Political Tracts (Johnson)/Falkland’s Islands
To proportion the eagerness of contest to its importance seems too hard a talk for human wisdom. The pride of wit has kept ages busy in the discussion of useless questions, and the pride of power has destroyed armies to gain or to keep unprofitable possessions.
Not many years have passed since the cruelties of war were filling the world with terror and with sorrow; rage was at last appeased, or strength exhausted, and to the harassed nations peace was restored, with its pleasures and its benefits. Of this state all felt the happiness, and all implored the continuance; but what continuance of happiness can be expected, when the whole system of European empire can be in danger of a new concussion, by a contention for a few spots of earth, which, in the deserts of the ocean, had almost escaped human notice, and which, if they had not happened to make a sea-mark, had perhaps never had a name.
Fortune often delights to dignify what nature has neglected, and that renown which cannot be claimed by intrinsick excellence or greatness, is sometimes derived from unexpected accidents. The Rubicon was ennobled by the passage of Cæsar, and the time is now come when Falkland’s Islands demand their historian.
But the writer to whom this employment shall be assigned, will have few opportunities of descriptive splendor, or narrative elegance. Of other countries it is told how often they have changed their government; these islands have hitherto changed only their name. Of heroes to conquer, or legislators to civilize, here has been no appearance; nothing has happened to them but that they have been sometimes seen by wandering navigators, who passed by them in search of better habitations.
When the Spaniards, who, under the conduct of Columbus, discovered America, had taken possession of its most wealthy regions; they surprised and terrified Europe by a sudden and unexampled influx of riches. They were made at once insupportably insolent, and might perhaps have become irresistibly powerful, had not their mountainous treasures been scattered in the air with the ignorant profusion of unaccustomed opulence.
The greater part of the European potentates saw this stream of riches flowing into Spain without attempting to dip their own hands in the golden fountain. France had no naval skill or power; Portugal was extending her dominions in the East over regions formed in the gaiety of Nature; the Hanseatic league, being planned only for the security of traffick, had no tendency to discovery or invasion; and the commercial states of Italy growing rich by trading between Asia and Europe, and not lying upon the ocean, did not desire to seek by great hazards, at a distance, what was almost at home to be found with safety.
The English alone were animated by the success of the Spanish navigators, to try if any thing was left that might reward adventure, or incite appropriation. They sent Cabot into the North, but in the North there was no gold or silver to be found. The best regions were pre-occupied, yet they still continued their hopes and their labours. They were the second nation that dared the extent of the Pacifick Ocean, and the second circumnavigators of the globe.
By the war between Elizabeth and Philip, the wealth of America became lawful prize, and those who were less afraid of danger than of poverty, supposed that riches might easily be obtained by plundering the Spaniards. Nothing is difficult when gain and honour unite their influence; the spirit and vigour of these expeditions enlarged our views of the new world, and made us first acquainted with its remoter coasts.
In the fatal voyage of Cavendish (1592) Captain Davis, who, being sent out as his associate, was afterwards parted from him or deserted him, as he was driven by violence of weather about the Straits of Magellan, is supposed to have been the first who saw the lands now called Falkland’s Islands, but his distress permitted him not to make any observation, and he left them, as he found them, without a name.
Not long afterwards (1594) Sir Richard Hawkins, being in the same seas with the same designs, saw these islands again, if they are indeed the same islands, and in honour of his mistress, called them Hawkins’s Maiden Land.
This voyage was not of renown sufficient to procure a general reception to the new name, for when the Dutch, who had now become strong enough not only to defend themselves, but to attack their masters, sent (1598) Verhagen and Sebald de Wert, into the South Sea, these Islands, which were not supposed to have been known before, obtained the denomination of Sebald’s Islands, and were from that time placed in the charts; though Frezier tells us, that they were yet considered as of doubtful existence.
Their present English name was probably given them (1689) by Strong, whose journal, yet imprinted, may be found in the Museum. This name was adopted by Halley, and has from that time, I believe, been received into our maps.
The privateers which were put into motion by the wars of William and Anne, saw those islands and mention them; but they were yet not considered as territories worth a contest. Strong affirmed that there was no wood, and Dampier suspected that they had no water.
Frezier describes their appearance with more distinctness, and mentions some ships of St. Maloes, by which they had been visited, and to which he seems willing enough to ascribe the honour of discovering islands which yet he admits to have been seen by Hawkins, and named by Sebald de Wert. He, I suppose, in honour of his countrymen, called them the Malouines, the denomination now used by the Spaniards, who seem not, till very lately, to have thought them important enough to deserve a name.
Since the publication of Anson’s voyage, they have very much changed their opinion, finding a settlement in Pepys’s or Falkland’s Island recommended by the author as necessary to the success of our future expeditions against the coast of Chili, and as of such use and importance, that it would produce many advantages in peace, and in war would make us matters of the South Sea.
Scarcely any degree of judgment is sufficient to restrain the imagination from magnifying that on which it is long detained. The relator of Anson’s voyage had heated his mind with its various events, had partaken the hope with which it was begun, and the vexation differed by its various miscarriages, and then thought nothing could be of greater benefit to the nation than that which might promote the success of such another enterprise.
Had the heroes of that history even performed and attained all that when they first spread their sails they ventured to hope, the consequence would yet have produced very little hurt to the Spaniards, and very little benefit to the English. They would have taken a few towns; Anson and his companions would have shared the plunder or the ransom; and the Spaniards, finding their southern territories accessible, would for the future have guarded them better.
That such a settlement may be of use in war, no man that confiders its situation will deny. But war is not the whole business of life; it happens but seldom, and every man, either good or wise, wishes that its frequency were still less. That conduct which betrays designs of future hostility, if it does not excite violence, will always generate malignity; it must for ever exclude confidence and friendship, and continue a cold and sluggish rivalry, by a sly reciprocation of indirect injuries, without the bravery of war, or the security of peace.
The advantage of such a settlement in time of peace is, I think, not easily to be proved. For what use can it have but of a station for contraband traders, a nursery of fraud, and a receptacle of theft? Narborough, about a century ago, was of opinion, that no advantage could be obtained in voyages to the South Sea, except by such an armament as, with a sailor’s morality, might trade by force. It is well known that the prohibitions of foreign commerce are, in these countries, to the last degree rigorous, and that no man not authorized by the King of Spain can trade there but by force or stealth. Whatever profit is obtained must be gained by the violence of rapine, or dexterity of fraud.
Government will not perhaps soon arrive at such purity and excellence, but that some connivance at least will be indulged to the triumphant robber and successful cheat. He that brings wealth home is seldom interrogated by what means it was obtained. This, however, is one of those modes of corruption with which mankind ought always to struggle, and which they may in time hope to overcome. There is reason to expect, that as the world is more enlightened, policy and morality will at last be reconciled, and that nations will learn not to do what they would not suffer.
