[An Address to the King, written January 1777; never delivered] by Edmund Burke
We, your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal Subjects, several of the Peers of the Realm, and several Members of the House of Commons chosen by the people to represent them in Parliament, do in our individual capacity, but with hearts filled with a warm affection to your Majesty, with a strong attachment to your Royal House, and with the most unfeigned devotion to your true interest, beg leave, at this crisis of your affairs, in all humility to approach your Royal presence.
Whilst we lament the measures adopted by the publick Councils of the Kingdom [in prosecuting the war with the American colonies], we do not mean to question the legal validity of their proceedings. We do not desire to appeal from them to any person whatsoever. We do not dispute the conclusive authority of the bodies, in which we have a place, over all their Members. We know, that it is our ordinary duty to submit ourselves to the determinations of the Majority, in every thing, except what regards the just defence of our honour and reputation. But the situation, into which the British Empire has been brought, and the conduct, to which we are reluctantly driven in that situation, we hold ourselves bound by the relation, in which we stand both to the Crown and the people, clearly to explain to your Majesty and our Country.
We have been called upon in the speech from the Throne at the opening of this Session of Parliament, in a manner peculiarly marked, singularly emphatical, and from a place, from whence any thing implying censure falls with no common weight, to concur in unanimous approbation of those measures, which have produced our present distresses and threaten us in the future with others far more grievous. We trust, therefore, that we shall stand justified in offering to our Sovereign and the Publick our reasons for persevering inflexibly in our uniform dissent from every part of those measures. We lament them from an experience of their mischief, as we originally opposed them from a sure foresight of their unhappy and inevitable tendency.
We see nothing in the present events, in the least degree, sufficient to warrant an alteration in our opinion. We were always steadily averse to this civil War---not because we thought it impossible, that it should be attended with victory; but because we were fully persuaded, that in such a contest, victory would only vary the mode of our ruin; and, by making it less immediately sensible, would render it the more lasting and the more irretrievable. Experience had but too fully instructed us in the possibilityof the reduction of a free people to slavery by foreign mercenary armies. But we had an horror of becoming the instruments in a design, of which, in our turn, we might ecome the victims. Knowing the inestimable value of peace, and the contemptible value of what was sought by War, we wished to compose the distractions of our Country, not by the use of foreign arms, but by prudent regulations in our own domestick policy. We deplored, as your Majesty has done in your speech from the Throne, the disorders, which prevail in your Empire; but we are convinced, that the disorders of the people, in the present time and in the present place, are owing to the usual and natural cause of such disorders, at all times and in all places, where such have prevailed,--the misconduct of Government; that they are owing to plans laid in error, and conducted without wisdom.
We cannot attribute so much to the power of faction, at the expence of human nature, as to suppose, that, in any part of the world, a combination of men, few in number, not considerable in rank, of no natural hereditary dependencies, should be able, by the efforts of their policy alone, or the mere exertion of any talents, to bring the people of your American Dominions into the disposition, which has produced the present troubles. We cannot conceive, that, without some powerful concurring cause, any management should prevail on some millions of people, dispersed over an whole Continent, in thirteen Provinces, not only unconnected, but in many particulars of religion, manners, government, and local interest totally different and adverse, voluntarily to submit themselves to a suspension of all the profits of industry and all the comforts of civil life, added to all the evils of an unequal War carried on with circumstances of the greatest asperity and rigour. This, Sir, we conceive, could never have happened, but from a general sense of some grievance, so radical in its nature, and so spreading in its effects, as to poison all the ordinary satisfactions of life, to discompose the frame of society, and to convert into fear and hatred, that habitual reverence ever paid by mankind to an ancient and venerable Government.
That grievance is as simple in its nature, and as level to the most ordinary understanding, as it is powerful in affecting the most languid passions: it is
AN ATTEMPT MADE TO DISPOSE OF THE PROPERTY OF A WHOLE PEOPLE WITHOUT THEIR CONSENT.
