Page images
PDF
EPUB

May 8. The Bill being read a third time,

bers of general Gage's troops, before they are reinforced; for this Act puts it out of Mr. Hartley moved, that the following all doubt, that you mean to proceed to all clause be added, by way of ryder: "That extremities. I have been informed, by nothing in the Act shall extend to prohibit those who know best the temper of the the importation into any, or either, of the Americans, and I hope and believe that said provinces, of any fuel, meal, corn, they will hold out their patience to the flour, or victual, which shall be brought utmost, and that they will not strike the coastwise from any part of the continent first blow: but what is the difference to of America." This clause, said he, can- them, whether you strike the first blow by not be objected to, even by the most vin- the musket or the sword, or, to equal efdictive spirit, against the four provinces fect, by famine? The refusal of this clause, of New England, who are the objects of will be a declaration on your part, that this Bill, as it is extracted from the Boston you mean to bring famine upon them, to Port Bill of last year: the lenity or hu- the utmost of your power, and therefore a manity of which was never so much as warning to them of the mercy which they pretended, even by its advocates. There are to expect at your hands. As to the cannot be a reason why you should throw Bill in general, it has been so ably debated, away this year, the little share of humanity that I shall only add two remarks: this which you had the last; more especially, Bill, by destroying the North American as we are come to discover, and even to fishery, not only destroys that nursery of acknowledge, by the votes of this House, seamen, but will disable the provinces, that we have proceeded hitherto, in this under the prohibition, from the means of business with America, with rashness, mis- paying their debts to this country, who judgment and precipitation. The vote I therefore will finally be the sufferers; and allude to is passed but a few days since; when the next year comes, and you find which says, or pretends to say, that it this consequence, you will then turn acwould have been 'proper' (that is the cusers of the North Americans for not term) to have proceeded in a way of ask paying their debts, and you will add, acing a supply of the Americans, by the cording to the usual falshoods towards the Constitutional way of requisitions, before Americans, that they never intended to proceeding to compulsory or forcible me- pay their debts; and, by the distance of thods. Having confessed ourselves wrong the place, and the falshood of representa in the foundation, it is but equal justice to tions, you will impute those very effects our fellow subjects of America to sup- which you have produced yourselves, as pose, that those riots and resistance would the justifying causes of resentment. This not have happened, if we had not begun is the unjust way in which the Americans with them confessedly in an unconstitu- have been treated, on all occasions. I tional way. Surely, then, it is not a time myself asked, the other day, why, on a to add to the severity of our Acts, in pro- particular occasion of a slight riot of not portion as we find, that we have been un- more than a few hours continuance, four just in the outset, and that they have been regiments and a train of artillery, were less to blame. It is surely but a little ordered to Boston? To justify this enormatter to ask, that you would not be more mous intervention of the military, I was cruel towards America, who have never told in this House, that indeed the riots been heard on their defence this year, were trifling, but that the Americans had than you were the last. Besides, what come to a resolution to arm the country. construction can the town of Boston put What, then, was the real fact, as testified upon your present measures, if you re- by dates? The fact was, that the resolufuse the clause now offered? They will be tion to arm was not taken till the troops besieged, as in actual war with any fo- were seen in the offing. It was the sight reign enemy. General Gage has forti- of the troops, upon so trivial an occasion, fied the neck which joins Boston to the that gave them to understand what they continent, by which he may intercept pro- were to expect; and, by dates, the fact is visions; and by this Bill you proclaim the verified, that they did not take to arms till same intention by sea. Do you expect, some months after the troops were or that they will submit to be starved, in dered; but it was upon their first notice passive obedience? What resource have of the troops being to come; and the rethey left, but resistance; and, perhaps, to solution to arm against the worst, was actake advantage of the smallness of num-tually debated but a few hours before the

troops were landed.

So it is that facts are misrepresented in America, and so let me put in my caution now, that the Americans do now actually pay their debts, like honest men, to the utmost of their power, and let me be before-hand with this charge; if when the natural consequences of these measures come next year, we should hear any false accusations of the Americans, as combining not to pay their debts. I shall make but one remark more, but which seems to me to be of the utmost importance to the whole commercial system of England, which is, that the plantation-built bottoms are two thirds, or three quarters, or all the bottoms upon which the British merchandize, to every quarter of the globe, is carried on; when we meditate a blow at the American trade, we should recollect at least, that there is this one manufacture (if I may so call it) of ship-building, upon the encouragement of which our very existence, as a trading people, depends. However we may think it our interest to suppress the rivalship of the colonies with ourselves, in other manufactures, yet in this trade of ship-building they are our most material and essential support. This revengeful blow at the American ship-building, will fall most immediately and fatally upon the manufac turers and merchants of every commercial article in this kingdom. For these reasons, I am against the whole principle of the Bill; and if we cannot prevail to have it rejected, I humbly move, at least, the admission of the clause which I have just offered.

