Gambar halaman

fide of the Rhine, into which they had, with much difficulty, found means to penetrate, and from which they had been, after much fruitless toil and unfuccefsful efforts, compelled to retire with very confiderable lofies.

temporary fplendour, ultimately wrought their ruin, and introduced a new order of affairs into the diftracted and fluctuating commonwealth.

The clofe of the year 1795 was not fo favourable to the French as that of the preceding; they had projected at its commencement to follow up their fucceffes in Holland, by carrying their victorious arms into the heart of Germany; but a variety of obftructions had either prevented or fruftrated their defigns. At home the violence of the many factions, open or concealed, food perpetually in the way of government, and impaired its propofed energies. Abroad the remaining parts of the coalition against France, though foiled in their repeated attempts, ftill preserved their spirit, and determination to perfift at all hazards in carrying on the war.

The principal fcene of action had been on the banks of the Rhine. Here it had been generally expected, that after the fubjugation of the feven United Provinces, the French would have met with no confiderable oppofition; but though dilpirited, as well as weakened, by the fevering of fo material a limb from the great body of the confederacy, it ftill found fufficient refources to make head against the French, in a country where the generality of the inhabitants, though dillatisfied at their rulers, were not to imprudent as to prefer a foreign to a domeftic yoke, and would not fail to co-operate in oppofing a French invation. To this difpolition of an incomparable majority of the inhabitants of Germany was, in a great meafure, due the little progrets of the French in thofe provinces of the empire on the right

The failure of the French in their expedition into Germany; their expulfion from every poft they had occupied on the eastern banks of the Rhine; their retreat across that river; the purfuit of their difcomfited army into the borders of France; and the feveral defeats they experienced, were circumftances fo little hoped for at the commencement of this year's military operations in thofe parts that they proportionably revived the fpirit of their enemies, and infufed a degree of confidence into them, to which they had been ftrangers, fince the difafters of the preceding campaign.

But, notwithftanding their ill fuccefs on the Rhine, the French maintained a decided fuperiority in every other quarter. Europe feemed to ftand at bay, and to wait with anxiety the termination of a quarrel that had produced to many fi ipendous events. The diffolution of the confederacy, by the feceflion of Pruffia and Spain, was far from being confidered as complete: the principal members, Great Britain and Auftria were held fully competent, though not to the purpofe of fubduing, yet ftill to that of repreffing the French; and this was viewed as the only object, at which they ought, in prudence, in the prefent fituation of their affairs, to aim.


During the courfe of the campaign, the government in France had entertained fome ideas tending to a general pacification; but the [B2] lofti

loftinefs of their pretenfions, dictated by the pride of their nation, was fo apparent, that Europe was not furprised that they were only mentioned tranfiently in their occafional difcourfes on that fubject. The inveteracy of the ruling party to England fubfified almoft as violently as ever. The French beheld, with that rancour which attends an unfuccefsful rivalfhip, the improbability of their ever attaining to an equality with the English at fea. It greatly mortified their pride, that all the European nations fhould unanimoufly, afcribe a decided fuperiority in naval tactics to the English, and represent thofe as no lefs invincible on the ocean, than the French had hitherto been at land; with this difference, however, to the difadvantage of the latter, that it would prove a much easier talk to overcome them at land than the others at fea.

Other caufes of diffatisfaction militated against the ruling party in France. The royalifts, however depreffed, were not. difpirited: their numbers, though inferior to thofe of the republicans, were immenfe; they maintained a clofe correfpondence with each other, and cemented their reciprocal connections with all those acts of friendship and kindnefs that bind men fo ftrongly together, when fuffering from the fame caufes, and acting from the fame


The vigilarce of the republican government found conftant employment in obviating the dangers that threatened it from the indefatigable activity of thote irreconcilable antagonitis, who, though furrounded with continual obfervers of all their motions, neglected no opportunity


to further their defigns, and boldly encountered every risk of being detected in their profecution.

Enraged at thefe domeftic enemies, the predominant party was perpetually occupied in holding out every species of menace and terror to reprefs and difcourage them; but neither threats nor invitations availed. Actuated by hatred and refentment the royalifts confidered themselves as equally juftified, by confcience and intereft, in their determination to feize every occafion of refifting the established powers, holding them as ufurpers, with whom no measures ought to be kept, and whom they were bound to oppose, whenever there appeared the least likelihood of doing it to any effect.

