« PreviousContinue »
will be irato animo; they will not be the sound honour: able passions of freemen, they will be the dictates of fear, and extortions of force. But it is more than evident, that you cannot force them, united as they are, to your unworthy terms of submission—it is im. possible. And when I hear general Gage censured for inactivity, I must retort with indignation on those whose intemperate measures and improvident councils have betrayed him into his present situation. His situation reminds me, my lords, of the answer of a French general in the civil wars of France-Monsieur Condé opposed to Monsieur Turenne. He was asked, how it happened that he did not take his adversary prisoner, as he was often very near him : “ J'ai peur," replied Condé, very honestly, “ J'ai peur qu'il ne me prenne;"I'm afraid he'll take me. When your lordships look at the papers transmit
. ted us from America; when you consider their decency, firmness, and wisdom, you cannot but respect their cause and wish to make it your own. For myself, I must declare and avow, that in all my reading and observation--and it has been my favourite study --I have read Thucidydes and have studied and ad. mired the master states of the world—that for solidity of reasoning, force of sagacity, and wisdom of conclusion, under such a complication of difficult circumstances, no nation, or body of men, can stand in preference to the general congress at Philadelphia. I trust it is obvious to your lordships, that all attempts to impose servitude upon such men, to establish despotism over such a mighty continental nation, must be vain, must be fatal. We shall be forced ultimately to retract; let us retract while we can, not when we must. I say we must necessarily undo these violent oppressive acts; they must be repealed-you will repeal them; I pledge myself for it, that you will in the end repeal them; I stake my reputation on it-I will consent to be taken for an idiot, if they are not finally repealed. Avoid, then, this humiliating, disgraceful necessity. With a dignity becoming your exalted situation, make the first advances to concord,
to peace, and happiness; for that is your true dignity, to act with prudence and justice. "That you should first concede, is obvious, from sound and rational policy. Concession comes with better grace and more salutary effect from superiour power. It reconciles superiority of power with the feelings of men, and establishes solid confidence on the foundations of affection and gratitude.
So thought a wise poet and a wise man in political sagacity; the friend of Mecænas, and the eulogist of Augustus. To him, the adopted son and successour of the first Cesar, to him, the master of the world, he wisely urged this conduct of prudence and dignity; “ Tuque prior, tu parce ; projice tela manu.
Every motive, therefore, of justice and of policy, of dignity and of prudence, urges you to allay the ferment in America, by a removal of your troops from Boston, by a repeal of your acts of parliament, and by demonstration of amicable dispositions towards your colonies. On the other hand, every danger and every hazard impend, to deter you from perseverance in
, your present ruinous measures. Foreign war hanging over your heads by a slight and brittle thread. France and Spain watching your conduct, and waiting for the maturity of your errours; with a vigilant eye to America, and the temper of your colonies, more than to their own concerns, be they what they may.
To conclude, my lords, if the ministers thus persevere in misadvising and misleading the king, I will not say, that they can alienate the affections of his subjects from his crown; but I will affirm, that they will make the crown not worth his wearing. I will not say that the king is betrayed; but I will pronounce, that the kingdom is undone.
LORD MANSFIELD'S SPEECH,
IN THE HOUSE OF LORDS, TEBRUARY THE THIRD, 1766, ON
THE RIGHT OF TAXING AMERICA.
THE Rockingham administration were scarcely established in office, when the disturbances excited throughout the American dependencies, by the passage of the stamp act at the preceding session, were pressed on their attention. Discussions warm, animated, and frequent, arose immediately after the meeting of parliament, between the late and present ministry upon the difficult question of the right, as well as the expediency of taxing the colonies.
In one of these debates the earl of Mansfield delivered his sentiments on the right of taxation separated entirely from the consideration of expediency. This speech we are authorized to state, was carefully corrected for the press by his lordship, and is therefore a genuine specimen of his eloquence. We are led to preserve it not less on that account, than as containing the most plausible and argumentative defence of the side of the question it adops, that it has ever received.
The ministry, it is known, pursued a middle course, expecting by it to be able to heal the wounded pride of the Americans, while they maintained the supremacy of the mother country. They repealed the obnoxious bill, but at the same time passed a declaratory act, asserting the right and power of Great Britain to bind the colonies in all cases whatever, Their fine wrought project of conciliation succeeded for a few years. The colonists then discovered that though relieved of the actual burthen of taxation, the abstract right continued with the parent state, and from an apprehension of a future practical assertion of it became exceedingly discontented, till finally, the assembly of Massachussetts by a formal resolution voted the declaratory act to be a grievance. This measure of the colonial legislature may be considered as among the primary links of the chain of events which terminated in the disunion of the British em. pire.
I SHALL speak to the question strictly as a matter of right; for, it is a proposition in its nature so perfectly distinct from the expediency of the tax, that it must necessarily be taken separate, if there is any true logick in the world; but of the expediency or inexpediency I will say nothing. It will be time enough to speak upon that subject when it comes to be a question.
I shall also speak to the distinctions which have been taken, without any real difference, as to the nature of the tax ; and I shall point out lastly the necessity there will be of exerting the force of the superiour authority of government, if opposed by the subordinate part of it.
I am extremely sorry that the question has ever become necessary to be agitated, and that there should be a decision upon it. No one in this house will live long enough to see an end put to the mischief which will be the result of the doctrine which has been inculcated: but the arrow is shot, and the wound already given. I shall certainly avoid personal reflections: no one has had more cast upon him than myself; but I never was biassed by any consideration of applause from without, in the discharge of my publick duty;