« PreviousContinue »
BOOK compass. The ruinous effects of British perfidy
and British barbarity in India are very strongly and distinctly stated in his letters, dispatches, and minutes of council. In his minute of September 29, 1783, he says, “ By a sacred and undeviating observance of every principle of public faith, the British dominion might have by this time acquired the means of its extension, through a virtual submission to its authority, to every region of Hindostan and Decan.---But the powers of India all dread the connexion. The subjection of Bengal, the usurpacions in the Carnatic, the licentious violations of the treaty with the nizam, the effects of our connexions with the vizier, stand as TERRIBLE PRECEDents against us.” Yet as to himself, the primum mobile of the whole system, he declares in his famous Minutes of Defence, “that he had the conscious satisfaction to see all his measures terminate in their designed objects; that his political conduct was invariably regulated by truth, justice, and good faith; and that he resigned his charge in a state of established peace and security, with all the sources of its abundance unimpaired, and even improved." To reconcile these apparent incongruities, we are required therefore, by a species of faith which can work miracles, !o believe that there existed in India crimes without a criminal, oppressions without an oppressor, and tyranny without a tyrant. In fine,
when we consider with serious attention the origin BOOK and progress of the British government in India, the friendship and generosity with which the English nation was received and permitted to form esta. blishments in that country, the black and base ingratitude with which those obligations were requited, and the unexampled, unprovoked, and unatoned excesses which have been perpetrated on the princes and inhabitants of Hindostan-is it the weakness of superstition merely to tremble at the secret apprehension that some mighty vengeance is yet in store for this kingdom ; such as finally, by the intervention of obvious causes, overwhelmed and subverted the proud, corrupt, and tyrannic empires of antiquity ?
We are now to revert, from this long but necessary and important digression, to the regular narrative of events in Europe.
In the course of the year 1780, an attempt was made to effect a general accommodation amongst the belligerent powers, under the powerful mediation of the Imperial Courts of Vienna and Petersburgh. It was suggested that a general suspension of arms should be a preliminary proposition; but this was rejected by the British ministry, who declared the readiness of England to meet in con gress with France and Spain, but never to permit the interference of any foreign power between her
BOOK and her rebellious subjects. On the other hand, the
Bourbon courts protested that they would never make a public sacrifice of their honor and good faith by abandoning the Americans.
At length, after the interchange of numerous papers, prince Kaunitz, who had been principally engaged in managing the conferences, declared all hopes of a favorable termination of them to be precluded. This sagacious statesman admitted the arguments of England to be fair and honorable, but too lofty for the force of the nation. When the determination not to permit the introduction of American affairs was disclosed, he sarcastically said, 6 Whoever succeeds in making a peace for you on these terms erit mihi magnus Apollo.” In the true spirit of friendship, though in language little courtly, he admonished the English ministers, that the difficulties and dangers they had to contend against seemed to require important concessions.“ If have not strength enough to support your rights," said he, “ you must yield to superior force and dire necessity." His advice producing, as usually happens where advice is most needed, no effect, the prince became reserved to the British ambassador, and scrupled not to express openly his disapprobation of the policy of the British cabinet.
An effort was in vain made by the court of London to conciliate the favor of the emperor, by offer
5 If you
ing to open the navigation of the Scheld. And it BOOK was strongly urged upon him, that a connexion with England could alone restore that political system which would give to Austria its due weight in Europe. The emperor, however, was probably of opinion, that neither reputation nor advantage was to be derived from connecting himself with a country governed by counsels, which rendered it the object of universal pity or derision ; and after some time prince Kaunitz was ordered to inform the British court of the accession of his sovereign to the northern league, known by the appellation of the Armed Neutrality*. The military history of the present year was Attempt on
the isle of marked, in its commencement, by a spirited though Jersey. abortive attempt on the part of the French to capture the island of Jersey by a coup-de-main._Early on the 16th of January, 1781, a landing was effected by the baron de Rullecourt, at the head of about 800 men, at the Bank du Violet; and, to the astonishment of the inhabitants, when the day began to dawn, 'the market-place of St. Helier was found occupied by French troops. The governor's house being entirely surrounded, he was compelled to surrender himself prisoner, and was so far intimidated as even to sign articles of capitulation. But when Elizabeth-Castle was summoned, captain Aylward,
* Vide Adolphus's History of George III. Vol. iii. chap 42.
BOOK the commander, far from paying the least regard to
the acts of the governor in his present state of du, rance, fired upon the French and obliged them to retreat; and major Pierson, a young and gallant of, ficer, second in command, having assembled the regular troops and militia of the island on the heights near the town, attacked the enemy with the greatest resolution and vigor. Baron Rullecourt being at the commencement of the action mortally wounded, the French troops in less than half an hour laid down their arms, and surrendered themselves prisoners of war. Unfortunately almost the last shot fired previous to the surrender proved fatal to major Pierson, in whose conduct, during the whole of this transac, tion, discretion and valor had been equally con: spicuous.
Early intelligence of the rupture with Holland having been transmitted to the West Indies, admiral Rodney and general Vaughan appeared, February 1781, with a very considerable naval and military force, before the island of St. Eustatia, that famous deposit of wealth and mart of traffic. So little apprehensive were the inhabitants of this event, that it was with difficulty they were brought to give credit to the summons. Being totally destitute of the means of resistance, they were compelled to surrender at discretion. But
But so far were the Bri. tish commanders from imitating the noble example of lenity and policy set by the marquis de Bou.