Such was the fituation of France at this period, deeply convulfed at home, and though in poffeffion of many extenfive countries, yet, fearful that having acquired, and retaining them only by the right of the fword, they might lose them through the fame means: an event, which, confidering the viciffitudes of war, was not more improbable than the aftonishing fuccelles that had attended their arms against all likeli hood and expectation.

While the people in France were diftracted with thefe internal divifions, thofe of England were agitated little lefs with inceflant differences and difputes on the propriety of continuing a war, which had occafioned fuch loffes of men and expence of treafure, without producing thofe effects which had fo repeatedly been. reprefented as infallible. Nothing had been omitted to procure fuccefs: every minifterial demand had been granted, every meafure acceeded to; but the object propofed remained


remained unaccomplished, and as far out of the reach of all reafonable expectation, as at the first moment of its being attempted parties feemed, at this period, to All unite in the like ftrain of reafoning. Numbers of thofe who had warmly efpoufed the caufe of the minifter, thought that a fufficient trial had been made of the various fchemes, he had brought forward, in order to compel the French to revert to their former fituation; and that, having failed, prudence enjoined him to defift, and to leave the re-eftablifhment of the French monarchy to a future period, and more aufpicious opportunities.

That party, which had oppofed the war from its very commencement, were loud in their reprobation of its continuance, and reproached minifters with a total want of forefight, in not feeming to have apprehended the difficulties they would have to contend with, and, with equal inability, to encounter them. As the events of the war countenanced these reproaches, the public joined in them, and the government was thought very reprehenfible in perfifting againfi reiterated experience, in a conteft that threatened to wafte the frength of the nation ineffectually, and the aim of which, were it attained, would not prove an indemnification for its coft.

Ideas of this nature were now generally predominant, and became, at laft, fo prevalent, not only among the multitude, which had long been fwayed by them, but among the more reputable claffes, that a variety of affociations were formed, and meetings held, for the avowed purpole of petitioning the legiflature in favour of peace. The city of Lon

hall, the votes, for a petition, were don led the way, and, in a commonfour thousand, and only one hundred againft it.

ceived were extremely pointed. The terms in which it was conthe war, (to ufe the words of the "None of the ends propofed by petition) had either been, or appeared likely to be, obtained, although it had been carried on at an unprecedented expence to this country, and had already produced an alarming increafe of the national debt, augmented by fubfidies, paid lated their folemn engagements, and to allies, who had notoriously vio-> large fums actually received by rendered no adequate fervice for them, and wrung from the credulity of the generous and induftrious inhabitants of this ifland." It concluded by expreffing a firm and decided conviction, that the principle on which the war appeared to be carried on, neither was, nor could be, effential to the liberty, the glory, pire. or the profperity of the British em

Other addreffes, in a fimilar ftyle, principal cities in the kingdom. were refolved on in feveral of the The adherents to miniftry endeavoured, on the other hand, to prowere faint and languid in comparicure counter petitions: but thefe fon to the former; thofe who framed juftification of the war; they went them, did not venture to fpeak in no farther than to leave to minif ters the choice of their own time for pacific negociations.

A circumftance that had greatly ing claffes against miniftry, was, the indifpofed the mercantile and tradrefufal to permit the Dutch people of property, to depolit their money and effects in England, without pay[B3]

ing the cuftomary duties. Had this permiffion been granted, upwards of twenty millions of fpecie, and other treasure, would, it was faid, have been brought into this country. The reafon alleged, for denying the request of the Dutch merchants, was, that if they were allowed to tranfport their effects into England, it would operate as a difcouragement to their countrymen, and prevent them from acting with vigour against the French, who, having fubdued the Auftrian Netherlands, were then preparing to carry their victorious arms into the United Provinces: but the reply to this allegation was, that the French party was fo powerful in Holland, that it was caly to forefee that all refistance would be vain. It would have been good policy, therefore, to have encouraged the moniedmen, in that country, to have lodged their property in England; as most of them were manifeftly inclined to do, in order to preferve it from the rapacity of the French, whofe wants were fuch as would infallibly induce them to fupercede all confiderations, in order to provide for them as foon as they fhould find themfelves in poffeffion of a country, the wealth of which was competent to fupply them with what they needed.

