Abbildungen der Seite

coercion of America was unattainable. This proposal was opposed by Administration, on the ground that it would be imprudent to expose the number of our forces, Mr. Fox asserted, that twenty thousand men had perished in the contest. The Minister answered, that not more than twelve þundred had been slain. Mr. Fox, always ready in directly applying the just criterion, when truth was his object, moved for an account of all the men sent to America, all that still remained, and that the difference would be the loss sustained. “Particular inquiry was deemed by the friends of Administration inexpedient. Similar motions were made in the upper house, and rejected. The great Earl of Chatham, notwithstanding his bodily infirmities, took an active share in the business of this session, the last which that illustrious statesman lived to see.

February 17, Lord North proposed a conciliatory plan, which afforded much discussion to Burke and other leading members of Opposition. He defended his own plans

He as

and conduct respecting America. serted, that it had always been his opinion, that the taxation of America could never produce a beneficial revenue to Britain. He had wished to keep the discussion of American taxation as much as possible out of Parliament. To lessen the complaints of the Americans, he had proposed, in 1770, the taking off all the duties but that on tea; and that, in proposing the East India Company should export their teas duty free, he had meant the relief of that Company in such a way as would accommodate the Americans, by affording them tea at a cheaper rate, instead of being a ground of complaint; that the coercion acts were the effects of necessity, not of his inclination ; and that the war which afterwards ensued had arisen from the Americans and their abettors. The events of the war, he said, had turned out quite different from what the country had reason to expect; and that to the event, and not his well-grounded expectations, he must make his plan conform. He proposed two bills, one for declaring the

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, he was too easily borne down by of position to what he bimself tbouglt 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 confounded 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

[ocr errors]

he entered into a full discussion of the ige norance 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, it appears that Burke either had been deficient in his usual information, or had argued more as a party man 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,

« ZurückWeiter »