Edmund Burke urges reconciliation with America (1775)


Like William Pitt, Anglo-Irish parliamentarian Edmund Burke was another British politician who opposed the Stamp Act and the ministry’s handling of colonial policy. In March 1775 Burke rose to speak in the House of Commons and urged a relaxation in policy with regard to the American colonies.


“The proposition is peace. Not peace through the medium of war; not peace to be hunted through the labyrinth of intricate and endless negotiations; not peace to arise out of universal discord, fomented from principle. It is simple peace, sought in its natural course, and in its ordinary haunts.

Let the colonies always keep the idea of their civil rights associated with your government. They will cling and grapple to you, and no force under Heaven will be of power to tear them from their allegiance. But let it be once understood that your government may be one thing and their privileges another; that these two things may exist without any mutual relation. The cement is gone, the cohesion is loosened, and everything hastens to decay and dissolution.

As long as you have the wisdom to keep the sovereign authority of this country as the sanctuary of liberty, the sacred temple consecrated to our common faith, wherever the chosen race and sons of England worship freedom, they will turn their faces towards you. The more they multiply, the more friends you will have, the more ardently they love liberty, the more perfect will be their obedience.

Slavery they can have anywhere. It is a weed that grows in every soil. They may have it from Spain; they may have it from Prussia. But until you become lost to all feeling of your true interest and your natural dignity, freedom they can have from none but you.

This is the commodity of price, of which you have the monopoly. This is the true Act of Navigation, which binds to you the commerce of the colonies, and through them secures to you the wealth of the world. Deny them this participation of freedom, and you break that sole bond which originally made, and must still preserve, the unity of the empire.”