Page images
PDF
EPUB

every rule of reason and every principle of good sense established amongst mankind. For that sense and that reason I have always understood absolutely to prescribe,fivhenever we are involved in difficulties from the measures we have pursuedjthat we should take a strict review of those measures, in order to correct our errors, if they should be corrigible,—or at least to avoid a dull uniformity in mischief, and the unpitied calamity of being repeatedly caught in the same snare. l/ .

Sir, I will freely follow the honorable gentleman in his historical discussion, without the least management for men or measures, further than as they shall seem to me to deserve it. But before I go into that large consideration, because I would omit nothing that can give the House satisfaction, I wish to tread the narrow ground to which alone the honorable gentleman, in one .part of his speech, has so strictly confined us.

He desires to know, whether, if we were to repeal this tax, agreeably to the proposition of the honorable gentleman who made the motion, the Americans would not take post on this concession, in order to make a new attack on the next body of taxes; and whether they would not call for a repeal of the duty on wine as loudly as they do now for the repeal of the duty on tea. Sir, I can give no security on this subject. But I will do all that I can, and all that can be fairly demanded. To the experience which the honorable gentleman reprobates in one instant and reverts to in the next, to that experience, without the least wavering or hesitation on my part, I steadily appeal : and would to God there was no other arbiter to decide on the vote with which the House is to conclude this day!

When Parliament repealed the Stamp Act 1n the year 1766, I aflirm, first, that the Americans did not in consequence of this measure call upon you to give up the former Parliamentary revenue which subsisted in that country, or even any one of the articles which compose it. I affirm 'also, that, when, departing from the maxims of that repeal, you revived the scheme of taxation, and thereby filled the minds of the colonists with new jealousy and all sorts of apprehensions, then it was that they quarrelled with the old taxes as well as the new; then it was, and not till then, that they questioned all the parts of your legislative power, and by the battery of such questions have shaken the solid structure of this empire to its deepest foundations.

Of those two propositions I shall, before I have done, give such convincing, such damning proof, that, however the contrary may be whispered in circles or bawled in newspapers, they never more will dare to raise their voices in this House. I speak with great confidence. I have reason for it. The ministers are with me. They at least are convinced that the repeal of the Stamp Act had not, and that no repeal can have, the consequences which the honorable gentleman who defends their measures is so much alarmed at. To their conduct I refer him for a conclusive answer to his objection. I carry my proof irresistibly into the very body of both Ministry and Parliament: not on any general reasoning growing out of collateral matter, but on the conduct of the honorable gentleman’s ministerial friends on the new revenue itself.

The act of 1767, which grants this tea-duty, sets forth in its preamble, that it was expedient to raise a revenue in America for the support of the civil government there, as well as for purposes still more extensive. To this support the act assigns six branches of duties. About two years after this act passed, the ministry, I mean the present ministry, thought it expedient to repeal five of the duties, and to leave (for reasons best known to themselves) only the sixth standing. Suppose any person, at the time of that repeal, had thus addressed the minister : * “ Condem~ ning, as you do, the repeal of the Stamp Act, why do you venture to repeal the duties upon glassfpaper, and painters’ colors? Let your pretence for the repeal be what it will, are you not thoroughly con~ vinced that your concessions will produce, not satisfaction, but insolence in the Americans, and that the giving up these taxes will necessitate the giving up of all the rest ? ” This objection was as palpable then as it is now ; and it was as good for preserving the five duties as for retaining the sixth. Besides, the minister will recollect that the repeal of the Stamp Act had but just preceded his repeal; and the ill policy of that measure, (had it been so impolitic as it has been represented,) and the mischiefs it produced, were quite recent. Upon the principles, therefore, of the honorable gentleman, upon the principles of the minister himself, the minister has nothing at all to answer. He stands condemned by himself, and by all his associates old and new, as a destroyer, in the first trust of finance, of the revenues,—-and in the first rank of honor, as a betrayer of the dignity of his country.

Most men, especially great men, do not always know their well-wishers. I come to rescue that no

. Lord North, then Chancellor of the Exchequer.

ble lord out of the hands of those he calls his friends, and even out of his own. I will do him the justice he is denied at home. He has not been this wicked or imprudent man. He knew that a repeal had no tendency to produce the mischiefs which give so much alarm to his honorable friend. His work was not bad in its principle, but imperfect in its execution; and the motion on your paper presses him only to complete a proper plan, which, by some unfortunate and unaccountable error, he had left unfinished.

I hope, Sir, the honorable gentleman who spoke last is thoroughly satisfied, and satisfied out of the proceedings of ministry on their own favorite act, that his fears from a repeal are groundless. If he is not, I leave him, and the noble lord who sits by him, to settle the matter as well as they can together; for, if the repeal of American taxes destroys all our government in America,—-he is the man I —and he is the worst of all the repealers, because he is the last.

But I hear it rung continually in my ears, now and formerly,—“ The preamble! what will become of the preamble, if you repeal this tax '3 ” —I am sorry to be compelled so often to expose the calamities and disgraces of Parliament. The preamble of this law, standing as it now stands, has the lie direct given to it by the provisionary part of the act : if that can be called provisionary which makes no provision. I should be afraid to express myself in this manner, especially in the face of such a formidable array of ability as is new drawn up before me, composed of the ancient household troops of that side of the House and the new recruits from this, if the matter were not clear and indisputable. Nothing but truth could give me this firmness ; but plain truth and clear evidence can be beat down by no ability. The clerk will be so good as to turn to the act, and to read this favorite preamble.

“ Whereas it is expedient that a revenue should be raised in your Majesty’s dominions in America, for making a more certain and adequate provision for defraying the charge of the administration of justice and support of civil government in such provinces where it shall be found necessary, and towards further defraying the expenses of defending, protecting, and securing

- the said dominions.”

You have heard this pompous performance. N ow where is the revenue which is to do all these mighty things? Five sixths repealed,—abandoned,—sunk, —gone,—lost forever. Does the poor solitary teaduty support the purposes of this preamble? Is not the supply there stated as effectually abandoned as if the tea-duty had perished in the general wreck? Here, Mr. Speaker, is a precious mockeryz—a preamble without an act,— taxes granted in order to be repealed,—-and the reasons of the grant still carefully kept up! This is raising a revenue in America'! This is preserving dignity in England! If you repeal this tax, in compliance with the motion, I readily admit that you lose this fair preamble. Estimate your loss in it. The object of the act is gone already; " d all you suffer is the purging the statute-book of the opprobrium of an empty, absurd, and false recital.

It has been said again and again, that the five taxes were repealed on commercial principles. It is so said in the paper in my hand: * a paper which I

‘ Lord Hillsborough’s Circular Letter to the Governors of the C010nles, concerning the repeal of some of the duties laid in the .Act of 1767

« PreviousContinue »