By John Wilkes, from speech in Parliament, 1780
MR. SPEAKER, —
It ill becomes the duty and dignity of Parliament to lose itself in such a fulsome, adulatory address to the throne as that now proposed. We ought rather to approach it with sound and wholesome advice, and even with remonstrances against the ministers who have precipitated the British nation into an unjust, ruinous, murderous, and felonious war. I call the war with our brethren in America an unjust and felonious war, because the primary cause and confessed origin of it is to attempt to take their money from them without their consent, contrary to the common rights of all mankind and to those great fundamental principles of the English constitution for which Hampden bled. I assert that it is a murderous war, because it is an effort to deprive men of their lives for standing up in the defence of their property and their clear rights. Such a war, I fear, will draw down the vengeance of heaven upon this kingdom.
Sir, is any minister weak enough to flatter himself with the conquest of America? You cannot, with all your allies, with all the mercenary ruffians of the North, you cannot effect so wicked a purpose! The Americans will dispute every inch of territory with you, every narrow pass, every strong defile, every Thermopylae, every Bunker Hill! More than half the empire is already lost, and almost all the rest is in confusion and anarchy. We have appealed to the sword, and what have we gained? Are we to pay as dear for the rest of America? The idea of the conquest of that immense country is as romantic as it is unjust.
But "the Americans have been treated with lenity"! Will facts justify the assertion? Was your Boston "Port Bill" a measure of lenity? Was your Fishery Bill a measure of lenity? Was your bill for taking away the charter of Massachusetts a measure of lenity? I omit your many other gross provocations and insults by which the brave Americans have been driven to their present state. Whether that state is one of rebellion or of fit resistance to unlawful acts of power I shall not declare. This I know: a successful resistance is revolution, not a rebellion. Rebellion, indeed, appears on the back of a flying enemy, but revolution flames on the breastplate of the victorious warrior.
Who can tell whether, in consequence of this day's action, the scabbard may not be thrown away by them as well as by us, and, should success attend them, whether in a few years the independent American may not celebrate the glorious era of the Revolution of 1775 as we do that of 1688?