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Bill offered by Lord Camden to Repeal the Quebeck Act


Before the Clerk read the Petition,

Earl Gower said, he should be glad to be informed through what channel the Petition came into the noble Lord' s hands, as he understood that such a Petition had been in Town for some months; but not coming in a manner in which his Majesty' s Ministers could take the desired notice of it, he did not see how the House could entertain it, without it came accompanied with the necessary forms. He heard, he said, that a gentleman, no way connected with the Province, had such a Petition in his possession; but how the House could be satisfied that the Petition, now presented, was the Petition of the persons to whom it was attributed, was not in his power to determine.

Lord Camden replied, it mattered very little how the Petition came into his hands; this, however, he would venture to assure the House, that it was genuine; and if their Lordships conceived any suspicion that it was unfairly or surreptitiously obtained, the Agent of the Colony (Mr˙ Maseres) would give them the fullest satisfaction on that head.

The Petition was then read by the Clerk.

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

Then it was moved, "That the Bill, entituled ‘An Act for making more effectual provision for the government of the Province of Quebec, in North America,’" might be now read.

The same was accordingly read by the Clerk:

Which done,

Lord Camden acquainted the House, that the Petition having been, previously, offered to every Peer in Administration, had, at last, been delivered to himself to present to that House; a task which he had undertaken, not having those reasons that might have influenced the Lords in Office to decline it; because he had, uniformly, from principle and conviction, opposed the Act which they had planned, and by their persuasive powers carried through the House.

His Lordship then observed, that after the fullest examination of the Act in question, he found it so thoroughly impolitick, pernicious, and incompatible with the Religion


and Constitution of our country, that no amendment, nor any thing short of a total repeal of it would be sufficient. He remarked on the provisions of the Act as being wholly inconsistent with the reasons recited in it; and he concluded that they were not the true reasons on which it was founded; that there must be other secret motives and designs which had produced the measure, and which could be best discovered by attending to the purposes the Act was calculated to answer, which, from the provisions made therein, appeared to be no other than to prevent the farther progress of freedom and the Protestant Religion in America, and to secure a Popish Canadian Army to subdue and oppress the Protestant British Colonies of America. His Lordship arranged his objections to the Act under the three following heads: —First, The extension of the limits of Quebec. Second, The establishment of Popery there; and Third, The civil despotism in which the inhabitants of that immensely extended Province are to be perpetually bound, by being deprived of all share in the Legislative power, and subjected, in life, freedom, and property, to the arbitrary Ordinances of a Governour and Council, appointed by, and dependent on, the Crown.

Under the first of these heads his Lordship proved, that there could be no good reason for so extending the limits of Quebec, as to make them comprehend a vast extent of country, two thousand miles in length from North to South, and bounded on the West only by the South Sea. That this enlargement could only be intended to extend the shackles of arbitrary power and of Popery over all the future settlements and Colonies of America. That by drawing the limits of that Province close along the interiour settlements of all the old English Colonies, so as to prevent their further progress, an eternal barrier was intended to be placed, like the Chinese wall, against the further extension of civil liberty and the Protestant religion. His Lordship then animadverted particularly on the instructions lately transmitted to General Carleton, whereby the regulation of all the Indian trade of North America is put into the hands of the Governour and Council of Quebec, and the other Colonies are obliged, in their intercourse with the Indians, to submit to the laws, not of the British Parliament, but of a despotick unconstitutional Legislature in Canada; a measure calculated to produce endless contentions and animosities.

Under the second head his Lordship proved, that the Popish religion, though not in express terms, is, in effect, really and fully established in the Province of Quebec. By confirming not only the Laity, in a free exercise of their religion, but the Romish Clergy, in the enjoyment of all their former tythes and ecclesiastical dues, rights, &c˙, and the Bishop, (the Pope' s representative,) in the exercise of all his spiritual powers and functions, and in the disposal of one hundred and eighty ecclesiastical benefices; and also by dispensing with the Oath of Supremacy, whereby every officer of Government in that Province, both civil and military, even the Governour himself, may be of the Romish religion. And here his Lordship particularly referred to the Act of the first Elizabeth, which forever excludes the Pope from all jurisdictions within the Kingdom of England, and the Dominions thereunto belonging, or which may, at any future time, be acquired; and prescribes an Oath of Supremacy to be taken through this Kingdom and all its Dominions. This Act his Lordship represented as the great support and barrier of the Protestant religion; and as being, in its nature, as sacred and fundamental as the Act of Settlement, or even as Magna Charta itself; — and yet, said his Lordship, this has been unnecessarily and wantonly violated by the Quebec Act, whereby the oath which it prescribes is wholly dispensed with in that Province. His Lordship observed, that the capitulation with Sir Jeffery Amherst promised the people of Canada only a toleration in the exercise of their religion, and that, by the Definite Treaty of Peace, they were only to be allowed to "profess the worship of their religion, according to the rights of the Romish Church, as far as the laws of Great Britain permit;" that the utmost which the inhabitants of Canada had expected, in consequence of this, was a religious toleration, such as is allowed to Protestant dissenters in England, whose Clergy not only receive no tythes, but are exposed to a tram of penalties from which they have in


