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Debate to Bring in a Bill

Lord North


The Papers presented this day were then read: when the reading was finished,

Lord North rose, and said, he meant now to propose a third Bill, which he hoped would effectually secure the Province of Massachusetts Bay from future disturbances. The Bill that he meant to propose was, to give every man a fair and impartial trial; that the Juries of that country it was true, were not established after the manner in which our Juries here were, and therefore were not so likely to give to each offender that impartial trial, which, by the laws of this country, he was entitled to; for if it shall be found in that country, that a man is not likely to meet with a fair and impartial trial, the Governor will be empowered to send him to any of the other Colonies, where the same kind of spirit has not prevailed; but if it shall be thought that he cannot have such fair and impartial trial in any of the Colonies, in that case he is to be sent to Great Britain, to be tried before the Court of King' s Bench, the expenses of which trial were to be drawn for on the Customs in England. Unless such a Bill as this now proposed should pass into a law, the Executive power will be unwilling to act, thinking they will not have a fair trial without it. I would not, said his Lordship, wish to see the least doubt or imperfection remain in the plan which we have adopted: if there does, the consequence may be that it may produce bloodshed; that the whole plan may be clear and decisive; that every part of it may be properly supported; and I trust that such a measure as this, which we have now taken, will shew to that country, that this nation is roused to defend their rights, and protect the security of peace in its Colonies; and when roused, that the measures which they take are not cruel nor vindictive, but necessary and efficacious. Temporary distress requires temporary relief; I shall therefore only propose this Bill for the limited time of three or four years. We must consider, that every thing that we have that is valuable to us is now at stake; and the question is very shortly this: Whether they shall continue the subjects of Great Britain or not? This I propose as the last measure that Parliament will take; after which, it requires, that his Majesty' s servants shall be vigilant in the execution of their duty, and keep a watchful eye over every encroachment against the power we shall now pass, and not suffer the least degree of disobedience to our measures to take place in that country. Such a watchful and careful eye to prevent the first rise of disobedience, may be a sure peventive against future mischiefs. The customary relief


of troops that is ordered for that country, is ordered, in the first place, to Boston, four regiments being the usual relief. Governor Hutchinson comes home, and his Majesty has appointed General Gage as Commander and Governor in Chief, a man whose great abilities, and extensive knowledge of that country, will give him a superior advantage, and his occasional residence there will prevent him from shewing any impolitic partiality to the Americans, and thereby enforce a due observance of those measures which we have taken, and shall send out. There is one thing I much wish, which is, the punishment of those individuals who have been the ringleaders and forerunners of these mischiefs. Our attention will be continually active in that point. A prosecution has been already ordered against them by his Majesty' s servants, but I cannot promise myself any very good effect until this law shall have reached the Province. We must particularly guard against any illegal or ineffectual proceedings, or else, after all our trouble, we shall find ourselves at last in the same dilemma we were in at first. We must observe a perfect innocence, and a conscientious avoidance of the breach of any laws. His Majesty' s servants, I make no doubt, will be thoroughly watchful against such breach, nor will they at any time proceed upon slight grounds. They have the happiness to be assisted by the ablest lawyers, who have both great resolution and abilities; and guarded by such outlines, I make no doubt, that the spirit of disobedience, which has hitherto unfortunately prevailed, will be tempered and brought to reason by a due observance of those measures which we have now taken, and, I trust, will secure to us the blessings of peace, radicated out of the boiling disturbances and violent spirit of opposition in that country. When those measures are pursued with that resolution, and those abilities which I have mentioned, I doubt not the event will be advantageous to this country. I have no more, Sir, to add but with permission will make the motion, "That the Chairman be directed to move the House, that leave be given to bring in a Bill for the impartial administration of justice, in the cases of persons questioned for any acts done by them in the execution of the laws, or for the suppression of the riots and tumults in the Province of Massachusetts Bay, in New England."

[It was observed that Lord North trembled and faultered at every word of his motion.]

