Motion to except Georgia from the operation of the Bill, Debate

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Monday, December 11, 1775.

Governour Johnstone moved, "That no evidence has been produced to this House, to show that many persons in

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his Majesty' s Colony of Georgia have set themselves in open rebellion and defiance to the just and legal authority of the King and Parliament of Great Britain, or have assembled together an armed force, or engaged his Majesty' s troops, or attacked his forts, or prohibited all trade and commerce with this kingdom and the other part of his Majesty' s dominions."

He observed, that Cato and Socrates, in Athens and Rome, stood alone to oppose venal and corrupt majorities. Those celebrated Commonwealths, in their decline, were what Britain is at present, — luxury, venality, publick prostitution, and a total disregard to the interests of their country, prevailed. Majorities then, as well as now, were procured by the most base and scandalous nitons: those majorities were composed of the most worthless and profligate individuals of the community, — of gladiators, pimps, sharpers, parasites, and buffoons. Almost every man in Rome and Athens had his price; and if anything remained unsold it was only for want of a purchaser. The few who retained any sense of honour were reviled or despised. Their opposition was attributed to factious or interested motives, or they were treated as men acting under the influence of delusion and ideal perfection, and misled by impracticable schemes of policy and legislation. It was the misfortune of the times that they both fell a sacrifice to the malice of their enemies; but it was a still greater misfortune that neither of them were survived by the liberties of their country. Cato and the Roman Commonwealth perished together; the liberties of Athens were no more when Socrates fell a victim to the rage of his merciless persecutors.

He then turned to the question, and observed, that the loyal Colony of Georgia was now entered in the black catalogue. It was marked out for destruction, as well as the Province of Massachusetts-Bay; the latter for defending their liberties, which were immediately invaded; the former, because they disapproved of the inhuman measure of condemning people unheard and untried.

Mr˙ J˙ Johnstone seconded the motion, and said, he believed it was the first time it was ever heard or known that a whole Province was proscribed without some imputation of guilt. Most of the other Colonies had done something which, according to the language of that House, might be construed into resistance, or a preparation for it; but in the

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case of Georgia, it had not been even urged in debate, much less proved, that they had committed a single act, which the most willing, ingenious, most expecting, or best paid lawyer in the House, could sketch even so far as a misdemeanor. And what would be the certain consequence of the present bill? but that a whole Province was to be proscribed, its trade ruined, and its inhabitants declared Rebels, and compelled to submit to tyranny, or consent to be starved.

Lord North said he had no objection to have evidence examined, either to prove the delinquency or the innocence, loyalty and obedience of the Province of Georgia, but he presumed the witnesses meant to be moved for were the West-India merchants, who probably would think themselves interested in the event of the examination, and who, besides, could not possibly be sufficienty acquainted with the present state of the Colony to give the House the necessary information. Though Georgia was not actually in arms, or in a state of open rebellion, it was, nevertheless, well known that they acted in conjunction with the other Colonies, and there could not be a more decisive proof of their disposition, and the part they meant to take, than their having sent Delegates to the Continental Congress.

Mr˙ Dempster animadverted very severely on the doctrine maintained by the noble Lord, that of prejudging, and on that prejudgment proceeding to inflict punishment. He said, such a conduct was much more horrible in its consequence, and more repugnant to the generally established ideas of justice than anything yet imputed to that bloody tribunal, the Inquisition; for even the inquisitor proceeded on information, heard the culprit in his own justification, attended to the proofs, and pronounced his sentence according to certain stated rules, established by the inventors of this mock judicature. You have drawn the Colonies into the dilemma of taking up arms or of submitting to be slaves, and then, with all possible moderation and candour, desire them to lay down their arms, and you will hear their complaints. This was the language of Charles I to his Parliament, and of every other tyrant, from William the Conqueror to this day.

Mr˙ Pownall (Secretary to the Board of Trade) detailed the different proofs the Georgians had given of a rebellious disposition. He observed, that in honour to his Majesty, two days before his last birth-day, they threw the cannon of one of the forts in the Province into the river, and forcibly entered the powder magazine, and plundered it of every ounce of its contents. Their own newspapers were full of accounts of these exploits. If any other proof was thought requisite, the last resolution of their Committee must be sufficient to convince the most unbelieving, for they had voted ten thousand pounds towards what they called the common cause, which, in his opinion, showed plainly that they were in earnest.

Mr˙ Burke said, this was the first time he ever heard newspaper information made a foundation for any solemn proceedings in that House, except an odd time when the gentlemen of the quill made free with the noble Lord who sat on the Treasury Bench, and a few of his chosen friends in both Houses. He said, he sometimes frequented a coffee-house near the House, and he had a right to say, that the master of it was extremely negligent of his duty, for he had never laid any of those hostile papers the honourable gentleman mentioned before him; yet, on recollection, he could not help thinking that this House, and not coffee-houses, would be the fittest place to look for information; but he was sorry to say, that this House was one of the last in the Island he would look to for any kind of information whatever. On the whole, he was sorry to perceive so sudden an alteration in the honourable gentleman, for he remembered when the honourable gentleman in office was not a member, no man, he thought, was clearer, none readier to communicate, in the most candid manner, every intelligence that was proper or consistent with his situation. For that reason, said he, I fear there is something infectious in the air of this House. This gentleman, who not long since was intelligence itself, seems to have been at once emptied, and instead of drawing from his usual source, is suddenly obliged to draw his most important information from the newspapers.

The motion was negatived.

Ordered, That the Order of the Day be now read.

And the Order of the Day being read,

The Bill was read the third time.

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Mr˙ Bayley said: I am well convinced there never entered this door before a bill fraught with such injustice and cruelty as the present. In order to wreak the revenge of a vindictive Ministry on the Americans, you are now going to ruin all the plantations in the West-India Islands, and to give their present produce up for plunder to your sailors, before the inhabitants can have any notice of your intentions. And by this infamous trick, you think you shall be able to man your fleet without giving any bounties to your seamen, which I much doubt if you will find answer after all; yet the attempt is so very base and wicked, that I defy any one to mention such an instance even amongst the most savage nations, where a Minister ever dared to give up such a number of innocent persons to plunder, without the least crime being laid to their charge. Sir, I have several times, during the progress of this bill, taken the liberty to tell the House, that before the Congress had shut up the American ports, which was the 10th of September last, a great number of their vessels sailed for the West-Indies, chiefly in ballast, where the planters are now loading them under the sanction of our Acts of Navigation, never suspecting that we are this day capable of making a law which is to entrap them, by enacting, that unless American vessels came to them loaded with lumber or provisions, and obtained a certificate of it to bring with them to Great Britain or Ireland, with a particular description of their cargoes then on board, that the planter' s property was to be seized and made lawful prize of, although they could not possibly know of any such stipulations; therefore, sir, I frequently urged how unjust it would be, not to give the inhabitants of those Islands timely notice of your design before you subjected their goods to forfeiture. I now again, sir, have a clause in my hand to offer for this purpose; and if it be not accepted, all mankind will agree in seeing the intention of this bill in the same light that I do. But, sir, the noble Lord at the head of the Treasury insinuates, that no injury is meant by this bill to any of the proprietors of West-India estates. If that was really the case, his Lordship could have no objection to such a clause; but what serves to convince me more than any bare professions is, that no one will accept the one thousand guineas I have declared myself ready to give, to whoever will indemnify my property that is now at sea from being seized, until I can send information to my managers in Jamaica to forbear shipping any more on American vessels. Sir, I think it an infamous robbery to have my property taken from me without having infringed any law whatever, and without giving me time to guard against such laws as you are making. Although the loss I may sustain on this occasion may not much affect me, I know many of the inhabitants of the West-India Islands will be ruined by it, having the greatest part of what they are worth in the: world on board American ships now on their passage to this kingdom, and which is now out of their power to remedy. And notwithstanding they are insured against the risk of the seas, and even pirates, yet I am sorry to say, that after escaping all these, their ruin is inevitable, from rapacious and unprincipled Ministers. However, I hope a time will soon come when they will be brought to answer for thus sporting with men' s lives and property, and for so grossly deceiving his Majesty, and using their utmost endeavours to drive the inhabitants of every part of his dominions into resistance, in order to get commissions for their dependants, and to fill their own pockets with the havock and spoils of war.

Mr˙ Dempster read some extracts from letters he had received during the summer, which tended to show that coercive measures would never either frighten or otherwise induce the Americans to enter into any treaty of compromise with this country; on the contrary, they would risk everything, and suffer everything, before they would be compelled by force of arms to submit. He observed, on the general contents of these letters, that the Americans, like true Englishmen, were too generous to refuse to contribute to pay their share or proportion towards the publick burdens; and, like them, too highminded to agree to any concessions, of which unconditional submission, which, in effect, was the true definition of slavery, was to be the basis.

Mr˙ Brett offered an engrossed clause to be added to the bill, by way of rider, to suspend the operation of the act, with respect to the cargoes of West-India ships, for a longer time.

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And the question being put, That the said clause be brought up;

It passed in the negative.

A motion was then made, and the question being put, That the Bill do pass,

The House divided The yeas went forth:

Tellers for the yeas,
Mr˙ Rice,
Sir Grey Cooper,
112

Tellers for the noes, Mr˙ Frederick Montagu,
Mr˙ Feilde,
16

So it was resolved in the affirmative.

Ordered, That Sir Grey Cooper do carry the Bill to the Lords, and desire their concurrence therein.