Historical accuracy and diplomacy both militate against fiery rhetoric in this assignment. The famous reference to liberty in the second paragraph, and to freedom throughout the Declaration, could easily be countered by the argument that people in England, regardless of race, had more freedom than those in the colonies. Slavery,...
Historical accuracy and diplomacy both militate against fiery rhetoric in this assignment. The famous reference to liberty in the second paragraph, and to freedom throughout the Declaration, could easily be countered by the argument that people in England, regardless of race, had more freedom than those in the colonies. Slavery, in particular, had never been authorized by statute within England, and was explicitly declared illegal in 1772. However, a British member of parliament would not have been likely to make such an argument. In 1770, the prime minister, Lord North, moved from the Whig Party to the Tories. This faction was the more conservative party in the British Parliament, and the member selected would certainly have been part of it. He might well have been supportive of slavery and the slave trade.
The first question to answer is the purpose of your response. Are you merely rebutting the arguments as a matter of form, or are you really trying to change the minds of the colonists? This will make all the difference to the tone of your reply. In either case, you should begin by appealing to their patriotism. Since the Declaration signals the birth of the republic, most colonists would always have been used to thinking of themselves as Englishmen, who had civilized a barbarous land in the name of the British crown. The Declaration refers repeatedly to British institutions, particularly in the areas of legislation and the administration of justice. The member of parliament would point out that these institutions are unique in the world, far more liberal than those in most mainland European countries. When the colonists complain, for instance, of being deprived of the benefits of trial by jury, from where did they derive those benefits in the first place?
Whether or not the responder admits the justice of some of the colonists' claims, he will characterize the Declaration of Independence as a tremendous overreaction. To do this, it is best to select a few representative complaints. To attempt to deal with too many would be a rhetorical and strategic mistake, as well as being massively time-consuming. It would be best to take some points from each end of the scale, the most trivial and the most serious. In the former case, for instance, one might respond to the accusation:
He has called together Legislative Bodies at Places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the Depository of their public Records, for the sole Purpose of fatiguing them into Compliance with his Measures.
This is an imputation of bad faith, to which you might say that the motive is imaginary, and the inconvenience was a matter of necessity. This can then be juxtaposed with the most serious charges:
He has plundered our Seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our Towns, and destroyed the Lives of our People.
This makes the former accusation seem even less serious by comparison. The member of parliament can then ask for evidence of the depredations alleged in the latter allegation, say that these actions took place without royal or official assent, and suggest that the matter might be resolved in the British courts.