Item of the Day: Cui bono? (1781)

Full Title: Cui Bono? Or, An Inquiry, What Benefits Can Arise Either to the English or the Americans, the French, Spaniards, or Dutch, from the Greatest Victories, or Successes, in the Present War? Being a Series of Letters, Addressed to Monsieur Necker, Late Controller General of the Finances of France. By Josiah Tucker, D.D. Dean of Glocester. Glocester: Printed by R. Raikes, for T. Cadell, in the Strand; Sold also by Evans and Hazell, in Glocester, M.DCC.LXXXI. [1781]

LETTER I.

TO MONSIEUR NECKER.

Cui Bono?

SIR,

A MAN who has distinguished himself in such critical Times as the present, in the difficult and envied Station of Controller-General of the Finances of France, is certain of being attacked, and as sure of being defended, by Multitudes of Writers. You have experienced the Effects of both Parties; and are, perhaps, by this Time, sufficiently cloyed with the Flattery of the one, and grown callous to the Censures of the other. Therefore it is natural for you to conclude, that when any other Writer is bringing your Name again before the Public, he is only repeating what you have so often heard. —But if you, Sir, will honour these Letters with a careful Perusal, you will find hardly one Thing in them similar to what you have read before, and yet many of them, perhaps, not unworthy of your serious Attention.

As I wish to treat you with all the Respect due to your distinguished Character; and as my Aim, in the Prosecution of my Subject, is entirely the Good of Mankind; I presume it is unnecessary, as a Stranger to your Person, to apologize for the Liberty I take in thus addressing you. And here allow me to observe, that I was favoured with the Correspondence of your Predecessor, Mons. Turgot, both during the Time he was in Office, and after his Resignation; —and that I am the same Person, of whose Writings Mons. Necker himself has sometimes condescended to make mention; and more particularly at that Juncture, when the idle Project of invading England, became the general Topic of Conversation throughout Europe.

Setting, therefore, all Apologies aside, and endeavouring to divest myself of national Partialities, and local Prejudices, to the utmost of my Power, I now enter on the Work proposed, not as an Englishman, but as a Citizen of the World; not as having an inbred Antipathy against France, but as a Friend of the whole human Species.

Whatever were your private Views, either of Interest, or of Honour, in publishing your Compte Rendu, the Example you have set deserves universal Commendation. And it is greatly to be wished, that it were made a fundamental Law in all arbitrary Governments, that each Minister, in the grand Departments of Trust and Power, should publish annual Accounts of his respective Administration; —Accounts I mean, which could stand the Test of an open and impartial Scrutiny, free from those false Colourings, and wilful Misrepresentations, with which yours have been so frequently and expressly charged; and from which I fear you have not yet been able to clear yourself to general Satisfaction.

But waving every Thing of this Nature, (because I do not intend to be either your Advocate, or your Accuser) and taking for granted, what you do not wish to conceal, that the grand Design of the Government, under which you live, in ordering your Account to be made Public, was to shew the World, that France had so many Resources still remaining, as would exhaust and ruin England in the Progress of this war; —I will here suppose, for Argument Sake, that every Thing has succeeded, or shall succeed according to the warmest Wishes of the most bigotted Frenchman, Poor England is no more! Non modo delenda, sed penitus deleta est Carthage! In short, the Lillies of France, like the Eagles of Rome, are every where triumphant!

Well, my good Sir, after all this Expence and Trouble, after so much Hurry and Confusion in subduing this devoted Island, after such repeated Victories, and immortal Fame, —will you permit us to rest a while, and to take a Breath: —And since the French have now raised their Nation to this Pinnacle of Glory, let us pause a little, to view the extended Prospect so far below us? —This is all the Boon I ask, and in granting this, I hope we shall be induced to think in the next Place, (for we have not yet thought upon the Matter) what would be the inevitable Consequences of these mighty Revolutions, now so ardently desired by every Frenchman, were Providence to permit them to pass.

Such a Subject is surely of Importance, to the Welfare and Happiness of Mankind. And this is the Subject I propose for the ensuing Letter. In the mean Time, I own I am under a strong Temptation to add a few Words concerning the infatuated Conduct of my own Country-men, the English, in the former War, as a Warning and Memento [sic] to future Politicians.

Almost thirty Years ago, when the Colonists in America were at least fifty to one more in Number than the Handful of Men, who could have invaded them from Canada, —I say, when these fifty undaunted Heroes, of the true English Breed, pretended to be afraid of one Frenchman — Common Sense might have taught us to have suspected the Truth of such pretended Fears; — Common Sense also might have suggested the Expediency of pausing a while, and of examining into Facts, particualry relating to the Fur-trade, before we rushed into Hostilities on such weak and frivolous Pretences: —Lastly, Common Sense might have told us that it would be bad Policy to put these turbulent and factious Colonies above Controul, (if we really thought them worth the keeping) and of placing them in that very State of Independance [sic], which they had ever wished for, and had been constantly aiming at. —I say, Common Sense might have suggested all these Things, if we had not disdained to ask the Advice of such a Counsellor. Nay more; —there was a Man at that very Time, who remonstrated strongly against the Absurdity, not to say Injustice of such Proceedings. —He shewed, with an Evidence not attempted to be invalidated, that the Americans had not assigned a sufficient Cause for going to War for their Sakes; —and that their pretended Dangers either of being driven into the Sea, or of being put between two Fires (the constant Cry, and Clamour at that Juncture in all our Public Papers) were mere Imposture, and Grimace. —And what is beyond all, he offered to prove from the English Custom-House Books of Entries or Imports, that the Quantity of Furs brought into England from America was almost double to what it had been in former Times, instead of being monopolized (as was asserted) by the French: —Though I must own, that had this really been the Case, it would have been something new in the Annals of the World, that a great Nation, and a civilized People had made War on another Natin, because the latter had bought more Skins of Cats, Foxes, Badgers, and of such Sort of Vermin, than the former had been able to do. —Lastly the same Person ventured to foretel in the most direct Terms, that the driving of the French from the English back Settlements would be the Signal to the Colonies, to meditate a general Revolt. But alas! he was preaching to the Winds and Waves: —Some would not vouchsafe an Answer to his Letters; —others were pleased to tell him that the American Colonists were better Judges of their own Dangers, than he had any Right to pretend to be; —and that the Reflections cast upon them for harbouring thoughts of Independance, and of planning Schemes of Rebellion, were base and scandalous, and utterly void of Foundation. Moreover, not a few plainly declared, that whosoeve should attempt to raise such Suspicions against the best of loyal Subjects, the faithful Americans, could be no other than a Spy in Disguise, and a Pensioner to France. (You, Sir, who so justly complain, that the several Pensions on the French List amount to the enormous Sum of Twenty-eight Millions of Livres, or about £.1,272,727. Sterling; —you, I say, can best tell, whether you have met with the Name of Tucker among the long Roll of English Mock Patriots, and French Pensioners.)

Now, as we have such a recent Example, before our Eyes of those fatal Consequences, which might have been prevented by a cool and timely Reflection; it is to be hoped, that the like blind, infatuated Part will not be acted over again; —but that the Powers at War will take Warning by the past, and consider, ‘ere it is too late, what would be the Effects of the present furious Contests, were they even to be crowned with all that Brilliancy and Success, which their own fond Hearts can wish, or desire.

With these Sentiments, and with just Esteem for your great Talents, I have the Honour to be,

SIR,

Your most obedient,

Humble Servant,

J.T.

 

 

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Filed under 1780's, Eighteenth century, England, Europe, Foreign Relations, France, Great Britain, Posted by Caroline Fuchs, Revolution

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