Page images
PDF
EPUB

ment altercation, the motion for the bill was carried, (Dec. 11.) by 192 votes against 64.

In the house of lords, the opposition to the bill was no less keen and severe. It was reprobated as neither equitable, expedient or politic. This bill (it is said) completes the measures of that severity which refuses to listen to representations of a people, who persist in spite of ill treatment, to call themselves the subjects of Great-Britain; and who implore its clemency to suspend the sword lifted to strike them, till one more hearing has been granted them.

In the course of this famous debate, it was observed by a great law lord, that the question of original right or wrong, was not so much to be attended to, as the indispensable necessity of selfdefence. We are now engaged in a war, and must exert ourselves to prosecute it with success. The critical situation of our circumstances compels us to fight. The laconic speech, which a Scotch general in the army of Gustavus Adolphus made to his soldiers, is precisely applicable to our situation. Pointing to the enemy he said, "See you those men, kill them, my lads, or they will kill you." After a contest which lasted till midnight, the motion for the commitment of the bill was carried by a division of 78 to 19.

It was followed by a protest of unusual length, and great ener gy, wherein it underwent a severe scrutiny. A minute investigation was made of every obnoxious part, and no censures were spared of which it was thought deserving. The protesting peers were Richmond, Ponsondy, Fitzwilliam, Abergavenny, Rockingham, Chedworth, Abingdon and Manchester. We dissent, say they, in one place," Because we reject with indignation that clause of this bill, which by a refinement in tyranny, and in a sentence worse than death, obliges the unhappy men, who shall be made captives in this predatory war, to bear arms against their families, kindred, friends and country; and after being plundered themselves, to become accomplices in plundering their brethren." His majesty went to the house of peers, (Dec. 21.) and gave his assent to the above bill; and to others at the same time.

In the course of the debates upon the American business, the great importance of the colonies to the mother country was urged, by the ministry, as a reason for exerting the force of the nation in order to reduce them to obedience, though upon other occasions they had been spoken of as little consequence. That this reduction might be the sooner and more effectually secured, the states-general were solicited, by a letter of his majesty's own hand-writing, to dispose of their Scotch brigade, to serve against

the

the Americans the ensuing campaign. The request, however, was not granted. The opinion gave by John Derk van der Chapelle, in the assembly of the states of Overyssel, was pointedly against it. When entered upon his last observation, he says, "Though not as principals, yet as auxiliaries, our troops would be employed toward suppressing (that what some please to call) a rebellion in the American colonies; for which purpose I would rather see Janissaries hired, than troops of a free state."

"In what an odious light must this unnatural civil war appear to all Europe; a war in which even savages (if credit can be given to news-paper information) refuse to engage; more odious still would it appear for a people to take a part therein who were themselves once slaves, bore that hateful name, but at last had spirit to fight themselves free. But above all, it must appear superlatively detestable to me, who think the Americans worthy of every man's esteem, and look on them as a brave people, defending in a becoming, manly and religious manner, those rights, which as men, they derive from God, not from the legislature of Great-Britain."

Their mode of proceeding will, I hope, serve as an example to every nation deprived by any means of its privileges; yet fortunate enough in being able to make suitable efforts toward retaining or regaining them."

But though his majesty's request to their high mightinesses was not complied with, his message to the parliament of Ireland had met with success, and they had voted on the 15th of November, “that 4000 troops out of the 12,000 voted for the defence of that kingdom, be spared for his majesty's service abroad (the message had mentioned America) the same to be no charge to Ireland after quitting the kingdom." But they declined voting, "that 4000 protestant troops be received to replace the like number sent abroad; these likewise to be no charge to Ireland;" which proposition was also contained in the message.

[Dec. 29.] Sir Peter Parker and earl Cornwallis, with the Acteon and Thunder bomb, sailed from Portsmouth for Corke, to convoy the troops and transports there to America. The Acteon put into Falmouth, and took on board col. Ethan Allen and his fellow prisoners, who had been confined in Pendennis castle, Cornwall; from whence they were removed by direction of government, upon a discovery that there was an intention of bringing them before the proper magistrate by the habeas Corpus act, in order to ascertain whether they were legally chargable with any crime that could warrant their continement. No assistance was given to Allen in England; but when the ship arrived at Corke, a subscription for him was begun in Ireland,

Ireland, and an ample supply of necessaries given him, of which he and his friends were in great need. About the 20th of Jan. 1776, the fleet and transports were ready to sail; but the lord lieutenant of Ireland, doubting his power of permitting the troops to go, a clause, giving particular leave on this occasion, was inserted in one of the Irish bills. When the bill came to England, the clause was struck out upon the idea, "that the king had a right by his prerogative to send the troops." The lord lieutenant still retaining his doubts, the clause was inserted in another bill, which was hurried through with all possible dispatch. But so much time was lost by this affair, that it was the 13th of February before the fleet could sail. it consisted of forty-three sail, and about 2500 troops. On the 18th they met with a terrible storm that dispersed them. Some of their transports put back to Corke, others got into Plymouth, Portsmouth and the Western ports. The carcass bomb got into Poftsmouth: When she parted with Sir Peter he had only twentyfive sail with him. It is generally thought, he is destined for

the middle or southern colonies.

