Motion by Mr. Sawbridge, that the American Colonies grant Money to the Crown by their own Representatives

v6:373

HOUSE OF COMMONS.

Friday, May 10, 1776.

Mr˙ Sawbridge [Lord-Mayor of London] moved, "That his Majesty' s Colonies in America be continued upon the same footing of giving and granting their money, as his Majesty' s subjects in Ireland are, by their own Representatives."

He said, there was no necessity for going into a long discussion of the state of America, or the consequences which might be expected from our obstinately persisting to coerce them, which, he ventured to foretell, we should never be able to effect. Powerful as those motives might appear to persons who measured right only by the probable success of effecting wrong; the equity and justice of the English nation, he hoped, would be called forth by reasons of a different nature. He trusted that sentiment would effect what nothing but short-sighted interest could obstruct; and that every part of this wide-extended empire would experience the happy consequences of a mild, free, and benign Government. He condemned the conduct of Administration in strong terms. He urged them either to accept of preliminaries for peace with America, from the wisdom and industry of individuals in the legislature, out of office, or to substitute other preliminaries of their own framing, which should be more just and salutary. He believed, that even the sanguine abetters of Government now gave up all thoughts of exacting a revenue from British America without a Parliamentary representation. His constituents had recommended to him this proposition; it coincided with his own sentiments; and it was therefore with the utmost satisfaction he stood up to acquit himself of the first duty of a delegate in Parliament, the conveying the wishes of those by whose suffrages he had been deputed.

Mr˙ Alderman Oliver seconded the motion, and said, if the present opportunity of conciliating our disputes with America was neglected, we should never have another. He recommended coming to some resolution which might convince the people of that country that we did not mean to make slaves of them, but hold them as peaceful, useful, and obedient subjects.

Mr˙ Vyner (the Lord-Mayor having said something relative to the country gentlemen giving sixteen shillings in the pound, if required, in a tax upon their lands, to continue the present civil war) confirmed the offer, as originating from himself in that House; and added, he was not for offering any conditions for peace while an American had a musket on his shoulder.

Hon˙ Temple Luttrell. He paid many compliments to Mr˙ Sawbridge on the goodness of his motives for the part he now took; but was of opinion, such esteem had he for the right honourable magistrate' s disposition and talents, that, if he was to form a Constitution for the Colonies to satisfy his own mind, he would have their interests and happiness better provided for than by giving them a Constitution on the model of that of Ireland. A people so wretched, so oppressed, were scarcely to be found in any civilized part of the globe; nor could a more substantial injury, or a more humiliating insult, be offered by a paramount nation to one of its dependencies, than what Ireland would experience at the hands of a British Ministry within forty-eight hours, if his information proved authentick. An English Minister had abused the confidence of his royal master so far as to prevail with him, in his character of King of Ireland, to create hereditary legislators for that Island from the clans

