Category Archives: Great Britain

Item of the Day: Sir Henry Clinton’s Observations on the Answer of Cornwallis (1783)

Full Title: Observations on Some Parts of the Answer of Earl Cornwallis to Sir Henry Clinton’s Narrative. By Lieutenant-General Sir Henry Clinton, K.B. To which is added An Appendix; Containing Extracts of Letters and Other Papers, to which reference is necessary. London: Printed for J. Debrett, (Successor to Mr. Almon,) opposite Burlington-House, Piccadilly, M.DCC.LXXXIII. [1783]

 

WHEN I published a Narrative of my conduct during the period of my command in North America, which comprehends the campaign of 1781, I was in hopes I had said every thing that was requisite to explain the motives of my own actions, and to convince every unprejudiced person, that certain positions respecting them, advanced in Lord Cornwallis’s letter to me of the 20th of October, had no foundation. But it gives me extreme concern to observe, that his Lordship’s seeming to avow nearly the same sentiments in his Introduction to a late publication, styled, an Answer to that Narrative, lays me under the necessity of troubling the public again upon a subject, which they are probably tired of; and I sincerely wished to have done with. I hope, therefore, it may not be judged improper to request their attention to the following Observations on some of the opinions and assertions therein stated. Which (to be as concise as possible) I shall take according to the order in which they occur; — adding only, in an Appendix, the copies of such extracts from my correspondence, and other papers, as appear necessary.

I find upon enquiry that the four letters were omitted to be sent to the Secretary of State, which Lord Cornwallis mentions to have been wanting when the papers relating to this business were laid before the House of Lords. But the reasons for his Lordship’s march from Cross-creek to Wilmington, and from thence into Virginia (stated in the first of them) had been before given in his letters of the 23d and 24th of April, to the Secretary of State, General Phillips, and myself; and these stand the first of those letters from his Lordship’s correspondence, read before the House of Lords; the other three letters had been inserted in a pamphlet containing extracts from our correspondence, handed about at the time of the enquiry; and one of those pamphlets had been presented, by my order, to Lord Townshend, as a man of honour, and a friend to both parties, previous (I believe) to his noticing this omission to the House; and all the four missing letters were soon after published in the Parliamentary Register, along with those which had been read to the Lords. So that Lord Cornwallis could not well have sustained any injury by that omission. This, however, cannot be said to have been the case with mine of the 30th of November, and 2d of December to his Lordship, and of the 6th of December to his Lordship, and of the 6th of December to the American Minister; which were with-held, whilst Lord Cornwallis’s letters of the 20th of October and 2d of December (to which they were answers) were suffered to operate, for a long time, upon the minds of the public, to my prejudice. . . .

Every man of sensibility must lament that Lord Cornwallis has so indiscreetly availed himself of the liberty, he supposed was given him by the late change in American measures. For as my secret and most private letter to General Phillips, dated April 30, contained nothing necessary for this Lordship’s justification; the publishing it was highly impolite at least, not to say more—for reasons to obvious to need explanation. . . .

There remains little more necessary in reply to Lord Cornwallis’s introduction, but to observe, that the army and its followers in Virginia had been so increased in consequence of his Lordship’s move into that province; that it would have been impracticable to withdraw them by water (as his Lordship is pleased to suggest) for want of transports, even if the American minister had not directed me to support his Lordship there, and a pressing contingency had required it. And I must take the liberty to say, that the sending his Lordship’s corps back to South Carolina by land, would have been a most absurd idea for me to adopt after the opinions I had given of the risks it run in its former march by that route.

I shall now beg leave to conclude with an opinion, which I presume is deducible from the foregoing (I trust candid) review of circumstances. Which is, that Lord Cornwallis’s conduct and opinions, if they were not the immediate causes, may be adjudged to have at least contributed to bring on the fatal catastrophe which terminated the unfortunate campaign of 1781.

H. CLINTON

Harley -Street

April 3, 1783.

 [SEE ALSO: SIR HENRY CLINTON’S NARRATIVE and AN ANSWER TO SIR CLINTON’S NARRATIVE]

 

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Item of the Day: An Answer to the Narrative of Sir Henry Clinton (1783)

Full Title: An Answer to That Part of the Narrative of Lieutenant-General Sir Henry Clinton, K.B. Which relates to the conduct of Lieutenant-General Earl Cornwallis, during the Campaign in North-America, in the Year 1781. By Earl Cornwallis. London: Printed for J. Debrett, (Successor to Mr. Almon,) opposite Burlington-House, Piccadilly, M.DCC.LXXXIII. [1783]

 

THE

INTRODUCTION.

