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Read the second time, and moved to commit the Bill


Friday, December 15, 1775.

The Order of the Day, for the second reading of the Bill, being read:

The Bill was accordingly read a second time.

It was then moved, "To commit the Bill."

The Duke of Manchester said: I rise, my Lords, to give a negative to this bill, because, with all the attention I have been able to bestow in considering and examining its contents, I cannot discover on what ground of policy, justice, or expediency, it can be fairly supported. I must observe that the manner of hurrying, and the season of the year at which this bill has been introduced into Parliament, in remarkable thin Houses, at a time, I will maintain, when no business of importance ought to be brought under your Lordships' consideration, unless in cases of the most urgent necessity, is to me one very great objection to sending it to a Committee. If we examine this bill, my Lords, we shall find the great principle of it to be founded in the most aggravated injustice. We shall find it involving the innocent and guilty in one common punishment; and, above all, we must lament to see publick and parliamentary encouragement given to the subjects of one part of this great empire to rob, destroy, and pillage the other. Looking, again, to the sanction of the bill, and to what is virtually to force it into operation, we find one of the fundamentals of this Constitution invaded. The unhappy people are not only destined to destruction, they are likewise to be robbed and plundered; and, to insure the execution of the measure, the plunder is to be shared among those who are to be employed to effect this barbarous business. The matter I allude to, my Lords, is that clause which authorizes the seizure of every species of American property which may be found floating on the sea, or in their ports and harbours; and shares the spoils thus taken among the captors. This, my Lords, I will maintain, is a direct violation of that yet sacred palladium of our liberties, the Bill of Rights; a palladium which it is not in your Lordships' power to alter, violate, or abridge, without an open and direct invasion of the Constitution.


That invaluable, inalienable, and constitutional law, my Lords, enacts that the property of no subject of this realm shall be seized or confiscated without previous trial or conviction. Is that the case here? Will any of your Lordships say that the clause of this bill which gives the seizure to the captors is not the most violent outrage on property that can possibly be conceived? In the first instance, the ships, goods, &c˙, are seized and turned over to the Admiralty Court, where they are condemned of course. Thus, at one instant the mischief is done, and the means of obtaining justice completely defeated. Part of my leisure hours, my Lords, I dedicate to reading; and since this bill made its appearance in the other House, I have looked into books the most likely to instruct me on this head, to see if history could furnish me with a precedent of a similar nature; I found but one that bore the least resemblance, and that was the conduct of the second Emperor of China of the Tartar race, who issued an edict directing that all the inhabitants on the sea-coasts should burn and destroy their towns and their shipping. The edict was punctually and rigorously executed, and several thousand people lost their lives in the cruel devastation. This matter now alluded to applies equally to the justice and policy of the bill. My Lords, I think it is impossible to hear or read of the present struggle of America in resisting the oppressions she daily suffers, and the accumulated honours with which she is threatened, and not be highly interested in the event. I feel similar impressions, but in a stronger degree, to those made on me in reading of the actions of Alexander, as described by Quintus Curtius, or the issue of the battle of Pharsalia, where Caesar gave the world a master. It is impossible, while the scene is yet passing, not to be deeply affected in the event of the present measures. My Lords, I should be obliged to any of the noble Lords in Administration to rise and inform me what is the true ground on which they mean to rest the motives of this ruinous and unnatural war. Is it for a revenue? No; that has been disclaimed by them in this House on the first day of the present session; and it has been since frequently and openly avowed that no revenue is expected. "It is (said they) no object; and if it were, for the present such a scheme would be impracticable and impolitick. We want America only to acknowledge a constitutional dependancy on this country, an acknowledgment of the power of this Legislature; and we then wish to give them perfect security and full enjoyment of their subordinate constitutional rights." Does such a language as I have now repeated, comport with the principles and apparent intentions of this bill? Are any offers held out to induce the Americans to return to their duty, and acknowledge their subordinate dependancy? Is the claim of taxation given up, or even suspended, in order to remove the apprehensions such a claim has justly excited in that country? No, my Lords, the whole question lies at issue, as when the differences first arose, and war, as against alien enemies, is, by this bill, denounced and publickly declared, without a single syllable of conciliation or concession; and that with an express intention of supporting, in the most unqualified manner, every one claim hitherto set up by this country over that. When a rebellion raged in the northern part of this Island — a rebellion fomented and carried on against the establishment in Church and State — no such prohibition as the present was thought on. Many of the people in that part of the kingdom remained firm and loyal. In such a case, an act of this nature would be impolitick and unjust. We have been told frequently, by several noble Lords on the other side of the House, that great numbers of people in America continue friends to Government. Why, then, punish them? Why adopt such a plan of indiscriminate injustice? Why involve the innocent and guilty in one general judgment? This bill may establish in future a claim, at least an expectation, which I dare say your Lordships do not foresee. Suppose, my Lords, another rebellion should break out in the northern or southern part of this Island: would not the soldiery, in such a case, have as good a right to expect the plunder and confiscations consequent on the reduction of the rebels, as the seamen are given by this bill? I see no reason that they should not. It would operate as an encouragement, and every motive would apply in one case that can possibly operate in the other. Every argument that can be urged in behalf of the innocent and unoffending part of the inhabitants