A single rifleman taken prisoner and brought overto England being carried before the mayor to be examined was dismissed; as no crime was charged upon him, of which that magistrate could take cognizance.

His majesty having entered into treaty with the landgrave of Hesse-Cassel, the duke of Brunswick and other German princes, for 17000 men, to be employed in America, Lord North moved, [Feb. 29.]" that these treaties be referred to the committee of supply." The troops were represented as equal to any in Europe for the regularity of their discipline and one reason assigned for hiring them was, that men could be more readily had that way than by recruiting at home, and upon the whole on cheaper terms. But the measure of employing foreign auxiliaries was reprobated in all its parts by opposition: however, after debating till past two in the morning, his lordship's motion was agreed to by a majority of 242 to 88. When the treaties came before the house of lords, they met with equal opposition. The duke of Richmond moved for an address to the king, requesting him to countermand the march of the German auxiliaries, and to give immediate orders for a suspension of hostilities in America, in order to lay a foundation for a treaty, to compose the differences between Great-Britain and her colonies. He took an historical view of the treaties between the British and Hessian court for many years past: showing that this had gradually risen in its demands, in every successive treaty. The present was said to have exceeded all the former in the exorbitaney

of

of its conditions. He asserted, from the calculations he had made, that the body of 17,300 foreigners taken into British pay, would, including all contingencies, occasion an expence of no less than £1,500,000 within the course of a twelvemonth.--It was said in the debates--the colonies are to be devoted to the horrors of war, and to be treated as a nation from which we have experienced every kind of contumelious usage. Unprovided with a sufficient number of troops for the cruel purposes designed, or unable to prevail upon the natives of this country to lend their hands to such a sanguinary business, ministers have applied to those foreign princes who trade in human blood, and hired armies of mercenaries for the work of destruction. An army of foreigners is now to be introduced into the British dominions, not to protect them from invasion, not to deliver them from the ravages of an hostile army, but to assist one half of the inhabitants in massacreing the other. This foreign connection will be productive of the most fatal events. Hitherto this unhappy dispute has been confined to the people of the British empire; the colonies have not shown a disposition for the calling in of any other nation as an umpire. They apparently depend upon themselves for its support and termination; and do not, in all probability, imagine that we can be so imprudent as to associate others to our domestic feuds. But when they see that we have recourse to this odious expedient, they will no longer think themselves bound to stand singly in the contest: they will, after our example, apply to strangers for assistance. They will connect themselves with such, as instead of requiring subsidies, will supply them with men and money --such as will espouse their quarrel, not from mercenary motives, but from hostile considerations to this country-from ancient habits of inveteracy-from a thirst of revenge for the losses and humiliations occasioned by our arms.

The plea of necessity was the constant shield with which the ministry covered all the measures that had been lately adopted. But with regard to the present, they asserted-Treating with foreign princes for the loan of their troops is far from being detrimental; the terms are not exorbitant, considering how indispensably they were known to be wanted, the extraordinary service they are to go upon, the lands and seas they are to traverse in going forth and coming home, and the great uncertainty of their return. The computation of the expences attending them are over-rated. But had the expence been greater, the emergency is such that we must have complied with any terms demanded. The Americans have thrown themselves out of our protection, and are become strangers; so that we should VOL. II.

H

not

not scruple to employ against them, both our own forces and those of our allies. Little is to be apprehended from the countenance that foreign powers may give to America; it is so evident that their plainest interest militates against their undertaking the defence of the colonies, that it is not a subject deserving of discussion.

After violent debates, the question was carried in favor of ministry, by 100 votes to 22. But not without a protest, wherein the lords say, "We have reason to apprehend, that when the colonies come to understand that Great-Britain is forming alliances and hiring foreign troops for their destruction, they may think they are well justified by the example, in endeavoring to avail themselves of the like assistance; and that France, Spain, Prussia or other powers of Europe, may think they have as good a right as Hesse, Brunswick and Hanau, to interfere in our domestic quarrels." When this business was decided, another came on, which occasioned no less ferment. The secretary of war gave notice [March 11.] that the sum of £.845,000 would be necessary to defray the extraordinary expences from the commencement of March the preceding year, to the end of last January. This information excited one of the most violent storms of opposition ever known. "Never, said they, was so vast a demand for contingent expences incurred in so short a time." From the various calculations made on this occasion, they inferred that no less than one hundred pounds a man had been expended on the garrison of Boston, within less than the term of a year; during which time they had been reduced to great extremities through want of provisions; and had endured a variety of wretchedness. The ministry, though assailed with much vehemence, stood their ground, upon the approbation and authority of parliament. They argued-As to the expenditure of those sums, which are loaded with heavy censures, it ought to be remembered, that the operations they were employed in, were numerous and chargable; and that the various undertakings which had been resolved upon, were of so novel and difficult a nature, as to require the most resolute exertions and the most liberal support. The Massachusetts had exercised that resistance for which, not imagining it would have been carried to such extremities, they had not made an adequate preparation; but now that nothing less than the most daring and stubborn opposition was expected from the colonists, they should no longer withhold their strength; but should put it forth in such a manner as would shew that Britain was fully able to crush them. A session or two more of firmness and vigor, would bring about an alteration of affairs, and make the colonies repent of the provo

cations

« PreviousContinue »