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in our quarrel, or to be flattered with the hope of any future means of bearing the burdens which she is to incur in defending herself against enemies which we have brought upon her ?
I cannot set my face against such arguments. Is it quite fair to suppose that I have no other motive for yielding to them but a desire of acting against my constituents? It is for you, and for your interest,
, as a dear, cherished, and respected part of a valuable whole, that I have taken my share in this question. You do not, you cannot, suffer by it. If honesty be true policy with regard to the transient interest of individuals, it is much more certainly so with regard to the permanent interests of communities. I know that it is but too natural for us to see our own certain ruin in the possible prosperity of other people. It is hard to persuade us that everything which is got by another is not taken from ourselves. But it is fit that we should get the better of these suggestions, which come from what is not the best and soundest part of our nature, and that we should form to ourselves a way of thinking, more rational, more just, and more religious. Trade is not a limited thing: as if the objects of mutual demand and consumption could not stretch beyond the bounds of our jealousies. God has given the earth to the children of men, and He has undoubtedly, in giving it to them, given them what is abundantly sufficient for all their exigencies : not a scanty, but a most liberal, provision for them all. The Author of our nature has written it strongly in that nature, and has promulgated the same law in His written word, that man shall eat his bread by his labor; and I am persuaded that no man, and no combination of men, for their own ideas of their par
ticular profit, can, without great impiety, undertake to say that he shall not do so, - that they have no sort of right either to prevent the labor or to withhold the bread. Ireland having received no compensation, directly or indirectly, for any restraints on their trade, ought not, in justice or common honesty, to be made subject to such restraints. I do not mean to impeach the right of the Parliament of Great Britain to make laws for the trade of Ireland : I only speak of what laws it is right for Parliament to make.
It is nothing to an oppressed people, to say that in part they are protected at our charge. The military force which shall be kept up in order to cramp the natural faculties of a people, and to prevent their arrival to their utmost prosperity, is the instrument of their servitude, not the means of their protection. To protect men is to forward, and not to restrain, their improvement. Else, what is it more than to avow to them, and to the world, that you guard them from others only to make them a prey to yourself? This fundamental nature of protection does not belong to free, but to all governments, and is as valid in Turkey as in Great Britain. No government ought to own that it exists for the purpose of checking the prosperity of its people, or that there is such a principle involved in its policy.
Under the impression of these sentiments, (and not as wanting every attention to my constituents which affection and gratitude could inspire,) I voted for these bills which give you so much trouble. I voted for them, not as doing complete justice to Ireland, but as being something less unjust than the general prohibition which has hitherto prevailed. I hear
some discourse as if, in one or two paltry duties on materials, Ireland had a preference, and that those who set themselves against this act of scanty justice assert that they are only contending for an equality. What equality ? Do they forget that the whole woollen manufacture of Ireland, the most extensive and profitable of any, and the natural staple of that kingdom, has been in a manner so destroyed by restrictive laws of ours, and (at our persuasion, and on our promises) by restrictive laws of their own, that in a few years, it is probable, they will not be able to wear a coat of their own fabric? Is this equality ? Do gentlemen forget that the understood faith upon which they were persuaded to such an unnatural act has not been kept, - but a linen-manufacture has been set up, and highly encouraged, against them? Is this equality ? Do they forget the state of the trade of Ireland in beer, so great an article of consumption, and which now stands in so mischievous a position with regard to their revenue, their manufacture, and their agriculture ? Do they find any equality in all this? Yet, if the least step is taken towards doing them common justice in the slightest articles for the most limited markets, a cry is raised, as if we were going to be ruined by partiality to Ireland.
Gentlemen, I know that the deficiency in these arguments is made up (not by you, but by others) by the usual resource on such occasions, the confidence in military force and superior power. But that ground of confidence, which at no time was perfectly just, or the avowal of it tolerably decent, is at this time very unseasonable. Late experience has shown that it cannot be altogether relied upon ; and many, if not all, of our present difficulties have arisen from putting our trust in what may very possibly fail, and, if it should fail, leaves those who are hurt by such a reliance without pity. Whereas honesty and justice, reason and equity, go a very great way in securing prosperity to those who use them, and, in case of failure, secure the best retreat and the most honorable consolations.
It is very unfortunate that we should consider those as rivals, whom we ought to regard as fellow-laborers in a common cause. Ireland has never made a single step in its progress towards prosperity, by which you have not had a share, and perhaps the greatest share, in the benefit. That progress has been chiefly owing to her own natural advantages, and her own efforts, which, after a long time, and by slow degrees, have prevailed in some measure over the mischievous systems which have been adopted. Far enough she is still from having arrived even at an ordinary state of perfection ; and if our jealousies were to be converted into politics as systematically as some would have them, the trade of Ireland would vanish out of the system of commerce. But, believe me, if Ireland is beneficial to you, it is so not from the parts in which it is restrained, but from those in which it is left free, though not left unrivalled. The greater its freedom, the greater must be your advantage. If you should lose in one way, you will gain in twenty.
Whilst I remain under this unalterable and powerful conviction, you will not wonder at the decided part I take. It is my custom so to do, when I see my way clearly before me, and when I know that I am not misled by any passion or any personal interest, which in this case I am very sure I am not. I find that disagreeable things are circulated among my constituents; and I wish my sentiments, which form my justification, may be equally general with the circulation against me. I have the honor to be, with the greatest regard and esteem, Gentlemen, Your most obedient and humble servant,