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veral posts at the beginning of the campaign on the BOOK Pedee, all of which are now evacuated.” But the exultation of the court-faction in England, on the in-Extravatelligence of lord Cornwallis's victory at Camden, was an exulta. extreme. Untaught by former disappointments, all court-facthe flattering and favorite ideas of absolute conquest England. and unconditional submission seemed for a time to be revived. “I have not the least doubt,” said the American secretary of state to lord Cornwallis in his dispatch of November 9th, “ from your lordship's vigorous and alert movements, that the whole country south of the Delawar will be restored to the king's obedience in the course of the next campaign ;"—this credu. lous and confident statesman thinking, as is evident, that marching through the country was the same thing as subduing it. It is even probable that the animation inspired by this success contributed to the adoption of the violent counsels by which, at this period, matters were brought to the last extremity with the States General.
On the 3d of September, the Mercury, a congress packet, was taken by the Vestal frigate off the banks of Newfoundland. On board this packet was Mr. Laurens, late president of the congress, charged with a commission to Holland. On being brought to England, he was examined by the privy council, and committed close prisoner to the Tower, on an accusation of high treason. His papers, which had been thrown overboard, and by great dexterity and
BOOK diligence recovered and deciphered, were found to
contain the sketch of a treaty of amity and commerce between the Republic of Holland and the States of America. This treaty appeared to be in a train of negotiation, and to have received the sanction and approbation of M. Van Berkel, counsellor and
penRupture sionary of Amsterdam. Such was the high offence
taken by the court of London at this discovery, that immediate orders were transınitted to sir Joseph Yorke, to represent to the States General, that the States of Amsterdam, as appeared from the papers of the Sieur Laurens, calling himself president of the pretended congress, had entered into a clandestine correspondence with the American rebels, and that instructions and powers had been given by them for the purpose of concluding a treaty of indissoluble friendship with the said rebels. His Britannic majesty, therefore, required not only a formal disavowal of so irregular a conduct, but also insisted on speedy satisfaction adequate to the offence, and the exemplary punishment of the pensionary Van Berkel and his accomplices, as disturbers of the public peace and violators of the rights of na. tions; otherwise the king would be obliged to take such steps as became his dignity and the interests of his subjects. The States General, though they passed without difficulty resolutions of disavowal and inquiry, delaying to give a formal and explicit answer to this declaration, a second memorial was pre
sented by sir Joseph Yorke on the 12th of Decem- BOOK ber, in which the ambassador requires an immediate and satisfactory answer from the States. “ The king,” he says,
“ has never imagined that your High Mightinesses had approved of a treaty with his rebellious subjects. That had been raising the buckler on your part. But the offence has been committed by a city which makes a considerable part of the state, and it belongs to the sovereign power to punish and give satisfaction for it: and it will not be till the last extremity, in case of denial or silence, that the king will take them upon himself.” The ambassador was now informed that the memorial would be taken ad referendum by the deputies of the respective provinces, according to the received custom and constitution of their government. This being regarded as a palpable evasion, the ambassador received orders imme liately to leave the Hague, and a declaration of war was published against Holland on the 20th of December 1780. This was a measure totally unexpected on the part of the States General, who were ill-prepared for such a rupture. Before the departure of count Welderen, he delivered, by order of the States, a letter to lord Stormont, which his lordship returned unopened.
However unjust and indefensible had been the policy of the British government, the hostile conduct of the Dutch, apparently proceeding less from a spirit of generous attachment to the cause of vior
BOOK lated freedom than from a sordid and avaricious sel. XIX.
fishness, had rendered them the objects of the national 1780.
resentment and aversion. The declaration of war, therefore, which carried with it a resemblance of vigor and even of magnanimity, was received with a great share of approbation and applause. There were not, however, wanting those who, without any prejudice in favor of Holland, hesitated not to affirm that this last act of the British ministry filled up the measure of their iniquity and absurdity.
Where,” said they, “ could be the civil or political offence for the subjects of a foreign state to enter into provisional agreeinents with the Americans, which were not and could not be supposed valid till the recognition of American independence had taken place, and which, in the very language of the instrument itself, professed to be merely outlines of a treaty of commerce, such as might be concluded hereafter, between their High Mighti. nesses and the United States of America ?" If to maintain an amicable intercourse of this indefinite nature with the Americans was criminal in the Dutch, Holland could be regarded in no other light than as a province of England. The king of Eng. land seemed not to recollect, that the subjects of the States General were not his subjects, or accountable to him for their actions. They further affirmed, that a provisional treaty or speculative project, for it was no more, of peace and amity
with America, did by no means necessarily imply Book enmity or ill-will to England :--that this treaty, 6 whether it boded good or ill to England, had been already publicly and unreservedly disavowed by the Dutch
government; and that nothing less than a direct and positive injury could, in the eye son, justify a denunciation of hostility.
As to the insolent requisition of exemplary punishment on the person of Van Berkel, who might, for any thing that appeared, be actuated by motives. the most upright and patriotic, the king of England ought to have reflected, that the laws of England, in similar circumstances, would not have authorised him to have inflicted the slightest punishment on even the meanest of his subjects, who should have formed the plan of a mere contingent agreement with the revolted provinces of another power, to take effect only when their claim of sovereignty should be actually recognised, and when the conditions should be approved and ratified by the government to which alone they owed allegiance.
On the whole, it may safely be affirmed, that a more frivolous and invalid plea or pretext of national hostility has seldom been urged even by royal logicians. The folly of the measure also was no less obvious than its injustice: for, though Holland was attacked thus suddenly and unprepared, there could be no doubt but that she would, in a short time, become a potent accession to the strength of