« AnteriorContinuar »
inch a king in his own realm: how much more so over its dependencies !' We cannot imagine any ground for the supposition that the King wanted to be more a King in America than in England. But, in plain truth, to suppose George the Third a believer in his own divine right, or a practical disciple of the high prerogative' school, is to mistake him altogether. He was no stickler for the rights of kings in a general way. Like a plain Englishman as he was, he was quite content to govern under the “Revolution settlement.' Only men of imaginative and prejudiced minds, like Horace Walpole’s, attributed to him in earnest any Stuart-like notions. Nor have we observed any expression of his reliance on that quasi-divine right of English lawyers, Prerogative. We do not remember having noticed that he once uses the word in all this correspondence. In careless conversation (if we may believe one of Mr. Massey's MS. authorities) he said that the English Constitution was the finest system in the world, but not fit for a king. He was the only slave.' And though he touches on the subject of the Crown's legal powers in one rather remarkable passage (with reference to the City Address and Petition against signing the Quebec Bill, June 29, 1774) he does so with, for him, unusual caution.
I am clear that, though I hope the Crown will ever be able to prevent [sic] a Bill it thinks detrimental to be thrown out in one or other House of Parliament without making use of its right of refusing the assent, yet I shall never consent to using any expression that tends to establish that at no time the making use of that power is necessary.'
His principal motive of action was of quite a different character. He claimed obedience and assistance from all honest people, not because he was 'every inch a King, but because he was, in his own estimation, thoroughly and always in the right. He might have addressed his ministers in the Duchess de la Ferté's language to Mademoiselle Delaunay, Tiens, mon enfant, je ne vois que moi qui aie toujours raison. The story told by Mr. Jesse, how, at the commencement of one of his fits of insanity, he startled the people at prayers in the chapel by putting his head out of the Royal Closet, and following the reader with peculiar emphasis, Forty years long was I grieved with this generation, and said, it is a people which do err in their hearts, for they have not known my ways' expresses grotesquely his simple conviction of his own political infallibility. And he entertained no doubt that all 'honest citizens, as Cicero called people on his own side, were ready to follow him, and that his opponents were only a desperate faction,' whom it was justifiable to oppose by all the means which
whom a power
power placed in his hands. He was only the representative and champion of the beauty, excellence, and perfection of the British constitution as by law established, on which he loved to dilate in stereotyped phrase.
‘I will rather risk my crown than do what I think personally disgraceful; and whilst I have no wish but for the good and prosperity of my country, it is impossible that the nation shall not stand by me; if they will not, they shall have another king !'
• Common honesty, and that sense of honour which must reside in the heart of every man born of a noble family, would oblige you at this hour to stand firmly to the aid of him who thinks he deserves the assistance of every honest man.'
He never seemed to invoke personal loyalty to his aid, but British patriotism, as he understood it.
• It is attachment to my country that alone actuates my purposes, and Lord North shall see that at least there is one person willing to preserve unspoiled the most beautiful combination that ever was framed.' Such was his every-day language. Now, to misunderstand him in this particular is, in fact, to misconceive the mainspring of his power among his subjects, and the key to all his success. A sovereign in this country who were to use the Spanish style, 'I, the king,' would not have a chance. A sovereign who terms himself, “We, the people,' is nearly irresistible. It was in that
honestly used by himself, and honestly accepted by those for whom he spoke-that he maintained his predominant share in the Government. And undoubtedly, during the greater part of his reign-though with exceptions-he was the king of the people ; not of the more far-sighted politicians, whose following is always sinall; not of the Whig families, nor of the City, nor the populace; but of the great majority of his middle-class subjects, with their love of honesty and domestic order, and morality, and bluntness, their fondness for respectable platitudes, their • few plain instincts and their few plain rules;' and with minds, on the whole, wonderfully analogous to his own.
