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I regret, Sir, the indecent rage, the extravagant madness, with which every measure, and in particular the Bill in question, has been carried on against the Americans. It precludes every possibility of a reconciliation, so ardently to be wished. Let us advert, Sir, for a moment to the difference of two cases in point, the suspicion only of high treason in America, and the actual charge of it here. A man only suspected of high treason in America, for instance, the giving aid or assistance to the Congress, or to any of the King's enemies, on coming over to England may be committed to prison, and by this Bill continue there without bail or mainprize, or being able to bring on his trial, for near a year, till Jan. 1, 1778, to which time this Bill is to continue in force. In this kingdom a man suspected, or even actually charged with high treason in conspiring the death of the king, or levying war in the realm, may have a Habeas Corpus, and be bailed by the court of King's-bench. The suspicion therefore of American treason seems a deeper crime, in the judgment of our É. ministers, than an overt act of
nglish, or more properly Scottish, treason and rebellion against his Majesty's person, title, crown, or dignity. I suppose it is thought, Sir, a deeper crime, because it , is more grievously punished. Do we imagine the Americans will not retaliate, or do we vainly hope to intimidate them? Their cause is good, and after all the idle tales of our late visionary successes, the justice of it must in the end prevail. They are nobly struggling under the sharpest sufferings, but I trust they have zeal and perseverance. In all events the first moment of a foreign war necessarily obliges us to withdraw our fleets and armies, and every part of North America must then be free and independent. This Bill will probably be answered by a spirited resolution of the Congress. Would to God, Sir, our parliament equalled that Congress of heroes in wisdom, in love of their country, in uncorruptedness, in public virtue!
The second enacting clause of the Bill, Sir, empowers “his Majesty, by warrant under his sign manual, to appoint one or more places of confinement, within the realm, for the custody of such prisoners, and all and every magistrate or magistrates, having competent authority in that behalf, are hereby authorized to commit such persons as aforesaid to such place or places of confinement, so to be appointed, instead of the common gaol.” This clause
may operate, Sir, in a manner more to be dreaded than any banishment, or confinement out of the realm, and a power, which may be grossly abused, ought not to be trusted to any man. A person only suspected, or pretended to be so, may be doomed to the dampest, most noxious dungeon, on the most swampy coast. He may be stifled in a vault, in whose foul mouth no healthsome air breathes. I, Sir, perhaps may at last be suspected, and ossibly it will not be a slight suspicion. f have formerly experienced an illegal, close, and rigorous imprisonment, but by this Bill I may be sent to the barbarous highlands of Scotland, or among the savages in the dreary isle of Bute, from whose bourn I am sure I should never return, even as a traveller, much less as a prisoner. Is it ingeniously meant, Sir, as a new mode of repeopling that ancient kingdom?
Much has been said, Sir, both in the committee and in the House, about a dictator, and his extensive powers. Many periods of the Roman history have been retailed out to us minutely enough. Comparisons between that virtuous republic, and this corrupt monarchy, are generally more brilliant than solid, more beautiful than just. A right hon. gentleman, (Mr. Conway) under the gallery, has observed that our glorious deliverer, king William the third, was a dictator here after the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act in his reign. Should the present Bill for the suspension of that Act, pass into a law, I shall regard the noble lord with the blue ribbon as the modern dictator of this great empire, as possessed of the most ample and despotic powers. The first act of business in an ancient dictator, I remember, was to make his coadjutor in office, his magister equitum, his general of horse. If public gratitude has any weight with him, I am sure for such an office he will turn his eyes to the noble lord, (George Germain) now so near him, who, to his immortal honour, with great and invincible courage, advanced and charged the enemies of our country at the head of the British horse. In one particular respecting the dictator of ancient times, I beg to set right a very high law-officer (the Attorney General) among us. All the Roman magistrates were not, as he says, superseded by that creation. The tribunes of the people, but they alone, preserved their authority, even under a dictator.
