Speech On Moving His Resolutions For Reconciliation With The Colonies "Slavery Is A Weed That Grows In Every Soil"

Edmund Burke

"Slavery Is A Weed That Grows In Every Soil"

(Magill's Quotations in Context)

Context: Burke was the firm and articulate friend of the American Colonies during the years before the Revolution. As a member of the English Parliament he strongly opposed the harsh measures of taxation and military suppression which were being considered as a response to unrest in the Colonies. The colonists were Englishmen and love liberty as Englishmen do, he argued; if they were granted liberty, they would remain loyal subjects; but if they were denied freedom, they would demand independence:

. . . 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 soverign 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. . . .