He would see no abuses in the past, now that it had fallen, or anything but the ruin of society in the future. He preached a crusade against men whom he regarded as the foes of religion and civilization, and called on the armies of Europe to put down a Revolution whose principles threatened every state with destruction.
The great obstacle to such a crusade was Pitt: and one of the grandest outbursts of the " Reflections" closed with a bitter taunt at the Minister's policy. "The age of chivalry," Burke cried, "is gone; that of sophisters, economists, and calculators has succeeded, and the glory of Europe is extinguished for ever." But neither taunt nor invective moved Pitt from his course. At the moment when the " Reflections" appeared he gave a fresh assurance to France of his resolve to have nothing to do with any crusade against the Revolution. " This country," he wrote, "means to persevere in the neutrality hitherto scrupulously observed with respect to the internal dissensions of France; and from which it will never depart unless the conduct held there makes it indispensable as an act of self-defence." So far indeed was he from sharing the reactionary panic which was spreading around him that he chose this time for supporting Fox in his Libel Act, a measure which, by transferring the decision on what was libellous in any publication from the judge to the jury, completed the freedom of the press; and himself passed a Bill which, though little noticed among the storms of the time, was one of the noblest of his achievements.
He boldly put aside the dread which had been roused by the American war, that the gift of self-government to our colonies would serve only as a step towards their secession from the mother-country, and established a House of Assembly and a Council in the two Canadas. " I am convinced," said Fox (who, however, differed from Pitt as to the nature of the Constitution to be given to Canada), " that the only method of retaining distant colonies with advantage is to enable them to govern themselves; " and the policy of the one statesman and the foresight of the other have been justified by the later history of our dependencies. Nor had Burke better success with his own party. Fox remained an ardent lover of the Revolution, and answered a fresh attack of Burke upon it with more than usual warmth. A close affection had bound till now the two men together; but the fanaticism of Burke declared it at an end. " There is no loss of friendship," Fox exclaimed, with a sudden burst of tears. " There is! " Burke repeated. "I know the price of my conduct.
Our friendship is at an end".
Within the walls of Parliament, Burke stood utterly alone. His "Appeal from the New to the Old Whigs," in June 1791, failed to detach a follower from Fox. Pitt coldly counselled him rather to praise the English Constitution than to rail at the French. '• I have made many enemies and few friends," Burke wrote sadly to the French princes who had fled from their country and were gathering in arms at Coblentz, "by the part I have taken." But the opinion of the people was slowly drifting to his side. A sale of thirty thousand copies showed that the " Reflections" echoed the general sentiment of Englishmen. The mood of England indeed at this moment was unfavourable to any fair appreciation of the Revolution across the Channel. Her temper was above all industrial. Men who were working hard and fast growing rich, who had the narrow and practical turn of men of business, looked angrily at this sudden disturbance of order, this restless and vague activity, these rhetorical appeals to human feeling, these abstract and often empty theories.
In England it was a time of political content and social well-being, of steady economic progress, and of a powerful religious revival; and an insular lack of imaginative interest in other races hindered men from seeing that every element of this content, of this order, of this peaceful and harmonious progress, of this reconciliation of society and religion, was wanting abroad. The sympathy which the Revolution had roused at first among Englishmen died away before the violence of its legislative changes, and the growing anarchy of the country. Sympathy in fact was soon limited to a few groups of reformers who gathered in " Constitutional Clubs," and whose reckless language quickened the national reaction. But in spite of Burke's appeals and the cries of the nobles who had fled from France and longed only to march against their country, Europe held back from war, and Pitt preserved his attitude of neutrality, though with a greater appearance of reserve.
So anxious, in fact, did the aspect of affairs in the East make Pitt for the restoration of tranquillity in France, that he foiled a plan which its emigrant nobles had formed for a descent on the French coast, and declared formally at Vienna that England would remain absolutely neutral should hostilities arise between France and the Emperor. But the Emperor was as anxious to avoid a French war as Pitt himself. Though Catharine, now her strife with Turkey was over, wished to plunge the two German Powers into a struggle with the Revolution which would leave her free to annex Poland single-handed, neither Leopold nor Prussia would tie their hands by such a contest. The flight of Lewis the Sixteenth from Paris in June 1791 brought Europe for a moment to the verge of war; but he was intercepted and brought back; and for a while the danger seemed to incline the revolutionists in France to greater moderation. Lewis too not only accepted the Constitution, but pleaded earnestly with the Emperor against any armed intervention as certain to bring ruin to his throne.
In their conference at Pillnitz therefore, in August, Leopold and the King of Prussia contented themselves with a vague declaration inviting the European powers to co-operate in restoring a sound form of government in France, availed themselves of England's neutrality to refuse all military aid to the French princes, and dealt simply with the affairs of Poland. But the peace they desired soon became impossible. The Constitutional Royalists in France availed themselves of the irritation caused by the Declaration of Pillnitz to rouse again the cry for a war which, as they hoped, would give strength to the throne. The more violent revolutionists, or Jacobins, on the other hand, under the influence of the "Girondists," or deputies from the south of France, whose aim was a republic, and who saw in a great national struggle a means of overthrowing the monarchy, decided in spite of the opposition of their leader, Robespierre, on a contest with the Emperor. Both parties united to demand the breaking up of an army which the emigrant princes had formed on the Rhine; and though Leopold assented to this demand, France declared war against his successor, Francis, in April 1792.