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Election days: 1779 - Save Britain from crisis!

Updated Monday 15th May 2017

Following the death of MP Sir Simeon Stuart, 'Cato' circulated a flier imploring those who could vote to save Britain from what appeared to be terminal decline.

Writing the Declaration of Independence, 1776 Copyrighted image Icon Copyright: Library Of Congress As Americans shape their own destiny; can Britain survive such a blow?

During the run-up to the 2017 General Election, we're dipping into the archives to bring you a collection of events from elections past - noteworthy, amusing or just plain bemusing. You can catch up on the 2017 election in our dedicated hub.

To the independent Gentlemen, Clergy, and Freeholders of Hampshire

Inertia et mollita animi alius expectantes cucnctarnini:
My virtuous Countrymen,

Now is the time for spirited and manly exertion. Our all is at stake. The activity and zeal of every individual among us is required at this crisis, in the same measure as if the salvation of our country depending on him singly.

A general survey of the prevailing bad system adopted in government, ever since the late glorious war was terminated by a most inglorious peace, will furnish us with many serious conclusions to the effect.

In the present letter I shall but lightly touch upon a few of those circumstances, to prove my assertion, which fill a very, very long and black catalogue. The lucid intervals have been few and short indeed.

The loss of half the British Empire has certainly been owing to the bad policy of absurd plans, laid by the folly of pride and rapaciousness, insolence and incapacity.

The necessary consequences only have followed those wild dreams, which, promising an enlargement of dominion, did but uide more surely to the means of crumbling it to pieces.

But should we even grant that the schemes of administration have been originally wise, still the laugh of all Europe at the ridiculous manner in which the execution of many of them has been directed cannot be stifled.

Lookers on point with a sneer, and our enemies with pleasure, at America quite gone from her dependence, if not from all capacity of being recovered to friendly alliance - and at our West India Islands, some captured, and the others an easy prey to our foes.

Whereas had wise and manly policy been permitted, a few months ago, to dictate the proper orders for a force, then inactive and now perhaps demolished, to join the St Lucia army, the islands of France and Spain in the West Indies might have been added to the provinces of this country, and many ships from the Count d'Estaign's squadron have been sent to reinforce our channel fleet.

How sad a reverse of all this do we experience, from the ridiculous schemes which we have chosen!

What an additional sting does the united laugh of rivals and adversaries give to the sense of our misfortunes, when with an honest indignation we look at the declining state of our own trade and commerce!

At Ireland in arms, driven to desperation by the loss of her's, and by having her revenues, as she alleges, squandered in unthriftiness, under the direction of the British Government; so that the apprehensions are justly alarming, lest her connection with uis should be totally broken, unless the breach already made in part be instantly stopped, by some wise and healing counsels.

And lastly, when we turn away our eyes from the crest-fallen situation of the British fleet! O diem illum Britaniax lictusum? The powers of language are too weak to describe the feelings of an Englishman, at the shameful flight of our navy before the fleet combined against it by the House of Bourbon!

Such a combination would not have been suffered to take place, or would have been instantly defeated, in times past which we have known. No imputation is laid on the brave officers in command who fled.

Therefore perpetual ignominy is of course reflected in that want of foresight, or want of skill, so characteristic of late throughout most of the superior departments in this once flourishing, but now unfortunate kingdom.

Meanwhile, the iron hand of the tax-gatherers locks heavy chains upon traffic - oppresses the starving mechanic and manufacturer - chills the spirit of the industrious farmer and once thriving yeoman - and reduces the independent country gentleman himself to intolerable straits.

In short, our late peace establishment has been equal to what ought to be required for an expensive war; and the present demands for public money (which has, alas, been too disgracefully lavished away, in company with our national honour) are greater than were made to support the full glory of conquest in Mr Pitt's administration; although those immense inlets to wealth which then were open are now shut up.

Add to these considerations, that fatal precipitancy, whereby we seem hastening to unavoidable ruin, under the spell of weakness and dissipation in those who are instructed to take counsel for us.

Qui ignorantia et voluptatibus ducuntur, misses faciunt Reipublice honores.

For which reason, however great the examples are of trifling in the midst of our present calamities, let us unite, associate, and co-operate, with a laudable ardour, to do our duty well and honourably. Our part is not to despond, but actively to perform what we can towards retrieving the name of Britain from that sad disgrace into which it hath fallen.

The above hints contain but a few, selected from the multitude of reasons, which serve to prove that we ought not to lose a moment in acting for ourselves, whenever Providence favours us with an opportunity.

Such a favour is now granted us by heaven. Our improvement of this will at once discover the meaning of our future hopes, and estimate our deservings.

The death of Sir Simeon Stuart has afforded us an occasion to take the important step (peculiarly needful at this critical season) of returning one Member to Parliament, from this respectable county, on whom we can depend, as well for his rectitude of conduct, as for his anxious and diligent exertions towards redeeming the almost lost glory of Britain - who will not countenance such wretched political measures as have of late prevailed - whose principles are firm and constitutional.

The writer does not mean to drop the subject here; but will for the present take leave of it, with a confident hope that we shall be so wise and honest as to make an unprejudiced choice.

No party animosities; no nick-names of parties; no undue influence of superiors; no personal, lucrative wishes; no dastardly fears, can weigh a feather with any brave heart, or good intentioned mind, in a crisis like this.

And worthy Freeholders are most earnestly put upon their guard, lest they should be intrapped by surprise, to promise and engage their votes for any connected with the ruinous measures of the present administration, at least before they have taken time to resolve for themselves between the two candidates; before they can determine, laying their hands on their hearts, which is the fittest or most likely man to assist in saving our country from total destruction.

A noble example has been recently set us by Middlesex, in the election of Mr Wood; and I flatter myself that the Freeholders of this county will not suffer the disgrace of a conduct less spirited or independent.

Permit me only to further repeat the desire, that you will continue free: be guided by your own unbiased judgements, and then pay yourself the compliment, of making the man whom your judgements approve the object of your free election.

CATO
Hants, Nov. 26 1779.

 

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