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Speech of Edmund Burke, Esq., on Moving His Resolutions for Conciliation with the Colonies - Edmund Burke, Select Works of Edmund Burke, vol. 1 
Select Works of Edmund Burke. A New Imprint of the Payne Edition. Foreword and Biographical Note by Francis Canavan (Indianapolis: Liberty Fund, 1999). Vol. 1.
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But Burke did keep on living and writing. Abandoned politically at home, he became through his writings, as a friend of his said, “a sort of power” in Europe as well as in England. The aristocratic order he so strenuously defended eventually died, and he can be praised or blamed only for having delayed its passing. But Burke lives on in his writings. Today it would be too much to say, as Payne did in 1874, that “the writings of Burke are the daily bread of statesmen, speakers, and political writers.”1 Yet they are still reprinted, read, and quoted, because each new generation finds something of lasting value in them.
Speech of Edmund Burke, Esq., on Moving His Resolutions for Conciliation with the Colonies
March 22, 1775
I hope, Sir, that notwithstanding the austerity of the Chair, your good nature will incline you to some degree of indulgence towards human frailty. You will not think it unnatural, that those who have an object depending, which strongly engages their hopes and fears, should be somewhat inclined to superstition. As I came into the House full of anxiety about the event of my motion, I found, to my infinite surprise, that the grand penal Bill, by which we had passed sentence on the trade and sustenance of America, is to be returned to us from the other House. I do confess, I could not help looking on this event as a fortunate omen. I look upon it as a sort of providential favour; by which we are put once more in possession of our deliberative capacity, upon a business so very questionable in its nature, so very uncertain in its issue. By the return of this Bill, which seemed to have taken its flight for ever, we are at this very instant nearly as free to chuse a plan for our American Government as we were on the first day of the Session. If, Sir, we incline to the side of conciliation, we are not at all embarrassed (unless we please to make ourselves so) by any incongruous mixture of coercion and restraint. We are therefore called upon, as it were by a superior warning voice, again to attend to America; to attend to the whole of it together; and to review the subject with an unusual degree of care and calmness.
Surely it is an awful subject; or there is none so on this side of the grave. When I first had the honour of a seat in this House, the affairs of that Continent pressed themselves upon us, as the most important and most delicate object of Parliamentary attention. My little share in this great deliberation oppressed me. I found myself a partaker in a very high trust; and having no sort of reason to rely on the strength of my natural abilities for the proper execution of that trust, I was obliged to take more than common pains to instruct myself in everything which relates to our Colonies. I was not less under the necessity of forming some fixed ideas concerning the general policy of the British Empire. Something of this sort seemed to be indispensable; in order, amidst so vast a fluctuation of passions and opinions, to concenter my thoughts; to ballast my conduct; to preserve me from being blown about by every wind of fashionable doctrine. I really did not think it safe, or manly, to have fresh principles to seek upon every fresh mail which should arrive from America.
At that period I had the fortune to find myself in perfect concurrence with a large majority in this House. Bowing under that high authority, and penetrated with the sharpness and strength of that early impression, I have continued ever since, without the least deviation, in my original sentiments. Whether this be owing to an obstinate perseverance in error, or to a religious adherence to what appears to me truth and reason, it is in your equity to judge.
Sir, Parliament having an enlarged view of objects, made, during this interval, more frequent changes in their sentiments and their conduct, than could be justified in a particular person upon the contracted scale of private information. But though I do not hazard anything approaching to a censure on the motives of former Parliaments to all those alterations, one fact is undoubted, that under them the state of America has been kept in continual agitation. Everything administered as remedy to the public complaint, if it did not produce, was at least followed by, an heightening of the distemper; until, by a variety of experiments, that important Country has been brought into her present situation; a situation which I will not miscall, which I dare not name; which I scarcely know how to comprehend in the terms of any description.
In this posture, Sir, things stood at the beginning of the Session. About that time, a worthy Member of great Parliamentary experience, who, in the year 1766, filled the chair of the American Committee with much ability, took me aside; and, lamenting the present aspect of our politicks, told me, things were come to such a pass, that our former methods of proceeding in the House would be no longer tolerated. That the public tribunal (never too indulgent to a long and unsuccessful opposition) would now scrutinize our conduct with unusual severity. That the very vicissitudes and shiftings of Ministerial measures, instead of convicting their authours of inconstancy and want of system, would be taken as an occasion of charging us with a predetermined discontent, which nothing could satisfy; whilst we accused every measure of vigour as cruel, and every proposal of lenity as weak and irresolute. The publick, he said, would not have patience to see us play the game out with our adversaries: we must produce our hand. It would be expected, that those who for many years had been active in such affairs should show, that they had formed some clear and decided idea of the principles of Colony Government; and were capable of drawing out something like a platform of the ground which might be laid for future and permanent tranquillity.
I felt the truth of what my Honourable Friend represented; but I felt my situation too. His application might have been made with far greater propriety to many other gentlemen. No man was indeed ever better disposed, or worse qualified, for such an undertaking, than myself. Though I gave so far into his opinion, that I immediately threw my thoughts into a sort of Parliamentary form, I was by no means equally ready to produce them. It generally argues some degree of natural impotence of mind, or some want of knowledge of the world, to hazard Plans of Government, except from a seat of Authority. Propositions are made, not only ineffectually, but somewhat disreputably, when the minds of men are not properly disposed for their reception; and for my part, I am not ambitious of ridicule; not absolutely a candidate for disgrace.
Besides, Sir, to speak the plain truth, I have in general no very exalted opinion of the virtue of Paper Government; nor of any Politicks, in which the plan is to be wholly separated from the execution. But when I saw that anger and violence prevailed every day more and more; and that things were hastening towards an incurable alienation of our Colonies; I confess my caution gave way. I felt this, as one of those few moments in which decorum yields to a higher duty. Public calamity is a mighty leveller; and there are occasions when any, even the slightest, chance of doing good, must be laid hold on, even by the most inconsiderable person.
To restore order and repose to an Empire so great and so distracted as ours, is, merely in the attempt, an undertaking that would ennoble the flights of the highest genius, and obtain pardon for the efforts of the meanest understanding. Struggling a good while with these thoughts, by degrees I felt myself more firm. I derived, at length, some confidence from what in other circumstances usually produces timidity. I grew less anxious, even from the idea of my own insignificance. For, judging of what you are, by what you ought to be, I persuaded myself that you would not reject a reasonable proposition, because it had nothing but its reason to recommend it. On the other hand, being totally destitute of all shadow of influence, natural or adventitious, I was very sure, that, if my proposition were futile or dangerous; if it were weakly conceived, or improperly timed, there was nothing exterior to it, of power to awe, dazzle, or delude you. You will see it just as it is; and you will treat it just as it deserves.
The proposition is Peace. Not Peace through the medium of War; not Peace to be hunted through the labyrinth of intricate and endless negociations; not Peace to arise out of universal discord, fomented, from principle, in all parts of the Empire; not Peace to depend on the Juridical Determination of perplexing questions; or the precise marking the shadowy boundaries of a complex Government. It is simple Peace; sought in its natural course, and in its ordinary haunts. It is Peace sought in the Spirit of Peace; and laid in principles purely pacific. I propose, by removing the Ground of the difference, and by restoring the former unsuspecting confidence of the Colonies in the Mother Country, to give permanent satisfaction to your people; and (far from a scheme of ruling by discord) to reconcile them to each other in the same act, and by the bond of the very same interest which reconciles them to British Government.
My idea is nothing more. Refined policy ever has been the parent of confusion; and ever will be so, as long as the world endures. Plain good intention, which is as easily discovered at the first view, as fraud is surely detected at last, is, let me say, of no mean force in the Government of Mankind. Genuine Simplicity of heart is an healing and cementing principle. My Plan, therefore, being formed upon the most simple grounds imaginable, may disappoint some people, when they hear it. It has nothing to recommend it to the pruriency of curious ears. There is nothing at all new and captivating in it. It has nothing of the Splendor of the Project which has been lately laid upon your Table by the Noble Lord in the Blue Ribband. It does not propose to fill your lobby with squabbling Colony Agents, who will require the interposition of your Mace, at every instant, to keep the peace amongst them. It does not institute a magnificent Auction of Finance, where captivated provinces come to general ransom by bidding against each other, until you knock down the hammer, and determine a proportion of payments beyond all the powers of Algebra to equalize and settle.
The plan which I shall presume to suggest, derives, however, one great advantage from the proposition and registry of that Noble Lord’s Project. The idea of conciliation is admissible. First, the House, in accepting the resolution moved by the Noble Lord, has admitted, notwithstanding the menacing front of our Address, notwithstanding our heavy Bills of Pains and Penalties—that we do not think ourselves precluded from all ideas of free Grace and Bounty.
The House has gone farther; it has declared conciliation admissible, previous to any submission on the part of America. It has even shot a good deal beyond that mark, and has admitted, that the complaints of our former mode of exerting the Right of Taxation were not wholly unfounded. That right thus exerted is allowed to have something reprehensible in it; something unwise, or something grievous; since, in the midst of our heat and resentment, we, of ourselves, have proposed a capital alteration; and, in order to get rid of what seemed so very exceptionable, have instituted a mode that is altogether new; one that is, indeed, wholly alien from all the ancient methods and forms of Parliament.
The principle of this proceeding is large enough for my purpose. The means proposed by the Noble Lord for carrying his ideas into execution, I think, indeed, are very indifferently suited to the end; and this I shall endeavour to show you before I sit down. But, for the present, I take my ground on the admitted principle. I mean to give peace. Peace implies reconciliation; and, where there has been a material dispute, reconciliation does in a manner always imply concession on the one part or on the other. In this state of things I make no difficulty in affirming that the proposal ought to originate from us. Great and acknowledged force is not impaired, either in effect or in opinion, by an unwillingness to exert itself. The superior power may offer peace with honour and with safety. Such an offer from such a power will be attributed to magnanimity. But the concessions of the weak are the concessions of fear. When such a one is disarmed, he is wholly at the mercy of his superior; and he loses for ever that time and those chances, which, as they happen to all men, are the strength and resources of all inferior power.
The capital leading questions on which you must this day decide are these two: First, whether you ought to concede; and secondly, what your concession ought to be. On the first of these questions we have gained (as I have just taken the liberty of observing to you) some ground. But I am sensible that a good deal more is still to be done. Indeed, Sir, to enable us to determine both on the one and the other of these great questions with a firm and precise judgement, I think it may be necessary to consider distinctly the true nature and the peculiar circumstances of the object which we have before us. Because after all our struggle, whether we will or not, we must govern America, according to that nature, and to those circumstances; and not according to our own imaginations; nor according to abstract ideas of right; by no means according to mere general theories of government, the resort to which appears to me, in our present situation, no better than arrant trifling. I shall therefore endeavour, with your leave, to lay before you some of the most material of these circumstances in as full and as clear a manner as I am able to state them.
The first thing that we have to consider with regard to the nature of the object is—the number of people in the Colonies. I have taken for some years a good deal of pains on that point. I can by no calculation justify myself in placing the number below Two Millions of inhabitants of our own European blood and colour; besides at least 500,000 others, who form no inconsiderable part of the strength and opulence of the whole. This, Sir, is, I believe, about the true number. There is no occasion to exaggerate, where plain truth is of so much weight and importance. But whether I put the present numbers too high or too low, is a matter of little moment. Such is the strength with which population shoots in that part of the world, that, state the numbers as high as we will, whilst the dispute continues, the exaggeration ends. Whilst we are discussing any given magnitude, they are grown to it. Whilst we spend our time in deliberating on the mode of governing Two Millions, we shall find we have Millions more to manage. Your children do not grow faster from infancy to manhood, than they spread from families to communities, and from villages to nations.
I put this consideration of the present and the growing numbers in the front of our deliberation; because, Sir, this consideration will make it evident to a blunter discernment than yours, that no partial, narrow, contracted, pinched, occasional system will be at all suitable to such an object. It will show you that it is not to be considered as one of those Minima which are out of the eye and consideration of the law; not a paltry excrescence of the state; not a mean dependant, who may be neglected with little damage, and provoked with little danger. It will prove that some degree of care and caution is required in the handling such an object; it will show that you ought not, in reason, to trifle with so large a mass of the interests and feelings of the human race. You could at no time do so without guilt; and be assured you will not be able to do it long with impunity.
But the population of this country, the great and growing population, though a very important consideration, will lose much of its weight, if not combined with other circumstances. The commerce of your Colonies is out of all proportion beyond the numbers of the people. This ground of their commerce indeed has been trod some days ago, and with great ability, by a distinguished person, at your bar. This gentleman, after Thirty-five years—it is so long since he first appeared at the same place to plead for the commerce of Great Britain—has come again before you to plead the same cause, without any other effect of time, than, that to the fire of imagination and extent of erudition, which even then marked him as one of the first literary characters of his age, he has added a consummate knowledge in the commercial interest of his country, formed by a long course of enlightened and discriminating experience.
Sir, I should be inexcusable in coming after such a person with any detail; if a great part of the members who now fill the House had not the misfortune to be absent when he appeared at your bar. Besides, Sir, I propose to take the matter at periods of time somewhat different from his. There is, if I mistake not, a point of view, from whence if you will look at the subject, it is impossible that it should not make an impression upon you.
I have in my hand two accounts; one a comparative state of the export trade of England to its Colonies, as it stood in the year 1704, and as it stood in the year 1772. The other a state of the export trade of this country to its Colonies alone, as it stood in 1772, compared with the whole trade of England to all parts of the world (the Colonies included) in the year 1704. They are from good vouchers; the latter period from the accounts on your table, the earlier from an original manuscript of Davenant, who first established the Inspector-General’s office, which has been ever since his time so abundant a source of Parliamentary information.
The export trade to the Colonies consists of three great branches. The African, which, terminating almost wholly in the Colonies, must be put to the account of their commerce; the West Indian; and the North American. All these are so interwoven, that the attempt to separate them, would tear to pieces the contexture of the whole; and if not entirely destroy, would very much depreciate the value of all the parts. I therefore consider these three denominations to be, what in effect they are, one trade.
In the year 1772, which I take as a middle year between the highest and lowest of those lately laid on your table, the account was as follows:
From Five Hundred and odd Thousand, it has grown to Six Millions. It has increased no less than twelve-fold. This is the state of the Colony trade, as compared with itself at these two periods, within this century; and this is matter for meditation. But this is not all. Examine my second account. See how the export trade to the Colonies alone in 1772 stood in the other point of view, that is, as compared to the whole trade of England in 1704.
The trade with America alone is now within less than 500,000l. of being equal to what this great commercial nation, England, carried on at the beginning of this century with the whole world! If I had taken the largest year of those on your table, it would rather have exceeded. But, it will be said, is not this American trade an unnatural protuberance, that has drawn the juices from the rest of the body? The reverse. It is the very food that has nourished every other part into its present magnitude. Our general trade has been greatly augmented; and augmented more or less in almost every part to which it ever extended; but with this material difference, that of the Six Millions which in the beginning of the century constituted the whole mass of our export commerce, the Colony trade was but one twelfth part; it is now (as a part of Sixteen Millions) considerably more than a third of the whole. This is the relative proportion of the importance of the Colonies at these two periods: and all reasoning concerning our mode of treating them must have this proportion as its basis; or it is a reasoning weak, rotten, and sophistical.
Mr. Speaker, I cannot prevail on myself to hurry over this great consideration. It is good for us to be here. We stand where we have an immense view of what is, and what is past. Clouds, indeed, and darkness rest upon the future. Let us, however, before we descend from this noble eminence, reflect that this growth of our national prosperity has happened within the short period of the life of man. It has happened within Sixty-eight years. There are those alive whose memory might touch the two extremities. For instance, my Lord Bathurst might remember all the stages of the progress. He was in 1704 of an age at least to be made to comprehend such things. He was then old enough acta parentum jam legere, et quae sit potuit cognoscere virtus. Suppose, Sir, that the angel of this auspicious youth, foreseeing the many virtues, which made him one of the most amiable, as he is one of the most fortunate, men of his age, had opened to him in vision, that when, in the fourth generation the third Prince of the House of Brunswick had sat Twelve years on the throne of that nation, which (by the happy issue of moderate and healing counsels) was to be made Great Britain, he should see his son, Lord Chancellor of England, turn back the current of hereditary dignity to its fountain, and raise him to a higher rank of Peerage, whilst he enriched the family with a new one—if amidst these bright and happy scenes of domestic honour and prosperity, that angel should have drawn up the curtain, and unfolded the rising glories of his country, and, whilst he was gazing with admiration on the then commercial grandeur of England, the Genius should point out to him a little speck, scarcely visible in the mass of the national interest, a small seminal principle, rather than a formed body, and should tell him—“Young man, there is America—which at this day serves for little more than to amuse you with stories of savage men, and uncouth manners; yet shall, before you taste of death, show itself equal to the whole of that commerce which now attracts the envy of the world. Whatever England has been growing to by a progressive increase of improvement, brought in by varieties of people, by succession of civilizing conquests and civilizing settlements in a series of Seventeen Hundred years, you shall see as much added to her by America in the course of a single life!” If this state of his country had been foretold to him, would it not require all the sanguine credulity of youth, and all the fervid glow of enthusiasm, to make him believe it? Fortunate man, he has lived to see it! Fortunate indeed, if he lives to see nothing that shall vary the prospect, and cloud the setting of his day!
Excuse me, Sir, if turning from such thoughts I resume this comparative view once more. You have seen it on a large scale; look at it on a small one. I will point out to your attention a particular instance of it in the single province of Pennsylvania. In the year 1704, that province called for 11,459l. in value of your commodities, native and foreign. This was the whole. What did it demand in 1772? Why, nearly Fifty times as much; for in that year the export to Pennsylvania was 507,909l., nearly equal to the export to all the Colonies together in the first period.
I choose, Sir, to enter into these minute and particular details; because generalities, which in all other cases are apt to heighten and raise the subject, have here a tendency to sink it. When we speak of the commerce with our Colonies, fiction lags after truth; invention is unfruitful, and imagination cold and barren.
So far, Sir, as to the importance of the object, in view of its commerce, as concerned in the exports from England. If I were to detail the imports, I could show how many enjoyments they procure, which deceive the burthen of life; how many materials which invigorate the springs of national industry, and extend and animate every part of our foreign and domestic commerce. This would be a curious subject indeed: but I must prescribe bounds to myself in a matter so vast and various.
I pass therefore to the Colonies in another point of view, their agriculture. This they have prosecuted with such a spirit, that, besides feeding plentifully their own growing multitude, their annual export of grain, comprehending rice, has some years ago exceeded a million in value. Of their last harvest, I am persuaded they will export much more. At the beginning of the century some of these colonies imported corn from the mother country. For some time past, the Old World has been fed from the New. The scarcity which you have felt would have been a desolating famine, if this child of your old age, with a true filial piety, with a Roman charity, had not put the full breast of its youthful exuberance to the mouth of its exhausted parent.
