« PreviousContinue »
"operations as he should judge most expedient;" but that these operations had been limited in the manner Lord Townshend described; and that at the close of the campaign Mr. Pitt had been able to express the great pleasure with which His Majesty had learnt "that through the "good order kept by Sir William Johnson among the "Indians, no act of cruelty has stained the lustre of the "British arms." *
The Amendment which Lord Chatham had moved to the Address was, on a division, rejected by a large majority—97 against 28. In the Commons an Amendment in the same words was brought forward by his friend and follower, the young Marquis of Granby, seconded by Lord John Cavendish. It gave rise to a long debate, in which Burke and Fox put forth their powers; but here also a large majority — 243 to 86 — declared against it.
There was another incident disclosing one main defect of Lord North's administration at this time—the want of an able and steadfast coadjutor in the Lords. On the 2nd of December the Duke of Richmond moved for certain papers. Lord Suffolk had determined to resist the motion, but finally gave way, close pressed by another burst of eloquence from Chatham. On the same day the same motion was made by Mr. Fox in the Commons. It was warmly resisted, both by the Prime Minister and the Attorney-General. The latter was still speaking against it when the news came in, and was quickly whispered from bench to bench, that the very papers in question had just been granted in the other House. A general titter ran along the ranks of Opposition. Thurlow was disconcerted for a moment, but for a moment only. With characteristic sturdiness and awful frown, he cried, "Here, then, I quit the defence of the Govern"ment. Let Ministers do as they please in this, or any "other House, I, as a Member of Parliament, will never
* See a note to the Chatham Papers, vol. iv. p. 477. It is worthy of note that on General Amherst being created a Peer in 1776, he had chosen as one of his supporters "on the sinister, a Canadianwar-Indian, holding in his exterior hand a staff argent, thereon a "human scalp, proper." (Collins's Peerage, voL viii. p. 176. ed. 1812.) "give my vote for making public the circumstances of a "negotiation during its progress!" Warmed by this example, Lord North also declared that, whatever might have passed elsewhere, he should adhere to his own opinion; and under such auspices the motion was rejected by a large majority.
Such were the views, and such the numbers of the rival parties, when, in the night of the 2nd of December, there came, like a thunder-stroke, the news of Burgoyne's surrender. It came at first as a mere unauthorised rumour, having been brought to Ticonderoga by the reports of deserters, and from Ticonderoga transmitted to Quebec. Yet even the first rumour gave rise to keen debates in both Houses. On the 3rd, Mr. Fox moved for copies of all instructions and other papers relative to the expedition from Canada. On the 5th, a similar motion in the Peers was brought forward by the Earl of Chatham, giving him occasion for another long and eloquent philippic. In both cases the Ministers might justly call upon Parliament to suspend its judgment, as they must their own, until the more authentic tidings were received.
At length, after twelve days of anxious expectation, there came by way of Canada a duplicate of Burgoyne's despatch from Albany; later still, Lord Petersham, with the first draft, arrived from New York. Already there had fallen from Lord North some hints of conciliation with the Colonies, and he had declared that after the holidays he would move the House to consider what concessions might be proper to be made the basis of a treaty.* Happily for the Government the usual period of the Christmas adjournment was at hand; and notwithstanding the remonstrances of Chatham in the Lords, of Burke and Fox in the Commons, it was decided that Parliament should not meet again for business until the 20th of January. This seasonable interval gave the Ministers
* It is very remarkable that on the very day before the first news of Saratoga came, Gibbon wrote as follows to Holroyd, from the House of Commons: "There, seems to be an universal desire for "peace, even on the most humble conditions. Are you still fierce? (Miscell. Works, vol. ii. p. 216. ed. 1814.) See also in my Appendix, Mr. Fox's two Letters to the Duke of Grafton, of Dec. 12. and 16. some leisure to review their difficult position, or to rally their discomfited adherents.