vain solicited relief. And that the Popish Clergy of Quebec were so far from expecting any grant of tythes, that they had not even asked for them in the course of more than ten years, which had since elapsed. That they were unexpected, unreasonable bounties, "quod nemo Divum promittere auserat." His Lordship farther observed, that by thus clothing the Popish Clergy with wealth and power, and the rites of the Romish religion, with that alluring splendour, magnificence, and pomp, which are its chief supports, an impolitick, insuperable, bar was placed against the conversion of the people of Canada, from their present attachment to the Popish religion, and their desire of returning again to the dominion of France.

Under the third and last head, his Lordship took an extensive review of the History and Constitution of England, as well as of the Royal prerogative, in respect to new dominions and conquered countries; he animadverted on the doctrine said to have been delivered by Lord Mansfield in the cause respecting the duty of four and a half per cent. levied by the Crown in Grenada, and clearly proved, that, in all accessions of territory to the Crown, the King is, constitutionally, intrusted and required to extend to his new subjects the laws of England, and the benefit of a constitution similar to that of our own country; that he can give no less than those rights and privileges which, by the Common Law, as well as by the Act of Settlement, are declared to be "the birthright of every British subject;" that, accordingly, this had been invariably done in every acquisition of territory and dominion, particularly in the case of Ireland, of the Counties Palatine (Chester and Durham) of Wales, of Berwick upon Tweed, of Calais, of Jamaica, of New-York, of St˙ Christopher' s, of Grenada, &c˙; that the same was also promised to be done in the Province of Quebec; and that, by the Proclamation of 1763, the faith of the Crown was solemnly plighted to the settlers in that and the other new Colonies, that their respective Governours "shall summon and call General Assemblies within the said Governments, respectively, in such manner and form as is used and directed in those Colonies and Provinces in America, which are under our immediate government;" and, continues the Proclamation, "we have also given power to the said Governours, with the consent of our said Councils, and the Representatives of the people, so to be summoned as aforesaid, to make, constitute, and ordain Laws, Statutes, and Ordinances, for the publick peace, welfare, and good government of our said Colonies, and the people and inhabitants thereof, as near as may be agreeable to the laws of England, &c˙, and in the mean time, and until such Assemblies can be called as aforesaid, all persons inhabiting in, or resorting to, our said Colonies, may confide in our Royal protection for the enjoyment of the benefit of the laws of our Realm of England," for which purpose Courts of Justice were to be erected, &c˙, all which, Lord Camden observed, had been done and fulfilled in every other Province, excepting that of Quebec, to which many settlers had been allured by this Proclamation, who, by a most disgraceful violation of the Royal faith, were since, with the rest of that Province, subjected to the civil laws of France, and to the despotism of a Governour and a dependent Council, instead of being allowed an Assembly, and laws made by the Representatives of the people, as they were solemnly promised. His Lordship also represented, that the tyrannical Government thus established, is considered as the most oppressive act of injustice by all the Protestant, and even by all the Popish, inhabitants of Quebec, except the Romish Clergy and French Noblesse, who are willing to submit to a despotick Government, for the sake of tyrannizing over the peasantry of Canada. He likewise observed, that the slavery imposed by the Act in question is so repugnant to the success of commerce, and abhorrent to the feelings of native British subjects, that if it be not soon repealed, both the former and latter will abandon that Province.

His Lordship having, by these and many other facts and arguments, proved the impolicy, injustice, tyranny, and iniquity of the Act in question, declared, that it deserved to be reprobated by the unanimous voice of Parliament, and that it would, necessarily, receive the censure of their Lordships, if there remained the smallest regard for liberty and the Constitution in one part of the House, or for the Protestant religion in the other.


His Lordship concluded with offering the following Bill:

A Bill to repeal an Act made in the last session of the last Parliament, entituled "An Act for making more effectual provision for the government of the Province of QUEBEC, in NORTH AMERICA."

Whereas, an Act was passed in the last session of the last Parliament, entituled "An Act for making more effectual provision for the government of the Province of Quebec, in North America;"

And whereas, the said Act, contrary to the example of all former times, and to the faith of his Majesty' s Proclamation, issued in the year 1763, has established an arbitrary Government in the said Province;

And whereas, the said Act, by permitting both the Clergy and Laity there to hold offices and benefices, without taking the Oath of Supremacy, and by granting to the Popish Clergy, in the said Province the enjoyment of their accustomed dues and rights, has entirely stopped the growth and propagation of the Protestant religion, and in the room thereof has established the religion of the Church of Romein the said Province forever;

