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ception. He condemned the whole Jate series of American laws and measures; said he contended not for indulgence, but justice to America; that if we consulted either our interest or our dignity, the first advances to peace and concord should come from us; that concession comes with a better grace, and more salutary effeces, from the superior power; and warned them of the humiliating disgrace, of repealing those acts through necessity, which they refused to do from other motives. He is said to have concluded the speech with the following remarkable words, "If the "ministers thus persevere in misadvising and misleading the king, I "will not say that they can alienate "the affections of his subjects from "his crown, but I will aflirm, that "they will make the crown not "worth his wearing.-I will not say that the king is betrayed, but I "will pronounce that—the kingdom is undone."
Whatever difference of opinion in the cabinet might have produced an apparent irresolution previous to the recess, it now became evident, that measures were finally settled with respect to America. Though the military and naval strength was not increased, a plan of coercion seemed to be determined on. The language of the Lords in administration was high and decisive. They condemned the conduct of the Americans in the strongest and most unreserved terms; and justified all the acts of adininistration, and all the late laws without exception. They insisted, that all conciliating means having proved ineffectual, it was high time for the mother country to assert her authority, or for ever
to relinquish it. If the task be difficult now, what, must it be in a few years? Parliament must be obeyed, or it must not; if it be obeyed, who shall resist its determinations? If it be not, it is better at once to give up every claim of authority over America. The supremacy of the British legislature cannot be disputed; and the idea of an inactive right, when there is the most urgent necessity for its exercise, is absurd and ridiculous. If we give way on the present occasion, from mistaken notions of present advantages in trade and commerce, such a concession will infallibly defeat its own object; for it is plain, that the navigation act, and all other regulatory acts, which form the great basis on which those advantages rest, and the true interests of both countries depend, will fall a victim to the interested and ambitious views of America. In a word, it was declared, that the mother country should never relax till America confessed her supremacy; and it was avowed to be the ministerial resolution, to enforce obedience by arms.
In this debate it did not appear that the Lords in the minority were fully agreed on the propriety of recalling the troops." Soine Lords, who were the most earnest for peace, did not think it at all just or wise, to leave those who had risqued their lives in favour of the claims of this country, however illfounded, or improperly exercised, as unprotected victims to the rage of an armed and incensed popu lace; and that too, before any previous stipulations were made for their safety. They thought that if proper concessions were made, the troops then at Boston were not nu
merous enough to raise an alarm on account of a supposed ill faith in keeping them up, and could by no means prevent the restoration of peace. It was wrong at first to send the force; but it might be dangerous to recal it before that was accomplished, They however supported the motion because it booked towards that great object; and because, they said, they thought any thing better than a perseves rance in hostility. In argument, it was denied that lenient means had been ineffectually tried with the colonies; and on the contrary in sisted, that they had been continually irritated by a series of absurd, contradictory, wanton, and oppressive measures. That the proscription of Boston, untried and unheard, whereby 30,000 people were consigned to famine and beg gary, for the alleged crimes of a few, was an injustice and cruelty scarcely to be paralleled. That, as if it had been done to inflame them to madness, and to keep hostility always in their eyes, an army, merely of irritation, as it evidently could answer no other purpose, was sent amongst them. That unfortunately, passion, obstinacy, and ill-will, under the direction of inability and ignorance, had been made the principles for governing a free people. That America only wants to have safety in property, and personal liberty; and the desire of independency was falsely charged on her. It was also insisted on, that the colonies never denied or questioned the acts of navigation, except when excited to it by injury.
That the specious language, of the supremacy of the British legis lature, the interests of Great-BriVOL. XVIII. 1775.
tain, of her authority over the colonies, and other phrases equally sounding, was artfully held out to deceive and delude both parliament and people; they were pomp ous words, and might swell the importance of the meanest mechanic; but they would neither prevent the miseries of a civil war, preserve our commerce, nor restore our colonies if once lost.
After a pretty long debate, for that House, the question was rejected by a vast majority, there appearing upon a division, no less than 68 who opposed, to 18 only, who supported the motion. This division was rendered remarkable, by having a prince of the blood, his Royal Highness the Duke of Cumberland, for the first time in the minority.
This decisive victory restored the confidence of the minister, and perhaps encouraged him to measures in the other House which he would not otherwise have hazarded. Upon laying the American papers before the House of Commons, a celebrated gentleman in the opposition, desired they might be informed, whether these papers contained all the intelligence the ministers had received from America. The minister replied, that he would not undertake to say they did, as those he had brought were extracts, containing only the facts in the original letters; that the writers opinions were not mentioned, it having been frequently found, that the making public the private opinions of people in office, had been attended with bad consequences; therefore his majesty's servants had determined, for the future, never to mention the private opinión of any person,
The gentleman who proposed the question said, that in some cases it might be proper to keep a person's private opinion secret; but, in so critical and alarming an affair as that of the Americans, the opinions of people in power, on the spot, must be of great service. Their judgments must operate here as facts; at least, facts unconnected with the opinions of those who best knew the spirit and tendency of each action, would be of little use, tending only to mislead: an act of violence is committed-if we know neither the motive to it-to what it is likely to lead-or what force will probably support it-how can a true judgment be made of it? As to the opinion concerning the measures proper to be pursued for quieting these troubles; there too the opinion of those on the spot, and possessing every means of information, was of the first importance. That things were gone too far, to think it necessary to manage the opinions of any man in office in America. The risque to be run (at such a time) is a necessary consequence of their situation; and they would be more endangered by the ignorance of parliament concerning their sentiments, than by any sentiments they could deliver. That in 1766 (the year, he said, of happy reconciliation) every paper, without reserve, had been laid before the House, and no man suffered by it. He therefore was of opinion, that the whole of the information received from America ought to be laid before the House, and not extracts of particular letters, such as suited the minister's purpose.