still more strongly, if possible, operates in behalf of the West-India Islands, which, by this bill, are to be included in the general proscription., without even so much as the slightest imputation of guilt. The West-Indians, too, are to be starved and ruined to effect the desirable purposes of Administration. Destitute of provisions and lumber, they cannot exist; or, supposing they could procure the former, what are they to do with their crops? Or, on supposing they could preserve their crops, which it is well known they cannot, how is the produce to be exported to the European markets? Having said thus much to the general policy and justice of the bill, give me leave to say a word or two to the expediency of it. Though the bill were perfectly justifiable in every other respect, this, at least, will deserve your Lordships' most mature deliberation: what force can you send out, with safety to yourselves, sufficient to carry this mass of oppression into execution? Recruits cannot be procured on any terms. Germans, it is well known, will not answer your purpose. The Russians cannot assist you, as they are likely to have employment enough nearer home; besides, Administration affect to disclaim ever having any such intention, though I believe the contrary is well known to be true. Whence, then, are you to draw all your force? By the complexion of this bill, I should be inclined to think the whole weight of this business is thrown on the Navy; but will your Lordships think it prudent to leave yourselves in a great measure defenceless at home, while the affairs of the North of Europe present themselves in their present form? I believe not. A storm, I am well informed, is gathering in that quarter. Russia and Sweden are making preparations for war. Prussia has interfered; and France, in case of an actual rupture, will give Sweden its promised protection, and that by a fleet. In such an event I shall not insist that a British fleet will become necessary in the Baltick; because I presume that none of your Lordships can imagine that Great Britain would remain inactive, and see France send a naval force into the Northern Seas; and that to act against the power in Europe with which she stands most closely connected and allied. My Lords, I shall not detain your Lordships any longer. I fear I have trespassed much too far already on your Lordships' patience. I shall therefore sit down, with making an observation on the concluding clause of this bill: it is, the empowering the King to grant pardons to persons of whom you know nothing. In my opinion it is a very improper and a very dangerous extension of prerogative. I have no fear that his Majesty will make a bad use of it. I am sure he will not designedly; but I contend that a Prince, even of the best talents and first-rate powers of discrimination, cannot attain such a knowledge of the abilities and characters of the persons to be appointed under this commission as to prevent his being imposed on and deceived in the recommendations made to him; and that, consequently, the power is an improper one, because, from the very nature of it, with the best intentions in the Prince, it is likely to be abused. For this, and the other reasons before stated, I am against committing this bill.

Lord Lyttelton. I confess I am much astonished at the two assertions the noble Duke, who rose to oppose this bill, sat out with: that the bill had been brought in at an improper season, and had been carried through thin Houses. For my part, I beg leave to think very differently from his Grace — at least to draw very different conclusions. The necessity of the present bill justifies the bringing it in at the time; and I imagined I should never hear the objection of non-attendance arise from that side of the House. If the bill has been badly attended on the part of Opposition, in the other House, whose fault is that? Is a breach of publick duty in them to be imputed as a crime to their adversaries? I should imagine it is rather an argument in the favour of Administration. If we turn to the other part of the noble Duke' s assertion, we shall find it equally ill-founded. The bill took a due time in passing through its several stages, and was fully and solemnly debated in its progress, clause by clause. The noble Lord who conducts the publick business of the nation in the House where it originated, sustained the whole weight of opposition, obviated the several objections that were made to it in the course of those debates, and convinced the independent part of the House of its utility and necessity. Such being the circumstances attending this bill, I am authorized to say, that it was


neither brought in at an improper season, nor was it indecently hurried. No charge of the latter kind can, in my opinion, therefore, be made against Administration; on the contrary, it is well known, and now confessed on all hands, (indeed the noble Lords on the other side have urged it as a fault that Administration have committed,) that they delayed instead of hurried the necessary measures for reducing this obstinate and rebellious people, from motives of lenity, and wishing to prevent the effusion of blood, and the horrid devastation consequent on a civil war. And I am not certain that all the mischiefs that have since happened may not, in a great measure, be attributed to mistaken motives of humanity. The noble Duke says, the present bill, by confiscating the property of the Americans, is a violation and invasion of the Bill of Rights, because it gives the property taken to the captors, without a legal previous conviction. Does not the preamble of this bill affirm the Americans to be in open rebellion? Is not, then, the proof of the property following such a declaration of the Legislature, and that founded on innumerable acts of hostility committed against the King and Parliament, a full and legal conviction? My Lords, it will be said, perhaps, that America is not in rebellion. What, then, can we call rebellion, if this be not? They have attacked our troops, seized the King' s forts and military magazines; they have, as far as was in their power, cut themselves off from this country, by prohibiting every kind of trade and commercial intercourse with it. If this be not a state of open war, hostility, and defiance, I cannot tell what is. Have not those unnatural Colonists to rebellion added all the circumstances of rapine and publick robbery? Have not they been base enough, under the treacherous pretence of defending the Canadians, to commit the most notorious acts of oppression and injustice? And have not the people of Canada been compelled to take up arms against them, in order to resist the universal brigandage that must have been the consequence, if they any longer continued passive, or did not rise in defence of their property, daily wrested out of their hands by the most shameful acts of violence? I lately saw a letter from that country, in which this reason is directly assigned: that at length they found it necessary to arm and defend themselves (the words were the very terms I have now used — contre brigandage) against this publick robbery and extortion. My Lords, the noble Duke tells you that a storm is gathering in the North, which may find sufficient employment for our fleet in Europe. Are, then, all the terrours of a rupture with France, in case this war should continue for any time, at once abandoned by his Grace and his friends on the other side of the House? and do they now falsify their own predictions, delivered with so much confidence, in order to hold up fresh bugbears of their own creating? We have now no longer any fears of an invasion from France. Our coasts are no longer in danger from that formidable enemy, who, according to the noble Duke' s information, is to be employed elsewhere. Sweden and Russia are preparing to attack each other. Prussia and France are to take respective sides in this quarrel. What, then, does this amount to, but that France, jealous of the increasing power of Russia, and in compliance with her engagements entered into with Sweden, will take a part in those disputes? Does not this prove to a demonstration that France, operated on by her jealousies, and obliged by her treaties with Sweden, can never think of preventing or interrupting us in the prosecution of reducing our rebellious subjects? Such an attempt, would be madness in any event, but, on the present occasion, would be directly militating against her own views. But supposing, my Lords, that the matter really stood as the noble Lords in Opposition have frequently stated it, in the course of the last and present session; I will suppose, what I am sure is not the case, that it was both the interest and intentions of France and Spain to prevent us from reducing our rebellious Colonists into a state of legal obedience and constitutional submission; and that, if we persisted in our declared resolution of asserting our rights, we must expect to be engaged in a war with the united force of the House of Bourbon: would that be a motive with your Lordships for submitting to your rebellious subjects in the present contest? I think it would not. I am sure it ought not. If a dread of a war with those Powers should be a sufficient reason for such a disgraceful, spiritless conduct, I am well convinced it would have a


