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PART SIXTH. - THE FLOOR OF PARLIAMENT.
L-ON CONSTITUTIONAL RESISTANCE.
January 22, 1770. I THANK God, my lords, for having thus long preserved me, inconsiderable as I am, to take a part upon this great occasion, and to contribute my endeavors, such as they are, to restore, to save, to confirm, the constitution. My lords, I need not look abroad for grievances. The grand capital mischief is fixed at
It corrupts the very foundation of our political existence, and preys upon the vitals of the state. The constitution has been grossly violated. The CONSTITUTION AT THIS MOMENT STANDS VIOLATED. Until that wound is healed, until the grievance is redressed, it is in vain to recommend union to Parliament, in vain to promote concord among the people. If we mean seriously to unite the nation within itself, we must convince the people that their complaints are regarded, that their injuries shall be redressed. On that foundation, I would take the lead in recommending peace and harmony to them; on any other, I would never wish to see them united again.
If the breach in the constitution is effectually repaired, the people will of themselves return to a state of tranquillity; if not, MAY DISCORD PREVAIL FOR EVEN! I know to what point this doctrine and this language will appear directed; but I have the principles of an Englishman, and I utter them without apprehension or reserve. The crisis is indeed alarming: so much the more does it require a prudent relaxation on the part of government. If the king's servants will not permit a constitutional question to be decided on according to the forms and on the principles of the constitution, it must then be decided in some other manner; and rather than it should be tamely given up, rather than the nation should surrender their birthright to a despotic minister, I hope, my lords, old as I am, I shall see the question brought to an issue, and fairly tried between the people and government. My lords, this is not the language of faction. Let it be tried by that criterion by which alone we can distinguish what is factious from what is not, by the principles of the English constitution. I have been bred up in these principles, and I know that when the liberty of the subject is invaded, and all redress denied him, resistance is justifiable.
II. — IN FAVOR OF COËRCING THE COLONIES.
February 7, 1775. MY LORDS, we are reduced to the alternative of adopting coërcive measures, or at once submitting to a dismemberment of the empire. Consider the question in ever so many lights, every middle way will speedily lead you to either of these extremities. The supremacy of the British legislature must be complete, entire, and unconditional; or, on the other hand, the colonies must be free and independent.
The claim of non-taxation is a renunciation of your authority. If the doctrine be just, it extends to the right of separating from you, and establishing a new republic. It is to the last degree monstrous and absurd to allow that the colonists are entitled to legislate for themselves on one subject, and not on all. If they have any such privilege, the defense of it would justify resistance; and I have not yet heard any noble lord say that their resistance would not be rebellion.
I admit the impolicy of the taxes imposed in 1767, which have been the cause of the troubles and confusion which we now deplore. They irritated the colonists, cramped our own commerce, and encouraged smuggling for the benefit of our commercial rivals. But the course was to petition for their repeal, and not to treat them as illegal. Concession now is an abdication of sovereignty. All classes will feel severely the effects of war, and no one can answer for its events. The British forces may be defeated; the Americans may ultimately triumph. But are you prepared to surrender without striking a blow?
The question being whether the right of the mother-country shall be resolutely asserted or basely relinquished, I trust there can be no doubt that your lordships are prepared firmly to discharge your duty, convinced that the proper season for clemency is when your efforts have been crowned with victory.
III. —ON TAXING AMERICA. MY LORDS, you have no right to tax America. I have searched the matter; — I repeat it, you have no right to tax America.
The natural rights of man and the immutable laws of nature are all with that people. Much stress is laid upon legislative authority of Great Britain, and so far as the doctrine is directed to its proper object I accede to it. But it is equally true, according to all approved writers upon government, that no
THE MEASURES AGAINST AMERICA.
man, agreeably to the principles of natural or civil liberty, can be divested of any part of his property without his consent.
But some gentlemen tell us, seriously, that administration must reduce the Americans to obedience and submission; that is, you must make them absolute and infamous slaves, and then — what?
– we will, say they, give them full liberty. Ay, is this the nature of man? No, my lords; I would not trust myself, American as I am, in this situation. I do not think I should, in that case, be myself for giving them their liberty. No; if they submitted to such unjust, such cruel, such degrading slavery, I should think they were made for slaves, that servility was suited to their nature and genius. I should think they would best serve this country as our slaves — that their servility would be for the benefit of Great Britain ; and I should be for keeping such Cappadocians* in a state of servitude, such as was suited to their constitution, and such as might redound much to our advantage.
My lords, some noble lords talk much of resistance to acts of Parliament. King, lords, and commons, are fine-sounding names; but, my lords, acts of Parliament have been resisted in all ages. King, lords, and commons, may become tyrants as well as others. Tyranny in one or more is the same: it is as lawful to resist the tyranny of many as of one. Somebody once asked the great Mr. Selden in what law-book, in what records, or archives t of state, you might find the law for resisting tyranny. “I don't know,” said Mr. Selden, “ whether it is worth your while to look deeply into the books upon this matter; but I'll tell you what is most certain, that it has always been the custom of England,' and the custom of England' is the law of the land.”
