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Bill Reported from the Committee of the Whole


THURSDAY, March 30, 1775.

Sir Charles Whitworth, according to order, reported from the Committee of the Whole House, to whom the Bill to restrain the Trade and Commerce of the Colonies of New-Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, and South Carolina, to Great Britain, Ireland, and the British Islands in the West Indies, under certain conditions


and limitations, was committed, the amendments which the Committee had made to the Bill; and which they had directed him to report to the House; and he read the Report in his place, and afterwards delivered the Bill, with the amendments, in at the Clerk' s table, where the amendments were once read throughout; and then a second time, one by one; and upon the question severally put thereupon, were agreed to by the House.

Mr˙ John Luttrell said: Sir, I am induced to offer a few observations upon the imperfections of the Bill before you, that we may not too hastily adopt an opinion which has been frequently held forth by the friends of Administration, that, provided our trade from Great Britain and Ireland should increase, though that of America do suffer, you will have a greater number of Seamen. Sir, it has been said, in support of the assertion I have alluded to, that very few American Seamen return in English Vessels from that Coast. I think it a very fortunate circumstance that they do not, because we have no employment for them, and they therefore must become a burthen to this country. But I will appeal to my Naval friends on the other side of the House, whose knowledge of maritime concerns is very extensive, if American Seamen are not always impressed in every part of the world to man the King' s Ships whenever the service requires men? I am sure the books of the Northumberland, Sterling, Castle, Southerland, Success, Lizard, and many other Ships stationed upon the Coasts of either America, in the course of the last war, will furnish us with very long lists of them; but they have hitherto been so intermixed with the Seamen of this country, and always considered (as I hope they ever will be) equally valuable, and as one and the same people, that I believe it never yet occurred to the Commanding Officer of any Squadron employed in times of war, either in the West Indies, America, or elsewhere, to make a particular inquiry into their numbers; the idea would have been accounted as unnecessary and strange as the distinction is new, ridiculous, and dangerous. But, sir, I have ever considered America to be a great nursery, where Seamen are raised, trained, and maintained in times of peace to serve this country in times of war, and though I shall readily admit, from the distance of their shores, that you cannot lay hands upon them the first half hour of an Armament, yet am I persuaded that you may be possessed of some thousands within the time usually prescribed for the return of English Seamen from foreign services. As I am up, sir, I would wish to say a word or two upon that part of the Bill which principally relates to the Commanders of his Majesty' s Ships-of-War, employed for what the Bill styles the protection, but would be much more properly termed the destruction of the trade, and it may possibly not be found quite so easy in practice as to some people it appears in theory, either to seize these Vessels, or to discover false clearances or certificates. There are those that hear me, who perfectly well remember the variety of dexterous tricks practised in the course of the late war, by almost every Nation, with respect to false clearances and certificates: the difficulties attending the detection, and the uncertainty of the event. There are those in America who bear in memory the shameful decisions respecting Monto Christo men. They will be aware that though the Vessels be condemned, and shared in America, they must be liable to appeals at home, and perhaps be obliged to refund, when the Seamen have spent the money, and the Captain (as has been the case) is made answerable for the whole. I have no doubt but the Americans, by being put into the calamitous situation they are, and feeling the tyranny of the mother country, will endeavour to carry on a trade at the risk of the fine imposed under this Act of Parliament; but there are few Sea Officers who, after a long peace, will find money to throwaway upon such ungracious prosecutions; nor do I believe that they will wish to prosecute their fellow-subjects in a manner which may appear to them to he arbitrary and unconstitutional; besides we have been too roughly handled by the civil law courts, to wish to have many dealings with them. Sir, on the score of seizure, I shall revert to my former arguments, that the King' s Ships cannot keep the Seas in safety, in the Northern parts of the Coasts of America, for more than half the year. Whenever they can cruize, the Americans will have the advantages, that a perfect knowledge of the shoals, soundings,


rocks, creeks, and places of shelter can afford them; by which means they must frequently escape your most vigilant researches: besides it is not a very pleasant service for an Officer to risk the King' s Ships upon a lee-shore, with which he is totally unacquainted, not in pursuit of an enemy, but to destroy a friend. Upon the whole, sir, I consider this Bill to be somewhat less cruel than that which is meant to demolish the New England Provinces by famine; in every other respect I hold it to be equally mischievous. It is with real concern I see humanity and sound policy giving way to that hated revenge which involves indiscriminately the innocent with the guilty. By this oppressive Act you will certainly extend the unhappy differences which already but too generally prevail in America, to every Province; nay, I fear I may say, to almost every individual upon that vast Continent: therefore, I protest against the measure.

