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Title: Representative British Orations with Introductions and Explanatory Notes, Volume II (of 4)
Author: Adams, Charles Kendall
Language: English
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Uniform with British Orations

    AMERICAN ORATIONS, to illustrate American Political
      History, edited, with introductions, by ALEXANDER
      JOHNSTON, Professor of Jurisprudence and Political
      Economy in the College of New Jersey. 3 vols., 16 mo,

      single specimen essays from IRVING, LEIGH HUNT,
      GLADSTONE, NEWMAN, LESLIE STEPHEN. 3 vols., 16 mo,
      bevelled boards, $3.75 and $4.50.





    _Videtisne quantum munus sit oratoris historia?_
                              —CICERO, _DeOratore_, ii, 15


    The Knickerbocker Press


    Press of
    New York


    WILLIAM PITT                                                       1

    WILLIAM PITT                                                      19
          OF COMMONS, FEBRUARY 3, 1800.

    CHARLES JAMES FOX                                                 99

    CHARLES JAMES FOX                                                108

    SIR JAMES MACKINTOSH                                             176

    SIR JAMES MACKINTOSH                                             185
          KING’S BENCH, FEBRUARY 21, 1803.

    LORD ERSKINE                                                     262

    LORD ERSKINE                                                     273
          “AGE OF REASON.”


The younger Pitt was the second son of Lord Chatham, and was seven
years of age when his father in 1766 was admitted to the peerage. The
boy’s earliest peculiarity was an absorbing ambition to become his
father’s successor as the first orator of the day. His health, however,
was so delicate as to cause the gravest apprehensions. Stanhope tells
us that before he was fourteen “half of his time was lost through ill
health,” and that his early life at Cambridge was “one long disease.”
There is still extant a remarkable letter that reveals better than any
thing else the fond hopes of the father and the physical discouragement
as well as the mental aspirations of the son. Chatham wrote: “Though
I indulge with inexpressible delight the thought of your returning
health, I cannot help being a little in pain lest you should make more
haste than good speed to be well. How happy the task, my noble, amiable
boy, to caution you only against pursuing too much all those liberal
and praiseworthy things, to which less happy natures are perpetually
to be spurred and driven. I will not tease you with too long a lecture
in favor of inaction and a competent stupidity, your two best tutors
and companions at present. You have time to spare; consider, there
is but the Encyclopædia, and when you have mastered that, what will
remain?” The intimations of precocity here given were fully justified
by the extraordinary progress made by the boy notwithstanding his
bodily ailments. He entered the University of Cambridge at fourteen,
and such was his scholarship at that time that his tutor wrote: “It is
no uncommon thing for him to read into English six or eight pages of
Thucydides which he had not previously seen, without more than two or
three mistakes, and sometimes without even one.”

At the university, where he remained nearly seven years, his course
of study was carried on strictly in accordance with his father’s
directions and was somewhat peculiar. His most ardent devotion was
given to the classics; and his method was that to which his father
always attributed the extraordinary copiousness and richness of his
own language. After looking over a passage so as to become familiar
with the author’s thought, he strove to render it rapidly into elegant
and idiomatic English, with a view to reproducing it with perfect
exactness and in the most felicitous form. This method he followed for
years till, according to the testimony of his tutor, Dr. Prettyman,
when he had reached the age of twenty, “there was scarcely a Greek or
Latin writer of any eminence _the whole of whose works_ Mr. Pitt had
not read to him in this thorough and discriminating manner.” This was
the laborious way in which he acquired that extraordinary and perhaps
unrivalled gift of pouring out for hour after hour an unbroken stream
of thought without ever hesitating for a word or recalling a phrase
or sinking into looseness or inaccuracy of expression. The finest
passages even of the obscurer poets he copied with care and stored
away in his memory; and thus he was also qualified for that aptness of
quotation for which his oratory was always remarkable.

With his classical studies Pitt united an unusual aptitude and
fondness for the mathematics and for logic. To both of these he gave
daily attention, and before he left the university, according to the
authority above quoted, he was master in mathematics of every thing
usually known by young men who obtain the highest academical honors.
In logic, Aristotle was his master, and he early acquired the habit
of applying the principles and methods of that great logician to a
critical examination of all the works he studied and the debates he
witnessed. It was probably this course of study which gave him his
unrivalled power in reply. While still at Cambridge it was a favorite
employment to compare the great speeches of antiquity in point of
logical accuracy, and to point out the manner in which the reasoning
of the orator could be met and answered. The same habit followed him
to London and into Parliament. His biographers dwell upon the fact,
that whenever he listened to a debate he was constantly employed in
detecting illogical reasoning and in pointing out to those near him
how this argument and that could easily be answered. Before he became
a member of Parliament, he was in the habit of spending much time in
London and in listening to the debates on the great subjects then
agitating the nation. But the speeches of his father and of Burke, of
Fox, and of Sheridan seemed to interest him chiefly as an exercise for
his own improvement. His great effort was directed to the difficult
process of retaining the long train of argument in his mind, of
strengthening it, and of pointing out and refuting the positions that
seemed to him weak.

It would be incorrect to leave the impression that these severe courses
of study were not intermingled with studies in English literature,
rhetoric, and history. We are told that “he had the finest passages
of Shakespeare by heart,” that “he read the best historians with
care,” that “his favorite models of prose style were Middleton’s Life
of Cicero, and the historical writings of Bolingbroke,” and that
“on the advice of his father, for the sake of a copious diction, he
made a careful study of the sermons of Dr. Barrow.” Making all due
allowance for the exaggerative enthusiasm of biographers, we are still
forced to the belief that no other person ever entered Parliament with
acquirements and qualifications for a great career equal on the whole
to those of the younger Pitt.

The expectations formed of him were not disappointed. It has frequently
happened that members of Parliament have attained to great and
influential careers after the most signal failures as speakers in
their early efforts. But no such failure awaited Pitt. He entered
the House of Commons in 1781, at the age of twenty-two, and became a
member of the opposition to Lord North, under the leadership of Burke
and Fox. His first speech was in reply to Lord Nugent on the subject
of economic reform, a matter that had been brought forward by Burke.
Pitt had been asked to speak on the question; but, although he had
hesitated in giving his answer, he had determined not to participate in
the debate. His answer, however, was misunderstood, and therefore at
the close of a speech by Lord Nugent, he was vociferously called upon
by the Whig members of the House. Though taken by surprise, he finally
yielded and with perfect self-possession began what was probably the
most successful _first_ speech ever given in the House of Commons.
Unfortunately it was not reported and has not been preserved. But
contemporaneous accounts of the impression it made are abundant. Not
only was it received with enthusiastic applause from every part of the
House; but Burke greeted him with the declaration that he was “not
merely a chip of the old block, but the old block itself.” When some
one remarked that Pitt promised to be one of the first speakers ever
heard in Parliament, Fox replied, “He is so already.” This was at the
proudest era of British eloquence, and when Pitt was but twenty-two.

During the session of 1781–82 the powers of Burke, Fox, and Pitt
were united in a strenuous opposition to the administration of Lord
North. After staggering under their blows for some weeks, the ministry
fell, and Lord North was succeeded by Rockingham in February of 1782.
Rockingham’s ministry, however, was terminated by the death of its
chief after a short period of only thirteen weeks. Lord Shelburne
was appointed his successor, and he chose Pitt as the Chancellor of
the Exchequer and leader of the House of Commons. Thus Burke and
Fox were passed by, and not only the responsible leadership of the
Commons, but also the finances of the empire, were entrusted to a
youth of twenty-three. The reason of this preference certainly was
not an acknowledged pre-eminence of Pitt; but rather in the attitude
he had assumed in the course of his attacks on the administration
of North. He had not inveighed against the king, but had attached
all the responsibility of mismanagement to the ministry, where the
Constitution itself places it. Fox, on the other hand, had allowed
himself to be carried forward by the impetuosity of his nature, and had
placed the responsibility where we now know it belonged—upon George
III. The consequence had been that the enraged king would not listen
to the promotion of Fox, though by constitutional usage he was clearly
entitled to recognition. That Fox was offended was not singular, but it
is impossible even for his most ardent admirers to justify the course
he now determined to take. He had been the most bitter opponent of
Lord North. He had denounced him as “the most infamous of mankind,”
and as “the greatest criminal of the state.” He had declared of his
ministry: “From the moment I should make any terms with one of them, I
should rest satisfied to be called the most infamous of mankind.” He
had said only eleven months before: “I could not for a moment think of
a coalition with men who, in every public and private transaction as
ministers, have shown themselves void of every principle of honor and
honesty.”[A] And yet, notwithstanding these philippics, which almost
seem to have been delivered as if to make a coalition impossible, Fox
now deserted his old political companions, and joined hands with the
very object of his fiercest denunciation. The Coalition thus formed
voted down the Shelburne ministry in February, 1783.

    [A] Fox’s Speeches, II., 39.

The debate which preceded the final vote was one of the most remarkable
in English history. The subject immediately at issue was a vote of
censure of Shelburne’s government for the terms of the treaty closing
the American war. North assailed the treaty, as bringing disgrace upon
the country by the concessions it had made. Fox spoke in the same
strain, having reserved himself till the latter part of the night, with
the evident purpose of overwhelming the young leader of the House by
the force and severity of his presentation. But the moment he sat down,
Pitt arose and grappled with the argument of his opponent in a speech
that has seldom been surpassed in the history of parliamentary debate.
Lord North spoke of its eloquence as “amazing,” and, although the
Coalition was too strong to be broken, it made such an impression that
there could no longer be any doubt that Pitt was now the foremost man
of his party.

In the course of the speech Pitt intimated that even if the vote of
censure came to pass, the king might not feel called upon to accept
the decision. He declared it an unnatural Coalition, which had simply
raised a storm of faction, and which had no other object than the
infliction of a wound on Lord Shelburne. Then in one of his impassioned
strains he exclaimed: “If, however, the baneful alliance is not already
formed,—if this ill-omened marriage is not already solemnized, I know
a just and lawful impediment,—and in the name of the public safety, I
here forbid the banns.”

But all availed nothing. The vote of censure was passed, and
Shelburne’s ministry tendered their resignation. The king hesitated.
He was unwilling to bring the Coalition into power, because he had an
insurmountable repugnance to Fox. He sent for Pitt, and urged him in
the most pressing terms to accept the position of Prime-Minister. But
Pitt, with that steadfast judgment which never deserted him, firmly
rejected the flattering offer. The most he would consent to do was to
remain in the office he then held till the succession could be fixed
upon. The king was almost in despair; and thought seriously of retiring
to Hanover. It was Thurlow that dissuaded him from taking so dangerous
a step. “Nothing is easier than for your Majesty to go to his Electoral
dominions;” said the old Chancellor, “but you may not find it so easy
to return when you grow tired of staying there. James II. did the same;
your Majesty must not follow his example.” He then assured the king
that the Coalition was an unnatural one, and could not long remain
in power without committing some fatal blunder. After six weeks the
king reluctantly submitted, and appointed the Duke of Portland as the
Prime-Minister, and North and Fox as the Chief Secretaries of State.

The end came sooner than Thurlow had dared to anticipate. The Coalition
ministry was formed on the second day of April, 1783. During the first
week of the following session Fox brought forward his East India bill,
which had for its object the entire remodelling of the government of
the English domains in the East. The measure was in direct defiance of
the wishes of the king. In view of the circumstances of Fox’s coalition
with the Tories, it is not singular that many thought the scheme a
desperate measure to intrench the Coalition so firmly in power that
the king could not remove them. Pitt opposed the measure with great
energy, and with so much skill that it soon became evident that he
spoke the sentiments of the thinking men of the nation. The debate on
the question lasted twelve days, and was closed by a masterly review
of the question by Fox. The Coalition was so strong in the lower House
that the final vote was 217 to 103 in favor of the measure.

But in the House of Lords its fortune was different. At an interview
with Lord Temple, a kinsman of Pitt’s, the king commissioned him to
say to the members of the House “that whoever voted for the India bill
were not only not his friends, but that he should consider them his
enemies.” This message was widely but secretly circulated among the
Lords. Thurlow denounced the bill in unqualified terms. Though the
ministry fought for the measure as best they could, when the question
came to a final issue, it was rejected by a vote of ninety-five to
seventy-six. At twelve o’clock on the following night a messenger
conveyed the orders of the king to the chief ministers to deliver up
the seals of their offices, and to send them by the under secretaries,
“as a personal interview on the occasion would be disagreeable to
him.” The following day the other ministers were dismissed with like
evidences of disfavor.

Pitt now, on the 22d of December, 1783, became Prime-Minister at the
age of twenty-four. The situation was one that put all his powers to
the severest test. In the last decisive vote in the House of Commons
the majority against him had been more than two to one. Fox was
inflamed with all the indignation of which his good-nature was capable.
He declared on the floor of the House that “to talk of the _permanency_
of such an administration would be only laughing at and insulting
them”; and he alluded to “the _youth_ of the Chancellor of the
Exchequer and the weakness incident to his early period of life as the
only possible excuse for his temerity.” And yet with such consummate
tact did Pitt ward off the blows, and with such skill and power did
he in turn advance to the assault, that the majority against him at
once began to show signs of weakening. Fox threatened to cut off the
supplies; whereupon Pitt met him with an unwavering defiance. Rapidly
the majority went down till, on a test vote on the 8th of March, the
opposition had only one majority. Pitt immediately decided to dissolve
Parliament and appeal to the people. The result more than justified his
determination. The question everywhere was “Fox or Pitt?” The cry “for
Pitt and the King” carried the day by an overwhelming majority, and a
complete revolution in the House of Commons was the result. More than a
hundred and sixty of “Fox’s martyrs” lost their seats. The triumph was
the most complete that any English minister ever obtained. It not only
placed Pitt in power, but it gave him a predominance in authority that
was only once interrupted in the course of more than twenty years.

Within the next few years several subjects of national importance were
brought forward by the ministry. But these are usually forgotten or
regarded as insignificant when compared with the absorbing questions
connected with the French Revolution and the Napoleonic wars. It is
as the leader and guide of what may be called the English policy in
that memorable era that Pitt’s name will longest be remembered. Though
that policy was not without strenuous opposition, it was carried
consistently through to the end, and it was what contributed more
than any thing else to break the power of Napoleon. It is for this
reason that Pitt’s most elaborate speech on the policy of the English
Government in relation to France is selected not only as a favorable
specimen of his eloquence, but as having an influence of commanding
importance on the stupendous affairs of the time. This speech is still
the best exponent of the English view of the Napoleonic wars.

Notwithstanding all his greatness, there was one weak point in Pitt’s
line of policy. He made the mistake of constantly underestimating
the power of the enthusiasm awakened by the revolutionary ideas in
France. This was equivalent to attaching too low an estimate to the
strength of the enemy. It was in consequence of this error that he
formed coalition after coalition, only to see them all shattered by
Napoleon and his enthusiastic followers. When his last great coalition
was broken by the battle of Austerlitz the blow was too much for his
declining health; and, worn out with toil and anxiety, he sank rapidly,
and expired on the 26th of January, 1806.

It is the judgment of Alison that “Considered with reference to
the general principles by which his conduct was regulated, and the
constancy with which he maintained them through adverse fortune, the
history of Europe has not so great a statesman to exhibit.”


FEBRUARY 3, 1800.

  On the day after Bonaparte was inaugurated as First Consul of
  France, December 25, 1799, he addressed a personal letter to the
  King of England, asking for peace. The English Government, however,
  entertained a keen resentment at what they regarded the evasive
  and insulting conduct of the French Directory during the last
  negotiations. Accordingly, the reply of Lord Grenville, then Minister
  of Foreign Affairs, rejected the proposed opening of negotiations
  for peace. The Government justified its attitude by referring to the
  course of the French during the war. It declared that its beginning
  had been an “unprovoked attack” on the part of the French, that the
  “system” which inspired the war “continued to prevail,” that England
  could present “no defence but that of open and steady hostility” to
  the system, that “the best and most natural pledge of the reality and
  permanence of peace” had been rejected by the French, that although
  the English “did not claim to prescribe to France what shall be her
  form of government” yet they desired security for future peace, and
  that “unhappily no such security hitherto exists, no sufficient
  evidence of the principles by which the new government will be
  directed, no reasonable ground by which to judge of its stability.”
  To this letter Talleyrand wrote a spirited reply; and Lord Grenville
  closed the correspondence with a reaffirmation of his Government’s
  former position.

  The correspondence was called for, and was placed before the Commons
  on the 3d of February, 1800. Mr. Dundas immediately proposed an
  Address to the Throne approving of the course taken by the ministry.
  This opened the whole subject of the attitude of England toward
  Napoleon for debate. Whitbred, Canning, and Erskine complained in
  strong terms of the discourteous language used by Lord Grenville.
  Pitt made no defence on this point, but took up the subject on the
  broadest scale. He reviewed not only the origin of the war, but also
  the atrocities of the French in overrunning a large part of Europe,
  the instability of the successive French governments, his own motives
  in treating with the French on a former occasion, and the character
  of Bonaparte as a military commander. The speech is at once the most
  important and the most elaborate ever delivered by Pitt. It expressed
  and defined the policy of the nation in the great struggle which as
  yet had only begun. As a parliamentary oration, designed at once to
  inform and inspire, it has probably never been surpassed.

SIR,—I am induced, at this period of the debate, to offer my sentiments
to the House, both from an apprehension that at a later hour the
attention of the House must necessarily be exhausted, and because
the sentiment with which the honorable and learned gentleman [Mr.
Erskine] began his speech, and with which he has thought proper to
conclude it, places the question precisely on that ground on which I
am most desirous of discussing it. The learned gentleman seems to
assume as the foundation of his reasoning, and as the great argument
for immediate treaty, that every effort to overturn the system of the
French Revolution must be unavailing; and that it would be not only
imprudent, but almost impious, to struggle longer against that order
of things which, on I know not what principle of predestination, he
appears to consider as immortal. Little as I am inclined to accede
to this opinion, I am not sorry that the honorable gentleman has
contemplated the subject in this serious view. I do, indeed, consider
the French Revolution as the severest trial which the visitation of
Providence has ever yet inflicted upon the nations of the earth; but
I cannot help reflecting, with satisfaction, that this country, even
under such a trial, has not only been exempted from those calamities
which have covered almost every other part of Europe, but appears
to have been reserved as a refuge and asylum to those who fled from
its persecution, as a barrier to oppose its progress, and perhaps
ultimately as an instrument to deliver the world from the crimes and
miseries which have attended it.

Under this impression, I trust the House will forgive me, if I
endeavor, as far as I am able, to take a large and comprehensive view
of this important question. In doing so, I agree with my honorable
friend [Mr. Canning] that it would, in any case, be impossible to
separate the present discussion from the former crimes and atrocities
of the French Revolution; because both the papers now on the table,
and the whole of the learned gentleman’s argument, force upon our
consideration the origin of the war, and all the material facts which
have occurred during its continuance. The learned gentleman [Mr.
Erskine] has revived and retailed all those arguments from his own
pamphlet, which had before passed through thirty-seven or thirty-eight
editions in print, and now gives them to the House embellished by the
graces of his personal delivery. The First Consul has also thought fit
to revive and retail the chief arguments used by all the opposition
speakers and all the opposition publishers in this country during
the last seven years. And (what is still more material) the question
itself, which is now immediately at issue—the question whether, under
the present circumstances, there is such a prospect of security from
any treaty with France as ought to induce us to negotiate, can not be
properly decided upon without retracing, both from our own experience
and from that of other nations, the nature, the causes, and the
magnitude of the danger against which we have to guard, in order to
judge of the security which we ought to accept.

I say, then, that before any man can concur in opinion with that
learned gentleman; before any man can think that the substance of his
Majesty’s answer is any other than the safety of the country required;
before any man can be of opinion that, to the overtures made by the
enemy, at such a time and under such circumstances, it would have been
safe to return an answer concurring in the negotiation—he must come
within one of the three following descriptions: He must either believe
that the French Revolution neither does now exhibit nor has at any time
exhibited such circumstances of danger, arising out of the very nature
of the system, and the internal state and condition of France, as to
leave to foreign powers no adequate ground of security in negotiation;
or, secondly, he must be of opinion that the change which has recently
taken place has given that security which, in the former stages of the
Revolution, was wanting; or, thirdly, he must be one who, believing
that the danger exists, not undervaluing its extent nor mistaking its
nature, nevertheless thinks, from his view of the present pressure on
the country, from his view of its situation and its prospects, compared
with the situation and prospects of its enemies, that we are, with our
eyes open, bound to accept of inadequate security for every thing that
is valuable and sacred, rather than endure the pressure, or incur the
risk which would result from a farther prolongation of the contest.[1]

In discussing the last of these questions, we shall be led to consider
what inference is to be drawn from the circumstances and the result
of our own negotiations in former periods of the war; whether, in the
comparative state of this country and France, we now see the same
reason for repeating our then unsuccessful experiments; or whether
we have not thence derived the lessons of experience, added to the
deductions of reason, marking the inefficacy and danger of the very
measures which are quoted to us as precedents for our adoption.

Unwilling, sir, as I am to go into much detail on ground which has been
so often trodden before; yet, when I find the learned gentleman, after
all the information which he must have received, if he has read any of
the answers to his work (however ignorant he might be when he wrote
it), still giving the sanction of his authority to the supposition that
the order to M. Chauvelin [French minister] to depart from this kingdom
was the cause of the war between this country and France, I do feel it
necessary to say a few words on that part of the subject.

Inaccuracy in dates seems to be a sort of fatality common to all who
have written on that side of the question; for even the writer of the
note to his Majesty is not more correct, in this respect, than if
he had taken his information only from the pamphlet of the learned
gentleman. The House will recollect the first professions of the French
Republic, which are enumerated, and enumerated truly, in that note.
They are tests of every thing which would best recommend a government
to the esteem and confidence of foreign powers, and the reverse of
every thing which has been the system and practice of France now for
near ten years. It is there stated that their first principles were
love of peace, aversion to conquest, and respect for the independence
of other countries. In the same note it seems, indeed, admitted that
they since have violated all those principles; but it is alleged that
they have done so only in consequence of the provocation of other
powers. One of the first of those provocations is stated to have
consisted in the various outrages offered to their ministers, of which
the example is said to have been set by the King of Great Britain in
his conduct to M. Chauvelin. In answer to this supposition, it is only
necessary to remark, that before the example was given, before Austria
and Prussia are supposed to have been thus encouraged to combine in
a plan for the partition of France, that plan, if it ever existed at
all, had existed and been acted upon for above eight months. France
and Prussia had been at war eight months before the dismissal of M.
Chauvelin. So much for the accuracy of the statement.

I have been hitherto commenting on the arguments contained in the
Notes. I come now to those of the learned gentleman. I understand him
to say that the dismissal of M. Chauvelin was the real cause, I do not
say of the general war, but of the rupture between France and England;
and the learned gentleman states particularly that this dismissal
rendered all discussion of the points in dispute impossible. Now I
desire to meet distinctly every part of this assertion. I maintain,
on the contrary, that an opportunity was given for discussing every
matter in dispute between France and Great Britain as fully as if a
regular and accredited French minister had been resident here; that
the causes of war which existed at the beginning, or arose during the
course of this discussion, were such as would have justified, twenty
times over, a declaration of war on the part of this country; that all
the explanations on the part of France were evidently unsatisfactory
and inadmissible, and that M. Chauvelin had given in a peremptory
ultimatum, declaring that if these explanations were not received as
sufficient, and if we did not immediately disarm, our refusal would
be considered as a declaration of war. After this followed that scene
which no man can even now speak of without horror, or think of without
indignation; that murder and regicide from which I was sorry to hear
the learned gentleman date the beginning of the legal government of

Having thus given in their ultimatum, they added, as a further
demand (while we were smarting under accumulated injuries, for which
all satisfaction was denied) that we should instantly receive M.
Chauvelin as their embassador, with new credentials, representing
them in the character which they had just derived from the murder of
their sovereign. We replied, “he came here as the representative of
a sovereign whom you have put to a cruel and illegal death; we have
no satisfaction for the injuries we have received, no security from
the danger with which we are threatened. Under these circumstances we
will not receive your new credentials. The former credentials you have
yourself recalled by the sacrifice of your King.”

What, from that moment, was the situation of M. Chauvelin? He was
reduced to the situation of a private individual, and was required
to quit the kingdom under the provisions of the Alien Act, which,
for the purpose of securing domestic tranquillity, had recently
invested his Majesty with the power of removing out of this kingdom
all foreigners suspected of revolutionary principles. Is it contended
that he was then less liable to the provisions of that act than any
other individual foreigner, whose conduct afforded to government just
ground of objection or suspicion? Did his conduct and connections here
afford no such ground? or will it be pretended that the bare act of
refusing to receive fresh credentials from an infant republic, not
then acknowledged by any one power of Europe, and in the very act of
heaping upon us injuries and insults, was of itself a cause of war?
So far from it, that even the very nations of Europe whose wisdom and
moderation have been repeatedly extolled for maintaining neutrality,
and preserving friendship with the French Republic, remained for years
subsequent to this period without receiving from it any accredited
minister, or doing any one act to acknowledge its political existence.

In answer to a representation from the belligerent powers, in December,
1793, Count Bernstorff, the minister of Denmark, officially declared
that “it was well known that the National Convention had appointed
M. Grouville Minister Plenipotentiary at Denmark, but that it was
also well known that he had neither been received nor acknowledged
in that quality.” And as late as February, 1796, when the same
minister was at length, for the first time, received in his official
capacity, Count Bernstorff, in a public note, assigned this reason
for that change of conduct: “So long as no other than a revolutionary
government existed in France, his Majesty _could_ not acknowledge the
minister of that government; but now that the French Constitution is
completely organized, and a regular government established in France,
his Majesty’s obligation ceases in that respect, and M. Grouville will
therefore be acknowledged in the usual form.” How far the Court of
Denmark was justified in the opinion that a revolutionary government
then no longer existed in France it is not now necessary to inquire;
but whatever may have been the fact in that respect, the _principle_ on
which they acted is clear and intelligible, and is a decisive instance
in favor of the proposition which I have maintained.

Is it, then, necessary to examine what were the terms of that ultimatum
with which we refused to comply? Acts of hostility had been openly
threatened against our allies; a hostility founded upon the assumption
of a right which would at once supersede the whole law of nations. The
pretended right to open the Scheldt we discussed at the time, not so
much on account of its immediate importance (though it was important
both in a maritime and commercial view) as on account of the general
principle on which it was founded.[2] On the same arbitrary notion they
soon afterward discovered that sacred law of nature which made the
Rhine and the Alps the legitimate boundaries of France, and assumed
the power, which they have affected to exercise through the whole
of the Revolution, of superseding, by a new code of their own, all
the recognized principles of the law of nations. They were, in fact,
actually advancing toward the republic of Holland, by rapid strides,
after the victory of Jemappes and they had ordered their generals to
pursue the Austrian troops into any neutral country, thereby explicitly
avowing an intention of invading Holland. They had already shown their
moderation and self-denial by incorporating Belgium with the French
Republic. These lovers of peace, who set out with a sworn aversion to
conquest, and professions of respect for the independence of other
nations; who pretend that they departed from this system only in
consequence of your aggression, themselves, in time of peace, while
you were still confessedly neutral, without the pretence or shadow
of provocation, wrested Savoy from the King of Sardinia, and had
proceeded to incorporate it likewise with France.[3] These were their
aggressions at this period, and more than these. They had issued a
universal declaration of war against all the thrones of Europe, and
they had, by their conduct, applied it particularly and specifically
to you. They had passed the decree of the 19th of November, 1792,
proclaiming the promise of French succor to all nations who should
manifest a wish to become free; they had, by all their language as
well as their example, shown what they understood to be freedom; they
had sealed their principles by the deposition of their sovereign; they
had applied them to England by inviting and encouraging the addresses
of those seditious and traitorous societies, who, from the beginning,
favored their views, and who, encouraged by your forbearance, were even
then publicly avowing French doctrines, and anticipating their success
in this country—who were hailing the progress of those proceedings in
France which led to the murder of its king; they were even then looking
to the day when they should behold a National Convention in England
formed upon similar principles.[4]

And what were the explanations they offered on these different
grounds of offence? As to Holland: they told you the Scheldt was too
insignificant for you to trouble yourselves about, and therefore it was
to be decided as they chose, in breach of positive treaty, which they
had themselves guaranteed, and which we, by our alliance, were bound
to support. If, however, after the war was over, Belgium should have
consolidated its liberty (a term of which we now know the meaning, from
the fate of every nation into which the arms of France have penetrated)
then Belgium and Holland might, if they pleased, settle the question of
the Scheldt by separate negotiation between themselves. With respect
to aggrandizement, they assured us that they would retain possession
of Belgium by arms no longer than they should find it necessary to
the purpose already stated, of consolidating its liberty. And with
respect to the decree of the 19th of November, 1792, applied as it was
pointedly to you, by all the intercourse I have stated with all the
seditious and traitorous part of this country, and particularly by the
speeches of every leading man among them, they contented themselves
with asserting that the declaration conveyed no such meaning as was
imputed to it, and that, so far from encouraging sedition, it could
apply only to countries where a great majority of the people should
have already declared itself in favor of a revolution: a supposition
which, as they asserted, necessarily implied a total absence of all

What would have been the effect of admitting this explanation? to
suffer a nation, and an armed nation, to preach to the inhabitants of
all the countries in the world that they themselves were slaves and
their rulers tyrants; to encourage and invite them to revolution by
a previous promise of French support to whatever might call itself a
majority, or to whatever France might declare to be so. This was their
explanation; and this, they told you, was their ultimatum.

But was this all? Even at that very moment, when they were endeavoring
to induce you to admit these explanations, to be contented with the
avowal that France offered herself as a general guaranty for every
successful revolution, and would interfere only to sanction and
confirm whatever the free and uninfluenced choice of the people might
have decided, what were their orders to their generals on the same
subject? In the midst of these amicable explanations with you came
forth a decree which I really believe must be effaced from the minds
of gentlemen opposite to me, if they can prevail upon themselves for
a moment to hint even a doubt upon the origin of this quarrel, not
only as to this country, but as to all the nations of Europe with whom
France has been subsequently engaged in hostility. I speak of the
decree of the 15th of December, 1792. This decree, more even than all
the previous transactions, amounted to a universal declaration of war
against all thrones, and against all civilized governments. It said,
wherever the armies of France shall come (whether within countries then
at war or at peace is not distinguished) in all those countries it
shall be the first care of their generals to introduce the principles
and the practice of the French Revolution; to demolish all privileged
orders, and every thing which obstructs the establishment of their new

If any doubt is entertained whither the armies of France were intended
to come; if it is contended that they referred only to those nations
with whom they were then at war, or with whom, in the course of this
contest, they might be driven into war; let it be remembered that at
this very moment they had actually given orders to their generals to
pursue the Austrian army from the Netherlands into Holland, with whom
they were at that time in peace. Or, even if the construction contended
for is admitted, let us see what would have been its application, let
us look at the list of their aggressions, which was read by my right
honorable friend [Mr. Dundas] near me. With whom have they been at war
since the period of this declaration? With all the nations of Europe
save two (Sweden and Denmark), and if not with these two, it is only
because, with every provocation that could justify defensive war, those
countries have hitherto acquiesced in repeated violations of their
rights rather than recur to war for their vindication. Wherever their
arms have been carried it will be a matter of short subsequent inquiry
to trace whether they have faithfully applied these principles. If in
_terms_ this decree is a denunciation of war against all governments;
if in _practice_ it has been applied against every one with which
France has come into contact; what is it but the deliberate code of
the French Revolution, from the birth of the Republic, which has never
once been departed from, which has been enforced with unremitted rigor
against all the nations that have come into their power?

If there could otherwise be any doubt whether the application of this
decree was intended to be universal, whether it applied to all nations,
and to England particularly; there is one circumstance which alone
would be decisive—that nearly at the same period it was proposed [by
M. Baraillon], in the National Convention, to declare expressly that
the decree of November 19th was confined to the nations with whom
they were _then_ at war; and that proposal was _rejected_ by a great
majority, by that very Convention from whom we were desired to receive
these explanations as satisfactory.

Such, sir, was the nature of the system. Let us examine a little
farther, whether it was from the beginning intended to be acted upon
in the extent which I have stated. At the very moment when their
threats appeared to many little else than the ravings of madmen, they
were digesting and methodizing the means of execution, as accurately
as if they had actually foreseen the extent to which they have since
been able to realize their criminal projects. They sat down coolly to
devise the most regular and effectual mode of making the application
of this system the current business of the day, and incorporating it
with the general orders of their army; for (will the House believe it!)
this confirmation of the decree of November 19th was accompanied by an
exposition and commentary addressed to the general of every army of
France, containing a schedule as coolly conceived, and as methodically
reduced, as any by which the most quiet business of a justice of peace,
or the most regular routine of any department of state in this country
could be conducted. Each commander was furnished with one general
blank formula of a letter for all the nations of the world! The people
of France to the people of ——, Greeting, “We are come to expel your
tyrants.” Even this was not all; one of the articles of the decree of
the fifteenth of December was expressly, “that those who should show
themselves so brutish and so enamored of their chains as to refuse
the restoration of their rights, to renounce liberty and equality, or
to preserve, recall, or treat with their prince or privileged orders,
were not entitled to the distinction which France, in other cases,
had justly established between government and people; and that such
a people ought to be treated according to the rigor of war, and of
conquest.” Here is their love of peace; here is their aversion to
conquest; here is their respect for the independence of other nations!

It was then, after receiving such explanations as these, after
receiving the ultimatum of France, and after M. Chauvelin’s
credentials had ceased, that he was required to depart. Even at that
period, I am almost ashamed to record it, we did not on our part shut
the door against other attempts to negotiate, but this transaction
was immediately followed by the declaration of war, proceeding not
from England in vindication of her rights, but from France, as the
completion of the injuries and insults they had offered. And on a war
thus originating, can it be doubted by an English House of Commons
whether the aggression was on the part of this country or of France?
or whether the manifest aggression on the part of France was the
result of any thing but the principles which characterize the French
Revolution?[6] * * *

I will enlarge no farther on the origin of the war. I have read and
detailed to you a system which was in itself a declaration of war
against all nations, which was so intended, and which has been so
applied, which has been exemplified in the extreme peril and hazard
of almost all who for a moment have trusted to treaty, and which has
not at this hour overwhelmed Europe in one indiscriminate mass of
ruin, only because we have not indulged, to a fatal extremity, that
disposition which we have, however, indulged too far; because we have
not consented to trust to profession and compromise, rather than to our
own valor and exertion, for security against a system from which we
never shall be delivered till either the principle is extinguished, or
till its strength is exhausted.

