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Saturday, February 09, 2013

A Little Revolution Then Was A Good Thing

On this day in 1775, the British Parliament declared to the King:

[W]e find, that a part of your Majesty's subjects in the province of the Massachusetts Bay have proceeded so far to resist the authority of the supreme legislature, that a rebellion at this time actually exists within the said province; and we see, with the utmost concern, that they have been countenanced and encouraged by unlawful combinations and engagements, entered into by your Majesty's subjects in several of the other colonies, to the injury and oppression of many of their innocent fellow-subjects resident within the kingdom of Great Britain, and the rest of your Majesty's dominions.

Then, only some hothead New Englanders were rebelling.  Took more than a year for the rest of Massachusetts' sister colonies to dive in.

But there were at this time those in England who as yet attempted conciliation.  Edmund Burke spoke in Parliament the following month:

Those who wield the thunder of the state, may have more confidence in the efficacy of arms. But I confess, possibly for want of this knowledge, my opinion is much more in favour of prudent management, than of force; considering force not as an odious, but a feeble instrument, for preserving a people so numerous, so active, so growing, so spirited as this, in a profitable and subordinate connexion with us.

First, Sir, permit me to observe, that the use of force alone is buttemporary. It may subdue for a moment; but it does not remove the necessity of subduing again: and a nation is not governed, which is perpetually to be conquered.

My next objection is its uncertainty. Terror is not always the effect of force; and an armament is not a victory. If you do not succeed, you are without resource; for, conciliation failing, force remains; but, force failing, no further hope of reconciliation is left. Power and authority are sometimes bought by kindness; but they can never be begged as alms by an impoverished and defeated violence.

A further objection to force is, that you impair the object by your very endeavours to preserve it. The thing you fought for is not the thing which you recover; but depreciated, sunk, wasted, and consumed in the contest. Nothing less will content me, than whole America. 

I do not choose to consume its strength along with our own; because in all parts it is the British strength that I consume. I do not choose to be caught by a foreign enemy at the end of this exhausting conflict; and still less in the midst of it. I may escape; but I can make no insurance against such an event. Let me add, that I do not choose wholly to break the American spirit; because it is the spirit that has made the country.

Lastly, we have no sort of experience in favour of force as an instrument in the rule of our Colonies. Their growth and their utility has been owing to methods altogether different. Our ancient indulgence has been said to be pursued to a fault. It may be so. But we know, if feeling is evidence, that our fault was more tolerable than our attempt [178] to mend it; and our sin far more salutary than our penitence.
...
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.

Obviously that worked as well as John Dickinson's attempts to remain a free Englishman.  Anywayz, I wonder how much conciliation today's insurrectionistas have really tried.

ntodd

February 9, 2013 | Permalink

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Comments

It went both ways, too. The colonists had people in England trying to reconcile too. Including Poor Richard himself, IIRC.

Posted by: Darryl Brashier | Feb 9, 2013 11:18:12 PM

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