But the silent toleration of suspected guilt is a degree of depravity far below that which openly incites and manifestly protects it. To pardon a pirate may be injurious to mankind; but how much greater is the crime of opening a port in which all pirates shall be safe? The contraband trader is not more worthy of protection: if with Narborough he trades by force, he is a pirate; if he trades secretly, he is only a thief. Those who honestly refuse his traffick he hates as obstructors of his profit; and those with whom he deals he cheats, because he knows that they dare not complain. He lives with a heart full of that malignity which fear of detection always generates in those who are to defend unjust acquisitions against lawful authority; and when he comes home with riches thus acquired, he brings a mind hardened in evil, too proud for reproof, and too stupid for reflection; he offends the high by his insolence, and corrupts the low by his example.
Whether these truths were forgotten or despised, or whether some better purpose was then in agitation, the representation made in Anson’s voyage had such effect upon the statesmen of that time, that (in 1748) some sloops were fitted out for the fuller knowledge of Pepys and Falkland’s Islands, and for further discoveries in the South Sea. This expedition, though perhaps designed to be secret, was not long concealed from Wall, the Spanish ambassador, who so vehemently opposed it, and so strongly maintained the right of the Spaniards to the exclusive dominion of the South Sea, that the English ministry relinquished part of their original design, and declared that the examination of those two Islands was the utmost that their orders should comprise.
This concession was sufficiently liberal or sufficiently submissive; yet the Spanish court was neither gratified by our kindness, nor softened by our humility. Sir Benjajnin Keene, who then resided at Madrid, was interrogated by Carvajal concerning the visit intended to Pepys’ and Falkland’s Islands in terms of great jealousy and discontent; and the intended expedition was represented, if not as a direct violation of the late peace, yet as an act inconsistent with amicable intentions, and contrary to the professions of mutual kindness which then passed between Spain and England. Keene was directed to protest that nothing more than mere discovery was intended, and that no settlement was to be established. The Spaniard readily replied, that if this was a voyage of wanton curiosity, it might be gratified with less trouble, for he was willing to communicate whatever was known: That to go so far only to come back, was no reasonable act; and it would be a slender sacrifice to peace and friendship to omit a voyage in which nothing was to be gained: That if we left the places as we found them, the voyage was useless; and if we took possession, it was a hostile armament, nor could we expect that the Spaniards would suppose us to visit the southern parts of America only from curiosity, after the scheme proposed by the author of Anson’s Voyage.
When once we had disowned all purpose of settling, it is apparent that we could not defend the propriety of our expedition by arguments equivalent to Carvajal’s objections. The ministry therefore dismissed the whole design, but no declaration was required by which our right to persue it hereafter might be annulled.
From this time Falkland’s Island was forgotten or neglected, till the conduit of naval affairs was intrusted to the Earl of Egmont, a man whose mind was vigorous and ardent, whose knowledge was extensive, and whose designs were magnificent; but who had somewhat vitiated his judgement by too much indulgence of romantick projects and airy speculations.
Lord Egmont’s eagerness after something new determined him to make inquiry after Falkland’s Island, and he sent out Captain Byron, who, in the beginning of the year 1765, took, he says, a formal possession in the name of his Britannick Majesty.
The possession of this place is, according to Mr. Byron’s representation, no despicable acquisition. He conceived the island to be six or seven hundred miles round, and represented it as a region naked indeed of wood, but which, if that defect were supplied, would have all that nature, almost all that luxury could want. The harbour he found capacious and secure, and therefore thought it worthy of the name of Egmont. Of water there was no want, and the ground, he described as having all the excellencies of soil, and as covered with antiscorbutick herbs, the restoratives of the sailor. Provision was easily to be had, for they killed almost every day an hundred geese to each ship, by pelting them with stones. Not content with physick and with food, he searched yet deeper for the value of the new dominion. He dug in quest of ore, found iron in abundance, and did not despair of nobler metals.
A country thus fertile and delightful, fortunately found where none would have expected it, about the fiftieth degree of southern latitude, could not without great supineness be neglected. Early in the next year (January 8, 1766) Captain Macbride arrived at Port Egmont, where he erected a small blockhouse, and stationed a garrison. His description was less flattering. He found, what he calls, a mass of islands and broken lands, of which the soil was nothing but a bog, with no better prospect than that of barren mountains, beaten by storms almost perpetual. Yet this, says he, is summer, and if the winds of winter hold their natural proportion, those who lie but two cables length from the shore, must pass weeks without any communication with it. The plenty which regaled Mr. Byron, and which might have supported not only armies, but armies of Patagons, was no longer to be found. The geese were too wise to stay when men violated their haunts, and Mr. Macbride’s crew could only now and then kill a goose when the weather would permit. All the quadrupeds which he met there were foxes, supposed by him to have been brought upon the ice; but of useless animals, such as sea lions and penguins, which he calls vermin, the number was incredible. He allows, however, that those who touch at these islands may find geese and snipes, and in the summer months, wild cellery and forrel.
No token was seen by either, of any settlement ever made upon this island, and Mr. Macbride thought himself so secure from hostile disturbance, that when he erected his wooden blockhouse he omitted to open the ports and loopholes.
When a garrison was stationed at Port Egrnont, it was necessary to try what sustenance the ground could be by culture excited to produce. A garden was prepared, but the plants that sprung up, withered away in immaturity. Some fir-feeds were sown; but though this be the native tree of rugged climates, the young firs that rose above the ground died like weaker herbage. The cold continued long, and the ocean seldom was at rest.
Cattle succeeded better than vegetables. Goats, sheep, and hogs, that were carried thither, were found to thrive and increase as in other places.
Nil mortalibus arduum est. There is nothing which human courage will not undertake, and little that human patience will not endure. The garrison lived upon Falkland’s Island, shrinking from the blast, and shuddering at the billows.
This was a colony which could never become independent, for it never could be able to maintain itself. The necessary supplies were annually sent from England, at an expence which the Admiralty began to think would not quickly be repaid. But shame of deserting a project, and unwillingness to contend with a projector that meant well, continued the garrison, and supplied it with regular remittances of stores and provision.
That of which we were almost weary ourselves, we did not expect any one to envy; and therefore supposed that we should be permitted to reside in Falkland’s Island, the undisputed lords of tempest-beaten barrenness.
But, on the 28th of November 1769, Captain Hunt, observing a Spanish schooner hovering about the island and surveying it, sent the commander a message, by which he required him to depart. The Spaniard made an appearance of obeying, but in two days came back with letters written by the governor of Port Solidad, and brought by the chief officer of a settlement on the east part of Falkland’s Island.
In this letter, dated Malouina, November 30, the governor complains, that Captain Hunt, when he ordered the schooner to depart, assumed a power to which he could have no pretensions, by sending an imperious message to the Spaniards in the King of Spain’s own dominions.
