The History and Proceedings of the House of Commons: Volume 10, 1737-1739. Originally published by Chandler, London, 1742.
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April 7th. Mr. Speaker reported that the House attended his Majesty yesterday with their Resolution and Address of the 30th of March last; to which his Majesty was pleased to give this most gracious Answer, viz.
His Majesty's Answer to the said Address.
I Am fully sensible of the many and unwarrantable Depredations committed by the Spaniards; and you may be assured, I will make use of the most proper and effectual Means, that are in my Power, to procure Justice and Satisfaction to my injured Subjects, and for the future Security of their Trade and Navigation. I can make no Doubt, but you will support me, with Chearfulness, in all such Measures, as, in Pursuance of your Advice, I may be necessitated to take, for the Honour of my Crown and Kingdoms, and the Rights of my People."
Debate upon the Petition of the Needle Button Makers.
The next Debate we shall give an Account of, is that upon the Petition of the Manufacturers of Raw Silk and Mohair, and of Needle-work Buttons, which was presented to the House, March 3, and set forth,
'That Raw Silk and Mohair, employed in making Button-holes, being Commodities that are purchased in Turkey, and other foreign Parts, in Exchange for the Woollen and other Manufactures in the Kingdom; the Parliament, for the greater Encouragement of the Consumption of the said Commodities, had passed an Act, in the Seventh of his late Majesty, intitled, An Act for employing the Manufacturers, and encouraging the Consumption of Raw Silk and Mobair, by prohibiting the wearing of Buttons and Button-holes made of Cloth, Serge, and other Stuffs. In Consequence of which, and other Acts of the like Tendency, many Thousands of Families were preparing Silk, Mohair, Yarn, and Thread employed in making of Buttons and Button-holes with the Needle. But that in Evasion, and contrary to the Intention of the said Act, great Quantities of Stuffs made of Horse-hair, or mixed therewith, have been lately wove in narrow Breadths or Slips, and used only for making and binding of Buttons and Button-holes, to the great Detriment and Impoverishing of many Thousands, who had no other Way of subsisting but by working of Buttons and Button-holes with the Needle, and Prejudice of the Woollen Manufactures of the Kingdom. And therefore the Petitioners prayed that the House would give Leave that a Bill be brought in, to explain the said Act, and that the Petitioners be relieved in such Manner as to the House shall seem meet.'
Tho' this Debate was not of so public a Nature as those we have already given; yet, as it shewed the Sense of the House upon a very important Point, we shall give the Reader a connected View of the whole Arguments and Proceedings upon this Bill.
Progress of the Petition. ; Bill brought in upon the same. ; Petition against it.
This Petition being referred to the Consideration of a Committee, March 19, Mr. Cholmondley made the Report from the said Committee, and Leave was given to bring in a Bill according to the Desire of the Petition. The Bill was accordingly presented, and read for the first Time on the 24th of March, and ordered a second Reading; but before it came to a second Reading, several Petitions were presented from the Manufacturers and Dealers in Woven Buttons, praying to be heard by Counsel against the Bill; the Desires of which Petitioners were granted, and the Petitions ordered to lie upon the Table until the Bill was read a second Time; as were also Petitions from the Manufacturers and Traders in the Needle-work Buttons in the several Towns in England, expressing their Apprehensions that the general Trade of the Kingdom would be affected, and the Exports of the Woollen and other Manufactures to Turky greatly decreased, and many Thousands of themselves reduced to great Indigence, if the said Bill did not pass into a Law.
April 10, The Bill was read a second Time, and Counsel being heard both for the Bill and against it, and several Witnesses examined, the Bill was committed, and all who came to the Committee were to have Votes.
April 18. Mr. Cholmondley reported from the Committee, that they had found the Allegations in the Bill true; upon which the Bill, with the Amendments made in the Committee were ordered to be engrossed.
Debate upon the same.
Henry Fox, Esq.
'I don't stand up to oppose this Bill from any Consideration how far particular Persons may be affected by its Fate, but from a Conviction that, instead of its being of real Service to the Commerce or Manufactures of the Kingdom, if it passes into a Law, it may do hurt to both. I have heard the Witnesses both for and against the Bill examined; I was likewise present when the Counsel on both Sides was heard at the Bar of the House; and by what I could gather from the Evidence of the one and the Pleadings of the other, the Practice of weaving Buttons can never prevent any of the good Consequences that were intended by the several Acts of Parliament, in favour of the Consumption of Raw Silk and Mohair, from being effectual; and that the Manufacture which the Bill is intended to destroy, ought to receive the greatest Encouragement from the Legislature. Therefore, Sir, till I hear better Reasons in Support of this Bill than any I have yet heard, I must be against our passing it into a Law.'
Charles Cholmondley, Esq;
'I have the Misfortune to differ so much from the honourable Gentleman who spoke last, that I think, if ever any Bill of this Kind deserved the Encouragement of the Legislature, the present does. I think it is generally allowed that one of the Characters of a beneficial Trade, is, when a Nation exports of its Manufactures and native Commodities for such Goods as receive a further Manufacturing in that Nation. Former Parliaments seem to have been so sensible, that the Importation of Raw Silk and Mohair was of the greatest Advantage to the Nation, by increasing the Export of our Woollen and other Manufactures, that few Branches of Trade have met with greater Encouragement from the Legislature, than the making of Buttons and Button-holes with the Needle. So far back as the 14th Year of Charles the Second, this House thought a Petition from the Manufacturers of wrought Buttons and Button-holes so worthy their Consideration, that an Act was passed, Prohibiting the Importation of foreign Buttons and Needle-work, under the Penalty of fifty Pounds, and Forfeiture of the Goods so prohibited The Petition, Sir, that gave Rise to that Act, was presented to the House, on the very Motive, that gave Occasion to the Bill now before us; which was the Relief of great Numbers of the Inhabitants of this Kingdom, who gained their Living, and had been able to relieve their indigent Neighbours, and set on work many poor Children, by their Skill and Dexterity in this Manufacture; and who were in Danger to have been all ruined by the Practice, then introduced, of importing foreign Buttons and Button-holes into the Nation.
