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Motion for an Address to the King for the Despatches from General Howe and Admiral Shuldham, Debate



Friday, May 10, 1776.

The Order of the Day being read, for the Lords to be summoned to consider of matters relative to America:

The Duke of Manchester said: I have presumed to request your Lordships' attendance this day, for which I ought to make an apology, as it is on a motion of mine very unconcerted; some few friends only had I an opportunity of communicating it to. But, my Lords, the business does, in whatever light it is viewed, appear so interesting, so important to the British nation, that, as the matter struck me, I could not reconcile it to myself to withhold it from the House. My Lords, I have not the arrogance to think that what I shall submit to your Lordships has escaped the vigilance of all your Lordships' judgments. I have not the vanity to imagine that the arguments my circumscribed talents may suggest to me to use can have the good fortune to persuade the majority of this House, unless they should meet with support from men of greater weight. Some there are who chance to be absent, whose great authorities I must lament the loss of. But, my Lords, if what I may offer should throw any light on a subject as interesting as over arose since Britain has extended her power beyond the confines of the Isle, I shall at least have the satisfaction to think I have not buried my ideas; I have not been wanting in that duty which, from the rank we hold in life, is mine, is that of every Lord in this House.

My Lords, for a paltry set of words, for an unreasonable claim of power, for a fascinating assertion of impracticable authority, for an airy nothing, a visionary shadow of ideal revenue, impossible to be raised but by the consent of that people whose contributions we so much thirst after, and whose consent we despise, has Britain been duped into an unnatural war, where victory or defeat must each enfeeble


this lately great empire. A war carried on against a part of our fellow-subjects, whose members at least equal a fifth of the whole, and who, in extent of country, so far exceeds the size of Britain, that the comparison of her is but as a speck in the disk of the sun. I will not dwell on the disadvantages our army must labour under from the far-extended distance of the war; a common map, to the commonest understanding, must demonstrate more than rhetorick can paint. But, my Lords, it has been your pleasure to enter into this war; the matter has been laid before you, and often has been debated; and your Lordships, in your judgment, have deemed it necessary to correct the saucy freedom of high-minded sons, grown up to manly age, to check in your American children that independent spirit, that strange love of liberty, which, when permitted to take root, does so infatuate mankind, and which has long been the honour and safety of this Isle. You have thought it right to curb their ideas of property, which led them to imagine we have no right to take any part of their property from them without their free consent. My Lords, I respect the decisions of the majority of this House; but if those decisions may have arisen from any peculiar circumstances, now no more existing; if they may have sprung from false or mistaken intelligence; if the whole disposition of things, from various accidents and events, may have become totally different, perhaps it may not be unworthy your Lordships' wisdom to reconsider what you have decided, to revise your judgments, to retrace the steps we may too hastily have trod. My Lords, in the beginning of our unhappy contests with America, those who debated the matter on the side of the ruling power of Government, stated, not only the necessity, but the great facility of forcing to a compliance with all the demands of Government, such Colonies as should dare to offer their vain resistance; we were told they had not strength for war, they had not means of war, that they had not union among themselves; that they wanted money, that they wanted discipline, that they wanted officers; and, to sum the whole, to make them contemptible even as submissive subjects, that they possessed not the courage to face a British soldier, whose birth on this side the Atlantick endowed him with that intrepid spirit an American, whom even necessity had inured to toils, could never aspire to reach. The decisions, my Lords, of Administration, gave them union; the refusal to hear their petitions combined the whole in a firm knot of calm, deliberate, desperate determination to resist. Money, which is but the type of property, was soon supplied by a type of equal use; even personal freedom gave way to publick security, and personal property was sacrificed to the necessities of the rising State. The disaffection was general, and British Governours now no more administer law in British America. How true the charge of wanting a martial spirit proved, let those relate who first saw the blood of civil war spilled at Lexington. To those who saved the honour of the day, at the bloody forcing of the lines on Bunker' s Hill; to those who saw the British valour checked, may I safely refer for a full confutation of the absurd supposition that men, descended from f the same line as ourselves, whose all is at stake, who think their cause just, would, like the most enervated Asiatick tribe, yield a bloodless victory. My Lords, the history of human nature teaches us, that the greatest talents often he hid in the most disguised obscurity, till accident, till the bustle of the times, calls forth the genius, and lights the etherial spark; then do these meteors cast an unexpected blaze: an apothecary' s late apprentice leads forth armies, displays the warrior' s skill, the warrior' s intrepidity, and meets a death a Roman might have envied; another, who, in peaceable times, might have never risen to greater praise than a jockey' s skill, amidst every rigour of an inclement season, in an inclement country, astonishes us with a march a Hannibal would have admired, and carries the alarm of war to the walls of a great city, which must probably have yielded to the boldness of the undertaking, had not a Carleton saved it. I am not making a panegyrick on American prowess, though great achievements, even by an enemy, will ever meet my praise; but, my Lords, these are facts incapable of dispute.

