Lord North' s Motion


The other Order of the Day being read,

The House resolved itself into a Committee of the


Whole House, to consider further of the several Papers which were presented to the House by the Lord North, upon the 19th and 31st days of January last, and the 1st day of this instant, February, by his Majesty' s command.

Lord North moved, "That leave he given to bring in a Bill to restrain the Trade and Commerce of the Provinces of Massachusetts Bay and New-Hampshire, the Colonies of Connecticut and Rhode-Island, and Providence Plantation, in North America, to Great Britain, Ireland, and the British Islands in the West Indies; and to prohibit such Provinces and Colonies from carrying on any Fishery on the banks of Newfoundland, or other places therein to be mentioned, under certain conditions, and for a time to be limited." He supported his motion, by declaring, that as the Americans had refused to trade with this Kingdom, it was but just that we should not suffer them to trade with any other Nation. That the restraints of the Act of Navigation were their Charter; and that the several relaxations of that law, were so many acts of grace and favour; which, when the Colonies ceased to merit, it was but reasonable the British Legislature should recall. In particular, he said, that the Fishery on the banks of Newfoundland, and the other banks, and all the others in America, was the undoubted right of Great Britain, Therefore, we might dispose of them as we pleased. That, although the two Houses had not declared all Massachusetts Bay in rebellion, they had declared, that there is a rebellion in that Province. It was just, therefore, to deprive that Province of its Fisheries. That in the Province of New-Hampshire, there was still a Governour and a Government; but Government was weak in that Colony;


and a quantity of Powder had been taken out of a Fort there by an armed mob. Besides, the vicinity of that Province to Massachusetts Bay was such, that if it were not added, the purpose of the Act would be defeated. Rhode-Island he stated not to be in a much better situation than Massachusetts Bay; that several pieces of Cannon had been taken there, and carried up into the country; and that they were arraying their Militia, in order to march into any other Colony, in case it should be attacked; and this could, in the present circumstances, be for no good purpose. That from Connecticut had marched a large body of men into the Massachusetts, on a report that the Soldiery had killed some people in Boston; and though this body had returned, on finding the falsity of that report, an ill disposition had been shewn; and that this Colony was in a state of great disorder and confusion. To this he added, that the River Connecticut afforded the inhabitants of that Colony an opportunity of carrying on the Fishery. The same might be said of Rhode-Island; and as the same argument of vicinity might be applied to both the Provinces as well as to New Hampshire, in order to prevent the defeating of the Act, they also ought to be included in the prohibition to Fish and to Trade.

His Lordship added, that he was not averse to admitting such alleviations of the Act as would not prove destructive of its great object. 1st. Therefore, he would move it only as temporary, to the end of the year, or to the end of the next session of Parliament. 2dly. He would permit particular persons to be excepted, on certificates from the Governour, of their good behaviour; or upon their taking a test of acknowledgment of the rights of Parliament.

Mr˙ Dunning thought the Americans had a right of fishing on the banks of Newfoundland. He said there was no rebellion in Massachusetts Bay; nothing that could be construed into treason; even if there was a rebellion in some parts, why was the whole to be punished? Why New-Hampshire? Why Rhode-Island? Why Connecticut? If the fact was true, that General Gage had attacked, was sacking and burning the Town of Boston, and the Connecticut people resisting, the latter were not in rebellion. He said the Ministers were the best authors of a receipt to make a rebellion.

Mr˙ Attorney General Thurlow said, that no Resolutions, though of both Houses, can make a fact, or decide the law. He had given his opinion upon Papers laid before him, that there was a rebellion in Massachusetts Bay. He defended his opinion, by an explanation of the facts upon which he gave it; first as to treason, next as to rebellion.

Mr˙ Dunning to explain. Rebellion is that state between Government and its subjects, which, between two hostile states, would be war.

Mr˙ Solicitor General Wedderburn rose to prove a rebellion in America, from the honourable gentleman' s definition.

