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Burke's Speech on Conciliation with America by Edmund Burke

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The introduction to this edition of Burke's speech on Conciliation with America
is intended to supply the needs of those students who do not have access to a
well-stocked library, or who, for any reason, are unable to do the collateral
reading necessary for a complete understanding of the text.

The sources from which information has been drawn in preparing this edition are
mentioned under "Bibliography." The editor wishes to acknowledge indebtedness to
many of the excellent older editions of the speech, and also to Mr. A. P.
Winston, of the Manual Training High School, for valuable suggestions.













In 1651 originated the policy which caused the American Revolution. That policy
was one of taxation, indirect, it is true, but none the less taxation. The first
Navigation Act required that colonial exports should be shipped to England in
American or English vessels. This was followed by a long series of acts,
regulating and restricting the American trade. Colonists were not allowed to
exchange certain articles without paying duties thereon, and custom houses were
established and officers appointed. Opposition to these proceedings was
ineffectual; and in 1696, in order to expedite the business of taxation, and to
establish a better method of ruling the colonies, a board was appointed, called
the Lords Commissioners for Trade and Plantations. The royal governors found in
this board ready sympathizers, and were not slow to report their grievances, and
to insist upon more stringent regulations for enforcing obedience. Some of the
retaliative measures employed were the suspension of the writ of habeas corpus,
the abridgment of the freedom of the press and the prohibition of elections. But
the colonists generally succeeded in having their own way in the end, and were
not wholly without encouragement and sympathy in the English Parliament. It may
be that the war with France, which ended with the fall of Quebec, had much to do
with this rather generous treatment. The Americans, too, were favored by the
Whigs, who had been in power for more than seventy years. The policy of this
great party was not opposed to the sentiments and ideas of political freedom
that had grown up in the colonies; and, although more than half of the
Navigation Acts were passed by Whig governments, the leaders had known how to
wink at the violation of nearly all of them.

Immediately after the close of the French war, and after George III. had
ascended the throne of England, it was decided to enforce the Navigation Acts
rigidly. There was to be no more smuggling, and, to prevent this, Writs of
Assistance were issued. Armed with such authority, a servant of the king might
enter the home of any citizen, and make a thorough search for smuggled goods. It
is needless to say the measure was resisted vigorously, and its reception by the
colonists, and its effect upon them, has been called the opening scene of the
American Revolution. As a matter of fact, this sudden change in the attitude of
England toward the colonies, marks the beginning of the policy of George III.
which, had it been successful, would have made him the ruler of an absolute
instead of a limited monarchy. He hated the Tories only less than the Whigs, and
when he bestowed a favor upon either, it was for the purpose of weakening the
other. The first task he set himself was that of crushing the Whigs. Since the
Revolution of 1688, they had dictated the policy of the English government, and
through wise leaders had become supreme in authority. They were particularly
obnoxious to him because of their republican spirit, and he regarded their
ascendency as a constant menace to his kingly power. Fortune seemed to favor him
in the dissensions which arose. There grew up two factions in the Whig party.
There were old Whigs and new Whigs. George played one against the other,
advanced his favorites when opportunity offered, and in the end succeeded in
forming a ministry composed of his friends and obedient to his will.

With the ministry safely in hand, he turned his attention to the House of
Commons. The old Whigs had set an example, which George was shrewd enough to
follow. Walpole and Newcastle had succeeded in giving England one of the most
peaceful and prosperous governments within in the previous history of the
nation, but their methods were corrupt. With much of the judgment, penetration
and wise forbearance which marks a statesman, Walpole's distinctive qualities of
mind eminently fitted him for political intrigue; Newcastle was still worse, and
has the distinction of being the premier under whose administration the revolt
against official corruption first received the support of the public.

For near a hundred years, the territorial distribution of seats in the House had
remained the same, while the centres of population had shifted along with those
of trade and new industries. Great towns were without representation, while
boroughs, such as Old Sarum, without a single voter, still claimed, and had, a
seat in Parliament. Such districts, or "rotten boroughs," were owned and
controlled by many of the great landowners. Both Walpole and Newcastle resorted
to the outright purchase of these seats, and when the time came George did not
shrink from doing the same thing. He went even further. All preferments of
whatsoever sort were bestowed upon those who would do his bidding, and the
business of bribery assumed such proportions that an office was opened at the
Treasury for this purpose, from which twenty-five thousand pounds are said to
have passed in a single day. Parliament had been for a long time only partially
representative of the people; it now ceased to be so almost completely.

With, the support which such methods secured, along with encouragement from his
ministers, the king was prepared to put in operation his policy for regulating
the affairs of America. Writs of Assistance (1761) were followed by the passage
of the Stamp Act (1765). The ostensible object of both these measures was to
help pay the debt incurred by the French war, but the real purpose lay deeper,
and was nothing more or less than the ultimate extension of parliamentary rule,
in great things as well as small, to America. At this crisis, so momentous for
the colonists, the Rockingham ministry was formed, and Burke, together with
Pitt, supported a motion for the unconditional repeal of the Stamp Act. After
much wrangling, the motion was carried, and the first blunder of the mother
country seemed to have been smoothed over.

Only a few months elapsed, however, when the question of taxing the colonies was
revived. Pitt lay ill, and could take no part in the proposed measure. Through
the influence of other members of his party,--notably Townshend,--a series of
acts were passed, imposing duties on several exports to America. This was
followed by a suspension of the New York Assembly, because it had disregarded
instructions in the matter of supplies for the troops. The colonists were
furious. Matters went from bad to worse. To withdraw as far as possible without
yielding the principle at stake, the duties on all the exports mentioned in the
bill were removed, except that on tea. But it was precisely the principle for
which the colonists were contending. They were not in the humor for compromise,
when they believed their freedom was endangered, and the strength and
determination of their resistance found a climax in the Boston Tea Party.

In the meantime, Lord North, who was absolutely obedient to the king, had become
prime minister. Five bills were prepared, the tenor of which, it was thought,
would overawe the colonists. Of these, the Boston Port Bill and the Regulating
Act are perhaps the most famous, though the ultimate tendency of all was blindly

While the king and his friends were busy with these, the opposition proposed an
unconditional repeal of the Tea Act. The bill was introduced only to be
overwhelmingly defeated by the same Parliament that passed the five measures of
Lord North.

In America, the effect of these proceedings was such as might have been expected
by thinking men. The colonies were as a unit in their support of Massachusetts.
The Regulating Act was set at defiance, public officers in the king's service
were forced to resign, town meetings were held, and preparations for war were
begun in dead earnest. To avert this, some of England's greatest statesmen--Pitt
among the number--asked for a reconsideration. On February the first, 1775, a
bill was introduced, which would have gone far toward bringing peace. One month
later, Burke delivered his speech on Conciliation with the Colonies.


There is nothing unusual in Burke's early life. He was born in Dublin, Ireland,
in 1729. His father was a successful lawyer and a Protestant, his mother, a
Catholic. At the age of twelve, he became a pupil of Abraham Shackleton, a
Quaker, who had been teaching some fifteen years at Ballitore, a small town
thirty miles from Dublin. In after years Burke was always pleased to speak of
his old friend in the kindest way: "If I am anything," he declares, "it is the
education I had there that has made me so." And again at Shackleton's death,
when Burke was near the zenith of his fame and popularity, he writes: "I had a
true honor and affection for that excellent man. I feel something like a
satisfaction in the midst of my concern, that I was fortunate enough to have him
under my roof before his departure." It can hardly be doubted that the old
Quaker schoolmaster succeeded with his pupil who was already so favorably
inclined, and it is more than probable that the daily example of one who lived
out his precepts was strong in its influence upon a young and generous mind.

Burke attended school at Ballitore two years; then, at the age of fourteen, he
became a student at Trinity College, Dublin, and remained there five years. At
college he was unsystematic and careless of routine. He seems to have done
pretty much as he pleased, and, however methodical he became in after life, his
study during these five years was rambling and spasmodic. The only definite
knowledge we have of this period is given by Burke himself in letters to his
former friend Richard Shackleton, son of his old schoolmaster. What he did was
done with a zest that at times became a feverish impatience: "First I was
greatly taken with natural philosophy, which, while I should have given my mind
to logic, employed me incessantly. This I call my FUROR MATHEMATICUS." Following
in succession come his FUROR LOGICUS, FUROR HISTORICUS, and FUROR PEOTICUS, each
of which absorbed him for the time being. It would be wrong, however, to think
of Burke as a trifler even in his youth. He read in the library three hours
every day and we may be sure he read as intelligently as eagerly. It is more
than probable that like a few other great minds he did not need a rigid system
to guide him. If he chose his subjects of study at pleasure, there is every
reason to believe he mastered them.

Of intimate friends at the University we hear nothing. Goldsmith came one year
later, but there is no evidence that they knew each other. It is probable that
Burke, always reserved, had little in common with his young associates. His own
musings, with occasional attempts at writing poetry, long walks through the
country, and frequent letters to and from Richard Shackleton, employed him when
not at his books.

Two years after taking his degree, Burke went to London and established himself
at the Middle Temple for the usual routine course in law. Another long period
passes of which there is next to nothing known. His father, an irascible, hot-
tempered man, had wished him to begin the practice of law, but Burke seems to
have continued in a rather irregular way pretty much as when an undergraduate at
Dublin. His inclinations were not toward the law, but literature. His father,
angered at such a turn of affairs, promptly reduced his allowance and left him
to follow his natural bent in perfect freedom. In 1756, six years after his
arrival in London, and almost immediately following the rupture with his father,
he married a Miss Nugent. At about the same time he published his first two
books, [Footnote: A Vindication of Natural Society and Philosophical Inquiry
into the Origin of our Ideas of the Sublime and Beautiful] and began in earnest
the life of an author.

He attracted the attention of literary men. Dr. Johnson had just completed his
famous dictionary, and was the centre of a group of writers who accepted him at
his own valuation. Burke did not want for company, and wrote
copiously.[Footnote: Hints for an Essay on the Drama. Abridgement of the History
of England] He became associated with Dodsley, a bookseller, who began
publishing the Annual Register in 1759, and was paid a hundred pounds a year for
writing upon current events. He spent two years (1761-63) in Ireland in the
employment of William Hamilton, but at the end of that time returned, chagrined
and disgusted with his would-be patron, who utterly failed to recognize Burke's
worth, and persisted in the most unreasonable demands upon his time and energy.

For once Burke's independence served him well. In 1765 Lord Rockingham became
prime minister, and Burke, widely known as the chief writer for the Annual
Register, was free to accept the position of private secretary, which Lord
Rockingham was glad to offer him. His services here were invaluable. The new
relations thus established did not end with the performance of the immediate
duties of his office, but a warm friendship grew up between the two, which
lasted till the death of Lord Rockingham. While yet private secretary, Burke was
elected to Parliament from the borough of Wendover. It was through the influence
of his friend, or perhaps relative, William Burke, that his election was

Only a few days after taking his seat in the House of Commons, Burke made his
first speech, January 27, 1766. He followed this in a very short time with
another upon the same subject--the Taxation of the American Colonies.
Notwithstanding the great honor and distinction which these first speeches
brought Burke, his party was dismissed at the close of the session and the
Chatham ministry formed. He remained with his friends, and employed himself in
refuting [Footnote: Observations on the Present State of the Nation] the charges
of the former minister, George Grenville, who wrote a pamphlet accusing his
successors of gross neglect of public duties.