And whereas, the said Act, by enlarging the boundaries of the said Province, and making the Legislature thereof co-extensive with the same, may put the Indian trade, among other things, under the sole management of that Legislature, as, in truth, appears to be already done, by the instructions lately given to Governour Carleton, by which that trade, which had before been freely carried on by all his Majesty' s subjects in North America without restriction, is now to be confined to such regulations as the said Legislature may think fit to impose upon it, and thereby the rights of his Majesty' s other Colonies unwarranatably abridged and invaded; and, by a like extension of the said Legislature, the said other Colonies may come to be excluded from having any intercourse or correspondence whatsoever with the Indian Nations of that vast Continent, without the leave or permission of the said Legislature, which would naturally give rise to unnatural divisions, and endless controversies between his Majesty' s subjects of the old Colonies, and the inhabitants of the new Province of Quebec;

May it, therefore, please your most excellent Majesty, That it may be enacted, and be it enacted by the King' s most excellent Majesty, by and with the advice and consent of the Lords Spiritual and Temporal and the Commons in this present Parliament assembled, and by the authority of the same, That from and after the first day of May, 1776, the above mentioned Act, and the several matters and things therein contained, shall be, and is, and are, hereby repealed and made void, to all intents and purposes whatsoever.

The said Bill was read the first time.

Lord Camden then acquainted the House, that he had delayed the proposed repeal until the first day of May next, to the end that time might be obtained in the interval to provide a better plan of government for the Province of Quebec.

The Earl of Dartmouth then moved, "That the said Bill be now rejected."

The Earl of Dartmouth said, he should decline entering into a detailed view of the vast mass of matter which had been travelled over by the noble Lord. He made the same objection to the mode of obtaining the Petition, and the manner of presenting it, as Earl Gower had done. He said, that the Petition had been offered to be delivered to him so early as the 23d or 24th of January; but, besides, that his sentiments were clearly in favour of the Act, he could not, with propriety, receive any paper, importing to be a Petition from the inhabitants of that Province, unless it came through the channel of the Governour and Council. But, said his Lordship, supposing that the Petition had been fairly obtained, what does it literally, or substantially, import? Does it desire a repeal? Does it even hint at any such thing? How, then, can the noble and learned Lord come, upon the ground of this Petition, to Parliament to desire a repeal, when the very utmost the Petitioners themselves look for is, that they may have the benefit of the Habeas Corpus law, and the Trial by Jury? The former of which, it is evident, they are entitled to, by the laws of England, and the latter they now enjoy in all criminal matters. His Lordship then read the Address


presented to Governour Carleton, from the French inhabitants, on his arrival, and their Address to the King, wherein they express their gratitude to his Majesty, for restoring them to their ancient rights and privileges. These, he insisted, were the most indubitable proofs, that the French Canadians were made happy by the change, and that by no one rule of good policy, justice, or a regard to publick faith, could it be expected that nearly one hundred thousand peaceable loyal subjects should be rendered unhappy and miserable, purely to gratify the unreasonable request of two or three thousand persons, who wished for what was impracticable, and looked upon themselves deprived of what they were actually in possession of.

On these grounds he moved for the rejection of the Bill.

The Duke of Richmond said, the present motion of repeal was not supported solely on the contents of the Petition now presented, but on the idea that every noble Lord had a right to propose an amendment, and move for a repeal, of any law which they deemed impolitick or oppressive. His Grace observed, that great industry had been used on a former occasion, and he made no doubt would be much resorted to, and great stress would be laid on the same mode of reasoning this day, that suppose the powers vested by the Act might, on account of giving the Canadians some civil Constitution, suited to the immediate necessity of the case, somewhat exceed those modes of legislation and government usually exercised where no such necessity existed; yet the acknowledged disposition of those, to whom this power was delegated, removed the most distant jealousy or suspicion, that this trust would be abused. That this maxim, said his Grace, applied directly, is certainly true in fact, though notoriously fallacious in every other respect, by way of argument; for where would it lead us, but directly to the establishment of arbitrary power? I am confident, there is not a Lord in this House, who has made politicks his study, or has taken time to consider the different Constitutions of Government that have been framed and established, but will agree with me, that the true end of all civil regimen, is the happiness and prosperity of the governed; and that, consequently, the best Government is that which is best exercised. But I trust there is not a noble Lord who will openly contend, that, because the person to whom the execution of the laws is intrusted, probably will employ the trust thus committed to his charge with fidelity, and a sacred regard for the interests of his people, that, therefore, they should, from their unbounded confidence in him, foolishly and blindly make a surrender of their rights and liberties; thinking his virtues and abilities transmissible and hereditary with his political office. To guard against this mistake, our Constitution was first framed, and every one law enacted to secure to us the blessings we at present enjoy, is directed not to bind good Princes, or direct wise ones, but to prevent weak or bad men from abusing that trust, necessary, from the nature of civil Government, to be lodged somewhere. I will even come more immediately to the point before your Lordships, to the personal character of the Governour, who is charged with the execution of those monstrous arbitrary powers which are the subject of this day' s debate. I do not, for my part, believe there is a more worthy or deserving man breathing. I know him well; I have, I may say, lived with him for several years, and I am convinced of his high integrity and eminent skill in his profession; but will it follow, that because I know General Carleton to be a man to whom I might safely trust every thing I hold dear and sacred, that, therefore, I must wish to trust the Governour of Quebec, be he whom he may, with powers which, from their nature, if exercised at all, must be productive of oppression and injustice; and if badly exercised by any future Governour who may happen to succeed him, may be turned into an engine of oppression and tyranny equal to those claimed by the most absolute despot on earth? His Grace, besides his general argument, applied particularly to the Bishops to rise and explain themselves on the article of religion; and whether they were of opinion that it was proper that Popery should be indulged with a Legislative establishment in any part of the British Empire?

