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SPEECH ON CONCILIATION WITH

AMERICA

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 5 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 by which we had passed sentence on the trade and sustenance of America is to be returned to us from the other 10 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 15 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

1

Pending.

2 Result.

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 warnsing 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 of a 10 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 myseif

a partaker in a very high trust; and having no sort of 15 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 gen20 eral 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 be

ing blown about by every wind of fashionable doctrine. 25 I really did not think it safe or manly to have fresh prin

ciples to seek upon every fresh mail which should arrive from America. At that period I had the fortune to find myself in per1 Requiring care or tact.

2 Concentrate.

fect 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. Whether this be owing to an 5 obstinate perseverance in error, or to a religious ? adherence to what appears to me truth and reason, it is in your equity to judge.

Sir, Parliament, having an enlarged view of objects, made, during this interval, more frequent changes in 10 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, 15

that under them the state of America has been kept in continual agitation. 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 20 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 25 session. About that time a worthy member 4 of great parliamentary experience, who in the year 1766 filled the 1 Conscientious.

2 Impartiality. 8 Disease,

4 Rose Fuller,

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 pass

that our former methods of proceeding in the House would be no 5 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 10 want of system, would be taken as an occasion of charg

ing 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 irreso

lute. The public, he said, would not have patience to 15 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 20 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 25 other gentlemen. No man was, indeed, ever better dis

posed or worse qualified for such an undertaking than myself. Though I gave so far into 3 his opinion that I immediately threw my thoughts into a sort of parliamen

1 Arraigned. 2 Plan, outline. 8 Acquiesced in.

tary 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, s 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 10 no very exalted opinion of the virtue of paper : government, 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 alien- 15 ation of our colonies, I confess iny 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 20 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 under- 25 standing. Struggling a good while with these thoughts,

1 Give expression to.
2 With injury to the reputation of those who make them.
3 Agreed upon, but not carried into effect; hence, theoretical.

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