Page images

to the question on your paper : the other more large and more complicated; comprehending the whole series of the parliamentary proceedings with regard to America, their causes, and their consequences. With regard to the latter ground, he states it as useless, and thinks it may be even dangerous, to enter into so extensive a field of inquiry. Yet, to my surprize, he had hardly laid down this restrictive proposition, to which his authority would have given so much weight, when directly, and with the same authority, he condemns it; and declares it absolutely necessary to enter into the most ample historical detail. His zeal has thrown him a little out of his usual accuracy. In this perplexity what shall we do, sir, who are wil. ling to submit to the law he gives us? He has reprobated in one part of his speech the rule he had laid down for debate in the other; and after narrowing the ground for all those who are to speak after him, he takes an excursion himseļf, as unbounded as the subject and the extent of his great abilities.

Sir, when I cannot obey all his laws, I will do the best I can.

I will endeavour to obey such of them as have the sanction of his example; and to stick to that rule, which, though not consistent with the other, is the most rational. He was certainly in the right when he took the matter largely. I cannot prevail on myself to agree with him in his censure of his own conduct. It is not, he will give me leave to say, either useless or dangerous. He asserts, that retrospect is not wise; and the proper, the only proper, subject of inquiry is, “not how we got into this difficulty, but how we are to get out of it.” In other words, we are, according to him, to consult our invention, and to reject our experience. The mode of deliberation he recommends is diametrically opposite to every rule of reason, and every principle of good sense established amongst mankind. For, that sense and that reason, I have always understood, absolutely to prescribe, whenever we are involved in difficulties from the measures we have pursued, that we should take a strict review of those measures, in order to

correct our errours, if they should be corrigible; or at least to avoid a dull uniformity in mischief, and the unpitied calamity of being repeatedly caught in the

same snare.

Sir, I will freely follow the honourable gentleman in his historical discussion, without the least management for men or measures, further than as they shall seem to me to deserve it. But before I


into that large consideration, because I would omit nothing that can give the house satisfaction, I wish to tread the narrow ground to which alone the honourable gentleman in one part of his speech, has so strictly confined us.

He desires to know, whether, if we were to repeal this tax agreeably to the proposition of the honourable gentleman who made the motion, the Americans would not take post on this concession, in order to make a new attack on the next body of taxes; and whether they would not call for a repeal of the duty on wine as loudly as they do now for the repeal of the duty on tea? Sir, I can give no security on this sub. ject. But I will do all that I can, and all that can be fairly demanded. To the experience which the honourable gentleman reprobates in one instant, and reverts to in the next; to that experience, without the least wavering or hesitation on my part, I steadily appeal; and would to God there was no other arbiter to decide on the vote with which the house is to conclude this day!

When parliament repealed the stamp act in the year 1766, I affirm, first, that the Americans did not in consequence of this measure call upon you to give up the former parliamentary revenue which subsisted in that country; or even any one of the articles which compose it. I affirm also, that when departing from the maxims of that repeal, you revived the scheme of taxation, and thereby filled the minds of the colonists with new jealousy, and all sorts of apprehension, then it was that they quarrelled with the old taxes, as well as the new; then it was, and not till then, that they questioned all the parts of your legislative power;

and by the battery of such questions have shaken the solid structure of this empire to its deepest foundations.

Of those two propositions I shall, before I have done, give such convincing, such damning proof, that however the contrary may be whispered in circles, or bawled in newspapers, they never more will dare to raise their voices in this house. I speak with great confidence. I have reason for it. The ministers are with me. They at least are convinced that the repeal of the stamp act had not, and that no repeal can have the consequences which the honourable gentleman who defends their measures is so much alarmed at. To their conduct, I refer him for a conclusive answer to his objection. I carry my proof irresistibly into the very body of both ministry and parliament; not on any general reasoning growing out of collateral matter, but on the conduct of the honourable gentleman's ministerial friends on the new revenue itself.

The act of 1767, which grants this tea duty, sets forth in its preamble, that it was expedient to raise a revenue in America, for the support of the civil government there, as well as for purposes still more extensive.

