[Speech of the earl of Cromarty to parliament]

The speech of George [MacKenzie], earl of Cromarty, lord secretary, to the parliament of Scotland, on Tuesday July 11 1704.

My lord chancellor,

Albeit this seat wherein it has pleased her majesty to place me does allow or rather oblige me to say something on this occasion, yet my lord high commissioner and lord chancellor have spoken so fully and so well as I may justly fear what I can say will prove a diminutive addition. But I shall speak little, and (if I can remember) I shall not repeat. My lord, should all her servants be silent, the actings, the sayings, the whole tract of her majesty's government and the happy effects thereof do speak loudly that if ever prince or sovereign have devoted themselves to God and their country, without flattery or hyperbole, we may truly say that our most gracious queen has. All may hear, and those who have the honour to attend her majesty must see, that her time, her care, her pleasure, her leisure, her treasure, indeed, her very health and life, are sacrificed every day and almost every time of the day to actual exercise of devotion to God or administration of government to her people, and we may bless God that, by his blessing on her endeavours, all and every one of her subjects do participate of the fruits of the royal sacrifice; indeed, all the best part of Europe beside that is her majesty's confederates and her and their enemies do find with grief what we feel with satisfaction. And though her majesty has many dominions under her royal care and more confederates, yet she omits not any of our particular concerns, and we partake in our full capacity of these happy effects. We are with many others engaged in a great but (to full conviction) necessary war, the effects whereof are dreadful and hurtful not only in expense and soldiers (which all must afford), but the seeing of people slaughtered like beasts in our streets and houses, to see our towns on fire, our women ravished, our sacred things profaned and many other dismal effects of war and rapine, which almost all others feel and see, we (thanks to God, and under him to his vicegerent, our queen) do only hear of. My lord chancellor, this we ought, and I doubt not we do, remember and consider. My lord, this is not offered as an elegy or panegyric on her majesty: she is far above what I can say, but it is an antecedent to the following subsumption.

And as this of her care of us and zeal for us is evident, so it is no less true that the queen sits higher than we do or ought to do on this throne, as she does also on the throne of her other dominions. And further we know that she is one of the heads and highly situated in all the great confederacy, whereof her majesty is, if not the chief, yet a principal. And from this, both reason and discretion obliges us to conclude that she must see very much further and more clearly into the actions, designs and practices of her and our enemies, and in the concerns and in what directs and moves our allies than is possible for us to do, who both stand lower and are bounded in our energies within narrower spheres. Therefore, as in all matters, so especially in points of fact, we are bound to rely on her information and her judgment more than on our own, since what we can but conjecture is obvious to her certain knowledge; and if we should fall (as I confidently hope we will not) into the indiscretion to oppose our conjectures to her knowledge, that could not miss of dire effects, and readily most mischievous to ourselves.

Her majesty's royal letter, my lord commissioner his grace and my lord chancellor have plainly laid before us matters of great importance. Her majesty is very express in what she proposes, her reason and antecedent is as plain and express as the conclusion. I hope the two motives I gave for believing and consequently for obeying her majesty are also plain and concluding.

My lord chancellor, the honour of being her majesty's secretary obliges me to obviate and remove an aspersion on the queen's majesty's candour and honour (if any such insinuation be made), which is that some would persuade others to believe that the queen has a secret will in the affair now before us, contrary to her express will revealed and declared by her in her royal letter. My lord, I am persuaded she does hate that position in theology and I am certain she does so in her politics, and the reason of my certainty in this is that her majesty did command me, and I think her other servants, expressly to assure this house that nothing in her service could please her better than if they should believe and obey her in what the proposes in her letter, and nothing can displease her more than to do otherwise.

My lord, both old custom and good manners oblige us to begin with her majesty's letter and in its method. If my zeal and duty on this subject have drawn me in to speak more than I intended or perhaps needed, I beg the house's pardon. But since my hand is in, and that I neither use nor love to speak often, I shall only add my earnest and humble wish for these two things: firstly, that the orders of the house may be strictly observed, for by that much time will be saved and many inconveniences prevented, and the not doing of this will disgrace this great court. The second is that we may regard one another with kindness and civility: let our force fall on the subject which we oppose or the measure which we reject, and by no means on one another's persons. Would to God we were always unanimous, but that seldom, if ever, was in so numerous a court or council. But when we differ, will we argue the better by our being angry? No,

Anger hinders the mind.

Will we convert others so well by making them angry, as by a meek calmness in arguing? Does spite add force to reason, or does it produce that consent which we endeavour to obtain? So, for our own sakes and for the honour of our reasonings, let us urge and reply with calmness. I have often regretted to see good reasoning lost or become at least ineffectual in great measure by the heats in arguing, and I will say it were a pity, for the members of great courts elsewhere may, in the opinion of many, speak better language than those of this do, yet they do not speak better sense. And besides these motives to calm reasoning, this ought to determine us all against it: namely, that neither our heat nor our self-pleasing arguments are what will determine any debate. The law of order, the constitutions, statutes and necessity gives the faculty of concluding to the whole of this house, and all we can say must be submitted to what this whole house will approve, or to what the major part will agree in, and, therefore, much reasoning and all heats will, on many accounts, be profitably forborne. I conclude with this assertion, which I think evident without discourse: that as the union of Britain is apparently its greatest politick good, so, as certainly and by the infallible rule of contraries, a division of Britain is its greatest evil. And then it is a necessary corollary: whoever is not for the union of Britain may be concluded an enemy to it.

Agreements cause matters to be [profitably] increased, discords cause them to decay.

  1. NAS. PA3/7, bound after printed minutes of this date, 9-11. Printed copy. Additional copies at NAS. PA3/6, '1704' (printed) and NAS. PA6/35, 'July 11 1704', f.1-3 (manuscript). Back
  2. This phrase not found in the printed copies of this speech. Back