unfortunately for lovers of the picturesque, the
apparition occurs only in much later accounts.[453] Far more important
were the tidings from Cape St. Vincent. There Jervis, with only fifteen
ships, boldly attacked twenty-seven Spaniards while still in confusion
after a foggy night. As is well known, the boldness of Nelson, in
wearing out of the line so as to prevent the reunion of the enemy's
ships, crowned the day with glory (14th February). The weakness of the
Spanish navy stood glaringly revealed, and the fear of invasion, which
turned mainly on a junction of their fleet to that of France,
thenceforth subsided.

Jervis remarked before the fight that England never stood in more need
of a victory. The news reached London most opportunely on 3rd March;
for, along with the Bank crisis, came rumours of serious discontent
among our seamen. Even Jervis could scarcely stamp out disaffection in
the fleet that rode triumphantly before Cadiz; and in home waters mutiny
soon ran riot. Is it surprising that sailors mutinied? In large part
they were pressed men. Violence swept the crews together, and terror
alone kept them together. The rules of the service prescribed flogging
for minor offences, hanging for refusal to work. How men existed in the
over-crowded decks is a mystery. On paper the rations seem adequate, a
pound of meat per day, a proportionate amount of biscuit, and half a
pint of rum. But these provisions were issued by pursers who often eked
out their scanty pay by defrauding the crew. Weevilly biscuits and meat
of briny antiquity were therefore the rule, excess of salt and close
packing being deemed adequate safeguards against decay. Finally the
indurated mass became so susceptible of polish as in the last resort to
provide the purser with a supply of snuff-boxes. One little comfort was
allowed, namely, cocoa for breakfast. But the chief solace was rum,
cheap, new, and fiery, from the West Indies. This and the rope-end
formed the _nexus_ of the crew. As for the pay, from which alone the
sailor could make his lot bearable, it had not been increased since the
reign of Charles II. Thanks to the Duke of York, that of the army had
been raised from 8 1/4_d._ to 1_s._ a day, though not in proportion to
the cost of living, the net gain being only 2_d._ a day. The sailor
alone was forgotten, and, lest he should come into touch with Radical
clubs, leave of absence was rarely if ever accorded.

The men of the Channel Fleet were the first to resolve to end their
chief grievances, namely, insufficient pay, withdrawal of leave of
absence, and the unfair distribution of prize money. On putting back to
Spithead in March 1797, they sent to Admiral Howe several round-robins
demanding an increase of pay. He was then ill at Bath, and, deeming them
the outcome of a single knot of malcontents, ignored them. This angered
the men. His successor in command, Lord Bridport (brother of Sir
Alexander Hood), was less popular; and when it transpired that the fleet
would soon set sail, the men resolved to show their power. Accordingly,
on 15th April, on the hoisting of the signal to weigh anchor, the crew
of the flag-ship, the "Queen Charlotte," manned her shrouds and gave
three cheers. The others followed her example, and not an anchor was
weighed. On the next day (Easter Sunday) the men formed a central
committee, sent ashore some hated officers, and formulated the demands
outlined above, promising to fight the French if they put to sea, and
afterwards to renew the same demands.

That Easter was a time of dismay in London. Ministers at once met in
Cabinet Council and agreed to despatch to Portsmouth Spencer, first Lord
of the Admiralty, along with Admiral Young, and others. Spencer's
reputation for sincerity, love of justice, and regard for the seamen
inspired general confidence; and when the Commissioners were joined by
Bridport, Parker, Colpoys, and Gardner, there was hope of a compromise.
The men allowed Bridport to retain his command, provided that he did not
issue orders for sea; they enforced respect to officers; they flogged
one man who became drunk, and ducked more venial offenders three times
from a rope tied at the main-yard. Their committee of thirty-two (two
from each ship), met every day on the "Queen Charlotte"; it demanded an
increase of pay from 9 3/4_d._ to 1_s._ a day. But when Spencer promised
to lay this request before the King, on condition of immediate
restoration of discipline, the men demurred. Conscious of their power,
they now claimed that rations must be served out, not 12 ounces, but 16
ounces to the pound; that the power of awarding heavy punishments for
petty offences should be curtailed, extended opportunities being also
granted for going ashore. In vain did Spencer and his colleagues protest
against this dictation of terms. A personal appeal to the crew of the
"Royal George" had no effect; and when Gardner vehemently reproached the
men for skulking from the French, they ran at him; and he would have
fared badly had he not placed his neck in a noose of a yard-rope and
called on the men to hang him provided they returned to duty. The men
thereupon cheered him and retired.

On 18th April the men's committee formulated their demands in two
manifestoes. Further conferences took place, in one of which Gardner
shook a delegate by the collar and was himself nearly murdered. The
whole fleet then defiantly flew the red flag. Spencer and his colleagues
returned to London for an interview with Pitt; and along with him and
the Lord Chancellor they posted to Windsor to urge the need of
compliance with the men's demands. Grenville, journeying from Dropmore,
joined them, and a Privy Council was held. Pitt's and Spencer's views
prevailed, and a Royal Proclamation was drawn up on 22nd April,
pardoning the crews if they would return to duty. A horseman riding at
full speed bore the document to Portsmouth in seven hours, and the
fleet, with the exception of the "Marlborough," re-hoisted the white
ensign and prepared for sea. The discontent rife at Plymouth also
subsided. On 26th April, during a Budget debate, Pitt promised to
provide for the extra pay to seamen and marines.

But on 3rd May an indiscreet opening of the whole question in the House
of Lords by the Duke of Bedford led to a revival of discontent at
Spithead. He upbraided Pitt with delay in introducing a Bill to give
effect to the Royal Proclamation. Howe thereupon proceeded to justify
his former conduct; and Spencer remarked that he did not expect to
receive the King's commands to bring down any communication on the
affair to the House of Lords. By an unscrupulous use of these remarks
agitators inflamed the crews with the suspicion of ministerial trickery;
and on 7th May, every ship refused to obey Bridport's orders to weigh
anchor. The men arrested Colpoys and sent fifteen officers on shore.
Pitt thereupon, on 8th May, moved a resolution in the terms of the
decision framed at Windsor on 22nd April. He begged the House for a
silent vote on this question; but Fox and Sheridan could not resist the
temptation to accuse him of being the cause of this second mutiny.
Clearly it resulted from the remarks in the House of Lords on 3rd May,
which led the seamen to believe that Pitt was about to play them false.

The Commons passed the resolution; but Whitbread, on the morrow, moved a
vote of censure on Pitt for delay in dealing with this important
question. Again Pitt pointed out that the promise given during the
Budget debate sufficed for the time, but he admitted that preliminary
forms and inquiries had absorbed an undue amount of time. Fox and
Sheridan pounced down on this admission, the latter inveighing against
the "criminal and murderous delay" of Ministers, whose incapacity
earned the contempt of the House. Spying a party advantage in
protracting these debates, Whitbread renewed his attack on the next day
(10th May). Pitt replied with admirable temper, and showed that the
delay in presenting a Bill arose partly from the action of the
Opposition itself. Will it be believed that Parliament wasted two days,
while the navy was in mutiny, in discussing whether Pitt had or had not
been guilty of delay? The results were deplorable. An anonymous
chronicler, hostile to Pitt, confessed that the men at Spithead were
"better pleased with reading Fox and Sheridan's speeches than with the
long-expected settlement of their claims."[454]

In this state of things Pitt despatched Howe ("Black Dick"), the most
popular of the admirals, in order to convince the seamen of the
sincerity of Government. The following is the letter in which he
apprised Bridport of Howe's mission:

                             Downing Street, _May 10, 1797_.[455]

    The account we have received this morning led to a great degree
    of hope that the distressful embarrassments which you have
    experienced may already in a great degree have subsided. You
    will, however, have learnt that in the suspense in which we
    remained yesterday, it had been determined to send Lord Howe
    with such instructions under the sign manual as seemed to us
    best adapted to the very difficult emergency. His presenting
    this commission seems still [more] likely to confirm the good
    disposition which had begun to show itself, and his not coming
    after the intention had once been announced might lead to
    unpleasant consequence [_sic_]. It was thought best to make this
    a civil commission in order not to interfere with the military
    command of the fleet, and at the same time to give the
    commission to a distinguished naval character, though not with
    any naval authority or functions. It was also thought that
    making a communication of this nature after all that had passed
    through some other channel than the commander of the fleet was
    for other reasons preferable and likely to be thought so by you.

    I earnestly hope this measure will produce good effects and will
    both in itself and in its consequences be satisfactory to you.
    At all events I am sure you will continue to contribute your
    exertions with the same zeal and public spirit which you have
    shewn under such trying difficulties to bring this arduous work,
    if possible, to a happy termination. I hope I need not say how
    sincerely and deeply, in addition to the public difficulties, I
    have felt for the situation in which you have been placed. If
    the favourable turn which has been given to affairs should be
    happily confirmed, I look forward to the hope that your command
    may still be attended with circumstances which may repay you for
    the labour and anxiety with which you have had to struggle.

Howe found it no easy task to vindicate the good faith of Ministers; but
by visiting each ship in turn, he prevailed on the men to submit to
discipline. The 14th of May was a day of great rejoicing at Spithead;
the men's delegates landed and carried the venerable admiral in triumph
to Government House, where he and his lady entertained them at dinner.
Three days later the whole fleet put to sea.

But already there had fallen on Pitt a still severer blow. On 10th May
appeared the first signs of discontent in the ships anchored off
Sheerness. In all probability they may be ascribed to the factious
wrangling at Westminster and the revival of the mutiny at Spithead on
7th May. Seeing that the demands of the sailors had been conceded before
this outbreak occurred at the Nore, nothing can be said on behalf of the
ringleaders, except that amidst their worst excesses they professed
unswerving loyalty, firing salutes on 29th May in honour of the
restoration of Charles II and on 4th June for King George's birthday.
Apart from this their conduct was grossly unpatriotic. On 12th May the
crew of H.M.S. "Sandwich," headed by a supernumerary named Parker,
captured the ship, persuaded eleven other crews to mutiny, and sent
delegates to Portsmouth to concert action with Bridport's fleet.

In this they failed; and, had Vice-Admiral Buckner, in command at the
Nore, acted with vigour, he might have profited by the discouragement
which this news produced. He acted weakly; and the men paid no heed to
the Royal Proclamation issued on 23rd May, offering the same terms as
those granted at Portsmouth and pardon to all who at once returned to
duty. Spencer and his colleagues came from London in the hope of
persuading the men, but in vain. The men sought to tempt the one loyal
ship, the "Clyde," from its duty. Fortunately this Abdiel of a false
company was able to slip off by night and guard the entrance to
Sheerness harbour. Government then hurried up troops and had new
batteries constructed to overawe the fleet. Unfortunately, at the end of
May, thirteen more ships, deserters from the fleets of Duncan and
Onslow, joined the mutineers at the Nore. This event might have led to a
double disaster. Stout old Duncan with only two ships sailed on
undaunted to the Texel, where lay a Dutch fleet of fifteen sail
preparing for sea. In order to impose on them he kept flying signals as
if to consorts in the offing, a stratagem which entirely succeeded. The
danger was, however, acute until, acting on Spencer's suggestion,
Vorontzoff ordered a Russian squadron, then in British waters, to sail
to Duncan's help.

Equally serious was the situation at the Nore. The mutineers, strong in
numbers but lacking beef and beer, stopped the navigation of the Thames
and captured provisions from merchantmen, thus causing a panic in
London. On 5th June, after firing the royal salute, the crews seized
some unpopular officers and boatswains, tarred and feathered them, and
landed them at Gravesend, a spectacle for gods and men. In these and
other reckless acts the fever expended its force. Food and water ran
short; for the banks were strictly guarded, and ships ceased to arrive.
The desperate suggestion of handing the ships over to the Dutch was
frustrated, if it were ever seriously considered, by the removal of the
outer buoys. One by one ships fell away and replaced the red flag by the
white ensign. Enough force was now at hand to quell the desperate
minority; and on 15th June the "Sandwich," renouncing the authority of
Parker, sailed under the guns of Sheerness. A fortnight later Parker
swung from the yardarm of that ship. His had been a strange career. The
son of a tradesman of Exeter, he is said to have entered the navy as a
midshipman, but to have been thrice dismissed from his ship for bad
conduct. Settling down at Perth, he was imprisoned for debt, but gained
his freedom and also a bounty for enrolling in the navy as a volunteer.
His daring spirit and sturdy frame brought him to the front in the way
that we have seen, the moral perversity of his nature largely
determining the course of the mutiny at the Nore. After him twenty-two
other mutineers were hanged.

Few men have done more harm to England than Parker. So heavy a blow did
the Nore mutiny deal to credit that 3 per cent. Consols, which did not
fall below 50 at the Bank crisis, sank to 48 in June, the lowest level
ever touched in our history. After the collapse of the mutiny they rose
to 55 1/2. The serenity of Pitt never failed during this terrible time.
A remarkable proof of his self-possession was given by Spencer. Having
to consult him hastily one night, he repaired to Downing Street and
found that he was asleep. When awakened, he sat up in bed, heard the
case, and gave his instructions, whereupon Spencer withdrew.
Remembering, however, one topic which he had omitted, he returned, and
found him buried in slumber as profound as if he had not been disturbed.
Fox and his friends were far from showing the same equanimity. Because
the House by 256 votes to 91 opposed a motion for Reform which Grey most
inopportunely brought forward in the midst of the mutiny, they decided
to leave Parliament. But the effect of this "secession" was marred by
the occasional reappearance of Sheridan, Tierney, and others who had
loudly advocated it.[456] Unpatriotic in conception, it speedily became
ludicrous from its half-hearted execution.

The question has often been raised whether the mutineers were egged on
by malcontent clubs. There are some suspicious signs. A mutineer on
board H.M.S. "Champion" told his captain that they had received money
from a man in a black coat. This alone is not very convincing. But the
malcontents at the Nore certainly received money, though from what
source is uncertain. The evidence brought before the Committee of
Secrecy as to the connection of the United Irishmen with the mutineers,
seems rather thin. As to French bribery, the loyal sailors at Spithead
in their address to the Nore mutineers bade them not to be any longer
misled by "French principles and their agents, under whatsoever mask."
It was also reported in August 1798 that the French Government paid an
Irishman, Duckett, to go and _renew_ the mutiny. The officials of the
Home Office believed the London Corresponding Society to be guilty; and
on 16th June one of them, J. K[ing], issued a secret order to two of his
agents at Sheerness to discover whether two members of that society,
named Beck and Galloway, had had dealings with the rebel crews. The
agents, A. Graham and D. Williams, on 24th June sent to the Duke of
Portland the following report, which merits quotation almost in

    ... Mr. Graham and Mr. Williams beg leave to assure his Grace
    that they have unremittingly endeavoured to trace if there was
    any connexion or correspondence carried on between the mutineers
    and any private person or any society on shore, and they think
    they may with the greatest safety pronounce that no such
    connexion or correspondence ever did exist. They do not however
    mean to say that wicked and designing men have not been among
    the mutineers; on the contrary they have proof sufficient to
    found a belief upon that several whose mischievous dispositions
    would lead them to the farthest corner of the kingdom in hopes
    of continuing a disturbance once begun have been in company with
    the delegates on shore, and have also (some of them) visited the
    ships at the Nore, and by using inflammatory language
    endeavoured to spirit on the sailors to a continuance of the
    mutiny, without however daring to offer anything like a plan for
    the disposal of the fleet or to do more than insinuate that they
    were belonging to clubs or societies whose members wished well
    to the cause, but from which societies Mr. Graham and Mr.
    Williams are persuaded no such persons were ever regularly
    deputed. Neither do they believe that any club or society in the
    kingdom or any of those persons who may have found means of
    introducing themselves to the delegates have in the smallest
    degree been able to influence the proceedings of the mutineers,
    whose conduct from the beginning seems to have been of a wild
    and extravagant nature not reducible to any sort of form or
    order and therefore capable of no other mischief than was to be
    apprehended from a want of the fleet to serve against the enemy.
    In this state however they were unfortunately suffered to go on
    without interruption until they began to think themselves
    justifiable in what they were doing, and by stopping up the
    mouth of the Thames they were suspected of designs for which Mr.
    Graham and Mr. Williams can by no means give them credit. The
    want of beer and fresh beef prompted them to revenge, and that
    and nothing else induced them to interrupt the trade of the
    river. It was done on the spur of the occasion, and with a view
    of obtaining a supply of fresh provisions. Another thing, namely
    the systematic appearance with which the delegates and the
    sub-committees on board the different ships conducted the
    business of the mutiny may be supposed a good ground of
    suspecting that better informed men than sailors in general are
    must have been employed in regulating it for them. This Mr.
    Graham and Mr. Williams at first were inclined to believe too;
    but in the course of their examinations of people belonging to
    the fleet they were perfectly convinced that without such a
    combination and with the assistance of the newspapers only
    (independent of the many cheap publications to be had upon
    subjects relating to clubs and societies of all descriptions)
    and the advantage of so many good writers as must have been
    found among the quota-men, they were capable of conducting it

Graham and Williams arrested at Sheerness three strangers, Hulm,
McLaurin, and McCan, who were making mischief. Nothing seems to have
come of these arrests; and, despite the opinion of Pitt, expressed in
his speech of 2nd June, we may dismiss the charge against the London
Corresponding Society. It is clear, however, that busybodies circulated
newspapers and pamphlets at Sheerness, Chatham, and Maidstone. The
reports of the parliamentary debates of 3rd, 8th, 9th, and 10th May
would alone have encouraged the mutineers; and the chiefs of the
Opposition must bear no small share of responsibility for the disastrous
events at Spithead and the Nore. They were warned that their nagging
tactics would cause trouble in the navy. They persisted, in the hope of
discrediting the Ministry. They succeeded in paralysing the navy; and
the only excuse for their conduct is that their hatred of Pitt blinded
them to the obvious consequences. From this censure I must except
Sheridan, whose speech of 2nd June was patriotic; and he further is said
to have suggested the plan of removing the buoys beyond the mutinous

For a brief space disquieting symptoms appeared in the army. An
inflammatory appeal to the troops was distributed at Maidstone by Henry
Fellows; and the same man addressed a letter to some person unnamed,
asking him to send on 100 copies of the Ulster Address, 50 of
"Boniparte's [_sic_] Address," 50 of "the Duke of Richmond's Letter,"
and 50 of Payne's "Agrarian Justice." The last named was found among the
papers of John Bone, a member of the London Corresponding Society.[458]
It is not unlikely that this propaganda was connected with that at
Chatham barracks, where a seditious handbill was left on 21st May 1797,
urging the men to cast off the tyranny misnamed discipline, to demand
better food, better clothing, and freedom from restraint in barracks.
"The power is all our own," it concludes. "The regiments which send you
this are willing to do their part. They will show their countrymen they
can be soldiers without being slaves ... Be sober, be ready."[459] The
paper was probably connected with the mutiny at the Nore. There were
also some suspicious doings in London barracks. One of the incendiaries
there was, "wicked Williams," who certainly had run through the whole
gamut of evil. First as a clergyman, he ruined himself by his excesses;
then as a penitent he applied to Wilberforce for relief, and, after
disgusting even that saintly man, he in revenge carried round to certain
barracks the signature of his would-be benefactor appended to a
seditious appeal. Busybodies lacking all sense of humour therefore
buzzed it about that the abolitionist leader sought to stir up a mutiny.
On 13th May Pitt sent to him to sift any grains of truth that there
might be in this peck of lies. The following unpublished letter from
Wilberforce to Pitt shows that he advised him to use Williams so as to
get at the grains:

                               2.20 Saty mng. [_May 1797_?][460]

    Williams has been with Windham and is to wait on him again. The
    latter has been with me, and I have been guarding him about
    Wms's character, telling him that we wish to enable some proper
    person to watch Wms's motions by becoming acquainted with his
    person. Now, if this watch should be at or near Windham's, this
    point could be obtained. My other means of making the discovery
    have failed, and I can devise no other. Williams avowed to
    Windham that he had been employed in endeavouring to inflame the
    soldiery, but that his mind was not prepared to go the lengths
    he found it would be required to go. I am pretty sure the best
    way would be to give Williams money, a little, to infuse a
    principle of hope. I dare say he is hungry. You must place no
    dependence whatever on him, but if he would act for you, he
    would be a useful agent, and I think a little money in his case
    indispensable. I intreat you not to neglect this. I suppose
    there will now be no use in my seeing Ford.

In a second letter, written an hour later, Wilberforce urges Pitt not to
neglect this note. Williams some years ago sought to make a mutiny; he
was skilled in intrigue, had "held Jacobinical language, and was going
on in the most profligate and abandoned way." This is all the
information that the Pitt MSS. yield upon this question. But in the
private diary of Wilberforce there is the significant entry: "Pitt
awaked by Woolwich artillery riot and went out to Cabinet." The cool
bearing of Lord Harrington, commander of the forces in London, helped to
restore confidence. On 3rd June Government introduced and speedily
passed a Bill for preventing seduction of the soldiery. There were
rumours of an intended mutiny in the Guards; but fortunately the troops
remained true to duty, and some of them helped to quell the mutiny at
the Nore.

A survey of Pitt's conduct during these critical months reveals the
limitations of his nature. He was wanting in foresight. He seems to have
been taken unawares both by the Bank crisis and the mutinies. He met the
financial crisis promptly when it became acute, though by means which
caused incalculable inconvenience at a later time. The mutinies also
ought to have been averted by timely concessions to the sailors, who
needed increase of pay fully as much as the soldiery. For this neglect,
however, the Admiralty Board, not Pitt, is chiefly to blame. When the
storm burst, Ministers did not display the necessary initiative and
resourcefulness; and the officials of the Admiralty must be censured for
the delay in bringing forward the proposals on which Parliament could
act. The Opposition, as usual, blamed Pitt alone; and it must be
confessed that he did not exert on officials the almost terrifying
influence whereby Chatham is said to have expedited the preparation of a
fleet of transports. The story to that effect is of doubtful
authenticity.[461] But there is no doubt that Chatham's personality and
behaviour surpassed those of his son in face of a national crisis. The
eagle eye of the father would have discerned the growth of discontent in
the navy, and his forceful will would have found means to allay or crush
it. Before the thunder of his eloquence the mewlings of faction must
have died away. The younger Pitt was too hopeful, too soft, for the
emergency. But it is only fair to remember the heartache and ill health
besetting him since the month of January, which doubtless dulled his
powers during the ensuing period of ceaseless strain and anxiety.


[436] "Mems. of Lady Hester Stanhope," i, 177-81. Tomline asserted that
a lady of the highest rank desired to marry Pitt. Various conjectures
have been made on this topic. Lord Rosebery suggests that the Duchess of
Gordon was hinted at.

[437] "Auckland Journals," iii, 356, 363, 369, 373-4.

[438] Wordsworth, "Prelude," bk. xiv.

[439] Pretyman MSS. Quoted in full, with Pitt's second letter and one of
Auckland, by Lord Ashbourne ("Pitt," 241-4).

[440] Pellew, i, 183.

[441] Ashbourne, 162, 179; G. Rose, "Diaries," i, 410, 429.

[442] "Auckland Journals," iii, 359. George III, who disliked Auckland,
ordered the appointment of Chatham.

[443] _Ibid._, iii, 387.

[444] See Appendix for the sums borrowed, expended on the army and navy,
and raised by the Permanent Taxes in 1792-1801.

[445] "Parl. Hist.," xxxii, 1297-1347; Pitt MSS., 102. Pitt to Boyd, 4th
January 1796.

[446] "Mems. of Sir John Sinclair," ii, 276.

[447] W. Newmarch, "Loans raised by Pitt (1793-1801)," pp. 16, 25-33.

[448] On 2nd December 1796, Thomas Coutts, Pitt's banker, wrote to him:
"Mr. Dent, Mr. Hoare, Mr. Snow, Mr. Gosling, Mr. Drummond, and myself
met today, and have each subscribed £50,000.... I shall leave town
tomorrow, having staid solely to do any service in my power in
forwarding this business, which I sincerely wish and hope may be the
means of procuring peace on fair and honourable terms. P.S.--We have
subscribed £10,000 in your name, and shall take care to make the
payments" (Pitt MSS., 126). Mr. Abbot ("Lord Colchester's Diary," 76)
states that fear of a compulsory contribution helped on the Loyalty

[449] Pitt MSS., 272.

[450] Ann. Reg. (1797), 130-42.

[451] Sir J. Sinclair, "Hist. of the Public Revenue," ii, 143.

[452] Pitt MSS., 272; "Parl. Hist.," xxxii, 1517; Gilbart, "History ...
of Banking" (ed. by E. Sykes), i, 46. On 25th February 1797 Pitt wrote a
memorandum (Pitt MSS., 102), stating that the crisis was due to the too
great circulation of paper notes by banks having limited resources.
Their stoppage affected larger Houses and paralysed trade. He had wanted
to meet the City men, who met on the 22nd to discuss the situation, but
failed to agree on any remedy. Finally they agreed to meet at the
Mansion House to discuss the issue of Exchequer Bills. Coutts, on 19th
March 1797, informed Pitt that gambling in the Prince of Wales'
Debentures, which exceeded £432,000, ruined the market for ordinary
securities (Pitt MSS., 126). Sinclair had vainly urged Pitt to compel
bankers to find and exhibit securities for the paper notes which they
issued ("Corresp. of Sir J. Sinclair," i, 87).

[453] H. F. B. Wheeler and A. M. Broadley, "Napoleon and the Invasion of
England," ch. ii, have proved this.

[454] "Parl. Hist.," xxxiii, 473-516; "Hist. of the Mutiny at Spithead
and the Nore" (Lond. 1842), 61-2; "Dropmore P.," iii, 323.

[455] Pitt MSS., 102. Lord Mornington deemed the surrender to the seamen
destructive of all discipline in the future ("Buckingham P.," i, 373).

[456] Holland, i, 84-91.

[457] "H. O.," Geo. III (Domestic), 137.

[458] "Report of the Comm. of Secrecy" (1799), 23; App., v, vi.

[459] From Mr. Broadley's MSS.

[460] Pitt MSS., 189. See, too, "Life of Wilberforce," ii, 217; Windham
("Diary," 363) saw Williams on and after 13th May.

[461] J. Corbett, "England in the Seven Years' War," i, 191.



    A common feeling of danger has produced a common spirit of
    exertion, and we have cheerfully come forward with a surrender
    of part of our property, not merely for recovering ourselves,
    but for the general recovery of mankind.--PITT, _Speech of 3rd
    December 1798_.

The desire of Pitt for peace with France led him in the autumn of 1796
to renew more formally the overtures which he had instituted early in
that year. His first offer was repelled in so insolent a way that the
King expressed annoyance at its renewal being deemed necessary to call
forth the spirit of the British lion. Pitt, however, despatched Lord
Malmesbury on a special mission to Paris; and the slowness of his
journey, due to the bad roads, led Burke to remark: "No wonder it was
slow; for he went all the way on his knees." Pitt's terms were by no
means undignified. He offered that France should keep San Domingo and
her conquests in Europe except those made from Austria. The French
reverses in Swabia and the check to Bonaparte at Caldiero made the
French Directory complaisant for a time; but his victory at Arcola (17th
November), the death of the Czarina Catharine, and the hope of
revolutionizing Ireland, led it to adopt an imperious tone. Its
irrevocable resolve to keep Belgium and the Rhine boundary appeared in a
curt demand to Malmesbury, either to concede that point or to quit Paris
within forty-eight hours (19th December).[462]

It argued singular hopefulness in Pitt that, despite the opposition of
the King, he should make a third effort for peace in the summer of the
year 1797, when the loyalty of the fleet was open to grave doubt, when
rebellion raised its head in Ireland, and Bonaparte had beaten down the
last defences of Austria; but so early as 9th April he urged on George
the need of making pacific overtures to Paris, seeing that Austria was
at the end of her resources and seemed on the point of accepting the
French terms. The untoward events of the next weeks deepened his
convictions; and to a letter of the Earl of Carlisle, pressing on him
the urgent need of peace, he replied as follows:

    [_Draft._] _Private._
                                 Downing St., _4 June 1797_.[463]

    I can also venture to assure you that I feel not less strongly
    than yourself the expediency of taking every step towards peace
    that can be likely to effect the object, consistent with the
    safety and honour of the country; and I have no difficulty in
    adding (for your _private_ satisfaction) that steps are taken of
    the most direct sort, and of which we must soon know the result,
    to ascertain whether the disposition of the enemy will admit of
    negotiation. On this point the last accounts from Paris seem to
    promise favourably. You will have the goodness to consider the
    fact of a step having been actually taken, as confidentially
    communicated to yourself.