directly contrary effect. Those Powers would soon conclude that a nation which had not power or force sufficient to coerce its own members, would be no longer a formidable enemy. They would look upon you as an abject, tame, mercenary people, who, from a mere love of lucre, would consent to sacrifice all the pride, dignity, and superior interest of yourselves and posterity, rather than suffer a temporary inconvenience, or forego for a while the advantages derived from a commercial intercourse with your Colonies. They, in fine, would look on you as a nation of merchants, from whom nothing was to be feared; totally emptied of that spirit of warfare on every proper occasion — that martial ardour, native prowess, and thirst of fame, which have hitherto rendered you justly formidable and terrible to your enemies. Therefore I contend, my Lords, that it is doubly incumbent on you to exert yourselves, even as a means of keeping your natural enemies and ambitious neighbours in that state of awe and reverence towards you which will be always one of the best bulwarks of the national safety, and your own domestick tranquillity.

My Lords, though I wish sincerely that America, should she persist obstinately to resist the constitutional and equitable claims of this country, may be compelled to acknowledge them, yet I do not desire that the people of that country should be abridged of their ancient privileges — such, I mean, as are consistent with the common interests of both countries; such as it is proper for us to grant or confirm, and for them to retain or enjoy; and whenever they return to a proper sense of their duty, I shall very readily give my support to any plan which may be the most likely to heal the unhappy wounds that have been already given, and for receiving them once more into the bosom of the mother country. The noble Duke has bestowed the hardest names he could possibly invent on this bill; and, to show the folly as well as injustice of it, asks what it is we are contending for. Says the noble. Duke, the claim of taxation has been given up; it has been relinquished on the idea of its impracticability and inexpediency. I deny it. I contend it never has. And we know that the main support given to it in the other House, as well as to the general measures respecting America, was on the supposition that a revenue is expected to be obtained from America, towards alleviating part of the heavy burdens at present borne by this country. We know these are the wishes and sentiments of the country gentlemen in the other House — men of the most independent principles and most ample fortunes in the kingdom. I will not pretend to say to what amount or in what mode America ought to be compelled to contribute. Perhaps, in their present state and condition, the assistance they would be able to give to the mother country would be but small; but I insist a foundation ought to be laid in the first instance, which should keep a proportion with their abilities; and that it should be framed with a particular view to that object, so as to oblige them to share the burdens, in proportion as they shared and enjoyed the advantages of this Government. I do not pretend to point out the properest or most expedient mode of executing this plan: whether by taxes or customs, commercial duties, or by requisition. Those are questions of policy that do not interfere with the principle it is our business first to establish — the principle of compelling them to acknowledge the right; afterwards it will be time enough to look to the policy and the most expedient means of effectually carrying it into execution, under the consideration of the general interests of the empire, as well as to the local circumstances applying to the particular situation of either or both countries.

The Duke of Richmond. I entirely agree with the noble Duke, who rose to oppose the committing of this bill, in every particular opinion he delivered on it. I think it a most unjust, oppressive, and tyrannical measure. It will be therefore understood, my Lords, that in the course of what I shall offer against any clause, which, on account of its cruelty and injustice, may strike me more particularly, that when I dwell on that point, I by no means approve of those other parts on which I shall forbear to animadvert, or perhaps slightly pass over.

I perceive, my Lords, that this bill is a formal denunciation of war against the Colonies; and, on that ground, is not to be combatted with arguments only applicable to a state of tranquillity, or even some sorts and degrees of civil disorder. Though I totally disapprove of such a war, and


the principle on which it is entered into, I am ready to confess that many things are justifiable in such a state of things, on which the most obdurate and inhuman minds would contemplate with horrour in any other. I know that it is looked upon not only justifiable and gallant, but an act of meritorious duty, for an officer or soldier to disguise himself in woman' s clothes, and, in that disguise, to stab a sentinel on his post. I know, too, that men of the highest and most exalted honour have not scrupled to come at secrets under the sacred seal of confidence, and turn the information to the destruction of their enemies, when it was believed that those acts of horrour and treachery promised to be means of promoting the designs, and furthering the views and success of their friends, and the cause they were engaged in. But, my Lords, where no view of this kind can be answered, where no one desirable purpose can be obtained, I shall always oppose an act of wanton cruelty, and, I may add, on this occasion, of impolicy; as I will venture to predict, it will only exasperate those against whom it is intended, and render them more desperate, determined, and enraged, against their merciless persecutors and oppressors. It is the clause I have now under my eye, for compelling such persons as may be taken in the ships and vessels described in this bill, to enter on board his Majesty' s ships-of-war. Such a compulsion is, in my opinion, a most aggravated act of cruelty. You not only strip them of their property, but by violence force them, at the peril of capital punishment, to serve you, as being under the act of Parliament for regulating our naval forces, and thus make them liable to suffer as deserters, contrary to the established usage observed in respect of men pressed into his Majesty' s service. You even do worse: you compel them to fight against their fathers, brothers, and nearest relations; and that, too, contrary to the conviction of their own consciences; and should they refuse to execute the barbarous service with rigour and punctuality, you are then authorized, by the law just mentioned, to shoot them for a breach of duty. This, my Lords, if I had no other objection to the bill, I must confess, operates very forcibly on my mind; and I would recommend to the noble Lords in Administration, to amend or totally omit this clause in the committee, and not, by a wanton, unnecessary act of power, add to the horrours consequent on a war of so cruel and barbarous a nature. I beg leave to remind your Lordships once more, that I do not mean, by pointing to this clause, to give any sanction to any one part of the bill. All I would wish is, to intimate to its friends and supporters that this bloody clause, this provision of wanton barbarity, even on their own principles, is totally unnecessary. The noble Lord says, the present measures pursuing against America are popular, and that Opposition have taken up, for once, the unpopular side of the question. I fairly assent, in part, to the noble Lord' s assertion; for I believe the people were never more divided in their sentiments than at present. But while I allow this, I do not assent to the assertion in the latitude the noble Lord has stated it. In the words of a noble Lord in a former debate, [Lord Camden,] we have scarcely seen an address that has not spawned a petition. We have been told by several noble Lords in Administration, that America, too, is divided. And I believe it may be; at least we have many reasons to believe that they are far from being unanimous. What will, in all probability, be the consequence of this bill, but at once to put an end to all divisions, and to render them unanimous? Yet suppose the contrary: will not this bill involve those who think this country in the right — those who have retained their loyalty, and remained firm in their obedience — in one common punishment with the most determined, open, and violent enemies and opposers of the British Parliament? The former will be liable to have their ships seized, their goods and merchandises confiscated, their persons pressed, as well as the latter. Besides, I believe this clause is contrary to the usual mode adopted in regard to persons pressed to serve aboard in his Majesty' s ships-of-war, who are never subjected to capital punishments for desertion. The noble Lord has given, as a proof of the general opinion of the people respecting this war, and particularly those concerned in the West-India trade, that if the ruin of the West-India Islands was to be a consequence of it, the people of a borough in his neighbourhood (the town of Bewdley) would never have taken the part they have done; a town which his Lordship says carries on a twelfth part of the


