The World’s Famous Orations, Vol 3

Author: John Wilkes  | Date: 1777

Conquest of America Impossible*

Sir, it ill becomes the duty and dignity of Parliament to lose itself in such a fulsome adulatory address to the Throne as that now proposed. We ought rather, sir, to approach it with sound and wholesome advice, and even with remonstrances, against the ministers who have precipitated the nation into an unjust, ruinous, murderous and felonious war. I call the war with our brethren in America an unjust and felonious war, because the primary cause and confessed origin of it is to attempt to take their money from them without their consent, contrary to the common rights of all mankind, andthose great fundamental principles of the English Constitution for which Hampden bled.

I assert, sir, that it is a murderous war, because it is an effort to deprive men of their lives for standing up in the defense of their property and their clear rights. Such a war, I fear, sir, will draw down the vengeance of Heaven on this devoted kingdom. Sir, is any minister weak enough to flatter himself with the conquest of the Americans? You can not, with all your allies—with all the mercenary ruffians of the North—you can not effect so wicked a purpose. The Americans will dispute every inch of territory with you, every narrow pass, every strong defile, every Thermopyl, every Bunker’s Hill! More than half the empire is already lost4 and almost all the rest is in confusion and anarchy. We have appealed to the sword, and what have we gained? Bunker’s Hill only—and that with the loss of twelve hundred men! Are we to pay as dear for the rest of America? The idea of the conquest of that immense country is as romantic as unjust.

The honorable gentleman who moved this address says, "The Americans have been treated with lenity." Will facts justify the assertion? Was your Boston Port Bill a measure of lenity? Was your Fishery Bill a measure of lenity? Was your Bill for taking away the charter of Massachusetts Bay a measure of lenity, or even of justice? I omit your many other grossprovocations and insults by which the brave Americans have been driven to their present state. Sir, I disapprove, not only the evil spirit of this whole address, but likewise the wretched adulation of almost every part of it. My wish and hope, therefore, is, that it will be rejected by this House; and that another, dutiful yet decent, manly address, will be presented to his majesty, praying that he would sheathe the sword, prevent the further effusion of the blood of our fellow subjects, and adopt some mode of negotiation with the general Congress, in compliance with their repeated petition, thereby restoring peace and harmony to this distracted empire.

* The date of this speech is probably November or December, 1777, when Lord Chatham had already delivered against the American war the speech entitled "On Affairs in America."

4 That is, by the overthrew of Burgoyne on October 7, 1777.


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Chicago: John Wilkes, "II Conquest of America Impossible*(1777)," The World’s Famous Orations, Vol 3 in The World’s Famous Orations, ed. William Jennings Bryan (New York: Funk and Wagnalls, December, 1906), 247–248. Original Sources, accessed July 24, 2024,

MLA: Wilkes, John. "II Conquest of America Impossible*(1777)." The World’s Famous Orations, Vol 3, in The World’s Famous Orations, edited by William Jennings Bryan, Vol. The World#8217;s Famous Orations, New York, Funk and Wagnalls, December, 1906, pp. 247–248. Original Sources. 24 Jul. 2024.

Harvard: Wilkes, J, 'II Conquest of America Impossible*(1777)' in The World’s Famous Orations, Vol 3. cited in December, 1906, The World’s Famous Orations, ed. , Funk and Wagnalls, New York, pp.247–248. Original Sources, retrieved 24 July 2024, from