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House in Committee on the Message and Papers, Debate



Resolved, That this House will immediately resolve itself into a Committee of the whole House, to take into further consideration his Majesty' s most gracious Message of Monday, the 7th day of this instant, March, together with the Papers which were presented to the House by the Lord North, upon the 7th and 11th days of this instant, March, by his Majesty' s command.

The House accordingly resolved itself into the said Committee.

Mr˙ Speaker left the Chair.

Sir Charles Whitworth took the Chair of the Committee.

Lord North' s Speech and Motion

Lord North rose and said, he meant now to open the plan of the Bill which he proposed to bring in; and as it might very well be understood by gentlemen in that House, from the Papers relating to America, that then laid before them, that an executive power was wanting in that country, and that it was highly necessary to strengthen the magistracy of it; that the force of the civil power consisted in the posse comitatus; and when it is considered, said his Lordship, that the posse are the very People who have committed all these riots, little obedience to the preservation of the peace is to be expected from them. There appears to be a total defect in the constitutional power throughout. If the democratic part shows that contempt of obedience to the laws, how is the Governor to execute any authority vested in him? If he wants any magistrate to act, whom he knows will be willing to execute the laws, he has not the power of appointing one, nor of removing one that will not act; the Council have alone that power, whose dependence is on the democratic part of the constitution. It appears that the Civil Magistrate has been, for a series of years, uniformly inactive; there is something radically wrong in that constitution, in which no magistrate


for such a number of years, has ever done his duty in such a manner as to force obedience to the laws. If the Governor issued a proclamation, there was hardly found a magistrate to obey it; the Governor, of his own authority, can do nothing; he cannot act, or give out any order, without seven of the Council consenting; the authority of that Government is in so forlorn a situation that no Governor can act; and, where there is such a want of civil authority, can it be supposed that the military, be they ever so numerous, can be of the east service? For I shall always consider that a military power, acting under the authority and controul of a Civil Magistrate, is part of the constitution; but the military alone ought not, and cannot act without the controul of the Civil Magistrate. How was it possible for the military to maintain good Government when they were not called upon by the civil authority? I propose, in this Bill, to take the executive power from the hands of the democratic part of Government; I would propose, that the Governor should act as a Justice of Peace, and that he should have the power to appoint the officers throughout the whole civil authority, such as the sheriffs, provost, marshal, &c. — The Chief Justice and Judges of the Supreme Court excepted. I would have them only removable by his Majesty, under his sign manual, and upon good representations made here. Every gentleman will naturally see the impropriety of such irregular assemblies, or town-meetings, which are now held in Boston; I would have them brought under some regulation, and would not suffer them to be held without the consent of the Governor, unless upon the annual election of certain officers, which it is their province to choose. Their juries are improperly chosen; I think a degree of regulation highly necessary; I am always ready and open to hear those matters discussed, and inclined to alter my opinion, when I hear better reasons for adopting any other mode of putting the civil magistracy of that country upon a good footing; but until the executive power is free, it cannot act; our regulations here are of no import, if you have nobody in that country to give them force. Some immediate, as well as permanent remedy, must be adopted. I therefore propose the present Bill, which I apprehend will effectually purge that constitution of all its crudities, and give a degree of strength and spirit to the civil magistracy, and to the executive power. I therefore move you, Sir, "That leave be given to bring in a Bill for the better regulating the Government of the Province of Massachusetts Bay." I propose that this Bill shall be brought in, and lie upon the table, for the inspection of the House and gentlemen who wish to make the propriety of such a Bill the measure of their conduct.

Mr. Byng

Mr˙ Byng said, that he could not be at all surprised at hearing that the Governor of Boston had no power, when he had not a single place in his gift. It was now become a fashion, he said, to give away those places of emolument to men of this country, with reversions to one, two, or three sons; to men who had never been of the least public service to this country, in his apprehensions, [meaning Mr˙ Bradshaw.] Whilst places continue to be given away to men of this country, the emoluments of which arise from the labour and sweat of an American brow, it will undoubtedly, and very properly, totally annihilate the power of any


supreme officer in that country. Men look up to their superiors, and obey their directions according to the emoluments received from them; and when once their is no dependence in it, there will be no obedience.

Sir F. Norton

Sir F˙ Norton (Speaker) said, he only got up to know, whether there was to be an Assembly left to the Americans or not? For he was not able to say, from what he had heard from the noble Lord, whether the Assembly was to be annihilated or not.

Lord North

Lord North assured the right honorable member, that there would be nothing in this Bill that affected either the Assembly or the Council in their legislative power.

Mr. Stephen Fox

Mr˙ Stephen Fox. Can there be any thing so necessary to alter as that Government which can neither govern nor manage itself? The People of Boston have behaved in a most outrageous manner, militating against every principle of law and justice, combating against its own constitutional power, and totally subverting every idea of order and regularity. Would you let these men go on in the chaos of disturbance? Would you wish them to proceed so precipitately to their destruction without once lending the aid of your deliberations to rescue them from the self-conceived and false opinions which they have imbibed. I hope, Sir, this House will lend its advice, and endeavour to save these hot-headed Americans, not by violent measures but by firm and manly proceedings.