Mr˙ Temple Luttrell. Sir: it is but too visible, from the rash measures pursued by the Ministers of your Government here in England, and from the temper and situation of your American Colonies, that a civil war will be inevitable. Gentlemen on the other side of the House have always held as a favourite proposition, that protection and obedience are reciprocal duties; and of course, that the withdrawing of the one discharges the other. Now, sir, by these Bills you are withdrawing your protection to some purpose; I therefore presume your Colonies are no longer to be treated as Rebels, but, whatever may be the hazard of battle, will be entitled to the same military honours, to the same acts of clemency and of grace, that are usually practised, according to the modern system of war, by every civilized Nation in the world. You have a striking example of such rule of conduct from ancient time, in the most flagrant and sanguinary of all the wars the Romans ever waged: I mean the war against their own countrymen, commonly called the Social War; a war that, in many of its circumstances, bears so close a resemblance to the present unhappy era in our history, that I cannot help asking leave of the House to say a few words upon it. The passions of mankind, in the aggregate, are, throughout all ages, nearly alike; and the same probable events may; in future, be looked for from those causes to which they have heretofore been found incidental.

Several confederate Italian Provinces, to whose courage and industry the Roman Republick, in a great measure, owed her meridian splendour, despairing to obtain, by fair means, those privileges to which they had every reasonable claim, took up arms: they founded a new capital; they constituted a Senate to themselves, and they choose Consuls. The mass of the people of Rome, who steadfastly maintained those principles, which are the genuine principles of British Whiggism — a devotion to rational liberty, and a spirit of resistance to all exorbitant power wheresoever lodged — called aloud for vengeance on their Ministers and patricians, to whose iniquity they ascribed every impending evil. Sir, a resolute Tribune (and I hope a worthy Chief Magistrate of this metropolis will now take the hint) did impeach the ostensible contrivers and managers of so unnatural a war. And recollect, sir, how it ended: the Roman Senate, though aided by their old, enemies the Gauls, and by some scattered factions in the heart of the revolted country, whose patriotism, like that of certain New-Yorkists, was not quite proof against state artifices and venality: — I say, sir, the Roman Senate was at length compelled to cede, with a very bad grace, those terms which ought at first, in justice, to have been accorded by amicable compact. During this civil conflict was spilt the best blood of Rome: in less than three years, near three hundred thousand persons fell in the field of combat. But there was a still more fatal consequence; for it was in this school that Marius, Sylla, and other aspiring leaders, learned their first rudiments of despotism, and familiarized themselves to the massacre of their fellow-subjects. That sword which was unsheathed by order of the Roman Senate, and under the authority of the Roman people, to deprive of the dearest rights of human nature, their allies, their associates, and brethren, was not returned into its scabbard till Rome herself had, at her inmost vitals, felt the sharpness of its edge. The Generals employed on that occasion were many of them men of heroick sentiments, of humane dispositions; they might have sat for the amiable portraits


which a very skilful Colonist here drew of the three Officers chosen to undertake a similar task on the American Continent; they, too, talked of reluctance, they talked of compassion and universal philanthropy; at the very hour of encounter they announced themselves, necessitate hostes, voluntate hospites. Yet, sir, these very men, once familiarized to domestick slaughter, and to military sway, could not prevail upon themselves to stop, till they had subverted the Constitution, and totally annihilated the liberties of the whole Commonwealth. In short, by this war the Romans were irrecoverably undone. Hence the perpetual Dictatorship; hence the succeeding Triumvirs; and, at length, the throne and tyranny of Caesar. Sir, I contend, that this our social war, like the war I have been speaking of, is founded on a laudable resistance to the despotism of Administration, sustained by a Parliamentary majority, rather than any defection in the Americans at heart from the mother country. The generous natives of England thirst not after an unjust dominion, neither can they look with an eye of malignant jealousy on their kindred Colonists, who, scarce a century ago, drew, in common with them, one parental breath. Jealousy is too mean a vice to grow in a soil with such exalted virtues as distinguish a Briton: he seeks not the palm of victory earned at so dear a cost as by the destruction or abject servitude of millions of his fellow-subjects — that too for upholding principles which he himself sanctimoniously reveres.