At this point in his life comes the much-discussed matter of Beaconsfield. How
Burke became rich enough to purchase such expensive property is a question that
has never been answered by his friends or enemies. There are mysterious hints of
successful speculation in East India stock, of money borrowed, and Burke
himself, in a letter to Shackleton, speaks of aid from his friends and "all [the
money] he could collect of his own." However much we may regret the air of
mystery surrounding the matter, and the opportunity given those ever ready to
smirch a great man's character, it is not probable that any one ever really
doubted Burke's integrity in this or any other transaction. Perhaps the true
explanation of his seemingly reckless extravagance (if any explanation is
needed) is that the conventional standards of his time forced it upon him; and
it may be that Burke himself sympathized to some extent with these standards,
and felt a certain satisfaction in maintaining a proper attitude before the

The celebrated case of Wilkes offered an opportunity for discussing the narrow
and corrupt policy pursued by George III. and his followers. Wilkes, outlawed
for libel and protected in the meantime through legal technicalities, was
returned to Parliament by Middlesex. The House expelled him. He was repeatedly
elected and as many times expelled, and finally the returns were altered, the
House voting its approval by a large majority. In 1770 Burke published his
pamphlet [Footnote: Present Discontents] in which he discussed the situation.
For the first time he showed the full sweep and breadth of his understanding.
His tract was in the interest of his party, but it was written in a spirit far
removed from narrow partisanship. He pointed out with absolute clearness the
cause of dissatisfaction and unrest among the people and charged George III. and
his councillors with gross indifference to the welfare of the nation and
corresponding devotion to selfish interests. He contended that Parliament was
usurping privileges when it presumed to expel any one, that the people had a
right to send whomsoever they pleased to Parliament, and finally that "in all
disputes between them and their rulers, the presumption was at least upon a par
in favor of the people." From this time until the American Revolution, Burke
used every opportunity to denounce the policy which the king was pursuing at
home and abroad. He doubtless knew beforehand that what he might say would pass
unnoticed, but he never faltered in a steadfast adherence to his ideas of
government, founded, as he believed, upon the soundest principles. Bristol
elected him as its representative in Parliament. It was a great honor and Burke
felt its significance, yet he did not flinch when the time came for him to take
a stand. He voted for the removal of some of the restrictions upon Irish trade.
His constituents, representing one of the most prosperous mercantile districts,
angered and disappointed at what they held to be a betrayal of trust, refused to
reelect him.

Lord North's ministry came to an end in 1782, immediately after the battle of
Yorktown, and Lord Rockingham was chosen prime minister. Burke's past services
warranted him in expecting an important place in the cabinet, but he was
ignored. Various things have been suggested as reasons for this: he was poor;
some of his relations and intimate associates were objectionable; there were
dark hints of speculations; he was an Irishman. It is possible that any one of
these facts, or all of them, furnished a good excuse for not giving him an
important position in the new government. But it seems more probable that
Burke's abilities were not appreciated so justly as they have been since. The
men with whom he associated saw some of his greatness but not all of it. He was
assigned the office of Paymaster of Forces, a place of secondary importance.

Lord Rockingham died in three months and the party went to pieces. Burke refused
to work under Shelburne, and, with Fox, joined Lord North in forming the
coalition which overthrew the Whig party. Burke has been severely censured for
the part he took in this. Perhaps there is little excuse for his desertion, and
it is certainly true that his course raises the question of his sincere devotion
to principles. His personal dislike of Shelburne was so intense that he may have
yielded to his feelings. He felt hurt, too, we may be sure, at the disposition
made of him by his friends. In replying to a letter asking him for a place in
the new government, he writes that his correspondent has been misinformed. "I
make no part of the ministerial arrangement," he writes, and adds, "Something in
the official line may be thought fit for my measure."

As a supporter of the coalition, Burke was one of the framers of the India Bill.
This was directed against the wholesale robbery and corruption which the East
India Company had been guilty of in its government of the country. Both Fox and
Burke defended the measure with all the force and power which a thorough mastery
of facts, a keen sense of the injustice done an unhappy people, and a splendid
rhetoric can give. But it was doomed from the first. The people at large were
indifferent, many had profitable business relations with the company, and the
king used his personal influence against it. The bill failed to pass, the
coalition was dismissed, and the party, which had in Burke its greatest
representative, was utterly ruined.

The failure of the India Bill marked a victory for the king, and it also
prepared the way for one of the most famous transactions of Burke's life.
Macaulay has told how impressive and magnificent was the scene at the trial of
Warren Hastings. There were political reasons for the impeachment, but the chief
motive that stirred Burke was far removed from this. He saw and understood the
real state of affairs in India. The mismanagement, the brutal methods, and the
crimes committed there in the name of the English government, moved him
profoundly, and when he rose before the magnificent audience at Westminster, for
opening the cause, he forced his hearers, by his own mighty passion, to see with
his own eyes, and to feel his own righteous anger. "When he came to his two
narratives," says Miss Burney, "when he related the particulars of those
dreadful murders, he interested, he engaged, he at last overpowered me; I felt
my cause lost. I could hardly keep my seat. My eyes dreaded a single glance
toward a man so accused as Mr. Hastings; I wanted to sink on the floor, that
they might be saved so painful a sight. I had no hope he could clear himself;
not another wish in his favor remained." The trial lasted for six years and
ended with the acquittal of Hastings. The result was not a surprise, and least
of all to Burke. The fate of the India Bill had taught him how completely
indifferent the popular mind was to issues touching deep moral questions. Though
a seeming failure, he regarded the impeachment as the greatest work of his life.
It did much to arouse and stimulate the national sense of justice. It made clear
the cruel methods sometimes pursued under the guise of civilization and
progress. The moral victory is claimed for Burke, and without a doubt the claim
is valid.

The second of the great social and political problems, which employed English
statesmen in the last half of the eighteenth century, was settled in the
impeachment of Warren Hastings. The affairs of America and India were now
overshadowed by the French Revolution, and Burke, with the far-sighted vision of
a veteran statesman, watched the progress of events and their influence upon the
established order. In 1773 he had visited France, and had returned displeased.
It is remarkable with what accuracy he pointed out the ultimate tendency of much
that he saw. A close observer of current phases of society, and on the alert to
explain them in the light of broad and fundamental principles of human progress,
he had every opportunity for studying social life at the French capital. Unlike
the younger men of his times, he was doubtful, and held his judgment in
suspense. The enthusiasm of even Fox seemed premature, and he held himself aloof
from the popular demonstrations of admiration and approval that were everywhere
going on. The fact is, Burke was growing old, and with his years he was becoming
more conservative. He dreaded change, and was suspicious of the wisdom of those
who set about such widespread innovations, and made such brilliant promises for
the future. But the time rapidly approached for him to declare himself, and in
1790 his Reflections on the Revolution in France was issued. His friends had
long waited its appearance, and were not wholly surprised at the position taken.
What did surprise them was the eagerness with which the people seized upon the
book, and its effect upon them. The Tories, with the king, applauded long and
loud; the Whigs were disappointed, for Burke condemned the Revolution
unreservedly, and with a bitterness out of all proportion to the cause of his
anxiety and fear. As the Revolution progressed, he grew fiercer in his
denunciation. He broke with his lifelong associates, and declared that no one
who sympathized with the work of the Assembly could be his friend. His other
writings on the Revolution [Footnote: Letter to a Member of the National
Assembly and Letters on a Regicide Peace.] were in a still more violent strain,
and it is hard to think of them as coming from the author of the Speech on

Three years before his death, at the conclusion of the trial of Warren Hastings,
Burke's last term in Parliament expired. He did not wish office again and
withdrew to his estate. Through the influence of friends, and because of his
eminent services, it was proposed to make him peer, with the title of Lord
Beacons field. But the death of his son prevented, and a pension of twenty-five
hundred pounds a year was given instead. It was a signal for his enemies, and
during his last days he was busy with his reply. The "Letter to a Noble Lord,"
though written little more than a year before his death, is considered one of
the most perfect of his papers. Saddened by the loss of his son, and broken in
spirits, there is yet left him enough old-time energy and fire to answer his
detractors. But his wonderful career was near its close. His last months were
spent in writing about the French Revolution, and the third letter on a Regicide
Peace--a fragment--was doubtless composed just before his death. On the 9th of
July, 1797, he passed away. His friends claimed for him a place in Westminster,
but his last wish was respected, and he was buried at Beaconsfield.


There is hardly a political tract or pamphlet of Burke's in which he does not
state, in terms more or less clear, the fundamental principle in his theory of
government. "Circumstances," he says in one place, "give, in reality, to every
political principle, its distinguishing color and discriminating effect. The
circumstances are what renders every civil and political scheme beneficial or
obnoxious to mankind." At another time he exclaims: "This is the true touchstone
of all theories which regard man and the affairs of men; does it suit his nature
in general, does it suit his nature as modified by his habits?" And again he
extends his system to affairs outside the realm of politics. "All government,"
he declares, "indeed, every human benefit and enjoyment, every virtue and every
prudent act, is founded on compromise and barter."

It is clear that Burke thought the State existed for the people, and not the
people for the State. The doctrine is old to us, but it was not so in Burke's
time, and it required courage to expound it. The great parties had forgotten the
reason for their existence, and one of them had become hardened and blinded by
that corruption which seems to follow long tenure of office. The affairs of
India, Ireland, and America gave excellent opportunity for an exhibition of
English statesmanship, but in each case the policy pursued was dictated, not by
a clear perception of what was needed in these countries, but by narrow
selfishness, not unmixed with dogmatism of the most challenging sort. The
situation in India, as regards climate, character, and institutions, counted for
little in the minds of those who were growing rich as agents of the East India
Company. Much the same may be said of America and Ireland. The sense of
Parliament, influenced by the king, was to use these parts of the British Empire
in raising a revenue, and in strengthening party organization at home. In
opposing this policy, Burke lost his seat as representative for Bristol, then
the second city of England; spent fourteen of the best years of his life in
conducting the impeachment of Warren Hastings, Governor-General of India; and,
greatest of all, delivered his famous speeches on Taxation and Conciliation, in
behalf of the American colonists.

Notwithstanding the distinctly modern tone of Burke's ideas, it would be wrong
to think of him as a thoroughgoing reformer. He has been called the Great
Conservative, and the title is appropriate. He would have shrunk from a purely
republican form of government, such as our own, and it is, perhaps, a fact that
he was suspicious of a government by the people. The trouble, as he saw it, lay
with the representatives of the people. Upon them, as guardians of a trust,
rested the responsibility of protecting those whom they were chosen to serve.
While he bitterly opposed any measures involving radical change in the
Constitution, he was no less ardent in denouncing political corruptions of all
kinds whatsoever. In his Economical Reform he sought to curtail the enormous
extravagance of the royal household, and to withdraw the means of wholesale
bribery, which offices at the disposal of the king created. He did not believe
that a more effective means than this lay in the proposed plan for a
redistribution of seats in the House of Commons. In one place, he declared it
might be well to lessen the number of voters, in order to add to their weight
and independence; at another, he asks that the people be stimulated to a more
careful scrutiny of the conduct of their representatives; and on every occasion
he demands that the legislators give their support to those measures only which
have for their object the good of the whole people.

It is obvious, however, that Burke's policy had grievous faults. His reverence
for the past, and his respect for existing institutions as the heritage of the
past, made him timid and overcautious in dealing with abuses. Although he stood
with Pitt in defending the American colonies, he had no confidence in the
thoroughgoing reforms which the great Commoner proposed. When the Stamp Act was
repealed, Pitt would have gone even further. He would have acknowledged the
absolute injustice of taxation without representation. Burke held tenaciously to
the opposing theory, and warmly supported the Declaratory Act, which "asserted
the supreme authority of Parliament over the colonies, in all cases whatsoever."
His support of the bill for the repeal of the Stamp Act, as well as his plea for
reconciliation, ten years later, were not prompted by a firm belief in the
injustice of England's course. He expressly states, in both cases that to
enforce measures so repugnant to the Americans, would be detrimental to the home
government. It would result in confusion and disorder, and would bring, perhaps,
in the end, open rebellion. All of his speeches on American affairs show his
willingness to "barter and compromise" in order to avoid this, but nowhere is
there a hint of fundamental error in the Constitution. This was sacred to him,
and he resented to the last any proposition looking to an organic change in its
structure. "The lines of morality," he declared, "are not like ideal lines of
mathematics. They are broad and deep, as well as long. They admit of exceptions;
they demand modifications. These exceptions and modifications are made, not by
the process of logic, but the rules of prudence. Prudence is not only first in
rank of all the virtues, political and moral, but she is the director, the
regulator, the standard of them all."

The chief characteristics, then, of Burke's political philosophy are opposed to
much that is fundamental in modern systems. His doctrine is better than that of
George III, because it is more generous, and affords opportunity for superficial
readjustment and adaptation. It is this last, or rather the proof it gives of
his insight, that has secured Burke so high a place among English statesmen.