As to the wealth which the Colonies have drawn from the sea by their fisheries, you had all that matter fully opened at your bar. You surely thought those acquisitions of value, for they seemed even to excite your envy; and yet the spirit by which that enterprising employment has been exercised, ought rather, in my opinion, to have raised your esteem and admiration. And pray, Sir, what in the world is equal to it? Pass by the other parts, and look at the manner in which the people of New England have of late carried on the Whale Fishery. Whilst we follow them among the tumbling mountains of ice, and behold them penetrating into the deepest frozen recesses of Hudson’s Bay and Davis’s Streights, whilst we are looking for them beneath the Arctic Circle, we hear that they have pierced into the opposite region of polar cold, that they are at the antipodes, and engaged under the frozen Serpent of the south. Falkland Island, which seemed too remote and romantic an object for the grasp of national ambition, is but a stage and resting-place in the progress of their victorious industry. Nor is the equinoctial heat more discouraging to them, than the accumulated winter of both the poles. We know that whilst some of them draw the line and strike the harpoon on the coast of Africa, others run the longitude, and pursue their gigantic game along the coast of Brazil. No sea but what is vexed by their fisheries. No climate that is not witness to their toils. Neither the perseverance of Holland, nor the activity of France, nor the dexterous and firm sagacity of English enterprize, ever carried this most perilous mode of hardy industry to the extent to which it has been pushed by this recent people; a people who are still, as it were, but in the gristle, and not yet hardened into the bone of manhood. When I contemplate these things; when I know that the Colonies in general owe little or nothing to any care of ours, and that they are not squeezed into this happy form by the constraints of watchful and suspicious government, but that, through a wise and salutary neglect, a generous nature has been suffered to take her own way to perfection; when I reflect upon these effects, when I see how profitable they have been to us, I feel all the pride of power sink, and all presumption in the wisdom of human contrivances melt and die away within me. My rigour relents. I pardon something to the spirit of liberty.
I am sensible, Sir, that all which I have asserted in my detail, is admitted in the gross; but that quite a different conclusion is drawn from it. America, Gentlemen say, is a noble object. It is an object well worth fighting for. Certainly it is, if fighting a people be the best way of gaining them. Gentlemen in this respect will be led to their choice of means by their complexions and their habits. Those who understand the military art, will of course have some predilection for it. Those who wield the thunder of the state, may have more confidence in the efficacy of arms. But I confess, possibly for want of this knowledge, my opinion is much more in favour of prudent management, than of force; considering force not as an odious, but a feeble instrument, for preserving a people so numerous, so active, so growing, so spirited as this, in a profitable and subordinate connexion with us.
First, Sir, permit me to observe, that the use of force alone is but temporary. It may subdue for a moment; but it does not remove the necessity of subduing again: and a nation is not governed, which is perpetually to be conquered.
My next objection is its uncertainty. Terror is not always the effect of force; and an armament is not a victory. If you do not succeed, you are without resource; for, conciliation failing, force remains; but, force failing, no further hope of reconciliation is left. Power and authority are sometimes bought by kindness; but they can never be begged as alms by an impoverished and defeated violence.
A further objection to force is, that you impair the object by your very endeavours to preserve it. The thing you fought for is not the thing which you recover; but depreciated, sunk, wasted, and consumed in the contest. Nothing less will content me, than whole America.I do not choose to consume its strength along with our own; because in all parts it is the British strength that I consume. I do not choose to be caught by a foreign enemy at the end of this exhausting conflict; and still less in the midst of it. I may escape; but I can make no insurance against such an event. Let me add, that I do not choose wholly to break the American spirit; because it is the spirit that has made the country.
Lastly, we have no sort of experience in favour of force as an instrument in the rule of our Colonies. Their growth and their utility has been owing to methods altogether different. Our ancient indulgence has been said to be pursued to a fault. It may be so. But we know, if feeling is evidence, that our fault was more tolerable than our attempt to mend it; and our sin far more salutary than our penitence.
These, Sir, are my reasons for not entertaining that high opinion of untried force, by which many Gentlemen, for whose sentiments in other particulars I have great respect, seem to be so greatly captivated. But there is still behind a third consideration concerning this object, which serves to determine my opinion on the sort of policy which ought to be pursued in the management of America, even more than its population and its commerce, I mean its Temper and Character.
In this Character of the Americans, a love of Freedom is the predominating feature which marks and distinguishes the whole: and as an ardent is always a jealous affection, your Colonies become suspicious, restive, and untractable, whenever they see the least attempt to wrest from them by force, or shuffle from them by chicane, what they think the only advantage worth living for. This fierce spirit of Liberty is stronger in the English Colonies probably than in any other people of the earth; and this from a great variety of powerful causes; which, to understand the true temper of their minds, and the direction which this spirit takes, it will not be amiss to lay open somewhat more largely.
First, the people of the Colonies are descendants of Englishmen. England, Sir, is a nation, which still I hope respects, and formerly adored, her freedom. The Colonists emigrated from you when this part of your character was most predominant; and they took this bias and direction the moment they parted from your hands. They are therefore not only devoted to Liberty, but to Liberty according to English ideas, and on English principles. Abstract Liberty, like other mere abstractions, is not to be found. Liberty inheres in some sensible object; and every nation has formed to itself some favourite point, which by way of eminence becomes the criterion of their happiness. It happened, you know, Sir, that the great contests for freedom in this country were from the earliest times chiefly upon the question of Taxing. Most of the contests in the ancient commonwealths turned primarily on the right of election of magistrates; or on the balance among the several orders of the state. The question of money was not with them so immediate. But in England it was otherwise. On this point of Taxes the ablest pens, and most eloquent tongues, have been exercised; the greatest spirits have acted and suffered. In order to give the fullest satisfaction concerning the importance of this point, it was not only necessary for those who in argument defended the excellence of the English Constitution, to insist on this privilege of granting money as a dry point of fact, and to prove, that the right had been acknowledged in ancient parchments, and blind usages, to reside in a certain body called an House of Commons. They went much farther; they attempted to prove, and they succeeded, that in theory it ought to be so, from the particular nature of an House of Commons, as an immediate representative of the people; whether the old records had delivered this oracle or not. They took infinite pains to inculcate, as a fundamental principle, that in all monarchies the people must in effect themselves, mediately or immediately, possess the power of granting their own money, or no shadow of liberty can subsist. The Colonies draw from you, as with their life-blood, these ideas and principles. Their love of liberty, as with you, fixed and attached on this specific point of taxing. Liberty might be safe, or might be endangered, in twenty other particulars, without their being much pleased or alarmed. Here they felt its pulse; and as they found that beat, they thought themselves sick or sound. I do not say whether they were right or wrong in applying your general arguments to their own case. It is not easy indeed to make a monopoly of theorems and corollaries. The fact is, that they did thus apply those general arguments; and your mode of governing them, whether through lenity or indolence, through wisdom or mistake, confirmed them in the imagination, that they, as well as you, had an interest in these common principles.
They were further confirmed in this pleasing error by the form of their provincial legislative assemblies. Their governments are popular in an high degree; some are merely popular; in all, the popular representative is the most weighty; and this share of the people in their ordinary government never fails to inspire them with lofty sentiments, and with a strong aversion from whatever tends to deprive them of their chief importance.
If anything were wanting to this necessary operation of the form of government, religion would have given it a complete effect. Religion, always a principle of energy, in this new people is no way worn out or impaired; and their mode of professing it is also one main cause of this free spirit. The people are protestants; and of that kind which is the most adverse to all implicit submission of mind and opinion. This is a persuasion not only favourable to liberty, but built upon it. I do not think, Sir, that the reason of this averseness in the dissenting churches, from all that looks like absolute government, is so much to be sought in their religious tenets, as in their history. Every one knows that the Roman Catholick religion is at least coeval with most of the governments where it prevails; that it has generally gone hand in hand with them, and received great favour and every kind of support from authority. The Church of England too was formed from her cradle under the nursing care of regular government. But the dissenting interests have sprung up in direct opposition to all the ordinary powers of the world; and could justify that opposition only on a strong claim to natural liberty. Their very existence depended on the powerful and unremitted assertion of that claim. All protestantism, even the most cold and passive, is a sort of dissent. But the religion most prevalent in our Northern Colonies is a refinement on the principle of resistance; it is the dissidence of dissent, and the protestantism of the protestant religion. This religion, under a variety of denominations agreeing in nothing but in the communion of the spirit of liberty, is predominant in most of the Northern provinces; where the Church of England, notwithstanding its legal rights, is in reality no more than a sort of private sect, not composing most probably the tenth of the people. The Colonists left England when this spirit was high, and in the emigrants was the highest of all; and even that stream of foreigners, which has been constantly flowing into these Colonies, has, for the greatest part, been composed of dissenters from the establishments of their several countries, and have brought with them a temper and character far from alien to that of the people with whom they mixed.
Sir, I can perceive by their manner, that some Gentlemen object to the latitude of this description; because in the Southern Colonies the Church of England forms a large body, and has a regular establishment. It is certainly true. There is, however, a circumstance attending these Colonies, which, in my opinion, fully counterbalances this difference, and makes the spirit of liberty still more high and haughty than in those to the North-ward. It is, that in Virginia and the Carolinas they have a vast multitude of slaves. Where this is the case in any part of the world, those who are free, are by far the most proud and jealous of their freedom. Freedom is to them not only an enjoyment, but a kind of rank and privilege. Not seeing there, that freedom, as in countries where it is a common blessing, and as broad and general as the air, may be united with much abject toil, with great misery, with all the exterior of servitude, liberty looks, amongst them, like something that is more noble and liberal. I do not mean, Sir, to commend the superior morality of this sentiment, which has at least as much pride as virtue in it; but I cannot alter the nature of man. The fact is so; and these people of the Southern Colonies are much more strongly, and with an higher and more stubborn spirit, attached to liberty, than those to the North-ward. Such were all the ancient commonwealths; such were our Gothick ancestors; such in our days were the Poles; and such will be all masters of slaves, who are not slaves themselves. In such a people, the haughtiness of domination combines with the spirit of freedom, fortifies it, and renders it invincible.
Permit me, Sir, to add another circumstance in our Colonies, which contributes no mean part towards the growth and effect of this untractable spirit. I mean their education. In no country perhaps in the world is the law so general a study. The profession itself is numerous and powerful; and in most provinces it takes the lead. The greater number of the Deputies sent to the Congress were Lawyers. But all who read, (and most do read,) endeavour to obtain some smattering in that science. I have been told by an eminent Bookseller, that in no branch of his business, after tracts of popular devotion, were so many books as those on the Law exported to the Plantations. The Colonists have now fallen into the way of printing them for their own use. I hear that they have sold nearly as many of Blackstone’s Commentaries in America as in England. General Gage marks out this disposition very particularly in a letter on your table. He states, that all the people in his government are lawyers, or smatterers in law; and that in Boston they have been enabled, by successful chicane, wholly to evade many parts of one of your capital penal constitutions. The smartness of debate will say, that this knowledge ought to teach them more clearly the rights of legislature, their obligations to obedience, and the penalties of rebellion. All this is mighty well. But my Honourable and Learned Friend on the floor, who condescends to mark what I say for animadversion, will disdain that ground. He has heard, as well as I, that when great honours and great emoluments do not win over this knowledge to the service of the state, it is a formidable adversary to government. If the spirit be not tamed and broken by these happy methods, it is stubborn and litigious. Abeunt studia in mores. This study renders men acute, inquisitive, dexterous, prompt in attack, ready in defence, full of resources. In other countries, the people, more simple, and of a less mercurial cast, judge of an ill principle in government only by an actual grievance; here they anticipate the evil, and judge of the pressure of the grievance by the badness of the principle. They augur misgovernment at a distance; and snuff the approach of tyranny in every tainted breeze.
The last cause of this disobedient spirit in the Colonies is hardly less powerful than the rest, as it is not merely moral, but laid deep in the natural constitution of things. Three thousand miles of ocean lie between you and them. No contrivance can prevent the effect of this distance in weakening government. Seas roll, and months pass, between the order and the execution; and the want of a speedy explanation of a single point is enough to defeat a whole system. You have, indeed, winged ministers of vengeance, who carry your bolts in their pounces to the remotest verge of the sea. But there a power steps in, that limits the arrogance of raging passions and furious elements, and says, So far shalt thou go, and no farther. Who are you, that you should fret and rage, and bite the chains of Nature? Nothing worse happens to you than does to all nations who have extensive Empire; and it happens in all the forms into which Empire can be thrown. In large bodies, the circulation of power must be less vigorous at the extremities. Nature has said it. The Turk cannot govern Aegypt, and Arabia, and Curdistan, as he governs Thrace; nor has he the same dominion in Crimea and Algiers, which he has at Brusa and Smyrna. Despotism itself is obliged to truck and huckster. The Sultan gets such obedience as he can. He governs with a loose rein, that he may govern at all; and the whole of the force and vigour of his authority in his centre is derived from a prudent relaxation in all his borders. Spain, in her provinces, is, perhaps, not so well obeyed as you are in yours. She complies too; she submits; she watches times. This is the immutable condition, the eternal Law, of extensive and detached Empire.
Then, Sir, from these six capital sources; of Descent; of Form of Government; of Religion in the Northern Provinces; of Manners in the Southern; of Education; of the Remoteness of Situation from the First Mover of Government; from all these causes a fierce Spirit of Liberty has grown up. It has grown with the growth of the people in your Colonies, and increased with the increase of their wealth; a Spirit, that unhappily meeting with an exercise of Power in England, which, however lawful, is not reconcileable to any ideas of Liberty, much less with theirs, has kindled this flame that is ready to consume us.
I do not mean to commend either the Spirit in this excess, or the moral causes which produce it. Perhaps a more smooth and accommodating Spirit of Freedom in them would be more acceptable to us. Perhaps ideas of Liberty might be desired, more reconcileable with an arbitrary and boundless authority. Perhaps we might wish the Colonists to be persuaded, that their Liberty is more secure when held in trust for them by us, as their guardians during a perpetual minority, than with any part of it in their own hands. The question is, not whether their spirit deserves praise or blame; but—what, in the name of God, shall we do with it? You have before you the object, such as it is, with all its glories, with all its imperfections on its head. You see the magnitude; the importance; the temper; the habits; the disorders. By all these considerations we are strongly urged to determine something concerning it. We are called upon to fix some rule and line for our future conduct, which may give a little stability to our politicks, and prevent the return of such unhappy deliberations as the present. Every such return will bring the matter before us in a still more untractable form. For, what astonishing and incredible things have we not seen already! What monsters have not been generated from this unnatural contention! Whilst every principle of authority and resistance has been pushed, upon both sides, as far as it would go, there is nothing so solid and certain, either in reasoning or in practice, that has not been shaken. Until very lately, all authority in America seemed to be nothing but an emanation from yours. Even the popular part of the Colony Constitution derived all its activity, and its first vital movement, from the pleasure of the Crown. We thought, Sir, that the utmost which the discontented Colonists could do, was to disturb authority; we never dreamt they could of themselves supply it; knowing in general what an operose business it is, to establish a Government absolutely new. But having, for our purposes, in this contention, resolved, that none but an obedient Assembly should sit; the humours of the people there, finding all passage through the legal channel stopped, with great violence broke out another way. Some provinces have tried their experiment, as we have tried ours; and theirs has succeeded. They have formed a Government sufficient for its purposes, without the bustle of a Revolution, or the troublesome formality of an Election. Evident necessity, and tacit consent, have done the business in an instant. So well they have done it, that Lord Dunmore (the account is among the fragments on your table) tells you, that the new institution is infinitely better obeyed than the antient Government ever was in its most fortunate periods. Obedience is what makes Government, and not the names by which it is called; not the name of Governor, as formerly, or Committee, as at present. This new Government has originated directly from the people; and was not transmitted through any of the ordinary artificial media of a positive constitution. It was not a manufacture ready formed, and transmitted to them in that condition from England. The evil arising from hence is this; that the Colonists having once found the possibility of enjoying the advantages of order in the midst of a struggle for Liberty, such struggles will not henceforward seem so terrible to the settled and sober part of mankind as they had appeared before the trial.
Pursuing the same plan of punishing by the denial of the exercise of Government to still greater lengths, we wholly abrogated the antient Government of Massachuset. We were confident that the first feeling, if not the very prospect of anarchy, would instantly enforce a compleat submission. The experiment was tried. A new, strange, unexpected face of things appeared. Anarchy is found tolerable. A vast province has now subsisted, and subsisted in a considerable degree of health and vigour, for near a twelvemonth, without Governor, without public Council, without Judges, without executive Magistrates. How long it will continue in this state, or what may arise out of this unheard-of situation, how can the wisest of us conjecture? Our late experience has taught us that many of those fundamental principles, formerly believed infallible, are either not of the importance they were imagined to be; or that we have not at all adverted to some other far more important and far more powerful principles, which entirely overrule those we had considered as omnipotent. I am much against any further experiments, which tend to put to the proof any more of these allowed opinions, which contribute so much to the public tranquillity. In effect, we suffer as much at home by this loosening of all ties, and this concussion of all established opinions, as we do abroad. For, in order to prove that the Americans have no right to their Liberties, we are every day endeavouring to subvert the maxims, which preserve the whole Spirit of our own. To prove that the Americans ought not to be free, we are obliged to depreciate the value of Freedom itself; and we never seem to gain a paltry advantage over them in debate, without attacking some of those principles, or deriding some of those feelings, for which our ancestors have shed their blood.
But, Sir, in wishing to put an end to pernicious experiments, I do not mean to preclude the fullest enquiry. Far from it. Far from deciding on a sudden or partial view, I would patiently go round and round the subject, and survey it minutely in every possible aspect. Sir, if I were capable of engaging you to an equal attention, I would state, that, as far as I am capable of discerning, there are but three ways of proceeding relative to this stubborn Spirit, which prevails in your Colonies, and disturbs your Government. These are—To change that Spirit, as inconvenient, by removing the Causes. To prosecute it as criminal. Or, to comply with it as necessary. I would not be guilty of an imperfect enumeration; I can think of but these three. Another has indeed been started, that of giving up the Colonies; but it met so slight a reception, that I do not think myself obliged to dwell a great while upon it. It is nothing but a little sally of anger; like the frowardness of peevish children; who, when they cannot get all they would have, are resolved to take nothing.
The first of these plans, to change the Spirit as inconvenient, by removing the causes, I think is the most like a systematick proceeding. It is radical in its principle; but it is attended with great difficulties, some of them little short, as I conceive, of impossibilities. This will appear by examining into the Plans which have been proposed.
As the growing population in the Colonies is evidently one cause of their resistance, it was last session mentioned in both Houses, by men of weight, and received not without applause, that in order to check this evil, it would be proper for the Crown to make no further grants of land. But to this scheme there are two objections. The first, that there is already so much unsettled land in private hands, as to afford room for an immense future population, although the Crown not only withheld its grants, but annihilated its soil. If this be the case, then the only effect of this avarice of desolation, this hoarding of a royal wilderness, would be to raise the value of the possessions in the hands of the great private monopolists, without any adequate check to the growing and alarming mischief of population.
But if you stopped your grants, what would be the consequence? The people would occupy without grants. They have already so occupied in many places. You cannot station garrisons in every part of these deserts. If you drive the people from one place, they will carry on their annual Tillage, and remove with their flocks and herds to another. Many of the people in the back settlements are already little attached to particular situations. Already they have topped the Appalachian mountains. From thence they behold before them an immense plain, one vast, rich, level meadow; a square of five hundred miles. Over this they would wander without a possibility of restraint; they would change their manners with the habits of their life; would soon forget a government by which they were disowned; would become Hordes of English Tartars; and pouring down upon your unfortified frontiers a fierce and irresistible cavalry, become masters of your Governors and your Counsellors, your collectors, and comptrollers, and of all the Slaves that adhered to them. Such would, and, in no long time, must be, the effect of attempting to forbid as a crime, and to suppress as an evil, the Command and Blessing of Providence, Encrease and Multiply. Such would be the happy result of the endeavour to keep as a lair of wild beasts, that earth, which God, by an express Charter, has given to the children of men. Far different, and surely much wiser, has been our policy hitherto. Hitherto we have invited our people, by every kind of bounty, to fixed establishments. We have invited the husbandman to look to authority for his title. We have taught him piously to believe in the mysterious virtue of wax and parchment. We have thrown each tract of land, as it was peopled, into districts; that the ruling power should never be wholly out of sight. We have settled all we could; and we have carefully attended every settlement with government.
