free ebooks

A Popular History of France from the Earliest Time

He relied upon the support of Lord Chatham


It

was with the title of major-general that M. de La Fayette made his first campaign; Congress had passed a decree conferring upon him this grade, rather an excess of honor in Washington's opinion; the latter was at that time covering Philadelphia, the point aimed at by the operations of General Howe. Beaten at Brandywine and at Germantown, the Americans were obliged to abandon the town to the enemy and fall back on Valley Forge, where the general pitched his camp for wintering. The English had been beaten on the frontiers of Canada by General Gates; General Burgoyne, invested on all sides by the insurgents, had found himself forced to capitulate at Saratoga. The humiliation and wrath of the public in England were great, but the resolution of the politicians was beginning to waver; on the 10th of February, 1778, Lord North had presented two bills whereby England was to renounce the right of levying taxes in the American colonies, and was to recognize the legal existence of Congress. Three commissioners were to be sent to America to treat for conditions of peace. After a hot discussion, the two bills had been voted.

This was a small matter in view of the growing anxiety and the political manoeuvrings of parties. On the 7th of April, 1778, the Duke of Richmond proposed in the House of Lords the recall of all the forces, land and sea, which were fighting in America. He relied upon the support of Lord Chatham, who was now at death's door, but

who had always expressed himself forcibly against the conduct of the government towards the colonists. The great orator entered the House, supported by two of his friends, pale, wasted, swathed in flannel beneath his embroidered robe. He with difficulty dragged himself to his place. The peers, overcome at the sight of this supreme effort, waited in silence. Lord Chatham rose, leaning on his crutch and still supported by his friends. He raised one hand to heaven. "I thank God," he said, "that I have been enabled to come hither to-day to fulfil a duty and say what has been weighing so heavily on my heart. I have already one foot in the grave; I shall soon descend into it; I have left my bed to sustain my country's cause in this House, perhaps for the last time. I think myself happy, my lords, that the grave has not yet closed over me, and that I am still alive to raise my voice against the dismemberment of this ancient and noble monarchy! My lords, his Majesty succeeded to an empire as vast in extent as proud in reputation. Shall we tarnish its lustre by a shameful abandonment of its rights and of its fairest possessions? Shall this great kingdom, which survived in its entirety the descents of the Danes, the incursions of the Scots, the conquest of the Normans, which stood firm against the threatened invasion of the Spanish Armada, now fall before the House of Bourbon? Surely, my lords, we are not what we once were! . . . In God's name, if it be absolutely necessary to choose between peace and war, if peace cannot be preserved with honor, why not declare war without hesitation? . . . My lords, anything is better than despair; let us at least make an effort, and, if we must fail, let us fail like men!"

He dropped back into his seat, exhausted, gasping. Soon he strove to rise and reply to the Duke of Richmond, but his strength was traitor to his courage, he fainted; a few days later he was dead (May 11th, 1778); the resolution' of the Duke of Richmond had been rejected.


eBook Search
Social Sharing
Share Button
About us

freefictionbooks.org is a collection of free ebooks that can be read online. Ebooks are split into pages for easier reading and better bookmarking.

We have more than 35,000 free books in our collection and are adding new books daily.

We invite you to link to us, so as many people as possible can enjoy this wonderful free website.

© 2010-2013 freefictionbooks.org - All Rights Reserved.

Terms of Use | Privacy Policy | Contact Us