Motion that Committee divide the Bill into two Bills


The Order of the Pay being read, for the House to resolve itself into a Committee of the Whole House upon the Bill,

Lord Folkestone observed, that the bill, in its present form, was the strangest heterogeneous mixture of war and conciliation imaginable. He said, that the disparity of numbers in the House of those inclined to war and those who wished for peace was very great, but nothing like the disparity in the clauses of the bill; that there were thirty-five clauses that aimed at desolation, and one only — a single one — that pretended to be pacifick; that this mixture of hostility and conciliation in the same bill could proceed from no motive but a desire, either of confounding the attention by the variety of the objects, and diverting it from observing the disparity of the various parts, or of precluding debate, by continuing the subject-matter of two bills in one; that both these reasons were indecent and unparliamentary. He animadverted on the immense powers conveyed by the bill, on it did not know whom, or it did not know how many or how few Commissioners, or whether more than one, and observed that they were left to act upon discretion, nay, without any rule to judge by, had power to suspend the act. That if he had no other reason for wishing the House to agree to the motion in this way, there at least would be a bill of peace to balance one that prescribes nothing but war, horror, and confiscation. His Lordship, on these principles, moved,

"That it be an instruction to the Committee, that they do divide and separate the said Bill into two Bills."

Mr˙ Dempster seconded him.

Mr˙ Rice opposed the motion, on the ground that the matter of the bill and its substantial operation, would answer the ideas of the noble Lord as well in one bill as two.

Mr˙ Dempster then enlarged upon the bill itself, and said, he wished much for the motion, not quite for the same reasons as had been given by the noble Lord, for he approved of that part which treated of the Commissioners; for though he thought the powers too great, yet great powers were undoubtedly necessary to the success of the


commission; that it greatly distressed him in his vote, when he wished well to one part of a bill, and looked upon the other part with horrour, and earnestly begged the motion might pass, as it would relieve him from great difficulties.

Mr˙ Byng observed, that the bringing in a bill of such importance as the present, looked as if Administration brought the bill in at this season of the year in order to avoid the opposition it would probably meet from the country gentlemen. The Minister was well aware that the country gentlemen could not be kept in town this season of the year.

Sir George Yonge objected particularly to the dispensing power given to the Commissioners, which he considered as lowering Parliament, and making it appear contemptible in the eyes of those upon the continent, who already entertained no very high idea of its free agency, and who must be satisfied that it would not voluntarily submit to such an indignity, and therefore was brought to submit to it by indirect means.

Lord North said, some were against the warlike part of the bill, others against the pacifick or conciliatory part, but that the most extraordinary reason, with those who wished for peace and supported this motion, was the dispensing power given by the pacifick clause; for, if the motion passes, the power of dispensing will be, of dispensing with the pacifick, and not with the hostile bill. He thought it fairer to declare against the bill in toto; that, he was sure, was the ultimate wish of those who wanted to divide it in two; and as such, he should strenuously oppose any motion of that tendency.

The House then divided. The yeas went forth:

Tellers for the yeas,
The Lord Folkestone,
Mr˙ Byng,

Tellers for the noes,
Mr˙ Rice,
Sir John Wrottesley,

So it passed in the negative.

Then the House resolved itself into the said Committee.

Sir George Hay supported the first clause with great earnestness. He said, no man in his senses could doubt but that America was in rebellion, nor that the present bill was to all intents and purposes perfectly justifiable and necessary. He expatiated on the criminality of the Americans, who, he said, were not to be considered in the light of foreign enemies, but as criminals of the blackest dye; as Rebels, who to the enormities of war added moral turpitude, and the basest ingratitude. He took a large compass in defending every part of the bill, and showed the principles upon which it was founded to be agreeable to the practice of nations on similar occasions, which did not, he said, strictly confine the State to the formalities of war in the reduction of rebellious subjects to obedience, but authorized the greatest severities, and even massacres. He enlarged upon the lenity of the bill, considered in that light, and concluded with a high compliment to his Majesty' s goodness in graciously condescending to bestow upon the captors the produce of the prizes.

