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Lord John Cavendish


Well, sir, if I understand the English language, if I understand common sense, here is the strongest renunciation of the right of taxation. But America was deceived; and how all these troubles arose afterwards, the present Ministers can tell you.

The application of this transaction is, that they will not be duped by Administration again; that no other terms than those proposed and specified by Parliament will be considered as the grounds of peace by America.

I have the best authority for what I say: "Nothing but terms held out by Parliament will do." The noble Lord [Lord North] held in this House the same language last February, upon his conciliatory proposition. But if you are still agreed that nothing but unconditional submission will do, I have no more to say — throw away the scabbard! But I hope it is not so. The wisest of men, the wisest of nations, have treated, have receded, granted the concessions asked by rebellious subjects. What did the Romans do in the Social War? What did Philip of Spain? Was he not obliged at last to accede to their terms? What did Louis XIV offer Marshal Turenne, when in actual rebellion? What instances in your own civil wars? What does Whitelocke tell you of the propositions made by the King? Don' t tell me of the late Scotch Rebellion. Is there no difference? Could you treat with them? Could you divide the Crown or give it up? Could you have had two Kings of Brentford upon the Throne? The comparison is ridiculous, and unworthy of serious refutation. But are not these Rebels of a different kind? Who is there among you that would not combat any Power upon earth, invading in the same manner your privileges and rights? — men defending against the arm of power, what God and nature have given them, and no human power can justly wrest from them — the glorious privileges of the Revolution; those Whig principles which would, in other days, have excited this country to universal opposition. There is some difference, I hope, to be made; Some allowance for men engaged in such a cause.

The language of Administration, of unconditional submission, driven out as you are from every port in America, does not become you; it is the language of vengeance and not of sense; of violence, not of reason; of passion, and not of common sense.

The idea of foreign danger maybe thought visionary; but ape not France and Spain arming? Could they find a better opportunity? Would it be their interest that you should


conquer America? How would such a force as you must have affect their fears? Is not the French Ministry changed? Is not the Queen thought to have great influence in that Court, and in the new arrangement? Who is her great friend? M˙ Choiseul. Who is the avowed enemy of this country? M˙ Choiseul. Who is the lover of war? M˙ Choiseul.

The assurances of the pacifick intentions of those Powers are told to you. Who made them — the last or the present Administration? What reliance can you have upon them? Why, sir, I know a brave man, and as good an officer as any in France; he held the same language to me; and yet this very gentleman [M˙ D' Ennery] is now sent out with an additional force to the French west-India Islands.

I shall trouble you no longer. The duty to my country, paramount to every obligation, obliges me to seize the only moment which remains between you and destruction; when this horrid war is to be carried on with every circumstance of aggravation; German mercenaries carrying desolation along with them; slaves excited to cut the throats of their masters. What can be more shocking to a feeling mind? I have no intention but the publick good. [A murmur from the Treasury Bench.] Yes, I say it again; I have no other. What have I to get by it? What have I to lose; what have I to gain? I have heard a language in private companies of affection to connexions, and engagements to private friends; perhaps there is an infirmity. I think the attention to the welfare of this great empire is transcendent to every consideration. I hope and believe there is such a thing as men having a real opinion in Parliament. I lament the infirmness and inattention, for these last five years, to publick concerns. This language proceeds from that; but I disclaim it, and offer you this motion, from my fervent and earnest regard to the welfare and prosperity of this great empire.

He moved, "That an humble Address be presented to his Majesty, praying that his Majesty would be graciously pleased to communicate to this House so much of the Instructions given to the Lord Viscount Howe and General Howe, his Majesty' s Commissioners, as relates to the conditions on which it is proposed to make peace with, or receive the submissions of, his Majesty' s American subjects now in arms."


