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Stedman and Hutchinson, comps. A Library of American Literature:
An Anthology in Eleven Volumes. 1891.
Vols. IX–XI: Literature of the Republic, Part IV., 1861–1889

An Interview with Lord North

By Josiah Quincy, Jr. (1744–1775)

[Born in Boston, Mass., 1744. Died at Sea, off Gloucester, Mass., 1775. “Journal of a Voyage to England in 1774.”—Memoir of the Life of Josiah Quincy, Jun. 1825.]

EARLY this morning J. Williams, Esq., waited upon me with the compliments of Lord North, and his request to see me this morning. I went about half-past nine o’clock, and found Sir George Savil (as Mr. Williams informed me) in the levee room. After a short time his lordship sent for Mr. Williams and myself into his apartment. His reception was polite, and with a cheerful affability his lordship soon inquired into the state in which I had left American affairs. I gave him my sentiments upon them, together with what I took to be the causes of most of our political evils—gross misrepresentation and falsehood. His lordship replied, he did not doubt there had been much, but added that very honest men frequently gave a wrong statement of matters through mistake, prejudice, prepossessions, and biasses of one kind or other. I conceded the possibility of this, but further added that it would be happy, if none of those who had given accounts relative to America had varied from known truth, from worse motives.

We entered largely into the propriety and policy of the Boston Port Bill. In the conversation upon this subject I received much pleasure. His lordship several times smiled, and once seemed touched. We spoke considerably upon the sentiments of Americans, of the right claimed by Parliament to tax—of the destruction of the tea—and the justice of payment for it. His lordship went largely and repeatedly into an exculpation of the ministry. He said they were obliged to do what they did; that it was the most lenient measure that was proposed; that if administration had not adopted it they would have been called to an account; that the nation were highly incensed, etc.

Upon this topic I made many remarks with much freedom and explicitness, and should have said more had not his lordship’s propensity to converse been incompatible with my own loquacity. His lordship more than thrice spoke of the power of Great Britain, of their determination to exert it to the utmost, in order to effect the submission of the Colonies. He said repeatedly, “We must try what we can do to support the authority we have claimed over America. If we are defective in power, we must sit down contented, and make the best terms we can, and nobody then can blame us after we have done our utmost; but till we have tried what we can do, we can never be justified in receding. We ought, and we shall be very careful not to judge a thing impossible because it may be difficult; nay, we ought to try what we can effect, before we determine upon its impracticability.” This last sentiment, and very nearly in the same words, was often repeated,—I thought I knew for what purpose.

His lordship spoke also upon the destruction of the Gaspee, and in direct terms twice said that the commissioners were appointed to try that matter, and had transmitted accounts that they could obtain no evidence. This declaration being in flat contradiction to what I had several times heard Chief-Justice Oliver declare to be the case from the bench, when giving his charges to the grand-jury, was particularly noticed by me. His honor ever most solemnly declared, in public and private, that the commission was to inquire whether any such event had happened, in order to send word to England, that so a trial might, or might not be ordered, as the evidence might be; and in the most express terms declared the commissioners had no power to try.

In the course of near two hours’ conversation, many things more passed between us. As many letters and messages were delivered to his lordship while I was present, I several times rose to depart, telling his lordship I was afraid I should trespass on his patience, or the concerns of others; but being requested to stay, I remained about two hours, and then rose to go, but his lordship kept standing while he continued his conversation with his usual spirit. Upon my departure he asked me when I should leave England. I told him it was uncertain,—but imagined not this twelvemonth. He hoped the air of the island would contribute to my health, and said he thought the most unhealthy months were past; and then, saying, “I am much obliged to you for calling on me,” we left each other to our meditations.