In another letter sent at the same time, he supposes the English to be in that part only by accident, and to be ready to depart at the first warning. This letter was accompanied by a present, of which, says he, if it be neither equal to my desire nor to your merit, you must impute the deficiency to the situation of us both.
In return to this hostile civility, Captain Hunt warned them from the island, which he claimed in the name of the King, as belonging to the English by right of the first discovery and the first settlement.
This was an assertion of more confidence than certainty. The right of discovery indeed has already appeared to be probable, but the right which priority of settlement confers I know not whether we yet can establish.
On December 10, the officer sent by the governor of Port Solidad made three protests against Captain Hunt; for threatening to fire upon him; for opposing his entrance into Port Egmont; and for entering himself into Port Solidad. On the 12th the governor of Port Solidad formally warned Captain Hunt to leave Port Egtnont, and to forbear the navigation of these seas, without permission from the King of Spain.
To this Captain Hunt replied by repeating his former claim; by declaring that his orders were to keep possession; and by once more warning the Spaniards to depart.
The next month produced more protefts and more replies, of which the tenour was nearly the same. The operations of such harmless enmity having produced no effect, were then reciprocally discontinued, and the English were left for a time to enjoy the pleasures of Falkland’s Island without molestation.
This tranquillity, however, did not last long. A few months afterwards (June 4, 1770) the Industry, a Spanish frigate, commanded by an officer whose name was Madariaga, anchored in Port Egmont, bound, as was said, for Port Solidad, and reduced, by a passage from Buenos Ayres of fifty-three days, to want of water.
Three days afterwards four other frigates entered the port, and a broad pendant, such as is born by the commander of a naval armament, was displayed from the Industry. Captain Farmer of the Swift frigate, who commanded the garrison, ordered the crew of the Swift to come on shore, and assist in its defence; and directed Captain Maltby to bring the Favourite frigate, which he commanded, nearer to the land. The Spaniards easily discovering the purpose of his motion, let him know, that if he weighed his anchor, they would fire upon his ship; but paying no regard to these menaces, he advanced towards the shore. The Spanish fleet followed, and two shots were fired, which fell at a distance from him. He then sent to inquire the reason of such hostility, and was told that the shots were intended only as signals.
Both the English captains wrote the next day to Madariaga the Spanish commodore, warning him from the island, as from a place which the English held by right of discovery.
Madariaga, who seems to have had no desire of unnecessary mischief, invited them (June 9.) to send an officer who should take a view of his forces, that they might be convinced of the vanity of resistance, and do that without compulsion which he was upon refusal prepared to enforce.
An officer was sent, who found sixteen hundred men, with a train of twenty-seven cannon, four mortars, and two hundred bombs. The fleet consisted of five frigates from twenty to thirty guns, which were now stationed opposite to the Block-house.
He then sent them a formal memorial, in which he maintained his master’s right to the whole Magellanick region, and exhorted the English to retire quietly from the settlement, which they could neither justify by right, nor maintain by power.
He offered them the liberty of carrying away whatever they were desirous to remove, and promised his receipt for what should be left, that no loss might be suffered by them.
His propositions were expressed in terms of great civility; but he concludes with demanding an answer in fifteen minutes.
Having while he was writing received the letters of warning written the day before by the English captains, he told them, that he thought himself able to prove the King of Spain’s title to all those countries, that this was no time for verbal altercations. He persisted in his determination, and allowed only fifteen minutes for an answer.
To this it was replied by Captain Farmer, that though there had been prescribed yet a shorter time, he should still resolutely defend his charge; that this, whether menace or force, would be considered as an insult on the British flag, and that satisfaction would certainly be required.
On the next day (June 10.) Madariaga landed his forces, and it may be easily imagined that he had no bloody conquest. The English had only a wooden blockhouse built at Woolwich, and carried in pieces to the island, with a small battery of cannon. To contend with obstinacy had been only to lavish life without use or hope. After the exchange of a very few shots, a capitulation was proposed.
The Spanish commander acted with moderation; he exerted little of the conqueror; what he had offered before the attack, he granted after the victory; the English were allowed to leave the place with every honour, only their departure was delayed by the terms of the capitulation twenty days; and to secure their stay, the rudder of the Favourite was taken off. What they desired to carry away they removed without molestation; and of what they left an inventory was drawn, for which the Spanish officer by his receipt promised to be accountable.
Of this petty revolution, so sudden and so distant, the English ministry could not possibly have such notice as might enable them to prevent it. The conquest, if such it may be called, cost but three days; for the Spaniards, either supposing the garrison stronger than it was, or resolving to trust nothing to chance, or considering that as their force was greater, there was less danger of bloodshed, came with a power that made resistance ridiculous, and at once demanded and obtained possession.
The first account of any discontent expressed by the Spaniards was brought by Captain Hunt, who arriving at Plymouth June 3, 1770, informed the Admiralty that the island had been claimed in December by the governor of Port Solidad.
This claim, made by an officer of so little dignity, without any known direction from his superiors, could be considered only as the zeal or officiousness of an individual, unworthy of public notice or the formality of remonstrance.
In August Mr. Harris, the resident at Madrid, gave notice to Lord Weymouth of an account newly brought to Cadiz, that the English were in possession of Port Cuizada, the same which we call Port Egmont, in the Magellanick sea; that in January they had warned away two Spanish ships; and that an armament was sent out in May from Buenos Ayres to dislodge them.
It was perhaps not yet certain that this account was true; but the information, however faithful, was too late for prevention. It was easily known, that a fleet dispatched in May had before August succeeded or miscarried.
In October, Captain Maltby came to England, and gave the account which I have now epitomised, of his expulsion from Falkland’s Islands.
From this moment the whole nation can witness that no time was lost. The navy was surveyed, the ships refitted, and commanders appointed; and a powerful fleet was assembled, well manned and well stored, with expedition after so long a peace perhaps never known before, and with vigour which after the waste of so long a war scarcely any other nation had been capable of exerting.
This preparation, so illustrious in the eyes of Europe, and so efficacious in its event, was obstructed by the utmost power of that noisy faction which has too long filled the kingdom, sometimes with the roar of empty menace, and sometimes with the yell of hypocritical lamentation. Every man saw, and every honest man saw with detestation, that they who desired to force their sovereign into war, endeavoured at the same time to disable him from action.
The vigour and spirit of the ministry easily broke through all the machinations of these pygmy rebels, and our armament was quickly such as was likely to make our negotiations effectual.
The Prince of Masseran, in his first conference with the English ministers on this occasion, owned that he had from Madrid received intelligence that the English had been forcibly expelled from Falkland’s Island by Buccarelli, the governor of Buenos Ayres, without any particular orders from the King of Spain. But being asked, whether in his master’s name he disavowed Buccarelli’s violence, he refused to answer without direction.
