The Chancellor of the Exchequer
moved the order of the day for reading the report of the committee appointed to examine the lists of twenty-one persons given in for the purpose of constituting a select committee on the tenth naval report. The names were accordingly read, with the number of the votes for each.
§ Mr. Whitbread
then rose and said, that the reading of those names which the house had just now heard, completely justified him in the very serious motion which he should have the honour of submitting to them, according to the notice he had given the other day, provided that these names turned out the same as those he himself had formerly read to them. It did so happen that they identically corresponded with each other. This shewed that the reports which had gained ground without doors, as to a list of names having been industriously circulated, for the purpose of composing that important committee, were well founded. The house had already decided, that it was no breach of the orders or 512 customs of the house to circulate such lists; so that that he believed it would be deemed a breach of order in him to say that the treasury were guilty of so doing; and therefore he should endeavour to abstain from so expressing himself; though it was a fact of which he entertained not the smallest doubt. He would appeal to the right hon. gentlemen themselves whether or not they could venture to deny the fact to him. It was a conduct which, no doubt, appeared highly discreditable to them. Let the house recollect in what situation the right hon. gent. opposite (the chancellor of the exchequer) then stood. He (Mr. Pitt) had boldly come forward and taken upon himself a very great responsibility as to the country. Intimately connected with lord Melville, he had appealed to the house and the country as to the purity of his conduct. The right hon. gent. had, by his own account, his hands pure and his character unimpeached; and this assertion he (Mr. W.) was not disposed at that moment to call in question. He could not but observe, however, that a considerable deal of suspicion was created by the manner in which that right hon. gent. had prepared himself to go to trial. The persons who were to judge of his conduct were such as were appointed by himself. This surely was a circumstance not very creditable to that right hon. gent., and, in short, it appeared perfectly ludicrous to see a man stand up and say, "here I am, ready to meet any accusation the house may think proper to bring forward against me, or call me in question from the beginning to the end of my political career. Who are to be my judges? Let them be declared in the face of day; let them be named by ballot." This conduct really appeared like a sham fight, in which that right hon. gent. had marched his troops out beforehand, and had seemed confident of being victorious. Let the house recollect the situation in which the business stood. Lord Melville was a principal object of the tenth report. He has been withdrawn from it, and the right hon. gent. has said, that there was nothing in any one page of that report which in the least impeached his own character. He begged leave to differ from that right hon. gent. and to state, before the appointment of that committee, that he stood under very suspicious circumstances, particularly with regard to the delicate and confidential transactions of government, and the quietus that was granted by him to lord Melville, on the case of Mr. Jellicoe disclosed in 513 that report. An acknowledgement had been made by that right hon. gent. that he was actually in the knowledge of such transactions. It was natural to suppose, that the knowledge which he must have had of most of the transactions under the cognizance of lord Melville, would have implicated him in some degree, and required that he should be regularly and openly freed of any suspicion. Now, that lord Melville has been withdrawn, up starts the right hon. gent. and says, "I am the person who is the object of the enquiry." It was particularly necessary to enquire, whether any representations were or were not made to the chancellor of the exchequer with regard to the withdrawing of the money from the bank. Such were the circumstances under which he (Mr. Pitt) had come down most magnanimously to move for a select committee for an enquiry. To whom were the house to confide the investigation of this important question? The right hon. gent. had named, amongst others, three persons who had made oath at the table of the house, that they thought it would be very much to the detriment of public business if they were obliged to attend on election committees. The first person he should mention was lord Castlereagh, who had positively sworn, that he conceived that it would impede his official business if he attended on a committee. The master of the rolls had sworn, that he could not attend on a similar committee, without creating inconvenience to the suitors in the court of chancery. Sir William Scott swore, that it would be attended with difficulty for him to attend, on account of his avocations in the court of admiralty. Now, there were these three persons who were thus disqualified from attending on this select committee, which disqualification was proved by their own depositions on oath, on account of their having occasion to attend to other public business. The oaths which he had mentioned were not taken on a peculiar case, such as the Middlesex committee, requiring their immediate and constant attendance, but it had been their regular practice hitherto. He apprehended that every member appointed upon such an important committee as the present, should be perfectly efficient, and able in every point of view devote his time and attention to such an important enquiry. Much suspicion was attached to the formation of this committee. He would appeal to the right 514 hon. gent. himself, whether he really wished, or thought it was for his advantage or that of the country, to have such a committee appointed? It was a committee of that right hon. gent.'s recommendation, if not nomination, (a cry of no! no!) He should wish to know if those gentlemen who were crying on this occasion, no, no, were willing to go to proof with him upon the subject. Perhaps he might think of calling some of them as witnesses to prove that the right hon. gent. had circulated these lists among his friends. He should put it again to the right hon. gent. standing, as he had done, in the place of lord Melville, and appearing magnanimous and gallant on the subject, whether it was a proper situation for the first minister of the country to stand in? and whether he himself should appoint the committee intended to investigate his own conduct? He had heard of persons playing at cards naming their own trumps, but the right hon. gent. carried this principle somewhat further, because he was taking upon himself the privilege of naming the whole of his own cards. He meant no personal disrespect to the individuals, but he had great objections to their political connections with the right hon. gent., which he thought, rendered them unfit persons. He thought on such a charge, the right hon, gent. should not have thought of making his own political friends his judges. That might not be the safest way; and the safest way seemed to be refused by the right hon. gent He, for himself, in such a situation, would not have desired to be tried by his coadjutors, in a case wherein his oldest and steadiest political ally had, as it had been expressed in this very enquiry, become a disgraced and punished political friend and associate. Especially he objected to the noble lord (Castlereagh), whose conduct, for many years, rendered him an unfit person. There was also another noble lord, from the same country, who held an office under the present administration(lord Dunlo). There was a right hon. gent. too in a place of high rank (Mr Foster), and the master of the rolls, and sir W. Scott, who could not attend without public detriment. He had rather, whatever respect he might have for them, see two country gentlemen in their places, though their talents and knowledge of business might be inferior. The noble lord (Castlereagh) was not merely a placeman, but a perpetual placeman. Nothing could move him. He was not to be shaken 515 by political storms and tempests, they only bound him more firmly to his post. That noble lord seemed invulnerable; he laughed at the convulsions of government and parties. Nothing short of an earthquake could shake him. He had been already celebrated for having two strings to his bow, and he kept his bow always strung. He seemed not to have two strings only to his bow, but as many as a certain person was noted for having to his knees. He was in power in the right hon. gent.'s last administration. He performed him some services at the union; after the union leaving Ireland, he came here, and was in place again. That administration went out on a specific public ground, and another came in on a directly opposite principle; but still the noble lord clung to office, and kept in place. That ministry was turned out by the help of his right hon. friend; but then was the noble lord again in power, and now he is in a new coalition. He did not question the purity of his principles, in all those evolutions by which he contrived to maintain his position and keep himself where he was: but would the country think him a proper person to investigate the conduct of his patron? He and his patron, no doubt, deserved each other's friendship, for their mutual services. He would give his lordship credit for manly policy, and gratitude to the right hon. gent.; but though this might be very gratifying in private life, it rather disqualified him for the situation to be allotted him. For what was the committee to examine into? Delicate and secret transactions! The noble lord had been engaged in similar transactions in Ireland already, and his palate may have become vitiated in these matters, and the public and he entertain very different ideas on the uses and abuses of public money. He might refer to some late matters. The noble lord had been charged by the right hon. gent. now sitting beside him (Mr. Foster) with a scandalous misuse of money, in payments to persons in Ireland, to carry the union, and had sat mute. He felt convinced that the right hon. gent. opposite could not, from his usual accuracy, have made the charge, could he not have proved it. It was repeated last night. He would refer the noble lord to his right hon. friend. If he denied it, what if he examined Mr. Foster at the bar? What might not turn out in these "delicate transactions" of lord Melville? Was the noble lord a person fit for that committee? Let the enquiry be 516 ever so severe and honest, the public would not be satisfied with such a committee, after such a charge which he (Mr. W.) offered to prove. He reckoned, therefore, such a motion not extraordinary, after what had happened, though not precedented.—The hon. member then alluded to his own name, and observed, that he would gladly withdraw from such a committee; but if it appeared the general wish for him to remain on it, he should certainly take care to attend to it. Let him, however, be struck off, if any person thought his conduct in this business rancorous; if they considered him a persecutor instead of a prosecutor; or if they could see the folly he was accused of, respecting the alleged changes in the order of his motion. He liked his conduct the better for the censures he received from some persons.—After dwelling with great force on the modes attempted to screen lord Melville, and the limitations of the power of the committee, he maintained, that with the first majority of one, and the minorities since, the people of England, Scotland, and Ireland, went hand in hand, and applauded their justice and spirit. Was all talent gone? Could no independent gentlemen be found to make up a committee for such a purpose as this? He would put it to the gent. of the opposite side, whether they would make this committee a screen; or a stalking-horse? Would they have the public consider it as a cloak to cover lord Melville? He thought he could name a gentleman, even in the place of the Master of the Rolls, though less able, yet whom the country would like better; and this would apply more largely to the other objectionable persons. He could find persons as competent, and possessing more of the faith of the public. Instead of the name of the noble lord, he would propose a gentleman whom he had loved and respected from youth, but whom he had almost constantly opposed in politics, both in and out of that house; with whom he must have sometimes had the heats and even the bitterness of contest—a bitterness of zeal and not of acrimony; one who had given the right hon. gent. an independent support for years. This gentleman he had even within these few months opposed actively in his election to serve in that house, and he did not repent of it: he might do so again. He meant Mr. Baker, of Hertford; a gentleman of talents, and anxiously laborious in every thing relative to public advantage, 517 and commanding every respect from all who knew him. He should therefore conclude by moving, "that the name of lord Castlereagh be struck out, and that of Mr. Baker substituted in its room."
The Master of the Rolls
said, if it were necessary that every member of a committee should constantly attend the duty, many of those now proposed ought to be excluded; but this was not considered expedient. He had never represented himself as so absorbed in business, that he had no moment and no day which he could devote to this branch of his parliamentary engagements. He had frequently acted in such situations: he was named for one on the civil list; for another of considerable consequence relating to barley grain in Scotland; and he had sufficient time to form his opinion, and to assist in the preparations of the report. He trusted then he was not to be considered as unqualified, and he hoped it was not thought on every frivolous pretence he was disposed to abandon any duty, which it was fit that a member of that house should perform. Certain he was, that he had never deserted any situation of this kind in which he was called upon to act, but on account of its interference with his indispensable engagements in some other place. He was on a secret committee in 1794, upon another in 1799, but if he were unfit for such a charge as that now proposed, he should with great pleasure submit to the direction of the house. Many years he had enjoyed the honour of being a member of that house, but he had never made extravagant professions; he was convinced his character must depend, not upon self-applause, but upon conduct. If he had never vaunted of high qualities to the disparagement of others, he had not wholly disclaimed party feelings and party principles, and he should rather think the worse of that man who was destitute of either. If, by the peculiar circumstances he was now called upon to vindicate his own honour, he would publicly proclaim, that he never in that house uttered a sentiment he did not conscientiously feel; when he expressed his opinion, that the Sheriffs of Middlesex should not be punished before they were heard by their counsel, whatever might be attributed to him, he was influenced by no party bias; he imputed to neither side improper motives; he had a more fit employment in regarding the purity of his own. He was discussing a most unpleasant topic, he was speaking of himself—a subject, he 518 hoped he should never again have occasion to recur to. He could confidently assert he had never given the sanction of his authority (humble, indeed, it was) in the support of any principle, of which, in his conscience, he disapproved. If he were objected to for his deportment, it must be in the house, not in the committee; the members of these select establishments had no option, they had only to exercise common sense on the evidence that was produced before them. He apologised to the house, the rather because he did not rise to speak to the question, but to that part of the hon. gentleman's address which appeared to convey some imputation on his (the Master of the Roll's) character, but at the same time he acquitted that hon. gentleman of any design either to misrepresent his conduct or his motives.
