Page images
PDF
EPUB

the bill in England never could have done this mis chief, because there scarcely ever was less of opposition to a bill of consequence.

Sir, the agents and distributors of falsehoods have, with their usual industry, circulated another lie, of the same nature with the former. It is this: that the disturbances arose from the account which had been received in America of the change in the ministry. No longer awed, it seems, with the spirit of the former rulers, they thought themselves a match for what our calumniators choose to qualify by the name of so feeble a ministry as succeeded. Feeble in one sense these men certainly may be called : for, with all their efforts, and they have made many, they have not been able to resist the distempered vigor and insane alacrity with which you are rushing to your ruin. But it does so happen, that the falsity of this circulation is (like the rest) demonstrated by indisputable dates and records.

So little was the change known in America, that the letters of your governors, giving an account of these disturbances long after they had arrived at their highest pitch, were all directed to the old ministry, and particularly to the Earl of Halifax, the Secretary of State corresponding with the colonies, without once in the smallest degree intimating the slightest suspicion of any ministerial revolution what

The ministry was not changed in England until the 10th day of July, 1765. On the 14th of the preceding June, Governor Fauquier, from Virginia, writes thus, --- and writes thus to the Earl of Halifax:

-“Government is set at defiance, not having strength enough in her hands to enforce obedience to the laws of the community. - The private distress, which every

soever.

man feels, increases the general dissatisfaction at the duties laid by the Stamp Act, which breaks out and shows itself upon every trifling occasion.” The general dissatisfaction had produced some time before, that is, on the 29th of May, several strong public resolves against the Stamp Act; and those resolves are assigned by Governor Bernard as the cause of the insurrections in Massachusetts Bay, in his letter of the 15th of August, still addressed to the Earl of Halifax; and he continued to address such accounts to that minister quite to the 7th of September of the same year. Similar accounts, and of as late a date, were sent from other governors, and all directed to Lord Halifax. Not one of these letters indicates the slightest idea of a change, either known or even apprehended.

Thus are blown away the insect race of courtly falsehoods! Thus perish the miserable inventions of the wretched runners for a wretched cause, which they have fly-blown into every weak and rotten part of the country, in vain hopes, that, when their maggots had taken wing, their importunate buzzing might sound something like the public voice!

Sir, I have troubled you sufficiently with the state of America before the repeal. Now I turn to the honorable gentleman who so stoutly challenges us to tell whether, after the repeal, the provinces were quiet. This is coming home to the point. Here I meet him directly, and answer most readily, They were quiet. And I, in my turn, challenge him to prove when, and where, and by whom, and in what numbers, and with what violence, the other laws of trade, as gentlemen assert, were violated in consequence of your concession, or that even your other revenue laws were attacked. But I quit the vantage

ground on which I stand, and where I might leave the burden of the proof upon him: I walk down upon the open plain, and undertake to show that they were not only quiet, but showed many unequivocal marks of acknowledgment and gratitude. And to give him every advantage, I select the obnoxious colony of Massachusetts Bay, which at this time (but without hearing her) is so heavily a culprit before Parliament: I will select their proceedings even under circumstances of no small irritation. For, a little imprudently, I must say, Governor Bernard mixed in the administration of the lenitive of the repeal no small acrimony arising from matters of a separate nature. Yet see, Sir, the effect of that lenitive, though mixed with these bitter ingredients, — and how this rugged people can express themselves on a measure of concession.

“ If it is not now in our power,” (say they, in their address to Governor Bernard,)“ in so full a manner as will be expected, to show our respectful gratitude to the mother country, or to make a dutiful, affectionate return to the indulgence of the King and Parliament, it shall be no fault of ours; for this we intend, and hope shall be able fully to effect.”

Would to God that this temper had been cultivat ed, managed, and set in action! Other effects than those which we have since felt would have resulted from it. On the requisition for compensation to those who had suffered from the violence of the populace, in the same address they say,—“The recommendation enjoined by Mr. Secretary Conway's letter, and in consequence thereof made to us, we shall embrace the first convenient opportunity to consider and act upon.” They did consider; they did act upon it. They obeyed

[ocr errors]

the requisition. I know the mode has been chicaned upon; but it was substantially obeyed, and much better obeyed than I fear the Parliamentary requisition of this session will be, though enforced by all your rigor and backed with all your power. In a word, the damages of popular fury were compensated by legislative gravity. Almost every other part of America in various ways demonstrated their gratitude. I am bold to say, that so sudden a calm recovered after so violent a storm is without parallel in history. To say that no other disturbance should happen from any other cause is folly. But as far as appearances went, by the judicious sacrifice of one law you procured an acquiescence in all that remained. After this experience, nobody shall persuade me, when an whole people are concerned, that acts of lenity are not means of conciliation.

I hope the honorable gentleman has received a fair and full answer to his question.

I have done with the third period of your policy, that of your repeal, and the return of your ancient system, and your ancient tranquillity and concord. Sir, this period was not as long as it was happy. Another scene was opened, and other actors appeared on the stage. The state, in the condition I have described it, was delivered into the hands of Lord Chatham, a great and celebrated name, - a name that keeps the name of this country respectable in every other on the globe. It may be truly called

Clarum et venerabile nomen
Gentibus, et multum nostræ quod proderat urbi.

Sir, the venerable age of this great man, his mer ited rank, his superior eloquence, his splendid quali

ties, his eminent services, the vast space he fills in the eye of mankind, and, more than all the rest, liis fall from power, which, like death, canonizes and sanc tifies a great character, will not suffer me to censure any part of his conduct. I am afraid to flatter him ; I am sure I am not disposed to blame him. Let those who have betrayed him by their adulation insult him with their malevolence. But what I do not presume to censure I may have leave to lament. For a wise man, he seemed to me at that time to be governed too much by general maxims. I speak with the freedom of history, and I hope without offence. One or two of these maxims, flowing from an opinion not the most indulgent to our unhappy species, and surely a little too general, led him into measures that were greatly mischievous to himself, and for that reason, among others, perhaps fatal to his country, measures, the effects of which, I am afraid, are forever incurable. He made an administration so checkered and speckled, he put together a piece of joinery so crossly indented and whimsically dovetailed, a cabinet so variously inlaid, such a piece of diversified mosaic, such a tessellated pavement without cement, - here a bit of black stone and there a bit of white, patriots and courtiers, king's friends and republicans, Whigs and Tories, treacherous friends and open enemies, - that it was, indeed, a very curious show, but utterly unsafe to touch and unsure to stand on. The colleagues whom he had assorted at the same boards stared at each other, and were obliged to ask,—“Sir, your name?”—“Sir, you have the advantage of me.” -“Mr. Such-a-one." _“I beg a thousand pardons.” - I venture to say, it did so happen that persons had a single office divided between them, who had

« PreviousContinue »