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construed to extend to any contracts or agreements for the hire of seamen (or persons employed as such) in voyages from parts beyond the seas, to any other parts beyond the seas, or to Great Britain.”] The engrossed bill“ for the increase and encourage
ment of seamen,” was read, according to order, when
Mr. DIGBY rose, and spoke as follows: Sir, I have a clause to be offered to the house, as necessary to be inserted in the bill before us, which was put into my hands by a member, whom a sudden misfortune has made unable to attend his duty, and which, in his opinion, and mine, is of great importance, and I shall, therefore, take the liberty of reading it. “ Be it enacted, that every seaman offering himself to
serve his majesty, shall, upon being refused, receive from such captain, lieutenant, or justice of the peace, a certificate, setting forth the reasons for which he is refused, which certificate may be produced by him, as an exemption from being seized by a warrant of im
press.” I hope the reasonableness and equity of this clause is so incontestably apparent, that it will find no opposition; for what can be more cruel, unjust, or oppressive, than to punish men for neglect of a law which they have endeavoured to obey. To what purpose are rewards offered, if they are denied to those who come to claim them? What is it less than theft, and fraud, to force a man into the service, who would willingly have entered, and subject him to hardships, without the recompense which he may justly demand from the solemn promise of the legislature.
Admiral WAGER next spoke to this effect:—Sir, to this clause, which the gentleman has represented as so reasonable and just, objections may, in my opinion, be easily made, of which he will himself acknowledge the force. The great obstruction of publick measures is partiality, whether from friendship, bribery, or any other motive; against partiality alone the clause which is now offered, is levelled ; and, indeed, it is so dangerous an evil, that it cannot be obviated with too much caution.
But this clause, instead of preventing private correspondence, and illegal combinations, has an evident tendency to produce them, by inciting men to apply with pretended offers of service to those who are before suborned to refuse them, then make a merit of their readiness, and demand a certificate.
By such artifices multitudes may exempt themselves from the impress, who may be known to be able sailors, even by those that conduct it; and may, under the protection of a certificate, fallaciously obtained, laugh at all endeavours to engage them in the publick service.
Mr. Digby spoke thus :-Sir, if this authority, lodged in the hands of those who are proposed in the clause to be intrusted with it, be in danger of being executed, without due regard to the end for which it is granted, let it be placed where there is neither temptation nor opportunity to abuse it. Let the admiralty alone have the power of granting such certificates, the officers of which will be able to judge whether the sailor is really unfit for the service, and deliver those whom age or accidents have disabled from the terrour of impresses; for surely, he that is fit to serve, when taken by violence, is no less qualified when he enters voluntarily, and he who could not be admitted when he tendered himself, ought not to be dragged away, when, perhaps, he has contracted for another voyage.
Mr. WAGER replied Sir, it is, doubtless, more proper to place such authority in the officers of the admiralty, than in any other ; but it does not appear that the benefit which the sailors may receive from it, to whatever hands it is intrusted, will not be overbalanced by the injury which the publick will probably suffer.
Sailors are frequently levied in remote parts of the kingdom ; in ports where the admiralty cannot speedily be informed of the reasons for which those that may petition for certificates have been refused, and therefore cannot grant them without danger of being deceived by fraudulent accounts.
The grievance for which the remedy is proposed cannot frequently occur ; for it is not probable that in a time of
naval preparations, any man qualified for the service should be rejected, since the officers gain nothing by their refusal.
Mr. HAY spoke as follows :—Sir, it is very possible that those instances which may be produced of men, who have been impressed by one officer, after they have been rejected by another, may be only the consequences of the high value which every man is ready to set upon his own abilities: for he that offers himself, no doubt, demands the highest premium, though he be not an able sailor; and, if rejected, and afterwards impressed as a novice, thinks himself at liberty to complain, with the most importunate vehemence, of fraud, partiality, and oppression.
[The question being put was resolved in the negative, almost unanimously.]
Mr. SOUTHWELL offered a clause, importing, “ That all sailors who should take advance-money of the merchants, should be obliged to perform their agreements, or be liable to be taken up by any magistrate or justice of the peace, and deemed deserters, except they were in his majesty's ships of war.”
