Letters on a Regicide Peace

Burke, Edmund
Display paragraphs in this book containing:
E. J. Payne, ed.
First Pub. Date
Indianapolis, IN: Liberty Fund, Inc.
Pub. Date
Foreword and notes by Francis Canavan.

Two Letters Addressed to A Member of the Present Parliament, on the Proposals for Peace with the Regicide Directory of France by the right honourable Edmund Burke (continued)

[Second Edition. Rivingtons, 1796.]

Letter II

On the Genius and Character of the French Revolution as it regards other Nations



INTRODUCTION, p. 154. The complete transformation of France by its New Government leads the writer to enquire into the nature of the governing faction.

PART I, pp. 155-68
(1) Great Diffusion, (2) Great Abilities, and (3) Great Successes of the Jacobin Party

(1) Not a local party, p. 155, though their centre is in France: this illustrated by the action of the Allies, p. 155, which was (2) paralysed by the intrigues of the Jacobins, p. 156. Their easy triumph over the routine politicians of Europe, p. 157, and over the ridiculous "centrifugal war" waged against France, p. 159. (3) False policy pursued in the war, p. 159, and impossibility now of compensating the successes of the French, without which they are not likely to make peace, unless "by giving up Europe, bound hand and foot, to France," p. 161.

PART II, pp. 168-89
Jacobinism implies the Repudiation of the Ordinary Relations of France with the rest of Europe

Jacobinism alien from ordinary European relations, p. 168. Two classes of Jacobins, philosophers and politicians; character of the former, p. 170, of the latter, p. 171. Ambition of French politicians, p. 172. Divided into the Anti-Anglican and Anti-Continental factions, p. 173, the existence of which is traced to the reign of Louis XV, p. 174. Causes of discontent on the part of the politicians, and their [101] ready conversion to Republicanism, as a more powerful system for aggression, p. 175. Their intrigues in Holland, Austria, and America, before the Revolution, p. 178. Essential antagonism between France since the Revolution, and the rest of Europe, especially England, p. 180. And the only safety for Europe the destruction of the new system in France, illustrated by the fate of Louis XVI, p. 184].


My Dear Sir,

I closed my first Letter with serious matter; and I hope it has employed your thoughts. The system of peace must have a reference to the system of the war. On that ground, I must therefore again recal your mind to our original opinions, which time and events have not taught me to vary.


My ideas and my principles led me, in this contest, to encounter France, not as a State, but as a Faction. The vast territorial extent of that country, it's immense population, it's riches of production, it's riches of commerce and convention—the whole aggregate mass of what, in ordinary cases, constitutes the force of a State, to me were but objects of secondary consideration. They might be balanced; and they have been often more than balanced. Great as these things are, they are not what make the faction formidable. It is the faction that makes them truly dreadful. The faction is the evil spirit that possesses the body of France; that informs it as a soul; that stamps upon it's ambition, and upon all it's pursuits, a characteristic mark, which strongly distinguishes them from the same general passions, and the same general views, in other men and in other communities. It is that spirit which inspires into them a new, a pernicious, and desolating activity. Constituted as France was ten years ago, it was not in that [102] France to shake, to shatter, and to overwhelm Europe in the manner that we behold. A sure destruction impends over those infatuated Princes, who, in the conflict with this new and unheard-of power, proceed as if they were engaged in a war that bore a resemblance to their former contests; or that they can make peace in the spirit of their former arrangements or pacification. Here the beaten path is the very reverse of the safe road.


As to me, I was always steadily of opinion that this disorder was not in it's nature intermittent. I conceived that the contest, once begun, could not be laid down again to be resumed at our discretion; but that our first struggle with this evil would also be our last. I never thought we could make peace with the system; because it was not for the sake of an object we pursued in rivalry with each other, but with the system itself, that we were at war. As I understood the matter, we were at war, not with it's conduct, but with it's existence; convinced that it's existence and it's hostility were the same.


The faction is not local or territorial. It is a general evil. Where it least appears in action, it is still full of life. In it's sleep it recruits it's strength, and prepares it's exertion. It's spirit lies deep in the corruptions of our common nature. The social order which restrains it, feeds it. It exists in every country in Europe; and among all orders of men in every country, who look up to France as to a common head. The centre is there. The circumference is the world of Europe *1wherever the race of Europe may be settled. Everywhere else the faction is militant; in France it is triumphant. In France is the bank of deposit, and the bank of circulation, of all the pernicious principles that are forming in every State. It will be a folly scarcely deserving of pity, and too mischievous for contempt, to think of restraining [103] it in any other country whilst it is predominant there. War, instead of being the cause of it's force, has suspended it's operation. It has given a reprieve, at least, to the Christian World.


The true nature of a Jacobin war, in the beginning, was, by most of the Christian Powers, felt, acknowledged, and even in the most precise manner declared. In the joint manifesto, published by the Emperor and the King of Prussia, on the 4th of August 1792, it is expressed in the clearest terms, and on principles which could not fail, if they had adhered to them, of classing those monarchs with the first benefactors of mankind. This manifesto was published, as they themselves express it, "to lay open to the present generation, as well as to posterity, their motives, their intentions, and the disinterestedness of their personal views; taking up arms for the purpose of preserving social and political order amongst all civilized nations, and to secure to each state its religion, happiness, independence, territories, and real constitution." "On this ground, they hoped that all Empires, and all States, ought to be unanimous; and becoming the firm guardians of the happiness of mankind, that they cannot fail to unite their efforts to rescue a numerous nation from it's own fury, to preserve Europe from the return of barbarism, and the Universe from the subversion and anarchy with which it was threatened." The whole of that noble performance ought to be read at the first meeting of any Congress which may assemble for the purpose of pacification. In that piece "these Powers expressly renounce all views of personal aggrandizement," and confine themselves to objects worthy of so generous, so heroic, and so perfectly wise and politick an enterprise. It was to the principles of this consideration, and to no other, that we wished our Sovereign and our Country to accede, as a part of the [104] commonwealth of Europe. To these principles, with some trifling exceptions and limitations, they did fully accede.*21 And all *2our friends who did take office acceded to the Ministry (whether wisely or not) as I always understood the matter, on the faith and on the principles of that declaration.


As long as these powers flattered themselves that the menace of force would produce the effect of force, they acted on those declarations: but when their menaces failed of success, their efforts took a new direction. It did not appear to them that virtue and heroism ought to be purchased by millions of rix-dollars. It is a dreadful truth, but it is a truth that cannot be concealed; in ability, in dexterity, in the distinctness of their views, the Jacobins are our superiors. They saw the thing right from the very beginning. Whatever were the first motives to the war among politicians, they saw that it is in it's spirit, and for it's objects, a civil war; and as such they pursued it. It is a war between the partizans of the ancient, civil, moral, and political order of Europe against a sect of fanatical and ambitious atheists which means to change them all. It is not France extending a foreign empire over other nations: it is a sect aiming at universal empire, and beginning with the *3conquest of France. The leaders of that sect secured the centre of Europe; and that secured, they knew, that whatever might be the event of battles and sieges, their cause was victorious. Whether it's territory had a little more or a little less peeled from it's surface, or whether an island or two was detached from it's commerce, to them was of little moment. The conquest of France was a glorious acquisition. That once well laid as a basis of empire, opportunities never could be wanting to regain or to replace what had been lost, and [105] dreadfully to avenge themselves on the faction of their adversaries.


They saw it was a civil war. It was their business to persuade their adversaries that it ought to be a foreign war. The Jacobins every where set up a cry against the new crusade; and they intrigued with effect in the cabinet, in the field, and in every private society in Europe. Their talk was not difficult. The condition of Princes, and sometimes of first Ministers too, is to be pitied. The creatures of the desk, and the creatures of favour, had no relish for the principles of the manifestoes. They promised no governments, no regiments, no revenues from whence emoluments might arise, by perquisite or by grant. In truth, the tribe of vulgar politicians are the lowest of our species. There is no trade so vile and mechanical as government in their hands. Virtue is not their habit. They are out of themselves in any course of conduct recommended only by conscience and glory. A large, liberal and prospective view of the interests of States passes with them for romance; and the principles that recommend it for the wanderings of a disordered imagination. The calculators compute them out of their senses. The jesters and buffoons shame them out of every thing grand and elevated. Littleness, in object and in means, to them appears soundness and sobriety. They think there is nothing worth pursuit, but that which they can handle; which they can measure with a two-foot rule; which they can tell upon ten fingers.


