The hon. W. H. Lyttleton rose ,
and said, that in prefacing the resolution which he should do himself the honour to move, he would avoid, as much as possible, a repetition of any of the topics that were urged on the important and memorable debate of Thursday last, although so much extraneous matter had on that evening been introduced, that it would be difficult completely to steer clear of such a repetition. On the question that had been then discussed, he 433 must be allowed to say a few words. Deeply did he lament that it had been disposed of in the way in which it had been, not so much on account of the importance of the question itself, important as it undoubtedly was, as because it seemed that the house were disposed to evade the decision of a great constitutional question; a cowardice in the house of commons which affected him beyond expression. By their conduct it appeared as if the house were ready to recognize a principle which would vest in the crown a power clearly unconstitutional because not responsible; a power which differed in nothing from that assumed by the Stuarts, and against which our ancestors had so strenuously and so successfully contended. Not hoping, however, that he could influence the house to change their determination on this subject, he must satisfy himself with submitting to them a resolution which had no direct application to the royal prerogative, and to which he could not but think that the house must accede, when he considered the majorities by which the measures of the late ministers had been supported. The country had seen the sudden and unexpected removal from power, of ministers apparently possessing the full confidence of the house and of the country, and carrying on the affairs of state as prosperously as the situation of Europe would admit. It would be worth while to enquire what was the actual state of Europe, and how far it was of consequence that the affairs of this country should be well conducted. Had the state of Europe been so altered within these few months, had the security of this country become so well established, that we could with safety entrust the administration of it to any set of men whatever? or rather, was it not expedient that an humble and dutiful, but firm remonstrance, should be carried up to the throne against the removal of men, who, in the present circumstances, were the best qualified to hold the helm of state? The ministers whom it had pleased his majesty, or, as our ancestors used to say, whom his majesty had been advised to remove, during the short period of their remaining in office, had done every thing in their power to call forth the energies of the people, and to unite all hands and hearts in the service of the country. Their conduct, considered in every point of view, entitled them to the public esteem and gratitude. In the financial department of the state, one which required such 434 careful management, they not only conducted themselves with economy and discretion, but supported and carried into effect the appointment of a committee of finance, first suggested by an hon. friend of his (Mr. Biddulph), the only apparent means of probing the wounds of the country, and ascertaining the remedy which it would be necessary to apply. In their offer to negotiate with France, while they evinced a spirit of conciliation, they avoided every thing that could be deemed derogatory from the character of this country, and withdrew their ambassador the moment that a continuance in the negociation became inconsistent with the national honour. With regard to the army, they adopted a system conformable to human nature; they had introduced the plan of limited service, which rendered the army more attractive, and which had the tendency to augment its numbers while it exalted its character; nor did they appear at any time disposed to reject any suggestion for amelioration, from whatever quarter it came. As to their successors, we had seen but little of them; but that little was not much to their credit. In some instances their conduct had already been highly censurable. They had called their sovereign to the bar of the house to be arraigned, and then skulked behind the throne, and interposed the royal robe between themselves and merited reproof. He was as loyal as any of them; but by loyalty, he understood allegiance to the state and the constitution, which taught him not to compromise the person of the sovereign, whereas the tendency of their arguments was to render the sovereign himself responsible. He thought, then, that it was necessary, that the house should express its approbation of the conduct of the late ministers, and he thought it the more necessary, as they had been assailed by the most gross and libellous misrepresentations, by minutes committed to venal journalists by perjured counsellors, for the very purposes, as appeared, of misrepresentation, and by a cry about religion, excited from one end of the kingdom to the other, serving to kindle religious animosity, and to awaken the furies of bigotry and fanaticism, to the manifest injury of all true religion. For this cry, he was sorry to say, the chancellor of the exchequer had given the watch-word, and he was almost ashamed of the credulity and blindness of his countrymen, when he saw that there were any with whom such 435 attempts could succeed. He could not conclude without one remark on the threat which had been held out, of a dissolution of parliament, by a right honourable secretary (Mr. Canning), in case the house did not accede to whatever he chose to propose to it, or rather to impose upon it. How often were the members to be sent to their constituents? Was it whenever ministers thought it right to dissolve them upon any pretence, however unreasonable? He was not sent there to cabal, nor to endeavour to impose on his sovereign, even when in opposition to ministers. He would go boldly to his constituents, and call upon them to sanction the vote he had given. Unless they did this, he would at all events only have resigned a trust which it would be dishonourable to hold; but he had no doubt they would sanction it, and ministers, in his opinion, would gain little by a dissolution. If the present resolution was rejected, the house must be considered as only the instrument of the minister of the day. He was not the servile adherent of any man or set of men, and only offered this resolution to the house, because he thought that such a resolution ought to stand on the journals. He concluded by moving, "That this house, considering a firm and efficient administration, as indispensably necessary, in the present important crisis of public affairs, has seen, with the deepest regret, the late change in his majesty's councils."
