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accounts of this carnage are authenticated beyond the possibility of dispute, suggests an apology for Dr. Robertson by remarking, “ That this is one of those melancholy passages in the history of human nature, where a benevolent mind, shrinking from the contemplation of facts, wishes to resist conviction, and to relieve itself by incredulity.
The Spanish nation were not insensible, of what they owed to Dr. Robertson for “ the temperate spirit” (as Mr. Gibbon expresses it) with which he had related this portion of their story.
“ On the 8th of August, 1777, he was unanimously elected a member of the Royal Academy of History at Madrid; in testimony of their approbation of the industry and care with which he has applied to the study of Spanish history, and as a recompense for his merit in having contributed so much to illustrate and spread the knowledge of it in foreign countries.” The academy, at the same time, appointed one of its members to translate the History of America into Spanish; and it is believed that considerable progress had been made in the translation, when the Spanish government, judging it inexpedient that a work should be made public, in which the nature of the trade with America, and the system of colonial administration were so fully explained, interposed its authority to stop the undertaking.
As the volumes which have been now under our review did not complete Dr. Robertson's original design, he announced in the preface his intention to resume the subject at a future period; suspending, in the mean, time, the execution of that part of his plan which related to the British settlements, “ on account of the ferment which then agitated our North American Colonies.” A fragment of this intended work, which has been published since his death, while it illustrates the persevering ardor of his mind, must excite a lively regret in all who read it, that a history so peculiarly calculated by its subject to co-extend his fame with the future progress of our language in the regions beyond
* Bryan Edwards—History of the West Indies.
the Atlantic, had not been added to the other monuments of his genius.
The caution which Dr. Robertson observed in his expressions concerning the American war, suggests some doubts about his sentiments on that subject. In his letters to Mr. Strahan he writes with greater freedom, and sometimes states, without reserve, his opinions of men and measures.
One or two of these passages (which I transcribe without any comment) appear to me to be objects of curiosity, as they illustrate Dr. Robertson's political views; and I flatter myself they will now be read without offence, when the factions to which they allude are almost effaced from our recollection by the more interesting events of a later period. I need scarcely premise, that in quoting Dr. Robertson's opinions I would by no means be understood to subscribe to them as my own.
In a letter, dated October 6, 1775, he writes thus : “I agree with you in sentiment about the affairs of America. Incapacity, or want of information, has led the people employed there to deceive ministry. Trusting to them, they have been trifling for two years, when they should have been serious, until they have rendered a very simple piece of business extremely perplexed. They have permitted colonies disjoined by nature and situation to consolidate into a regular systematical confederacy; and when a few regiments stationed in each capital would have rendered it impossible for them to take arms, they have suffered them quietly to levy and train forces, as if they had not known and seen against whom they were prepared. But now we are fairly committed, and I do think it fortunate that the violence of the Americans has brought matters to a crisis too soon for themselves. From the beginning of the contest I have always asserted that independence was their object. The distinction between taxation and regulation is mere folly. There is not an argument against our right of taxing, that does not conclude with tenfold force against our power of regulating their trade. They may profess or disclaim what they please, and
hold the language that best suits their purpose ; but if they have any meaning, it must be that they should be free states, connected with us by blood, by habit, and by religion, but at liberty to buy and sell and trade where and with whom they please. This they will one day attain, but not just now, if there be any degree of political wisdom or vigor remaining. At the same time one cannot but regret that prosperous and growing states should be checked in their career. As a lover of mankind, I bewail it; but as a subject of Great Britain, I must wish that their dependence on it should continue. If the wisdom of government can terminate the contest with honor instantly, that would be the most desirable issue. This, however, I take to be now impossible; and I will venture to foretel, that if our leaders do not at once exert the power of the British empire in its full force, the struggle will be long, dubious, and disgraceful. We are past the hour of lenitives and half exertions. If the contesi be protracted, the smallest interruption of the tranquillity that now reigns in Europe, or even the appearance of it, may be fatal.
“ It is lucky that my American History was not finished before this event. How many plausible theories that I should have been entitled to form, are contradicted by what has now happened !”
To this extract, I shall only add a few sentences from a letter written to the same correspondent, about the affairs of America, nine years before, at the time of the repeal of the stamp act.
“I am glad to hear the determination of the house of commons concerning the stamp act. I rejoice, from my love of the human species, that a million of men in America have some chance of running the same great career which other free people have held before them. I do not apprehend revolution or independence sooner than these must and should come. A very little skill and attention in the art of governing may preserve the supremacy of Britain as long as it ought to be preserved. You can do me no favor more obliging, than that of writing me often an account of all occurrences in the debates on this affair. I am much interested in the VOL. VII.
subject; very little in the men who act on either side. I am not weak enough greatly to admire their virtues, nor so factious as to adopt their passions.”
Continuation of the same subject—Historical Disquisition concern
ing India—General Remarks on Dr. Robertson's merits as an Historian.
In consequence of the interruption of Dr. Robertson's plans produced by the American Revolution, he was led to think of some other subject which might, in the mean time, give employment to his studious leisure. A letter, dated July, 1778, to his friend the Rev. Mr. Waddilove (now dean of Rippon), contains some important information with respect to his designs at this period.
“ The state of our affairs in North America is not such as to invite me to go on with my History of the New World. I must wait for times of greater tranquillity, when I can write and the public can read with more impartiality and better information than at present. Every person with whom I conversed in London confirmed me in my resolution of making a pause for a little, until it shall be known in what manner the ferment will subside. But as it is neither my inclination nor interest to be altogether idle, many of my friends have suggested to me a new subject, the History of Great Britain from the Revolution to the Accession of the House of Hanover. It will be some satisfaction to me to enter on a domestic subject, after being engaged so long on foreign ones, where one half of my time and labor were employed in teaching myself to understand manners, and laws, and forms, which I was to explain to others. You know better than any body how much pains I bestowed in studying the constitution, the manners, and the commerce of Spanish America. The
Review contained in the first volume of Charles V. was founded on researches still more laborious. I shall not be involved in the same painful inquiries, if I undertake the present work. I possess already as much knowledge of the British government and laws as usually is possessed by other persons who have been well educated and have lived in good company. A minute investigation of facts will be the chief object of my attention. With respect to these, I shall be much aided by the original papers published by Sir John Dalrymple and Macpherson, and lately by Lord Hardwicke. The Memoirs of Noailles, concerning the French negotiations in Spain, contain very curious information. I have got a very valuable collection of papers from the Duke of Montague, which belonged to the Duke of Shrewsbury, and I am promised the large collection of the Duke of Marlborough, which were formerly in the hands of Mr. Mallet. From these and other materials I hope to write a history which may be both entertaining and instructive. I know that I shall get upon dangerous ground, and must relate events concerning which our political factions entertain very different sentiments. But I am little alarmed with this. I flatter myself that I have temper enough to judge with impartiality; and if, after examining with candor, I do give offence, there is no man whose situation is more independent.”
Whatever the motives were which induced him to relinquish this project, it is certain that it did not long occupy his thoughts. From a letter of Mr. Gibbon, it would appear to have been abandoned before the end of the year 1779. The passage is interesting, not only as it serves to ascertain the fact, but as it suggests a valuable hint with respect to a different historical subject.
“I remember a kind of engagement you had contracted to repeat your visit to London every second year, and I look forwards with pleasure to next spring, when your bond will naturally become due. I should almost hope that you would bring with you some fruits of your leisure, had I not been informed that you had totally relinquished your design of continuing Mr.