'In the tenth Year of King William, the Intention of the former Acts in favour of this Manufacture, had been so much frustrated by the making and wearing Buttons made of Shreds of Cloth, Camblet, and other Stuffs, that Numbers of poor People employed in manufacturing Buttons with the Needle were thrown upon their respective Parishes: This induced the Legislature to pass an Act just of the same Nature with that now under our Consideration; by which, Buttons made of Cloth, or any of the Stuffs of which wearing Apparel was usually made, were prohibited. But as this Act did not extend to Button-holes, in the Eighth Year of Queen Anne an Act passed, which took notice, that the Intention of the last Act had been of late, in a great Measure, rendered ineffectual by an artificial and unforeseen Practice of making and binding Button-holes with Cloth, Serge, and other Stuffs, to the utter Ruin of Numbers of Families. Therefore, Button-holes as well as Buttons, made of, or bound with such Stuffs, were prohibited under the Penalty of five Pounds per Dozen on the Taylor, Seller, or Maker of any such Buttons or Button-holes so prohibited. But this Act, Sir, proving no more effectual than the former Acts I have mentioned, for answering the good Intentions of Parliament, an Act was made in the fourth Year of his late Majesty, by which all Clothes and wearing Garments made with Buttons and Button-holes, prohibited by the former Acts, were liable to be forfeited and seized, except where the Clothes were made of Velvet. It might have been reasonably hoped, Sir, after such Precautions taken by Parliament, that the good Ends proposed by the several Acts I have mentioned would have been no longer eluded; but in the seventh Year of his late Majesty some further Regulations on this Head were found absolutely necessary. Some Gentlemen who are present may remember, that at that Time the only Method that could be thought of for that Purpose, was to extend the Penalty to the Wearer of such prohibited Buttons and Button-holes, as well as to the Maker and Taylor. This gave Occasion for passing the Act intitled, An Act for employing the Manufacturers, and encouraging the Consumption of Raw Silk and Mohair Yarn, by prohibiting Buttons and Button-holes made of Cloth, Serge, or other Stuffs. And by this Act a Penalty was laid upon the Person who wore such prohibited Buttons and Button-holes. This Act, for some Time, had a very good Effect, and the Manufacturers, from the Encouragement which the Parliament has given them from Time to Time, have made a great many Improvements in their Trade, and brought it to such a Perfection, that they are able not only to supply this Nation, but export considerable Quantities of them to foreign Parts. So that, Sir, another Character of a good Trade is answered by this Manufacture, which is, the manufacturing and improving, in order for a Re-exportation, a Commodity that is imported. Therefore, Sir, this Act deserves the Countenance of the Legislature as much, if not more, than any Act relating to our Manufactures, that has passed this House for some Years: First, as it tends to take off large Quantities of a staple Commodity of this Nation; and, secondly, as it adds to our Exports: Both which in a Nation that subsists by Commerce are of the greatest Consequence.
'But, Sir, besides the Advantages I have already mentioned, it is easy to make it appear that the Encouragement given to this Manufacture is a considerable Ease to the landed Interest. I could name, Sir, many Places of the Kingdom, where the Poor, if not employed in this Manufacture, must be either thrown upon their respective Parishes, or obliged to beg their Bread. I dare say, Sir, that in the several Towns and Cities from which Petitions have come before this House in favour of the Bill, there are no fewer than 140,000 Inhabitants who are incapable to get their Bread in any other way than by applying to this Business. For, give me leave to observe, that in this Manafacture, there is one thing peculiar, which is, that there are sew Infirmities either of Age or Sickness, that disable the Manufacturers from applying themselves to some Branch of it, either in twisting the Yarn, making the Molds, or sewing the Buttons; besides many other smaller Arts that are absolutely necessary for carrying it on. This, Sir, may be the Reason why so great Numbers are employed in this Manufacture, and why some Traders have found their Account in employing all their Stocks, which often are very considerable, that Way.
'Having thus laid before you, Sir, the Advantages arising to this Kingdom from the carrying on and improving this Manufacture, I shall beg leave to trouble the House with a few Words more, with regard to the Discouragement which it must meet with, if this Act should not pass. The late Practice of weaving Silk and Mohair in Looms, for the making of Buttons and Button-holes, is but in a very few Hands, when compared with the Numbers who get their Bread by the Needle-work Manufacture, and, if encouraged, may, in a short Time, quite frustrate the Intentions of the former Acts relating to this Affair. Those Buttons that are covered with Slips wrought in the Loom, not being distinguishable from those covered with Shreds of Camblet or other Stuffs, cannot fail of encouraging that Practice, which, as the Act of the 7th Year of his late Majesty is still in Force, may put the Subjects to very great Inconveniencies. For Instance, if a Gentleman should employ a roguish Taylor to make him a Sute of Cloaths, and the Taylor, instead of giving him Buttons either made with the Needle, or woven in the Loom, shall give him those covered with Shreds of Camblet or other Stuffs: In such a Case, the Gentleman, Sir, is liable to a Penalty, tho' quite innocent of any Intention to break this Act of Parliament; so that, Sir, this Practice of weaving Buttons is not only subject to the Inconvenience I speak of, but gives a Handle to intolerable Impositions and Frauds that may be practised by Tradesmen. We had a remarkable Instance, Sir, how easily this Fraud may be practised, in the Evidence given in at the Bar of this House, by some of the principal Witnesses brought to support the Arguments of the Counsel against the Bill. When a Parcel of Buttons was laid before them, some woven in the Loom, others made of Shreds of Camblet and other such Stuffs, tho' it was pretended that the one might be easily distinguished from the other, yet none of the Evidences could possibly say which was the one or which was the other, till they had looked to that Part of the Button that is sewed to the Coat; and not even then without great Difficulty; for some of them were obliged to go to the Light, in order to view them more narrowly, and after all some of them were mistaken, and others could not positively distinguish them. If it was so hard, Sir, for these Evidences, who are themselves Manufacturers and Dealers in woven Buttons, how hard must it be to me, or another Man who knows nothing of the Matter! But, Sir, besides this Inconvenience to particular Persons, such a Practice must soon very much affect the Trade of the Nation. The Practice of making Buttons of Shreds of Stuff will in a short Time become common amongst our lower and midling Sort of People, and do great Prejudice both to the Exportation of Woollen Manufactures, and to the numerous Dealers in Needle-work Buttons at Home: By diminishing the Demand for raw Silk and Mohair, we diminish the Exports of our Woollen Goods; and by encourageing woven Buttons, we endanger the Sale of the Commodities in foreign Markets; and thereby we may diminish another Branch of our Exports. For, Sir, let us suppose that a foreign Dealer gives Commission to his Factor here for a Parcel of Buttons; the Factor, either through Ignorance or Design, sends him Buttons covered with Shreds of Camblet or other Stuff, instead of Buttons woven in the Loom. Is it not plain, Sir, that such a Practice must soon prove the Ruin of this Branch of Trade, and intirely sink the Credit of those who deal in it in foreign Markets? But this, Sir, is not the only bad Consequence that will attend our not passing this Bill into a Law. It will be evident to any Gentleman, who shall take the Trouble of reading former Acts that have passed on this Head, that in passing them, the Legislature had an Eye not only to the Encouragement of the Consumption of Raw Silk and Mohair, and the Exportation of our Staple Commodities, but likewise to the Employment and Subsistence of many thousands of Men, Women and Children, who must have been very burdensome to the Publick, had it not been for the Needle-work Manufacture And give me leave to say, Sir, that if the common Maxim is true, that, that Manufacture is most profitable for a Nation which employs the greatest Number of Hands; the Manufacture of Needle-work Buttons deserves the Attention and Encouragement of Parliament perhaps better than any other in the Kingdom. For in the Preamble of the Act of the 10th of King William, no less than five different kinds of Workers are mentioned to be employed in preparing the Materials for making the Buttons. Therefore, Sir, I think by all the Rules of good Policy, we are obliged to second the Intentions of former Parliaments in favour of this Manufacture, by passing the Bill now before us. It has already employed great Part of our Time this Session, and every Step made in it has been taken upon the most mature Deliberation, and after weighing all the Consequences that can attend it of every Kind. By passing this Act, we do no more than former Parliaments would have done, had the Inconveniency complained of been foreseen at the Time of passing the several Acts, I have mentioned; and in not passing it, I am afraid all their Intentions, in favour of this Manufacture, may be rendered ineffectual.'
