from Dramatic and Poetical Works of the Late Lieutenant General J. Burgoyne, 1808
Few circumstances have more frequently, or with more reason, been lamented, by writers of biography, than the deficiency which they have found of materials, for enabling them to trace the progress of celebrated but originally obscure characters, at their first entrance into a state of active existence. The early life of many who steadily worked their way up to distinguished eminence is buried in total darkness. This blank in the history of individuals, though to superficial observers its occurrence may be thought of little moment, is undoubtedly a subject of regret, as it would be not less useful than curious to know throughout what slow gradations, and by what continued struggles, worth and genius eventually surmounted all those obstacles which had been opposed to them by the malignity of fortune. The lesson of patience and perseverance, thus practically taught, would be of more avail than all the volumes of reasoning upon these virtues, which have been, or which ever can be, written by sages and by moralists.
Among those, no memorial of whose youth remains, is to be numbered John Burgoyne, a man who rose to no mean celebrity, as a writer, a senator, and an officer. The time and place of his birth are unknown. Even his parentage is doubtful. He is said, but upon what authority does not appear, to have been the natural son of Lord Bingley, who died, at an advanced age in 1774.
That his education was of the most liberal kind is sufficiently testified by subsequent evidence. It is not improbable, also, that he was either destined for, or resolved upon, the profession of arms, at a very early period. The dates of his subaltern promotions elude discovery, and are not, perhaps, in themselves of much importance; but, on the 10th of May, 1738, he was raised to the rank of lieutenant-colonel. In the August of 1759, he was appointed lieutenant-colonel-commandant of the sixteenth light dragoons. With this regiment he served, in 1761, at Belleisle, where, during the siege of Palais, he was entrusted with a negotiation for an exchange of prisoners.
A more busy service awaited him upon his return home. Spain had now acceded to the family compact, and, after vain endeavours to draw over Portugal from its alliance with England, had resolved to attack that country in the hope of an easy conquest; a hope which arose from her conviction of the weak and undisciplined state of the Portuguese army. In this exigency Great Britain hastened to the succour of an ally, who had preferred the chance of utter ruin to the shame of having violated her faith.
The troops destined for this service arrived in the Tagus on the 6th of May. They were immediately marched to join the Portuguese army, under the command of the Count de la Lippe Buckeburg, and took the field in the course of July. The campaign had been commenced by the Spaniards on the side of Tras os Monies, in which province Miranda, Braganza, and some other towns had fallen into their hands. They next resolved to proceed against Oporto, but this design was frustrated by the bravery of the peasants, who took possession of the defiles, and compelled the Spanish army to a disorderly retreat. Disappointed in this quarter the enemy turned their steps towards the province of Beira, and laid siege to the frontier town of Almeida, which, after a short defence, fell into their hands through the imbecility and cowardice of its governor. Their army now approached the Tagus, the only direction in which an invader can penetrate to the capital, all other access being rendered nearly, if not quite impracticable, by immense chains of mountains, and other natural obstructions.
To second the operations of this army, by an incursion into Alemtejo, or by advancing on the opposite side of the Tagus, and thus to distract the attention of the Portuguese, already but too feeble in point of numbers, a body of troops was beginning to assemble in Spanish Estramadura, at the town of Valencia de Alcantara. It consisted at present of about 1200 men. Well knowing that if this force were suffered to increase, it would embarrass him very considerably, the Count de la Lippe, who was encamped at Abrantes, formed the bold design of attacking and dispersing it before it assumed a more formidable aspect.
