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intentions of Great Britain concerning the exercise of the right of taxing the colonies, and, in fact, renouncing the exercise of the right; another, for appointing commissioners, with 'full powers to treat with America. The great defect of Lord North was want of firmness. With an excellent understanding and upright intentions, he too readily sacrificed his own opinion to that of others; there was in his conduct a defect very pernicious either to the public or private manager of important business, be was too easily burne down by opposition to what be bimself thought right. This was very evident in his parliamentary conduct, and it is not unfair to conclude, that it took place sometimes in the cabinet. The more determined abettors of coercive measures were founded at the proposed abandonment of the plans they had hitherto supported. Mr. Fox professed to approve of the general object of conciliation, and shewed that the means proposed were nearly the same as those intended by Burke in his conciliatory bill some years before. At the same time
he entered into a full discussion of the ignorance and weakness which was compelled, after much loss, to propose plans, that if adopted, when offered some years before, would have prevented that loss. Burke maintained that the terms of conciliation, however admissible they might have been at the commencement of the contest, would be now too late, as any terms would be short of independence, which, he affirmed, the Americans had now permanently established for themselves, and had, besides, entered into a treaty with France for securing. To this sound reasoning, founded on accurate information, he added argument less conclusive. He contended that no terms coming from that Administration would be received by the Americans. It is probable that the Americans, or ANY MEN OF SENSE, would consider what the terms were proposed by the contending nation, not who were the agents. The bills, in their passage through the house, were rather the subject of regulation and modification, than of opposition. Several provisions proposed by Burke were
adopted, and the whole passed without a division.
The state of the navy; now become a more important subject of discussion than during any former period of the war, as France had manifested hostile intentions, called forth the powers of Fox and Burke. In considering the navy,
that Burke either had been deficient in his usual information, or had argued more as a party inan than as an impartial statesman. The navy, as it appeared from the number of well appointed ships employed in various quarters, or ready to be sent to sea, was in a very respectable state. Burke asserted that no officer of character would be induced to take the command of a fleet in such a condition, an assertion in which he was totally wrong, as several officers of high reputation declared their willingness to serve, and one of the first professional respectability, highly esteemed by Burke himself, actually undertook the command of the principal fleet. To blame Administration,
when really wrong, was the duty of a pas triotic senator : to censure them in every case, whether wrong or right, was the part merely of an Opposition member. Burke, indeed, as we have seen in the · Thoughts on the Cause of the Discontents,' avowed himself a party man, and persisted, during a great portion of his life, in that declaration. His avowal that he was so is nothing to the merit or demerit of the question ; parties are right or wrong according to their object, and the means they employ. To attack not measures only, but men, whatever the measures be, though commonly practised by parties, is inconsistent with justice and truth. It is on questions of great and general policy, involving measures and not men, that we are to look for the exertions of Burke in their highest intellectual, moral, and political excellence. Fox made a motion for an inquiry into the unfortunate expedition from Canada, the purport of which was to prove that the Minister was to blame for the disaster; that the plan was wrong; that Burgoyne had acted agree
ably to the tenor of his instructions ; that the force afforded him was inadequate. Burke warmly supported these arguments, although he had neither oral nor written evidence, and proceeded on conjecture, a conjecture in which he was afterwards proved to be wrong, it being .evinced by documents that the plan was concerted in conjunction with Burgoyne himself, and that all the force was supplied to him which he deemed necessary. Here, therefore, Burke was an advocate against the Minister instead of a judge:--a partizan instead of a senator.
The Opposition party, however unanimous in inveighing against Ministers, by no means agreed respecting the terms on which they would proffer peace to the Americans. They were ranged in two classes :—those of whom the Marquis of Rockingham was the. nominal head, Fox and Burke the real; and those of whom Chatham was the leader, assisted by Temple, Shelburne, and Camden, in the House of Lords ; by Colonel Barré,