This proposition not being admitted, the minister moved, that the papers should, on the 26th in
stant, be referred to the consider ation of a committee of the whole
House. They consisted principally of letters between some of the mimisters, and the governors of most of the colonies and were transmitted in this mutilated state to the committee.
The principal trading and manufacturing towns in the kingdom, having waited to regulate their conduct as to American affairs, by that of the merchants of London and Bristol, now accordingly followed the example of those two great commercial bodies, and prepared petitions upon that subject to be presented to parliament. The petition from the merchants of London, was of course the first delivered, and being preJan. 23d. sented by one of the aldermen of that city, who was likewise a member of parliament, he moved, that it should be referred to the committee, who were appointed to take into consideration the American papers.
This seemed to be so natural, and so much a matter of course, as scarcely to admit of a controversy. The ministers had, however, by this time, hit upon a manœuvre, which, though successful for the present, may not in all seasons be so happily drawn into practice; but by which, the shower of petitions was so effectually thrown off, that they became a matter of sport rather than of concern. It was discovered, that this matter was to be taken up in a political, not a commercial light. That therefore, as there was little connection between the views of the House, and those of the merchants, it would be the highest absurdity, that a committee, whose thoughts were
occupied by the first, should be at all broke in upon or disturbed by the latter. It was accordingly proposed, to appoint a separate committee for the consideration of the merchants petition, and for that purpose an amendment was moved, that it should be referred to a committee on the 27th, the day succeeding that on which the committee was to take the American papers into consideration.
It was represented, that the committee for the consideration of the American papers was appointed with a view to their coming to some speedy resolution, suited to the dignity of parliament, and to the present state of affairs in America; that the restoration of peace in that country, depended as much upon the immediate application, as upon the vigour of the measures determined; that the great variety of facts, and mass of matter, which of course must come under consideration in the committee to which the petition was referred, would be a work of tedious enquiry, and long toil; that such a length of enquiry was incompatible with the dispatch necessary in the business with which it would be coupled by the motion; that the hands of government would thereby be tied up, and the powers of parliament restrained from giving that speedy relief, which the pressure or public affairs requires; and that the views and objects of the enquiry originating with the American papers, and the petition, being totally distinct in their nature, the determinations and execution arising from both must be different.
On the other side, administration was very severely handled. They said, that it would be fairer and
more manly to reject the petition at once, than to endeavour in this manner to defeat it; that the pretence of appointing a committee was a shameful pitiful evasion; that while to avoid the rejection of a petition which had nothing exceptionable in the matter or the form, they suffered it into the House, they, at the same time, took care it should never be heard; or, what was more insulting to the petitioners, and more disgraceful to parliament, to hear it, after a determination. Is it then true, said they, that in a question concerning the colonies, politics and commerce are separate and independent considerations? But if they are, still the information which the merchants may give in their evidence of matters merely political, may be of advantage to the House. Their correspondencies are of all kinds. They do not scruple to of fer to the House all they know of the state of that country, without those fears which it seems affect our officers in America. And as the minister had refused to give them the whole correspondence, this supplemental information became the more necessary. That if there was not sufficient time to enquire into and settle the American business, why was a month lost in dissipation during the Christmas recess, for which the dearest interests of the empire were to be sacrificed, and perhaps its existence as an empire hazarded. That after all, what time would be lost? One day, perhaps-One petition contained the merits of the whole-and all the evidence might be examined to that. This, they said, was the course in the year 1766, when an act of reconciliation, which in its nature [D] 2
required more haste, was before the House. Much larger correspondence, and infinitely more evidence, than probably would now appear, was then before them. It did not delay a business which experience had shewn to be beneficial; that therefore, they need not be in such a violent haste, to new coercive measures, which the same experience had shewn, in late instances, to be highly pernicious.
The question being at length put, the motion for the amendment was carried by a majority of more than two to one, the numbers being 197, who voted for the latter, Against 81 who supported the original motion.
A similar fate attended the petitions from Bristol, Glasgow, Norwich, Liverpool, Manchester, Birmingham, Wolverhampton, Dudley, and some other places, all of which were in turn consigned to what the opposition termed the committee of oblivion.
On the day appointed for taking the American papers into consideration, a second, and very strong petition was presented from the merchants of London, in which they argue, that the connection between Great-Britain and America, originally was, and ought to be, of a commercial kind; and that the benefits derived therefrom to the mother country are of the same nature; that observing the constant attention which the British legislature had for more than a century given to those valuable objects, they had been taught to admire the regulations by which that connection had been preserved, and those benefits secured, as the most effectual institution which human wisdem could have framed for those
salutary purposes; that presuming therefore on that opinion, and supported by that observation, they represent, that the fundamental policy of those laws of which they complain, and the propriety of enforcing, relaxing, or amending them, are questions inseparably united with the commerce between Great-Britain and America; and consequently, that the consideration of the one cannot be entered on, without a full discussion of the other.
They then lament the late decision, by which their petition was referred to a separate committer, and by which, they say, they are absolutely precluded from such a hearing in its support, as could alone procure them that relief, which the importance and present deplorable state of their trade required. They conclude by praying, that they may be heard, by themselves or their agents, in support of their former petition, and that no resolution respecting America Lay be taken by the House, or by any committee thereof, until they shall be fully heard.
It was then moved, that the order for referring the merchants petition to a separate committee should be discharged, and that it should be referred to the committee of the whole House, who were appointed to consider the American papers.
This motion was supported by the gentlemen in the minority, as they contended, on the principles of law, justice, reason, and expe diency. The indignity and mockery offered to so great a body as the merchants of London by the late resolution, which with an insidious affectation of civility, received, the petition