The execution of this plan was confined to Burgoyne, who then held the rank of brigadier. No inconsiderable difficulties stood in the way of this enterprise; but the spirit of the commander was not of a nature to be depressed by such considerations. He crossed the Tagus, at midnight on the 23rd, with 400 of his own regiment, was joined as he advanced by one or two small detachments, and after a laborious march of more than fifteen leagues, performed through bad roads, and without halting, he arrived on the morning of the 26th at some distance from the town of Alcantara. His intention had been to surprise the place before break of day, but he now found that from the delay, occasioned by the ignorance of the guides, the dawn was at hand, and his scheme would be frustrated if he waited till his whole division could cooperate in the attack. He, therefore, boldly pushed forward with his dragoons alone. This audacity was favoured by fortune. At the head of his handful of soldiers he entered the town with such determined resolution that the guards in the square were all killed or made prisoners before they could take arms, and the ends of the streets were secured after a trifling resistance. Some parties, having rallied, attempted to return to the charge; but their lives paid the forfeit of their temerity. A firing was for a short time kept up from the windows. It was, however, put a stop to, by the menace of setting the town in flames, at the four corners, if the doors and windows were not instantly thrown open. Parties were immediately sent out to pursue such of the enemy as had escaped into the country, and in this service their success was very considerable.
In this gallant action the loss of the English was scarcely worthy of notice; while, on the other hand, that of the Spaniards was remarkably severe. Many prisoners were taken, among whom was the Spanish general, and the regiment of Seville was totally destroyed. Three standards, with a large quantity of arms and ammunition, fell into the hands of the victors. In consequence of the strict discipline observed by the British very little was suffered by the town or the inhabitants. The generosity and gallantry of Burgoyne were indeed subjects of praise among the Spanish officers themselves. From the Count de la Lippe they received, in the public orders of the day, the highest encomiums.
All danger was thus at an end on the side of Alemtejo; but it was not so on the other bank of the Tagus, where their immense superiority of numbers enabled the Spaniards to obtain a footing, though but a trifling one, in Portuguese Estramadura, and make a somewhat nearer approach to the capital. Early in October they attacked the old Moorish castle of Villa Velha, and the dcfiies of St. Simon. The castle was, for a considerable time, supported across the river by Brigadier Burgoyne, who was posted between Nissa and the Tagus. It was, however, at last compelled to surrender, the enemy having contrived to turn the position.
A body of two thousand Spaniards now encamped in the neighbourhood of Villa Vellia. It was soon perceived by Burgoyne, that this corps, proud of its late successes, was a little more careless than was proper in the neighbourhood of a vigilant and enterprising adversary. For this unsoldier-like negligence he soon inflicted upon them an exemplary chastisement. Under his orders Lieutenant-Colonel Lee crossed the Tagus, on the night of the 5th of October, with a detachment of 350 British soldiers, and succeeded in completely surprising the Spanish camp. A considerable slaughter took place, with a very trifling loss to the assailants. Some magazines were burned, six cannons spiked, and sixty artillery mules, and a large quantity of baggage taken. After this decisive blow, the detachment recrossed the Tagus, and resumed its original quarters, without interruption.
Here closed the campaign. Harassed, dispirited, and reduced to almost one half of their original numbers, the Spanish troops retired within their own frontier. Peace was shortly after concluded between the belligerent powers, and the subject of this memoir returned to his own country, with the reputation of an enlightened, intrepid, and active officer. On the 8th of October, previously to his embarking for England, he had been raised to the rank of colonel.
At the general election in 1761, he had been chosen member for Midhurst, and he accordingly, on his arrival from Portugal, took his seat in the House of Commons. He does not, however, appear to have been, at this period, a very active member. On the next election, in 1768, he was returned for the borough of Preston, Some circumstances arising from this event, and from his presumed connection with the Duke of Grafton, drew upon him the hostility of Junius, who, in several of his letters, adverts to him in language of great severity. The same year he was appointed governor of Fort William. His commission as major-general is dated in 1772, ten years after his attaining the rank of colonel.
In the debates of Parliament he now took a more frequent part than he had before done. Administration having accepted, in 1771, from the Spanish government, a very inadequate satisfaction for the insult which had been offered to Great Britain, by the seizure of the Falkland Islands, he arraigned their conduct in a speech of much eloquence and vigour. But his efforts, and those of his friends, were unavailing; an address approving the convention between the two powers was carried by a large majority.
