William Pitt the Elder, former Prime Minister and First Earl of Chatham, was held in very high esteem among British American Colonists and revolutionaries. Pitt, the elder statesmen and one of the key voices for the repeal of the 1766 Stamp Act, proposed a compromise devolution measure in Parliament known as the Provisional Act in 1775. In doing so, he aimed to preserve the First British Empire through concessions to the American colonies in exchange for recognition of parliamentary supremacy.
The proposed Act devolved power to the Continental Congress for revenue collection and protected colonial taxation and judicial interests, preserving for Parliament legislative power in areas “beyond the competency of the local representative of a distinct collony.” Ultimately, however, the Act was defeated in the House of Lords and Lord Frederick North’s government took repressive rather than conciliatory measures.
Lord North, like current Prime Minister David Cameron, was a deeply patriotic leader with strong nationalistic tendencies, and the legacy of both as stewards of the realm will in large part be defined by their ability to manage an independence crisis of a dissatisfied subordinate body of the United Kingdom.
The most recent British parliamentary elections have given Mr. Cameron and the Tory government a clear majority in Parliament and a mandate to legislate. However, according to the New York Times, North of England, Scotland has become “essentially a one-party state,” giving “56 of Scotland’s 59 seats, and “a strong voice in Westminster” to the Scottish National Party, an organization strongly in favor of increased Scottish independence from the United Kingdom — “[i]n essence, England and Scotland are today not one nation but two, each dominated by a single party.” In 2014, Scottish independence failed referendum by a narrow margin, 55-45.
Mr. Cameron appears to be learning from the mistakes of history and Lord North. He has stated on behalf of his government that “[i]n Scotland, our plans are to create the strongest devolved government anywhere in the world, with important powers over taxation.” Indeed, he wants to carry out this endeavor of devolution “as fast as possible.”