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Bill Read the Third Time


WEDNESDAY, April 5, 1775.

An engrossed Bill, to restrain the Trade and Commerce of New- Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, and South Carolina, to Great Britain, Ireland, and the British Islands in the West Indies, under certain conditions and limitations, was read the third time.

And a motion being made that the Bill do Pass;

Mr˙ Hartley spoke against it, as beyond measure cruel and oppressive. He observed, with great concern, that no power was vested any where to suspend the operations of the Bill, or to abate its rigour, in case America was willing to agree to certain temporary stipulations, till the claims of one country and the rights of the other, could be fully ascertained.

Lord North said, that it did not seem to him necessary that such a power should be vested in the King and Council; that the operations of the Bill would cease, nay, indeed, the Bill itself, exist or not exist, at the option of the Americans; for if they had a mind to seek the friendship and protection of Great Britain, which was a reconciliation he sincerely wished, they would comply with the conditions of the Bill, which were a free importation and exportation to and from the mother country as usual.

Sir William Mayne declared he did not mean to debate the principle of the Bill, and only differed as to the timing of it; that he was not in any respect altered in his sentiments as to what ought to be the conduct of this country towards America, but only wished that whatever measures were pursued, might be conducted in so temperate and moderate a manner as to induce the Americans to change their conduct towards Great Britain. He lamented that though the Boston Port Bill was well intended, yet ever since the carrying of it into execution things had gone from bad to worse in America; to the degree, that at this moment the Constitution of this country seemed to totter on its very basis; that, amidst the greatest provocation this country ever received, he wished to suspend the uplifted arm of power, and give the infatuated Americans time to reflect what they had been doing, and whither their phrenzy, if persisted in, must carry them; that, entertaining these sentiments, he could not give his affirmative to the Bill, especially as he thought it would rather tend to irritate than


reconcile; to unite in one common league, than to disunite the people of America.

Mr˙ Rigby pronounced the Americans to be in rebellion, and thought every Englishman ought to support the present measures; but be the event of our present disputes what it might, he never entertained a second opinion on the subject, and should never give up his sentiments upon any motive of a remote view of the consequences; for as the principles on which the present measure was taken up, appeared to him to be right, so upon a secondary consideration, he was resolved never to depart from it. He then entered into a history of the Stamp Act; said it was the work of a great Minister, and attributed all our present confusions to its repeal.

The Marquis of Granby. I rise to trouble the House with a few words on the Bill now before it. I have sat, sir, during the course of two divisions, without taking any part; even so much as giving a silent vote on any American question; because, sir, as I will fairly confess to you, I entered these walls with prejudices against the system Administration was pursuing; I thought it was but justice to hear the arguments that might be urged on both sides; to compare those arguments, and draw my opinion from that comparison. As to the Bill, immediately the object of our consideration, I think it, in every respect, so arbitrary, so oppressive, and so totally founded on principles of resentment, that I am exceedingly happy at having this publick opportunity of bearing my testimony against it in the strongest manner I am able. In God' s name, what language are you now holding out to America? Resign your property, divest yourselves of your privileges and freedom, renounce every thing that can make life comfortable, or we will destroy your commerce, we will involve your country in all the miseries of famine; and if you express the sensations of men at such harsh treatment, we will then declare you in a state of rebellion, and put yourselves and your families to fire and sword. And yet, sir, the noble Lord on the floor, has just told this House that a reconciliation is the sole object of his wishes. I hope the noble Lord will pardon me if I doubt the perfect sincerity of those wishes: at least, sir, his actions justify my doubts; for every circumstance in his whole conduct, with regard to America, has directly militated against his present professions: and what, sir, must the Americans conclude? Whilst you are ravaging their Coasts, and extirpating their Commerce, and are withheld only by your impotence from spreading fresh ruin, by the sword, can they, sir, suppose such chastisement is intended to promote a reconciliation, and that you mean to restore to their forlorn country those liberties you deny to their present possession; and in the insolence of persecution, are compassing Earth and Seas to destroy? You can with no more justice compel the Americans to your obedience, by the operation of the present measures, by making use of their necessities, and withholding from them that commerce on which their existence depends, than a ruffian can found an equitable claim to my possessions, when he forcibly enters my house, and with a dagger at my throat, or a pistol at my breast, makes me seal deeds which will convey to him my estate and property. [Mr˙ Rigby having declared the Americans to be in rebellion, Lord Granby, in answer, said his ideas of rebellion were totally different from Mr˙ Rigby' s. If, according to his ideas of rebellion, the Americans were in that state, he should be as warmly their opponent as he was now their friend; and then went on.]