Colonel Barré

Colonel Barré. I rise, Sir, with great unwillingness to oppose this measure in its very infancy, before its features are well formed, or to claim that attention which this House seems to bestow with so much reluctance on any arguments in behalf of America. But I must call you to witness that I have been hitherto silent, or acquiescing, to an unexpected degree of moderation. While your proceedings, severe as they were, had the least colour of foundation in justice, I desisted from opposing them; nay more — though your Bill for stopping up the port of Boston contained in it many things most cruel, unwarrantable, and unjust, yet, as they were couched under those general principles of justice, retribution for injury, and compensation for loss sustained, I not only desisted from opposing, but assented to its passing. The Bill was a bad way of doing what was right; but still it was doing what was right. I would not therefore, by opposing it, seem to countenance those violences which had been committed abroad; and of which no man disapproves more than I do.

Upon the present question I am totally unprepared. The motion itself bears no sort of resemblance to what was formerly announced. The noble Lord and his friends have had every advantage of preparation. They have reconnoitred the field, and chosen their ground. To attack them in these circumstances may, perhaps, favour more of the gallantry of a soldier than of the wisdom of a senator.

But, Sir, the proposition is so glaring; so unprecedented in any former proceedings of Parliament; so unwarranted by any delay, denial, or perversion of justice in America; so big with misery and oppression to that country, and with danger to this — that the first blush of it is sufficient to alarm and rouse me to opposition.

It is proposed to stigmatize a whole People as persecutors of innocence, and men incapable of doing justice; yet you have not a single fact on which to ground that imputation. I expected the noble Lord would have supported this motion by producing instances of the officers of


Government in America having been prosecuted with unremitting vengeance, and brought to cruel and dishonourable deaths, by the violence and injustice of American Juries. But he has not produced one such instance; and I will tell you more, Sir, — he cannot produce one. The instances which have happened are directly in the teeth of his proposition. Captain Preston and the soldiers, who shed the blood of the People, were fairly tried, and fully acquitted. It was an American Jury, a New England Jury, a Boston Jury, which tried and acquitted them. Captain Preston has, under his hand, publicly declared, that the inhabitants of the very town in which their fellow-citizens had been sacrificed, were his advocates and defenders. Is this the return you make them? Is this the encouragement you give them to persevere in so laudable a spirit of justice and moderation? When a Commissioner of the Customs, aided by a number of ruffians, assaulted the celebrated Mr˙ Otis in the midst of the town of Boston, and with the most barbarous violence almost murdered him, did the mob, which is said to rule that town, take vengeance on the perpetrators of this inhuman outrage against a person who is supposed to be their demagogue? No, Sir, the law tried them; the law gave heavy damages against them; which the irreparably injured Mr˙ Otis most generously forgave upon an acknowledgment of the offence. Can you expect any more such instances of magnanimity under the principle of the Bill now proposed?

But the noble Lord says, "We must now shew the Americans that we will no longer sit quiet under their insults." Sir, I am sorry to say that this is declamation, unbecoming the character and place of him who utters it. In what moment have you been quiet? Has not your Government for many years past been a series of irritating and offensive measures, without policy, principle, or moderation? Have not your troops and your ships made a vain and insulting parade in their streets and in their harbours? It has seemed to be your study to irritate and inflame them. You have stimulated discontent into disaffection, and you are now goading that disaffection into rebellion. Can you expect to be well informed when you listen only to partizans? Can you expect to do justice when you will not hear the accused?

Let us consider, Sir, the precedents which are offered to warrant this proceeding — the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act in 1745 — the making smugglers triable in Middlesex, and the Scotch rebels in England. Sir, the first was done upon the most pressing necessity, flagrante bello, with a dangerous rebellion in the very heart of the Kingdom; the second, you well know, was warranted by the most evident facts: armed bodies of smugglers marched publicly without presentment or molestation from the People of the county of Sussex; who, even to their Magistrates, were notoriously connected with them. They murdered the officers of the revenue, engaged your troops, and openly violated the laws. Experience convinced you, that the Juries of that, and of the counties similarly circumstanced, would never find such criminals guilty; and upon the conviction of this necessity you passed the Act. The same necessity justified the trying Scotch rebels in England. Rebellion had reared its dangerous standard in Scotland, and the principles of it had so universally tainted that People, that it was manifestly in vain to expect justice from them against their countrymen. But in America, not a single act of rebellion has been committed. Let the Crown law officers, who sit by the noble Lord, declare, if they can, that there is upon your table a single evidence of treason or rebellion in America. They know, Sir, there is not one, and yet are proceeding as if there were a thousand.