The scene of negociation was now removed to Madrid, and in September Mr. Harris was directed to demand from Grimaldi the Spanish minister the restitution of Falkland’s Island, and a disavowal of Buccarelli’s hostilities.
It was to be expected that Grimaldi would object to us our own behaviour, who had ordered the Spaniards to depart from the same island. To this it was replied, That the English forces were indeed directed to warn other nations away; but if compliance were refused, to proceed quietly in making their settlement, and suffer the subjects of whatever power to remain there without molestation. By possession thus taken, there was only a disputable claim advanced, which might be peaceably and regularly decided, without infult and without force; and if the Spaniards had complained at the British court, their reasons would have been heard, and all injuries redressed; but that, by presuppofing the justice of their own title, and having recourse to arms, without any previous notice or remonstrance, they had violated the peace, and insulted the British government; and therefore it was expected that satisfaction should be made by publick disavowal and immediate restitution.
The answer of Grimaldi was ambiguous and cold. He did not allow that any particular orders had been given for driving the English from their settlement; but made no scruple of declaring, that such an ejection was nothing more than the settlers might have expected; and that Buccarelli had not, in his opinion, incurred any blame, as the general injunctions to the American governors were, to suffer no incroachmenson the Spanish dominions.
In October the Prince of Masseran proposed a convention for the accommodation of differences by mutual concessions, in which the warning given to the Spaniards by Hunt should be disavowed on one side, and the violence ufed by Buccarelli on the other. This offer was considered as little less than a new infult, and Grimaldi was told, that injury required reparation; that when either party had suffered evident wrong, there was not the parity subsisting which is implied in conventions and contracts; that we considered ourselves as openly infulted, and demanded satisfaction plenary and unconditional.
Grimaldi affected to wonder that we were not yet appeased by their concessions. They had, he said, granted all that was required; they had offered to restore the island in the ftate in which they found it; but he thought that they likewise might hope for some regard, and that the warning sent by Hunt would be disavowed.
Mr. Harris, our minister at Madrid, insisted that the injured party had a right to unconditional reparation, and Grimaldi delayed his answer that a council might be called. In a few days orders were dispatched to Prince Masseran, by which he was commissioned to declare the King of Spain’s readiness to satisfy the demands of the King of England, in expectation of receiving from him reciprocal satisfaction, by the disavowal, so often required, of Hunt’s warning.
Finding the Spaniards disposed to make no other acknowledgments, the English ministry considered a war as not likely to be long avoided. In the latter end of November private notice was given of their danger to the merchants at Cadiz, and the officers absent from Gibraltar were remanded to their posts. Our naval force was every day increased, and we made no abatement of our original demand.
The obstinacy of the Spanish court still continued, and about the end of the year all hope of reconciliation was so nearly extinguished, that Mr. Harris was directed to withdraw, with the usual forms, from his residence at Madrid.
Moderation is commonly firm, and firmness is commonly successful; having not swelled our first requisition with any superfluous appendages, we had nothing to yield, we therefore only repeated our first proposition, prepared for war, though desirous of peace.
About this time, as is well known, the king of France dismissed Choiseul from his employments. What effect this revolution of the French court had upon the Spanish counsels, I pretend not to be informed. Choiseul had always professed pacific dispositions, nor is it certain, however it maybe suspected, that he talked in different strains to different parties.
It seems to be almost the universal error of historians to suppose it politically, as it is physically true, that every effect has a proportionate cause. In the inanimate action of matter upon matter, the motion produced can be but equal to the force of the moving power; but the operations of life, whether private or publick, admit no such laws. The caprices of voluntary agents laugh at calculation. It is not always that there is a strong reason for a great event. Obstinacy and flexibility, malignity and kindness, give place alternately to each other, and the reason of these vicissitudes, however important may be the consequences, often escapes the mind in which the change is made.
Whether the alteration which began in January to appear in the Spanish counsels had any other cause than conviction of the impropriety of their past conduct, and of the danger of a new war, it is not easy to decide; but they began, whatever was the reason, to relax their haughtiness, and Mr. Harris’s departure was countermanded.
The demands first made by England were still continued, and on January 22d, the prince of Masseran delivered a declaration, in which the king of Spain disavows the violent enterprise of Buccarelli, and promises to restore the port and fort called Egmont, with all the artillery and stores, according to the inventory.
To this promise of restitution is subjoined that this engagement to restore Port Egmont, cannot, nor ought in any wise to affect the question of the prior right of sovereignty of the Malouine otherwise called Falkland’s Islands.
This concession was accepted by the Earl of Rochford, who declared on the part of his master, that the Prince of Masseran being authorized by his Catholick Majesty, to offer in his Majesty’s name, to the King of Great Britain, satisfaction for the injury done him by dispossessing him of Port Egmont, and having signed a declaration expressing that his Catholick Majesty disavows the expedition against Port Egmont, and engages to restore it in the state in which it stood before the 10th of June 1770, his Britannick majesty will look upon the said declaration, together with the full performance of the engagement en the part of his Catholick Majesty, as a satisfaction for the injury done to the crown of Great Britain.
This is all that was originally demanded. The expedition is disavowed, and the island is restored. An injury is acknowledged by the reception of Lord Rochford’s paper, who twice mentions the word injury and twice the word satisfaction.
The Spaniards have stipulated that the grant of possession shall not preclude the question of prior right, a question which we shall probably make no haste to discuss, and a right of which no formal resignation was ever required. This reserve has supplied matter for much clamour, and perhaps the English ministry would have been better pleased had the declaration been without it. But when we have obtained all that was asked, why should we complain that we have not more? When the possession is conceded, where is the evil that the right, which that concession supposes to be merely hypothetical, is referred to the Greek Calends for a future disquisition? Were the Switzers less free or less secure, because after their defection from the house of Austria they had never been declared independent before the treaty of Westphalia? Is the King of France less a sovereign because the King of England partakes his title?
If sovereignty implies undisputed right, scarce any prince is a sovereign through his whole dominions; if sovereignty consists in this, that no superiour is acknowledged, our King reigns at Port Egmont with sovereign authority. Almost every new acquired territory is in some degree controvertible, and till the controversy is decided, a term very difficult to be fixed, all that can be had is real possession and actual dominion.
This surely is a sufficient answer to the feudal gabble of a man who is every day lessening that splendour of character which once illuminated the kingdom, then dazzled, and afterwards inflamed it; and for whom it will be happy if the nation shall at last dismiss him to nameless obscurity with that equipoise of blame and praise which Corneille allows to Richlieu, a man who, I think, had much of his merit, and many of his faults.
Chacun parle a son gré de ce grand Cardinal,
Mais pour moi je n’en dirai rien;
Il m’ a fait trop de bien pour en dire du mal,
Il m’ a fair trop de mal pour en dire du bien.
