Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAP. VI.: Of the Sense and Declarations of the Members of both Houses of Parliament in their Debates on the Treaty of Peace, upon the Right of the Loyalists to Indemnity and Compensation. - The Claim of the American Loyalists
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CHAP. VI.: Of the Sense and Declarations of the Members of both Houses of Parliament in their Debates on the Treaty of Peace, upon the Right of the Loyalists to Indemnity and Compensation. - Joseph Galloway, The Claim of the American Loyalists 
The Claim of the American Loyalists reviewed and maintained upon incontrovertible Principles of Law and Justice (London: G. and T. Wilkie, 1788).
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Of the Sense and Declarations of the Members of both Houses of Parliament in their Debates on the Treaty of Peace, upon the Right of the Loyalists to Indemnity and Compensation.
IT is not to be presumed that a great national council will be of contrary opinions at different times, respecting a topic of national justice. The principles of justice, which are immutable, and the same yesterday, to-day, and for ever, are so deeply stamped by Omnipotent wisdom in the consciences of men, that they cannot be mistaken. No man, whose intellectual powers were not impaired, or whose reason was not perverted, ever yet doubted of the obligation he was under to make reparation for injuries done to, or damages suffered by, another, through a violation of his solemn engagements. Nor is an instance to be found in the annals of Parliament, where it was ever denied or disputed that the sovereign authority of Great Britain was bound, by law, to make compensation for losses sustained by its faithful subjects, through a breach of its sacred obligation to defend and protect their persons and properties. Hence we shall find that the Members of the two Houses of Parliament, who spoke in the debate on the treaty of peace, have fully confirmed the declarations and solemn decisions of the two Houses of Parliament in 1764 and 1767, and of his Majesty in council in 1775, on the right of the Loyalists to compensation for losses sustained in consequence of their fidelity to his Majesty, and their attachment to the British government.
To prove this, we here give extracts from such parts of the speeches of the learned Members of both Houses as relate to the Case of the Loyalists.
HOUSE OF COMMONS.
Mr. Wilberforce. “When he considered the Case of the Loyalists, he confessed he there felt himself conquered; there he saw his country humiliated; he saw her at the feet of America! Still he was induced to believe, that Congress would religiously comply with the article, and that the Loyalists would obtain redress from America. Should they not, this country was bound to afford itthem. They must becompensated; Ministers, he was persuaded, meant to keep the faith of the nation with them.”
Lord North. “And now let me, Sir, pause on a part of the treaty which awakens human sensibility in a very irresistible and lamentable degree. I cannot but lament the fate of those unhappy men, who, I conceive, were in general objects of our gratitude and protection. The Loyalists, from their attachments, surely had some claim on our affection. But what were not the claims of those who, in conformity to their allegiance, their cheerfulobedience to the voice of Parliament, their confidence in the proclamation of our Generals, invited under every assurance of military, parliamentary, political and affectionateprotection, espoused, with the hazard of their lives, and the forfeiture of their properties, the cause of Great Britain? I cannot but feel for men thus sacrificed for their bravery and principles: men who have sacrificed all the dearest possessions of the human heart. They have exposed their lives, endured an age of hardships, deserted their interests, forfeited their possessions, lost their connections, and ruined their families, in ourcause. Could not all this waste of human enjoyment excite one desire of protecting them from that state of misery with which the implacable resentment of the States has desired to punish their loyalty to their Sovereign and their attachment to their mother-country? Had we not espoused their cause from a principle of affection and gratitude, we should, at least, have protected them, to have preserved our own honour. If not tender of their feelings, we should have been tender of our own character. Never was the honour, the principles, the policy of a nation, so grossly abused as in the desertion of those men, who are now exposed to every punishment that desertion and poverty can inflict, because they were not rebels.”
Lord Mulgrave. “The article respecting the Loyalists, he said, he never could regard but as a lasting monument of national disgrace. Nor was this article, in his opinion, more reproachful and derogatory to the honour and gratitude of Great Britain than it appeared to be wanton and unnecessary. The Honourable Gentleman who made the motion had asked, if those Gentlemen, who thought the present peace not sufficiently advantageous to Great Britain, considering her circumstances, would consent to pay the amount of expence another campaign* would have put us to, for the degree of advantage they might think we had a right to expect? In answer to this, he declared for one, he had rather, large as the sum in question was, have had it stipulated in the treaty, that Great Britain should apply it to making good the losses of the Loyalists, than that they should have been so shamefully deserted, and the national honour so pointedly disgraced as it was by the fifth article of the treaty with the United States.”