I might, sir, if I found it necessary, enter into much detail upon
this part of the subject; but at present I only beg leave to express
my readiness at any time to enter upon it, when either my own strength
or the patience of the House will admit of it; but I say, without
distinction, against every nation in Europe, and against some out of
Europe, the principle has been faithfully applied. You cannot look at
the map of Europe, and lay your hand upon that country against which
France has not either declared an open and aggressive war, or violated
some positive treaty, or broken some recognized principle of the law of

This subject may be divided into various periods. There were some
acts of hostility committed previous to the war with this country,
and very little, indeed, subsequent to that declaration, which
abjured the love of conquest. The attack upon the papal state, by
the seizure of Avignon, in 1791, was accompanied with specimens of
all the vile arts and perfidy that ever disgraced a revolution.
Avignon was separated from its lawful sovereign, with whom not even
the pretence of quarrel existed, and forcibly incorporated in the
tyranny of one and indivisible France.[7] The same system led, in the
same year, to an aggression against the whole German Empire, by the
seizure of Porentrui, part of the dominions of the Bishop of Basle.
Afterward, in 1792, unpreceded by any declaration of war, or any
cause of hostility,[8] and in direct violation of the solemn pledge
to abstain from conquest, they made war against the King of Sardinia,
by the seizure of Savoy, for the purpose of incorporating it, in like
manner, with France. In the same year, they had proceeded to the
declaration of war against Austria, against Prussia, and against the
German Empire, in which they have been justified only on the ground
of a rooted hostility, combination, and league of sovereigns, for the
dismemberment of France. I say that some of the documents brought to
support this pretence are spurious and false. I say that even in those
that are not so, there is not one word to prove the charge principally
relied upon, that of an intention to effect the dismemberment of
France, or to impose upon it, by force, any particular constitution.
I say that, as far as we have been able to trace what passed at
Pilnitz, the declaration there signed referred to the imprisonment of
Louis XVI.; its immediate view was to effect his deliverance, if a
concert sufficiently extensive could be formed with other sovereigns
for that purpose. It left the internal state of France to be decided
by the king restored to his liberty, with the free consent of the
states of his kingdom, and it did not contain one word relative to the
_dismemberment_ of France.[9]

In the subsequent discussions, which took place in 1792, and which
embraced at the same time all the other points of jealousy which had
arisen between the two countries, the Declaration of Pilnitz was
referred to, and explained on the part of Austria in a manner precisely
conformable to what I have now stated. The amicable explanations which
took place, both on this subject and on all the matters in dispute,
will be found in the official correspondence between the two courts
which has been made public; and it will be found, also, that as long as
the negotiation continued to be conducted through M. Delessart, then
Minister for Foreign Affairs, there was a great prospect that those
discussions would be amicably terminated; but it is notorious, and has
since been clearly proved on the authority of Brissot himself, that the
violent party in France considered such an issue of the negotiation
as likely to be fatal to their projects, and thought, to use his own
words, that “war was necessary to consolidate the Revolution.” For the
express purpose of producing the war, they excited a popular tumult in
Paris; they insisted upon and obtained the dismissal of M. Delessart. A
new minister was appointed in his room, the tone of the negotiation was
immediately changed, and an ultimatum was sent to the Emperor, similar
to that which was afterward sent to this country, affording him no
satisfaction on his just grounds of complaint, and requiring him, under
those circumstances, to disarm. The first events of the contest proved
how much more France was prepared for war than Austria, and afford
a strong confirmation of the proposition which I maintain, that no
offensive intention was entertained on the part of the latter power.

War was then declared against Austria, a war which I state to be a war
of aggression on the part of France. The King of Prussia had declared
that he should consider war against the Emperor or empire as war
against himself. He had declared that, as a coestate of the empire, he
was determined to defend their rights; that, as an ally of the Emperor,
he would support him to the utmost against any attack; and that, for
the sake of his own dominions, he felt himself called upon to resist
the progress of French principles, and to maintain the balance of power
in Europe. With this notice before them, France declared war upon the
Emperor, and the war with Prussia was the necessary consequence of this
aggression, both against the Emperor and the empire.

The war against the King of Sardinia follows next. The declaration
of that war was the seizure of Savoy by an invading army—and on what
ground? On that which has been stated already. They had found out, by
some light of nature, that the Rhine and the Alps were the natural
limits of France. Upon that ground Savoy was seized; and Savoy was also
incorporated with France.

Here finishes the history of the wars in which France was engaged
antecedent to the war with Great Britain, with Holland, and with
Spain. With respect to Spain, we have seen nothing which leads
us to suspect that either attachment to religion, or the ties of
consanguinity, or regard to the ancient system of Europe, was likely to
induce that court to connect itself in offensive war against France.
The war was evidently and incontestably begun by France against Spain.

The case of Holland is so fresh in every man’s recollection, and so
connected with the immediate causes of the war with this country, that
it cannot require one word of observation. What shall I say, then, on
the case of Portugal? I cannot, indeed, say that France ever declared
war against that country. I can hardly say even that she ever made
war, but she required them to make a treaty of peace, as if they had
been at war; she obliged them to purchase that treaty; she broke it as
soon as it was purchased; and she had originally no other ground of
complaint than this, that Portugal had performed, though inadequately,
the engagements of its ancient defensive alliance with this country in
the character of an auxiliary—a conduct which cannot of itself make any
power a principal in a war.

I have now enumerated all the nations at war at that period, with the
exception only of Naples. It can hardly be necessary to call to the
recollection of the House the characteristic feature of revolutionary
principles which was shown, even at this early period, in the personal
insult offered to the King of Naples, by the commander of a French
squadron riding uncontrolled in the Mediterranean, and (while our
fleets were yet unarmed) threatening destruction to all the coast of

It was not till a considerably later period that almost all the
other nations of Europe found themselves equally involved in actual
hostility; but it is not a little material to the whole of my argument,
compared with the statement of the learned gentleman, and with that
contained in the French note, to examine at what period this hostility
extended itself. It extended itself, in the course of 1796, to the
States of Italy which had hitherto been exempted from it. In 1797
it had ended in the destruction of most of them; it had ended in
the virtual deposition of the King of Sardinia; it had ended in the
conversion of Genoa and Tuscany into democratic republics; it had ended
in the revolution of Venice, in the violation of treaties with the new
Venetian Republic; and, finally, in transferring that very republic,
the creature and vassal of France, to the dominion of Austria. * * *

Let these facts and these dates be compared with what we have heard.
The honorable gentleman has told us, and the author of the note from
France has told us also, that all the French conquests were produced
by the operations of the allies. It was, when they were pressed on
all sides, when their own territory was in danger, when their own
independence was in question, when the confederacy appeared too strong,
it was then they used the means with which their power and their
courage furnished them, and, “attacked upon all sides, they carried
everywhere their defensive arms.”[10] * * *

Let us look at the conduct of France immediately subsequent to this
period. She had spurned at the offers of Great Britain; she had
reduced her continental enemies to the necessity of accepting a
precarious peace; she had (in spite of those pledges repeatedly made
and uniformly violated) surrounded herself by new conquests on every
part of her frontier but one. That one was Switzerland. The first
effect of being relieved from the war with Austria, of being secured
against all fears of continental invasion on the ancient territory
of France, was their unprovoked attack against this unoffending and
devoted country. This was one of the scenes which satisfied even those
who were the most incredulous that France had thrown off the mask,
“_if indeed she had ever worn it_.” It collected, in one view, many
of the characteristic features of that revolutionary system which I
have endeavored to trace—the perfidy which alone rendered their arms
successful—the pretexts of which they availed themselves to produce
division and prepare the entrance of Jacobinism in that country—the
proposal of armistice, one of the known and regular engines of the
Revolution, which was, as usual, the immediate prelude to military
execution, attended with cruelty and barbarity, of which there are few
examples. All these are known to the world. The country they attacked
was one which had long been the faithful ally of France, which, instead
of giving cause of jealousy to any other power, had been for ages
proverbial for the simplicity and innocence of its manners, and which
had acquired and preserved the esteem of all the nations of Europe;
which had almost, by the common consent of mankind, been exempted
from the sound of war, and marked out as a land of Goshen, safe and
untouched in the midst of surrounding calamities.

Look, then, at the fate of Switzerland, at the circumstances which led
to its destruction. Add this instance to the catalogue of aggression
against all Europe, and then tell me whether the system I have
described has not been prosecuted with an unrelenting spirit, which can
not be subdued in adversity, which cannot be appeased in prosperity,
which neither solemn professions, nor the general law of nations, nor
the obligation of treaties (whether previous to the Revolution or
subsequent to it) could restrain from the subversion of every state
into which, either by force or fraud, their arms could penetrate.
Then tell me, whether the disasters of Europe are to be charged upon
the provocation of this country and its allies, or on the inherent
principle of the French Revolution, of which the natural result
produced so much misery and carnage in France, and carried desolation
and terror over so large a portion of the world.

Sir, much as I have now stated, I have not finished the catalogue.
America, almost as much as Switzerland, perhaps, contributed to that
change which has taken place in the minds of those who were originally
partial to the principles of the French Government. The hostility
against America followed a long course of neutrality adhered to under
the strongest provocations, or rather of repeated compliances to
France, with which we might well have been dissatisfied. It was on the
face of it unjust and wanton; and it was accompanied by those instances
of sordid corruption which shocked and disgusted even the enthusiastic
admirers of revolutionary purity, and threw a new light on the genius
of revolutionary government.[11]

After this, it remains only shortly to remind gentlemen of the
aggression against Egypt, not omitting, however, to notice the capture
of Malta in the way to Egypt. Inconsiderable as that island may
be thought, compared with the scenes we have witnessed, let it be
remembered that it is an island of which the government had long been
recognized by every state of Europe, against which France pretended
no cause of war, and whose independence was as dear to itself and
as sacred as that of any country in Europe. It was in fact not
unimportant, from its local situation to the other powers of Europe;
but in proportion as any man may diminish its importance, the instance
will only serve the more to illustrate and confirm the proposition
which I have maintained. The all-searching eye of the French Revolution
looks to every part of Europe, and every quarter of the world, in
which can be found an object either of acquisition or plunder. Nothing
is too great for the temerity of its ambition, nothing too small or
insignificant for the grasp of its rapacity. From hence Bonaparte and
his army proceeded to Egypt. The attack was made, pretences were held
out to the natives of that country in the name of the French King,
whom they had murdered. They pretended to have the approbation of the
Grand Seignior, whose territories they were violating; their project
was carried on under the profession of a zeal for Mohammedanism; it
was carried on by proclaiming that France had been reconciled to the
Mussulman faith, had abjured that of Christianity, or, as he in his
impious language termed it, of _the sect of the Messiah_.[12]

The only plea which they have since held out to color this atrocious
invasion of a neutral and friendly territory, is that it was the road
to attack the English power in India. It is most unquestionably true
that this was one and a principal cause of this unparalleled outrage;
but another, and an equally substantial, cause (as appears by their own
statements) was the division and partition of the territories of what
they thought a falling power. It is impossible to dismiss this subject
without observing that this attack against Egypt was accompanied
by an attack upon the British possessions in India, made on true
revolutionary principles. In Europe the propagation of the principles
of France had uniformly prepared the way for the progress of its arms.
To India the lovers of peace had sent the messengers of Jacobinism,
for the purpose of inculcating war in those distant regions on Jacobin
principles, and of forming Jacobin clubs, which they actually succeeded
in establishing; and which in most respects resembled the European
model, but which were distinguished by this peculiarity, that they were
required to swear in one breath hatred to tyranny, the love of liberty,
and the destruction of all kings and sovereigns, except the good and
faithful ally of the French Republic, _Citizen_ Tippoo![13]

What, then, was the nature of this system? Was it any thing but what
I have stated it to be? an insatiable love of aggrandizement, an
implacable spirit of destruction against all the civil and religious
institutions of every country. This is the first moving and acting
spirit of the French Revolution; this is the spirit which animated it
at its birth, and this is the spirit which will not desert it till
the moment of its dissolution, “which grew with its growth, which
strengthened with its strength,” but which has not abated under its
misfortunes, nor declined in its decay. It has been invariably the
same in every period, operating more or less, according as accident
or circumstances might assist it; but it has been inherent in the
Revolution in all its stages; it has equally belonged to Brissot, to
Robespierre, to Tallien, to Reubel, to Barras, and to every one of the
leaders of the Directory, but to none more than to Bonaparte, in whom
now all their powers are united. What are its characters? Can it be
accident that produced them? No, it is only from the alliance of the
most horrid principles, with the most horrid means, that such miseries
could have been brought upon Europe. It is this paradox which we must
always keep in mind when we are discussing any question relative to
the effects of the French Revolution. Groaning under every degree of
misery, the victim of its own crimes, and as I once before expressed
in this House, asking pardon of God and of man for the miseries which
it has brought upon itself and others, France still retains (while it
has neither left means of comfort nor almost of subsistence to its own
inhabitants) new and unexampled means of annoyance and destruction
against all the other powers of Europe.

Its first fundamental principle was to bribe the poor against the
rich by proposing to transfer into new hands, on the delusive notion
of equality, and in breach of every principle of justice, the whole
property of the country. The practical application of this principle
was to devote the whole of that property to indiscriminate plunder,
and to make it the foundation of a revolutionary system of finance,
productive in proportion to the misery and desolation which it created.
It has been accompanied by an unwearied spirit of proselytism,
diffusing itself over all the nations of the earth; a spirit which can
apply itself to all circumstances and all situations, which can furnish
a list of grievances and hold out a promise of redress equally to all
nations; which inspired the teachers of French liberty with the hope of
alike recommending themselves to those who live under the feudal code
of the German Empire; to the various states of Italy, under all their
different institutions; to the old republicans of Holland, and to the
new republicans of America; to the Catholic of Ireland, whom it was to
deliver from Protestant usurpation; to the Protestant of Switzerland,
whom it was to deliver from Popish superstition; and to the Mussulman
of Egypt, whom it was to deliver from Christian persecution; to the
remote Indian, blindly bigoted to his ancient institutions; and to the
natives of Great Britain, enjoying the perfection of practical freedom,
and justly attached to their Constitution, from the joint result of
habit, of reason, and of experience. The last and distinguishing
feature is a perfidy which nothing can bind, which no tie of treaty,
no sense of the principles generally received among nations, no
obligation, human or divine, can restrain. Thus qualified, thus armed
for destruction, the genius of the French Revolution marched forth, the
terror and dismay of the world. Every nation has in its turn been the
witness, many have been the victims of its principles; and it is left
for us to decide whether we will compromise with such a danger, while
we have yet resources to supply the sinews of war, while the heart and
spirit of the country is yet unbroken, and while we have the means of
calling forth and supporting a powerful co-operation in Europe.

Much more might be said on this part of the subject; but if what I
have said already is a faithful, though only an imperfect, sketch of
those excesses and outrages which even history itself will hereafter
be unable fully to represent and record, and a just representation of
the principle and source from which they originated, will any man say
that we ought to accept a precarious security against so tremendous a
danger? Much more—will he pretend, after the experience of all that has
passed in the different stages of the French Revolution, that we ought
to be deterred from probing this great question to the bottom, and from
examining, without ceremony or disguise, whether the change which has
recently taken place in France is sufficient now to give security, not
against a common danger, but against such a danger as that which I have

In examining this part of the subject, let it be remembered that there
is one other characteristic of the French Revolution as striking as
its dreadful and destructive principles: I mean the instability of
its government, which has been of itself sufficient to destroy all
reliance, if any such reliance could at any time have been placed on
the good faith of any of its rulers. Such has been the incredible
rapidity with which the revolutions in France have succeeded each
other, that I believe the names of those who have successively
exercised absolute power, under the pretence of liberty, are to be
numbered by the years of the Revolution, and by each of the new
Constitutions, which, under the same pretence, has in its turn been
imposed by force on France, all of which alike were founded upon
principles which professed to be universal, and were intended to be
established and perpetuated among all the nations of the earth. Each of
these will be found, upon an average, to have had about two years as
the period of its duration.

Under this revolutionary system, accompanied with this perpetual
fluctuation and change, both in the form of the government and in the
persons of the rulers, what is the security which has hitherto existed,
and what new security is now offered? Before an answer is given to
this question, let me sum up the history of all the revolutionary
governments of France, and of their characters in relation to other
powers, in words more emphatical than any which I could use—the
memorable words pronounced, on the eve of this last Constitution, by
the orator who was selected to report to an Assembly, surrounded by a
file of grenadiers, the new form of liberty which it was destined to
enjoy under the auspices of General Bonaparte. From this reporter, the
mouth and organ of the new government, we learn this important lesson:

“It is easy to conceive why peace was not concluded before the
establishment of the constitutional government. The only government
which then existed described itself as revolutionary; it was, in fact,
only the tyranny of a few men who were soon overthrown by others, and
it consequently presented no stability of principles or of views, no
security either with respect to men or with respect to things.

“It should seem that that stability and that security ought to have
existed from the establishment, and as the effect of the constitutional
system; and yet they did not exist more, perhaps even less, than they
had done before. In truth, we did make some partial treaties; we signed
a continental peace, and a general congress was held to confirm it;
but these treaties, these diplomatic conferences, appear to have been
the source of a new war, more inveterate and more bloody than before.

“Before the 18th Fructidor (4th September) of the fifth year, the
French Government exhibited to foreign nations so uncertain an
existence that they refused to treat with it. After this great event,
the whole power was absorbed in the Directory; the legislative body
can hardly be said to have existed; treaties of peace were broken, and
war carried everywhere, without that body having any share in those
measures. The same Directory, after having intimidated all Europe, and
destroyed, at its pleasure, several governments, neither knowing how
to make peace or war, or how even to establish itself, was overturned
by a breath, on the 13th Prairial (18th June), to make room for other
men, influenced perhaps by different views, or who might be governed by
different principles.

“Judging, then, only from notorious facts, the French Government must
be considered as exhibiting nothing fixed, neither in respect to men
nor to things.”

Here, then, is the picture, down to the period of the last revolution,
of the state of France under all its successive governments!

Having taken a view of what it was, let us now examine what it is. In
the first place, we see, as has been truly stated, a change in the
description and form of the sovereign authority. A supreme power is
placed at the head of this nominal republic, with a more open avowal
of military despotism than at any former period; with a more open and
undisguised abandonment of the names and pretences under which that
despotism long attempted to conceal itself. The different institutions,
republican in their form and appearance, which were before the
instruments of that despotism, are now annihilated; they have given
way to the absolute power of one man, concentrating in himself all the
authority of the state, and differing from other monarchs only in this,
that (as my honorable friend [Mr. Canning] truly stated it) he wields
a sword instead of a sceptre. What, then, is the confidence we are to
derive either from the frame of the government, or from the character
and past conduct of the person who is now the absolute ruler of France?

Had we seen a man of whom we had no previous knowledge suddenly
invested with the sovereign authority of the country; invested with the
power of taxation, with the power of the sword, the power of war and
peace, the unlimited power of commanding the resources, of disposing
of the lives and fortunes, of every man in France; if we had seen at
the same moment all the inferior machinery of the Revolution, which,
under the variety of successive shocks, had kept the system in motion,
still remaining entire,—all that, by requisition and plunder, had given
activity to the revolutionary system of finance, and had furnished the
means of creating an army, by converting every man who was of age to
bear arms into a soldier, not for the defence of his own country, but
for the sake of carrying the war into the country of the enemy; if we
had seen all the subordinate instruments of Jacobin power subsisting in
their full force, and retaining (to use the French phrase) all their
original organization; and had then observed this single change in
the conduct of their affairs, that there was now _one man_, with no
rival to thwart his measures, no colleague to divide his powers, no
council to control his operations, no liberty of speaking or writing,
no expression of public opinion to check or influence his conduct;
under such circumstances, should we be wrong to pause, or wait for the
evidence of facts and experience, before we consented to trust our
safety to the forbearance of a single man, in such a situation, and
to relinquish those means of defence which have hitherto carried us
safe through all the storms of the Revolution, if we were to ask what
are the principles and character of this stranger, to whom fortune has
suddenly committed the concerns of a great and powerful nation?

But is this the actual state of the present question? Are we talking
of a stranger of whom we have heard nothing? No, sir, we have heard
of him; we, and Europe, and the world, have heard both of him and
of the satellites by whom he is surrounded, and it is impossible to
discuss fairly the propriety of any answer which could be returned to
his overtures of negotiation without taking into consideration the
inferences to be drawn from his personal character and conduct. I know
it is the fashion with some gentlemen to represent any reference to
topics of this nature as invidious and irritating; but the truth is,
that they rise unavoidably out of the very nature of the question.
Would it have been possible for ministers to discharge their duty,
in offering their advice to their sovereign, either for accepting or
declining negotiation, without taking into their account the reliance
to be placed on the disposition and the principles of the person on
whose disposition and principles the security to be obtained by treaty
must, in the present circumstances, principally depend? Or would they
act honestly or candidly toward Parliament and toward the country if,
having been guided by these considerations, they forbore to state,
publicly and distinctly, the real grounds which have influenced their
decision; and if, from a false delicacy and groundless timidity, they
purposely declined an examination of a point, the most essential toward
enabling Parliament to form a just determination on so important a

What opinion, then, are we led to form of the pretensions of the
Consul to those particular qualities for which, in the official note,
his personal character is represented to us as the surest pledge of
peace? We are told this is his second attempt at general pacification.
Let us see, for a moment, how his attempt has been conducted. There
is, indeed, as the learned gentleman has said, a word in the first
declaration which refers to general peace, and which states this to
be the second time in which the Consul has endeavored to accomplish
that object. We thought fit, for the reasons which have been assigned,
to decline altogether the proposal of treating, under the present
circumstances, but we, at the same time, expressly stated that,
whenever the moment for treaty should arrive, we would in no case
treat but in conjunction with our allies. Our general refusal to
negotiate at the present moment does not prevent the Consul from
renewing his overtures; but are they renewed for the purpose of general
pacification? Though he had hinted at general peace in the terms of
his first note; though we had shown by our answer that we deemed
negotiation, even for general peace, at this moment inadmissible;
though we added that, even at any future period, we would treat only
in conjunction with our allies, what was the proposal contained in his
last note? To treat for a separate peace between Great Britain and

Such was the second attempt to effect _general pacification_—a proposal
for a _separate_ treaty with Great Britain. What had been the first?
The conclusion of a separate treaty with Austria; and there are two
anecdotes connected with the conclusion of this treaty, which are
sufficient to illustrate the disposition of this pacificator of Europe.
This very treaty of Campo Formio was ostentatiously professed to be
concluded with the Emperor for the purpose of enabling Bonaparte to
take the command of the army of England, and to dictate a separate
peace with this country on the banks of the Thames. But there is this
additional circumstance, singular beyond all conception, considering
that we are now referred to the treaty of Campo Formio as a proof of
the personal disposition of the Consul to general peace. He sent his
two confidential and chosen friends, Berthier and Monge, charged to
communicate to the Directory this treaty of Campo Formio; to announce
to them that one enemy was humbled, that the war with Austria was
terminated, and, therefore, that now was the moment to prosecute
their operations against this country; they used on this occasion the
memorable words: “_The kingdom of Great Britain and the French Republic
can not exist together._”[14] This, I say, was the solemn declaration
of the deputies and embassadors of Bonaparte himself, offering to
the Directory the first-fruits of this first attempt at general

So much for his disposition toward general pacification. Let us look
next at the part he has taken in the different stages of the French
Revolution, and let us then judge whether we are to look to him as
the security against revolutionary principles. Let us determine what
reliance we can place on his engagements with other countries, when
we see how he has observed his engagements to his own. When the
Constitution of the third year was established under Barras, that
Constitution was imposed by the arms of Bonaparte, then commanding the
army of the triumvirate in Paris. To that Constitution he then swore
fidelity. How often he has repeated the same oath, I know not, but
twice, at least, we know that he has not only repeated it himself,
but tendered it to others, under circumstances too striking not to be

Sir, the House cannot have forgotten the Revolution of the 4th of
September, which produced the dismissal of Lord Malmesbury from
Lisle. How was that revolution procured? It was procured chiefly
by the promise of Bonaparte, in the name of his army, decidedly to
support the Directory in those measures which led to the infringement
and violation of every thing that the authors of the Constitution
of 1795, or its adherents, could consider as fundamental, and which
established a system of despotism inferior only to that now realized
in his own person. Immediately before this event, in the midst of the
desolation and bloodshed of Italy he had received the sacred present
of new banners from the Directory; he delivered them to his army with
this exhortation: “Let us swear, fellow-soldiers, by the names of the
patriots who have died by our side, eternal hatred to the enemies of
the Constitution of the third year,”—that very Constitution which he
soon after enabled the Directory to violate, and which at the head
of his grenadiers he has now finally destroyed. Sir, that oath was
again renewed, in the midst of that very scene to which I have last
referred; the oath of fidelity to the Constitution of the third year
was administered to all the members of the Assembly then sitting, under
the terror of the bayonet, as the solemn preparation for the business
of the day; and the morning was ushered in with swearing attachment to
the Constitution, that the evening might close with its destruction.

If we carry our views out of France, and look at the dreadful catalogue
of all the breaches of treaty, all the acts of perfidy at which I have
only glanced, and which are precisely commensurate with the number of
treaties which the Republic has made (for I have sought in vain for any
one which it has made and which it has not broken); if we trace the
history of them all from the beginning of the Revolution to the present
time, or if we select those which have been accompanied by the most
atrocious cruelty, and marked the most strongly with the characteristic
features of the Revolution, the name of Bonaparte will be found allied
to more of them than that of any other that can be handed down in the
history of the crimes and miseries of the last ten years. His name
will be recorded with the horrors committed in Italy, in the memorable
campaign of 1796 and 1797, in the Milanese, in Genoa, in Modena, in
Tuscany, in Rome, and in Venice.

His entrance into Lombardy was announced by a solemn proclamation,
issued on the 27th of April, 1796, which terminated with these words:
“Nations of Italy! the French Army is come to break your chains;
the French are the friends of the people in every country; your
religion, your property, your customs shall be respected.” This was
followed by a second proclamation, dated from Milan, 20th of May,
and signed “_Bonaparte_,” in these terms: “Respect for property and
personal security; respect for the religion of countries—these are the
sentiments of the government of the French Republic and of the army
of Italy. The French, victorious, consider the nations of Lombardy as
their brothers.” In testimony of this fraternity, and to fulfil the
solemn pledge of respecting property, this very proclamation imposed
on the Milanese a provisional contribution to the amount of twenty
millions of livres, or near one million sterling, and successive
exactions were afterward levied on that single state to the amount, in
the whole, of near six millions sterling. The regard to religion and
to the customs of the country was manifested with the same scrupulous
fidelity. The churches were given up to indiscriminate plunder. Every
religious and charitable fund, every public treasure, was confiscated.
The country was made the scene of every species of disorder and
rapine. The priests, the established form of worship, all the objects
of religious reverence, were openly insulted by the French troops; at
Pavia, particularly, the tomb of St. Augustin, which the inhabitants
were accustomed to view with peculiar veneration, was mutilated and
defaced; this last provocation having roused the resentment of the
people they flew to arms, surrounded the French garrison and took
them prisoners, but carefully abstained from offering any violence
to a single soldier. In revenge for this conduct, Bonaparte, then on
his march to the Mincio, suddenly returned, collected his troops, and
carried the extremity of military execution over the country. He burned
the town of Benasco, and massacred eight hundred of its inhabitants; he
marched to Pavia, took it by storm, and delivered it over to general
plunder, and published, at the same moment, a proclamation of the 26th
of May, ordering his troops to shoot all those who had not laid down
their arms and taken an oath of obedience, and to burn every village
where the tocsin should be sounded, and to put its inhabitants to death.

The transactions with Modena were on a smaller scale, but in the same
character. Bonaparte began by signing a treaty, by which the Duke
of Modena was to pay twelve millions of livres, and neutrality was
promised him in return; this was soon followed by the personal arrest
of the Duke, and by a fresh extortion of two hundred thousand sequins.
After this he was permitted, on the payment of a farther sum, to sign
another treaty, called a _convention de sureté_, which of course was
only the prelude to the repetition of similar exactions.

Nearly at the same period, in violation of the rights of neutrality and
of the treaty which had been concluded between the French Republic and
the Grand Duke of Tuscany in the preceding year, and in breach of a
positive promise given only a few days before, the French army forcibly
took possession of Leghorn, for the purpose of seizing the British
property which was deposited there and confiscating it as a prize; and
shortly after, when Bonaparte agreed to evacuate Leghorn, in return
for the evacuation of the island of Elba, which was in possession of
the British troops, he insisted upon a separate article, by which,
in addition to the plunder before obtained, by the infraction of the
law of nations, it was stipulated that the Grand Duke should pay the
expense which the French had incurred by this invasion of his territory.

In the proceedings toward Genoa we shall find not only a continuance
of the same system of extortion and plunder, in violation of the
solemn pledge contained in the proclamations already referred to,
but a striking instance of the revolutionary means employed for the
destruction of independent governments. A French minister was at that
time resident at Genoa, which was acknowledged by France to be in
a state of neutrality and friendship; in breach of this neutrality
Bonaparte began, in the year 1796, with the demand of a loan. He
afterward, from the month of September, required and enforced the
payment of a monthly subsidy, to the amount which he thought proper
to stipulate. These exactions were accompanied by repeated assurances
and protestations of friendship; they were followed, in May, 1797, by
a conspiracy against the government, fomented by the emissaries of the
French embassy, and conducted by the partisans of France, encouraged
and afterward protected by the French minister. The conspirators failed
in their first attempt. Overpowered by the courage and voluntary
exertions of the inhabitants, their force was dispersed, and many
of their number were arrested. Bonaparte instantly considered the
defeat of the conspirators as an act of aggression against the French
Republic; he despatched an aid-de-camp with an order to the Senate
of this independent State; first, to release all the French who were
detained; secondly, to punish those who had arrested them; thirdly, to
declare that _they had no share in the insurrection_; and fourthly,
to disarm the people. Several French prisoners were immediately
released, and a proclamation was preparing to disarm the inhabitants,
when, by a second note, Bonaparte required the arrest of the three
inquisitors of state, and immediate alterations in the Constitution. He
accompanied this with an order to the French minister to quit Genoa,
if his commands were not immediately carried into execution; at the
same moment his troops entered the territory of the Republic; and
shortly after, the councils, intimidated and overpowered, abdicated
their functions. Three deputies were then sent to Bonaparte to receive
from him a new Constitution. On the 6th of June, after the conferences
at Montebello, he signed a convention, or rather issued a decree, by
which he fixed the new form of their government; he himself named
provisionally all the members who were to compose it, and he required
the payment of seven millions of livres as the price of the subversion
of their Constitution and their independence. These transactions
require but one short comment. It is to be found in the official
account given of them at Paris; which is in these memorable words:
“General Bonaparte has pursued the only line of conduct which could be
allowed in the representative of a nation which has supported the war
only to procure the solemn acknowledgment of the right of nations to
change the form of their government. He contributed nothing toward the
revolution of Genoa, but he seized the first moment to acknowledge the
new government, as soon as he saw that it was the result of the wishes
of the people.”

It is unnecessary to dwell on the wanton attacks against Rome, under
the direction of Bonaparte himself, in the year 1796, and in the
beginning of 1797, which terminated first by the treaty of Tolentino
concluded by Bonaparte, in which, by enormous sacrifices, the Pope was
allowed to purchase the acknowledgment of his authority as a sovereign
prince; and secondly, by the violation of that very treaty, and the
subversion of the papal authority by Joseph Bonaparte, the brother and
the agent of the general, and the minister of the French Republic to
the Holy See. A transaction accompanied by outrages and insults toward
the pious and venerable Pontiff, in spite of the sanctity of his age
and the unsullied purity of his character, which even to a Protestant
seem hardly short of the guilt of sacrilege.

But of all the disgusting and tragical scenes which took place in
Italy in the course of the period I am describing, those which passed
at Venice are perhaps the most striking and the most characteristic.
In May, 1796, the French army, under Bonaparte, in the full tide of
its success against the Austrians, first approached the territories of
this Republic, which from the commencement of the war had observed a
rigid neutrality. Their entrance on these territories was, as usual,
accompanied by a solemn proclamation in the name of their general:


    “It is to deliver the finest country in Europe _from the iron
    yoke of the proud house of Austria_, that the French army has
    braved obstacles the most difficult to surmount. Victory in
    union with justice has crowned its efforts. The wreck of the
    enemy’s army has retired behind the Mincio. The French army, in
    order to follow them, passes over the territory of the Republic
    of Venice; but it will never forget that ancient friendship
    unites the two republics. Religion, government, customs, and
    property shall be respected. That the people may be without
    apprehension, the most severe discipline shall be maintained.
    All that may be provided for the army shall be faithfully paid
    for in money. The general-in-chief engages the officers of the
    Republic of Venice, the magistrates, and the priests, to make
    known these sentiments to the people, in order that confidence
    may cement that friendship which has so long united the two
    nations. Faithful in the path of honor as in that of victory,
    the French soldier is terrible only to the enemies of his
    liberty and his government.


This proclamation was followed by exactions similar to those which
were practised against Genoa, by the renewal of similar professions of
friendship, and the use of similar means to excite insurrection. At
length, in the spring of 1797, occasion was taken, from disturbances
thus excited, to forge in the name of the Venetian Government, a
proclamation hostile to France, and this proceeding was made the ground
for military execution against the country, and for effecting by force
the subversion of its ancient government and the establishment of the
democratic forms of the French Revolution. This revolution was sealed
by a treaty, signed in May, 1797, between Bonaparte and commissioners
appointed on the part of the new and revolutionary government of
Venice. By the second and third secret articles of this treaty, Venice
agreed to give as a ransom, to secure itself against all further
exactions or demands, the sum of three millions of livres in money,
the value of three millions more in articles of naval supply, and
three ships of the line; and it received in return the assurances
of the friendship and support of the French Republic. Immediately
after the signature of this treaty, the arsenal, the library, and the
palace of St. Marc were ransacked and plundered, and heavy additional
contributions were imposed upon its inhabitants. And, in not more than
four months afterward, this very Republic of Venice, united by alliance
to France, the creature of Bonaparte himself, from whom it had received
the present of French liberty, was by the same Bonaparte transferred,
under the treaty of Campo Formio, to “_that iron yoke of the proud
house of Austria_,” to deliver it from which he had represented in his
first proclamation to be the great object of all his operations.

Sir, all this is followed by the memorable expedition into Egypt,
which I mention, not merely because it forms a principal article in
the catalogue of those acts of violence and perfidy in which Bonaparte
has been engaged; not merely because it was an enterprise peculiarly
his own, of which he was himself the planner, the executor, and
the betrayer; but chiefly because when from thence he retires to a
different scene, to take possession of a new throne, from which he is
to speak upon an equality with the kings and governors of Europe, he
leaves behind him, at the moment of his departure, a specimen, which
cannot be mistaken, of his principles of negotiation. The intercepted
correspondence which has been alluded to in this debate, seems to
afford the strongest ground to believe that his offers to the Turkish
Government to evacuate Egypt were made solely with a view to gain time;
that the ratification of any treaty on this subject was to be delayed
with the view of finally eluding its performance, if any change of
circumstances favorable to the French should occur in the interval.
But whatever gentlemen may think of the intention with which these
offers were made, there will at least be no question with respect to
the credit due to those professions by which he endeavored to prove
in Egypt his pacific dispositions. He expressly enjoins his successor
strongly and steadily to insist, in all his intercourse with the Turks,
that he came to Egypt with no hostile design, and that he never meant
to keep possession of the country; while, on the opposite page of the
same instructions, he states in the most unequivocal manner his regret
at the discomfiture of his favorite project of colonizing Egypt, and
of maintaining it as a territorial acquisition. Now, sir, if in any
note addressed to the Grand Vizier or the Sultan, Bonaparte had claimed
credit for the sincerity of his professions, that he came to Egypt with
no view hostile to Turkey, and solely for the purpose of molesting the
British interests, is there any one argument now used to induce us
to believe his present professions to us, which might not have been
equally urged on that occasion? Would not those professions have been
equally supported by solemn asseveration, by the same reference which
is now made to personal character, with this single difference, that
they would have then had one instance less of hypocrisy and falsehood,
which we have since had occasion to trace in this very transaction?