The next year he was not less strenuous in endeavouring to detect and bring to punishment the corruption and delinquency which disgraced the characters of those to whom authority was delegated in our Eastern empire. It was on his motion that a committee was appointed "to enquire into the nature, state, and condition of the East India Company, and of the British affairs in the East Indies." His speech, on this occasion, is highly honourable to him, both as a man, and as an orator. As chairman of the committee, he found himself repeatedly called upon to defend the measures and intentions of himself and his colleagues, and he was not backward in the performance of this duty.
But, amidst the pressure of senatorial and professional avocations, he found time for pursuits of a more light and amusing nature. A marriage took place in June 1774, between Lord Stanley, the present Earl of Derby, and Lady Betty Hamilton, daughter of the Duke of Hamilton. On this occasion a fete champetre was given at the Oaks, which in taste and splendour far exceeded everything of the kind that had been seen before. The superintendence of the whole was committed to Burgoyne. It was for this festival that he wrote his first dramatic piece, entitled The Maid of the Oaks. This elegant comic entertainment was afterwards, with some additions, it is said from the pen of Garrick, successfully brought forward on the boards of Drury Lane Theatre. Nor has it yet lost its attractions with the public, though Mrs. Baddely and Mrs. Abingdon, the original representatives of Maria and Lady Bab Lardoon, have never been equaled by later performers of those characters.
His attention, however, was soon called off from letters to arms. He embarked in 1775, with Generals Howe and Clinton, for America, and arrived at Boston early in June. Some of the official papers issued there, at that period, are attributed to his pen. His stay this time in America was short, as he returned to England during the winter. But in the spring of 1776, having previously been promoted to the rank of lieutenant-general, he sailed for Canada, where he had some share in assisting Sir Guy Carleton to expel the rebels, who had for many months held a footing in that province, and even reduced its capital, Quebec, to the greatest extremity. The campaign being at an end, he again, at the close of the year, landed in his native country.
During his absence in America he suffered the loss of his wife, Lady Charlotte Burgoyne, who died at Kensington Palace, on the 5th of June, 1776. His marriage with this lady, a daughter of the Earl of Derby, is said to have been contracted when he was only a subaltern at Preston, and to have at first excited the resentment of her father, against whose wishes it had taken place, and who declared his resolution never to admit the offenders to his presence. As time, however, disclosed to him the amiable qualities, and great talents of his son-in-law, the anger of the Earl died away, and was succeeded by a warm and lasting affection. By Lady Charlotte the General had no children.
Private affliction was soon compelled to give way to the claims of the public upon his services. Government resolved to make, in the summer of 1777, a decisive effort against the revolted colonies. A large force was to penetrate towards Albany from Canada, by the way of the lakes, while another body advanced up the Hudson's river, for the purpose of joining the Canadian army. By this means it was hoped that all communication would be cut off between the northern and southern colonies, and that each of them, being left to its own means of defence, and attacked by superior numbers, would inevitably be reduced with little trouble. To distract the attention of the enemy, a detachment was at the same time to attack Fort Stanwix on the Mohawk river.
For an expedition like this, which required courage, promptitude, perseverance, and a mind fertile in resources, no chief could be more proper than General Burgoyne. To him, therefore, it was decided by government that it should be committed; and he accepted the charge. Eight thousand regulars, two thousand Canadians, and one thousand savages, was the strength which he considered as necessary to effect the march to Albany.
Upon his joining the army, however, he found, that it consisted of barely seven thousand regulars, that not more than a hundred and fifty Canadians could be got together, and that the number of Indians could not be increased beyond four hundred. This defalcation in point of numbers was of no small consequence. By a fatal error in judgment of the ministers at home, he was also tied up from acting on the side of the Connecticut river, a measure which he had suggested, as being advisable under certain circumstances: his orders were peremptory to force his way to Albany.
