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C HOA P. VI.

Message from the throne for an augmentation of the forces. Bill for restraining the commerce of the New England colonies, and to prohibit their fishery on the banks of Newfoundland, &c. brought into the House of Commons. Great opposition to the bill, Petition and evidence against it. Petition and evidence from the town of Pool in support of the bill. Petition from the Quakers. Long debates: Motion for an amendment over-ruled. The bill carried through by great majorities. Meets with equal opposition in the House of Lords. Petition and evidence as before. Great debates. Question for committing the bill, upon the second reading, carried by a great majority. Motion on the third reading for an amendment, to include several other colonies in the restrictions of the bill. The question carried upon a division. The bill passed, and returned with the amendment to the Commons. Protest. Conference; the Commons give reasons for refusing to concur in the amendment; the Lords agree to the rejection. The bill receives the royal assent.

HE answer from the throne

usual thanks, contained an assurance of taking the most speedy and effec tual measures, for enforcing due obedience to the laws and authority of the supreme legislature; together with a declaration, that, when ever any of the colonies should make a proper and dutiful application, his Majesty would be ready to concur in affording them every just and reasonable indulgence; and concluded with an carnest wish, that this disposition might have an happy effect on their temper and conduct.

The answer was accompanied with a message from the Throne to the Commons, in which they were informed, that as it was determined, in consequence of the address, to take the most speedy and effectual measures for supporting the just rights of the crown, and the two Houses of Parliament, some augmentation to the forces by sea and land would be necessary for that

purpose. This message was refer

supply.

to

of

While measures were thus taking to apply a military force to the cure of the disorders in America, other means were thought necessary to come in aid of this expedient. The military force might indeed coerce and punish the disobedient, and effectually support the magis trate in case of insurrection; but how to get the body of magistracy to act, or any sufficient number upon ordinary occasions to engage: heartily in their cause, did not appear. The change in the charter of Massachusett's Bay had not produced the desired effect. Even if it should, the inferior magistrates. must evidently be taken in the country; sheriffs, constables, select men, grand and petty juries, must be aiding to the higher magistrates, or nothing could be done; and the idea of having troops in every parish would be ridiculous. The coercive plan being therefore still

relied on, it was proposed to chuse anishment so universal, as by the inconveniencies which every man felt, would interest every man in procuring obedience and submission to the late acts of parliament. For this reason the mis nister moved for leave to bring in a bill to restrain the trade

Feb. 10: and commerce of the provinces of Massachusett's Bay, and New Hampshire; the colonies of Connecticut and Rhode-Island, and Providence Plantation, in NorthAmerica, to Great-Britain, Ireland, and the British Islands in the West-Indies; and to prohibit such provinces and colonies from carry ing on any fishery on the banks of Newfoundland, or other places therein to be mentioned, under certain conditions, and for a limited time.

He supported the proposed bill (of which he had given some previous intimation) on the following grounds that as the Americans had refused to trade with this king dom, it was but just that we should not suffer them to trade with any other nation; that the restraints of the act of navigation, were their charter; and that the several relaxations of that law, were so many acts of grace and favour; all which, when they ceased to be merited by the colonies, it was reasonable and necessary should be recalled by the legislature; that the fisheries on the banks of Newfoundland, as well as, all the others in North-America, were the undoubted right of GreatBritain, and she might accordingly, dispose of them as she pleased; that as both Houses had declared a rebellion in the province of Massachusett's Bay, it was therefore just to deprive that province of the be

nefits which it derived from those fisheries.

With respect to the other colonies of New-England included in the bill, he observed, that though there was still a governor and government in the province of New Hampshire, yet government was so weak there, that a quantity of powder had been taken out of one of the King's forts by an armed mob; besides, that from the vicinity of that province to Massachusett's Bay, if it were not included, the purpose of the act would be defeated. Nor was the ill temper of the people of Connecticut found less deserving of their being included in the general punishment, who, upon a report that the soldiery had killed some people in Boston, marched a large body of men into the province of Massachusett's; and though that body returned, on finding the falsity of the report, the temper and disposition they shewed, as well as the general state and conduct of the colony, did not by any means entitle them to. favour. The argument of vicinity was also as applicable to the last province as to that of New Hampshire.