Mr˙ Speaker Norton gave his opinion on the point of law, divested of the facts, and left the Committee to apply the facts, and the opinion. The law does not know the word "rebellion." Levying war against the King, is treason; so is endeavouring to wrest the sword out of the hands of the Executive power.

Governour Johnstone said that the proposition was absurd and cruel; absurd, because it took away trade from our own Colonies, which, those who understood that trade, must know we should not be able to transfer to ourselves when it was taken from them; that God and nature had given that Fishery to New and not to Old England; that when it was once destroyed, we should not be able to restore it to those from whom it was thus violently taken, because the little capital, vessels, and implements of fishermen, (many of them poor,) were only kept up by constant returns of profit; when the profits failed, the capital and implements would not be restored. That France, who was sufficiently alert at taking advantages, would come in for a part, at least, of the benefits of which we thus thought proper to deprive our own people. It was cruel, he said, in the highest degree, and beyond the example of hostile rigour; that a maritime people always drew a considerable part of their immediate sustenance from the Sea. This Bill, therefore, would be inhumanly to starve a whole people, except such as a Governour should think it proper to favour; that this partial permission must give rise to unjust


preference, monopoly, and all sorts of jobs. He said he had served in the Navy the whole of the last war; he had in his eye several Captains, who had cruized off the enemy' s coasts during the whole war and he appealed to them for the truth of what he asserted, that it was a constant rule in the service to spare the fishing craft, thinking it savage and barbarous to deprive poor wretches of their little means of livelihood, and the miserable village inhabitants of a sea-coast of their daily food.

Mr˙ T˙ Townshend urged strongly the contradiction which prevailed in the principles of the proposed Bill; for, if the other Provinces were in rebellion, as well as the Massachusetts, why were they not declared so? If not, why were they included in the very same punishment?

Sir George Savile rallied with pleasantry some arguments of the lawyers about treasons, and exposed the idea of depriving a whole Province of its subsistence, because a rebellion, we know not where, nor by whom, is lurking in it; and then punishing a second Province, because it is next door to rebellion; a third, because it would be doing nothing if you let them escape; and a fourth, because otherwise Ministry could not square their plan. He then took it up in a serious light, and said that he had heard with pleasure many young Members speak with much ability on this occasion. They all had apologized for their want of experience in this session; that he was obliged to consider and apologize for himself as a very young Member of Parliament. This will appear, said he, very strange to those who know that I have sat a great many years in this House. It is true, I have carried through many Turnpike Bills, several Draining Bills, a multitude of Navigations, and Inclosures without number; but I am now come quite a novice to the ways and means for the ruin of Trade and Commerce, and the dismemberment of a great Empire. He then entered into the general argument concerning the justice of making all parts of a state contributory to the support of the whole, and that those who receive protection ought to submit to taxation. He admitted the general maxim to be true; but observed, that this was only in cases where all the parts received the same protection in equal benefits and equal privileges; otherwise equal payment for unequal protection would be injustice itself. That people by compact might give up a part of this right; but then this compact ought to be proved, and it ought to be proved also that an adequate compensation was given for it, else the bargain would not be fair. And this brought him to the doctrine of resistance, which had been handled as best suited the purposes of those who used it. That if rebellion was resistance to Government, he could not consider all rebellions to be alike — there must be such a thing as justifiable rebellion — and submitted to the House whether a people taxed without their consent, and their Petitions against such taxation rejected, their Charters taken away without hearing, and an Army let loose upon them without a possibility of obtaining justice — whether a people under such circumstances could not be said to be in justifiable rebellion?