§ Mr. Whitbread
lamented he had been so unsuccessful as not to make himself understood; he thought it was impossible for any man to apply a construction, on what was said, in the smallest degree disrespectful to the right hon. and learned gentleman.
§ Mr. Wortley Stuart
observed, that whatever influence the treasury might have used in circulating lists, it certainly had not done more than the hon. gentleman had done by circulating the lists which he had brought down the other day. In his list, every man named had voted against lord Melville; and did this shew a greater degree of impartiality than that list which had been ascribed to the treasury?
§ Mr. Fox
was at all times happy to pay due deference to the usage of the house, when it was governed by the fit respect to the principles of the British constitution. The attempt of an individual to force a list for a committee upon the house, would be culpable; but it was in a much higher degree criminal for any such experiment to emanate from the treasury, accompanied with the influence that must be presumed from that quarter. If his hon. friend (Mr. Whitbread) had brought down a list, he should have voted for it, provided he approved of it; but if his own conduct were the immediate object of investigation, he should have been utterly ashamed of himself, if he did not take all possible means of shewing to the public, he would have no share in recommending a single individual, for the purpose of such an enquiry. If his friend should produce to him a list, where he (Mr. Fox) was then personally concerned, he would say, "I will have nothing 519 to do with the nomination of my own judges," and he would not condescend to inspect it. If his eye were to stray upon the paper, and he should discover in the list the name of his hon. friend, he should enquire if his friend meant to surrender his affection, and to insult him by such a proposition; much less could he do such an act in a clandestine manner; in such a case every name must be submitted to the observation of the house, and be exposed to its solemn decision. Considering the conduct of the right hon. gent. (Mr. Pitt) was implicated in the charge, it was most indecent that his own colleagues should be appointed to the committee. He could only say, that to place himself in such a situation, was diametrically opposite to every sentiment he (Mr. Fox) could indulge; but if the right hon. gentleman could accommodate his feelings to such a condition, he (Mr. Fox) sincerely congratulated him on the convenient effect of his insensibility.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer
said, that on this subject the feelings of men seemed to lead them to extraordinary extremes. If he was to be sent on his trial where no charge had been exhibited—if he acceded to this, what they required was, that his jury should be entirely composed of men whom he could challenge for cause. This might be their notions of justice, but if he had any thing to apprehend from the effects of the spirit of party, the only way to determine the point properly was to take care that the majority should not be composed of those whom habit, if not conviction, might lead to find him guilty. He was not so chimerical in point of honour, so forgetful of the principles of reason, justice, and the law of England, as to put himself in the situation which they proposed, for the perilous chance of acquiring their approbation. Nor was the practice of parliament on this occasion so inconsistent, as had been represented, with the maxims of the British constitution, The committee had been appointed in the way most usual on such occasions. It was true that the mode had often been objected to, yet, upon argument, it had been approved. Committees so appointed had produced reports most satisfactory to the house and to the nation, and he was not, upon old exploded reasoning, disposed to renounce what had been so long established. Had not the house already decided the committee was to be chosen by ballot? 520 When this was proposed, in the pursuit of his present design, the hon. gent. (Mr. Whitbread) should have proposed that all persons in office should be excluded from the ballot. He should have gone farther, and have insisted, that all gentlemen who condescended to honour him (the chancellor of the exchequer) with their private, friendship, should also be excluded. Such were the extraordinary propositions by which these wild notions of personal delicacy and private honour must be maintained, that his (Mr. Pitt's) colleagues in office, as well as those with whom he was connected by the ties of affection, were to be deprived of their parliamentary privileges. On the other grounds of objection, after what had been so ably stated by his right hon. and learned friend, it was not necessary for him to detain the house. This was not an election committee, where it was required that the members should be present during every moment of the proceedings; and if he were not resisting the motion of the hon. gentleman, he should now have been proposing a quorum for the committee, to render such constant attendance wholly unnecessary. Would gentlemen then say, that because some members, from their other important duties, could not devote the whole of their time to such an enquiry, that they were never to be nominated upon committees, and were to be excluded from so essential ? a branch of their parliamentary functions? What would be the consequence? Those persons who were best acquainted with the business of finance would be precluded from sitting on committees in that important department; those best versed in legal subjects would be prevented from giving the assistance of their learning in juridical investigations; those who were most informed on the great political interests of states, would be incapacitated from affording their light on that important branch of enquiry; and thus the country would be deprived of the benefit of that mass of talent, the application of which would be most conducive to its glory and happiness. Then it was said the house was to look to what the public expected of it: the house certainly was to attend to what the public ought to expect; and that would be best indicated by a calm, firm, and resolute discharge of its duty. But a party cry, which assumed to itself the voice of the people, was not to be mistaken for the popular sentiment, in order to annihilate 521 the acknowledged privileges of member of the legislature. These were examinations proceeding on the general principles of justice; every honourable man was therefore a fit member of such committees; the joint talent of the house, when collected, would most effectually conduce to the elucidation of truth. Was the introduction of one party only the best way to procure a fair, and the exclusion of the contrary side the most probable means of obtaining a wise, decision? Undue influence ought not to be employed; but to say that to suggest a list to the inspection of a member, was the use of undue influence, seemed an assertion not at all correct, because it could by no means be discovered if the party had or had not voted according to that intimation. The matter on the whole appeared to him so plain, that he felt it difficult to vindicate himself for speaking so long; but his leading desire was to rescue the house and its proceedings from the imputation which had been justly directed against both.
