The Political History of England - Vol. X.
by William Hunt
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Early in 1792 war between France and Austria and Prussia seemed at hand. The French ministers hoped to obtain an alliance with England, or at the least an assurance of neutrality in case of an invasion of the Netherlands, and to arrange a loan. They were prepared to offer Tobago and even Mauritius to boot. Talleyrand, the ex-Bishop of Autun, came over in an unofficial capacity to see how matters stood and to intrigue with the opposition. At court the king treated him coldly and the queen turned her back on him. He had interviews with Pitt and Grenville, and got nothing out of them; he received much attention from the opposition and returned to France in March. Meanwhile, on February 7, Leopold, unable to disregard the call of the diet and uneasy about the Netherlands, agreed with Frederick William to restore order in France, both allies intending to be indemnified. Yet war did not come at once, and on March 1 Leopold died. His son and successor, Francis II., was less distrustful of Prussia, and was eager for war. Under the influence of a party, somewhat later known as the Girondists, the French assembly was brought to desire war with Austria. On the accession of this party to power Dumouriez became minister of foreign affairs. He designed to detach Prussia from the Austrian alliance, isolate Austria, invade the Austrian Netherlands, where the people seemed ready for revolt, and establish them as an independent republic, and prosecute further plans for the extension of France to its "natural barriers". Gustavus was assassinated, and Sweden adopted a neutral policy; Russia, though violently hostile, was engaged in Poland, England decided the policy of Spain and would be followed by Holland. Would England oppose an invasion of the Netherlands on the understanding that France would not conquer them for herself; could the government be persuaded to an alliance by offers of Tobago, a mutual guarantee of possessions, and a treaty of commerce; and could a loan be arranged? Negotiation on these points was entrusted to Talleyrand who was to accompany Chauvelin, the accredited ambassador, to England.[232] On April 20 France declared war on the "King of Hungary and Bohemia," as Francis was entitled before his election.


While England's official relations with France remained friendly, dislike of the revolution was growing stronger, and the more moderate whigs were changing their opinions with regard to it. This change was largely due to the active propagation of revolutionary ideas among the lower classes, which was carried on by various societies. The Friends of the People, a respectable association of the more extreme whigs, excluding Fox, who would not join it, was formed in the spring of 1792 to promote parliamentary reform; some of its proceedings were discreditable, but it kept clear of connexion with the French revolutionists. Not so the Revolution Society, the Society for Constitutional Information, and the London Correspondence Society, which were in correspondence with the jacobins of Paris. The last, the most formidable of them, was directed by a secret council, and had branches in various large towns, the Sheffield branch alone numbering 2,400 members. Meetings were held in which the most violent revolutionary sentiments were loudly applauded, and seditious handbills and pamphlets, chief among them the second part of Paine's Rights of Man, were distributed by tens of thousands. Though the number of persons who adopted revolutionary ideas was as yet comparatively small, the propaganda was carried on noisily, and was certainly gaining ground. The government saw that it was time to interfere, and, on May 21, issued a royal proclamation against seditious writings. The address to the crown in answer to the proclamation was opposed in the commons by Grey. Fox supported him, and declared that the proclamation was merely a move taken by the government to divide the "whig interest," which, he said, nothing could divide. Nevertheless Windham and others of Fox's party supported the government, and the address was carried without a division. Proceedings were taken against Paine by the attorney-general; he fled to France and became a member of the convention. For a time the propaganda was checked.

The feeling which it excited strengthened the government. Acting in connexion with the Society of the Friends of the People, Grey gave notice of a motion for a reform of parliament. Pitt said that it was "not a time to make hazardous experiments"; and though Fox, Erskine, and Sheridan spoke on the other side, he was supported by the larger number of the party. Pitt was delighted at this split, and hoped to obtain a pledge of co-operation against the propaganda from "the most respectable members of opposition".[233] Matters were not ripe for this. An attempt of Fox to procure the relief of the unitarians from penal laws was defeated by a large majority, owing to the active part which they were taking in spreading principles subversive, so Pitt said, "of every established religion and every established government". Chauvelin and Talleyrand found themselves avoided by society generally. They held constant communication with Fox, Sheridan, Lord Lansdowne, and other enemies of the government; and Chauvelin had the impertinence to send a remonstrance to Grenville against the proclamation of May 21, for which he was duly rebuked. All that they could obtain from Grenville was an assurance that England desired to remain at peace with France, and hoped that France would respect the rights of the king and his allies; if, in other words, the French wished England to remain neutral, they must keep their hands off Holland. No better success attended the effort to detach Prussia from the Austrian alliance, and the Prussian king declared himself at war with France.

An attempt of the French to snatch the Austrian Netherlands ended miserably; their soldiers fled before the emperor's army of occupation on April 29, mutinied, and murdered one of their generals. The allied armies under the Duke of Brunswick were gathering, and Paris was in a ferment. Neither of the two national assemblies, not the first, called the constituent, nor its successor, the legislative assembly, could govern. The Paris mob, bestial and sanguinary, was supreme, and was moved from time to time to violent action by individuals or groups which played upon and pandered to its passions. On June 20 a carefully engineered insurrection exposed the king and queen to cruel insults and imminent danger. The long agony of the monarchy was drawing to a close. After protracted delays the allies began to move, and, on July 25, Brunswick published an ill-judged manifesto which excited the French to fury. The British ambassador, Lord Gower, wrote that the lives of the king and queen were threatened, and asked if he might represent the sentiments of his court. Determined not to give any cause of offence, the government refused to allow him to speak officially. On August 10 another prearranged insurrection was raised in Paris; the king and queen sought refuge with the assembly, and the king's Swiss guards and officers were massacred. He and the queen were imprisoned, and royalty was "suspended". Gower was at once recalled. This was not a hostile act; the king to whom he was accredited no longer reigned, and to have accredited him to the provisional government, which had deposed the king, would have been indecent and a just cause of offence to the allied powers. Before leaving he was instructed to express his master's determination to remain neutral, and his earnest hope that the king and queen would be safe from any violence, "which could not fail to produce one universal sentiment of indignation throughout every country of Europe". Talleyrand left England; Chauvelin remained, though the king's deposition deprived him of his character as ambassador.


The allied armies entered France; Longwy surrendered on the 26th and Verdun on the 31st. A few days later England was horrified by the news of the massacres of September; the indignation was general, and Fox spoke of the massacres with genuine disgust. The success of the allies was short-lived; Dumouriez defeated the Prussians at Valmy on September 20, and before the end of October the invaders were forced to evacuate France. A French army seized Savoy and Nice, which were annexed to France, and another overran the principalities on the left bank of the Rhine, receiving the surrenders of Speyer, Worms, and Mainz, crossed the river and took Frankfort. Meanwhile Dumouriez entered the Austrian Netherlands; he defeated the Austrians at Jemappes, and the Netherlands were lost to the emperor. Everywhere the French posed as liberators and set up republican institutions. While France was allured by the Girondist idea of universal emancipation, it carried on the traditions of the old monarchy in its aggressions; it was so in the Rhineland and the Netherlands, and it was so with regard to the Dutch republic. French republicanism was industriously propagated in the provinces, and the "patriot" party, which was defeated in 1787, was again encouraged to revolt. Determined not to be drawn into war, the British government, in July, warned the states-general not to be persuaded to join the allies, and the Dutch remained neutral. In November, a victorious French army was on their border, and a strong party among them was ready to co-operate with it by overthrowing the stadholder as soon as it entered their territory. England was bound alike by honour and her own interest to defend the stadholder, and the French knew that, if they desired that England should remain neutral, they must not molest Holland. On the 13th the states-general applied to England for an assurance of help if need arose. It was, Pitt felt, "absolutely impossible to hesitate," and Grenville assured the states-general that England would faithfully fulfil the stipulations of the treaty of 1788.


Holland was in imminent danger, and in the hope that some combined action might lead to a general pacification, the English government sought to open confidential communications with Austria and Prussia. The replies of the two powers were delayed; they were arranging for their respective indemnifications; for their plans were upset by the failure of their invasion of France. Catherine had invaded Poland in the spring, and Frederick William, who had more than once guaranteed the integrity of the kingdom, betrayed the Poles, and agreed with the empress to make a second partition of Poland between themselves. That was to be his indemnity; the emperor was to be gratified by being allowed to exchange the Netherlands for Bavaria. Great Britain protested, but in vain. The second partition of Poland was carried out in 1793. Scarcely had Grenville assured the Dutch that England would stand by them, when, on the 16th, the French executive declared the Scheldt open, and soon afterwards sent ships of war by it to Antwerp. This decree violated the rights of the Dutch, which had been confirmed by the treaty of Fontainebleau in 1785, and which England was bound to defend by the treaty of 1788. It showed that France assumed the right of subverting the political system of Europe by setting treaties at nought, and it was a direct defiance of England.

