Adams Papers

William Bingham to John Adams, 19 February 1784

From William Bingham

London Feby 19th 1784


I received your Favor of the 10th Inst

Mr Jay has recovered his Health in a great Measure by his Excursion to Bath, & has returned to Paris— I have not as yet heard of his Arrival there—

We have recently received but little political News from America— The refractory States seem more favorably inclined towards the Appropreation of such Funds as Congress required for doing Justice to the public Creditors

Massachusets Bay & Virginia have adopted the Measure—1

The restraining Proclamation of this Country has occasioned the Establishment of Committees, composed of the leading Commercial Characters of the different States, who will digest a Plan of Commercial Retaliation, which will be enforced against G Britain, in Case she does not relax in her contracted selfish System— The Politics of this Country are fast verging towards a Crisis, which must decide the Fate of the Constitution

Mr Pitt still holds his Ground, supported by the Voice of the People & the royal Favor & Confidence—

The Coalition Party continue to retain a decided Majority in the House of Commons, & have put an effectual Stop to the Progress of all public Business, so that the Affairs of the Nation will be suspended, untill a new Parliament is chosen or an Union of Parties takes place— The former Step would be adopted, but it is too late to have recourse to it, as the Supplies must immediately be granted, or public Credit would receive a fatal Blow— The Mutiny Bill must likewise pass, or the Army will of course be disbanded—2

The King has made known his Wishes to the Duke of Portland, that an Union of Parties should take place,—but Etiquette prevents the Adjustment of this Business, as the opposition will not treat, except the present Ministry resigns, preparatory to Negotiation—& they absolutely refuse to leave their Places—

In short, this Kingdom is in a very convulsed State, & except some Accommodation speedily takes place, will be afflicted with some very serious internal Troubles—

I am with great Regard / Sir / Your obedt hble servt

Wm Bingham

RC (Adams Papers); addressed: “A Son Excellence / Monsr Jean Adams / Ministre Plenipotentiaire des Etats / Unis de l’Amerique / a la Haye”; docketed: “Mr: W: Bingham / London Feby 19th: 1784.”

1That is, Massachusetts and Virginia had agreed to the continental excise, but only if all of the other states approved it also (vol. 15:392; Morris, Papers, description begins The Papers of Robert Morris, 1781–1784, ed. E. James Ferguson, John Catanzariti, Elizabeth M. Nuxoll, Mary A. Gallagher, and others, Pittsburgh, 1973–1999; 9 vols. description ends 8:836).

2Bingham was not exaggerating the seriousness of the political and constitutional deadlock between William Pitt and the forces allied with the deposed Fox-North coalition. Virtually every debate in the House of Commons between 19 Dec. 1783, when the Pitt ministry replaced the Fox-North coalition, and 25 March 1784, when Parliament was dissolved, centered one way or another on the right of the Pitt ministry to govern in the absence of a majority in the Commons (Parliamentary Hist., description begins The Parliamentary History of England, from the Earliest Period to the Year 1803, London, 1806–1820; 36 vols. description ends 24:226–775).

Nothing highlighted the crisis more dramatically than the need to pass the Mutiny Act. The 1689 English Bill of Rights prohibited the maintenance of a standing army without Parliament’s permission. In practice this meant that Parliament yearly renewed the act, for if it did not, the army would be disbanded.

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