§ Mr. Sheridan
said, there was a warmth intruded into the discussion, which did not belong to it. The real question was, which side of the house most conduced to support the character of the house, and to fulfil the just expectations of the public? In some degree the right hon. gent. seemed to have a correct notion of the subject, but in order to justify himself, he presumed to call the opinion of the nation a party cry. Were the resolutions of the City of London a party cry? Were the meetings all over the kingdom a party cry? Was the vote of the house of commons, supported by the independent spirit of its speaker, a party cry? It ought to be known, that the time was at hand, when it was necessary to encourage the friends of the state, by the loud voice of the people. The gent. on his side of the house did not challenge the individuals proposed for the committee without cause. They distinctly said, no one holding a place under the crown, is a proper person to examine the conduct of the first lord of the treasury. They said, a person like the noble lord, who had since the union acted with the minister, went out with him, came again into office with him, and remained to open a back door for the right hon. gent.'s admission, is not a fit man to be employed on such an occasion. Perhaps, the irœ amantium, of which gentlemen had heard within these few hours, rendered him, 522 if possible, yet more objectionable. Could it then be said (he would repeat the question) that no cause was shewn for the challenge? It was extremely suspicious, that the first person proposed by his hon. friend (Mr. Whitbread), being a partizan of the ministers, should be resisted, and the proposition for the ballot immediately succeed. The right hon. gent. said, "shall I be stripped of my friends? Is no person in office, no one connected with me to appear in the committee?" It was not required that no colleague in place should be on the committee, but it was demanded, that the members should not be pestered with treasury lists. Could the right hon. gent. not trust to the league of private affection? And if his confidence were deficient there, could he not repose in the expectation, that, for the many favours received, and the many more in reversion, his connections would not be unmindful of his security? It was not fair to say, the exclusion, on some important occasions, of persons in place, was unknown to our law; this was the case under the circumstance of appointing committees on delinquency in the East Indies. Who brought in the bill by which this was enacted? Lord Melville. This was the public reformer who was so lately libelled by the house of commons; this was the man who was chairman of the committee, and who prosecuted the unfortunate delinquents with extraordinary severity. But this was not an Indian delinquent, it was the person advanced to the head of the king's government. How much more expedient then was it, that this great officer of state, if guilty, should not be protected by the companions in his crimes? The right hon. gentleman forgot himself. He (Mr. Sheridan) told him he was himself upon his trial, but he replied, that there was no charge, no report against him. The right hon. gent. prescribed three things, which the committee were to try, and it was extremely unlucky that in all three he himself was implicated. The first was, if he had authentic information of the purpose for which the money was drawn out (that was, if the first lord of the treasury had such intelligence of the proceeding of lord Melville and Mr. Trotter). The second was, if the money was withdrawn for the purposes for which it was voted, and applied to the delicate services which had been adverted to. It was curious to see a person put on the 523 committee, of whom it was said he had corrupted the Irish parliament. If he would commit such practices with regard to one legislature, his inclination at least would not be deficient to do the same to another. On this charge of the misapplication of the money, the right hon. gent. was to be tried, and if it should be found that the first lord of the treasury authorised such conduct, it would be no wonder if the subalterns in office took advantage of it to effect their own purposes. The third regarded the discharge given to lord Melville, on account of the defalcation of Mr. Jellicoe. Was it not then most obvious, that the right hon. gent.'s purity was the question to be determined in all these? Then his hon. friend very naturally enquired what would a man of honour do if placed in such an unhappy predicament? The right hon. gent., when the subject was started, made no objection to the committee. He felt himself so closely touched, so sore when his conduct was doubted, that he would have the matter fully examined, and, to use his own words, he would have it sifted to the bottom. Then said his hon. friend truly, a man of honour, in such a disposition, would have no concern with, and if possible, no knowledge of the parties by whom the enquiries were to be prosecuted. But what was the course of the right hon. gent.? He said, "I will prescribe the line of your march. I will appoint the commanders in the field." He drew up the indictment by which he was to be arraigned, and then nominated the jury before whom he was to be tried. He would tell the right hon. gent., in such a proceeding he had consulted his own honour; the people of England would be disappointed, and they were entitled to a fair, full, and impartial investigation.
§ Mr. H. Lascelles
said, he wished to trouble the house with but a very few words indeed, to which he was induced by what had fallen from the hon. gent. opposite. He had said that he thought the committee was very objectionable from the mode in which it had been balloted for, and that all the members might be supposed to be partially inclined. He did not wish to go into a committee concerning which such impressions prevailed, and he thought it necessary to ask whether the hon. gent. had any objection to him?
§ Mr. Whitbread
assured the hon. gentle- 524 man that to all those to whom he had any public objection, he had mentioned his objections, and that he never could have entertained the slightest to him individually. On the contrary, he appealed to himself, to say whether he had not asked his advice as to the names he should himself put down in the list, and his consent to insert his own name?
§ Mr. H. Lascelles
acknowledged the hon. gent. had done so, and he felt himself much obliged by the compliment; but he did not allude to him, but to what had been said by Mr. Sheridan.
§ Mr. Sheridan
disclaimed all idea of the smallest objection to the hon. gent. and said that his objection did not go to the committee, but to the mode in which it had been appointed by the right hon. gentleman.
