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Debate in the Irish Commons


Saturday, November 25, 1775.

The House was called over, and resolved into a Committee to take into consideration his Excellency' s Message, and the instruction to consider on the best mode of defence for this Kingdom, Mr˙ Malone in the chair.

The order for going into the Committee, his Excellency' s Message, and the order for the instruction, were read.

Sir Archibald Acheson rose, and made many eulogiums on His Majesty, whom, he said, we ought to look upon as the father of a much favoured people; and then proposed to offer two Resolutions, but they not being put into proper form, were handed to Mr˙ Vice-Treasurer; and as they took some time to arrange, Mr˙ Ogle said the Committee had better adjourn till the Resolutions were drawn. At length they were produced, in substance as follows:

1. Resolved, That it is the opinion of this Committee, that in the present exigence of affairs a number of Troops, not exceeding four thousand, out of the number of twelve thousand voted as necessary to be kept in Ireland for the defence thereof, be spared for His Majesty' s service abroad, provided that from their quitting this Kingdom they shall be of no charge to the nation.

2. Resolved, That it is the opinion of this Committee, that a number of foreign Protestant Troops, not exceeding four thousand, be received into this Kingdom, to replace the like number sent abroad for the security and defence thereof, provided they shall be of no charge to the nation.

Having read these two Resolutions, Sir Archibald Acheson moved the Committee to agree with the first.

Colonel Ross seconded the motion, and observed, this measure would be a saving to the nation of eighty-five thousand Pounds a year.

Mr˙ Hellen said, the message was the most respectful that ever came from a Sovereign to his people. That it confirmed and allowed the compact for keeping twelve thousand men here at all times, and that it should not be violated by withdrawing one of those men without the concurrence of Parliament; and was a pledge that the men requested of the House would be returned to the nation as soon as the exigency shall cease. This naturally led to an inquiry, whether the exigency was sufficiently great to warrant this requisition. That it was so, he endeavoured to prove, from the present state of American affairs. He then entered into the praise of the foreign troops intended to be sent here, observing they were some of the best in Germany, who had fought along with our forces, and with them had showed their firmness and bravery on the plains of Minden. By admitting those troops, our security was the same, and our expense considerably less. Some gentlemen, said he, may possibly ask, if these troops are so good, why they were not sent to America, and the British and Irish troops kept at home? To this it might be answered, that Great Britain was willing to show the same arm that protected America, while she was dutiful, was able to chastise her when she was seditious.

Mr˙ Ponsonby allowed that we ought to support Great Britain, if it can be done with justice, prudence, and humanity. That if the troops were sent abroad without asking our consent, then we should not be made parties in the quarrel. But if we give our consent, we shall show we take a determined part against America. To do so would be contrary to justice, for we have had no Parliamentary proof of the delinquency of America, or the state of the present troubles; all we know of either being derived from


newspapers. We know, indeed, that the Americans were dutiful and contented till the Stamp Act was passed, for the purpose of internal taxation. At this they murmured; this they opposed; but as soon as it was repealed they cheerfully returned to their duty, and so would they do now if the same expedient was used. To take a part against America would be contrary to prudence; for if we assist to punish them for resisting against being taxed by the British Parliament, we furnish a precedent against ourselves, if ever the like occasion should happen. It would be also imprudent to admit these foreign troops; they are not freemen, but subjects to arbitrary Government, and will not regard us as their master if we do not pay them, for soldiers always look up to the hand that pays them. As this measure is contrary to justice and prudence, so is it also to humanity; for what can be more inhuman than to send our friends, our relations, men we have conversed and eat and drank with, to expose them to the dangers of sea and battle, whilst foreigners live here at ease and safety; and he asked, was it not inhumanity to make widows and orphans of our countrywomen and children, only to spare those of strangers?

Mr˙ John Fitzgibbons said, before we took any part in a war, we should examine whether it was just. He then entered into a recapitulation of all that had passed between Great Britain and her Colonies, from the last, war to the present time, and concluded that the war was unjust, and Ireland had no reason to be a party therein. Some may say, added he, if we refuse these troops to His Majesty' s request, it may be of evil consequences; but he thought differently. It would make the King look into the affair, and when he sees we are not inclined to assist in an unjust war, it may be a means of inducing him to put an end to it.

Sir John Blaquiere replied, the resolution before the Committee tended to verify and realize the professions of loyalty made by the House. To this gentlemen might consent, without agreeing to the other, if they thought fit to submit to a short temporary inconveniency, rather than receive foreign troops, which would only be sent at the desire of the House.

