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Motion by Mr. Fox, for an account of the Expenses of the Army in America



Wednesday, November 22, 1775.

Mr˙ Fox moved, "That there be laid before this House, an account of the expenses of the Staff, Hospitals, Extraordinaries, and all Military contingencies whatsoever, of the Army in America, from August, 1773, to October, 1775, inclusive."

He had drawn up the motion in these words, because it would lay open an astonishing scene of Ministerial delusion, held out by the pretended estimate laid before the House a few days ago. It would bring the Staff into the full glare of day, which had been hitherto artfully held back; it would show that the expense of the Ordnance this year had exceeded any one of the Duke of Marlborough' s campaigns, while, in the midst of repeated victories, he was immortalizing the British name; and it would convince the greatest Court infidels of the temerity of the Minister, who, to the very last day of the session, insisted and declared that the


military service, in every branch, and under every description, was amply provided for; that all his arrangements were made; and who thus durst, in the bare article of the ordnance alone, incur a debt of upwards of two hundred and forty thousand pounds. He said it would be a farce to sit any longer in that House, if accounts of this nature were refused; that the motion was Parliamentary; that it would convey no secret to the enemy; and within his own knowledge or reading, he never heard of an instance where such information was denied, unless in instances where it was impossible to comply with them; such as the accounts desired not having been received, or officially made up. Aware of this, he would be perfectly satisfied with copies of those already come to hand, or of gross computations made by estimate, and wait with pleasure for the remainder, till the Ministry could venture to face the publick, and an insured majority, with the disgraceful contents.

Lord North said, that part of the accounts were on the table; and that the honourable gentleman would have them all regularly at the proper season.

Mr˙ Jenkinson said, part of the accounts now called for, came in under the head of services incurred and not provided for by Parliament; and that the other part would come when the returns were received from America.

Mr˙ T˙ Townshend said, it was very difficult to collect the true meaning of what had fallen from the noble Lord on the Treasury Bench, and his confidential friend and powerful supporter who spoke last. He thought the honourable gentleman who made the motion had, by his candour and previous explanation, precluded them from resorting to such pitiful evasions, and manifest imposition. The honourable gentleman desired no more intelligence than what might be easily obtained, than what they had in their actual possession. But they very logically, at least very humorously, tell him, "We have not all the information you want in our power, therefore we are resolved you shall have none."

Mr˙ Hartley showed the propriety of the measure, on the ground of Parliamentary usage, and predicted that Administration would suffer more in the eyes of the publick by withholding the information, than by disclosing it. It was impossible but the nation at last must be convinced that their works could not bear the light, when they kept everything in profound darkness.

Mr˙ Burke pressed the necessity of the motion, as it might be the means of informing the House of the probable expenses of the next campaign, formed on the comparative scale of the proportionate expense of an army of eight thousand five hundred men, and twenty-five thousand six hundred men, which would be the respective military armaments of the years 1775, and 1776,

Sir George Smile observed, he had sat in some very compliant dutiful Parliaments; but if the Minister was able, by his magick influence, to put a negative upon this motion, the present would be one of the most polite and well-bred, he would not say slavish, sordid, and corrupt Parliaments, he had ever the honour to sit in. However, he did not think that either the managers or the managed acted with sufficient dexterity and address, for they both had already a salvo for everything; America is to be conquered; America is to be taxed; the expense will be great; but what of that? We shall not only conquer these Rebels, but we shall likewise compel them to pay our debts, and bear our burdens. What occasion, then, for concealing an expense, which will be repaid at the rate of one thousand per cent.? What occasion to send the poor country gentlemen, with their fingers in their mouths, or tongue-tied, down to their Counties or Boroughs, when they might at once be permitted to tell the truth? The last campaign cost one million and a half; this will cost five; but then we shall, in the end, be able to make America pay fifty! This would be acting like wise and firm Ministers. It would be arming the country gentlemen with facts; they love good, round, strong, uncontradicted assertions; and if by next November our affairs should grow worse, and that we should be obliged to tell our constituents that the army and the land-tax must be doubled — what of that again? Why, let the Ministers, as they rise in their demands, improve in their wisdom and firmness, and instruct the countiy gentlemen to tell their constituents at Christmas, 1776, as they must tell them at Christmas, 1775, that Administration was deceived.

The motion was negatived.