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Reign of George III. (Continued) page 5


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He then alluded to the comparative strength of the two countries. "I know the valour," he said, "of your troops. I know the skill of your officers. In a good cause, on a sound bottom, the force of this country can crush America to atoms. But in such a cause as this your success would be hazardous. America, if she fell, would fall like the strong man. She would embrace the pillars of the state, and pull down the constitution along with her. Is this your boasted peace, not to sheathe the sword in its scabbard, but to sheathe it in the bowels of your countrymen?"

After characterising the stamp act as "a paltry mark of the narrow genius of the man who conceived and brought it forth," he characterised the resistance of the Americans as "eclipsed in its glory by the most odious steps of rage, violence, and rapine, against their brethren of a different opinion." But he contended that the ministers had driven them to madness by injustice, and he called on the English nation to let prudence and temper first come from this side. As for America, quoting two lines from Prior, he continued:

Be to her faults a little blind;
Be to her virtues very kind.

Upon the whole, I will beg leave to tell the house what is precisely my opinion. It is, that the stamp act be repealed absolutely, totally, and immediately. That the reason for the repeal be assigned, because it was founded on an erroneous principle. At the same time, let the sovereign authority of this country over the colonies be asserted in as strong terms as can be advised, and made to extend to every kind of legislation whatsoever. That we may bind their trade, confine their manufactures, and exercise every power whatsoever, except only that of taking their money from their pockets without their own consent.

The advice of Pitt prevailed. Ministers determined to bring in two acts in accordance with his counsels: an act declaratory of the supreme power of parliament over the colonies, and another repealing the stamp act, on the plea which he had suggested. Meantime, the doors of the house of commons were thrown open to petitions from all quarters. Those which it had peremptorily rejected from the agents of different American colonies and of Jamaica were freely entertained by the house. Others from the traders of London, Bristol, Liverpool, Manchester, now rising into importance, were sent in, stating that the colonists were indebted to the merchants of this country several millions sterling; that the colonists had hitherto punctually liquidated them, but were now disabled, by the consequences of the stamp act; and that therefore its abolition was as requisite for the mother country as for America. Extracts from a large correspondence with America were read; and gentlemen familiar with the statistics of those colonies were heard in evidence at the bar of the commons. Amongst these was Dr. Franklin, who at this moment, as he had advised his countrymen to submit to the stamp act when passed, now supported Pitt's high-flown notions respecting the right of England to lay external, but not internal, taxes on America. He made a wide distinction betwixt an excise levied on the consumption of goods, and a customs duty levied on their import. "An excise," he said, "for the reasons I have just given, the Americans think you can have no right to lay within their country. But the sea is yours; you maintain by your fleets the safety of navigation on it, and keep it clear of pirates. You may, therefore, have a natural and equitable right to some toll or duty on merchandise carried through those your dominions of the sea, to defray the expense of your ships to maintain the safety of conveyance," &c.

It is scarcely necessary, at this time of day, to say how thoroughly unsound were these views of Pitt and Franklin. Our supreme power over our colonies must always have been limited by the principle of representation, or this power would have extended beyond magna charta, and have been a real despotism. If our power was supreme, then the stamp act was legitimate. The notion of Pitt again, that taxation and legislation were separate things; that legislation of all kinds, except taxation, could be exercised at pleasure, was a sophism of the flimsiest kind. Neither taxation nor legislation of any kind can become valid, except by the consent of the commons, who are the representatives of the whole people, and that of the lords, who are the representatives of a class. All legislation, therefore, whatever, is the work of representation, and any other is impossible, any other is illegal, within this empire of Great Britain.

Again, the distinctions betwixt excise and custom duties is equally spurious. The land as well as the sea is ours, that is, the people's. We maintain order and safety on land as well as on sea. We expend our money for it, and therefore have a right to be reimbursed that outlay; but in either case, only by constitutional methods. We had expended much to clear America of the French; to defend the colonists against the Indians. We had a right to repayment as much there as on the sea; but nobody disputed this. The Americans had discharged these debts through the true channel of representation - through their provincial assemblies, and were ready to do it again. We might do anything but take the colonists' money out of their pockets, said Pitt; but customs duties did this entirely as much as the excise.

