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constantly carry about; which I have often used, and shall often use again. \Vhat is got by this Paltry pretence of commercial principles I know not; for, if your government in America is destroyed by the rqOeal qf taxes, it is of no consequence upon what ideas the repeal is grounded. Repeal this tax, too, upon commercial principles, if you please. These principles will serve as well now as they did formerly. But you know that either your objection to a repeal from these supposed consequences has no validity, or
that this pretence never could remove it. This com- I "
mercial motive never was believed by any man, either in America, which this letter is meant to soothe, or in England, which it is meant to deceive. It was impossible it should: because every man, in the least acquainted with the detail of commerce, must know that several of the articles on which the tax was repealed were fitter objects of duties than almost any other articles that could possibly be chosen,—without comparison more so than the tea that was left taxed, as infinitely less liable to be eluded by contraband. The tax upon red and white lead was of this nature. You have in this kingdom an advantage in lead that amounts to a monopoly. When you find yourself in this situation of advantage, you sometimes venture to tax even your own export. You did so soon after the last war, when, upon this principle, you ventured to impose a duty on coals. In all the articles ‘" American contraband trade, who ever heard of tile smuggling of red lead and white lead? You might, therefore, well enough, without danger of contraband, and without injury to commerce, (if this were the whole consideration,) have taxed these commodities. The same may be said of glass. Besides, some of the
things taxed were so trivial, that the loss of the objects themselves, and their utter annihilation out of American commerce, would have been comparatively as nothing. But is the article of tea such an object in the trade of England, as not to be felt, or felt but slightly, like white lead, and red lead, and painters’ colors? Tea is an object of far other importance. Tea is perhaps the most important object, taking it with its necessary connections, of any in the mighty circle of our commerce. If commercial principles had been the true motives to the repeal, or had they been at all attended to, tea would have been the last article we should have left taxed for a subject of con- . troversy.
Sir, it is not a pleasant consideration, but nothing in the world can read so awful and so instructive a lesson as the conduct of ministry in this business, upon the mischief of not having large and liberal ideas in the management of great afl'airs. Never have the servants of the state looked at the whole of your complicated interests in one connected view. They have taken things by bits and scraps, some at one time and one pretence, and some at another, just as they pressed, without any sort of regard to their relations or dependencies. They never had any kind of system, right or wrong; but only invented occasionally some miserable tale for the day, in order meanly to sneak out of difficulties into which they had proudly strutted. And they were put to all these shifts and devices, full of meanness and full of mischief, in order to pilfer piecemeal a. repeal of an act which they had not the generous courage, when they found and felt their error, honorably and fairly to disclaim. By such management, by the irresistible operation of feeble
councils, so paltry a sum as three-pence in the eyes of a financier, so insignificant an article as tea in the eyes of a philosOpher, have shaken the pillars of a commercial empire that circled the whole globe.
Do you forget that in the very last year you stood on the precipice of general bankruptcy? Your danger was indeed great. You were distressed in the affairs of the East India Company; and you well know what sort of things are involved in the comprehensive energy of that significant appellation. I am not called upon to enlarge to you on that danger, which you thought proper yourselves to aggravate, and to display to the world with all the parade of indiscreet declamation. The monopoly of the most lucrative trades and the possession of imperial revenues had brought you to the verge of beggary and ruin. Such was your representation ; such, in some measure, was your case. The vent of ten millions of pounds of this commodity, now locked up by the operation of an injudicious tax, and rotting in the warehous'es of the Company, would have prevented all this distress, and all that series of desperate measures which you thought yourselves obliged to take in consequence of it. America would have furnished that vent, which no other part of the world can furnish but America, where tea is next to a necessary of life, and where the demand grows upon the supply. I hope our dearbought East India Committees have done us at least so much good, as to let us know, that, without a more extensive sale of that article, our East India revenues and acquisitions can have no certain connection with this country. It is through the American trade of tea that your East India conquests are to be prevented from crushing you with their burden. They
are ponderous indeed ; and they must have that great country to lean upon, or they tumble upon your head. It is the same folly that has lost you at once the benefit 0f the West and of the East. This folly has thrown open folding-doors to contraband, and will be the means of giving the profits of the trade of your colonies to every nation but yourselves. Never did a people suffer so much for the empty words of a preamble. It must be given up. For on what principle does it stand? This famous revenue stands, at this hour, on all the debate, as a description of revenue not as yet known in all the comprehensive (but too comprehensive!) vocabulary of finance,-—a preambulary tax. It is, indeed, a tax of sophistry, a tax of pedantry, a tax of disputation, a tax of war and rebellion, a tax for anything but benefit to the im posers or satisfaction to the subject.
Well! but whatever it is, gentlemen will force the colonists to take the teas. You will force them? Has seven years’ struggle been yet able to force them? Oh, but it seems“ we are in the right. The tax is trifling,—in efi‘ect it is rather an exoneration than an imposition; three fourths of the duty formerly payable on teas exported to America is taken off,— the place of collection is only shifted ; instead of the retention of a shilling from the drawback here, it is three-pence custom paid in America.” All this, Sir, is very true. But this is the very folly and mischief 0f the act. Incredible as it may seem, you know that you have deliberately thrown away a large duty, which you held secure and quiet in your hands, for the vain hope of getting one three fourths less, through every hazard, through certain litigation, and possibly through war. .
The manner of proceeding in the duties on paper and glass, imposed by the same act, was exactly in the same spirit. There are heavy excises on those articles, when used in England. On export, these excises are drawn back. But instead of Withholding the drawback, which might have been done, with ease, without charge, without possibility of smuggling, and instead of applying the money (money already in your hands) according to your pleasure, you began your operations in finance by flinging away your revenue; you allowed the whole drawback on export, and then you charged the duty, (which you had before discharged,) payable in the colonies, where it was certain the collection would devour it to the b0ne,—if any revenue were ever suffered to be collected at all. One spirit pervades and animates the whole mass.
Could anything be a subject of more just alarm to America than to see you go out of the plain highroad of finance, and give up your most certain revenues and your clearest interest, merely for the sake of insulting your colonies ?' No man ever doubted that the commodity of tea could bear an imposition of three-pence. But no commodity will bear three— pence, or will bear a penny, when the general feelings of men are irritated, and two millions of people are resolved not to pay. The feelings of the colonies were formerly the feelings of Great Britain. Theirs were formerly the feelings of Mr. Hampden,when called upon for the payment of twenty shillings. Would twenty shillings have ruined Mr. Hampden’s fortune? No! but the payment of half twenty shillings, on the principle it was demanded, would have
made him a slave. It is the weight of that preamble, VOL. II. 3