'I shall readily agree with the honourable Gentleman who spoke last, that the Manufacture now under our Consideration is of very great Consequence to the Trade of this Kingdom, and that it has from Time to Time met with great Encouragement from the Legislature. Therefore, Sir, if I thought that the good Ends proposed by former Parliaments had been rendered ineffectual, and that our passing the present Bill could render them more effectual, I should be far from opposing it. But, on the other Hand, as I am persuaded that it can no way answer that Purpose, and at the same time, that it tends to do a manifest Injustice to many of his Majesty's Subjects in their private Properties, I shall beg Leave to give my Reasons why I think myself obliged to oppose it.
'The Design of the Encouragement, which the Manufacturing of Raw Silk and Mohair into Buttons and Buttonholes has met with, was principally, as the honourable Gentleman who spoke last seemed to allow, to increase the Exportation of our Woollen Manufactures: Therefore, Sir, I think it undeniably follows, that if the Manufacturing of Buttons by weaving them in the Loom, consumes as much Raw Silk and Mohair as working them Needleways, it effectually answers the chief End proposed by former Acts of Parliament that relate to this Manufacture. But by the Manner in which the honourable Gentleman reasons on this Head, one should be apt to think that these Acts restrained this Manufacture to be carried on by the Needle alone, and laid a Prohibition upon all other Methods of improving it. But this, Sir, is a Consequence that can never be admitted by any one who either looks into these particular Acts, or understands the Nature of our Laws in general. If these Words Needle and Needle-work occur in these Acts, it can be for no other Reason but because no other Words were known at that Time to express the Manner of manufacturing of Raw Silk and Mohair into Buttons. Had the Practice of weaving them in the Loom been at that Time known, I think we have not the least Reason to doubt that the same Acts would have regarded that Manner of exercising this Art, as well as the other by the Needle. So that, Sir, I humbly conceive, if it can be proved, First, That not a less, but rather a greater Quantity of Raw Silk and Mohair is consumed by the Loom Manufacturers, than by the Needleworkers: Secondly, That there is no Weight in the honourable Gentleman's Argument drawn from the great Numbers of Hands employed in the Needle-work Manufacture: And lastly, That the Dealers in the Loom Manufacture have in Proportion exported greater Quantities of their Goods than the Needle-workers have done; I say, Sir, if these three Points can be made appear, as I shall undertake to do, than the Arguments advanced in favour of this Bill must fall to the Ground.
'The Gentlemen who were present when the Witnesses against the Bill were examined at the Bar of this House, may remember, that it appeared by some of them who had weighed the Materials employed in covering a Dozen of Needlework Buttons with the same Quantity of woven Buttons, that the latter exceeded the former in Weight; and that, after the woven Buttons were made, the Manufacturers were obliged to cut off some Part of the List from each Button, where it was sewed to the Coat, which Waste still increases the Consumption of the Materials. Nor could the Evidences for the Bill, Sir, deny, that there was at least an equal Consumption of the Materials in the one Manufacture as in the other. From hence, Sir, it is evident, that the carrying on this Manufacture by the Loom effectually answers the Intention of the Acts passed in its Favour. As to the honourable Gentleman's other Arguments, drawn from the Number of Hands employed in the Needle-work Manufacture, which was the second Point I proposed to speak to, it is, in my humble Opinion, a very good Argument for dismissing this Bill; because, as the Manufacture may be carried on by a much fewer Number of Hands, with equal Advantage to our Trade in general, those who are employed in the Needle-work Way, are so many Hands taken from other Arts and other Manufactures, in which they might be employed to much better Purpose. I believe, Sir, it is not unknown to some Gentlemen in this House, that many of our Manufactures, very beneficial to the Nation, labour under great Disadvantages from the Dearness of Wages, occasioned by the Scarcity of Hands employed in them. But that Inconveniency would be soon removed, if the useless People employed in this and other Manufactures were turned over to the Manufactures that absolutely require them. Thus the honourable Gentleman's Objections arising from his Tenderness for these poor People, deprived of this Way of earning their Bread, will be removed to the Advantage both of the Kingdom, and perhaps of themselves. But to convince Gentlemen how unreasonable this very Argument is, I shall beg leave to apply it to other Cases, where a Manufacture or an Art has received farther Improvements by carrying it on with fewer Hands. There was a Time, Sir, when all the Learning of this Kingdom, and the rest of Europe, was contained in Manuscripts, the writing of which employed great Numbers of Hands, and took up a vast deal of Time in re-copying. But, Sir, how ridiculous would it have been, if on the Discovery of the Art of Printing, the Transcribers and Copyers of those Manuscripts had joined in a Petition to the Legislature, that it would be pleased to prohibit the Art of Printing, for the same Reason which the honourable Gentleman now uses, because great Numbers would thereby be deprived of Bread! But admitting, Sir, this Instance should be thought a little foreign to the present Purpose, I shall beg leave to mention another, which, I think, exactly answers the Case of the Petitioners for this Bill: The Manufacturing of Wooll, Silk, and Thread into Stockings, when that Manufacture was carried on by Knitting, gave Bread to, I believe, as great Numbers of People, as the Manufacture of Needle-work Buttons now does. But, Sir, I never heard that, when the Invention of working Stockings in the Loom was introduced, great Numbers of the Subjects were reduced to Want, and in Danger of starving; or that any Application was made to Parliament in their Behalf. In all civilized Countries, Sir, Inventions for the Improvement of Arts and Manufactures have been encouraged; sometimes Rewards, and sometimes exclusive Rights to exercise them, have been assigned to the Inventors, who are always looked upon as Benefactors to their Country.
'Not only his Majesty, and the general Approbation of the Nation, gave a Sanction to a late Invention for improving one Branch of the Manufacture of Raw Silk, but this very House rewarded the ingenious Inventor with a Present of 14,000 Pounds. This excellent Invention enabled us to carry on the Manufacture with fewer Hands than it required before, and was therefore jstustly looked upon as a publick Advantage. Now, Sir, I should be glad to know, if Gentlemen would not have thought it a very ridiculous Step in the former Manufacturers, if they had presented a Petition to this House, setting forth, 'That if the Use of the Engine invented by Sir Thomas Lombe, was not prohibited by the Parliament, many Thousands of the Petitioners would be 'in Danger of wanting Bread.' I believe no Gentleman can shew me wherein a Petition of this Kind is different from the Petition that gave Rise to the Bill now under our Consideration. Nor can I imagine that any Argument can be advanced in favour of this Bill, that does not equally serve against the Improvement, nay the Invention of any Manufacture. The Longitude, Sir, is a Discovery that would consequently be a great Improvement of Navigation, by rendering it more safe, and Voyages performed in a shorter Time, and so make less Employ for Mariners. Were an ingenious Man to discover the Longitude, would not our Sailors have as good Reason to petition this House against that Improvement of their Art, as the Needleworkers have to petition us against the Improvement of theirs? and would they not have the same Right to Redress? Having therefore, I hope, shewn that this Argument, drawn from the greater Number of Hands employed in the one Manufacture than are employed in the other, is unreasonable in itself, and attended with the grossest Absurdities, I shall now proceed to consider what Effect this Improvement can have upon our Exports.
