Speech On Moving His Resolutions For Reconciliation With The Colonies "The Bone Of Manhood"

Edmund Burke

"The Bone Of Manhood"

Context: As a member of Parliament, Burke defied George III, who was attempting to overthrow established political traditions and centralize governmental power, and he strongly urged that Parliament should not suppress the American Colonies, citing the acts of redress for both Ireland and Wales as precedent. Not only, he argued, would justice and right be served by a reconciliation between the colonies and the mother country, but such action would also be profitable for England as a result of the many imports, exports, and industries of the colonies, especially their whaling and fishing activities:

. . . No sea but what is vexed by their fisheries. No climate that is not witness to their toils. Neither the perseverance of Holland, nor the activity of France, nor the dexterous and firm sagacity of English enterprise, ever carried this most perilous mode of hard industry to the extent to which it has been pushed by this recent people; a people who are still, as it were, but in the gristle, and not yet hardened into the bone of manhood. When I contemplate these things; when I know that the colonies in general owe little or nothing to any care of ours, and that they are not squeezed into this happy form by the constraints of watchful and suspicious government, but that, through a wise and salutary neglect, a generous nature has been suffered to take her own way to perfection; . . . when I see how profitable they have been to us, I feel all the pride of power sink, and all presumption in the wisdom of human contrivances melt and die away within me. My rigour relents. I pardon something to the spirit of liberty.