It is unnecessary to say more with respect to the credit due to his
professions, or the reliance to be placed on his general character.
But it will, perhaps, be argued that whatever may be his character,
or whatever has been his past conduct, he has now an interest in
making and observing peace. That he has an interest in making peace
is at best but a doubtful proposition, and that he has an interest
in preserving it is still more uncertain. That it is his interest to
negotiate, I do not indeed deny. It is his interest, above all, to
engage this country in separate negotiation, in order to loosen and
dissolve the whole system of the confederacy on the continent, to palsy
at once the arms of Russia, or of Austria, or of any other country
that might look to you for support; and then either to break off his
separate treaty, or, if he should have concluded it, to apply the
lesson which is taught in his school of policy in Egypt, and to revive
at his pleasure those claims of indemnification which _may have been
reserved to some happier period_.

This is precisely the interest which he has in negotiation. But on what
grounds are we to be convinced that he has an interest in concluding
and observing a solid and permanent pacification? Under all the
circumstances of his personal character, and his newly acquired power,
what other security has he for retaining that power but the sword? His
hold upon France is the sword, and he has no other. Is he connected
with the soil, or with the habits, the affections, or the prejudices of
the country? He is a stranger, a foreigner, and a usurper. He unites
in his own person every thing that a pure republican must detest; every
thing that an enraged Jacobin has abjured; every thing that a sincere
and faithful royalist must feel as an insult. If he is opposed at any
time in his career, what is his appeal? _He appeals to his fortune_;
in other words, to his army and his sword. Placing, then, his whole
reliance upon military support, can he afford to let his military
renown pass away, to let his laurels wither, to let the memory of his
trophies sink in obscurity? Is it certain that with his army confined
within France, and restrained from inroads upon her neighbors, that he
can maintain, at his devotion, a force sufficiently numerous to support
his power? Having no object but the possession of absolute dominion, no
passion but military glory, is it to be reckoned as certain that he can
feel such an interest in permanent peace as would justify us in laying
down our arms, reducing our expense, and relinquishing our means of
security, on the faith of his engagements? Do we believe that, after
the conclusion of peace, he would not still sigh over the lost trophies
of Egypt, wrested from him by the celebrated victory of Aboukir, and
the brilliant exertions of that heroic band of British seamen, whose
influence and example rendered the Turkish troops invincible at Acre?
Can he forget that the effect of these exploits enabled Austria and
Russia, in one campaign, to recover from France all which she had
acquired by his victories, to dissolve the charm which for a time
fascinated Europe, and to show that their generals, contending in a
just cause, could efface, even by their success and their military
glory, the most dazzling triumphs of his victorious and desolating

Can we believe, with these impressions on his mind, that if, after a
year, eighteen months, or two years of peace had elapsed, he should be
tempted by the appearance of fresh insurrection in Ireland, encouraged
by renewed and unrestrained communication with France, and fomented by
the fresh infusion of Jacobin principles; if we were at such a moment
without a fleet to watch the ports of France, or to guard the coasts
of Ireland, without a disposable army, or an embodied militia, capable
of supplying a speedy and adequate re-enforcement, and that he had
suddenly the means of transporting thither a body of twenty or thirty
thousand French troops; can we believe that, at such a moment, his
ambition and vindictive spirit would be restrained by the recollection
of engagements or the obligation of treaty? Or if, in some new crisis
of difficulty and danger to the Ottoman Empire, with no British navy in
the Mediterranean, no confederacy formed, no force collected to support
it, an opportunity should present itself for resuming the abandoned
expedition to Egypt, for renewing the avowed and favorite project
of conquering and colonizing that rich and fertile country, and of
opening the way to wound some of the vital interests of England, and
to plunder the treasures of the East, in order to fill the bankrupt
coffers of France,—would it be the interest of Bonaparte, under such
circumstances, or his principles, his moderation, his love of peace,
his aversion to conquest, and his regard for the independence of other
nations—would it be all or any of these that would secure us against an
attempt which would leave us only the option of submitting without a
struggle to certain loss and disgrace, or of renewing the contest which
we had prematurely terminated, without allies, without preparation,
with diminished means, and with increased difficulty and hazard?

Hitherto I have spoken only of the reliance which we can place on
the professions, the character, and the conduct of the present First
Consul; but it remains to consider the stability of his power. The
Revolution has been marked throughout by a rapid succession of new
depositaries of public authority, each supplanting its predecessor.
What grounds have we to believe that this new usurpation, more odious
and more undisguised than all that preceded it, will be more durable?
Is it that we rely on the particular provisions contained in the code
of the pretended Constitution, which was proclaimed as accepted by
the French people as soon as the garrison of Paris declared their
determination to exterminate all its enemies, and before any of its
articles could even be known to half the country, whose consent was
required for its establishment?

I will not pretend to inquire deeply into the nature and effects of a
Constitution which can hardly be regarded but as a farce and a mockery.
If, however, it could be supposed that its provisions were to have any
effect, it seems equally adapted to two purposes: that of giving to its
founder, for a time, an absolute and uncontrolled authority; and that
of laying the certain foundation of disunion and discord, which, if
they once prevail, must render the exercise of all the authority under
the Constitution impossible, and leave no appeal but to the sword.

Is, then, military despotism that which we are accustomed to consider
as a stable form of government? In all ages of the world it has been
attended with the least stability to the persons who exercised it,
and with the most rapid succession of changes and revolutions. In
the outset of the French Revolution, its advocates boasted that it
furnished a security forever, not to France only, but to all countries
in the world, against military despotism; that the force of standing
armies was vain and delusive; that no artificial power could resist
public opinion; and that it was upon the foundation of public opinion
alone that any government could stand. I believe that in this instance,
as in every other, the progress of the French Revolution has belied
its professions; but, so far from its being a proof of the prevalence
of public opinion against military force, it is, instead of the proof,
the strongest exception from that doctrine which appears in the history
of the world. Through all the stages of the Revolution military force
has governed, and public opinion has scarcely been heard. But still
I consider this as only an exception from a general truth. I still
believe that in every civilized country, not enslaved by a Jacobin
faction, public opinion is the only sure support of any government. I
believe this with the more satisfaction, from a conviction that, if
this contest is happily terminated, the established governments of
Europe will stand upon that rock firmer than ever; and, whatever may
be the defects of any particular Constitution, those who live under
it will prefer its continuance to the experiment of changes which may
plunge them in the unfathomable abyss of revolution, or extricate them
from it only to expose them to the terrors of military despotism. And
to apply this to France, I see no reason to believe that the present
usurpation will be more permanent than any other military despotism
which has been established by the same means, and with the same
defiance of public opinion.

What, then, is the inference I draw from all that I have now stated?
Is it that we will in _no case_ treat with Bonaparte? I say no such
thing. But I say, as has been said in the answer returned to the
French note, that we ought to wait for “_experience and the evidence
of facts_” before we are convinced that such a treaty is admissible.
The circumstances I have stated would well justify us if we should be
slow in being convinced; but on a question of peace and war, every
thing depends upon degree and upon comparison. If, on the one hand,
there should be an appearance that the policy of France is at length
guided by different maxims from those which have hitherto prevailed;
if we should hereafter see signs of stability in the government which
are not now to be traced; if the progress of the allied army should
not call forth such a spirit in France as to make it probable that
the act of the country itself will destroy the system now prevailing;
if the danger, the difficulty, the risk of continuing the contest
should increase, while the hope of complete ultimate success should be
diminished; all these, in their due place, are considerations which,
with myself and, I can answer for it, with every one of my colleagues,
will have their just weight. But at present these considerations all
operate one way; at present there is nothing from which we can presage
a favorable disposition to change in the French councils. There is the
greatest reason to rely on powerful co-operation from our allies; there
are the strongest marks of a disposition in the interior of France
to active resistance against this new tyranny; and there is every
ground to believe, on reviewing our situation and that of the enemy,
that, if we are ultimately disappointed of that complete success which
we are at present entitled to hope, the continuance of the contest,
instead of making our situation comparatively worse, will have made it
comparatively better.

If, then, I am asked how long are we to persevere in the war, I can
only say that no period can be accurately assigned. Considering the
importance of obtaining complete security for the objects for which we
contend, we ought not to be discouraged too soon; but, on the contrary,
considering the importance of not impairing and exhausting the radical
strength of the country, there are limits beyond which we ought not to
persist, and which we can determine only by estimating and comparing
fairly, from time to time, the degree of security to be obtained by
treaty, and the risk and disadvantage of continuing the contest.

But, sir, there are some gentlemen in the House who seem to consider
it already certain that the ultimate success to which I am looking is
unattainable. They suppose us contending only for the restoration of
the French monarchy, which they believe to be impracticable, and deny
to be desirable for this country. We have been asked in the course
of this debate: Do you think you can impose monarchy upon France,
against the will of the nation? I never thought it, I never hoped it,
I never wished it. I have thought, I have hoped, I have wished, that
the time might come when the effect of the arms of the allies might so
far overpower the military force which keeps France in bondage, as to
give vent and scope to the thoughts and actions of its inhabitants. We
have, indeed, already seen abundant proof of what is the disposition
of a large part of the country; we have seen almost through the whole
of the Revolution the western provinces of France deluged with the
blood of its inhabitants, obstinately contending for their ancient
laws and religion. We have recently seen, in the revival of that war,
fresh proof of the zeal which still animates those countries in the
same cause. These efforts (I state it distinctly, and there are those
near me who can bear witness to the truth of the assertion) were not
produced by any instigation from hence; they were the effects of a
rooted sentiment prevailing through all those provinces forced into
action by the “law of the hostages” and the other tyrannical measures
of the Directory, at the moment when we were endeavoring to discourage
so hazardous an enterprise. If, under such circumstances, we find them
giving proofs of their unalterable perseverance in their principles;
if there is every reason to believe that the same disposition prevails
in many other extensive provinces of France; if every party appears at
length equally wearied and disappointed with all the successive changes
which the Revolution has produced; if the question is no longer between
monarchy, and even the pretence and name of liberty, but between the
ancient line of hereditary princes on the one hand, and a military
tyrant, a foreign usurper, on the other; if the armies of that usurper
are likely to find sufficient occupation on the frontiers, and to be
forced at length to leave the interior of the country at liberty to
manifest its real feeling and disposition; what reason have we to
anticipate, that the restoration of monarchy under such circumstances
is impracticable?

In the exhausted and impoverished state of France, it seems for a time
impossible that any system but that of robbery and confiscation, any
thing but the continued torture, which can be applied only by the
engines of the Revolution, can extort from its ruined inhabitants more
than the means of supporting in peace the yearly expenditure of its
government. Suppose, then, the heir of the house of Bourbon reinstated
on the throne, he will have sufficient occupation in endeavoring, if
possible, to heal the wounds, and gradually to repair the losses of
ten years of civil convulsion; to reanimate the drooping commerce,
to rekindle the industry, to replace the capital, and to revive the
manufactures of the country. Under such circumstances, there must
probably be a considerable interval before such a monarch, whatever
may be his views, can possess the power which can make him formidable
to Europe; but while the system of the Revolution continues, the case
is quite different. It is true, indeed, that even the gigantic and
unnatural means by which that revolution has been supported are so
far impaired; the influence of its principles and the terror of its
arms so far weakened; and its power of action so much contracted and
circumscribed, that against the embodied force of Europe, prosecuting
a vigorous war, we may justly hope that the remnant and wreck of this
system cannot long oppose an effectual resistance.

But, supposing the confederacy of Europe prematurely dissolved;
supposing our armies disbanded, our fleets laid up in our harbors,
our exertions relaxed, and our means of precaution and defence
relinquished; do we believe that the Revolutionary power, with this
rest and breathing-time given it to recover from the pressure under
which it is now sinking, possessing still the means of calling suddenly
and violently into action whatever is the remaining physical force of
France, under the guidance of military despotism; do we believe that
this revolutionary power, the terror of which is now beginning to
vanish, will not again prove formidable to Europe? Can we forget that
in the ten years in which that power has subsisted, it has brought more
misery on surrounding nations, and produced more acts of aggression,
cruelty, perfidy, and enormous ambition than can be traced in the
history of France for the centuries which have elapsed since the
foundation of its monarchy, including all the wars which, in the course
of that period, have been waged by any of those sovereigns, whose
projects of aggrandizement and violations of treaty afford a constant
theme of general reproach against the ancient government of France? And
if not, can we hesitate whether we have the best prospect of permanent
peace, the best security for the independence and safety of Europe,
from the restoration of the lawful government, or from the continuance
of revolutionary power in the hands of Bonaparte?

In compromise and treaty with such a power placed in such hands as
now exercise it, and retaining the same means of annoyance which it
now possesses, I see little hope of permanent security. I see no
possibility at this moment of such a peace as would justify that
liberal intercourse which is the essence of real amity; no chance of
terminating the expenses or the anxieties of war, or of restoring to us
any of the advantages of established tranquillity, and, as a sincere
lover of peace, I cannot be content with its nominal attainment. I must
be desirous of pursuing that system which promises to attain, in the
end, the permanent enjoyment of its solid and substantial blessings
for this country and for Europe. As a sincere lover of peace, 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

When we consider the resources and the spirit of the country, can
any man doubt that if adequate security is not now to be obtained by
treaty, we have the means of prosecuting the contest without material
difficulty or danger, and with a reasonable prospect of completely
attaining our object? I will not dwell on the improved state of public
credit; on the continually increasing amount, in spite of extraordinary
temporary burdens, of our permanent revenue; on the yearly accession of
wealth to an extent unprecedented even in the most flourishing times of
peace, which we are deriving, in the midst of war, from our extended
and flourishing commerce; on the progressive improvement and growth
of our manufactures; on the proofs which we see on all sides of the
uninterrupted accumulation of productive capital; and on the active
exertion of every branch of national industry which can tend to support
and augment the population, the riches, and the power of the country.

As little need I recall the attention of the House to the additional
means of action which we have derived from the great augmentation of
our disposable military force, the continued triumphs of our powerful
and victorious navy, and the events which, in the course of the last
two years, have raised the military ardor and military glory of the
country to a height unexampled in any period of our history.

In addition to these grounds of reliance on our own strength and
exertions, we have seen the consummate skill and valor of the arms of
our allies proved by that series of unexampled successes in the course
of the last campaign, and we have every reason to expect a co-operation
on the continent, even to a greater extent, in the course of the
present year. If we compare this view of our own situation with every
thing we can observe of the state and condition of our enemy—if we can
trace him laboring under equal difficulty in finding men to recruit
his army, or money to pay it—if we know that in the course of the last
year the most rigorous efforts of military conscription were scarcely
sufficient to replace to the French armies, at the end of the campaign,
the numbers which they had lost in the course of it—if we have seen
that that force, then in possession of advantages which it has since
lost, was unable to contend with the efforts of the combined armies—if
we know that, even while supported by the plunder of all the countries
which they had overrun, those armies were reduced, by the confession
of their commanders, to the extremity of distress, and destitute not
only of the principal articles of military supply, but almost of the
necessaries of life—if we see them now driven back within their own
frontiers, and confined within a country whose own resources have long
since been proclaimed by their successive governments to be unequal
either to paying or maintaining them—if we observe that since the last
revolution no one substantial or effectual measure has been adopted
to remedy the intolerable disorder of their finances, and to supply
the deficiency of their credit and resources—if we see through large
and populous districts of France, either open war levied against the
present usurpation, or evident marks of disunion and distraction, which
the first occasion may call forth into a flame—if, I say, sir, this
comparison be just, I feel myself authorized to conclude from it, not
that we are entitled to consider ourselves certain of ultimate success,
not that we are to suppose ourselves exempted from the unforeseen
vicissitudes of war, but that, considering the value of the object
for which we are contending, the means for supporting the contest,
and the probable course of human events, we should be inexcusable,
if at this moment we were to relinquish the struggle on any grounds
short of entire and complete security; that from perseverance in our
efforts under such circumstances, we have the fairest reason to expect
the full attainment of our object; but that at all events, even if we
are disappointed in our more sanguine hopes, we are more likely to
gain than to lose by the continuation of the contest; that every month
to which it is continued, even if it should not in its effects lead
to the final destruction of the Jacobin system, must tend so far to
weaken and exhaust it, as to give us at least a greater comparative
security in any termination of the war; that, on all these grounds,
this is not the moment at which it is consistent with our interest or
our duty to listen to any proposals of negotiation with the present
ruler of France; but that we are not, therefore, pledged to any
_unalterable_ determination as to our future conduct; that in this we
must be regulated by the course of events; and that it will be the duty
of his Majesty’s ministers from time to time to adapt their measures
to any variation of circumstances, to consider how far the effects of
the military operations of the allies or of the internal disposition
of France correspond with our present expectations; and, on a view of
the whole, to compare the difficulties or risks which may arise in the
prosecution of the contest with the prospect of ultimate success, or of
the degree of advantage to be derived from its farther continuance, and
to be governed by the result of all these considerations in the opinion
and advice which they may offer to their sovereign.


Mr. Fox, one of the most celebrated of English orators, was the second
son of the first Lord Holland, and was born in 1749. His father, though
a man of dissolute habits, was an influential member of Parliament,
indeed for many years was regarded as the most formidable opponent of
the elder Pitt in the House of Commons. The elder Fox received, as
a mark of royal favor, the most lucrative office in the gift of the
Government, that of Paymaster of the Forces; and he administered the
duties of this position so much to the satisfaction of the king, that
he was soon advanced to the peerage. His great wealth and his marriage
with Lady Georgiana Lennox, a very accomplished daughter of the Duke
of Richmond, made Holland House what it continued to be for three
generations, the favorite resort of whatever of culture and fashion
allied itself to the cause of its own political party.

It was in the atmosphere of this society that the lot of young Fox
was cast. The eldest son was afflicted with a nervous disease which
impaired his faculties, and consequently all the hopes of the house
were concentrated upon Charles. The father’s ambition for his son
was twofold: He desired that his boy should become at once a great
orator and a leader in the fashionable and dissolute society of the
day. In the one interest he furnished him with the most helpful and
inspiring instruction; in the other he personally introduced him to
the most famous gambling-houses in England and on the continent. The
boy profited by this instruction. He made extraordinary progress. His
biographer tells us that before he was sixteen he was so thoroughly
acquainted with Greek and Latin, that he read them as he read English,
and took up Demosthenes and Cicero as he took up Chatham and Burke. The
father paid his gambling bills with as much cheerfulness as he heard
him recite an ode of Horace or the funeral oration of Pericles. At the
university the young scholar furnished his mind with abundant stores
of literature and history, but he paid no attention to those great
economic questions which, under the influence of Adam Smith were then
beginning to play so large a part in national affairs. Even late in
life he confessed that he had never read the “Wealth of Nations.”

Leaving Oxford at seventeen, Fox went to the continent, where the
prodigal liberality of his father encouraged him in a life of unbounded
indulgence. He not only lost enormous sums of ready money, but his
father was obliged to pay debts amounting to a hundred thousand pounds.
To distract the boy’s attention from further excesses, Lord Holland
resolved to put him into the House of Commons. The system of pocket
boroughs made the opportunity easy; and, as no troublesome questions
were asked, the young profligate took his seat in May of 1768, a year
and eight months before he arrived at the eligible age.

By education and early political alliance Fox was a Tory, and it is
not singular therefore that the Government of Lord North hastened to
avail itself of his talents. In 1770 he was made a Junior Lord of
the Admiralty, and a little later found a seat on the bench of the
Treasury. But his wayward spirit would not brook control. He even went
so far as to take the floor in opposition to the Prime-Minister. This
violation of party discipline brought its natural result, and in 1774
Fox was contemptuously dismissed.

The blow was deserved, and was even needed for the saving of Fox
himself. His excesses in London and on the continent had become so
notorious that the public were fast coming to regard him simply as
a reckless gambler, whose favor and whose opposition were alike of
no importance. It was this contempt on the part of the ministry and
the public which stung him into something like reform. Though he did
not entirely abandon his old methods, he devoted himself to his work
in the House with extraordinary energy. All his ambition was now
directed to becoming a powerful debater. He afterward remarked that
he had literally gained his skill “at the expense of the House,” for
he had sometimes tasked himself to speak on every question that came
up, whether he was interested in it or not, and even whether he knew
any thing about it or not. The result was that in certain important
qualities of a public speaker, he excelled all other men of his time.
Burke even said of him, that “by slow degrees he rose to be the most
brilliant and accomplished debater the world ever saw.”

While this process of rising “by slow degrees” was going on, Fox was
also acquiring fixed ideas in regard to governmental affairs. The
contemptuous dismissal of Lord North probably stimulated his natural
inclinations to go into the opposition. As the American question was
gradually developed, Fox found himself in warm sympathy with the
colonial cause. He denied the right of the mother country to inflict
taxation, and was the first to denounce the policy of the Government
in the House of Commons. He enjoyed the friendship of the ablest men
among the Whigs, and he resorted to them, especially to Burke, for
every kind of political knowledge. Indeed, his obligations to that
great political philosopher were such, that in 1791, at the time of
their alienation on the question of England’s attitude toward the
French Revolution, he declared in the House that “if he were to put
all the political information which he had learned from books, all
he had gained from science, and all which any knowledge of the world
and its affairs had taught him, into one scale, and the improvement
which he had derived from his right honorable friend’s instruction and
conversation in the other, he should be at a loss to decide to which to
give the preference.” Under this influence all his aspirations came to
be devoted, as he once said “to widen the basis of freedom,—to infuse
and circulate the spirit of liberty.” This subject it was that in one
form or another drew forth the most inspiring strains of his eloquence.

Fox’s political morality is not without one very dark stain. For
some years he had been the leader of the opposition to Lord North’s
administration. Under his repeated and powerful blows the great Tory
ministry was obliged to give way. Fox had been so conspicuously at the
head of the opposition that everybody looked to see him elevated to the
position of First Minister. But the king had been scandalized by the
irregularities of Fox’s life, and probably was quite willing to find an
excuse for not calling so able a Whig into power. Lord Shelburne was
appointed instead, and Fox refused to take office under him. But that
was not all. He not only refused to support Shelburne, but within six
months even formed a coalition against him with Lord North. Cooke, in
his “History of Party,” characterizes his action as “a precedent which
strikes at the foundation of political morality, and as a weapon in
the hands of those who would destroy all confidence in the honesty of
public men.” This characterization is not too severe; for the ability
and the lofty integrity of Lord Shelburne were such as to forbid us to
suppose that Fox’s action was the result of any other motive than that
of personal pique and disappointment. He carried his ardent followers
with him; and so shocked were the thinking men of the time, that there
was a general outcry either of regret or of indignation.

Lord Shelburne was of course defeated, and the Coalition ministry,
which it was afterward the great work of Pitt to break, came into
power. The popular sentiment was shown in the fact that, in the first
election that followed, a hundred and sixty of Fox’s friends lost their
seats in the House, and became, in the language of the day, “Fox’s

The views of Fox in regard to the French Revolution were so opposed to
those of Burke, that in 1791 their intimacy and even their friendship
were broken violently asunder. Of that memorable and painful incident
it is not necessary here to speak, other than to say that both of the
orators were wrong and both of them were right. Time has shown that
the evils predicted by Burke as the result of the Revolution were
scarcely an exaggeration of what actually followed; but it has also
shown that Fox was right in continually maintaining that nations,
however wrong may be their principles and methods, should be left to
conduct their internal affairs in their own way. It was this position
of Fox that led him to oppose the general attitude of England in regard
to the course of Napoleon. In the House of Commons he was always
listened to with pleasure; but his habits were such as to prevent his
gaining that confidence of the public which otherwise he might easily
have enjoyed.



  The following speech was delivered immediately after that of Pitt on
  the same subject, given above, and in answer to it.


At so late an hour of the night, I am sure you will do me the justice
to believe that I do not mean to go at length into the discussion of
this great question. Exhausted as the attention of the House must be,
and unaccustomed as I have been of late to attend in my place, nothing
but a deep sense of my duty could have induced me to trouble you at
all, and particularly to request your indulgence at such an hour.

Sir, my honorable and learned friend [Mr. Erskine] has truly said, that
the present is a new era in the war, and the right honorable gentleman
opposite to me [Mr. Pitt] feels the justice of the remark; for, by
travelling back to the commencement of the war, and referring again to
all the topics and arguments which he has so often and so successfully
urged upon the House, and by which he has drawn them on to the support
of his measures, he is forced to acknowledge that, at the end of a
seven years’ conflict, we are come but to a new era in the war, at
which he thinks it necessary only to press all his former arguments
to induce us to persevere. All the topics which have so often misled
us—all the reasoning which has so invariably failed—all the lofty
predictions which have so constantly been falsified by events—all the
hopes which have amused the sanguine, and all the assurances of the
distress and weakness of the enemy which have satisfied the unthinking,
are again enumerated and advanced as arguments for our continuing the
war. What! at the end of seven years of the most burdensome and the
most calamitous struggle in which this country ever was engaged, are
we again to be amused with notions of finance, and calculations of
the exhausted resources of the enemy, as a ground of confidence and
of hope? Gracious God! were we not told five years ago that France
was not only on the brink and in the jaws of ruin, but that she was
actually sunk into the gulf of bankruptcy? Were we not told, as an
unanswerable argument against treating, “that she could not hold
out another campaign—that nothing but peace could save her—that she
wanted only time to recruit her exhausted finances—that to grant her
repose was to grant her the means of again molesting this country, and
that we had nothing to do but persevere for a short time, in order
to save ourselves forever from the consequences of her ambition and
her Jacobinism?” What! after having gone on from year to year upon
assurances like these, and after having seen the repeated refutations
of every prediction, are we again to be gravely and seriously assured,
that we have the same prospect of success on the _same identical
grounds_? And, without any other argument or security, are we invited,
at this new era of the war, to conduct it upon principles which, if
adopted and acted upon, may make it eternal? If the right honorable
gentleman shall succeed in prevailing on Parliament and the country
to adopt the principles which he has advanced this night, I see no
possible termination to the contest. No man can see an end to it; and
upon the assurances and predictions which have so uniformly failed,
we are called upon not merely to refuse all negotiations, but to
countenance principles and views as distant from wisdom and justice, as
they are in their nature wild and impracticable.

I must lament, sir, in common with every genuine friend of peace,
the harsh and unconciliating language which ministers have held to
the French, and which they have even made use of in their answer to
a respectful offer of a negotiation. Such language has ever been
considered as extremely unwise, and has ever been reprobated by
diplomatic men. I remember with pleasure the terms in which Lord
Malmesbury, at Paris, in the year 1796, replied to expressions of this
sort, used by M. de la Croix. He justly said, “that offensive and
injurious insinuations were only calculated to throw new obstacles in
the way of accommodation, and that it was not by revolting reproaches
nor by reciprocal invective that a sincere wish to accomplish the great
work of pacification could be evinced.” Nothing could be more proper
nor more wise than this language; and such ought ever to be the tone
and conduct of men intrusted with the very important task of treating
with a hostile nation. Being a sincere friend to peace, I must say with
Lord Malmesbury, that it is not by reproaches and by invective that we
can hope for a reconciliation; and I am convinced, in my own mind, that
I speak the sense of this House, and, if not of this House, certainly
of a majority of the people of this country, when I lament that any
unprovoked and unnecessary recriminations should be flung out, by which
obstacles are put in the way of pacification. I believe it is the
prevailing sentiment of the people, that we ought to abstain from harsh
and insulting language; and in common with them, I must lament that
both in the papers of Lord Grenville, and this night, such license has
been given to invective and reproach.

For the same reason, I must lament that the right honorable gentleman
[Mr. Pitt] has thought proper to go at such length, and with such
severity of minute investigation, into all the early circumstances
of the war, which (whatever they were) are nothing to the present
purpose, and ought not to influence the present feelings of the
House. I certainly shall not follow him through the whole of this
tedious detail, though I do not agree with him in many of his
assertions. I do not know what impression his narrative may make on
other gentlemen; but I will tell him fairly and candidly, he has not
convinced me. I continue to think, and until I see better grounds for
changing my opinion than any that the right honorable gentleman has
this night produced, I shall continue to think, and to say, plainly
and explicitly, “that this country was the aggressor in the war.”
But with regard to Austria and Prussia—is there a man who, for one
moment, can dispute that they were the aggressors? It will be vain
for the right honorable gentleman to enter into long and plausible
reasoning against the evidence of documents so clear, so decisive—so
frequently, so thoroughly investigated. The unfortunate monarch,
Louis XVI., himself, as well as those who were in his confidence,
has borne decisive testimony to the fact, that between him and the
Emperor [Leopold of Austria] there was an intimate correspondence and
a perfect understanding. Do I mean by this that a positive treaty
was entered into for the dismemberment of France? Certainly not. But
no man can read the declarations which were made at Mantua[16] as
well as at Pilnitz, as they are given by M. Bertrand de Molville,
without acknowledging that this was not merely an intention, but a
_declaration_ of an intention, on the part of the great powers of
Germany, to interfere in the internal affairs of France, for the
purpose of regulating the government against the opinion of the people.
This, though not a plan for the partition of France, was, in the eye
of reason and common-sense, an aggression against France. The right
honorable gentleman denies that there was such a thing as a treaty of
Pilnitz. Granted. But was there not a declaration which amounted to
an act of hostile aggression? The two powers, the Emperor of Germany
and the King of Prussia, made a public declaration that they were
determined to employ their forces, in conjunction with those of the
other sovereigns of Europe, “to put the King of France in a situation
to establish, in perfect liberty, the foundations of a monarchical
government equally agreeable to the rights of sovereigns and the
welfare of the French.” Whenever the other princes should agree to
co-operate with them, “_then, and in that case_, their majesties were
determined to act promptly and by mutual consent, with the forces
necessary to obtain the end proposed by all of them. In the meantime,
they declared, that they would give orders for their troops to be
ready for actual service.” Now, I would ask gentlemen to lay their
hands upon their hearts, and say with candor what the true and fair
construction of this declaration was—whether it was not a menace and an
insult to France, since, in direct terms, it declared, that whenever
the other powers should concur, they would attack France, then at
peace with them, and then employed only in domestic and in internal
regulations? Let us suppose the case to be that of Great Britain. Will
any gentleman say that if two of the great powers should make a public
declaration that they were determined to make an attack on this kingdom
as soon as circumstances should favor their intention; that they only
waited for this occasion, and that in the meantime they would keep
their forces ready for the purpose, it would not be considered by the
Parliament and people of this country as a hostile aggression? And is
there any Englishman in existence who is such a friend to peace as to
say that the nation could retain its honor and dignity if it should sit
down under such a menace? I know too well what is due to the national
character of England to believe that there would be two opinions on
the case, if thus put home to our own feelings and understandings.
We must, then, respect in others the indignation which such an act
would excite in ourselves; and when we see it established on the most
indisputable testimony, that both at Pilnitz and at Mantua declarations
were made to this effect, it is idle to say that, as far as the Emperor
and the King of Prussia were concerned, they were not the aggressors in
the war.

“Oh! but the decree of the 19th of November, 1792.”[17] That, at least,
the right honorable gentleman says, you must allow to be an act of
aggression, not only against England, but against all the sovereigns
of Europe. I am not one of those, sir, who attach much interest to the
general and indiscriminate provocations thrown out at random, like this
resolution of the 19th of November, 1792. I do not think it necessary
to the dignity of any people to notice and to apply to themselves
menaces without particular allusion, which are always unwise in the
power which uses them, and which it is still more unwise to treat with
seriousness. But if any such idle and general provocation to nations
is given, either in insolence or in folly, by any government, it is
a clear first principle that an _explanation_ is the thing which a
magnanimous nation, feeling itself aggrieved, ought to demand; and if
an explanation be given which is not satisfactory, it ought clearly
and distinctly to say so. There should be no ambiguity, no reserve,
on the occasion. Now, we all know, from documents on our table, that
M. Chauvelin [the French minister] did give an explanation of this
silly decree. He declared, “in the name of his government, that it was
never meant that the French Government should favor insurrections;
that the decree was applicable only to those people who, after having
acquired their liberty by conquest, should demand the assistance of
the Republic; but that France would respect not only the independence
of England, but also that of her allies with whom she was not at war.”
This was the explanation of the offensive decree. “But this explanation
was not satisfactory.” Did you _say so_ to M. Chauvelin? Did you tell
him that you were not content with this explanation? and when you
dismissed him afterward, on the death of the King [of France], did
you say that this explanation was unsatisfactory? No. You did no such
thing; and I contend that unless you demanded _further_ explanations,
and they were refused, you have no right to urge the decree of the
19th of November as an act of aggression. In all your conferences and
correspondence with M. Chauvelin did you hold out to him _what terms
would satisfy you_? Did you give the French the power or the means of
settling the misunderstanding which that decree, or any other of the
points at issue, had created? I maintain that when a nation refuses to
state to another the thing which would satisfy her, she shows that she
is not actuated by a desire to preserve peace between them; and I aver
that this was the case here. The Scheldt, for instance. You now say
that the navigation of the Scheldt was one of your causes of complaint.
Did you explain yourself on that subject? Did you make it one of the
grounds for the dismissal of M. Chauvelin? Sir, I repeat it, that _a
nation, to justify itself in appealing to the last solemn resort,
ought to prove that it has taken every possible means, consistent
with dignity, to demand the reparation and redress which would be
satisfactory; and if she refuses to explain what would be satisfactory,
she does not do her duty, nor exonerate herself from the charge of
being the aggressor_.

But “France,” it seems, “then declared war against us; and she was the
aggressor, because the declaration came from her.” Let us look at
the circumstances of this transaction on both sides. Undoubtedly the
declaration was made by them; but is a declaration the only thing which
constitutes the commencement of a war? Do gentlemen recollect that, in
consequence of a dispute about the commencement of war, respecting the
capture of a number of ships, an article was inserted in our treaty
with France, by which it was positively stipulated that in future, to
prevent all disputes, the act of the _dismissal_ of a minister from
either of the two courts should be held and considered as tantamount to
a declaration of war?[18] I mention this, sir, because when we are idly
employed in this retrospect of the origin of a war which has lasted so
many years, instead of turning our eyes only to the contemplation of
the means of putting an end to it, we seem disposed to overlook every
thing on our own parts, and to search only for grounds of imputation on
the enemy. I almost think it an insult on the House to detain them with
this sort of examination. Why, sir, if France was the aggressor, as the
right honorable gentleman says she was _throughout_, did not Prussia
call upon us for the stipulated number of troops, according to the
article of the definitive treaty of alliance subsisting between us,
by which, in case that either of the contracting parties was attacked,
they had a right to demand the stipulated aid? and the same thing again
may be asked when we were attacked. The right honorable gentleman
might here accuse himself, indeed, of reserve; but it unfortunately
happened, that _at the time_ the point was too clear on which side the
aggression lay. Prussia was too sensible that the war could not entitle
her to make the demand, and that it was not a case within the scope of
the defensive treaty. This is evidence worth a volume of subsequent
reasoning; for if, at the time when all the facts were present to their
minds, they could not take advantage of existing treaties, and that too
when the courts were on the most friendly terms with one another, it
will be manifest to every thinking man that _they were sensible they
were not authorized to make the demand_.

I really, sir, cannot think it necessary to follow the right honorable
gentleman into all the minute details which he has thought proper to
give us respecting the first aggression; but that Austria and Prussia
were the aggressors, not a man in any country, who has ever given
himself the trouble to think at all on the subject, can doubt. Nothing
could be more hostile than their whole proceedings. Did they not
declare to France, that it was her internal concerns, not her external
proceedings, which provoked them to confederate against her? Look back
to the proclamations with which they set out.[19] Read the declarations
which they made themselves to justify their appeal to arms. They did
not pretend to fear her ambition—her conquests—her troubling her
neighbors; but they accused her of new-modelling her own government.
They said nothing of her aggressions abroad. They spoke only of her
clubs and societies at Paris.