Such were the qualities which lost us America. So historical criticism continually repeats, and Mr. Donne only echoes the ordinary sentence. And yet, strictly speaking, the reproach is not well-founded. The measures which · lost us America were the Stamp Act, and the ungracious as well as short-sighted policy which made us at once show weakness by receding from our position, and show ill-will by not frankly receding from it, but always brandishing in the sight of her people the emblem of
For four years
a power of which we no longer possessed the reality. But all this series of mistakes was wrought by the Grenville ministry and their successors, before the King had assumed any decided share in the Government. It is possible, no doubt, that a sound adherence on his part to the principles of the first Rockingham administration might have repaired the breach ; but it is scarcely probable. But his real and leading share in those great transactions was this; that when the breach was once effected and recourse had been had to arms, he absolutely refused to give way; that he persisted in vain efforts to reconquer America. When France had turned against us, when Richmond, and Burke, and Fox, were for treating with America on terms of independence, and saving only, if possible, the rag of our former connection in some project of a federal alliance, “it was the king,' in Mr. Bancroft's words, who persuaded his minister to forego the opportunity which never could recur.' more, by mere force of will, he imposed on statesmen, who saw but too clearly the impossibility of effecting the object, a perseverance in hopeless hostilities, and carried them on even to the 'bitter end,' until the system absolutely broke down under him. All this is true; but let us fairly estimate the real amount of the charge. We leave abstract rights' to those who love shadowy argument: the right' of a dependency to secede, the 'right' of a State to prevent such secession. But we are content to look only at the simplest and most practical issue. Let us assume that it is wrong for a government to force into submission an unwilling community, federated or dependent, from any pride of sovereignty or conceit of national honour: but that it is, on the other hand, not only right, but a bounden duty, for government to repress and 'stamp out' a secession, however popular, if that secession threatens the prosperity or the security of the whole community. George the Third believed that the prosperity of his empire was bound up in the maintenance of American dominion, just as Abraham Lincoln believed that the prosperity of his vast Republic was bound up in the maintenance of the Union. And each of them, Prince and President alike, was backed up in that belief by the zeal of his countrymen. And by that belief each stood absolved of blood-guiltiness: or neither. Policy may be justified by events; the motives which dictate a policy can only be pronounced right or wrong in accordance with a higher criterion. George the Third was wrong in his judgment, as time has shown: for the loss of America did not injure England. Whether the chainpions of the North 'were right or wrong in theirs, time has not yet revealed, and perhaps never may reveal; for the experiment of secession was not tried to its ultimate results. Let
us therefore take heed lest in repeating the ordinary formula of animadversion on George the Third's determination to subdue America, we are not adopting a moral rule which would condemn others—whether monarchs or majorities—whose policy differed from his only in respect of success. And, farther, we must take the good with the evil. The very same qualities of head and heart, in sovereign and people, which carried us through our American defeats, fought out victoriously the struggle of later years with France. Our lot is cast in more tranquil times, and far more indulgent times; in which (as a noble lord remarked in the late Fenian debate) High Treason seems to be about the safest amusement which a man can allow himself. And long may these times continue: for though stern repression may again be more necessary than we have lately found it, it is a coarse and evil method, which raises more fiends than it lays. Nevertheless, whenever the time arrives which shall rouse up the old national spirit of self-assertion—and, in the variety of human events, such conjunctures will assuredly recur
-some touch of the tenacious spirit of a George the Third may possibly meet our requirements better than the more refined qualities and deeper sagacity which have adorned other leaders of men.
ART. II.-1. Report of the Commissioners appointed to inquire
into the Sea Fisheries of the United Kingdom. 1866. 2. Report of the Deep Sea and Coast Fishery Commissioners,
Ireland. 1866. 3. Report of the Commissioners of the British Fisheries, of their
Proceedings in the Year ended 31st Dec., 1865. 4. The Harvest of the Sea. A Contribution to the Natural and
Economic History of the British Food Fishes. By James
G. Bertram. London, 1865. 5. The Herring ; its Natural History and National Importance.
By John M. Mitchell, F.R.S.S.A., &c. Edinburgh, 1864. 6. Great Yarmouth and Lowestoft; a Handbook for Visitors and
Residents, and a History, with Statistics, of the East Coast
Herring Fishery. London, 1866. SIR VIR JOHN BURROUGH, in his “Sovereignty of the British
Seas,' says: • The coast of Great Britain yields such a continued sea-harvest of gain and benefit to all that with diligence do labour in the same, that no time or season of the yeare passeth away without some apparent means of profitable employment, especially to such as apply themselves to fish, which from the beginning of the year unto the latter end continue upon some part or other of onr coasts, and these in such infinite shoals and multitudes are offered to the taker, as may justly move the admiration not only of strangers, but of those that daily are employed amongst them.'
Our seas contain almost every kind of fish which inhabit the temperate regions of the globe, for the coasts of the United Kingdom are broken into a multiplicity of bays, estuaries, and firths, which are extremely favourable to the development of submarine life. The history of the British fisheries, however, is far from being one of uniform success. The encouragement they long received from the Legislature did not ensure their prosperity. A system of bounties, which was persisted in long after its impolicy had been exposed by political economists and its futility demonstrated by experience, instead of stimulating, had the effect of depressing an important branch of the natural industry. In the British Channel our fishermen were beaten in their own waters by foreign competitors; and during the greater part of the last century the sea fisheries of England were in a state of progressive decline. This condition of things, so unaccountable in a country possessing such great natural advantages for the prosecution of a profitable business, gave rise from time to time to several Parliamentary inquiries. As recently as 1833 a select committee was appointed by the House of Commons to inquire into the state of the British Channel Fisheries, the result of which was a Report, showing them to be in a very unsatisfactory condition, that they had been gradually sinking from the Peace of 1815, that the capital employed in them yielded no profit, that the numbers of boats and men were annually decreasing, and that the fishermen and their families were in a greater or less degree dependent on the poor-rates for support. This depression was attributed by the fishermen themselves to the encroachments and competition of the fishermen of France. As if, Mr. McCulloch justly remarked at the time, a man who does not succeed in his own business so well as one who resides fifty or a hundred miles off, should not rather seek to improve himself than get rid of his rival. The truth is that the French fishermen, by their superior skill, industry, and perseverance, not only beat the British fishermen on their own ground, but undersold them in their own markets.
Another cause for the decline of the sea fisheries was said to be the increasing scarcity of fish which bred in the British Channel. The real cause was owing neither to the scarcity of fish, nor to foreign competition, but, as has been since abundantly proved, to a want of energy on the part of the fishermen themselves. There were, however, other causes in operation