Sir Edward Newenham said, as he had given his negative to the address, which denounced vengeance against his fellow-subjects, he could not agree to the sending of more troops, to butcher men who were fighting for their liberty. He said, that we might bid farewell to such as we sent to America; for that if America was conquered, the troops would be kept there to preserve that conquest; for though it might be conquered, the spirit of liberty would not be ever subdued. He was violently against the introduction of foreign mercenaries, and argued that the introduction of them had occasioned the fall of many great Empires and States. He instanced the danger of having foreign troops in any Kingdom where they would not be amenable to the laws, by mentioning the case of a Hessian soldier, who committed a robbery, and was confined by the civil magistrates, but was released and given up to the military. That Hanoverian, Hessian, and Brunswick troops were more dangerous than any others; for that German connections were always fatal to the true interests of Old-England. He entered largely into the present system of affairs in Europe. He insisted upon it, that German influence was so powerful in the Cabinet of Great Britain, that the most valuable interests of these Kingdoms would be given to save the paltry Electorate of Hanover, That he was convinced the destruction of the Elector' s Managery at Herenhausen, or the much-admired stud of cream-coloured nags in the stables of Hanover or Zell, would appear, in the eyes of the present Ministry, as a greater misfortune than the desolation of those three once happy, but now distracted sinking nations. He advised the Minister in the House to consider what riots and disorders would be committed in the City of Dublin, if foreign mercenaries were quartered in it. That the sending of our troops to the butchery of our fellow-subjects in America, or bringing over foreign mercenaries, equally militated against true reason and sound policy.

Mr˙ Gardiner considered the question in a twofold light; first, in regard to the relation in which we stand to Great Britain and America; and secondly, in regard to ourselves. In respect to the first, the question is not whether America resisted first, or whether she was oppressed


first; but, at present, it stands only whether America should be forever lost to Great Britain, or not. He heartily wished a reconciliation might take place; but that could only be effected by having a power to enforce it. Men, whose very existence in their offices depend on war, will never be sincere advocates for peace. The greater force sent to America, the less sanguinary will be the measure; and he was clearly of opinion, had there been as many troops in America last spring as there will be the next, not a sword would now have been unsheathed, his our duty and interest to assist Great Britain, if we can; but we cannot spare so many men from the defence of this country, if they are not somewhere replaced. The dispositions of the nations around us forbid us to leave Ireland defenceless. In his late tour, he had an opportunity of conversing with intelligent persons in divers Courts of Europe, and, by what he could gather, he was assured, they looked upon the contest with America as a means of weakening us; and when our neighbours thought us sufficiently weakened, then they would not fail to attack us in our most defenceless part. The Spaniards had a greater force than ever they had since the time of the Armada, commanded by an Irishman, who would omit no opportunity to invade that country, against which he was embittered by being banished from it. If these troops went away without being replaced, we should be defenceless. By the most accurate accounts, there were but eight thousand five hundred real fighting men in Ireland; and if a fourth part of them were sent abroad, he would ask the right honourable gentleman, (Sir John Blaquiere,) or he would ask the Commander-in-Chief, if he were in the House, whether either would undertake the defence of this Kingdom with the remainder, without any addition. He did not conceive there could be more danger from foreign troops than from natives; they were unacquainted with our language, and unconnected with our people, and therefore less liable to desertion. He also thought the saving from this measure was of great importance; nevertheless, before he would give his assent to the resolution., he must be assured of two things — one, that the men sent abroad will certainly be replaced; the other, that the saving of the four thousand men' s pay will not remain a surplus in the Treasury, exposed to the grasp of a Minister, but be deducted from the total of the supplies in the present money bill.

Mr˙ Carleton spoke a long time, to prove there could be no danger of a precedent making against us; and he enlarged on the evil consequences that would ensue from irritating Great Britain, by refusing this request.

Mr˙ Warden Flood espoused the measure, as it was not any augmentation, but a lessening of the national expense.