Nor was this the only provocation which England received. The downfall of the French monarchy excited the revolutionary societies to fresh activity, and the propaganda was carried on with amazing insolence. Deputations from these societies appeared before the national convention with congratulatory addresses and were received with effusion. The constitutional society, for example, hoped that Frenchmen would soon have to congratulate an English national convention, and the president in reply expressed his belief that France would soon hail England as a sister-republic. Emissaries from the French ministry promoted sedition both in England and in Ireland, and their reports led their employers to believe that England, Scotland, and Ireland were ripe for revolt.[234] It was an absurd mistake. Yet though the number of revolutionists was still comparatively small, the propaganda caused much uneasiness. Thousands of French refugees were landing in England, mostly priests and members of the aristocracy, many of them completely destitute. Subscriptions were raised for their relief, and Burke and others exerted themselves nobly in their behalf. This large immigration made it easy for French spies and revolutionary agents to carry on their work undetected. Its progress was helped forward by discontent among the lower class. The harvest was bad and the price of wheat rose, trade was depressed, and there was much distress, specially in the manufacturing districts. Riots broke out at Carlisle, Leeds, Yarmouth, Shields, Leith, Perth, and Dundee, and in some cases were connected with revolutionary sentiments. At Dundee cries were raised of "No excise, no king," and a tree of liberty was planted. On November 19 the convention openly asserted its right to overthrow the government of other countries by decreeing that France would help, and would instruct her generals to help, all peoples that desired freedom; and an order was given that translations of this decree should be distributed in all countries. The decree was an invitation to the subjects of every state in Europe to revolt, and the propaganda which it authorised was a gross insult to the British government and nation.

The danger of Holland and the activity of revolutionists at home convinced the ministry that it was time to take measures of defence. On December 1 a part of the militia was embodied, and parliament was summoned for the 13th; the Tower was fortified, naval preparations were set on foot, a squadron was ordered to the mouth of the Scheldt, and an order of council prohibited the exportation of grain to France. Grenville informed the Dutch that England was arming, and called on them to arm also. Pitt still hoped for peace, and suggested to a French envoy that his government should give him assurances through an authorised agent with respect to the safety of Holland and the decree of November 19. The executive council would only treat through Chauvelin, who was offensive.[235] On the 27th he demanded whether England was to be reckoned neutral or an enemy of France; he protested that the decree did not apply to England, and that no attack would be made on Holland, but said that France would not give way as to the Scheldt, and threatened that if the ministers decided on war, they would find the nation against them. Already a decree of the convention passed on the 15th had ordained that all states occupied by French armies should virtually be subject to France, and should contribute to the support of the French troops. The war of "liberation" had become a war of conquest.[236] Grenville replied to Chauvelin on the 31st to the effect that the protestations of the executive council were belied by its conduct, that England could not consent that France should annul treaties at her pleasure, or be indifferent to her assumption of sovereignty over the Netherlands, and that if she desired England's friendship, she should abandon her views of aggression and cease to insult or disturb other governments.[237]


During the first days of the session Pitt was absent; he had at the king's earnest wish accepted the valuable sinecure office of warden of the Cinque Ports, and was not yet re-elected. In moving an amendment to the address on the 14th Fox made a violent attack on the government. At that critical time when England's welfare demanded that party enmities should yield before the importance of union against sedition at home and aggression abroad, he did not scruple to declare that the government had wilfully exaggerated domestic disturbances, in order to establish a system of oppression more intolerable than "the horrors of the inquisition of Spain," and implied that the ministers were hostile to France merely because France was, as he jeeringly said, "an unanointed republic". Windham and other whigs voted against him, and his amendment was rejected by 290 to 50. He returned to the charge, but spoke more moderately, on the next day and again on the next, with a motion for sending an ambassador to Paris, which was negatived without a division. The disruption of the whig party was obvious; Portland, Fitzwilliam, Spencer, Carlisle, and Loughborough in the lords, and in the commons Windham, Elliot, and many more voted with the government, and Burke took his seat on the treasury bench. Loughborough received the great seal on January 28, 1793, but the rest as yet gave the ministers independent support. An addition of 9,000 men to the naval force and increased army estimates were voted unanimously, Fox declaring his approval on the ground that the position of foreign affairs demanded them. An alien bill was also carried, subjecting foreign immigrants to police regulations and empowering the secretary of state to expel them. This bill was opposed in the lords by Lansdowne, and in the commons by Fox and Grey. In the course of an almost frenzied speech in support of it, Burke threw a dagger on the floor of the house, a specimen, he said, of three thousand which, he was informed on excellent authority, had been ordered in Birmingham by an English revolutionist.

Chauvelin, whose credentials as "minister plenipotentiary of the French republic" were not accepted by the English court protested against the alien bill and the prohibition of the export of grain, and declared that France considered the treaty of commerce of 1786 broken and annulled. The two measures excited the indignation of the convention; the speedy downfall of England was triumphantly predicted; 3,000,000 Irishmen were ready to revolt, and India would shake off the British rule as soon as the French appeared in Asia. The executive council was pressed to demand the repeal of both measures, and a satisfactory explanation of the English military preparations, and orders were given for the immediate armament of a fleet. While the French ministers were already preparing for a descent on England,[238] and France was reducing the Austrian Netherlands to a merely municipal status, the contemplated invasion of Holland was delayed by the condition of the French army; and negotiations with England were carried on. Believing that if the English people were assured with respect to the Netherlands and the intention of France not to interfere in their domestic concerns, they would declare against the government in case of a war, the French foreign minister protested that the occupation of the Netherlands was merely temporary, that France looked forward to Belgian independence, and that the decree of November 19 only applied to a case where the general will of the people was expressed. The opening of the Scheldt was defended as authorised by the law of nature. This paper, which was a kind of ultimatum, did not withdraw the claim to propagate republicanism in other states or to annul the treaty rights of England's allies, and put no definite limit to the occupation of the Austrian Netherlands. Grenville returned a haughty answer. War was almost certain. The execution of the French king on the 21st hastened the end. The tidings were received in London with universal grief and indignation; the theatres were closed, and not the court alone, but all who could afford it, wore mourning. As the king drove through the streets, cries were raised of "War with France!" Chauvelin was ordered to quit the kingdom in eight days, and left at once. On February 1 France declared war on England and Holland. In common with the nation at large, George welcomed the declaration of war; the "insolence" of France irritated him, and the execution of the French king was an insult and a menace to every crowned head in Europe; yet the order of the king in council for Chauvelin's departure was of course given on the advice of the ministers.[239]

[Sidenote: WAR WITH FRANCE.]

Pitt had striven long and earnestly to avoid war. It was finally forced upon him. Grossly as the government was provoked by French attempts to spread republicanism in the king's dominions, that alone would not have forced him into war; the great mass of the English people was thoroughly loyal, and the resources of government were sufficient to deal with sedition. But England was bound in honour to defend the rights of the Dutch, and her own security demanded that she should withstand the French designs of aggrandisement. Burke would have had war declared on France as an enemy of God and mankind, because she trampled on institutions which he regarded as sacred in themselves and essential to the well-being of society. The feelings of the nation were excited by the excesses of the revolution, until the crowning act of the king's execution called forth a demand for war; and as the war went on hatred of French principles made Englishmen willing to bear the heavy burdens it entailed. But in the great decision Pitt was unmoved by sentiments such as these. Unlike the rulers of Austria and Prussia, the government was not embarking on a war either of principles or ambition, not on a crusade against republicanism nor, in its inception, a struggle for extended dominions; its object was to maintain the honour and the security of England. The opening of the Scheldt by France was a far more serious matter for England than if Leopold II. had succeeded in his attempt to carry out the same measure; for France was a great maritime power and entertained schemes of boundless ambition. That she contemplated the annexation of the Austrian Netherlands and the conquest of Holland was certain, and if she became mistress of the Netherlands and Holland, and had Antwerp as a station for her fleet, the security of England would be at an end.

Security could only be attained either by war or by an alliance with the republic, which would have been repugnant to the nation, would have made England partner in unjustifiable aggressions, and would have betrayed the interests of Europe to France. While it may be urged that the haughty tone adopted by Grenville during the last few weeks of peace irritated France, and that the dismissal of Chauvelin put an end to further attempts at reconciliation, it will scarcely be denied that the government was justified in refusing to prolong useless communications, and that it acted wisely in taking a decided step when the country was thoroughly prepared to support its decision. Having to choose between war and all that an alliance with France would have entailed, England chose war, and took her stand in the breach which France made in the political system, true to herself and finally the saviour of Europe.

The violent opposition of Fox seems to have proceeded from mixed causes. That he sincerely loved liberty must be allowed, but he was less attracted by the constitutional liberty of Burke's devotion, which like some stately building grows towards completeness as each successive generation enters into and carries on the labours of its predecessors, than by the cause of liberty, whether truly or falsely so called, in revolt. Unbridled in his own life, he loved resistance to authority. And he was one of those, in England unfortunately there are always such, who rate the cause they love above their country's cause. It was so with him during the American war. When he would describe how much an event pleased him he wrote, "no public event, not excepting Saratoga and Yorktown, ever gave me so much delight". It was so during the war with France. His opposition, however, also proceeded from hatred to the government.[240] Abhorred by the king and rejected by the country, he resented his exclusion from office by opposing the government at a time when Englishmen should have sunk all party differences in the face of their country's peril. He ascribed the measures taken to repress sedition and defeat the French propaganda as attempts at tyranny. While he acknowledged that the opening of the Scheldt was a casus belli, he spoke of it as a matter which England could well afford to overlook, and he represented the action of the government as unfair to France and as the result of monarchical prejudice. As the war went on his unpatriotic feelings were constantly displayed in a most offensive manner. His conduct broke up the whig party. England was entering on a period of fearful conflict; happy at least in that the confidence of the nation was given to a statesman whose one absorbing care was for the welfare of his country.


[229] Political Memoranda of the Duke of Leeds, pp. 150-52; Lecky, Hist., v., 222-99.

[230] Sorel, L'Europe et la Revolution Francaise, ii., 236.

[231] Political Memoranda of the Duke of Leeds, p. 194.

[232] Sorel, u.s., ii., 417-23.

[233] Auckland Corr., ii., 401-3.

[234] Sorel, u.s., iii., 214-15.

[235] Ibid., 221-22, 225, 229.

[236] Sorel, u.s., iii., 235-37, 259; Sybel, Geschichte der Revolutionzeit, French trans. Histoire de l'Europe pendant la Revolution Francaise, ii., 58-60.

[237] Correspondence between M. Chauvelin and Lord Grenville, Parl. Hist., xxx., 250-56.

[238] Sorel, u.s., iii., 243.

[239] Pitt to Grenville, Jan. 23, 1793, and following letters, Dropmore Papers, ii. 371-72, 378.

[240] Memorials of C. J. Fox, iii., 349.



The nine years between Pitt's accession to office and the outbreak of the war with France were a period of advance in constitutional freedom and financial prosperity. All progress in these directions was arrested by the war. The security of England, a matter of higher importance than these, was at stake. The war demanded all the energies of the nation. Questions which would have divided the country or weakened the government were shelved, for it was not a time to debate reforms when the state itself was in peril. Pitt defeated efforts for parliamentary reform and grew cold to the cause of the abolition of the slave trade. But the war brought worse than an arrest of progress; it brought repression of freedom and a tremendous load of debt. The French propaganda roused general indignation and alarm. Towards the end of 1792 the ministers were convinced of the existence of a plot for effecting a revolution by the aid of France. There was much to justify their alarm; Ireland seemed ripe for revolt, political discontent was strong in Scotland, and evidence, gained later, confirmed them in their belief that sedition was reaching a dangerous height in England. They overrated the existing danger, though if sedition had remained unchecked it might soon have become dangerous; for France was attacking the state by secret seduction as well as by open arms. Extraordinary precautions were taken to meet a peril which was specially terrible because its extent was unknown. Measures of repression were eagerly welcomed by parliament; judges and magistrates exercised their powers with harshness, and juries were often biassed by the feeling of the bench. The nation was alarmed, and severity was popular.


Pitt, who had guided England in peace, was to remain at the helm in war. The conduct of the war is therefore closely connected with the question whether, great as he was in peace, he was a great war minister.[241] The British army, which in 1792 only numbered about 17,300 men and at the outbreak of the war was increased by 9,945, was so small that it could only either act a secondary part in a continental war, or engage in isolated expeditions to support insurrections in France. During the first part of the war our successes on land were trifling and our failures many. This was partly at least due to the custom of regarding noble birth rather than military attainments as a claim to command. Though Pitt, as we shall see, insisted on the recall of the Duke of York, he did not break through this evil custom, and our generals, though brave, were often incompetent. Pitt built great hopes on the co-operation of the French royalists and many expeditions were sent out to act with them. A belligerent power should place little dependence on insurrectionary movements in an enemy's country; for insurgents, however hostile they may be to their own government, will seldom act cordially with a foreign invader; their forces are generally unorganised, and they are apt to expect too much of their foreign ally. It is good policy to encourage them by sending them supplies, for their revolts embarrass their government and are useful as diversions in war. But a belligerent should not squander on diversions strength which might be employed in the main conflict. Pitt's expeditions of this kind were costly failures; they inflicted no deadly wound and were expensive both in men and money. On the other hand England was victorious by sea; the naval force was raised to 45,000 men in February, 1793, was constantly increased, and was commanded by admirals whose right to command was based on their skill in seamanship and maritime warfare.

For the security of England and the peace of Europe France, it was held, must be reduced to powerlessness. England's greatness at sea might enable her to destroy the enemy's commerce, conquer her colonies, and blockade her ports; the object of the war could be attained only by victories on land. Politically the continental states were rotten; their rulers were selfish despots, each bent on extending his dominions by any means, however dishonest; for international morality had broken down before the bait offered by the weakness of Poland. What barrier could they oppose to the flood of French aggression, the outcome of the enthusiasm of a great people? When France forced England into war she provoked a more dangerous enemy—the will of a nation. Supported by the national will, Pitt embarked on the task of combining the powers of Europe against France, and as some were unwilling and some unable to fight at their own expense, he paid them with English gold, and England found money for them as well as for her own naval and military operations. Pitt raised enormous loans. The funded debt, which in 1792 was, roughly, L238,000,000, rose during nine years of war to about L574,000,000. He began to borrow at once; in 1793 he raised a loan of L4,500,000, and in 1794 another of L11,000,000, besides imposing new taxes amounting to L913,000.

He has been blamed for not raising more by taxation during the early years of the war instead of burdening posterity so heavily. The financial difficulties of France led him to believe that the war would be short. "It will be a short war," he said, "and certainly ended in one or two campaigns." "No, sir," replied the more prescient Burke, "it will be a long war and a dangerous war; but it must be undertaken." In its earliest years Pitt had good reason for avoiding high taxation. It began in the midst of a financial crisis. The harvest of 1792 was seriously defective, and there was much want. The rapid advance in agriculture, commerce, and manufactures had led to the foundation of many country banks, which eagerly pushed their own notes into circulation, and credit was unduly strained. Currency became redundant, and a violent revulsion began in November, 1792, when the number of bankruptcies in the month amounted to 105, more than double the average number of the ten earlier months of the year. The crisis became more acute in the spring of 1793, and during the year there were 1,926 failures, of which twenty-six were failures of country banks. In order to relieve the distress Pitt, in April, obtained the assent of parliament for the issue of exchequer bills to the extent of L5,000,000 to be applied in advances at fair interest and on good security. Fox offered a factious opposition to this measure, alleging that it conferred a dangerous power on the executive. It was completely successful, and the panic was checked. As, then, Pitt believed that the war would be short, and as it was not a time for attempting to raise taxation to an amount sufficient to furnish the supplies within the year, he was justified in having an early recourse to loans.

In return for the L336,000,000 of debt created by Pitt in nine years, the country only received about L223,000,000 in money; and he has been accused of extravagance because he raised money mainly in 3 per cent. stock instead of at a rate more nearly corresponding to its market value. In 1793 every L100 borrowed created L138 stock, and when in 1797 the 3 per cents. fell to 47, the sacrifice was enormous. Pitt did attempt to raise a loan at a higher rate in 1793, and found it impossible; and it is at least doubtful whether he did not act more prudently in borrowing in the 3 per cents. than at a high rate.[242] In his budget speech of 1793 he announced that he would always maintain the sinking fund. He kept his promise, and this expensive economy provided a deduction of L42,500,000 from the L336,000,000 of debt. Financially, as we have seen, this was a mistake; politically it was useful in encouraging and comforting the country in a time of stress; for the opposition was as fully persuaded as the ministry of the efficacy of the fund. If, then, it be allowed that the war was just and necessary, little fault should be found with the way in which money was provided for it. That Pitt's subsidies were sometimes unwise may be conceded; that his coalitions disappointed him is certain. He had to contend with selfishness and deceit in the rulers of Europe, and laboured with ability and courage to keep them steadfast to the common cause, again and again taking up his task, undismayed by failures which are not to be laid to his charge. While mistakes in the conduct of the war forbid us to call him a great war minister in the narrow sense of the term, we should scarcely refuse that praise in a wider, truer sense to a minister so dauntless in adversity, so fertile in resource, so deservedly trusted by the nation as "the pilot that weathered the storm".


In March the government hired troops from Hanover and Hesse Cassel; and during the year, Holland being already an ally, made treaties hostile to France with all the other Christian powers of Europe except Denmark, Sweden, the Swiss, Tuscany Venice, and Genoa, which decided on neutrality. The emperor and the Prussian king agreed to carry on the war in concert with England. Catherine of Russia made a treaty of commerce, and another promising co-operation against the commerce of France. Her army was engaged in Poland, and she took no part in the war beyond carrying out her engagement by means of her fleet. In May, the convention declared war on Spain and the king entered into the coalition. The King of Sardinia was already at war, and the British government granted him a subsidy of L200,000 to enable him to keep up his army, and agreed to send a fleet into the Mediterranean. A treaty for concerted action in the Mediterranean was made with the king of the Two Sicilies, and another treaty with Portugal, our ancient ally, which became of importance after Spain deserted the coalition. The accession of England to the enemies of France gave them a new weapon against her. Great Britain and Russia agreed to prevent neutral ships from supplying her with provisions, and, on June 8, British officers were ordered to stop all ships so engaged and send them to England, where their cargoes would be sold and their freights paid by the government.

