(A line by line historical analysis of the accusations of the Declaration of Independence.)

XIX. For transporting us beyond seas to be tried for pretended offences.

On the fifteenth of April, 1774, Lord North introduced a bill in Parliament, entitled "A bill for the impartial administration of justice in the cases of persons questioned for any acts done by them in the execution of the laws, or for the suppression of riots and tumults in the province of Massachusetts Bay, in New England." This bill provided that in case any person indicted for murder in that province, or any other capital offence, or any indictment. for riot, resistance of the magistrate, or impeding the revenue laws in the smallest degree, he might, at the option of the Governor, or, in his absence, of the Lieutenant Governor, be taken to another colony, or transported to Great Britain, for trial, a thousand leagues from his friends, and amidst his enemies.

The arguments used by Lord North in favor of the measure, had very little foundation in either truth or justice, and the bill met with violent opposition in parliament. The minister seemed to be actuated more by a spirit of retaliation, than by a conviction of the necessity of such a measure. "We must show the Americans," said he, "that we will no longer sit quietly under their insults; and also, that even when roused, our measures are not cruel or vindictive, but necessary and efficacious." Colonel Barre, who, from the fast commencement of troubles with America, was the fast friend of the colonists, denounced the bill in unmeasured terms, as big with misery, and pregnant with dangerto the British Empire. "This," said he, "is indeed the most extraordinary resolution that was ever heard in the Parliament of England. It offers new encouragement to military insolence, already so insupportable. By this law, the Americans are deprived of a right which belongs to every human creature, that of demanding justice before a tribunal composed of impartial judges. Even Captain Preston,1 who, in their own city of Boston, had shed the blood of citizens found among them a fair trial, and equitable judges." Alderman Sawbridge, another warm friend of the Americans, in Parliament, also denounced the bill, not only as unnecessary and ridiculous, but unjust and cruel. He asserted that witnesses against the crown could never be brought over to England; that the Act was meant to enslave the Americans; and he expressed the ardent hope that the Americans would not admit of the execution of any fly of these destructive bills,2 but nobly refuse them all. If they do not," said he, " they are the most abject slaves upon earth, and nothing the minister can do is base enough for them."

Notwithstanding the manifest inexpediency of such a treasure, the already irritated feeling of the colonists, and the solemn warning of sound statesmen in both 1 louses of Parliament, the bill was passed by one hundred and twenty-seven to forty-four, in the Commons, and forty-nine to twelve in the House of Lords. The king signed the bill, and it was thus decreed that Americans might be "transported beyond the seas, to be tried for pretended offences" or real crime.

1 See biography of John Adams.

2 The Boston Port Bill; the bill for altering, or rather for abolishing, the constitution of Massachusetts; and the bill under consideration.

< Prev Page Next Page >