« PreviousContinue »
the greatest confusion, and brought distress upon all who were employed by sea or land in that quarter. Instead of prosecuting the service they went upon, many of the ships were constrained to make the best of their way to any place where provisions. could be procured. It was computed, that to the value of full half a million sterling was left in the bowles of the deep, and forever lost to mankind, by the first operation of the fishery bill.
The storm which happened last September the 11th, during the fishing season, and of which you will have received some general accounts, may probably be reckoned by the Americans, as it is here by the more serious or those who favour them, a providential retaliation of the supreme Ruler on such as had depri ved them, by a parliamentary act, of that sustenance, which seemed to be given them as their peculiar property. Lest you should not have had the particulars, let me mention, that a most dreadful tempest, of a particular kind, discharged itself on the coasts of Newfoundland. The sea rose near upon thirty feet almost instantly. Above seven hundred boats, with all their people, perished, and eleven ships with most of their crews. At Havie, de-Grace, no fewer than three hundred boats were lost. The devastation was hardly less on the land; the waters broke in beyond their usual bounds, and occasioned vast destruction.— The shores presented a shocking spectacle.
As the time approached for the meeting of a parliament, addresses were poured in from different quarters, condemning the conduct of the Americans; approving of all the acts of government; and in general recommending a perseverance in the same until the colonies shall be reduced to a thorough obedience.Manchester distinguished itself by taking the lead. These addresses necessarily implied an approbation of the measure that was then in execution, viz. the sending of five battalions of Hanoverian troops, to replace the like number of British, in the garrisons of Gibralter and Minorca thereby to increase the force in America with the addition of the latter. The electoral regiments sailed for the places of destination the first of November.
Petitions of a contrary tendency to the addresses were presented from several places. Great bodies of American, African and West-India merchants, with a majority of the inhabitants of the cities of London and Bristol, still struggled to have matters restored to their ancient state, but to no purpose. At a numerous meeting of the freeholders of Middlesex, [Sep. 25.] after agreeing to instruct their members in behalf of public liberty, it was moved and carried, "that a letter should be addressed from the freeholders of Middlesex to those of Great-Britain." The tenor of
of it is in favour of a reconciliation with America, and against the prosecution of the ministerial war. Four days after, (Sept. 29.) the lord mayor, Mr. Wilkes, acquainted the livery with his having received a letter from the continental congress, which was read; when it was moved and passed in the affirmative, "that a letter addressed from the livery of London to the electors of Great-Britain should be read;" which was done, and afterward published. Three days before the meeting of parliament, an event took place, which for a while engaged the pablic attention. Rumours of combinations in favour of the Americans, had been frequent. It was said, that they were privately abetted by the advice and correspondence, and assisted by the purses of personages of high rank and importance. These reports spread much alarm through the nation, and, exasperated those who considered the Americans as rebels. Hints and suspicions were given and taken; and at length a seeming foundation for them appeared. (Oct. 23.) Mr. Sayre, an American born, and a banker in London, was secured; and being examined before the secretary of state, lord Rochford, and confronted by his accuser, was committed to the tower for high treason, on the ridiculous charge, of a design of seizing his majesty at noon day, in his passage to the house of peers; of conveying him a prisoner to the tower, and afterwards out of the kingdom; and of overturning the whole form of government, by bribing a few sergeants of the guards, who were also to bribe their men. After a close and severe confinement of five days, an habeas corpus was granted, and he was brought before the lord chief justice of the king's bench, who admitted him to bail, on his own security, in the trifling sum of five hundred pounds, and that of two securities in as much, for his appearance to answer the charge. No prosecution was attempted, and at the session in December it was moved to have his recognisance discharged, which was granted accordingly. The secretary will be sued for illegal imprisonment, though it is thought his conduct is justifiable in point of law. (Oct. 26.) His majesty opened the session of parliament with a speech, which proposed sanguinary measures, and charged the American leaders with having nothing in view, but the establishment of an independent empire. It says, "I have received the most friendly offers of fereign assistance; and if I shall make any treaties in consequence thereof, they shall be laid before you.— And I have, in testimony of my affection for my people, sent to the garrisons of Gibraltar and Port Mahon, a part of my electoral troops; that a larger number of the established forces of this kingdom, may be applied to the maintenance of its authori ty. When the deluded multitude, against whom this force will be
be directed, shall become sensible of their error, I shall be ready to receive the misled with tenderness and mercy. I shall give authority to certain persons to grant general or particular pardons and indemnities, in such manner, and to such persons, as they shall think fit, and to receive the submission of any province which shall be disposed to return to its allegiance. It may also be proper to authorise the persons so commissioned to restore such province, so returning to its allegiance, to the free exercise of its trade and commerce, and to the same protection and security as if such province had never revolted." When an address to his majesty in answer to the speech, had been moved and seconded in the house of commons, lord John Cavendish moved for an amendment; which occasioned a long debate, that was carried on with the utmost eagerness and unceasing energy on both sides. The employment of foreign troops to reduce America, was an object animadverted upon by opposition with peculiar violence and indignation.
