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We, your majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects, several of the peers of the realm, and several members of the house of commons chosen by the people to represent them in parliament, do, in our individual capacity, but with hearts filled with a warm affection to your majesty, with a strong attachment to your royal house, and with the most unfeigned devotion to your true interest, beg leave, at this crisis of your affairs, in all humility to approach your royal presence.
Whilst we lament the measures adopted by the public councils of the kingdom, we do not mean to question the legal validity of their proceedings. We do not desire to appeal from them to any person whatsoever. We do not dispute the conclusive authority of the bodies, in which we have a place, over all their members. We know, that it is our ordinary duty to submit ourselves to the determinations of the majority, in every thing, except what regards the just defence of our honour and reputation. But the situation into which the British empire has been brought, and the conduct to which we are reluctantly driven in that situation, we hold ourselves bound by the relation, in which we stand both to the crown and the people, clearly to explain to your majesty and our country.
We have |. called upon in the speech from the throne at the opening of this session of parliament, in a manner peculiarly marked, singularly emphatical, and from a place from whence anything implying censure falls with no common weight, to concur in unanimous approbation of those measures which have produced our present distresses, and threaten us in future with others far more grievous. We trust, therefore, that we shall stand justified in offering to our sovereign and the public our reasons for persevering inflexibly in our uniform dissent from every part of those measures. We lament them from an experience of their mischief, as we originally opposed them from a sure foresight of their unhappy and inevitable tendency.
We see nothing in the present events, in the least degree, sufficient, to warrant an alteration in our opinion. We were always steadily averse to this civil war—not because we thought it impossible that it should be attended with victory; but because we were fully persuaded, that in such a contest, victory would only vary the mode of our ruin; and, by making it less immediately sensible, would render it the more lasting and the more irretrievable. Experience had but too fully instructed us in the possibility of the reduction of a free people to slavery by foreign mercenary armies. But we had an horror of becoming the instruments in a design, of which, in our turn, we might become the victims. Knowing the inestimable value of peace, and the contemptible value of what was sought by war, we wished to compose the distractions of our country, not by the use of foreign arms, but by prudent regulations in our own domestic policy. We deplored, as your majesty has done in your speech from the throne, the disorders which prevail in your empire: but we are convinced, that the disorders of the people, in the present time and in the present place, are owing to the usual and natural cause of such disorders, at all times and in all places, where such have prevailed—the misconduct of government;-that they are owing to plans laid in error, pursued with obstinacy, and conducted without wisdom.
* See note, p. 95.
We cannot attribute so much to the power of faction, at the expense of human nature, as to suppose, that, in any part of the world, a combination of men, few in number, not considerable in rank, of no natural hereditary dependencies, should be able, by the efforts of their policy alone, or the mere exertion of any talents, to bring the people of your American dominions into the disposition which has produced the present troubles. We cannot conceive, that, without some powerful concurring cause, any management should prevail on some millions of people, dispersed over an whole continent, in thirteen provinces, not only unconnected, but in many particulars of religion, manners, government, and local interest totally different and adverse, voluntarily to submit themselves to a suspension of all the profits of industry and all the comforts of civil life, added to all the evils of an unequal war, carried on with circumstances of the greatest asF. and rigour. This, sir, we conceive, could never have
ppened, but from a general sense of some grievance, so radical in its nature, and so spreading in its effects, as to poison all the ordinary satisfactions of life, to discompose the frame of society, and to convert into fear and hatred, that habitual reverence ever paid by mankind to an ancient and venerable government.
