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Reign of George III. (Continued.) page 6


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Righteous as was the cause of America, we have had, and shall have again, to lament that her champions often acted on her behalf by no means a high or honourable part. Duplicity and petty tricks often took the place of open and honest policy, and no one offended in this respect more than the ablest of all their champions - Dr. Franklin.

Relying firmly on Franklin's sincerity, Chatham sent to him his son-in-law, lord Mahon, an enthusiastic admirer of the philosopher, both on account of his principles of freedom and his discoveries in electricity. Lord Mahon waited on Franklin at his lodgings in Craven-street, to invite him down again to Hayes, to deliberate with Chatham on an efficient bill of reconciliation. Franklin went, and the next Sunday morning Chatham returned the visit in Craven-street, leaving his carriage at the door as the people were passing to church - a circumstance which naturally excited great curiosity, and flattered, as he confesses, extremely the vanity of the doctor. Chatham, whose words were most flattering too, told him that he came to set his judgment by his (the doctor's), as men set their watches by a regulator. On the following Tuesday, Franklin hurried down to Hayes with the draft of the bill left with him, and with his full approbation of it, having, he says, only added one word, that of '''constitutions" after " charters."

The next day (Wednesday), the 1st of February, Chatham appeared in the house of lords with his bill. He declared that it was a bill not merely of concession, but of assertion, and he called on the lords to entertain it cordially, to correct its crudenesses, and pass it for the peace of the whole empire. The bill first explicitly asserted our supreme power over the colonies; it declared that all that related to the disposing of the army belonged to the prerogative of the crown, but that no armed force could be lawfully employed against the rights and liberties of the inhabitants; that no tax, or tollage, or other charge for the revenue, should be levied without the consent of the provincial assemblies. Still, all regulations regarding trade and commerce were declared a3 belonging exclusively to the crown of England. It proposed that the intended congress should be held as fixed at Philadelphia, on the 9th of May, when it should, in the first place, recognise the supreme legislative right of parliament; and then, after making due provision for the support of the civil government of the respective colonies, it should make a free grant to the king of a certain perpetual revenue towards the alleviation of the national debt. And this last claim was set up on the ground that the mother country had burthenea himself heavily for the defence, extension, and prosperity of the colonies. The powers of the admiralty and vice- admiralty courts in America were, according to the prayer of the last congress, to be restrained within their original limits, and it declared it unlawful to send a person indicted for murder in one province to be tried in another, or in the mother country. The acts of parliament relating to America passed since 1764 were wholly repealed; the judges were made permanent during their good behaviour, and the charters and constitutions of the several provinces were not to be infringed or set aside, unless upon some valid ground of forfeiture. All these concessions were, of course, made conditional on the recognition of the colonies of the supreme authority of parliament.

Had this bill been frankly accepted by ministers, it would have gone far to heal the rupture betwixt the mother country and her colonies. There was yet in it one clause to which it is not to be supposed the congress would have agreed - that with reference to the control of the trade of America; but it would have shown a real disposition on the part of England to recognise the rights of the subject in colonies as well as at home; and the great question of taxation being settled, this minor question might have been amicably arranged, and, in the words of Chatham, true reconcilement would have averted impending calamities. But ministers were not capable of the comprehensive vision of the great statesman; they were men of that contracted mind who are born to effect the liberation of nations by oppressing them, and thus to become the unconscious instruments of Providence for the inauguration of revolutions; and a series of revolutions, as that of France, grew out of this impending one. The earl of Dartmouth, the secretary of state for the colonies, proposed that the bill should lie on the table for deliberation. The duke of Grafton complained of the manner in which the bill had been hurried into the house, and, as Chatham in his reply observed, showed every disposition to hurry it as quickly out again. The friends of the duke of Bedford, who had joined the administration, showed the most rancorous disposition towards America. The chief 01 these, lord Sandwich, declared that he never could believe this bill was the work of any British peer, but rather of an American, and he looked full at Dr. Franklin, who was leaning on the bar. He declared the Americans to be in actual rebellion; that they were not troubling themselves about mere words and nice distinctions; they were aiming at independence, and nothing else. As for commercial restrictions, why, the Americans were at this time throwing off all such restrictions - they were cultivating commercial relations with other countries. He had letters in his pocket which would prove that they had ships loading at various ports of France and Holland with East Indian produce for an American market.