I end, my lords, as I began : you have no right to tax America;- the natural rights of man, and the immutable laws of nature, are all with that people. LORD CAMDEN (Jan. 20, 1775).
IV. - THE MEASURES AGAINST AMERICA. Sir, what foundation have we for our claims over America ? What is our right to persist in such cruel and vindictive measures against that loyal, respectable people? They say you have no right to tax them without their consent. They say truly. Representation and taxation must go together; they are inseparable. Yet there is scarcely a man in our streets, though so poor as scarcely to be able to get his daily bread, but thinks he is the
* The people of Cappadocia, in Asia Minor, petitioned the Romans to send them a king.
+ Pronounood ar kives.
legislator of America !
In the last Parliament, all was anger all was rage.
Si'ne cla'de victoria, was the cry! The Americans were abused, misrepresented, and traduced, in the most atrocious manner, in order to give a color to, and urge on the most precipitate, unjust, cruel, and vindictive measures that ever disgraced a nation. But how have this respectable people behaved under all their grievances? With unexampled patience, with unparalleled wisdom !
I know, sir, that no one will avow that he advised, or that he was the author of these measures ; every one shrinks from the charge. But somebody has advised his majesty to these measures; and if his majesty continues to hear such evil counselors, his majesty will be undone. He may, indeed, wear his crown, but, the American jewel out of it, it will not be worth the wearing. What more shall I say? I must not say the king is betrayed ; but this I will say, the kingdom is ruined !
Repeal, therefore, my lords! But bare repeal will not be enough. It will not satisfy this enlightened and spirited people. What! repeal a bit of paper! repeal a piece of parchment! That alone will not do, my lords. You must go through the work; you must declare you have no right to tax. Then they may trust you. Then they will have some confidence in you. You must repeal their fears and resentments, and then you may hope for their love and gratitude.
There is no time to be lost. Every moment is big with dangers. While I am speaking, the decisive blow may be struck, and millions involved in the consequence. The very first drop of blood will make a wound which years, perhaps ages, may not heal. It will be an immédicab’i-le vulnus; a rancorous, malignant, corroding, incurable wound !
Sir, I would not encourage America to proceed beyond the true line. I reprobate all acts of violence. But when her inherent constitutional rights are invaded, then I own myself an American; and, feeling myself such, shall, to the verge of my life, vindicate those rights against all men who strive to trample on or oppose them!
LORD CHATHAM (1775).
V. -- AGAINST TAXING AMERICA.
You have an act of Parliament stating that it is expedient to raise a revenue in America. Sir, leave America, if she has taxable matter in her, to tax herself. Be content to bind the Americans by laws of trade ; you have always done that. Let
ON THE AMERICAN WAR.
is be your reason now for binding their trade. Do not burin them by taxes; you were not used to do so from the ginning. Let this be your reason for not taxing. These are e arguments of states and kingdoms. Leave the rest to the hools; for there only they may be discussed with safety. But if, intemperately, unwisely, fatally, you sophisticate and ison the very source of government, by urging subtle deducDs, and consequences odious to those who govern, from the imited and illimitable nature of supreme sovereignty, you will sh them by these means to call that sovereignty itself in ques
When you drive him hard, the boar will surely turn upon hunters. If that sovereignty and their freedom can not be nciled, which will they take? They will cast your sovty in your face. No body will be argued into slavery.
1, let the gentlemen on the other side call forth all their ability; let the best of them get up, and tell me, what one character of liberty the Americans have, and what one brand of slavery they are free from, if they are bound in their property and industry by all the restraints you can imagine on commerce, and at the same time are made pack-horses of every tax you choose to impose, without the least share in granting them. When they bear the burdens of unlimited monopoly, will you bring them to bear the burdens of unlimited revenue too? The Englishman in America will feel that this is slavery;-- that it is legal slavery, will be no compensation either to his feelings or his understanding!
VI. — ON THE AMERICAN WAR, DEC. 1176, 1777. My Lords, I contend that we have not procured, nor can we procure, any force sufficient to subdue America ; it is monstrous to think of it. Ministers have been in error; experience has proved it; and, what is worse, in that error they persist. They told you in the beginning that fifteen thousand men would traverse America, with scarcely the appearance of interruption. Two campaigns have passed since they gave us this assurance; treble that number has been employed; and one of your armies, which composed two thirds of the force by which America was to be subd has been totally destroyed, and is now led captive through those provinces you call rebellious.
Those men whom you called cowards, poltroons, runaways, and knaves, are become victorious over your veteran troops; and, in the midst of victory and the flush of conquest, have set ministers an example of moderation and magnanimity.