That grievance is as simple in its nature, and as level to the most ordinary understanding, as it is powerful in affecting the most languid passions:—it is
“As attempt MADE to dispose of the propeaty or a “whole PEoPLE without their consent.” Your majesty's English subjects in the colonies, possessing the ordinary faculties of mankind, know, that to live under such a plan of government is not to live in a state of freedom. Your English subjects in the colonies, still impressed with the ancient feelings of the people from whom they are derived, cannot live under a government which does not establish freedom as its basis. This scheme being therefore set up in direct opposition to the rooted and confirmed sentiments and habits of thinking of an whole people, has produced the effects which ever must result from such a collision of power and opinion. For we beg leave, with all duty and humility, to represent to your majesty, (what we fear has been industriously concealed from you) that it is not merely the opinion of a very great number or even of the majority, but the universal sense of the whole body of the people in those provinces, that the practice of taxing in the mode and on the principles which have been lately contended for and enforced, is subversive of all their rights. This sense has been declared, as we understand on good information, by the unanimous voice of all their assemblies; each assembly also, on this point, is perfectly unanimous within itself. It has been declared as fully by the actual voice of the people without these assemblies, as by the constructive voice within them; as well by those in that country who addressed, as by those who remonstrated; and it is as much the avowed opinion of those who have hazarded their all rather than take up arms against your majesty's forces, as of those who have run the same risk to oppose them. The difference among them is, not on the grievance, but on the mode of redress; and we are sorry to say, that they who have conceived hopes from the placability of the ministers who influence the public councils of this kingdom, disappear in the multitude of those who conceive that passive compliance only confirms and emboldens oppression. The sense of a whole people, most gracious sovereign, never ought to be contemned by wise and beneficent rulers; whatever may be the abstract claims, or even rights of the supreme poner. We have been too early instructed, and too long habituated to believe, that the only firm seat of all authority is h the minds, affections and interests of the . to change our opinions on the theoretic reasonings of speculative men, or for the convenience of a mere temporary arrangement of state. It is not consistent with equity or wisdom to set at defiance the general feelings of great communities and of all the orders which compose them. Much power is tolerated and passes unquestioned where much is yielded to opinion. All is disputed where every thing is enforced. Such are our sentiments on the duty and policy of conforming to the prejudices of a whole people, even where the foundation of such prejudices may be false or disputable. But permit us to lay at your majesty's feet our deliberate judgment on the real merits of that principle, the violation of which is the known ground and origin of these troubles. We assure your majesty, that, on our parts, we should think ourselves unjustifiable, as good citizens, and not influenced by the true spirit of Englishmen, if, with any effectual means of prevention in our hands, we were to submit to taxes, to which we did not consent, either directly, or by a representation of the people securing to us the substantial benefit of an absolutely free disposition of our own property in that important case. And we add, sir, that if fortune, instead of blessing us with a situation, where we may have daily access to the propitious presence of a gracious prince, had fixed us in settlements on the remotest part of the globe, we must carry these sentiments with us, as part of our being; persuaded, that the distance of situation would render this privilege in the disposal of property but the more necessary. If no provision had been made for it, such provision ought to be made, or permitted. Abuses of subordinate authority increase, and all means of redress lessen, as the distance of the subject removes him from the seat of the supreme power. What, in those circumstances, can save him from the last extremes of indignity and oppression, but something left in his own hands, which may enable him to conciliate the favour and controul the excesses of government? When no means of power to awe or to oblige are possessed, the strongest ties which connect mankind in every relation social and civil, and which teach them mutually to respect each other, are broken. Independency, from that moment, virtually exists. Its formal declaration will quickly follow. Such must be our feelings for ourselves; we are not in possession of another rule for our brethren, When the late attempt practically to annihilate that inestimable privilege was made, great disorders and tumults very unhappily and very naturally arose from it. In this state of things, we were of opinion, that satisfaction ought instantly to be given; or that, at least, the punishment of the disorder ought to be attended with the redress of the grievance. We were of opinion, that, if our dependencies had so outgrown the positive institutions made for the preservation of liberty in this kingdom, that , the operation of their powers was become rather a pressure than a relief to the subjects in the colonies, wisdom dictated, that the spirit of the constitution should rather be applied to their circumstances, than its authority enforced with violence in those very parts where its reason became wholly inapplicable. Other methods were then recommended and followed, as infallible means of restoring peace and order. We looked upon them to be, what they have since proved to be, the cause of inflaming, discontent into disobedience, and resistance into revolt. The subversion of solemn, fundamental charters, on a suggestion of abuse, without citation, evidence, or hearing: the total suspension of the commerce of a great maritime city, the capital of a great maritime province, during the pleasure of the crown: the establishment of a military force not accountable to the ordinary tribunals of the country, in which it was kept up:-these and other proceedings at that time, if no previous cause of dissention had subsisted, were sufficient to produce great troubles: unjust at all times, they were then irrational. We could not conceive, when disorders had arisen from the complaint of one violated right, that to violate every other was the proper means of quieting an exasperated people. It seemed to us absurd and preposterous, to hold out as the means of calming a people in a state of extreme inflammation, and ready to take up arms, the austere law, which a rigid conqueror would impose, as the sequel of the most decisive victories. Recourse, indeed, was at the same time had to force; and we saw a force sent out, enough to menace liberty, but not to awe opposition; tending to bring odium on the civil power, and con- . tempt on the military; at once to provoke and encourage resistance. Force was sent out not sufficient to hold one town: laws were passed to inflame thirteen provinces. This mode of proceeding, by harsh laws and feeble armies, could not be defended on the principle of mercy and forbearance. For mercy, as we conceive, consists not in the weakness of the means, but in the benignity of the ends. We apprehend that mild measures may be powerfully enforced; and that acts of extreme rigour and injustice may be attended with as much feebleness in the execution, as severity in the formation. In consequence of these terrors, which, falling upon some, threatened all, the colonies made a common cause with the sufserers; and proceeded, ou, their part, to acts of resistance. In that alarming situation we besought your majesty's ministers to entertain some distrust of the operation of coercive measures, and to profit of their experience. Experience had no effect. The modes of legislative rigour were construed, not to have been erroneous in their policy, but too limited in their extent. New Vol. W.