Page images

repeated proofs, that he prefers law and liberty to gold. I love that class of men. Much less would I be thought to reflect upon the fair merchant, whose liberal commerce is the prime source of national wealth. I esteem his occupation, and respect his character.

My lords, if the general representation, which I have had the honour to lay before you, of the situation of publick affairs, has, in any measure, engaged your attention, your lordships, I am sure, will agree with 1 me, that the season calls for more than common prudence and vigour in the direction of our councils. The difficulty of the crisis demands a wise, a firm, and a popular administration. The dishonourable traffick of places has engaged us too long. Upon this subject, my lords, I speak without interest or enmity. I have no personal objection to any of the king's servants. I shall never be minister; certainly not without full power to cut away all the rotten branches of government. Yet, unconcerned as I truly am for myself, I cannot avoid seeing some capital errours in the distribution of the royal favour. There are men, my lords, who if their own services were forgotten, ought to have an hereditary merit with the house of Hanover; whose ancestors stood forth in the day of trouble, opposed their persons and fortunes to treachery and rebellion, and secured to his majesty's family this splendid power of rewarding. There are other men, my lords,* who, to speak tenderly of them, were not quite so forward in the demonstrations of their zeal to the reigning family; there was another cause, my lords, and a partiality to it, which some persons had not at all times discretion enough to conceal. I know I shall be accused of attempting to revive distinctions. My lords, if it were possible, I would abolish all distinctions. I would not wish the favours of the crown to flow invariably in one channel. But there are some distinctions, which are inherent in the nature of things.

* Looking sternly at lord Mansfield.

There is a distinction between right and wrong; between wHIG and TORY.

When I speak of an administration, such as the necessity of the season calls for, my views are large and comprehensive. It must be popular, that it may begin with reputation. It must be strong within itself, that it may proceed with vigour and decision. An administration, formed upon an exclusive system of family connexions or private friendships, cannot, I am convinced, be long supported, in this country. Yet, my lords, no man respects, or values more than I do, that honourable connexion, which arises from a disinterested concurrence in opinion upon publick measures, or from the sacred bond of private friendship and esteem. What I mean is, that no single man's private friendships or connexions, however extensive, are sufficient of themselves, either to form or overturn an administration. With respect to the ministry, I believe, they have fewer rivals than they imagine. No prudent man will covet a situation so beset with difficulty and danger.

I shall trouble your lordships with but a few words more. His majesty tells us in his speech, that he will call upon us for our advice, if it should be necessary in the further progress of this affair. It is not easy to say whether or no the ministry are serious in this declaration; nor what is meant by the progress of an affair, which rests upon one fixed point. Hitherto we have not been called upon. But though we are not consulted, it is our right and duty as the king's great, hereditary council, to offer him our advice. The papers, mentioned in the noble duke's motion, will enable us to form a just and accurate opinion of the conduct of his majesty's servants, though not of the actual state of their honourable negotiations. The ministry too, seem to want advice upon some points in which their own safety is immediately concerned. They are now balancing between a war which they ought to have foreseen, but for which they have made no provision, and an ignominious compromise. Let me warn them of their danger. If they are forced


into a war, they stand it at the hazard of their heads. If, by an ignominious compromise, they should stain the honour of the crown, or sacrifice the rights of the people, let them look to the consequences and consider whether they will be able to walk the streets in safety.




LORD NORTH commenced his administration at a time, when the disputes between the mother country and the colonies had attained to a height, which menaced the mosts serious consequences. The obnoxious, laws passed by the preceding ministry, had excited throughout the American dependencies a spirit of discontent, which seemed already prepared to burst forth in open resistance to the authority of the parent state, and, if not appeased, to dissolve for ever the connexion which had very recently been cherished, with exultation, as the most certain source of their glory, their prosperity, and happiness.

Among the earliest of his measures, of any importance, was the revocation of the act which laid a duty on articles of merchandise imported into the colonies, reserving only the one upon tea, as a mere recognition of the right in parliament of legislation over the whole of the empire.

As this tax was deemed the proximate and most irritating grievance, the minister entertained a sanguine expectation that its repeal would tranquillize the prevalent turbulence, and rekindle the nearly extinguished sentiments of loyalty and attachment which were once so conspicuously displayed in every section of the provinces. But he was utterly deceived. Like all temporizing half-way measures, which lose their efficiency by their neutrality, this well meant project of conciliation totally failed. Denying the parliamentary right of taxing them, the Americans were not satis

« PreviousContinue »