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instinct of ingenuous feelings, and by the dictates of plain, unsophisticated natural understanding, he felt that no great commonwealth could by any possibility long subsist without a body of some kind or other of nobility, decorated with honour, and fortified by privilege. This nobility forms the chain that connects the ages of a nation, which otherwise (with Mr. Paine) would soon be taught that no one generation can bind another. IIe felt that no political fabric could be well made without some such order of things as might, through a series of time, afford a rational hope of securing unity, coherence, consistency, and stability to the State. He felt that nothing else can protect it against the levity of Courts, and the greater levity of the multitude. That to talk of hereditary monarchy, without anything else of hereditary reverence in the commonwealth, was a lowminded absurdity, fit only for those detestable “fools aspiring to be knaves” who began to forge in 1789 the false money of the French constitution. That it is one fatal objection to all new-fancied and new-fabricated republics, (among a people who, once possessing such an advantage, have wickedly and insolently rejected it,) that the prejudice of an old nobility is a thing that cannot be made. It may be improved, it may be corrected, it may be replenished; men may be taken from it or aggregated to it, but the thing itself is matter of inveterate opinion, and therefore cannot be matter of mere positive institution. He felt that this nobility in fact does not exist in wrong of other orders of the State, but by them, and for them. I knew the man I speak of: and, if we can divine the future out of what we collect from the past, no person living would look with more scorn and horror on the impious parricide committed on all their ancestry, and on the desperate attainder passed on all their posterity, by the Orleans, and the Rochefoucaults, and the Fayettes, and the Viscomtes de Noailles, and the false Perigords, and the long et cattera of the perfidious sans-culottes of the Court, who like demoniacs, possessed with a spirit of fallen pride and inverted ambition, abdicated their dignities, disowned their families, betrayed the most sacred of all trusts, and, by breaking to pieces a great link of society and all the cramps and holdings of the State, brought eternal confusion and desolation on their country. For the fate of the miscreant parricides themselves he would have had no pity. Compassion for the myriads of men, of whom the world was not worthy, who by their means have perished in prisons, or on scaffolds, or are pining in beggary and exile, would leave no room in his, or in any well-formed mind, for any such sensation. We are not made at once to pity the oppressor and the oppressed. Looking to his Batavian descent, how could he bear to behold
his kindred, the descendants of the brave nobility of Holland, whose blood, prodigally poured out, had, more than all the canals, meres, and inundations of their country, protected their independence, to behold them bowed in the basest servitude to the basest and vilest of the human race; in servitude to those who in no respect were superior in dignity, or could aspire to a better place than that of hangmen to the tyrants, to whose sceptered pride they had opposed an elevation of soul that surmounted, and overpowered, the loftiness of Castile, the haughtiness of Austria, and the overbearing arrogance of France 2 Could he with patience bear, that the children of that nobility who would have deluged their country and given it to the sea, rather than submit to Louis the Fourteenth, who was then in his meridian glory, when his arms were conducted by the Turennes, by the Luxembourgs, by the Boufflers; when his councils were directed by the Colberts and the Louvois; when his tribunals were filled by the Lamaoignons and the Daguessaus, that these should be given up to the cruel sport of the Pichegrus, the Jourdans, the Santerres, under the Rolands, the Brissots, and Gorfas, and Robespierres, the Reubels, the Carnots, and Talliens, and Dantons, and the whole tribe of regicides, robbers, and revolutionary judges, that, from the rotten carcass of their own murdered country, have poured out innumerable swarms of the lowest, and at once the most destructive, of the classes of animated nature, which, like columns of locusts, have laid waste the fairest part of the world? Would Keppel have borne to see the ruin of the virtuous patricians, that happy union of the noble and the burgher, who, with signal prudence and integrity, had long governed the cities of the confederate republic, the cherishing fathers of their country, who, denying commerce to themselves, made it flourish in a manner unexampled under their protection? Could Keppel have borne that a vile faction should totally destroy this harmonious construction, in favour of a robbing democracy, founded on the spurious rights of man? He was no great clerk, but he was perfectly well versed in the interests of Europe, and he could not have heard with patience, that the country of Grotius, the cradle of the law of nations, and one of the richest repositories of all law, should be taught a new code by the ignorant flippancy of Thomas Paine, the presumptuous foppery of La Fayette, with his stolen rights of man in his hand, the wild, profligate intrigue and turbulency of Marat, and the impious sophistry of Condorcet, in his insolent addresses to the Batavian republic. Could Keppel, who idolized the house of Nassau, who was
himself given to England along with the blessings of the British and Dutch Revolutions; with revolutions of stability; with revolutions which consolidated and married the liberties and the interests of the two nations for ever,- could he see the fountain of British liberty itself in servitude to France 2 Could he see with patience a Prince of Orange expelled as a sort of diminutive despot, with every kind of contumely, from the country which that family of deliverers had so often rescued from slavery, and obliged to live in exile in another country, which owes its liberty to his House?" Would Keppel have heard with patience that the conduct to be held on such occasions was to become short by the knees to the faction of the homicides, to entreat them quietly to retire? or, if the fortune of war should drive them from their first wicked and unprovoked invasion, that no security should be taken, no arrangement made, no barrier formed, no alliance entered into for the security of that which, under a foreign name, is the most precious part of England? What would he have said, if it was even proposed that the Austrian Netherlands (which ought to be a barrier to Holland, and the tie of an alliance, to protect her against any species of rule that might be erected, or even be restored in France) should be formed into a republic under her influence, and dependent upon her power? But, above all, what would he have said, if he had heard it made a matter of accusation against me, by his nephew the Duke of Bedford, that I was the author of the war? Had I a mind to keep that high distinction to myself, as from pride I might, but from justice I dare not, he would have snatched his share of it from my hand, and held it with the grasp of a dying convulsion to his end. It would be a most arrogant presumption in me to assume to myself the glory of what belongs to his Majesty, and to his Ministers, and to his Parliament, and to the far greater majority of his faithful people: but, had I stood alone to counsel, and that all were determined to be guided by my advice, and to follow it implicitly, then I should have been the sole author of a war. But it should have been a war on my ideas and my principles. However, let his Grace think as he may of my demerits with regard to the war with regicide, he will find my guilt confined to that alone. He never shall, with the smallest colour of rea
5 The Prince of Orange was at that time living in England. He had been Stadtholder in 1794, when the French, having already kindled and blown up their revolutionary fires throughout the country, invaded Holland with large forces, and turned every thing topsy-turvy there. The Prince was of the same illustrious family which furnished the heroic William the Third to England, and, along with him, security to the English liberties.
