Primary tabs

House of Commons



MONDAY, February 20, 1775.

The House, according to order, resolved itself into a Committee of the Whole House, to consider further of the several Papers which were presented to the House by the Lord North, upon the 19th and 31st days of January last, and the 1st and 5th days of this instant, February, by his Majesty' s command.

Lord North rose and said: Sir, as I mean to offer to the consideration of the Committee some propositions which may be the ground of a Resolution, and which I conceive to be founded on the Address which the House has presented to his Majesty, I desire that the said Address may be read. [The Address was read accordingly.] His Lordship remarked, that the Address, both as it was proposed, and in the sense in which it was understood when agreed to, meant to hold out to the Americans, that on the matter of taxation, although the Parliament of Great Britain could never give up the rights, although it must always maintain the doctrine that every part of the Empire was bound to bear its share of service and burthen in the common defence; yet, as to the matter of that right, and with respect to the mode of the contribution, if the end could be obtained, and if the Americans would propose any means, and give assurance of the prosecution of those means by which they should contribute their share to the common defence — he had said, he did not apprehend Parliament would hesitate a moment to suspend the exercise of that right; but would concede to the Americans, raising their share of the contribution by themselves. This was the direct and avowed sense, in which the Resolution for the Address was moved. I publickly, said his Lordship, gave my opinion, and very explicitly said, that if the Americans would propose to Parliament, any mode by which they would engage themselves to raise, in their own way, and by their own grants, their share of contribution to their common defence, the quarrel on the subject of taxation was at an end.

As nearly as I can recollect, these were my very words; but these, sir, were the words only of a private Member of Parliament; they were but opinion given in debate. The words contained in the Address seem to many gentlemen to require this comment, this explanation, by Parliament itself, in some clear, explicit, and definitive opinion. That if the promise of indulgence on this point of taxation means really to hold out the grounds of peace, we ought to explain on what terms we will accede to it; and what the propositions are, which we are willing to accept. To be explicit, then, as to my own opinion, I must say, that if the dispute in which the Americans have engaged goes to the whole of our authority, we can enter into no negotiation, we can meet no compromise. If it be only as to the suspension of the exercise of our right, or as to the mode of laying and raising taxes for a contribution towards the common defence, I think it would be just, it would be wise, to meet any fair proposition, which may come in an authentick way


from any Province or Colony; and on this ground it is that I shall propose to the Committee the following Resolution:

"That it is the opinion of this Committee, 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 condition, circumstances, and situation of such Province or Colony, for contributing their proportion to 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 such Province or 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 of such Province or Colony, to levy any Duty, Tax, or Assessment, or to impose any farther Duty, Tax, or Assessment, except only such Duties as it may be expedient to continue to levy or to impose for the regulation of commerce; the nett produce of the Duties last mentioned to be carried to the account of such Province or Colony respectively."

This Resolution, added his Lordship, marks the ground on which negotiation may take place. It is explicit, and defines the terms, and specifies the persons from whom the proposals must come, and to whom they must be made. It points out the end and purpose for which the contributions are to be given, and the persons from whom the grant of them is to originate. It takes away every ground of suspicion as to the appropriation of the Revenue when raised, to purposes for which the Americans never would grant it. And from the nature of it is seen, that it must be conclusive so long as the Americans observe the agreement. But


many objections from various quarters, and on different grounds, will be made to it. If there be any persons who think we ought to make no advances towards accommodation, because they understand such to be concessions which we ought not to make — if there be any who may think the terms which this Resolution holds out are disadvantageous, I would not wish them to agree to it. But they will give me leave (who think, that even were we to impose terms in the hour of victory itself, this proposition would be a good, would be a just one,) to propose it now, before any blood is shed. Some gentlemen may ask the question — will you treat with rebels? I am not treating with rebels. It has never been yet said, that all the Americans are rebels, or that all the Colonies are in rebellion — it cannot, I hope, be said. There is certainly in the Province of Massachusetts a rebellion. But, sir, could I open the door even to rebels to return to their duty, I should be happy. The specifick rebellion of the Massachusetts is, that the people of the Province reject and oppose with force of arms, the Government, as established by the King and Parliament. The moment that they acknowledge that Government, and meet in assembly to act under it, the rebellion is at an end. The propositions contained in the Resolution, form an express declaration, and do not begin a negotiation.