Three days previously Pitt had sent to Paris suggestions for peace.
Delacroix, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, whose asperities were so
unbearable in 1796, now replied with courtesy. Pitt therefore
persevered, declaring it to be his duty as a Christian and a patriot to
end so terrible a war. On the other hand Grenville pronounced the
negotiation mischievous at the present crisis, when the French
Government would certainly proffer intolerable demands. Much, it was
true, could be said in favour of concluding peace before Austria
definitely came to terms with France; and if Russia and Prussia had
shown signs of mediating in our favour, the negotiation might have had a
favourable issue. But neither of those Courts evinced good-will, and
that of Berlin angered Grenville. He therefore strongly opposed the
overture to France, and herein had the support of the three Whig
Ministers, Portland, Spencer, and Windham. The others sided with Pitt,
Lord Liverpool after some hesitation. On 15th June there were two long
and stormy meetings of the Cabinet, the latter lasting until midnight;
but on the morrow, the day after the collapse of the Nore Mutiny, the
Cabinet endorsed the views of Pitt. Thereupon Grenville entered a
written protest, and wrote to the King, stating that he would offer his
resignation if the times were not so critical. George thanked him, and
in a highly significant phrase urged him to remain at his post so as "to
stave off many farther humiliations."[464]

Malmesbury proceeded to Lille and entered into negotiations with the
French plenipotentiaries, Letourneur, Pléville, and Maret. The last was
he who came on a fruitless errand to London in January 1793, and finally
became Duc de Bassano, and Foreign Minister under Napoleon. It soon
appeared that the only hope of peace lay in the triumph of the Moderates
over the Jacobins at Paris. The former, who desired peace, and had an
immense majority in the country, at first had the upper hand in the
Chambers. They were willing to give up some of the French conquests on
the Rhine and in the Belgic Provinces, if their distracted and nearly
bankrupt country gained the boon of peace. Their opponents, weak in
numbers, relied on the armies, and on the fierce fanaticism which clung
alike to the principles and the conquests of the Jacobins. Pitt was
willing to meet France half-way. He consented to leave her in possession
of her "constitutional" frontiers, _i.e._, Belgium, Luxemburg, Avignon,
Savoy, and Nice, besides restoring to her and her allies all naval
conquests, except the Cape of Good Hope and Trinidad. Ceylon, a recent
conquest, was to be reserved for exchange. So far, but no farther, Pitt
consented to go in his desire for peace. Later on he assured Malmesbury
that he would have given way either on Ceylon or the Cape of Good Hope.
But this latter concession would have galled him deeply; for, as we
shall see, he deemed the possession of the Cape essential to British
interests in the East. Spain's demand for Gibraltar he waived aside as
wholly inadmissible, thus resuming on this question the attitude which
he had taken up in the years 1782-3.[465]

Far though Pitt went on the path of conciliation, he did not satisfy
the haughty spirits dominant at Paris. It was soon evident that the only
means of satisfying them were subterranean; and a go-between now offered
himself. An American, Melvill, who claimed to be on intimate terms with
the most influential persons at Paris, assured Malmesbury that he could
guarantee the concession of the desired terms, on consideration of the
payment of £450,000 to the leading men at Paris. Malmesbury at first
believed in Melvill's sincerity and sent him over to see Pitt. They had
some interviews at Holwood at the close of August, apparently to the
satisfaction of the Prime Minister; for, after referring the proposal to
Grenville, he laid it before the King. His reply, dated Weymouth, 9th
September, advised a wary acceptance of the terms, provided that France
also gave up her claim of indemnity for the ships taken or burnt at
Toulon in 1793.

The King did not then know of the _coup d'état_ of Fructidor 18 (4th
September), whereby Augereau, the right hand of Bonaparte, coerced the
Moderates and installed the Jacobins in power. The work was done with
brutal thoroughness, prominent opponents being seized and forthwith
deported, while the triumphant minority annulled the elections in
forty-nine Departments, and by unscrupulous pressure compelled voters to
endorse the _fiat_ of the army. Thus did France plunge once more into a
Reign of Terror, and without the golden hopes which had made the former
experiment bearable. Such was virtually the end of parliamentary
government in France. It is indeed curious that critics of Pitt, who
label his repressive measures a "Reign of Terror," bestow few words of
regret on the despicable acts of the "Fructidorians," whose policy of
leaden repression at home and filibustering raids abroad made the name
of Liberty odious to her former devotees.

The new tyrants at Paris withheld all news of the _coup d'état_ until
they could override the policy of the French plenipotentiaries at Lille.
There it seemed probable that peace might ensue, when, on 9th September,
the first authentic news of Augereau's violence arrived. Even so, Pitt
hoped that the triumphant faction would be inclined to enjoy their
success in peace. It was not to be. A member of the French embassy at
Lille discerned far more clearly the motives now operating at Paris,
that the new Directory, while making peace with Austria, would continue
the war with England in order to have a pretext for keeping up its
armies and acquiring compensations. In any case the successors of the
pacific trio with whom Malmesbury had almost come to terms, demanded
that England should restore every possession conquered from the French
or their allies. This implied the surrender of the Cape, Ceylon, and
Trinidad, besides minor places on which Pitt and his colleagues held
firm. Brief discussions took place, Malmesbury continuing to show tact
and good temper; but on Sunday, 17th September, the French
plenipotentiaries requested him, if he could not grant their demands, to
leave Lille within twenty-four hours. He departed early on Monday,
reached London by noon of Wednesday, and saw Grenville and Canning
immediately. Pitt, owing to news of the death of his brother-in-law,
Eliot, was too prostrate with grief to see him until the morrow. It then
appeared that the Directory on 11th September issued a secret order to
its plenipotentiaries to send off Malmesbury within twenty-four hours if
he had not full powers to surrender all Britain's conquests.[466]

Even now there was a glimmer of hope. By some secret channel, Melvill,
O'Drusse, or else Boyd the banker, Pitt received the startling offer,
that Talleyrand, if he remained in favour at Paris, could assure to
England the Dutch settlements in question if a large enough sum were
paid over to Barras, Rewbell, and their clique. Pitt clutched at this
straw, and on 22nd September wrote to the King, stating that for
£1,200,000 we could retain Ceylon, and for £800,000 the Cape of Good
Hope. While withholding the name of the intermediaries, known only to
himself and Dundas, he strongly urged that £2,000,000 be paid down when
a treaty in this sense was signed with France, provided that that sum
could be presented to Parliament under the head of secret service.
George, now at Windsor, cannot have been pleased that Pitt and Dundas
had a state secret which was withheld for him; but he replied on the
morrow in terms, part of which Earl Stanhope did not publish. "I am so
thoroughly convinced of the venality of that nation [France] and the
strange methods used by its Directors in carrying on negotiations that I
agree with him [Pitt] in thinking, strange as the proposal appears, that
it may be not without foundation."

George, then, was more sceptical than Pitt; and Grenville and
Malmesbury soon had cause to believe the offer to be merely an effort of
certain Frenchmen to speculate in the English funds. Nothing came of the
matter. Melvill, O'Drusse, and Talleyrand on the French side, and Boyd
in London, seem to have been the wire-pullers in this affair, which was
renewed early in October; it may have been only a "bull" operation. The
secret is hard to fathom; but Pitt and Dundas were clearly too
credulous. Such was the conclusion of Malmesbury. It tallied with the
pronouncement of Windham, who in one of his captious moods remarked to
Malmesbury that Pitt had no knowledge of the world, and kept in office
by making concessions, and by "tiding it over." Grenville (he said)
thought more of the nation's dignity, but was almost a recluse. In fact,
the Cabinet was ruled by Dundas, whom Grenville hated. Dundas it was who
had sacrificed Corsica, which involved the loss of Italy.[467] Windham
of course detested the author of the colonial expeditions, which had
diverted help from the Bretons. In the Chouans alone he saw hope; for
how could England struggle on alone against France if she could use all
the advantages offered by Brest and Cherbourg?

Much can be said in support of these contentions; for now that the
Directory threw away the scabbard, England felt the need of the stout
Bretons, whose armies had become mere predatory bands. The last
predictions of Burke were therefore justified. That once mighty
intellect expended its last flickering powers in undignified gibes at
the expense of Pitt and his regicide peace. Fate denied to him the
privilege of seeing Malmesbury again expelled from France and whipped
back "like a cur to his kennel." The great Irishman passed away, amidst
inconceivable gloom, in his 68th year, at Beaconsfield (8th July 1797).
In the view of Windham and other extreme Royalists, Burke was wholly
right, and Pitt's weakness was the cause of all his country's ills.

We may grant that the summer of the year 1797 was one of the worst
possible times in which to open a negotiation with triumphant France;
for she was certain to exact hard terms from a power whose credit and
whose prestige at sea had grievously suffered. Nevertheless, the
mistake, if mistake it was, is venial when compared with the
unstatesmanlike arrogance of the French Directors, who, when an
advantageous and brilliant peace was within their reach, chose to open
up a new cycle of war. Of late France had made use of the pretext that
she must gain her "natural frontiers"--the Rhine, the Alps, the
Pyrenees, and the Ocean--for the sake of security against the old
dynasties. By rejecting Pitt's overtures, her leaders now proclaimed
their resolve to dominate Italy and Germany and to secure supremacy at
sea. Their intrigues with British malcontents and the United Irishmen
also showed their determination to revolutionize our institutions. Thus
England was to be abased and insulted, while France lorded it over all
her neighbours and prepared to become mistress of the seas. The war
therefore ceased to be in any sense a war of principle, and became for
France a struggle for world-wide supremacy, for England a struggle for
national existence; and while democratic enthusiasm waned at Paris, the
old patriotic spirit revived everywhere in Great Britain. The newspapers
were full of appeals for unanimity; and on 20th November appeared the
first number of that bright and patriotic paper, the "Anti-Jacobin,"
under the editorship of Canning and Hookham Frere, which played no small
part in arousing national ardour. On the next day the French Directory
issued an appeal to France to bestir herself to overthrow the British
power, and to dictate peace at London.

There was need of unanimity; for while France was stamping out revolt,
and Great Britain felt increasingly the drag of Ireland, Pitt
encountered an antagonist of unsuspected strength. Over against his
diffuse and tentative policy stood that of Bonaparte, clear-cut, and for
the present everywhere victorious. While Pitt pursued that will o' the
wisp, a money-bought peace, the Corsican was bullying the Austrian
negotiators at Udine and Campo Formio. Finally his gasconnades carried
the day; and on 17th October Austria signed away her Netherlands to
France and her Milanese and Mantuan territories to the newly created
Cisalpine Republic. Bonaparte and the Emperor, however, agreed to
partition the unoffending Venetian State, the western half of which went
to the Cisalpines, the eastern half, along with Venice, Istria, and
Dalmatia, to the Hapsburgs. The Court of Vienna struggled hard to gain
the Ionian Islands; but on these, and on Malta, the young general had
set his heart as the natural stepping-stones to Egypt. At the close of
the year he returned to Paris in triumph, and was invited by the
Director, Barras, to go and conquer England.

Some such effort, either directly against London, or by a deadly
ricochet through Ireland, would have been made, had not Duncan, on 11th
October, crushed the Dutch off Camperdown, taking nine ships out of
fifteen. The consequences were far reaching. The Dutch navy was
paralysed; and without it the squadrons at Cherbourg and Brest were not
yet strong enough to attack our coasts, until the Toulon and Cadiz
fleets sailed northwards. Bonaparte, who was sent to survey the ports in
Flanders and the north of France, reported to the Directory on 23rd
February 1798 that there were fitting out at Brest only ten
sail-of-the-line, which moreover had no crews, and that the preparations
were everywhere so backward as to compel Government to postpone the
invasion until 1799. The wish was father to that thought. Already he had
laid his plans to seize Egypt, and now strongly advised the orientation
of French policy. A third possible course was the closing of all
continental ports against England, an adumbration of the Continental
System of 1806-13 for assuring the ruin of British commerce.

The news of Camperdown and Campo Formio added vigour to Pitt's appeal
for national union in his great speech of 10th November, in which he
gave proofs of the domineering spirit of the party now triumphant at
Paris. Very telling, also, was his taunt at the Whig press, "which knows
no other use of English liberty but servilely to retail and transcribe
French opinions." Sinclair, who had moved a hostile amendment, was so
impressed as to withdraw it; and thus at last the violence of the French
Jacobins conduced to harmony at Westminster.

Already there were signs that the struggle was one of financial
endurance. At the close of November 1797 Pitt appealed to the patriotism
of Britons to raise £25,500,000 for the estimated expenses of the next
year, in order to display the wealth and strength of the kingdom. He
therefore proposed to ask the Bank of England to advance £3,000,000 on
Exchequer bills; and he urged the propertied classes to submit to the
trebling of the Assessed Taxes on inhabited houses, windows, male
servants, horses, carriages, etc. The trebling of these imposts took the
House by surprise, and drew from Tierney, now, in the absence of Fox,
the leader of Opposition, the taunt that Pitt had to cringe to the Bank
for help. A few days later Pitt explained that the triple duty would
fall only upon those who already paid £3 or more on that score. If the
sum paid were less than £1 it would be halved. Those who paid £3 or more
would be charged at an increasing rate, until, when the sum paid
exceeded £50, the amount would be quadrupled. Nor was this all. By a
third Resolution he outlined the scheme of what was in part a
progressive Income Tax. Incomes under £60 were exempt; those between £60
and £65 paid at the rate of 2_d._ in the pound; and the proportion rose
until it reached 2_s._ in the pound for incomes of £200 or more.

Though Pitt pointed out the need of a patriotic rejoinder to the threats
of the French Government, the new Assessed Taxes aroused a furious
opposition. "The chief and almost only topic of conversation is the new
taxes," wrote Theresa Parker to Lady Stanley of Alderley. "How people
are to live if the Bill is passed I know not. I understand the
Opposition are much elated with the hope of the Bill's being passed, as
they consider Mr. Pitt infallibly ruined if it does, and that he must go
out."[468] The patriotism of London equalled that of the Foxites. City
men, forgetting that the present proposals were due to the shameless
evasions of the Assessed Taxes, raised a threatening din, some of them
declaring that Pitt would be assaulted if he came into the City. Several
supporters of Pitt, among them the Duke of Leeds, Sir William Pulteney
and Henry Thornton, opposed the new imposts, and the Opposition was
jubilantly furious. Sheridan, who returned to the fray, declared that
though the poor escaped these taxes they would starve; for the wealth
which employed them would be dried up. Hobhouse dubbed the Finance Bill
inquisitorial, degrading, and fatal to the virtues of truthfulness and
charity. Squires bemoaned the loss of horses and carriages and the hard
lot of their footmen. Arthur Young warned Pitt that if the taxes could
not be evaded, gentlemen must sell their estates and live in town. Bath,
he was assured, welcomed the new imposts because they would drive very
many families thither. He begged Pitt to reconsider his proposals, and,
instead of them, to tax "all places of public diversion, public dinners,
clubs, etc., not forgetting debating societies and Jacobin meetings";
for this would restrain "that violent emigration to towns, which the
measure dreadfully threatens."[469]

A sign of the hopes of the Opposition was the re-appearance of Fox.
Resuming his long vacant seat, he declared Pitt to be the author of the
country's ruin. For himself, he upheld the funding system, that is, the
plan of shelving the debt upon the future. The palm for abusiveness was,
however, carried off by Nicholls and Jekyll. The former taunted Pitt
with losing all his Allies and raising France to undreamt-of heights of
power, with failing to gain peace, with exhausting the credit and the
resources of England until now he had to requisition men's incomes. As
for Jekyll, he called the present proposals "a detestable measure of
extortion and rapacity." The debates dragged on, until, after a powerful
reply by Pitt in the small hours of 5th January 1798 the Finance Bill
passed the Commons by 196 to 71. The Lords showed a far better spirit.
Carrington declared that Pitt's proposals did not go far enough. Lord
Holland in a maiden speech pronounced them worse than the progressive
taxes of Robespierre. But Liverpool, Auckland, and Grenville supported
the measure, which passed on 9th January 1798 by 75 to 6.

For a time the Finance Bill injured Pitt's popularity in the City.
During the State procession on 19th December 1797, when the King, Queen,
and Ministers went to St. Paul's to render thanks for the naval triumphs
of that year, he was hooted by the mob; and on the return his carriage
had to be guarded by a squadron of horse. Nevertheless, it is now clear
that Pitt's proposals were both necessary and salutary. The predictions
of commercial ruin were soon refuted by the trade returns. Imports in
1798 showed an increase of £6,844,000 over those of 1797; exports, an
increase of £3,974,000. In part, doubtless, these gratifying results may
be ascribed to renewed security at sea, the bountiful harvest of 1798,
and the recent opening up of trade to Turkey and the Levant. But, under
a vicious fiscal system, trade would not have recovered from the severe
depression of 1797. Amidst all the troubles of the Irish Rebellion of
1798, Pitt derived comfort from the signs of returning prosperity.

The confidence which he inspired was proved by the success of a
remarkable experiment, the Patriotic Contribution. In the midst of the
acrid debates on the Finance Bill, the Speaker, Addington, tactfully
suggested the insertion of a clause enabling the Bank of England to
receive voluntary gifts, amounting to one-fifth of the income. Pitt
gratefully adopted the proposal, and early in the year 1798 patriots
began to send in large sums. Pitt, Addington, Dundas, the Lord
Chancellor, and Lords Kenyon and Romney at once gave £2,000 each; the
King graciously allotted from the Privy Purse £20,000 a year during the
war. The generous impulse speedily prevailed, and the City once more
showed its patriotism by subscribing £10,000; the Bank gave £200,000. A
platform was erected near the Royal Exchange for the receipt of
contributions. Among others, a wealthy calico printer, Robert Peel,
father of the statesman, felt the call of duty to give £10,000. He went
back to Bury (Lancashire) in some anxiety to inform his partner, Yates,
of this unbusinesslike conduct, whereupon the latter remarked, "You
might as well have made it £20,000 while you were about it." If all
Britons had acted in this spirit, the new taxes would have met the needs
of the war. But, as will subsequently appear, they failed to balance the
ever growing expenditure, and Pitt in 1799-1800 had to raise loans on
the security of the Income Tax to make up its deficiencies.

A pleasing proof of the restoration of friendship between Auckland and
Pitt appears in a letter in which the former asked advice as to the
amount which he should give to this fund. He was now Postmaster-General,
and stated that his total gross income was £3,600, out of which the new
taxes took £320. Should he give £1,000? And what should he give for his
brother, Morton Eden, ambassador at Vienna? Pitt answered that £700
should be the utmost for him; the sum of £500 for Morton would also be
generous.[470] On the whole, £2,300,000 was subscribed--a sum which
contrasts remarkably with the driblets that came in as a response to
Necker's appeal in the autumn of 1789 for a patriotic contribution of
one fourth of the incomes of Frenchmen.

Even so, Pitt had to impose new taxes in his Budget of 1798, and to
raise a loan of £3,000,000. Further, on 2nd April, he proposed a
commutation of the Land Tax. Of late it had been voted annually at the
rate of 4_s._ in the pound, and produced about £2,000,000. Pitt now
proposed to make it a perpetual charge upon parishes, but to enable
owners to redeem their land from the tax at the existing valuation. The
sums accruing from these sales were to go to the reduction of the
National Debt. His aim, that of enhancing credit, was as praiseworthy as
his procedure was defective. For there had been no valuation of the land
for many years, and the assessments varied in the most surprising manner
even in neighbouring districts. Doubtless it was impossible during the
Great War to carry out the expensive and lengthy process of a national
valuation; but, as manufactures and mining were creating a new
Industrial England, the time was most unsuited to the imposition of a
fixed quota of Land Tax.

Nevertheless, Pitt took as basis the assessment of 1797, and made it a
perpetual charge upon each parish. The results have in many cases been
most incongruous. Agricultural land, which was generally rated high,
continued to pay at that level long after depreciation set in. On the
other hand, large tracts in the manufacturing districts, rapidly
increasing in value, paid far less than their due share. In some cases
where a barren moor has become a hive of industry, the parish now raises
its quota by a rate of .001 in the pound. In a few cases, where the fall
in value has been severe, the rate is very heavy, in spite of remedial
legislation. Pitt could not have foreseen differences such as these;
but, in view of the rapid growth of manufactures in the Midlands and
North, he should have ensured either a re-valuation of the parochial
quotas or a complete and methodical redemption from the Land Tax. He
took neither course, and that, too, in spite of the warnings of Lord
Sheffield and Sinclair as to the injustice and impolicy of his
proposals. They passed both Houses by large majorities, perhaps because
he offered to landlords the option of redeeming their land at twenty
years' purchase. Less than one fourth of the tax was redeemed before the
year 1800, a fact which seems to show that the landed interest was too
hard pressed to profit by the opportunity. As Sir Francis Burdett said,
country gentlemen had to bear a heavy burden of taxation, besides
poor-rates, tithes, and the expense of the mounted yeomanry. Thurlow
compared the country magnates to sheep who let themselves be shorn and
re-shorn, whereas merchants and traders were like hogs, grunting and
bolting as soon as one bristle was touched. In defence of Pitt's action,
it may be said that he hoped to secure a considerable gain by the
investment of the purchase money in Consols and to enhance their value;
but it appears that not more than £80,000 a year was thus realized.[471]

The prevalence of discontent early in 1798 and the threatened coalition
of Irish and British malcontents will be noticed in the following
chapter. Pitt was so impressed by the danger as to press for the
suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act and the renewal of the Aliens Act
(April 1798). As happened in 1794, the revival of coercion produced
vehement protests. Already the Duke of Norfolk had flung defiance at
Ministers. Presiding at a great banquet held at the Crown and Anchor, on
the occasion of Fox's birthday, 24th January, he not only compared the
great orator to Washington, but hinted that the 2,000 men present might
do as much as Washington's handful had done in America. Finally he
proposed the distinctly Jacobinical toast, "Our Sovereign, the Majesty
of the People." For this he was dismissed from the command of a militia
regiment and from the Lord Lieutenancy of the West Riding of Yorkshire.

Fox chose to repeat the toast early in May 1798, when large parts of
Ireland were on the brink of revolt. In so dire a crisis it behoved a
leading man to weigh his words. But the wilful strain in his nature set
all prudence at defiance. Thereupon several of Pitt's friends
recommended a public prosecution for sedition, or at least a reprimand
at the bar of the House of Commons. To the former course Pitt objected
as giving Fox too much consequence, besides running the risk of an
acquittal; but he saw some advantage in the latter course; for (as he
wrote to Dundas) Fox, when irritated by the reprimand, would probably
offer a new insult and could then be sent to the Tower for the rest of
the Session. The suggestion is perhaps the pettiest in the whole of
Pitt's correspondence; but probably it was due to the extremely grave
situation in Ireland and the fear of a French invasion. Further, Fox had
ceased to attend the House of Commons; and a member who shirks his duty
is doubly guilty when he proposes a seditious toast. Pitt, however, did
not push matters to extremes, and the course actually adopted was the
removal of the name of Fox from the Privy Council by the hand of
George III on 9th May.

Sixteen days later, Pitt and Tierney had a passage of arms in the
House. That pugnacious Irishman had thrust himself to the fore during
the secession of Fox and other prominent Whigs from the House, and had
to bear many reproaches for his officiousness. He also nagged at Pitt at
every opportunity, until, on his opposing a motion of urgency for a Bill
for better manning the Navy, Pitt's patience gave way. He accused the
self-constituted leader of seeking to obstruct the defence of the
country. The charge was in the main correct; for Tierney's opposition to
a pressing measure of national defence was highly unpatriotic.
Nevertheless, Tierney had right on his side when he called Pitt to order
and appealed to the Speaker for protection. Rarely has that personage
been placed in a more difficult position. Pitt was right in his facts;
but etiquette required that he should withdraw or at least attenuate his
charge. Addington politely hinted that the words were unparliamentary,
but suggested that the Minister should give an explanation. Pitt stiffly
refused either to withdraw his words, or to explain their meaning. There
the incident closed. On the next day, Saturday, 26th May, Tierney sent
Pitt a challenge, which was at once accepted.

We find it difficult now to take seriously a duel between a slim man of
near forty who had rarely fired a shot in sport, never in anger, and a
stoutly built irascible Irishman, for whom a good shot meant lynching or
lasting opprobrium. Visions of Bob Acres and Sir Lucius O'Trigger flit
before us. We picture Tierney quoting "fighting Bob Acres" as to the
advantage of a sideways posture; and we wonder whether the seconds, if
only in regard for their own safety, did not omit to insert bullets. The
ludicrous side of the affair soon dawned on contemporaries, witness the
suggestion that in all fairness Pitt's figure ought to be chalked out on
Tierney's, and that no shot taking effect outside ought to count. But,
on the whole, people took the incident seriously. Certainly the
principals did. Pitt made his will beforehand, and requested Addington
as a friend to come and see him, thereby preventing his interposition as
Speaker. He asked Steele to be his second; but, he being away from town,
Dudley Ryder took his place. Leaving Downing Street about noon on
Whitsunday, 27th May, the pair walked along Birdcage Walk, mounted the
steps leading into Queen Street, and entered a chaise engaged for their
excursion. After passing the villages of Chelsea and Putney, and,
topping the rise beyond, they proceeded along the old Portsmouth Road,
which crosses the northern part of Putney Heath. At the top of the steep
hill leading down into Kingston Vale they alighted, made their way past
the gibbet where swung the corpse of a well-known highwayman, Jerry
Abershaw, long the terror of travellers on that road. Did Pitt know that
libellers likened him to the highwayman; for "Jerry took purses with his
pistols, and Pitt with his Parliaments"? Lower down Pitt and Ryder found
Tierney and his second, General Walpole, in a charming dell radiant with
golden gorse and silver birches.[472]

But they were not alone. That fine Whitsuntide had brought many chaises
along the road; and not a few curious persons skirted the rising ground
towards Putney and Wimbledon. To these inquisitive groups rode up a tall
bland-looking man, now more than usually sedate. It was Addington.
Probably he was the most anxious man alive. He knew that his weakness as
Speaker had freed Pitt from the necessity of apologizing to Tierney as
the occasion demanded. Now, too, as Speaker, he ought to intervene. As a
friend, pledged by Pitt to secrecy, he could do nothing but look on.
Below, in the dell, the seconds saw to the pistols and measured the
distance--twelve paces. Pitt and Tierney coolly took aim, and, at the
signal, fired. Addington's heart must have leaped with joy to see Pitt's
figure still erect. Again the seconds produced pistols, and again the
pair fired: but this time Pitt discharged his weapon into the air. Was
it a sign of his contrition for his insult to Tierney, or of his
chivalrous sense of Tierney's disadvantage in the matter of
target-space? Certain it is that Walpole leaped over the furze bushes
for joy on seeing the duellists still erect.

Thus ended the duel, to the satisfaction of all present. Pitt had
behaved with spirit, and Tierney had achieved immortal fame. But that
the duel was fought at all caused deep concern. Hannah More was
inexpressibly shocked at the desecration of Whitsunday; Wilberforce also
was deeply pained. Indeed, he deemed the matter so serious as to propose
to give notice of a motion for preventing duelling; but he dropped it
on Pitt frankly assuring him that, if carried, it would involve his
resignation. George III signified to Chatham his decided disapproval,
and expressed to Pitt a desire that such an incident should never occur
again. "Public characters," he added, "have no right to weigh alone what
they owe to themselves; they must consider what they owe to their
country." Thomas Pitt strongly reprobated the conduct of Tierney in
challenging Pitt; for we find the latter replying to him on 30th May: "I
shall feel great concern if the feelings of my friends betray them into
any observations on Mr. Tierney's conduct reproachful or in the smallest
degree unfavourable to him, being convinced that he does not merit
them." This is the letter of a spirited gentleman. Buckingham evidently
sympathized with Thomas Pitt; for he expressed his surprise that the
Prime Minister should risk his life against such a man as Tierney. A
more jocular tone was taken by the Earl of Mornington, soon to become
the Marquis Wellesley. Writing to Pitt from Fort St. George on 8th
August 1799 (three months after the capture of Seringapatam), he
expressed strong approval of his Irish policy and concluded as follows:
"I send you by Henry a pair of pistols found in the palace at
Seringapatam. They are mounted in gold and were given by the late King
of France to the 'citizen Sultan' (Tippoo). They will, I hope, answer
better for your next Jacobin duel than those you used under Abershaw's
gibbet."[473]--What became of those pistols?

