Address by Thomas Howard, Earl of Effingham concerning his resignation of his army commission [Extract]
Effingham, Thomas Howard, Earl of, 1747-1791
Volume 09, Pages 1218-1219
As we have already been informed of the noble-spirited conduct of the Earl of Effingham in resigning his commission into His Majesty's hands on finding his regiment was ordered for America, the following abridgment of his Lordship's speech in the House of Lords on the motion to receive the New York Memorial cannot but be acceptable to our Readers.
“Whatever has been done by the Americans I must deem the mere consequence of our unjust demands. They have come to you with fair argument, you have refused to hear them; they make the most respectful remonstrances, you have answered them with pains and penalties; they know they ought to be free, you tell them that they shall be slaves. Is it then a wonder if they say in despair, ‘For the short remainder of our lives we will be free?’ Is there any one among your lordships who in a situation similar to that which I have described would not resolve the same? If there could be such an one, I am sure he ought not to be here. To bring the
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history down to the present scene, here are two armies in presence of one another, armies of brothers and countrymen, each dreading the event, yet each feeling that it is in the power of the most trifling accident, a private dispute, a drunken fray in any public house in Boston, in short, a nothing, to cause the sword to be drawn and to plunge the whole Country into all the horrors of blood, flames and parricide. In this dreadful moment a set of men more wise and moderate than the rest exert themselves to bring us all to reason. They state their claims and their grievances, nay, if anything can be proved by Law and History they prove them. They propose oblivion, they make the first concessions, we treat them with contempt; we prefer poverty, blood and servitude to wealth, happiness and liberty. What weight these few observations may have I don't know, but the candour your Lordships have indulged me with requires a confession on my part which may still lessen that weight. I must own I am not personally disinterested. Ever since I was of an age to have any ambition at all my highest has been to serve my country in a military capacity. If there was on earth an event I dreaded it was to see this country so situated as to make that profession incompatible with my duty as a citizen. That period is in my opinion arrived, and I have thought myself bound to relinquish the hopes I formed by a resignation which appeared to me the only method of avoiding the guilt of enslaving my country and embruing my hands in the blood of her sons. When the duties of a soldier and a citizen become inconsistent I shall always think myself obliged to sink the character of the soldier in that of the citizen till such time as their duties shall again, by the malice of real enemies, become united. It is no small sacrifice which a man makes who gives up his profession, but it is a much greater when a predilection, strengthened by habit, has given him so strong an attachment to his profession as I feel. I have however this one consolation, that by making that sacrifice I at last give my country an unequivocal proof of the sincerity of my principles.”