Others, perhaps, will say it is proper that Parliament should bind itself; I answer, that whenever Parliament confirms an agreement it always does bind itself. Others will look to the effect; and ask what consequences do you expect from this? Will you, in the mean time, suspend your operations of force? Certainly not. The putting ourselves off our guard is certainly not the way to treat on safe grounds or with effect. The ground on which we stand at present is, in all human probability, such as will enable us to enforce what we have a right to demand; and is therefore the most likely to claim attention, and to produce that effect, by peace, which we are otherwise in a situation to procure by force of arms. Whether the Americans will accede to this or not, must depend on various circumstances that cannot be foreseen. If their outward pretensions be the real principles of the opposition which they have made, they must, consistently with those principles, agree to this proposition. If they do not meet us on this ground, it will evince that they have other views, and are actuated by other motives. It will have been wise, it will have been just, it will have been humane, that we have held out the terms of peace; if they reject it, their blood must be upon their own heads. But I have better hopes; there are people, and I hope whole Colonies, that wish for peace; and by these means I hope they will find their way to it.


Governour Pownall. Sir, when in the last session of the last Parliament, I remarked to the House that the circumstances of the American affairs were brought to a crisis, and that that crisis was actually in event, wherein all opinion as to the modes of policy must be useless and at an end, and that your future deliberation would be only employed on measures of force, I took my leave of debate on this subject; I had imposed on myself a determined silence, and since I have had the honour of a seat in this Parliament, have adhered invariably to that resolution.

I have been always an advocate for the Colonies, and the British subjects in America. I have always defended their rights, where I thought any infraction was made on them. Where they have got into disputes on points where I could not think they were right. I have endeavoured to excuse or extenuate their fault; where I could not do that, I have yet at all times endeavoured to alleviate the resentment which may have been raised in this country against them. It would not therefore, be suitable to the conduct which I have held, nor could I feel it proper for me to become their accuser and their persecutor, as some Governours have done; much less could I ever bring myself to calumniate them.

I had early opportunity of seeing the commencement of this business. I was at the Congress held at Albany in 1754. I had the means of then knowing the real opinions of some of the first men of business and ability in that country. I saw that a crisis of this nature was then taking its rise. I have, in the course of my employment in that country, seen the progressive advance of it; the whole scope therefore of my conduct, whilst I was employed, and of every opinion which I have given, whenever I have been listened to, has been to advise such modes of policy as might prevent matters coming to the point at which they are now arrived; but when I saw that such advice, neither in this country nor in America, was listened to — that matters were actually come to force, and all modes of policy ceased to have effect, and were at an end, I would not become an adviser of measures of force, nor ever have been advised with in them. Yet, taking up the matter on the ground whereon it now stands, without consideration of that influence either of persons or things that have caused this effect; without looking into the conduct of various sets of men and various Ministers, with whom I never had any connection, and with whom I never shall form any; having stood, and being determined to remain unconnected with all parties; speaking my own private sentiments, looking to things and not to men, I act from my own principles. On this ground, having by my publications pledged myself to the publick, I wished to be tried and judged by those


principles, and I challenge any one to say that I have ever varied either in my principles or in my conduct. Taking, then, the matter on the ground whereon it now stands; when I see that the Americans are actually resisting that Government which is derived from the Crown, and by the authority of Parliament; when I see them opposing rights which they always acknowledged, and for asserting which I could produce the best authority, (I mean their own authority, as expressed by one of their ablest agents;) when I see them arming and arraying themselves, and carrying


this opposition into force by arms; seeing the question brought to an issue, not on a point of right, but a trial of power; I cannot but say that it is become necessary that this country should arm also. It is become necessary that this Government should oppose its force to force; when that force is to be employed only in maintaining the Laws and Constitution of the Empire. These, sir, are my reasons for acquiescing (though I have neither advised, nor been advised with) in measures of force. The Americans themselves have rendered them necessary; but, sir, another


reason which has weighed with me, as to the mode of those measures, is, that it is founded in precedents, the authority of which I am sure gentlemen that may at present disapprove them, will not reject. I refer myself to the Parliament that sat after the execution of Charles the First, when the Government was formed into a Republick; a Parliament that perfectly understood the distinction between that resistance which is justifiable, and that which is rebellion. The Colonies affecting to be the subjects of the King only, and not subordinate to the state, revolted from the Government of the state, denied the authority of Parliament, and set up a Government of their own, independent of that state and Parliament. The case is not very different from what has been affected to be stated in the present situation of things. See, then, what was the method taken by that Parliament; they made a law totally to prohibit from trade Virginia, Barbadoes, and the rest of the Colonies which were under that revolt; and as it is a precedent which has weighed with me for acquiescing in the proposition of bringing in a Bill to restrain the Colonies of New England from trade, other than to England, and from fishing, until they acknowledged the authority of Parliament; and as it contains not only a prohibitory, but a declaratory law of the right of Parliament, I will beg leave to read it: but although I have acquiesced in those measures, my eye has always looked to peace, nor have my endeavours ever ceased to labour for it, and I seize this first moment, in which I cannot but hope I see some dawn of peace, to speak to it for this once more. At present, matters are come to the last extremity — this country and America are in the situation of open and declared war; they are on the very point of striking the blow which must be the beginning of shedding of blood. When two independent Nations are in that situation, they generally, amidst their friends and allies, can find some common mediator, that may at least bring them to some terms of conference, some mode of explanation, that may avert the war that is ready to commence; but where can that mediator be found that can stand forward between the subjects and the Government of a country. Who can have sufficient authority to interpose in such a case, to prevent the fatal consequences? If the country gentlemen, the landed staple interest of this country, that have never taken any share in this business, as a party, will not on this occasion stand forth, there can be no such mediator. They alone are in that predicament which will enable them (and it becomes their actual duty) to stand forth on this occasion. It is their interest also, as well as their duty; for it is their interest that is principally at stake — and I do feel myself, I own, extremely Happy to see that the noble Lord who has laid the proposition on your table, although as a Minister it is his duty to support the authority of this country, and carry on such measures as his Majesty, by the advice of Parliament, has thought fit to adopt; yet, sir, I do think it is


