Mr. Marsham' s motion in the House of Commons for a Bill of Indemnity



Tuesday, October 31, 1775.

The Hon˙ Charles Marsham. As the noble Lord [North] had not given the House any satisfaction relative to introducing the Hanoverian troops into Gibraltar and Port-Mahon; and as he had heard nothing in justification, which had


reconciled him to that measure, he took the opportunity of giving notice, that he meant to move for leave to bring in a Bill of Indemnity at a short day, unless the Minister would rise and assure the House that he intended to do it himself.

Lord North said, as far as his own thoughts went, he was perfectly satisfied of the legality of the measure; yet, as some gentlemen seemed apprehensive that it might be hereafter drawn into precedent, as an individual, he had no objection to concur in any measure which might tend to keep the heads of Ministers more securely on their shoulders. He had consulted several, who united in opinion with him, that Bills of Indemnity were never resorted to, but to defend the advisers of objectionable measures against actions at law; but never against a criminal charge, on which the person offending, or supposed to offend, was liable to be impeached. He said, he had a resolution in his pocket, which he drew out and read:

"Resolved, That it is the opinion of this House, that his Majesty having ordered a body of his Electoral Troops to compose a part of the garrison of the fortresses of Gibraltar and Minorca, whereby the greater part of the troops of this kingdom may be employed for the support of his authority, has shewn his attention to the interests of this country, being, in the opinion of this House, a measure necessarily demanding more despatch than was consistent with waiting for the assembling of Parliament."

Mr˙ Marsham excepted to the resolution; first, as it did not by any means come up to his idea on the subject; secondly, though it had, he could never agree to encounter the established law of the land, springing out of the Constitution, by a resolution of one House of Parliament.

Governour Johnstone disapproved both of the bill and resolution; and believed it would be difficult to quote a more respectable authority than supported him in his opinion. He remembered well, that in a speech attributed to Lord Mansfield, universally given him by the publick, and believed to be genuine, that noble Lord, who, when he fides the horse of liberty, which he wished he would ride oftener, for nobody knew how to ride him better when he mounted him, speaking of the Act of Indemnity relative to stopping up the ports to prevent the exportation of corn in 1766, does not treat Bills of Indemnity as applying to the paltry consideration of being a bar to private actions; but describes them as favours and indulgences to Ministers, as pardons for mere blunders and errors, not proceeding from the intention.

Lord North said, his resolution might be made the resolution of both Houses by a conference.

Mr˙ Marsham still said, that was by no means satisfactory, and gave notice that he should move to-morrow for leave to bring in a Bill of Indemnity.