Billeder på siden
PDF
ePub

chemist has observed that the human breath turns violet colours red, and very exactly of that shade which is given to them by the muriatic acid.*

I have read Dr. Robertson's late history of America ; not with the satisfaction I expected. Voltaire, in his Histoire General, has in my judgment touched it with a much more masterly hand.

I beg my respects to the Marquesa, and to be remembered to our philosophical friends. I hope not only to hear from you, but to be assured too that your journey and the baths have entirely re-established your health.t

I am, dear sir, with great respect and regard, your friend and humble servant,

ARTHUR LEE. To his excellency the Marquis of Rosignan,

Sardinian Envoy, at Berlin.

“ Paris, Oct. 18, 1777. Dear Sir,- I was comforted for the unhappy fate of our accomplished friend Alleyne, by hearing that you

* All the acids turn vegetable blues red ; and the alkalis converts the red to blue again. The human breath contains a portion of carbonic acid. Hence the blue sitmus paper is changed to a red colour by exposure to the human breath. The reader will excase these collegiate reminiscences.

+ The name of Voltaire brings to the recollection of the author an anecdote which Mr. Lee has written at the bottom of a page (in a vol. of Voltaire's works) of his Essay on Epic Poetry. While Mr. Lee resided in France a learned Italian count, who had just been travelling throngh England, dined with him, in a learned conspany assembled by Mr. Lee to enjoy the society of the Italian. The count related a fact which had happened in his presence some years before when in England. He had been invited to dine with Voltaire, who was then on a visit to England, and Dr. Young, the author of the Night Thoughts, at the house of some gentleman in London. The reader will recollect that Voltaire pretended to entertain a great contempt for Milton's Paradise Lost, and had endeavoured to ridicule that inimitable poem, in his Essay on Epic Poetry. Dr. Young ardently admired Milton. He was said to be very animated in his manner, and vehement in his temper. During their sitting after dinner the conversation turned on epic poetry, and Voltaire attacked various parts of the Paradise Lost with much ridicule. Dr. Young warmly vindicated the beauties and sublimity of the passages so treated by Voltaire. The Doctor grew more and more warm and vehement in his manner, and unconsciously grasped a large knife near him, and leaning forward toward Voltaire appeared to hiin to bo getting too near. Voltaire, who had a great dread of a hot-headed Englishman, became quite uneasy at the manner of the Doctor. He at length began to draw back his chair, and the Doctor still leaned towards him, nearer and nearer, with increasing eamestness, until Voltaire rose and stepped back, upon which the Doctor rising to wards him, vehemently uttered the following extemporary verse.

“ You little, profligate and thin,

You are Milton's devil, death, and sin." Voltaire was remarkably small and thin. The passage of Milton's Paradise Lost which Voltaire had been ridiculing, was Milton's Personification of Death and Sin.

were coming forward in his place. It was impossible not to have an affection for a man so worthy of it, except in those failings which I knew too well, and by which he himself was the greatest sufferer. I never yet met with a man whose talents were greater, or more calculated to please and instruct. The great fortune to which he was born nourished in him I believe that turn for extravagance which was the source of all his misfortunes. Peace be to him! I shall ever remember him with esteem and regret. If you see any of his family be pleased to remember me to them.

Mr. Bolton flatters. me that you will put forth your utmost strength upon the great question of impressment. It is of the last importance to the security of the subject, and to the honour of the police of the kingdom, that this question should be decided. For what can more abase the dignity of the constitution, or endanger the security of the subject, than that the least enlightened and most abandoned of the community, for of such press-gangs are usually composed, should be supposed to have a legal power of judging and executing in what concerns the dearest object of legal protection, personal liberty ? To say no worse of this practice and to suppose no intention of oppression, it is certainly left to every press-gang to judge who it is that comes within the description of the warrant under which they act, and in the instant to execute that judgment with ruffian violence, and drag the unhappy victim covered over with wounds into the most dismal of all dungeons, where the approach or knowledge of his friends is always difficult, and may easily be rendered impossible.

