Warren M. Elofson, John A. Woods, and William B. Todd (eds), The Writings and Speeches of Edmund Burke, Vol. 3: Party, Parliament, and the American War: 1774-1780

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pg 101Speech on Restraining Bill8 March 1775

Source: Parl. Reg. i. 303

No newspaper report has been found of Burke's speech. The Almon report is reproduced in Parl. Hist. xviii. 396. See also Simmons and Thomas, v. 513.

Only a brief report of Burke's speech on the third reading of the New England Restraining Bill survives. His friend David Hartley proposed the addition of a clause to the Bill, permitting inter-colonial trade in 'fuel, corn, meal, flour, or other victual' on humanitarian grounds. North opposed the clause and was immediately followed by Burke who took the opportunity to continue the type of argument he had used on 6 March.

Mr. Burke was warm against the bill. It was not, he said, sanguinary, it did not mean to shed blood, but to suit some gentlemen's humanity, it only meant to starve five hundred thousand people, men, women, and children at the breast. Some gentlemen had expressed their approbation of famine in preference to fire and sword.1 This bill not only had taken from these people the means of subsisting themselves by their own labour, but, rejecting the clause now proposed, took from them the means of being subsisted by the charity of their friends. You had reduced the poor people to beggary, and now you take the beggar's scrip from them. You even dash from the mouth of hunger the morsel which the hand of charity would stretch out to it. On the subject of famine he was fine and pathetick.

The clause was defeated by 188 votes to 58; the Bill duly passed into law.2

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Notes

Editor’s Note
1 Burke is probably referring in particular to Henry Dundas. See his speeches on 6 March 1775 (Parl. Reg. i. 294, 306).
Editor’s Note
2 15 Geo. III, c. 10.
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