« ZurückWeiter »
power which they were capable of desiring forthe establishment of their American system. But the conduct of the French and Spaniards gave them just cause of aları.--The French and Spanish ministry not only connived at the encouragement given to the American privateers, but filled the ports of both king doms with such indications as denoted that objects of far higlier and more dangerous importance were in contemplation. The naval preparations carried on by the house of Bourbon, becaine at length so formidable, that sixteen British ships of the line were suddenly put into commission; (Oct. 25.] and the unusual methods taken for manning them by a very hot unexpected press, and the opening houses of rendezvous for such seamen, as would enter voluntarily upon the proffered bounty. Sonia days after a prcciamation was issued for a general fast through England and Wales, to be observed the 13th of December for lowing.
The news of gen. Huwe's success on Long-Island, gave the highest satisfaction to administration, and the strongest hopes of the most decisive good consequences. The messenger of the operations had been but two days in London, before a title and badge of honor was bestowed upon the general.
On the last of October, the session of parliament was opened. The royal speech seemed to breathe indignation and resentment against the people of America; and the receipt of assurences of amity from the several courts of Europe was still acknowledged. When the address of the house of coinmons in answer to it was produced, an amendment was moved for by lord John Cavens dish, and supported by a speech perhaps the most remarkable of any that had heen delivered since the commencement of the troubles, for the freedom and pointedness with which it was expressed. It entered into a comprehensive view of the conduct of the British ministry respecting America ; and approached them with the pursuits of sehemes fornied for the reduction and chastisement of a party, supposed to consist of some inconsiderate and factious men, but which had in the issue, driven thirteen large colonies into an open and armed resistance. Every act of parliament, it said, proposed as a mean of procuring peace and submission, had proved, on the contrary, a new cause of opposition and hestiity. The nation was now almost inextricably involved in a bloody and expensive · civil war, which threatened to exhaust the strength of the British dominions, and to lay them open to the most deplorable calamities. No hearing had been given to the reiterated petitions of the colonies, nor any ground laid for a reconciliation, the commissioners nominated for the purpose of restoring peace, not being furnished with suihcient powers to bring about so desirable an end. It observed, that it must have
been expected, that the American seamen and fishermen, being indiscriminately prohibited from the peaceable exercise of their occupations and declared open enemies, would betake themselves to plunder, and wreak their vengeance on the commerce of Great-Britain. After a variety of other observations, it concluded with declaring“ We should look with the utmost shame and horror, upon any events that would tend to break the spirit of any part of the British nation, and to bow them to an abject, unconditional submission to any power whatsoever, to annihilate their liberties, and to subdue them to servile principles and passive habits, by the force of foreign mercenary arms; because amidst the excesses and abuses which have happened, we must respect the spirit and principles operating in these commotions. Our wish is to regulate, not to destroy them '; for though differing in some circumstances, those very principles evii. dently bear so exact an analogy with those which support the most valuable part of our own constitution, that it is impossible, with any appearance of justice, to think of wholly extirpating thera by the sword, in any part of the British dominions, without admitting consequences, and establishing precedents the most dangerous to the liberties of this kingdon.” Debates pro and con succeeded. It was the same in the house of lords, where the royal speech underwent a no less severe scrutiny. Since the declaration of independence, the debates in parlian entare less interesting to the Americans than formerly, brevity in the account of them will therefore be most acceptable. The opposition said" What can ministers inean by assurances of friendly and pacific, sentiments from abroad? Poor politicians must they be, who depend upon such assurances, in the best of times, from those quarters whence they, now come. Old grudges are not so easily forgotten; and this nation has every thing to apprehend from those to whom it has done so much mischief in the last war. Resentnient and ambition will go on hand in hand upon this occasion, and will not lose so fair an opportunity of revenge, as that which is opened by this fatal quarrel between Great-Britain and her colonies. The preparations, of those powers who speak so friendly a language are no secret; their partiality to the Americans shows their intentions to this country ; their encouragement to the privateers, which are capturing the British merchantmen, is a sufficient earnest of the designs that are uppermost in their councils, and is but a prelude to what we are to expect, as soon as circumstances have brought their plans to maturity. A war with the whole house of Bourbon, and perhaps with other powers, will be the inevitable consequence of continuing hostilities in America ; but such a war at present, will no longer resemble those who have formerly waged with the princes of that family. Powerful as they
were at that time, they will still be much more formidable now that the strength of America will be thrown into their scale. It is a sorrowful, but a true reflection, that one half of the British nation is become an instrument in the hands of our natural enemies, with which most effectually to distress the other. Impelled with these cogent reasons, it is the duty of every man who fecls them, to oppose an address approving of measures which must, if persisted in, terininate in calamities that will give such deadly wounds to Britain, as may prove incurable, and bring her to such a state of debility as will, from one of the first powers in the world, reduce her to hold but a secondary rank among the European nations."
