Misled by their belief in a revolutionary enthusiasm in England, the French had hoped for her alliance in this war; and they were astonished and indignant at Pitt's resolve to stand apart from the struggle. It was in vain that Pitt strove to allay this irritation by demanding only that Holland should remain untouched, and promising neutrality even though Belgium should be occupied by a French army, or that he strengthened these pledges by a reduction of military forces, and by bringing forward a peace-budget which rested on a large remission of taxation. The revolutionists still clung to the hope of England's aid in the emancipation of Europe, but they came now to believe that England must itself be emancipated before such an aid could be given. Their first work therefore they held to be the bringing about a revolution in England which might free the people from the aristocracy which held it down, and which oppressed, as they believed, great peoples beyond the bounds of England itself. To rouse India, to rouse Ireland to a struggle which should shake off the English yoke, became necessary steps to the establishment of freedom in England. From this moment therefore French agents were busy "sowing the revolution" in each quarter.
In Ireland they entered into communication with the United Irishmen. In India they appeared at the courts of the native princes. In England itself they strove through the Constitutional Clubs to rouse the same spirit which they had roused in France; and the French envoy, Chauvelin, protested warmly against a proclamation which denounced this correspondence as seditious. The effect of these revolutionary efforts on the friends of the Revolution was seen in a declaration which they wrested from Fox, that at such a moment even the discussion of parliamentary reform was inexpedient. Meanwhile Burke was working hard, in writings whose extravagance of style was forgotten in their intensity of feeling, to spread alarm throughout Europe. He had from the first encouraged the emigrant princes to take arms, and sent his son to join them at Coblentz. " De alarmists," he wrote to them; "diffuse terror!" But the royalist terror which he sowed had roused a revolutionary terror in France itself. At the threat of war against the Emperor the two German Courts had drawn together, and reluctantly abandoning all hope of peace with France, gathered eighty thousand men under the Duke of Brunswick, and advanced slowly in August on the Meuse. France, though she had forced on the struggle, was really almost defenceless; her forces in Belgium broke at the first shock of arms into shameful rout; and the panic spreading from the army to the nation at large, took violent and horrible forms.
At the first news of Brunswick's advance the mob of Paris broke into the Tuileries on the 10th of August; and at its demand Lewis, who had taken refuge in the Assembly, was suspended from his office and imprisoned in the Temple. In September, while General Dumouriez by boldness and adroit negotiations arrested the progress of the allies in the defiles of the Argonne, bodies of paid murderers butchered the royalist prisoners who crowded the gaols of Paris, with a view of influencing the elections to a new Convention which met to proclaim the abolition of royalty. The retreat of the Prussian army, whose numbers had been reduced by disease till an advance on Paris became impossible, and a brilliant victory won by Dumouriez at Jemappes which laid the Netherlands at his feet, turned the panic of the French into a wild self-confidence. In November the Convention decreed that France offered the aid of her soldiers to all nations who would strive for freedom. "All Governments are our enemies," said its President; "all peoples are our allies." In the teeth of treaties signed only two years before, and of the stipulation made by England when it pledged itself to neutrality, the French Government resolved to attack Holland, and ordered its generals to enforce by arms the opening of the Scheldt.
To do this was to force England into war. Public opinion was pressing harder day by day upon Pitt. The horror of the massacres of September, the hideous despotism of the Parisian mob, had done more to estrange England from the Revolution than all the eloquence of Burke. But even while withdrawing our Minister from Paris on the imprisonment of the King, Pitt clung stubbornly to the hope of peace. His hope was to bring the war to an end through English mediation, and to "leave France, which I believe is the best way, to arrange its own internal affairs as it can." No hour of Pitt's life is so great as the hour when he stood alone in England, and refused to bow to the growing cry of the nation for war. Even the news of the September massacres could only force from him a hope that France might abstain from any war of conquest, and escape from its social anarchy. In October the French agent in England reported that Pitt was about to recognize the Republic. At the opening of November he still pressed on Holland a steady neutrality. It was France, and not England, which at last wrenched from his grasp the peace to which he clung so desperately.
The decree of the Convention and the attack on the Dutch left him no choice but war, for it was impossible for England to endure a French fleet at Antwerp, or to desert allies like the United Provinces. But even in December the news of the approaching partition of Poland nerved him to a last struggle for peace; he offered to aid Austria in acquiring Bavaria if she would make terms with France, and pledged himself to France to abstain from war if that power would cease from violating the independence of her neighbour states. But across the Channel his moderation was only taken for fear, while in England the general mourning which followed on the news of the French King's execution showed the growing ardour for the contest The rejection of his last offers indeed made a contest inevitable. Both sides ceased from diplomatic communications, and in February, 1793, France issued her Declaration of War.