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CHAP. V.

Lord Chatham's conciliatory bill with respect to America. Debates. The bill rejected. Petition from the West-India planters, and the merchants of London, to the House of Commons. Address to the Throne moved for in that House, by the Minister. Great debates; amendment moved for; rejected; original motion for the address carried by a great majority. Motion for recommitting the address, upon receiving the report from the committce. Debates longer than before. The motion rejected. Conference with the Lords. Petitions from the merchants and planters to the Lords. Debate on a point of order, whether the petitions should be received, prerious to the making of a motion for filling up the blanks in the address. Motion made. Previous question put. Great debates, both with respect to the previous question, and the subject of the address. Motion for the previous question rejected by a great majority; original motion, by which the Lords concurred with the Commons in the address, agreed to. Protests.

HE noble Earl, who lately

of Lords for the recall of the troops from Boston, not discouraged at the great majority by which his motion was rejected, still persevered in the prosecution of that conciliatory scheme with America which he then in part announced, and to which that motion was only introductory. He accordingly Feb. 1. brought into that House

the outlines of a bill, which he hoped would answer that salutary purpose, under the title of " A provisional act for settling the troubles in America, and for asserting the supreme legislative authority and superintending power of GreatBritain over the colonies."

He intreated the assistance of the House to digest the crude materials, which, thrown together in the nature of a bill, he now presumed to lay before them; to bring and reduce the whole to that form which was suited to the dignity and importance of the subject, and to the great ends to which it was ulti

mately directed. He called on exercise their candor, and

deprecated the effects of a party or prejudice; of factious spleen, or a blind predilection. He declared himself to be actuated by no narrow principle, or personal consideration whatever; and said, that though the proposed bill might be looked upon as a bill of concession, it was impossible but to confess, at the same time, that it was a bill of assertion.

This bill caused a great variety of discussions within and without doors. The ministry found it a proposition of reconciliation by concession, which was cause sufficient (independently of the ohnoxious quarter from whence it came) to induce them to reject it; their plan being at that time, tho' a little varied afterwards, to shew a firm resolution not to give way, in any instance, whilst the opposition in America continued. Others said, that the bill contained a multiplicity of matter. Many of its parts were liable to, and seemed to require

quire much separate discussion: they were so numerous, and so various in their nature, that the aggregate mass appeared too great to be comprised in one draught. As it was in a great measure conditional, its operation depended, not only on the consent, but the acts of others; and a long time might elapse before it could be certainly known, whether it was or was not to operate. He laid down, as a condition not to be controverted, and upon which all the benefits of the act depended, a full acknowledgment of the supremacy of the legislature, and the superintending power of the British parliament. It did not absolutely decide in words upon the right of taxation, but partly as a matter of grace, and partly, to appearance, as a compromisc, declared and enacted, that no tallage, tax, or other charge shall be levied in America, except by common consent in their provincial assemblies; a manner of concession, which seems to imply the right, It asserts, as an undoubted prerogative, the royal right to send any part of a legal army to any part of its dominions, at all times, and in all seasons, and condemns a passage in the petition from the continentai congress, which militates with that right; but, as a salvo, declares, that no military force, however legally raised and kept, can ever be law fully employed to violate and destroy the just rights of the people; a declaration which, it was said, would afford little relief to a people groaning under the pressure of a military government; as whoever held the sword, would decide upon the question of law.

This bill legalized tho holding of a congress in the ensuing month

of May, for the double purpose of duly recognizing the supreme legislative authority and superintending power of parliament over the colonies, and for making a free grant to the King, his heirs and successors, of a certain and perpetual revenue, subject to the disposition of parliament, and applicable to the alleviation of the national debt. Taking it for granted that this free aid would bear an honourable proportion to the great, and flourishing state of the colonies, the necessities of the mother country, and their obligations to her; on these conditions, it restrained the powers of the admiralty courts to their ancient limits, and without repealing, suspeded for a limited time those late acts, or parts of acts, which had been complained of in the petition from the continental congress. It placed the judges upon the same footing, as to the holding of their salaries and offices, with those in England; and secured to the colonics all the privileges, franchises and immunites, granted by their several charters and constitutions.

The noble Lord, at the head of the American department, behaved with great moderation. He said, that the bill took in such a variety of matter, that it was impossible to pronounce any immediate opinion concerning its propriety; and that as its noble author did not seem to press the House to any immediate decision, but appeared rather desirous that it should be maturely and fully considered, he supposed it would be agreeable to him, and he would have no objection to receive it upon that condition, that it should lie upon the table till the American papers were first taken into consideration.

Whether

Whether respect for the framer of the bill, or whatever the motives were that induced this concession, they had no effect on the other Lords in administration, who opposed it with so much heat, as to forget that attention which its author, and the importance of the subject, seem to demand. It is unusual in parliament to reject, on the first proposition, any bill for an object allowed to be necessary; and promising, however faintly or rudely, any plan for obtaining the end proposed. But the proceeding on this occasion was different. They condemned, without reserve, the bill in the whole, and in all its parts; and censured the mode of bringing it in, as irregular, unparliamentary, and unprecedented; that it was impossible to conceive how such a mass of matter, so important in its nature, so extensive in its consequences, and directed to such a variety of objects, each of them worthy of a separate consideration, could be thus brought for'ward together, and in such a manner; that the matter should have been laid before the House in separate proportions, each of which should he singly discussed, as leading to one great comprehensive system.

It was besides contended, that this bill fell in with the ideas of America in almost every particular, and held out no one security; that should we be base and dastardly enough to betray the rights of the parliament of Great Britain, the Americans would only agree to those parts of it that suited their own views, and totally disclaim those that were held out as matters of submission or concession. But above all other causes it was condemned, as not only giving a sanc

tion to the traiterous proceedings of the congress already held, but by the appointment of another, to legalize such meetings by act of parliament.