I have a very clear, a very adequate idea of rebellion, at least according to my own principles; and those are the principles on which the Revolution was founded. It is not against whom a war is directed, but it is the justice of that war, that does or does not constitute rebellion. If the innocent part of mankind must tamely relinquish their freedom, their property, and every thing they hold dear, merely to avoid the imputation of rebellion, I beg, sir, it may be considered what kind of peace and loyalty there will then exist in the world, which consists only in violence and rapine, and is merely to be maintained for the benefit of robbers and oppressors. I hope, sir, I shall be believed when I assure you that I am as warm a friend to the interests of my country as any man in this House; but then it must be understood when those interests are founded in justice. I am not attached to any particular acre of land;


the farmer in Cumberland or Durham is as little connected with me as the peasant in America: it is not the ground a man stands on that attaches me to him; it is not the air he breathes that connects me with him, but it is the principles of that man, those independent, those generous principles of liberty which he professes, co-operating with my own, which call me forth as his advocate, and make me glory in being considered his friend. As for myself, sir, I am not in the least ashamed to avow that my attachment is to a noble Lord who has been, in my opinion, very unjustly reflected on in the course of this debate, (I mean Lord Chatham;) I am not even personally acquainted with the noble Lord; I do not know the inconsistencies of which he stands accused; but this, sir, I know, I shall not support his inconsistencies, I shall only support him in those principles which have raised his name to the elevation on which it is now placed in this country, and have so deservedly procured him the love and admiration of his fellow-citizens.

Sir, I shall not trouble this House any longer, as this matter has been so fully discussed, though I must confess I am not sorry a debate has taken place, because I was rather desirous of making a kind of political creed, some professions of my sentiments on this very important, this very serious national question. From the fullest conviction of my soul, I disclaim every idea, both of policy and right, internally to tax America. I disavow the whole system. It is commenced in iniquity; it is pursued with resentment; and it can terminate in nothing but blood. Under whatsoever shape in futurity it may be revived, by whomsoever produced and supported, it shall, from me, meet the most constant, determined, and invariable opposition.

Lord North said, that something having fallen from a noble Marquis which he thought a charge directly against his honour, he would vindicate himself from that charge. He insisted that the Resolution of the 20th February, and the present Bill, were by no means contradictory to each other; for the noble Marquis could not possibly believe that the Americans would comply with the terms of the Resolution, while they resisted the conditions of this Bill, which were no more than that the trade between both countries should be carried on in its usual manner.

Mr˙ Alderman Sawbridge spoke strongly against the Bill, observing, as it originated in manifest injustice, so it inflicted a punishment to the last degree cruel and oppressive. He hoped America would never tamely acquiesce to be dragooned and compelled to submit to terms as unjust as the power which dictated them was obnoxious to the natural rights of mankind.

Mr˙ Alderman Bull. I shall only mention some facts relating to one very important article, because it has been the occasion of the unhappy disputes with, and the violent prosecution of, the Americans. I mean the article of Tea. At the time the East India Company had in contemplation the sending a quantity of Tea to different parts of Europe, as well as to America, and to apply to Parliament for an Act for that purpose, I had the honour to be called upon for my opinion of the measure by a very respectable person in the direction of the Company, whose name I am ready to mention, if called upon by the House. My opinion then was, and I still think it not ill founded, that the scheme was so extravagantly wild that it was impossible it should ever be carried into execution; but if it could, it would injure, not benefit the Company, as they could not send their Tea to any market where it would bring so good a price as at home. Besides, it would be an act of great injustice to the Merchants here, who have always been used to buy for exportation at their sales. As to sending Tea to America, from a knowledge of their disposition, the gentleman was informed they would not receive it; they would look upon it as sent there, not to serve them, but to ensnare them; they would be exceedingly irritated; they would most certainly destroy it. An objection was, however, raised. What must the Company do with their great load of Tea, and how were they to raise the money they were so much distressed for? It was recommended to him to propose to the Court of Directors immediately to give out their declaration for two sales, the one in March, the other in September, and to put up their whole stock in hand; each sale, on a moderate computation, would produce about one million two hundred thousand Pounds; and as they would be in cash for the first of