§ Mr. Fuller
said, though he felt a great respect for the hon. members who composed the committee, he was afraid, from the way in which it had been appointed, the public would not think it so impartial as it ought to be. It was known, he said, as well as the sun at noon-day, that his side of the house wished the right hon. gent. out of office; and it was as well known that he would endeavour to keep in as long as he could. He was sorry to see him proceeding in such a way, to obtain an enquiry into his conduct. He thought the committee he had recommended the other night would have been a much fairer one, viz, the taking one alternately from each side of the house, and all those to whom he had since mentioned it were of the same opinion. Why were not the names of two hon. gentlemen below in this list; gentlemen of the most noble and independent principles, and who had for many years past supported the measures of the right hon. gentleman? He mentioned Mr. Bankes by name (and there was a cry of order! order!). The other gent. alluded to was Mr. Wilberforce. He was afraid, he said, their names were left out, because they had dared to vote against him on a late memorable question. He exhorted those gentlemen, however, to go on, and one day or other the country would most assuredly reward them. He said, if the hon. and learned gent. (the Master of the Rolls) was always quibbling in another place as he was here, he would not give a farthing for his arguments.
§ Mr. Canning
complained that his right hon. and learned friend (the Master of the 525 Rolls) had been arraigned in his absence, and blamed for having entered on a justification of himself in circumstances that so peculiarly led to it. He was sure, however, that he might say?also in the absence of that right hon. gent., that there never was a man to whom the task of justifying himself was more easy or less necessary. He reprobated the terms that had been employed by some hon. gent. in speaking of the committee, and thought his hon. friend (Mr. Lascelles) perfectly justifiable in resenting the general language of opprobrium that had been applied to it.—They had been told by an hon. member that he was far from meaning to attach any disrespect to his hon. friend, or to impute any disgrace to individuals of the committee. What! said the right hon. gent., is it then no disgrace to belong to a packed jury, such as they attempted to represent this committee? He was glad, however, his hon. friend had taken an opportunity of having such broad imputations contradicted. In regard to Mr. Baker, for whom he had the greatest respect, he contended that he had been introduced merely for the purpose of giving more weight to their objections against the noble lord, and not from any real regard for that hon. gent. They had proposed him in form, not in substance. It was not to obtain his assistance to the,committee, but to get quit of his noble friend, they had brought him forward. Though to Mr. Baker, therefore, he could have no objection, he regarded himself as bound to resist the motion. His right hon. friend had been represented as shrinking from enquiry, but how was that charge attempted to be made out? Was it by stating, as they had done, that he had withdrawn from the cognizance of the committee every thing but what related to himself? This, instead of shrinking from an enquiry, was more like courting it, so far at least as related to himself. His rt. hon. friend indeed had always wished enquiry, and bad originally contended for that very mode of enquiry which the house had at last adopted, he meant a committee. As to what farther respected lord Melville in the report, the house had already decided, that it was better to refer it to a court of law and to recover such monies as the public might be found to have a claim to. It had been suggested by some gentlemen that the committee should be formed by allowing each side of the house alternately 526 to name a member. Let the list, brought down by the hon. gent. opposite, and the list said to be recommended by government, be compared, and it would then be seen in which the .principle of equalization had been most closely adhered to.
§ Mr. Jekyll
thought, that in the course of the proceedings, he and his friends with whom he acted, had reason to complain of want of candour from the right hon. gent. on the other side of the house. The only question now before the house was, whether the noble lord opposite was a fit person to be on that committee, situated and connected as he was with the right hon. gent. near him, on whose conduct, as first lord of the treasury, that committee was to sit in the nature of a jury. The right hon. gent. had not, it seemed, entirely forgotten the early habits of his life, and had therefore talked in the language of that profession, to which he was bred, "of a challenge for cause." He begged, however, as a professional man also, to remind the right hon. gent., that there were in our law two sorts of challenges, and that the other of them was "a challenge of the array," by which last the law provides that no public officer shall chose his own jury, and he was astonished the right hon. gent. should attempt to take advantage of being tried by a tribunal of his own nomination. One thing had also struck him most forcibly. His hon. friend who brought forward this motion had objected to the name of the noble lord, and in the whole course of the debate not one reason had been given against this objection. The simple question came therefore to this, would the public be satisfied with the nature of this proceeding? He did not think it would; and, as he wished the house to revise their decision in the appointment of this committee, he should vote for the motion, and hoped the noble lord's name would accordingly be expunged from the list.
