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March 16.

THIS day Mr. Stanley presented a petition signed by 80,000 manufacturers in different parts of Lancashire, complaining of the tax imposed last year on the fustian and other cottonmanufactures, as absolutely ruinous to their trade; and of the introduction of excise officers into their houses. They stated, that without any benefit to the revenue, this tax would subject their manufactures to full 8 per cent. on the exportation, which would necessarily deprive them of the markets that they actually had, and drive their workmen to the necessity of emigrating to other countries. They added, that the admission of Irish fustians and cottons into England, was all that was wanting completely to annihilate the cotton trade of this country, by which so many thousands of industrious and useful subjects got their bread. The petition having been read by the clerk, Mr. Stanley moved, that it be referred on Monday next to a committee of the whole House. Mr. Pitt objected to Monday, and wished a later day to be appointed. Lord Beauchamp said, that the introduction of excise officers into the houses of manufacturers by the law for imposing a duty on cottons, had spread a great alarm through the country: the chamber of commerce of Birmingham had caused circular letters to be sent to all the manufacturing towns in the neighbourhood, to invite them to withstand, what they conceived to be a fixed plan, to introduce the excise laws by degrees into all private houses. Mr. Rose was surprised, that a mere extension could be thought by any man an introduction of a precedent.

Mr. BURKE said, that the consideration of the petition ought not to be deferred longer than Monday. Nothing was more dangerous to manufacturers and to morals, than to have large bodies of men, who were able to work, supported by public charity; alms begat idleness, idleness led to crimes, and crimes were the proofs of the destruction of

morality. He was astonished to hear an honourable member express his surprise, that an extension could be thought by any means introductory of a precedent. Now, for his part, he was more alarmed at this mode of reasoning than the honourable gentleman might expect; for it led to this something as yet unprecedented must be done; and when once done, it became a precedent on which many others were founded; and upon the strength of this first introduction, the precedent was extended, step by step, and repeated so frequently, that the principle was at last worn out and forgotten: so that in argument it would be no longer said, the principle was good, but it would be urged, that it was the common practice, and therefore nothing was to be apprehended from it. Thus, if the exciseman was once permitted to set one foot in a house, he was sure afterwards to drag in the other, and so at last introduce his whole body. Mr. Burke concluded with an expression of a man, who, from the place where he was then speaking, had declared that the cyder-tax ought not to be imposed, because it established a dangerous precedent.'* This expression, he said, would have weight with many gentlemen; but particularly with the chancellor of the exchequer, when he should inform them, that it had been used by the late Earl of Chatham.

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The petition was ordered to be taken into consideration on Monday.

* See New Parliamentary History, vol. xv. p. 1307.



March 16.

R. BURKE called the attention of the House to the melancholy situation under which those unfortunate people laboured who were sentenced to transportation. In a country which prided itself on the mild and indulgent principles of its laws, it should not be suffered that the situation of particular delinquents, instead of being meliorated by provisions dictated by clemency, should become infinitely more severe than if inflicted in the utmost rigour and severity of the laws. The number of convicts under this description was at present estimated at not less than 10,000. Every principle of justice and humanity required, that punishment should not be inflicted beyond those prescribed and defined to particular kinds of delinquency. But that principle received additional force, when it was considered, that these extraordinary severities were exercised under the appearance of mercy; that is to say, the culprits were remitted certain punishments by the mild spirit and principles of the English laws; and received, in commutation, others, infinitely more severe than the most rigid construction of the laws had, in the worst of cases, designed for them. There was, in the mode of punishing by transportation, no distinction made between trivial crimes, and those of greater enormity; all indiscriminately suffered the same miserable fate, however unequal their transgressions, or different their circumstances. Besides these considerations, some regard should, in such times of difficulty and distress as the present, be paid to frugality and economy. The business of transporting convicts, among other inconveniences, was attended with a very considerable expence. Instances of profuse expenditure were sometimes justifiable, when they had humanity and

sanction from cruelty and inhumanity. He wished to know what was to be done with these unhappy wretches; and to what part of the world it was intended, by the minister, they should be sent. He hoped it was not to Gambia, which, though represented as a wholesome place, was the capital seat of plague, pestilence, and famine. The gates of hell were there open night and day to receive the victims of the law; but not those victims which either the letter, or the spirit of the law, had doomed to a punishment attended with certain death. This demanded the

attention of the legislature. They should in their punishments remember, that the consequences of transportation were not meant to be deprivation of life; and yet in Gambia it might truly be said, that there all life dies, and all death lives. He should wish, as a preliminary to something being done on the subject, that the state of the prisons, so far as respected persons under sentence of transportation, were laid before the House; and this he thought would come best by several motions, which, if agreeable to the House, he should propose. Before he did this, he wished to know whether any contract had yet been entered into for sending these convicts to the coast of Africa. [He was answered, No.]

The Speaker remarked, that this motion came at somewhat too short a notice; whereupon Mr. Burke withdrew it for the present.

April 11.

This day Lord Beauchamp begged leave to remind the House of an order that had been made at an early part of the present session, and of which he was sorry to find no notice whatever had hitherto been taken. The order to which he alluded, was, that a report should be made to the House relative to the manner in which government intended to dispose of felons under sentence of transportation. He presumed the chancellor of the exchequer had not had leisure, from the

multiplicity of public affairs, to attend to an order of such great moment. He wished, however, that he would inform him, when he conceived a return might be expected to the ordinary question, as he intended to ground upon that return a motion, which he would submit to the House on a future day. Mr. Pitt admitted the importance of the subject, and stated as an excuse for the neglect of the order a very great hurry of public business; he would, however, take care that the return to it should be made with all possible dispatch. At the same time he thought the noble lord would do well, if he would make the House acquainted, at present, with the nature of the motion that he intended to propose on a future day. Lord Beauchamp replied, that as his motion would, in a great measure, depend on the nature of the return, he could not, until he should have seen that return, gratify the wish of the right honourable gentleman. Some motion, however, would be absolutely necessary. The transportation of felons had generally been to places within the dominions of his majesty ; but, if report spoke truth, government had it in contemplation to send them to the coast of Africa, and to form a colony of them out of the British territories. This appeared to him a subject well worthy of inquiry.

Mr. BURKE said, that the design of sending the felons to Africa, was of a very serious nature. It would affect not only the present unfortunate wretches who were under sentence of transportation, but also future generations of 'convicts, if the idea of colonizing Africa with felons should be once adopted. He could not reconcile it with justice, that persons whom the rigour of the law had spared from death, should, after a mock display of mercy, be compelled to undergo it, by being sent to a country where they could not live, and where the manner of the death might be singularly horrid; so that the apparent mercy of transporting those wretched people to Africa, might with justice be called cruelty. The merciful gallows of England would rid them of their lives in a far less dreadful manner, than the climate or the savages of Africa would take them. [Mr. Pitt interrupted Mr. Burke, by observing that he was assuming facts,

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