Abbildungen der Seite

regulator. He had not determined when he should produce it in the House of Lords; but in the course of our conversation, considering the precarious situation of his health, and that if presenting it was delayed some intelligence might arrive which would make it seem less seasonable, or in all parts not so proper,or the ministry might engage in different measures, and then say, If you had produced your plan sooner, we might have attended to it, — he concluded to offer it the Wednesday following; and therefore wished to see me upon it the preceding Tuesday, when he would again call upon me, unless I could conveniently come to Hayes. I chose the latter, in respect to his lordship, and because there was less likelihood of interruptions; and I promised to be with him early, that we might have more time. He staid with me near two hours, his equipage waiting at the door; and being there while people were coming from church, it was much taken notice of and talked of, as at that time was every little circumstance that men thought might possibly any way affect American affairs. Such a visit from so great a man, on so important a business, flattered not a little my vanity; and the honor of it gave me the more pleasure, as it happened on the very day, twelve months, that the ministry had taken so much pains to disgrace me before the privy council. I applied myself immediately to the reading and considering the plan, of which, when it was afterwards published, I sent you a copy, and therefore need not insert it here. I put down upon paper, as I went along, some short memorandums for my future discourse with him upon it. * * * * I was at Hayes early on Tuesday, agreeably to my promise, when we entered into consideration of the plan ; but, though I staid near four hours, his lordship, in the manner of, I think, all eloquent persons, was so full and diffuse in supporting every particular I questioned, that there was not time to go through half my memorandums; he is not easily interrupted, and I had such pleasure in hearing him, that I found little inclination to interrupt him. Therefore, considering that neither of us had much expectation that the plan would be adopted entirely as it stood; that in the course of its consideration, if it should be received, proper alterations might be introduced; that before it would be settled America should have opportunity to make her objections and propositions of amendment; that, to have it received at all here, it must seem to comply a little with some of the prevailing prejudices of the legislature; that if it was not so perfect as might be wished, it would at least serve as a basis for treaty, and in the mean time prevent mischiefs; and that, as his lordship had determined to offer it the next day, there was not time to make changes and another fair copy, — I therefore ceased my querying; and, though afterwards many people were pleased to do me the honor of supposing I had a considerable share in composing it, I assure you that the addition of a single word only was made at my instance, namely, “constitutions,” after “charters;” for my filling up, at his request, a blank, with the titles of acts proper to be repealed, which I took from the proceedings of the Congress, was no more than might have been done by any copying clerk. On Wednesday, Lord Stanhope, at Lord Chatham's request, called upon me, and carried me down to the House of Lords, which was soon very full. Lord Chatham, in a most excellent speech, introduced, explained, and supported his plan. When he sat down, Lord Dartmouth rose, and very properly said it contained matter of such weight and magnitude as to require much consideration, and he therefore hoped the noble earl did not expect their lordships to decide upon it by an immediate vote, but would be willing it should lie upon the table for consideration. Lord Chatham answered readily that he expected nothing more. But Lord Sandwich rose, and in a petulant, vehement speech, opposed its being received at all, and gave his opinion that it ought to be immediately rejected, with the contempt it deserved; that he could never believe it to be the production of any British peer; that it appeared to him rather the work of some American ; and, turning his face towards me, who was leaning on the bar, said he fancied he had in his eye the person who drew it up, one of the bitterest and most mischievous enemies this country had ever known. This drew the eyes of many lords upon me; but, as I had no inducement to take it to myself, I kept my countenance as immovable as if my features had been made of wood. Then several other lords of the administration gave their sentiments also for rejecting it, of which opinion, also, was strongly the wise Lord Hillsborough; but the Dukes of Richmond and Manchester, Lord Shelburne, Lord Camden, Lord Temple, Lord Lyttleton and others, were for receiving it, some through approbation, and others for the character and dignity of the House. One lord mentioning, with applause, the candid proposal of one of the ministers, Lord Dartmouth, his lordship rose again, and said, that having since heard the opinions of so many lords against receiving it to lie upon the table for consideration, he had altered his mind, could not accept the praise offered him, for a candor of which he was now ashamed, and should therefore give his voice for rejecting the plan immediately. I am the more particular in this, as it is a trait of that nobleman's character, who, from his office, is supposed to have so great a share in American affairs, but who has in reality no will or judgment of his own, being, with dispositions for the best measures, easily prevailed with to join in the worst. Lord Chatham, in his reply to Lord Sandwich, took notice of his illiberal insinuation, that the plan was not the person's who proposed it; declared that it was entirely his own, a declaration he thought himself the more obliged to make, as many of their lordships appeared to have so mean an opinion of it; for, if it was so weak or so bad a thing, it was proper in him to take care that no other person should unjustly share in the censure it deserved. That it had been heretofore reckoned his vice not to be apt to take advice; but he made no scruple to declare that, if he were the first minister of this country, and had the care of settling this momentous business, he should not be ashamed of publicly calling to his assistance a person so perfectly acquainted with the whole of American affairs as the gentleman alluded to, and so injuriously reflected on; one, he was pleased to say, whom all Europe held in high estimation for his knowledge and wisdom, and ranked with our Boyles and Newtons; who was an honor, not to the English nation only, but to human nature! I found it harder to stand this extravagant compliment than the preceding equally extravagant abuse; but kept as well as I could an unconcerned countenance, as not conceiving it to relate to me. To hear so many of these hereditary legislators declaiming so vehemently against, not the adopting merely, but even the consideration, of a proposal so important in its nature, offered by a person of so weighty a character, one of the first statesmen of the age, who had taken up this country when in the lowest despondency, and conducted it to victory and glory through a war with two of the mightiest kingdoms in Europe; to hear them censuring his plan, not only for their own misunderstandings of what was in it, but for their imaginations of what was not in it, which they would not give themselves an opportunity of rectifying by a second reading; to perceive the total ignorance of the subject in some, the prejudice and passion of others, and the wilful perversion of plain truth in several of the ministers; and, upon the whole, to see it so ignominiously rejected by so great a majority, and so hastily too, in breach of all decency and prudent regard to the character and dignity of their body, as a third part of the national legislature, gave me an exceeding mean opinion of their abilities, and made their claim of sovereignty over three millions of virtuous, sensible people in America seem the greatest of absurdities, since they appeared to have scarce discretion enough to govern a herd of swine. Hereditary legislators thought I. There would be more propriety, because less hazard of mischief, in having (as in some university of Germany) hereditary professors of mathematics' But this was a hasty reflection; for the elected House of Commons is no better, nor ever will be while the electors receive money for their votes, and pay money wherewith ministers may bribe their representatives when chosen.


