Page images

thing or other: for either, in order to limit her, we must restrain ourselves, or we must fall into that shocking conclusion, that we are to keep our yet remaining dependency under a general and indiscriminate restraint for the mere purpose of oppression. Indeed, Sir, England and Ireland may flourish together. The world is large enough for us both. Let it be our care not to make ourselves too little for it.

I know it is said, that the people of Ireland do not pay the same taxes, and therefore ought not in equity to enjoy the same benefits with this. I had hopes that the unhappy phantom of a compulsory equal taxation had haunted us long enough. I do assure you, that, until it is entirely banished from our imaginations, (where alone it has, or can have, any existence,) we shall never cease to do ourselves the most substantial injuries. To that argument of equal taxation I can only say, that Ireland pays as many taxes as those who are the best judges of her powers are of opinion she can bear. To bear more, she must have more ability; and, in the order of Nature, the advantage must precede the charge. This disposition of things being the law of God, neither you nor I can alter it. So that, if you will have more help from Ireland, you must previously supply her with more means. I believe it will be found, that, if men are suffered freely to cultivate their natural advantages, a virtual equality of contribution will come in its own time, and will flow by an easy descent through its own proper and natural channels. An attempt to disturb that course, and to force Nature, will only bring on universal discontent, distress, and confusion.

You tell me, Sir, that you prefer an union with


Ireland to the little regulations which are proposed in Parliament. This union is a great question of state, to which, when it comes properly before me in my Parliamentary capacity, I shall give an honest and unprejudiced consideration. However, it is a settled rule with me, to make the most of my actual situation, and not to refuse to do a proper thing because there is something else more proper which I am not able to do. This union is a business of difficulty, and, on the principles of your letter, a business impracticable. Until it can be matured into a feasible and desirable scheme, I wish to have as close an union of interest and affection with Ireland as I can have; and that, I am sure, is a far better thing than any nominal union of government.

France, and indeed most extensive empires, which by various designs and fortunes have grown into one great mass, contain many provinces that are very different from each other in privileges and modes of government; and they raise their supplies in different ways, in different proportions, and under different authorities : yet none of them are for this reason curtailed of their natural rights ; but they carry on trade and manufactures with perfect equality. In some way or other the true balance is found ; and all of them are properly poised and harmonized. How much have you lost by the participation of Scotland in all your commerce? The external trade of England has more than doubled since that period; and I believe your internal (which is the most advantageous) has been augmented at least fourfold. Such virtue there is in liberality of sentiment, that you have grown richer even by the partnership of poverty.

If you think that this participation was a loss, commercially considered, but that it has been compensated by the share which Scotland has taken in defraying the public charge, I believe you have not very carefully looked at the public accounts. Ireland, Sir, pays a great deal more than Scotland, and is perhaps as much and as effectually united to England as Scotland is. But if Scotland, instead of paying little, had paid nothing at all, we should be gainers, not losers, by acquiring the hearty coöperation of an active, intelligent people towards the increase of the common stock, instead of our being employed in watching and counteracting them, and their being employed in watching and counteracting us, with the peevish and churlish jealousy of rivals and enemies on both sides.

I am sure, Sir, that the commercial experience of the merchants of Bristol will soon disabuse them of the prejudice, that they can trade no longer, if coun tries more lightly taxed are permitted to deal in the same commodities at the same markets. You know, that, in fact, you trade very largely where you are met by the goods of all nations. You even pay high duties on the import of your goods, and afterwards undersell nations less taxed, at their own markets, and where goods of the same kind are not charged at all. If it were otherwise, you could trade very little. You know that the price of all sorts of manufacture is not a great deal enhanced (except to the domestic consumer) by any taxes paid in this coun try. This I might very easily prove.

The same consideration will relieve you from the apprehension you express with relation to sugars, and the difference of the duties paid here and in Ire.

land. Those duties affect the interior consumer only, and for obvious reasons, relative to the interest of revenue itself, they must be proportioned to his ability of payment; but in all cases in which sugar can be an object of commerce, and therefore (in this view) of rivalship, you are sensible that you are at least on a par with Ireland. As to your apprehensions concerning the more advantageous situation of Ireland for some branches of commerce, (for it is so but for some,) I trust you will not find them more serious. Milford Haven, which is at your door, may serve to show you that the mere advantage of ports is not the thing which shifts the seat of commerce from one part of the world to the other. If I thought you inclined to take up this matter on local considerations, I should state to you, that I do not know any part of the kingdom so well situated for an advantageous commerce with Ireland as Bristol, and that none would be so likely to profit of its prosperity as our city. But your profit and theirs must concur. Beggary and bankruptcy are not the circumstances which invite to an intercourse with that or with any country; and I believe it will be found invariably true, that the superfluities of a rich nation furnish a better object of trade than the necessities of a poor one. It is the interest of the commercial world that wealth should be found everywhere.

The true ground of fear, in my opinion, is this: that Ireland, from the vicious system of its internal polity, will be a long time before it can derive any benefit from the liberty now granted, or from any thing else. But, as I do not vote advantages in hopes that they may not be enjoyed, I will not lay any stress upon this consideration. I rather wish that the Par

liament of Ireland may, in its own wisdom, remove these impediments, and put their country in a condition to avail itself of its natural advantages. If they do not, the fault is with them, and not with us.

I have written this long letter in order to give all possible satisfaction to my constituents with regard to the part I have taken in this affair. It gave me inexpressible concern to find that my conduct had been a cause of uneasiness to any of them. Next to my honor and conscience, I have nothing so near and dear to me as their approbation. However, I had much rather run the risk of displeasing than of injuring them, - if I am driven to make such an option. You obligingly lament that you are not to have me for your advocate ; but if I had been capable of acting as an advocate in opposition to a plan so perfectly consonant to my known principles, and to the opinions I had publicly declared on an hundred occasions, I should only disgrace myself, without supporting, with the smallest degree of credit or effect, the cause you wished me to undertake. I should have lost the only thing which can make such abilities as mine of any use to the world now or hereafter : I mean that authority which is derived from an opinion that a member speaks the language of truth and sincerity, and that he is not ready to take up or lay down a great political system for the convenience of the hour, that he is in Parliament to support his opinion of the public good, and does not form his opinion in order to get into Parliament, or to continue in it. It is in a great measure for your sake that I wish to preserve this character. Without it, I am sure, I should be ill able to discharge, by any service, the smallest part of that debt of gratitude and affection which I owe you



« PreviousContinue »