Adhering, Sir, as I do, to this policy, as well as for the reasons I have just given, I think this new project of hedging-in population to be neither prudent nor practicable.
To impoverish the Colonies in general, and in particular to arrest the noble course of their marine enterprizes, would be a more easy task. I freely confess it. We have shown a disposition to a system of this kind; a disposition even to continue the restraint after the offence; looking on ourselves as rivals to our Colonies, and persuaded that of course we must gain all that they shall lose. Much mischief we may certainly do. The power inadequate to all other things is often more than sufficient for this. I do not look on the direct and immediate power of the Colonies to resist our violence as very formidable. In this, however, I may be mistaken. But when I consider, that we have Colonies for no purpose but to be serviceable to us, it seems to my poor understanding a little preposterous, to make them unserviceable, in order to keep them obedient. It is, in truth, nothing more than the old, and, as I thought, exploded problem of tyranny, which proposes to beggar its subjects into submission. But remember, when you have completed your system of impoverishment, that nature still proceeds in her ordinary course; that discontent will encrease with misery; and that there are critical moments in the fortune of all states, when they who are too weak to contribute to your prosperity, may be strong enough to complete your ruin. Spoliatis arma supersunt.
The temper and character which prevail in our Colonies, are, I am afraid, unalterable by any human art. We cannot, I fear, falsify the pedigree of this fierce people, and persuade them that they are not sprung from a nation in whose veins the blood of freedom circulates. The language in which they would hear you tell them this tale would detect the imposition; your speech would betray you. An Englishman is the unfittest person on earth, to argue another Englishman into slavery.
I think it is nearly as little in our power to change their republican Religion, as their free descent; or to substitute the Roman Catholick, as a penalty; or the Church of England, as an improvement. The mode of inquisition and dragooning is going out of fashion in the Old World; and I should not confide much to their efficacy in the New. The education of the Americans is also on the same unalterable bottom with their religion. You cannot persuade them to burn their books of curious science; to banish their lawyers from their courts of laws; or to quench the lights of their assemblies, by refusing to choose those persons who are best read in their privileges. It would be no less impracticable to think of wholly annihilating the popular assemblies, in which these lawyers sit. The army, by which we must govern in their place, would be far more chargeable to us; not quite so effectual; and perhaps, in the end, full as difficult to be kept in obedience.
With regard to the high aristocratick spirit of Virginia and the Southern Colonies, it has been proposed, I know, to reduce it, by declaring a general enfranchisement of their slaves. This project has had its advocates and panegyrists; yet I never could argue myself into any opinion of it. Slaves are often much attached to their masters. A general wild offer of liberty would not always be accepted. History furnishes few instances of it. It is sometimes as hard to persuade slaves to be free, as it is to compel freemen to be slaves; and in this auspicious scheme, we should have both these pleasing tasks on our hands at once. But when we talk of enfranchisement, do we not perceive that the American master may enfranchise too; and arm servile hands in defence of freedom? A measure to which other people have had recourse more than once, and not without success, in a desperate situation of their affairs.
Slaves as these unfortunate black people are, and dull as all men are from slavery, must they not a little suspect the offer of freedom from that very nation which has sold them to their present masters? from that nation, one of whose causes of quarrel with those masters is their refusal to deal any more in that inhuman traffick? An offer of freedom from England would come rather oddly, shipped to them in an African vessel, which is refused an entry into the ports of Virginia or Carolina, with a cargo of three hundred Angola negroes. It would be curious to see the Guinea captain attempting at the same instant to publish his proclamation of liberty, and to advertise his sale of slaves.
But let us suppose all these moral difficulties got over. The Ocean remains. You cannot pump this dry; and as long as it continues in its present bed, so long all the causes which weaken authority by distance will continue. “Ye gods, annihilate but space and time, And make two lovers happy!” was a pious and passionate prayer; but just as reasonable, as many of the serious wishes of very grave and solemn politicians.
If then, Sir, it seems almost desperate to think of any alterative course, for changing the moral causes, and not quite easy to remove the natural, which produce prejudices irreconcileable to the late exercise of our authority; but that the spirit infallibly will continue; and, continuing, will produce such effects as now embarrass us; the second mode under consideration is, to prosecute that spirit in its overt acts, as criminal.
At this proposition I must pause a moment. The thing seems a great deal too big for my ideas of jurisprudence. It should seem to my way of conceiving such matters, that there is a very wide difference in reason and policy, between the mode of proceeding on the irregular conduct of scattered individuals, or even of bands of men, who disturb order within the state, and the civil dissensions which may, from time to time, on great questions, agitate the several communities which compose a great Empire. It looks to me to be narrow and pedantic, to apply the ordinary ideas of criminal justice to this great public contest. I do not know the method of drawing up an indictment against a whole people. I cannot insult and ridicule the feelings of Millions of my fellow-creatures, as Sir Edward Coke insulted one excellent individual (Sir Walter Rawleigh) at the bar. I hope I am not ripe to pass sentence on the gravest public bodies, intrusted with magistracies of great authority and dignity, and charged with the safety of their fellow-citizens, upon the very same title that I am. I really think, that for wise men, this is not judicious; for sober men, not decent; for minds tinctured with humanity, not mild and merciful.
Perhaps, Sir, I am mistaken in my idea of an Empire, as distinguished from a single State or Kingdom. But my idea of it is this; that an Empire is the aggregate of many States under one common head; whether this head be a monarch, or a presiding republick. It does, in such constitutions, frequently happen (and nothing but the dismal, cold, dead uniformity of servitude can prevent its happening) that the subordinate parts have many local privileges and immunities. Between these privileges and the supreme common authority the line may be extremely nice. Of course disputes, often, too, very bitter disputes, and much ill blood, will arise. But though every privilege is an exemption (in the case) from the ordinary exercise of the supreme authority, it is no denial of it. The claim of a privilege seems rather, ex vi termini, to imply a superior power. For to talk of the privileges of a State, or of a person, who has no superior, is hardly any better than speaking nonsense. Now, in such unfortunate quarrels among the component parts of a great political union of communities, I can scarcely conceive anything more compleatly imprudent, than for the Head of the Empire to insist, that, if any privilege is pleaded against his will, or his acts, his whole authority is denied; instantly to proclaim rebellion, to beat to arms, and to put the offending provinces under the ban. Will not this, Sir, very soon teach the provinces to make no distinctions on their part? Will it not teach them that the Government, against which a claim of Liberty is tantamount to high-treason, is a Government to which submission is equivalent to slavery? It may not always be quite convenient to impress dependent communities with such an idea.
We are indeed, in all disputes with the Colonies, by the necessity of things, the judge. It is true, Sir. But I confess, that the character of judge in my own cause is a thing that frightens me. Instead of filling me with pride, I am exceedingly humbled by it. I cannot proceed with a stern, assured, judicial confidence, until I find myself in something more like a judicial character. I must have these hesitations as long as I am compelled to recollect, that, in my little reading upon such contests as these, the sense of mankind has, at least, as often decided against the superior as the subordinate power. Sir, let me add too, that the opinion of my having some abstract right in my favour, would not put me much at my ease in passing sentence; unless I could be sure, that there were no rights which, in their exercise under certain circumstances, were not the most odious of all wrongs, and the most vexatious of all injustice. Sir, these considerations have great weight with me, when I find things so circumstanced, that I see the same party, at once a civil litigant against me in point of right; and a culprit before me, while I sit as a criminal judge, on acts of his, whose moral quality is to be decided upon the merits of that very litigation. Men are every now and then put, by the complexity of human affairs, into strange situations; but Justice is the same, let the Judge be in what situation he will.
There is, Sir, also a circumstance which convinces me, that this mode of criminal proceeding is not (at least in the present stage of our contest) altogether expedient; which is nothing less than the conduct of those very persons who have seemed to adopt that mode, by lately declaring a rebellion in Massachuset’s Bay, as they had formerly addressed to have Traitors brought hither, under an Act of Henry the Eighth, for Trial. For though rebellion is declared, it is not proceeded against as such; nor have any steps been taken towards the apprehension or conviction of any individual offender, either on our late or our former Address; but modes of public coercion have been adopted, and such as have much more resemblance to a sort of qualified hostility towards an independent power than the punishment of rebellious subjects. All this seems rather inconsistent; but it shows how difficult it is to apply these juridical ideas to our present case.
In this situation, let us seriously and coolly ponder. What is it we have got by all our menaces, which have been many and ferocious? What advantage have we derived from the penal laws we have passed, and which, for the time, have been severe and numerous? What advances have we made towards our object, by the sending of a force, which, by land and sea, is no contemptible strength? Has the disorder abated? Nothing less. When I see things in this situation, after such confident hopes, bold promises, and active exertions, I cannot, for my life, avoid a suspicion, that the plan itself is not correctly right.
If then the removal of the causes of this Spirit of American Liberty be, for the greater part, or rather entirely, impracticable; if the ideas of Criminal Process be inapplicable, or if applicable, are in the highest degree inexpedient; what way yet remains? No way is open, but the third and last—to comply with the American Spirit as necessary; or, if you please, to submit to it as a necessary Evil.
If we adopt this mode; if we mean to conciliate and concede; let us see of what nature the concession ought to be: to ascertain the nature of our concession, we must look at their complaint. The Colonies complain, that they have not the characteristic Mark and Seal of British Freedom. They complain, that they are taxed in a Parliament, in which they are not represented. If you mean to satisfy them at all, you must satisfy them with regard to this complaint. If you mean to please any people, you must give them the boon which they ask; not what you may think better for them, but of a kind totally different. Such an act may be a wise regulation, but it is no concession: whereas our present theme is the mode of giving satisfaction.
Sir, I think you must perceive, that I am resolved this day to have nothing at all to do with the question of the right of taxation. Some gentlemen startle—but it is true; I put it totally out of the question. It is less than nothing in my consideration. I do not indeed wonder, nor will you, Sir, that gentlemen of profound learning are fond of displaying it on this profound subject. But my consideration is narrow, confined, and wholly limited to the Policy of the question. I do not examine, whether the giving away a man’s money be a power excepted and reserved out of the general trust of government; and how far all mankind, in all forms of Polity, are entitled to an exercise of that Right by the Charter of Nature. Or whether, on the contrary, a Right of Taxation is necessarily involved in the general principle of Legislation, and inseparable from the ordinary Supreme Power. These are deep questions, where great names militate against each other; where reason is perplexed; and an appeal to authorities only thickens the confusion. For high and reverend authorities lift up their heads on both sides; and there is no sure footing in the middle. This point is the great Serbonian bog, Betwixt Damiata and Mount Casius old, Where armies whole have sunk. I do not intend to be overwhelmed in that bog, though in such respectable company. The question with me is, not whether you have a right to render your people miserable; but whether it is not your interest to make them happy. It is not, what a lawyer tells me I may do; but what humanity, reason, and justice tell me I ought to do. Is a politic act the worse for being a generous one? Is no concession proper, but that which is made from your want of right to keep what you grant? Or does it lessen the grace or dignity of relaxing in the exercise of an odious claim, because you have your evidence-room full of Titles, and your magazines stuffed with arms to enforce them? What signify all those titles, and all those arms? Of what avail are they, when the reason of the thing tells me, that the assertion of my title is the loss of my suit; and that I could do nothing but wound myself by the use of my own weapons?
Such is stedfastly my opinion of the absolute necessity of keeping up the concord of this Empire by an unity of spirit, though in a diversity of operations, that, if I were sure the colonists had, at their leaving this country, sealed a regular compact of servitude; that they had solemnly abjured all the rights of citizens; that they had made a vow to renounce all Ideas of Liberty for them and their posterity to all generations; yet I should hold myself obliged to conform to the temper I found universally prevalent in my own day, and to govern two million of men, impatient of Servitude, on the principles of Freedom. I am not determining a point of law; I am restoring tranquillity; and the general character and situation of a people must determine what sort of government is fitted for them. That point nothing else can or ought to determine.
My idea, therefore, without considering whether we yield as matter of right, or grant as matter of favour, is to admit the people of our Colonies into an interest in the Constitution; and, by recording that admission in the Journals of Parliament, to give them as strong an assurance as the nature of the thing will admit, that we mean for ever to adhere to that solemn declaration of systematic indulgence.
Some years ago, the Repeal of a Revenue Act, upon its understood principle, might have served to show, that we intended an unconditional abatement of the exercise of a Taxing Power. Such a measure was then sufficient to remove all suspicion, and to give perfect content. But unfortunate events, since that time, may make something further necessary; and not more necessary for the satisfaction of the Colonies, than for the dignity and consistency of our own future proceedings.
I have taken a very incorrect measure of the disposition of the House, if this proposal in itself would be received with dislike. I think, Sir, we have few American Financiers. But our misfortune is, we are too acute; we are too exquisite in our conjectures of the future, for men oppressed with such great and present evils. The more moderate among the opposers of Parliamentary Concession freely confess, that they hope no good from Taxation; but they apprehend the Colonists have further views; and if this point were conceded, they would instantly attack the Trade Laws. These Gentlemen are convinced, that this was the intention from the beginning; and the quarrel of the Americans with Taxation was no more than a cloak and cover to this design. Such has been the language even of a Gentleman of real moderation, and of a natural temper well adjusted to fair and equal Government. I am, however, Sir, not a little surprized at this kind of discourse, whenever I hear it; and I am the more surprized, on account of the arguments which I constantly find in company with it, and which are often urged from the same mouths, and on the same day.
For instance, when we alledge, that it is against reason to tax a people under so many restraints in trade as the Americans, the Noble Lord in the blue ribband shall tell you, that the restraints on trade are futile and useless; of no advantage to us, and of no burthen to those on whom they are imposed; that the trade to America is not secured by the Acts of Navigation, but by the natural and irresistible advantage of a commercial preference.
Such is the merit of the Trade Laws in this posture of the debate. But when strong internal circumstances are urged against the taxes; when the scheme is dissected; when experience and the nature of things are brought to prove, and do prove, the utter impossibility of obtaining an effective revenue from the Colonies; when these things are pressed, or rather press themselves, so as to drive the advocates of Colony Taxes to a clear admission of the futility of the scheme; then, Sir, the sleeping Trade Laws revive from their trance; and this useless taxation is to be kept sacred, not for its own sake, but as a counter-guard and security of the laws of trade.
Then, Sir, you keep up Revenue Laws which are mischievous, in order to preserve Trade Laws that are useless. Such is the wisdom of our plan in both its members. They are separately given up as of no value; and yet one is always to be defended for the sake of the other. But I cannot agree with the Noble Lord, nor with the pamphlet from whence he seems to have borrowed these ideas, concerning the inutility of the Trade Laws. For, without idolizing them, I am sure they are still, in many ways, of great use to us: and in former times they have been of the greatest. They do confine, and they do greatly narrow, the market for the Americans. But my perfect conviction of this does not help me in the least to discern how the Revenue Laws form any security whatsoever to the commercial regulations; or that these commercial regulations are the true ground of the quarrel; or that the giving way, in any one instance of authority, is to lose all that may remain unconceded.
One fact is clear and indisputable. The public and avowed origin of this quarrel was on taxation. This quarrel has indeed brought on new disputes on new questions; but certainly the least bitter, and the fewest of all, on the Trade Laws. To judge which of the two be the real, radical cause of quarrel, we have to see whether the commercial dispute did, in order of time, precede the dispute on taxation? There is not a shadow of evidence for it. Next, to enable us to judge whether at this moment a dislike to the Trade Laws be the real cause of quarrel, it is absolutely necessary to put the taxes out of the question by a repeal. See how the Americans act in this position, and then you will be able to discern correctly what is the true object of the controversy, or whether any controversy at all will remain. Unless you consent to remove this cause of difference, it is impossible, with decency, to assert that the dispute is not upon what it is avowed to be. And I would, Sir, recommend to your serious consideration, whether it be prudent to form a rule for punishing people, not on their own acts, but on your conjectures? Surely it is preposterous at the very best. It is not justifying your anger, by their misconduct; but it is converting your ill-will into their delinquency.
But the Colonies will go further. Alas! alas! when will this speculation against fact and reason end? What will quiet these panic fears which we entertain of the hostile effect of a conciliatory conduct? Is it true, that no case can exist, in which it is proper for the Sovereign to accede to the desires of his discontented subjects? Is there anything peculiar in this case, to make a rule for itself? Is all authority of course lost, when it is not pushed to the extreme? Is it a certain maxim, that the fewer causes of dissatisfaction are left by government, the more the subject will be inclined to resist and rebel?
All these objections being in fact no more than suspicions, conjectures, divinations; formed in defiance of fact and experience; they did not, Sir, discourage me from entertaining the idea of a conciliatory concession, founded on the principles which I have just stated.
In forming a plan for this purpose, I endeavoured to put myself in that frame of mind which was the most natural, and the most reasonable; and which was certainly the most probable means of securing me from all error. I set out with a perfect distrust of my own abilities; a total renunciation of every speculation of my own; and with a profound reverence for the wisdom of our ancestors, who have left us the inheritance of so happy a constitution, and so flourishing an empire, and what is a thousand times more valuable, the treasury of the maxims and principles which formed the one, and obtained the other.
During the reigns of the kings of Spain of the Austrian family, whenever they were at a loss in the Spanish councils, it was common for their statesmen to say, that they ought to consult the genius of Philip the Second. The genius of Philip the Second might mislead them; and the issue of their affairs showed, that they had not chosen the most perfect standard. But, Sir, I am sure that I shall not be misled, when in a case of constitutional difficulty, I consult the genius of the English Constitution. Consulting at that oracle (it was with all due humility and piety) I found four capital examples in a similar case before me; those of Ireland, Wales, Chester, and Durham.
Ireland, before the English conquest, though never governed by a despotick power, had no Parliament. How far the English Parliament itself was at that time modelled according to the present form, is disputed among antiquaries. But we have all the reason in the world to be assured that a form of Parliament, such as England then enjoyed, she instantly communicated to Ireland; and we are equally sure that almost every successive improvement in constitutional liberty, as fast as it was made here, was transmitted thither. The feudal Baronage, and the feudal Knighthood, the roots of our primitive Constitution, were early transplanted into that soil; and grew and flourished there. Magna Charta, if it did not give us originally the House of Commons, gave us at least a House of Commons of weight and consequence. But your ancestors did not churlishly sit down alone to the feast of Magna Charta. Ireland was made immediately a partaker. This benefit of English laws and liberties, I confess, was not at first extended to all Ireland. Mark the consequence. English authority and English liberties had exactly the same boundaries. Your standard could never be advanced an inch before your privileges. Sir John Davis shows beyond a doubt, that the refusal of a general communication of these rights was the true cause why Ireland was five hundred years in subduing; and after the vain projects of a Military Government, attempted in the reign of Queen Elizabeth, it was soon discovered, that nothing could make that country English, in civility and allegiance, but your laws and your forms of legislature. It was not English arms, but the English Constitution, that conquered Ireland. From that time, Ireland has ever had a general Parliament, as she had before a partial Parliament. You changed the people; you altered the religion; but you never touched the form or the vital substance of free government in that Kingdom. You deposed kings; you restored them; you altered the succession to theirs, as well as to your own Crown; but you never altered their Constitution; the principle of which was respected by usurpation; restored with the restoration of Monarchy, and established, I trust, for ever, by the glorious Revolution. This has made Ireland the great and flourishing Kingdom that it is; and from a disgrace and a burthen intolerable to this nation, has rendered her a principal part of our strength and ornament. This country cannot be said to have ever formally taxed her. The irregular things done in the confusion of mighty troubles, and on the hinge of great revolutions, even if all were done that is said to have been done, form no example. If they have any effect in argument, they make an exception to prove the rule. None of your own liberties could stand a moment if the casual deviations from them, at such times, were suffered to be used as proofs of their nullity. By the lucrative amount of such casual breaches in the constitution, judge what the stated and fixed rule of supply has been in that Kingdom. Your Irish pensioners would starve if they had no other fund to live on than taxes granted by English authority. Turn your eyes to those popular grants from whence all your great supplies are come; and learn to respect that only source of public wealth in the British Empire.