The first duty of a good citizen is to the publick; and to assert, that the supreme sovereignty, as to the fundamentals of our Constitution, be vested in any form of Government whatever, or elsewhere, than with the society at large, is a traitorous doctrine, not merely against the Americans, but against our own immediate constituents here at home. The same allegiance that every private individual owes to the estates of the British monarchy, legally established, do those very estates owe to the community in general, which hath always reserved to itself, and asserted, certain original rights of mankind, that it would be rebellion, it would be sacrilege in us to violate. One of these rights is, that every, the minutest of the component parts of this great Empire, shall be free from dissezin of property, unless under a direct or effective representation in Parliament.

To force a tax upon your Colonists, unrepresented, and universally dissentient, is acting in no better capacity than that of a banditti of robbers. Can our folly and our vanity lead us to flatter ourselves, that they will be taught by our armaments or commercial interdicts, to own for their liege lord and tax-master, the possessor of a poor solitary sheep-cote on Salisbury plain? Or that (eccentrick as they are with respect to this our distant and circumscribed sphere of the British isles) they will still continue to be cajoled by the absurd, empty plea of virtual representation? Sir, that word ‘virtual’ must contain in it more mystick power than the sacred archetype on Aaron' s breast-plate, before it can be made to work an effect so contradictory to reason and common sense. The advocates for the coercion of America, who have frequent recourse to your written Statutes, and who support their arguments as to the letter of law, from Selden, Lord Coke, and other high prerogative authorities, would do well calmly and seriously to consider of a passage in Montesquieu' s divine Spirit of Laws. I allude, sir, to a part of his comment on the triumph of the people of Old Spain over the idolatrous, Mexicans; neither will it be necessary for me to point out to the House where the precise analogy lies between the first invaders of that Southern Continent, and our modern law-makers of the North. "Free men" says he, "they made slaves, when they made slaves free: instead of giving them the religion of peace, they inculcated on their minds a more outrageous superstition: it were impossible for me to enumerate all the good things they might have done; it were impossible for me to enumerate all the bad things which they actually did. The end of conquest is this: it leaves upon their victors (though marshalled in the best licensed cause) an immense arrear of debt to be paid off to human nature." Impious as it may seem to arraign the dispensations of Providence, I can but lament that destiny had placed this ‘fanciful’ Montesquieu, (as he is called by our celebrated pensioned essayist Dr˙ Johnson) in the presidency of a foreign Parliament; the individual


members of which, ever occupied in sacrificing to the graces, imperceptibly and totally lost their publick constitution and liberty. Had, sir, his lot been cast in this assembly to day, what might not so good a man, with his capacity and powers of inspiration, have effected? He might have staid the uplifted hand of ravage and oppression; and though given us too late to prevent Great Britain from madly opening her own veins, he might perhaps have been the means of administering some timely remedy that should save her from bleeding to death. But, indeed, after the reception which a very respectable Member (Mr˙ Burke) here met with some evenings ago, who pleaded the cause of justice and humanity, with an almost supernatural force of reasoning and with every charm of eloquence, we might even despair of working the necessary reform in this House, though an angel from Heaven, with the full attributes of his beatitude, should descend among us.

There was a Parliament in the reign of Henry the Sixth, which, on account of the severity of its judgments and proscriptions against certain partisans of the York family, has gained in our annals the honourable distinction of Parliamentum Diabolicum. Now, sir, by passing such Acts as these are, shall not we lay in a just claim to be transmitted down to posterity, if possible, under a still more infernal appellation? I am for rejecting the Bill with the deepes marks of penitence in us, for having proceeded in it thus far, and with every term of ignominy and abhorrence with respect to the wicked principle on which this, and its fellow edict for butchery and famine, the Fishery Bill, are grounded.

Lord North defended the Bill on the former ground of necessity. He offered a clause to be added to the Bill — "To prevent frauds arising in the exportation of Goods of the produce of the Counties of Kent, Sussex, and New-Castle."

A few observations were made on this extraordinary motion; which it was said was unprecedented in the annals of Parliament, that of condemning people unheard, nay, even without inquiry.

It was answered generally, that the House was in possession of information sufficient to warrant the insertion of the clause; that the Papers laying on the table contained that information; and that any gentleman who doubted that the inhabitants of those Counties deserved no exclusive favour or particular indulgence, had need only to peruse the Papers laid before the House, to be convinced.

The question then being put, it was agreed to by the House, that the clause be made part of the Bill.

Then several amendments were made by the House to the Bill.

Ordered, That the Bill, with the amendments, be engrossed.

Ordered, That the said Bill be read the third time upon Monday morning next, if the said Bill shall be then engrossed.