Your Majesty's English Subjects in the Colonies, possessing the ordinary faculties of mankind, know, that to live under such a plan of government is not to live in a state of freedom. Your English Subjects in the Colonies, still impressed with the ancient feelings of the people from whom they are derived, cannot live under a Government, which does not establish Freedom as its basis.
This scheme being therefore set up in direct opposition to the rooted and confirmed sentiments and habits of thinking of an whole people, has produced the effects, which ever must result from such a collision of power and opinion. For we beg leave, with all duty and humility, to represent to your Majesty, (what we fear has been industriously concealed from you) that it is not merely the opinion of a very great number of even of the majority, but the universal sense of the whole body of the people in those provinces, that the practice of taxing, in the mode and on the principles which have been lately contended for and enforced, is subversive of all their rights.
This sense has been declared, as we understand on good information, by the unanimous voice of all their Assemblies; each Assembly also, on this point, perfectly unanimous within itself. It has been declared as fully by the actual voice of the people without these Assemblies, as by the constructive voice within them; as well by those in that Country, who addressed, as by those, who remonstrated; and it is as much the avowed opinion of those, who have hazarded their all rather than take up arms against your Majesty's forces, as of those, who have run the same risk to oppose them. The difference among them is, not on the grievance, but on the mode of redress; and we are sorry to say, that they, who have conceived hopes from the placability of the Ministers, who influence the publick Councils of this Kingdom, disappear in the multitude of those, who conceive, that passive compliance only confirms and emboldens oppression.
The sense of a whole people, most gracious Sovereign, never ought to be contemned by wise and beneficent rulers; whatever may be the abstract claims, or even rights of the supreme power. We have been too early instructed, and too long habituated to believe, that the only firm seat of all authority is in the minds, affections, and interests of the people, to change our opinions on the theoretick. reasonings of speculative men, or for the convenience of a mere temporary arrangement of State. It is not consistent with equity or wisdom to set at defiance the general feelings of great communities and of all the orders which compose them. Much power is tolerated and passes un questioned where much is yielded to opinion. All is disputed where every thing is enforced.
Such are our sentiments on the duty and policy of conforming to the prejudices of a whole people, even where the foundation of such prejudices may be false or disputable. But permit us to lay at your Majesty's feet our deliberate judgment on the real merits of that principle, the violation of which is the known ground and origin of these troubles. We assure your Majesty, that, on our parts, we should think ourselves unjustifiable, as good citizens, and not influenced by the true spirit of Englishmen, if, with any effectual means of prevention in our hands, we were to submit to Taxes, to which we did not consent, either directly, or by a representation of the people securing to us the substantial benefit of an absolutely free disposition of our own property in that important case. And we add, Sir, that if fortune, instead of blessing us with a situation, where we may have daily access to the propitious presence of a gracious Prince, had fixed us in settlements on the remotest part of the globe, we must carry these sentiments with us, as part of our being; persuaded that the distance of situation would render this privilege in the disposal of property but the more necessary. If no provision had been made for it, such provision ought to be made, or permitted. Abuses of subordinate authority encrease, and all means of redress lessen, as the distance of the Subject removes him from the seat of the supreme power. What, in those circumstances, can save him from the last extremes of indignity and oppression, but something left in his own hands, which may enable him to conciliate the favor and controul the excesses of Government? When no means of power to awe or to oblige, are possessed, the strongest ties, which connect mankind in every relation social and civil, and which teach them mutually to respect each other, are broken. Independency, from that moment, virtually exists. Its formal declaration will quickly follow. Such must be our feelings for ourselves: we are not in possession of another rule for our brethren.
When the late attempt practically to annihilate that inestimable privilege was made, great disorders and tumults very unhappily and very naturally arose from it. In this state of things, we were of opinion, that satisfaction ought instantly to be given; or that, at least, the punishment of the disorder ought to be attended with the redress of the grievance. We were of opinion, that, if our dependencies had so outgrown the positive institutions made for the preservation of Liberty in this Kingdom, that the operation of their powers was become rather a pressure than a relief to the Subjects in the Colonies, wisdom dictated, that the spirit of the Constitution should rather be applied to their circumstances, than its authority enforced with violence in those very parts, where its reason became wholly inapplicable.
