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there been any lingering willingness among the Americans to return to a political connexion with Great Britain on any terms, those proposed by Lord North could not well have been rejected. The relation established by them between the countries would have been rather a federal union of States, under a common executive, than the dependence of Colonies on a parent State.
The first act was entitled “ An act for removing all doubts and apprehensions concerning taxation in any of the Colonies, provinces, and plantations in North America and the West Indies," and for repealing the tea act. The second act restored the charter of Massachusetts; and the third, authorized the king “to appoint Commissioners, with sufficient power to treat, consult, and agree upon the means of quieting the disorders now subsisting in certain of the colonies, plantations, and provinces in North America."
By the first act it was enacted, that “the king and parliament of Great Britain would not impose any duty, tax, or assessment whatever, payable in any of his Majesty's colo nies, provinces, and plantations in North America or the West Indies, except only such duties as it might be expedient to enforce for the regulation of commerce," the produce of such duties to be applied to the use of the colonies, as other duties levied by the Colonial legislatures. The act appointing Commissioners authorized them “ to treat, consult, and agree with such body or bodies politic and corpo rate, or with such assembly or assemblies of men, or any person or persons whatsoever,” in the Colonies, in relation to all complaints or grievances, and concerning "any aid or contribution” to be furnished by the Colonies, or any of them, to the common defence. To carry these
powers into effect, it was further enacted, that the king might authorize them to proclaim a cessation of hostilities for any time and on any terms; to suspend at discretion all acts of Parliament passed since the 10th of February, 1763; to grant pardons, and appoint governors for such Colonies as might be reconciled.
This act was to remain in force until June, 1779. Thus, after fifteen years of controversy, three years of open war, the expenditure of fifteen millions sterling, and the loss of a great army, the ministry conceded at once all that had been in dispute. They humbled themselves still further by stipu lating that the renunciation of American Independence should
be waived until the conclusion of a satisfactory arrangement, to be ratified by Parliament; and that if the Colonies refused all contribution in any form to the public service, it should not be insisted on as a sine qua non. The haste of the ministers to see the effect of these measures was such, that the bills, before their final passage, were despatched to America, and placed in the hands of General Howe, for use among the Americans, before the arrival of the French treaties.
The bills were pressed forward through Parliament with eagerness, and, excepting the act relating to the Massachusetts charter, supported by all parties. The opposition, with Fox and Burke at their head, were not sparing in sarcasms on the imbecility and versatility of the minister, who had tried every expedient to carry his point; and failing in all, had changed his positions so entirely, and yet claimed the credit of firmness and consistency. Fox charged the pacific dispositions of Lord North to his knowledge that France had already acknowledged the Independence of America by treaty; a fact which he avowed to be true, though not yet publicly known. The assertions of Fox were faintly controverted by the administration, and the two important bills were passed, and received the royal sanction in the beginning of March. The king appointed as Commissioners, the Earl of Carlisle, Mr. Eden, and Governor Johnston, with the commanders of the land and sea forces in America. These were Admiral Lord Howe, and Sir Henry Clinton, who, on the resignation and return of Sir William Howe, succeeded him in the command of the army, in the spring of 1778. Lord Carlisle, and hii olleagues in England, sailed on the 21st of April for Ame ica, and arrived at Philadelphia in the beginning of June. Before they sailed the prospects of their mission were clouded by the official intelligence received of the aiiiance between France and America, concluded in February, of which Mr. Fox had spoken in the House of Commons. The note of the French ambassador was dated on the eleventh of March, and six days afterwards was laid
before Parliament by the king, with a special mes
sage, announcing the event, informing them that he had recalled his minister from the French court, and declaring his determination to use the whole force and resources of his kingdom, if necessary, to repel every insult and attack. Both houses responded with spirit, roused into
new indignation by this formidable combination. The responses were not however unanimous.