It has been said, Sir, by another gentleman, who is likewise in a great . office (the Solicitor General), that in this House a discontented party had ridiculously given into a tone of prophecy, which has never been accomplished, and that particularly about a year ago it was the case of the right hon. gentleman who spoke lately under the gallery. It is not, I believe, very parliamentary to quote words spoken in a former debate: but if that member's memory goes to a prophec of one year, which has not been fulfilled, he will permit mine a fair excursion to another prophecy of that very member's, six years ago, which has been exactly verified. His prophecy in this House was, that if the same violent measures against the Americans were persisted in, the colonies, which formed so great a strength to this kingdom in the reign of George 2, would be dissevered from the British empire in the reign of George 3. No prophecy, Sir, ever received a more perfect accomplishment. He wonderfully possesses the second sight of his native country. How deeply criminal he and others have been in the bringing this prophecy to pass, I hope this House will one day enquire. A very extraordinary observation of the same gentleman in the present debate, amid a variety of heterogeneous matter, it is impossible for me not to mention. He has laughed at universal benevolence, and endeavoured to demonstrate the impossibility of its existence. But, Sir, he has only given us the narrow, contracted, selfish ideas of his own heart, and his own country. His sentiments and his feelings are confined to a very small insignificant circle indeed. They are merely clannish and Scottish. His remarks I saw excited a general indignation among us. An Englishman has ideas infinitely more liberal and enlarged. His heart expands itself, and takes in the general good and prosperity of all mankind. It feels not the rancour, and disdains the injustice of such a cruel persecuting Bill, as that now before us, but forms the warmest wishes for the liberty and happiness of every individual of this late flourishing empire. Universal benevolence, and a generous spirit of humanity, have been no less the characteristics of the inhabitants of the southern parts of this island, than that good-nature, for which foreigners have not even a name. I will only add, Sir, that I think the most beautiful sentence of all antiquity is that, which was received with such applause by LWOL. XIX.]
the generous and free Roman people, and an English senate I am sure will adopt against every measure of oppression and cruelty, “Homo sum, humani nihil a me alienum puto.” Mr. Rigby said, he sincerely wished for the general suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act, which, in his opinion, was necessary to be extended to Great Britain, and that too as fully as in 1745. At the latter period, the rebels in this country avowed their principles; they appeared in arms, and conducted themselves as honest, though mistaken men. Now, the secret enemies' of government conducted themselves in a different manner. They gave their assistance covertly. They feared the open day, and skulked behind quibbles in law, and all the insidious arts of concealed faction and sedition. He observed, that it had been frequently objected to the present administration, by the gentlemen in opposition, that they had not employed a force against America sufficiently powerful; at other times that they had put the nation to an unnecessary expence. What attention such men deserved, might be easily gathered from this wavering disposition. He trusted that administration would not give way on the present occasion. He did not think that the Bill wanted any amendment, and he should be sorry to see his friends assent to any proo coming from that quarter, because e could never discover any one principle of action in the supporters of the present clause, but that of a fixed indiscriminate opposition, right or wrong, to every measure proposed by the King’s servants. Mr. For, after reprobating the principle of the Bill, and declaring that he thought if even the clause were agreed to, as first moved, he should be called on to give the Bill a most hearty negative; said he must desire to draw the attention of the House, to the conduct of the court of France, respecting our disputes with America. He affirmed, from his own knowledge, that we were on the eve of a war with France, immediately preceding the meeting of the resent session, in the month of October. e was of opinion, that administration were extremely negligent, in respect ot home-security and national defence, particularly in not calling out and embodying the militia, when it was well known in what a defenceless state we were at the time; and still he was sorry to say, continued to be. At present the disposition of France, he allowed, was much changed.
The courts of Versailles and Madrid, what- | puted for them. He next attacked what ever their latent or remote intentions may he called the shameful, disgraceful, and be, take care to carefully conceal one, or improbable falshoods that the only paper, have prudently postponed the other, which published by authority in 'this country, is was the most probable supposition, till filled with, upon every occasion, given in they were sufficiently prepared to strike a the accounts received from America. He decisive, perhaps a fatal blow, which was said, he had been in company, at Paris, certainly not the case at present. Their with an American lately arrived in that peaceable demeanor, their promises and capital, who informed him that our London appearances, were most assuredly the con- Gazette gave long details, from time to sequence of necessity, not choice. The time, of successes gained by our troops, disposition of the French nation in gene- / which never had any existence but on ral; the sentiments of such as turned their paper. He assured him in particular, that thoughts to foreign politics, respecting the ihe lists of the killed, wounded, and pricivil war in America, bear testimony, how soners, since the commencement of the much they engrossed, what they look campaign, amounted to nearly as many as upon, as a matter that promises to be ex- the Congress had enlisted, mustered, or tremely favourable to their interests, in the arrayed; but as the nation were to have final event. He had other proofs, which something in return for the blood and shewed the conclusion