Lord John Cavendish added to the applause due to his Majesty' s generosity in giving up the share to which the Crown is entitled of the spoils of the enemy; and he made no doubt, he said, but that the framers of the bill had been sufficiently exact in measuring out the several proportions of the plunder to those who were to share in the distribution. But who, said his Lordship, are to be the sufferers? From whom are the spoils to be taken? Not from the guilty, (supposing, for argument sake, a rebellion to exist in America?) not from Rebels in arms, but from peaceful merchants — men who dread nothing so much as war, and who abhor rebellion. Will the honourable gentleman, or any other gentleman in this House, venture to assert the Americans are in rebellion? The framers of the bill have repeatedly asserted the contrary, and have made it their boast, that Government have numerous friends in every one of the Provinces, who wait only to be protected, in order to declare their sentiments and display their loyalty. These are the men who, presuming upon their innocence, will be most likely to hazard their property at sea. And from these men, friends to Government and the peace of mankind, are the spoils to be taken, that are thus to be distributed in equitable proportions among the captors. If this is the way the friends to Government are to be rewarded for their zeal,


who will have temper enough not to oppose? Or who that has lost his property by plunder, will not join in making reprisals. By the tenour of this bill, after it has passed into an act, if it does pass into an act, is there a man in America that will be safe in trade? What, then, are we about? Debating Whether we shall give a sanction to the military part of our people to rob the civil part, or whether all things shall be left to chance, and the whole frame of Government thrown into disorder. By this bill, those whom we maintain for the defence, of property on this side the Atlantick, are to be employed in the rain of property on the other; and the desperate and daring on the other side to be encouraged to make reprisals on the property of peaceable men in this. The honourable gentleman who spoke last seems only to have considered the bill in one point of view — the captures, the forfeitures, and confiscations, the sharing prize money, and the final condemnation; but has totally overlooked the sufferers. He condemned the bill as it stood, and was for dividing it.

Sir George Savile was equally severe on the bill in all its parts. He said, the Ministry, from a mere childish, sottish obstinacy, to hold their places, were at once risking their heads, and plunging the nation into certain ruin. He said, dead majorities and thin Houses were matters very favourable and encouraging to the Minister to persevere; but he assured the House that the thread, when drawn too fine, would at length break; for however they might vote or divide within these walls, when our manufactures were ruined, our resources stopped or dried up, and that we were engaged in a French or Spanish war, majorities would avail the Ministers very little: no majority would avail in such a critical state of things, much less one already universally execrated for its notorious venality, corruption, and blind submission to the mandates of a Minister, who was himself confessed on all hands to be far from being popular.

Mr˙ Attorney-General [Thurlow] entered into the ten dency of trade in general, and chiefly of that which the Americans have; of late carried on to their own particular emolument, but to the great disadvantage of this nation, and of the British merchants who trade to that country. He explained the conditions on which the Americans were permitted to trade with other nations in direct opposition to the terms of the Act of Navigation. He said, by that act the produce of America was first to be landed in England before it could be carried to any foreign markets to be disposed of. That upon their representing the hardship of this circumnavigation, which brought no profit to the parent State, permission was granted them to carry the produce of their country directly to neutral ports, on condition they should come to England and lay out the proceeds, or such part of it as they should have occasion to layout in goods, with the British merchant or manufacturer. But, instead of performing that part of the condition, it has been their practice to lay out their hard dollars in foreign markets, where perhaps they can buy cheaper, and to come to England to trade on credit, perhaps for twelve, eighteen, twenty, or even thirty months, and that on goods on which there are seldom more than sis or seven per cent, to be gained. In this manner those who are honest enough to trade fairly, according to the stipulated terms, have no chance of vending in America the goods bought here, as they cannot sell upon equal terms with those who buy so much cheaper abroad. Hence it is, that the clandestine dealer gains a fortune, while the fair trader can scarce live; and hence it is, that the foreign merchant draws away all the ready money, and the British merchant accumulates an immense debt. And these, said he, are the men for whom an honourable gentleman, in the course of this debate, expressed so great a tenderness. If this clandestine trade is stopped, which is the principal object of the bill, will any gentleman take upon him to say that the trade of Great Britain will suffer? The trade of Great Britain, on the contrary, will then be put upon an equal footing with that of other nations, and the British merchant have a chance to get his remittances in a reasonable time. With regard to the temporary inconveniences which the fair trader may suffer, they will be amply recompensed by the regulations which will of course take place when the present contest is finally decided; which the quicker despatch and the greater havock that is made among the people of the above description, the