Without the principles of the Jacobins, perhaps without any principles at all, they played the game of that faction. There was a beaten road before them. The Powers of Europe were armed; France had always appeared dangerous; the war was easily diverted from France as a faction, to France as a state. The Princes were easily taught to [106] slide back into their old habitual course of politicks. They were easily led to consider the flames that were consuming France, not as a warning to protect their own buildings, (which were without any party wall, and *4linked by a contignation into the edifice of France,) but as an happy occasion for pillaging the goods, and for carrying off the materials of their neighbour's house. Their provident fears were changed into avaricious hopes. They carried on their new designs without seeming to abandon the principles of their old policy. They pretended to seek, or they flattered themselves that they sought, in the accession of new fortresses, and new territories, a defensive security. But the security wanted was against a kind of power, which was not so truly dangerous in it's fortresses nor in it's territories, as in it's spirit and it's principles. They aimed, or pretended to aim, at defending themselves against a danger, from which there can be no security in any defensive plan. If armies and fortresses were a defence against Jacobinism, Louis the Sixteenth would this day reign a powerful monarch over an happy people.


This error obliged them, even in their offensive operations, to adopt a plan of war, against the success of which there was something little short of mathematical demonstration. They refused to take any step which might strike at the heart of affairs. They seemed unwilling to wound the enemy in any vital part. They acted through the whole, as if they really wished the conservation of the Jacobin power; as what might be more favourable than the lawful Government to the attainment of the petty objects they looked for. They always kept on the circumference; and the wider and remoter the circle was, the more eagerly they chose it as their sphere of action in this *5centrifugal war. The plan they pursued, in it's nature, demanded great length of time. [107] In it's execution, they, who went the nearest way to work, were obliged to cover an incredible extent of country. It left to the enemy every means of destroying this extended line of weakness. Ill success in any part was sure to defeat the effect of the whole. This is true of Austria. It is still more true of England. On this false plan, even good fortune, by further weakening the victor, put him but the further off from his object.


As long as there was any appearance of success, the spirit of aggrandizement, and consequently the spirit of mutual jealousy seized upon all the coalesced Powers. Some sought an accession of territory at the expence of France, some at the expence of each other; some at the expence of third parties; and when the vicissitude of disaster took it's turn, they found common distress a treacherous bond of faith and friendship.


The greatest skill conducting the greatest military apparatus has been employed; but it has been worse than uselessly employed, through the false policy of the war. The operations of the field suffered by the errors of the Cabinet. If the same spirit continues when peace is made, the peace will fix and perpetuate all the errors of the war; because it will be made upon the same false principle. What has been lost in the field, in the field may be regained. An arrangement of peace in it's nature is a permanent settlement; it is the effect of counsel and deliberation, and not of fortuitous events. If built upon a basis fundamentally erroneous, it can only be retrieved by some of those unforeseen dispositions, which the all-wise but mysterious Governor of the World sometimes interposes, to snatch nations from ruin. It would not be pious error, but mad and impious presumption, for any one to trust in an unknown order of dispensations, in defiance of the rules of prudence, which are formed upon the known march of the ordinary providence of God.


[108] It was not of that sort of war that I was amongst the least considerable, but amongst the most zealous advisers; and it is not by the sort of peace now talked of, that I wish it concluded. It would answer no great purpose to enter into the particular errours of the war. The whole has been but one errour. It was but nominally a war of alliance. As the combined powers pursued it, there was *6nothing to hold an alliance together. There could be no tie of honour, in a society for pillage. There could be no tie of a common interest where the object did not offer such a division amongst the parties, as could well give them a warm concern in the gains of each other, or could indeed form such a body of equivalents, as might make one of them willing to abandon a separate object of his ambition for the justification of any other member of the alliance. The partition of Poland offered an object of spoil in which the parties might agree. They were circumjacent; and each might take a portion convenient to his own territory. They might dispute about the value of their several shares: but the contiguity to each of the demandants always furnished the means of an adjustment. Though hereafter the world will have cause to rue this iniquitous measure, and they most who were most concerned in it, for the moment there was wherewithal in the object to preserve peace amongst confederates in wrong. But the spoil of France did not afford the same facilities for accommodation. What might satisfy the House of Austria in a Flemish frontier afforded no equivalent to tempt the cupidity of the King of Prussia. What might be desired by Great Britain in the West-Indies, must be coldly and remotely, if at all, felt as an interest at Vienna; and it would be felt as something *7worse than a negative interest at Madrid. Austria, long possessed with unwise and dangerous designs on Italy, could not be very much in earnest about the conservation of the old patrimony of the House of Savoy: [109] and Sardinia, who owed to an Italian force all her means of shutting out France from Italy, of which she has been supposed to hold the key, would not purchase the means of strength upon one side by yielding it on the other. She would not readily give the possession of Novara for the hope of Savoy. *8No continental Power was willing to lose any of it's continental objects for the encrease of the naval power of Great Britain; and Great Britain would not give up any of the objects she sought for as the means of an encrease to her naval power, to further their aggrandizement.


The moment this war came to be considered as a war merely of profit, the actual circumstances are such, that it never could become really a war of alliance. Nor can the peace be a peace of alliance, until things are put upon their right bottom.


I don't find it denied, that when a treaty is entered into for peace, a demand will be made on the Regicides to surrender a great part of their conquests on the Continent. Will they, in the present state of the war, make that surrender without an equivalent? This continental cession must of course be made in favour of that party in the alliance, that has suffered losses. That party has nothing to furnish towards an equivalent. What equivalent, for instance, has Holland to offer, who has lost her all? What equivalent can come from the Emperor, every part of whose territories contiguous to France, is already within the pale of the Regicide dominion? What equivalent has Sardinia to offer for Savoy and for Nice, I may say for her whole being? What has she taken from the faction of France? She has lost very nearly her all; and she has gained nothing. What equivalent has Spain to give? Alas! she has already paid for her own ransom the fund of equivalent, and a dreadful equivalent it is, to England and to herself. But I put Spain [110] out of the question. She is a province of the Jacobin Empire, and she must make peace or war according to the orders she receives from the Directory of Assassins. In effect and substance, her Crown is a fief of Regicide.


Whence then can the compensation be demanded? Undoubtedly from that power which alone has made some conquests. That power is England. Will the allies then give away their ancient patrimony, that England may keep Islands in the West-Indies? They never can protract the war in good earnest for that object; nor can they act in concert with us, in our refusal to grant any thing towards their redemption. In that case we are thus situated. Either we must give Europe, bound hand and foot, to France; or we must quit the West Indies without any one object, great or small, towards indemnity and security. I repeat it—without any advantage whatever: because, supposing that our conquest could comprize all that France ever possessed in the tropical America, it never can amount, in any fair estimation, to a fair equivalent for Holland, for the Austrian Netherlands, for the lower Germany, that is, for the whole antient kingdom or circle of Burgundy, now under the yoke of Regicide, to say nothing of almost all Italy under the same barbarous domination. If we treat in the present situation of things, we have nothing in our hands that can redeem Europe. Nor is the Emperor, as I have observed, more rich in the fund of equivalents.