export trade to those Islands. I admire the noble Lord' s accuracy of computation. It is the first time that I have heard a matter of such importance so minutely and correctly stated; and it is the first time I ever heard that Bewdley was a place of such consequence, or that it carried on so great and extensive an export trade. But, my Lords, allowing that the borough of Bewdley advised with the noble Lord, and offered to address his Majesty unsolicited, as his Lordship says; supposing likewise that they were unanimous in their sentiments; I still beg leave to think that the West-India planters, and the great body of merchants concerned in the West-India trade in the cities of London and Bristol, are full as respectable an authority as the addresses from the town of Bewdley; and to show that the present bill will very materially affect the Sugar Islands, should it be passed into a law, they appeared the last year at your Lordships' bar, and this year at the bar of the other House; but I believe they will hardly trouble your Lordships on the present occasion, for experience has taught them to despair of obtaining any sort of redress. It is too often a misfortune in this country for persons to entertain very different ideas, when in and out of employment. I heard the noble Lord with great pleasure on the first of the session express sentiments of a very different nature; and still retaining my former opinions, I cannot say but I approved much better of the speech then delivered than of the sentiments now so warmly and so ably urged by his Lordship. When I make this cursory observation, I cannot but suppose that his Lordship' s change of opinion has arisen purely from conviction. On the whole, my Lords, I pronounce this bill, both in principle and in all its provisions and clauses, like those it is to succeed, to be fraught with all possible injustice and cruelty. I do not think the people of America in rebellion, but resisting acts of the most unexampled cruelty and oppression. [Here a cry of order, order!] I do not retract a syllable of what I have said. I think I am justified in the expression, by the uniform custom and usage of Parliament, which secures to its members the freedom of debate; or why else are they at all permitted to deliver their opinions? If the injustice of the bill be manifest, because it proceeds on an idea which is false in fact — that the Colonies are in open rebellion, the provisions of it are no less cruel. They subject the property of the innocent and unoffending to confiscation, without a trial; they give an undue preference to the Navy over the Army, or else establish a precedent of a most dangerous and alarming tendency, that of giving the possessions of one part of the subjects of the same empire to those employed to reduce them; but, more than all, they authorize an act of the most wanton and horrid cruelty — that of obliging such as are taken in the act of trading, for their maintenance and support, to enter and serve on board his Majesty' s ships-of-war.

Lord Lyttelton. I do not at all think it decent or Parliamentary to allude to anything said in a former debate; I am sure such a conduct has always been discountenanced in this House. I am happy, however, in seeing so full a bar, that I may have an opportunity of exculpating myself from charges and insinuations equally ill-founded and unjust. I cannot say that I literally remember the words that fell from me on the occasion alluded to; but I think my memory will sufficiently serve me to recollect the material scope and tendency of what I then urged. In relation to the foreign troops, I thought then, and I have not since changed my opinion, that the previous consent of Parliament was necessary to legalize that measure; that nothing could justify it but the necessity; and that an act of indemnity was requisite, in order to quiet the just apprehensions which such a measure ought to occasion in the breast of every person who wished well to the Constitution of this country, as established at the Revolution, if the necessity was not stated as the only true ground of justification. What happened afterwards? A bill of indemnity was brought into and passed the other House; it came to a third reading in this House; and such was the extraordinary conduct of the noble Lords in Opposition that they opposed it; and several Lords in Administration uniting with them on a different ground, the bill was lost and rejected unanimously. Whether the noble Duke' s friends and partisans, or I, acted most consistently on that occasion, I submit to your Lordships. As to the general measures to be pursued against America, I will


