« AnteriorContinuar »
fiscating war made upon the American colonies ; and, to say nothing of those upon France and Spain, view the late war upon Holland, which was seen by impaartial Europe in no other light than that of a war of rapine and pillage; the hopes of an immense and easy prey being its only apparent, and probably its true and real motive and encouragement. Justice is as strictly due between neighbour nations as between neighbour citizens. A highwayman is as much a robber when he plunders in a gang as when single; and a nation that makes an unjust war is only a great gang. After employing your people in robbing the Dutch, it is strange that, being put out of that employ by peace, they still continue robbing, and rob one another? Piraterie, as the French call it, or privateering, is the universal bent of the English nation, at home and abroad, wherever settled. No less than seven hundred privateers were, it is said, commissioned in the last war! These were fitted out by merchants, to prey upon other merchants who had never done them any injury. Is there probably any one of those privateering merchants of London, who were so ready to rob the merchants of Amsterdam, that would not as easily plunder another London merchant of the next street, if he could do it with the same impunity? The avidity, the alieni appetens* is the same; it is the fear of the gallows that makes the difference. How, then, can a nation, which among the honestest of its people has so many thieves by inclination, and whose government encouraged and commissioned no less than seven hundred gangs of robbers; how can such a nation have the face to condemn the crime in individuals, and hang up twenty of them in a morning! It naturally puts one in mind of a Newgate anecdote. One of the prisoners complained that in the night somebody had
* Coveting what is the property of another.
against the colonies, prizes and conmcations ar
taken his buckles out of his shoes. 6 What the devil!” says another, “have we then thieves among us? It must not be suffered. Let us search out the rogue and pump him to death.”
There is, however, one late instance of an English"merchant who will not profit by such ill-gotten gain. He was, it seems, part owner of a ship, which the other owners thought fit to employ as a letter of marque, which took a number of French prizes. The booty being shared, he has now an agent here inquiring, by an advertisement in the Gazette, for those who have suffered the loss, in order to make them, as far as in him lies, restitution. This conscientious man is a Quaker. The Scotch Presbyterians were formerly as tender; for there is still extant an ordinance of the town-council of Edinburgh, made soon after the Reformation, “forbidding the purchase of prize goods, under pain of losing the freedom of the burgh for ever, with other punishment at the will of the magistrate; the practice of making prizes being contrary to good conscience, and the rule of treating Christian brethren as we would wish to be treated; and such goods are not to be sold by any Godly man within this burgh." The race of these Godly men in Scotland are probably extinct, or their principles abandoned, since, as far as that nation had a hand in promoting the believed to have been a considerable
It has been for some time a generally received opinion, that a military man is not to inquire whether a war be just or unjust; he is to execute his orders. All princes who are disposed to become ty. rants must probably approve of this opinion, and be willing to establish it; but is it not a dangerous one ? since, on that principle, if the tyrant commands his army to attack and destroy not only an unoffending neighbour nation, but even his own subjects, the army is bound to obey. A negro slave in our colo
nies, being commanded by his master to rob and murder a neighbour, or do any other immoral act, may refuse, and the magistrate will protect him in his refusal. The slavery, then, of a soldier is worse than that of a negro! A conscientious officer, if not restrained by the apprehension of its being imputed to another cause, may indeed resign rather than be employed in an unjust war; but the private men are slaves for life; and they are, perhaps, incapable of judging for themselves.
We can only lament their fate, and still more that of a sailor, who is often dragged by force from his honest occupation, and compelled to imbrue his hands in perhaps innocent blood. But methinks it well behooves merchants (men more enlightened by their education, and perfectly free from any such force or obligation) to consider well of the justice of a war, before they voluntarily engage a gang of ruffians to attack their fellow-merchants of a neighbouring nation, to plunder them of their property, and perhaps ruin them and their families if they yield it, or to wound, maim, and murder them, if they endeavour to defend it. Yet these things are done by Christian merchants, whether a war be just or unjust; and it can hardly be just on both sides. They are done by English and American merchants, who nevertheless complain of private theft, and hang by dozens the thieves they have taught by their own example.
It is high time, for the sake of humanity, that a stop were put to this enormity. The United States of America, though better situated than any European nation to make profit by privateering (most of the trade of Europe with the West Indies passing before their doors), are, as far as in them lies, endeavouring to abolish the practice, by offering, in all their treaties with other powers, an article, engaging solemnly that, in case of future war, no privateer shall be commissioned on either side; and
that unarmed merchant ships on both sides shall pursue their voyages unmolested.* This will be a happy improvement of the law of nations. The humane and the just cannot but wish general success to the proposition. With unchangeable esteem and affection,
I am, my dear friend,
* This offer having been accepted by the late king of Prussia, a treaty of amity and commerce was concluded between that monarch and the United States, containing the following hu. mane, philanthropic article, in the formation of which Dr. Franklin, as one of the American plenipotentiaries, was principally concerned, viz.,
ART. XXHI. If war should arise between the two contracting parties, the merchants of either country then residing in the other shall be allowed to remain nine months to collect their debts and settle their affairs, and may depart freely, carrying off all their effects without molestation or hinderance; and all wo. men and children, scholars of every faculty, cultivators of the earth, artisans, manufacturers, and fishermen, unarmed and inhabiting unfortified towns, villages, and places, and, in general, all others whose occupations are for the common subsistence and benefit of mankind, shall be allowed to continue their respective employments, and shall not be molested in their persons, nor shall their houses or goods be burned or otherwise destroyed, nor their fields wasted by the armed force of the enemy into whose power, by the events of war, they may happen to fall; but if anything is necessary to be taken from them for the use of such armed force, the same shall be paid for at a reasonable price. And all merchant and trading vessels employed in exchanging the products of different places, and thereby rendering the necessaries, conveniences, and comforts of human life more easy to be obtained, and more general, shall be allowed to pass free and unmolested : and neither of the contracting powers shall grant or issue any commission to any private armed vessels, empowering them to take or destroy such trading ves. sels or interrupt such commerce.”
LETTER FROM ANTHONY AFTERWIT.
MR. GAZETTEER, I am an honest tradesman, who never meant harm to anybody. My affairs went on smoothly while a bachelor; but of late I have met with some difficul. ties, of which I take the freedom to give you an account.
About the time I first addressed my present spouse, her father gave out in speeches that, if she married a man he liked, he would give with her two hundred pounds in cash on the day of marriage. He never said so much to me, it is true; but he always received me very kindly at his house, and openly countenanced my courtship. I formed several fine schemes what to do with this same two hundred pounds, and in some measure neglected my business on that account; but, unluckily, it came to pass, that, when the old gentleman saw I was pretty well engaged, and that the match was too far gone to be easily broke off, he, without any reason given, grew very angry, forbid me the house, and told his daughter that if she married me he would not give her a farthing. However (as he thought), we were not to be disappointed in that manner, but, having stole a wedding, I took her home to my house, where we were not quite in so poor a condition as the couple described in the Scotch song, who had
“Neither pot nor pan,
But four bare legs together," for I had a house tolerably well furnished for a poor man before. No thanks to Dad, who, I understand, was very much pleased with his politic manage