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Browsing: Papers of John Adams, Volume 12

This note contained in document ADMS-06-12-02-0184
1. Jenings refers to the debate in the House of Commons on 27 Feb., the second of the pivotal debates that led to the fall of the North ministry. Having lost by only one vote in the previous debate on 22 Feb., Henry Seymour Conway offered a new motion on the 27th,
“that the farther prosecution of offensive war on the continent of North America, for the purpose of reducing the revolted colonies to obedience by force, will be the means of weakening the efforts of this country against her European enemies; tends, under the present circumstances dangerously to increase the mutual enmity, so fatal to the interests both of Great Britain and America; and, by preventing an happy reconciliation with that country, to frustrate the earnest desire graciously expressed by his Majesty to restore the blessings of public tranquillity.”
Attorney General James Wallace argued that a formal peace settlement was impossible until various acts of Parliament were repealed or modified and proposed to offer a motion whereby a truce would be settled upon with the Americans so as to give Parliament time to act. Therefore, he proposed to adjourn the debate over Conway’s motion for two weeks in anticipation of his own motion for a truce. Since Wallace’s motion to adjourn took precedence over continued debate on Conway’s motion, a vote was taken and Wallace’s motion was defeated 234 to 215. That vote established the sense of the House and resulted in Conway’s motion being adopted without division. Conway thereupon offered a second motion, also approved without division, to send the measure just adopted to the King in the form of an address (Parliamentary Hist., 22:1064–1101).
The attorney general’s motion to bring in a bill “to enable his Majesty to make Peace or Truce with America” was taken up on 28 Feb. and then introduced, debated, and adopted without division on 5 March. The opposition posed no strong objections, largely because it thought the bill inconsequential and unnecessary. The real obstacle to a peace or truce was the ministry then in office not the bills previously passed by Parliament that, according to the bill, the King could repeal, annul, or suspend so as to remove any impediments to negotiating a peace or truce. The bill, 22 George III, ch. 46, was passed on 28 May and 18 June by the Houses of Commons and Lords respectively and received the royal assent on 19 June (Parliamentary Hist., 22:1101–1109; House of Commons Sessional Papers of the Eighteenth Century, ed. Sheila Lambert, 145 vols., Wilmington, Del., 1975, 34:261–264; Journals of the House of Commons, London, 38:862, 872, 1028, 1060, 1064).
Cite web page as: Founding Families: Digital Editions of the Papers of the Winthrops and the Adamses, ed.C. James Taylor. Boston: Massachusetts Historical Society, 2018.