« PreviousContinue »
venerable figure, dignified and graceful in decay, his language, his voice,
his gesture, were such as might at this momentous crisis, big with the fate of Britain, seem to characterize him as the guardian genius of his country.
This impressive appeal produced no salutary effect. The motion was rejected by the usual majority. Hostilities soon afterwards commenced, and, as he predicted, the “ immedicabile vulnus” was sustained by the empire.
SPEECH, &c. MY LORDS,
AFTER more than six weeks possession of the papers now before you, on a subject so momentous, at a time when the fate of this nation hangs on every hour; the ministry have at length condescended to submit to the consideration of this house intelligence from America, with which your lordships and the publick have been long and fully acquainted.
The measures of last year, my lords, which have produced the present alarming state of America, were founded upon misrepresentation; they were violent, precipitate and vindictive. The nation was told, that it was only a faction in Boston, which opposed all lawful government; that an unwarrantable injury had been done to private property, for which the justice of parliament was called upon, to order reparation;—that the least appearance of firmness would awe the Americans into submission, and upon only passing the Rubicon we should be, sine clade victor.
That the people might choose their representatives under the impression of those misrepresentations, the parliament was precipitately dissolved. Thus the nation was to be rendered instrumental in executing the vengeance of administration on that injured, unhappy, traduced people.
But now, iny lords, we find, that instead of suppressing the opposition of the faction at Boston, these measures have spread it over the whole continent.
They have united that whole people, by the most indissoluble of all bands—intolerable wrongs. The just retribution, is an indiscriminate, unmerciful proscription of the innocent with the guilty, unheard and untried. The bloodless victory, is an impotent general with his dishonoured army, trusting solely to the pickaxe; and the spade, for security against the just indignation of an injured and insulted people.
My lords, I am happy that a relaxation of my infirmities permits me to seize this earliest opportunity of offering my poor advice to save this unhappy country, at this moment tottering to its ruin. But, as I have not the honour of access to his majesty, I will endeavour to transmit to him through the constitutional channel of this house, my ideas on American business, to rescue him from the misadvice of his present ministers. I congratulate your lordships that the business is at last entered upon, by the noble lord's* laying the
suppose your lordships are too well apprized of their contents, I hope I am not premature in submitting to you my present motion.t
I wish, my lords, not to lose a day in this urgent, pressing crisis. An hour now lost in allaying ferments in America, may produce years of calamity. For my own part, I will not desert, for a moment, the conduct of this weighty business, from the first to the last. Unless nailed to my bed by the extremity of sickness, I will give it unremitted attention. I will knock at the door of this sleeping and confounded ministry, and will rouse them to a sense of their important danger.
When I state the importance of the colonies to this country, and the magnitude of danger hanging over
country, from the present plan of misadministration practised against them, I desire not to be understood to argue for a reciprocity of indulgence between England and America. I contend not for indulgence, but justice to America; and I shall ever contend, that
* Lord Dartmouth.
. Reads the motion.
the Americans justly owe obedience to us in a limited degree-they owe obedience to our ordinances of trade and navigation; but let the line be skilfully drawn between the objects of those ordinances, and their private internal property. Let the sacredness of their property remain inviolate. Let it be taxable only by their own consent, given in their provincial assemblies; else it will cease to be property. As to the metaphysical refinements, attempting to show that the Americans are equally free from obedience and commercial restraints, as from taxation for revenue, as being unrepresented here, I pronounce them futile, frivolous, and groundless.
When I urge this measure of recalling the troops from Boston, I urge it on this pressing principle, that it is necessarily preparat ry to the restoration of your peace, and the establishment of your prosperity. It will then appear that you are disposed to treat amicably and equitably; and to consider, revise, and repeal, if it should be found necessary, as I affirm it will, those violent acts and declarations which have disseminated confusion throughout your empire.