humane, it is nobly spirited in him, as a private Member of Parliament, as one of that candid body which will, I hope, join him to stand forth as the mediator upon this occasion, holding out such terms as may prevent a people from being driven to desperation; and may open a door to reconciliation, upon such terms as shall establish the authority of this country, and give security to the rights and liberty of America. And I own I feel extremely happy to find that they are such terms as a wise and honest man might offer, even if the success of war had put into your hands the right of enforcing every thing that you claim; for even if we go to war, this business must finally end in negotiation; and I wish the Committee would attend to what I am going to say, (for I know it to be true) that the country of America must, for the future, be governed under regulations and forms, and a Constitution that must be settled by compact. The relation between the two countries must, in its future process, stand upon the compact; or this country must hold its dominion in the Colonies by the tenure of a war that will cost more than they are worth, and finally ruin both. In whatever instance you come to regulate their trade, you will always find yourself involved in disputes, and must have a never failing source of quarrel between this country and that, until the regulations and restrictions under which the whole of the American trade is to be carried on for the future, are settled by compact; if you mean to have peace for the future, this must be done. If you mean to retain that superintending controlling power of government which you have over the Colonies, so as that it may act with effect, and yet retain them as subjects administered under government, and not subjected by force of arms, even their Constitutions must for the future be settled by compact; their Charters, which the King grants them, are not and cannot be considered as such compact; for if it was, the King making terms with any parts of his Dominions, might dismember the Empire, and set all the various parts of it together at variance and in war. Such compact, therefore, temporary as it must be in its nature, must be under the supervision and supreme control of Parliament. Parliament must necessarily have a right to interfere, and I think should so far interfere, as to examine, to settle, and to give the several Colonies, once for all, such a Constitution as is fit for such dependent communities within the Empire; by settling with them and for them such articles, terms, and conditions as may be confirmed by act of Parliament, in like manner as was done in the union of the two parts of the present Kingdom, which Articles, when once confirmed by Parliament, cannot, according to the law of Nations, of justice and policy, be altered without the consent of the parties; until the Colonies, holding their Governments under the terms of dependency on the Empire, shall break those conditions, or endeavour to emancipate themselves from them.

On the point of taxation this Resolution goes to every thing that can or ought to be proposed; and is, if rightly understood, and accepted as it ought to be, a fair and just preliminary that must lead to peace. Although those spirits in America which are irritated, and in their resentments look to men rather than things, may be indisposed to receive any terms whatever, and willing to hazard all, rather than treat with men against whom those resentments are raised; and although those that take up this matter here, only as a measure of opposition, may endeavour to ridicule and obstruct every good effect which it might have; yet those men of weight and property, both here and in America, who have a real interest at stake, and not pledged to any party, but act from principle, must and will see that the line of this proposition will lead finally to such settlement, in which alone their interest can be effectually secured, and the safety of both countries be firmly and permanently established.

If the Committee will indulge me with their further patience for a moment, I will proceed to make one or two very short remarks on the tenor of the Resolution itself. The Resolution says, and says properly, that no proposition can be received by this country but what comes from the General Court or Assembly of the respective Provinces — that is the only authority, most undoubtedly, that this country can acknowledge and treat with — that is the only body that can have any authentick power to make any propositions; and although I know that those propositions cannot


be any way regularly communicated to any Congress or meeting of all the Provinces; that no proposition coming from any such Congress or meeting could have authority to pledge or engage the Provinces in any propositions that may be made — yet as I do apprehend that no General Court or Assembly of any Province will listen to any matter that shall be proposed to them on this subject, or make any proposition hereupon; but as they take the tone from the opinion of that General Congress which they have of late accustomed themselves to meet in, I should hope that some how or other the propositions of this Resolution may find their way to such Congress, so as to become a matter of their attention.