Sir W˙ Meredith expressed great sorrow and surprise that the honourable gentleman should call the rebellion in America a justifiable rebellion, since it was the laws which they resisted; and he (Sir George) had consented to the Declaratory Act, which asserted a right in Parliament to make laws to bind America in all cases whatsoever. The power of God himself was bounded within the limits of strict justice; a power to bind, in all cases whatsoever, had never been claimed by the greatest tyrant upon earth, nor by any earthly power, before the Declaratory Act. He thought, therefore, the honourable gentleman should move a repeal of the Declaratory Act, and of every Act that he thought injurious to the freedom of America, before he exhorted the Americans to bring on themselves, their families, and their country, all the horrid consequences of rebellion. He had opposed, and ever would do, the principle of laying internal taxes on America; but it was not taxation, but the trade of Great Britain which the Americans now opposed. The Tea Duty is the only tax that remains; a tax, which the Americans first resisted, had afterwards complied with, and paid regularly; but when the East India Company sent the Tea to be sold at a lower price than the smuggler of Dutch and Swedish Teas could afford, then they began to resist the law; then they destroyed


the Merchants' property; then they began to threaten ruin to the commerce of this country, not in support of liberty, but merely to support their own illicit commerce. He had promoted the repeal of the Stamp Act, but would never have taken the part he did, could he have supposed the Ministers who gave up the advantages would have maintained the principle of taxing America; neither would he have consented to a repeal of the Stamp Act, had he not believed that the Ministers of that time would have made some effectual provision for the security and protection of the Merchants who trade to America: instead of which, the Americans were then taught that they had nothing to do but to threaten our Merchants with ruin and our Manufacturers with famine, and then, upon such threats, the Legislature of Great Britain must submit to their will. Three times, in the space of a few years, they had thrown the whole trade of Great Britain into confusion; that it had better be given up than preserved on such conditions. Life itself, was not worth keeping in a state of uncertainty and fear. Things were now brought to a crisis. The conflict must be borne, and he hoped would never end, but in relinquishing our connections with America, or fixing them on a sure and lasting basis. As to the proposal of stopping the Fisheries, whatever distress it might bring on the Americans, they had no reason to complain. It was no more than they had begun to practise themselves. They had taken a resolution as far as in them lay to ruin our Merchants, impoverish our Manufactures, and starve all the West India Islands. To them, therefore, it can only be said —

—— Nec lex hac justior ulla,
Quam necis artifices arte perire sua.

Lord John Cavendish and Mr˙ Townshend replied that they had been in office with the right honourable gentleman who spoke last, when the Declaratory Act passed, and afterwards long continued in intimacy with him, but had never heard publickly or privately of his objections to the Declaratory Act before this year. They thought it very odd that he should have voted for several severe and proscriptive Acts, in order to force the Americans to obedience to taxes, since he thought that we had no right to impose any, and that in this respect he had gone far beyond the most zealous partisans of the rights of this country; as little could they reconcile his voting last year against the repeal of the Tea Duty, with his aversion to the right of taxation.

Lord Beauchamp and Sir Richard Sutton supported the motion on the equity of prohibiting the trade of those who had prohibited ours.

Mr˙ Burke said that he did not mean to trouble the Committee long, nor to be heard beyond those to whom he immediately applied himself. That by the proposed Bill they had disposed of four of their Provinces. Some were troubled with a concealed rebellion; others were concealers of that concealment; some were infected, others next door to the infection. Provision, too, was to be made by licenses and dispensations, and tests for those in the several Provinces who were more innocent or more in favour. But there was a fifth Province for which no provision at all had been made, which was likely to be as great a sufferer as any of the other four, though not in rebellion, or in the neighbourhood of rebellion. This Province had used no other force, but of one kind, which was not very terrible on earth, though it was said to offer violence to Heaven, the force pf prayers and petitions; that this Province was England, which had now several hundreds of thousands of her property in the four Provinces of New England.

He then shewed that New England was not a staple Colony, and could only pay her debts through the Fishery and the Trades which depended upon it; and that to stop their Fishery would be to beggar the English Merchants and Manufacturers. This he explained by entering into the nature of the New England trade. He further said, it had been asserted, falsely, that the New England people had refused to pay their debts. It had been said, also, truly, that they had no compassion on the English Manufacturers. But had their dishonesty been as true as the want of compassion, both might have been natural to those we called Rebels; but what ought we to think of a British Legislature, disabling the payment of


debts, and having no bowels of compassion towards the sufferings of our own innocent constituents.

The question then being taken, the Committee divided: For Lord North' s motion, 261; against it, 85.