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to the account of such colony or province. The bill founded on this resolution was violently opposed by certain of the prime minister's habitual partisans, who insisted on it that the colonies should be taxed directly by the British parliament. It was also attacked by the opposition, who argued that as it reserved to the British government the right of apportioning the respective proportions which the provinces should raise for the general service, and left the disposal of the sums raised to parliament, it mattered little that the immediate application of the scourge of taxation should be left to the colonial assemblies, who would regard the bill as an insult and a wrong. The opposition made a right estimate of the feelings of the Americans. The bill passed into a law; but it was received throughout the Union with abhorrence and contempt.
It was in this session, viz: on the 22d of March, 1775, that Mr. Burke made his celebrated speech for conciliation with America,-a speech fraught with statesman-like views, expressed in language at once temperate and eloquent.At the commencement of this deeply-studied oration, Mr. Burke, after observing that all former measures recommended by the ministry and adopted by parliament had served to no other purpose but to keep America in a state of agitation, intimated that it had been observed to him by an intelligent friend, that instead of limiting himself to criticisms or the plans of government, it was highly expedient that he should produce a plan of his own. Though he was aware, said he, that it argues little knowledge to hazard plans of government, except from a seat of authority, yet, as public calamity was a mighty leveler, he would now act upon his friend's suggestion. "My proposition,
What bill passed into a law?
proceeded he, 'is peace; not peace through the medium of war; nor peace to be hunted through the labyrinth of intricate and endless negotiations; nor peace to arise out of universal discord, fomented from principle in all parts of the empire; not peace to depend upon the judicial determination of perplexing questions, or the precise marking of the shadowy boundaries of a complex government. It is simple peace, sought in its natural course and in its ordinary haunts, it is peace sought in the spirit of peace, and laid in principles purely pacific. I propose by removing the ground of the difference, and by restoring the former unsuspecting confidence of the colonies in the mother country, to give permanent satisfaction to your people, and, far from a scheme of ruling by discord, to reconcile them to each other in the same act, and by the bond of the very same interest which reconciles them to British government.' After laying down and enforcing the position that the proposal for reconciliation ought, in consideration of her strength, to come from Great Britain, Mr. Burke asserted, that the plan for conciliation ought to be guided, not by abstract theory, but by a regard to circumstances.What, then, were the circumstances of the present case? In the first place, the discontented Americans amounted in number to two millions, a number which considered in mass, could not be regarded as a paltry excrescence of the State, or a mean dependant, who may be neglected with little damage, and provoked with little danger. But, with the consideration of the population of America, it was requisite to combine mature reflection upon other circumstances; as, for instance, the commerce, the agriculture,
What is the substance of Mr. Burke's speech?
and the fisheries of the colonies. As to commerce, Mr. Burke proved by documentary evidence, that, at the beginning of the century, of six millions which constituted the whole mass of the export commerce of Britain, the colony trade was but one twelfth part; but that, by the last returns submitted to parliament, it appeared that, as a part of sixteen millions, it constituted considerably more than a third of the whole. In agriculture, he asserted that America was so prosperous that she was enabled to export vast quantities of gain for the supply of the mother country. As to the third head of consideration, no sea, exclaimed the orator, “but is vexed by the fisheries of the colonists, no climate that is not witness to their toils.
Neither the perseverance of Holland, nor the activity of France, nor the dexterous and firm sagacity of English enterprise, ever carried this most perilous mode of hard industry to the extent to which it has been pushed by this recent people,-a people who are still, as it were, but in the gristle, and not yet hardened into the bone of manhood.' ‘But,' continued Mr. Burke, “some persons will say, such a country is worth fighting for,-true,—but fighting will not retain it. Force is uncertain, and, if successful, it will depreciate the object gained. He warned the House to consider the temper and character of the people with whom many ill-advised individuals seemed so eager to contend. The North American colonists were jealous of their liberties. Their jealousy as to their rights they derived from their English origin; it was nursed by their popular legislatures,—it was also nursed by their religion. The great body of the colonists were dissenters; and the dissenting interests have
What did he prove of America, as to commerce? What as to agriculture?
What as to the fisheries?
sprung up in direct opposition to all the ordinary powers of the world, and can justify that opposition only on a strong claim to natural liberty. All protestantism, Mr. Burke acutely remarked,— All protestantism, even the most cold and passive, is a sort of dissent. But the religion most prevalent in our northern colonies, is a refinement on the principle of resistance; it is the dissidence of dissent, and the protestantism of the protestant religion.' The spirit of freedom was, moreover, nurtured in the colonies, in general, by education; and in Virginia and the Carolinas by that pride which uniformly actuates the holders of slaves, “to whom freedom is not only an enjoyment, but a kind of rank and privilege.' Their distance from the mother country likewise rendered the colonists less disposed to submit to the dictation of the parent State. This happens in all forms into which empire can be thrown. In large bodies the circulation of power must be less vigorous at the extremities. A proud spirit of liberty having from these various causes been infused throughout the colonies, in consequence of which they have not only disobeyed our authority, but established an efficient authority of their own, by means of which a vast province has subsisted for near a twelvemonth, without governor, without public council, without judges, without executive magistrates, the question arises, how is this spirit to be encountered? Some politicians have in this emergency proposed to check the population of the colonies by stopping the grant of more lands by the crown. Others have advised that their maritime enterprises should be checked by the severity of restrictive laws; whilst a third class of counselors are sanguine in their expectations, that the Virginians and the
What did he say of their protestantism?
What a third
planters of the Carolinas will speedily be reduced to sub'mission by the emancipation of their slaves. Some, again, went so far as to talk of prosecuting the refractory as criminal. After demonstrating at length the futility of these proposals, Mr. Burke affirmed, that the only method left of putting an end to existing troubles, was that of conciliation. The Americans, said he, complain of taxation, I will not on this matter dispute the point of right, but that of policy. The question is not whether you have a right to render your people miserable, but whether it is not your interest to make them happy. It is not what a lawyer may tell you, you may do, but what humanity, reason, and justice declare you ought to do.' Having thus laid down the principle of his plan, Mr. Burke began to open it by declaring, that his main object was to admit the people of the colonies to an interest in the Constitution. The fact was, that the Americans did not object to the laws of trade; nor did they aim at any thing more than a release from taxation, imposed upon them by a legislative body in which their interests are not guarded by their representatives. Similar uneasiness was for a long time prevalent in Ireland, in Wales, and in the counties palatine of Chester and Durham. Now the agitations of Ireland were quelled by the establishment of a separate legislature for that country, whilst the feuds which prevailed in Cheshire and Durham were annihilated by the admission of representatives of those counties into the English parliament. Let a similar policy then be exercised towards America. In her case, let taxation and representation go hand in hand.
What did Mr. Burke affirm?
What did he say was the question?