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Ann Regis


During this debate the standing order, for the exclusion of strangers, was strictly enforced.

"On this motion, and on the whole matter, the debate was long and animated. It was objected, in general, that these Resolutions abandoned the whole object for which we were contending. That in words, indeed, they did not give up the right of taxing; but they did so in effect. The first Resolution, they said, was artfully worded, as containing in appearance nothing but matters of fact; but if adopted, consequences would follow highly prejudicial to the publick good. That the mere truth of a proposition did not, of course, make it necessary or proper to resolve it. As they had frequently resolved not to admit the unconstitutional claims of the Americans, they could not admit Resolutions directly leading to them. They had no assurance, that if they should adopt these propositions, the Americans would make any dutiful returns, on their side; and thus the scheme, pursued through so many difficulties, of compelling that refractory people to contribute their fair proportion to the expenses of the whole Empire, would fall to the ground. The House of Lords would not, they said, permit another plan, somewhat of the same kind, so much as to lie on their table; and the House of Commons had in this session, already adopted one, which they judged to be conciliatory upon a ground more consistent with the supremacy of Parliament. It was assorted that the American Assemblies had made provisioin upon former occasions; but this, they said, was only when pressed by their own immediate danger, and for their own local use. But if the dispositions of the Colonies had been as favourable as they were represented, still it was denied that the American Assemblies ever had a legal power of granting a revenue to the Crown. This they insisted to be the privilege of Parliament only; and a privilege which could not be communicated to any other body whatsoever. In support of this doctrine, they quoted the following clause from that palladium of the English Constitution, and of the rights and liberties of the subject, commonly called, the Bill, or Declaration, of Rights: viz. that "Levying money for, of to the use of the Crown, by pretence of prerogative, without grant of Parliament, for a longer time, or in other manner, than the same is, or shall be granted, is illegal."

This clause, they insisted, clearly enforced the exclusive right in Parliament of taking every part of the Empire. And this right, they said, was not only prudent, but necessary. The right of taxation must be inherent in the supreme power, and, being the most essential of all others, was the most necessary, not only to be reserved in theory, but exercised in practice, or it would, in effect, be lost, and all other powers along with it. This principle was carried so far, that it was said any Minister ought to be impeached, who suffered the grant of any sort of revenue from the Colonies to the Crown. That such a practice, in time of war, might possibly be tolerated from the necessity of


the case; but that a revenue, in time of peace, could not be granted by any Assemblies, without subverting the Constitution. In the warmth of prosecuting this idea, it was asserted, by more than one gentleman on that side, that the establishment of a parliament in Ireland. did not by any means preclude Great Britain from taxing that Kingdom whenever it was thought necessary. That that right had always been maintained, and exercised too, whenever it was judged expedient; and that the British Parliament Had no other rule in that exercise, than its own discretion. That all inferiour assemblies in this Empire, were only like the Corporate Towns in England, which had a power, like them of making By-laws, for their own municipal government, and nothing more.

"On the other side, it was urged, that the clause in the Declaration of Rights, so much relied on, was calculated merely to restrain the prerogative, from the raising of any money within the Realm, without the consent of Parliament; but that it did not at all reach, nor was intended to interfere with, the taxes levied, or grants passed by legal Assemblies out of the Kingdom, for the publick service. On the contrary, Parliament knew, at the time of passing that law, that the Irish grants were subsisting, and taxes constantly levied in consequence of them, without their once thinking, either then, or at any other time, of censuring the practice, or condemning the mode as unconstitutional. It was also said, that different Parliaments, at different periods, had not only recognised the right, but gratefully acknowledged the benefit which the publick derived from the taxes levied, and the grants passed by the American Assemblies. As to the distinction taken, of a time of war, and the necessity of the case, they said it was frivolous and wholly groundless. The power of the Subject in granting, or of the Crown in receiving, no way differs, in time of war, from the same powers in time of peace; nor is any distinction on such a supposition made in the article of the Bill of Rights. They argued, therefore, that this article of the Bill of Rights is confined to what it was always thought confined, the prerogative in this Kingdom; and bound, indeed, the Crown; but could not, in securing the rights and liberties of the Subject in this Kingdom, intend to annihilate them every where else. That as the Constitution had permitted the Irish Parliament and American Assemblies to make grants to the Crown; and that experience had shewn, that these grants had produced both satisfaction and revenue, it was absurd to risk all in favour of theories of supremacy, unity, sovereign rights, and other names, which hitherto had led to nothing but confusion and beggary on all sides, and would continue to produce the same miserable effects as long as they were persisted in. That the mover had very wisely avoided these speculative questions, and confined himself to experience; and it would be well if they could persuade themselves to follow that example. The previous question was moved on the first proposition, and carried by 270 to 78," — Ann˙ Regis.