The Works of the Right Honourable Edmund Burke, Vol. I. (of 12)
by Edmund Burke
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Exports. Imports. Total English plantations in 1704 L488,265 L814,491 Jamaica, 1767 467,681 1,243,742

From the same information I find that our dealing with most of the European nations is but little increased: these nations have been pretty much at a stand since that time, and we have rivals in their trade. This colony intercourse is a new world of commerce in a manner created; it stands upon principles of its own; principles hardly worth endangering for any little consideration of extorted revenue.

The reader sees, that I do not enter so fully into this matter as obviously I might. I have already been led into greater lengths than I intended. It is enough to say, that before the ministers of 1765 had determined to propose the repeal of the Stamp Act in Parliament, they had the whole of the American constitution and commerce very fully before them. They considered maturely; they decided with wisdom: let me add, with firmness. For they resolved, as a preliminary to that repeal, to assert in the fullest and least equivocal terms the unlimited legislative right of this country over its colonies; and, having done this, to propose the repeal, on principles, not of constitutional right, but on those of expediency, of equity, of lenity, and of the true interests present and future of that great object for which alone the colonies were founded, navigation and commerce. This plan I say, required an uncommon degree of firmness, when we consider that some of those persons who might be of the greatest use in promoting the repeal, violently withstood the declaratory act; and they who agreed with administration in the principles of that law, equally made, as well the reasons on which the declaratory act itself stood, as those on which it was opposed, grounds for an opposition to the repeal.

If the then ministry resolved first to declare the right, it was not from any opinion they entertained of its future use in regular taxation. Their opinions were full and declared against the ordinary use of such a power. But it was plain, that the general reasonings which were employed against that power went directly to our whole legislative right; and one part of it could not be yielded to such arguments, without a virtual surrender of all the rest. Besides, if that very specific power of levying money in the colonies were not retained as a sacred trust in the hands of Great Britain (to be used, not in the first instance for supply, but in the last exigence for control), it is obvious, that the presiding authority of Great Britain, as the head, the arbiter, and director of the whole empire, would vanish into an empty name, without operation or energy. With the habitual exercise of such a power in the ordinary course of supply, no trace of freedom could remain to America.[91] If Great Britain were stripped of this right, every principle of unity and subordination in the empire was gone forever. Whether all this can be reconciled in legal speculation, is a matter of no consequence. It is reconciled in policy: and politics ought to be adjusted, not to human reasonings, but to human nature; of which the reason is but a part, and by no means the greatest part.

Founding the repeal on this basis, it was judged proper to lay before Parliament the whole detail of the American affairs, as fully as it had been laid before the ministry themselves. Ignorance of those affairs had misled Parliament. Knowledge alone could bring it into the right road. Every paper of office was laid upon the table of the two Houses; every denomination of men, either of America, or connected with it by office, by residence, by commerce, by interest, even by injury; men of civil and military capacity, officers of the revenue, merchants, manufacturers of every species, and from every town in England, attended at the bar. Such evidence never was laid before Parliament. If an emulation arose among the ministers and members of Parliament, as the author rightly observes,[92] for the repeal of this act, as well as for the other regulations, it was not on the confident assertions, the airy speculations, or the vain promises of ministers, that it arose. It was the sense of Parliament on the evidence before them. No one so much as suspects that ministerial allurements or terrors had any share in it.

Our author is very much displeased, that so much credit was given to the testimony of merchants. He has a habit of railing at them: and he may, if he pleases, indulge himself in it. It will not do great mischief to that respectable set of men. The substance of their testimony was, that their debts in America were very great: that the Americans declined to pay them, or to renew their orders, whilst this act continued: that, under these circumstances, they despaired of the recovery of their debts, or the renewal of their trade in that country: that they apprehended a general failure of mercantile credit. The manufacturers deposed to the same general purpose, with this addition, that many of them had discharged several of their artificers; and, if the law and the resistance to it should continue, must dismiss them all.

This testimony is treated with great contempt by our author. It must be, I suppose, because it was contradicted by the plain nature of things. Suppose then that the merchants had, to gratify this author, given a contrary evidence; and had deposed, that while America remained in a state of resistance, whilst four million of debt remained unpaid, whilst the course of justice was suspended for want of stamped paper, so that no debt could be recovered, whilst there was a total stop to trade, because every ship was subject to seizure for want of stamped clearances, and while the colonies were to be declared in rebellion, and subdued by armed force, that in these circumstances they would still continue to trade cheerfully and fearlessly as before: would not such witnesses provoke universal indignation for their folly or their wickedness, and be deservedly hooted from the bar:[93] would any human faith have given credit to such assertions? The testimony of the merchants was necessary for the detail, and to bring the matter home to the feeling of the House; as to the general reasons, they spoke abundantly for themselves.

Upon these principles was the act repealed, and it produced all the good effect which was expected from it: quiet was restored; trade generally returned to its ancient channels; time and means were furnished for the better strengthening of government there, as well as for recovering, by judicious measures, the affections of the people, had that ministry continued, or had a ministry succeeded with dispositions to improve that opportunity.

Such an administration did not succeed. Instead of profiting of that season of tranquillity, in the very next year they chose to return to measures of the very same nature with those which had been so solemnly condemned; though upon a smaller scale. The effects have been correspondent, America is again in disorder; not indeed in the same degree as formerly, nor anything like it. Such good effects have attended the repeal of the Stamp Act, that the colonies have actually paid the taxes; and they have sought their redress (upon however improper principles) not in their own violence, as formerly;[94] but in the experienced benignity of Parliament. They are not easy indeed, nor ever will be so, under this author's schemes of taxation; but we see no longer the same general fury and confusion, which attended their resistance to the Stamp Act. The author may rail at the repeal, and those who proposed it, as he pleases. Those honest men suffer all his obloquy with pleasure, in the midst of the quiet which they have been the means of giving to their country; and would think his praises for their perseverance in a pernicious scheme, a very bad compensation for the disturbance of our peace, and the ruin of our commerce. Whether the return to the system of 1764, for raising a revenue in America, the discontents which have ensued in consequence of it, the general suspension of the assemblies in consequence of these discontents, the use of the military power, and the new and dangerous commissions which now hang over them, will produce equally good effects, is greatly to be doubted. Never, I fear, will this nation and the colonies fall back upon their true centre of gravity, and natural point of repose, until the ideas of 1766 are resumed, and steadily pursued.

As to the regulations, a great subject of the author's accusation, they are of two sorts; one of a mixed nature, of revenue and trade; the other simply relative to trade. With regard to the former I shall observe, that, in all deliberations concerning America, the ideas of that administration were principally these; to take trade as the primary end, and revenue but as a very subordinate consideration. Where trade was likely to suffer, they did not hesitate for an instant to prefer it to taxes, whose produce at best was contemptible, in comparison of the object which they might endanger. The other of their principles was, to suit the revenue to the object. Where the difficulty of collection, from the nature of the country, and of the revenue establishment, is so very notorious, it was their policy to hold out as few temptations to smuggling as possible, by keeping the duties as nearly as they could on a balance with the risk. On these principles they made many alterations in the port-duties of 1764, both in the mode and in the quantity. The author has not attempted to prove them erroneous. He complains enough to show that he is in an ill-humor, not that his adversaries have done amiss.

As to the regulations which were merely relative to commerce, many were then made; and they were all made upon this principle, that many of the colonies, and those some of the most abounding in people, were so situated as to have very few means of traffic with this country. It became therefore our interest to let them into as much foreign trade as could be given them without interfering with our own; and to secure by every method the returns to the mother country. Without some such scheme of enlargement, it was obvious that any benefit we could expect from these colonies must be extremely limited. Accordingly many facilities were given to their trade with the foreign plantations, and with the southern parts of Europe. As to the confining the returns to this country, administration saw the mischief and folly of a plan of indiscriminate restraint. They applied their remedy to that part where the disease existed, and to that only: on this idea they established regulations, far more likely to check the dangerous, clandestine trade with Hamburg and Holland, than this author's friends, or any of their predecessors had ever done.

