820 | To Thomas Hutchinson

    No 14


    Pall Mall Jan. 10th 1770

    Dear Sir

    We are now come to the Opening of Parliament: hitherto Nothing has transpired concerning what is to be done on the Business of America; & it is probable that no certain System has been settled on that Subject. It is generally beleived that the American Ministry is much divided upon American Affairs; & probably they may be postponed, in the hope of greater Unity soon prevailing. The Opening of the Session seems to flatter such Expectation; as more than one Member of the Cabinet has divided with the Opposition.2 However the Ministry have showed themselves very strong in both Houses; a full Trial having been made of the Power of both Parties.

    I was in the House of Lords yesterday till 9 at night when the last Speaker was up. The Address was moved by the Duke of Ancaster & seconded by Lord Dunmore. Lord Chatham then rose & in a Speech not very long proposed 3 Amendments of the Address. 1st the soft’ning the Word unwarrantable applied to the Measures taken by the Americans against the Trade of Great Britain. 2. To strike out an Epithet which implied a Commendation of the late Peace. 3. That in that Part of the Adress which answered his Majesty’s Recommendation of avoiding Heats & Animosities should be inserted, “that they saw with Concern a General Alarm & Ill humour prevailing throughout the Nation upon Account of the House of Commons having declared a Member whom they had expelled incapable of sitting in the House & thereby deprived the People of their right of free Election & would enquire into the same.”3 The two first were made Subjects of Declamation only, the third was fought thro’ all the Weapons. The Speakers were thus ranged



    Duke of Ancaster

    Earl of Chatham

    E of Dunmore. second

    Earl of Cholmondely. second

    E of Denbeigh

    E of Shelburne

    E Talbot

    E Temple

    E of Pomfret

    L Camden

    Lord Sandys

    D of Richmond

    D of Grafton

    L Littleton

    L Mansfield

    E of Sandwich

    L Weymouth4

    For the 1st Amendment it was said that unwarrantable must mean illegal; & to declare any Proceedings illegal before they were enquired into was a hasty Condemnation. To this it was answered by some that the Proceedings of the Americans were so well known that the Expression was rather soft than aggravated; one Lord said that if the Word Rebellious had been used it would not have been too much. The attended second Amendment was rather attended to with Declamation than Argument, as it was only a Subject for the former.

    The 3rd Amendment was seriously debated[.]5 It was proposed by the first Mover as a Matter of the highest Importance & demanding the Interposition of the grand Hereditary Council of the Kingdom Nation; that the House of Commons by declaring a Man incapable of being elected who was eligible by Law, had broke thro the Constitution, & had by a Resolution of their House only, made a new Law, which was the Sole Business of the whole Legislature & thereby had violated the Rights of the King the Lords & the Body of the People constituents of that House. That this Proceeding had alarmed the whole People of England from the Lands End to Berwick which had been testified by Petitions signed by all the honest Freeholders in the Kingdom. That unless something was done to appease the People the utmost Confusion must be expected. That no Body was so proper to interpose in so great a Service as the House of Lords.6

    To this it was answered that the Determination upon which this Uneasiness was supposed to arise was undoubtedly the Business belonging to the House of Commons, to whom for above 100 Years past the Judgement of the Qualifications of their own Members solely belonged; that, if they did wrong there was no Appeal from them. For if the House of Lords was to interfere they would commit a certain Violation on the Rights of the Commons in order to remedy what was with great Uncertainty charged upon them. And one Lord (Ld M), applying to the Times, observed that if the Lords should join with the People to run down the House of Commons, they might expect that the House of Commons would make Use of the same Agents to run down the House of Lords.

    Indeed when Lord Mansfield had spoke the Argument seemed to be at an End: He so clearly showed that the Right of the House of Commons to judge solely of the Election & Eligibility of their own Members had been acknowledged for above 150 Years, that the Lords could not enter enter7 into a Question of it without violating the Priviledges of the Commons.8 And as it was impossible that the House of Commons should submit to the Lords interfering with the Exercise of their undoubted Priviledge, it must end in a Breach between the two Houses, which might make a Dissolution necessary: And if the People were so fermented, as the Lords on the other Side said nothing worse could happen to the Nation. But for his Part he was not so apprehensive of the impending Danger as the Lords for the Amendment appeared to be. Let everyone do his Duty; Let the King be firm & steady; Let the two Houses mind their own Business & do it; and let all preserve a Confidence in one another, and he should be under no Fear for the Consequences of the groundless Clamour which had been propagated among the People.

