Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Book review - Conciliation with the Colonies.

Conciliation with the Colonies was published in 1920 and contains the text of a speech by the same title. The speech was delivered by Sir Edmund Burke to the British House of Commons on March 22, 1775.

This is a very interesting speech and it pays to keep in mind when it was being delivered. Relations between the American Colonies an the English government were extremely strained and full-fledged hostilities were not far in the future. Various taxes, penalties, and occupations had been imposed by The Crown in an attempt to regain control of the American situation. None had been successful.

Burke courageously takes an unpopular position and calls on the House of Commons to pass a resolution recognizing that the Colonies have been mistreated. Burke traces the failures of the British policy to that point.

After explaining the current situation he states that there are but three options to deal with the current spirit among the colonists. One is to change it, the second is to outlaw it, and the third is to comply with it. Mr. Burke then discounts the first two options as impracticable and ineffective and urges that third be pursued.

Using the examples of Wales, Ireland, and Chester Mr. Burke clearly shows how conciliation by way of concession can breed loyalty rather than disloyalty. He urges representation for the colonists as is their right under English law. He argues that power must not always need be exercised to its utmost in order to be maintained and that certain concessions will not weaken the position of the government.

The speech is powerful, thoughtful, and wise. Had the British government followed Burke's advice I have a feeling that we would still be looking to London as either our actual or titular capital. This speech is well worth the read.

Some of the quotes that I particularly enjoyed were:

"Peace implies reconciliation."

"The use of force alone is but temporary. Conciliation failing, force remains; but force failing, no further hope of conciliation is left."

"Obedience is what makes government, not the names by which it is called."

"It is not what a lawyer tells me I may do but what humanity, reason, and justice tell me I ought to do."

"Freedom, not servitude, is the cure for anarchy."

"A great empire and little minds go ill together."

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