remind your Lordships, that I voted and spoke uniformly in the sentiments I have this day maintained, till the first day of the present session; and on that day, too, I only differed from Administration because I thought measures of such wide and important extent, recommended from the Throne, called for information the Ministers seemed unwilling to give, or absolutely refused. Ignorant as I then was, I very properly refused to support measures the object of which, and the means of executing, I was totally a stranger to. On that ground alone I refused to co-operate with Administration. Here the matter rested, till his Majesty' s servants thought proper to give me that kind of information I thought necessary to direct me in my future conduct. They were pleased to repose a confidence in me, which I hope and trust I shall never abuse, and which perfectly satisfied me that their views were ultimately founded in wisdom, and directed to such objects as promised to give and ensure the most happy and desirable termination to the present unhappy disputes. Thus convinced of the rectitude and wisdom of Administration, I accepted of the place I now enjoy, but upon no other terms but those I have mentioned. I have always acted, and shall continue to act on the most conscientious motives, and upon reasons of the most perfect conviction. I do assure your Lordships, that I have never swerved from my integrity in a single instance. As; to the place I have been appointed to, I received it as a mark of his Majesty' s most gracious inclination towards me. I have always looked upon it, in point of emolument, to be a matter of very trivial consideration. My fortune is too considerable to regard it in any other light. I did not seek it. I did not act the servile part of a placeman or a pensioner, by meanly stooping to apply and beg for it; and expect and think I have a right not to be included among such as do; for if it was an object of moment, which it is not, I never shall sacrifice my opinion to any personal or private consideration. I own I am greatly astonished to hear the noble Duke, who spoke last, affirm that America is not at present in a state of rebellion, though his Grace knows that the Colonists have been declared Rebels by the most solemn declarations Parliament is capable of expressing; by acts of the whole Legislature, stamped with the authority of King, Lords and Commons. This, my Lords, I think is a precedent that should not be endured in this House; and, till the authority of it is again restored, I shall never think that we can expect to have a proper obedience paid to the dignity of Parliament. I think that laws, the justice of which are arraigned and condemned by some of the very persons who are supposed to have a hand in framing and assenting to them, will always lose a considerable part, if not all, their efficacy, while such liberties are permitted to be wantonly taken with them. I know if I were an American, and retained any doubt of the part I ought to take on the present occasion, and were to learn that a noble Lord in this House contended that the measures proposed by this bill were founded in injustice and cruelty, and that opposition to such measures was justifiable, I must confess it would go a great way in satisfying and removing my doubts, and determining my future conduct. I perfectly coincide in the opinion of Cicero, who was an actor in the scenes immediately preceding the destruction of the liberties of Rome, that such an improper licentious use of liberty is totally destructive of its essence. His expression was extremely applicable on the present occasion, Immoderata licentia conscionis. As well, therefore, on that account, as the general impropriety of such a conduct, I must tell the noble Duke that, if he should repeat the same sentiments, I mean to take the sense of the House, whether it be consistent with the decorum and dignity of their proceedings, to permit such an improper liberty of speech to pass without a proper animadversion and censure.

The Duke of Richmond. I imagine, if the noble Lord had properly conceived my meaning, he could never have possibly drawn such inferences from my expressions. What I said then, and what I still maintain, is, that, as a member of this House, I have a full right, as long as the freedom of debate is held sacred, to deliver my opinion without reserve. The point immediately under the consideration of the House is the present bill; the bill asserts that the Americans are in rebellion: I say they are not, and state that as my reason for opposing it. Is this indecent? Is this unparliamentary, or contrary to the uniform and established usages of


this House? The noble Lord says that I ought and am bound to confine myself to the immediate subject of debate; and that I am disorderly, and deserve the censure of your Lordships, should I violate the usual mode of debating questions in this House. In this I perfectly agree with his Lordship; but I should be much obliged to the noble Lord to direct me how to proceed, so as to debate, and yet entirely keep clear of the subject. For instance, I should particularly thank him if he would instruct me how to express my dislike to the bill, without pointing out the grounds and motives of that dislike. I think the bill, in its principle and all its parts, unjust, impolitick, and inexpedient: how, then, can I support my assertion, but by arguing against its impolicy, injustice, and inexpediency? But, says the noble Lord, though you oppose the bill, and disapprove of it, you should not arraign acts of Parliament; you should not question nor condemn the acts of King, Lords and Commons; for so long as they remain and continue to be the law of the land, it is indecent and unparliamentary to find fault with them. Does his Lordship mean to push this doctrine as far as it will go; or does he wish to employ it only to a particular purpose, to answer that of the present debate? In either event, I fancy his Lordship will find himself much mistaken. For instance, I say the present bill is cruel, oppressive, and tyrannick. I contend, that the resistance made by the Colonists is in consequence of other acts equally oppressive, cruel, and tyrannick; and thus I prove that this resistance is not rebellion, but that the Americans are resisting acts of violence and injustice; consequently, that such resistance is neither treason nor rebellion; but is perfectly justifiable in every possible, political, and moral sense. The noble Lord seems desirous of calling the censure of the House on me. If I have been disorderly, I am ready to abide by the sense of it. I think I have not; and, relying on that opinion, I neither withdraw nor retract my former expressions; and am very ready to indulge his Lordship, by taking the sense of the House, whether or not I deserve its censure.

The Earl of Denbigh. As an old member of this House, I think, with the noble Lord who spoke early in this debate, that the expression of the noble Duke is extremely reprehensible and disorderly. The noble Duke may, it is true, deliver his opinion freely on the question immediately before the House, be it what it may; but I contend that he is bound to confine himself solely to that, and not to go out of it. Nor is any Lord, in debate, warranted in charging an act of the King, Lords and Commons, with tyranny and injustice. If this licentious use of the freedom of debate were indulged, it is impossible to say where it might stop. Any noble Lord might rise in his place, and affirm that his Majesty was an usurper, and that George III had no right to the crown of this realm. I contend, therefore, that by the laws and Constitution of this realm, any expression may be as well justified, under the claim of exercising the privilege of speech, as that America is not in rebellion, or that resistance to the acts of the British Parliament is no more than resistance to fee most wanton acts of tyranny and oppression; and I do openly contend, that those who defend rebellion, are themselves little better than rebels; and that there is very little difference between the traitor and he who openly or privately abets treason.

The Duke of Richmond. The noise your Lordships have heard has reached below the bar, and must convince you that the noble Earl who spoke last has been heard there. But I will tell his Lordship, that I am not to be intimidated or deterred from my duty by loud words. Such exertions of mere sound will not prevent me from punctually performing my duty. The noble Earl says I have explained away my meaning. I believe his Lordship would not have maintained such an assertion if he knew properly the difference between explaining and explaining away. The noble Earl, as a collateral proof of his knowledge of the forms and orders of this House, says he is an old member. I believe I am almost as old a member as his Lordship; at least, I have sat near twenty years here; and I cannot be persuaded that I have offended against any established rule or form of this House. As to the point of explaining away my meaning, I must remind his Lordship, that I do not mean to retract anything I have said; and if he has properly attended to my explanation, he will be convinced that what I asserted at both times substantially correspond with


each other; if he should think otherwise, I now take the opportunity of informing the noble Earl that I strictly adhere to the first expressions I used, and am ready to abide the sense of your Lordships, who are to determine whether or not I have transgressed. As to the expression of traitor, the noble Earl has so freely applied, I believe there are no traitors in this House now-a-days.

