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analogy; without example of our ancestors, or root in the Constitution. It is neither regular parliamentary taxation nor colony grant. “Experimentum in corpore vili ” is a good rule, which will ever make me adverse to any trial of experiments on what is most certainly the most valuable of all subjects, the peace of this Empire.
Secondly, it is an experiment which must be fatal, in the end, to our Constitution. For what is it but a scheme for taxing the colonies in the ante-chamber of the noble Lord and his successors ? To settle the quotas and proportions in this House is clearly impossible. You, Sir, may flatter yourself you shall sit a state auctioneer with your hammer in your hand, and knock down to each colony as it bids. But to settle (on the plan laid down by the noble Lord) the true proportional payments for four or five-and-twenty governments according to the absolute and the relative wealth of each, and according to the British proportion of wealth and burden, is a wild and chimerical notion. This new taxation must therefore come in by the back door of the Constitution. Each quota must be brought to this House ready formed; you can neither add nor alter. You must register it. You can do nothing farther. For on what grounds can you deliberate, either before or after the proposition? You cannot hear the counsel for all these provinces, quarrelling each on its own quantity of payment, and its proportion to others. If you should attempt it, the committee of provincial ways and means, or by whatever other name it will delight to be called, must swallow up all the time of Parliament.
Thirdly, it does not give satisfaction to the complaint of the colonies. They complain that they are taxed without their consent; you answer, that you will fix the sum at which they shall be taxed. That is, you give them the very grievance for the remedy. You tell them, indeed, that you will leave the mode to themselves. I really beg pardon. It gives me pain to mention it; but you must be sensible that you will not perform this part of the contract. For, suppose the colonies were to lay the duties which furnished their contingents upon the importation of your manufactures? You know you would never suffer such a tax to be laid. You know, too, that you would not suffer many other modes of taxation; so that when you come to explain yourself, it will be found that you will
neither leave to themselves the quantum nor the mode, nor, indeed, anything. The whole is delusion from one end to the other.
Fourthly, this method of ransom by auction, unless it be universally accepted, will plunge you into great and inextricable difficulties. In what year of our Lord are the proportions of payments to be settled, to say nothing of the impossibility, that colony agents should have general powers of taxing the colonies at their discretion ? Consider, I implore you, that the communication by special messages, and orders between these agents and their constituents on each variation of the case, when the parties come to contend together, and to dispute on their relative proportions, will be a matter of delay, perplexity, and confusion, that never can have an end.
If all the colonies do not appear at the outcry, what is the condition of those assemblies, who offer, by themselves or their agents, to tax themselves up to your ideas of their proportion ? The refractory colonies who refuse all composition will remain taxed only to your old impositions, which, however grievous in principle, or trifling as to production. The obedient colonies in this scheme are heavily taxed; the refractory remain unburdened. What will you do? Will you lay new and heavier taxes by Parliament on the disobedient ? Pray consider in what way you can do it. You are perfectly convinced that in the way of taxing you can do nothing but at the ports. Now suppose it is Virginia that refuses to appear at your auction, while Maryland and North Carolina bid handsomely for their ransom, and are taxed to your quota. How will you put these colonies on a par? Will you tax the tobacco of Virginia ? If you do, you give its death wound to your English revenue at home, and to one of the very greatest articles of your own foreign trade. If you tax the import of that rebellious colony, what do you tax but your own manufactures, or the goods of some other obedient and already well-taxed colony ? Who has said one word on this labyrinth of detail, which bewilders you more and more as you enter into it ? Who has presented, who can present you with a clew to lead you out of it ? I think, Sir, it is impossible that you should not recollect that the colony bounds are so implicated in one another (you know it by your own experiments in the bill for prohibiting the New England fishery) that you can lay no possible restraints on almost any
of them which may not be presently eluded, if you do not confound the innocent with the guilty, and burden those whom upon every principle, you ought to exonerate. He must be grossly ignorant of America who thinks that, without falling into this confusion of all rules of equity and policy, you can restrain any single colony, especially Virginia and Maryland, the central and most important of them all.
Let it also be considered, that either in the present confusion you settle a permanent contingent which will and must be trifling, and then you have no effectual revenue ; or, you change the quota at every exigency, and then on every new repartition you will have a new quarrel.
Reflect, besides, that when you have fixed a quota for every colony, you have not provided for prompt and punctual payment. Suppose one, two, five, ten years' arrears. You cannot issue a Treasury Extent against the failing colony. You must make new Boston Port Bills, new restraining laws, new acts for dragging men to England for trial. You must send out new fleets, new armies. All is to begin again. From this day forward the Empire is never to know an hour's tranquillity. An intestine fire will be kept alive in the bowels of the colonies, which one time or another must consume this whole Empire. I allow, indeed, that the Empire of Germany raises her revenue and her troops by quotas and contingents; but the revenue of the Empire, and the army of the Empire, is the worst revenue and the worst army in the world.
