Imatges de pÓgina

to see in them the real cause of friction. Burke (ibid., 507-10) asserts that the trade laws, under which the duty on tea was imposed, "are still in many ways of great use to us. They do confine, and they do greatly narrow the market for the Americans." Chatham upheld the present system without qualification. Said he, “if the views of America were ultimately pointed to the defeating of the Act of Navigation, and the other Regulating Acts, so wisely framed and calculated for that reciprocity of interests, so essentially necessary to the grandeur and prosperity of the whole Empire

no person present, however zealous, would be readier than himself to crush any attempt of that nature in the first instance." (Ibid., 165.)

Pownall, as usual, with the knowledge born of experience in America, went to the heart of the whole thing. He said, “There will always be a quarrel until the regulations and restrictions under which the whole of the American trade is carried on for the future are settled by compact," and a settlement of their constitutions on the lines of the Union of England and Scotland.

I do not venture to suggest whether, at that time, when the monopoly of trade enforced by Navigation Acts still obtained as the rule over all European nations, though daily more and more endangered by the rising theories of freedom, it would have been in the power of the wisest men of the day to devise a system of Imperial preference which could have satisfied America, Ireland, the East and West Indies and Africa, and at the same time have been acceptable to the merchants and manufacturers of the mother country. Yet that was the issue, an issue put to one side by the opposition.

They insisted, though internal taxation had been given up after the Repeal of the Stamp Act, that No Taxation without Representation was the issue, and by pamphlets and by speeches in and out of Parliament they encouraged the Americans to extend their opposition to taxation to the revenue laws necessary for the enforcement of the Navigation Acts, taking advantage of the petitions from the various bodies of merchants hit by the interruption of the trade with the colonies, though Burke admits that the Courts of Admiralty were one of the capital securities of the Act of Navigation. This theme was handled by the demagogues with the assistance of Burke, Chatham and others to great advantage. It may be dismissed with the pithy remark of Governor Johnstone (P.H., XVIII., 63) that "the various privileges which subsist in every free state are hardly to be determined by any reasoning a priori. Can any position appear more ridiculous to those who maintain the doctrine of virtual representation than that a borough should send two members to Parliament without house or inhabitant?" e.g., William Pitt and Old Sarum, in contrast to the American freeholder and his manhood suffrage. As soon, in fact, as one leaves the exuberant verbosity of theory and comes down to the facts of human nature, the absurdity of the position is evident. Burke admits (ibid., 526) that “it is a mistake to imagine that mankind follows up practically any speculative principle, either of government or of freedom as far as it will go in argument or logical illation. All government, indeed every human benefit and enjoyment, every virtue and every prudent act, is founded on compromise and barter.”

Lord North had made proposals for conciliation, moderate and accepted by the House, not to lay any further duty, tax or assessment on the colonies, if they would undertake to make their own grants for the support of the civil government and for justice. But Burke condemns this compromise and barter, saying, “ I cannot admit that proposition of ransom by auction, because it is a mere project”; and he encourages the Americans to turn it down. In fact, whatever the motives of the opposition might be, of which we are not competent to judge, they obstructed by every means in their power the efforts of Lord North's government to arrive at a settlement.

Instead of supporting the very great majority of British people in the effort to have the laws obeyed and, if necessary or possible, modified, they laboured, and to a great extent succeeded with the help of the American demagogues, in persuading the colonists by a free use of the words “ liberty,"

tyranny," and so forth, that the mother country was plotting to deprive them of freedom.

Great Britain," writes Washington on March 1st, 1778, meant, as Lord Camden, in his late speech in Parliament, clearly and explicitly declared, to drive America into rebellion that her own purposes might be more fully answered by it.” When Lord North's Conciliation Bill reaches him in April, 1778, he writes, “It is certainly founded on principles of the most wicked diabolical baseness, and meant to poison the minds of the people and detach the wavering, at least, from our cause.” If you wonder at a commonsense soldier such as Washington writing such stuff as this, remember always that the Americans had been for years encouraged in such views by the Whig opposition. Chatham, when the American colonies rebelled openly, rejoiced in their resort to violence. When the Irish very naturally insisted that any revision of the Navigation Acts should be extended to them, entered into nonimportation agreements, and, by means of their Volunteer Associations, forced the Lord Lieutenant to issue arms, Fox followed Chatham in his approval. “I approve,” he said, “of the Irish Associations, of the manly determination which, in the last resort, flies to arms.” The Parliamentary History contains pages

of such sentiments from the orators of the opposition. Governor Penn, writing from Philadelphia in September, 1774, says, “ They persuade themselves there is a formed design to enslave America.” Mr. Hartley, putting forward his resolutions, supposes that the action of the ministers was “to enable the Crown to support an arbitrary military, nay even a Popish, government” (P.H. XVIII., 560). Of the indulgence shown to the Roman Catholics in Quebec, Walpole wrote, “Indeed it was evident that the Court was preparing a Catholic army to keep the colonies in as great subjection as they had been when Canada had been in the hands of the French." Chatham said of this, "the mask was now thrown off and arbitrary power openly aimed at.” In July, 1775, a Committee of the Congress at Philadelphia drew up a declaration of the causes and necessity of taking up arms, in which they accuse the British Government; “stimulated by an inordinate passion for a power not only unjustifiable " etc., etc., of a “cruel and impolitic purpose of enslaving these colonies by violence.”

