1741: Petition of London Merchants against the Land Bank

11 FEBRUARY 1741

A petition of the several merchants of London, and others, whose names are thereunto subscribed, in behalf of themselves, and great numbers of merchants, traders, and other inhabitants, in the province of the Massachusets Bay, in America, was presented to the House, and read; setting forth, that while his Majesty and this House have exerted their authority and utmost care, not only to prevent the increase of paper money in America, but even to sink and discharge what has already issued under the publick authority, by virtue of acts of assembly there, John Coleman Esquire, and a very great number of private persons, in the Massachusets Bay, his associates, have, without any authority, assumed a power to erect themselves into a company or society there, by the name of the land bank, and have chosen and appointed directors, treasurers, and officers, to carry on the same under large yearly salaries, avowedly for the purpose of issuing paper bills or notes, to a very large amount, to be redeemable twenty years hence, or at some other remote distance of time; and have actually issued out their notes, and, by their numbers and influence, endeavour to force a currency for the same; and this, notwithstanding that the most considerable inhabitants in the Massachusets Bay in due time opposed such scheme, and petitioned the general assembly there to discountenance and suppress that pernicious project; and notwithstanding that his Majesty’s governor, with the advice of the council there, by publick proclamations, did discourage the same; so that, by means of the said land bank, the quantity of paper money there is greatly increased, and many frauds, losses, and prejudices, are likely to ensue to the petitioners, and others, if not timely prevented; and that several of the petitioners have humbly petitioned his Majesty in Council, for relief against the said Coleman’s scheme, and the Lords of the committee of his Majesty’s most honourable Privy-Council, and the Lords Commissioners for Trade and Plantations, to whom the petition has been referred, have concurred in opinion, that that scheme was of dangerous tendency, and fit to be suppressed as speedily and effectually as possible, and have given all the orders that were possible for them to give, that the governors should continue in the meantime to discourage the said scheme; and that, although the said Coleman’s scheme would here in Great Britain be an high offence, and attended with heavy punishments, and might easily be suppressed, as being within the act of the sixth year of his late Majesty King George the First, chapter the 18th, sections 18, 19, 20, yet his Majesty’s Attorney and Sollicitor-General, to whom the method for prosecuting the persons concerned in the said scheme was in the course of the said petition referred, have reported their opinion, that that act does not extend to America; and that nothing can effectually be done to put a stop thereto, but by the interposition of a positive law; so that, notwithstanding all the endeavours used by the petitioners, without the aid of Parliament, no remedy can be had against those persons who have already presumed to set on foot this fraudulent project; but all the care taken by his Majesty, from time to time, and his repeated royal orders and instructions on the head of paper money, as well as the care and inquiry of this House, will be totally evaded and eluded, and many other persons may take upon themselves also to set on foot other like projects in America: and therefore praying the House to take the premises into their consideration, and to hear the petitioners, by their counsel; and that the said act of Parliament, of the sixth year of his late Majesty King George the First, may be extended to the British plantations in America, by express words, with proper clauses and powers, and with such penalties, forfeitures, and disabilities, on all persons offending against the same, or with such other relief in the premises as to the House shall seem proper.

The House was moved, that the 18th and 19th sections of an act, made in the sixth year of the reign of his late Majesty King George, intituled, An act for better securing certain powers and privileges intended to be granted by his Majesty, by two charters, for assurance of ships and merchandizes at sea, and for lending money upon bottomry, and for restraining several extravagant and unwarrantable practices therein mentioned, might be read:

And the same being read accordingly;

Ordered, that leave be given to bring in a bill to explain and amend so much of the said act as relates to the extravagant and unwarrantable practices therein mentioned: and that Sir John Barnard, Colonel Bladen, Mr. Walpole, Mr. Sandys, and Sir George Caswall, do prepare, and bring in, the same.

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Independent scholar, translator and archivist.