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A non-fiction by Samuel Johnson

Debate On The Bill For The Encouragement And Increase Of Seamen

Title:     Debate On The Bill For The Encouragement And Increase Of Seamen
Author: Samuel Johnson [More Titles by Johnson]


The bill was ordered to be read the second time, and to be printed for the use of the members, that it might be thoroughly examined and understood.

On the forty-fourth day, the second reading of the bill was postponed to the fiftieth; but the grand motion being debated on that day, nothing else was heard.

On the fifty-first it was again put off; but

On the fifty-sixth day, being read a second time, it was, after some opposition, referred to a committee of the whole house, to sit five days after. In the meanwhile,

On the fifty-seventh, it was ordered that the proper officers do lay before this house an account of what persons were authorized, by virtue of the act in the 4th of queen Anne, for "the encouragement and increase of seamen, and for the better and speedier manning her fleet;" to conduct seamen or seafaring men taken upon privy searches made by applications to justices; and what number of seamen or seafaring men were returned; also, the charge attending the same.

On the sixty-first day, moved that the said account should be read; which being done, the house resolved itself into a grand committee on the present bill; and the first clause being read, proposing the blanks to be filled thus: that every volunteer seamen, after five years' service, be entitled to six pounds per year, during life.

Sir John BARNARD rose, and spoke as follows:--Sir, as it is our duty to provide laws, by which all frauds and oppressions may be punished, when they are detected, we are no less obliged to obviate such practices as shall make punishments necessary; nor are we only to facilitate the detection, but take away, as far as it is possible, the opportunities of guilt. It is to no purpose that punishments are threatened, if they can be evaded, or that rewards are offered, if they may by any mean artifices be withheld.

For this reason, sir, I think it necessary to observe, that the intent of this clause, the most favourable and alluring clause in the bill, may lose its effect by a practice not uncommon, by which any man, however inclined to serve his country, may be defrauded of the right of a volunteer.

Many men have voluntarily applied to the officers of ships of war, and after having been rejected by them as unfit for the service, have been dragged on board within a few days, perhaps within a few hours afterwards, to undergo all the hardships, without the merit, of volunteers.

When any man, sir, has been rejected by the sea officers, he ought to have a certificate given him, which shall be an exemption from an impress, that if any other commander shall judge more favourably of his qualifications, he may always have the privilege of a volunteer, and be entitled to the reward which he deserved, by his readiness to enter the service.

If such provisions are not made, this hateful practice, a practice, sir, common and notorious, and very discouraging to such as would enter the service of the publick, may so far prevail, that no man shall be able to denominate himself a volunteer, or claim the reward proposed by the bill.

Admiral WAGER spoke next, to the following effect:--Sir, it is not common for men to receive injuries without applying for redress, when it may certainly be obtained. If any proceedings like those which are now complained of, had been mentioned at the board of admiralty, they had been immediately censured and redressed; but as no such accusations were offered, I think it may probably be concluded, that no such crimes have been committed.

For what purpose oppressions of this kind should be practised, it is not easy to conceive; for the officers are not at all rewarded for impressing sailors. As, therefore, it is not probable that any man acts wickedly or cruelly without temptation: as I have never heard any such injury complained of by those that suffered it, I cannot but imagine, that it is one of those reports which arise from mistake, or are forged by malice, to injure the officers, and obstruct the service.

Lord BALTIMORE rose next, and spoke to the following effect:--That the practice now complained of, sir, is very frequent, and, whatever may be the temptation to it, such as every day produces some instances of, I have reasons for asserting with great confidence. I have, within these few days, as I was accidentally upon the river, informed myself of two watermen ignominiously dragged by force into the service to which they had voluntarily offered themselves a few days before. The reasons of such oppression, it is the business of those gentlemen to inquire, whom his majesty intrusts with the care of his fleet; but to interrupt the course of wickedness, to hinder it from frustrating the rewards offered by the publick, is the province of the representatives of the people. And I hope, sir, some proviso will be made in this case.

Admiral NORRIS rose and said:--Sir, if any such practices had been frequent, to what can it be imputed, that those who employ their lives in maritime business should be strangers to them? Why have no complaints been made by those that have been injured? Or why should officers expose themselves to the hazard of censure without advantage? I cannot discover why these hardships should be inflicted, nor how they could have been concealed, and, therefore, think the officers of the navy may be cleared from the imputation, without farther inquiry.

Sir John BARNARD spoke again, to the following purpose:--Sir, it is in vain that objections are made, if the facts upon which they are founded may be denied at pleasure: nothing is more easy than to deny, because proofs are not required of a negative. But as negatives require no proof, so they have no authority, nor can any consequence be deduced from them. I might, therefore, suffer the facts to remain in their present state, asserted on one side by those that have reasons to believe them, and doubted on the other without reasons; for surely he cannot be said to reason, who questions an assertion only because he does not know it to be true.

But as every question, by which the liberty of a Briton may be affected, is of importance sufficient to require that no evidence should be suppressed by which it may be cleared, I cannot but think it proper that a committee should be formed to examine the conduct of the officers in this particular; and in confidence of the veracity of those from whom I received my information, I here promise to produce such evidence as shall put an end to controversy and doubt.

If this is not granted, sir, the fact must stand recorded and allowed; for to doubt, and refuse evidence, is a degree of prejudice and obstinacy without example. Nor is this the only objection to the clause before us, which appears very imperfect, with regard to the qualifications specified as a title to the reward. The reward ought not to be confined to those who shall hereafter be invited by the promise of it to engage in the service, while those who entered into it without any such prospect, are condemned to dangers and fatigues without a recompense. Where merit is equal, the reward ought to be equal; and, surely, where there is greater merit, the reward proposed by the senate, as an encouragement to bravery, ought not to be less. To be excluded from the advantages which others have obtained, only by avoiding the service, cannot but depress the spirit of those whose zeal and courage incited them, at the beginning of the war, to enter into the fleet; and to deject those from whom we expect defence and honour, is neither prudent nor just.

Nor is it, in my opinion, proper to offer the same reward indiscriminately to all that shall accept it; rewards ought to be proportioned to desert, and no man can justly be paid for what he cannot perform; there ought, therefore, to be some distinction made between a seaman by profession, one that has learned his art at the expense of long experience, labour, and hazard, and a man who only enters the ship because he is useless on land, and who can only incommode the sailors till he has been instructed by them.

It appears, sir, to me, a considerable defect in our naval regulations, that wages are not proportioned to ability; and I think it may not be now unseasonably proposed, that sailors should be paid according to the skill which they have acquired; a provision by which an emulation would be raised among them, and that industry excited, which now languishes for want of encouragement, and those capacities awakened which now slumber in ignorance and sloth, from the despair of obtaining any advantage by superiority of knowledge.

Sir Robert WALPOLE then rose, and spoke as follows:--That this charge, sir, however positively urged, is generally unjust, the declarations of these honourable gentlemen are sufficient to evince, since it is not probable that the injured persons would not have found some friend to have represented these hardships to the admiralty, and no such representations could have been made without their knowledge.

Yet, sir, I am far from doubting that by accident, or, perhaps, by malice, some men have been treated in this manner; for it is not in the power of any administration to make all those honest or wise whom they are obliged to employ; and when great affairs are depending, minute circumstances cannot always be attended to. If the vigilance of those who are intrusted with the chief direction of great numbers of subordinate officers be such, that corrupt practices are not frequent, and their justice such, that they are never unpunished when legally detected, the most strict inquirer can expect no more. Power will sometimes be abused, and punishment sometimes be escaped.

It is, sir, easy to be conceived that a report may become general, though the practice be very rare. The fact is multiplied as often as it is related, and every man who hears the same story twice, imagines that it is told of different persons, and exclaims against the tyranny of the officers of the navy.

But these, in my opinion, sir, are questions, if not remote from the present affair, yet by no means essential to it. The question now before us is, not what illegalities have been committed in the execution of impresses, but how impresses themselves may become less necessary? how the nation may be secured without injury to individuals? and how the fleet may be manned with less detriment to commerce?

Sir, the reward now proposed is intended to excite men to enter the service without compulsion; and if this expedient be not approved, another ought to be suggested: for I hope gentlemen are united in their endeavours to find out some method of security to the publick, and do not obstruct the proceedings of the committee, that when the fleets lie inactive and useless, they may have an opportunity to reproach the ministry.

Admiral NORRIS spoke next, in substance:--Sir, though it is not necessary to enter into an accurate examination of the gentleman's proposal, yet I cannot but observe, that by making it, he discovers himself unacquainted with the disposition of seamen, among whom nothing raises so much discontent as the suspicion of partiality. Should one man, in the same rank, receive larger wages than another, he who thought himself injured, as he who is paid less will always think, would be so far from exerting his abilities to attain an equality with his associate, that he would probably never be prevailed on to lay his hand upon the tackling, but would sit sullen, or work perversely, though the ship were labouring in a storm, or sinking in a battle.

Mr. GORE then spoke as follows:--Sir, the danger of introducing distinctions among men in the same rank, where every man that imagines his merit neglected, may have an opportunity of resenting the injury, is, doubtless, such as no prudent commander will venture to incur.

Every man, in this case, becomes the judge of his own merit; and as he will always discover some reason for the preference of another very different from superiority of desert, he will, by consequence, be either enraged or dispirited, will either resolve to desert his commander, or betray him to the enemies, or not oppose them.

I remember, sir, though imperfectly, a story which I heard in my travels, of an army in which some troops received a penny a day less than the rest; a parsimony which cost dear in the day of battle; for the disgusted troops laid down their arms before the enemy, and suffered their general to be cut in pieces.

General WADE then spoke to this effect:--Sir, I cannot but concur with the honourable gentleman in his opinion, that those who are already engaged in the service, who have borne the fatigues of a long voyage, and perhaps are, at this hour, exposing their lives in battle to defend the rights of their country, ought to have the same claim to the reward proposed, with those who shall hereafter offer themselves. Nor, in my opinion, ought those who have hitherto been pressed into our fleets to be discouraged from their duty by an exclusion from the same advantage. For if they were compelled to serve in the fleet, they were compelled when there was not this encouragement for volunteers, which, perhaps, they would have accepted if it had been then proposed, Every man, at least, will allege, that he would have accepted it, and complain he suffers only by the fault of the government; a government which he will not be very zealous to defend, while he is considered with less regard than others, from whom no greater services are expected.

A prospect of new rewards, sir, will add new alacrity to all the forces, and an equal distribution of favour will secure an unshaken and inviolable fidelity. Nothing but union can produce success, and nothing can secure union but impartiality and justice.

Mr. SANDYS rose, and spoke as follows:--Sir, the efficacy of rewards, and the necessity of an impartial distribution, are no unfruitful subjects for rhetorick; but it may, perhaps, be more useful at present to consider, with such a degree of attention as the question must be acknowledged to deserve, to whom these rewards are to be paid, and from what fund they are expected to arise.

With regard to those who are to claim the reward, sir, they seem very negligently specified; for they are distinguished only by the character of having served five years; a distinction unintelligible, without explanation.

It is, I suppose, sir, the intent of the bill, that no man shall miss the reward but by his own fault; and, therefore, it may be inquired, what is to be the fate of him who shall be disabled in his first adventure, whom in the first year, or month, of his service, an unlucky shot shall confine for the remaining part of his life to inactivity: as the bill is now formed, he must be miserable without a recompense; and his wounds, which make him unable to support himself, will, though received in defence of his country, entitle him to no support from the publick.

Nor is this the only difficulty that may arise from the specifying of so long a service; for how can any man that shall enter on board the fleet be informed that the war will continue for five years? May we not all justly hope, that alacrity, unanimity, and prudence, may, in a much shorter time, reduce our enemies to beg for peace? And shall our sailors lose the reward of their hazards and their labours, only because they have been successful? What will this be less than making their bravery a crime or folly, and punishing them for not protracting the war by cowardice or treachery?

But let us suppose, sir, those defects supplied by a more explicit and determinate specification; there will yet arise an objection far more formidable; an objection, which the present state of our revenues will not suffer to be answered. The consideration of the greatness of the annual payment which this proposal requires, ought to incite every man to employ all his sagacity in search of some other method, equally efficacious, and less expensive.

We have already, sir, forty thousand seamen in our pay, to whom eight thousand more are speedily to be added: when each of these shall demand his stipend, a new burden of two hundred and eighty-eight thousand pounds must be laid upon the nation; upon a nation, whose lands are mortgaged, whose revenues are anticipated, and whose taxes cannot be borne without murmurs, nor increased without sedition.

The nation has found, by experience, that taxes once imposed for just reasons, and continued upon plausible pretences, till they are become familiar, are afterwards continued upon motives less laudable, are too productive of influence, and too instrumental towards facilitating the measures of the ministry, to be ever willingly remitted.

Mr. BLADEN spoke next, as follows:--Sir, it is obvious, that when the balance is unequal, it may be reduced to an equilibrium, as well by taking weight out of one scale, as adding it to the other. The wages offered by the merchants overbalance, at present, those which are proposed by the crown; to raise the allowance in the ships of war, will be, to lay new loads upon the publick, and will incommode the merchants, whose wages must always bear the same proportion to the king's. The only method, then, that remains, is to lighten the opposite scale, by restraining the merchants from giving wages, in time of war, beyond a certain value; for, as the service of the crown is then more immediately necessarv to the general advantage than that of the merchants, it ought to be made more gainful. Sailors, sir, are not, generally, men of very extensive views; and, therefore, we cannot expect that they should prefer the general good of their country before their own present interest; a motive of such power, that even in men of curious researches, refined sentiments, and generous education, we see, too often, that it surmounts every other consideration.

Lord BALTIMORE then spoke again:--Sir, to the expedient which the honourable gentleman who spoke last has suggested, and which he must be confessed to have placed in the strongest light, many objections may be raised, which I am afraid will not easily be removed.

The first, sir, which occurs to me on this short reflection is not less than the impossibility of putting his scheme in execution. The prescription of wages which he proposes, may be eluded by a thousand artifices, by advanced money, by gratuitous acknowledgments, the payment of money for pretended services, or by secret contracts, which it would be the interest of both parties to conceal.

But if this objection could be surmounted by severity and vigilance, would not this expedient help to defeat the general intention of the bill? A bill not designed as an immediate resource, a mere temporary project to supply our fleets for the present year, but as a method for removing the only obstruction of the British power, the difficulty of manning our ships of war.

It is, I hope, sir, the intention of every man who has offered his sentiments on this occasion, to contrive some general encouragement for seamen, which shall not only invite them to assist their country at the first summons, but shall allure others to qualify themselves for the publick service, by engaging in the same profession.

This is only to be done by making the condition of sailors less miserable, by entitling them to privileges, and honouring them with distinctions. But by limiting the merchant's wages, if such limitations are, indeed, possible, though we may palliate the present distress, we shall diminish the number of sailors, and thereby not only contract our commerce but endanger our country.

Mr. TRACEY spoke next, to the following effect:--Sir, I know not for what reasons the present method of advancing rewards at entrance is practised, of which, however specious it might appear, the success by no means encourages the continuance. The sailors, though not a generation of men much disposed to reflection, or qualified for ratiocination, are not yet so void of thought as not easily to perceive that a small increase of constant wages is of more value than several pounds to be paid only at once, and which are squandered as soon as they are received.

Instead, therefore, of restraining the wages of the merchants, it seems probable, that by raising those of the king, we may man the fleet with most expedition; and one method of raising the wages will be to suppress the advanced money.

The ATTORNEY-GENERAL spoke next:--Sir, if the sum of money now paid by way of advance can be supposed to have any effect, if it can be imagined that any number of seamen, however inconsiderable, are allured by it into the fleet, it is more usefully employed than it can be supposed to be when sunk into the current wages, and divided into small payments.

The advance money is only paid to those that enter: if no volunteers present themselves, no money is paid, and the nation doth not suffer by the offer: but if the wages are raised, the expense will be certain, without the certainty of advantage; for those that enter voluntarily into the fleet, will receive no more than those that are forced into it by an impress; and therefore there will be no incitement to enter without compulsion. Thus every other inconvenience will remain, with the addition of a new burden to the nation; our forces will be maintained at a greater expense, and not raised with less difficulty.

Lord BALTIMORE said:--Sir, I cannot but concur in opinion with the honourable gentleman who spoke last, from my own acquaintance with the sentiments and habits that unalterably prevail among those who have been accustomed to the sea, a race of men to the last degree negligent of any future events, and careless about any provision against distant evils; men who have no thoughts at sea, but how to reach the land; nor at land, but how to squander what they have gained at sea. To men like these, it may easily be imagined that no encouragement is equal to the temptation of present gain, and the opportunity of present pleasure.

Of this any man, sir, may convince himself, who shall talk to a crew but half an hour; for he shall find few among them, who will not, for a small sum of present money, sell any distant prospect of affluence or happiness.

Whether I am mistaken in my opinion, the honourable members who have long commanded in the naval service can easily determine, and I doubt not but they will agree that no motive can be proposed to a sailor equivalent to immediate reward.

Sir William YONGE spoke next:--Sir, that some distinction ought to be made to the advantage of volunteers, if we intend to man our fleet without compulsion, is obvious and incontestable; and to avoid the necessity of compulsion ought to be the chief end of this bill; for nothing can be less to the advantage of the nation, than to continue the use of such ungrateful methods, and yet increase the publick expense.

We ought, therefore, in my opinion, to determine upon some peculiar reward, either to be advanced upon their entrance into the service, or paid at their dismission from it.

But as I see, sir, no reason for hoping that all the encouragement which can be offered, will raise volunteers in a sufficient number to secure our navigation, and assert our sovereignty, it seems not proper to confine our consultations to this part of the bill; for since compulsion is on many occasions apparently necessary, some method requires to be considered, in which it may be legal.

What new power ought to be placed in the magistrate, for what time, and with what restrictions, I am far from assuming the province of determining; but that some measures must be taken for compelling those who cannot be persuaded, and discovering those that will not offer themselves, cannot admit of doubt; and as the magistrate is at present without any authority for this purpose, it is evident that his power must be extended, for the same reason as it was given in its present degree--the general benefit of the whole community.

Sir John BARNARD then spoke to the following effect:--Sir, if the intent of this bill be to enable one part of the nation to enslave the other; if the plausible and inviting professions of encouraging and increasing seamen, are to terminate in violence, constraint, and oppression; it is unnecessary to dwell longer upon particular clauses. The intention of the bill is detestable, and deserves not the ceremony of debate, or the forms of common regard.

If a man, sir, is liable to be forced from the care of his own private affairs, from his favourite schemes of life, from the engagements of domestick tenderness, or the prospects of near advantage, and subjected, without his consent, to the command of one whom he hates, or dreads, or perhaps despises, it requires no long argument to show, that by whatever authority he is thus treated, he is reduced to the condition of a slave, to that abject, to that hateful state, which every Englishman has been taught to avoid at the hazard of his life.

It is therefore evident, that a law which tends to confer such a power, subverts our constitution as far as its effects extend; a constitution, which was originally formed as a barrier against slavery, and which one age after another has endeavoured to strengthen.

Such a power, therefore, in whatever hands it may be lodged, I shall always oppose. It is dangerous, sir, to intrust any man with absolute dominion, which is seldom known to be impartially exercised, and which often makes those corrupt, and insolent, whom it finds benevolent and honest.

The bill proposes only encouragement, and encouragement may be given by his majesty, without a new law; let us, therefore, draw up an address, and cease to debate, where there is no prospect of agreement.

Mr. WINNINGTON spoke as follows:--Sir, the payment of an annual salary will, in my opinion, be to the last degree inconvenient and dangerous. The yearly expense has been already estimated, and arises to a sum very formidable in our present state. Nor is the necessity of adding to the publick burden, a burden which already is hard to be borne, the only objection to this proposal.

Nothing can more contribute to dispirit the nation, than to protract the consequences of a war, and to make the calamity felt, when the pleasures of victory and triumph have been forgotten; we shall be inclined rather to bear oppression and insult than endeavour after redress, if we subject ourselves and our posterity to endless exactions.

The expenses of the present provision for superannuated and disabled sailors, is no inconsiderable tax upon the publick, which is not less burdened by it for the manner of collecting it by a deduction from the sailors' wages; for, whoever pays it immediately, it is the ultimate gift of the nation, and the utmost that can be allowed for this purpose.

It must be confessed, sir, the persons entitled to the pension are not sufficiently distinguished in the bill; by which, as it now stands, any of the worthless superfluities of a ship, even the servants of the captains, may, after five years, put in their demand, and plunder that nation which they never served.

Nor do I think, sir, the efficacy of this method will bear any proportion to the expense of it; for I am of opinion, that few of the sailors will be much affected by the prospect of a future pension. I am, therefore, for dazzling them with five pounds, to be given them at their entrance, which will be but a single payment, and probably fill our fleets with greater expedition, than methods which appear more refined, and the effects of deeper meditation.

Lord GAGE spoke in the following manner:--Sir, nothing is more clear than that a yearly pension will burden the nation, without any advantage; and as it will give occasion to innumerable frauds, it is a method which ought to be rejected.

As to the new power, sir, which is proposed to be placed in the hands of the magistrates, it undoubtedly reduces every sailor to a state of slavery, and is inconsistent with that natural right to liberty, which is confirmed and secured by our constitution. The bill, therefore, is, in my opinion, defective in all its parts, of a tendency generally pernicious, and cannot be amended but by rejecting it.

Mr. Henry PELHAM spoke next, to this effect:--Sir, I cannot but think it necessary, that on this occasion, at least, gentlemen should remit the ardour of disputation, and lay the arts of rhetorick aside; that they should reserve their wit and their satire for questions of less importance, and unite, for once, their endeavours, that this affair may meet with no obstructions but from its natural difficulty.

We are now, sir, engaged in a war with a nation, if not of the first rank in power, yet by no means contemptible in itself; and, by its alliances, extremely formidable. We are exposed, by the course of our trade, and the situation of our enemies, to many inevitable losses, and have no means of preventing our merchants from being seized, without any danger or expense to the Spaniards, but by covering the sea with our squadrons.

Nor are we, sir, to satisfy ourselves with barely defeating the designs of the Spaniards; our honour demands that we should force them to peace upon advantageous terms; that we should not repulse, but attack them; not only preserve our own trade and possessions, but endanger theirs.

It is by no means certain, sir, that in the prosecution of these designs we shall not be interrupted by the interest or jealousy of a nation far more powerful, whose forces we ought, therefore, to be able to resist.

A vigorous exertion of our strength will probably either intimidate any other power that may be inclined to attack us, or enable us to repel the injuries that shall be offered: discord and delay can only confirm our open enemies in their obstinacy, and animate those that have hitherto concealed their malignity to declare against us.

It is, therefore, sir, in no degree prudent to aggravate the inconveniencies of the measures proposed for accomplishing what every man seems equally to desire; to declaim against the expedients offered in the bill as pernicious, unjust, and oppressive, contributes very little to the production of better means. That our affairs will not admit of long suspense, and that the present methods of raising seamen are not effectual, is universally allowed; it, therefore, evidently follows, sir, that some other must be speedily struck out.

I think it necessary to propose, that the house be resolved into a committee to-morrow morning; and hope all that shall assemble on this occasion, will bring with them no other passion than zeal for their country.

[The speaker having taken the chair, the chairman of the committee reported, that they had made some progress; and desiring leave to sit again, it was resolved to go into the committee again on the morrow.]

MARCH 4, 1740-1.

On the sixty-second day the affair was put off; but on the sixty-third, the house resolving itself into a committee, a clause was offered, by which five pounds were proposed to be advanced to an able seaman, and three pounds to every other man that should enter voluntarily into his majesty's service, after twenty days, and within sixty.