So far as Burgoyne's own conduct was concerned, his vindication could be placed in no hands more able than his own. When his despatch from Albany was first sent forth in print, the public did not fail to admire the grace, the good feeling, and the dignity, with which, in that able composition, he told his mournful tale. According to a popular writer of that age, "The style charmed "every reader; but he had better have beaten the enemy, "and misspelt every word of his despatch, for so, pro"bably, the great Duke of Marlborough would have "done, both by one and the other."* Yet the general result of the news at home was not despondency nor even depression. On the contrary, a loyal spirit was almost every where aroused. The Highlands of Scotland and the towns of Manchester and Liverpool took the lead; for which reason they were shortly afterwards reviled most bitterly by Fox.f Large sums were freely, and without any need of persuasion, subscribed to raise new regiments; and thus, by private means, were fifteen thousand soldiers added to the forces of the State. Nor was the bounty of the people confined to this single channel; it flowed also in a nearly opposite, but not less praiseworthy, direction. From Paris Dr. Franklin had continued his correspondence with his friend, David Hartley, in London. Writing to him in October last, Franklin had cited the experience of former wars, when some act of generosity and kindness towards prisoners on one side had softened the resentment on the other, and paved the way to reconciliation. "You in England," added he, "if you wish for peace, have at present the op"portunity of trying this means with regard to our "prisoners now in your gaols, who complain of very "severe treatment." % On this hint had Hartley acted. He had set on foot a charitable subscription for the relief
* Mrs. Inchbald's Preface to "the Heiress."
t Mr. Fox said that "Scotland and Manchester were so accus"tomed to disgrace, that it was no wonder if they pocketed in"stances of dishonour, and sat down contented with infamy!" (Speech in the House of Commons, January 22. 1778.)
X Works, vol. viii. p. 224.
of the American prisoners in England. In this manner a sufficient sum was soon collected; chiefly, no doubt, by the party zeal of Opposition, but in great measure also, as we may justly state, by the generous spirit of the people.
At the Court of Versailles the effect of the news was speedy—nay, almost immediate. All doubt was now removed; all irresolution cast aside; and by the middle of December it was officially announced to the American Commissioners that the King of France was prepared to acknowledge the independence of the States. The French Ministers did not aim—not overtly at least—at the recovery of Canada; they had the good sense to foresee that such a pretension on their part would tend more than any other cause to rekindle the old English feeling in the breast of the Americans. Not all men, they knew, are equally flexible; not all equally ready to hail an ancient enemy as a new ally. They, therefore, from the outset, declared that if ever, as was probable, the recognition of the United States should involve their Royal Master in a war with England, he would not ask or expect any compensation for the expense or damage he might sustain on that account. The only condition which he positively required was, that the United States should not give up their independence in any future treaty, nor, under any circumstances, return to their subjection to the British Crown.
On this basis a negotiation was carried on during several weeks for treaties both of commerce and alliance; the latter treaty to be eventual in its provisions, and to take effect only in case of a rupture between France and England. The first stipulation was, that while the war continued, both parties should make it a common cause, and aid each other as good friends and allies. If the Americans should gain possession of any of the remaining British territories on the continent of North America, such territories should belong to the United States. If the French King should conquer any of the British islands in or near the Gulf of Mexico, they were to be retained by him. The contracting parties invited the accession of other Powers, and expressly agreed that neither of them should conclude a truce or peace with Great Britain without the consent of the other first obtained.
The two treaties of Commerce and Alliance were signed at Paris upon the same day, the 6th of February, by the three Commissioners, Franklin, Deane, and Lee, on the part of America; and by M. Gerard, secretary of the King's Council, on the part of France. The latter gentleman was designed as the first French Minister to the United States, but did not embark for his destination till some weeks afterwards. During some weeks, indeed, it was endeavoured to keep the treaties secret, so as to afford further time for the desired accession of Spain—an accession which, after all, could not at this period be obtained. During some weeks were accordingly postponed the official announcement of the treaties to the Court of St. James's, and the official presentation of the Commissioners to the Court of Versailles.