Lord George Germain

Lord George Germain. It may not be improper, Sir, I hope, to throw out a little upon this occasion, and to ask for further information, to know whether this is to be the extent of the proposition with regard to the salutary measures that are to be made and taken in this Committee, during this whole Session; if so, Sir, I should be glad to give my poor opinion, and add my mite of preservation to that country. I could have wished that the noble Lord, when he was forming this scheme of salvation to this country, would have, at least, considered that there were other parts of the internal Government necessary to be put under some regulation. I mean particularly the internal Government of the Province of Massachusetts Bay, I wish to see the Council of that country on the same footing as other Colonies. There is a degree of absurdity, at present, in the election of the Council. I cannot, Sir, disagree with the noble Lord, nor can I think he will do a better thing, than to put an end to their town meetings. I would not have men of a mercantile cast every day collecting themselves together, and debating about political matters; I would have them follow their occupations as Merchants, and not consider themselves as Ministers of that country. I would also wish, that all corporate powers might be given to certain People in every town, in the same manner that Corporations are formed here; I should then expect to see some subordination, some authority and order. I do not know by what power those are to be formed, but I wish that they may be formed by some. Again, Sir, I think that the method of Grand Juries ought to be much attended to; they are now chosen for life, and have a yearly salary, and these are the men to whom your life and property is entrusted. Your People know to whom to make application, when law and justice are wished to be subverted by favour and affection. Your Petty Juries are elected annually, so many persons in each town; to these men offenders know how to apply; and when any riot happens between the military power and the People of the town, the Jury, being taken principally out of that town, the power of life and death of the offender is lodged in those who are offended. These juries, I think, require great regulation; they are totally different from ours, and in my idea, carry with them not only the highest degree of absurdity, but are subject to be led aside to commit the highest and most palpable enormities against justice and the laws of the land, I would not wish to protract the noble Lord' s Bill, by lengthening it out to a degree which he does not wish it to go, nor to oppose the measures which he has already adopted. I would wish to bring the constitution of America as similar to our own as possible. I would wish to see the Council of that country similar to a House of Lords in this. I would wish to see chancery suits determined by a Court of Chancery, and not by the Assembly of that Province. At present their Assembly is a downright clog upon all the proceedings of the Governor, and the Council are continually thwarting and opposing


any proposition he may make for the security and welfare of that Government. You have, Sir, no Government, no Governor; the whole are the proceedings of a tumultuous and riotous rabble, who ought, if they had the least prudence, to follow their mercantile employment, and not trouble themselves with politics and Government, which they do not understand. We are told by some gentlemen, oh! do not break the charter; do not take away their rights that are granted to them by the predecessors of the Crown; whoever, Sir, wishes to preserve such charters, without a due correction and regulation; whoever, Sir, wishes for such subjects, I wish them no worse than to govern them. Put this People, Sir, upon a free footing of Government; do not let us be every day asserting our rights by words, and they denying our authority, and preventing the execution of our laws. Let us, Sir, persevere in refining that Government which cannot support itself, and proceed on in the manner we have begun, and I make no doubt but, by a manly and steady perseverance, things may be restored from a state of anarchy and confusion, to peace, quietude, and a due obedience to the laws of this country.

Lord North

Lord North. I thank the noble Lord for every proposition he has held out; they are worthy of a great mind, and such as ought to be adopted; and indeed I cannot say that at present there is any objection to what is proposed being regulated at some future period; if any thing can tend to the relief of the present distresses in America, it is the unanimity of this House, and of men of such abilities as the noble Lord, in the projection of measures necessary to be taken. Every proposition the noble Lord has mentioned coincides with my mind; I see the propriety of them, and I would wish to adopt them. It is not my proposition to close this Committee before other measures may be offered, which, for any thing I know, may have a degree of preference to those I have this day proposed. I, for my part, Sir, shall think of the propositions made, and receive them to be canvassed by greater wisdom and abilities than mine. I am clear, with the noble Lord, that the constitution of this charter ought not to prevent Parliament from interfering to regulate those matters in America, which the indigested measures of their charter have, perhaps, precipitately been, in some degree, a means of preventing the peace and quietness of that country from being restored.

Mr. Phipps

Mr˙ Phipps got up, but the House being noisy, he was not much attended to.

Mr. Pownall

Mr˙ Pownall used much the same kind of arguments he had done in the former debates, and gave a judicious account of the Government of America. He concluded with giving to the Americans the character of a conscientious, good, religious, peaceable set of People, and said that there was not in all his Majesty' s Dominions a more respectable set of persons existing.

Motion Agreed To

Lord North' s motion was then agreed to, and Mr˙ Speaker resumed the Chair.

Sir Charles Whitworth reported from the Committee, that he was directed by the Committee to move the House that leave be given to bring in a Bill for the better regulating the Government of the Province of the Massachusetts Bay in North America.

Ordered, That leave be granted to bring in the Bill; and that Sir Charles Whitworth, the Lord North, Mr˙ Attorney General, and Mr˙ Solicitor General, do prepare and bring in the same.