The next observation which I shall make is, that by the terms of this Resolution, whatever contributions are agreed and settled, as to be raised by the Colonies, are to be raised under the appropriation of the common defence. This condition, sir, is wisely grounded and decided, for it will remove every idea of appropriating it to a matter which the Colonies most fear; it will avoid every suspicion of a misapplication to purposes for which it never was meant to be raised.

An honourable gentleman (Mr˙ Charles Fox) in a late debate, though he took up the idea in opposition, certainly was the first and the only one in that line of debate who hit upon the real jet of the dispute between this country and America. He very ably stated, that the reason why the Colonies objected to the laying taxes for the purpose of a Revenue in America, was that such Revenue in the hands of Government, took out of the hands of the people that were to be governed, that control which every Englishman thinks he ought to have over that Government to which his rights and interests are entrusted. The mode of appropriation specified in this Resolution takes away the ground of that opposition — for although Parliament is to have the disposal and expenditure of this Revenue, yet as the settlement proposes that the Colonies shall, by a particular revenue, make provision for the establishment of their own Government, and specifies that the general revenue which shall be raised, is for the common defence, no part of this money so raised can be applied by Parliament so as to destroy that control which they so much contend for. The misapplication of that four and a half per cent which was raised for the publick service and common defence, to purposes totally foreign and alien to that end, has ever left in the minds of the Colonists a suspicion which has stood in the way of all propositions made for raising any general revenue; but this Resolution totally removes every ground of such suspicion, and leads to matters worthy of the attention of those who may have the carrying it into execution.

Upon these grounds it is, sir, that although the propositions contained in this Resolution may not come into direct negotiation; and although they do not contain all that I do suppose negotiation will lead to, yet containing all that ' tis possible could be proposed in the present state of the business, I do believe that they will finally open the way to reconciliation and peace, and as such I have given my support, and do give my most hearty consent to them.

Mr˙ Charles Fox. I congratulate my friends, and I congratulate the publick, upon the motion which the noble Lord has now produced. He, who has been hitherto all violence and war, is now treading back his steps to peace. I congratulate my friends and the publick on those measures which have produced this effect. It is now seen what the effects are which a firm and a spirited opposition will produce; it is the opposition which has been made in this House, although ineffectual, to oppose the measures of Ministers, whilst they were pleased to be violent, yet has had that effect, that they now find it their interest and their safety to be otherwise. The noble Lord has receded from his proposition of violence — has begun (I mean if he is sincere) to listen to reason; and, if the same spirit of opposition continues to resist violence, and to support the liberties and rights of the Colonies, he will grow every day more and more reasonable. He has quoted as an authority the conduct of Nations towards each other; that, in the outset of their demands they claim more than they are willing to accept. The noble Lord has done the same, and, I dare say, will in a future day be as ready to recede from what he has now proposed, as he has now been humble enough to give up what he before so strenuously defended.


I say this upon the suppositions that the noble Lord is sincere; but I cannot believe it. Besides the opposition which his Lordship found obstructing his way, he felt that even his friends and allies began to grow slack towards the vigour of his measures; he was therefore forced to look out for some propositions that might still induce them to go on with him, and that might, if possible, persuade the Americans to trust their rights to his candour and justice. What he has now proposed to you, does accordingly carry two faces on its very first appearance. To the Americans, and to those who are unwilling to proceed in the extremes of violence against them, he holds out negotiation and reconciliation. To those who have engaged with him on condition that he will support the supremacy of this country unimpaired, the proposition holds out a persuasion that he never will relax on that point; but, sir, his friends see that he is relaxing, and the Committee sees that they are all ready to withdraw from under his standard. No one in this country who is sincerely for peace, will trust the speciousness of his expressions, and the Americans will reject them with disdain.

Mr˙ Jenkinson. The honourable gentleman who spoke last, has, among other objections, stated that the proposition now made to you is a total change of measures, and is totally new. Sir, it is so far from a change of measures, that it makes part of those very measures in which the House engaged itself when it presented the late Address to his Majesty. It speaks out as to what indulgence was held out and promised, and it speaks out as to the ground on which that indulgence can be granted. It lays down as a rule at the foundation, that every part of the Empire must bear its share to the common defence; and as to the mode by which the Provinces and Colonies may contribute their share, it leaves that to the very course which their principles have always claimed it ought to go in. But it does it, sir, in a way that maintains and supports the supremacy of Parliament. The terms on which this agreement is to be established, must have the sanction of Parliament; the Revenue raised must be at the disposal of Parliament. Sir, this is so far from being a proposition new at this day, that it is the very proposition which Mr˙ Grenville made to the Colonies the year before he brought forward the measure of the Stamp Act; and, would the Colonies at any time have come forward and proposed any measures in this line of common service, the Government of this country would, I believe, at all times have been ready to listen to them. If there be any thing new in this proposition, it is that it speaks out explicitly and definitely; and, if the Colonies reject it, it leaves them without excuse in the eyes of all mankind.