Other methods were then recommended and followed, as infallible means of restoring peace and order. We looked upon them to be, what they have since proved to be, the cause of inflaming discontent into disobedience, and resistance into revolt. The subversion of solemn, fundamental Charters, on a suggestion of abuse, without citation, evidence, or hearing: the total suspension of the commerce of a great maritime city, the capital of a great maritime province, during the pleasure of the Crown: the establishment of a military force, not accountable to the ordinary Tribunals of the Country, in which it was kept up:--these and other proceedings at that time, if no previous cause of dissension had subsisted, were sufficient to produce great troubles: unjust at all times, they were then irrational.
We could not conceive, when disorders had arisen from the complaint of one violated right, that to violate every other was the proper means of quieting an exasperated people. It seemed to us absurd and preposterous, to hold out, as the means of calming a people in a state of extreme inflammation and ready to take up arms, the austere law, which a rigid conqueror would impose, as the sequel of the most decisive victories.
Recourse, indeed, was at the same time had to force; and we saw a force sent out, enough to menace liberty, but not to awe opposition; tending to bring odium on the civil power, and contempt on the military; at once to provoke and encourage resistance. Force was sent out not sufficient to hold one town: Laws were passed to inflame thirteen provinces.
This mode of proceeding, by harsh laws and feeble armies, could not be defended on the principle of mercy and forbearance. For mercy, as we conceive, consists not in the weakness of the means, but in the benignity of the ends. We apprehend that mild measures may be powerfully enforced: and that acts of extreme rigour and injustice may be attended with as much feebleness in the execution, as severity in the formation.
In consequence of these terrors, which, falling upon some, threatened all, the Colonies made a common cause with the sufferers; and proceeded, on their part, to acts of resistance. In that alarming situation, we besought your Majesty's Ministers to entertain some distrust of the operation of coercive measures, and to profit of their experience. Experience had no effect. The modes of legislative rigour were construed, not to have been erroneous in their policy, but too limited in their extent. New severities were adopted. The fisheries of your people in America followed their charters; and their mutual combination to defend what they thought their common rights, brought on a total prohibition of their mutual commercial intercourse. No distinction of persons or merits was observed the peaceable and the mutinous, friends and foes were alike involved, as if the rigour of the laws had a certain tendency to recommend the authority of the legislator.
Whilst the penal laws encreased in rigour, and extended in application over all the Colonies, the direct force was applied but to one part. Had the great fleet and foreign army since employed, been at that time called for, the greatness of the preparation would have declared the magnitude of the danger. The nation would have been alarmed, and taught the necessity of some means of reconciliation with our countrymen in America, who, whenever they are provoked to resistance, demand a force to reduce them to obedience full as destructive to us as to them. But Parliament and the people, by a premeditated concealment of their real situation, were drawn into perplexities, which furnished excuses for further armaments; and whilst they were taught to believe themselves called to suppress a riot, they found themselves involved in a mighty War.
At length British blood was spilled by British hands--a fatal aera, which we must ever deplore, because your Empire will ever feel it! Your Majesty was touched with a sense of so great a disaster. Your paternal breast was affected with the sufferings of your English Subjects in America. In your Speech from the Throne, in the beginning of the Session of 1775, you were graciously pleased to declare yourself inclined to relieve their distresses, and to pardon their errors. Yourfelt their sufferings under the late penal Acts of Parliament. But your Ministry felt differently. Not discouraged by the pernicious effects of all they had hitherto advised, and notwithstanding the gracious declaration of your Majesty, they obtained another Act of Parliament, in which the rigours of all the former were consolidated, and embittered by circumstances of additional severity and outrage. The whole trading property of America (even unoffending shipping in port) was indiscriminately and irrecoverably given, as the plunder of foreign Enemies, to the sailors of your Navy. This property was put out of the reach of your mercy. Your people were despoiled; and your Navy, by a new, dangerous, and prolific example, corrupted with the plunder of their countrymen. Your people in that part of your dominions, were put, in their general and political, as well as their personal capacity, wholly out of the protection of your Government.
