Parliamentary History.

17 GEORGE THE THIRD, A. D. 1777.


and that, at the end of December 1775, THIRD SESSION

the officers and servants in Af ca had ad

vanced for the public service about 7,0001. FOURTEENTH PARLIAMENT more than the petitioners have been en. OF

abled to repay them ; 'and that the said

officers have further advanced about 1,2001. GREAT BRITAIN.

to the inhabitants of Lagoe and Mumford, [Continued from Vol. XVIII.]

two principal trading towns on the coast

of Africa, in order to preserve the com1777.

merce of those towns to the British nation,

which advance the said officers pray may PETITION of the African Company.] be repaid them; and that the expence of Jan. 29, 1777. A Petition of the com- freight and insurance on the goods and mittee of the company of merchants trad- stores sent to Africa this year will amount ing to Africa was presented, setting forth, to near 1,0001. extraordinary; and that “ That the petitioners have laid before the petitioners, being sensible of the great the House, an account of the money regard shewn by the House for the British granted for the year 1775, examined and forts and settlements on the coast of passed by the cursitor baron of the Ex- Africa : therefore pray the House to take chequer, as required by an Act of the 23rd the premises into consideration, and grant Geo. 2nd, intituled, 'An Act for extend such sum for the necessary support and • ing and improving the trade to Africa ;' maintenance of the said forts and settleand that they have invested the money ments, for repaying the officers and sergranted in 1776 for the support and main- vants the several sums of money advanced tenance of the forts and settlements on the by them, and likewise for the repairs still said coast; and that, the said forts and wanted, as shall seem meet." settlements having been delivered to the Ordered to lie upon the table. petitioners in a very bad state by the Royal Earl Nugent observed, that the present African Company, and the sums annually state of the African Company called for granted by parliament being nearly ex- particular attention; that regular demands pended in the civil and military establish-were made every year in parliament, for ments, leaving very little for the repairs grants to defray the civil establishment; of the said forts, several of them still re- besides particular ones, for the repairs of main in a very ruinous condition; and fortifications, &c. that certainly it was an that the House, in 1772, granted 2,4001. object worthy of inquiry, to know how to finish the repairs of Cape Coast Castle; the money granted was expended; yet he but, in the progress of the work, the walls could not recommend such an enquiry to of the fort were found in so very decayed parliament, in the present state of public a state, and so many defects discovered, affairs, when he recollected what happened that the petitioners have been unavoidably on a former occasion. In 1775, the same led into the expence of a much larger sum, doubts existed; a committee was apand the repairs of the said fort still remain pointed, and employed a great part of unfinished, nor can the petitioners proceed that session; it was a tedious affair, and therein until the House shall enable them; answered very little purpose. He could (VOL. XIX.]


not, therefore, think of proceeding in the having a matter of some importance to same manner now, but would move, communicate to the House, he could wish “ That an humble Address be presented their attention for a few minutes : it was to his Majesty, that he will be pleased to upon a business which ought not to be give directions to the commissioners for detailed before so thin a House, but there trade and plantations, to enquire into, and would be several stages of the business prepare, in order to be laid before this which would give opportunity for ample House, a Report of the general State of discussion: the thing was this; there had the trade to Africa, the condition of the been, during the present war in America, forts and settlements there belonging to many prisoners made, who were in actual , the African company, and in what manner commission of the crime of high treason; the several sums of money granted by par- and, there were persons, at present, guilty of liament for maintaining and supporting the that crime, who might be taken, but perhaps same, have been applied.”

for want of evidence could not be kept in Mr. A. Bacon was of the same opinion, gaol. That it had been customary upon and that it was necessary that the grant similar occasions of rebellion, or danger of should precede any inquiry in that House. invasion, to enable the king to seize sus

Mr. Vyner said he well remembered the pected persons : he would not be thought time alluded to by the noble lord, and the to hint at any necessity of trusting minishon. gentleman." He recollected several ters at present with such a power in gecurious particulars of the company send-neral; 'indeed, the times were different ; ing out bricks or stones to erect the forti. we were very far from having any rebelfications; yet, by the accounts, he was lion at home ; and as to an invasion, we sorry to find, as well as by the petition, had not the least prospect of it: For these that the stones or bricks were so rotten, reasons, it was not meant to ask the full that instead of repairing the fortifications power, usual upon former occasions of of Cape Coast Castle, they were in so rebellion. But as the law stood, they ruinous a condition, that they must be were well informed, that it was not possipulled down, and rebuilt from the very ble at present officially to apprehend the foundation.

