Debate

v6:158

HOUSE OF LORDS.

Wednesday, November 15, 1775.

The Duke of Grafton said he should move that an humble Address be presented to his Majesty, humbly desiring that his Majesty would give directions to the proper officer to lay before that House an account of the number of forces serving in America previous to the commencement of hostilities. He explained the reasons upon which his intended motion was founded; and said he thought such a motion extremely necessary at this time, when not only the nation at large was kept in such profound ignorance, but even the ancient hereditary council, his Majesty' s great constitutional advisers, knew no more of what measures were intended to be pursued than they did of what was transacting in any foreign cabinet in Europe. He reminded their Lordships of his sentiments on a former occasion relative to the nature and extent of the information; that he did not want to know the detail, nor the particular means intended to be employed to give their measures success. He did not want, in short,

v6:159

Cabinet, but Parliamentary information, such as was fit and safe for Ministry to disclose, and necessary for Parliament to know, in order to direct them in their future deliberations. We know, said his Grace, that an army was voted last session; we know that an army, such as it was, commenced hostilities; we have heard, by common report, that considerable reinforcements have been sent since that period; we have been informed, through the same channel, that the troops met with a severe repulse in their first attempts to subdue the natives, and that the second, in which there was a kind of trial of skill and courage, was not in its consequences far short of an open defeat. We do not want to be told, that from that last action to this instant, the Royal army has remained cooped up in the town of Boston, mouldering away by sickness and famine, and almost daily waiting for its fate, that of being destroyed or made prisoners by a force infinitely superior in point of numbers and strength. In such an alarming crisis, what are we to do? The noble Lords who have the direction of his Majesty' s counsels have ingenuously confessed that they have been "deceived." Apologies of various kinds have been made: explanations have followed those apologies. We have been told of ill-founded information, false reasonings, mistaken conclusions. Oblique censures have been thrown out upon the commanders both by sea and land. Now, my Lords, in such a state of darkness and uncertainty, such charges, such blunders, such mistakes, such imputed negligence or incapacity, or both, I would humbly submit to your Lordships' judgment, whether the motion I am about to propose be not a most necessary one; not as a retrospective one, implying the least degree of censure, but merely cautionary, in order to prevent a return of the same fatal evils. I repeat again, that I do not desire to know the number of men voted with an intention of comparing the estimate with the returns; nor to enter into any inquiry directed to have the wrong information, by which Ministers have confessed themselves "deceived" and misled, traced to its source; all I wish to know is, that general state of things, and those facts, which, while it will warn us of the difficulties we have to encounter with, will, at the same time, point out the best means of obviating or surmounting them. That can never be effected so well as by learning the true state of the force preparing against us; comparing it with our own abilities and immediate resources, and, on the whole, coming to such mature resolutions respecting future measures, whether of coercion or conciliation, as may be best suited to the dignity, national justice, and permanent interests of this country. His Grace concluded with moving,

"That an humble Address be presented to his Majesty, to desire that he will be graciously pleased to direct the proper officers to lay before this House the state of the Land Forces in North-America, according to the last returns, which preceded the commencement of hostilities there in April last; specifying as well the numbers of officers and men effective and fit for duty as also their distribution at that time, with the numbers stationed at each post; and likewise the numbers of Land Forces, both of complete Regiments, of drafts from other Corps, and of Recruits sent to America since that time from different parts of the King' s dominions, specifying the dates of the different orders for each separate embarcation."

Earl Gower. I rise thus early to give a direct negative to the motion made by the noble Duke; because his Grace has manifestly proceeded on a mistake. He supposes this country, at least I am led to conclude so by his reasoning, in a state of absolute tranquillity, whereas it is confessedly in a state of war. Disclosing, therefore, our plans of military operations might be productive of the worst consequences. I have it from an officer of eminence on the spot, that whatever measures are determined on at this side of the water, are known in the Rebel camp much earlier than any account of them reaches the King' s Army. What, then, will be the consequence, but that whatever information may be brought to light by this motion, and several others which I dare say will follow, if it should meet with your Lordships' approbation, the Rebels will be apprised of? The plans we intend to pursue will thereby be made known, and the Provincials furnished with the readier means of defeating them. Besides, I cannot see what possible good this motion can answer in any light, even in the strictest conformity to the sentiments the noble Duke declares to profess, unless he

v6:160

makes it a leading question to a string of propositions of a similar nature, tending to lay open the species of information which, as one of his Majesty' s Ministers, I look upon myself bound, for the reasons before assigned, most strenuously to withhold. But, my Lords, if I have very cogent reasons for opposing the motion singly on the ground I have now stated, I have still much stronger motives for opposing it on principle: I mean the dangerous precedent it might establish in the further progress of this important business, that of the legislative forcing itself and breaking in on the executive power; a mode of conducting business which, if it should ever prevail, will, of course, totally obstruct the measures of Government. On the other hand, if Administration is supported by the confidence of Parliament, by a proper dependance and reliance that the powers entrusted to them will be exerted with suitable ability and fidelity, I make no doubt, from the present disposition of a great number of people in that country, who want only to be protected to openly avow themselves the friends of Great Britain, that this arduous affair will be finally brought to a fair, happy, and honourable issue.