Mr. Secretary Townshend, now Lord Sydney. “He was ready to admit, that many of the Loyalists had the strongest claims upon the country; and he trusted, should the recommendation of Congress to the American States prove unsuccessful, which he flattered himself would not be the case, this country would feel itself bound in honour to make themfull compensationfor their losses.”
Mr. Burke. “At any rate, it must be agreed on all hands, that a vast number of the Loyalists had been deluded by this country, and had risqued every thing in our cause; to such men the nationowedprotection, and its honour was pledged for their securityat all hazards.”
Lord Advocate. “With regard to the Loyalists, they merited every possible effort on the part of this country.”
Mr. Sheridan “execrated the treatment of those unfortunate men, who, without the least notice taken of their civil and religious rights, were handed over as subjects to a power that would not fail to take vengeance on them for their zeal and attachment to the religion and government of this country. This was an instance of British degradation, not inferior to the unmanly petitions of government to Congress for the wretched Loyalists. Great Britain at the feet of Congress suing in vain, was not a humiliation or a stigma, greater than the infamy of consigning over the loyal inhabitants of Florida, as we had done, without any conditions whatsoever.”
Mr. Lee. “With respect to the cession of territory, it was great and extensive in every quarter of the world. Europe, Asia, Africa, and America, beheld the dismemberment and diminution of the British empire. But this, alarming and calamitous as it was, was nothing when put in competition with another of the crimes of the present peace; the cession of men into the hands of their enemies, and delivering over to confiscation, tyranny, resentment, and oppression, the unhappy men whotrusted to our fair promises and deceitful words.”
The Honourable Mr. Norton. “Mr. Norton added, that under all the circumstances, he was willing to approve of the two former (the European treaties), but on account of the article relating to the Loyalists, he felt it impossible to give his assent to the latter.”
Sir Peter Burrell. “The fate of the Loyalists claimed the compassion of every human breast; these helpless, forlorn men, abandoned by the ministers of a people on whose justice,gratitude, and humanity, they had the best-founded claims, were left at the mercy of a Congress highly irritated against them. What then could they expect from such an assembly? Why truly, nothing; and therefore he might fairly say, that nothing had been obtained for them by this country. If nothing else was wanting, was not this enough to damn a peace, and render it infamous in the eyes of all honest men? He spoke not from party zeal, but as an independent country gentleman, who, unconnected with party,expressed theemotionsof hisheart,and gave vent to his honest indignation.”
Sir Wilbraham Bootle. “There was one part of it (the treaty) at which his heart bled; the article relative to the Loyalists. Being a man himself, he could not but feel for men so cruelly abandoned to the malice of their enemies. It was scandalous! it was disgraceful! Such an article as that ought scarcely on any condition to have been admitted on our part. They had fought for us, and run every hazard to assist our cause; and when it most behoved us to afford themprotection,we deserted them.”
Mr. Macdonald. “He declared, that he forbore to dwell upon the case of the Loyalists, as an assembly of human beings could scarcely trust their judgments when so powerful an attack was made upon their feelings. If they had hearts and nerves they must necessarily overwhelm their understandings. He turned his eyes therefore from that subject, by a kind of natural impulse, as from a corpse or a grave. There was, however, a chance held out by America of restoring some of those meritorious men to the very natale solum on which they had been born and bred. A very bad chance he feared; yet they ought to have the benefit of that chance, such as it was. This a parliamentary declaration might frustrate. If that chance fails, said he, tax me to the teeth,and I will cheerfully stint myself to contribute to their relief or to make up any deficiency.”
HOUSE OF LORDS.
Lord Walsingham “assured their Lordships, that the noble Earl (Carlisle) had forcibly aroused his feelings, and he could neither think nor speak of the dishonour of our treatment of those deserving men with patience. Their claim upon us was self-evident; they had been invited to join us by our own acts; it was a parliamentary war, and therefore it was the more incumbent on the legislature to protect them. The Crown had no separate interest in the war; the addresses to the King from every part of the country proved, that the people of England considered the war as necessary, since its object was the preservation of our just dominion. Parliament should be consistent. He begged their Lordships to look at the resolutions of Parliament in 1766, and see by them, if, in order to be consistent, they ought not to have observed a different conduct in regard to the Loyalists.”
