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Debate on the Address to the King


Wednesday, October 11, 1775.

The Resolutions for the Address, read last night, having been committed, Sir Charles Effingham reported from the Committee the Address pursuant thereto; which was read, first entire, then paragraph by paragraph.

When the clause relative to the Americans, which had been yesterday the chief bone of contention, was read again, Mr˙ John Hatch proposed to leave it entirely out; but since the great majority on the former question for that purpose sufficiently showed him that it was necessary to take some notice of the American troubles, and to testify to the King the loyalty of the Commons, he wished gentlemen would agree to another clause which he had framed, and he hoped would satisfy every member. This clause imported "to assure His Majesty of the unalterable loyalty of his Irish subjects, who would be ready to testify their hearty attachment to his person and Government, in all his just rights, and the support of his legal authority, whensoever his Government shall be disturbed in any, even the most distant part of his Dominions."

Though this clause seemed to answer every intention, yet many gentlemen adhered firmly to the words of the address, which were a transcript of those in the speech from the throne; and a debate ensued, which was carried on with great eloquence. The arguments of the preceding day were recapitulated, with very few additional reasons; for indeed the subject had been then sufficiently canvassed, and need not be repeated here. Such as were either new, or set in a different light, were to the following purport:

The eagerness with which gentlemen who supported the original address insisted on the very words, and so strenuously opposed any alteration, though they carry the same meaning, seems to evince that some particular design was couched under them; that it was intended, doubtless, to convey an approbation of those Ministers whose counsels had caused and increased the troubles in America, and now breathe nothing but terrour to its people. These counsels might be fatal, and to approve them indiscriminately, without sufficient grounds, (and no evidence was before the House,) would only assist the British Ministry to deceive the people, and blind the King. It was said this address was intended only to demonstrate the loyalty of the Commons; and a right honourable gentleman (Sir John Blaquiere) had declared there was no supply to be asked now, in consequence of this testimony. Perhaps none might be asked now, but in all probability it soon may; and then it might be told they had pledged themselves to the King to assist him against the Rebels. But it seemed evident this clause was inserted for another particular purpose. Lord Chatham had said, in the British Parliament, that Ireland, to a man, was in favour of the Americans; and this address was intended as a reply to that speech, and to insinuate that it was the general sense of the Irish Nation, expressed by their Representatives, that the Americans were in actual rebellion. But it was well known many gentlemen in the House were of a contrary opinion, as well as the generality of the people without doors. An honourable gentleman (Mr˙ Solicitor-General) had yesterday mentioned the Proclamation, and mentioned pains and penalties hanging over those who should act contrary thereto. But members of Parliament were not to be intimidated by such words from a freedom of speech and a freedom of discussion; for proclamations are of no avail, unless sanctified by law — their intent is not to make law, but to declare and promulgate what the law is. The present dispute is not between Ireland and the Colonies, with whom she has no connection, but between Great Britain and her Colonies; and it would be as absurd to take a part, as it would be if they were told a rebellion was broke out in the East-Indies. It was, indeed, an important subject, as great as ever came before any Senate; but it would be highly imprudent to interfere. Is it not clear it would deprive them of their chartered rights? and if resistance against those who would tear their liberties from them is deemed rebellion, all honest men would be rebels; that those who say this clause is only to show loyalty and zeal, deceive the House. It is more — it is to decide that the Americans are rebels, without any means of judging clearly they are so. It is evident they had a tax imposed on


them, without their consent; which tax was to be paid into the British Treasury, and not to centre in the Colonies themselves. The resistance against such taxation ought no more be styled rebellion than that at the time of the Revolution, which was brought about by resisting against oppressions. These arguments were principally used by Mr˙ Hatch, Mr˙ Chapman, Mr˙ French, Mr˙ George Montgomery, Mr˙ Barry Barry, Mr˙ Ogle, &c˙, &c.

On the other side, it was urged by Mr˙ Hellen, Captain Josephson, Colonel Burton, and Mr˙ Carleton, that the words in the address were proper. His Majesty had acquainted the House with the most material and important occurrence that had happened since the last session of Parliament; and hoped that, whilst the American subjects had departed from their duty, his subjects of Ireland would lay their hearts at the foot of the throne, and testify their loyalty and their intention to support his just rights and legal authority. Could they refuse to do that? This was all that was expected, and less they could not do with any degree of duty and consistency. The amendment implied a doubt that the Americans were in rebellion; but can there be a doubt? Is not America in open war against the King' s forces? Is not all civil order dissolved? Is not the administration of the Colonies in the hands of usurpers? In this case our silence would be deemed an approbation of their measures. A neutrality is impossible; as it would be impolitick to be maintained, as it would affront both. The Irish must declare; and for whom is it most just, most prudent to declare? For Britain, who was breaking down the barriers against our trade, encouraging our manufactures, and extending our commerce; or America, who had refused to trade with us? The Proclamation was not without sufficient authority — it was legalized by the resolutions of both the Lords and Commons — and the Earl of Chatham' s speech was not held of that consequence to be contradicted expressly by an address of that House, for many of his speeches were more famous for their boldness than their veracity.