sooner will the worthy part of the community be enabled to prosper.

Mr˙ Fox, in answer to what the learned gentleman had affirmed, that no man would be subjected to punishment unless he were found guilty, replied, that it was better not to take the trouble of entering into any proof of innocence under this bill; because, whether innocent or guilty, the bloody complexion of it seemed to prejudge before trial, and condemn without proof.

Governour Lyttelton was for the clause. He said there was scarce a fair trader throughout America. They were all concerned in a clandestine trade in one form or another.

Mr˙ T˙ Townshend said, that the arguments deduced from the method of carrying on trade in America had very little relation to the bill under consideration. That those who were concerned in illicit trade did it at a certain risk; if they were discovered they were punished; and so it was in this and all other trading nations. Merchants, he believed, were not the most scrupulous men in the world in buying bargains.

Honourable Mr˙ Walpole condemned the bill throughout, and predicted the commencement of the ruin of the British commerce and national greatness would be from the very day it should receive the Royal assent.

Mr˙ Burke said, it was the first time he ever heard it asserted, either in print or in debate, within or without these walls, that open hostilities and rebellion were the same thing. He said a day would come when the damnable doctrines of this bill would fall heavy on this country, as well as on those who first broached them, and were the means of carrying them into execution.

Mr˙ Bayley condemned the clause, and said the bill would affect his property very materially in the West-Indies.

Mr˙ St˙ Leger Douglass replied, he had a considerable estate in the West-Indies, nevertheless he thought the bill a very wise and salutary measure. He knew that the West-India Islands had lumber sufficient to serve them for one, if not two years; but if not, it was better to suffer temporary inconveniences than sacrifice the British empire in America to the local interests of any of its constituent parts.

Sir George Yonge declared himself entirely against the bill; but, at all events, he saw no objection its most sanguine friends could have to put off the committee for a day or two, or until the West-India merchants, who were, he understood, to present a petition, stating the manner they would be affected by it, were first heard. He therefore moved, that the Chairman do now leave the chair.

The question being put, the Committee divided: Ayes 34, Noes 126.

Captain Luttrell offered a clause for excepting such foreign ships as might be driven upon the American coast, or into those harbours, in distress.

It passed in the negative.

[The clause for making the seizures the property of the captors, was opposed by Sir Walpole, Mr˙ Townshend, and Sir Edward Dering. They recommended the mode that was pursued in the year 1755, viz: to let the publick have the benefit of the prizes, and not throw out such a lure to sea officers, the younger part of whom would be so eager to seize every vessel for their own benefit, as might produce much future mischief, and that, bad as the bill would otherwise be, by this clause it would be made ten times worse.]