Lord North said, as the Bill not only meant to restrain the colonies of New England from trade so long as they would not trade with us, but also to let them feel the inconveniences which they must be exposed to, while they denied the authority of parliament, he could not, until their conduct gave parliament some grounds for it, agree in opinion, that parliament should relax from the coercion which this Bill meant to execute. He thought it was right that they should feel some of those distresses which the power of this country could bring upon them, while they dared to set their power in opposition to it. But even in the exertion of force, nay of arms if it should become necessary, he never should wish measures which were cruel. The case of the Boston Port Bill was quite different. The town of Boston had obstructed our trade, and had committed an act of outrage against it; it was proper,

therefore, to prevent that town from being a place of trade, until they made recompense, but as they had not then formally arrayed themselves against the power as well as authority of this country, further restraints, such as were in the present Bill, were not then necessary, and the permitting provisions and fuel to go up to the town by water was inserted in that Bill. The further restraints which a more violent conduct had now rendered necessary, were inserted in the Bill, and instead of relaxations from these, more severe ones must follow, if their conduct made such further necessary.

Mr. Burke was warm against the Bill. It was not, he said, sanguinary, it did not mean to shed blood, but, to suit some gentleman's humanity, it only meant to starve five hundred thousand people, men, women, and children at the breast. Some gentlemen had even expressed their approbation of famine in preference to fire and sword. This Bill not only had taken from these people the means of subsisting themselves by their own labour, but, rejecting the clause now proposed, took from them the means of being subsisted by the charity of their friends. You had reduced the poor people to beggary, and now you take the beggar's scrip from them. You even dash from the mouth of hunger the morsel which the hand of charity would stretch out to it. On the subject of famine he was fine and pathetic.

Lord Clare said, he would not enter the list with the hon. gentleman who spoke last, it would be the waging an unequal war; but he had in his hand a friend who was a match for him: my old friend, sir Joshua Gee, a great friend to America, though no patriot; a man who has written better on trade than any other man living, and who knew more of America. Now, Sir, my friend Joshua Gee, with a kind of prophetic spirit says, if ever the people of New England should aim to set up for themselves, what must we do? Do, Sir, why the very things which are now doing. Joshua Gee says, you must restrain their trade and prohibit them from the fishery, and you will soon bring them to their senses. I hope Joshua Gee will be a prophet there too. But here are his words. [He here read a long passage from the book, and then commented on it.] Now, Sir, nobody that ever read this passage, thought this conduct, as here proposed, to be cruel, but necessary and wise, Sir. But since we have got a language in this

sistance is rebellion-can save you from famine and ruin." When these things are said to them, what can they answer? What part have they to take? They must resist in common with those with whom

your measures were intended to divide the people. But when you mean to destroy you unite all, because you wish to destroy all. Thus much I thought it right to say, that I might mark the spirit of your measures.

House that is fitter for the turbulent ha- | rangues of an American congress than for a British parliament, every thing which would restrain American independency is unjust and cruel. But if so, Sir, how come gentlemen not to oppose the aug-you have united them in ruin. I thought mentation of the army and navy for these purposes. They retired from that question; some never looked to it; others retired sturdily like Ajax: they did not turn their backs, but, Sir, they retired. Mr. T. Townshend. If the augmentation of the navy and army had been proposed as a force with which to make war on America, I would, Sir, have been as sturdy as Ajax, not retiring, but attacking, I would have set my face against it; I would have used every power I had to oppose it; I would have carried my opposition to turbulency, since the noble lord will so describe it. The reason why I did not oppose it, I will avow; it is a fair one. I knew that it was determined that a great part of the force which we then had was to be sent to America. I trembled for the safety of this realm, thus stript of the strength intended originally for its defence; I was glad when I heard an additional defence was to be proposed for it. I would not oppose this necessary measure, though I would not in any thing mix myself with the measures of ministry. He then went into the argument on the subject of famine and starving.