Though unwilling to dwell on all the improper modes of carrying on this unnatural and ruinous War, and which have led directly to the present unhappy separation of Great Britain and its Colonies, we must beg leave to represent two particulars, which we are sure must have been entirely contrary to your Majesty's order or approbation. Every course of action in hostility, however that hostility may be just or merited, is not justifiable or excusable. It is the duty of those, who claim to rule over others, not to provoke them beyond the necessity of the case; nor to leave stings in their minds, which must long rankle, even when the appearance of tranquillity is restored.--We therefore assure your Majesty, that it is with shame and sorrow we have seen several acts of hostility, which could have no other tendency than incurably to alienate the minds of your American Subjects. To excite, by a Proclamation issued by your Majesty's Governor, an universal insurrection of Negro Slaves in any of the Colonies, is a measure full of complicated horrors, absolutely illegal; suitable neither to the practice of war, nor to the laws of peace. Of the same quality we look upon all attempts to bring down on your Subjects an irruption of those fierce and cruel tribes of Savages and Cannibals, in whom the vestiges of human nature are nearly effaced by ignorance and barbarity. They are not fit Allies for your Majesty, in a war with your people. They are not fit instruments of an English Government. These, and many other acts, we disclaim as having advised, or approved when done; and we clear ourselves to your Majesty and to all civilized nations, from any participation whatever, before or after the fact, in such unjustifiable and horrid proceedings.
But there is one weighty circumstance, which we lament equally with the causes of the War, and with the modes of carrying it on--that no disposition whatsoever towards peace or reconciliation has ever been strewn by those, who have directed the public Councils of this Kingdom, either before the breaking out of these hostilities, or during the unhappy continuance of them. Every proposition, made in your Parliament to remove the original cause of these troubles, by taking off taxes, obnoxious for their principle or their design, has been overruled. Every Bill, brought in for quiet, rejected, even on the first proposition. The Petitions of the Colonies have not been admitted, even to an hearing. The very possibility of public agency, by which such Petitions could authentically arrive at Parliament, has been evaded and chicaned away. All the public declarations, which indicate any thing resembling a disposition to reconciliation, seem to us loose, general, equivocal, capable of various meanings or of none; and they are accordingly construed differently, at different times, by those, on whose recommendation they have been made; being wholly unlike the precision and stability of public faith; and bearing no mark of that ingenuous simplicity, and native candour and integrity, which formerly characterized the English nation.
Instead of any relaxation of the claim of taxing at the discretion of Parliament, your Ministers have devised a new mode of enforcing that claim, much more effectual, for the oppression of the Colonies, though not for your Majesty's Service, both as to the quantity and application, than any of the former methods; and their mode has been expressly held out by Ministers, as a plan not to be departed from by the House of Commons, and as the very condition, on which the Legislature is to accept the dependence of the Colonies.
At length, when after repeated refusals to hear or to conciliate, an Act, dissolving your Government by putting your people in America out of your protection, was passed, your Ministers suffered several months to elapse, without affording to them, or to any Community or any Individual amongst them, the means of entering into that protection, even on unconditional submission, contrary to your Majesty's gracious Declaration from the Throne, and in direct violation of the public faith.
We cannot, therefore, agree to unite in new severities, against the brethren of our blood, for their asserting an independency, to which, we know in our conscience, they have been necessitated by the conduct of those very persons, who now make use of that argument to provoke us to a continuance and repetition of the acts, which in a regular series have led to this great misfortune.
