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Petition of William Bollan, Benjamin Franklin, and Arthur Lee


Sir George Savile offered to present a Petition of William Bollan, Benjamin Franklin, and Arthur Lee, Esqs˙, stating themselves to have been authorized by the persons who signed one of the Papers presented to the House, by the Lord North, upon Thursday last, by his Majesty' s command, entituled, "Petition of sundry persons, on behalf of themselves and the inhabitants of several of his Majesty' s Colonies in America," to procure the said Paper to be presented to his Majesty, and praying that they may be heard at the Bar of this House in support thereof.

And the question being put, that the said Petition be brought up,

The House divided — Yeas 68, Noes 218.

So it passed in the Negative.



* Though it was then late, a Petition was offered from Mr˙ Bollan, Doctor Franklin, and Mr˙ Lee, three American Agents, stating, that they were authorized by the American Continental Congress to present a Petition from the Congress to the King, which Petition his Majesty had referred to that House; that they were enabled to throw great light upon the subject, and prayed to be heard at the Bar in support of the said Petition. On this a violent debate arose, partly on the same grounds with the former, partly on different. The Ministry alleged that the Congress was no legal body, and none could be heard in reference to their proceedings, without giving that illegal body some degree of countenance; that they could only hear the Colonies through their legal Assemblies, and their Agents, properly authorized by them, and properly admitted here; that to do otherwise, would lead to inextricable confusion, and destroy the whole order of Colony government.

To these arguments it was answered, that regular Colony government was in effect destroyed already; in some places by Act of Parliament; in others, by dissolution of Assemblies by Governours; in some, by popular violence. The question now was, how to restore order? That this Congress, however illegal to other purposes, was sufficiently legal for presenting a Petition. It was signed by the names of all the persons who composed it, and might be received as from individuals; that it was their business rather to find every plausible reason for receiving Petitions, than to invent pretences for rejecting them; that the rejection of Petitions was one principal cause, if not the most powerful cause of the present troubles; that this mode of constantly rejecting their Petitions, and refusing to hear their Agents, would infallibly end in universal rebellion; and not unnaturally, as those seem to give up the right to Government, who refuse to hear the complaints of the subject. This Petition was rejected upon a division, by a majority of two hundred and eighteen to sixty-eight. — Ann˙ Regis.