If we look to our stock in the Eastern world, our most valuable and systematick acquisitions are made in that quarter. Is it from France they are made? France has but one or two *9contemptible factories, subsisting by the offal of the private fortunes of English individuals to support them, in any part of India. I look on the taking of the *10Cape of Good Hope as the securing of a post of great moment. It does honour to those who planned, and to those who [111] executed that enterprize: but I speak of it always as comparatively good; as good as any thing can be in a scheme of war that repels us from a center, and employs all our forces where nothing can be finally decisive. But giving, as I freely give, every possible credit to these eastern conquests, I ask one question—On whom are they made? It is evident, that if we can keep our eastern conquests, we keep them not at the expence of France, but at the expence of Holland, our ally; of Holland, the immediate cause of the war, the nation whom we had undertaken to protect; and not of the Republic which it was our business to destroy. If we return the African and the Asiatick conquests, we put them into the hands of a nominal State, (to that Holland is reduced) unable to retain them; and which will virtually leave them under the direction of France. If we withhold them, Holland *11declines still more as a State; and she loses so much carrying trade and that means of keeping up the small degree of naval power she holds; for which policy, and not for any commercial gain, she maintains the Cape, or any settlement beyond it. In that case, resentment, faction, and even necessity will throw her more and more into the power of the new mischievous Republick. But on the probable state of Holland, I shall say more, when in this correspondence I come to talk over with you the state in which any sort of Jacobin peace will leave all Europe. So far as to the East Indies.


As to the West Indies, indeed as to either, if we look for matter of exchange in order to ransom Europe, it is easy to shew that we have taken a terrible roundabout road. I cannot conceive, even if, for the sake of holding conquests there, we should refuse to redeem Holland, and the Austrian Netherlands, and the hither Germany, that Spain, merely as she is Spain, (and forgetting that the Regicide Ambassador governs at Madrid) will see with perfect satisfaction [112] Great Britain sole mistress of the Isles. In truth it appears to me, that, when we come to balance our account, we shall find in the proposed peace only the pure, simple, and unendowed charms of Jacobin amity. We shall have the satisfaction of knowing that no blood or treasure has been spared by the allies for support of the Regicide system. We shall reflect at leisure on one great truth, that it was ten times more easy totally to destroy the system itself, than when established, it would be to reduce it's power: and that this Republick, most formidable abroad, was, of all things, the weakest at home. That her frontier was terrible, her interior feeble; that it was matter of choice to attack her where she is invincible, and to spare her where she was ready to dissolve by her own internal disorders. We shall reflect, that our plan was good neither for offence nor defence.


*12It would not be at all difficult to prove that an army of a hundred thousand men, horse, foot, and artillery, might have been employed against the enemy on the very soil which he has usurped, at a far less expense than has been squandered away upon tropical adventures. In these adventures it was not an enemy we had to vanquish, but a cemetery to conquer. In carrying on the war in the West Indies, the hostile sword is merciful: the country in which we engage is the dreadful enemy. There the European conqueror finds a cruel defeat in the very fruits of his success. Every advantage is but a new demand on England for recruits to the West Indian grave. In a West India war, the Regicides have for their troops a race of *13fierce barbarians, to whom the poisoned air, in which our youth inhale certain death, is salubrity and life. To them the climate is the surest and most faithful of allies.


Had we carried on the war on the side of France which looks towards the Channel or the Atlantick, we should have [113] attacked our enemy on his weak and unarmed side. We should not have to reckon on the loss of a man, who did not fall in battle. We should have an *14ally in the heart of the country, who to our hundred thousand, would at one time have added eighty thousand men at the least, and all animated by principle, by enthusiasm, and by vengeance: motives which secured them to the cause in a very different manner from some of our allies whom we subsidized with millions. This ally, or rather this principal in the war, by the confession of the Regicide himself, was more formidable to him than all his other foes united. Warring there, we should have led our arms to the capital of Wrong. Defeated, we could not fail (proper precautions taken) of a sure retreat. Stationary, and only supporting the Royalists, an impenetrable barrier, an impregnable rampart, would have been formed between the enemy and his naval power. We are probably the only nation who have declined to act against an enemy, when it might have been done in his own country; and who having an armed, a powerful, and a long victorious ally in that country, declined all effectual cooperation, and suffered him to perish for want of support. On the plan of a war in France, every advantage that our allies might gain would be doubled in its effect. Disasters on the one side might have a fair chance of being compensated by victories on the other. Had we brought the main of our force to bear upon that quarter, all the operations of the British and Imperial crowns would have been combined. The war would have had system, correspondence, and a certain direction. But as the war has been pursued, the operations of the two crowns have not the smallest degree of mutual bearing or relation.


Had acquisitions in the West Indies been our object, or success in France, every thing reasonable in those remote parts might be demanded with decorum, and justice, and [114] a sure effect. Well might we call for a recompense in America for those services to which Europe owed its safety. Having abandoned this obvious policy connected with principle, we have seen the Regicide power taking the reverse course, and making real conquests in the West Indies, to which all our dear-bought advantages, if we could hold them, are mean and contemptible. The noblest island within the tropicks, worth all that we possess put together, is by the vassal Spaniard delivered into her hands. The island of Hispaniola, of which we have but one poor corner, by a slippery hold, is perhaps equal to England in extent, and in fertility is far superior. The part possessed by Spain of that great island, *15made for the seat and center of a tropical empire, was *16not improved, to be sure, as the French division had been, before it was systematically destroyed by the cannibal republick: but it is not only the far larger, but the far more salubrious and more fertile part.


It was delivered into the hands of the barbarians without, as I can find, any public *17reclamation on our part, not only in contravention of one of the fundamental treaties that compose the public law of Europe, but in defiance of the fundamental colonial policy of Spain herself. This part of the Treaty of Utrecht was made for great general ends, unquestionably: but whilst it provided for those general ends, it was an affirmance of that particular policy. It was not to injure but to save Spain, by making a settlement of her estate which prohibited her to alienate it to France. It is her policy not to see the balance of West Indian power overturned, by France or by Great Britain. Whilst the monarchies subsisted, this unprincipled cession was what the influence of the elder branch of the House of Bourbon never dared attempt on the younger. But cannibal terror has been more powerful than family influence. The Bourbon [115] monarchy of Spain is united to the republic of France by what may be truly called the *18ties of blood.


Unfortunately other ideas have prevailed. A remote, an expensive, a murderous, and in the end, an unproductive adventure, carried on upon ideas of mercantile knight-errantry, without any of the generous wildness of Quixotism, is considered as sound, solid sense: and a war in a wholesome climate, a war at our door, a war directly on the enemy, a war in the heart of his country, a war in concert with an internal ally, and in combination with the external, is regarded as folly and romance.


My dear Friend, I hold it impossible that these considerations should have escaped the Statesmen on both sides of the water, and on both sides of the house of Commons. How a question of peace can be discussed without having them in view, I cannot imagine. If you or others see a way [116] out of these difficulties I am happy. *19I see indeed a fund from whence equivalents will be proposed. I see it. But I cannot just now touch it. It is a question of high moment. It opens another Iliad of woes to Europe.


Such is the time proposed for making a common political peace, to which no one circumstance is propitious. As to the grand principle of the peace, it is left, as if by common consent, wholly out of the question.


Viewing things in this light, I have frequently sunk into a degree of despondency and dejection hardly to be described: yet out of the profoundest depths of this despair, an impulse which I have in vain endeavoured to resist has urged me to raise one feeble cry against this unfortunate coalition which is formed at home, in order to make a coalition with France, subversive of the whole ancient order of the world. No disaster of war, no calamity of season, could ever strike me with half the horror which I felt from what is introduced to us by this junction of parties, under the soothing name of peace. We are apt to speak of a low and pusillanimous spirit as the ordinary cause by which dubious wars terminate in humiliating treaties. It is here the direct contrary. I am perfectly astonished at the boldness of character, at the intrepidity of mind, the firmness of nerve, in those who are able with deliberation to face the perils of Jacobin fraternity.


This fraternity is indeed so terrible in it's nature, and in it's manifest consequences, that there is no way of quieting our apprehensions about it, but by totally putting it out of sight, by substituting for it, through a sort of periphrasis, something of an ambiguous quality, and describing such a connection under the terms of "the usual relations of peace and amity." By this means the proposed fraternity is hustled in the crowd of those treaties, which imply no [117] change in the public law of Europe, and which do not upon system affect the interior condition of nations. It is confounded with those conventions in which matters of dispute among sovereign powers are compromised, by the taking off a duty more or less, by the surrender of a frontier town, or a disputed district on the one side or the other; by pactions in which the pretensions of families are settled, (as by a conveyancer, making family *20substitutions and successions), without any alteration in the laws, manners, religion, privileges and customs of the cities or territories which are the subject of such arrangements.