THE feelings, which dictate this publication, have originated from the contents of a Narrative, signed by Sir Henry Clinton, late Commander in Chief in America. In which Narrative events are attributed to my conduct during the campaign of 1781, which, I trust, it will appear, were by no means the unavoidable consequences of any part of it.

The materials, hitherto produced, cannot be deemed complete, either in form or substance. There were many deficiencies in the papers laid before the House of Lords; in particular, four letters, dated July 24th, August the 16th, 20th, and 22d, from me to Sir Henry Clinton, were wanting; one of which contained my reasons at large for undertaking the march into Virginia: This omission, as the Secretary of State informed the House, was owing to their not having been transmitted by the Commander in Chief. Four other letters (three of them dated the 2d, 27th, and 30th of August, and one the 14th, 15th, and 18th of October) from Sir Henry Clinton to me, were read to the Lords, according to the order of their dates; although they were only delivered to me, by the Secretary to the Commander in Chief, in the latter end of November, at New-York, above a month after my surrender; and consequently, their contents could not influence my conduct in any manner.

I own I am pefectly aware of the impropriety of publishing official letters for private reasons; but, since the measures with respect to America have now undergone a total change, I hope, I shall in some degree stand excused for producing the whole correspondence, in my possession, relative to the principal transactions of that campaign; as it is the most candid and complete mode, in my power, of submitting them to the public consideration.

The perusal of this Correspondence will, I think, render not only the military, but every other reader a competent judge of the propriety of my conduct, either when I acted under positive orders, pressing contingencies, or discretionary powers.

It is foreign to the present purpose, and I shall therefore not endeavour to enumerate the many difficulites, which I had to struggle with, in my command of the Southern district, previous to the march into North Carolina, in the beginning of the year 1781. This measure was thought expedient not only by me, but by the Commander in Chief: I was principally induced to decide in favour of its expediency from a clear conviction, that the men and treasures of Britain would be lavished in vain upon the American war, without the most active exertions of the troops allotted for service; and, that, while the enemy could draw their supplies from North Carolina and Virginia, the defence of the frontier of South Carolina, even against an inferior army, would be from its extent, the nature of the climate, and the dispostion of the inhabitants, utterly impracticable. The many untoward circumstances, which occurred during the four months succeeding the complete victory of Camden, had entirely confirmed me in this opinion. Our hopes of success, in offensive operations, were not founded only upon the efforts of the corps under my immediate command, which did not much exceed three thousand men; but principally, upon the most positive assurances, given by apparently credible deputies and emissaries, that, upon the appearance of a British army in North Carolina, a great body of the inhabitants were ready to join and co-operate with it, in endeavouring to restore his Majesty’s Government.

The disaster fo the 17th of January cannot be imputed to any defect in my conduct, as the detachment was certainly superior to the force against which it was sent, and put under the command of an officer of experience and tried abilities. This misfortune, however, did not appear irretrievable; and to have abandoned, without absolute necessity, the plan of the campaign, would have been ruinous and disgraceful: ruinous, by engaging us in a defensive system, the impracticability of which I have already stated; and disgraceful, because the reasons for the undertaking still existed in their full strength, the public faith was pledged to our friends in North Caroline, and I believed my remaing force to be superior to that under the command of General Greene. That this opinion was well founded, the precipitate retreat of that General from North Carolina, and our victory at Guildford, after his return with Virginian reinforcements, are sufficient proofs.

The unexpected failure of our friends rendered the victory of Guildford of little value. I know that it has been asserted or insinuated that they were not sufficiently tried upon this occasion: But can any dispassionate person believe, that I did not give every encouragement to people of all descriptions to join and assist us, when my own reputation, the safety of the army, and the interests of my country, were so deeply concerned in that junction and assistance? All inducements in my power were made use of without material effect; and every man in the army must have been convinced, that the accounts of our emissaries had greatly exaggerated the number of those who professed friendship for us, as they must have observed, that a very inconsiderable part of them could be prevailed upon to remain with us, or to exert themselves in any form whatever. . . .