The Earl of Dartmouth against the motion, said, it was the most extraordinary proposition he ever heard, that now, when it could be no longer doubted that we were in an actual state of war, to have the strength, number, and destination of our troops laid open to the Americans, was such an idea as he could not have thought possible for any noble Lord in that House so much as to conceive. He confirmed the assertions of the noble Earl who spoke last, that every fact or information called forth by this motion, would be instantly transmitted to America, and would, consequently, teach them to rise in their demands on one hand, or cause them to take such measures of resistance as would be most effectual towards defeating whatever might be determined on in this country. He observed, if the Duke' s motion was intended to reach no farther than it professed, it might be answered with great safety, and with very little trouble. The number of effective men in each regiment was well known; the number of battalions was seventeen; there were upwards of three hundred sick in the hospitals, and about eight hundred non-effective; which two last items deducted out of the returns, supposing them to be complete, would give an exact amount of the troops previous to the commencement of hostilities. There were some detachments out at the time, but they were not very considerable; so that the whole of the force, at the time the noble Duke' s motion pointed to, might be very easily ascertained.

Lord Camden. The noble Earl in the blue ribbon, [Earl Gower,] and the other noble Earl very lately a Secretary of State, [Earl of Dartmouth,] seem to oppose the present motion on two grounds: first, as it may be the means of giving intelligence to the Provincials relative to the state, condition, and number of our troops in America; and, secondly, as this motion, should it receive your Lordships' approbation, may be productive of several others directed to the same object. I heartily approve of their Lordships' caution and foresight; for I believe, though I have no reason to know it, as the noble Duke has not communicated his intentions to me, that their Lordships fears are well founded. I dare say the noble Duke, should he carry his first point, does not mean to rest his inquiry there, and proceed no farther. I rather think he will go on: I am sure the present situation of affairs, both in England and America, requires that he should. The noble Lords have talked of the accounts of measures agreed on in this country being so early known in the Rebel camp. I should be glad to know what species of information their Lordships allude to. They will not say it is Parliamentary information, because no Rebel camp existed at the time we last sat here, at least, so as to reach it any considerable time after Parliament rose. If it be Cabinet information, that is a matter we are, it seems, to have nothing to do with. But there is something extremely curious in another part of this argument: the noble Lords in office tell you, that by giving an account of the number of troops in Boston and its neighbourhood previous to the affair at Lexington, we shall furnish the Rebels with intelligence of a very dangerous nature. What! Surely not, if the Rebel camp be so very well informed; much less so, if the inquiry goes only to a point, I suppose well known to every man this instant within the Province of Massachusetts-Bay.

v6:161

While I am up, my Lords, you will give me leave to say a few words to the general question. The noble Earl, so lately one of his Majesty' s, Secretaries of State, has informed us, that we are in a state of war, that secrecy is of course necessary. I deny that we are. Peace is still within our power; nay, we may command it. A suspension of arms on our part, if adopted in time, will secure it for us; and, I may add, on our own terms. From which it is plain, as we have been the original aggressors in this business, if we obstinately persist, we are fairly answerable for all the consequences. I again repeat, what I often urged before, that I was against this unnatural War from the beginning. I was equally against every measure from the instant the first tax was proposed to this minute. When, therefore, it is insisted, that we aim only to defend and enforce our own rights, I positively deny it. I contend that America has been driven, by cruel necessity, to defend her rights from the united attacks of violence, oppression, and injustice. I contend, that America has been indisputably aggrieved. Perhaps, as a domineering Englishman, wishing to enjoy the ideal benefit of such a claim, I might urge it with earnestness, and endeavour to carry my point; but if, on the other hand, I resided in America, that, I felt or was to feel the effects of such manifest injustice, I certainly should resist the attempt with that degree of ardour so daring a violation of what should be held dearer than life itself ought to enkindle in the breast of every freeman. Here, my Lords, I speak as an American, or as one residing in America, who, finding himself deprived of his liberty, and his property attacked, would resist, and with all his might repel the aggressor. On the other hand, as living in this country, and subject to the laws of it, I always have, and I hope always shall, pay a proper obedience to them. But, my Lords, pursuing the ideas of a native American, or a person residing in that country, what must be the sense they feel of the repeated injuries that have for a succession of years past been heaped on them? To have their property, under the idea of asserting a right to tax them, voted away by one act of Parliament, and their charters, under an idea of the supreme authority of the British Legislature, swept away by another vote of Parliament? Thus depriving them, or rather claiming a right to dispose of every single shilling they are worth, without one of them being represented by the persons pretending to exercise this right; and thus stripping them of their natural rights, growing out of the Constitution, confirmed by charter and recognised by every branch of the Legislature, without examination, or even without hearing. I will fairly appeal to your Lordships, if there be one among you who could submit to such intolerable oppressions; nay further, if you would not all unite as one man, were you in such a situation, to oppose the execution of so lawless and unjust a power. I do not mean, my Lords, to go through the whole of this business: I reserve that for some future day. I dare say I shall have many opportunities; and I pledge myself to your Lordships, on that day, that I will prove Great Britain has been the aggressor; that America has only acted on the defensive; and that, were I an American, and wanted a proper sense of the injuries attempted to be exercised towards me, I should only think them justifiable so far as I wanted spirit to resist, and was conscious to myself that I was undeserving the enjoyment of any privilege that I was mean, cowardly, or abject enough to tamely relinquish.