Having thus proved, Sir, that the proposed Bill is without precedent to support, and without facts to warrant it, let us now view the consequences it is like to produce. A soldier feels himself so much above the rest of mankind, that the strict hand of the civil power is necessary to controul the haughtiness of disposition which such superiority inspires. You know, Sir, what constant care is taken in this country to remind the military that they are under the restraint of the civil power. In America their superiority is felt still greater. Remove the check of the law, as this Bill intends, and what insolence, what outrage may you not expect? Every passion that is pernicious to society will


be let loose upon a People unaccustomed to licentiousness and intemperance. On the one hand will be a People who have been long complaining of oppression, and see in the soldiery those who are to enforce it upon them; on the other, an army studiously prepossessed with the idea of that People being rebellious, unawed by the apprehension of civil controul, and actuated by that arbitrary spirit which prevails even among the best of troops. In this situation the prudent officer will find it impossible to restrain his soldiers or prevent that provocation which will rouse the tamest People to resistance. The inevitable consequence will be that you will produce the rebellion you pretend to obviate.

I have been bred a soldier; have served long. I respect the profession, and live in the strictest habits of friendship with a great many officers; but there is not a country gentleman of you all, who looks upon the army with a more jealous eye, or would more strenuously resist the setting them above the controul of the civil power. No man is to be trusted in such a situation; it is not a fault of the soldier, but the vice of human nature, which, unbridled by law, becomes insolent and licentious, wantonly violates the peace of society, and tramples upon the rights of human kind.

With respect to those gentlemen who are destined to this service, they are much to be pitied. It is a service, which an officer of feeling and of worth must enter upon with infinite reluctance; a service, in which his only merit must be, to bear much, and do little. With the melancholy prospect before him of commencing a civil war, and embruing his hands in the blood of his fellow subjects, his feelings, his life, his honour, are hazarded, without a possibility of any equivalent or compensation. You may perhaps think a law, founded upon this motion will be his protection. I am mistaken if it will. Who is to execute it? He must be a bold man indeed who makes the attempt. If the People are so exasperated, that it is unsafe to bring the man who has injured them to trial, let the Governor who withdraws him from justice look to himself. The People will not endure it; they would no longer deserve the reputation of being descended from the loins of Englishmen, if they did endure it.

When I stand up as an advocate for America, I feel myself the firmest friend of this country. We stand upon the commerce of America. Alienate your Colonies, and you will subvert the foundation of your riches and your strength. Let the banners of rebellion be once spread in America, and you are an undone People. You are urging it with such violence, and by measures tending so manifestly to that fatal point, that, but that a state of madness only could inspire such an intention, it would appear to be your deliberate purpose. In assenting to your late Bill I resisted the violence of America, at the hazard of my popularity there. I now resist your phrenzy at the same risk here. You have changed your ground. You are becoming the aggressors, and offering the last of human outrages to the People of America, by subjecting them, in effect, to military execution. I know the vast superiority of your disciplined troops over the provincials; but beware how you supply the want of discipline by desperation. Instead of sending them the olive branch, you have sent the naked sword. By the olive branch, I mean a repeal of all the late laws, fruitless to you, and oppressive to them.

Ask their aid in a constitutional manner, and they will give it to the utmost of their ability. They never yet refused it, when properly required. Your Journals bear the recorded acknowledgments of the zeal with which they have contributed to the general necessities of the State. What madness is it that prompts you to attempt obtaining that by force which you may more certainly procure by requisition? They may be flattered into any thing, but they are too much like yourselves to be driven. Have some indulgence for your own likeness; respect their sturdy English virtue; retract your odious exertions of authority, and remember that the first step towards making them contribute to your wants, is it to reconcile them to your Government.