Captain Luttrell said he had full as much objection to the bill in gross as any of his honourable friends near him, because he thought it replete with that barbarous coercion which destroyed every chance that peace and reconciliation would again subsist between this country and our American Colonies, but that he still thought of the present as he did of every act of Parliament, that, if it must pass into a law, (which he feared it would,) there was no making it too perfect, nor carrying it too fully into execution; and therefore, he said, without much hope that he should be able to influence the opinion of any man, or a wish to mislead, he should endeavour to point out, as the several clauses were read, wherein they appeared to him insufficient to answer the ends for which they were apparently intended by the gentlemen in Administration, with whom he said in some particulars he concurred, uninfluenced by selfish views, having neither the merits to boast of the sea officers now employed in America, nor a wish to subject himself to the orders of the


present First Lord of the Admiralty; but he hoped if, in the sequel, he should be thought to lean with partiality towards that corps to which he had the honour and pride to belong, that it would rather be attributed to a natural failing than a wish to misrepresent and deceive. He said that the most able advocate could not put so high a value on their services as Parliament had lately done, by conferring upon them the most beneficial favour in the most flattering and honourable manner they ever received as a corps, and to that he believed the alacrity with which they served in America was in great measure owing. That considering themselves to be embarked in the cause of the British Parliament, they sacrificed their inclinations at least, if not their humanity, at the shrine of gratitude, by accepting the most hazardous, disagreeable, and unthankful employment the oldest of them ever experienced, or that he hoped the youngest would ever be engaged in again. He said he knew the generosity of Parliament towards them was deeply imprinted in their minds; that of the Minister and First Lord of the Admiralty he saw with pleasure beginning to dawn, for, in the present instance, they seemed willing to sacrifice the interest of their dependants, to what he considered (and had not been convinced to the contrary by what fell from his honourable friends) was the just claim of the captors. That he was surprised gentlemen would wish to revert to that shameful precedent in the year 1755, when you made reprisals against France in a manner not less dishonourable than you are now about to do in America, but converted the produce of them, nominally indeed, to the use of the publick, (as gentlemen now propose,) but in fact to the benefit of the Minister' s friends, styled Commissioners for Prizes, who took possession of men-of-war as well as merchant ships, without giving the smallest reward even to the men who were maimed in battle, or to the friends of those that were slain. He said, he would never subscribe to the opinion, that revenue officers, commissioners for prizes, or any other set of men of whatsoever description or situation, were so well entitled to the seizures made under the authority of this act of Parliament, as those who risked their life, and health in a service where no honour was to be got, and where the fatigue of body and anxiety of mind, he feared, would be but ill repaid by any profit they were likely to reap. He observed, that those gentlemen who entertained liberal notions of honour, and were at all acquainted with the duty and temper of British officers and seamen, could never think seriously for a moment that they could sacrifice either to sordid views. If they had done so last war, he said, many of them might have become rich at the expense of the treasure of this country, but that he never knew the officer who did not seek with more diligence the privateers and ships of the enemy, which annoyed our trade, than for the merchantmen, although little but hard blows was to be got by the former, and much wealth by the latter. That he could not think so meanly of any service as to suppose any encouragement necessary to be held out to stimulate your forces by land or by sea to a faithful discharge of their duty; but if such reward as this would be the means of carrying any act of Parliament more effectually into execution, he thought it rather a reason why the seizures should be the property of the captors, than why they should not. He then replied to what had fallen from an honourable gentleman, who had insinuated that there could be no disinclination in the officers or seamen to serve in America, because he had learned from the first naval authority (which the Captain observed was not always the best) that we should be able to man all the fleet destined for the American service without being put to the disagreeable necessity of pressing. He said it might be so, but insisted it did not follow that it was a matter of choice; that we had lost our American trade, which had put a heavier embargo on our shipping than was ever done by any nation to equip the most formidable naval armament, and that the seamen being able to get no other employment, we, of course, procured them with more facility. He concluded by observing, that if France and Spain should, before the conclusion of this dispute, declare war against us, it would be necessary to man a second fleet, to oppose those two great maritime powers; and which way that was to be done, whether with an impress or without, or by what other device, he wished the first naval authority might be able to tell, and only lamented he could not.


It being past eleven o' clock, the Committee rose, and Mr˙ Mackworth reported, that they had made a progress in the Bill; and that he was directed by the Committee to move that they may have leave to sit again.

Resolved, That this House will, to-morrow morning, resolve itself into a Committee of the Whole House, to consider further of the said Bill.