To come now, my Lords, to that which has cast the deepest stain on the glory of the British arms, to that which must rouse the indignation of all who feel for her disgrace — the Army of Britain, equipped with every possible essential of war; a chosen army, with chosen officers, backed by the


power of a mighty fleet, sent to correct revolted subjects; sent to chastise a resisting city; sent to assert Britain' s authority, — has, for many tedious months, been imprisoned within that town by the Provincial Army, who, their watchful guards, permitted them no inlet to the country; who braved all their efforts and defied all their skill and abilities in war could ever attempt. One way, indeed, of escape was left: the fleet is yet respected; to the fleet the army has recourse; and British Generals, whose names never met with a blot of dishonour, are forced to quit that town which was the first object of the war, the immediate cause of hostilities, the place of arms, which has cost this nation more than a million to defend. We are informed of this extraordinary event by a Gazette, published by authority from Government, in which it is related that General Howe had quitted Boston; no circumstances mentioned to palliate the event; no veil but that of silence to cast over the disgrace. But, my Lords, though the Government account is short and uncircumstantial, yet private intelligence, publick report, on which, till it is with authenticity denied, I must rely, informs us that General Howe quitted not Boston of his own free will; but that a superior enemy, by repeated efforts, by extraordinary works, by fire of their batteries, rendered the place untenable. I mean not the most distant censure on him; his reputation stands fixed on too firm a basis to be easily shaken. I do believe all that in that situation could by the best officers be attempted, was tried to the utmost. But, my Lords, circumstances obliged him to quit that post he could not possibly maintain. The mode of the retreat may do the General infinite honour; but it does dishonour to the British nation. Let this transaction be dressed in what garb you please, the fact remains, that the army which was sent to reduce the Province of Massachusetts-Bay, has been driven from the Capital; and that the standard of the Provincial Army now waves in triumph over the walls of Boston. My Lords, so extraordinary an event, so contrary to all the sanguine promises of Administration, calls for a full explanation; the publick have a right to expect it; your Lordships have a right to demand it. If the Ministry are still determined to keep silence, they make themselves responsible for all the accidents of the war. My Lords, the business I have to trouble you with this day is, to desire a fair state of the matter. It is not vain curiosity prompts; it is in order that this House, knowing all the circumstances that attended this transaction, may be enabled, as his Majesty required of them in his speech at the opening of the session, to give advice becoming the importance of the occasion. Were it for my own satisfaction, I might rest contented with the detail that from private accounts I have seen; I could be content with knowing that the fire from the enemy' s batteries, which began on the 2d of March, threatened ruin to the town; that the shells were so well directed as to make it demonstration that the engineers of the enemy were well versed in the science of destruction. That the continuation of that bombardment rendered it absolutely necessary for the British Army to make some decisive effort; that the resolution taken was worthy the name of Howe, worthy the British spirit; a storm arose, baffled their efforts, and delayed the attack; a storm fortunate perhaps for this country, which preserved for nobler ends many brave men who must have perished in an attempt exceeding human power. When the storm ceased, a new work appeared, of such amazing strength, raised as if by the enchanter' s wand, in the space of a night, that wisdom forbade the attack. One hope remained to save the British Army, and a retreat by sea was found necessary. To refer to the Gazette: Government there tells us, with all the cool indifference with which might have been related the removal of a regiment in England from one place of country quarters to another, that on the 7th of March General Howe took a resolution to remove from Boston to Halifax; and the embarkation was effected on the 17th, without the least interruption from the Rebels. My Lords, I do admit the fact; no shot was, I believe, fired from the enemy during the embarkation. Whether this arose from policy, whether from an unwillingness unnecessarily to expose the Provincial Army to the desperate valour of the British troops, whom necessity of self-defence, whom the mortification of being forced to quit the place, whom shame, whom every honourable passion must have armed with more than common courage; or whether, by some tacit convention between the


Generals of the opposite armies, which might be very proper, remains untold. But the important fact is told, that Britain has lost the only place of arms from whence she could with advantage begin her operations against the northern Colonies; and that Washington, with his army whole, entire, unchecked, unbroken, does possess it. It matters little whether General Howe is gone to Halifax with a few more guns, or a few less; some heavy artillery, I am informed, was left; but I will venture to assert that no army so circumstanced ever did make a retreat without some loss and damage of various necessaries of war. My Lords, I wish not to excite any unnecessary unpleasant feelings; but, my Lords, every seaman I have spoken with is in pain for that fleet — so crowded, so short of provisions, forced into a boisterous sea in the most boisterous season. The very storm that was so great in the harbour as to prevent the attack of the enemy' s batteries, justifies the dread of what may happen. Suppose the Army safe at Halifax, can it be supposed they are in a situation capable, immediately, to take the field? Thus, then, is the great power of the Northern Colonies, against whom was particularly pointed the thunder of this country, freed from its present vengeance. It cannot be doubted but that this retreat is of great advantage to the enemy, is a subject of triumph. Will your Lordships, then, not think that the slight manner this matter is related to the publick is a scandalous insult, is a neglect of that publick whose blood and treasure are lavished without fruit? I do hope we shall at last rouse, and see with our own eyes, and hear with our own ears, and not place any longer implicit confidence in men who, whatever their intentions may have been, have hitherto not shown that they possess abilities either to maintain peace or well conduct a war.

