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gaging them. But it was too humiliating to think of applying to me openly and directly, and therefore it was contrived to obtain what they could of my sentiments through others.
The accounts from America during the recess all manifested, that the measures of administration had neither divided nor intimidated the people there; that, on the contrary, they were more and more united and determined; and that a non-importation agreement was likely to take place. The ministry thence apprehending that this, by distressing the trading and manufacturing towns, might influence votes against the court in the elections for a new Parliament (which were in course to come on the succeeding year), suddenly and unexpectedly dissolved the old one, and ordered the choice of a new one within the shortest time admitted by law, before the inconveniences of that agreement could begin to be felt, or produce any such effect.
When I came to England in 1757, you may remember I made several attempts to be introduced to Lord Chatham (at that time first minister), on account of my Pennsylvania business, but without success. He was then too great a man, or too much occupied in affairs of greater moment. I was therefore obliged to content myself with a kind of non-apparent and unacknowledged communication through Mr. Potter and Mr. Wood, his secretaries, who seemed to cultivate an acquaintance with me by their civilities, and drew from me what information I could give relative to the American war, with my sentiments occasionally on measures that were proposed or advised by others, which gave me the opportunity of recommending and enforcing the utility of conquering Canada. I afterwards considered Mr. Pitt as an inaccessible. I admired him at a distance, and made no more attempts for a nearer acquaintance. I
had only once or twice the satisfaction of hearing through Lord Shelburne, and I think Lord Stanhope, that he did me the honor of mentioning me sometimes as a person of respectable character.
But towards the end of August last, returning from Brighthelmstone, I called to visit my friend Mr. Sargent, at his seat, Halsted in Kent, agreeable to a former engagement. He let me know, that he had promised to conduct me to Lord Stanhope's at Chevening, who expected I would call on him when I came into that neighbourhood. We accordingly waited on Lord Stanhope that evening, who told me Lord Chatham desired to see me, and that Mr. Sargent's house, where I was to lodge, being in the way, he would call for me there the next morning, and carry me to Hayes. This was done accordingly. That truly great man received me with abundance of civility, inquired particularly into the situation of affairs in America, spoke feelingly of the severity of the late laws against the Massachusetts, gave me some account of his speech in opposing them, and expressed great regard and esteem for the people of that country, who he hoped would continue firm and united in defending by all peaceable and legal means their constitutional rights. I assured him, that I made no doubt they would do so; which he said he was pleased to hear from me, as he was sensible I must be well acquainted with them.
I then took occasion to remark to him, that in former cases great empires had crumbled first at their extremities, from this cause; that countries remote from the seat and eye of government, which therefore could not well understand their affairs for want of full and true information, had never been well governed, but had been oppressed by bad governors, on presumption that complaint was difficult to be made and supported
against them at such a distance. Hence, such governors had been encouraged to go on, till their oppressions became intolerable. But that this empire had happily found, and long been in the practice of, a method, whereby every province was well governed, being trusted in a great measure with the government of itself; and that hence had arisen such satisfaction in the subjects, and such encouragement to new settlements, that, had it not been for the late wrong politics, (which would have Parliament to be omnipotent, though it ought not to be so unless it could at the same time be omniscient,) we might have gone on extending our western empire, adding province to province, as far as the South Sea. That I lamented the ruin which seemed impending over so fine a plan, so well adapted to make all the subjects of the greatest empire happy; and I hoped that, if his Lordship, with the other great and wise men of the British nation, would unite and exert themselves, it might yet be rescued out of the mangling hands of the present set of blundering ministers; and that the union and harmony between Britain and her colonies, so necessary to the welfare of both, might be restored.
He replied, with great politeness, that my idea of extending our empire in that manner was a sound one, worthy of a great, benevolent, and comprehensive mind. He wished with me for a good understanding among the different parts of the opposition here, as a means of restoring the ancient harmony of the two countries, which he most earnestly desired; but he spoke of the coalition of our domestic parties, as attended with difficulty, and rather to be desired than expected. He mentioned an opinion prevailing here, that America aimed at setting up for itself as an independent state; or, at least, to get rid of the Navigation Acts. I
assured him, that, having more than once travelled almost from one end of the continent to the other, and kept a great variety of company, eating, drinking, and conversing with them freely, I never had heard in any conversation from any person, drunk or sober, the least expression of a wish for a separation, or hint that such a thing would be advantageous to America. And as to the Navigation Act, the main, material part of it, that of carrying on trade in British or plantation bottoms, excluding foreign ships from our ports, and navigating with three quarters British seamen, was as acceptable to us as it could be to Britain. That we were even not against regulations of the general commerce by Parliament, provided such regulations were bona fide for the benefit of the whole empire, not for the small advantage of one part to the great injury of another, such as the obliging our ships to call in England with our wine and fruit, from Portugal or Spain; the restraints on our manufactures, in the woollen and hatmaking branches, the prohibiting of slitting-mills, steelworks, &c. He allowed, that some amendment might be made in those acts; but said those relating to the slittingmills, trip-hammers, and steel-works, were agreed to by our agents, in a compromise on the opposition made. here to abating the duty.
In fine, he expressed much satisfaction in my having called upon him, and particularly in the assurances I had given him, that America did not aim at independence; adding, that he should be glad to see me again as often as might be. I said, I should not fail to avail myself of the permission he was pleased to give me of waiting upon his Lordship occasionally, being very sensible of the honor, and of the great advantages and improvement I should reap, from his instructive conversation; which indeed was not a mere compliment.
The new Parliament was to meet the 29th of November, 1774. About the beginning of that month, being at the Royal Society, Mr. Raper, one of our members, told me there was a certain lady who had a desire of playing with me at chess, fancying she could beat me, and had requested him to bring me to her. It was, he said, a lady with whose acquaintance he was sure I should be pleased, a sister of Lord Howe's, and he hoped I would not refuse the challenge. I said, I had been long out of practice, but would wait upon the lady when he and she should think fit. He told me where her house was, and would have me call soon, and without further introduction, which I undertook to do; but, thinking it a little awkward, I postponed it; and on the 30th, meeting him again at the feast of the Society election, being the day after the Parliament met, he put me in mind of my promise, and that I had not kept it, and would have me name a day when he said he would call for me, and conduct me. I named the Friday following. He called accordingly. I went with him, played a few games with the lady, whom I found of very sensible conversation and pleasing behaviour, which induced me to agree most readily to an appointment for another meeting a few days afterwards; though I had not the least apprehension that any political business could have any connexion with this new acquaintance.
On the Thursday preceding this chess party, Mr. David Barclay called on me to have some discourse concerning the meeting of merchants to petition Parliament. When that was over, he spoke of the dangerous situation of American affairs, the hazard that a civil war might be brought on by the present measures, and the great merit that person would have, who could contrive some means of preventing so terrible a calamity,