now made, in a treasure so shamefully lavished on our much more clear manner; that was the side, something to balance against new disposition of the French cabinet, which debts, accompanied with new taxes, he daily manifested itself in a variety of cir- could not say but he much approved of cumstances. He did not mean to enter the device, as he was infinitely better into details : but the facts he was about to pleased to see men killed upon paper, than mention, were important, and such, too, be convinced that they fell in battle. He as would not leave a doubt of their appa- then took a general view of the situation rent tendency; that was the conduct of of affairs in America, the state of the rethe French ministry to two of the members spective armies, their number, &c. and of the American Congress, pow resident contended, from the present appearance at Paris, Dr. Franklin and Mr. Silas of affairs in that country, we were no Deane. He was warranted in affirming, nearer conquering America now, than we from his own knowledge, that they both were three years ago. If it could ever be appeared publicly at Paris and Versailles; effected, he was satisfied it would be the they were known to hold conferences with work of time, perhaps of many campaigns. the king's ministers, to treat and nego. Though France had altered her intention ciate with them, and to be received by of taking an early and decided part, and them substantially on the same footing, as would not venture to break with us, till if the representatives of any independent her navy should be put upon a respectable power in Christendon. The correspon- footing, yet a peace resting on so precadence held between them, was of the same rious a foundation, was in fact no peace, nature, with that usually carried on be- and was more hurtful, in its remote consetween two powers, where one of them quences, than war actually declared. The seeks for assistance, and the other, from Dutch were nearly twenty years strugmotives of policy, listens, deliberates, and gling against their tyrannic oppressors, determines, upon the propriety or impro- before they procured any assistance from priety of adopting the schemes, or enter- foreign states; our strength would be ing into the measures of the power, which therefore gradually decreasing, and we thus , applies for succour. Sometimes might probably find ourselves engaged in Franklin and Deane received greater en- a bloody and expensive war, when we couragement, at other times less, accord-least expected it, and were least prepared ing to the tone of the court, and the pre- for it. vailing sentiments, and opinions at the Mr. Dunning said, he should give one time. But however these might vary, one proof of his sincerity, by agreeing with the important truth might be gathered from amendment moved by Mr. Cornwall, the whole, that France was secretly hos- though he was far from approving of it tile to Great Britain ; that she publicly or entirely; yet it was better than nothing ; privately received, treated, and negotiated and though the general expression, “ out with the members of the American Con of the realm,” might be interpreted in gress, or with persons authorised and de- such a manner as just to mean what mi.
nisters pleased, he was glad to have the extreme rigour of the clause qualified in any manner. Mr. Wilmot lamented the present horrid situation of America; said, he thought this war might have been prevented on the outset, and hcped might still be put an end to, without any derogation of the honour, dignity, or even interest of Great Britain: but that whatever were the causes, the sword was now drawn by America, and therefore, whilst that sword remained unsheathed, he sincerely wished success to his own country, though he could not think it free from error. That he felt upon the occasion as he should do if a dagger was held to his father's breast; that in that moment he should forget his parent’s blame, defend him from its attack, and reflect only on the greater blame of the person who held it. That the situation we are in towards America could not have been foreseen, and therefore no provision was made for it by the laws at present in force. That this Bill answered the purpose, and being freed from the objection to it, had his hearty concurrence. The Attorney General observed, that he had been described as the framer of the Bill, with some little assistance however from his friend near him; and, on that ground, made responsible for its contents. Be that as it may, he still retained his former opinion; he never had a second on the subject. He was aware of the great talents and professional knowledge of his learned friend who moved the clause, and who had entertained the House so ably on the supposed contradiction between the title and the Bill itself. With all his industry and attention, both of which in the present case he was by no means sparing of, he could not discover any such contradiction. The Bill was meant to punish, or prevent crimes committed in America or on the high seas. Does the Bill hold a different language? Is it because a person is not personally present in either of the places described, that he may not be guilty of treason 2 Certainly not. If that was the case, no accomplice in treason, who was now in open arms, or concerned in the scene then passing, could be brought to punishment. He begged leave to reso what he had given so frequently as is opinion since the introduction of the Bill into the House, that it was formed on the purest principles of constitutional law; that he was convinced it would stand the test of time and observation; and that if *