Instead of a standing revenue, you will therefore have a perpetual quarrel. Indeed, the noble Lord who proposed this project of a ransom by auction, seemed himself to be of that opinion. His project was rather designed for breaking the union of the colonies than for establishing a revenue. He confessed that he apprehended that his proposal would not be to their taste. I say this scheme of disunion seems to be at the bottom of the project; for I will not suspect that the noble Lord meant nothing but merely to delude the nation by an airy phantom which he never intended to realise. But, whatever his views may be, as I propose the peace and union of the colonies as the very foundation of my plan, it cannot accord with one whose foundation is perpetual discord.
Compare the two. This I offer to give you is plain and simple. The other, full of perplexed and intricate mazes. This is
mild ; that, harsh. This is formed by experience effectual for its purposes; the other is a new project. This is universal; the other, calculated for certain colonies only. This is immediate in its conciliatory operation; the other, remote, contingent, full of hazard. Mine is what becomes the dignity of a ruling people ; gratuitous, unconditional, and not held out as matter of bargain and sale. I have done my duty in proposing it to you. I have indeed tired you by a long discourse ; but this is the misfortune of those to whose influence nothing will be conceded, and who must win every inch of their ground by argument. You have heard me with goodness. May you decide with wisdom! For my part, I feel my mind greatly disburdened by what I have done to-day. I have been the less fearful of trying your patience, because on this subject I mean to spare it altogether in future. I have this comfort, that in every stage of the American affairs, I have steadily opposed the measures that have produced the confusion, and may bring on the destruction of this Empire. I now go so far as to risk a proposal of my own. If I cannot give peace to my country, I give it to my conscience.
But what, says the financier, is peace to us without money? Your plan gives us no revenue. No! But it does—for it secures to the subject the power of REFUSAL—the first of all revenues. Experience is a cheat, and fact a liar, if this power in the subject of proportioning his grant, or of not granting at all, has not been found the richest mine of revenue ever discovered by the skill or by the fortune of man. It does not, indeed, vote you £152,750 11s. 2 d., nor any other paltry limited sum, but it gives the strong box itself, the fund, the bank, from whence only revenues can arise among a people sensible of freedom : Posita luditur arca.
Cannot you in England; cannot you at this time of day ; cannot you-a House of Commons-trust to the principle which has raised so mighty a revenue, and accumulated a debt of near one hundred and forty millions in this country ? Is this principle to be true in England and false everywhere else? Is it not true in Ireland ? Has it not hitherto been true in the colonies? Why should you presume, that in any country, a body duly constituted for any functions will neglect to perform its duty, and abdicate its trust ? Such a presumption would go against all government in all modes. But, in
truth, this dread of penury of supply, from a free assembly, has no foundation in nature. For first observe, that, besides the desire, which all men have naturally, of supporting the honour of their own government, that sense of dignity, and that security of property, which ever attends freedom, has a tendency to increase the stock of the free community. Most may be taken where most is accumulated. And what is the soil or climate where experience has not uniformly proved that the voluntary flow of heaped-up plenty, bursting from the weight of its own rich luxuriance, has ever run with a more copious stream of revenue, than could be squeezed from the dry husks of oppressed indigence, by the straining of all the political machinery in the world.
Next, we know that parties must ever exist in a free country. We know, too, that the emulations of such parties, their contradictions, their reciprocal necessities, their hopes, and their fears, must send them all in their turns to him that holds the balance of the State. The parties are the gamesters, but government keeps the table, and is sure to be the winner in the end. When this game is played, I really think it is more to be feared that the people will be exhausted, than that government will not be supplied ; whereas, whatever is got by acts of absolute power, ill obeyed, because odious, or by contracts ill kept, because constrained, will be narrow, feeble, uncertain, and precarious.
“Ease would retract Vows made in pain, as violent and void.” I, for one, protest against compounding our demands. I declare against compounding, for a poor limited sum, the immense, ever-growing, eternal debt which is due to generous government for protected freedom. And so may I speed in the great object I propose to you, as I think it would not only be an act of injustice, but would be the worst economy in the world, to compel the colonies to a sum certain, either in the way of ransom or in the way of compulsory compact.
But to clear up my ideas on this subject; a revenue from America transmitted hither-do not delude yourselves--you never can receive it—no, not a shilling. We have experienced that from remote countries: it is not to be expected. If, when you attempted to extract revenue from Bengal, you were obliged to return in loan what you had taken in imposition,