The general opinion was adverse to Pitt's conduct. For at that time the
outlook in Ireland could scarcely have been gloomier, and Bonaparte's
armada at Toulon was believed to be destined for those shores. In such a
case, despite the nice punctilio of honour, neither ought Tierney to
have sent a challenge nor Pitt to have accepted it. The recklessness of
Pitt in this affair is, however, typical of the mood of the British
people in the spring and summer of that year. The victories of Jervis
and Duncan, the rejection of Pitt's offers of peace by the French
Directory, and its threats to invade these shores, aroused the fighting
spirit of the race. As the war became a struggle for existence, all
thoughts of surrender vanished. The prevalent feeling was one of
defiance. It was nurtured by Canning in the "Anti-Jacobin," in which he
lampooned the French democrats and their British well-wishers. Under
the thin disguise of "the Friend of Humanity" he satirized Tierney in
the poem, "The Knife-Grinder," a parody, in form, of Southey's "Widow,"
and, in meaning, of Tierney's philanthropic appeals. In a play, "The
Rovers," he sportfully satirized the romantic drama of Schiller, "The
Robbers." In one of the incidental poems he represented the hero, while
in prison, recalling the bright days

                      at the U-
    -niversity of Göttingen,
    -niversity of Göttingen.

Pitt was so charmed with this _jeu d'esprit_ that he is said to have
added the following verse in the same mock-heroic style:[474]

    Sun, moon, and thou, vain world, adieu,
    That Kings and priests are plotting in;
    Here doomed to starve on water gru-
    -el, never shall I see the U-
          -niversity of Göttingen,
          -niversity of Göttingen.

A Prime Minister who can throw off squibs, and a nation that can enjoy
them, will not succumb even in the worst crisis.

In truth, all patriots were now straining their utmost to repel an
aggressive and insolent enemy. The Volunteer Movement more than ever
called forth the manly exertions of the people; and one of the most
popular caricatures of the time (May 1798) shows Pitt as a Volunteer
standing rigidly at attention. Sermons, caricatures, pamphlets, and
songs, especially those of Dibdin, served to stimulate martial ardour.
Singular to relate, Hannah More (now in her fifty-third year) figured
among the patriotic pamphleteers, her "Cheap Repository" of political
tracts being an effective antidote to the Jacobinical leaflets which
once had a hold on the poorer classes. Space will not admit of an
account of all the agencies which heralded the dawn of a more resolute
patriotism. Though the methods were varied, the soul of them all was

The tone of public opinion astonished that experienced writer, Mallet du
Pan, who, on coming from the Continent to England, described the change
of spirit as astounding. There the monarchical States, utterly devoid of
dignity and patriotism, were squabbling over the details of a shameful
peace. "Here," he writes in May 1798, "we are in the full tide of war,
crushed by taxation, and exposed to the fury of the most desperate of
enemies, but nevertheless security, abundance, and energy reign supreme,
alike in cottage and palace. I have not met with a single instance of
nervousness or apprehension. The spectacle presented by public opinion
has far surpassed my expectation. The nation had not yet learnt to know
its own strength or its resources. The Government has taught it the
secret, and inspired it with an unbounded confidence almost amounting to
presumption." No more striking tribute has been paid by a foreigner to
the dauntless spirit of Britons. Rarely have they begun a war well; for
the careless ways of the race tell against the methodical preparation to
which continental States must perforce submit. England, therefore,
always loses in the first rounds of a fight. But, if she finds a good
leader, she slowly and wastefully repairs the early losses. In September
1797 the French Directory made the unpardonable mistake of compelling
her to prepare for a war to the knife. Thenceforth the hesitations of
Pitt, which had weakened his war policy in 1795-6, vanished; and he now
stood forth as the inspirer of his countrymen in a contest on behalf of
their national existence and the future independence of Europe.


[462] "Malmesbury Diaries," iii, 259-368; "Dropmore P.," iii, 239-42,
256, 287, 290.

[463] Pitt MSS., 102. See Stanhope, iii, App., for the letters of the
King and Pitt; "Dropmore P.," iii, 310 _et seq._; also C. Ballot, "Les
Négociations de Lille," for an excellent account of these overtures and
the European situation.

[464] See Pitt's letter of 16th June to the King and new letters of
Grenville in "Pitt and Napoleon Miscellanies"; "Windham's Diary," 368;
C. Ballot, _op. cit._, ch. v and App.; Luckwaldt (_vice_ Huffer)
"Quellen," pt ii, 153, 161, 176, 183.

[465] On 1st August 1797 Wilberforce wrote to Pitt a letter (the last
part of which is quoted in Chapter XX of my former volume) urging him,
even if the negotiation failed, to declare on what terms he would resume
it. In Mr. Broadley's library is a letter of Lord Shelburne to
Vergennes, dated 13th November 1782, which makes it clear that Pitt in
1782-3 was wholly against the surrender or the exchange of Gibraltar.

[466] Ballot, _op. cit._, 302, who corrects Thiers, Sorel, and Sciout on
several points.

[467] "Dropmore P.," iii, 377, 380-2; "Malmesbury Diaries," iii, 590.

[468] "Parl. Hist.," xxxiii, 1076; "The Early Married Life of Lady
Stanley," 149.

[469] Pitt MSS., 193. Mr. Abbott, afterwards Lord Colchester, differed
from his patron, the Duke of Leeds, on this question. See "Lord
Colchester's Diaries," i, 124-31.

[470] B.M. Add. MSS., 34454.

[471] "Parl. Hist.," xxxiii, 1434-54, 1481; "Mems. of Sir John
Sinclair," i, 310, 311.

[472] Addington's description (Pellew, "Sidmouth," i, 206) fixes the
spot. Mr. A. Hawkes, in an article in the "Wimbledon Annual" for 1904,
places it in front of the house called "Scio," but it must be the deeper
hollow towards Kingston Vale. Caricatures of the time wrongly place the
duel on the high ground near the windmill. A wag chalked on Abershaw's
gibbet a figure of the two duellers, Tierney saying: "As well fire at
the devil's darning-needle."

[473] Pretyman MSS.; "Dropmore P.," iv, 222.

[474] The hero is probably Robert Adair, the Whig "envoy" to St.
Petersburg in 1791,

                 "the youth whose daring soul
    With _half a mission_ sought the frozen pole."

Pitt's authorship of the lines quoted above is denied by Mr. Lloyd
Sanders in his Introduction to the "Anti-Jacobin" (Methuen, 1904); but
his arguments are not conclusive. Lines 370-80 of "New Morality" are
also said to be by Pitt.

[475] In "Pitt and Napoleon Miscellanies" I shall describe Pitt's work
in the national defence. See an excellent account of the popular
literature of the time in "Napoleon and the Invasion of England," by H.
F. B. Wheeler and A. M. Broadley, i, ch. vii.



    The dark destiny of Ireland, as usual, triumphed.--T. MOORE,
    _Mems. of Lord Edward Fitzgerald_.

Various orders of minds ascribe the Irish Rebellion of 1798 to widely
different causes. The ethnologist sees in it the incompatibility of Celt
and Saxon. To the geographer it may yield proofs of Nature's design to
make Ireland a nation. If approached from the religious standpoint, it
will be set down either to Jesuits or to the great schism of Luther. The
historian or jurist may trace its origins back to the long series of
wrongs inflicted by a dominant on a subject race. Fanatical Irishmen see
in it a natural result of the rule of "the base and bloody Saxon"; and
Whig historians ascribe it to Pitt's unworthy treatment of that most
enlightened of Lords-Lieutenant, Earl Fitzwilliam. Passing by the
remoter causes, I must very briefly notice the last topic.

The appointment of the Whig magnate, Fitzwilliam, to the Irish
Viceroyalty in 1794 resulted from the recent accession of the "Old
Whigs," led by the Duke of Portland, to the ministerial ranks. That
union, as we have seen, was a fertile cause of friction. Fitzwilliam was
at first President of the Council; but that post did not satisfy the
nephew and heir of the Marquis of Rockingham. He aspired to the
Viceroyalty at Dublin; and Portland, who, as Home Secretary, supervised
Irish affairs, claimed it for him. Pitt consented, provided that a
suitable appointment could be arranged for the present Viceroy, the Earl
of Westmorland. This was far from easy. Ultimately the position of
Master of the Horse was found for him; but, long before this decision
was formed, Fitzwilliam wrote to the Irish patriot, Grattan, asking him
and his friends, the Ponsonbys, for their support during his
Viceroyalty. This move implied a complete change of system at Dublin,
Grattan and the Ponsonbys having declared for the admission of Roman
Catholics to the then exclusively Protestant Parliament. True, this
reform seemed a natural sequel to Pitt's action in according to British
Catholics the right of public worship and of the construction of schools
(1791). Further, in 1792, he urged Westmorland to favour the repeal of
the remaining penal laws against Irish Catholics; but the Dublin
Parliament decisively rejected the proposal. Nevertheless, in 1793 he
induced Westmorland to support the extension of the franchise to
Romanists, a measure which seemed to foreshadow their admission to
Parliament itself. There is little doubt that Pitt, who then expected
the war to be short, intended to set the crown to this emancipating
policy; for even in the dark times that followed he uttered not a word
which implied permanent hostility to the claims of Catholics. His
attitude was that of one who awaited a fit opportunity for satisfying

Unfortunately, the overtures of Fitzwilliam to Grattan and the Ponsonbys
became known at Dublin, with results most humiliating for Westmorland.
The exultation of the Ponsonbys and the Opposition aroused the hopes of
Catholics and the resentment of the more extreme Protestants. Chief
among the champions of the existing order was the Irish Lord Chancellor,
Baron Fitzgibbon, afterwards Earl of Clare. A man of keen intellect and
indomitable will, he swayed the House of Lords, the Irish Bar, and the
Viceregal councils. It was he who had urged severe measures against the
new and powerful organization, the United Irishmen, started in Ulster by
Wolfe Tone, which aimed at banding together men of both religions in a
solid national phalanx. Scarcely less influential than Fitzgibbon was
Beresford, the chief of the Revenue Department, whose family connections
and control of patronage were so extensive as to earn him the name of
the King of Ireland. Like Fitzgibbon he bitterly opposed any further
concession to Catholics; and it was therefore believed that the
dismissal of these two men was a needful preliminary to the passing of
that important measure. Rumours of sweeping changes began to fly about,
especially when Grattan came to London, and had interviews with the Lord
Chancellor. The frequent shifts whereby the Scottish Presbyterian,
Wedderburn, became the reactionary Lord Loughborough were notorious; and
it is one of the suspicious features of the Fitzwilliam affair that he,
now Lord Chancellor of Great Britain, should urge Pitt to treat
Fitzwilliam with the confidence due to his prospective dignity. The
Attorney-General, Sir Richard Pepper Arden, sent to Pitt the following

                                           _September 1794._[476]

    ... My wife says she dined the other day with Grattan at the
    Chancellor's. I am sadly afraid that preferment in Ireland will
    run too much in favour of those who have not been the most
    staunch friends of Government; but, pray, for God's sake, take
    care that the new Lord Lieutenant does not throw the Government
    back into the hands of Lord Shannon and the Ponsonbys, nor turn
    out those who behaved well during the King's illness to make way
    for those who behaved directly the reverse. Excuse my anxiety on
    this head but I fear there is good reason for it.

Arden was correctly informed. Now or a little later, Fitzwilliam formed
the resolve to dismiss Fitzgibbon and Beresford. On the other hand, the
lowering outlook in Holland in the autumn of 1794 induced in Pitt the
conviction that the time had not yet come for sweeping changes at
Dublin. Accordingly, late in October, or early in November, he and
Grenville thoroughly discussed this subject with the newly appointed
Ministers, Portland, Fitzwilliam, Spencer, and Windham. Grenville's
account of this conference, which has but recently seen the light,
refutes the oft repeated statement,[477] that Pitt accorded to
Fitzwilliam a free hand at Dublin. On the contrary, it was agreed,
apparently with the full consent of the Viceroy-elect, that he should
make no change of system.[478] Fully consonant with this decision was
the reply of Pitt to Sir John Parnell, Grattan, and the two Ponsonbys,
who in the third week of November 1794 begged him to lower the duties on
inter-insular imports. While expressing his complete sympathy with their
request, he declared the present critical time to be inopportune for a
change which must arouse clamour and prejudice.[479] The conduct of
Fitzwilliam was far different. Landing near Dublin on 4th January 1795,
he on the 7th sent Daly to request Beresford to retire from office.
Beresford refused, and sent off an appeal to his old friend, Auckland,
with the result that the Cabinet soon met to consider the questions
aroused by this and other curt dismissals. It being clear that
Fitzwilliam was working with the Ponsonbys for a complete change of
system, he was asked to modify his conduct. He refused to do so.

The King now intervened in an unusually incisive manner. He informed
Pitt that it would be better to recall Fitzwilliam than to allow further
concessions to Catholics, a subject which was "beyond the decision of
any Cabinet of Ministers." Accordingly, Fitzwilliam was recalled, his
departure from Dublin arousing a storm of indignation which bade fair to
overwhelm the Administration of his successor, Earl Camden.

Such is a brief outline of the Fitzwilliam affair. No event could have
been more unfortunate. It led Irish patriots and the Whigs at
Westminster to inveigh against the perfidy and tyranny of Pitt. He was
unable to publish documents in his own defence, while Fitzwilliam
crowned his indiscretions by writing two lengthy letters charging the
Cabinet with breach of faith and Beresford with peculation. Nominally
private, they were published at Dublin, with the result that Pitt and
Camden were held up to execration and contempt. On reviewing this
question, we may conclude that Pitt erred in not procuring from
Fitzwilliam a written statement that he would make no sweeping changes
at Dublin, either in regard to men or measures, without the consent of
the Cabinet. It is, however, clear that Ministers regarded the verbal
understanding with Fitzwilliam as binding; for Grenville, Portland,
Spencer, and Windham sided with Pitt in this painful dispute, Portland's
chilling behaviour to the Earl on his return marking his disapproval of
his conduct.

Never did a Lord-Lieutenant enter on his duties under auspices more
threatening than those besetting the arrival of Camden on 31st March
1795. After the swearing-in ceremony the passions of the Dublin mob
broke loose. Stones were flung at the carriages of the Primate and
Fitzgibbon. The rabble then attacked the Speaker's residence and the
Custom House, and not till two of their number fell dead under a volley
of the soldiery did the rioters disperse. The rebellion which
Fitzwilliam predicted on his departure seemed to be at hand.

Camden, on whom this storm was to burst three years later, was not a
strong man. He entered on his duties doubtfully and before long sent
requests for his recall on account of his family concerns. He might
well quail at the magnitude of his task. His instructions bade him by
all available means discourage the claims of the Catholics, and rally
the discouraged Protestants. Thereafter he might conciliate the
Catholics by promising relief for their parochial clergy, the foundation
of a seminary for the training of their priests, and some measure of
education for the peasantry. The instructions ended thus: "Moderate,
soothe, conciliate these jarring spirits. We have great confidence in
your judgment, firmness, discretion."[480] The despatch refutes the
oft-repeated assertion that the Ministry sought to inflame the
animosities of Protestants and Catholics in order to force on the Union.
That was the outcome of the whole situation; but in the spring of 1795
Ministers hoped to calm the ferment, which they rightly ascribed to the
imprudence of Fitzwilliam. Their forecast for a time came true. In the
first debates at Dublin the lead given by Camden's able Secretary,
Pelham, served to close the schism in the Protestant ranks. Despite the
vehement efforts of Grattan, his Bill for the admission of Catholics was
thrown out by a majority of more than one hundred; and Ireland entered
once more on the dreary path of reaction.

In the hope of softening the asperities of Irish life, Pitt favoured the
plan of founding a seminary for the training of Catholic priests in
Ireland. The proposal was alike one of justice and expediency; of
justice, because the expense of training Irish priests in foreign
seminaries had been a sore burden to their co-religionists; and of
expediency, because the change promised to assuage the anti-British
prejudices of the priests. Moreover, amidst the sweeping triumph of
secularism in France and Belgium, most of the seminaries frequented by
Irish youths had disappeared. The chief objections urged against the
scheme were the narrowness of view certain to result from the curriculum
of a semi-monastic institution, and the desirability of educating
priests at Trinity College along with Protestants. On these grounds we
must regret Pitt's decision to found a separate training college, albeit
at first intended for the education of lay youths as well. The
considerations above set forth, however, prevailed; and the chief
legislative result of the year 1795 at Dublin was the charter
establishing Maynooth College. Undoubtedly it was the outcome of Pitt's
desire to pacify Catholic Ireland; but the unhappy conditions of the
ensuing period told heavily against success. Indeed, as Wolfe Tone
predicted, that institution fostered insular patriotism of a somewhat
narrow type.

The trend of things in the years 1795-7 set steadily towards rebellion.
The discontent was most threatening among the sturdy Presbyterians of
Ulster, chafed as they were by the exaction of tithes by the Protestant
Established Church. The founders and the ablest leaders of the League of
United Irishmen were Protestants. For a time they aimed merely at a
drastic measure of Parliamentary Reform similar to that advocated by
English Radicals. But the disappointment of the hopes of Grattan and
Irish Whigs in the spring of 1795 exasperated all sections of reformers
and impelled the League towards revolutionary courses. Sops like
Maynooth they rejected with scorn; and at the close of that year, after
the passing of certain repressive measures, their organization became
secret; they imposed an oath on members and gradually devised means for
organizing the whole of Ireland in brotherhoods, which by means of
district and county delegations, carried out the behests of the central
committee at Dublin.

Yet their system was far from absorbing the whole of the nation. The
vivacity of the Celt and the hardness of the Saxon tell against close
union; and where the two races dwell side by side, solidarity is a
dream. Now, as always, in times of excitement the old animosities burst
forth. The Catholic peasantry banded together in clubs, known as
Defenders, to glut their hatred upon Protestant landlords and
tithe-reaping clergy. Their motives seem in the main to have been
agrarian rather than religious; but, as in Leinster, Munster, and
Connaught the dividing lines between landlords and peasants were almost
identical with those between Protestants and Catholics, the land feud
became a war of creed. The ensuing horrors, midnight attacks,
cattle-maiming, and retaliation by armed yeomanry, exerted a sinister
influence upon Ulster, where the masses were fiercely Protestant.
Certain of the Catholic villages were ravaged by Protestant Peep o' Day
Boys, until the Irishry fled in terror to the South or West, there
wreaking their vengeance upon squires and parsons. By degrees the Peep
o' Day Boys became known as Orangemen, whose defiant loyalty sometimes
caused concern to Camden and Pitt; while the Defenders joined the
better drilled ranks of United Ireland, which therefore became a
preponderatingly Catholic body.

Thus affairs revolved in the old vicious circle. Feuds, racial,
religious, and agrarian, rent Ireland asunder. Disputes about land have
ever sunk deep into the brooding imagination of the Celt; and the
memories of holdings absorbed, or of tithes pitilessly exacted in lean
years, now flashed forth in many a deed of incendiarism or outrage. To
Camden there appeared to be only one means of cure, coercion. An
Indemnity Act was therefore passed to safeguard squires and yeomen who
took the law into their own hands. Then followed the Insurrection Act,
for disarming the disaffected, and the suspension of the Habeas Corpus
Act for strengthening the arm of the law.

The outcome was that the United Irishmen turned towards France. Even in
the year 1793 the Republic sent agents into Ireland to stir up revolt.
Nothing definite came of those efforts, except that a section of Irish
patriots thenceforth began to strive for separation from Great Britain.
Early in 1796 Wolfe Tone proceeded to Paris to arrange for the despatch
of a French auxiliary corps. On 20th April General Clarke, head of the
Topographical Bureau at the War Office, agreed to send 10,000 men and
20,000 stand of arms. The mercurial Irishman encountered endless delays,
and was often a prey to melancholy; but the news of Bonaparte's
victories in Italy led him to picture the triumph of the French
Grenadiers in Ireland.[481]

Another interesting figure is that of Lord Edward Fitzgerald. Sprung
from the ancient line of the Geraldines, and son of the Duke of
Leinster, he plunged into life with the gaiety and bravery of a Celt.
After serving with distinction in the British army in America he
returned, became a member of the Irish Parliament, and in 1790 during
the acute friction with Spain, received from his uncle, the Duke of
Richmond, an introduction to Pitt, who offered him the command of an
expedition against Cadiz. Nothing came of the proposal; but the incident
reveals the esteem in which the chivalrous young officer was held. He
soon married Pamela, the reputed daughter of the Duke of Orleans and
Mme. de Genlis, whence he himself was often dubbed "Egalité." The
repressive policy of Camden made him a rebel; and in May 1796 he made
his way to Hamburg, hoping to concert plans for a French invasion.
There he was joined by Arthur O'Connor, who impressed Reinhard with a
sense of ability and power. Together the two Irishmen travelled to
Basle, where they induced Barthélemy to favour their scheme. Meanwhile
the French Directory entered into the plan of Wolfe Tone; the mission of
Fitzgerald had no direct result, apart from the revelation of his plan
to a travelling companion, who had been the mistress of a British
Minister, and now forwarded a description of it to London.[482]

Meanwhile Wolfe Tone had sketched the outline of the enterprise to
Clarke and General Hoche, predicting to the latter, the commander-elect,
that he would "amputate the right hand of England for ever."[483] As is
well known, Hoche's expedition to Bantry Bay at the close of the year
1796 was an utter failure; and the sterner spirits in Ulster believed
that the French had designed that it should end so. The malcontents
therefore relaxed their efforts for a time, until, in the spring
following, the mutinies in the British fleet aroused new hopes. It seems
probable that their intrigues had some effect on events at the Nore. In
quick succession United Ireland despatched to Paris two delegates, named
Lewins and McNevin, to concert plans for another landing. The Directory
sent an agent to treat with the League. Fitzgerald met him in London,
and declared that the Irish Militia and Yeomanry would join the French
on their landing. The United Irishmen also sought help from Spain.[484]

In Ireland the organisation went on apace until Camden struck sharp
blows through the military. In the middle of May 1797, when the
malcontents were excited by news of the second mutiny at Portsmouth,
they rose in the North, but in three or four engagements the loyal
Militia and Yeomanry broke up their bands. The South remained quiet, and
the efforts to seduce the army and Militia were fruitless; but Lord
Clifden, writing to Abbot on 15th May, predicted a general rising when
the French attempted a second invasion, as they certainly would.[485] On
19th June Beresford wrote from Dublin to Auckland, stating that, but for
the repressive measures and wholesale seizures of arms, not a
loyalist's head would have been safe.[486] The spring of 1797 was
indeed a time of great risk. But for the weakness of the Dutch and
French navies, a landing in Ireland could have taken place with every
chance of success. As it was, Camden's vigorous measures so far cowed
the malcontents that the rebellion was deferred for a year. This respite
probably saved the British Empire. Amidst the financial and naval
difficulties of the first half of the year 1797, a telling blow struck
at Ireland could scarcely have failed of success. Rarely were the
enemies of England so formidable; never were her means of defence so
weak. Fortunately, no blow was aimed at her until the month of October;
and then, when the Dutch fleet set out to convoy an expedition to
Ireland, it was utterly crushed by Duncan at Camperdown. There was
therefore little risk of an invasion in force after October 1797, the
very month which saw Napoleon Bonaparte set free from his lengthy
negotiations with Austria. Verily, if Fortune pressed hard on Pitt at
Toulon and in Flanders and Hayti, she more than redressed the balance by
her boons at sea in the year 1797.

Camden's letters to Pitt reveal the imminence of bankruptcy in Ireland
throughout that year; and it is noteworthy that the loan raised for the
Irish Government in January and February was the final cause of the Bank
crisis in London. Even so, the Irish Exchequer was in dire need. On 25th
April Camden informed Pitt that only £8,000 remained in the Exchequer,
and he had no means for equipping the troops if the French should land.
The sum of £200,000 must be sent at once. Such a demand at that time was
impossible; and not until the end of May could Pitt forward the half of
that sum, Camden meanwhile borrowing money in Dublin at 8 3/8 per cent.
On 1st June he wrote to Pitt a confidential letter, laying bare his real
aims. He urged him to do all in his power to procure peace from France.
He had recommended this step in April; but now his language was most
insistent. Assuming that it would be sheer madness to tempt fortune in
another campaign, he suggested that, if the French terms were too
onerous, Pitt should leave it to another Prime Minister to frame a
peace. But whatever happened, Pitt must not lower his dignity by
conceding Reform and Catholic Emancipation in Great Britain and Ireland.
If those measures were inevitable, others must carry them. The latter
would only satisfy the Irish Catholics for a time, their aim being to
rule the country. The only way of escaping these difficulties was a
Union of the Parliaments; but he (Camden) could not undertake to carry
it, still less Catholic Emancipation. Finally he declared the
Presbyterians of Ulster to be Republicans who would rise _en masse_ if
the French landed; but if Cornwallis were sent over to lead the troops,
even that crisis might be overcome.[487]

Pitt received this letter at the height of the mutiny at the Nore. He
seems to have sent no answer to it: indeed, silence is the best reply to
such an effusion. Camden's letters to Pitt show that he longed for his
recall. In that of 16th November 1796 he concluded with the significant
remark that he looked forward to the time when they would once more live
as country gentlemen in Kent. Pitt had the same longing; but he never
wrote a line expressing a desire to leave the tiller at the height of
the storm. Obviously Camden was weary of his work. Fear seems to have
been the motive which prompted his proclamation of martial law in
several counties and the offer of an amnesty to all who would surrender
their arms before Midsummer 1797. Those enactments, together with the
brutal methods of General Lake and the soldiery in Ulster and Leinster,
crushed revolt for the present but kindled a flame of resentment which
burst forth a year later. As the danger increased, so did the severities
of the Protestant Yeomanry and Militia. Thus, fear begot rage, and rage
intensified fear and its offspring, violence. The United Irishmen had
their revenge. In the summer of 1797 their two delegates, Lewins and
McNevin, did their utmost to defeat the efforts of Pitt to bring about
peace with France; and the former had the promise of the Director,
Barras, that France would never sheathe the sword until Ireland was

Again Camden begged Pitt to seek the first opportunity of freeing him
from his duties in order to disentangle his private affairs which were
in much confusion, the excess of expenditure over income at Dublin being
a further cause of embarrassment. In fact nothing but a sense of public
duty, in view of a hostile invasion, kept him at his post. So far from
the truth are those who, without knowledge of the inner motives of
statesmen, accuse them of delight in cruelty and of intriguing to
provoke a revolt.

Early in the year 1798 the hopes of malcontents centred in the naval
preparations progressing at Brest and Toulon.[489] Bonaparte also seemed
about to deal a blow at London. In February he surveyed the flotilla at
Dunkirk and neighbouring ports; and the hearts of English Jacobins beat
high at the thought of his landing in Kent or Sussex. The London
Corresponding Society, after a time of suspended animation, had now
become a revolutionary body. On 30th January its new secretaries,
Crossfield and Thomas Evans, issued an encouraging address to the United
Irishmen. Somewhat later Evans and Binns formed a society, the United
Englishmen, which imposed on its members an oath to learn the use of
arms, its constitution in local, or baronial, committees being modelled
on that of the United Irishmen. A society of United Scotsmen was founded
about the same time; a society of United Britons also came to being, and
issued a fraternal address to the United Irishmen on 5th January.

Most significant of these effusions is one, dated 6 Pluviôse An VI [25th
January 1798], by "the Secret Committee of England" to the French
Directory, containing the assurance that Pitt had come to the end of his
borrowing powers and that the people were ready to throw off his yoke.
"United as we are," it concluded, "we now only await with impatience to
see the Hero of Italy and the brave veterans of the great Nation.
Myriads will hail their arrival with shouts of joy: they will soon
finish the glorious campaign." This address was drawn up fourteen days
before Bonaparte set out for Dunkirk. It is clear, then, that its
compilers were not so ignorant as that consequential tailor, Francis
Place, represented them. Their chief mistake lay in concluding that
Bonaparte intended to "leap the ditch." As we now know, his tour on the
northern coast was intended merely to satisfy the Directors and
encourage the English and Irish malcontents to risk their necks, while
he made ready his armada at Toulon for the Levant.[490] Meanwhile the
United Britons and United Irishmen sought to undermine Pitt's Government
so that it might fall with a crash at the advent of the hero of Italy.
They knew not that the chief efforts of the "soldiers of liberty" were
then being directed to the pillage of Rome and of the cantonal
treasuries of Switzerland in order to provide funds for Bonaparte's
oriental adventure.

