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DEPENDENCE OP THE CEOWN ON THE COMMONS. 329
Those estates, however, as all the great lords in Trance were admitted into them, began at length to appear dangerous; and as the king could in the meantime do without their assistance, they were set aside. But several of the particular states of the provinces are preserved to this day :* some, which for temporary reasons had been abolished, have been restored: nay, so manageable have popular assemblies been found by the Crown, when it has to do with many, that the kind of government we mention is that which it has been found most convenient to assign to Corsica: and Corsica has been made un pays d'etats.f
That the Crown in England should, on a sudden, render itself independent on the Commons for its supplies,—that is, should on a sudden successfully assume to itself a right to lay taxes on the subject, by its own authority,—is not certainly an event likely to take place, nor indeed is it one that should, at the present time, raise any kind of political apprehension. But it is not equally impracticable that the right of the representatives of the people might become invalidated, by being divided in the manner that has been just described.
Such a division of the right of the people might be effected in various ways. National calamities, for instance, unfortunate foreign wars attended with loss of public credit, might suggest methods for raising the necessary supplies, different from those which have hitherto been used. Dividing the kingdom into a certain number of parts, which should
pay several taxes besides those imposed on them by their own states. Dean Tucker, in one of his tracts, in which he has thought proper to quote this work, has added to the above instance of the French provinces that of the states of the Austrian Netherlands, which is very conclusive. And examples to the same purpose might be supplied by all those kingdoms of Europe in which provincial states are holden. * The year 1784.
t In the year 1794, the English obtained possession of Corsica, and gratified the people by granting a constitution and a parliament similar to those of England. But such institutions were not practical with so ignorant, superstitious, and, in many respects, barbarous a people, who preferred their own customs and traditions. The island was evacuated in 1796, and repossessed by the French; it has ever since formed a department of France.—Ed.
severally vote subsidies to the Crown, or even distinct assessments to be made by the different counties into which England is now divided, might, in the circumstances we suppose, be looked upon as advisable expedients; and these, being once introduced, might be continued.
Another division of the right of the people, much more likely to take place than those just mentioned, might be such as might arise from acquisitions of foreign dominions, the inhabitants of which should in time claim and obtain a right to treat directly with the Crown, and grant supplies to it, without the interference of the British legislature.
Should any colonies acquire the right we mention,— should, for instance, the American colonies have acquired, as they claimed it,—it is not to be doubted that the consequences which have resulted from a division like that we mention in most of the kingdoms of Europe, would also have taken place in the British dominions, and that the spirit of competition, above described, would in time have manifested itself between the different colonies. This desire of ingratiating themselves with the Crown, by means of the privilege of granting supplies to it, was even openly confessed by an agent of the American provinces,* when on his being examined by the House of Commons in the year 1766, he said, "the granting aids to the crown is the only means the Americans have of recommending themselves to their sovereign." And the events that have of late years taken place in America, render it evident that the colonies
favourable conditions at the expense of Britain and the British legislature, f
* Dr. Franklin.
t The remarks and conclusions of De Lolme, and his notes to this chapter, are the most illogical and even ignorant, though specious, in this generally admirable and valuable work. The policy which he recommends towards America would, if it were practicable, have held the colonies in political and commercial slavery. With regard to taxation, and the political and civil liberties of the colonists, Lord Chatham and Mr. Burke were sound statesmen. Lord Chatham, however, in regard to their commercial intercourse and manufactures, would have reduced them to bondage. He would allow them to produce raw materials only, to be exported to Great Britain, and food, fish, and timber
would not have
That a similar spirit of competition might be raised in Ireland, is also sufficiently plain from certain late events. And should the American colonies have obtained their demands,—and at the same time should Ireland and America have increased in wealth to a certain degree, —the time might have come at which the Crown might have governed England with the supplies of Ireland and America—Ireland with the supplies of England and of the American colonies—and the American colonies with the money of each other, and of England and Ireland.
To this it may be objected, that the supplies granted by the colonies, even though joined by those of Ireland, never could have risen to such a height as to have counterbalanced the importance of the English Commons. I answer, in the first place, that there would have been no necessity that the aids granted by Ireland and America should have risen to an equality with those granted by the British parliament: it would have been sufficient to produce the effects we mention, that they had only borne a certain proportion to the latter, so far as to have conferred on the Crown a certain degree of independence, and at the same time have raised in the English Commons a correspondent sense of selfdiffidence in the exercise of their undoubted privilege of granting, or rather refusing, subsidies to the Crown.— Here it must be remembered, that the right of granting or refusing supplies to the Crown is the only ultimate forcible privilege possessed by the British Parliament: by the constitution it has no other, as has been observed in the beginning of this chapter. This circumstance ought to be combined with the exclusive possession of the executive powers lodged in the Crown—with its prerogative of dissenting from the bills framed by parliament, and even of dissolving it.*
for the supply of the West Indies; but as to manufactures, he would not allow them to make "even a horse-shoe nail."—Ed.