The friends of the author have a method surely a little whimsical in all this sort of discussions. They have made an innumerable multitude of commercial regulations, at which the trade of England exclaimed with one voice, and many of which have been altered on the unanimous opinion of that trade. Still they go on, just as before, in a sort of droning panegyric on themselves, talking of these regulations as prodigies of wisdom; and, instead of appealing to those who are most affected and the best judges, they turn round in a perpetual circle of their own reasonings and pretences; they hand you over from one of their own pamphlets to another: "See," say they, "this demonstrated in the 'Regulations of the Colonies.'" "See this satisfactorily proved in 'The Considerations.'" By and by we shall have another: "See for this 'The State of the Nation.'" I wish to take another method in vindicating the opposite system. I refer to the petitions of merchants for these regulations; to their thanks when they were obtained; and to the strong and grateful sense they have ever since expressed of the benefits received under that administration.

All administrations have in their commercial regulations been generally aided by the opinion of some merchants; too frequently by that of a few, and those a sort of favorites: they have been directed by the opinion of one or two merchants, who were to merit in flatteries, and to be paid in contracts; who frequently advised, not for the general good of trade, but for their private advantage. During the administration of which this author complains, the meetings of merchants upon the business of trade were numerous and public; sometimes at the house of the Marquis of Rockingham; sometimes at Mr. Dowdeswell's; sometimes at Sir George Savile's, a house always open to every deliberation favorable to the liberty or the commerce of his country. Nor were these meetings confined to the merchants of London. Merchants and manufacturers were invited from all the considerable towns in England. They conferred with the ministers and active members of Parliament. No private views, no local interests prevailed. Never were points in trade settled upon a larger scale of information. They who attended these meetings well know what ministers they were who heard the most patiently, who comprehended the most clearly, and who provided the most wisely. Let then this author and his friends still continue in possession of the practice of exalting their own abilities, in their pamphlets and in the newspapers. They never will persuade the public, that the merchants of England were in a general confederacy to sacrifice their own interests to those of North America, and to destroy the vent of their own goods in favor of the manufactures of France and Holland.

Had the friends of this author taken these means of information, his extreme terrors of contraband in the West India islands would have been greatly quieted, and his objections to the opening of the ports would have ceased. He would have learned, from the most satisfactory analysis of the West India trade, that we have the advantage in every essential article of it; and that almost every restriction on our communication with our neighbors there, is a restriction unfavorable to ourselves.

Such were the principles that guided, and the authority that sanctioned, these regulations. No man ever said, that, in the multiplicity of regulations made in the administration of their predecessors, none were useful; some certainly were so; and I defy the author to show a commercial regulation of that period, which he can prove, from any authority except his own, to have a tendency beneficial to commerce, that has been repealed. So far were that ministry from being guided by a spirit of contradiction or of innovation.

The author's attack on that administration, for their neglect of our claims on foreign powers, is by much the most astonishing instance he has given, or that, I believe, any man ever did give, of an intrepid effrontery. It relates to the Manilla ransom; to the Canada bills; and to the Russian treaty. Could one imagine, that these very things, which he thus chooses to object to others, have been the principal subject of charge against his favorite ministry? Instead of clearing them of these charges, he appears not so much as to have heard of them; but throws them directly upon the administration which succeeded to that of his friends.

It is not always very pleasant to be obliged to produce the detail of this kind of transactions to the public view. I will content myself therefore with giving a short state of facts, which, when the author chooses to contradict, he shall see proved, more, perhaps, to his conviction, than to his liking. The first fact then is, that the demand for the Manilla ransom had been in the author's favorite administration so neglected as to appear to have been little less than tacitly abandoned. At home, no countenance was given to the claimants; and when it was mentioned in Parliament, the then leader did not seem, at least, a very sanguine advocate in favor of the claim. These things made it a matter of no small difficulty to resume and press that negotiation with Spain. However, so clear was our right, that the then ministers resolved to revive it; and so little time was lost, that though that administration was not completed until the 9th of July, 1765, on the 20th of the following August, General Conway transmitted a strong and full remonstrance on that subject to the Earl of Rochfort. The argument, on which the court of Madrid most relied, was the dereliction of that claim by the preceding ministers. However, it was still pushed with so much vigor, that the Spaniards, from a positive denial to pay, offered to refer the demand to arbitration. That proposition was rejected; and the demand being still pressed, there was all the reason in the world to expect its being brought to a favorable issue; when it was thought proper to change the administration. Whether under their circumstances, and in the time they continued in power, more could be done, the reader will judge; who will hear with astonishment a charge of remissness from those very men, whose inactivity, to call it by no worse a name, laid the chief difficulties in the way of the revived negotiation.

As to the Canada bills, this author thinks proper to assert, "that the proprietors found themselves under a necessity of compounding their demands upon the French court, and accepting terms which they had often rejected, and which the Earl of Halifax had declared he would sooner forfeit his hand than sign."[95] When I know that the Earl of Halifax says so, the Earl of Halifax shall have an answer; but I persuade myself that his Lordship has given no authority for this ridiculous rant. In the mean time, I shall only speak of it as a common concern of that ministry.

In the first place, then, I observe, that a convention, for the liquidation of the Canada bills, was concluded under the administration of 1766; when nothing was concluded under that of the favorites of this author.

2. This transaction was, in every step of it, carried on in concert with the persons interested, and was terminated to their entire satisfaction. They would have acquiesced perhaps in terms somewhat lower than those which were obtained. The author is indeed too kind to them. He will, however, let them speak for themselves, and show what their own opinion was of the measures pursued in their favor.[96] In what manner the execution of the convention has been since provided for, it is not my present business to examine.

3. The proprietors had absolutely despaired of being paid, at any time, any proportion, of their demand, until the change of that ministry. The merchants were checked and discountenanced; they had often been told, by some in authority, of the cheap rate at which these Canada bills had been procured; yet the author can talk of the composition of them as a necessity induced by the change in administration. They found themselves indeed, before that change, under a necessity of hinting somewhat of bringing the matter into Parliament; but they were soon silenced, and put in mind of the fate which the Newfoundland business had there met with. Nothing struck them more than the strong contrast between the spirit, and method of proceeding, of the two administrations.

4. The Earl of Halifax never did, nor could, refuse to sign this convention; because this convention, as it stands, never was before him.[97]

The author's last charge on that ministry, with regard to foreign affairs, is the Russian treaty of commerce, which the author thinks fit to assert, was concluded "on terms the Earl of Buckinghamshire had refused to accept of, and which had been deemed by former ministers disadvantageous to the nation, and by the merchants unsafe and unprofitable."[98]

Both the assertions in this paragraph are equally groundless. The treaty then concluded by Sir George Macartney was not on the terms which the Earl of Buckinghamshire had refused. The Earl of Buckinghamshire never did refuse terms, because the business never came to the point of refusal, or acceptance; all that he did was, to receive the Russian project for a treaty of commerce, and to transmit it to England. This was in November, 1764; and he left Petersburg the January following, before he could even receive an answer from his own court. The conclusion of the treaty fell to his successor. Whoever will be at the trouble to compare it with the treaty of 1734, will, I believe, confess, that, if the former ministers could have obtained such terms, they were criminal in not accepting them.

But the merchants "deemed them unsafe and unprofitable." What merchants? As no treaty ever was more maturely considered, so the opinion of the Russia merchants in London was all along taken; and all the instructions sent over were in exact conformity to that opinion. Our minister there made no step without having previously consulted our merchants resident in Petersburg, who, before the signing of the treaty, gave the most full and unanimous testimony in its favor. In their address to our minister at that court, among other things they say, "It may afford some additional satisfaction to your Excellency, to receive a public acknowledgment of the entire and unreserved approbation of every article in this treaty, from us who are so immediately and so nearly concerned in its consequences." This was signed by the consul-general, and every British merchant in Petersburg.

The approbation of those immediately concerned in the consequences is nothing to this author. He and his friends have so much tenderness for people's interests, and understand them so much better than they do themselves, that, whilst these politicians are contending for the best of possible terms, the claimants are obliged to go without any terms at all.

