Debate

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Tuesday, March 12, 1776,

Sir Charles Whitworth, according to order, reported from the Committee of the Whole House, to whom it was referred to consider further of the Supply granted to his Majesty, the Resolutions which the Committee had directed him to report to the House; which he read in his place, and afterwards delivered in at the Clerk' s table, where the same were read, and are as followeth, viz:

Resolved, That it is the opinion of this Committee that a sum, not exceeding one hundred thirty-seven thousand four hundred forty-eight Pounds and seven Shillings, be granted to his Majesty for defraying the charge of six Regiments of Foot from Ireland, and of several augmentations to his Majesty' s Forces, from their respective commencements to the twenty-fourth of December, one thousand seven hundred and seventy-six, inclusive.

Resolved, That it is the opinion of this Committee that a sum, not exceeding eight hundred forty-five thousand one hundred sixty-five Pounds fourteen Shillings and eight Pence farthing, be granted to his Majesty towards defraying the extraordinary expenses of his Majesty' s Land Forces, and other services, incurred between the ninth day of March, one thousand seven hundred and seventy-five, and the thirty-first day of January, one thousand seven hundred and seventy-six, and not provided for by Parliament.

Mr˙ Hartley lamented the state of this oppressed and almost ruined country. He observed, it was not that the war was unjust, cruel, and unnatural; that the country was left naked and defenceless; that the expenses were already enormous; that the fund which was appropriated for the purpose of reducing the publick debts, as a security to our publick creditors in case of deficiencies, and as a dernier resource in case of an attack from our natural enemies, was already anticipated for many years to come; — these matters, however terrible in their appearance, how dreadful in their consequences, were already known or foreseen; — but it was the confidence with which Ministers asked, and the ready compliance of Parliament with every requisition, without either examining the nature of the services for which the money was given, or afterwards inquiring into the expenditure, that astonished him. Such, in a great measure, was the nature of the account of extraordinaries now before them. He should not enter into a minute examination of the several items which had swelled that very extraordinary account, but he would be obliged to the noble Lord [North] if he would give the explanation he declined to give the other night in debate, though often pressed. He knew how little attention anything he offered was entitled to from the noble Lord and the gentlemen on that side of the House; but how little soever he might deserve to be attended to on his own account, he hoped that some degree of attention was due to him on such an occasion, in the character of a Representative giving away the

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money of his constituents. The matter he desired to have cleared up was, the requisition made by the Commander-in-Chief for one hundred thousand pounds, and the credit taken for that sum without being accompanied by a single voucher. He observed that there were vouchers for the rest, stating to whom the payments were made, but not one of the actual expenditure. He begged the noble Lord would explain to the House the nature of the transaction: at present it bore a very strange appearance. He observed that there was a circumstance attending money matters now that was, he believed, never before known or practised even by the noble Lord; that was, Ministers refused to venture at a gross computation what the expense of the extraordinaries of the succeeding campaign would amount to. He had heard it dropped in debate that they would rise this year to the monstrous sum of four millions. Terrible as these tidings were, he should be glad to know the worst; not to come day after day to that House, and hear some new demands made under a fresh pretence and another denomination, though all directed to the same service. If, therefore, the Minister, as he must by this time know what his plan was, and the probable expenses of carrying it into execution, would rise and fairly and ingenuously state the gross computation, the House would then know what they had to expect, what they were to grant on one side, and what they were to get in return on the other, and of course be enabled to balance the certain expense against the probable or possible benefits promised to accrue from the measures now pursuing.

Lord North said, if the honourable gentleman alluded to any neglect shown to the propositions which he had submitted to the House, he was himself conscious of not deserving any part of the imputation. He thought the honourable gentleman had acted a very commendable part, and presumed he was actuated by the purest motives; it was fulfilling his duty; and in that light he always received and treated any proposition which came from him. His Lordship observed that the honourable gentleman gave a credit and appellation to the papers on the table which they did not deserve, for they were not vouchers. The vouchers were yet to come, and would contain a precise and actual account of the expenditure, and then the House would have a full opportunity to examine them. As to the one hundred thousand pounds drawn by the Commander-in-Chief, for which no account of any kind appeared, that could be easily explained, for it was so much in advance to remain in his hands, and for which he must be accountable till he shows the particular services for which it was issued. The usual manner of conducting this business was, for the Commander-in-Chief to draw on the Deputy Paymaster-General; but it being found that it was much more advantageous to remit than draw, that mode was discontinued, and the present adopted in its stead, as it would be a considerable saving to the publick. He said the honourable gentleman was mistaken in asserting that the permitting the Commander-in-Chief to draw was never known, for it was always the case in respect to extraordinaries. The very nature of the expense, and the manner it was incurred, made it necessary. It was uncertain; a previous credit was necessary, and the amount could not be known, nor the balance struck, till the several articles were brought into account, accompanied by the proper vouchers; that this had not been the case formerly in America, for as there was no extraordinaries till since the late war, by way of establishment, no previous credit of this kind, consequently, subsisted.