Already Irish, English, and French democrats had been fraternizing. In
January 1798 the United Englishmen sent over two delegates to Dublin to
concert action, and about the same time a priest of Dundalk, named
O'Coigly (_Anglicé_ Quigley), came over from Ireland as a delegate from
the United Irishmen to Evans's Society. Place asserts that his plan of
proceeding to France was not known. But, as Place habitually toned down
or ridiculed the doings of that Society, this is doubtful. Owing to
secret information (probably from Turner, a British spy at Hamburg) the
Government arrested Quigley, Arthur O'Connor, and Binns, a leading
member of the London Corresponding Society, at Margate as they were
about to board a hoy for France (28th February). A little later Colonel
Despard, Bonham, and Evans were arrested. The evidence against all but
Quigley was not conclusive, and they were released. The case against
Quigley depended on a paper found by a police officer in his pocket,
urging a French invasion of England. He was therefore condemned for high
treason and was hanged on 7th June 1798. Probably Quigley had that paper
from a London Society; but if so, why were not its officials seized? In
some respects the Quigley affair still remains a mystery. Certainly it
added fuel to the hatred felt for Pitt by British and Irish

The evidence against O'Connor was weighty. It was proved that he was the
leader of the party and that he knew Quigley well. He had a cipher in
his possession, which was surely superfluous if, as he stated, he was
travelling on private business. Probably his acquittal was due to his
relationship to Lord Longueville, an influential Irish peer. Fox,
Sheridan, and the Duke of Norfolk also proceeded to Maidstone to answer
for the virtuous and patriotic character of O'Connor, a fact which
probably led the judge to give a strangely favourable summing-up. The
conduct of the Opposition leaders in this matter led their former
comrade, the Earl of Carlisle, to declare that they had now sunk to a
lower political hell than any yet reached. The Government, however, had
not done with O'Connor. He was at once arrested at Maidstone on another
charge (22nd May), and was in prison in Dublin during the rebellion. He
then confessed that he had done more than any one to organize Leinster
for revolt, also that he had had conferences with French generals with a
view to invasion so far back as 1793; and he stated that he knew the
member of the United Irishmen who in the winter of 1796 advised the
French not to come until the spring of 1797.[492] There certainly was
some misunderstanding between the Irish rebels and their would-be
helpers; but the full details are not known. Finally O'Connor was
allowed to retire to France; he became a French general, and helped
Napoleon to concert plans for the invasion of Ireland, assuring him
that, after the work of liberation was done, 200,000 Irishmen would help
him to conquer England.

Meanwhile further news respecting the Franco-Irish plans reached Pitt
through a man named Parish at Hamburg. An American friend of his at
Brussels, while waiting at the municipal office for passports, saw those
of two young Irishmen, named O'Finn, delegates of the United Irishmen of
Cork. They had a large packet for the Directory at Paris, which
contained the plans of the United Irishmen, the numbers and positions of
the British troops and of the British warships between Dungeness and the
North Foreland. The O'Finns stated this to the commissary of the
Brussels bureau, who heard it with joy. The American secretly forwarded
the news to Parish. The fact that the O'Finns had a list of the forces
on the Kentish coast implied information from the English malcontents.
Accordingly, on 19th April, Government seized the papers of the London
Corresponding Society. They contained nothing of importance except the
constitution of the Society, the oath to learn the use of arms, and the
address to the United Irishmen. The Parliamentary Committee of Secrecy
also believed that a plan was afoot for bringing to London a band of
Irish fanatics to strike a blow which would paralyse Government while
the French landed and Ireland revolted. This inference seems
far-fetched; but the evidence at hand warranted the suspension of the
Habeas Corpus Act, which Pitt procured from Parliament on the following
day. Place, with his usual perverse ingenuity, argued that Pitt nursed
the conspiracy in order to be able to create alarm and govern

Events were now moving fast in Ireland. Chief among the exciting causes
were the repressive measures of Camden and the licence of the Militia
and Yeomanry. So able and active a commander as General Abercromby
failed to keep discipline and prevent military outrages. Not long after
his return from the West Indies he reluctantly accepted these thankless
duties (November 1797). His dislike of the work appears in the following
letter, addressed probably to one of Pitt's colleagues:

                                    Bantry, _Jan. 28, 1798_.[494]

    ... I have found the country everywhere quiet, but there exists
    among the gentlemen the greatest despondency: they believe, or
    affect to believe, that there is a plot in every family, and a
    conspiracy in every parish, and they would abandon the country
    unless the troops were dispersed over the face of it for their
    protection. I believe the lower ranks heartily hate the
    gentlemen because they oppress them, and the gentlemen hate the
    peasants because they know they deserve to be hated. Hitherto
    rents have been paid, tithes have not been refused or taxes
    withheld. No arms or ammunition have anywhere been introduced,
    and there are no tumultuous assemblings of the people. I have
    often heard of disaffection among the militia; it may perhaps
    exist among a few individuals; but it cannot exist to any
    considerable amount. My inquiries have been unremitted in this
    particular. Were, however, a landing of the enemy to take place,
    I cannot say what might happen to a people dissatisfied with
    their situation and naturally of great levity; the new doctrines
    would give activity. We are preparing for whatever may happen
    and no labour or exertion shall be wanting.

Abercromby soon proclaimed his disgust at the excesses of his troops in
unmeasured terms. True, he had much provocation. The militia officers
under him were a loose swaggering set, whose cruelties to the peasantry
during the prolonged search for arms were unpardonable. Further, their
powers had been enlarged by Camden's order of May 1797, allowing them to
use armed force without the requisition of magistrates, a step deemed
necessary to screen the civil authorities from outrage or murder. Seeing
that officers often put these powers to a brutal and arbitrary use,
exasperating to the peasants and demoralizing to the soldiery,
Abercromby determined publicly to rescind the viceregal mandate. The
language in which he announced his decision was no less remarkable than
the decision itself. On 26th February 1798 he stated in a general order:
"That the frequency of courts-martial, and the many complaints of
irregularities in the conduct of the troops in this kingdom having too
unfortunately proved the army to be in a state of licentiousness which
must render it formidable to everyone but the enemy, the
commander-in-chief" forbids officers ever to use military force except
at the requisition of magistrates.

That the army and militia did not assault their commander after this
outrageous insult shows that their discipline had not wholly vanished.
In face of the vehement outcries of the Irish loyalists against
Abercromby, Camden showed much forbearance. He issued a guarded
statement that Abercromby had been accustomed to command troops abroad,
and did not realize the impression which would be caused in Ireland by
his censure of the soldiery. Portland, however, openly blamed the
commander-in-chief. Pitt's letter of 13th March to Camden shows that,
had he seen Portland's censure before it went off, he would have toned
down some of its expressions; but on the whole he heartily disapproved
of Abercromby's indiscriminate rebuke to the army as not only unjust,
but calculated to depress its spirits and encourage those of the French
and the Irish malcontents. Portland's reprimand brought about
Abercromby's resignation, which Camden sought to avert. Thus again
events took the worst possible course. Abercromby was an able and
energetic man; and his resignation, at the time when the arrival of the
French was expected, undoubtedly helped to raise the hopes of
malcontents. Well might Camden write to Pitt on 25th April that
Abercromby had done much harm. With that commander's desire to repress
the outrages of the soldiery everyone must sympathize. The manner in
which he sought to effect it was incredibly foolish.

Meanwhile, the work of the conspirators had been undermined by
treachery. One of the conspirators, named Reynolds, took fright and
revealed the secret of the plot to an official at Dublin Castle (26th
February), adding the information that the Dublin committee would hold a
secret meeting on 12th March. The police, bursting in, seized eighteen
members, including McNevin, along with their papers, amongst which were
some incriminating O'Coigly. Lord Edward Fitzgerald escaped for a time;
but an informer gained knowledge of his movements, and those of two
brothers named Sheares. On his warning the Castle that they were about
to arouse Dublin to revolt, Camden resolved to anticipate the blow. Two
police officers, Swan and Ryan, tracked Fitzgerald to his lair on the
19th of May. They found him in bed. At once the fierce spirit of his
race surged up. He sprang at them with the small dagger ready by his
side and struck at Swan. The blow went home, while the pistols aimed by
the officers missed fire. Turning on Ryan, he dealt thrust upon thrust.
The two wounded men clung to him while he struggled and struck like a
wild beast. He was dragging them towards the door when Major Sirr rushed
in and shot him in the shoulder. Even then his convulsions were so
violent that two or three soldiers, who ran upstairs, scarcely
overpowered him. Swan soon died. The wounds of Ryan were not mortal.
That of Fitzgerald was not deemed serious, but it mortified, and he
passed away on 4th June, mourned by all who knew his chivalrous daring

The fury of Fitzgerald is intelligible. He was the one necessary man in
the plot then coming to a head for the capture of Dublin on 23rd May.
Among his effects were found a green uniform, the seal of the Irish
Union, the line of route for the Kildare rebels in their advance,
together with a plan for the seizure of the chief officials. The triumph
of the Castle was completed by the capture of Neilson and the Sheares.
Their papers showed that no quarter was to be given. Irish historians
(among them Plowden) maintained that Pitt and Camden all along knew of
the plot and allowed the conspirators to drive on their mine in order at
the right moment to blow them up. There is no evidence to this effect,
except during the few days preceding the blow. Camden's efforts were
uniformly directed towards disarmament and coercion, so much so that he
is reproached for his cruelty by the very men who accuse him of playing
with the conspiracy. It is clear that he sought to prevent a rising,
which was expected to coincide with a French invasion. In fact the only
prudent course was to repress and disarm at all possible points.

The severity of the crisis appears in the letters which Beresford,
Cooke, and Lees, officials at Dublin Castle, wrote to Auckland. In
answer to Lord Moira's reckless charge in the Irish Parliament, that
they were pushing on the country to rebel, Beresford on 10th April asks
Auckland how can they, who are daily exposed to murder, push on a nation
to deeds of violence which must fall on them? On 1st May he writes: "We
think the Toulon squadron will join the expedition against Ireland....
Pikes are making in numbers, and the idea of a rising prevails. Kildare
and Wicklow are armed, organized, and rebellious. Dublin and the county
are very bad. The rebels expect the French within a month. Such is their
last Gazette." On 7th May Lees writes to Auckland: "Lord Camden must
steel his heart. Otherwise we are in great jeopardy." On 9th May
Beresford states that it would be a good plan to seize a number of
malcontents, threaten them with flogging and induce them to turn
informers. He adds: "At present the quiet which prevails in some parts
is deceptive. Where the country is organized, quiet appears. Where the
organization is going on there is disturbance. In Kildare there are
complete regiments, with large quantities of arms in their possession."
On 10th May Lees writes that Galway is arming for revolt, and, nine days
later, after the arrest of Fitzgerald, he states that they expect a
rising in Dublin on the morrow. On 21st May after the arrest of the
Sheares, Cooke writes: "A rising is not given up; but I think it will
not take place. Parts of Kildare will not give up arms.... A search for
arms will commence. We are in good spirits." On 20th May Beresford
informs Auckland of the receipt of news at the Castle from three
different quarters that there would be a rising on the 21st, owing to
the vigorous measures now taken by the Government.[496]

This is not the language of men who are nursing a plot. It evinces a
resolve to stamp out disaffection before the Brest and Toulon fleets
arrive. As for Pitt, his letters show a conviction of the need of
continuing the repressive measures whereby Camden had "saved the
country." He approved the plan of allowing officers to act without the
orders of magistrates, seeing that the latter were often murdered for
doing their duty. The thinness of his correspondence with Camden is
somewhat surprising until we remember that his energies mainly went
towards strengthening the army and navy. His letter to Grenville early
in June shows that he expected news of the arrival of the French off the
Irish coast, since they had got out from Toulon on 19th May.

It is not surprising that Ireland was thought to be their goal.
Bonaparte and the Directory had kept the secret of their Eastern
Expedition with far more care than Pitt displayed in worming it out.
Certainly Pitt's spy system was far less efficient than has been
imagined.[497] With ordinary activity the oriental scheme could have
been found out from one of Barras' mistresses or from some official at
Toulon. The fact that Bonaparte had some time previously engaged Arab
interpreters might surely have enlightened an agent of average
intelligence. So far back as 20th April French engineers in uniform,
accompanied by interpreters, had arrived at Alexandria and Aleppo in
order to prepare for the reception of large forces. The interpreters, it
is said, "collect all possible information respecting Suez and the
navigation of the Red Sea, as also particularly whether the English have
any ships in the Persian Gulf. It is supposed that General Buonaparte
will divide his army, one corps to be embarked from the Red Sea and pass
round to the Gulf of Persia, the other part to proceed from Syria
overland to the Euphrates, by which river they are to advance and join
the remainder near the mouth of this river; from thence to make,
_united_, the grand descent on the coast of Malabar or Deccan."[498] In
these days it is difficult to imagine that this news did not reach Pitt
until about 5th July.

The Irish malcontents were as ill informed as Pitt. Basing their hopes
on the arrival of the French fleet, they prepared to rise about the end
of May. But the arrests in Dublin hurried on their plans. The men of
Kildare and Westmeath received orders from the secret Directory in
Dublin to take arms on 23rd May, on the understanding that the whole of
Ireland would revolt. They were to seize the towns and villages on the
roads to Dublin, while the rebels in the city murdered the authorities
and captured the chief positions. But on the 22nd the Government seized
quantities of arms, and the presence of General Lake's garrison of 4,000
Yeomen daunted the United Irishmen; on the night of the 23rd-24th only
the more daring of them stole about the environs, waiting for a signal
which never came; and by dawn their bands melted away. In Meath also the
rising failed miserably. A large concourse assembled on the historic
slopes of Tara Hill, whence 400 Fencibles and Yeomen drove them with
ease (25th May).

In Kildare and the north of Wicklow, where the influence of the
Fitzgeralds made for revolt, large throngs of men assembled on the night
of 23rd-24th May, and made desperate attacks on Naas and Clane,
important posts on the roads leading to the capital. Their headlong
rushes broke in vain against the stubborn stand of the small garrisons.
But at a village hard by, named Prosperous, the rebel leaders fooled the
chief of a small detachment by a story of their intention to deliver up
arms. Gaining access to the village, they surprised the soldiers in the
barracks, girdled them with fire, and spitted them on their pikes as
they jumped forth. That night of horror ended with the murder of the
Protestant manufacturer, whose enterprise had made their village what it
was. A few days later General Ralph Dundas somewhat indiscreetly granted
an armistice to a large body of Kildare rebels at Kilcullen on the
promise that they would give up their arms and go home. Nevertheless a
large body of them were found on the Curragh and barred the way to
General Duff, who courageously marched with 600 men to the aid of
Dundas. Duff was informed that these rebels would be willing to lay down
their arms. His men were advancing towards them when a shot or shots
were fired by the rebels, whether in bravado or in earnest is doubtful.
The troops, taking it as another act of treachery, charged with fury and
drove the mass from the plain with the loss of more than 200 killed.
Thus, here again, events made for animosity and bloodshed. Protestants
remembered the foul play at Prosperous; the rebels swore to avenge the
treachery at the Curragh.

                  *       *       *       *       *

News of the first of these events sped across the Irish Sea on 25th and
26th May. They reached Pitt just before or after his Whitsunday duel on
Putney Heath. Thick and fast came the tales of slaughter. On 29th May
Camden wrote in almost despairing terms--The rebellion was most
formidable and extensive. It would certainly be followed by a French
invasion. It must be suppressed at once. The Protestants and the
military were mad with fury, and called aloud for a war of
extermination. The strife would be marked by unheard-of atrocities. For
the sake of human nature, Pitt must at once send 5,000 regular troops.
Camden added that cavalry were useless against lines of pikemen, a
phrase which tells of the dogged fury of the peasantry. Nevertheless,
his assertion that the rebellion was extensive proves his lack of
balance. The saving facts of the situation were that the Ulstermen had
not yet moved; that Connaught and Munster were quiet; and of Leinster,
only Kildare, Wexford, and parts of Carlow and Wicklow were in arms. In
Dublin murder was rife, but the pikemen did not muster.

Pitt's reply of 2nd June to Camden is singularly cool. In brief and
businesslike terms he stated that, despite the difficulties of the
situation, he had already prepared to despatch 5,000 men; but Camden
must send them back at the earliest possible moment in order not to
disarrange the plans for the war. Still more frigid was the letter of
George III to Pitt. The King lamented the need of sending troops to
Ireland, as they would thereby be cut off from "active service." Camden
(he wrote) must really not press for them unnecessarily. However, as the
sword was drawn in Ireland, it must not be sheathed until the rebels
submitted unconditionally. Eleven days later the King wrote to Pitt that
the new Lord Lieutenant "must not lose the present moment of terror for
frightening the supporters of the Castle into an Union with this
country; and no further indulgences must be granted to Roman Catholics,
as no country can be governed where there is more than one established
religion."[499] The thinness of the King's thought is in part redeemed
by its tenacity. His mind resembled an elemental two-stringed
instrument, which twanged forth two notes--Church and State.

In strange contrast to the calculations of the King and Pitt were the
effusions of Camden. On 7th June he referred plaintively to Portland's
despatch, stating that only 3,000 men could be sent. He warned Pitt that
it was a religious war; priests marched at the head of the rebels, who
swept together and drove at their head the reluctant. For the sake of
humanity Pitt must send larger reinforcements. He added that Lake was
unequal to the emergency. Fortunately, on that day Pitt received the
consent of the Marquis Cornwallis to act as Lord Lieutenant and
Commander-in-Chief in Ireland. As Camden had more than once pointed out
the urgent need of that appointment, it is surprising to find him on
16th June upbraiding Pitt with the suddenness of the change. Surely it
was no time for punctiliousness. Already the Ulstermen were rising, and
30,000 rebels were afoot in Wexford. But, as it happened, the worst of
the trouble was over before Cornwallis could take the field. Landing on
20th June near Dublin, he heard news portending a speedy decision in

It is not easy to account for the savagery of the revolt in that county.
The gentry resided among their tenants on friendly terms; and the search
for arms had been carried out less harshly than elsewhere. Gordon, the
most impartial historian of the rebellion, admits that the floggings and
half-hangings had been few in number, yet he adds that the people were
determined to revolt, probably from fear that their turn would come.
Neither is the religious bigotry of the rebels intelligible. The
Protestants were numerous in Wexford town, Enniscorthy, and New Ross;
but there seems to have been little religious animosity, except where
tales were circulated as to intended massacres of Catholics by
Orangemen. The Celt is highly susceptible to personal influence; and,
just as that of the Fitzgeralds largely accounts for the rising in
Kildare, so does the personality of Father John Murphy explain the
riddle of Wexford. The son of a peasant of that county, he was trained
for the priesthood at Bordeaux, and ardently embraced the principles of
the French Revolution and the aims of United Ireland. His huge frame,
ready wit, and natural shrewdness brought him to the front in Wexford;
and he concerted the plan of establishing an Irish Republic on a
strictly Romanist basis, a programme incompatible with that of Wolfe
Tone and the United Irishmen.

Murphy, marching with his flock to the house of a neighbouring
Protestant clergyman, bade him and his terrified friends surrender.
Meeting with a refusal, they fired the outbuildings; and when the flames
gained the house, they granted the prayers of the occupants for mercy if
they came out. On coming out the adult males were forthwith butchered.
Meeting with large reinforcements from the hills, Father John's pikemen
beat off a hasty attack by 110 men of the North Cork Militia, only seven
of whom escaped to Wexford. Such were the doings on that Whitsunday in
Wexford (27th May). Next, the rebels swept down upon Enniscorthy; and
though beaten back from the very heart of the town by the steady valour
of the defenders, these last were yet fain to fall back on Wexford. But
for the plundering habits of the peasantry, not a man could have reached
that town. The priest and his followers now took post on Vinegar Hill, a
height east of the River Slaney, which overlooks Enniscorthy and the
central plain of the county. There on successive days he and his council
dealt out pike-law to some four or five hundred Protestants and
landlords. Meanwhile, as no help drew nigh, Maxwell, the commander at
Wexford, deeming that town untenable, beat a timely retreat westwards to
Duncannon Fort on Waterford Harbour (30th May).

Master of Wexford county, Murphy and his colleague, Father Michael,
proposed to raise Wicklow and Waterford. If these efforts succeeded, it
was probable that Dublin and Munster would rise. Ulster might then
revolt; and the advent of the French would clinch the triumph. In full
confidence, then, the masses of pikemen moved against the loyalists at
New Ross, an important position on the River Barrow. Parish by parish,
the priests at their head, they marched, some 30,000 strong. At dawn of
5th June, when near the town, they knelt during the celebration of
Mass. Then they goaded on herds of cattle to serve as an irresistible
vanguard, and rushed at the old walls. General Johnstone and the 1,400
defenders were at first overborne and had to retreat over the bridge;
but the plundering habits of the victors were their ruin. The soldiery
re-formed, regained their cannon, and planting them skilfully, dealt
such havoc among the disorderly mass, that finally it surged out into
the plain.[500] After their defeat the rebels deposed Harvey, a
Protestant, from his nominal command.

This success of the loyalists saved Waterford and Kilkenny from anything
more than local riots; and Moore, moving up from Fermoy and Clonmel,
soon threatened the rebel county from the west. The beaten peasants
glutted their revenge on Protestant prisoners near New Ross; and a
general massacre of prisoners at Wexford was averted only by the rapid
advance of Moore. Meanwhile, Father John, moving into County Wicklow
with a force some 30,000 strong, sought to break down the defence at
Arklow. But that important post on the River Avoca was stoutly held by
General Needham with some 1,500 men, mostly militia and yeomen. There,
too, the priests led on the peasants with a zeal that scorned death. One
of the peasant leaders rushed up to a gun, thrust his cap into it, and
shouted, "Come along, boys; her mouth is stopped." The next moment he
and his men were blown to pieces. Disciplined valour gained the day (9th
June), and John and his crusaders retired to Vinegar Hill. His
colleague, Father Michael Murphy, who had claimed to be able to catch
Protestant bullets, was killed by a cannon-shot; and this may have
decided the rebels to retreat.

The British Guards had now arrived, to the inexpressible relief of
Camden and his advisers. Beset by reports of a general rising in Ulster
and by the furious protests of loyalists against the inaction of Pitt,
the Lord Lieutenant had held on his way, acting with energy but curbing
the policy of vengeance, so that, as he informed Pitt, he was now the
most unpopular man in Ireland. Nevertheless, before he left her shores,
he had the satisfaction to see his measures crowned with success. The
converging moves of Lake, Needham, Dundas, and Johnstone upon Vinegar
Hill cooped up the rebels on that height; and on 21st June the royal
troops stormed the slopes with little loss. The dupes of Father John no
longer believed in his miraculous powers. The survivors broke away
southwards, but then doubled back into the mountains of Wicklow. The war
now became a hunt, varied by savage reprisals. Father John was hanged on
26th June. By his barbarities he had ended the dream of United Ireland.
Few of the malcontents of Antrim and Down obeyed the call to arms of the
United Irishmen early in June; and the risings in those counties soon
flickered out. Religious bigotry enabled Dublin Castle once more to

Pitt was vehemently blamed by Irish loyalists for his apathy at the
crisis. The accusation, quite natural among men whose families were in
hourly danger, was unjust. As we have seen, even before the arrival of
Camden's request, he took steps to send off 5,000 men. As the Duke of
York and Dundas cut down that number to 3,000, and endeavoured to
prevent any more being sent, they were responsible for the despatch of
an inadequate force. If the French detachments intended for Ireland had
arrived early in June, they must have carried all before them. But it
was not until 22nd August that General Humbert, with 1,100 men, landed
at Killala. Even so his little force was believed to be the vanguard of
a large army, a fact which explains the revival of rebellion at the end
of the summer.

Not until 1st September did Pitt hear this alarming news. At once he
ordered all possible reinforcements to proceed to Ireland. There was
need of them. The Irish militiamen under Lake and Hutchinson who opposed
the French at Castlebar rushed away in wild panic from one-fourth of
their numbers (27th August). Such were "the Castlebar Races." Probably
the Irishmen were disaffected; for many of them joined the enemy.
Cornwallis proceeded to the front, and with 11,000 men made head against
the rebels and the French. The latter were now but 800 strong, and after
a most creditable stand finally surrendered with the honours of war (8th
September). Cornwallis issued a tactful bulletin,[501] commending his
troops for their meritorious exertions and trusting to their honour not
to commit acts of cruelty against their deluded fellow subjects. In
point of fact 11,000 men with difficulty brought 800 to surrender and
then gave themselves up to retaliation on the rebels. Fortunately the
French Directory sent only small parties of raiders. A month later,
Wolfe Tone, with a squadron, appeared off Lough Swilly; but the French
ships being overpowered by Sir John Warren, Tone was captured, taken to
Dublin, and cut his throat in order to escape the ignominy of a public
hanging. Another small French squadron entered Killala Bay late in
October, but had to make for the open. Thus flickered out a flame which
threatened to shrivel up British rule in Ireland.

What causes contributed to this result? Certainly not the activity and
resourcefulness of Pitt and his colleagues; for their conduct at the
crisis was weak and tardy. The Duke of York and Dundas must primarily be
blamed for the despatch of inadequate reinforcements; but Pitt ought to
have overruled their decision. Perhaps the Cabinet believed England to
be the objective of Bonaparte and the fleet at Brest; but, thanks to the
rapid growth of the Volunteer Movement, England was well prepared to
meet an invading force and to quell the efforts of the malcontent
Societies. In Ireland the outlook was far more gloomy. After the
resignation of Abercromby, Camden and the officials of Dublin Castle
were in a state of panic. Pitt did well finally to send over Cornwallis;
but that step came too late to influence the struggle in Leinster. In
truth the saving facts of the situation were the treachery of informers
at Dublin and the diversion of the efforts of Bonaparte towards the
East. The former event enabled Camden to crush the rising in Dublin; the
latter left thousands of brave Irishmen a prey to the false hopes which
the French leaders had designedly fostered, Barras having led Wolfe Tone
to believe that France would fight on for the freedom of Ireland. The
influence of Bonaparte told more and more against an expedition to her
shores; but the Irish patriots were left in the dark, for their rising
would serve to distract the energies of England, while Bonaparte won
glory in the East. To save appearances, the French Government sent three
small expeditions in August to October; but they merely prolonged the
agony of a dying cause, and led that deeply wronged people to ask what
might not have happened if the promises showered on Wolfe Tone had been
made good.

It is recorded of William of Orange, shortly before his intended landing
in England, that, on hearing of the march of Louis XIV's formidable army
into the Palatinate, he serenely smiled at his rival's miscalculation.
Louis sated his troops with plunder and lost a crown for James II.
Similarly we may imagine the mental exultation of Pitt on hearing that
Bonaparte had gone the way of Alexander the Great and Mark Antony.
Camden and he knew full well that Ireland was the danger spot of the
British Empire, and that the half of the Toulon force could overthrow
the Protestant ascendancy. Some sense of the magnitude of the blunder
haunted Napoleon at St. Helena; for he confessed to Las Casas: "If,
instead of the expedition to Egypt, I had undertaken that against
Ireland, what could England have done now?" In a career, illumined by
flashes of genius, but wrecked by strange errors, the miscalculation of
the spring of 1798 was not the least fatal. For of all parts of the
British Empire Ireland was that in which the Sea Power was most helpless
when once a French _corps d'armée_ had landed.


[476] Pitt MSS., 108. See "Pitt and Napoleon Miscellanies," for a fuller
investigation of the Fitzwilliam affair in the light of new evidence.

[477] Lecky, vii, 41-4.

[478] "Dropmore P.," iii, 35-8.

[479] Pitt MSS., 331.

[480] Quoted by Froude, "The English in Ireland," iii, 158-61.

[481] "Autobiography of Wolfe Tone," ii, chs. iv-vi; Guillon, "La France
et l'Irlande."

[482] "Mems. of Ld. E. Fitzgerald," ch. xx.

[483] Tone, "Autob.," ii, 99.

[484] "Report of the Comm. of Secrecy" (1799), 22, 25; W. J.
Fitzpatrick, "Secret Service under Pitt," ch. x; C. L. Falkiner,
"Studies in Irish History," ch. iv; "Castlereagh Corresp.," i, 270-88.

[485] "Lord Colchester's Diary," i, 103.

[486] B.M. Add. MSS., 34454.

[487] Pitt MSS., 326. Quoted with other extracts from Camden's letters,
in "Pitt and Napoleon Miscellanies."

[488] Tone, "Autob.," ii, 272.

[489] "Castlereagh Corresp.," i, 165-8.

[490] B.M. Add. MSS., 27808; "Report of the Comm. of Secrecy" (1799),
App. x; "Nap. Corresp.," iii, 486-92. For Place see _ante_, ch. vii.