 [SEE ALSO: SIR HENRY CLINTON’S NARRATIVE and SIR HENRY CLINTON’S RESPONSE TO CORNWALLIS’ ANSWER]

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Item of the Day: Narrative of Lieutenant-General Sir Henry Clinton (1783)

Full Title: Narrative of Lieutenant-General Sir Henry Clinton, K.B. Relative to his Conduct during Part of his Command of the King’s Troops in North America; Particularly to that which respects the unfortunate Issue of the Campaign in 1781. With an Appendix, Containing Copies and Extracts of those Parts of his Correspondence with Lord George Germain, Earl Cornwallis, Rear Admiral Graves, &c. Which are referred to therein. London: Printed for J. Debrett (successor to Mr. Almon) opposite Burlington-house, Piccadilly, 1783.

 

Being conscious, that during my command in North America, my whole conduct was actuated by the most ardent zeal for the King’s service, and the interests of the public, I was exceedingly mortified, when I returned to England, after a service of seven years in that country, to find that erroneous opinions had gone forth respecting it; and that many persons had, in consequence, admitted impressions to my prejudice. Anxious, therefore, to explain what had been misinterpreted or misrepresented, (as indeed might well be expected, from the publication of Lord C.’s letter of the 20th of Ocotber, without being accompanied by my answer to it) I had proposed taking an opportunity, in the House of Commons, of saying a few words on such parts of my conduct as seemed not to be sufficiently understood: and I flatter myself I should have been able to make it appear, that I acted up to the utmost of my powers, from the beginning to the end of my command; and that none of the misfortunes of the very unfortunate campaign of 1781 can, with the smallest degree of justice, be imputed to me.

But I arrived here so late in the session, that I was advised to defer it; and it was judged that the gracious reception I had just met with from my Sovereign rendered an immediate explanation unnecessary. I was not, however, apprised to what degree the public prejudice had been excited against me else, I should probably have been induced to have taken an earlier opportunity of offering to Parliament what I have to say on the subject. But the late change in public affairs, furnishing so much more important matter for their deliberation, deprived me of the opportunity I thought I should have had: and, as by the present recess it is probable that I may not be able to execute my intentions before a late period, when perhaps peculiar circumstances might force me through delicacy to decline it, I beg leave to lay before the public the following plain Narrative, which will, I trust, remove prejudice and error.

I have much to regret that, when this business was discussed in the House of Lords last session of Parliament, the whole of my correspondence with the late American Minister, Lieutenant General Earl Cornwallis, and the Admirals commanding on the West-India and American stations, was not produced, or at least such parts thereof as, being necessary to explain my conduct, might have appeared consistently with state policy. Because the letters which compose that correspondence, being written to the moment as events happened, are certainly the most faithful records of my actions and intentions; and are consequently the clearest, fairest, and most unexceptionable testimonies I can adduce in their support. I hope, therefore, I shall stand exculpated from the necessity of the case, for any impropriety there may be in my annexing to this letter such of them as I may judge most requisite for that purpose. Three of them indeed, will, I presume, be found very material, (Appendix No. IX.) as they contain my answers and observations upon Lord Cornwallis’s letters of the 20th of October and 2d of December on the subject of the unfortunate conclusion of the last campaign in the Chesapeak; —which latter I am sorry to observe, were given to the public, while mine in answer were witheld from it; —I hope without design.

Although I never dared promise myself that any exertions of mine, with my very reduced force (nearly one-third less than that of my predecessor) could bring the war to a happy conclusion; yet I confess that the campaign of 1781 terminated very differently from what I once flattered myself it would; as may appear, by the subjoined extracts of lettes, written in the beginning of that year, and which were transmitted to the Minister. I was led, however, into these hopes, more by the apparent distresses of the enemy than any material success we had met with. . . .

 

NUMBER IX.

Copy of a Letter from Sir Henry Clinto to Earl Cornwallis, dated New York, 2d and 10th December, 1781

[This letter was not read in the House of Lords.]