Addison. . . . 1672-1719
Steele . . . . 1672-1729
Defoe. . . . . 1661-1731
Swift. . . . . 1667-1745
Pope . . . . . 1688-1744
Richardson . . 1689-1761


Johnson . . . . 1709-1784
Goldsmith . . . 1728-1774
Fielding. . . . 1707-1754
Sterne. . . . . 1713-1768
Smollett. . . . 1721-1771
Gray. . . . . . 1716-1771
Boswell . . . . 1740-1795


It has become almost trite to speak of the breadth of Burke's sympathies. We
should examine the statement, however, and understand its significance and see
its justice. While he must always be regarded first as a statesman of one of the
highest types, he had other interests than those directly suggested by his
office, and in one of these, at least, he affords an interesting and profitable

To the student of literature Burke's name must always suggest that of Johnson
and Goldsmith. It was eight years after Burke's first appearance as an author,
that the famous Literary Club was formed. At first it was the intention to limit
the club to a membership of nine, and for a time this was adhered to. The
original members were Johnson, Burke, Goldsmith, Reynolds, and Hawkins. Garrick,
Pox, and Boswell came in later. Macaulay declares that the influence of the club
was so great that its verdict made and unmade reputations; but the thing most
interesting to us does not lie in the consideration of such literary
dictatorship. To Boswell we owe a biography of Johnson which has immortalized
its subject, and shed lustre upon all associated with him. The literary history
of the last third of the eighteenth century, with Johnson as a central figure,
is told nowhere else with such accuracy, or with better effect.

Although a Tory, Johnson was a great one, and his lasting friendship for Burke
is an enduring evidence of his generosity and great-mindedness. For twenty
years, and longer, they were eminent men in opposing parties, yet their mutual
respect and admiration continued to the last. To Burke, Johnson was a writer of
"eminent literary merit" and entitled to a pension "solely on that account." To
Johnson, Burke was the greatest man of his age, wrong politically, to be sure,
yet the only one "whose common conversation corresponded to the general fame
which he had in the world"--the only one "who was ready, whatever subject was
chosen, to meet you on your own ground." Here and there in the Life are
allusions to Burke, and admirable estimates of his many-sided character.

Coming directly to an estimate of Burke from the purely literary point of view,
it must be borne in mind that the greater part of his writings was prepared for
an audience. Like Macaulay, his prevailing style suggests the speaker, and his
methods throughout are suited to declamation and oratory. He lacks the ease and
delicacy that we are accustomed to look for in the best prose writers, and
occasionally one feels the justice of Johnson's stricture, that "he sometimes
talked partly from ostentation", or of Hazlitt's criticism that he seemed to be
"perpetually calling the speaker out to dance a minuet with him before he

There may be passages here and there that warrant such censure. Burke is
certainly ornate, and at times he is extremely self-conscious, but the dominant
quality of his style, and the one which forever contradicts the idea of mere
showiness, is passion. In his method of approaching a subject, he may be, and
perhaps is, rather tedious, but when once he has come to the matter really in
hand, he is no longer the rhetorician, dealing in fine phrases, but the great
seer, clothing his thoughts in words suitable and becoming. The most magnificent
passages in his writings--the Conciliation is rich in them--owe their charm and
effectiveness to this emotional capacity. They were evidently written in moments
of absolute abandonment to feeling--in moments when he was absorbed in the
contemplation of some great truth, made luminous by his own unrivalled powers.

Closely allied to this intensity of passion, is a splendid imaginative quality.
Few writers of English prose have such command of figurative expression. It must
be said, however, that Burke was not entirely free from the faults which
generally accompany an excessive use of figures. Like other great masters of a
decorative style, he frequently becomes pompous and grandiloquent. His thought,
too, is obscured, where we would expect great clearness of statement,
accompanied by a dignified simplicity; and occasionally we feel that he forgets
his subject in an anxious effort to make an impression. Though there are
passages in his writings that justify such observations, they are few in number,
when compared with those which are really masterpieces of their kind.

Some great crisis, or threatening state of affairs, seems to furnish the
necessary condition for the exercise of a great mind, and Burke is never so
effective as when thoroughly aroused. His imagination needed the chastening
which only a great moment or critical situation could give. Two of his greatest
speeches--Conciliation, and Impeachment of Warren Hastings--were delivered under
the restraining effect of such circumstances, and in each the figurative
expression is subdued and not less beautiful in itself than, appropriate for the

Finally, it must be observed that no other writer of English prose has a better
command of words. His ideas, as multifarious as they are, always find fitting
expression. He does not grope for a term; it stands ready for his thought, and
one feels that he had opportunity for choice. It is the exuberance of his fancy,
already mentioned, coupled with this richness of vocabulary, that helped to make
Burke a tiresome speaker. His mind was too comprehensive to allow any phase of
his subject to pass without illumination. He followed where his subject led him,
without any great attention to the patience of his audience. But he receives
full credit when his speeches are read. It is then that his mastery of the
subject and the splendid qualities of his style are apparent, and appreciated at
their worth.

In conclusion, it is worth while observing that in the study of a great
character, joined with an attempt to estimate it by conventional standards,
something must always be left unsaid. Much may be learned of Burke by knowing
his record as a partisan, more by a minute inspection of his style as a writer,
but beyond all this is the moral tone or attitude of the man himself. To a
student of Burke this is the greatest thing about him. It colored every line he
wrote, and to it, more than anything else, is due the immense force of the man
as a speaker and writer. It was this, more than Burke's great abilities, that
justifies Dr. Johnson's famous eulogy: "He is not only the first man in the
House of Commons, he is the first man everywhere."


Wordsworth . . . . 1770-1850

Coleridge . . . . . 1772-1834

Byron . . . . . . . 1788-1824

Shelley . . . . . . 1792-1822

Keats . . . . . . . 1795-1821

Scott . . . . . . . 1771-1832


1. "Like Goldsmith, though in a different sphere, Burke belongs both to the old
order and the new." Discuss that statement.

2. Burke and the Literary Club. (Boswell's Life of Johnson.)

3. Lives of Burke and Goldsmith. Contrast.

4. An interpretation of ten apothegms selected from the Speech on Conciliation.

5. A study of figures in the Speech on Conciliation.

6. A definition of the terms: "colloquialism" and "idiom" Instances of their use
in the Speech on Conciliation.


1. Burke's Life. John Morley. English Men of Letters Series.

2. Burke. John Morley. An Historical Study.

3. Burke. John Morley. Encyclopaedia Britannica.

4. History of the English People. Green. Vol. IV., pp 193-271.

5 History of Civilization in England. Buckle. Vol I, pp. 326-338

6. The American Revolution. Fiske. Vol. I, Chaps. I., II.

7. Life of Johnson. Boswell. (Use the Index)


MARCH 22, 1775

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 superstition. 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, [Footnote: 1] by which we had
passed sentence on the trade and sustenance of America, is to be returned to us
from the other House. I do confess I could not help looking on this event as a
fortunate omen. I look upon it as a sort of providential favor, 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 forever, 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 superior 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 honor [Footnote: 2] 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 everything 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 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. [Footnote: 3]
Whether this be owing to an obstinate perseverance in error, or to a religious
adherence to what appears to me truth, and reason, it is in your equity to

Sir, Parliament having an enlarged view of objects, made, during this interval,
more frequent changes in their sentiments and their conduct than could be
justified in a particular person upon the contracted scale of private
information. But though I do not hazard anything 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.
[Footnote: 4] Everything administered as remedy to the public 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 [Footnote: 5] 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 politics, told me things
were come to such a pass that our former [Footnote: 6] methods of proceeding in
the House would be no longer tolerated: that the public tribunal (never too
indulgent to a long and unsuccessful opposition) would now scrutinize our
conduct with unusual severity: that the very vicissitudes and shiftings of
Ministerial measures, instead of convicting their authors of inconstancy and
want of system, would be taken as an occasion of charging us with a
predetermined discontent, which nothing could satisfy; whilst we accused every
measure of vigor as cruel, and every proposal of lenity as weak and irresolute.
The public, he said, would not have patience to see us play the game out with
our adversaries; we must produce our hand. It would be expected that those who
for many years had been active in such affairs should show that they had formed
some clear and decided idea of the principles of Colony government; and were
capable of drawing out something like a platform of the ground which might be
laid for future and permanent tranquillity.

I felt the truth of what my honorable friend represented; but I felt my
situation too. His application might have been made with far greater propriety
to many other gentlemen. No man was indeed ever better disposed, or worse
qualified, for such an undertaking than myself. Though I gave so far in to his
opinion that I immediately threw my thoughts into a sort of Parliamentary form,
I was by no means equally ready to produce them. It generally argues some degree
of natural impotence of mind, or some want of knowledge of the world, to hazard
plans of government except from a seat of authority. Propositions are made, not
only ineffectually, but somewhat disreputably, when the minds of men are not
properly disposed for their reception; and, for my part, I am not ambitious of
ridicule--not absolutely a candidate for disgrace

Besides, Sir, to speak the plain truth, I have in general no very exalted
opinion of the virtue of paper government; [Footnote: 7] nor of any politics in
which the plan is to be wholly separated from the execution. But when I saw that
anger and violence prevailed every day more and more, and that things were
hastening towards an incurable alienation of our Colonies, I confess my caution
gave way. I felt this as one of those few moments in which decorum yields to a
higher duty. Public calamity is a mighty leveller; and there are occasions when
any, even the slightest, chance of doing good must be laid hold on, even by the
most inconsiderable person.

To restore order and repose to an empire so great and so distracted as ours, is,
merely in the attempt, an undertaking that would ennoble the flights of the
highest genius, and obtain pardon for the efforts of the meanest understanding.
Struggling a good while with these thoughts, by degrees I felt myself more firm.
I derived, at length, some confidence from what in other circumstances usually
produces timidity. I grew less anxious, even from the idea of my own
insignificance. For, judging of what you are by what you ought to be, I
persuaded myself that you would not reject a reasonable proposition because it
had nothing but its reason to recommend it. On the other hand, being totally
destitute of all shadow of influence, natural or adventitious, I was very sure
that, if my proposition were futile or dangerous--if it were weakly conceived,
or improperly timed--there was nothing exterior to it of power to awe, dazzle,
or delude you. You will see it just as it is; and you will treat it just as it

The proposition is peace. Not peace through the medium of war; not peace to be
hunted through the labyrinth of intricate and endless negotiations; not peace to
arise out of universal discord fomented, from principle, in all parts of the
Empire, not peace to depend on the juridical determination of perplexing
questions, or the precise marking the shadowy boundaries of a complex
government. It is simple peace; sought in its natural course, and in its
ordinary haunts. It is peace sought in the spirit of peace, and laid in
principles purely pacific. I propose, by removing the ground of the difference,
and by restoring the former unsuspecting confidence of the Colonies in the
Mother Country, to give permanent satisfaction to your people; and (far from a
scheme of ruling by discord) to reconcile them to each other in the same act and
by the bond of the very same interest which reconciles them to British

My idea is nothing more. Refined policy [Footnote: 8] ever has been, the parent
of confusion; and ever will be so, as long as the world endures. Plain good
intention, which is as easily discovered at the first view as fraud is surely
detected at last, is, let me say, of no mean force in the government of mankind.
Genuine simplicity of heart is an healing and cementing principle. My plan,
therefore, being formed upon the most simple grounds imaginable, may disappoint
some people when they hear it. It has nothing to recommend it to the pruriency
of curious ears. There is nothing at all new and captivating in it. It has
nothing of the splendor of the project [Footnote: 9] which has been lately laid
upon your table by the noble lord in the blue ribbon. [Footnote: 10] It does not
propose to fill your lobby with squabbling Colony agents, [Footnote: 11] who
will require the interposition of your mace, at every instant, to keep the peace
amongst them. It does not institute a magnificent auction of finance, where
captivated provinces come to general ransom by bidding against each other, until
you knock down the hammer, and determine a proportion of payments beyond all the
powers of algebra to equalize and settle.