Sir, in all this, I am not justifying the French; I am not trying to
absolve them from blame, either in their internal or external policy. I
think, on the contrary, that their successive rulers have been as bad
and as execrable, in various instances, as any of the most despotic
and unprincipled governments that the world ever saw. I think it
impossible, sir, that it should have been otherwise. It was not to be
expected that the French, when once engaged in foreign wars, should
not endeavor to spread destruction around them, and to form plans of
aggrandizement and plunder on every side. Men bred in the school of the
house of Bourbon could not be expected to act otherwise. They could
not have lived so long under their ancient masters without imbibing
the restless ambition, the perfidy, and the insatiable spirit of the
race. They have imitated the practice of their great prototype, and,
through their whole career of mischiefs and of crimes, have done
no more than servilely trace the steps of their own Louis XIV. If
they have overrun countries and ravaged them, they have done it upon
Bourbon principles; if they have ruined and dethroned sovereigns, it
is entirely after the Bourbon manner; if they have even fraternized
with the people of foreign countries, and pretended to make their cause
their own, they have only faithfully followed the Bourbon example. They
have constantly had Louis, the Grand Monarque, in their eye. But it
may be said, that this example was long ago, and that we ought not to
refer to a period so distant. True, it is a remote period applied to
the man, but not so of the principle. The principle was never extinct;
nor has its operation been suspended in France, except, perhaps, for
a short interval, during the administration of Cardinal Fleury; and
my complaint against the Republic of France is, not that she has
generated new crimes—not that she has promulgated new mischief—but
that she has adopted and acted upon the principles which have been
so fatal to Europe under the practice of the House of Bourbon. It
is said, that wherever the French have gone they have introduced
revolution—they have sought for the means of disturbing neighboring
states, and have not been content with mere conquest. What is this but
adopting the ingenious scheme of Louis XIV.? He was not content with
merely overrunning a state. Whenever he came into a new territory, he
established what he called his chamber of claims, a most convenient
device, by which he inquired whether the conquered country or province
had any dormant or disputed claims—any cause of complaint—any unsettled
demand upon any other state or province—upon which he might wage war
upon such state, thereby discover again ground for new devastation, and
gratify his ambition by new acquisitions. What have the republicans
done more atrocious, more Jacobinical than this? Louis went to war
with Holland. His pretext was, that Holland had not treated him with
sufficient _respect_. A very just and proper cause for war indeed!

This, sir, leads me to an example which I think seasonable, and worthy
the attention of his Majesty’s ministers. When our Charles II., as a
short exception to the policy of his reign, made the triple alliance
for the protection of Europe, and particularly of Holland, against the
ambition of Louis XIV., what was the conduct of that great, virtuous,
and most able statesman, M. de Witt, when the confederates came to
deliberate upon the terms upon which they should treat with the French
monarch? When it was said that he had made unprincipled conquests, and
that he ought to be forced to surrender them all, what was the language
of that great and wise man? “No,” said he; “I think we ought not to
look back to the origin of the war so much as the means of putting an
end to it. If you had united in time to prevent these conquests, well;
but now that he has made them, he stands upon the ground of conquest,
and we must agree to treat with him, not with reference to the origin
of the conquest, but with regard to his present posture. He has those
places, and some of them we must be content to give up as the means
of peace; for conquest will always successfully set up its claims to
indemnification.” Such was the language of this minister, who was the
ornament of his time; and such, in my mind, ought to be the language
of statesmen, with regard to the French, at this day; and the same
ought to have been said at the formation of the confederacy. It was
true that the French had overrun Savoy; but they had overrun it upon
Bourbon principles; and, having gained this and other conquests before
the confederacy was formed, they ought to have treated with her rather
for future security than for past correction. States in possession,
whether monarchical or republican, will claim indemnity in proportion
to their success; and it will never so much be inquired by what
right they gained possession as by what means they can be prevented
from enlarging their depredations. Such is the safe practice of the
world; and such ought to have been the conduct of the powers when the
reduction of Savoy made them coalesce. The right honorable gentleman
may know more of the secret particulars of their overrunning Savoy
than I do; but certainly, as they have come to my knowledge, it was a
most Bourbon-like act. A great and justly celebrated historian, I mean
Mr. Hume, a writer certainly estimable in many particulars, but who is
a childish lover of princes, talks of Louis XIV. in very magnificent
terms. But he says of him, that, though he managed his enterprises
with great skill and bravery, he was unfortunate in this, _that he
never got a good and fair pretence for war_. This he reckons among
his misfortunes. Can we say more of the republican French? In seizing
on Savoy I think they made use of the words “_convénances morales et
physiques_.” These were her reasons. A most Bourbon-like phrase. And I
therefore contend that as we never scrupled to treat with the princes
of the House of Bourbon on account of their rapacity, their thirst
of conquest, their violation of treaties, their perfidy, and their
restless spirit, so, I contend, we ought not to refuse to treat with
their republican imitators.

Ministers could not pretend ignorance of the unprincipled manner in
which the French had seized on Savoy. The Sardinian minister complained
of the aggression, and yet no stir was made about it. The courts of
Europe stood by and saw the outrage; and our ministers saw it. The
right honorable gentleman will in vain, therefore, exert his power to
persuade me of the interest he takes in the preservation of the rights
of nations, since, at the moment when an interference might have been
made with effect, no step was taken, no remonstrance made, no mediation
negotiated, to stop the career of conquest. All the pretended and
hypocritical sensibility “for the rights of nations, and for social
order,” with which we have since been stunned, can not impose upon
those who will take the trouble to look back to the period when this
sensibility ought to have roused us into seasonable exertion. At that
time, however, the right honorable gentleman makes it his boast that he
was prevented, by a sense of neutrality, from taking any measures of
precaution on the subject. I do not give the right honorable gentleman
much credit for his spirit of neutrality on the occasion. It flowed
from the sense of the country at the time, the great majority of which
was clearly and decidedly against all interruptions being given to the
French in their desire of regulating their own internal government.

But this neutrality, which respected only the internal rights of the
French, and from which the people of England would never have departed
but for the impolitic and hypocritical cant which was set up to arouse
their jealousy and alarm their fears, was very different from the
great principle of political prudence which ought to have actuated the
councils of the nation, on seeing the first steps of France toward a
career of external conquest. My opinion is, that when the unfortunate
King of France offered to us, in the letter delivered by M. Chauvelin
and M. Talleyrand, and even entreated us to mediate between him and
the allied powers of Austria and Prussia, they [ministers] ought to
have accepted of the offer, and exerted their influence to save Europe
from the consequence of a system which was then beginning to manifest
itself.[20] It was, at least, a question of prudence; and as we had
never refused to treat and to mediate with the old princes on account
of their ambition or their perfidy, we ought to have been equally
ready now, when the same principles were acted upon by other men. I
must doubt the sensibility which could be so cold and so indifferent
at the proper moment for its activity. I fear that there were at that
moment the germs of ambition rising in the mind of the right honorable
gentleman, and that he was beginning, like others, to entertain hopes
that something might be obtained out of the coming confusion. What
but such a sentiment could have prevented him from overlooking the
fair occasion that was offered for preventing the calamities with
which Europe was threatened? What but some such interested principle
could have made him forego the truly honorable task, by which his
administration would have displayed its magnanimity and its power? But
for some such feeling, would not this country, both in wisdom and in
dignity, have interfered, and, in conjunction with the other powers,
have said to France: “You ask for a mediation. We will mediate with
candor and sincerity, but we will at the same time declare to you our
apprehensions. We do not trust to your assertion of a determination
to avoid all foreign conquest, and that you are desirous only of
settling your own constitution, because your language is contradicted
by experience and the evidence of facts. You are Frenchmen, and you can
not so soon have forgotten and thrown off the Bourbon principles in
which you were educated. You have already imitated the bad practice of
your princes. You have seized on Savoy without a color of right. But
here we take our stand. Thus far you have gone, and we can not help
it; but you must go no farther. We will tell you distinctly what we
shall consider as an attack on the balance and the security of Europe;
and, as the condition of our interference, we will tell you also
the securities that we think essential to the general repose.” This
ought to have been the language of his Majesty’s ministers when their
mediation was solicited; and something of this kind they evidently
thought of when they sent the instructions to Petersburgh which they
have mentioned this night, but upon which they never acted. Having not
done so, I say they have no right to talk now about the violated rights
of Europe, about the aggression of the French, and about the origin
of the war in which this country was so suddenly afterward plunged.
Instead of this, what did they do? They hung back; they avoided
explanation; they gave the French no means of satisfying them; and I
repeat my proposition—when there is a question of peace and war between
two nations, _that government finds itself in the wrong which refuses
to state with clearness and precision what she should consider as a
satisfaction and a pledge of peace_.

Sir, if I understand the true precepts of the Christian religion, as
set forth in the New Testament, I must be permitted to say, that there
is no such thing as a rule or doctrine by which we are directed, or can
be justified, in waging a war for religion. The idea is subversive of
the very foundations upon which it stands, which are those of peace and
good-will among men. Religion never was and never can be a justifiable
cause of war; but it has been too often grossly used as the pretext and
the apology for the most unprincipled wars.

I have already said, and I repeat it, that the conduct of the French to
foreign nations can not be justified. They have given great cause of
offence, but certainly not to all countries alike. The right honorable
gentlemen opposite to me have made an indiscriminate catalogue of all
the countries which the French have offended, and, in their eagerness
to throw odium on the nation, have taken no pains to investigate the
sources of their several quarrels. I will not detain you, sir, by
entering into the long detail which has been given of their aggressions
and their violences; but let me mention Sardinia as one instance which
has been strongly insisted upon. Did the French attack Sardinia when
at peace with them? No such thing. The King of Sardinia had accepted
of a subsidy from Great Britain; and Sardinia was, to all intents
and purposes, a belligerent power. Several other instances might
be mentioned; but though, perhaps, in the majority of instances,
the French may be unjustifiable, is this the moment for us to dwell
upon these enormities—to waste our time and inflame our passions by
criminating and recriminating upon each other? There is no end to such
a war. I have somewhere read, I think in Sir Walter Raleigh’s “History
of the World,” of a most bloody and fatal battle which was fought by
two opposite armies, in which almost all the combatants on both sides
were killed, “because,” says the historian, “though they had offensive
weapons on both sides, they had none for defence.” So, in this war of
words, if we are to use only offensive weapons—if we are to indulge
only in invective and abuse, the contest must be eternal.

If this war of reproach and invective is to be countenanced, may not
the French with equal reason complain of the outrages and horrors
committed by the powers opposed to them? If we must not treat with the
French on account of the iniquity of their former transactions, ought
we not to be as scrupulous of connecting ourselves with other powers
equally criminal? Surely, sir, if we must be thus rigid in scrutinizing
the conduct of an enemy, we ought to be equally careful in not
committing ourselves, our honor, and our safety, with an ally who has
manifested the same want of respect for the rights of other nations.
Surely, if it is material to know the character of a power with whom
you are about only to treat for peace, it is more material to know the
character of allies with whom you are about to enter into the closest
connection of friendship, and for whose exertions you are about to pay.
Now, sir, what was the conduct of your own allies to Poland? Is there
a single atrocity of the French, in Italy, in Switzerland, in Egypt,
if you please, more unprincipled and inhuman than that of Russia,
Austria, and Prussia, in Poland? What has there been in the conduct of
the French to foreign powers; what in the violation of solemn treaties;
what in the plunder, devastation, and dismemberment of unoffending
countries; what in the horrors and murders perpetrated upon the subdued
victims of their rage in any district which they have overrun, worse
than the conduct of those three great powers in the miserable, devoted,
and trampled-on kingdom of Poland, and who have been, or are, our
allies in this war for religion and social order, and the rights
of nations? “Oh! but you regretted the partition of Poland!” Yes,
regretted! you regretted the violence, and that is all you did. You
united yourselves with the actors; you, in fact, by your acquiescence,
confirmed the atrocity. But they are your allies; and though they
overran and divided Poland, there was nothing, perhaps, in the manner
of doing it which stamped it with peculiar infamy and disgrace. The
hero of Poland [Suwarroff], perhaps, was merciful and mild! He was “as
much superior to Bonaparte in bravery, and in the discipline which he
maintained, as he was superior in virtue and humanity!”[21] He was
animated by the purest principles of Christianity, and was restrained
in his career by the benevolent precepts which it inculcates. Was
he? Let unfortunate Warsaw, and the miserable inhabitants of the
suburb of Praga in particular, tell! What do we understand to have
been the conduct of this magnanimous hero, with whom, it seems,
Bonaparte is not to be compared? He entered the suburb of Praga, the
most populous suburb of Warsaw; and there he let his soldiery loose
on the miserable, unarmed, and unresisting people. Men, women, and
children, nay, infants at the breast, were doomed to one indiscriminate
massacre! Thousands of them were inhumanly, wantonly butchered! And for
what? Because they had dared to join in a wish to meliorate their own
condition as a people, and to improve their constitution, which had
been confessed by their own sovereign to be in want of amendment. And
such is the hero upon whom the cause of religion and social order is to
repose! And such is the man whom we praise for his discipline and his
virtue, and whom we hold out as our boast and our dependence; while the
conduct of Bonaparte unfits him to be even treated with as an enemy?

But the behavior of the French toward Switzerland raises all the
indignation of the right honorable gentleman, and inflames his
eloquence. I admire the indignation which he expresses, and I think he
felt it, in speaking of this country, so dear and so congenial to every
man who loves the sacred name of liberty. “He who loves Liberty,” says
the right honorable gentleman, “thought himself at home on the favored
and happy mountains of Switzerland, where she seemed to have taken up
her abode under a sort of implied compact, among all other states,
that she should not be disturbed in this her chosen asylum.” I admire
the eloquence of the right honorable gentleman in speaking of this
country of liberty and peace, to which every man would desire, once in
his life at least, to make a pilgrimage! But who, let me ask him, first
proposed to the Swiss people to _depart from the neutrality_, which was
their chief protection, and to join the confederacy against the French?
I aver that a noble relation of mine [Lord Robert Fitzgerald], then the
Minister of England to the Swiss Cantons, was instructed, in direct
terms, to propose to the Swiss, by an official note, to break from the
safe line they had laid down for themselves, and to tell them, “in such
a contest neutrality was criminal.” I know that noble Lord too well,
though I have not been in habits of intercourse with him of late, from
the employments in which he has been engaged, to suspect that he would
have presented such a paper without the express instructions of his
court, or that he would have gone beyond those instructions.

But was it only to Switzerland that this sort of language was held?
What was our language also to Tuscany and Genoa? An honorable
gentleman [Mr. Canning] has denied the authenticity of a pretended
letter which has been circulated, and ascribed to Lord Harvey. He says,
it is all a fable and a forgery. Be it so; but is it also a fable that
Lord Harvey did speak in terms to the Grand Duke, which he considered
as offensive and insulting? I can not tell, for I was not present; but
was it not, and is it not, believed? Is it a fable that Lord Harvey
went into the closet of the Grand Duke, laid his watch on the table
and demanded, in a peremptory manner, that he should, within a certain
number of minutes (I think I have heard within a quarter of an hour),
determine, aye or no, to dismiss the French Minister, and order him
out of his dominions, with the menace, that if he did not, the English
fleet should bombard Leghorn? Will the honorable gentleman deny this
also? I certainly do not know it from my own knowledge; but I know that
persons of the first credit, then at Florence, have stated these facts,
and that they have never been contradicted. It is true that, upon the
Grand Duke’s complaint of this indignity, Lord Harvey was recalled;
but was the _principle_ recalled? was the mission recalled? Did not
ministers persist in the demand which Lord Harvey had made, perhaps
ungraciously? and was not the Grand Duke forced, in consequence, to
dismiss the French Minister? and did they not drive him to enter into
an unwilling war with the republic? It is true that he afterward made
his peace, and that, having done so, he was treated severely and
unjustly by the French; but what do I conclude from all this, but that
we have no right to be scrupulous, we who have violated the respect
due to peaceable powers ourselves, in this war, which, more than any
other that ever afflicted human nature, has been distinguished by the
greatest number of disgusting and outrageous insults by the great to
the smaller powers? And I infer from this, also, that the instances not
being confined to the French, but having been perpetrated by every one
of the allies, and by England as much as by others, we have no right,
either in personal character, or from our own deportment, to refuse to
treat with the French on this ground. Need I speak of your conduct to
Genoa also? Perhaps the note delivered by Mr. Drake was also a forgery.
Perhaps the blockade of the port never took place. It is impossible
to deny the facts, which were so glaring at the time. It is a painful
thing to me, sir, to be obliged to go back to these unfortunate
periods of the history of this war, and of the conduct of this country;
but I am forced to the task by the use which has been made of the
atrocities of the French as an argument against negotiation. I think I
have said enough to prove, that if the French have been guilty, we have
not been innocent. Nothing but determined incredulity can make us deaf
and blind to our own acts, when we are so ready to yield an assent to
all the reproaches which are thrown out on the enemy, and upon which
reproaches we are gravely told to continue the war.

“But the French,” it seems, “have behaved ill everywhere. They seized
on Venice, which had preserved the most exact neutrality, or rather,”
as it is hinted, “had manifested symptoms of friendship to them.” I
agree with the right honorable gentleman, it was an abominable act.
I am not the apologist, much less the advocate, of their iniquities;
neither will I countenance them in their pretences for the injustice.
I do not think that much regard is to be paid to the charges which a
triumphant soldiery bring on the conduct of a people whom they have
overrun. Pretences for outrage will never be wanting to the strong,
when they wish to trample on the weak; but when we accuse the French
of having seized on Venice, after stipulating for its neutrality, and
guaranteeing its independence, we should also remember the excuse that
they made for the violence, namely, that their troops had been attacked
and murdered. I say I am always incredulous about such excuses; but I
think it fair to hear whatever can be alleged on the other side. We
can not take one side of a story only. Candor demands that we should
examine the whole before we make up our minds on the guilt. I can not
think it quite fair to state the view of the subject of one party
as indisputable fact, without even mentioning what the other party
has to say for itself. But, sir, is this all? Though the perfidy of
the French to the Venetians be clear and palpable, was it worse in
morals, in principle, and in example, than the conduct of Austria? My
honorable friend [Mr. Whitbread] properly asked: “Is not the receiver
as bad as the thief?” If the French seized on the territory of Venice,
did not the Austrians agree to receive it? “But this,” it seems, “is
not the same thing.” It is quite in the nature and within the rule of
diplomatic morality, for Austria to receive the country which was
thus seized upon unjustly. “The Emperor took it as a compensation.
It was his by barter. He was not answerable for the guilt by which
it was obtained.” What is this, sir, but the false and abominable
reasoning with which we have been so often disgusted on the subject
of the slave-trade? Just in the same manner have I heard a notorious
wholesale dealer in this inhuman traffic justify his abominable trade.
“I am not guilty of the horrible crime of tearing that mother from her
infants; that husband from his wife; of depopulating that village; of
depriving that family of their sons, the support of their aged parents!
No, thank Heaven! I am not guilty of this horror. I only bought them in
the fair way of trade. They were brought to the market; they had been
guilty of crimes, or they had been made prisoners of war; they were
accused of witchcraft, of obi, or of some other sort of sorcery; and
they were brought to me for sale. I gave a valuable consideration for
them. But God forbid that I should have stained my soul with the guilt
of dragging them from their friends and families!” Such has been the
precious defence of the slave-trade, and such is the argument set up
for Austria in this instance of Venice. “I did not commit the crime
of trampling on the independence of Venice; I did not seize on the
city; I gave a _quid pro quo_. It was a matter of barter and indemnity;
I gave half a million of human beings to be put under the yoke of
France in another district, and I had these people turned over to me
in return!”[22] This, sir, is the defence of Austria, and under such
detestable sophistry is the infernal traffic in human flesh, whether
in white or black, to be continued, and even justified! At no time has
that diabolical traffic been carried to a greater length than during
the present war, and that by England herself, as well as Austria and

“But France,” it seems, “has roused all the nations of Europe against
her”; and the long catalogue has been read to you, to prove that she
must have been atrocious to provoke them all. Is it true, sir, that
she has roused them all? It does not say much for the address of his
Majesty’s ministers, if this be the case. What, sir! have all your
negotiations, all your declamation, all your money, been squandered
in vain? Have you not succeeded in stirring the indignation, and
engaging the assistance, of a single power? But you do yourselves
injustice. Between the crimes of France and your money the rage _has_
been excited, and full as much is due to your seductions as to her
atrocities. My honorable and learned friend [Mr. Erskine] was correct,
therefore, in his argument; for you can not take both sides of the
case; you can not accuse France of having provoked all Europe, and at
the same time claim the merit of having roused all Europe to join you.

You talk, sir, of your allies. I wish to know who your allies are?
Russia is one of them, I suppose. Did France attack Russia? Has the
_magnanimous_ Paul taken the field for social order and religion, or on
account of personal aggression?[23] The Emperor of Russia has declared
himself Grand Master of Malta, though his religion is as opposite to
that of the Knights as ours is; and he is as much considered a heretic
by the Church of Rome as we are. The King of Great Britain might, with
as much reason and propriety, declare himself the head of the order of
the Chartreuse monks. Not content with taking to himself the commandery
of this institution of Malta, Paul has even created a married man a
Knight, contrary to all the most sacred rules and regulations of the
order; and yet this ally of ours is fighting for religion! So much for
his religion. Let us see his regard to social order! How does he show
his abhorrence of the principles of the French, in their violation of
the rights of other nations? What has been his conduct to Denmark? He
says to her: “You have seditious clubs at Copenhagen; no Danish vessel
shall therefore enter the ports of Russia!” He holds a still more
despotic language to Hamburg. He threatens to lay an embargo on her
trade; and he forces her to surrender up men who are claimed by the
French as their citizens, whether truly or not, I do not inquire. He
threatens her with his own vengeance if she refuse, and subjects her
to that of the French if she comply. And what has been his conduct to
Spain? He first sends away the Spanish minister from Petersburgh, and
then complains, as a great insult, that his minister was dismissed from
Madrid! This is one of our allies; and he has declared that the object
for which he has taken up arms is to replace the ancient race of the
house of Bourbon on the throne of France, and that he does this for the
cause of religion and social order! Such is the respect for religion
and social order which he himself displays, and such are the examples
of it with which we coalesce.

No man regrets, sir, more than I do, the enormities that France has
committed; but how do they bear upon the question as it at present
stands? Are we forever to deprive ourselves of the benefits of peace
because France has perpetrated acts of injustice? Sir, we can not
acquit ourselves upon such ground. We _have_ negotiated. With the
knowledge of these acts of injustice and disorder, we have treated
with them twice; yet the right honorable gentleman can not enter into
negotiation with them again; and it is worth while to attend to the
reasons that he gives for refusing their offer. The Revolution itself
is no more an objection now than it was in the year 1796, when he did
negotiate. For the government of France at that time was surely as
unstable as it is at present. * * *

But you say you have not refused to treat. You have stated a case in
which you will be ready immediately to enter into a negotiation, viz.,
the restoration of the House of Bourbon. But you deny that this is
a _sine qua non_; and in your nonsensical language, which I do not
understand, you talk of “limited possibilities,” which may induce
you to treat without the restoration of the House of Bourbon. But do
you state what they are? Now, sir, I say, that if you put one case
upon which you declare that you are willing to treat immediately, and
say that there are other possible cases which may induce you to treat
hereafter, without mentioning what these possible cases are, you do
state a _sine qua non_ of immediate treaty. Suppose I have an estate
to sell, and I say my demand is £1,000 for it. For that sum I will
sell the estate immediately. To be sure, there may be other terms upon
which I may be willing to part with it; but I mention nothing of them.
The £1,000 is the only condition that I state at the time. Will any
gentleman assert that I do not make the £1,000 the _sine qua non_ of
the immediate sale? Thus you say the restoration of the Bourbons is not
the only possible ground; but you give no other. This is your project.
Do you demand a counter project? Do you follow your own rule? Do you
not do the thing of which you complained in the enemy? You seemed to be
afraid of receiving another proposition; and, by confining yourselves
to this one point, you make it in fact, though not in terms, your _sine
qua non_.

But the right honorable gentleman, in his speech, does what the
official note avoids. He finds there the convenient words, “experience
and the evidence of facts.” Upon these he goes into detail; and
in order to convince the House that new evidence is required, he
reverts to all the earliest acts and crimes of the Revolution; to
all the atrocities of all the governments that have passed away; and
he contends that he must have experience that these foul crimes are
repented of, and that a purer and a better system is adopted in France,
by which he may be sure that they will be capable of maintaining the
relations of peace and amity. Sir, these are not conciliatory words;
nor is this a practicable ground to gain experience. Does he think it
possible that evidence of a peaceable demeanor can be obtained in war?
What does he mean to say to the French consul? “Until you shall, in
_war_, behave yourself in a _peaceable_ manner, I will not treat with
you!” Is there not in this something extremely ridiculous? In duels,
indeed, we have often heard of such language. Two gentlemen go out and
fight, when, having discharged their pistols at one another, it is not
unusual for one of them to say to the other: “Now I am satisfied. I
see that you are a man of honor, and we are friends again.” There is
something, by-the-by, ridiculous, even here. But between nations it is
more than ridiculous. It is criminal. It is a ground which no principle
can justify, and which is as impracticable as it is impious. That two
nations should be set on to _beat_ one another into friendship, is
too abominable even for the fiction of romance; but for a statesman
seriously and gravely to lay it down as a system upon which he means to
act, is monstrous. What can we say of such a test as he means to put
the French Government to, but that it is hopeless? It is in the nature
of war to inflame animosity; to exasperate, not to soothe; to widen,
not to approximate. So long as this is to be acted upon, I say it is in
vain to hope that we can have the evidence which we require.

The right honorable gentleman, however, thinks otherwise; and he points
out four distinct possible cases, besides the re-establishment of the
Bourbon family, in which he would agree to treat with the French.

(1) “If Bonaparte shall conduct himself so as to convince him that
he has abandoned the principles which were objectionable in his
predecessors, and that he will be actuated by a more moderate system.”
I ask you, sir, if this is likely to be ascertained in war? It is the
nature of war not to allay, but to inflame the passions; and it is not
by the invective and abuse which have been thrown upon him and his
government, nor by the continued irritations which war is sure to give,
that the virtues of moderation and forbearance are to be nourished.

(2) “If, contrary to the expectations of ministers, the people of
France shall show a disposition to acquiesce in the government of
Bonaparte.” Does the right honorable gentleman mean to say, that
because it is a usurpation on the part of the present chief, that
therefore the people are not likely to acquiesce in it? I have not
time, sir, to discuss the question of this usurpation, or whether
it is likely to be permanent; but I certainly have not so good an
opinion of the French, nor of any people, as to believe that it will
be short-lived, _merely_ because it was a usurpation, and because
it is a system of military despotism. Cromwell was a usurper; and
in many points there may be found a resemblance between him and the
present Chief Consul of France. There is no doubt but that, on
several occasions of his life, Cromwell’s sincerity may be questioned,
particularly in his self-denying ordinance, in his affected piety,
and other things; but would it not have been insanity in France and
Spain to refuse to treat with him because he was a usurper or wanted
candor? No, sir, these are not the maxims by which governments are
actuated. They do not inquire so much into the means by which power
may have been acquired, as into the fact of where the power resides.
The people did acquiesce in the government of Cromwell. But it may be
said that the splendor of his talents, the vigor of his administration,
the high tone with which he spoke to foreign nations, the success of
his arms, and the character which he gave to the English name, induced
the nation to acquiesce in his usurpation; and that we must not try
Bonaparte by his example. Will it be said that Bonaparte is not a man
of great abilities? Will it be said that he has not, by his victories,
thrown a splendor over even the violence of the Revolution, and that
he does not conciliate the French people by the high and lofty tone
in which he speaks to foreign nations? Are not the French, then, as
likely as the English in the case of Cromwell, to acquiesce in his
government? If they should do so, the right honorable gentleman may
find that this possible predicament may fail him. He may find that
though one power may make war, it requires two to make peace. He may
find that Bonaparte was as insincere as himself in the proposition
which he made; and in his turn he may come forward and say: “I have
no occasion now for concealment. It is true that, in the beginning of
the year 1800, I offered to treat, not because I wished for peace,
but because the people of France wished for it; and besides, my old
resources being exhausted, and there being no means of carrying on
the war without ‘a new and solid system of finance,’ I pretended to
treat, because I wished to procure the unanimous assent of the French
people to this ‘new and solid system of finance.’ Did you think I was
in earnest? You were deceived. I now throw off the mask. I have gained
my point, and I reject your offers with scorn.”[24] Is it not a very
possible case that he may use this language? Is it not within the right
honorable gentleman’s _knowledge of human nature_?[25] But even if this
should not be the case, will not the very test which you require, the
acquiescence of the people of France in his government, give him an
advantage-ground in the negotiation which he does not now possess. Is
it quite sure, that when he finds himself safe in his seat, he will
treat on the same terms as at present, and that you will get a better
peace some time hence than you might reasonably hope to obtain at
this moment? Will he not have one interest less to do it? and do you
not overlook a favorable occasion for a chance which is exceedingly
doubtful? These are the considerations which I would urge to his
Majesty’s ministers against the dangerous experiment of waiting for the
acquiescence of the people of France.

(3) “If the allies of this country shall be less successful than they
have every reason to expect they will be in stirring up the people of
France against Bonaparte, and in the further prosecution of the war.”

(4) “If the pressure of the war should be heavier upon us than it
would be convenient for us to continue to bear.” These are the other
two possible emergencies in which the right honorable gentleman would
treat even with Bonaparte. Sir, I have often blamed the right honorable
gentleman for being disingenuous and insincere. On the present occasion
I certainly can not charge him with any such thing. He has made
to-night a most honest confession. He is open and candid. He tells
Bonaparte fairly what he has to expect. “I mean,” says he, “to do
every thing in my power to raise up the people of France against you;
I have engaged a number of allies, and our combined efforts shall be
used to excite insurrection and civil war in France. I will strive
to murder you, or to get you sent away. If I succeed, well; but if I
fail, then I will treat with you. My resources being exhausted; even
my ‘solid system of finance’ having failed to supply me with the means
of keeping together my allies, and of feeding the discontents I have
excited in France, then you may expect to see me renounce my high tone,
my attachment to the House of Bourbon, my abhorrence of your crimes, my
alarm at your principles; for then I shall be ready to own that, on the
balance and comparison of circumstances, there will be less danger in
concluding a peace than in the continuance of war!” Is this political
language for one state to hold to another? And what sort of peace does
the right honorable gentleman expect to receive in that case? Does he
think that Bonaparte would grant to baffled insolence, to humiliated
pride, to disappointment, and to imbecility the same terms which he
would be ready to give now? The right honorable gentleman can not have
forgotten what he said on another occasion:

                “Potuit quæ plurima virtus
    Esse, fuit. Toto certatum est corpore regni.”[26]

He would then have to repeat his words, but with a different
application. He would have to say: “All our efforts are vain. We have
exhausted our strength. Our designs are impracticable, and we must sue
to you for peace.”

Sir, what is the question to-night? We are called upon to support
ministers in refusing a frank, candid, and respectful offer of
negotiation, and to countenance them in continuing the war. Now I
would put the question in another way. Suppose that ministers had
been inclined to adopt the line of conduct which they pursued in 1796
and 1797, and that to-night, instead of a question on a war address,
it had been an address to his Majesty to thank him for accepting the
overture, and for opening a negotiation to treat for peace, I ask the
gentlemen opposite—I appeal to the whole five hundred and fifty-eight
representatives of the people—to lay their hands upon their hearts and
to say whether they would not have cordially voted for such an address.
Would they, or would they not? Yes, sir, if the address had breathed a
spirit of peace, your benches would have resounded with rejoicings, and
with praises of a measure that was likely to bring back the blessings
of tranquillity. On the present occasion, then, I ask for the vote
of no gentlemen but of those who, in the secret confession of their
conscience, admit, at this instant, while they hear me, that they would
have cheerfully and heartily voted with the minister for an address
directly the reverse of the one proposed. If every such gentleman were
to vote with me, I should be this night in the greatest majority that
ever I had the honor to vote with in this House. I do not know that
the right honorable gentleman would find, even on the benches around
him, a single individual who would not vote with me. I am sure he would
not find many. I do not know that in this House I could single out
the individual who would think himself bound by consistency to vote
against the right honorable gentleman on an address for negotiation.
There may be some, but they are very few. I do know, indeed, one most
honorable man in another place, whose purity and integrity I respect,
though I lament the opinion he has formed on this subject, who would
think himself bound, from the uniform consistency of his life, to vote
against an address for negotiation. Earl Fitzwilliam would, I verily
believe, do so. He would feel himself bound, from the previous votes
he has given, to declare his objection to all treaty. But I own I do
not know more in either House of Parliament. There may be others, but
I do not know them. What, then, is the House of Commons come to, when,
notwithstanding their support given to the right honorable gentleman in
1796 and 1797 on his entering into negotiation; notwithstanding their
inward conviction that they would vote with him this moment for the
same measure; who, after supporting the minister in his negotiation
for a solid system of finance, can now bring themselves to countenance
his abandonment of the ground he took, and to support him in refusing
all negotiation! What will be said of gentlemen who shall vote in this
way, and yet feel, in their consciences, that they would have, with
infinitely more readiness, voted the other?

Sir, we have heard to-night a great many most acrimonious invectives
against Bonaparte, against all the course of his conduct, and
against the unprincipled manner in which he seized upon the reins of
government. I will not make his defence. I think all this sort of
invective, which is used only to inflame the passions of this House and
of the country, exceedingly ill-timed, and very impolitic. But I say
I will not make his defence. I am not sufficiently in possession of
materials upon which to form an opinion on the character and conduct
of this extraordinary man. On his arrival in France, he found the
government in a very unsettled state, and the whole affairs of the
Republic deranged, crippled, and involved. He thought it necessary to
reform the government; and he did reform it, just in the way in which
a military man may be expected to carry on a reform. He seized on the
whole authority for himself. It will not be expected from me that I
should either approve or apologize for such an act. I am certainly
not for reforming governments by such expedients; but how this House
can be so violently indignant at the idea of military despotism, is,
I own, a little singular, when I see the composure with which they
can observe it nearer home; nay, when I see them regard it as a
frame of government most peculiarly suited to the exercise of free
opinion, on a subject the most important of any that can engage the
attention of a people. Was it not the system which was so _happily_
and so _advantageously_ established of late, all over Ireland, and
which even now the government may, at its pleasure, proclaim over
the whole of that kingdom? Are not the persons and property of the
people left, in many districts, at this moment, to the entire will of
military commanders? and is not this held out as peculiarly proper and
advantageous, at a time when the people of Ireland are freely, and with
unbiassed judgments, to discuss the most interesting question of a
legislative union? Notwithstanding the existence of martial law, so far
do we think Ireland from being enslaved, that we presume it precisely
the period and the circumstances under which she may best declare her
free opinion? Now, really, sir, I can not think that gentlemen who talk
in this way about Ireland, can, with a good grace, rail at military
despotism in France.