To push advantages too far is neither generous nor just. Had we insisted on a concession of antecedent right, it may not misbecome us either as moralists or politicians, to consider what Grimaldi could have answered. We have already, he might say, granted you the whole effect of right, and have not denied you the name. We have not said that the right was ours before this concession, but only that what right we had, is not by this concession vacated. We have now for more than two centuries ruled large tracts of the American continent, by a claim which perhaps is valid only upon this consideration, that no power can produce a better; by the right of discovery and prior settlement. And by such titles almost all the dominions of the earth are holden, except that their original is beyond memory, and greater obscurity gives them greater veneration. Should we allow this plea to be annulled, the whole fabrick of our empire shakes at the foundation. When you suppose yourselves to have first descried the disputed island, you suppose what you can hardly prove. We were at least the general discoverers of the Magellanick region, and have hitherto held it with all its adjacencies. The justice of this tenure the world has hitherto admitted, and yourselves at least tacitly allowed it, when about twenty years ago you desisted from your purposed expedition, and expressly disowned any design of settling, where you are now not content to settle and to reign, without extorting such a confession of original right, as may invite every other nation to follow you.
To considerations such as these, it is reasonable to impute that anxiety of the Spaniards, from which the importance of this island is inferred by Junius, one of the few writers of his despicable faction whose name does not disgrace the page of an opponent. The value of the thing disputed may be very different to him that gains and him that loses it. The Spaniards, by yielding Falkland’s island, have admitted a precedent of what they think encroachment; have suffered a breach to be made in the outworks of their empire; and notwithstanding the reserve of prior right, have suffered a dangerous exception to the prescriptive tenure of their American territories.
Such is the loss of Spain; let us now compute the profit of Britain. We have, by obtaining a disavowal of Buccarelli’s expedition; and a restitution of our settlement, maintained the honour of the crown, and the superiority of our influence. Beyond this what have we acquired? What, but a bleak and gloomy solitude, an island thrown aside from human use, stormy in winter, and barren in summer; an island which not the southern savages have dignified with habitation; where a garrison must be kept in a state that contemplates with envy the exiles of Siberia; of which the expence will be perpetual, and the use only occasional; and which, if fortune smile upon our labours, may become a nest of smugglers in peace, and in war the refuge of future Buccaniers. To all this the Government has now given ample attestation, for the island has been since abandoned, and perhaps was kept only to quiet clamours, with an intention, not then wholly concealed, of quitting it in a short time.
This is the country of which we have now possession, and of which a numerous party pretends to wish that we had murdered thousands for the titular sovereignty. To charge any men with such madness, approaches to an accusation defeated by its own incredibility. As they have been long accumulating falsehoods, it is possible that they are now only adding another to the heap, and that they do not mean all that they profess. But of this faction what evil may not be credited? They have hitherto shewn no virtue, and very little wit, beyond that mischievous cunning for which it is held by Hale that children may be hanged.
As war is the last of remedies, cuncta prius tentanda, all lawful expedients must be used to avoid it. As war is the extremity of evil, it is surely the duty of those whose station intrusts them with the care of nations, to avert it from their charge. There are diseases of animal nature which nothing but amputation can remove; so there may, by the depravation of human passions, be sometimes a gangrene in collective life for which fire and the sword are the necessary remedies; but in what can skill or caution be better shewn than preventing such dreadful operations, while there is yet room for gentler methods?
It is wonderful with what coolness and indifference the greater part of mankind see war commenced. Those that hear of it at a distance, or read of it in books, but have never presented its evils to their minds, confider it as little more than a splendid game, a proclamation, an army, a battle, and a triumph. Some indeed must perish in the most successful field, but they die upon the bed of honour, resign their lives amidst the joys of conquest, and, filled with England’s glory, smile in death.
The life of a modern soldier is ill represented by heroick fiction. War has means of destruction more formidable than the cannon and the sword. Of the thousands and ten thousands that perished in our late contests with France and Spain, a very small part ever felt the stroke of an enemy; the rest languished in tents and ships, amidst damps and putrefaction; pale, torpid, spiritless, and helpless; gasping and groaning, unpitied among men, made obdurate by long continuance of hopeless misery; and were at last whelmed in pits, or heaved into the ocean, without notice and without remembrance. By incommodious encampments and unwholesome stations, where courage is useless, and enterprise impracticable, fleets are silently dispeopled, and armies sluggishly melted away.
Thus is a people gradually exhausted, for the most part with little effect. The wars of civilized nations make very slow changes in the system of empire. The public perceives scarcely any alteration but an increase of debt; and the few individuals who are benefited, are not supposed to have the clearest right to their advantages. If he that shared the danger enjoyed the profit, and after bleeding in the battle grew rich by the victory, he might shew his gains without envy. But at the conclusion of a ten years war, how are we recompensed for the death of multitudes and the expence of millions, but by contemplating the sudden glories of paymasters and agents, contractors and commissaries, whose equipages shine like meteors, and whose palaces rise like exhalations.
These are the men who, without virtue, labour, or hazard, are growing rich as their country is impoverished; they rejoice when obstinacy or ambition adds another year to slaughter and devaluation; and laugh from their desks at bravery and science, while they are adding figure to figure, and cipher to cipher, hoping for a new contract from a new armament, and computing the profits of a siege or tempest.
Those who suffer their minds to dwell on these considerations will think it no great crime in the ministry that they have not snatched with eagerness the first opportunity of rushing into the field, when they were able to obtain by quiet negociation all the real good that victory could have brought us.
Of victory indeed every nation is confident before the sword is drawn; and this mutual confidence produces that wantonness of bloodshed that has so often desolated the world. But it is evident, that of contradictory opinions one must be wrong, and the history of mankind does not want examples that may teach caution to the daring, and moderation to the proud.
Let us not think our laurels blasted by condescending to inquire, whether we might not possibly grow rather less than greater by attacking Spain. Whether we should have to contend with Spain alone, whatever has been promised by our patriots, may very reasonably be doubted. A war declared for the empty sound of an ancient title to a Magellanick rock would raise the indignation of the earth against us. These encroachers on the waste of nature, says our ally the Russian, if they succeed in their first effort of usurpation, will make war upon us for a title to Kamschatscha. These universal settlers, says our ally the Dane, will in a short time fettle upon Greenland, and a fleet will batter Copenhagen, till we are willing to confess that it always was their own.
In a quarrel like this, it is not possible that any power should favour us, and it is very likely that some would oppose us. The French, we are told, are otherwise employed; the contests between the King of France and his own subjects are sufficient to withold him from supporting Spain. But who does not know that a foreign war has often put a stop to civil discords? It withdraws the attention of the publick from domestick grievances, and affords opportunities of dismissing the turbulent and restless to distant employments. The Spaniards have always an argument of irresistible persuasion. If France will not support them against England, they will strengthen England against France.
