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The Duke of Graston's Ministry had been succeeded by that of Lord North who ruled as agent for the king, and during the whole of his disastrous Ministry, from 1770 to 1782, the country suffered from that interferenc: of the king and the king's friends which Burke condemned in 1773 in his Thoughts on the Cause of the Present Discontents.
It was on the 19th of April 1774 that Burke made the famous speech on American Taxation which is the first piece in the present volume.
In 1774, at a meeting of the county of Fairfax, with George Washingion in the chair, it was resolved "that during our present difficulties and distress no slaves ought to be imported into any of the British colonies on this continent; and we take this opportunity of declaring our most earnest wishes to see an entire stop for ever put to such a wicked, cruel, and unnatural trade.
The Government at home met opposition by enactments that virtually deprived Massachusetts of its charter, and placed it under strict British rule. Virginia voted in May 1774 that an attack upon one colony was an attack upon all British America, and recommended a General Congress, which first met as the Continental Congress at Philadelphia on the 5th of September 1774. On the 20th of October it signed the agreement that established the American Association. On the day of the separation of this Congress, October 26th, the Congress of Massachusetts organized its militia, and began to prepare for the alterna:ive of forcible resistance. Other colonies followed the example.
In the month of the first meeting of the Continental Congress at Philadelphia there was a general eleciion in England, swayed by strong feeling against the colonists, and a large majority was returned of members pledged to a policy of coercion. Burke entered that Parliament as member for Bristol, then the second town in the kingdom ; and on the 22nd of March 1775 he laid before the House of Commons thirteen resolutions for reconcilement with America, and made the greatest of all his speeches, that on Conciliation with America, which is also contained in this volume. The resolutions were rejected by a vote on the first of 270 against 78.
On the 19th of April 1775 occurred, at Lexington and Concord, the first serious affray between British soldiers and colonial militia. The British were repulsed, and about three hundred were killed, wounded, or taken prisoners.
On the oth of May a new Congress assembled in Philadelphia ; and on the 15th of June George Washington received his commission as Commander-in-Chief of the Army of ihe United Colonies. Until after the rejection of a second petition of Congress in 1775, “ I never,” said John Jay, “ heard an American of any class or of any description express a wish for the independence of the colonies.” But the wish now was forced upon the colonists, and a Declaration of American Independence, having obtained the unanimous vote of all the colonies, was adopted on the 4th of July 1776. Finally, after a vain struggle, into which the mother country was misled, American Independence was obtained by treaties signed with the United States on the 3rd of September 1783.
H.M. May 1886
BURKE's Two SPEECHES
CONCILIATION WITH AMERICA.
SIR-I agree with the honourable gentleman who spoke last, that this subject is not new in this House. Very disagreeably to this House, very unfortunately to this nation, and to the peace and prosperity of this whole empire, no topic has been more familiar to us.
For nine long years, session after session, we have been lashed round and round this miserable circle of occasional arguments and temporary expedients. I am sure our heads must turn, and our stomachs nauseate with them. We have had them in every shape ; we have looked at them in every point of view. Invention is exhausted ; reason is fatigued ; experience has given judgment; but obstinacy is not yet conquered.
The honourable gentleman has made endeavour more to diversify the form of this disgusting argument. He has thrown out a speech
composed almost entirely of challenges. Challenges are serious things; and as he is a man of prudence as weli as resolution, I daresay he has very well weighed those challenges before he delivered them. I had long the happiness to sit at the same side of the House, and to agree with the honourable gentleman on all the American questions. My sentiments, I am sure, are well known to him ; and I thought I had been perfectly acquainted with his. Though I find myself mistaken, he will still permit me to use the privilege of an old friendship; he will permit me to apply myself to the House under the sanction of his authority; and, on the various grounds he has measured out, to submit to you the poor opinions which I have formed upon a matter of importance enough to demand the fullest consideration I could bestow upon it.
He has stated to the House two grounds of deliberation : one narrow and simple, and merely confined to the question 011. your paper ; the other more large and more complicated; comprehending the whole series of the parliamentary proceedings with regard to America, their causes, and their consequences. With regard to the latter ground, he states it as useless, and thinks it may be even dangerous, to enter into so extensive a field of inquiry. Yet, to my surprise, he had hardly laid down this restrictive proposition, to which his authority would have given so much weight, when directly, and with the same authority, he condemns it; and declares it absolutely necessary to enter into the most ample historical detail. His zeal has thrown him a little out of his usual accuracy. In this perplexity what shall we do, Sir, who are willing to submit to the law he gives us ? He has reprobated in one part of his speech the rule he had laid down for debate in the other; and, after narrowing the ground for all those who are to speak after him, he takes an excursion himself, as unbounded as the subject and the extent of his great abilities,
Sir, when I cannot obey all his laws, I will do the best I can. I will endeavour to obey such of them as have the sanction of his example ; and to stick to that rule, which, though not consistent with the other, is the most rational. He was certainly in the right when he took the matter largely. I cannot prevail on myself to agree with him in his censure of his own conduct. It is not, he will give me leave to say, either useless or dangerous. He asserts that retrospect is not wise; and the proper, the only proper, subject of inquiry, is “not how we got into this difficulty, but how we are to get out of it." In other words, we are, according to him, to consult our invention and to reject our experience. The mode of deliberation he recommends is diametrically opposite to every rule of reason and every principle of good sense established amongst mankind. For that sense and that reason I have always understood absolutely to prescribe, whenever we are involved in difficulties from the measures we have pursued, that we should take a strict review of those measures, in order to correct our errors, if they should be corrigible; or at least to avoid a dull uniformity in mischief, and the unpitied calamity of being repeatedly caught in the same snare.
Sir, I will freely follow the honourable gentleman in his historical discussion, without the least management for men or measures, further than as they shall seem to me to deserve it. But before I go into that large consideration, because I would omit nothing that can give the House satisfaction, I wish to tread the narrow ground to which alone the honourable gentleman, in one part of his speech, has so strictly confined us.
He desires to know, whether, if we were to repeal this tax, agreeably to the proposition of the honourable gentleman who made the motion, the Americans would not take post on this concession, in order to make a new attack on the next body of taxes; and whether they would not call for a repeal of the duty on wine as loudly as they do now for the repeal of the duty on tea ? Sir, I can give no security on this subject. But I will do all that I can, and all that can be fairly demanded. To the experience which the honourable gentleman reprobates in one instant, and reverts to in the next; to that experience, without the least wavering or hesitation on my part, I