After which, Mr. WINNINGTON spoke as follows:--Sir, this is a clause in which no opposition can be apprehended, as those gentlemen who declared their disapprobation of the former, were almost unanimous in proposing this expedient, as the least expensive, and the most likely to succeed.

The time for the reception of volunteers upon this condition, is, sir, in my opinion, judiciously determined. If it was extended to a greater length, or left uncertain, the reward would lose its efficacy, the sailors would neglect that which they might accept at any time, and would only have recourse to the ships of war when they could find no other employment.

Yet I cannot conceal my apprehensions, that this bounty will not alone be sufficient to man our fleets with proper expedition; and that as allurements may be useful on one hand, force will be found necessary on the other; that the sailors may not only be incited to engage in the service by the hopes of a reward, but by the fear of having their negligence to accept it punished, by being compelled into the same service, and forfeiting their claim by staying to be compelled.

Lord BALTIMORE then spoke to the following effect:--Sir, to the reward proposed in this clause, I have declared in the former conference on this bill, that I have no objection, and, therefore, have no amendment to propose, except with regard to the time limited for the payment.

As our need of seamen, sir, is immediate, why should not a law for their encouragement immediately operate? What advantage can arise from delays? Or why is not that proper to be advanced now, that will be proper in twenty days? That all the time between the enaction and operation of this law must be lost, is evident; for who will enter for two pounds, that may gain five by withholding himself from the service twenty days longer?

Nor do I think the time now limited sufficient; many sailors who are now in the service of the merchants, may not return soon enough to lay claim to the bounty, who would gladly accept it, and who will either not serve the crown without it, or will serve with disgust and complaints; as the loss of it cannot be imputed to their backwardness, but to an accident against which they could not provide.

Mr. WINNINGTON replied:--Sir, though I think the time now fixed by the bill sufficient, as I hope that our present exigency will be but of short continuance, and that we shall soon be able to raise naval forces at a cheaper rate, yet as the reasons alleged for an alteration of the time may appear to others of more weight than to me, I shall not oppose the amendment.

Sir John BARNARD next rose, and said:--Sir, with regard to the duration of the time fixed for the advancement of this bounty, we may have leisure to deliberate; but surely it must be readily granted by those who have expatiated so copiously upon the present exigencies of our affairs, that it ought immediately to commence. And if this be the general determination of the house, nothing can be more proper than to address his majesty to offer, by proclamation, an advance of five pounds, instead of two, which have been hitherto given; that while we are concerting other measures for the advantage of our country, those in which we have already concurred may be put in execution.

Mr. PULTENEY rose up next, and spoke as follows:--Sir, I take this opportunity to lay before the house a grievance which very much retards the equipment of our fleets, and which must be redressed before any measures for reconciling the sailors to the publick service can be pursued with the least probability of success.

Observation, sir, has informed me, that to remove the detestation of the king's service, it is not necessary to raise the wages of the seamen; it is necessary only to secure them; it is necessary to destroy those hateful insects that fatten in idleness and debauchery upon the gains of the industrious and honest.

When a sailor, sir, after the fatigues and hazards of a long voyage, brings his ticket to the pay-office, and demands his wages, the despicable wretch to whom he is obliged to apply, looks upon his ticket with an air of importance, acknowledges his right, and demands a reward for present payment; with this demand, however exorbitant, the necessities of his family oblige him to comply.

In this manner, sir, are the wives of the sailors also treated when they come to receive the pay of their husbands; women, distressed, friendless, and unsupported; they are obliged to endure every insult, and to yield to every oppression. And to such a height do these merciless exacters raise their extortions, that sometimes a third part of the wages is deducted.

Thus, sir, do the vilest, the meanest of mankind, plunder those who have the highest claim to the esteem, the gratitude, and the protection of their country. This is the hardship which withholds the sailors from our navies, and forces them to seek for kinder treatment in other countries. This hardship, sir, both justice and prudence call upon us to remedy; and while we neglect it, all our deliberations will be ineffectual.

Mr. SOUTHWELL then spoke to this effect:--Sir, of the hardships mentioned by the honourable gentleman who spoke last, I have myself known an instance too remarkable not to be mentioned. A sailor in Ireland, after his voyage, met with so much difficulty in obtaining his wages, that he was at length reduced to the necessity of submitting to the reduction of near a sixth part. Such are the grievances with which those are oppressed, upon whom the power, security, and happiness of the nation are acknowledged to depend.

Sir Robert WALPOLE, the prime minister, then rose, and spoke as follows:--Sir, it is not without surprise that I hear the disgust of the sailors ascribed to any irregularity in the payment of their wages, which were never, in any former reign, so punctually discharged. They receive, at present, twelve months' pay in eighteen months, without deduction; so that there are never more than six months for which any demand remains unsatisfied.

But, sir, the punctuality of the payment has produced of late great inconveniencies; for there has been frequently a necessity of removing men from one ship to another; and it is the stated rule of the pay-office, to assign every man so removed his full pay. These men, when the government is no longer indebted to them, take the first opportunity of deserting the service, and engaging in business to which they are more inclined.

This is not a chimerical complaint, founded upon rare instances, and produced only to counterbalance an objection; the fact and the consequences are well known; so well, that near fourteen hundred sailors are computed to have been lost by this practice.

The PRESIDENT of the commons, who always in a committee takes his seat as another member, rose here, and spoke to the following effect, his honour being paymaster of the navy:--Mr. Chairman, the nature of the employment with which I am intrusted makes it my duty to endeavour that this question may be clearly understood, and the condition of the seamen, with regard to the reception of their pay, justly represented.

I have not been able to discover that any sailor, upon producing his ticket, was ever obliged to submit to the deduction of any part of his wages, nor should any clerk or officer under my inspection, escape, for such oppression, the severest punishment and most publick censure: I would give him up to the law without reserve, and mark him as infamous, and unworthy of any trust or employment.

But there are extortions, sir, by which those unhappy men, after having served their country with honesty and courage, are deprived of their lawful gains of diligence and labour. There are men to whom it is usual amongst the sailors to mortgage their pay before it becomes due, who never advance their money but upon such terms as cannot be mentioned without indignation. These men advance the sum which is stipulated, and by virtue of a letter of attorney are reimbursed at the pay-office.

This corruption is, I fear, not confined to particular places, but has spread even to America, where, as in his own country, the poor sailor is seduced, by the temptation of present money, to sell his labour to extortioners and usurers.

I appeal to the gentleman, whether the instance which he mentioned was not of this kind. I appeal to him without apprehension of receiving an answer that can tend to invalidate what I have asserted.

This, sir, is, indeed, a grievance pernicious and oppressive, which no endeavours of mine shall be deficient in attempting to remove; for by this the sailor is condemned, notwithstanding his industry and success, to perpetual poverty, and to labour only for the benefit of his plunderer.

[The clauses were then read, "empowering the justices of the peace, etc. to issue warrants to the constables, etc. to make general privy searches, by day or night, for finding out and securing such seamen and seafaring men as lie hid or conceal themselves; and making it lawful for the officers appointed to make such searches, to force open the doors of any house, where they shall suspect such seamen to be concealed, if entrance be not readily admitted; and for punishing those who shall harbour or conceal any seaman."]

Sir John BARNARD upon this rose up, and spoke to the following effect:--Mr. Chairman, we have been hitherto deliberating upon questions, in which diversity of opinions might naturally be expected, and in which every man might indulge his own opinion, whatever it might be, without any dangerous consequences to the publick. But the clauses now before us are of a different kind; clauses which cannot be read without astonishment and indignation, nor defended without betraying the liberty of the best, the bravest, and most useful of our fellow-subjects.

If these clauses, sir, should pass into a law, a sailor and a slave will become terms of the same signification. Every man who has devoted himself to the most useful profession, and most dangerous service of his country, will see himself deprived of every advantage which he has laboured to obtain, and made the mere passive property of those who live in security by his valour, and owe to his labour that affluence which hardens them to insensibility, and that pride that swells them to ingratitude.

Why must the sailors alone, sir, be marked out from all the other orders of men for ignominy and misery? Why must they be ranked with the enemies of society, stopped like vagabonds, and pursued like the thief and the murderer by publick officers? How or when have they forfeited the common privilege of human nature, or the general protection of the laws of their country? If it is a just maxim, sir, that he who contributes most to the welfare of the publick, deserves most to be protected in the enjoyment of his private right or fortune; a principle which surely will not be controverted; where is the man that dares stand forth and assert, that he has juster claims than the brave, the honest, the diligent sailor?

I am extremely unwilling, sir, to engage in so invidious an undertaking as the comparison of the harmless, inoffensive, resolute sailor, with those who think themselves entitled to treat him with contempt, to overlook his merit, invade his liberty, and laugh at his remonstrances.

Nor is it, sir, necessary to dwell upon the peculiar merit of this body of men; it is sufficient that they have the same claims, founded upon the same reasons with our own, that they have never forfeited them by any crime, and, therefore, that they cannot be taken away without the most flagrant violation of the laws of nature, of reason, and of our country.

Let us consider the present condition of a sailor, let us reflect a little upon the calamities to which custom, though not law, has already made him subject, and it will surely not be thought that his unhappiness needs any aggravation.

He is already exposed to be forced, upon his return from a tedious voyage, into new hardships, without the intermission of a day, and without the sight of his family; he is liable, after a contract for a pleasing and gainful voyage, to be hurried away from his prospects of interest, and condemned amidst oppression and insolence, to labour and to danger, almost without the possibility of a recompense. He has neither the privilege of choosing his commander, nor of leaving him when he is defrauded and oppressed.

These, sir, I say, are the calamities to which he is now subject, but there is now a possibility of escaping them. He is not yet deprived of the right of resistance, or the power of flight; he may now retire to his friend, and be protected by him; he may take shelter in his own cottage, and treat any man as a robber, that shall attempt to force his doors.

When any crews are returning home in time of war, they are acquainted with the dangers of an impress, but they comfort themselves with contriving stratagems to elude it, or with the prospect of obtaining an exemption from it by the favour of their friends; prospects which are often deceitful, and stratagems frequently defeated, but which yet support their spirits, and animate their industry.

But if this bill, sir, should become a law, the sailor, instead of amusing himself on his return with the prospects of ease, or of pleasure, will consider his country as a place of slavery, a residence less to be desired than any other part of the world. He will probably seek, in the service of some foreign prince, a kinder treatment; and will not fail, in any country but his own, to see himself, at least, on a level with other men.

Nor will this bill, sir, only give the seamen new reasons of disgust, but it will tend, likewise, to aggravate those grievances, which already have produced a detestation of the publick service, scarcely to be conquered.

The officers of the navy, sir, will hardly be made less insolent by an increase of power; they whose tyranny has already alienated their fellow-subjects from the king's service, though they could only depend upon the character of probity and moderation for the prospect of manning their ships in succeeding expeditions, will probably, when they are animated by a law like this, and made absolute both by land and sea, indulge themselves in the enjoyment of their new authority, contrive new hardships and oppressions, and tyrannise without fear and without mercy. Thus, sir, will the bill not only be tyrannical in itself, but the parent of tyranny; it will give security to the cruel, and confidence to the arrogant.

That any man, at least any man bred from his infancy to change his residence, and accustomed to different climates and to foreign nations, will fix by choice in that country where he finds the worst reception, is hardly to be imagined. We see indeed, that men unqualified to support themselves in other countries, or who have, by long custom, contracted a fondness for particular methods of life, will bear very uncomfortable circumstances, without endeavouring to improve their conditions by a change of their habitations. But the temper of a sailor, acquainted with all parts, and indifferent to all, is of another kind. Such, sir, is his love of change, arising either from wantonness, or curiosity, that he is hard to be retained by the kindest treatment and most liberal rewards; and will, therefore, never struggle with his habitual dispositions, only to continue in a state of slavery.

I think it, therefore, sir, very evident that this new method of encouraging sailors will be so far from increasing them, that it may probably drive them out of the empire, and at once ruin our trade and our navy; at once beggar and disarm us.

Let me now suppose, sir, for a moment, the bill less pernicious in its consequences, and consider only the difficulties of executing it. Every seafaring man is to be seized, at pleasure, by the magistrate; but what definition is given of a seafaring man? Or by what characteristick is the magistrate to distinguish him? I have never been able to discover any peculiarities in the form of a seaman that mark him out from the rest of the species. There is, indeed, less servility in his air, and less effeminacy in his face, than in those that are commonly to be seen in drawing-rooms, in brothels, and at reviews; but I know not that a seaman can be distinguished from any other man of equal industry or use, who has never enervated himself by vice, nor polished himself into corruption. So that this bill, sir, if it shall pass into a law, will put it at once in the power of the magistrate to dispose of seamen at his pleasure, and to term whom he pleases a seaman.

Another expedient, sir, has been offered on this occasion, not equally tyrannical, but equally inadequate to the end in view. It is proposed to restrain the merchants from giving wages beyond a certain rate, on the supposition that the sailors have no motive but that of larger wages, to prefer the service of the merchants to that of the crown.

This, sir, is a mistake which might easily arise from a partial and imperfect knowledge of the affair, with which very few gentlemen have opportunities of being well acquainted. The wages, sir, are the smallest inducements which fix the seamen in their choice. The prospect of kinder treatment, the certainty of returning home in a fixed time, and the power of choosing what voyages they will undertake, cannot but be acknowledged very reasonable motives of preference.

On the contrary, sir, when they are once engaged in a ship of war, they know neither whither they are going, what dangers they shall encounter, what hardships they shall suffer, nor when they shall be dismissed.

Besides, sir, I do not think it possible by any law to limit the wages to be paid by merchants, since they will change the term of wages into that of a present, or admit the sailors to a small share in the freight, and so all the precaution we can take will become ineffectual.

In the mean time, sir, how much shall we embarrass our own commerce, and impair our natural strength--the power of our fleets? We shall terrify our sailors on the one hand, and endeavour to starve them on the other; we shall not only drive them from us by unheard-of severities, but take away every motive that can induce them to expose themselves to the danger of suffering them.

If we consider, sir, with what effect methods nearly approaching these were practised in the reign of the late queen, we shall find that not more than one thousand five hundred seamen were raised, and those at the expense of more than four thousand pounds; so that the effects bore no proportion to the means; our laws were infringed, and our constitution violated to no purpose.

But what reason, sir, can be assigned for which it must be more difficult to supply the fleet now with sailors than at any other time? This war, sir, was demanded by the publick voice, in pursuance of the particular remonstrances of the merchants, and it is not to be supposed that the sailors or any other body of men engage in it with a particular reluctance.

I am, therefore, inclined to believe that the suspicion of great numbers hid in the country, at a distance from the coast, is merely chimerical; and that if we should pass this bill, we should do nothing more than grant an oppressive and unconstitutional power of search for what, in reality, is not to be found.

How oppressive this power may become in the hands of a corrupt or insolent magistrate, any man may discover, who remembers that the magistrate is made judge without appeal, of his own right to denominate any man a sailor, and that he may break open any man's doors at any time, without alleging any other reason than his own suspicion; so that no man can secure his house from being searched, or, perhaps, his person from being seized.

It may, indeed, be alleged, sir, that this will be only a temporary law, and is to cease with the exigence that made it necessary: but long experience has informed us, that severe laws are enacted more readily than they are repealed; and that most men are too fond of power to suffer willingly the diminution of it.

But, sir, though this law should not be perpetuated, every precedent of an infringement of our constitution, makes way for its dissolution; and the very cessation of an oppressive law, may be a plea, hereafter, for the revival of it.

This bill, therefore, must be confessed to be at once violent and ineffectual; to be a transgression of the laws of justice to particular men, without any prospect of real benefit to the community; and, therefore, cannot be passed without deviating at once from prudence and our constitution.

Captain CORNWALL then rose, and spoke to this effect:--I have observed, sir, that every man is apt to think himself ill treated, who is not treated according to his own opinion of his deserts, and will endeavour to diffuse his own notion of the partiality and tyranny of the naval officers; general clamours, therefore, are little to be regarded.

I have had, from my early years, a command in the sea service, and can assert, that I never knew more than one instance of injustice, and that was punished with the severity which it deserved.

The PRIME MINISTER rose next, and spoke to this effect:--Mr. Chairman, it is with uncommon satisfaction that I see every clause of this bill regularly debated, without unbecoming impatience, or passionate exclamations. I am willing to collect from this conduct, that the disposition of every gentleman is, on this occasion, the same with my own; and that every expedient here proposed will be diligently examined, and either be seriously approved, or be calmly rejected.

Such coolness and impartiality, sir, is certainly required by the importance of the present question; a question which cannot but influence the prosperity of the nation for many years.

It is not necessary to remind any gentleman of the importance of our trade, of the power of the enemy against whom we have declared war in defence of it, or of the necessity of showing the world that our declarations of war are not empty noises, or farces of resentment. But it may be proper, sir, to remark, that this is not the only enemy, nor the most powerful, whose attempts we have reason to provide against, and who may oblige us to exert our whole power, and practise every expedient to increase our forces.

The war has been, hitherto, prosecuted with the utmost vigour, with all the attention that its importance requires, and with success not disproportioned to our preparations; nor will it ever be suffered to languish, if the powers necessary for carrying it on are not denied.

Nothing is more evident, sir, than that the natural power of the nation consists in its fleets, which are now, by the care of the government, so numerous, that the united power of many nations cannot equal them. But what are fleets unfurnished with men? How will they maintain the dominion of the sea, by lying unactive in our harbours?

That no methods, hitherto used, have been sufficient to man our navies, and that our preparations have, therefore, been little more than an expensive show of war, the whole nation is sufficiently informed; it is, therefore, not doubtful that some new measures must be taken; whether any better can be suggested than are offered in this bill, must be inquired.

With regard, sir, to the clause now under our consideration, it is to be remembered, that little more is proposed by it, than to add the sanction of legality to a power which has long been exercised by the admiralty, without any other authority than that of long prescription, the power of issuing warrants of impress upon emergent occasions, by which sailors are forced into the publick service.

This power, in its present state, must be allowed to have no foundation in any law, and, by consequence, to be unlimited, arbitrary, and easily abused, and, upon the whole, to be justifiable only by necessity: but that necessity is so frequent, that it is often exercised, and, therefore, ought to be regulated by the legislature; and by making such regulations, we may rather be said to remove than introduce a grievance.

The power of searching for sailors, however it has been represented, is far from setting them on a level with felons, murderers, or vagabonds; or, indeed, from distinguishing them, to their disadvantage, from the rest of the community, of which every individual is obliged to support the government.

Those that possess estates, or carry on trades, transfer part of their property to the publick; and those ought, by parity of reason, to serve the publick in person, that have no property to transfer. Every man is secured by the constitution in the enjoyment of his life, his liberty, or his fortune; and, therefore, every man ought reciprocally to defend the constitution to which he is himself indebted for safety and protection.

I am, therefore, sir, unable to discover in what consists the hardship of a law by which no new duties are enjoined, nor any thing required, which is not already every man's duty. Every man, indeed, who is desirous of evading the performance of any of the duties of society, will consider every compulsion as a hardship, by which he is obliged to contribute to the general happiness; but his murmurs will prove nothing but his own folly and ingratitude, and will certainly deserve no regard from the legislative power.

There is in the bill before us, sir, encouragement sufficient for volunteers, and an offer of greater rewards than some gentlemen think consistent with the present state of the national revenues; and what remains to be done with respect to those who are deaf to all invitations, and blind to all offers of advantage? Are they to sit at ease only because they are idle, or to be distinguished with indulgence only for want of deserving it?

It seems generally granted, sir, that such drones are the proper objects of an impress. Let us then suppose that every man who is willing to serve his country, has laid hold of the reward proposed, and entered a volunteer. The fleets are not yet sufficiently manned, and more sailors must be procured. Warrants are issued out in the common form. The negligent, the imprudent, the necessitous, are taken. The vigilant, the cunning, and those that have more money, find shelter and escape. Can it be said, that those whose circumstances, or good fortune, enable them to secure themselves from the officers of the impress, deserve any exemption from the publick service, or from the hardships to which their companions are exposed? Have they discharged their debt of gratitude to the publick so effectually by running away from its service, that no search ought to be made after them? It seems evident, that if it was right to seize the one, it is likewise right to pursue the other; and if it be right to pursue him, it is likewise right to hinder him from escaping the pursuers. It is then right to vest some persons with the power of apprehending him, and in whom is that power to be lodged, but in the civil magistrate?

Every man, sir, is obliged by compulsive methods to serve his country, if he can be prevailed upon by no other. If any man shall refuse to pay his rates or his taxes, will not his goods be seized by force, and sold before his face? If any particular methods are proposed for obliging seamen to contribute to the publick safety, it is only because their service is necessary upon more pressing occasions than that of others; upon occasions which do not admit of delay, without the hazard of the whole community.

I must confess, sir, there are instances in which the hardships of the seafaring part of the nation are peculiar, and truly calamitous. A sailor, after the dangers and toils of a long voyage, when he is now in the sight of the port, where he hopes to enjoy that quiet which he has deserved by so long a series of fatigues, to repair the injuries which his health has suffered, by change of climate, and the diet of the ships, and to recover that strength which incessant vigilance has worn away; when he is in expectation of being received by his family with those caresses, which the succours that he brings them naturally produce, and designs to rest awhile from danger and from care; in the midst of these pleasing views, he is, on the sudden, seized by an impress, and forced into a repetition of all his miseries, without any interval of refreshment.

Let no man who can think without compassion on such a scene as this, boast his zeal for freedom, his regard for bravery, or his gratitude to those who contribute to the wealth and power of their country; let every man who declares himself touched with the pity which the slightest reflection upon such a disappointment must naturally produce, sincerely endeavour to obviate the necessity of such oppressive measures, which may, at least in part, be prevented, by assigning to magistrates the power of hunting out of their retreats, those who neglect the business of their callings, and linger at once in laziness and want.

There are great numbers who retire not from weariness but idleness, or an unreasonable prepossession against the publick service; and, surely, nothing is more unreasonable, than that bad dispositions should be gratified, and that industry should expose any man to penalties.

Upon the whole, sir, I am not able to discover, that any man should be exempted from an impress merely because he finds means to escape it, or because idleness or disinclination to the publick service prompts him to abscond.

If any men deserve indulgence, in opposition to the demands of the publick, they are rather those who have already, in some degree, discharged their duty to it, by contributing to bring in that wealth which is the consequence of a prosperous and well-regulated commerce, and without which war cannot be supported.

It is not without grief and regret, that I am obliged to represent, on this occasion, the obstructions which the war has suffered from those at whose request it was undertaken; and to declare, that the conduct of the merchants, has afforded proof that some law of this tendency is absolutely necessary.

The merchants, sir, who have so loudly complained of the decline of trade, the interruption of navigation, and the insolence, rapacity, and cruelty of the Spaniards; the merchants, who filled the nation with representations of their hardships, discouragements, and miseries, and lamented in the most publick manner, that they were the only body for whom the legislature had no regard, who were abandoned to the caprice of other nations, were plundered abroad, and neglected at home; the merchants, after having at length by their importunities engaged the state in a war, of which they have themselves certainly not the least pretensions to question either the justice or necessity, now, when by the natural consequences of a naval armament, sailors become less numerous, and ships more difficult to be equipped, contract in private with such sailors as they are inclined to employ, and conceal them in garrets, hired for that purpose, till the freight is ready, or the danger of an impress is past, and thus secure their own private affairs at the hazard of the publick, and hinder the operations of a war, which they, and they only, solicited.