The colonists had to pay the amount of that duty in the augmented price of the imported goods; and we shall soon find Franklin himself coming to a clear perception of these facts, and assisting to arouse his countrymen to reject duties just as much as excise. In fact, it was on the question of import duties that the Americans finally rebelled; it was in fighting out that issue that we lost America. What an absurd notion was that, that you might do anything but take the money out of the colonists' pockets! On this principle you might crush their trade, destroy their liberty;, and interfere with their religion; not one of which things they would have allowed you to do.

The declaratory act passed readily enough, for all parties, agreed in it; but the repeal of the stamp act met with stout opposition. Grenville, with the pertinacity of a man who glories in his disgrace, resisted it at every stage. When he was hissed by the people, he declared that "he rejoiced in the hiss. If it were to do again, he would do it!" When the crowds around the doors of the house of commons hissed and hooted him, in his rage he seized one man by the collar and shook him. "Well, if I may not hiss," said the fellow, "at least I may laugh," and he laughed in his face, and the mob laughed. In the lords there was a strong resistance to the repeal. Lord Temple, who had now deserted Pitt, supported his brother Grenville with all his might. Lords Mansfield, Lyttleton, and Halifax, the whole Bedford faction, and the whole Bute faction, opposed it. The king declared himself for repeal rather than bloodshed, but he would have preferred modifying the stamp act, which would have been sheer absurdity. The Americans would have had none of it - not a shred, not a particle.

The Rockingham administration, during these debates, equally convinced of their own weakness and of the all- powerful influence of Pitt, omitted no exertions to prevail on him to join them. But here, again, the enormous pride of Pitt rendered him utterly intractable, and again certainly unpatriotic toward his country. The whole, or nearly the whole, of the cabinet were of his own views; they had shown themselves most ready to follow his advice, and therefore they sought to induce him to take the lead in the commons, and in fact, as must have been the case, in the whole direction of affairs. It was in his power thus to guide the public counsels safely and soundly, and heal the breach which was made with America entirely. With so great and warmly-avowed a friend, all the best men of America would have felt confidence, and have thus been able to keep in check the excited elements of democracy. It was not to be expected that the Americans, having felt their strength, would not be now on all occasions ready to stand more stiffly on their privileges; but with a wise, an able, and friendly ministry, such as that of Pitt would have been, they would gradually have subsided into a more satisfied condition and temperament. But all endeavours to induce Pitt to accept office were in vain. He objected to lord George Sackville being restored to the privy council, and declared that he would never sit at the same board with him. He was equally determined never to belong to a ministry in which Newcastle was a member. In vain did the marquis of Rockingham himself solicit him, representing that he could hold the office of secretary of state and prime minister without interfering with the positions of Rockingham and his principal friends. The duke of Grafton, lord Shelburne, Mr. Nuthall, all implored him to comply; he would only answer, that if the king thought fit to summon him, he would give him his views on the formation of a government. As this amounted to breaking up the present cabinet, there was no alternative but to cease to entreat him, or to resign. The duke of Grafton, finding all persuasions hopeless, threw up his own post, saying he was willing to serve with or under Pitt in any capacity, not only as a general officer, but as a pioneer; under him he was ready to wield spade or mattock - without him, he saw no prospect of permanence.

To acquire popularity, the Rockingham administration made a further restriction on the import of foreign silks; they made a modification of the cider bill, but this only extended to taking the duty off cider belonging to private persons, and was regarded as a placebo to the country gentlemen. They induced the house of commons to pass a resolution on the 25th of April, declaring general warrants illegal, and, if for seizing any member of the house, a breach of privilege. But when they passed this in the form of a bill, the lords threw it out; and a second bill for thİ same purpose failed in the commons. Still, these conciliatory measures did not procure them confidence. Colonel Barre refused them his support; general Conway was sick of his post, and longed to be out of it; and Henley, lord Northington, as chancellor, was found actually intriguing against his colleagues. With the court they grew into no favour, because the king thought them backward in procuring from parliament suitable provision for his younger brother. It was clear that this could not last. To cap the climax of weakness, the Rockingham cabinet came to open issue amongst themselves on the plan of government for Canada. Northington informed the king that they could not go on; and the king, on the 7th of July, gave the chancellor a letter to Pitt, inviting him to form a new ministry. The same day his majesty also informed the existing cabinet of the change which he contemplated. Conway said frankly, it was the best thing the king could do; but lord Rockingham and the duke of Newcastle were deeply offended.