most suspected person. Another circumMr. Gascoyne spoke against the con- stance was, that persons made prisoners duct of the African company, and con- from the rebels, and also in the act of picluded that the grants of parliament an- racy, on the high seas, at present, could swered no one substantial purpose, but be legally confined only in the common that of establishing a monopoly.

gaols, which would be entirely impractiThe Address was agreed to.

cable. It was necessary for the crown to

have a power of confining them like other A Bill for granting Letters of Marque prisoners of war. He therefore moved, and Reprisal passed.] February 6. A That leave be given to bring in a Bill to Bill for enabling the commissioners for empower his Majesty to secure and detain executing the office of lord high admiral persons charged with, or suspected of, the of Great Britain to grant commissions, or crime of high treason committed in North letters of marque, to the commanders of America, or on the high seas, or the crime private ships and vessels, to take and make of piracy."-Leave was accordingly given. prize of all ships or vessels, and their cargoes, belonging to or possessed by any of Feb. 7. Lord G. Germaine presented the inhabitants of the colonies of New to the House the following Bill : Hampshire, Massachusett's Bay, Rhode Island, Connecticut, New York, New Jer

“ A Bill to empower his Majesty to secure

and detain Persons charged with, or sey, Pennsylvania, the igree lower counties on Delaware, Maryland, Virginia,

suspected of, the Crime of High TreaNorth Carolina, South Carolina, and

son committed in North America, or Georgia, for a time to be limited, was

on the High Seas, or the Crime of passed in the Commons, and carried to

Piracy. the Lords. There were no debates on this “ Whereas a rebellion and war have Bill, in any stage of its passing.

been openly and traitorously levied and

carried on in certain of his Majesty's coDebate in the Commons on the Bill lonies and plantations in America, and for su spending the Habeas Corpus Act.] acts of treason and piracy have been comFebruary 6. Lord North said, that mitted upon the ships and goods of his

Majesty's subjects ; and many persons palladium of the British constitution, the have been seized and taken, who are ex. freedom of men's persons. He considered pressly charged or strongly suspected of it as the last rigorous step effectually to such treasons and felonies, and many more prevent all possibility of a reconciliation such persons may be hereafter so seized between the colonies and the mother and taken:

country. “ And whereas such persons have been Mr. Dunning moved that a Bill of such or may be brought into this kingdom, and importance should be printed, and the into other parts of his Majesty's domi- second reading put off to the 10th, which nions ; and it may be inconvenient in was agreed to. many such cases to proceed forthwith to the trial of such criminals, and at the same Feb. 10. On the order of the day for time of evil example to suffer them to go the second reading of the Bill, at large :

Mr. John Johnstone said, this measure - "Be it therefore enacted by the King's would_increase the animosity between most excellent Majesty, by and with the Great Britain and America. The confineadvice and consent of the Lords spiritual ments, commitments, massacres, and the and temporal, and Commons, in this pre- whole train of consequences which would sent parliament assembled, and by the au- arise from such a system of punishment, thority of the same, that all and every revenge, and retaliation, probably on both person or persons, who have been or shall sides of the Atlantic, filled his mind with hereafter be seized or taken in the act of horror and anxiety : added to this, the high treason, committed in any of the co- total suspension of all the great functions lonies, or on the high seas, or in the act of of the constitution, seemingly pro tempore, piracy, or who are or shall be charged and for particular purposes ; but which, with, or suspected of the said crimes, and by the same influence, might be extended who have been or shall be committed for to any duration, and directed to any purthe said crimes, or either of them, or for pose, gave a complexion to the whole, of suspicion of them, or either of them, in the most arbitrary, cruel, and diabolical any part of his Majesty's dominions, to colour. By the present Bill, no man the common gaol, or any other place of would be exempt, however peaceable and confinement specially appointed for that loyal, from being sacrificed at the shrine purpose, by warrant under his Majesty's of the bloody ministerial mandate ; whesign manual, by any magistrate having ther in America or Britain, it was all the competent authority in that behalf (who is same; whether guilty or not guilty, he lay hereby authorised to commit such persons not only at the mercy of his private eneto the place so to be appointed) all and mies, but of every tool in office, from the every such person and persons shall and highest to the lowest. The wide circuit may be thereupon secured and detained in of the human mind was not more various safe custody without bail or mainprize, and extensive than man's suspicions, nor until the

and that no

more numerous than the motives which judge or justice of peace shall bail or try provoke him to public oppression and priany such person or persons, without order vate ill. Bad, however, as the Bill was, from his Majesty's most honourable privy and big with mischief, he would rest concouncil, signed by

of the said tented in some measure, if ministers privy council, until the said

would pledge themselves for the due perany law, statute, or usage, to the contrary formance of what the title and preamble in any wise notwithstanding.