He was seconded by lord GAGE:--Sir, as this clause has no other tendency than to promote the interest of the merchants, without obstructing the publick preparations ; as it tends only to confirm legal contracts, and facilitate that commerce from whence the wealth and power of this nation arises, I hope it will readily be admitted ; as we may, by adding this sanction to the contracts made between the merchants and sailors, in some degree balance the obstructions wherewith we have embarrassed trade by the other clauses.
Admiral WAGER replied :This clause is unquestionably reasonable, but not necessary; for it is to be found already in an act made for the encouragement of the merchants, which is still in force, and ought, whenever any such frauds are committed, to be rigorously observed. Sir ROBERT WALPOLE then desired that the clerk might
read the act, in which the clause was accordingly found, and Mr, Southwell withdrew his motion. [Then the question was put, whether the bill “ for the in
crease and encouragement of sailors” do pass, which was resolved in the affirmative, 153 against 79.]
HOUSE OF COMMONS, MARCH 13, 1740-1.
The house being resolved into a committee for the consi
deration of the bill for the punishment of mutiny and desertion, and for the better payment of the army and their quarters, etc. sir WILLIAM YONGE desired that the twentieth and twenty-sixth clauses of the late act
might be read, which were read as follows: XX. It is hereby enacted, that the officers and soldiers,
so quartered and billeted, shall be received by the owners of the inns, livery-stables, ale-houses, victuallinghouses, and other houses in which they are allowed to be quartered and billeted by this act; and shall pay such reasonable prices as shall be appointed, from time to time, by the justices of the peace, in their general and quarter-sessions of each county, city, or division, within their respective jurisdictions: and the justices of the peace aforesaid, are hereby empowered and required to set and appoint, in their general or quarter-sessions aforesaid, such reasonable rates, for all necessary provisions for such officers and soldiers, for one or more nights, in the several cities, towns, villages and other places, which they shall come to in their march, or which
shall be appointed for their residence and quarters. XXVI. That the quarters, both of officers and soldiers in
Great Britain, may be duly paid and satisfied, be it enacted, that every officer, to whom it belongs to receive the pay or subsistence-money, either for a whole regiment, or particular troops and companies, shall immediately, upon each receipt of every particular sum, on account of pay or subsistence, give publick notice thereof to all persods keeping inns, or other places where officers or soldiers are quartered by virtue of this act: also appoint them and others to repair to their quarters,
within four days at the farthest, after the receipt of the same, to declare the accounts or debts (if any shall be) between them and the officers and soldiers quartered in their respective houses : which accounts the said officer or officers are hereby required immediately to discharge, before any part of the said pay or subsistence be distributed to the officers or soldiers : provided the said accounts exceed not for a commission officer of horse, under a captain, for one day's diet and small beer, two shillings; for one commission officer of dragoons, under a captain, one shilling; for one commission officer of foot, under a captain one shilling; and for hay and straw, for one horse, sixpence; for one dragoon or light horseman's diet and small beer, each day sixpence, and hay and straw for his horse, sixpence; and also not to exceed fourpence a-day, for one foot soldier's diet and small beer.
He then spoke to the following effect:-Sir, whether there is any real difficulty in the clauses which you
have now heard read, or whether there are such passages as may be easily understood by those who have no interest to mistake them, and which are only clouded by an artificial obscurity, whether they are in themselves capable of different meanings, or whether avarice or poverty have produced unreasonable interpretations, and found ambiguities only because they were determined not to be disappointed in their search ; whether this law is disobeyed because it is misunderstood, or only misunderstood by those who have resolved to disobey it, the committee must determine.
It has been for many years understood that innholders and keepers of publick-houses were obliged by this law to supply soldiers quartered upon them with diet and small beer, and hay and straw for their horses, at such rates as are mentioned in the act; nor can I discover that these clauses admit of any other interpretation, or that any other could be intended by the senate by which it was enacted.
The pay of the soldiers, sir, was well known to those who gave their consent to this law, it was intended by