413 | To Lord Barrington

    Boston Nov: 23 1765

    My Lord

    It is not above a Year since I troubled your Lordship with Copies of an Essay to delineate the Principles of Law & Polity applicable to the British Colonies in America.1 Among these two principal Conclusions were, that the Regulation & Reformation of the American Goverments was then become a necessary Work; and that the present was the most proper time to undertake that Work. If I could have then spoke out with that earnestness with which I thought upon the Subject, I should have urged it as a Business which would admit of no Delay; a Business to which all others ought to have been postponed; as it was itself a necessary Preparative to ^allmost^ all others. But unfortunately (I speak it feelingly) the Business of the Finances took the Lead: this was undoubtedly an Urgent & primary Concern of the Councils of Great Britain; but it did not follow that it ought to be ^immediately^ extended to America. A little Consideration would have made it ^at least^ doubtfull whether an inland Taxation of the Americans was practicable or equitable at that Time. If I had had the Question put to me I think I should have proved the Negative in both Instances ^particulars^.

    It must have been supposed that such an Innovation as a Parliamentary Taxation would cause a great Alarm ^& meet with much Opposition^ in most parts of America; It was quite new to the People, & had no visible Bounds set to it; The Americans declared ^that^ they would not submit to it before the Act passed; & there was the greatest probability that it would require the greatest ^utmost^ Power of Government to carry it into Execution. Whereas at this Time the Governments were weak & impotent to an ^amazing^ Degree Amazing; The Goverment^nors^ & ^the^ Officers of the Crown in several of the cheif Provinces intirely dependent upon the People for Subsistence; The Popular Scale so much weig[h]tier than the Royal, that it required Address & management & frequent temporizing to preserve a tolerable ballance; The Persons of the Governors & Crown-Officers quite defenceless, & exposed to the Violence of the People without any possible Resort for Protection. Was this a Time to introduce so great a Novelty as a Parliamentary inland Taxation into America?

    Nor was the Time less unfavourable to the Equity of such a Taxation. I do not mean to dispute the Reasonableness of America contributing to relieving the incumbrances ^charges^ of Great Britain when she was ^is^ able: nor, I beleive would the Americans themselves have disputed it at a proper Time & Season. But it should be considered that the American ^Governments^ themselves have, in the prosecution of the late War, contracted very large debts, which it will take some Years to pay off, & in the mean Time occasion very burthensome taxes for that Purpose only. For instance, this Government, which is as much before hand as any, raises every Year £37,500 sterling for sinking their Debt, & must continue it for 4 Years longer at least2 before it will be clear.3 . . . . . . . . . . . . .4 If therefore the parliamentary Taxation had been postponed for this Time, & the interval employed in regulating & strengthening the Governments, It probably might have been then introduced without much Difficulty. Now it seems that both one & the other are at greater distance that ever.5

    It were much to be wished that America could be brought to the State it was in, two Years ago; when there was a general Disposition to submit to regulations & requisitions necessary to the Reformation of the Governments & ascertaining their relation to Great Britain. But that Time is past & not to be retreived: since the Insurrections against the Stamp Act, The Americans have found the Governments so contemptibly weak & the People so superior to the Royal Authority, that they are not a little elated upon their Triumphs over the defenceless Officers of the Crown; & seem to be resolved that their Relation Idea of their Relation to Great Britain, however extravagant various & inconsistent shall be the standard of it. So that it is much to be feared that it will cost much time & Treasure (& perhaps some blood) to bring America to that Degree of Submission, which the Parliament will think necessary to require of them. The Question will not be whether there shall be a Stamp Act or not; but whether America shall or shall not be Subject to the Legislature of Great Britain.6