Lord Lyttelton. My Lords: the noble mover has told your Lordships, that the Bill which passed last session, for establishing a Government in Canada, was a Bill, "abhorrent


to the British Constitution, and that it ought to be repealed by the unanimous voice of this House." I shall first put his Lordship in mind, that this Bill was not made for the meridian of England; that it was framed for the conquered subjects of France, consonant to the faith of Treaties, and to the stipulations agreed upon by the conqueror. which was part of the solemn pact, between Great Britain and France, covenanted for, and ratified by, both Nations at the conclusion of the war: and then, my Lords, I will go a step further; I will meet the noble Lord on his own ground; and will uphold that the general principles and policy of this Canada Bill were founded in wisdom; that the principles of it, which his Lordship affirms to be repugnant to Christianity, emanated from the Gospel, and are coeval with the religion of our Saviour; that they breathe forth the spirit of their Divine Master; for they are neither principles of Popery, nor servitude; they are principles, my Lords, of toleration, unrestrained by prejudice, and unfettered by absurd and odious restrictions. The inhabitants of Canada were Catholics before they were conquered by England, they are Catholics now, but under the jurisdiction of a Protestant Parliament, and under the cognizance of Protestant Bishops, who form a part of that Parliament, and who, I believe, were unanimous in allowing them the free exercise of their religion. In regard to the policy of the Bill, I cannot but think it to be indisputably excellent, because it tends, by the beneficence of its aspect, to remove those rooted prejudices which are carefully instilled into the minds of all the subjects of France, against the laws and the Constitution of England. This Bill, my Lords, has more effectually opened their eyes, than the perusal of all our Statute books; it has given them, with the mild code of our criminal law, a share of those blessings which we derive from freedom; it has abolished the torture; it has raised the people from the oppression and tyranny under which they crawled, and has perpetuated in their hearts that dominion, which has so recently been acquired by our arms. But, says the noble Lord, (and here he seems to press on triumphantly his arguments) you have, by this Bill, affected the interests of commerce, those interests that ought to be most dear to Great Britain: they ought to be so, indeed, my Lords; and so far are those interests from being hurt, that it has been the chief purpose of the Bill to improve them: they have flourished under it, even beyond the most sanguine expectation; for, my Lords, since, the Non-Importation Agreement has been entered into by all the other Provinces of America, who but the Canadians have opened a channel for British Manufactures? Who but the Canadians have kept alive your drooping commerce, by taking prodigious quantities of Goods from England, which, by their spirit and diligence have, notwithstanding the unlawful combinations of the Americans, penetrated and pervaded every part of the Continent? Notwithstanding the factious Resolutions of the Assemblies; notwithstanding the inflexible enmity of the Congress, the Canadians have opened a way for the English Trader: by their means he has found a passage into America for his various sorts of Merchandise; they have been carried into all the Provinces; they have even crossed over the peninsula of Boston. These, my Lords, these are the consequences you have derived from this Canada Bill; reprobated, indeed, by the noble Lord, but most cordially received by the loyal Canadians, who take every occasion to shew how sensible they are of its utility, and how desirous of testifying their gratitude.

But the noble and learned Lord has not confined his opposition to the general principles and policy of this Act: he has, with the designing subtlety of a Lawyer, attacked the law part of the Bill: he has told your Lordships, that the intention of it was to throw an unlimited power into the hands of the Crown; that the design was manifest, because they were denied the Habeas Corpus: he has assured you, that by excepting the Canadians from the salutary influence of this excellent provision made for the liberty of the subject, you have altered the tenour of that wholesome policy, which has always induced, and by law should always compel, Great Britain to give to all conquered countries the full and perfect system of English freedom in return for their allegiance. The noble Lord has instanced the case of Jamaica, of Barbadoes; but, above all, of Ireland. Has the noble Lord forgot, then,


that Ireland, though in possession of the criminal law of England, has not the Habeas Corpus Act? That Act, which is a special privilege monopolized by Great Britain, is not even extended to Ireland; but Ireland has what is, in fact, equivalent to it, and so ha Canada. Would the noble Lord then desire, that those new conquered subjects of England, against whom he shews such strong and irreconcileable hatred, should be indulged with a privilege which even Liberty herself seems to be jealous of, and which has, hitherto, been denied to the loyal inhabitants of Ireland? My Lords, he does desire it; he would do any thing to answer his purposes — to increase the storm — to perplex, to distress Administration. Animated by these views, I am not surprised, that he hates the nobility of every country; they stand in his way. He would rub them out of his system of Government. He has told your Lordships that it is the Noblesse, and the Priests of Canada, that are only benefited by this Bill; and that it would be better for the Province, if both Prelates and Nobility were whipped out of it: these are his Lordship' s sentiments; Republican sentiments, my Lords, which, with less impropriety, might have come from the mouth of a factious burgher of Geneva, but which are foreign from the genius of the British Constitution. He concluded with calling upon Administration to know what the Spaniards were about, affirming that the great Armament fitting out in the Spanish Ports could not be intended against the Moors.

