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have been eluded, and become useless, before they could be in such a condition.
The partisans of the new system, who, on most occasions, take credit for full as much knowledge as they possess, think proper on this occasion to counterfeit an extraordinary de. gree of ignorance, and in consequence of it to assert, " that the balance (between the colonies and Great Britain) is un. known, and that no important conclusion can be drawn from premises so very uncertain.”! Now to what can this ignorance be owing? were the navigation laws made, that this balance should be unknown ? is it from the course of exchange that it is unknown, which all the world knows to be greatly and perpetually against the colonies ? is it from the doubtful nature of the trade we carry on with the colonies ? are not these schemists well apprized, that the colonists, particularly those of the northern provinces, import more from Great Britain, ten times more than they send in return to us ? that a great part of their foreign balance is, and must be, remitted to London ? I shall be ready to admit that the colonies ought to be taxed to the revenues of this country, when I know that they are out of debt to its commerce. This author will furnish some ground to his theories, and communicate a discovery to the public, if he can show this by any medium. But he tells us, that “their seas are covered with ships, and their rivers floating with commerce.” 2 This is true. But it is with our ships that the seas are covered; and their rivers float with British commerce. The American merchants are our factors ; all in reality, most even in name. The Americans trade, navigate, cultivate, with English capitals; to their own advantage, to be sure; for without these capitals their ploughs would be stopped, and their ships wind-bound. But he who furnishes the capital must, on the whole, be the person principally benefited; the person who works upon it profits on his part too; but he profits in a subordinate way, as our colonies do; that is, as the servant of a wise and indulgent master, and no otherwise. We have all, except the peculium; without which, even slaves will not labour.
If the author's principles, which are the common notions, be right, that the price of our manufactures is so greatly enConsiderations, p. 74.
? Ibid. p. 79.
hanced by our taxes; then the Americans already pay in that way a share of our impositions. He is not ashamed to assert, that “France and China may be said, on the same principle, to bear a part of our charges, for they consume our commodities."I Was ever such a method of reasoning heard of ? Do not the laws absolutely confine the colonies to buy from us, whether foreign nations sell cheaper or not? On what other idea are all our prohibitions, regulations, guards, penalties, and forfeitures, framed ? To secure to us, not a commercial preference, which stands in need of no penalties to enforce it; it finds its own way; but to secure to us a trade, which is a creature of law and institution. What has this to do with the principles of a foreign trade, which is under no monopoly, and in which we cannot raise the price of our goods, without hazarding the demand for them ? None but the authors of such measures could ever think of making use of such arguments. · Whoever goes about to reason on any part of the policy of this country with regard to America, upon the mere abstract principles of government, or even upon those of our own ancient constitution, will be often misled. Those who resort for arguments to the most respectable authorities, ancient or modern, or rest upon the clearest maxims, drawn from the experience of other states and empires, will be liable to the greatest errors imaginable. The object is wholly new in the world. It is singular; it is grown up to this magnitude and importance within the memory of man; nothing in history is parallel to it. All the reasonings about it, that are likely to be at all solid, must be drawn from its actual circumstances. In this new system a principle of commerce, of artificial commerce, must predominate. This commerce must be secured by a multitude of restraints very alien from the spirit of liberty; and a powerful authority must reside in the principal state, in order to enforce them. But the people who are to be the subjects of these restraints are descendants of Englishmen; and of a high and free spirit. To hold over them a government made up of nothing but restraints and penalties, and taxes in the granting of which they can have no share, will neither be wise, nor long practicable. People must be governed in a manner agreeable to
1 Considerations, p. 74.
their temper and disposition ; and men of free character and spirit must be ruled with, at least, some condescension to this spirit and this character. The British colonist must see something which will distinguish him from the colonists of other nations.
Those reasonings, which infer from the many restraints under which we have already laid America, to our right to lay it under still more, and indeed under all manner of restraints, are conclusive; conclusive as to right; but the very reverse as to policy and practice. We ought rather to infer from our having laid the colonies under many restraints, that it is reasonable to compensate them by every indul. gence that can by any means be reconciled to our interest. We have a great empire to rule, composed of a vast mass of heterogeneous governments, all more or less free and popular in their forms, all to be kept in peace, and kept out of conspiracy, with one another, aïl to be held in subordination to this country; while the spirit of an extensive, and intri. cate, and trading interest pervades the whole, always qualifying, and often controlling, every general idea of constitution and government. It is a great and difficult object; and I wish we may possess wisdom and temper enough to manage it as we ought. Its importance is infinite. I believe the reader will be struck, as I have been, with one singular fact. In the year 1704, but sixty-five years ago, the whole trade with our plantations was but a few thousand pounds more in the export article, and a third less in the import, than that which we now carry on with the single island of Jamaica :
Exports. Imports. Total English plantations in 1704 £ 483,265 . £ 814,491 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 endaugering 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 in America.? If Great
1 I do not here enter into the unsatisfactory disquisition concerning representation real or presumed. I only say, that a great people, who have Britain were stripped of this right, every principle of unity and subordination in the empire was gone for ever. 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,' 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 him. self 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: tbat, under these circumstances, they despaired of the recovery of their debts, or the renewal of their 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.