But let us indulge a dream of idle speculation, and suppose that we are to engage with Spain, and with Spain alone; it is not even yet very certain that much advantage will be gained. Spain is not easily vulnerable; her kingdom, by the loss or cession of many fragments of dominion, is become solid and compact. The Spaniards have indeed no fleet able to oppose us, but they will not endeavour actual opposition; they will shut themselves up in their own territories, and let us exhaust our seamen in a hopeless siege. They will give commissions to privateers of every nation, who will prey upon our merchants without possibility of reprisal. If they think their plate fleet in danger, they will forbid it to set sail, and live a while upon the credit of treasure which all Europe knows to be safe; and which, if our obstinacy should continue till they can no longer be without it, will be conveyed to them with secrecy and security by our natural enemies the French, or by the Dutch our natural allies.
But the whole continent of Spanish America will lie open to invasion; we shall have nothing to do but march into these wealthy regions, and make their present matters confess that they were always ours by ancient right. We shall throw brass and iron out of our houses, and nothing but silver will be seen among us.
All this is very desirable, but it is not certain that it can be easily attained. Large tracts of America were added by the last War to the British dominions; but, if the faction credit their own Apollo, they were conquered in Germany. They at bed are only the barren parts of the continent, the refuse of the earlier adventurers, which the French, who came last, had taken only as better than nothing.
Against the Spanish dominions we have never hitherto been able to do much. A few privateers have grown rich at their expence, but no scheme of conquest has yet been successful. They are defended not by walls mounted with cannons which by cannons may be battered, but by the storms of the deep and the vapours of the land, by the flames of calenture and blasts of pestilence.
In the reign of Elizabeth, the favourite period of English greatness, no enterprises against America had any other consequence than that of extending English navigation. Here Cavendish perished after all his hazards; and here Drake and Hawkins, great as they were in knowledge and in fame, having promised honour to themselves and dominion to the country, sunk by desperation and misery in dishonourable graves.
During the protectorship of Cromwell, a time of which the patriotick tribes still more ardently desire the return, the Spanish dominions were again attempted; but here, and only here, the fortune of Cromwell made a pause. His forces were driven from Hispaniola, his hopes of possessing the Weft Indies vanished, and Jamaica was taken, only that the whole expedition might not grow ridiculous.
The attack of Carthagena is yet remembered, where the Spaniards from the ramparts saw their invaders destroyed by the hostility of the elements; poisoned by the air, and crippled by the dews; where every hour swept away battalions; and in the three days that passed between the descent and re-embarkation, half an army perished.
In the last war the Havanna was taken, at what expence is too well remembered. May my country be never cursed with such another conquest!
These instances of miscarriage, and these arguments of difficulty, may perhaps abate the military ardour of the Publick. Upon the opponents of the government their operation will be different; they wish for war, but not for conquest; victory would defeat their purposes equally with peace, because prosperity would naturally continue trust in those hands which had used it fortunately. The patriots gratified themselves with expectations that some sinistrous accident, or erroneous conduct, might diffuse discontent and inflame malignity. Their hope is malevolence, and their good is evil.
Of their zeal for their country we have already had a specimen. While they were terrifying the nation with doubts whether it was any longer to exist; while they represented invasive armies as hovering in the clouds, and hostile fleets as emerging from the deeps; they obstructed our levies of seamen, and embarrassed our endeavours of defence. Of such men he thinks with unnecessary candour who does not believe them likely to have promoted the miscarriage which they desired, by intimidating our troops or betraying our counsels.
It is considered as an injury to the Publick by those sanguinary statesmen, that though the fleet has been refitted and manned, yet no hostilities have followed; and they who sat wishing for misery and slaughter are disappointed of their pleasure. But as peace is the end of war, it is the end likewise of preparations for war; and he may be justly hunted down as the enemy of mankind, that can chuse to snatch by violence and bloodshed, what gentler means can equally obtain.
The ministry are reproached as not daring to provoke an enemy, lest ill success should discredit and displace them. I hope that they had better reasons; that they paid some regard to equity and humanity; and considered themselves as entrusted with the safety of their fellow-subjects, and as the destroyers of all that should be superfluously slaughtered. But let us suppose that their own safety had some influence on their conduct, they will not, however, sink to a level with their enemies. Though the motive might be selfish, the act was innocent. They who grow rich by administering physick, are not to be numbered with them that get money by dispensing poison. If they maintain power by harmlessness and peace, they must for ever be at a great distance from ruffians who would gain it by mischief and confusion. The watch of a city may guard it for hire; but are well employed in protecting it from those who lie in wait to fire the streets and rob the houses amidst the conflagration.
An unsuccessful war would undoubtedly have had the effect which the enemies of the Ministry so earnestly desire; for who could have sustained the disgrace of folly ending in misfortune? But had wanton invasion undeservedly prospered, had Falkland’s Island been yielded unconditionally with every right prior and posterior; though the rabble might have shouted, and the windows have blazed, yet those who know the value of life, and the uncertainty of publick credit, would have murmured, perhaps unheard, at the increase of our debt and the loss of our people.
This thirst of blood, however the visible promoters of sedition may think it convenient to shrink from the accusation, is loudly avowed by Junius, the writer to whom his party owes much of its pride, and some of its popularity. Of Junius it cannot be said, as of Ulysses, that he scatters ambiguous expressions among the vulgar; for he cries havock without reserve, and endeavours to let slip the dogs of foreign or of civil war, ignorant whither they are going, and careless what may be their prey.
Junius has sometimes made his satire felt, but let not injudicious admiration mistake the venom of the shaft for the vigour of the bow. He has sometimes sported with lucky malice; but to him that knows his company, it is not hard to be sarcastick in a mas. While he walks like Jack the Giant-killer in a coat of darkness, he may do much mischief with little strength. Novelty captivates the superficial and thoughtless; vehemence delights the discontented and turbulent. He that contradicts acknowledged truth will always have an audience; he that vilifies established authority will always find abettors.
Junius burst into notice with a blaze of impudence which has rarely glared upon the world before, and drew the rabble after him as a monster makes a show. When he had once provided for his safety by impenetrable secrecy, he had nothing to combat but truth and justice, enemies whom he knows to be feeble in the dark. Being then at liberty to indulge himself in all the immunities of invisibility; out of the reach of danger, he has been bold; out of the reach of shame, he has been confident. As a rhetorician, he has had the art of persuading when he seconded desire; as a reasoner, he has convinced those who had no doubt before; as a moralist, he has taught that virtue may disgrace; and as a patriot, he has gratified the mean by insults on the high. Finding sedition attendant, he has been able to advance it; finding the nation combustible, he has been able to inflame it. Let us abstract from his wit the vivacity of insolence, and withdraw from his efficacy the sympathetick favour of Plebeian malignity; I do not fay that we shall leave him nothing; the cause that I defend scorns the help of falsehood; but if we leave him only his merit, what will be his praise?