[491] W. J. Fitzpatrick, "Secret Service under Pitt," ch. iii; "Report
of the Comm. of Secrecy" (1799), App. xxvi. For Despard, the plotter of
1802, see "Castlereagh Corresp.," i, 306, 326; ii, 4.

[492] "Auckland Journals," iv, 52. I have published the statements of
O'Connor, etc., and the news sent by a British agent at Hamburg, in the
"Eng. Hist. Rev." for October 1910.

[493] Pitt MSS., 324; B.M. Add. MSS., 27808; "Dropmore P.," iv, 167. On
24th May 1798 Thelwall wrote to Thos. Hardy from Llyswen, near
Brecknock, describing his rustic retreat, and requesting a new pair of
farmer's boots for "Stella." He hopes that O'Connor has returned in
triumph to his friends. Tierney's vote in favour of suspending the
Habeas Corpus Act does not surprise him, for he is vulgar and a
sycophant. Hardy is too angry with Sheridan, whose chief offence is in
going at all to the House of Commons. Sheridan surely does well in
encouraging the people to resist an invasion. "I remain steady to my
point--'no nation can be free but by its own efforts.' As for the French
Directory and its faction, nothing appears to me to be further from
their design than to leave one atom of liberty either to their own or to
any nation. If, however, Mr. Sheridan supposes that all his talents can
produce even a temporary unanimity while the present crew are in power,
even for repelling the most inveterate enemy, he will find himself
miserably mistaken. No such unanimity ever can exist: I am convinced,
nay, the Ministers themselves seem determined, that it _shall_ not. The
only way to produce the unanimity desired is to stand aloof, and let
these ruffians go blundering on till our most blessed and gracious
sovereign shall see that either Pitt and Co. must bow down to the will
of the people or his British crown bow down to five French shillings....
But what have we to do with Directories or politics? Peaceful shades of
Llyswen! shelter me beneath your luxuriant foliage: lull me to
forgetfulness, ye murmuring waters of the Wye. Let me be part farmer and
fisherman. But no more politics--no more politics in this bad world!"
(From Mr. A. M. Broadley's MSS.)

[494] Pretyman MSS. See, too, "Diary of Sir J. Moore," i, ch. xi.

[495] "Castlereagh Corresp.," i, 458-67; "Life and Letters of Lady Sarah
Lennox," ii, 299-302; "Mems. of Lord E. Fitzgerald," chs. 27-30.

[496] B.M. Add. MSS., 34454.

[497] "Dropmore P.," iv, 230, 239.

[498] B.M. Add. MSS., 34454. News received through Sir F. d'Ivernois.

[499] Pretyman MSS. The King also stated that Pitt had "saved Ireland"
by persuading Pelham to return and act as Chief Secretary. Pelham was a
clever man, but often disabled by ill health.

[500] J. Alexander, "... Rebellion in Wexford" (Dublin, 1800).

[501] "Cornwallis Corresp.," ii, 395-404. For the panic in Dublin see
"Dropmore P.," iv, 289 _et seq._ Cooke wrote to Castlereagh on 28th
September that the Bishop of Killala and his family were saved from
slaughter by a few French officers, "who execrate our savages more than
they whom they have plundered." He adds that though the United Irishmen
began the plot the Catholics are turning it solely to their own
interests (Pitt MSS., 327). See, too, H. F. B. Wheeler and A. M.
Broadley, "The War in Wexford" (1910).



    To reduce France within her ancient limits is an object of
    evident and pressing interest to the future tranquillity and
    independence of Europe.--_Foreign Office Despatch of 16th
    November 1798_.

It is difficult to realize that the independence of Europe was
endangered by the French Republic. We associate the ascendancy of France
in Spain, Italy, Germany, Switzerland, and Holland with the personality
of Napoleon; and by contrasting him with the pygmies who strutted on the
stage after the death of Pitt we find the collapse of Europe
intelligible. But a backward glance of one decade more shows France
dominating the Continent. True, it was Bonaparte's genius which brought
Austria to the humiliating Peace of Campo Formio (October 1797); but his
triumphs in Italy merely crowned the efforts of France in 1793-5. After
the close of his Italian campaigns a touch of her little finger unseated
the Pope. At the Congress of Rastatt her envoys disposed of German
duchies and bishoprics in the lordliest way. Switzerland she overran,
plundered, and unified. Ferdinand IV of Naples and his consort, Maria
Carolina, quaked and fumed at her threats. Prussia was her henchman. And
in the first months of his reign Paul I of Russia courted her favour.
French policy controlled Europe from the Niemen to the Tagus, from the
Zuyder Zee to the Campagna.

Yet this supremacy was in reality unsound. So fitful a ruler as the Czar
Paul was certain to weary of his peaceful mood. He had good ground for
intervention. By the Treaty of Teschen (1779) Russia became one of the
guarantors of the Germanic System which the French now set at naught.
Moreover his chivalrous instincts, inherited from his mother, Catharine,
were chafed by the news of French depredations in Rome and Switzerland.
The growth of indignation at St. Petersburg begot new hopes at Vienna.
In truth Francis II, despite his timidity, could not acquiesce in French
ascendancy. How could his motley States cohere, if from Swabia,
Switzerland, and Italy there dropped on them the corrosive acid of
democracy? The appeals from his father-in-law, Ferdinand of Naples, also
had some weight. In fine the Court of Vienna decided to make overtures
to London. On 17th March 1798 the Chancellor, Thugut, urged his
ambassador, Stahremberg, to find out whether England would help Austria
against "a fierce nation irrevocably determined on the total subversion
of Europe, and rapidly marching to that end"; also whether Pitt would
send a fleet to the Mediterranean, and, if necessary, prolong the
struggle into the year 1799.[502] The entreaties from Naples were still
more urgent.

Pitt resolved to stretch out a helping hand. Early in April he sought to
induce Earl Spencer, First Lord of the Admiralty, to send to that sea a
strong squadron detached from Earl St. Vincent's force blockading Cadiz.
His letter asking for information on several topics is missing; but
Spencer's letter to Grenville throws so much light on the situation that
I quote parts of it, summarizing the remainder:[503]

                                      Admiralty, _April 6, 1798_.

    "I send you by Mr. Pitt's desire a sketch I have made out of
    answers to the queries he put down upon paper yesterday in
    Downing Street. The result is to my mind a decision which I fear
    will not tally very well with our wishes and the views you have
    formed as the groundwork of the communication at present
    proposed with Vienna." He then states that, even if a Russian
    squadron appears in the North Sea, yet we cannot keep a
    permanent squadron in the Mediterranean. "For that purpose we
    should at least have 70 sail, as the Channel cannot be trusted
    with safety with less than 35, including the coast of Ireland,
    and the remaining 35 would be but barely enough to watch Cadiz
    and command the Mediterranean. Our best plan appears to me to be
    to maintain as long as we can a position between Lisbon and
    Cadiz, and when we are excluded (which I conclude we soon shall
    be) from the Tagus, to send Lord St. Vincent with the fleet he
    now has to take a sweep round the Mediterranean and do all the
    mischief he can to the French navy." If, he adds, the Spaniards
    come northward, our home fleet can deal with them: if they go to
    the Mediterranean and join the French there will not be much
    danger from so ill-combined a force when opposed to St.
    Vincent's fleet, "which I consider as being the best formed to
    act together that perhaps ever existed." If Austria would be
    satisfied with our sweeping round the Mediterranean, Spencer
    advocates that plan, but not that of keeping a fleet there,
    "because, exclusive of the great expense, it would leave the
    Spaniards too much at liberty."

    In answer to Pitt's questions Spencer states the force
    disposable for the Channel and the coast of Ireland as 34, for
    the Mediterranean 24; 3 more were fitting for sea, and 8 others
    were nearing completion; but the chief deficiency was in men,
    8,000 more being needed. He adds that the Neapolitans have 4
    sail-of-the-line and 7 frigates: the French have 6 sail at
    Corfu; but he thinks not more than 10 sail can be equipped at
    Toulon. He regards the Venetian fleet as valueless.

Clearly Spencer underrated the force at Toulon and in the ports of North
Italy. But, even so, the position was critical. To send an undermanned
fleet into the Mediterranean, while France was preparing a blow at
Ireland, seemed almost foolhardy. Nevertheless, Pitt resolved to do so.
For, as he stated to Grenville on 7th April, they must encourage Austria
to play a decisive part in resisting French aggression; and, in view of
the revival of the old English spirit, he was prepared to brave the
risks of invasion, deeming even that event preferable to a lingering and
indecisive war. As usual, Pitt's view prevailed; and a few days later
orders went forth to St. Vincent to despatch a squadron under Nelson to
the Mediterranean, Austria being also apprised of this decision, in
terms which implied the formation of a league against France. While
Russia and, if possible, Prussia defended Germany, Austria was to expel
the French from Italy.[504] Here again Pitt's hopeful nature led him to
antedate the course of events. The new Coalition came about very slowly.
England and Austria were held apart by disputes respecting the repayment
of the last loan, on which Pitt and Grenville insisted, perhaps with
undue rigour. Distrust of Prussia paralysed the Court of Vienna, and
some time elapsed before it came to terms with Russia. But in the midst
of the haggling came news which brought new vigour to the old

On 1st August 1798 Nelson destroyed the French fleet in Aboukir Bay;
and thus, at one blow, naval supremacy in the Mediterranean passed from
the tricolour to the Union Jack. This momentous change resulted
primarily from the bold resolve of Pitt to encounter even a French
descent on our coasts, provided that he could strike at France in the
Mediterranean. Thus he exchanged the defensive for the offensive in a
way no less bewildering to the French than reassuring to friendly
Powers; and it is noteworthy that he adopted the same course in 1805, in
sending Craig's expedition into that sea, thereby replacing Addington's
tame acceptance of events by a vigorous policy which heartened Austria
and Naples for the struggle against Napoleon. On both occasions he ran
great risks, but his audacity proved to be the highest prudence. The
results of the Battle of the Nile were immeasurably great. Bonaparte and
his 30,000 veterans were cooped up in Egypt. The Maltese rose against
the French garrison of Valetta two days after the arrival of the glad
tidings from the Nile. At Naples the news aroused a delirium of joy, and
filled Queen Maria Carolina with a resolve to drive the French force
from the Roman States.

To Pitt also the news of Nelson's triumph brought intense relief. The
disappearance of Bonaparte's armada after the capture of Malta had
caused much concern. True, Naples, which was thought to be his
objective, was safe; but Ireland and Portugal were deemed in jeopardy.
No one at Whitehall anticipated the seizure of Malta and Egypt, still
less the emergence of plans for a French conquest of India. A tone of
anxiety pervades Pitt's letter of 22nd August to his mother: "The
account of Bonaparte's arrival at Alexandria is, I am afraid, true; but
it gives us no particulars, and leaves us in entire suspense as to
Nelson."[505] All the greater, then, was the relief on 2nd October, when
tidings of Aboukir at last arrived.

Further, there were signs of a Russo-French war. The romantic nature of
the Czar was fired by the hope of acquiring Malta. At Ancona, early in
1797, Bonaparte had intercepted a Russian envoy bearing offers of
alliance to the Knights of the Order of St. John; and their expulsion by
the French at Midsummer 1798 seemed to Paul a personal affront. Some of
the Knights proceeded to St. Petersburg and claimed his protection. The
affairs of the Order became his most cherished concern; and on 24th July
Sir Charles Whitworth, British ambassador at that Court, reported that
Russia would now become a principal in the war against France, her aim
being the re-establishment of peace on safe and honourable terms, but
not the restoration of the French monarchy, on which Catharine had
insisted. With this declaration the British and Austrian Cabinets were
in full accord; and thus at last there was a hope of framing a compact
Coalition. Fortunate was it that Bonaparte's seizure of Malta incensed
Paul against France; for, early in August, the Swiss thinker, Laharpe,
tutor of the future Czar Alexander I, brought tempting offers from
Paris, with a view to the partition of the Turkish Empire.[506] That
glittering prize was finally to captivate the fancy of Paul; but for the
present he spurned the offer as degrading.

Nevertheless, the news of Aboukir did not wholly please him. For, while
rejoicing at the discomfiture of the French atheists, he saw in Nelson's
victory a sign of England's appropriation of Malta. In truth, that
island now became the central knot of far-reaching complications.
Formerly the bulwark of Christendom against the infidels, it now
sundered European States.[507] So doubtful was the attitude of Paul and
Francis that Pitt, in October 1798, twice wrote despondingly as to any
definite decision on their part. All that was clear was their inordinate
appetite for subsidies. These he of course withheld, knowing full well
that neither would Paul tolerate for long the presence of the French at
Malta, nor Francis their occupation of Switzerland. In any case he
resolved not to give more than £2,000,000 to the two Empires for the
year 1799.[508] For the time his hope lay only in the exertions of
England, Europe being meantime "left to its fate." In order to humour
the Czar, who was about to become Grand Master of the Knights of St.
John, Grenville, on 23rd November, wrote to assure his Government that
England renounced all aims of conquest in the Adriatic, or of the
possession of Malta.

At the close of the year Pitt proudly displayed the inexhaustible
resources of Great Britain. His Budget speech of 3rd December 1798 marks
an epoch in economic history, alike for the boldness of the underlying
conception and the statesmanlike assessment of the national resources.
Well might Mallet du Pan declare that the speech surpassed all previous
efforts in its illuminating exposition of a nation's finance. As
appeared in our survey of the Budget of 1797, Pitt then sought to meet
the year's expenses within the year. To a generation accustomed to shift
present burdens on to its successors the proposal seemed Quixotic; and
Fox blamed him for not adopting this device. Pitt held to his plan, and
outlined a ten per cent. tax upon income. Having failed to gain the
requisite tenth by means of the Assessed Taxes, he proposed to raise it
by methods which even the shirkers could with difficulty circumvent.

In order to lay a first rough actuarial basis for his Income Tax, he
made a careful study of the nation's resources in the autumn of 1798.
The results he summarized in an interesting statement. There were
available at that time only rough estimates, even as to the area of
cultivated land and its average rental. Relying upon Davenant, King,
Adam Smith, Arthur Young, and Middleton, he estimated the area at
40,000,000 acres, and the average rental at 15_s._ an acre. He prudently
fixed the taxable value at 12_s._ 6_d._ an acre. The yearly produce of
mines, timber, and canal shares he assessed at £3,000,000. He reckoned
house rent at double that sum, and the earnings of the legal profession
at one half of it. Half a million he deemed well within the total of
doctors' fees. He assessed the incomes derived from the British West
Indies at £4,000,000, and those from the rest of the world at
£1,000,000, a highly suggestive estimate. Tithes were reckoned at
£4,000,000; annuities from the public funds at £12,000,000; the same sum
for profits derived from foreign commerce; and £28,000,000 for the
profits of internal trade, whether wholesale or retail. Fixing the
rental of land at £6,000,000, he computed the total national income as
£102,000,000, which should therefore yield not less than £10,000,000 a
year. He proposed to safeguard the collection by imposing an oath at the
declaration of income, and enjoining absolute secrecy on the Crown
commissioners. The new tax, beginning from April 1799, would take the
place of the Assessed Taxes. As will appear in a later chapter, the new
impost did not yield the amount which Pitt expected; but the failure was
probably due to defects in the methods of collection. Pitt further
proposed to set aside £1,200,000 for the Sinking Fund.

His purpose in making this prodigious effort was to inspirit other
nations to similar patriotic exertions. He pointed out with pride that
after nearly six years of war British exports and imports exceeded those
of any year of peace. Thus, far from declining in strength and prowess,
as croakers averred, England had never shone so transcendently in the
arts of peace and the exploits of war, a prodigality of power which
presaged the vindication of her own rights and of the liberties of

What was the new Europe which Pitt sought to call to being? The question
is of deep interest, not only as a psychological study, but as revealing
glimpses of British policy in the years 1814-15. The old order having
been rudely shaken in Germany, the Netherlands, Switzerland, and Italy,
Pitt sought to effect a compromise between the claims of tradition and
those of expediency. It being of paramount importance to safeguard
Europe against France, Pitt and Grenville insisted on the limitation of
that Power within its old boundaries, and the complete independence of
Switzerland and Holland. That of the Kingdom of Sardinia afterwards
figured in their stipulations. But one significant change now appears.
The restoration of Austrian rule at Brussels being impracticable, it was
suggested that the Belgic Provinces should go to the Prince of Orange
when restored to his rights at The Hague. In the desperate crisis of
1805, as we shall see, Pitt sought to allure Prussia by offering Belgium
to her; but that was a passing thought soon given up. The other solution
of the Netherlands Question finally prevailed, thanks to the efforts of
Pitt's pupil, Castlereagh, in 1814. The Foreign Office did not as yet
aim at the retention of the Cape of Good Hope and Ceylon as a set off to
British efforts for the Dutch and their acquisition of Belgium; but this
thought was already taking shape. The barrier against French aggressions
in the south-east was to be found in the reconstituted Kingdom of
Sardinia, the House of Savoy rendering in that quarter services similar
to the House of Orange in Flanders and Brabant. In other respects the
British Cabinet favoured Austria's plans of aggrandisement in Italy as
enhancing her power in a sphere which could not arouse the jealousy of
Prussia. The aims of Berlin not being known, except that the restoration
of the House of Orange was desired, Pitt and Grenville remained silent
on that topic.[509]

The question whether the peoples concerned would submit to this
under-girding of the European fabric did not trouble them. They saw only
the statics of territories; they had no conception of the dynamics of
nations. A future in which Nationality, triumphant in Italy and Germany,
would bring about a Balance of Power far more solid than any which their
flying buttresses could assure, was of course entirely hidden from them.
But they failed to read the signs of the times. The last despairing
efforts of the Poles, and the _levée en masse_ of the French people, now
systematized in the Conscription Law of 5th September 1798, did not open
their eyes to the future. For they were essentially men of the
Eighteenth Century; and herein lay the chief cause of their failure
against Revolutionary France. They dealt with lands as with blocks. She
infused new energy into peoples.

                  *       *       *       *       *

Meanwhile the return of Nelson to the Neapolitan coast intoxicated that
Court with joy. Queen Maria Carolina, ever the moving spirit at Naples,
now laid her plans for the expulsion of the French from Italy. Trusting
to her influence over her son-in-law, Francis II, and to a defensive
compact which the Courts of Vienna and Naples had framed on 20th May
1798, she sought to incite him to take the offensive. Her close
friendship with Lady Hamilton, wife of the British ambassador at Naples,
also enabled her to gain complete ascendancy over Nelson, who, with his
usual hatred of "the French villains," counselled open and immediate
war. For abetting this design, Sir William Hamilton received a sharp
rebuke from Downing Street. Francis II and Thugut were even more
annoyed. They repulsed the Neapolitan emissary who begged for help, and
roundly accused the Pitt Ministry of inciting Naples to war in order to
drag in Austria. Their anger was not appeased by the successes of the
Neapolitans near Rome, which the French evacuated on 29th November. The
counter-stroke soon fell. The French, rallying in force, pushed the
Bourbon columns southwards; and the early days of 1799 witnessed in
swift succession the surrender of Naples, the flight of its Court and
the Hamiltons to Palermo on Nelson's fleet, the foundation of the
Parthenopean Republic, and the liquefaction of the blood of St.
Januarius in sign of divine benediction on the new _régime_.[510]

Nevertheless, Nelson and the royal fugitives had set in motion forces
which elsewhere made for triumph. Paul, re-assured as to England's
desire to re-establish the Order of St. John at Malta, entered into an
alliance with her on 29th December 1798, whereby the two Powers agreed
to reduce France within her old boundaries, Russia furnishing to England
an army of 45,000 men, mainly with a view to the support of Prussia, on
condition of receiving £75,000 per month and three months' subsidies in
advance. She also promised to send 3,000 men to help in the siege of the
French garrison at Malta and others to assist England in the defence of
the Neapolitan lands. Austria, resentful towards Pitt and fearful of
Prussia's designs, still held back, though the events in Italy,
especially the dethronement of Charles Emmanuel IV of the House of Savoy
by the French should have spurred her to action. Probably she waited
until the needs of England and Russia should enable her to dictate her
terms. The cupidity of Thugut had been whetted by Pitt's speech as to
the wealth of England; and the efforts of Cobenzl at St. Petersburg led
Whitworth to sign a compact on terms so onerous to the British Treasury
as to draw on him a sharp disclaimer and reprimand from London.[511] So
matters dragged on far into the year 1799, when plans for the ensuing
campaign ought to have been matured.

Still more luckless were the dealings of the British Cabinet with
Prussia. In the hope of winning over Frederick William III, Grenville in
November 1798 despatched his brother Thomas on a mission to Berlin. His
journey thither was one of the longest and most eventful on record. At
Yarmouth he was detained by easterly gales; and when at last the packet
boat made the mouth of the Elbe it was wrecked. The passengers and crew
succeeded in making their way to shore over the pack-ice, Grenville
saving his papers, except the "full-power" needful for signing a treaty.
He reached Cuxhaven in great exhaustion; and arrived at Berlin on 17th
March, only to find that the French by daring and intrigue had cowed the
North German States into subservience. The terrible winter of 1798-9
largely accounts for the delays which ruined the subsequent campaign.
Whitworth remained long without news from Downing Street; and at last,
on 12th February, announced that he had received nine posts at once.
Meanwhile France, controlling all the coasts from Bremen to Genoa, not
only excluded British messengers, but carried on her diplomatic
bargaining in Germany without let or hindrance. For all his trouble,
Thomas Grenville could get no firm footing amidst the shifting sands of
Prussian diplomacy. So nervous were the Austrian Ministers as to
Prussia's future conduct that they seemed about to come to terms with
France and join in the plunder of the smaller German States. This might
have been the upshot had not French armies crossed the Rhine (1st March
1799), and shortly afterwards invaded the Grisons Canton.[512] Goaded to
action, Francis II declared war eleven days later. On 28th April
Austrian hussars seized the French envoys withdrawing from Rastatt,
murdering two of the four and seizing the papers of all.

Thus began the war of the Second Coalition. Bonaparte's seizure of Malta
and Egypt without a declaration of war, and the unbearable aggressions
of the French in Switzerland, Italy, and on the Rhine, stirred to action
States which the diplomatic efforts of Pitt and Grenville had left
unmoved. For none of the wars of that period was France so largely
responsible. Even now, when the inroad of the French into Germany
threatened the ascendancy of Prussia, Frederick William declined to join
the Allies; and his unstatesmanlike refusal thwarted the plans of Pitt
for the march of the subsidized Muscovite force through Prussia for the
recovery of Holland.

Another essential point was Switzerland. Like a bastion frowning over
converging valleys, that Alpine tract dominates the basins of the Po,
the Inn, the Upper Rhine, and the Upper Rhone. He who holds it, if
strong and resolute, can determine the fortunes of North Italy, Eastern
France, South Germany, and the West of the Hapsburg domains. Further, by
closing the passes over the Alps he can derange the commerce of Europe;
and the sturdy mountaineers will either overbear the plain-dwellers, or
will serve as mercenaries in their forces. Accordingly Switzerland, like
her Asiatic counterpart, Afghanistan, has either controlled her
neighbours, or has been fought for by them. As commerce-controller,
provider of troops, and warden of the passes, she holds a most important
position. Fortunate it is that the Swiss have loved freedom, or money,
more than dominion. For so soon as a great State possesses their land,
the Balance of Power becomes a fiction.

Pitt evinced sure insight in his resolve to free the Switzers from the
Jacobin yoke. To it the men of the Forest Cantons succumbed only after
desperate struggles, which inspired Wordsworth with one of the noblest
of his sonnets. There is no sign that Pitt set much store on winning
over the public opinion of Europe by siding with the oppressed against
the oppressor, as his disciple, Canning, did during the Spanish National
Rising; but help from the Swiss was certainly hoped for. So early as
August 1798 Pitt proposed to allot £500,000 for assistance to them, and,
but for the delays at St. Petersburg and Vienna, the Allies might have
rescued that brave people before it fell beneath the weight of numbers.
Even in March 1799, when the rising against the French had scarcely
begun, he set apart £31,000 per month for the purpose of equipping a
corps of 20,000 Swiss. On 15th March, after hearing of the outbreak of
war on the Rhine, Grenville urged that the Russian force subsidized by
England should march towards Switzerland, now that Prussia's doubtful
behaviour prevented a conquest of Holland by land. He also insisted that
this addition to the allied forces destined for Switzerland must not be
allowed to lessen the number of Austrians operating there.[513]

The Court of Vienna at once saw in the subsidized Russian army a tool
useful for its own plans, and requested that it should serve with the
Austrians in Swabia. The answer to this singular request can be
imagined. For a day or two Whitworth was also disturbed by a belated
effort of the French Directory to restore peace. It offered Poland to
the Elector of Saxony, and Saxony to Prussia for her friendly services,
Austria being led to expect Bavaria, if she would keep Russia "within
her ancient limits." Whitworth mentioned this overture to Cobenzl, and
saw him blush for the first time on record.[514] Probably, then, the
scheme had some powerful backing; but now Austria had crossed the

At first all went well. The French had played a game of bluff which they
could not sustain. On all sides they were worsted in a way which
suggests how decisive the campaign might have been had the Allies
heartily seconded the salutary plans of Pitt. Unfortunately, despite
his efforts, no compact came about between Great Britain and Austria.
Russia and the Hapsburg State were but loosely connected; and, owing to
a long delay in the arrival of the ratification of the Anglo-Russian
Treaty, Paul did not until the beginning of May send forward the
subsidized army under the command of Korsakoff.

On the other hand, the auxiliary Russian force sent forward to the help
of Austria had by that time helped the white-coats to win notable
triumphs in North Italy. In the months of April and May, Melas and the
Imperialists, powerfully backed by Suvóroff's Muscovites, carried all
before them, and drove the enemy from Milan. Soon afterwards the Allies
entered Turin; and only by hard fighting and heavy losses did Moreau
with the chief French army cut his way through to the Genoese coast.
Meanwhile General Macdonald, retiring with a French corps from Naples,
left that city to the vengeance of Nelson and Maria Carolina with
results that are notorious. The French general made a brave stand in
North Italy, only to fall before the onsets of the Allies at the Trebbia
(17th-19th June). He, too, barely escaped to Genoa, where the relics of
the two French armies faced about. These successes aroused the highest
hopes at Westminster. Canning, who resigned his Under-Secretaryship of
Foreign Affairs in March 1799, wrote that he cared not whether the
Austrians were beaten; for their failure would serve as a good example
to Europe. But in June, after their brilliant successes, he expressed a
confident hope of the collapse of "the monstrous fabrick of crimes and
cruelties and abominations" known as French policy; he added that
Prussia could not be so stupid as to hold aloof from the Coalition; and
that Pitt, again vigorous in mind and body, would carry through the war
to the end.

But now in the train of victory there appeared its parasite, discord.
The re-conquest of Italy was so brilliant and easy as to arouse disputes
about the spoils; and when the Imperialists began to treat Suvóroff and
his heroes cavalierly, the feud became acute. His complaints to his
Sovereign that the Austrians thwarted him at every turn threw the
irascible Czar into a rage, and he inveighed against the insolence of
the Court of Vienna and its minions. Finally, in order to end these
disputes, the British Ministry proposed the departure of Suvóroff to
Switzerland in order to take command of Korsakoff's subsidized force.
In the third week of June Grenville urged this plan on the Russian Court
as securing concentration of force and unity of command, the result in
all probability being the liberation of Switzerland, whereupon the
Allies could prepare for an invasion of France on her undefended flank,
Franche Comté. England (added Grenville) disapproved of the presence of
"Louis XVIII" at the Russian headquarters; and if Monsieur, his brother,
issued a declaration, it must be drafted with care. The need of caution
appears in Monsieur's offer of pardon and clemency to the misguided
French, provided that they joined his standard.[515]

The Allies, it will be seen, built their hopes on a revolt of the
royalists of the East of France. In fact, widespread risings were
expected. Bordeaux had been the centre of a conspiracy for leaguing
together the malcontents of la Vendée with those of the South, these
again being in touch with the royalists of the Lyonnais and Franche
Comté. Wickham, who was sent as British agent to Switzerland in June
1799, opened up an extensive correspondence which promised to lead to a
formidable revolt whenever the Allies invaded Franche Comté and Nice.
The malcontents had as leaders Generals Précy, Pichegru, and Willot. In
due course the Comte d'Artois ("Monsieur") was to appear and put himself
at their head. Accordingly, in August 1799, he left Holyrood, came to
London, and dined at Grenville's house with him and Pitt. The Prime
Minister afterwards paid him a private visit: but the details of their
conference are not known. It is certain, however, that the Cabinet
accorded large sums of money to Wickham for use in the East of France.
Even after the failure in Switzerland, he pressed for the payment of
£365,000 in order to maintain the royalist movement.[516]

Pitt, then, was bent on using all possible means for humbling France;
and, in view of her disasters in the field, the discontent at home, and
the absence of Bonaparte's army in Egypt, the triumph of the Allies
seemed to depend solely on their unanimity. Much can be said in favour
of the British plan of uniting the two Russian armies in Switzerland to
act with that of the Archduke Charles, in order to strike at Franche
Comté in overwhelming force, while the Austrians in Italy invaded Nice.
If all the moves had taken place betimes, formidable forces would have
been massed for an attack upon the weakest parts of the French frontier.
The Czar agreed to the plan on 9th July; but the Emperor Francis
withheld his sanction for a suspiciously long time. Here again, as in
1794-6, the men of the pen interfered with the men of the sword.
Immersed in plans for a vast extension of Austria's domains in Italy,
Thugut turned a deaf ear to the demands of Russia and England for the
restoration of the House of Savoy to the throne of Turin. He declared
that, as Austria had recovered the continental domains of that dynasty,
she could therefore dispose of them. It soon appeared that she sought to
appropriate Piedmont, as well as Venetia, Lombardy, Parma, Modena, and
the northern part of the Papal States in place of her troublesome Belgic
domains, thus liberally fulfilling Pitt's suggestion that her chief
gains should be on the side of Italy.