Mr˙ George Ogle said, he was not to be intimidated by any threats of ill consequences arising from a refusal. He was averse to send men, with swords in their hands, to cut the throats of their American brethren. That the ample supplies given by this exhausted and struggling country were sufficient testimonies of our loyalty; and it was highly improper to send men to punish in others what they would do in the same case. This measure was doubtless determined on the very first day of the session; and that was the cause why the compact of keeping twelve thousand men here was so strictly observed. The foreign troops cannot be called our own troops, if we do not pay them; they will fight for those only who do. A land tax will probably be attempted here; and if it does not succeed, (as certainly it cannot.) then it will be laid on by the British Parliament, and the foreign troops will be left here to enforce obedience. Whilst Parliament here will do all that is absurd, we shall, no doubt, have a Parliament, just as the Romans had a Senate in the times of the Emperors, but only to give a sanction to the Emperor' s dictates. He was, he said, alarmed by the manner in which the two resolutions were treated by Administration. The first was the measure of Government, and as such was supported; the last was the measure of Parliament, and as such was slighted by Administration: just as if they said, "grant us the four thousand more, and then take care for your own defence as you please." If men must be sent to America, send these foreign mercenaries, not the brave sons of Ireland, Gentlemen have said, Ministers must have power to enforce conciliation; but we know few Ministers who have power to enforce will attend to the voice of justice;


they will act as Brennius, the Gaul, did with the vanquished Romans — he viewed the tribute money exacted from them, and threw his sword in the opposite scale. But if these men must go, why must we have foreign troops for our defence? Why not raise the militia? They are our natural, our constitutional defence, and the raising them is practicable.

Captain Jephson observed, we have no reason to be so tender of the Americans, who had treated us ill; they had resolved in their Congress to receive no commodities from, nor have any commerce with Ireland; and this declaration not only set us at defiance, but fully proves they do not think us so infatuated as to take their parts.

Sir James Cotter asked whether the foreign troops, when they came here, were to be amenable to our laws or their own, and repeated the instance of the Hanoverian soldier at Maidstone.

Mr˙ Attorney-General answered, that all troops, foreigners as well as natives, were responsible to the laws of this country, as soon as they set foot therein.

Sir James Cotter replied, he was glad to find they were, yet he thought the measure very exceptionable. But if they did come, it would be better to pay them ourselves than not, especially as the expense was already provided for in the establishment.

Mr˙ Langrishe replied to the objections of sundry gentlemen, and observed that the saving on the military establishment was not the only advantage that would be derived from the foreign troops, but all their pay would be expended in this country, to the great advantage thereof.

Mr˙ Barry Barry was of opinion the men might be spared without their being replaced with foreign troops.

Mr˙ Redmond Morres observed, however we might be able to spare these men, yet it would be very improper to do so; and if the foreign troops did come, he hoped they would rather be quartered in the country than in Dublin, where the people would not be so contented with them.

Mr˙ Mason urged, that by the address of the House to His Majesty, it had expressed its sense that America was in rebellion. He observed, that agreeing to the first resolution did not bind them to agree to the second, though he was of opinion it was proper to agree to both.

Mr˙ Yelverton declared it was still his opinion, as it was at the opening of the session, that the resistance of the Americans was not rebellion. And how could he consent to aid the fate of America, which depended on the decision of that night? The question, indeed, was important, and decision very delicate. If we refuse His Majesty' s request, we incur the displeasure of Great Britain; if we comply, we aid the arbitrary designs of a despotick Ministry. In this dilemma, what can guide us? Nothing but reason and justice. We have two acts of Parliament, declaring that twelve thousand men are necessary for the defence of the Kingdom; and we have just resolved the same in the Committee of Supplies. Now, if we agree to part with a third part of that number, when there is no rebellion or invasion in Great Britain, we contradict these acts of the Legislature, and belie our own resolutions. Great Britain pretends to a supreme authority over all her dominions, as well in regard to internal taxation as to commercial regulations. Does not this assertion include Ireland?

It certainly does, and nothing is wanting but a plausible pretext or a proper opportunity to enforce it. This has been enforced in America; this caused the war, and therefore the war is unjust. Let Great Britain enjoy the wealth of both the Indies. Let London be the grand emporium of Europe; let her exert her commercial power over the sea, from pole to pole; but let us say to it as to the sea, "hither thou shalt come, and no farther." If these bounds are exceeded, human nature will not submit without murmuring, nor freeborn British subjects without resistance. The changes have been long rung about taxation and representation; but men have bewildered themselves on that subject, for want of setting out on proper and legal grounds; representation is not a representation of persons, but of property. At first, writs were issued to all who held of the Crown in capite. These were about seven hundred and thirty in number, and sat in the right of their property, held in feudal tenure, and not by any election. As commerce increased, property was purchased, and extended into many hands. The property of seven hundred became disseminated