It is not by his liveliness of imagery, his pungency of periods, or his fertility of allusion, that he detains the cits of London, and the boors of Middlesex. Of style and sentiment they take no cognizance. They admire him for virtues like their own, for contempt of order and violence of outrage, for rage of defamation and audacity of falsehood. The Supporters of the Bill of Rights feel no niceties of composition, nor dexterities of sophistry; their faculties are better proportioned to the bawl of Bellas, or barbarity of Beckford; but they are told that Junius is on their side, and they are therefore sure that Junius is infallible. Those who know not whither he would lead them, resolve to follow him; and those who cannot find his meaning, hope he means rebellion.
Junius is an unusual phænomenon, on which some have gazed with wonder and some with terrour, but wonder and terrour are transitory passions. He will soon be more closely viewed or more attentively examined, and what folly has taken for a comet that from its flaming hair shook pestilence and war, inquiry will find to be only a meteor formed by the vapours of putrefying democracy, and kindled into flame by the effervescence of interest struggling with conviction; which after having plunged its followers in a bog, will leave us inquiring why we regarded it.
Yet though I cannot think the style of Junius secure from criticism, though his expressions are often trite, and his periods feeble, I should never have stationed him where he has placed himself, had I not rated him by his morals rather than his faculties. What, says Pope, must be the priest, where a monkey is the God? What must be the drudge of a party of which the heads are Wilkes and Crosby, Sawbridge and Townsend?
Junius knows his own meaning and can therefore tell it. He is an enemy to the ministry, he sees them growing hourly stronger. He knows that a war at once unjust and unsuccessful would have certainly displaced them, and is therefore, in his zeal for his country, angry that war was not unjustly made, and unsuccessfully conducted. But there are others whose thoughts are less clearly expressed, and whose schemes perhaps are less consequentially digested; who declare that they do not wish for a rupture, yet condemn the ministry for not doing that, by which a rupture would naturally have been made.
If one party resolves to demand what the other resolves to refuse, the dispute can be determined only by arbitration; and between powers who have no common superiour, there is no other arbitrator than the sword.
Whether the ministry might not equitably have demanded more, is not worth a question. The utmost exertion of right is always invidious, and where claims are not easily determinable is always dangerous. We asked all that was necessary, and persisted in our first claim without mean recession, or wanton aggravation. The Spaniards found us resolute, and complied after a short struggle.
The real crime of the ministry is, that they have found the means of avoiding their own ruin; but the charge against them is multifarious and confused, as will happen, when malice and discontent are ashamed of their complaint. The past and the future are complicated in the censure. We have heard a tumultuous clamour about honour and rights, injuries and insults, the British flag, and the Favourite’s rudder, Buccarelli’s conduct, and Grimaldi’s declarations, the Manilla ransom, delays and reparation.
Through the whole argument of the faction runs the general errour, that our settlement on Falkland’s Island was not only lawful but unquestionable; that our right was not only certain but acknowledged; and that the equity of our conduct was such, that the Spaniards could not blame or obstruct it without combating their own conviction, and opposing the general opinion of mankind.
If once it be discovered that, in the opinion of the Spaniards, our settlement was usurped, our claim arbitrary, and our conduct insolent, all that has happened will appear to follow by a natural concatenation. Doubts will produce disputes and disquisition, disquisition requires delay, and delay causes inconvenience.
Had the Spanish government immediately yielded unconditionally all that was required, we might have been satisfied; but what would Europe have judged of their submission? That they shrunk before us as a conquered people, who having lately yielded to our arms, were now compelled to sacrifice to our pride. The honour of the Publick is indeed of high importance; but we must remember that we have had to transact with a mighty King and a powerful nation, who have unluckily been taught to think that they have honour to keep or lose as well as ourselves.
When the Admiralty were told in June of the warning given to Hunt, they were, I suppose, informed that Hunt had first provoked it by warning away the Spaniards, and naturally considered one act of insolence as balanced by another, without expecting that more would be done on either side. Of representations and remonstrances there would be no end, if they were to be made whenever small commanders are uncivil to each other; nor could peace ever be enjoyed, if upon such transient provocations it be imagined necessary to prepare for war. We might then, it is said, have increased our force with more leisure and less inconvenience; but this is to judge only by the event. We omitted to disturb the Publick, because we did not suppose that an armament would be necessary.
Some months afterwards, as has been told, Buccarelli, the governor of Buenos Ayres, sent against the settlement of Port Egmont a force which ensured the conquest. The Spanish commander required the English captains to depart, but they thinking that resistance necessary which they knew to be useless, gave the Spaniards the right of prescribing terms of capitulation. The Spaniards imposed no new condition except that the sloop should not sail under twenty days; and of this they secured the performance by taking off the rudder.
To an inhabitant of the land there appears nothing in all this unreasonable or offensive. If the English intended to keep their stipulation, how were they injured by the detention of the rudder? If the rudder be to a ship what his tail is in fables to a fox, the part in which honour is placed, and of which the violation is never to be endured, I am sorry that the Favourite suffered an indignity, but cannot yet think it a cause for which nations should slaughter one another.
When Buccarelli’s invasion was known, and the dignity of the crown infringed, we demanded reparation and prepared for war, and we gained equal respect by the moderation of our terms, and the spirit of our exertion. The Spanish minister immediately denied that Buccarelli had received any particular orders to seize Port Egmont, nor pretended that he was justified otherwise than by the general instructions by which the American governors are required to exclude the subjects of other powers.
To have inquired whether our settlement at Port Egmont was any violation of the Spanish rights, had been to enter upon a discussion which the pertinacity of political disputants might have continued without end. We therefore called for restitution, not as a confession of right, but as a reparation of honour, which required that we should be restored to our former state upon the island, and that the King of Spain should disavow the action of his governor.
In return to this demand, the Spaniards expected from us a disavowal of the menaces with which they had been first insulted by Hunt; and if the claim to the island be supposed doubtful, they certainly expected it with equal reason. This, however, was refused, and our superiority of strength gave validity to our arguments.
But we are told that the disavowal of the King of Spain is temporary and fallacious; that Buccarelli’s armament had all the appearance of regular forces and a concerted expedition; and that he is not treated at home as a man guilty of piracy, or as disobedient to the orders of his master.
That the expedition was well planned, and the forces properly supplied, affords no proof of communication between the governor and his court. Those who are intrusted with the care of kingdoms in another hemisphere, must always be trusted with power to defend them.