v6:374

of the mountains of Scotland; men who, in their private characters, he believed to be not only irreproachable, but amiable and praiseworthy, of authority and high descent amidst their own thaneships; yet whose publick pretensions in the years 1715 and 1745, (for he never heard of any other,) now construed loyalty, were still, in the eye of our Constitution, acts of infamy and rebellion. He should be told, perhaps, that this power was a part of the rightful prerogative of the Crown; an idea to which he could never subscribe, while he remembered the wise and sterling definition of prerogative given us by Mr˙ Locke, who says, it is "a discretionary power of acting for the publick good, where the positive laws are silent; if that discretionary power be abused to the publick detriment, such prerogative is exerted in an unconstitutional manner." Was this acting for the publick good? To bestow those privileges and pre-eminences which are attached to the peerage of a kingdom, on persons whose, names and families are utterly unknown to the natives of such kingdom, and without any ties of property, of local services, or affection? — Barons, whose blood having been tainted by an open violation of the laws of their own country, are, in preference to the best gentlemen of Ireland, sent over there to possess the most honourable seats in the Senate; to enact publick statutes; and adjudge upon personal inheritances in the dernier resort. Mr˙ Luttrell called, with some warmth, upon Government to act in a manner consistent with the responsibility of their stations, and not to persist in a contemptuous silence on so important an occasion, and at such a critical juncture. The lives of their countrymen, the lives, perhaps, of their dearest friends, the safety of the empire, depended upon their immediate resolves. Are our Ministers bent on war without a possible termination? — or on what issue would they wish to rest the conflict between the two nations? Would they choose the full extent of the field against a peopled continent of that immense magnitude? — or rather, offer to contract their battle, as was done by our Edward III, in the French wars, to a few scores of select warriors; and they themselves in person demand the lists against an equal number of the American Congress? Perhaps, upon maturer consideration, they had best decide the superiority in the same manner that the natives of Rome did against the Albans; for if even two of the Ministerial champions should fall before one of their three antagonists, there may still be left a third, (I have him in my eye,) who, when it comes to a running fight, shall out-victory the last of the Horatii. It might, probably, in a few days, be recommended to both Houses, in a certain speech, to be fabricated by the authors of a like sanguinary parole at the opening of the present session, to go down into their respective counties for the summer months, and inculcate harmony and good order. For his part, he now declared that he should consider acquiescence and quietude in future, under the present measures of a most infernal Administration, as unworthy a British soul in every class of society, and highly criminal; confessed himself to blame, with others in the minority, for too inactive a submission and lameness during the Parliamentary business of the winter; and was convinced, that if it had not been for the inertness, the want of unanimity, and reciprocal confidence on the side of Opposition, the Americans would not have experienced so many instances of continued daring and outrage at the hands of Government. He was severe upon the American Secretary, [Lord G˙ Germaine,] assuring him that now was the time to do real service to his country, and satisfy his German confederates, by avoiding a combat. It was a saying of one of the seven sages of Greece, (Tholes of Miletus,) that of all wild beasts the worst was a tyrant, and of all the tame ones, a flatterer. Now, sir, when you cast your eyes on his Majesty' s efficient Ministers, when you look at his domestick minions, do you not heartily join with us in wishing that he may soon, like another Orpheus, play up a second dance in the midst of this mischievous menagerie, so as to send them scampering from the rich pastures of a Court to their native tramontane fastnesses? He called upon the Treasury to reply, and blamed their silence.

Right Hon˙ R˙ Rigby. He said he would not be one of those persons among the advocates for war, who kept profound silence when they were thus called upon. He should, therefore, till the Colonists submitted, acquit himself of his duty, by openly avowing a firm perseverance in the same hostile measures which he had supported from the beginning

v6:375

of this unhappy contest; not only supported with his vote on every division, but with the best of his abilities in most of the debates. He showed a ready wit in answer to some words which fell from the gentleman who spoke before him: "There was a time less alarming than the present, less dangerous to the realm, though the bloodiest of the Tudors sat upon the throne, [Queen Mary,] when every member rose from his seat, and laid his hand upon his sword." Mr˙ Rigby observed that the dispute could not be decided in a way more disadvantageous to the minority, who were always boasting of the superiority of their host, without doors, when in this onset there would be three swords to one, unless the friends to Government were to throw away theirs. He assured Mr˙ Luttrell he had no occasion to be angry with himself for his meekness or moderation; advised the right honourable magistrate to define the Constitution and state of Ireland before he adopted it, or at least expected the House to adopt it for the American Colonists. With respect to the Scotch Peers, the mountaineer Lords as they were called, he believed the creation would do no harm, if it did no good; what good it would do them, was best known to themselves; but he must observe that the case was not without more precedents than one.

The Lord-Mayor, [Mr˙ Sawbridge,] in reply to what Mr˙ Rigby had thrown out relative to the Constitution of Ireland, assured that gentleman he was ready to enter at large upon the subject, if the House would fairly canvass it; and of course it would come properly at the close of the debate, when the mover of a question was always indulged with being heard a second time.

Lord Irnham exceedingly disapproved of the treatment the first magistrate of the greatest city in the world was now receiving from Administration; at a time, too, when he was delivering the sentiments of the better part of the subjects of this commercial empire; who, in a struggle for illegal and unattainable claims, were not inclined madly to risk everything that a wise people could hold essential to renown or prosperity. However defective the Constitution of Ireland might be in some respects, yet the power of taxing themselves was sufficiently perfect for a groundwork of conciliation with America, if immediately proffered. He instanced the Constitution of the German empire, in proof that taxation and legislation are not inseparable, and quoted very able civilians of the Northern nations to confirm this assertion. He said, that whenever the Ministers were conscious of having the weakest side in disputation, they had refuge under the wit and pleasantry of a Paymaster-General.