The reasons, dread Sir, which have been used to justify this perseverance in a refusal to hear or conciliate, have been reduced into a set of Parliamentary maxims, which we do not approve. The first of these maxims is, "that the Two Houses ought not to receive (as they have hitherto refused to receive) Petitions containing matter derogatory to any part of the authority they claim." We conceive this maxim, and the consequent practice, to be unjustifiable by reason, or the practice of other sovereign powers, and that it must be productive, if adhered to, of a total separation between this kingdom and its dependencies. The supreme power, being in ordinary cases the ultimate judge, can, as we conceive, suffer nothing in having any part of his rights excepted to, or even discussed, before himself. We know, that Sovereigns, in other countries, where the assertion of absolute regal power is as high, as the assertion of absolute power in any politick body can possibly be here, have received many Petitions in direct opposition to many of their claims of prerogative; have listened to them; condescended to discuss, and to give answers to them. This refusal to admit even the discussion of any part of an undefined prerogative, will naturally tend to annihilate any privilege, that can be claimed by every inferior dependent Community and every subordinate order in the State.
The next maxim, which has been put as a bar to any plan of accommodation, is, "that no offer of terms of Peace ought to be made, before Parliament is assured, that these terms will be accepted." On this we beg leave to represent to your Majesty, that if, in all events, the policy of this kingdom is, to govern the people in your Colonies as a free people, no mischief can possibly happen from a declaration, to them and to the world, of the manner and form, in which Parliament proposes that they shall enjoy the freedom it protects. It is an encouragement to the innocent and meritorious, that they, at least, shall enjoy those advantages, which they patiently expected rather from the benignity of Parliament, than their own efforts. Persons more contumacious may also see, that they are resisting terms of, perhaps, greater freedom and happiness, than they are now in arms to obtain. The glory and propriety of offered mercy is neither tarnished or weakened by the folly of those, who refuse to take advantage of it.
We cannot think, that the declaration of Independency makes any natural difference in the reason and policy of the offer. No Prince, out of the possession of his dominions and become a Sovereign de jure only, ever thought it derogatory to his rights or his interests, to hold out to his former Subjects a distinct prospect of the advantages to be derived from his readmission, and a security for some of the most fundamental of those popular privileges, in vindication of which he had been deposed. On the contrary, such offers have been almost uniformly made under similar circumstances. Besides, as your Majesty has been graciously pleased, in your Speech from the Throne, to declare your intention of restoring your people in the Colonies to a state of Law and Liberty, no objection can possibly lie against defining what that Law and Liberty are; because those, who offer, and those, who are to receive terms, frequently differ most widely and most materially in the signification of these words, and in the objects to which they apply.
To say, that we do not know at this day what the grievances of the Colonies are, (be they real or pretended), would be unworthy of us. But, whilst we are thus waiting to be informed of what we perfectly know, we weaken the powers of the Commissioners; we delay, perhaps we lose, the happy hour of Peace; we are wasting the substance of both countries; we are continuing the effusion of human, of Christian, of English blood.
We are sure, that we must have your Majesty's heart along with us, when we declare in favour of mixing something conciliatory with our force. Sir, we abhor the idea of making a conquest of our countrymen. We wish, that they may yield to well ascertained, well authenticated, and well secured terms of reconciliation; not, that your Majesty should owe the recovery of your dominions to their total waste and destruction. Humanity will not permit us to entertain such a desire; nor will the reverence we bear to the civil rights of mankind make us even wish, that questions of great difficulty, of the last importance, and lying deep in the vital principles of the British Constitution, should be solved by the arms of foreign mercenary soldiers.
