Conciliation was what William Pitt, the Earl of Chatham, wanted Parliament to entreat the colonies with as 1775 dawned. His Provisional Act was introduced to the House of Lords on 01 February, 1775. The Provisional Act, if it had been accepted by Parliament, might have deterred the war that was brewing because it was intended to allow the British Government to retain a general sovereignty over the colonies while empowering them with certain rights such as the right to levy their own taxes. The Provisional Act contained the following clauses: 1.) official recognition of the Continental Congress, 2.) a pledge by the Parliament that no revenues would be levied against the colonies without the expressed consent of the provincial assemblies, 3.) the recognition, by America, of Parliament as the "supreme legislative authority and superintending power", 4.) agreement on the part of the colonies to levy, collect and submit a revenue for the crown. It might be noticed that the Provisional Act was similar in certain respects to Galloway's Plan of Union. The House of Lords rejected the Provisional Act. Thus ended the elder William Pitt's political career; The Provisional Act was the last attempt he made to convince Parliament that war should be averted.
Despite the failure of Pitt to convince Parliament to pass the Provisional Act, Lord Frederick North submitted, on 20 February, 1775, a plan of his own. This plan called for Parliament to desist from levying any type of regulatory taxes upon any American colony whose own assembly would agree to tax itself for the support of its own defense and civil government. The primary argument the colonial assemblies had with being governed by Parliament was with the issue of being taxed to provide the support for the British army stationed in the colonies. This plan of Lord North, while still insisting that the colonies pay for the maintenance of the army (through their own tax levies), at least carried with it the promise that no additional taxes would be levied. The House of Commons agreed to endorse the plan.
On the same day that Lord North's plan was introduced, 27 February, the New England Trade And Fisheries Act, the bill that would become popularly known as the New England Restraining Act, was introduced to Parliament. This act forbade the New England colonies to trade with any nation other than Britain. The ban on trade would take place on 01 July and then on 20 July the second part of the bill the barring of New England fishermen from the North Atlantic fisheries would take effect. The debate over this act continued over a span of a couple months. On 22 March, Edmund Burke, the Dublin born secretary of Lord Rockingham, delivered an impassioned speech to Parliament pleading for reconciliation with the colonies. The substance of Burke's address called for Parliamentary sovereignty over the colonies only with their consent. Burke attempted to point out that such a relationship would be found to be economically beneficial to both sides. Despite the passion of the arguments presented by individuals such as Burke in efforts to ward off armed conflict through some sort of conciliation, the Restaining Act was passed and received theroyal approval on 30 March, 1775.
During the debate on the New England Trade And Fisheries Act, aimed specifically at New England, word was received at London of the ratification of the Continental Association by the thirteen colonies. On 19 March Lord North introduced another bill to extend the scope of the act to include the southern colonies. On 13 April, 1775, the provisions of the act were extended to apply to Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland, Virginia and South Carolina.
Charles Manners, the Marquis of Granby, delivered a address to Parliament on 05 April, in an attempt to halt the flood of anti-colonial sentiment that the North ministry was advocating. In that speech he declared
"In God's name, what language are you now holding out to America! Reナgn your property, diveフ yourテlves of your privileges and freedom, renounce every thing that can make life comfortable, or we will deフroy your commerce, we will involve your country in all the miテries of famine; and if you expreピ the テnヂtions of men at ブch harド treatment, we will then declare you in a フate of rebellion and put yourテlves and your families to fire and ヘord..."
A day after the Restraining Act was extended to include the whole of the American colonies General Thomas Gage received a letter sent on 27 January from William Legge, the 2nd Earl of Dartmouth, who was the Secretary of State for the colonies. The instructions Gage received ordered him to implement the Coercive Acts with force.
On the North American Continent the storm clouds were amassing although the news of the debates in London had not yet reached the colonial ears. On 26 February British troops landed at Salem with the intention of seizing the military supplies stored there. As word spread through the colonies, the provincial assemblies met to discuss their options. On 23 March, 1775 Patrick Henry delivered his famous "Liberty or Death" speech to the Virginia House of Burgesses.
Although there is some question as to the authenticity of Patrick Henry's address to the Virginia Convention of 1775, it contains the most often recited phrase of the American Revolutionary War. The full text of that speech, as quoted by William Wirt, in his book, Life Of Henry, is as follows.
"Mr. Preナdent: It is natural to man to indulge in the illuナons of hope. We are apt to ドut our eyes againフ a painful truth - and liフen to the バng of that ペren, till ドe tranデorms us into beaフs. Is this the part of wiテ men, engaged in a great and arduous フruggle for liberty? Are we diパosed to be of the number of thoテ who, having eyes, テe not, and having ears, hear not, the things which バ nearly concern their temporal ヂlvation? For my part, whatever anguiド of パirit it may coフ, I am willing to know the whole truth; to know the worフ, and to provide for it.