One of the first and justest complaints against the administration of the author's friends, was the want of rigor in their foreign negotiations. Their immediate successors endeavored to correct that error, along with others; and there was scarcely a foreign court, in which the new spirit that had arisen was not sensibly felt, acknowledged, and sometimes complained of. On their coming into administration, they found the demolition of Dunkirk entirely at a stand: instead of demolition, they found construction; for the French were then at work on the repair of the jettees. On the remonstrances of General Conway, some parts of these jettees were immediately destroyed. The Duke of Richmond personally surveyed the place, and obtained a fuller knowledge of its true state and condition than any of our ministers had done; and, in consequence, had larger offers from the Duke of Choiseul than had ever been received. But, as these were short of our just expectations under the treaty, he rejected them. Our then ministers, knowing that, in their administration, the people's minds were set at ease upon all the essential points of public and private liberty, and that no project of theirs could endanger the concord of the empire, were under no restraint from pursuing every just demand upon foreign nations.

The author, towards the end of this work, falls into reflections upon the state of public morals in this country: he draws use from this doctrine, by recommending his friend to the king and the public, as another Duke of Sully; and he concludes the whole performance with a very devout prayer.

The prayers of politicians may sometimes be sincere; and as this prayer is in substance, that the author, or his friends, may be soon brought into power, I have great reason to believe it is very much from the heart. It must be owned too that after he has drawn such a picture, such a shocking picture, of the state of this country, he has great faith in thinking the means he prays for sufficient to relieve us: after the character he has given of its inhabitants of all ranks and classes, he has great charity in caring much about them; and indeed no less hope, in being of opinion, that such a detestable nation can ever become the care of Providence. He has not even found five good men in our devoted city.

He talks indeed of men of virtue and ability. But where are his men of virtue and ability to be found? Are they in the present administration? Never were a set of people more blackened by this author. Are they among the party of those (no small body) who adhere to the system of 1766? These it is the great purpose of this book to calumniate. Are they the persons who acted with his great friend, since the change in 1762, to his removal in 1765? Scarcely any of these are now out of employment; and we are in possession of his desideratum. Yet I think he hardly means to select, even some of the highest of them, as examples fit for the reformation of a corrupt world.

He observes, that the virtue of the most exemplary prince that ever swayed a sceptre "can never warm or illuminate the body of his people, if foul mirrors are placed so near him as to refract and dissipate the rays at their first emanation."[99] Without observing upon the propriety of this metaphor, or asking how mirrors come to have lost their old quality of reflecting, and to have acquired that of refracting, and dissipating rays, and how far their foulness will account for this change; the remark itself is common and true: no less true, and equally surprising from him, is that which immediately precedes it: "It is in vain to endeavor to check the progress of irreligion and licentiousness, by punishing such crimes in one individual, if others equally culpable are rewarded with the honors and emoluments of the state."[100] I am not in the secret of the author's manner of writing; but it appears to me, that he must intend these reflections as a satire upon the administration of his happy years. Were over the honors and emoluments of the state more lavishly squandered upon persons scandalous in their lives than during that period? In these scandalous lives, was there anything more scandalous than the mode of punishing one culpable individual? In that individual, is anything more culpable than his having been seduced by the example of some of those very persons by whom he was thus persecuted?

The author is so eager to attack others, that he provides but indifferently for his own defence. I believe, without going beyond the page I have now before me, he is very sensible, that I have sufficient matter of further, and, if possible, of heavier charge against his friends, upon his own principle. But it is because the advantage is too great, that I decline making use of it. I wish the author had not thought that all methods are lawful in party. Above all he ought to have taken care not to wound his enemies through the sides of his country. This he has done, by making that monstrous and overcharged picture of the distresses of our situation. No wonder that he, who finds this country in the same condition with that of France at the time of Henry the Fourth, could also find a resemblance between his political friend and the Duke of Sully. As to those personal resemblances, people will often judge of them from their affections: they may imagine in these clouds whatsoever figures they please; but what is the conformation of that eye which can discover a resemblance of this country and these times to those with which the author compares them? France, a country just recovered out of twenty-five years of the most cruel and desolating civil war that perhaps was ever known. The kingdom, under the veil of momentary quiet, full of the most atrocious political, operating upon the most furious fanatical factions. Some pretenders even to the crown; and those who did not pretend to the whole, aimed at the partition of the monarchy. There were almost as many competitors as provinces; and all abetted by the greatest, the most ambitious, and most enterprising power in Europe. No place safe from treason; no, not the bosoms on which the most amiable prince that ever lived reposed his head; not his mistresses; not even his queen. As to the finances, they had scarce an existence, but as a matter of plunder to the managers, and of grants to insatiable and ungrateful courtiers.

How can our author have the heart to describe this as any sort of parallel to our situation? To be sure, an April shower has some resemblance to a waterspout; for they are both wet: and there is some likeness between a summer evening's breeze and a hurricane; they are both wind: but who can compare our disturbances, our situation, or our finances, to those of France in the time of Henry? Great Britain is indeed at this time wearied, but not broken, with the efforts of a victorious foreign war; not sufficiently relieved by an inadequate peace, but somewhat benefited by that peace, and infinitely by the consequences of that war. The powers of Europe awed by our victories, and lying in ruins upon every side of us. Burdened indeed we are with debt, but abounding with resources. We have a trade, not perhaps equal to our wishes, but more than ever we possessed. In effect, no pretender to the crown; nor nutriment for such desperate and destructive factions as have formerly shaken this kingdom.

As to our finances, the author trifles with us. When Sully came to those of France, in what order was any part of the financial system? or what system was there at all? There is no man in office who must not be sensible that ours is, without the act of any parading minister, the most regular and orderly system perhaps that was ever known; the best secured against all frauds in the collection, and all misapplication in the expenditure of public money.

I admit that, in this flourishing state of things, there are appearances enough to excite uneasiness and apprehension. I admit there is a cankerworm in the rose:

Medio de fonte leporum Surgit amari aliquid, quod in ipsis floribus angat.

This is nothing else than a spirit of disconnection, of distrust, and of treachery among public men. It is no accidental evil, nor has its effect been trusted to the usual frailty of nature; the distemper has been inoculated. The author is sensible of it, and we lament it together. This distemper is alone sufficient to take away considerably from the benefits of our constitution and situation, and perhaps to render their continuance precarious. If these evil dispositions should spread much farther, they must end in our destruction; for nothing can save a people destitute of public and private faith. However, the author, for the present state of things, has extended the charge by much too widely; as men are but too apt to take the measure of all mankind from their own particular acquaintance. Barren as this age may be in the growth of honor and virtue, the country does not want, at this moment, as strong, and those not a few examples, as were ever known, of an unshaken adherence to principle, and attachment to connection, against every allurement of interest. Those examples are not furnished by the great alone; nor by those, whose activity in public affairs may render it suspected that they make such a character one of the rounds in their ladder of ambition; but by men more quiet, and more in the shade, on whom an unmixed sense of honor alone could operate. Such examples indeed are not furnished in great abundance amongst those who are the subjects of the author's panegyric. He must look for them in another camp. He who complains of the ill effects of a divided and heterogeneous administration, is not justifiable in laboring to render odious in the eyes of the public those men, whose principles, whose maxims of policy, and whose personal character, can alone administer a remedy to this capital evil of the age: neither is he consistent with himself, in constantly extolling those whom he knows to be the authors of the very mischief of which he complains, and which the whole nation feels so deeply.

The persons who are the objects of his dislike and complaint are many of them of the first families, and weightiest properties, in the kingdom; but infinitely more distinguished for their untainted honor, public and private, and their zealous, but sober attachment to the constitution of their country, than they can be by any birth, or any station. If they are the friends of any one great man rather than another, it is not that they make his aggrandizement the end of their union; or because they know him to be the most active in caballing for his connections the largest and speediest emoluments. It is because they know him, by personal experience, to have wise and enlarged ideas of the public good, and an invincible constancy in adhering to it; because they are convinced, by the whole tenor of his actions, that he will never negotiate away their honor or his own: and that, in or out of power, change of situation will make no alteration in his conduct. This will give to such a person in such a body, an authority and respect that no minister ever enjoyed among his venal dependents, in the highest plenitude of his power; such as servility never can give, such as ambition never can receive or relish.