The Duke of Manchester replied to the charges of faction thrown out by the last noble Lord on Opposition in general. He said, he often happened to differ from Administration; but he had never till that day heard such difference of opinion directly imputed as a crime, or branded with an indecent and ill-founded epithet.

The Earl of Rochford. As far as it may be consistent with the nature of my office, I will inform the House of what I know concerning the Armament the noble Lord speaks of. By the best accounts I have been able to collect, the Armament consists of no more than twelve or thirteen Men-of-War of the line at most; what the inferiour Vessels of force, or the number of Frigates may be, I cannot precisely say. I understand, the Land Forces, so far from being prepared to get aboard the Transports, at a short warning, though they may amount to about thirty thousand men, are composed partly of Cavalry and Guards, which can never be meant for a Naval Expedition. Whatever suspicions such appearances may create, I am to inform your Lordships, that our Minister at the Court of Madrid has been instructed to press for explanations, and has received the strongest assurances, that nothing was intended against Great Britain or her allies. I cannot say that I have any great reliance on assurances in general; but yet, ridiculous as it may appear to us, that the Spaniards should incur so immense an expense, in preparations for chastising the Moors: when their policy and religion are considered, and that the Moorish war is taken up on conscientious notions of religion, our wonder will in a great measure cease. Besides, there are many other motives which might, probably, induce Spain to arm at this time, without having any hostile intentions against this country. Sicily is disturbed by civil commotion, and threatened with latent discontents, which his Catholic Majesty feels for, almost as much as if they were in his own Kingdom. A kind of war actually subsists between Spain and Portugal in the Brazils. There is a revolt in Mexico, and the total silence of the Consuls and the Merchants, whose business it is to give information, join to strengthen me in the same opinion. The Portuguese Envoy at this Court seems perfectly undisturbed, and free from apprehensions of any invasion of his country; and that if he should be mistaken, and that those Armaments are actually intended against Portugal, I shall, for my part, think Great Britain as much interested in the event, as if part of her own dominions were actually attacked.

The Earl of Bristol. I have not the least doubt, my Lords, but the Spaniards have a very powerful Naval Armament in great forwardness for the Sea; and though I cannot think, from the tonnage and construction of the Transports, they are calculated to convey Troops beyond the Ocean, yet I must confess, Britain, however conscious she may be of her Naval superiority, has just reason to be


seriously alarmed. The noble Earl speaks of insurrections in Mexico, of a kind of war at present subsisting between the subjects of his Catholic Majesty and the Portuguese in the Brazils: and how deeply his Catholic Majesty concerns himself in the latent discontents which threaten to disturb the Kingdom of Sicily. I need not repeat again, that, in my opinion, this Armament can never be intended to cross the Ocean; neither do I think, if the transport service were calculated for that purpose, would it be at all necessary to collect such a strong military force, so near the water-side; And I beg leave to differ from his Lordship, when he supposes they are scattered through the different Provinces in cantonments; for if I be not misinformed, though they are not, perhaps, just ready to embark, they are, nevertheless, stationed in such a manner as to be drawn together at a very short warning. In such a state of uncertainty, if intended at all for actual service, it may be asked, whither are they destined? For my part, if I were to hazard a conjecture, I should be inclined to imagine for the Coast of Africa, for Lisbon, or Gibraltar; and the more so, against either of the two latter, for the very reason the noble Earl in office has assigned, that the Land Forces consisted in a good measure of Cavalry, and the Spanish and Walloon Guards, who never serve out of the Kingdom, but who might, very consistently with their usual designation, either co-operate with a Fleet in attacking Lisbon or Gibraltar. Every noble Lord in this House, by consulting the situation of the rendezvous, and its vicinity to Gibraltar, may readily conclude with what facility the Fleet and Transports might turn down into Gibraltar Bay. It is true, that Gibraltar is almost invulnerable on the land side, and that very strong defences and additional works have been, within the three or four last years, erected towards the sea. Yet, how much soever I may be inclined to depend on the bravery of the Troops, and the ability of the Officers in superiour command, I would feel very sensibly for the fate of that fortress, if attacked, and if not quickly relieved by Naval succours from England. I am certain, before those additional works were raised, it could not hold out against a Fleet of seventeen Ships-of-the-Line a single day; and even now it is possible it would be obliged to submit in a week, though it might hold out much longer. A great deal will, however, depend, should such a disagreeable event take place, on the present state of our Navy. If we have a force equal, or superiour to theirs, ready at a short notice, it is probable the gallantry of the Troops might be able to baffle every attempt of the assailants, till succours should arrive. The noble Earl, at the head of the Admiralty, who has, much to his honour, done more than any man who has presided at that Board for upwards of a century, can inform the House, whether or not a sufficient Naval Force could be made ready, so as to answer the necessity of so critical an emergency.