'I believe, Sir, it cannot be disputed that the cheaper a Manufacture is carried on by a Nation, the greater Quantities of that Manufacture will that Nation be able to export. This Truth, I am afraid, appears but too plain in the present State of the British Manufactures; in which our Neighbours, the French, being able to furnish the same Commodities at a cheaper Rate, undersel us at most of the Markets in Europe. Therefore, I think, Sir, it is undeniable that every Improvement, which, by diminishing the Number of Hands required in a Manufacture, reduces the Price of the Commodity, ought to meet with Encouragement from this House. That the Method of weaving Buttons is more expeditious than that of Needle-working, has I think in effect been owned by the honourable Gentleman, and the Counsel who have spoke for the Bill. Now, Sir, the more expeditious the Method, the greater is the Reduction of Hands employed: Because, if a Man who now deals to the Value of six thousand Pounds a Year in Buttons, is obliged to employ eight Hands every Day; if four Hands, Sir, can do the same Work that these eight Hands can do; and in as short a Time, he can discharge four of his Hands, and thereby save half his Expences; consequently he will be able to serve a foreign Market at a cheaper Rate than he could before have done. The good Effect of the Reduction of Hands employed in this Manufacture appears from the Examination of the Witnesses against the Bill: For it has been proved, Sir, that, notwithstanding the Obstructions they have met with from the Petitioners for the Bill, the Loom Manufacturers have exported larger Quantities in proportion to the Number of Dealers, than the Needle-workers have ever yet done; and there is, Sir, an obvious Reason for it, which is, that the Loom Manufacturers not only can afford their Commodities much cheaper than the Needleworkers can, but their Commodities are much better in their Kind, much neater, and more lasting, as has been fully proved at the Bar of this House. There is, I think, only one Objection more, which I shall beg leave to answer: The Petitioners for the Bill alledged, that in the Loom Manufacture many Materials are used which are not Mohair, and that therefore the Loom-workers in some Measure elude the Intent of the Acts of Parliament, made for encouraging the Consumption of that Commodity. This Allegation might have had some Weight; but unfortunately for the Petitioners, it is not grounded on Fact. For the Loom-Manufacture does not elude the Intention of these Acts of Parliament, because, though the Manufacturers indeed, make use of some Materials besides Mohair and Raw Silk, yet when the Mohair and Raw Silk of an equal Number of Buttons are weighed, the Materials employed in the Loom exceed those of the Needle-workers; and the other Materials employed in each Buton, are not so heavy as the Waste of the Raw Silk and Mohair which the Loom Manufacturers are obliged to make But, Sir, besides this Answer drawn from a plain Fact, that appeared at the Bar of your House; give me leave to say, that this Objection against the Loom Manufacture is a very strong Reason that we ought to support it; for, as the Intention of these Acts was to encrease the Consumption of our Commodities, therefore, whatever best answers that Intention, best deserves our Encouragement. Now, Sir, it appears that the Materials, besides those of Raw Silk and Mohair, made use of by the Loom Manufacturers, are the Produce of this Kingdom; it appears that their using them does not diminish the Consumption of the other Commodities; and therefore it undeniably follows, that the Loom Manufacture is best calculated for answering the Intentions of the Legislature.
'Having thus, Sir, I think, obviated the principal Arguments in favour of the Bill, I shall now beg leave to put Gentlemen in Mind, that, by passing it, we shall do a Thing which I am sure every Gentleman in this House would willingly avoid. We make an Encroachment, Sir, upon the private Property of our Fellow Subjects. We deprive them of the natural Right which every Man, in a Land of Liberty ought to enjoy, of gaining Bread in an honest and lawful Way. Nay more, Sir, we give a total Discouragement to any future Improvement of Arts and Manufactures. How will it found, to After-Times, that in a Reign remarkable for the Encouragement of all the Arts, especially those of Commerce, a British Parliament, by one Act, prevented all future Improvement of any of these Arts: Let us not, Sir, draw upon us the Imputation of so much Barbarism, let us not give our Neighbours so just a Handle of Reproach; but let us remember, that not only the present but future Ages are concerned in every Step of this Nature we shall make. Had our Ancestors, Sir, discouraged the Improvers of Arts and Manufactures, they could have had no Title to the Gratitude of their Posterity. And, Sir, give me leave to add, that in England the Advancement of the liberal, is but the Consequence of the Encouragement given by the Legislature to the Improvement of the commercial Arts. In all Ages and Countries they have gone Hand in Hand, they have risen and fallen with one another, and whatever has affected the latter, has always proved fatal to the former. Therefore, Sir, I am against our passing this Bill.'
April 13. Several Persons were examined at the Bar of the House upon the counterfeiting the Hands of some of the Members in Franks; and they owning the Offence, some of them were committed to the Custody of the Serjeant at Arms, and others of them to Newgate.
The Chair. ; Debate upon printing the Proceedings of the House.
After which Mr. Speaker informed the House, that it was with some Concern he saw a Practice prevailing, which a little reflected upon the Dignity of that House: What he meant was the inserting an Account of their Proceedings in the printed News Papers, by which Means the Proceedings of the House were liable to very great Misrepresentations. That he had in his Hands a printed News Paper, which contained his Majesty's Answer to their late Address, before the same had been reported from the Chair, the only Way of communicating it to the Public. That he thought it his Duty to inform the House of these Practices, the rather because he had observed them of late to have run into very great Abuses; and therefore he hoped that Gentlemen would propose some Method of stopping it.
Sir William Yonge.
'I am very glad you have mentioned this Affair. I have long looked upon it as a Practice very inconsistent with the Forms and Dignity which this House ought always to support; but since you have been pleased to mention this from the Chair, I must beg Leave to carry my Observations a little farther. I have observed, Sir, that not only an Account of what you do, but of what you say, is regularly printed and circulated through all Parts, both of the Town and Country. At the same Time, Sir, there are very often gross Misrepresentations, both of the Sense and Language of Gentlemen. This is very liable to give the Publick false Impressions both of Gentlemens Conduct and Abilities. Therefore, Sir, in my Opinion, it is now high Time to put a Stop to it. Not that I should be for attacking the Liberty of the Press; that is a Point I would be as tender of as any Gentleman in this House. Perhaps some Gentlemen may think it indeed a Hardship, not to be able to find their Names in Print, at the Head of a great many fine Things, in the monthly Magazines; but this, Sir, can never prevent Gentlemen from sending their Speeches, if they please; it only prevents other Gentlemen from being misrepresented, as to what they say, which, Sir, I am sure is what every Gentleman in this House will wish for. Therefore, I hope Gentlemen will consider of some Method of putting a Stop to this Abuse, more effectual than we have fallen upon yet. There is, indeed, a Resolution on our Journals, against printing or publishing any of the Proceedings of this House, but by Authority of the Chair; but People had generally run away with the Notion, that this Prohibition is in Force only during the Time we are sitting, and that as soon as the Session ends, they are at Liberty to print and publish what they please: Therefore, I hope Gentlemen will come into a Resolution, for explaining that Matter; and if they do, I am very sure that if it is broke through, I myself will move the House, with the very first Opportunity, next Session. But the Printers of the Papers, Sir, which you have in your Hands, cannot even plead the Excuse of the Recess of Parliament; therefore deserve to be punished; and if you do not either punish them, or take some effectual Method of checking them, you may soon expect to see your Votes, your Proceedings, and your Speeches, printed and hawked about the Streets, while we are sitting in this House.'
Sir Will. Windham.
