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The few who opposed it, contended that no lawful or obvious reason subsisted for investing the crown with so unusual a pow. er. Such an extraordinary measure could only be tolerated in cases of great domestic danger, when the realm or constitution were immediately threatened; but neither of these could be pleaded in the present instance. Afier a long debate, the bill passed by a majority of 195 to 43. The oppostion would have been stronger, but the seceding party would not afford their assistance. .“ Before this act, every man putting his foot on English ground, every stranger, even a negro slave, became as free as every other man who breathed the same air with him. As things now stand, every man in the West-Indies, every inhabitant of these unoffending provinces on the American continent, every person coming from the East-Indies, every gentleman who has travelled for his health or education, every mariner who has navigated the seas, is, for no other offence, under a temporary proscription."*
The two bills received the royal assent on the third of March.
Toward the close of the last year, and in the beginning of the present, much confusion, apprehension and suspicion, was excited by the machinery of a wretched enthusiast and incendiary, since well known by the appellation of John the Painter, but whose real name was James Aitkin, born at Edinburgh, and bred a painter a most profligate and abandoned villain. .
After having committed the most attrocious crimes, he shipped himself off for America, where he continued about two years, and from whence he returned in March 1775. The violence of the language and sentiments then held in political matters, by the people among whom he lived, gave birth to that enthusiastic madness which afterward became so dangerous. Under its baneful influence he returned to England with the most dreadful antipathy to the government and nation; and adopted the design of subverting, in his own single person, that power which he so much abhorred, by setting fire to the dock-yards, and burning the principal trading cities and towns, with their shipping, of whatsoever sort, so far as it could possibly be done. He constructed fire-works, machines and combustibles for the purpose, but was strangely unsuccessful in all his attempts. Owing to this failure in his machines, the nation was providentially saved from receiving some dreadful or irretrievable shock. He however succeeded in setting fire to the rope-house in the yard at Portsmouth, the beginning of last December. The next
* Mr. Edm. Burke's letter to the sacriffs of Briftol.
month, while party and political disunion prevailed among the inhabitants of Bristol, he attempted, first to burn the shipping, and afterward the city. He succeeded only so far as to set tre to some warc-luvuses near the quay, six or seven of which were consumed. He was soon after his departure from Bristol, taken up on some suspicious circunstances, and being circumvented by one Baldwin, another painter, the whole scene of iniquity was brought to light. Baldwin pretended to synapathize with him under his misfortunes, and to hold principles similar to his own, and often visited him, till he at length obtained bis confidence, and drew from him the history of his crimes. He told · Baldwin that he had been in France, and seen Mr. Siias Dcunc, who had given him some money, and encouraged him to set fire to the dock-yards at Portsmouth, Plymouth, &c. as the best means of distressing Great-Britain, and had promised to reward him according to the service he should do to the American cause. He said that Deane, as an carnost of what should follow, had given him a recommendation to, and bills upon a merchant in London, to the amount of £.300, which however, he had found it necessary to burn, to prevent a discovery ; and that in consequence of this encouragement he procured a passport from the French king. He was condemned at Winchester assizes, and executed at Portsmouth dock gaie, the tenth of March, and then hung in chains. While he lay at Winchester, after condemnation, and before taken away to execution, he denied his baving reconimendations and bills, and burning the same. It was while working at Titchfield, in Hampshire, that ho conceived the idea of setting fire to the dick-yards. He then went, as he said, to France, and applied to Mir. Deane, who told him that when the work was done he should be rewarded. He added, that on his return, and after setting tire to the ropeyard at Portsmouth, he went to London, and waited on Dr. Bancroft, to whom he had a verbal recommendation fiom Mi. Deane, but that the doctor gave him no countenance, and did. not approve of his conduct. • When general Lee's capture came to be known by the guzette of February the 25th, the rejoicing in Great-britain on the occasion, was great. Personal animosities contributed not a little to the triumph and exultation it produced. But the sapie gazette furnished more than a counterpoise to the joy, in the accounts it contained of general Washington's successes at Tron'ton and Princeton.
The name of Lec reminds me of Mr. Arthur Lee. The litter reccived timely notice of the acts of congress, so as to withdraw and get to Paris a few days after Dr. franklin's arrival. VOL. II.
thane of Az; and on corresping stories
While in England he was particularly commissioned by a certain body, and that under every sacred promise of secrecy, to make discoveries and transmit them to America; he was also personaily consulted by Monsieur Caron de Beaumarchais, upon a project which the latter had formed, of establisising a commercial house, sufficiently powerful and spirited to hazard the risks of the sea and enemy in carrying stores and merchandise for the American troops. A correspondence was afterward opened between them; and on the 21st of June, 1776, Mr. Lee, under the name of Mary Johnson, wrote in cyphers to Mr. Beaumarchais, that the army of Great-Britain in America, would consist of forty thousand men, and their fleet of a hundred ships, and but two only of seventy-four guns. He advised the dispatching seeretly ten large ships of war to the Cape or Martinico; and their joining the American fleet, scouring the American coast, and destroyiag the whole British fleet, dispersed as it would be, un on which success the land army could be easily defeated. “By this stroke,” says he “the English fleet will be mortally wounded. Do you fear that this will kindle a war between the two nations? But how will England be able to support a war without ficcts, without colonies, without seamen, without resources ? On the contrary, if you suffer America to fail again under the dominion of England, the latter will be forever invincible." If this proposal was communicated to the French minister, it was adjudged too venturous to be prosecuted. Though France must, for her own interest, wish to have the American states perpetually separated from Great-Britain, yet the court will be cautious of risking a war with this country till the prospects of success, are extremely encouraging. This accounts for the French king's issuing out, about the month of February, a proclamation, prohibiting the sale of English prizes taken by American privateers, in any of the ports of France; but as the pur. chase of them is not prohibited, and the sale of them only in the port3, the Americans will find no difficulty in disposing of them to Frenehmen. The police of France is so well construct. ed, that they can easily convey to the extremities of the kingdom, the views and sentiments of the court, and secure a ready compliance with them. It is only for the minister to give the farmers-general, his instructions, and for them, through their lines of connection with every province, city, town and village, to distribute their directions ; on which the inhabitants of the most distant parts will think, speak and act mechanically, in unison with their betters at Versailles.