§ Mr. Hibbert rose
to second the motion. Although he had, in the measure regarding the slave trade, uniformly opposed the late administration, yet he was happy in now giving them a proof of his sincere approbation of their general conduct. His hon. friend had given a comprehensive view of the grounds on which the resolution was founded. He presumed that whatever difference of opinion there might be on some subjects, there was no disagreement as to the state of alarm in the present crisis of public affairs. To assert such a proposition, was to procure immediate conviction of its truth. A noble lord on the other side (lord Castlereagh) had said, that the late ministers ascended a bed of roses when they entered into power; but he did no think, now they occupied the same place themselves, they would persevere in that sentiment. If now they should be incommoded by fewer thorns, it would be because some had been extracted by the diligence of the late administration. These were 436 not times in which the public service would admit of trifling: the reins of the state must be held by a firm hand, or the most painful consequences were to be apprehended. An opening for peace presented itself, which, according to the opinion of the people of England, was not to be neglected; they made the proper advances, and the attempt, however unsuccessful, was meritorious. An attempt to obstruct the power of our great enemy had been tried ineffectually, by a formidable co-operation of the continental powers, and a peace was discreetly attempted, to prevent new disappointments. In regard to the army and navy, the measures the late servants of the crown pursued, were at once constitutional, and directed to increase these two sources of the national defence. As to the army, the mode adopted for its improvement had been argued as a military expedient by those who were much more competent to determine on its policy than he was; yet, on the ordinary principles of common sense, the measures appeared to his mind reasonable, and that they were constitutional, he had no doubt; he felt great gratitude to those who proposed them, as they were manifestly conducive to remove the evil so much feared by our ancestors, he meant the existence of a large standing army; and he earnestly entreated of the ministers now in power, that they would not in this respect introduce those changes which might in the sequel be subversive of the constitution. In regard to the navy, there was at least one indication of its good management, since there was no period of our late protracted wars in which fewer captures had been made. If he were to proceed further and to examine the positions of the squadrons expanded over the seas, new proofs would be supplied of the politic conduct in that important department. With respect to the finances, it was seen that the greatest economy had been applied, although perhaps the great capitalists of the country were among those who were the least satisfied with the arrangements. Discontent under such circumstances was in human nature, and could not be separated from it. It was impossible that there should not be a predilection with persons of large fortune, in favour of those who would enable them to employ it to the greatest advantage. But although he would not depreciate men of great pecuniary resources, yet there was a middle order of men who had patiently sustained the burthen of this expensive war, 437 and who would do their utmost to sustain it, as long as they had confidence in those who directed his majesty's councils: that class of men would perceive, that the plan laid down by the late ministers was calculated to relieve them, under such extraordinary pressure, and would feel mortified and disheartened when it was abandoned. Had not these advisers of the crown met every enquiry into their financial system with a manly and temperate spirit, in order to adopt every improvement, and to give the fullest satisfaction to those who were to sustain the heat and labour of the day? In this situation of things, his friends, who had retired from office, had carried with them the approbation of their own consciences, confirmed by the respect and gratitude of their country. It had been asserted, that the late administration had been inactive, in not affording to our allies the assistance they expected. He granted, that they had not subsidized the nations of Europe, as had been done on former occasions, but they had acted more wisely; and by stationing the naval force in proper directions, they had must powerfully co-operated with those who defended the common cause. He was astonished to hear it said, that there might be an exercise of the royal prerogative, for which no one could, or ought to be responsible. If it might be so in one instance, it might be so in all cases, and nothing could be inure unconstitutional than such a principle. With regard to loyalty, the term itself was too tame and cold to express that empassioned attachment which a British subject felt towards his sovereign. His majesty had constantly shewn his attention to the interest and happiness of his people, and his veneration for the constitution of the country; yet the subject would be in danger of losing the best character of his loyalty, and the most important part of his honourable immunities, if he were not to be permitted to question the exercise of the royal prerogative. On a late occasion, the king's ministers recommended a measure which had recently received much discussion; he alluded to the concession to the Catholics in the army and navy. This was not brought forward, that gentlemen might indulge themselves in fine speeches: it was introduced to tranquillize the mind of the subject, in a particular part of the realm; and when from opposition, either at home or abroad, that important design was to be disappointed, it was consistent with every 438 notion he could form of wisdom and duty to withdraw it. They did this, however, with the proper reservation, that their opinions should be unbiassed and unfettered, that they should be allowed to declare that they had not abandoned their former sentiments, and that when the occasion should testify it, they might be permitted again to submit to their royal master the propriety or necessity of such a measure. This appeared to him to be a fair and respectful proceeding, but they could not condescend to become time serving ministers, or to barter the interests of their country for the power and emoluments of office. It was said, that the king could dismiss his ministers at his pleasure, and that therefore there could be no ground for demanding the pledge. Into that he should not enquire, but it was perfectly clear to him that ministers could not constitutionally enter into such an engagement. They could not be restricted in the advice they should give to the crown; they were the guardians of the country, and must respect the relation they sustained to it. He would assert yet more—that, had they acceded to time pledge, such ministers would have been the proper objects of parliamentary impeachment. The new ministers were said to be confined by no such pledge, but he would contend that they were pledged by the very act of undertaking their present situations. Supposing the concession that had been proposed to the Catholics, should be necessary to preserve the rights of the crown, and the tranquillity of the people, was it to be expected that, contrary to truth, they should come to the house and declare, that they were erroneous in their judgment? He commended them for avowing, in an open and manly way, their sentiments; and their withdrawing the bill was capable of complete vindication, since the contrary would have given rise to serious divisions at this critical moment. Both he and the whole nation must prefer this conduct to that of accepting office under a disguised pledge, which was made sufficiently manifest from the minute which had been laid upon the table. If nothing which had fallen from his hon. friend, or from himself, in this debate, should induce the house to declare its confidence in the late administration, he hoped, at least, it would not be prevented from this bold acknowledgment of its feelings, by the indiscreet threat of the right hon. secretary (Mr. Canning), to advise his majesty to dissolve the parliament. He would confidently assert, that there was no 439 example of such a menace. Was it to be considered as a specimen of the talents of the new secretary for the arduous duties of his office, in which station he had succeeded a noble lord of extraordinary powers, and who was the follower of an illustrious statesman, who, to the greatest suavity of manners, united the greatest strength and dignity of intellect. He hoped that the right hon. secretary would not suppose he meant any personal disrespect to him; without any intention of that kind, he was discharging what he conceived to be an imperious constitutional duty. He might think as humbly of himself as any man: he might sacrifice in his private capacity all the emotions of pride; but the honour of that house was a sacred trust which could not be resigned, which must not be stigmatized with impunity; and if the right hon. secretary's threat were to be patiently endured, the constitution of our ancestors must soon be surrendered.
§ Mr. Milnes ,
