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union of communities, I can scarcely conceive anything more completely imprudent than for the head of the empire to insist that, if any privilege is pleaded against his will or his acts, [that] his whole authority is denied ; instantly to proclaim rebellion, to beat to arms, and to 5 put the offending provinces under the ban. Will not this, Sir, very soon teach the provinces to make no distinction on their part ?
Will it not teach them that the government against which a claim of liberty is tantamount to high treason is a government to which submission is 10 equivalent to slavery? It may not always be quite convenient to impress dependent communities with such an idea.
We are, indeed, in all disputes with the colonies, by the necessity of things, the judge. It is true, Sir. 15 But I confess that the character of judge in my own cause is a thing that frightens me. Instead of filling me with pride, I am exceedingly humbled by it. I cannot proceed with a stern, assured, judicial confidence, until I find myself in something more like a judicial character. 20 I must have these hesitations as long as I am compelled to recollect that, in my little reading upon such contests as these, the sense of mankind has at least as often decided against the superior as the subordinate power. Sir, let me add, too, that the opinion of my having some 25 abstract right in my favor would not put me much at my ease in passing sentence, unless I could be sure that there were no rights which, in their exercise under certain circumstances, were not the most odious of all wrongs and
the most vexatious of all injustice. Sir, these considerations have great weight with me, when I find things so circumstanced that I see the same party at once a civil litigant against me in point of right and a culprit before 5 me, while I sit as a criminal judge on acts of his, whose moral quality is to be decided upon the merits of that very litigation. Men are every now and then put, by the complexity of human affairs, into strange situations ;
but justice is the same, let the judge be in what situation 10 he will.
There is, Sir, also a circumstance which convinces me that this mode of criminal proceeding is not (at least in the present stage of our contest) altogether expedient;
which is nothing less than the conduct of those very 15 persons who have seemed to adopt that mode, by
lately declaring a rebellion in Massachusetts Bay, as they had formerly addressed to have traitors brought hither, under an act of Henry the Eighth, for trial. For
though rebellion is declared, it is not proceeded against 20 as such ; nor have any steps been taken towards the
apprehension or conviction of any individual offender, either on our late or our former address; but modes of public coercion have been adopted, and such as have
much more resemblance to a sort of qualified hostility 25 towards an independent power than the punishment of
rebellious subjects. All this seems rather inconsistent; but it shows how difficult it is to apply these juridical ideas to our present case.
In this situation, let us seriously and coolly ponder. What is it we have got by all our menaces, which have been many and ferocious ? What advantage have we derived from the penal laws we have passed, and which, for the time, have bee severe and numerous ? advances have we made towards our object, by the sending of a force which, by land and sea, is no contemptible strength ? Has the disorder abated ? Nothing less. When I see things in this situation, after such confident hopes, bold promises and active exertions, 10 I cannot for my life avoid a suspicion that the plan itself is not correctly right.
If, then, the removal of the causes of this spirit of American liberty be for the greater part, or rather entirely, impracticable; if the ideas of criminal process 15 be inapplicable, or, if applicable, are in the highest degree inexpedient; what way yet remains ? No way is open but the third and last, to comply with the American spirit as necessary; or, if you please, to submit to it as a necessary evil.
If we adopt this mode, if we mean to conciliate and concede, let us see of what nature the concession ought to be. To ascertain the nature of our concession, we must look at their complaint. The colonies complain that they have not the characteristic mark and seal of 25 British freedom. They complain that they are taxed in a Parliament in which they are not represented. If you mean to satisfy them at all, you must satisfy them with
regard to this complaint. If you mean to please any people, you must give them the boon which they ask, not what you may think better for them, but of a kind totally different. Such an act may be a wise regulation, 5. but it is no concession ; whereas our present theme is the mode of giving satisfaction.
Sir, I think you must perceive that I am resolved this day to have nothing at all to do with the question of
the right of taxation. Some gentlemen startle, but it 10 is true; I put it totally out of the question. It is less
than nothing in my consideration. I do not indeed wonder, nor will you, Sir, that gentlemen of profound learning are fond of displaying it on this profound subject.
But my consideration is narrow, confined, and wholly 15 limited to the policy of the question. I do not examine
whether the giving away a man's money be a power excepted and reserved out of the general trust of government, and how far all mankind, in all forms of polity,
are entitled to an exercise of that right by the charter of 20 Nature; or whether, on the contrary, a right of taxation
is necessarily involved in the general principle of legislation and inseparable from the ordinary supreme power. These are deep questions, where great names militate
against each other, where reason is perplexed, and an 25 appeal to authorities only thickens the confusion : for
high and reverend authorities lift up their heads on both sides, and there is no sure footing in the middle. This point is the great
1 Are startled.
I do not intend to be overwhelmed in that bog, though in such respectable company. The question with me is, 5 not whether you have a right to render your people miserable, but whether it is not your interest to make them happy. It is not what a lawyer tells me I may do, but what humanity, reason and justice tell me I ought to do. Is a politic act the worse for being a generous one? no concession proper but that which is made from your want of right to keep what you grant? Or does it lessen the grace or dignity of relaxing in the exercise of an odious claim, because you
evidence-room full of titles and your magazines stuffed with arms to enforce 15 them? What signify all those titles and all those arms? Of what avail are they, when the reason of the thing tells me that the assertion of my title is the loss of my suit, and that I could do nothing but wound myself by the use of my own weapons ?
Such is steadfastly my opinion of the absolute necessity of keeping up the concord of this empire by a unity of spirit, though in a diversity of operations, that if I were sure the colonists had at their leaving this country sealed a regular compact of servitude, that they had 25 solemnly abjured all the rights of citizens, that they had made a vow to renounce all ideas of liberty for them and their posterity to all generations; yet I should hold myself obliged to conform to the temper I found univer
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