The Political History of England - Vol. X.
by William Hunt
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With the intervention of France the war enters on a new phase. Thenceforward England had to deal with more powerful enemies than the Americans. The war had lasted for three years and the rebellion was not crushed. Was it too much for England to expect that she would subdue a people of her own stock, as the Americans were then, separated from her by 3,000 miles of sea, and spread over a vast and difficult country? Had she trusted to her navy, as Barrington and others desired, shut the American ports, and held the towns on the coast and the navigable rivers, the insurgents might possibly have been driven to submission without any severe struggle. Conquest by land was decided on. Was Chatham right in declaring in May, 1777, that England could not conquer the Americans? Six months later a capable French officer serving in their army wrote to the French minister of war that, unless his country declared war against England, the Americans would fail to obtain independence; so little enthusiasm for the cause was there among them, so keenly did they feel the privations of the war.[132] In our war in South Africa of 1899-1902 the Boers showed themselves better soldiers than the Americans, and were not less brave; they were akin to us in race, and their country was at least as difficult as America. In both wars our well-drilled troops constantly found their previous training useless or worse; in both we received loyal support from numerous colonials on the spot. While improved means of transport brought South Africa far nearer to us than America was in the eighteenth century, the Boers were better prepared for war than the Americans, and were a more martial people. Yet England conquered them. So far, then, as the Americans alone were concerned, Chatham's assertion must be denied.


Why then had England done so little in those three years? There was much active loyalty on our side: thousands of colonials fought for the crown during the course of the war; in the central provinces at least half the population was for us. Everything depended on the vigour and judgment with which force was applied. In these respects there was failure both at home and on the spot. In the first place the effort required was underestimated. In February, 1774, Gage thought four regiments would keep things quiet; in 1775 it was believed that 10,000 men would be enough; in January, 1776, Howe asked for 20,000, in November his estimate for the next year was 35,000. Germain promised to raise his army to that number, yet instead of 10,000 men he offered him only 7,800 rank and file. On March 26 he confessed that he could only send 2,900, and on April 19 that he had to subtract 400 of these for Canada.[133] The country was strong for coercion, but recruits were hard to raise; it willed the end but not the means. The king and Germain interfered too much with the plans of operations. To direct a war from the other side of the Atlantic in days when letters between the secretary at war and the commander-in-chief seem often to have been nearly two months on their way, was to court failure.

At the outset of the war the enemy was unduly despised both by ministers at home and soldiers in the field. As the British general in command at Belmont is said to have rejected a proposal for turning the Boers' position, declaring that he would "put the fear of God into them," so Howe at Bunker hill delivered a frontal attack on the enemy's entrenchments which cost him over 1,000 men. Then he went to the opposite extreme of over-caution. It is needless to recapitulate the occasions on which either from over-caution or supineness he allowed great opportunities to slip, as notably on Long Island. He, indeed, in a greater degree than any one else is responsible for the British failure to bring the war to an end. Every month improved the fighting qualities of the Americans, under the judicious handling of Washington, and at last France and the other enemies of England saw that they might take them seriously and might turn the war to their own profit.[134]


[112] Johnston, Campaign of 1776, p. 125.

[113] Mr. Johnston contends that the American casualties were about 1,000 (op. cit., pp. 202-6); they were probably about double that number (Fortescue, History of the British Army, iii., 185).

[114] Howe, Narrative of Conduct, pp. 4-5.

[115] Johnston, Campaign of 1776, Documents, p. 117.

[116] Carleton to Douglas, Oct. 14, 1776, Add. MS. 21,699 (Haldimand Papers), ff. 52-53.

[117] Examination of Joseph Galloway, p. 14.

[118] Washington, Works, iv., 203, 223, 231.

[119] State Trials, xx., 1365.

[120] Parl. Hist., xix., 103-86.

[121] Germain to Carleton, March 26, 1777, Add. MS. 21,697, f. 158; for Carleton's reply (May 20) and Germain's rejoinder (July 25) see Report on Canadian Archives for 1885, pp. 132-37.

[122] Hist. MSS. Comm., App. to Report, vi. (Strachey Papers), p. 402.

[123] Jones, History of New York, i., 193, 219.

[124] Washington, Works, v., 193 sqq., 239; Galloway's Evidence, pp. 21, 29.

[125] Stedman, i., 309-11, 317.

[126] Lieut. Hadden, Journal and Orderly Books, p. 153.

[127] Howe to Germain, Jan. 20; Germain to Howe, May 18, 1777; Howe's Narrative, pp. 12-24.

[128] Life of Shelburne, i., 358-59.

[129] Germain to Carleton, March 26, 1777, Add. MS. 21,697, f. 161; Howe's Narrative, p. 15.

[130] Howe to Carlton, April 2 and June 16, 1777, printed in Fugitive Pieces, p. 126; Howe to Burgoyne, July 17, in Evidence Concerning the War (1779), pp. 77-78; Howe's Narrative, pp. 21-23; Howe's Observations on Letters, etc., p. 61; Fonblanque's Burgoyne, pp. 280-81.

[131] Clinton to Burgoyne, Dec. 16, 1777, Fonblanque's Burgoyne, pp. 324-25; Parl. Hist., xix., 611.

[132] Du Portail to the Comte de St. Germain, Nov. 12, 1777, Stedman, i., 386.

[133] Correspondence between Germain and Howe, Hist. MSS. Comm. Report, vi., App., p. 402.

[134] Here, and in other passages treating of the American revolutionary war, much valuable help has been given me by Colonel E. M. Lloyd, late R.E.



The surrender of Burgoyne's army was eagerly used by the opposition as an opportunity for harassing the government. The nation at large showed a worthier spirit by seeking to repair its loss. Manchester, Liverpool, Edinburgh, and Glasgow each raised a regiment; and other regiments and companies were raised in the Highlands and in Wales. In London and Bristol the corporations refused to join the movement, but large sums were subscribed by private persons for raising troops. The opposition absurdly maintained that these levies were unconstitutional, and Fox accounted for the zeal displayed by Manchester and Scotland by observing that they were "accustomed to disgrace". The ministers were bitterly reproached for employing Germans and Indians. "If," said Chatham, "I were an American, while a foreign troop was landed in my country, I would never lay down my arms—never—never—never." He condemned the employment of Indians in the war in words of fiery eloquence. It was certainly deplorable that they should have been employed. In that matter, however, England had no choice. They would have taken part in the war on one side or the other. They had fought in every war between the English and French in America, and while Pitt himself was conducting the war in 1760 Amherst used them with the authority of government.[135] In the present war the Americans were the first to employ them, and in 1776 congress resolved that it was expedient to do so and authorised Washington to enlist 2,000 of them. They were more ready to fight for the king than for the Americans, who had treated them badly; and as they caused the insurgents trouble and committed many shocking acts of barbarity, the Americans inveighed against us for employing them. If we had not done so they would have fought for the Americans, as some of them did. Otherwise we should have been better without them, for no dependence could be placed upon them.


Energetic as the opposition was in attack, it was not united in policy. Chatham, zealous for England's imperial position, declared that he would never consent to American independence. There was yet time to make peace with the people of our own blood and so be ready to meet our foreign foes. He proposed a cessation of hostilities and an immediate offer of terms. All that the Americans could demand as subjects should be granted, and overtures made to them on the basis of political dependence and the navigation act; that is, their trade should still be regulated by duties. They would, he was sure, accept these terms. If not, they must be compelled to obedience. The Americans would certainly not have treated on his basis. Chatham had repeatedly declared that it was impossible for us to conquer them; yet he proposed that if his basis were rejected we should use coercion after putting ourselves at a disadvantage by withdrawing our army. Still, as there were many Americans besides the loyalists who would have welcomed conciliation, and as the proposed French alliance was unpopular, it is just possible that had Chatham himself been prime minister some way might have been found which, while securing to America virtual independence such as England's self-governing colonies now enjoy, might have prevented the severance of the bond. On the other hand, the Rockingham party held that we should prevent the alliance between France and America by acknowledging American independence. This division between the two sections of the opposition set them in hostile camps.

When people were convinced that the alliance was certain the nation became uneasy, and a strong feeling prevailed, which was shared by some of Chatham's opponents, that at such a crisis England needed him at the head of affairs. In February, 1778, it was believed that he and Bute were engaged on some scheme of coalition which might again put him in power. The report was merely the outcome of the officious meddling of his physician, Addington, and one of Bute's friends.[136] No one was more anxious than North for a change of ministry. He begged the king in vain to accept his resignation. On the 17th he brought in two bills for a scheme of conciliation to which George had at last given his sanction. He proposed an express repeal of the tea duty, the surrender of all taxation except for the regulation of trade, and the appointment of commissioners to be sent to America with full powers to put an end to hostilities, grant pardons, and treat with congress on any terms short of independence. His proposals did not materially differ from those made by Burke three years before. He declared that he was not responsible for American taxation, that it was the work of his predecessors, and that he had always desired conciliation. He was heard with general consternation: his own party felt that he was turning his back on the policy which they had supported under his leadership; the opposition, that he was, as it were, stealing their thunder. The bills were carried and the king appointed the commissioners. They arrived in America in June. Congress refused to listen to any offers short of independence; the commissioners appealed to the American people, and their manifesto was treated with contempt.