Mr˙ Burke took a review of the measures pursued by Administration since the commencement of the session. He called upon Lord North to tell a single act that had been done within that period. His Lordship, it was true, might say, that he had voted ten millions out of the pockets of the people. He might boast that he had taken twenty thousand Germans into pay, and turned our British transport-vessels into German hospitals. He might desire the representatives of the nation to tell their constituents that, in return for such lavish grants, new taxes had been laid on them, and a four shillings land tax rendered perpetual. He might inform them that America had one hundred thousand men in arms; that every Governour, from Halifax to Florida, was driven to seek protection on board his Majesty' s ships-of-war; and, to conclude the narrative, he might instruct the representatives of the people to carry a sufficient number of Gazettes down to the country, and, when questioned about the state of affairs in America, desire them to peruse those oracles of truth, and launch forth in the highest encomiums on the military conduct of General Howe, and the bravery of the troops under his command. He next reprehended the Minister on his conduct respecting the Nova-Scotia duties; and said, that favourite measure, from which such salutary consequences were expected, was suffered to come to nothing, though he pledged himself to the House that he would bring in a bill framed on the resolutions of the Committee appointed to take into consideration the petition from the Speaker and House of Assembly of that Province. He next turned to the commission granted to Lord Howe and his brother, for restoring peace and granting pardons to the people of America, and said, that those gentlemen, however high they stood in respect to their respective professions, were by no means calculated for

v6:376

carrying into execution the professed objects of that commission; but allowing that they were ever so able in that line, he contended that the King could not grant them a single power which would enable them to treat with the Provincials. The idea was as absurd as it was delusive. The question was taxation. Could they give it up? The King himself had no such power, he could not therefore delegate it. He might grant pardons; so might the Admiral and General, and that was all. And he doubted not but they would grant pardons as soon as they were asked; but who were to sue for them was more than he could venture to foretell.

Mr˙ Hartley. The motion which has been made to you to-day, comes with the best recommendation that any proposition can come with to this House: I mean the recommendation of that great and most respectable body the City of London. The worthy magistrate who has made it, has supported it so ably, that there is very little occasion to detain you long upon the subject. The friends to peace and to America have been incessant in their endeavours to suggest every possible chance of accommodation. But Administration continues deaf to every entreaty. We must, I fear, content ourselves, without prospect of success, only to lay in our continual protests against the present vindictive measures. My honourable friend near me [Mr˙ Burke] has in this session offered to you a proposition, similar to the present, under another shape, viz: that of his Conciliatory Bill, which you have rejected. I myself did trouble the House likewise with some propositions suited to the very terms declared by Administration at the opening of the session, viz: that the Colonies should be replaced to their situation in 1763, if the honour of Government could be sheltered in the retreat. For the sake of peace, therefore, I did propose a test of compromise, by an acceptance on the part of the Colonists of an act of Parliament, which should lay the foundation for the extirpation of the horrid custom of slavery in the New World. No one can think it less expedient than I do, for a British legislature, at the distance of three thousand miles, to interfere in the internal police of America, in which we must at the best be ignorant, and of which our only information must come through partial hands. My motion, therefore, was not with any view to be drawn into example, but simply as an act of compromise and reconciliation; and as far as it was a legislative act, it was still to have been applied in correcting the laws of slavery in America, which I considered as repugnant to the laws of the realm of England, and to the fundamentals of our Constitution. Such a compromise would at the same time have saved the national honour. I likewise took the liberty a second time in this session, to suggest to the House the proposition of putting the Colonies upon the footing of Ireland, with regard to the right of giving and granting their own money, and to give them security that their Charters should be maintained inviolable. The proposition of putting them upon the footing of Ireland, as expressed in the motion of this day, has only respect to that one article of being masters of their own grants of money, in answer to a kind of objection which has been started, that if we had not a right of taxing them, such an exemption would constitute an imperium in imperio. The case of Ireland is, therefore, adduced as an argument and example in point. Unhappily for us, sir, all these propositions, under whatever shape they have been moved, have been rejected; and, what is worst of all, they have been rejected upon the principle of requiring unconditional submission, previous to any treaty or proposition for reconciliation. I consider the proposition which is offered to you to-day to be the same in substance with that solemn assurance which the Earl of Hillsborough, by a circular letter of the 13th of May, 1769, gave to the Colonies, that they might rest in full confidence that no further taxes should be laid by Parliament for the purposes of raising a revenue. Yet what are we at war for now, if it be not for a substantial revenue, to be collected by threats and compulsion? The proposition which was made to them upon the 27th of February, 1775, commonly called the Conciliatory proposition, is a direct breach of the national faith, as pledged by Lord Hillsborough' s letter; for that proposition declares, in the most explicit terms, that you mean only to forbear to levy, or impose any duty, tax, or assessment, as long as the Colonies, under this threat, shall deliver their money to you, to such an amount as