in a maiden speech, opposed the motion. Although the question and the observations to which it had given rise, extended to the detail of all the acts of the late administration, it ought yet to be recollected that most of those acts had before been singly considered and approved of by the house. Before he proceeded he would make one observation on the form of the resolution, which did not appear to him to be calculated to include in the concurrence to it all those whom the hon mover must certainly be desirous to include. It contained this proposition, that because the late administration might in many points have deserved well of the country, yet that their dismissal was not expedient or necessary. Did it follow that, because the house, or any member of the house, had approved of part of the conduct of the late ministers, they must necessarily extend their approbation to that part of their conduct which occasioned their dismissal? Certainly not; and the hon. mover must therefore forfeit the support of those who, while they applauded the late ministry in several points of their administration, were not disposed to give to that administration their unqualified approbation. He would not, on this occasion, go into an examination of the merits of the late administration, or of the circumstances which led to their dismissal. A particular review of their public acts, few as they had been, it would require more than one night to accomplish, and a general review might be productive 440 of a delusive inference. Whether the war had been carried on with the activity which the affairs of Europe demanded? Whether every possible means had been used to excite the energies of the people at home? Whether the financial system had been arranged with ability? Whether recent accusations against a gallant officer (sir Home Popham) had been prompted by private prejudice rather than by public duty? These were points on which he would not presume to determine. With regard to the measure so honourable to humanity, which had at length been carried into effect, the abolition of the slave trade (although the stigma of having allowed it to remain so long could never be effaced), the glory of that measure belonged to his hon. friend (Mr. Wilberforce), in whose philanthropy it originated, and by whose unwearied exertions it had at length been brought to a successful issue. That the late administration possessed ability he was ready to allow, but that ability, however great, by no means stultified their opponents, whose measures, if calculated, as he was convinced they would be, for the advantage of the country, the house, he trusted, would not suffer to be impeded by the operation of party spirit. With regard to what had been termed the threat of a right hon. secretary, he had said nothing, that could be new to the house; expectations of a dissolution had been very generally formed. Was the absence of disguise censurable? Besides,the right hon. gent. did not make use of the expression which had been alluded to as a threat; those alone converted it into a threat who insinuated that by any declaration from any man, the house of commons could be deterred from doing their duty. With respect to the conduct of the present administration, he was confident that by an anxious desire to obtain peace, if an honourable peace were attainable; if an honourable peace were not attainable, by a vigorous prosecution of the war, in conjunction with our allies; by a wise and persevering attention to the proper management of the domestic concerns of the country, and by that eloquence which would enable them to refute their antagonists, and to maintain the excellence of their own measures, his majesty's present ministers would secure an influence in the house, over which the violence of opposition would be unable to triumph. To what did the present motion tend? Not to shew that the house approved of several parts of the conduct of the late ministers, 441 for that approbation had been expressed by their votes. Not to inform the king of their merits, for, according to the statement made by a noble lord, his majesty had expressed his approbation of their conduct up to the circumstance which led to their dismissal. The house had not been told of the answer which had been made to the approbation so expressed by the sovereign. Would it not have been proper for the late ministers, on quitting office, to assure his majesty that in retiring from his service, it was their wish still to support his government; that they should be happy at having the power to afford it their aid; that they knew their dismissal was occasioned by conscientious motives alone; and that, so far from shewing any animosity against their successors, they were disposed by every possible means to contribute to the success of those measures which they might bring forward for the service of the country? Discarded from his majesty's councils, they should retain their respect to the monarch, and their affection to their country. By such motives they ought to be influenced; at least, he hoped they would not madly surrender themselves to a blind and headlong opposition; and that their friends and adherents would have the modesty to suspend their condemnation of the new ministers, until some opportunity should have been afforded of witnessing their conduct; or, in other words, until they had been tried. No doubt could arise on the terms in which the resolution was expressed; its general purport could not be misunderstood. Before, an abstract point was to be discussed; now, the words were more clear and precise, and precluded the possibility of any misapprehension. Such were the sentiments he had to express on the present occasion. He was anxious that a temper of conciliation should prevail; and he should be sorry if the late ministers could not have the dignity to retire from their stations, without repining at those who had succeeded them. Whatever might be the influence of the speeches of the two hon. gentlemen upon others, upon his mind they had no effect but to increase his objections to what they had recommended; he should therefore conclude with moving the order of the day.
The Hon. John W. Ward rose
and spoke as follows:—I can assure the house, sir, that it is not without considerable reluctance that I rise for the purpose of occupying any portion of their time, however small. But as the question now before us 442 is of great magnitude, and as I had no opportunity of stating my sentiments upon one which was brought forward some days ago, and which if not in form, at least in its understood purpose, and in the way it was discussed, resembled this, I trust I shall be excused if I say a few words. Indeed, sir, I hardly know how I should discharge my duty either towards myself, or towards the country, one of whose representatives I am, if I were to refrain from expressing any opinion at all upon a change so extraordinary as that which we have lately witnessed, particularly as that opinion must be at once the guide and the pledge of my conduct in parliament, perhaps for as long as I have the honour to sit in it.ߞBut before I touch upon these points with which it is connected, I beg to be clearly understood, as to what has been made the subject of so much wilful and malignant misrepresentation. No pains have been spared, and no falsehoods have been abstained from, in order to convince the people, that the late ministers were inclined to avail themselves of what, it seems, they fancied was the secure and permanent possession of power, in order to thwart the wishes and insult the feelings of their sovereign; and that their friends in both houses of parliament are prepared to support them in this line of conduct, and are consequently the enemies both of his person and his prerogative.—Now for my own part I solemnly declare, that if I could see any thing in their conduct that could warrant such a suspicion, if I could see any thing inconsistent with the most, delicate regard for his individual feelings, and the most profound and constitutional reverence for his authority, I should be among the first to desert and to reprobate them. No man can feel more deeply than I do, the respect with which every good Englishman ought to approach the throne, nor am I at all inclined to countenance those subtle distinctions between the person and the office, which might tend to weaken a sentiment so closely interwoven with the very frame of our constitution. With regard to his present majesty, I am as sensible as any one of what is due to a monarch so venerable by his age, by the long period during which he has reigned over this great empire, and, more than all, by his piety and virtues. I have thought it necessary to say thus much in limine, in order to exonerate myself from a charge which has been so diligently disseminated by anonymous libellers out of doors, profes- 443 sing, falsely, no doubt, to speak the sentiments of the present ministers, but which, I flatter myself, no member of this house will be uncandid enough to impute either to the friends of the late government, or to the late government itself, which contained among its leading members, some of the oldest and most faithful servants of the crown, to whom his majesty neither made nor even hinted the slightest reproach of that kind upon dismissing them from office.—It is of the utmost importance that the late ministers should stand well with the public as to that transaction, and I am perfectly willing to declare, that I would on no account concur in a vote conveying a general approbation of their conduct, if it appeared that in the course of it they had acted in a manner inconsistent with their duty. But, fortunately for themselves, and fortunately for the country, nothing can be more clear, more concise, and more satisfactory, than the whole history of those circumstances which ended in their dismission. When stripped of those details by which, though curious and interesting in themselves, the substance of it is not affected, it is, in one word, this: His majesty's ministers proposed to the house, in their ministerial capacity, a measure for which they imagined they had his consent. It turned out however upon further communication, that it had been given upon a misunderstanding of the real nature of the bill. They immediately withdrew it. But his majesty having accompanied his dissent by a very singular demand—namely, that they should give in writing a promise never to mention the subject to him again, they felt themselves obliged to acquaint him, in a firm, but respectful manner, that their sense of duty would not allow them to abstain from offering to him from time to time, such advice upon this and all other subjects, as his interests, and the interests of his empire, might in their judgement require. Upon this, his majesty resolved to dismiss them his service—following, no doubt, the advice of most disinterested persons, of persons who were not to profit by the change, and who had no other object at heart than to give to their country the strongest and wisest government that could be formed, at a time of the greatest danger by which it was ever menaced!