Lord Lyttelton, after objecting to the motion, on the ground that it would be the means of conveying information to the Rebels, remarked with some severity on the conduct of the noble and learned Lord who spoke last. But if the present motion be objectional on the ground it now stands, unconnected with any other, how much more strongly ought you to resist it, when the learned Lord informs you that it is to be followed by several more of a similar nature. This being clearly the real intention of the noble Duke who made the motion, I trust, if any doubt remained relative to the confined view of the question, as it simply stands before your Lordships, that this information will be a sufficient motive with you to reject it in the first instance. The noble and learned Lord, digressing from the question immediately before us, entered into a general view of matters of a much more important and weighty nature. His Lordship tells you, that Parliament were the first aggressors; that the Americans are indisputably aggrieved. Is this, my Lords,

v6:162

a language fit to be endured within these walls? Are you to suffer the acts of the British Legislature, declared by the King, Lords, and Commons, to be branded with almost every opprobrious term that can possibly be conceived? The noble and learned Lord tells you that the Parliament has acted unjustly, oppressively, nay, tyrannically; that the Americans are justified in their resistance; that if he was an American, or resided there, he would be one of the first to resist. I will venture to affirm to your Lordships, that if he was there, he could not effect the thousandth part of the mischief we may fairly presume what he has said this day will produce; for you may rest assured that there is not a syllable of his speech that will not get into the newspapers, and consequently make its way to America. They will in those accounts find the speech of a most learned and eminent lawyer, famed in his profession, confirming them in every sentiment of rebellion and resistance to the authority of the mother country. They will find the Legislature of Great Britain charged with tyranny, oppression, and usurpation. They will find themselves branded as cowards, poltroons, and tame, abject slaves, unworthy of the liberties they enjoy, if they do not resist. The noble and learned Lord, while he sets up to be so strong an advocate for liberty, says something I do not well comprehend, unless it be with a view still the more completely to blacken and vilify this country. His Lordship tells you, as an overbearing and domineering Englishman, he should like to triumph and trample on the liberties of America. I do not pretend to exactly say what his native impulses may be in that respect; but I will venture to assert, that he thinks very differently from the majority of this House, and the majority of this nation: neither of which want to invade the rights of America, much less trample on its liberties. The noble Lord says, in the same breath, that, as an American, he would resist such an invasion. But as it is not the intention of Great Britain to do the one, so I trust she will never desist, till she obtains a full and complete obedience and submission to the exercise of her constitutional power. On a former occasion, having only said that those who were for supporting the unnatural claims of America were, in fact, surrendering the rights. of the British Parliament into the hands of our rebellious subjects, I remember I was called to order, and severely reprehended by one or two noble Lords on the other side. In my opinion I was substantially right; but allowing it to be otherwise, how much more blameworthy is it for the learned Lord to rise and condemn acts of Parliament, the laws of the land, and the constitutional sense of the whole nation? I trust the noble and learned Lord already sees the impropriety of his conduct; how very unparliamentary it is; how disrespectful to the body of which he is a member; how injurious to Parliament at large; but, above all, that he will think of the consequence, and, in time, retract his words; otherwise he may be assured those exceptional, those mischievous expressions will shortly be echoed through all the papers, and be wafted over the, Atlantick to rebellious America by the first conveyance. Should the noble and learned Lord refuse to retract, I shall be in the judgment of your Lordships, whether or not, to avoid the consequence I have pointed out, he should not be obliged to explain himself, according to the usual and established mode of Parliamentary proceeding.

Viscount Dudley. I think the noble and learned Lord has transgressed every rule of debate I ever remember to have seen observed in this House. Not satisfied with condemning the measures of Administration in general, he tells you very plainly that America has been oppressed, and that Great Britain are the aggressors. He contends that resistance is justifiable, and that our ultimate views are views of tyranny and despotism. This, I confess, is speaking pretty plainly; but I presume his Lordship does not mean, by such palpable misrepresentations, to persuade us to adopt his opinions; on the contrary, I am satisfied that America, in this contest, only aims at independence; and that every concession we may be induced to make will only lay a foundation for new claims. In the course of this business, I have observed that much stress has been laid by the noble Lords on the other side of the House, that should our present disputes with America be spun out to any length, our manufactures must be ruined. Now, my Lords, I must inform you of two facts: one is, if that were the case, no person would feel the effects sooner than myself; the other,

v6:163

that nothing of the kind has been hitherto foil, at least in my neighbourhood, which is deeply concerned in the American trade. I live in the midst of a great manufacturing country, the trade of which depends a great deal upon their intercourse with America; and yet I can say, from the best information I have been able to collect, that no decline or stagnation, in any of the great manufactures, has been yet felt. It is true, a want of employment among the nailers may possibly be a consequence of our present disputes with America; but if it should, I trust Administration will devise some mode of alleviating the miseries of men manifestly suffering in the cause of their country.

