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ASTOR, LION D
TILDEN FULDiviisi
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19.0

LONDON: PRINTED BY W. CLOWES AND SONS, STAMFORD STREET

AND CHARING CROSS.

A LETTER TO

JOHN FARR AND JOHN HARRIS, ESQRS.,

SHERIFFS OF THE CITY OF BRISTOL,

ON THE AFFAIRS OF AMERICA.

1777.

GENTLEMEN,

I HAVE the honour of sending you the two last acts which have been passed with regard to the troubles in Ame| rica. These acts are similar to all the rest which have been

made on the same subject. They operate by the same principle; and they are derived from the very same policy. I think they complete the number of this sort of statutes to nine. It affords no matter for very pleasing reflection to observe that our subjects diminish as our laws increase. If I have the misfortune of differing with some of my

fel. low-citizens on this great and arduous subject, it is no small consolation to me that I do not differ from you. With you I am perfectly united. We are heartily agreed in our detestation of a civil war. We have ever expressed the most unqualified disapprobation of all the steps which have led to it, and of all those which tend to prolong it.

And I have no doubt that we feel exactly the same emotions of grief and shame in all its miserable consequences; whether they appear, on the one side or the other, in the shape of victories or defeats, of captures made from the English on the continent, or from the English in these islands; of legislative regulations which subvert the liberties of our brethren, or which undermine our own.

VOL. 11.

B

Of the first of these statutes (that for the letter of marque) I shall say little. Exceptionable as it may be, and as I think it is in some particulars, it seems the natural, perhaps necessary, result of the measures we have taken, and the situ-ation we are in. The other (for a partial suspension of the Habeas Corpus) appears to me of a much deeper malignity: During its progress through the House of Commons, it has been amended, so as to express, more distinctly than at first it did, the avowed sentiments of those who framed it: and. the main ground of my exception to it is, because it does express, and does carry into execution, purposes which appear to me so contradictory to all the principles, not only of the constitutional policy of Great Britain, but even of that species of hostile justice, which no asperity of war wholly extinguishes in the minds of a civilized people.

It seems to have in view two capital objects; the first, to enable administration to confine, as long as it shall think pro per, those whom that act is pleased to qualify by the name of pirates. Those so qualified I understand to be the commanders and mariners of such privateers and ships of war belonging to the colonies, as in the course of this unhappy contest may fall into the hands of the crown. They are therefore to be detained in prison, under the criminal description of piracy, to a future trial and ignominious punishment, whenever circumstances shall make it convenient to execute vengeance on them, under the colour of that odious and infamous offence.

To this first purpose of the law I have no small dislike; because the act does not (as all laws and all equitable transactions ought to do) fairly describe its object. The persons who make a naval war upon us, in consequence of the present troubles, may be rebels ; but to call and treat them as pirates, is confounding, not only the natural distinction of things, but the order of crimes : which, whether by putting them from a higher part of the scale to the lower, or from the lower to the higher, is never done without dangerously disordering the whole frame of jurisprudence. Though piracy may be, in the

eye

of the law, a less offence than treason; yet as both are, in effect, punished with the same death, the same forfeiture, and the same corruption of blood, I never would take from any fellow-creature whatever any sort of , advantage which he may derive to his safety from the pity

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