This refufal, on the part of the Britifa administration, was generally deemed a very unfeafonable overfight. It threw into the hands of the French an immenfe quantity of money and wealth of every denomination, which might evidently have centered in England, together with its owners. This would, in a very confiderable meafure, have compenfated for the lofs of Holland to the confederacy, and amply indemnified. Great Britain, by the prodigi

ous acceflion of real property that' must have been the neceflary confequence of the emigrations of rich individuals from the United Provinces.

Another overfight, no lefs real, though lefs noticed, was an article in a treaty which had been agreed on with the American States, by which their trade to the British iflands in the West Indies was reftricted to vellels of an infcrior fize. This, inftead of diminishing their commerce thither, tended rather to encrease it, by adding to their number of feamen: whether in large, or in fmall vefiels, this commerce was fo profitable to them, that whatever obftacles were thrown in their way, would quickly be overcome by their industry and activity: the profits of trade would be more divided, but the number of hands. employed in it would produce the double confequence, both of gradually extending it, and of augmenting the number of American feamen.

Thefe various confiderations con-. tributed materially to difpleafe the generality of people. The burthens of the war were fo heavy, and fuch multitudes felt their weight, that difcontents and murmurs abounded every where. The different motives afligned, at different epochs of the war, for its continuance, were alfo highly prejudicial to minifters, as they led many to think that the real motive was purpofedly kept out of fight, and was of too invidious a nature to be frankly acknowledged.

Ideas of this nature were now univerfally current among the dif approvers of the war, and were afferted and circulated by them with confiderable effect. But that circumftance which was the moft un


fortunate and alarming, in the midft of this general diflatisfaction, was, that it had arifen, in many, to fuch a degree of rancour at the authors and abettors of the war, that the attachment, which men naturally feel for their country, and its concerns, had given way to fentiments of the most violent hatred and hoftility to government. It was no longer a fimple difapprobation of the war; it was a fervent defire that it might terminate to the difadvantage of this country, and that the French might prevail againft the English. So extraordinary and unnatural an antipathy arofe, how ever, from other caufes befides the war with France: the perfuafion that no reforms would take place in the government, while it was able to maintain its ground againft France, prompted the determined advocates of thefe reforms, to exprefs, with marked anxiety, their withes for the fuccefs of this inveterate enemy to England. They feemed unconscious, or heedlefs, of the confequences that muft neceffarily follow, were the French to fucceed in their defigns against this country, to that extent which they had projected, and which the generality of their well-wifhers in England appeared to defire with no lefs fervour than themselves.

against its liberty, and an abettor of arbitrary power.

In this unfortunate difpofition of mind the nation continued during the whole year 1795. The fummer, in particular, was marked by a variety of tumults and riots. Thefe were occafioned by the methods practifed in the enlifting of men for the army: what with the general averfenefs of the common people to the war; what with the iniquity of the practice itfelf, thofe who were concerned in it became fuch objects of execration to the multitude, that their perfons and dwellings were equally expofed to its refentment and fury. Several houfes, either tenanted, or made ufe of, by thofe who are vulgarly known by the appellation of crimps, were demolifhed, or ftripped of their furniture, and the owners put in danger of their lives. So great was the rage of the populace, that. it was not without fome difficulty thofe riots were fuppreffed by the foldiery. Several of thofe who had been active in thefe difturbances were executed; but the public highly difapproved the condemnation, to death, of individuals, guilty of no other offence than giving way to a fudden impulfe of indignation at the violence offered to their fellow fubjects.

But the animofities, produced by internal divifions, had, in truth, taken fuch unhappy poffeffion of most men, that thofe who fought to reconcile them to moderation, became equally odious to both parties: no medium was allowed; whoever deplored the war, as pregnant with calamities that might have been avoided, was reputed a foe to his country; whoever pronounced it jutt, and neceffary, was deemed a confpirator

Such was the temper of the commonalty, previous to the meeting of parliament, about the clofe of October, 1795. A fermentation of the moft alarming kind feemed to pervade the whole mafs of the people. The various affociations of individuals, united for the purpose of obtaining a parliamentary reform, were, at this period, peculiarly noticed for their boldnefs and activity. That which was known by the name of the correfponding fo [B4] ciety,

« SebelumnyaLanjutkan »