My Lord,

As your Lordship is please, in your letter of this day, to revert to the circumstance of your quitting Williamsburg Neck and repassing the James River, so contrary to the intentions I wished to express in my letters of the 11th and 15th of June, and those referred to by them, and which I thought they would have clearly explained. Your Lordship will, I hope, forgive me, if I once more repeat that I am of opinion, if those letters had been properly understood by your Lordship, you would at least have hesitated before you adopted that measure. For I humbly presume it will appear, upon a reperusal of them, that it was my desire to recommend to your Lordship the taking a healthy defensive station, either at Williamsburg or York; and, after keeping what troops you might want for the ample defence of such a post, and sesultory movements by water, so send me such a proportion of the corps (mentioned in a list) as you could spare, taking them in the succession they are there placed. YOur Lordship, on the contrary understood these as conveying a positive order to send me three thousand men, (by which you say your force would have been reduced to about two thousand four hundred rank and file fit for duty; —having, it is presumed, above 1500 sick) and was pleased to tell me, in your anser, that you could not, consisten with my plans, make safe defensive posts at York and Gloucester, (both of which would be necessary for the protection of shipping): and that you should immediately repass James River, and take measures for complying with my requisition.

I own, my Lord, that my opinion of the obvious meaning of the letters referred to, continues still the same; and I am exceedingly sorry to find, by the letter you have now honoured me with, that it differs so widely from your Lordship’s. It is plain, however, we cannot both be in the right. . . .

[SEE ALSO: AN ANSWER TO THE NARRATIVE OF SIR HENRY CLINTON and SIR HENRY CLINTON’S RESPONSE TO CORNWALLIS’ ANSWER]

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Item of the Day: A New Discourse of Trade [1745]

Full Title: A New Discourse of Trade: Wherein Are recommended several weighty Points, relating to Companies of Merchants; The Act of Navigation, Naturalization of Strangers, and our Woollen Manufactures. The Balance of Trade, And Nature of Plantations; with their Consequences, in relation to the Kingdom, are seriously discussed. Methods for the Employment and Maintenance of the Poor are proposed. The Reduction of Interest of Money to 4 l. per cent. is recommended. And some Proposals for erecting a Court of Merchants, for determining Controversies relating to Maritime Affairs, and for a Law for Transferring of Bills of Debts, are humbly offer’d. To which is added, A short, but most excellent Treatise of Interest. By Sir Josiah Child, Baronet. Fourth Edition. London: Printed for J. Hodges, on London-Bridge; W. Meadows at the Angel in Cornhill; C. Corbet, against St. Dunstan’s Churdd, Fleet Stree; J. Jackson, at St. James Gate; J. Stagg, in Westminster-Hall; and J. Bevill, near S. Saviours Church, Southwark, [1745].

 

CHAP. II.

Concerning the Relief and Employment of the Poor.

 

THIS is a calm subject, and thwarts no common or private interest amongst us, except that of the common enemy of mankind, the Devil; so I hope that what shall be offered towards the effecting of so universally acceptable a work as this, and the removal of the innumerable inconveniencies that do now, and have in all ages attended this Kingdom, through defect of such provision for the Poor will not be ill taken , altho’ the plaister at first essay do not exactly fit the sore.

In the discourse of this subject, I shall first assert some particuclars, which I think are agreed by common consent, and from thence take occasion to proceed to what is more doubtful.

1.  That our Poor in England have always been in a most sad and wretched condition, some famished for want of bread, others starved with cold and nakedness, and many whole families in the out-parts of cities and great towns, commonly remain in a langishing, nasty, and useless condition, uncomfortable to themselves, and unprofitable to the Kingdom, this in confessed and lamented by all men.

2.  That the Children of our Poor bred up in beggary and laziness, do by that means become not only of unhealthy bodies, and more than ordinarily subject to many loathsome diseases, of which very many die in their tender age, and if any of them do arrive to years and strength, they are, by their idle habits contracted in their youth, rendered for ever after indisposed to labour, and serve but to stock the Kingdom with thieves and beggars.

3.  That if all our impotent Poor were provided for, and those of both sexes and all ages that can do any work of any kind, employed, it would redound some hundred of thousands of pounds per annum to the publick advantage.

4.  That it is our duty to god and Nature, so to provide for, and employ the Poor.

5.  That by so doing one of the great sins, for which this land ought to mourn, would be removed.

6. That our Forefathers had pious intentions towards this good work, as appears by many statutes made by them to this purpose.

7.  That there are places in the world, wherein the poor are so provided for, and employed, as in Holland, Hamborough, New-England, and others, and as I am informed, now in the city of Paris.