The danger of having other enemies than the Spaniards, enemies, sir, more active, more powerful, and more ambitious, has already been mentioned; a danger so near, and so formidable, that he will not be thought very solicitous for his country, whom the bare mention of it does not alarm. This danger we are, therefore, to obviate by vigorous preparations, and unanimous resolutions; nor do I doubt but both our enemies, if they find us united, will repent of attacking us.

Sir, the most efficacious method of manning our fleets, which law or custom has yet put into our hands, is that of suspending our commerce by an embargo; and yet the whole nation knows how much, and by what means, it has been eluded: no sooner was it known that an embargo was laid, than the sailors flew away into the country, or hid themselves in corners of this great city, as from the most formidable danger; and no sooner did the embargo cease, than the banks of the river were again crowded with sailors, and all the trading vessels were immediately supplied.

As I cannot doubt, sir, that every gentleman is equally zealous for the success of the war, and the prosperity of his country; and as the insufficiency of the present methods of providing for them is apparent, I hope, that either the regulations proposed by this bill, to which I see no important objections, or some other of equal use, will be established by a general concurrence.

Lord BALTIMORE spoke next:--Though no gentleman in this assembly, sir, can more ardently wish the success of the British arms, or shall more willingly concur in any measure that may promote it, yet I cannot agree to the clause now under our consideration; I disapprove it both from moral and political motives; I disapprove it as neither just nor prudent.

The injustice of so flagrant an invasion of the liberty of particular men has been already exposed; nor is it, in my opinion, less easy to discover the imprudence of exhausting all our supplies at once, and sweeping away all our sailors, to supply a single exigency.

It has often been remarked, sir, in favour of a standing army, that it is requisite to have a number of regular forces, who, though too weak to oppose an invasion, might be able to establish discipline in a larger body. An observation which may, with much greater justness, be applied to the seamen, whose art is much more difficult to be attained, and who are equally necessary in war and peace.

If our stock of seamen, sir, be destroyed, if there is not left in our trading vessels a sufficient number of experienced artists to initiate novices, and propagate the profession, not only our ships of war must lie useless, but our commerce sink to nothing.

Nor have I reason to believe the naval power of France so formidable, as that we ought to be terrified by the apprehensions of it into any extraordinary methods of procedure. I am informed that they have now very few ships of force left in their harbours; and that they have exerted their whole strength in the American fleet.

I am not, therefore, sir, for providing against present dangers, without regard to our future security; and think nothing more worthy of the consideration of this assembly, than the means of encouraging and increasing our seamen, which will not be effected by the bill before us.

Land forces may be hired upon emergencies; but sailors are our own peculiar strength, and the growth of our own soil; we are, therefore, above all other regards, to attend, if I may use the term, to the preservation of the species.

Mr. VYNER next spoke:--Mr. Chairman, as there can be no stronger objection to any law than ambiguity, or indeterminate latitude of meaning, I think it necessary to propose, that some word of known and limited import, be substituted in the place of seafaring men; an expression which, if I was asked the meaning of it, I should find it difficult to explain.

Are seafaring men those only who navigate in the sea? The term is then superfluous, for all such are evidently comprised in the word seamen. Are they bargemen or watermen, who ply on rivers and transport provision or commodities from one inland town to another? In that sense nobody will affirm that it is a proper word; and impropriety in the expression of laws, produces uncertainty in the execution of them.

Captain CORNWALL rose up:--Sir, the term seafaring men, of which an explication is desired, is intended to include all those who live by conveying goods or passengers upon the water, whether the sea or inland rivers: nor can we restrain it to a narrower sense, without exempting from the publick service great numbers, whose manner of life has qualified them for it, and from whom their country may, with equal justice, expect assistance, as from those who are engaged in foreign traffick.

Mr. VYNER replied:--Sir, I am far from concurring with the honourable gentleman in his opinion, that the inland watermen are, by their profession, in any degree qualified for sea service, or can properly be called seafaring men.

All qualifications for the service must consist either in some knowledge of the arts of navigation, or in some familiarity with the dangers of the sea. With regard to any previous knowledge of naval business, it is well known that they have no advantage over any common labourer; for the manner of navigating a ship and a barge have, for the most part, nothing in common.

Nor are these watermen, sir, more able to stand firm in the terrours of the storm, or the noise of a battle, than those who follow any other occupation. Many of them never saw the sea, nor have less dread of its danger than the other inhabitants of the inland counties. They are, therefore, neither seafaring men, nor peculiarly capable of being made seamen.

But the hardship upon particular men is not the strongest objection to this clause, which, by obstructing our inland navigation, may make our rivers useless, and set the whole trade of the nation at a stand. For who will bring up his son a waterman, who knows him exposed by that profession to be impressed for a seaman?

It seems, therefore, necessary, sir, either to omit the term seafaring men [Footnote: Agreed to be omitted.], or to explain it in such a manner, that inland watermen may not be included.

Lord GAGE spoke next:--Sir, so much has been urged against the compulsive methods proposed in this clause, and so little produced in favour of them, that it may seem superfluous to add any thing, or to endeavour, by a multiplicity of arguments, to prove what common reason must immediately discover. But there is one consequence of this clause which has not yet been observed, and which is yet too important not to be obviated by a particular proviso.

It is well known, sir, that many of those to whom this act will extend, are freeholders and voters, for electing the representatives of the nation; and it is therefore apparent, that elections may be influenced by an ill-timed or partial execution of it. How easy will it be, when an election approaches, to raise a false alarm, to propose some secret expedition, or threaten us with an invasion from some unknown country, and to seize on all the seafaring voters whose affections are suspected, and confine them at Spithead till the contest is over.

I cannot, therefore, sir, but think it necessary, that if this clause be suffered to pass, some part of its hateful consequences should be prevented by an exception in favour of freeholders and voters, which, surely, is no less than what every man owes to his own security, to the welfare of his country, and to those by whom he has been honoured with the care of their liberties.

Mr. Henry PELHAM then said, as follows:--Sir, I do not rise in opposition to the proposal made by that right honourable member, nor do I think this the proper time either for opposing or approving it. Method is of the highest importance in inquiries like these; and if the order of the debate be interrupted by foreign questions, or incidental objections, no man will be able to consider the clauses before us with the attention necessary to his own satisfaction, or to the conviction of others; the mind will be dissipated by a multiplicity of views, and nothing can follow but perplexity and confusion.

The great end, sir, for which we are now assembled, is to strike out methods of manning the fleet with expedition and certainty. It is, therefore, proper, in the first place, to agree upon some general measures, to each of which there may, undoubtedly, be particular objections raised, that may be afterwards removed by exceptions or provisions; but these provisions should, for the sake of order, be inserted in particular clauses, to be separately considered.

Of this kind is the exception now offered, to which I have no objection but its present impropriety, and the interruption of the debate which it may now occasion; for I see, at present, no reason against admitting it in a particular clause.

When it is considered how much the success of the war may depend upon the determinations of this day, and how much our future happiness and security may depend upon the success of our present undertakings, I hope my solicitude for regularity and expedition will be easily excused.

Sir Hind COTTON answered:--I am not able, sir, to discover any imminent danger to the nation in suspending our attention to the clause before us, for a few moments; nor, indeed, do we cease to attend to it, while we are endeavouring to mollify it, and adapt it to our constitution.

The exception proposed is, in the opinion of the honourable gentleman, so reasonable, that he declares himself ready to approve it in another place; and, to me, no place seems more proper of its making part of this bill than this. As a connexion between the clause and exception appears necessary and immediate, I cannot see why it should be postponed, unless it is hoped that it may be forgotten.

Mr. PULTENEY then spoke:--Sir, that this exception should be forgotten there is no danger; for how long soever it be delayed, I will never agree to the act till I see it inserted. If we suffer the liberty of the freeholders to be infringed, what can we expect but to be charged with betraying our trust, and giving up to servitude and oppression those who deputed us to this assembly, as the guardians of their privileges, and the asserters of their birthright; a charge too just to be denied, and too atrocious to be borne.

Sir, the right of a freeholder is independent on every other circumstance, and is neither made more or less by wealth or poverty: the estate, however small, which gives a right of voting, ought to exempt the owner from every restraint that may hinder the exertion of his right; a right on which our constitution is founded, and which cannot be taken away without subverting our whole establishment.

To overlook the distinctions which the fundamental laws of our country have made in respect to different orders of men, and to regard only the accidents of affluence and necessity, is surely unjust in itself, and unworthy of this assembly; an assembly, sir, instituted principally to protect the weak against the strong, and deputed to represent those, in a collective state, who are not considerable enough to appear singly, and claim a voice in the legislature.

To expose an honest, a laborious, and an useful man, to be seized by the hands of an insolent officer, and dragged from the enjoyment of his right, only because he will not violate his conscience, and add his voice to those of sycophants, dependents, and prostitutes, the slaves of power, the drudges of a court, and the hirelings of a faction, is the highest degree of injustice and cruelty. Let us rather, sir, sweep away, with an impress, the drones of large fortunes, the tyrants of villages, and the oppressors of the poor; let us oblige those to serve their country by force, whose fortunes have had no other effect than to make them insolent and worthless; but let such who, by contributing to commerce, make every day some addition to the publick wealth, be left in the full enjoyment of the rights which they deserve: let those, by whose labour the expenses of the war are furnished, be excused from contributing to it by personal service.

It is necessary, sir, to have our laws established by the representatives of the people; it is necessary that those representatives should be freely elected; and, therefore, every law that obstructs the liberty of voters, is contrary to the fundamental laws of our constitution; and what multitudes may, by this law, be either hindered from giving their votes, or be terrified into such a choice as by no means corresponds with their judgments or inclinations, it is easy to foresee.

I am, indeed, of opinion, sir, that this clause cannot be adapted to our constitution, nor modified, by any expedient, into a law, which will not lay insupportable hardships upon the nation, and make way for absolute power. But as it is necessary that a constant supply of seamen should be provided, I think it not improper to observe, that there is one expedient yet remaining, by which, though it will not much assist us in our present exigence, the fleets of this nation may hereafter be constantly supported.

We have, at present, great numbers of charity schools established in this nation, where the children of the poor receive an education disproportioned to their birth. This has often no other consequences than to make them unfit for their stations, by placing them, in their own opinion, above the drudgery of daily labour; a notion which is too much indulged, as idleness, cooperating with vanity, can hardly fail to gain the ascendant, and which sometimes prompts them to support themselves by practices not only useless, but pernicious to society. This evil, sir, cannot be better obviated than by allotting a reasonable proportion out of every school to the service of the sea, in which, by entering early, they cannot fail to become proficients; and where their attainments, which, at present, too frequently produce laziness and dishonesty, might enable them to excel, and entitle them to promotion.

Mr. WINNINGTON replied:--Sir, notwithstanding the confidence with which some gentlemen have proposed this amendment, and the easiness with which others have consented to it, I declare, without hesitation, that I oppose it now, and intend to oppose it whenever it shall be offered, because it will defeat all the other provisions which shall be made in the bill.

I will venture to say, sir, that if every man, who has, by whatever tenure, the right of voting, shall be exempted from the necessity of contributing to the publick safety by his personal service, every man qualified for the sea will by some means acquire a vote.

Sir, a very small part of those who give their votes in this nation for representatives in senate, enjoy that right as the appendage of a freehold; to live in some towns, and to be born only in others, gives the unalienable privilege of voting. Any gentleman, to secure his own interest, or obstruct the publick service, may, by dividing a small piece of barren ground among a hundred sailors, exalt them all to freeholders, and exempt them from the influence of this law.

However, sir, I am not less a friend to the freeholders than those who propose the exception in their favour, but, in my opinion, the great interest of the freeholders is the preservation of their freeholds, which can only be secured by a vigorous exertion of the power of the nation, in the war which is now declared against the Spaniards.

Mr. BARRINGTON spoke next:--Sir, by the observations which I have opportunities of making at the place which I have the honour to represent, I am convinced of the influence that this law will have upon all the boroughs along the coasts. There, most of the voters are, in one sense or other, sir, seafaring men, being, almost all of them, owners of vessels, and in some degree acquainted with navigation; they may, therefore, be hurried away at the choice of an officious or oppressive magistrate, who may, by partiality and injustice, obtain a majority, contrary to the general inclination of the people, and determine the election by his own authority.

Sir William YONGE then said:--Sir, if every freeholder and voter is to be exempted from the influence of the law, the bill that we are with so much ardour endeavouring to draw up and rectify, and of which the necessity is so generally acknowledged, will be no other than an empty sound, and a determination without an object; for while we are empowering the government to call seamen into the service, we are exempting almost all that are able to serve from the denomination of seamen: what is this but to dispute without a subject? to raise with one hand and demolish with the other?

In the western parts of the nation, sir, where I reside, many who vote at elections claim their privilege by no other title than that of boiling a pot; a title which he who has it not, may easily obtain, when it will either gratify his laziness or his cowardice, and which, though not occasionally obtained, seems not sufficient to set any man out of the reach of a just and necessary law.

It is, therefore, sir, undoubtedly requisite that the terms of the exception should be explicit and definitive, and that only those should be exempted who have such possessions or qualifications as this assembly shall think a just title to exemption. For on the western coast, from whence great supplies may be expected, almost every sailor has a vote, to which nothing is there required but to hire a lodging, and boil a pot; after which, if this exception be admitted in all its latitude, he may sit at ease amidst the distresses of his country, ridicule the law which he has eluded, and set the magistrate at open defiance.

The PRIME MINISTER spoke next:--As I think, Sir, some exception may be just and proper, so I suppose every gentleman will concur with me in rejecting one of such extent as shall leave no object for the operation of the law.

It is, in my opinion, proper to restrain the exemption to those freeholders who are possessed of such an estate as gives a vote for the representative of the county, by which those whose privilege arises from their property will be secured; and it seems reasonable that those who have privileges without property, should purchase them by their services.

Counsellor BROWN spoke next:--Sir, the exception proposed will not only defeat the end of the bill, by leaving it few objects, but will obstruct the execution of it on proper occasions, and involve the magistrate in difficulties which will either intimidate him in the exertion of his authority, or, if he persists in discharging his duty with firmness and spirit, will perhaps oblige him sometimes to repent of his fidelity.

It is the necessary consequence, sir, of a seaman's profession, that he is often at a great distance from the place of his legal settlement, or patrimonial possessions; and he may, therefore, assert of his own circumstances what is most convenient, without danger of detection. Distance is a security that prompts many men to falsehoods, by which only vanity is gratified; and few men will tell truth in opposition to their interest, when they may lie without apprehension of being convicted.

When, therefore, a magistrate receives directions to impress all the seamen within his district, how few will he find who will not declare themselves freeholders in some distant county, or freemen of some obscure borough. It is to no purpose, sir, that the magistrate disbelieves what he cannot confute; and if in one instance in a hundred he should be mistaken, and, acting in consequence of his errour, force a freeman into the service, what reparation may not be demanded?

I, therefore, propose it to the consideration of the committee, whether any man ought to claim exemption from this law by a title, that may so readily be procured, or so safely usurped.

The ATTORNEY GENERAL spoke next:--Sir, the practice of impressing, which has been declaimed against with such vehement exaggerations, is not only founded on immemorial custom, which makes it part of the common law, but is likewise established by our statutes; for I remember to have found it in the statutes of queen Mary, and therefore cannot allow that it ought to be treated as illegal, and anti-constitutional.

That it is not inconsistent with our constitution may be proved from the practice of erecting the royal standard, upon great emergencies, to which every man was obliged immediately to repair; this practice is as old as our constitution, and as it may be revived at pleasure, may be properly mentioned as equivalent to an impress.

Mr. VYNER answered:--This word, sir, which the learned member has by his wonderful diligence discovered in the statutes, may perhaps be there, but in a signification far different from that which it bears at present. The word was, without doubt, originally French, pret, and implied what is now expressed by the term ready; and to impress any man was in those days only to make him ready, or engage him to hold himself in readiness, which was brought about not by compulsion, pursuit, and violence, but by the allurements of a pecuniary reward, or the obligation of some ancient tenure.


On the sixty-sixth day, the consideration of the bill for raising seamen was resumed, and a clause read, by which every constable, headborough, tithingman, or other person, was liable to be examined upon oath by the justices of peace, who were empowered to lay a fine upon them for any neglect, offence, or connivance.

Sir John BARNARD rose up, and spoke to the following effect:--Mr. Chairman, it is the peculiar happiness of the Britons, that no law can be made without the consent of their representatives, and I hope no such infatuation can ever fall upon them as may influence them to choose a representative capable of concurring in absurdities like this.

The folly, the iniquity, the stupidity of this clause, can only be conceived by hearing it repeated; it is too flagrant to be extenuated, and too gross to admit exaggerations: to oblige a man to make oath against himself, to subject himself by his own voice to penalties and hardships, is at once cruel and ridiculous, a wild complication of tyranny and folly.

To call upon any man to accuse himself, is only to call upon him to commit perjury, and has therefore been always accounted irrational and wicked: in those countries where it is practised, the confession is extorted by the rack, which indeed is so necessary on such occasions, that I should not wonder to hear the promoters of this clause openly declaring for the expediency of tortures.

Nothing is more evident than that this bill, however the importance of the occasion may be magnified, was drawn up without reflection, and that the clauses were never understood by those that offered them: errours like these must arise only from precipitation and neglect, for they are too gross to be committed either by ignorance or design.

To expose such absurdities is, indeed, easy, but not pleasing; for what end is answered by pointing at folly, or how is the publick service advanced by showing that the methods proposed are totally to be rejected? Where a proposition is of a mixed kind, and only erroneous in part, it is an useful and no disagreeable task to separate truth from errour, and disentangle from ill consequences such measures as may be pursued with advantage to the publick; but mere stupidity can only produce compassion, and afford no opportunities for inquiry or dispute.

Admiral WAGER replied:--Sir, this clause, however contemptuously treated, has been already passed into a law by a senate which brought no dishonour upon the British nation, by a senate which was courted and dreaded by the greatest part of the universe, and was drawn up by a ministry that have given their posterity no reason to treat them with derision and contumely.

In the reign of the late great queen, this method of proceeding was approved and established, and we may judge of the propriety of the measures followed in that war by the success which they procured.

Those, therefore, by whom this bill was drawn up have committed no new absurdities, nor have proposed any thing which was not enacted by the wisest of our predecessors, in one of the most illustrious periods of our history.

Mr. GYBBON answered:--Sir, I am far from thinking a proposition sufficiently defended by an assertion that it was admitted by our predecessors; for though I have no inclination to vilify their memory, I may without scruple affirm, that they had no pretensions to infallibility, and that there are in many of our statutes instances of such ignorance, credulity, weakness, and errour, as cannot be considered without astonishment.

In questions of an abstruse and complicated nature, it is certain, sir, that experience has taught us what could never have been discovered previously by the wisdom of our ancestors; and we have found, by their consequences, the impropriety of many practices which they approved, and which we should have equally applauded in the same circumstances.

But to what purpose is observation, if we must shut our eyes against it, and appeal for ever to the wisdom of our ancestors?--if we must fall into errour, merely because they were mistaken, and rush upon rocks out of veneration to those who were wrecked against them.

In questions easily to be examined, and determinations which comprised no perplexing contrarieties of interest, or multiplicity of circumstances, they were equally liable with ourselves to be supine and negligent, to sink into security, or be surprised by haste. That the clause now before us was enacted by them, must be ascribed merely to the hurry of the session in which it was brought before them; a time in which so many inquiries of the highest importance were to be made, and great diversity of views to be regarded, that it is no wonder that some absurdities should escape without detection.

In the fourth of the reign of the queen, this bill was brought in, as now, at the latter end of a session, when the attention of the senate was fatigued and distracted; and it was hurried through both houses, and ratified by the queen, with very little consideration.

But then, as this circumstance may be justly termed an extenuation of their errour, it ought to be a lesson of caution to us, that we may not be, in the like manner, betrayed into the same weakness.

Mr. Henry PELHAM next rose up:--Sir, the conduct of our predecessors seems not to stand in need of any excuse; for it might be easy to vindicate it by arguments, but that it is more proper to approve it by imitation.

Whenever the bill was passed, or how hastily soever the law was enacted, it was, I believe, rather the effect of necessity than of inadvertency; of the same necessity which now presses, and which is very ill consulted by tedious debates.

They were then involved in a war, and were not so distracted by private interests as not to unite in the most vigorous opposition of their enemies. They knew that the publick good is often promoted by the temporary inconveniencies of individuals; and when affairs of the highest importance demanded their attention, when the security of the whole nation and the happiness of their posterity were the subject of their inquiries, they wisely suffered less considerations to pass, without superfluous and unseasonable solicitude.

How justly they reasoned, sir, and what vigour their resolutions gave to the military operations, our victories are a sufficient proof: and if experience be the surest guide, it cannot be improper to imitate those who, in the same circumstances with ourselves, found means to raise the honour, and improve the commerce of their country.

That our circumstances are the same with those of the senate by which this law was made, is obvious beyond dispute; or where they vary, the difference is, perhaps, to our disadvantage. We have, sir, the same enemies, or, at least, have reason to apprehend the same; but have little hope of the same allies. The present war is to be carried on at a greater distance, and in more places at the same instant; we cannot, therefore, supply our ships occasionally, but must raise great numbers in a short time.

If, therefore, it was then concluded, that the method under our examination was useful; if measures, not eligible in themselves, may be authorized by necessity, why may not we, in compliance with the same exigencies, have recourse to the same expedients?

Sir William YONGE then spoke:--Sir, how much weight is added to the determinations of the senate, by the dignity of their procedure, and the decency of their disputations, a slight knowledge of mankind is sufficient to evince. It is well known that government is supported by opinion; and that he who destroys the reputation, destroys the authority of the legislative power. Nor is it less apparent, that he who degrades debate into scurrility, and destroys the solemnity of consultation, endeavours to sink the senate into contempt.

It was, therefore, sir, with indignation and surprise, that I heard the clause before us censured with such indecency of language, and the authors of it treated with contumelies and reproaches that mere errour does not deserve, however apparent, but which were now vented before any errour was detected.

I know not, sir, why the gentlemen, who are thus indecently attacked, have suffered such reproaches without censure, and without reply. I know not why they have omitted to put the honourable gentleman in mind of the respect due to this assembly, or to the characters of those whom he opposes; gentlemen equally skilled with himself in the subject of our inquiries, and whom his own attainments, however large, or his abilities, however comprehensive, cannot give him a right to charge with ignorance or folly.

To reproach men with incapacity, is a cheap method of answering their arguments; but a method which the rules of this house ought to exclude from our debates, as the general civility of the world has banished it from every other place of concourse or conversation.

I, for my part, sir, shall always endeavour to confine my attention to the question before us, without suffering my reason to be biassed, or my inquiries diverted by low altercations, or personal animosities; nor when any other man deviates into reproachful and contemptuous language, shall I be induced to think more highly of either his arguments or capacity.

Sir John BARNARD replied:--Sir, I have always heard it represented as an instance of integrity, when the tongue and heart move in concert, when the words are representations of the sentiments; and have, therefore, hitherto, endeavoured to explain my arguments with perspicuity, and impress my sentiments with force; I have thought it hypocrisy to treat stupidity with reverence, or to honour nonsense with the ceremony of a confutation. As knavery, so folly, that is not reclaimable, is to be speedily despatched; business is to be freed from obstruction, and society from a nuisance.

Nor, sir, when I am censured by those whom I may offend, by the use of terms correspondent with my ideas, will I, by a tame and silent submission, give reason to suspect that I am conscious of a fault, but will treat the accusation with open contempt, and show no greater regard to the abettors, than to the authors of absurdity.