'No Gentleman can be more jealous and tender than I have always been of the Rights and Privileges of this House, nor more ready to concur with any Measure for putting a Stop to any Abuses which may affect either of them. But at the same Time, Sir, I own, I think we ought to be very cautious how we form a Resolution upon this Head; and yet I think it is absolutely necessary that some Question should be formed. I say, Sir, we ought to be very cautious in what Manner we form a Resolution; for it is a Question so nearly connected with the Liberty of the Press, that it will require a great deal of Tenderness to form a Resolution which may preserve Gentlemen from having their Sense misrepresented to the Publick, and at the same Time guard against all Encroachments upon the Liberty of the Press. On the other Hand, Sir, I am sensible that there is a Necessity of putting a Stop to this Practice of printing, what are called the Speeches of this House, because I know that Gentlemen's Words in this House have been mistaken and misrepresented: I don't know, Sir, but I have some Reason of Complaint myself upon that Head. I have, indeed, seen many Speeches of Gentlemen in this House that were fairly and accurately taken; and no Gentleman, when that is the Case, ought to be ashamed that the World should know every Word he speaks in this House: For my own Part, I never shall, for I hope never to act or speak in this House, any Thing that I shall be ashamed to own to all the World. But of late, Sir, I have seen such monstrous Mistakes in some Gentlemen's Speeches, as they have been printed in our News Papers, that it is no Wonder if Gentlemen think it high Time to have a Stop put to such a Practice.
'Yet still, Sir, there are two Considerations, which I own weigh very much with me upon this Occasion. That this House has a Right to prohibit the Publication of any of its Proceedings during the Time we are sitting, is past all Doubt, and there is no Question, but that, by the Resolutions that now stand upon our Votes, and are renewed every Session, the Printers of the Papers you have in your Hand are liable to the Censure of this House. But I am not at all so clear as to the Right we may have of preventing any of our Proceedings from being printed during our Recess; at least, Sir, I am pretty sure that People without Doors are strongly possessed with that Notion, and therefore I should be against our inflicting any Censure at present, for what is past of that Kind. If Gentlemen are of Opinion, which I do own I am not, that we have a Power to prevent any Account of our Proceedings and Debates from being communicated to the Publick, even during our Recess, then, as this Affair has been mentioned, they will no doubt think it very proper to come to a Resolution against that Practice, and to punish it with a very severe Penalty; but if we have no such Power, Sir, I own I don't see how you can form any Resolution upon this Head, that will not be liable to very great Censure.
'The other Consideration, that weighs very much, Sir, with me upon this Occasion, is the Prejudice which the Publick will think they sustain, by being deprived of all Knowledge of what passes in this House, otherwise than by the printed Votes, which are very lame and imperfect, for satisfying their Curiosity of knowing in what Manner their Representatives act within Doors. They have been long used to be indulged in this, and they may possibly think it a Hardship to be deprived of it now. Nay, Sir, I must go farther: I don't know but they may have a Right to know somewhat more of the Proceedings of this House than what appears upon your Votes; and if I were sure that the Sentiments of Gentlemen were not misrepresented, I should be against our coming to any Resolution that could deprive them of a Knowledge that is so necessary for their being able to judge of the Merits of their Representatives within Doors. If Gentlemen, however, are of Opinion that they can frame a Resolution, which will put a Stop to all Impositions, and yet leave the Publick some Room for having just Information of what passes within these Walls, I shall be extremely glad to give it my Concurrence. But I am absolutely against our stretching our Power farther than it will go consistently with the just Rights of Parliament; such Stretches rather weaken than give any Strength to the Constitution; and I am sure no Gentleman will care to do what may not only look like our claiming Powers unknown to our Constitution, but what, in its Consequences, may greatly affect the Liberty of the Press. If we shall extend this Resolution to the Recess of Parliament, all political Writing, if the Authors shall touch upon any Thing that past in the preceding Session, may be affected by it; for I don't know that any body would venture to publish any Thing that might bring upon them the Censure of this House.
'In the mean Time, Sir, I am as willing as any Gentleman in this House, that a Stop should be put to the Practice you have taken notice of from the Chair. It has grown to such a Pitch, that I remember some Time ago there was a publick Dispute in the News Papers, betwixt two Printers or Booksellers of two Pamphlets, which of them contained the true Copy of a certain honourable Gentleman's Speech in this House. It is therefore high Time for Gentlemen to think of somewhat to be done for that Purpose, and I make no doubt but that any Resolution this House shall think fit to come to, will put an effectual Stop to it.'
Thomas Winnington Esq;.
'I do not pretend to know the Forms and the Powers of this House so well as the honourable Gentleman over the Way, who has much more Experience in both than I can pretend to; but it is very surprizing to me, that any Gentleman should seem to make a Doubt of the Power which this House has during the Recess of Parliament. It is true, we have no Power, but as a House, to make any Commitment, or to pass any Censure; but then it is as true, that the Orders and Resolutions of this House are, or ought to be, as binding during our Recess, as during our Sitting. The Reason, Sir, of this is plain; because we are still the same House, and we have the same Authority during our Adjournment or Prorogation, as when we sit; our Privileges are the same, and for the same Reason our Acts ought to have the same Force too. Can any Gentleman doubt, that if this House shall come to a Resolution, that if any Person should, during our Recess, presume to print any of our Proceedings, that we would not have a Right to punish him next Time we met together as a House? I dare say, Gentlemen will not pretend that we have not; therefore, Sir, I hope you will come to some very strong Resolution upon this Occasion. I hope ye will declare, that whoever shall presume to print any Part of the Proceedings of this House, during the Recess of Parliament, will be equally liable to the Censure of this House as if it were during the Session.
'As to what the honourable Gentleman insinuated about the Liberty of the Press being in Danger, it is a Consideration I am in no Manner of Pain about. Our coming to a Resolution, that we will not have what we say misrepresented, can never affect the Liberty of the Press. It is what every private Gentleman has a Right to require, tho' he were out of Parliament; for I believe no Gentleman would wish to see his Sentiments misrepresented in Print, even tho' they regarded a private Affair; but when such a Thing happens in a Debate, to six a Gentleman's publick Character, the Consequences are much worse. For my own Part, Sir, I am not afraid of speaking my Mind in this House; but I should be very sorry to see any Thing I say in this House misrepresented in a publick News-Paper; and I should think I had a very good Title to Redress, even tho' I were not a Member of this House.
