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the revenue was very little sunk, and the supplies for the current year would be raised with perfect ease. But he rather indulged the hope that the large concessions which he was now prepared to make would render needless the loyal exertions of the people, and avert any fresh appeal to arms.
The Minister then proceeded to state that there were two Bills which he had ready, and asked leave to bring in. The first was entitled "For removing all Doubts and "Apprehensions concerning Taxation by the Parliament "of Great Britain in any of the Colonies." It repealed, expressly and by name, the tea-duty in America; and as to the future it declared, "That from and after the passing "of this Act, the King and Parliament of Great Britain "will not impose any duty, tax, or assessment whatever "in any of His Majesty's (American) Colonies, except "only such duties as it may be expedient to impose for "the regulation of commerce, the net produce of such "duties to be always paid and applied to and for the "use of the Colony in which the same shall be levied." Thus was the claim of Parliamentary taxation fully, at last, renounced.
The second Bill was to enable His Majesty to appoint Commissioners with sufficient powers to treat with the insurgent Colonies. These Commissioners were to be five in number, and their powers most extensive. They were to raise no difficulties as to the rank or legal title of the leaders on the other side, but were left at liberty to treat, consult, and agree with any body or bodies politic, or any person or persons whatsoever. They might proclaim a cessation of hostilities on the part of the King's forces by sea or land, for any time, and under any conditions or restrictions. They might grant pardons and appoint Governors. They might suspend the operation of any Act of Parliament relating to America, passed since the 10th of February, 1763. The Americans, said Lord North, had desired a repeal of all the Acts after that date; but this could be taken only as a loose and general expression, since some of the Acts passed, as in 1769, were for the granting of bounties or the relaxation of imposts, and of such Acts the Americans could not be supposed to desire the repeal. Some choice and selection would, therefore, be required. As to those other Acts, such as the Massachusetts Charter Act, which had produced or inflamed the quarrel, Lord North explicitly stated his opinion that they ought to cease. Instead, however, of repealing them here without further delay, he deemed it best to refer the whole matter to the Commissioners upon the spot, since the Americans would consider Acts already repealed as merely the basis of a treaty, and might be tempted to raise some new demands upon it. The Commissioners, said Lord North, should be instructed to negotiate for some reasonable and moderate contribution towards the common defence of the empire when reunited; still this contribution was not to be insisted on as a Sine Qua Non; only if the Americans should refuse it, they were not to complain if hereafter they did not receive support from that part of the empire any proportion of whose charges they had declined to bear. Upon the whole it was, not obscurely, intimated that the Commissioners might accept almost any terms of reconciliation, short of independence, and subject to confirmation by a vote of Parliament.
The impression on the House that night, while Lord North was speaking, and after he sat down, is well described by the pen of a contemporary — no other, in all probability, than Burke: "A dull melancholy silence for "some time succeeded to this speech. It had been heard "with profound attention, but without a single mark of "approbation to any part, from any description of men, "or any particular man in the House. Astonishment, "dejection, and fear overclouded the whole assembly. "Although the Minister had declared that the senti"ments he expressed that day had been those which he "always entertained, it is certain that few or none had "understood him in that manner; and he had been repre"sented to the nation at large as the person in it the "most tenacious of those Parliamentary rights which "he now proposed to resign, and the most remote from "the submissions which he now proposed to make." *
It may be said, indeed, that there was not a single
* Annual Register, 1778, p. !3S. See also Gibbon's Letter to Holroyd, of February 23. 1778.
class or section of men within the walls of Parliament to which the plan of Lord North gave pleasure. The Ministerial party were confounded and abashed at finding themselves thus required to acknowledge their past errors and retrace their former steps. Some among them, as William Adam, and Morton, Chief Justice of Chester, loudly protested against the holding forth to rebels terms like these, which they said would dispirit the people and disgrace the Government. Others called out that they had been deceived and betrayed. In general, however, the majority acquiesced in sullen silence. On the other part, the Opposition were by no means gratified to see the wind, according to the common phrase, taken from their sails. They could not, indeed, offer any resistance to proposals so consonant to their own expressed opinions, but they took care to make their support as disagreeable and as damaging as possible. Fox began his speech by conplimenting the Minister on his happy conversion, and congratulating his own friends on the acquisition of so powerful an ally. Above all, the continuance of the Minister in office, under such circumstances, was inveighed against with more truth than taste by several of the chiefs upon the other side. Did Lord North, it was asked, believe himself to wield the spear of Achilles, able to heal the wounds which itself had made? Could the same statesman who had provoked the war look for welcome as a peace-maker? Must not his proposals, whatever they might be, come to the Americans as from a tainted spring, — raise their jealousy as hollow and insincere, or keep alive their resentment as inadequate and worthless?
