Page images

models of juridical reasoning and eloquence.”

When the matter of repealing the Stamp Act came before Parliament, the question turned, as we have already observed, chiefly on the subject of the clause declaring the right of Parliament to levy the tax. While Chatham arrayed all his powers against the right, Mansfield was its most strenuous supporter. His speech on the subject is of great importance to the American student, because it is by far the most able and plausible ever delivered in support of the British policy. It is avowedly directed to the question of right, not at all to the question of expediency. Lord Campbell, although inclined to the doctrines of the Whigs, refers to the speech as one of arguments to which he “has never been able to find an answer.” The position of Mansfield undoubtedly had a very great influence in determining and strengthening the policy of the King and of the ministry. The speech was corrected for the press by the orator's own hand, and may be regarded as authentic.





The discussion, of which the speech of Pitt already given, formed a part, came up on the adoption of the motion declaring the right of England to tax America, -a motion accompanying the bill repealing the Stamp Act. The motion was strenuously opposed, not only by Pitt in the House of Commons, but also by Lord Camden in the House of Lords. Camden said : “In my opinion, my Lords, the legislature have no right to make this law. The sovereign authority, the omnipotence of the legislature is a favorite doctrine ; but there are some things which you cannot do. You cannot take away a man's property, without making him a compensation. You have no right to condemn a man by bill of attainder without hearing him. But, though Parliament cannot take away a man's property, yet every subject must make contributions, and this he consents to do by his representative. Notwithstanding the King, Lords, and Commons could in ancient times tax other people, they could not tax the clergy." Lord Camden then went on to show at length, that the counties palatine of Wales and of Berwick, were never taxed till they were represented in Parliament. The same was true, he said, of Ireland ; and the same doctrines should prevail in regard to America. It was in answer to Lord Camden that the following speech of Lord Mansfield was made.


I shall speak to the question strictly as a matter of right; for it is a proposition in its nature so perfectly distinct from the expediency of the tax, that it must necessarily be taken separate, if there is any true logic in the world; but of the expediency or inexpediency I will say nothing. It will be time enough to speak upon that subject when it comes to be a question.

I shall also speak to the distinctions which have been taken, without any real difference, as to the nature of the tax; and I shall point out, lastly, the necessity there will be of exerting the force of the superior authority of government, if opposed by the subordinate part of it.

I am extremely sorry that the question-has ever become necessary to be agitated, and that there should be a decision upon it. No one in this House will live long enough to see an end put to the mischief which will be the result of the doctrine which has been inculcated; but the arrow is shot and the wound already given. I shall certainly avoid personal reflections. No one has had more cast upon him than myself ; but I never was biased by any consideration of applause from without, in the discharge of my

public duty; and, in giving my sentiments according to what I thought law, I have relied upon my own consciousness. It is with great pleasure I have heard the noble Lord who moved the resolution express himself in so manly and sensible a way, when he recommended a dispassionate debate, while, at the same time, he urged the necessity of the House coming to such a resolution, with great dignity and propriety of argument.

I shall endeavor to clear away from the ques. tion, all that mass of dissertation and learning displayed in arguments which have been fetched from speculative men who have written upon the subject of government, or from ancient records, as being little to the purpose. I shall insist that these records are no proofs of our present Constitution. A noble Lord has taken up his argument from the settlement of the Constitution at the revolution ; I shall take up my argument from the Constitution as it now is. The Constitution of this country has been always in a moving state, either gaining or losing something and with respect to the modes of taxation, when we get beyond the reign of Edward the First, or of King John, we are all in doubt and obscurity. The history of those times is full

of uncertainties. In regard to the writs upon record, they were issued some of them according to law, and some not according to law; and such [i. e., of the latter kind] were those concerning ship-money, to call assemblies to tax themselves, or to compel benevolences. Other taxes were raised from escuage, fees for knights' service, and by other means arising out of the feudal system. Benevolences are contrary to law; and it is well known how people resisted the demands of the Crown in the case of shipmoney, and were persecuted by the Court; and if any set of men were to meet now to lend the King money, it would be contrary to law, and a breach of the rights of Parliament. ?

I shall now answer the noble Lord particularly upon the cases he has quoted. With respect to the Marches of Wales, who were the borderers, privileged for assisting the King in his war against the Welsh in the mountains, their enjoying this privilege of taxing themselves was but of a short duration, and during the life of Edward the First, till the Prince of Wales came to be the King; and then they were annexed to the Crown, and became subject to taxes like the rest of the dominions of England; and from thence came the custom,

« PreviousContinue »