584 | To Lord Barrington

    Boston Jan 28 1768.

    My Lord

    I understand that it is a prevailing Opinion on your side of the Ocean that America, if let alone will come to herself & return to the same Sense of Duty & obedience to Great Britain which she professed before. But It seems to me that observing & considerate Men on this side the water expect no such thing. If indeed the Ill temper of the Americans had arose from accidental Causes, & exercised itself without meddling with fundamental principles, the Cause ceasing the Effects might also cease; & the subject of complaint being removed, a perfect & durable constitution might be restored.

    But when the Dispute has been carried so far as to take involve in it questions matters of the highest importance to the ^imperial^ Sovreignty, when it ^has^ produced questions which the Sovreign state cannot give up, & the dependent states insist ^upon^ as the terms of a reconciliation; when the imperial state has so far given way as to flatter the dependent states that their pretensions are admissible; Whatever terms of reconciliation Time Accident or Design shall ^may^ produce, if they have ^are^ deficient in settling the true relation between ^of^ Great Britain & ^to^ her Colonies, & ascertaining the bounds of the Sovreignty of the one & the dependency of the other, Conciliation will be no more ^than a^ suspension of Animosity; the seeds of which will be left in the ground ready to start up again whenever there shall be a new occasion for the Americans to assert their pretensions against ^independence of^ the Authority of parliament, that is whenever the parliament shall make ordinances which the Americans shall think not for their intrest to obey.

    It was easy to be foreseen that the distinctions used in parliament in favour of the Americans would be adopted by them & received as fundamental laws. It would signify nothing by what numbers these distinctions were rejected: the respectableness of the Names of the promoters of them, & the apparent intrest of ye Americans in maintaining ^them^ would outweigh all authority of Numbers for the contrary Opinion. It was also to be foreseen that the Americans would carry these Distinctions much farther than the promoters could possibly intend they should be. But yet these distinctions never gave me any concern, because they carried their remedy with them: if they were hurtful to the constitution, they carried their remedy with them; ^had an antidote at hand and^ like the antient Spear, if they wounded the Sovreign state they produced a rust to cure it.1 If the Parliament cant ^tax^ the Americans because they are not represented, it may allow them representatives, & the Authority is compleat.

    I have been used & am still allways disposed to set an higher value upon the Wisdom of statesmen ^perhaps so much higher^ than they ^perhaps it may^ deserve; and I am still desirous rather to err on that side than the opposite. When the great Man^for^ for ^of of^ whose political Ability I then had & still have the highest reverence, pronounced for the ^founded his^ impeachment of the power of parliament to tax the Americans upon the want of American representatives,2 It appeared to me to be a stroke of refined policy. I considered this difficulty to be started, in order to enforce the necessity of allowing the Americans to send representatives to parliament. I considered not only the Advantages which would arise from such an ordinance for the present by removing all objections to the power of parliament; but also the benefit which must arise for the future by an Union of the two ^incorporating the American^ with Great Britain in an Union which must more effectually prevent a Separation than can be provided against by any other means. If this Objection had been pursued to this conclusion, The Author of it would have been deservedly esteemed the benefactor of both Countries. Without this conclusion It is not easy to see how ^this Contravention of the Authority of parliament can be of service^ it can produce any good to either.

    Let us state the positions urged in parliament on the behalf in the behalf of the Americans & the use which has been made of them in America, & see how far the chain of reasoning can be extended. It was said in parliament, that 1. The parliament has no right to tax the Americans, because the Americans have no representatives in parliament. 2. But they have a right to impose port duties or external3 taxes, because such duties are for the regulation of trade. 3. The difference between an external and an internal tax is that the former is imposed for the regulation of trade & the latter for raising a Revenue. From these premises the Americans have drawn the following conclusions. 1. Port duties imposed for raising a Revenue are internal Taxes. 2. Port duties of which the produce is to be paid into the Exchequer for the use of Government. 4. All the Port Duties ^imposed upon America^ are internal Taxes. The only Difference between the Port duties declared to be for raising a Revenue, & those of which of no such declaration is made is that in one the Intention is explicit; in the other it is implied: they both come within the definition of internal taxes, & there are no taxes left for the distinction to operate upon.

    This is not a fictitious Argument but a real one now urged & insisted upon as the terms of a good agreement between great Britain & her Colonies. For proof of which I refer your Lordship to the Farmer’s Letters, in which your Lordship will find the whole of this argument laid down either positively or consequentially. What then shall be done? shall the parliament make a new declarative Act? See! here are counter declarations to the former act. shall they take no notice of these American Pretensions? they will then be confirmed in the minds of the Americans & become really, what they are now proclamed4 to be, a Bill of American rights. The right Way to get rid of these difficulties, which have arose out of the political dissentions at Westminster, is to allow the Americans to send representatives. This will be a full Answer to all their pretensions: it has been for some time past expedient; it is now become necessary.