son, accuse me of being the author of a peace with regicide. IBut that is high matter, and ought not to be mixed with any thing of so little moment as what may belong to me, or even to the Duke of Bedford."
I have the honour to be, &c.
I AM sure you cannot forget with how much uneasiness we heard, in conversation, the language of more than one gentleman at the opening of this contest, “that he was willing to try the war for a year or two, and, if it did not succeed, then to vote for peace.” As if war was a matter of experiment As if you could take it up or lay it down as an idle frolic | As if the dire goddess that presides over it, with her murderous spear in her hand, and her gorgon at her breast, was a coquette to be flirted with ! We ought with reverence to approach that trenuendous divinity, that loves courage, but commands counsel. War never leaves where it found a nation. It is never to be entered into without mature deliberation,-not a deliberation lengthened out into a perplexing indecision, but a deliberation leading to a sure and fixed judgment. When so taken up, it is not to be abandoned without reason as valid, as fully and as extensively considered. Peace may be made as unadvisedly as war. Nothing is so rash as fear; and the councils of pusillanimity very rarely put off, whilst they are always sure to aggravate, the evils from which they would fly.
In that great war carried on against Louis the Fourteenth, for near eighteen years, government spared no pains to satisfy
6 The whole Russell family retain, to this day, an irrepressible grudge against Burke on account of this Letter. One of them calls him “an inspired snob.” A snobbish saying, — but not the saying of an inspired snob.
7 Under this heading, I give a portion of the first of three Letters, published in 1796, the title in full being as follows: “Three Letters addressed to a Member of the Present Parliament, on the Proposals for Peace with the Regicide Directory of France. 1796.” In this work the author discusses a great variety of topics, all in his usual prosound, comprehensive, and eloquent manner; and it is remarkable that his imagination here appears more sensitive, more opulent, and more redundant, than in any of his previous writings. Most of the discussions, however, are not particularly suited to the uses of this volume, even if there were room for them; which there is not. But the following extract, besides its high literary value, is fraught with wise practical teachings, which may well be pressed here, and now.
the nation, that, though they were to be animated by a desire of glory, glory was not their ultimate object; but that every thing dear to them, in religion, in law, in liberty, every thing which as freemen, as Englishmen, and as citizens of the great commonwealth of Christendom, they had at heart, was then at stake. This was to know the true art of gaining the affections and confidence of a high-minded people ; this was to understand human nature. A danger to avert a danger, a present inconvenience and suffering to prevent a foreseen future and a worse calamity,+these are the motives that belong to an animal who, in his constitution, is at once adventurous and provident, circumspect and daring ; whom his Creator has made, as the poet says, “of large discourse, looking before and after.” But never can a vehement and sustained spirit of fortitude be kindled in a people by a war of calculation. It has nothing that can keep the mind erect under the gusts of adversity. Even where men are willing, as sometimes they are, to barter their blood for lucre, to hazard their safety for the gratification of their avarice, the passion which animates them to that sort of conflict, like all the short-sighted passions, must see its objects distinct and near at hand. The passions of the lower order are hungry and impatient. Speculative plunder; contingent spoil; future, long adjourned, uncertain booty; pillage which must enrich a late posterity, and which possibly may not reach to posterity at all,—these, for any length of time, will never support a mercenary war. The people are in the right. The calculation of profit in all such wars is false. On balancing the account of such wars, ten thousand hogsheads of sugar are purchased at ten thousand times their price. The blood of man should never be shed but to redeem the blood of man. It is well shed for our family, for our friends, for our God, for our country, for our kind. The rest is vanity; the rest is crime. In the war of the Grand Alliance,” most of these considerations voluntarily and naturally had their part. Some were pressed into the service. The political interest easily went in the track of the natural sentiment. In the reverse course the carriage does not follow freely. I am sure the natural feeling is a far more predominant ingredient in this war than in that of any other that ever was waged by this kingdom. If the war made to prevent the union of two crowns upon one
8 The “Grand Alliance” here referred to was an alliance of Great Britain, Austria, and the States-General of Holland, against the union of the French and Spanish crowns in the Bourbon family. It was in the war under that alliance that Marlborough gained his great victories against Louis the Fourteenth, in the early part of the eighteenth century.