It was said, that the suspension of those acts, proposed in the bill, would, to every substantial purpose, amount to an actual repeal; that if the laws for establishing the admiralty courts were repealed, the act of navigation would be of no farthar avail, and become only a dead letter. The rebellious temper and hostile disposition of the Americans was much enlarged upon; that they were not disputing about words, but about realities; that though the duty upon tea was the pretence, the restrictions upon their commerce, and the hope of throwing them off, were the real motives of their disobedience; that they had already attacked and taken one of the King's forts, and seized his stores and ammunition, to employ them against himself; that if any thing can constitute rebellion, this must; that this was no time for concession; and that, to concede now, would be to give the point up for ever. It was therefore moved, and strongly supported by all the Lords on that side, that the bill should be rejected in the first instance.

The noble framer defended himself and his bill from the numerous attacks which were made on both, with great spirit and vigour. The indignity which was offered, seemed to renew all the fire of youth; and he retorted the sarcasms, which were levelled upon him, from different quarters, with a most pointed severity. If he was charged with hurrying this business in an unusual and irregular manner into parlia

ment,

ment, he placed it to the critical necessity of the times; to the wretched inability and incapacity of the ministers, who, though they declared all America to be in rebellion, had not at this late season, a plan to propose, or a system to pursue, for the adjustment of public affairs; that under such circumstances of emergency on one side, when perhaps a single day might determine the fate of this great empire; and such a shameful negligence, inattention, and want of ability on the other, no alternative remained, but either to abandon the interests of his country, and relinquish his duty, or to propose such measures as seemed the most capable of restoring peace and quiet. He then called upon the servants of the crown, to declare, whether they had any plan, however deficient, to lay before the House? And that if they had, he would set them an example of candour which they by no means deserved, by instantly withdrawing the present bill.

Though it was evident, that no previous concert had been held with the Lords in opposition, in respect to this bill, and that few of them, perhaps, would have approved of it in all its parts if there had; yet they all felt, as in their own case, the insult offered, and the contempt shewn, by throwing it out in this abrupt and disgraceful manner. The most moderate contended, that both the framer and some of the matter of the bill, deserved a better reception; that they were entitled to a fair hearing and a free discussion; that it would convey to foreigners, as well as natives, very unfavourable ideas of the justice of that House, and of its

hostile disposition towards the colonies, if the first propositions that were made, for the restoration of peace and harmony, were to be rejeeted in so harsh and unprecedented a manner, without even affording them a fair hearing. Conciliatory measures should at least be examined, whether it were found eligible to adopt them or net. The bill was in their hands; they might strike out the objectionable parts; and undoubtedly they would find many which it might be highly useful to retain.

This debate of course called up the whole of the American affairs, which accordingly underwent much discussion. On one side, the dangers of a civil war were shewn, as well with respect to its domestic as foreign consequences, and its miseries strongly painted; our present calamitous situation deplored, and the men and the measures execrated that involved us in such a labyrinth of evils. On the other, the dangers were in part lessened, and those that were supposed, respecting foreign states, denied ; the consequent evils of rebellion were incident to dominion and government; and, in the present instance, sprung entirely from the original traiterous designs, hostile intertions, and rebellious disposition of the Americans. The nature of the subjects, and the state of temper on both sides, produced much warmth, severe altercation, and even personal animadversion.

After a long and most pointed debate, the bill was rejected by a majority of 61 to 32; not being even allowed to lie upon the table. Upon this question his Royal Highness the Duke of Cumberland voted in the minority..

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The day after this debate, a petition was presented to the House of Commons, from the planters of the sugar colonies residing in GreatBritain, and the merchants of London trading to those colonies. In this petition they set forth, how exceedingly they were alarmed at the association and agreement entered into by the contimental congress, in consequence of which all trade between North America and the West Indies were to cease at a given day, unless the acts of parliament therein specified were repealed by that time. They stated, that the British property in the West India islands amounted to upwards of thirty millions sterling; that a further property of many millions was employed in the commerce created by the said islands; a commerce comprehending Africa, the East Indies and Europe; and that the whole profits and produce of those capitals ultimately centre in Great-Britain, and add to the national wealth, while the navigation necessary to all its branches, establishes a strength which wealth can neither purchase nor balance.

They shewed, that the sugar plantations in the West-Indies are subject to a greater variety of contingencies than many other species of property, from their necessary dependance on external support; that therefore, should any interruption happen in the general system of their commerce, the great national stock, thus vested and employed, inust become precarious and unprofitable; and that the profits arising from the present state of those islands, and that are likely to arise from their future improvement, in a great measure depend on a free and reciprocal intercourse

between them and the several provinces of North-America, from whence they are furnished with provisions and other supplies, absolutely necessary for their support and the maintenance of their plantations.

They then proceed to shew, that they could not be supplied from any other markets, and in any degree proportionate to their wants, with those articles of indispensable necessity, which, they now derive from the middle colonies of NorthAmerica; and that if the agreement and association of the congress take full effect, which they firmly believe will happen, unless the former harmony which subsister between this kingdom and the American colonies, to the infinite advantage of both, be restored, the islands will be reduced to the utmost distress. This petition, like all the former upon the same subject, was referred to the established petition committee.

The time was at length arrived, when the minister thought proper to open his designs with respect to America. On the day, upon which the West-India petition had been presented, he in a long speech recapitulated the information contained in those American papers which had been referred to the committee; he then proceeded to discriminate the temper, disposi tion, and degrees of resistance, that prevailed in the several colonies; to point out those where moderation really prevailed; with others, where, he said, violence was concealed under the mask of duty and submission; and finished the group by naming those which he considered to be in a state of actual rebellion. He asserted, that several

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