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shall at length perform our duty as representatives of the people ; and by refusing to ratify this contract, show, that however the interests of Hanover have been preferred by the ministers, the Parliament pays no regard but to the interests of Great Britain.
On the Right to Tax America 1 I CAME to town but to-day, I was a stranger to the tenor of his Majesty's speech and the proposed address, till I heard them read in this House. Unconnected and unconsulted, I have not the means of information; I am fearful of offending through mistake, and therefore beg to be indulged with a second reading of the proposed address. The address being read, Mr. Pitt went on. He commended the King's speech, approved of the address in answer, as it decided nothing, every gentleman being left at perfect liberty to take such a part concerning America as he might afterwards see fit. One word only he could not approve of, an early is a word that does not belong to the notice the ministry have given to Parliament of the troubles in America. In a matter of such importance, the communication ought to have been immediate ; I speak not with respect of parties; I stand up in this place single and unconnected. As to the late ministry (turning himself to Mr. Grenville, who sat within one of him), every capital measure they have taken has been entirely wrong!
As to the present gentlemen, to those at least whom I have in my eye (looking at the bench where Mr. Conway sat with the Lords of the Treasury), I have no objection; I have never been made a sacrifice by any of them. Their characters are fair ; and I am always glad when men of fair character engage in his Majesty's service. Some of them have done me the honour to ask my opinion before they would engage. These will do me the justice to own, I advised them to engage, but notwithstanding—I love to be explicit-I cannot give them my confidence ; pardon me, gentlemen (bowing to the Ministry), confidence is a plant of slow growth in an aged bosom, youth is the season of credulity ; by comparing events with each
1 Pitt held that Parliament had not even a legal right to tax the American Colonies. In this respect he differed from Burke, as well as from Grenville.
other, reasoning from effects to causes, methinks I plainly discover the traces of an over-ruling influence.
There is a clause in the act of settlement to oblige every minister to sign his name to the advice which he gives his Sovereign. Would it were observed !-I have had the honour to serve the Crown, and if I could have submitted to influence I might have still continued to serve; but I would not have been responsible for others.— I have no local attachments; it is indifferent to me whether a man is rocked in his cradle on this side or that side of the Tweed, I sought for merit wherever it was to be found. It is my boast that I was the first minister who looked for it, and I found it in the mountains of the North. I called it forth, and drew it into yoår service, a hardy and intrepid race of men ! Men, who, when left by your jealousy became a prey to the artifices of your enemies, and had gone nigh to have overturned the State in the war before the last. These men in the last war were brought to combat on your side; they served with fidelity, as they fought with valour, and conquered for you in every part of the world ; detested be the national reflections against them ! they are unjust, groundless, illiberal, unmanly.—When I ceased to serve his Majesty as a minister, it was not the country of the man by which I was moved—but the man of that country wanted wisdom and held principles incompatible with freedom.
It is a long time, Mr. Speaker, since I have attended in Parliament. When the resolution was taken in the House to tax America, I was ill in bed. If I could have endured to have been carried in my bed, so great was the agitation of my mind for the consequences, I would have solicited some kind hand to have laid me down on this floor, to have borne my testimony against it! It is now an Act that has passed—I would speak with decency of every Act of this House, but I must beg the indulgence of the House to speak of it with freedom.
