« PreviousContinue »
LORD CHATHAM'S SPEECH
IN THE HOUSE OF LORDS, JANUARY 20th 1775. ON A MO< TION FOR AN ADDRESS TO HIS MAJESTY, TO GIVE IMMEDIATE ORDERS FOR REMOVING HIS TROOPS FROM BOSTON FORTHWITH, IN ORDER TO QUIET THE MINDS AND TAKE AWAY THE APPREHENSIONS OF HIS GOOD SUBJECTS IN AMERICA.
LORD Dartmouth, the secretary of state for the colonial department, laid before the house of lords a va riety of papers relating to American affairs at the opening of parliament, on the 20th of January 1775.
Convinced, by the contents of these documents, that it was not too late to renew a conciliatory policy with the colonies, lord Chatham moved on the same day, an address to his majesty, praying the removal of the troops from Boston, as a primary step towards the restoration of harmony, and the cementing of a permanent attachment.
It being previously understood, notwithstanding the infirmities of his health, and the little respect for a long time paid by ministry to his sentiments, that he would on this important occasion leave his retirement, to lend another effort to save that empire which, recently, under his auspices had reached such consummate glory, the house, at an early hour, was filled by an uncommonly numerous attendance of members, and the bar below, with an anxious and admiring audience.
When he arose to speak, observes a describer of the scene, all was silence and profound attention. Animated, and almost inspired by his subject, he seemed to feel his own unrivalled superiority. His
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.
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, my 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 papers before you. As I suppose your lordships are too well apprized of their contents, I hope I am not premature in submitting to you my
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 this 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
+ 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 preparatory 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