The army set out from St. John's on the 14th of June, 1777, and encamped at the river Bouquet, on the western side of Lake Champlain, near Crown Point. At this place, five days after his departure from St. John's, the General met the Indians in congress, and, according to the usual custom, gave them a war feast. To repress their native barbarity, he addressed them in a speech recommending humanity to the enemy, and promising rewards for prisoners, but assuring them that all claims they might make for scalps would be looked into with a very suspicious eye. His next step was to issue a manifesto to the Americans, in which their hopes and fears were alternately worked upon, in order to induce their return to obedience.
Having made some stay at Crown Point, for the purpose of establishing a hospital and magazines, and for other necessary services, the army advanced towards Ticonderoga. Every exertion had been made by the Americans, to render this position impregnable. All approach was, from the very situation of the place, a matter of difficulty, and in aid of its intrinsic strength, numberless redoubts and lines had been raised, the whole of which were crowded with artillery. The river was closed by a bridge and boom, on the construction of which incredible labour had been bestowed. For more than ten months the whole of the works had been carrying on.
Great as these advantages were they could not give spirits to the garrison of the place, before which the royal army appeared on the 2d of July, and immediately made preparation for commencing the siege. After three days of hesitation, during which the British army made incredible exertions in opening roads and levelling ground for the erection of batteries, the American commanders took the resolution of abandoning Ticonderoga, in which they left behind them a prodigious train of artillery. Their retreat was discovered at the dawn of the 6th. A rapid pursuit was instantly begun, and continued with such vigour that the naval force of the enemy was come up with near Skenesborough falls. An action ensued, in which their vessels were totally destroyed. Hopeless of making any stand at Skenesborough, the American troops retired, after destroying, as well as they could, the various works which had been raised for its defence. They were followed by the British, and defeated in two engagements, with great slaughter.
At Skenesborough, General Burgoyne was compelled to wait several days for the arrival of tents, baggage, and provisions. While the army remained here it was incessantly employed in opening roads, by the way of Fort Anne, to advance against the enemy. The difficulty of this task is not easily described. In itself a wilderness, the country was rendered still more impracticable by the number of trees which had been felled in all directions, and piled upon each other, and which must of necessity be removed before a step could be taken. So intersected too was the ground with creeks and marshes, that no less than forty bridges were obliged to be constructed in the course of a few miles, independently of the repairs of others.
In spite of every obstacle the army, towards the end of July, arrived near Fort Edward, which was abandoned by the enemy, who retired to Saratoga. Here, notwithstanding the most strenuous endeavours were used to forward the service, a halt of fifteen days was found indispensable for the purpose of bringing forward bateaux, provisions, and ammunition, from Fort Anne. Neither oxen nor horses were to be procured, and the country was besides inundated with continued rain. Intelligence was here received that Colonel St. Leger had begun the siege of Fort Stanwix. General Burgoyne, therefore, determined to cross the Hudson's river. But, though every nerve had been strained, the provision in store was very trifling. A supply, however, must absolutely be obtained. The rebels had established a magazine at Bennington, and it was hoped that by surprising it, a large proportion of what was wanted might be secured to the army. On this service Lieutenant-Colonel Baum was dispatched, with about five hundred men. The army, at the same time, moved along the Hudson, and threw a bridge over it opposite Saratoga. Baum had not reached Bennington, when he received advice that the enemy were in great force at that place. He accordingly halted, and sent off to the English camp for assistance. It was dispatched, but before its arrival Baum had been attacked, and his whole party killed or made prisoners. Ignorant of his defeat the detachment which had been sent to his succour continued to advance, was unfortunately surrounded by the victorious Americans, and suffered very severely in making its retreat. Six hundred men were lost to the army by these two engagements. Shortly after, Colonel St. Leger was compelled to retire from before Fort Stanwix.
