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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 5 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 justi- 10 fied 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, — tha
that under them the state of America has 15 been kept in continual agitation. Everything administered as remedy to the public complaint, if it did not produce, was at least followed by, a heightening of the distemper; until, by a variety of experiments, that important country has been brought into her present situa- 20 tion; 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 25 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 politics, 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 un
usual severity. That the very vicissitudes and shift5 ings of Ministerial measures, instead of convicting their
authors 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 vigor as cruel, and
every 10-proposal of lenity as weak and irresolute. The public,
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 15 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 honorable 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 bet
ter disposed, or worse qualified, for such an undertaking, 25 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 politics 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 10 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 leveler; and there are occasions when any, 15 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 20 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, 25 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 desti
tute 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, 5 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 negotiations; not 10 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 15 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 unsuspect
ing confidence of the Colonies in the Mother Country, to 20 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 a 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 captivat- 5 ing 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 Ribbon. It does not propose to fill your lobby with squabbling Colony agents, who will require the interposition of your mace, at every instant, 10 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 15 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 20 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