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"America? And what will your troops do out of the projection of your fleet? In the winter, if together, they are "starved, and if dispersed, they are taken off in detail. "I am experienced in spring hopes and vernal promises; "I know what Ministers throw out; but at last will come "your equinoctial disappointments. You have got nothing "in America but stations. You have been three years teaching them the Art of War, and they are apt scholars. What "you have sent are too many to make peace, — too few to "make war. If you did conquer them, what then? You "cannot make them respect you; you cannot make them "wear your cloth; you will plant an invincible hatred in "their breasts against you. Coming from the stock they do, "they never can respect you. If Ministers are founded in "saying there is no sort of treaty with France, there is still
"a moment left; the point of honour is still safe I have
"at different times made different propositions adapted to "the circumstances in which they were offered. The plan "contained in my former Bill is now impracticable; the pre"sent motion will tell you where you are, and what you have "now to depend upon. It may produce a respectable divi"sion in America, and unanimity at home; it will give "America an option; she has yet had no option. You have "said, 'Lay down your arms;' and she has given you the "Spartan answer, —' Come and take them!'"
Lord Chatham, then reciting the words of his motion, proceeded to enforce them. "The proposal," he said, "is "specific. I thought this so clear, that I did not enlarge "upon it. I mean the redress of all their grievances, and "the right to dispose of their own money. This is to be done "instantaneously. I will get out of my bed to move it on "Monday. This will be the herald of peace; this will open "the way for treaty; this will show Parliament sincerely dis"posed If a treaty with France were to appear, that
"moment you must declare war, though you had only five "ships of the line in England: but France will defer a treaty "as long as possible. You are now at the mercy of every 1777. HIS PROPOSALS FOR PEACE WITH AMERICA. 155
"little German chancery; and the pretensions of France "will increase daily, so as to become an avowed party in "either peace or war. We have tried for unconditional sub"mission; try what can be gained by unconditional redress. "Less dignity will be lost in the repeal, than in submitting "to the demands of German chanceries. We are the ag"gressors. We have invaded them. We have invaded them "as much as the Spanish Armada invaded England. Mercy "cannot do harm: it will seat the King where he ought to be "— throned in the hearts of his people; and millions at "home and abroad, now employed in obloquy or revolt, "would pray for him!"
The debate which ensued upon this motion, called forth the highest energies of both contending parties. On the one side there spoke LordGower and the second Lord Lyttleton, Lords Mansfield and Weymouth, and Dr. Markham, newly named Archbishop of York. On the other side were the Dukes of Grafton and Manchester, Lords Camden and Shelburne, and Dr. Hinchcliffe, Bishop of Peterborough. Chatham himself exerted his right of reply. Among the strangers present on this occasion, as in 1775, was his son William, who next morning wrote to Lady Chatham as follows: "My father's first speech took up half ah hour, and "was full of all his usual force and vivacity. I only regretted "that he did not always raise his voice enough for all the
"House to hear every thing he said He spoke a second
"time in answer to Lord Weymouth, to explain the object "of his motion, and his intention to follow it by one for the "repeal of all the Acts of Parliament which form the system "of chastisement. This he did in a flow of eloquence, and "with a beauty of expression, animated and striking beyond "conception."— Such praise of Chatham's eloquence from so affectionate a son might deserve no credit, did we not find it confirmed, nearly to its full extent, from his political opponents. Yet, perhaps, all that eloquence came too late: certainly it was exerted in vain. A large majority of the Peers present (76 against 26) rejected the Earl's motion; and the Session of Parliament closed without any overture of reconciliation towards America.