Mr˙ Welbore Ellis. At all times, sir, when I rise to speak in this House, I do it with a diffidence of my own opinion, but more so on the present occasion, as I am afraid I shall not only differ from my friends, but perhaps from every man in this House. I am extremely sorry to differ from the noble Lord. It is from the sincere opinion I have of his abilities and integrity, not from any fear of his power. But, sir, on the present occasion, the proposition which is now made to you, is so directly contrary to my idea of the Address, as I agreed to it, that I cannot, consistent with the opinion I then gave, accede to it. Sir, I was in hopes to find, and in any measure that I can agree to, I must expect to meet with, as the first step in the business, an express and definitive acknowledgment from the Americans, of our supremacy. Without that point first settled, I can neither receive nor consent to any other propositions. If I ask myself whether the present Resolution expresses the meaning of the Address, I certainly must answer no. If I am called upon as a gentleman, to say whether it does or not, I must, as a gentleman, upon my honour, declare that I think it does not. So far, therefore, as I have pledged my opinion in that Address, I find myself as a man of honour bound to oppose this proposition. But my mode of conceiving things can be no rule to other persons; and I own that I do not wish to impose my opinion upon any other person whatever. I wish not to influence any other person. Having therefore said thus much to explain and justify my own conduct, I think the best thing I can do is to sit down.

Mr˙ Adam spoke against the Resolution, upon the ground of its waiving, if it did not give up, the supremacy.


Mr˙ Cornwall explained the nature of the supremacy, and shewed how the measure now proposed was not only consistent with it, but the best and wisest measure, as a measure of finance. He confirmed what his right honourable relation had said as to its being no new proposition, but having been formerly made by Mr˙ Grenville.

Mr˙ T˙ Townshend replied to Mr˙ Cornwall.

Mr˙ Ackland. It is, sir, with the greatest diffidence I rise to deliver my sentiments on this occasion to the House. Astonished at propositions I so little expected, I rise to beg permission of the House to make the following motion: That the Chairman do leave the Chair. I am prompted to it by a conviction, that the propositions laid before the House by the noble Lord, can, on the principles of the gentlemen on the other side, produce no good consequences; on the principles of the gentlemen of this side, must produce many bad ones. Sir, I have supported Administration on every American step they have taken during the session, because I approved them; and as long as I continued to approve them I should have continued to support them. But, sir, I cannot approve this measure, and therefore beg to make the above motion.

Mr˙ Dundas, Solicitor General of Scotland, spoke in very strong terms, to mark the contradiction of the present measure to the Address, and to every other measure to which he had given his consent; declared that he could never accede to any concessions whatever, which he understood this to be, until the Americans did, in direct terms, acknowledge the absolute supremacy of this country; much less could he consent to such concessions, while they were in arms against it.

Sir Gilbert Elliot. The debate has taken a different turn from any that I could have conceived; and gentlemen have taken up ideas so contrary to every thing contained in the motion, that I own I cannot but wish to explain it as I understand it to be; not only as it stands in the present Resolution, but as I conceive it to be a part of a measure already entered into. The Address to his Majesty, in consequence of our considering the Papers, contained, in the sense in which I agreed to it, two correspondent lines of conduct. With force to repress those that were in rebellion; with the protection of this country to defend those who were acting under the authority of it, to establish the Government, and to enforce the laws of this country in the Colonies, was one line of that conduct. You have addressed his Majesty to enforce all those measures that were necessary to carry this into effect. You have augmented your forces both by sea and land; you have raised money for this purpose; you have proceeded to measures of restriction, and are in a way to proceed still further in that course; in the whole of which nothing is looked to but the support and establishment of the supreme authority of this country. The other line, whose direction is concurrent and concomitant with this, has been the holding out a promised indulgence to those who will do their duty towards this country. In an Address you can only state this in general and vague terms. You could not, without taking it up as a particular point of consideration, and as a particular measure, express yourselves in an explicit and definitive manner to that point. While you are going on with the one part of this united measure, will you stop short in this, to which you have pledged both your honour and humanity? Sir, so far from the measure now proposed being contradictory to, or inconsistent with the other, the plan on which you sat out at the opening of this business, would be defective, would be unjust, without it. While, therefore, you are maintaining the authority of this country, and that with measures of force, forget not your humanity and your policy. Each proposition is to me but part of one measure; and, as part of a measure which I have approved in the whole, I must give my consent to it.