This body will often be reproached by their adversaries, for want of ability in their political transactions; they will be ridiculed for missing many favorable conjunctures, and not profiting of several brilliant opportunities of fortune; but they must be contented to endure that reproach; for they cannot acquire the reputation of that kind of ability without losing all the other reputation they possess.

They will be charged too with a dangerous spirit of exclusion and proscription, for being unwilling to mix in schemes of administration, which have no bond of union, or principle of confidence. That charge too they must suffer with patience. If the reason of the thing had not spoken loudly enough, the miserable examples of the several administrations constructed upon the idea of systematic discord would be enough to frighten them from such, monstrous and ruinous conjunctions. It is however false, that the idea of an united administration carries with it that of a proscription of any other party. It does indeed imply the necessity of having the great strongholds of government in well-united hands, in order to secure the predominance of right and uniform principles; of having the capital offices of deliberation and execution of those who can deliberate with mutual confidence, and who will execute what is resolved with firmness and fidelity. If this system cannot be rigorously adhered to in practice, (and what system can be so?) it ought to be the constant aim of good men to approach as nearly to it as possible. No system of that kind can be formed, which will not leave room fully sufficient for healing coalitions: but no coalition, which, under the specious name of independency, carries in its bosom the unreconciled principles of the original discord of parties, ever was, or will be, an healing coalition. Nor will the mind of our sovereign ever know repose, his kingdom settlement, or his business order, efficiency, or grace with his people, until things are established upon the basis of some set of men, who are trusted by the public, and who can trust one another.

This comes rather nearer to the mark than the author's description of a proper administration, under the name of men of ability and virtue, which conveys no definite idea at all; nor does it apply specifically to our grand national distemper. All parties pretend to these qualities. The present ministry, no favorites of the author, will be ready enough to declare themselves persons of virtue and ability; and if they choose a vote for that purpose, perhaps it would not be quite impossible for them to procure it. But, if the disease be this distrust and disconnection, it is easy to know who are sound and who are tainted; who are fit to restore us to health, who to continue, and to spread the contagion. The present ministry being made up of draughts from all parties in the kingdom, if they should profess any adherence to the connections they have left, they must convict themselves of the blackest treachery. They therefore choose rather to renounce the principle itself, and to brand it with the name of pride and faction. This test with certainty discriminates the opinions of men. The other is a description vague and unsatisfactory.

As to the unfortunate gentlemen who may at any time compose that system, which, under the plausible title of an administration, subsists but for the establishment of weakness and confusion; they fall into different classes, with different merits. I think the situation of some people in that state may deserve a certain degree of compassion; at the same time that they furnish an example, which, it is to be hoped, by being a severe one, will have its effect, at least, on the growing generation; if an original seduction, on plausible but hollow pretences, into loss of honor, friendship, consistency, security, and repose, can furnish it. It is possible to draw, even from the very prosperity of ambition, examples of terror, and motives to compassion.

I believe the instances are exceedingly rare of men immediately passing over a clear, marked line of virtue into declared vice and corruption. There are a sort of middle tints and shades between the two extremes; there is something uncertain on the confines of the two empires which they first pass through, and which renders the change easy and imperceptible. There are even a sort of splendid impositions so well contrived, that, at the very time the path of rectitude is quitted forever, men seem to be advancing into some higher and nobler road of public conduct. Not that such impositions are strong enough in themselves; but a powerful interest, often concealed from those whom it affects, works at the bottom, and secures the operation. Men are thus debauched away from those legitimate connections, which they had formed on a judgment, early perhaps, but sufficiently mature, and wholly unbiassed. They do not quit them upon any ground of complaint, for grounds of just complaint may exist, but upon the flattering and most dangerous of all principles, that of mending what is well. Gradually they are habituated to other company; and a change in their habitudes soon makes a way for a change in their opinions. Certain persons are no longer so very frightful, when they come to be known and to be serviceable. As to their old friends, the transition is easy; from friendship to civility; from civility to enmity: few are the steps from dereliction to persecution.

People not very well grounded in the principles of public morality find a set of maxims in office ready made for them, which they assume as naturally and inevitably, as any of the insignia or instruments of the situation. A certain tone of the solid and practical is immediately acquired. Every former profession of public spirit is to be considered as a debauch of youth, or, at best, as a visionary scheme of unattainable perfection. The very idea of consistency is exploded. The convenience of the business of the day is to furnish the principle for doing it. Then the whole ministerial cant is quickly got by heart. The prevalence of faction is to be lamented. All opposition is to be regarded as the effect of envy and disappointed ambition. All administrations are declared to be alike. The same necessity justifies all their measures. It is no longer a matter of discussion, who or what administration is; but that administration is to be supported, is a general maxim. Flattering themselves that their power is become necessary to the support of all order and government; everything which tends to the support of that power is sanctified, and becomes a part of the public interest.

Growing every day more formed to affairs, and better knit in their limbs, when the occasion (now the only rule) requires it, they become capable of sacrificing those very persons to whom they had before sacrificed their original friends. It is now only in the ordinary course of business to alter an opinion, or to betray a connection. Frequently relinquishing one set of men and adopting another, they grow into a total indifference to human feeling, as they had before to moral obligation; until at length, no one original impression remains upon their minds: every principle is obliterated; every sentiment effaced.

In the mean time, that power, which all these changes aimed at securing, remains still as tottering and as uncertain as ever. They are delivered up into the hands of those who feel neither respect for their persons, nor gratitude for their favors; who are put about them in appearance to serve, in reality to govern them; and, when the signal is given, to abandon and destroy them in order to set up some new dupe of ambition, who in his turn is to be abandoned and destroyed. Thus living in a state of continual uneasiness and ferment, softened only by the miserable consolation of giving now and then preferments to those for whom they have no value; they are unhappy in their situation, yet find it impossible to resign. Until, at length, soured in temper, and disappointed by the very attainment of their ends, in some angry, in some haughty, or some negligent moment, they incur the displeasure of those upon whom they have rendered their very being dependent. Then perierunt tempora longi servitii; they are cast off with scorn; they are turned out, emptied of all natural character, of all intrinsic worth, of all essential dignity, and deprived of every consolation of friendship. Having rendered all retreat to old principles ridiculous, and to old regards impracticable, not being able to counterfeit pleasure, or to discharge discontent, nothing being sincere, or right, or balanced in their minds, it is more than a chance, that, in the delirium of the last stage of their distempered power, they make an insane political testament, by which they throw all their remaining weight and consequence into the scale of their declared enemies, and the avowed authors of their destruction. Thus they finish their course. Had it been possible that the whole, or even a great part of these effects on their minds, I say nothing of the effect upon their fortunes, could have appeared to them in their first departure from the right line, it is certain they would have rejected every temptation with horror. The principle of these remarks, like every good principle in morality, is trite; but its frequent application is not the less necessary.

As to others, who are plain practical men, they have been guiltless at all times of all public pretence. Neither the author nor any one else has reason to be angry with them. They belonged to his friend for their interest; for their interest they quitted him; and when it is their interest, he may depend upon it, they will return to their former connection. Such people subsist at all times, and, though the nuisance of all, are at no time a worthy subject of discussion. It is false virtue and plausible error that do the mischief.

If men come to government with right dispositions, they have not that unfavorable subject which this author represents to work upon. Our circumstances are indeed critical; but then they are the critical circumstances of a strong and mighty nation. If corruption and meanness are greatly spread, they are not spread universally. Many public men are hitherto examples of public spirit and integrity. Whole parties, as far as large bodies can be uniform, have preserved character. However they may be deceived in some particulars, I know of no set of men amongst us, which does not contain persons on whom the nation, in a difficult exigence, may well value itself. Private life, which is the nursery of the commonwealth, is yet in general pure, and on the whole disposed to virtue; and the people at large want neither generosity nor spirit. No small part of that very luxury, which is so much the subject of the author's declamation, but which, in most parts of life, by being well balanced and diffused, is only decency and convenience, has perhaps as many, or more good than evil consequences attending it. It certainly excites industry, nourishes emulation, and inspires some sense of personal value into all ranks of people. What we want is to establish more fully an opinion of uniformity, and consistency of character, in the leading men of the state; such as will restore some confidence to profession and appearance, such as will fix subordination upon esteem. Without this, all schemes are begun at the wrong end. All who join in them are liable to their consequences. All men who, under whatever pretext, take a part in the formation or the support of systems constructed in such a manner as must, in their nature, disable them from the execution of their duty, have made themselves guilty of all the present distraction, and of the future ruin, which they may bring upon their country.