* Being with Dr. Franklin at his house in Craven Street, some months before he went back to America, I mentioned to him a few of the remarks contained in this chapter, and, in general, that the claim of the American colonies directly clashed with one of the vital principles of the English constitution. The observation, I remember, struck him
I shall mention in the second place, a remarkable fact in regard to this subject (which may serve to show that politicians are not always consistent, or even sagacious in their arguments); which is, that the same persons who were the most strenuous advocates for granting to the American colonies their demands, were likewise the most sanguine in their predictions of the future wealth and greatness of America; and at the same time also used to make frequent complaints of the undue influence which the Crown derives from the scanty supplies granted to it by the kingdom of Ireland.*
Had the American colonies fully obtained their demands, both the essence of the present English government, and the condition of the English people, would certainly have been altered thereby: nor would such a change have been inconsiderable, but in proportion as the colonies should have remained in a state of national poverty.f
very much: it led him afterwards to speak to me of the examination he had undergone in the House of Commons; and he concluded with lending me that volume of the Collection of Parliamentary Debates in which an account of it is contained. Finding the constitutional tendency of the claim of the Americans to be a subject not very generally understood, I added a few paragraphs concerning it in the English edition I some time after gave of this work; and on publishing a third edition of the same, I thought it might not be amiss to write something more compact on the subject, and accordingly added the present new chapter, into which I transferred the few additional paragraphs I mention, leaving in the place where they stood only the general observations on the right of granting subsidies, which were formerly in the French work. Several of the ideas, and even expressions, contained in this chapter, made their appearance in the "Public Advertiser," about the time I was preparing the first edition: I sent them myself to that newspaper, under the signature of Advena.
* For instance, the complaints made in regard to the pensions on the Irish establishment.
t When I observe that no man who wished for the preservation of the form and spirit of the English constitution ought to have desired that the claim of the American colonies might be granted to them, I mean not to say that the American colonies should have given up their claim. The wisdom of ministers, in regard to American affairs, ought to have been constantly employed in making the colonies useful to this country, and at the same time in hiding their subjection from them (a caution which is, after all, more or less used in every government upon earth); it ought to have been exerted in preventing the opposite inteCOURTESY OF PAELIAMENT.
CONCLUSION:—A FEW WORDS ON THE NATURE OE THE DIVISIONS THAT TAKE PLACE IN ENG-LAND.
I Shall conclude this work with a few observations on the total freedom from violence with which the political disputes and contentions in England are conducted and
rests of Britain and of America from being brought to an issue—to any, such clashing dilemma as would render disobedience on the one hand, and the resort to force on the other, almost unavoidable. The generality of the people fancy that ministers use a great [depth of thought and much forecast in their operations; whereas the truth is, that ministers in all countries never think but of providing for present, immediate contingencies; in doing which they constantly follow the open track before them. This method does very well for the common course of human affairs, and even is the safest; but whenever cases and circumstances of a new and unknown nature occur, sad blunders and uproar are the consequences. The celebrated Count Oxenstiern, Chancellor of Sweden, one day when his son was expressing to him his diffidence of his own abilities, and the dread with which he thought of ever engaging in the management of public affairs, made the following Latin answer to him :—" Nescis, mi fili, quam parvii cum sapientia regitur mundus." "You do not know, my son, with what little wisdom the world is governed."
Matters having come to an eruption, it was no longer to be expected they could be composed by the palliative offers sent at different times from this country to America. When the Earl of Carlisle solicited to be at the head of the solemn commission that sailed for the purpose we mention, he did not certainly show modesty equal to that of the son of Chancellor Oxenstiern. It has been said, in that stage of the contest, the Americans could not think that the proposals thus sent to them were seriously meant: however, this cannot have been the principal cause of the miscarriage of the commission. The fact is, that after the Americans had been induced to open their eyes on their political situation, and were rendered sensible of the local advantages of their country, it became in a manner impossible to strike with them any bargain at which either nation would afterwards have cause to rejoice, or even to make any bargain at alL It would be needless to say any thing more, in this place, on the subject of the American contest.
The motto of one of the English nobility should have been that of ministers, in their regulations for rendering the colonies useful to the mother country—Faire sans dire.