Colonel Barre. How this new scheme of letting the Americans tax themselves, ever came into the noble Lord' s head, I cannot conceive. Whether it be the genuine product of his own new wisdom and policy, or whether it arises from prodigious cunning; whether from advice of any new friends, or springs from the friendship of old enemies, is impossible to conceive. By what I can collect, it is not likely to gain him any new friends from this side the House; and I should have thought it was going to lose him several friends from that side, had not the right honourable


gentleman who spoke last risen to his aid. When that gentleman pleases to exert his eloquence, there is something so powerful, so persuading, so leading in it, that those who were in doubt become immediately convinced. His opinion, whenever explicitly given, becomes like a standard, under which even troops which have turned their backs, may be rallied and brought again to their ranks; and, notwithstanding what we may have thought some few moments ago, we shall yet see all the troops reconciled to the march they are to make. And I begin now to see, that whatever may be the various doubts, the opinions and speeches on different sides, when we come to a division, I believe the use of a standard in this House will be seen, in that there will be scarcely any difference in numbers of those who have hitherto divided on either side. But though the noble Lord' s new motion will cause no new divisions amongst us here, yet it is founded on that wretched, low, shameful, abominable maxim which has predominated in every measure of our late Minister, divide et impera. This is to divide the Americans; this is to break those Associations, to dissolve that generous union in which the Americans, as one man, stand in defence of their rights and liberties. If you are so weak as to imagine, from any thing which that sincerely associated band of Ministers can find in their own hearts, you can believe that the Americans are so foolish or so base to each other, you will be deceived. They are not such gudgeons as to be caught by such a foolish bait. But the noble Lord does not expect it will be accepted; it is meant only to propose something specious, which he knows the Americans will refuse, and therefore offers to call down tenfold more vengeance on their devoted heads, rendered thus ten times more odious, by refusing such fair, such reasonable, such just, such wise, and such humane offers; but neither will this snare succeed.

Lord North. I agree, sir, that it is very probable the propositions contained in this Resolution may not be acceptable to the Americans in general. The Resolution certainly does not go to all their claims; it is, however, just, humane, and wise; and those in America who are just, who are wise, and who are serious, will, I believe, think it well worthy their attention. The gentleman has charged me with mean, low, and foolish policy, in grounding my measures on that maxim divide et impera. Is it foolish, is it mean, when a people, heated and misled by evil Councils, are running into unlawful combinations, to hold out those terms which will sift the reasonable from the unreasonable; that will distinguish those who act upon principle, from those who wish only to profit of the general confusion? If propositions that the conscientious and the prudent will accept, will at the same time recover them from under the influence and fascination of the wicked, I avow the using that principle which will thus divide the good from the bad, and give support to the friends of peace and good Government. A right honourable gentleman who always speaks and acts like a man of honour, and when he differs from his friends does it like a man of honour, thinks, that according to the sense in which he understood the Address, that the propositions now proposed by me, totally deviate and depart from it; I will beg leave to refer that gentleman to the explicit language which I held when I proposed the Address; was it not precisely, almost literally the same as what I now propose? I can even refer to my very words as being the same. I will appeal to the House as to the manner in which I explain the idea of the indulgence which the Address held out and promised; and having held out and promised such indulgence, if I had not followed it by some propositions which were open; explicit, and definitive, I might indeed have been charged with throwing out deceptions to gentlemen here, and with laying a snare for our fellow-subjects in America. Whatever may be the reception these propositions shall meet with, I feel that I have done my duty fairly and consistently.

Mr˙ Edmund Burke declared he came to the House this day, upon the report of a change of measures, with a full resolution of supporting any thing which might lead in any way towards conciliation; but that he found the proposition altogether insidious in its nature, and therefore purposely rendered to the last degree obscure and perplexed in its language. Instead of being at all fitted to produce peace, it was calculated to increase the disorders and confusions