Mr. Charles Fox. I think, Sir, you have now, by refusing this proposition, completed the system of your folly. You had some friends yet left in New England. You yourselves made a parade of the number you had there. But you have not treated them like friends! Rather than not make the ruin of that devoted country complete, your friends are to be involved in one common famine! How must they feel, what must they think, when the people against whom they have stood out in support of your measures, say to them, "You see now what friends in England you have depended upon; they separated you from your real friends there, while they hoped to ruin us by it; but since they cannot destroy us without mixing you in the common carnage, your merits to them will not now save you; you are to be butchered and starved indiscriminately with us? What have you to look to for support but resistance? You are treated in common with us as rebels, whether you rebel or not. Your loyalty has ruined you. Rebellion alone if re

Governor Pownall, having now, after two days debate, heard so much about the starving principles of this Bill, and of the famine which was to be the effect of it in New England, rose to say a few words, in order, by stating the fact, to wipe off from the Bill an imputation, which not only the oratory of those who opposed it, but the indiscretion of some who had defended. it, brought upon it; the foul stain of hardheartedness and cruelty; as also to calm any apprehensions which gentlemen by their oratory, working on a fact taken for granted, had endeavoured to raise in the breasts of the humane.-As to the starving and famine, supposed as an effect which might follow from the operations of this Bill, it was a supposition too idle to combat. The colonies of New England were provision colonies, they were great grazing settlements; they had not, indeed, been equally attentive to tillage as the farmers of the middle colonies had been, but they raised sufficient corn, rye, and barley for their subsistence; that although they imported some flour and biscuit from Philadelphia and New York, yet the first was chiefly for the luxury of the rich, and the latter for fitting out their shipping. If it became necessary to restrain their trade the latter would not be wanted, and if people will go to war they must expect to give up the former. If the Bill proceeded upon any such principles of hard-heartedness, or if he could see any such cruel effects in it as had been stated, he would have opposed it, instead of acquiescing in it; instead of any such mischievous effect on the colonies, we should have need to watch, that it did not produce a contrary effect, namely, that of turning their thoughts more seriously to tillage; if it should, might it not have the effect fabled in the story of Antæus, that the moment in which they touch the ground, from that moment they should derive strength. He concluded by saying that he considered this Bill simply as a

commercial regulation; as a temporary withholding of those indulgences which particular laws and connivance had given, in relaxation of the general laws on which the plantation trade had been originally established; as withholding these indulgences so long as the colonies should think fit to prohibit the trade of Great Britain; it was from seeing and considering it in this light alone that he acquiesced in it.

Mr. Henry Dundas (Solicitor General of Scotland). In what I said in a late debate, I did not say that I approved of measures of starving a whole people; but, that if matters between us and the Americans were come to that issue, that we must at last use force, and perhaps the sword; surely those measures which would prevent them from being able to resist, might prevent us from coming to the harsher measures of the sword and bloodshed. I thought these measures would bring them to their senses, and would therefore, in the end, prove mercy to them. This, I hoped, would be the true operation and effect of this Bill; and, therefore, approving that operation, I must disapprove this motion.

On the motion, that the said clause be read a second time, the House divided. The Yeas went forth.

Tellers.

Mr. Hartley

YEAS & Mr. Byng NOES&Mr. Cooper Lord Stanley

58

188

So it passed in the negative. The Bill was then passed and carried to the Lords. Mr. Hartley said, that a letter had been written by the earl of Dartmouth to governor Colden, of New York, dated the 10th Dec. 1774: as this letter contained matter well worthy the consideration and attention of the House, he should be glad, he said, to have it laid before the House.

Mr. Rigby opposed this. He said administration must always be understood to be the sole judges of what is and what is not proper to be laid before the House.

Mr. T. Townshend observed, it was a very novel and extraordinary doctrine to affirm, that when a paper was called for, and particularly described, it was in the option of the minister to produce or withhold it at his pleasure.

Lord North contended there were many papers, which a mere spirit of curiosity might prompt men to call for; but that

bare curiosity, in his opinion, should not be gratified, when it might be productive of evil; that he believed it was neither novel nor extraordinary to keep many matters secret.

Mr. Fox said, the noble lord from the beginning had taken care to lead the House blindfold; and would, he was cer tain, continue to do so, till he found some personal convenience in acting otherwise. He pronounced confidently, that the Bill just passed could not succeed; and desired the noble lord to recollect his words, and at the same time not to come to par liament, telling them, though the measure miscarried, it was their measure, for if they had not framed, they had, after the fullest deliberation, approved of it. The fact was the very reverse, as his lordship had been both the framer and approver; and by the arts of misinformation on one hand, and want of any material information on the other, parliament were persuaded into an approbation of his measures.

Mr. Hartley then moved for the said Paper: but it passed in the negative.