Mr˙ Hartley did not seem satisfied with this explanation; and recurred to his former observation, that it was a matter unprecedented in the annals of Parliament to propose measures to them for their consideration without even offering to guess at the expense. He said he did not mean, by anything that had fallen from him, to limit the Commander-in-Chief to any specifick sum in the first instance; but only to have a faithful, accurate, and satisfactory account of the expenditure, to see that the money had been applied to the purposes for which it was granted.

Mr˙ Dempster spoke of the consequences arising from the contracts in general. He said every country where such a system was permitted to prevail must, in the end, be undone; and he had little doubt that a very considerable part of the burdens we now labour under have been incurred through the means of jobs and contractors. When he had the honour of being in the direction of a certain great company,

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the evil was felt, and he and some other gentlemen in the direction determined to provide some means of removing it. The Court of Directors at length agreed to advertise the contracts, and the consequence was, that they not only made a very considerable saying, but the articles were much better that were furnished in this way than before the contracts were laid open. He recommended this, or some other similar plan, to the Minister, and assured him that very singular advantages would accrue thereby to the publick, as the articles would be both cheaper and of superior quality. He concluded with observing that jobbers and contractors were at once the disgrace and curse of this country, a well-authenticated instance of which happened during the late war, of a person whose contract amounted only to one million three hundred thousand pounds, but whose net profits were full eight hundred thousand pounds.

Sir Joseph Mowbey bestowed almost every opprobrious epithet in the English language on the American war. He said it was cruel, unjust, villanous, and he trusted God and man would unite in reprobating it. He was no less severe on its advisers and conductors. He observed that the noble Lord who had lately presided in the department to which American affairs more peculiarly belonged, was too honest and conscientious to persist in so bloody and inhuman a business. He abhorred the thought of imbruing his hands in the blood of his innocent, unoffending fellow-subjects, and resigned his office sooner than co-operate in so flagitious a work. It is true, he was succeeded by a noble Lord now sitting opposite, [Lord George Germaine,] who, he presumed, imagined he was acting right, but whose schemes of unconditional submission he hoped he would never be able to effect. He observed that the majorities who daily sanctioned the present measures would sorely repent of it; and he recommended the country gentlemen to seriously reflect on the consequences when the additional shilling on the land would not half defray the account of extraordinaries, which was at present the subject of consideration. If, then, such an enormous expense was incurred for the maintenance of six thousand men confined in Boston, would any person rise and say that the whole of six shillings in the pound, instead of four, would defray even the extraordinaries of the army that was to be employed in the course of the ensuing campaign? It was plain it could not, for it was already confessed that the extraordirraries would amount to four millions, and a land-tax of six shillings in the pound would be considerably short of three, perhaps not quite two-and-a-half, after allowing for the deficiencies. Where, then, are the supplies to come from? You cannot devise a tax that will not cause a defalcation in some other. The excise and customs will not produce a single shilling more; and if they should, your trade, manufactures, and commerce, will be ruined, if you attempt to lay on any new duties. He then addressed himself to Lord Howe and General Burgoyne, and after giving testimony to their personal worth, expressed his astonishment that such men would be concerned in so infamous and diabolical a business; and owned, that however he might esteem them as men, he wished that they might not succeed; but that the cause of justice, humanity, freedom, and the Constitution, might prevail. Administration might pride themselves in their great majorities; but he trusted the day was not far off when they would be brought to a just and severe account for the ruin and destruction in which they were wantonly involving their country, in order to accomplish a detestable plan of despotism.

Governour Johnstone was very severe on contracts and contractors, particularly in relation to two articles in the account paid to Mr˙ A˙ Bacon, for the hire of negroes in the Ceded Islands. This, he said, was a most shameful squandering of publick money. He observed, likewise, on an article of four thousand pounds drawn by the Superintendent of Indian Affairs upon the Receiver-General of Canada.

Sir Grey Cooper said this was the usual mode. The only difference it made was, that instead of drawing the Treasury, where the account was audited, and sent back with an order to the Receiver-General, in the present instance the money was drawn immediately from the Receiver-General; but the Superintendent' s account was still open to inspection, and he remained subject to be made accountable for the expenditure of any sums thus obtained.

Lord North answered Governour Johnstone respecting

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the negro contract. He said this expense was incurred mostly in the Ceded Islands, and was near expiring, as the purposes for which the negroes were employed — that of clearing the Crown lands, and opening communications from one part of the Islands to the other — were nearly completed.

Mr˙ Pownall (Secretary to the Board of Trade) gave a further explanation relative to the expense of the: Superintendent of Indian Affairs. He said that presents were made to several Indian tribes — to the Six-Nations, and other Western Indians; that the articles of which those presents consisted were usually purchased here; that ho was the person who formerly provided them, but on account of the present situation of affairs in America, it was thought more convenient to have them provided on the spot; and that was the true cause of that article making its appearance in the account. The presents commonly consisted of glass-beads, cutlery, &c.