The minister having stated the reasons on which he acted, declared, that he would not be averse to such alleviations of the act, as would not prove destructive of its great object; and therefore he would only propose, it as temporary, to continue either to the end of the year, or of the next session of parliament;-and he would also propose, that particular persons might be, excepted, upon their obtaining certi ficates from the Governor of the province, in which they resided, of their good behaviour,, or upon their subscribing to a test,, acknowledging

knowledging the rights of parlia

ment.

This bill, besides the matter that was peculiar to its own nature, brought up in its course the whole series of American controversy. With regard to this particular measure, the principle of involving the innocent in the punishment of the guilty, was alternately combated, with serious argument, pathetic remonstrance, and pointed ridicule. What legislature had ever established a precedent of equal cruelty and injustice, with the condemning of half a million of people to perish with famine, for the supposed crimes of a few unknown persons? Such precedents were only to be sought for in the history of the most savage and barbarous tyrants; but not among the judicial acts of legislators. Why were three other provinces to be punished for a rebellion supposed only in one? or if they were also in rebellion, why were they not declared so? One province was to be deprived of its subsistence, because a rebellion, no body knew where, nor by whom, was, however, said to be lurking in somne part of it. A second province was to be punished, because it happened to be next door to rebellion; a third, because it would be doing nothing to let that escape; and a fourth must be starved, because the ministers could not otherwise square their plan. Very bad reasons they said, had been given for punishing the other NewEngland colonies; but no

reason

at all had been assigned for including Rhode Island in the common restriction: unless perhaps the mere neighbourhood might be the cause, which was left to be guessed, ministry being silent as to that pro

vince. It was said, that in what ever other matters of policy our ministers might be found deficient, they had the most infallible receipt for making rebellions, and the happiest talent in hitting upon measures for the ruin of trade and com

merce, and the dismemberment of

great empire, of any set of men that ever conducted the public affairs of any country.

It was said, that the cruelty of the bill exceeded the examples of hostile rigour with avowed enemies; that in all the violence of our most dangerous wars, it was an established rule in the marine service, to spare the coast-fishing craft of our declared enemies; always considering, that we waged war with nations, and not with private men; and that it would be unworthy the character of a great and brave people, and even savage and barbarous, to deprive poor wretches of their means of hard-earned livelihood, and the miserable village inhabitants of the sea-coasts, of their daily food. It was known that the people of New-England subsist much on fish; and that the sale of that commodity supplies them with the means of purchasing flour and several other articles necessary to life; three of the provinces in question not raising wheat for the fourth part of their demand: so that we now inhumanly intend to starve whole provinces, and these our own people, excepting only such, as a Governor may think proper to favour; a paltry pretence of lenity, which will serve only to cover the most scandalous partiality, and give rise to unjust preference, monopoly, and to all kinds of the most shameful and pernicious jobbs. They desired the proposer of the bill to

recollect

recollect that he had frequently spoken of the multitude of friends he had in all those provinces; and now, by his own measure, he not only confounded the innocent with the guilty, but friends with enemies, and involved his own partizans in one common ruin with the rest.

But this was not only to operate upon, supposed rebels, or upon those who had the misfortune of being their neighbours, or who it was imagined either did or might conceal rebellion; but it was also to punish the people of Great-Britain, who were charged with no delinquency, not even of concealment or neighbourhood, and who must lose a very great share of their property which was lying in the proscribed provinces, in consequence of this bill. For, as New-England was not productive of staple-commodities, sufficient to pay the great balance which it was always under a necessity of owing in this country, it had no other means of discharging that debt than through the fishery, and the circuitous trade dependent on it; so that to cut off those means was, in fact, to beggar, our merchants and manufacturers; and the British legislature was, in its wisdom, going to pass a disabling bill, to prevent the payment of debts to its British subjects.