    In one of the ^news-^papers inclosed with this is a Speech said to have been spoke in the House of Lords, which has been reprinted from a London pamphlet. The whole Argument of this does not tend to show that the Americans ought not to be taxed; but that previously to their being taxed, they ought to be allowed to send representatives. This has been extremely well received here, altho’ the conclusion is for an American representation. If this was really a Speech of a Lord of that House, it might have been properly answered by admitting the conclusion and thereby avoiding a dispute about the premises. If the Americans should be allowed Representatives, it would become a Question merely speculative, whether Representation is necessary to Taxation or not.

    And yet the Americans in general do not desire a representation, tho’ the publications on their behalf all tend to that conclusion; and some of them seem calculated to force the parliament into that measure as the only one which will satisfy them5 pretensions. The truth is that ^tho’^ the Leaders of the People set out with a view of obtaining a representation & have never lost sight of it; it has but lately occurred to the people ^in general^ that this may be a probable consequence of their denying the Authority of parliament. The former have ^had^ no objection to being representatives; but the people have not as yet seen their intrest in sending them. It is from this disposition in the demagogues, as well as ^from^ the support they received in parliament turning upon the same question, that the Americans have founded all their Arguments against the Authority of parliament in their want of representatives in it; and a System for separating them from parliament is formed upon a proposition which it is in the power of the parliament at [blank] pleasure to convert into the means of more closely uniting them with it. But the mutual intrest of the two Countries seems to be equally misunderstood on both sides of the Water.

    I will illustrate this Account of the Ideas of the Americans by fresh facts. At the opening of the present Session of the Assembly of this province, a Member who had distinguished himself by carrying the objections to the Authority of parliament to their present length, now in a set speech retracted all his former Opinions, & said that he had fully informed himself of the relation between Great Britain & her Colonies, & was convinced that the power of parliament over her colonies was absolute, with this qualification, that they ought not to tax them untill they allowed them to send representatives; & that if the Colonies had representatives the power of parliament would be as perfect in America as it was in England. He then argued for an ^American^ Representation, & said it was now become a Measure necessary both to Great Britain & the Colonies, for the healing the breaches between them.

    This surprised the House: but their Eyes began to open. A Member on the side of Government charged the Opposition with an intention to make an American Representation necessary by their denying the authority of Acts of parliament over them because they were not represented. The proofs he adduced & the equivocal Answers of the other party left little doubt of this. Upon this an old Member6 (whose name & Character is well known in England) said that as they were determined to have representatives, He begged leave to recommend ^to them^ a Merchant who would undertake to carry their representatives to England for half what they would sell for when they arrived there.

    It This has been a serious Objection that American representatives would be subject to undue influence: ^but are not English representatives so? & is that an argument agst having parliaments?^ Another is that the Colonies would not be able to maintain them. Both these, which contradict each other, would be easily answered: but the most intresting Objection, which is not avowed & therefore cannot receive a formal Answer, is that an American Representation will take away all take all pretences for disputing the Ordinances of Parliament. The Admission of American representatives into parliament will allow of the continuing the provincial Assemblies for the purposes of domestic Œconomy; & therefore no Objections have been drawn from the cessation of the inferior legislatures; the supposition of which would create infinite difficulties.

    Upon the whole, My Lord, if there was no Necessity for the appointment of American representatives (which I think there is & that very pressing) the Idea of it greatly enlarges my View of the Grandeur of the British Empire. And if there is an Danger of its falling to pieces, which surely cannot be too much guarded against, it seems to me that nothing could so effectually provide against so fatal an Event, as binding the Colonies to the Mother Country by an incorporating Union, & giving them a share in the Sovreign legislature. If this was done there could [be] no dispute ^about^ the rights & priviledges of Americans in contradistinction to those of Britons; and an Opposition ^by force^ to the Government of Great Britain would have but one name. And then We might expect a longer Duration to the entire British Empire than desponding politicians are willing to promise at the present time, & in its present state.

    AL, AC     BP, 11: 127-136.

    Minor emendations not shown. Docket: Letter to Lord Barrington [_]:7 not sent In favour of American Representation.8     The version printed here is a final version of a scribal draft, heavily corrected by FB, in BP, 6: 70-77 (Dft, LbC). The differences between them are numerous and substantive. The corrected scribal draft in the letterbooks was probably a first draft and the unsigned author’s copy printed here (AC) was likely a fair copy of a second, improved draft (but which is not extant). For that reason the differences between the scribal draft and author’s copy have not been fully explained in the notes to this transcript. The AC version was printed in Select Letters, 53-60, and Barrington-Bernard, 245-252. While FB marked this version “not sent” one fair copy was sent; Barrington acknowledged receipt of a dupRC in No. 605 and its enclosure, a copy of the Boston Evening-Post, 18 Jan. 1768, which reprinted Lord Camden’s parliamentary speech of 11 Mar. 1766.