amongst numbers too great to convene and sit in their own rights; those who possessed what was the property of one great Baron elected one or more of their own number to represent the whole of the property thus divided, and thence derived the right of representation. The case became the same in Cities and Corporations which held by capite from the Crown. The whole Corporation could not come to vote, therefore the Corporation elected its representatives. This proves how true that assertion was of Lord Chatham, "that every blade of grass in Great Britain was represented." But not one American blade of grass is represented in the British Parliament, therefore it cannot be justly taxed there; and this shows the folly and absurdity of the so much talked of virtual representation, and saying that many thousands in Britain were not represented more than the Americans. Many English persons may not indeed, but the whole English landed property is. Englishmen surely did not lose their spirit as well as their rights by crossing the Atlantick. No! They did not; they carried thither their freeborn spirit, before it was contaminated with an influx of Asiatick wealth. From all this it appears, the war of Britain with her Colonies is unjust; nor is it likely it should succeed under the auspices of that Ministry who so unjustly raised it; for we see twelve Colonies united, who are different in situation, different in interests, different in religion, different in manners, different in every thing but spirit. What has been the success of the British arms against these people? We have seen the British Navy, the terror of the world, who used to carry thunder to every part of the globe, now sailing from one little island to another, for the glorious purpose of pilfering a few cattle. We have seen the British Troops pent up in Boston Neck; we have seen a Ministry plotting and purchasing counter addresses, to cover their disgrace, and sending troops abroad in the most dangerous season of the year, to encounter tempests which seem to have been raised by Providence, on purpose to prevent more from imbruing their hands in their brethren' s blood. But if even it was just to send our troops, and they were likely to succeed, yet it would be inexpedient; for if we should join to subdue resistance, would it not be a precedent against ourselves, if ever we should resist against a like oppression. Had we foreseen or been acquainted with this measure, and that we should have saved so much on the military establishment, before we had voted the Tontine scheme, we might have spared sixteen thousand Pounds; but it seems to have been kept in petto, till all the demanded supplies had been granted.

Captain Trench spoke next against the measure, and Mr˙ Prime Serjeant for it.

Mr˙ Foster said, the only point to be considered was, whether this measure would bring on a reconciliation, which he thought it would. It was clear that the wish of America, was a total independence; and if we refuse to send these troops, we prevent a reconciliation, by hindering Great Britain from enforcing reasonable terms, which, if properly enforced, the Americans might agree to. But if we even agree to send these troops, we do not thereby condemn the Americans; we only assist Great Britain in her time of need. In regard to the supplies, though they are voted, the money bills are not passed, and gentlemen may make such retrenchments in them as they think necessary.

Mr˙ Chapman said, that he did not expect to hear such a message, after the many assurances of the Minister, that the twelve thousand men were completely in this Kingdom, and should remain so inviolably; and after the promises of Administration, that nothing should be expected from this country to America, but the address to the Throne. That notwithstanding the Committee of Supply had resolved twelve thousand men to be necessary for our defence, and had provided for them accordingly, yet, while the very sound of these assurances yet tingles in our ears, the Minister forgot himself in the messenger of the Crown, not to bring to their longing eyes the olive branch, the emblem of much wished for peace, but he lays his hand on his sword, and becomes the harbinger of war. That he congratulated Administration on at length finding out that hitherto invisible deity of theirs, but on closer inspection, he was sorry to discover that deity, like the god of the Egyptians, plainly and simply, a bull. That if the Minister was serious when ho promised economy, he ought to


lessen the supply in proportion to that economy; to content himself with fewer taxes, and to diminish his demands. That he called on him to do so, but he found him silent on that point; and therefore must conclude no real economy was in his contemplation. That one year' s saving was the utmost that was mentioned. That such reduction was paltry indeed, contrasted with the probable loss of four thousand gallant countrymen, devoted sacrifices to appease the fury of an incensed, a despairing people, in defence of their rights, confident against the world in arms; that the tears of the forlorn widow, the cries of the helpless orphan, could not be weighed in the money scale of a Minister. That this Kingdom would be left exposed to every enemy, allured by such prospects. That the asking the consent ot Parliament was a farce in politicks, and an undermining of a positive act of Parliament. That it was well known that the Crown always desired the consent of a dean and chapter to the appointment of an intended bishop, but it was never yet known that the person nominated did not succeed to the episcopal dignity.

Mr˙ Solicitor-General said, as the expense to be incurred was the chief argument used against the augmentation, so no gentleman, who voted then against it, can consistently oppose the measure by which the expense is taken away. He begged the first resolution might be disposed of before they entered into the consideration of the second; adding, that if we refused the request of the Crown, we should hurt the Americans, by misleading them to their ruin.