The Duke of Richmond. The noble Lord who spoke last, has at length confessed that the effects of our American war begin to be already felt, particularly among the nailers. It is not many days since the same noble Lord assured us, with great confidence, that the manufactures in his neighbourhood were in a most flourishing state; that the people were fully employed; and that new channels for disposing of the commodities formerly sent to America were happily opened. What does his Lordship now tell you? That a Stagnation, at least in one branch, has commenced, and very modestly desires Administration to devise some means of compensating the sufferers. This, I must own, has to me a very odd sound. We have already voted four shillings in the pound. Our manufactures are on the decline; that must of course create a deficiency in the funds. The manufacturers will want employment, and something must be done for them. I think your Lordships ought to consider this matter in a very serious light before you proceed a step further. You should view the measures at large, and fairly conclude on the consequences, taken together. The noble Earl, lately in office, [Lord Dartmouth,] told us the last day we met here, that we were to have peace with America; that it was the fixed resolution of Administration to adopt conciliatory measures. Now what does he tell your Lordships? That we are in a state of war; that secrecy is the life and essence of such a state; that we should studiously conceal what everybody knows in one instance, and withhold secrets from this House, long since grown stale in the Rebel camp. The principle which seems to direct the policy of the noble Lord, is no less worthy of animadversion. He has no information himself, his friends have none, and he will hear none. In fact, his Lordship is as careful to keep every degree of information from this House, as from the Generals Lee, Putnam, or Washington; for when Mr˙ Penn delivered him the Petition, he did not think proper to ask him a single question. When Mr˙ Penn was, on the last day, examined at your Lordships' bar, his Lordship showed a similar aversion to anything which might wear the most distant appearance of looking for information.

While I am up, and speaking on the subject of that day' s examination, I cannot avoid saying a few words on the conduct of one or two noble Lords. From the time that the House agreed to examine Mr˙ Penn till the day he was examined, I determined to have no sort of communication with him; yet, from what had fallen from the noble Earl in the blue ribbon, and the noble Earl lately in office, I wished to avoid asking that gentleman any questions which might probably be disagreeable, or embarrass him. Accordingly, when I came into the House, having previously drawn up a list of such questions as I thought proper to put to him, I went below the bar, and delivered him the paper, desiring him to object to such as he thought proper. He kept the paper a few minutes, and returned it to me with an assurance that the list contained not a single question he was not ready to answer. In this transaction, my Lords, I flattered myself that I had acted with all imaginable caution and candour. Yet, what was the consequence, but that the noble Earl who presides at the head of the Admiralty charged me with previously consulting the witness, with an intention, I presume, to fabricate a particular kind of evidence, on purpose to mislead this House. Such language was, in my opinion, extremely unparliamentary, and deserving of your Lordship' s discountenance and disapprobation; yet, after I had explained the matter nearly in the same words I do now, what shall we say to the unjustifiable conduct of another noble Lord, [Lyttelton,] who again repeated the same charge, mixed with a direct imputation, that the witness gave a partial testimony? But this is the noble

v6:164

Lord, my Lords, who stands up so warmly for Parliamentary order and the decorum of debate, and so severely condemns the noble and learned Lord on my right hand, [Lord Camden,] for being guilty of what he calls a violation of it. It is true, I always hear that noble Lord with infinite pleasure and delight: he speaks so finely, so harmoniously; his elocution is so charming, and his action so just and striking, that he affords me no small degree of entertainment — scarcely Mr˙ Garrick himself more; yet, before the noble Lord is so very ready to censure others in respect of transgressions, such as he now attributes to the learned and noble Lord, he should recollect how ready he is himself to offend in a similar manner. His Lordship has laboured greatly to reconcile the learned Lord' s expressions to each other. Your Lordships, I dare say, are already perfectly satisfied of his ability in that way. He has a knack of reconciling very strange things indeed; I hope he will be able to reconcile his conduct on the first day of the session, and the part he has since taken. I need not hope it, I may rest assured, that his Lordship is able to reconcile greater difficulties and contradictions than even that itself. His Lordship will, however, excuse me, if I think his ingenuity would be better employed in immediate relation to himself, than about any matter respecting the noble and learned Lord. On the whole, my Lords, I cannot help observing that the conduct of Administration has been very extraordinary. The noble Earl in the blue ribbon has told you he has been deceived. The noble Earl at the head of the Admiralty has told you that he deceived your Lordships relative to the naval arrangements of last year, lest, if he had made the necessary demands, you would have withheld your support. A noble Lord in the other House pledged himself that an army of ten thousand men would look America into submission. The same noble Lord has again undertaken to perform the same task with twenty-five thousand men. What, then, in such a state of imposition, confessed weakness, and contradiction, have your Lordships to direct you? Why, the noble Earl in the blue ribbon desires you, very gravely, to place an implicit confidence in Administration. He tells you, that no miscarriage can happen if you will trust him and his brethren in office. This is speaking pretty confidently, and with no small degree of hazard. I presume his Lordship is not ignorant of the true purport of such language in this House; it is no less than fairly engaging in measures, the consequences of which the Ministers' heads are to be answerable for. If, therefore, the present motion should be overruled, and this implicit confidence in Ministers should be deemed advisable, I hope that the doctrine will be accepted of in all its parts: trust the executive power, and let the executive power be eventually responsible to the legislative for all the consequences.