That decency is of great use in publick debates, I shall readily allow; it may sometimes shelter folly from ridicule, and preserve villany from publick detection; nor is it ever more carefully supported, than when measures are promoted that nothing can preserve from contempt, but the solemnity with which they are established.

Decency is a proper circumstance; but liberty is the essence of senatorial disquisitions: liberty is the parent of truth; but truth and decency are sometimes at variance: all men and all propositions are to be treated here as they deserve; and there are many who have no claim either to respect or decency.

Mr. WINNINGTON then rose:--Sir, that it is improper in its own nature, and inconsistent with our constitution, to lay any man under an obligation to accuse himself, cannot be denied; it is, therefore, evident, that some amendment is necessary to the clause before us.

I have, for this reason, drawn up an amendment, sir, which, if approved by the committee, will, in my opinion, remove all the objections to this part of the bill, and, by reconciling it with our natural and legal rights, I hope, induce those to approve it, who have hitherto opposed it.

I therefore propose, that these words should be substituted instead of those which are the subject of the debate; or some other to this purpose: That no person shall be liable to be fined by virtue of this act, unless a witness, being examined, shall make oath of the misdemeanour or neglect.

Thus the necessity of examining men upon oath in their own cause will be entirely taken away; and, as the clause will then stand, there will remain no suspicion of injustice, or oppression, because none can be practised without the concurrence of many persons of different interests.

[This clause, though agreed to in the committee, was at last rejected.]

Mr. Horace WALPOLE spoke next, to this effect:--Mr. Chairman, it does not yet appear that the gentlemen who have engaged in this debate, have sufficiently attended to the exigence of our affairs, and the importance of the question. They have lavished their oratory in declaiming upon the absurdity of the methods proposed, and discovered their sagacity, by showing how future navies may be supplied from charity schools, but have substituted no expedients in the place of those which they so warmly condemn, nor have condescended to inform us, how we may now guard our coasts, or man our fleets for immediate service.

There are some circumstances, sir, of the present war, which make our necessity of raising sea forces greater than in those of William, and Anne that succeeded him. The chief advantages that we gained over the French, in their wars, were the consequences of our victories by land.

At sea, sir, the balance was almost equal, though the Dutch fleet and ours were united; nor did they quit the sea because their fleets were destroyed, but because they were obliged to recruit their land forces with their sailors. Should they now declare war against us, they would be under no such necessity of defrauding the sea service, for they have now on foot an army of one hundred and sixty thousand men, which are maintained at no greater expense than forty thousand, by the British government; as they are, therefore, sir, so formidable by land, we have no way of opposing them but by our sea forces.

Nor is their navy so contemptible as some have, either by conjecture or misinformation, represented it. The fleet which they have despatched to America, consists not of fewer than twenty ships, of which the least carry sixty guns, and they are fitting out now an equal number in their own ports; besides, their East India company is obliged to furnish ten ships of the line, at the demand of the government.

Thus it appears that we have neighbours sufficiently powerful to alarm us with the sense of immediate danger; danger which is made more imminent by the expeditious methods by which the French man their fleets, and which we must imitate if we hope to oppose them with success.

I need not say how little we can depend upon any professions of neutrality, which will be best observed when they cannot be securely violated; or upon the pacifick inclination of their minister, which interest, persuasion, or caprice, may alter, and to which it is not very honourable to trust for safety. How can that nation sink lower, which is only free because it is not invaded by its neighbours; and retains its possessions, only because no other has leisure or inclination to take them away?

If it be asked, what can provoke the French to interrupt us in the prosecution of our designs, and in the punishment of those who have plundered and insulted us, it is not only easy to urge the strict alliance between the two crowns, the ties of blood, the conformity of interests, and their equal hatred of the Britons, but another more immediate reason may be added. It is suspected, that under pretence of vindicating our own rights, we are endeavouring to gain the possession of the Spanish dominions, and engross the wealth of the new world; and that, therefore, it is the interest of every power, whose subjects traffick to those countries, to oppose us.

Thus, whether we succeed or fail in our attempts upon America, we have the French power to apprehend. If we make conquests, they may, probably, think it necessary to obviate the torrent of our victories, and to hinder the increase of our dominions, that they may secure their own trade, and maintain their own influence.

If we should be defeated, of which no man, sir, can deny the possibility, the inclination of all to insult the depressed, and to push down the falling, is well known; nor can it be expected that our hereditary enemies would neglect so fair an opportunity of attacking us.

How they might ravage our coasts, and obstruct our trade; how they might triumph in the Channel, and block us up in our own ports, bombard our towns, and threaten us with invasions, I hope I need but barely mention, to incite this assembly to such despatch in manning our fleets, as may secure us at once from insults and from terrour.

It is, undoubtedly, sir, in our power to raise a naval force sufficient to awe the ocean, and restrain the most daring of our enemies from any attempts against us; but this cannot be effected by harangues, objections, and disputations.

There is nothing, sir, more frequently the subject of raillery or declamation, than the uselessness or danger of a standing army, to which I declare myself no otherwise inclined than by my concern for the common safety; I willingly allow that not one soldier ought to be supported by the publick, whose service is not necessary; but surely none of those who declare so warmly for the honour and privileges of their country, would expose it to the insults of foreign powers, without defence. If, therefore, they think the danger of land forces more than equivalent to the benefit, they ought unanimously to concur in the increase of our naval strength, by which they may be protected, but cannot be oppressed: they ought willingly to give their assistance to any propositions for making the fleet, formidable, that their declarations against the army may not be thought to proceed from a resolution to obstruct the measures of the government, rather than from zeal for the constitution. For he that equally opposes the establishment of the army, and the improvement of the navy, declares in effect against the security of the nation; and though, perhaps, without design, exposes his countrymen to the mercy of their enemies.

Mr. PULTENEY spoke next:--Sir, I cannot discover for what reason the bill before us is so vigorously supported, but must observe, that I have seldom known such vehement and continued efforts produced by mere publick spirit, and unmingled regard for the happiness of the nation. Nothing, sir, that can be urged in favour of the measures now proposed has been omitted. When arguments are confuted, precedents are cited; when precedents fail, the advocates for the bill have recourse to terrour and necessity, and endeavour to frighten those whom they cannot convince.

But, perhaps, sir, these formidable phantoms may soon be put to flight, and, like the other illusions of cowardice, disappear before the light. Perhaps this necessity will be found only chimerical; and these dangers appear only the visions of credulity, or the bugbears of imposture.

To arrive at a clear view of our present condition, it will be necessary, sir, not to amuse ourselves with general assertions, or overwhelm our reason by terrifying exaggerations: let us consider distinctly the power and the conduct of our enemies, and inquire whether they do not affright us more than they are able to hurt us.

That the force of Spain alone, sir, is much to be dreaded, no man will assert; for that empire, it is well known, has long been seized with all the symptoms of declining power, and has been supported, not by its own strength, but by the interests of its neighbours. The vast dominions of the Spaniards are only an empty show; they are lands without inhabitants, and, by consequence, without defence; they are rather excrescences, than members of the monarchy, and receive support rather than communicate. In the distant branches of their empire the government languishes, as the vital motion in an expiring body; and the struggles which they now make, may be termed rather agonies than efforts.

From Spain, therefore, unassisted, we have nothing to apprehend, and yet from thence we have been threatened with insults and invasions.

That the condition of the French is far different, cannot be denied; their commerce flourishes, their dominions are connected, their wealth increases, and their government operates with full vigour: their influence is great, and their name formidable. But I cannot allow, sir, that they have yet attained such a height of power as should alarm us with constant apprehensions, or that we ought to secure ourselves against them by the violation of our liberties. Not to urge that the loss of freedom, and the destruction of our constitution, are the worst consequences that can be apprehended from a conquest, and that to a slave the change of his master is of no great importance, it is evident, that the power of the French is of such kind as can only affect us remotely, and consequentially. They may fill the continent with alarms, and ravage the territories of Germany, by their numerous armies, but can only injure us by means of their fleets. We may wait, sir, without a panick terrour, though not without some degree of anxiety, the event of their attempts upon the neighbouring princes, and cannot be reduced to fight for our altars and our houses, but by a second armada, which, even then, the winds must favour, and a thousand circumstances concur to expedite.

But that no such fleet can be fitted out by the united endeavours of the whole world; that our navy, in its present state, is superiour to any that can be brought against us, our ministers ought not to be ignorant: and, therefore, to dispirit the nation with apprehensions of armies hovering in the air, and of conquerors to be wafted over by supernatural means, is to destroy that happiness which government was ordained to preserve; to sink us to tameness and cowardice; and to betray us to insults and to robberies.

If our danger, sir, be such as has been represented, to whom must we impute it? Upon whom are our weakness, our poverty, and our miseries to be charged? Upon whom, but those who have usurped the direction of affairs which they did not understand, or to which their solicitude for the preservation of their own power hindered them from attending?

That the Spaniards, sir, are now enabled to make resistance, and, perhaps, to insult and depopulate our colonies; that the French have despatched a fleet into the American seas, to obstruct, as may be conjectured, the progress of our arms, and that we are in danger of meeting opposition which we did not expect, is too evident to be concealed.

But, sir, is not the spirit of our enemies the consequence rather of our cowardice than of their own strength? Does not the opposition to our designs, by whatever nation it shall be made, arise from the contempt which has been brought upon us by our irresolution, forbearance, and delays? Had we resented the first insult, and repaired our earliest losses by vigorous reprisals, our merchants had long ago carried on their traffick with security, our enemies would have courted us with respect, and our allies supported us with confidence.

Our negotiations, treaties, proposals, and concessions, not only afforded them leisure to collect their forces, equip their fleets, and fortify their coasts; but gave them, likewise, spirit to resist those who could not be conquered but by their own cowardice and folly. By our ill-timed patience, and lingering preparations, we encouraged those to unite against us, who would, otherwise, have only hated us in secret; and deterred those from declaring in our favour, whom interest or gratitude might have inclined to assist us. For who will support those from whom no mutual support can be expected? And who will expect that those will defend their allies, who desert themselves?

But, sir, however late our resentment was awakened, had the war been prosecuted vigorously after it was declared, we might have been now secure from danger, and freed from suspense, nor would any thing have remained but to give laws to our enemies.

From the success of Vernon with so inconsiderable forces, we may conjecture what would have been performed with an armament proportioned to his undertaking; and why he was not better supplied, no reason has yet been given; nor can it be easily discovered why we either did not begin the war before our enemies had concerted their measures, or delay it till we had formed our own.

Notwithstanding some opportunities have been neglected, and all the advantages of a sudden attack have been irrecoverably lost; notwithstanding our friends, sir, have learned to despise and neglect us, and our enemies are animated to confidence and obstinacy, yet our real and intrinsick strength continues the same; nor are there yet any preparations made against us by the enemy, with views beyond their own security and defence. It does not yet appear, sir, that our enemies, however insolent, look upon us as the proper objects of a conquest, or that they imagine it possible to besiege us in our own ports, or to confine us to the defence of our own country. We are not, therefore, to have recourse to measures, which, if they are ever to be admitted, can be justified by nothing but the utmost distress, and can only become proper, as the last and desperate expedient. The enemy, sir, ought to appear not only in our seas, but in our ports, before it can be necessary that one part of the nation should be enslaved for the preservation of the rest.

To destroy any part of the community, while it is in our power to preserve the whole, is certainly absurd, and inconsistent with the equity and tenderness of a good government: and what is slavery less than destruction? What greater calamity has that man to expect, who has been already deprived of his liberty, and reduced to a level with thieves and murderers? With what spirit, sir, will he draw his sword upon his invaders, who has nothing to defend? Or why should he repel the injuries which will make no addition to his misery, and will fall only on those to whom he is enslaved?

It is well known that gratitude is the foundation of our duty to our country, and to our superiours, whom we are obliged to protect upon some occasions, because, upon others, we receive protection from them, and are maintained in the quiet possession of our fortunes, and the security of our lives. But what gratitude is due to his country from a man distinguished, without a crime, by the legislature, from the rest of the people, and marked out for hardships and oppressions? From a man who is condemned to labour and to danger, only that others may fatten with indolence, and slumber without anxiety? From a man who is dragged to misery without reward, and hunted from his retreat, as the property of his master?

Where gratitude, sir, is not the motive of action, which may easily happen in minds not accustomed to observe the ends of government, and relations of society, interest never fails to preside, which may be distinguished from gratitude, as it regards the immediate consequences of actions, and confines the view to present advantages. But what interest can be gratified by a man who is not master of his own actions, nor secure in the enjoyment of his acquisitions? Why should he be solicitous to increase his property, who may be torn from the possession of it in a moment? Or upon what motive can he act who will not become more happy by doing his duty?

Many of those to whom this bill is proposed to extend, have raised fortunes at the expense of their ease, and at the hazard of their lives; and now sit at rest, enjoying the memory of their past hardships, and inciting others to the prosecution of the same adventures. How will it be more reasonable to drag these men from their houses, than to seize any other gentleman upon his own estate? and how negligently will our navigation and our commerce be promoted, when it is discovered that either wealth cannot be gained by them, or, if so gained, cannot be enjoyed.

But it is still urged, sir, that there is a necessity of manning the fleet; a necessity which, indeed, cannot totally be denied, though a short delay would produce no frightful consequences, would expose us to no invasions, nor disable us from prosecuting the war. Yet, as the necessity at least deserves the regard of the legislature, let us consider what motives have hitherto gained men over to the publick service; let us examine how our land forces are raised, and how our merchants equip their ships. How is all this to be effected without murmurs, mutinies, or discontent, but by the natural and easy method of offering rewards?

It may be objected, sir, that rewards have been already proposed without effect; but, not to mention the corrupt arts which have been made use of to elude that promise, by rejecting those that came to claim them, we can infer from their inefficacy only, that they were too small; that they were not sufficient to dazzle the attention, and withdraw it from the prospect of the distant advantages which may arise from the service of the merchants. Let the reward, therefore, be doubled, and if it be not then sufficient, doubled anew. There is nothing but may be bought, if an adequate price is offered; and we are, therefore, to raise the reward, till it shall be adjudged by the sailors equivalent to the inconveniencies of the service.

Let no man urge, that this is profusion; that it is a breach of our trust, and a prodigality of the publick money. Sir, the money thus paid is the price of liberty; it is disbursed to hinder slavery from encroaching, to preserve our natural rights from infraction, and the constitution of our country from violation. If we vote away the privilege of one class among us, those of another may quickly be demanded; and slavery will advance by degrees, till the last remains of freedom shall be lost.

But perhaps, sir, it will appear, upon reflection, that even this method needs not to be practised. It is well known, that it is not necessary for the whole crew of a ship to be expert sailors; there must be some novices, and many whose employment has more of labour than of art. We have now a numerous army, which burdens our country, without defending it, and from whom we may, therefore, draw supplies for the fleet, and distribute them amongst the ships in just proportions; they may immediately assist the seamen, and will become able, in a short time, to train up others.

It will, doubtless, sir, be objected to this proposal, that the continent is in confusion, and that we ought to continue such a force as may enable us to assist our allies, maintain our influence, and turn the scale of affairs in the neighbouring countries. I know not how we are indebted to our allies, or by what ties we are obliged to assist those who never assisted us; nor can I, upon mature consideration, think it necessary to be always gazing on the continent, watching the motions of every potentate, and anxiously attentive to every revolution. There is no end, sir, of obviating contingencies, of attempting to secure ourselves from every possibility of danger. I am, indeed, desirous that our friends, if any there be that deserve that name, should succeed in their designs, and be protected in their claims; but think it ought always to be remembered, that our own affairs affect us immediately, theirs only by consequence, and that the nearest danger is to be first regarded.

With respect to the amendment offered to this clause, I cannot see that it will produce any advantage, nor think any evidence sufficient to justify the breach of our constitution, or subject any man to the hardship of having his dwelling entered by force.

And, sir, I am not entirely satisfied of the impartiality and equity with which it is promised that this law will be put in execution, or what new influence is to cooperate with this law, by which corruption and oppression will be prevented.

It is well known, sir, that many other laws are made ineffectual by partiality or negligence, which remarkably appears by the immense quantities of corn that are daily carried into foreign countries, by illegal exportations, by which traffick I am informed that we obtain most of our foreign gold, which, in reality, is paid us for corn by the Dutch; though it is studiously represented to the nation as gained by our traffick with Portugal. Who can assure us that this law will not be perverted, after the example of others? and that there will not be wretches found that may employ it to the extortion of money, or the gratification of revenge?

Thus, sir, I have shown by what means our fleet may now be equipped, and how a supply of sailors may be perpetuated; for I cannot think how the boys which are educated in charity schools can be more properly employed. A proportion may be easily selected for the service, who will benefit the publick much more than by serving sharpers and attorneys, and pilfering either at low gaming houses, or in the inns of court.

Since, therefore, it is not pretended, sir, that this bill can be justified otherwise than by necessity, and it appears that supplies may be raised by other means; since, instead of increasing and encouraging seamen, nothing is proposed that does not manifestly tend, by depressing and harassing them, to diminish their numbers, I think it reasonable to declare that I shall continue to oppose it, and hope that every friend of liberty, or commerce, will concur in the opposition.

Sir Robert WALPOLE spoke next, to the following effect:--Sir, I have considered the bill before us with the utmost impartiality, and I can see no reason to apprehend that it will produce such universal discontent, and give occasion to so many abuses, as the honourable gentlemen by whom it is opposed, appear to suspect. It is not uncommon, sir, in judging of future events, and tracing effects from causes, for the most sagacious to be mistaken.

The safest method of conjecturing upon the future, is to consider the past, for it is always probable, that from like causes like consequences will arise. Let us, therefore, sir, examine what injustice or oppression has been hitherto produced by laws of the same kind.

The power of searching, however it is now become the subject of loud exclamation and pathetick harangues, is no new invasion of the rights of the people, but has been already granted in its utmost extent, for an end of no greater importance than the preservation of the game. This formidable authority has been already trusted to the magistrate, and the nation has been already subjected to this insupportable tyranny, only lest the hares and partridges should be destroyed, and gentlemen be obliged to disband their hounds and dismiss their setting dogs. Yet, sir, even with regard to this power, thus exorbitant, and thus lightly granted, I have heard no general complaints, nor believe that it is looked upon as a grievance by any, but those whom it restrains from living upon the game, and condemns to maintain themselves by a more honest and useful industry.

I hope, sir, those that think this law for the preservation of their amusement, rational and just, will have at least the same regard to the defence of their country, and will not think their venison deserves greater solicitude than their fortunes and their liberties.

Nor is it difficult, sir, to produce instances of the exercise of this power, for the end which is now proposed, without any consequences that should discourage us from repeating the experiment. I have now in my hand a letter, by which the mayor and aldermen of Bristol are empowered to seize all the sailors within the bounds of their jurisdiction, which order was executed without any outcries of oppression, or apprehensions of the approach of slavery.

That this law, sir, will be always executed with the strictest impartiality, and without the least regard to any private purposes, cannot, indeed, be demonstratively proved; every law may possibly be abused by a combination of profligates; but it must, I think, be granted, that it is drawn up with all the caution that reason, or justice, or the corruption of the present age requires. I know not what can be contrived better than an association of men, unlikely to concur in their views and interests--a justice of the peace, a lieutenant of a ship, and a commissioner of the navy--three men, probably unknown to each other, and of which no one will be at all solicitous to desire the rest to unite to commit a crime, to which no temptation can be readily imagined.

This caution, sir, which cannot but be approved, and which surely is some proof of judgment and consideration, ought, in my opinion, to have exempted the bill, and those by whose assistance it was drawn up, from the reproachful and indecent charge of absurdity, ignorance, and incapacity; terms which the dignity of this assembly does not admit, even when they are incontestably just, and which surely ought not to be made use of when the question is of a doubtful nature.

The gentlemen, sir, who are now intrusted with publick employments, have never yet discovered that they are inferiour to their predecessors in knowledge or integrity; nor do their characters suffer any diminution by a comparison with those who vilify and traduce them.

Those, sir, that treat others with such licentious contempt, ought surely to give some illustrious proof of their own abilities; and yet if we examine what has been produced on this question, we shall find no reason to admire their sagacity or their knowledge.

We have been told, sir, that the fleet might properly be manned by a detachment from the army; but it has not been proved that we have any superfluous forces in the kingdom, nor, indeed, will our army be found sufficiently numerous, if, by neglecting to equip our fleet, we give our enemies an opportunity of entering our country.

If it be inquired what necessity there is for our present forces? What expeditions are designed? Or what dangers are feared? I shall not think it my duty to return any answer. It is, sir, the great unhappiness of our constitution, that our determinations cannot be kept secret, and that our enemies may always form conjectures of our designs, by knowing our preparations; but surely more is not to be published than necessity extorts, and the government has a right to conceal what it would injure the nation to discover.

Nor can I, sir, approve the method of levying sailors by the incitement of an exorbitant reward, a reward to be augmented at the pleasure of those who are to receive it. For what can be the consequence of such prodigality, but that those to whom the largest sum is offered, will yet refuse their service in expectation of a greater. The reward already proposed is, in my opinion, the utmost stretch of liberality; and all beyond may be censured as profusion.

It is not to be imagined, sir, that all these objections were not made, and answered, in the reign of the late queen, when a bill of the same nature was proposed; they were answered, at least, by the necessity of those times, which necessity has now returned upon us.

We do not find that it produced any consequences so formidable and destructive, that they should for ever discourage us from attempting to raise forces by the same means; it was then readily enacted, and executed without opposition, and without complaints; nor do I believe that any measures can be proposed of equal efficacy, and less severity.

Mr. SANDYS replied, in substance as follows:--Sir, whether the precedents produced in defence of this bill, will have more weight than the arguments, must be shown by a careful examination, which will perhaps discover that the order sent to the magistrates of Bristol conveyed no new power, nor such as is, in any respect, parallel to that which this bill is intended to confer.

They were only enjoined to inquire with more than usual strictness, after strollers and vagabonds, such as the law has always subjected to punishment, and send them to the fleet, instead of any other place of correction; a method which may now be pursued without danger, opposition, or complaint.

But for my part, I am not able, upon the closest attention to the present scene of affairs, to find out the necessity of extraordinary methods of any kind. The fears of an invasion from France, are, in my opinion, sir, merely chimerical; from their fleet in America the coasts of Britain have nothing to fear, and after the numerous levies of seamen by which it was fitted out, it is not yet probable that they can speedily send out another. We know, sir, that the number of seamen depends upon the extent of commerce, and surely there is as yet no such disproportion between their trade and ours, as that they should be able to furnish out a naval armament with much greater expedition than ourselves.

In America our forces are at least equal to theirs, so that it is not very probable, that after the total destruction of our fleet by them, they should be so little injured, as to be able immediately to set sail for the channel, and insult us in our own ports; to effect this, sir, they must not only conquer us, but conquer us without resistance.

If they do not interrupt us in our attempts, nor expose themselves to an engagement, they may, indeed, return without suffering great damages, but I know not how they can leave the shores of America unobserved, or pour an unexpected invasion upon us. If they continue there, sir, they cannot hurt as, and when they return, we may prepare for their reception.

There are men, I know, sir, who have reason to think highly of the French policy, and whose ideas may be exalted to a belief that they can perform impossibilities; but I have not yet prevailed upon myself to conceive that they can act invisibly, or that they can equip a fleet by sorcery, collect an army in a moment, and defy us on our own coast, without any perceptible preparations.

