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attend the house at the same time. Some persons, of great weight in opposition, from the beginning recommended to the ministry that this petition should be passed by •without notice, and very strongly pointed out the mischievous consequences which must attend an enquiry into that fort of matter, to the House at large, and particularly to the ministers themselves.
During this interval, some motions were made upon the subject, the want of success in which seemed indicative of the disposition that prevailed within doors, in regard to the popular prisoner, whose present situation excited the greatest attention without. Among these, it was moved to address his majesty, that the auditor of the imprest should lay before the House copies of all such accounts as had been passed, declared, or received, from Philip Carteret Webb, Esq; since Midsummer 1762, which was passed in the negative. In the mean time, Mr. Webb petitioned for an opportunity to vindicate himself at the bar of the House, from the charges that were made against him; which he was allowed to do, either by himself or his counsel, at the time of hearing the matter of the petition. Application having been also made by Mr. Wilkes for liberty to attend the House, in oftseY to support the allegations of his_petition, it was complied with, and liberty of council allowed him for that purpose. After these precious' .steps had been taken, the fime for hearing the-matter of the petition, which had "been originally fixed sol- the zd of December,"., was however'put off to the ttth os' the fame "month; after whifeh it was finally adjourned to the 37th of the following January.
The opposition, though divided into tw*6 parties, which had totally differed upon some great political principles, upon the whole, frequently agreed in sentiment, in a diflike to many late measures of administration, and without any apparent pre-concert, or even intercourse, acted, upon many occasions, as if they had been one united party. The principal of these, as to strength and number, seems to be that which adhered to the
Marquis of R , who were
strongly attached to the measures pursued in that administration; and as they had effected the overthrow of the stamp system, had, upon the same principles, generally disliked and opposed the greaest part of the late measures pursued with regard to America. The other, which was composed of the
friends of Mr. G , though
they justified the general principle of American taxation, were but little disposed to approve of many of the measures of the present ministry, which they considered not only as ineffectual, but, after the concession that had been made, as ill-timed.
From this casual co-incidence of opinion, in many public mats ters, of two formidable parties, whose leaders had filled the first offices of the state, the ministers, though generally engaged under the covert of a strong majority, found, . upon many occasions, their hands sufficiently full, and it was.accordingly a very busy winter. Many leading questions were proposed, which still led to more critical enquiries; and several spirited motions were made, which, if not attended with success, were, at least, supported with great vigour and ability.
••■"' -A* mo
Nov i? ^ motion was made
'" early in the session, that copies of all the correspondence between the secretaries of state, and our ministers at the court of France, relative to the, affairs of Corsica, from the ist of January 1767, should be laid before the house; and also copies of all instructions to any of the said ministers, and of all memorials and representations to or from the said court, with the several answers thereunto, upon the subject. »
This motion, though carried in the negative, produced a long discussion upon the affairs of Corsica. On one side it was represented as a place of no manner of importance; destitute, though an island, of a good harbour, and an acquisition that would rather prove a mischief than a benefit to France. Under such a description, it was not difficult to shew the absurdity of entering into a war in any situation, for an object of so little consequence; but in our present circumstances, loaded as we already are, with a heavy debt, the folly and madness of such a measure were so glaring, as not to admit of a serious discussion.
It was however said on the other hand, that every accession of power to France was dangerous to this counQ-y. That the situation of this island in the Mediterranean, made it particularly so, and may be attended with the most pernicious effects to pur commerce in that sea, besides the giving to Fuace a great and dangerous influence in the affairs of Italy. It was said that England, had paid a constant attention for many . years, to the preservation of a due equilibrium in the affairs of Europe, to
which we are indebted not only • for security,, but for a great part of our national power and influence. That instead of descending to a minute calculation ps the exact value of Corsica, or rating it. at a chapman's price in a sale to France, we were to consider this invasion as a violent breach of treaty, and subversive of that equilibrium. The fact as. to the harbours was denied ; as to the danger , of a war with France, it was said, that if she was prepared and willing to come to such an extremity, for a matter of no consequence or value, we might look upon the war as already declared, as the want of a pretence could not give a moment's delay.
A motion was made in a few days after, for an address, that there be laid before the House, copies of all applications from the civil magistrates to the war-office for troops, and of all orders and letters to the troops employed, or to the officers commanding them i and also copies of the several,reports made to the war-office from such officers, during the riots in the month of May last.
The design of this motion was too evident, not to be opposed by the whole weight os administration. A warm discussion conse« quently arose, in which many parts of the conduct then observed were severely censured. Many gentlemen thought, that though in some instances some measures of govern- . ment could not eaiily be deienled;. yet that in the present temper of the times, too minute an enquiry into the acts of government upon, that occasion, or any public censure passed upon them, might serve too much to lo-.ver it in the pub[*£ 2] lie
lie opinion, and to increase that licentiousness which was already t6o prevalent among the populace. On this principle, many in opposition either remained neuter, or fell in with administration. The motion was accordingly, upon- a division, passed in the negative by a very great majority.
A motion was afterwards made for an address, that copies pf all the royal letter* patent, charters, and commissions, now subsisting and in force, relative to any of the American colonies, with copies of all orders and instructions which had been given by or in the name of his present majesty, to any officers civil or military in regard to
their government, mould be hii before the House; which passed in the negative; as did another motion made on the fame day, for copies of all letters and affidavits, which had been received since the 1st of January, 1766, relative to any disputes or disturbances in America.
The merits of the disputed elections, many of which were violently contested, took up so much time, that though the House continued .sitting almost to the eve of the holidays, these were -p, the only public matters eC" 22' of moment that came before them. It was then adjourned to the i^tfc of the following January.
Proeeedimgi on the American affairs. 'Resolutions, and address f great debates thereon. Agreement made for five years 'With the East-India compare). Resolution fir payment os the debts on the civil lift. Expulsion of Mr. Wilkes; te-ele8ion; final incapacitation*
THE critical state of our colonies, as well from the great importance of the subject, as the particular attention that was paid to it from the throne, was of course considered as the principal object of the present session. The public had long wished, with an anxious solicitude, for this meeting, as they hoped an effectual remedy would be found for the disorders, and an end consequently put to the disturbances in that part of the world. The heavy censures passed in the late speech, upon the conduct of one of the principal North American colonies, could not fail to increase this' anxiety and eagerness of expectation, upon the issue of a business ig which
the whole British empire was deeply interested. Those who imagined that the supreme authority of the legislature ought to be exerted to its utmost extent; whff were disgusted with many extravagancies lately committed, and thought that the unexampled licentiousness which appeared i« the province of Massachusets Bay, ftould be curbed with a strong hand, were gratified with the present appearances* which seemed to bespeak measures of vigour and severity. On the other hand, the advocates for America, those who from principle were lovers of constitutional-freedom; as well as those who were naturally inclined t» moderation* "were confeierabljr alarmed. ilarmed, as thfy thought they perceived a disposition, to urge njatlers to violent and rperhaps dangerous extremities
A committee of the whole house had been formed early in the sesfioa, /or the purpose of au .enquiry into American aiFairs. This was a_ measure that the different'parties which divided that assembly were equally desirous o'f entering intoi iotas the motives were different upon which they acted,-, so wae the-modes pf «nquiry which they wished to pursuei' Qn one fide it was confined to those late transactions, which -from their Mature, either,as seeming to impugn the legifladv.e autapi^y, or frp» their violation of .order, and direct opposition to government. ron4| neceslkrily induce censure. On the other., it was proposed to' take a retrospective view of the conduct os government for several years in colony affairs, And not .content with jmnilhing disorders,, to trace hack to the source, and remove the causes pfthem."