General Conway though in place, opposed administration; and condemned, in the most decisive terms, the American war, declaring it to be cruel, unnecessary and unnatural—calling it in plain terms, a butchery of his fellow subjects. He reprobated every idea of conquering America, upon all the grounds of justice, expediency and practicability. He declared in the most unreserved terms against the right of taxation, and wished to see the declaratory law repealed (though it had passed under his own auspices when in administration) rather than it should be employed to colour designs, the most opposite to the intentions, publicly declared, of those who supported it in parliament, and particularly opposite to the fullest declaration of his own at the time of his moving it. The ministry made as good a defence as their cause would admit; and pleaded, "We are now in a situation which doth not afford a possibility of receding without shame, ruin and disgrace." Lord North acknowlegded, that he had been deceived; that he did not imagine that all America would have armed in the cause. Administration, he said, proceeded upon the information they had received; if other gentlemen were in possession of better, why did they not communicate it? Administration had opposite information, but they adhered to that which came from persons whose interest made them parties with the inclinations of ministry. That which they neglected, as proceeded from mistake or a wrong bias, the now find to have been the truest.
The space of a whole night was consumed in the debates upon the royal speech; it was near five in the morning when the motion made by the opposition was rejected by
278, against 108; after which the address was carried without
In the house of lords, the debate on the address was also long and warm. The duke of Grafton suddenly and unexpectedly quitted administration. He went into a decisive condemnation of all the acts of government for some time past, with respect to America, as well as of the measures held out by the speech. He declared that he had been deceived and misled upon that subject; and that, by the withholding of information and the misrepresentment of facts, he had been induced to lend his countenance to measures which he never approved; and that he was blindly led to give a support to the one of coercing America, from a firm persuasion held out, that matters would never come to an extremity of that nature, and that an appearance of coercion was all that was requisite to establish a reconciliation. He asserted that nothing less than a total repeal of all the American laws which had been passed since 1763, could now restore peace and happiness. The lords in administration did not deny the imperfectness of their information in some matters, but pleaded the impracticability of obtaining such knowledge as might have prevented several disappointments. They were obliged to depend upon the sagacity and judgment of those whom they trusted. They had taken all possible pains to proceed upon sure grounds. It would be unjust to make them answerable for failures which were occasioned by events totally unexpected by the shrewdest persons upon the spot; to such alone must be attributed the general want of success in the plans pursued in the course of the present year. There were two remarkable instances of this kind; the one was the total alteration of circumstances in the province of New-York, the other was the implicit acquiescence of the southern colonies in the views and arrangements of the northern. These were events that accelerated with irresistible rapidity the revolution of affairs through the continent, and equally surprised the ministry, who from their intelligence, could be no wise apprehensive of such an unhappy turn. The defection of New-York they imputed to its being compelled into measures by the Connecticut insurgents, which the people there would never have otherwise adopted. They pleaded, "We must either reduce the colonies to submission, or for ever relinquish all dominion over them, and all advantage from North-America." The motion for the address was at length carried by 76 votes against 33. But a protest against it was drawn up, and signed by nineteen peers. In that they condemned the war commenced against America with the utmost freedom and asperity; and
also censured with equal severity, the employing of foreign troops and various other parts of the ministerial conduct.
As none of the measures adopted by administration gave more umbrage than the employment of the Hanoverian troops, oppoşition determined to bring it before parliament in the most solemn and serious manner. A motion was accordingly made in the house of lords, declaring that to employ foreign troops without the previous consent of parliament, was dangerous and unconstitutional, as being clearly against law. In the debate which followed, various arguments were used for and against the legality of introducing foreign forces into the kingdom or its dependencies without consent of parliament. As an act of indemnity would have been a recognizance of its illegality, it was studiously warded off, as well as the motion itself which was defeated by the previous question, carried by a majority of 75 to 32. In the house of commons, the debates on this subject were no less elaborate, and consisted of much the same reasonings. The motion was similar to that in the house of lords, and was lost in like manner, 81 for, and 203 against it. Thus was a question, of which the magnitude is equal to that of any other fundamental point in the constitution, put off to future decision. While it was in agitation, an incomparable majority of the pub→ lic agreed in the opinion adopted by the opposition. However they might differ concerning measures to be pursued respecting America, they cordially united with them in condemning the admission of foreign troops into the kingdom or its dependencies, without the express assent of parliament.
That the designs of the Americans might be completely frustrated, it was proposed in a committee of supply, that the naval establishment of sailors and marines should be augmented to 28,000 men, and that the number of ships of war on the American station should amount to eighty. The land forces were to consist of 25,000 of the selected troops in the service. These formidable preparations called up the attention of several principal members in the opposition. In order, if possible, to render the operations of war unnecessary, it was proposed to facilitate the means of reconciliation. [Nov. 7.] To this purpose, Mr. T. Luttrell moved for an address to his majesty, "humbly requesting, that he will authorize the commissioners who may be empowered to act in America, to receive proposals for conciliation from any general convention or congress, or other collective body that shall be found most perfectly to convey the sentiments of one or more of the several continental colonies, suspending all enquiry into the legal or illegal forms under which such colony or colonies may be disposed to treat, as the most ef VOL. II, G fectual