Then admiral WAGER spoke thus:--The calamities produced by discord and contention, need not to be pointed out; but it may be proper to reflect upon the consequences of a house divided against itself, that we may endeavour to avoid them.

Unanimity is produced by nothing more powerfully than by impending danger, and, therefore, it may be useful to show those who seem at present in profound security, that the power of France is more formidable than they are willing to allow.

My age, sir, enables me to remember many transactions of the wars in the late reigns, to which many gentlemen are strangers, or of which they have only imperfect ideas from history and tradition.

In the second year of the reign of William, the French gained a victory over the united fleets of the maritime powers, which gave them, for the summer following, the dominion of the Channel, enabled them to shut up our merchants in their ports, and produced a total suspension of our commerce.

Those, sir, to whom the importance of trade is so well known, will easily apprehend the weight of this calamity, and will, I hope, reject no measures that have a manifest tendency to prevent it.

Our ships, sir, do not lie useless because there is any want of seamen in the nation, but because any service is preferred to that of the publick.

There are now, to my knowledge, in one town on the west coast, no fewer than twelve hundred sailors, of which surely a third part may be justly claimed by the publick interest; nor do I know why they who obstinately refuse to serve their country, should be treated with so much tenderness. It is more reasonable that they should suffer by their refusal, than that the general happiness should be endangered.

Mr. SOUTHWELL spoke next, to the following purpose:--Sir, when any authority shall be lodged in my hands, to be exercised for the publick benefit, I shall always endeavour to exert it with honesty and diligence; but will never be made the instrument of oppression, nor execute any commission of tyranny or injustice.

As, therefore, the power of searching is to be placed in the hands of justices of the peace, I think it necessary to declare, that I will never perform so hateful a part of the office, and that if this bill becomes a law, I will retire from the place to which my authority is limited, rather than contribute to the miseries of my fellow-subjects.

Mr. LITTLETON spoke as follows:--Sir, all the arguments which have been offered in support of this bill, are reduced at last to one constant assertion of the necessity of passing it.

We have been told, sir, with great acuteness, that a war cannot be carried on without men, and that ships are useless without sailors; and from thence it is inferred that the bill is necessary.

That forces are by some means necessary to be raised, the warmest opponents of the bill will not deny, but they cannot, therefore, allow the inference, that the methods now proposed are necessary.

They are of opinion, sir, that cruel and oppressive measures can never be justified, till all others have been tried without effect; they think that the law, when it was formerly passed, was unjust, and are convinced, by observing that it never was revived, and that it was by experience discovered to be useless.

Necessity, absolute necessity, is a formidable sound, and may terrify the weak and timorous into silence and compliance; but it will be found, upon reflection, to be often nothing but an idle feint, to amuse and to delude us, and that what is represented as necessary to the publick, is only something convenient to men in power.

Necessity, sir, has, heretofore, been produced as a plea for that which could be no otherwise defended. In the days of Charles the first, ship-money was declared to be legal, because it was necessary. Such was the reasoning of the lawyers, and the determination of the judges; but the senate, a senate of patriots! without fear, and without corruption, and influenced only by a sincere regard for the publick, were of a different opinion, and neither admitted the lawfulness nor necessity.

It will become us, on this occasion, to act with equal vigour, and convince our countrymen, that we proceed upon the same principles, and that the liberties of the people are our chief care.

I hope we shall unite in defeating any attempts that may impair the rights which every Briton boasts as his birthright, and reject a law which will be equally dreaded and detested with the inquisition of Spain.

Sir William YONGE spoke next, to this effect:--Sir, though many particular clauses of this bill have been disapproved and opposed, some with more, and some with less reason, yet the committee has hitherto agreed that a bill for this purpose is necessary in the present state of our affairs; upon this principle we have proceeded thus far, several gentlemen have proposed their opinions, contributed their observations, and laboured as in an affair universally admitted to be of high importance to the general prosperity.

But now, sir, when some of the difficulties are surmounted, some expedients luckily struck out, some objections removed, and the great design brought nearer to execution, we are on a sudden informed, that all our labour is superfluous, that we are amusing ourselves with useless consultations, providing against calamities that can never happen, and raising bulwarks without an enemy; that, therefore, the question before us is of no importance, and the bill ought, without farther examination, to be totally rejected.

I suppose, sir, I shall be readily believed, when I declare that I shall willingly admit any arguments that may evince our safety; but, in proportion as real freedom from danger is to be desired, a supine and indolent neglect of it is to be dreaded and avoided; and I cannot but fear that our enemies are more formidable, and more malicious, than the gentlemen that oppose this bill have represented them.

This bill can only be opposed upon the supposition that it gives a sanction to severities, more rigorous than our present circumstances require; for nothing can be more fallacious or invidious than a comparison of this law with the demand of ship-money, a demand contrary to all law, and enforced by the manifest exertion of arbitrary power.

How has the conduct of his present majesty any resemblance with that of Charles the first? Is any money levied by order of the council? Are the determinations of the judges set in opposition to the decrees of the senate? Is any man injured in his property by an unlimited extension of the prerogative? or any tribunal established superiour to the laws of the nation?

To draw parallels, sir, where there is no resemblance; and to accuse, by insinuations, where there is no shadow of a crime; to raise outcries when no injury is attempted; and to deny a real necessity because it was once pretended for a bad purpose; is surely not to advance the publick service, which can be promoted only by just reasonings, and calm reflections, not by sophistry and satire, by insinuations without ground, and by instances beside the purpose.

Mr. LITTLETON answered:--Sir, true zeal for the service of the publick is never discovered by collusive subterfuges and malicious representations; a mind, attentive to the common good, would hardly, on an occasion like this, have been at leisure to pervert an harmless illustration, and extract disaffection from a casual remark.

It is, indeed, not impossible, sir, that I might express myself obscurely; and it may be, therefore, necessary to declare that I intended no disrespectful reflection on the conduct of his majesty; but must observe, at the same time, that obscure or inaccurate expressions ought always to be interpreted in the most inoffensive meaning, and that to be too sagacious in discovering concealed insinuations, is no great proof of superiour integrity.

Wisdom, sir, is seldom captious, and honesty seldom suspicious; a man capable of comprehending the whole extent of a question, disdains to divert his attention by trifling observations; and he that is above the practice of little arts, or the motions of petty malice, does not easily imagine them incident to another.

That in the question of ship-money necessity was pretended, cannot be denied; and, therefore, all that I asserted, which was only that the nation had been once terrified without reason, by the formidable sound of necessity, is evident and uncontested.

When a fraud has once been practised, it is of use to remember it, that we may not twice be deceived by the same artifice; and, therefore, I mentioned the plea of necessity, that it may be inquired whether it is now more true than before.

That the senate, sir, and not the judges, is now applied to, is no proof of the validity of the arguments which have been produced; for in the days of ship-money, the consent of the senate had been asked, had there been any prospect of obtaining it; but the court had been convinced, by frequent experiments, of the inflexibility of the senate, and despaired of influencing them by prospects of advantage, or intimidating them by frowns or menaces.

May this and every future senate imitate their conduct, and, like them, distinguish between real and pretended necessity; and let not us be terrified, by idle clamours, into the establishment of a law at once useless and oppressive.

Sir William YONGE replied:--Sir, that I did not intend to misrepresent the meaning of the honourable gentleman, I hope it is not necessary to declare; and that I have, in reality, been guilty of any misrepresentation, I am not yet convinced. If he did not intend a parallel between ship-money and the present bill, to what purpose was his observation? and if he did intend it, was it not proper to show there was no resemblance, and that all which could be inferred from it was, therefore, fallacious and inconclusive?

Nor do I only differ, sir, in opinion with the honourable gentleman with relation to his comparison of measures, which have nothing in common with each other; but will venture to declare, that he is not more accurate in his citations from history. The king did not apply to the judges, because the senate would not have granted him the money that he demanded, but because his chief ambition was to govern the nation by the prerogative alone, and to free himself and his descendants from senatorial inquiries.

That this account, sir, is just, I am confident the histories of those times will discover; and, therefore, any invidious comparison between that senate and any other, is without foundation in reason or in truth.

Mr. BATHURST spoke as follows:--Sir, that this law will easily admit, in the execution of it, such abuses as will overbalance the benefits, may readily be proved; and it will not be consistent with that regard to the publick, expected from us by those whom we represent, to enact a law which may probably become an instrument of oppression.

The servant by whom I am now attended, may be termed, according to the determination of the vindicators of this bill, a seafaring man, having been once in the West Indies; and he may, therefore, be forced from my service, and dragged into a ship, by the authority of a justice of the peace, perhaps of some abandoned prostitute, dignified with a commission only to influence elections, and awe those whom excises and riot-acts cannot subdue.

I think it, sir, not improper to declare, that I would by force oppose the execution of a law like this; that I would bar my doors and defend them; that I would call my neighbours to my assistance; and treat those who should attempt to enter without my consent, as thieves, ruffians, and murderers.

Lord GAGE spoke to this effect:--Sir, it is well known that by the laws of this nation, poverty is, in some degree, considered as a crime, and that the debtor has only this advantage over the felon, that he cannot be pursued into his dwelling, nor be forced from the shelter of his own house.

I think it is universally agreed, that the condition of a man in debt is already sufficiently miserable, and that it would be more worthy of the legislative power to contrive alleviations of his hardships, than additions to them; and it seems, therefore, no inconsiderable objection to this bill, that, by conferring the power of entering houses by force, it may give the harpies of the law an opportunity of entering, in the tumult of an impress, and of dragging a debtor to a noisome prison, under pretence of forcing sailors into the service of the crown.

Mr. TRACEY then said:--Sir, that some law for the ends proposed by the bill before us, is necessary, I do not see how we can doubt, after the declarations of the admirals, who are fully acquainted with the service for which provision is to be made; and of the ministry, whose knowledge of the present state of our own strength, and the designs of our enemies, is, doubtless, more exact than they can acquire who are not engaged in publick employments.

If, therefore, the measures now proposed are necessary, though they may not be agreeable to the present dispositions of the people, for whose preservation they are intended, I shall think it my duty to concur in them, that the publick service may not be retarded, nor the safety of a whole nation hazarded, by a scrupulous attention to minute objections.

Mr. CAMPBELL spoke as follows:--Sir, I have often, amidst my elogies on British liberty, and my declarations of the excellence of our constitution, the impartiality of our government, and the efficacy of our laws, been reproached by foreigners with the practice of impresses, as a hardship which would raise a rebellion in absolute monarchies, and kindle those nations into madness, that have, for many ages, known no other law than the will of their princes. A hardship which includes imprisonment and slavery, and to which, therefore, no aggravations ought to be added.

But if justice and reason, sir, are to be overborne by necessity; if necessity is to stop our ears against the complaints of the oppressed, and harden our hearts at the sight of their misery, let it, at least, not destroy our memories, nor deprive us of the advantages of experience.

Let us inquire, sir, what were the effects of this hateful authority when it was formerly consigned to the magistrates. Were our fleets manned in an instant? were our harbours immediately crowded with sailors? did we surprise our enemies by our expedition, and make conquests before an invasion could be suspected? I have heard, sir, of no such consequences, nor of any advantages which deserved to be purchased by tyranny and oppression. We have found that very few were procured by the magistrates, and the charge of seizing and conveying was very considerable; and, therefore, cannot but conclude that illegal measures, which have been once tried without success, should, for a double reason, never be revived.

Sir John BARNARD spoke to this effect:--Sir, it is not without regret that I rise so often on this occasion: for to dispute with those whose determinations are not influenced by reason, is a ridiculous task, a tiresome labour, without prospect of reward.

But, as an honourable gentleman has lately remarked, that by denying the necessity of the bill, instead of making objections to particular clauses, the whole design of finding expedients to supply the sea service is at once defeated; I think it necessary to remind him, that I have made many objections to this bill, and supported them by reasons which have not yet been answered. But I shall now no longer confine my remarks to single errours, but observe that there is one general defect, by which the whole bill is made absurd and useless.

For the foundation of a law like this, sir, the description of a seaman ought to be accurately laid down, it ought to be declared what acts shall subject him to that denomination, and by what means, after having once enlisted himself in this unhappy class of men, he may withdraw into a more secure and happy state of life.

Is a man, who has once only lost sight of the shore, to be for ever hunted as a seaman? Is a man, who, by traffick, has enriched a family, to be forced from his possessions by the authority of an impress? Is a man, who has purchased an estate, and built a seat, to solicit the admiralty for a protection from the neighbouring constable? Such questions as these, sir, may be asked, which the bill before us will enable no man to answer.

If a bill for this purpose be truly necessary, let it, at least, be freed from such offensive absurdities; let it be drawn up in a form as different as is possible from that of the bill before us; and, at last, I am far from imagining that a law will be contrived not injurious to individuals, nor detrimental to the publick; not contrary to the first principles of our establishment, and not loaded with folly and absurdities.

Mr. VYNER then spoke:--Sir, a definition of a seaman is so necessary in a bill for this purpose, that the omission of it will defeat all the methods that can be suggested. How shall a law be executed, or a penalty inflicted, when the magistrate has no certain marks whereby he may distinguish a criminal? and when even the man that is prosecuted may not be conscious of guilt, or know that the law extended to him, which he is charged with having offended.

If, in defining a seaman on the present occasion, it be thought proper to have any regard to the example of our predecessors, whose wisdom has, in this debate, been so much magnified; it may be observed, that a seaman has been formerly defined, a man who haunts the seas; a definition which seems to imply habit and continuance, and not to comprehend a man who has, perhaps, never gone more than a single voyage.

But though this definition, sir, should be added to the amendments already proposed, and the bill thereby be brought somewhat nearer to the constitutional principles of our government; I cannot yet think it so much rectified, as that the hardships will not outweigh the benefits, and, therefore, shall continue to oppose the bill, though to some particular clauses I have no objection.

[The term seafaring man was left out, and the several amendments were admitted in the committee, but the clauses themselves, to the number of eleven, were given up on the report.]


The commons resolved their house into a committee, to consider the bill for the encouragement of sailors, when admiral WAGER offered a clause, by which it was to be enacted, "That no merchants, or bodies corporate or politick, shall hire sailors at higher wages than thirty-five shillings for the month, on pain of forfeiting the treble value of the sum so agreed for;" which law was to commence after fifteen days, and continue for a time to be agreed on by the house: and then spoke to the following purpose:--

Sir, the necessity of this clause must be so apparent to every gentleman acquainted with naval and commercial affairs, that as no opposition can be apprehended, very few arguments will be requisite to introduce it.

How much the publick calamities of war are improved by the sailors to their own private advantage; how generally they shun the publick service, in hopes of receiving exorbitant wages from the merchants; and how much they extort from the merchants, by threatening to leave their service for that of the crown, is universally known to every officer of the navy, and every commander of a trading vessel.

A law, therefore, sir, to restrain them in time of war from such exorbitant demands; to deprive them of those prospects which have often no other effect than to lull them in idleness, while they skulk about in expectation of higher wages; and to hinder them from deceiving themselves, embarrassing the merchants, and neglecting the general interest of their country, is undoubtedly just. It is just, sir, because in regard to the publick it is necessary to prevent the greatest calamity that can fall upon a people, to preserve us from receiving laws from the most implacable of our enemies; and it is just, because with respect to particular men it has no tendency but to suppress idleness, fraud, and extortion.

Mr. Henby FOX spoke next:--Sir, I have no objection to any part of this clause, except the day proposed for the commencement: to make a law against any pernicious practice, to which there are strong temptations, and to give those whose interest may incite them to it, time to effect their schemes, before the law shall begin to operate, seems not very consistent with wisdom or vigilance.

It is not denied, sir, that the merchants are betrayed by that regard to private interest which prevails too frequently over nobler views, to bribe away from the service of the crown, by large rewards, those sailors whose assistance is now so necessary to the publick; and, therefore, it is not to be imagined that they will not employ their utmost diligence to improve the interval which the bill allows in making contracts for the ensuing, year, and that the sailors will not eagerly engage themselves before this law shall preclude their prospects of advantage.

As, therefore, to make no law, and to make a law that will not be observed, is in consequence the same; and the time allowed by the clause, as it now stands, may make the whole provision ineffectual; it is my opinion, that either it ought to begin to operate to-morrow, or that we ought to leave the whole affair in its present state.

Then sir Robert WALPOLE spoke as follows:--Sir, nothing has a greater appearance of injustice, than to punish men by virtue of laws, with which they were not acquainted; the law, therefore, is always supposed to be known by those who have offended it, because it is the duty of every man to know it; and certainly it ought to be the care of the legislature, that those whom a law will affect, may have a possibility of knowing it, and that those may not be punished for failing in their duty, whom nothing but inevitable ignorance has betrayed into offence.

But if the operation of this law should commence to-morrow, what numbers may break it, and suffer by the breach of it involuntarily, and without design; and how shall we vindicate ourselves from having been accessory to the crime which we censure and punish?

Mr. FOX replied:--Sir, I shall not urge in defence of my motion what is generally known, and has been frequently inculcated in all debates upon this bill, that private considerations ought always to give way to the necessities of the publick; for I think it sufficient to observe, that there is a distinction to be made between punishments and restraints, and that we never can be too early in the prevention of pernicious practices, though we may sometimes delay to punish them.

The law will be known to-morrow, to far the greatest number of those who may be tempted to defeat it; and if there be others that break it ignorantly, how will they find themselves injured by being only obliged to pay less than they promised, which is all that I should propose without longer warning. The debate upon this particular, will be at length reduced to a question, whether a law for this purpose is just and expedient? If a law be necessary, it is necessary that it should be executed; and it can be executed only by commencing to-morrow.

Lord BALTIMORE spoke thus:--Sir, it appears to me of no great importance how soon the operation of the law commences, or how long it is delayed, because I see no reason for imagining that it will at any time produce the effects proposed by it.

It has been the amusement, sir, of a great part of my life, to converse with men whose inclinations or employments have made them well acquainted with maritime affairs, and amidst innumerable other schemes for the promotion of trade, have heard some for the regulation of wages in trading ships; schemes, at the first appearance plausible and likely to succeed, but, upon a nearer inquiry, evidently entangled with insuperable difficulties, and never to be executed without danger of injuring the commerce of the nation.

The clause, sir, now before us contains, in my opinion, one of those visionary provisions, which, however infallible they may appear, will be easily defeated, and will have no other effect than to promote cunning and fraud, and to teach men those acts of collusion, with which they would otherwise never have been acquainted.

Mr. LODWICK spoke to this effect:--Sir, I agree with the honourable gentleman by whom this clause has been offered, that the end for which it is proposed, is worthy of the closest attention of the legislative power, and that the evils of which the prevention is now endeavoured, may in some measure not only obstruct our traffick, but endanger our country; and shall therefore very readily concur in any measures for this purpose, that shall not appear either unjust or ineffectual.

Whether this clause will be sufficient to restrain all elusive contracts, and whether all the little artifices of interest are sufficiently obviated, I am yet unable to determine; but by a reflection upon the multiplicity of relations to be considered, and the variety of circumstances to be adjusted in a provision of this kind, I am inclined to think that, it is not the business of a transient inquiry, or of a single clause, but that it will demand a separate law, and engage the deliberation and regard of this whole assembly.

Sir John BARNARD said:--Sir, notwithstanding the impatience and resentment with which some men see their mistakes and ignorance detected; notwithstanding the reverence which negligence and haste are said to be entitled to from this assembly, I shall declare once more, without the apprehension of being confuted, that this bill was drawn up without consideration, and is defended without being understood; that after all the amendments which have been admitted, and all the additions proposed, it will be oppressive and ineffectual, a chaos of absurdities, and a monument of ignorance.

Sir Robert WALPOLE replied:--Sir, the present business of this assembly is to examine the clause before us; but to deviate from so necessary an inquiry into loud exclamations against the whole bill, is to obstruct the course of the debate, to perplex our attention, and interrupt the senate in its deliberation upon questions, in the determination of which the security of the publick is nearly concerned.

The war, sir, in which we are now engaged, and, I may add, engaged by the general request of the whole nation, can be prosecuted only by the assistance of the seamen, from whom it is not to be expected that they will sacrifice their immediate advantage to the security of their country. Publick spirit, where it is to be found, is the result of reflection, refined by study and exalted by education, and is not to be hoped for among those whom low fortune has condemned to perpetual drudgery. It must be, therefore, necessary to supply the defects of education, and to produce, by salutary coercions, those effects which it is vain to expect from other causes.

That the service of the sailors will be set up to sale by auction, and that the merchants will bid against the government, is incontestable; nor is there any doubt that they will be able to offer the highest price, because they will take care to repay themselves by raising the value of their goods. Thus, without some restraint upon the merchants, our enemies, who are not debarred by their form of government from any method which policy can invent, or absolute power put in execution, will preclude all our designs, and set at defiance a nation superiour to themselves.

Sir John BARNARD then said:--Sir, I think myself obliged by my duty to my country, and by my gratitude to those by whose industry we are enriched, and by whose courage we are defended, to make, once more, a declaration, not against particular clauses, not against single circumstances, but against the whole bill; a bill unjust and oppressive, absurd and ridiculous; a bill to harass the industrious and distress the honest, to puzzle the wise and add power to the cruel; a bill which cannot be read without astonishment, nor passed without the violation of our constitution, and an equal disregard of policy and humanity.

All these assertions will need to be proved only by a bare perusal of this hateful bill, by which the meanest, the most worthless reptile, exalted to a petty office by serving a wretch only superiour to him in fortune, is enabled to flush his authority by tyrannising over those who every hour deserve the publick acknowledgments of the community; to intrude upon the retreats of brave men, fatigued and exhausted by honest industry, to drag them out with all the wantonness of grovelling authority, and chain them to the oar without a moment's respite, or perhaps oblige them to purchase, with the gains of a dangerous voyage, or the plunder of an enemy lately conquered, a short interval to settle their affairs, or bid their children farewell.

Let any gentleman in this house, let those, sir, who now sit at ease, projecting laws of oppression, and conferring upon their own slaves such licentious authority, pause a few moments, and imagine themselves exposed to the same hardships by a power superiour to their own; let them conceive themselves torn from the tenderness and caresses of their families by midnight irruptions, dragged in triumph through the streets by a despicable officer, and placed under the command of those by whom they have, perhaps, been already oppressed and insulted. Why should we imagine that the race of men for whom those cruelties are preparing, have less sensibility than ourselves? Why should we believe that they will suffer without complaint, and be injured without resentment? Why should we conceive that they will not at once deliver themselves, and punish their oppressors, by deserting that country where they are considered as felons, and laying hold on those rewards and privileges which no other government will deny them?

This is, indeed, the only tendency, whatever may have been the intention of the bill before us; for I know not whether the most refined sagacity can discover any other method of discouraging navigation than those which are drawn together in the bill before us. We first give our constables an authority to hunt the sailors like thieves, and drive them, by incessant pursuit, out of the nation; but lest any man should by friendship, good fortune, or the power of money, find means of staying behind, we have with equal wisdom condemned him to poverty and misery; and lest the natural courage of his profession should incite him to assist his country in the war, have contrived a method of precluding him from any advantage that he might have the weakness to hope from his fortitude and diligence. What more can be done, unless we at once prohibit to seamen the use of the common elements, or doom them to a general proscription.

It is just that advantage, sir, should be proportioned to the hazard by which it is to be obtained, and, therefore, a sailor has an honest claim to an advance of wages in time of war; it is necessary to excite expectation, and to fire ambition by the prospect of great acquisitions, and by this prospect it is that such numbers are daily allured to naval business, and that our privateers are filled with adventurers. The large wages which war makes necessary, are more powerful incentives to those whom impatience of poverty determines to change their state of life, than the secure gains of peaceful commerce; for the danger is overlooked by a mind intent upon the profit.

