Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

against absurdity and superstition, " No innovation,” was the cry; and the fires of persecution blazed over the Kingdom. “Let there be no innovation,” is ever the maxim of the ignorant, the interested, and the worthless. It is the favorite tenet of the servile advocate of tyranny. It is the motto which Bigotry has inscribed on her banners. It is the barrier that opposes every improvement, political, civil, and religious. To reprobate all innovations on the Constitution, is to suppose that it is perfect. But perfection was not its attribute either in the Saxon or Norman times. It is not its attribute at the present moment. Alterations are perpetually necessary in every Constitution ; for the Government should be accommodated to the times, to the circumstances, to the wants of a People, which are ever changing.

49. THE FOLLY OF RELIGIOUS PERSECUTION. - Compilation. MR. SPEAKER, it behoves the piety as well as the wisdom of Parliament to disappoint these endeavors to make religion itself an engine of sedition. Sir, the very worst mischief that can be done to religion is to pervert it to the purposes of faction. Heaven and hell are not more distant than the benevolent spirit of the Gospel and the malignant spirit of party. The most impious wars ever made were those called holy wars. He who hates another man for not being a Christian is himself not a Christian. Toleration is the basis of all public quiet. It is a charter of freedom given to the mind, more valuable, I think, than that which secures our persons and estates. Indeed, they are inseparably connected; for, where the mind is not free, where the conscience is enthralled, there is no freedom. I repeat it; persecution is as impious as it is cruel and unwise. It not only opposes every precept of the New Testament, but it invades the prerogative of God Himself. It is a usurpation of the attributes which belong exclusively to the Most High. It is a vain endeavor to ascend into His Throne, to wield His sceptre, and to hurl His thunderbolts.

And then its own history proves how useless it is. Truth is immortal; the sword cannot pierce it, fire cannot consume it, prisons cannot incarcerate it, famine cannot starve it; all the violence of men, stirred up by the power and subtlety of hell, cannot put it to death. In the person of its martyrs it bids defiance to the will of the tyrant who persecutes it, and with the martyr's last breath predicts its own full and final triumphs. The Pagan persecuted the Christian, but yet Christianity lives. The Roman Catholic persecuted the Protestant, but yet Protestantism lives. The Protestant persecuted the Roman Catholic, but yet Catholicism lives. The Church of England persecuted the Nonconformists, and yet Nonconformity lives. Nonconformists persecuted Episcopalians, yet Episcopacy lives. When persecution is carried to its extreme length of extirpating heretics, Truth may be extinguished in one place, but it will break out in another. If opinions cannot be put down by argument, they cannot by power. Truth gains the victory in the end, not only by its own evidences, but by the suffer ings of its confessors. Therefore, Sir, if we have a mind to establish peace among the People, we must allow men to judge freely in matters of religion, and to embrace that opinion they think right, without any hope of temporal reward, without any fear of temporal punishment.

50. AMERICA'S OBLIGATIONS TO ENGLAND, 1765. — Col. Barte, in reply to Charles

Townshend, a member of the Ministry. THE honorable member has asked : “ And now will these Americans, children planted by our care, nourished up by our indulgence, and protected by our arms, will they grudge to contribute their mite?” They planted by your care! — No, your oppressions planted them in America! They fled from your tyranny to a then uncultivated and in hospitable country, where they exposed themselves to almost all the hardships to which human nature is liable; and, among others, to the cruelties of a savage foe the most subtle, and I will take upon me to say the most formidable, of any People upon the face of God's earth; and yet, actuated by principles of true English liberty, our American brethren met all hardships with pleasure, compared with those they suffered in their own country from the hands of those that should have been their friends.

They nourished up by your indulgence ! — They grew by your neglect of them! As soon as you began to care about them, that care was exercised in sending persons to rule them, in one department and another, who were, perhaps, the deputies of deputies to some members of this House, sent to spy out their liberties, to misrepresent their actions, and to prey upon them; men whose behavior, on many occasions, has caused the blood of those sons of liberty to recoil within them; men promoted to the highest seats of justice, some who, to my knowledge, were glad, by going to a foreign country, to escape being brought to the bar of a court of justice in their own.