All this body of old conventions, composing the vast and voluminous collection called the corps diplomatique, forms the code or statute law, as the methodized reasonings of the great publicists and jurists form the digest and jurisprudence, of the Christian world. In these treasures are to be found the usual relations of peace and amity in civilized Europe; and there the relations of ancient France were to be found amongst the rest.


The present system in France is not the ancient France. It is not the ancient France with ordinary ambition and ordinary means. It is not a new power of an old kind. It is a new power of a new species. When such a questionable shape is to be admitted for the first time into the brotherhood of Christendom, it is not a mere matter of idle curiosity to consider how far it is, in it's nature, alliable with the rest, or whether "the relations of peace and amity" with this new State are likely to be of the same nature with the usual relations of the States of Europe.


The Revolution in France had the relation of France to other nations as one of it's principal objects. The changes made by that Revolution were not the better to accommodate her to the old and usual relations, but to produce new ones. The Revolution was made, not to make France free, but to [118] make her formidable; not to make her a neighbour, but a mistress; not to make her more observant of laws, but to put her in a condition to impose them. To make France truly formidable it was necessary that France should be new-modelled. They who have not followed the train of the late proceedings, have been led by deceitful representations (which deceit made a part in the plan) to conceive that this totally new model of a state in which nothing escaped a change, was made with a view to it's internal relations only.


In the Revolution of France two sorts of men were principally concerned in giving a character and determination to it's pursuits; the philosophers and the politicians. They took different ways: but they met in the same end. The philosophers had one predominant object, which they pursued with a fanatical fury, that is, the utter extirpation of religion. To that every question of empire was subordinate. They had rather domineer in a parish of Atheists, than rule over a Christian world. Their temporal ambition was wholly subservient to their proselytizing spirit, in which they were not exceeded by Mahomet himself.


They who have made but superficial studies in the Natural History of the human mind, have been taught to look on religious opinions as the only cause of enthusiastick zeal, and sectarian propagation. But *21there is no doctrine whatever, on which men can warm, that is not capable of the very same effect. The social nature of man impels him to propagate his principles, as much as physical impulses urge him to propagate his kind. The passions give zeal and vehemence. The understanding bestows design and system. The whole man moves under the discipline of his opinions. Religion is among the most powerful causes of enthusiasm. When any thing concerning it becomes an object of much meditation, it cannot be indifferent to the [119] mind. They who do not love religion, hate it. The rebels to God perfectly abhor the Author of their being. They hate him "*22with all their heart, with all their mind, with all their soul, and with all their strength." He never presents himself to their thoughts but to menace and alarm them. They cannot *23strike the Sun out of Heaven, but they are able to raise a smouldering smoke that obscures him from their own eyes. Not being able to revenge themselves on God, they have a delight in vicariously defacing, degrading, torturing, and tearing in pieces his image in man. Let no one judge of them by what he has conceived of them, when they were not incorporated, and had no lead. They were then only passengers in a common vehicle. They were then *24carried along with the general motion of religion in the community, and without being aware of it, partook of it's influence. In that situation, at worst, their nature was left free to counterwork their principles. They despaired of giving any very general currency to their opinions. They considered them as a reserved privilege for the chosen few. But when the possibility of dominion, lead, and propagation presented themselves, and that the ambition, which before had so often made them hypocrites, might rather gain than lose by a daring avowal of their sentiments, then the nature of this infernal spirit, which has "*25evil for it's good," appeared in it's full perfection. *26Nothing, indeed, but the possession of some power, can with any certainty discover what at the bottom is the true character of any man. Without reading the speeches of Vergniaux, Français of Nantz, Isnard, and some others of that sort, it would not be easy to conceive the passion, rancour, and malice of their tongues and hearts. They worked themselves up to a perfect phrenzy against religion and all it's professors. They tore the reputation of the Clergy to pieces by their infuriated declamations and invectives, before they lacerated their bodies by their [120] massacres. This fanatical atheism left out, we omit the principal feature in the French Revolution, and a principal consideration with regard to the effects to be expected from a peace with it.


The other sort of men were the politicians. To them who had little or not at all reflected on the subject, religion was in itself no object of love or hatred. They disbelieved it, and that was all. Neutral with regard to that object, they took the side which in the present state of things might best answer their purposes. They soon found that they could not do without the philosophers; and the philosophers soon made them sensible that the destruction of religion was to supply them with means of conquest, first at home, and then abroad. The philosophers were the active internal agitators, and supplied the spirit and principles: the second gave the practical direction. Sometimes the one predominated in the composition, sometimes the other. The only difference between them was in the necessity of concealing the general design for a time, and in their dealing with foreign nations; the fanaticks going strait forward and openly, the politicians by the surer mode of zigzag. In the course of events this, among other causes, produced fierce and bloody contentions between them. But at the bottom they thoroughly agreed in all the objects of ambition and irreligion, and substantially in all the means of promoting these ends.


Without question, to bring about the unexampled event of the French Revolution, the concurrence of a very great number of views and passions was necessary. In that stupendous work, no one principle by which the human mind may have it's faculties at once invigorated and depraved, was left unemployed: but I can speak it to a certainty, and support it by undoubted proofs, that the ruling [121] principle of those who acted in the Revolution as statesmen, had the exterior aggrandizement of France as their ultimate end, in the most minute part of the internal changes that were made. We, who of late years have been drawn from an attention to foreign affairs by the importance of our domestic discussions, cannot easily form a conception of the general eagerness of the active and energetick part of the French nation itself, the most active and energetick of all nations previous to it's Revolution, upon that subject. I am convinced that the foreign speculators in France, under the old Government, were twenty to one of the same description then or now in England; and few of that description there were, who did not emulously set forward the Revolution. The whole official system, particularly in the diplomatic part, the regulars, the irregulars, down to the clerks in office, (a corps, without all comparison, more numerous than the same amongst us) co-operated in it. All the intriguers in foreign politicks, all the spies, all the intelligencers, actually or late in function, all the candidates for that sort of employment, acted solely upon that principle.


On that system of aggrandizement there was but one mind: but two violent factions arose about the means. The first wished France, diverted from the politicks of the continent, to attend solely to her marine, to feed it by an encrease of commerce, and thereby to overpower England on her own element. They contended, that if England were disabled, the Powers on the continent would fall into their proper subordination; that it was England which deranged the whole continental system of Europe. The others, who were by far the more numerous, though not the most outwardly prevalent at Court, considered this plan for France as contrary to her genius, her situation, and her natural means. They agreed as to the ultimate object, the reduction [122] of the British power, and if possible, it's naval power; but they considered an ascendancy on the continent as a necessary preliminary to that undertaking. They argued that the proceedings of England herself had proved the soundness of this policy. That her greatest and ablest Statesmen had not considered the support of a continental balance against France as a deviation from the principle of her naval power, but as one of the most effectual modes of carrying it into effect. That such had been her policy ever since the Revolution; during which period the naval strength of Great Britain had gone on encreasing in the direct ratio of her interference in the politicks of the continent. With much stronger reason ought the politicks of France to take the same direction; as well for pursuing objects which her situation would dictate to her, though England had no existence, as for counteracting the politicks of that nation; to France continental politicks are primary; they looked on them only of secondary consideration to England, and however necessary, but as means necessary to an end.


What is truly astonishing, the partizans of those two opposite systems were at once prevalent, and at once employed, and in the very same transactions, the one ostensibly, the other secretly, during the latter part of the reign of Lewis XV. Nor was there one Court in which an Ambassador resided on the part of the Ministers, in which another as a spy on him did not also reside on the part of the King: they who pursued the scheme for keeping peace on the continent, and particularly with Austria, acting officially and publickly, the other faction counteracting and opposing them. These private agents were continually going from their function to the Bastille, and from the Bastille to employment, and favour again. An inextricable cabal was formed, some of persons of rank, others of subordinates. [123] But by this means the corps of politicians was augmented in number, and the whole formed a body of active, adventuring, ambitious, discontented people, despising the regular Ministry, despising the Courts at which they were employed, despising the Court which employed them.


