British Colonial Developments, 1774-1834

By Vincent Harlow; Frederick Madden | Go to book overview

Is it worth turning in your mind, how the violence of both Parties might be turned on this occasion to the advantage of England?...


10
CANADA: LORD THURLOW TO W. W. GRENVILLE, September 17891

... It would be rash to hazard an opinion on many of the various points you have opened, without more consideration than the first view of the subject will allow. It is doubtless an important speculation to consider by what circumstances chiefly it was that the disposition of the colonies, now lost, became so alienated, as to be in that readiness for revolt to which accident gave an occasion; which was not foreseen, among other reasons for this, that in truth it was not the immediate or adequate cause. You seem to refer it to the want of more resemblance in their constitution with that of Great Britain. I have been used to think it more referable to the want of connection and dependence in the form of their government upon the mother country. It was formed, I think, too much upon the plan which is supposed to be the establishment of those ancient settlements which never were meant to have a political connection with their metropolis; and were meant only for places of intercourse chiefly commercial; and were left to the effect of that intercourse to preserve the connection. But without referring to ancient history, or even general speculation, it seems clear, that, if political liberty, which is the governing principle of our constitution, be established in a colony, the sovereignty which, following that principle, must be distributed in certain proportions among the people, will also be established there; and the immediate effect of that will be an habitual independent attention to a separate interest. In consequence of protecting and cultivating them, this country made some few laws for them; of which they felt the benefit, more than the burden; because they were not conceived with a view to give an habitual impression of subjection and obedience. And when, at length, they were quoted as precedents for going further, the Colonies were shocked at the inference as an innovation the most remote from their habits of thinking.

On the other hand, the genius of the French Government gave to their colonies a constitution like their own, as practised; by which means the dependence and obedience of the people seems to have

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1
Printed in Dropmore Papers (H.M.C. 1892), vol. i, pp. 504-5. Lord Thurlow was Lord Chancellor in Pitt's administration, though by 1789 his relations with his Prime Minister were becoming less and less cordial, and he was resentful of the rapid promotion of W. W. Grenville--particularly when the latter in 1790 joined him in the Lords. As Attorney-General Thurlow had in May 1774 ably defended the Quebec Act proposals.

-192-

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