Page images

Just as much was I an American, when I wished parliament to offer terms in victory, and not to wait the well chosen hour of defeat, for making good by weakness, and by supplication, a claim of prerogative, pre-eminence, and authority.

Instead of requiring it from me, as a point of duty, to kindle with your passions, had you all been as cool as I was, you would have been saved from disgraces and distresses that are unutterable. Do you remember our commission? We sent out a solemn embassy across the Atlantick ocean, to lay the crown, the peerage, the commons of Great Britain, at the feet of the American congress. That our disgrace might want no sort of brightening and burnishing, observe who they were that composed this famous embassy! My lord Carlisle is among the first ranks of our nobility. He is the identical man who, but two years before, had been put forward, at the opening of a session in the house of lords, as the mover of a haughty and rigorous address against America. He was put in the front of the embassy of submission. Mr. Eden was taken from the office of lord Suffolk, to whom he was then under secretary of state; from the office of that lord Suffolk, who but a few weeks before, in his place in parliament, did not deign to inquire where a congress of vagrants was to be found. This lord Suffolk sent Mr. Eden to find these vagrants, without knowing where this king's generals

generals were to be found, who were joined in the same commission of supplicating those whom they were sent to subdue. They enter the capital of America only to abandon it; and these assertors and representatives of the dignity of England, at the tail of a flying army, let fly their Parthian shafts of memorials and remonstrances at random behind them. Their promises and their offers, their flatteries and their menaces, were all despised; and we were saved from the disgrace of their formal reception, only because the congress scorned to receive them; whilst the state-house of independent Philadelphia opened her doors to the publick entry of the ambassador of France. From war and blood we went to submission; and from submission plunged back again to war and blood; to desolate and be desolated, without measure, hope, or end. I am a Royalist, I blushed for this degradation of the crown. I am a Whig, I blushed for the dishonour of parliament. I am a true Englishman, I felt to the quick for the disgrace of England. I am a man, I felt for the melancholy reverse of human affairs, in the fall of the first power in the world.

To read what was approaching in Ireland, in the black and bloody characters of the American war, was a painful, but it was a necessary part of my publick duty. For, gentlemen, it is not your fond desires or mine that can alter the nature of things; B b 3


by contending against which, what have we got, or shall ever get, but defeat and shame? I did not obey your instructions; No. I conformed to the instructions of truth and nature, and maintained your interest, against your opinions, with a constancy that became me. A representative worthy of you ought to be a person of stability. I am to look, indeed, to your opinions; but to such opinions as you and I must have five years hence. I was not to look to the flash of the day. I knew that you chose me, in my place, along with others, to be a pillar of the state, and not a weathercock on the top of the edifice, exalted for my levity and versatility, and of no use but to indicate the shiftings of every fashionable gale. Would to God the value of my sentiments on Ireland and on America had been at this day a subject of doubt and discussion! No matter what my sufferings had been, so that this kingdom had kept the authority I wished it to maintain, by a grave foresight, and by an equitable temperance in the use of its power.

The next article of charge on my publick conduct, and that which I find rather the most prevalent of all, is, lord Beauchamp's bill. I mean his bill of last session, for reforming the lawprocess concerning imprisonment. It is said, to aggravate the offence, that I treated the petition of this city with contempt even in presenting it to the house, and expressed myself in terms of marked


disrespect. Had this latter part of the charge been true, no merits on the side of the question which I took could possibly excuse me. But I am incapable of treating this city with disrespect. Very fortunately, at this minute (if my bad eyesight does not deceive me) the worthy * gentleman deputed on this business stands directly before me. To him I appeal, whether I did not, though it militated with my oldest and my most recent publick opinions, deliver the petition with a strong, and more than usual recommendation to the consideration of the house, on account of the character and consequence of those who signed it. I believe the worthy gentleman will tell you, that, the very day I received it, I applied to the solicitor, now the attorney general, to give it an immediate consideration; and he most obligingly and instantly consented to employ a great deal of his very valuable time to write an explanation of the bill. I attended the committee with all possible eare and diligence, in order that every objection of yours might meet with a solution; or produce an alteration. I entreated your learned recorder (always ready in business in which you take a concern) to attend. But what will you say to those who blame me for supporting lord Beauchamp's bill, as a disrespectful treatment of your petition, when you hear, that out of respect to you, I myself was


Mr. Williams.

the cause of the loss of that very bill? For the noble lord who brought it in, and who, I must say, has much merit for this and some other measures, at my request consented to put it off for a week, which the speaker's illness lengthened to a fortnight; and then the frantick tumult about popery drove that and every rational business from the house. So that if I chose to make a defence of myself, on the little principles of a culprit, pleading in his exculpation, I might not only secure my acquittal, but make merit with the opposers of the bill. But I shall do no such thing. The truth is, that I did occasion the loss of the bill, and by a delay caused by my respect to you. But such an event was never in my contemplation. And I am so far from taking credit for the defeat of that measure, that I cannot sufficiently lament my misfortune, if but one man, who ought to be at large, has passed a year in prison by my means. debtor to the debtors. I confess judgment. I owe what, if ever it be in my power, I shall most certainly pay, ample atonement and usurious amends to liberty and humanity for my unhappy lapse. For, gentlemen, lord Beauchamp's bill was a law of justice and policy, as far as it went; I say as far as it went, for its fault was its being, in the remedial part, miserably defective.

I am a

[ocr errors]

There are two capital faults in our law with relation to civil debts. One is, that every man is presumed

« PreviousContinue »