My next example is Wales. This country was said to be reduced by Henry the Third. It was said more truly to be so by Edward the First. But though then conquered, it was not looked upon as any part of the Realm of England. Its old Constitution, whatever that might have been, was destroyed; and no good one was substituted in its place. The care of that tract was put into the hands of Lords Marchers—a form of government of a very singular kind; a strange heterogeneous monster, something between Hostility and Government; perhaps it has a sort of resemblance, according to the modes of those terms, to that of Commander-in-chief at present, to whom all civil power is granted as secondary. The manners of the Welsh nation followed the Genius of the Government; the people were ferocious, restive, savage, and uncultivated; sometimes composed, never pacified. Wales, within itself, was in perpetual disorder; and it kept the frontier of England in perpetual alarm. Benefits from it to the state, there were none. Wales was only known to England by incursion and invasion.
Sir, during that state of things, Parliament was not idle. They attempted to subdue the fierce spirit of the Welsh by all sorts of rigorous laws. They prohibited by statute the sending all sorts of arms into Wales, as you prohibit by proclamation (with something more of doubt on the legality) the sending arms to America. They disarmed the Welsh by statute, as you attempted (but still with more question on the legality) to disarm New England by an instruction. They made an Act to drag offenders from Wales into England for trial, as you have done (but with more hardship) with regard to America. By another Act, where one of the parties was an Englishman, they ordained, that his trial should be always by English. They made Acts to restrain trade, as you do; and they prevented the Welsh from the use of fairs and markets, as you do the Americans from fisheries and foreign ports. In short, when the Statute Book was not quite so much swelled as it is now, you find no less than fifteen acts of penal regulation on the subject of Wales.
Here we rub our hands—A fine body of precedents for the authority of Parliament and the use of it!—I admit it fully; and pray add likewise to these precedents, that all the while, Wales rid this Kingdom like an incubus; that it was an unprofitable and oppressive burthen; and that an Englishman travelling in that country could not go six yards from the high road without being murdered.
The march of the human mind is slow. Sir, it was not, until after Two Hundred years, discovered, that, by an eternal law, Providence had decreed vexation to violence; and poverty to rapine. Your ancestors did however at length open their eyes to the ill husbandry of injustice. They found that the tyranny of a free people could of all tyrannies the least be endured; and that laws made against a whole nation were not the most effectual methods of securing its obedience. Accordingly, in the Twenty-seventh year of Henry the Eighth, the course was entirely altered. With a preamble stating the entire and perfect rights of the Crown of England, it gave to the Welsh all the rights and privileges of English subjects. A political order was established; the military power gave way to the civil; the Marches were turned into Counties. But that a nation should have a right to English liberties, and yet no share at all in the fundamental security of these liberties—the grant of their own property—seemed a thing so incongruous; that, Eight years after, that is, in the Thirty-fifth of that reign, a complete and not ill proportioned representation by counties and boroughs was bestowed upon Wales, by Act of Parliament. From that moment, as by a charm, the tumults subsided; obedience was restored; peace, order, and civilization followed in the train of liberty. When the day-star of the English Constitution had arisen in their hearts, all was harmony within and without
The very same year the County Palatine of Chester received the same relief from its oppressions, and the same remedy to its disorders. Before this time Chester was little less distempered than Wales. The inhabitants, without rights themselves, were the fittest to destroy the rights of others; and from thence Richard the Second drew the standing army of Archers, with which for a time he oppressed England. The people of Chester applied to Parliament in a petition penned as I shall read to you:
To the King our Sovereign Lord, in most humble wise shewen unto your Excellent Majesty the inhabitants of your Grace’s County Palatine of Chester; (1.) That where the said County Palatine of Chester is and hath been always hitherto exempt, excluded and separated out and from your High Court of Parliament, to have any Knights and Burgesses within the said Court; by reason whereof the said inhabitants have hitherto sustained manifold disherisons, losses, and damages, as well in their lands, goods, and bodies, as in the good, civil, and politic governance and maintenance of the commonwealth of their said country: (2.) And forasmuch as the said inhabitants have always hitherto been bound by the Acts and Statutes made and ordained by your said Highness, and your most noble progenitors, by authority of the said Court, as far forth as other counties, cities, and boroughs have been, that have had their Knights and Burgesses within your said Court of Parliament, and yet have had neither Knight ne Burgess there for the said County Palatine; the said inhabitants, for lack thereof, have been oftentimes touched and grieved with Acts and Statutes made within the said Court, as well derogatory unto the most ancient jurisdictions, liberties, and privileges of your said County Palatine, as prejudicial unto the commonwealth, quietness, rest, and peace of your Grace’s most bounden subjects inhabiting within the same.
What did Parliament with this audacious address?—Reject it as a libel? Treat it as an affront to Government? Spurn it as a derogation from the rights of legislature? Did they toss it over the table? Did they burn it by the hands of the common hangman?—They took the petition of grievance, all rugged as it was, without softening or temperament, unpurged of the original bitterness and indignation of complaint; they made it the very preamble to their Act of redress; and consecrated its principle to all ages in the sanctuary of legislation.
Here is my third example. It was attended with the success of the two former. Chester, civilized as well as Wales, has demonstrated that freedom, and not servitude, is the cure of anarchy; as religion, and not atheism, is the true remedy for superstition. Sir, this pattern of Chester was followed in the reign of Charles the Second, with regard to the County Palatine of Durham, which is my fourth example. This county had long lain out of the pale of free legislation. So scrupulously was the example of Chester followed, that the style of the preamble is nearly the same with that of the Chester Act; and, without affecting the abstract extent of the authority of Parliament, it recognises the equity of not suffering any considerable district, in which the British subjects may act as a body, to be taxed without their own voice in the grant.
Now if the doctrines of policy contained in these preambles, and the force of these examples in the Acts of Parliaments, avail anything, what can be said against applying them with regard to America? Are not the people of America as much Englishmen as the Welsh? The preamble of the Act of Henry the Eighth says, the Welsh speak a language no way resembling that of his Majesty’s English subjects. Are the Americans not as numerous? If we may trust the learned and accurate Judge Barrington’s account of North Wales, and take that as a standard to measure the rest, there is no comparison. The people cannot amount to above 200,000; not a tenth part of the number in the Colonies. Is America in rebellion? Wales was hardly ever free from it. Have you attempted to govern America by penal statutes? You made Fifteen for Wales. But your legislative authority is perfect with regard to America.—Was it less perfect in Wales, Chester, and Durham? But America is virtually represented.—What! does the electric force of virtual representation more easily pass over the Atlantic, than pervade Wales, which lies in your neighbourhood; or than Chester and Durham, surrounded by abundance of representation that is actual and palpable? But, Sir, your ancestors thought this sort of virtual representation, however ample, to be totally insufficient for the freedom of the inhabitants of territories that are so near, and comparatively so inconsiderable. How then can I think it sufficient for those which are infinitely greater, and infinitely more remote?
You will now, Sir, perhaps imagine, that I am on the point of proposing to you a scheme for a representation of the Colonies in Parliament. Perhaps I might be inclined to entertain some such thought; but a great flood stops me in my course. Opposuit natura—I cannot remove the eternal barriers of the creation. The thing, in that mode, I do not know to be possible. As I meddle with no theory, I do not absolutely assert the impracticability of such a representation. But I do not see my way to it; and those who have been more confident have not been more successful. However, the arm of public benevolence is not shortened; and there are often several means to the same end. What nature has disjoined in one way, wisdom may unite in another. When we cannot give the benefit as we would wish, let us not refuse it altogether. If we cannot give the principal, let us find a substitute. But how? Where? What substitute?
Fortunately I am not obliged for the ways and means of this substitute to tax my own unproductive invention. I am not even obliged to go to the rich treasury of the fertile framers of imaginary commonwealths; not to the Republick of Plato; not to the Utopia of More; not to the Oceana of Harrington. It is before me—it is at my feet, and the rude swain Treads daily on it with his clouted shoon. I only wish you to recognise, for the theory, the ancient Constitutional policy of this Kingdom with regard to representation, as that policy has been declared in Acts of Parliament; and, as to the practice, to return to that mode which an uniform experience has marked out to you, as best; and in which you walked with security, advantage, and honour, until the year 1763.
My Resolutions therefore mean to establish the equity and justice of a taxation of America by grant, and not by imposition. To mark the legal competency of the Colony Assemblies for the support of their government in peace, and for public aids in time of war. To acknowledge that this legal competency has had a dutiful and beneficial exercise; and that experience has shown the benefit of their grants, and the futility of Parliamentary taxation as a method of supply.
These solid truths compose six fundamental propositions. There are three more Resolutions corollary to these. If you admit the first set, you can hardly reject the others. But if you admit the first, I shall be far from sollicitous whether you accept or refuse the last. I think these six massive pillars will be of strength sufficient to support the temple of British concord. I have no more doubt than I entertain of my existence, that, if you admitted these, you would command an immediate peace; and, with but tolerable future management, a lasting obedience in America. I am not arrogant in this confident assurance. The propositions are all mere matters of fact; and if they are such facts as draw irresistible conclusions even in the stating, this is the power of truth, and not any management of mine.
Sir, I shall open the whole plan to you, together with such observations on the motions as may tend to illustrate them where they may want explanation. The first is a Resolution—
That the Colonies and Plantations of Great Britain in North America, consisting of Fourteen separate Governments, and containing Two Millions and upwards of free inhabitants, have not had the liberty and privilege of electing and sending any Knights and Burgesses, or others, to represent them in the High Court of Parliament.
This is a plain matter of fact, necessary to be laid down, and (excepting the description) it is laid down in the language of the Constitution; it is taken nearly verbatim from Acts of Parliament.
That the said Colonies and Plantations have been liable to, and bounden by, several subsidies, payments, rates, and taxes, given and granted by Parliament, though the said Colonies and Plantations have not their Knights and Burgesses, in the said High Court of Parliament, of their own election, to represent the condition of their country; by lack whereof they have been oftentimes touched and grieved by subsidies given, granted, and assented to, in the said Court, in a manner prejudicial to the commonwealth, quietness, rest, and peace of the subjects inhabiting within the same.
Is this description too hot, or too cold, too strong, or too weak? Does it arrogate too much to the supreme legislature? Does it lean too much to the claims of the people? If it runs into any of these errors, the fault is not mine. It is the language of your own ancient Acts of Parliament.
It is the genuine produce of the antient, rustic, manly, home-bred sense of this country—I did not dare to rub off a particle of the venerable rust that rather adorns and preserves, than destroys, the metal. It would be a profanation to touch with a tool the stones which construct the sacred altar of peace. I would not violate with modern polish the ingenuous and noble roughness of these truly Constitutional materials. Above all things, I was resolved not to be guilty of tampering: the odious vice of restless and unstable minds. I put my foot in the tracks of our forefathers; where I can neither wander nor stumble. Determining to fix articles of peace, I was resolved not to be wise beyond what was written; I was resolved to use nothing else than the form of sound words; to let others abound in their own sense; and carefully to abstain from all expressions of my own. What the Law has said, I say. In all things else I am silent. I have no organ but for her words. This, if it be not ingenious, I am sure is safe.
There are indeed words expressive of grievance in this second Resolution, which those who are resolved always to be in the right will deny to contain matter of fact, as applied to the present case; although Parliament thought them true, with regard to the Counties of Chester and Durham. They will deny that the Americans were ever “touched and grieved” with the taxes. If they consider nothing in taxes but their weight as pecuniary impositions, there might be some pretence for this denial. But men may be sorely touched and deeply grieved in their privileges, as well as in their purses. Men may lose little in property by the act which takes away all their freedom. When a man is robbed of a trifle on the highway, it is not the Two-pence lost that constitutes the capital outrage. This is not confined to privileges. Even antient indulgences withdrawn, without offence on the part of those who enjoyed such favours, operate as grievances. But were the Americans then not touched and grieved by the taxes, in some measure, merely as taxes? If so, why were they almost all either wholly repealed, or exceedingly reduced? Were they not touched and grieved even by the regulating Duties of the Sixth of George the Second? Else why were the duties first reduced to one Third in 1764, and afterwards to a Third of that Third in the year 1766? Were they not touched and grieved by the Stamp Act? I shall say they were, until that tax is revived. Were they not touched and grieved by the duties of 1767, which were likewise repealed, and which Lord Hillsborough tells you (for the Ministry) were laid contrary to the true principle of commerce? Is not the assurance given by that noble person to the Colonies of a resolution to lay no more taxes on them, an admission that taxes would touch and grieve them? Is not the Resolution of the Noble Lord in the blue ribband, now standing on your Journals, the strongest of all proofs that Parliamentary subsidies really touched and grieved them? Else why all these changes, modifications, repeals, assurances, and Resolutions?
The next proposition is—
That, from the distance of the said Colonies, and from other circumstances, no method hath hitherto been devised for procuring a representation in Parliament for the said Colonies.
This is an assertion of a fact. I go no further on the paper; though, in my private judgement, an useful representation is impossible; I am sure it is not desired by them; nor ought it perhaps by us; but I abstain from opinions.
The fourth Resolution is—
That each of the said Colonies hath within itself a body, chosen in part, or in the whole, by the freemen, freeholders, or other free inhabitants thereof, commonly called the General Assembly, or General Court; with powers legally to raise, levy, and assess, according to the several usage of such Colonies, duties and taxes towards defraying all sorts of public services.
This competence in the Colony Assemblies is certain. It is proved by the whole tenour of their Acts of Supply in all the Assemblies, in which the constant style of granting is, “an aid to his Majesty”; and Acts granting to the Crown have regularly for near a century passed the public offices without dispute. Those who have been pleased paradoxically to deny this right, holding that none but the British Parliament can grant to the Crown, are wished to look to what is done, not only in the Colonies, but in Ireland, in one uniform unbroken tenour every session. Sir, I am surprised that this doctrine should come from some of the law servants of the Crown. I say, that if the Crown could be responsible, his Majesty—but certainly the Ministers, and even these law officers themselves, through whose hands the Acts pass, biennially in Ireland, or annually in the Colonies, are in an habitual course of committing impeachable offences. What habitual offenders have been all Presidents of the Council, all Secretaries of State, all First Lords of Trade, all Attornies and all Solicitors General! However, they are safe; as no one impeaches them; and there is no ground of charge against them, except in their own unfounded theories.
The fifth Resolution is also a Resolution of fact—
That the said General Assemblies, General Courts, or other bodies legally qualified as aforesaid, have at sundry times freely granted several large subsidies and public aids for his Majesty’s service, according to their abilities, when required thereto by letter from one of his Majesty’s principal Secretaries of State; and that their right to grant the same, and their chearfulness and sufficiency in the said grants, have been at sundry times acknowledged by Parliament.
To say nothing of their great expenses in the Indian wars; and not to take their exertion in foreign ones, so high as the supplies in the year 1695; not to go back to their public contributions in the year 1710; I shall begin to travel only where the Journals give me light; resolving to deal in nothing but fact, authenticated by Parliamentary record; and to build myself wholly on that solid basis.
On the 4th of April, 1748, a Committee of this House came to the following Resolution:
That it is the opinion of this Committee, That it is just and reasonable that the several Provinces and Colonies of Massachuset’s Bay, New Hampshire, Connecticut, and Rhode Island, be reimbursed the expenses they have been at in taking and securing to the Crown of Great Britain the Island of Cape Breton and its dependencies.
The expenses were immense for such Colonies. They were above 200,000l. sterling; money first raised and advanced on their public credit.
On the 28th of January, 1756, a Message from the King came to us, to this effect;
His Majesty, being sensible of the zeal and vigour with which his faithful subjects of certain Colonies in North America have exerted themselves in defence of his Majesty’s just rights and possessions, recommends it to this House to take the same into their consideration, and to enable his Majesty to give them such assistance as may be a proper reward and encouragement.
On the 3rd of February, 1756, the House came to a suitable Resolution, expressed in words nearly the same as those of the Message: but with the further addition, that the money then voted was as an encouragement to the Colonies to exert themselves with vigour. It will not be necessary to go through all the testimonies which your own records have given to the truth of my Resolutions. I will only refer you to the places in the Journals:
Vol. xxvii.—16th and 19th May, 1757.
Vol. xxviii.—June 1st, 1758—April 26th and 30th, 1759—March 26th and 31st, and April 28th, 1760—Jan. 9th and 20th, 1761.
Vol. xxix.—Jan. 22nd and 26th, 1762—March 14th and 17th, 1763.
Sir, here is the repeated acknowledgment of Parliament, that the Colonies not only gave, but gave to satiety. This nation has formally acknowledged two things; first, that the Colonies had gone beyond their abilities, Parliament having thought it necessary to reimburse them; secondly, that they had acted legally and laudably in their grants of money, and their maintenance of troops, since the compensation is expressly given as reward and encouragement. Reward is not bestowed for acts that are unlawful; and encouragement is not held out to things that deserve reprehension. My Resolution therefore does nothing more than collect into one proposition, what is scattered through your Journals. I give you nothing but your own; and you cannot refuse in the gross, what you have so often acknowledged in detail. The admission of this, which will be so honourable to them and to you, will, indeed, be mortal to all the miserable stories, by which the passions of the misguided people have been engaged in an unhappy system. The people heard, indeed, from the beginning of these disputes, one thing continually dinned in their ears, that reason and justice demanded, that the Americans, who paid no Taxes, should be compelled to contribute. How did that fact, of their paying nothing, stand, when the Taxing System began? When Mr. Grenville began to form his system of American Revenue, he stated in this House, that the Colonies were then in debt two millions six hundred thousand pounds sterling money; and was of opinion they would discharge that debt in four years. On this state, those untaxed people were actually subject to the payment of taxes to the amount of six hundred and fifty thousand a year. In fact, however, Mr. Grenville was mistaken. The funds given for sinking the debt did not prove quite so ample as both the Colonies and he expected. The calculation was too sanguine; the reduction was not completed till some years after, and at different times in different Colonies. However, the Taxes after the war continued too great to bear any addition, with prudence or propriety; and when the burthens imposed in consequence of former requisitions were discharged, our tone became too high to resort again to requisition. No Colony, since that time, ever has had any requisition whatsoever made to it.
We see the sense of the Crown, and the sense of Parliament, on the productive nature of a Revenue by Grant. Now search the same Journals for the produce of the Revenue by Imposition. Where is it? Let us know the volume and the page. What is the gross, what is the nett produce? To what service is it applied? How have you appropriated its surplus? What, can none of the many skilful Index-makers that we are now employing, find any trace of it? Well, let them and that rest together. But are the Journals, which say nothing of the Revenue, as silent on the discontent? Oh no! a child may find it. It is the melancholy burthen and blot of every page.
I think then I am, from those Journals, justified in the sixth and last Resolution, which is—
That it hath been found by experience, that the manner of granting the said supplies and aids, by the said General Assemblies, hath been more agreeable to the said Colonies, and more beneficial, and conducive to the public service, than the mode of giving and granting aids in Parliament, to be raised and paid in the said Colonies.