On this question Pitt and Grenville differed. The latter, sympathizing
with Russia, strongly objected to Austria annexing Piedmont. Pitt,
however, maintained that such an acquisition would not resemble the
partition of Poland or of Venetia; for Charles Emmanuel had lost his
lands through his own weakness, and now did nothing towards recovering
them. Further, it was to the advantage of Europe that the rescuing
Power, Austria, should hold them as a barrier against France. If the
Czar Paul could not be induced to take this view we might leave the two
Empires to settle the matter; but, at present this solution offered the
best chance of arriving at a compact with Austria so much to be desired.
Thus, in order to strengthen the Barrier System against France, Pitt was
prepared to sacrifice legal rights to expediency, while Grenville upheld
the claims of justice.

                  *       *       *       *       *

Limits of space preclude an investigation of the causes of the
humiliating failure of the campaign in Switzerland. Suffice it to say
that, when Korsakoff's army finally entered the north-east of
Switzerland, the Archduke Charles was compelled by imperious mandates
from Vienna to withdraw into Swabia. He foresaw disaster; and it soon
came. While Suvóroff's army was toiling down the northern defiles of the
St. Gotthard, Masséna, after receiving strong reinforcements,
overwhelmed Korsakoff at Zurich (25th-26th September). That Pitt
expected defeat after the withdrawal of the Archduke Charles appears
from his letter to Windham:

                         Downing Street, _30th August 1799_.[517]

    I should gladly accept your proposal to join the water-party
    today, but I came to town to meet Lord Grenville; and, having
    seen him, I am preparing to return part of the way to Walmer in
    the course of the evening. I was brought to town by the
    vexatious accounts from Vienna, which give too great a chance of
    our being disappointed in our best hopes by the blind and
    perverse selfishness of Austria's counsels.

Grenville was equally indignant and accused Austria of treachery.[518]
Much can be said in support of that charge. Whatever may have been her
motive, her conduct ruined the campaign. South-east of Zurich, Soult
routed Hotze's Austrian corps, which might have linked the movements of
Suvóroff with those of Korsakoff, and Suvóroff on arriving at Altorff
found no other course practicable than to strike away eastwards over the
Panixer Pass to Coire in the Grisons. There he arrived after severe
hardships on 8th October, and swore never again to act with the
Austrians. Paul, on hearing these dire tidings, registered the same vow,
and informed the Viennese Court that thenceforth he separated his
interests entirely from hers. Thus was it that Pitt's plans miscarried.
Thus was it that British subsidies were flung away into the limbo strewn
with tokens of Hapsburg fatuity.

                  *       *       *       *       *

The Anglo-Russian effort against the Batavian Republic is often referred
to as if it were the principal event of the year 1799. On the contrary,
it was little more than a diversion intended to help the chief
enterprise in Switzerland and Franche Comté. The Czar Paul and Pitt
probably did not intend to hold the Dutch Provinces unless the Allies
pressed France hard on the Swiss frontier and the Orange party rose in
force. If these contingencies held good, then Holland might be held as
far as the River Waal. If not, then the effort must be temporary. Even
so, its advantages were great. The seizure of the Dutch fleet at the
Texel and Helder would end all chance of invasion from that quarter.
Fears of such an attempt had prompted a counter-stroke dealt by General
Coote's force in the spring of 1798 at the sluice-gates near Ostend. Its
surrender under untoward circumstances was, perhaps, nearly
counterbalanced by the destruction of canal works necessary for the
assembly of the flat-bottomed boats at Ostend.

For a brief space the doubtful attitude of Prussia led Pitt and
Grenville to concert a larger scheme. They hoped to form a great array
of Prussians, Russians, Britons, and Hanoverians which would sweep the
French out of Holland; but obviously such a plan depended on the support
of the Berlin Cabinet. If it were hostile, or even unfriendly, no force
could advance through Hanover for the delivery of Holland; for it would
be at the mercy of Prussia. In order to bring her into the league, Pitt
and Grenville held out the promise of gains near the Dutch frontier; but
she held coyly aloof, doubtless from a conviction that Austria would
oppose her aggrandisement. So at least Thugut declared to Eden on his
departure from Vienna. Well might his successor, Lord Minto, remark that
the Allies spent as much time in watching each other's moves as those of
the enemy.

Prussia being immovable, England and Russia laid their plans for a naval
expedition to Holland. By a Convention signed at midsummer 1799 at St
Petersburg, Russia agreed to send a squadron of 11 ships, convoying an
expeditionary force of 17,500 men to the Dutch coast, England paying
£44,000 per month for their services after embarkation. The Czar hoped
that England would send some 6,000 men. The help of 8,000 Swedes was
also expected; but the King of Sweden, annoyed at England's seizure of
Swedish merchantmen, refused all assistance. For a time Pitt desired
both to attack the Island of Voorn below Rotterdam, and to effect a
landing in the estuary of the Ems, provided that 25,000 British, 18,000
Russians, and 8,000 Swedes were available. Here, as so often, Pitt's
hopes outran the actuality. Windham believed that he wished to conquer
Flanders. But Windham's moods were so various and perverse that he can
scarcely be trusted. In his view every effort not directed towards
Brittany was wasted; and certainly feints against the coasts of Brittany
and Spain promised to further the Dutch expedition.[519]

Early in August Pitt and his colleagues finally resolved to send the
expedition to the Dutch coast; but they had not decided as to the length
or extent of the occupation. So, at least, it appears from a letter of
Pitt to Sir Charles Grey:

                            Downing Street, _Aug. 23, 1799_.[520]

    You will not wonder that the circumstances of the present moment
    have strongly recalled to Mr. Dundas's mind and mine the
    conversations which we have at different times had with you
    respecting the possibility of a successful stroke against Brest.
    The assemblage of the combined fleets[521] in that port renders
    such an object more tempting than ever. We have a prospect, if
    the expedition in Holland should terminate speedily, of having a
    large army of 30,000 men at least, and a large body of marines,
    with any number of sail-of-the-line that may be thought
    necessary, applicable to such a service by the month of October;
    and if the Allies continue to push their operations on the other
    side of France, the bulk of the French force will find
    sufficient occupation at a distance from their coast. In all
    these respects the time seems as favourable as it can ever be
    expected to be to such an enterprise; and if it is to be
    undertaken, we shall derive the greatest confidence of success
    from seeing the execution of it placed in your hands. Many
    circumstances may undoubtedly arise in the course of the next
    six weeks which may oblige us to abandon the idea....

This letter proves that Pitt did not expect a prolonged occupation of
Holland, at least by British troops; but the notions of Ministers on
this topic were singularly hazy. All things considered, the expedition
at first fared well. Sir Ralph Abercromby, the leader of the first
detachment of some 12,000 British troops, effected a landing near the
forts at the Helder, and on 27th August speedily captured them. Three
days later Admiral Mitchell captured a squadron of 10 sail-of-the-line
and several frigates anchored behind the Texel. Pitt was elated by these
successes, and wrote from Walmer Castle on 5th September: "We are
impatiently waiting till this east wind brings our transports in sight
to carry the remainder of our troops, in order to compleat speedily what
has been so gloriously begun." He adds that in a short autumn session he
hopes speedily to pass by acclamation a Bill ensuring the doubling of
the regular army by another levy from the militia.[522] Other letters
bespeak his anxiety as to the safety of his brother, the Earl of
Chatham, who served on the Council of War directing the operations of
the Duke of York.

Abercromby's first successes were for a time maintained. At dawn of 10th
September the British force beat off a sharp attack by Vandamme at the
Zuype Canal on the way southwards to Alkmaar. Three days later the Duke
of York arrived and took the command, including that of a Russian corps
under General Hermann. Moving forwards with some 30,000 men, the Duke
attacked a Franco-Dutch force somewhat inferior in numbers but very
strongly posted at and around the village of Bergen. The onset failed,
mainly owing to the fierce but premature and disorderly onset of the
Russians on the right wing, which ended in a rout. Abercromby's flanking
movement came too late to restore the fight, which cost the British
1,000 men and the Russians more than double as many (19th September).
Hermann was taken prisoner.[523]

On 2nd October the Allies compelled the enemy to retreat from Bergen;
but the success was of little service. The defenders, now strongly
reinforced, held several good positions between Alkmaar and Amsterdam.
Meanwhile the Orange party did not stir. Torrents of rain day after day
impaired the health of the troops and filled the dykes. An advance being
impossible in these circumstances, the Duke of York retreated to the
line of the Zuype (8th to 9th October). There he could have held his
own; but, in view of the disasters in Switzerland, Ministers decided to
evacuate Holland (15th October). Accordingly, by the Convention of
Alkmaar, on the 18th, the Duke of York agreed to evacuate the Dutch
Netherlands by the end of November, 8,000 of the prisoners of war then
in England being restored. Most questionable was the decision of
Ministers to evacuate the Helder and the Texel. Grenville desired to
hold those posts as bases for a second attempt in 1800; but this was not
done. The only result, then, was the capture of the Dutch fleet, a prize
gained without loss by the end of September.

The censures bestowed on this undertaking are very natural. Success was
scarcely possible in the narrow, marshy strip of land north of
Amsterdam. In such a district victory must be costly, while defeat spelt
disaster. The whole enterprise was unwarrantable, unless the Orange
party was about to rise; but on this subject Ministers were deceived.
The Prince of Orange and his son assured them that it was necessary even
to hold back the loyalists until armed help appeared, so eager were they
to expel the French.[524] Not a sign of this eagerness appeared.

Undaunted by this failure, which Sheridan wittily called nibbling at the
French rind, Pitt sought to utilize the Russian force withdrawn from
Holland for the projected blow at Brest. It was therefore taken to the
Channel Islands, greatly to the hurt of the inhabitants. Pitt and
Grenville also concerted plans with the Austrian Court, which, chastened
by the disasters in Switzerland, now displayed less truculence. It
agreed to repay the loan of May 1797, to restore Piedmont to the House
of Savoy, and to give back to France any provinces conquered in the war,
on condition of the re-establishment of monarchy. Thus, a friendly
understanding was at last arrived at; and on 24th December 1799
Grenville empowered Minto to prepare a treaty, adding that on the first
opportunity the French Government should be informed of this engagement.

The occasion occurred at once. Bonaparte, having become master of France
by the _coup d'état_ of Brumaire (10th November), wrote on Christmas Day
to Francis II and George III proposing terms of peace. The statesmanlike
tone of that offer has been deservedly admired; but his motives in
making it do not concern us here.[525] Suffice it to say that Pitt and
Thugut saw in it a clever device for sundering the Anglo-Austrian
compact. As appears from a letter of Canning, Pitt looked on the new
Consular Government as a make-shift. Writing early in December to
Canning, Pitt stated that the new French constitution might prove to be
of a moderate American kind. To this Canning answered on the 7th that it
might perhaps last long enough to admit of Bonaparte sending off a
courier to London and receiving the reply if he were kicked back. Or
more probably, France would fall under a military despotism, "of the
actual and manifest instability of which you seem to entertain no
doubt." In answer to Pitt's statement "that we ought not to commit
ourselves by any declaration that the restoration of royalty is the
_sine qua non_ condition of peace," Canning advised him to issue a
declaration "that you would treat with a monarchy; that to the monarchy
restored to its rightful owner you would give not only peace, but peace
on the most liberal terms."

Clearly, then, Pitt was less royalist than Canning; but he decided to
repel all overtures from Paris (so he wrote to Dundas on 31st December),
because the condition of France did not provide a solid security for a
peace. He added that he desired "to express strongly the eagerness with
which we should embrace any opening for general peace whenever such
solid security should be attainable. This may, I think, be so expressed
as to convey to the people of France that the shortest road to peace is
by effecting the restoration of Royalty, and thereby to increase the
chance of that most desirable of all issues to the war." As Grenville
and Dundas concurred in this view, the Foreign Office sent off a reply
stating that the usual diplomatic forms would be observed; that His
Majesty sought only to maintain the rights of his subjects against a war
of aggression; and that the present time was unsuitable for negotiations
with persons recently placed in power by a Revolution, until they should
disclaim the restless and subversive schemes which threatened the
framework of society. His Majesty, however, would welcome peace when it
could be attained with security, the best pledge of which would be the
restoration of Royalty.

This reply ranks among the greatest mistakes of the time. It made the
name of the Bourbons odious and that of Bonaparte popular throughout
France; and the scornful references to the First Consul's insecurity
must have re-doubled the zeal of Frenchmen for the erection of a truly
national and monarchical system under his auspices. In truth, it is
difficult to see why Pitt, who held out the olive-branch to the
newly-established Directory in the autumn of 1795, should have repelled
the proffered hand of Bonaparte. The probable explanation is that he
thought more of the effect of the reply at Vienna than at Paris. On 6th
January Grenville forwarded a copy to Minto, expressing also the hope
that it would be regarded as a sign of the fidelity of England to the
Emperor. Further, Pitt's oration on 3rd February 1800 on this topic was
marked by extreme acerbity against Bonaparte. He descanted on his
perfidy and rapacity at the expense of Venice and the Sultan's
dominions, and deprecated a compact with "this last adventurer in the
lottery of Revolutions.... As a sincere lover of peace," he added, "I
will not sacrifice it by grasping at the shadow, when the reality is not
substantially within my reach. _Cur igitur pacem nolo? Quia infida est,
quia periculosa, quia esse non potest._"[526] In reply to a verbal
challenge from Tierney a fortnight later, he fired off an harangue which
ranks among the ablest and most fervid of improvisations. The Whig
leader having defied him to state in one sentence without _ifs_ and
_buts_ the object of the war, Pitt flung back the retort:

    ... I know not whether I can do it in one sentence, but in one
    word I can tell him that it is security; security against a
    danger the greatest that ever threatened the world; ... against
    a danger which has been resisted by all the nations of Europe,
    and resisted by none with so much success as by this nation,
    because by none has it been resisted so uniformly and with so
    much energy.... How or where did the honourable gentleman
    discover that the Jacobinism of Robespierre, of Barère, of the
    Triumvirate, of the Five Directors, which he acknowledged to be
    real, has vanished and disappeared because it has all been
    centred and condensed into one man, who was reared and nursed in
    its bosom, whose celebrity was gained under its auspices, who
    was at once the child and champion of all its atrocities and
    horrors? Our security in negotiation is to be this Buonaparte,
    who is now the sole organ of all that was formerly dangerous and
    pestiferous in the Revolution.... _If_ peace afford no prospect
    of security; _if_ it threaten all the evils which we have been
    struggling to avert; _if_ the prosecution of the war afford the
    prospect of attaining complete security; and _if_ it may be
    prosecuted with increasing commerce, with increasing means, and
    with increasing prosperity, except what may result from the
    visitations of the seasons; then I say it is prudent in us not
    to negotiate at the present moment. These are my _buts_ and my
    _ifs_. This is my plea, and on no other do I wish to be tried by
    God and my country.

One who heard that spirited retort left on record the profound
impression which it produced on the House.[527]

Seeing that Bonaparte was then known merely as an able _condottiere_,
not as the re-organizer of French society, Pitt's haughty attitude,
though deplorable, is intelligible. The prospects of the war were not
unfavourable. He hoped that Austria, now about to invade Nice and Savoy,
would be able by her own efforts to reduce France within her old limits,
England's duty being to offer help on the Riviera, to make a dash at
Brest, and to seize Belleisle as a base of supplies for the Breton
royalists, now once more in revolt. It is significant that Dundas wrote
to Pitt on 4th January expressing his belief that Bonaparte must be
serious in his desire for peace because he had no other game to

Many influences conspired to mar these hopes. The enterprises against
Brest and Belleisle proved to be impracticable, and a landing at
Quiberon failed because the Breton rising occurred too soon. The
royalists of Provence did not rise at all. An attempt by Sir James
Pulteney and a small force upon Ferrol was an utter failure. All the
operations were paralysed by uncertainty as to the future conduct of
Russia. The indignation of the Czar against Austria extended to England
after the failure of the joint expedition to Holland; and his testiness
increased owing to maritime disputes and the friction caused by the
outrages of his troops in the Channel Islands. In the Riviera the
Austrians continued their successes, and finally shut up Masséna in
Genoa, where the British fleet rendered valuable service. But it is not
surprising to find Grenville writing on 10th April to Dundas: "For God's
sake, for your own honour, and for the cause in which we are engaged, do
not let us, after having by immense exertions collected a fine army,
leave it unemployed, gaping after messengers from Genoa, Augsburg, and
Vienna till the moment for acting is irrecoverably passed by."

This, however, was the outcome of events. The French, acting on interior
lines, and propelled by the will of Bonaparte, utterly crushed these
sporadic efforts. The Royalists were quelled or pacified, the coasts
were well guarded, while the First Consul, crossing the Great St.
Bernard, overthrew the Austrians at Marengo (14th June). Before long
Naples made peace with the conqueror. Meanwhile the Sea Power, operating
on diverse coasts, delayed, but did not reverse, the progress of the
French arms. British forces for a time defended Portugal and held
Minorca and the citadel of Messina, but without any appreciable effect
on Spain or Italy. The fleet played an important part in starving out
the French garrisons of Genoa and Valetta. But elsewhere the action, or
inaction, of the British forces was discreditable. True, the conditions
were adverse, but an army numbering more than 80,000 men, and costing
nearly £10,000,000 sterling, should have accomplished something in

Only at one point did the British arms win a decisive success. The
French occupation of Egypt had aroused the apprehensions of Dundas for
India; and throughout the year 1800 he continued to urge an expedition
to Egypt, though other Ministers inclined to put it off. Finally, when
Bonaparte's triumph at Marengo shattered all hopes of an Austrian
invasion of Provence, and the surrender of Valetta, early in September,
set free the British squadron long blockading that port, Dundas pressed
the Egyptian project in a letter to Pitt, dated Wimbledon, 19th
September 1800. The gist of it is as follows:[529]

    On reconsidering the discussion on Egypt at the Cabinet meeting
    of yesterday, I am impressed by the danger of delaying action.
    The importance of expelling the French from Egypt is obvious;
    for it is clear that Bonaparte will subordinate every object to
    the retention of that colony. The danger to India may not be
    immediate, but it must be faced. Besides, our sacrifice of
    Turkish interests to those of Austria [that is, by refusing to
    ratify the Franco-Turkish Convention of El Arish] may induce the
    Sultan to bargain with France on terms very unfavourable to us.
    Or, again, France and Russia may plan a partition of the Ottoman
    Empire. The objections, that we are pledged to do what we can
    for Portugal and Austria, are not vital. For Portugal is safe
    while the Viennese Court opposes France; and by our subsidies
    and naval help we have borne our fair share in the Coalition.
    Further efforts in that direction will be fruitless. We must now
    see to our own interests. By occupying all the posts of Egypt,
    we can coop up the French and force them to capitulate. Action
    must not be postponed for any consideration whatever.

The opinion of Dundas soon prevailed; for, on 6th October, Grenville
wrote that the Egyptian Expedition was decided on. As is well known, the
joint efforts of forces from England, India, and the Cape of Good Hope
brought about the surrender of the French garrisons, and the acquisition
for the British Museum of the treasures designed for the Louvre. This
brilliant result was in the last instance due to Abercromby, Hutchinson,
Popham, and their coadjutors. But the enterprise resulted from the
untiring championship of the interests of India by Dundas. Long
afterwards at Perthshire dinner-tables he used to tell with pride how
George III once proposed a toast to the Minister who planned the
expedition to Egypt and in doing so had the courage to oppose not only
his colleagues but his King.

As the year 1800 drew to its close, the opposition of the Baltic Powers
to the British maritime code became most threatening. The questions at
issue are too technical to be discussed here. Pitt and his colleagues
believed the maintenance of the rights of search and of the seizure of
an enemy's goods on neutral ships to be essential to the existence of
England. For this view of the case much was to be said. In every war
France used neutral ships in order to get supplies; and the neutrals
themselves sought to filch trade from British merchants. Now, to hinder
or destroy the commerce of the enemy, and to prevent neutrals from
bringing naval stores to his ports, were the only means of bringing
pressure from the sea upon the dominant Land Power. In a strife for life
or death Pitt and his colleagues perforce made use of every weapon, even
to the detriment of non-combatants. This stiff attitude, however,
contrasted with that of Bonaparte, who, in July 1800 flattered the Czar
by sending back Russian prisoners and by offering to cede Malta to him.
Paul, not knowing that the fall of Valetta was imminent, was duped by
this device; and, a few weeks later, occurred the rupture between Russia
and England.

Thus, within a year, the Second Coalition against France went to pieces,
and was succeeded by a league against England. Thanks to the victory of
Nelson at Copenhagen and the murder of the Czar Paul in the spring of
1801, that unnatural alliance speedily collapsed. These events, however,
belong to a time subsequent to Pitt's resignation of office, after the
completion of the union with Ireland, to which we must now return.
Enough has been said to show the statesmanlike nature of his plans for
the vindication of European independence. The intrigues of Thugut, the
selfish isolation of Prussia, and the mad oscillations of Paul marred
those plans and left the Continent a prey to the unbridled ambition of
Bonaparte, from which it was to be saved only after a decade of
exhausting wars.


[502] "F. O.," Austria, 51; "Dropmore P.," iv, 170. The French took
nearly 33,000,000 francs from the Swiss cantonal treasuries.

[503] Pitt MSS., 108.

[504] "Dropmore P.," iv, 166, 172; "F. O.," Austria, 51. Grenville to
Eden, 20th April.

[505] The Earl of Crawford's MSS.

[506] "F. O.," Russia, 40. Whitworth to Grenville, 6th August 1798.

[507] See my Introduction to "The History of Malta, 1798-1815," by the
late W. Hardman.

[508] "Dropmore P.," iv, 344, 355.

[509] See Rose, "Napoleonic Studies," 54-8, for this despatch of 16th
November 1798.

[510] For a fuller account see "Camb. Mod. Hist.," viii, ch. xxi, by the
present writer.

[511] "F. O.," Russia, 42. Despatches of 2nd, 8th and 25th January 1799.

[512] Huffer, "Quellen," i, 23-9.

[513] "Dropmore P.," iv, 297, 338, 505; "F. O.," Russia, 42.

[514] "F. O.," Russia, 42. Whitworth to Grenville, 29th March.

[515] "F. O.," Russia, 43. Grenville to Whitworth, 23rd June.

[516] G. Caudrillier, "L'Association royaliste ... et la Conspiration
anglaise en France" (Paris, 1908); Wickham, "Corresp.," ii, _passim_.

[517] B.M. Add. MSS., 37844.

[518] "Dropmore P.," v, 400. I propose to examine this campaign in "Pitt
and Napoleon Miscellanies."

[519] "F. O.," Russia, 43. Whitworth to Grenville, 23rd June 1799;
"Dropmore P.," v, 133, 259; Windham, "Diary," 411. On 22nd July Windham
urged Pitt to send a force to help the Bretons rather than to Holland.
"If we succeed in France, Holland falls of course, but not _vice versa_"
(Pitt MSS., 190).

[520] Pretyman MSS.

[521] That of Bruix, which after entering the Mediterranean, returned to
Brest on 13th August along with the Spanish fleet.

[522] The Earl of Crawford's MSS.

[523] Fortescue, iv, 662, 673-6; Bunbury, "Narrative of the War
(1799-1810)," 50. Hermann wrote to the Emperor blaming the British for
not supporting his advance ("Dropmore P.," v, 425); but on 10th October
Paul dismissed him from the Russian service ("F. O.," Russia, 44).

[524] "Dropmore P.," v, 446.

[525] See Rose, "Napoleon I," 240-2.

[526] Cicero, Seventh Philippic, ch. iii.

[527] The father of the present Master of Trinity College, Cambridge.
See his work, "Ten Great and Good Men," 49.

[528] Pretyman MSS.

[529] Pretyman MSS.



    I am determined not to submit to the insertion of any clause
    that shall make the exclusion of the Catholics a fundamental
    part of the Union, as I am fully convinced that, until the
    Catholics are admitted into a general participation of rights
    (which, when incorporated with the British Government, they
    cannot abuse) there will be no peace or safety in
    Ireland.--CORNWALLIS TO ROSS, _30th September 1798_.

The fairest method of dealing with the Act of Union of the British and
Irish Parliaments seems to be, firstly, to trace the development of
Pitt's thoughts on that subject; secondly, to survey the state of
affairs in Ireland after the Rebellion of 1798; and thirdly, to trace
the course of the negotiations whereby the new Lord Lieutenant,
Cornwallis, succeeded in carrying through the measure itself.

Firstly, it is clear that Pitt had long felt the need of closer
commercial ties between the two islands. As was shown in Chapter XI of
the former part of this work, he sought to prepare the way for such a
measure in the session of 1785. The importance which he attached to the
freeing of inter-insular trade appears in a phrase of his letter of 6th
January 1785 to the Duke of Rutland as to Great Britain and Ireland
becoming "one country in effect, though for local concerns under
distinct legislatures," This represents his first thoughts on the
subject. Obviously they were then limited to a commercial union. If the
two Parliaments and the two nations could have shaken off their
commercial jealousies, Pitt would probably have been satisfied with
fostering the prosperity of both islands, while leaving their
legislative machinery intact. But, being thwarted by the stupidity of
British traders and the nagging tactics adopted at Dublin, he wrote to
Rutland that his plan was not discredited by failure and they must
"await times and seasons for carrying it into effect."

Times and seasons brought, not peace and quiet, but the French
Revolution. With it there came an increase of racial and religious
feuds, which, however, did but strengthen his conviction of the need of
a closer connection between the two islands; witness his letter of 18th
November 1792 to the Lord Lieutenant, the Earl of Westmorland:

    The idea of the present fermentation gradually bringing both
    parties to think of an Union with this country has long been in
    my mind. I hardly dare flatter myself with the hope of its
    taking place; but I believe it, tho' itself not easy to be
    accomplished, to be the only solution for other and greater
    difficulties. The admission of Catholics to a share of suffrage
    could not then be dangerous. The Protestant interest, in point
    of power, property and Church Establishment, would be secure
    because the decided majority of the supreme Legislature would
    necessarily be Protestant; and the great ground of argument on
    the part of the Catholics would be done away, as, compared with
    the rest of the Empire, they would become a minority. You will
    judge when and to whom this idea can be confided. It must
    certainly require great delicacy and management; but I am
    heartily glad that it is at least in your thoughts.[530]

These words show why Pitt allowed proposals so imperfect as the
Franchise Bill of 1793 to become law. It enfranchised most of the Irish
peasantry, the great majority of whom were Catholics, though men of
their creed were excluded from Parliament. But he hoped in the future to
supplement it by a far greater measure which would render the admission
of Catholics to Parliament innocuous, namely, by the formation of a
united Parliament in which they would command only a small minority of
votes. Pitt's words open up a vista which receded far away amidst the
smoke of war and the mirage of bigotry, and did not come into sight
until the second decade of the period of peace, when Canning, Pitt's
disciple, was the chief champion of the measure here first clearly
outlined. Pitt, then, desired a Union as the sole means of ending
commercial disputes, otherwise as insoluble as those between England and
Scotland previous to the year 1707; but also for an even weightier
reason, because only so could the religious discords of Irishmen be
ended; only so could the chafing of the majority against the rule of a
cramping caste cease. By the formation of an Imperial Parliament, the
Irish Protestants would have solid guarantees against the subversion of
all that they held most dear.