—Now, sir, in all this, I can see no insolence, no folly, no desire to insult their sovereign, no deep-laid plot for making themselves Mayors of the Palace, nothing that could endanger 444 the establishment and call upon the right hon. and learned gent. opposite me to desert that profession of which he was an ornament, to quit the study of the year-book for that of your finance reports, and to take upon himself the lucrative office of chancellor of the duchy of Lancaster, for life if he could, or if not for life, for so long as he can hold it, in order, I presume, the better to enable him to make that gallant stand for the religion of his country, of which he has himself made such honourable mention in his address to his constituents.—And now, sir, that I have mentioned this address, I cannot forbear stating to the house, the impression it made upon my wind, and which it was, naturally, though I am sure unintentionally, calculated to produce. If I had merely seen such a paper in circulation, without any name annexed to it, and if I had been to judge of the author by the paper, and not of the paper by the author, I should have said, without hesitation, that it proceeded, not as it really did, from a man of blameless character and honourable intentions, not from an eminent lawyer, not from a minister of the crown, but from some mischievous and desperate incendiary, urged by fanaticism or the hope of plunder, to rekindle among us the flame of religions discord, and to renew in every town in the kingdom, those disgraceful scenes that were acted here in the year 1780.—But to return to the late ministers: The fact is, that they sacrificed their own wishes and their own feelings to the feelings and wishes of their sovereign—they gave up all they could give up without disgracing themselves in his eyes, and, in those of all the world—every thing but consistency, every thing but principle, every thing but honour; these they neither could nor did abandon. To deal quite fairly with the house, as I shall always feel myself bound to do, even at the certainty of differing from, and the hazard of offending those for whom I have most esteem and most regard, I must confess, that if there is any thing in the course of this transaction for which I should be inclined to cast blame upon the late ministers, it would be upon grounds very different from those that have generally been taken. That they went far enough in concession, I am quite sure—my only doubt is, whether they did not go too far. I am inclined to think that upon the strict principles of better times, of times more favourable to the people—and when I use the 445 word people, I mean to include every thing that is not the creature of court influence and court intrigue.—I am inclined to think, that, according to the doctrines so long and successfully maintained by our ancestors, the proper moment for resignation was that in which his majesty was advised to demand the total abandonment of the Catholic bill, and that they ought not to have waited for the pledge, that last insult which their enemies were already preparing for them in the dark. If such had been their determination, I, for one, should cheerfully have stood by them and been content to abide the consequences. But I am not disposed to urge this point too far:—perhaps there is something in the nature of the times in which we live, and of those deplorable prejudices which it has been the singular effect of the French revolution to revive, by a sort of re-action upon the fears of the tranquil and well-disposed part of society, just at the moment when they were gradually but rapidly falling into utter contempt, which would have rendered this an imprudent step even with a view to the object it was designed to promote, the people it was intended to serve, and to better purposes than a mere continuance in office—perhaps it would have enabled their adversaries to excite against them a foolish and mistaken clamour, the mischiefs of which can be best estimated by those who, like myself, consider their popularity with the great mass of the people, and their ultimate return to power, as the only remaining hope of the friends to religious liberty, to civil freedom, and to the constitution of this country.—And now, sir, to say a few words as to their general conduct: —I regret this change much, because it has deprived the king and the country of a strong, able, and patriotic government—I regret it still more, because it has replaced it by one directly the converse of it in all respects.—I believe, sir, that no government ever did so much for the good of the people in so short a time. Their merits have been stated in detail already, and will probably be stated again by persons far better qualified for the task, both by their authority and talents, than I am. I will however take the liberty of again calling to the mind of the house, those steps towards a reform in the public expenditure which were taken by the noble lord lately at the head of the treasury, and by my noble friend near me. They afford a rare, but brilliant and successful example of a 446 government anxiously and earnestly endeavouring to check abuses, and to save the money of the people, even at the hazard of diminishing their own patronage and power. An hon. gent. (Mr. Huskisson), I perceive, smiles at this assertion;—I can assure him, however, that I should be perfectly content to put the cause of the late government upon no other ground than the integrity, disinterestedness, and ability they displayed in this instance. I would also remind gentlemen of that plan of finance, (the work of the same persons,) on the details I am by no means prepared to give an opinion, but the effect of which, in some most important particulars, are evident to all the world.—After a long period of most expensive war, it has saved us from the necessity of imposing fresh taxes for several years to come, and, I will venture to say, has by that means alone done more than any single act of any former administration to keep up the spirits of the people in this singular and alarming posture of affairs, and to inspire them with confidence as to the final result of the struggle in which they have been so long engaged. It remains to be seen by which of those excellent, no doubt, but not very consistent or very clearly explained schemes which were opposed to it by the present ministers, the plan of my noble friend is to be replaced, and indeed whether the execution of that or any other plan will not be rendered impossible by the waste of millions to rouse unwilling cabinets to premature and ruinous exertions.—It remains to be seen by how much English gold, that is by how much English labour, and in the present circumstances of the country, by how much English privation and misery, it may be deemed expedient to purchase another third day's victory at Austerlitz. Whenever it occurs, I trust that the same able hand will be employed in communicating it to the public, and that my learned friend and namesake, who can so easily persuade, first himself, and then the world, that a complete defeat was in fact a complete success, will be had down by a special retainer from the Admiralty to the Foreign office, for that particular purpose. We have at least one peculiar advantage in the management of our financial affairs. The present chancellor of the exchequer brings to the subject, a mind free and unbiassed: he is encumbered by no former pledges or opinions, never having, as far as I know, touched at all upon finance during the long period in which he has 447 been as to every thing else, so active and so distinguished a member of parliament.—Sir, I have been the more desirous to direct the attention of the house to the financial part of the late administration, because I am persuaded, that the purity and severity they displayed in that respect, contributed indirectly to their fall, and will prove a direct obstacle to their return to power. They were too sparing of the public money, and too vigilant in their enquiries into abuse not to be an object of aversion to the whole class of jobbers, defaulters, and political adventurers. These persons felt themselves in a painful state of fear and depression, and exposed to inexorable vigilance and scrutiny. The dissolution of the late ministry has delivered them from all their terrors. The good old times are returned, "redeunt Saturnia regna," and they anticipate a long period of laxity, corruption, and impunity. The new ministers know how much support has been thrown away on that side by their predecessors, and how much may be gained by themselves, and accordingly they have not lost a moment in shewing them "some token for good." What must be the satisfaction of the whole class on seeing that nobleman restored to the councils of his sovereign, who in what, I believe, was called his defence, but which to me appeared so much more like a confession of guilt, declared openly and boldly to us, the guardians of the national purse, that of a large sum of public money which had passed through his hands, he would render no account whatever?—What a glorious set-off against the committee of finance, the commission for auditing the public accounts, and all the other vexatious measures of the late penurious government! With what rapture they must hail the triumph that has just been obtained by their tutelary deity over the efforts of the friends of reform, over the feelings of the country, and over the dignity and authority of this house!