    It is not easy to express with what Attention my Lord M was heard & approved: & yet Lord C—m chose to reply to him.9 As Lord M had left little Room for Argument, Lord C was obliged to make it up with Declamation & Passion, which left the reasoning of Lord M unimpeached, & greatly disappointed the Expectation of the Hearers. Lord Sandwich followed Lord C, & first observed of Lord M, that when that learned Lord stood up, he was allways prepared to hear Reason & Argument & to receive Conviction; that he should not have beleived there was a Lord in the House who was not convinced of the Truth of what he had laid down, if it had not been contradicted by the Lord who spoke last; whose Manner of speaking was so far from convincing, that he owned he seldom understood what he meant or could apply what he said to the Question in Debate. As to their extravagant Accounts of the People’s Uneasiness he knew the Falsity of it. He lived in the Middle of England & knew of 10 Counties lying about him who had not petitioned.10 Could the Alarm which was said to run from the Lands End to Berwick jump over 10 Counties & yet continue its Course? If every honest Freeman mus had signed Petitions it must follow that there was not one honest Freeholder in the Counties of Northampton Huntingdon &c. He then rallied11 the Manner in which Petitions had been obtained by sending Orators & Lawyers from Town to Town like Mountebanks to frighten People with Evils which did not exist. In Short the whole Speech was highly entertaining & really closed the Debate tho two Lords spoke afterwards. Upon putting the Question whether the Address should pass as first proposed, the Numbers without Proxies were pro. 89. con 36. the Numbers, without [with?]12 Proxies the Majority was much greater ^100^. This was ended about 10 o clock.

    The same Matter was agitated in the House of Commons upon a Question varied only to suit that House. The Debate lasted till near two o’clock in the Morning, when they divided, for the Address at first proposed 254, con 138. I can’t undertake to give you an Account of that Debate but will mention two or three Occurrences which passed there. Col B in the heat of speaking said the K had alienated the Affections of his People. Lord N said in plain Words the Assertion was false.13 B endeavoured to palliate the Expression; Another Member held him to the Words. But they were not censured in the Manner they should have been. Col B produced the late Speech of Lord Botetourt & treated it with Severity endeavouring to turn some of the strange Expressions it contains to a Charge against the Ministry. Lord Barrington (tho he did not speak on the Subject of Debate) rose & vindicated his Friend Lord B in such a Manner as did Honor to his Ability & Humanity.14

    The Marquis of G who had voted for Wilkes Expulsion & Disqualification at the last Session now disclamed his former Act & said he had altered his Opinion & now thought that the Proceedings in the House on that Occasion were wrong.15 This is accounted for by an Offence the Duke of R has taken, on two Justices being appointed in Leicestershire, where ^he^ is Lord Lieutenant, without his Concurrence. But this made doubtful by another Son of the Dukes voting with the Ministry in this Question.16

    Mr Dunning Sollicitor general who was heretofore Council for Wilkes & has upon that Account heretofore declined meddling with political Matters, now avowed his Party & voted with the Minority. I should have mentioned before that the Duke of Northumberland voted with the Minority, either from some private Resentment, or to court the popular Party in Middlesex or at least temporise with them.17 You will see the whole List of the Minority of Peers in the Gazetteer.18 These are all the Defections from Ministry that have yet appeared: their Numbers seem to be very little diminished.

    It must be expected that some removals will follow; One great Officer especially, it is expected will be dismissed.19 His Removal has been talked of for 6 Months; two or three Months ago, it was said, it was very near being effected; but Means were found to prevent it. Mr York20 was then & is now talked of to succeed him. You must consider all this as ^ Nothing more than^ common Conversation, of which you will find a great deal more in the Newspapers.

    But it is allowed by all that the Number which the Ministry have counted in each House are no Sign of a Change of Administration any further than in 2 or 3 Offices; and that may contribute to produce resolution & Unanimity where it may happen to be wanting. It is upon this Account perhaps that there is no great Hurry in bringing on the American Business. However the Papers relating to the Combination against the Trade of Great Britain are got ready to be laid before the two Houses when they shall be called for.21 But the first great Business entered upon will probably be the Petitions to the King for dissolving the Parliament, which will, it is said, be laid before the two Houses by a Message.22 The Consideration of this will undoubtedly make warm Work. And if the Ministry gains as great a Victory on this Subject as they did on the like Dispute they will surely hold their Ground.

    Enough of Politics for one Time. You will communicate this Rhapsody only to Freinds who will make no improper Use of it.

    I am Sir &c.

    The Honble Lt Govr Hutchinson

    (Postscript to No 14 to Lt Govr Hutchinson)23

    P. S. Jan. 16

    Since the former Date 2 Lords of the Bedchamber the Duke of Manchester & the Earl of Coventry have resigned; the Earl of Huntingdon Groom of the Stole is removed;24 Lord Mansfield has declined taking the great Seal; Lord Bristol is made Groom of the Stole; Mr York has had 3 Days to consider of his taking the great Seal, which is out today. All this makes an Arrangement in a Paper of today very possible probable; Mr York Lord Chancellor; Lord Mansfield Lord President, Lord Gower Privy Seal. If this takes Place the Ministry will be very firm, & all will come to rights. Mr Thurloe is made Sollicitor General in the Room of Mr Dunning.25 I hear now that Mr York has accepted. Yesterday the House of Lords adjourned for another Week not without Debate & Division, the Numbers were 52 – 18.

    L, LbC      BP, 8: 34–44.