Earl of Dartmouth. I am much obliged to any noble Lord who rises to remind me of anything I have said in a former debate. I am doubly so to the noble Duke who spoke last, for assisting my memory to words so justly expressive of my real sentiments. I said it was the intention, the most earnest wish of Administration, to adopt measures of conciliation, nay, of concession. I avow myself still of the same opinion. I affirmed, early in this debate, that both countries are in a state of war; that secrecy, respecting our operations and the state of our troops, was become necessary. I think, in all this, there is nothing versatile nor contradictory. If absolute war were finally agreed on, I presume his Grace would not contend that peace would not be the ultimate object. How, then, can the noble Duke conclude, from my saying that this country is in a state of war, that consequently the views of Administration were directed to the conquest of America: when in the same breath I added, that the armaments, both by sea and land, were made chiefly with an intention of protecting such in America as continue well-affected to the mother country, and restoring them to the liberty of acting conformably to their own sentiments? I repeat again, that I have no sort of disinclination to gratify the curiosity of the noble Duke who made the motion, were the information to be confined to the object barely of the present question; but understanding from the learned and noble Lord who spoke early in debate, that other information of the same nature will be desired. I must, for that reason, give it my hearty negative.

Lord Viscount Dudley. I do not retract my former assertion, that the manufacturers in my neighbourhood were never

v6:165

in a more flourishing condition. I am sure they never were; and one good reason may be assigned why the American trade in general should have been brisker, for sometime past, than usual, because the people in America, foreseeing the consequences of the non-importation and non-exportation agreement, provided accordingly, which caused an increased demand. I have made it my business to inquire, and, from the most authentick information, have no doubt of the truth of what I affirm. The noble Duke has therefore mistaken my meaning. Nay, further, the very nail-making business has not yet felt any stagnation; at least the people employed in that business have had yet no reason to complain. But, my Lords, saying this, I am to inform your Lordships that that may not much longer continue to be the case; for I believe the fact truly is, that the great nail manufacturers, long since the demand has slackened, have still continued to employ their men; the business as respecting the journeymen has, of course, been equally brisk. But, my Lords, there may be a time when the inconvenience, or rather the impracticability, of such a conduct may arrive — I mean when the great manufacturers can no longer, with justice to themselves, accumulate a commodity for which they have no vent. It is to guard against the consequence such a period would produce, I now say that Administration would do well to interpose, and endeavour to find the journeymen employment.

Lord Camden. The noble Lord who so severely animadverted on my conduct respecting certain opinions maintained by me in the course of my speech, having offered so little immediately directed to combat the justice and truth of those opinions, I might well stand excused in your Lordships' judgment, as well as my own, in not rising to reply to them, if I were not doubtful it might be construed into pusillanimity, or a conviction that I had acted improperly, and was resolved to submit to the noble Lord' s censure in silence. When, therefore, the noble Lord makes a general charge of inconsistency against me, I tell him that I think I am perfectly consistent; that I might assert one thing as an Englishman, and resist it as an American. The noble Lord says it is indecent and unparliamentary to arraign an act of Parliament, unless it be on a motion for its repeal. I never knew any such rule of debate observed in either House of Parliament. If there be, I contend that it is essentially destructive to the freedom of debate, and shall never be observed by me till I am fairly tied up by a vote of your Lordships to that purpose. But if the rule were a good one, only see how it would operate in the present case: the question substantially before us is, Whether or not the acts of the British Parliament respecting America be founded in justice, and be consonant to the principles of this Constitution. Frame ten, or ten thousand, motions, they will come at last to this question. What, then, is the purport of the noble Lord' s argument? I allow the true question relates solely to the justice and wisdom of those acts; you may say anything else you please, but on them you must be silent. I appeal to your Lordships if this be not the natural and obvious meaning of the censure attempted to be passed on my words, and the restraint that would be the consequence, should your Lordships think I deserved it. No, my Lords, till I am fairly precluded from exercising my right, as a Peer of this House, of declaring my sentiments openly, of discussing every subject submitted to my consideration with freedom, I shall never be prevented from performing my duty by any threats, however warmly and eagerly supported, or secretly suggested. I do assure your Lordships that I am heartily tired of the ineffective struggle I am engaged in. I would thank any of your Lordships who should procure a vote to be passed for silencing me. It would be a favour more grateful than any other it would be in the power of your Lordships to bestow; but until that vote has received your Lordships' sanction, I must still think, and shall uniformly continue to assert, that Great Britain was the first aggressor; that most, if not all, the acts were founded in oppression; and that, if I were an American, I should resist to the last such manifest exertions of tyranny, violence, and injustice. When I arraign those acts, I would willingly draw a line, distinguishing those which have created the present troubles from those that preceded them; because the latter, I am authorized to say, did not directly operate, though undoubtedly they laid the foundation for the former. Saying this, however, I contend that there has not been a

