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filial resemblance the beauteous countenance of British liberty, are we to turn to them the shameful parts of our constitution ? Are we to give them our weakness for their strength, our opprobrium for their glory, and the slough of slavery, which we are not able to work off, to serve them for their freedom ?”
In the session of 1775 Burke introduced a series of thirteen resolutions, founded on a bill drawn by Chatham,* and embodying a proposal for a pacific settlement of the points in dispute between England and America. The House rejected them by a majority of 270 against 78 (March 22, 1775). Burke's speech in explanation and support was one of his finest bursts of argumentative eloquence, and I do not know that in any other of his orations the great qualities of his genius are more abundantly shown :
“My proposition,” he said, " is peace. Not peace through the medium of war; not peace to be hunted through the labyrinth of intricate and endless negotiations ; not peace to arise out of universal discord, fomented on principle in all parts of the empire. Not peace to depend on the judicial determination of perplexing questions, or the precise marking of the shadowy boundaries of a complex government.
It is simple peace, sought in its natural course, and in its ordinary haunts. It is peace, sought in the spirit of peace.”
“I look on force not only as an odious but as a feeble instrument for preserving a people so numerous, so active, so growing, so spirited as this, in a profitable and subordinate connection
First, the use of force alone is but temporary. It may subdue for a moment, but it does not remove the necessity of
*“A provisional Bill for settling the troubles in America," introduced into the House of Lords, February 1,
subduing again. A nation is not governed, which is perpetually to be governed."
He added :
“ Three thousand miles of ocean lie between you and the colonies. No contrivance can weaken the effect of this distance in weakening government. Seas roll and months pass between the order and the execution; and the want of a speedy explanation on a single point is enough to defeat a whole system. You have, indeed, winged ministers of vengeance who carry your bolts in their talons to the uttermost verge of the sea. But then a power steps in, which limits the arrogance of raging passions and furious elements, and says, “So far shalt thou go, and no farther !' Who are you that should fret and rage, and bite the chains of nature? Nothing more happens to you than does to all nations who have extensive empire. From all these causes a fierce spirit of liberty has grown up. The question is, not whether the spirit deserves praise or blame, but what, in the name of God, shall we do with it? You have before you the object, such as it is, with all its glories, all its imperfections on its head. are strongly urged to determine something concerning it.”
In a splendid passage he adverted to the remarkable growth of the American colonies, in an allusion to the aged Earl Bathurst, * father of the then Lord Chancellor :
“We stand where we have an immense view of what is, and what is past. Clouds, indeed, and darkness rest upon the future. Let us, however, before we descend from this noble eminence, reflect that this growth of our national prosperity has happened within the short period of the life of man. It has happened within sixty-eight years. There are those alive whose memory
* This was the Allen, Lord Bathurst, to whom Pope addressed his “ Epistle on the Use of Riches."
might touch the two extremities. For instance, my Lord Bathurst might remember all the stages of the progress. He was, in 1704, of an age at least to be made to comprehend such things. He was then old enough acta parentum jam legere, et quæ sit cognoscere virtus. Suppose, sir, that the angel of this auspicious youth, foreseeing the many virtues which made him one of the most fortunate men of his age, had opened to him in a vision that, when, in the fourth generation, the third prince of the House of Brunswick had sat twelve years on the throne of that nation which (by the happy issue of moderate and healing counsels) was to be made Great Britain, he should see his son, Lord Chancellor of England, turn back the current of hereditary dignity to its fountain, and raise him to a higher rank of peerage, whilst he enriched the family with a new one. If amidst these bright and happy scenes of honour and prosperity, that angel should have drawn up the curtain, and unfolded the rising glories of his country, and whilst he was gazing with admiration on the then commercial grandeur of England, the genius should point out to him a little speck, scarce visible in the mass of the national interest, a small seminal principle rather than a formed body, and should tell him, “Young man, there is America, which at this day serves for little more than to amuse you with stories of savage men and uncouth manners; yet shall, before
you taste of death, show itself equal to the whole of that commerce which now attracts the envy of the world. Whatever England has been growing to by a progressive increase of improvement brought in by varieties of people, by succession of civilising conquests and civilising settlements, in a series of seventeen hundred years, you shall see as much added to her by America in the course of a single life !' If the state of his country had thus been foretold to him, would it not require all the sanguine credulity of youth, and all the fervid glow of enthusiasm, to make him believe it?”
In another speech on American affairs, discussing the alleged right of taxation, which the Ministerial orators
described as inherent in the mother-country, Burke
“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 forms of policy are entitled to an exercise of that right by the charter of nature. Or whether, on the contrary, the right of taxation is necessarily involved in the general principle of legislation, and inseparable from the ordinary supreme power. These are deep questions when great names militate against each other; when reason is perplexed; and an 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 Serbonian bog,
I do not intend to be overwhelmed in that bog, though in such respectable company. The question with me is 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 art the worse for being a generous one ? Is no concession proper but that which is made from your want of right to keep what you grant? Or does it lessen the grace and dignity of relaxing in the exercise of an odious claim, because you have your evidence-room full of titles, and your magazines stuffed with arms to enforce them?
“What signify all these titles and all these 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 union 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 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 universally prevalent in my own day, and to govern two millions of men impatient of servitude on the principles of freedom. I am not determining a point of law; I am restoring tranquillity; and the general character and situation of a people must determine what sort of government is fitted for them.”
In spite of the eloquence and arguments of Burke and Chatham, Lord North’s disastrous government persevered in its efforts to subdue the rebellion of the colonists, until France and Spain leagued with the United States to crush and humiliate their great adversary and rival. History records with what courage, with how much hopeless persistency England faced this formidable coalition ; and how, while the incapacity of her commanders and the blind policy of her Ministers overwhelmed her with disgrace in the West, the honour of her arms was retrieved, and the valour of her sons vindicated, by her triumphs in the East, where the bold, audacious, yet wary genius of Warren Hastings laid firm and sure the foundations of her Indian Empire. The surrender of Lord Cornwallis's army at York Town to the American forces under Washington (October 19, 1772), was “the beginning of the end." England was exhausted and over-weighted; and only the naval victories of Rodney saved her from a shameful peace. As it was, bleeding at every pore, she found herself compelled, in November, 1772, to sign the Treaties of Paris and Versailles, by which she recognised the Independence of America.
The result, I imagine, was as painful to Burke as to