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do nothing, and Russia has enough else to do, and has neither the will nor the means of doing much against France. And there is the tableau of Europe for next year, according to my almanac.
You will not complain that this time I have not given you speculation and prophecy enough-more than any man ought to make who has profited, as I have done, by the experience of all these events, to learn that human wisdom and foresight are somewhat more shortsighted personages than the most shortsighted of us two, whichever that is.
All my ambition is that I may at some time hereafter, when I am freed from all active concern in such a scene as this is, have the inexpressible satisfaction of being able to look back upon it, and to tell myself that I have contributed to keep my own country at least a little longer from sharing in all the evils of every sort that surround us. I am more and more convinced that this can only be done by keeping wholly and entirely aloof, and by watching much at home, but doing very little indeed; endeavouring to nurse up in the country a real determination to stand by the Constitution when it is attacked, as it most infallibly will be if these things go on; and, above all, trying to make the situation of the lower orders among us as good as it can be made. In this view, I have seen with the greatest satisfaction the steps taken in different parts of the country for increasing wages, which I hold to be a point of absolute necessity, and of a hundred times more importance than all that the most doing Government could do in twenty years towards keeping the country quiet. I trust we may again be enabled to contribute to the same object by the repeal of taxes, but of that we cannot yet be sure. Sure I am, at least I think myself so, that these are the best means in our power to delay what perhaps nothing can ultimately avert, if it is decreed that we are again to be plunged into barbarism.
I find that I am growing too serious, even for you, upon a subject on which I know you are serious enough, and it is high time to release you.
you once more in my name, and my little woman's, for your trees. May we long continue to love one another as we do, and we shall both, I trust, have a comfort in our long affection and friendship, which the study or practice of the art of governing men seems very little likely to afford in our time.
Ever, my dear brother,
The disasters of the Duke of Brunswick reanimated the factious spirit which the vigorous measures of the Government had previously succeeded in subduing. The prosecutions instituted under the proclamation against seditious publications had been followed by the most decisive results; and Thomas Paine, who was the chief offender, foreseeing the inevitable issue of his impending trial, although Mr. Erskine was engaged to defend him, had absconded to France, where he was admitted to a citizenship more congenial to his principles, and enjoyed the doubtful honour of being returned by two constituencies as a member of the National Assembly.
The flight of Paine broke down the courage of his disciples; and the circulation of seditious libels was effectually arrested, until the misfortunes of the Allies once more revived the hopes of the disaffected. Fresh measures of prevention and defence were now rendered necessary to
peace of the country. The Militia was to be augmented by volunteer companies, and the law officers of the Crown were to exercise with vigilance the powers entrusted to them for bring
ing malcontents to justice. But it was not by such means alone the Administration proposed to meet the evil. It appealed to the good sense and loyalty of the people. Upon these elements it depended for the ultimate success of its efforts. The language of patriotism never found more felicitous or energetic utterance than in these words of Lord Grenville's: “The hands of Government must be strengthened if the country is to be saved ; but, above all, the work must not be left to the hands of Government, but every man must put his shoulder to it, according to his rank and situation in life, or it will not be done.”
LORD GRENVILLE TO THE MARQUIS OF BUCKINGHAM.
Whitehall, Nov. 14th, 1792. MY DEAR BROTHER,
The events in Flanders have brought so much hurry of things to be done and thought of upon me, that I really have been unable to answer your letter, which I have been some days intending to do. With respect to what you mention about prosecutions, you do not advert to the forms of our laws, by which no step of that nature can be taken by the AttorneyGeneral, except in term time, when alone his informations can be filed. No seditious publication has ever come to my knowledge, without my referring it to the Attorney-General for prosecution; and out of the five which you mention, viz., Jockey Club, Paine, Cooper, Walker and Cartwright, the three first have been so referred, the two last I have never seen. In truth, without assistance from the magistrates and gentlemen of the country, who give none except Addresses, it is very vain for Government to attempt to see and know, at Whitehall, every libel which may be dispersed in the country.
But the real fact is, that these people were completely quelled, and their spirit destroyed, till the Duke of Brunswick's retreat. Since that they have begun to show themselves again, and nothing that I know of has been neglected that could tend to put the law in force against them. Steps are now taking by Government to send persons into the counties to purchase these libels, with a view to indictments at the Christmas Quarter Sessions ; but this is a thing that can be done but once, and could not be continued without an expense equal to that of the old French police. Our laws suppose magistrates and Grand Juries to do this duty, and if they do it not, I have little faith in its being done by a Government such as the Constitution has made ours. If you look back to the last time in our history that these sort of things bore the same serious aspect that they now do—I mean the beginning of the Hanover reigns—you will find that the Protestant succession was established, not by the interference of a Secretary of State or Attorney-General, in every individual instance, but by the exertions of every magistrate and officer, civil or military, throughout the country.
I wish this was more felt and understood, because it is a little hard to be forced to run the hazards of doing much more than one's duty, and then to be charged with doing less.
As to what you mention of overt acts, those things are all much exaggerated, where they are not wholly groundless. The report of what is called “Cooper's Ass-Feast" (Walker's I never heard of), and of the Scotch Greys being concerned in it, reached me by accident, for of all the King's good subjects, who are exclaiming against its not being noticed, not one thought it worth his while to apprise the Secretary of State of it. I took immediate steps for inquiring into it, and am satisfied that the whole story has no other foundation than Mr. Cooper having invited two officers to dine with him in a small company, and having given them, by way of curiosity, as a new dish, a piece of a young ass roasted. I inquired, in the same manner, about the riot stated to have happened at Sheffield; and learn from Lord Loughborough, who lives in the county, and is enough on the qui vive on the subject, that there was nothing which, even in the most peaceable times, could deserve the name of a riot. That supposed at Perth I never heard of yet, though Dundas has been within a short distance of that place.
It is not unnatural, nor is it an unfavourable symptom, that people who are thoroughly frightened, as the body of landed gentlemen in this country are, should exaggerate these stories as they pass from one mouth to the other ; but you, who know the course of this sort of reports, ought not too hastily to give credit to them.
It is, however, not the less true that the danger exists, and perhaps not the less from its not breaking out in the manner stated. The conquest of Flanders has, as I believe, brought the business to a much nearer issue here than any reasonable man could believe a month ago. The hands of Government must be strengthened if the country is to be saved; but, above all, the work must not be left to the hands of Government, but every man must put his shoulder to it, according to his rank and situation in life, or it will not be done. I could write much more of the same sort, but I have already people waiting
Ever most affectionately yours,
LORD GRENVILLE TO THE MARQUIS OF BUCKINGHAM.
Whitehall, Nov. 25th, 1792. MY DEAREST BROTHER,
Our hopes of anything really useful from Opposition, are, I am sorry to say, nearly vanished. In the meantime the storm thickens. Lord Loughborough has declined, and Fox seems to govern the rest just in the old way.