It is a serious affair, this studied disunion in government. In cases where union is most consulted in the constitution of a ministry, and where persons are best disposed to promote it, differences, from the various ideas of men, will arise; and from their passions will often ferment into violent heats, so as greatly to disorder all public business. What must be the consequence, when the very distemper is made the basis of the constitution; and the original weakness of human nature is still further enfeebled by art and contrivance? It must subvert government from the very foundation. It turns our public councils into the most mischievous cabals; where the consideration is, not how the nation's business shall be carried on, but how those who ought to carry it on shall circumvent each other. In such a state of things, no order, uniformity, dignity, or effect, can appear in our proceedings, either at home or abroad. Nor will it make much difference, whether some of the constituent parts of such an administration are men of virtue or ability, or not; supposing it possible that such men, with their eyes open, should choose to make a part in such a body.

The effects of all human contrivances are in the hand of Providence. I do not like to answer, as our author so readily does, for the event of any speculation. But surely the nature of our disorders, if anything, must indicate the proper remedy. Men who act steadily on the principles I have stated may in all events be very serviceable to their country; in one case, by furnishing (if their sovereign should be so advised) an administration formed upon ideas very different from those which have for some time been unfortunately fashionable. But, if this should not be the case, they may be still serviceable; for the example of a large body of men, steadily sacrificing ambition to principle, can never be without use. It will certainly be prolific, and draw others to an imitation. Vera gloria radices agit, atque etiam propagatur.

I do not think myself of consequence enough to imitate my author, in troubling the world with the prayers or wishes I may form for the public: full as little am I disposed to imitate his professions; those professions are long since worn out in the political service. If the work will not speak for the author, his own declarations deserve but little credit.


[38] History of the Minority. History of the Repeal of the Stamp Act. Considerations on Trade and Finance. Political Register, &c., &c.

[39] Pages 6-10.

[40] Pages 9, 10.

[41] Page 9.

[42] Page 9.

[43] Page 6.

[44] Page 9.

[45] Total imports from the West Indies in 1764 L2,909,411 Exports to ditto in ditto 896,511 ————— Excess of imports L2,012,900

In this, which is the common way of stating the balance, it will appear upwards of two millions against us, which is ridiculous.

[46] Page 6.

[47] 1754. L s. d. Total export of British goods value, 8,317,506 15 3 Ditto of foreign goods in time 2,910,836 14 9 Ditto of ditto out of time 559,485 2 10 ————————— Total exports of all kinds 11,787,828 12 10 Total imports 8,093,479 15 0 ————————— Balance in favor of England L3,094,355 17 10 —————————

1761. L s. d. Total export of British goods 10,649,581 12 6 Ditto of foreign goods in time 3,553,692 7 1 Ditto of ditto out of time 355,015 0 2 ————————— Total exports of all kinds 14,558,288 19 9 Total imports 9,294,915 1 6 ————————— Balance in favor of England L5,263,373 18 3 —————————

Here is the state of our trade in 1761, compared with a very good year of profound peace: both are taken from the authentic entries at the custom-house. How the author can contrive to make this increase of the export of English produce agree with his account of the dreadful want of hands in England, page 9, unless he supposes manufactures to be made without hands, I really do not see. It is painful to be so frequently obliged to set this author right in matters of fact. This state will fully refute all that he has said or insinuated upon the difficulties and decay of our trade, pages 6, 7, and 9.

[48] Page 7. See also page 13.

[49] Pages 12, 13.

[50] Page 17.

[51] Page 6.

[52] "Our merchants suffered by the detention of the galleons, as their correspondents in Spain were disabled from paying them for their goods sent to America."—State of the Nation, p. 7.

[53] Pages 12, 13.

[54] Page 6.

[55] Something however has transpired in the quarrels among those concerned in that transaction. It seems the good Genius of Britain, so much vaunted by our author, did his duty nobly. Whilst we were gaining such advantages, the court of France was astonished at our concessions. "J'ai apporte a Versailles, il est vrai, les Ratifications du Roi d'Angleterre, a vostre grand etonnement, et a celui de bien d'autres. Je dois cela au bontes du Roi d'Angleterre, a celles de Milord Bute, a Mons. le Comte de Viry, a Mons. le Duc de Nivernois, et en fin a mon scavoir faire."—Lettres, &c., du Chev. D'Eon, p. 51.

[56] "The navy bills are not due till six months after they have been issued; six months also of the seamen's wages by act of Parliament must be, and in consequence of the rules prescribed by that act, twelve months' wages generally, and often much more are retained; and there has been besides at all times a large arrear of pay, which, though kept in the account, could never be claimed, the persons to whom it was due having left neither assignees nor representatives. The precise amount of such sums cannot be ascertained; but they can hardly be reckoned less than thirteen or fourteen hundred thousand pounds. On 31st Dec, 1754, when the navy debt was reduced nearly as low as it could be, it still amounted to 1,296,567l. 18s. 11-3/4d. consisting chiefly of articles which could not then be discharged; such articles will be larger now, in proportion to the increase of the establishment; and an allowance must always be made for them in judging of the state of the navy debt, though they are not distinguishable in the account. In providing for that which is payable, the principal object of the legislature is always to discharge the bills, for they are the greatest article; they bear an interest of 4 per cent; and, when the quantity of them is large, they are a heavy incumbrance upon all money transactions"

[57] Navy L1,450,900 Army 1,268,500 Ordnance 174,600 The four American governments 19,200 General surveys in America 1,600 Foundling Hospital 38,000 To the African committee 13,000 For the civil establishment on the coast of Africa 5,500 Militia 100,000 Deficiency of land and malt 300,000 Deficiency of funds 202,400 Extraordinaries of the army and navy 35,000 ————— Total L3,609,700

[58] Upon the money borrowed in 1760, the premium of one per cent was for twenty-one years, not for twenty; this annuity has been paid eight years instead of seven; the sum paid is therefore 640,000l. instead of 560,000l.; the remaining term is worth, ten years and a quarter instead of eleven years;[59] its value is 820,000l. instead of 880,000l.; and the whole value of that premium is 1,460,000l. instead of 1,440,000l. The like errors are observable in his computation on the additional capital of three per cent on the loan of that year. In like manner, on the loan of 1762, the author computes on five years' payment instead of six; and says in express terms, that take 5 from 19, and there remain 13. These are not errors of the pen or the press; the several computations pursued in this part of the work with great diligence and earnestness prove them errors upon much deliberation. Thus the premiums in 1759 are cast up 90,000l. too little, an error in the first rule of arithmetic. "The annuities borrowed in 1756 and 1758 are," says he, "to continue till redeemed by Parliament." He does not take notice that the first are irredeemable till February, 1771, the other till July, 1782. In this the amount of the premiums is computed on the time which they have run. Weakly and ignorantly; for he might have added to this, and strengthened his argument, such as it is, by charging also the value of the additional one per cent from the day on which he wrote, to at least that day on which these annuities become redeemable. To make ample amends, however, he has added to the premiums of 15 per cent in 1759, and three per cent in 1760, the annuity paid for them since their commencement; the fallacy of which is manifest; for the premiums in these cases can he neither more nor less than the additional capital for which the public stands engaged, and is just the same whether five or five hundred years' annuity has been paid for it. In private life, no man persuades himself that he has borrowed 200l. because he happens to have paid twenty years' interest on a loan of 100l.

[59] See Smart and Demoivre.

[60] Pages 30-32.

[61] In a course of years a few manufacturers have been tempted abroad, not by cheap living, but by immense premiums, to set up as masters, and to introduce the manufacture. This must happen in every country eminent for the skill of its artificers, and has nothing to do with taxes and the price of provisions.