Lord John Cavendish seconded the motion. His Lordship spoke in high commendation of Lord and General Howe, as officers; but said they have now got a character which they are entire strangers to, the filling of which, even if the nature of the business would permit, he much doubted whether they were equal to; however, he, who was always against the beginning of this war, and who, ever since it began, was always for putting an end to it, would never find fault with any means that would stop the effusion of blood, and settle the realm in peace. He owned he doubted of these means, so far as the publick had been able to guess what they were; he was willing to give his assistance to any that would produce peace. That this could not be done without the interposition and sanction of Parliament; and therefore must be of opinion that the instructions ought to be communicated.

Lord North began by answering the argument used, that the Colonies could not trust the Ministry; and, upon explanation of Lord Hittsborough' s letter, he asserted that the Ministers had never deceived the Americans. All which that letter engaged for as to repeal had been done; all that it pledged Government to as to future taxation, had been strictly adhered to. The letter promised the repeal of the tax on glass, paper, and painters' colours; but it never promised to repeal the tea duty. It promised not to lay any future tax; no future tax has been laid. He said he did not object to the motion on account of the late period of the session in which it is moved. His objection was direct. He would oppose the communication of any instructions previous


to their execution, unless there was something special in the case.

He never was of opinion that no Rebels were to be treated with; his opinion always was, that if Great Britain was likely to draw any benefits from any treaty, he could see no objection or difference whether it was with a foreign enemy or with Rebels; with armed Rebels, or with those who had laid down their arms. Those who think we had better give up our rights, because some rival state may interpose against our maintaining them, think meaner of our own strength and power than I feel it to be; and more unjustly of such foreign states than we have any reason to do. Taking the proposition in general, we ought always to be upon our guard against our rivals, and, so far, to fear them; but, in this case, there is no fear. Although he cannot think, and wonders how any person who has ever been entrusted to act with the powers of Government can think, that the modes by which any Commissioner may be instructed to carry any powers into execution, that the secret situation of persons and things, that the springs and motives should be made publick; yet he has no objection to the laying the powers themselves before Parliament and the publick. The act of Parliament doth in general prescribe what they must be, and the commission gives such only as that act authorizes. It gives a power of granting general and also special pardons; it empowers the Commissioners to confer with any of his Majesty' s subjects, without exception; it authorizes and directs them to inquire into the state and causes of their complaints; it cannot offer any terms — no such have ever


yet been settled by Parliament; nor has the Congress, nor any of the Americans, ever yet offered any which Parliament could listen to. These being the only powers of the commission, the instructions can give no power of agreeing upon or settling any terms of accommodation; they hold out no ultimatum; they make no concessions; they do not presume to bind Parliament — they cannot do that; they go to empowering the Commissioners not to treat, but to confer and to sound for grounds of peace; but all must be referred to Parliament. They are not Plenipotentiaries; they cannot have full powers. Whatever gentlemen may think of the affections of the Americans in general towards this country, and their readiness to come to terms with us, I am sure their leaders will never feel or express such duty towards us, unless they have some proof of our resolution and power. It would be dangerous even to peace itself, to hold out any proposition which might not succeed. The full extent of the plan, as contained in the commission, has been suggested to the persons employed; further communications at present would be very improper. After the experiment is made, and the service actually gone into, whether it succeeds or not, it will then be a proper object for Parliament to take under consideration, in every part of it; at present, I must object to those communications which the motion requires.

Mr˙ Burke. The noble Lord has not only refused to give the instructions, but also to give any reason why he will not. The noble Lord made, indeed, an exception in his refusal, and did allow there might be a special case in which


such previous communication might be requisite; but if the special case as stated by the right honourable mover is not that special case, his Lordship' s candour might have spared itself the trouble of that exception, for there never can be any special case wherein such communication can be proper. I do justice, however, to the principles of the noble Lord. In spite of all violence which he is drawn to do to them, he has again relapsed into his natural bias towards justice and humanity. He is willing to give up taxation; he has no objection to treating, or at least conferring with Rebels; with Rebels without exception, whether with arms in their hands, or after they laid down their arms. Although he will not tell this House what the terms to be offered or accepted are, yet, to talk of conferring without some instructions on what terms the persons conferring are to meet, is nonsense, downright nonsense. Some conditions are therefore in embryo at least; but, then, how is this to be reconciled to the doctrine of another noble Lord, who, it is said, has the confidence and the lead in these American measures, who is the Executive Minister in this department? He can admit no preliminary but unconditional submission. Between the various jarring opinions of Ministers themselves, (more opposite at times than even those of Opposition itself are to them,) the object of the war, or the ends of peace have never yet been clearly fixed. In the very session in which unconditional submission seemed to predominate and become the fixed object of the war; in the very session in which, after many puzzling and perplexed clashings, a revenue seemed to be the end aimed at; in that very session


