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When we consider the number of ene mies with whom Britain had to cope, we might supose that she would be compelled to act chiefly on the defensive. This, however, was not the case. Her offensive opcrations were vigorous, and in some cases successful. Admiral Kempenfelt, with an inferior force, defeated a French Fleet off Ushant. Admiral Parker fought the.Dutch off the Dogger Bank, with little advantage to either side. In the West Indies, the British, after capturing St. Eustatius, had several actions with the French flects; but without any signal advantages on either side. In America, the British were victorious by sca: by land several successful inroads were made into the provinces, and affairs for some time wore rather a favourable aspect; but received a fatal reverse in the capture of the brave Cornwallis, with the whole of the southern army. This event contributed, more than any that had yet happened, to produce an irresistible conviction in the minds of the British, that the subjugation of America was impracticable.
As mankind in general judge more from EVENTS than from PLANS, the discomfiture of our forces produced great clamours against The Ministry; even from those who had before been most strenuous in recommending the coercion of America, and most sanguine in their expectation of success. The Opposition, from the arrival of the accounts, which came about the commencement of the Christmas holidays, proposed to proceed against the Ministry with a vigour now animated by a well grounded expectation of Success. Many, who had professed themselves the friends of Lord North, either now really disapproving of his measures, or, what is as probable, foreseeing that he could not much longer continue in office, left him.
It was concerted, that the attack should be begun, immediately after the recess, by Mr. Fox, who was to make a motion for an investigation into the conduct of Lord Sandwich. Indisposition for some days prevented that orator from attending the house:
on which Burke said, no one laments Mr. Fox's illness more than I do; and I declare, if he should continue ill, the inquiry into the conduct of the First Lord of the Admiralty should not be proceeded upon; and even should the country suffer so serious a calamity as his death, it ought to be followed up earnestly and solemnly; nay, of so much consequence is the inquiry to the public, that no bad use would be made of the skin of his departed friend, should such be his fate, if, like that of John Zisca, it should be converted into a drum, and used for the purpose of sounding an alarm to the people of England.'
February 7, 1782, Mr. Fox began his attack on the Ministry, by moving accusations against Lord Sandwich, under five several heads, which he summed up as the ground of a resolution declaratory of mismanagement in naval affairs. Burke supported the motion; and though it was negatived, the majority was so small as to render it probable that Ministers could not much longer
stand their ground. February 22d, General Conway made a motion for addressing his Majesty to put an end to the American War. Burke supported this motion by all his powers of humour and of serious reasoning. It was lost by a majority of only one. February 27th, General Conway put the motion in a different form, and carried it by a majority of nineteen. The country gentlemen now joined Opposition. Lord John Cavendish made a motion, declaring that the house could no longer repose confidence in the Ministry, which was at first rejected by a small majority; but a few days after, a similar motion was made, on which Lord North rose, and declared that he was no longer Minister. A new Adininistration was formed, of which the Marquis of Rockingham was the nominal head and Mr. Fox the real. Burke was appointed Paymaster-General.
Thus have we seen Burke steadily and vigorously endeavouring, first, to prevent the contest with America; then to end the war, and to have its supporters deprived of
those offices in which they appear to him to follow counsels pernicious to his country. We have seen him display knowledge and wisdom equal to any which a statesman or senator ever exerted. We see the great philosopher, thoroughly acquainted with every particular and general truth, applying the most profound knowledge of the human mind and extensive views of particular and general history to the conduct of affairs. On every general question we see the sage, but on questions respecting particular men we frequently see the partizan. Burke, in whatever he engaged, engaged warmly. It is indeed difficult, if not impossible, for any man to associate with a set of men, whom he esteems and respects, without often adopting views and opinions merely as theirs. The longer one is connected with a party, the more implicitly does he embrace their notions, unless they should go to a length, on either the one side or the other, to awaken bis reflection, and RECALL THE IMPARTIAL EXERCISE OF HIS JUDGMENF. Burke, in the progress of the opposition to the American war, became