Permit me, now, my Lords, to take a short review of the present state of America. The army now gone from Boston, the wisest statesmen cannot now for a certainty declare that his Majesty has a regiment in possession of a single post, save that which has wintered in Nova-Scotia. Montgomery' s death preserved for a time Quebeck; yet there are accounts, whose authority there is no reason to doubt, of the beginning of February, that the troops still lay before the place; that the design of attacking it was not abandoned; that reinforcements were coming; that the object was to place a garrison in it so strong as would not be easy to remove; that at Montreal no doubt was made of its being forced to yield. The retreat from Boston leaves Washington at liberty to send large succours, whither, the destination was unknown; but there is intelligence that the very day our troops quitted Boston, a body of several thousand men was detached from the camp. The relief sent from hence of Brunswick and Hanover troops, if destined for Quebeck, cannot arrive there till the breaking up of the ice affords a passage up the river; which, from seamen, I am told, seldom happens till the end of this month. The stroke must probably be decided ere they can possibly reach the place. From Halifax, whose strength is trifling, and whose situation admits not anything to be done by advancing into the country, to the Floridas, nothing remains to his Majesty' s arms but the roving parties with which Dunmore continues his predatory war. I will pass no censure on that noble Lord; but I could wish that he had acted with that generous spirit that forbade Clinton uselessly to destroy the town of New-York. My Lords, Clinton visited New-York; the inhabitants expected its destruction; Lee appeared before it with an army too powerful to be attacked, and Clinton passed by without doing any wanton damage. The friends of Goverment, as they are termed, did attempt some risings; the Congress puts them out of their protection; individuals raise armies, and all commotions in favour of Government are crushed in their birth. Georgia, that till lately took no active part, that last year you assisted with your money, has now declared against you; and, as they came late into the servive, so they seem willing to be active in distinguishing themselves. Your marines attempt to land; they are driven to their boats, and burn the English traders. In Carolina all is armed, all is strong; the last effort in favour of Government, an attempt by a Colonel Mason, with a considerable body of men called Regulators, is resisted by an individual, who arms his followers, meets and defeats him totally, and numbers are thrown into jail.

Thus, from North to South, every place presents an


enemy; the coast on which your troops are to land is ravaged, is made a wilderness, where not an army of locusts could subsist. You are, therefore, now to begin the war with an enfeebled army; with the flower of your troops checked, baffled, forced to retreat, you are to attempt to conquer the continent of America. It is as much a war of conquest as if you meditated an invasion on France or Spain. On German mercenaries, on foreign auxiliaries, you are to depend for success in this invasion — on troops not interested in the cause. With these troops so numerous, so secured by treaty, to act in a body, is the English Army to serve, who will probably be inferior to them in number; for from the English must detachments be made, as the service of the war may require. My Lords, I mean no reflection on these troops, but must observe, that success has seldom attended where those most interested in the cause do not fight their own battles; and, from the number of the German troops, they must probably be masters of the operations of the war.

I cannot conclude without a word to the Commission mentioned in the Gazette, What passes the great seal can, I suppose, be no secret; but though I do not know the contents, I do not conceive what powers can be given the Commission without some previous assistance from Parliament, that can be material. Will the great seal, in face of Parliament, give up any of that authority Parliament has been so anxious to assert? Yet, without this, peace cannot be made; or does it merely contain a power of pardoning such as may sue for and be deemed deserving of mercy? Pardon, my Lords, was never sued for by those who, convinced their cause was just, flushed with success, conquest attending on their arms, with troops more numerous than those that are to oppose them, have, in the common course of human probability, hope of continued victory. I will add no more, but that if this unnatural war is long thus ably and obstinately carried on, it is not from Britain America must seek for pardon, but Britain must from America ask forgiveness of the wild ravage her unreasonable claims have made. What I have said to you, my Lords, can arise from no private view, but merely from a sense of publick duty. I wish to see this empire not dismembered; I wish to see our Sovereign' s diadem blaze with every glory which first encircled his Royal head.

His Grace moved, "That an humble Address be presented to his Majesty, that he will be graciously pleased to order the proper officers to lay before this House copies of all Despatches received from General Howe and Admiral Shuldham since the 1st of March last."

Earl of Suffolk. The true grounds and causes of the present contest with America, have been so frequently and so fully discussed, that I shall not trouble your Lordships to follow the noble Duke through the wide circuit he has taken this day. Your Lordships have already determined,so often in favour of the justice and necessity of prosecuting the present war against our rebellious subjects in that country, that there can be little occasion to enter at present into any review or fresh discussion of so trite a subject; it is not therefore, my Lords, to controvert matters that have been already decided, that I rise, but to give a direct negative to the present motion, because I am of opinion that it cannot be safely complied with, consistently with the interests of this country and the success of our future operations. The letters desired, my Lords, are not merely confined to the professed objects of the present motion; they contain matters of great importance, as well in relation to past transactions, as to plans meant to be carried into execution; these again are so blended and connected with the account of the evacuation of Boston, that it would be impossible to separate one from the other, without laying before your Lordships what would be extremely improper for publick inspection at this season, because it might be the means of defeating those measures which the General and Admiral have determined to pursue. Nothing, I do assure your Lordships, would give me greater satisfaction than to comply with the requisition now made, if it could be done with prudence and safety; not to gratify a mere idle curiosity, but to show your Lordships the abilities of the gentleman who commanded the troops, and to convince you that all the reasonings now so strongly urged have no manner of foundation to support them. Were it proper to lay before your Lordships those accounts, you would not only be surprised