of contradictions, this Ministry have sent out Commissioners to give up taxation and all expectation of a revenue, and to make peace without any notion of conditions. So far from expecting that the Rebels should lay down their arms, they are to treat; I will not use the word "confer" — I detest all quibbles, unworthy the lowest pettyfogging attorney — they are to treat with Rebels, whether they lay down their arms, or meet them in arms and array of arms. He then, with much wit, described these double Commissioners, warring and treating, offering pardons both general and special when they were beat, and plundering and carrying fire and devastation into those quarters where they were to give peace.

Mr˙ Vyner declared, that the landed gentlemen came into these measures in support of the sovereignty of the realm, and in expectation of a revenue from America in aid of the common burden; the refusal of which was the first step to revolt in the Americans, and the establishing of which was the fixed and determined object of the war. That, in these expectations, they had cheerfully come into the granting every supply which had been demanded; had fixed upon their estates a four shillings tax in the pound, which must last forever; but he now found they had been amused; that they had been led into a fine scrape; for all these were now to be given up without consulting, without even communication with Parliament. That it was now time to be explicit; it was now time to declare, that they could not go on any further with such Ministers, unless they abided by the plan which these Ministers first held out to them, and on which the country gentlemen joined them.

Lord North said taxation was not to be given up: it was to be enforced; but whether at present, or hereafter, was a point of policy which the Commissioners would learn, by sounding the people upon the spot.

Mr˙ Fox. According to the noble Lord' s explanation, Lord Howe and his brother are to be sent out as spies, not as Commissioners; that if they cannot get on shore, they are to sound upon the coasts. On the point of taxation, the ingenuity of the noble Lord has now reconciled what gentlemen might think absolute contradiction. Parliament, on one hand, pledged by Lord Hillsborough, and the Royal word on the other were pledged by Lord Botetourt from the seat of Government, that no future tax shall be levied; and this promise is to be kept sacred. Yet the country gentlemen are promised a revenue. The tea duty — the only tax you have — makes no revenue. Yet a revenue must be had from America; and if the Americans will not of themselves give a revenue, we must tax them, says that sweet essence of wisdom the Conciliatory motion. Lord Hillsborough' s letter and Lord Botetourt' s speech, have promised, even by sacred word, that we never shall lay any future taxes. But a revenue must be had, and we must tax. The object, therefore, of the war is the tea tax, which neither does or ever will raise any revenue. But it is a tax, and therefore, according to the noble Lord' s logick, we tax them. But it is no new tax, and therefore we keep our word. There cannot be a tax without a revenue, and therefore the country gentlemen must be satisfied, for if it does not raise so much as they expect, that is not the noble Lord' s fault. And upon this curious bead-roll of syllogisms, we are to prosecute a ruinous war, or to make a shameful peace. He then ridiculed the inconsistency of the two plans of war and treaty, and the difference of rebellions.

Mr˙ Adam objected to the motion; blamed the whole conduct of Lord North; and gave, as his reason for opposing the motion, that he conceived, if the noble Lord should affect to give way to it, it would be only to gain a previous sanction to a plan which, in the situation, and under the circumstances, to which he had, by his conduct, brought the affairs of this country, it was, perhaps, right he should try, in order to extricate himself; but that Parliament, which had no share in the conduct which brought matters to this pass, ought to have no concern in this shift. He, for his part, would never agree to anything which should preclude him, or might preclude Parliament, from a full liberty of censuring the conduct of the noble Lord when it came to be compared in the issue, with the effect of which it must be the cause, and for which it must be responsible. He therefore desired that the Minister might either stand or fall by his own measures.