Thus far we all agree: the first question then that naturally occurs, is,

Question 1. How comes it to pass that in England we do not, nor ever did, comfortably maintain and employ our Poor?

The common answers to this question are two.

1.  That our Laws to this purpose are as good as any in the world, but we fail in the execution.

2.  That formerly in the days of our pious ancestors the work was done, but now charity is deceased, and that is the reason we see the Poor so neglected as now they are.

In both which answers, I humbly conceive, the effect is mistaken for the cause; for though it cannot be denied, but there has been, and is, a great failure in the execution of those Statutes which relate to the Poor, yet I say, the cause of that failure, has been occasioned by defect of the laws themselves.

For otherwise, what is the reason that in our late times of confusion and alteration, wherein almost every party in the Nation, at one time or other, took their turn at the helm, and all had that compass, those laws, to steer by, that none of them could, or ever did, conduct the Poor into a harbour of security to them, and profit for the Kingdom, i.e. none sufficiently maintained the impotent, and employed the indigent amongst us: And if this was never done in any age, nor by any sort of men whatsoever in this Kingdom, who had the use of those laws now in force, it seems to me a very strong argument that it never could, nor ever will be done by those laws, and that consequently the defect lies in the laws themselves, not in the men, i. e. those that should put them in execution.

As to the second answer to the aforesaid question, wherein want of charity is assigned for another cause why the poor are now so much neglected, I think it is a scandalous ungrounded accusation of our contemporaries, except in relation to building of Churches, which I confess this generation is not so propense to as former have been, for most that I converse with, are not so much troubled to part with their money, as how to place it, that it may do good, and not hurt the Kingdom: for, if they give to the beggrs in the streets, or at their doors, they fear they may do hurt by encouraging that lazy unprofitable kind of life; and if they give more than their proportions in thier respective parishes, that, they say, is but giving to the rich, for the poor are not set on work thereby, nor have the more given them; but only their rich neighbours pay the less. And of what was given in churches to the visited poor, and to such as were impoverished by the fire; we have heard of so many and great abuses of that kind of charity, that most men are under sad discouragements in relation thereto. . . .

 

 

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Item of the Day: Sheffield on American Commerce (1784)

Full Title: Observations on the Commerce of the American States. By John Lord Sheffield. With an Appendix; Containing Tables of the Imports and Exports of Great Britain to and from all Parts, from 1700 to 1783. Also, the Exports of America, &c. With Remarks on those Tables, on the Trade and Navigation of Great Britain, and on the late Proclamation, &c. The Sixth Edition, Enlarged with a Complete Index to the Whole. London: Printed for J. Debrett, opposite Burlington House, Piccadilly, M,DCC,LXXXIV. [1784]

 

INTRODUCTION.

SINCE the first publication of this work upwards of a year has elapserd, and no less than seven professed answers have appeared; I am not, however, convinced that they disprove one material fact, or confute one essential argument. Many parts, indeed, are misquoted or mis-stated, and others are misunderstood.

It is the opinion of all with whom I have conversed, that those pamphlets do not require any answer; but as they contain strong assertions, which may perplex or deceive, and as many people may not have taken the trouble of informing themselves sufficiently to see that they are in general without foundation, it is perhaps due to the public, to shew that their authors proceeded upon grounds that are fallacious, and that not one of them fairly meets the question.

I do not mean to enter the lists in the way of controversy, as such a labour would be almost endless, and would afford no gratification either to the public or myself — To expose their numberless absurdities and misrepresentations, I should indeed be obliged to comment on almost every page they have written; several of their errors, however, are marked in the notes to the following work, and some others will be noticed in this introduction. Had some of them not been quite so angry, they would possibly have reasoned better: they must excuse me if I do not think it worth while to be angry in my turn; I have no object but to discover and lay open the truth for the public benefit.