Mr. Solicitor General

Mr˙ Solicitor General Wedderburn. I take this Bill to be nothing more than conveying a general security to all persons whatsoever, as well as the military. It is necessary there should be a reform of the laws, and a proper security under such magisterial authority. The Americans do not attack the law, otherwise than attacking the Legislature


that made it. It is not this nor that law that is particularly disagreeable to them; they say, no laws shall be put in force there: you say, all laws shall. A singular case may happen of not meeting with that fair trial which is expected; this Bill will be a remedy for it; it is a temporary relief for the limited space of three years. They have, in that country, an unwillingness to obey all Magistrates, who have authority from this country, acting under its laws; nay, they even dispute the commission, and may not allow the appointment; a trial, in such a case, would certainly be doubtful. The revenue law gives the power of trial in another country; this case is a direct precedent of that impartial trial at which you want to come; for if you cannot have it in one county, you must remove and try to find it in another. No man will deny me the doctrine, that such fair trial ought and must be had. It is now no longer a question of expediency, it is a question of necessity; and it will be found necessary, at all events to break into their charters, if you mean to produce that subordination which you are seeking; but I hope, and firmly wish, that even the idea of your authority being known to them, will at once prevent the exertion of it. I agree with the honorable gentleman, that the olive branch ought to go in one hand, but the sword should be carried in the other. Peace will be established upon proper principles, when there is a power to enforce it; and your authority once established, I would then drop the point of the sword, and make use of the olive branch, as far and as much as possible. I could very easily tell the colour of all which has already happened in America, and the ground from which it arose; but I stop short, hoping that when they see and know that you have both courage and firmness to proceed in your plan, it will prevent even the exertion of this necessary measure. I would not have them be too confident in our weakness and irresolution, but adopt the measure of reformation, as arising and occasioned by our firmness and courage in the exertion of those powers which are entrusted to us for the preservation of the peace of our Colonies.

Captain Phipps

Captain Phipps. I commend much, and am glad to hear of, the appointment of General Gage. I think his abilities and knowledge of the People of that country will sufficiently ensure to him their affections, and be a means of inducing them to obey those measures which are to be executed under his direction; and as much approve of the removal of one of the worst, one of the most exceptionable servants the Crown ever had, I mean Governor Hutchinson. I wish to see the Bill before us without the trial by Jury, for I always apprehended that the advantage of such trial was from the vicinage, and by men who knew the circumstances, as well as the characters of the offenders; nor do I wish to see men sent to England to be tried. These men in America are all brought up to mercantile business, and I do not know any recompense or satisfaction whatever that can be made to a man for the loss of his time in coming here and going back. I wish much for unanimity, because I think it would add a chief support to our measures; but I think it impossible to send a man from America to be tried here, when we are three thousand miles asunder. It would be better that America and England were separated entirely, than to offer to bring men here to be tried. I wish this Bill to go on without that trial by Jury. I wish much also the removal of Governor Bernard, because he was the first man who opposed a revenue law. He did it upon the same principle as a smuggler does, because he would lose by it. If this Bill goes on in its present form, it will extort from me that opinion in my vote of affirmative, which I am unwilling to give.

Mr. T. Townshend

Mr˙ T˙ Townshend. I cannot, Sir, agree with my honorable friend, in approving of the removal of Governor Hutchinson. The Bill is one of those measures to which I can easily give my consent as, I think, it contains a security that the lives of innocent men may be safe. I approve much of the appointment of General Gage; and as I do not find that the troops are with him, I must express a wish that they may be able to arrive time enough to prevent a riot, sooner than to quell one, and to let America see we do not want to quarrel with them upon mere punctilio; do not let us, for God' s sake, when we have asserted our authority to all that we wish to do, and enforced that obedience, continue that little paltry duty upon tea; let us, then, nobly lay aside those little, teazing, irritating measures,


having once gained the grand point of peace and submission to our laws.

Mr. Dowdeswell

Mr˙ Dowdeswell. I am the last man to entertain prejudices against Juries. I revere and honour the institution. I rejoice also that Governor Hutchinson is removed, because he has not acted as he ought to do, either towards this country or America.