The plan which I shall presume to suggest derives, however, one great advantage
from the proposition and registry of that noble lord's project. The idea of
conciliation is admissible. First, the House, in accepting the resolution moved
by the noble lord, has admitted, notwithstanding the menacing front of our
address, [Footnote: 12] notwithstanding our heavy bills of pains and penalties--
that we do not think ourselves precluded from all ideas of free grace and

The House has gone farther; it has declared conciliation admissible, previous to
any submission on the part of America. It has even shot a good deal beyond that
mark, and has admitted that the complaints of our former mode of exerting the
right of taxation were not wholly unfounded. That right thus exerted is allowed
to have something reprehensible in it, something unwise, or something grievous;
since, in the midst of our heat and resentment, we, of ourselves, have proposed
a capital alteration; and in order to get rid of what seemed so very
exceptionable, have instituted a mode that is altogether new; one that is,
indeed, wholly alien from all the ancient methods and forms of Parliament.

The principle of this proceeding is large enough for my purpose. The means
proposed by the noble lord for carrying his ideas into execution, I think,
indeed, are very indifferently suited to the end; and this I shall endeavor to
show you before I sit down. But, for the present, I take my ground on the
admitted principle. I mean to give peace. Peace implies reconciliation; and
where there has been a material dispute, reconciliation does in a manner always
imply concession on the one part or on the other. In this state of things, I
make no difficulty in affirming that the proposal ought to originate from us.
Great and acknowledged force is not impaired, either in effect or in opinion, by
an unwillingness to exert itself. The superior power may offer peace with honor
and with safety. Such an offer from such a power will be attributed to
magnanimity. But the concessions of the weak are the concessions of fear. When
such a one is disarmed, he is wholly at the mercy of his superior; and he loses
forever that time and those chances, [Footnote: 13] which, as they happen to all
men, are the strength and resources of all inferior power.

The capital leading questions on which you must this day decide are these two:
First, whether you ought to concede; and secondly, what your concession ought to
be. On the first of these questions we have gained, as I have just taken the
liberty of observing to you, some ground. But I am sensible that a good deal
more is still to be done. Indeed, Sir, to enable us to determine both on the one
and the other of these great questions with a firm and precise judgment, I think
it may be necessary to consider distinctly the true nature and the peculiar
circumstances of the object which we have before us; because after all our
struggle, whether we will or not, we must govern America according to that
nature and to those circumstances, [Footnote: 14] and not according to our own
imaginations, nor according to abstract ideas of right--by no means according to
mere general theories of government, the resort to which appears to me, in our
present situation, no better than arrant trifling. I shall therefore endeavor,
with your leave, to lay before you some of the most material of these
circumstances in as full and as clear a manner as I am able to state them.

The first thing that we have to consider with regard to the nature of the object
is--the number of people in the Colonies. I have taken for some years a good
deal of pains on that point. I can by no calculation justify myself in placing
the number below two millions of inhabitants of our own European blood and
color, besides at least five hundred thousand others, who form no inconsiderable
part of the strength and opulence of the whole. This, Sir, is, I believe, about
the true number. There is no occasion to exaggerate where plain truth is of so
much weight and importance. But whether I put the present numbers too high or
too low is a matter of little moment. Such is the strength with which population
shoots in that part of the world, that, state the numbers as high as we will,
whilst the dispute continues, the exaggeration ends. Whilst we are discussing
any given magnitude, they are grown to it. Whilst we spend our time in
deliberating on the mode of governing two millions, we shall find we have
millions more to manage. Your children do not grow faster from infancy to
manhood than they spread from families to communities, and from villages to

I put this consideration of the present and the growing numbers in the front of
our deliberation, because, Sir, this consideration will make it evident to a
blunter discernment than yours, that no partial, narrow, contracted, pinched,
occasional system will be at all suitable to such an object. It will show you
that it is not to be considered as one of those minima which are out of the eye
and consideration of the law; not a paltry excrescence of the state; not a mean
dependent, who may be neglected with little damage and provoked with little
danger. It will prove that some degree of care and caution is required in the
handling such an object; it will show that you ought not, in reason, to trifle
with so large a mass of the interests and feelings of the human race. You could
at no time do so without guilt; and be assured you will not be able to do it
long with impunity.

But the population of this country, the great and growing population, though a
very important consideration, will lose much of its weight if not combined with
other circumstances. The commerce of your Colonies is out of all proportion
beyond the numbers of the people. This ground of their commerce indeed has been
trod some days ago, and with great ability, by a distinguished person at your
bar. This gentleman, after thirty-five years--it is so long since he first
appeared at the same place to plead for the commerce of Great Britain--has come
again before you to plead the same cause, without any other effect of time, than
that to the fire of imagination and extent of erudition which even then marked
him as one of the first literary characters of his age, he has added a
consummate knowledge in the commercial interest of his country, formed by a long
course of enlightened and discriminating experience.

Sir, I should be inexcusable in coming after such a person with any detail, if a
great part of the members who now fill the House had not the misfortune to be
absent when he appeared at your bar. Besides, Sir, I propose to take the matter
at periods of time somewhat different from his. There is, if I mistake not, a
point of view from whence, if you will look at the subject, it is impossible
that it should not make an impression upon you.

I have in my hand two accounts; one a comparative state of the export trade of
England to its Colonies, as it stood in the year 1704, and as it stood in the
year 1772; the other a state of the export trade of this country to its Colonies
alone, as it stood in 1772, compared with the whole trade of England to all
parts of the world (the Colonies included) in the year 1704. They are from good
vouchers; the latter period from the accounts on your table, the earlier from an
original manuscript of Davenant, who first established the Inspector-General's
office, which has been ever since his time so abundant a source of Parliamentary

The export trade to the Colonies consists of three great branches: the African--
which, terminating almost wholly in the Colonies, must be put to the account of
their commerce,--the West Indian, and the North American. All these are so
interwoven that the attempt to separate them would tear to pieces the contexture
of the whole; and, if not entirely destroy, would very much depreciate the value
of all the parts. I therefore consider these three denominations to be, what in
effect they are, one trade. [Footnote: 15]

The trade to the Colonies, taken on the export side, at the beginning of this
century, that is, in the year 1704, stood thus:--

Exports to North America and the West Indies. L483,265
To Africa. .................................. 86,665

In the year 1772, which I take as a middle year between the highest and lowest
of those lately laid on your table, the account was as follows:--

To North America and the West Indies ...... L4,791,734
To Africa. ................................ 866,398
To which, if you add the export trade from
Scotland, which had in 1704 no existence .. 364,000

From five hundred and odd thousand, it has grown to six millions. It has
increased no less than twelve-fold. This is the state of the Colony trade as
compared with itself at these two periods within this century;--and this is
matter for meditation. But this is not all. Examine my second account. See how
the export trade to the Colonies alone in 1772 stood in the other point of view;
that is, as compared to the whole trade of England in 1704:--

The whole export trade of England, including
that to the Colonies, in 1704. ................ L6,509,000
Export to the Colonies alone, in 1772 ......... 6,024,000
Difference, L485,000

The trade with America alone is now within less than L500,000 of being equal to
what this great commercial nation, England, carried on at the beginning of this
century with the whole world! If I had taken the largest year of those on your
table, it would rather have exceeded. But, it will be said, is not this American
trade an unnatural protuberance, that has drawn the juices from the rest of the
body? The reverse. It is the very food that has nourished every other part into
its present magnitude. Our general trade has been greatly augmented, and
augmented more or less in almost every part to which it ever extended; but with
this material difference, that of the six millions which in the beginning of the
century constituted the whole mass of our export commerce, the Colony trade was
but one-twelfth part, it is now (as a part of sixteen millions) considerably
more than a third of the whole. This is the relative proportion of the
importance of the Colonies at these two periods, and all reasoning concerning
our mode of treating them must have this proportion as its basis, or it is a
reasoning weak, rotten, and sophistical.

Mr. Speaker, I cannot prevail on myself to hurry over this great consideration.
[Footnote: 15] IT IS GOOD FOR US TO BE HERE. [Footnote: 16] We stand where we
have an immense view of what is, and what is past. Clouds, indeed, and darkness,
rest upon the future. Let us, however, before we descend from this noble
eminence, reflect that this growth of our national prosperity has happened
within the short period of the life of man. It has happened within sixty-eight
years. There are those alive whose memory might touch the two extremities. For
instance, my Lord Bathurst might remember all the stages of the progress. He was
in 1704 of an age at least to be made to comprehend such things. He was then old
enough acta parentum jam legere, et quae sit potuit cognoscere virtus.
[Footnote: 17] Suppose, Sir, that the angel of this auspicious youth, foreseeing
the many virtues which made him one of the most amiable, as he is one of the
most fortunate, men of his age, had opened to him in vision that when in the
fourth generation the third Prince of the House of Brunswick had sat twelve
years on the throne of that nation which, by the happy issue of moderate and
healing counsels, was to be made Great Britain, he should see his son, Lord
Chancellor of England, turn back the current of hereditary dignity to its
fountain, and raise him to a higher rank of peerage, whilst he enriched the
family with a new one--if, amidst these bright and happy scenes of domestic
honor and prosperity, that angel should have drawn up the curtain, and unfolded
the rising glories of his country, and, whilst he was gazing with admiration on
the then commercial grandeur of England, the genius should point out to him a
little speck, scarcely visible in the mass of the national interest, a small
seminal principle, rather than a formed body, and should tell him: "Young man,
there is America--which at this day serves for little more than to amuse you
with stories of savage men, and uncouth manners; yet shall, before you taste of
death, [Footnote: 18] show itself equal to the whole of that commerce which now
attracts the envy of the world. Whatever England has been growing to by a
progressive increase of improvement, brought in by varieties of people, by
succession of civilizing conquests and civilizing settlements in a series of
seventeen hundred years, you shall see as much added to her by America in the
course of a single life!" If this state of his country had been foretold to him,
would it not require all the sanguine credulity of youth, and all the fervid
glow of enthusiasm, to make him believe it? Fortunate man, he has lived to see
it! Fortunate, indeed, if he lives to see nothing that shall vary the prospect,
and cloud the setting of his day!

Excuse me, Sir, if turning from such thoughts I resume this comparative view
once more. You have seen it on a large scale; look at it on a small one. I will
point out to your attention a particular instance of it in the single province
of Pennsylvania. In the year 1704 that province called for L11,459 in value of
your commodities, native and foreign. This was the whole. What did it demand in
1772? Why, nearly fifty times as much; for in that year the export to
Pennsylvania was L507,909, nearly equal to the export to all the Colonies
together in the first period.

I choose, Sir, to enter into these minute and particular details, because
generalities, which in all other cases are apt to heighten and raise the
subject, have here a tendency to sink it. When we speak of the commerce with our
Colonies, fiction lags after truth, invention is unfruitful, and imagination
cold and barren.

So far, Sir, as to the importance of the object, in view of its commerce, as
concerned in the exports from England. If I were to detail the imports, I could
show how many enjoyments they procure which deceive the burthen of life; how
many materials which invigorate the springs of national industry, and extend and
animate every part of our foreign and domestic commerce. This would be a curious
subject indeed; but I must prescribe bounds to myself in a matter so vast and

I pass, therefore, to the Colonies in another point of view, their agriculture.
This they have prosecuted with such a spirit, that, besides feeding plentifully
their own growing multitude, their annual export of grain, comprehending rice,
has some years ago exceeded a million in value. Of their last harvest I am
persuaded they will export much more. At the beginning of the century some of
these Colonies imported corn from the Mother Country. For some time past the Old
World has been fed from the New. The scarcity which you have felt would have
been a desolating famine, if this child of your old age, with a true filial
piety, with a Roman charity, [Footnote: 19] had not put the full breast of its
youthful exuberance to the mouth of its exhausted parent.