The Earl of Sandwich. I am an older member of this House than either the noble Duke or noble Earl. I have sat here these seven-and-thirty years, and am happy in testifying, since my first knowledge of Parliament, that I never saw the debates in this House conducted with greater propriety and decorum during my acquaintance with it, than in the course of this business respecting America. I am, my Lords, extremely unhappy when I am witness to such altercations as these; they always impede publick business, answer no one substantial or beneficial purpose whatever, and are only productive of ill-humour. As to the point of order, if I may be permitted to state my pretensions, as one of the old, if not the oldest member of this House, I have always seen it observed, as a constant rule of debate, never to condemn any act of Parliament unless on a motion for its repeal. In every other respect, I am of opinion that the noble Duke was perfectly justifiable, so long as he confined himself to the subject-matter of the bill; but I, at the same time, contend, that he has no right to go out of the question to investigate or deliver his sentiments upon points not under the consideration of the House. As some objections have been stated against this bill which immediately apply to the business of the department over which I have the honour to preside, I look upon myself particularly called upon to give every satisfaction in my power.

Two objections have been stated against the present bill by the two noble Dukes who have opposed its commitment. The first noble Duke complains of the injustice of this bill, because it gives the spoils taken from the enemy to the captors. Is this unusual? I am sure it is not. It has been so during the last two wars carried on by this country. I do not know of a more meritorious set of men than our seamen, nor more deserving of every degree of publick encouragement; besides the general motives of executing their duty with attention and punctuality, the prospect of sharing the captures among the officers and seamen will be a very great means of speedily manning our Navy without expense. It has likewise been much relied on by the noble Lords in opposition that this bill confounds the innocent with the guilty; but I believe your Lordships will perceive that very few can be classed in the former description, as the terrours of the Continental and Provincial Congresses have compelled almost every man in that country to take a decided part. I shall not detain your Lordships at this late hour of the night, by going into a long detail of proofs; I shall only mention two instances, to satisfy your Lordships of the cruel and cowardly disposition of the Americans, by stating to your Lordships that they have even tarred and feathered three women, and have put an innocent free negro to death, attended with every circumstance of cruelty and baseness. The free negro' s name was Jerry, and he was worth several hundred pounds. This man, in an unguarded minute, said, if any of the King' s ships came to that quarter, or the port where he resided, that he would pilot them safely up. This being reported to the Committee, a mock tribunal was appointed to try him, and he was acquitted for want of evidence. Not satisfied with this first attempt on the man' s life, another negro, not a free one, was suborned to repeat the charge, on which the unhappy man was condemned and executed, though the evidence of the slave should not have, according to the Colony laws, been received against a free man. There was another particular circumstance happened relative to this horrid affair, which was, that although the negro recanted every syllable he had sworn against Jerry, and owned that all he said on the trial was a lie, yet Jerry was nevertheless put to death.

The noble Duke who spoke last seems to lament greatly the cruelty of obliging such seamen as are taken aboard the American vessels to enter his Majesty' s ships of war. For my part, I think very differently from the noble Duke. Instead of an instance of cruelty or oppression, I think it is doing them rather a favour, as you put them into instant pay. Besides, though this bill were never passed, if we should want seamen to man our Navy, and it should become


necessary to issue press-warrants, the persons compelled by the clause to enter would be liable to be pressed. So that, in that view of the matter, this bill creates no new hardship. Suppose, my Lords, that we should be inclined to alter or modify this clause, as the noble Duke seems desirous: you would not, it may be presumed, after you had those men in your power, put them in a situation again to resist you. What, then, are you to do? In the case of prisoners taken in a foreign war, we know they are brought home and confined in prison, and detained here till a peace ensues, or they are exchanged upon cartel during the continuance of the war; but in the present case, the matter being new, and no provision being made, and in fact in the event of a want of men, the persons found aboard British ships being liable to be pressed, I am of opinion the clause on these several grounds is entirely unobjectionable. I am much obliged to your Lordships for the indulgence you have shown, by hearing me so patiently. I shall not detain your Lordships much longer. I shall only say a word or two to the point urged by the first noble Duke who spoke in this debate. That noble Duke says that a storm is gathering in the North; that his Majesty' s Ministers should not trust to the assurances of foreign Courts; and that we ought not, prosecuting this war against our rebellious subjects, to render ourselves, by a misplaced confidence in those assurances, defenceless at home, and liable to be surprised or attacked by our natural enemies, I do not pretend to say exactly what may be the effect of the present disputes in the North; but I will tell the noble Duke that we do not trust to the assurances of foreign Powers; and that if such a measure should happen to be necessary, we shall be able, at a very short warning, to fit out a fleet and send it into the Baltick; and further, that by the present plan of operations, we shall not have a single line-of-battle ship in America, as three fifty-gun ships will be sent to replace the three line-of-battle ships now serving on that station; and that, consequently, we shall have such a formidable force at home, ready to act upon any emergency that may rise during the progress of this business, as will not only be fully sufficient to protect ourselves against any attack our enemies might meditate, but likewise to adopt such other measures of vigour and effect as the particular state of affairs in Europe might render necessary or expedient.