The full realization of these aims was impossible. Early in 1793 came
war with France, with its sequel, the heating of nationalist and
religious feeling in Ireland; and while the officials of Dublin Castle
embarked on a policy of repression, the United Irishmen looked for help
to Paris. The results appeared in the Rebellion of 1798. The
oft-repeated assertion that Pitt and Camden brought about the revolt in
order to force on the Union is at variance with all the available
evidence. They sought by all possible means to prevent a rising, which,
with a reasonable amount of help from France, must have shaken the
British Empire to its base. When the rebellion came and developed into a
bloody religious feud, they saw that the time for a Union had come.

The best means of checking hasty generalizations is to peruse letters
written at the time, before ingenious theories could be spun. Now, the
definite proposal of a Union very rarely occurs before the month of June
1798. One of the first references is in a letter of the Lord Chancellor,
Loughborough, to Pitt, dated 13th June 1798. After approving the
appointment of Cornwallis as the best means of quelling the revolt in
Ireland, he adds: "Every reasonable man in that country must feel that
their preservation depends on their connection with England, and it
ought [to] be their first wish to make it more entire. It would be very
rash to make any such suggestion from hence: but we should be prepared
to receive it and to impose the idea whenever it begins to appear in

More important, as showing the impossibility of continuing the present
chaotic administration at Dublin, is the following letter from the Earl
of Carlisle, formerly Lord Lieutenant, to Pitt. It is undated, but
probably belongs to 2nd June 1798:[532]

    ... It may perhaps be but a weak apology for this interruption
    to own I cannot help looking at that country [Ireland] with a
    sort of affection, like an old house which one has once
    inhabited, not disliking the antient arrangement of its
    interior, and perhaps unreasonably prejudiced against many of
    its modern innovations. The innovation that has long given me
    uneasiness, and which now seems most seriously to perplex the
    Irish Government, was the fatal institution of an Irish Cabinet,
    which has worked itself into being, considered almost as a
    component part of that deputed authority. A Government composed
    of Lords Justices, natives of that country, as a permanent
    establishment, absurd as such an expedient might be, would not
    have at least that radical defect of authority disjoined from
    responsibility. We now feel all the bad effects of a power which
    should never have been confer'd, and which is strengthen'd from
    hence by many acting with you, so as to make it impossible for
    the Lord Lieutenant to manage with it or without it.

    You have, in my poor judgment, an opportunity offer'd to crush
    at one blow this defective system. Ireland, I scruple not to
    say, cannot be saved if you permit an hour longer almost the
    military defence of that country to depend upon the tactical
    dictates of Chancellors, Speaker of the House of Commons, etc. I
    mean to speak with no disrespect of Lord Camden; I never heard
    anything but to his honour; but I maintain under the present
    circumstances the best soldier would make the best
    Lord-Lieutenant; one on whom no Junto there would presume to
    fling their shackles, and one who would cut them short if they
    presumed to talk of what they did not understand. With this
    idea, I confess, Ld Cornwallis naturally occurs to me. Next to
    this, but not so efficacious, would be sending some one equal to
    the military duties, freed from all control, saving that, for
    form's sake, good sense would acquiesce under to [_sic_] the
    King's Deputy. But I cannot doubt but a deeper change would be
    most advisable. The disaffected to our Government (and I fear it
    is too general) may perhaps have their degrees and divisions of
    animosity against it, and some possibly may be changed by a
    change of men more than by a professed change of measures, which
    perhaps they think little about. I know they are taught to
    believe a particular set of men are their enemies; in truth I
    question if, in tyrannising over and thwarting the Castle, and
    talking so injudiciously, they ought to be considered as our

Thus the man to whom in 1795 Earl Fitzwilliam poured forth his
grievances against Pitt, now advised him to end the mischievous dualism
at Dublin, which enabled Lords Justices and the Speaker of the Irish
House of Commons to paralyse the Executive. There, as at Berlin,
advisers who had great influence but no official responsibility, often
intervened with disastrous results; and not until Stein took the tiller
after Tilsit did the Prussian ship of State pursue a straight course. At
Dublin the crisis of 1798 revealed the weakness of the Irish Executive,
and naturally led to a complete break with the past.[533]

                  *       *       *       *       *

Amidst the mass of Pitt's papers relating to Ireland there is no sign of
his intention to press on an Act of Union before the middle of the
month of June 1798, that is, in the midst of the Rebellion. The first
reference to it occurs in a memorandum endorsed by Pitt "received June
19, 1798," and obviously drawn up by Camden a few days before he
resigned the Viceroyalty in favour of Cornwallis. Pitt's letter of
inquiry is missing. Camden's reply is too long for quotation, but may be
thus summarized:

    The plan of a Union should be detailed as far as possible before
    it is attempted. The King's Cabinet should be at once consulted,
    also leading persons in both islands. If their opinion is
    favourable, the measure should then be brought forward. If the
    Catholic claims are to be met, the advice of their leading men,
    as for instance Lords Fingal and Kenmare, should be sought. The
    legal attainments of the Irish Chancellor, the Earl of Clare,
    and the parliamentary and commercial connections of the Speaker,
    Foster, entitle their opinions to great weight. Foster may
    perhaps be won over by the offer of an English peerage. The
    Irish Bar, as also Lords Shannon and Ely, will probably oppose a
    Union. Some persons will object to the admission of Catholics
    even to the United Parliament, though that measure cannot do
    harm. The Scottish Catholics should have the same privileges
    accorded to them, and a provision should be made for the
    Dissenting clergy. Parliamentary Reform must be considered, but
    it will not be dangerous now. The French will never make peace
    until Great Britain is weakened. The religious difficulty of a
    Union will not be great, for the Protestants will always form
    the majority in the United Parliament. Legal expenses in the
    case of Irish suits will be little more than in Scottish suits.
    As Dublin will suffer from the removal of the Parliament, the
    Lord Lieutenant's Court must be kept up in great splendour, the
    residence of influential persons in Ireland being encouraged in
    every possible way. The communications between the two islands
    must be improved, free packet-boats being provided. In a
    postscript Camden adds that he hopes Cornwallis will continue
    the present repressive policy, which otherwise must appear
    unduly harsh by contrast.[534]

The most significant passages are those in which Camden refers to the
plan of a Union as so unformed as to require preliminary inquiries, and
in which he presumes that after the Union Dissenters and Catholics will
have "the same advantages as are bestowed upon the rest of the
inhabitants of the three kingdoms." Clearly, then, Pitt and Camden had
come to no decision on the Union; but Camden, from what he knew of
Pitt's views, believed that he favoured a broad and inclusive policy,
not a Union framed on a narrowly Protestant basis. Neither of them seems
to have anticipated serious resistance on the religious question, even
though the King, at the time of the Fitzwilliam crisis of 1795, had
declared the admission of Catholics to the Irish Parliament to be a
matter which concerned his conscience, not his Cabinet.

It is also obvious that the question of the Union was forced to the
front by the cumbrous dualism of the Irish Executive, which proved to be
utterly unable to cope with the crisis of the Rebellion. The King, as we
have seen, shrewdly suggested that Cornwallis ought to make use of the
fears of Irish loyalists in order to frighten the Dublin Parliament into
acquiescence in an Act of Union. The same opinion was gaining ground;
but several of Pitt's supporters doubted the advisability of so
far-reaching a measure. Thus, on 4th July 1798, Hatsell, Clerk of the
House of Commons, wrote to Auckland that of all possible plans a Union
was the worst, "full of difficulties, to be brought about by errant
jobs; and, when done, not answering the purpose. You must take out the
teeth, or give the Catholics sops to eat. One or other; but the
half-measure won't do." Better balanced was the judgement of the Earl of
Carlisle, as stated to Auckland some time in September. After asking
whether the recurrence of local risings in Ireland did not prove the
unwisdom of the policy of lenience pursued by Cornwallis, he added these
significant words: "In this distress it is not strange that we should
turn to the expedient of Union; but this is running in a dark night for
a port we are little acquainted with.... If you did not satisfy Ireland
by the measure and take off some part of those ill-disposed to England,
you would only make matters worse. But in truth something must be done,
or we must fight for Ireland once a week."[535]

That the activity of the rebels varied according to the prospects of aid
from France was manifest. Thus, on 25th July Beresford wrote to Auckland
that the people seemed tired of rebellion, which would die out unless
the French landed. But on 22nd August, after the arrival of Humbert's
little force in Killala Bay, he described the whole country as in
revolt. The State prisoners, O'Connor, McNevin, and Addis Emmett, sent
to the papers a denial of their former pacific assurances;[536] and
even after the surrender of Humbert's force, Beresford wrote to Auckland
on 15th September: "... Should the French or the Dutch get out an
armament and land, there will be a very general rising. I have it from a
man on whose veracity I can depend, and who was on the spot in Mayo,
during the French invasion, that the Catholics of the country ran to
join them with eagerness, and that they had more than they could arm;
that, as they moved on, they were constantly joined; but he says the
Irish behaved so ill that the French made use of discipline, which
thinned their ranks; however, they had 4,000 of them when they were
attacked by Colonel Vereker, and about 200 of the Limerick militia. By
our late accounts there are said to be in Mayo and Roscommon 10,000
rebels up: they are destroying the country."[537] Beresford then blames
the Viceroy's proclamation, offering pardon to rebels who come in within
a month, and he says their leaders tell them that 20,000 French will
soon land. Equally significant is the statement of George Rose in a
letter of 23rd September. Referring to the fact that two French warships
had got away from Brest towards the Irish coast, he writes: "If they
land, the struggle may be more serious. The truth is that it will be
nearly impossible to keep Ireland as a conquered country. Union is
become more urgent than ever." This was also the opinion of Lord
Sheffield. Writing on 29th September from Rottingdean to Auckland, he
remarks on the disquieting ease with which the French squadrons reach
Ireland. He has had a long argument with the Irish Judge, Sir William
Downes, and proved to him the necessity of a Union with Ireland. But (he
proceeds) it will never take place, if it is set about publicly.

Irish loyalists united in decrying the comparatively lenient methods of
Cornwallis; but, despite the urgent advice of Camden to Pitt, the change
of system met with approval at Downing Street. This is the more
remarkable as letters from Dublin were full of invectives against
Cornwallis. Buckingham wrote almost daily to his brother, Grenville,
foretelling ruin from the weakness and vacillation of the Lord
Lieutenant. Still more furious were Beresford, Cooke, and Lees. Their
correspondence with Auckland, Postmaster-General at London, was so
systematic as to imply design. Probably they sought to procure the
dismissal of Cornwallis and the nomination of Auckland in his place.
There can be little doubt that Auckland lent himself to the scheme with
a view to maintaining the Protestant ascendancy unimpaired; for he wrote
to Beresford that public opinion in England favoured the maintenance of
the existing order of things in Church and State in both kingdoms. The
following extracts from the letters which he received from Cooke and
Lees are typical. On 4th October Lees writes: "I am afraid Lord
Cornwallis is not devil enough to deal with the devils he has to contend
with in this country.... The profligacy of the murderous malignant
disposition of Paddy soars too high for his humane and merciful
principles at this crisis." Cooke was less flowery but equally emphatic:
"If," he wrote on 22nd October, "your Union is to be Protestant, we have
100,000 Protestants who are connected by Orange Lodges, and they might
be made a great instrument.... Our robberies and murders continue; and
the depredations of the mountain rebels increase."[538]

Nevertheless Cornwallis held on his way. In the period 22nd August 1798
to the end of February 1799, he reprieved as many as 41 rebels out of
131 on whom sentence of death had been passed, and he commuted to
banishment heavy sentences passed on 78 others. It is clear, then, that,
despite the efforts of Buckingham and the officials of Dublin Castle,
Pitt continued to uphold a policy of clemency. But it is equally clear
that the reliance of Irish malcontents on French aid, the persistent
efforts of the Brest squadron to send that aid, and the savage reprisals
demanded, and when possible enforced, by the loyal minority of Irishmen,
brought about a situation in which Ireland could not stand alone.[539]

Preliminary inquiries respecting the Act of Union were set on foot, and
the results were summarized in Memoranda of the summer and autumn of
1798. One of them, comprised among the Pelham manuscripts, is annotated
by Pitt. The compiler thus referred to the question of Catholic
Emancipation: "Catholics to be eligible to all offices, civil and
military, taking the present oath. Such as shall take the Oath of
Supremacy in the Bill of Rights may sit in Parliament without
subscribing the Abjuration. Corporation offices to be Protestant." On
this Pitt wrote the following note: "The first part seems
unexceptionable, and is exactly what I wish ... but if this oath is
sufficient for office, why require a different one for Parliament? And
why are Corporation offices to be exclusively Protestant, when those of
the State may be Catholic?"[540] Well might Pitt ask these questions,
for the whole system of exclusion by religious tests was condemned so
soon as admission to Parliament ceased to depend on them. Other
Memoranda dealt mainly with the difficult question of compensation to
the borough-holders and placemen who would suffer by the proposed
change. But for the present it will be well to deal with the question of
the abolition of religious tests.

The procedure of Pitt in regard to this difficult subject was eminently
cautious. As was the case before dealing with the fiscal problem in
1785, so now he invited over certain leading Irishmen in order to
discuss details. About the middle of October he had two interviews with
the Earl of Clare, Lord Chancellor of Ireland. These important
conferences took place at Holwood, where he was then occupied in marking
out a new road; for his pastime every autumn was to indulge his
favourite pursuit of planting trees and otherwise improving his grounds.
The two ablest men in the sister kingdoms must have regarded one another
with interest. They were not unlike in figure except that Clare was
short. His frame was as slight as Pitt's; his features were thin and
finely chiselled. Neither frame nor features bespoke the haughty spirit
and dauntless will that enabled him at times to turn the current of
events and overbear the decisions of Lords Lieutenant. In forcefulness
and narrowness, in bravery and bigotry, he was a fit spokesman of the
British garrison, which was resolved to hold every outwork of the

The particulars of their converse are unknown. Probably Clare had the
advantage which a man of narrow views but expert knowledge enjoys over
an antagonist who trusts in lofty principles and cherishes generous
hopes. Clare, knowing his ground thoroughly, must have triumphed. Pitt
did not confess his defeat. Indeed, on 16th October, he wrote
reassuringly to Grenville: "I have had two very full conversations with
Lord Clare. What he says is very encouraging to the great question of
the Union, in which I do not think we shall have much difficulty; I
mean, in proportion to the magnitude of the subject. At his desire I
have written to press the Speaker [Foster] to come over, which he seems
to think may be of great importance." Here is Clare's version of the
interviews in a letter of the same day to his fellow countryman,
Castlereagh: "I have seen Mr. Pitt, the Chancellor, and the Duke of
Portland, who seem to feel very sensibly the critical situation of our
damnable country, and that the Union alone can save it. I should have
hoped that what has passed would have opened the eyes of every man in
England to the insanity of their past conduct with respect to the
Papists of Ireland; but I can very plainly perceive that they were as
full of their popish projects as ever. I trust, and I hope I am not
deceived, that they are fairly inclined to give them up, and to bring
the measure forward unencumbered with the doctrine of Emancipation. Lord
Cornwallis has intimated his acquiescence in this point; Mr. Pitt is
decided upon it, and I think he will keep his colleagues steady."[541]

The mention of Castlereagh seems to call for a short account of one who,
after assisting in carrying the Act of Union, was destined to win a
European reputation as a disciple of Pitt. Robert Stewart, Viscount
Castlereagh, and second Marquis of Londonderry (1769-1822), was the son
of Robert Stewart of Ballylawn in County Londonderry by his first
marriage, that with the daughter of the Earl of Hertford. Educated at
Armagh and at St. John's College, Cambridge, he soon returned to contest
the seat of County Down with Lord Downshire, and succeeded by dint of
hard work and the expenditure of £60,000. He entered the Irish
Parliament as a representative of the freeholders as against the
aristocracy; but the second marriage of his father (now Marquis of
Londonderry) with the eldest daughter of the late Earl Camden brought
the family into close connection with the second Earl, who, on becoming
Lord Lieutenant in 1795, soon succeeded in detaching young Stewart from
the popular party, already, from its many indiscretions, distasteful to
his cool and cautious nature. Stewart had recently married Lady Emily
Hobart, the daughter of the late Earl of Buckinghamshire, and became
Viscount Castlereagh in October 1795. Though continuing to support the
claims of the Catholics, he upheld Camden's policy of coercion; and his
firm and resolute character made his support valuable in Parliament.

The sagacity of his advice in committee, and the straightforward
boldness of his action as an administrator, are in marked contrast to
his rambling and laboured speeches, in whose incongruous phrases alone
there lurked signs of Hibernian humour. "The features of the clause";
"sets of circumstances coming up and circumstances going down"; "men
turning their backs upon themselves"; "the constitutional principle
wound up in the bowels of the monarchy"; "the Herculean labour of the
honourable member, who will find himself quite disappointed when he has
at last brought forth his Hercules"--such are a few of the rhetorical
gems which occasionally sparkled in the dull quartz of his plentiful
output. Nevertheless, so manly was his bearing, so dogged his defence,
that he always gained a respectful hearing; and supporters of the
Government plucked up heart when, after a display of dazzling rhetoric
by Grattan or Plunket, the young aristocrat drew up his tall figure,
squared his chest, flung open his coat, and plunged into the unequal
contest. Courage and tenacity win their reward; and in these qualities
Castlereagh had no superior. It is said that on one occasion he
determined to end a fight between two mastiffs, and, though badly
bitten, he effected his purpose. These virile powers marked him out for
promotion; and during the illness of Pelham, Chief Secretary at Dublin,
Castlereagh discharged his duties. Cornwallis urged that he should have
the appointment; and to the King's initial objection that a Briton ought
to hold it, Cornwallis successfully replied that Castlereagh was "so
very unlike an Irishman" that the office would be safe in his hands.
Castlereagh received the appointment early in November 1798. He, the
first Irishman to hold it, was destined to overthrow the Irish

We must now revert to the negotiations between Pitt and Clare. It is
surprising to find Clare convinced that the Prime Minister would keep
faithful to the Protestant cause its unfaithful champion, Loughborough,
also that Cornwallis had acquiesced in the shelving of Catholic
Emancipation. Probably Clare had the faculty, not uncommon in
strong-willed men, of reading his thoughts into the words of others. For
Cornwallis, writing to Pitt on 8th October, just after saying farewell
to Clare at Dublin, describes him as a well-intentioned man, but blind
to the absolute dependence of Irish Protestants on British support and
resolutely opposed to the admission of Romanists to the united
Parliament. As to himself, Cornwallis pens these noble words: "I
certainly wish that England could now make a Union with the Irish
nation, instead of making it with a party in Ireland"; and he expresses
the hope that with fair treatment the Roman Catholics will soon become
loyal subjects. Writing to the Duke of Portland in the same sense,
Cornwallis shows a slight diffidence in his ability to judge of the
chief question at issue.

Probably the solution of the riddle is here to be found. It seems that
the Lord Lieutenant was politely deferential to Clare; that at Holwood
Clare represented him as a convert to the ultra-Protestant tenets; and
that Pitt accepted the statements of the Irish Chancellor. William
Elliot, Under-Secretary at War at Dublin, who saw Pitt a week later,
found him disinclined to further the Catholic claims at the present
juncture, though equally resolved not to bar the way for the future.
Possibly the King now intervened. It is a significant fact that Clare
expected to have an interview with him before returning to Ireland. If
so, he must have strengthened his earlier resolve. Pitt, then, gave way
on the question of the admission of Dissenters and Catholics to the
Irish Parliament. But he kept open the more important question of the
admission of Catholics to the United Parliament. Obviously, the latter
comprised the former; and it was likely to arouse the fears of the Irish
Protestants far less. On tactical grounds alone the change of procedure
was desirable. It is therefore difficult to see why Elliot so deeply
deplored his surrender to the ultra-Protestants. Pitt had the approval
of Grenville, who, owing to the religious feuds embittered by the
Rebellion, deprecated the imposition of the Catholic claims on the
fiercely Protestant Assembly at Dublin.[543] Yet he warmly supported
them in the United Parliament, both in 1801 and 1807.

The next of the Protestant champions whom Pitt saw was Foster, Speaker
of the Irish House of Commons, whose forceful will, narrow but resolute
religious beliefs, and mercantile connections gave him an influence
second only to that of Clare. In the course of a long conversation with
him about 15th November, Pitt found him frank in his opinions,
decidedly opposed to the Union, but not so fixedly as to preclude all
hope of arrangement. On this topic Pitt dilated in a "private" letter of
17th November, to Cornwallis:

    ... I think I may venture to say that he [Foster] will not
    obstruct the measure; and I rather hope if it can be made
    palatable to him personally (which I believe it may) that he
    will give it fair support. It would, as it seems to me, be worth
    while for this purpose, to hold out to him the prospect of a
    British peerage, with (if possible) some ostensible situation,
    and a provision for life to which he would be naturally entitled
    on quitting the Chair. Beresford and Parnell do not say much on
    the general measure, but I think both, or at least the former
    against trying it, but both disposed to concur when they
    understand it is finally resolved on. They all seem clearly (and
    I believe sincerely) of opinion that it will not be wise to
    announce it as a decided measure from authority, till time has
    been given for communication to all leading individuals and for
    disposing the public mind. On this account we have omitted all
    reference to the subject in the King's Speech; and the
    communication may in all respects be more conveniently made by a
    separate message when the Irish Parliament is sitting, and it
    can be announced to them at the same time. In the interval
    previous to your Session there will, I trust, be full
    opportunity for communication and arrangement with individuals,
    on which I am inclined to believe the success of the measure
    will wholly depend. You will observe that in what relates to the
    oaths to be taken by members of the United Parliament, the plan
    which we have sent copies the precedent I mentioned in a former
    letter of the Scotch Union; and on the grounds I before
    mentioned, I own I think this leaves the Catholic Question on
    the only footing on which it can safely be placed. Mr. Elliott
    when he brought me your letter, stated very strongly all the
    arguments which he thought ought to induce us to admit the
    Catholics to Parliament, and office; but I confess he did not
    satisfy me of the practicability of such a measure at this time,
    or of the propriety of attempting it. With respect to a
    provision for the Catholic clergy, and some arrangement
    respecting tithes, I am happy to find an uniform opinion in
    favor of the proposal, among all the Irish I have seen; and I am
    more and more convinced that those measures, with some effectual
    mode to enforce the residence of _all_ ranks of the Protestant
    clergy, offer the best chance of gradually putting an end to the
    evils most felt in Ireland.[544]

The suggestion that Foster's opposition might be obviated by the
promise of a peerage emanated first from Camden. Its adoption by Pitt
marks the first step in the by-paths of bribery on which he now entered.
In this case his action is not indefensible; for the abolition of the
Speakership at Dublin naturally involved some indemnity. Besides, in
that Parliament no important measure passed without bribery. That eager
democrat, Hamilton Rowan, foresaw in the Union "the downfall of one of
the most corrupt assemblies I believe ever existed." The proprietors of
the pocket-boroughs were needy and grasping, some of them living by the
sale of presentation of seats. Government generally managed to control
them, but only on condition of dispensing favours proportionate to the
importance of the suitor and the corruptness of the occasion. As
Beresford remarked with unconscious humour, the borough-mongers "cannot
be expected to give up their interest for nothing; and those who bought
their seats cannot be expected to give up their term for nothing." Here
he expressed the general conviction of that age, which Pitt recognized
in his Reform Bill of 1785 by seeking to indemnify the borough-holders
of Great Britain.

A typical specimen of the borough-owner was that "ill-tempered, violent
fellow," Lord Downshire, who controlled the Crown patronage in the North
by virtue of his seven borough seats. Lord Ely had six seats; and the
Duke of Devonshire, and Lords Abercorn, Belmore, Clifden, Granard, and
Shannon, four apiece. In the counties, Downshire, the Ponsonbys, and the
Beresfords controlled about twenty seats. Camden, writing to Pitt on
11th August 1799, thus described Downshire: "He is not personally
corrupt; but the larger the compensation for the boroughs is to be, the
more readily will he listen to you or Lord Castlereagh."[545] Lord
Longueville, a borough-owner of great influence in County Cork, wrote as
follows to Pitt on 3rd December, 1798:

    ... Long attached to you, and confirmed in that attachment for
    life by the direction and advice of Lord Westmorland, I have now
    no object to look up to, to prevent my falling a sacrifice to my
    political enemies, but to you. When Lord Shannon opposed your
    measures, I spent £30,000 of my own money to frustrate his
    intentions and support your measures. I shall now act by your
    advice and opinion on this great business of a Union with Great
    Britain. My friends are numerous and firm; they look up to you
    for decision on every occasion. My interest in Ireland is
    extensive. I wish to be a British peer before the measure of a
    Union takes place, or after. I wish the city of Cork to have two
    members, Bantry one and Mallow one.

Longueville gained his desire and the patronage of the Revenue offices
in Cork City.[546] From Pitt's letter to Cornwallis it is clear that he
believed that the promise of Government stipends for the Catholic
clergy, and a reform in tithes would induce them to support the Union.
But it seems impossible to reconcile his statement as to Beresford's
opposition to the Union with the assertion of the latter, that, in an
interview of 12th November, he pressed Pitt to take immediate steps to
ensure the success of the measure, which otherwise would have to
struggle against unfair odds at Dublin. The curious tendency of
Hibernian affairs towards confusion also appears in Cornwallis's
statement, on 15th November, that he had urged Pitt not to close the
door to the Catholics in the United Parliament. Whereas Pitt was
resolved to admit them at an early opportunity.[547]

On the various interests at stake there is in the Pretyman archives a
long but undated Memorandum, with notes at the side by Pitt, or perhaps
by Grenville; for their writing, when cramped, was similar. It
recommends that the precedent of the Union with the Scottish Parliament
shall be followed where possible; that few changes shall be made in the
Irish legal system, appeals being allowed to the Irish Lord Chancellor
and three chief judges, who may also deal with evidence for
parliamentary and private Bills affecting Ireland. The general aim
should be to lessen the expense of resort to the United Parliament for
private business. Pitt here added at the side--"Particularly in divorces
and exchange of lands in settlement," also in certain "private" Bills.
The compiler then refers to the difficulty of assessing or equalizing
the Revenues, National Debts, and the fiscal systems of the two islands,
but suggests that on the last topic Pitt's Irish proposals of 1785 shall
be followed. To this Pitt assents, suggesting also that the proportions
of Revenue and Debt may soon be arranged provisionally, Commissioners
being appointed to discuss the future and definitive quotas. Further,
Pitt expresses the desire to model the election of Irish peers on that
of Scottish peers. The compiler of the plan advises a delegation of 40
Irish peers, and not less than 120 Commoners to Westminster; but, as
electoral changes are highly dangerous to both countries, he drafts a
scheme by which either 125 or 138 Irish Commoners will sit in the United

Here Pitt and his colleagues differed from their adviser. Probably they
heard rumours of the fears aroused by the advent of Irish members. The
repose of Lord Sheffield was troubled by thoughts of the irruption of
"100 wild Irishmen"; and he deemed the arrival of 75 quite sufficient,
if staid country gentlemen were not to be scared away from St.
Stephen's. By way of compromise the Cabinet fixed the number at 100 on
or before 25th November 1798.[549] At that date Portland also informed
Cornwallis that the number of Irish Peers at Westminster must not exceed

Meanwhile, the tangle at Dublin was becoming hopeless. There, as
Beresford warned Pitt, the report of the proposed Union was the letting
out of water. Captain Saurin, an eminent counsel who was commander of a
corps of lawyers nick-named the Devil's Own, insisted on parading his
battalion in order to harangue them on the insult to Ireland and the
injury to their profession. His example was widely followed. On 9th
December the Dublin Bar, by 168 votes to 32, protested strongly against
the proposal to extinguish the Irish Parliament. Eloquent speakers like
Plunket warned that body that suicide was the supreme act of cowardice,
besides being _ultra vires_. The neighbouring towns and counties joined
in the clamour. The somnolence of Cornwallis, his neglect to win over
opponents by tact or material inducements, and the absence of any
Ministerial declaration on the subject, left all initiative to the
Opposition. On 24th December Cooke wrote to Auckland in these doleful

    ... Our Union politics are not at present very thriving.
    Pamphlets are in shoals, in general against a Union; a few for
    it; but I do not yet see anything of superior talent and effect.
    The tide in Dublin is difficult to stem. In the country
    hitherto, indifference. We have no account from the North, and
    that is the quarter I apprehend. The South will not be very
    hostile. The Bar is most impetuous and active, and I cannot be
    surprized at it. The Corporation have not sense to see that by
    an Union alone the Corporation can be preserved. Most of the
    best merchants are, I know, not averse. The proprietors of
    Dublin and the county are violent, and shopkeepers, etc. The
    Catholics hold back. They are on the watch to make the most of
    the game, and will intrigue with both parties.... In the North
    they expect the Dutch fleet. If we had a more able active
    conciliating Chief, we might do; but the _vis inertiae_ is
    incredible. There is an amazing disgust among the friends of
    Government. The tone of loyalty is declining, for want of being
    cherished. Do not be surprized at a dreadful parliamentary
    opposition and a personal opposition.