To this support the act assigns six branches of duties. About two years after this act passed, the ministry, I mean the present ministry, thought it expedient to repeal five of the duties, and to leave, for reasons best known to themselves, only the sixth standing. Suppose any person, at the time of that repeal, had thus addressed the minister,* “ Condemning, as you do, the repeal of the stamp act, why do you venture to repeal the duties upon glass, paper, and painters' colours ? Let your pretence for the repeal be what it will, are you not thoroughly convinced, that your concessions will produce, not satisfaction, but insolence in the Americans ; and that the giving up these taxes will necessitate the giving up of all the rest ?” This ob

* Lord North, then chancellor of the exchequer. VOL. I.


[ocr errors][ocr errors]

jection was as palpable then as it is now; and it was as good for preserving the five duties as for retaining the sixth. Besides, the minister will recollect, that the repeal of the stamp act had but just preceded his repeal; and the ill policy of that measure (had it been so impolitick as it has been represented) and the mischiefs it produced, were quite recent. Upon the principles therefore of the honourable gentleman, upon the principles of the minister himself, the minister has nothing at all to answer. He stands condemned by himself, and by all his associates old and new, as a destroyer, in the first trust of finance, of the revenues; and in the first rank of honour, as a betrayer of the dignity of his country.

Most men, especially great men, do not always know their well-wishers. I come to rescue that noble lord out of the hands of those he calls his friends; and even out of his own. I will do him the justice he is denied at home. He has not been this wicked or imprudent man. He knew that a repeal had no tendency to produce the mischiefs which give so much alarm to his honourable friend. His work was not bad in its principle, but imperfect in its execution; and the motion on your paper presses him only to complete a proper plan, which, by some unfortunate and unaccountable errour, he had left unfinished.

I hope, sir, the honourable gentleman who spoke last, is thoroughly satisfied, and satisfied out of the proceedings of ministry on their own favourite act, that his fears from a repeal are groundless. If he is not, I leave him, and the noble lord who sits by bim, to settle the matter, as well as they can, together; for if the repeal of American taxes destroys all our government in America-He is the man ! -and he is the worst of all the repealers, because he is the last.

But I hear it rung continually in my ears, now and formerly, —“the preamble ! what will become of the preamble, if you repeal this tax ?»-I am sorry to he compelled so often to expose the calamities and

disgraces of parliament. The preamble of this law standing as it now stands, has the lie direct given to it by the provisionary part of the act; if that can be called provisionary which makes no provision. I should be afraid to express myself in this manner, especially in the face of such a formidable array of ability as is now drawn up before me, com posed of the ancient household troops of that side of the house, and the new recruits from this, if the matter were not clear and indisputable. Nothing but truth could give me this firmness; but plain truth and clear evidence can be beat down by no ability. The clerk will be so good as to turn to the act, and to read this favourite preamble.

Whereas it is expedient that a revenue should be raised in your majesty's dominions in America, for making a more certain and adequate provision for defraying the charge of the administration of justice, and support of civil government, in such provinces where it shall be found necessary; and towards further defraying the expenses of defending, protecting, and securing the said dominions.

You have heard this pompous performance. Now where is the revenue which is to do all these mighty things? Five sixths repealed—abandoned—sunkgone lost for ever. Does the poor solitary tea duty support the purposes of this preamble? Is not the supply there stated as effectually abandoned as if the tea duty had perished in the general wreck ? Here, Mr. Speaker, is a precious mockery—a preamble without an act-taxes granted in order to be repealed and the reasons of the grant still carefully kept up! This is raising a revenue in America! This is preserving dignity in England ! If you repeal this tax in) compliance with the motion, I readily admit that you lose this fair preamble. Estimate your loss in it. the object of the act is gone already; and all you suffer is the purging the statute book of the opprobium of an empty, absurd, and false recital.

It has been said again and again, that the five taxes were repealed on commercial principles. It is so

« PreviousContinue »