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maintain the house of commons in the exercise of a legislative power, which heretofore abolished the house of lords, and overturned the monarchy. I willingly acquit the present house of commons of having actually formed so detestable a design; but they cannot themselves foresee to what excesses they may be carried hereafter; and for my own part, I should be sorry to trust to their future moderation. Unlimited power is apt to corrupt the minds of those who possess it; and this I know my lords, that, where law ends, tyranny begins!
MR. BURKE'S SPEECH,
ON MOVING HIS RESOLUTIONS FOR CONCILIATION WITH THE COLONIES. DELIVERED IN THE HOUSE OF COMMONS, THE 22d OF MARCH, 1775.
FROM the commencement of the disputes between the mother country and the colonies, Mr. Burke seems to have directed a very diligent attention to the subject, as involving the primary interests of the empire. By maintaining a constant intercourse with many of the enlightened characters in the different provinces, he acquired a more extensive and intimate knowledge of the physical and moral condition of the country, with its real views, dispositions, and resources than, perhaps, was attained by any of his cotemporaries. The result of this superiour intelligence was a decided conviction, which he carried through every stage of the controversy, that the exasperated feeling existing in the colonies could only be allayed, and their alienated attachment revived and permanently secured by placing them exactly on the same footing on which they stood previous to the introduction of the new and arbitrary system of government. An attempt to sustain the pretensions of the parent state, whether right or wrong, by force, he uniformly predicted would prove impracticable, and must, if adhered to, eventuate in her discomfiture and disgrace.
To reconcile, by an entire repeal of all the offensive measures, coupled with a solemn renunciation of the principles on which they were founded, so as to leave no just cause of complaint, was the counsel which he strenuously urged.
In the genuine spirit of this wise and liberal policy he moved, with the hope of dispersing the dark cloud of calamities which he saw impending over the empire, a series of propositions, on the 22d of March, 1775, which he enforced by an exertion of eloquence that has rarely been equalled. These propositions will be found in the body of the speech as they were severally opened. They were all rejected by a large majority.
In his preceding speech, on taxation, having very luminously traced the different schemes of colonial regulation which arose out of the fluctuating councils of the mother country, Mr. Burke, in the present one, describes with a surprising amplitude and accuracy of information the internal state of the American dependencies, as relates to their population, agriculture, and commerce, and delineates with his usual skill and nicety of discernment the genius and character of the people.
From these two productions, it has truly been said, that more may be learnt of the history of colonial America, and of the causes which led to the revolutionary struggle, than from all the other discussions and writings upon the subject.
I HOPE, sir, that notwithstanding the austerity of the chair, your good nature will incline you to some degree of indulgence towards human frailty. You will not think it unnatural, that those who have an object depending, which strongly engages their hopes and fears, should be somewhat inclined to su perstition. As I came into the house full of anxiety about the event of my motion, I found to my infinite surprise, that the grand penal bill, by which we had passed sentence on the trade and sustenance of America, is to be returned to us from the other house.*
*The act to restrain the trade and commerce of the provinces of Massachussett's Bay and New Hampshire, and colonies of Connecticut, and Rhode Island, and Providence Plantations, in North America, to Great Britain, Ireland, and the
I do confess, I could not help looking on this event as a fortunate omen. I look upon it as a sort of providential favour, by which we are put once more in possession of our deliberative capacity, upon a business so very questionable in its nature, so very uncertain in its issue. By the return of this bill, which seemed to have taken its flight for ever, we are, at this very instant, nearly as free to choose a plan for our American government, as we were on the first day of the session. If, sir, we incline to the side of conciliation, we are not at all embarrassed (unless we please to make ourselves so) by any incongruous mixture of coercion and restraint. We are therefore called upon, as it were by a superiour warning voice, again to attend to America; to attend to the whole of it together; and to review the subject with an unusual degree of care and calmness.
Surely it is an awful subject, or there is none so on this side of the grave. When I first had the honour of a seat in this house, the affairs of that continent pressed themselves upon us, as the most important and most delicate object of parliamentary attention. My little share in this great deliberation oppressed me. I found myself a partaker in a very high trust; and having no sort of reason to rely on the strength of my natural abilities for the proper execution of that trust, I was obliged to take more than common pains, to instruct myself in every thing which relates to our colonies. I was not less under the necessity of forming some fixed ideas, concerning the general policy of the British empire. Something of this sort seemed to be indispensable, in order, amidst so vast a fluctuation of passions and opinions, to concentre my thoughts; to ballast my conduct; to preserve me from being blown about by every wind of fashionable doctrine. I really did not think
British islands in the West Indies, and to prohibit such provinces and colonies from carrying on any fishery on the banks of Newfoundland, and other places therein mentioned, under certain conditions and limitations.
it safe, or manly, to have fresh principles to seek upon every fresh mail which should arrive from America.
At that period, I had the fortune to find myself in perfect concurrence with a large majority in this house. Bowing under that high authority, and penetrated with the sharpness and strength of that early impression, I have continued ever since, without the least deviation in my original sentiments. Whether this be owing to an obstinate perseverance in errour, or to a religious adherence to what appears to me truth and reason, it is in your equity to judge.
Sir, parliament having an enlarged view of objects, made, during this interval, more frequent changes in their sentiment and their conduct, than could be justified in a particular person upon the contracted scale of private information. But though I do not hazard any thing approaching to a censure on the motives of former parliaments to all those alterations, one fact is undoubted; that under them the state of America has been kept in continual agitation. Every thing administered as remedy to the publick complaint if it did not produce, was at least followed by, an heightening of the distemper; until, by a variety of experiments, that important country has been brought into her present situation; a situation which I will not miscall, which I dare not name; which I scarcely know how to comprehend in the terms of any description.
In this posture, sir, things stood at the beginning of the session. About that time, a worthy member* of great parliamentary experience, who, in the year 1766, filled the chair of the American committee with much ability, took me aside; and, lamenting the present aspect of our politicks, told me, things were come to such a pass, that our former methods of proceeding in the house would be no longer tolerated. That the publick tribunal (never too indulgent
*Mr. Rose Fuller.