Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub

against America. They will perceive, at length, that it is not so easy to establish tyranny in the British empire, as they had presumed in their blind rage to conceive. With a satisfaction not less sincere, do we behold that opposition, so worthy to be admired by all good men, and by all the friends of liberty, which has resulted in the

reck of these Scotch machinations, of this policy of the Stuarts, first attempted in America, but intended eventually for England. We are cheered by the happy augury; and we no longer despair of the public safety, whatever may be the pernicious plots of profligate ministers.'

“We have believed, answered the ministers, that the ways of meekness in this commencement of troubles, were most agreeable to the spirit of our laws, and of our national character ; that clemency and forbearance ought to form the basis of the conduct of the British government towards its subjects. The ministers have been accused so many times, and upon grounds so frivolous, of wishing to introduce a system of despotism, that in the present occasion they have been very circumspect to keep themselves aloof from all suspicion of a similar desire. What would their adversaries have said, if at the beginning of disturbances they had burried to arms; if they had sent formidable armies to America, and consigned it to fire and blood ? Then would they have raised the voice against tyranny; we have not done it, and their clamors are the same. What have we left then but to despise them ? For is it not demonstrated, that not the love of liberty, but ambition, not the desire of justice, but that of baffling the ministers, have been the motives of their conduct? Before proceeding to the last extremities, our duty was to allow time for reflection and repentance; for only incurable evils are to be treated with fire and sword.

•We have borne for a long time, it is true, the effervescence of the Americans; but we should hope that this long suffering would persuade them of the maternal sentiments of our common country that has endured outrages with magnanimiiy, which it might have punished at a single blow. The colonists themselves bave no doubt of this; they must know the immense superioriiy of the forces of England. The measures of the government would have opened their eyes already, if they were not continually deceived, excited, and misled by chiefs in delirium, here as well as there, by the cries of an imprudent opposition. But it will soon be seen in earnest

, by the vigorous resolutions of government, and the energetic employment it is about to make of all its forces, that it will no more be wanting to itself than forgetful of what is due to the honor of the crown and the interests of the country.

· The Americans have no more indulgence to expect on our part. They are no longer to be looked upon as British subjects, but as implacable enemies. With as much confidence as justice, we can

6

henceforth overwhelm them with the formidable arm of Great Britain.' Such were the answers of the ministers to the imputations of their adversaries. These excuses might have been valid, if the ministry had not assailed the Americans with laws far more irritating than open force. For armies, though victorious, may be resisted with glory; but the patience that must tolerate oppression, is without this illusion.

Far from abating with time, these intestine dissentions appeared every day to acquire new activity. The more necessary a consent of opinions became to avert the perils that menaced the country, the more they were divided and marshalled in opposition by the spirit of party. This internal sermentation was of an augury the more fatal, inasinuch as it brought to mind those ancient and sanguinary quarrels which raged in the time of Queen Anne with so much peril to England, between the republicans and the royalists, under the names of wbigs and tories. The friends and the enemies to the cause of America manifested the same animosity, and the same obstinacy; and there was much appearance that not only America, but England itself, was on the point of breaking out into open discord and civil war.

• The tories, it was said on one side, “are themselves the authors of the frequent addresses to the king and parliament, urging that the continent of America should be put to all that fire and sword can inflict; these are the false reporters, these the incendiaries of discord. Bigotted as they are, and infatuated in the maxims of the house of Stuart, neither the example of the evils they have brought upon England, nor the total ruin of this family, which they caused, can illuminate their obstinate minds, and induce them to renounce the cruel principles of tyranny. The bitter fate of the father is not sufficient to divert an obstinate son from pursuing the dangerous path which led him to destruction ; such are all the tories. They sacrifice their rank, their fortune, their existence, to their prejudices and thirst of domination. When the inauspicious reign of the Stuarts had visited our island with foreign servitude and civil war, then the tories, trampling upon national bonor and public felicity, abandoned themselves to joy. Their maxiins coincide with those of the absolute princes of Europe, and they would not blush to place their country in such bands is, in so doing, their ambition might receive a new support. All the countries of Europe are subject 10 sovereigns whose power is without limits. England alone, by the special favor of Providence, enjoys a moderate and free government; but the tories would fain subvert it to establish the uniformity of despotism throughout all European countries. Their hearts are contaminated with all the vices of proud, persidious, and profligate courts ; with their insected breath they propagate them, like a pestilence, over the whole nation. They esteem no man but for his baseness; they

honor none but the proud and the arrogant. Their superiors they flatter, their inferiors they oppress; the prosperous they envy, the unfortunate they rarely succour, and never but from vain glory. The public felicity becomes in their hands the instrument of slavery, and our submission they deem far more essential than our prosperity. The sovereign good they place in absolute dominion; and the best possible state of society they believe to consist in mute servitude. Revolutions they applaud when they conduct a people to tyranny ; they deplore their mischiess with a hypocritical pity, they exaggerate them with the gloss of words, when liberty is to be their fruit. The argument of public tranquillity is always upon their lips; but when were they ever heard to speak of the abuses of arbitrary power, of consuming taxes, of the vexations of the powerful, of injuries without reparations, and of outrages without redress? If they are now opposed to the cause of the Americans, it is because it clashes with their plan of attack against the happy free government of our country, and their schemes for introducing into the very heart of the kingdom the laws of Charles and of James. They flatter themselves, that after having strangled the germs of liberty in America, and vanquished those generous spirits, victorious troops will also know how to bend our necks to the same cruel yoke. Such are the thoughts, such the desires that agitate them without intermission, and not the wish to see the return of peace upon that unfortunate continent where they have themselves kindled the flames of war. Let us then prevent such fatal designs, let us preserve in its integrity the inheritance which our ancestors, thanks to their valor, to their generosity, and to the magnanimous enterprises of the great William III. have banded down to us. Thus shall we serve our country, and perhaps even the house of Brunswick, which cannot without danger show itself ungrateful towards the friends of liberty, nor depart with safety from those maxims which have raised it to the British throne.'