It is not, Sir, from a want of the most inviolable duty to your Majesty, not from a want of a partial and passionate regard to that part of your Empire, in which we reside, and which we wish to be supreme, that we have hitherto withstood all attempts to render the supremacy of one part of your dominions inconsistent with the liberty and safety of all the rest. The motives of our opposition are found in those very sentiments, which we are supposed to violate. For we are convinced beyond a doubt, that a system of dependence, which leaves no security to the people for any part of their freedom in their own hands, cannot be established in any inferior member of the British Empire, without consequentially destroying the freedom of that very body, in favour of whose boundless pretensions such a scheme is adopted. We know and feel, that arbitrary power over distant regions is not within the competence, nor to be exercised agreeably to the forms or consistently with the spirit of great popular assemblies. If such assemblies are called to a nominal share in the exercise of such power, in order to screen under general participation the guilt of desperate measures, it tends only the more deeply to corrupt the deliberative character of those assemblies, in training them to blind obedience; in habituating them to proceed upon grounds of fact, with which they can rarely be sufficiently acquainted, and in rendering them executive instruments of designs, the bottom of which they cannot possibly fathom.
To leave any real freedom to Parliament, freedom must be left to the Colonies. A military Government is the only substitute for civil liberty. That the establishment of such a power in America will utterly ruin our finances (though its certain effect) is the smallest part of our concern. It will become an apt, powerful and certain engine for the destruction of our freedom here. Great bodies of armed men, trained to a contempt of popular assemblies representative of an English people; kept up for the purpose of exacting impositions without their consent, and maintained by that exaction; instruments in subverting, without any process of Law, great antient establishments and respected forms of Governments; set free from, and therefore above the ordinary English tribunals of the country where they serve--these men cannot so transform themselves, merely by crossing the sea, as to behold with love and reverence, and submit with profound obedience, to the very same things in Great Britain, which in America they had been taught to despise, and had been accustomed to awe and humble. All your Majesty's troops, in the rotation of service, will pass through this discipline, and contract these habits. If we could flatter ourselves that this would not happen, we must be the weakest of men: we must be the worst, if we were indifferent whether it happened or not. What, gracious Sovereign, is the Empire of America to us, or the Empire of the world, if we lose our liberties? We deprecate this last of evils. We deprecate the effect of the doctrines, which must support and countenance the government over conquered Englishmen.
As it will be impossible long to resist the powerful and equitable arguments, in favour of the freedom of these unhappy people, that are to be drawn from the principle of our own liberty; attempts will be made, attempts have been made, to ridicule and to argue away this principle; and to inculcate into the minds of your people, other maxims of government and other grounds of obedience, than those, which have prevailed at and since the glorious Revolution. By degrees, these doctrines, by being convenient, may grow prevalent. The consequence is not certain; but a general change of principles rarely happens among a people, without leading to a change of Government.
Sir, your Throne cannot stand secure upon the principles of unconditional submission and passive obedience; on powers exercised without the concurrence of the people to be governed; on Acts made in defiance of their prejudices and habits; on acquiescence procured by foreign mercenary troops, and secured by standing armies. These may possibly be the foundation of other Thrones; they must be the subversion of yours. It was not to passive principles in our ancestors, that we owe the honour of appearing before a Sovereign, who cannot feel, that he is a Prince, without knowing, that we ought to be free. The Revolution is a departure from the antient course of the descent of this Monarchy. The people, at that time, re-entered into their original rights; and it was not because a positive Law authorized what was then done, but because the freedom and safety of the Subject, the origin and cause of all Laws, required a proceeding paramount and superior to them. At that ever memorable and instructive period, the letter of the Law was superseded in favour of the substance of Liberty. To the free choice, therefore, of the people, without either King or Parliament, we owe that happy Establishment, out of which both King and Parliament were regenerated. From that great principle of Liberty have originated the Statutes, confirming and ratifying the Establishment, from which your Majesty derives your right to rule over us. Those Statutes have not given us our Liberties; our Liberties have produced them. Every hour of your Majesty's reign, your title stands upon the very same foundation, on which it was at first laid; and we do not know a better, on which it can possibly be placed.
Convinced, Sir, that you cannot have different rights, and a different security in different parts of your dominions, we wish to lay an even platform for your Throne; and to give it an unmovable stability, by laying it on the general freedom of your people; and by securing to your Majesty that confidence and affection, in all parts of your dominions, which makes your best security and dearest title in this, the chief seat of your Empire.