As to the wealth which the Colonies have drawn from the sea by their fisheries,
you had all that matter fully opened at your bar. You surely thought those
acquisitions of value, for they seemed even to excite your envy; and yet the
spirit by which that enterprising employment has been exercised ought rather, in
my opinion, to have raised your esteem and admiration. And pray, Sir, what in
the world is equal to it? Pass by the other parts, and look at the manner in
which the people of New England have of late carried on the whale fishery.
Whilst we follow them among the tumbling mountains of ice, and behold them
penetrating into the deepest frozen recesses of Hudson's Bay and Davis's
Straits, whilst we are looking for them beneath the arctic circle, we hear that
they have pierced into the opposite region of polar cold, that they are at the
antipodes, and engaged under the frozen Serpent of the south. Falkland Island,
which seemed too remote and romantic an object for the grasp of national
ambition, is but a stage and resting-place in the progress of their victorious
industry. Nor is the equinoctial heat more discouraging to them than the
accumulated winter of both the poles. We know that whilst some of them draw the
line and strike the harpoon on the coast of Africa, others run the longitude and
pursue their gigantic game along the coast of Brazil. No sea but what is vexed
by their fisheries; no climate that is not witness to their toils. Neither the
perseverance of Holland, nor the activity of France, nor the dexterous and firm
sagacity of English enterprise ever carried this most perilous mode of hardy
industry to the extent to which it has been pushed by this recent people; a
people who are still, as it were, but in the gristle, and not yet hardened into
the bone of manhood. When I contemplate these things; when I know that the
Colonies in general owe little or nothing to any care of ours, and that they are
not squeezed into this happy form by the constraints of watchful and suspicious
government, but that, through a wise and salutary neglect, a generous nature has
been suffered to take her own way to perfection; when I reflect upon these
effects, when I see how profitable they have been to us, I feel all the pride of
power sink, and all presumption in the wisdom of human contrivances melt and die
away within me. My rigor relents. I pardon something to the spirit of liberty.

I am sensible, Sir, that all which I have asserted in my detail is admitted in
the gross; but that quite a different conclusion is drawn from it. America,
gentlemen say, is a noble object. It is an object well worth fighting for.
Certainly it is, if fighting a people be the best way of gaining them. Gentlemen
in this respect will be led to their choice of means by their complexions
[Footnote: 20] and their habits. Those who understand the military art will of
course have some predilection for it. Those who wield the thunder of the state
[Footnote: 21] may have more confidence in the efficacy of arms. But I confess,
possibly for want of this knowledge, my opinion is much more in favor of prudent
management than of force; considering force not as an odious, but a feeble
instrument for preserving a people so numerous, so active, so growing, so
spirited as this, in a profitable and subordinate connection with us.

First, Sir, permit me to observe that the use of force alone is but temporary.
It may subdue for a moment, but it does not remove the necessity of subduing
again; and a nation is not governed [Footnote: 22] which is perpetually to be

My next objection is its uncertainty. Terror is not always the effect of force,
and an armament is not a victory. If you do not succeed, you are without
resource; for, conciliation failing, force remains; but, force failing, no
further hope of reconciliation is left. Power and authority are sometimes bought
by kindness; but they can never be begged as alms by an impoverished and
defeated violence.

A further objection to force is, that you impair the object by your very
endeavors to preserve it. The thing you fought for is not the thing which you
recover; but depreciated, sunk, wasted, and consumed in the contest. Nothing
less will content me than WHOLE AMERICA. I do not choose to consume its strength
along with our own, because in all parts it is the British strength that I
consume. I do not choose to be caught by a foreign enemy at the end of this
exhausting conflict; and still less in the midst of it. I may escape; but I can
make no insurance against such an event. Let me add, that I do not choose wholly
to break the American spirit; because it is the spirit that has made the

Lastly, we have no sort of experience in favor of force as an instrument in the
rule of our Colonies. Their growth and their utility has been owing to methods
altogether different. Our ancient indulgence [Footnote: 23] has been said to be
pursued to a fault. It may be so. But we know if feeling is evidence, that our
fault was more tolerable than our attempt to mend it; and our sin far more
salutary than our penitence.

These, Sir, are my reasons for not entertaining that high opinion of untried
force by which many gentlemen, for whose sentiments in other particulars I have
great respect, seem to be so greatly captivated. But there is still behind a
third consideration concerning this object which serves to determine my opinion
on the sort of policy which ought to be pursued in the management of America,
even more than its population and its commerce--I mean its temper and character.

In this character of the Americans, a love of freedom is the predominating
feature which marks and distinguishes the whole; and as an ardent is always a
jealous affection, your Colonies become suspicious, restive, and untractable
whenever they see the least attempt to wrest from them by force, or shuffle from
them by chicane, what they think the only advantage worth living for. This
fierce spirit of liberty is stronger in the English Colonies probably than in
any other people of the earth, and this from a great variety of powerful causes;
which, to understand the true temper of their minds and the direction which this
spirit takes, it will not be amiss to lay open somewhat more largely.

First, the people of the Colonies are descendants of Englishmen. England, Sir,
is a nation which still, I hope, respects, and formerly adored, her freedom. The
Colonists emigrated from you when this part of your character was most
predominant; and they took this bias and direction the moment they parted from
your hands. They are therefore not only devoted to liberty, but to liberty
according to English ideas, and on English principles. Abstract liberty, like
other mere abstractions, is not to be found. Liberty inheres in some sensible
object; and every nation has formed to itself some favorite point, which by way
of eminence becomes the criterion of their happiness. It happened, you know,
Sir, that the great contests [Footnote: 24] for freedom in this country were
from the earliest times chiefly upon the question of taxing. Most of the
contests in the ancient commonwealths turned primarily on the right of election
of magistrates; or on the balance among the several orders of the state. The
question of money was not with them so immediate. But in England it was
otherwise. On this point of taxes the ablest pens, and most eloquent tongues,
have been exercised; the greatest spirits have acted and suffered. In order to
give the fullest satisfaction concerning the importance of this point, it was
not only necessary for those who in argument defended the excellence of the
English Constitution to insist on this privilege of granting money as a dry
point of fact, and to prove that the right had been acknowledged in ancient
parchments and blind usages to reside in a certain body called a House of
Commons. They went much farther; they attempted to prove, and they succeeded,
that in theory it ought to be so, from the particular nature of a House of
Commons as an immediate representative of the people, whether the old records
had delivered this oracle or not. They took infinite pains to inculcate, as a
fundamental principle, that in all monarchies the people must in effect
themselves, mediately or immediately, possess the power of granting their own
money, or no shadow of liberty can subsist. The Colonies draw from you, as with
their life-blood, these ideas and principles. Their love of liberty, as with
you, fixed and attached on this specific point of taxing. Liberty might be safe,
or might be endangered, in twenty other particulars, without their being much
pleased or alarmed. Here they felt its pulse; and as they found that beat, they
thought themselves sick or sound. I do not say whether they were right or wrong
in applying your general arguments to their own case. It is not easy, indeed, to
make a monopoly of theorems and corollaries. The fact is, that they did thus
apply those general arguments; and your mode of governing them, whether through
lenity or indolence, through wisdom or mistake, confirmed them in the
imagination that they, as well as you, had an interest in these common

They were further confirmed in this pleasing error by the form of their
provincial legislative assemblies. Their governments are popular in an high
degree; some are merely popular; in all, the popular representative is the most
weighty; and this share of the people in their ordinary government never fails
to inspire them with lofty sentiments, and with a strong aversion from whatever
tends to deprive them of their chief importance.

If anything were wanting to this necessary operation of the form of government,
religion would have given it a complete effect. Religion, always a principle of
energy, in this new people is no way worn out or impaired; and their mode of
professing it is also one main cause of this free spirit. The people are
Protestants; and of that kind which is the most adverse to all implicit
submission of mind and opinion. This is a persuasion not only favorable to
liberty, but built upon it. I do not think, Sir, that the reason of this
averseness in the dissenting churches from all that looks like absolute
government is so much to be sought in their religious tenets, as in their
history. Every one knows that the Roman Catholic religion is at least co-eval
with most of the governments where it prevails; that it has generally gone hand
in hand with them, and received great favor and every kind of support from
authority. The Church of England too was formed from her cradle under the
nursing care of regular government. But the dissenting interests have sprung up
in direct opposition to all the ordinary powers of the world, and could justify
that opposition only on a strong claim to natural liberty. Their very existence
depended on the powerful and unremitted assertion of that claim. All
Protestantism, even the most cold and passive, is a sort of dissent. But the
religion most prevalent in our Northern Colonies is a refinement on the
principle of resistance; it is the dissidence of dissent, and the protestantism
of the Protestant religion. This religion, under a variety of denominations
agreeing in nothing but in the communion of the spirit of liberty, is
predominant in most of the Northern Provinces, where the Church of England,
notwithstanding its legal rights, is in reality no more than a sort of private
sect, not composing most probably the tenth of the people. The Colonists left
England when this spirit was high, and in the emigrants was the highest of all;
and even that stream of foreigners which has been constantly flowing into these
Colonies has, for the greatest part, been composed of dissenters from the
establishments of their several countries, who have brought with them a temper
and character far from alien to that of the people with whom they mixed.

Sir, I can perceive by their manner that some gentlemen object to the latitude
of this description, because in the Southern Colonies the Church of England
forms a large body, and has a regular establishment. It is certainly true. There
is, however, a circumstance attending these Colonies which, in my opinion, fully
counterbalances this difference, and makes the spirit of liberty still more high
and haughty than in those to the northward. It is that in Virginia and the
Carolinas they have a vast multitude of slaves. Where this is the case in any
part of the world, those who are free are by far the most proud and jealous of
their freedom. Freedom is to them [Footnote: 25] not only an enjoyment, but a
kind of rank and privilege. Not seeing there, that freedom, as in countries
where it is a common blessing and as broad and general as the air, may be united
with much abject toil, with great misery, with all the exterior of servitude;
liberty looks, amongst them, like something that is more noble and liberal. I do
not mean, Sir, to commend the superior morality of this sentiment, which has at
least as much pride as virtue in it; but I cannot alter the nature of man. The
fact is so; and these people of the Southern Colonies are much more strongly,
and with an higher and more stubborn spirit, attached to liberty than those to
the northward. Such were all the ancient commonwealths; such were our Gothic
ancestors; such in our days were the Poles; and such will be all masters of
slaves, who are not slaves themselves. In such a people the haughtiness of
domination combines with the spirit of freedom, fortifies it, and renders it

Permit me, Sir, to add another circumstance in our Colonies which contributes no
mean part towards the growth and effect of this untractable spirit. I mean their
education. In no country perhaps in the world is the law so general a study. The
profession itself is numerous and powerful; and in most provinces it takes the
lead. The greater number of the deputies sent to the Congress were lawyers. But
all who read, and most do read, endeavor to obtain some smattering in that
science. I have been told by an eminent bookseller, that in no branch of his
business, after tracts of popular devotion, were so many books as those on the
law exported to the Plantations. The Colonists have now fallen into the way of
printing them for their own use. I hear that they have sold nearly as many of
Blackstone's Commentaries in America as in England. General Gage marks out this
disposition very particularly in a letter on your table. He states that all the
people in his government are lawyers, or smatterers in law; and that in Boston
they have been enabled, by successful chicane, wholly to evade many parts of one
of your capital penal constitutions. The smartness of debate will say that this
knowledge ought to teach them more clearly the rights of legislature, their
obligations to obedience, and the penalties of rebellion. All this is mighty
well. But my honorable and learned friend on the floor, who condescends to mark
what I say for animadversion, will disdain that ground. He has heard, as well as
I, that when great honors and great emoluments do not win over this knowledge to
the service of the state, it is a formidable adversary to government. If the
spirit be not tamed and broken by these happy methods, it is stubborn and
litigious. Abeunt studia in mores. [Footnote: 26] This study readers men acute,
inquisitive, dexterous, prompt in attack, ready in defence, full of resources.
In other countries, the people, more simple, and of a less mercurial cast, judge
of an ill principle in government only by an actual grievance; here they
anticipate the evil, and judge of the pressure of the grievance by the badness
of the principle. They augur misgovernment at a distance, and snuff the approach
of tyranny in every tainted breeze.