v6:166

single step nor consequence throughout this whole business that did not originate from the principle of laying taxes on America for the purpose of raising a revenue. That, my Lords, is the great grievance, the source and parent of every other. But coming more immediately to the matter I rose to explain: Tea was sent to Boston, under the idea, as was pretended, of enforcing a commercial regulation; the tea was destroyed by a number of men in disguise, assisted by a mad rabble — an act, at the time, disavowed by the whole Province in their legislative and constitutional capacity; and never, from that day to this, offered to be justified, either in writing or discourse. How did Great Britain act on this occasion? Without making any demand of reparation; without making a single inquiry, or calling for a single evidence to prove the delinquency of a single inhabitant of the Province of Massachusetts-Bay, you shut up its port, you deprived thousands of the means of living, of the fruits of their honest industry, though you were convinced they disapproved of the act as much as yourselves. Besides, you robbed people of their property by rendering their landed estates, their houses, wharves, &c˙, useless. If this was not injustice the most wanton in its nature, and the most aggravated in its circumstances that was ever exercised in a free, nay, in a despotick country, I am sure I know not what tyranny or despotism is. Such was the complexion of your next act — that of stripping the Province of its charter, without previously proving that the powers delegated by it were abused and legally forfeited; in fine, without examination or inquiry of any kind whatever. And lastly, that last inhuman act of endeavouring to starve half a million of people into compliance, and thereby involving the guilty and innocent in one common punishment.

These, my Lords, are some of the few reasons why I think that Great Britain has been the aggressor; that she has been cruel, oppressive, unjust, and unrelenting; and these, my Lords, are the motives which would induce me, were I an American, to resist them as the most open and dangerous attacks upon my liberty, property, and, in short, everything I held dear as a freeman.

Lord Mansfield. My Lords, I did not intend to speak to the question, for you will perceive by my voice that I am not well. If, therefore, I should not express myself so clearly as I could wish, I will trust to your indulgence. The question before your Lordships is simply, Whether it will be proper to give the papers now called for. If the giving them to the House will be productive of no inconvenience, and give necessary information, I think the motion should be complied with. On the other hand, if the motion will answer no one good purpose, and may possibly disclose matter proper to be kept secret, I think the desired information ought to be withheld. These, my Lords, are the objects of the motion; but I perceive the debate has taken a very different turn. The question at large has forced itself into discussion, and, I foresee, ever will, till it is decided one way or the other. The bad consequences of planting Northern Colonies were early predicted. Sir Josiah Child foretold, before the Revolution, that they would, in the end, prove our rivals in power, commerce, and manufactures. Davenant, adopting the same ideas, foresaw what has since happened; he foresaw that whenever America found herself of sufficient strength to contend with the mother country, she would endeavour to form herself into a separate and independent State. This has been the constant object of New-England almost from her earliest infancy. Their struggles, in the reign of King William, compelled that Prince to recall their former charter, and give them a new one; and, towards the conclusion of his reign, to get an act passed that no law enacted in the Colonies should be valid, if contrary to any law at the time existing in England. Those disputes scarce subsided from that day to this. I remember, in 1733, Mr˙ Talbot (afterwards Chancellor) proposed a set of resolutions in the House of Commons, in which the nature of the disputes then subsisting were directly pointed at, and similar doctrines to those maintained at present by the British Parliament fully asserted. So matters continued till 1756, when a new Administration was formed, brought about by a coalition; in effecting which I had the honour of being an instrument. I remember, at that time the Ministry were extremely unwilling to engage in a war on account of America; and, I believe, would have avoided it, if some circumstances had not intervened which gave another turn