Lord Hawke “denied that the Loyalists had been abandoned; and after paying them every proper compliment said, that he should support no minister who would countenance such a measure. In America, said he, Congress had engaged to recommend their cause to the legislatures of the country. He flattered himself that recommendation would be attended with success; but, said he, state the case that it will not, the liberality of Great Britain is still open to them; ministers had pledged themselves to indemnify them, not only in the address now moved for, but even in the last address, and in the Speech from the Throne.”
Lord Viscount Townshend. “To desert men who had constantly adhered to loyalty and attachment, was a circumstance of such cruelty as had never before been heard of.”
Lord Stormont. “These were men whom Britain was bound in justice and honour,gratitude and affection, and every tie, to provide for and protect. Yet, alas for England as well as them, they were made a part of the price of peace. Those who were the best friends of Britain were, eo nomine, on that very account, excepted from the indulgence of Congress. Britain connives at the bloody sacrifice, and seeks for a shameful retreat at the expence of her most valiant and faithful sons! How different was this from the conduct of Spain to the Loyalists in the Netherlands, in the reign of Philip III. on occasion of the famous truce in 1609, and also in the peace of Munster. Their effects and estates were either restored, or they were paid interest for them at the rate of six and 1-4th per cent. on the purchase money. A general act of indemnity was passed, without exception of place or person.” Lord Stormont also touched on the case of the Catalonians, who revolted from Spain, and when they put themselves under the protection of Britain. In both cases their privileges, lives, and properties, were preserved to them. Even Cardinal Mazarin, so artful, so shuffling, and fallacious; and I am sure, says he, I mean not the most distant allusion to any of his Majesty’s ministers (for the Parliament of Paris determined, that to call any person a Mazarin was a reproach to him, and that an action would lie); even he, though so little scrupulous on most occasions, deemed it sound and wise policy to observe good faith with the Catalonians. He negotiated the peace of the Pyrenees himself, and he took care that an act of indemnity should be published in their favour, on the same day in which a proclamation was issued reclaiming their obedience. History, experience, furnish no example of such base dereliction.”
Lord Sackville. “In regard to the abandonment of the Loyalists, it was a thing of so atrocious a kind, that if it had not been already painted in all its horrid colours, he should have attempted the ungracious task; but never should have been able to describe the cruelty in language as strong and expressive as were his feelings. The King’s ministers had weakly imagined, that the recommendation of the Congress was a sufficient security for these unhappy men. For his own part, so far from believing that this would be sufficient, or any thing like sufficient for their protection, he was of a direct contrary opinion; and, if they entertained any notions of this sort, he would put an end to their idle hopes at once, by reading from a paper in his pocket, a resolution which the Assembly of Virginia had come to, so late as on the 17th of December last.”
Having read the resolution, his Lordship demanded “what ministers had to say now for this boasted recommendation for which they had stipulated with Congress? Could they say, that the unhappy men who had fought and bled for this country, who had given up their all, and (a pang the more grievous to minds of feeling) the all of their little families; could ministers say, that these men who had said and done and suffered all that was in the power of human nature for our cause, ought not to have had a better security than the present, from scorn, insolence, and ruin? A peace founded on such a sacrifice as this, must be accursed in the sight of God and man.”
Lord Loughborough said, “That the 5th article of the treaty has excited a general and just indignation. For what purpose could it have been inserted? Those whom it pretends to favour receive no benefit from it; for what is the purport of a recommendation? but to those the most entitled to our regard, the brave and unhappy men who have not only given up their property, but exposed their lives in our cause, the distinction admitted to their prejudice is cruel and injurious indeed. In ancient or in modern history there cannot be found an instance of so shameful a desertion of men who had sacrificed all to their duty, and to their reliance upon ourfaith. There is even an horrible refinement in the cruelty of the articles: they are told that one year is allowed them to solicit from the lenity of their persecutors that mercy which their friends neglected to secure; to beg their bread of those by whom they have been stripped of their all; to kiss the hands that have been dipt in the blood of their parents, and to obtain, if they can, leave to repurchase what they have no money to pay for.”
