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I intended. The Declaration of Independence is a personal bill of indictment against the individual George the Third. It classes him among the most detested of tyrants. The charges against him contained in it are all true. You know that he had been subject to occasional fits of insanity, at least from the first years of his reign. You know that in 1788, when this his condition first became notorious to the world, Dr. Franklin being told that the King of England was insane, asked if the people of England had just discovered it? I have other reason for the undoubting belief that the American Revolution is mainly attributable to that condition of the mind of George the Third; and I have no hesitation in saying that it would alone disarm me of almost all resentment against him, and teach me to think of him more in compassion than in anger. This man, at the time when I was commenting upon the Declaration of Independence, had recently died. That Declaration made him a Nero. How could I overlook him? How could I soften or mitigate the severity of my text upon him, but by leading in as delicate a manner as I could the minds of my hearers to the contemplation of him in a condition released from moral responsibility? The figure, as you doubtless perceived (and perhaps that is your objection to it), has two allusions. One to the epitaph in Gray's Elegy, and the other to Uncle Toby's oath in Tristram Shandy. But remember that both these are the cases of sins forgiven. And when in general terms, without naming the nature of his sufferings, I suggested the hope that they might have propitiated the divine mercy, and atoned for crimes like those denounced in the Declaration I was to read, I declare to you that the sentiment of my own heart, and that which I thought would be conveyed into the hearts of my hearers, was that of melting into forgiveness. I am yet to seek what there is in it of
harshness, and should be glad to have it pointed out
Without concurring in the objection against my use of the treaty of peace, you think I have not availed myself of it in the best manner, and upon specifying a play upon words, as if that was the most striking characteristic of the manner in which I availed myself of that instrument. I think there is nothing that can properly be called a play upon words, for the terms serene and serenity are not used in different senses in the two passages; but the emphasis upon the second was merely intended to point ridicule at the first. But grant it was a play upon words, it was assuredly not the marked characteristic of the manner in which I availed myself of the treaty of peace. The treaty of peace is one of the vitals of the discourse.
The whole address is a contrasted view of liberties founded on grant, and liberties founded on acknowledgment, exemplified by Magna Charta on the one hand, and by our Declaration and the acknowledgment in the treaty of peace on the other. The treaty of peace was as necessary to my argument as the Declaration itself. The preparation for its introduction is laid in the very first page of the address. The address is not an oration constructed according to rhetorical rule; it is a continued tissue of interwoven narrative and argument, without exordium, without division of the subject; with an episode, if you please, in answer to the question, what has America done for the benefit of mankind? and with a peroration of ten lines at the close, but all bearing directly on the Declaration which it was my charge to read. This was my manner of treating my subject, and the manner of introducing the treaty of peace was precisely where in the progress of the narrative it must be, at the close of the rapid view given of the war. The Declaration had closed with a very solemn
adjuration of Divine Providence for its support. The treaty of peace begins by a reference to Divine Providence as having disposed the heart of the king to make the peace. Now I did think, and cannot for my soul help thinking, that this coincidence was exceedingly striking, and it was a part of my manner of introducing the treaty to point it out. But I could not introduce the Divine Providence of the treaty of peace without falling upon the enumeration of the king's titles which immediately followed, with the epithets of most serene and most potent Prince at their head. This particular qualification of most serene, coupled behind with the war since the Declaration of Independence, and before, with the ACKNOWLEDGMENT which was to follow, struck me as so irresistibly ludicrous that I thought the very attempt to read it with gravity would make my readers laugh in my face. I thought therefore that the manner suited to it was sarcasm, and the tone of delivery in reading it a subdued mock heroic, half way between seriousness and burlesque, and in that tone I did deliver it. But as you read the address my idea of this "most serene and most potent Prince" is not entirely disclosed. I am ashamed to ask you to turn to the 26th page of the copy which I sent you of the address, to the word "oppression" in the last line of the page. In my original draught of the address this word was followed thus: "There were among them no most serene and most potent Princes, whose hearts Divine Providence could dispose to peace and justice by nothing less than seven years of merciless and ignominious war." This sentence I have no doubt would have been one of the most popular in the whole discourse, but I struck it out for two reasons: first, from that motive of tenderness to the personal character of George the Third which I felt and intended to communicate; and secondly, because it was one of those things
which it might be thought unseemly for a person holding my station to say. I now trust it in confidence to you as setting more in relief the combination of ideas which influenced the manner of my introducing the treaty of peace.
But the great and indispensable necessity of the treaty to me was its ACKNOWLEDGMENT of our Independence to the same extent in which it had been declared. This was a topic upon which I doubtless could have enlarged, and which I might have pressed hard upon Britain as a recognition not only of our Independence, but of the principles of the Declaration. I could also have dwelt much and perhaps with good effect upon the historical unity of our conflict for Independence, at which I have only glanced. But I was encroaching upon time, and afraid of tiring the patience of my hearers. If the whole tribe of vulgar and invidious critics who have fallen upon the address in all quarters of the Union had failed of discerning what I myself consider as the marked characteristics of my manner of introducing the treaty of peace or its preamble, I would have sent them to school and recollected the admonition of the lady to Rousseau "Tais toi, Jean Jacques, ils ne t'entendront pas." This is all I would answer to critics who have seen in the light touches upon petty British inventions and discoveries since our Independence, and in the very deliberate epithets of fustian romance and lascivious lyrics which I have given to their most fashionable literature, a depreciatory estimate of arts, sciences, or letters, or a disrespect for the names of Newton, Bacon, and Locke, or of Shakespeare, and Milton. One of the authors of the lascivious lyrics has been among the most violent and outrageous slanderers of our country, and I owed him a grudge for that as well as for the philters he so long administered to our youth of both sexes.1 An
1 Thomas Moore.
other has lately done justice to himself by acknowledging himself one of the corrupters both of taste and morals, who are lording it over English literature and therefore over ours. If I could take his confession for an earnest of repentance and amendment, I should have hopes of him; but I expect it is only a pretence to more cantos of Don Juan.1 My objections to the fashionable romance are: first, that it is an exaggerated and therefore false picture of human nature. Its characters are strange, and mysterious, and wonderful, and witty, and generally in good keeping, but they are not men and women. There is great and admirable genius in these works, and so there was in the library of Don Quixote, else there would have been neither motive or occasion for the satire of Cervantes. Secondly, the tendency of these romances is immoral. They are manuals of superstition, one of the most dangerous and pernicious propensities of the human mind. There is no Peter Quince, as in Mrs. Radcliffe's incantations, to tell the ladies that the lion of the play is no true lion, but Snug the joiner. Before delivering the address I had at one time the idea of saying instead of fustian "second sighted romance." But I thought this latter epithet might be taken for a national reflection upon Scotland, and therefore avoided it. My third objection to these far famed romances is, that they are party productions, as much so as the Courier newspaper or the Quarterly Review. They are anti-republican works, written to degrade public opinion, the covenanters, and reformers of other ages, for the sake of a refractive effect upon the radicals, and even the Whigs of the present times. In this point they bore directly upon my subject, and deserved a touch from the tip end of my lash as I passed along. As to the sportive allusions to Sir Humphrey's exhilarating gas and Herschel's
1 Lord Byron.