Pitt hastened up to town, and was graciously received by the king, who told him that he left the choice of his colleagues entirely to himself. Pitt, as twice before, immediately proposed that his brother-in-law, lord Temple, should be placed at the head of the treasury. Temple was summoned from Stowe, but was as haughty and unmanageable as ever. He demanded that all the old ministers should be dismissed, that lord Lyttleton should have the privy seal, lord Gower be secretary of state, &c. Pitt could not accede to these terms. It was clear Temple was determined to have as much influence in the cabinet as Pitt himself, who desired to retain several of the old ministers, as Conway, the duke of Grafton, Dowdeswell, &c. This time Pitt did not throw up the offer of the premiership to oblige his wrong-headed brother-in-law, who had the overweening idea that he was as great a man as Pitt himself. He stood firm, and, after a long interview at North End, Hampstead, where Pitt had taken a house for the time, Temple set off to Stowe again in high dudgeon, declaring that Pitt had thrown off the mask, and never meant to accept his co-operation at all. Lord Camden advised Pitt to stand fast, throw off the Grenvilles, and save the nation without them. He acted on the advice.

He found the Bedford clan ready, as usual, for office, but wanting to come in a whole legion; the twaddling and whimpering old duke of Newcastle equally ready, shedding tears in his facile way, hugging and kissing people in his trouble, and wondering why his dear old friend had thus abandoned him. Pitt passed on, and chose lord Camden as lord chancellor; Northington, president of the council; lord Granby, commander-in-chief; Shelburne and Conway, secretaries of state; duke of Grafton, first lord of the treasury; Sir Charles Saunders, first lord of the admiralty; Charles Townshend, chancellor of the exchequer; with lord North, James Grenville, brother of Temple, colonel Barre, and others, in secondary posts. Mr. Stewart Mackenzie, Bute's brother, was restored to his former office, but without any control over Scottish affairs. It was clear that Pitt had selected his colleagues without regard to party, but with an eye to the ability of the respective persons. It was a mode of acting particularly after the fancy of the king, who had always been, according to his own words to Pitt on the occasion, "zealously ready to give his aid towards destroying all party distinctions, and restoring that subordination to government, which can alone preserve that inestimable blessing, liberty, from degenerating into licentiousness." Yet Pitt had not effected this union without some decided rebuffs; besides Temple, Dowdeswell had refused to join him, because he thought he was not respectfully enough invited; but Rockingham refused to consult with him or to see him; lords Gower and Scarborough declined his offers. And, after all, his miscellaneous cabinet might, to a certain degree, deserve the description of it given by Burke: "An administration so chequered and speckled, a piece of joinery so crossly indented and whimsically dovetailed, a cabinet so variously inlaid, such a piece of diversified mosaic, such a tesselated pavement without cement - here a bit of black stone, and there a bit of white - patriots and courtiers, king's friends and republicans, whigs and tories, treacherous friends and open enemies - that it was, indeed, a very curious show, but utterly unsafe to touch, and unsafe to stand upon. The colleagues whom he had assorted at the same boards stared at each other, and were obliged to ask, 'Sir, your name?' 'Sir, you have the advantage of me.' 'Mr. Such-a-one, I beg a thousand pardons.' I venture," he continued, "to say, it did so happen that persons had a single office divided between them, who had never spoken to each other in their lives, until they found themselves, they knew not how, pigging together, heads and points, in the same truckle bed."

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Pictures for Reign of George III. (Continued) page 5

Benjamin Franklin
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The Princess Amelia
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Lord Clive
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John Wilkes
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Wilkes triumphal entry into the city
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Town and Harbour of Boston
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Faneuil hall
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British troops entering Boston
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