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shorn of its power; the Church had lost its ancient possessions, and had been transformed into an agency of the State; the titles and the wealth of the noblesse had gone; and a government despotic in name and centralised had been replaced by a scheme which committed authority to the mass of the people. Signs of general disorder had, besides, multiplied; the fall of the Bastille had shown Paris her power; the king had been driven by a mob from his palace; the priesthood was torn by angry divisions; a flight of ruined nobles had crossed the frontier; the peasantry had risen in many districts; and sweeping confiscations had been followed by the assignats and widespread bankruptcy. It is most remarkable, Mr. Lecky observes, what a slight impression these great events made at this time on English opinion, and how little the Revolution, and all that was involved in it, was generally understood in this country. Burke alone among thinkers and statesmen perceived that the subversion of the old order of things in France was something wholly different from the Revolution of 1688, to which it was compared by Fox and other leading Whigs; and he alone lifted up his voice to denounce the violence which already had marked the conduct of the National Assembly and of the French capital; to point out how dangerous were reckless changes in politics founded on abstract theories; to indicate how the new arrangement of France was perilous to the established system of Europe. Mr. Lecky has most ably reviewed the Reflections,' but we cannot comment upon his remarks; we agree with him that while Burke has shown a perfect knowledge of our own polity, and if much of his teaching is of lasting value, he was not well acquainted with the institutions of old France, and was certainly blind to their worst abuses. Pitt was no exception to the prevailing ignorance; and he appears simply to have had no idea of the nature of the portentous drama which was taking place across the Channel. He believed that it would be a passing disturbance, tending ultimately to the prosperity of France, which he anticipated would increase our own, but certainly to reduce her power for a time; and he confidently expected that she would reappear on the scene of politics as one of the most brilliant of states,' with a reformed government and enlarged liberties. He read, indeed, the signs of the time so ill, that in 1790 and 1791 France did not deeply engage his thoughts; his attention was chiefly turned to affairs in the East, to the negotiations of the peace of Sistova, to the attitude of Russia,
Prussia, and Austria, to the intrigues that led to the partition of Poland.
This false conception of the Revolution, and indifference to what was going on in France, reveal the weak side of Pitt as a statesman; and his eyes were only partly opened after years of war and of a bitter experience. One of the consequences of this want of insight was that England, he was convinced, had nothing to apprehend from the troubles in France; she had to reckon not with the august Bourbon monarchy, but with a disordered, perhaps an insolvent State; and in the beginning of 1792 he reduced our armaments, as is well known, to the lowest point, believing that England at least would be long at peace. His attitude towards European powers conformed, in all respects, to this view; but if events were to make it impossible, it was dignified and appeared in accord with honourable traditions of British policy. Before the close of 1791 there were many signs of an impending conflict between the Revolution and the old Continental States; Prussia and Austria had seemed to compose their feuds in order to form a league against France; and notes of defiance heard on the Seine were thrown back from the Spree and the Danube. Just at the time, too, the intrigues of Catherine and of Prussia were leading Poland to ruin; and when, in the spring of 1792, the struggle was begun by France in the West, war appeared imminent in Eastern Europe. The one thought of Pitt was to keep England out of a contest which threatened the whole Continent; and his policy was directed, with frank straightforwardness, to an end which, for months, he believed attainable. One of the best passages in Mr. Lecky's work is contained in the chapter in which he describes in minute detail, and with perfect justice, how Pitt, at this crisis, steadily maintained a neutrality thoroughly strict and impartial; he has brought together from State papers and other documents some fresh materials of information upon the subject; and if he has not added much to what was before known, he has corroborated the truth by new evidence. Pitt turned a deaf ear to the cries of the émigrés, and rejected every overture of the Comte de Provence to join in the protest of the German Powers against the excesses of revolutionary France. He ordered our ambassador at Berlin to avoid appearing at the celebrated meeting at Pilnitz; and he distinctly refused to take part in what was called the 'concert of the Powers' in a project to re-establish the old French monarchy. Non-intervention, in short, of
the most scrupulous kind as between the rulers of France and the nation, and as between France and the Continental Powers, was, from first to last, his policy at this time; and he carried it out with such consistent firmness that he was condemned at several Continental courts as a traitor to the cause of legitimate power, and that his conduct was not regarded as hostile by the men in office in the two French Assemblies. As late even as the spring of 1792 an English alliance was hoped for in Paris; and a mission led by Talleyrand-Mr. Lecky has given us a full and very interesting account of this-although it failed to effect its purpose, was assured that England was friendly to France. The neutrality of Pitt was, in fact, so rigid, that more than once it seemed scarcely compatible with national courtesy or humane feeling. He recalled our ambassador, indeed, from Paris after the fall of the throne on August 10; but he refused to utter a word of remonstrance when the king and queen, after the flight to Varennes, were reduced to captivity in their own capital; he looked coldly on while the victims were sent to the Temple foredoomed to a terrible fate; and, as Mr. Lecky justly remarks, he would never have gone to war to save Louis XVI., or have repudiated the Republic had it not provoked a conflict. Pitt in the East was the same as he had been in the West; he openly expressed his dislike, no doubt, of the conduct of Russia and her Prussian satellite, and he protested against the partition of Poland. But he carefully abstained from taking a side; his great aim and hope, we repeat, was to isolate England, and to keep her at peace; and his neutrality throughout was severely impartial.