It ever appeared to me the grossest of all absurdities, to suppose the law could authorize that which overturns all law, and soberly cominit to a drunken beadle a summary judgment and execution without trial or appeal, which is not trusted to the gravest and most dignified judges of the land, nor even to the sceptre itself. With regard to Mr. Foster's law argument I am satisfied from my own experience that you will find thatby searching into the ancient records, that it is the sophistry of an

advocate and not the opinion of a judge. Among the innumerable arguments against it, these appear to me to be conclusive, and to prove beyond controversy that to use an expression of some note, it is a lewd custom and not law. First, the ancient warrants vouched for

pressing seamen do equally authorize the impressing all men, since after describing many others besides mariners they conclude “et alios quoscunque.These therefore proving too much, prove in fact nothing, but that the whole is an usurpation on the part of the crown. Secondly, there is no writ in the register authorizing the recovery of a mariner so pressed into the service, which, had it ever been deemed legal, must inevitably have been the case. The general rule that there is no right without a remedy, is more especially true with regard to the prerogative. Had there ever been a right in the crown to force seamen into its service, there would have been a writ to retake them when they deserted. But the writ is for those only who have received wages, and the conversion of those wages being a proof of consent, that conversion is specified in the writ. It is manifest then that the consent, and not force, was what, in contemplation of law entitled the crown to claim the mariner's service. Besides, the practice carries an internal evidence of its illegality with it, since a community of robbers could not devise an institution more inconsistent with law and order, or more strongly marked with violence and wrong. You will do me a very great favour if you

will

preserve and convey to me the arguments and opinions upon this question, should it come forward. Perhaps the intemperance of some one among us may be some time or other inclined to introduce it into the United States.

Next to the establishment of our own liberties, the redemption of your's is my warmest wish. I think it is inevitable that the trial must come forward with you in a few years. The Scotch domination drives on too fast. to continue long unquestioned. The weight of the yoke from which we have withdrawn will be concentrated upon you. Those who expect experience will make the

16

VOL. I.

contrivers of this flagitious business more moderate in the use of the power left them, will, I think, be mistaken. The disappointment will be much more likely to inflame their passions than reform their judgment, to exasperate than to mitigate their tyranny. But in my opinion the Scots have undertaken more than their abilities and judgment, which I think showy, not solid, can direct or maintain. In the end therefore I hope to see them defeated by you, as I have every reason to trust they will be by us.

For the commencement of a correspondence, this letter I am afraid will appear tedious. I shall therefore close it with assuring you that there is no one in whose remembrance and friendship I shall be happier than in your's.

I have the honour to be your's, with the truest esteem, dear sir, &c.

ARTHUR LEE. To William Jones, Esq. Middle Temple.

!

ate in

likely nt, to n my abili I, cal

CHAPTER V.

[ocr errors][merged small]
[ocr errors]
[merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small]

The effect of the capture of Burgoyne in France and other parts of Europe—The
French Court resolves on a Treaty of Alliance with the United States—Debates
on the subject of the 11th and 12th Articles of the Treaty-Mr. Lee refuses to
concur with his colleagues in these Articles—The French Court consents that
congress may strike them out of the Treaty, without affecting its validity-Con-
gress concurs with Mr. Lee and strikes out those Articles—Mr. Lee's efforts to
induce Spain to join the Alliance--He procures a secret and separate Article from
the French Court in relation to Spain--His endeavours to procure a loan of two
millions of pounds sterling from Spain for Congress—His correspondence with
Mons. Dumas of Holland—Intrigues of British secret agents in Paris–Mr. Lee
detects and exposes them—Invitation of the Congress to Dr. Price, to remove to
America and become a citizen of the United States-Mr. Lee's letter and Price's
reply-Sketch of the labours and services of Mr. Lee while in France-His jour-
nal of negotiations with the French and Spanish minister–His correspondence
with Congress—Return of Mr. Lee to America ; causes of it—His arrival and
reception in the United States—His reception by Congress-He is elected a
member of the Virginia Assembly, and is chosen by that body a delegate to Con-
gress—Is appointed by Congress a Commissioner to treat with all the north-
western tribes of Indians--Is chosen by Congress one of the Board of Treasury,
at which he continued from the year 1784 to 1789--His retirement—His conti-
nued correspondence with eminent foreign persons of distiuction-His literary
honours-His death and character.
o

The reader has seen from the letters of Mr. Lee on
the subject of Burgoyne's surrender, that the intelligence
of that event had produced a very favourable effect upon
the minds of public men in Europe. It changed the poli-
cy of the French court towards the United States ; and
though the Spanish court did not so promptly yield to
this effect, its assurances of amity and aid became more
earnest and unequivocal.

The French court immediately entered into negotiations on the subject of a treaty of alliance and commercial intercourse. The reason given by the Spanish ministry for its dilatory course towards the United States, was the hazard to which an open alliance with them would expose their fleet, then not yet returned from South America with the annual supply of silver.

1

1

« ForrigeFortsæt »