how ably the whole affair was conducted, but you would have reason likewise to have the most perfect confidence in operations so well planned, and so well directed. The noble Duke supposes the account in the Gazette to contain actual misrepresentations, or a suppression of facts; but I do assure his Grace he is entirely mistaken: it is the business of that paper to state facts, which I contend it has very faithfully, and that the General, as therein set forth, literally took the resolution of quitting the town on the 7th, and actually evacuated it and embarked on board the fleet on the 17th, without any interruption from the Rebels; that he carried off his artillery, military stores, all his baggage, and his very horses; that he took such of the inhabitants as sought his protection on board, with all their most valuable effects, and that species, too, which might have been of the greatest use to the Rebels. The noble Duke supposes that this step will break all our future operations during the present campaign: but I will inform his Grace that it was never intended to begin the war in that quarter, since the great change which has happened in our affairs there. While the spirit of rebellion was confined to the Province of Massachusetts-Bay, it could properly be the only seat of war or coercion; but since the defection became more general, so false an idea never prevailed; in proof of which, I do assure your Lordships that the General, so early as the month of October, received instructions to quit Boston whenever he thought proper; in this light, therefore, the evacuating Boston can appear but a shifting of position, for the purpose of carrying into execution measures already concerted and agreed on: the first object of which is, to secure Halifax against any attack from the Rebels, and whither the fleet and army are now destined. The noble Duke has dwelt greatly on the native prowess and martial disposition of the Rebels. I am not very much inclined to throw out reflections upon bodies of men, or to suppose that any of the subjects of this empire are deficient in courage; but further than that general supposition, I must confess I cannot discover any proofs of superior courage the Rebels have displayed, either on this or any former occasion: they were certainly five times the number of the King' s troops; they enjoyed every advantage of situation; and yet for all that they permitted the troops to embark, and carry off everything they desired, without the least molestation. Their great knowledge in the military art has likewise been loudly trumpeted; but what has been the fruit of it? The expertness of their engineers was such that they threw a bomb into the town, which wounded six persons, two of whom are since dead.

The noble Duke says, that the misconduct of those who negotiated the Hessian treaty was the reason that the Hessians have not sailed from Spithead. I do assure your Lordships that the fact is entirely otherwise; for however willing the Hessian General might be to wait for the arrival of the remainder of the troops which were to serve under his command in America, as soon as he received a message from his Majesty to proceed to the place of his destination, he instantly complied, without expressing the least unwillingness or dissatisfaction. The noble Duke says, there must have been a convention between General Howe and the Rebel commander; which, I do assure his Grace, was by no means the case; no convention, stipulation, concession, or compromise whatever, having been made. The General thought proper to shift his position, in order, in the first instance, to protect Halifax, and after that object was secured, to penetrate by that way into the interior of the country, and pursue his future intended operations, when, instead of a dispirited and enfeebled soldiery, I trust your Lordships will be at once convinced, that the men will exert themselves with the resolution and ardour they have ever manifested in the pursuit of military glory, and that the General will exhibit the most full and satisfactory proofs, that his evacuating Boston was the consequence of a resolution previously taken, on the wisest and best concerted motives.

The Marquis of Rockingham. I was in the country when the Gazette, containing the account now so warmly defended, fell into my hands; and though I had no other information to direct me, I confess it struck me as equally ridiculous and improbable. Is there one of your Lordships, though nothing else had transpired relative to the transaction, can be persuaded to believe that the Provincial General


would have ever permitted the evacuation in the manner related, if there had not been an understanding between him and the British Commander-in-Chief? But, my Lords, we are not left to grope our way in order to discover what really happened; conjecture alone, if exercised on such circumstances, would amount to proof positive; but there is no occasion to rely upon conjecture or probabilities; there are several letters from officers on the spot, which all substantially contradict what your Lordships have heard this day; those letters may vary from each other in some particulars, but they all uniformly agree in one thing, which the noble Earl in office seems to be totally ignorant of; that is, that the troops were compelled, by the operations of the enemy, to take the resolution of quitting the town; and that they were afterwards permitted to quit it unmolested, by agreement. If there was no other proof but one, that alone would be decisive to determine my judgment: the one I mean is, that the General and Admiral only waited for a wind to waft them to the place of their destination, when the account came away. Why not destroy the town in pursuance of the general instruction, when they thought proper to shift their position? Or, if compelled to abandon it, why not raise it to the foundations, by way of retaliation? If there was no convention, no treaty or agreement, how will they answer to Government for this disobedience of orders? But, my Lords, there are numerous accounts in town, some of which I have seen myself, from gentlemen of no less veracity than either the General or Admiral. The account they give is shortly this: That on the morning of the 2d of March, the garrison discovered that a battery had been raised on Dorchester-Heights the preceding evening, which commanded the greatest part of the town; that the next day, (the 3d,) the Provincials continued to fire on the town, and annoyed the garrison and inhabitants extremely; that the situation of the troops now became extremely critical, as the fleet could give them no effectual assistance; that a Council of War was held on the same day, in which it was resolved to attack the Heights of Dorchester, in order to dislodge the enemy, it being universally agreed that the town was no longer tenable, unless that service was effected; and, accordingly, the proper dispositions were made to carry on the attack the next morning, but that the General had been prevented by a very great storm which arose; that on the next day, (the 5th,) the Selectmen went out to General Washington, to treat with him, and that after some messages had passed on both sides, it was agreed, on the 7th, that the King' s troops should evacuate the town, in the manner which afterwards took effect; and that accordingly the troops and such of the inhabitants as chose their protection, embarked on the 17th. If these accounts are true, of which I have very little doubt, your Lordships will perceive, that though possibly there might be no formal convention, no capitulation signed, which, I understood, was avoided by the Generals on both sides, for particular reasons, that in whatever manner the business might have been negotiated, it had every substantial requisite of a treaty or compromise, as much as if it had been ever so solemnly authenticated or subscribed. The troops were permitted to evacuate the town without interruption, because they engaged on the other hand not to burn or destroy it, either previous to their departure, or after they got aboard their ships. The noble Earl tells you that the troops have proceeded to Halifax. I should be glad to know what certainty he has that they can proceed there: I presume the noble Lord is not ignorant how very difficult it is to navigate those seas in that very tempestuous season of the year, just at the time of the equinox, when a constant northwesterly wind sets in. I should have imagined that no man in his senses, so incumbered with military stores, cannon, passengers, troops, &c˙, would think of such a measure, without he was driven to it by necessity; nor can I be persuaded, that the Admiral would have ever consented to so rash an act, upon mere motives of forwarding the future operations of the campaign. Only consider a minute, my Lords, and you must tremble for the fate of both the Army and Navy: consider how many thousand persons are aboard this fleet, and think what a dreadful circumstance it must he, to have them forced to sea in such a climate, and such a season. I confess I tremble for their fate, and should not be surprised to hear, by the first accounts received from that quarter, that they were either blown away to the West-Indies, or had all


perished on the dreary coasts of America. Supposing, then, that we had no account of the true motives which obliged the General to evacuate Boston, charity would induce us to believe that he would never risk the lives, nay, the very event of the present campaign, perhaps of every future one, upon so senseless, hazardous, and wanton a project.