The emperor did not relish the idea of a disinterested war; and Grenville agreed that the allies should indemnify themselves, and should make conquests on the Belgian frontier of France, which in Austrian hands would form a strong barrier against her. This met the emperor's views, for an enlargement of the Austrian Netherlands would forward his plan of exchanging them for Bavaria. The proposed exchange, however, was contrary to English policy, for it would have created a weak state on the French frontier. As soon as war was declared, Dumouriez invaded Holland, but was soon called back to Belgium, where the French were losing ground. He was defeated at Neerwinden on March 18, and the French withdrew from the Netherlands. They were unsuccessful on the Rhine, and Mainz was threatened by the Prussians. Dissatisfied with the proceedings of his government, Dumouriez intrigued with the enemy and finally fled to the Austrian camp, but was unable to carry his army with him. On April 8 a conference between representatives of the allies was held at Antwerp. Lord Auckland, the British minister in Holland, appeared for England, accompanied by the king's second son, the Duke of York, who was to command the British and Hanoverian army. The allies agreed to make conquests and keep them. Auckland declared that this was the policy of his court. Austria was to gain places on the frontier which would shut France out from the Netherlands, England would look to the conquest of Dunkirk and the French colonies.[243]

On May 20 the British army with its Hanoverian and Hessian contingents joined the Prince of Coburg, and took a distinguished part in driving the French from their camp at Famars. The smart appearance of the English troops was much admired, but their officers were careless. The French army of the north was disorderly and discouraged. While the regular troops generally behaved well, the volunteers, who had a separate organisation and elected their own officers, were insubordinate and lacking in soldierly qualities; the representatives of the people who accompanied the army, though they did some good, meddled in military matters; the generals were suspected, were constantly displaced, and were fortunate if they escaped the scaffold; and the ministry of war was utterly incompetent. The allies besieged Conde and Valenciennes; Conde surrendered on July 13 and Valenciennes on the 28th, and the Austrians took possession of both. Coburg's allies were anxious to secure territory for themselves, and he had some difficulty in persuading them to join him in an attack on the French at Caesar's camp, a strong position covered by the Scheldt, the Sensee, and the Agache. The French were driven out and fell back on Arras. France was in sore straits. Mainz capitulated on July 23, and the army of the Moselle retreated behind the Saar. On the Spanish frontier Roussillon was invaded. In the Alps the republican army was driven back near Saorgio, and its best troops were sent off to quell insurrection in the cities of the south; for the country was torn by civil discord. The Girondins were overthrown in June, and the party called the Mountain gained absolute power. Bordeaux was a centre of resistance; Marseilles, Lyons, and Toulon were in revolt, and were supported by the towns of the Jura and Provence. An insurrection which began in the Vendean district of Anjou grew to a formidable height. The army of La Vendee, of 40,000 men, defeated the republican generals, captured Saumur, and threatened Nantes. Between Basle and the sea the allies were 280,000 strong; an advance on Paris in two directions, from the Belgian border by Soissons and from Mainz by Reims, would almost certainly have ended the war. After the capture of Caesar's camp the way to Paris lay open to Coburg; there was no French force strong enough to arrest the march of the allies.[244]


The coalition was paralysed by discord and by the insistence of its members on the pursuit of different objects. The English ministers made the security of the Netherlands as an Austrian province a prime consideration, and to satisfy them the emperor promised to give up the exchange of the Netherlands for Bavaria. He was to be indemnified by the acquisition of Alsace and Lorraine, which were to be conquered by the help of Prussia.[245] Frederick William, however, would not help to conquer territory for Austria, nor assist in the dismemberment of France, unless the emperor assented to the treaty for the partition of Poland secretly arranged between him and Catherine of Russia, and signed on January 23. Baron Thugut, the Austrian minister, who was violently hostile toward Prussia, would not assent to a treaty which aggrandised that power and did not give his master a share in the spoil. While, then, France, distressed by invasion, revolt, and scarcity, seemed an easy prey, Brunswick remained on the Rhine, and refused to co-operate with Austria in Alsace, and Coburg was intent on gaining frontier towns. The English government was anxious to secure its own share in the conquests from France, and, on August 10, acting on instructions from home, York went off with a force of 37,000 men, his own English and German troops with 11,000 Austrians, to lay siege to Dunkirk. About the same time Frederick William ordered 8,000 Prussian troops engaged in Flanders to withdraw to Luxemburg, and Coburg invested Le Quesnoy.

On one side only was full advantage taken of the distress of France. In consequence of the late disputes with Spain and Russia the British navy was in an efficient state. Of 113 ships of the line nearly ninety were in good condition. Howe commanded the channel fleet; he kept it at Spithead, and it did nothing of importance during the year. The Mediterranean fleet under Hood sailed in June and blockaded Toulon. The insurrectionary movement at Marseilles was quelled by the convention, and the royalists at Toulon were threatened by the jacobin forces. Though the town was well supplied with provisions, the chiefs of the royalist party persuaded the people that the only way to escape starvation was to treat with the English. The inhabitants declared for Louis XVII., the son of the late king, and the constitution of 1791, and surrendered the town to Hood, together with the ships in the port, thirty ships of the line, more than a third of the whole French line of battle, and other smaller vessels. Hood received the forts and the ships for King Louis and promised to restore them at the end of the war. He invited the co-operation of the Spanish fleet under Langara and when it appeared entered the harbour, on August 29. The news was received in England with delight, and Grenville declared his belief that "the business at Toulon" would probably be "decisive of the war". England desired the establishment of a constitutional monarchy, and it was hoped that the occupation of the place would strengthen the movement in that direction in the south. The emigre Count of Provence, the next younger brother of Louis XVI., who had assumed the title of regent, desired the government to allow him to enter the town. As the emigres aimed at the restoration of absolutism it would have been fatal to the hopes built on the movement in the south in favour of a constitutional monarchy to have granted his request, and it would have been unfair to the Toulonese who stipulated for the acceptance of the constitution of 1791. Besides this, the emigres were strongly opposed to the policy of conquest adopted at Antwerp; and, though Toulon was not to be taken from France, England could not at that time encourage the count's pretensions. His presence in the town would have been embarrassing to Hood, and he would certainly have interfered with the defence. England did not acknowledge his claim to the regency, and he was not admitted into Toulon.

While the allies were divided in purpose and action, the danger of France and the violation of her territory roused the party in power to energy in her defence. In August the second committee of public safety decreed a levee en masse, and on the 23rd substituted for it a universal conscription. Men were poured into the army, but they had to be turned into soldiers; and efficient generals, and above all a competent military administration, had to be provided. At this crisis Carnot, who was to earn the title of "organiser of victories," took the direction of the war. The new troops were at first worse than useless, but after a while they were brought to order by being drafted into the old battalions; the amalgamation of the volunteers with the regulars was effected early in 1794, and the army of the revolution became a well-ordered fighting machine. While the new levies of August, 1793, were still undisciplined Carnot's genius began to raise the fortunes of France.

[Sidenote: HONDSCHOOTE.]

When York marched off to the siege of Dunkirk on August 10 he divided his army into two corps, placing one, composed of 14,500 German and Austrian troops, under Marshal Freytag, to act as an army of observation, while he commanded the army of the siege in person. On his march a detachment of his troops surprised and routed a French force at Linselles while engaged in pillaging the place. He summoned Dunkirk on the 23rd. The fleet, which was to have bombarded the town and brought a siege-train, had not arrived. He was only able to invest the town on the east, for the French laid the country between Bergues and Dunkirk under water, and the causeway from Bergues was strongly defended. His army occupied a wretched position, was in want of good water, and was cut off from direct communication with Freytag, who was encamped in front of Bergues.[246] On September 6-8 Freytag's army was attacked by a French army under Houchard of nearly four times its strength. Walmoden, who succeeded Freytag, might have avoided the battle of Hondschoote on the 8th; he fought in obedience to York's orders and was defeated with heavy loss. York hastily retreated to Furnes. If Houchard had followed up his success he might have crushed York's army. He turned aside to attack the Dutch quartered on the Lys and routed them at Menin. Le Quesnoy surrendered to the Austrians on the 11th, and Coburg invested Maubeuge. Jourdan, the new commander of the army of the north, and Carnot, who accompanied him, attacked and defeated the Austrian covering army at Wattignies on October 16, and forced Coburg to raise the siege. This was practically the end of the campaign, which closed far more favourably for France than it had begun.

On the German frontier political disunion was fatal to the success of the allies. Frederick William believed that the emperor's refusal to accept the partition treaty encouraged the Poles to resist his demands. He left the army of the Rhine, and went off to Posen to establish his rule in his new dominions, ordering Brunswick not to engage in any operations which might prevent him from sending him such troops as he might call for. Wurmser, the Austrian commander, drove the French from their lines at Weissenburg on October 13, but the limited co-operation of the Prussian army was not enough to secure any material progress, and finally, on December 26, Hoche inflicted a severe defeat on the Austrians at the Geisberg. Wurmser retreated across the Rhine, and the Prussians were forced to abandon the greater part of the Palatinate, and withdrew to Mainz. No French territory on the north or east remained in the hands of the allies except Conde, Valenciennes and Le Quesnoy, while on the Italian frontier forward movements of the Piedmontese had ended in failure and the King of Sardinia was reduced to a merely defensive attitude.

The republican armies were not less successful against domestic foes than against foreign invasion. The loss of Mainz in July set free a large force which was used to lay waste La Vendee. The Vendeans applied for help to the emigrant princes and to England. Pitt, though he would not encourage the hopes of the princes, was willing to support a movement which was weakening the enemy and might forward the establishment of a constitutional monarchy. Stores were sent to Noirmoutier for the insurgents and further help was promised. Some 80,000 Vendeans, of both sexes and all ages, crossed the Loire, marched through Anjou, and made an attempt on Granville, in the hope of gaining a port at which they might receive succour from England. An expedition was prepared to help them, and a force of 12,000 men, emigres, British troops, and others under the Earl of Moira, the Lord Rawdon of the American war, arrived off the Norman coast on December 2. They made signals but no answer was returned. The Vendeans had failed before Granville and had retreated a few days before. As they were attempting to return to their homes they were caught by a republican force; a large number was massacred and the rest dispersed. The English expedition returned without accomplishing anything.