- DANTzic, Sept. 5, 1773.

WE have long wondered here at the supineness of the English nation under the Prussian impositions upon its trade entering our port. We did not, till lately, know the claims, ancient and modern, that hang over that nation, and therefore could not suspect that it might submit to those impositions from a sense of duty, or from principles of equity. The following edict, just made public, may, if serious, throw some light upon the matter:

“FREDERICK, by the grace of God, King of Prussia, &c., to all present and to come; [a tous presens et a venir. — ORIGINAL..] Health !—The peace now enjoyed throughout our dominions having afforded us leisure to apply ourselves to the regulation of commerce, the improvement of our finances, and at the same time the easing of our domestic subjects in their taxes: for these causes, and other good considerations us thereunto moving, we hereby make known, that, after having deliberated these affairs in our council, present our dear brothers, and other great officers of the state, members of the same; we, of our certain knowledge, full power, and authority royal, have made and issued this present edict, namely.

“Whereas it is well known to all the world that the first German settlements made in the island of Britain were by

* See page 55.

colonies of people subjects to our renowned ducal ancestors, and drawn from their dominions, under the conduct of Hengist, Horsa, Hella, Uffa, Cerdicus, Ida, and others; and that the said colonies have flourished under the protection of our august house for ages past, have never been emancipated therefrom, and nevertheless have hitherto yielded little profit to the same: and whereas we ourself have in the last war fought for and defended the said colonies against the power of France, and thereby enabled them to make conquests from the said power in America, for which we have not yet received adequate compensation: and whereas it is just and expedient that a revenue should be raised from the said colonies in Britain towards our indemnification; and that those who are descendants of our ancient subjects, and thence still owe us due obedience, should contribute to the replenishing of our royal coffers (as they must have done, had their ancestors remained in the territories now to us appertaining). WE do therefore hereby ordain and command, that, from and after the date of these presents, there shall be levied and paid to our officers of the customs, on all goods, wares and merchandises, and on all grain and other produce of the earth, exported from the said island of Britain, and on all goods of whatever kind imported into the same, a duty of four and a half per cent. ad valorem, for the use of us and our successors: And that the said duty may more effectually be collected, we do hereby ordain, that all ships or vessels bound from Great Britain to any other part of the world, or from any other part of the world to Great Britain, shall in their respective voyages touch at our port of Koningsberg, there to be unladen, searched, and charged with the said duties. “And whereas there hath been from time to time discovered in the said island of Great Britain, by our colonists there, many mines or beds of iron-stone: and sundry subjects of our ancient dominion, skilful in converting the said stone into metal, have in time past transported themselves thither, carrying with them and communicating that art; and the inhabitants of the said island, presuming that they had a natural right to make the best use they could of the natural productions of their country, for their own benefit, have not only built furnaces for smelting the said stone into iron, but have erected plating-forges, slittingmills and steel-furnaces, for the more convenient manufacturing of the same, thereby endangering a diminution of the said manufacture in our ancient dominion; we do, therefore, hereby further ordain, that from and after the date hereof no mill nor other engine for slitting or rolling of iron, nor any plating-forge

« ZurückWeiter »