'But, Sir, setting aside the Case of these Gentlemen's being misrepresented in what they say in these publick Papers, I think it is a very great Injury done us, as a House of Parliament. I don't see why we ought to be less jealous of our Rights and Priviledges, than the other House is. I know of no Right we have given up, with regard to our Power to regulate our own Proceedings that the other House enjoys: and I am sure there have been some late Instances, wherein they have, I believe, pretty severely punished some Printers for presuming to publish their Protests. They did this, Sir, not because their Words or Meaning were misrepresented, but because they conceived it to be an Indignity done to them as a House of Parliament, to print any Proceeding of theirs whatsoever, without their Consent and Authority. That of itself, Sir, is a Reason why we ought to put a Stop to this scandalous Practice of printing our Proceedings; because if we should appear less jealous of our Rights and Priviledges, than the other House are of theirs, it may be afterwards told us, that we do not enjoy such Rights and Privileges, because at such a Time, when we had the same Reason as the other House had, we did not exercise them. Therefore, if we do not put a speedy Stop to this Practice, it will be look'd upon without Doors, that we have no Power to do it, for the publick will very justly think that if we had such a Power, we would exercise it. And then, Sir, what will be the Consequence; why Sir, you will have every Word that is spoken here by Gentlemen, misrepresented by Fellows who thrust themselves into our Gallery. You will have the Speeches of this House every Day printed, even during your Session. And we shall be looked upon as the most contemptible Assembly, on the Face of the Earth. I agree with the honourable Gentleman over the Way, that it may not be quite so right, to punish those Printers for what they have done already; for really, Sir, we have been so very remiss in putting a Stop to this Practice, that by this Time they may think they are in the Right in what they do. But I can see no Manner of Difficulty we can be under, to come to some very vigorous Resolution to prevent the like for the future. I would have this Resolution, Sir, extended not only to comprehend the Time of our sitting, but of our Recess. If the Printers of the Monthly Magazines, and the other News Papers, are not more cautious for the future, I think we shall be wanting to that Regard, which we owe ourselves as a House of Parliament, if we do not proceed against them with Severity. Therefore, Sir, I hope Gentlemen will think of a proper Resolution with regard to this Matter of Complaint.'
'I agree entirely with the Gentleman who has already spoken, that it is absolutely necessary a Stop should be put to the Practice which has been so justly complained of: I think no Appeals should be made to the Publick with regard to what is said in this Assembly, and to print or publish the Speeches of Gentlemen in this House, even tho' they were not misrepresented, looks very like making them accountable without Doors for what they say within. Besides, Sir, we know very well that no Man can be so guarded in his Expressions, as to wish to see every Thing he says in this House in Print. I remember the Time when this House was so jealous, so cautious of doing any thing that might look an Appeal to their Constituents, that not even the Votes were printed without Leave. A Gentleman every Day rose in his Place, and desired the Chair to ask Leave of the House, that their Votes for that Day should be printed. How this Custom came to be dropp'd I cannot so well account for, but I think it high Time for us to prevent any farther Encroachment upon our Privileges; and I hope Gentlemen will enter into a proper Resolution for the Purpose.
'But, tho' I am as much as any Gentleman can be for putting a Stop to this scandalous Practice, I should be very tender of doing it in such a Manner, as may either affect the Liberty of the Press, or make it seem as if we claim a Privilege to which we have no Title. An honourable Gentleman near me was pleased to mention the Powers which the other House had of calling Printers to an Account for printing their Protests. It is very true, Sir, they have such a Power, and they have exercised it very lately; but we have no such Power: They may punish a Printer for printing any Part of the Proceedings of their House, for twenty, thirty, or forty Years back; but then, Gentlemen are to consider that the House of Peers is a Court of Record, and as such, its Rights and Privileges never die. Whereas, this House never pretended to be a Court of Record; our Privileges expire at the End of every Parliament; and the next House of Commons is quite different from the last. As to the Question whether we have a Right to punish any Printer, who shall publish our Proceedings, or any Part of them, during our Recess, which I take to be the only Question at present, it may be worthy Consideration: For my own Part, I am apt to think that we may; because our Privileges as a House of Parliament exist during the whole Continuance of Parliament; and our not sitting never makes any Violation of these Privileges committed during a Recess less liable to Censure, the next Time we meet as a House. However, Sir, as it has been long the Practice to print some Account of our Proceedings during our Recess, I am against punishing any Person for what is past, because very possibly they did not know they were doing amiss; and if Gentlemen think fit to enter into any Resolution for the Time to come, I dare say it will be sufficient to deter all Offenders in that Way. But that Resolution, Sir, cannot affect any Person, who shall print an Account of your Proceedings when this Parliament shall be dissolved. There is an (fn. 1)Honourable Gentleman near me, who knows that the History of a whole Parliament was once published in a Six-penny Pamphlet, and their Transactions set in no very savourable Light, for the Gentlemen who composed it. I never heard, Sir, that any succeeding House of Commons took that amiss, nor that the honourable Gentleman, who was generally look'd upon as the Author of it, was ever called to Account by either House of Parliament. Parliaments Sir, when they do amiss, will be talk'd of with the same Freedom, as any other Set of Men whatsoever. This Parliament, I hope, will never deserve it; but, if it did, I should be very sorry, that any Resolutions were entered into in order to prevent its being represented, in the present or the next Age, in its proper Colours. I am sure the honourable Gentleman who sits near me, will agree with me in this; and whatever the other House may do, Sir, I hope we never shall stretch, our Privilege, so as to cramp the Freedom of writing on publick Affairs.
'But this Consideration, Sir, can never affect the Resolutions which Gentlemen propose to come to now. We have rather been too remiss in not putting a Stop to this scandalous Practice that has been complained of. I always thought that these Pamphlets containing our Debates were circulated by the Government's Encouragement, and at their Expence; for till the honourable Gentleman who spoke last save one in the Debate, mentioned the Magazines in the Manner he did, I have been still used to look on the publishing them as a ministerial Project; for I imagined that it being found unpracticable to make the People buy and read the Gazetteer by itself, it was contrived so as that the Writings of the other Party, being printed in the same Pamphlet, it might be some Invitation to the Publick to look into the Gazetteer, and I dare say, Sir, the great Run which the Magazines have had has been entirely owing to this Stratagem. The Good and the Bad are printed together, and People are by that Means drawn in to read both. But I think it is now high Time, to put a Stop to the Effects they may have, by coming to a Resolution that may at least prevent any Thing being published, during the Time of our sitting as a House, which may be imposed upon the World as the Language and Words of Gentlemen who perhaps never spoke them.'
Sir Robert Walpole
'You have with great Justice punished some Persons, for forging the Names of Gentlemen upon the Backs of Letters; but the Abuse now, complained of is, I conceive, a Forgery of a worse Kind; for it tends to misrepresent the Sense of Parliament, and impose upon the Understanding of the whole Nation. It is but a petty Damage that can arise from a forg'd Frank, when compared to the infinite Mischiefs that may come from this Practice. I have read some Debates of this House, Sir, in which I have been made to speak the very reverse of what I meant. I have read others of them wherein all the Wit, the Learning, and the Argument has been thrown into one Side, and on the other nothing but what was low, mean, and ridiculous; and yet when it comes to the Question, the Division has gone against the Side, which upon the Face of the Debate had Reason and Justice to support it. So that, Sir, had I been a Stranger to the Proceedings and to the Nature of the Arguments themselves, I must have thought this to have been one of the most contemptible Assemblies on the Face of the Earth. What Notion then, Sir, can the Publick, who have no other Means of being inform'd of the Debates of this House, than what they have from these Papers, entertain of the Wisdom, and Abilities of an Assembly, who are represented therein to carry almost every Point against the strongest and the plainest Argument and Appearances. However, Sir, as I believe Gentlemen are by this Time pretty sensible of the Necessity of putting a Stop to this Practice, it will be quite unnecessary for me to argue a Point wherein we are all agreed. But I cannot help taking Notice of one Thing mentioned by the honourable Gentleman who spoke last, since I was the Person to whom he was pleased to appeal. He mentioned, that the History of a whole Parliament had been printed, and seemed to infinuate from this, that People might make very free with Parliaments. Really, Sir, I will be so free as to own that I do know of such a Pamphlet being printed; nay, I believe, I know a little of the Author, and the Publication. But at the same Time I know Sir, that, that was one of the worst Houses of Commons that ever this Nation saw; that they had a Design to introduce the Pretender; that they had approved of a scandalous Peace, after the most glorious War that was ever carried on; and had it not been for some very favourable Circumstances that fell out, they would have set aside the present happy Establishment in his Majesty's Person and Family. I hope, Sir, no Gentleman will find Fault with any Reflections, that could be thrown out against such a House of Commons: I hope likewise, that no Gentleman will pretend to draw any Parallels betwixt their Conduct and ours. But, Sir, besides these Considerations, Gentlemen are to reflect, that the Parliament which was described in that History, had been dissolv'd before the History itself was published. And not only so, Sir, but there is a noble Lord in the other House, who can, if he pleases, inform Gentlemen, that the Author of that History was so apprehensive of the Consequence of printing it, that the Press was carried to his House, and the Copies printed off there.