I hope a day may be soon appointed to consider the state of the nation with respect to America. I hope gentlemen will come to this debate with all the temper and impartiality that his Majesty recommends, and the importance of the subject requires. A subject of greater importance than ever engaged the attention of this House! that subject only excepted, when, near a century ago, it was the question whether you yourselves were to be bound or free. In the meantime, as I cannot
depend upon health for any future day, such is the nature of my infirmities, I will beg to say a few words at present, leaving the justice, the equity, the policy, the expediency of the Act to another time. I will only speak to one point, a point which seems not to have been generally understood—I mean to the right. Some gentlemen (alluding to Mr. Nugent), seem to have considered it as a point of honour. If gentlemen consider it in that light, they leave all measures of right and wrong to follow a delusion that may lead to destruction. It is my opinion, that this Kingdom has no right to lay a tax upon the colonies. At the same time I assert the authority of this Kingdom over the colonies to be sovereign and supreme in every circumstance of government and legislation whatsoever.They are the subjects of this Kingdom, equally entitled with yourselves to all the natural rights of mankind and the peculiar privileges of Englishmen: equally bound by its laws, and equally participating in the constitution of this free country. The Americans are the sons, not the bastards, of England. Taxation is no part of the governing or legislative power. The taxes are a voluntary gift and grant of the Commons alone. In legislation the three estates of the realm are alike concerned, but the concurrence of the Peers and the Crown to a tax is only necessary to close with the form of a law. The gift and grant is of the Commons alone. In ancient days, the Crown, the Barons, and the Clergy possessed the lands. In those days, the Barons and the Clergy gave and granted to the Crown. They gave and granted what was their own. At present since the discovery of America, and other circumstances permitting, the Commons are become the proprietors of the land. The Church (God bless it !) has but a pittance. The property of the Lords, compared with that of the Commons, is as a drop of water in the ocean ; and this House represents those Commons, the proprietors of the lands, and those proprietors virtually represent the rest of the inhabitants. When, therefore, in the House we give and grant, we give and grant what is our own. But in an American tax what do we do? We, your Majesty's Commons for Great Britain, give and grant to your Majesty,—what? Our own property? No! We give and grant to your Majesty the property of your Majesty's Commons in America. It is an absurdity in terms.
The distinction between legislation and taxation is essentially necessary to liberty. The Crown, the Peers, are equally legislative powers with the Commons. If taxation be a part of simple legislation, the Crown, the Peers, have rights in taxation as well as yourselves; rights which they claim, which they will exercise, whenever the principle can be supported by power.
There is an idea in some, that the colonies are virtually represented in this House. I would fain know by whom an American is represented here? Is he represented by any knight of the shire, in any county in this Kingdom ? Would to God that respectable representation was augmented to a greater number ! or will you tell him that he is represented by any representative of a borough ?-a borough which perhaps no man ever saw. This is what is called the rotten part of the constitution. It cannot continue a century-if it does not drop, it must be amputated. The idea of a virtual representation of America in this House is the most contemptible idea that ever entered into the head of man-it does not deserve a serious refutation.
The Commons of America, represented in their several assemblies, have ever been in possession of the exercise of this their constitutional right, of giving and granting their own money. They would have been slaves if they had not enjoyed it. At the same time this Kingdom, as the supreme governing and legislative power, has always bound the colonies by her laws, by her regulations and restrictions in trade, in navigation, in manufactures—in everything except that of taking their money out of their pockets without their consent.
Here I would draw the line, “ Ultra quam citraque nequit consistere rectum.”
No great orator has produced so much effect upon posterity as Burke in proportion to the influence of his speeches when they were delivered. Burke habitually looked beyond the audience he was addressing and the circumstances of the time. His business was the application of principles to the problems of the day. He was never satisfied with the second best. He believed that the British Constitution, rightly interpreted, would solve any political difficulty which presented itself, if the remedial measures were applied resolutely, and in time. That the Constitution itself required altering he did not admit. He held that by a process of natural expansion it would comprehend new situations, and provide for fresh developments. He did not, for instance, doubt that Parliament had a right to tax the colonies. He only maintained that, as they were not represented there, it was unjust and improper to tax them. Acknowledging that legislation included taxation, he argued that only the House of Commons could tax the people of Great Britain, and that it could only tax them because they elected it. Burke always maintained that he was practical and businesslike in his views. He held that those were the most practical who clung most firmly to the general principles which determined the functions of government. It would not be quite true to say that Burke's speeches were spoken essays. They are different in form from his political pamphlets, such as the Thoughts on the Cause of the Present Discontents. But substantially they are similar. Burke's mind was so constituted that it took in with equal readiness the most abstract proposition and the most particular detail. If he called upon the House of Commons for an effort of mind, and a strain of attention, which few members were able or willing to make or undergo, he undoubtedly laid the groundwork upon which the