By a still greater fatality, Louis was persuaded to comply with the solicitations of the American colonists, to assist them in throwing off their allegiance to Britain. To rend these colonies from Britain, which had deprived France of Canada and Nova Scotia, was too flattering to French vanity and French desire of revenge. Turgot in vain protested that the first cannon that was fired would insure revolution; Louis consented to the American alliance, and thus set the seal to his own destruction. Bitterly did he rue this afterwards, still more bitterly was it rued by his queen when they both saw the fatal infection of Republicanism brought back from America by the army. When Turgot saw that this fatal war was determined upon, he retired before the wild rage of the noblesse and clergy, and from the ruinous weakness of the king. Minister after minister rapidly succeeded each other in the vain endeavour to keep up the old partial laws and privileges, the old extravagance and encumbrances, at the command of the king, and yet avert revolution. In turn Clugny, Necker, and Calonne withdrew discomfited.

Soon shall thy arm, unconquered Steam! afar

On the following evening Lord Melbourne, having explained why he resigned, said, "And now, my lords, I frankly declare that I resume office unequivocally and solely for this reason, that I will not abandon my Sovereign in a situation[463] of difficulty and distress, and especially when a demand is made upon her Majesty with which I think she ought not to complya demand, in my opinion, inconsistent with her personal honour, and which, if acquiesced in, would make her reign liable to all the changes and variations of political parties, and render her domestic life one constant scene of unhappiness and discomfort." The Whigs, therefore, returned to office, but not to power.

During this protracted agony of suspense and alarm business was almost at a standstill. Nobody seemed to think or talk of anything but the rebellionthe chances of success and the possibility of having to submit to a republic. There could not be a more striking proof of the inability of Lord Clarendon to cope with this emergency than his dealings with the proprietors of the World, a journal with a weekly circulation of only 500 or 600 copies, which subsisted by levying blackmail for suppressing attacks on private character. It was regarded as a common nuisance, and yet the Lord-Lieutenant took the editor into his confidence, held private conferences with him on the state of the country, and gave him large sums for writing articles in defence of law and order. These sums amounted to 1,700, and he afterwards gave him 2,000 to stop an action in the Court of Queen's Bench. Mr. Birch, the gentleman in question, was not satisfied with this liberal remuneration for his services; the mine was too rich not to be worked out, and he afterwards brought an action against Sir William Somerville, then Chief Secretary, for some thousands more, when Lord Clarendon himself was produced as a witness, and admitted the foregoing facts. The decision of the court was against Birch; but when, in February, 1852, the subject was brought before the House of Commons by Lord Naas, the Clarendon and Birch transactions were sanctioned by a majority of 92.

They were now only one hundred and twenty-seven miles from the capital, both Wade and Cumberland behind them, and Charles, notwithstanding the conditions on which they had come on from Macclesfield, still confidently and enthusiastically dwelt on the onward march to London, and his certain success. In the morning a council was held, when Lord George Murray appealed to the prince whether they had received the least accession of strength, or the smallest sign of encouragement? Such being the case, what hope was there for them in proceeding? They had barely five thousand men to contend against three armies, amounting at least altogether to thirty thousand. If they got to London before Cumberland, and if they managed to elude the army at Finchley, they had scarcely numbers to take quiet possession of London. But were they forced to fight the king and his army under the walls of the metropolis, they could not do it without loss; and then, supposing Wade and Cumberland to unite behind them, as they certainly would do, how could they hope to contend against them? Assistance from France, as they had pointed out, was hopeless whilst the English had such a force in the Channel. Charles listened to these arguments with undisguised[102] impatience, and the probability is that, had his officers been willing to follow him, and live or die in the enterprise, he would have seized London, and accomplished one of the most brilliant exploits in history.



On the 6th of Juneonly a fortnight after Howe's departurethe three Commissioners, Lord Carlisle, Mr. Eden, and Governor Johnstone, arrived. They learned with consternation and unspeakable chagrin this order for the evacuation of Philadelphia, and, still more, that so important a dispatch had been kept concealed from them. There was not a single circumstance in favour of the Commissioners. At the same moment that we were making this disastrous retreat from the hardly-won Philadelphia, publishing our weakness to the world, Congress had just received the mighty news of French alliance, French aid, and French ships and troops steering towards their coasts. The Commissioners came furnished with propositions the most honourable and favours the most absolute. They were authorised to offer to the Americans that no military forces should be maintained in the Colonies without the consent of the General Congress or of the Assembly of a particular State; that England would take measures to discharge the debts of America, and to give full value to its paper money; would admit an agent or agents from the States into the British Parliament, and send, if they wished it, agents to sit with them in their Assemblies; that each State should have the sole power of settling its revenue, and perfect freedom of internal legislation and governmentin fact, everything except total severance from the parent country. Such terms, conceded at the proper time, would have made war impossible; but the proper time was long past, and they were now useless. The Commissioners applied to Washington for a passport to Congress, in order to lay the proposals brought by the Commissioners before them. But Washington bluntly refused the passport; and only consented to forward the letter through the common post. Congress took time to deliberate on the contents of the letter, and then returned an answer through their President, that the Act of Parliament and the forms of the Commission all supposed the American States to be still subject to Great Britain, which had long ceased to be fact; and that Congress could listen to no overtures from the King of England until he had withdrawn his fleet and armies, and was prepared to treat with them as independent States. The Commissioners could only retire, leaving behind them a manifesto threatening the utmost severities of war.

On the 6th of March, Sir William Molesworth, with a view to bringing the whole colonial administration of the empire before the House of Commons, moved that an Address be presented to her Majesty, expressing the opinion of the House that in the present critical state of many of her foreign possessions "the Colonial Minister should be a person in whose diligence, activity, and firmness the House and the public may be able to place reliance;" and declaring that "her Majesty's present Secretary of State for the Colonies does not enjoy the confidence of the House or the country." The honourable baronet made a speech of two hours' duration, which was a dissertation on colonial policy, containing a survey of the whole of her Majesty's dominions in both hemispheres. He disclaimed all party considerations in bringing forward his motion, or any intention to make an invidious attack on Lord Glenelg. But as the colonies were so numerous, so diversified in races, religions, languages, institutions, interests, and as they were unrepresented in the Imperial Parliament, it was absolutely necessary that the colonial administration should be vigilant, prompt, sagacious, energetic, and firm. Lord Glenelg was wanting in these qualities, and the colonies were all suffering more or less from the errors and deficiencies of this ill-fated Minister, "who had, in the words of Lord Aberdeen, reduced doing nothing to a system." Lord Glenelg was defended by Lord Palmerston, who regarded the attack upon him as an assault upon the Cabinet, which would not allow one of its members to be made a scapegoat. The House divided, when the numbers wereayes, 287; noes, 316; majority for Ministers, 29. Nevertheless the Ministry were greatly damaged by the debate, which emphasised the growing Radical revolt. In the following year Lord Glenelg, having declined to exchange his office for the Auditorship of the Exchequer, resigned.