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troops consumed as at that time. Burke and Fox could not justly alledge that the state of our finances and forces was much meliorated during their short Administration. They had repeatedly asserted that peace on any terms was adviseable to Britain, when in a much less exhausted situation. They had offered peace to Holland; they had proposed unconditionally to recognize the independence of America; they had shewn themselves anxious to attain what they so often said was necessary to the salvation of Britain on any terms.
Their disapprobation, therefore, of peace we may,
without any deviation from candour, conclude to have arisen fully as much from party opposition as from a conviction of its inexpediency.
The ministerial speakers, after defending the main object, attacked the coalition. They contended, that an union between men of so heterogeneous principles as those which Burke and Fox, on the one hand, and Lord North, on the other, had always professed
to entertain, must be from some different reason than mutual agreement of political idea. The combined parties procured a majority in the house, and passed a vote of censure on the Ministry. The ccalition was bitterly inveighed against both in and out of Parliament.
Though prevalent in both houses, it was on the whole unpopular. To arraign an union of men once opposite or even inimical to each other, without considering the object of the combination, or the conduct of its members in their combined capacity, would be the result of prejudice, not of judgment. A change of circumstances often renders it just to deviate from that plan of political conduct which it was once right to pursue, and to act with those men whom it was once right to oppose. The abuse thrown out against Burke and the other coalesced leaders, merely because they had coalesced, after much mutual obloquy, was the abuse of ignorant declaimers, not of impartial, informed, and able reasoners. Very able, well informed reasoners, no doubt, did very severely blame the coalition;
but that blame must have proceeded from either a discovery of their object, or an anticipation of their conduct, and not from the mere fact of their union.
The coalition is now known to have first been projected by Mr. Burke: * There was less inconsistency in that gentleman and his friends, the Duke of Portland and Earl Fitzwilliam, coalescing with Lord North, than in Mr. Fox. Though the other leaders of the Rockingham party disagreed with Lord North on the subject of the American war, they entertained a very high opinion of his talents and integrity. Mr. Burke, in particular, as we have seen, declared him to be one of the ablest and best men he ever knew'; and Lord North entertained a still higher opinion of Mr. Burke. Between men so affected to each other, previous difference of opinion did not preclude co-operation, if the end and means were justifiable. The case was different as to Mr. Fox. His own strong and often repeated asseverations concerning the incapacity, corruption, and even capital criminality of Lord North, attached peculiar inconsistency to his joining him as a Minister. *
* Soon after the separation of Burke and Fox, their joint and several measures underwent a discussion at the Duke of Portland's, and it was ascertained that the coalition originated with Burke. I did not know that fact when I wrote the first edition,
In consequence of the vote of censure, the Ministers resigned their employments. A new Ministry was appointed, composed of Burke, Fox, the Duke of Portland, and their friends ; Lord North, Lord Loughborough, and their friends. Burke had his former employment of Paymaster-General, an employment he accepted for the sake of reform. The business of the greatest importance, which occupied the attention of Parliament during the remainder of this session, was the opening a commercial intercourse with North America, by repealing, in the first place, the prohibitory acts which had passed
* See the Life of Fox in the Historical Magazine,
during the contest; and, in the second, preparing such new regulations as the acknowledgement of American independence rendered necessary.
In the new relation in which America now stood, many new modifications were requisite for the purposes of commercial intercourse. A temporary act was passed, investing his Majesty with certain powers for the better carrying on trade and commerce between his Majesty's do. minions and the United States. This act was to operate only a limited time, until that branch of commerce should be settled by both parties on a more permanent footing. East India affairs also were the subject of investigation at this time. No law, however, was grounded on the information procured by the committee during this session.
The more complicated and numerous engagements of public business prevented Burke from being so frequently in company with his friend Johnson, as before he had plunged so deeply in politics. Whether,