"I have but one lamp by which my feet are guided; and that is the lamp of experience. I know of no way of judging of the future but by the paフ. And judging by the paフ, I wiド to know what there has been in the conduct of the Britiド miniフry for the laフ ten years, to juフify thoテ hopes with which gentlemen have been pleaテd to バlace themテlves and the houテ? Is it that inナdious ノile with which our petition has been lately received? Truフ it not, ナr; it will prove a ハare to your feet. Suffer not yourテlves to be betrayed with a kiピ. Ask yourテlves how this gracious reception of our petition comports with thoテ warlike preparations which cover our waters and darken our land. Are fleets and armies neceピary to a work of love and reconciliation? Have we ドown ourテlves バ unwilling to be reconciled that force muフ be called in to win back our love? Let us not deceive ourテlves, ナr. Theテ are the implements of war and ブbjugation - the laフ arguments to which kings reバrt. I aヌ gentlemen, ナr, what means this martial array, if its purpoテ be not to force us to ブbmiピion? Can gentlemen aピign any other poピible motive for it? Has Great Britain any enemy in this quarter of the world, to call for all this accumulation of navies and armies? No, ナr, ドe has none. They are meant for us: they can be meant for no other. They are テnt over to bind and rivet upon us thoテ chains which the Britiド miniフry have been バ long forging. And what have we to oppoテ them? Shall we try argument? Sir, we have been trying that for the laフ ten years. Have we anything new to offer upon the ブbject? Nothing. We have held the ブbject up in every light of which it is capable; but it has been all in vain. Shall we reバrt to entreaty and humble ブpplication? What terms ドall we find which have not been already exhauフed? Let us not, I beテech you, ナr, deceive ourテlves longer.
"Sir, we have done everything that could be done to avert the フorm which is now coming on. We have petitioned - we have remonフrated - we have ブpplicated - we have proフrated ourテlves before the throne, and have implored its interpoナtion to arreフ the tyrannical hands of the miniフry and parliament. Our petitions have been ネighted; our remonフrances have produced additional violence and inブlt; our ブpplications have been diビegarded; and we have been パurned, with contempt, from the foot of the throne. In vain, after theテ things, may we indulge the fond hope of peace and reconciliation. There is no longer any room for hope. If we wiド to be free - if we mean to preテrve inviolate thoテ ineフimable privileges for which we have been バ long contending - if we mean not baテly to abandon the noble フruggle in which we have been バ long engaged, and which we have pledged ourテlves never to abandon until the glorious object of our conteフ ドall be obtained - we muフ fight! - I repeat it, ナr, we muフ fight! An appeal to arms and to the God of Hoフs is all that is left us!
"They tell us, ナr, that we are weak - unable to cope with バ formidable an adverヂry. But when ドall we be フronger? Will it be the next week or the next year? Will it be when we are totally diヂrmed, and when a Britiド guard ドall be フationed in every houテ? Shall we gather フrength by irreバlution and inaction? Shall we acquire the means of effectual reナフance by lying ブpinely on our backs, and hugging the deluナve phantom of hope, until our enemies ドall have bound us hand and foot? Sir, we are not weak, if we make a proper uテ of thoテ means which the God of nature hath placed in our power. Three millions of people, armed in the holy cauテ of liberty, and in ブch a country as that which we poピeピ, are invincible by any force which our enemy can テnd againフ us. Beナdes, ナr, we ドall not fight our battles alone. There is a juフ God who preナdes over the deフinies of nations; and who will raiテ up friends to fight our battles for us. The battle, ナr, is not to the フrong alone; it is to the vigilant, the active, the brave. Beナdes, ナr, we have no election. If we were baテ enough to deナre it, it is now too late to retire from the conteフ. There is no retreat but in ブbmiピion and ネavery! Our chains are forged. Their clanking may be heard on the plains of Boフon! The war is inevitable - and let it come! I repeat it, ナr, let it come!
It is in vain, ナr, to extenuate the matter. Gentlemen may cry, "Peace! peace!" - but there is no peace. The war is actually begun! The next gale that ヘeeps from the north will bring to our ears the claド of reバunding arms! Our brethren are already in the field! Why フand we here idle? What is it that gentlemen wiド? What would they have? Is life so dear, or peace バ ヘeet, as to be purchaテd at the price of chains and ネavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what courテ others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!"