In fact, the Whigs, who by force, fraud and treason brought about the Revolution of 1688, had ever since, under foreign kings accustomed to the continental military autocracy, lived in constant dread that by others' violence it would be extended to these islands. So long as such kings merely plundered the islands for their German mistresses and followers, the Whigs made no objection. But when a young king came who gloried in the name of Briton, and refused to bend to the yoke of the Whig bureaucracy, they were seized with a baseless panic continued for many years from fear that he was aiming at arbitrary power and its associate popery, and intended by tyranny in America to enchain Great Britain. How much was genuine love of freedom, how much sheer ignorance, how much politics, is immaterial. After all it was not thirty years since they had been frightened almost out of their senses by a few barelegged Highlanders.

On the other hand, Lord Nugent's proposals for freedom of trade for Ireland had to be withdrawn or whittled down on account of the fierce opposition of the British manufacturers.

ii. George III., Lord North and the Whigs.-Lord North had to bear the encouragement given by this opposition in Britain to the colonies, and that of demagogues in America, of whom Ramsay says that there might have been an easy accommodation of the Stamp Act trouble“ but for the jealousies created by the disappointed lawyers.” He had also to meet the views as far as possible of the British manufacturers and traders, and support the execution of the Navigation Acts, until such time as the nation desired that it should be altered. It was a very difficult position, and one from which he evidently earnestly wished to be relieved. He had from the first been distrustful of the war, and anxious to use every path to peace.

Speaking on December 3, 1777, on the news from Saratoga, he owned he had been dragged to his place against his will; a place which while in possession, however disagreeable, he would support to the best of his power (P.H. XIX., 541). It was his duty to voice the nation, and he did it. It can hardly be counted as blameworthy that the King, having an honest and capable minister, refused to release him, and accept in his place the small minority of Whigs who spoke only for the revolted colonies. It was for the King, as head of the executive, to carry out the wishes of the nation until loss and decay of trade persuaded them to change their minds. His own views are well expressed in a letter to Lord North of June 11, 1779, as follows :

“I rather wish to convey my sentiments to Lord North on a very serious subject on paper, as it will enable him to recur to this when he wants to know my ideas on the subject.

I should think it the greatest instance among the many I have met with of ingratitude and injustice, if it could be supposed that any man in my dominion more ardently desired the restoration of peace and solid happiness in every part of this Empire than I do: there is no personal sacrifice I could not readily yield for so desirable an object; but at the same time, no inclination to get out of the present difficulties, which certainly keep my mind very far from a state of ease, can incline me to enter into what I look upon as the destruction of the Empire. I have heard Lord North frequently drop that the advantages to be gained by this contest could never repay the expense : I own that, let any war be ever so successful, if persons will sit down and weigh the expenses, they will find, as in the last, that it has impoverished the state, enriched individuals, and perhaps raised the name only of the conquerors; but this is only weighing such events in the scale of a tradesman behind his counter; it is necessary for those in the station it has pleased Divine Providence to place me to weigh whether expenses, though very great, are not sometimes necessary to prevent what might be more ruinous to a country than the loss of money. The present contest with America I cannot help seeing as the most serious in which any country was ever engaged ; it contains such a train of consequences that they must be examined to feel its real weight. Whether the laying of a tax was deserving all the evils that have arisen from it, I should suppose no man could allege without being thought more fit for Bedlam than a seat in the Senate ; but, step by step, the demands of America have risen ; independence is their object; that certainly is one which every man not willing to sacrifice every object to a momentary and inglorious peace must concur with me: should America succeed in that, the West Indies must follow them, not independence, but must for its own future be dependent on North America. Ireland would soon follow the same plan, and be a separate state ; then this island may be reduced to itself, and soon would be a poor island indeed, for, reduced in her trade, merchants would retire with wealth to climates more to their advantage, and shoals of manufacturers would leave this country for the new empire. These self-evident consequences are not worse than can arise should the Almighty permit every event to turn out to our disadvantage ; consequently this country has but one sensible, one great

« AnteriorContinua »