§ Mr. Windham
said, that it was his intention to propose that his name should be struck off from this committee, upon nearly the same grounds on which he meant to contend that the noble lord (lord Castlereagh) who was the subject of the motion, was ineligible, namely, the friendly footing on which he had been with the noble lord (lord Melville), as well as with the right hon. gent., whose conduct was also to be investigated. The official con- 527 nexion which he (Mr. W.) had had with lord Melville, the social intercourse thence arising, and the impression made on his mind by the many amiable and estimable qualities, which the noble lord was known to possess, were all circumstances, which tended to disqualify him for the duty meant to be imposed on him. It was a duty which he did not wish to undertake. As to the nature of the committee, it ought in his judgment to be composed, not merely of impartial, unprejudiced persons, persons who would receive and report truth when submitted to them, but of those who would be disposed to go in pursuit of it, and would be zealous and active in their researches. The committee was not meant for judicial decision, but to collect and bring forth the grounds for a charge, which should be submitted, afterwards, to the consideration of the house. The character of the committee was rather accusatory than judicial. Was it not then singular, that the very person accused, should himself nominate the committee that was to examine the grounds of the accusation? When a friend was thus appointed to pursue such examination, he must be rather a sturdy moralist, who could use the necessary diligence in order to seek out facts likely to lead to conviction. The task was more ungrateful than ought to be imposed on any one, and the confidence was too much for the house to repose.—It was a trial which he was not willing to encounter. The only argument that could be used was, that it was not so much lord M. as the rt. hon. gent. (Mr. Pitt) that was the object of charge, as the powers of the committee were now limited. But this was only to change the person, leaving the case the same. He once acted with the right hon. gent., although he now disagreed with him; and, indeed, to speak correctly, even when he did act with him he could not be said properly to agree with him. The agreement was rather comparative than absolute—rather with reference to the sentiments of those than opposed to the right hon. gent., and with from he (Mr. W.) now concurred, than from a complete coincidence in the views entertained by the right hon. gent. Still his connection with the right hon. gent. had been such that he did not wish to be a member of a committee appointed to arraign his conduct. In considering the powers with 528 which this committee was vested, combined with the persons of which it was composed, he really did not think it was calculated to give satisfaction to the country. And however little he might be disposed, or might wish that others at different times had been disposed, to enforce a devoted reverence for public opinion on great questions of general policy, upon which, what was called the public was generally incompetent to judge; yet upon such an occasion as this, the case was directly the reverse. Here public opinion was not only entitled to peculiar attention, but was itself a great part of the question. The weightiest part of the charge against the noble lord (lord M.) was the shock he had given to public opinion; and the first duty imposed upon the house, was to take such measures, consistent with justice, as might be likely to restore it. Where the suspicions of the public were reasonable, whether they should ultimately turn out to be well or ill founded, they had a claim to consideration and satisfaction. As Dr. Johnson said of the partisans of Ossian, 'to revenge reasonable incredulity by refusing evidence, was a degree of insolence to which the world had not been accustomed!' It was the duty and interest of the house to preserve itself from suspicion in any part of its proceedings upon this delicate question. The wife of Caesar should not only be pure but unsuspected. If the committee were to be constructed according to present appearances, his conviction really was, that although the condemnation of the party accused by such a committee might have weight, their acquittal would have no weight at all—[a cry of hear! hear!] He conjured the house to take such a course as should satisfy the public; and though this was a phrase which, used too generally, would rather befit the proprietor of a theatre or a tea garden than a great and grave assembly; yet it was a fit address to the house on this occasion. The public was the party to be satisfied, for it was the property of the public that had been misapplied, and what was still more to the purpose, it was the confidence of the public, that had been shaken.—If obliged by the vote of the house to become a member of this committee, formed as it had been, by ballot, and limited, as it was, in the objects of its enquiry, he desired to be understood as engaging in it contrary to his inclination, and as entering his protest against the proceeding.
rose, expressing much reluctance in the necessity by which he was impelled to call the attention of the house, when he was personally the subject of debate. He then applied himself to the charges brought against him by the hon. gent. who moved to strike his name from the committee, and said, the hon. gent. in the allusions he had made to himself, and the several public topics with which he had been publicly and officially connected, only exercised a privilege to which, as a member of parliament, he was fairly entitled, and for which he felt not the slightest degree of animosity towards the hon. member. He totally denied the alledged analogy between his excusing himself upon oath from sitting on election committees, which were attended with circumstances specifically required by act of parliament, totally incompatible with the discharge of his official duties, and his competence to attend upon a committee of this kind, where a perpetual attendance upon the whole of its sittings was not required, but might be optional, and more suited to his opportunities. If the present committee had required an attendance equally close, he should have felt it his duty to state to the house, that his official avocations must render that attendance impracticable, and have claimed the indulgence of the house to be excused from serving on it. The house having done him the honour to name him as a member, it would ill become him to arraign its wisdom; and though he was ready to avow his strong personal attachment to his right hon. friend, and that it the committee were to exercise a judicial power, possibly his time of life, and his little experience in such investigation, might render him not so eligible to the duty as his right hon. and learned friend, the master of the rolls; yet, considering it was the duty of the committee merely to enquire into the truth of facts upon proof; that it was in the power of no member of that committee to conceal a single fact that should come out in the course of enquiry; that those facts must be detailed in their report to the house, who, and not the committee, were to exercise judicial decision; he felt nothing on the situation, or the nature of his connections with his right hon. friend, that could disqualify him from discharging the duties imposed upon him by the nomination. With respect to the allusion made by the hon. member, to his having retired from. power with his right hon. friend, on the circumstance of a great political measure, and re- 530 turning to power again without his right hon. friend, or that measure, it would be seen, from the discussion which would take place in a few days, whether he was under any engagement that could preclude his acceptance of office. The hon. member had thought proper to make some allusion to his conduct in another country, as connected with a great and important measure: the part he took in the accomplishment of it, was the proudest circumstance of his life. He would venture to say, that there never was a transaction in which there was more meritorious sacrifice of political interest to public welfare. The charges made against him on that subject were professedly founded on something which had fallen from a right hon. friend near him (Mr. Foster), whose difference of opinion from him on that great question he regretted as a misfortune; but he had only to say, that what had fallen from that right hon. gent. on the ,night alluded to, by no means bore the construction attached to it by the hon. member. Upon the whole, he considered the question of this night not by any means as personally directed against him, but an indirect attempt to censure the decision of that,house by persons who only respected its decisions when they happened to accord with their own. He knew it was disorderly to allude to former debates in that house; but as those gentlemen had thought fit to allude to them for the purposes of casting obloquy upon him and his friend, he trusted he should be indulged in a similar liberty of recurrence, in order to remind the house of the conduct of some of those gentlemen. An hon. member in particular, (Mr. Fox) who had, at no very distant period, thought so contemptibly of that house and its decisions, as to withdraw himself entirely from parliamentary attendance, had at length thought fit to revise his opinions, and condescended to attend the proceedings of the house. But he trusted the house had too just a sense, and too strong a recollection of that hon. member's conduct, ever to repose their confidence in him. He trusted that no period would ever arrive when the direction of public affairs would be entrusted to his hands; for, convinced he was, that however the hon. member's principles may have been neutralized by any new connections he may have formed of late, they were still such as to render him totally unfit for the confidence of the British nation.
