Page images

BOOK brought over by him, which was styled by them XVII. 'The Olive Branch,' and that he had been con1775. gratulated by his friends upon his being the bearer of it that it was greatly to be feared, that, if conciliatory measures were not speedily pursued, they would form connections with foreign powers, and that such connections, once made, it would be found very difficult to dissolve. He affirmed, that the prevailing wish of America was restoration of friendship with England; but that the most intelligent men on the continent were of opinion, that a rejection of the present petition would prove an insuperable bar to reconcilement. He said, that the Americans were well satisfied with the repeal of the Stamp Act, notwithstanding the declaratory law which accompanied it; and if no innovations had been afterwards made, they would have remained content; that they would allow the imperial authority of Great Britain, but not its right of taxation." The examination being finished, the duke of Richmond moved, "That the petition from the continental congress to the king was ground for a conciliation of the unhappy differences subsisting between Great Britain and America." After a violent debate, the motion was negatived by 86 to 33 voices.

The minister having moved in the house of commons, that the land-tax for the year 1776

[ocr errors]




be four shillings in the pound, the country gen- BOOK tlemen were congratulated by the members in opposition on this additional taxation, as the first fruits of their darling scheme for the coercion of America; and it was predicted, that below the present level the land-tax would NEVER AGAIN The country members, irritated equally by the increase of the tax and the bitter sarcasms by which it was accompanied, and displeased also with the language now held by lord North, "that the contest was not for taxation but for sovereignty," declared through the medium of their leaders, that they had supported government in its plans of coercion, in the firm persuasion that their burthens would be eventually diminished by a great revenue to be drawn from America; but if the idea of a revenue were abandoned, they could not think of expending any more money in a contest attended with so many evils, and wholly unproductive of benefit; and they would therefore oppose the noble lord's motion for the increase of the land-tax. The minister, who was a great adept in the art of accommodation, and perfectly skilled in the science of government within the walls of that house, instantly perceived the necessity, as at other times and on other favourite points, of conciliating this occasionally obstinate and refractory class of members. He now therefore

BOOK assured them, "that the idea of taxation, and of


XVIL levying a productive revenue from America, was never abandoned; and that when any thing of that sort was affirmed, nothing more was meant than that it was dropped for the present; taxation being a matter of secondary consideration only, when the supremacy of the country was at stake. He even declared, that no means existed by which the legislative authority and commercial control of this country over the colonies could be insured, but by combining them with taxation." This explanation giving much satisfaction, the motion was carried by a great majo rity; and thus were these credulous and honest gentlemen, the loyal and zealous DE COVERLEYS of the house, led to believe, that a war carried on at so enormous and incalculable an expence, was a war founded on the economical principle of reducing taxes and diminishing burdens; though it is remarkable, that the

*The gross cullibility of the country gentlemen in every step relative to this business, taken in conjunction with the deceit and artifices practised upon them by the courtiers, and particularly the court lawyers, recalls to recollection the sarcasm of a merciless wit, who, on being informed that a certain bill had been referred to a committee consisting of the gentlemen of the long robe and county members, remarked, that this was the same thing as referring it to all the knaves and fools in the house." At this period the celebrated



most sanguine ideas of Mr. Grenville himself BOOK never extended to the expectation of extorting a revenue from America equal in amount to the interest of the loan already wanting, and which it would be annually necessary, under increasing difficulties and disadvantages, to raise, in order to establish a claim which was now declared to be the object of the contest.

Hume, writing in confidence to a friend, thus expressed his sentiments on the subject of American politics.-Oct. 26, 1775. "I must, before we part, have a little stroke of politics with you, notwithstanding my resolution to the contrary. We hear that some of the ministers have proposed in council that both fleet and army be withdrawn from America, and these colonies be left entirely to themselves. I wish I had been a member of his majesty's cabinet council, that I might have seconded this opinion, I should have said that this measure only anticipated the necessary course of events a few years-that a forced and every day more precarious monopoly of about 6 or 700,000l. a year of manufactures was not worth contending for; that we should preserve the greatest part of this trade even if the ports of America were open to all nations; that it was very likely in our method of proceeding, that we should be disappointed in our scheme of conquering the colonies; and that we ought to think before-hand how we were to govern them after they were conquered. Arbitrary power can extend its oppressive arm to the antipodes; but a limited government can never long be upheld at a distance, even where no disgusts have intervened, much less where such violent animosities have taken place. We must therefore annul all the charters, abolish every democratic power in every colony, repeal the Habeas-Corpus Act with regard to

[blocks in formation]


In the course of this month (November 15th, 1775,) a series of motions made in the upper house 1775. by the duke of Grafton, for estimates to be laid before the house respecting the state of the army in America, and the addition of force necessary for the service of the ensuing campaign, were negatived without a division. Parliament was left to wander in darkness and uncertainty, on pretence of the danger of giving any information. that might reach the enemy. On the day succeeding this rejection, Mr. Burke moved for leave to bring in a bill " for quieting the present troubles in America," which was professedly founded on the famous statute passed in the 35th year of Edward I. known by the name of Statutum de tallagio non concedendo. He justly observed, "that sovereignty was not in its nature an idea of absolute unity, but was capable of great

them, invest every governor with full discretionary or arbitrary powers, confiscate the estates of all the chief planters, and hang three-fourths of their clergy. To execute such acts of destructive violence 20,000 men will not be sufficient, nor 30,000 to maintain them in so wide or disjointed a territory. And who are to pay so great an army? The colonists cannot at any time; much less after reducing them to such a state of desolation:-we ought not, and indeed cannot, in the overloaded and totally ruined state of our finances. Let us therefore lay aside all anger, shake hands, and part friends; or, if we retain any anger, let it be only against ourselves for our past folly."

« PreviousContinue »