Mr˙ Hussey Burgh had hitherto been silent, and had been employed in framing a fresh clause, as he thought that proposed by Mr˙ Hatch went too far. It promised assistance against any disturbances, which this Country was not able to afford. He communicated his amendment to that gentleman, who consented to withdraw that which he had made. Mr˙ Hussey Burgh then moved for the adoption of his clause, which was, "to assure His Majesty of their concern to hear that his Government has been disturbed by any dissensions in America; but they had a firm reliance on the wisdom, justice, and mercy, of His Majesty' s counsels, to terminate them in the manner that would be most advantageous to the whole of his Dominions."

This motion raised a fresh debate, in which most of the former ground was trod over again. Col˙ Brown urged the necessity of contradicting the assertion of Lord Chatham.

Mr˙ Gardiner said the British Ministry were acting like those rash practitioners who prescribe immediate amputation, when any inflammation or gangrene comes on, which might be cured by gentler means; and that agreeing with the words of the original clause would carry us farther than we were aware.

Captain Hamilton gave a long detail of the proceedings of the different Administrations, from Mr˙ Grenville to Lord North; said the last war was merely an American war, as it was undertaken solely on their account; inveighed strongly against their ingratitude and their behaviour in regard to the tea, and concluded they were absolutely rebels.

Mr˙ Holmes spoke in favour of the address; and Mr˙ Dillon declared he should be against the amendment, as he was against making any mention at all of the Americans.

Mr˙ Hussey Burgh expressed his terrour of the consequences that would result from joining to an address which supported sanguinary measures, and urged a vindictive Administration to proceed to the last extremities. If the Americans were brought on their knees to the Minister, as had been the favourite expression, they could expect nothing but slavery. A conqueror, when he held his sword over the head of the vanquished, has, indeed, been known to spare his life, but never to give him liberty. To keep the subdued Colonies in a state of subjection would require


a large standing Army; and these troops would be ready, whenever required, to come over and destroy the liberties of the other subjects. Ireland would then be enslaved, since those who are slaves themselves are the fittest to enslave others; and Great Britain itself would then become only the seat of a wide-extended despotism. It is evident Britain has not relinquished her design of destroying the rights of this Kingdom; she has torn off already one of the valuable privileges of a free nation, an appeal to the House of Lords; and the book written by Molyneux, in defence of Irish rights, was burnt by the hands of the common hangman. They only wait an opportunity, and it would be wrong to give them the least handle for one. An honourable gentleman (Captain Jephson) has called the Americans the offspring of convicts, the outcasts of this Country. Many of them are so; but why this cruel insult on persons guilty of no crime? The law spared the lives of their forefathers, who were criminals; but it is tenfold cruelty to destroy their guiltless children. Many gentlemen have doubtless undertaken to do, as it is called, the King' s business in the House, and are to be properly considered for it; but this is the Minister' s business, and ought to have an extra charge.

Sir John Blaquiere replied, and repeated that no supply was wanted in consequence of this address. He urged, that the acts in favour of Ireland were resolved on before the war broke out in America, and therefore not held out as any inducement to this expression of loyalty; that it would shortly appear that twenty-five thousand Pounds per annum had been saved on the military establishment, and near eighty thousand Pounds on contingencies; therefore, the King well deserved any dutiful expressions.

Mr˙ Conolly and Mr˙ Yelverton replied, in behalf of the amendment. The latter said a proffer of loyal hearts would soon bring on a supply for the American war, as it was well known the Irish never gave their hearts without their hands; that the Ministry were acting the wish of Caligula. They had cut off the rights of thirteen or fourteen Colonies at once; Ireland would be next, and then, when liberty had but one neck, that too would be lopped off at one stroke.

Mr˙ Prime Serjeant and Mr˙ Solicitor-General dwelt on the impropriety of the address; and the question being put on agreeing to the amendment, the House divided: Ayes, fifty-two; noes, ninety-two.

When the question was put on the original clause, Mr˙ Dillon opposed it, and the House divided a second time: Ayes, ninety; noes, fifty-four. Majority for the clause, thirty-six.

Thus the Address was agreed to, as was that to the Lord Lieutenant, reported by Colonel Ross.