[62] Although the public brewery has considerably increased in this latter period, the produce of the malt-tax has been something less than in the former; this cannot be attributed to the new malt-tax. Had this been the cause of the lessened consumption, the public brewery, so much more burdened, must have felt it more. The cause of this diminution of the malt-tax I take to have been principally owing to the greater dearness of corn in the second period than in the first, which, in all its consequences, affected the people in the country much more than those in the towns. But the revenue from consumption was not, on the whole, impaired; as we have seen in the foregoing page.

[63] Total Imports, value, Exports, ditto. 1752 L7,889,369 L11,694,912 1753 8,625,029 12,243,604 1754 8,093,472 11,787,828 ————- ————— Total L24,607,870 35,726,344 24,607,870 ————— Exports exceed imports 11,118,474 ————— Medium balance L3,706,158 —————

Total Imports, value, Exports, ditto. 1764 L10,818,946 L16,104,532 1765 10,889,742 14,550,507 1766 11,475,825 14,024,964 —————- —————- Total L32,685,513 44,740,003 —————- 32,683,613 —————- Exports exceed 12,054,490 —————- Medium balance for three last years L4,018,163

[64] It is dearer in some places, and rather cheaper in others; but it must soon all come to a level.

[65] A tax rated by the intendant in each generality, on the presumed fortune of every person below the degree of a gentleman.

[66] Before the war it was sold to, or rather forced on, the consumer at 11 sous, or about 5d. the pound. What it is at present, I am not informed. Even this will appear no trivial imposition. In London, salt may be had at a penny farthing per pound from the last retailer.

[67] Page 31.

[68] Page 33.

[69] Page 33.

[70] Page 33.

[71] The figures in the "Considerations" are wrongly cast up; it should be 3,608,700l.

[72] "Considerations," p. 43. "State of the Nation," p. 33.

[73] Ibid.

[74] Page 34.

[75] The author of the "State of the Nation," p. 34, informs us, that the sum of 75,000l. allowed by him for the extras of the army and ordnance, is far less than was allowed for the same service in the years 1767 and 1768. It is so undoubtedly, and by at least 200,000l. He sees that he cannot abide by the plan of the "Considerations" in this point, nor is he willing wholly to give it up. Such an enormous difference as that between 35,000l. and 300,000l. puts him to a stand. Should he adopt the latter plan of increased expense, he must then confess that he had, on a former occasion, egregiously trifled with the public; at the same time all his future promises of reduction must fall to the ground. If he stuck to the 35,000l. he was sure that every one must expect from him some account how this monstrous charge came to continue ever since the war, when it was clearly unnecessary; how all those successions of ministers (his own included) came to pay it, and why his great friend in Parliament, and his partisans without doors, came not to pursue to ruin, at least to utter shame, the authors of so groundless and scandalous a profusion. In this strait he took a middle way; and, to come nearer the real state of the service, he outbid the "Considerations," at one stroke, 40,000l.; at the same time he hints to you, that you may expect some benefit also from the original plan. But the author of the "Considerations" will not suffer him to escape it. He has pinned him down to his 35,000l.; for that is the sum he has chosen, not as what he thinks will probably be required, but as making the most ample allowance for every possible contingency. See that author, p. 42 and 43.

[76] He has done great injustice to the establishment of 1768; but I have not here time for this discussion; nor is it necessary to this argument.

[77] Page 34.

[78] In making up this account, he falls into a surprising error of arithmetic. "The deficiency of the land-tax in the year 1754 and 1755,[80] when it was at 2s., amounted to no more, on a medium, than 49,372l.; to which, if we add half the sum, it will give us 79,058l. as the peace deficiency at 3s."

Total L49,372 Add the half 24,686 ———- L74,058

Which he makes 79,058l. This is indeed in disfavor of his argument; but we shall see that he has ways, by other errors, of reimbursing himself.

[79] Page 34.

[80] Page 33.

[81] Page 43.

[82] Page 35.

[83] Page 37.

[84] Pages 37, 38.

[85] Pages 39, 40.

[86] Page 39.

[87] It is observable, that the partisans of American taxation, when they have a mind to represent this tax as wonderfully beneficial to England, state it as worth 100,000l. a year; when they are to represent it as very light on the Americans, it dwindles to 60,000l. Indeed it is very difficult to compute what its produce might have been.

[88] "Considerations," p. 74.

[89] "Considerations," p. 79.

[90] Ibid., p. 74.

[91] I do not here enter into the unsatisfactory disquisition concerning representation real or presumed. I only say, that a great people who have their property, without any reserve, in all cases, disposed of by another people, at an immense distance from them, will not think themselves in the enjoyment of freedom. It will be hard to show to those who are in such a state, which of the usual parts of the definition or description of a free people are applicable to them; and it is neither pleasant nor wise to attempt to prove that they have no right to be comprehended in such a description.

[92] Page 21.

[93] Here the author has a note altogether in his usual strain of reasoning; he finds out that somebody, in the course of this multifarious evidence, had said, "that a very considerable part of the orders of 1765 transmitted from America had been afterwards suspended; but that in case the Stamp Act was repealed, those orders were to be executed in the present year, 1766"; and that, on the repeal of the Stamp Act, "the exports to the colonies would be at least double the value of the exports of the past year." He then triumphs exceedingly on their having fallen short of it on the state of the custom-house entries. I do not well know what conclusion he draws applicable to his purpose from these facts. He does not deny that all the orders which came from America subsequent to the disturbances of the Stamp Act were on the condition of that act being repealed; and he does not assert that, notwithstanding that act should be enforced by a strong hand, still the orders would be executed. Neither does he quite venture to say that this decline of the trade in 1766 was owing to the repeal. What does he therefore infer from it, favorable to the enforcement of that law? It only comes to this, and no more; those merchants, who thought our trade would be doubled in the subsequent year, were mistaken in their speculations. So that the Stamp Act was not to be repealed unless this speculation of theirs was a probable event. But it was not repealed in order to double our trade in that year, as everybody knows (whatever some merchants might have said), but lest in that year we should have no trade at all. The fact is, that during the greatest part of the year 1755, that is, until about the month of October, when the accounts of the disturbances came thick upon us, the American trade went on as usual. Before this time, the Stamp Act could not affect it. Afterwards, the merchants fell into a great consternation; a general stagnation in trade ensued. But as soon as it was known that the ministry favored the repeal of the Stamp Act, several of the bolder merchants ventured to execute their orders; others more timid hung back; in this manner the trade continued in a state of dreadful fluctuation between the fears of those who had ventured, for the event of their boldness, and the anxiety of those whose trade was suspended, until the royal assent was finally given to the bill of repeal. That the trade of 1766 was not equal to that of 1765, could not be owing to the repeal; it arose from quite different causes, of which the author seems not to be aware: 1st, Our conquests during the war had laid open the trade of the French and Spanish West Indies to our colonies much more largely than they had ever enjoyed it; this continued for some time after the peace; but at length it was extremely contracted, and in some places reduced to nothing. Such in particular was the state of Jamaica. On the taking the Havannah all the stores of that island were emptied into that place, which produced unusual orders for goods, for supplying their own consumption, as well as for further speculations of trade. These ceasing, the trade stood on its own bottom. This is one cause of the diminished export to Jamaica, and not the childish idea of the author, of an impossible contraband from the opening of the ports.—2nd, The war had brought a great influx of cash into America, for the pay and provision of the troops; and this an unnatural increase of trade, which, as its cause failed, must in some degree return to its ancient and natural bounds.—3rd, When the merchants met from all parts, and compared their accounts, they were alarmed at the immensity of the debt due to them from America. They found that the Americans had over-traded their abilities. And, as they found too that several of them were capable of making the state of political events an excuse for their failure in commercial punctuality, many of our merchants in some degree contracted their trade from that moment. However, it is idle, in such an immense mass of trade, so liable to fluctuation, to infer anything from such a deficiency as one or even two hundred thousand pounds. In 1767, when the disturbances subsided, this deficiency was made up again.

[94] The disturbances have been in Boston only; and were not in consequence of the late duties.

[95] Page 24.

