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A Popular History of France from the Earliest Time

Lord Chatham had been but a short time in office


The

opposition was as yet within the law, and the national effort was as orderly as it was impassioned. "There is agitation, there are meetings, there is mutual encouragement to the struggle, the provinces concert opposition together, the wrath against Great Britain grows and the abyss begins to yawn; but such are the habits of order among this people, that, in the midst of this immense ferment among the nation, it is scarcely possible to pick out even a few acts of violence here and there; up to the day when the uprising becomes general, the government of George III. can scarcely find, even in the great centres of opposition, such as Boston, any specious pretexts for its own violence" [M. Cornelis de Witt, _Histoire de Washington_]. The declaration of independence was by this time becoming inevitable when Washington and Jefferson were still writing in this strain:

Washington to Capt. Mackenzie.

"You are taught to believe that the people of Massachusetts are a people of rebels in revolt for independence, and what not. Permit me to tell you, my good friend, that you are mistaken, grossly mistaken. . . . I can testify, as a fact, that independence is neither the wish nor the interest of this colony or of any other on the continent, separately or collectively. But at the same time you may rely upon it that none of them will ever submit to the loss of those privileges, of those precious rights which are essential

to the happiness of every free State, and without which liberty, property, life itself, are devoid of any security."

Jefferson to Mr. Randolph.

"Believe me, my dear sir, there is not in the whole British empire a man who cherishes more cordially than I do the union with Great Britain. But, by the God who made me, I would cease to live rather than accept that union on the terms proposed by Parliament. We lack neither motives nor power to declare and maintain our separation. It is the will alone that we lack, and that is growing little by little under the hand of our king."

It was indeed growing. Lord Chatham had been but a short time in office; Lord North, on becoming prime minister, zealously promoted the desires of George III. in Parliament and throughout the country. The opposition, headed by Lord Chatham, protested in the name of the eternal principles of justice and liberty against the measures adopted towards the colonies. "Liberty," said Lord Chatham, "is pledged to liberty; they are indissolubly allied in this great cause, it is the alliance between God and nature, immutable, eternal, as the light in the firmament of heaven! Have a care; foreign war is suspended over your heads by a thin and fragile thread; Spain and France are watching over your conduct, waiting for the fruit of your blunders; they keep their eyes fixed on America, and are more concerned with the dispositions of your colonies than with their own affairs, whatever they may be. I repeat to you, my lords, if ministers persist in their fatal counsels, I do not say that they may alienate the affections of its subjects, but I affirm that they will destroy the greatness of the crown; I do not say that the king will be betrayed, I affirm that the country will be ruined!"

Franklin was present at this scene. Sent to England by his fellow-countrymen to support their petitions by his persuasive and dexterous eloquence, he watched with intelligent interest the disposition of the Continent towards his country. "All Europe seems to be on our side," he wrote; "but Europe has its own reasons: it considers itself threatened by the power of England, and it would like to see her divided against herself. Our prudence will retard for a long time yet, I hope, the satisfaction which our enemies expect from our dissensions. . . . Prudence, patience, discretion; when the catastrophe arrives, it must be clear to all mankind that the fault is not on our side."


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