Toulon was threatened by the republicans both on the east and west, while on the north Lyons was closely besieged. Hood despatched Nelson to Naples for reinforcements which were sent by the king. Even with them the garrison, made up of 2,000 British troops, Spaniards, Sardinians, Neapolitans, and French royalists, many of them untrained, amounted to only about 12,000 men fit for duty, a wholly insufficient number, for the defences were widely extended. Hood sent off four of the French ships, full of republican prisoners, who were allowed to return to their homes because it was inconvenient to keep them. By the middle of September the republicans were pressing the siege, and on October 1 the garrison under Lord Mulgrave smartly drove them from a commanding position which they had seized on Mont Faron. The fall of Lyons on the 9th set free a large force to act against the place, and the besieging army under Dugommier finally numbered 37,000 men, with artillery organised and directed by a young Corsican officer, Napoleon Bonaparte, who since September 16 had taken an active part in the siege. General O'Hara, then in command in the town, was wounded and taken prisoner while leading a sortie, and on the night of December 16-17 the enemy forced the line of defence and planted their batteries in commanding positions. Neither the harbour nor the town was tenable any longer, and orders were given for the embarkation of the troops. Of the twenty-seven French ships of the line in the harbour, nine, together with smaller vessels, were burnt by British seamen under Sir Sidney Smith, in spite of a furious bombardment from the heights, and three accompanied the retreat. The remaining fifteen were left to the enemy, and an attempt to destroy the dockyard was only partially successful, for time was short and the Spaniards, either through treachery or more probably through the incompetence of their officers, failed to accomplish their share of the work. The English and Spanish fleets sailed on the 19th, carrying off some 6,000 refugees, and Hood's fleet anchored in Hyeres bay. The remainder of the population was exposed to the cruel vengeance of the jacobins.

There is good reason to believe that the government did not intend to violate the terms of the surrender by keeping Toulon as a British possession. As an isolated station it could not have been defended and supplied without an enormous strain on England's resources. Its value to Great Britain was purely temporary; it was of incalculable importance to the enemy, and it was expected to serve as a base for the movement in the south against the jacobin government. The issue of the insurrection was decided by the fall of Lyons. Hopes of a success to be gained through French disaffection were as ill-founded as those based on American loyalism. The ministers pursued a mistaken policy, and pursued it weakly; for as they believed that the occupation of Toulon was of first-rate importance, they should have concentrated their efforts upon its defence instead of squandering their resources by trying to do two things at once, to co-operate with the Vendeans and to defend Toulon, while the war on the Flemish frontier was a constant drain on England's small army. Grenville ascribed the disaster to the "common cause" to the failure of the Austrian government to fulfil its promise of sending a reinforcement of 5,000 men to the garrison.[247] The loss of the place was a bitter disappointment; it was mortifying in itself, and it declared the futility of the high hopes built on the insurrectionary movement in the south. Reckoning it with Dunkirk and the Vendean expedition, the government had to confess to three failures in the year. Yet England had some grounds for satisfaction. Tobago and the fishery islands of St. Pierre and Miquelon were taken without difficulty, Pondicherry and the other French factories in India were surrendered, several French ships of war were captured in single-ship and other small combats, and a substantial advantage was gained by the destruction of the ships at Toulon.

[Sidenote: REPRESSION.]

The success of the allies in the spring of 1793 gave Fox an opportunity for moving for the re-establishment of peace. If, he argued, the war was undertaken to preserve Holland and check the aggrandisement of France, that object was attained. France had been the aggressor; so much the more reason was there to regard the war as purely defensive, and end it when the aggression ended. Pitt said that he would no longer pledge himself that England would not interfere in the internal affairs of France. So long as the existing French government was in power, there could be no security that the system of aggression and propagandism would cease, or that treaties would be observed. Fox's motion was defeated by 187 to 47. Earlier in the session the government brought in a bill against traitorous correspondence, to prevent intercourse with France, and specially such acts as the purchase of French stocks, which tended to support the enemy. Some of its provisions were unusually restrictive, and the penalty of treason was attached to the breach of any of them. The bill was passed without material alteration. In spite of the strong feeling against societies believed to advocate revolutionary principles, Grey, in accordance with his notice of the last session, moved that the petition of the Friends of the People for parliamentary reform should be considered. His motion, which was supported by Fox, was defeated by 282 to 41.

Violent efforts were made by the government to crush the effects of the French propaganda, by prosecutions for uttering, printing, or publishing sedition. The attack was indiscriminate; spies were employed, and idle words of obscure persons were made grounds of indictment. Both in the superior courts and at quarter sessions severe penalties were inflicted. One Frost, a broken-down attorney, and a pestilent rascal enough, though convicted merely of saying in a coffee-house that he was "for equality and no king," was sentenced to six months' imprisonment, to stand in the pillory, and be struck off the roll. A dissenting preacher, found guilty of using seditious language in the pulpit, was sentenced to fines of L200 and four years' imprisonment; and Ridgway, a bookseller in Piccadilly, was awarded the same penalty for selling the Rights of Man and two other pamphlets of a kindred tendency. In Scotland, where the government business was managed by Dundas, the parliamentary representation was extremely unsatisfactory; the reformers were violent, and belonged to revolutionary societies. The sedition cases were mostly heard before the lord-justice clerk Braxfield, who behaved with scandalous harshness and severity. One Muir, who had been expelled from the society of advocates, though no offence of any magnitude was proved against him at his trial, was condemned to fourteen years' transportation. Three others received like sentences, and a dissenting preacher named Palmer was transported for five years. Adam, an eminent Scottish lawyer, contended in parliament that the sentences on Muir and Palmer were illegal. His opinion was traversed by Dundas and Pitt, and his motion on their behalf was negatived by 171 to 32.

It must be remembered that the proceedings of the corresponding and constitutional societies were such as no settled government could leave unpunished. Some few arms and a mass of compromising documents were seized in Edinburgh, and twelve of the leading members of these societies were arrested in May, 1794. A secret committee of the commons presented reports on seditious practices, which show that some persons had conspired to raise an armed insurrection, and that a so-called national convention at Edinburgh was concerned in treasonable conspiracy. Later in the year one Watt was hanged for engaging in a wild plot to seize Edinburgh castle and commit other acts of treason. On the presentation of the first report of the committee the government brought in a bill to suspend the habeas corpus act. Pitt declared the matter urgent, and the bill, which was introduced in the commons on Friday the 16th, was passed in a special sitting the next day, though not without a struggle, Fox accusing the ministers of a design to terrorise the people in order to shield themselves from the condemnation which they deserved for wickedly involving the country in a disastrous war. The opposition in the commons did not rise in any division above 39, and the lords passed the bill by 92 to 7. The ordinary law had hitherto proved sufficient for the occasion, and a review of the evidence before parliament does not appear to show adequate cause for arming the executive with an authority so dangerous to liberty. Parliament was alarmed, and the government shared its alarm and yielded to its desires. A revulsion of feeling ensued. When the prisoners arrested in May were tried for treason, the evidence was found to be weak. The first, Hardy, a shoemaker, was brilliantly defended by Erskine, and was acquitted. Horne Tooke, the only one of the lot in a superior social position, jeered at the court, and called Pitt, the Duke of Richmond, and other great persons to give evidence as to their former connexion with societies for parliamentary reform. He and Thelwall, a lecturer, were acquitted, and the rest were set at liberty. The general alarm was pacified, and people rejoiced that the high character of the English courts of justice should have been vindicated.


When parliament met on January 21, 1794, the opposition was able to taunt the government with the feebleness and failure of the military operations of the past year. An amendment to the address recommending proposals of peace was moved in both houses. In the lords it was supported only by 12 against 97 votes, the Duke of Bedford and Lords Lansdowne, Stanhope, and Lauderdale as usual being conspicuous in opposition to the ministry. In the commons, Fox urged that the cruel acts of the jacobin government should not prevent England from negotiating with it, to which Pitt replied that no dependence could be placed on the existing French government, and that "any alternative was preferable to making peace with France upon the system of its present rulers". The address was carried by 277 to 59. Votes were passed for 60,000 regular troops and a naval force of 85,000 men. Weak as the opposition was, it lost no opportunity. Some Hessian troops sent to join a British force arrived off the Isle of Wight before the expedition was ready, and were landed for a short time to prevent them from suffering from sickness. The opposition maintained that this was a violation of the bill of rights and the act of settlement. It was easily shown that the law had not been violated and that the course pursued was not irregular, and both lords and commons declined to allow that the matter called for an act of indemnity. Compared with the trifling nature of the occurrence, the fuss made over it by the opposition can only be explained by a desire to impede the government in the performance of its duty at a time of national danger. An invasion was threatened. The defence of England, Grenville said, would best be secured by her "water-guard". It was further provided for by raising volunteers. Dundas wrote to the lord-lieutenants of counties, recommending subscriptions towards the expenses of the movement. Fox and Sheridan declared that this recommendation was illegal. Their contention that it was a demand for "benevolences" was absurd. Yet a request by the government for money, not addressed to the house of commons, seems contrary to the spirit of the constitution. Nor did the safety of the state, which would outweigh all such considerations, require the step. But the matter was of no practical importance and the action of the government was approved by parliament.