Nearly thirty days provision having been collected the army crossed the Hudson, about the middle of September, and encamped at Saratoga. The enemy's force was at Stillwater. The British advanced to attack them in that position, and an obstinate battle ensued, in which much honour, but no solid advantage, was gained by the assailants. The field of battle, it is true, remained in our possession, but nothing more, and it was dearly paid for by the fall of a number of brave men. Nothing could be done against the hostile camp, all approach to which was rendered impracticable by natural obstacles, as well as by numerous fortifications. Every day also swelled the force of the Americans, and lessened that of the British.
Still hoping that, by the approach of an army up the Hudson from New York, he should be enabled to accomplish the purpose of the campaign, General Burgoyne decided upon holding his position as long as possible. Great exertions were accordingly made to secure it by strong lines and redoubts. Disgusted at the difficulty of the service, and the little share to be met with of plunder, the Indians were daily deserting the army; nor was much more reliance to be placed on the Canadians and Provincials, The hardships to which the troops were exposed became consequently greater every hour; but not a complaint nor murmur was heard from a single individual.
While the General was sufficiently occupied in front, by the army of Gates and Arnold, a daring attempt was made to shut him up in the rear. From the head of the Connecticut a body of fifteen hundred men marched, with the utmost secrecy, and without being discovered, against Ticonderoga, and succeeded in surprising some of the outposts of that place. They made reiterated assaults upon the fortress itself, for four days; but, being every time repulsed, they at last thought it prudent to retire.
The month of October opened, and no assistance was at hand to extricate the General from his perilous situation. He now found it expedient to put the troops upon a shorter allowance. The cheerfulness with which they submitted to this measure is deserving of the highest praise. The force of the enemy was by this time increased to a most formidable magnitude. It consisted, indeed, of not less than eighteen thousand men. In this state of things the British General judged it advisable, on the 7th of October, to make a movement towards the enemy's left, to discover whether it was possible to open a passage forward, or, if that could not be done, at least so far to dislodge him as would facilitate a retreat. This motion was also designed to cover a forage of the army.
Fifteen hundred men, with eight cannon and two howitzers, were destined for this purpose. The General himself commanded them, and was seconded by some of his best officers. But Arnold, who had perceived how critical his situation would be if he were turned, did not wait to receive an attack. With far superior numbers to his adversary he quitted his position, and gave battle to the division which was advancing against him. Constantly reinforced by fresh battalions he succeeded, after a desperate conflict, in driving the British to their camp, which was immediately assaulted in various parts. Arnold himself was finally repulsed, but the Americans broke into the lines in that quarter which was defended by Colonel Breyman. An opening was thus made on the right and the rear.
The position being no longer tenable it was resolved to abandon it, and take post on the heights above the hospital, by which the front would be changed, and the enemy compelled to form a new disposition. This delicate and dangerous movement was effected in the night without loss or disorder. Battle was next day offered to the Americans, but was prudently declined.
The march of the enemy to turn the right of the British obliged the latter to leave their favourable ground, and retire towards Saratoga. By the morning of the tenth the whole of the army had crossed the fords of the Fishkill, near that place, and posted itself in a strong situation. It was followed there by the Americans, who took every step which could preclude the possibility of escape. For a moment they entertained the idea of attacking the loyal army in its camp, and preparations to this intent were actually made, but on consideration the scheme was relinquished, as fraught with hazard, and likely to produce the most fatal consequences. Had it been pursued an entire defeat of the assailants would, in all probability, have been the result.
Far from all succour, surrounded in the most difficult of countries by an army more than four times his own in numbers, provisions growing short, the regiments mouldering away, every part of the camp exposed to grape and rifle shot, and without power to compel the enemy to an action, the General assembled a council of war to deliberate upon the measures to be taken in so painful an exigency. Such were the circumstances of the case, that to advance, retreat, or engage, was equally impossible. The unanimous voice of the council, therefore, was for entering upon a negotiation.