Lord Lyttelton. I did not press the noble Earl, in office, to betray the secrets of it, nor divulge matters of state; I wished, only, to give his Majesty' s Ministers, if they thought proper, an opportunity of averting part of the censure which might be, undeservedly, thrown on them, in case an unexpected blow should happen to be struck, and prevent the fraud and imposition the people might be liable to from a few among them, perhaps, who might have better or earlier intelligence than the rest. I have, it is true, no great opinion of Spanish politicks, yet I must abide by my former assertion, that I am convinced, however conscientious his Catholic Majesty may be, and desirous of propagating the Christian faith, and extirpating the enemies of the Cross, his Majesty, much less his Ministers, would never put the Nation to the enormous expense of the present Armament, merely to make proselytes in the wilds and deserts of Africa. The Spanish Cabinet is composed, like those of other Princes, of men of different abilities and dispositions; and business is transacted in it, as it is in all others, where there is no Prime Minister, by a plurality of voices. I can never, therefore, be persuaded to think that a majority of men, trained up to publick business, could ever be led to adopt so preposterous a measure. The noble Earl, in office, seems to place too great a reliance on the positive assurances given by the Spanish Court; and I will tell your Lordships why I think so. It is because I am well informed; I know it to be the current language of the


several branches of the House of Bourbon, that they do not look upon themselves bound to give us any previous information of their hostile intentions, either by declaration of war, or otherwise, on account of our capture of the French Ships, before the commencement of the late war. On the whole, the noble Earl, who spoke last, has put the matter upon the clearest and most incontrovertible footing, not upon the faith of Spanish assurance, or their ideas of political justice or injustice, but on what are our powers of immediate resistance, should such an attempt be made. I do, therefore, call upon the noble Earl, at the head of the Admiralty, to inform the House what Force we have immediately ready to put to Sea, should the first accounts from that quarter bring us intelligence that Gibraltar was attacked by a Spanish Fleet.

The Earl of Sandwich. The noble Lord who spoke last, has called upon me, particularly, to come to certain explanations which I do not, by any means, think myself obliged to give, nor his Lordship authorized to ask. However, as the main part of his inquiry depends upon facts, already sufficiently publick, I can, with propriety, tell his Lordship, that we have seventeen Sail-of-the-Line, fit for immediate service; that the number of Men wanting to complete the Ships, to their full complement, is not more than four thousand five hundred; that, by issuing Press-warrants, they might be readily procured in a week; and that the whole Armament would be ready to proceed to Sea within ten days. In a very little time we shall have eighty Men-of-War, of the line, with all the necessary Stores for their equipment, ready, as occasion may require, to be drawn out into actual service; which is a force superiour to any the united efforts of our enemies can possibly bring against us.

The Earl of Bristol. The noble Earl has told us that we have seventeen Sail-of-the-Line ready to proceed to Sea, at a few days notice; but I should be glad to know, in the event of Gibraltar being attacked, with such a Fleet as has been, this day, mentioned, whether his Lordship is of opinion it would be prudent to send the whole Force, he speaks of, to the immediate relief of that Fortress.

The Earl of Sandwich. I can hardly think myself enabled, from, my official situation, to answer the noble Earl' s question. That is a matter of state, not, in my opinion, at all connected with the immediate business of my Department. If I was ordered to comply with such a requisition, I must, certainly, obey it, whatever might be my own private opinion, my sentiments in this House, or the arguments I might use elsewhere, when it came under deliberation as a matter of state. For instance, if I received directions to order out half the number, or the whole, or keep the Fleet at home, to defend our own Coasts, the question would not turn on what I, in my official capacity, wished to do; but what the majority of his Majesty' s servants had, really, decided. As to the Force, and the facility of sending it to Sea, I need only appeal to the noble Earl himself, to whom, in a great measure, the Nation is obliged for that arrangement. When his Lordship sat, as a member, at the Board at which I have the honour to preside, I stood much indebted to him for his assistance in effectuating the plan, by which we are enabled, at all times, to have a Fleet ready to put to Sea, on a few days notice, by converting the Guard-Ships, which, formerly, were almost totally useless, into Vessels fit for immediate service; and, though still I have his private assistance, I must confess I have great reason to regret his absence from that Board.

The Archbishop of Canterbury, in answer to what had fallen from the two noble Dukes, and the noble Lord who presented the Bill, observed, that so far from the Protestant Religion being totally neglected at Quebec, four Clergymen, of the Church of England, were actually established in that Province, with a stipend of two hundred Pounds per annum each; that more would be appointed, as soon as the necessity of the case, or an increase of population, should require it; and denied that the Popish religion was established in Canada, or that it was possible for Parliament to have acted otherwise, consistent with the faith of the capitulation, or the terms of the Definitive Treaty.

