ADDRESS AND DECLARATION OF THE FRIENDS of Universal PEACE and LIBERTY' Held at the Thatched House Tavern, St. James's-street, August 20, 1791.
Friends and Fellow Citizens.
AT a moment like the present, when wilful misrepresentations are industriously spread by the partizans of arbitrary power, and the advocates of passive obedience and Court-Government; we think it incumbent upon us to declare to the world our principles, and the motives of our conduct.
We rejoice at the glorious event of the French Revolution.
If it be asked—What is the French Revolution to us?
We answer—It is much. Much to us as men: Much to us as Englishmen.
As men, we rejoice in the freedom of twenty-five millions of our fellow men. We rejoice in the prospect, which such a magnificent example opens to the world. We congratulate the French nation for having laid the axe to the root of tyranny, and for erecting Government on the sacred HEREDI∣TARY Rights of MAN.—Rights which appertain to ALL, and not to any one more than to another.—We know of no human authority, superior to that of a whole nation; and we profess and proclaim it as our principle, that every nation has at all times, an inherent, indefeasible right to constitute and establish such Government for itself as best ac∣cords with its disposition, interest and happiness.
As Englishmen, we also rejoice, because we are immediately interested in the French Revolution.
Without enquiring into the justice, on either side of the reproachful charges of intrigue and am∣bition, Page 99which the English and French courts have constantly made on each other, we confine our∣selves to this observation;—That if the Court of France only was in fault, and the numerous wars which have distressed both countries are chargea∣ble to her alone, that Court now exists no longer; and the cause and the consequence must now cease together. The French therefore, by the Revolu∣tion they have made, have conquered for us as well as for themselves; if it be true, that their Court only was in fault and ours never.
On this state of the case, the French Revolution concerns us immediately. We are oppressed with a heavy National debt, a burthen of taxes, and an expensive administration of Government; beyond those of any people in the world. We have also a very numerous poor; and we hold, that the moral obligation of providing for old age, helpless infan∣cy and poverty, is far superior to that of supply∣ing the invented wants of courtly extravagance, ambition and intrigue.
We believe there is no instance to be produced, but in England, of seven millions of inhabitants, which make but little more than one million of fa∣milies, paying yearly SEVENTEEN MILLIONS of taxes.
As it has always been held out by all adminis∣trations, that the restless ambition of the Court of France rendered this expence necessary to us for our own defence; we consequently rejoice as men deeply interested in the French Revolution; for that Court as we have already said exists no longer and consequently the same enormous expences need not continue to us.
Thus rejoicing, as we sincerely do, both as men and Englishmen, as lovers of universal peace and freedom, and as friends to our national prosperity and a reduction of our public expences; we can∣not but express our astonishment, that any part, or Page 100any members of our own government, should re∣probate the extinction of that very power in France or wish to see it restored, to whose influence they formerly attributed (whilst they appeared to la∣ment) the enormous increase of our own burthens and taxes. What then, Are they sorry that the pretence for new oppressive taxes, and the occasion for continuing many old taxes, will be at an end? —If so, and if it is the policy of Courts and Court Government to prefer enemies to friends, and a system of war to that of peace, as affording more pretences for Places, Offices, Pensions, Revenue and Taxation, it is high time for the people of every nation to look with circumspection to their own interest.
Those who pay the expence, and, not those who participate in the emoluments arising from it, are the persons immediately interested in enquiries of this kind. We are a part of that National body, on whom this annual expence of seventeen millions falls; and we consider the present opportunity of the French Revolution, as a most happy one for les∣sening the enormous load, under which this nation groans. If this be not done, we shall then have reason to conclude, that the cry of intrigue and ambition against other Courts is no more than the common cant of all Courts.
We think it also necessary to express our asto∣nishment, that a Government desirous of being called FREE, should prefer connections with the most despotic and arbitrary powers in Europe.— We know of none more deserving this description than those of Turkey and Prussia, and the whole combination of German despots.—Separated as we happily are by nature from the tumults of the con∣tinent we reprobate all systems and intrigues which sacrifice (and that too at a great expence) the bles∣sings of our natural situation.—Such systems can∣not have a national origin.
Page 101If we are asked, What Government is?—We hold it to be nothing more than a National Association end we hold that to be the best, which secures to every man his rights, and promotes the greatest quantity of happiness with the least expence.
We live to improve, or we live in vain; and therefore we admit of no maxims of government or policy, on the mere score of antiquity, or other men's authority, the Old Whigs or the New.
We will exercise the reason with which we are endowed, or we possess it unworthily. As reason is given at all times, it is for the purpose of being used at all times.
Among the blessings which the French Revolu∣tion has produced to that nation, we enumerate the abolition of the feudal system of injustice and tyranny, on the 4th of August, 1789. Beneath the feudal system all Europe has long groaned, and from it England is not yet free. Game laws, bo∣rough-tenures and tyrannical monopolies of nu∣merous kinds still remain amongst us: but rejoic∣ing as we sincerely do, in the freedom of others, till we shall happily accomplish our own, we intend∣ed to commemorate this prelude to the universal extirpation of the feudal system, by meeting on the anniversary of that day, (the 4th. of August) at the Crown and Anchor. From this meeting we were prevented by the interference of certain un∣named and sculking persons with the Master of the Tavern, who informed us that on their represen∣tations he could not receive us.—Let those who live by, or countenance feudal oppressions, take the reproach of this ineffectual meanness and cow∣ardice to themselves. They connot stifle the pub∣lic declaration of our honest, open, and avowed opinions.
These are our principles, and these our senti∣ments. They embrace the interest and happiness of the great body of the nation of which we are a Page 102part. As to riots and tumults, let those answer for them, who by wilful misrepresentations en∣deavour to excite and promote them; or, who feek to stun the sense of the nation, and lose the great cause of public good, in the outrages of a misinformed mob. We take our ground on prin∣ciples that require no such riotous aid. We have nothing to apprehend from the poor; for we are pleading their cause. And we fear not proud oppression; for we have truth on our side.
We say, and we repeat it; that the French Re∣volution opens to the world an opportunity, in which all good citizens must rejoice: that of pro∣moting the general happiness of man. And that 〈◊〉, moreover, offers to this country in particular an opportunity of reducing our enormous taxes.
These are our objects, and we will pursue them.
JOHN HORNE TOOKE, Chairman,