As little can be inferred from his reception at the Spanish court. He is not punished indeed, for what has he done that deserves punishment? He was sent into America to govern and defend the dominions of Spain. He thought the English were encroaching, and drove them away. No Spaniard thinks that he has exceeded his duty, nor does the King of Spain charge him with excess. The boundaries of dominion in that part of the world have not yet been settled; and he mistook, if a mistake there was, like a zealous subject, in his master’s favour.
But all this inquiry is superfluous. Considered as a reparation of honour, the disavowal of the King of Spain, made in the sight of all Europe, is of equal value, whether true or false. There is indeed no reason to question its veracity; they, however, who do not believe it, must allow the weight of that influence by which a great prince is reduced to disown his own commission.
But the general orders upon which the governor is acknowledged to have acted, are neither disavowed nor explained. Why the Spaniards should disavow the defence of their own territories, the warmest disputant will find it difficult to tell; and if by an explanation is meant an accurate delineation of the southern empire, and the limitation of their claims beyond the line, it cannot be imputed to any very culpable remissness, that what has been denied for two centuries to the European powers, was not obtained in a hasty wrangle about a petty settlement.
The ministry were too well acquainted with negociation to fill their heads with such idle expectations. The question of right was inexplicable and endless. They left it as it stood. To be restored to actual possession was easily practicable. This reiteration they required and obtained.
But they should, say their opponents, have insisted upon more; they should have exacted not only reparation of our honour but repayment of our expence. Nor are they all satisfied with the recovery of the costs and damages of the present contest; they are for taking this opportunity of calling in old debts, and reviving our right to the ransom of Manilla.
The Manilla ransom has, I think, been most mentioned by the inferior bellowers of sedition. Those who lead the faction know that it cannot be remembered much to their advantage. The followers of Lord Rockingham remember that his ministry begun and ended without obtaining it; the adherents to Grenville would be told, that he could never be taught to understand our claim. The law of nations made little of his knowledge. Let him not, however, be depreciated in his grave. If he was sometimes wrong, he was often right.
Of reimbursement the talk has been more confident, though not more reasonable. The expences of war have been often desired, have been sometimes required, but were never paid; or never, but when resistance was hopeless, and there remained no choice between submission and destruction.
Of our late equipments I know not from whom the charge can be very properly expected. The king of Spain disavows the violence which provoked us to arm, and for the mischiefs which he did not do, why should he pay? Buccarelli, though he had learned all the arts of an East-Indian governor, could hardly have collected at Buenos Ayres a sum sufficient to satisfy our demands. If he be honest, he is hardly rich; and if he be disposed to rob, he has the misfortune of being placed where robbers have been before him.
The king of Spain indeed delayed to comply with our proposals, and our armament was made necessary by unsatisfactory answers and dilatory debates. The delay certainly increased our expences, and it is not unlikely that the increase of our expences put an end to the delay.
But this is the inevitable process of human affairs. Negociation requires time. What is not apparent to intuition must be found by inquiry. Claims that have remained doubtful for ages cannot be settled in a day. Reciprocal complaints are not easily adjusted but by reciprocal compliance. The Spaniards thinking themselves entitled to the island, and injured by Captain Hunt, in their turn demanded satisfaition, which was refused; and where is the wonder if their concessions were delayed! They may tell us, that an independent nation is to be influenced not by command, but by persuasion; that if we expect our proposals to be received without deliberation, we assume that sovereignty which they do not grant us; and that if we arm while they are deliberating, we must indulge our martial ardour at our own charge.
The English ministry asked all that was reasonable, and enforced all that they asked. Our national honour is advanced, and our interest, if any interest we have, is sufficiently secured. There can be none amongst us to whom this transaction does not seem happily concluded, but those who having fixed their hopes on public calamities, sat like vultures waiting for a day of carnage. Having worn out all the arts of domestick sedition, having wearied violence, and exhausted falsehood, they yet flattered themselves with some assistance from the pride or malice of Spain; and when they could no longer make the people complain of grievances which they did not feel, they had the comfort yet of knowing that real evils were possible, and their resolution is well known of charging all evil on their governours.
The reconciliation was therefore considered as the loss of their last anchor; and received not only with the fretfulness of disappointment but the rage of desperation. When they found that all were happy in spite of their machinations, and the soft effulgence of peace shone out upon the nation, they felt no motion but that of sullen envy; they could not, like Milton’s prince of hell, abstract themselves a moment from their evil; as they have not the wit of Satan, they have not his virtue; they tried once again what could be done by sophistry without art, and confidence without credit. They represented their Sovereign as dishonoured and their country as betrayed, or, in their fiercer paroxysms of fury, reviled their Sovereign as betraying it.
Their pretences I have here endeavoured to expose, by showing that more than has been yielded was not to be expected, that more perhaps was not to be desired, and that if all had been refused, there had scarcely been an adequate reason for a war.
There was perhaps never much danger of war or of refusal, but what danger there was, proceeded from the faction. Foreign nations, unacquainted with the insolence of Common Councils, and unaccustomed to the howl of Plebeian patriotism, when they heard of rabbles and riots, of petitions and remonstrances, of discontent in Surrey, Derbyshire, and Yorkshire, when they saw the chain of subordination broken, and the legislature threatened and defied, naturally imagined that such a government had little leisure for Falkland’s Island; they supposed that the English when they returned ejected from Port Egmont, would find Wilkes invested with the protectorate; or see the mayor of London, what the French have formerly seen their mayors of the palace, the commander of the army and tutor of the King; that they would be called to tell their tale before the Common Council; and that the world was to expect war or peace from a vote of the subscribers to the Bill of Rights.
But our enemies have now lost their hopes, and our friends I hope are recovered from their fears. To fancy that our government can be subverted by the rabble, whom its lenity has pampered into impudence, is to fear that a city may be drowned by the overflowing of its kennels. The distemper which cowardice or malice thought either decay of the vitals, or resolution of the nerves, appears at last to have been nothing more than a political phthiriasis, a disease too loathsome for a plainer name; but the effect of negligence rather than of weakness, and of which the shame is greater than the danger.
Among the disturbers of our quiet are some animals of greater bulk, whom their power of roaring persuaded us to think formidable, but we now perceive that sound and force do not always go together. The noise of a savage proves nothing but his hunger.
After all our broils, foreign and domestick, we may at last hope to remain awhile in quiet, amused with the view of our own success. We have gained political strength by the increase of our reputation; we have gained real strength by the reparation of our navy; we have shewn Europe that ten years of war have not yet exhausted us; and we have enforced our settlement on an island on which twenty years ago we durst not venture to look.
These are the gratifications only of honest minds; but there is a time in which hope comes to all. From the present happiness of the publick the patriots themselves may derive advantage. To be harmless though by impotence obtains some degree of kindness; no man hates a worm as he hates a viper; they were once dreaded enough to be detested, as serpents that could bite; they have now shewn that they can only hiss, and may therefore quietly slink into holes, and change their slough unmolested and forgotten.