Bill further considered in Committee of the Whole

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Wednesday, December 6, 1775.

The House resolved itself into a Committee of the Whole House, to consider further of the Bill;

Mr˙ Burke condemned the great impropriety of the discretionary power given to the Commissioners, by the last clause, of pardoning or refusing to accept of submission.

Mr˙ Feilde pursued the same idea, and said it was a power of such a nature as ought not, on any account, to be trusted to any set of men in a free Government. It was a power vested in the Sovereign on certain occasions, but still his Ministers were looked upon as responsible to Parliament for the due exercise of it; whereas, by the present bill, that control being given up, the Commissioners would be left at liberty to commit every enormity with perfect impunity.

Mr˙ Bayley was against the clause. He said it gave persons a power to rob him and the West-India merchants of their property; that the present Ministry, not content with their places, and their monstrous, undeserved emoluments and douceurs of office, went to war, in order to fill the pockets of their friends and hungry dependants.

Lord North said he did not know he had done anything which merited the honourable member' s resentment, unless his displeasure was called forth on his refusing to let him vacate his seat last session, in order to enter again into contest with his antagonist. As the honourable gentleman said he was unjust, unmerciful, oppressive, &c˙, he supposed the whole charge might be well attributed to the refusal now alluded to.

Captain Luttrell supported the clause, declaring, much as he disliked the bill in gross, he would rather every other part of it should pass into a law, than that they should refuse to indemnify our officers for carrying punctually into execution such positive orders as they have received from their superior officers, or that have acted uprightly, according to their conscience, and the best of their understandings. Where such orders have been discretional, Parliament were bound in honour to protect them; but if any there were who had exercised their power wantonly, cruelly, or arbitrarily, he trusted they would be amenable, both to the martial and common law of this land. Captain Luttrell proposed several amendments to the act, which were accepted; the House agreeing, from the arguments he used, they would make the bill more perfect. [The substance of these amendments were, that the Vice Admiralty Courts should have power to sell such parts of the seizures as were perishable commodities, by publick sale, for the clear amount of which only the captors should be answerable to the claimants, if the ships were, discharged; that the parties appealing from the decisions of the Vice Admiralty Courts abroad, should give notice to the said court, within six months after condemnation passed, that they had appealed in England, and then the money would not be shared abroad till the time was elapsed; and to prevent any action being brought against the captors, for detaining vessels belonging to any persons, Colony, or plantation, that had returned to their duty, without proof being made that they had notice of the issuing a proclamation, as the act directs.] These amendments being received, Captain Luttrell desired to be understood, that he did not mean to give his sanction to the bill passing into a law; but as of two evils he would choose the least, so he would prefer the bill in its present shape to the shape in which it was first introduced; that he lamented we were going to adopt intercourse by bill in America, in lieu of intercourse by commerce; that now, for the first moment, he believed we should make America an independent State; for after passing this act, he thought it impossible there would be found, from one extremity of that great continent to the other, a man or boy, who, from this peculiar mark of oppression, must not of course be the natural, and probably the avowed enemy to the unjust and impolitick coercive exercise of power against them by Great Britain.

Sir Grey Cooper then offered a clause, in order to relieve

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the West-India Islands, relative to lumber, &c. He said, if the clause did not go to the full extent wished for, it went as far as it could be properly carried, consistent with the tenour of the bill.

Mr˙ Bayley opposed the clause, as of no use; said the West-India merchants were expected with a petition tomorrow, and looked upon this defective clause, which imported nothing, to be insidiously foisted in, in order to defeat the intended petition.

Mr˙ Speaker then resumed the chair, and

Mr˙ Mackworth reported from the Committee, That they had gone through the Bill, and made several amendments thereunto, which they had directed him to report, when the House will please to receive the same.

Ordered, That the Report be received to-morrow morning.