War is the harvest of a sailor, in which he is to store provisions for the winter of old age, and if we blast this hope, he will inevitably sink into indolence and cowardice.

Many of the sailors are bred up to trades, or capable of any laborious employment upon land; nor is there any reason for which they expose themselves to the dangers of a seafaring life, but the hope of sudden wealth, and some lucky season in which they may improve their fortunes by a single effort. Is it reasonable to believe that all these will not rather have recourse to their former callings, and live in security, though not in plenty, than encounter danger and poverty at once, and face an enemy without any prospect of recompense?

Let any man recollect the ideas that arose in his mind upon hearing of a bill for encouraging and increasing sailors, and examine whether he had any expectation of expedients like these. I suppose it was never known before, that men were to be encouraged by subjecting them to peculiar penalties, or that to take away the gains of a profession, was a method of recommending it more generally to the people.

But it is not of very great importance to dwell longer upon the impropriety of this clause, which there is no possibility of putting in execution. That the merchants will try every method of eluding a law so prejudicial to their interest, may be easily imagined, and a mind not very fruitful of evasions, will discover that this law may be eluded by a thousand artifices. If the merchants are restrained from allowing men their wages beyond a certain sum, they will make contracts for the voyage, of which the time may very easily be computed, they may offer a reward for expedition and fidelity, they may pay a large sum by way of advance, they may allow the sailors part of the profits, or may offer money by a third hand. To fix the price of any commodity, of which the quantity and the use may vary their proportions, is the most excessive degree of ignorance. No man can determine the price of corn, unless he can regulate the harvest, and keep the number of the people for ever at a stand.

But let us suppose these methods as efficacious as their most sanguine vindicators are desirous of representing them, it does not yet appear that they are necessary, and to inflict hardships without necessity, is by no means the practice of either wisdom or benevolence. To tyrannise and compel is the low pleasure of petty capacities, of narrow minds, swelled with the pride of uncontroulable authority, the wantonness of wretches who are insensible of the consequences of their own actions, and of whom candour may, perhaps, determine, that they are only cruel because they are stupid. Let us not exalt into a precedent the most unjust and rigorous law of our predecessors, of which they themselves declared their repentance, or confessed the inefficacy, by never reviving it; let us rather endeavour to gain the sailors by lenity and moderation, and reconcile them to the service of the crown by real encouragements; for it is rational to imagine, that in proportion as men are disgusted by injuries, they will be won by kindness.

There is one expedient, sir, which deserves to be tried, and from which, at least, more success may be hoped than from cruelty, hunger, and persecution. The ships that are now to be fitted out for service, are those of the first magnitude, which it is usual to bring back into the ports in winter. Let us, therefore, promise to all seamen that shall voluntarily engage in them, besides the reward already proposed, a discharge from the service at the end of six or seven months. By this they will be released from their present dread of perpetual slavery, and be certain, as they are when in the service of the merchants, of a respite from their fatigues. The trade of the nation will be only interrupted for a time, and may be carried on in the winter months, and large sums will be saved by dismissing the seamen when they cannot be employed.

By adding this to the other methods of encouragement, and throwing aside all rigorous and oppressive schemes, the navy may easily be manned, our country protected, our commerce reestablished, and our enemies subdued; but to pass the bill as it now stands, is to determine that trade shall cease, and that no ship shall sail out of the river.

Mr. PITT spoke to the following purport:--Sir, it is common for those to have the greatest regard to their own interest who discover the least for that of others. I do not, therefore, despair of recalling the advocates of this bill from the prosecution of their favourite measures, by arguments of greater efficacy than those which are founded on reason and justice.

Nothing, sir, is more evident, than that some degree of reputation is absolutely necessary to men who have any concern in the administration of a government like ours; they must either secure the fidelity of their adherents by the assistance of wisdom, or of virtue; their enemies must either be awed by their honesty, or terrified by their cunning. Mere artless bribery will never gain a sufficient majority to set them entirely free from apprehensions of censure. To different tempers different motives must be applied: some, who place their felicity in being accounted wise, are in very little care to preserve the character of honesty; others may be persuaded to join in measures which they easily discover to be weak and ill-concerted, because they are convinced that the authors of them are not corrupt but mistaken, and are unwilling that any man should be punished for natural defects or casual ignorance.

I cannot say, sir, which of these motives influences the advocates for the bill before us; a bill in which such cruelties are proposed as are yet unknown among the most savage nations, such as slavery has not yet borne, or tyranny invented, such as cannot be heard without resentment, nor thought of without horrour.

It is, sir, perhaps, not unfortunate, that one more expedient has been added, rather ridiculous than shocking, and that these tyrants of the administration, who amuse themselves with oppressing their fellow-subjects, who add without reluctance one hardship to another, invade the liberty of those whom they have already overborne with taxes, first plunder and then imprison, who take all opportunities of heightening the publick distresses, and make the miseries of war the instruments of new oppressions, are too ignorant to be formidable, and owe their power not to their abilities, but to casual prosperity, or to the influence of money.

The other clauses of this bill, complicated at once with cruelty and folly, have been treated with becoming indignation; but this may be considered with less ardour of resentment, and fewer emotions of zeal, because, though, perhaps, equally iniquitous, it will do no harm; for a law that can never be executed can never be felt.

That it will consume the manufacture of paper, and swell the books of statutes, is all the good or hurt that can be hoped or feared from a law like this; a law which fixes what is in its own nature mutable, which prescribes rules to the seasons and limits to the wind. I am too well acquainted, sir, with the disposition of its two chief supporters, to mention the contempt with which this law will be treated by posterity, for they have already shown abundantly their disregard of succeeding generations; but I will remind them, that they are now venturing their whole interest at once, and hope they will recollect, before it is too late, that those who believe them to intend the happiness of their country, will never be confirmed in their opinion by open cruelty and notorious oppression; and that those who have only their own interest in view, will be afraid of adhering to those leaders, however old and practised in expedients, however strengthened by corruption, or elated with power, who have no reason to hope for success from either their virtue or abilities.

Mr. BATHURST next spoke to this effect:--Sir, the clause now under our consideration is so inconsiderately drawn up, that it is impossible to read it in the most cursory manner, without discovering the necessity of numerous amendments; no malicious subtilties or artful deductions are required in raising objections to this part of the bill, they crowd upon us without being sought, and, instead of exercising our sagacity, weary our attention.

The first errour, or rather one part of a general and complicated errour, is the computation of time, not by days, but by calendar months, which, as they are not equal one to another, may embarrass the account between the sailors and those that employ them. In all contracts of a short duration, the time is to be reckoned by weeks and days, by certain and regular periods, which has been so constantly the practice of the seafaring men, that, perhaps, many of them do not know the meaning of a calendar month: this, indeed, is a neglect of no great importance, because no man can be deprived by it of more than the wages due for the labour of a few days; but the other part of this clause is more seriously to be considered, as it threatens the sailors with greater injuries: for it is to be enacted, that all contracts made for more wages than are here allowed shall be totally void.

It cannot be denied to be possible, and in my opinion it is very likely, that many contracts will be made without the knowledge of this law, and consequently without any design of violating it; but ignorance, inevitable ignorance, though it is a valid excuse for every other man, is no plea for the unhappy sailor; he must suffer, though innocent, the penalty of a crime; must undergo danger, hardships, and labour, without a recompense, and at the end of a successful voyage, after having enriched his country by his industry, return home to a necessitous family, without being able to relieve them.

It is scarcely necessary, sir, to raise any more objections to a clause in which nothing is right; but, to show how its imperfections multiply upon the slightest consideration, I take the opportunity to observe, that there is no provision made for regulating the voyages performed in less time than a month, so that the greatest part of the abuses, which have been represented as the occasion of this clause, are yet without remedy, and only those sailors who venture far, and are exposed to the greatest dangers, are restrained from receiving an adequate reward.

Thus much, sir, I have said upon the supposition that a regulation of the sailors' wages is either necessary or just; a supposition of which I am very far from discovering the truth. That it is just to oppress the most useful of our fellow-subjects, to load those men with peculiar hardships to whom we owe the plenty that we enjoy, the power that yet remains in the nation, and which neither the folly nor the cowardice of ministers have yet been able to destroy, and the security in which we now sit and hold our consultations; that it is just to lessen our payments at a time when we increase the labour of those who are hired, and to expose men to danger without recompense, will not easily be proved, even by those who are most accustomed to paradoxes, and are ready to undertake the proof of any position which it is their interest to find true.

Nor is it much more easy to show the necessity of this expedient in our present state, in which it appears from the title of the bill, that our chief endeavour should be the increase and encouragement of sailors, and, I suppose, it has not often been discovered, that by taking away the profits of a profession greater numbers have been allured to it.

The high wages, sir, paid by merchants are the chief incitements that prevail upon the ambitious, the necessitous, or the avaricious, to forsake the ease and security of the land, to leave easy trades, and healthful employments, and expose themselves to an element where they are not certain of an hour's safety. The service of the merchants is the nursery in which seamen are trained up for his majesty's navies, and from thence we must, in time of danger, expect those forces by which alone we can be protected.

If, therefore, it is necessary to encourage sailors, it is necessary to reject all measures that may terrify or disgust them; and as their numbers must depend upon our trade, let us not embarrass the merchants with any other difficulties than those which are inseparable from war, and which very little care has been hitherto taken to alleviate.

Mr. HAY replied:--Sir, the objections which have been urged with so much ardour, and displayed with such power of eloquence, are not, in my opinion, formidable enough to discourage us from prosecuting our measures; some of them may be, perhaps, readily answered, and the rest easily removed.

The computation of time, as it now stands, is allowed not to produce any formidable evil, and therefore did not require so rhetorical a censure: the inconveniency of calendar months may easily be removed by a little candour in the contracting parties, or, that the objection may not be repeated to the interruption of the debate, weeks or days may be substituted, and the usual reckoning of the sailors be still continued.

That some contracts may be annulled, and inconveniencies or delays of payment arise, is too evident to be questioned; but in that case the sailor may have his remedy provided, and be enabled to obtain, by an easy process, what he shall be judged to have deserved; for it must be allowed reasonable, that every man who labours in honest and useful employments, should receive the reward of his diligence and fidelity.

Thus, sir, may the clause, however loudly censured and violently opposed, be made useful and equitable, and the publick service advanced without injury to individuals.

Sir Robert WALPOLE next rose, and spoke as follows:--Sir, every law which extends its influence to great numbers in various relations and circumstances, must produce some consequences that were never foreseen or intended, and is to be censured or applauded as the general advantages or inconveniencies are found to preponderate. Of this kind is the law before us, a law enforced by the necessity of our affairs, and drawn up with no other intention than to secure the publick happiness, and produce that success which every man's interest must prompt him to desire.

If in the execution of this law, sir, some inconveniencies should arise, they are to be remedied as fast as they are discovered, or if not capable of a remedy, to be patiently borne, in consideration of the general advantage.

That some temporary disturbances may be produced is not improbable; the discontent of the sailors may, for a short time, rise high, and our trade be suspended by their obstinacy; but obstinacy, however determined, must yield to hunger, and when no higher wages can be obtained, they will cheerfully accept of those which are here allowed them. Short voyages, indeed, are not comprehended in the clause, and therefore the sailors will engage in them upon their own terms, but this objection can be of no weight with those that oppose the clause, because, if it is unjust to limit the wages of the sailors, it is just to leave those voyages without restriction; and those that think the expedient here proposed equitable and rational, may, perhaps, be willing to make some concessions to those who are of a different opinion.

That the bill will not remove every obstacle to success, nor add weight to one part of the balance without making the other lighter; that it will not supply the navy without incommoding the merchants in some degree; that it may be sometimes evaded by cunning, and sometimes abused by malice; and that at last it will be less efficacious than is desired, may, perhaps, be proved; but it has not yet been proved that any other measures are more eligible, or that we are not to promote the publick service as far as we are able, though our endeavours may not produce effects equal to our wishes.

Sir John BARNARD then spoke, to this effect:--Sir, I know not by what fatality it is that nothing can be urged in defence of the clause before us which does not tend to discover its weakness and inefficacy. The warmest patrons of this expedient are impelled, by the mere force of conviction, to such concessions as invalidate all their arguments, and leave their opponents no necessity of replying.

If short voyages are not comprehended in this provision, what are we now controverting? What but the expedience of a law that will never be executed? The sailors, however they are contemned by those who think them only worthy to be treated like beasts of burden, are not yet so stupid but that they can easily find out, that to serve a fortnight for greater wages is more eligible than to toil a month for less; and as the numerous equipments that have been lately made have not left many more sailors in the service of the merchants than may be employed in the coasting trade, those who traffick to remoter parts, must shut up their books and wait till the expiration of this act, for an opportunity of renewing their commerce.

To regulate the wages for one voyage, and to leave another without limitation, in time of scarcity of seamen, is absolutely to prohibit that trade which is so restrained, and is, doubtless, a more effectual embargo than has been yet invented.

Let any man but suppose that the East India company were obliged to give only half the wages that other traders allow, and consider how that part of our commerce could be carried on; would not their goods rot in their warehouses, and their ships lie for ever in the harbour? Would not the sailors refuse to contract with them? or desert them after a contract, upon the first prospect of more advantageous employment?

But it is not requisite to multiply arguments in a question which may not only be decided without long examination, but in which we may determine our conclusions by the experience of our ancestors. Scarcely any right or wrong measures are without a precedent, and, amongst others, this expedient has been tried by the wisdom of former times; a law was once made for limiting the wages of tailors, and that it is totally ineffectual we are all convinced. Experience is a very safe guide in political inquiries, and often discovers what the most enlightened reason failed to foresee.

Let us, therefore, improve the errours of our ancestors to our own advantage, and whilst we neglect to imitate their virtues, let us, at least, forbear to repeat their follies.

Mr. PERRY spoke to this purpose:--Sir, there is one objection more which my acquaintance with foreign trade impresses too strongly upon my mind to suffer me to conceal it.

It is well known that the condition of a seaman subjects him to the necessity of spending a great part of his life at a distance from his native country, in places where he can neither hear of our designs, nor be instructed in our laws, and, therefore, it is evident that no law ought to affect him before a certain period of time, in which he may reasonably be supposed to have been informed of it. For every man ought to have it in his power to avoid punishment, and to suffer only for negligence or obstinacy.

It is quite unnecessary, sir, to observe to this assembly, that there are now, as at all times, great numbers of sailors in every part of the world, and that they, at least, equally deserve our regard with those who are under the more immediate influence of the government.

These seamen have already contracted for the price of their labour, and the recompense of their hazards, nor can we, in my opinion, without manifest injustice, dissolve a contract founded upon equity, and confirmed by law.

It is, sir, an undisputed principle of government, that no person should be punished without a crime; but is it no punishment to deprive a man of what is due to him by a legal stipulation, the condition of which is, on his part, honestly fulfilled?

Nothing, sir, can be imagined more calamitous than the disappointment to which this law subjects the unhappy men who are now promoting the interest of their country in distant places, amidst dangers and hardships, in unhealthy climates, and barbarous nations, where they comfort themselves, under the fatigues of labour and the miseries of sickness, with the prospect of the sum which they shall gain for the relief of their families, and the respite which their wages will enable them to enjoy; but, upon their return, they find their hopes blasted, and their contracts dissolved by a law made in their absence.

No human being, I think, can coolly and deliberately inflict a hardship like this, and, therefore, I doubt not but those who have, by inadvertency, given room for this objection, will either remove it by an amendment, or what is, in my opinion, more eligible, reject the clause as inexpedient, useless, and unjust.

Sir William YONGE spoke next to this effect:--Sir, this debate has been protracted, not by any difficulties arising from the nature of the questions which have been the subject of it, but by a neglect with which almost all the opponents of the bill may be justly charged, the neglect of distinguishing between measures eligible in themselves, and measures preferable to consequences which are apprehended from particular conjunctures; between laws made only to advance the publick happiness, and expedients of which the benefit is merely occasional, and of which the sole intention is to avert some national calamity, and which are to cease with the necessity that produced them.

Such are the measures, sir, which are now intended; measures, which, in days of ease, security, and prosperity, it would be the highest degree of weakness to propose, but of which I cannot see the absurdity in times of danger and distress. Such laws are the medicines of a state, useless and nauseous in health, but preferable to a lingering disease, or to a miserable death.

Even those measures, sir, which have been mentioned as most grossly absurd, and represented as parallel to the provision made in this clause only to expose it to contempt and ridicule, may, in particular circumstances, be rational and just. To settle the price of corn in the time of a famine, may become the wisest state, and multitudes might, in time of publick misery, by the benefit of temporary laws, be preserved from destruction. Even those masts, to which, with a prosperous gale, the ship owes its usefulness and its speed, are often cut down by the sailors in the fury of a storm.

With regard to the ships which are now in distant places, whither no knowledge of this law can possibly be conveyed, it cannot be denied that their crews ought to be secured from injury by some particular exception; for though it is evident in competitions between publick and private interest, which ought to be preferred, yet we ought to remember that no unnecessary injury is to be done to individuals, even while we are providing for the safety of the nation.

Mr. FAZAKERLY spoke to this effect:--Sir, though I cannot be supposed to have much acquaintance with naval affairs, and, therefore, may not, perhaps, discover the full force of the arguments that have been urged in favour of the clause now under consideration, yet I cannot but think myself under an indispensable obligation to examine it as far as I am able, and to make use of the knowledge which I have acquired, however inferiour to that of others.

The argument, sir, the only real argument, which has been produced in favour of the restraint of wages now proposed, appears to me by no means conclusive; nor can I believe that the meanest and most ignorant seaman would, if it were proposed to him, hesitate a moment for an answer to it. Let me suppose, sir, a merchant urging it as a charge against a seaman, that he raises his demand of wages in time of war, would not the sailor readily reply, that harder labour required larger pay? Would he not ask, why the general practice of mankind is charged as a crime upon him only? Inquire, says he, of the workmen in the docks, have they not double wages for double labour? and is not their lot safe and easy in comparison with mine, who at once encounter danger and support fatigue, carry on war and commerce at the same time, conduct the ship and oppose the enemy, and am equally exposed to captivity and shipwreck?

That this is, in reality, the state of a sailor in time of war, I think, sir, too evident to require proof; nor do I see what reply can be made to the sailor's artless expostulation.

I know not why the sailors alone should serve their country to their disadvantage, and be expected to encounter danger without the incitement of a reward.

Nor will any part of the hardships of this clause be alleviated by the expedient suggested by an honourable member, who spoke, some time ago, of granting, or allowing, to a sailor, whose contract shall be void, what our courts of law should adjudge him to deserve, a quantum meruit: for, according to the general interpretation of our statutes, it will be determined that he has forfeited his whole claim by illegal contract. To instance, sir, the statute of usury. He that stipulates for higher interest than is allowed, is not able to recover his legal demand, but irrecoverably forfeits the whole.

Thus, sir, an unhappy sailor who shall innocently transgress this law, must lose all the profit of his voyage, and have nothing to relieve him after his fatigues; but when he has by his courage repelled the enemy, and, by his skill, escaped storms and rocks, must suffer yet severer hardships, in being subject to a forfeiture where he expected applause, comfort, and recompense.

The ATTORNEY GENERAL spoke next, to this purport:--Sir, the clause before us cannot, in my opinion, produce any such dreadful consequences as the learned gentleman appears to imagine: however, to remove all difficulties, I have drawn up an amendment, which I shall beg leave to propose, that the contracts which may be affected as the clause now stands, shall be void only as to so much of the wages as shall exceed the sum to which the house shall agree to reduce the seamen's pay; and, as to the forfeitures, they are not to be levied upon the sailors, but upon the merchants, or trading companies, who employ them, and who are able to pay greater sums without being involved in poverty and distress.

With regard, sir, to the reasons for introducing this clause, they are, in my judgment, valid and equitable. We have found it necessary to fix the rate of money at interest, and the rate of labour in several cases, and if we do not in this case, what will be the consequence?--a second embargo on commerce, and, perhaps, a total stop to all military preparations. Is it reasonable that any man should rate his labour according to the immediate necessities of those that employ him? or that he should raise his own fortune by the publick calamities? If this has hitherto been a practice, it is a practice contrary to the general happiness of society, and ought to prevail no longer.

If the sailor, sir, is exposed to greater dangers in time of war, is not the merchant's trade carried on, likewise, at greater hazard? Is not the freight, equally with the sailors, threatened at once by the ocean and the enemy? And is not the owner's fortune equally impaired, whether the ship is dashed upon a rock, or seized by a privateer?

The merchant, therefore, has as much reason for paying less wages in time of war, as the sailor for demanding more, and nothing remains but that the legislative power determine a medium between their different interests, with justice, if possible, at least with impartiality.

Mr. Horace WALPOLE, who had stood up several times, but was prevented by other members, spoke next, to this purport:--Sir, I was unwilling to interrupt the course of this debate while it was carried on with calmness and decency, by men, who do not suffer the ardour of opposition to cloud their reason, or transport them to such expressions as the dignity of this assembly does not admit. I have hitherto deferred to answer the gentleman who declaimed against the bill with such fluency of rhetorick, and such vehemence of gesture; who charged the advocates for the expedients now proposed, with having no regard to any interest but their own, and with making laws only to consume paper, and threatened them with the defection of their adherence, and the loss of their influence, upon this new discovery of their folly and their ignorance.

Nor, sir, do I now answer him for any other purpose than to remind him how little the clamours of rage and petulancy of invectives contribute to the purposes for which this assembly is called together; how little the discovery of truth is promoted, and the security of the nation established by pompous diction and theatrical emotions.

Formidable sounds, and furious declamations, confident assertions, and lofty periods, may affect the young and unexperienced; and, perhaps, the gentleman may have contracted his habits of oratory by conversing more with those of his own age, than with such as have had more opportunities of acquiring knowledge, and more successful methods of communicating their sentiments.

If the heat of his temper, sir, would suffer him to attend to those whose age and long acquaintance with business give them an indisputable right to deference and superiority, he would learn, in time, to reason rather than declaim, and to prefer justness of argument, and an accurate knowledge of facts, to sounding epithets and splendid superlatives, which may disturb the imagination for a moment, but leave no lasting impression on the mind.

He will learn, sir, that to accuse and prove are very different, and that reproaches, unsupported by evidence, affect only the character of him that utters them. Excursions of fancy, and flights of oratory, are, indeed, pardonable in young men, but in no other; and it would surely contribute more, even to the purpose for which some gentlemen appear to speak, that of depreciating the conduct of the administration, to prove the inconveniencies and injustice of this bill, than barely to assert them, with whatever magnificence of language, or appearance of zeal, honesty, or compassion.

Mr. PITT replied:--Sir, the atrocious crime of being a young man, which the honourable gentleman has with such spirit and decency charged upon me, I shall neither attempt to palliate nor deny, but content myself with wishing that I may be one of those whose follies may cease with their youth, and not of that number, who are ignorant in spite of experience.

Whether youth can be imputed to any man as a reproach, I will not, sir, assume the province of determining; but surely age may become justly contemptible, if the opportunities which it brings have passed away without improvement, and vice appears to prevail when the passions have subsided. The wretch that, after having seen the consequences of a thousand errours, continues still to blunder, and whose age has only added obstinacy to stupidity, is surely the object of either abhorrence or contempt, and deserves not that his grey head should secure him from insults.

Much more, sir, is he to be abhorred, who, as he has advanced in age, has receded from virtue, and becomes more wicked with less temptation; who prostitutes himself for money which he cannot enjoy, and spends the remains of his life in the ruin of his country.

