« PreviousContinue »
discourses of the sort, much better calculated for the private advantage of the preacher than the edification of the hearers.
The author has indeed so involved his subject, that it is frequently far from being easy to comprehend his meaning. It is happy for the public that it is never difficult to fathom his design. The apparent intention of this author is to draw the most aggravated, hideous and deformed picture of the state of this country, which his querulous eloquence, aided by the arbitrary dominion he assumes over fact, is capable of exhibiting. Had he attributed our misfortunes to their true cause, the injudicious tampering of bold, improvident, and visionary ministers at one period, or to their supine negligence and traitorous dissensions at another, the complaint had been just, and might have been useful. But far the greater and much the worst part of the state which he exhibits is owing, according to his representation, not to ac cidental and extrinsic mischiefs attendant on the nation, but to its radical weakness and constitutional distempers. All this however is not without purpose. The author is in hopes, that, when we are fallen into
fanatical terror for the national salvation, we shall then be ready to throw ourselves,-in a sort of precipitate trust, some strange disposition of the mind jumbled up of presumption and despair,- into the hands of the most pretending and forward undertaker. One such undertaker at least he has in readiness for our service. But let me assure this generous person, that however he may succeed in exciting our fears for the public danger, he will find it hard indeed to engage us to place any confidence in the system he proposes for our security.
His undertaking is great. The purpose of this pamphlet, at which it aims directly or obliquely in every page, is to persuade the public of three or four of the most difficult points in the world,—that all the advantages of the late war were on the part of the Bourbon alliance; that the peace of Paris perfectly consulted the dignity and interest of this country; and that the American Stamp Act was a masterpiece of policy and finance; that the only good minister this nation has enjoyed since his Majesty's accession, is the Earl of Bute; and the only good managers of revenue we have seen are Lord Despenser and Mr. George Grenville; and, under the description of men of virtue and ability, he holds them out to us as the only persons fit to put our affairs in order. Let not the reader mistake me: he does not actually name these persons; but having highly applauded their conduct in all its parts, and heavily censured every other set of men in the kingdom, he then recommends us to his men of virtue and ability.
Such is the author's scheme. Whether it will answer his purpose I know not. But surely that purpose ought to be a wonderfully good one, to warrant the methods he has taken to compass it. If the facts and reasonings in this piece are admitted, it is all over with us. The continuance of our tranquillity depends upon the compassion of our rivals. Unable to secure to ourselves the advantages of peace, we are at the same time utterly unfit for war. It is impossible, if this state of things be credited abroad, that we can have any alliance; all nations will fly from so dangerous a connection, lest, instead of being partakers of our strength, they should only become sharers in our ruin. If it is believed at home, all
that firmness of mind, and dignified national courage, which used to be the great support of this isle against the powers of the world, must melt away, and fail within us.
In such a state of things can it be amiss if I aim at holding out some comfort to the nation; another sort of comfort, indeed, than that which this writer provides for it; a comfort not from its physician, but from its constitution: if I attempt to show that all the arguments upon which he founds the decay of that constitution, and the necessity of that physician, are vain and frivolous? I will follow the author closely in his own long career, through the war, the peace, the finances, our trade, and our foreign politics: not for the sake of the particular measures which he discusses; that can be of no use; they are all decided; their good is all enjoyed, or their evil incurred but for the sake of the principles of war, peace, trade, and finances. These principles are of infinite moment. They must come again and again under consideration; and it imports the public, of all things, that those of its ministers be enlarged, and just, and well confirmed, upon all these subjects. What notions this author entertains we shall see presently; notions in my opinion very irrational, and extremely dangerous; and which, if they should crawl from pamphlets into counsels, and be realized from private speculation into national measures, cannot fail of hastening and completing our ruin.
This author, after having paid his compliment to the showy appearances of the late war in our favor, is in the utmost haste to tell you that these appearances were fallacious, that they were no more than an imposition.I fear I must trouble the reader with a
pretty long quotation, in order to set before him the more clearly this author's peculiar way of conceiving and reasoning:
"Happily (the K.) was then advised by ministers, who did not suffer themselves to be dazzled by the glare of brilliant appearances; but, knowing them to be fallacious, they wisely resolved to profit of their splendor before our enemies should also discover the imposition. The increase in the exports was found to have been occasioned chiefly by the demands of our own fleets and armies, and, instead of bringing wealth to the nation, was to be paid for by oppressive taxes upon the people of England. While the British seamen were consuming on board our men of war and privateers, foreign ships and foreign seamen were employed in the transportation of our merchandise; and the carrying trade, so great a source of wealth and marine, was entirely engrossed by the neutral nations. The number of British ships annually arriving in our ports was reduced 1756 sail, containing 92,559 tons, on a medium of the six years' war, compared with the six years of peace preceding it.— The conquest of the Havannah had, indeed, stopped the remittance of specie from Mexico to Spain; but it had not enabled England to seize it: on the contrary, our merchants suffered by the detention of the galleons, as their correspondents in Spain were disabled from paying them for their goods sent to America. The loss of the trade to Old Spain was a further bar to an influx of specie; and the attempt upon Portugal had not only deprived us of an import of bullion from thence, but the payment of our troops employed in its defence was a fresh drain opened for the diminution of our circulating specie.-The high pre
miums given for new loans had sunk the price of the old stock near a third of its original value; so that the purchasers had an obligation from the state to repay them with an addition of 33 per cent to their capital. Every new loan required new taxes to be imposed; new taxes must add to the price of our manufactures, and lessen their consumption among foreigners. The decay of our trade must necessarily occasion a decrease of the public revenue; and a deficiency of our funds must either be made up by fresh taxes, which would only add to the calamity, or our national credit must be destroyed, by showing the public creditors the inability of the nation to repay them their principal money.-Bounties had already been given for recruits which exceeded the year's wages of the ploughman and reaper; and as these were exhausted, and husbandry stood still for want of hands, the manufacturers were next to be tempted to quit the anvil and the loom by higher offers.-France, bankrupt France, had no such calamities impending over her; her distresses were great, but they were immediate and temporary; her want of credit preserved her from a great increase of debt, and the loss of her ultramarine dominions lessened her expenses. Her colonies had, indeed, put themselves into the hands of the English; but the property of her subjects had been preserved by capitulations, and a way opened for making her those remittances which the war had before suspended, with as much security as in time of peace.Her armies in Germany had been hitherto prevented from seizing upon Hanover; but they continued to encamp on the same ground on which the first battle was fought; and, as it must ever happen from the policy of that government, the last troops she sent into