—The abolition of the slave trade was not, strictly speaking, a cabinet measure, and therefore cannot fairly be made a part of their encomium in their ministerial capacity. However, the friends of that great measure of justice and policy, would do well to consider what chance there would have been of accomplishing it under the present administration, which contains almost every individual (with very few exceptions) connected with public life, by whom it was always opposed, and treated as a chimerical 448 and pernicious speculation.—During the same government of 13 months, a plan was brought forward, and almost accomplished, for the better administration of justice in Scotland. No impartial person who has been in that country, and who is aware of the daily increasing inconveniences both to the judges and the suitors, arising from the present form of the courts, can hesitate as to the necessity of some change; yet no former government ever had the diligence, the wisdom, or the courage to attempt what became an immediate object of attention to the late ministers.—With regard to the persons by whom they have been succeeded, I am not desirous to state my sentiments much in detail, both because a good deal has been said already, and because it is a pleasanter task to praise than to blame. I cannot however avoid declaring, that whether I look at the means by which they have acquired power, or the means by which they must retain it, if they retain it at all, I consider their administration as the greatest calamity that has befallen the country since the breaking up of lord Chatham's ministry, in 1763—a transaction which this resembles in some of its most striking features, and particularly as being the result of that secret influence, of which that great man never ceased to complain, and which deprived us of his services at the highest point of his usefulness and reputation, and cut him short in the full career of his own, and of England's glory.—The house has been already reminded that these are the gentlemen who were seized with a sudden panic, and abandoned the government, almost immediately upon the death of Mr. Pitt, whose illustrious name was justly considered as forming the only ornament and support of their administration. It must be confessed, however, to their credit, that in their retreat they complied most honourably with the rules of ancient war; they did not suffer the "spolia opima" of the departed hero to fall into the hands of the enemy. His faithful myrmidons kept the field till they had fairly taken possession of his sinecure, and then retired. They have however sprung upon us again from a sort of ambush, and regained possession of their former position. They have accomplished this, by means of a successful appeal to a particular opinion entertained by his majesty, an opinion with which many of them are known so little to agree, that they thought it necessary upon a former occasion, to give up their places, because they 449 could not carry a measure in direct opposition to it. And there is this remarkable difference between their case and the case of the late ministers, that they demanded the whole of what is called "Catholic emancipation," and refused to serve the king any longer because he would not grant it, whilst the late ministers asked only a part of that measure, a very small part, and one that had been already promised by their predecessors, and what is still more important, were content to abandon that part to the wishes of their sovereign.—Sir, the present government owe their power to a dark intrigue, and not to any general opinion in their favour; and they must retain it by those means which are always resorted to, in order to supply the want of pubic confidence. Among these, I understand we may reckon a profose distribution of honours, which, without any proportionate advantage to the popular part of the constitution, degrades the aristocracy, and at the same time weakens the crown. Indeed, the way these gentlemen have taken to shew their attachment to their sovereign is altogether singular; they begin by advising him to require his ministers to violate their oath, and, in so doing, to make a direct attack upon that part of the constitution on which his personal security, principally depends: they then ask him to give them their places for life, that is, to make these completely independent of him, and out of the reach of any change in his opinion as to their merits; and lastly, they desire him to corder as many honours upon their friends at one blow, as would form, if properly managed, a source of influence for 10 years to come; that is, in order to confirm Ins authority, they persuade him to mortgage and anticipate the resources from which it is derived.—Sir, I will not abuse the indulgence of the house, by taking up more of their time: before I sit down I will however say a single word as to another intended step of the present government; I mean the use of a prerogative of the crown, an undoubted prerogative indeed; but the exercise of which, in this particular instance, and in the actual circumstances of the country, would, I will not hesitate to say, be the most audacious, the most desperate, and the most revolutionary measure that has taken place in England for a century past. This step has even been held out in terrorem by the right hon. secretary, in order to influence the vote of a 450 former night. With what decency, and with what good sense, I leave the house itself to determine. We all of us remember Mr. Pitt, the greatest and proudest minister this country ever saw, sitting in the place where the right hon. secretary now sits; a man whose commanding genius and irresistible eloquence might have excused a somewhat too high tone of authority: but Mr. Pitt himself, in the zenith of his power and glory, a power which even a dissolution of parliament will hardly give to the present ministers, and a glory which will hardly be rivalled even by the present first lord of the treasury; even he always treated the house of commons with respect, nor did he so far lose his temper, and along with it his prudence and his sense of propriety, as to threaten at the conclusion of a debate, when he apprehended that the vote of the evening was not likely to satisfy him, to appeal to the country, and send us back to our constituents. Sir, I trust that the house will treat this menace with proper indignation and contempt, and that it will shew by its decision this night, that it knows how to appreciate those ministers, who are, by their own confession, unable to maintain their ground a single moment, except by expedients which a strong government would despise, and of which a good government would be ashamed.
§ Mr. Hawkins Browne did not think that any ground had been afforded by the present ministers, in consequence of any act of theirs, for a remonstrance against them. They had all served his majesty before the present time with fidelity, why then should they be stigmatised by anticipation? they had given proofs of talent, and fully justified the favourable opinion entertained of them on former occasions; was it fair, then, to dismiss them now without a trial? He had great respect for the late ministers; but their successors certainly did not yield to them in public spirit, integrity, or virtue, and were superior to them in constitutional feelings and conduct. The late ministers meant well, he had no doubt, but they proceeded sometimes to extremes, He felt astonished at the panegyric pronounced on them for financial economy and financial system; but the house would recollect, that the whole merit of their plan should be attributed to Mr. Pitt. It was his sinking fund which enabled the late administration to form those arrangements respecting finance for which they claimed the thanks of the country. The present chancellor of the 451 exchequer was alluded to sarcastically as having left the inns of court and his profession for the arduous office which he held; and from the circumstance of having been lately a professional man, it was inferred that he could not be fit for his present situation. The best answer to this cavil was, that Mr. Pitt, the greatest financier this country ever saw, had stepped, he might say, from Lincoln's Inn to the treasury, at the head of which he presided, with credit to himself, and advantage to the country. He did not conceive, therefore, any reason for imputing incapacity, on the ground just stated, to his right hon. friend (Mr. Perceval). Gentlemen seemed to lay great stress on the pledge required by his majesty. This at the utmost was only an implied engagement that they would not offend his majesty by the introduction of a measure repugnant to his feelings.
§ Mr. Macdonald
could not refrain from returning thanks to the hon. mover, for the opportunity which he afforded him of expressing his opinion of the integrity and meritorious conduct of the late ministers. This would be an easy task, and might be done in a few words; but under the circumstances of the country at this moment, the question could not rest here, for it involved the public interest and public opinion which should be regarded, notwithstanding the menaces of a dissolution of parliament The house would feel that this was a moment of the greatest anxiety in every point of view. We were engaged in a most expensive war against the most formidable enemy this country had ever encountered; it was a moment at which our great northern ally was looking towards us for support and confidence; it was a juncture at which the eyes of Europe were turned to our situation Under these circumstances, what was so necessary as that we should be all united heart and hand, in the great cause we had undertaken? What more desirable than a firm, determined, efficient government, capable of calling forth our resources, and directing them against the enemy? The late ministers had done all in their power to promote the interest, and maintain the honour of the country.