The Earl of Shelburne. It is with great reluctance that I presume to trouble your Lordships on a subject which has been so ably and fully discussed by so many noble


Lords, much better informed and capable to decide on it. I cannot, however, be so entirely wanting in my duty, as a member of this House, to pass over, in total silence, some things which have fallen in the course of this day' s debate. A noble Lord, who spoke early, has said, that there are some present who regret the absence of a certain noble Lord from his place (the Earl of Chatham.) If that be a crime, I am willing to share part of the imputation, for I own myself one of that number, though I, by no means, agree with his Lordship in the motives he has assigned for that absence, nor in the supposed sentiments attributed by him to the noble Earl, respecting the Quebec Act. I am, on the contrary, convinced that he would have been present in his place, on this occasion, were it not for accident; and so far from approving of the Bill in every other part but relative to the sedentary Fishery, that, from every thing I could learn then, and in every private conversation I have had the honour to have since had with him, I have found his sentiments to be for condemning the Bill in toto. I believe the noble Lord has but a confused recollection of the true state of that matter, otherwise he must have remembered that his Lordship' s supposed reconcilement to the Bill was no part of what he now alludes to, but that the very Ministers themselves disapproved of divesting the Commodore, on the Newfoundland station, of the control over the Fishery on the Coast of Labrador. The other parts of the Bill having been already so fully discussed, I shall just crave your Lordships' patient attention to a few words on the dangerous consequences which must flow from annexing this fishery to the Province of Quebec, and taking it out of the superintendence and control of the Commander of his Majesty' s Ships-of-War, on the Newfoundland station. By the Bills lately passed, it seems to be the professed policy of those in power to reserve the whole of the Newfoundland Fishery for the benefit of the inhabitants of Great Britain and Ireland. I will say nothing of the immediate spirit which has given rise to this policy; but this I will venture to affirm, that not a single reason was adduced, either from the evidence at your Lordships' Bar, or in the House, that did not directly apply to evince the supreme folly of annexing the Labrador Fishery to the Province of Quebec. It was both proved and pressed, in argument, that the spirit of the Act of the twelfth of William the Third should be strictly adhered to, that of preventing settlers, and making as many Sailors as possible; in fine, strongly condemning the permission of a sedentary Fishery. What was the evidence of a most able and experienced Naval Officer (Sir Hugh Palliser) on that occasion? That the settlers had done every thing in their power to defeat the periodical Fishery from Europe; that they destroyed their Nets, seduced the Men to run away, and get over to the Continent; and that they supplied the Fishermen with French spirituous liquors, and other French commodities. Now, my Lords, I would submit, if there be any one Lord in this House who will take upon him to affirm, that every one of those evils will not increase an hundred fold; or that we shall be able to prevent them on the Coast of Labrador, where, if aggrieved, the party must go all the way to Quebec to seek redress against Frenchmen and French smuggling, when even numberless evils were, by the nature of the service, obliged to be left uncorrected, under, almost, the very eye of the Commodore. The Peltry, or Skin trade, my Lords, is a matter which, I presume to affirm, is of the last importance to the trade and commerce of the Colonies and this country. The regulation of this business has cost his Majesty' s Ministers more time and trouble than any one matter I know of. The noble Earl, (of Hillsborough,) it is true, differed from me, among others of his Majesty' s servants, on the regulating the trade with the Indians; but it was never so much as dreamt of, that the whole Skin trade, from Hudson' s Bay to the Forks of the Mississippi, should be at once taken from the several American Colonies, and transferred to the French Canadians; or, which is substantially the same thing, that, by a Royal instruction, the sole direction of it should be vested in the Governour of Quebec. For, I will be bold to contend, whatever colourable construction may be put on it, it will operate as a complete exclusion and total monopoly, so far as the Protestant British Colonies can possibly be interested.