But, it seems, “Bonaparte has broken his oaths. He has violated his
oath of fidelity to the constitution of the third year.” Sir, I am not
one of those who hold that any such oaths ought ever to be exacted.
They are seldom or ever of any effect; and I am not for sporting with
a thing so sacred as an oath. I think it would be good to lay aside
all such oaths. Who ever heard that, in revolutions, the oath of
fidelity to the former government was ever regarded, or even that,
when violated, it was imputed to the persons as a crime? In times of
revolution, men who take up arms are called rebels. If they fail, they
are adjudged to be traitors; but who before ever heard of their being
perjured? On the restoration of King Charles II., those who had taken
up arms for the Commonwealth were stigmatized as rebels and traitors,
but not as men forsworn. Was the Earl of Devonshire charged with being
perjured, on account of the allegiance he had sworn to the House of
Stuart, and the part he took in those struggles which preceded and
brought about the Revolution? The violation of oaths of allegiance was
never imputed to the people of England, and will never be imputed to
any people. But who brings up the question of oaths? He who strives
to make twenty-four millions of persons violate the oaths they have
taken to their present constitution, and who desires to re-establish
the House of Bourbon by such violation of their vows. I put it so,
sir, because, if the question of oaths be of the least consequence, it
is equal on both sides! He who desires the whole people of France to
perjure themselves, and who hopes for success in his project only upon
their doing so, surely can not make it a charge against Bonaparte that
he has done the same!

“Ah! but Bonaparte has declared it as his opinion, that the two
governments of Great Britain and of France can not exist together.
After the treaty of Campo Formio, he sent two confidential persons,
Berthier and Monge, to the Directory, to say so in his name.” Well, and
what is there in this absurd and puerile assertion, if it were ever
made? Has not the right honorable gentleman, in this House, said the
same thing? In this at least they resemble one another! They have both
made use of this assertion; and I believe that these two illustrious
persons are the only two on earth who think it! But let us turn the
tables. We ought to put ourselves at times in the place of the enemy,
if we are desirous of really examining with candor and fairness the
dispute between us. How may they not interpret the speeches of
ministers and their friends, in both Houses of the British Parliament?
If we are to be told of the idle speech of Berthier and Monge, may they
not also bring up speeches, in which it has not been merely hinted,
but broadly asserted, that “the two constitutions of England and
France could not exist together?” May not these offences and charges
be reciprocated without end? Are we ever to go on in this miserable
squabble about words? Are we still, as we happen to be successful on
the one side or the other, to bring up these impotent accusations,
insults, and provocations against each other; and only when we are
beaten and unfortunate, to think of treating? Oh! pity the condition of
man, gracious God, and save us from such a system of malevolence, in
which all our old and venerated prejudices are to be done away, and by
which we are to be taught to consider war as the natural state of man,
and peace but as a dangerous and difficult extremity!

Sir, this temper must be corrected. It is a diabolical spirit, and
would lead to an interminable war. Our history is full of instances
that, where we have overlooked a proffered occasion to treat, we
have uniformly suffered by delay. At what time did we ever profit
by obstinately persevering in war? We accepted at Ryswick the terms
we refused five years before, and the same peace which was concluded
at Utrecht might have been obtained at Gertruydenberg; and as to
security from the future machinations or ambition of the French, I
ask you what security you ever had or could have? Did the different
treaties made with Louis XIV. serve to tie up his hands, to restrain
his ambition, or to stifle his restless spirit? At what time, in old or
in recent periods, could you safely repose on the honor, forbearance,
and moderation of the French Government? Was there _ever_ an idea of
refusing to treat, because the peace might be afterward insecure?
The peace of 1763 was not accompanied with securities; and it was no
sooner made than the French court began, as usual, its intrigues. And
what security did the right honorable gentleman exact at the peace of
1783, in which he was engaged? Were we rendered secure by that peace?
The right honorable gentleman knows well that, soon after that peace,
the French formed a plan, in conjunction with the Dutch, of attacking
our India possessions, of raising up the native powers against us, and
of driving us out of India; as they were more recently desirous of
doing, only with this difference, that the cabinet of France formerly
entered into this project in a moment of profound peace, and when they
conceived us to be lulled into a perfect security. After making the
peace of 1783, the right honorable gentleman and his friends went out,
and I, among others, came into office. Suppose, sir, that we had taken
up the jealousy upon which the right honorable gentleman now acts, and
had refused to ratify the peace which he had made. Suppose that we had
said—No! France is acting a perfidious part; we see no security for
England in this treaty; they want only a respite in order to attack
us again in an important part of our dominions, and we ought not to
confirm the treaty. I ask you would the right honorable gentleman have
supported us in this refusal? I say, that upon his present reasoning
he ought. But I put it fairly to him, would he have supported us in
refusing to ratify the treaty upon such a pretence? He certainly ought
not, and I am sure he would not; but the course of reasoning which
he now assumes would have justified his taking such a ground. On the
contrary, I am persuaded that he would have said: “This security is a
refinement upon jealousy. You have security, the only security that you
can ever expect to get. It is the present interest of France to make
peace. She will keep it, if it be her interest. She will break it, if
it be her interest. Such is the state of nations; and you have nothing
but your own vigilance for your security.”

“It is not the interest of Bonaparte,” it seems, “sincerely to enter
into a negotiation, or, if he should even make peace, sincerely to
keep it.” But how are we to decide upon his sincerity? By refusing to
treat with him? Surely, if we mean to discover his sincerity, we ought
to hear the propositions which he desires to make. “But peace would
be unfriendly to his system of military despotism.” Sir, I hear a
great deal about the short-lived nature of military despotism. I wish
the history of the world would bear gentlemen out in this description
of it. Was not the government erected by Augustus Cæsar a military
despotism? and yet it endured for six or seven hundred years. Military
despotism, unfortunately, is too likely in its nature to be permanent,
and it is not true that it depends on the life of the first usurper.
Though half of the Roman emperors were murdered, yet the military
despotism went on; and so it would be, I fear, in France. If Bonaparte
should disappear from the scene, to make room, perhaps, for Berthier,
or any other general, what difference would that make in the quality
of French despotism, or in our relation to the country? We may as
safely treat with a Bonaparte, or with any of his successors, be they
whom they may, as we could with a Louis XVI., a Louis XVII., or a
Louis XVIII. There is no difference but in the name. Where the power
essentially resides, thither we ought to go for peace.

But, sir, if we are to reason on the fact, I should think that it is
the interest of Bonaparte to make peace. A lover of military glory, as
that general must necessarily be, may he not think that his measure of
glory is full; that it may be tarnished by a reverse of fortune, and
can hardly be increased by any new laurels? He must feel that, in the
situation to which he is now raised, he can no longer depend on his own
fortune, his own genius, and his own talents, for a continuance of his
success. He must be under the necessity of employing other generals,
whose misconduct or incapacity might endanger his power, or whose
triumphs even might affect the interest which he holds in the opinion
of the French. Peace, then, would secure to him what he has achieved,
and fix the inconstancy of fortune. But this will not be his only
motive. He must see that France also requires a respite—a breathing
interval, to recruit her wasted strength. To procure her this respite,
would be, perhaps, the attainment of more solid glory, as well as the
means of acquiring more solid power, than any thing which he can hope
to gain from arms, and from the proudest triumphs. May he not, then, be
zealous to secure this fame, the only species of fame, perhaps, that
is worth acquiring? Nay, granting that his soul may still burn with
the thirst of military exploits, is it not likely that he is disposed
to yield to the feelings of the French people, and to consolidate
his power by consulting their interests? I have a right to argue in
this way when suppositions of his insincerity are reasoned upon on
the other side. Sir, these aspersions are, in truth, always idle, and
even mischievous. I have been too long accustomed to hear imputations
and calumnies thrown out upon great and honorable characters, to be
much influenced by them. My honorable and learned friend [Mr. Erskine]
has paid this night a most just, deserved, and eloquent tribute of
applause to the memory of that great and unparalleled character, who
is so recently lost to the world.[27] I must, like him, beg leave
to dwell a moment on the venerable GEORGE WASHINGTON, though I know
that it is impossible for me to bestow any thing like adequate praise
on a character which gave us, more than any other human being, the
example of a perfect man; yet, good, great, and unexampled as General
Washington was, I can remember the time when he was not better spoken
of in this House than Bonaparte is at present. The right honorable
gentleman who opened this debate [Mr. Dundas] may remember in what
terms of disdain, or virulence, even of contempt, General Washington
was spoken of by gentlemen on that side of the House. Does he not
recollect with what marks of indignation any member was stigmatized
as an enemy to his country who mentioned with common respect the name
of General Washington? If a negotiation had then been proposed to be
opened with that great man, what would have been said? Would you treat
with a rebel, a traitor! What an example would you not give by such
an act! I do not know whether the right honorable gentleman may not
yet possess some of his old prejudices on the subject. I hope not: I
hope by this time we are all convinced that a republican government,
like that of America, may exist without danger or injury to social
order, or to established monarchies. They have happily shown that they
can maintain the relations of peace and amity with other states. They
have shown, too, that they are alive to the feelings of honor; but
they do not lose sight of plain good sense and discretion. They have
not refused to negotiate with the French, and they have accordingly
the hopes of a speedy termination of every difference. We cry up their
conduct, but we do not imitate it. At the beginning of the struggle,
we were told that the French were setting up a set of wild and
impracticable theories, and that we ought not to be misled by them;
that they were phantoms with which we could not grapple. Now we are
told that we must not treat, because, out of the lottery, Bonaparte
has drawn such a prize as military despotism. Is military despotism
a theory? One would think that that is one of the practical things
which ministers might understand, and to which _they_ would have no
particular objection. But what is our present conduct founded on but
a theory, and that a most wild and ridiculous theory? For what are we
fighting? Not for a principle; not for security; not for conquest;
but merely for an experiment and a speculation, to discover whether a
gentleman at Paris may not turn out a better man than we now take him
to be. * * *

Sir, I wish the atrocities, of which we hear so much, and which I
abhor as much as any man, were, indeed, unexampled. I fear that they
do not belong exclusively to the French. When the right honorable
gentleman speaks of the extraordinary successes of the last campaign,
he does not mention the horrors by which some of these successes were
accompanied. Naples, for instance, has been, among others, what is
called _delivered_; and yet, if I am rightly informed, it has been
stained and polluted by murders so ferocious, and by cruelties of
every kind so abhorrent, that the heart shudders at the recital. It
has been said, not only that the miserable victims of the rage and
brutality of the fanatics were savagely murdered, but that, in many
instances, their flesh was eaten and devoured by the cannibals, who
are the advocates and the instruments of social order! Nay, England is
not totally exempt from reproach, if the rumors which are circulated
be true. I will mention a fact, to give ministers the opportunity, if
it be false, to wipe away the stain that it must otherwise affix on the
British name. It is said, that a party of the republican inhabitants of
Naples took shelter in the fortress of the Castel de Uovo. They were
besieged by a detachment from the royal army, to whom they refused
to surrender; but demanded that a British officer should be brought
forward, and to him they capitulated. They made terms with him under
the sanction of the British name. It was agreed that their persons and
property should be safe, and that they should be conveyed to Toulon.
They were accordingly put on board a vessel; but, before they sailed,
their property was confiscated, numbers of them taken out, thrown into
dungeons, and some of them, I understand, notwithstanding the British
guaranty, actually executed![28]

Where, then, sir, is this war, which on every side is pregnant with
such horrors, to be carried? Where is it to stop? Not till we establish
the House of Bourbon! And this you cherish the hope of doing, because
you have had a successful campaign. Why, sir, before this you have had
a successful campaign. The situation of the allies, with all they have
gained, is surely not to be compared now to what it was when you had
taken Valenciennes, Quesnoy, Condé, etc., which induced some gentlemen
in this House to prepare themselves for a march to Paris. With all that
you have gained, you surely will not say that the prospect is brighter
now than it was then. What have you gained but the recovery of a part
of what you before lost? One campaign is successful to you; another to
them; and in this way, animated by the vindictive passions of revenge,
hatred, and rancor, which are infinitely more flagitious, even, than
those of ambition and the thirst of power, you may go on forever; as,
with such black incentives, I see no end to human misery.

And all this without an intelligible motive. All this because you may
gain a better peace a year or two hence! So that we are called upon to
go on merely as a speculation. We must keep Bonaparte for some time
longer at war, as a state of probation. Gracious God, sir! is war a
state of probation? Is peace a rash system? Is it dangerous for nations
to live in amity with each other? Are your vigilance, your policy,
your common powers of observation, to be extinguished by putting
an end to the horrors of war? Can not this state of probation be as
well undergone without adding to the catalogue of human sufferings?
“But we must _pause_!” What! must the bowels of Great Britain be torn
out—her best blood be spilled—her treasure wasted—that you may make an
experiment? Put yourselves, oh! that you would put yourselves in the
field of battle, and learn to judge of the sort of horrors that you
excite! In former wars a man might, at least, have some feeling, some
interest, that served to balance in his mind the impressions which a
scene of carnage and of death must inflict. If a man had been present
at the battle of Blenheim, for instance, and had inquired the motive
of the battle, there was not a soldier engaged who could not have
satisfied his curiosity, and even, perhaps, allayed his feelings. They
were fighting, they knew, to repress the uncontrolled ambition of the
Grand Monarch. But if a man were present now at a field of slaughter,
and were to inquire for what they were fighting—“Fighting!” would be
the answer; “they are not fighting; they are _pausing_.” “Why is that
man expiring? Why is that other writhing with agony? What means this
implacable fury?” The answer must be: “You are quite wrong, sir;
you deceive yourself—they are not fighting—do not disturb them—they
are merely _pausing_! This man is not expiring with agony—that man
is not dead—he is only _pausing_! Lord help you, sir! they are not
angry with one another; they have now no cause of quarrel; but their
country thinks that there should be a _pause_. All that you see, sir,
is nothing like fighting—there is no harm, nor cruelty, nor bloodshed
in it whatever; it is nothing more than a _political pause_! It is
merely to try an experiment—to see whether Bonaparte will not behave
himself better than heretofore; and in the meantime we have agreed to a
_pause_, in pure friendship!” And is this the way, sir, that you are to
show yourselves the advocates of order? You take up a system calculated
to uncivilize the world—to destroy order—to trample on religion—to
stifle in the heart, not merely the generosity of noble sentiment, but
the affections of social nature; and in the prosecution of this system,
you spread terror and devastation all around you.

Sir, I have done. I have told you my opinion. I think you ought to
have given a civil, clear, and explicit answer to the overture which
was fairly and handsomely made you. If you were desirous that the
negotiation should have included all your allies, as the means of
bringing about a general peace, you should have told Bonaparte so.
But I believe you were afraid of his agreeing to the proposal. You
took that method before. Ay, but you say the people were anxious for
peace in 1797. I say they are friends to peace now; and I am confident
that you will one day acknowledge it. Believe me, they are friends
to peace; although by the laws which you have made, restraining the
expression of the sense of the people, public opinion can not now be
heard as loudly and unequivocally as heretofore. But I will not go into
the internal state of this country. It is too afflicting to the heart
to see the strides which have been made by means of, and under the
miserable pretext of, this war, against liberty of every kind, both of
power of speech and of writing, and to observe in another kingdom the
rapid approaches to that military despotism which we affect to make an
argument against peace. I know, sir, that public opinion, if it could
be collected, would be for peace, as much now as in 1797; and that it
is only by public opinion, and not by a sense of their duty, or by the
inclination of their minds, that ministers will be brought, if ever, to
give us peace.

I conclude, sir, with repeating what I said before: I ask for no
gentleman’s vote who would have reprobated the compliance of ministers
with the proposition of the French Government. I ask for no gentleman’s
support to-night who would have voted against ministers, if they had
come down and proposed to enter into a negotiation with the French. But
I have a right to ask, and in honor, in consistency, in conscience, I
have a right to expect, the vote of every honorable gentleman who would
have voted with ministers in an address to his Majesty, diametrically
opposite to the motion of this night.

  This speech of Fox is said to have made a deep impression on the
  House; but it appears scarcely to have weakened the opposition to
  Napoleon’s measures as set forth in the speech of Pitt. The address
  approving of the Government’s course was carried by the overwhelming
  majority of 265 to 64. It was the reasoning of Pitt and the vote
  which followed the debate that determined the general line of English
  policy till Napoleon was landed at St. Helena. The speech of Fox,
  though not successful in defeating the governmental policy, was the
  ablest presentation ever made of the Opposition view.


Born on the 24th of October, 1765, James Mackintosh was fifteen years
younger than Erskine, and thirty-five younger than Burke. He early
showed a remarkable fondness for reading, and when he was ten years
of age was regarded in the locality of his birth near Inverness, in
Scotland, as “a prodigy of learning.” His favorite amusement at this
period of his life appears to have been to gather his school-fellows
about him and entertain them by delivering speeches in imitation of Fox
and North, on the American war,—then the great question of the day. At
fifteen, he entered King’s College, Aberdeen, where he soon established
a friendship with Robert Hall, which continued through life. Their
tastes were similar, and they devoted themselves with great
earnestness to the study of the classics, and to the more abstruse
forms of philosophical reasoning. They were in the habit of studying
together and discussing the works of Berkeley, Butler, and Edwards, as
well as those of Plato and Herodotus. This exercise, kept up during
a large part of their collegiate course, appears to have exerted a
great influence on the formation of their minds and tastes. Mackintosh
afterward declared that he learned more from those discussions “than
from all the books he ever read”; and Hall testified to the great
ability of his companion, by saying that “he had an intellect more like
that of Bacon than any other person of modern times.”

After spending four years at Edinburgh in the study of medicine,
Mackintosh repaired to London with a view to the practice of his
profession. His heart seems, however, not to have been very fully
enlisted in the work, and he was soon driven to the public press as a
means of support. His first great work, published in 1791, commanded
immediate attention, not only for its elegant and expressive as well
as keen and trenchant style, but also for the enthusiastic daring with
which a young man of twenty-six grappled with the most powerful and
accomplished writer of the day. The volume was nothing less than a
“Defence of the French Revolution against the Accusations of the Right
Honorable Edmund Burke.” In point of style the work is certainly not
equal to that of his great antagonist; and no more than four years
later, Mackintosh himself was so frank as to say to some Frenchmen who
complimented him: “Ah, gentlemen, since that time you have entirely
refuted me.” But, in spite of its obvious faults, its great qualities
as a piece of literary workmanship made a prodigious impression. Fox
quoted it with enthusiastic approbation in the House of Commons; and
Canning, who ridiculed the Revolution, is said to have told a friend
that he read the book “with as much admiration as he had ever felt.”
Three editions were immediately called for; and it may be doubted
whether even to the present day it is not the most successful as well
as the most powerful argument that has ever been made in opposition to
the more celebrated treatise.

The publication of this masterly review showed plainly enough that
another great writer had appeared. The reception the work received
encouraged Mackintosh in the gratification of his tastes; and, finding
himself irresistibly inclining to questions of political philosophy,
he now abandoned the profession he had already entered, and turned his
attention to the study of law. In 1795 he was admitted to the bar. Four
years later he produced the second great literary impression of his
life in the publication of the “Introduction to a Course of Lectures
on the Law of Nature and of Nations.” The remarkable impression made
by this single lecture was expressed by Campbell, when he said: “Even
supposing that essay had been recovered only imperfect and mutilated—if
but a score of consecutive sentences could be shown, they would bear
a testimony to his genius as decided as the bust of Theseus bears to
Grecian art among the Elgin marbles.”

Mackintosh’s lectures, in the spring of 1799, at Lincoln’s Inn Hall,
were attended by an auditory such as had never before met in England
on a similar occasion. “Lawyers, members of Parliament, men of
letters, and gentlemen from the country crowded the seats; and the
Lord Chancellor, who, from a pressure of public business, was unable
to attend, received a full report of each lecture in writing, and was
loud in their praise.” The introductory lecture, the only one that
was written out and preserved, is as remarkable for its eloquence as
for the depth of its learning and the vigor and discrimination of its

Mackintosh now devoted himself to the practice of his profession with
every prospect of the most flattering success. Regarding himself as
more perfectly fitted for a position upon the bench than at the bar,
he aspired to a judicial appointment at Trinidad or in India. The
appointment was under contemplation, when he was engaged to defend
M. Jean Peltier, a Frenchman who resided in London and published
a newspaper opposed to the rising fortunes of Bonaparte. There is
an English statute against “libel on a friendly government”; and
Bonaparte, who was now for the moment at peace with England, demanded
that the statute should be enforced. Action was brought against
Peltier, and when the case came on for trial Mackintosh delivered the
speech selected from his works for this volume. He labored under the
disadvantage of having the law clearly against him; but he regarded
the equities of the case as entirely on the side of Peltier, and
therefore he devoted his remarkable powers to the discussion of the
general principles involved in the case. It was a plea in behalf of
freedom of the English press—its privilege and its duty to comment on
and to criticise the crimes even of the proudest tyrants. The jury,
under the law, was obliged to convict; but seldom before an English
court has a speech made a greater impression. Of this fact we have the
most conclusive evidence in the testimony of the greatest of English
advocates. Erskine was present during its delivery, and before going to
bed he sent to Mackintosh the following remarkable note:

    “DEAR SIR:—I can not shake off from my nerves the effect of
    your powerful and most wonderful speech, which so completely
    disqualifies you for Trinidad or India. I could not help saying
    to myself, as you were speaking: ‘_O terram illam beatam quæ
    hunc virum acciperit, hanc ingratam si ejicerit, miseram si
    amiserit._’ I perfectly approve the verdict, but the manner in
    which you opposed it I shall always consider as one of the most
    splendid monuments of genius, literature, and eloquence.

            “Yours ever,      T. ERSKINE.”

And Robert Hall, scarcely inferior to Erskine as a judge of what is
worthy of praise in human speech, wrote to his old friend concerning
it: “I speak my sincere sentiments when I say, it is the most
extraordinary assemblage of whatever is most refined in address,
profound in political and moral speculation, and masterly eloquence,
which it has ever been my lot to read in the English language.”

A few months after the defence of Peltier, Mackintosh received the
honor of knighthood and was appointed Recorder at Bombay. This position
took him to India, where he passed the next eight years, devoting his
time to the duties of the bench and the pursuits of literature. On his
return in 1812 to England he entered the House of Commons, and for
four years was a firm supporter of the Whigs. In 1818 he accepted the
Professorship of Law and General Politics in the newly established
Haileybury College, a position which he filled with great distinction
until 1827.

During all this period he did not relax his interest in the active
affairs of government, nor in the questions that agitated the House
of Commons. His speeches in the House, of which he continued to be
a member, were remarkable for their wisdom; though perhaps not for
their persuasive power. He will be remembered, not so much for his
parliamentary services, as for his unrivalled plea in behalf of free
speech, and for the many essays on philosophical and political subjects
with which he enriched the literature of our language. Until his
death in 1832, he was one of the most highly esteemed writers of the
“Encyclopedia Britannica” and of the _Edinburgh Review_.




The time is now come for me to address you in behalf of the unfortunate
gentleman who is the defendant on this record.

I must begin with observing, that though I know myself too well to
ascribe to any thing but to the kindness and good nature of my learned
friend, the Attorney-General, the unmerited praises which he has been
pleased to bestow on me, yet, I will venture to say, he has done me
no more than justice in supposing that in this place, and on this
occasion, where I exercise the functions of an inferior minister of
justice, an inferior minister, indeed, but a minister of justice still,
I am incapable of lending myself to the passions of any client, and
that I will not make the proceedings of this court subservient to any
political purpose. Whatever is respected by the laws and government of
my country shall, in this place, be respected by me. In considering
matters that deeply interest the quiet, the safety, and the liberty of
all mankind, it is impossible for me not to feel warmly and strongly;
but I shall make an effort to control my feelings however painful
that effort may be, and where I can not speak out but at the risk of
offending either sincerity or prudence, I shall labor to contain myself
and be silent.

I can not but feel, gentlemen, how much I stand in need of your
favorable attention and indulgence. The charge which I have to defend
is surrounded with the most invidious topics of discussion; but they
are not of my seeking. The case and the topics which are inseparable
from it are brought here by the prosecutor. Here I find them, and here
it is my duty to deal with them, as the interests of Mr. Peltier seem
to me to require. He, by his choice and confidence, has cast on me a
very arduous duty, which I could not decline, and which I can still
less betray. He has a right to expect from me a faithful, a zealous,
and a fearless defence; and this his just expectation, according to
the measure of my humble abilities, shall be fulfilled. I have said a
fearless defence. Perhaps that word was unnecessary in the place where
I now stand. Intrepidity in the discharge of professional duty is so
common a quality at the English bar, that it has, thank God, long
ceased to be a matter of boast or praise. If it had been otherwise,
gentlemen, if the bar could have been silenced or overawed by power, I
may presume to say that an English jury would not this day have been
met to administer justice. Perhaps I need scarce say that my defence
_shall_ be fearless, in a place where fear never entered any heart but
that of a criminal. But you will pardon me for having said so much when
you consider who the real parties before you are.

I. Gentlemen, the real prosecutor is the master of the greatest
empire the civilized world ever saw. The defendant is a defenceless,
proscribed exile. He is a French Royalist, who fled from his country
in the autumn of 1792, at the period of that memorable and awful
emigration, when all the proprietors and magistrates of the greatest
civilized country in Europe were driven from their homes by the
daggers of assassins; when our shores were covered, as with the
wreck of a great tempest, with old men, and women, and children, and
ministers of religion, who fled from the ferocity of their countrymen
as before an army of invading barbarians.

The greatest part of these unfortunate exiles, of those, I mean,
who have been spared by the sword, who have survived the effect of
pestilential climates or broken hearts, have been since permitted to
revisit their country. Though despoiled of their all, they have eagerly
embraced even the sad privilege of being suffered to die in their
native land.

Even this miserable indulgence was to be purchased by compliances, by
declarations of allegiance to the new government, which some of these
suffering Royalists deemed incompatible with their consciences, with
their dearest attachments, and their most sacred duties. Among these
last is Mr. Peltier. I do not presume to blame those who submitted,
and I trust you will not judge harshly of those who refused. You will
not think unfavorably of a man who stands before you as the voluntary
victim of his loyalty and honor. If a revolution (which God avert) were
to drive us into exile, and to cast us on a foreign shore, we should
expect, at least, to be pardoned by generous men, for stubborn loyalty
and unseasonable fidelity to the laws and government of our fathers.

This unfortunate gentleman had devoted a great part of his life to
literature. It was the amusement and ornament of his better days. Since
his own ruin and the desolation of his country, he has been compelled
to employ it as a means of support. For the last ten years he has been
engaged in a variety of publications of considerable importance; but
since the peace he has desisted from serious political discussion,
and confined himself to the obscure journal which is now before you;
the least calculated, surely, of any publication that ever issued
from the press, to rouse the alarms of the most jealous government;
which will not be read in England, because it is not written in our
language; which cannot be read in France, because its entry into that
country is prohibited by a power whose mandates are not very supinely
enforced, nor often evaded with impunity; which can have no other
object than that of amusing the companions of the author’s principles
and misfortunes, by pleasantries and sarcasms on their victorious
enemies. There is, indeed, gentlemen, one remarkable circumstance in
this unfortunate publication; it is the only, or almost the only,
journal which still dares to espouse the cause of that royal and
illustrious family which but fourteen years ago was flattered by every
press and guarded by every tribunal in Europe. Even the court in which
we are met affords an example of the vicissitudes of their fortune.
My learned friend has reminded you that the last prosecution tried in
this place, at the instance of a French Government, was for a libel on
that magnanimous princess, who has since been butchered in sight of her

I do not make these observations with any purpose of questioning the
general principles which have been laid down by my learned friend. I
must admit his right to bring before you those who libel any government
recognized by his Majesty, and at peace with the British empire. I
admit that, whether such a government be of yesterday, or a thousand
years old; whether it be a crude and bloody usurpation, or the most
ancient, just, and paternal authority upon earth, we are _here_ equally
bound, by his Majesty’s recognition, to protect it against libellous
attacks. I admit that if, during our usurpation, Lord Clarendon had
published his history at Paris, or the Marquess of Montrose his verses
on the murder of his sovereign, or Mr. Cowley his “Discourse on
Cromwell’s Government,” and if the English ambassador had complained,
the President De Molí, or any other of the great magistrates who then
adorned the Parliament of Paris, however reluctantly, painfully,
and indignantly, might have been compelled to have condemned these
illustrious men to the punishment of libellers. I say this only for
the sake of bespeaking a favorable attention from your generosity and
compassion to what will be feebly urged in behalf of my unfortunate
client, who has sacrificed his fortune, his hopes, his connections, his
country, to his conscience; who seems marked out for destruction in
this his last asylum.

That he still enjoys the security of this asylum, that he has not
been sacrificed to the resentment of his powerful enemies, is perhaps
owing to the firmness of the King’s government. If that be the fact,
gentlemen; if his Majesty’s ministers have resisted applications to
expel this unfortunate gentleman from England, I should publicly
thank them for their firmness, if it were not unseemly and improper
to suppose that they could have acted otherwise—to thank an English
Government for not violating the most sacred duties of hospitality; for
not bringing indelible disgrace on their country.

But be that as it may, gentlemen, he now comes before you, perfectly
satisfied that an English jury is the most refreshing prospect that the
eye of accused innocence ever met in a human tribunal; and he feels
with me the most fervent gratitude to the Protector of empires that,
surrounded as we are with the ruins of principalities and powers, we
still continue to meet together, after the manner of our fathers, to
administer justice in this, her ancient sanctuary.

II. There is another point of view in which this case seems to me to
merit your most serious attention. I consider it as the first of a long
series of conflicts between the greatest power in the world and the
only free press remaining in Europe. No man living is more thoroughly
convinced than I am that my learned friend, Mr. Attorney-General, will
never degrade his excellent character; that he will never disgrace
his high magistracy by mean compliances, by an immoderate and
unconscientious exercise of power; yet I am convinced, by circumstances
which I shall now abstain from discussing, that I am to consider
this as the first of a long series of conflicts between the greatest
power in the world and the only free press now remaining in Europe.
Gentlemen, this distinction of the English press is new; it is a proud
and melancholy distinction. Before the great earthquake of the French
Revolution had swallowed up all the asylums of free discussion on the
continent, we enjoyed that privilege, indeed, more fully than others;
but we did not enjoy it exclusively. In great monarchies, the press has
always been considered as too formidable an engine to be intrusted to
unlicensed individuals. But in other continental countries, either by
the laws of the state, or by long habits of liberality and toleration
in magistrates, a liberty of discussion has been enjoyed, perhaps
sufficient for most useful purposes. It existed, in fact, where it
was not protected by law; and the wise and generous connivance of
governments was daily more and more secured by the growing civilization
of their subjects. In Holland, in Switzerland, in the imperial towns
of Germany, the press was either legally or practically free.
Holland and Switzerland are no more; and since the commencement of
this prosecution, fifty imperial towns have been erased from the list
of independent states by one dash of the pen. Three or four still
preserve a precarious and trembling existence. I will not say by what
compliances they must purchase its continuance. I will not insult the
feebleness of states, whose unmerited fall I do most bitterly deplore.

These governments were in many respects one of the most interesting
parts of the ancient system of Europe. Unfortunately for the repose of
mankind, great states are compelled, by regard to their own safety, to
consider the military spirit and martial habits of their people as one
of the main objects of their policy. Frequent hostilities seem almost
the necessary condition of their greatness; and, without being great,
they cannot long remain safe. Smaller states exempted from this cruel
necessity—a hard condition of greatness, a bitter satire on human
nature—devoted themselves to the arts of peace, to the cultivation of
literature, and the improvement of reason. They became places of refuge
for free and fearless discussion; they were the impartial spectators
and judges of the various contests of ambition which from time to time
disturbed the quiet of the world. They thus became peculiarly qualified
to be the organs of that public opinion which converted Europe into
a great republic, with laws which mitigated, though they could not
extinguish, ambition; and with moral tribunals to which even the most
despotic sovereigns were amenable. If wars of aggrandizement were
undertaken, their authors were arraigned in the face of Europe. If acts
of internal tyranny were perpetrated, they resounded from a thousand
presses throughout all civilized countries. Princes, on whose will
there were no legal checks, thus found a moral restraint which the most
powerful of them could not brave with absolute impunity. They acted
before a vast audience, to whose applause or condemnation they could
not be utterly indifferent. The very constitution of human nature, the
unalterable laws of the mind of man, against which all rebellion is
fruitless, subjected the proudest tyrants to this control. No elevation
of power, no depravity however consummate, no innocence however
spotless, can render man wholly independent of the praise or blame of
his fellow-men.

These governments were, in other respects, one of the most beautiful
and interesting parts of our ancient system. The perfect security of
such inconsiderable and feeble states, their undisturbed tranquillity
amid the wars and conquests that surrounded them, attested, beyond
any other part of the European system, the moderation, the justice,
the civilization to which Christian Europe had reached in modern
times. Their weakness was protected only by the habitual reverence
for justice, which, during a long series of ages, had grown up in
Christendom. This was the only fortification which defended them
against those mighty monarchs to whom they offered so easy a prey.
And till the French Revolution, this was sufficient. Consider, for
instance, the situation of the Republic of Geneva. Think of her
defenceless position, in the very jaws of France; but think also of her
undisturbed security, of her profound quiet, of the brilliant success
with which she applied to industry and literature, while Louis XIV.
was pouring his myriads into Italy before her gates. Call to mind, if
ages crowded into years have not effaced them from your memory, that
happy period, when we scarcely dreamed more of the subjugation of the
feeblest republic of Europe than of the conquest of her mightiest
empire; and tell me if you can imagine a spectacle more beautiful to
the moral eye, or a more striking proof of progress in the noblest
principles of true civilization.

These feeble states—these monuments of the justice of Europe—the
asylum of peace, of industry, and of literature—the organs of public
reason—the refuge of oppressed innocence and persecuted truth, have
perished with those ancient principles which were their sole guardians
and protectors. They have been swallowed up by that fearful convulsion
which has shaken the uttermost corners of the earth. They are destroyed
and gone forever.

One asylum of free discussion is still inviolate. There is still one
spot in Europe where man can freely exercise his reason on the most
important concerns of society, where he can boldly publish his judgment
on the acts of the proudest and most powerful tyrants. The press of
England is still free. It is guarded by the free constitution of our
forefathers. It is guarded by the hearts and arms of Englishmen, and
I trust I may venture to say that if it be to fall, it will fall only
under the ruins of the British empire.

It is an awful consideration, gentlemen. Every other monument of
European liberty has perished. That ancient fabric which has been
gradually reared by the wisdom and virtue of our fathers still stands.
It stands, thanks be to God! solid and entire; but it stands alone, and
it stands amid ruins.

In these extraordinary circumstances, I repeat that I must consider
this as the first of a long series of conflicts between the greatest
power in the world and the only free press remaining in Europe. And
I trust that you will consider yourselves as the advanced guard
of liberty, as having this day to fight the first battle of free
discussion against the most formidable enemy that it ever encountered.
You will therefore excuse me, if, on so important an occasion, I remind
you, at more length than is usual, of those general principles of law
and policy on this subject which have been handed down to us by our

III. Those who slowly built up the fabric of our laws never attempted
any thing so absurd as to define, by any precise rule, the obscure and
shifting boundaries which divide libel from history or discussion.
It is a subject which, from its nature, admits neither rules nor
definitions. The same words may be perfectly innocent in one case, and
most mischievous and libellous in another. A change of circumstances,
often apparently slight, is sufficient to make the whole difference.
These changes, which may be as numerous as the variety of human
intentions and conditions, can never be foreseen nor comprehended under
any legal definitions, and the framers of our law have never attempted
to subject them to such definitions. They left such ridiculous attempts
to those who call themselves philosophers, but who have, in fact,
proved themselves most grossly and stupidly ignorant of that philosophy
which is conversant with human affairs.