_ We have .already seen that motions were made and over-ruled, before the Christmas recess, for the laying of papers before the committee; which would not only have led to a discussion of the rights claimed by the colonies, but also to a close enq.uiry.into the conduct of the several governors and other officers of the crown, as weJl as into the propriety of the orders which at different .times had been issued to them from home. As coe-.cive measures seemed now to be adopted by administration, these enquiries were accordingly opposed by their friends, who probably thought that the dignity of government might suffer from such
discussions. An infinite number of other papers relative to Ame-, rica, were however laid before the committee, and a number of resolutions, together with an address upon the fame subject, which had originated in the house of lords, were also brought under their consideration. Frequent and long der bates arose upon these subjects in both houses; wherein, contrary to the pre-conceived opinion withouj doprs, the superior strength of the; ministry was constantly apparent^ and they were upon every question supported by a great majority.
During this course of ( j:
debate and enquiry, a ' ', >" petition in the name ,os 709•
the major part of the council of the province of Massachuset's Bay, signed by Mr. Danforth, as pre'jdent of the council, was presented to the house. It however appeasing, that this petition had no£ passed in a legal assembly psthp council, and that consequently no person could be authorised to sign it as president, it was refused under that title, and was ordered t$» be brought up, only as a petition from Samuel Pa-nforth, in behalf pf the several individual member^ of the council at whose request it had been signed.
This petition, the design of which Was to obtain a repeal pf the late revenue acts, conveyed the arguments .for that purpose, in terms of the greatest temper and .moderation. The charter immunities, and privileges of the colpjiies, and their .general rights a.s English subjects,, were enlarged Upon, without seeming to call in iquei'don the supreme power of the .legislature; although it was jin,plied that those rights had Been
[*E 3] violated, violated, and it was requested that they might be secured in future. The inability of the colony to address the house in their legislative capacity, from the dissolution of the general assembly, was regretted; and a long recital made of y the difficulties, hardships, and. dangers which their ancestors had experienced, who for the preservation of civil and religious liberty, had made settlements in the most inhospitable forests, and been exposed to the rage of the most savage and cruel enemies; where, from the nature of the climate, and the infertility of the foil, no advantage to. their temporal interests was even to be hoped for, and the utmost triat could be expected, was only a scanty subsistence in consequence of the most unremitted labour. From these premises it was inferred, that they not only dearly purchased their settlement!,' but acquired an additional title, besides their common claim as men and as British subjects, to the immunities and privileges which they asserted had been granted to them by charter.
The great and willing services performed by the colonies at their own expence in our wars; the old -jones having been all established without any expence to the mother .country; the infinite advantages slie derives from them; the (hare .they virtually bear in .our taxes, by the consumption of pur manufactures; their inability to pay the duties, and the ill consequences resulting from the late laws, not ^ only to them but to the mother country t were brought as arguments to solicit their repeal, and to shew the title they held, not only
to a security of their rights, but even to favour.
Resolutions, and an ad- pi „ dress to his majesty upon '. *
American affairs, were however passed in the house of lords, and thence transmitted to the commons, by which they became the act of the two houses. By these resolutions, the late acts of the house of representatives of the province of Massachuset's Bay, which tended to call in question, or to Import a denial of the authority of the supreme legislature to make laws to bind the colonies in all cafes whatsoever, were declared to be illegal, unconstitutional, and derogatory of the rights of the crown and par^ liament of Great Britain, she circular letters wrote by the fame assembly, to those of the other colonies, requiring them to join in pensions, and stating the late laws to be infringements of the right? of the people in the colonies, were also declared tp be proceedings of a most unwarrantable and dangerous nature, calculated to inflame the minds of the people in the other colonies, and tending tQ create unlawful combinations, repugnant to the laws of Great BriT tain, and subversive of the constiT tution.
The town of Boston was declared to have been for some time past in a state of great disorder and confusion, disturbed by riots and tumults of a dangei pus nature, in which the officers of the revenue had been obstructed by violence in the execution of the laws, and their lives endangered: that neither the council of the province, nor the. prdinary civil magistrates, had exerted their authority for suppressing