    It is my Opinion that all the Political Evils in America arise from the Want of ascertaining the Relation between Great Britain & the American Colonies. Hence it is that Ideas of that Relation are formed in Britain & America, so very repugnant & contradictory to one an ^each^ other. In Britain the American Governments are considered as Corporations empowered to make by-Laws, existing only during the Pleasure of Parliament, who hath never yet done any thing to confirm their Establishment, & hath at any Time a Power to dissolve them. In America they claim (I mean in  publick Papers,) to be compleat governments ^perfect States^, no otherwise dependent upon Great Britain than by having the same King; which having compleat Legislatures within themselves, are no ways subject to that of Great Britain; which in such Instances as it has heretofore exercised a legislative Power over them has usurped it. In a Difference so very wide who shall determine? The Parliament of Great Britain? No, say the Americans (I mean the Trouble violent & foolish of them); that would be to make them Judges in their own Cause. Who then? the King? He is bound by Charters & Constitutions equal to Charters; & cannot decree against his own Grants. So at this Rate there is no superior Tribunal to determine upon the Rights & Priviledges of the American Colonies.

    But the general Plea of the Americans against the Stamp Act is that they are not represented in Parliament, & therefore not liable to be taxed by it. To which it has been answered in England, that they are, virtually represented in Parliament. Each of these Pleas tends to expose its own Cause; If the Americans rest their Defence upon their not being represented, It is in the Power of the Parliament by admitting representatives from America to take away all Pretence of their not being bound by its Acts; On the other side, if the Notion of the Americans being virtually represented should be falsified in fact, the Plea of the Americans will remain in ^its^ full Force. Whereas The Right of the Parliament of Great Britain to make Laws for the American Colonies is founded upon its being the Supreme Imperial Legislature, to which all Members of the Empire, whether represented or not, are subject in all Matters & Things & in Manner & Form as shall be judged most convenient for the whole.

    But tho the Parliament of Great Britain does not stand in Need of a Real or Virtual Representation to ground its Authority over the Colonies, it may now be worth Consideration whether Admitting Representatives from the Colonies may not be a Proper expedient for the present Exigencies. Two Years ago a proposal of this Kind would not have bore an hearing: But so much is America altered by the late financial Acts, that a New System of Policy & of a more refined Kind than was wanted heretofore, is now become needful.7 The Patchwork Government of America will last no longer: The Necessity of a Parliamentary establishment of the Government of America upon fixed Constitutional Principles is brought on with a precipitation which could not have been ^fore^seen but a Year ago; & is become more urgent by the very Incidents which make it more difficult. The Circumstance of the Americans justifying their Disobedience by their not being represented in Parliament points out a Method to inforce their Obedience upon their own Principles. Take them at their Words let them send Representatives for the present Time & Represent for the present Purposes: 20 ^30^ for the Continent & 10 ^15^ for the Islands would be sufficient. In this Parliament, the Colonies being actually represented, Let the Affair of the American Governments be canvassed to the Bottom; & let a general uniform System of American Government be formed & Established by Act of Parliament, by which the Americans according to their own Principles will be bound; and let the Relation of America to Great Britain be determined & ascertained by a Solemn Recognition; so that the Rights of the American Governments & their Subordination to that of Great Britain may no longer be a Subject of Doubt & Disputation. When this Great Work is done the American Representatives may be dismissed & left to attend their own legislatures, which will then know the Bounds of their own Authority.

    Ireland affords an Example for the Usefulness of this Work & the Manner of doing it. It is owing to the wise Administration of Sr Edward Poynings in Henry the 7ths Time, that the Form of Government of that Island, which is as perfect for a dependent, as that of Great Britain for a supreme Power, has lasted now for 270 Years, without wanting the least Amendment of Fundamentals.8 Haply America has not had a Poynings to regulate her Policy & prevent the Mischeifs, which the Uncertainty of the Relative Powers of civil Goverment, imperial & subordinate, is now bringing on like Torrent.9 The Civil Policy of America is composed of temporary Expedients all derived from the Crown only; not one of the American Governments has that Sanction which none of them ought to be without, a parliamentary Establishment. And untill the Parliament shall establish the American Governments upon a constitutional bottom, & ascertain the Limitations & extensions of their Legislatures, It must be expected that the Governments will be continually subject to disturbance, whenever the Americans think fit to complain of innovations upon & infringements of their Rights; that is whenever any ^thing^ is required of them ^which^ they don’t like.10