We transcribe one or two remarks of Mr. Lecky upon this important subject; for if the conduct of Pitt is understood here it is still misrepresented by some foreign critics.
'I have dwelt long on this subject; for, in order to judge fairly the causes of the outbreak of the war of 1793, it is necessary to ascertain what were the dispositions of England when the great struggle first began on the Continent. It is, I believe, absolutely impossible to study the evidence with candour without acknowledging that, up to this time at least, the English Government was thoroughly pacific, and that the neutrality which it professed was a sincere neutrality, honestly professed and faithfully observed. . . . Few things are more admirable in the career of Pitt than the fidelity with which he observed this neutrality, not only in deeds, but in words; and the latter is, perhaps, the more difficult in a free Government which is largely swayed by popular passions, and in which it is in the power of any member of Parliament to force almost any subject into discussion.'
Pitt, however, knew not what the Revolution was; he was taken by surprise and driven from his course by its fierce aggressive spirit and its contempt of right, and, ignorant of its peculiar character, he was reluctantly forced into war with France, after long efforts to avert a rupture. Mr. Lecky has traced at great length the events that gradually led to the conflict; he has studied the subject with extreme care; he has thoroughly exhausted every source of information already open, and has borrowed materials from fresh sources derived chiefly from the French Foreign Office; and his knowledge is so rich and his judgement so just that we think this perhaps the best part of his history, though the narrative is involved and broken. France having declared war in April 1792, the Germans slowly rolled over her frontier; but her young levies checked the ill-led invaders, and they were soon seen in triumph on the Rhine, and carrying all before them in the Austrian Netherlands. Meanwhile Paris had overthrown the monarchy; the atrocities of September had shown how terrible was the audacity of the new men in power; and a republic breathing defiance to Europe, and preaching a crusade for the rights of man, had established itself amidst ruins and blood. The Revolution, too, had invaded England; its emissaries spread its anarchic doctrines in the capital, and even in parts of the country, and found allies in clubs and societies formed to receive and diffuse the contagion, and even the representative of France took part in propagating the creed of his present masters. Yet all these things scarcely moved Pitt, and his attitude of neutrality was not changed by them. Like every soldier and statesman in Europe, he was amazed at Valmy, Jemmapes, and the fall of Mayence; but the success of France did not make him turn to a coalition with which he had no sympathy. He remained indifferent, as he had always been, to the progress of lawless disorder in France, and to the hideous crimes of her new Government, and he ridiculed the notion that a revolutionary State could, in the long run, cope with the old Powers of Europe. Though, too, he could not wholly disregard the growing alarm of our upper classes at the diffusion of evil and dangerous principles, and the horror generally felt by Englishmen at the barbarities which had occurred in Paris, and he adopted certain repressive measures, he never thought of committing England to war for considerations like these, and he severely condemned the conduct of Burke in declaring that 'terror 'must be met by terror,' and that every nation had an enemy
in France. Through all this period he was in correspondence, and negotiating with the bloodstained Republic, and as late as November 1792-this appears from one of Lord Grenville's letters on which Mr. Lecky properly dwells—he confidently expected that he could maintain peace. Pitt was so intent, indeed, on this object, that he actually permitted a French army to invade the Austrian Netherlands, without a protest, on an assurance that France did not aim at conquest, and that the occupation would be only for a
The cause which really led to the war, though other considerations must be added, was the contempt shown by the French Government to the obligations of treaties and to international right. Pitt was well versed in questions of this kind, and understood their supreme importance; and though the case of England must be viewed as a whole, he embarked in the contest, unwilling as he was, because France wronged and insulted the Dutch Republic, and because, violating a distinct pledge, she was bent on annexing the Austrian Netherlands. Mr. Lecky conclusively proves the facts, and we agree with him that our quarrel was just, and that the conduct of Pitt became a British minister, if, indeed, it did not err on the side of concession. In examining the question we must bear in mind that the Dutch Republic was our intimate ally, and that the provocation was given by France, when a French army was menacing Holland and a French party at the Hague, supported in Paris, was plotting the overthrow of the Dutch Government. When France, therefore, defiantly announced that she would violate the neutral rights of the States by following the Austrians into Dutch territory, and that she would despatch warships into the Scheldt and keep the navigation of the river open, in opposition to the public law of Europe, England had no option but to assist her ally, if she was to retain her selfrespect and to have a regard for justice. Mr. Lecky truly remarks:
The direction given to the French commander to pursue the Austrians, if they retired into Dutch territory, was a flagrant violation of the law of nations, while the opening of the Scheldt was a plain violation of the treaty rights of the Dutch. Their sovereignty over that river dated from the peace of Westphalia, by which the independence of Holland was first recognised. It had been confirmed by the treaty of 1785, in which France herself acted as guarantor; and it was one of those rights which England, by the treaty of alliance in 1788, was most formally bound to defend. . . . But beyond this, if the navigation of the Scheldt was open to armed vessels, it would enable