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Meeting of the Merchants, Traders, and others, in London


February 8, 1775.

There was a very respectable meeting of the Merchants, Traders, and others, concerned in American Commerce, at the King' s Arms Tavern, Cornhill, yesterday evening, at five o' clock, agreeable to publick notice, "on very special affairs."

Mr˙ Lane took the Chair at half an hour after six o' clock, and then acquainted the meeting that the purpose of their being called together, was to report to them the progress and fate of their Petition to the House of Lords, for the further particulars of which he referred to Mr˙ Barclay, one of the Committee.

Mr˙ Barclay accordingly rose and stated the following particulars relative to the progress of the Petition since it had been agreed upon: On Tuesday, he said, it was given by the Committee to the Marquis of Rockingham, who promised to present it as soon as convenient, and further politely assured them he would otherwise give it all the assistance in his power. Accordingly, as soon as the Lords returned from the conference in the Painted Chamber to the House of Lords, his lordship got up and was going to present the American along with the West Indian Petition, when Lord Dartmouth was adjudged by the House to be up before, consequently was heard first. Lord Dartmouth' s motion being for the Lords "to agree with the Commons in an Address to his Majesty to enforce due obedience, &c˙, from the Americans," gave rise to a debate which lasted till between Two and three o' clock in the morning, during which time Lord Rockingham read the prayer of


the Petition, and frequently urged the necessity of their Lordships being informed in respect to the contents of it, previous to their deciding the present motion. He was, however, disregarded, and it was carried in favour of Lord Dartmouth' s motion, 104 for it, against it 29. The Petition being by this majority in effect nullified, (the prayer of it being to beg the Lords would hear them at their bar by counsel, before they would agree with the Commons,) his Lordship moved for the Petition' s lying on the table, as a memorial of their proceedings; and at the same time urged, in very manly and spirited terms, the unconstitutional proceedings of that House, in hurrying on so important a measure, and so warmly supported by so respectable a body as the Merchants trading to America, in such a sudden and surreptitious manner. Mr˙ Barclay likewise observed, that Lord Rockingham was warmly seconded by his Grace the Duke of Richmond, and Lord Camden; but that, notwithstanding such able solicitors, during the time of the reading of the Petition, most of the noble Lords were in clusters up and down the House, talking on indifferent matters.

Mr˙ Wooldridge supported this account given by Mr˙ Barclay, and observed on the fate of their Petition with great manliness, temper, and good sense.

These facts being stated to the general meeting, Mr˙ Sharpe moved "that the Thanks of the meeting be given to such of the Right Honourable and Honourable Members in both Houses, who supported their Petition." On this a trifling debate ensued, about its being in order, when at length it was agreed to, with the following amendment: "as well as to the Right Honourable the Earl of Chatham, for his polite message to the Committee."

Mr˙ Wooldridge then proposed that a Petition may be presented to the King; on which a long debate took place, rather about the mode of doing it than a positive objection to it.

Mr˙ Lee, in this debate, distinguished himself very much, by showing that though the Address was agreed on by both Lords and Commons, it was no Act of Parliament, but the advice of Parliament, which his Majesty' s subjects at large had a right to give as well as they, and which may be done both as an act of duty and decency.

About nine o' clock, after the question had undergone a very able and spirited discussion, it was put, and carried unanimously. It was then agreed that the Committee should prepare a draught of the same by Wednesday next, to be then referred to a general meeting, after which they adjourned to that day.