In the course of this summer, Lord Chatham underwent another severe illness. As he was riding at Hayes, he was smitten with some kind of stroke: he fell from his horse, and lay senseless for ten minutes. His friends endeavoured to keep this event a profound secret from the world. They did not entirely succeed; yet it remained unknown to all the earlier biographers, and was first divulged to this age through the confidential letter in which Lord Camden relates it to the Duke of Grafton. Lord Camden adds, "Whether this was apoplectic, paralytic, or gout in the "stomach, I cannot learn. I wish it may not prove fatal." Only a few weeks later the same friend was enabled to write, "Your Grace will not be sorry to hear that the Earl is now "— though it seems almost miraculous — in bodily health, "and in mental vigour, as equal to a strenuous exertion "of his faculties, as I have known him these seven "years."*
At Paris, the progress of the American War excited scarcely less interest or attention than in London. Both Franklin and Silas Deane found themselves, though in secret, yet favourably received by the Count de Vergennes. They continued busily employed in making overtures and urging treaties to the Court of France; while Arthur Lee, who had arrived from England, was despatched on the same errand to the Court of Spain. In these overtures, judging from the instructions sent out, the Congress showed utter disregard of any rights besides their own. They directed their plenipotentiaries to promise that, in case France and Spain would enter into the war, the United States would assist the former in the conquest of the British sugar islands,
* Lord Camden's Letters of July 27. and October 29. 1777. Grafton MSS. and Lord Campbell's Lives of the Chancellors, vol. v. p. 303. I find the rumour that "Lord Chatham has had a fall from his horse in a tit," noticed by Horace Walpole, in the correspondence between him and Mason, as just published (vol. i. p. 304. ed. 1851).
NEGOTIATIONS WITH SPAIN.
and the latter in the conquest of Portugal. * Yet, even on their own rules, and adopting their own point of view — if, as they said, England had no right to crush the independent State of North America—could they show any superior claim for crushing, without the smallest provocation, the independent State of Portugal?
King Charles of Spain was a man too upright to enter readily into such views of conquest, and too far-sighted not to fear the ill example to his own Colonies of successful insurrection. Though full of bitter feeling against the British, he was not as yet prepared to break with them. He directed Arthur Lee to stop short at Burgos, lest his presence at Madrid should give umbrage to the English embassy. But, at Burgos, Lee was met by the leading Minister Grimaldi; and, after several secret interviews, Grimaldi was prevailed upon to grant a small sum of money for the purchase of military stores, which were shipped to the United States from Bilbao. In like manner, the Count de Vergennes, and the other Ministers of Louis the Sixteenth, were wavering between the desire and the dread of striking a great blow against England. They were not willing to take open part with insurgent America, especially while no success had crowned its arms: but they wished to give assistance so far as assistance could be given secretly. From their ports during the whole previous autumn, succours of various kinds had been sent forth. And no sooner had Franklin landed, than he was able to report that an underhand supply had been obtained from the government of two hundred brass field-pieces, thirty thousand fire-locks, and some other military stores, which were already shipping for America, and which were to be convoyed by a man-of-war.** Shortly afterwards, the French Ministers further granted a gift or subsidy of two millions of livres in quarterly payments. They likewise contributed the means for supplying and refitting the American cruisers that came into French ports. Further
* See Franklin's Works, vol. viii. p. 207. ed. 1844.
** Letter to the President of Congress, December 8. 1776.
still, they secretly gave license to four good officers of their own Engineers — Monsieur Du Portail especially — to accept commissions in the American army. All this while they never wearied in friendly protestations and assurances to Lord Stormont, the ambassador from England.
At this period, indeed, Lord Stormont was disposed to hold high and peremptory language both to the French Court and to the American Commissioners. When the latter wrote to him suggesting an exchange of the seamen captured by the cruisers on both sides, they only drew from his Lordship the following laconic reply: "The King's ambassador "receives no application from rebels unless they come to "implore his Majesty's mercy." This note was sent back to him by Franklin and Deane. "In answer to a letter," they said, "which concerns some of the most material "interests of humanity, we received the inclosed indecent "paper, which we return for your Lordship's more mature "consideration."
While the Court of Versailles was in this manner doubledealing— eager to strike, yet fearful lest the blow should recoil — the current of feeling at Paris had from the first run strongly in favour of the insurgent Colonies. For that feeling among the people more than one cause may be assigned. There was a rankling recollection of their disasters during the late war, and a desire to assist in humbling the countrymen of Chatham. There was a growing sense of their own servitude — a growing love of freedom. Moreover, in so martial a nation there was, with the younger men at least, an attachment to war for its own sake. Under such influences, and without awaiting orders from the government, many officers, or men desiring to be so, had crossed the Atlantic, and engaged in the Service of the United States. So early as October, 1776, we find- Washington complain to Congress of the number of French gentlemen whom, from their ignorance of the language, he was not able to employ. *
* Writings, vol. iv.p. 146. He adds, "They seem to be genteel sensible men."