The principles of the law of England on the subject of political libel
are few and simple, and they are necessarily so broad, that, without
a habitually mild administration of justice, they might encroach
materially on the liberty of political discussion. Every publication
which is intended to vilify either our own government or the government
of any foreign state in amity with this kingdom, is, by the law of
England, a libel.

To protect political discussion from the danger to which it would be
exposed by these wide principles, if they were severely and literally
enforced, our ancestors trusted to various securities—some growing out
of the law and constitution, and others arising from the character of
those public officers whom the constitution had formed, and to whom
its administration is committed. They trusted, in the first place, to
the moderation of the legal officers of the crown, educated in the
maxims and imbued with the spirit of a free government; controlled by
the superintending power of Parliament, and peculiarly watched in all
political prosecutions by the reasonable and wholesome jealousy of
their fellow-subjects. And I am bound to admit that, since the glorious
era of the Revolution [1688], making due allowance for the frailties,
the faults, and the occasional vices of men, they have, upon the whole,
not been disappointed. I know that in the hands of my learned friend
that trust will never be abused. But, above all, they confided in the
moderation and good sense of juries, popular in their origin, popular
in their feelings, popular in their very prejudices, taken from the
mass of the people, and immediately returning to that mass again. By
these checks and temperaments they hoped that they should sufficiently
repress malignant libels, without endangering that freedom of inquiry
which is the first security of a free state. They knew that the offence
of a political libel is of a very peculiar nature, and differing in
the most important particulars from all other crimes. In all other
cases, the most severe execution of law can only spread terror among
the guilty; but in political libels it inspires even the innocent with
fear. This striking peculiarity arises from the same circumstances
which make it impossible to define the limits of libel and innocent
discussion; which make it impossible for a man of the purest and most
honorable mind to be always perfectly certain whether he be within the
territory of fair argument and honest narrative, or whether he may not
have unwittingly over stepped the faint and varying line which bounds
them. But, gentlemen, I will go further. This is the only offence where
severe and frequent punishments not only intimidate the innocent, but
deter men from the most meritorious acts, and from rendering the most
important services to their country. They indispose and disqualify
men for the discharge of the most sacred duties which they owe to
mankind. To inform the public on the conduct of those who administer
public affairs requires courage and conscious security. It is always
an invidious and obnoxious office; but it is often the most necessary
of all public duties. If it is not done boldly, it can not be done
effectually, and it is not from writers trembling under the uplifted
scourge that we are to hope for it.

There are other matters, gentlemen, to which I am desirous of
particularly calling your attention. These are the circumstances in
the condition of this country which have induced our ancestors, at
all times, to handle with more than ordinary tenderness that branch
of the liberty of discussion which is applied to the conduct of
foreign states. The relation of this kingdom to the commonwealth
of Europe is so peculiar, that no history, I think, furnishes a
parallel to it. From the moment in which we abandoned all projects
of continental aggrandizement, we could have no interest respecting
the state of the continent but the interests of national safety and
of commercial prosperity. The paramount interest of every state—that
which comprehends every other—is _security_. And the security of Great
Britain requires nothing on the continent but the uniform observance
of justice. It requires nothing but the inviolability of ancient
boundaries and the sacredness of ancient possessions, which, on these
subjects, is but another form of words for justice. A nation which is
herself shut out from the possibility of continental aggrandizement
can have no interest but that of preventing such aggrandizement in
others. We can have no interest of safety but the preventing of those
encroachments which, by their immediate effects, or by their example,
may be dangerous to ourselves. We can have no interest of ambition
respecting the continent. So that neither our real nor even our
apparent interests can ever be at variance with justice.

As to commercial prosperity, it is, indeed, a secondary, but it is
still a very important, branch of our national interests, and it
requires nothing on the continent of Europe but the _maintenance of
peace_, as far as the paramount interest of security will allow.[29]

Whatever ignorant or prejudiced men may affirm, no war was ever gainful
to a commercial nation. Losses may be less in some, and incidental
profits may arise in others. But no such profits ever formed an
adequate compensation for the waste of capital and industry which all
wars must produce. Next to peace, our commercial greatness depends
chiefly on the affluence and prosperity of our neighbors. A commercial
nation has, indeed, the same interest in the wealth of her neighbors
that a tradesman has in the wealth of his customers. The prosperity of
England has been chiefly owing to the general progress of civilized
nations in the arts and improvements of social life. Not an acre of
land has been brought into cultivation in the wilds of Siberia or on
the shores of the Mississippi which has not widened the market for
English industry. It is nourished by the progressive prosperity of the
world, and it amply repays all that it has received. It can only be
employed in spreading civilization and enjoyment over the earth; and
by the unchangeable laws of nature, in spite of the impotent tricks of
government, it is now partly applied to revive the industry of those
very nations who are the loudest in their senseless clamors against its
pretended mischiefs. If the blind and barbarous project of destroying
English prosperity could be accomplished, it could have no other effect
than that of completely beggaring the very countries who now stupidly
ascribe their own poverty to our wealth.

Under these circumstances, gentlemen, it became the obvious policy of
the kingdom, a policy in unison with the maxims of a free government,
to consider with great indulgence even the boldest animadversions of
our political writers on the ambitious projects of foreign states.

Bold, and sometimes indiscreet as these animadversions might be, they
had, at least, the effect of warning the people of their danger, and
of rousing the national indignation against those encroachments which
England has almost always been compelled in the end to resist by arms.
Seldom, indeed, has she been allowed to wait till a provident regard to
her own safety should compel her to take up arms in defence of others.
For as it was said by a great orator of antiquity that no man ever was
the enemy of the republic who had not first declared war against him,
so I may say, with truth, that no man ever meditated the subjugation
of Europe who did not consider the destruction or the corruption of
England as the first condition of his success.[30] If you examine
history, you will find that no such project was ever formed in which it
was not deemed a necessary preliminary, either to detach England from
the common cause or to destroy her. It seems as if all the conspirators
against the independence of nations might have sufficiently taught
other states that England is their natural guardian and protector;
that she alone has no interest but their preservation; that her safety
is interwoven with their own. When vast projects of aggrandizement are
manifested, when schemes of criminal ambition are carried into effect,
the day of battle is fast approaching for England. Her free government
can not engage in dangerous wars without the hearty and affectionate
support of her people. A state thus situated can not without the
utmost peril silence those public discussions which are to point the
popular indignation against those who must soon be enemies. In domestic
dissensions, it may sometimes be the supposed interest of government
to overawe the press. But it never can be even their apparent interest
when the danger is purely foreign. A king of England who, in such
circumstances, should conspire against the free press of this country,
would undermine the foundations of his own throne; he would silence the
trumpet which is to call his people round his standard.

Our ancestors never thought it their policy to avert the resentment of
foreign tyrants by enjoining English writers to contain and repress
their just abhorrence of the criminal enterprises of ambition. This
great and gallant nation, which has fought in the front of every battle
against the oppressors of Europe, has sometimes inspired fear, but,
thank God, she has never felt it. We know that they are our real, and
must soon become our declared foes.[31] We know that there can be no
cordial amity between the natural enemies and the independence of
nations. We have never adopted the cowardly and short-sighted policy
of silencing our press, of breaking the spirit and palsying the hearts
of our people for the sake of a hollow and precarious truce. We have
never been base enough to purchase a short respite from hostilities by
sacrificing the first means of defence; the means of rousing the public
spirit of the people, and directing it against the enemies of their
country and of Europe.

Gentlemen, the public spirit of a people, by which I mean the whole
body of those affections which unites men’s hearts to the commonwealth,
is in various countries composed of various elements, and depends on
a great variety of causes. In this country, I may venture to say that
it mainly depends on the vigor of the popular parts and principles of
our government, and that the spirit of liberty is one of its most
important elements. Perhaps it may depend less on those advantages
of a free government which are most highly estimated by calm reason,
than upon those parts of it which delight the imagination and flatter
the just and natural pride of mankind. Among these we are certainly
not to forget the political rights which are not uniformly withheld
from the lowest classes, and the continual appeal made to them in
public discussion, upon the greatest interests of the state. These are
undoubtedly among the circumstances which endear to Englishmen their
government and their country, and animate their zeal for that glorious
institution which confers on the meanest of them a sort of distinction
and nobility unknown to the most illustrious slaves who tremble at
the frown of a tyrant. Whoever were unwarily and rashly to abolish or
narrow these privileges, which it must be owned are liable to great
abuse, and to very specious objections, might perhaps discover too
late that he had been dismantling his country. Of whatever elements
public spirit is composed, it is always and everywhere the chief
defensive principle of a state. It is perfectly distinct from courage.
Perhaps no nation, certainly no European nation, ever perished from an
inferiority of courage. And undoubtedly no considerable nation was ever
subdued in which the public affections were sound and vigorous. It is
public spirit which binds together the dispersed courage of individuals
and fastens it to the commonwealth. It is, therefore, as I have said,
the chief defensive principle of every country. Of all the stimulants
which arouse it into action, the most powerful among us is certainly
the press; and it can not be restrained or weakened without imminent
danger that the national spirit may languish, and that the people may
act with less zeal and affection for their country in the hour of its

These principles, gentlemen, are not new—they are genuine old English
principles. And though in our days they have been disgraced and abused
by ruffians and fanatics, they are in themselves as just and sound as
they are liberal; and they are the only principles on which a free
state can be safely governed. These principles I have adopted since I
first learned the use of reason, and I think I shall abandon them only
with life.

IV. On these principles I am now to call your attention to the libel
with which this unfortunate gentleman is charged. I heartily rejoice
that I concur with the greatest part of what has been said by my
learned friend, Mr. Attorney-General, who has done honor even to his
character by the generous and liberal principles which he has laid
down. He has told you that he does not mean to attack _historical
narrative_. He has told you that he does not mean to attack _political
discussion_. He has told you, also, that he does not consider every
intemperate word into which a writer, fairly engaged in narration or
reasoning, might be betrayed, as a fit subject for prosecution. The
essence of the crime of libel consists in the malignant mind which the
publication proves, and from which it flows. A jury must be convinced,
before they find a man guilty of libel, that his intention was to
libel, not to state facts which he believed to be true, or reasonings
which he thought just. My learned friend has told you that the liberty
of history includes the right of publishing those observations
which occur to intelligent men when they consider the affairs of
the world; and I think he will not deny that it includes also the
right of expressing those sentiments which all good men feel on the
contemplation of extraordinary examples of depravity or excellence.

One more privilege of the historian, which the Attorney-General has
not named, but to which his principles extend, it is now my duty to
claim on behalf of my client; I mean the right of _republishing_,
_historically_, those documents, whatever their original malignity
may be, which display the character and unfold the intentions of
governments, or factions, or individuals. I think my learned friend
will not deny that a historical compiler may innocently republish
in England the most insolent and outrageous declaration of war ever
published against his Majesty by a foreign government. The intention of
the original author was to vilify and degrade his Majesty’s government;
but the intention of the compiler is only to gratify curiosity,
or, perhaps, to rouse just indignation against the calumniator
whose production he republishes. His intention is not libellous—his
republication is therefore not a libel. Suppose this to be the case
with Mr. Peltier. Suppose him to have republished libels with a merely
historical intention. In that case it can not be pretended that he is
more a libeller than my learned friend, Mr. Abbott [junior counsel for
the crown, afterward Lord Tenterden], who read these supposed libels to
you when he opened the pleadings. Mr. Abbott republished them to you,
that you might know and judge of them—Mr. Peltier, on the supposition I
have made, also republished them, that the public might know and judge
of them.

You already know that the general plan of Mr. Peltier’s publication
was to give a picture of the cabals and intrigues, of the hopes and
projects, of French factions. It is undoubtedly a natural and necessary
part of this plan to republish all the serious and ludicrous pieces
which these factions circulate against each other. The ode ascribed to
Chenier or Ginguené I do really believe to have been written at Paris,
to have been circulated there, to have been there attributed to some
one of these writers, to have been sent to England as their work, and
as such to have been republished by Mr. Peltier. But I am not sure that
I have evidence to convince you of the truth of this. Suppose that I
have not; will my learned friend say that my client must necessarily be
convicted? I, on the contrary, contend that it is for my learned friend
to show that it is not an historical republication. Such it professes
to be, and that profession it is for him to disprove. The profession
may indeed be “a mask”; but it is for my friend to pluck off the mask,
and expose the libeller, before he calls upon you for a verdict of

If the general lawfulness of such republications be denied, then I must
ask Mr. Attorney-General to account for the long impunity which English
newspapers have enjoyed. I must request him to tell you why they have
been suffered to republish all the atrocious official and unofficial
libels which have been published against his Majesty for the last ten
years, by the Brissots, the Marats, the Dantons, the Robespierres, the
Barrères, the Talliens, the Reubells, the Merlins, the Barrases, and
all that long line of bloody tyrants who oppressed their own country
and insulted every other which they had not the power to rob. What
must be the answer? That the English publishers were either innocent,
if their motive was to gratify curiosity, or praiseworthy, if their
intention was to rouse indignation against the calumniators of their
country. If any other answer be made, I must remind my friend of a
most sacred part of his duty—the duty of protecting the honest fame
of those who are absent in the service of their country. Within these
few days we have seen, in every newspaper in England, a publication,
called the Report of Colonel Sebastiani, in which a gallant British
officer [General Stuart] is charged with writing letters to procure
assassination. The publishers of that infamous report are not, and will
not be prosecuted, because their intention is not to libel General
Stuart. On any other principle, why have all our newspapers been
suffered to circulate that most atrocious of all libels against the
king and people of England, which purports to be translated from the
_Moniteur_ of the ninth of August, 1802—a libel against a prince who
has passed through a factious and stormy reign of forty-three years,
without a single imputation on his personal character; against a
people who have passed through the severest trials of national virtue
with unimpaired glory—who alone in the world can boast of mutinies
without murder, of triumphant mobs without massacre, of bloodless
revolutions, and of civil wars unstained by a single assassination.
That most impudent and malignant libel which charges such a king of
such a people, not only with having hired assassins, but with being
so shameless, so lost to all sense of character, as to have bestowed
on these assassins, if their murderous projects had succeeded, the
highest badges of public honor, the rewards reserved for statesmen
and heroes—the order of the Garter—the order which was founded by the
heroes of Cressy and Poitiers—the garter which was worn by Henry the
Great and by Gustavus Adolphus, which might now be worn by the hero
who, on the shores of Syria [Sir Sydney Smith]—the ancient theatre of
English chivalry—has revived the renown of English valor and of English
humanity—that unsullied garter which a detestable libeller dares to say
is to be paid as the price of murder.

If I had now to defend an English publisher for the republication
of that abominable libel, what must I have said in his defence? I
must have told you that it was originally published by the French
Government in their official gazette; that it was republished by the
English editor to gratify the natural curiosity, perhaps to rouse the
just resentment, of his English readers. I should have contended,
and, I trust, with success, that his republication of a libel was
not libellous; that it was lawful, that it was laudable. All that
would be important, at least all that would be essential, in such a
defence, I now state to you on behalf of Mr. Peltier; and if an English
newspaper may safely republish the libels of the French Government
against his Majesty, I shall leave you to judge whether Mr. Peltier,
in similar circumstances, may not with equal safety republish the
libels of Chenier against the First Consul. On the one hand you have
the assurances of Mr. Peltier in the context that this ode is merely a
republication—you have also the general plan of his work, with which
such a republication is perfectly consistent. On the other hand, you
have only the suspicions of Mr. Attorney-General that this ode is an
original production of the defendant.

But supposing that you should think it his production, and that you
should also think it a libel, even in that event, which I cannot
anticipate, I am not left without a defence. The question will still
be open, “Is it a libel on Bonaparte, or is it a libel on Chenier or
Ginguené?” This is not an information for a libel on Chenier; and
if you should think that this ode was produced by Mr. Peltier, and
ascribed by him to Chenier, for the sake of covering that writer with
the odium of Jacobinism, the defendant is entitled to your verdict of
not guilty. Or if you should believe that it is ascribed to Jacobinical
writers for the sake of _satirizing_ a French Jacobinical faction,
you must also, in that case, acquit him. Butler puts seditious and
immoral language into the mouth of rebels and fanatics; but “Hudibras”
is not for that reason a libel on morality or government. Swift, in
the most exquisite piece of irony in the world (his argument against
the abolition of Christianity), uses the language of those shallow,
atheistical coxcombs whom his satire was intended to scourge. The
scheme of his irony required some levity and even some profaneness
of language. But nobody was ever so dull as to doubt whether Swift
meant to satirize atheism or religion. In the same manner Mr. Peltier,
when he wrote a satire on French Jacobinism was compelled to ascribe
to Jacobins a Jacobinical hatred of government. He was obliged, by
dramatic propriety, to put into their mouths those anarchical maxims
which are complained of in his ode. But it will be said, these
incitements to insurrection are here directed against the authority
of Bonaparte. This proves nothing, because they must have been so
directed, if the ode were a satire on Jacobinism. French Jacobins
must inveigh against Bonaparte, because he exercises the powers of
government. The satirist who attacks them must transcribe their
sentiments and adopt their language.

I do not mean to say, gentlemen, that Mr. Peltier feels any affection
or professes any allegiance to Bonaparte. If I were to say so, he would
disown me. He would disdain to purchase an acquittal by the profession
of sentiments which he disclaims and abhors. Not to love Bonaparte is
no crime. The question is not whether Mr. Peltier loves or hates the
First Consul, but whether he has put revolutionary language into the
mouth of Jacobins with a view to paint their incorrigible turbulence,
and to exhibit the fruits of Jacobinical revolutions to the detestation
of mankind.

Now, gentlemen, we can not give a probable answer to this question
without previously examining two or three questions, on which the
answer to the first must very much depend. Is there a faction in France
which breathes the spirit, and is likely to employ the language, of
this ode? Does it perfectly accord with their character and views? Is
it utterly irreconcilable with the feelings, opinions, and wishes of
Mr. Peltier? If these questions can be answered in the affirmative,
then I think you must agree with me that Mr. Peltier does not in this
ode speak his own sentiments, that he does not here vent his own
resentment against Bonaparte; but that he personates a Jacobin, and
adopts his language for the sake of satirizing his principles.

These questions, gentlemen, lead me to those political discussions
which, generally speaking, are in a court of justice odious and
disgusting. Here, however, they are necessary, and I shall consider
them only as far as the necessities of this cause require.

Gentlemen, the French Revolution—I must pause after I have uttered
words which present such an overwhelming idea. But I have not now to
engage in an enterprise so far beyond my force as that of examining
and judging that tremendous Revolution. I have only to consider the
character of the factions which it must have left behind it.

The French Revolution began with great and fatal errors. These errors
produced atrocious crimes. A mild and feeble monarchy was succeeded by
bloody anarchy, which very shortly gave birth to military despotism.
France, in a few years, described the whole circle of human society.[32]

All this was in the order of nature. When every principle of authority
and civil discipline, when every principle which enables some men
to command, and disposes others to obey, was extirpated from the
mind by atrocious theories, and still more atrocious examples; when
every old institution was trampled down with contumely, and every new
institution covered in its cradle with blood; when the principle of
property itself, the sheet-anchor of society, was annihilated; when in
the persons of the new possessors, whom the poverty of language obliges
us to call proprietors, it was contaminated in its source by robbery
and murder, and it became separated from that education and those
manners, from that general presumption of superior knowledge and more
scrupulous probity which form its only liberal titles to respect; when
the people were taught to despise every thing old, and compelled to
detest every thing new, there remained only one principle strong enough
to hold society together, a principle utterly incompatible, indeed,
with liberty and unfriendly to civilization itself, a tyrannical and
barbarous principle; but in that miserable condition of human affairs,
a refuge from still more intolerable evils. I mean the principle of
military power which gains strength from that confusion and bloodshed
in which all the other elements of society are dissolved, and which,
in these terrible extremities, is the cement that preserves it from
total destruction.

Under such circumstances, Bonaparte usurped the supreme power in
France. I say _usurped_, because an illegal assumption of power is a
usurpation. But usurpation, in its strongest moral sense, is scarcely
applicable to a period of lawless and savage anarchy. The guilt
of military usurpation, in truth, belongs to the author of those
confusions which sooner or later give birth to such a usurpation.

Thus, to use the words of the historian: “By recent as well as all
ancient example, it became evident that illegal violence, with whatever
pretences it may be covered, and whatever object it may pursue, must
inevitably end at last in the arbitrary and despotic government of a
single person.” But though the government of Bonaparte has silenced the
revolutionary factions, it has not and it can not have extinguished
them. No human power could re-impress upon the minds of men all those
sentiments and opinions which the sophistry and anarchy of fourteen
years had obliterated. A faction must exist which breathes the spirit
of the code now before you.

It is, I know, not the spirit of the quiet and submissive majority of
the French people. They have always rather suffered than acted in the
Revolution. Completely exhausted by the calamities through which they
have passed, they yield to any power which gives them repose. There
is, indeed, a degree of oppression which rouses men to resistance; but
there is another and a greater, which wholly subdues and unmans them.
It is remarkable that Robespierre himself was safe till he attacked his
own accomplices. The spirit of men of virtue was broken, and there was
no vigor of character left to destroy him, but in those daring ruffians
who were the sharers of his tyranny.

As for the wretched populace who were made the blind and senseless
instrument of so many crimes, whose frenzy can now be reviewed by a
good mind with scarce any moral sentiment but that of compassion; that
miserable multitude of beings, scarcely human, have already fallen into
a brutish forgetfulness of the very atrocities which they themselves
perpetrated. They have already forgotten all the acts of their drunken
fury. If you ask one of them, Who destroyed that magnificent monument
of religion and art? or who perpetrated that massacre? they stupidly
answer, the Jacobins! though he who gives the answer was probably one
of these Jacobins himself; so that a traveller, ignorant of French
history, might suppose the Jacobins to be the name of some Tartar horde
who, after laying waste France for ten years, were at last expelled by
the native inhabitants. They have passed from senseless rage to stupid
quiet. Their delirium is followed by lethargy.[33]

In a word, gentlemen, the great body of the people of France have been
severely trained in those convulsions and proscriptions which are
the school of slavery. They are capable of no mutinous, and even of
no bold and manly political sentiments. And if this ode professed to
paint their opinions, it would be a most unfaithful picture. But it
is otherwise with those who have been the actors and leaders in the
scene of blood. It is otherwise with the numerous agents of the most
indefatigable, searching, multiform, and omnipresent tyranny that ever
existed, which pervaded every class of society which had ministers and
victims in every village in France.

Some of them, indeed, the basest of the race, the sophists, the
rhetors, the poet-laureates of murder, who were cruel only from
cowardice and calculating selfishness, are perfectly willing to
transfer their venal pens to any government that does not disdain their
infamous support. These men, Republican from servility, who published
rhetorical panegyrics on massacre, and who reduced plunder to a system
of ethics, are as ready to preach slavery as anarchy. But the more
daring, I had almost said, the more respectable ruffians, can not so
easily bend their heads under the yoke. These fierce spirits have not

          “The unconquerable will,
    And study of revenge, immortal hate.”

They leave the luxuries of servitude to the mean and dastardly
hypocrites, to the Belials and Mammons of the infernal faction. They
pursue their old end of tyranny under their old pretext of liberty.
The recollection of their unbounded power renders every inferior
condition irksome and vapid; and their former atrocities form, if
I may so speak, a sort of moral destiny which irresistibly impels
them to the perpetration of new crimes. They have no place left for
penitence on earth. They labor under the most awful proscription of
opinion that ever was pronounced against human beings. They have
cut down every bridge by which they could retreat into the society
of men. Awakened from their dreams of Democracy, the noise subsided
that deafened their ears to the voice of humanity; the film fallen
from their eyes which hid from them the blackness of their own deeds;
haunted by the memory of their inexpiable guilt; condemned daily to
look on the faces of those whom their hands made widows and orphans,
they are goaded and scourged by these _real_ furies, and hurried into
the tumult of new crimes, which will drown the cries of remorse, or, if
they be too depraved for remorse, will silence the curses of mankind.
Tyrannical power is their only refuge from the just vengeance of
their fellow-creatures. Murder is their only means of usurping power.
They have no taste, no occupation, no pursuit but power and blood. If
their hands are tied, they must at least have the luxury of murderous
projects. They have drunk too deeply of human blood ever to relinquish
their cannibal appetite.

Such a faction exists in France. It is numerous; it is powerful; and it
has a principle of fidelity stronger than any that ever held together
a society. _They are banded together by despair of forgiveness, by
the unanimous detestation of mankind._ They are now contained by a
severe and stern government. But they still meditate the renewal of
insurrection and massacre; and they are prepared to renew the worst
and most atrocious of their crimes, that crime against posterity and
against human nature itself, that crime of which the latest generations
of mankind may feel the fatal consequences—the crime of degrading and
prostituting the sacred name of liberty.

I must own that, however paradoxical it may appear, I should almost
think not worse, but more meanly of them if it were otherwise. I must
then think them destitute of that which I will not call courage,
because that is the name of a virtue; but of that ferocious energy
which alone rescues ruffians from contempt. If they were destitute of
that which is the heroism of murderers, they would be the lowest as
well as the most abominable of beings.

It is impossible to conceive any thing more despicable than wretches
who, after hectoring and bullying over their meek and blameless
sovereign and his defenceless family, whom they kept so long in a
dungeon trembling for their existence—whom they put to death by a
slow torture of three years, after playing the Republican and the
tyrannicide to women and children, become the supple and fawning slaves
of the first government that knows how to wield the scourge with a firm

I have used the word Republican because it is the name by which this
atrocious faction describes itself. The assumption of that name is one
of their crimes. They are no more Republicans than Royalists. They are
the common enemies of all human society. God forbid that by the use
of that word I should be supposed to reflect on the members of those
respectable Republican communities which did exist in Europe before
the French Revolution. That Revolution has spared many monarchies,
but it has spared no republic within the sphere of its destructive
energy. One republic only now exists in the world—a republic of English
blood, which was originally composed of Republican societies, under the
protection of a monarchy, which had, therefore, no great and perilous
change in their internal constitution to effect; and of which, I speak
it with pleasure and pride, the inhabitants, even in the convulsions of
a most deplorable separation, displayed the humanity as well as valor
which, I trust I may say, they inherited from their forefathers.

Nor do I mean by the use of the word “Republican” to confound this
execrable faction with all those who, in the liberty of private
speculation, may prefer a Republican form of government. I own that,
after much reflection, I am not able to conceive an error more gross
than that of those who believe in the possibility of erecting a
republic in any of the old monarchical countries of Europe, who believe
that in such countries an elective supreme magistracy can produce any
thing but a succession of stern tyrannies and bloody civil wars. It
is a supposition which is belied by all experience, and which betrays
the greatest ignorance of the first principles of the constitution of
society. It is an error which has a false appearance of superiority
over vulgar prejudice; it is, therefore, too apt to be attended with
the most criminal rashness and presumption, and too easy to be inflamed
into the most immoral and anti-social fanaticism. But as long as it
remains a mere quiescent error, it is not the proper subject of moral

    [Mr. Mackintosh then proceeds to a somewhat minute analysis of
    the publications of Peltier for the purpose of showing: first,
    that it was highly probable that the articles complained of
    were not written by Peltier; secondly, that if written by him,
    they purported to be not his own sentiments but those more
    or less prevalent at Paris; thirdly, that the publications
    were not untrue representations; fourthly, that there was no
    evidence of any thing more nearly approaching to malice than
    a justifiable indignation; and, fifthly, that the passages
    complained of were aimed not so much at Napoleon as at others.
    This analysis, though very ingenious, is of no interest except
    from its bearing on the verdict, and is therefore here omitted.
    After concluding his discussion of the evidence, the advocate

Here, gentlemen, I think I might stop, if I had only to consider the
defence of Mr. Peltier. I trust that you are already convinced of his
innocence. I fear I have exhausted your patience, as I am sure I have
very nearly exhausted my own strength. But so much seems to me to
depend on your verdict, that I can not forbear from laying before you
some considerations of a more general nature.

Believing, as I do, that we are on the eve of a great struggle; that
this is only the first battle between reason and power; that you
have now in your hands, committed to your trust, the only remains of
free discussion in Europe, now confined to this kingdom—addressing
you, therefore, as the guardians of the most important interests of
mankind; convinced that the unfettered exercise of reason depends more
on your present verdict than on any other that was ever delivered by
a jury, I can not conclude without bringing before you the sentiments
and examples of our ancestors in some of those awful and perilous
situations by which divine Providence has in former ages tried the
virtue of the English nation. We are fallen upon times in which it
behooves us to strengthen our spirits by the contemplation of great
examples of constancy. Let us seek for them in the annals of our

The reign of Queen Elizabeth may be considered as the opening of the
modern history of England, especially in its connection with the modern
system of Europe, which began about that time to assume the form that
it preserved till the French Revolution. It was a very memorable
period, of which the maxims ought to be engraven on the head and heart
of every Englishman. Philip II., at the head of the greatest empire
then in the world, was openly aiming at universal domination, and his
project was so far from being thought chimerical by the wisest of
his contemporaries that, in the opinion of the great Duke of Sully,
he must have been successful, “if, by a most singular combination of
circumstances, he had not at the same time been resisted by two such
strong heads as those of Henry IV. and Queen Elizabeth.” To the most
extensive and opulent dominions, the most numerous and disciplined
armies, the most renowned captains, the greatest revenue, he added also
the most formidable power over opinion. He was the chief of a religious
faction, animated by the most atrocious fanaticism, prepared to second
his ambition by rebellion, anarchy, and regicide in every Protestant
state. Elizabeth was among the first objects of his hostility. That
wise and magnanimous princess placed herself in the front of the battle
for the liberties of Europe. Though she had to contend at home with
his fanatical faction, which almost occupied Ireland, which divided
Scotland, and was not of contemptible strength in England, she aided
the oppressed inhabitants of the Netherlands in their just and glorious
resistance to his tyranny; she aided Henry the Great in suppressing
the abominable rebellion which anarchical principles had excited
and Spanish arms had supported in France, and after a long reign of
various fortune, in which she preserved her unconquered spirit through
great calamities and still greater dangers, she at length broke the
strength of the enemy, and reduced his power within such limits as to
be compatible with the safety of England and of all Europe. Her only
effectual ally was the spirit of her people, and her policy flowed
from that magnanimous nature which in the hour of peril teaches better
lessons than those of cold reason. Her great heart inspired her with
a higher and a nobler wisdom—which disdained to appeal to the low and
sordid passions of her people even for the protection of their low and
sordid interests, because she knew, or, rather, she felt, that these
are effeminate, creeping, cowardly, short-sighted passions, which
shrink from conflict even in defence of their own mean objects. In a
righteous cause, she roused those generous affections of her people
which alone teach boldness, constancy, and foresight, and which are
therefore the only safe guardians of the lowest as well as the highest
interests of a nation. In her memorable address to her army, when the
invasion of the kingdom was threatened by Spain, this woman of heroic
spirit disdained to speak to them of their ease and their commerce, and
their wealth and their safety. No! She touched another chord—she spoke
of their national honor, of their dignity as Englishmen, of “the foul
scorn that Parma or Spain _should dare_ to invade the borders of her
realms.” She breathed into them those grand and powerful sentiments
which exalt vulgar men into heroes, which led them into the battle
of their country, armed with holy and irresistible enthusiasm; which
even cover with their shield all the ignoble interests that base
calculation and cowardly selfishness tremble to hazard, but shrink
from defending. A sort of prophetic instinct, if I may so speak, seems
to have revealed to her the importance of that great instrument for
rousing and guiding the minds of men, of the effects of which she had
no experience, which, since her time, has changed the condition of the
world, but which few modern statesmen have thoroughly understood or
wisely employed; which is, no doubt, connected with many ridiculous and
degrading details, which has produced, and which may again produce,
terrible mischiefs, but of which the influence must, after all, be
considered as the most certain effect and the most efficacious cause of
civilization, and which, whether it be a blessing or a curse, is the
most powerful engine that a politician can move—I mean the press. It is
a curious fact that in the year of the Armada, Queen Elizabeth caused
to be printed the first gazettes that ever appeared in England; and I
own, when I consider that this mode of rousing a national spirit was
then absolutely unexampled, that she could have no assurance of its
efficacy from the precedents of former times, I am disposed to regard
her having recourse to it as one of the most sagacious experiments,
one of the greatest discoveries of political genius, one of the most
striking anticipations of future experience that we find in history. I
mention it to you to justify the opinion that I have ventured to state
of the close connection of our national spirit with our press, even our
periodical press. I can not quit the reign of Elizabeth without laying
before you the maxims of her policy, in the language of the greatest
and wisest of men. Lord Bacon, in one part of his discourse on her
reign, speaks thus of her support of Holland: “But let me rest upon the
honorable and continual aid and relief she hath given to the distressed
and desolate people of the Low Countries—a people recommended unto
her by ancient confederacy and daily intercourse, by their cause so
innocent and their fortune so lamentable!” In another passage of the
same discourse, he thus speaks of the general system of her foreign
policy as the protector of Europe, in words too remarkable to require
any commentary. “Then it is her government, and her government alone,
that hath been the sconce and fort of all Europe, which hath let this
proud nation from overrunning all. If any state be yet free from his
factions erected in the bowels thereof; if there be any state wherein
this faction is erected that is not yet fired with civil troubles; if
there be any state under his protection that enjoyeth moderate liberty,
upon whom he tyrannizeth not, it is the mercy of this renowned Queen
that standeth between them and their misfortunes!”

The next great conspirator against the rights of men and of nations,
against the security and independence of all European states, against
every kind and degree of civil and religious liberty, was Louis XIV. In
his time the character of the English nation was the more remarkably
displayed, because it was counteracted by an apostate and perfidious
government. During great part of his reign, you know that the throne of
England was filled by princes who deserted the cause of their country
and of Europe, who were the accomplices and the tools of the oppressor
of the world, who were even so unmanly, so unprincely, so base, as to
have sold themselves to his ambition; who were content that he should
enslave the continent, if he enabled them to enslave Great Britain.
These princes, traitors to their own royal dignity and to the feelings
of the generous people whom they ruled, preferred the condition of
the first slave of Louis XIV. to the dignity of the first freemen of
England[34]; yet even under these princes, the feelings of the people
of this kingdom were displayed, on a most memorable occasion, toward
foreign sufferers and foreign oppressors. The revocation of the Edict
of Nantes threw fifty thousand French Protestants on our shores. They
were received as I trust the victims of tyranny ever will be in this
land, which seems chosen by Providence to be the home of the exile, the
refuge of the oppressed. They were welcomed by a people high-spirited
as well as humane, who did not insult them by clandestine charity;
who did not give alms in secret lest their charity should be detected
by the neighboring tyrants! No! They were publicly and nationally
welcomed and relieved. They were bid to raise their voice against
their oppressor, and to proclaim their wrongs to all mankind. They
did so. They were joined in the cry of just indignation by every
Englishman worthy of the name. It was a fruitful indignation, which
soon produced the successful resistance of Europe to the common enemy.
Even then, when Jeffreys disgraced the bench which his Lordship [Lord
Ellenborough] now adorns, no refugee was deterred by prosecution for
libel from giving vent to his feelings, from arraigning the oppressor
in the face of all Europe.

