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A Circumstantial Account of the Proceedings of the North American Merchants


A circumstantial account of the Proceedings of the NORTH AMERICAN Merchants, held at the King' s Arms Tavern, CORNHILL, LONDON, on WEDNESDAY, 11 th of JANUARY, 1775.

There was a very numerous and respectable meeting of the Merchants, &c˙, trading to North America, consisting of between, four and five hundred, for the purpose of the Committee (appointed at the last meeting) reporting the particulars of a Petition to be presented to Parliament in the present alarming situation of American affairs.

The business of the meeting was opened about eleven o' clock, by the reading of the Petition, the substance of which was as follows:

"First, stating to the House, the several particulars of the extensive trade carried on between this country and America, as it respected the barter of commodities, the balance of cash, as well as the negotiation of exchange in


several parts of Europe; it next stated how this very extensive trade was hurt by the several Revenue Bills affecting North America, passed since the repeal of the Stamp Act, to the year 1773; it then concluded by praying redress in these particulars, as well as in the operation of all other Acts which may affect the general trade carried on between this country and North America."

The whole was couched in decent, manly terms; and in point of style, good sense and precision, shewed the Committee appointed for drawing it up every way equal to the great trust delegated to them.

As soon as the Petition was read, Mr˙ Haley made the following motion: "That the Petition entitled &c˙, &c˙, now read, be approved of. "This opened a very long, yet an able and candid debate.

Mr˙ Watson said he had no objection to the Petition then as it went; on the contrary he highly approved of it, yet he was for adding a clause where the late Quebec Bill should be particularly expressed, and where the very great constitutional, as well as commercial evils, resulting from that Bill should be marked out; that he saw no reason why so extensive a Province as Canada, the trade whereof was so very material to the interest of this country, should be left out of so great a question as the present; he therefore proposed a clause after, "the operation of all other Acts,"particularly specifying the late Quebec Bill.

Mr˙ Baker answered Mr˙ Watson, by first calling the recollection of the gentlemen present to the general wish thrown out last meeting, of the Committee' s avoiding every thing that was political in the Petition; he said that they had, in consequence, been very guarded in this particular; but however, to be as extensive as they could with prudence, they had still left an opening, by the words, "the operation of all other Acts,"for Counsel at the bar of the House to plead any inconveniences arising from the Quebec or other Acts; the Boston Port and Massachusetts Bay Bills were omitted for the same purpose, yet were by no means precluded, if the Committee should afterwards think proper to instruct their Counsel so, from being remonstrated against, either in part or in the whole.

Mr˙ Sargeant supported Mr˙ Baker, in a very eloquent and forcible manner and shewed, by fresh implications, that the words in the Petition, "as in the operation of all other Acts,"were fully competent to any clauses that could be added either in favour of Quebec or Boston.

Mr˙ Nutt acquainted the meeting, that probably he could reconcile this difference of opinion, by informing them, on almost positive grounds, that the King, by a clause in the Quebec Bill, empowering him to allow at his pleasure, of the trial by Juries, and the use of the Habeas Corpus Act, had either sent out, or was preparing to send out, an order for their continuing in full force, and that as the Quebec Bill was not to take place till the first of May next, the ill effect of that Bill in these two particulars would never operate; this being the case, he imagined it would be found less necessary to insist on adding the clause respecting Quebec. Several other gentlemen for these and other reasons, were for having no additions made to the Petition.

Mr˙ Watson replied to them, and urged with greater confidence, the necessity of particularizing Quebec. He said, though our present gracious Sovereign might feel for his Canadian subjects in allowing them the use of Juries and the Habeas Corpus Act, this Nation might one day or other have a Sovereign of a different way of thinking; he was therefore not for leaving things on such uncertain ground as the will of a Prince, but for having them established with more certainty and precision.

Mr˙ Sharp and some others agreed with Mr˙ Watson, particularly the former, who said, among other things, "that Canada was universally looked upon as a cudgel, in the hands of Government, against the rest of the Americans."

Mr˙ Creighton more than once attempted to meet the differences of the assembly, by complimenting, in high terms, the draught, purport, and extent of the Petition; and then expressing his wish, that three Canadian Merchants shpuld be added to the Committee, for the purpose of instructing Counsel touching those points, which Mr˙ Watson and his friends so much insisted on, by which they might bring about, equally as well, the effects they so much desired.


This debate continued several hours, in which Mr˙ Watson, and Mr˙ Baker, were principals, on different sides, at the close of it the question was put, and carried unanimously.

After this a motion was made by Mr˙ Watson, for entering into a Resolution, independent of the Petition, expressing the opinion of the meeting as to the evil consequences of the Quebec Bill. This, though in fact agreed to by almost every body, yet as they thought proper, for reasons already given, not to insert them in the Petition, it was urged by the majority present that such a Resolution would rather be out of place. Mr˙ Watson, after awhile, seeing the sense of the company lean this way, withdrew his motion.


A Resolution was then agreed to, "that the Petition be forthwith engrossed; that the Committee do attend for that purpose, and that three Canadian Merchants, Mr˙ Watson, Mr˙ Strettell, and Mr˙ Hunter, be added to the Committee already appointed for the purpose, of instructing Counsel and preparing such evidences and allegations as the Petition warranted them to support."

This Resolution was followed by another, "that the Petition after being engrossed, should lie at that house for signing; and that the Committee should afterwards advertise the meeting at large of the day they intended presenting it."

A motion of thanks to the Chairman being then unanimously agreed to, the assembly adjourned.