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to take her own way to perfection, — when I reflect upon these effects, when I see how profitable they have been to us, I feel all the pride of power sink, and all presumption in the wisdom of human contrivance, melt and die away within me. My rigor relents. I pardon something to the spirit of liberty.
2.- SPIRIT OF LIBERTY IN THE COLONIES.
[Burke then proceeds to urge that force should not be used to coerce the Colonies, and for these four reasons: (1) that its use is but temporary; (2) its uncertainty; (3) that it may impair the object sought; (4) that experience is against it.]
THESE, sir, are my reasons for not entertaining that high opinion of untried force by which many gentlemen, for whose sentiments in other particulars I have great respect, seem to be so greatly captivated. But there is still behind a third consideration concerning this object, which serves to determine my opinion on the sort of policy which ought to be pursued in the management of America, even more than its population and its commerce, - I mean its temper 2 and character.
In this character of the Americans, a love of freedom is the predominating feature which marks and distinguishes the whole; and, as an ardent is always a jealous affection, your Colonies become suspicious, restive, and untractable 4 whenever they see the least
1 captivated. Sive a synonym.
4 untractable. Give the modern form. Which form do you prefer? See Glossary.
attempt to wrest from them by force, or shuffle from them by chicane, what they think the only advantage worth living for. This fierce spirit of liberty is stronger in the English colonies, probably, than in any other people of the earth ; and this from a great variety of powerful causes, which, to understand the true temper of their minds, and the direction which this spirit takes, it will not be amiss to lay open somewhat more largely.
First, the people of the Colonies are descendants of Englishmen. England, sir, is a nation which still, I hope, respects, and formerly adored, her freedom. The Colonists emigrated from you when this part of your character was most predominant ;2 and they took this bias and direction the moment they parted from your hands. They are, therefore, not only devoted to liberty, but to liberty according to English ideas and on English principles. Abstract liberty, like other mere abstractions, is not to be found. Liberty inheres in some sensible object ; 3 and every nation has formed to itself some favorite point which, by way of eminence, becomes the criterion 4 of their happiness.
It happened, you know, sir, that the great contests
1 chicane. See Webster.
Europe, and our name celebrated 2 The colonists emigrated .. throughout the world. The former, predominant. What was the feeling from many obvious circumstances, as to liberty when the New England are more enthusiastical lovers of colonists emigrated ? Burke him- liberty' than even our yeomen self wrote in 1775: “The American were. freeholders at present are nearly, 3 inheres in some sensible obin point of condition, what the ject, is found only in concrete English yeomen were of old, when form. they rendered us formidable to all | 4 criterion, test, standard.
for freedom in this country were from the earliest times chiefly upon the question of taxing. Most of the contests in the ancient commonwealths1 turned primarily on the right of election of magistrates, or on the balance among the several orders of the state. The question of money was not with them so immediate. But in England it was otherwise. On this point of taxes, the ablest pens and most eloquent tongues have been exercised; the greatest spirits have acted and suffered.
In order to give the fullest satisfaction concerning the importance of this point, it was not only necessary for those who in argument defended the excellence of the English Constitution to insist on this privilege of granting money as a dry point of fact, and to prove that the right has been acknowledged, in ancient parchments 2 and blind usages, to reside in a certain body called a House of Commons. They went much farther: they attempted to prove, and they succeeded, that in theory it ought to be so, from the particular nature of a House of Commons, as an immediate representative of the people; whether the old records had delivered this oracle, or not. They took infinite pains to inculcate,4 as a fundamental principle, that in all monarchies the people must in effect themselves, mediately or immediately, possess the power of grant
1 the ancient commonwealths: which specially ?
2 ancient parchments, as Magna Charta, or the Great Charter obtained from King John in 1215.
3 delivered this oracle. Explain.
4 inculcate. Sec Webster.
5 mediately or immediately. Discriminate in meaning.
ing their own money, or no shadow of liberty could subsist.
The Colonies draw from you, as with their life-blood, these ideas and principles. Their love of liberty, as with you, fixed and attached on this specific point of taxing. Liberty might be safe, or might be endangered, in twenty other particulars, without their being much pleased or alarmed. Here they felt its pulse; and, as they found that beat, they thought themselves sick or sound.
I do not say whether they were right or wrong in applying your general arguments to their own case. It is not easy, indeed, to make a monopoly of theorems and corollaries. The fact is that they did thus apply those general arguments; and your mode of governing them, whether through lenity or indolence, through wisdom or mistake, confirmed them in the imagination that they, as well as you, had an interest in these common principles.
They were further confirmed in this pleasing error2 by the form of their provincial legislative assemblies. Their governments are popular 3 in a high degree; some are merely popular; in all, the popular representative is the most weighty; and this share of the people in their ordinary government never fails to inspire them with lofty sentiments, and with a strong
a monopoly. corollaries: lar. Explain “popular governi.e., a monopoly of general prin- | ment.” Name some of the colonies ciples.
that were “merely [i.e., entirely] 2 pleasing error. Point out the popular;” others that were under sly nature of this phrase.
proprietors; others that were royal 8 Their governments are popu- provinces.
aversion from 1 whatever tends to deprive them of their chief importance.
Permit me, sir, to add another circumstance in our Colonies which contributes no mean part 2 towards the growth and effect of this untractable spirit. I mean their education. In no country, perhaps, in the world, is the law so general a study. The profession itself is numerous and powerful, and in most provinces it takes the lead. The greater number of the deputies sent to the Congress 4 were lawyers. But all who read (and most do read) endeavor to obtain some smattering in that science. This study renders men acute, inquisitive, dexterous, prompt in attack, ready in defense, full of resources. In other countries, the people, more simple, and of a less mercurial6 cast, judge of an ill principle in government only by an actual grievance: here they anticipate the evil, and judge of the pressure of the grievance by the badness of the principle. They augur misgovernment at a distance, and snuff the approach of tyranny in every tainted breeze.?
The last cause of this disobedient spirit in the Colonies is hardly less powerful than the rest, as it is not
1 aversion from. We now use , authors and conductors of the “ to."
present sedition.” 2 no mean part. Change from 4 the Congress: that is, the First the negative to the positive form Colonial Congress, which met in of expression.
New York City, Oct. 7, 1765. 3 In no country
law SO 5 acute, inquisitive, dexterous. general a study. The history of Define and discriminate these the Revolution is full of proof of terms. this. “The lawyers of this place,” 6 mercurial. See Glossary. wrote the loyal lieutenant-govern 7 snuff ... breeze. What is the or of New York in 1765, “ are the figure of speech?