Page:American Archives, Series 4, Volume 1.djvu/870
LORD NORTH'S CONCILIATORY RESOLUTION.
which were presented to the House by the Lord North, upon the 19th and 31st days of January last, and the 1st and 15th days of this instant) February, by his Majesty's command,
Ordered, That the Report be received upon Monday morning next.
Monday, February 27, 1775.
Sir Charles Whitworth, according to order, reported from the Committee of the Whole House, to whom it was referred to consider further of the several Papers which were presented to the House by the Lord North, upon the 19th and 31st days of January last, and 1st and 15th days of this instant, February, by his Majesty's command, the Resolution which the Committee had directed him to report to the House; which he read in his place, and afterwards delivered in at the Clerk's table, where the same was read, and is as followeth, viz:
Resolved, That it is the opinion of this Committee, that when the Governour, Council, and Assembly, or General Court, of any of his Majesty's Provinces or Colonies in America, shall propose to make provision, according to the condition, circumstances, and situation of such Province or Colony, for contributing their proportion to the common defence, (such proportion to be raised under the authority of the General Court, or General Assembly of such Province or Colony, and disposable by Parliament,) and shall engage to make provision also for the support of the Civil Government, and the Administration of Justice, in such Province or Colony, it will be proper if such proposal shall be approved by his Majesty and the two Houses of Parliament, and for so long as such provision shall be made accordingly, to forbear, in respect of such Province or Colony, to levy any Duty, Tax, or Assessment, or to impose any farther Duty, Tax, or Assessment, except only such Duties as it may be expedient to continue to levy or to impose for the regulation of commerce; the nett produce of the duties last mentioned to be carried to the account of such Province or Colony respectively.
The said Resolution being read a second time,
Lord North moved that the House do agree with the Committee therein.
Mr. Scott, after condemning the whole system of Colony administration for some years back, said, that in such a state of confusion, uncertainty, and political versatility, he was for agreeing to the Resolution, as a basis to erect something on hereafter, which might be the means of producing a permanent and comprehensive plan of reconciliation. Mr. Ackland. I hope the House will pardon me, if 1 beg their attention a few moments, and but for a few moments; for I should make a very ill return to the favourable indulgence shewn me on a former day, if I presumed to trouble it long on this. Uninformed, unacquainted, unexpecting a proposition of so extraordinary a nature, as that laid before us by the noble Lord on that day, I felt myself forced from a seat of silence, which perhaps would then have, and might still better become me; but which I should have thought, under such circumstances, it would have been shameful to have continued. After having maturely considered the Resolution, whether on the principles of accommodation with American demands, or of enforcing the authority of this country, I think it nugatory and humiliating. Does the noble Lord really think, that a people who deny all right of taxation, will be satisfied with having the mode of taxation left to them? Does he not think the Americans will feel themselves as effectually put under contribution as any town or country ever yet was, in any state of open war? Will he presume to call that an amicable plan, which asks for contribution at the mouth of your cannon and point of your bayonets? Sir, by holding out these terms of accommodation, ridiculous in themselves, and nugatory in their effect, by making the first offer to treat with those men you have just declared rebels, you will lower the dignity of this country; you will bring your Government into contempt, and, by the insult of the offer, irritate, not appease, that spirit which you are now about publickly to declare to the whole world, you tremble to encounter. This, sir, I am confident, is the light the Americans will see it in; and these are the principles on which they are expected to accommodate. Before I give my assent to any measure, I ought to inform myself what is meant to be founded on that measure, and what consequences are meant to be drawn from it; for, by these means alone I can judge of the propriety or impropriety of the measure. 1 do not doubt, therefore, that the noble Lord will answer me with as much candour, as I shall ask with diffidence. Now, the words I would wish to draw the attention of the House to, are these: " according to the condition, circumstances, and situation " of such Province for contributing their proportion, shall " be approved." Sir, the questions I would ask, are, is this proportion to be annually offered by the Colonies, and annually refused or accepted by Parliament? Or is it in the first instance to be settled for a certain period of years, or is it to be settled forever? These questions demand a serious answer; in the first case, you perpetuate the seeds of discord, and lay the foundation of a dispute that can never end, but in a total convulsion of the British Empire. In the second, adopting a temporary expedient, you withdraw your own shoulders from a burthen you have no resolution to bear, leaving the great point in dispute as unsettled as you found it, leaving it to arise at that fixed period whenever that period shall arrive, to be the cause of new quarrels, and fresh bloodshed. If you settle it forever, do consider what a miserable bargain you are contending for. The Americans are supposed to double in twenty years; it is but reasonable to suppose, that their wealth and opulence will increase in proportion; that, therefore, what would be a reasonable proportion now, will, in a few years, become comparatively with their increased wealth, a miserable pittance. I must here take notice of an argument the noble Lord has enforced more than once with great weight; it is, that these terms are such as should be offered, after the most complete victory. For the sake of the argument, I will agree with the noble Lord, and therefore conclude, that they are improper to offer before the victory. That, sir, which is generosity, which is magnanimity after victory, is timidity and foul disgrace before it. There may be situations in which states may be found, where they cannot, without certain ruin, acquiesce even in just claims; there are situations too, in which states may grant more than is asked, and give more than is desired, with honour, security and advantage. The first of these situations precede great commotions; the second succeed complete victory. I remember, sir, the Romans, in a war they had with the Italian states, granted them when conquered, those privileges which, with a firmness peculiar to their Nation, with a firmness that led them to universal empire, they haughtily refused them before their contest. I will not take upon me to say what confidence the people reposed in Administration before, but I will take upon me to say, that whatever it might be, it is now entirely done away; they no longer expect to find firmness, resolution, and unanimity in the Councils of the King's servants; that they have seen them weak, irresolute, disunanimous. For the reception these propositions met within these walls, I will appeal to the unequivocal effects they had at their first opening, on the Members of this House. I will recall to the noble Lord's memory, the feelings he must have had during those awful moments in which the common sense of the House stood amazed at the propositions that were held out to her, when uncertainty, surprise, distraction, were seated on every countenance, when the doctrine held out to us, was so new and unheard of, so contrary to every principle we had been thought to adopt, that no man could guess at the opinion of his neighbour, when those, who had relied on that firmness, which the noble Lord had so often and so publickly pledged, turned pale with shame and disappointment, when within the space of a few awful moments, the dignity of Government and the honour of this country, were given up forever. That this was the immediate effect, I believe every gentleman who hears me, and was present on that very extraordinary day, must admit. I have expressed myself warmly. I felt, and do still feel my disappointment warmly. I estimated the noble Lord's publick wisdom, prudence, and above all. his political resolution, at as high a rate as I honoured, and do still honour, those private virtues which adorn his character, and which shine illustriously pure amidst a licentious and a dissipated age.