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sors may be inclined to attempt to undo what the present ministers shall have attempted to performn ; and to that objection I can give but this answer: that it is my firm opinion, that the plan I have stated to you will certainly take place, and that it will never be departed from ; and so determined am I forever to abide by it, that I will be content to be declared infamous, if I do not, to the last hour of my life, at all times, in all places, and upon all occasions, exert every power with which I either am or ever shall be legally invested, in order to obtain and maintain for the continent of America that satisfaction which I have been authorized to promise this day by the confidential servants of our gracious sovereign, who to my certain knowledge rates his honor so high that he would rather part with his crown than preserve it by
A glorious and true character! which (since we suffer his ministers with impunity to answer for his ideas of taxation) we ought to make it our business to enable his Majesty to preserve in all its lustre. Let him have character, since ours is no more! Let some part of government be kept in respect!
* A material point is omitted by Mr. Burke in this speech, viz. the manner in which the continent received this royal assurance.
The assembly of Virginia, in their address in answer to Lord Botetourt's speech, express themselves thus : “We will not suffer our present hopes, arising from the pleasing prospect your Lordship hath so kindly opened and displayed to us, to be dashed by the bitter reflection that any fuliire administration will entertain a wish to depart from that plan which affords the surest and most permanent foundation of public tranquillity and happiness. No, my Lord, we are sure our most gracious sovereign, under whatever changes may happen in his confidential servants, will remain immutable in the ways of truth and justice, and that he is incapable of deceiving his faithful subjects; and we esteem your Lordship’s information not only is warranted, but even sanctified by the royal word.”
This epistle was not the letter of Lord Hillsborough solely, though he held the official pen. It was the letter of the noble lord upon the floor, * and of all the king's then ministers, who (with, I think, the exception of two only) are his ministers at this hour. The very first news that a British Parliament heard of wliat it was to do with the duties which it had given and granted to the king was by the publication of the votes of American assemblies. It was in America that your resolutions were pre-declared. It was from thence that we knew to a certainty how much exactly, and not a scruple more nor less, we were to repeal. We were unworthy to be let into the secret of our own conduct. The assemblies had confidential communications from his Majesty's confidential servants. We were nothing but instruments. Do you, after this, wonder that you have no weight and no respect in the colonies? After this are you surprised that Parliament is every day and everywhere losing (I feel it with sorrow, I utter it with reluctance) that reverential affection which so endearing a name of authority ought ever to carry with it? that you are obeyed solely from respect to the bayonet ? and that this House, the ground and pillar of freedom, is itself held up only by the treacherous underpinning and clumsy buttresses of arbitrary power?
If this dignity, which is to stand in the place of just policy and common sense, had been consulted, there was a time for preserving it, and for reconciling it with any concession. If in the session of 1768, that session of idle terror and empty menaces, you had, as you were often pressed to do, repealed these taxes, then your strong operations would have come justified and enforced, in case your concessions had been returned by outrages. But, preposterously, you began with violence; and before terrors could have any effect, either good or bad, your ministers immediately begged pardon, and promised that repeal to the obstinate Americans which they had refused in an easy, good-natured, complying British Parliament. The assemblies, which had been publicly and avowedly dissolved for their contumacy, are called together to receive your submission. Your ministerial directors blustered like tragic tyrants here; and then went mumping with a sore leg in America, canting, and whining, and complaining of faction, which represented them as friends to a revenue from the colonies. I hope nobody in this House will hereafter have the impudence to defend American taxes in the name of ministry. The moment they do, with this letter of attorney in my land, I will tell them, in the author ized terms, they are wretches “ with factious and seditious views,” “ enemies to the peace and prosperity of the mother country and the colonies," and subverters of the mutual affection and confidence on which the glory and safety of the British empire depend.”
* Lord North
After this letter, the question is no more on propriety or dignity. They are gone already. The faith of your sovereign is pledged for the political principle. The general declaration in the letter goes to the whole of it. You must therefore either abandon the scheme of taxing, or you must send the ministers tarred and feathered to America, who dared to hold out the royal faith for a renunciation of all taxes for revenue. Them you must punish, or this faith you must preserve. The preservation of this faith is of more consequence than the duties on red lead, or white lead, or on broken glass, or atlas-urdi nary, or demy-fine, or blue-royal, or bastard, or fools cap, which you have given up, or the three-pence on tea which you retained. The letter went stamped with the public authority of this kingdom. The instructions for the colony government go under no other sanction; and America cannot believe, and will not obey you, if you do not preserve this channel of communication sacred. You are now punishing the colonies for acting on distinctions held out by that very ministry which is here shining in riches, in favor, and in power, and urging the punishment of the very offence to which they had themselves been the tempters.
Sir, if reasons respecting simply your own commerce, which is your own convenience, were the sole grounds of the repeal of the five duties, why does Lord Hillsborough, in disclaiming in the name of the king and ministry their ever having had an intent to tax for revenue, mention it as the means of reëstablishing the confidence and affection of the colonies ?” Is it a way of soothing others, to assure them that
you will take good care of yourself? The medium, the only medium, for regaining their affection and confidence is that you will take off something oppressive to their minds. Sir, the letter strongly enforces that idea : for though the repeal of the taxes is promised on commercial principles, yet the means of counteracting the “insinuations of men with factious and seditious views ” is by a disclaimer of the intention of taxing for revenue, as a constant, invariable sentiment and rule of conduct in the government of America.
I remember that the noble lord on the floor, not in a former debate to be sure, (it would be disorderly
to refer to it, I suppose I read it somewhere,) but the noble lord was pleased to say, that he did not con ceive how it could enter into the head of man to impose such taxes as those of 1767 : I mean those taxes which he voted for imposing, and voted for repealing,
as being taxes, contrary to all the principles of commerce, laid on British manufactures.
I dare say the noble lord is perfectly well read, because the duty of his particular office requires he should be so, in all our revenue laws, and in the policy which is to be collected out of them. Now, Sir, when he had read this act of American revenue, and a little recovered from his astonishment, I suppose he made one step retrograde (it is but one) and looked at the act which stands just before in the statute-book. The American revenue act is the fortyfifth chapter; the other to which I refer is the fortyfourth of the same session. These two acts are both to the same purpose : both revenue acts; both taxing out of the kingdom; and both taxing British manufactures exported. As the forty-fifth is an act for raising a revenue in America, the forty-fourth is an act for raising a revenue in the Isle of Man. The two acts perfectly agree in all respects, except one. In the act for taxing the Isle of Man the noble lord will find, not, as in the American act, four or five articles, but almost the whole body of British manufactures, taxed from two and a half to fifteen per cent, and some articles, such as that of spirits, a great deal higher. You did not think it uncommercial to tax the whole mass of your manufactures, and, let me add, your agriculture too; for, I now recollect, British corn is there also taxed up to ten per cent, and this too in the very head-quarters, the very citadel of