The first proposals drawn up by General Gates were rejected with indignation, as oppressive and dishonourable. He was informed that, sooner than accept them, the army, to a man, would perish with their weapons in their hands. To this inflexibility of Burgoyne, Gates yielded with a good grace. It was finally settled that the British army should march out of its camp with all the honours of war, and should be sent to Europe, on condition of not serving in America during the present war. The officers, previous to embarkation, were to keep their swords, and on no account to be separated from their men, private property was to be held sacred, and the baggage neither to be searched nor molested.
Though foiled in his efforts, and obliged at last to capitulate, the reputation of General Burgoyne was considerably increased, in the eyes of unprejudiced military men, by this unfortunate expedition. Unable to command success, he had omitted nothing by which he could deserve it. All that man could do or suffer had been done and suffered by him to ensure an ultimate triumph; and, had he not first been tied down by peremptory orders, and then left to make his way, through a thousand obstacles, with a force at once insufficient and unsupported, there is little or no doubt that the great purpose for which the enterprise was originally planned would have been accomplished in the fullest manner.
The news of the Saratoga convention was received by the ministers in England with the most bitter vexation. Pressed already beyond endurance by the opposition, they were well aware that this additional heavy misfortune would be urged against them in parliament with all the powers of argument and eloquence. To throw the blame on the General was the best means of escaping reproach that suggested itself to their minds. No open attack was indeed immediately made in either house, but insinuations and hints were not spared. The herd of pensioned writers acted with more boldness, and scattered about invectives and calumnies against the General with a liberal hand.
Early in 1778 he arrived in England. An audience with his sovereign was requested, and refused. A court of enquire, appointed to examine his case, declared him, as a prisoner on parole, to be out of its cognizance; and a court martial, which he next insisted upon, was denied him on the same ground. Parliament alone remained upon which he could throw himself for a hearing. After a short stay at Bath, for the restoration of his health, he accordingly, on the 26th of May, attended his duty in the House of Commons, and vindicated his conduct in a long, animated, and satisfactory speech. Two days after this he made another of equal, or perhaps still greater merit, in which he arraigned with pointed severity the weakness and incapacity of those who held the reins of government. Some management had been observed towards him by ministers during the first debate, but they were now goaded into the most determined hostility. To get rid entirely of all further trouble from him, a weak attempt was made by some of them to exclude him from the house, under pretence that, as a prisoner of war, he could have no right to speak or vote. Much personality was used upon the occasion. This miserable attack he indignantly repelled, and the Speaker being appealed to for his opinion on the subject, his decision was given in favour of the General.
As this mode of getting rid of him had failed it was resolved to try another. A lucky opportunity of effecting this had, it was thought, occurred, in the circumstance of Congress having, upon the most frivolous pretexts, declined to ratify the convention, until advices of its having been approved of by the English ministry had arrived in America. An order from the secretary of war was accordingly sent him in the beginning of June to repair to New England, his presence there being necessary to the troops. Obedience to this order he very properly declined. A long correspondence took place on this subject, in which he appears to great advantage. The business ended by his voluntary resignation of all his appointments, amounting, it has been said, to £3,500 a year. His rank in the army he, however, retained, in order to render him amenable to a court martial hereafter, and to enable him to fulfil his personal faith with the enemy.
The long-desired time for defending his calumniated character at length arrived. A committee had, on the repeated demands of Sir William Howe, been appointed in 1781, to enquire into his own conduct during the American war. Before the sittings of this committee were closed, Burgoyne succeeded in procuring evidence to be examined before it with respect to the proceedings of the army under his command. The result was such as could not but be highly flattering to his feelings. Every officer that was examined gave the strongest testimony to his bravery and superior talents. It did not appear that a single fault had been found with any of his plans or movements by the most enlightened judges who were in service with him; but it did clearly appear that he enjoyed the entire confidence of his army, and that, in situations of the most trying nature, in the face of disaster, of danger, and of death, he was looked up to by his troops with the warmest affection, and the most undoubting reliance; that they were at all times ready to suffer, to fight, and to perish with him. The committee was shortly after suddenly dissolved, without having passed a single resolution upon the momentous subject which had been referred to its consideration.