The last cause of this disobedient spirit in the Colonies is hardly less
powerful than the rest, as it is not merely moral, but laid deep in the natural
constitution of things. Three thousand miles of ocean lie between you and them.
No contrivance can prevent the effect of this distance in weakening government.
Seas roll, and months pass, between the order and the execution, and the want of
a speedy explanation of a single point is enough to defeat a whole system. You
have, indeed, winged ministers of vengeance, [Footnote: 27] who carry your bolts
in their pounces to the remotest verge of the sea. But there a power steps in
that limits the arrogance of raging passions and furious elements, and says, SO
FAR SHALL THOU GO, AND NO FARTHER. Who are you, that you should fret and rage,
and bite the chains of nature? Nothing worse happens to you than does to all
nations who have extensive empire; and it happens in all the forms into which
empire can be thrown. In large bodies the circulation [Footnote: 28] of power
must be less vigorous at the extremities. Nature has said it. The Turk cannot
govern Egypt and Arabia and Kurdistan as he governs Thrace; nor has he the same
dominion in Crimea and Algiers which he has at Brusa and Smyrna. Despotism
itself is obliged to truck and huckster. The Sultan gets such obedience as he
can. He governs with a loose rein, that he may govern at all; and the whole of
the force and vigor of his authority in his centre is derived from a prudent
relaxation in all his borders. Spain, in her provinces, is, perhaps, not so well
obeyed as you are in yours. She complies, too; she submits; she watches times.
This is the immutable condition, the eternal law of extensive and detached

Then, Sir, from these six capital sources--of descent, of form of government, of
religion in the Northern Provinces, of manners in the Southern, of education, of
the remoteness of situation from the first mover of government--from all these
causes a fierce spirit of liberty has grown up. It has grown with the growth of
the people in your Colonies, and increased with the increase of their wealth; a
spirit that unhappily meeting with an exercise of power in England which,
however lawful, is not reconcilable to any ideas of liberty, much less with
theirs, has kindled this flame that is ready to consume us.

I do not mean to commend either the spirit in this excess, or the moral causes
which produce it. Perhaps a more smooth and accommodating spirit of freedom in
them would be more acceptable to us. Perhaps ideas of liberty might be desired
more reconcilable with an arbitrary and boundless authority. Perhaps we might
wish the Colonists to be persuaded that their liberty is more secure when held
in trust for them by us, as their guardians during a perpetual minority, than
with any part of it in their own hands. The question is, not whether their
spirit deserves praise or blame, but--what, in the name of God, shall we do with
it? You have before you the object, such as it is, with all its glories, with
all its imperfections [Footnote: 29] on its head. You see the magnitude, the
importance, the temper, the habits, the disorders. By all these considerations
we are strongly urged to determine something concerning it. We are called upon
to fix some rule and line for our future conduct which may give a little
stability to our politics, and prevent the return of such unhappy deliberations
as the present. Every such return will bring the matter before us in a still
more untractable form. For, what astonishing and incredible things have we not
seen already! What monsters have not been generated from this unnatural
contention! Whilst every principle of authority and resistance has been pushed,
upon both sides, as far as it would go, there is nothing so solid and certain,
either in reasoning or in practice, that has not been shaken. Until very lately
all authority in America seemed to be nothing but an emanation from yours. Even,
the popular part of the Colony Constitution derived all its activity and its
first vital movement from the pleasure of the Crown. We thought, Sir, that the
utmost which the discontented Colonies could do was to disturb authority; we
never dreamt they could of themselves supply it--knowing in general what an
operose business it is to establish a government absolutely new. But having, for
our purposes in this contention, resolved that none but an obedient Assembly
should sit, the humors of the people there, finding all passage through the
legal channel stopped, with great violence broke out another way. Some provinces
have tried their experiment, as we have tried ours; and theirs has succeeded.
They have formed a government sufficient for its purposes, without the bustle of
a revolution or the formality of an election. Evident necessity and tacit
consent have done the business in an instant. So well they have done it, that
Lord Dunmore--the account is among the fragments on your table--tells you that
the new institution is infinitely better obeyed than the ancient government ever
was in its most fortunate periods. Obedience is what makes government, and not
the names by which it is called; not the name of Governor, as formerly, or
Committee, as at present. This new government has originated directly from the
people, and was not transmitted through any of the ordinary artificial media of
a positive constitution. It was not a manufacture ready formed, and transmitted
to them in that condition from England. The evil arising from hence is this;
that the Colonists having once found the possibility of enjoying the advantages
of order in the midst of a struggle for liberty, such struggles will not
henceforward seem so terrible to the settled and sober part of mankind as they
had appeared before the trial. Pursuing the same plan [Footnote: 30] of
punishing by the denial of the exercise of government to still greater lengths,
we wholly abrogated the ancient government of Massachusetts. We were confident
that the first feeling if not the very prospect, of anarchy would instantly
enforce a complete submission. The experiment was tried. A new, strange,
unexpected face of things appeared. Anarchy is found tolerable. A vast province
has now subsisted, and subsisted in a considerable degree of health and vigor
for near a twelvemonth, without Governor, without public Council, without
judges, without executive magistrates. How long it will continue in this state,
or what may arise out of this unheard-of situation, how can the wisest of us
conjecture? Our late experience has taught us that many of those fundamental
principles, formerly believed infallible, are either not of the importance they
were imagined to be, or that we have not at all adverted to some other far more
important and far more powerful principles, which entirely overrule those we had
considered as omnipotent. I am much against any further experiments which tend
to put to the proof any more of these allowed opinions which contribute so much
to the public tranquillity. In effect we suffer as much at home by this
loosening of all ties, and this concussion of all established opinions as we do
abroad; for in order to prove that the Americans have no right to their
liberties, we are every day endeavoring to subvert the maxims which preserve the
whole spirit of our own. To prove that the Americans ought not to be free, we
are obliged to depreciate the value of freedom itself; and we never seem to gain
a paltry advantage over them in debate without attacking some of those
principles, or deriding some of those feelings, for which our ancestors have
shed their blood.

But, Sir, in wishing to put an end to pernicious experiments, I do not mean to
preclude the fullest inquiry. Far from it. Far from deciding on a sudden or
partial view, [Footnote: 31] I would patiently go round and round the subject,
and survey it minutely in every possible aspect. Sir, if I were capable of
engaging you to an equal attention, I would state that, as far as I am capable
of discerning, there are but three ways [Footnote: 32] of proceeding relative to
this stubborn spirit which prevails in your Colonies, and disturbs your
government. These are--to change that spirit, as inconvenient, by removing the
causes; to prosecute it as criminal; or to comply with it as necessary. I would
not be guilty of an imperfect enumeration; I can think of but these three.
Another has indeed been started,--that of giving up the Colonies; but it met so
slight a reception that I do not think myself obliged to dwell a great while
upon it. It is nothing but a little sally of anger, like the forwardness of
peevish children who, when they cannot get all they would have, are resolved to
take nothing.

The first of these plans--to change the spirit, as inconvenient, by removing the
causes--I think is the most like a systematic proceeding. It is radical in its
principle; but it is attended with great difficulties, some of them little
short, as I conceive, of impossibilities. This will appear by examining into the
plans which have been proposed.

As the growing population in the Colonies is evidently one cause of their
resistance, it was last session mentioned in both Houses, by men of weight, and
received not without applause, that in order to check this evil it would be
proper for the Crown to make no further grants of land. But to this scheme there
are two objections. The first, that there is already so much unsettled land in
private hands as to afford room for an immense future population, although the
Crown not only withheld its grants, but annihilated its soil. If this be the
case, then the only effect of this avarice of desolation, this hoarding of a
royal wilderness, would be to raise the value of the possessions in the hands of
the great private monopolists without any adequate cheek to the growing and
alarming mischief of population.

But if you stopped your grants, what would be the consequence? The people would
occupy without grants. They have already so occupied in many places. You cannot
station garrisons in every part of these deserts. If you drive the people from
one place, they will carry on their annual tillage, and remove with their flocks
and herds to another. Many of the people in the back settlements are already
little attached to particular situations. Already they have topped the
Appalachian Mountains. From thence they behold before them an immense plain, one
vast, rich, level meadow; a square of five hundred miles. Over this they would
wander without a possibility of restraint; they would change their manners with
the habits of their life; would soon forget a government by which they were
disowned; would become hordes of English Tartars; and, pouring down upon your
unfortified frontiers a fierce and irresistible cavalry, become masters of your
governors and your counsellors, your collectors and comptrollers, and of all the
slaves that adhered to them. Such would, and in no long time must be, the effect
of attempting to forbid as a crime and to suppress as an evil the command and
blessing of providence, INCREASE AND MULTIPLY. Such would be the happy result of
the endeavor to keep as a lair of wild beasts that earth which God, by an
express charter, has given to the children of men. Far different, and surely
much wiser, has been our policy hitherto. Hitherto we have invited our people,
by every kind of bounty, to fixed establishments. We have invited the husbandman
to look to authority for his title. We have taught him piously to believe in the
mysterious virtue of wax and parchment. We have thrown each tract of land, as it
was peopled, into districts, that the ruling power should never be wholly out of
sight. We have settled all we could; and we have carefully attended every
settlement with government.

Adhering, Sir, as I do, to this policy, as well as for the reasons I have just
given, I think this new project of hedging-in population to be neither prudent
nor practicable.

To impoverish the Colonies in general, and in particular to arrest the noble
course of their marine enterprises, would be a more easy task. I freely confess
it. We have shown a disposition to a system of this kind, a disposition even to
continue the restraint after the offence, looking on ourselves as rivals to our
Colonies, and persuaded that of course we must gain all that they shall lose.
Much mischief we may certainly do. The power inadequate to all other things is
often more than sufficient for this. I do not look on the direct and immediate
power of the Colonies to resist our violence as very formidable. In this,
however, I may be mistaken. But when I consider that we have Colonies for no
purpose but to be serviceable to us, it seems to my poor understanding a little
preposterous to make them unserviceable in order to keep them obedient. It is,
in truth, nothing more than the old and, as I thought, exploded problem of
tyranny, which proposes to beggar its subjects into submission. But remember,
when you have completed your system of impoverishment, that nature still
proceeds in her ordinary course; that discontent will increase with misery; and
that there are critical moments in the fortune of all states when they who are
too weak to contribute to your prosperity may be strong enough to complete your
ruin. Spoliatis arma supersunt. [Footnote: 34]

The temper and character which prevail in our Colonies are, I am afraid,
unalterable by any human art. We cannot, I fear, falsify the pedigree of this
fierce people, and persuade them that they are not sprung from a nation in whose
veins the blood of freedom circulates. The language in which they would hear you
tell them this tale would detect the imposition; your speech would betray you.
[Footnote: 35] An Englishman is the unfittest person on earth to argue another
Englishman into slavery.

I think it is nearly as little in our power to change their republican religion
as their free descent; or to substitute the Roman Catholic as a penalty, or the
Church of England as an improvement. The mode of inquisition and dragooning is
going out of fashion in the Old World, and I should not confide much to their
efficacy in the New. The education of the Americans is also on the same
unalterable bottom with their religion. You cannot persuade them to burn their
books of curious science; to banish their lawyers from their courts of laws; or
to quench the lights of their assemblies by refusing to choose those persons who
are best read in their privileges. It would be no less impracticable to think of
wholly annihilating the popular assemblies in which these lawyers sit. The army,
by which we must govern in their place, would be far more chargeable to us, not
quite so effectual, and perhaps in the end full as difficult to be kept in
obedience. With regard to the high aristocratic spirit of Virginia and the
Southern Colonies, it has been proposed, I know, to reduce it by declaring a
general enfranchisement of their slaves. This object has had its advocates and
panegyrists; yet I never could argue myself into any opinion of it. Slaves are
often much attached to their masters. A general wild offer of liberty would not
always be accepted. History furnishes few instances of it. It is sometimes as
hard to persuade slaves [Footnote: 36] to be free, as it is to compel freemen to
be slaves; and in this auspicious scheme we should have both these pleasing
tasks on our hands at once. But when we talk of enfranchisement, do we not
perceive that the American master may enfranchise too, and arm servile hands in
defence of freedom?--a measure to which other people have had recourse more than
once, and not without success, in a desperate situation of their affairs.

Slaves as these unfortunate black people are, and dull as all men are from
slavery, must they not a little suspect the offer of freedom from that very
nation which has sold them to their present masters?--from that nation, one of
whose causes of quarrel [Footnote: 37] with those masters is their refusal to
deal any more in that inhuman traffic? An offer of freedom from England would
come rather oddly, shipped to them in an African vessel which is refused an
entry into the ports of Virginia or Carolina with a cargo of three hundred
Angola negroes. It would be curious to see the Guinea captain attempting at the
same instant to publish his proclamation of liberty, and to advertise his sale
of slaves.