The tories answered these declamations with no little warmth. It ill becomes the whigs,' they said, 'to tax us with cruelty and arrogance, since no one is ignorant what their conduct was, when, in the time of the commonwealth, and even under the monarchy, they had the supreme power in their hands; then did exile, confiscations and scaffolds spread desolation and ruin over our unhappy country ; then prisons and chains were the instruments of popular clemency! If a generous prince had not arrested their career of anarchy and blood, if he had not substituted, by the aid of all good citizens, a system of liberty, so dear to the tories, England would have seen her last hour, and fallen a prey to foreign enemies. But, what is, in fact, our desire ? That in every affair which interests the nation, that in every controversy which divides it, there should be a supreme authority to regulate and to determine them irrevocably; and this authority, we believe, to reside in the king, united with the

parliament. But the republicans will not submit to the laws of this legitimate authority, but are in chase of nobody knows what popular authority, which they pretend 10 consist in the universality of the citizens, as if a tumultuary, ignorant, and partial multitude, should or could judge of objects wherein the eyes even of the most enlightened and prudent discover the greatest difficulties.' "A

way must, however, be found to terminate national dissentions; are they to be referred to the decision of a populace ever more apt to be misled by daring and profligate demagogues, than to be guided by men of prudence and of virtue ; of a rabble that hunger itself puts in the power of the first intriguer ? For this purpose kings and the parliament have been instituted; it is for this end that, in the ordinary direction of affairs, as well as in unforeseen and difficult cases, they provide, and watch that the country should experience no detriinent.'

'In the present dispute with America, bave the ministers acted singly and of their own motion? The king and the parliament have decreed, have approved all their measures; this consideration ought to have great weight with every inan who is a friend to public authority, and to the principles of the constitution. But the whigs are gasping for the moment to arrive when England, as well as Anerica, shall be a prey to an unbridled multitude, in order to be able to enrich themselves by plunder, to gratify their insatiable ambition, and to operate the total subversion of this free government. These pretended patriots are the sons and representatives of the republicans who desolated the kingdom in the last century. They din the name of liberty continually in our ears, because they desire themselves to exercise tyranny. Under the pretext of the public safety they violate and trample under foot every form, every civil institution; they arrogate io themselves all the plenitude of arbitrary power. If they manifest an utter contempt for the laws which are the protectors of persons, of property, and of honor, their cruelty is not less conspicuous; for an opinion, whether real or supposed, or maliciously imputed, for a suspicion, for a chimera, they fly into a rage, they rush to persecutions ; they plunge into misery the fathers of families, the fathers of the country, the best, the most useful, the most respectable citizens. They fawn upon the people so long as they are the weaker ; but once become the stronger, they crush them, they decimate them, they starve them, and adding derison to barbarity, they never cease to protest they do it all to revder them happy. These friends of liberty are perpetually declaiming against the vices of courts, as if pillage, both public and private, the scandalous profusion of ill gotien wealth, the turpitude of debauch, the violation of the marriage bed, the infamous price extorted from faithful wives to redeem their husbands' blood, the public triumph of courtesans, the baseness of cringing to the vilest of men, as if all the horrors which have signalised the reign of these republicans

were good and laudable customs ! But whatever be the plots, the wishes, and the hopes of this turbulent race of men, of these partisans of lawless licentiousness, which they attempt in vain to invest with the naine of liberty, let them rest assured it is firmly resolved to resist them, to preserve the public tranquillity, to secure to the laws that obedience which is their due, and to carry into execution against the rebellious Americans, those acts which have solemnly emanated from the royal authority, and from that of the parliament. The force of circumstances, the royalty of the people, and the recollection of the past tyranny of pretended patriots, will cause all their vociferations, all their maneuvres, all their incendiary attempts, to avail then nothing. As for the rest, the tories, and not their adversaries, are the real friends of liberty ; for liberty consists not in calling the populace at every moment to intervene in the direction of state affairs, but in faithfully obeying those fundamental statutes, which are the result of the general will of the nation, and which balance and temper the royal authority by the authority of the people.'

With such animosity, with such reciprocal bitterness, the two political parties assailed each other. It appeared inevitable that ihis must soon lead to some violent convulsion, and all prudent men were seized with anxious apprehensions. And here, perhaps, is the place to remark how remote are human minds from all moderation, from all sense of decency, when once under the control of party zeal. Assuredly, if at the different epochs of the domination of the royalists and of the republicans, the one party and the other abandoned themselves to culpable excesses, it is not that there were not amongst them men of rectitude, who, if they judged ill, yet ineant well; with such, every form of government would be good, provided it was not purely despotic. But the ambitious, a race unfortunately so prolific, are the most fatal scourge in every well constituted state ; always in opposition with the laws of their country, they shake off their restraint ihe first moment they can, and thus pave the way to revolutions and the reign of arbitrary power. The legislator, who is desirous to found a government upon a solid basis, should pay less attention to forms, whether monarchical or republican, than 10 the establishment of laws calculated to repress the ambitious. It is not for us to pronounce whether such laws have ever yet existed, or whether they could accomplish the end proposed ; but we inay confidently affirm, that men of moderation are not to be blamed for desiring either a royalty or a republic ; the ambitious alone are to be feared and detested, for they are those who cause monarchies to degenerate into tyrannical despotisin; and republics into anarchy, more tyrannical still.

Such was the general agitation in England, when it was increased by the declaration of lord Dartmouth, one of the secretaries of

« AnteriorContinuar »