But, my Lords, if the Gazette account bears every mark of absurdity and improbability, the article which next follows it no less deserves to be treated with contempt. It informs you, that a Commission is granted to Lord Howe and General Howe, to offer pardons and restore peace: that is, after the speech announced that Commissioners would be sent out to treat with America, for the purposes alluded to, seven months are nearly elapsed, the winter and spring are suffered to pass over, before you hear a syllable of the matter; and then, just at the entrance of the campaign, after the nation has been put to the expense of so many millions, the first step towards peace and conciliation is taken. But this, my Lords, is merely to amuse and deceive, and done purely with a view to persuade the nation that peace is in contemplation, in order to counterbalance the disgrace the British arms have suffered. I am glad to hear of peace at all events, though when I first read the Gazette of Saturday, I must fairly own I could hardly forbear laughing at the whole account taken together.

Another thing struck me in the appointment of the Commissioners. No man has a higher opinion of the bravery and military and naval skill of those gentlemen than I have; but I confess I am yet to learn, if there be any serious intention in Government to conciliate matters with America, the propriety of selecting them for the execution of so arduous and weighty an undertaking. I should have imagined that a fitter choice might have been made; or that others, more conversant in negotiation, would have been very properly added. On the whole, my Lords, I think the Gazette does not contain information sufficient to direct you in your future proceedings. I am satisfied that the troops evacuated the town by compulsion, not choice; and consequently, that the present motion is absolutely necessary, and, as such, I shall be for giving it my hearty concurrence.

The Earl of Effingham. My Lords, that Boston was not evacuated, from the motives so strongly urged by the noble Earl in office, I trust your Lordships are already perfectly satisfied of. I speak with great diffidence on military matters in the presence of such of your Lordships as, from your long experience, are enabled to be so much better judges; but as nothing has been offered on that part of the subject, your Lordships will, I hope, permit me to state my reasons why I think it was totally impracticable for the troops to remain any longer at Boston, with safety, or to quit it without burning the town, or suffering the total loss of their rear guard. The battery opened on Dorchester-Heights, supported by that long since raised on Phipp' s Farm, commanded the greatest part of the town, and upwards of two-thirds of the beach, from which the army was to embark. On the other hand, the batteries on Noddle' s Island rendered the state of the fleet so very uneasy, that it was impossible for either the army or navy to remain any longer in their former situation without being compelled to dislodge the enemy. This was what the Provincials wanted; because, should the attack miscarry on the part of the Royal Army, its destruction would be inevitable, while all the Provincials risked was the loss of a few men, and returning to their former stations. The General was perfectly apprised of this; and, accordingly, after taking the sense of a Council of War, determined to attack the Heights of Dorchester. Your Lordships have been informed that a storm prevented him, and I believe it was very fortunate it did; for in all probability it would have terminated in the destruction of the whole army. This intention being thus abandoned, there remained but the alternative of entering into a convention, no matter whether by writing or parole, or of setting fire to the town, and, under the interruption such a conflagration must have occasioned, escaping aboard the ships and transports lying in the harbour. Even in this event the slaughter must have been great, and the whole rear guard, as I observed before, must have been sacrificed to the preservation of the rest of the army, and probably the body posted at Bunker' s Hill would have been made prisoners. This was the alternative left to General Howe;


and fortunately he embraced that part of it which was the means of saving the town and the troops under his command. Any person in the least conversant in military matters, and who has seen the plan of Boston and its environs, will immediately perceive, that if some treaty had not taken place, this, or something similar to it, would have been the consequence. To endeavour, therefore, to mislead your Lordships with any idea that the army came off unmolested in triumph, is too gross even to call for detection. To make one observation more: will the noble Earl pretend to say, that it was from motives of tenderness that Boston was not burnt, or that it was impracticable to do it without loss? His Lordship will hardly seriously affirm the former to be the case; and if he should insist on the latter, I will inform his Lordship, that nothing on earth could be more easily effected; for if the army had nothing to fear from the Provincials in the event of an open deliberate embarkation, they would still have less to fear by setting the town on fire, for they might have filled the houses with combustibles, so as totally to have blown up and destroyed it. But, my Lords, supposing that the Gazette represented matters as they really happened; suppose that the troops embarked in the face of the enemy, without compromise and without interruption: will any noble Lord in office rise and say that be believes General Howe is safely arrived at Halifax? Is it not much more probable that the fleet is blown to Antigua, is separated and dispersed by storms, or is now tossing about in the Atlantick Ocean? If even the troops should have an expeditious and favourable voyage to Halifax, how will they draw provisions from a country far from being fertile, and at present much exhausted from the frequent supplies sent to Boston? Or, allowing them to be safely landed and plentifully provided with all the necessaries of life, how will they be able to maintain their ground against a superior force? Possibly Halifax will be in the possession of the Provincials before they reach it; but granting it should not, it is well known that Halifax has no regular defences; that it is only surrounded by a ditch strengthened by palisadoes; and that the buildings are all composed of wood; so that, taking the matter in any light, the measure is full of danger; for either the superior force of the Provincials may either force the works, or, if they choose to act more cautiously, they may, with little trouble and less risk, reduce the wooden buildings to ashes. These, my Lords, are no more than so many suppositions, far from being supported by any grounds of probability; for I doubt that the troops will ever reach Halifax; and I am well persuaded if they do, that, as at Boston, Administration will be obliged to supply them with provisions from Leadenhall Market.