v6:377

shall satisfy the demands of Administration. I desire that the copy of Lord Hillsborough' s letter may be read, and after that I shall desire that the conciliatory proposition may be read, that the argument may stand upon record in your Journals, that a formal demand has been made to Ministry in Parliament on the part of America, claiming the performance of the solemn promise, and the support of the national faith plighted to the Colonies in Lord Hillsborough' s letter. The Conciliatory proposition being brought into the same page of your Journals with that letter, will perpetually remain in contrast, to convict Administration of having broken the publick faith thus solemnly plighted; next in order will stand, of course, the proposition offered to you this day by the worthy magistrate of the City of London. If Ministry refuse their assent to that proposition, which they are now called upon to accept as conformable to the spirit and substance of Lord Hillsborough' s letter, it will be a formal declaration to America that they must never trust to Ministerial promises, but look to themselves for safety.

Every proposition for reconciliation has so constantly and uniformly been crushed by Administration, that I think they seem not even to wish for the appearance of justice. The law of force is that which they appeal to. Let me, then, at least, suggest to their consideration whether there can be the least prospect of accomplishing by force what they have undertaken. At land, the cause is acknowledged desperate. I told you last year that the Congress would turn out an army of fifty thousand men, before the then ensuing midsummer. That suggestion was treated at that time as being in the highest degree ridiculous; yet it has proved true. You thought that two regiments would conquer all North-America; but you have found ten times that number foiled at the single town of Boston. You have lost the whole Province of Canada, except Quebeck; and your utmost expectations this year will be to retake what was once your own. So much for your success at land. What can you expect at sea? I fear I should make myself ridiculous to you once more, if I were to predict to you what, however, I confess I fear on that head. Consider, sir, ship building is the manufacture of America. Two-thirds of the British commerce is carried on upon American bottoms. That shipping, then, which was once for your service, will be turned into ships of force, to be employed against your trade and transports. They have begun already. You have supplied them with seamen by the stoppage of their trade and fisheries. You have thrown upon their hands forty or fifty thousand seamen, who can find no other employment but in the destruction of your marine. Remember their skill and courage at sea against our common enemies in the last war. Your ships will be three thousand miles from home, a long while out of port, foul, and under every disadvantage. Their ships will be at home, to take every advantage towards the latter end of the year that wind and weather may give them; when, if you do not quit the coast, you will be at the hazard of wreck or destruction, upon every wind that may blow. It is in vain to suggest these points of prudence; they are treated as the suggestions of pusillanimity and ill-will, till fatal experience brings conviction too late. Disgrace has been the fate, of our armaments at land; I fear it will be the same at sea. We are in a dreadful dilemma. Success or defeat are equal ruin.

We are now got nearly to the end of the session. All our propositions for reconciliation have failed. Ministry are determined upon the trial of force. I am sensible, sir, that I have been very importunate with you in this session, by reiterated applications. My object has been, not peace with America, but reconciliation, which is more than peace. We may have a federal peace with France or Spain, or with any foreign Power; but reconciliation is the wished-for object between those who are connected by every tie of consanguinity and friendship. It is for this reason that I so much regret and deprecate the measures of force which are undertaken. Even if it were possible to make a conquest of America, we should only be torn so much the further from a reunion of affection and good will. By persisting so obstinately in every measure of force, and by rejecting every proposition of reconciliation, whatever quarter it comes from, or in whatever shape it is offered, you have left no alternative to America but unconditional submission or independence. I can easily foresee that the ground of the

v6:378

question will be totally changed before we meet again. Unless you can effect the conquest of America, (which I think it equal madness either to attempt or to wish for,) instead of reconciliation, you must come to a federal treaty, with a people driven by yourselves to despair. As long as reconciliation, and a return to our former happy connection, continues the object, so far I can see my way before me; but when reconciliation is out of sight, we have lost our compass. The die is now cast for conquest or independence. We have bid an everlasting farewell to America. Whatever may be the event of the war, this, at least, is certain — reconciliation never comes by the sword.

The question having been repeatedly called for, was put.

The House divided: Ayes 33; noes 115.