them in about five months, they, the Company, perhaps might not be under the necessity of borrowing the one million four hundred thousand Pounds they then wanted. The quantity of Tea at that time in the Company' s hands was said to be sufficient for six years consumption, and that great part of it was rotting in their warehouses. The real fact, however, was this: the Company then had sixteen and a half millions Pounds weight, not any of which had been in their warehouse more than a year and a half, and the greater part was of the last year' s importation; none of it had suffered by keeping. The consumption, on the average, of the preceding five years, was eight millions per annum; so that the Company had in their warehouses a quantity sufficient only for two years, and not six years consumption.

If these sales had taken place, the price of Bohea Tea, the principal sort in demand for exportation, would have been reduced four or five Pence per pound, which probably might have increased the demand for exportation and home consumption together, even to twelve millions per annum. I am of this opinion, sir, because the four foreign East India Companies, viz: the Dutch, Danes, French, and Swedes, annually import more than eight millions, although it is well known they do not themselves consume near half that quantity; the remaining four or five millions they constantly import, for the sole purpose of smuggling it into England, Scotland, Ireland, and America. The quantity that we have exported on the average of the before mentioned five years, has been about one million four hundred thousand Pounds; but this would be greatly increased, the price being only twenty Pence, from which is to be deducted for the drawback, five per cent., which reduces it to fifteen Pence on board; and if we add to this even the fatal American three Pence, it will be only eighteen Pence. This price might, perhaps, have induced the Americans, as before, to receive the Tea from the Merchants, though not from the Company, and it would at once have put an end to all smuggling; for neither the Dutch or any other Company would think it worth their while to send Tea to America, to be sold under eighteen Pence per pound. I will not trouble the House with any observations on these facts; but I own I cannot be brought to believe that the Tea was sent to Boston to raise money for the Company, to get rid of their load of Tea, or to prevent smuggling, because each of those salutary ends might have been answered without injustice or offence to any individual. The purpose for which the Tea was sent to America, and the consequence, are evident now to every man' s understanding. For these reasons amongst others, I hitherto have, and shall continue, to the utmost of my power, to support the Americans, thus injured and oppressed by the cruel and vindictive measures of an Administration, whose whole conduct breathes the spirit of persecution and Popery.

Sir John Duntze said, that the Americans had, by their open violence and repeated acts of disobedience, forfeited the good will and protection of this country, and that it therefore became necessary for us to retaliate, in order to bring them back to a proper sense of their duty.

General Conway condemned the Bill in very explicit terms. He said, to be consistent, the House should either rescind, the Resolution of the 20th February, or suspend any farther proceedings on the present Bill, till the effect and event of that proposition were known, otherwise we might possibly be inflicting the most severe punishment on people who were at the same instant acting in the strictest conformity to what was solemnly laid down by this House as the great rule by which their duty and obedience were to be regulated. He concluded with lamenting the unhappy divided state of both countries, and expressing his fears of the dreadful consequences which must follow, should the sword be once drawn, and the whole Empire convulsed with all the horrours of a civil war.

Mr˙ Rigby said the Americans would not fight; they would never oppose General Gage with force of arms.

Sir Richard Sutton was strongly for passing the Bill.

Mr˙ T˙ Townshend observed, that the noble Lord (North) and his friends first created the necessity, and then defended the measure upon that very ground; that is, said he, we do a thing we should not have done, our first essay being imperfect, and not to be executed upon the plan we first formed, it then becomes necessary we should


do something else, if possible, more unjust than the former; so that, on the whole, we endeavour to carry into execution one act of injustice, by exercising another, thus become necessary to give it effect.

The question then being put, the House divided: Yeas, 192; Noes, 46.

So it was resolved in the Affirmative.

And that the Title be "An Act to restrain the Trade and Commerce of the Colonies of New-Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, and South Carolina, to Great Britain, Ireland, and the British Islands in the West Indies, under certain conditions and limitations."

Ordered, That Mr˙ Cooper do carry the Bill to the Lords, and desire their concurrence.