The unfortunate Louis the Sixteenth*22 was not the first cause of the evil by which he suffered. He came to it, as to a sort of inheritance, by the false politicks of his immediate predecessor. This system of dark and perplexed intrigue had come to it's perfection before he came to the throne: and even then the Revolution strongly operated in all it's causes.


There was no point on which the discontented diplomatic politicians so bitterly arraigned their Cabinet, as for the decay of French influence in all others. From quarrelling with the Court, they began to complain of Monarchy itself; as a system of Government too variable for any regular plan of national aggrandizement. They observed, that in that sort of regimen too much depended on the personal character of the Prince; that the vicissitudes produced by the succession of Princes of a different character, and even the [124] vicissitudes produced in the same man, by the different views and inclinations belonging to youth, manhood, and age, disturbed and distracted the policy of a country made by nature for extensive empire, or what was still more to their taste, for that sort of general over-ruling influence which prepared empire or supplied the place of it. They had continually in their hands the observations of Machiavel on Livy. They had Montesquieu's Grandeur & Décadence des Romains as a manual; and they compared with mortification the systematic proceedings of a Roman senate with the fluctuations of a Monarchy. They observed the very small additions of territory which all the power of France, actuated by all the ambition of France, had acquired in two centuries. The Romans had frequently acquired more in a single year. They severely and in every part of it criticised the reign of Louis the XIVth, whose irregular and desultory ambition had more provoked than endangered Europe. Indeed, they who will be at the pains of seriously considering the history of that period will see, that those French politicians had some reason. They who will not take the trouble of reviewing it through all it's wars and all it's negociations, will consult the short but judicious criticism of the Marquis de *27Montalembert on that subject. It may be read separately from his ingenious system of fortification and military defence, on the practical merit of which I am unable to form a judgment.


*28The diplomatick politicians of whom I speak, and who formed by far the majority in that class, made disadvantageous comparisons even between their more legal and formalising Monarchy, and the monarchies of other states, as a system of power and influence. They observed, that France not only lost ground herself, but through the languor and unsteadiness of her pursuits, and from her aiming through commerce at naval force which she never could [125] attain without losing more on one side than she could gain on the other, three great powers, each of them (as military states) capable of balancing her, had grown up on the continent. *29Russia and Prussia had been created almost within memory; and Austria, though not a new power, and even curtailed in territory, was *30by the very collision in which she lost that territory, greatly improved in her military discipline and force. During the reign of Maria Theresa the interior oeconomy of the country was made more to correspond with the support of great armies than formerly it had been. As to Prussia, a merely military power, they observed that one war had enriched her with as considerable a conquest as France had acquired in centuries. Russia had broken the Turkish power by which Austria might be, as formerly she had been, balanced in favour of France. They felt it with pain, that the two northern powers of Sweden and Denmark were in general under the sway of Russia; or that at best, France kept up a very doubtful conflict, with many fluctuations of fortune, and at an enormous expence, in Sweden. In Holland, the *31French party seemed, if not extinguished, at least utterly obscured, and kept under by a Stadtholder, sometimes leaning for support on Great Britain, sometimes on Prussia, sometimes on both, never on France. Even the spreading of the Bourbon family had become merely a family accommodation; and had little effect on the national politicks. This alliance, they said, extinguished Spain by destroying all it's energy, without adding any thing to the real power of France in the accession of the forces of it's great rival. In Italy, the same family accommodation, the same national insignificance, were equally visible. What cure for the radical weakness of the French Monarchy, to which all the means which wit could devise, or nature and fortune could bestow, towards universal empire, was not of force to give [126] life, or vigour, or consistency, but in a republick? *32Out the word came; and it never went back.


Whether they reasoned right or wrong, or that there was some mixture of right and wrong in their reasoning, I am sure, that in this manner they felt and reasoned. The different effects of a great military and ambitious republick, and of a monarchy of the same description were constantly in their mouths. The principle was ready to operate when opportunities should offer, which few of them indeed foresaw in the extent in which they were afterwards presented; but these opportunities, in some degree or other, they all ardently wished for.


When I was in Paris in 1773, the treaty of 1756 between Austria and France was deplored as a national calamity; because it united France in friendship with a Power, at whose expence alone they could hope any continental aggrandizement. When the first partition of Poland was made, in which France had no share, and which had farther aggrandized every one of the three Powers of which they were most jealous, I found them in a perfect phrenzy of rage and indignation. Not that they were hurt at the shocking and uncoloured violence and injustice of that partition; but at the debility, improvidence, and want of activity in their Government, in not preventing it as a means of aggrandizement to their rivals, or in not contriving, by exchanges of some kind or other, to obtain their share of advantage from that robbery.


In that or nearly in that state of things and of opinions, came the *33Austrian match; which promised to draw the knot, as afterwards in effect it did, still more closely between the old rival houses. This added exceedingly to their hatred and contempt of their monarchy. It was for this reason that the late glorious Queen, who on all accounts was formed to produce general love and admiration, and whose life was [127] as mild and beneficent as her death was beyond example great and heroic, became so very soon and so very much the object of an implacable rancour, never to be extinguished but in her blood. When I wrote my letter in answer to M. de Menonville, in the beginning of January, 1791, I had good reason for thinking that this description of revolutionists did not so early nor so steadily point their murderous designs at the martyr King as at the Royal Heroine. It was accident, and the momentary depression of that part of the faction, that gave to the husband the happy priority in death.


From this their restless desire of an over-ruling influence, they bent a very great part of their designs and efforts to revive the old French party, which was a democratick party, in Holland, and to make a revolution there. They were happy at the troubles which the singular imprudence of Joseph the Second had stirred up in the Austrian Netherlands. They rejoiced, when they saw him irritate his subjects, profess philosophy, send away the Dutch garrisons, and dismantle his fortifications. As to Holland, they never forgave either the King or the Ministry, for suffering that object, which they justly looked on as principal in their design of reducing the power of England, to escape out of their hands. This was the true secret of the *34commercial treaty, made, on their part, against all the old rules and principles of commerce, with a view of diverting the English nation, by a pursuit of immediate profit, from an attention to the progress of France in it's designs upon that Republic. The system of the oeconomists, which led to the general opening of commerce, *35facilitated that treaty, but did not produce it. They were in despair when they found that by the vigour of Mr. Pitt, supported in this point by Mr. Fox and the opposition, the object, to which they had sacrificed their manufactures, was lost to their ambition. This eager desire of raising [128] France from the condition into which she had fallen, as they conceived, from her monarchical imbecility, had been the main spring of their precedent interference in that *36unhappy American quarrel, the bad effects of which to this nation have not, as yet, fully disclosed themselves.


These sentiments had been long lurking in their breasts, though their views were only discovered now and then, in heat and as by escapes; but on this occasion they exploded suddenly. They were professed with ostentation, and propagated with zeal. These sentiments were not produced, as some think, by their American alliance. The American alliance was *37produced by their republican principles and republican policy. This new relation undoubtedly did much. The discourses and cabals that it produced, the intercourse that it established, and above all, the example, which made it seem practicable to establish a Republick *38in a great extent of country, finished the work, and gave to that part of the Revolutionary faction a degree of strength, which required other energies than the late King possessed, to resist, or even to restrain. It spread every where; but it was no where more prevalent than in the heart of the Court. The palace of Versailles, by it's language, seemed a forum of democracy. To have pointed out to most of those politicians, from their dispositions and movements, what has since happened, the fall of their own Monarchy, of their own Laws, of their own Religion, would have been to furnish a motive the more for pushing forward a system on which they considered all these things as incumbrances. Such in truth they were. And we have seen them succeed, not only in the destruction of their monarchy, but in all the objects of ambition that they proposed from that destruction.