When the Franco-American alliance was announced, North was urging the king to invite Chatham to take office and to allow him to retire, and Shelburne was sounded as to the terms on which Chatham would come in. He replied that he would insist on "an entire new cabinet". George, who had unwillingly agreed to this negotiation, was prepared to accept any men of talent with a view of strengthening the existing ministry, but not of forming another in its place, or of changing its measures. He would not commission Chatham or any opposition leader to form a new ministry: "no advantage to this country nor personal danger to himself" would, he wrote to North, induce him to do so; he would rather "lose his crown". "No consideration in life," he wrote again, "shall make me stoop to the opposition;" he would not give himself up "to bondage". His determination has been pronounced equally criminal with the acts which brought Charles I. to the scaffold.[137] According to our present ideas he should certainly have been guided by the assurance of his first minister that the government was unequal to the situation, have accepted his resignation, and allowed his new ministers to act as they thought best. These duties, however, were not, as we have seen, so clearly settled in those days. The prime minister of our time was not then fully invented, and George's plan of personal government through ministers was not yet rejected by the country. He could still rely on the support of parliament. A proposal to request the king to dismiss his ministers was defeated at that very time by 263 to 113 in the commons and by 100 to 36 in the lords. Chatham's return to office would doubtless have been hailed with satisfaction by the nation. Yet, though a change in public sentiment with regard to the American war was beginning, and was soon to spread rapidly, the king's policy was still popular with the larger part of his subjects.[138] When therefore his conduct in March, 1778, is compared with that of Charles I. it should be remembered that George had parliament and the mass of the nation at his back.

The personal light in which he regarded the question is inexcusable. He had been disappointed and deeply offended by Chatham's political conduct, and he had cause to fear that a whig government would rob him of the power which he loved. As a king he had no right to allow his private feelings to affect his public action. That he did so was the result partly of his system of personal rule, partly of serious defects in his character, his implacability of temper, and his habit of regarding all things as they affected himself. North struggled in vain against his determination, and gave way before it. It is a mistake, however, to regard the king as solely responsible for the continuance of the war. If he is to be blamed because, rather than submit to the loss of the colonies, which nearly all men believed would be the end of England's greatness and prosperity, he determined to carry on the struggle, the blame must be shared by others. Had North been true to his convictions George could not have formed another administration willing to act on the same system. Had the majority of the commons refused to support the king, the constitution afforded the means of over-ruling his will.[139]

Questions as to Chatham's return to power were soon to be brought to an end. On April 7 he appeared in the lords after a severe attack of illness, and, in faltering sentences, though with some remains of his peculiar fire, protested against the surrender of the sovereignty of America, "the dismemberment of this ancient and most glorious monarchy". He urged that England should refuse to bow before the house of Bourbon; "if we fall let us fall like men". Richmond answered him by dwelling on the expediency of acknowledging American independence; otherwise, said he, "instead of Great Britain and America against France and Spain, as in the last war, it will now be France, Spain, and America against Great Britain". Chatham rose to reply and fell back in a fit. He died on May 11. Parliament voted him a public funeral, the stately statue which stands in Westminster Abbey, L20,000 for the payment of his debts, and a perpetual pension of L4,000 a year annexed to the earldom of Chatham. Throughout his long career he was invariably courageous and self-reliant; his genius was bold, his conceptions magnificent, his political purity unsullied. His rhetoric was sublime. He did not excel in debate or in prepared speeches. His spirit burned like fire, and his speeches were the outpourings of his heart in words which, while they owed something to art, came spontaneously to his lips, and were not less lofty than his thoughts. As a statesman he had serious defects; he was haughty, vain, and overbearing, his opinions were unsettled, his far-reaching views often nebulous; his passion was stronger than his judgment, and he was immoderately given to bombast. In spite of his true greatness he lacked simplicity, and he imported the arts of a charlatan into political life. Yet Englishmen must ever reverence his memory, for he loved England with all the ardour of his soul, and, as Richmond said as he praised him to his face on the day that he was stricken for death, "he raised the glory of the nation to a higher pitch than had been known at any former period".

In 1778 the losses and expenses of the war and disappointment at its results began to work a change in the feeling of the country. In parliament tories sometimes voted with the opposition. North continued to strive in vain to be released from office. He made some overtures to the opposition. Fox, in spite of the violence of his attacks, was anxious for a coalition, which would have given him office, though he held first that Germain only, and in 1779 that North himself and Sandwich, must be excluded.[140] He was restrained by Rockingham, and North's efforts failed. The death of Chatham, though it united the opposition, on the whole strengthened the ministry, and in June, 1778, it gained in ability by the appointment of Thurlow as chancellor and Wedderburn as attorney-general. Burgoyne, who was unfairly treated by Germain, was defended by Fox, and on his return joined the opposition. The struggle in parliament had a constitutional importance not overlooked by either party. On the issue of the American war, "the king's war" as it was called, depended the question whether George would be able to establish his system of government by influence. The opposition reckoned on failure in America, and hoped that, by exposing the errors and corrupt practices of the government, they would so rouse public feeling that, when the war ended in national humiliation, the king would be forced to accept a minister imposed on him by his people. No party can reckon on national humiliation as a means of attaining its ends, however praiseworthy they may be, without serious consequences to its own character. When England was in extreme peril, the opposition, and Fox above all, magnified her losses, encouraged her enemies by exposing her weakness, and, not content with insisting on the maladministration of the government, cavilled at every measure proposed for the defence of her empire. Their conduct irritated their fellow-countrymen, for the spirit of the nation was roused by the intervention of France in the war with the colonies.


Ample grounds existed for dissatisfaction with the government. Unfortunately, this was specially the case with respect to the navy. Its expenses had greatly increased. During the eight years of the late war, 1755 to 1762, the money spent upon it, exclusive of ordnance and votes for men, amounted to no more than L3,390,000; during eight years of Sandwich's administration, 1771 to 1778, it was stated in parliament to have been L6,472,000.[141] During the latter period there had been voted for repairing and building ships L2,900,000, and for extra stores for them L600,000, in all L3,500,000, enough, it was said, to build 100 men-of-war and as many frigates. Nothing is so destructive to efficiency as corruption. Under Sandwich abuses of all kinds flourished. Many existed before his time, and things grew worse under him. When in 1778 the naval estimates for the year were laid before the commons, it was stated that though L27,000 had been voted between 1771 and 1775 for the repair of the Dragon (74), and L10,273 for her stores, the ship was lying untouched and rotting at Portsmouth, and so in various degrees with other ships. In reply, Welbore Ellis, the treasurer of the navy, said that though estimates were the usual way of raising money, the money once raised was spent at the discretion of the admiralty. Indignant at this amazing statement, Burke flung the smart book of estimates at the treasury bench. Ships were built of foreign oak of an inferior kind and needed constant repair; contracts were jobbed; stores were wasted, stolen, and sold. The country paid for many more seamen than it got; for example, in September, 1777, the number returned as victualled was 51,715, though the seamen actually serving were only 47,407. Greenwich hospital, with a revenue of L70,000, was a hot-bed of abuses.

What was the result of this corrupt system? How did our navy stand in 1778 in comparison with the navies of France, then at war with us, and Spain, which was on the eve of joining against us? Choiseul's policy of naval reform was steadily pursued, and in 1778 France had eighty ships of the line in good order and 67,000 seamen. Spain followed the lead of France and, when she entered the war in 1779, had about sixty ships of the line. In 1778 we had 119 first, second, and third rates; of this number there were, on Sandwich's showing, in November, 1777, excluding ships on foreign service, only thirty-five manned and ready for sea, and seven which he said were nearly ready, but some of the thirty-five were short of their full complement of men, and there was a great scarcity of frigates. By July, 1778, the number ready was stated as forty-five. But when Keppel put to sea in June, it was with difficulty that twenty-one could be got ready to sail with him.[142]


Keppel, though an opponent of the government, was appointed to command the "grand," or, as it was called later, the channel fleet, apparently at the king's wish. On July 27 he engaged the French fleet from Brest under Count d'Orvilliers, westward of Ushant, both having thirty ships of the line. An indecisive action took place, the two fleets passing each other on opposite tacks and exchanging broadsides. Sir Hugh Palliser, the third in command and one of the lords of the admiralty, was blamed for the resultless issue of the engagement. A quarrel ensued between him and Keppel, which was made a matter of party politics; the government upheld Palliser, the opposition Keppel, and violent speeches were made in parliament. A court-martial in 1779 honourably acquitted Keppel of the charges which Palliser brought against him, and he received the thanks of parliament. London was on his side; the mob gutted Palliser's house and broke the windows of the admiralty and of some official residences. Another court-martial acquitted Palliser though with a slight censure. Keppel was annoyed by the position taken up by the admiralty, notified his wish not to serve again under the present ministry, and struck his flag. The rot of faction, which was infecting political life, laid some hold on the navy. Other naval officers declared that they would not serve under Sandwich; the spirit of insubordination affected the seamen and symptoms of mutiny appeared in the channel fleet.

The intervention of France forced England to contract her operations in America. The project of isolating the northern provinces was dropped, and thenceforward her efforts were mainly directed towards the recovery of the southern colonies, in order to secure their trade, and the suppression of privateering expeditions from the New England coast. Howe was recalled at his own request, and the chief command was given to Clinton, who was ordered to withdraw from Philadelphia and concentrate upon New York, where a French attack was expected. Philadelphia was evacuated on June 18, 1778. Of its loyalist citizens 3,000 embarked for New York; those who remained behind were harshly treated and two quaker gentlemen were hanged for adhering to the enemy. As Clinton's army was marching through New Jersey, the Americans tried to cut off his rear-guard near Monmouth, but after an indecisive engagement failed in their attempt. Clinton reached New York without further molestation, and soon afterwards Washington encamped at White Plains. The Toulon fleet under Count d'Estaing arrived off Sandy Hook on July 11, and Lord Howe with a far inferior force prepared to defend the entrance to the port. While D'Estaing lay outside, the wind rose; he was afraid to risk his ships by an attempt to cross the bar, and sailed away southwards, for Washington persuaded him to attack Newport in conjunction with an army under Sullivan. Lord Howe followed him, and arrived at Point Judith on August 9, the day after the French ships passed the batteries. D'Estaing stood out to sea to meet him. Howe's fleet, though reinforced, was still much the weaker, but "Black Dick," as the sailors called him, was master of his profession and out-manoeuvred D'Estaing who was a cavalry officer turned admiral. A storm dispersed both fleets and D'Estaing, after collecting his ships, sailed off to Boston to refit. Sullivan retreated and got away from Rhode Island a day before Clinton arrived with 4,000 men. Lord Howe soon afterwards resigned his command, declaring that he would not serve again under the present ministers. D'Estaing sailed from Boston to the West Indies, leaving the American populace furious at his departure from Rhode Island.

Clinton was called upon to send 5,000 men to the West Indies, Washington was badly supported by congress, and neither was in a position to act against the other. Successful expeditions were made in the autumn against the privateering haunts of the insurgents, Buzzard's bay, Martha's Vineyard, and on the New Jersey coast; many ships were taken and much damage was done. The western frontiers were raided by the tory troops of Johnson and Butler and by our Indian allies. Shocking barbarities were committed, specially in the Wyoming valley, where the prisoners were massacred by the Indians, though there the women and children were spared, and at Cherry Valley, where there was a general massacre during the attack. In 1779 the Americans retaliated on the Indians with fearful severity, and cruelly wasted the lands of the Senecas and Cayugas and the settlements in the Alleghany.


Neither the operations on the coast nor the border fighting had any material influence on the progress of the war. By the end of 1778, however, the war entered on a new and, as it proved, decisive phase; it became a struggle for the southern provinces. In November Clinton sent a small force by sea under Colonel Campbell to invade Georgia. Campbell routed the Americans and took Savannah; and General Prevost, who joined him from Florida, easily obtained possession of the province. Lincoln's attempt to regain it was defeated at Briar creek on March 3, 1779, and Prevost penetrated into South Carolina. He finally retired to Georgia, leaving a garrison at Port Royal, which secured his access to the sea and gave him a footing in South Carolina, as well as a base for covering Georgia. The campaign was a promising opening of operations in the south.

When news of the outbreak of the war reached the West Indies, the French governor of Martinique seized Dominica, while Admiral Barrington, in command of a small squadron at Barbadoes, was waiting for orders. As soon as Barrington received the reinforcements sent by Clinton, he attacked St. Lucia. D'Estaing came over from America with a fleet of twice the size, but failed to engage our ships closely, and, after some fighting on the island, in which the French lost heavily, sailed off to Martinique. St. Lucia was surrendered on December 29. Nothing further of importance took place in those parts until the summer of 1779, when D'Estaing seized St. Vincent while Byron, who was then in command, was engaged in guarding a convoy. D'Estaing then sailed with all his fleet to Grenada and forced the garrison to surrender. Byron, though encumbered by a number of transports and with a smaller fleet, engaged him in the hope of relieving the island. Some of Byron's ships suffered badly, and when he found that the garrison had surrendered, he sailed off. D'Estaing did not press his advantage, for his sole object was to secure his conquest, and only one transport ship was taken. England was no longer supreme by sea. The fault lay not with her admirals, who were still skilful, nor with her seamen, who were as bold as ever. Her weakness was due to her government, which first allowed the navy to fall into an inefficient condition and then adopted a wrong system of naval warfare. She began the contest unprepared, and instead of preventing the fleets of the enemy from reaching the ocean, had to fight in distant parts with inferior forces. As the war went on strenuous efforts brought her navy to a higher pitch; yet she still neglected her first line of defence, did not concentrate her forces off the ports of the enemy, and strove to defend the distant parts of her empire with fleets of inadequate strength.[143]

After much hesitation Spain made alliance with France against England on April 12. The treaty, which did not include the Americans, provided that Spain should recognise their independence and that the two contracting powers should invade England; and the reconquest of Gibraltar and Minorca, the acquisition of the coast of Florida, and the expulsion of the English from Honduras were mentioned among the objects which Spain desired to effect. She did not declare war until June 16, in order that the two fleets might have time to prepare for united action. England received the news of the combination with spirit; volunteers enlisted for defence and large sums were subscribed for raising troops, equipping privateers, and other patriotic purposes. The Spaniards at once blockaded Gibraltar, then under the command of General Eliott, and began that three years' siege which is one of the most honourable incidents in our military history. Though the home fleet, under the command of Sir Charles Hardy, lay in the Bay of Biscay on the look out for the allied fleets, they effected a junction, got between him and Plymouth, and in August sixty French and Spanish ships of the line and a crowd of smaller vessels paraded before the town. English pride was deeply wounded, and the landing of the enemy was daily expected. But the vast fleet accomplished nothing save the capture of one ship of the line. Its crews were wasted by sickness, and when a change of wind enabled Hardy to enter the Channel, the enemy did not follow him into its narrower waters and early in September left our shores.


The war was carried on in many parts of the world, and was full of incidents which, as they had little or no effect on its issue, must only be noticed briefly. In October, 1778, Pondicherry was taken by the East India Company's troops, and the French lost all their settlements in India. One of them, Mahe, was claimed by Haidar as tributary to him, and its capture afforded him a pretext for making war on us. He overran the Karnatic in 1780, defeated a British force, took Arcot, and reduced Madras to great straits. In the spring of 1779 the French made a feeble attack on Jersey, and were repulsed by the 78th regiment and the militia of the island. The British factories at Senegal were seized by the French, and Goree by the English. The Spaniards expelled our logwood cutters from Honduras in August, and about the same time the Spanish governor of Louisiana reduced West Florida, which was thinly inhabited and almost undefended. The enemies of England hoped to break her power by destroying her commerce, but it was too large and various to be ruined by casual losses, and too carefully protected to incur a series of them. While the trade of France with the West Indies was almost ruined, the English Jamaica fleet reached home in safety a few days after the enemy left the Channel. Privateers and king's ships did so much damage to the commerce of France and Spain in 1779 that it was held to counterbalance the loss of St. Vincent and Grenada. American cruisers were still troublesome. Paul Jones, a Scottish sailor, who held a commission from congress, infested the coasts of Scotland and Ireland, and in 1779 received a ship from the French government, which he called the Bonhomme Richard. With her and four smaller vessels he sailed from Brest, and fell in with the homeward-bound Baltic fleet convoyed by the Serapis, Captain Pearson, and a sloop of war. Pearson engaged the Bonhomme Richard, and after a desperate fight the two English ships were forced to strike. His gallant conduct saved the convoy, and the Bonhomme Richard was so severely mauled that she sank the next day. The Americans suffered at least as heavily as the English from this desultory warfare, and their privateering ventures were checked by operations on their coast.

While Washington was encamped in the high lands north of New York, guarding his position by forts on the Hudson, and specially by the fortification of West Point, Clinton took two posts which commanded the passage of the river, and, in conjunction with Admiral Sir George Collier, distressed the enemy by various expeditions. The New England coast was thoroughly scoured by Collier's squadron, some towns on the Chesapeake were invaded, a great quantity of stores seized, and about a hundred and twenty vessels taken or destroyed. Partly in the vain hope of drawing Washington down from his position, and partly in order to cut off one of the main sources of his supply, a force from New York was landed in Connecticut, some towns on the coast were destroyed, and stores and shipping burnt or carried off. Further operations there were stopped by an expedition from Boston against a British post established in Penobscot bay, to check the incursions of the enemy into Nova Scotia. As soon as Collier appeared in the Penobscot river the Americans burnt most of their ships; he captured the rest, and the whole naval force of Massachusetts was destroyed.

In the autumn Lincoln persuaded D'Estaing to bring his fleet from the West Indies and join him in driving the British out of Georgia. The French and Americans, about 10,000 strong, laid siege to Savannah, which was defended by Prevost with a force of only 2,500 men. An assault was made on the place on October 9, and was repulsed with heavy loss. The siege was abandoned; D'Estaing with most of his ships sailed for France, and the American army retreated into South Carolina. D'Estaing's arrival on the coast warned Clinton of the necessity for concentration, and he ordered the evacuation of Rhode Island. When the French fleet had departed he prepared to attack Charleston, and on February 11, 1780, landed his army on the coast of South Carolina. The town, which was defended by Lincoln, was besieged on April 1, and surrendered on May 12. More than 5,000 prisoners were taken, including seven general officers, besides about 1,000 French and American seamen, 400 guns, and the whole naval force in the harbour. Cornwallis obtained further successes in the province; South Carolina was cleared of the enemy, and the inhabitants generally professed submission. After striking this great blow Clinton was forced to return to New York, for a French fleet was bringing over troops to act with Washington, and Cornwallis was left with only 4,000 regulars, besides provincials, to carry on the war in the south.


By the end of 1779 the garrison of Gibraltar was reduced to great straits. The West India command had lately been given to Rodney, already a distinguished officer and destined to take a high place among England's sea-captains. Before he proceeded to his station he sailed with a large convoy for Gibraltar and Minorca. On his way he captured a Spanish convoy, sent the sixty-four-gun ship which protected it to England with the merchandise, and carried the provisions destined for the besiegers off Gibraltar to the besieged garrison. Off Cape St. Vincent he came on a Spanish squadron of inferior strength under the command of Don Juan de Langara, cut the Spaniards off from Cadiz, took six of their ships, and destroyed another. He carried out the relief of Gibraltar and on February 13 sailed for the West Indies, where Count de Guichen was commanding in place of D'Estaing. Down to this time the naval battles of the century had generally been inconclusive, except when one fleet was much stronger than the other. Admirals kept strictly to the formation known as the line of battle in which one ship followed another in regular order. If both the admirals of opposing fleets were willing to bring matters to a decided issue, the fleet to windward would attack, and the ships go at one another at close quarters all along the line. English admirals, with sufficient force, always hoped to bring this about. They were seldom successful, for the French admirals were unwilling to fight at close quarters, not because they were afraid to meet the British, but partly because they generally had some other object in view than the destruction of the enemy's fleet, some conquest to make or some place to protect, and partly because the French having fewer ships were indisposed to make free use of them in battle. Accordingly a French admiral preferred the leeward position. This enabled him to avoid a decisive action, for when a British fleet bore down on him, he could cripple our leading ships in their rigging, and then break off the action by running before the wind.

Rodney made the destruction of the enemy's fleet his first aim. There was only one way of accomplishing it. That was by deserting the old system of fighting in line, van to van, centre to centre, rear to rear. He sighted Guichen's fleet on April 16 as it was sailing northwards and well to leeward of Dominica. Guichen was convoying merchantmen, and intended ultimately to attack Barbadoes. The two fleets were nearly of equal strength. Rodney gained the windward position, and engaged the next morning. He planned to bring the whole of his force to bear on the French centre and rear. After much manoeuvring the opportunity came. Unfortunately his captains, accustomed to the old routine, did not understand his signal. His well-devised plan was defeated and the battle was as inconclusive as its predecessors. Rodney was bitterly disappointed, for a decisive victory seemed within his grasp.[144] He considered that some of his captains did not behave with sufficient promptitude and set himself to bring his fleet to a high pitch of efficiency. Guichen was joined by a Spanish fleet which gave him a great numerical superiority. It was no profit to him; the Spanish ships were hot-beds of disease and he had to convoy them to San Domingo. Then he sailed off for France with the larger part of his force. By that time the hurricane season was at hand and Rodney divided his fleet, leaving about half in the West Indies, and sailing with the remainder to New York, where he arrived on September 12. England had full command of the sea in the American waters, and Rodney did little there and, unfortunately, as we shall see in our next chapter, less than he might have done. At New York his squadron escaped the hurricane which swept over the West Indies on October 10. As Rodney was a tory his distinguished services were peculiarly gratifying to the king and the government. He was created a Knight of the Bath and received a pension with remainder to his children.


The war brought Ireland an opportunity for insisting on a redress of grievances. By 1773 the prodigality of government raised the national expenditure far above the revenue. Lord Harcourt, the viceroy, recommended a tax of 10 per cent. on the rents of absentees. The proposal was popular in Ireland, and North was willing to agree to it. The great Irish landlords of the Rockingham party were strongly opposed to the tax, and Burke argued that it would hinder Irishmen from taking part in the political life of Great Britain and would imply that England was a foreign land. A strong feeling against the tax was excited in England. North gave way and, in obedience to instructions, Harcourt procured the rejection of the bill. The grievances of the country increased. The American war was unpopular with the presbyterians, the peace and safety of the land were imperilled by the withdrawal of its troops, its finances were burdened by pensions and by grants for the war, and the public debt which in 1770 was L669,230, entailing a charge of L26,631, stood in 1778 at L939,323, with a charge of L82,711. The restrictions on Irish trade were rendered specially grievous by the war. An embargo laid on the export of provisions from Ireland ruined her trade in cattle. Debarred from the woollen manufacture in the interest of English industry, she had been encouraged to manufacture linen, and her trade in linen prospered. The war with America deprived her of her principal market. The restraints placed upon her commerce with England brought her into close commercial connexion with France, and that source of profit was also cut off in 1778. Many of her people were driven abroad by want; and the poor who remained were only kept alive by charity.

In 1778 proposals were made in the English parliament to relax the restrictions on Irish trade. North approved of the proposals, and they were powerfully supported by Burke. Liverpool, Bristol, and other English manufacturing towns protested loudly against admitting Ireland to compete with them. North yielded to pressure, and the supporters of the bills were forced to accept a measure which was wholly insufficient to satisfy the needs of the Irish. The disappointment in Ireland was bitter. Something, however, was gained; the system of restriction was no longer intact. The same year saw the beginning of a relaxation of the penal code. Common wrongs and common aspirations helped to subdue religious animosity. The cause of the catholics was urged in the Irish Parliament by the splendid oratory of Henry Grattan. A bill was passed enabling them to take leases for 999 years and, except in the case of converts, to inherit land as freely as protestants. The law was no longer to offer an inducement to a man to abandon his father's faith for the sake of gain; it was no longer to put the estate of a catholic father under the power of a professedly protestant son.

The failure of the attempt to obtain relief from commercial restrictions taught the Irish that England would not sacrifice her own interests to relieve their distress, and that they must help themselves. Following the example of the Americans, they formed associations for non-importation. These associations showed the English manufacturers that Ireland could retaliate upon them. England was, however, forced to concession by another means. The assent of the Irish parliament to England's proposal that drafts should be sent to the war from the 12,000 men who should have been kept for the defence of the country, reduced the number of troops in Ireland to less than 5,000. The coasts were infested by privateers and a French invasion was expected. England had no troops to spare and her fleets were fully engaged. Abandoned by government, the Irish protestants took up arms to defend their own country. The Duke of Leinster and Lord Charlemont threw themselves eagerly into the movement, which was supported by the majority of the Irish gentry, catholics as well as protestants; though for some time the catholics did not volunteer because they were disqualified from bearing arms. Before long 42,000 volunteers were learning military discipline, arms were purchased and officers chosen. The Irish government regarded the movement with uneasiness, but took advantage of it as a protection against invasion, and distributed 16,000 stands of arms among the corps. The volunteers, while thoroughly loyal, adopted a distinctly national policy. England was in difficulties and could not withstand the demands of so powerful a body. In the session of 1779-80 parliament, at North's instance, abandoned the system of restriction on Ireland's trade; threw open to her trade with the colonies and repealed the acts restraining the exportation of her woollens and glass. About the same time the influence of the volunteers procured the assent of government to a bill releasing Irish dissenters from the sacramental test. Great as these gains were, Irish aspirations reached further. On April 19, 1780, Grattan proposed a declaration of legislative independence. For that the Irish parliament was not ready. Lord Buckinghamshire, the viceroy, secured support by lavish promises of recommendations for peerages and other good things, and parliament deserted the popular cause. In December, Buckinghamshire was succeeded by Lord Carlisle.


During 1779 North's government lost ground; the ministers were known to be divided in opinion, and various parliamentary inquiries into the conduct of the war revealed much maladministration. Even the king said that Germain was "of no use in his department," and Fox's vote of censure on the admiralty was supported by a minority of 170. Some changes in the ministry failed to strengthen it. In 1778 Jenkinson succeeded Barrington as secretary at war; he lived to prove himself a man of ability, but in his new office he, like his predecessor, had merely to carry out the orders of others. Gower, a strong advocate of American coercion in 1775, changed his opinions, resigned the presidentship of the council in November, 1779, and made a violent attack on the government. He was succeeded by Lord Bathurst the ex-chancellor. Suffolk died and was succeeded as southern secretary by Lord Stormont, and Weymouth, the northern secretary, by Hillsborough. North still urged the king to accept his resignation. George, conscious of the shortcomings of the ministry, gave Thurlow authority to treat with Shelburne, as head of the Chatham party, with a view to the formation of a strong administration, composed of men of different parties, to be formed without North, and independently of the existing ministry. Grafton persuaded Shelburne not to act apart from the Rockingham whigs. The united opposition would have insisted on a complete change of measures as well as of men, which would have implied the surrender of America. To this George would not consent, and North was again persuaded to remain in office. On the meeting of parliament in November, 1779, the ministers carried the address by 233 to 134, a majority which bore out the assertion of the king's speech that parliament was with him, and the speech added "my people at large".

Yet though the declaration of war by Spain called forth a loyal address, unanimously voted by the commons, assuring the king of their help against the Americans, many held that it would be well to withdraw the troops from America and use the whole strength of the country against its foreign enemies. The expenses of the war were heavy; additions were made to the public debt of L6,000,000 in 1778, of L7,000,000 in 1779, and of L12,000,000 in 1780, and many new taxes were imposed. At the same time large sums were expended on maintaining useless offices, a crowd of pensioners, and other abuses, the means by which the king kept his hold on parliament. The whigs determined to take advantage of the demands made on the nation to strike at the root of that corrupt influence by insisting on public economy. The attack was begun unsuccessfully in the lords by Richmond and Shelburne, and in December Burke gave notice that he would lay a plan of economical reform before the commons. The whigs sought to bring pressure to bear on parliament by an appeal to the people and met with a ready response. A county meeting at York, presided over by Sir George Savile, sent a petition to the commons for public economy, and formed an association to promote that object and the restoration of the independence of parliament. Twenty-five other counties and some cities and towns sent similar petitions and most of them formed associations. On February 11, 1780, Burke introduced his plan in a speech of remarkable ability. He proposed a reform of the king's civil establishment, the abolition of a crowd of court offices, a reform of certain public departments, the limitation of pensions, the sale of the crown lands, and the abolition of the jurisdictions of Wales, Cornwall, Chester, and Lancaster. His bills were destroyed piecemeal in committee, and the only result of his scheme which, if fully carried out, would, he calculated, have saved the nation over L1,000,000 a year, was the abolition of the board of trade.

Meanwhile a sharp struggle went on in the commons. A proposal for an account of patent places was agreed to, but another for submitting a list of pensions was lost by two votes. A crowded meeting was held at Westminster on April 5 and was addressed by Fox who, with vehement eloquence, recommended annual parliaments and an addition of 100 county members as a means of freeing parliament from the influence of the crown. Government apprehended an attempt to overawe parliament and stationed soldiers in the neighbourhood of Westminster Hall. This step enraged the opposition, and on the 6th Dunning proposed a resolution in the commons that "the influence of the crown has increased, is increasing, and ought to be diminished". This resolution was carried, with a trifling addition, by 233 to 215, and another that the house was competent to correct abuses in the civil list was adopted without a division. On the 10th, however, a resolution that certain officers of the household should be disqualified from sitting in the house of commons was carried by two only. So far did pressure from without combined with the near prospect of a general election carry the commons, but the majority did not desire reform and would go no further than general resolutions. An address to the king, praying that he would not dissolve nor prorogue parliament until measures had been taken to diminish the influence of the crown, was rejected by a majority of fifty-one. The struggle was over, and Fox vented his rage and disappointment in a speech of unmeasured invective. Throughout the session much heated language was used in parliament, and both Shelburne and Fox fought duels in consequence of words uttered by them in debate. On June 2 Richmond, ultra-democratic as a democratic noble is wont to be, specially on questions not affecting his own order, was urging annual parliaments and manhood suffrage on the lords when he was interrupted by an outbreak of mob violence, a bitter answer to his arguments.


The earlier half of the reign saw an increase in religious tolerance. Though the whig movement for relieving dissenting ministers from subscription to the articles was defeated by the lords in 1772 and 1773, a bill supported by both parties granted them relief in 1779, the year in which the Irish dissenters were relieved from the test act. The whigs, as we have seen with reference to the Quebec act, were opposed to any measure of relief being granted to Roman catholics, who were by law liable to cruel oppression. The judges, indeed, and specially the great chief-justice, Mansfield, did all they could to mitigate the rigour of the law, yet catholics lived in insecurity, and so late as 1767 a priest was condemned to imprisonment for life, and was actually imprisoned for four years, for exercising his office. Whig prejudices gave way, and in 1778 Sir George Savile brought in a bill enabling catholics who abjured the temporal jurisdiction of the pope to purchase and inherit land, and freeing their priests from liability to imprisonment. The bill, which only affected England, was passed without a division in either house, and the government proposed to bring in a like bill for Scotland the next year. Violent protestant riots took place in Edinburgh and Glasgow, and such strong feeling was generally manifested in Scotland against the proposed measure that it was abandoned. The relief act excited discontent in England, and protestant fanatics, encouraged by the success of their party in Scotland, agitated for its repeal. A protestant association was formed, a crack-brained member of parliament, Lord George Gordon, was made president, and a petition for the repeal of the act was signed by nearly 120,000 persons.

On June 2, 1780, some 60,000 persons marched under Gordon's leadership to Westminster with their monster petition. They violently assaulted many peers and compelled members of both houses to cry No popery! and to put blue cockades in their hats. Gordon addressed them, and named Burke and other members as specially hostile to their cause. The commons refused to give the petition immediate consideration; the lobbies were thronged by the mob, and North sent for the lifeguards to protect parliament. On their arrival the mob left palace-yard and partially destroyed the chapels of the Sardinian embassy in Duke street, Lincoln's inn Fields and the Bavarian embassy in Warwick street, Golden square. The next day was fairly quiet, but on Sunday, the 4th, finding that no measures were taken to enforce order, they sacked other catholic chapels and some houses. By Monday the riots assumed a more dangerous character; the mob passed out of the leadership of religious fanatics and was bent on plunder and destruction. East of Charing Cross London was almost at its mercy. There was no efficient police force; military officers and soldiers had learnt the risk they would incur by firing on a mob without the order of the civil power, and the magistrates were for the most part timid and inactive. Wilkes was an honourable exception, and showed courage and firmness in dealing with the rioters. Virtually unchecked, the mob sacked chapels and houses, plundered shops, and burnt Savile's furniture before his door. During the next two days Newgate was partly burnt and the prison broken open, the other principal prisons either destroyed or damaged and the prisoners set at liberty. Some magistrates' houses were plundered and burnt. Mansfield's house in Bloomsbury square was sacked and his splendid library, pictures, plate, and furniture destroyed. By Wednesday night thirty-six fires were blazing in different parts; volumes of flame were rising from the King's bench and Fleet prisons, the new Bridewell, and the toll gates on Blackfriars bridge, and the lower end of Holborn was burning fiercely. A great distillery in Holborn was wrecked; men and women killed themselves by drinking the unrectified spirits which were brought into the streets, and others who were drunk perished in the flames or were buried in the ruins. Attacks were made on the Bank of England and the Pay Office. Both were guarded by soldiers, and the rioters were repulsed with heavy loss.


By that time the general paralysis of authority was ended by the king's personal intervention. As his ministers seemed afraid of incurring responsibility, George summoned a meeting of the council by special command on Wednesday morning. Finding that the council hesitated to recommend the employment of troops, he said that if they would not give him advice he would act without it, and that he could answer for one magistrate who would do his duty. He bade Wedderburn, the attorney-general, declare the law on the subject. Wedderburn replied that the king in council could order soldiers to suppress a riot without the authority of a magistrate. George at once ordered the military to act, and by Thursday morning the riots were quelled. Seventy-two houses and four gaols had been destroyed. Of the rioters, 285 were reported as killed and 173 wounded, but many more lost their lives during the riots. The trials of the rioters were conducted with moderation; of the 139 who were tried, fifty-nine were capitally convicted, and of these only twenty-one were executed. The Surrey prisoners were tried before Wedderburn, who was made chief-justice of the common pleas and created Lord Loughborough. Lord George Gordon was acquitted; he was imprisoned for a libel in 1787, and died in Newgate after having become a jew. When the lords, who adjourned on the 6th, again assembled, the great jurist Mansfield, who in his seventy-sixth year retained his mastery of constitutional law and his facility of expression, authoritatively declared that soldiers equally with civil persons might, and if required by a magistrate must, assist in suppressing riots and preventing acts of treason and felony, and that the red coat of a soldier neither disqualified him from performing the duty of a citizen nor would protect him if he transgressed it. The riots seem to have improved the position of the government, for the appeal to popular feeling and the formation of associations by which the whigs brought pressure on parliament were discredited by them, and for the moment common danger allayed political animosity.


[135] Parl. Hist., xix., 368-70, 409, 411, 509-12.

[136] The Bute Transaction, MSS. Pitt Papers 14; Stanhope, History, vi., 213.

[137] Lecky, History, iv., 83.

[138] Rockingham to Chatham, Jan. 21, 1778, Chatham Corr., iv., 488; Burke to Rockingham, Nov. 5, 1777, Works, ii., 357.

[139] Memorials of C. J. Fox, i., 211-12; Sir G. C. Lewis, Administrations of Great Britain, p. 16.

[140] Memorials of C. J. Fox, i., 180, 306-23.

[141] These figures present a difficulty. The votes 1771-78 appear to have been, for ordinary expenses L3,303,233, for 'extraordinaries' L2,232,694 = L5,535,927. Clowes, Royal Navy, iii., 327.

[142] On this subject generally see Parl. Hist., xix., 728-30, 818-34, 874-95, xx., 204-38, 372 sqq.; Mahan, Influence of Sea Power, pp. 337-41; MS. Admiralty Miscell., 567, R.O.; Keppel, Life of Keppel, ii., 15, 19, 21.

[143] Mahan, Influence of Sea Power, pp. 421 sqq., 523 sqq.

[144] Hannay, Rodney, pp. 117-31; Mahan, Influence of Sea Power, pp. 378-81.



In 1780 England's enemies increased in number and her isolation was complete. From early times all belligerent nations subjected to capture the goods of an enemy in neutral ships. This usage was interrupted only by treaties. It was specially disliked by the Dutch, as great carriers by sea, and they made many treaties with different powers, stipulating that goods carried in their ships, not being contraband, should be free. In 1778 France, in order to injure England, declared its adoption of the principle that neutral ships made neutral goods. The lesser Baltic nations, which largely exported naval material, were anxious to protect their commerce from England, specially as she was rigorous in her view with regard to contraband goods; and they looked to Russia to help them. Frederick of Prussia, always eager to do England a bad turn, used his influence with the Empress Catherine in the cause of the freedom of commerce in neutral ships, and was supported by her minister, Panin. Catherine, though not unfriendly towards England, yielded to his representations, and in March, 1780, notified England, France, and Spain that, while in other respects she would maintain strict neutrality, she would enforce by her fleets four propositions: (1) that neutral ships may freely sail from port to port of a belligerent nation; (2) that goods carried by them, not being contraband, should be free from seizure; (3) that only certain specified goods were contraband; and (4) that no blockade should be recognised which was not effectual. France, Spain, and the Americans at once accepted these propositions; Denmark, Sweden, Prussia, and the Emperor joined the league of "armed neutrality" in the course of the year, and the accession of Holland was only prevented by its becoming a belligerent. England did not accept these new rules, which were detrimental to her as a naval power. The alliance isolated her, threatened to increase the number of her enemies, and forced her to be cautious in her dealings with neutral ships. War with the Baltic powers would have ruined her, for since the American revolt she was dependent on these countries for timber and other naval stores. Happily, Catherine was by no means inclined to quarrel with her.


The Dutch complained that England violated a treaty made with them in 1674, which provided that either power should hold all goods conveyed in the ships of the other, not being contraband, as free from liability of seizure, and that either should be free to trade with the enemies of the other. Many Dutch ships were searched and their cargoes seized by English ships, in some cases lawfully, because they were carrying contraband of war, in others merely because they were carrying French goods or were trading with our enemies. England contended that the treaty of 1674 was superseded by the treaties of 1678 and 1716, which provided that, when either power was attacked, the other should come to its aid; and that, though the aid of the Dutch was not demanded, they were at least bound to abstain from helping her enemies. The Dutch, however, supplied the Americans with vast quantities of naval and military stores, supplied naval stores also to France and Spain, and allowed American privateers, and notably Paul Jones, to refit and equip their ships and to sell their prizes in Dutch ports. The British ambassador, Sir Joseph Yorke, remonstrated strongly against these unfriendly acts on the part of a nation in close alliance with his sovereign. He could gain no satisfaction; for though the party of the stadholder was anxious to keep on friendly terms, the pensionary and the city of Amsterdam were violently opposed to England, and the merchants generally were on their side. Late in 1779 a fleet of Dutch merchantmen, laden with timber and naval stores for France, and sailing under the convoy of an admiral, was met by an English squadron. The Dutch fired on the boats sent to search their ships; the English returned the fire, captured some of the ships, and brought them into Spithead. Bitter complaints were made on both sides, and the Dutch, encouraged by the declaration of the armed neutrality and the influence of France and Prussia, showed no inclination to yield to Yorke's remonstrances.

At last England had an opportunity of putting an end to this course of unacknowledged hostility. In October, 1780, a British frigate captured an American packet which was carrying Laurens, lately president of congress, as ambassador to Holland. He threw his papers overboard, but a British seaman promptly went after them and brought them back. Among them was a draft of a proposed treaty of commerce and amity between Holland and the United States of America, signed by the pensionary of Amsterdam and Lee, an American envoy, in September, 1778, when Holland was bound by treaty to a close alliance with Great Britain. England demanded a disavowal of the treaty and the punishment of the pensionary. The states-general voted to join the armed neutrality and, while disavowing the treaty, did not proceed against the pensionary. England declared war on December 20. The opposition maintained that the government had behaved arrogantly and was actuated by a desire for plunder, and that it was unjust to found a war on a mere proposal emanating from the magistracy of a single city and not confirmed by the states-general. Yet, if the conduct of Holland is viewed as a whole, it will be found to justify the course pursued by the government. England, then, in addition to the war with her rebellious colonies, had to meet the forces of France, Spain, and Holland. Nevertheless, the new accession to the number of her foes was of no detriment to her, for the Dutch were no longer powerful: it was better to have them open enemies than treacherous friends; England's geographical position enabled her to prevent their fleet from joining those of her other enemies, and their commerce and colonies fell an easy prey to her ships.


The recovery of Gibraltar was the principal object for which Spain fought. During some negotiations for peace carried on by unaccredited British agents in 1780, the Spanish minister, Florida Blanca, avowed that for the sake of Gibraltar his master would "break the family compact and every other engagement with France". Germain was willing that the question should be discussed, but North forbade the British agents to let the word Gibraltar pass their lips, and Stormont declared that the map of Spain's empire contained no equivalent for it, so the negotiations were ineffectual.[145] The Spaniards made strenuous efforts to take the fortress. On the night of June 6 they delivered a sudden attack on the small squadron in the harbour with fire-ships and a crowd of boats. They were foiled by the valour of the British seamen who, under a heavy fire, grappled the blazing ships and towed them ashore. Again Eliott found himself in urgent need of supplies; food and ammunition alike ran short, and early in 1781 it became evident that the place would have to be surrendered unless it was speedily relieved. Admiral Darby, then in command of the channel fleet, took out a convoy with supplies. The French were occupied with their own schemes of conquest, the Spanish fleet did not dare to meet him, and the relief was accomplished on April 12. The Spaniards then tried to reduce the place by a continuous bombardment, and between the 10th of that month and the end of June threw into it 75,000 shot and 25,000 shells. At first Eliott replied even more fiercely; but, always careful of his ammunition, he relaxed his fire on finding that the Spanish bombardment did him small harm, for though the town was virtually destroyed, the garrison lost only fifty-three killed and 260 wounded, and the fortifications were not seriously damaged. While Spain was thus foiled in her principal effort, she completed the reduction of West Florida, and her ships increased the risks which attended the commerce of England. In August, 1780, a fleet of East and West Indiamen, convoyed by Captain Moutray, was attacked by the combined fleets of France and Spain, under Don Luis de Cordova; fifty-five were taken and brought into Cadiz harbour, at a loss to Great Britain of about L2,000,000, besides 1,800 soldiers who were on their way to India.

Near home the enemies of England accomplished little. In January about 800 French soldiers landed in Jersey and surprised St. Heliers. The island was saved by Major Pierson of the 95th, gallantly supported by such troops and militia as he could gather at once. All the invaders were either killed or taken prisoners, but Pierson fell at the moment of victory. In July the combined fleets of France and Spain convoyed 14,000 troops on their way to Minorca, where they besieged Fort St. Philip, which held out until the next year. They then sailed, forty-nine ships of the line, into the mouth of the Channel and cruised about on the look-out for convoys. Darby lay in Torbay with thirty ships of the line, and they did not dare to attack him; many of their ships were unseaworthy, and in September the fleets for a second time retreated from the Channel without accomplishing anything. Meanwhile the Dutch were rendered incapable of acting with them. As Admiral Hyde Parker, in command of a squadron, was convoying the Baltic trade homeward on August 5, he met with a Dutch squadron on the Dogger Bank convoying their trade to the north. The two squadrons were nominally nearly equal, but several of the English ships were in bad condition. There was no manoeuvring; both sides went at it in the old fashion, fighting ship with ship all along the line. Both squadrons were desperately hammered, and at last parted without definite result. The Dutch loss in men was heavy; one of their best ships was sunk and two others totally ruined. They became little more than spectators of the war, and their possessions in the East, Sumatra, Negapatam, and Trincomali, fell into the hands of the English. Parker was furious with Sandwich for sending him out with an insufficient and badly found force. George went down to the Nore and visited his ship in the hope of appeasing him, but the old admiral insisted on resigning his command, and when pressed to remain, bluntly told the king that he wished him "younger men and newer ships".


The temporary success of the opposition in the spring of 1780 showed the king that he could no longer reckon with certainty on the support of the house of commons. On September 1 he suddenly dissolved the parliament elected in 1774, and writs were issued for a new parliament to meet on October 31. The suddenness of the dissolution and the shortness of the time allowed for the new elections were held to operate in favour of the court. Nor did George neglect other means of securing his authority, for he told North that the general election cost at least twice as much as any other since his accession.[146] Rodney headed the poll for Westminster, but Fox secured the second seat, defeating a ministerial candidate. Bristol, doubly offended by Burke's efforts on behalf of Irish trade and catholic relief, rejected him as its member, and he was provided with a seat by Rockingham. Windsor refused to re-elect Keppel, and it is asserted that George so far forgot his position as to go into the shop of a silk-mercer of the borough, and say in his hurried way: "The queen wants a gown, wants a gown. No Keppel! No Keppel!"[147] Among the new members were Sheridan, the dramatist, and manager and part-owner of Drury lane theatre, one of Fox's friends, who became famous as an orator, and William Pitt, the second son of the great Chatham, who was returned for Appleby on Sir James Lowther's nomination in January, 1781, when he was in his twenty-second year. From early youth Pitt showed signs of a remarkable genius which was carefully cultivated by his father. Conscious of his ability, he was reserved in manner, though he was warmly attached to his intimate friends and talked freely with them. He lived wholly for the service of his country, and took no part in the pleasures or vices of his contemporaries, save that he habitually drank far too much port wine. He joined the opposition, and ranged himself with his father's old followers who acted under Shelburne's leadership. On all questions of importance he spoke with lofty eloquence, and his speeches, often splendid as oratory, had the surpassing excellence of appealing to his hearers by raising them to a higher level of thought and feeling than that from which they had previously regarded the matter in debate. His voice was rich, his words well chosen, and he was singularly happy in sarcasm.

The king's influence was strong in the new parliament. Sir Fletcher Norton, a bad-tempered and unprincipled man, who had deeply offended him by his speech with reference to the civil list in 1777, was again proposed as speaker by the opposition, and was rejected by 203 votes to 134 in favour of Cornwall, the ministerial candidate. The session opened languidly and the attendance of the opposition was scanty. After the Christmas recess the struggle with the government was carried on with more energy. Little ground was gained. Burke's bill for a reform of the civil list establishment was rejected by 233 to 190, and a like fate attended other efforts to destroy the means by which parliament was subjected to corrupt influences. Though the Dutch war was popular specially with the mercantile class, which expected to benefit by it, both the nation and the parliament were thoroughly weary of the American war, and the opponents of it in the commons were strengthened by the accession of Pitt who pronounced it "a most accursed, wicked, barbarous, cruel, unnatural, unjust, and diabolical war".[148] Yet the news of successes in the south, of a mutiny of the Pennsylvania troops in January, 1781, and of the distress and financial difficulties of the Americans encouraged the government party. Motions hostile to the war were feebly supported, and Fox's jeers at British victories, and his declarations that the money spent on the war was plundered from the nation, that the cause of the Americans was "the cause of freedom, of the constitution, and of whiggism, and that he had in its origin wished it success," excited justifiable indignation.

The most serious attack on the government was caused by North's disgraceful manipulation of a loan of L12,000,000. Though more than three times the amount was offered, the loan was arranged on terms so advantageous to the lenders that the price of the new stock rose at once from 9 per cent. to 11 per cent. above par. The profits were calculated by Fox to amount to L900,000, and, as in 1763, the loan was distributed among the supporters of the government, half of it, so it was said, going to members of the house of commons, whether as compensation for election expenses or generally as a means of maintaining a corrupt influence. North's conduct was severely reprehended in both chambers, and in two divisions on the question in the commons the opposition voted 106 to 137 and 163 to 209. The life of the government depended on the fortunes of the war in America; it was prolonged by gleams of success; it was soon to be terminated by an overwhelming disaster.

In the summer of 1780 the Americans were, perhaps, more disheartened than at any other period of the war. They were, as we shall see, losing in the south, and their hope of decisive help from France was again disappointed. Congress continued to issue paper money until its notes became of so little value that ten paper dollars were exchanged for a cent; there was no money and no credit, and Washington was forced to levy contributions on the surrounding country to supply his army. The people generally were sick of the war. France was almost bankrupt; even Vergennes was weary of American demands for help, and suggested putting an end to the war by a long truce, the English surrendering New York and keeping Georgia and South Carolina. The idea was equally displeasing to the king and to the Americans. It was not without reason that George believed that "America was distressed to the greatest degree," and that if his ministers persevered in the war they would wear down its power of resistance.[149]

[Sidenote: MAJOR ANDRE.]

The depression of the Americans was deepened by the treachery of Arnold. Conspicuous among their generals for energy and dash, he was a vulgar-minded, irritable man, ruined in fortune by his own extravagance, and with many enemies. He had been treated badly by congress, and was finally maddened by receiving a public reprimand ordered by a court-martial which was held to examine charges affecting his probity. Washington felt kindly towards him, and gave him the command of West Point, a highland fortress which was the key of the line of the Hudson. He had for some time contemplated deserting to the British, and was in correspondence with Clinton, receiving replies through Major Andre, a gallant and popular young officer, Clinton's adjutant-general, who wrote under the name of John Anderson. Determined to avenge himself on congress, he offered to betray West Point to the British. An attack was to be made on September 25, and Arnold was to arrange the American troops in such a way as to ensure its success. Had the plot succeeded, the Americans would have lost communication between the northern and southern provinces, and would probably have been forced to give up the struggle. An interview was necessary, and Andre sailed up the river in the Vulture sloop, and met Arnold secretly on the night of the 21st. After the interview Arnold persuaded him to take shelter in a house which, though he was not aware of it, stood within the American lines, and gave him papers containing arrangements for the attack. The next day Andre could not find a boatman to take him to the Vulture, and was forced to set out for New York by land. He had a pass from Arnold made out for John Anderson, he changed his uniform for a civilian dress, and passed the American lines in safety. On the 23rd he fell into the hands of some American cattle-stealers; Arnold's papers were found in his boots, and his captors handed him over to a militia officer. Arnold received tidings of his capture and made his escape on board the Vulture.

Andre was tried by a court-martial consisting of fourteen general officers, and was sentenced to death as a spy. Clinton made every effort to obtain his pardon; Washington was inexorable, and would not even grant Andre's request that he might die a soldier's death. He was hanged on October 2, and met his fate with dignity and courage. Inexpressibly sad as his end was, he was not treated unjustly; he entered the enemy's lines while attempting to assist their commander to betray his post, he was within their lines in disguise, and he was taken with papers upon him arranging the details of the betrayal. Washington would have been held to have acted with generosity if he had treated him as a prisoner of war, or even if he had granted his pathetic request that he might be spared the ignominy of the gallows. But an officer in command should not allow any consideration to hinder him from doing what he believes to be best for his army, provided it is not contrary to the usages of civilised warfare. That Washington was guided by this principle in sending Andre to the gallows may fairly be inferred from all we know of his character, and of the condition of the American army at the time. His conduct needs no other defence.[150] The traitor Arnold received L6,300 from the British government, and, it is painful to remember, a commission in the army, which he entered with a brevet of brigadier-general.


As soon as war was declared with the Dutch, orders were sent to Rodney, who returned from America to the Antilles at the end of 1780, to capture St. Eustatius. From a mass of barren rock this Dutch island had suddenly become a place of first-rate commercial importance. In order to supply our West India planters with food for their slaves, parliament allowed trade to be carried on there with the Americans. In St. Eustatius the goods of all nations were bought and sold; and British and French planters, American dealers and Dutch merchants traded with one another as in a time of peace. English planters and merchants also used it as a place of deposit, believing that their goods would be safer there than in their own islands, which were open to attacks from the French. The wealth of the island was prodigious; the rents of the dwellings and warehouses hastily constructed on it amounted to a million a year; it had, as Burke said, risen from the waters like another Tyre to become the mart of the world. Like the British island of Nassau during the American civil war, it carried on along with legitimate commerce a brisk contraband trade, and its merchants supplied the Americans and French, their principal and most favoured customers, with vast quantities of naval stores and ammunition. It was practically undefended, and, together with its dependencies, St. Martin and Saba, was surrendered to Rodney without resistance on February 3, 1781. Over 150 vessels were taken in the bay, besides a richly laden convoy of Dutch ships which had lately put to sea. Rodney held that the island was a "nest of villains," and that its "infamous and deceitful inhabitants" owed their wealth to their support of the king's enemies by contraband trading; they "deserved scourging," and he vowed that they should get it. He confiscated all the property on the island, private as well as public, save what belonged to the French, who were open enemies. There was much truth in his indictment, but his indiscriminate confiscation was monstrously unjust.