Lord Wycombe, [Earl of Shelburne,] My sentiments respecting the present unnatural war, carrying on against America, are already sufficiently known. I have all along looked upon it to be cruel, unjust, inexpedient, and oppressive; and I am confident, if obstinately pursued, it will end in the destruction of both countries. For the reasons that have been already so ably stated by the noble Duke who made the motion, I came down this day to second it. I think it highly necessary that your Lordships should be fully informed, otherwise how is it possible you can be enabled to give your advice to your Sovereign? If I even entertained a better opinion than I do of the abilities of those in power, I should still think that they do not possess all the wisdom of the nation. Your Lordships are the constitutional great council. It is your duty and your province, as the hereditary counsellors of the Crown, to consult together, to deliberate, and advise. How is it possible that you can discharge this important trust without proper information, and a previous knowledge of the facts on which you are to determine? The noble Earl says, the plan of future operations is so blended and mixed with the mere detail of the evacuation and embarkation of the troops, that it is impossible to give one without disclosing the other. This, my Lords, is a new language to me, either as an official man or a member of this House. I know, when I had the honour to serve his Majesty, I looked upon it as an essential part of my duty, and was prompted by inclination, to give every possible information to your Lordships, whenever you called for it. I was always proud of an opportunity of gratifying the House in this respect, because I looked upon it to be the best test of the purity of my intentions, how much soever it might tend to impeach my judgment. This, I know, was the


uniform language of Ministers during the late reign; and I remember, too, their conduct exactly corresponded with their professions. I recollect a particular instance of it respecting Abercromby' s defeat, in the height of the late war, when Lord Chatham caused every particular of that melancholy event to be announced in the Gazette, in the very terms he had received it. He did not confine himself to the mere fact, that an attack had been made, and that it proved unsuccessful; no, my Lords, he committed himself to the publick. He did not look upon himself as responsible for victory. He laid the whole detail open to the inspection of the nation at large, and by so doing he ensured that confidence which a contrary conduct would have certainly deprived him of. It has been reserved, my Lords, for the present Ministers to either withhold all information, or suppress everything that does not answer their immediate purposes. They refuse to tell you anything; or, if they do, they will only tell you it in their own words. The Gazette says, that General Howe embarked without the least interruption. Granted: but does it say or assign any reason why the troops were not molested? No; it is entirely silent on that head. But suppose that the fact was really, as it is represented; that the troops were not molested, nor that there was no convention or treaty whatever: I think I could account for it on motives very different from those assigned by the noble Earl in office. His Lordship asserts that it was owing to the great abilities and military skill of the Commander-in-Chief. No man entertains a higher opinion of both than I do; but I think it may be easily accounted for, without attributing it either entirely to that, or to any backwardness in the Provincials. I remember a very great man who died fighting in the cause of America, (Dr˙ Warren,) in one of his publications, advises his countrymen to a defensive war. May we not, then, well suppose, if the matter cannot be otherwise accounted for, that General Washington, acting on the same principle, might wish that the Royal Army should depart from Boston without any further consequences? If it has evacuated Boston in the manner published by authority, and without any convention or stipulation, the conduct of the Provincials can only be accounted for on the principle I have now mentioned — that of acting on the defensive. But, my Lords, I can hardly persuade myself that this was the case. I am rather inclined to believe that the troops were permitted to embark without molestation, in return for saving the town. Yet, my Lords, allowing all the Gazette has told you to be literally true, what a melancholy picture does it hold out? It is, indeed, my Lords, of a piece with all the rest. It is like sending Sir Peter Parker at a season of the year in which it is a hundred to one that he ever reached the place of his destination. The event has proved the folly and ignorance of those who planned this desperate expedition. First, that gentleman received orders to proceed. He was then countermanded, and again desired to adhere to his first instructions. He at length sailed; and the first account that we have received of the expedition is, that his fleet was dispersed in a storm; and that the commander and the shattered remains of his squadron have taken shelter in Antigua. Such, my Lords, has been the unhappy fate of an armament on which such great expectations were formed; and such, I fear, will be the fate of the measure your Lordships have heard this day so highly extolled.

This country, already burdened much beyond its abilities, is now on the eve of groaning under new taxes, for the purpose of carrying on this cruel and destructive war. Two arguments, both plausible, but both equally ill-founded, were made use of by the Minister in the other House, on the principle and mode of taxing. It was said the kingdom was in a most flourishing state, therefore was able to bear additional taxes. It was urged, since taxes were to be levied, they ought to be laid on the luxuries of life. On the first head, I shall ever continue to think the very reverse, while the arguments of a late writer (Dr˙ Price) remain uncontradicted; nor shall I ever be persuaded that stagecoaches, deeds, or newspapers, come within the description of luxury, however confidently asserted. The definition of luxury I have always been taught to be simply this: the growth of foreign countries, articles alone of foreign importation; not the produce of this kingdom, or the effects of national industry. I do venture to assert, that the event will prove that this country is already taxed to its full


extent; and that every new tax you can devise, will interfere with some other, and only vary the mode of collecting the taxes, not increase the receipt. I must confess it is perfectly new to me to be told that deeds, leases, and indentures, are different species of luxury; if they are, I know of no transaction whatever that may not be brought within the same description. I believe the contrary requires no proof. A person in the law, whose business is far from being extensive, has assured me that this tax will be very severely felt, and that it will make a difference of thirty pounds a year even to him.