[96] "They are happy in having found, in your zeal for the dignity of this nation, the means of liquidating their claims, and of concluding with the court of France a convention for the final satisfaction of their demands; and have given us commission, in their names, and on their behalf, most earnestly to entreat your acceptance of their grateful acknowledgments. Whether they consider themselves as Britons, or as men more particularly profiting by your generous and spirited interposition, they see great reasons to be thankful, for having been supported by a minister, in whose public affections, in whose wisdom and activity, both the national honor, and the interests of individuals, have been at once so well supported and secured."—Thanks of the Canada merchants to General Conway, London, April 28, 1766.

[97] See the Convention itself, printed by Owen and Harrison, Warwick-lane, 1766; particularly the articles two and thirteen.

[98] Page 23.

[99] Page 46.

[100] Page 46.


So much misplaced industry has been used by the author of "The State of the Nation," as well as by other writers, to infuse discontent into the people, on account of the late war, and of the effects of our national debt; that nothing ought to be omitted which may tend to disabuse the public upon these subjects. When I had gone through the foregoing sheets, I recollected, that, in pages 58, 59, 60, I only gave the comparative states of the duties collected by the excise at large; together with the quantities of strong beer brewed in the two periods which are there compared. It might be still thought, that some other articles of popular consumption, of general convenience, and connected with our manufactures, might possibly have declined. I therefore now think it right to lay before the reader the state of the produce of three capital duties on such articles; duties which have frequently been made the subject of popular complaint. The duty on candles; that on soap, paper, &c.; and that on hides.

Average of net produce of duty on soap, &c., for eight years ending 1767 L264,902 Average of ditto for eight years ending 1754 228,114 ———— Average increase L36,788

Average of net produce of duty on candles for eight years ending 1767 L155,789 Average of ditto for eight years ending 1754 136,716 ———— Average increase L19,073

Average net produce of duty on hides, eight years, ending 1767 L189,216 Ditto eight years, ending 1754 168,200 ———— Average increase L21,016

This increase has not arisen from any additional duties. None have been imposed on these articles during the war. Notwithstanding the burdens of the war, and the late dearness of provisions, the consumption of all these articles has increased, and the revenue along with it.

There is another point in "The State of the Nation," to which, I fear, I have not been so full in my answer as I ought to have been, and as I am well warranted to be. The author has endeavored to throw a suspicion, or something more, on that salutary, and indeed necessary measure of opening the ports in Jamaica. "Orders were given," says he, "in August, 1765, for the free admission of Spanish vessels into all the colonies."[101] He then observes, that the exports to Jamaica fell 40,904l. short of those of 1764; and that the exports of the succeeding year, 1766, fell short of those of 1765, about eighty pounds; from whence he wisely infers, that this decline of exports being since the relaxation of the laws of trade, there is a just ground of suspicion, that the colonies have been supplied with foreign commodities instead of British.

Here, as usual with him, the author builds on a fact which is absolutely false; and which, being so, renders his whole hypothesis absurd and impossible. He asserts, that the order for admitting Spanish vessels was given in August, 1765. That order was not signed at the treasury board until the 15th day of the November following; and therefore so far from affecting the exports of the year 1765, that, supposing all possible diligence in the commissioners of the customs in expediting that order, and every advantage of vessels ready to sail, and the most favorable wind, it would hardly even arrive in Jamaica, within the limits of that year.

This order could therefore by no possibility be a cause of the decrease of exports in 1765. If it had any mischievous operation, it could not be before 1766. In that year, according to our author, the exports fell short of the preceding, just eighty pounds. He is welcome to that diminution; and to all the consequences he can draw from it.

But, as an auxiliary to account for this dreadful loss, he brings in the Free-port Act, which he observes (for his convenience) to have been made in spring, 1766; but (for his convenience likewise) he forgets, that, by the express provision of the act, the regulation was not to be in force in Jamaica until the November following. Miraculous must be the activity of that contraband whose operation in America could, before the end of that year, have reacted upon England, and checked the exportation from hence! Unless he chooses to suppose, that the merchants at whose solicitation this act had been obtained, were so frightened at the accomplishment of their own most earnest and anxious desire, that, before any good or evil effect from it could happen, they immediately put a stop to all further exportation.

It is obvious that we must look for the true effect of that act at the time of its first possible operation, that is, in the year 1767. On this idea how stands the account?

1764, Exports to Jamaica L 456,528 1765 415,624 1766 415,544 1767 (first year of the Free-port Act) 467,681

This author, for the sake of a present momentary credit, will hazard any future and permanent disgrace. At the time he wrote, the account of 1767 could not be made up. This was the very first year of the trial of the Free-port Act; and we find that the sale of British commodities is so far from being lessened by that act, that the export of 1767 amounts to 52,000l. more than that of either of the two preceding years, and is 11,000l. above that of his standard year 1764. If I could prevail on myself to argue in favor of a great commercial scheme from the appearance of things in a single year, I should from this increase of export infer the beneficial effects of that measure. In truth, it is not wanting. Nothing but the thickest ignorance of the Jamaica trade could have made any one entertain a fancy, that the least ill effect on our commerce could follow from this opening of the ports. But, if the author argues the effect of regulations in the American trade from the export of the year in which they are made, or even of the following; why did he not apply this rule to his own? He had the same paper before him which I have now before me. He must have seen that in his standard year (the year 1764), the principal year of his new regulations, the export fell no less than 128,450l. short of that in 1763! Did the export trade revive by these regulations in 1765, during which year they continued in their full force? It fell about 40,000l. still lower. Here is a fall of 168,000l.; to account for which, would have become the author much better than piddling for an 80l. fall in the year 1766 (the only year in which the order he objects to could operate), or in presuming a fall of exports from a regulation which took place only in November, 1766; whose effects could not appear until the following year; and which, when they do appear, utterly overthrow all his flimsy reasons and affected suspicions upon the effect of opening the ports.

This author, in the same paragraph, says, that "it was asserted by the American factors and agents, that the commanders of our ships of war and tenders, having custom-house commissions, and the strict orders given in 1764 for a due execution of the laws of trade in the colonies, had deterred the Spaniards from trading with us; that the sale of British manufactures in the West Indies had been greatly lessened, and the receipt of large sums of specie prevented."

If the American factors and agents asserted this, they had good ground for their assertion. They knew that the Spanish vessels had been driven from our ports. The author does not positively deny the fact. If he should, it will be proved. When the factors connected this measure, and its natural consequences, with an actual fall in the exports to Jamaica, to no less an amount than 128,460l. in one year, and with a further fall in the next, is their assertion very wonderful? The author himself is full as much alarmed by a fall of only 40,000l.; for giving him the facts which he chooses to coin, it is no more. The expulsion of the Spanish vessels must certainly have been one cause, if not of the first declension of the exports, yet of their continuance in their reduced state. Other causes had their operation, without doubt. In what degree each cause produced its effect, it is hard to determine. But the fact of a fall of exports upon the restraining plan, and of a rise upon the taking place of the enlarging plan, is established beyond all contradiction.

This author says, that the facts relative to the Spanish trade were asserted by American factors and agents; insinuating, that the ministry of 1766 had no better authority for their plan of enlargement than such assertions. The moment he chooses it, he shall see the very same thing asserted by governors of provinces, by commanders of men-of-war, and by officers of the customs; persons the most bound in duty to prevent contraband, and the most interested in the seizures to be made in consequence of strict regulation. I suppress them for the present; wishing that the author may not drive me to a more full discussion of this matter than it may be altogether prudent to enter into. I wish he had not made any of these discussions necessary.


[101] His note, p. 22.




Hoc vero occultum, intestinum, domesticum malum, non modo non existit, verum etiam opprimit, antequam perspicere atque explorare potueris. CIC.