Such, Sir, being, amongst us, the foundation of Monarchy itself, much more clearly and much more peculiarly is it the ground of all Parliamentary power. Parliament is a security, provided for the protection of Freedom, and not a subtile fiction, contrived to amuse the people, in its place. The authority of both Houses can, still less than that of the Crown, be supported upon different principles in different places; so as to be, for one part of your Subjects, a protector of Liberty, and, for another a fund of despotism, through which prerogative is extended by occasional powers, whenever an arbitrary will finds itself straitened by the restrictions of Law. Had it seemed good to Parliament to consider itself as the indulgent guardian and strong protector of the freedom of the subordinate popular Assemblies, instead of exercising its powers to their annihilation, there is no doubt, that it never could have been their inclination, because not their interest, to raise questions on the extent of Parliamentary Rights; or to enfeeble privileges, which were the security of their own. Powers, evident from necessity, and not suspicious from an alarming mode or purpose in the exertion, would, as formerly they were, be cheerfully submitted to; and these would have been fully sufficient for conservation of unity in the Empire, and for directing its wealth to one common centre. Another use has produced other consequences; and a power, which refuses to be limited by moderation, must either be lost, or find other more distinct and satisfactory limitations.
As for us, a supposed, or, if it could be, a real participation in arbitrary power, would never reconcile our minds to its establishment. We should be ashamed to stand before your Majesty, boldly asserting, in our own favour, inherent rights, which bind and regulate the Crown itself, and yet insisting on the exercise, in our own persons, of a more arbitrary sway over our fellow citizens and fellow freemen.
These, gracious Sovereign, are the sentiments, which we consider ourselves as bound, in justification of our present conduct, in the most serious and solemn manner, to lay at your Majesty's feet. We have been called by your Majesty's writs and proclamations, and ations, and we have been authorized either by hereditary privilege, or the choice of your people, to confer and treat with your Majesty in your highest Councils, upon the arduous affairs of your Kingdom. We are sensible of the whole importance of the duty, which this constitutional summons implies. We know the religious punctuality of attendance, which, in the ordinary course, it demands. It is no light cause, which, even for a time, could persuade us to relax in any part of that attendance. The British Empire is in convulsions which threaten its dissolution. Those particular proceedings, which cause and inflame this disorder, after many years incessant struggle, we find ourselves wholly unable to oppose, and unwilling to behold. All our endeavours having proved fruitless, we are fearful, at this time, of irritating, by contention, those passions, which we have found it impracticable to compose by reason. We cannot permit ourselves to countenance, by the appearance of a silent assent, proceedings fatal to the Liberty and Unity of the Empire; proceedings, which exhaust the strength of all your Majesty's dominions, destroy all trust and dependence of our Allies, and leave us, both at home and abroad, exposed to the suspicious mercy and uncertain inclinations of our neighbour and rival powers; to whom, by this desperate course, we are driving our Countrymen for protection, and with whom we have forced them into connections, and may bind them by habits and by interests; an evil which no victories, that may be obtained, no severities which may be exercised, ever will or can remove.
If but the smallest hope should from any circumstances appear, of a return to the antient maxims and true policy of this Kingdom, we shall with joy and readiness to our attendance, in order to give our hearty support to whatever means may be left for alleviating the complicated evils, which oppress this Nation.
If this should not happen, we have discharged our consciences by this faithful representation to your Majesty and our Country; and however few in number, or however we may be overborne by practices, whose operation is but too powerful, by the revival of dangerous exploded principles, or by the misguided zeal of such arbitrary factions, as formerly prevailed in this Kingdom, and always to its detriment and disgrace, we have the satisfaction of standing forth and recording our names in assertion of those principles, whose operation hath, in better times, made your Majesty a great Prince, and the British Dominions a mighty Empire.
First published in 1812 (fifteen years after Burke's death), in his Works, ed. F. Laurence and W. King.,vol. 5 , this "address" was intended for use in case Burke's party, the "Rockingham Whigs," found it necessary to secede from Parliament.)