When I contemplate the scheme on which France is formed, and when I compare it with these systems, with which it is, [129] and ever must be, in conflict, those things which seem as defects in her polity are the very things which make me tremble. The States of the Christian World have grown up to their present magnitude in a great length of time, and by a great variety of accidents. They have been improved to what we see them with greater or less degrees of felicity and skill. Not one of them has been formed upon a regular plan or with any unity of design. As their Constitutions are not systematical, they have not been directed to any peculiar end, eminently distinguished, and superseding every other. The objects which they embrace are of the greatest possible variety, and have become in a manner infinite. In all these old countries the state has been made to the people, and not the people conformed to the state. Every state has pursued, not only every sort of social advantage, but it has cultivated the welfare of every individual. His wants, his wishes, even his tastes have been consulted. This comprehensive scheme virtually produced a degree of personal liberty in forms the most adverse to it. That liberty was *39found, under monarchies stiled absolute, in a degree unknown to the ancient commonwealths. From hence the powers of all our modern states meet in all their movements with some obstruction. It is therefore no wonder, that when these states are to be considered as machines to operate for some one great end, that this dissipated and balanced force is not easily concentered, or made to bear with the whole nation upon one point.


The British State is, without question, that which pursues the greatest variety of ends, and is the least disposed to sacrifice any one of them to another, or to the whole. It aims at taking in the *40entire circle of human desires, and securing for them their fair enjoyment. Our legislature has been ever closely connected, in it's most efficient part, with individual feeling and individual interest. Personal liberty, the most [130] lively of these feelings and the most important of these interests, which in other European countries has rather arisen from the system of manners and the habitudes of life, than from the laws of the state, (in which it flourished more from neglect than attention) in England has been a *41direct object of Government.


On this principle England would be the weakest power in the whole system. Fortunately, however, the great riches of this kingdom, arising from a variety of causes, and the disposition of the people, which is *42as great to spend as to accumulate, has easily afforded a disposeable surplus that gives a mighty momentum to the state. This difficulty, with these advantages to overcome it, has called forth the talents of the English financiers, who, by the surplus of industry poured out by prodigality, have outdone every thing which has been accomplished in other nations. The present Minister has outdone his predecessors; and as a Minister of revenue, is far *43above my power of praise. But still there are cases in which England feels more than several others, (though they all feel) the perplexity of an immense body of balanced advantages, and of individual demands, and of some irregularity in the whole mass.


France differs essentially from all those Governments which are formed without system, which exist by habit, and which are confused with the multitude, and with the complexity of their pursuits. What now stands as Government in France is struck out at a heat. The design is wicked, immoral, impious, oppressive; but it is spirited and daring: it is systematick; it is simple in it's principle; it has unity and consistency in perfection. In that country entirely to cut off a branch of commerce, to extinguish a manufacture, to destroy the circulation of money, to violate credit, to suspend the course of agriculture, even to burn a city, or to lay waste a province of their own, does not cost them a [131] moment's anxiety. To them, the will, the wish, the want, the liberty, the toil, the blood of individuals is as nothing. Individuality is left out of their scheme of Government. The state is all in all. Every thing is referred to the production of force; afterwards every thing is trusted to the use of it. It is military in it's principle, in it's maxims, in it's spirit, and in all it's movements. The state has dominion and conquest for it's sole objects; dominion over minds by proselytism, over bodies by arms.


Thus constituted with an immense body of natural means, which are lessened in their amount only to be increased in their effect, France has, since the accomplishment of the Revolution, a complete unity in it's direction. It has destroyed every resource of the State which depends upon opinion and the good-will of individuals. The riches of convention disappear. The advantages of nature in some measure remain; even these, I admit, are astonishingly lessened; the command over what remains is complete and absolute. *44We go about asking when assignats will expire, and we laugh at the last price of them. But what signifies the fate of those tickets of despotism? The despotism will find despotick means of supply. They have found the short cut to the productions of Nature, while others, in pursuit of them, are obliged to wind through the labyrinth of a very intricate state of society. They seize upon the fruit of the labour; they seize upon the labourer himself. Were France but half of what it is in population, in compactness, in applicability of it's force, situated as it is, and being what it is, it would be too strong for most of the States of Europe, constituted as they are, and proceeding as they proceed. Would it be wise to estimate what the world of Europe, as well as the world of Asia, had to dread from *45Jinghiz Khân, upon a contemplation of the resources of the cold and barren spot in the remotest Tartary, from [132] whence first issued that scourge of the human race? Ought we to judge from the excise and stamp duties of the rocks, or from the paper circulation of the sands of Arabia, the power by which Mahomet and his tribes laid hold at once on the two most powerful Empires of the world; beat one of them totally to the ground, broke to pieces the other, and, in not much longer space of time than I have lived, overturned governments, laws, manners, religion, and extended an empire from the Indus to the Pyrenees?


Material resources never have supplied, nor ever can supply, the want of unity in design and constancy in pursuit. But unity in design, and perseverance, and boldness in pursuit, have never wanted resources, and never will. We have not considered as we ought the dreadful energy of a State, in which the property has nothing to do with the Government. Reflect, my dear Sir, reflect again and again on a Government, in which the property is in complete subjection, and where nothing rules but the mind of desperate men. The condition of a commonwealth not governed by it's property was a combination of things, which the learned and ingenious speculator *46Harrington, who has tossed about society into all forms, never could imagine to be possible. We have seen it; the world has felt it; and if the world will shut their eyes to this state of things, they will feel it more. The rulers there have found their resources in crimes. The discovery is dreadful: *47the mine exhaustless. They have every thing to gain, and they have nothing to lose. They have a boundless inheritance in hope; and there is no medium for them, betwixt the highest elevation, and death with infamy. Never can they who from the miserable servitude of the desk have been raised to Empire, again submit to the bondage of a starving bureau, or the profit of *48copying music, or writing *49plaidoyers by the sheet. It has made me often smile in bitterness, when I have heard [133] talk of an indemnity to such men, provided they returned to their allegiance.


From all this, what is my inference? It is, that this new system of robbery in France, cannot be rendered safe by any art; that it *50must be destroyed, or that it will destroy all Europe; that to destroy that enemy, by some means or other, the force opposed to it should be made to bear some analogy and resemblance to the force and spirit which that system exerts; that war ought to be made against it in its vulnerable parts. These are my inferences. In one word, with this Republick nothing independent can co-exist. The errors of Louis the XVIth. were more pardonable to prudence, than any of those of the same kind into which the Allied Courts may fall. They have the benefit of his dreadful example.


The unhappy Louis XVI. was a man of the best intentions that probably ever reigned. He was by no means deficient in talents. He had a most laudable desire to supply by general reading, and even by the acquisition of elemental knowledge, an education in all points originally defective; but nobody told him (and it was no wonder he should not himself divine it) that the world of which he read, and the world in which he lived, were no longer the same. Desirous of doing every thing for the best, fearful of cabal, distrusting his own judgment, he sought his Ministers of all kinds upon public testimony. But as Courts are the field for caballers, the publick is the theatre for mountebanks and impostors. The cure for both those evils is in the discernment of the Prince. But an accurate and penetrating discernment is what in a young Prince could not be looked for.


His conduct in it's principle was not unwise; but, like most other of his well-meant designs, it failed in his hands. It failed partly from mere ill fortune, to which speculators [134] are rarely pleased to assign that very large share to which she is justly entitled in all human affairs. The failure, perhaps, in part was owing to his suffering his system to be vitiated and disturbed by those intrigues, which it is, humanly speaking, impossible wholly to prevent in Courts, or indeed under any form of Government. However, with these aberrations, he gave himself over to a succession of the statesmen of publick opinion. In other things he thought that he might be a King on the terms of his predecessors. He was conscious of the purity of his heart and the general good tendency of his Government. He flattered himself, as most men in his situation will, that he might consult his ease without danger to his safety. It is not at all wonderful that both he and his Ministers, giving way abundantly in other respects to innovation, should take up in policy with the tradition of their monarchy. Under his ancestors the Monarchy had subsisted, and even been strengthened by the generation or support of Republicks. First, the Swiss Republicks grew under the guardianship of the French Monarchy. The Dutch Republicks were hatched and cherished under the same incubation. Afterwards, a Republican constitution was under it's influence established in the Empire against the pretensions of it's chief. Even whilst the Monarchy of France, by a series of wars and negotiations, and lastly by the treaties of Westphalia, had obtained the establishment of the Protestants in Germany as a law of the Empire, the same Monarchy under Louis the XIIIth. had force enough to destroy the Republican system of the Protestants at home.