v6:167

to the disputes then subsisting. Not that I would be understood to say that America was not the true cause of the war then undertaken; I am certain she was. A vulgar opinion prevailed that we armed in defence of Hanover; the contrary was certainly the case. Whatever form the war might have afterwards assumed, the preservation of America was what originally brought us into it. At the conclusion of the peace, the inconveniences which have since arisen were then partly foreseen; but they were, however, balanced with a suitable degree of wisdom against those which might have been produced by embracing the other part of the alternative. If Canada was restored to France, it would have laid a foundation for future disputes, and future wars; it would have been the source of endless contention between both nations. This was the precise state of the case previous to the laying on the Stamp Act. An idea then prevailed that America, from her increased power and ability to pay, should contribute to alleviate the burdens she had been instrumental in loading this country with. I shall not pretend to say how proper such a measure might have been. As things have since turned out, I am sorry the Stamp Act ever passed: however, no person at the time so much as offered to say a word against it. The next year the Declaratory Law was passed without any opposition. In a year after, the noble and learned Lord who spoke last, being then at the head of his Majesty' s Councils, and presiding on the Woolsack, was present when the Port Duties were laid on, and never said a word against them. I am sorry they were ever laid on. Much about the same time, the act for extending the Act of Henry VIII, relative to the trial of persons for offences committed out of the realm, was passed: the same learned Lord retained his former situation, and the noble Duke, who made the motion this day, then presiding at the head of the Treasury, were both in the Cabinet, and not a word was said then against the measure. I am sorry that bill was passed. And, lastly, the very bill the learned Lord hath this day bestowed so many hard names upon, relative to stopping up the port of Boston, was passed without any manner of opposition. Of the succeeding acts I shall say nothing, but that, if the others were justifiable, I think the latter were equally so. I do not pretend to state the matter accurately, but as well as my memory is able to assist me. I do not think that America complains of particular injuries so much as she does of the violation of her rights. If I do not mistake, in one place the Congress sum" up the whole of their grievances in the passage of the Declaratory Act, which asserts the supremacy of Great Britain, or the power of making laws for America in all cases whatsoever. That is the true bone of contention. They positively deny the right, not the mode of exercising it. They would allow the King of Great Britain a nominal sovereignty over them, but nothing else. They would throw off the dependancy on the Crown of Great Britain, but not on the person of the King, whom they would render a cypher. In fine, they would stand in relation to Great Britain as Hanover now stands; or, more properly speaking, as Scotland stood towards England previous to the treaty of Union. His Lordship then entered into a variety of detailed reasonings, to show that the views of America were directed to independence; that Great Britain could not concede without relinquishing the whole, which, he supposed, was not intended; and that, consequently, any measure of conciliation, in the present situation of affairs, and the declared intentions of America, would answer no end but furnishing her with grounds to erect new claims on, or to hold out terms of pretended obedience and submission.

The Earl of Shelburne. I do not pretend, particularly at this late hour, to follow the noble and learned Lord over the very wide circuit he has taken. So much, however, I can affirm, that were I as well satisfied as his Lordship seems to be that America aims ultimately at independence, I should be one of the first in this House who would be for adopting the most firm and decisive measures; not having yet brought myself to approve of the very extraordinary proposition, of breaking off all political or commercial connection with that country. His Lordship has stated the case of Ireland, as applying to the subject of the present unhappy disputes, and was pleased to allude to something which dropped from me the last night on that subject, inferring from thence, that as Ireland is a subordinate kingdom, dependant on the Crown of Great Britain, the true dependance

v6:168

of America is thereby clearly marked out, as distinguished from those claims of America which maintain that their obedience and submission reach no further than to the mere person of the Prince upon the throne. Taking the premises to be true, I perfectly coincide with his Lordship; for I always have, and ever shall think, that both Ireland and America are subordinate to this country; but I shall likewise retain my former opinion, that they have rights, the free and unimpaired exercise of which should be preserved inviolate. The principal, the fundamental right, is that of granting their own money. The Irish have always exercised that right uninterrupted; so has America till very lately; and that this invaluable privilege is going to be wrested from her, I take to be the true grievance; remove that away, and everything, I dare say, will soon return into its former channel. I do not here promise to meet the ideas of every person on the other side of the Atlantick indiscriminately. There may be some factious, ambitious, turbulent spirits there. I would be understood to speak here of the prevailing governing dispositions of both countries. There may, on the other hand, be many people in this country so mistaken as to desire a revenue; but what I mean is, that if the claim of taxation was fairly relinquished, without "reservation, I am confident the supremacy of the British Parliament would be acknowledged and acquiesced in by America, and peace between both countries be once more happily restored.

The noble and learned Lord speaks something concerning a coalition, or union of opinion on some leading points. I find myself in an awkward situation. I do not, for my part, wish to become a member of Administration. I am an independent man, and mean to continue so; but if any general plan should be adopted, I should, in the first instance, put in my claim to restrain the power and mode of exercising the constitutional plan of Royal requisition, so as to prevent the Crown, or the Ministers for the time being, from employing it to purposes of finance and patronage, which might tend to throw still more weight and influence into the hands of Government, already grown much too formidable and powerful. The fatal effects of this increased strength in the Crown has been severely felt in another kingdom. It was to guard against it, in some measure, that the Act of King William passed for limiting the army serving in Ireland to twelve thousand men. Though the army, till very lately, was continued at that number, other means were devised to employ the power of the Crown in that country, to purposes operating nearer home. It is, therefore, on the hint now thrown out by the learned and noble Lord, that I lay in my claim thus early to avert, or rather to totally provide preventatives against, the mischiefs to be dreaded from increasing the power of the Crown, on the footing of any plan of conciliation which may be proposed and agreed on ultimately between Great Britain and America. The noble and learned Lord will, I trust, excuse me, when I set him right relative to a fact, which he has misstated or forgot. His Lordship says the Boston Port Bill passed without any opposition. I beg leave to remind his Lordship, that it was warmly opposed: that I, among several other Lords who entertained similar sentiments, testified our disapprobation in the warmest and most decisive terms; nor shall I ever be reconciled to that bill, nor the Charter Bill that accompanied it. They were both founded in manifest injustice: to punish men unheard in one instance, and to create a forfeiture, without any delinquency proved in the other, were such acts as must continue to disgrace our statute books till they are repealed.