This makes the whole of the fundamental part of the plan. The conclusion is irresistible. You cannot say, that you were driven by any necessity to an exercise of the utmost Rights of Legislature. You cannot assert, that you took on yourselves the task of imposing Colony Taxes, from the want of another legal body, that is competent to the purpose of supplying the exigencies of the State without wounding the prejudices of the people. Neither is it true that the body so qualified, and having that competence, had neglected the duty.
The question now, on all this accumulated matter, is; whether you will choose to abide by a profitable experience, or a mischievous theory; whether you choose to build on imagination, or fact; whether you prefer enjoyment or hope; satisfaction in your subjects, or discontent?
If these propositions are accepted, everything which has been made to enforce a contrary system, must, I take it for granted, fall along with it. On that ground, I have drawn the following Resolution, which, when it comes to be moved, will naturally be divided in a proper manner:
That it may be proper to repeal an Act, made in the seventh year of the reign of his present Majesty, intituled, An Act for granting certain duties in the British Colonies and Plantations in America; for allowing a drawback of the duties of Customs upon the exportation from this Kingdom, of coffee and cocoa-nuts of the produce of the said Colonies or Plantations; for discontinuing the drawbacks payable on China earthenware exported to America; and for more effectually preventing the clandestine running of goods in the said Colonies and Plantations.—And that it may be proper to repeal an Act, made in the fourteenth year of the reign of his present Majesty, intituled, An Act to discontinue, in such manner, and for such time, as are therein mentioned, the landing and discharging, lading or shipping, of goods, wares, and merchandise, at the town and within the harbour of Boston, in the province of Massachuset’s Bay, in North America.—And that it may be proper to repeal an Act, made in the fourteenth year of the reign of his present Majesty, intituled, An Act for the impartial administration of justice, in the cases of persons questioned for any acts done by them, in the execution of the law, or for the suppression of riots and tumults, in the province of Massachuset’s Bay, in New England.—And that it may be proper to repeal an Act, made in the fourteenth year of the reign of his present Majesty, intituled, An Act for the better regulating of the Government of the province of the Massachuset’s Bay, in New England.—And, also, that it may be proper to explain and amend an Act, made in the thirty-fifth year of the reign of King Henry the Eighth, intituled, An Act for the Trial of Treasons committed out of the King’s Dominions.
I wish, Sir, to repeal the Boston Port Bill, because (independently of the dangerous precedent of suspending the rights of the subject during the King’s pleasure) it was passed, as I apprehend, with less regularity, and on more partial principles, than it ought. The corporation of Boston was not heard before it was condemned. Other towns, full as guilty as she was, have not had their ports blocked up. Even the Restraining Bill of the present Session does not go to the length of the Boston Port Act. The same ideas of prudence, which induced you not to extend equal punishment to equal guilt, even when you were punishing, induced me, who mean not to chastise, but to reconcile, to be satisfied with the punishment already partially inflicted.
Ideas of prudence and accommodation to circumstances, prevent you from taking away the Charters of Connecticut and Rhode Island, as you have taken away that of Massachuset’s Colony, though the Crown has far less power in the two former provinces than it enjoyed in the latter; and though the abuses have been full as great, and as flagrant, in the exempted as in the punished. The same reasons of prudence and accommodation have weight with me in restoring the Charter of Massachuset’s Bay. Besides, Sir, the act which changes the Charter of Massachuset’s is in many particulars so exceptionable, that if I did not wish absolutely to repeal, I would by all means desire to alter it; as several of its provisions tend to the subversion of all public and private justice. Such, among others, is the power in the Governor to change the sheriff at his pleasure; and to make a new returning officer for every special cause. It is shameful to behold such a regulation standing among English Laws.
The Act for bringing persons accused of committing murder under the orders of Government to England for Trial is but temporary. That Act has calculated the probable duration of our quarrel with the Colonies; and is accommodated to that supposed duration. I would hasten the happy moment of reconciliation; and therefore must, on my principle, get rid of that most justly obnoxious Act.
The Act of Henry the Eighth, for the Trial of Treasons, I do not mean to take away, but to confine it to its proper bounds and original intention; to make it expressly for Trial of Treasons (and the greatest Treasons may be committed) in places where the jurisdiction of the Crown does not extend.
Having guarded the privileges of Local Legislature, I would next secure to the Colonies a fair and unbiassed Judicature; for which purpose, Sir, I propose the following Resolution:
That, from the time when the General Assembly or General Court of any Colony or Plantation in North America, shall have appointed by Act of Assembly, duly confirmed, a settled salary to the offices of the Chief Justice and other Judges of the Superior Court, it may be proper that the said Chief Justice and other Judges of the Superior Courts of such Colony, shall hold his and their office and offices during their good behaviour; and shall not be removed therefrom, but when the said removal shall be adjudged by his Majesty in Council, upon a hearing on complaint from the General Assembly, or on a complaint from the Governor, or Council, or the House of Representatives severally, or of the Colony in which the said Chief Justice and other Judges have exercised the said offices.
The next Resolution relates to the Courts of Admiralty.
It is this:
That it may be proper to regulate the Courts of Admiralty, or Vice-Admiralty, authorized by the fifteenth Chapter of the Fourth of George the Third, in such a manner as to make the same more commodious to those who sue, or are sued, in the said Courts, and to provide for the more decent maintenance of the Judges in the same.
These Courts I do not wish to take away; they are in themselves proper establishments. This Court is one of the capital securities of the Act of Navigation. The extent of its jurisdiction, indeed, has been encreased; but this is altogether as proper, and is indeed on many accounts more eligible, where new powers were wanted, than a Court absolutely new. But Courts incommodiously situated, in effect, deny justice; and a Court, partaking in the fruits of its own condemnation, is a robber. The Congress complain, and complain justly, of this grievance.
These are the three consequential propositions. I have thought of two or three more; but they come rather too near detail, and to the province of executive Government; which I wish Parliament always to superintend, never to assume. If the first six are granted, congruity will carry the latter three. If not, the things that remain unrepealed will be, I hope, rather unseemly incumbrances on the building, than very materially detrimental to its strength and stability.
Here, Sir, I should close; but I plainly perceive some objections remain, which I ought, if possible, to remove. The first will be, that, in resorting to the doctrine of our ancestors, as contained in the preamble to the Chester Act, I prove too much; that the grievance from a want of representation, stated in that preamble, goes to the whole of Legislation as well as to Taxation. And that the Colonies, grounding themselves upon that doctrine, will apply it to all parts of Legislative Authority.
To this objection, with all possible deference and humility, and wishing as little as any man living to impair the smallest particle of our supreme authority, I answer, that the words are the words of Parliament, and not mine; and, that all false and inconclusive inferences, drawn from them, are not mine; for I heartily disclaim any such inference. I have chosen the words of an Act of Parliament, which Mr. Grenville, surely a tolerably zealous and very judicious advocate for the sovereignty of Parliament, formerly moved to have read at your table in confirmation of his tenets. It is true, that Lord Chatham considered these preambles as declaring strongly in favour of his opinions. He was a no less powerful advocate for the privileges of the Americans. Ought I not from hence to presume, that these preambles are as favourable as possible to both, when properly understood; favourable both to the rights of Parliament, and to the privilege of the dependencies of this Crown? But, Sir, the object of grievance in my resolution I have not taken from the Chester, but from the Durham Act, which confines the hardship of want of representation to the case of subsidies; and which therefore falls in exactly with the case of the Colonies. But whether the unrepresented counties were de jure, or de facto, bound, the preambles do not accurately distinguish; nor indeed was it necessary; for, whether de jure, or de facto, the Legislature thought the exercise of the power of taxing, as of right, or as of fact without right, equally a grievance, and equally oppressive.
I do not know that the Colonies have, in any general way, or in any cool hour, gone much beyond the demand of humanity in relation to taxes. It is not fair to judge of the temper or dispositions of any man, or any set of men, when they are composed and at rest, from their conduct, or their expressions, in a state of disturbance and irritation. It is besides a very great mistake to imagine, that mankind follow up practically any speculative principle, either of government or of freedom, as far as it will go in argument and logical illation. We Englishmen stop very short of the principles upon which we support any given part of our Constitution; or even the whole of it together. I could easily, if I had not already tired you, give you very striking and convincing instances of it. This is nothing but what is natural and proper. All government, indeed every human benefit and enjoyment, every virtue, and every prudent act, is founded on compromise and barter. We balance inconveniences; we give and take; we remit some rights, that we may enjoy others; and we choose rather to be happy citizens, than subtle disputants. As we must give away some natural liberty, to enjoy civil advantages; so we must sacrifice some civil liberties, for the advantages to be derived from the communion and fellowship of a great empire. But, in all fair dealings, the thing bought must bear some proportion to the purchase paid. None will barter away the immediate jewel of his soul. Though a great house is apt to make slaves haughty, yet it is purchasing a part of the artificial importance of a great empire too dear, to pay for it all essential rights, and all the intrinsic dignity of human nature. None of us who would not risque his life rather than fall under a government purely arbitrary. But although there are some amongst us who think our Constitution wants many improvements, to make it a complete system of liberty; perhaps none who are of that opinion would think it right to aim at such improvement, by disturbing his country, and risquing everything that is dear to him. In every arduous enterprize, we consider what we are to lose, as well as what we are to gain; and the more and better stake of liberty every people possess, the less they will hazard in a vain attempt to make it more. These are the cords of man. Man acts from adequate motives relative to his interest; and not on metaphysical speculations. Aristotle, the great master of reasoning, cautions us, and with great weight and propriety, against this species of delusive geometrical accuracy in moral arguments, as the most fallacious of all sophistry.
The Americans will have no interest contrary to the grandeur and glory of England, when they are not oppressed by the weight of it; and they will rather be inclined to respect the acts of a superintending legislature; when they see them the acts of that power, which is itself the security, not the rival, of their secondary importance. In this assurance, my mind most perfectly acquiesces: and I confess I feel not the least alarm from the discontents which are to arise from putting people at their ease; nor do I apprehend the destruction of this Empire, from giving, by an act of free grace and indulgence, to two millions of my fellow-citizens some share of those rights, upon which I have always been taught to value myself.
It is said, indeed, that this power of granting, vested in American Assemblies, would dissolve the unity of the Empire; which was preserved entire, although Wales, and Chester, and Durham were added to it. Truly, Mr. Speaker, I do not know what this unity means; nor has it ever been heard of, that I know, in the constitutional policy of this country. The very idea of subordination of parts, excludes this notion of simple and undivided unity. England is the head; but she is not the head and the members too. Ireland has ever had from the beginning a separate, but not an independent, legislature; which, far from distracting, promoted the union of the whole. Everything was sweetly and harmoniously disposed through both islands for the conservation of English dominion, and the communication of English liberties. I do not see that the same principles might not be carried into twenty islands, and with the same good effect. This is my model with regard to America, as far as the internal circumstances of the two countries are the same. I know no other unity of this Empire, than I can draw from its example during these periods, when it seemed to my poor understanding more united than it is now, or than it is likely to be by the present methods.
But since I speak of these methods, I recollect, Mr. Speaker, almost too late, that I promised, before I finished, to say something of the proposition of the Noble Lord on the floor, which has been so lately received, and stands on your Journals. I must be deeply concerned, whenever it is my misfortune to continue a difference with the majority of this House. But as the reasons for that difference are my apology for thus troubling you, suffer me to state them in a very few words. I shall compress them into as small a body as I possibly can, having already debated that matter at large, when the question was before the Committee.
First, then, I cannot admit that proposition of a ransom by auction; because it is a meer project. It is a thing new; unheard of; supported by no experience; justified by no analogy; without example of our ancestors, or root in the Constitution. It is neither regular Parliamentary taxation, nor Colony grant. Experimentum in corpore vili, is a good rule, which will ever make me adverse to any trial of experiments on what is certainly the most valuable of all subjects, the peace of this Empire.
Secondly, it is an experiment which must be fatal in the end to our Constitution. For what is it but a scheme for taxing the Colonies in the anti-chamber of the Noble Lord and his successours? To settle the quotas and proportions in this House, is clearly impossible. You, Sir, may flatter yourself you shall sit a State auctioneer, with your hammer in your hand, and knock down to each Colony as it bids. But to settle (on the plan laid down by the Noble Lord) the true proportional payment for four or five and twenty governments, according to the absolute and the relative wealth of each, and according to the British proportion of wealth and burthen, is a wild and chimerical notion. This new taxation must therefore come in by the back door of the Constitution. Each quota must be brought to this House ready formed; you can neither add nor alter. You must register it. You can do nothing further. For on what grounds can you deliberate either before or after the proposition? You cannot hear the counsel for all these provinces, quarrelling each on its own quantity of payment, and its proportion to others. If you should attempt it, the Committee of Provincial Ways and Means, or by whatever other name it will delight to be called, must swallow up all the time of Parliament.
Thirdly, it does not give satisfaction to the complaint of the Colonies. They complain, that they are taxed without their consent; you answer, that you will fix the sum at which they shall be taxed. That is, you give them the very grievance for the remedy. You tell them indeed, that you will leave the mode to themselves. I really beg pardon: it gives me pain to mention it; but you must be sensible that you will not perform this part of the compact. For, suppose the Colonies were to lay the duties, which furnished their Contingent, upon the importation of your manufactures; you know you would never suffer such a tax to be laid. You know, too, that you would not suffer many other modes of taxation. So that, when you come to explain yourself, it will be found, that you will neither leave to themselves the quantum nor the mode; nor indeed anything. The whole is delusion from one end to the other.
Fourthly, this method of ransom by auction, unless it be universally accepted, will plunge you into great and inextricable difficulties. In what year of our Lord are the proportions of payments to be settled? To say nothing of the impossibility that Colony agents should have general powers of taxing the Colonies at their discretion; consider, I implore you, that the communication by special messages, and orders between these agents and their constituents on each variation of the case, when the parties come to contend together, and to dispute on their relative proportions, will be a matter of delay, perplexity, and confusion that never can have an end.
If all the Colonies do not appear at the outcry, what is the condition of those assemblies, who offer by themselves or their agents, to tax themselves up to your ideas of their proportion? The refractory Colonies, who refuse all composition, will remain taxed only to your old impositions, which, however grievous in principle, are trifling as to production. The obedient Colonies in this scheme are heavily taxed; the refractory remain unburthened. What will you do? Will you lay new and heavier taxes by Parliament on the disobedient? Pray consider in what way you can do it. You are perfectly convinced, that, in the way of taxing, you can do nothing but at the ports. Now suppose it is Virginia that refuses to appear at your auction, while Maryland and North Carolina bid handsomely for their ransom, and are taxed to your quota, how will you put these Colonies on a par? Will you tax the tobacco of Virginia? If you do, you give its death-wound to your English revenue at home, and to one of the very greatest articles of your own foreign trade. If you tax the import of that rebellious Colony, what do you tax but your own manufactures, or the goods of some other obedient and already well-taxed Colony? Who has said one word on this labyrinth of detail, which bewilders you more and more as you enter into it? Who has presented, who can present you with a clue, to lead you out of it? I think, Sir, it is impossible, that you should not recollect that the Colony bounds are so implicated in one another, (you know it by your other experiments in the Bill for prohibiting the New England Fishery,) that you can lay no possible restraints on almost any of them which may not be presently eluded, if you do not confound the innocent with the guilty, and burthen those whom, upon every principle, you ought to exonerate. He must be grossly ignorant of America, who thinks that, without falling into this confusion of all rules of equity and policy, you can restrain any single Colony, especially Virginia and Maryland, the central and most important of them all.
Let it also be considered, that, either in the present confusion you settle a permanent contingent, which will and must be trifling; and then you have no effectual revenue: or you change the quota at every exigency; and then on every new repartition you will have a new quarrel.
Reflect besides, that when you have fixed a quota for every Colony, you have not provided for prompt and punctual payment. Suppose one, two, five, ten years’ arrears. You cannot issue a Treasury Extent against the failing Colony. You must make new Boston Port Bills, new restraining laws, new Acts for dragging men to England for trial. You must send out new fleets, new armies. All is to begin again. From this day forward the Empire is never to know an hour’s tranquillity. An intestine fire will be kept alive in the bowels of the Colonies, which one time or other must consume this whole Empire. I allow indeed that the empire of Germany raises her revenue and her troops by quotas and contingents; but the revenue of the empire, and the army of the empire, is the worst revenue, and the worst army, in the world.
Instead of a standing revenue, you will therefore have a perpetual quarrel. Indeed the noble Lord, who proposed this project of a ransom by auction, seemed himself to be of that opinion. His project was rather designed for breaking the union of the Colonies, than for establishing a revenue. He confessed, he apprehended that his proposal would not be to their taste. I say, this scheme of disunion seems to be at the bottom of the project; for I will not suspect that the noble Lord meant nothing but merely to delude the nation by an airy phantom which he never intended to realize. But whatever his views may be; as I propose the peace and union of the Colonies as the very foundation of my plan, it cannot accord with one whose foundation is perpetual discord.
Compare the two. This I offer to give you is plain and simple. The other full of perplexed and intricate mazes. This is mild; that harsh. This is found by experience effectual for its purposes; the other is a new project. This is universal; the other calculated for certain Colonies only. This is immediate in its conciliatory operation; the other remote, contingent, full of hazard. Mine is what becomes the dignity of a ruling people, gratuitous, unconditional, and not held out as a matter of bargain and sale. I have done my duty in proposing it to you. I have indeed tired you by a long discourse; but this is the misfortune of those to whose influence nothing will be conceded, and who must win every inch of their ground by argument. You have heard me with goodness. May you decide with wisdom! For my part, I feel my mind greatly disburthened by what I have done to-day. I have been the less fearful of trying your patience, because on this subject I mean to spare it altogether in future. I have this comfort, that in every stage of the American affairs, I have steadily opposed the measures that have produced the confusion, and may bring on the destruction, of this empire. I now go so far as to risque a proposal of my own. If I cannot give peace to my country; I give it to my conscience.
But what (says the Financier) is peace to us without money? Your plan gives us no Revenue. No! But it does—For it secures to the subject the power of REFUSAL; the first of all Revenues. Experience is a cheat, and fact a liar, if this power in the subject of proportioning his grant, or of not granting at all, has not been found the richest mine of Revenue ever discovered by the skill or by the fortune of man. It does not indeed vote you £152,750: II: 2¾ths, nor any other paltry limited sum. But it gives the strong box itself, the fund, the bank, from whence only revenues can arise amongst a people sensible of freedom: Posita luditur arca. Cannot you, in England; cannot you, at this time of day; cannot you, a House of Commons, trust to the principle which has raised so mighty a revenue, and accumulated a debt of near 140 millions in this country? Is this principle to be true in England, and false everywhere else? Is it not true in Ireland? Has it not hitherto been true in the Colonies? Why should you presume, that, in any country, a body duly constituted for any function, will neglect to perform its duty, and abdicate its trust? Such a presumption would go against all governments in all modes. But, in truth, this dread of penury of supply, from a free assembly, has no foundation in nature. For first observe, that, besides the desire which all men have naturally of supporting the honour of their own government, that sense of dignity, and that security to property, which ever attends freedom, has a tendency to increase the stock of the free community. Most may be taken where most is accumulated. And what is the soil or climate where experience has not uniformly proved, that the voluntary flow of heaped-up plenty, bursting from the weight of its own rich luxuriance, has ever run with a more copious stream of revenue, than could be squeezed from the dry husks of oppressed indigence, by the straining of all the politic machinery in the world?
