Petition of Several Natives of North America Against the Bill, Presented and Read


A Petition of several Natives of North America, was presented to the House, and read; setting forth,


That the Petitioners, being natives of his Majesty' s Dominions in America, and deeply interested in every proceeding of the House, which touches the life, liberty, or property, of any person or persons in the said Dominions; and that the Petitioners conceive themselves and their fellow subjects entitled to the rights of natural justice, and to the common law of England, as their unalienable birthright; that they apprehend it to be an inviolable rule of natural justice, that no man shall be condemned unheard; and that according to law, no person or persons can be judged without being called upon to answer, and being permitted to hear the evidence against them, and to make their defence; and that it is therefore with the deepest sorrow they understand that the House is now about to pass a Bill, to punish with unexampled rigour, the town of Boston, for a trespass committed by some persons unknown, upon the property of the East India Company, without the said town being apprized of any accusation brought against them, or having been permitted to hear the evidence, or to make their defence; and that the Petitioners conceive such proceedings to be directly repugnant to every principal of law and justice; and that, under such a precedent, no men, or body of men in America, could enjoy a moment' s security; for if judgment be immediately to follow an accusation against the People of America, supported even by persons notoriously at enmity with them, the accused, unacquainted with the charge, and, from the nature of their situation, utterly incapable of answering and defending themselves, every fence against false accusation will be pulled down; justice will no longer be their shield, nor innocence an exemption from punishment; and representing to the House, that the law in America ministers redress for any injuries sustained there; and they can most truly affirm, that it is administered in that country with as much impartiality as in any other part of his Majesty' s Dominions; in proof of this, they appeal to an instance of great notoriety, in which, under every circumstance that could exasperate the People, and disturb the course of justice, Captain Preston and his soldiers had a fair trial, and favourable verdict. While the due course of law holds out redress for any injury sustained in America, they apprehend the interposition of Parliamentary power to be full of danger, and without any precedent. If the persons who committed this trespass are known, then the East India Company have their remedy against them at law; if they are unknown, the Petitioners conceive that there is not an instance, even in the most arbitrary times, in which a city was punished by Parliamentary authority, without being heard, for a civil offence not committed in their jurisdiction, and without redress having been sought at common law. The cases which they have heard adduced, are directly against it. That of the King against the city of London, was for a murder committed within its walls, by its citizens, in open day; but even then, arbitrary as the times were, the trial was public, in a court of common law; the party heard, and the law laid down by the Judges was, that it was an offence at the common law to suffer such a crime to be committed in a walled town, tempore diurno, and none of the offenders to be known or indicted. The case of Edinburgh, in which Parliament did interpose, was the commission of an atrocious murder within her gates, and aggravated by an overt act of high treason, in executing, against the express will of the Crown, the King' s laws. It is observable, that these cities had, by charter, the whole executive power within themselves; so that a failure of justice necessarily ensued from the connivance in both cases; however, full time was allowed them to discharge their duty, and they were heard in their defence. But neither has time been allowed in this case; nor is the accused heard; nor is Boston a walled town, nor was the act committed within it; nor the Executive power in their hands, as it is in those of London and Edinburgh; on the contrary, the Governor himself holds that power, and has been advised by his Majesty' s Council to carry it into execution; if it has been neglected, he alone is answerable; if it has been executed, perhaps at this instant, while punishment is inflicting here on those who have not been legally tried, the due course of law is operating there, to the discovery and prosecution of the real offenders; and the Petitioners think themselves bound to declare to the House, that they apprehend a proceeding of executive rigour and injustice will sink deep in the minds of their countrymen, and tend to alienate their


affections from this country; and that the attachment of America cannot survive the justice of Great Britain; and that, if they see a different mode of trial established for them, and for the People of this country, a mode which violates the sacred principles of natural justice, it must be productive of national distrust, and extinguish those filial feelings of respect and affection which have hitherto attached them to the Parent State. Urged therefore by every motive of affection to both countries, by the most earnest desire, not only to preserve their own rights and those of their countrymen, but to prevent the dissolution of that love, harmony, and confidence between the two countries, which were their mutual blessing and support, beseech the House not to pass the Bill.

Ordered, That the said Petition do lie upon the table.