§ Mr. Tighe
felt it to be his duty, as belonging to that part of the empire where the dismissal of the late ministry was a subject of deep and universal regret, to state his opinion on the question before the house. In whatever light he viewed the conduct of that administration during the short time 452 they were in power, it was entitled to his approbation. Whether he considered their economy in the public expenditure, their probity in the arrangement of the finances, their firmness, vigour, and decision in the conduct of the war, the general rectitude of their conduct in every other branch of administration, he found that they were titled to his unqualified approbation. They had, it was true, been but a short time in power, but it was long enough to deserve the thanks and gratitude of the nation. They had governed long enough for their own glory, but, unfortunately, not long enough to promote and confirm the advantages of their country. They continued in power, "satis sibi, sed non patriæ Considering the principle upon which the present ministers came in, it was impossible he could give them his support. For what was that principle? Most certainly, it was either upon an express or implied pledge not to stir a great constitutional question. If they did not come in under a written pledge, assuredly they did under a virtual pledge, not to advise his majesty upon the Catholic question. Accepting office upon these terms, what confidence could they hope from the people of Ireland? It was well known that hopes were held out to the Catholics of Ireland previous to the Union, that whenever that great measure should be effected, their claims would be heard and discussed with temper here. Were it not for these promises, the union would never have been carried, In order to procure the concurrence of the Catholics, the bishops were made the instruments of influencing the priests, and the priests were bribed to cajole the people. The present administration brought with them into power, all the odious parts of Mr. Pitt's principles with regard to Ireland, and super-added the principle of eternal exclusion to the Catholics, Ireland, at present, might be considered as a paralized member of the political body. It affected the whole frame; but, let it be restored to life and vigour, and the cripple would throw away his crutch, and grasp the sword in defence of his benefactor. As to concessions to Catholics, he was astonished at the inconsistency which prevailed with regard to them. He was at a loss to discover why principles, which were admitted in framing the constitution of Canada, should be considered as subversive of the constitution in Ireland. He was happy in the opportunity of expressing his approbation of the conduct of the 453 late ministers, and of condemning the principles upon which the present administration came into power.
said that when the hon. gent. attacked the measure of the union between the two countries, he seemed to overlook the consideration, that the noble lord (Grenville) Who was at the head of the late government, was one of the persons most forward in carrying that measure into effect. He felt sorry he could not assent to the motion of his hon. friend; a motion which he had introduced in a manner creditable to himself; and there was no man in the house more ready to give credit to his motives than he was. There were some points on which he could not feel inclined to support the late administration. In their military measures, he could see nothing but speculative plans and fallacious hopes. They had totally and completely ruined the volunteer system, by their inattention and disregard; and there was left no moral possibility of now ascertaining the discipline and force of that establishment. The next point on which he could not support them, was, their conduct relative to the catholic question. In his opinion they had imprudently encouraged expectations which they could not gratify, and were now predicting evil consequences, which he did not think the circumstances warranted. He thought the house might fairly expect, that the government of the duke of Richmond would be as popular and as lenient as that of lord Hardwicke. The late ministerial changes he regretted upon general grounds; yet still he could not accede to the proposition of condemning their successors by anticipation, and much less, when he recollected the peculiar circumstances under which they were called to the councils of their sovereign.
§ Mr. Gore
said, he had the honour of being a representative of a great and populous county in the sister island. Some months back, every thing was peaceable, and the people well affected; within the last month, no less than four murders had taken place, and a number of individuals had been arrested for treasonable practices. He trusted, that when the present ministers should retire from office, the house and the country would not be obliged to witness similar proofs of their policy and measures. The bill which opened the military service to the Catholics, had his warmest support; a support which he would have continued, had the late ministers persisted in carrying 454 it through its stages. It was true that the Catholics of Ireland looked to the late ministers as their staunchest friends, as those characters upon whom they might fully and confidently depend for the complete fulfilment of their promises and sanguine expectations. But the late administration must deceive themselves grossly, if they imagined that the measure they proposed was of a nature and extent to gratify the claims of that body. No; the Catholics considered it only as an excuse for ministers not redeeming their numerous pledges; they estimated it as a paltry subterfuge to escape expected solicitations. Had the late ministers been sincere in their regard for Ireland; had they really been inclined to promote its happiness and to augment its comforts, they could have embraced many opportunities of extending the benefits of education and knowledge. Had they come forward with that great and inestimable blessing, which would have taught the brave but ignorant peasantry of that country to choose between real good and airy speculation? Had they endeavoured to rescue them from those numerous evils which result from the collection of tithes in that country, and thus preserve them from that variety of distress to which the present system has long committed them? In a word, what one act had they done to ameliorate the condition of the people of that ill-used country? a country, the brightest gem in the British crown, and of which, in the words of the poet, he would say,Long from a nation, ever hardly us'd, At random censur'd, wantonly abus'd, Have Britons drawn their strength.
§ Mr. Roscoe
began with considering the great and important good consequences that must have resulted from the adoptions of any measure that went, in the present crisis, to conciliate the people of Ireland, and to the truth of such a principle he required no stronger testimony than that of the hon. gent. who had just sat down. As to the bill in its original form, he could not conceive what objection could be urged against doing that in those times, when the idea of a Popish ascendancy was laughed at, which was done when such a motion was really formidable. He could not for his part understand the distinction which had been attempted to be set up between the subjects of the king of these realms. His majesty, no doubt, expected allegiance from each and every of his subjects; it was but reasonable that each of those subjects 455 should expect their due share of constitutional privileges. As to its great impolicy in taking from the national strength, it had been argued, by a right hon. gent. opposite (Mr. Perceval) upon a former night, that if the army and navy were so crowded with Catholics, the service did not suffer by reason of their political disabilities e but was it no discouragement to a set of men in any profession, to know that they were for ever prohibited from acquiring the ordinary rewards of perseverance, ability, and zeal? As to the present ministry, he could not give them his confidence. Had they never been tried, he should object to them on the principles upon which they had succeeded to power. It had been asked, why condemn men before they have been tried? He thought they had been tried, and tried sufficiently; they had been "tried in the balance, and found wanting." In the debate on the grant of the duchy of Lancaster, some comparisons had been made between the present and the late chancellor of the exchequer; there was no point of view in which the contrast appeared to him to be stronger, than in the disinterestedness of the noble lord, and in the very interested manner in which the right hon. gent. appeared to him to have been seduced into the hazard of supporting the new administration. Much, had been said about the alledged impropriety of introducing the king's name into a discussion of this kind: if this was a crime, it was in his mind, attributable solely to his majesty's present ministers; for what did they say—they admit the pledge to be unconstitutional—they admit, first, that it was wrong to demand such a pledge, and then they contend that in demanding that pledge, the king acted for himself, and without any advisers whatever: this certainly appeared to him to be a very curious way of defending their royal master.
