Sidor som bilder
PDF
ePub

subjects, but with the dignity of freemen, did we, with long patience, petition, supplicate, for a removal of our wrongs, new oppressions, insults and hostile troops were our answers!

When Britain shall pass from the stage of nations, it will be, indeed, with her glory, but it will also be with her shame. And, with shame, will her annals in nothing more be loaded than in this. That while in the actual possession of much relative freedom at home, it has been her uniform characteristic to let fall upon the remote subjects of her own empire, an iron hand of harsh and vindictive power. If, as is alleged in her eulogy, to touch her soil proclaims emancipation to the slave, it is more true, that when her sceptre reaches over that confined limit, it thenceforth, and as it menacingly waves throughout the globe, inverts the rule that would give to her soil this purifying virtue. Witness Scotland, towards whom her treatment, until the union in the last century, was marked, during the longest periods, by perfidious injustice or by rude force, circumventing her liberties, or striving to cut them down with the sword. Witness Ireland, who for five centuries has bled, who, to the present hour, continues to bleed, under the yoke of her galling supremacy; whose miserable victims seem at length to have laid down, subdued and despairing, under the multiplied inflictions of her cruelty and rigor. In vain do her own best statesmen and patriots remonstrate against this unjust career! in vain put forth the annual efforts of their benevolence, their zeal, their eloquence; in vain touch every spring that interest, that humanity, that the maxims of everlasting justice can. move, to stay its force and mitigate the fate of Irishmen. Alas, for the persecuted adherents of the cross she leaves no hope! Witness her subject millions in the east, where, in the descriptive language of the greatest of her surviving orators, “ sacrilege, massacre and perfidy pile up the sombre pyramids of her renown.”

VOL. v.

But, all these instances are of her fellow-men of merely co-equal, perhaps unknown descent and blood; co-existing from all time with herself, and making up, only accidentally, a part of her dominion. We ought to have been spared. The otherwise undistinguishing rigor of this outstretched sceptre might still have spared us. We were descended from her own loins : bone of her bone and flesh of her flesh; not so much a part of her empire'as a part of herself—her very self. Towards her own it might have been expected she would relent. When she invaded our homes, she saw her own countenance, heard her own voice, beheld her own altars! Where was then that pure spirit which she now would tell us sustains her amidst self-sacrifices, in her generous contest for the liberties of other nations? If it flowed in her nature, here it might have delighted to beam out; here was space for its saving love: the true mother chastens, not destroys the child: but Britain, when she struck at us, struck at her own image, struck too at the immortal principles which her Lockes, her Miltons, and her Sidneys taught, and the fell blow severed us forever, as a kindred nation! The crime is purely her own; and upon her, not us, be its consequences and its stain.

In looking at Britain, with eyes less prepossessed than we are apt to have from the circumstance of our ancient connexion with her, we should see, indeed, her common lot of excellence, on which to found esteem ; but it would lift the covering from deformities which may well startle and repel. A harshness of individual character, in the general view of it, which is perceived and acknowledged by all Europe; a spirit of unbecoming censure, as regards all customs and institutions not their own; a ferocity in some of their characteristics of national manners, pervading their very pastimes, which no other modern people are endued with the blunted sensibility to bear: a universally self-assumed superiority, not innocently manifesting itself in speculative sentiments among themselves, but unamiably indulged when with foreigners of whatever description in their own country, or when they themselves are the temporary sojourners in a foreign country; a code of criminal law that forgets to feel for human frailty, that sports with human misfortune, that has shed more blood in deliberate judicial severity for two centuries past-constantly increasing too in its sanguinary hue—than has ever been sanctioned by the jurisprudence of any ancient or modern nation, civilized and refined like herself; the merciless whippings in her army, peculiar to herself alone; the conspicuous commission and freest acknowledgment of vice in her upper classes; the overweening distinctions shown to opulence and birth, so destructive of a sound moral sentiment in the nation, so baffling to virtue. These are some of the traits that rise up to a contemplation of the inhabitants of this isle, and are adverted to, with an admission of qualities that may spring up as the correlatives of some of them, under the remark of our being prone to overlook the vicious ingredients, while we so readily praise the good that belongs to her.