in America, and therefore he never could consent to it. He readily admitted that the proposition was a contradiction to every thing that Parliament had declared; a shameful prevarication in Ministers, and a mean departure from every declaration they had made. He was, however, willing to purchase peace by any humiliation of Ministers, and, by what was of more moment, even by the humiliation of Parliament. But the measure was mean indeed, yet not at all conciliatory. The mode of argument on the side of Administration, he said was the most ridiculous that ever had been known in Parliament. They attempted to prove to one side of the House, that the measure was a concession; and to the other, that it was a strong assertion of authority — just on the silly principle of the Tea Act, which to Great Britain was to be a duty of supply, to the Americans a tax of regulation. He was equally surprised, he said, by another extraordinary phenomenon. Up to this day, during the whole course of the American debates, the Ministry had daily and hourly denied their having any sort of contest about an American Revenue; that the whole was a dispute for obedience to trade laws, and to the general Legislative authority. Now they turned short, and to console our Manufacturers, and animate our Soldiers, they told them for the first time, "the dispute is put on its true footing, and the grand contest is not for empty honour, but substantial Revenue." But Manufacturers and Soldiers, said he, will not be so consoled or so animated, because the Revenue is as much an empty phantom as the honour, and the whole scheme of the Resolution is oppressive, absurd, impracticable, and what, indeed, the Ministers confess the Americans will not accept; nay, what they own America has already rejected. It is oppressive, because it was never the complaint of the Americans that the mode of taxation was not left to themselves; but that neither the amount and quantum of the grant, nor the application, was in their free choice. This was their complaint, and their, complaint was just. What else is it to be taxed by Act of Parliament, in which they are not represented, but for Parliament to settle the proportion of the payment, and the application of the money? This is the purport of the present Resolution. If an Act of Parliament compelled the City of Amsterdam to raise an hundred thousand Pounds, is not Amsterdam as effectually taxed without its consent, as if duties to that amount were laid upon that City? To leave them the mode may be of some ease as to the collection; but it is nothing to the freedom of granting, in which the Colonies are so far from being relieved by this Resolution, that their condition is to be ten times worse than ever. I contend that it is a far more oppressive mode of taxing than that hitherto used; for here no determinate demand is made. The Colonies are to be held in durance by Troops, Fleets, and Armies, until singly and separately they shall do — what? Until they shall offer to contribute to a service which they cannot know, in a proportion which they cannot guess, on a standard which they are so far from being able to ascertain, that Parliament which is to hold it, has not ventured to hint what it is they expect. They are to be held prisoners of war, unless they consent to a ransom, by bidding at an auction against each other and against themselves, until the King and Parliament shall strike down the hammer, and say "enough."

This species of auction to be terminated not at the discretion of the bidder, but at the will of the sovereign power, is a kind of absurd tyranny which I challenge the Ministers to produce any example of in the practice of this or of any other Nation. The conduct the most like this method of setting the Colony Assemblies at guessing what contribution may be most agreeable to us in some future time, was the tyranny of Nebuchadnezzar, who, having forgot a dream, ordered the assemblies of his wise men, on pain of death, not only to interpret his dream, but to tell him what his dream was. To set the impracticability and absurdity of this scheme in the stronger light, I ask, in case an Assembly makes an offer which should not be thought sufficient by Parliament, is not the business to go back again to America? and so on backwards and forwards as often as the offer is displeasing to Parliament; and thus, instead of obtaining peace by this proposition, all our distractions will be increased tenfold, and continue forever. It is said, indeed, by the Minister, that this scheme will


disunite the Colonies. Tricks in Government have sometimes been successful, but never when they are known, avowed, and hackneyed. The Boston Port Bill was a declared cheat, and accordingly, far from succeeding, it was the very first thing that united all the Colonies against us, from Nova Scotia to Georgia. The idea of deducting the value of Goods supposed to be taken by the Colonists, because we sold cheap, at a time when we did not suffer the Colonies to make a trial, and by such arithmetick to deduce the propriety of their paying in nearly an equal proportion with the people of England, was of a piece with the rest of the policy and the argument of this profound project. I strongly protest against any scheme which shall begin by any mode of extorting Revenue. Every benefit, natural or political, must be had in the order of things, and in its proper season. Revenue from a free people must be the consequence of peace, not the condition on which it is to be obtained. If we attempt to invert this order, we shall have neither peace nor revenue. If we are resolved to eat our grapes crude and sour, instead of obtaining nourishment from them, we shall not only set an edge on our own teeth, but on those of our posterity forever. I am therefore for the reconsideration of the Resolution, until it can be brought to some agreement with common sense.

Mr˙ Dunning assured the House that he had been much alarmed for the noble Lord (North) in the course of the day; for though the noble Lord had been actually five times on his legs, yet all his eloquence seemed thrown away, and his authority on the point of losing its weight. Young Members and old, nay, even the known phalanx of Ministerial supporters, seemed to totter, and it appeared to him, as if it was going to be, "to your tents, O Israel;" but in the moment of the noble Lord' s distress, when all his own eloquence, all his acknowledged authority seemed lost, a gentleman of great abilities arose, (Sir G˙ Elliot,) but he was too wise to waste his eloquence; he did not attempt to argue, but with great good sense, he warned the party not to divide among themselves. I saw, said Mr˙ Dunning, the instantaneous good effect of this wholesome admonition; no wit, no argument could have had half the effect — it operated like a charm — and though I do not see well, I could discern from various faces, that the Minister was safe, and was rescued from the disgrace I had begun to apprehend for him, of being in a minority. He then shewed that the new proposition was, indeed, scandalously contradictory to all the professions of the Minister, and therefore justified the opposition of the Minister' s old friend; but for his part, he opposed it, not as being conciliatory, which he wished it was, but as being futile and treacherous.