§ Sir John Newport
rose and spoke to the following effect:—it was my intention, Mr. speaker, to have immediately replied to the observations of the hon. gent. who spoke last but one. I felt anxious to have commented on some statements which fell from him, with a view of answering those charges which he attempted to insinuate against the late servants of the crown. If upon those charges I shall be able to do what I think I shall, then do I trust for his vote, then do I call upon him to support those very measures, the supposed non-performance of which he has, this night, stated to be the 456 causes of his objection to the late administration. Certain that I shall be able fully to convince him on these points, I now feel it my duty to call him back to that opinion, which, to my knowledge, he entertained within the last month, with respect to the national services performed by the late servants of the crown, and to the probable and practical benefits which would result from their administration. How this transformation in his opinion has taken place, I am at a loss to ascertain; but if it be only founded on the allegations which he has this night advanced, I can feel no difficulty in bringing the-hon. gent. back to his former sentiments. He has told the house, that he did expect, from the late administration, on their coming into power, an immediate attention to the diffusion of education amongst the population of Ireland. He asserted, that it would be difficult for them to prove that any endeavour was made to support the condition of the people of Ireland, by an amelioration of the system of mental improvement. In answer, I call upon him to look to the statute book, to refer to that act of the legislature which constituted a commission for the express purpose of enquiring into and completely sifting the gloss misapplication of those funds, which were particularly set apart, and specifically intended, for supporting a system of national education; an act, the framers of which, were anxious to make as comprehensive as possible, and which embraces every information, however discordant, on other questions of policy, the source from which it flowed. The commissioners appointed under that act proceeded to their enquiry; much information has already followed, and at this moment the commission is actually sitting, How therefore will the house receive the allegations of that hon. gent. when on a subject with which it was his duty to be acquainted he is actually uninformed? How, I ask, can the house repose confidence in the loose and undefined charges which he has this night been pleased to make, when of an act of the legislature, passed about a year ago, he is perfectly ignorant of the origin or operation? When the late administration directed their attention to an amelioration of the system of education in Ireland, the first act, of necessity,was to enquire into the state of those funds, which had been intended for that purpose, and which were grossly misapplied. This charge of gross misapplication, I state not either without, sufficient grounds of justification, nor with any in- 457 clictation to avoid the responsibility of my statement. I speak it in the face of the noble lord (Castlereagh) opposite. I charge him with having known and suffered those funds which were intended for the support of a system of national education, to have been grossly and unjustifiably perverted for purposes of personal aggrandisement, and for the furtherance of the most criminal views. [Hear! hear!]. The report of the commissioners proves it; and the evils of the misapplication are lamentably felt in the decline and degradation of those establishments, for whose uses these funds were originally appropriated.—Mr. speaker, I can appreciate the nature and temporary stability of that power which can fix its basis upon religious distinction. I can clearly. ascertain the strength of that support which originates with delusion, and is propagated by bigotry; which appeals to all the bad, the base, and malignant feelings of the human heart. In estimating, I say, the nature of political power, so influencing and so operating, I can sufficiently comprehend the transient facilities it possesses over a bold and honest policy, which, in a state where human corruption is so prevalent, manfully wages war with every thing in the shape of public abuse, and sifts the sources of national distress through all the recesses of official peculation and plunder. When funds, appropriated for public charities, were absorbed in private expenditure, when they were calculated on as parts of the family estate, and bequeathed to the descendants us a portion of the patrimonial inheritance, it became high time to meddle with them; and I do not hesitate to declare my strong and decided conviction, that no small part of our political sins arose from our endeavours to correct abuses, to convict delinquents, to restore to the public that money of which it had been shamefully defrauded; and to make even the highest in rank, and most elevated in political connection, return those public funds upon which they had so unjustifiably and illegally drawn.—The next charge to which the hon. gent. adverted, was the inattention of the late ministers to the regulation of the tithes in Ireland. I have answered his first accusation from the statute book. I have now to throw myself on the confidence of the house, when I do assure them, that one of the first objects which would have engaged the attention of the late administration, previous to their dismissal, was an amelioration of the tithe system; and I do conjure the present mi- 458 nisters, if they regard the peace and security of Ireland, and the general safety of the empire, to take the state of that system into their immediate consideration and regard. But great and commanding as this necessity is, I can indulge no such expectations from men who have set up the cry of church and state. They, the advocates of the church I some of whom have left nothing undone to degrade the character of religion in its most vital part, by uniting parishes, almost for the length of counties. This, I do assert, was the system of the present lord privy seal, when lord lieutenant of Ireland (the earl of Westmoreland); who, during his government, had raised to the highest station a prelate, who in a moment of alarm had dared to expunge the mitre from the arms on his coach. But this was not all. The broken down in fortune, and the degraded in character, were elevated to the highest dignities in the church, to the exclusion of the religious curate, who had worked for years in the vineyard. [Hear! hear!]. But need we ask a more convincing proof of the disregard of those men for that church, to which they now, with the purest views, feel so zealously attached, than to recollect the changes which they effected in the various parishes in Ireland? I call upon the house to rest its opinion upon experience, and to deduce this plain conclusion from that experience, that whilst they had powers every other principle was sacrificed to personal emolument.—I come now, sir, to that measure which his majesty's late ministers had thought expedient to propose for the relief of the Catholics of Ireland. This boon, of which so much has been said, and to which such frequent allusions have been made, did not comprehend but one forty-second part of the restrictions under which that body of subjects labour. At the passing of the union, there were forty-two offices from which Roman Catholics were excluded; and that great measure, I do most seriously assert, was gained under the positive pledge given by the noble lord opposite (Castlereagh), first to the Catholic clergy, and next, through them, to the laity, that every existing disability would be removed, and the whole of those 42 offices would be immediately opened to the Catholic subjects of Ireland. And yet these are the men so pledged and bound by every principle of honour and consistency, who have the effrontery to raise this unfounded clamour of the church in danger, because the late administration had endea- 459 voured to open the army and navy to the Catholic officer! It has been observed, that the noble lord at the head of the last administration was a friend to the great measure;—so was I; and my support to it was under the faith of those sacred engagements which I now find the noble lord opposite (Castlereagh) had never even in contemplation the least intention to fulfil. I did hope that the situation of Ireland would be committed to the consideration of the British parliament; that its interests would be impartially consulted, its grievances redressed; that, as it had surrendered itself to the protection of an imperial parliament, its affairs would be considered of imperial importance. Had I not been deluded with those hopes, and deceived by those expectations, I would have sooner suffered my right arm to be cut off, than to have willingly surrendered those rights and advantages, which Ireland, in its independent state, did certainly enjoy. In surrendering that independence, she made a great sacrifice; but it is an unreasonable position to assume, that, because I voted for that measure, therefore am I to submit to the violation of every engagement, to the infraction of every pledge which accompanied it in its progress, and accelerated its execution. To Ireland, I say, it was a great sacrifice; and let this country, for a moment, suppose itself in her place. Let it reflect on what was given up, and on the manner in which that surrender has been recompensed. I unfortunately have seen an indisposition in this house to attend to the concerns of Ireland. Be assured it is a mistaken policy; for it is that component part of the British empire, which will press itself upon British consideration. It is, I say, that component part of the British empire, deprived of whose assistance and support, England would be reduced indeed. At present I will say no more, but revert to those changes which have so lately taken place in the councils of the crown. And here I cannot refrain from expressing my decided conviction, that more than a common secret influence has been exerted to work upon the benignant feelings of a most gracious monarch. Upon those who have used this unconstitutional influence, no common risk of responsibility devolves. But that principle equally extends to the ministry who have succeeded to power, after the demand of the pledge, as it does to the secret advisers of the crown. They entered upon a vacancy created by the refu- 460 sal of their predecessors to give an unconstitutional pledge. And to accept office with such a knowledge, fully commits them to the responsibility of the measures which led to their accession. Will they say, they are not really or virtually bound by that pledge? Will the noble lord opposite (lord Castlereagh) venture to state in his place, that he is now at liberty to fulfil his repeated promises to the Catholics of Ireland? Could the noble duke (the duke of Portland) say, he had not given this, as well as innumerable pledges to the Irish Catholics? What would the house believe, and what mast the country suppose, when they are informed, that that noble duke had actually written two letters to two officers high in rank, of the Irish brigades, wherein he promises this measure for Ireland; and assures them, that it was determined to open the whole of the military career to the Roman Catholics? Thus we see promises made only to be broken; and, when we call upon the government to fulfil its engagements with the people, we are answered with calumny, and assailed with intolerant virulence. But again repeat, that if those pledges had not been most solemnly made, not all the gold of Ireland, nor the gold of England, nor the borough compensation, nor the appointment of compensation commissioners, could have prevailed on the Irish people to have surrendered their domestic legislature. When, therefore, the chancellor of the exchequer sounds the alarm of the church in danger, when he sends forth, amidst the people, apprehensions calculated to excite religious rancour and fanatic fury, his associates should hold his hands, and, for their own consistency, repress him. They are bound to say, "We must resign our situations in a government which is founded on the basis of intolerance; we must abjure a system which goes to create religious dissension, and fixes its power on dividing and inflaming all classes of the people. We will not suffer ourselves to be compromised." This language it is their duty to hold, because, however unable to perform their pledges to the Catholics, they should not forward that system, which ties up their own hands; and which, under the pretext of religion, goes at once to pull down that fabric which protects both church and state.