Resistance to your acts was necessary as it was just; and your vain declarations of the omnipotence of parliament, and your imperious doctrines of the necessity of submission, will be found equally impotent to convince, or to enslave your fellow subjects in America, who feel that tyranny, whether ambitioned by an individual part of the legislature, or the bodies who compose it, is equally intolerable to British subjects.
The means of enforcing this thraldom are found to be as ridiculous and weak in practice, as they are unjust in principle. Indeed I cannot but feel the most anxious sensibility for the situation of general Gage, and the troops under his command; thinking him, as I do, a man of humanity and understanding; and entertaining as I ever will, the highest respect, the warmest love for the British troops. Their situation is truly unworthy; penned up-pining in inglorious inactivity. They are an army of impotence. You
may call them an army of safety and of guard; but they are in truth an army of impotence and contempt; and, to make the folly equal to the disgrace, they are an army of irritation and vexation.
But I find a report creeping abroad, that ministers censure general Gage's inactivity. Let them censure him—it becomes them-it becomes their justice and their honour. I mean not to censure his inactivity. It is a prudent and necessary inaction : but it is a miserable condition, where disgrace is prudence, and where it is necessary to be contemptible. This tameness, however contemptible, cannot be censured ; for the first drop of blood shed in civil and unnatural war might be immedicabile vulnus.
I therefore urge and conjure your lordships, immediately to adopt this conciliating measure. I will pledge myself for its immediately producing conciliatory effects, by its being thus well-timed: but if you delay till your vain hope shall be accomplished, of triumphantly dictating reconciliation, you delay for ever. But, admitting that this hope, which in truth is desperate, should be accomplished, what do you gain by the imposition of your victorious amity ? you will be untrusted and unthanked. Adopt, then the grace, while you have the opportunity of reconcilement; or at least prepare the way. Allay the ferment prevailing in America, by removing the obnoxious hostile cause-obnoxious and unserviceable ; for their merit can be only inaction : “ Non dimicare et vincere,”—their victory can never be by exertions. Their force would be most disproportionately exerted against a brave, generous, and united people, with arms in their hands, and courage in their hearts :three millions of people, the genuine descendants of a valiant and pious ancestry, driven to those deserts by the narrow maxims of a superstitious tyranny.And is the spirit of persecution never to be appeased ? Are the brave sons of those brave forefathers to inhe. rit their sufferings, as they have inherited their vir. tues ? Are they to sustain the infliction of the most oppressive and unexampled severity, beyond the ac
counts of history, or description of poetry: damanthus habet durissima regna, castigatque AUDITQue.” So says the wisest poet, and perhaps the wisest statesman and politician.—But our ministers say, the Americans must not be heard. They have been condemned unheard. The indiscriminate hand of vengeance has lumped together innocent and guilty; with all the formalities of hostility, has blocked up the town* and reduced to beggary and famine thirty thousand inhabitants.
But his majesty is advised, that the union in Ame. rica cannot last. Ministers have more eyes than I, and should have more ears; but with all the information I have been able to procure, I can pronounce it
-a union, solid, permanent, and effectual. Ministers may satisfy themselves, and delude the publick, with the report of what they call commercial bodies in America. They are not commercial; they are your packers and factors; they live upon nothingfor I call commission nothing. I mean the ministerial authority for this American intelligence; the runners for government, who are paid for their intelligence. But these are not the men, nor this the influence, to be considered in America, when we estimate the firmness of their union. Even to extend the question, and to take in the really mercantile circle, will be totally inadequate to the consideration. Trade indeed increases the wealth and glory of a country; but its real strength and stamina are to be looked for among the cultivators of the land. In their simplicity of life is found the simpleness of virtue-the integrity and courage of freedom. These true genuine sons of the earth are invincible: and they surround and hem in the mercantile bodies; even if these bodies, which supposition I totally disclaim, could be supposed disaffected to the cause of liberty. Of this general spirit existing in the British nation ; (for so I wish to distinguish the real and genuine Americans
* Boston .