Benjamin Franklin Papers

Report on a Debate in the House of Lords, [11 April 1767]

Report on a Debate in the House of Lords

MS not found; reprinted from extract in The Pennsylvania Chronicle, June 1–8, 1767.1

[April 11, 1767]

I attended a late Debate in the House of Lords,2 and it gave me great Uneasiness to find much Resentment against the Colonies in the Disputants. The Word Rebellion was frequently used. Lords T—t, T—e, S—h, and others, were against you, and Lord Sh——e, the Duke of G—n, and Lord C——n, your Friends.3 They said what they dared to palliate the Warmth shewn by their Opponents against America. Indeed your Friends can do nothing else but palliate a little, and delay coming to Resolutions against America, as they would, at this Time, be very violent ones.

It is said, that it is agreed on all Sides, that some Measures shall be taken (what they will be Time must discover) effectually to enforce the Authority of Parliament, and to carry it into actual Execution. The Act of Indemnity passed by the Boston Assembly, will undoubtedly be repealed, and there is a great Probability that a severe Censure on the Assembly will attend it. This Act is looked on as a high Infringement of the King’s Prerogative. It was mentioned by several in the Debate, that Acts of Pardon and Indemnity never originate in either of the Houses, but always are sent down from the King complete and signed, and is [sic] accepted and agreed to below.4

It is also reported, and I fear the Report is true, that a Project is on Foot, to render all the Governors and Magistrates in America independent of the annual Support they receive of their several Assemblies.5

There are great Heats on American Affairs, and those of the India Company,6 how they will particularly terminate, the wisest among us, as yet, are not able to discover.

1Introduced as “Extract of another Letter from London, dated April 11, 1767.”

2This was the five-hour debate of April 10, concerning the Massachusetts act indemnifying the victims of the Stamp Act riots, which is also described at length in another extract from a letter from London, April 11, 1767, published in Pa. Chron., June 8, 1767.

3Verner W. Crane identifies these men as Lords Talbot, Temple, Sandwich, Shelburne, the Duke of Grafton, and Lord Camden. Letters to the Press, p. 93 n.

4The Massachusetts act, “An Act for granting Compensation to the Sufferers, and of free and general Pardon, Indemnity, and Oblivion to the Offenders in the late Times,” was passed by the House of Representatives on Dec. 5, 1766, and signed by Gov. Francis Bernard on Dec. 9, 1766. It was presented to the Board of Trade on March 12, 1767, which referred it to the law officers of the Crown. They reported on April 10, the same day the act was being debated in the House of Lords, that “the Governor, Council, and Assembly of the Massachusetts Bay have not by the Constitution of that Province, any original Power to enact a Law of General Pardon, Indemnity and Oblivion … without previous Communication of the Grace and Pleasure of the Crown.” The Board of Trade endorsed this report and recommended the act’s repeal. Following its recommendation, the Privy Council issued an order, May 13, 1767, repealing it. See Gipson, British Empire, XI, 16–26.

5This was Charles Townshend’s stated purpose in proposing to Parliament on May 13, 1767, his celebrated duties on American imports. Ibid., p. 108.

6See the document immediately below for the controversy between the British government and the East India Company.

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