The Earl of Shelburne. In whatever view this bill, both in principle and the mode of enforcing that principle, presents itself, it appears to me to be fraught with every accumulated species of impolicy and injustice. I shall, in the few observations I propose to make on it, deliver my mind freely; on this, however, as on all former occasions, looking upon myself at liberty to alter my opinion and to regulate my judgment merely on the merits of the matter under debate, combined with its own particular circumstances, not by any collateral motives which do not properly relate to the question before me. The first matter that forces its way to your Lordships' consideration, on perusing this bill, is the principle, which appears to me no less cruel than impolitick. It is, as has been well observed in the course of this debate, and to which I have not as yet heard a rational answer, to the last degree cruel and unjust, because it involves the innocent in one common punishment with the guilty. It is impolitick, because it will throw the people into a state of desperation, and of necessity force them to take up arms in their own defence; so that it will have the double effect of transforming your friends, such as have hitherto continued so, into the most inveterate enemies; and inspiring both friends and foes with the most enthusiastick and desperate resolutions of resisting a coercion that leaves them no other alternative but submission to the most abject state of slavery, or of ending in their complete destruction, unless they should prevail in the contest. But, my Lords, I have a stronger objection to the principle of the bill than even that I have now stated. It proceeds on the idea that America is in rebellion to the just authority of this country. I deny it. I contend that they have been in part, if not entirely forced to take up arms in defence of their property, which has been attempted, by the acts of this Legislature, to be wrested unjustly out of their hands. They have been taxed by the British Parliament for the purpose of raising a revenue. They have been thereby deprived of the inalienable privilege of a British subject — that of voting away his money, of judging of the quantum, and of the propriety


of entirely withholding it, should he not approve of the uses or purposes to which it may be intended to be applied. Besides this general unquestionable ground I have now stated, taxation has been attempted to be carried into effect contrary to the usual mode, to the ancient usage of requisition. I therefore contend, that the principle of the bill is ill-founded and unjust in the first concoction; and therefore that the idea is false on which it proceeds; for the Colonists are not in a state of rebellion, but are armed in support of their just, their inalienable and constitutional rights, thus openly invaded and attacked.

The noble Earl in office has assigned every reason for inserting the clause in this bill which has been objected to by the noble Duke, but what appears to me to be at the first blush the most obvious. His Lordship says, that in a foreign war we secure all prisoners which fall into our hands in prison; but that we shall not know how to dispose of those which may be taken on the present case, as no provision has been made in the bill for that purpose. But if the noble Earl will permit me, I will tell him what appears the true motive for inserting that clause — a mere wanton act of feminine revenge, a mere love of cruelty and oppression. But let us pass over that consideration, and turn to the means proposed in the bill itself, for ensuring its operation. This I take to be framed, too, on other grounds than those of merely rewarding merit. On a former occasion the noble Earl, though he did not positively assure us, gave us the strongest hopes that we should be able to man our Navy without pressing; but finding it impracticable, the noble Earl and his brethren in office have had recourse to this method of dividing the prizes taken among the captors, in order to avoid the unpopular mode of pressing, or of disclosing to the publick that, our seamen are as averse to this service as our landsmen have already proved themselves. I believe the noble Earl distinguished himself in a warm opposition, during the Spanish war in 1741, and assisted in carrying the measure against the Minister, for dividing the captures taken from the enemy among the captors. Lord Bath was at the head of that opposition; and I believe the noble Earl does not forget that the great argument then used in both Houses was, that such an encouragement became absolutely necessary; for as the merchants' wages were so much higher than the pay allowed by Government, such a stimulative to enter aboard the King' s ships would be the only, best, and most probable means of speedily manning our Navy upon any sudden emergency. This, my Lords, cannot be said to be the case at present; no such reason can now be assigned; for I believe the merchants' wages are rather lower than usual; at least I am well informed they have not been raised for some time past. I do not know that dividing the prizes in the manner usually adopted among the captors, is perfectly right at any time; but as it is the only reason that has been ever assigned, and that it does not at present exist, I must confess, that that, with the circumstances attending it, is another reason why I am against this bill. I should think myself justified in passing over the matter I am now about mentioning to your Lordships, as not directly applying to the subject-matter of this debate, if I did not think it of the most material consequence; I mean the two resolutions agreed to in the other House relative to the Colony of Nova-Scotia. As we cannot procure any information in this House, I am under the necessity of seeking it wherever I can find it. In the votes of the House of Commons, I find that they have resolved, that no other duties or customs shall be paid for any goods or merchandise imported into the Colony of Nova-Scotia but what is expressed in the second resolution; and that in the second resolution, that is resolved not to exceed eight per cent. ad valorem, on all foreign commodities. Now, my Lords, on those resolutions, two matters very sensibly strike me: first, the smallness of the revenue for which, it seems, we are contending; and, secondly, the direct invasion of the Act of Navigation, expressed in the second resolution, which states the duty of eight per cent, to be upon foreign commodities imported from the place of their growth. This last, in my opinion, is directly cutting up that great palladium of our commerce, that great source of all the advantages we now happily enjoy, as the first commercial and trading nation in Europe; for the spirit and letter on which the whole of that law is founded, are, that no article or commodity shall be directly imported into the Colonies from the place


of their growth. Taking this in either light, as a mark of indulgence and favour intended to this paltry Colony, which has cost this country more than the fee simple of it is worth; or taking it as a foundation for a treaty with the other Colonies, I think such an invasion of the Navigation Act totally improper. But when we come to compute what the probable amount of such a revenue would come to, we must pause with astonishment to behold this country involving itself in such scenes of blood, expense, and ruin, in the pursuit and attainment of such an object. The imports into the Colonies are computed to be between three and four millions annually. Now, taking it on the largest scale, we may presume that the amount of the foreign commodities to be permitted to be imported would be about an eighth of the whole imports, which, by computation, is found to be the case in the Colony just mentioned. Take, then, the eight per cent, and you have the sum total of the revenue, which will be at or about forty-five thousand pounds per annum, a sum which will no more than pay the expense of collecting it; and, indeed, if not managed with greater economy than the last, will not be sufficient. If, then, our present warlike preparations, in which (to borrow a current Ministerial phrase) every nerve and sinew of war and national ability is to be exerted, be to obtain just nothing; I can only say, that it brings to my remembrance the conduct of a country gentleman, who made it a condition with his tenants to supply him with a certain number of carts and horses, and prided himself greatly in that mark of his authority, though he enjoyed it at the expense of a considerable decrease in his rents, as he let his lands considerably lower than the real value on that account. On the other hand, if the resolutions are meant to stop there, and are intended as a mark of particular favour, I think, at all events, it is very improperly exerted towards such a paltry Province, Halifax being called the gin-shop of America, which, according to a late publication, does not import above thirty thousand pounds per annum, and has already cost this nation between three and four hundred thousand pounds, while Pennsylvania, whose imports are three hundred thousand pounds per annum, never cost this country a single shilling. But, above all, I am warmly against any measure which may directly or indirectly be the means of defeating that valuable and truly beneficial law, the Act of Navigation.