Lord Carmarthen

Lord Carmarthen. I do not mean. Sir, to trouble the House long, but I hope I am justified, by the importance of the question, in delivering my sentiments. Great Britain neither can nor ought to sit silent, and behold the riots and disturbances that have been committed in America, committed, I say, by a People sent out from this country, as it were from our own bowels; to see these men disobey the laws and precepts of Great Britain, and to sit tamely, and take no notice, would be insipid conduct, highly unworthy the British Legislature. For what purpose were they suffered to go to that country, unless the profit of their labour should return to their masters here? I think the policy of colonization is highly culpable, if the advantages of it should not redound to the interests of Great Britain. I cannot see this Act in any other light, than as giving that same degree of relief to every subject in America, in the same manner as it gives protection and security to the military; I shall therefore give it my affirmative, and hope, upon some future day, to express my further sentiments upon that part relating to the trial by Juries.

Lord North

Lord North. I rise once more to wipe off the aspersion that has been thrown upon Governor Hutchinson, and I am much surprised to find that it was the sentiment of even one gentleman in this House, that the removal of Governor Hutchinson was considered as part of the merit of this measure. I do not know a man who has a greater share of merit; nor did I ever hear any charge brought against him. He was shamefully abandoned in the execution of his duty, by those who ought to have supported him. Governor Hutchinson had before this affair desired and obtained leave to come home. A ship is now arrived at Bristol, in which he had taken a passage, but as the government of the Province, in those disturbed times, would have fallen into the hands of the Council in his absence, in case of the death of the Lieutenant Governor, who was then very ill, he chose rather to adhere to his duty, and stay in that country, to endeavour to quiet those alarming disturbances. This surely, Sir, was acting the part of a faithful servant of the Crown; I would only tell the House that Governor Hutchinson is not recalled home upon account of any misconduct; and that he is not here at present is certainly a mark of his duty, and deserves the thanks of this Assembly.

Captain Phipps

Captain Phipps rose to explain, and said, that he did not blame Governor Hutchinson for his conduct without reason, which he would give to the House; he thought him culpable upon two occasions, the one for suffering his son to be appointed a consignee of the tea, and the other for setting at defiance the Assembly. I think him also highly blameable (says he) for not acting without his Council. Here seems to be in him a pretended mildness, and a determined prepossession of irritation.

General Conway

General Conway. We ought not, Sir, I think to dive into People' s characters; the more important business requires our serious consideration; the measure that is now before you is full of difficulties; it has given a serious turn to his Majesty' s Ministers; and this Bill is the produce of many laboured hours, which we may felicitate ourselves upon. I shall not give my opinion now. I am for this plan, and for giving it its due consideration, though I am apt to think that this measure will have no other tendency than a distrust of the Americans. I am a friend to America. There must be a kind of connection with Great Britain, which is necessary for the carrying on the measures of Government. Let us preserve temper in our proceedings. The Americans have obeyed the laws, except that of taxation; and I should be glad to hear how this olive branch, that is so much talked of, is to go out. Nothing less than non-taxation, in my opinion, can be the olive branch; if the system of taxation is to be maintained, I am sure it will give trouble enough; but if his Majesty' s Ministers have the least thoughts of putting an end to the taxation, let them adopt it now at once, and it will put an end to every thing.


Mr. Van

Mr˙ Van. I do not rise to give the House much trouble, but just to make one observation upon what an honorable gentleman has said; that if we will not tax that country, they will return to their duty. I do most heartily agree with him; I believe they will; but if they oppose the measures of Government that are now sent out, I would do as was done of old, in the time of ancient Britons, I would burn and set fire to all their woods, and leave their country open, to prevent that protection they now have; and if we are likely to lose that country, I think it better lost by our own soldiers, than wrested from us by our rebellious children.

Motion Agreed To

Lord North' s motion was then agreed to, and the Committee rose.

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 Impartial Administration of Justice, in the cases of persons questioned for any acts done by them in the execution of the law, or for the suppression of riots and tumults, in the Province of Massachusetts Bay, in the Province of New England:

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.