« PreviousContinue »
tary strength must be brought at once to bear upon the enemy -and that we must attempt to anticipate him by some great
⚫ and decisive stroke at the very outset of his operations. This appears to me to be the most ruinous and mistaken policy. What! shall we commit the independence of the empire to the issue of a single engagement? Shall we rest our security upon the uncertain fortunes of one army, when, with the advantage. of a little time, we could summon up out of the disposable population a succession of armies, which, with the discipline and preparation of a few months, would be fit to repel invasion on a scale of greater magnitude than any that all Europe will ever put into execution? * * The delusive importance annexed to the metropolis may often tempt an invaded country to step beyond that defensive policy which is its true interest at the outset of its military operations. Had Austria abandoned Vienna at the very outset of its unfortunate contest, and Prussia abandoned Berlin, it would have given at this moment a new aspect to the politics of Europe. What is a metropolis, in fact? It is a great collection of houses, occupied in general by a part of our disposable population, who supply the country around them with the productions of their industry. If an enemy comes there, he may find much wealth -that is, he may destroy or take possession of many valuable commodities; but I venture to say that, with all his power of mischief, he is not able to take from us more than what would supply the luxuries of a few months, and which, if he had not taken away, would at the end of that time have been destroyed by the consumption of purchasers. The whole amount of the mischief, then, is the loss of a few months' luxuries; and though the invader was allowed to take his full swing of depredation and violence in every part of the country, all that he could possibly destroy would bear no greater proportion to the whole value of the island than the movables of an estate do to
the estate itself. I would not surrender a single military point for the sake of the metropolis; I would not abandon a single position; I would not risk a single uncertainty; I would survey the country with the eye of an officer; I would look upon the island as if it were a blank surface, and regulate my military operations in the same way as if no metropolis existed.
"Britain is now called upon to act a brilliant part in the history of the world. She is not able to revolutionize Europe, but she is able to hold out to her the example of an independent country. She is able to perpetuate in the world the only remnant of liberty that exists in it, and to present to the weary eye one bright spot on the troubled theatre of political affairs. Were it a total extinction of liberty, its cause might be desperate and irrecoverable; ages to come might lie buried under the violence of a rude and unsettled despotism, and the better days of man might die away from the memory of the species. But there is some ground for anticipation to build upon when we reflect that there still exists in the world one solitary asylum for the principles of liberty-that there remains one animating example for the nations of Europe to appeal to-that the time may yet come when this example shall have its influence, when there shall be some new fluctuation in the tide of human affairs, when this awful storm shall blow over, and the sunshine of happier days shall smile upon our children."
By the end of January, the labour of composition was closed; in February, Mr. Chalmers went to Edinburgh, where he remained while his work was passing through the press; and on Monday, the 28th March, the volume was published. Of the 500 copies which were printed, 150 were despatched to London. The briskness of the sale in Scotland suggested the idea of a second edition; and the prospect of that edition issuing speedily
and with éclat from the London press, prompted the following rapid series of communications to his brother James :
"With regard to my going to London on the business of a second edition, I should find it very inconvenient; and I have, therefore, a plan to propose, which I hope may meet your approbation. Consult with my friend Mr. Wilkie. If a second edition is resolved upon, let it be begun without delay. Find a good printer, and a good bookseller. They have the first edition to copy from; and, with the trouble of about one hour a-day from you, the proof-sheets may be corrected, and the thing completed in a fortnight. I write Mr. Wilkie by this post, so I would thank you to call upon him, and concert matters as speedily as possible."
April 13th.-Fifty copies have been sent to Liverpool, and the sale is going on in this quarter with unexpected rapidity. No advertisement has yet appeared in the London papers. I beg you will attend to this; and what Longman neglects to do in that way, do yourself."
April 15th. I have just received yours, and am much mortified by the non-arrival of my copies. What, in the name of Heaven, is the meaning of it? The wind has been fair. If Longman and Rees are not active enough, get other publishers. It is selling rapidly in this quarter; but what I sigh for is to be fairly introduced to the public in London."
April 16th.-The sale goes on briskly here; but I do not think I am published till I appear in London. Mr. Perceval's* making no observations, is of no consequence. He may not have read it; and even though he has read it, he may not relish it, because he and his colleagues are all mercantile. would even esteem Cobbett's refusing to insert my abstract as
* A presentation copy had been sent to Mr. Perceval,
by no means a discouraging circumstance; for Cobbett is an enemy to taxation. Both parties and individuals may condemn it, not because they can refute its principles, but because they dislike them. All this may happen, but I would not be discouraged by it; for, throwing aside all regard to individuals, and the opinions of individuals, my whole anxiety is to be fairly and speedily introduced to the notice of a London public. If you can push off a large second edition, and in this way give me a footing in London, I shall bethink myself of other plans, and probably come southwards to develop them."
April 17th.-I hear that my book is going well off in Glasgow; but London is the grand object of my anxiety. My advertisement has not yet appeared in your papers. I pester you 'so much with letters that I think you are entitled to insert the postage as an item in the expense of publication."
April 20th.-I understand that my advertisement has appeared in the London papers, and am much pleased to observe my abstract in Cobbett's Register. I learn from Edinburgh that the bookseller there is reduced to fifty copies, and from different accounts of the sales in other places, I think you are fairly warranted to commence a second edition. The only thing wanted is to impress the public with the idea that it is by no means a fleeting or ephemeral performance-that it is a subject of permanent importance, and independently of all application to the present circumstances of the country, that it offers some new and original doctrines to political science."
May 3d.-What I have now resolved on is to offer the edition to an Edinburgh bookseller in the first instance. It is likely that their want of enterprise may intimidate them from undertaking it, in which case I go to London and negotiate the business with some bookseller there. I am astonished at the silence of my friend Wilkie. Have you seen or heard of him?" May 12th.-I had a letter some days ago from Wilkie, in
which he mentions the favourable impression which my book had made upon some of his literary acquaintances, and that one of them had prepared a letter for Cobbett, but withheld it on seeing the letter which you inserted. This was wrong, as there is nothing like keeping it perpetually in the public eye, and dinning the public ear with it in all directions. The oftener you write to me the welcomer, even though you have nothing particular to say. I think that one of Wilberforce's late speeches smelled a little of my principles. I wonder if he has read the book."
May 13th.-Edinburgh and Glasgow are each left without a copy. I shall begin a new edition next week. Had the same proportional justice been done in London, a second edition. should have been off before this time."
"May 20th.-I received your Literary Advertiser,' and at the same time a copy of the Examiner,' a weekly paper, of Sunday the 8th, which takes notice of me in respectful terms. I beg you will see and ascertain whether the editors of the two Reviews I before mentioned were each presented with a copy of the work."
May 25th. I have directed my friend Mr. Wilkie to take in offers. If something considerable is offered I will take it; but rather than want the co-operation of a London publisher, I will be content with a mere nothing of pecuniary advantage. ** * I have just received yours of the 21st. I feel very averse to going up to London, and if I attempt it at all it will be by sea. Have the reviewers got copies ?"
"June 28th.-Wilkie has reversed my plan.* Let an edition of 1000 copies be offered to the booksellers on the most
* Mr. Wilkie attempted to obtain something for the copyright of the work by effecting an absolute sale; whereas Mr. Chalmers was chiefly anxious that a second edition should be published on any terins. The following extracts from his diary show what trouble Mr. Wilkie had taken in the matter :-