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Third Reading of the Bill and Debate

Mr. Dempster


The order of the day, for the third reading of the Bill, being read:

Mr˙ Dempster. I do not apprehend, Sir, that the Bill before you is at all adequate to the purpose intended, nor do I think that experience warrants the assertion, that a fair trial cannot be had in the Colonies. Surely, Sir, the bringing men over to England to be tried, is not only a direct breach of their constitution, but is a deprivation of the right of every British subject in America. I should have thought that a power of reprieve, lodged in the Governor, after conviction, would have been fully sufficient, without bringing men to England. Whenever murder is committed, it must inevitably go off with impunity; for whenever any person present shall find he is to go over the Atlantic as an evidence, to the detriment of his family and his fortune, there is no doubt but that he will evade the necessity of his appearance as an evidence. This, Sir, will be a means of subjecting the People of that country to assassination, in the room of legal trial; and the invariable consequence has always been, that when a fair trial cannot be procured, the revenge of the relations of the deceased will exercise itself in this kind of cruel assassination. I, perhaps, Sir, may be wrong in my ideas; but I have looked into the history of that country with care and circumspection, and it has inspired me with the highest veneration for those who were the first settlers; they emigrated when that Star Chamber doctrine was practised in this country. Oppressed as they thought themselves by the mother country, by the cruelty of those arbitrary laws, sooner than suffer themselves to be oppressed by tyranny, they choose rather to combat with tygers and Indians in America, than live in a place where oppression and tyranny ruled. It is no new thing, Sir, that they have refused to comply with the payment of taxes demanded from this country; this exemption is a very old demand of theirs, and supported by their charter. Imprisonment of two persons, who held this kind of doctrine, was made in the time of Sir Edmund Andrews, who was then Governor; and the Americans passed a law, declaring that this country had no right to tax; it is true, when that law came over here, it was rejected. Let gentlemen consider, that if we tax America at this present period, her trade and every thing else will decline. I think that Boston has the most merit with this country of any place I know; she is a most valuable ally, or a subordinate Colony; take it in either sense, her possession is inestimable; but I really fear very much, that the Americans are to be thus treated without the parties being heard. I do not like to see public liberty and the rights of persons infringed. There are two articles in this Bill, which I cannot blame the Americans for resisting: I mean that of the Council and the Judges being chosen by the Crown: the ancient way which their charter directed of chosing their Council, was far more eligible; they were men at a certain age, to which experience generally adds wisdom, that were elected Council; but this is a new system, that carries with it neither experience nor wisdom; and I think the change unnecessary, though not oppressive. I think the office of Sheriff is more oppressive, because he is an engine of power in the hands of the Governor; nor do I approve of taking away the town meetings; there is but one precedent of this kind to be found in history; but I could wish, on the present occasion, that a second had not been made. [He concluded


in praise of the character of Dr˙ Franklin, whom he called the ornament of human nature; and said he thought him highly praise-worthy, for those very acts for which he had been so much blamed.]

Mr. Grey

Mr˙ Grey. I think this House and the nation at large, owe their best thanks to the noble Lord who has brought forward this business; and I must allow, that nothing but necessity, in urgent cases like these, warrants a deviation from the constitution; the law should not be invaded on every frivolous pretence, but this requires the serious attention of the whole Legislature. It would be cruel to the last degree, when your subjects are employed in preserving the peace, not to give them the utmost security in the execution of their duty. But let me ask, Sir, in what situation will that Navy and Army be, that has no protection for the execution of the laws which you have vested in their hands? Will you leave them a sacrifice to the rapacity of the revengeful dispositions of the relations of those unhappy men who may fall by their hands, in the execution of their duty? I cannot think this Act will operate in any shape to the detriment of the People, if they return to their duty; if that is the case; if they do return, and be obedient, the Act will be a waste piece of paper; but the trial of persons in England will seldom take place, I apprehend, as nothing but the most absolute necessity will drive the Governor to have recourse to the Act.

Mr. Paulet

Mr˙ Paulet observed, that nothing was ever more just than the measure proposed in the Bill before the House; that it was the most cruel thing to let a man lie even one hour in prison, in expectation of being tried by a Jury whose minds were biased; but for the sake of justice, a voyage across the Atlantic would surely be thought, on such an account, an undertaking not pregnant with much danger.