Cooke's reference to the mediocrity of the pamphlets for the Union is a
curious piece of _finesse_; for he was known to be the author of an able
pamphlet, "Arguments for and against an Union between Great Britain and
Ireland." In it he dilated on the benefits gained by Wales and Scotland
from a Union with England. He dwelt on the recent increase of strength
in France consequent on the concentration of political power at Paris,
and demonstrated the unreality of the boasted independence of the Dublin
Parliament, seeing that Irish enactments must be sealed by the Seal of
Great Britain. After touching on the dangerous divergence of policy at
Westminster and Dublin during the Regency crisis of 1789, he showed that
peace and prosperity must increase under a more comprehensive system,
which would both guarantee the existence of the Established Church, and
accord civic recognition to Catholics. At present, said he, it would be
dangerous to admit Catholics to the Irish Parliament; but in the United
Parliament such a step would be practicable. This semi-official
pronouncement caused a sensation, and before the end of the year
twenty-four replies appeared. In one of the counterblasts the anonymous
author offers "the reflections of a plain and humble mind," by stating
forthwith that the policy of the British Government had been to foment
discontent, to excite jealousies, to connive at insurrections, and
finally to "amnestize" those rebellions, for the purpose of promoting
its favourite and now avowed object of a Union.[551]

Far abler is the "Reply" to Cooke by Richard Jebb, who afterwards became
a Justice of the King's Bench in Ireland. He showed that only in regard
to the Regency had any serious difference arisen between the two
Parliaments; he scoffed at the notion of Ireland's needs finding
satisfaction at Westminster. Would Pitt, he asked, who whirled out of
the Cabinet the gigantic Thurlow, ever attend to Irish affairs? Jebb
then quoted with effect Clare's assertion that the Irish Parliament
alone was competent to deal with the business of the island. He admitted
the directing power of the British Cabinet over Ireland's concerns; but
he averred that under the new system the Lord Lieutenant would be little
more than a Great Contractor. As to the satisfaction to be granted to
Catholics, the Under-Secretary had done well not to be too explicit,
lest he should offend jealous Protestants. But, asked Jebb, would the
Catholics have much influence in the United Kingdom, where they would
be, not three to one as in Ireland, but three to fourteen? Nature
herself had intended England and Scotland to be one country; she had
proclaimed the need of some degree of independence in Ireland. Finally,
he deprecated in the mouth of an official a reference to the success
attending the policy of annexation pursued by France, which Pitt had
always reprobated. The effect produced by these replies appears in a
letter of Lees to Auckland on 29th December. Dublin, he writes, is in a
frenzy against the Union. As for Cornwallis, he was as apathetic as
usual: "We are asleep, while the disaffected are working amain."[552]

Not until 21st December did Pitt and his colleagues come to a final
decision to press on the Act of Union at all costs. On that day he held
a Cabinet meeting in Downing Street, all being present, as well as the
Earl of Liverpool and Earl Camden. The following Minute of their
resolution was taken by Lord Grenville.

    That the Lord Lieutenant of Ireland should be instructed to
    state without delay to all persons with whom he may have
    communication on this subject, that His Majesty's Government is
    decided to press the measure of an Union as essential to the
    well-being of both countries and particularly to the security
    and peace of Ireland as dependent on its connection with Great
    Britain: that this object will now be urged to the utmost, and
    will even in the case (if it should happen) of any present
    failure, be renewed on every occasion till it succeed; and that
    the conduct of individuals on this subject will be considered as
    the test of their disposition to support the King's

Portland forthwith informed the Lord-Lieutenant, Cornwallis, of the
purport of this resolution. Drastic proceedings were now inevitable; for
mischievous rumours were rife at Dublin that nobody would suffer for his
vote against the Union.

A brief Declaration as to the essentials of the Government plan was
issued at Dublin on 5th January 1799. It stated that twenty-eight
temporal peers elected for life would be delegated to Westminster, and
four Protestant bishops, taken in rotation. Irish peers not elected
might sit for British counties and boroughs, as before. The Crown
retained the right of creating Irish peers. As to the delegation of the
Commons of Ireland, each county or large town now returning two members
could send only one to Westminster, except Dublin and Cork, each of
which would return two members. Of the 108 small boroughs, one half
would return members for one Parliament, the other half for the next
Parliament. In the sphere of commerce Ireland would enjoy the same
advantages as Great Britain, the duties between the two islands being
equalized, the linen manufacturers retaining their special privileges.
The Exchequer and National Debt of each island were to continue
separate, the quota paid by Ireland into the Imperial Exchequer being
reserved for future consideration, it being understood that when the
Irish Revenue exceeded its expenses, the excess must be applied to local
purposes, the taxes producing the excess being duly modified.

Apart from the inevitable vagueness as to the proportion of Ireland's
quota, the Declaration was calculated to reassure Irishmen. The
borough-mongers lost only one half of their lucrative patronage. True,
the change bore hard upon the 180 Irish peers, of whom only one in six
would enter the House of Lords at Westminster. But commerce was certain
to thrive now that the British Empire unreservedly threw open its
markets to Irish products; and in the political sphere the Act of Union,
by shattering the Irish pocket-borough system, assigned an influence to
the larger towns such as those of Great Britain did not enjoy until the
time of the Reform Bill. Nothing, it is true, was said to encourage the
Catholics; but in Cooke's semi-official pamphlet they had been led to
hope for justice in the United Parliament.

The following letter of Cooke to Castlereagh (6th January) is

    We shall have difficult work; but there is no need to despair. I
    do not hear of anything formidable from the country. Armagh is
    stirred by Lord Charlemont; Louth, I suppose, by the Speaker;
    Lord Enniskillen will move Fermanagh; Queen's County will be
    against [us]. I hear Waterford, Cork, Kerry, Limerick is [_sic_]
    with us. Sir Edward O'Brien in Clare is against and is stirring.
    Derry will be quiet, if not favourable. The North is so in
    general at present. The sketch of terms thrown out is much
    relished. I cannot tell you how our numbers will stand on the
    22nd. The Catholics will wait upon the question, and will not
    declare till they think they can act with effect. Many persons
    are anxious to make them part of the measure. Grattan is come. I
    know not yet what he is doing. I hope all friends in London will
    be sent over. The first burst is everything. It would be
    decisive if the Prince of Wales would declare publicly in favour
    and hoist his banner for the Union.[554]

Apart from this enigmatical reference, there were few grounds for hope.
The landlords and traders of Dublin naturally opposed a measure certain
to lessen the importance of that city. Trinity College, the Corporation
of Dublin, and the gentry and freeholders of County Dublin all protested
against Union. Equally hostile were most Irish Protestants. In their
pride as a dominant Order, they scorned the thought of subordination to
Great Britain. Sixteen years of almost complete legislative independence
had quickened their national feelings; and many of them undoubtedly set
love of country before the promptings of caste. How was it possible,
they asked, that the claims of Ireland should receive due attention
amidst the clash of worldwide interests at Westminster?

Doubts like these should have been set at rest. Surely Pitt missed a
great opportunity in not promising the appointment of a perpetual
committee at Westminster, elected by the Irish members for the
consideration of their local affairs. A similar committee for Scottish
business would also have been a statesmanlike proposal, in view of the
increase of work certain to result from the Union. Doubtless those
committees would have interfered with the functions of the Lord
Lieutenant at Dublin, and the Scottish patronage controlled by Henry
Dundas. But some such measure would have appeased the discontent rife in
both kingdoms, and, while easing the strain on the Imperial Parliament,
would have nurtured the growth of that wider patriotism which has its
roots in local affections.

A survey of the facts passed under review must, I think, lead to the
conclusion that the conduct of Pitt in preparing for the Act of Union
was halting and ineffective. It is true that Camden had advised him to
make careful preliminary inquiries; but they were not instituted until
October 1798, and they dragged on to the end of the year, by which time
the fear of a French invasion had subsided. There were but two
satisfactory ways of carrying the Act of Union through the hostile
Parliament at Dublin. In June-October, during the panic caused by the
Rebellion and the French raids, Pitt might have intimated secretly
though officially to the leading loyalists that Great Britain could not
again pour forth her blood and treasure for an unworkable system, and
that the acceptance of that help must imply acquiescence in a Union.
Such a compact would of course be termed unchivalrous by the
rhetoricians at St. Stephen's Green; but it would have prevented the
unchivalrous conduct of many so-called loyalists, who, after triumphing
by England's aid, then, relying upon that aid for the future, thwarted
Pitt's remedial policy. Prudence should have enjoined the adoption of
some such precaution in the case of men whose behaviour was exacting
towards England and exasperating towards the majority of Irishmen. In
neglecting to take it, Pitt evinced a strange lack of foresight. At this
point George III showed himself the shrewder tactician; for he urged
that Cornwallis must take steps to frighten the loyal minority into
accepting an Act of Union.

But there was an alternative course of action. Failing to come to an
understanding with the ultra-Protestant zealots of Dublin, Pitt might
have elicited a strong declaration from the many Irishmen who were in
favour of Union. He seems to have taken no such step. Though aware that
Cornwallis was in civil affairs a figure-head, he neglected to send
over a spokesman capable of giving a decided lead. In the ensuing
debates at Dublin, Castlereagh showed the toughness, energy, and
resourcefulness which, despite his halting cumbrous style, made him a
power in Parliament; but his youth and his stiff un-Hibernian ways told
against him. Beresford was detained by illness in London; and Clare,
after his return to Dublin, did strangely little for the cause. Thus, at
this critical time the Unionists were without a lead and without a
leader. The autumn of 1798 was frittered away in interviews in London,
the purport of which ought to have clearly appeared two or three months
earlier. The passive attitude and tardy action of Pitt and Portland in
these critical weeks offer a strange contrast to the habits of clear
thinking and forceful action characteristic of Napoleon. It is painful
to compare their procedure with the action of the First Consul in
speedily bringing ecclesiastical bigots and fanatical atheists to the
working compromise summed up in the Concordat. In the case of the Union,
the initiative, energy, and zeal, which count for much among a Celtic
people, passed to the side of Pitt's opponents. Thenceforth that measure
could be carried through the Irish Parliament only by coercion or


[530] Salomon, "Pitt," 599. See, too, the similar letter of Richmond to
his sister, Lady Conolly, in June 1795 (Lecky, vii, 134).

[531] Pitt MSS., 328.

[532] _Ibid._, 169.

[533] Porritt, ii, ch. iii; Seeley, "Stein," i, 267-82.

[534] Pitt MSS., 326. For the text in full see "Pitt and Napoleon

[535] B.M. Add. MSS., 34454.

[536] See my article in the "Eng. Hist. Rev." for October 1910.

[537] B.M. Add. MSS., 34454.

[538] B.M. Add. MSS., 34455.

[539] _Ibid._; "Cornwallis Corresp.," iii, 13.

[540] Lecky, viii, 328 note.

[541] "Dropmore P.," iv, 344; "Castlereagh Corresp.," i, 393.

[542] "Castlereagh Corresp.," i, 424 _et seq._; "Cornwallis Corresp.,"
ii, 439-441; Brougham, "Statesmen of George III"; Lecky, viii, 311;
Wilberforce ("Life," iii, 178) calls Castlereagh "a cold-blooded

[543] "Castlereagh Corresp.," ii, 29; "Buckingham P.," ii, 411, 412.

[544] Pitt MSS., 325; "Cornwallis Corresp.," ii, 441-3.

[545] Pretyman MSS.

[546] Pretyman MSS. "Cornwallis Corresp.," iii, 3; Macdonagh, "The
Viceroy's Post Bag," 19.

[547] "Beresford Corresp.," ii, 189; "Cornwallis Corresp.," ii, 436;
"Castlereagh Corresp.," i, 404.

[548] For the plan and notes, see "Pitt and Napoleon Miscellanies."

[549] "Cornwallis Corresp.," ii, 456, 457.

[550] B.M. Add. MSS., 34455. William C. Plunket (1764-1854), born in co.
Fermanagh, was called to the Irish Bar in 1787, and entered Parliament
in 1798. He speedily made his mark, and in 1803 was State Prosecutor of
Emmett. In Pitt's second Administration (1804) he was Solicitor-General:
he was created Baron Plunket in 1827 and was Lord Chancellor of Ireland
in 1830-41. William Saurin sat in the Irish Parliament as a nominee of
Lord Downshire ("Cornwallis Corresp.," iii, 212).

[551] "Strictures on a Pamphlet, etc.," 5 (Dublin, 1798).

[552] B.M. Add. MSS., 34455. The term "Contractor" used above is
equivalent to "Undertaker," _i.e._, one who undertook to get business
through the Irish Parliament for certain rewards (Lecky, iv, 353).

[553] Pretyman MSS.

[554] Pretyman MSS.; also in Pitt MSS., 327.


    THE UNION (continued)

    "We must consider it as a measure of great national policy, the
    object of which is effectually to counteract the restless
    machinations of an inveterate enemy, who has uniformly and
    anxiously endeavoured to effect a separation between the two
    countries."--PITT, Speech on the Union, _21st April, 1800_.

On 22nd January 1799 the long talked-of Act of Union was pointedly
referred to in the King's Speech read out to the Irish Parliament. The
Speech was adopted by the House of Lords, amendments hostile to the
proposed measure being rejected by large majorities. But in the House of
Commons nationalist zeal raged with ever-increasing fury from dusk until
the dawn of the following day. In vain had Castlereagh made liberal use
of the sum of £5,000 which he begged Pitt to send over to serve as a
_primum mobile_ at Dublin. In vain had he "worked like a horse." The
feeling against the measure was too strong to be allayed by bribery of a
retail kind.

Owing to ill health Grattan was not present. Sir John Parnell,
Chancellor of the Exchequer, was among the less violent opponents; but
the most telling appeal was that of Plunket, an Ulsterman. With an
eloquence which even won votes he denied either the right of the
Government to propose such a measure or the competence of that Assembly
to commit political suicide. If the Act of Union were passed, he said,
no one in Ireland would obey it. Then, turning to the Speaker, he
exclaimed: "You are appointed to make laws and not Legislatures. You are
appointed to exercise the functions of legislators, and not to transfer
them; and if you do so, your act is a dissolution of the Government." On
behalf of Government Castlereagh made a well-reasoned reply; but his
speech was too laboured to commend a cause which offended both the
sentiments and interests of members; and the Opposition was beaten by
only one vote--106 to 105. The debate was marked by curious incidents.
Sir Jonah Barrington, a chronicler of these events, declared that
Cooke, perturbed by the threatened defection of a member named French,
whispered to Castlereagh, and then, sidling up to the erring placeman,
spoke long and earnestly until smiles spread over the features of both.
A little later French rose to state his regret at the opinions which he
had previously expressed. The story is not convincing in the case of a
building provided with committee-rooms; but there can be no doubt that
bribery went on before the debate. The final voting showed that there
were limits to that form of influence. Even the canvassing of
Castlereagh failed to persuade members to pass sentence of political
death on half of their number and of transportation on the remainder.
The joy of the men of Dublin found expression in a spontaneous
illumination, and the mob broke all windows which were not lit up.

On all sides the procedure of the Government met with severe censure. As
usual, blame was lavished upon Cornwallis, Lord Carysfort warning
Grenville that the defeat was due to the disgust of "Orangemen and
exterminators" at his clemency. Buckingham, writing to Pitt on 29th
January, reported that on the estimate of Archbishop Troy, nine-tenths
of the Irish Catholics were for the Union: "Remember, however," he
added, "that this can only be done by the removal of Lord Cornwallis and
Lord Castlereagh.... I protest I see no salvation but in the immediate
change. Send us Lord Winchilsea, or rather Lord Euston, or in short send
us any one. But send us Steele as his Secretary, and with firmness the
Question (and with it Ireland) will be saved. Excuse this
earnestness."[555] Pitt took no notice of this advice, but continued to
support Cornwallis. As for the Irish Executive, it proceeded now to the
policy of official coercion recommended from Downing Street. Parnell was
dismissed from the Exchequer; the Prime Serjeant was deposed, and four
opponents of Union were removed from subordinate posts, among them being
Foster, son of the Speaker.

So confident was Pitt of victory at Dublin that he introduced the Bill
of Union at Westminster on 23rd January. The King's Speech referred to
the designs of enemies and traitors to separate Ireland from Great
Britain, and counselled the adoption of means for perpetuating the
connection. Forthwith Sheridan moved a hostile amendment. With his
wonted zeal and eloquence, he urged the inopportuneness of such a
measure when 40,000 British troops were holding down Ireland, and he
denied the competence either of the British or Irish Parliament to
decide on it. Pitt promptly refuted Sheridan's plea by referring to the
action of the English and Scottish Parliaments at the time of their
Union, and he twitted him with seeking to perpetuate at Dublin a system
whose injustice and cruelty he had always reprobated. Allowing that
British rule in Ireland had been narrow and intolerant, Pitt foretold
the advent of a far different state of things after the Union. Then,
pointing to the divergence of British and Irish policy at the time of
the Regency crisis he pronounced it a dangerous omen, and declared the
Union to be necessary to the peace and stability of the Empire. The
House agreed with him and negatived the amendment without a division.

It is worth noting that of Sheridan's hypothetical colleagues in office
under the Prince Regent in the Cabinet outlined in February 1789, not
one now supported him. Fox was not present, being engrossed in Lucretius
and the "Poetics" of Aristotle. He, however, informed Lord Holland that
he detested the Union and all centralized Governments, his predilection
being for Federalism.[556] The remark merits notice in view of the
concentration of power in France, and in her vassal Republics at Rome,
Milan, Genoa, and Amsterdam. That eager student of the Classics wished
to dissolve the British Isles into their component parts at a time when
the highly organized energy of the French race was threatening every
neighbouring State. While the tricolour waved at Amsterdam, Mainz,
Berne, Rome, Valetta, and Cairo, Fox thought it opportune to federalize
British institutions. The means whereby Pitt sought to solidify them are
open to question. But which of the two statesmen had the sounder sense?

On 31st January, after the receipt of the disappointing news from
Dublin, Pitt returned to the charge. Expressing deep regret that the
Irish House of Commons should have rejected the plan of a Union before
it knew the details, he proceeded to describe the proposals of the
Government. Firstly, he insisted that it was the concerted action of
invaders from without and traitors within that made the measure
necessary. He then argued that the settlement of 1782, according
legislative independence to the Irish Parliament, was far from final, as
appeared in the ministerial declarations of that time. Moreover, Irish
Bills did not become law unless sanctioned by the King and sealed by the
Great Seal of Great Britain on the advice of British Ministers, facts
which implied the dependence of the Irish Parliament. Turning to the
commercial issues at stake, he effectively quoted the statement of
Foster to the Irish House of Commons in 1785, that they would be mad to
reject the commercial proposals then offered, which, if thrown out,
would not be renewed. But now, said Pitt, they are renewed in the
projected Union; and Foster has used his influence to reject a measure
which breaks down the fiscal barriers between the two kingdoms. After
referring to the Regency Question, he pointed out the danger of France
attacking the British race at its weakest point. Never would she cease
to assail it until the Union was indissoluble. Commerce, he said, was
the source of wealth; and the wealth needed to withstand the predatory
designs of France would be enhanced by a free interchange of British and
Irish products. The Union would encourage the flow into the poorer
island of British capital which it so much needed. Next, adverting to
the religious feuds in Ireland, he remarked on the danger of granting
concessions to the Irish Catholics while Ireland remained a distinct
kingdom. He then uttered these momentous words:

    On the other hand, without anticipating the discussion, or the
    propriety of agitating the question, or saying how soon or how
    late it may be fit to discuss it, two propositions are
    indisputable; first, when the conduct of the Catholics shall be
    such as to make it safe for the Government to admit them to the
    participation of the privileges granted to those of the
    established religion, and when the temper of the times shall be
    favourable to such a measure--when these events take place, it
    is obvious that such a question may be agitated in an United
    Imperial Parliament with much greater safety, than it could be
    in a separate Legislature. In the second place, I think it
    certain that, even for whatever period it may be thought
    necessary after the Union to withhold from the Catholics the
    enjoyment of those advantages, many of the objections which at
    present arise out of their situation would be removed, if the
    Protestant Legislature were no longer separate and local, but
    general and Imperial: and the Catholics themselves would at once
    feel a mitigation of the most goading and irritating of their
    present causes of complaint.

Pitt then deprecated the effort to inflame the insular pride of
Irishmen. Could Irishmen really object to unite with Britons? For it was
no subordinate place that they were asked to take, but one of equality
and honour. Most happily then did he quote the vow of Aeneas for an
equal and lasting compact between his Trojans and the Italians:

    Non ego nec Teucris Italos parere jubebo,
    Nec nova regna peto: paribus se legibus ambae
    Invictae gentes aeterna in foedera mittant.[557]

He ended his speech by moving eight Resolutions on the question; and the
House approved their introduction by 140 votes to 15. This statesmanlike
survey lacked the fire and imaginative elevation of his speech on the
Slave Trade in 1792. But there was little need of rhetoric and
invective. Pitt's aim was to convince Ireland of the justice of his
proposals. And his plea, though weak at one point, must rank among the
ablest expositions of a great and complex question. How different the
course of events might have been if the Commons of Ireland had first
heard Pitt's proposals of Union, clearly and authoritatively set forth,
not in the distorted form which rumour or malice depicted. In this
respect Gladstone proved himself an abler tactician than Pitt. His Home
Rule Bill of 1886 remained a secret until it was described in that
masterly statement which formed a worthy retort to Pitt's oration of
31st January 1799. Pitt prepared it with great care, so Auckland avers;
and, as he and Long had secured the presence of the best reporters, the
text of the speech is among the most accurate that we possess for that
period. He now resolved to bring forward specific Resolutions, instead
of, as before, proposing merely to appoint Commissioners to consider the
details of the Bill of Union. It is unfortunate that he did not take
this step at first. The mistake probably resulted from his besetting
sin--excess of confidence. On 26th January he expressed to Cornwallis
his deep disappointment and grief at the action of the Dublin
Parliament, which he ascribed to prejudice and cabal. Clearly he had
underrated the force of the nationalist opposition.

Meanwhile Castlereagh endeavoured to reckon the value of the pecuniary
interests in Ireland opposed to the Union. In a characteristically
narrow spirit he assessed the losses to borough-holders at £756,000; to
controllers of counties at £224,000; to barristers at £200,000; to
purchasers of parliamentary seats at £75,000; and he estimated the
probable depreciation of property in Dublin at £200,000. Thus, moneyed
interests worth £1,433,000 were arrayed against the Union. He proposed
to whittle down these claims by raising the number of Irish members in
the United Parliament either to 127 or 141. Both at Dublin and
Westminster Ministers were intent on appeasing hostile interests on the
easiest terms. Among Pitt's papers is a curious estimate of the opinion
of the propertied classes in the counties and chief towns of Ireland.
"Property" is declared to favour the Union in Antrim, Clare, Cork,
Donegal, Galway, Kerry, Leitrim, Londonderry, Mayo, Waterford, and
Wexford. It was hostile in Carlow, Cavan, Dublin, Fermanagh, Kildare,
and Louth. In the other counties it was divided on the subject. Among
the towns, Cork, Galway, Lisburne, Londonderry, Waterford, and Wexford
supported Union. Clonmell, Drogheda, and Dublin opposed it; while
Belfast, Kilkenny, and Limerick were doubtful. Most of the Grand Juries
petitioned for Union, only those of Dublin, Louth, Queen's County, and
Wicklow pronouncing against it.[558] In view of the expected attempt of
the Brest fleet, the Grand Jury of Cork burst into a patriotic rhapsody
which must be placed on record:

                                           _March 26, 1799._[559]

    ... At the present awful moment whilst we await the threatened
    attempt of the enemies of religion and of man to crush us in
    their sacrilegious embrace; whilst their diabolical influence
    cherishes rebellion and promotes assassination in the land, we
    look back with gratitude to the timely interposition of Great
    Britain, which has more than once rescued us from that infidel
    yoke under which so great a portion of distracted Europe at this
    moment groans. We have still to acknowledge how necessary that
    interposition is to protect us from the further attempts of an
    unprincipled foe, ... and to her assistance we are ... indebted
    for keeping down an unnatural but wide extended rebellion
    within the bosom of this country. To become a constituent part
    of that Empire to whose protection we owe our political
    existence and whose constitution is the admiration of the
    civilized world; to participate in those resources which are
    inexhaustible; to become joint proprietors of that navy which is
    irresistible; and to share in that commerce which knows no
    bounds, are objects beyond which our most sanguine wishes for
    the wealth and prosperity of Ireland cannot possibly extend,
    whilst the prospect which they hold forth of terminating the
    jarring interests of party and reconciling the jealous
    distinctions of religion, promises a restoration of that
    tranquillity to which the country has too long been a stranger.

This exuberant loyalty may have been heightened by the hope that Cork
would reap from the Union a commercial harvest equal to that which
raised Glasgow from a city of 12,700 souls before the Anglo-Scottish
Union, to one of nearly 70,000 in the year 1800. But the men of Cork
forgot that that marvellous increase was due to the coal, iron, and
manufactures of Lanarkshire, no less than to free participation in the
trade of the Empire.

The fact that Cork was then far more Unionist than Belfast is apt to
perplex the reader until he realizes that Roman Catholics for the most
part favoured Union, not so much from loyalty to George III, as from the
conviction that only in the Imperial Parliament could they gain full
religious equality. On the other hand the Presbyterians of Ulster had
fewer grievances to be redressed, and were not without hope of gaining
satisfaction from the Protestant Legislature at Dublin. It is certain
that the Catholic Archbishops of Dublin and Tuam, besides Bishop Moylan
of Cork and other prelates, used their influence on behalf of the Union.
Cornwallis was known to favour the Catholic claims; and Wilberforce,
writing to Pitt, says: "I have long wished to converse with you a little
concerning the part proper for you to take when the Catholic Question
should come before the House. I feel it due to the long friendship which
has subsisted between us to state to you unreservedly my sentiments on
this very important occasion, especially as I fear they are different
from your own."[560] Pitt does not seem to have welcomed the suggestion
couched in these magisterial terms, and, as the sequel will show, he had
good grounds for concealing his hand. Only at one point did the Cabinet
declare its intentions. There being some fear that the Opposition at
Dublin would seek to win over the Catholics by the offer of
Emancipation, the Government declared its resolve to oppose any step in
this direction so long as that Parliament existed.[561]

It is well also to remember that the concession of the franchise to the
bulk of the Irish peasantry in 1793, with the full approval of Pitt,
enabled the Catholics to control the elections in the counties and
"open" boroughs except in Ulster. Therefore, though they could not send
to Parliament men of their creed, they could in many instances keep out
Protestants who were inimical to their interests. In the present case,
then, Catholic influence was certain to tell powerfully, though
indirectly, in favour of Union. These facts explain the progress of the
cause early in the year 1799. Opponents of the measure began to tremble
for their seats owing to the action either of Government or of the
Catholic vote. Accordingly, despite the frantic efforts of Lord
Downshire and Foster, Government carried the day by 123 to 103 (15th
February). Fear worked on behalf of Union. A great fleet was fitting out
at Brest, the Dutch ports were alive with work, and again Ireland was
believed to be the aim of the Republicans. As was the case in 1798, they
encouraged numbers of Irishmen to make pikes, to muster on the hills of
Cork and Wicklow, dealing murder and havoc in the plains by night.
Cornwallis therefore proclaimed martial law, armed the yeomen, and
sought to crush the malcontents, a proceeding which led critics to
charge Government with inciting the people to outrage in order to coerce
them. Those who flung out the sneer should also have proved that the
naval preparations at Brest and the Texel were instigated from Downing
Street in order to carry the Union.

The real feelings of Dublin officials appear in the letters of
Beresford, Cooke, and Lees to Auckland. On 15th March 1799 Beresford
writes: "Our business is going on smoothly in Parliament; from the day
that Government took the courage [_sic_] of dividing with the
Opposition, they have grown weaker and weaker every day as I foretold to
you they would. The Speaker [Foster], as I hear, appears