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How TO RETAIN THE COLONIES.”
My hold of the colonies is in the close affection which grows from common names, from kindred blood, from similar privileges, and equal protection. These are ties which, though light as air, are as strong as links of iron. Let the colonies always keep the idea of their civil rights associated with your government, they will cling and grapple to you, and no force under heaven will be of power to tear them from their allegiance. But let it be once understood that your government may be one thing and their privileges another, that these two things may exist without any mutual relation,-the cement is gone, the cohesion is loosened, and every thing hastens to decay and dissolution. As long as you have the wisdom to keep the sovereign authority of this country as the sanctuary of liberty, the sacred temple consecrated to our common faith, wherever the chosen race and sons of England worship freedom, they will turn their faces towards you. The more they multiply, the more friends you will have ; the more ardently they love liberty, the more perfect will be their obedience. Slavery they can have anywhere. It is a weed that grows in every soil. They may have it from Spain; they may have it from Prussia. But, until you become lost to all feeling of your true interest and your natural dignity, freedom they can have from none but you. This is the commodity of price, of which you have the monopoly. This is the true Act of Navigation, which binds to you the commerce of the colonies, and through them secures to you the wealth of the world. Deny them this participation of freedom, and you break that sole bond which originally made, and must still preserve, the unity of the empire. Do not entertain so weak an imagination as that your registers and your bonds, your affidavits and your sufferances, your cockets and your clearances,” are what form the great securities of your commerce. Do not dream that your letters of office, and your instructions, and your suspending clauses, are the things that hold together the great contexture of this mysterious whole. These things do not make your government. Dead instruments, passive tools as they are,
2 This piece and the next are from Burke's Speech on Conciliation with America. They are so good in themselves, that they ought to have a place in this selection; and their close affinity with the preceding paper is reason enough for inserting them here. The speech from which they are taken was delivered in the House of Commons, March 22, 1775.
3. A clearance is an official paper certifying that a ship has cleared at the custom-house, that is, done all that is required of it, and so is authorized to Sail. A cocket is a custom-house certificate, granted to merchants, showing that goods have been duly entered, and that the duties on them have been paid.
it is the spirit of the English communion that gives all their life and efficacy to them. It is the spirit of the IEnglish Constitution, which, infused through the mighty mass, pervades, feeds, unites, invigorates, vivifies every part of the empire, even down to the minutest member. Is it not the same virtue which does everything for us here in England? Do you imagine, then, that it is the Land-Tax Act which raises your revenue 2 that it is the annual vote in the Committee of Supply which gives you your army? or that it is the Mutiny Bill which inspires it with bravery and discipline? No 1 surely, no l It is the love of the people ; it is their attachment to their government, from the sense of the deep stake they have in such a glorious institution, which gives you your army and your navy, and infuses into both that liberal obedience without which your army would be a base rabble and your navy nothing but rotten timber. All this, I know well enough, will Sound wild and chimerical to the profane herd of those vulgar and mechanical politicians who have no place among us; —a sort of people who think that nothing exists but what is gross and material; and who therefore, far from being qualified to be directors of the great movement of empire, are not fit to turn a wheel in the machine. But to men truly initiated and rightly taught, these ruling and master principles, which in the opinion of such men as I have mentioned have no substantial existence, are in truth every thing, and all in all. Magnanimity in politics is not seldom the truest wisdom ; and a great empire and little minds go ill together. If we are conscious of our situation, and glow with zeal to fill our place as becomes our station and ourselves, we ought to auspicate all our public proceedings on America with the old warning of the Church, Sursum corda/* We ought to elevate our minds to the greatness of that trust to which the order of Providence has called us. By adverting to the dignity of this high calling our ancestors have turned a savage wilderness into a glorious empire, and have made the most extensive and the only honourable conquests, not by destroying, but by promoting the wealth, the number, the happiness of the human race. Let us get an American revenue as we have got an American empire. English privileges have made it all that it is; English privileges alone will make it all it can be.
4 These words are from the old Latin Communion-Office of the Church. The English of them is, “List up your hearts.”
THE PEOPLE OF NEW ENGLAND.
I PASS to the colonies in another point of view, -their agriculture. This they have prosecuted with such a spirit, that, besides feeding plentifully their own growing multitude, their annual export of grain, comprehending rice, has some years ago exceeded a million in value. Of their last harvest I am perSuaded they will export much more. At the beginning of the century some of these colonies imported corn from the mother country. For some time past the Old World has been fed from the New. The scarcity which you have felt would have been a desolating famine, if this child of your old age, with a true filial piety, with a Roman charity, had not put the full breast of its youthful exuberance to the mouth of its exhausted parent.