However foreign the Spanish Armament may be to the


subject of this debate, or irregular it may have seemed to introduce it in such a planner, I must confess myself very ready to dispense with mere forms, when matters of such singular importance, so pressingly call for our most serious deliberation. I remember, a few years since, that we were lulled into a security, which must, inevitably, have proved fatal, but for the strange revolution which took place in the French Cabinet, the dismission of that bold, enterprising Minister, Choiseul, who had planned the destruction of this country, in revenge for the disgraces France had suffered, and the repeated injuries, he imagined, she had received, in the course of a long, glorious, and successful war, carried on by Great Britain. I will not pretend to dive into the secrets of Cabinets farther than I am well warranted, or presume to point out the persuasive arguments employed to bring over the woman, to whose influence this unexpected turn of affairs is attributed; but this, I will venture to assert, because I have the proofs in my power, that Gibraltar, Minorca, Jamaica, and the greater part of our possessions in the East and West Indies, would have been among some of the first sacrifices that would have fallen; had it not, I may say, been for the miraculous interposition of Providence in our favour. We were, then, not a whit less consistent than we are now; though we had not a single Line-of-battle-Ship fit for actual service. I trust, however fashionable it may be to hold the same language at present, we should not again trust to the chapter of accidents, but that we will make an inquiry into the true state of our Navy, as well as the conduct of the persons to whose care it has been intrusted; and, whenever that day shall come, I pledge myself to your Lordships, that I will take an active and decided part in bringing to condemnation such as have been wanting in their duty. Two things have come out in the debate, which I cannot bring myself to subscribe to; one is, that the Spaniards are not to be depended on; and that the language of the House of Bourbon is justifiable, because we took their Ships before a declaration of war. On the former, I shall only observe, that I presume the Spaniards, in their publick transactions, have as much honour as any other Nation; and that, though I was but a child at the time, by the best and most impartial account I have read on that affair, I never could discover but Great Britain was fully justified in her conduct on that occasion. I shall trouble your Lordships with but one observation more, relative to the determined pacifick system of the Court of Versailles, so confidently set forth and relied on by the first noble Earl in office, who spoke in this debate; and I trust your Lordships will think it fully in point, should the Court of Spain, by their conduct, create the occasion. In 1741, in the second or third year of the Spanish war, during the ministry of Cardinal Fleury, a man of the most pacifick dispositions that ever directed the Councils of France, Lord Waldegrave being then our Ambassador at Paris, frequently pressed his Eminency relative to an Armament then fitting out at Brest, to know its destination, or whether particularly it was meant to join and co-operate with the Spanish Fleet. The Cardinal always assured him, in the fullest and most explicit terms, that France was resolved to take no part whatever in the quarrel subsisting between the two Crowns. His Lordship, however, went out one day, and heard it publickly asserted in the streets, that the Fleet had sailed from Brest, and were destined to reinforce the Spanish Fleet, then cruizing in the Mediterranean; on which, he immediately repaired to the Cardinal to upbraid


him with his breach of promise, if the fact should turn out to be true. "You were not misinformed, my Lord," replied the Cardinal, "the Fleet is actually sailed, and for the purpose you heard. I confess, likewise, that I had, frequently, solemnly assured you of the contrary: and I further own, that Spain is entirely in the wrong, and that it is, perhaps, neither prudent nor politick in us to take part in their business; but I would wish you, my Lord, at the same time, to perfectly understand, though we do not approve of the motives of their going to war, and will always carefully avoid to encourage them in their broils in the first instance, when engaged for any time, we can never submit to remain inactive spectators of their ruin, and your consequent aggrandizement."

Lord Mansfield rose to defend the general principles of the Bill, and to reply to the objections urged by those who were in favour of the repeal. His Lordship, though he did not directly own the sentiments imputed to him, containing certain doctrines in law and politicks, said to have been maintained by him in giving judgement in the cause of Campbell against the Receiver General of Grenada, relative to the four and a half per cent. Duties, claimed by the King on the exported produce of that Island, virtually proved, nevertheless, that the sentiments were not without foundation, because he endeavoured to defend every single proposition they contained.

Lord Camden went over the same ground again, by either maintaining his former positions, illustrating the facts on which they were built, or replying to every answer that had, in the course of the debate, been attempted to be made to his original objections, and at the conclusion, claimed the victory, in reference to those objectionable doctrines adverted to; observing, that the learned Lord (Mansfield) had deserted the main proposition, on which all the others rested; namely, that the King, coming in as a conqueror, could give the conquered any constitution he pleased; or, if the new subjects claimed the benefit of capitulation or cession, the King might, at his option, stand in the place of the former Prince; whereas, the learned Lord was now obliged to confess, contrary to his former opinion, that a King of England could not, in any circumstances, or coming in under any title, exercise an arbitrary power, or reign over any of the subjects of the British Empire in a despotick manner, against the spirit of the Constitution.

This law contest lasted near two hours; but Lord Camden having, in reply to something Lord Mansfield said, such as, that some constitution was better than none, pledged himself to produce a better in twenty-four, or even twelve hours; the Earl of Denbigh demanded, why the learned Lord had not produced one before.

The question was then put on the Earl of Dartmouth' s motion to reject the Bill: The House divided. Contents, 88; Non-Contents, 28.

It was resolved in the affirmative;

Ordered, That the said Bill be rejected.

List of the Minority. — Dukes, Gloucester, Cumberland, Richmond, Manchester. — Marquis, Rockingham. — Earls, Abingdon, Scarborough, Stanhope, Cholmondelcy, Fitzwilliam, Radnor, Effingham, Spencer. — Bishop, Exeter. — Lords, Craven, Ponsonby, Ravensworth, Archer, Wycombe, Beaulieu, Camden. PROXIES. — Dukes, Devonshire, Portland. — Earls, Stamford, Tankerville. — Viscount, Torrington. — Bishop, Asaph. — Lord, King.