A strong effort was made by the Duke of Richmond in the House of Lords to put an end to the war, by withdrawing the
April 7th. troops from North America, contending that the immediate recognition of American Independence was to be preferred to the prosecution of the war, under such adverse circumstances The motion failed. It is chiefly memorable in history as the last public appearance of the venerable and illustrious Chatham, in the House of Peers, and for the melancholy interest which belongs to his dying effort there. Though long a prey to incurable infirmities, by which he had been confined to his own house, he resolved to attend at his place in Parliament, to oppose with his last strength, if needed, the dismemberment of the British empire, by the recognition of American Independence. Supported into the house by his friends, he listened with eager impatience to the speech of the Duke of Richmond, and tasked his whole bodily powers for a vehement and impassioned reply. His concluding words, impressive in themselves, are more affecting as the last words of a great genius and an undoubted patriot; one who expired in giving utterance to fervent sentiments in behalf of the honor and glory of his own country. “My lords,” said he, “I rejoice that the grave has not yet closed upon me that I am still alive to lift up my voice against an acknowledgment of the sovereignty of America, against the dismemberment of this ancient and noble monarchy. Pressed down as I am by the load of infirmity, I am little able to assist my country in this most perilous conjuncture : but, my lords, while I have sense and memory, I never will consent to tarnish the lustre of this nation by an ignominious surrender of its rights and fairest possessions. Shall a people so lately the terror of the world, now fall prostrate before the House of Bourbon? It is impossible. I am not, I confess, well informed of the resources of this kingdom, but I trust it has still sufficient to maintain its just rights, though I know them not.--Any state, my lords, is better than despair. Let us at least make an effort-and, if we must fall, let us fall like men."
The Duke of Richmond replied with profound respect to the appeal made by Lord Chatham, and asked him to point out the means by which America could be made to renounce her Independence. When he concluded, Lord
of his age.
Chatham eagerly attempted to rise, as though struggling to give utterance to some powerful emotion, but nature sank in the effort. He fell back in convulsions. The House adjourned immediately. The Earl lingered for a few weeks, and finally expired, on the 11th of May, in the seventieth year
On the failure of the motion of the Duke of Richmond, the only hope of an immediate termination of the war was in the success of the Commissioners, who were forthwith despatched to America. The manner in which the bills had been received in America before their final passage, augured ill of the disposition of Congress to listen to any terms. Governor Tryon, who had received them about the middle of April, instantly transmitted them to General Washington, and to the governors of several States. At the same time copies were industriously circulated to try their effect upon the minds of the people. Washington immediately forwarded those he had received to Congress, who were then in session, at Yorktown. He accompanied them with letters, pointing out the mischiefs to the cause of Independence, which he apprehended from them. The course adopted in that body on the occasion, is one of the most admirable incidents in the political history of the Revolution. It displays a serene dignity of deportment in the most trying circumstances, and a resolute determination which nothing could affect, to maintain to the last the sovereignty of the States. They were yet unapprized of the French alliance, and without ground for anticipating any speedy aid from that quarter. No despatches had been received from their envoys for more than a year, and at home their distresses were still unmitigated. They had little except hope to encourage them, and here was a prospect of obtaining by the concession of their Independence, all they had desired as Colonies, and more than they had ever asked. But without wavering, they rejected the proposal, and with a frankness which showed their confidence in the virtue and energy of the people, ordered the documents to be published and spread before the world, accompanied by the report of a committee, consisting of Messrs. Morris, Drayton,
and Dana. After animadverting with severity on April 22d.
the bills, the report stigmatizes them as “the sequel of that insidious plan, which, from the days of the Stamp Act down to the present time, hath involved the country in contention and bloodshed.” They distrusted the faith of the
British government, and maintained,
as in other cases so in this,”—" although circumstances may force them to recede from their unjustifiable claims,” there could be no doubt but they would, “ as heretofore, upon the first favorable opportunity, again display that lust of domination which hath rent in twain the mighty empire of Britain.' The Committee reported and Congress declared, that the United States could not with propriety hold any conference or treaty with any Commissioners on the part of Great Britain; unless they should, as a preliminary, either withdraw their fleets and armies, or in positive and express terms acknowledge the Independence of the States.
In about two weeks after this peremptory rejection of the British proposition, the French treaties negotiated in February, arrived in America, and were ratified on the fourth of May, with joyful and grateful feelings. Congratulations and exultations resounded throughout America. Great and immediate results were anticipated from the cooperation of the French fleets and armies, and Independence was considered to be established beyond danger. Congress issued on the occasion a circular address, drawn up by Mr. Chase, of Maryland, to the people of the United States, and directed it to be read from the pulpit by the ministers of all denominations, congratulating them that “the God of battles, in whom was their trust, had conducted them through the paths of danger and distress to the threshold of security.” It called upon them to persevere with strenuous, unremitted exertions, with the confidence that by the favour of Heaven, "the peace and the happiness of these sovereign, free, and independent States, founded on the virtue of their citizens, shall increase, extend and endure, until the Almighty shall blot out all the empires of the earth.”
Soon after, Congress received M. Gerard, the French Ambassador, with great public ceremony and distinction. The American Envoys had been received with like public honors by the French court, in March, and in the course of another month, Dr. Franklin was appointed Minister Plenipotentiary from the United States to France.
It was under such unpropitious circumstances that the British Commissioners undertook to negotiate with Congress, on the basis of Lord North's conciliatory propositions. They were charged with the task of obtaining from the