Page:Remarks on the British Quarantine Laws.djvu/11

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British Quarantine Laws.


viously been issued by her Majesty in Council, respecting the performance of quarantine, being probably the first official interference in England, in respect to the importation of contagion from any foreign country. The immediate occasion of it was the prevalence of pestilence at Dantzic, and various places on the shores of the Baltic. Upon this occasion, sheds were erected for airing goods at Hoo Fort.

The act of 1710 expressly empowered the Crown, in case of any foreign places being infected, to issue such orders for the performance of quarantine, as might appear necessary. It was intitled "An act to oblige ships coming from places infected, more effectually to perform their quarantine," and had no reference to the trade or shipping of the Levant, which were not comprehended in these regulations until the succeeding reign.

It was upon the occasion of the plague at Marseilles, in 1720, that the subject came again before parliament; and, in January 1721, an act was passed "for repealing the act of Queen Anne, and for the better preventing the plague from being brought from foreign parts into Great Britain, or Ireland, or the Isles of Guernsey, &c. and to hinder the spreading of infection." The continuance of this act was, by a clause added by the Lords to a subsequent act, limited to the 25th of March 1723.

Against the passing of this bill a petition was presented by the Levant Company in the following terms:

"To the honorable the Commons of Great Britain in parliament assembled, the Humble Petition of the Governor and Company of the Merchants of England trading to the Levant seas:

"Sheweth—That whereas there is a bill now depending in the Honorable House, for altering and amending the laws for obliging ships coming from places infected to perform their quarantine, and for preventing the spreading of infection, wherein there are some clauses, which your petitioners humbly apprehend will put an entire stop to the future carrying on their trade, which principally consists in the exportation of the woollen manufactures of this kingdom, and the importation of raw silk and Mohair yarn.

"Your petitioners therefore most humbly pray that they may be heard by themselves, or by their counsel, against the said clauses, before the said bill passes into a law.

"And your petitioners shall ever pray. 13th January 1720. Presented the same day. Sir Gerard Conyers being Deputy Governor."

The obnoxious clauses of the bill, alluded to in this petition, were, I apprehend, those, which conferred on the Crown the power to suspend trade, and to destroy property. Whether, in virtue of this bill, commerce has ever been formally and generally suspended, I am not aware; but the other exceptionable clause