'This, I think, Sir, will be sufficient to shew, that the Author did not think himself quite out of Danger, even tho' the Parliament was dissolv'd. But, I am not at all for carrying Things to such a Length at present: It may be sufficient, if we come to a Resolution to prevent the Publicacation of any Part of our Proceedings during the Recess, as well as the Sitting of the Parliament. As to what the honourable Gentleman said, with regard to the Magazines being published and distributed by Order, and at the Expence of the Government, I don't know if he was serious or not. If he was serious, he must have a very contemptible Opinion of the Understanding of those Gentlemen, who have the Honour to serve his Majesty, if he imagines that they would be so weak as to propagate Papers, every Page almost of which hath a direct Tendency against their own Interest. If any Gentleman will take the Trouble, which I own I very seldom do, to look into one of these Magazines, he will find four Pages wrote against the Government for one that is in its Favour; and generally the Subject is of such a Nature, as would be severely punished under any other Government than our own. If the honourable Gentleman was not serious, I think a more proper Time might have been chosen for shewing his Wit, than while we are considering of the Means of putting a Stop to a Practice, which he himself, and every Gentleman who spoke in this Debate, allows so nearly to affect the Dignity and Privileges of this House. For my own Part, Sir, I am extremely indifferent, what Opinion some Gentlemen may form of the Writers in favour of the Government: But, Sir, I shall never have the worse Opinion of them for that: There is nothing more easy than to raise a Laugh; it has been the common Practice of all Minorities when they were driven out of every other Argument. I never shall be afraid, Sir, to do what I think right, and for the Service of his Majesty and my Country, because I may be laughed at. But really, Sir, I will be so free as to say, that if the Want of Wit, Learning, Good-manners, and Truth, is a proper Object of Contempt and Ridicule, the Writers in the Opposition seem to me to have a much better Title to both than those for the Government. No Government, I will venture to say, ever punished so few Libels, and no Government ever had Provocation to punish so many. I could name a Government in this Country, Sir, under which those Writings, which are now cry'd up, as founded upon the Laws, and in the Constitution, would have been punish'd as Libels, even by Gentlemen who are now the warmest Advocates for the Liberty of the Press, and for suffering the Authors of those daily Libels that appear in Print to pass with Impunity. But I ask Pardon for what I have said that may appear foreign to the present Consideration; I was led to it by what had been thrown out by the Gentleman, who spoke before.'
That it is a high Indignity to, and a notorious Breach of the Privilege of this House, for any News-Writer, in Letters or other Papers, (as Minutes, or under any other Denomination) or for any Printer or Publisher, of any printed News Paper of any Denomination, to presume to insert in the said Letters or Papers, or to give therein any Account of the Debates, or other Proceedings of this House, or any Committee thereof, as well during the Recess, as the Sitting of Parliament; and that this House will proceed with the utmost Severity against such Offenders.
'The advanced Season of the Year, together with the Apprehensions of a Rupture happening betwixt Spain and Great-Britain, before our next Meeting, makes it necessary for us to enter into such Measures as may render the War, should any happen, successful on our Part. By the Resolutions which we have already come to this Session, we have enabled his Majesty to provide for War; we have declared our Readiness to stand by him, in whatever Measures he may find necessary for vindicating the Honour of his Crown, and for procuring Reparation to his injured Subjects, and Satisfaction for the Insults that have been put upon the Nation. At the same Time, Sir, these Resolutions are upon the clearest Proofs of an insolent unjustifiable Conduct on the Part of Spain, and which, without a very ample Satisfaction on their Part, must unavoidably occasion a War betwixt the two Nations before next Session of Parliament.
'In the Event of a War, I believe, no Gentleman doubts but that it must on our Part be a Sea War; and if it is a Sea War, we ought to consider of the proper Measures for annoying the Enemy as effectually as possible. In order to do this, we ought to consult the Conduct of that wise Administration, which carried on the last great War in Europe. These great Men, Sir, found by Experience, that the Prize Offices, notwithstanding all the Precautions taken to regulate them, were Discouragements to the brave Seamen who had ventured their Lives in their Country's Service: For when a Prize was brought in, the Commissioners of the Prize Offices, their Clerks, and the other Offices attending them fell upon so many low Shifts to defraud the poor Sailors, first by deducting so much clear of the Prize for the Crown, then so much for their own Perquisites, that I have many Times known a Prize bring the Captains into Debt to the Crown. For this Reason it was necessary in the 6th of Queen Anne, to pass an Act for better settling the Trade of the Kingdom by Cruisers and Convoys. By this Law, which was made only to continue during the War we were then engaged in, it was enacted, that if any Vessel should be taken by any Ship of War, or Privater, and condemn'd as Prize, the Officers and Seamen concerned in taking her should have the sole Interest and Property in the Ship and Cargo so taken. By the same Act proper Methods were laid down for managing and disposing of the Prize, and for dividing the Money arising from the Sale thereof among those that had, and ought only to have a Right to it, without subjecting our brave and honest Seamen to the Fees and Perquisites, and usual Purloinings of a publick Office. And as a farther Encouragement for our Seamen to weaken and distress the Enemy, by seizing and taking their Ships, a Reward of five Pounds to be paid out of the publick Revenue was given to every Man that was on board such Ships of War, or Privateer, at the Beginning of the Engagement; so that every Seaman had the Comfort to think, that if he was killed in the Action, his Wife and Children, or his Executors, would be sure of getting something by his Death.
'But this Affair having been once brought under the Consideration of Parliament, even this Law was not thought sufficient for the Encouragement of our Seamen, and for preventing the Abuses that had been put upon them; and therefore, Sir, another Act was passed the same Year, for encouraging our Trade to America, by which it was expresly enacted, That all Prize Offices should be suppressed, and that the Officers and Seamen of every Ship of War should have the sole Interest in all Ships and Goods, being first condemned by the proper Court as lawful Prize. By the same Act it was likewise enacted, that during the War, the Lord Admiral, or Commissioners of the Admiralty, should, at the Request of any British Owner of any Ship, giving Security as usual, except for Payment of the Tenth to the Lord-Admiral, grant Commissions to the Commanders of such Ships, for seizing Ships and Goods belonging to his Majesty's Enemies in any of the Seas or Rivers in America: And that the Ships and Goods so taken, after being adjudged Prize, should be divided amongst the Owners of, and Persons on board the Ships that took them, according to the Agreement that had been made between the Owners and the Ships Crew. And in order to encourage private Men or Societies, to be at the Expence of attacking and making War on the Enemies of their Country, it was by the same Law enacted,' that her Majesty, during the War, might grant Commissions or Charters to any Persons or Societies, for taking any Ships, Goods, Harbours, Lands, or Fortifications of her Majesty's Enemies in America, and for holding and enjoying the same as their own Property and Estate for ever.