§ Mr. Grey
said, that he could not remain silent, when he heard the conclusion of the 531 noble lord's speech, which he considered the most unparliamentary and indecorous he had ever heard in that house; the whole, as far as related to his hon. friend (Mr. Fox) was a misrepresentation and perversion of facts. The noble lord had stated that his hon. friend had no respect for parliament but when it acceded to his wishes. Such a declaration he considered unparliamentary. The noble lord had also thought proper to refer to the past conduct of his hon. friend. To such a reference he should gladly submit the point at issue; he was not afraid of the discussion which would arise out of that enquiry; he should even provoke it with great pleasure. His hon. friend did what he himself was obliged to do at the same time time; he ceased to attend in his place in parliament: this was what the noble lord called desertion and abandonment of public duty. His hon. friend abstained from attending when he knew that his presence could be attended with no success; he did not attend when he had experience of the inutility of combating for the public good, and promoting the interest of the country. But when his hon. friend and himself had given up attendance in the house, they did not leave the right hon. gent. (Mr. Pitt) under any great embarrassment, they left him in possession of the support, almost the unqualified support, of the house of commons, and without opposition; he had the resources of the country at his command, without check or restraint. How then could the noble lord state that his hon. friend caused any embarrassment by his non-attendance, when that very circumstance afforded the right hon. gent. every facility to carry on his favourite plans of every kind without being questioned as to their fitness or expediency? The noble lord had misrepresented his hon. friend, as calling this a packed committee. He might have said, the committee was solicited by the right hon. gent. and he would ask him, whether it Was consistent with a high sense of dignity, and very honourable to his feelings? When the question before the committee was that of abuse, and the conduct of the right hon. gent. the subject of enquiry, was it honourable or delicate in him to endeavour to recommend the appointment of persons firm in his interest, and connected with him in the government? The noble lord next complained of the manner of his hon. friend's bringing forward his motion. The argument he wished to apply in this case, was respecting the qualification of the noble lord. It was 532 not merely a question regarding the concealment of facts in the committee, but there were other duties that regarded the investigation of abuses. It was a proper consideration, whether we should not avoid the appointment of persons, who had been themselves active in the matters complained of. He wished to ask, upon a prima facie view of the question, whether it was not a strong objection to the appointment of the noble lord, that he was connected with the person who formed the subject matter of complaint, that it might turn out, that he was himself a party concerned. The first charge against, the right hon. gent. was his knowledge of, and connivance at the withdrawings of money from the Bank. The second was, whether it had been withdrawn for the purposes for which it was voted, and applied, as it was stated, to delicate services; and the third charge regarded the acquittal of Mr. Jellicoe. He would insist, that the knowledge which the noble lord was likely to have of these transactions, and his connection with administration, were substantial grounds for his disqualification. The noble lord was himself a minister, and connected with the noble lord who had been adjudged a delinquent, and might himself be implicated. The noble lord had been again pronouncing his panegyrics upon the Irish parliament, and had said, that there never was a more meritorious sacrifice to public duty and the welfare of the country, than that which produced the union. That sacrifice, however, was obtained by the purchase of private boroughs with the public money. His lordship had been charged with this: but he did not attempt a word in his own vindication. As the noble lord denied that any charge had been preferred against him by the right hon. gent. on the treasury bench near him (Mr. Foster); let him, therefore, ask that right hon. gent. Whether the charge could be supported, he did not mean to say, but that it had been made was most certain and undeniable. The noble lord heard the charge at the time it was made by the right hon. gent. he heard his hon. friend (Mr. Whitbread) also repeat it. He was charged with giving money for the purchase of votes. That charge stood against the noble lord, let him answer it: would he screen himself, like persons who refused to acknowledge their delinquency, under the 5th clause? He should, however, only say for the present, that the charge had been made, and no answer whatever had been given. With respect to feelings, were 533 he to change situations with the noble lord, and be accused and shrink from the charge, without giving an unequivocal denial, he should feel disgraced, and stand in the situation of a delinquent. Abuse of office was the subject of the present investigation. Public corruption was the subject of this inquiry; he, therefore, would ask whether the noble lord was a proper person to be upon that committee? but when the question was agitated, the gentlemen on the other side found it necessary to shelter themselves under the proceedings of the house, and say that he and his friends were endeavouring to vilify the character of the house, by objecting to certain names in the list for the committee. If those names were liable to objections, there was no other way of shewing that but by the mode his hon. friend had taken, and for which he deserved the greatest thanks. With respect to the mode of ballot, the theory which was used in the present case was not applicable in any other. When the abuses of government were the matters of complaint; at a time when the people, loaded with taxes, were looking with the greatest anxiety to that house for redress, it was their duty to adopt the most efficient method of bringing delinquency to light, and doing that justice which was expected at their hands. But his chief objection was to the quarter from whence those lists had been circulated; a quarter where the power was great, and influence might be practised. The right hon. gent. had said, that if lists were circulated, they were not obligatory; he would ask the right hon. gent. if there was not great danger of creating an improper influence? If in a court of justice, the accused party was to circulate lists among the jury who who were to try him, would not the right hon. and learned gent. the attorney general, fall immediately upon them, and expose the criminality of their conduct? The defence that would not be accepted in a court of justice, ought not to be received in a house of commons.
