The supposition that a cessation of commerce between Great Britain and the colonies would be ruinous and destructive to the former is ushered in as the principal argument for her right to regulate the commerce of the whole empire. I am willing to allow it its full weight, but I cannot conceive how you can pretend, after making such use of it, to deny it the force it ought to have, when it is urged as affording a moral certainty that our present measures will be successful. If you tacitly adopt the principle, and reason from it in one case, with what propriety can you reject it in the other? If the preservation of the British empire depends in any material degree upon the right of Parliament to regulate the trade of the colonies, what will be the consequence if the trade ceases altogether? You must either acknowledge that you have adduced a very weak and foolish argument, or that the commercial connection between Great Britain and the colonies is essential to her security and prosperity. You have either failed in proving your point, or you have furnished me with an ample confutation of all your reasoning against the probability of success, from the restrictions laid on our commerce. If our trade be necessary to the welfare of Great Britain, she must, of course, be ruined by a discontinuance of it.
Agreeably to your concessions, Great Britain is abundantly recompensed for the naval protection she affords, by the of our trade. It can therefore, with no color of justice, be urged upon us to permit her to raise a revenue through that channel.
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The power of legislating for us, and of raising a revenue upon the articles of commerce, would be a sufficient degree of slavery. It is absurd to say that Great Britain could not impose heavy burthens on our commerce, without immediately feeling the effect herself. She may enrich herself by reducing us to the most lamentable state of penury and wretchedness. We are already forbid to purchase the manufactures of any foreign countries. Great Britain and Ireland must furnish us with the necessaries we want. Those things we manufacture among ourselves may be disallowed. We should then be compelled to take the manufactures of Great Britain upon her own conditions. We could not, in that case, do without them. However excessive the duties laid upon them, we should be under an inevitable necessity to purchase them. How would Great Britain feel the effects of those impositions, but to her own advantage? If we might withdraw our custom and apply to other nations, if we might manufacture our own materials, those expedients would serve as a refuge to us, and would indeed be a security against any immoderate exactions. But these resources would be cut off. There would be no alternative left us. We must submit to be drained of all our wealth, for those necessaries which we are not permitted to get elsewhere.
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But I have found out an argument, which I imagine will go very near convincing yourself of the absurdity of what you have offered on this head. It is short, but conclusive. “” How can you, my dear sir, after making this confession, entertain a single thought that it is incumbent upon us to suffer her to raise a revenue upon our trade? Are not the a sufficient recompense for protecting it? Surely you would not allow her the whole. This would be rather too generous. However ardent your affection to her, and however much it may be your glory to advance her imperial dignity, you ought to moderate it so far as to permit us to enjoy some little benefit from our trade. Only a small portion of the profits will satisfy us. We are willing to let her have the share, and this you acknowledge she already has. But why will you advise us to let her exhaust the small pittance we have reserved as the reward of our own industry in burthensome revenues? This might be liberality and generosity, but it would not be prudence; and let me tell you, in this selfish, rapacious world a little discretion is at worst only a sin. It will be expedient to be more cautious for the future. It is difficult to combat truth, and unless you redouble your vigilance you will (as in the present instance) be extremely apt to ensnare yourself.
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The legislative authority of Parliament would always be ready to silence our murmurs by tyrannical edicts. These would be enforced by a formidable army, kept up among us for the purpose. The slightest struggles to recover our lost liberty would become dangerous, and even capital. Those hated things, Continental Conventions, by which there might be a communion of councils and measures, would be interdicted. Non-importation and non-exportation agreements would, in effect, be made and No remedy would be left, but in the clemency of our oppressors; a wretched one, indeed, and such as no prudent man would confide in! In whatever light we consider the matter, we shall find that we must effectually seal our bondage by adopting the mode you recommend.