An Appeal for America
( Originally Published 1927 )
BY WILLIAM PITT LORD CHATHAM
(In Parliament, January 20, 1775)
My Lords :
THESE papers, brought to your table at so late a period of this business, tell us what? Why, what all the world knew before : that the Americans, irritated by repeated injuries, and stripped of their inborn rights and dearest privileges, have resisted, and entered into associations for the preservation of their common liberties.
Had the early situation of the people of Boston been attended to, things would not have come to this. But the infant complaints of Boston were literally treated like the capricious squalls of a child, who, it is said, did not know whether it was aggrieved or not.
But full well I knew, at that time, that this child, if not redressed, would soon assume the courage and voice of a man. Full well I knew that the sons of ancestors, born under the same free constitution and once breathing the same liberal air as Englishmen, would resist upon the same principles and on the same occasions.
What has government done? They have sent an armed force consisting of seventeen thousand men, to dragoon the Bostonians into what is called their duty ; and, so far from once turning their eyes to the policy and destructive consequence of this scheme, are constantly sending out more troops. And we are told, in the language of menace, that if seventeen thousand men won't do, fifty thousand shall.
It is true, my lords, with this force they may ravage the country, waste and destroy as they march ; but, in the progress of fifteen hundred miles, can they occupy the places they have passed? Will not a country which can produce three millions of people, wronged and insulted as they are, start up like hydras in every corner, and gather fresh strength from fresh opposition?
Nay, what dependence can you have upon the soldiery, the unhappy engines of your wrath? They are Englishmen, who must feel for the privileges of Englishmen. Do you think that these men can turn their arms against their brethren? Surely no. A victory must be to them a defeat, and carnage a sacrifice.
But it is not merely three millions of people, the produce 0f America, we have to contend with in this unnatural struggle ; many more are on their side, dispersed over the face of this wide empire. Every Whig in this country and in Ireland is with them.
In this alarming crisis I come with this paper in my hand to offer you the best of my experience and advice ; which is, that a humble petition be presented to his Majesty, beseeching him that, in order to 0pen the way toward a happy settlement of the dangerous troubles in America, it may graciously please him that immediate orders be given to General Gage for removing his Majesty's force from the town of Boston.
Such conduct will convince America that you mean to try her cause in the spirit of freedom and inquiry, and not in letters of blood.
There is no time to be lost. Every hour is big with danger. Perhaps, while I am now speaking, the decisive blow is struck which may involve millions in the consequence. And, believe me, the very first drop of blood which is shed will cause a wound which may never be healed.
When your lordships look at the papers transmitted to us from America, when you consider their firmness, decency, and wisdom, you cannot but respect their cause and wish to make it your own. For myself, I must affirm, declare, and avow that, in all my reading and observation (and it has been my favorite study, for I have read Thucydides, and have studied and admired the master-states of the world), I say, I must declare that, for solidity of reasoning, force of sagacity, and wisdom of conclusion, under such a complication of difficult circumstances, no nation or body of men can stand in preference t0 the General Congress at Philadelphia. I trust it is obvious to your lordships that all attempts to impose servitude upon such men, to establish despotism, over such a mighty continental nation, must be vain, must be fatal.
We shall be forced, ultimately, to retract. Let us retract while we can, not when we must. I say we must necessarily undo these violent, oppressive acts. They Must be repealed. You Will repeal them. I pledge myself for it that you will, in the end, repeal them. I stake my reputation on it. I will consent to be taken for an idiot if they are not finally repealed.