The Earl of Sandwich. The noble Lord who spoke last, I believe, nay, I am sure, must be mistaken respecting the lowness of seamen' s wages, for, on applying lately to the master of a transport vessel, he advised a press, as he said it would be impossible to procure hands to man a ship, unless at a very advanced price, as he was obliged to promise them thirty-five shillings a month, and yet they still demanded an advance; and before they got out of the river, would probably refuse to proceed on their voyage, if their wages were not raised to fifty shillings per month.

The Earl of Shelburne. I have no manner of reason to doubt that the noble Earl has stated what the master told him very faithfully; but I should have hoped that his Lordship knew the world, at least the duties of his office, better than to rely solely on the information of a person whose interest immediately depended on misleading him. I am not surprised, therefore, though I do not believe the fact as coming from the master, that he said the seamen would insist on fifty shillings per month before they left the river; but I am much surprised that he did not state it much higher, and that the noble Earl should rest satisfied with the report of a man who was to profit from the imposition. I imagined that a noble Lord, high in office as he is, and at the head of a great department, might have drawn his information from a better and purer source than the master of a transport.

Viscount Weymouth. I do not think that the noble Lord who stated the resolutions agreed to in the other House, was justified in making them any part of the subject of this day' s debate, or going out of the question immediately before us. We are not bound to adopt the resolutions he mentions; and if they should be found to be subversive of the Act of Navigation, we shall, at a proper time, have an opportunity of considering them in the only Parliamentary manner in which they can be mentioned in this House; at present such a discussion is totally irregular and premature.

"Lord Wycombe [Earl of Shelburne,] I cannot think myself the least disorderly. The subject of the debate relates


to America. I think, therefore, I am fully justified in speaking to any material point which concerns it. The resolutions of the House of Commons of last year were made a ground of treaty with the Colonies — I think very improperly; for this House, in my opinion, should have been previously consulted.

Lord Viscount Weymouth. There is a material difference between the resolutions relative to Nova-Scotia and those of last year. On the latter, no measure was proposed or taken; on the former, a bill is ordered to be brought in; consequently the matter will come properly before your Lordships.

Duke of Richmond. Besides the clause I have before mentioned, as full of wanton iniquity, I should be glad to be informed by some noble Lord on the other side, whether all ships, &c˙, found in port, belonging as well to the enemies as friends of Government, are liable to confiscation, when not found offending, that is, trading at sea; because, if the clause means that, I think it is still an aggravation of the monstrous and notorious injustice of this bill.

Lord Wycombe [Earl of Shelburne.] I had my doubts relative to this clause the noble Duke has mentioned; but on close examination, I think one part means to intend the contrary, though it is not clearly expressed. I should be glad, before we rise, however, to hear some of the noble supporters of this bill rise and explain it.

Duke of Richmond. I fear I am not perfectly understood. What I mean is, supposing a friend of Government, an innocent man, learning the contents of this bill, should endeavour to comply with it, and neither wishing to offend against the law, nor risk his property, should put his vessel into dock and unrig her, waiting for better and more peaceable times: whether, I say, in such a case, his vessel so laid up, would be liable to be seized and confiscated?

Lord Viscount Weymouth. It is impossible to decide, or give a direct answer to the noble Duke' s question; that must be left to the determination of the Courts of Admiralty.

Lord Mansfield. The noble Duke has put his question very fairly. In my opinion, the intention of the bill is, that the ships, &c˙, lying in dock, should be subject to confiscation. The principle of the bill is, to make a naval war upon America; and as, in such cases, it would be impossible to make distinctions in favour of the innocent, the bill has been framed according to the general ideas of carrying a war against a foreign enemy, where it is always taken for granted that every individual is concerned in and abetting every act of hostility; and I presume the great motive for passing this bill is, to vest the effects, &c˙, found in the possession of the Americans, to the captors; because no existing law has provided for the case of a sea war carried on against Rebels. In King William' s time, when Ireland was in rebellion, the defect was first discovered. A few of the Rebel ships were taken and condemned, but the legality of such an act was doubted. On the whole, I take it clearly, that the clause extends generally, without exception.

Duke of Richmond. I think it is an additional reason against sharing the whole of the confiscations among the captors, as it will not be in his Majesty' s power, by this bill, to make any distinction in favour of those who must, according to the noble and learned Lord' s explanation, suffer innocently; whereas if a part of the confiscation were reserved for that particular purpose, redress might, on a petition and a consequent inquiry, be obtained.

[A conversation now arose, relative to the powers vested in the Crown, between the Lord Chancellor, Duke of Richmond, Lord Shelburne, and Lord Weymouth; in which the power of pardoning in the first instance, and the reason for inserting the clause in the bill, seemed to be misunderstood, till Lord Mansfield observed, that such a power of delegation was inherent in the Crown without the aid of Parliament, which he instanced in the uniform exercise of it by the Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland, and the Commission issued in the reign of King William to treat with the Irish Rebels. But the reason why it was mentioned in the bill was, because the power given militated against two acts of Parliament, which of course called for equal power to set them aside.]

The question was then put, on committing the Bill.

It was resolved in the affirmative. Contents 48, Proxies 30; Non-Contents 12, Proxies 7.