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Petition Presented to the King



To the King' s Most Excellent Majesty:

The humble Address and Petition of the Merchants, Traders, and others, of the City of LONDON, concerned in the Commerce of NORTH AMERICA:

We, your Majesty' s dutiful and loyal subjects, the Merchants, Traders, and others, concerned in the Commerce of North America, beg leave to approach, and humbly lay before, your Majesty, those grievances, from the weight of which we are obliged to seek refuge in your royal wisdom and justice. An application of this extraordinary nature, we hope, will not be attributed to any design on our part to disturb your Majesty' s Government, but to our present uncommon sufferings, the severity of which is aggravated by the prospect of future calamities.

We are constrained, with very deep concern, to observe, that the Ministers of your Majesty have, for some years past, adopted a new mode of Government, with regard to the Colonies; a mode which has created great disquietude in the minds of your Majesty' s American subjects, and has been productive of repeated interruptions of the valuable Commerce carried on between this country and America. An evil of such magnitude awakes us from that silence which we have hitherto observed, in confidence that your Majesty' s


Ministers, perceiving the effects of this fatal innovation, would revert, at length, to those wise regulations by which the Government of the Colonies had been successfully administered. In the measures of late pursued, we have the unhappiness to find that experience has been disregarded and that the mischiefs resulting from this errour, which, by the application of seasonable and moderate remedies, might have been prevented, have been suffered to grow to a degree of alarming inveteracy. The interruption of Commerce, the distress of Manufactures, the diminution of your Majesty' s Revenues, are mischiefs which are lost in the contemplation of more disastrous consequences — the alienated affections of your Majesty' s subjects in America, and the horrours of a civil war.

If the subjects of your Majesty in North America have been led into any acts of extravagance, we confide in your Majesty' s justice, to explain their present proceedings by that loyalty which has distinguished them upon former occasions. Your Majesty will estimate their conduct by the integrity of their intentions; and, if they have been betrayed, by repeated provocations, or excessive punishment, into any measures which may not be approved, your Majesty will impute them to their true cause, and will make a just distinction between the turbulence of a faction, and the eager contentions of a free people.

To enforce this system of severity towards the Colonies, an Act has been passed by both Houses of Parliament, and is now awaiting your Majesty' s royal assent, "to restrain the Trade and Commerce of the Provinces of Massachusetts Bay and New-Hampshire, and Colonies of Connecticut and Rhode-Island, and Providence Plantation, In NorthAmerica, to Great Britain, Ireland, and the British Islands in the West Indies; and to prohibit such Provinces and Colonies from carrying on any Fishery on the banks of Newfoundland," &c.

By the operation of this Act, many thousands of your Majesty' s subjects in those Provinces, bereft of their occupation, and, in vain, desirous of exerting their usual industry, will either remain a burthen on the community, or suffer themselves to be hurried away by a spirit of enterprising despair. The loss they will sustain, by the interruption of so valuable a branch of their Commerce, will be aggravated by the want of provisions, which they derive from that source. Their minds, already too much irritated, will be still more inflamed; and, to their other causes of discontent, will be added, the strong and irresistible impulse of famine. So forcible an incentive it is scarcely to be supposed that human nature can withstand. The most moderate will, at length, give way to the impatience of complaint; the most loyal will forget their duty in the severe conflict of obedience and necessity.

We are sensible, indeed, from the imperfect institution of human judicatures, that it is not possible, in all cases, to discriminate the innocent from the guilty; but no arguments, in our apprehension, can justify a mode of punishment that involves thousands, who, confessedly, are not guilty of the offence for which it is inflicted; a punishment, that is not to be averted by the future deportment of the unfortunate persons who are the innocent victims of it, but which may be entailed upon them forever, by the persevering resistance of their neighbours.

The impolicy of this Act, we apprehend, will afford an argument no less weighty to induce your Majesty to withhold your assent from it. It must be admitted, if the European market could be supplied by the Merchants of Great Britain or Ireland, that it cannot be supplied upon the same terms, and, consequently, that it will create an opening for the French to interfere and rival us in that beneficial commerce. Nor can it be urged, that they are prevented from so doing, by the limits to which their Fishery is confined; for it is not improbable, but that they may take a sufficient quantity of fish within their own limits, to supply the European market; and, even if that were not the case, they would undoubtedly effect it by other means. Whatever reliance may be placed in theory upon the invisible lines drawn by Treaty, as the boundaries of their right of Fishery, we are well acquainted, by experience, how easily those limits are eluded or transgressed. But, if this profitable branch of trade should be once interrupted, it will be as a River diverted from its course, and will either lose itself entirely,


or wander into new channels, from whence no human effort can recall it.

We, therefore, most humbly pray your Majesty to withhold your royal assent from an Act, which is no less repugnant to good policy than justice. We acknowledge the many blessings which we and our ancestors have enjoyed under the Princes of your Majesty' s illustrious House; and, feeling an unfeigned satisfaction in the paternal regard which your Majesty has repeatedly expressed for the welfare and happiness of all your subjects, with the greater confidence we entreat the exertion of that just and necessary prerogative which the Constitution has wisely placed in your Majesty' s hands. Permit us, at the same time, to express our wishes that your Majesty may temper, with clemency, those rigorous measures with which your American subjects are threatened. The benevolence of your Majesty will inspire you, upon this occasion, with a recollection of the high deserts of the ancestors of this unfortunate people, who, flying from the house of bondage, and guided by the spirit of freedom, and their own enlightened conscience, traversed the vast Ocean, and encountered all the perils of a dreary Wilderness.

Your Majesty will contemplate, likewise, the extensive benefits gradually derived from their patient industry and perseverance, and weighing the great commercial advantages that, for many years, have accrued to these Kingdoms from the American Colonies, and the dreadful consequences of the disorders which now distract them, will pursue such lenient measures as can alone restore true harmony, and promote the happiness and prosperity of the British Empire.