In spite of such taunts, and far from friendly feelings on all sides, the Conciliatory Bills, as they have been termed, were not in reality opposed from any quarter. There was only one division on a clause moved by Mr. Powys to repeal expressly and by name the Massachusetts Charter Act. Lord North induced a large majority to vote against that clause, but agreed that the object in view should be attained by a separate measure. A Bill for the purpose was therefore introduced by Mr. Powys, and passed through Parliament concurrently with the other two. In the House of Lords the same arguments were with little change renewed. Lord Hillsborough, and Chatham's own brother-in-law, Lord Temple, vehemently declaimed against the Bills on the high prerogative ground, as forming a most disgraceful capitulation. The Ministers, on the other hand, received some acrimonious support from the Duke of Richmond and Lord Rockingham. Lord Shelburne took occasion to declare his full concurrence in the sentiments of Chatham, expressing "the strongest disapprobation of every idea that tended "to admit the independence of America," although acknowledging that future circumstances might create a necessity for such a submission. Lord Chatham himself was ill with gout at Hayes, and did not appear. There was no division; and on the 11th of March the King, seated on his Throne, gave to all three measures the Royal Assent.
Only two days previously Lord North, who had opened his Budget on the 6th, had carried through his financial Resolutions in the House of Commons, involving a new loan of 6,000,000/., which was contracted on advantageous terms. Thus were funds provided to pursue the war, should that be requisite. Thus was an opening made for negotiations, should they be practicable. In either case the path was cleared for a new administration. Here then was the moment which Lord North had for some time past desired — the moment when most with honour to himself, and most with advantage to his country, he could fulfil his intention of resigning. Several subordinate circumstances—several lesser causes of weakness or necessities for change in his government —might tend to confirm him in his purpose. He must have felt that the events of the last month had greatly shaken and loosened his hold over his majority in Parliament. In the House of Lords he had no supporter adequate to such troubled times. It would be necessary, should his government continue, to replace Lord Chancellor Bathurst by some more eloquent orator and more energetic statesman. In the Commons he was on the point of losing his principal colleague, Lord George Germaine. That nobleman, ever prompt and able, and in the Cabinet at least courageous, but hasty and violent, had embroiled himself in quarrels with the chief officers
under his direction. Sir Guy Carleton had been provoked to write to him with expressions of so much asperity that Sir Guy was in consequence removed from the Government of Canada. Sir William Howe, at the same juncture, was not less offended. He complained that while he had pressed for larger reinforcements, while he had been led to hope for them, while he had been allowed to frame his plans in consequence, none, or next to none, had in point of fact been sent him. At last, early in the winter, he had written to Lord George as follows : — " From the little attention, my Lord, given "to my recommendations since the commencement of my "command, I am led to hope that I may be relieved from "this very painful service, wherein I have not the good "fortune to enjoy the necessary confidence and support "of my superiors, but which I conclude will be extended "to Sir Henry Clinton, my presumptive successor, or to "such other servant as the King may be pleased to "appoint. By the return, therefore, of the packet I "humbly request I may have His Majesty's permission "to resign the command."* His request, perhaps on other grounds not undesirable, was soon granted, although, as was foreseen, involving probably the retirement also of his brother, Lord Howe. On the 4th of February we find Lord George write to Sir William announcing the desired permission from His Majesty, and at the same time directing him to deliver his orders and instructions to Sir Henry Clinton, as his successor. Yet, within a month of that 4th of February, Lord George, in a sally of anger, had himself resigned. The ground of his displeasure was, that the King, anxious to reward the past services of a most deserving officer, bestowed on Sir Guy Carleton the sinecure government of Charlemont, which Lord George chose to construe as an insult to himself. His retirement appears to have been agreed to and resolved upon, since we find the King, in his secret letters of this period, allude to his
* To Lord George Germaine, October 22. 1777. MS. State Paper Office, and Note of Mr. Sparks to Washington's Writings, vol. v. p. 160.