On the King of England's Speech
OF all the innocent passions
which actuate the human mind there is none more universally prevalent than
curiosity. It reaches all mankind, and in matters which concern us, or concern
us not, it alike provokes in us a desire to know them.
Although the situation of America, superior to every effort to enslave her,
and daily rising to importance and opulence, has placed her above the region of
anxiety, it has still left her within the circle of curiosity; and her fancy to
see the speech of a man who had proudly threatened to bring her to his feet,
was visibly marked with that tranquil confidence which cared nothing about its
contents. It was inquired after with a smile, read with a laugh, and dismissed
But, as justice is due, even to an enemy, it is right to say, that the
speech is as well managed as the embarrassed condition of their affairs could
well admit of; and though hardly a line of it is true, except the mournful
story of Cornwallis, it may serve to amuse the deluded commons and people of
England, for whom it was calculated.
"The war," says the speech, "is still unhappily prolonged by
that restless ambition which first excited our enemies to commence it, and
which still continues to disappoint my earnest wishes and diligent exertions to
restore the public tranquillity."
How easy it is to abuse truth and language, when men, by habitual
wickedness, have learned to set justice at defiance. That the very man who
began the war, who with the most sullen insolence refused to answer, and even
to hear the humblest of all petitions, who has encouraged his officers and his
army in the most savage cruelties, and the most scandalous plunderings, who has
stirred up the Indians on one side, and the negroes on the other, and invoked
every aid of hell in his behalf, should now, with an affected air of pity, turn
the tables from himself, and charge to another the wickedness that is his own,
can only be equalled by the baseness of the heart that spoke it.
To be nobly wrong is more manly than to be meanly right, is an expression I
once used on a former occasion, and it is equally applicable now. We feel
something like respect for consistency even in error. We lament the virtue that
is debauched into a vice, but the vice that affects a virtue becomes the more
detestable: and amongst the various assumptions of character, which hypocrisy
has taught, and men have practised, there is none that raises a higher relish
of disgust, than to see disappointed inveteracy twisting itself, by the most
visible falsehoods, into an appearance of piety which it has no pretensions to.
"But I should not," continues the speech, "answer the trust
committed to the sovereign of a free people, nor make a suitable return to my
subjects for their constant, zealous, and affectionate attachment to my person,
family and government, if I consented to sacrifice, either to my own desire of
peace, or to their temporary ease and relief, those essential rights and
permanent interests, upon the maintenance and preservation of which, the future
strength and security of this country must principally depend."
That the man whose ignorance and obstinacy first involved and still
continues the nation in the most hopeless and expensive of all wars, should now
meanly flatter them with the name of a free people, and make a merit of his
crime, under the disguise of their essential rights and permanent interests, is
something which disgraces even the character of perverseness. Is he afraid they
will send him to Hanover, or what does he fear? Why is the sycophant thus added
to the hypocrite, and the man who pretends to govern, sunk into the humble and
What those essential rights and permanent interests are, on which the
future strength and security of England must principally depend, are not so
much as alluded to. They are words which impress nothing but the ear, and are
calculated only for the sound.
But if they have any reference to America, then do they amount to the
disgraceful confession, that England, who once assumed to be her protectress,
has now become her dependant. The British king and ministry are constantly
holding up the vast importance which America is of to England, in order to
allure the nation to carry on the war: now, whatever ground there is for this
idea, it ought to have operated as a reason for not beginning it; and,
therefore, they support their present measures to their own disgrace, because
the arguments which they now use, are a direct reflection on their former
"The favorable appearance of affairs," continues the speech,
"in the East Indies, and the safe arrival of the numerous commercial
fleets of my kingdom, must have given you satisfaction."
That things are not quite so bad every where as in America may be some
cause of consolation, but can be none for triumph. One broken leg is better
than two, but still it is not a source of joy: and let the appearance of
affairs in the East Indies be ever so favorable, they are nevertheless worse
than at first, without a prospect of their ever being better. But the mournful
story of Cornwallis was yet to be told, and it was necessary to give it the
softest introduction possible.
"But in the course of this year," continues the speech, "my
assiduous endeavors to guard the extensive dominions of my crown have not been
attended with success equal to the justice and uprightness of my views."
— What justice and uprightness there was in beginning a war with America,
the world will judge of, and the unequalled barbarity with which it has been
conducted, is not to be worn from the memory by the cant of snivelling
"And it is with great concern that I inform you that the events of war
have been very unfortunate to my arms in Virginia, having ended in the loss of
my forces in that province." — And our great concern is that they are
not all served in the same manner.
"No endeavors have been wanted on my part," says the speech,
"to extinguish that spirit of rebellion which our enemies have found means
to foment and maintain in the colonies; and to restore to my deluded subjects
in America that happy and prosperous condition which they formerly derived from
a due obedience to the laws."