of the Bill seemed obviously to import. “ And be it further enacted by the au- Mr. Dunning said, he would not take thority aforesaid, that this Act shall con- up the time of the House in debating the tinue and be in force until the said Bill upon legal grounds; for where there and no longer.”

was no reason or justice, there could be no Mr. John Johnstone thought the power law. Law supposes a rule, which, while of calling out the militia of the kingdom, it prescribes a mode of conduct, respecting without the consent of parliament, and the either the public or individuals, defines the immense armament we had on foot, both offence, annexes the punishment, and, beby land and sea, sufficient to answer every sides, specially provides and directs all the end of government, in bringing back the intermediate steps between the charge and Americans to their allegiance, without the conviction, but more particularly the meadangerous measure of attacking the grand sure and quantity of the punishment What does this Bill say? No crime is im- his Majesty's dominions, are not we next putable, no examination of innocence or told, “ or to any other place of confinecriminality is to follow. The punishment ment, specially appointed for that purpose, is inflicted, in the first instance, on the by warrant under his Majesty's sign maground of mere suspicion. A man may nual

, by any magistrate, having competent be suspected; any man may be suspected; authority in that behalf (who is hereby but his guilt or innocence are entirely out authorized to commit such persons to the of the question; no.enquiry whatever is place so to be appointed)?” Is not this to be made into either, as long as the pre- evidently a power, not only to punish the sent Bill continues in force.

innocent, but to inflict such pains upon He confessed there were times, in which them as an honest mind must revolt at, it had been found extremely necessary to and contemplate with horror? The magissuspend the Habeas Corpus Act; such, in trate may take up and commit, on suspiparticular, were the two late most unna. cion, to the common gaol, and by the sign tural and unprovoked rebellions in Scot- manual, to any other place especially apland: but then there was a necessity pointed; and is further authorized to comstated. That necessity was not denied'; mit according to such special appointit was, indeed, notorious : but would any ment. What is this but to authorize the man say, that was the case at present ? Is mode, measure, and place of confinement, there a rebellion within the kingdom? Is at the pleasure of the minister, which, bethere a pretender claiming the crown as sides, manifestly includes in it the power his legal and constitutional inheritance; and of temporary banishment, as well as conthat at the expence of both our civil and finement, to any part, or to the most rereligious rights—the very essence, as well mote, unhealthy, and pestiferous climate, as the form of our constitution ? No such within the wide circuit of his Majesty's thing: the idea is ridiculous. Are we, on dominions, in the four qnarters of the the other hand, afraid that the people of globe ? If this be the intention of my hon. America will pass the Atlantic on a bridge, and learned friend, and his no less honourand come over and conquer us? and that able employers, in God's name let him their partisans lie in ambush about Brent- speak out; let us know, let the public ford or Colnbrook? That, it may be pre- know, what they are to expect.

Let him sumed, will be hardly contended, even in and his friends no longer amuse us with a the present rage for assertion without formal circumstantial story of America proof, and conclusion without argument. and the high seas, or of the crime of piNo: this Bill

, I plainly perceive, has been racy; such tales may be amusing to some manufactured for other purposes. It can people, and they may answer certain purbe stretched, and twined, and twisted, by poses out of doors, and in some particular the ingenuity of my worthy and learned places: but to talk of them seriously withfriend the Attorney General, or by some of in these walls, will not, I believe, be at. his brethren, equally ingenious, to affect tempted. The power endeavoured to be and reach men who never saw America, or, vested in the crown by this Bill, is most peradventure, the high seas, as efficacious- evidently a dictatorial power, or similar to ly, for the mere temporary purposes of that exercised by the Roman dictators. persecution and revenge, as if they had We all know the motives for granting such been caught in arms in open rebellion. a power. It will hardly be contended, that If even ministers had contented theinselves any such motives exist at present. We with this first ebullition of their fiery, irre- all know the frequent abuse of it, and the sistible zeal for persecution, the public horrid purposes towards the latter period might look on, with a mixture of contempt of the common-wealth, to which it was and astonishment, at the insolence and employed; and I presume there is not a folly of the attempt; but when they go a school-boy of three years standing, who is step farther, and venture to couple it with ignorant that that mighty republic was a power untried in the annals of this coun- overthrown by a dictator. Such will altry, a power, including in it the most ways be the case, when powers are granted bloody species of proscription, I confess I through ignorance, wantonness, and debegin to feel sentiments of a very different sign. If the present Bill was to have no nature. What does the clause say? After other evil effect than establishing a preempowering the apprehension, on the mere cedent for future ministers to come to pare grounds of suspicion, and directing the liament on the same errand, I should be commitment to any common gaol, within against it: but when I behold it in the light I do, I must deem it a most formid- to parliament, and desired an immediate able, dangerous, and, I fear, fatal attack, suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act, in upon the liberty of this country. It seems 80 many words; they would have accomdirected at its very vitals, and, in my panied such a request with their motives, opinion, threatens its total destruction, and have stated the grounds of necessity. if not a dissolution of the constitution. But the present Bill was framed totally on