The pamphlet which first appeared, and is entitled “A Letter from an American to a Member of Parliament,” does not attempt, even in the most distant manner, to disprove a single fact, or to answer a single argument that I have advanced, unless by asserting, for truths, the greatest extravagancies, without even a shadow of proof to support them. The following is a specimen of this author’s knowledge: —He says, that the American States can now supply the West Indies with beef, butter, tallow candles, soap, beer, and even bar iron, cheaper than Europe — but enough of such a writer. The second pamphlet is entitled “Considerations on the present Situation of Great Briatian and the Untied States of America; particularly designed to expose the dangerous Tendency of Lord Sheffield’s Observation,” &c. This appears to claim more attention. The author informs us, that he has spent the summer in collecting materials; but he gives no authority for the calculations he has produced, or the tables he has inserted: wherever he found them, they differ materially from the Custom-house entries both of Briatian and America, and contradict them in very frequent instances; many facts advanced, as from those entries, are found to be without foundation, or enormously exagerated. The author says, the Americans formerly took 25,000 hogsheads of sugar annually from our islands. The Americans had no motive for entering less sugar at the Customs House than what they actually imported from those islands; yet certainly their importations from thence never, in any year, exceeded 6700 hogsheads, reckoning only 1000 cwt. to the hogshead. The exaggeration of the account he gives of the quantity of refined sugar taken from hence, is equally great. Above 150 pages of his work are filled with calculations and assertions, hazarded without any apparent authority: the article relative to shipping is the most extraordinary of the whole; it is entirely built on an erroneous foundation, and therefore the deductions from it must be fallacious. The same author argues, that the American States, although now foreign, ought to be indulged with nearly all the commercial privileges which they enjoyed whilst British subjects; that in return they will supply our West-India islands with provisions, lumber, &c. and take from thence sugar, rum, &c. That they will become our ship builders, we being unable to build ships but at an intolerable loss. Singular as this mode of reasoning is, it is completely of a piece with all his other disquisitions. He holds out this farther advantage to us, That the Americans will take our manufactures when they cannot get the same articles cheaper, better, and on longer credit, than elsewhere. This work at first appeared anaonymous, but a second editon is now published with the name of Richard Champion, Esq. late Deputy Paymaster, &c. with many additions; which serve however only to confirm what was sufficiently evident before, that the author had no sufficient grounds for his former assertions. He seems now to give up the extraordinary account of sugar, and complains that he has been misquoted, particularly as to the shipping. I had no intention of quoting his every words, nor professed to do so; the mistake, as to his meaning, has been general among those whom I have heard mention that passage; but my observation is omitted in the present editon; and it is unnecessary to state particulary what he has said, because no part of his argument is admissible, from the entire want of authority. . . .

 

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Item of the Day: The Honourable Charles James Fox (1801)

Found In: Public Characters of 1798-9. The Third Edition. Enlarged and Corrected to the 20th of April, 1801. To Be Continued Annually. London: Printed for R. Phillips, No. 71, St. Paul’s Church Yard; and sold by T. Hurst, J. Wallie and West and Hughes, Paternoster-Row; Carpenter and Co. Old Bond-Street; R. H. Westley, Strand; and by all other booksellers, 1801.

 

THE HONOURABLE (LATELY RIGHT HONOURABLE)

CHARLES JAMES FOX.

ALL the great men of the present day are either the offspring of, or immediately descended from, new families. The ancient nobility repose under the laurels of their ancestors. Not deigning to apply to any of the learned professions, and deeming commerce and agriculture unworthy of their pursuits (a few illustrious characters excepted) they delegate their domestic concerns to the care of their upper servants, and not unfrequently the business of the nation is entrusted to their proxies. This, perhaps, will be the best apology for the multitude of the plebeian scions, recently engrafted on the stock of ancient aristocracy; and, although it may puzzle Garter, Norroy, and Clarencieux, to find them either arms or ancestors, certain it is, that the life-blood of nobility has been infused into the peerage through the conduit of democracy.

It may also be necessary to preface this article with another observation, of which some of the most conspicious characters of the present political drama, afford more than one pregnant instance: that the younger sons of our nobility are more successful in their political efforts, than the elder. This may be easily accounted for: the heir to a great fortune, and an illustrious title, knows not how soon both may devolve upon him; and when that event takes place, to what further object can his expectations point? He finds that he has been born a legislator, and that a large fortune is intailed upon his person; here, then, are wealth and honours not only within his grasp, but actually in his possission. It is otherwise with the juniro brances, for they have in general but little in possesion, and every thing to look for; they inhereit all the exquisite relish for pleasure that their seniors enjoy to satiety, and are only deficient in the means of gratification. Like the dove of Noah, they scarcely find a resting-place for the soles of their feet, on their own earth; and they are exactly in the situation of an invading general who has burnt his ships, for they must go on, or perish!