The Attorney General
observed, that the hon. gent. who had spoken last, had expressed himself with great warmth, in defence of his political friends. In his opinion that part of their political life in which they thought fit to abstain from attending their duty in the house of commons, was not very honourable or advantageous to their character. The right hon. gent. opposite (Mr. Windham) had contended, that public opinion was not to be made a general rule of 534 conduct, but ought to have particular force in this case. He, on the contrary, thought it ought to have no influence on an inquiry into facts. The right hon. gent. said, the committee should be an accusing committee; but he thought, it should not be an accusing committee to the exclusion of all disposition to inquire into the means of acquittal. An impartial committee would not be had if the list of the hon. member opposite to him had been adopted; for it consisted of none but members who had voted against ministers on the subject of lord Melville. The object of the committee was indeed to inquire; but it was as much to inquire with a view to establish innocence as to detect guilt. Its object roust be justice, and its pursuit the discovery of truth, and such, he was persuaded, would be the sentiment of the committee now before the house. He thought the right hon. gent. (Mr. Windham) a fit member of that committee, notwithstanding he had endeavoured to disqualify himself, for he had that sturdy morality which he stated to be a requisite in a member of that committee; since he had given proof that the sense he entertained of his public duty overbore the private esteem he had for lord Melville; in a word, the right hon. gent. was in himself an epitome of what a committee ought to be; since he possessed, in an eminent degree, all the qualities he himself required in that body. With respect to the other hon. gent. (Mr. Whitbread), who it appeared would do his duty with more satisfaction if the committee was appointed as he wished, he was satisfied their object was to discover truth, and detect guilt. There was, no doubt, from the zeal, activity, and perseverance of that hon. gent. that they would be able to procure every information, and that the objects of the committee would have their fullest effect, as it was now chosen. He therefore thought the mode by which the committee had been appointed was more calculated to attain their purpose, than the one proposed by the hon. gentleman.
§ Mr. Windham,
in explanation, stated, that he did not use the words alluded to by the right hon. gent. in the sense attributed to him. When he made use of the phrase, "accusing committee," he did not mean that it was to be so composed as the learned gent. imagined; it was not his wish to exclude impartiality from it, although he wished that the valuable qualities of research, intelligence, and investigation should be amply discovered in it.
§ Mr. Robert Thornton
stated, that he did not think the circulation of lists an offence of that grave character that some gentlemen seemed to conceive. He thought it perfectly justifiable, for if men, whose political inclinations generally coincided, did not Consult and concur with each other upon such occasions as the one which had just given rise to the discussion before the house, it would be in the power of any ten members to carry the appointment of the persons who should be nominated to try the most important question. He believed lists might have been circulated from the treasury; but to counterbalance this, had not opposition their lists also? If no lists should be sent out, government, or opposition, or any other lot of men, might decide upon any question where ballot should be employed; and the noble lord who was now objected to might have his ten friends, and be borne off by that number of persons politically attached to him, or ruined by his adversaries. He would acknowledge he had received one of those lists, from whom he knew not; and he exercised his discretion upon it to the same extent that he presumed every member who received one did; he made such alterations in it, and those with respect to more names than one, as he conceived indispensible towards obtaining an impartial, active, and enlightened committee. He could perceive that on the ballot but few of the opposition members put in their lists, and he thought he could perceive the motives which influenced them to decline the exercise of that privilege; and that was, because they had determined at the time to bring forward this motion. He was one of those who had voted with the hon. gent. (Mr. Whitbread) in censuring lord Melville, and upon that occasion he had acted with a number of friends, among whom many shades and differences of opinion existed, respecting the degree of culpability imputable to that noble lord. Was the tenor of that vote to be arraigned, because they had met and consulted with each other? He did not suppose the hon. gent. would say yes. He felt it to be his duty to concur in the motion of that hon. gent. on the 8th; and although he had since differed with him on one or more occasions, he did not think it improbable, but that both he, and those who acted with him, might have opportunities of voting again in support of a motion brought forward by that hon. gent. The present motion, however, was one which neither he nor any of his friends could support.
§ Mr. Richard Martin
said, that if he could have brought himself to be on the same opinion with the hon. and learned gent. (the Attorney General) he would have put an end to the debate long ago. Would it not, he asked, he, more honourable for the noble viscount to be acquitted by his accusers than by his friends, as much as it would be more to the honour of an individual to be acquitted by a jury, the foreman of which was known to be his personal enemy? The time of the house, he thought, had been very unnecessarily taken up in discussing whether the name of the noble lord should be continued on the list, or no. He was not of the opinion of those who laid it down as a principle not to be deviated from, that a public functionary was by no means to be received into a committee appointed for such a purpose as that proposed. By no means. He would examine what the character of that functionary was. If he found such a person to have been uniformly venal out of office, and corrupt when in it, he could not consider such a man as a fit subject for a committee. He would say a few words in answer to one argument from that noble lord. He was one of those who had been accused of raising a cry against the Union; true, he had opposed it. Since that great legislative measure took place, and since he came into this country, he saw many reasons to approve of it. He would, with the indulgence of the house, explain ,what they were—
§ The Speaker
begged leave to remind the hon. member that the observations upon which he was about to enter could have no possible bearing upon the subject before the house for discussion.
§ Mr. Martin
gave way, and after a short conversation, during which strangers were excluded, the house proceeded to a division on Mr. Whitbread's motion for expunging the name of Lord Castlereagh, and inserting that of Mr. Baker in its place.—Ayes 86—Noes 219.—Majority against Mr. Whitbread's motion 133.
While strangers were excluded,
§ Mr. Windham,
having stated to the house, that he had been a member of the administration in which the abuses described in the Tenth Report are alledged to have taken place; and having submitted other considerations to the house, why his name should be struck out of the said list, concluded with a motion to that effect; upon which motion another division took place:—Ayes 80. Noes 207. Majority 127.—Adjourned.