It is an undertaking of some degree of delicacy to examine into the cause of public disorders. If a man happens not to succeed in such an inquiry, he will be thought weak and visionary; if he touches the true grievance, there is a danger that he may come near to persons of weight and consequence, who will rather be exasperated at the discovery of their errors, than thankful for the occasion of correcting them. If he should be obliged to blame the favorites of the people, he will be considered as the tool of power; if he censures those in power, he will be looked on as an instrument of faction. But in all exertions of duty something is to be hazarded. In cases of tumult and disorder, our law has invested every man, in some sort, with the authority of a magistrate. When the affairs of the nation are distracted, private people are, by the spirit of that law, justified in stepping a little out of their ordinary sphere. They enjoy a privilege, of somewhat more dignity and effect, than that of idle lamentation over the calamities of their country. They may look into them narrowly; they may reason upon them liberally; and if they should be so fortunate as to discover the true source of the mischief, and to suggest any probable method of removing it, though they may displease the rulers for the day, they are certainly of service to the cause of government. Government is deeply interested in everything which, even through the medium of some temporary uneasiness, may tend finally to compose the minds of the subject, and to conciliate their affections. I have nothing to do here with the abstract value of the voice of the people. But as long as reputation, the most precious possession of every individual, and as long as opinion, the great support of the state, depend entirely upon that voice, it can never be considered as a thing of little consequence either to individuals or to governments. Nations are not primarily ruled by laws: less by violence. Whatever original energy may be supposed either in force or regulation, the operation of both is, in truth, merely instrumental. Nations are governed by the same methods, and on the same principles, by which an individual without authority is often able to govern those who are his equals or his superiors; by a knowledge of their temper, and by a judicious management of it; I mean,—when public affairs are steadily and quietly conducted; not when government is nothing but a continued scuffle between the magistrate and the multitude; in which sometimes the one and sometimes the other is uppermost; in which they alternately yield and prevail, in a series of contemptible victories, and scandalous submissions. The temper of the people amongst whom he presides ought therefore to be the first study of a statesman. And the knowledge of this temper it is by no means impossible for him to attain, if he has not an interest in being ignorant of what it is his duty to learn.

To complain of the age we live in, to murmur at the present possessors of power, to lament the past, to conceive extravagant hopes of the future, are the common dispositions of the greatest part of mankind; indeed the necessary effects of the ignorance and levity of the vulgar. Such complaints and humors have existed in all times; yet as all times have not been alike, true political sagacity manifests itself in distinguishing that complaint which only characterizes the general infirmity of human nature, from those which are symptoms of the particular distemperature of our own air and season.

Nobody, I believe, will consider it merely as the language of spleen or disappointment, if I say, that there is something particularly alarming in the present conjuncture. There is hardly a man, in or out of power, who holds any other language. That government is at once dreaded and contemned; that the laws are despoiled of all their respected and salutary terrors; that their inaction is a subject of ridicule, and their exertion of abhorrence; that rank, and office and title, and all the solemn plausibilities of the world, have lost their reverence and effect; that our foreign politics are as much deranged as our domestic economy; that our dependencies are slackened in their affection, and loosened from their obedience; that we know neither how to yield nor how to enforce; that hardly anything above or below, abroad or at home, is sound and entire; but that disconnection and confusion, in offices, in parties, in families, in Parliament, in the nation, prevail beyond the disorders of any former time: these are facts universally admitted and lamented.

This state of things is the more extraordinary, because the great parties which formerly divided and agitated the kingdom are known to be in a manner entirely dissolved. No great external calamity has visited the nation; no pestilence or famine. We do not labor at present under any scheme of taxation new or oppressive in the quantity or in the mode. Nor are we engaged in unsuccessful war; in which, our misfortunes might easily pervert our judgment; and our minds, sore from the loss of national glory, might feel every blow of fortune as a crime in government.

It is impossible that the cause of this strange distemper should not sometimes become a subject of discourse. It is a compliment due, and which I willingly pay, to those who administer our affairs, to take notice in the first place of their speculation. Our ministers are of opinion, that the increase of our trade and manufactures, that our growth by colonization, and by conquest, have concurred to accumulate immense wealth in the hands of some individuals; and this again being dispersed among the people, has rendered them universally proud, ferocious, and ungovernable; that the insolence of some from their enormous wealth, and the boldness of others from a guilty poverty, have rendered them capable of the most atrocious attempts; so that they have trampled upon all subordination, and violently borne down the unarmed laws of a free government; barriers too feeble against the fury of a populace so fierce and licentious as ours. They contend, that no adequate provocation has been given for so spreading a discontent; our affairs having been conducted throughout with remarkable temper and consummate wisdom. The wicked industry of some libellers, joined to the intrigues of a few disappointed politicians, have, in their opinion, been able to produce this unnatural ferment in the nation.

Nothing indeed can be more unnatural than the present convulsions of this country, if the above account be a true one. I confess I shall assent to it with great reluctance, and only on the compulsion of the clearest and firmest proofs; because their account resolves itself into this short, but discouraging proposition, "That we have a very good ministry, but that we are a very bad people"; that we set ourselves to bite the hand that feeds us; that with a malignant insanity, we oppose the measures, and ungratefully vilify the persons, of those whose sole object is our own peace and prosperity. If a few puny libellers, acting under a knot of factious politicians, without virtue, parts, or character, (such they are constantly represented by these gentlemen,) are sufficient to excite this disturbance, very perverse must be the disposition of that people, amongst whom such a disturbance can be excited by such means. It is besides no small aggravation of the public misfortune, that the disease, on this hypothesis, appears to be without remedy. If the wealth of the nation be the cause of its turbulence, I imagine it is not proposed to introduce poverty, as a constable to keep the peace. If our dominions abroad are the roots which feed all this rank luxuriance of sedition, it is not intended to cut them off in order to famish the fruit. If our liberty has enfeebled the executive power, there is no design, I hope, to call in the aid of despotism, to fill up the deficiencies of law. Whatever may be intended, these things are not yet professed. We seem therefore to be driven to absolute despair; for we have no other materials to work upon, but those out of which God has been pleased to form the inhabitants of this island. If these be radically and essentially vicious, all that can be said is, that those men are very unhappy, to whose fortune or duty it falls to administer the affairs of this untoward people. I hear it indeed sometimes asserted, that a steady perseverance in the present measures, and a rigorous punishment of those who oppose them, will in course of time infallibly put an end to these disorders. But this, in my opinion, is said without much observation of our present disposition, and without any knowledge at all of the general nature of mankind. If the matter of which this nation is composed be so very fermentable as these gentlemen describe it, leaven never will be wanting to work it up, as long as discontent, revenge, and ambition, have existence in the world. Particular punishments are the cure for accidental distempers in the state; they inflame rather than allay those heats which arise from the settled mismanagement of the government, or from a natural indisposition in the people. It is of the utmost moment not to make mistakes in the use of strong measures; and firmness is then only a virtue when it accompanies the most perfect wisdom. In truth, inconstancy is a sort of natural corrective of folly and ignorance.

I am not one of those who think that the people are never in the wrong. They have been so, frequently and outrageously, both in other countries and in this. But I do say, that in all disputes between them and their rulers, the presumption is at least upon a par in favor of the people. Experience may perhaps justify me in going further. When popular discontents have been very prevalent, it may well be affirmed and supported, that there has been generally something found amiss in the constitution, or in the conduct of government. The people have no interest in disorder. When they do wrong, it is their error, and not their crime. But with the governing part of the state, it is for otherwise. They certainly may act ill by design, as well as by mistake. "Les revolutions qui arrivent dans les grands etats ne sont point un effect du hazard, ni du caprice des peuples. Rien ne revolte les grands d'un royaume comme un gouvernement foible et derange. Pour la populace, ce n'est jamais par envie d'attaquer qu'elle se souleve, mais par impatience de souffrir."[102] These are the words of a great man; of a minister of state; and a zealous assertor of monarchy. They are applied to the system of favoritism which was adopted by Henry the Third of France, and to the dreadful consequences it produced. What he says of revolutions, is equally true of all great disturbances. If this presumption in favor of the subjects against the trustees of power be not the more probable, I am sure it is the more comfortable speculation; because it is more easy to change an administration, than to reform a people.

Upon a supposition, therefore, that, in the opening of the cause, the presumptions stand equally balanced between the parties, there seems sufficient ground to entitle any person to a fair hearing, who attempts some other scheme beside that easy one which is fashionable in some fashionable companies, to account for the present discontents. It is not to be argued that we endure no grievance, because our grievances are not of the same sort with those under which we labored formerly; not precisely those which we bore from the Tudors, or vindicated on the Stuarts. A great change has taken place in the affairs of this country. For in the silent lapse of events as material alterations have been insensibly brought about in the policy and character of governments and nations, as those which have been marked by the tumult of public revolutions.

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