They protected by your arms! — They have nobly taken up arms in your defence! have exerted a valor, amidst their constant and laborious industry, for the defence of a country whose frontier was drenched in blood, while its interior parts yielded all its little savings to your emolument. And, believe me, remember I this day told you so, - that same spirit of freedom which actuated that People at first will accompany them still; but prudence forbids me to explain myself further. God knows I do not at this time speak from motives of party heat. What I deliver are the genuine sentiments of my heart. However superior to me, in general knowledge and experience, the respectable body of this House may be, yet I claim to know more of America than most of you, having seen and been conversant in that country. The People, I believe, are as truly loyal as any subjects the King has; but they are a People jealous of their liberties, and who will vindicate them to the last drop of their blood, if they should ever be violated.

51. REPLY TO LORD NORTH, 1774. - Col. Barté. Born, 1727 ; aïed, 1802. When intelligence of the destruction of the tea at Boston, Dec. 18, 1773, reached England, it was made the subject of a message from the Throne to both Houses of Parliament. The bill shutting up the port of Boston followed. Then succeeded two more measures, by one of which the charter of Massachusetts Bay was entirely subverted, and the nomination of councillors. magistrates, and all civil ofticers, vested in the Crown; and by the other it was provided, that if any person were indicted in the Province of Massachusetts Bay for murder, or any other capital offence, and it should appear to the Governor, by information on oath, that the act was committed in the exercise or aid of the magistracy in suppressing tumults and riots, and that a fair trial could not be had in the province, he should send the person so indicted to any other colony, or to Great Britain, for trial. While the two measures last named were pending, the following remarks were made in Parliament by Col. Barré.

Sir, this proposition is so glaring ; so unprecedented in any former proceedings of Parliament; so unwarranted by any delay, denial or provocation of justice, in America; so big with misery and oppression to that country, and with danger to this, – that the first blush of it is sufficient to alarm and rouse me to opposition. It is proposed to stigmatize a whole People as persecutors of innocence, and men incapable of doing justice; yet you have not a single fact on which to ground that imputation! I expected the noble Lord would have supported this motion by producing instances in which officers of Government in America had been prosecuted with unremitting vengeance, and brought to cruel and dishonorable deaths, by the violence and injustice of American juries. But he has not produced one such instance; and I will tell you more, Sir,- he cannot produce one! The instances which have happened are directly in the teeth of his proposition. Col. Preston and the soldiers who shed the blood of the People were fairly tried, and fully acquitted. It was an American jury, à New England jury, a Boston jury, which tried and acquitted them. Col. Preston has, under his hand, publicly declared that the inhabitants of the very town in which their fellow-citizens had been sacrificed were his advocates and defenders. Is this the return you make them ? Is this the encouragement you give them to persevere in so laudable a spirit of justice and moderation? But the noble Lord says,

« We must now show the Americans that we will no longer sit quiet under their insults.” Sir, I am sorry to say that this is declamation, unbecoming the character and place of him who utters it. In what moment have you been quiet? Has not your Government, for many years past, been a series of irritating and offensive measures, without policy, principle or moderation ? Have not your troops and your ships made a vain and insulting parade in their streets and in their harbors ? Have you not stimulated discontent into disaffection, and are you not now goading disaffection into rebellion? Can you expect to be well informed when you listen only to partisans ? Can you expect to do justice when you will not hear the accused ?

Let the banners be once spread in America, and you are an undone People. You are urging this desperate, this destructive issue. In assenting to your late Bil],* I resisted the violence of America at the hazard of my popularity there. I now resist your frenzy at the same risk here. I know the vast superiority of your disciplined troops over the Provincials; but beware how you supply the want of discipline by desperation! What madness is it that prompts you to attempt obtaining that by force which you may more certainly procure by requisition ? The Americans may be flattered into anything; but they are too much like yourselves to be driven. Have some indulgence for your own likeness; respect their sturdy English virtue; retract your odious exertions of authority, and remember that the first step towards making them contribute to your wants is to reconcile them to your Government.

