Page:Remarks on the British Quarantine Laws.djvu/13

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British Quarantine Laws.

423

"No quarantine has been till now laid on ships or goods from Turkey, a trade which has been carried on for about 140 years[1] without any ill consequences, which we hoped would have exempted us from this act."

But terror and fashion being predominant, and the Levant Company being considered as interested parties, their just representations were disregarded.

The plague of Marseilles, in 1720, gave occasion to the passing of two other acts of parliament in England, the following session; the one, "to enable His Majesty effectually to prohibit commerce for the space of one year with any country, that is, or shall be, infected with the plague, and for shortening the continuance of an act passed in the 7th year of His Majesty (the quarantine act);" the other "to prevent the clandestine running of goods, and the danger of infection thereby; and to prevent ships breaking their quarantine." The one was passed on the 12th of February, and the other on the 7th of March 1722. The latter had, in the preceding session, been rejected by the Lords.

Power had been before given by the quarantine act, to prohibit, in times of pestilence, vessels of less burden than twenty tons, from sailing out of any port in Great Britain, &c., except under certain conditions. By the present act, foreign spirits were prohibited from being imported in vessels of less burden than forty tons; and ships departing without license from places appointed for quarantine, were forfeited, and the commanders fined two hundred pounds. (Russell's Treat. p. 444.)

This power of suspending trade for the space of one year, virtually amounted to an almost unlimited power over the affairs of commerce; since, as pestilence always exists in some of those parts of the world, with which we have commerce or intercourse, there would never want colorable pretexts for enforcing such regulations, as far as the exercise of them, at the same time that it was conducive to the unavowed views of government, might not be too glaring a despotism. Whether a power of this description is such as it is safe or proper to lodge any where, even supposing the danger, against which it is meant to provide, were not imaginary, I have elsewhere examined.

All these acts of the 7th and 8th of Geo. I., being temporary, terminated in two or three years; and, upon the expiration of the

  1. From the period of the existence of the commerce of the Levant Company; but it is certain that there had been intercourse between the two countries from 1511, as I have stated, or for 210 years, sufficient to have introduced the plague annually into England, if it had been capable of being exported and imported.