Mr. Sawbridge

Mr˙ Sawbridge. I hope, Sir, the House will hear me a few words, as it is the last opportunity I shall have. The opposition I have given to these measures, does not proceed from a settled disposition against Administration, nor do I do it for the sake of popularity; it is for the love of that liberty which I have always been strengthened in, and bred up by education. I had rather bear the badge of the parish, than that of apostacy. It has been urged in debate, that this country has a right to pursue those measures adopted in the Bill, and that necessity is the ground and argument which urges it on; but pray, Sir, let me ask, who is to be the judge of that necessity? A nation, surely, cannot be called a free nation, where another has a right to draw money, out of their pockets; but I cannot understand how any one can agree with these measures, and deny the right of taxation. If you exercise an authority which does not belong to you, or if you force an illegal authority, they have a right to resist. I do not see any necessity for bringing over the People to be tried by a Jury in England; I think the Crown should have lodged a power in the Governor to pardon, and I should have thought it the brightest jewel in it on this occasion. You say, that the Governor is to use his discretion with regard to their having a fair trial; but by this Bill the Governor, I say, is not the judge of that, for it must be upon the oath of a witness; he must believe that witness, and no discretion is left in the Governor. No man will become a voluntary evidence on such an occasion; he will sooner fly from that situation, than be transported to England. By that means justice will be evaded, as evidence cannot be had, and the People will soon take upon themselves to revenge their own injuries.

Colonel Barré

Colonel Barré. Sir, I think it criminal to sit still upon the final decision of this question, as I cannot, in any shape, approve of this measure. I think the persons whom you employ to execute your laws, might have been protected in the execution of their duty in a less exceptionable manner than that Bill proposes. Your Army, Sir, in that country, has the casting voice; and it is dangerous to put any more power into their hands. Consider, Sir, how long they will be content with 4 per day; I am afraid not long. You have had one meeting already, you may soon have another; the People of America will receive these regulations as edicts from an arbitrary Government. The heaviest offence they have been guilty of is, that they have resisted that law which bears such an arbitrary cast. I want to know if we in this country had not resisted such arbitrary laws in certain ancient times, whether we should have existed as a House of Commons here this day? I object much


against the doctrine which I have heard laid down, that the particular exigency of the case countenanced the measure. I do not apprehend the Americans will abandon their principles; for if they submit, they are slaves: I therefore execrate the present measure, in the manner proposed.

Mr. Pulteney

The Bill was then read the third time.

Mr˙ Pulteney. Sir, I will comprise in a few words what I have to say: I do not apprehend that the Legislature can tax a particular county, without shewing some degree of partiality to others, nor can they justly do it. I think the principles of this Bill may be tolerably equitable, and I do believe it will produce a fair trial; but as there are some defects in the form in which it now stands, with regard to the errors and flaws that may be in an indictment I will offer a clause, by way of rider, to give power to a Jury in England to find a Bill of indictment, in order to correct such a deficiency.

Mr˙ Pulteney, then offered the following clause, which was thrice read, and agreed to by the House, to be made part of the Bill, by way of rider:

"That in case, on account of any error or defect in any indictment, which, in virtue or under the authority of this Act, shall be transmitted to any other Colony, or to Great Britain, the same shall be quashed, or judgment thereon arrested, or such indictment judged bad upon demurrer, it shall and may be lawful to prefer a new indictment or indictments against the person or persons accused in the said Colony, to which such indictment, so quashed or adjudged bad, shall have been transmitted, or before the Grand Jury of any county in Great Britain, in case such former indictment shall have been transmitted to Great Britain, in the same manner as could be done in case the party accused should return to the place where the offence was committed; and the Grand Jury and Petty Jury of such other Colony or county in Great Britain shall have power to find and proceed upon such indictment or indictments, in the same manner as if the offence, by such indictment or indictments charged, had been committed within the limits of the Colony or county for which such Juries shall respectively be empannelled to serve."

Mr. Fuller

Various other amendments were agreed to by the House, and the Bill was amended at the table accordingly.

Mr˙ Fuller. Sir, I will now take my leave of the whole plan, and will give you my free opinion of it: you will commence your ruin from this day, if you do not repeal the tax which has created all this disturbance; you will have no degree of confidence with the Americans, People will not trust you when your credit is gone; you may, I say, date your ruin from this day; and, I am sorry to say, that not only this House has fallen into that error, but that the People of this country approve of the measure. I find the People wish for the measure proposed in this Bill, as much as the majority here: it is not all owing to the junto of a ministry that these measures are taken; it is the People at large who, I am sorry to say, are misled: they are in an error, but a short time will prove the evil tendency of this Bill. I think the present Bill bears the least injury of any of the three; but if ever there was a nation running headlong to its ruin, it is this.

Mr. H. Cavendish

Mr˙ H˙ Cavendish. Sir, I am very glad to hear that there is a majority in this House for these measures; but am much better pleased that the country in general approve of them in as high a degree.

Bill Passed

The question then being put, that the Bill do Pass? the House divided;

Yeas 127; Nays 24.

So it was resolved in the Affirmative.

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