But let us suppose all these moral difficulties got over. The ocean remains. You
cannot pump this dry; and as long as it continues in its present bed, so long
all the causes which weaken authority by distance will continue.

"Ye gods, annihilate but space and time,
And make two lovers happy!"

was a pious and passionate prayer; but just as reasonable as many of the serious
wishes of grave and solemn politicians.

If then, Sir, it seems almost desperate to think of any alterative course for
changing the moral causes, and not quite easy to remove the natural, which
produce prejudices irreconcilable to the late exercise of our authority--but
that the spirit infallibly will continue, and, continuing, will produce such
effects as now embarrass us--the second mode under consideration is to prosecute
that spirit in its overt acts as criminal.

At this proposition I must pause a moment. The thing seems a great deal too big
for my ideas of jurisprudence. It should seem to my way of conceiving such
matters that there is a very wide difference, in reason and policy, between the
mode of proceeding on the irregular conduct of scattered individuals, or even of
bands of men who disturb order within the state, and the civil dissensions which
may, from time to time, on great questions, agitate the several communities
which compose a great empire. It looks to me to be narrow and pedantic to apply
the ordinary ideas of criminal justice to this great public contest. I do not
know the method of drawing up an indictment against a whole people. I cannot
insult and ridicule the feelings of millions of my fellow-creatures as Sir
Edward Coke insulted one excellent individual (Sir Walter Raleigh) at the bar. I
hope I am not ripe to pass sentence on the gravest public bodies, intrusted with
magistracies of great authority and dignity, and charged with the safety of
their fellow-citizens, upon the very same title that I am. I really think that,
for wise men, this is not judicious; for sober men, not decent; for minds
tinctured with humanity, not mild and merciful.

Perhaps, Sir, I am mistaken in my idea of an empire, as distinguished from a
single state or kingdom. But my idea of it is this; that an empire is the
aggregate of many states under one common head, whether this head be a monarch
or a presiding republic. It does, in such constitutions, frequently happen--and
nothing but the dismal, cold, dead uniformity of servitude can prevent its
happening--that the subordinate parts have many local privileges and immunities.
Between these privileges and the supreme common authority the line may be
extremely nice. Of course disputes, often, too, very bitter disputes, and much
ill blood, will arise. But though every privilege is an exemption, in the case,
from the ordinary exercise of the supreme authority, it is no denial of it. The
claim of a privilege seems rather, ex vi termini, [Footnote: 38] to imply a
superior power; for to talk of the privileges of a state or of a person who has
no superior is hardly any better than speaking nonsense. Now, in such
unfortunate quarrels among the component parts of a great political union of
communities, I can scarcely conceive anything more completely imprudent than for
the head of the empire to insist that, if any privilege is pleaded against his
will or his acts, his whole authority is denied; instantly to proclaim
rebellion, to beat to arms, and to put the offending provinces under the ban.
Will not this, Sir, very soon teach the provinces to make no distinctions on
their part? Will it not teach them that the government, against which a claim of
liberty is tantamount to high treason, is a government to which submission is
equivalent to slavery? It may not always be quite convenient to impress
dependent communities with such an idea.

We are, indeed, in all disputes with the Colonies, by the necessity of things,
the judge. It is true, Sir. But I confess that the character of judge in my own
cause is a thing that frightens me. Instead of filling me with pride, I am
exceedingly humbled by it. I cannot proceed with a stern, assured, judicial
confidence, until I find myself in something more like a judicial character. I
must have these hesitations as long as I am compelled to recollect that, in my
little reading upon such contests as these, the sense of mankind has at least as
often decided against the superior as the subordinate power. Sir, let me add,
too, that the opinion of my having some abstract right [Footnote: 39] in my
favor would not put me much at my ease in passing sentence, unless I could be
sure that there were no rights which, in their exercise under certain
circumstances, were not the most odious of all wrongs and the most vexatious of
all injustice. Sir, these considerations have great weight with me when I find
things so circumstanced, that I see the same party at once a civil litigant
against me in point of right and a culprit before me, while I sit as a criminal
judge on acts of his whose moral quality is to be decided upon the merits of
that very litigation. Men are every now and then put, by the complexity of human
affairs, into strange situations; but justice is the same, let the judge be in
what situation he will.

There is, Sir, also a circumstance which convinces me that this mode of criminal
proceeding is not, at least in the present stage of our contest, altogether
expedient; which is nothing less than the conduct of those very persons who have
seemed to adopt that mode by lately declaring a rebellion in Massachusetts Bay,
as they had formerly addressed to have traitors brought hither, under an Act of
Henry the Eighth, [Footnote: 40] for trial. For though rebellion is declared, it
is not proceeded against as such, nor have any steps been taken towards the
apprehension or conviction of any individual offender, either on our late or our
former Address; but modes of public coercion have been adopted, and such as have
much more resemblance to a sort of qualified hostility towards an independent
power than the punishment of rebellious subjects. All this seems rather
inconsistent; but it shows how difficult it is to apply these juridical ideas to
our present case.

In this situation, let us seriously and coolly ponder. What is it we have got by
all our menaces, which have been many and ferocious? What advantage have we
derived from the penal laws we have passed, and which, for the time, have been
severe and numerous? What advances have we made towards our object by the
sending of a force which, by land and sea, is no contemptible strength? Has the
disorder abated? Nothing less. When I see things in this situation after such
confident hopes, bold promises, and active exertions, I cannot, for my life,
avoid a suspicion that the plan itself is not correctly right. [Footnote: 41]

If, then, the removal of the causes of this spirit of American liberty be for
the greater part, or rather entirely, impracticable; if the ideas of criminal
process be inapplicable--or, if applicable, are in the highest degree
inexpedient; what way yet remains? No way is open but the third and last,--to
comply with the American spirit as necessary; or, if you please, to submit to it
as a necessary evil.

If we adopt this mode,--if we mean to conciliate and concede,--let us see of
what nature the concession ought to be. To ascertain the nature of our
concession, we must look at their complaint. The Colonies complain that they
have not the characteristic mark and seal of British freedom. They complain that
they are taxed in a Parliament in which they are not represented. If you mean to
satisfy them at all, you must satisfy them with regard to this complaint. If you
mean to please any people you must give them the boon which they ask; not what
you may think better for them, but of a kind totally different. Such an act may
be a wise regulation, but it is no concession; whereas our present theme is the
mode of giving satisfaction.

Sir, I think you must perceive that I am resolved this day to have nothing at
all to do with the question of the right of taxation. Some gentlemen start--but
it is true; I put it totally out of the question. It is less than nothing in my
consideration. I do not indeed wonder, nor will you, Sir, that gentlemen of
profound learning are fond of displaying it on this profound subject. But my
consideration is narrow, confined, and wholly limited to the policy of the
question. I do not examine whether the giving away a man's money be a power
excepted and reserved out of the general trust of government, and how far all
mankind, in all forms of polity, are entitled to an exercise of that right by
the charter of nature; or whether, on the contrary, a right of taxation is
necessarily involved in the general principle of legislation, and inseparable
from the ordinary supreme power. These are deep questions, where great names
militate against each other, where reason is perplexed, and an appeal to
authorities only thickens the confusion; for high and reverend authorities lift
up their heads on both sides, and there is no sure footing in the middle. This
point is the great

"Serbonian bog,
Betwixt Damiata and Mount Casius old,
Where armies whole have sunk."
[Footnote: 42]

I do not intend to be overwhelmed in that bog, though in such respectable
company. The question [Footnote: 43] with me is, not whether you have a right to
render your people miserable, but whether it is not your interest to make them
happy. It is not what a lawyer tells me I MAY do, but what humanity, reason, and
justice tell me I OUGHT to do. Is a politic act the worse for being a generous
one? Is no concession proper but that which is made from your want of right to
keep what you grant? Or does it lessen the grace or dignity of relaxing in the
exercise of an odious claim because you have your evidence-room full of titles,
and your magazines stuffed with arms to enforce them? What signify all those
titles, and all those arms? Of what avail are they, when the reason of the thing
tells me that the assertion of my title is the loss of my suit, and that I could
do nothing but wound myself by the use of my own weapons?

Such is steadfastly my opinion of the absolute necessity of keeping up the
concord of this Empire by an unity of spirit, though in a diversity of
operations, that, if I were sure the Colonists had, at their leaving this
country, sealed a regular compact of servitude; that they had solemnly abjured
all the rights of citizens; that they had made a vow to renounce all ideas of
liberty for them and their posterity to all generations; yet I should hold
myself obliged to conform to the temper I found universally prevalent in my own
day, and to govern two million of men, impatient of servitude, on the principles
of freedom. I am not determining a point of law, I am restoring tranquillity;
and the general character and situation of a people must determine what sort of
government is fitted for them. That point nothing else can or ought to

My idea, therefore, without considering whether we yield as matter of right, or
grant as matter of favor, is to admit the people of our Colonies into an
interest in the Constitution; and, by recording that admission in the journals
of Parliament, to give them as strong an assurance as the nature of the thing
will admit, that we mean forever to adhere to that solemn declaration of
systematic indulgence.

Some years ago the repeal of a revenue Act, upon its understood principle, might
have served to show that we intended an unconditional abatement of the exercise
of a taxing power. Such a measure was then sufficient to remove all suspicion,
and to give perfect content. But unfortunate events since that time may make
something further necessary; and not more necessary for the satisfaction of the
Colonies than for the dignity and consistency of our own future proceedings.

I have taken a very incorrect measure of the disposition of the House if this
proposal in itself would be received with dislike. I think, Sir, we have few
American financiers. But our misfortune is, we are too acute, we are too
exquisite [Footnote: 44] in our conjectures of the future, for men oppressed
with such great and present evils. The more moderate among the opposers of
Parliamentary concession freely confess that they hope no good from taxation,
but they apprehend the Colonists have further views; and if this point were
conceded, they would instantly attack the trade laws. [Footnote: 45] These
gentlemen are convinced that this was the intention from the beginning, and the
quarrel of the Americans with taxation was no more than a cloak and cover to
this design. Such has been the language even of a gentleman of real moderation,
and of a natural temper well adjusted to fair and equal government. I am,
however, Sir, not a little surprised at this kind of discourse, whenever I hear
it; and I am the more surprised on account of the arguments which I constantly
find in company with it, and which are often urged from the same mouths and on
the same day.

For instance, when we allege that it is against reason to tax a people under so
many restraints in trade as the Americans, the noble lord in the blue ribbon
shall tell you that the restraints on trade are futile and useless--of no
advantage to us, and of no burthen to those on whom they are imposed; that the
trade to America is not secured by the Acts of Navigation, but by the natural
and irresistible advantage of a commercial preference.

Such is the merit of the trade laws in this posture of the debate. But when
strong internal circumstances are urged against the taxes; when the scheme is
dissected; when experience and the nature of things are brought to prove, and do
prove, the utter impossibility of obtaining an effective revenue from the
Colonies; when these things are pressed, or rather press themselves, so as to
drive the advocates of Colony taxes to a clear admission of the futility of the
scheme; then, Sir, the sleeping trade laws revive from their trance, and this
useless taxation is to be kept sacred, not for its own sake, but as a
counterguard and security of the laws of trade.

Then, Sir, you keep up revenue laws which are mischievous, in order to preserve
trade laws that are useless. Such is the wisdom of our plan in both its members.
They are separately given up as of no value, and yet one is always to be
defended for the sake of the other; but I cannot agree with the noble lord, nor
with the pamphlet from whence he seems to have borrowed these ideas concerning
the inutility of the trade laws. For, without idolizing them, I am sure they are
still, in many ways, of great use to us; and in former times they have been of
the greatest. They do confine, and they do greatly narrow, the market for the
Americans; but my perfect conviction of this does not help me in the least to
discern how the revenue laws form any security whatsoever to the commercial
regulations, or that these commercial regulations are the true ground of the
quarrel, or that the giving way, in any one instance of authority, is to lose
all that may remain unconceded.