As to the wealth which the colonies have drawn from the sea by their fisheries, you had all that matter fully opened at your bar. You surely thought those acquisitions of value, for they seemed even to excite your envy; and yet the spirit by which that enterprising employment has been exercised ought rather, in my opinion, to have raised your esteem and admiration. And pray, Sir, what in the world is equal to it? Pass by the other parts, and look at the manner in which the people of New England have of late carried on the whale-fishery. Whilst we follow them among the tumbling mountains of ice, and behold them penetrating into the deepest frozen recesses of Hudson's Bay and Davis's Straits, whilst we are looking for them beneath the arctic circle, we hear that they have pierced into the opposite region of polar cold, that they are at the antipodes, and engaged under the frozen serpent of the South. Falkland Island, which Seemed too remote and romantic an object for the grasp of national ambition, is but a stage and resting-place in the progress of their victorious industry. Nor is the equinoctial heat more discouraging to them than the accumulated winter of both the poles. We know that, whilst some of them draw the line and strike the harpoon on the coast of Africa, others run the longitude, and pursue their gigantic game along the coast of Brazil. No sea but what is vexed by their fisheries. No climate that is not witness to their toils. Neither the perseverance of Holland, nor the activity of France, nor the dexterous and firm sagacity of English enterprise, ever carried this most perilous mode of hardy industry to the extent to which it has been pushed by this recent people, –a people who are still, aş it were, but in the gristle, and not yet hardened into the bone of manhood. When I contemplate these things, when I know that the colonies in general owe little or nothing to any care of
ours, and that they are not squeezed into this happy form by
the constraints of watchful and suspicious government, but that, through a wise and salutary neglect, a generous nature has been suffered to take her own way to perfection, – when I reflect upon these effects, when I see how profitable they have been to us, I feel all the pride of power sink, and all presumption in the wisdom of human contrivances melt and die away within me, – my rigour relents, –I pardon something to the spirit of liberty.
SPEECH ON ECONOMICAL REFORM."
MR. SPEAKER: I rise, in acquittal of my engagement to the House, in obedience to the strong and just requisition of my constituents, and, I am persuaded, in conformity to the unanimous wishes of the whole nation, to submit to the wisdom of . Parliament “A Plan of Reform in the Constitution of Several Parts of the Public Economy.” I have endeavoured that this plan should include, in its execution, a considerable reduction of improper expense ; that it should effect a conversion of unprofitable titles into a productive estate ; that it should lead to, and indeed almost compel, a provident administration of such sums of public money as must remain under discretionary trusts; that it should render the incurring of debts on the civil establishment (which must ultimately affect national strength and national credit) so very difficult as to become next to impracticable. I3ut what, I confess, was uppermost with me, what I bent the whole force of my mind to, was the reduction of that corrupt influence which is itself the perennial spring of all prodigality and of all disorder, — which loads us more than millions of debt, — which takes away vigour from our arms, wisdom from our councils, and every shadow of authority and credit from the most venerable parts of our Constitution. Sir, I assure you very solemnly, and with a very clear conscience, that nothing in the world has led me to such an undertaking but my zeal for the honour of this House, and the settled, habitual, systematic affection I bear to the cause and to the principles of government.
5 The original title, in full, of this speech is, “Speech on presenting to the House of Commons (on the 11th of February, 1780) a Plan for the better Security of the Independence of l’arliament, and the economical IReformation of the civil and other Establishments.”—Perhaps I should note that IBurke uses the word economy in its original sense of order or arrangement.
I enter perfectly into the nature and consequences of my attempt, and I advance to it with a tremor that shakes me to the inmost fibre of my frame. I feel that I engage in a business, in itself most ungracious, totally wide of the course of prudent conduct, and, I really think, the most completely adverse that can be imagined to the natural turn and temper of my own mind. I know that all parsimony is of a quality approaching to unkindness, and that (on some person or other) every reform must operate as a sort of punishment. Indeed, the whole class. of the severe and restrictive virtues is at a market almost too high for humanity. What is worse, there are very few of those virtues which are not capable of being imitated, and even outdone in many of their most striking effects, by the worst of vices. Malignity and envy will carve much more deeply, and finish much more sharply, in the work of retrenchment, than frugality and providence. I do not, therefore, wonder that gentlemen have kept away from such a task, as well from goodnature as from prudence. Private feeling might, indeed, be overborne by legislative reason; and a man of a long-sighted and a strong-nerved humanity might bring himself not so much to consider from whom he takes a superfluous enjoyment as for whom in the end he may preserve the absolute necessaries of life.
But it is much more easy to reconcile this measure to humanity than to bring it to any agreement with prudence. I do not mean that little, selfish, pitiful, bastard thing which sometimes goes by the name of a family in which it is not legitimate and to which it is a disgrace;— I mean even that public and enlarged prudence which, apprehensive of being disabled from rendering acceptable services to the world, withholds itself from those that are invidious. Gentlemen who are, with me, verging towards the decline of life, and are apt to form their ideas of kings from kings of former times, might dread the anger of a reigning prince ; – they who are more provident of the future, or by being young are more interested in it, might tremble at the resentment of the successor; they might see a long, dull, dreary, unvaried vista of despair and exclusion, for half a century, before them. This is no pleasant prospect at the outset of a political journey.
Besides this, Sir, the private enemies to be made in all attempts of this kind are innumerable ; and their enmity will be the more bitter, and the more dangerous too, because a sense of dignity will oblige them to conceal the cause of their resentment. Very few men of great families and extensive connections but will feel the smart of a cutting reform, in some close relation, some bosom friend, some pleasant acquaintance, some