Petition and Memorial of the Assembly of Jamaica to the King in Council.] Go vernor Johnstone said, he had been in formed that an extraordinary Petition from Jamaica had been received by the ministers, the contents of which were the utmost importance; and desired to know the reason why it was not laid before the House?

of

Lord North said, he could assign no reason. The Petition was from the as sembly of the island, hastily agreed upon, just at the end of the session.

Mr. Fox thought that was a sufficient reason to force it upon his lordship's notice; for it was his lordship's practice to transact the most important business at the end of the session.

Lord North said it should be brought. The following is a copy of it.

Jamaica, ss. To the King's most excellent Majesty in Council. The humble Petition and Memorial of the Assembly of Jamaica.

"Most Gracious Sovereign, "We your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal subjects the assembly of Jamaica, having taken into our consideration the present critical state of the colonies, humbly approach the throne to assure your Majesty of our most dutiful regard to your royal person and family, and our attach

ment to and reliance on our fellow subjects | in Great Britain, founded on the most solid and durable basis; the continued enjoyments of our personal rights and the security of our properties.

"That weak and feeble as this colony is, from its very small number of white inhabitants and its peculiar situation, from the incumbrance of more than 200,000 slaves, it cannot be supposed that we now intend, or ever could have intended resistance to Great Britain.

legislation of their country; and that no laws can affect them but such as receive their assent given by themselves or their representatives; and it follows therefore that no one part of your Majesty's English subjects either can or ever could legislate for any other part.

"That this colony has never, by riots or other violent measures, opposed or permitted an act of resistance against any law imposed on us by Great Britain, though always truly sensible of our just rights and of the pernicious consequences, both to the parent and infant state, with which Some of them must be attended; always relying with the most implicit confidence on the justice and paternal tenderness of your Majesty, even to the most feeble and distant of your subjects, and depending, that when your Majesty and your parliament should have maturely considered and deliberated on the claims of Great Britain and her colonies, every cause of dissatisfaction would be removed. That justly alarmed at the approaching horrors of an unnatural contest between Great Britain and her colonies, in which the most dreadful calamities to this island, and the inevitable destruction of the small sugar colonies are involved: and excited by these apprehensions, as well as by our affection for our fellow subjects both in Great Britain and the colonies, we implore your Majesty's favourable reception of this our humble petition and memorial, as well on behalf of ourselves and our constituents the good people of this island, as on behalf of all other his Majesty's subjects the colonists of America; but especially those who labour at present under the heavy weight of your Majesty's displeasure, for whom we entreat to be admitted as humble suitors that we may not at so important a crisis be wanting to contribute our sincere and well-meant, however small, endeavours, to heal those disorders which may otherwise terminate in the destruction of

the empire.

this

"That the settlers of the first colonies, but especially those of the elder colonies of North America, as well as the conquerors of this island, were a part of the English people, in every respect equal to them, and possessed of every right and privilege at the time of their emigration,. which the people of England were possessed of, and irrefragably to that great right of consenting to the laws which should bind them, in all cases whatsoever, and who emigrating at first in small numbers when they might have been oppressed, such rights and privileges were constantly guaranteed by the crown to the emigrants and conquerors, to be held and enjoyed by them in the places to which they emigrated, and were confirmed by many repeated solemn engagements made public by proclamation, under the faith of which they did actually emigrate and conquer, and therefore the people of England had no rights, power, or privilege to give to the emigrants as these were at the time of their emigration, possessed of all such rights equally with themselves.

"That as we conceive it necessary for purpose to enter into the different claims of Great Britain and her colonies, we beg leave to place it in the royal mind as the first established principle of the constitution, that the people of England have right to partake, and do partake, of the

[VOL. XVIII.]

"That the peers of England were possessed of very eminent and distinguished privileges in their own rights as a branch of legislature. A court of justice in the dernier resort for all appeals from the people, and in the first instance, for all causes instituted by the representatives of the people; but that it does not appear that they ever considered themselves as acting in such capacities for the colonies, the peers having never to this day heard or determined the causes of the colonists in appeal, in which it ever was, and is their duty, to serve the subjects within the realm.

"That from what has been said it appears, that the emigrants could receive nothing from either the peers or the people, the former being unable to communicate their privileges, and the latter on no more than equal footing with themselves, but that with the king it was far otherwise. The royal prerogative as now annexed to, and belonging to the crown, being totally independent of the people, who cannot invade, add to, or diminish it; nor restrain, nor invalidate those legal grants which [2 D]

« PreviousContinue »