As Frederick William was evidently withdrawing from the war, Malmesbury was sent to Berlin, late in 1793, to persuade him to continue it. He would not do so at his own expense, and it was proposed that the allies should pay him to keep 100,000 men in the field. Thugut objected; Austria could not pay her share and it would be better for Europe and for Austria that the king should stay in Prussia than lead so large an army to the Rhine.[248] This upset the arrangement. England wanted a strong force on the frontier of the Austrian Netherlands, and at last, on April 19, a treaty was signed by which Frederick William agreed to furnish 62,400 men to act with the armies of Great Britain and Holland "wherever it shall be judged most suitable to the interests of the two maritime powers," all conquests being at their disposal, on consideration of L50,000 a month, and L300,000 at the beginning, and L100,000 at the end of the campaign, with bread and forage money. Of these sums L400,000 was to be paid by Holland and the rest by England. Mack, the Austrian quartermaster-general, came to London and laid a plan of campaign before the ministers. It was decided that the Austrian and British armies should widen the breach made in the line of French fortresses, should march on Cambrai and then perhaps on Paris, supported by an advance of the Prussians from the Moselle, under Mollendorf, who had succeeded Brunswick in command. Prompted by Mack, who was then generally believed to be a strategist of supreme skill, the ministers expressed dissatisfaction with Coburg, and as difficulties arose with respect to the command,[249] the emperor took the ostensible command himself and came to Brussels on April 2.


The campaign opened well. The allies invested Landrecies, and an attempt to turn the British position at Cateau was repulsed by a brilliant charge of the 15th light dragoons; a more serious effort to raise the siege failed, and Landrecies capitulated on the 30th. The Austrians under Clairfait, however, were defeated at Mouscron. York marched to Tournai and the allies attempted by a series of combined movements to cut off the French in West Flanders from their communications with Lille. Their plan was wrecked by their utter defeat at Tourcoing on May 16, where the British suffered heavily. The French attacked the camp near Tournai on the 23rd with the object of forcing the line of the Scheldt, but were foiled, and the British infantry highly distinguished themselves by their gallant recapture of the post at Pont-a-chin. Prussian help was urgently needed for the protection of the Netherlands, and, though paid for by English gold, was not forthcoming. A formidable insurrection broke out in Poland, and Frederick William marched to quell it, ordering Mollendorf to confine himself to the defence of the empire. Malmesbury and Cornwallis went to Mainz and urged Mollendorf to proceed to Flanders; nothing would move him. The emperor was more anxious about his interests in Poland than the defence of the Netherlands, and returned to Vienna. On June 26, Coburg was defeated by Jourdan at Fleurus and rapidly retired on Waterloo. On July 11, the French entered Brussels. The Austrians retreated to the Meuse, and York's corps to Malines where it was joined by 7,000 men under Lord Moira, who had landed at Ostend on June 26. Disgusted at the supineness of the Austrians, who were leaving the British and Dutch to their fate, the English government insisted that Coburg should be superseded.[250] They urged the emperor to make an effort to reconquer the Netherlands. Thugut replied that Austria had no money, that the Netherlands were more important to England and Holland than to the emperor, who did not get L200 a year from them, and that the Prussian subsidy ought to be transferred to Austria, or a large loan guaranteed.[251] Austria was set on her interests in Poland, and it is scarcely too much to say that she virtually betrayed the common cause.

These negotiations were brought to an end by the success of the French arms in Germany. The Austrians retreated across the Rhine in October, and England was not going to pay for the defence of the empire. The useless subsidy to Prussia was stopped on the 17th, and Mollendorf withdrew his army across the Rhine. Meanwhile York's army had fallen back on the line of Dutch fortresses; it was driven across the Meuse, was forced to retreat from Nimeguen, and encamped behind the Waal. Dissatisfied with his generalship, Pitt, as early as October 11, represented to the king that the division of command between him and the Prince of Orange was mischievous, and suggested that some experienced general should be sent out. George, who was deeply attached to his son, seems to have put the suggestion aside, for on November 23, Pitt wrote again insisting on the duke's recall. The king, though "very much hurt" was forced to yield and the command-in-chief devolved on General Walmoden.[252] York had shown himself a gallant soldier and had already proved his capacity as a military administrator, but he was not equal to the command of an army in the field.

The first attempt of the French on the line of the Waal was smartly repulsed by Sir David Dundas on January 4, 1795, but they crossed in large force a week later, and the British fell back. The line of the Lek was abandoned and the province of Utrecht evacuated. As the French advanced, their party among the Dutch gathered strength; the stadholder fled to England, the Dutch troops separated from the British, Amsterdam received the invaders, and on the 30th the Dutch fleet, which lay frozen up in the Texel, was captured by French cavalry. Meanwhile the British suffered terribly from the severe cold; and their sick and wounded were often exposed to ill-treatment by the people. The government decided to withdraw the army and bring it back by Bremen. It retreated across the Yssel and by the end of February evacuated the United Provinces and entered Westphalia by way of Enschede. Westphalia was held by Mollendorf's army, and the British troops, worn out by sickness and privations, were embarked at Bremen on April 12.


By the end of 1794 the French were everywhere victorious on land. They were masters of the Netherlands and were over-running Holland; they held all the country to the left of the Rhine except Mainz and Luxemburg; a victorious French army wintered in Catalonia; the passes of the maritime Alps were opened, and the Piedmontese were driven back from Mont Cenis and the Little St. Bernard. The states-general proclaimed the establishment of the Batavian republic, and a treaty with France signed on May 16 placed the Dutch in a position of virtual dependence. Frederick William, anxious to forward his interests in Poland, had abandoned the war, and was turning towards peace with France. The spoliation of Poland, which exercised so deadly an effect on the fortunes of the coalition, was completed in January, 1795, when Russia divided the remainder of the country between herself, Austria, and Prussia by an arrangement confirmed by treaties later in the year. The coalition suffered from further defections. The Grand-duke of Tuscany, who was compelled by Hood's fleet to break off intercourse with the republic in the summer of 1793, was restored to his former state of neutrality by a treaty with France. Spain also was deserting the coalition. Godoy, the lover of the queen of Charles IV., who controlled the policy of the court, opened negotiations with France before the end of 1794. Among the questions which retarded their progress was the fate of the Spanish king's young kinsman, the dauphin, or Louis XVII. Death released the poor boy from his misery in June. The French entered Vittoria and were preparing for the siege of Pampeluna. Their successes hastened matters; the treaty with France was concluded on July 22, 1795, and the minion Godoy was saluted as "Prince of the Peace". Pitt's coalition was well-nigh ruined.

While the year 1794 saw the hopes of England frustrated on the continent, she was victorious at sea. Acting on overtures from Paoli, Hood attacked the French in Corsica, and sent Nelson to blockade Bastia, which was surrendered on May 22. Calvi was besieged by a military force under General Stuart and by Nelson, who lost his right eye there. Its capitulation, on August 10, completed the conquest of the island. In the West Indies a squadron under Sir John Jervis and troops commanded by Sir Charles, afterwards the first Earl Grey, compelled the surrender of Martinique, St. Lucia, and Guadaloupe with Mariegalante. Port-au-Prince and harbours important to the Jamaica trade were also taken in the French part of San Domingo. But the British force was insufficient for all that it had to do in the West Indies. French troops landed in Guadaloupe during the absence of Jervis and Grey, were welcomed by a large part of the creole population, and after a long struggle forced the British to evacuate the island.


England's maritime strength, combined with a bad harvest, war, and insurrection, caused a scarcity of food in France which threatened to amount to a famine. A fleet of merchant ships laden with provisions was anxiously expected from America, and a convoying squadron was sent to bring it over. The channel fleet, thirty-four ships of the line and fifteen frigates, under Howe, sailed on May 2 with 148 merchantmen bound for different parts. Howe despatched the merchantmen and their convoys under Admiral Montagu, with orders that after Montagu had convoyed the merchantmen a certain distance, he was to cruise about with six ships of the line and look out for the provision ships. Their safe arrival was vital to France, and Rear-admiral Villaret-Joyeuse sailed with the Brest fleet to bring them in. As soon as Howe found that the French fleet had sailed, he determined to strike at the main force of the enemy. He sighted the French to windward on the 28th, about 400 miles west of Ushant. Their fleet consisted of twenty-six ships of the line, the same number as his own. He at once sent four of his fastest ships to get to windward of them, and attack their rear. A partial action took place in which the Revolutionnaire (110) was utterly disabled, and her last assailant, the Audacious (74), was so crippled that she went home. On the 29th Howe planned to obtain the weather-gage and to deliver a concentrated attack on the rear of the enemy. He took his flagship, the Queen Charlotte (100), through the French line, and was followed by two others. Villaret manoeuvred skilfully, but three of his ships were badly damaged. The result of Howe's admirable tactics during these two days was that four French ships were forced to leave the fleet, and another had to be towed by a consort, and that he won the windward position and so was enabled to force an action. On the 30th there was a thick fog, and during the day the French received a reinforcement of four ships, giving them the advantage of one over the British. The fog cleared at noon on the 31st; the British fleet came up with the enemy, then to leeward, and "near sunset" formed the line of battle.

On Sunday morning, June 1, a fresh breeze blowing south by west, the two fleets lay in parallel lines, the leading British ship being opposite to the seventh of the French fleet. The British having formed on the larboard line of bearing, Howe brought them down slantwise on the enemy, apparently intending that each ship should pass across the stern of her opponent, rake her, and engage to leeward. Unlike Rodney in the battle of the Saints, he deliberately adopted the manoeuvre of breaking the line, and planned that his ships should fight to leeward instead of to windward, and so bar the crippled ships of the enemy from getting away. As the Queen Charlotte bore down, he bade the master, Bowen, lay her as close as he could to Villaret's flagship, the Montagne (120). Bowen brought her so close round the Frenchman's stern that the tricolour ensign flapped against her shrouds, and as she passed she raked her gigantic enemy from stern to stem with her larboard broadside to such effect that the Montagne lost 300 killed and wounded before she could make reply. Six British ships broke through the line and engaged to leeward; the others remained to windward, the captains perhaps not fully understanding Howe's plan.

