Debate: Mr. T. Townshend



Thursday, February 15, 1776.

Mr˙ T˙ Townshend spoke fully upon the privileges of the House of Commons. He maintained that the only true substantial meaning or idea those privileges conveyed was, that they were the indubitable right of all the Commons of England, who had one general interest in them. That, to be sure, in a more confined sense, they were particularly applied first to that House, as a deliberative body, and one of the branches of the Legislature; secondly, to the individual members who composed that body. He did not intend to make them, however, the subject of this day' s business; they were but of inferior consequence when opposed to that great privilege, the power of granting money,


or keeping the purse of their constituents safe from the hands of violence, art, or fraud. This was a trust of the first magnitude; it, in fact, included every other; for so long as that was preserved inviolate, the Crown would remain under the constitutional control of Parliament; so soon as that was wrested by open force, defeated by indirect means, or done away by fraud, the liberties and privileges of the people would be forever annihilated. He expatiated on the commendable, wise, and well-founded jealousy of that House whenever the least attempt had been made in that way even by the other House; but when any endeavours were made by the Crown, or its Ministerial agents, the Commons at all times caught the alarm; they had at all times uniformly united, as if they were actuated by one soul, to resist any attempt of the Crown to encroach upon their power of granting or refusing the money to be raised on themselves or their constituents. He then opened the cause which induced him to make these observations, and read the following Papers: