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The Monitor, No. VI



On Lord NORTH' S Motion.

So determined are a certain herd of tame sequacious animals among us, to be the humble followers of Administration in every step they take, that it is impossible for these to concert any measure, however absurd, injurious, or oppressive, in which they will not readily acquiesce, with the most profound and implicit deference. It seemed once to be a first principle with all, that the Parliament has no right to tax the Colonies; and that their claim, in this respect, ought to be opposed, at the utmost hazard of life and fortune. But, at this enlightened season, many betray a servile disposition, both to acknowledge the right and to submit to the exercise of it, provided we may be indulged with the paltry privilege of raising the sums prescribed to us in the mode most adapted to our local circumstances. This inclination, indeed, is not averred in plain terms, but it may be easily collected from the favourable sentiments entertained of the motion made in the last session of Parliament, usually known by the false appellation of Lord North' s conciliatory proposition — a motion, the palpable design of which, by every rule of interpretation,


is such an insult to our understandings as can entitle it to nothing but the most supreme contempt on our part.

In order to ascertain the true nature and intent of this motion, we ought not to consult the insinuations contained in private letters fabricated by the intriguing tools of the Ministry, nor the fallacious comments and glosses pretended to be founded on private explanations of his Lordship. These are but the threadbare arts of deception, the mere legerdemain of Court sharpers. To understand it aright, we must confine ourselves to the terms of the proposition itself, and to the circumstances concomitant with and subsequent to it. If we depart from these criterions, and yield our judgments to the forced constructions of those whose aim and interest it is to delude us, we may indeed fancy his Lordship' s brat a well-favoured child; but it will be, nevertheless, to the eye of discernment, no better than a monstrous birth, which, unless it be exposed to perish in its infancy, cannot fail to prove a scourge and nuisance to the community.

The words of the motion are these: "That when the Governour, Council and Assembly, or General Court, of any of His Majesty' s Provinces or Colonies in America, shall propose to make provision, according to the conditions, circumstances, and situation of such Province or Colony, for contributing their proportion towards the common defence, (such proportion to be raised under the authority of the General Court or General Assembly of such Province or Colony, and disposable by Parliament,) and shall engage to make provision also for the support of the civil Government and the administration of justice in said Colony, it will be proper, if such proposal shall be approved by His Majesty and the two Houses of Parliament, and for so long as such provision shall be made accordingly, to forbear, in respect to such Province or Colony, to levy any duty, tax, or assessment, or to impose any further duty, tax, or assessment, except only such duties as it may be expedient to impose for the regulation of commerce. The nett produce of the duties last mentioned to be earned to the account of such Province or Colony, respectively."

The obvious tenor of this proposal is, that we are to proffer supplies according to our abilities, and that these are to be approved or rejected by the Parliament, at pleasure, which is to be the final judge of their sufficiency, and of our ability to grant; and, consequently, its will is to be the ultimate standard of what we are to give. The reserved power of approving implies a power of rejecting, and of determining eventually how much, I will not say we are to bestow, but how much is to be extorted from us. What is this but taxing us in the gross instead of the detail? Where is the difference between demanding a precise sum from us at first, and requiring us to offer till they are satisfied and willing to accept? Does not this make the amount of our contributions to rest, in the end, upon their pleasure and absolute decision? To say that we tax ourselves, when they alone are at last to judge how much they will have from us, and to what purposes they will appropriate it, is a contradiction in terms, an impudent affront to common sense. If there be any difference between this and the requisition of a determinate sum at first, the disadvantage is on the side of the present mode. Were we apprized with certainty of what is expected from us, we should have some visible and stationary object to regulate our conduct by; we might examine whether it would be our interest to purchase peace at the known price demanded; the conditions being clear and explicit on their part, we might comply with more safety on ours. But, as the matter now stands, we should be in quest of a mere phantom; we might propose again and again, without success; and while we were made the sport of fruitless delusive negotiations, penal laws and military force would be gaining such ground upon us, as might enable our enemies to exact submissions still more unreasonable and ignominious.