'But all these Regulations, Sir, being determinable at the End of the War, they can at present be of no Manner of Use to the Nation. However it is evident, that if we would do any Thing effectual against Spain, these Regulations must be reviv'd; it is evident that if they are not revived, our Sailors, upon the Commencement of Hostilities, will be subjected to all the Inconveniencies which rendered the passing the two Laws, I have now mentioned, necessary. The Officers who must be concerned in the Prize-Offices, would, I believe, have as clammy Fingers as any of their Predecessors, and the brave Sailors, be as much imposed upon. A Bill for remedying these Inconveniences cannot be objected to, but by those who wish this Nation no Success in any Thing undertaken for the common Good. I am indeed sorry, that the Regulations contained in the two Acts I have mentioned, were not made perpetual; which might then casily have been done, because it might have been enacted, that they should at the Beginning of every future War be revived by his Majesty's Proclamation, and that they should then continue in Force, till his Majesty put a Stop to them by a new Proclamation: This, I think, Sir, was a Fault; and as we are now in Danger of being involv'd in a War before next Session of Parliament, we ought therefore, in this Session, to repair that Fault or Oversight, by enacting, that in case of a War with Spain, these several Regulations should be revived. The Bill, Sir, which I intend to move for, is calculated for this and no other Purpose; for as it introduces no new Law, nor proposes the establishing any Regulations, of which we have had no Experience; as its only Intention is to revive some former temporary Regulations, that were found to be of great Advantage during the last War; it can occasion no Jealousy or Suspicion in any British Subject, nor can it give Uneasiness to any Man that wishes well to Great Britain. It may indeed give some Uneasiness and Concern to the Court of Spain, because it will convince them we are resolved not to be put off any longer with tedious Negociations or sham Treaties: That nothing will now prevail but granting us immediate and full Satisfaction: And that if we send out any more Squadrons, it will not be to pay them a Compliment, but to pour down the Vengeance of Great Britain upon them. This will be more effectual for preventing a War than all the Treaties which we have been puzzling out for these eighteen or twenty Years, and at the same Time be an Encouragement for our People at home, to contribute with Chearfulness their Proportion of the great Expences which the present Situation of Affairs requires.
'The other Arguments, Sir, which may be advanced to support the Bill, which I intend to move for, will perhaps come more properly in another Time. At present I humbly move, that the sixth and eighth Sections of an Act made in the sixth Year of the Reign of Queen Anne, intituled An Act for the better securing the Trade of this Kingdom by Cruizers and Convoys; and also the second Section of an Act made the same Year, intituled, An Act for the Encouragement of the Trade to America, may be read.
Sir Robert Walpole.
'I believe Gentlemen will be pretty much disappointed, when I assure them that I do not rise up to oppose this Bill, hinted at by the honourable Gentleman who spoke last. I am for my own Part persuaded, when it comes before the House, that it will appear a very improper Bill at this Juncture, and I will undertake to prove it so. I cannot however avoid taking notice how different the Time and the Manner in which the two Bills mentioned were brought in, is from the Time and Manner in which the honourable Gentleman proposes to bring in his Bill.
'As to the Time Sir, the two former Bills were passed, after the Nation had been five or six Years in actual War; therefore neither we nor our Allies could suffer by any precipitate Declaration of such a Measure as this is. By these Bills, Sir, we did not make one Nation in Europe our Enemy; we gave no Jealousy to our Allies; we put the Crown under no Difficulties: But I shall submit it to Gentlemen's Consideration, how far it is possible to avoid these Inconveniences, should such a Bill pass at present. It would perhaps, Sir, be looked upon as anticipating the Debate, should I enter upon any Discussion of our present Situation at home and abroad. That is a Consideration which will be much more proper when the Bill is brought before us. Thus much only I will venture to say, that I shall never be either afraid or ashamed of opposing any Bill, which may tend to plunge this Nation into a ruinous and perhaps doubtful War.
'Having said thus much, Sir, with regard to the Timing of this Bill, give me leave just to touch upon the Manner in which it was brought in. I am old enough, Sir, to remember, that when the two Bills passed in the sixth Year of Queen Anne for the Purposes mentioned by the honourable Gentleman, were brought in, the Crown had previously given up its Title to the Share which it claimed in the Prizes. We had likewise some Regard to the Rights of the Lord High Admiral. Gentlemen will consider if we can properly bring in any Bill of this Nature, without some previous Steps of that Kind: However, as I am intirely ignorant of the Shape in which the Bill may appear, I shall not oppose its being brought in.
Sir Will Windham.
'The honourable Gentleman who spoke last, did not indeed oppose the Motion for bringing in this Bill, but he took care to let Gentlemen know that he thought it a very wrong Thing to bring it in at all. But I hope Gentlemen will not for all that be so far prepossessed against it as to think it a bad Bill, because one Gentleman does not think it fit for his Purpose. As to what the honourable Gentleman said about the Time in which this Bill is moved for; instead of being sorry with him that it is too precipitate, I am sorry we are so late in moving it. We are not indeed in actual War at present with the Spaniards, but I am very sure they are at War with us, and have been so these twenty Years; therefore it is now high Time for us to shew them that we dare make War upon them.
'The honourable Gentleman's other Objection was to the Manner in which this Bill is to be brought in. I believe, Sir, it is as regularly moved for as any other Bill of the same or a like Nature ever was. We have indeed had no previous Notice from the Crown of a Cession of its Right in the Prizes; but I apprehend there is no Occasion for it, as will appear when the Bill is brought in. As to what the honourable Gentleman said about the Crown's previously giving up its Share in the Prizes, if it is Fact, it discovered great Wisdom and Honesty in the then Ministry, in advising the Crown to such a Cession; but I apprehend the Cession which the honourable Gentleman means, was no other than a Pargraph in a Speech from the Throne, three or four Years before the Acts from which you have heard the Paragraphs read were passed, and which I believe had no Weight with the House of Commons which passed these Acts. The honourable Gentleman mentioned the Rights of the Lord High Admiral. If the Lord High Admiral has any Claim against this Bill, I dare say the Gentleman, in whom that great Office is now vested, will take care that no future Lord High Admiral shall suffer for Want of an Opposition to any Invasions upon his Rights: So I hope Gentlemen will not be amused by any Assertions or Insinuations, as if this Bill were disrespectful to the Crown, or prejudicial to any of the great Officers; it can be of Prejudice to none but to those who are so to the Nation.'
Motion by Mr. Pulteney for the Bill.
Mr. Pulteney then made a Motion, seconded by Mr. Sandys, that Leave be given to bring in a Bill for the more effectual securing and encouraging the Trade of his Majesty's Subjects to America; which was ordered accordingly, and
The Bill presented.
Resolution to commit it.
That this House will To-morrow Morning resolve itself into a Committee of the whole House upon the Bill for the more effectual securing and encouraging the Trade of his Majesty's British Subjects to America.