Mr˙ James Brown spoke in defence of the measure.

Mr˙ Conolly urged his fears for Ireland, from establishing a precedent, and mentioned that the King' s speech, at opening the British Parliament, declared the supremacy over all his dominions. He repeated and enforced what had been said about a land-tax laid on by England, and enforced by foreign mercenaries. He took notice of the intelligence an honourable gentleman (Mr˙ Gardiner) had derived of the hostile intentions of foreign powers, from the cabinets of foreign Courts. [Here Mr˙ Gardiner said the right honourable gentleman had mistaken him; he had only said courts, not cabinets.] Mr˙ Conolly replied, he had indeed mistaken, but the mistake was easily made, as he knew no gentleman more fit for a lady' s or a Privy Counsellor' s cabinet than the honourable gentleman.

Mr˙ Hussey Burgh then rose, and introduced his opinion relative to the question with observing, that although he had generally voted on that side of the House which is called Opposition, yet he had set it down as a maxim, never to give his support to a motion which was calculated to harass the Minister, and not to serve the people. That when there was a considerable majority evident on the part of Government, he thought it best not to hazard a question which there was a certainty of losing; that he made, for this reason, fewer motions than any man in the House; that he had no enemies to persecute, no partisans to serve; and that this might account for his silence during the present session. But he said the present question was of the greatest importance, a question arising from a message sent by the King to his Parliament, to which an answer must be given; that, without passion, without prejudice, and without fear, he would deliver his opinion; and that the man did not live, who knew on which side of the question that opinion would turn. He then entered largely into the consequences which might attend the putting this measure into execution; took a short view of the American war, which he termed unjust, as it not only militated against the law of nations, the law of the land, the law of humanity, but against the law of nature. He mentioned the imbruing our hands in the blood of our kinsmen and near relations; and that the saving, which was mentioned as a motive to induce our supporting the Ministry, was no more than a bribe to purchase our assistance to cut the throats of the Americans; that if the war was just, there was no necessity to bribe our concurrence; that the right of taxation demanded by Great Britain was unjust, for that it was contrary to all reason that a people who are the subjects of Great Britain should, in respect to their property, be at the mercy of two powers, and acknowledge a right of taxation both in their own Assemblies and in the British Senate; that if this was the case, they could not boast any property, for every shilling they enjoyed might by one act of


a Parliament, in which they were not represented, be taken from them forever; that instead of a saving, this measure would in all probability become a burden, and observed our civil establishment would always increase whenever the military decreased; and that the present saving would be only a temporary relief, which would bring on a future evil; for that when our own troops returned, then our military would fall back into the original expense, with the additional burden of what the civil establishment may have increased. He then mentioned our defenceless state, and insisted that we had not more than nine thousand fighting men, men who marched on their legs, and not on paper; men who could stand fire, and not calculation. He disposed very judiciously the arrangement of our troops, and clearly proved that we must be open to the insurrection of the White Boys in the South, and the Steel Boys in the North; and that then the murdering and maiming of our wives and children would fall on our own heads. That France looked on this quarrel with a peculiar pleasure, and that we had a security in their promises no longer than the hopes of accommodation with the Colonies existed; for whenever they disappeared, and that by this war we were weakened, then it was possible and probable, with a very small force, they would do such a signal mischief to this Kingdom as might be irreparable. He took a view of the commercial interest of France with America, and mentioned how probable it was they would sacrifice their friendship to England for a lucrative connection with America, and pictured the consequences in striking figures of reasoning. He mentioned the disturbances which might arise from the importation of these foreign troops, and asked by what laws they were to be tried for offences in this Kingdom? Whether they were to be subject to a jury of this country, or to a court-martial among themselves? And if the latter, what dreadful consequences might follow! He then returned to the justice on which this request was founded, and said such was his opinion of it, he would not vote a single sword against America, without an address to accompany it, recommending conciliatory measures; that he foresaw the consequences of this war; and that if the Ministry were victorious, it would only be establishing a right to the harvest, when they had burned the grain; it would be only establishing a right to the stream, when they had cut off the fountain.

Sir John Blaquiere said he was totally ignorant of this measure when the session opened; that it would have been wrong to have deducted the saving from the votes of supplies, before it was known whether the troops would be sent or not; that if the supplies are raised, and there is a redundancy on account of this measure, it would be liable to the disposal of Parliament next sessions.

The question was then put on the first Resolution, and the Committee divided, ayes 121, noes 76; majority 45.

It being then near midnight, the consideration of the second Resolution was adjourned till Monday.