« PreviousContinue »
nicated. This had no friendly aspect, at a time when commissioners were going to America to treat about reconciliation ; and it plainly thewed, thai diffimulațion and hypocrisy were at the foundation of the whole proceeding. There could be no more difhonour in reading a letter sent by a rebel officer, than in sending commillioners to negociate with rebel states. But when men once fall into the maze of inconsistency, there is no end of their wandering. The British ministry wanted one essential principle necessary in all reconciliations, and that is, the spirit of forgiveness : they were determined at the same time that they pro. posed a reconciliation, to remember their old claims, and indulge the fuppofition of rebellion and disaffection in the character of the colonists. And it would require more charity than the nature of the thing admits of, for those that are any way acquainted with the characters of the Britifh ministry to believe that they intended sincerely to promote a reconciliation, Had they actually intended to have promoted this defirable end, they would have withdrawn their fleets and armies, and ihewed some signs of forgiveness by removing the objects of terror and deftruétion. This would have intimated a disposition of being reconciled, and inclined the minds of the Americans to have listened to an accomodation. But men coming with arms in their hands, did not thew very figuificant marks of reconciliation. It was generally supposed that the influence of contractors, and other ministerial tools, a sort of political vermin, that live upon the ruin and fores of the public, had a mighty hand in preyenting the success of all conciliatory measures, by vo. ting on the side of every motion that any way tend. ed to clog the negociation. Among these devourers
This was con
of the community, the reasonableness of the war and the honour of the nation, were constant topics of ar. gument, when their real meaning was their own interest and emolument. While parliament were debat. ing concerning a method of reconciliation, the French had actually signed a treaty of commerce with the Americans, and had a fleet ready to sail to support it. Of all this the ministry were either ignorant, or at least pretended to be fo; and when they were required to speak explicitly upon the subject, replied they had only heard of these things. It was not long till the minister was obliged to bring the French King's declaration into the House, with many grievous complaints of the treachery of the French, and their per. fidy in breaking the faith of creaties. fidered as a deserved rub to the minister and the am. bassador at Paris, who had not endeavoured to be beta ter informed concerning matters of so great importa ance to the nation. As to the breach of faith in trans, grefsing treaties, it did not appear that there was any treaties that considered the American independence as forbidden in it; or that the French might not enter into a treaty with these colonists, provided they were free ftates, as well as England did with the States of Holland. The charge of perfidy, fuppofing the French might in former cases have deferved it, could not in this be so well applied to the n; and it was considered as ininisterial cant used in all cases when nations enter. ed into war.
The doctrine of French perfidy was fnlly published by the friends of the minister, more with a design to infiame the nation against the Americans than aya.dst the House of Bourbon. It was believed thai the
people in general would now consider the war in a new
light, and engage heartily against the colonists, because they had entered into a treaty with the French King. Whatever might be the fecret views and defigns of the part es, yet there appeared nothing in the face of the public tranfactions, uncommon, unjust, or unreasonable. The ministry had by a course of violent and unconftitutional measures driven the colonists to a state of independency, and they had now pub. Jished that independency, and declared themfelves free states to the world. In the view of the powers of Europe, the American colonies belonged no more to Great Britain than the United States of Holland belonged to the Spanish monarchy; they could not in entering into any treaty with the thirteen colonies, or states in America, be considered as guilty of infringing any treaty thar had been formerly made between any nations in Europe, unless tbis case had been expressed in such a creary. It was undoubtedly as littie imagined by any state in Europe that Great Britain would have behaved so impolitically as tć drive her colonies to the step they had now taken, as that it is unjust for any power in Europe to enter into a treaty of commerce with them. The whole force of this charge of perfidy depends upon the justice of our conduct with America, and of her right to declare herself independent, when she could not poffess those natural rights which the laws of England have secure ed to all the fubjects of the British empire. It might not even be incumbent upon the French to enquire into the nature of the claims of parties; the question which they principally were concerned to know was, the matter of fact, whether the colonists were independent states ? If Great Britain in her hour of fol. Hy and madness, had driven them from her, it was no
perfidy in any other nations to serve their own interest by entering into a commercial negociation with them.
The idea of the treachery of the French, and that now the causes of the war were changed, or at least in some measure altered, produced a wonderfulchange upon the minds of many who otherwise disapproved the proceedings against the Americans. Some by confounding the ideas of the justice of the American resistance, with those of the injustice of the French in.. terference, began to view them as one object, and ihought that the whole was now a French war :-and others through the hope of particular gain, en gaged heartily in the contest, and commenced hostilities for the sake of plunder. A great number of privateers were fitted out by combinations of merchants; and gentlemen, to distress the trade of the French, under the riotion that the French were their enemies for making a treaty with the colonists, by which their monopoly of trade was interrupted. The justice and morality of the cause were totally put out of the question, and private interest was the grand spring of action and leading motive for manslaughter, bloodfhed, and plunder.
The convention of Saratoga had for some time been matter of altercation at home; the troops who were made prisoners of war had not been sent home according to agreement, and the ministerial writers
now busily employed in publishing the perfidy of the Americans, as well as the treachery of the French. The cause and circumstances of this delay were not as yet known in Britain, and every one was left to in dulge his own conjecture. As nothing could be affirmed for certain, the hirelings of the ministry, whose consciences generally are not very scrupulous with reDdd
gard to truth, founded with a loud alarm, that all the articles of convention had been broken by the congress, and they, as well as the French, were a faithless as well as rebellious assembly. As circumstances concerning this transaction were not sufficiently known for impartial persons to form a judgment upon, these fcriblers were sufferered to go on without any reply or contradiction.
The ground of this accusation was a complaint of the British officers concerning their quarters near Boston, as being neither conformable to their expectation nor rank, or to the terms of convention and capitulation. Upon this head, General Bur . goyne in
in his complaint to the congress, had expressed himself in strong terms, which they considered as charging them with a violation of the conditions of the convention, and with a design in him and his men to consider the capitulation as broken ; for as he had charged them with infringing the articles, they con. ceived that he did not consider himself bound by them, when once he and his men were cut of their
power. They also insisted that they had sufficient reasons to be lieve that the soldiers had not delivered up all their ac. coutrements, which they considered as a breach of the articles of capitulation. Their resolution upon this head the writers of the Annual Register call a paltry resolution, shameful in its nature, and higldy disgrace: ful to the congress. But these authors ought to have remembered that those that are unfaithful in little will also be untaithful in much; and one article of convention is really as binding as another. The charge of infringing the capitulation depends upon the matters of fact, whether the men did secret their accoutrements, or whether the Americans could really afford the British-officers as good quarters as they thought