Charles James Fox is the younger son of Henry, who was himself a younger son of Sir Stephen Fox, celebrated less for his own birth, than the circumstance of being a father at the age of eighty, an event not incredible, however, and rendered, in the present instance, unsuspicious, by the decorous conduct, and acknowledged virtue of the partner of his bed. Henry entered early into public life, and such was his address in parliament, during the reign of George II. that he soon attained not only some of the most arduous and honourable but also the most lucrative situations in the gift of the crown; for, in the year 1754, he was appointed secretary at war; then secretary of state for the southern department; and, after being ousted by the great Mr. Pitt, less celbrated uner the name of Earl of Chatham, we find him filling the immensely beneficial office of pay-master general of the forces, accumulating great wealth, and thereby incurring the animadversions of the first city of the empire. Such, indeed, was his consequence, that at a time when patents of peerage were not very common, he was ennobled by his present Majesty, in 1763, by the title of Baron Holland of Foxley.

His son, Charles James, was born January 13th, 1749, and if on his father’s side he classed among the novi homines, by his mother’s, his descent must be allowed to be illustrious; for Lady Georgiana Carolina Lenox was the daughter of the late Duke of Richmond; and, as such, in addition to that of the King of Sardinia, she was allied to the two rival, but related families, which had so long contested the throne of Great Britain — those of Brunswick and Stuart.

But it is not to such claims as these that the future historian will have recourse; he will dwell with ardour on the early promise of a genius, the precocious talents of the boy, the matured wisdom of the philosopher and the statesman; and while the ablilities and virtues that adorn the character of his hero bring him forward on the canvas, these inefficient and involuntry pretensions will be cast into the shade, and scarcely be distinguished in the background. . . .

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Item of the Day: Letter from Charles Carroll to James McHenry (1800)

Full Title: Manuscript letter from Charles Carroll to Secretary of War, James McHenry, November 4, 1800.

 

Annapolis, 4th Nov. 1800

I regret my absence form this city when Mr. Caldwell brought your letter of the 21st past, as it deprived me of shewing those attentions & that civility to which his character & his connection with you justly entitled him.

I hoped to have had the pleasure of a visit from you at the Manor. I wished much to see you to discourse on a variety of subjects & particularly on the present critical situation of this country. The President remarks that we are fallen upon evil times. I fear a great part of the evil may be attributed to his shifting conduct, his passions, his indescretion, vanity & jealousy. I had a high opinion of Mr. Adams, & still I believe him to be an honest man, but his integrity cannot compensate for his weaknesses, which unfit him for his present station. With a competition for places & power between the friends & opposers of the administration the only object of the contest, it would be a matter of indifference to me by what party the governt. should be administered. If Mr. Adams should be reelected I fear our Constitution would be more injured by his unruly passions, anitpathies & jealousy, than by the whimsies of Jefferson. I am not acquainted with the characters of the leaders of the opposition but it is to be apprehanded [sic], that to obtain & retain power they might sacrifice the true interests & real independence of this country to France. Judge Duvall says that now well informed man can doubt of there being a british faction among us wishing to establish a monarchy in lieu of a republican govent. If he unites the north I own I am not one of the number of the well informed. I know of no such faction; if it exists & is endeavouring to effect such a change, its attempts should be crushed. If our country should continue to be the sport of parties, if the mass of the people should be exasperated & roused to pillage the more wealthy, social order will be subverted, anarchy will follow, succeeded by despotism; these changes have in that order of succession taken place in France. Yet the men so far as I am informed, who stile themselves republicans, very generally wish success to France; in other words, the friends of freedom here are the friends of Bounaparte, who has established by a military force the most despotic government in Europe; how are we to reconcile this contradiciton of their avowed principles? Is their aversion to the English constitution the cause of this inconsistency? Do they consider the naval power of that nation as the strongest barrier to the revolutionary arts by which all the rulers of France, each in their turn, have endeavoured & are endeavouring to weaken & subvert all othe governments, that France may establish an influence over all, & thus become too powerful? They dare not avow the sentiments, yet their wishes & their conduct point to it. I wish the british to retain the empire of the seas, while the rulers of France are activated by such motives; the decided naval superiority of Britain is ye only effectual check to ye ambition of that republick; the true interests and independence of this country require that those rival nations should be balanced.