The noble Earl who has this day entertained your Lordships so ably, tells you that General Howe has only "shifted his position;" that he is gone to the relief of Halifax, which is in a defenceless state. Why was that place, from which such wonders are to be achieved, left in a defenceless state? Or why trust its security to the precarious relief of succours sent thither at so dangerous and boisterous a season of the year? Even allowing the noble Earl' s facts and arguments to be exactly as he has stated them, I am yet to learn the propriety of the phrase "shifting a position." From the little of military operations I have been acquainted with, I never understood an actual abandonment of an enterprise to be shifting a position. On the whole, my Lords, as I look upon the war itself to be cruel, unjust, oppressive, and vindictive, so I look upon the conduct of it hitherto to be contrary to every rule of sound policy, prudence, and common sense. I think it is full time, therefore, that your Lordships and the publick should be made acquainted with the true state of our affairs in America; for which reason, as the first step towards it, I heartily concur in the motion made by the noble Duke.

The Earl of Suffolk. The noble Earl [Effingham] has expressed his astonishment that no despatches have been sent to General Howe for some months; and the only proof he has brought in favour of this assertion is no more than that no despatches have reached him; and that he was, at the time of the evacuation of Boston, totally ignorant of everything which passed in Europe since the meeting of Parliament. The noble Earl has likewise stated his fears for the army and fleet, under the command of General Howe and Admiral Shuldham, on account of the dangers of the sea, and uncertainty of the winds and waves. Now, as in one instance his Lordship has laid such great stress on the difficulties to be encountered on the watery element, might not the noble Lord, by a parity of reason and similarity of conclusion, have been led to suppose that despatches had been sent to General Howe, though none of them had reached him previous to the date of this last letter? I observe, too, that the noble Earl and the noble Duke who made the motion, have insisted much on the disgrace of quitting Boston, and represented it as productive of the most fatal consequences. This, I confess, appears to me a little extraordinary, that the noble Lords should so suddenly change their sentiments. While we retained possession of that town, it was disgraceful to have a British Army cooped up in it. It was called the grave of the British soldiery. It was represented as an insignificant spot, of no consequence, in which we were wasting our blood and treasure to no purpose; but now, all of a sudden, the evacuation of it is magnified into an actual loss, and that loss again represented no less disgraceful to our arms than destructive to the success of our affairs in that country.

Lord Viscount Weymouth. I should not have troubled your Lordships upon the subject of this day' s debate, were it not to prevent the noble Lords, who have supported the present motion, from imputing the silence of Administration to sullenness, or any want of attention. It is purely to obviate such an ill-founded imputation that I rise to declare, in a few words, my reasons for giving a negative to a motion which may be the means of laying any information before your Lordships, not fit for publick inspection. I am sure the letters now desired would certainly come within that description, because they contain a plan of the General' s intended operations. The account in the Gazette is, I think, fully sufficient. It tells you that the General formed the resolution of quitting Boston. It tells you that he effected it without the loss of a man; and that he brought off all his baggage, artillery, ammunition, stores, &c. The noble Earl has informed your Lordships very truly, that it has, for several months, been determined to alter the plan of operations,


as the state of affairs in that country has made such an alteration necessary. The General has accordingly evacuated Boston; not because it was not tenable, but because the service required his presence elsewhere. To explain his reasons, therefore, for embarking aboard the fleet, in order to proceed to Halifax, would be, in fact, disclosing what it is the interest of this country most earnestly to prevent. It would be disclosing no less than the whole plan of his future operations.

Before I sit down, I cannot avoid observing that the noble Duke, and another noble Lord who spoke on the same side, have given the strongest testimony in favour of the military capacity of the General, and the bravery and spirit of the troops. The noble Duke says that the embarkation was effected with the cool indifference which attends the removal of a regiment in England from one place of country quarters to another. The other noble Lord, who was bred to the military profession, [Lord Effingham,] has expressed his wonder and astonishment how it was possible for the General to bring off his troops without great loss and slaughter on both sides. I shall say no more, my Lords, but to repeat that I think the account in the Gazette contains a true state of the transaction; that a fuller could not be given, without revealing matter which we should wish to conceal from the enemy; and that for this last reason alone, I shall be against complying with the present motion.