The question then being put,

The Committee divided — for the Resolution, 274, against it, 88.

Sir Charles Whitworth reported from the Committee, that they had made a further progress in the matters to them referred; and had come to a Resolution, which they had directed him to report, when the House will please to receive the same.

Ordered, That the Report be received upon Friday morning next.

Sir Charles Whitworth also acquainted the House, that he was directed by the Committee to move, that they may have leave to sit again.

Resolved, That this House will, upon this day seven-night, resolve itself into a Committee of the Whole House, to consider further of the said Papers.



* Whilst parties thus pursued their debates with much eagerness and animosity, and nothing but defiance was hurled at America, on the part of Government, the noble Lord at the head of Administration amazed all parties, and seemed for a time almost to dissolve his own, by that famous conciliatory motion with respect to America, which was then, and has been since, the subject of so much discussion.

Upon the first bruit of conciliatory measures being proposed by the Minister, it was surmised, that he was going either to resign, and would first make a disavowal of those publick measures which had been lately pursued, or that from some strange convulsion in the internal Cabinet, the whole political system of Government was to be changed; all those Members who were within hearing, accordingly hastened to the House, with the most eager expectation. Nor was the astonishment less within doors. From some perplexity in its construction, and obscurity in the words, the extent or drift of the motion was not immediately comprehended. The Courtiers looked at each other with amazement, and seemed it a loss in what light to consider the Minister. That numerous high-prerogative party, who always loved a strong Government, in whatever hands it might be lodged, and according had, upon principle, ever opposed any relaxation in favour of the Colonies, heard the propositions with horrour, and considered themselves as abandoned and betrayed. Even some of the old staunch friends of Government, who had always gone with every Administration, and uniformly pursued the same line of conduct, in all changes of men and measures, began now more than to waver. In a word, the Treasury Benches seemed to totter, and that Ministerial phalanx, which had been so long irresistible, ready to break, and to fall into inextricable disorder. — Ann˙ Regis.

* The law referred to by Governonr Pownall, is in Scobell' s Acts and Ordinances, 1650, cap˙ 28. "Whereas in Virginia, and in the Islands of Barbadoes, Antigua, St˙ Christopher' s, Mevias, Montserrat, Bermudas, and divers other Islands and places in America, there hath been, and are Colonies and Plantations which were planted at the cost and settled by the people and by authority of this Nation, which are and ought to be subordinate to, and dependent upon England; and hath, ever since the planting thereof, been, and ought to be, subject to such Laws, Orders, and Regulations as are and shall be made by the Parliament of England: and whereas divers acts of rebellion have been committed by many persons inhabiting in Barbadoes, Antigua, Bermudas, and Virginia, whereby they have most traitorously, by force and subtilty, usurped a power of government, and seized the estates of many well-affected persons into their hands, and banished others, and have set up themselves in opposition to, and distinct from this State and Commonwealth; many of their chief actors in, and promoters of these rebellions having been transported and carried over to the said Plantations in foreign Ships, without leave, license, or consent of the Parliament of England; the Parliament of England taking the premises into consideration, and finding themselves obliged to use all speedy, lawful, and just means for the suppression of the said rebellion in the said Plantations, and reducing the same to fidelity and due obedience, so as all peaceable and well-affected people who have been robbed, spoiled, imprisoned, or banished, through the said treasonable practices, may be restored to the freedom of their persons, and possession of their own lands and goods, and due punishment inflicted on the said delinquents, do declare all and every the said persons in Barbadoes, Antigua, Bermudas, and Virginia, that have contrived, abetted, aided, or assisted those horrid rebellions, or have since willingly joined with them, to be notorious robbers and traitors, and such as, by the law of Nations, are not to be permitted any manner of commerce or traffick with any people whatsoever; and do forbid to all manner of persons, foreigners and others, all manner of commerce, traffick, and correspondency whatsoever to be used or held with the said rebels in the Barbadoes, Bermudas, Virginia, and Antigua, or either of them."

* Notwithstanding the general dissatisfaction with which this motion was received by the friends of Administration, who thought their dignity not a little lowered by it, and believed the effects of conciliation or disunion proposed by it, to be very uncertain, it was thought better not to give a triumph to opposition by rejecting a proposition made by the Minister. It was thought, also, that this Resolution being susceptible of a variety of interpretations, as had appeared in the debates, such an interpretation might be hereafter adopted, as should be most suitable to their circumstances. Accordingly, though some of those, who, in the beginning, had openly declared themselves, and could not recede, voted (on grounds totally adverse to them) with the Opposition; the rest of the Members went as usual; and the question was carried on a division, 274 to 88. — Ann˙ Regis.