Bill read the third time

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Wednesday, November 23, 1775.

Ordered, That the Order of the Day, for the third reading of the Bill to enable his Majesty to call out and assemble the Militia in all cases of Rebellion, in any part of the Dominions belonging to the Crown of Great Britain, be now read.

And the said Order being read accordingly,

The said Bill was read the third time.

An engrossed clause was offered by Sir George Savile, to be added to the Bill, by way of rider, for limiting the duration of the Act to seven years.

And the said clause was twice read, with a blank; which being filled up, the said clause was read the third time; and, upon the question put thereupon, agreed to by the House to be made part of the Bill, by way of rider.

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And a motion being made, and the question being put, that the Bill do pass;

Mr˙ Fox attacked the bill, the framers, the advisers, and, in short, every single object which it held out, particularly as it would be the means of increasing and extending the prerogative of the Crown. In the course of his speech he mentioned the address from the First Battalion of Devonshire Militia. He supposed they wanted to alienate the King from the people, to imbrue their hands in the blood of their fellow-subjects; such men, he thought, ought not to be trusted with arms. The Attorney-General might be ordered to prosecute the persons complained of in the address, and, if wanted, they might come in to assist the law; that was their station.

Mr˙ Acland, who presented the address, said he thought the honourable gentleman pointed at him. He was no adventurer or place-hunter; he was a gentleman of independent fortune, who voted purely in conformity with his sentiments, without any sinister views whatever. Men of property, who had much at stake, who could have no interest but the publick interest, were surely the fittest persons to be trusted with aims; not those of reduced fortunes, & c.

[Interrupted by Mr˙ Burke.]

Mr˙ Fox replied that he had a qualification which was sufficient; and that it was the first time he ever heard any man take any liberties in that House on account of his fortune, whether real or ideal. Standing as he did, he supposed he had as good a right to speak as any man in that House, and would not be interrupted. [Here the House interposed, and the altercation went no further.]

Lord North vindicated Mr˙ Acland. He said the Militia being a constitutional body, might, with great propriety, as a military body, at any time, address the Throne upon the state of publick affairs, to express their loyal dispositions to his Majesty, and promise any exertions in support of the Crown.

Mr˙ Burke said he was glad the noble Lord had spoken out, because he had now, by this declaration, given a clear insight into his system and principles of administration. If this were constitutional and justifiable, there was an end of the liberties of this country; and that however nominally we were free, we were, from this instant, in fact subject to military government; for if the Crown can, at any time, draw forth the suffrages and support of the Militia, (all officers appointed by the Crown,) it had all the disadvantages of a standing army, and more danger attending it from the prepossessions in favour of a Militia, and that unguarded confidence which their fellow-citizens placed in them preferable to the Army. He had hitherto been a friend to the Militia, but, from this time, he must look upon them with a jealous eye; and he thought it as safe for the guards to address the King in a body as any Provincial corps of the Militia.

Mr˙ Moysey opposed the bill as an unnecessary extension of the prerogative. He stated the law, as it stood independent of the proposed alteration, and argued that every reasonable purpose of a Militia establishment, being merely local, was already amply provided for by the laws in being.

The House divided. The Yeas went forth:

Tellers for the yeas,
The Lord Stanley,
The Lord Folkestone,
162

Tellers for the noes,
General Keppel, Mr˙ Byng,
26

So it was resolved in the affirmative; and that the title be, An Act to enable his Majesty, for a limited time, to call out and assemble the Militia, in all cases of Rebellion within this realm of Great Britain, or any of the Dominions thereunto belonging; and to summon the Parliament in the cases and manner therein mentioned.

Ordered, That Sir Grey Cooper do carry the Bill to the Lords, and desire their concurrence.

Notes

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* It was passed by the House of Lords on the 30th of November, without debate or amendment.