As the Brunswick (74) tried to force her way through the French line, her anchors caught in the rigging of the Vengeur du Peuple (74), and the two ships drifted side by side in deadly embrace for three hours. When at last they parted the Brunswick had received much damage and lost 158 men, including her captain, who was mortally wounded. The Vengeur was a wreck. A broadside from the Ramillies (74) finished her. She "hauled her colours down and displayed a Union Jack over her quarter, and hailed for quarter having struck, her masts going soon after, and a-sinking".[253] The Alfred (74) sent an officer aboard her, and the boats of three English ships saved about 333 of her crew. The "rest went down with her". The flatulent account of her end, given by Barrere in the convention, is largely imaginary. The crew of the Vengeur did not choose death rather than the surrender of their ship. Some of those whom the efforts of the British seamen failed to save, went down with a cry of Vive la republique! They had surrendered after a hard-fought fight, and they died as gallant seamen die. The battle of "the glorious first of June" ended in the complete victory of the British fleet. Six French ships were taken besides the Vengeur; five dismasted and several crippled ships were brought away by Villaret. Howe might easily have secured more prizes, but he was an old man, and was completely worn out by the fatigue and anxiety of the last five days. His tactics were splendid, though the detaching of part of his fleet under Montagu was a strategic mistake. The provision ships got safely into Brest, but the French purchased their food at the cost of their fleet.

In July the whigs who supported Pitt coalesced with the government. A third secretaryship of state was again instituted. Grenville remained foreign secretary; the Duke of Portland, the nominal head of the seceding whigs, took the home department, with the colonies, and Dundas retained the conduct of the war as secretary of state for war. Earl Fitzwilliam became president of the council, and was promised the vice-royalty of Ireland as soon as a suitable place was found for the present lord lieutenant, the Earl of Westmorland. The Marquis of Stafford resigned the privy seal, which was given to Earl Spencer, and Windham entered the cabinet as secretary-at-war, though his office was not then considered as one of cabinet rank. Burke retired from parliament at the close of the trial of Hastings, and, as he was in straitened circumstances, accepted two pensions of L1,200 and L2,500. The death of his only son clouded the last years of his noble life. Two later changes in office were salutary. Pitt had the unpleasant duty of urging the king to remove his brother Chatham from the admiralty;[254] he resigned on December 20, was succeeded as first lord by Earl Spencer, an excellent appointment, and succeeded Spencer as privy seal, an office more suited to his temperament and talents. The Duke of Richmond was held to be inefficient as master of the ordnance; the new ministers insisted on his removal, and he was succeeded on February 13, 1795, by Cornwallis. At the same time the king appointed his son York field-marshal on the staff; he became commander-in-chief in 1798, but at no time had a seat in the cabinet.


These accessions and changes strengthened the ministry. For a time, however, the new ministers recruited from the whigs were inclined to act as a party on questions concerning office. This caused some trouble in the cabinet, specially in connexion with Ireland. Although the trade of Ireland was increased by the removal of restrictions, its agriculture stimulated by bounties on exported corn, and its manufactures and other resources enlarged by parliamentary grants and wise legislation, its political condition was unsatisfactory. It needed a reform of parliament, the admission of catholics to political power, the overthrow of the system by which the castle secured power by the distribution of pensions and offices, and a change in the tithe law. The Earl of Westmorland had succeeded Buckingham as lord-lieutenant in 1790. Round him stood a group of ministers, bishops, and great lords opposed to any changes. Revolutionary principles gained ground among the people. The society of United Irishmen, founded by Wolfe Tone, a lawyer, in 1791, aimed at uniting protestants and catholics for the purpose of overthrowing the English ascendency and effecting a reform of parliament of a democratic kind. While religious animosity was dying out among the upper classes, it was rife among the peasantry, and catholic "defenders" and protestant "peep of day boys" were at constant war. The catholics still suffered from many disabilities. Their hopes of relief were encouraged by the English relief act of 1791, and by the advocacy of Burke, who in his Letter to Sir Hercules Langrishe (1792), argued against the monopoly of power by the protestants, and allowed his son to act as the professional adviser of the catholic committee. The English ministers favoured the catholics, and dreaded an alliance between them and the democratic party among the protestants, which would bring them over to join in the demand for parliamentary reform.

Dundas urged the Irish government to assent to the enfranchisement of the catholics on grounds both of justice and expediency. Westmorland and his advisers objected. Pitt recommended them to give way, and wrote that in any case they must not deprive the catholics of hope. In a letter to Westmorland he pointed out that no danger could possibly arise from enfranchisement if Ireland were united to England, a plan which, he said, had long been in his mind.[255] The Irish government yielded, and a bill granting the catholics the suffrage and other relief became law in April, 1793. They were still shut out from parliament and from high offices of state. The measure was ill-conceived, for while it conferred political power upon the poor and ignorant catholics, it left the catholic gentry, a loyal and conservative body, debarred from exercising the influence to which their position entitled them. On the outbreak of the war Grattan supported the government; and parliament voted liberal supplies for the army and navy, and passed a bill establishing an Irish militia of the same kind as that of England. The country was disturbed by troubles over the compulsory enlistment for the militia and by the lawlessness of the defenders. A period of comparative quiet, however, followed the relief act, and the rejection of a moderate reform bill in 1794 created no disturbance. Nevertheless secret disloyalty increased, and Tone and some of his allies held seditious correspondence with France.[256] The United Irishmen grew in numbers, for while the leaders, Tone, Emmet, and Rowan were protestants, they were joined by many catholics. On the other hand, Grattan and his party, supported by most of the protestant and many of the catholic gentry, though anxious for reforms and specially for the complete repeal of the catholic disabilities, were strongly opposed to the democratic movement and were loyal to the constitution of 1782.


Their hopes were raised by the prospect of the speedy appointment of Fitzwilliam as lord-lieutenant, which seemed to promise a change of system favourable to the hopes of the Irish whigs. On taking office as president of the council in July, Fitzwilliam, in common with Portland, to whose department Ireland belonged, thought that he was to succeed Westmorland without delay; he appointed his chief secretary and openly entered into communications with Grattan and Ponsonby which implied extensive changes both of men and measures.[257] The Irish were delighted. Pitt, however, did not mean to give Ireland over to Portland and Fitzwilliam. Unfortunately he let matters slide; though he did not recall Westmorland, he abstained from checking Fitzwilliam's somewhat premature proceedings. In October, Portland pressed for Fitzwilliam's immediate appointment. Pitt then said that he would not consent to a change of system, and specially not to the dismissal of the chancellor, Fitzgibbon, and would not recall Westmorland until he had a suitable place to offer him. A serious quarrel ensued between him and the new ministers of Portland's party. At last a compromise was effected. A court office was found for Westmorland. Fitzwilliam in an interview with Pitt and other ministers disavowed all idea of a general change of system, agreed to some arrangements with regard to appointments, and was instructed to prevent, if possible, the agitation of the catholic question during the coming session, though if he could not evade it he was to be at liberty to give the measure his full support.[258] Pitt was favourable to catholic emancipation, but wished to have no changes during the war. Fitzwilliam received his appointment and was succeeded as president of the council by the Earl of Mansfield.


He landed in Ireland on January 4, 1795. His appointment had inspired the catholic committee with fresh vigour, and he found that the catholics were united on the question of a complete removal of disabilities and that the mass of the protestant gentry favoured their demand. Defenderism was active and the country was in a disturbed state. He informed the cabinet that the catholic question was urgent. Parliament met and in a loyal humour voted large supplies for the war. Grattan undertook the catholic business, and Fitzwilliam promised his support, and pressed for the approval of the cabinet on the ground that a complete repeal of all disqualifying laws was necessary in order to secure the pacification and loyalty of the country. No answer was sent to his appeals. Meanwhile Fitzwilliam dismissed some administrative officers and among them Beresford, a powerful member of the party which had so long been preponderant at the castle. Beresford carried his complaint to London, and Pitt remonstrated with Fitzwilliam on his dismissal. Portland, too, at last wrote, warning him not to commit himself on the catholic question. It was too late. Portland wrote again and declared himself hostile to emancipation. Fitzwilliam expostulated in vain, and finally, on February 23, the cabinet agreed to recall him. He left Ireland on March 25. It was a day of general gloom; the Dublin tradesmen put up their shutters, no business was transacted, and many persons wore mourning. The hopes of Ireland were bitterly disappointed and the door seemed shut against reforms by constitutional means. Lord Camden was appointed lord-lieutenant, the catholic bill was rejected, Fitzgibbon was made Earl of Clare, and the party in favour of the protestant ascendency was re-established in power. Whether the presence of catholics in the parliament would have led to such a thorough removal of the causes of Irish discontent as would have pacified the country and saved it from the rebellion of 1798 seems extremely doubtful, but it is certain that the recall of Fitzwilliam was fatal to any chance of so happy a settlement.

Although he acted hastily and unadvisedly as regards the dismissals, he was right in saying that it was impossible for him to stave off the catholic claims, and that no measures would secure the loyalty of the catholics or the peace of Ireland unless they were satisfied. As Pitt desired to defer emancipation to an uncertain date, the end of the war, he should not have excited the expectation of the Irish by an appointment which they naturally interpreted as a sign of immediate acquiescence. Fitzwilliam, before his actual appointment, was allowed to commit himself to a line of conduct to which Pitt afterwards objected; his instructions were somewhat vague, and he did not receive timely notice that the cabinet would not assent to the policy he was adopting.[259] Deeply immersed in the conduct of the war, Pitt seems to have neglected the affairs of Ireland at this time, and to have failed to appreciate the gravity of the crisis. Fitzwilliam's recall was due partly to Pitt's unwillingness to offend Beresford's powerful friends in both countries and the whole party which had given him valuable support,[260] partly to his determination to avoid any change of system during the war, and partly to the dislike of some other members of the cabinet, plainly expressed by Portland, to the proposed overthrow of the protestant ascendency. Yet another influence was brought to bear on the decision of the cabinet. On February 6 the king sent Pitt a statement of his strong objection to emancipation, both as a matter of policy and on religious grounds, ending with the remark that it would be better to change the new Irish administration than to submit to it.[261] His feelings were strengthened by hearing, perhaps from Westmorland, that Fitzgibbon was of opinion that he could not give the royal assent to catholic emancipation without a breach of his coronation oath and of the act of succession,[262] a mistaken idea which ruled his later conduct with lamentable results. He consulted some great lawyers on the point; Lord Kenyon and Scott, the attorney-general, assured him that he could assent to a change in the test act without breach of his oath, but the chancellor, Loughborough, gave him an undecided answer which tended to strengthen his opinion. His feelings on the question doubtless confirmed the ministers in their decision, but must not be supposed to have dictated it.[263]


[241] This question is admirably dealt with by Lord Rosebery in his Pitt, pp. 148-60.

[242] Newmarch, On the Loans Raised by Mr. Pitt, pp. 25-27; W. E. Gladstone to H. Gladstone, March 10, 1876, in Morley's Life of Gladstone, ii., 637-38.

[243] Sorel, u.s., iii., 366-68; Sybel, u.s., ii., 239-41; Auckland to Grenville, Ap. 8 and 9, 1793, MS. Holland, R.O.

[244] Chuquet, Les Guerres de la Revolution, xi., 115.

[245] Auckland to Grenville, April 26 and May 14, 1793, MS. Holland, R.O.; Eden to Grenville, April 15 and May 13, MS. Austria, R.O.

[246] Chuquet, Les Guerres de la Revolution, xi., 149, 151-52, 251.

[247] Grenville to Eden, Jan. 3, 1791, MS., Austria, R.O.

[248] Eden to Grenville, Jan. 29 and Feb. 15, 1794, MS. Austria, R.O.

[249] Grenville to Eden, Feb. 18, and Eden to Grenville, March 11, 1794, MS. Austria, R.O.; Grenville to King, Feb. 16, Dropmore Papers, ii., 505.

[250] Grenville to Spencer, July 19, 1794, MS. Austria, R.O.

[251] Spencer and J. Grenville to Grenville, Aug. 12 and Oct. 1, 1794, MS. Austria, R.O.

[252] Pitt to George III., Oct. 11 and Nov. 23, 1794 (rough drafts), MSS. Pitt Papers, 101; George III. to Pitt, Nov. 19, in Stanhope's Life of Pitt, ii., App. xxi. The drafts of Pitt's letters escaped Lord Stanhope's notice.

[253] "Log of the Brunswick," Great Sea Fights, i., 102, ed. Admiral T. S. Jackson.

[254] Pitt to George III., Dec. 8, 1794. MS. Pitt Papers, 101.

[255] Lecky, History, vi., 513.

[256] W. W. Tone, Life of T. W. Tone, i., 111-18.

[257] Grenville to T. Grenville, Sept. 15 and Oct. 15, 1794, Court and Cabinets, ii., 301,312.

[258] Add. MS., 33,118, ff. 268-78 (Pelham Papers), dated March, 1795, and First Letter of Fitzwilliam to Earl of Carlisle, p. 19, Dublin, 1795.

[259] Second Letter of Fitzwilliam to Carlisle, pp. 12, 13, 2nd ed., 1795.

[260] That it was largely a question of "men" with Pitt was held by Pelham, the chief secretary, 1795-97 (Pelham to Portland, March 22, 1795, Add. MS., 33, 113), as well as by Fitzwilliam (Second Letter to Carlisle, pp. 4, 24) and Burke (Life of Grattan, iv., 202).

[261] Stanhope, Life of Pitt, ii., App. xiii.-xiv.

[262] Auckland Corr., iii., 303-5; Add. MS., 33,118, f. 283.

[263] For full treatment of this crisis see Lecky, Hist., vii., 1-98.



Before parliament met on December 30, 1794, a change in the public affairs of France encouraged hopes of peace in England. The fall of Robespierre and the end of the Terror on July 28 (10th Thermidor) were followed by a reaction; the revolutionary committees lost their dictatorial power, the convention regained its supremacy, and the jacobin club was closed. This reaction, combined with the success of the French arms in the Netherlands and Holland, the decay of the coalition, the burdens entailed by the war, and the conviction that the republican government would gain in stability by foreign opposition, led some of Pitt's followers to desire an attempt at negotiation. The king's speech urged a vigorous prosecution of the war, and was ably seconded in the commons by a young member, George Canning, one of Pitt's devoted adherents. Pitt's friend, Wilberforce, moved an amendment for opening negotiations, and the minority against the government was 73. Soon afterwards in two divisions, arising out of a resolution moved by Grey in January, 1795, the minority rose to 86 and 90. As in these divisions the minority included some of Pitt's regular supporters, they are highly significant. As regards domestic affairs the opposition remained in its normal condition. A motion for the repeal of the habeas corpus suspension act, which led to a debate on the late trials for treason, was defeated by 239 to 41, and attacks on the government with reference to the recall of Lord Fitzwilliam were easily foiled by the assertion of the right of the crown to dismiss its confidential servants.


The affairs of the Prince of Wales again demanded the attention of parliament. He had not mended his ways since 1787; his creditors pressed him and put executions in his house. He could no longer reckon on the support of the opposition in any application to parliament, for he had voted against them on the seditious publications bill in 1792. In order to escape from his difficulties he promised the king to marry Caroline, daughter of the Duke of Brunswick. She was brought over to England by Lord Malmesbury, and though at his first interview with her the prince did not conceal his disgust, the marriage took place on April 8. Pitt brought a royal message to the commons requesting in humble terms that they would enable the prince to pay his debts and would make a provision for him and the princess. He stated the prince's debts at about L630,000, and proposed that the princess should have a jointure of L50,000 a year, that the prince's income should be increased by L65,000, making it L125,000 a year, exclusive of the duchy of Cornwall, and that L25,000 a year should be deducted for the interest on his debts, and the revenues of the duchy appropriated for the gradual payment of them. Grey moved that the increase should only be L40,000. Fox reminded the house that in 1787 the prince promised that he would not again apply to parliament for payment of his debts, and suggested that the augmentation of L65,000 and the income of the duchy should be used for the purpose. Pitt's proposals were carried. The princess, a coarse-minded and giddy young woman, was shamefully treated by her husband, and after the birth of their daughter, the Princess Charlotte, in January, 1796, they finally separated.

For the prosecution of the war parliament voted 100,000 seamen, including marines, and L14,500,000 for army expenses; the total supplies were about L27,500,000. Ten new taxes were imposed, one of them on hair-powder at twenty-one shillings a head, which was calculated at L210,000; and a loan of L18,000,000 was effected. With this year began a period of difficulty in raising money and the loan was only obtained at the total rate of L4 16s. 2d. per cent. In February Pitt hoped to prevent Prussia from making peace with France, and to induce the king to renew the war by the grant of another subsidy. Grenville, who was convinced that no reliance could be placed on Prussia, objected and threatened to resign if Pitt persisted in his plan. He desired a close alliance with Austria, and believed that the grant of a subsidy to Prussia would alienate the courts of Vienna and St. Petersburg. Pitt would not give way, and Grenville promised to keep his intended resignation a secret until the end of the session. He privately announced his resignation to the king, who, though he had at first been opposed to a Prussian subsidy, was then on Pitt's side, for he was discouraged by the ill-success of Austria. Pitt's project came to naught; for on April 5 Frederick William made a treaty with France at Basle, by which he surrendered the Prussian territories on the left bank of the Rhine. Secret articles provided that if France kept those territories he should be indemnified elsewhere. Grenville continued in office; Pitt had cause to rejoice that he was saved from a serious mistake, and the threatened disruption of the cabinet remained a secret.[264]

George himself had advised Grenville in December, 1794, to persuade Austria to renew the war by granting her a subsidy or a loan. His advice was in accordance with Grenville's own wishes. An arrangement with Catherine of Russia determined the Austrian emperor to carry on the war, with the intention of indemnifying himself at the expense of Bavaria and Venice, if he was unable to recover the Netherlands and conquer Lorraine and Alsace, and England had to find him money. By a convention signed on May 4 the government guaranteed a loan of L4,600,000 to be raised in London, to enable him to employ an army of 200,000 men. Defensive treaties were also concluded with Russia and Austria, and a triple alliance was formed in virtue of which Russia sent subsidies to Austria; for Catherine would take no part in the war by land. The imperial loan, which in 1798 became a charge on the consolidated fund, was raised at the rate of 7-1/2 per cent. It was unsuccessfully opposed by Fox, who argued against the general policy of making grants to foreign powers, whether by way of loans or subsidies, and pointed out that the only real difference between a loan and a subsidy was that, in the case of a loan England would not be able to get rid of the payment, whereas a monthly subsidy could be stopped if the contract was broken.

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