It was further contended, that the absurdity of the bill was even equal to its cruelty and injustice. That its object was to take away a trade from our colonies, which all who understood its nature knew we could not transfer to ourselves. That God and nature had given the fisheries to them, and not to us; and set limits to our avarice and cruelty, which we could not pass; that when they were once destroyed, we could neither benefit by them our VOL. XVIII, 1775.

selves, nor restore them to those whom we had thus violently and unjustly deprived of the means of subsistence; that distance and local circumstances shut us out in the first instance; and with respect to the other, that the little capital, vessels, and implements of fishermen, the majority of whom must ever be necessarily poor, could only be kept up by the constant returns of profit, and when the returns failed, the capital and implements would be lost for ever. That the people must either perish, or apply themselves to other occupations, from which they could not be recalled at will. That we were thus finding out the means for Providence of punishing our own cruelty and injustice; for that those fisheries, which were a more inexhaustible, and infinitely more valuable source of wealth and power than all the mines in the new world, would not only be lost to ourselves, but would be thrown into the scale against us, by falling, in a very great degree, into the hands of our natural rivals and enc mies, They observed also, that the fisherman, having no occupation, must of course become a soldier. Thus we provoke a rebellion by the injustice of one set of acts, and then recruit the rebellious army by another.

In support of the bill, besides the arguments that were originally urged, the charges of injustice and cruelty were denied; and it was said, that whatever distress the bill might bring upon the colonies, they could not complain of the legisla ture, as they not only deserved it by their disobedience, but had themselves set the example. That they had entered into the most unlawful and daring combinations, as far as in them lay, to ruin our [*A merchants,

merchants, impoverish our manutfacturers, and to starve our West India islands. That nothing could be more equitable than to prohibit the trade of those who had prohibited ours. That if any foreign power had offered us only a small part of the insult and injury that we had received from our colonies, the whole nation would have been in a flame to demand satisfaction, and woe to the ministers who were slack in obtaining it. Were we then to act the part of bullies with all the rest of mankind, only to be kicked at home by our own peope?

The charge of cruelty was said to be equy ill founded. This was a bill of humanity and mercy, as well as of coercion; it being the only moderate means of bringing the disobedient provinces to a sense of their duty, without involving the empire in the horrors of a civil war. They had daringly incurred all the penalties of contumacy and rebellion, and were liable to the severest military execution, without any imputation of cruelty. In stead of these dreadful punishments which they so justly merited, they were to be brought to their senses without any severity, only by a restriction on their trade, which would last no longer than their contumacy. Thus government would be sup-' ported, without the miseries of tvar, or the effusion of blood.

As to the charge of involving the innocent with the guilty, friends with foes, the propriety or impropriety, the justice or injustice of such an act, depended on the necessity of the measure. That whenever this was the case, the necessity might be lamented, but could not be helped. That a town of ours, held by rebels or enemies, might con

tain the best of our friends, and those friends too might be the more numerous part of the inhabitants; but still the miseries of a siege, and possibly of a famine, must be submitted to, or the town never could be recovered.

Never, said they, was a measure more truly necessary than the present. The colonics had too long imposed upon and deluded us, by the bugbear of withdrawing their trade, hoping, through the terror of our merchants and manufacturers, to bend the legislature to a compliance with all their demands, until they had brought their designs to such a ripeness, as to be able to throw off the mask, and openly to avow their rebellious purposes. That this was the third time, within a few years, in which they had thrown the whole commerce of this country into a state of the greatest confusion. That both colonies and commerce were better lost than preserved upon such terms; that life itself could not be worth the keeping in a constant state of uncertainty and fear. Things were now come to a crisis, and the conflict must be borne. We must either relinquish our connections with America, or fix them upon such a sure and certain basis, as would effectually prevent the return of those evils.

The minority replied, that the necessity was pretended, not real, That this measure, so far from necessary, was by no means expedi ent. That the parallel with foreign nations did not hold. That nothing bound a foreign nation but fear. But is that the bond of internal government, and the foundation of security at home? To revenge injuries in your own domestic disputes is not the way to prevent their return. The way to lasting

peace

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