Mr˙ T˙ Townshend observed that Parliament had talked in a high strain against America; but what Parliament thought or resolved one way or the other, was of very little consequence, for Administration would act just as they liked. Parliament, instead of taking the lead, was at length degraded into a mere engine of Government, one day to bully, another to conciliate, and the next, he foresaw, would be to sue for terms to America, Such was the case a few years back, in the case of Lord Hillsborough' s circulatory letter to the Colonies: while Parliament was asserting the supremacy of this country, and the unlimited, unconditional right of taxation over America, this letter contained the most specifick declaration that no tax whatever should ever be laid on that country. He said, however, that the letter was productive of much worse consequences than barely contradicting the sense of Parliament; a British Administration was no longer to be relied on, for the solemn engagement for his Majesty to three millions of his subjects was no sooner made than it was shamefully violated. What dependance, then, could America have on any future promise? How could she trust to the sincerity of our professions, when all Administration had to do would be to get Parliament to overrule them, or remove the Minister under whose immediate directions the faith of the nation had been pledged? This was precisely the case with the letter in question. America rested satisfied with the assurances it contained; and when the system was to be changed, the Minister was removed, and his engagement on the part of this nation set at nought, as a mere unauthorized act of office.

Mr˙ Powys thought that a noble Lord' s expression, of unconditional submission, ought to be explained.

Lord George Germaine denied that he ever said he should require an unconditional submission. He did say, that he never wished to see the Government of this country treating with its Colonies while they were at arms against it. He then quoted the act of Parliament, and reasoning from that, showed that whatever turn might be given, or what constructions might be made from particular or vague expressions, the fact was, that no commission nor instructions, formed on the basis of that act, could ever mean to send out Commissioners to treat with Rebels in arms. The powers of the commission empowered the Commissioners to restore either whole Colonies, or any bodies of them, or even individuals, to the King' s peace, whenever they returned to their duty. The Commanders, both by sea and land, were to carry on war against Rebels in arms; how, then, could they treat with them? If there appeared, in any one Colony or individual, a desire of returning to duty; if they or he could be received into the King' s peace and have pardon, the commission enables the Commissioners to confer, and to encourage such dispositions in order to give peace. Thus far the noble Lord on the same bench [Lord North] is justified in what he said. But he did not, he never could mean that the Commissioners were to treat on the terms of the submission of the Colonies, on the terms of their duty to the supreme legislature, or on the right of taxation. This legislature cannot, the act of Parliament does not, give up the sovereignty of the supreme legislature; cannot and does not give up the right of taxation. No instruction can authorize any one ever to treat about these objects. And unless we give up all these, a revenue, some way or other, must be had from America, as from a part, in common aid of the whole. This was what the noble Lord intended, and this, I venture to say, as pledging the noble Lord' s opinion.

Colonel Barré. The noble Lord says that the Commissioners cannot treat till the Rebels have laid down their arms. Does the act of Parliament mention any conditions upon which, laying down their arms, they are to be received into the King' s peace? Has the noble Lord mentioned any conditions? What, then, signifies all these distinctions in debate? In fact, their submission must be unconditional.

Governour Johnstone closed the debate by insisting upon it that the noble Lord [Lord George Germaine] had, in express terms, required unconditional submission. That the Lord in the blue ribbon [Lord North] was for treaty and conciliation almost on any conditions, so that Great Britain could derive any advantage from it. That these opinions were totally and absolutely irreconcilable. What might be


made out of the hodge-podge of both jumbled together, he left to the House to consider, and to events to prove.

The House divided. The yeas went forth:

Tellers for the yeas,
Lord John Cavendish
Mr˙ Fox,

Tellers for the noes,
Sir Grey Cooper,
Mr˙ Gascoyne,

So it passed in the negative.