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Colonel Barre' s motion for an Address to the King for the despatches from General Howe and Admiral Shuldham



Monday, May 6, 1776.

Colonel Barré arose, and, holding a paper in his hand, which he informed the House he had cut out of the London


Gazette, and which, he observed, was the only account, or reason assigned, for the British troops quitting Boston; and followed this short exordium with moving, "That an humble Address be presented to his Majesty, that he will be graciously pleased to give directions that there be laid before this House copies of the last despatches received from the 1st of March last, from General Howe and Vice-Admiral Shuldham, before they proceeded to grant any further supplies for carrying on the said war."

The Colonel observed, that the only paper published by authority was become a disgrace to the nation: that the most shameful efforts had been made to mislead the people without doors; but, what was infinitely of worse consequence to the nation at large, that the House had been grossly misled in every single communication which had come from his Majesty' s servants, or (which amounted to nearly the same thing) every degree and species of information had been refused.

Lord North asserted, that the troops were not compelled to abandon Boston. He confirmed the contents of the London Gazette; said, that as the British troops met not with the least interruption from the Rebels, neither did the General come into any compromise whatever. He said, the stores, ammunition, &c˙, were not abandoned: that the Army suffered no loss, either immediately before, or on its embarkation; that the troops embarked with all possible coolness and regularity, and even, as he emphatically expressed it, "perfectly at their ease."

Lord John Cavendish spoke warmly in defence of the motion. He observed, that the nation had been insidiously led into a war; when once embarked, it was too late to recede; and, from the very first day the sword was drawn, his Majesty' s Ministers have refused to impart a single tittle relative to the conduct of this war; and the Minister comes down, day after day, to this House, and expects an implicit obedience and assent to whatever demand he pleases to make, without any other pretensions to their favour or confidence, but what he can build on the information; that under his Administration the whole British empire has nearly lost all the Colonies, at the national expense of twenty millions of money, precisely in eleven months from day to day; that is, from the date of the defeat at Lexington to the celebrated embarkation, which was the subject of the present debate.

Mr˙ Byng spoke on the same side. He said the publick ought to be informed what was doing in America, and to what purposes the money was to be applied which they were granting out of their own pockets.

Sir George Yonge arraigned the conduct of Administration in very pointed terms. He said it was impossible but the consequences of the present war must be the destruction of the nation. In any hands, the event would be doubtful; but in such hands, the ruin and disgrace of the nation, and the loss of America, were inevitable.

Mr˙ Hartley spoke very fully on the subject. He contended, notwithstanding the bold and unqualified assertions of the noble Lord at the head of the Treasury, that General Howe was driven from Boston, and that nothing but the dread of having his whole army cut to pieces, or made prisoners, induced him to make so precipitate and unexpected a retreat.

Mr˙ Burke observed, that the noble Lord had disclaimed any intention of giving false colours to the account which appeared in the London Gazette, but there was room left for a possibility of misrepresentation; for though the Boston extraordinaries for eight thousand men, in the course of twelve months, had amounted to one million and a half, or nearly two hundred pounds a man, for salt-beef and sour-crout, he would be bold to affirm, and called on the noble Lord to contradict him, that the troops could not have remained in that town ten days longer, if the Heavens had not rained down manna and quails; and, in a similar expectation, he presumed, the troops were embarked for Halifax, a land flowing with milk and honey.

Mr˙ Ellis and Mr˙ Lyttelton spoke against the motion. They insisted that the communication would be exceedingly improper in the present critical situation of affairs.

General Conway was bold, animated, and persuasive. He said the British Councils had fallen into contempt, and the honour of the nation was deeply wounded. He condemned the conduct of Administration without reserve, and


said the Army, which was destined for the conquest of America, now lay inactive and stuffed into transports, waiting at Spithead; that some of them were in Germany, some of them at Spithead, and none of them where they should long since have been; that he always thought the measure of coercing America, for the purpose of raising a revenue, an unjust one; he always looked upon it to be impracticable; but was certain it was to the last degree cruel, oppressive, and destructive; destructive in either event, of the commercial importance and dearest interests of this country, in case it should miscarry; destructive of what was still, if possible, more valuable — its liberties, if it should succeed.

Lord George Germaine said, by what little of the correspondence he had seen, he never understood that General Howe intended to begin his operations in Boston. His opinion was well known; it was the opinion of the majority of the House. As long, therefore, as the House thought it proper to continue the war, or support it, he thought it would be right to pursue it, and no longer. Whatever his own sentiments were, if the House should change theirs, he was ready to acquiesce. When he came into office, the nation was already engaged in it, so that, on either hand, he remained perfectly contented.

Colonel Barré again spoke to his motion. He was, if possible, stronger in his expressions than before. He observed, that the embarkations were all made too late last year; that convoys were neglected; that the provisions, ammunition, and stores, by that means, had fallen into the hands of the Provincials. That the naval force was inadequate to the service, and that, unequal as it was to the service, it was still worse provided, and more improperly directed. He should be glad to know to whom those delays, mismanagements, if not malversations in office, were to be imputed. He then took a view of the conduct of Administration since the commencement of the present year; and desired to know how it came to pass, that now, on the 6th of May, the greatest part of the Army should be lying at Spithead, or what was the reason that some of the Hessians, who ought to have been at the place of their destination in America, have not yet left Germany.

Mr˙ Hopkins spoke against the motion; said secrecy should be observed, otherwise all our plans would shortly come to the knowledge of our enemies.

A few minutes before nine o' clock the question was put, and the House divided: Ayes 54; Noes 171.