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Petition of Several Natives of North America, Presented by Sir George Savile


MONDAY, May 2, 1774.

Sir George Savile presented a Petition of several Natives of America, to the House, which was read; setting forth, —

That the Petitioners are, again constrained to complain to the House of two Bills, which if carried into execution, will be fatal to the Rights, Liberties, and Peace of all America, and that the Petitioners have already seen, with equal astonishment and grief, proceedings adopted against them, which, in violation of the first principles of justice, and of the laws of the land, inflict the severest punishments, without hearing the accused: Upon the same principle of injustice, a Bill is now brought in, which, under the profession of better regulating the Government of the Massachusetts Bay, is calculated to deprive a whole Province, without any form of trial, of its chartered rights, solemnly secured to it by mutual compact between the Crown and the People. The Petitioners are well informed, that a charter so granted, was never before altered, or resumed, but upon a full and fair hearing; that therefore the present proceeding is totally unconstitutional, and sets an example which renders every charter in Great Britain and America utterly insecure; the appointment and removal of the Judges, at the pleasure of the Governor, with salaries payable by the Crown, puts the property, liberty, and life, of the subject, depending upon judicial integrity, in his power. The Petitioners perceive a system of judicial tyranny deliberately at this day imposed upon them, which from the bitter experience of its intolerable injuries, has been abolished in this country. Of the same unexampled and alarming nature is the Bill, which, under the title of a more impartial administration of justice in the Province of Massachusetts Bay, empowers the Governor to withdraw offenders from justice in the said Province; holding out to the soldiery an exemption from legal prosecution for murder; and, in effect, subjecting that Colony to military execution. The Petitioners entreat the House to consider what must be the consequence of sending troops, not really under the control of the civil power, and unamenable to the law, among a People whom they have been industriously taught, by the incendiary arts of wicked men, to


regard as deserving of every species of insults and abuse; the insults and injuries of a lawless soldiery are such as no free People can long endure; and the Petitioners apprehend, in the consequences of this Bill, the horrid outrages of military oppression, followed by the desolation of civil commotions. The dispensing power which this Bill intends to give to the Governor, advanced as he is already, above the law, and not liable to any impeachment from the People he may oppress, must constitute him an absolute tyrant; that the Petitioners would be utterly unworthy of their English ancestry, which is their claim and pride, if they did not feel a virtuous indignation at the reproach of disaffection and rebellion, with which they have been cruelly aspersed; they can with confidence say, no imputation was ever less deserved; they appeal to the experience of a century, in which the glory, the honour and the prosperity, of England, has been, in their estimation, their own; in which they have not only borne the burden of Provincial wars, but have shared with tins country in the dangers and expenses of every national war; their zeal for the service of the Crown, and the defence of the General Empire, has prompted them whenever it was required, to vote supplies of men and money, to the utmost exertion of their abilities; the journals of the House will bear witness to their extraordinary zeal and services during the last war, and that but a very short time before it was resolved here to take from them the right of giving and granting their own money. If disturbances have happened in the Colonies, they entreat the House to consider the causes which have produced them, among a People hitherto remarkable for their loyalty to the Crown, and affection for this Kingdom. No history can show, nor will human nature admit of, an instance of general discontent, but from a general sense of oppression. The Petitioners conceived, that when they had acquired property under all the restraints this. Country thought necessary to impose upon their commerce, trade, and manufactures, that to property was sacred and secure; they felt a very material difference between being restrained in the acquisition of property, and holding it, when required under those restraints at the disposal of others; they understand subordination in the one, and slavery in the other; the Petitioners wish they could possibly perceive any difference between the most abject slavery, and such entire subjection to a Legislature, in the constitution of which they have not a single voice, nor the least influence, and in which no one is present on their behalf; they regard the giving their property by their own consent alone, as the unalienable right of the subject, and the last sacred bulwark of constitutional liberty. If they are wrong in this they have been misled by the love of liberty, which is there dearest brithright, by the most solemn statutes, and the resolves of this House itself, declaratory of the inherent right of the subject, by the authority of all great constitutional writers, and by the uninterrupted practice of Ireland and America, who have ever voted their own supplies to the Crown, all which combine to prove that the property of an English subject, being a freeman or a freeholder, cannot be taken from him but by his own consent. To deprive the Colonies therefore of this right is to reduce them to a state of vassalage, leaving them nothing they can call their own, nor capable of any acquisition but for the benefit of others. It is with infinite and inexpressible concern, that the Petitioners see in these Bills, and in the principles of them, a direct tendency to reduce their countrymen to the dreadful alternative of being totally enslaved, or compelled into a contest the most shocking and unnatural, with a Parent State, which has ever been the object of their veneration and their love. They entreat the House to consider, that the restraints which examples of such severity and injustice impose are ever attended with the most dangerous hatred, in a distress of mind, which cannot be described. The Petitioners conjure the House not to convert that zeal and affection, which have hitherto united every American hand and heart in the interest of England, into passions the most painful and pernicious; most earnestly they beseech the House, not to attempt reducing them to a state of slavery, which the English principles of liberty, they inherit from their mother country, will render worse than death; and therefore praying the House will not, by passing these Bills, overwhelm them with affliction, and reduce their countrymen to the most


abject state of misery and humiliation, or drive to the last resources of despair.

Ordered, That the said Petition do lie upon the table.