Item of the Day: Almon’s Anecdotes (1797)

Full Title:

Biographical, Literary, and Political anecdotes, of several of the Most Prominent Persons of the Present Age. Never Before Printed. With an Appendix, Consisting of Original, Explanatory, and Scarce Papers. By the Author of Anecdotes of the Late Earl of Chatham. In Three Volumes. Volume 1, 2, 3.

Written by John Almon, 1737-1805. Printed in London for T. N. Longman, and L. B. Seeley, 1797.Appendix to Vol. 2, “The Whig” column “published in one of the London morning news-papers, when Lord North was minister, in the months of November and December, 1779, an in the months of January and March, 1780.”

THE WHIG

This glorious spirit of WHIGGISM, animates millions in America, who prefer poverty with liberty to gilded chains and sorded affluence; and will die in defence of their rights as men, —as freemen,—-What shall resist this spirit?—–Ireland they have to a man.Jan. 20, 1775. LORD CHATHAM

HOWEVER congenial his mind to the spirit triumphant in a neighbouring kingdom, emulous of the glories as she was participant in the injuries of the western empire, grievous yet is the pang which every lover of his country feels in this degraded island. For the triumph of Liberty is now the disgrace of England. America is victorious and free. Ireland, without the trouble of victory, enjoys all its consequence and glory. She displays the banner of independence; her armies appear; and England surrenders at discretion.

England, the arbitress of empire, –England, the dispenser of the power and guardian of the rights of nations; –England, the wonder and terror of the world– what art thou now? Disabled, dishonoured, fallen; desperate of assistance from friends, for you have none; or of success against enemies, for you failed when you were stronger, against adversaries less numerous or powerful: –too little for consideration in a scale of the balance which you once held and adjusted; and remembered only in the ridicule of Europe: vanquished by your Colonies, to whom you sued in vain for mercy; and subdued even by the aspect of Ireland, to her absolute command.

Love of our country cannot be extinguished in the hearts of Englishmen; and care of what we love compels us to save it from utter destruction. Though the sense of glory were dead throughout the people, yet, if the common and first principles of nature, self-defence, and self-preservation, be not extinct among them, the period of revolution and revenge is at hand. The public sense was dull to the distant mischief; but present calamity strikes strongly and suddenly. —Three months nursed the American lie; but the Minister cannot falsify Ireland. Three days detect him, and demonstrate the glories of that country and the disgrace of this; —her independence and our submission. We feel her torn from our side, and we bleed at every vein.

Such feeling is too poignant for patience. It rouses to action every remaining nerve of our strength, to rescue from instant loss the little that is left; –to preserve domestic security, though we have thrown away empire; to entrust the sacred relick to hearts that know its value, and hands that can defend it; and, above all, piously to perform the rites of the constitution: appeasing, by exemplary justice, the indignant manes of our power and our glory.

But in this necessary course of national justice, much difficulty is to be encountered from the generous prejudices of Englishmen. In favour of Ministers? No man will imagine it, in a reign, which has rendered synonimous the odium of the country and the favour of the crown. The fate of such favourites as have never before stained the annals of any reign in any country, will be unparalleled in history. Unqualified by any sentiment of respect for talents, admiration of magnanimity, or pity of any one virtue, the public execration that spares them not in their power, will overwhelm them in their fall; –the contempt that pursues them now will inspire peculiar indignation then, that such usurpers of power should have been enabled and permitted so to fall; –with the blind despair, but without the strength of the strong man, so to drag into ruin the mighty fabric of the British empire.

But difficulties of an high and delicate nature will arise in effecting the revolution of our liberties. They have arisen elsewhere; but the necessity of the commonwealth has surmounted them. Founded, however, in the generosities of ancient attachment, I know they are found in the heart of every Englishman.

Eighteen years of tory-rule cannot have entirely detached THE WHIGS of England from the house of Hanover. The memory of an illustrious ancestry, and gratitude to their virtues, must qualify resentment of present wrongs, with an affectionate kind of sorrow; and sorrow, in generous minds, soon grows to pity. Crimes then are lost in misfortunes; or if remembered, we wish to reclaim rather than to punish. Or even, if obstinacy be irreclaimable, we have still some hope in the future, from our knowledge of the past. A dishonoured reign may pass away in our annals, like a cloudy day in summer; and if the day be not too long, nor the tempest too violent, the glories of the succeeding morning may answer our hopes and renew our happiness.

But to tranquilise, if possible, the present scene, by reconciling our affection to a particular family, with our duty to the country, let us endeavour to win attention before we force it. Let us convince by reason rather than by power; and try to prevent the mischief by the example of others, rather than correct it by our own.

It was proposed in my last paper to consider the fact of disunion from this country, as it has occurred in America and Ireland, in demonstration of the maxim that I there advanced against the parliamentary confidence of arbitrary men. From the fatal example of those countries, I undertook to prove, that majorities in parliament are ruinous to this Sovereign and his Ministers, in proportion to the support they are induced to give them aginast the sense of the people.

In America the people were unanimous against certain powers claimed by their late king, and attempted to be exercised by his ministers: but the monarch persisted against his people; and has lost his American throne. So far the fact stands undisputed. Now let us consider whether his ministers and their majorities in parliament have not affected the ruin of his royalty, while they flattered his ambition, and seemed to support his power.

It is beyond any common calculation of obstinacy, that the American war would have been persisted in, if the monarch had not been infatuated by those monstrous majorites which his ministers, by every monstrous means, procured in parliament. I say, by every monstrous means: for besides the court-corruption that prevails in all cases, new and unheard-of wickedness prevailed in this. Falsification of fact was not indeed new in the minister; but in the magnitude of this instance, it took peculiar criminality. Suppression of every truth, universal fraud, and basest misrepresentation, blinded the reason of men; while every seductive and inflammatory art perverted and poisoned their passions. Without such impulse, no monarch, however blind or obstinate, would have persisted in such a war; without such support, he could not have drawn the sword from year to year against his people.

But even if such had been the situation; if the royal standard had been erected against the liberties of America, he could not have lost his American Crown more absolutely than he has by act of parliament. I believe he would not have lost it so certainly. America would have conquered the King, and more speedily perhaps than she conquered the King and Parliament; but her magnanimity might have forgotten the idle ambition of a foolish Prince; though she will never forgive, in prudence or in spirit, the formal tyranny of a grave Legislature.

My reader may have been surprized and shocked, when I asserted the fact of Ireland being now disunited from this country; because he may have listened to the tales of Ministers, and the impudent inventions of their advocates. But I assert again and again, that Ireland is at this moment in an actual state of disunion from us; disunion of commerce, disunion of finance, disunion of military strength, and disunion of national affection. Such is the fact; and therefore I expect to hear the Minister assure Parliament of the contrary.

If Parliament continue any faith in the wisdom or truth of the man, whose folly and fallacies misled them to cast America from us, the present disunion of Ireland, which their marked servility to him at the close of the last Session has already produced, and their preposterous support of him at the beginning of this has already strongly confirmed, will be ratified for ever. I state the fact of their resentment, without now going into the discussion of their wrongs: but their resentment is expressly and pointedly against the British Parliament. They exhaust all their eloquence against it in their debates; and when they want terms to express its tyranny, its avarice, its insensibility to every thing honourable or just, they say that the British Parliament and the British Minister are synonimous.

December, 1779.

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Filed under 1790's, Legal, Posted by Carrie Shanafelt

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