During this ignominious period of our history, a war arose on the
continent, which can not but present itself to the mind on such an
occasion as this; the only war that was ever made on the avowed ground
of attacking a free press. I speak of the invasion of Holland by Louis
XIV. The liberties which the Dutch gazettes had taken in discussing
his conduct were the sole cause of this very extraordinary and
memorable war, which was of short duration, unprecedented in its avowed
principle, and most glorious in its event for the liberties of mankind.
That republic, at all times so interesting to Englishmen—in the worst
times of both countries our brave enemies; in their best times our most
faithful and valuable friends—was then charged with the defence of a
free press against the oppressor of Europe, as a sacred trust for the
benefit of all generations. They felt the sacredness of the deposit,
they felt the dignity of the station in which they were placed, and
though deserted by the un-English government of England, they asserted
their own ancient character, and drove out the great armies and great
captains of the oppressor with defeat and disgrace. Such was the result
of the only war hitherto avowedly undertaken to oppress a free country
because she allowed the free and public exercise of reason. And may the
God of justice and liberty grant that such may ever be the result of
wars made by tyrants against the rights of mankind, especially against
that right which is the guardian of every other!

This war, gentlemen, had the effect of raising up from obscurity the
great Prince of Orange, afterward King William III., the deliverer
of Holland, the deliverer of England, the deliverer of Europe; the
only hero who was distinguished by such a happy union of fortune and
virtue that the objects of his ambition were always the same with the
interests of humanity; perhaps the only man who devoted the whole of
his life exclusively to the service of mankind. This most illustrious
benefactor of Europe, this “hero without vanity or passion,” as he
has been justly and beautifully called by a venerable prelate [Dr.
Shipley, Bishop of St. Asaph], who never made a step toward greatness
without securing or advancing liberty, who had been made Stadtholder
of Holland for the salvation of his own country, was soon after made
King of England for the deliverance of ours. When the people of Great
Britain had once more a government worthy of them, they returned to the
feelings and principles of their ancestors, and resumed their former
station and their former duties as protectors of the independence of
nations. The people of England, delivered from a government which
disgraced, oppressed, and betrayed them, fought under William as
their forefathers had fought under Elizabeth, and after an almost
uninterrupted struggle of more than twenty years, in which they were
often abandoned by fortune, but never by their own constancy and
magnanimity, they at length once more defeated those projects of guilty
ambition, boundless aggrandizement, and universal domination, which
had a second time threatened to overwhelm the whole civilized world.
They rescued Europe from being swallowed up in the gulf of extensive
empire, which the experience of all times points out as the grave of
civilization; where men are driven by violent conquest and military
oppression into lethargy and slavishness of heart; where, after their
arts have perished with the mental vigor from which they spring,
they are plunged by the combined power of effeminacy and ferocity
into irreclaimable and hopeless barbarism. Our ancestors established
the safety of their own country by providing for that of others, and
rebuilt the European system upon such firm foundations that nothing
less than the tempest of the French Revolution could have shaken it.

The arduous struggle was suspended for a short time by the peace of
Ryswick. The interval between that treaty and the war of the succession
enables us to judge how our ancestors acted in a very peculiar
situation, which requires maxims of policy very different from those
which usually govern states. The treaty which they had concluded was
in truth and substance only a truce. The ambition and the power of
the enemy were such as to render real peace impossible. And it was
perfectly obvious that the disputed succession of the Spanish monarch
would soon render it no longer practicable to preserve even the
appearance of amity. It was desirable, however, not to provoke the
enemy by unseasonable hostility; but it was still more desirable,
it was absolutely necessary, to keep up the national jealousy and
indignation against him who was soon to be their open enemy. It might
naturally have been apprehended that the press might have driven
into premature war a prince who, not long before, had been violently
exasperated by the press of another free country. I have looked over
the political publications of that time with some care, and I can
venture to say that at no period were the system and projects of Louis
XIV. animadverted on with more freedom and boldness than during that
interval. Our ancestors and the heroic prince who governed them, did
not deem it wise policy to disarm the national mind for the sake of
prolonging a truce. They were both too proud and too wise to pay so
great a price for so small a benefit.

In the course of the eighteenth century, a great change took place
in the state of political discussion in this country. I speak of the
multiplication of newspapers. I know that newspapers are not very
popular in this place, which is, indeed, not very surprising, because
they are known here only by their faults. Their publishers come here
only to receive the chastisement due to their offences. With all their
faults, I own I can not help feeling some respect for whatever is a
proof of the increased curiosity and increased knowledge of mankind;
and I can not help thinking that if somewhat more indulgence and
consideration were shown for the difficulties of their situation, it
might prove one of the best correctives of their faults, by teaching
them that self-respect which is the best security for liberal conduct
toward others. But however that may be, it is very certain that the
multiplication of these channels of popular information has produced
a great change in the state of our domestic and foreign politics.
At home, it has, in truth, produced a gradual revolution in our
government. By increasing the number of those who exercise some sort
of judgment on public affairs, it has created a substantial democracy,
infinitely more important than those democratical forms which have been
the subject of so much contest. So that I may venture to say, England
has not only in its forms the most democratical government that ever
existed in a great country, but in substance has the most democratical
government that ever existed in any country; if the most _substantial_
democracy be that state in which the greatest number of men feel an
interest and express an opinion upon political questions, and in which
the greatest number of judgments and wills concur in influencing public

The same circumstances gave great additional importance to our
discussion of continental politics. That discussion was no longer, as
in the preceding century, confined to a few pamphlets, written and
read only by men of education and rank, which reached the multitude
very slowly and rarely. In newspapers an almost daily appeal was
made, directly or indirectly, to the judgment and passions of almost
every individual in the kingdom, upon the measures and principles not
only of his own country, but of every state in Europe. Under such
circumstances, the tone of these publications, in speaking of foreign
governments, became a matter of importance. You will excuse me,
therefore, if, before I conclude, I remind you of the general nature
of their language on one or two very remarkable occasions, and of the
boldness with which they arraigned the crimes of powerful sovereigns,
without any check from the laws and magistrates of their own country.
This toleration, or rather this protection, was too long and uniform to
be accidental. I am, indeed, very much mistaken if it be not founded
upon a policy which this country can not abandon without sacrificing
her liberty and endangering her national existence.

The first remarkable instance which I shall choose to state of the
unpunished and protected boldness of the English press, of the freedom
with which they animadverted on the policy of powerful sovereigns, is
the partition of Poland in 1772; an act not, perhaps, so horrible in
its means, nor so deplorable in its immediate effects, as some other
atrocious invasions of national independence which have followed
it; but the most abominable in its general tendency and ultimate
consequences of any political crime recorded in history, because it was
the first practical breach in the system of Europe, the first example
of atrocious robbery perpetrated on unoffending countries which have
been since so liberally followed, and which has broken down all the
barriers of habit and principle which guarded defenceless states. The
perpetrators of this atrocious crime were the most powerful sovereigns
of the continent, whose hostility it certainly was not the interest of
Great Britain wantonly to incur. They were the most illustrious princes
of their age, and some of them were, doubtless, entitled to the highest
praise for their domestic administration, as well as for the brilliant
qualities which distinguished their characters. But none of these
circumstances, no dread of their resentment, no admiration of their
talents, no consideration for their rank, silenced the animadversion of
the English press. Some of you remember, all of you know, that a loud
and unanimous cry of reprobation and execration broke out against them
from every part of this kingdom. It was perfectly uninfluenced by any
considerations of our own mere national interest, which might perhaps
be supposed to be rather favorably affected by that partition. It was
not, as in some other countries, the indignation of rival robbers, who
were excluded from their share of the prey. It was the moral anger of
disinterested spectators against atrocious crimes, the gravest and the
most dignified moral principle which the God of justice has implanted
in the human heart; that of which the dread is the only restraint on
the actions of powerful criminals, and of which the promulgation is
the only punishment that can be inflicted on them. It is a restraint
which ought not to be weakened. It is a punishment which no good man
can desire to mitigate.

That great crime was spoken of as it deserved in England. Robbery
was not described by any courtly circumlocutions. Rapine was not
called policy; nor was the oppression of an innocent people termed _a
mediation_ in their domestic differences. No prosecutions, no criminal
informations followed the liberty and the boldness of the language then
employed. No complaints even appear to have been made from abroad, much
less any insolent menaces against the free constitution which protected
the English press. The people of England were too long known throughout
Europe for the proudest potentate to expect to silence our press by
such means.

I pass over the second partition of Poland in 1792. You all remember
what passed on that occasion, the universal abhorrence expressed by
every man and every writer of every party, the succors that were
publicly preparing by large bodies of individuals of all parties for
the oppressed Poles.

I hasten to the final dismemberment of that unhappy kingdom, which
seems to me the most striking example in our history of the habitual,
principled, and deeply rooted forbearance of those who administer the
law toward political writers. We were engaged in the most extensive,
bloody, and dangerous war that this country ever knew; and the parties
to the dismemberment of Poland were our allies, and our only powerful
and effective allies. We had every motive of policy to court their
friendship. Every reason of state seemed to require that we should not
permit them to be abused and vilified by English writers. What was
the fact? Did any Englishman consider himself at liberty, on account
of temporary interests, however urgent, to silence those feelings of
humanity and justice which guard the certain and permanent interests
of all countries? You all remember that every voice, and every pen,
and every press in England were unceasingly employed to brand that
abominable robbery. You remember that this was not confined to private
writers, but that the same abhorrence was expressed by every member
of both Houses of Parliament who was not under the restraints of
ministerial reserve. No minister dared even to blame the language
of honest indignation which might be very inconvenient to his most
important political projects; and I hope I may venture to say that no
English assembly would have endured such a sacrifice of eternal justice
to any miserable interest of an hour. Did the law-officers of the crown
venture to come into a court of justice to complain of the boldest of
the publications of that time? They did not. I do not say that they
felt any disposition to do so. I believe that they could not. But I do
say that if they had; if they had spoken of the necessity of confining
our political writers to cold narrative and unfeeling argument; if
they had informed the jury that they did not prosecute history, but
invective; that if private writers be at all to blame great princes, it
must be with moderation and decorum, the sound heads and honest hearts
of an English jury would have confounded such sophistry, and declared
by their verdict that moderation of language is a relative term, which
varies with the subject to which it is applied; that atrocious crimes
are not to be related as calmly and coolly as indifferent or trifling
events; that if there be a decorum due to exalted rank and authority,
there is also a much more sacred decorum due to virtue and to human
nature, which would be outraged and trampled under foot by speaking of
guilt in a lukewarm language, falsely called moderate.

Soon after, gentlemen, there followed an act, in comparison with
which all the deeds of rapine and blood perpetrated in the world are
innocence itself—the invasion and destruction of Switzerland, that
unparalleled scene of guilt and enormity; that unprovoked aggression
against an innocent country, which had been the sanctuary of peace and
liberty for three centuries; respected as a sort of sacred territory
by the fiercest ambition; raised, like its own mountains, beyond the
region of the storms which raged around on every side; the only warlike
people that never sent forth armies to disturb their neighbors; the
only government that ever accumulated treasures without imposing
taxes, an innocent treasure, unstained by the tears of the poor, the
inviolate patrimony of the commonwealth, which attested the virtue of
a long series of magistrates, but which at length caught the eye of
the spoiler, and became the fatal occasion of their ruin! Gentlemen,
the destruction of such a country, “its cause so innocent, and its
fortune so lamentable!” made a deep impression on the people of
England. I will ask my learned friend, if we had then been at peace
with the French Republic, whether we must have been silent spectators
of the foulest crimes that ever blotted the name of humanity! whether
we must, like cowards and slaves, have repressed the compassion and
indignation with which that horrible scene of tyranny had filled our
hearts? Let me suppose, gentlemen, that ALOYS REDING, who has displayed
in our times the simplicity, magnanimity, and piety of ancient heroes,
had, after his glorious struggle, honored this kingdom by choosing it
as his refuge; that after performing prodigies of valor at the head
of his handful of heroic peasants on the field of Morgarten, where
his ancestor, the _Landmann Reding_, had, five hundred years before,
defeated the first oppressors of Switzerland, he had selected this
country to be his residence, as the chosen abode of liberty, as the
ancient and inviolable asylum of the oppressed; would my learned friend
have had the boldness to have said to this hero, “that he must hide his
tears” (the tears shed by a hero over the ruins of his country!) “lest
they might provoke the resentment of _Reubell_ or _Rapinat_! that he
must smother the sorrow and the anger with which his heart was loaded;
that he must breathe his murmurs low, lest they might be overheard
by the oppressor!” Would this have been the language of my learned
friend? I know that it would not. I know that by such a supposition I
have done wrong to his honorable feelings, to his honest English heart.
I am sure that he knows as well as I do, that a nation which should
_thus_ receive the oppressed of other countries would be preparing its
own neck for the yoke. He knows the slavery which such a nation would
deserve, and must speedily incur. He knows that sympathy with the
unmerited sufferings of others, and disinterested anger against their
oppressors, are, if I may so speak, the masters which are appointed
by Providence to teach us fortitude in the defence of our own rights;
that selfishness is a dastardly principle, which betrays its charge and
flies from its post; and that those only can defend themselves with
valor who are animated by the moral approbation with which they can
survey their sentiments toward others, who are ennobled in their own
eyes by a consciousness that they are fighting for justice as well as
interest; a consciousness which none can feel but those who have felt
for the wrongs of their brethren. These are the sentiments which my
learned friend would have felt. He would have told the hero: “Your
confidence is not deceived; this is still that England, of which the
history may, perhaps, have contributed to fill your heart with the
heroism of liberty. Every other country of Europe is crouching under
the bloody tyrants who destroyed your country. _We_ are unchanged; we
are still the same people which received with open arms the victims
of the tyranny of Philip II. and Louis XIV. We shall not exercise a
cowardly and clandestine humanity! Here we are not so dastardly as to
rob you of your greatest consolation. Here, protected by a free, brave,
and high-minded people, you may give vent to your indignation; you
may proclaim the crimes of your tyrants; you may devote them to the
execration of mankind; there is still one spot upon earth in which they
are abhorred, without being dreaded!”[35]

I am aware, gentlemen, that I have already abused your indulgence, but
I must entreat you to bear with me for a short time longer, to allow
me to suppose a case which might have occurred, in which you will
see the horrible consequences of enforcing rigorously principles of
law, which I can not counteract, against political writers. We might
have been at peace with France during the whole of that terrible
period which elapsed between August, 1792 and 1794, which has been
usually called the reign of Robespierre!—the only series of crimes,
perhaps, in history which, in spite of the common disposition to
exaggerate extraordinary facts, has been beyond measure underrated in
public opinion. I say this, gentlemen, after an investigation which,
I think, entitles me to affirm it with confidence. Men’s minds were
oppressed by atrocity and the multitude of crimes; their humanity and
their indolence took refuge in skepticism from such an overwhelming
mass of guilt; and the consequence was, that all these unparalleled
enormities, though proved not only with the fullest historical but with
the strictest judicial evidence, were at the time only half believed,
and are now scarcely half remembered. When these atrocities were daily
perpetrating, of which the greatest part are as little known to the
public in general as the campaigns of Genghis Khan, but are still
protected from the scrutiny of men by the immensity of those voluminous
records of guilt in which they are related, and under the mass of which
they will be buried till some historian be found with patience and
courage enough to drag them forth into light, for the shame, indeed,
but for the instruction of mankind—when these crimes were perpetrating,
which had the peculiar malignity, from the pretexts with which they
were covered, of making the noblest objects of human pursuit seem
odious and detestable; which have almost made the names of liberty,
reformation, and humanity synonymous with anarchy, robbery, and
murder; which thus threatened not only to extinguish every principle
of improvement, to arrest the progress of civilized society, and to
disinherit future generations of that rich succession which they were
entitled to expect from the knowledge and wisdom of the present, but to
destroy the civilization of Europe, which never gave such a proof of
its vigor and robustness as in being able to resist their destructive
power—when all these horrors were acting in the greatest empire of the
continent, I will ask my learned friend, if we had then been at peace
with France, how English writers were to relate them so as to escape
the charge of libelling a friendly government?

When Robespierre, in the debates in the National Convention on the
mode of murdering their blameless sovereign, objected to the formal
and tedious mode of murder called a trial, and proposed to put him
immediately to death, “on the principles of insurrection,” because,
to doubt the guilt of the king would be to doubt the innocence of the
Convention; and if the king were not a traitor, the Convention must
be rebels; would my learned friend have had an English writer state
all this with “_decorum and moderation_?” Would he have had an English
writer state that though this reasoning was not perfectly agreeable to
our national laws, or perhaps to our national prejudices, yet it was
not for him to make any observations on the judicial proceedings of
foreign states?

When Marat, in the same Convention, called for two hundred and seventy
thousand heads must our English writers have said that the remedy did,
indeed, seem to their weak judgment rather severe; but that it was not
for them to judge the conduct of so illustrious an assembly as the
National Convention, or the suggestions of so enlightened a statesman
as M. Marat?

When that Convention resounded with applause at the news of several
hundred aged priests being thrown into the Loire, and particularly
at the exclamation of Carrier, who communicated the intelligence,
“What a revolutionary torrent is the Loire”—when these suggestions
and narrations of murder, which have hitherto been only hinted and
whispered in the most secret cabals, in the darkest caverns of
banditti, were triumphantly uttered, patiently endured, and even loudly
applauded by an assembly of seven hundred men, acting in the sight of
all Europe, would my learned friend have wished that there had been
found in England a single writer so base as to deliberate upon the most
safe, decorous, and polite manner of relating all these things to his

When Carrier ordered five hundred children under fourteen years of
age to be shot, the greater part of whom escaped the fire from their
size, when the poor victims ran for protection to the soldiers, and
were bayoneted clinging round their knees! _would my friend_—but I
can not pursue the strain of interrogation. It is too much. It would
be a violence which I can not practise on my own feelings. It would
be an outrage to my friend. It would be an insult to humanity. No!
Better, ten thousand times better, would it be that every press in
the world were burned; that the very use of letters were abolished;
that we were returned to the honest ignorance of the rudest times,
than that the results of civilization should be made subservient to
the purposes of barbarism, than that literature should be employed to
teach a toleration for cruelty, to weaken moral hatred for guilt, to
deprave and brutalize the human mind. I know that I speak my friend’s
feelings as well as my own when I say God forbid that the dread of
any punishment should ever make any Englishman an accomplice in so
corrupting his countrymen, a public teacher of depravity and barbarity!

Mortifying and horrible as the idea is, I must remind you, gentlemen,
that even at that time, even under the reign of Robespierre, my learned
friend, if he had then been attorney-general, might have been compelled
by some most deplorable necessity to have come into this court to ask
your verdict against the libellers of Barrère and Collot d’Herbois.
Mr. Peltier then employed his talents against the enemies of the human
race, as he has uniformly and bravely done. I do not believe that any
peace, any political considerations, any fear of punishment would
have silenced him. He has shown too much honor, and constancy, and
intrepidity, to be shaken by such circumstances as these.

My learned friend might then have been compelled to have filed a
criminal information against Mr. Peltier, for “wickedly and maliciously
intending to vilify and degrade Maximilian Robespierre, President of
the Committee of Public Safety of the French Republic!” He might have
been reduced to the sad necessity of appearing before you to belie his
own better feelings, to prosecute Mr. Peltier for publishing those
sentiments which my friend himself had a thousand times felt, and a
thousand times expressed. He might have been obliged even to call for
punishment upon Mr. Peltier for language which he and all mankind would
forever despise Mr. Peltier if he were not to employ. Then, indeed,
gentlemen, we should have seen the last humiliation fall on England;
the tribunals, the spotless and venerable tribunals, of this free
country reduced to be the ministers of the vengeance of Robespierre!
What could have rescued us from this last disgrace? _The honesty and
courage of a jury._ They would have delivered the judges of this
country from the dire necessity of inflicting punishment on a brave and
virtuous man, because he spoke truth of a monster. They would have
despised the threats of a foreign tyrant, as their ancestors braved the
power of oppression at home.

In the court where we are now met, Cromwell twice sent a satirist
on his tyranny to be convicted and punished as a libeller, and in
this court, almost in sight of the scaffold streaming with the blood
of his sovereign, within hearing of the clash of his bayonets which
drove out Parliament with contumely, two successive juries rescued
the intrepid satirist [Lilburne] from his fangs, and sent out with
defeat and disgrace the usurper’s attorney-general from what he had
the insolence to call _his_ court! Even then, gentlemen, when all law
and liberty were trampled under the feet of a military banditti; when
those great crimes were perpetrated on a high place and with a high
hand against those who were the objects of public veneration, which,
more than any thing else, break their spirits and confound their moral
sentiments, obliterate the distinctions between right and wrong in
their understanding, and teach the multitude to feel no longer any
reverence for that justice which they thus see triumphantly dragged at
the chariot-wheels of a tyrant; even then, when this unhappy country,
triumphant, indeed, abroad, but enslaved at home, had no prospect
but that of a long succession of tyrants wading through slaughter to
a throne—_even then, I say, when all seemed lost, the unconquerable
spirit of English liberty survived in the hearts of English jurors_.
That spirit is, I trust in God, not extinct; and if any modern tyrant
were, in the drunkenness of his insolence, to hope to overawe an
English jury, I trust and I believe that they would tell him: “Our
ancestors braved the bayonets of Cromwell; we bid defiance to yours.
_Contempsi Catilinæ gladios—non pertimescam tuos!_”

What could be such a tyrant’s means of overawing a jury? As long as
their country exists, they are girt round with impenetrable armor.
Till the destruction of their country, no danger can fall upon them
for the performance of their duty, and I do trust that there is no
Englishman so unworthy of life as to desire to outlive England. But
if any of us are condemned to the cruel punishment of surviving our
country—if, in the inscrutable counsels of Providence, this favored
seat of justice and liberty, this noblest work of human wisdom and
virtue, be destined to destruction, which I shall not be charged with
national prejudice for saying would be the most dangerous wound ever
inflicted on civilization; at least let us carry with us into our sad
exile the consolation that we ourselves have not violated the rights
of hospitality to exiles—that we have not torn from the altar the
suppliant who claimed protection as the voluntary victim of loyalty and

Gentlemen, I now leave this unfortunate gentleman in your hands.
His character and his situation might interest your humanity; but,
on his behalf, I only ask justice from you. I only ask a favorable
construction of what can not be said to be more than ambiguous
language, and this you will soon be told, from the highest authority,
is a part of justice.

  Notwithstanding the great impression made by his speech, the charge
  of Lord Ellenborough made it necessary that the jury should render
  a verdict of guilty. In his instructions his Lordship said that
  under the law of England “any publication which tended to degrade,
  revile, and defame persons in considerable situations of power and
  dignity, in foreign countries, may be taken and treated as a libel,
  and particularly where it has a tendency to interrupt the pacific
  relations of the two countries.”

  The jury found Peltier guilty; but as war was almost immediately
  declared, he was not brought up for sentence, but was set free.


“As an advocate in the forum, I hold him to be without an equal in
ancient or modern times.” This is the judgment of the author of “The
Lives of the Lord Chancellors,” in regard to Thomas, Lord Erskine.
But for the modern student, Erskine was not merely the most powerful
advocate that ever appealed to a court or a jury, but what is more
important, he was, in a very definite sense, so closely identified
with the establishment of certain great principles that lie at the
foundation of modern social life, that a knowledge, at least, of some
of his speeches is of no little importance. The rights of juries,
the liberty of the press, and the law of treason were discussed by
him not only with a depth of learning and a power of reasoning which
were absolutely conclusive, but at the same time with a warmth and a
brilliancy of genius which throw a peculiar charm over the whole of the
subjects presented.

Thomas Erskine was the youngest son of the Earl of Buchan, the
representative of an old Scotch house, whose ample fortune had wasted
away until the family was reduced to actual poverty. Just before the
birth of the future Lord Chancellor, the Earl of Buchan abandoned his
ancient seat, and with wife and children took up his abode in an upper
flat of a lofty house in the old town of Edinburgh. Here Erskine was
born on the 10th of January, 1750. The poverty of the family made it
impossible for him to acquire the early education he craved. Some years
at the schools in Edinburgh, and a few months in the University of St.
Andrews, completed his academic days. He gained a very superficial
knowledge of Latin, and, if we may believe Lord Campbell, “little of
Greek beyond the alphabet.” In the rudiments of English literature,
however, he was well instructed; and he seems, even while at the
university, to have acquired something of that freedom and nobleness of
manner which so much distinguished him in after-life.

The condition of the family, however, made it impossible for him to
complete the course of studies at the University; and accordingly, at
fourteen, he was placed as a midshipman in the navy. Here he remained
four years, during which time he visited different parts of the globe,
including the Indies and the English colonies in North America. At the
end of his term he determined, like the elder Pitt, to enter the army;
and, taking the whole of his small patrimony for the purpose, he bought
an ensign’s commission in the Royals or First Regiment of Foot. Here
he remained from the time he was eighteen till he was twenty-five.
At twenty he was married to a lady of respectability, though without
fortune. But this step, which, with most persons, would have been
the sure precursor of poverty and obscurity, turned out in the case
of Erskine to be a means of inspiration and assistance. His mind was
balanced, and his vivacity was reduced to earnestness. As the regiment
was in garrison, he had abundant leisure, and he applied himself in
the society of his wife to the systematic study of the masterpieces
of English literature. The best parts of Milton and Shakespeare he
acquired such mastery of that he continued to know them by heart
throughout life. It is evident that his attainments were beginning to
attract attention; for, in April of 1772, Boswell speaks of him as
dining with Johnson, and characterizes him as “a young officer in the
regimentals of the Scotch Royals, who talked with a vivacity, fluency,
and precision which attracted particular attention.”

It was not until two years after this time that we find Erskine
interested in the proceedings of the courts. He subsequently declared
that, while a witness of judicial proceedings, it often occurred to
him in the course of the argument on both sides how much more clearly
and forcibly he could have presented the points and urged them on the
minds of the jury. It was this consciousness that led him one day,
while dining with Lord Mansfield, to ask: “Is it impossible for me to
become a lawyer?” The answer of the Lord Chancellor did not utterly
discourage him; and he became a student of Lincoln’s Inn at the age
of twenty-five. In order to abridge his term of study, he determined
to take a degree at one of the universities, as, being a nobleman’s
son, he was entitled to do on examination and without residence. In
fulfilment of this design, he became a member of Trinity College, at
Cambridge, in 1776, while he was prosecuting his legal studies in
London, and still holding his commission in the army as a means of
support. In July of 1778, when in his twenty-ninth year, he was called
to the bar.

A singular combination of circumstances almost immediately brought him
forward into great prominence. He had been retained as junior counsel
with four eminent advocates for the defence of one Captain Bailie,
who had disclosed certain important corruptions of the government
officials in charge of Greenwich Hospital. Bailie was prosecuted
for libel, and the influence of the government was so great, that
the four older counsellors advised him to accept of a compromise by
withdrawing the charges and paying the costs. From this opinion Erskine
alone dissented. Bailie accepted the advice of the young advocate
with enthusiasm, and thus threw upon him the chief responsibility of
conducting the cause. The result was one of the most extraordinary
triumphs in the history of forensic advocacy. Erskine’s power revealed
itself, not only in the remarkable learning and skill which he showed
in the general management of the cause, but in the clearness with which
he stated the difficult points at issue, and the overpowering eloquence
with which he urged his positions on the court and the jury. It was his
first cause. He entered Westminster Hall in extreme poverty; before
he left it he had received thirty retainers from attorneys who had
been present at the trial. Demand for his services continued rapidly
to increase, till within a few years his income from his profession
amounted to 12,000 pounds a year.

It was but natural that so great success at the bar should carry
Erskine, at an early day, into the House of Commons. In 1783 we find
him on the benches of the House as a supporter of the newly formed
Coalition of North and Fox. His fame as an orator had become so great,
that the Coalition hoped and the Opposition feared much from his
eloquence. But he disappointed his friends, and showed as soon as he
took the floor, that his manner was suited to the courts and not to the
legislature. Croly, in his “Life of George IV.,” relates that great
expectations were raised when it was announced that Erskine was to make
his maiden speech. Pitt evidently intended to reply, and sat, pen in
hand to take notes of his formidable opponent’s arguments. He wrote,
however, but a few words. As Erskine proceeded, his attention relaxed;
and finally, with a contemptuous expression, he stabbed his pen through
the paper and threw them both on the floor. “Erskine,” says Croly,
“never recovered from this expression of disdain; his voice faltered,
he struggled through the remainder of his speech and sank into his seat
dispirited, and shorn of his fame.” It was not until late in life, that
he was able to recover the equanimity lost on that night in the House
of Commons. But, although after some years, he made several eloquent
parliamentary speeches, all his legislative efforts were far surpassed
by the brilliancy of his speeches in Westminster Hall.

From 1783 till 1806 Erskine adhered to the liberal political doctrines
advocated by Fox. His influence in Parliament, however, was not great,
and his principal energies were expended in the courts; when, in 1806,
Grenville and Fox came into power, Erskine received the highest award
to which an English attorney can aspire. But, he had not long to enjoy
his new honors as Lord Chancellor, for Pitt soon came once more into
power. The usages of the legal profession in England did not allow
Erskine to return to the bar, and therefore the remaining years of
his life were unimportant, and not without disappointment. The great
advocate died November 17, 1823, in the seventy-fourth year of his age.

Erskine was not only the greatest of English advocates, but he is
entitled to the still higher distinction of having given so clear an
exposition of some of the most subtle principles at the basis of human
liberty, as to cause them to be generally recognized and accepted.
It was his lot to be much more frequently employed in defence, than
in prosecution, and many of his arguments in behalf of his clients
are marvels of clear and enlightened exposition of those fundamental
rights on which English liberty is established. His speeches in behalf
of Gordon, Hadfield, Hardy, and Tooke, constitute, as a whole, the
clearest exposition ever made of the law of treason. Of the speech in
defence of Gordon, Lord Campbell goes so far as to say: “Here I find
not only great acuteness, powerful reasoning, enthusiastic zeal, and
burning eloquence, but the most masterly view ever given of the English
law of high treason, the foundation of all our liberties.” The plea
in behalf of Stockdale, commonly considered the finest of Erskine’s
speeches, is perhaps a still more felicitous exposition of the
principles involved in the law of libel. Of his speech on the rights
of juries, Campbell says that it displayed “beyond all comparison
the most perfect union of argument and eloquence ever exhibited
in Westminster Hall.” His address in behalf of Paine, if somewhat
less successful than the great efforts just alluded to, was still a
remarkable presentation of the principles of free speech. But the most
noteworthy characteristic of Erskine was that notwithstanding the depth
and ingenuity and learning of his arguments, his whole presentation was
so illumined by the glow of his genius, that his address was always
listened to with the greatest popular interest. His speech in behalf
of Hardy was seven hours in length, but the crowd of eager auditors
not only heard him to the end, but “burst out into irrepressible
acclamations which spread through the vast multitude outside and were
repeated to a great distance around.”

It need scarcely be added that for students of English law, Erskine is
the most important of all the English orators.



  Nearly all of Erskine’s speeches were several hours in length and so
  logically constructed as not to admit of abridgment or excision. The
  more elaborate of them, therefore, are not adapted to the purposes
  of this collection. It happens, however, that one of the briefest of
  his forensic addresses was the one on which he himself looked with
  most satisfaction. Of the speech delivered on the prosecution of
  Williams he is reported to have said: “I would rather that all my
  other speeches were committed to the flames, or in any manner buried
  in oblivion, than that a single page of it should be lost.” Erskine’s
  “Speeches,” Am. ed., vol. i., p. 571.

  It is an interesting fact that the same great advocate who gave all
  his powers to the defence of Paine for publishing the “Rights of
  Man,” was equally earnest in the prosecution of Williams for the
  publication of the same author’s “Age of Reason.” But the explanation
  is easy. In the former work the author criticised, in what Erskine
  regarded as a legitimate way, the character and methods of the
  English Government; in the latter he assailed what the advocate
  regarded as the very foundations of all government and all justice.
  The difference between the two is pointed out in the following
  speech with a skill that will give the reader a good example of the
  orator’s method.


The charge of blasphemy, which is put upon the record against the
publisher of this publication, is not an accusation of the servants of
the crown, but comes before you sanctioned by the oaths of a grand jury
of the country. It stood for trial upon a former day; but it happening,
as it frequently does, without any imputation upon the gentlemen named
in the panel, that a sufficient number did not appear to constitute
a full special jury, I thought it my duty to withdraw the cause from
trial, till I could have the opportunity of addressing myself to you
who were originally appointed to try it.

I pursued this course from no jealousy of the common juries appointed
by the laws for the ordinary service of the court, since my whole
life has been one continued experience of their virtues; but because
I thought it of great importance that those who were to decide upon a
cause so very momentous to the public, should have the highest possible
qualifications for the decision; that they should not only be men
capable from their educations of forming an enlightened judgment, but
that their situations should be such as to bring them within the full
view of their country, to which, in character and in estimation, they
were in their own turns to be responsible.

Not having the honor, gentlemen, to be sworn for the king as one of his
counsel, it has fallen much oftener to my lot to defend indictments
for libels than to assist in the prosecution of them; but I feel no
embarrassment from that recollection. I shall not be bound to-day to
express a sentiment or to utter an expression inconsistent with those
invaluable principles for which I have uniformly contended in the
defence of others. Nothing that I have ever said, either professionally
or personally, for the liberty of the press, do I mean to-day to
contradict or counteract. On the contrary, I desire to preface the
very short discourse I have to make to you, with reminding you that
it is your most solemn duty to take care that it suffers no injury in
your hands. A free and unlicensed press, in the just and legal sense
of the expression, has led to all the blessings, both of religion
and government, which Great Britain or any part of the world at this
moment enjoys, and it is calculated to advance mankind to still higher
degrees of civilization and happiness. But this freedom, like every
other, must be limited to be enjoyed, and, like every human advantage,
may be defeated by its abuse.

Gentlemen, the defendant stands indicted for having published this
book, which I have only read from the obligations of professional duty,
and which I rose from the reading of with astonishment and disgust.
Standing here with all the privileges belonging to the highest counsel
for the crown, I shall be entitled to reply to any defence that shall
be made for the publication. I shall wait with patience till I hear it.

Indeed, if I were to anticipate the defence which I hear and read of,
it would be defaming by anticipation the learned counsel who is to
make it; since, if I am to collect it from a formal notice given to
the prosecutors in the course of the proceedings, I have to expect
that, instead of a defence conducted according to the rules and
principles of English law, the foundation of all our laws, and the
sanctions of all justice, are to be struck at and insulted. What gives
the court its jurisdiction? What but the oath which his lordship, as
well as yourselves, has sworn upon the gospel to fulfil? Yet in the
King’s Court, where his Majesty is himself also sworn to administer
the justice of England—in the King’s Court—who receives his high
authority under a solemn oath to maintain the Christian religion, as
it is promulgated by God in the Holy Scriptures, I am nevertheless
called upon as counsel for the prosecution to “produce a certain book
described in the indictment to be the Holy Bible.” No man deserves to
be upon the rolls, who has dared as an attorney to put his name to such
a notice. It is an insult to the authority and dignity of the court of
which he is an officer; since it calls in question the very foundations
of its jurisdiction. If this is to be the spirit and temper of the
defence; if, as I collect from that array of books which are spread
upon the benches behind me, this publication is to be vindicated by
an attack of all the truths which the Christian religion promulgates
to mankind, let it be remembered that such an argument was neither
suggested nor justified by any thing said by me on the part of the

In this stage of the proceedings, I shall call for reverence to the
Sacred Scriptures, not from their merits, unbounded as they are, but
from their authority in a Christian country; not from the obligations
of conscience, but from the rules of law. For my own part, gentlemen,
I have been ever deeply devoted to the truths of Christianity; and my
firm belief in the Holy Gospel is by no means owing to the prejudices
of education, though I was religiously educated by the best of parents,
but has arisen from the fullest and most continued reflections of
my riper years and understanding. It forms at this moment the great
consolation of a life, which, as a shadow passeth away; and without it,
I should consider my long course of health and prosperity, too long
perhaps and too uninterrupted to be good for any man, only as the dust
which the wind scatters, and rather as a snare than as a blessing.