One fact is clear and indisputable. The public and avowed origin of this quarrel
was on taxation. This quarrel has indeed brought on new disputes on new
questions; but certainly the least bitter, and the fewest of all, on the trade
laws. To judge which of the two be the real radical cause of quarrel, we have to
see whether the commercial dispute did, in order of time, precede the dispute on
taxation? There is not a shadow of evidence for it. Next, to enable us to judge
whether at this moment a dislike to the trade laws be the real cause of quarrel,
it is absolutely necessary to put the taxes out of the question by a repeal. See
how the Americans act in this position, and then you will be able to discern
correctly what is the true object of the controversy, or whether any controversy
at all will remain. Unless you consent to remove this cause of difference, it is
impossible, with decency, to assert that the dispute is not upon what it is
avowed to be. And I would, Sir, recommend to your serious consideration whether
it be prudent to form a rule for punishing people, not on their own acts, but on
your conjectures? Surely it is preposterous at the very best. It is not
justifying your anger by their misconduct, but it is converting your ill-will
into their delinquency.

But the Colonies will go further. Alas! alas! when will this speculation against
fact and reason end? What will quiet these panic fears which we entertain of the
hostile effect of a conciliatory conduct? Is it true that no case can exist in
which it is proper for the sovereign to accede to the desires of his
discontented subjects? Is there anything peculiar in this case to make a rule
for itself? Is all authority of course lost when it is not pushed to the
extreme? Is it a certain maxim that the fewer causes of dissatisfaction are left
by government, the more the subject will be inclined to resist and rebel?

All these objections being in fact no more than suspicions, conjectures,
divinations, formed in defiance of fact and experience, they did not, Sir,
discourage me from entertaining the idea of a conciliatory concession founded on
the principles which I have just stated.

In forming a plan for this purpose, I endeavored to put myself in that frame of
mind which was the most natural and the most reasonable, and which was certainly
the most probable means of securing me from all error. I set out with a perfect
distrust of my own abilities, a total renunciation of every speculation of my
own, and with a profound reverence for the wisdom of our ancestors who have left
us the inheritance of so happy a constitution and so flourishing an empire, and,
what is a thousand times more valuable, the treasury of the maxims and
principles which formed the one and obtained the other.

During the reigns of the kings of Spain of the Austrian family, whenever they
were at a loss in the Spanish councils, it was common for their statesmen to say
that they ought to consult the genius of Philip the Second. The genius of Philip
the Second might mislead them, and the issue of their affairs showed that they
had not chosen the most perfect standard; but, Sir, I am sure that I shall not
be misled when, in a case of constitutional difficulty, I consult the genius of
the English Constitution. Consulting at that oracle--it was with all due
humility and piety--I found four capital examples in a similar case before me;
those of Ireland, Wales, Chester, and Durham.

Ireland, before the English conquest, [Footnote: 46] though never governed by a
despotic power, had no Parliament. How far the English Parliament itself was at
that time modelled according to the present form is disputed among antiquaries;
but we have all the reason in the world to be assured that a form of Parliament
such as England then enjoyed she instantly communicated to Ireland, and we are
equally sure that almost every successive improvement in constitutional liberty,
as fast as it was made here, was transmitted thither. The feudal baronage and
the feudal knighthood, the roots of our primitive Constitution, were early
transplanted into that soil, and grew and flourished there. Magna Charta, if it
did not give us originally the House of Commons, gave us at least a House of
Commons of weight and consequence. But your ancestors did not churlishly sit
down alone to the feast of Magna Charta. Ireland was made immediately a
partaker. This benefit of English laws and liberties, I confess, was not at
first extended to all Ireland. Mark the consequence. English authority and
English liberties had exactly the same boundaries. Your standard could never be
advanced an inch before your privileges. Sir John Davis shows beyond a doubt
that the refusal of a general communication of these rights was the true cause
why Ireland was five hundred years in subduing; and after the vain projects of a
military government, attempted in the reign of Queen Elizabeth, it was soon
discovered that nothing could make that country English, in civility and
allegiance, but your laws and your forms of legislature. It was not English
arms, but the English Constitution, that conquered Ireland. From that time
Ireland has ever had a general Parliament, as she had before a partial
Parliament. You changed the people; you altered the religion; but you never
touched the form or the vital substance of free government in that kingdom. You
deposed kings; [Footnote: 47] you restored them; you altered the succession to
theirs, as well as to your own Crown; but you never altered their Constitution,
the principle of which was respected by usurpation, restored with the
restoration of monarchy, and established, I trust, forever, by the glorious
Revolution. This has made Ireland the great and flourishing kingdom that it is,
and, from a disgrace and a burthen intolerable to this nation, has rendered her
a principal part of our strength and ornament. This country cannot be said to
have ever formally taxed her. The irregular things done in the confusion of
mighty troubles and on the hinge of great revolutions, even if all were done
that is said to have been done, form no example. If they have any effect in
argument, they make an exception to prove the rule. None of your own liberties
could stand a moment, if the casual deviations from them at such times were
suffered to be used as proofs of their nullity. By the lucrative amount of such
casual breaches in the Constitution, judge what the stated and fixed rule of
supply has been in that kingdom. Your Irish pensioners would starve, if they had
no other fund to live on than taxes granted by English authority. Turn your eyes
to those popular grants from whence all your great supplies are come, and learn
to respect that only source of public wealth in the British Empire.

My next example is Wales. This country was said to be reduced by Henry the
Third. It was said more truly to be so by Edward the First. But though then
conquered, it was not looked upon as any part of the realm of England. Its old
Constitution, whatever that might have been, was destroyed, and no good one was
substituted in its place. The care of that tract was put into the hands of Lords
Marchers [Footnote: 48]--a form of government of a very singular kind; a strange
heterogeneous monster, something between hostility and government; perhaps it
has a sort of resemblance, according to the modes of those terms, to that of
Commander-in-chief at present, to whom all civil power is granted as secondary.
The manners of the Welsh nation followed the genius of the government. The
people were ferocious, restive, savage, and uncultivated; sometimes composed,
never pacified. Wales, within itself, was in perpetual disorder, and it kept the
frontier of England in perpetual alarm. Benefits from it to the state there were
none. Wales was only known to England by incursion and invasion.

Sir, during that state of things, Parliament was not idle. They attempted to
subdue the fierce spirit of the Welsh by all sorts of rigorous laws. They
prohibited by statute the sending all sorts of arms into Wales, as you prohibit
by proclamation (with something more of doubt on the legality) the sending arms
to America. They disarmed the Welsh by statute, as you attempted (but still with
more question on the legality) to disarm New England by an instruction. They
made an Act to drag offenders from Wales into England for trial, as you have
done (but with more hardship) with regard to America. By another Act, where one
of the parties was an Englishman, they ordained that his trial should be always
by English. They made Acts to restrain trade, as you do; and they prevented the
Welsh from the use of fairs and markets, as you do the Americans from fisheries
and foreign ports. In short, when the Statute Book was not quite so much swelled
as it is now, you find no less than fifteen acts of penal regulation on the
subject of Wales.

Here we rub our hands.--A fine body of precedents for the authority of
Parliament and the use of it!--I admit it fully; and pray add likewise to these
precedents that all the while Wales rid this Kingdom like an incubus, that it
was an unprofitable and oppressive burthen, and that an Englishman travelling in
that country could not go six yards from the high road without being murdered.

The march of the human mind is slow. Sir, it was not until after two hundred
years discovered that, by an eternal law, providence had decreed vexation to
violence, and poverty to rapine. Your ancestors did however at length open their
eyes to the ill-husbandry of injustice. They found that the tyranny of a free
people could of all tyrannies the least be endured, and that laws made against a
whole nation were not the most effectual methods of securing its obedience.
Accordingly, in the twenty-seventh year of Henry the Eighth the course was
entirely altered. With a preamble stating the entire and perfect rights of the
Crown of England, it gave to the Welsh all the rights and privileges of English
subjects. A political order was established; the military power gave way to the
civil; the Marches were turned into Counties. But that a nation should have a
right to English liberties, and yet no share at all in the fundamental security
of these liberties--the grant of their own property--seemed a thing so
incongruous that, eight years after, that is, in the thirty-fifth of that reign,
a complete and not ill-proportioned representation by counties and boroughs was
bestowed upon Wales by Act of Parliament. From that moment, as by a charm, the
tumults subsided; obedience was restored; peace, order, and civilization
followed in the train of liberty. When the day-star of the English Constitution
had arisen in their hearts, all was harmony within and without--

"--simul alba nautis
Stella refulsit,
Defluit saxis agitatus humor;
Concidunt venti, fugiuntque nubes,
Et minax (quod sic voluere) ponto
Unda recumbit."
[Footnote: 49]

The very same year the County Palatine of Chester received the same relief from
its oppressions and the same remedy to its disorders. Before this time Chester
was little less distempered than Wales. The inhabitants, without rights
themselves, were the fittest to destroy the rights of others; and from thence
Richard the Second drew the standing army of archers with which for a time he
oppressed England. The people of Chester applied to Parliament in a petition
penned as I shall read to you:

"To the King, our Sovereign Lord, in most hunible wise
shewen unto your excellent Majesty the inhabitants of
your Grace's County Palatine of Chester: (1) That where
the said County Palatine of Chester is and hath been always
hitherto exempt, excluded, and separated out and
from your High Court of Parliament, to have any Knights
and Burgesses within the said Court; by reason whereof
the said inhabitants have hitherto sustained manifold
disherisons, losses, and damages, as well in their lands,
goods, and bodies, as in the good, civil, and politic governance
and maintenance of the commonwealth of their said
county; (2) And forasmuch as the said inhabitants have
always hitherto been bound by the Acts and Statutes
made and ordained by your said Highness and your most
noble progenitors, by authority of the said Court, as far
forth as other counties, cities, and boroughs have been,
that have had their Knights and Burgesses within your
said Court of Parliament, and yet have had neither Knight
ne Burgess there for the said County Palatine, the said
inhabitants, for lack thereof, have been oftentime touched
and grieved with Acts and Statutes made within the said
Court, as well derogatory unto the most ancient jurisdictions,
liberties, and privileges of your said County Palatine,
as prejudicial unto the commonwealth, quietness,
rest, and peace of your Grace's most bounden subjects
inhabiting within the same."

What did Parliament with this audacious address?--Reject it as a libel? Treat it
as an affront to Government? Spurn it as a derogation from the rights of
legislature? Did they toss it over the table? Did they burn it by the hands of
the common hangman?--They took the petition of grievance, all rugged as it was,
without softening or temperament, unpurged of the original bitterness and
indignation of complaint--they made it the very preamble to their Act of
redress, and consecrated its principle to all ages in the sanctuary of

Here is my third example. It was attended with the success of the two former.
Chester, civilized as well as Wales, has demonstrated that freedom, and not
servitude, is the cure of anarchy; as religion, and not atheism, is the true
remedy for superstition. Sir, this pattern of Chester was followed in the reign
of Charles the Second with regard to the County Palatine of Durham, which is my
fourth example. This county had long lain out of the pale of free legislation.
So scrupulously was the example of Chester followed that the style of the
preamble is nearly the same with that of the Chester Act, and, without affecting
the abstract extent of the authority of Parliament, it recognizes the equity of
not suffering any considerable district in which the British subjects may act as
a body, to be taxed without their own voice in the grant.

Now if the doctrines of policy contained in these preambles, and the force of
these examples in the Acts of Parliaments, avail anything, what can be said
against applying them with regard to America? Are not the people of America as
much Englishmen as the Welsh? The preamble of the Act of Henry the Eighth says
the Welsh speak a language no way resembling that of his Majesty's English
subjects. Are the Americans not as numerous? If we may trust the learned and
accurate Judge Barrington's account of North Wales, and take that as a standard
to measure the rest, there is no comparison. The people cannot amount to above
200,000; not a tenth part of the number in the Colonies. Is America in
rebellion? Wales was hardly ever free from it. Have you at tempted to govern
America by penal statutes? You made fifteen for Wales. But your legislative
authority is perfect with regard to America. Was it less perfect in Wales,
Chester, and Durham? But America is virtually represented. What! does the
electric force of virtual representation more easily pass over the Atlantic than
pervade Wales,--which lies in your neighborhood--or than Chester and Durham,
surrounded by abundance of representation that is actual and palpable? But, Sir,
your ancestors thought this sort of virtual representation, however ample, to be
totally insufficient for the freedom of the inhabitants of territories that are
so near, and comparatively so inconsiderable. How then can I think it sufficient
for those which are infinitely greater, and infinitely more remote?

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