In I780 he appeared before the public with two productions of very dissimilar natures. The first of these was A State of the Expedition from Canada, as laid before the House of Commons, and verified by Evidence. It was inscribed, in an elegant and affectionate address, to the officers of the array which he had commanded against the Americans, and is conclusive in his behalf. He narrates, in a concise and perspicuous manner, yet with great spirit, the whole of the transactions which took place; and he supports his narrative by incontestable documents. His earlier literary effort was a comic opera, in three acts, called The Lord of the Manor, which was received with much applause. It is a light, but lively and well-conducted little piece, far superior in merit to many later favourites of the same kind. In the course of it, many severe and witty sarcasms are aimed at the administration which was then in power. The music is by Jackson of Exeter, and in some parts is entitled to more than common praise.
The party which had so long and so eloquently opposed the ruinous war with America having at last been called to share in the toils and the honours of government, General Burgoyne was not forgotten. He was on the 16th of April, 1782, appointed Commander in Chief of His Majesty's Forces in Ireland, and a few days after, a member of the privy council of that country. The rank of commander in chief, however, he retained not quite two years. His friends having been displaced, his situation was filled, on the entrance into office of the late Chancellor of the Exchequer, by Lieutenant-General William Augustus Pitt.
The new administration soon found itself vigorously attacked by the party in opposition. No pains were spared to render it an object of hatred and contempt. To accomplish these ends the powers both of wit and argument were incessantly employed. Of the weapons used in the lighter of these two modes of hostility, the Criticisms on the Rolliad, and the Probationary Odes was, perhaps, the most offensive to the minister and his friends. These exquisitely witty and satirical compositions are in possession of an established fame, which has not often fallen to the lot of party writings. Since their first appearance in 1785, no less than twenty-one editions of them have been published. The Westminster Guide, and one of the Probationary Odes, was contributed by General Burgoyne. Both these pieces are reprinted in the present collection of his Works.
These sportive effusions were a prelude to a composition of a more dignified nature, which affixed the seal to his reputation as a dramatic author. In 1780 appeared the comedy of The Heiress. It was welcomed, by crowded audiences, with that distinguished applause which it so well merited. Nor was it less attractive in the closet. The sale of ten editions in one year bore ample testimony to its merits, as a chaste, a spirited, and polished composition.
He not long after gave to the stage an adaptation of Sedaine's historical romance of Richard Coeur de Lion, and was again successful in his claim to public approbation. The piece had a very flattering run, and has been since revived at Drury Lane Theatre, where it originally appeared.
At an early period of his parliamentary career, we have seen him active in the pursuit and exposure of Indian delinquency. After a lapse of thirteen years he was now called upon to assist others in the performance of a similar task. He was chosen in 1787, one of the committee of managers for conducting the impeachment of Mr. Hastings. Under this character he, during the course of the trial, moved the censure of the house upon Major Scott, for a libel on the conduct of the committee. The motion was carried. His steady performance of his duty as a manager exposed him to a malignant but pointless attack, from an anonymous libeler, who published a collection of epistles, the poetical style of which was in humble imitation of that which has been long and justly admired in the New Bath Guide. The conclusion of Mr. Hastings's trial the General did not live to witness. His death took place on the 4th of June, from a sudden attack of the gout, at his house in Hertford Street, May Fair, and was an unexpected stroke to his friends, as he had been out, in apparent good health, the preceding day. He was buried, in a very private manner, on the 13th, in the cloisters of Westminster Abbey. Only one coach, containing four gentlemen, attended his funeral. No memorial, not even a simple stone, marks the spot where his remains are interred. Fortunately, however, genius and valour are not compelled to rely upon the weak assistance of either brass or marble for the perpetuation of their memory.