Lord Shelburne. “But there remains somewhat in these provisional articles still to be considered, which I have never reflected on without feelings as pungent as any which the warmest admirers of the virtues of the Loyalists can possibly have experienced; I mean the unhappy necessity of our affairs, which induced the extremity of submitting the fate of the property of these brave and worthy men to the discretion of their enemies. I have but one answer to give the House; it is the answer I gave my own bleeding heart. A part must be wounded, that the whole of the empire may not perish. If better terms could be had, think you, my Lords, that I would not have embraced them? I had but the alternative either to accept the terms, said Congress, of our recommendation to the States in favour of the Colonists, or continue the war. But say the worst; and that, after all, this inestimable set of men are not received and cherished in the bosom of their own country; is England so tost to gratitude, and all the feelings of humanity, as not to afford them an asylum? Who can be so base as to think she will refuse it to them? Surely it cannot be that noble-minded man, who would plunge his country again knee-deep in blood, and saddle it with an expence of twenty millions for the purpose of restoring them. Without one drop of blood spilt, and without one fifth of the expence of one year’s campaign, happiness and ease can be given the Loyalists in as ample a manner as these blessings were ever in their enjoyment; therefore let the outcry cease on this head.”
Lord Chancellor. “As to the Loyalists, they had a specific provision in the treaty: his own conscious honour would not let him doubt the good faith of others; his good wishes to the Loyalists would not let him indiscreetly doubt the dispositions of Congress. It was stipulated, that all these unhappy men should be provided for; but if not, then, and not till then, Parliament could take cognizance of the case, and impart to each suffering individual that relief whichreason, perhaps policy,certainly virtue and religion, required* .”
From these Extracts, it evidently appears, that there was no difference in opinion on the right of the Loyalists to adequate compensation. Those who spoke against the Treaty as inadequate to the national circumstances, declared, that the Loyalists had been sacrificed through a want of the protection due to them, and therefore that a full compensation for the sacrifice (and if possible more) was due; and that if the expence of one year’s campaign, or twenty millions, was necessary, it ought to be applied to that purpose. Those who contended, that the peace was necessary to the then state of the country, candidly and honourably agreed, that for such compensation the faith of the nation was pledged. One of the Ministers who made the peace declared, that “if the recommendations of the Congress proved unsuccessful, this country would feel itself bound in honour to make them full compensation for their losses.” The noble Lord at the head of the Treasury, who made the peace, candidly confessed that it ought to be made, and that it would not cost the nation more than one fifth of the expence of one year’s campaign, or twenty millions, “to give to them the same happiness and ease they ever enjoyed before;” and the noble and learned Law Lord, whose profound knowledge of the laws of the land, and of the mutual obligations between the sovereign authority and the subject was never disputed, decidedly declared, that if the Congress should not provide for them, Parliament ought “to impart to them that relief which reason, perhaps policy,certainlyvirtue and religion,required.”
Here we find that the compensation claimed was confessed to be due by all—and that the noble Lord who made the peace, thought it but just to make such compensation as to give the Loyalists the same ease and happiness they ever enjoyed before; but this is impossible. What compensation can Parliament make for suffering them, through a want of its protection, to be driven as it were into exile from the land of their nativity, and from the tenderest and dearest of all connections?—What, to the fathers who have lost their sons? to the widows who have lost their husbands? to the numerous orphans who have lost their fathers, the only hope and support of their infant years? For such losses, too great to be described by language, and scarcely to be estimated by the utmost feelings of humanity, excited by the strongest powers of sensibility, government can make none. The Loyalists expect none; because they are losses to which no earthly compensation can be adequate. For a reward for such losses, and of that virtue which excited them, at every hazard of life and fortune, to fulfil their duty to the State, and to support the rights of their Sovereign and his Parliament, they look up to the supreme Father of all justice. They now ask for that compensation only which they have so long solicited in vain from Parliament; compensation for property and rights which have been lost through a want of that protection which is due to them by the first great laws of the British constitution—by the Royal faith, and the resolutions of a British Parliament, solemnly pledged to them for it; a compensation which is due to them by their birth-rights as British subjects, of which no power on earth can lawfully deprive them.
[* ]Twenty millions.
[* ]We trust that the sentiments of Parliament have not changed since the year 1783. Indeed, we have reason to hope the contrary, from the speeches of several Members who have given their sentiments on the subject so late as the year 1786.