How should it fall out, that this nation, more than any other that is ambitious and warlike, should be free from the dispositions that lead to injustice, violence and plunder; and what rules of prudence should check our watchfulness or allay our fears, in regard to the plans her conduct is the best illustration of her having so steadily meditated towards us? Why not be girded as regards her attacks, wary as regards her intrigues, alarmed as regards ber habit of devastation and long indulged appetite of blood ? Look at the marine of Britain, its vast, its tremendous extent ! What potentate upon the earth wields a power that is to be compared with it? What potentate upon the earth can move an apparatus of destruction so without rival, so little liable to any counteraction? The world, in no age, has seen its equal. It marks a new era in the history of human force: an instrument of power and of ambition, with no limits to its rapid and hideous workings but the waters and the winds. Why should she impiously suppose the ocean to be her own element? Why should she claim the right to give law to it, any more than the eagle the exclu- . sive right to fly in the air ? If ever there was a power formidable to the liberties of other states, particularly those afar off, is it not this? If ever there was a power which other states should feel warned to behold with fearful jealousy, and anxious to see broken up, is it not this? The opinion inculcated by her own interested politicians and journalists, that such a force is designed to be employed only to mediate for the rights of other nations, can hold no sway before the unshackled reflections of a dispassionate mind. All experience, all knowledge of man, explode the supposition. So, more particularly, does the very growth and history of this extraordinary power itself. It has swelled to its gigantic size, not through any concurrence of fortuitous or temporary causes, but through long continued and the most systematic national vicws. It was in the time of her early Edwards, that she first began arrogantly to exact a ceremonious obeisance from the flags of other nations, since which, the entire spirit of her navigation laws, her commercial usages, her treaties, have steadily looked to the establishinent of an overruling marine. This is the theme from which her poets insult the world by singing, “ Britannia's is the sea, and not a flag but by permission waves.". It is the great instrument of annoyance in the hands of her ministers, with which they threaten, or which they wield, to confirm allies, to alarm foes, to make other states tributary to their manufacturing, their commercial or their warlike schemes. Even the multitude in their streets, their boys, the halt and the blind, learn it in the ballads, and at every carousal, “ Rule Britannia” is the loud acclamation, the triumphant echo of the scene! The end so long pursued with a constant view to unlimited

empire throughout that element which covers two thirds of the globe, has been obtained, and Britain finds herself, at this era, the dreaded mistress of the seas! With what rapacious sway she has begun to put forth this arm of her supremacy, we, fellow-citizens, have experienced, while the flames of Copenhagen have lighted it up to Europe in characters of a more awful glare.

When the late Colonel Henry Laurens left England, in the year 1774, he had previously waited on the Earl of Hillsborough, in order to converse with him on American affairs. In the course of conversation Colonel Laurens said, the duty of three pence a pound on tea, and all the other taxes, were not worth the expense of a war. “You mistake the cause of our controversy with your country,” said his lordship : 4 You spread too much canvass upon the ocean; do you think we will let you go on with your navigation, and your forty thousand seamen ?"* The same hostile spirit to our growing commerce has actuated every minister, and every privy council, and every parliament of Great Britain since that time; and it is the spirit she manifests towards other nations. The recent declarations, made upon the floor of the House of Commons in debate upon the orders in council, add a new corroboration to the proofs that this monopolizing spirit has been one of the steady maxims designed to secure and uphold her absolute dominion upon the waves. But to that Being who made the waters and the winds for the common use of his creatures, do we owe it never to forego our equal claim to their immunities.

In entering upon a war it is our chief consolationthat will give dignity to the contest and confidence to our hearts; to know that before God and before the world, our cause is just. To dilate on this head, although so fruitful, would swell to undue limits this ad

* The writer derived this anecdote through one of our principal statesmen who has been abroad.

« FöregåendeFortsätt »