Next we know, that parties must ever exist in a free country. We know too, that the emulations of such parties, their contradictions, their reciprocal necessities, their hopes, and their fears, must send them all in their turns to him that holds the balance of the state. The parties are the Gamesters; but Government keeps the table, and is sure to be the winner in the end. When this game is played, I really think it is more to be feared that the people will be exhausted, than that Government will not be supplied. Whereas, whatever is got by acts of absolute power ill obeyed, because odious, or by contracts ill kept, because constrained, will be narrow, feeble, uncertain, and precarious. “Ease would retract Vows made in pain, as violent and void.”
I, for one, protest against compounding our demands: I declare against compounding for a poor limited sum, the immense, ever-growing, eternal Debt, which is due to generous Government from protected freedom. And so may I speed in the great object I propose to you, as I think it would not only be an act of injustice, but would be the worst oeconomy in the world, to compel the Colonies to a sum certain, either in the way of ransom, or in the way of compulsory compact.
But to clear up my ideas on this subject—a revenue from America transmitted hither—do not delude yourselves—you never can receive it—No, not a shilling. We have experience that from remote countries it is not to be expected. If, when you attempted to extract revenue from Bengal, you were obliged to return in loan what you had taken in imposition; what can you expect from North America? For certainly, if ever there was a country qualified to produce wealth, it is India; or an institution fit for the transmission, it is the East India Company. America has none of these aptitudes. If America gives you taxable objects, on which you lay your duties here, and gives you, at the same time, a surplus by a foreign sale of her commodities to pay the duties on these objects, which you tax at home, she has performed her part to the British revenue. But with regard to her own internal establishments; she may, I doubt not she will, contribute in moderation. I say in moderation; for she ought not to be permitted to exhaust herself. She ought to be reserved to a war; the weight of which, with the enemies that we are most likely to have, must be considerable in her quarter of the globe. There she may serve you, and serve you essentially.
For that service, for all service, whether of revenue, trade, or empire, my trust is in her interest in the British Constitution. My hold of the Colonies is in the close affection which grows from common names, from kindred blood, from similar privileges, and equal protection. These are ties, which, though light as air, are as strong as links of iron. Let the Colonists always keep the idea of their civil rights associated with your Government—they will cling and grapple to you; and no force under heaven will be of power to tear them from their allegiance. But let it be once understood, that your government may be one thing, and their Privileges another; that these two things may exist without any mutual relation—the cement is gone; the cohesion is loosened; and everything hastens to decay and dissolution. As long as you have the wisdom to keep the sovereign authority of this country as the sanctuary of liberty, the sacred temple consecrated to our common faith, wherever the chosen race and sons of England worship freedom, they will turn their faces towards you. The more they multiply, the more friends you will have; the more ardently they love liberty, the more perfect will be their obedience. Slavery they can have anywhere. It is a weed that grows in every soil. They may have it from Spain, they may have it from Prussia. But, until you become lost to all feeling of your true interest and your natural dignity, freedom they can have from none but you. This is the commodity of price, of which you have the monopoly. This is the true Act of Navigation, which binds to you the commerce of the Colonies, and through them secures to you the wealth of the world. Deny them this participation of freedom, and you break that sole bond, which originally made, and must still preserve, the unity of the Empire. Do not entertain so weak an imagination, as that your registers and your bonds, your affidavits and your sufferances, your cockets and your clearances, are what form the great securities of your commerce. Do not dream that your letters of office, and your instructions, and your suspending clauses, are the things that hold together the great contexture of the mysterious whole. These things do not make your government. Dead instruments, passive tools as they are, it is the spirit of the English communion that gives all their life and efficacy to them. It is the spirit of the English Constitution, which, infused through the mighty mass, pervades, feeds, unites, invigorates, vivifies every part of the empire, even down to the minutest member.
Is it not the same virtue which does everything for us here in England? Do you imagine then, that it is the Land Tax Act which raises your revenue? that it is the annual vote in the Committee of Supply which gives you your army? or that it is the Mutiny Bill which inspires it with bravery and discipline? No! surely no! It is the love of the people; it is their attachment to their government, from the sense of the deep stake they have in such a glorious institution—which gives you your army and your navy, and infuses into both that liberal obedience, without which your army would be a base rabble, and your navy nothing but rotten timber.
All this, I know well enough, will sound wild and chimerical to the profane herd of those vulgar and mechanical politicians, who have no place among us; a sort of people who think that nothing exists but what is gross and material; and who therefore, far from being qualified to be directors of the great movement of empire, are not fit to turn a wheel in the machine. But to men truly initiated and rightly taught, these ruling and master principles, which, in the opinion of such men as I have mentioned, have no substantial existence, are in truth every thing, and all in all. Magnanimity in politicks is not seldom the truest wisdom; and a great empire and little minds go ill together. If we are conscious of our station, and glow with zeal to fill our places as becomes our situation and ourselves, we ought to auspicate all our public proceedings on America with the old warning of the church, Sursum corda! We ought to elevate our minds to the greatness of that trust to which the order of Providence has called us. By adverting to the dignity of this high calling, our ancestors have turned a savage wilderness into a glorious empire; and have made the most extensive, and the only honourable conquests, not by destroying, but by promoting the wealth, the number, the happiness, of the human race. Let us get an American revenue as we have got an American empire. English privileges have made it all that it is; English privileges alone will make it all it can be.
In full confidence of this unalterable truth, I now (quod felix faustumque sit) lay the first stone of the Temple of peace; and I move you,
That the Colonies and Plantations of Great Britain in North America, consisting of Fourteen separate governments, and containing Two Millions and upwards of free inhabitants, have not had the liberty and privilege of electing and sending any Knights and Burgesses, or others, to represent them in the High Court of Parliament.
[Upon this Resolution, the previous question was put, and carried; for the previous question 270, against it, 78.
The first four motions and the last had the previous question put on them. The others were negatived.]
Thoughts on the Cause of the Present Discontents
Speech on American Taxation
Speech on Conciliation with the Colonies
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P. 221, l. 1. I hope, Sir,&c. See p. 283, l. 8. The personality of the address to the Speaker is more marked than is now usual. Cp. p. 229, l. 1.
P. 222, l. 6. grand penal Bill, by which we had passed sentence. The Act to restrain the Commerce of the Provinces of Massachuset’s Bay and New Hampshire, and Colonies of Connecticut and Rhode Island, and Providence Plantation, in North America, to Great Britain, Ireland, and the British Islands in the West Indies; and to prohibit such Provinces and Colonies from carrying on any Fishery on the Banks of Newfoundland, and other places therein mentioned, under certain conditions and limitations. (Original ed.)
l. 18. incongruous mixture of coercion and restraint. The coercion consisted in breaking the resistance to the Tea-duty; the restraint in prohibiting the New Englanders from the Newfoundland fisheries. The incongruity lay in the form, not in the spirit or method of these attempts.
l. 31. I was obliged to take more than common pains. Burke however had long before this taken more than common pains to instruct himself in the affairs of the Colonies. See note to p. 195, l. 5, ante.
P. 223, l. 3. blown about by every wind of fashionable doctrine. St. Paul to Eph. iv. 14. Cp. Reynolds, Discourse xii, “at the mercy of every gust of fashion.” Burke elsewhere speaks of “hebdomadal politicians.”Cp. p. 243, “Some rule which may give a little stability to our politicks.”
l. 6. in perfect concurrence with a large majority. The numbers on the division were 275 and 161.
l. 30. worthy Member of great Parliamentary experience. Mr. Rose Fuller.
P. 224, l. 15. a platform= a ground-plan.
l. 21. gave so far into his opinion—i.e. assented to. So European Settlements in America, vol. i. p. 32: “This (the natural slavery of barbarians) was so general a notion, that Aristotle himself, with all his penetration, gave into it very seriously.”
l. 26. hazard Plans of Government,&c. Cp. note to p. 70, l. 14. “We live in a nation where, at present, there is scarce a single head that does not teem with politics. The whole island is peopled with statesmen, and not unlike Trinculo’s Kingdom of Viceroys. Every man has contrived a scheme of government for the benefit of his fellow subjects.” The Whig-Examiner, No. 5.
l. 28. disreputably. In the limited sense of “with prejudice to the reputation of those who make them.”
l. 30. ambitious of ridicule—candidate for disgrace. Young, Night Thoughts: “O thou, ambitious of disgrace alone!”
l. 33. Paper government. Burke possibly had in mind the original settlement of Carolina, with its “model of a constitution framed, and body of fundamental laws compiled by the famous philosopher, Mr. Locke.” (European Settlements in America, vol. ii. p. 237.) This absurd specimen of modern feudalism settled the lands in large and inalienable fiefs, on three classes of nobility: barons, cassiques (earls), and landgraves (dukes), and was tolerated for two generations. Shaftesbury had a hand in it. Burke’s resolutions would in effect have established a new charter for all the Colonies.
P. 225, l. 1. prevailed every day more and more. Note the Scriptural cast of the sentence. Cp. Ps. lxxiv. 24.
l. 10. ennoble the flights,&c. Anywhere but in Burke, such an antithesis would appear trifling.
l. 23. dazzle or delude. These two ideas were generally connected by Burke. Cp. p. 184, l. 20. So elsewhere he speaks of the “dazzling and delusive wealth” of the Spanish and Portuguese Colonies (their gold, silver, and precious stones).
l. 25. The proposition is Peace.“What a pompous description is here! Mulier formosa superne Desinit in piscem. For after all, what is this Heaven-born pacific Scheme, of which we have heard so laboured an Encomium? Why truly; if we will grant the Colonies all that they shall require, and stipulate for nothing in Return; then they will be at Peace with us. I believe it; and on these simple Principles of simple Peace-making, I will engage to terminate every difference throughout the world.” Tucker, Letter, p. 44.
l. 30. precise marking the shadowy boundaries,&c. Another allusion from the passage in the Essay on Man (see p. 255):
l. 35. former unsuspecting confidence of the Colonies,&c. These are the words of the Congress at Philadelphia in 1774. Letter to Sheriffs of Bristol, 1777: “Man is a creature of habit; and the first breach being of very short duration, the Colonies fell back exactly into their ancient state. The Congress has used an expression with regard to this pacification, which appears to me truly significant. After the repeal of the Stamp Act, ‘the Colonies fell,’ says this Assembly, ‘into their ancient state of unsuspecting confidence in the mother country.’ This unsuspecting confidence is the true center of gravity amongst mankind, about which all the parts are at rest. It is this unsuspecting confidence that removes all difficulties, and reconciles all the contradictions, which occur in the complexity of all ancient, puzzled, political establishments. Happy are the rulers which have the secret of preserving it!”&c. Cp. with this passage, vol. ii. p. 333, on the tampering of the Assembly with the army: “They have touched the central point, about which the particles that compose armies are at repose.”
P. 226, l. 10. Genuine simplicity of heart is an healing,&c. “Truth in its nature is healing, and productive of reflection.” Glover’s Speech at the Bar, March 16, 1775.
l. 16. Project lately laid upon your table,&c. “That when the Governor, Council, or Assembly, or General Court, of any of his Majesty’s Provinces or Colonies in America, shall propose to make provision, according to the condition, circumstances, and situation, of such Province or Colony, for contributing their proportion to the Common Defence (such proportion to be raised under the Authority of the General Court, or General Assembly, of such Province or Colony, and disposable by Parliament), and shall engage to make provision also for the support of the Civil Government, and the Administration of Justice, in such Province or Colony, it will be proper, if such Proposal shall be approved by his Majesty, and the two Houses of Parliament, and for so long as such Provision shall be made accordingly, to forbear, in respect of such Province or Colony, to levy any Duty, Tax, or Assessment, or to impose any further Duty, Tax, or Assessment, except such duties as it may be expedient to continue to levy or impose, for the Regulation of Commerce; the Nett Produce of the Duties last mentioned to be carried to the account of such Province or Colony respectively.”—Resolution moved by Lord North in the Committee; and agreed to by the House, Feb. 27, 1775. (Original ed.) See post, p. 280 sq.
l. 17. Blue Ribband. Lord North was conspicuous among the members of the Lower House by this badge of a Knight of the Garter. The only other commoner who had then obtained the Garter was Sir R. Walpole. Castlereagh and Palmerston are the only other instances of this distinction being offered to and accepted by commoners.
P. 227, l. 28. that time and those chances,&c. An allusion to the well-known passage of Shakspeare:
So Dryden, Absalom and Achitophel:
P. 228, l. 10. arrant trifling= mere, downright.
l. 15. The number of people in the Colonies. The computation of Mr. Bancroft (vol. iv. p. 128), which fully justifies Burke’s remarks, is as follows:
Cp. Johnson’s savage comment on this and other arguments; “We are told that the continent of North America contains three millions, not of men, merely, but of Whigs; of Whigs fierce for liberty, and disdainful of dominion (alluding to Chatham’s Speech of January 20, 1775); that they multiply with the fecundity of their own rattlesnakes, so that every quarter of a century doubles their numbers. . . . When it is urged that they will shoot up like the hydra, he (the English politician) naturally considers how the hydra was destroyed.” Taxation no Tyranny, Works, x. 96, 97.
l. 28. whilst the dispute continues, the exaggeration ends. Cp. note, p. 225, ante, on Burke’s repetition of his proposition, now put in a few words at once terse in expression, but weighty with antithesis, and now expanded in its fullest details. It is impossible to surpass the felicity of this antithesis.
P. 229, l. 4. Occasional—used in malam partem.Cp. ante p. 159, “occasional arguments.” Dr. Johnson speaks of Browne’s Hydriotaphia as “a treatise occasionally written.” So the Occasional Writer, a paper to which Bolingbroke contributed.
l. 6. Minima which are out of the eye of the law. For the explanation and illustration of the maxim “De minimis non curat lex,” see Broom’s Legal Maxims, 2nd ed. p. 105.
l. 20. trod some days ago . . . by a distinguished person. Mr. Glover, who appeared at the bar (March 16), to support the petition of the West Indian Planters respecting the Non-Importation Agreement, praying that peace might be concluded with the Colonies, presented February 2. His Speech, Parl. Hist. xviii. 461–478, is well worthy of study, as an illustration of Burke’s relation to contemporary oratory. His Leonidas still survives; but few readers will be disposed to encounter his Athenaid, an epic in thirty books.
l. 22. after Thirty-five years. Probably therefore, on the occasion of the transactions which occasioned the war with Spain in 1739.
P. 230, l. 13. Davenant—Inspector-General’s office, i.e. of Customs. Author of the Discourses on Revenue and Trade,&c.
l. 17. The African, terminating almost wholly in the Colonies. Because little more than a trade in slaves, who were paid for with English wares. See Burke’s remarks on the African trade in his Account of America, vol. i. It was owing to the judgment with which the Portuguese carried on the trade in slaves that Brazil, in Burke’s time, was looked on as the richest and most promising of the American Colonies.
l. 19. the West Indian. More important than the legitimate trade was that carried on, against the Act of Navigation, between the Spanish Colonies and the English West Indies. See Lord Stanhope’s History, vol. ii.
l. 25. the trade to the Colonies,&c. Burke had employed the statistics of 1704 in his pamphlet of 1769 on the State of the Nation, to demonstrate the increase of the Colony trade. He there compares the total exports to the Colonies in 1704 (£483,265) with those to Jamaica in 1767 (£467,681).
P. 231, l. 23. is not this American trade an unnatural protuberance.“The people of the United States still constitute our largest and most valuable commercial connection. The business we carry on with them is nearly twice as extensive as that with any other people, and our transactions are almost wholly conducted on ready money terms.” Cobden’s Political Writings, vol. i. p. 98. The American official returns for the year ending June 30, 1873, shows that in that year more than one-third of the whole imports into the United States came from England, and that more than one-half of their whole exports, consisting chiefly of cotton, provisions, breadstuffs, and petroleum, were sent to England.
P. 232, l. 6. Mr. Speaker,&c. The transition, bold as it is, is happily managed. It is difficult to pass from arithmetical to rhetorical figures, but Burke seems to fuse the two elements into one by the mere force of his reasoning.
l. 7. It is good for us to be here. St. Mark ix. 5 sq. The quotation is introduced with striking effect.
l. 8. Clouds, indeed, and darkness rest upon the future.
Ibid. clouds, indeed. “Indeed” is emphatic, not used conjunctively.
l. 14. my Lord Bathurst. The connexion of Lord Bathurst with English literature extends from Pope and Swift to Sterne (vide Sterne, Letters, p. 192). In 1704 he was more than “of an age at least to be made to comprehend,”&c., having been born in 1684: he took his seat in Parliament in 1705.
l. 17. acta parentum jam legere. The tense in the quotation is adapted to this use of it. Virg. Ecl. iv. 26.
l. 21. in the fourth generation, i.e. of the House of Brunswick.
l. 24. was to be made Great Britain—in 1707.
l. 25. his son. The eldest, Henry, Lord Chancellor, created Baron Apsley 1771.
P. 233, l. 2. stories of savage men,&c. See Part II of Burke’s Account of America.
l. 3. before you taste of death. St. Matt. xvi. 28, St. John viii. 52, Heb. ii. 9. Shakspeare, Julius Caesar, Act ii. Sc. 2:
l. 15. cloud the setting of his day, i.e. sunset. Borrowed from Johnson, Vanity of Human Wishes:
With this graceful figure Burke concludes one of the best-known of his passages, in a higher strain of rhetoric than is now permissible in Parliamentary speaking. This eloquent effort of imagination would have been better in place in the Address of Daniel Webster on the Landing of the Pilgrim Fathers. Dr. Johnson’s extemporaneous travesty of it, which illustrates the general temper of the country, shall be given in the words of Mrs. Piozzi.
l. 26. I choose, Sir, to enter,&c. “I think I know America,” wrote Burke to the Sheriffs of Bristol, in 1777. “If I do not, my ignorance is incurable, because I have spared no pains to understand it. . . . Everything that has been done there has arisen from a total misconception of the object.”
l. 27. generalities, which in all other cases,&c. The thought is as original as the expression is striking.
l. 35. deceive the burthen of life. To match this elegant Latinism we may quote the final lines of Bowles’s Inscription at Knoyle:
P. 234, l. 9. comprehending rice= including. Cp. Fr. y compris.
l. 16. with a Roman charity. The story of Xanthippe and Cimon, as told by Hyginus, was universally known by the name of the Roman Charity. It afforded an effective subject to several artists. Some authors (Plin. Nat. Hist. vii. 36, Valerius Maximus v. 47) represent a mother instead of a father as the object. Valerius Maximus in another version, and Festus and Solinus, agree with Hyginus.
l. 22. they seemed even to excite your envy. George Grenville had by his budget of 1764, practically resigned the whale fishery to America. “This,” says Mr. Bancroft, “is the most liberal act of Grenville’s administration, of which the merit is not diminished by the fact that American whale fishery was superseding the English under every discouragement.” England and Holland had formerly contested the whaling trade. The position of America was of course such that when the American fishery was freed from its burdens it overwhelmed both.
l. 25. what in the world is equal to it. At this time Massachusetts alone employed 183 vessels, carrying 13,820 tons, in the North, and 120 vessels, carrying 14,026 tons, in the South Atlantic fishery. The fishery was at first carried on from the shores, and then, as whales became scarce, they were pursued to their haunts. Hence the advantage of the Americans. See an interesting article in the Quarterly Review, vol. lxiii. p. 318.
l. 30. Hudson’s Bay—Henry Hudson, 1607; but discovered by Seb. Cabot, 1517. Davis’s Streights—John Davis, 1585.
l. 31. we hear that they have pierced into the opposite region of polar cold. It is interesting to be able to trace to the eloquent appeal of Burke some of the most important events in Colonial history. In 1775 ships were apparently for the first time fitted out by English owners for the purpose of following the track of the Americans in the South Seas. The bounties abolished by Grenville were revived in 1776 to favour this new branch of adventure; but it was not until 1785 that our navigators discovered the haunts of the sperm whale, and attained a success equalling that of the Americans. The enterprise of Mr. Enderby in 1788 extended the fisheries to the Pacific, and in 1820 to Japan. The consequences were a constant intercourse with the Spanish Colonies, which had no small share in leading them to their independence—the introduction of civilization into Polynesia, and the foundation of the Australian and Tasmanian Colonies. The whalers preceded the missionaries.