If the people of this coutnry were united it would have nothing to fear from foreign powers; but unhappily this is not the case. Many of the opposers of the present administration, I suspect want a change of the federal constitution; if that should be altered or weakened so as to be rendered a dead letter, it will not answer the purposes of its formation and will expire from mere inanity: other confederacies will start up & ye scene of ye Grecian states after an interval of more than two thousand years will be renewed on this contintent, & some Philip or Bounaparte will met the whole of them into one mass of despotism.

These events will be hastened by the pretended philosophy of France; divine revelation has been scoffed at by the Philosophers of the present day, the immortality of the soul treated as the dreams of fools, or the invention of knaves, & death has been declared by public authority an eternal sleep; these opinions are gaining ground amont us & silently saping the foundations of religion & encouragement of good, the terror of evildoers and the consolation of the poor, the miserable, and the distressed. Remove the hope & dread of future reward & punishment, the most powerful restraint on wicked action, & ye strongest inducement to virtuous ones is done away. Virtue, it may be said, is its own reward; I believe it to be so, and even in this life the only soruce of happiness, and this intimate & necessary connection between virtue & happiness here, & between vice & misery, is to my mind one of the surest pledge of happiness or misery in a future state of existence. But how few practice virtue merely for its own reward? Some of happy dispositon & temperament, calm reflecting men, exempt in a great degree form the turbulance of passions may be vituous for vitrtue’s sake. Small however is the number who are guided by reason alone, & who can always subject their passions to its dictates. He can thust act may be said to be virtuous, but reason is often inlisted on the side of the passions, or at best, when most waanted, is weakest. Hence the necessity of a superior motive for acting virtuously; Now, what motive can be stronger than ye belief, founded on revelation, that a virtuous life will be rewarded by a happy immortality? Without mortals a republic cannot subsist any length of time; they therefore, who are decrying the Christian religion, whose morality is so sublime & pure, which denounces against the wicked eternal misery, & insures to the good eternal happiness are underming the solid foundation of morals, the best security for the duration of free government.

If there be force in this reasoning what judgement ought we to form of our pretended republicans, who admire & applaud the proceedings of the revolutionary France!

These disclaimers in favor of freedom and equality act in such a questionable shape that I cannot help suspecting their sincerity.

This is a long & preaching letter and I fear a tedious & dull one, but you wished to know my sentiments about the present parties & impending fate of our country, and I could not give them without developing the reasons for my opinion. You see that I almost despair of the Commonwealth. The end of every legitimate government is the security of life, liberty and property: if this country is to be revolutionised none of these will be secure. Perhaps the leaders of the opposition, when they get into office, may be content to let the Constitution remain as it is, & may pursue the policy & measures of Washington’s administration, but what will become in that case of their consistency? Patriots you will say are not always consistent; granted, yet other patriots and opposers will arise to arraign this inconsistency, & the storm once raised, who will stop its fury?

Celui que met un pein a la fureur des flots

Sait aussi des mechans arreter les complots

My only hope is in that being who educes good out of evil. May he in his abundant mercy incline the hearts of our countrymen to tpeace, justice and concord.

I have read Mr. Hamilton’s pamphlet; the drift of its publication at this time I conjecture was not so mcuh with a view of vindicating his character as to prevent the electors in Massachusetts from scattering their votes in order to secure the election of Mr. Adams in preference to Mr. Pinckney. All with whom I have conversed, blame however Mr. Hamilton and consider his publication as ill timed, altho I pay a deference to the opinions of others, whose motives I know to be good, yet I cannot help differing from them in this instance. The assertions of the pamphlet I take it for granted are true, and if true, surely it must be admitted that Mr. Adams is not fit to be president, and his unfitness should be made known to the electors, and ye public. I conceive it a species of treason to conceal from the publick his incapacity . . .

Although your remaining rather a spectator of than an actor in the passing scenes is founded on a proper motive, yet you will find it impossible to retain an neutral character, nor do I think it fit you should. We ought all, each in our several spheres, to endeavour to set the publick mind right, & to administer antodotes to the poison that is widely spreading throughout the country.

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Filed under 1800's, Early Republic, Elections, Federalists, Foreign Relations, France, Great Britain, John Adams, Politics, Posted by Caroline Fuchs, United States