« PreviousContinue »
3. The proprietors had absolutely despaired of be ing paid, at any time, any proportion of their demand, until the change of that ministry. The merchants were checked and discountenanced; they had often been told, by some in authority, of the cheap rate at which these Canada bills had been procured; yet the author can talk of the composition of them as a necessity induced by the change in administration. They found themselves indeed, before that change, under a necessity of hinting somewhat of bringing the matter into Parliament; but they were soon silenced, and put in mind of the fate which the Newfoundland business had there met with. Nothing struck them more than the strong contrast between the spirit, and method of proceeding, of the two administrations.
4. The Earl of Halifax never did, nor could, refuse to sign this convention; because this convention, as it stands, never was before him.*
The author's last charge on that ministry, with regard to foreign affairs, is the Russian treaty of commerce, which the author thinks fit to assert, was concluded" on terms the Earl of Buckinghamshire had refused to accept of, and which had been deemed by former ministers disadvantageous to the nation, and by the merchants unsafe and unprofitable.” †
Both the assertions in this paragraph are equally groundless. The treaty then concluded by Sir George Macartney was not on the terms which the Earl of Buckinghamshire had refused. The Earl of Buckinghamshire never did refuse terms, because
* See the Convention itself, printed by Owen and Harrison, Warwick-lane, 1766; particularly the articles two and thirteen.
† Page 23.
the business never came to the point of refusal, or acceptance; all that he did was, to receive the Rus sian project for a treaty of commerce, and to transmit it to England. This was in November, 1764; and he left Petersburg the January following, before he could even receive an answer from his own court. The conclusion of the treaty fell to his successor. Whoever will be at the trouble to compare it with the treaty of 1734, will, I believe, confess, that, if the former ministers could have obtained such terms, they were criminal in not accepting them.
But the merchants "deemed them unsafe and unprofitable." What merchants? As no treaty ever was more maturely considered, so the opinion of the Russia merchants in London was all along taken; and all the instructions sent over were in exact conformity to that opinion. Our minister there made no step without having previously consulted our merchants resident in Petersburg, who, before the signing of the treaty, gave the most full and unanimous testimony in its favor. In their address to our min ister at that court, among other things they say, "It may afford some additional satisfaction to your Excellency, to receive a public acknowledgment of the entire and unreserved approbation of every article in this treaty, from us who are so immediately and so nearly concerned in its consequences. This was signed by the consul-general, and every British merchant in Petersburg.
The approbation of those immediately concerned in the consequences is nothing to this author. He and his friends have so much tenderness for people's interests, and understand them so much better than
they do themselves, that, whilst these politicians are contending for the best of possible terms, the claimants are obliged to go without any terms at all.
One of the first and justest complaints against the administration of the author's friends, was the want of vigor in their foreign negotiations. Their immediate successors endeavored to correct that error, along with others; and there was scarcely a foreign court, in which the new spirit that had arisen was not sensibly felt, acknowledged, and sometimes complained of. On their coming into administration, they found the demolition of Dunkirk entirely at a stand instead of demolition, they found construction; for the French were then at work on the repair of the jettees. On the remonstrances of General Conway, some parts of these jettees were immediately destroyed. The Duke of Richmond personally surveyed the place, and obtained a fuller knowledge of its true state and condition than any of our ministers had done; and, in consequence, had larger offers from the Duke of Choiseul than had ever been received. But, as these were short of our just expectations under the treaty, he rejected them. Our then ministers, knowing that, in their administration, the people's minds were set at ease upon all the essential points of public and private liberty, and that no project of theirs could endanger the concord of the empire, were under no restraint from pursuing every just demand upon foreign nations.
The author, towards the end of this work, falls into reflections upon the state of public morals in this country he draws use from this doctrine, by recommending his friend to the king and the public, as another Duke of Sully; and he concludes the whole performance with a very devout prayer.
The prayers of politicians may sometimes be sincere; and as this prayer is in substance, that the author, or his friends, may be soon brought into power, I have great reason to believe it is very much from the heart. It must be owned too that after he has drawn such a picture, such a shocking picture, of the state of this country, he has great faith in thinking the means he prays for sufficient to relieve us: after the character he has given of its inhabitants of all ranks and classes, he has great charity in caring much about them; and indeed no less hope, in being of opinion, that such a detestable nation can ever become the care of Providence. He has not even found five good men in our devoted city.
He talks indeed of men of virtue and ability. But where are his men of virtue and ability to be found? Are they in the present administration? Never were a set of people more blackened by this author. Are they among the party of those (no small body) who adhere to the system of 1766? These it is the great purpose of this book to calumniate. Are they the persons who acted with his great friend, since the change in 1762, to his removal in 1765? Scarcely any of these are now out of employment; and we are in possession of his desideratum. Yet I think he hardly means to select, even some of the highest of them, as examples fit for the reformation of a corrupt world.
He observes, that the virtue of the most exemplary prince that ever swayed a sceptre can never warm or illuminate the body of his people, if foul mirrors are placed so near him as to refract and dissipate the rays at their first emanation.” * Without observing
* Page 46.
upon the propriety of this metaphor, or asking how mirrors come to have lost their old quality of reflecting, and to have acquired that of refracting, and dissipating rays, and how far their foulness will account for this change; the remark itself is common and true: no less true, and equally surprising from him, is that which immediately precedes it: "It is in vain to endeavor to check the progress of irreligion and licentiousness, by punishing such crimes in one individual, if others equally culpable are rewarded with the honors and emoluments of the state.” * I am not in the secret of the author's manner of writing; but it appears to me, that he must intend these reflections as a satire upon the administration of his happy years. Were ever the honors and emoluments of the state more lavishly squandered upon persons scandalous in their lives than during that period? In these scandalous lives, was there anything more scandalous than the mode of punishing one culpable individual? In that individual, is anything more culpable than his having been seduced by the example of some of those very persons by whom he was thus persecuted?
The author is so eager to attack others, that he provides but indifferently for his own defence. I believe, without going beyond the page I have now before me, he is very sensible, that I have sufficient matter of further, and, if possible, of heavier charge against his friends, upon his own principle. But it is because the advantage is too great, that I decline making use of it. I wish the author had not thought that all methods are lawful in party. Above all he ought to have taken care not to wound his enemies through the sides of his country. This he has done, by mak
* Page 46.