The spoil of the island was estimated at L4,000,000. The king granted his rights over the booty to the captors. Rodney was a poor man, and was greedy for wealth; he seized more than the king could grant, or he could lawfully hold, for part of the booty belonged to English merchants. His conduct was severely and, though with some exaggeration, justly attacked by Burke in parliament, and in after years he was harassed by suits brought against him for unlawful spoliation. The booty sold on the spot fetched far less than its value, and much that was sent home fell into the hands of the French; for while Darby was engaged in the relief of Gibraltar, a French squadron intercepted the convoy which was bringing it to England, and carried off several ships laden with spoil. The capture of the island proved disastrous to England. A French fleet under Count de Grasse was unfortunately allowed to leave Brest in March, for England was embarrassed by naval conflicts all over the world. Rodney expected its coming, and sent Sir Samuel Hood, as fine a seaman as himself, and with a more single eye to the king's service, to blockade Fort Royal, in Martinique, in order to prevent four French ships which lay there from joining Grasse. Hood wished to cruise to windward of the island, which would have enabled him to force Grasse either to fight or to give up his junction with the four ships. Rodney, who remained at St. Eustatius looking after the loot, would not consent to this, because, so Hood asserts, he was afraid that the ships would slip out and attack the island.[151] Hood was forced to keep to leeward; Grasse got between him and the island, was joined by the ships, and so gained the superiority in force. Some distant and indecisive fighting took place on April 29 and 30, and finally Hood, being the inferior in force, and no longer having any reason to risk his ships, sailed away from the enemy. The French, though failing in an attack on St. Lucia, took Tobago, and, what was of graver consequence, Grasse was enabled, apparently through Rodney's anxiety concerning his booty, to maintain a strong fleet in the West Indies, which before long helped to bring victory within reach of the Americans. Grasse sailed for the American coast in August. Rodney was obliged by ill-health to return to England, and left Hood with only fourteen ships to follow the French fleet, directing him to join Admiral Graves, then in command in the American waters, in the neighbourhood of the Chesapeake.


As the British forces were divided between New York and the southern provinces, it is obvious that the issue of the struggle depended on the command of the sea. So long as the British held the ocean way, the southern army would be able to receive reinforcements and supplies, and could be aided by diversions, the French alliance would be of little profit to the Americans, and the long land journey, expensive and open to attacks, would cut off the southern provinces from succours from the north. The navy, as both Clinton and Washington saw, "had the casting vote in the contest".[152] In July, 1780, soon after Clinton returned to New York from South Carolina, a French squadron brought nearly 6,000 men, commanded by Count de Rochambeau, to Rhode Island. A few days after the arrival of Rochambeau, the British fleet under Arbuthnot received reinforcements which made it stronger than the French. Clinton took measures for attacking the French by land and sea, but was called back to New York by a movement on the part of Washington, and a renewal of the plan was defeated by a quarrel between him and Arbuthnot. The seven French ships remained at Newport, blocked up by the British fleet, and though Washington obtained some help from the land force, the greater part stayed to guard the ships. Rodney should have attacked these ships as soon as he arrived at New York in September. He probably thought them of little importance, as they were thoroughly blockaded, and did not care to risk his ships within reach of the French batteries on the shore. The destruction of the squadron was within his power and was well worth some risk. Great as he was on sea, he did not understand the wide aspects of operations of war. The presence of the French compelled the British to keep a large force in New York and so hindered their operations in the south.

Before Clinton left South Carolina, he issued a proclamation which put an end to all hopes of neutrality; those who would not fulfil the duties of loyal subjects would be held to be rebels. This step caused many who would willingly have remained neutral to join the revolutionists rather than fight against them. The country soon became disturbed; the British were forced to act with severity, and the Americans, both revolutionists and loyalists, behaved with great cruelty towards their fellow-countrymen of the opposite party.[153] Partisan leaders, among whom Sumter and Marion were conspicuous, raised bands on their own responsibility, and fought against the British, acting sometimes independently and sometimes in conjunction with the forces of congress. Cornwallis worked energetically at Charleston, enrolling militia and providing for the administration, while Lord Rawdon with the main body of the army kept the border at Camden. Anxious to press on, Cornwallis desired Clinton to send a force to Chesapeake bay, to divert the enemy while he invaded North Carolina; but before he could advance further he had to fight for the southern province. Gates was appointed to the supreme command in the south and was threatening Camden. Cornwallis hastened thither with his staff and found Rawdon with 700 sick and less than 2,000 fit for duty. The enemy was greatly superior in number, without reckoning 1,000 men under Sumter, who was cutting the British off from their supplies on the west side of the Wateree river. Cornwallis met them on August 16, and began the engagement with a vigorous attack on the American left, formed by the Virginia and North Carolina militia who, as the British advanced, firing and cheering, threw down their arms and fled. The British victory was complete; the Americans lost about 1,000 killed and wounded, over 1,000 prisoners, and their artillery and stores; the British casualties were 324. Two days later Colonel Tarleton smartly surprised Sumter, and dispersed his band, retaking a convoy which had fallen into his hands shortly before the battle of Camden. The defeat of Gates's army drove the Americans almost to despair.

Cornwallis was encouraged to pursue his grand plan of "conquest from south to north". Clinton, though he did not approve of his forward policy,[154] sent General Leslie with 3,200 men to Chesapeake bay to co-operate with him, and Cornwallis entered North Carolina and advanced as far as Charlotte. In spite of his brilliant victory he was beset by difficulties. The loyalists did not give him the help which he expected; as soon as he left South Carolina it broke into a ferment of disaffection, and his troops were not suited for the guerilla warfare largely adopted by the enemy, who were, Rawdon wrote, "mostly mounted militia not to be overtaken by our infantry, nor to be safely pursued in this strong country by our cavalry".[155] In this as in many other respects, the experiences of the war were repeated in South Africa in our own day. Before Cornwallis left South Carolina he detached a force of 800 militia and 100 regulars under Major Ferguson to scour the border and keep the country quiet in the rear of the army. They were met by a partisan army of 3,000 men under different leaders at King's Mountain on October 7; Ferguson was killed and all his men were either slain or captured. So severe a loss, combined with the anxiety of Cornwallis lest the important post called Ninety-six should be taken, put a stop to any further advance. Cornwallis fell back on Winnsborough, and bade Leslie convey his force to Charleston, which he was able to do as England had command of the sea, and reinforce him. The safety of the border was his first care. No sooner had Tarleton checked the inroads of Marion in the east than he was summoned westwards to protect Ninety-six from Sumter. He engaged Sumter's force at Blackstock on November 20, and claimed to have defeated him. Tarleton was a dashing cavalry officer, given to overrating his own achievements. His troops were few and weary, and at best he escaped defeat; but Sumter's band dispersed, for its leader was wounded and disabled for a while from further action.[156]


In December Greene, a general of far greater ability than Gates, took the chief command in the south. Cornwallis found the enemy on both his flanks. On the east Marion, then in common with Sumter holding a commission from congress, Henry Lee, and Greene himself endangered his communications with the coast, and penetrated as far as Georgetown, and on the west another division under Morgan threatened Ninety-six. Disaffection was spreading rapidly through the province. Believing that his one chance of conquering from south to north lay in pushing forward, he determined to march into North Carolina. Leslie joined him in January, 1781, and Clinton sent Arnold and Phillips with a large force to take Leslie's place in Virginia. On setting out for North Carolina, Cornwallis detached Tarleton to deal with Morgan. He brought him to bay at the Cowpens, near King's Mountain, on the 17th. Tarleton's force, numbering about 1,100, was slightly superior to that of the enemy, but he engaged while his men were weary after a hard night-march. Some of his troops behaved badly; he was utterly defeated, and lost nearly 800 men. This defeat was a severe blow to Cornwallis, for it deprived him of the best part of his light troops, which were specially necessary for his march through a wooded and thinly populated country where much foraging had to be done. He determined to advance, hoping to get between Greene and Virginia, and force him to fight before he received reinforcements. He burnt his superfluous baggage and crossed the Catawba river. The two divisions of the American army retreated hastily through North Carolina, succeeded in forming a junction, and crossed the Dan into Virginia before the British could come up with them. Having thus cleared the province of the revolutionary troops, Cornwallis encamped at Hillsborough, and on February 20 summoned the loyalists to join him. Some were coming in when, on the 23rd, Greene, who had received reinforcements, recrossed the Dan. Any further loyalist movement was stopped by an act of revolting barbarity; 200 loyalists were caught by Lee's horse on their way to the British quarters; they made no resistance and asked for quarter, but were butchered by their fellow-countrymen.

Cornwallis, finding it difficult to support his troops and being anxious to encourage the loyalists by showing his superiority in the field, accepted Greene's offer of battle at Guilford courthouse on March 15. His force scarcely numbered 2,000, while the enemy, regulars and militia, were 4,300 strong. The battle was begun by the British left, consisting of the 22nd and 23rd regiments, supported by grenadiers and guards, which charged and routed the first line of the enemy with the bayonet. The second line, formed by Virginians, stood steady and was not driven back without a severe struggle; so too the First Maryland regiment, in the third line, repulsed the first attack upon it with heavy loss. The Second Marylanders fell back before a battalion of guards, who pressed heedlessly after them and were suddenly engaged by the American dragoons. The guards fought fiercely, but were broken. For a moment things looked awkward. Then the enemy was checked by the British artillery and the guards were rallied by their brigadier O'Hara, who, though severely wounded, was still able to do good service. The British fought magnificently and won a brilliant victory. Yet it was dearly bought, for the loss of over 500 rank and file, a full third of his infantry, left Cornwallis powerless. His little army was in need of supplies and he marched to Wilmington, where stores brought by sea were laid up for him.

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