This was true, and to sagacious men, instead of a cause for blind anger, it would have been one for securing still the benefits of a trade with those colonies, which must become immense. Lord Gower, another of the Bedford party, followed on the same side, and lord Dartmouth, who, at the commencement of the debate, showed considerable candour, now declared himself prepared to vote for the immediate rejection of the bill. Shelburne and Camden as strongly supported it, and Temple and Lyttleton, though objecting to some of the clauses, argued for the measure generally. Chatham, in reply, was roused to the strongest language. He said: "The bill will, I trust, remain a monument of my endeavours to serve my country, and, however faulty or defective, will, at least, manifest how zealous I have been to avoid the impending storms which seem ready to burst on ms with overwhelming ruin. Yet, when I consider the whole case as it lies before me, I am not much astonished. I am not surprised that men who hate liberty should detest those who prize it, or that those who want virtue themselves should endeavour to persecute those who possess it. Were I disposed to pursue this theme to the extent that truth would bear me out in, I could demonstrate that the whole of your political conduct has been one continual series of weakness, timidity, despotism, ignorance, futility, negligence, and the most notorious servility, incapacity, and corruption. On reconsideration, I must allow you one merit - a strict attention to your own interests. In that view, you appear pound statesmen and able politicians. You well know, if the present measure should prevail, that you must instantly relinquish your places. I doubt much whether you will be able to keep them on any terms; but sure I am, such are your well-known characters and abilities, that any plan of reconciliation, however moderate, wise, and feasible, must fail in your hands. Such, then, being your precarious situation, who can wonder that you should put a negative on any measure which must annihilate your power, deprive you of your emoluments, and at once reduce you to that state of insignificance for which God and nature designed you."

Bitterer or more personal language was perhaps never used in that house; yet who shall say that it was not richly deserved? The duke of Richmond used language nearly as unsparing. Lord Shelburne and the duke of Manchester predicted the ruin of our trade, the stoppage of our manufactures, the starvation of the people, and consequent augmentation of taxes and poor rates, if the bill was rejected. Yet it was rejected by sixty-one votes against thirty-two; and from this time the die may be said to have been cast, and America lost I Lord Chatham immediately printed and circulated his bill, to show what the ministers and house of lords had rejected.

In the meantime, numbers of petitions had been poured into the house of commons from London, Bristol, Norwich, &c., praying for measures of reconcilement with America, which were rejected. Franklin, Bollan, and Lee, as American agents, presented one in support of the demands of the general congress; but this, too, was rejected by a large majority, on the plea that the congress was an unauthorised, and therefore unrecognisable, body. Rejecting all proposals of more wise measures, on the other hand, lord North, on the 2nd of February, the very day after Chatham's proposal in the lords, moved an address of thanks to the king for laying the papers relative to America before them, and praying him to enforce the laws there, and to this end to send more soldiers. Fox moved an amendment on this motion, but it was lost by a majority of three hundred and four against one hundred and eight, and lord North's original motion was carried by an equally great majority.

Some temporary qualms of mind would seem to have followed lord Chatham's strong language, for a few days after Franklin received indirectly a sort of overture from government to enter into negotiations of a conciliatory nature. Franklin had been some time before introduced by Mr. Raper, a member of the Royal Society, to Mrs. Howe, a maiden sister of admiral lord Howe, afterwards so unfortunately selected to take the command of the fleet against the Americans. Mrs. Howe introduced Franklin to lord Howe, and Howe now intimated that if Franklin would draw up a paper as the basis of a certain settlement of the difference with America, he thought he could insure it the serious attention of lord North. Franklin accepted the office, and in a few days drew up the paper, and brought it to Lord Howe's. Franklin had meantime also discussed the subject with Mr. David Barclay, a friend of lord Dartmouth and lord Hyde. Here was a grand opportunity of coming to a perfect understanding on all essential points of this great controversy before the matter should be brought before parliament; but Franklin defeated it, and furnished one palpable proof more, that, whilst professing to lord Chatham and other ministers to desire nothing so much as the restoration of union, he was, in truth, determined, as far as in him lay, as Jcsiah Quincey asserted in his letter, to act only on " the broad scale of total emancipation." He had now introduced fresh conditions, demanding not only the abolition of the obnoxious statutes, and the recognition of the right of self-assessment, but that England should retire with all her ships and her soldiers, and that the colonies themselves should have the entire management of the troops; that they should not enter or be quartered in any colony without the consent of its legislature.