Mr˙ Vyner replied to the address made to the country gentlemen, and said, as being included in that number, he was much obliged to the honourable gentleman [Sir J˙ Mawbey] for his advice; but for his own part, though the land tax next year should be six shillings in the pound, or double that, he was willing to contribute his share, as on a former occasion; for if the supremacy of this country was to be preserved fully in its constitutional extent, no means proper to effect it ought to be neglected or left untried. As to the question, what did those gentlemen expect in return? He, for one, fairly and openly declared, that he expected America would be taxed for the purpose of raising a revenue, both to defray the expenses of a war this country was wantonly forced into in the assertion of her own rights, and towards relieving us of the burdens incurred by protecting the Colonies during the late war. He insisted, besides, that the legislative power of this country, independent of the reasons now stated, could never be maintained, if the exercise of it was not to be coupled with a tax submitted to by America, as the clearest acknowledgment of the general controlling and governmental power of Great Britain. Before he sat down, he begged leave to be understood, that his complaisance and unlimited confidence, however willing he might be to grant money for the purpose of carrying on the war, did not extend so far as the honourable gentleman who spoke first in this debate, [Mr˙ Hartley,] for he would never consent to give a Commander-in-Chief, or any other officer, an unlimited right to draw or make requisitions; for though he was willing to contribute largely, he still reserved to himself the power of judging and controlling the expenditure and application of the money thus granted.

Mr˙ Tuffnell spoke of several articles in the account: so much for sour-crout; so much for small-beer; and several thousand pounds for pepper and vinegar alone. Such a waste of publick money was to the last degree shameful; and it was no way wonderful that the Minister should have the great majorities he had, when he had it in his power, by so many different means, to influence the Representatives of the people. He then took a view of the intended operations, and showed, that nothing decisive could possibly be effected in the course of the ensuing campaign, as the troops would not arrive at their respective places of destination till at the end of two, four, and perhaps six months. That post must be secured, and communications opened; and consequently the expense of the present year would be lost, or at least only lay a foundation for the operations of the succeeding. Then, taking the matter purely on the ground laid down by the promoters of the present measures, it would amount to this: that after the expense of this campaign, which was already allowed to be ten, though he had strong reason to believe it would be fifteen millions, we should commence operations in the year 1777 effectually; and supposing the success predicted should be the case, and that no one possible event should happen to interrupt our designs, that America should be reduced to the unconditional submission contended for by the noble Lord lately come into office, [Lord G˙ Germaine,] the consequence would be, that we should incur a debt of between thirty and forty millions; a sum, he prophesied, much more than ever we should be able to reimburse ourselves, by all the taxes we could ever expect to draw from that country. He doubted much, therefore, whether the honourable gentleman' s [Mr˙ Vyner] thirteen shillings, or more, in the pound, would

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be sufficient to bear the expense of such an undertaking; or if he would ever see a shilling of the money he was now so ready to grant for the purpose of coercing America, return in any form whatever.

Lord Irnham said, it was really shameful that gentlemen, members of that House, should have the contracts that now appeared. He alluded in particular to that of the negroes, and the sour-crout. He wished sincerely, that the account was printed, that the nation might see how they were plundered and fleeced, in order to gratify and enrich a set of mercenary and rapacious contractors, who were raising immense fortunes, drawn from the very vitals of the people; and that he was not surprised to hear a certain set of men, the preceding evening, express themselves so warm for coercive measures, and so eager to grant away the publick money. He did not know by what appellation to describe them. They were not country gentlemen, nor placemen, nor pensioners, nor King' s friends; but they were worse than all: they were at present the disgrace, and would in the end occasion the total ruin of this country.

Mr˙ Burke said a few words respecting the caution expressed by an honourable gentleman, who professed himself a country gentleman; and said he was surprised to hear him adopt the very language used by the people of America; that is, we will grant you aids or supplies, but we will reserve to ourselves a control over the expenditure, and be the judges of the quantum to be granted, and the mode of application. He believed, therefore, the gentleman was very snug and secure in his offer of a thirteen shillings in the pound land tax, on this condition; for it amounted to just nothing, while he reserved to himself the power of refusing it whenever he thought proper. He said that, as by the curious items in the account, he imagined the army in Boston had a sufficient supply of broccoloes, cabbages, sour-crout, and a few asparagus, there was no occasion for keeping open a begging subscription for the purpose of procuring those necessaries, when the nation had already made such ample provision. On this ground he should submit two resolutions to the consideration of the House, which would, he presumed, put this matter in a clear light.

Mr˙ Burke moved, That it appears to this House, that the Extraordinary Expenses, (contained in the Account of Extraordinary Services incurred and paid by the Right Honourable Richard Rigby, Paymaster-General of his Majesty' s Forces, between the 9th of March, 1775, and the 31st of January, 1776, and not provided for by Parliament,) amounting to eight hundred and forty-five thousand one hundred and sixty-five Pounds fourteen Shillings and eight Pence one Farthing, have been incurred, for the greater part, for services within the Town of Boston, in North-America.

It passed in the negative.

Mr˙ Burke then moved, That it appears to this House, that ample provision has been made by the publick for the accommodation and comfort of the Troops serving within the Town of Boston, which made the levying any further money upon, or begging any from the subject, on that pretence, unnecessary.

It passed in the negative.

The Resolutions reported from the Committee of the Whole, being read a second time, were, upon the question put severally thereupon, agreed to by the House.