The expression of deluded subjects is become so hacknied and contemptible,
and the more so when we see them making prisoners of whole armies at a time,
that the pride of not being laughed at would induce a man of common sense to
leave it off. But the most offensive falsehood in the paragraph is the
attributing the prosperity of America to a wrong cause. It was the unremitted
industry of the settlers and their descendants, the hard labor and toil of
persevering fortitude, that were the true causes of the prosperity of America.
The former tyranny of England served to people it, and the virtue of the
adventurers to improve it. Ask the man, who, with his axe, has cleared a way in
the wilderness, and now possesses an estate, what made him rich, and he will
tell you the labor of his hands, the sweat of his brow, and the blessing of
heaven. Let Britain but leave America to herself and she asks no more. She has
risen into greatness without the knowledge and against the will of England, and
has a right to the unmolested enjoyment of her own created wealth.
"I will order," says the speech, "the estimates of the
ensuing year to be laid before you. I rely on your wisdom and public spirit for
such supplies as the circumstances of our affairs shall be found to require.
Among the many ill consequences which attend the continuation of the present
war, I most sincerely regret the additional burdens which it must unavoidably
bring upon my faithful subjects."
It is strange that a nation must run through such a labyrinth of trouble,
and expend such a mass of wealth to gain the wisdom which an hour's reflection
might have taught. The final superiority of America over every attempt that an
island might make to conquer her, was as naturally marked in the constitution
of things, as the future ability of a giant over a dwarf is delineated in his
features while an infant. How far providence, to accomplish purposes which no
human wisdom could foresee, permitted such extraordinary errors, is still a
secret in the womb of time, and must remain so till futurity shall give it
"In the prosecution of this great and important contest," says
the speech, "in which we are engaged, I retain a firm confidence in the
protection of divine providence, and a perfect conviction in the justice of my
cause, and I have no doubt, but, that by the concurrence and support of my
Parliament, by the valour of my fleets and armies, and by a vigorous, animated,
and united exertion of the faculties and resources of my people, I shall be
enabled to restore the blessings of a safe and honorable peace to all my
The King of England is one of the readiest believers in the world. In the
beginning of the contest he passed an act to put America out of the protection
of the crown of England, and though providence, for seven years together, has
put him out of her protection, still the man has no doubt. Like Pharaoh on the
edge of the Red Sea, he sees not the plunge he is making, and precipitately
drives across the flood that is closing over his head.
I think it is a reasonable supposition, that this part of the speech was
composed before the arrival of the news of the capture of Cornwallis: for it
certainly has no relation to their condition at the time it was spoken. But, be
this as it may, it is nothing to us. Our line is fixed. Our lot is cast; and
America, the child of fate, is arriving at maturity. We have nothing to do but
by a spirited and quick exertion, to stand prepared for war or peace. Too great
to yield, and too noble to insult; superior to misfortune, and generous in
success, let us untaintedly preserve the character which we have gained, and
show to future ages an example of unequalled magnanimity. There is something in
the cause and consequence of America that has drawn on her the attention of all
mankind. The world has seen her brave. Her love of liberty; her ardour in
supporting it; the justice of her claims, and the constancy of her fortitude
have won her the esteem of Europe, and attached to her interest the first power
in that country.
Her situation now is such, that to whatever point, past, present or to
come, she casts her eyes, new matter rises to convince her that she is right.
In her conduct towards her enemy, no reproachful sentiment lurks in secret. No
sense of injustice is left upon the mind. Untainted with ambition, and a
stranger to revenge, her progress has been marked by providence, and she, in
every stage of the conflict, has blest her with success.
But let not America wrap herself up in delusive hope and suppose the
business done. The least remissness in preparation, the least relaxation in
execution, will only serve to prolong the war, and increase expenses. If our
enemies can draw consolation from misfortune, and exert themselves upon
despair, how much more ought we, who are to win a continent by the conquest,
and have already an earnest of success?
Having, in the preceding part, made my remarks on the several matters which
the speech contains, I shall now make my remarks on what it does not contain.
There is not a syllable in its respecting alliances. Either the injustice
of Britain is too glaring, or her condition too desperate, or both, for any
neighboring power to come to her support. In the beginning of the contest, when
she had only America to contend with, she hired assistance from Hesse, and
other smaller states of Germany, and for nearly three years did America, young,
raw, undisciplined and unprovided, stand against the power of Britain, aided by
twenty thousand foreign troops, and made a complete conquest of one entire
army. The remembrance of those things ought to inspire us with confidence and
greatness of mind, and carry us through every remaining difficulty with content
and cheerfulness. What are the little sufferings of the present day, compared
with the hardships that are past? There was a time, when we had neither house
nor home in safety; when every hour was the hour of alarm and danger; when the
mind, tortured with anxiety, knew no repose, and every thing, but hope and
fortitude, was bidding us farewell.
It is of use to look back upon these things; to call to mind the times of
trouble and the scenes of complicated anguish that are past and gone. Then
every expense was cheap, compared with the dread of conquest and the misery of
submission. We did not stand debating upon trifles, or contending about the
necessary and unavoidable charges of defence. Every one bore his lot of
suffering, and looked forward to happier days, and scenes of rest.
Perhaps one of the greatest dangers which any country can be exposed to,
arises from a kind of trifling which sometimes steals upon the mind, when it
supposes the danger past; and this unsafe situation marks at this time the
peculiar crisis of America. What would she once have given to have known that
her condition at this day should be what it now is? And yet we do not seem to
place a proper value upon it, nor vigorously pursue the necessary measures to
secure it. We know that we cannot be defended, nor yet defend ourselves,
without trouble and expense. We have no right to expect it; neither ought we to
look for it. We are a people, who, in our situation, differ from all the world.
We form one common floor of public good, and, whatever is our charge, it is
paid for our own interest and upon our own account.
Misfortune and experience have now taught us system and method; and the
arrangements for carrying on the war are reduced to rule and order. The quotas
of the several states are ascertained, and I intend in a future publication to
show what they are, and the necessity as well as the advantages of vigorously
providing for them.
In the mean time, I shall conclude this paper with an instance of British
clemency, from Smollett's History of England, vol. xi., printed in London. It
will serve to show how dismal the situation of a conquered people is, and that
the only security is an effectual defence.
We all know that the Stuart family and the house of Hanover opposed each
other for the crown of England. The Stuart family stood first in the line of
succession, but the other was the most successful.
In July, 1745, Charles, the son of the exiled king, landed in Scotland,
collected a small force, at no time exceeding five or six thousand men, and
made some attempts to re-establish his claim. The late Duke of Cumberland,
uncle to the present King of England, was sent against him, and on the 16th of
April following, Charles was totally defeated at Culloden, in Scotland. Success
and power are the only situations in which clemency can be shown, and those who
are cruel, because they are victorious, can with the same facility act any
other degenerate character.
"Immediately after the decisive action at Culloden, the Duke of
Cumberland took possession of Inverness; where six and thirty deserters,
convicted by a court martial, were ordered to be executed: then he detached
several parties to ravage the country. One of these apprehended The Lady
Mackintosh, who was sent prisoner to Inverness, plundered her house, and drove
away her cattle, though her husband was actually in the service of the
government. The castle of Lord Lovat was destroyed. The French prisoners were
sent to Carlisle and Penrith: Kilmarnock, Balmerino, Cromartie, and his son,
The Lord Macleod, were conveyed by sea to London; and those of an inferior rank
were confined in different prisons. The Marquis of Tullibardine, together with
a brother of the Earl of Dunmore, and Murray, the pretender's secretary, were
seized and transported to the Tower of London, to which the Earl of Traquaire
had been committed on suspicion; and the eldest son of Lord Lovat was
imprisoned in the castle of Edinburgh. In a word, all the jails in Great
Britain, from the capital, northwards, were filled with those unfortunate
captives; and great numbers of them were crowded together in the holds of
ships, where they perished in the most deplorable manner, for want of air and
exercise. Some rebel chiefs escaped in two French frigates that arrived on the
coast of Lochaber about the end of April, and engaged three vessels belonging
to his Britannic majesty, which they obliged to retire. Others embarked on
board a ship on the coast of Buchan, and were conveyed to Norway, from whence
they travelled to Sweden. In the month of May, the Duke of Cumberland advanced
with the army into the Highlands, as far as Fort Augustus, where he encamped;
and sent off detachments on all hands, to hunt down the fugitives, and lay
waste the country with fire and sword. The castles of Glengary and Lochiel were
plundered and burned; every house, hut, or habitation, met with the same fate,
without distinction; and all the cattle and provision were carried off; the men
were either shot upon the mountains, like wild beasts, or put to death in cold
blood, without form of trial; the women, after having seen their husbands and
fathers murdered, were subjected to brutal violation, and then turned out
naked, with their children, to starve on the barren heaths. One whole family
was enclosed in a barn, and consumed to ashes. Those ministers of vengeance
were so alert in the execution of their office, that in a few days there was
neither house, cottage, man, nor beast, to be seen within the compass of fifty
miles; all was ruin, silence, and desolation."
I have here presented the reader with one of the most shocking instances of
cruelty ever practised, and I leave it, to rest on his mind, that he may be
fully impressed with a sense of the destruction he has escaped, in case Britain
had conquered America; and likewise, that he may see and feel the necessity, as
well for his own personal safety, as for the honor, the interest, and happiness
of the whole community, to omit or delay no one preparation necessary to secure
the ground which we so happily stand upon.