P. 235, l. 1. frozen Serpent of the south. The Hydrus, or Water-serpent, a small constellation far to the south, within the Antarctic Circle.
Ibid. Falkland Island. A letter from Port Egmont, dated 1770, in the Grenville Papers, vol. iv. p. 505, gives a dismal account of the Falkland Islands. “Barren of everything except sea-lions and seals. There is not an inch of Braddock Down that is not better than the very best of any of these islands; there is not a stick so big as the pen I am writing with on any of them. The soil is turf chiefly, and in short is one wild heath wherever you turn your eye. . . . We have been ordered off the island by the Spaniards, the French having given up their pretensions to their settlements.” This will explain the humour of an allusion in the first scene of Foote’s comedy of the “Cozeners,” where Mrs. Fleece’em promises an applicant for a place the surveyorship of the woods in Falkland’s Island, with the loppings and toppings for perquisites.
l. 2. too remote and romantic an object for the grasp of national ambition. The Falkland Islands are about 200 in number, of which East and West Falkland were the chief. Discovered at the end of the sixteenth century, they were not considered worth occupation. In 1763 the French built Port Louis on East Falkland; England soon after built Port Egmont on West Falkland, but abandoned it in 1773. Through the whale-fishery they afterwards attained an unexpected importance. See Lord Stanhope’s History, vol. v.
l. 8. run the longitude; i.e. sail south to the South American coast.
l. 9. vexed by their fisheries. Cp. Par. Lost, i. 305:
and the “still-vexed Bermoothes” of Shakspeare. The Latin cast of the phrase is noticeable. Cp. Ovid. Met. xi. 434:
Ibid. no climate,&c. Virgil, Aen. i. 460:
l. 13. hardy industry= bold, adventurous. So Goldsmith; “Bacon, that great and hardy genius.”Cp. p. 121, l. 26, ante, “an hardy attempt.” Burke however often used the word in the modern sense = patient of hardship.
P. 236, l. 5. not as an odious, but as a feeble instrument. The inability of European governments even to put down the buccaneers was doubtless present to Burke: “What armaments from England, Holland, and France have been sent in different times to America, whose remains returned without honour or advantage, is too clear, and perhaps too invidious a topic to be greatly insisted upon.” Account of America, vol. ii. p. 12.
l. 9. does not remove the necessity of subduing again. So Milton:
l. 13. an armament is not a victory. Burke perhaps alludes to the Spanish Armada.
l. 16. Power and authority—can never be begged. Cp. First Letter on Regicide Peace: “Power, and eminence, and consideration, are things not to be begged. They must be commanded; and they, who supplicate for mercy from others, can never hope for justice through themselves. What justice they are to obtain, as the alms of an enemy, depends upon his character; and that they ought well to know, before they implicitly confide.”
l. 22. I do not choose . . . the spirit that has made the country. Cp. First Letter on Regicide Peace; “Nation is a moral essence, not a geographical arrangement, or a denomination of the nomenclator.”
P. 237, l. 25. emigrated from you when this part of your character was most predominant.“The American freeholders at present are nearly, in point of condition, what the English Yeomen were of old, when they rendered us formidable to all Europe, and our name celebrated throughout the world. The former, from many obvious circumstances, are more enthusiastical lovers of liberty, than even our Yeomen were.” Burke, Ann. Reg. 1775, p. 14. The New England colonies had their origin in the time of the great struggle against the Stuarts.
l. 31. Liberty inheres in some sensible object. The Whigs and the popular party indulged in so much vain talk about liberty that such observations were to the point. “It inheres in good and steady government, as in its substance and vital principle.” Speech on arrival at Bristol, 1774.
l. 32. Every nation,&c. Burke adopts the well-known doctrine of Goldsmith’s “Traveller,” which belongs, however, rather to poetry than to political philosophy, though it is borrowed from Montesquieu. “The Traveller” was published in 1764.
P. 238, l. 3. in the ancient commonwealths. Notably in Rome, an example always present to Burke’s mind. Read Swift’s Discourse on the Contests and Dissensions in Athens and Rome, which, though opposing Burke’s Whiggish doctrine of Party, furnished him with many hints.
l. 7. the ablest pens, and most eloquent tongues. Pym, Hampden, Selden, St. John, &c. See Raleigh’s “Prerogative of Parliaments in England.”
P. 239, l. 4. pleasing error. Virgil:
The “amabilis insania” of Horace, however, comes nearer in meaning. Cp. vol. ii. p. 125, “the delusion of this amiable error.”
l. 6. some are merely popular= purely, entirely. “The one sort we may for distinction safe call mixedly, and the other merely humane.” Hooker, Eccl. Pol. Book i. c. 10. New England was an aggregate of pure democracies, the foremost in spirit and popular organisation being Massachusett’s Bay and Connecticut. New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Maine, which was a part of Massachusetts, were the others. New York differed from New England chiefly from having been settled under large patents of land to individuals, instead of charters to towns. North of the Potomac were the two large proprietary governments, Pennsylvania with Delaware, under Thomas and Richard Penn, and Maryland, which belonged nominally to Lord Baltimore. There were five royal governments, the Carolinas, Georgia, Virginia, and New Jersey. See Bancroft, vol. iv. chap. 6. It was not, however, in the democratic governments that the most violent resolutions were passed. See Ann. Reg. 1775, p. 6.
l. 14. Religion, always a principle of energy. The incidents of the Anti-Slavery war show that this principle in the Americans is still in no way impaired.
l. 20. averseness from all,&c. The Addisonian “aversion” is more usual. From is the proper construction. Johnson considers to improper, and towards very improper. (Cp. note to p. 83, l. 3.) Swift uses “aversion against.”
P. 240, l. 1. dissidence of dissent,&c. Cp. Hooker, Book iv. c. viii. “There hath arisen a sect in England, which following still the self same rule of policy, seeketh to reform even the French reformation.” Cp. Fourth Letter on a Regicide Peace, “They have apostatized from their apostasy.”
l. 28. as broad and general as the air.“As broad and general as the casing air,” Macbeth, Act iii. Sc. 4.
P. 241, l. 3. Our Gothick ancestors. Incorrect, but commonly used, even by Hallam. Our ancestors were Low-Dutch.
Ibid. such in our days were the Poles.“Poland seems to be a country formed to give the most disadvantageous idea of liberty, by the extreme to which it is carried, and the injustice with which it is distributed,”&c. See the rest of this interesting description of the state of affairs in Poland, Ann. Reg. 1763.
l. 4. were the Poles—until 1772.
l. 10. In no country . . . is the law so general a study. American authors have not insisted on this as a cause, though the history of the Revolution is full of proofs of it. “The Lawyers of this place (New York),” writes the Lieutenant-Governor, to Conway, in 1765, “are the authors and conductors of the present sedition.” On the study of the law in the Italian Republics, see Hallam, Middle Ages, vol. iii. ch. 9, part 2. On the lawyers in the French Assembly, cp. vol. ii. p. 131.
l. 12. numerous and powerful.“In many of our settlements the lawyers have gathered to themselves the greatest part of the wealth of the country.” Europ. Settlements in America, vol. ii. p. 304. Burke censured as the cause of this, the burdening of the colonies with the mass of our common law, and the old statute law, and their adoption, with very little choice or discretion, of a great part of the new statute law. He thought “all that load of matter, perhaps so useless at home, without doubt extremely prejudicial in the colonies. . . . These infant settlements surely demanded a more simple, clear, and determinate legislation, though it were somewhat of a homelier kind.” Ibid.
l. 20. printing them for their own use. Burke says nothing of the general influence of the printing-press, which was by this time actively at work in the Colonies. “The press,” he writes, in the First Letter on a Regicide Peace, “in reality has made every government, in its spirit, almost democratic.”
l. 21. Blackstone’s Commentaries. Then a new and popular work.
l. 25. in Boston they have been enabled, by successful chicane. General Gage, in pursuance of the powers given him by the coercive statutes, had prohibited the calling of town meetings after August 1, 1774. A town meeting was, however, held, and asserted to be legal, not having been called, but adjourned over. “By such means,” said Gage, “you may keep your meeting alive these ten years.” He brought the subject before the new Council. “It is a point of law,” said they, “and should be referred to the Crown lawyers,”&c. Bancroft, vol. vii. ch. 8. Cp. Ann. Reg. 1775, p. 11.
Ibid. successful chicane. Cp. the protest against this and other French words in the Ann. Reg. 1758, p. 374.
l. 30. my Hon. and Learned Friend on the floor. The Attorney-General (Thurlow).
P. 242, l. 2. Abeunt studia in mores. Ovid, Heroid. Ep. xv. 83. The quotation is evidently adopted from Bacon’s Essay of Studies.
l. 9. snuff the approach of tyranny,&c. The metaphor is from hunting. The phrases are a reminiscence of Addison, the Campaign. (Cp. p. 149, l. 15.)
l. 16. Seas roll, and months pass. The student will note the striking effect of the zeugma.
l. 19. winged ministers of vengeance, who carry your bolts in their pounces,&c. “Winged ministers of vengeance” is a compound of Milton’s “ministers of vengeance” (Par. Lost, i. 170), and “winged messengers” (ib. iii. 229). Cp. ante, p. 236. “Those who wield the thunder of the State.” The image is borrowed from Lord Chatham’s Speech of January 22, 1770; “They have disarmed the imperial bird, the ministrum fulminis alitem.1 The army is the thunder of the Crown—the ministry have tied up the hand which should direct the bolt.” Burke happily transfers it to the navy. The student should compare the beautiful expansion and application of this image by Canning, introduced with exquisite propriety in the speech made within sight of Plymouth docks, 1823.
l. 21. a power steps in . . . “So far shalt thou go and no farther.” The allusion is to the story of Canute and his courtiers, then recently popularized by Hume.
l. 27. In large bodies,&c. But cp. Letter to W. Elliott, Esq. “These analogies between bodies natural and politic, though they may sometimes illustrate arguments, furnish no argument of themselves.” The same observation occurs in the First Letter on a Regicide Peace. Mill has apparently made use of the latter passage in his account of “Fallacies of Generalization.”
l. 28. The Turk,&c. Notice the foresight which these observations imply.
Ibid. Spain, in her provinces—i.e. in South America. The necessity of reform in the Spanish Colonial system was by this time obvious. In 1778 the monopoly of Cadiz was abolished, and a great stimulus was thus given to the Spanish Colony trade.
l. 3. this is the immutable condition,&c. Burke generalises from two bad instances, but the weakness of Spain and Turkey was then far less apparent than now. The Czar is as well obeyed on the Pacific shore as on the Baltic, and English government is as strong on the Ganges as on the Thames.
l. 10. grown with the growth,&c. Cp. p. 181, l. 28.
l. 17. causes which produce it—i.e. produce the excess, not the spirit.
l. 28. with all its imperfections on its head. Hamlet, Act i. Sc. 5.
P. 246, l. 4. Sir, if I were capable,&c. This perhaps indicates that the Speaker exhibited an appearance of weariness or inattention, on Burke’s proposal to “go patiently round and round the subject.”
l. 20. It is radical in its principle.“The objects which I proposed were radical, systematic economy,”&c. Letter to Mr. Harford, April 4, 1780. It was Burke who brought the term into parliamentary if not into general use—not Pitt, as commonly asserted: cp. Fischel, English Const., p. 551.
P. 247, l. 5. The people would occupy without grants. See Bancroft, ch. xviii. and xxvii. “But the prohibition only set apart the Great Valley as the sanctuary of the unhappy, the adventurous and the free; of those whom enterprise, or curiosity, or disgust at the forms of life in the old plantations, raised above royal edicts. . . . The boundless West became the poor man’s City of Refuge,”&c. Vol. vi. p. 33, where see note.
l. 11. Already they have topped the Apalachian mountains—better known as the Alleghanies, the western frontier of the British settlements. The germ of the description which follows is in the Annual Register, vol. i. p. 2. Burke doubtless remembered with some vividness a passage on which he had bestowed much pains.
l. 13. an immense plain—a square of five hundred miles: the other boundaries being the Mississippi and the lakes.
l. 17. Hordes of English Tartars. This idea seems to have been suggested by the history of the Buccaneers of St. Domingo, “a considerable number of men transformed by necessity into downright savages,” an account of whom, from the pen of Burke, is to be found in the Annual Register for 1761.
l. 24. Encrease and Multiply. Burke quotes from Milton, Par. Lost. x. 730. Authorised Version, “Be fruitful and multiply”; Vulgate (used by Milton), “Crescite et multiplicamini.”
l. 26. which God by an express Charter,&c. Cp. More’s Utopia (Bp. Burnet’s translation), Book ii: “They account it a very just cause of war for a nation to hinder others from possessing a part of the soil of which they make no use, but which is suffered to lie idle and uncultivated; since every man has, by the law of nature, a right to such a waste portion of the earth as is necessary for his subsistence.”
Ibid. given to the children of men. Ps. cxv. 16. This is one of the rare instances in which Burke employs the arguments of what he called the “metaphysical” school. He evidently had in mind Locke, of Civil Government, Book ii. ch. v. The phrase is used in the Letter to a Bristol firm, May 2, 1778. Blackstone similarly deduces the rights of property from the “dominion over all the earth,”&c., conferred upon mankind at the creation. “This is the only true and solid foundation of man’s dominion over external things, whatever airy metaphysical notions may have been started by fanciful writers on this subject.”Cp. the expression “charter of nature,” p. 254.
P. 248, l. 6. a more easy task. Because the system of commercial restriction was well established.
l. 20. beggar its subjects into submission. Cp. p. 73, l. 27, and note.
l. 26. Spoliatis arma supersunt. Juvenal, Sat. viii. 124. The phrase seems also to have stuck in the memory of Hallam. “Arms, says the poet, remain to the plundered,” he writes in chapter xviii. of the Constitutional History. “Les nations doivent jouir de cette indépendance qu’on peut leur arracher un moment, mais qu’elles finissent toujours par reconquérir: spoliatis arma supersunt.” Chateaubriand, De la Monarchie selon la Charte, ch. xlvi.
l. 33. your speech would betray you. St. Matt. xxvi. 73.
l. 34. argue another Englishman into slavery. Cp. p. 215, l. 32.
P. 249, l. 2. to substitute the Roman Catholic, as a penalty. Why should Burke introduce this, which seems mere redundance? He casts an oblique glance at Ireland, and “counterchanges” the unjust penal laws which were there in force.
l. 4. inquisition and dragooning—alluding to the measures adopted by Spain to reduce the Netherlands, in the sixteenth century, and by Louis XIV, in the next, to conquer the Huguenots.
l. 8. burn their books of curious science. Acts xix. 12. Cp., in the pathetic Defence of Strafford, “It will be wisdom for yourselves and your posterity to cast into the fire these bloody and mysterious volumes of constructive and arbitrary treason, as the primitive Christians did their books of curious arts, and betake yourselves to the plain letter of the law and statute,”&c.
l. 15. more chargeable—i.e. more expensive.
l. 21. any opinion of it—an elliptical expression, still in use—equivalent to “any favourable opinion of it.” Cp. the expression “to have no idea of a thing,” i.e. to disapprove it (found in Pitt’s speeches).
l. 26. both these pleasing tasks. A masterly stroke. Cp. p. 215, l. 32.
l. 30. a measure to which other people have had recourse. See Aristoph. Ran. 27, from which it appears that the slaves who had distinguished themselves at the battle of Arginusae, were presented with their freedom. Plutarch says that Cleomenes armed 2,000 Helots to oppose the Macedonian Leucaspedae, in his war with that people and the Achaeans. According to Pausanias, the Helots were present at the battle of Marathon. Among the Romans, as Virgil (Aen. ix. 547) tells us, it was highly criminal for slaves to enter the army of their masters, but in the Hannibalian War, after the battle of Cannae, 8,000 of them were armed, and by their valour in subsequent actions, earned their liberty. See Livy, Book xxiv.
l. 33. Slaves as these,&c. Burke, in his Account of the Settlements in America, was the first to point out that on English soil there were slaves enduring “a slavery more complete, and attended with far worse circumstances, than what any people in their condition suffer in any part of the world, or have suffered in any period of time.” The passage is quoted in Dr. Ogden’s Sermon against Oppression.
Ibid. dull as all men are from slavery. It was shown by Adam Smith that slave labour was so much dearer than free labour that none but the most lucrative trades could bear the loss it involved.
P. 250, l. 13. Ye gods, annihilate but space and time,&c. This piece of fustian is taken from Martinus Scriblerus, of the Art of Sinking in Poetry, where it is cited without name. It is said to come from one of Dryden’s plays. Cp. the humorous paper in the Ann. Reg. 1761, p. 207, in which, alluding to the “stage-coaches, machines, flys, and post-chaises,” which were plying about this time in great numbers on the improved turnpike-roads, the author says, “The lover now can almost literally annihilate time and space, and be with his mistress, before she dreams of his arrival.”
P. 251, l. 2. method of drawing up an indictment,&c. Cp. vol. ii. p. 189. (Quidquid multis peccatur inultum.)
l. 4. Sir Edward Coke—Sir W. Rawleigh. See Howell’s State Trials, vol. ii. p. 7. sq. (Pronounce Cooke. Similarly, “Bolingbroke” should be pronounced Bullingbrook. Both names indeed were at one time spelt in this way.)
l. 8. same title that I am—i.e. that of popular election as a representative.
l. 12. my idea of an Empire. Cp. sup. p. 217. With the extension of the Colonies, this “idea” of Burke’s has acquired a new significance.
P. 252, l. 15. as often decided against the superior,&c. Cp. ante, pp. 74, 75.
l. 20. for my life= if my life depended on the effort. A vulgarism, now nearly obsolete. So Shakspeare often uses the phrase “for my heart.”
P. 254, l. 8. Sir, I think you must perceive. It is difficult to select any passage in this oration for special notice in point of style: but no one can fail to be struck with fresh admiration at the method of this paragraph, in which the “right of Taxation” is excluded from the discussion. The delicate irony with which the theorists are passed over gives place, by way of a surprising antithesis (“right to render your people miserable”—“interest to make them happy”), to the earnest remonstrance with which the passage concludes. The continuous irony of the first part of the paragraph seems to contribute to rather than detract from the general elevation of treatment.
l. 10. Some gentlemen startle—intransitive. Classical. Cp. Addison’s Cato, Act iii. Sc. 2:
Young, Satire on Women:
l. 11. it is less than nothing. Isaiah xl. 17. “In matters of State, a constitutional competence to act, is, in many cases, the smallest part of the Question.” First Letter on a Regicide Peace.
l. 22. deep questions . . . great names, high and reverend authorities,&c. “As to the right of taxation, the gentlemen who opposed it produced many learned authorities from Locke, Selden, Harrington, and Puffendorf, shewing that the very foundation and ultimate point in view of all government, is the good of society,”&c. Annual Register, 1766. “These arguments were answered with great force of reason, and knowledge of the constitution, by the other side.” Ibid. The whole of this able summary, which is from the pen of Burke, is also to be read in the Parliamentary History, vol. xvi.
l. 23. militate against. The proper construction; though Burke also uses the modern “militate with.” (Not in Johnson.)
l. 27. the great Serbonian bog,&c. Par. Lost, ii. 592. “He climbed and descended precipices on which vulgar mortals tremble to look: he passed marshes like the Serbonian bog, where armies whole have sunk,&c.” The Idler, No. 49. Cp. “the Serbonian bog of this base oligarchy,” vol. ii. p. 305. See Herodotus, iii. 5.