The genuine nature of this beneficent plan may be well illustrated by the following supposed incident. A robber meets a traveller upon the highway, and, with a pistol at his breast, demands his money from him on pain of death. The honest man remonstrates against the injustice and cruelty of taking away, by force, what he has earned by hard labour and the sweat of his brow, and what he is in fact very little able to spare. "Well, replies the ruffian, as I am a man of honour and generosity, and you are my fellow-creature,


I should wish to indulge you as far as is consistent with my own exigencies. Something I must have, and something considerable; but I will leave it to yourself to offer what you can spare in your present circumstances. I will require no particular sum, but, notwithstanding, I must advise you to be liberal; for, let me tell you, it is my business to judge whether your offers are reasonable or not, and I will compel you to give me what I think you ought."

From the internal structure of the motion, I proceed to its exterior appendages; and from Lord North' s own declarations on the occasion, I infer his real design with infallible certainty. In the course of the debate he asserts, that it is no conceding proposition, nor any diminution of the authority of Parliament, but rather a confirmation of it: That the taxing power is still retained in the hands of that body, and to be exercised entirely at its own discretion: That we are only to be indulged in the mode, which, provided a substantial supply be obtained, ought to be left with us, upon motives of mutual convenience: That this is, at length, placing the matter upon a solid foundation — a dispute for revenue — not an idle punctilious controversy on principles of abstract right: That the benefits of commerce between Britain and the Colonies are reciprocal, and so nearly upon a par as to leave us little claim of exemption from an equal portion of taxes with the people at home, on account of the confinement of our trade; consequently, after a trifling allowance for the balance that may be against us, reason and equity require that we should contribute full as much in taxes as they: That no relaxation is to take place in the coercive operations, either by restrictive statutes or military chastisement; and that our submission to the terms here presented is to be the condition on which our allegiance shall be accepted.

This his Lordship affirms is the ultimatum, the utmost favour we are to expect, though he confesses himself sensible that the proposition will not be relished by the Americans in general; but if only one Colony should submit, his purpose would be answered, because, one link of the chain; being broken, the whole must necessarily fall into pieces. This separation, he says, would restore the Empire; and divide et impera is a maxirn never held unfair or unwise in Government. He takes occasion to encourage the people to patience and resignation under their temporary sufferings, from the sudden interruption and decay of trade and the infelicities of war, by holding out the flattering prospect of a large revenue, to be raised upon us, for the relief of their burdens; and at the same time to animate the soldiery to a full exertion of their native valour and intrepidity, by informing them that they are not to draw their swords and imbrue their hands in blood, for a vain phantom, or empty point of honour, but for a substantial and durable benefit to their Country.

Without waiting to see the success of his experiment, scarce allowing us time to receive the intelligence of his proposal, with a precipitant temerity that marks the savage inhumanity of his heart, he gives the fatal word to open the dismal theatre of war, and begin the horrid tragedy; as if in haste to evince the sincerity of his professed resolution to compel us to be slaves.

What shall we think of such a motion, attended with such dark circumstances? Considered in itself, examined in conjunction with the Minister' s own explications, and with his desperate conduct since, does this uncomely progeny of his possess a single feature or lineament of peace and reconciliation? Does it not rather wear the aspect of treachery, insult, and tyrannick violence, and call for our resentment much more than our countenance or approbation?

It frequently excites both my laughter and spleen to bear men gravely calling this a conciliatory proposition, a fair ground for negotiation, and the like. If his good Lordship intended it so, he certainly took a most ungracious method to recommend it to us; and if we are credulous enough to believe it such, we must take our opinion upon hypothesis and trust. We may, indeed, discover the facility and extent of our faith, but not the acuteness or depth of our penetration. For my part, as I have not so much


credulity in my composition as may incline me to credit the vague suggestions of any man in opposition to the natural appearances of things, I must opine that there is nothing conciliatory in this motion, except it be in the name. I can view no proposal as tending to accommodate and reconcile, unless it possess these two characteristicks — a considerable approach towards those terms we may, with justice to ourselves, accept; and an intermission of all coercive, compulsory proceedings. These alone can testify a serious design of pacification in our enemies, and can make it honourable or politick in us to regard their overtures. The resolution in question is at such an infinite distance from any thing we can embrace, and is clothed in such a menacing hostile garb, that it clearly evinces the most unfriendly disposition, and claims nothing from us but the most contemptuous inattention.



* The reader will find all that is here mentioned, without the least exiggeration, in the New-York Journal of the 20th of April, 1775, in an account of the debates on the motion, taken, from the London Evening Post.