    Ireland also affords Instances of every Kind of Regulation which America wants; which may be brought under these Heads.11 1st. The Governments (especially in the Old & settled Lands Countries) should be composed of such ample Districts, as will enable the People to keep up the State of Government without feeling the Burthen of it. 2. There should be one Form of Government as like as possible to that of Great Britain, that is the same as Ireland, with a true Middle Legislative Power,12 appointed by the King for Life & separate from the privy Council. 3. There should be a certain & sufficient civil List laid upon perpetual Funds for the Support of all his Majestys Officers, so that they may not be ^too much^ dependent upon the People. 4. The Several American Governments should Maintain such standing Forces as shall be thought necessary to be kept up in America, ^as their quota of the general Armament of the Empire^13, by raising the Sums requisite therefor & paying the same into the Kings Trea^sury^14’ in America; the Numbers of Men Sums of Money & proportions of the several Governments to be settled by the Parliament of Great Britain. 5. There should be a solemn Recognition of the Supremacy of the Parliament of Great Britain over the American Governments, which should be the first Act of each Legislature after its new Establishment & ^be The condition of its Activity^.15 6. There should be also (which should may be included the same Act) of a Bill of the Rights of the People, which should be declared to be the same with those of the People of England, the Dependency excepted. 716 There should be a general Revisal of the Laws of America, that they may be reduced as near as possible to the Standard of England & the Administration of Government & Law may be render’d as similar thereto as well may be.) 8. In all emitted and doubtfull Cases The English Constitution should be the Guide; or, if it should be thought necessary, the Parliament should determine it.

    You see here, my Lord, a Scheme for settling America; which, I doubt not, will appear to be very extravagant. It is ^may be^ so; but such also is the State of the Country; extraordinary Disorders require extraordinary Means of Cure. It seems to me that the Government of Great Britain never had, in my Time, a more difficult Business, than what the Americans have now put into their Hands. If therefore any Scheme can be proposed, which by constitutional Means will probably compose the present Disorders & prevent the like for the future; it is worth attending to. For this Purpose I have put these Thoughts into writing, in a hasty Manner, for at present I can write no otherwise: and I have thought proper to communicate them to your Lordship; that if you should think they deserve a deliberate Consideration you may procure it for them. I shall think myself very happy, if I can contribute to the restoring the Peace of America & establishing the Governments of it upon a Constitutional & permanent Basis, according to the foregoing or any other System. The Opportunities I have ^had^ of observing the Policy & Manners of many of the Governments of North America have afforded me a Knowledge which might be made useful, if I could freely communicate it; which cannot be done without my personal Attendance. I say this upon presumption that some great ^effectual^ Alteration of the Government of America will soon take place:^is like to be brought on the carpet^17: but if nothing will ^is to^ be done but making Peace with the Americans, & letting them go on in their own Way & according to their own Notions, No great Consideration will be necessary.

    I have extended this letter so far that I have not room to say Any thing ^much^ of myself: but Mr Pownall can inform your Lordship in that respect more minutely than ^as well as^ I can myself . At present I can only say that. For near 3 months I have been under great difficulties & not without danger[.]18 Once my house was invested (the same night the Lieut Governors house was invested destroyed) but preserved by the remonstrances of the Neighbours, ourselves being at the Castle; twice have went [I] sent away my papers plate &c; once I expected to be obliged to quit the Province for several days together; but the peremptoriness of my instructions got made me desirous of trying evry thi experiment first, & I got over that difficulty. ^Even^ Now I am in continual expectation of fresh disturbances arising, of which I should ^may^ partake more or less. But I have done my duty tho’ it has been a Severe one at this time: I have waged a most unequal War, & can not hardly now procure the liberty of remaining Neutral without pretending to exercise any real Authority. I send your Lordships19 copies of the grand altercation ^principle papers which have passed^ between me & the house of representatives, from which you will see that [All] my Crime is vindicating the right of parliam[ent]20 to make laws for ye American ^Colonies^: a conduct unavoidable by me whatever were the Consequences.21

    I am &c

    The Right Honble The Lord Visct Barrington.

    Dft, LbC BP, 5: 47-55.