Administration urged in favor of the address "Nothing is recommended by it that tends to oppose the Americans; no more is required of them than a return to the same obedience which every other subject is bound to pay. Is it consistent with the wisdom of the nation, to throw away the fruits of the infinite cares and expences it has bestowed upon the colonies, while any hope semains of reclaiming them from their defection? To give them up, will be to resign the wealth, the strength and the importance of Great-Britain ; these are evidently at stake in the present contest; should the issue of it be contrary to what is hoped by all well-wishers to their country, its fall and degradation will be the necessary consequence. The season for arguing is over. The AmeFicans have bid us defiance, and are become our enemies; the sword is therefore to decide ; it is now to be seen whether we „can reduce them to obedience by superior force. It is time to assert our national dignity and supremacy; we are in full strength and vigor; the resources of the country are far from being exhausted. They cannot be employed upon a more critical and necessary occasion than the present. The successes of the last campaign in America, afford a well grounded prospect of settling af fairs to our satisfaction. A spirited prosecution of the business in hand will speedily conclude it. Much is threatened from abroad, and great terrors are held out, and we are told that occasion will be taken from these unhappy broils, to do Great-Bri.tain irreparable damage. But the prudence of government has fully obviated these objections. A sufficient force is preparing to
face all dangers at home, and the prosperity of our arms abroad · has, it is well known, cast a damp on all the partisans of the Americans throughout Europe. However well they may wish them, the most inveterate of our foes will not venture to engage in so distant a quarrel, until they see better signs of its terminating to the advantage of our opponents. We are now in the eareer of victory; and it will betray weakness to be driven 'out
of it by mere apprchensions. The people at large are now greatly alienated from the Aniericans ; however they might once have been inclined to favor them, they are full of resentment at their late conduct. The declaration of independence has entirely altered their opinion of the colonists."
The conclusion of the debates was the carrying of the address in the house of lords by 91 votes to 26; and in the house of coinmons by 232 to 83. The declaration of independence lost. the Americans many advocates; but the great bulk of those who had hitherto espoused their cause, dreaded the success of ministerial measures against them, from an apprehension of the danger which would result from it to the liberties of this country, They were therefore, before and after the opening of the session, indefatigable in representing the necessity of putting an end to a dispute, which they considered as ruinous in every shape, whether the British arms did or did not prevail.
(Nov. 6.1 A motion was made in the house of commons by Jord John Cavendish, for a revisal of all those acts by which thecoJonies thought themselves aggrieved. It was grounded on a paragraphin the declaration of the commissioners, given at New-York, the 19th of September, in which mention is made of “the king's being most graciously pleased to concur in the revisal of all acts by which his subjects in the colonies may think themselves aggrieved.” The motion was opposed with great warmth ; and in the sequel of the debate, it was asserted by ministry, that until con, gress had rescinded the declaration of independence, no treaty could be entered into with America. Such an assertion was severe-ly censured by opposition, as being no less than a denunciation of war, and all its calamities, unless the Americans implicitly admitted the principal point in litigation, without any preliminary stipulation. The motion was rejected by a majority of 109 tó 47. This rejection exasperated the minority so violently, that a part of them avowedly withdrew whenever any questions relating to America were proposed, and from this period left the house to the full and undisturbed possession of the majority.
They justified this secession, by.alledging that an attendance on these matters was nugatory; the weight of numbers was irresistible, and baffled all arguments. It was a degrading office alway to contend with a certainty of being defeated. There was a time when reasoning was listened to, and had its due influence; but as experience had shown, that time was no more, it was wiser to acquiesce in silence than to undergo the fatigue of a fruitless opposition. The scason was not yet come for the nation to be. undcceived. It was the interest of so many to continue the de. ception, that it would last till an accumulation of calamities
had oppressed the public so as to be felt by all degrees. Such amazing numbers were benefitted by the measures of ministry, that till defeats, disappointments and losses of every kind, had disabled them from pursuing their schemes any longer, they were sure of a ready support from those whom they employed in their execution. For these reasons they judged it necessary to refuse their presence to transactions which they disapproved, and could not hinder; but whenever they perceived that adversity had, as usual, opened the eyes of men, they would then come forth anew, and endeavor, if possible, to remedy the evils which it was not at present in their power to prevent.
The strength of ministry was now so decisive, that whatever was proposed, was iminediately approved and carried, without any opposition or debate.
A bill was brought in for granting letters of inarque and reprisals against the Americans. This was followed by another to empower the crown to secure such persons.as were accused or suspected of high treason (committed either in America or at sea) or of piracy. By the provisions of this bill, they were liable to be detained in custody without bail or trial, while the law continued in force; it was reserved solely to the privy council to admit them to either. His majesty was also empowered by warrant, to appoint one or more places of confinement within the realm, for the custody of such prisoners.
This bill spread a general alarm through the metropolis; and a petition was presented by the city against it, condemning the measures proposed in it, as violent and unconstitutional, sub." versive of the sacred and fundamental rights of the people, subjecting them to the most cruel oppression and bondage, and introductive of every species of mischief and contusion. The petition was ordered to lie upon the table; but probably made way for the introduction of a provisional clause, coacting “that no offences shall be construcd to be piracy within the meaning of the act, except acts of felony committed on the ships and goods of his majesty's subjects, by persons on the high
The bill however, did not pass without opposition and severe animadversion. It was said, that it armed ministers with an uncon.' stitutional arld dangerous power, A mere pretended suspicion or foolish credulity in a mercenary tool of a ministerial magistrate, might render the inhabitants of above half the empire liable to imprisonment without bail or mainprise.' It did not require an oath,nor that the parties should be heard in their own justitications nor confronted with the witnesses, nor that two witnesses should be deemed necessary for the colourable ground of a commitment.