Page images


of which you are so fond, and not the weight wť the duty, that the Americans are unable and unwilling to bear.

It is, then, Sir, upon the principle of this measure, and nothing else, that we are at issue. It is a principle of political expediency. Your act of 1767 asserts that it is expedient to raise a revenue in America ; your act of 1769, which takes away that revenue, contradicts the act of 1767, and, by something much stronger than words, asserts that it is not expedient. It is a reflection upon your wisdom to persist in a solemn Parliamentary declaration of the expediency of any object, for which, at the same time, you make no sort of provision. And pray, Sir, let not this circumstance escape you, — it is very material, — that the preamble of this act which we wish to repeal is not declaratory of a right, as some gentlemen seem to argue it: it is only a recital of the expediency of a certain exercise of a right supposed already to have been asserted ; an exercise you are now contending for by ways and means which you confess, though they were obeyed, to be utterly insufficient for their purpose. You are therefore at this moment in the awkward situation of fighting for a phantom, - a quiddity, - a thing that wants, not only a substance, but even a name, - for a thing which is neither abstract right nor profitable enjoyment.

They tell you, Sir, that your dignity is tied to it. I know not how it happens, but this dignity of yours is a terrible incumbrance to you ; for it has of late been ever at war with your interest, your equity, and every idea of your policy. Show the thing yoil con tend for to be reason, show it to be common sense, show it to be the means of attaining some useful


end, and then I am content to allow it what dignity you please. But what dignity is derived from the perseverance in absurdity is more than ever I could discern. The honorable gentleman has said well, indeed, in most of his general observations I agree with him, -- he says, that this subject does not stand as it did formerly. Oh, certainly not! Every hour you continue on this ill-chosen ground, your difficul. ties thicken on you; and therefore my conclusion is, remove from a bad position as quickly as you can. The disgrace, and the necessity of yielding, both of them, grow upon you every hour of your delay.

But will you repeal the act, says the honorable gentleman, at this instant, when America is in open resistance to your authority, and that you have just revived your system of taxation ? He thinks he has driven us into a corner. But thus pent up, I am content to meet him; because I enter the lists supported by my old authority, his new friends, the ministers themselves. The honorable gentleman remembers that about five years ago as great disturbances as the present prevailed in America on account of the new taxes. The ministers represented these disturbances as treasonable ; and this House thought proper, on that representation, to make a famous address for a revival and for a new application of a statute of Henry the Eighth. We besought the king, in that well-considered address, to inquire into treasons, and to bring the supposed traitors from America to Great Britain for trial. His Majesty was pleased graciously to promise a compliance with our request. All the attempts from this side of the House to resist theso violences, and to bring about a repeal, were treated with the utmost scorn.

An apprehension of the very

And so

consequences now stated by the honorable gentleman was then given as a reason for shutting the door against all hope of such an alteration. strong was the spirit for supporting the new taxes, that the session concluded with the following remarkable declaration. After stating the vigorous measures which had been pursued, the speech from the throne proceeds:

“ You have assured me of your firm support in the prosecution of them. Nothing, in my opinion, could be more likely to enable the well-disposed 'among my subjects in that part of the world effectually to discourage and defeat the designs of the factious and seditious than the hearty concurrence of every branch of the legislature in the resolution of maintaining the execution of the laws in every part of my dominions."

After this no man dreamt that a repeal under this ministry could possibly take place. The honorable gentleman knows as well as I, that the idea was utterly exploded by those who sway the House. This speech was made on the ninth day of May, 1769. Five days after this speech, that is, on the thirteenth of the same month, the public circular letter, a part of which I am going to read to you, was written by Lord Hillsborough, Secretary of State for the Colonies. After reciting the substance of the king's speech, he goes on thus:-“I can take

upon me to assure you, notwithstanding insinuations to the contrary from men with factious and seditious views, that his Majesty's present administration have at no time entertained a design to propose to Parliament to lay any further taxes upon America, for the purpose of RAISING A REVENUE; and that it is at present their intention to pro

pose, the next session of Parliament, to take off the duties upon glass, paper, and colors, upon consideration of such duties having been laid contrary to the true principles of commerce.

“ These have always been, and still are, the sentiments of his Majesty's present servants, and by which their conduct in respect to America has been governed. And his Majesty relies upon your prudence and fidelity for such an explanation of his measures as may tend to remove the prejudices which have been excited by the misrepresentations of those who are enemies to the peace and prosperity of Great Britain and her colonies, and to reëstablish that mutual confidence and affection upon which the glory and safety of the British empire depend.”

Here, Sir, is a canonical book of ministerial scripture: the general epistle to the Americans. What does the gentleman say to it? Here a repeal is promised, -promised without condition, - and while your authority was actually resisted. I pass by the public promise of a peer relative to the repeal of taxes by this House. I pass by the use of the king's name in a matter of supply, that sacred and reserved right of the Commons. I conceal the ridiculous figure of Parliament hurling its thunders at the gigantic rebellion of America, and then, five days after, prostrate at the feet of those assemblies we affected to despise, - begging them, by the intervention of our ministerial sureties, to receive our submission, and heartily promising amendment. These might have been serious matters formerly ; but we are grown wiser than our fathers. Passing, therefore, from the Constitutional consideration to the mere policy, does not this letter imply that the idea of taxing America

for the purpose of revenue is an abominable project, when the ministry suppose none but factious men, and with seditious views, could charge them with it? does not this letter adopt and sanctify the American distinction of taxing for a revenue ? does it not formally reject all future taxation on that principle ? does it not state the ministerial rejection of such principle of taxation, not as the occasional, but the constant opinion of the king's servants ? does it not say, (I care not how consistently,) but does it not say, that their conduct with regard to America has been always governed by this policy? It goes a great deal further. These excellent and trusty servants of the king, justly fearful lest they themselves should have lost all credit with the world, bring out the image of their gracious sovereign from the inmost and most sacred shrine, and they pawn him as a security for their promises :-"His Majesty relies on your prudence and fidelity for such an explanation of his measures. These sentiments of the minister and these measures of his Majesty can only relate to the principle and practice of taxing for a revenue; and accordingly Lord Botetourt, stating it as such, did, with great propriety, and in the exact spirit of his instructions, endeavor to remove the fears of the Virginian assembly lest the sentiments which it seems (unknown to the world) had always been those of the ministers, and by which their conduct in respect to America had been governed, should by some possible revolution, favorable to wicked American taxers, be hereafter counteracted. He addresses them in this manner:

“It may possibly be objected, that, as his Majesty's present administration are not immortal, their succes

« PreviousContinue »