Before I conclude, I must observe, if another plan; it was meant to prevent any thing were wanting to shew the true mischief," not with a view to rigorous complexion of this Bill, the words high punishments, much less to persecutions. seas and piracy' will fully explain it; No innocent man bad any thing to fear, these words apply to the seas contiguous to the guilty man had every thing; and what. Great Britain and Ireland. It is, indeed, ever harsh epithets gentlemen who disapplainly perceivable, whatever the title of proved of the Bill, might think proper to the Bill may be, it is not an American, so bestow on it, he should, for his part, almuch as it is a British suspension of the ways think, that that was the mildest, Habeas Corpus Act. It may overtake wisest, and most lenient government, which any man, any where. It authorises a dis- directed its attention, and devised modes cretionary punishment, without a colour of prevention, instead of endeavouring to of legal proof, or even a probable ground deter by rigorous and sanguinary punishof suspicion. It makes no distinction be- ments. His hon. and learned friend tween the dreams of a sick man, the rav- founded his prime objection on a supposiings of a demoniac, and the malice of a tion that the Bill might be construed to secret or declared enemy. No man is extend to persons who had committed exempt from punishment, because inno- crimes within the realm. This was an obcence is no longer a protection. It will jection, he solemnly believed, of the first generate spies, informers, and false ac- impression. Be that as it might, this was cusers beyond number; and furnish the not the proper stage of the Bill to debate means of gratification, emolument, and that question; supposing that the Bill satiety, to the most profligate of the spe- were to operate precisely as his learned cies; while it will let loose with impunity, friend had stated it, he could not see even the blackest, and most horrid vices, which a colourable pretext for finding fault with disgrace the human mind. In fine, it will it. Imagining the king's death, his jusrealise what has hitherto been looked upon tices, his treasurer, &c. was high treason ; to be the creature of poetic fiction: it will so was levying war within the realm, or scatter over the land more ills and curses, appearing in arms against the sovereign, than were ever supposed to flow from or adhering to, or corresponding with, bis Pandora's box. Justice will be bound, as enemies; now, if it should be discovered, well as blind; and it will be in the power that any person in this country bad assist. of every revengeful minister, or mercenary ed the rebels with arms, or warlike stores villain, to satiate his revenge, or fill his of any kind, or that they had been assisted pockets, at the expence of the best, and by his subjects, in any part of his domimost virtuous men in the commonwealth. nions, with money, or implements of war,

Mr. Attorney General Thurlow said, &c. he could not pretend to say, how far that nothing more was meant by the Bill, such an assistance, or adherence, might than to apprehend, commit, and confine be construed to come within the descrippersons actually charged, or suspected of tion of high treason, as laid down by the committing, the crime of high treason in 25th Edw. the 3d. The committee was America, or on the high seas, or of piracy. the proper place to come to the explana, It was absurd and preposterous to the last tions so earnestly pressed by his learned degree, to suppose it was framed inten- friend; he should, therefore, be for the tionally to reach or overtake persons pre- second reading of the Bill, and trust for sumed to be disaffected to this government, the perfect formation of the Bill to that within this realm. He was certain the stage. kingdom contained no such description of Mr. For said, that the present Bill men. Treason and rebellion were pro- served as a kind of key, or index, to the perly and peculiarly the native growth of design that ministers had been some years America. If government feared any such manifestly forming, the objects of which disposition in the people of this country, they rendered visible from time to time, as their application would have been fair, opportunity served, as circumstances prov. open, and direct; they would have come ed favourable, or as protection increased,

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