This was a declaration of absolute independence. If Franklin was satisfied, as he had said he was, with Chatham's bill, the introduction of these additional conditions was dishonest; if he were not satisfied with Chatham's bill, he had misled Chatham, and was deceitful. The moment Chatham saw this draft, he pronounced it wholly inadmissible. Mr. Barclay and lord Howe did the same, and entreated Franklin to withdraw the additional clauses, but in vain. Lord Howe, therefore, after introducing Franklin a second time to lord Hyde, who, with equal want of success, urged the philosopher to adhere to the conditions of Chatham's bill, took the paper, saying he would lay it before lord North, but he was quite certain with no chance of its acceptance. Lord North rejected the scheme at once, and determined to lay before the commons a plan of his own. So long as Franklin remained in England, he continued to lord Chatham, lord Howe, and all influential men that he came near, his warm assurances of his tender desire for the preservation of union, but never for a moment conceded a point that stood in the way of reconciliation.

On the 6th of February the address to the king was reported, and then Wilkes, who, on this question, was always right, declared that a just and proper resistance to despotism was nothing less than revolution, and that this violent and insane address would probably cause the Americans to fling away the scabbard as we had done, that they might hereafter be celebrating the glorious revolution of 1775 as we did that of 1688. Lord John Cavendish spoke out in terms of a noble indignation: - "My heart and hand," he said, "join in deprecating the horrors of a civil war, which will be rendered still more dreadful by its involving in its certain consequences a foreign one, with the combined forces of great and powerful nations." The same sentiments, the same warnings of a European war in the train of an American one, were uttered by others, but in vain; the address was carried by an overwhelming majority, and the next day a conference was held with the house of lords on the address, which was then accepted by the peers, and sent up to the throne. The king, in reply, assured the house of his resolve to carry out their views, and recommended the commons to vote additional forces. Accordingly, they voted four thousand four hundred additional troops, and two thousand additional sailors - an absurd number, when, if they must apply force, it ought to have been overwhelming, and when they acknowledged that the movements of France were more than suspicious; they were menacing, for she was augmenting and preparing for sea her fleet.

On the 10th of February lord North took a fresh step for the coercion of the Americans. He said they had continually threatened us with ceasing to trade with us; that they had entered into the most unlawful and daring associations to ruin our merchants, and to starve our West Indians, who had derived their provisions from them; and that it was only proper to show them that the power of obstruction to trade really lay in our hands. He therefore moved for leave to bring in a bill to cut off the entire trade of New England, and their profitable fisheries, except to such persons as obtained certificates of their loyalty and good behaviour from the colonial governors. Spite of all opposition, leave was given. Numerous petitions were then poured in from merchants and others, praying to be heard against the bill, and numerous parties were heard. It was shown by these witnesses that the people of New England were indebted to the merchants of London alone no less than a million sterling; that this bill would ruin our fisheries as well as the Americans'; but this was contradicted by the merchants of Poole, in Dorsetshire, who showed that England alone employed in the Newfoundland fisheries four hundred ships, two thousand fishing shallops, and twenty thousand men. The Quakers prayed that their brethren in the island of Nantucket, who had one hundred and thirty vessels employed in fisheries all over the world, and had nothing to do with war or rebellion, should be exempt from the operation of the act. This prayer was so far complied with, that all ships, the property of the Quakers of Nantucket, which had sailed before the 1st of March, were exempt from the penalties of the bill. The bill having been sent up to the lords, was passed finally, and, on the 30th of March, received the royal assent.

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Pictures for Reign of George III. (Continued.) page 6

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