Louis the XVIth. was a *51diligent reader of history. But the very lamp of prudence blinded him. The guide of human life led him astray. A silent revolution in the moral world preceded the political, and prepared it. It became of more importance than ever what examples [135] were given, and what measures were adopted. Their causes no longer lurked in the recesses of cabinets, or in the private conspiracies of the factious. They were no longer to be controlled by the force and influence of the grandees, who formerly had been able to stir up troubles by their discontents, and to quiet them by their corruption. The chain of subordination, even in cabal and sedition, was broken in it's most important links. It was no longer the great and the populace. Other interests were formed, other dependencies, other connexions, other communications. The middle classes had swelled far beyond their former proportion. Like whatever is the most effectively rich and great in society, these classes became the seat of all the active politicks; and the preponderating weight to decide on them. There were all the energies by which fortune is acquired; there the consequence of their success. There were all the talents which assert their pretensions, and are impatient of the place which settled society prescribes to them. These descriptions had got between the great and the populace; and the influence on the lower classes was with them. The spirit of ambition had taken possession of this class as violently as ever it had done of any other. They felt the importance of this situation. The correspondence of the monied and the mercantile world, the literary intercourse of academies, but, above all, the press, of which they had in a manner, entire possession, made a kind of electrick communication every where. The press, in reality, has made every Government, in it's spirit, almost democratick. Without the great, the first movements in this revolution could not, perhaps, have been given. But the spirit of ambition, now for the first time connected with the spirit of speculation, was not to be restrained at will. There was no longer any means of arresting a principle in it's course. [136] When Louis the XVIth. under the influence of the enemies to Monarchy, meant to found *52but one Republic, he set up two. When he meant to take away half the crown of his neighbour, he lost the whole of his own. Louis the XVIth. could not with impunity countenance a new Republick: yet between his throne and that dangerous lodgment for an enemy, which he had erected, he had the whole Atlantick for a ditch. He had for an out-work the English nation itself, friendly to liberty, adverse to that mode of it. He was surrounded by a rampart of Monarchies, most of them allied to him, and generally under his influence. Yet even thus secured, a Republick erected under his auspices, and dependent on his power, became fatal to his throne. The very money which he had lent to support this Republick, by a good faith, which to him operated as perfidy, was punctually *53paid to his enemies, and became a resource in the hands of his assassins.


With this example before their eyes, do any Ministers in England, do any Ministers in Austria, really flatter themselves, that they can erect, not on the remote shores of the Atlantick, but in their view, in their vicinity, in absolute contact with one of them, not a commercial but a martial Republick—a Republick not of simple *54husbandmen or fishermen, but of intriguers, and of warriors—a Republick of a character the most restless, the most enterprizing, the most impious, the most fierce and bloody, the most hypocritical and perfidious, the most bold and daring that ever has been seen, or indeed that can be conceived to exist, without bringing on their own certain ruin?


Such is the Republick to which we are going to give a place in civilized fellowship. The Republick, which with joint consent we are going to establish in the center of Europe, in a post that overlooks and commands every [137] other State, and which eminently confronts and menaces this kingdom.


You cannot fail to observe, that I speak as if the allied powers were actually consenting, and not compelled by events to the establishment of this faction in France. The words have not escaped me. You will hereafter naturally expect that I should make them good. But whether in adopting this measure we are madly active, or weakly passive, or pusillanimously panick-struck, the effects will be the same. *55You may call this faction, which has eradicated the monarchy—expelled the proprietary, persecuted religion, and trampled upon law*23—you may call this France if you please: but of the ancient France nothing remains but it's central geography; it's iron frontier; it's spirit of ambition; it's audacity of enterprize; it's perplexing intrigue. These and these alone remain; and they remain heightened in their principle and augmented in their means. All the former correctives, whether of virtue or of weakness, which existed in the old Monarchy, are gone. No single new corrective is to be found in the whole body of the new institutions. How should such a thing be found there, when every thing has been chosen with care and selection to forward all those ambitious designs and dispositions, not to controul them? The whole is a body of ways and means for the supply of dominion, without one heterogeneous particle in it.


Here I suffer you to breathe, and leave to your meditation what has occurred to me on the genius and character of the French Revolution. From having this before us, we may be better able to determine on the first question I proposed, that is, how far nations, called foreign, are likely to be affected with the system established within that territory? [138] I intended to proceed next on the question of her facilities, from the internal state of other nations, and particularly of this, for obtaining her ends: but I ought to be aware, that my notions are controverted. I mean, therefore, in my next letter, to take notice of what, in that way, has been recommended to me as the most deserving of notice. In the examination of those pieces, I shall have occasion to discuss some others of the topics I have recommended to your attention. You know, that the Letters which I now send to the press, as well as a part of what is to follow, have been long since written. *56A circumstance which your partiality alone could make of importance to you, but which to the publick is of no importance at all, retarded their appearance. The late events which press upon us obliged me to make some few additions; but no substantial change in the matter.


This discussion, my Friend, will be long. But the matter is serious; and if ever the fate of the world could be truly said to depend on a particular measure, it is upon this peace. For the present, farewell.

Notes for this chapter

P. 155, l. 23. wherever the race, &c. i.e. in America as well as in Europe. Incidents in Hayti and in Spanish America suggested the observation. Cp. post, p. 231.
See Declaration. Whitehall, Oct. 29, 1793.
P. 156, l. 29. our friends. The Duke of Portland and his followers.
P. 157, l. 15. Conquest of France. Cp. vol. ii. p. 291, l. 4.
P. 158, l. 24. linked by a contignation, i.e. by a structural tie. The image is Shaksperian:

    It is a massy wheel,
    To whose huge spokes ten thousand lesser things
    Are mortis'd and adjoin'd.
    —Hamlet, Act iii. sc. 3.
P. 159, l. 16. Centrifugal war. The expression aptly characterizes the war policy of the Allies. Cp. 163, l. 12, where it is explained as a "scheme of war that repels as from a centre," i.e. France itself.
P. 160, l. 22. nothing to hold an alliance together. Burke proceeds to show why the coalition failed. His thorough and exact analysis of the situation may be relied on.
P. 161, l. 11. worse than a negative interest. Because all the West Indian possessions of European powers other than Spain were originally encroachments on Spain. Spain has been losing the West Indies piecemeal ever since she gained them.
l. 20. No continental power, &c. The dilemma was complete.
P. 163, l. 5. contemptible factories. Pondicherry, Karikal, &c.
l. 8. Cape of Good Hope. The Cape was in those times only valuable in connexion with India and the East. British policy and enterprise has made it the nucleus of a great group of colonial states.
l. 25. declines still more. The decline of Holland as a colonial power was measured by the failing prosperity of the Dutch East Indian Company.
P. 164, l. 23, foll. The passage which follows, expanding the criticisms on the general plan of the war, and alluding to the unfortunate campaign in [366] the West Indies, was inserted by Burke in a subsequent edition. It ends p. 167, l. 28. It belongs to the period of the Third Letter.
l. 35. fierce barbarians. The negroes of Hayti and Guadaloupe.
P. 165, l. 7. ally in the heart of the country. Burke was always for stirring the strong anti-revolutionary elements which existed unused in France. The subsequent history of French factions has amply shown how much might have been done in this way.
P. 166, l. 15. made for the seat, &c. Burke has in mind the early settlement of the Spaniards in the West Indies, when Hayti was the centre of government, and the transfer of West Indian supremacy to the French with the possession of the west of the island.
Ibid. not improved as the French division had been. The extraordinary prosperity of French Hayti is a striking feature in colonial history. See the Editor's History of European Colonies.
l. 21. reclamation = protest.
P. 167, l. 1. ties of blood. Burke derives the hint from Bacon, speaking of the Social War: "You speak of a naturalisation in blood; there was a naturalisation indeed in blood." "Of General Naturalisation."
l. 34. I see, indeed, a fund, &c. Burke alludes to the ecclesiastical electorates of Cologne, Trèves, and Mainz, and to the large sovereign bishoprics of Liège, Paderborn, Munster, &c. These it was proposed to secularize and cede some parts to Austria and Prussia in compensation for the Austrian Netherlands and the Rhenish possessions of Prussia.
P. 169, l. 4. Substitutions, i.e. family settlements. Cp. vol. ii. p. 207, l. 17.
P. 170, l. 19. there is no doctrine whatever, &c. Burke repeats the observation from Bolingbroke (On the true use of Retirement, &c.), who borrows it from Montaigne, Essais, Liv. i. ch. 40: "Toute opinion est assez forte pour se faire espouser au prix de la vie."
l. 30. with all their heart, &c. The phrase is borrowed from the Church of England Catechism.
l. 33. strike the sun out of heaven. Burke has in mind Gray, The Bard:

    Fond impious man! think'st thou the sanguine cloud
    Rais'd by thy breath can quench the orb of day?
P. 171, l. 7. "carried along with the general motion," &c.:

    For as in Nature's swiftness, with the throng
    Of flying orbs whilst ours is borne along,
    All seems at rest to the deluded eye,
    Moved by the soul of the same harmony;
    So carried on by your unwearied care
    We rest in peace, and yet in motion share.
    —Dryden, Lines to the Lord Chancellor.
l. 17. evil for its good. Milton, Par. Lost, Book iv. 110.
l. 18. nothing, indeed, &c. Borrowed from Aristotle, 'Arχ&eegrgr; &apsgr;ndr&agrgr; de&iacgr;ξei.
It may be right to do justice to Louis XVI. He did what he could to destroy the double diplomacy of France. He had all his secret correspondence burnt, except one piece, which was called, Conjectures raisonnées sur la Situation de la France dans le Système Politique de l'Europe; a work executed by M. Favier, under the direction of Count Broglie. A single copy of this was said to have been found in the Cabinet of Louis XVI. It was published with some subsequent state papers of Vergennes, Turgot, and others, as, "A new Benefit of the Revolution"; and the advertisement to the publication ends with the following words. "Il sera facile de se convaincre, qu' y compris même la revolution, en grande partie, on trouve dans ces mémoires et ses conjectures le germe de tout ce qu'arriva aujourd'hui, & qu'on ne peut pas sans les avoir lus, être bien au fait des intérêts, & même des vues actuelles des diverses puissances de l'Europe." The book is entitled, Politique de tous les Cabinets de l'Europe pendant les règnes de Louis XV. & Louis XVI. It is altogether very curious, and worth reading.
[367] P. 176, l. 9. Montalembert. This veteran soldier and politician had cast in his lot with the Revolution.
l. 13. The diplomatic politicians, &c. This ingenious account of the growth of an aggressive policy on the part of France, though based on notorious historical facts, is difficult to justify specifically.
l. 23. Russia and Prussia. The rise of the former dated from Peter the Great, of the latter from Frederick.
l. 26. by the very collision, &c. The Seven Years' War.
P. 177, l. 4. French party. See p. 175, l. 16.
l. 19. Out the word came. The allusion is to the arguments in the Encyclopédie and elsewhere. The politicians, of course, never employed the word except in theoretical discussions, before the Revolution.
P. 178, l. 10. Austrian match. Between the Dauphin and Marie Antoinette.
P. 179, l. 4. commercial treaty. Made by Mr. Pitt in 1784.
l. 10. facilitated—but did not produce it. Burke can hardly escape the charge of bending his facts to his theory. Political ambition alone would never have produced the treaty.
l. 17. unhappy American quarrel. Here again the alliance of France with the revolted Colonies may be accounted for without assuming an unnatural ambition on the part of France.
l. 26. produced by their republican principles. But cp. p. 182, post, where the policy of the old monarchy is shown not to have been repugnant to republics.
l. 30. in a great extent of country. The example of the United States destroyed at once the old illusion that a non-monarchical government could only suit with small states. Cp. vol. ii. p. 224, l. 35.
P. 180, l. 31. found in monarchies stiled absolute. Burke repeats a well-known conclusion of Gibbon.
P. 181, l. 8. entire circle of human desires. Burke alludes to an idea put forth by Montesquieu and developed in Goldsmith's Traveller. It is fully explained in the note to vol. i. p. 237, l. 31. Burke's account of the growth of English civilization has been well amplified by Guizot: "The general character of European civilization has especially distinguished the civilization of England. It was exhibited in that country with more sequence and greater clearness than in any other. In England the civil and religious orders, aristocracy, democracy, monarchy, local and central institutions, moral and political development, have increased and advanced together.... Not one of the ancient elements of society ever completely perished; no special principle was ever able to obtain an exclusive dominion. There has always been a simultaneous development of all the different powers, and a sort of compromise between the claims and the interests of all of them..... It cannot, for instance, be denied that the simultaneous development of the different social elements caused England to advance more rapidly than any of the continental states towards the true aim and object of all society—the [368] establishment of a free and regular government..... Besides, the essence of Liberty is the simultaneous manifestation of all interests, of all rights, of all forces, and of all social elements. England had therefore made a nearer approach to liberty than the greater number of other states."—Lectures on Civilization, Lect. ix, Beckwith's translation.
l. 16. direct object. Burke alludes to the specific provisions in its favour, from Magna Charta to the Habeas Corpus Act.
l. 21. as great to spend, &c. Cp. vol. i. p. 285, l. 34. Since 1832 the people have been less disposed to expenditure.
l. 29. above my power of praise. Burke's general estimate of Pitt has been fully confirmed by modern opinion. Supreme in influence over Parliament, and the first of the great school of English financial statesmen, he failed signally as a war-minister.
P. 182, l. 27. We go about asking when assignats will expire, &c. "The French, beginning with bankruptcy at home, had proceeded abroad on the maxim of Machiavelli, that men and arms will find money and provide for themselves." Southey, Essay on State of Public Opinion and the Political Reformers.
P. 183, l. 6. Jinghiz Khan. A famous Asiatic conqueror of the twelfth century.
l. 28. Harrington—never could imagine, &c. Harrington uniformly derives all government from property. A man, he argues, with no estate, either in land, goods, or money, can have nothing to govern, and therefore no share in government. A state of things in which the people, not owning at least two thirds of the land, are supreme, he denominates "an Anarchy." See his System of Politics in Aphorisms.
l. 33. "The mine exhaustless." Burke is followed here by an opponent: "Nothing in point of resources is beyond the reach of a revolutionary government: whereas regular governments have their limitations in this point."—Marquis of Lansdowne's Speech on the Address, 1801.
P. 184, l. 4. copying music. Burke is perhaps thinking of Rousseau.
Ibid. plaidoyers. Law proceedings.
l. 10. must be destroyed. Burke copies the "Delenda est Carthago" of Scipio.
P. 185, l. 32. diligent reader of history. "A century after the expulsion of James, Louis XVI was anxious to draw wisdom from the fate of the Stuarts. He was continually reading over the lives of Charles I and James II, and even, it is said, added comments with his own hand on the margin. Determined to avoid their erring policy, he, as we have already seen, temporised and yielded on every possible occasion."—Lord Mahon's Essay on the French Revolution.
P. 186, l. 35. but one republic. i.e. America.
P. 187, l. 13. paid to his enemies. i.e. to the new French government.
l. 20. husbandmen or fishermen. As in New England.
P. 188, l. 6. you may call this France, &c. We have elsewhere the idea [369] of a country or city being itself in exile when the worthy have departed and the worthless remain. Coriolanus, when banished by the citizens, retaliates as he departs:

    "I banish you,
    And here remain with your uncertainties," &c.
    —Act iii. Scene 3.

And Carew to Master William Montague:

    Thus divided from your noble parts
    The kingdom lives in exile.

"Non te civitas, non regia domus in exilium miserunt, sed tu utrasque." Cicero, quoted in letters of Swift to Gay.

See our declaration.

Vol. 3, Letter III
The following notes are by Payne.

P. 189, l. 1. a circumstance which, &c. The allusion is to the months of July and August, 1796, during which Burke was at Bath, prostrate under the malady which in the next year carried him off.

Vol. 3, Letters on a Regicide Peace, Letter III

End of Notes

Return to top