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If this be the case, ask yourselves this question : Will they be content in such a state of slavery? If not, look to the consequences. Reflect how you are to govern a people who think they ought to be free, and think they are not. Your scheme yields no revenue ; it yields nothing but discontent, disorder, disobedience : and such is the state of America, that, after wading up to your eyes in blood, you could only end just where you begun, – that is, to tax where no revenue is to be found, to - My voice fails me: my inclination, indeed, carries me no further; all is confusion beyond it.
Well, Sir, I have recovered a little, and before I sit down I must say something to another point with which gentlemen urge us. What is to become of the Declaratory Act, asserting the entireness of British legislative authority, if we abandon the practice of taxation ?
For my part, I look upon the rights stated in that act exactly in the manner in which I viewed them on its very first proposition, and which I have often taken the liberty, with great humility, to lay before you. I look, I say, on the imperial rights of Great Britain, and the privileges which the colonists ought to enjoy under these rights, to be just the most reconcilable things in the world. The Parliament of Great Britain sits at the head of her extensive empire in two capacities. One as the local legislature of this island, providing for all things at home, immediately, and by no other instrument than the executive power. The other, and I think her nobler capacity, is what I call her imperial character ; in which, as from the throne of heaven, she superintends all the several inferior legislatures, and guides and controls them all
without annihilating any. As all these provincial legislatures are only coördinate to each other, they ought all to be subordinate to her; else they can neither preserve mutual peace, nor hope for mutual justice, nor effectually afford mutual assistance. It is necessary to coerce the negligent, to restrain the violent, and to aid the weak and deficient, by the overruling plenitude of her power. She is never to intrude into the place of the others, whilst they are equal to the common ends of their institution. But in order to enable Parliament to answer all these ends of provident and beneficent superintendence, her powers must be boundless. The gentlemen who think the powers of Parliament limited may please themselves to talk of requisitions. But suppose the requisitions are not obeyed? What! shall there be no reserved power in the empire, to supply a deficiency which may weaken, divide, and dissipate the whole? We are engaged in war, - the Secretary of State calls upon the colonies to contribute, - some would do it, I think most would cheerfully furnish whatever is demanded,- one or two, suppose, hang back, and, easing themselves, let the stress of the draft lie on the others, - surely it is proper that some authority might legally say, “ Tax yourselves for the common supply, or Parliament will do it for you." This backwardness was, as I am told, actually the case of Pennsylvania for some short time towards the beginning of the last war, owing to some internal dissensions in the colony. But whether the fact were so or otherwise, the case is equally to be provided for by a competent sovereign power. But then this ought to be no ordinary power, nor ever used in the first instance. This is what I meant, when I have
said, at various times, that I consider the power of taxing in Parliament as an instrument of empire, and not as a means of supply.
Such, Sir, is my idea of the Constitution of the British Empire, as distinguished from the Constitution of Britain ; and on these grounds I think subordination and liberty may be sufficiently reconciled through the whole, - whether to serve a refining speculatist or a factious demagogue I know not, but enough surely for the ease and happiness of man.
Sir, whilst we held this happy course, we drew more from the colonies than all the impotent violence of despotism ever could extort from them. We did this abundantly in the last war; it has never been once denied ; and what reason have we to imagine that the colonies would not have proceeded in supplying government as liberally, if you had not stepped in and hindered them from contributing, by interrupting the channel in which their liberality flowed with so strong a course, — by attempting to take, instead of being satisfied to receive ? Sir William Temple says, that Holland has loaded itself with ten times the impositions which it revolted from Spain rather than submit to. He says true. Tyranny is a poor provider. It knows neither how to accumulate nor how to extract.
I charge, therefore, to this new and unfortunate system the loss not only of peace, of union, and of commerce, but even of revenue, which its friends are contending for. It is morally certain that we have lost at least a million of free grants since the peace. I think we have lost a great deal more; and that those who look for a revenue from the provinces never could have pursued, even in that light, a course more directly repugnant to their purposes.
Now, Sir, I trust I have shown, first on that narrow ground which the honorable gentleman measured, that you are like to lose nothing by complying with the motion, except what you have lost already. I have shown afterwards, that in time of peace you flourished in commerce, and, when war required it, had sufficient aid from the colonies, while you pursued your ancient policy; that you threw everything into confusion, when you made the Stamp Act; and that you restored everything to peace and order, when you repealed it. I have shown that the revival of the system of taxation has produced the very worst effects; and that the partial repeal has produced, not partial good, but universal evil. Let these considerations, founded on facts, not one of which can be denied, bring us back to our reason by the road of our experience.
I cannot, as I have said, answer for mixed measures: but surely this mixture of lenity would give the whole a better chance of success. once regain confidence, the way will be clear before you. Then you may enforce the Act of Navigation, when it ought to be enforced. You will yourselves open it, where it ought still further to be opened. Proceed in what you do, whatever you do, from policy, and not from rancor. Let us act like men, let us act like statesmen. Let us hold some sort of consistent conduct. It is agreed that a revenue is not to be had in America. If we lose the profit, let us get rid of the odium.
On this business of America, I confess I am serious, even to sadness. I have had but one opinion concerning it, since I sat, and before I sat in Parliament. The noble lord * will, as usual, probably,
* Lord North,
attribute the part taken by me and my friends in this business to a desire of getting his places. Let him enjoy this happy and original idea. If I deprived him of it, I should take away most of his wit, and all his argument. But I had rather bear the brunt of all his wit, and indeed blows much heavier, than stand answerable to God for embracing a system that tends to the destruction of some of the very best and fairest of His works. But I know the map of England as well as the noble lord, or as any other
person; and I know that the way I take is not the road to preferment. My excellent and honorable friend under me on the floor * has trod that road with great toil for upwards of twenty years together. He is not yet arrived at the noble lord's destination. However, the tracks of my worthy friend are those I have ever wished to follow; because I know they lead to honor. Long may we tread the same road together, whoever may accompany us, or whoever may laugh at us on our journey! I honestly and solemnly declare, I have in all seasons adhered to the system of 1766 for no other reason than that I think it laid deep in your truest interests, — and that, by limiting the exercise, it fixes on the firmest foundations a real, consistent, well-grounded authority in Parliament. Until you come back to that system, there will be no peace for England.
* Mr. Dowdeswell.