But youth, sir, is not my only crime; I have been accused of acting a theatrical part--a theatrical part may either imply some peculiarities of gesture, or a dissimulation of my real sentiments, and an adoption of the opinions and language of another man.

In the first sense, sir, the charge is too trifling to be confuted, and deserves only to be mentioned, that it may be despised. I am at liberty, like every other man, to use my own language; and though I may, perhaps, have some ambition to please this gentleman, I shall not lay myself under any restraint, nor very solicitously copy his diction, or his mien, however matured by age, or modelled by experience.

If any man shall, by charging me with theatrical behaviour, imply that I utter any sentiments but my own, I shall treat him as a calumniator and a villain; nor shall any protection shelter him from the treatment which he deserves. I shall, on such an occasion, without scruple, trample upon all those forms, with which wealth and dignity intrench themselves, nor shall any thing but age restrain my resentment: age, which always brings one privilege, that of being insolent and supercilious without punishment.

But, with regard, sir, to those whom I have offended, I am of opinion, that if I had acted a borrowed part, I should have avoided their censure; the heat that offended them is the ardour of conviction, and that zeal for the service of my country, which neither hope nor fear shall influence me to suppress. I will not sit unconcerned while my liberty is invaded, nor look in silence upon publick robbery. I will exert my endeavours, at whatever hazard, to repel the aggressor, and drag the thief to justice, whoever may protect them in their villany, and whoever may partake of their plunder. And if the honourable gentleman--

Here Mr. WINNINGTON called to order, and Mr. PITT sitting down, he spoke thus:--It is necessary, sir, that the order of this assembly be observed, and the debate resumed without personal altercations. Such expressions as have been vented on this occasion, become not an assembly intrusted with the liberty and welfare of their country. To interrupt the debate on a subject so important as that before us, is, in some measure, to obstruct the publick happiness, and violate our trust: but much more heinous is the crime of exposing our determinations to contempt, and inciting the people to suspicion or mutiny, by indecent reflections, or unjust insinuations.

I do not, sir, undertake to decide the controversy between the two gentlemen, but must be allowed to observe, that no diversity of opinion can justify the violation of decency, and the use of rude and virulent expressions; expressions dictated only by resentment, and uttered without regard to--

Mr. PITT called to order, and said:--Sir, if this be to preserve order, there is no danger of indecency from the most licentious tongue: for what calumny can be more atrocious, or what reproach more severe, than that of speaking with regard to any thing but truth. Order may sometimes be broken by passion, or inadvertency, but will hardly be reestablished by monitors like this, who cannot govern his own passion, whilst he is restraining the impetuosity of others.

Happy, sir, would it be for mankind, if every one knew his own province; we should not then see the same man at once a criminal and a judge. Nor would this gentleman assume the right of dictating to others what he has not learned himself.

That I may return, in some degree, the favour which he intends me, I will advise him never hereafter to exert himself on the subject of order; but, whenever he finds himself inclined to speak on such occasions, to remember how he has now succeeded, and condemn, in silence, what his censures will never reform.

Mr. WINNINGTON replied:--Sir, as I was hindered by the gentleman's ardour and impetuosity from concluding my sentence, none but myself can know the equity or partiality of my intentions, and, therefore, as I cannot justly be condemned, I ought to be supposed innocent; nor ought he to censure a fault of which he cannot be certain that it would ever have been committed.

He has, indeed, exalted himself to a degree of authority never yet assumed by any member of this house, that of condemning others to silence. I am henceforward, by his inviolable decree, to sit and hear his harangues without daring to oppose him. How wide he may extend his authority, or whom he will proceed to include in the same sentence, I shall not determine; having not yet arrived at the same degree of sagacity with himself, nor being able to foreknow what another is going to pronounce.

If I had given offence by any improper sallies of passion, I ought to have been censured by the concurrent voice of the assembly, or have received a reprimand, sir, from you, to which I should have submitted without opposition; but I will not be doomed to silence by one who has no pretensions to authority, and whose arbitrary decisions can only tend to introduce uproar, discord, and confusion.

Mr. Henry PELHAM next rose up, and spoke to this effect:--Sir, when, in the ardour of controversy upon interesting questions, the zeal of the disputants hinders them from a nice observation of decency and regularity, there is some indulgence due to the common weakness of our nature; nor ought any gentleman to affix to a negligent expression a more offensive sense than is necessarily implied by it.

To search deep, sir, for calumnies and reproaches is no laudable nor beneficial curiosity; it must always be troublesome to ourselves by alarming us with imaginary injuries, and may often be unjust to others by charging them with invectives which they never intended. General candour and mutual tenderness will best preserve our own quiet, and support that dignity which has always been accounted essential to national debates, and seldom infringed without dangerous consequences.

Mr. LYTTLETON spoke as follows:--Sir, no man can be more zealous for decency than myself, or more convinced of the necessity of a methodical prosecution of the question before us. I am well convinced how near indecency and faction are to one another, and how inevitably confusion produces obscurity; but I hope it will always be remembered, that he who first infringes decency, or deviates from method, is to answer for all the consequences that may arise from the neglect of senatorial customs: for it is not to be expected that any man will bear reproaches without reply, or that he who wanders from the question will not be followed in his digressions, and hunted through his labyrinths.

It cannot, sir, be denied, that some insinuations were uttered injurious to those whose zeal may sometimes happen to prompt them to warm declarations, or incite them to passionate emotions. Whether I am of importance enough to be included in the censure, I despise it too much to inquire or consider, but cannot forbear to observe, that zeal for the right can never become reproachful, and that no man can fall into contempt but those who deserve it.

[The clause was amended, and agreed to.]


The seventieth day of the session being appointed for the report from the committee on the bill for the increase and encouragement of sailors, sir John BARNARD presented a petition from the merchants of London, and spoke as follows:--

Sir, this petition I am directed to lay before this house by many of the principal merchants of that great city which I have the honour to represent; men too wise to be terrified with imaginary dangers, and too honest to endeavour the obstruction of any measures that may probably advance the publick good, merely because they do not concur with their private interest; men, whose knowledge and capacity enable them to judge rightly, and whose acknowledged integrity and spirit set them above the suspicion of concealing their sentiments.

I therefore present this petition in the name of the merchants of London, in full confidence that it will be found to deserve the regard of this assembly, though I am, equally with the other members, a stranger to what it contains; for it is my opinion that a representative is to lay before the house the sentiments of his constituents, whether they agree with his own or not, and that, therefore, it would have been superfluous to examine the petition, which, though I might not wholly have approved it, I had no right to alter.

The petition was read, and is as follows:

"The humble petition of the merchants and traders of the city of London--showeth, that your petitioners are informed a bill is depending in this honourable house, for the encouragement and increase of seamen, and for the better and speedier manning his majesty's fleet, in which are clauses, that, should the bill pass into a law, your petitioners apprehend will be highly detrimental to the trade and navigation of this kingdom, by discouraging persons from entering into or being bred to the sea service, and entirely prevent the better and speedier manning his majesty's fleet, by giving the seamen of Great Britain, and of all other his majesty's dominions, a distaste of serving on board the royal navy.

"That your petitioners conceive nothing can be of so bad consequence to the welfare and defence of this nation, as the treating so useful and valuable a body of men, who are its natural strength and security, like criminals of the highest nature, and so differently from all other his majesty's subjects; and at the same time are persuaded, that the only effectual and speedy method of procuring, for the service of his majesty's fleet, a proportionable number of the sailors in this kingdom, is to distinguish that body of men by bounties and encouragements, both present and future, and by abolishing all methods of severity and ill usage, particularly that practice whereby they are deprived, after long and hazardous voyages, of enjoying, for a short space of time, the comforts of their families, and equal liberty with other their fellow-subjects in their native country.

"That your petitioners believe it will not be difficult to have such methods pointed out as will tend to supply the present necessities, and at the same time effectually promote the increase of seamen, when this honourable house shall think fit to inquire into a matter of such high importance to the naval power, trade, and riches of this kingdom.

"That your petitioners are convinced this bill will not only be ineffectual to answer the ends proposed by it, but will be destructive of the liberties of all his majesty's subjects, as it empowers any parish officer, accompanied with an unlimited number of persons, at any hour, by day or by night, to force open the dwelling-houses, warehouses, or other places, provided for the security and defence of their lives and fortunes, contrary to the undoubted liberties of the people of Great Britain, and the laws of this land.

"In consideration, therefore, of the premises, and of the particular prejudices, hardships, and dangers, which must inevitably attend your petitioners, and all others the merchants and traders of this kingdom, should this bill pass into a law, your petitioners most humbly pray this honourable house, that they may be heard by their counsel against the said clauses in the said bill."

Mr. BATHURST then presented a petition, and spoke as follows:--Sir, the alarm which the bill, now depending, has raised, is not confined to the city of London, or to any particular province of the king's dominions; the whole nation is thrown into commotions, and the effects of the law now proposed, are dreaded, far and wide, as a general calamity. Every town which owes its trade and its provisions to navigation, apprehends the approach of poverty and scarcity, and those which are less immediately affected, consider the infraction of our liberties as a prelude to their destruction. Happy would it be, if we, who are intrusted with their interest, could find any arguments to convince them that their terrour was merely panick.

That these fears have already extended their influence to the county which I represent, the petition which I now beg leave to lay before the house, will sufficiently evince; and I hope their remonstrances will prevail with this assembly to remove the cause of their disquiet, by rejecting the bill.

This was entitled "a petition of several gentlemen, freeholders, and other inhabitants of the county of Gloucester, in behalf of themselves, and all other, the freeholders of the said county," setting forth, in substance, "That the petitioners being informed that a bill was depending in this house, for the encouragement and increase of seamen, and for the better and speedier manning his majesty's fleet, containing several clauses which, should the bill pass into a law, would, as the petitioners apprehend, impose hardships upon the people too heavy to be borne, and create discontents in the minds of his majesty's subjects; would subvert all the rights and privileges of a Briton; and overturn Magna Charta itself, the basis on which they are built; and, by these means, destroy that very liberty, for the preservation of which the present royal family was established upon the throne of Britain; for which reasons, such a law could never be obeyed, or much blood would be shed in consequence of it."

Mr. Henry PELHAM then spoke, to this purport:--Sir, I have attended to this petition with the utmost impartiality, and have endeavoured to affix, to every period, the most innocent sense; but cannot forbear to declare it as my opinion, that it is far distant from the style of submission and request: instead of persuading, they attempt to intimidate us, and menace us with no less than bloodshed and rebellion. They make themselves the judges of our proceedings, and appeal, from our determinations, to their own opinion, and declare that they will obey no longer than they approve.

If such petitions as these, sir, are admitted; if the legislature shall submit to receive laws, and subjects resume, at pleasure, the power with which the government is vested, what is this assembly but a convention of empty phantoms, whose determinations are nothing more than a mockery of state?

Every insult upon this house is a violation of our constitution; and the constitution, like every other fabrick, by being often battered, must fall at last. It is, indeed, already destroyed, if there be, in the nation, any body of men who shall, with impunity, refuse to comply with the laws, plead the great charter of liberty against those powers that made it, and fix the limits of their own obedience.

I cannot, sir, pass over, in silence, the mention of the king, whose title to the throne, and the reasons for which he was exalted to it, are set forth with uncommon art and spirit of diction; but spirit, which, in my opinion, appears not raised by zeal, but by sedition; and which, therefore, it is our province to repress.

That his majesty reigns for the preservation of liberty, will be readily confessed; but how shall we be able to preserve it, if his laws are not obeyed?

Let us, therefore, in regard to the dignity of the assembly, to the efficacy of our determinations, and the security of our constitution, discourage all those who shall address us for the future, on this or any other occasion, from speaking in the style of governours and dictators, by refusing that this petition should be laid on the table.

[The question was put, and it was agreed, by the whole house, that it should not lie on the table.]

Mr. Henry PELHAM rose up again, and spoke thus:--Sir, I cannot but congratulate the house upon the unanimity with which this petition, a petition of which I speak in the softest language, when I call it irreverent and disrespectful, has been refused the regard commonly paid to the remonstrances of our constituents, whose rights I am far from desiring to infringe, when I endeavour to regulate their conduct, and recall them to their duty.

This is an occasion, on which it is, in my opinion, necessary to exert our authority with confidence and vigour, as the spirit of opposition must always be proportioned to that of the attack. Let us, therefore, not only refuse to this petition the usual place on our table, but reject it as unworthy of this house.

[The question was put, and the petition rejected, with scarcely any opposition.]

The house then entered upon the consideration of the bill, and when the report was made from the committee, and the blanks filled up, sir William YONGE spoke, in the following manner:--

Sir, the bill has been brought, by steady perseverance and diligent attention, to such perfection, that much more important effects may be expected from it than from any former law for the same purpose, if it be executed with the same calmness and resolution, the same contempt of popular clamour, and the same invariable and intrepid adherence to the publick good, that has been shown in forming and defending it.

But what can we hope from this, or any other law, if particular men, who cannot be convinced of its expedience, shall not only refuse to obey it, but declare their design of obstructing the execution of it? shall determine to retire from the sphere of their authority, rather than exercise it in compliance with the decree of the senate, and threaten, in plain terms, to call the country in to their assistance, and to pour the rabble by thousands upon those who shall dare to do their duty, and obey their governours?

Such declarations as these, sir, are little less than sallies of rebellion; and, if they pass without censure, will, perhaps, produce such commotions as may require to be suppressed by other means than forms of law and senatorial censures.

Nor do I think that, by rejecting the petition, we have sufficiently established our authority; for, in my opinion, we yielded too much in receiving it. The bill before us whatever may be its title, is, in reality, a money bill; a bill, by which aids are granted to the crown; and we have, therefore, no necessity of rejecting petitions on this occasion, because the standing orders of the house forbid us to admit them.

They then proceeded to the amendments, and when the clause for limiting the wages of seamen was read, sir John BARNARD rose up, and spoke to this effect:--

Sir, we are now to consider the clause to which the petition relates, which I have now presented, a petition on a subject of so general importance, and offered by men so well acquainted with every argument that can be offered, and every objection which can be raised, that their request of being heard by their council cannot be denied, without exposing us to the censure of adhering obstinately to our own opinions, of shutting our ears against information, of preferring expedition to security, and disregarding the welfare of our country.

It will not be necessary to defer our determinations on this clause for more than three days, though we should gratify this just and common request. And will not this loss be amply compensated by the satisfaction of the people, for whose safety we are debating, and by the consciousness that we have neglected nothing which might contribute to the efficacy of our measures?

The merchants, sir, do not come before us with loud remonstrances and harassing complaints, they do not apply to our passions, but our understandings, and offer such informations as will very much facilitate the publick service. It has been frequent, in the course of this debate, to hear loud demands for better expedients, and more efficacious, than those which have been proposed; and is it to be conceived that those who called thus eagerly for new proposals, intended not to inform themselves, but to silence their opponents?

From whom, sir, are the best methods for the prosecution of naval affairs to be expected, but from those whose lives are spent in the study of commerce, whose fortunes depend upon the knowledge of the sea, and who will, most probably, exert their abilities in contriving expedients to promote the success of the war, than they whom the miscarriage of our fleets must irreparably ruin?

The merchants, sir, are enabled by their profession to inform us--are deterred by their interest from deceiving us; they have, like all other subjects, a right to be heard on any question; and a better right than any other when their interest is more immediately affected; and, therefore, to refuse to hear them, will be, at once, impolitick and cruel; it will discover, at the same time, a contempt of the most valuable part of our fellow-subjects, and an inflexible adherence to our own opinions.

The expedient of asserting this to be a money bill, by which the just remonstrances of the merchants are intended to be eluded, is too trivial and gross to be adopted by this assembly: if this bill can be termed a money bill, and no petitions are, therefore, to be admitted against it, I know not any bill relating to the general affairs of the nation which may not plead the same title to an exemption from petitions.

I therefore desire that the consideration of this clause may be deferred for two days, that the arguments of the merchants may be examined, and that this affair may not be determined without the clearest knowledge and exactest information.

Sir Robert WALPOLE spoke next, to this effect:--Sir, the petition, whether justifiable or not, with regard to the occasion on which it is presented, or the language in which it is expressed, is certainly offered at an improper time, and, therefore, can lay no claim to the regard of this assembly.

The time prescribed, by the rules of this house, for the reception of petitions, is that at which the bill is first introduced, not at which it is to be finally determined.

The petition before us is said not to regard the bill in general, but a particular clause; and it is, therefore, asserted, that it may now properly be heard: but this plea will immediately vanish, when it shall be made appear that the clause is not mentioned in it, and that there is no particular relation between that and the petition, which I shall attempt--

Here sir John BARNARD, remarking that sir Robert WALPOLE had the petition in his hand, rose, and said:--Sir, I rise thus abruptly to preserve the order of this assembly, and to prevent any gentleman from having, in this debate, any other advantage, above the rest, than that of superiour abilities, or more extensive knowledge.

The petition was not ordered, by the house, to be placed in the right honourable gentleman's hand, but on the table; nor has he a right to make use of any other means for his information, than are in the power of any other member: if he is in doubt upon any particulars contained in it, he may move that the clerk should read it to the house.

Sir Robert WALPOLE laid down the paper; Mr. PELHAM rose, and said:--Sir, I am so far from thinking the rules of the house asserted, that, in my opinion, the right of the members is infringed by this peremptory demand. Is it not, in the highest degree, requisite, that he who is about to reason upon the petition should acquaint himself with the subject on which he is to speak.

What inconveniencies can ensue from such liberties as this, I am not able to discover; and, as all the orders of the house are, doubtless, made for more easy and expeditious despatch, if an order be contrary to this end, it ought to be abrogated for the reasons for which others are observed.

The confidence with which this petition was presented, will not suffer us to imagine that the person who offered it fears that it can suffer by a close examination; and I suppose, though he has spoken so warmly in favour of it, without perusing, he does not expect that others should with equal confidence admit--

Sir John BARNARD observing that sir Robert WALPOLE leaned forward towards the table, to read the petition as it lay, rose, and said:--Sir, I rise once more to demand the observation of the orders of the house, and to hinder the right honourable gentleman from doing by stratagem, what he did more openly and honestly before.

It was to little purpose that he laid down the petition, if he placed it within reach of his inspection? for I was only desirous, sir, to hinder him from reading, and was far from suspecting that he would take it away. I insist, that henceforward, he obey the rules of this assembly, with his eyes as well as with his hands, and take no advantage of his seat, which may enable him to perplex the question in debate.

Then the PRESIDENT spoke thus:--Sir, it is, undoubtedly, required by the orders of the house, that the petitions should lie upon the table; and that any member, who is desirous of any farther satisfaction, should move that they be read by the clerk, that every member may have the same opportunity of understanding and considering them; and that no one may be excluded from information, by the curiosity or delays of another. But the importance of this affair seems not to be so very great as to require a rigorous observance of the rules; and it were to be wished, for the ease and expedition of our deliberations, that gentlemen would rather yield points of indifference to one another, than insist so warmly on circumstances of a trivial nature.

Sir Robert WALPOLE then desired that the clerk might read the petition, which being immediately done, he proceeded in the following manner:--

Sir, having sat above forty years in this assembly, and never been called to order before, I was somewhat disconcerted by a censure so new and unexpected, and, in my opinion, undeserved. So that I am somewhat at a loss, with regard to the train of arguments which I had formed, and which I will now endeavour to recover. Yet I cannot but remark, that those gentlemen who are so solicitous for order in others, ought, themselves, invariably to observe it; and that if I have once given an unhappy precedent of violating the rules of this house, I have, in some measure, atoned for my inadvertence, by a patient attention to reproof, and a ready submission to authority.

I hope, sir, I may claim some indulgence from the motive of my offence, which was only a desire of accuracy, and an apprehension that I might, by mistaking or forgetting some passages in the petition, lose my own time, and interrupt the proceedings of the house to no purpose.

But having now, according to order, heard the petition, and found no reason to alter my opinion, I shall endeavour to convince the house that it ought not to be granted.

The petition, sir, is so far from bearing any particular relation to the clause now before us, that it does not, in any part, mention the expedient proposed in it, but contains a general declaration of discontent, suspicion, apprehensions of dangerous proceedings, and dislike of our proceedings; insinuations, sir, by no means consistent with the reverence due to this assembly, and which the nature of civil government requires always to be paid to the legislative power.

To suspect any man, sir, in common life, is in some degree to detract from his reputation, which must suffer in proportion to the supposed wisdom and integrity of him who declares his suspicion. To suspect the conduct of this senate, is to invalidate their decisions, and subject them to contempt and opposition.

Such, and such only, appears to be the tendency of the petition which has now been read; a petition, sir, very unskilfully drawn, if it was intended against the clause under our consideration, for it has not a single period or expression that does not equally regard all the other clauses.

If any particular objection is made, or any single grievance more distinctly pointed at, it is the practice of impresses, a hardship, I own, peculiar to the sailors; but it must be observed that it is a practice established by immemorial custom, and a train of precedents not to be numbered; and it is well known that the whole common law of this nation is nothing more than custom, of which the beginning cannot be traced.

Impresses, sir, have in all ages been issued out by virtue of the imperial prerogative, and have in all ages been obeyed; and if this exertion of the authority had been considered as a method of severity not compensated by the benefits which it produces, we cannot imagine but former senates, amidst all their ardour for liberty, all their tenderness for the people, and all their abhorrence of the power of the crown, would have obviated it by some law, at those times when nothing could have been refused them.

The proper time for new schemes and long deliberations, for amending our constitution, and removing inveterate grievances, are the days of prosperity and safety, when no immediate danger presses upon us, nor any publick calamity appears to threaten us; but when war is declared, when we are engaged in open hostilities against one nation, and expect to be speedily attacked by another, we are not to try experiments, but apply to dangerous evils those remedies, which, though disagreeable, we know to be efficacious.

And though, sir, the petitioners have been more particular, I cannot discover the reasonableness of hearing them by their council; for to what purpose are the lawyers to be introduced? Not to instruct us by their learning, for their employment is to understand the laws that have been already made, and support the practices which they find established. But the question before us relates not to the past but the future, nor are we now to examine what has been done in former ages, but what it will become us to establish on the present occasion; a subject of inquiry on which this house can expect very little information from the professors of the law?

Perhaps the petitioners expect from their counsel, that they should display the fecundity of their imagination, and the elegance of their language; that they should amuse us with the illusions of oratory, dazzle us with bright ideas, affect us with strong representations, and lull us with harmonious periods; but if it be only intended that just facts and valid arguments should be laid before us, they will be received without the decorations of the bar. For this end, sir, it would have been sufficient had the merchants informed their representatives of the methods which they have to propose; for the abilities of the gentlemen whom the city has deputed to this assembly, are well known to be such as stand in need of no assistance from occasional orators. Nor can it be expected that any men will be found more capable of understanding the arguments of the merchants, or better qualified to lay them before the senate.

That every petitioner has, except on money bills, a right to be heard, is undoubtedly true; but it is no less evident that this right is limited to a certain time, and that on this occasion the proper time is elapsed. Justice is due both to individuals and to the nation; if petitions may at any time be offered, and are, whenever offered, to be heard, a small body of men might, by unseasonable and importunate petitions, retard any occasional law, till it should become unnecessary.

Petitions, sir, are to be offered when a new bill is brought into the house, that all useful information may be obtained; but when it has passed through the examination of the committees, has been approved by the collective wisdom of the senate, and requires only a formal ratification to give it the force of a law, it is neither usual nor decent to offer petitions, or declare any dislike of what the senate has admitted.