* The Boston Port Bill ; for his vote in favor of which the portrait of Barré was removed from Faneuil Hall

52. BOLD PREDICTIONS, 1775. - John Wilkes. Born, 1717; died, 1797. MR. SPEAKER : The Address to the King, upon the disturbances in North America, now reported from the Committee of the whole House, appears to be unfounded, rash, and sanguinary. It draws the sword unjustly against America. It mentions, Sir, the particular Province of Massachusetts Bay as in a state of actual rebellion. The other Provinces are held out to our indignation as aiding and abetting. Arguments have been employed to involve them in all the consequences of an open, declared rebellion, and to obtain the fullest orders for our officers and troops to act against them as rebels. Whether their present state is that of rebellion, or of a fit and just resistance to unlawful acts of power, resistance to our attempts to rob them of their property and liberties, as they imagine, - I shall not declare. This I know: a successful resistance is a revolution, not a rebellion! Rebellion indeed appears on the back of a flying enemy; but Revolution flames on the breast plate of the victorious warrior. Who can tell, Sir, whether, in consequence of this day's violent and mad Address to his Majesty, the scabbard may not be thrown away by them as well as by us ; and, should success attend them, whether, in a few years, the independent Americans may not celebrate the glorious era of the Revolution of 1775, as we do that of 1688 ?

The policy, Sir, of this measure, I can no more comprehend, than I can acknowledge the justice of it. Is your force adequate to the attempt? I am satisfied it is not. Boston, indeed, you may lay in ashes, or it may be made a strong garrison; but the Province will be

Boston will be like Gibraltar. You will hold, in the Province of Massachusetts Bay, as you do in Spain, a single town, while the whole country remains in the power and possession of the enemy. Where your fleets and armies are stationed, the possession will be secured, while they continue; but all the rest will be lost. In the great scale of empire, you will decline, I fear, from the decision of this day; and the Americans will rise to independence, to power, to all the greatness of the most renowned States! For they build on the solid basis of general public liberty.

I tremble, Sir, at the almost certain consequences of such an Address, founded in cruelty and injustice, equally contrary to the

lost to you.

sound maxims of true policy, and the unerring rule of natural right. The Americans will certainly defend their property and their liberties with the spirit which our ancestors exerted, and which, I hope, we should exert, on a like occasion. They will sooner declare themselves independent, and risk every consequence of such a contest, than submit to the galling yoke which Administration is preparing for them. An Address of this sanguinary nature cannot fail of driving them to despair. They will see that you are preparing, not only to draw the sword, but to burn the scabbard. In the most harsh mạnner you are declaring them REBELS! Every idea of a reconciliation will now vanish. They will pursue the most vigorous course in their own defence. The whole continent of North America will be dismembered from Great Britain, and the wide arch of the raised Empire will fall. But

may the just vengeance of the People overtake the authors of these pernicious Counsels! May the loss of the first Province of the Empire be speedily followed by the loss of the heads of those Ministers who have persisted in these wicked, these fatal, these most disastrous measures !

53. CONQUEST OF THE AMERICANS IMPRACTICABLE, 1775. John Wilkes.

Sir, it ill becomes the duty and dignity of Parliament to lose itself in such a fulsome adulatory Address to the Throne as that now proposed. We ought rather, Sir, to approach it with sound and wholesome advice, and even with remonstrances, against the Ministers who have precipitated the Nation into an unjust, ruinous, murderous and felonious war. I call the war with our brethren in America an unjust and felonious war, because the primary cause and confessed origin of it is to attempt to take their money from them without their consent, contrary to the common rights of all mankind, and those great fundamental principles of the English Constitution for which Hampden bled. I assert, Sir, that it is a murderous war, because it is an effort to deprive men of their lives for standing up in the defence of their property and their clear rights. Such a war, I fear, Sir, will draw down the vengeance of Heaven on this devoted Kingdom. Sir, is any Minister weak enough to flatter himself with the conquest of the Americans? You cannot, with all your allies, — with all the mercenary ruffians of the North, - you cannot effect so wicked a purpose. The Americans will dispute every inch of territory with you, every narrow pass, every strong defile, every Thermopylæ, every Bunker's Hill! More than half the Empire is already lost, and almost all the rest is in confusion and anarchy. We have appealed to the sword; and what have we gained ? Bunker's Hill only, — and that with the loss of twelve hundred men! Are we to pay as dear for the rest of America ? The idea of the conquest of that immense country is as romantic as unjust.

The honorable Gentleman who moved this Address says, “The Americans have been treated with lenity." Will facts justify the

« AnteriorContinuar »