Lord Ravenworth. I am very unwilling to trespass on your Lordships' time at this late hour of the day; but I cannot help rising to express my astonishment at the language held by the servants of the Crown on the present occasion. Though I heartily disapprove of the war, because I look upon it to be founded in injustice, as depriving the people of America of both their liberty and property, as long as your Lordships continue to approve of it nothing should be omitted on the part of Administration to render it successful; and I allow there is nothing they should more cautiously avoid than giving any information which might tend to obstruct or defeat the execution of their measures. It is for this reason that I think the noble Duke' s motion much too general and extensive; and if his Grace will permit me, I will propose an amendment, to confine the information now desired merely to the evacuation of Boston, and the measures preparatory to it. [Here his Lordship, to show that the uniform usage of office during the late reign was to lay the whole despatch nakedly before the publick as it was received, produced several London Gazettes, and read their dates, containing an account of the battles of Hastenbeck and Fontenoy, Braddock' s defeat, and the slaughter of the British troops at St˙ Cas˙ ] In this last instance, I recollect, the great man who then directed our publick affairs was so careful to inform the nation of that fatal disaster, though he received the account late at night, in bed, he instantly arose, and ordered it to be copied and sent to the printer of the Gazette the same night, giving particular directions that a Gazette Extraordinary should be published. This was the conduct of Lord Chatham, and of every preceding Minister since ever I can recollect anything of publick affairs. Whatever motives Administration may have for suppressing the details now called for, I cannot conjecture. I know it bears the most unfavourable appearance. I am resolved, however, to put them to the test, by amending the motion in such a manner as will not leave it in their power to refuse, without tacitly confessing that they wish to conceal what your Lordships and the publick have an indubitable right to be acquainted with. After the motion as it now stands, I shall therefore move the following amendment: "so far as do not relate to the intended operations of the present campaign."

The Earl of Suffolk. I must be against the amended motion, for the same reasons I urged against complying with it in its original state. The narrative relative to the evacuation of Boston is so blended and mixed with the concerted plan of operations, that it is impossible to separate them, so as to give the information desired, without at the same time disclosing circumstances not proper for the publick.

The question was then suddenly put, on which an altercation arose between the Lord Chancellor and the Duke of Bolton; the latter insisting that the question ought to have been put separately on the motion and the amendment,


and the former contending that, as the noble Duke consented to the amendment, both now made but one motion.

The Duke of Bolton. Since the beginning of the present unhappy dispute with America, I avoided to take any decided part on either side. I am far from approving of the cause of the war, much less of the manner in which it has been conducted; yet I have remained silent to this day, and have never voted once but in favour of the Restraining bill, which I thought a very proper measure at the time. I cannot say that I approve entirely of the motion, either in its original or amended state. It was at first much too general; nor does it at present come up entirely to my ideas; for I would have it specifically confined to the evacuation of Boston, as there may be several matters and transactions that happened from the 1st to the 17th of March, besides the mere evacuation, not proper to be divulged. I think, if the motion had been simply confined to that object, Administration could not, with any colour of decency or propriety, have refused to satisfy the publick. It would have been a ground of just suspicion if they had. I cannot but lament the conduct of our naval affairs, so far as they respect America, particularly when your Lordships reflect that the very mortar which drove the King' s troops out of Boston was permitted to fall into the hands of the Provincials through inattention and neglect. I do not see the noble Lord [Lord Townshend] who presides at the Board of Ordnance, this day in his place; but I am informed, that if he had complied with the application made to him, this important Joss would never have happened. I think the name of the transport was the Nancy, or the Peggy, the master of which, as soon as he learned that this mortar was to be put aboard him, immediately waited on the Master-General of the Ordnance, [the noble Lord before alluded to,] and acquainted him with the defenceless state of his vessel; adding, that if attacked only by an armed boat, he must submit. To which the noble Lord returned no other answer, but referred him generally to the Secretary of State. This, among many others of a similar nature, is the fullest proof how little attention was paid to this service. I will not pretend to impute the fault to any particular person; but it is matter of melancholy consideration, that, through negligence or incapacity, more than one-half of the implements of war sent to that country should be suffered to fall into the hands of the enemy; and, what is still worse, that they should be employed in the expulsion of the very troops for whose use they were intended.

The Earl of Sandwich. I entirely agree with the noble Earl and noble Viscount who have stated their reasons, showing the impropriety of complying with the present motion. I should not have risen, however, were it not to explain and answer a fact or two, urged by a noble Lord on the other side, [Lord Shelburne,] and the noble Duke who spoke last. The noble Lord says that contradictory orders were sent to Sir Peter Parker; that he was delayed by those orders; that he was sent out at an improper season; and that his fleet was blown away to the West-Indies. I do assure the noble Lord that he is totally misinformed as to some of his assertions. Sir Peter Parker received no contradictory orders, nor any orders but those under which he sailed. I had no hand in advising that expedition; nor am I at all answerable for the event. I am convinced it was wisely and ably planned; but I am likewise convinced that it will never answer the expectations first formed on it. As to the matter alluded to by the noble Duke relative to the mortar which has fallen into the hands of the Rebels, I have nothing to charge myself with. The transport aboard which it was shipped, sailed under convoy. She parted company, and again fell under convoy; and so a third time, till at length she was blown on the coast of America, where she was made a prize of by the Rebels. These are accidents, against which no human foresight can provide; and which, I am persuaded, the noble Duke is fully satisfied it is impossible to prevent.

The Duke of Bolton. The noble Earl has certainly misunderstood me. I never meant to say that the transport and mortar had been lost for want of a convoy, because I knew the contrary. I spoke of a fact which cannot be contradicted, I spoke of the application made to the noble Lord, and the neglect of not attending to it. I say, that if the transport had been armed, that very mortar which drove the King' s troops out of Boston would have been employed


for, not against them. So it would have been in the case of the artillery, ammunition, &c. I remember well that the transports during the late war were armed; and I appeal to the noble Earl, though the naval force serving on the American station is in a proportion of nearly three to one to what it was last year, that, not contented with this increased protection there, as well as convoys from hence, whether his Lordship has not taken care likewise that no transports are permitted to sail to America until they are first put in a state of defence against the American cruisers. This the noble Lord has gained by experience. Happy for both countries, perhaps, if this method had been adopted earlier.

The question was then put, and it was resolved in the negative. Contents 27; Non-contents 64.