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Stedman and Hutchinson, comps. A Library of American Literature:
An Anthology in Eleven Volumes. 1891.
Vols. IX–XI: Literature of the Republic, Part IV., 1861–1889

England and Napoleon

By John Randolph (1773–1833)

[From a Speech on the Militia Bill. U. S. H. of R., 10 December, 1811.]

THE GREAT autocrat of all the Russias receives the homage of our high consideration. The Dey of Algiers and his divan of pirates are very civil, good sort of people, with whom we find no difficulty in maintaining the relations of peace and amity. “Turks, Jews, and Infidels;” Melimelli or the Little Turtle; barbarians and savages of every clime and color, are welcome to our arms. With chiefs of banditti, negro or mulatto, we can treat and trade. Name, however, but England, and all our antipathies are up in arms against her. Against whom? Against those whose blood runs in our veins; in common with whom we claim Shakespeare, and Newton, and Chatham, for our countrymen; whose form of government is the freest on earth, our own only excepted; from whom every valuable principle of our own institutions has been borrowed—representation, jury trial, voting the supplies, writ of habeas corpus, our whole civil and criminal jurisprudence;—against our fellow-Protestants, identified in blood, in language, in religion, with ourselves. In what school did the worthies of our land, the Washingtons, Henrys, Hancocks, Franklins, Rutledges of America, learn those principles of civil liberty which were so nobly asserted by their wisdom and valor? American resistance to British usurpation has not been more warmly cherished by these great men and their compatriots; not more by Washington, Hancock, and Henry, than by Chatham and his illustrious associates in the British Parliament. It ought to be remembered, too, that the heart of the English people was with us. It was a selfish and corrupt ministry, and their servile tools, to whom we were not more opposed than they were. I trust that none such may ever exist among us; for tools will never be wanting to subserve the purposes, however ruinous or wicked, of kings and ministers of state. I acknowledge the influence of a Shakespeare and a Milton upon my imagination, of a Locke upon my understanding, of a Sidney upon my political principles, of a Chatham upon qualities which, would to God I possessed in common with that illustrious man! of a Tillotson, a Sherlock, and a Porteus upon my religion. This is a British influence which I can never shake off. I allow much to the just and honest prejudices growing out of the Revolution. But by whom have they been suppressed, when they ran counter to the interests of my country? By Washington. By whom, would you listen to them, are they most keenly felt? By felons escaped from the jails of Paris, Newgate, and Kilmainham, since the breaking out of the French Revolution; who, in this abused and insulted country, have set up for political teachers, and whose disciples give no other proof of their progress in republicanism, except a blind devotion to the most worthless military despotism that the world ever saw. These are the patriots, who scruple not to brand with the epithet of Tory, the men [looking toward the seat of Col. Stewart] by whose blood your liberties have been cemented. These are they, who hold in such keen remembrance the outrages of the British armies, from which many of them are deserters. Ask these self-styled patriots where they were during the American war (for they are, for the most part, old enough to have borne arms), and you strike them dumb; their lips are closed in eternal silence. If it were allowable to entertain partialities, every consideration of blood, language, religion, and interest, would incline us toward England: and yet, shall they alone be extended to France and her ruler, whom we are bound to believe a chastening God suffers as the scourge of a guilty world! On all other nations he tramples; he holds them in contempt; England alone he hates; he would, but he cannot, despise her; fear cannot despise; and shall we disparage our ancestors?

But the outrages and injuries of England—bred up in the principles of the Revolution—I can never palliate, much less defend them. I well remember flying, with my mother and her new-born child, from Arnold and Philips; and we were driven by Tarleton and other British Pandours from pillar to post, while her husband was fighting the battles of his country. The impression is indelible on my memory; and yet (like my worthy old neighbor, who added seven buckshot to every cartridge at the battle of Guilford, and drew fine sight at his man) I must be content to be called a Tory by a patriot of the last importation. Let us not get rid of one evil (supposing it possible) at the expense of a greater; mutatis mutandis, suppose France in possession of the British naval power—and to her the trident must pass should England be unable to wield it—what would be your condition? What would be the situation of your seaports, and their seafaring inhabitants? Ask Hamburg, Lubec! Ask Savannah!…

Shall republicans become the instruments of him who has effaced the title of Attila to the “scourge of God!” Yet, even Attila, in the falling fortunes of civilization, had, no doubt, his advocates, his tools, his minions, his parasites, in the very countries that he overran; sons of that soil whereon his horse had trod; where grass could never after grow. If perfectly fresh, instead of being as I am, my memory clouded, my intellect stupefied, my strength and spirits exhausted, I could not give utterance to that strong detestation which I feel toward (above all other works of the creation) such characters as Gengis, Tamerlane, Kouli-Kahn, or Bonaparte. My instincts involuntarily revolt at their bare idea. Malefactors of the human race, who have ground down man to a mere machine of their impious and bloody ambition! Yet under all the accumulated wrongs, and insults, and robberies of the last of these chieftains, are we not, in point of fact, about to become a party to his views, a partner in his wars?