We are not, when we have proceeded thus far, to suffer pleaders to examine our conduct, or vary our determinations, according to the opinions of those whom we ought to believe less acquainted with the question than ourselves. Should we once be reduced to ask advice, and submit to dictators, what would be the reputation of this assembly in foreign courts, or in our own country? What could be expected, but that our enemies of every kind would endeavour to regulate our determinations by bribing our instructers.

Nor can I think it necessary that lawyers should be employed in laying before us any scheme which the merchants may propose, for supplying the defects, and redressing the inconveniencies, of the laws by which sailors are at present levied for the royal navy; for how should lawyers be more qualified than other men, to explain the particular advantages of such expedients, or to answer any objections which may happen to rise?

It is well known that it is not easy for the most happy speaker to impress his notions with the strength with which he conceives them, and yet harder is the task of transmitting imparted knowledge, of conveying to others those sentiments which we have not struck out by our own reflection, nor collected from our own experience, but received merely from the dictates of another.

Yet such must be the information that lawyers can give us, who can only relate what they have implicitly received, and weaken the arguments which they have heard, by an imperfect recital.

Nor do I only oppose the admission of lawyers to our bar, but think the right of the merchants themselves, in the present case, very questionable; for though in general it must be allowed, that every petitioner has a claim to our attention, yet it is to be inquired whether it is likely that the publick happiness is his chief concern, and whether his private interest is not too much affected to suffer him to give impartial evidence, or honest information. Scarcely any law can be made by which some man is not either impoverished, or hindered from growing rich; and we are not to listen to complaints, of which the foundation is so easily discovered, or imagine a law less useful, because those who suffer some immediate inconvenience from it, do not approve it.

The question before us is required, by the present exigence of our affairs, to be speedily decided; and though the merchants have, with great tenderness, compassion, and modesty, condescended to offer us their advice, I think expedition preferable to any information that can reasonably be expected from them, and that as they will suffer, in the first place, by any misconduct of our naval affairs, we shall show more regard to their interest by manning our fleet immediately, than by waiting three or four days for farther instructions.

Mr. SANDYS answered to this effect:--Sir, the merchants of London whether we consider their numbers, their property, their integrity, or their wisdom, are a body of too much importance to be thus contemptuously rejected; rejected when they ask nothing that can be justly denied to the meanest subject of the empire, when they propose to speak on nothing but what their profession enables them to understand.

To no purpose is it urged, that the bill is far advanced, for if we have not proceeded in the right way, we ought to be in more haste to return, in proportion as we have gone farther; nor can I discover why we should expedite, with so much assiduity, measures which are judged ineffectual, by those who know their consequences best, and for whose advantage they are particularly designed.

That we have already spent so much time in considering methods for manning the fleet, is surely one reason why we should endeavour at last to establish such as may be effectual; nor can we hope to succeed without a patient attention to their opinion, who must necessarily be well experienced in naval affairs.

It is surely, therefore, neither prudent nor just to shut out intelligence from our assemblies, and ridicule the good intention of those that offer it, to consult upon the best expedients for encouraging and increasing sailors, and when the merchants offer their scheme, to treat them as saucy, impertinent, idle meddlers, that assume--

Here the ATTORNEY GENERAL called him to order, and spoke after this manner:--Sir, it is not very consistent to press the despatch of business, and to retard it, at the same time, by invidious insinuations, or unjust representations of arguments or expressions: whenever any expression is censured, it ought to be repeated in the same words; for otherwise, does not the animadverter raise the phantom that he encounters? Does he not make the stain, which he endeavours, with so much officious zeal, to wipe away.

That no epithets of contempt or ridicule have, in this debate, been applied to the merchants, nor any violation of decency attempted, it is unnecessary to prove, and, therefore, it is neither regular nor candid to represent any man as aggravating the refusal of their petition with reproaches and insults. But not to dwell longer on this incident, I will take the liberty of reminding the gentleman, that personal invectives are always, at least superfluous, and that the business of the day requires rather arguments than satire.

Mr. SANDYS then spoke as follows:--Sir, I am by no means convinced that the learned gentleman who charges me with irregularity, is better acquainted than myself with the rules and customs of this house, which I have studied with great application, assisted by long experience. I hope, therefore, it will be no inexcusable presumption, if, instead of a tacit submission to his censure, I assert, in my own vindication, that I have not deviated from the established rules of the senate, that I have spoken only in defence of merit insulted, and that I have condemned only such injurious insinuations. I did not, sir, attempt to repeat expressions, as ought not to be heard without reply.

Then the PRESIDENT said:--I believe the gentleman either heard imperfectly, or misunderstood these expressions, which he so warmly condemns, for nothing has been uttered that could justly excite his indignation. My office obliges me on this occasion to remark, that the regard due to the dignity of the house ought to restrain every member from digressions into private satire; for in proportion as we proceed with less decency, our determinations will have less influence.

Mr. PELHAM spoke next, in substance as follows:--Sir, the reputation which the honourable gentleman has acquired by his uncommon knowledge of the usages of the senate, is too well founded to be shaken, nor was any attack upon his character intended, when he was interrupted in the prosecution of his design. To censure any indecent expression, by whomsoever uttered, is, doubtless, consistent with the strictest regularity; nor is it less proper to obviate any misrepresentation which inattention or mistake may produce.

I am far, sir, from thinking that the gentleman's indignation was excited rather by malice than mistake; but mistakes of this kind may produce consequences which cannot be too cautiously avoided. How unwillingly would that gentleman propagate through the nation an opinion that the merchants were insulted in this house, their interest neglected, and their intelligence despised, at a time when no aspersion was thrown upon them, nor any thing intended but tenderness and regard? And yet such had been the representation of this day's debate, which this numerous audience would have conveyed to the populace, had not the mistake been immediately rectified, and the rumour crushed in the birth.

Nothing, sir, can be more injurious to the character of this assembly, by which the people are represented, than to accuse them of treating any class of men with insolence and contempt; and too much diligence cannot be used in obviating a report which cannot be spread in the nation, without giving rise to discontent, clamours, and sedition.

Those who shall be inclined to reject the petition, may, perhaps, act with no less regard to the merchants, and may promote their interest and their security with no less ardour than those who most solicitously labour for its reception: for, if they are not allowed to be heard, it is only because the publick interest requires expedition, and because every delay of our preparations is an injury to trade.

That this is not a proper time for petitions against the bill to be heard, is universally known; and I can discover nothing in the petition that restrains it to this particular clause, which is so far from being specified, that it appears to be the only part of the bill of which they have had no intelligence.

Let the warmest advocates for the petition point out any part of it that relates to this single clause, and I will retract my assertion; but as it appears that there are only general declarations of the inexpediency of the measures proposed, and the pernicious tendency of the methods now in use, what is the petition, but a complaint against the bill, and a request that it should be laid aside.

The practice of impresses, sir, is particularly censured, as severe and oppressive; a charge which, however true, has no relation to this clause, which is intended to promote the voluntary engagement of sailors in the service of the crown; yet it may not be improper to observe, that as the practice of impressing is, in itself, very efficacious, and well adapted to sudden emergencies; as it has been established by a long succession of ages, and is, therefore, become almost a part of our constitution; and as it is at this time necessary to supply the navy with the utmost expedition, it is neither decent nor prudent to complain too loudly against, or to heighten the discontent of the people at a necessary evil.

We have, sir, examined every part of this bill with the attention which the defence of the nation requires; we have softened the rigour of the methods first proposed, and admitted no violence or hardship that is not absolutely necessary, to make the law effectual, which, like every other law, must be executed by force, if it be obstructed or opposed. We have inserted a great number of amendments, proposed by those who are represented as the most anxious guardians of the privileges of the people; and it is not, surely, to no purpose that the great council of the nation has so long and so studiously laboured.

Those who are chosen by the people to represent them, have undoubtedly, sir, some claim as individuals to their confidence and respect; for to imagine that they have committed the great charge of senatorial employments, that they have trusted their liberties and their happiness to those whose integrity they suspect, or whose understandings they despise, is to imagine them much more stupid than they have been represented by those who are censured as their enemies.

But far different is the regard due to the determinations formed by the collective wisdom of the senate; a regard which ought to border upon reverence, and which is scarcely consistent with the least murmur of dissatisfaction.

If we are to hear the present petitioners, is it not probable, that before we have despatched them, we shall be solicited by others, who will then plead the same right, supported by a new precedent? And is it not possible that by one interruption upon another, our measures may be delayed, till they shall be ineffectual?

It seems to me to be of much more importance to defend the merchants than to hear them; and I shall, therefore, think no concessions at this time expedient, which may obstruct the great end of our endeavours, the equipment of the fleet.

Mr. PULTENEY then spoke as follows:--Sir, notwithstanding the art and eloquence with which this grant of the merchants' petition has been opposed, I am not yet able to discover that any thing is asked unreasonable, unprecedented, or inconvenient; and I am confident, that no real objection can have been overlooked by the gentlemen who have spoken against it.

I have spent, sir, thirty-five years of my life in the senate, and know that information has always, upon important questions, been willingly received; and it cannot surely be doubted that the petitioners are best able to inform us of naval business, and to judge what will be the right method of reconciling the sailors to the publick service, and of supplying our fleets without injuring our trade.

Their abilities and importance have been hitherto so generally acknowledged, that no senate has yet refused to attend to their opinion; and surely we ought not to be ambitious of being the first assembly of the representatives of the people, that has refused an audience to the merchants.

With regard to the expedience of delaying the bill at the present conjuncture, he must think very contemptuously of the petitioners, who imagines that they have nothing to offer that will counterbalance a delay of two days, and must entertain an elevated idea of the vigilance and activity of our enemies, enemies never before eminent for expedition, if he believes that they can gain great advantages in so short a time.

The chief reason of the opposition appears, indeed, not to be either the irregularity or inexpediency of hearing them, but the offence which some have received from an irreverent mention of the power of impressing, a power which never can be mentioned without complaint or detestation.

It is not, indeed, impossible that they may intend to represent to the house, how much the sailors are oppressed, how much our commerce is impeded, and how much the power of the nation is exhausted, by this cruel method. They may propose to show that sailors, not having the choice of their voyages, are often hurried through a sudden change of climates, from one extreme to another, and that nothing can be expected from such vicissitudes, but sickness, lameness, and death. They may propose, that to have just arrived from the south may be pleaded as an exemption from an immediate voyage to the north, and that the seaman may have some time to prepare himself for so great an alteration, by a residence of a few months in a temperate climate.

If this should be their intention, it cannot, in my opinion, sir, be called either unreasonable or disrespectful, nor will their allegations be easily disproved.

But it is insinuated, that their grievances are probably such as affect them only as distinct from the rest of the community, and that they have nothing to complain of but a temporary interruption of their private advantage.

I have, indeed, no idea of the private advantage of a legal trader: for unless, sir, we neglect our duty of providing that no commerce shall be carried on to the detriment of the publick, the merchant's profit must be the profit of the nation, and their interests inseparably combined.

It may, however, be possible, that the merchants may, like other men, prefer their immediate to their greater advantage, and may be impatient of a painful remedy, though necessary to prevent a more grievous evil. But let us not censure them by suspicion, and punish them for a crime which it is only possible they may commit; let us, sir, at least have all the certainty that can be obtained, and allow them an audience; let us neither be so positive as not to receive information, nor so rigorous as not to listen to entreaties.

If the merchants have nothing to offer, nothing but complaints, and can propose no better measures than those which they lament, if their arguments should be found to regard only their present interest, and to be formed upon narrow views and private purposes, it will be easy to detect the imposture, and reject it with the indignation it shall deserve; nor will our proceedings be then censured by the nation, which requires not that the merchants should be implicitly believed, though it expects that they should be heard. Let us at least have a convention, though we should not be able to conclude a treaty.

I know not, sir, why we have not taken care to obviate all these difficulties, and to remove the necessity of petitions, debates, searches, and impresses, by the plain and easy method of a voluntary register; by retaining such a number of seamen as may probably be requisite upon sudden emergencies. Would not the nation with more cheerfulness contribute half-pay to those who are daily labouring for the publick good, than to the caterpillars of the land service, that grow old in laziness, and are disabled only by vice?

Let ten thousand men receive daily a small salary, upon condition that they shall be ready, whenever called upon, to engage in the service of the crown, and the difficulty of our naval preparations will be at an end.

That it is necessary to exert ourselves on this occasion, and to strike out some measures for securing the dominion of the ocean, cannot be denied by any one who considers that we have now no other pretensions to maintain; that all our influence on the continent, at whatever expense gained and supported, is now in a manner lost, and only the reputation of our naval strength remains to preserve us from being trampled on and insulted by every power, and from finding Spaniards in every climate.

Sir William YONGE spoke, in substance, as follows:--Sir, the violence and severity of impresses, so often and so pathetically complained of, appears to be now nothing more than a punishment inflicted upon those who neglect or refuse to receive the encouragement offered, with the utmost liberality, by the government, and decline the service of their country from a spirit of avarice, obstinacy, or resentment.

That such men deserve some severities, cannot be doubted, and therefore a law by which no penalty should be enacted, would be imperfect and ineffectual. The observation, sir, of all laws is to be enforced by rewards on one side, and punishments on the other, that every passion may be influenced, and even our weakness made instrumental to the performance of our duty.

In the bill before us no punishment is, indeed, expressly decreed, because the sailors who shall disregard it, are only left to their former hardships, from which those who engage voluntarily in the service of the navy are exempted.

Why so many rewards and so much violence should be necessary to allure or force the sailors into the publick service, I am unable to comprehend: for, excepting the sudden change of climates, which may, doubtless, sometimes bring on distempers, the service of the king has no disadvantages which are not common to that of the merchants.

The wages in the navy are, indeed, less: but then it is to be remembered, that they are certainly paid, and that the sailor is in less danger of losing, by a tempest or a wreck, the whole profits of his voyage; because, if he can preserve his life, he receives his pay. But in trading voyages, the seamen mortgage their wages, as a security for their care, which, if the ship is lost, they are condemned to forfeit.

Thus, sir, the hardships of the navy appear not so great when compared with those of the merchants' service, as they have been hitherto represented; and I doubt not, that if counsellors were to be heard on both sides, the measures taken for supplying the fleet would be found to be reasonable and just.

Sir John BARNARD rose to speak, when Mr. FOX called to order, and proceeded:

Sir, it is well known to be one of the standing and unvariable orders of this house, that no member shall speak twice in a debate on the same question, except when for greater freedom we resolve ourselves into a committee. Upon this question the honourable gentleman has already spoken, and cannot, therefore, be heard again without such a transgression of our orders as must inevitably produce confusion.

Sir John BARNARD spoke thus:--Sir, I know not for what reason the honourable gentleman apprehends any violation of the order of the house; for, as I have not yet spoken upon the present question, I have an undoubted right to be heard, a right which that gentleman cannot take away.

Sir William YONGE next spoke, to this effect:--Sir, I know not by what secret distinction the gentleman supports in his own mind this declaration, which, to the whole house, must appear very difficult to be defended; for we must, before we can admit it, allow our memories to have forsaken us, and our eyes and ears to have been deceived.

Did he not, as soon as the clause before us was read, rise and assert the characters of the petitioners, and their right to the attention of the house? Did he not dwell upon their importance, their abilities, and their integrity; and enforce, with his usual eloquence, every motive to the reception of the petition? How then can he assert that he has not spoken in the present debate, and how can he expect to be heard a second time, since, however his eloquence may please, and his arguments convince, that pleasure and conviction cannot now be obtained, without infringing the standing orders of the house.

Then the PRESIDENT rose, and spoke to this purport: It is not without uneasiness that I see the time of the house, and of the publick, wasted in fruitless cavils and unnecessary controversies. Every gentleman ought now to consider that we are consulting upon no trivial question, and that expedition is not less necessary than accuracy. It cannot be denied, sir, [to sir John BARNARD] that you have already spoken on this question, and that the rules of the house do not allow you to speak a second time.

Sir Robert WALPOLE said:--Sir, I am far from thinking the order of the house so sacred, as that it may not be neglected on some important occasions; and if the gentleman has any thing to urge so momentous, that, in his own opinion, it outweighs the regard due to our rules, I shall willingly consent that he shall be heard.

Sir John BARNARD spoke as follows:--Sir, I am far from being inclined to receive as a favour, what, in my own opinion, I may claim as a right, and desire not to owe the liberty of speaking to the condescension of the right honourable gentleman.

What I have to urge is no less against the bill in general, than the particular clause now immediately under our consideration, and though the petition should relate likewise to the whole bill, I cannot discover why we should refuse to hear it.

Petitions from men of much inferiour rank, and whose interest is much less closely connected with that of the publick, have been thought necessary to be heard, nor is the meanest individual to be injured or restrained, without being admitted to offer his arguments in his own favour. Even the journeymen shoemakers, one of the lowest classes of the community, have been permitted to bring their counsel to our bar, and remonstrate against the inconveniencies to which they were afraid of being subjected.

Mr. WINNINGTON spoke thus:--Sir, I am always willing to hear petitions, when respectfully drawn up, and regularly subscribed, but can by no means discover that this is a real petition, for I have heard of no names affixed to it; it is, therefore, a request from nobody, and by rejecting it no man is refused. It may, so far as can be discovered, be drawn up by the gentleman who offered it, and, perhaps, no other person may be acquainted with it.

Mr. HAY spoke to the following purport:--Sir, it is, in my opinion, necessary that a petition in the name of the merchants of London should be subscribed by the whole number, for if only a few should put their names to it, how does it appear that it is any thing more than an apprehension of danger to their own particular interest, which, perhaps, the other part, their rivals in trade, may consider as an advantage, or at least regard with indifference. This suspicion is much more reasonable, when a petition is subscribed by a smaller number, who may easily be imagined to have partial views, and designs not wholly consistent with the interest of the publick.

Admiral WAGER then spoke thus:--Sir, if I am rightly informed, another petition is preparing by several eminent merchants, that this clause may stand part of the bill; and, certainly, they ought to be heard as well as the present petitioners, which will occasion great and unnecessary delays, and, therefore, I am against the motion.

Advocate CAMPBELL answered to this effect:--Sir, I agree with that honourable gentleman, that if the merchants are divided in opinion upon this point, one side ought to be heard as well as the other, and hope the house will come to a resolution for that purpose: for I shall invariably promote every proposal which tends to procure the fullest information in all affairs that shall come before us.

[Then the question was put, that the farther consideration of the report be adjourned for two days, in order to hear the merchants, and it passed in the negative, ayes, 142; noes, 192.]

[On the report this day, the eleven clauses of severity were given up without any division, and a clause was added, viz. "Provided that nothing in this bill shall be construed to extend to any contracts or agreements for the hire of seamen (or persons employed as such) in voyages from parts beyond the seas, to any other parts beyond the seas, or to Great Britain."]

The engrossed bill "for the increase and encouragement of seamen," was read, according to order, when Mr. DIGBY rose, and spoke as follows:--

Sir, I have a clause to be offered to the house, as necessary to be inserted in the bill before us, which was put into my hands by a member, whom a sudden misfortune has made unable to attend his duty, and which, in his opinion, and mine, is of great importance, and I shall, therefore, take the liberty of reading it.

"Be it enacted, that every seaman offering himself to serve his majesty, shall, upon being refused, receive from such captain, lieutenant, or justice of the peace, a certificate, setting forth the reasons for which he is refused, which certificate may be produced by him, as an exemption from being seized by a warrant of impress."

I hope the reasonableness and equity of this clause is so incontestably apparent, that it will find no opposition; for what can be more cruel, unjust, or oppressive, than to punish men for neglect of a law which they have endeavoured to obey. To what purpose are rewards offered, if they are denied to those who come to claim them? What is it less than theft, and fraud, to force a man into the service, who would willingly have entered, and subject him to hardships, without the recompense which he may justly demand from the solemn promise of the legislature.

Admiral WAGER next spoke to this effect:--Sir, to this clause, which the gentleman has represented as so reasonable and just, objections may, in my opinion, be easily made, of which he will himself acknowledge the force. The great obstruction of publick measures is partiality, whether from friendship, bribery, or any other motive; against partiality alone the clause which is now offered, is levelled; and, indeed, it is so dangerous an evil, that it cannot be obviated with too much caution.

But this clause, instead of preventing private correspondence, and illegal combinations, has an evident tendency to produce them, by inciting men to apply with pretended offers of service to those who are before suborned to refuse them, then make a merit of their readiness, and demand a certificate.

By such artifices multitudes may exempt themselves from the impress, who may be known to be able sailors, even by those that conduct it; and may, under the protection of a certificate, fallaciously obtained, laugh at all endeavours to engage them in the publick service.

Mr. DIGBY spoke thus:--Sir, if this authority, lodged in the hands of those who are proposed in the clause to be intrusted with it, be in danger of being executed, without due regard to the end for which it is granted, let it be placed where there is neither temptation nor opportunity to abuse it. Let the admiralty alone have the power of granting such certificates, the officers of which will be able to judge whether the sailor is really unfit for the service, and deliver those whom age or accidents have disabled from the terrour of impresses; for surely, he that is fit to serve, when taken by violence, is no less qualified when he enters voluntarily, and he who could not be admitted when he tendered himself, ought not to be dragged away, when, perhaps, he has contracted for another voyage.

Mr. WAGER replied:--Sir, it is, doubtless, more proper to place such authority in the officers of the admiralty, than in any other; but it does not appear that the benefit which the sailors may receive from it, to whatever hands it is intrusted, will not be overbalanced by the injury which the publick will probably suffer.

Sailors are frequently levied in remote parts of the kingdom; in ports where the admiralty cannot speedily be informed of the reasons for which those that may petition for certificates have been refused, and therefore cannot grant them without danger of being deceived by fraudulent accounts.

The grievance for which the remedy is proposed cannot frequently occur; for it is not probable that in a time of naval preparations, any man qualified for the service should be rejected, since the officers gain nothing by their refusal.

Mr. HAY spoke as follows:--Sir, it is very possible that those instances which may be produced of men, who have been impressed by one officer, after they have been rejected by another, may be only the consequences of the high value which every man is ready to set upon his own abilities: for he that offers himself, no doubt, demands the highest premium, though he be not an able sailor; and, if rejected, and afterwards impressed as a novice, thinks himself at liberty to complain, with the most importunate vehemence, of fraud, partiality, and oppression.

[The question being put was resolved in the negative, almost unanimously.]

Mr. SOUTHWELL offered a clause, importing, "That all sailors who should take advance-money of the merchants, should be obliged to perform their agreements, or be liable to be taken up by any magistrate or justice of the peace, and deemed deserters, except they were in his majesty's ships of war."

He was seconded by lord GAGE:--Sir, as this clause has no other tendency than to promote the interest of the merchants, without obstructing the publick preparations; as it tends only to confirm legal contracts, and facilitate that commerce from whence the wealth and power of this nation arises, I hope it will readily be admitted; as we may, by adding this sanction to the contracts made between the merchants and sailors, in some degree balance the obstructions wherewith we have embarrassed trade by the other clauses.

Admiral WAGER replied:--This clause is unquestionably reasonable, but not necessary; for it is to be found already in an act made for the encouragement of the merchants, which is still in force, and ought, whenever any such frauds are committed, to be rigorously observed.

Sir Robert WALPOLE then desired that the clerk might read the act, in which the clause was accordingly found, and Mr. SOUTHWELL withdrew his motion.

[Then the question was put, whether the bill "for the increase and encouragement of sailors" do pass, which was resolved in the affirmative, 153 against 79.]

[The end]
Samuel Johnson's Writing: Debate On The Bill For The Encouragement And Increase Of Seamen