P. 255, l. 8. assertion of my title . . . loss of my suit.“It would have been a poor compensation that we had triumphed in a dispute, whilst we lost an Empire.” Letter to Sheriffs of Bristol.
l. 11. Unity of spirit—diversity of operations. 1 Cor. xii. 4 sq.
l. 13. sealed a regular compact. To seal, i.e. to affix one’s seal, implies a higher degree of formality than merely to sign.
l. 15. rights of citizens . . . posterity to all generations. The allusion is to a question which is fully discussed in vol. ii. p. 106, where Burke takes the contrary view to that which is implied here.
l. 19. two million of men. The old plural. So “two thousand,”“two hundred,”“two score,”“two dozen.”
l. 21. the general character,&c. The doctrine was then novel. Its currency is due to the French philosophers.
P. 256, l. 19. a gentleman of real moderation. Mr. Rice.
P. 257, l. 17. The pamphlet from which he seems to have borrowed—by Dean Tucker, see note to p. 202, ante.
P. 258, l. 15. will go further . . . fact and reason. For the fact alluded to, see pp. 203–4, and for the reason, p. 178, ante.
P. 259, l. 10. consult the genius,&c. Chatham was fond of “consulting the genius of the English constitution.” Notice the method of the paragraph.
l. 28. roots of our primitive constitution. From which the representation of the Commons naturally sprang. Burke is correct, and in his time such a view implied some originality.
l. 31. gave us at least,&c., i. e. the liberties secured by Magna Charta gave the people at once some weight and consequence in the state, and this weight and consequence were felt in Parliament when the people attained distinct representation.
P. 260, l. 3. your standard could never be advanced an inch beyond your privileges; i. e. the privileges of the Pale. See Hallam’s Const. Hist., ch. xviii.
l. 4. Sir John Davies.“Discoverie of the true Causes why Ireland was never entirely subdued until the beginning of his Majestie’s happy reign.” 4to., 1612. Davies was in this year made Speaker of the first Irish House of Commons. He was afterwards Lord Chief Justice of England. He is still remembered as the author of a curious metaphysical poem on the Immortality of the Soul, and as a legal reporter.
l. 24. strength and ornament. The most indulgent critic will complain that this is carrying the argument too far.
l. 25. formally taxed her. Queen Elizabeth attempted to tax the Irish landowners by an Order in Council, which was resisted. On the question of the competency of the Parliament of England to tax Ireland, see the last pages of Hallam’s Constitutional History.
P. 261, l. 5. my next example is Wales.“Perhaps it is not generally known that Wales was once the Ireland of the English Government.” O’Connell, Speech at Waterford, August 30, 1826. He applies to Ireland, with much ingenuity, all that Burke here says of Wales. O’Connell also quoted this part of the Speech at length in his Speech at the Association, February 2, 1827. The “strange heterogeneous monster, something between hostility and government,” he marked as “an epitome of Irish history—I love to repeat it.”
l. 11. put into the hands of Lords Marchers. See Scott’s “The Betrothed,” and the Appendix to Pennant’s Tour in Wales. The conquest of Wales by ordinary military operations having been found impossible, the kings of England granted to these lords “such lands as they could win from the Welshmen.” The first conquests were made in the neighbourhood of the great frontier towns; and the lords were “suffered to take upon them such prerogative and authority as were fit for the quiet government of the country.” No actual records of these grants remain, as the writs from the King’s Courts did not run into Wales, nor were there any sheriffs to execute such writs. The towns of Wales grew up around the castles of the Lords Marchers. They executed the English laws, for the most part, within their lordships; but where the ancient laws of the land were sufficiently ascertained, they seem to a certain extent to have respected them: there being in many lordships separate Courts for the Welsh and English. The text must not be understood to imply that the governments by Lords Marchers were established by Edward I. On the contrary, after Edward II was made Prince of Wales, no more Lordships Marchers were created, and no Lord Marcher could claim any liberty or prerogative more than they had before, without a grant. These lordships were held of the King in chief, and not of the principality of Wales.
l. 16. secondary. Lat. secundarius, a deputy, alluding to the delegation of the supreme power to him during a state of war.
P. 262, l. 4. fifteen acts of penal regulation. In addition to those specified by Burke, no Welshman might be a burgess, or purchase any land in a town, 2 Henry IV, c. 12 and 20. No Welshman was to have any castle or fortress, save such as was in the time of Edward I, except bishops and temporal lords.
l. 35. day-star—arisen in their hearts. 2 Peter i. 19. The image is forced; but we forget the discordance in the admirable quotation which follows.
P. 263, l. 3. simul alba nautis,&c. Hor. Odes, Lib. I. xii. 27.
l. 18. shewen—the third person plural of “shew.”
P. 264, l. 3. What did Parliament,&c. Notice the method of the paragraph.
l. 26. Now if the doctrines,&c. Burke’s argument would be weightier if he were not obliged to abandon it when confronted with the question “How can America be represented in a British Parliament?”
P. 265, l. 24. Opposuit natura. Juv. x. 152. Canning borrowed this quotation in his eloquent speech on the Roman Catholic Disability Removal Bill, March 16, 1821.
l. 29. arm . . . not shortened. Isaiah lix. i.
P. 266, l. 4. Republick of Plato . . . Utopia of More (pronounce Moore) . . . Oceana of Harrington. Adam Smith and many others class the Utopia and the Oceana together as idle schemes. Nothing, however, can be more contrary than the spirit of the works of Plato and More on the one hand, and of Harrington on the other. More’s work is pervaded by Greek ideas, and, like Plato’s Republic, was intended to form a bright artificial picture, with the view of exhibiting more clearly by contrast the dark mass of contemporary realities. Beyond this, both works contain much sound sense and many practical suggestions. The “Utopia,” even in its English dress, is a fine model of the method of composition. The “Oceana” is quite a different thing. It is a complete, pragmatical scheme of what Burke calls “paper government,” constructed as if human beings were so many counters, and the human soul some common machine: the work of an ingenious but unimaginative man, who knew too much of history, and too little of the nature of men.
l. 6. and the rude swain,&c. Comus, l. 633, slightly misquoted.
l. 27. temple of British concord. A grand and appropriate image. There is an allusion to the Temple of Concord at Rome, so celebrated in the story of the Conspiracy of Catiline. Cp. p. 287, “The sacred temple consecrated to our common faith.”
P. 267, l. 13. like unto the first. St. Matt. xxii. 39.
l. 19. by lack whereof . . . within the same. These words were, by an amendment which was carried, omitted in the motion.
l. 23. Is this description,&c. A paragraph in Burke’s best style. The copiousness of thought and the economy of words are equally remarkable, and both contribute to the general effect of weight and perspicuity.
l. 28. Non meus hic sermo,&c. Hor. Serm. ii. 2. 3.
l. 30. homebred sense.“The ’squire . . . had some homebred sense.” Third Letter on Regicide Peace.
l. 33. touch with a tool the stones,&c. Exodus xx. 25.
P. 268, l. 2. violate . . . ingenuous and noble roughness. A curious reminiscence of a passage in Juvenal. See Sat. iii. 20.
l. 4. guilty of tampering. Absolutely used, in the old and classical sense, not noticed in Johnson =“variis remediorum generibus curam morbi tentare.” (Bailey.) So in the pamphlet on the State of the Nation the “injudicious tampering” of the ministers at one time, is contrasted with their supine negligence at another.
l. 8. not to be wise beyond what was written.τὸμὴὑπὲρὅγέγραπταιφρονει̑ν. St. Paul, 1 Ep. to Cor. iv. 6. Whether Burke is the author of this elegant mistranslation, which has now become a classical phrase, or whether he adopted it from some English divine, I cannot say. The authorized translation seems to be correct, though Professor Scholefield supports that given by Burke. “That he is resolved not ‘to be wise beyond what is written’ in the legislative record and practice.” App. from New to Old Whigs.
l. 9. form of sound words.“Religiously adheres to ‘the form of sound words.’” App. from New to Old Whigs. (St. Paul, 2 Tim. i. 13.)
P. 270, l. 1. Those who have been pleased. Alluding to Grenville. See p. 190.
l. 31. on that solid basis. Cp. p. 113, “on this solid basis fix your machines.”
P. 272, l. 14. passions of the misguided people. Public opinion in England was certainly in favour of American taxation. The extent in which the English people were overwhelmed with taxes, and the difficulty of devising new ones, should not be forgotten.
l. 24. this state = statement, the sense which the word properly bears in the phrase “state of the case.”
P. 276, l. 26. and to provide for . . . Judges in the same. These words were also, by an amendment which was carried, omitted in the motion.
P. 277, l. 33. Ought I not from hence to presume,&c. Ingeniously brought in to vindicate the middle line taken by the Rockingham administration.
P. 278, l. 19. mistake to imagine,&c. Arnold says of Popery, that men “judge it naturally from the tendency of its most offensive principles; supposing that all men will carry their principles into practice, and ignorant of the checks and palliatives which in actual life neutralise their virulence.” On Christian duty of conceding the Roman Catholic Claims. Macaulay more than once refers to this variation between theory and action; once at great length in the Essay on Hallam’s Constitutional History. There is a remarkable passage much to the same effect at the close of Jeremy Taylor’s second sermon on the “Miracles of the Divine Mercy.”
l. 29. We give and take—we remit some rights,&c. “Of one thing I am perfectly clear, that it is not by deciding the suit, but by compromising the difference, that peace can be restored or kept.” Letter to Sheriffs of Bristol.
l. 32. As we must give away,&c. To enter fully into this bold and just analogy refer to vol. ii. p. 151.
P. 279, l. 1. The purchase paid= purchase-money. So the Spectator, No. 152: “Short labours or dangers are but a cheap purchase of jollity, triumph, victory,”&c. Cp. Europ. Sett. in America, vol. ii. p. 197: “Not aiming at a sudden profit, he (Penn) disposed of his land at a very light purchase.” Young’s Night Thoughts: “Insolvent worlds the purchase cannot pay.”
l. 2. immediate jewel of his soul. From Burke’s favourite play, Othello, Act iii. Sc. 5. Cp. p. 70, “Reputation, the most precious possession of every individual.” So in Fourth Letter on Regicide Peace, “Our ruin will be disguised in profit, and the sale of a few wretched baubles will bribe a degenerate people to barter away the most precious jewel of their souls.”
l. 3. “a great house is apt to make slaves haughty.” Juvenal, Sat. v. 66:
l. 13. what we are to lose—i.e. what we stand the risk of losing.
l. 16. cords of man. Hosea xi. 4. “To draw them without persecuting the others, by the cords of love into the pale of the Church,”&c. Bolingbroke, Diss. on Parties, Letter ii.
l. 18. Aristotle. Ethics, Book I. See note, p. 215, ante.
l. 26. which is itself the security,&c. Similarly, on the subject of Jacobinism, Burke points out that the large masses of property are natural ramparts which protect the smaller ones.
P. 280, l. 9. promoted the union of the whole. Burke lived to see this pleasant state of things reversed, and to approve the abolition of a separate Irish legislature.
P. 281, l. 3. Experimentum in corpore vili. This well-known saying seems to have had its origin from an anecdote of Muretus. He was attacked by sickness when on a journey, and two physicians, who attended him, supposing him some obscure person, agreed to use a novel remedy, with the remark, “Faciamus periculum in anima vili.” Muretus tranquilly asked, “Vilem animam appellas, pro qua Christus non dedignatus est mori?” (Menagiana, 3rd ed. p. 129.)
l. 7. fatal in the end to our Constitution. Burke apprehends that the taxation of the mother country, following such an example, might escape the direct control of Parliament.
l. 19. back door of the Constitution—i.e. through a Select Committee.
P. 283, l. 29. A Treasury Extent—a writ of Commission for valuing lands to satisfy a Crown debt.
P. 284, l. 24. full of hazard—“periculosae plenum opus aleae,” Hor. Lib. ii. Carm. 1.
P. 285, l. 11. richest mine,&c. Mr. Hallam, comparing the grants of revenue before and after the Revolution, says: “The supplies meted out with niggardly caution by former parliaments to sovereigns whom they could not trust, have flowed with redundant profuseness, when they could judge of their necessity, and direct their application.” Const. Hist. ch. xv.
l. 16. Posita luditur arca. Juvenal i. 90.
l. 17. time of day= of history. Used from the time of Shakspeare in more than one metaphorical sense.
l. 31. stock= capital.
l. 34. voluntary flow of heaped-up luxuriance. “He that will milk his Cattle, must feed them well; and it encourages men to gather and lay up when they have law to hold by what they have.” N. Bacon (Henry VIII). So Lord Brooke, Treatise of Monarchie, sect. x.:
Burke’s metaphor is borrowed from the wine-press. The “mustum sponte defluens antequam calcentur uvae” was highly valued by the ancients, and is still prized in some varieties of modern wine. “Among the many excellent parts of this speech, I find you have got many proselytes by so cleverly showing that the way to get most revenue, is to let it come freely from them.” Duke of Richmond to Burke, June 16, 1775.
P. 286, l. 15. Ease would retract,&c. It should be “recant.” Par. Lost, iv. 96. Quoted by Mr. Gladstone from Burke, April 12, 1866.
l. 18. immense, ever-growing, eternal Debt.“The debt immense of endless gratitude.” Par. Lost, iv. 53.
P. 287, l. 8. enemies that we are most likely to have. France and Spain, then usually allied against England. The interests of France in the West Indies were at this time great and increasing.
l. 11. For that service, for all service,&c. No passage affords a more curious illustration of the manner in which Burke in his more impassioned appeals, refunds his “rich thievery” of the Bible and the English poets. The remarkable independence of Burke’s usual style makes the contrast striking. The concluding sentence is a reminiscence of Virg. Aen. vi. 726, &c.:
Burke evidently borrowed this use of it from Bacon, Adv. of Learning, xxiii. 47, where it is applied to government in general: “We see, all governments are obscure and invisible;
Such is the description of governments.” South uses it in the same way: “The spirit which animates and acts the universe, is the spirit of government.” (Sermon on the Episcopal Function.) Shakespeare and the Bible supply most of the other phrases in the passage. “My trust is in her,”&c., Psalms. “Light as air, strong,”&c., Othello. “Grapple to you,” Hamlet, &c. “No force under heaven will be of power to tear you,”&c., St. Paul. “Chosen race,” Tate and Brady. “Turn their faces toward you,” 1 Kings ix. 44, 5; Dan. vi. 10. “Perfect obedience”; “mysterious whole,” Pope. Cp. note to p. 236, l. 22.
l. 20. your government one thing, and their privileges another . . . the cement is gone,&c. Cp. the passage in Erskine’s speech for Stockdale; “Your government—having no root in consent or affection, no foundation in similarity of interests, nor support from any one principle which cements men together in society, could only be upheld by alternate strategem and force.”
l. 29. multiply . . . ardently love liberty. Notice this masterly reference to previous arguments.
P. 288, l. 5. must still preserve:“still”= ever.
l. 6. Do not entertain so weak an imagination:“imagination”= thought. “Nobody was so unacquainted with the world as to entertain so puerile an imagination.” Ann. Reg. 1763, p. 40.
l. 7. registers . . . bonds,&c. Alluding to the official routine of the Custom-houses.
l. 8. Cockets. The term “cocket” designates primarily the custom-house seal, and secondarily the sealed parchment delivered by the officer to the merchant as warrant that the goods have been customed.
l. 12. these things,&c. The genial animation of this skilful appeal is admirable.
l. 20. Land Tax Act. The Land Tax was formerly a much more important item in the Revenue than now: it used to contribute more than a third of the whole, but it now yields about a sixty-fourth. Until 1798 it fluctuated, in peace being assessed at two or three shillings, in war, at four; but in 1798 it was made permanent at four shillings in the pound.
l. 23. Mutiny Bill.“The people of England, jealous on all subjects which relate to liberty, have exceeded, on the subject of the army, their usual caution. They have in the preamble of their annual Mutiny Bill claimed their birthright; they recite part of the Declaration of Right, ‘that standing armies and martial law in peace, without the consent of Parliament, are illegal’; and having stated the simplicity and purity of their ancient constitution, and having set forth a great principle of Magna Charta, they admit a partial and temporary repeal of it; they admit an army and a law for its regulation, but they limit the number of the former, and the duration of both; confining all the troops themselves, the law that regulates, and the power that commands them, to one year. Thus is the army of England rendered a Parliamentary army; the constitutional ascendancy of the subject over the soldier preserved; the military rendered effectually subordinate to the civil magistrate; the government of the sword controlled in its exercise, because limited in its duration; and the King entrusted with the command of the army during good behaviour only.” Grattan, “Observations on the [Irish] Mutiny Bill,” 1781.
l. 25. deep stake they have in such a glorious institution. The Conservative commonplace, a stake in the country, usually attributed to Canning, was borrowed by him in his Speech at Liverpool, March 18, 1820, from Burke: “Those who have the greatest stake in the country,” Speech on Fox’s Bill for the Repeal of the Marriage Act, 1781 (among the fragments).
l. 31. profane herd. The “profanum vulgus” of Horace.
l. 32. no place—i. e. no right.
P. 289, l. 4. all in all. St. Paul, 1 Cor. xv. 28.
Ibid. Magnanimity in politics,&c. “It is a true saying, and has often been repeated, that a very moderate share of human wisdom is sufficient for the guidance of human affairs. But there is another truth, equally indisputable, which is, that a man who aspires to govern mankind ought to bring to the task generous sentiments, compassionate sympathies, and noble and elevated thoughts.” Lord Palmerston, Debate on the Claims against Greece, 1850.
l. 9. Sursum corda! The canticle of the Church, “Lift up your hearts.” Cp. Gordon, Discourses on Tacitus, Disc. iv; “Great souls are always sincere. . . . Good sense and greatness of mind are always found together, and justice is inseparable from either.” Burke’s works are full of lofty appeals in this strain. “But if we make ourselves too little for the sphere of our duty; if, on the contrary, we do not stretch and expand our minds to the compass of their object: be well assured, that everything about us will dwindle by degrees, until at length our concerns are shrunk to the dimensions of our minds.” Speech on Nabob of Arcot’s Debts. Cp. Mr. Gladstone, Speech on Irish Church, March 1, 1869: “Every man who proceeds to the discussion is under the most solemn obligation to raise the level of his vision, and to expand its scope in proportion to the greatness of the object.”
l. 12. this high calling. St. Paul, Phil. iii. 14.
l. 19. winged ministers of vengeance, who carry your bolts in their pounces,&c. “Winged ministers of vengeance” is a compound of Milton’s “ministers of vengeance” (Par. Lost, i. 170), and “winged messengers” (ib. iii. 229). Cp. ante, p. 236. “Those who wield the thunder of the State.” The image is borrowed from Lord Chatham’s Speech of January 22, 1770; “They have disarmed the imperial bird, the ministrum fulminis alitem.1 The army is the thunder of the Crown—the ministry have tied up the hand which should direct the bolt.” Burke happily transfers it to the navy. The student should compare the beautiful expansion and application of this image by Canning, introduced with exquisite propriety in the speech made within sight of Plymouth docks, 1823.
Horace, Odes iv. 1.