Much, however, as I wish to support the authority of Scripture from a
reasonable consideration of it, I shall repress that subject for the
present. But if the defence, as I have suspected, shall bring them
at all into argument or question, I must then fulfil a duty which I
owe not only to the court, as counsel for the prosecution, but to the
public, and to the world, to state what I feel and know concerning the
evidences of that religion, which is denied without being examined, and
reviled without being understood.

I am well aware that by the communications of a free press, all the
errors of mankind, from age to age, have been dissipated and dispelled;
and I recollect that the world, under the banners of reformed
Christianity, has struggled through persecution to the noble eminence
on which it stands at this moment, shedding the blessings of humanity
and science upon the nations of the earth.

It may be asked, then, by what means the reformation would have been
effected, if the books of the reformers had been suppressed, and the
errors of now exploded superstitions had been supported by the terrors
of an unreformed state? or how, upon such principles, any reformation,
civil or religious, can in future be effected? The solution is easy:
let us examine what are the genuine principles of the liberty of the
press, as they regard writings upon general subjects, unconnected with
the personal reputations of private men, which are wholly foreign to
the present inquiry. They are full of simplicity, and are brought as
near perfection, by the law of England, as perhaps is attainable by any
of the frail institutions of mankind.

Although every community must establish supreme authorities, founded
upon fixed principles, and must give high powers to magistrates
to administer laws for the preservation of government, and for the
security of those who are to be protected by it; yet as infallibility
and perfection belong neither to human individuals nor to human
establishments, it ought to be the policy of all free nations, as
it is most peculiarly the principle of our own, to permit the most
unbounded freedom of discussion, even to the detection of errors in
the constitution of the very government itself; so as that common
decorum is observed, which every state must exact from its subjects and
which imposes no restraint upon any intellectual composition, fairly,
honestly, and decently addressed to the consciences and understandings
of men. Upon this principle I have an unquestionable right, a right
which the best subjects have exercised, to examine the principles
and structure of the constitution, and by fair, manly reasoning, to
question the practice of its administrators. I have a right to consider
and to point out errors in the one or in the other; and not merely
to reason upon their existence, but to consider the means of their

By such free, well-intentioned, modest, and dignified communication of
sentiments and opinions, all nations have been gradually improved,
and milder laws and purer religions have been established. The same
principles which vindicate civil controversies, honestly directed,
extend their protection to the sharpest contentions on the subject
of religious faiths. This rational and legal course of improvement
was recognized and ratified by Lord Kenyon as the law of England,
in the late trial at Guildhall, where he looked back with gratitude
to the labors of the reformers, as the fountains of our religious
emancipation, and of the civil blessings that followed in their train.
The English constitution, indeed, does not stop short in the toleration
of religious opinions, but liberally extends it to practice. It
permits every man, even publicly, to worship God according to his own
conscience, though in marked dissent from the national establishment,
so as he professes the general faith, which is the sanction of all our
moral duties, and the only pledge of our submission to the system which
constitutes the state.

Is not this freedom of controversy and freedom of worship sufficient
for all the purposes of human happiness and improvement? Can it be
necessary for either, that the law should hold out indemnity to those
who wholly abjure and revile the government of their country, or the
religion on which it rests for its foundation? I expect to hear in
answer to what I am now saying, much that will offend me. My learned
friend, from the difficulties of his situation, which I know from
experience how to feel for very sincerely, may be driven to advance
propositions which it may be my duty with much freedom to reply to; and
the law will sanction that freedom. But will not the ends of justice
be completely answered by my exercise of that right, in terms that
are decent, and calculated to expose its defects? Or will my argument
suffer, or will public justice be impeded, because neither private
honor and justice nor public decorum would endure my telling my very
learned friend, because I differ from him in opinion, that he is a
fool, a liar, and a scoundrel, in the face of the court? This is just
the distinction between a book of free legal controversy, and the book
which I am arraigning before you. Every man has a right to investigate,
with decency, controversial points of the Christian religion; but no
man consistently with a law which only exists under its sanctions has a
right to deny its very existence, and to pour forth such shocking and
insulting invectives as the lowest establishments in the gradation of
civil authority ought not to be subjected to, and which soon would be
borne down by insolence and disobedience, if they were.

The same principle pervades the whole system of the law, not merely
in its abstract theory, but in its daily and most applauded practice.
The intercourse between the sexes, which, properly regulated, not only
continues, but humanizes and adorns our natures, is the foundation
of all the thousand romances, plays, and novels, which are in the
hands of everybody. Some of them lead to the confirmation of every
virtuous principle; others, though with the same profession, address
the imagination in a manner to lead the passions into dangerous
excesses; but though the law does not nicely discriminate the various
shades which distinguish such works from one another, so as to suffer
many to pass, through its liberal spirit, that upon principle ought
to be suppressed, would it or does it tolerate, or does any decent
man contend that it ought to pass by unpunished, libels of the most
shameless obscenity, manifestly pointed to debauch innocence and to
blast and poison the morals of the rising generation? This is only
another illustration to demonstrate the obvious distinction between
the work of an author who fairly exercises the powers of his mind
in investigating the religion or government of any country, and him
who attacks the rational existence of every religion or government,
and brands with absurdity and folly the state which sanctions, and
the obedient tools who cherish, the delusion. But this publication
appears to me to be as cruel and mischievous in its effects, as it
is manifestly illegal in its principles; because it strikes at the
best—sometimes, alas!—the only refuge and consolation amidst the
distresses and afflictions of the world. The poor and humble, whom it
affects to pity, may be stabbed to the heart by it. They have more
occasion for firm hopes beyond the grave than the rich and prosperous
who have other comforts to render life delightful. I can conceive a
distressed but virtuous man, surrounded by his children looking up
to him for bread when he has none to give them; sinking under the
last day’s labor, and unequal to the next, yet still, supported by
confidence in the hour when all tears shall be wiped from the eyes
of affliction, bearing the burden laid upon him by a mysterious
Providence which he adores, and anticipating with exultation the
revealed promises of his Creator, when he shall be greater than the
greatest, and happier than the happiest of mankind. What a change
in such a mind might be wrought by such a merciless publication?
Gentlemen, whether these remarks are the overcharged declamations of
an accusing counsel, or the just reflections of a man anxious for the
public happiness, which is best secured by the morals of a nation, will
be soon settled by an appeal to the passages in the work, that are
selected by the indictment for your consideration and judgment. You are
at liberty to connect them with every context and sequel, and to bestow
upon them the mildest interpretations. [Here Mr. Erskine read and
commented upon several of the selected passages, and then proceeded as

Gentlemen, it would be useless and disgusting to enumerate the other
passages within the scope of the indictment. How any man can rationally
vindicate the publication of such a book, in a country where the
Christian religion is the very foundation of the law of the land, I am
totally at a loss to conceive, and have no ideas for the discussion of.
How is a tribunal whose whole jurisdiction is founded upon the solemn
belief and practice of what is here denied as falsehood, and reprobated
as impiety, to deal with such an anomalous defence? Upon what principle
is it even offered to the court, whose authority is contemned and
mocked at? If the religion proposed to be called in question, is not
previously adopted in belief and solemnly acted upon, what authority
has the court to pass any judgment at all of acquittal or condemnation?
Why am I now or upon any other occasion to submit to his lordship’s
authority? Why am I now or at any time to address twelve of my equals,
as I am now addressing you, with reverence and submission? Under what
sanction are the witnesses to give their evidence, without which there
can be no trial? Under what obligations can I call upon you, the jury
representing your country, to administer justice? Surely upon no other
than that you are sworn to administer it, under the oaths you have
taken. The whole judicial fabric, from the king’s sovereign authority
to the lowest office of magistracy, has no other foundation. The whole
is built, both in form and substance, upon the same oath of every one
of its ministers to do justice, as God shall help them hereafter. What
God? And what hereafter? That God, undoubtedly, who has commanded kings
to rule, and judges to decree justice; who has said to witnesses, not
only by the voice of nature but in revealed commandments, “Thou shalt
not bear false testimony against thy neighbor”; and who has enforced
obedience to them by the revelation of the unutterable blessings which
shall attend their observance, and the awful punishments which shall
await upon their transgression.

But it seems this is an age of reason, and the time and the person are
at last arrived that are to dissipate the errors which have overspread
the past generations of ignorance. The believers in Christianity
are many, but it belongs to the few that are wise to correct their
credulity. Belief is an act of reason, and superior reason may,
therefore, dictate to the weak. In running the mind over the long list
of sincere and devout Christians, I can not help lamenting that Newton
had not lived to this day, to have had his shallowness filled up with
this new flood of light. But the subject is too awful for irony, I
will speak plainly and directly. Newton was a Christian; Newton, whose
mind burst forth from the fetters fastened by nature upon our finite
conceptions; Newton, whose science was truth, and the foundations
of whose knowledge of it was philosophy; not those visionary and
arrogant presumptions which too often usurp its name, but philosophy
resting upon the basis of mathematics, which, like figures, can not
lie; Newton, who carried the line and rule to the uttermost barriers
of creation, and explored the principles by which all created matter
exists and is held together. But this extraordinary man, in the mighty
reach of his mind, overlooked, perhaps, the errors which a minuter
investigation of the created things on this earth might have taught
him. What shall then be said of Mr. Boyle, who looked into the organic
structure of all matter, even to the inanimate substances which the
foot treads upon? Such a man may be supposed to have been equally
qualified with Mr. Paine to look up through nature to nature’s God;
yet the result of all his contemplations was the most confirmed and
devout belief in all which the other holds in contempt, as despicable
and drivelling superstition. But this error might, perhaps, arise from
a want of due attention to the foundations of human judgment, and
the structure of that understanding which God has given us for the
investigation of truth. Let that question be answered by Mr. Locke,
who to the highest pitch of devotion and adoration was a Christian;
Mr. Locke, whose office was to detect the errors of thinking, by going
up to the very fountains of thought, and to direct into the proper
track of reasoning the devious mind of man, by showing him its whole
process, from the first perceptions of sense to the last conclusions of
ratiocination; putting a rein upon false opinion, by practical rules
for the conduct of human judgment.

But these men, it may be said, were only deep thinkers, and lived
in their closets, unaccustomed to the traffic of the world, and to
the laws which practically regulate mankind. Gentlemen, in the place
where we now sit to administer the justice of this great country,
the never-to-be-forgotten Sir Mathew Hale presided; whose faith in
Christianity is an exalted commentary upon its truth and reason, and
whose life was a glorious example of its fruits; whose justice, drawn,
from the pure fountain of the Christian dispensation, will be, in all
ages, a subject of the highest reverence and admiration. But it is said
by the author, that the Christian fable is but the tale of the more
ancient superstitions of the world, and may be easily detected by a
proper understanding of the mythologies of the heathens. Did Milton
understand those mythologies? Was he less versed than Mr. Paine in the
superstitions of the world? No; they were the subject of his immortal
song; and, though shut out from all recurrence to them, he poured them
forth from the stores of a memory rich with all that man ever knew, and
laid them in their order as the illustration of real and exalted faith,
the unquestionable source of that fervid genius which has cast a kind
of shade upon most of the other works of man:

   “He pass’d the flaming bounds of place and time:
    The living throne, the sapphire blaze,
    Where angels tremble while they gaze,
    He saw, but blasted with excess of light,
    Closed his eyes in endless night.”

But it was the light of the body only that was extinguished: “The
celestial light shone inward, and enabled him to justify the ways of
God to man.” The result of his thinking was, nevertheless, not quite
the same as the author’s before us. The mysterious incarnation of our
blessed Saviour, which this work blasphemes in words so wholly unfit
for the mouth of a Christian, or for the ear of a court of justice,
that I dare not, and will not, give them utterance. Milton made the
grand conclusion of his “Paradise Lost,” the rest from his finished
labors, and the ultimate hope, expectation, and glory of the world.

   “A virgin is his mother, but his sire,
    The power of the Most High; he shall ascend
    The throne hereditary, and bound his reign
    With earth’s wide bounds, his glory with the heavens.”

The immortal poet having thus put into the mouth of the angel the
prophecy of man’s redemption, follows it with that solemn and beautiful
admonition, addressed in the poem to our great first parent, but
intended as an address to his posterity through all generations:

   “This having learn’d, thou hast attain’d the sum
    Of wisdom; hope no higher, though all the stars
    Thou knew’st by name, and all th’ ethereal powers,
    All secrets of the deep, all nature’s works,
    Or works of God in heaven, air, earth, or sea,
    And all the riches of this world enjoy’dst,
    And all the rule, one empire; only add
    Deeds to thy knowledge answerable, add faith,
    Add virtue, patience, temperance, add love,
    By name to come call’d charity, the soul
    Of all the rest; then wilt thou not be loth
    To leave this paradise, but shalt possess
    A paradise within thee, happier far.”

Thus, you find all that is great, or wise, or splendid, or illustrious,
amongst created things; all the minds gifted beyond ordinary nature, if
not inspired by its universal Author for the advancement and dignity of
the world, though divided by distant ages, and by clashing opinions,
yet joining as it were in one sublime chorus, to celebrate the truths
of Christianity; laying upon its holy altars the never-fading offerings
of their immortal wisdom.

Against all this concurring testimony, we find suddenly, from the
author of this book, that the Bible teaches nothing but “lies,
obscenity, cruelty, and injustice.” Had he ever read our Saviour’s
sermon on the mount, in which the great principles of our faith and
duty are summed up? Let us all but read and practise it, and lies,
obscenity, cruelty, and injustice, and all human wickedness, will be
banished from the world!

Gentlemen, there is but one consideration more, which I cannot possibly
omit, because I confess it affects me very deeply. The author of this
book has written largely on public liberty and government; and this
last performance, which I am now prosecuting, has, on that account,
been more widely circulated, and principally among those who attached
themselves from principle to his former works. This circumstance
renders a public attack upon all revealed religion from such a writer
infinitely more dangerous. The religious and moral sense of the people
of Great Britain is the great anchor which alone can hold the vessel
of the state amidst the storms which agitate the world; and if the
mass of the people were debauched from the principles of religion, the
true basis of that humanity, charity, and benevolence, which have been
so long the national characteristic, instead of mixing myself, as I
sometimes have done, in political reformations, I would retire to the
uttermost corners of the earth, to avoid their agitation; and would
bear, not only the imperfections and abuses complained of in our own
wise establishment, but even the worst government that ever existed in
the world, rather than go to the work of reformation with a multitude
set free from all the charities of Christianity, who had no other
sense of God’s existence, than was to be collected from Mr. Paine’s
observations of nature, which the mass of mankind have no leisure to
contemplate, which promises no future rewards to animate the good in
the glorious pursuit of human happiness, nor punishments to deter the
wicked from destroying it even in its birth. The people of England are
a religious people, and, with the blessing of God, so far as it is in
my power, I will lend my aid to keep them so.

I have no objections to the most extended and free discussions upon
doctrinal points of the Christian religion; and though the law of
England does not permit it, I do not dread the reasonings of deists
against the existence of Christianity itself, because, as was said by
its divine author, if it be of God, it will stand. An intellectual
book, however erroneous, addressed to the intellectual world upon so
profound and complicated a subject, can never work the mischief which
this indictment is calculated to repress. Such works will only incite
the minds of men enlightened by study, to a closer investigation of a
subject well worthy of their deepest and continued contemplation. The
powers of the mind are given for human improvement in the progress of
human existence. The changes produced by such reciprocations of lights
and intelligencies are certain in their progression, and make their
way imperceptibly, by the final and irresistible power of truth. If
Christianity be founded in falsehood, let us become deists in this
manner, and I am contented. But this book has no such object, and no
such capacity; it presents no arguments to the wise and enlightened;
on the contrary, it treats the faith and opinions of the wisest with
the most shocking contempt, and stirs up men, without the advantages
of learning, or sober thinking, to a total disbelief of every thing
hitherto held sacred; and consequently to a rejection of all the laws
and ordinances of the state, which stand only upon the assumption of
their truth.

Gentlemen, I can not conclude without expressing the deepest regret
at all attacks upon the Christian religion by authors who profess to
promote the civil liberties of the world. For under what other auspices
than Christianity have the lost and subverted liberties of mankind in
former ages been reasserted? By what zeal, but the warm zeal of devout
Christians, have English liberties been redeemed and consecrated? Under
what other sanctions, even in our own days, have liberty and happiness
been spreading to the uttermost corners of the earth? What work of
civilization, what Commonwealth of greatness, has this bald religion of
nature ever established? We see, on the contrary, the nations that have
no other light than that of nature to direct them, sunk in barbarism,
or slaves to arbitrary governments; whilst under the Christian
dispensation, the great career of the world has been slowly but clearly
advancing, lighter at every step from the encouraging prophecies of
the gospel, and leading, I trust, in the end to universal and eternal
happiness. Each generation of mankind can see but a few revolving links
of this mighty and mysterious chain; but by doing our several duties in
our allotted stations, we are sure that we are fulfilling the purposes
of our existence. You, I trust, will fulfil yours this day.[36]


NOTE 1, p. 24.—This is not quite a correct representation of Mr.
Erskine’s declaration. He had not said that all discussion was rendered
“impossible,” but that the treatment of the French minister by the
English Government was “so harsh and irritating as to defeat all the
objects of negotiation.” As a matter of fact, informal communications
continued to pass between the two governments. But the agents of France
were not accredited, and this fact threw upon England, in the judgment
of the French, the responsibilities of the war. See “Parliamentary
History,” xxxiv., 1289.

NOTE 2, p. 30.—By the Treaty of Westphalia, which in 1648 established
the international relations of modern Europe, the river Scheldt was
closed to general commerce out of consideration for Holland. It
remained thus closed till 1792, when after the battle of Jemappes,
in which the French defeated the Austrians and Prussians, a passage
was forced by the French down to the sea. As England was the especial
protector of Holland it was but natural that Pitt should protest
against the act, not only as a national affront, but also as an
expression of willingness on the part of France to set aside at her
convenience the provisions of the great Treaty of Westphalia.

NOTE 3, p. 31.—The cause of this incorporating of Savoy was the famous
meeting at Mantua in May of 1791. The Count d’Artois, brother of Louis
XVI., the Emperor of Austria, the King of Spain, and the King of
Sardinia, had secured an agreement from those monarchs to send 100,000
men to the borders of France in the hope that the French, terrified by
the alliance and by such an army, would seek peace by submitting to the
Bourbon king, and asking for mediation. Though the plan was rejected by
Louis, it none the less showed the animus of the allies. The details
may be seen in Mignet, 101, and in Alison, tenth ed., ii., 412. On
the 27th of November, 1792, the National Convention annexed Savoy and
erected it into a department of France in direct opposition to the
Constitution of the Republic, which declared that there should be no
extension of the territory.

NOTE 4, p. 32.—By the decree alluded to, the National Convention
declared that they would “grant fraternity and assistance to all those
peoples who wish to procure liberty.” They also charged their generals
to give assistance to such peoples, and to defend all citizens that
have suffered or are now suffering in the cause of liberty. Within ten
days after the passage of this decree an English society sent delegates
to Paris, who presented at the bar of the Convention a congratulatory
address on “the glorious triumph of liberty on the 10th of August.”
The President of the Convention replied in a grandiloquent speech, in
which among other things he said: “The shades of Hampden and Sydney
hover over your heads, and the moment without doubt approaches when
the French will bring congratulations to the National Convention of
Great Britain. Generous Republicans! your appearance among us prepares
a subject for history!” By nonsense of this kind the French were
constantly deceived in regard to the attitude of England.

NOTE 5, p. 35.—This was not the language of exaggeration. The decree
of December 15, 1792, required the French generals wherever they
marched, to proclaim “the abolition of all existing feudal and manorial
rights, together with all imposts, contributions, and tithes”; to
declare “the sovereignty of the people and the suppression of all
existing authorities”; to convoke the people “for the establishment of
a provisional government”; to place “all property of the prince and
his adherents, and the property of all public bodies, both civil and
religious, under the guardianship of the French Republic”; to provide,
as soon as possible, “for the organization of a free and popular form
of government.” This was literally a declaration of war against all
governments then existing in Europe. The decree is given in the _Ann.
Reg._, xxxiv., 155.

NOTE 6, p. 39.—The orator then proceeds to explain certain causes
of misunderstanding which are of no general interest, and therefore
are omitted. To this explanation he also attaches further proofs of
the hostile purpose of France, and of the fact that England had no
connection with Austria and Prussia at the time of their first attack.
The passage seems to be an unnecessary elaboration of what has gone
before, and therefore is also omitted.

NOTE 7, p. 41.—This province, which, from 1305 to 1377, was the
residence of the popes, continued till the French Revolution to belong
to the papal government. It was seized in 1790, and the next year was
incorporated into France, where it has since remained.

NOTE 8, p. 41.—This is not quite accurate. The meeting at Mantua had
been held, and the monarchs of Austria, Spain, and Sardinia had made
the agreement already described above. That the army of 100,000 did not
march against France, was not from any lack of purpose on their part,
but from the irresolution of Louis XVI.

NOTE 9, p. 42.—In this statement, too, Pitt was not correct. The
Declaration of Pilnitz did not leave “the internal state of France to
be decided by the king restored to his liberty, _with the free consent
of the states of the kingdom_;” but asked that the other powers would
not refuse to employ jointly with their Majesties the most efficacious
means, in proportion to their forces, to place the King of France “in
a state to settle in the most perfect liberty the foundations of a
monarchical government, _equally suitable to the rights of sovereigns_
and the welfare of the French.” They made no allusion to the “states
of the kingdom”; but did indicate a purpose to settle the foundations
of the government in accordance with the rights of sovereigns—that is
to say, their own rights. Fox’s statement, given in the speech that
follows, was far better. He said: “It was a declaration of an intention
on the part of the great powers of Germany to interfere in the internal
affairs of France, for the purpose of regulating the government against
the opinion of the people.” The Declaration of Pilnitz was made by the
Emperor of Austria and the King of Prussia, in consequence of their
belief that “the situation of the King of France was a matter of common
interest to all the European sovereigns.” The Declaration is given at
length in Alison, 10th ed., ii., 415.

NOTE 10, p. 47.—Mr. Pitt then entered into a criticism of some
expressions uttered by Erskine, not only in his speech, but also in a
pamphlet on the subject of the war. The criticism brought out a reply
and a rejoinder which are of little interest and are therefore omitted.

NOTE 11, p. 50.—Reference is here made to the fact that when in 1797
America demanded redress from France for her wanton attacks on American
commerce, the officers of the French Government hinted that the payment
of £50,000 by the Americans to the French officials would, perhaps,
secure immunity. The letters proposing the payment of bribes, known as
the “X. Y. Z. Correspondence,” were ordered published by Congress, in
April of 1798. The English sent them everywhere throughout Europe to
excite feeling against France. In America the indignation aroused by
the suggestion of bribes gave rise to the cry: “Millions for defence,
not a cent for tribute.”

NOTE 12, p. 51.—When Bonaparte landed in Egypt in December, 1798, he
issued a proclamation in which, among other things, he exhorted the
teachers in the mosques to assure the people he had come in fulfilment
of prophecy: “Since the world has existed it has been written, that
_after having destroyed the enemies of Islamism, and destroyed the
cross_, I should come, etc.” This proclamation was published in the
_Annual Register_, (xi., 265,) and not unnaturally made considerable
sensation in England and in Europe.

NOTE 13, p. 52.—The French in Pondicherry sent emissaries throughout
India to organize societies for the propagation of their doctrines. The
members were bound by a series of oaths to do what they could for the
destruction of all kings and sovereigns. Hyder Ali and his son, Tippoo
Saib, were the agents and allies of the French in accomplishing this
work. These designs of the French in India were brought to an end by
the victories of Lord Cornwallis.—Green’s “English People,” Eng. ed.,
iv., 332.

NOTE 14, p. 65.—The treaty of Campo Formio was not negotiated by
the accredited ministers of the Directory, but by Napoleon on his
own responsibility. In explaining his haste, he gave as one of his
reasons the necessity of being free to act directly against England.
In one of his confidential letters he said: “It is indispensable for
our government to destroy the English monarchy”; and again: “Let us
concentrate all our activity on the marine and destroy England; that
done, Europe is at our feet.”—Confidential letter to the Directory,
Oct. 18, 1797. Alison, 10th ed., iv., 347.

NOTE 15, p. 94.—The orator in this connection then proceeds to give at
some length his reasons for attempting negotiations in 1796–97. These,
as having no direct bearing on the subject discussed, are omitted.

NOTE 16, p. 113.—For an explanation of what was done at Mantua, see
Note 3, p. 31. On the Declaration of Pilnitz, see Note 9, p. 42.

NOTE 17, p. 116.—See notes 4 and 5 above.

NOTE 18, p. 119.—Reference is here made to the Treaty of September 26,
1786. Mr. Fox argued this question at greater length in a letter to his
Westminster constituents. Pitt maintained that England in 1800 was not
bound by that treaty inasmuch as the French Government which had made
the treaty had been destroyed by the Revolution. In reply Fox declared
that if the Revolution had swept away the obligation to obey that
treaty, it must have also swept away the obligation to obey all others.
But Pitt had often acknowledged the binding force of obligations
entered into before the Revolution. Hence the treaty of 1786 was
still in force; and according to it the dismissal of M. Chauvelin was
equivalent to a declaration of war.

NOTE 19, p. 121.—When the Duke of Brunswick invaded France in July
of 1792 at the head of the Austrian and Prussian forces he published
a manifesto which did every thing possible to put his masters in the
wrong. The burden of the proclamation was that the French had usurped
the reins of administration in France, had disturbed order, and had
overturned the legitimate government. He declared that the allied
armies were advancing “to put an end to anarchy in France, to arrest
the attacks made on the altar and the throne, and to restore to the
king the security and liberty he was deprived of.” The manifesto
furthermore said that the “inhabitants of towns who dared to stand on
the defensive would instantly be punished as rebels with the rigors of
war, and their houses demolished and burned.” This proclamation not
only showed that the principal object of the war was an interference
with the domestic policy of France, but it greatly inflamed the
animosities of the French against the foreign powers. See Mignet, “Fr.
Rev.,” 143; v. Sybel, ii., 29.

NOTE 20, p. 128.—It is an interesting fact that in the early part of
1792 Louis XVI. sent to the King of England, through Chauvelin and
Talleyrand, asking the English Government to intercede to prevent
military action on the part of Austria and Prussia. Louis appears to
have seen that war on the part of the German powers, though intended to
restore Louis himself to his former influence and authority, could only
result in evil. Louis said: “I consider the success of the alliance,
in which I wish you to concur with as much zeal as I do, as of the
highest importance; I consider it as necessary to the stability of the
respective constitutions of our two kingdoms; and I will add that our
union ought to command peace to Europe.” The proposal was rejected, and
a few weeks later Louis made a second attempt. He now asked the King to
interpose, and by his wisdom and influence, “avert, while there is yet
time, the progress of the confederacy formed against France, and which
threatens the peace, the liberties, and the happiness of Europe.” This
proposition, too, was rejected July 8, 1792, and before the end of the
month France was invaded by the allied armies under Brunswick.

NOTE 21, p. 134.—General Suwarroff, one of the most extraordinary men
of his time, had begun his career in the days of Frederick the Great,
and had contributed much to the fame of the Russians for bravery at
the terrible battle of Kunnersdorf. Though now nearly seventy years of
age he showed an energy that made his name a terror wherever he went.
The campaign against Praga is described in Alison, 10th ed., iii., 517
_seq._ For his far more remarkable campaign in Italy, see vol. v., 45

NOTE 22, p. 142.—The allusion here is to the Treaty of Campo Formio,
signed Oct. 17, 1797, by which a large part of the Venetian territory
was turned over to Austria in consideration of the annexation of
Belgium and Lombardy to France. The machinations by which this
transaction was brought about were among the most perfidious in the
whole career of Napoleon. In regard to the alleged reason of giving up
Venice Napoleon wrote to the Directory: “I have purposely devised this
sort of rupture, _in case you may wish to obtain five or six millions
from Venice_.” See Lanfrey’s “History of Napoleon,” 1, 100; and Adams’
“Democracy and Monarchy in France,” 162.

NOTE 23, p. 143.—The Emperor Paul I., father of Alexander I. and of
Nicholas, was probably already insane at the time Fox was speaking. He
had long shown a meddlesome disposition, and had interfered with the
internal concerns of nearly all the countries on the Baltic as well as
with those of Spain. Pitt on a former occasion had said of him: “There
is no reason, no ground, to fear that this magnanimous prince will ever
desert a cause in which he is so sincerely engaged.” But in spite of
this prediction he did desert the allies and make peace with France. In
view of these facts Fox’s ironical use of the word “magnanimous” was a
peculiarly forcible hit.

NOTE 24, p. 151.—In this conjecture Fox was not far from the language
subsequently used by Napoleon. He said: “I then had need of war;
a treaty of peace which should have derogated from that of Campo
Formio, and annulled the creations of Italy, would have withered every
imagination.” He then went on to say that Pitt’s answer was what he
desired, that “it could not have been more favorable,” and that “with
such impassioned antagonists he would have no difficulty in reaching
the highest destinies.”—“Memoirs,” i., 33.

NOTE 25, p. 151.—In a speech some months before, Pitt had defended
his action in regard to Holland by saying that “_from his knowledge
of human nature_” he knew that it must be successful. It proved a
lamentable failure, hence the irony of Fox’s emphasis.

NOTE 26, p. 154.—Virgil (Æneid, xi., 313): “Valor has done its utmost;
we have fought with the embodied force of all the realm.”

Pitt on a former occasion had said that the contest ought never to be
abandoned till the people of England could adopt those words as their

NOTE 27, p. 167. References to Washington were made from the fact that
news of his death, which occurred December 14, 1799, had just been
received in England. In the passage that follows, Fox alludes to the
time Dundas was a member of North’s Government, and when it was the
fashion of his party to denounce Washington.

NOTE 28, p. 170.—The facts as stated by Fox were only too true, and
the British officer alluded to was none other than Lord Nelson. The
insurgents had capitulated, on condition that persons and property
should be guaranteed, and the articles had been signed by the Cardinal,
the Russian commander, and even by Captain Foote, the commander of
the British force. Nelson arrived with his fleet about thirty-six
hours afterward, and at once ordered that the terms of the treaty be
annulled. The garrison were taken out under the pretence of carrying
the treaty into effect, and then were turned over as rebels to the
vengeance of the Sicilian Court. Southey in his “Life of Nelson” (vi.,
177) calls this deplorable event “A stain upon the memory of Nelson
and the honor of England. To palliate it would be in vain; to justify
it would be wicked; there is no alternative for one who will not make
himself a participator in guilt, but to record the disgraceful story
with sorrow and with shame.” Lady Hamilton, with whom Nelson was
infatuated and who was the favorite of the Queen of Naples, was the one
who led Nelson into committing the outrage.

NOTE 29, p. 253.—The following portion of Mackintosh’s argument has
been universally admired. It was the common impression in England that
if the prosecution of Peltier was not energetically carried on by the
government, Napoleon would make the fact a pretext for declaring war.
The advocate probably supposed that the jury shared that belief. He
did not deem it wise to allude to it directly, but he proceeds with
great ingenuity and force to dwell on the advantages of peace, and then
having established a coincidence of feeling between himself and the
jury, he leads them to see that peace can in no way be so effectually
promoted as by sustaining the cause of justice throughout Europe, and
that in no way can justice be so surely maintained as by substantial
freedom of the press.

NOTE 30, p. 205.—Reference is made to the boastful question of Cicero,
in the second oration against Anthony: “How has it happened, Conscript
Fathers, that no one has come out as an enemy of the Republic, for
these last twenty years, who did not at the same time declare war
against me?”

NOTE 31, p. 207.—Mackintosh was wise enough to see that war was
inevitable. It came sooner, perhaps, than he anticipated. Only a few
days after the conclusion of the trial, the King sent a message to
Parliament that war could not be avoided, and hostilities broke out May
18, 1803. Under the circumstances the impressive passage that follows
on “the public spirit of a people” was peculiarly suggestive.

NOTE 32, p. 219.—The passage on the inherent characteristics of the
French Revolution is peculiarly interesting, as showing how completely
Mackintosh had changed his opinion since he wrote the Reply to
Burke. Probably he is the more explicit, because his pamphlet was so
universally known.

NOTE 33, p. 223.—This passage and what follows on the rule of the
Jacobins is the one of which Madame de Staël wrote in her “Ten Years
of Exile”: “It was during this stormy period of my existence that I
received the speech of Mr. Mackintosh; and there read his description
of a Jacobin, who had made himself an object of terror during the
Revolution to children, women, and old men, and who was now bending
himself double under the rod of the Corsican, who tears from him, even
to the last atom, that liberty for which he pretended to have taken
arms. This _morceau_ of the finest eloquence touched me to my very
soul; it is the privilege of superior writers sometimes unwittingly
to solace the unfortunate in all countries and at all times. France
was in a state of such complete silence around me, that this voice,
which suddenly responded to my soul, seemed to me to come down from
heaven—_it came from a land of liberty_.”

NOTE 34, p. 236.—Allusion is made to the fact, humiliating to every
Englishman, that Charles II. and James II. both received pensions from
Louis XIV.

NOTE 35, p. 252.—Aloys Reding, the Burgomaster of Schweitz, in 1798,
put himself at the head of a few followers and attacked the invading
French with so much energy that he broke their ranks and repelled them.
Afterward, however, he was overpowered and taken prisoner. After being
held in prison for a time he was driven into exile.

NOTE 36, p. 296.—At the conclusion of the trial, the jury without
hesitation found a verdict of “guilty.” But the subsequent history
of the case is one of peculiar interest. The judges decided that the
defendant Williams should suffer one year’s imprisonment at hard
labor. But before sentence was to be pronounced, Erskine declined
to go forward with the case and returned his retainer. The reason
was never made public till Erskine himself explained the matter in a
letter written in February of 1819 to the editor of Howell’s “State
Trials.” He was one day walking in a narrow lane in London when he felt
something pulling him by the coat, and, turning around, he saw a woman
in tears and emaciated with disease and sorrow. The woman pulled him
forward into a miserable hovel where in a room not more than ten or
twelve feet square were two children with confluent small-pox and the
wretched man whom he had just convicted. The man was engaged in sewing
up little, religious tracts, which had been his principal employment
in his trade. Erskine was convinced that Williams had been urged to
the publication of Paine by his extreme poverty and not by his will.
The advocate was so deeply affected by what he saw and heard that he
believed the cause for which he had pleaded would best be subserved by
the policy of mercy. He wrote to the Society in whose behalf he had
been retained by the crown urging such a course. His advice, after
due consideration, was rejected, whereupon Erskine abandoned the case
and returned the fees he had received. The incident is an admirable
illustration of the great advocate’s high ideal of professional ethics.
Erskine’s letter is given in Howell’s “State Trials,” xxvi., 714; and,
in part, in Erskine’s “Works,” i., 592.

Transcriber’s Notes

Punctuation and spelling were made consistent when a predominant
preference was found in this book; otherwise they were not changed.

Simple typographical errors were corrected; occasional unbalanced
quotation marks corrected.

Ambiguous hyphens at the ends of lines were retained; occurrences of
inconsistent hyphenation have not been changed.

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