it was defective in any respect, it was because it did not go far enough. He then quoted several instances, in which the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act had taken place; and referred to the celebrated case of sir, William Wyndham, who was denied the benefit of the Habeas Corpus Act on bare suspicion; and after solemn argument in the court of King'sbench, the judges were unanimously of opinion, that he should be remanded to the Tower; and that the ground of commitment was good. He contended, that the idea was a legal and constitutional one; and that the claim to exercise it, on the present occasion, was sound law, and perfectly consonant to the principles of the constitution. He added, that it had been a prevailing custom, since the introduction of the present measure into the House, to blend in every debate and conversation which arose on it, personal allusions, personal charges, and certain political doctrines, little connected with the subject matter. Whatever portion of them were intended for him, he was totally indifferent about. He was conscious of his own motives. He flattered himself, he had always acted an uniform, consistent part. He was determined to pursue the same line of conduct to the end : and on the whole, he did not think it a very fair mode of procedure, to discredit a measure merely on personal considerations, applying, or supposed to apply to some of those who most warmly supported it. Mr. Dunning observed, that he must be very ignorant indeed of the laws and constitution of this country, and of the real ..?. of the Bill, who could resort to personal allusions, to the framers of it, instead of drawing arguments against it from the Bill itself. No man questioned the personal integrity, uniformity of conduct, or immaculate intentions of its friends. It was the Bill, the uses that might be made of it, the unprecedented powers it delegated, without a single proof, or colour of proof, of the necessity of such a delegation, that called forth his opposition. He applauded the learned gentleman's firmness; he had a very high opinion of his professional knowledge: yet however firm and knowing he was, there was still some of his friends, who thought the Bill went too far; the very amendment made to the clause now offered, was the clearest testimony that there existed such a description of men among his friends; and
the sentiments of a great lawyer · (Mr. conceive no state of perfection in a Bill of Morton) in the committee, proved, that that despotic nature to recommend it to there were, even among - his learned the representatives of the people, he brethren, some odd kind of men, who should not enter into refinements of the differed from bim, independent of any law, nor cavil upon words, but object to personal allusion to his integrity, unifor- the whole of the Bill, as an iniquitous and mity of conduct, or political principles. daring attack upon the palladium of Eng
The Attorney General said he intended 'lish liberty; and observed that if this was no particular application of what had fallen the first-fruits of victories in America, we from him. That his friends or adversaries must expect to recover our colonies, at the might think as they pleased; every man expence of Magna Charta. He proceeded was free to think for himself; of course to observe, that after the very strong cenhe was at liberty to hold his first opinion, sure passed by a right hon. gentleman and to avow it, which was, that the Bill (Mr. Rigby) on the members of opposiwas necessary, and that it was unobjec- tion, who had contended for the constitutionable in its first formation, as well as tional freedom of the subject in every part amended state.)
of the British empire; he must consider Mr. Temple Luttrell thought the Bill such declamation as meant to open an exextremely necessary at this time, and its tensive field of American debate, and operations in this kingdom and Ireland therefore thought it his duty to say a few much wanted. He informed the House, words in behalf of an injured people, whom that a ship, loaded with fire-arms, and he conceived never yet to have had it in warlike stores, and ammunition of all their power to return to their allegiance kinds, intended for America, was seized in without either submitting themselves to the port of Dublin. The merchants who vassalage, or being condemned to death. were the owners of the stores, and the He then entered into the origin and puractors in this treasonable transaction, were suit of the war, as the great object of parapprehended, and yet, for want of a law | liamentary consideration. Praised the of this kind, the traitors were bailed, and valour of the British forces and their permitted to escape with impunity. He leaders, but lamented that the House conwished sincerely, if they had not escaped tinued to meet for little else than to frame beyond the reach of justice, that this Bill, bills of hatred, instead of restoring laws might take cognizance of their crimes, and which were for the mutual advantage of that they might meet that exemplary and Great Britain and America. That he had condign punishment which they manifestly often thought the loss of empire would not merited.
| be more disgraceful to British subjects, Mr. James Luttrell replied, that strong than the loss of freedom; but that he neifacts made easy to the humblest compre- ther wished to establish a republican, nor hension, taught him to differ so widely in an arbitrary system of government. The opinion from his honourable relation, and question of the times he comprehended to made him feel such contrary sentiments to imply; whether it can possibly be for the those which that hon. member had express | advantage of America to relieve her from ed, that he was necessitated to persevere one species of calamity, only to subject in voting in opposition to him. That her to another? And whether it is wise in there is an act of parliament to prevent us to rejoice at an increase of power to the shipping of warlike stores to America; tyrannize, when it sets a dangerous prethat if the law is not clear in pointing out cedent to bring home to ourselves the the means of punishing such offenders, it same military enforcement, of ministerial may be necessary to make one for that injustice, as that which marks the despotic purpose: but that there is great difference principles, the rise, and progress, of the between making laws to punish the guilty, whole American war. That he certainly and hreaking laws, which our excellent should not rejoice at any victory, till goconstitution has provided for the protection vernment prove they mean to end the war of the innocent. That if the proposed with more justice than they began it. He clause was agreed to by the noble lord then proceeded as follows: (North) it would reprieve the liberty of If I were to join in claiming a right of the subject on this side the Atlantic, and taxation over the Americans, consistently perhaps check, for a while, the arbitrary with those Acts which occasioned the civil spirit of those who wished the Bill to pass war, it is plain to every capacity that it without the clause. But that as he could must be unlimited, and unconditional ; for