I trust your Lordships will indulge me with a word or two to the question. The noble Earl in the blue ribbon, who spoke early in the debate, and the noble Lord lately in office, speak as if such information as that now desired, was not only improper to be given, but even indecent and unparliamentary to be asked. I protest to your Lordships I never heard till this night so extraordinary an idea maintained. In the first place, their arguments prove the vary reverse: they prove, that all secrecy will be nugatory, for that the Rebels are better informed than the King' s troops. But taking the fact to be directly otherwise, what would their reasoning amount to? Keep everything a profound secret; if anything, at least anything material, transpires, our schemes will be defeated. Now, for my part, I by no means approve of such a mode of proceeding, even if engaged

v6:169

in a foreign war with our natural and inveterate enemies. By the accounts transmitted down to us, this was not the conduct pursued by the immortal Marlborough. He always came over in the winter, and instead of wishing to conceal from his enemies, he generally stated minutely the measures pursued during the preceding campaign; the operations, and their actual or probable effects. His Grace did not even rest contented here, for he never failed to sketch the great outline of the succeeding campaign, and the number of troops it would be necessary to bring into the field. He was generally as good as his word — whatever he promised he punctually performed; and never, in the course of ten successive campaigns, did he once come to Parliament to tell he had been deceived, or that he had suffered in the least by his communications to Parliament.

The Duke of Richmond. The noble and learned Lord who spoke late in the debate, has entirely forgot the circumstances relative to the passing of the Boston Port Bill, and the opposition it met with from this side of the House. I must put his Lordship in mind, that it was very strenuously opposed, and that upon the very ground urged this day in debate. I remember very well, too, that the noble and learned Lord foretold that it would meet with no opposition from the inhabitants of Massachusetts-Bay, and pressed unanimity as the best means of ensuring it success. It was on the faith of those assurances that the bill was not opposed on the third reading. It was treated no more than as a matter of mere form; the bill was to be passed, the tea was to be paid for, and tranquillity was to be the consequence. How miserably those persons who reasoned in this manner were deceived, or how miserably they endeavoured to mislead others, (and I am sorry to say in some measure succeeded,) will, I trust, be not shortly forgotten. Before I sit down, I shall just mention a very particular circumstance, which happened at the time of passing that celebrated bill. None of the noble Lords who disapproved of the bill having thought it necessary to attend at the third reading, to give it the greater eclat, it was entered in the Journals, nem. con.; whereas it is totally unusual and unparliamentary to do so, when an opposition has been made to the bill in any stage.

The Duke of Grafton. My Lords, it has been said this day that Great Britain is not able to coerce America. I should be sorry such a notion should prevail; nor do I think it well founded, if it barely depended on a trial of strength between the parties. If, on the other hand, we reflect but for an instant, that we cannot exert our whole force against America, nor with prudence or safety one half of it, that weighty consideration should be always present in our minds. It is no longer a secret that France will not permit us. In that event, only think, my Lords, what a perilous situation we shall be in. After having wasted a considerable part of our blood and treasure in this unnatural contest; after we have stretched our ordinary means of carrying on this war as far as they can go, nay, probably anticipated them considerably; our commerce on the decline, if not ruined; our manufacturers starving, or inlisting for soldiers; France, or perhaps the whole united strength of the House of Bourbon, declares against us. Where, in such a situation, are we to look for new resources? I solemnly affirm, and with grief assure your Lordships, I do not know. I am tolerably well acquainted with the finances of this country; and I am sure I cannot think of a single tax, even in a time of perfect tranquillity, that could be devised, which would increase the gross receipt at his Majesty' s Exchequer. What, then, must be the consequence of a war at such a period, when I can venture to foretell that one-third, if not more, of the ordinary national resources will be stopped?

Viscount Townshend passed several high compliments on the Duke of Grafton, relative to his knowledge of his Grace' s abilities and candour when connected with Administration as Lord-Lieutenant of Ireland. He lamented greatly the freedom which had been taken in the course of the debate. He observed, that the noble Duke had said we were not in a situation to go to war without endangering this country from becoming a province to France. Another noble Duke had asserted in debate, that what kept the troops in Boston was the imminent risk of quitting it without being cut to pieces. This, he observed, might suggest to the Rebels the very attempt. It was said, that troops were to be sent to the Southward; this might defeat the measure, for he was certain there was not a syllable said

v6:170

in the House that night that would not be expediticusly conveyed to America, by the first possible opportunity.

The Duke of Grafton added one more reason for wishing for conciliatory measures. In the event I have first stated, Great Britain must be ruined by prosecuting this unnatural war. In the other, that is, supposing she prevails, and brings America to her feet, I shall fear that, if possible, still more; for I am perfectly convinced, that the liberties of America once gone, those of Great Britain will not long survive them.

The question was then put, and it was resolved in the negative.