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.