On the 20th of February, the British ambassador at the Hague, presented a meinorial to their high mightinesses, coutaining vario
ous complaints; and closing with an express demand of a fora mal disavowal of the salute by Fort George at St. Eustatia, to the American flag, and of the disinission and immediate recal of the governor; followed by a further declaration, that till that satisfiction was given, they were not to expect that his majesty would suffer himself to bé amused by mere assurances, or would delay one instant to take such measures as he should think due to the interests and dignity of his crown. Their bigh mightinesses disdaining the spirit and manner of the complaint, passed by the ambassador '(Sir Joseph Yorke) and slso the secretary of state, and commanded their minister at London, the count de Walderen, to address himself directly to the king, and to deliver their answer into his own lands; which was done March the 26th. They complained of the reproaches contained in the ambassador's memorial, and the menacing tone which reigns in it, strained beyond what ought to take place between two sovereign and independent powers. They did not disguise the poignant sensation with which it had impressed them. They afterward' mentioned their having ordered the governor home to give the necessary information of what liad passed, and their resolution to disavow every act or mark of honor that actually tended in the least degree to recognise the independence of the North-American colonies. On the 10th of April, lord Suffolk, by letter, as. sured the court, that his majesty accepted with satisfaction, the inmemorial he had addressed to him; but that his majesty could not perceive in Sir Joseph Yorke's memorial, any thing contraty to what ought to take place betwech sovereigns and independent powers in the weighty circumstances in question.
In February and April, Messrs. Franklin and Deane sent to Jord Stormont, two letters on the subject of an exchange of British seamen, prisoners in the hands of the captain of an American frigate, for an equal number of American seamen, prisoners in England; and of the cruel treatment the American prisoners nieet with in Europe, in being ether compelled by chains, stripes and famine, to fight against their friends and rełations, or sent to Africa and Asia, remote from all probability of exchange. They had for answer" The king's ambassador ieceives no applications from rebels, unless they come to inplore his majesty's mercy.” They pronounced it an indecent paper, and returned it for his lordship's more matute consideration. The news of gen. Clinton's breing created a knight of the Bath, will be io otherwise important to the Americans, than as a direction how to address him in future. . . • A freslı effort was made in the house of lords, to bring about a reconciliatioa betweea Great Britain and her colonies, as they
are here still called. The earl of Chatham had been prevented of late, by his advanced age and infirm state of health, from taking an active part in the disputes of the house. But viewing with concern the dangers which menaced the kingdom, he determined again to come forth from his retreat, and endeavor ta influence the contending parties to listen to terins of accommon. dation. On the 30th of May he entered the house, wrapped in flannel, and bearing a crutch in each hand. His lordship, sitting in his place and with his head covered, delivered a speech, wherein he explained the grounds of the motion he was about to make. He recapitulated and reprobated the measures which had been taken with the Americans, from the voting away of their property without their consent, to the attempting of their conquest by the aid of German mercenaries. He endeavored to. show the absurdity of relying longer on the force of arms, and very pathetically pressed the necessity of a specdy conciliation. After speaking for fifty ininutes, he moved for an address to the throne, “nost humbiy to advise his majesty to take the most speedy and cffectual ineasures, for putting a stop to hostilities, upon the only just and solid foundation, namely, the removal of accumulated grievances; and to assure his majesty, that the house will enter upon this great and necessary work with cheerfuiness and dispatch, in order to open to his majesty the only means of regaining the affection of the British colonies, and of securing to Great-Britain the commercial advantages of those invaluable possessions; fully persuaded that to heal and redress. wiil be more prevalent over the hearts of generous and free born subjects, than the rigors of chastisement and the horrors of civil war, which have hitherto served only to sharpen resentinents and consolidate union, and if continued, must end finally in dissolving all ties between Great-Britain and the colonies..
This brought on an interesting and animating debate, which terminated in the question's being put, when lord Chatham's motion was rejected by a majority of 99 to 28. The ministry had obtained ali they wanted from parliament; were confident in their own conceit and in the success of their measures; and would attend to no remonstrances of reason.
The general assembly of the church of Scotland, in an address to his majesty, among many expressions of loyalty, declared that, sensible of their own félicity, they observed with concern, the first appearance of a turbulent and ungovernable spirit among the people of North-America; that they had with astonishment conteropiated its alarming progress, and beheld fellow-subjects, who enjoyed in common with them, the blessings of his majesty's mild administration, take up arms in opposition to lawful autho