« PreviousContinue »
EARL OF EFFINGHAM.
On the Memorial from the House of Assembly at NewYork.
THE turn which this debate has taken, makes it unnecessary for me to remark on any thing which in the course of it has fallen from any noble lord; but as I wish to call your lordships' attention rather to the subject matter, than to the form and manner of the paper offered you, I hope I shall stand excused, if I treat the latter as trifling, when put in competition with the salutary or dreadful effects of admitting or rejecting the means now in your hands, of restoring harmony to this distracted empire. What may be the fate of the amendment proposed, I know not; but I fear it is too easily to be guessed, from the complexion of the house, what will be that of the memorial. If any thing, my lords, can add to the reluctance with which I at any time trouble your lordships, it is a consciousness of my own inability to treat this subject as it ought to be treated. Indeed, the importance of it is such, as would deter me from entering into it at all, did I not think, that in the precarious situation in which this country stands at present, it is the duty of every man to avow his principles and sentiments with firmness and integrity.
The indulgence which I have before experienced, encourages me to expect again from your candour, that attention, which I have not, like many among your lordships, the abilities to command. I confess I wish to avoid the discussion of our right to such a power as we
are contending for; that is to say, a power of taxing a set of subjects who are not represented among us, and who have full power to tax themselves in the ordinary and constitutional manner.
Were any particular province among the Americans to refuse grants of money in proportion to others, or to commit any act in abuse of their charters, I think that supreme controling power, which the province in question allows in its full extent, would give us the charge, Ne quid detrimenti res capiat publica. And in that case, my lords, almost the whole empire would be united against the wrong-headed few, who would be soon brought to reason. But I am satisfied, that without such necessity, we have no more right to exercise the power of taxation in that country, than a Roman dictator had to begin his office with a declaration, that his power should be perpetual, and was necessary in the ordinary business of government. Therefore, my lords, whatever has been done by the Americans, I must deem the mere consequence of our unjust demands. They have come to you with fair arguments-you have refused to hear them; they make the most respectful remonstrances; you answer them with bills of pains and penalties; they know they ought to be free-you tell them they shall be slaves. Is it then a wonder, if they say in despair, "for the short remainder of our lives, we will be free!" Is there one among your lordships, who, in a situation similar to that which I have described, would not resolve the same? If there could be such an one, I am sure he ought not to be here. To bring the history down to the present moment. Here are two armies in presence of each other; armies of brothers and countrymen; each dreading the event, yet each feeling, that it is in the power of the most trifling accident, a private dispute, a drunken fray in any public house in Boston; in short a nothing, to cause the sword to be drawn, and to plunge the whole country into all the horrors of blood, flames, and parricide. In this dreadful moment, a set of men,
more wise and moderate than the rest, exert themselves to bring us all to reason.
They state their claims and their grievances; nay, if any thing can be proved by law and history, they prove them. They propose oblivion, they make the first concessions; we treat them with contempt-we prefer poverty, blood, and servitude, to wealth, happiness, and liberty. My lords, I should think myself guilty of offering an insult to your lordships, if I presumed to suppose there was one amongst you who could think of what was expedient, when once it appeared what was just. I might otherwise have adverted to the very formidable armament preparing by Spain; but as that argument ought to have no consideration with your lordships, I shall not suppose it would have any; and for that reason will entirely reject it. What weight these few observations may have, I dont know; but the candour your lordships have indulged me with, requires a confession on my part which may still lessen that weight. I must own, I am not personally disinterested. Ever since I was of an age to have any ambition at all, my highest has been to serve my country in a military capacity. If there was on earth an event I dreaded, it was to see this country so situated as to make that profession incompatible with my duty as a citizen. That period is, in my opinion, arrived; and I have thought myself bound to relinquish the hopes I had formed, by a resignation, which appeared to me the only method of avoid, ing the guilt of enslaving my country, and embruing my hands in the blood of her sons. When the duties of a soldier and a citizen become inconsistent, I shall always think myself obliged to sink the character of the soldier in that of the citizen, till such time as those duties shall again, by the malice of our real enemies, become united, It is no small sacrifice which a man makes who gives up his profession; but it is a much greater, when a predi lection, strengthened by habit, has given him so strong an attachment to his profession as I feel. I have, how
ever, this one consolation, that by making that sacrifice, I at least give to my country an unequivocal proof of the sincerity of my principles.
On moving for Leave to bring in a Bill for a just and equal Representation of the People of England in Parliament.
ALL wise governments, and well regulated states, have been particularly careful to mark and correct the various abuses, which a considerable length of time almost necessarily creates. Among these, one of the most striking and important in our country is, the present unfair and inadequate state of the representation of the people of England in parliament. It is now become so partial and unequal, from the lapse of time, that I believe almost every gentleman in the house will agree with me in the necessity of its being taken into our most serious consideration, and of our endeavouring to find a remedy for this great and growing evil.
I wish, sir, my slender abilities were equal to a thorough investigation of this momentous business; very diligent and well-meant endeavours have not been wanting to trace it from the first origin. The most natural and perfect idea of a free government is, in my mind, that of the people themselves assembling to deter. mine by what laws they choose to be governed, and to establish the regulations they think necessary for the protection of their property and liberty, against all violence and fraud. Every member of such a community would submit with alacrity to the observance of whatever had
been enacted by himself, and assist with spirit in giving efficacy and vigour to laws and ordinances, which derived all their authority from his own approbation and -concurrence. In small inconsiderable states, this mode of legislation has been happily followed, both in ancient and modern times. The extent and populousness of a great empire seems scarcely to admit it without confusion or tumult, and therefore, our ancestors, more wise in this than the ancient Romans, adopted the representation of the many by a few, as answering more fully the true ends of government. Rome was enslayed from inattention to this very circumstance, and by one other fatal act, which ought to be a strong warning to the people, even against their own representatives here-the leaving power too long in the hands of the same persons, by which the armies of the republic became the armies of Sylla, Pompey, and Cæsar. When all the burghers of Italy obtained the freedom of Rome, and voted in public assemblies, their multitudes rendered the distinc tion of the citizen of Rome, and the alien, impossible. Their assemblies and deliberations became disorderly and tumultuous. Unprincipled and ambitious men found out the secret of turning them to the ruin of the Roman liberty, and the commonwealth. Among us this evil is avoided by representation, and yet the justice of this principle is preserved. Every Englishman is supposed to be present in parliament, either in person, or by deputy chosen by himself; and therefore, the resolution of parliament is taken to be the resolution of every individual, and to give to the public the consent and ap probation of every free agent of the community.
According to the first formation of this excellent constitution, so long and so justly our greatest boast and best inheritance, we find that the people thus took care no laws should be enacted, no taxes levied, but by their consent, expressed by their representatives in the great council of the nation. The mode of representation in ancient times being tolerably adequate and proportionate,