§ Mr. Bankes
said he was a friend to the suppression of abuses, whether in Ireland or in England, and for suppressing abuses he was ready to give his thanks to the hon. 461 baronet, and his assistance in the prosecution of that object. He never had been a friend to the union with Ireland, and had, at the time the question was first agitated, publicly expressed his disapprobation of the measure. He thought the time was not yet come for so great a work, and that it could not be effected advantageously if it did not settle that very question about winch so much discussion had since arisen. Though the Union was managed by as great a man as ever sat in that house, yet he, with all his talents, was unable to carry the business in the manner necessary, and was compelled to desert the only proper course in which it could have been advantageously effected. Mr. Pitt therefore was obliged to leave the Catholic question unsettled. He regretted the present motion, because it brought this subject so much into discussion, and had forced the sovereign personally so much before the house and the public. He thought it hard that the new ministers should be accused as they had been of bringing the sovereign to the bar of the house, for after the statement of the noble lord (Howick), however respectful and decorous, it was impossible that those who were acquainted with the sentiments and feelings of the party whom the noble lord's statement involved, could abstain from giving, not contradictions of facts, but such views of the transaction as had been taken by that other party. He recollected nothing like such a statement respecting transactions in the king's cabinet having ever been made, and he lamented it should have been given. Much had been said about the pledge demanded; but whether that pledge was unconstitutional or not, was of little consequence, for it could not be denied that the king had the right to dismiss his ministers, and to choose others absolutely. As far as appeared, the demand of a pledge was done without any advice, and though it had been contended that the king could do nothing without advice, he could not concur in that doctrine, for then the constitution would reduce the king to something which never had existed, and never could exist. indeed, if there ever could be a case in which the king might, and must be supposed to act without advice, it was that in which, having differed with one set of ministers, he employed some person to form a new one. He could not see, therefore, on what grounds the new ministers appointed by the king, in such circumstances, could be considered 462 unconstitutionally formed. With respect to the confidence which might be due to ministers, it was a general confidence that would not presume them unworthy of trust before they were tried; and indeed, as to confiding in any ministers, it was rather the duty of the house to watch them than confide in them. He saw no reason, therefore, for the house to stigmatize the new ministers in the first instance, and refuse that confidence which could enable them to discharge the trust their sovereign had conferred on them. For his own part, he was convinced that to yield the Catholic question could do mischief in Ireland; he was sure it could do mischief here; and he was convinced that the Union, instead of accelerating, had retarded the settlement of it.
§ Mr. Tierney
said, that the hon. gent. who had spoken with so much eloquence and ability (Mr. Milnes), comprised the whole substance of his speech against the motion in one sentence, that it was sufficient for the house to know that the king had dismissed his late ministers. For his part he thought it necessary to know a great deal more. When so extraordinary and unexpected a change had taken place, it was proper for the house to enquire, what were the circumstances that led to it, and what was likely to be the result? The hon. gent. complained, with others, that the king's name was dragged before the house, but he must again repeat, that this was to be attributed solely to the new ministers. There was a time when, in discussing any public measure, members of the house could animadvert upon the king's advisers, but now, for the first time, it was said that the king had no advisers. Who, then, was it that brought the king's name into question, but those who declared that he acted without advice? If such a doctrine as this were to prevail, the character of public men was no longer safe; but when made the victims of intrigue, and their character brought into suspicion, they were not to have the privilege of defending themselves, because the secret advisers of the king shrunk from responsibility, and threw upon the king himself those measures they admitted to be unconstitutional. The interested advisers of the king threw upon the king that which they were afraid to avow; and he took God to witness, that he conscientiously believed that the removal of the late ministers was the result of a long and dark intrigue. The hon. gent. who spoke last had, however, expressed his astonishment 463 that any misunderstanding should have arisen; but when that unfortunate misunderstanding did arise, the late ministers, as they ought, took upon themselves the blame, and fairly acknowledged that the king must be right and themselves wrong. But was it, then, so incomprehensible to the hon. gent., that a misunderstanding should have arisen? Could he have forgotten, that dealing with one of the clearest-headed men that ever existed (Mr. Pitt), and being a person of unquestionable perspicacity, he had been led to commit himself in a very extraordinary manner, respecting a dissolution of parliament in the year 1784, from misunderstanding what really passed between him and Mr. Pitt? Surely, after that, he might conceive a misunderstanding to exist on a complicated question, when he himself had been so much mistaken in a communication upon a very plain and simple point. Then, after the misunderstanding arose, what more could have been done by ministers than withdraw the bill? What measure more conciliatory could have been adopted? Nay, it was made a charge, that the late ministers had withdrawn the bill. But, after the sentiments of the king were distinctly known, it evidently became impossible to prosecute the measure with any prospect of advantage, as it would certainly be unjustifiable for the servants of the crown to carry on any measure as a measure of government, contrary to his wishes. But, it was complained too that they insisted on renewing the subject; whereas they did no more than remind his majesty that circumstances might render it necessary to submit measures connected with the Catholics to his consideration; so that if it had been necessary to do so, they might not be charged with agitating points which it was supposed they had given up. As to the pledge, he was fully satisfied that such an unconstitutional and so unnecessary a demand never could have entered the king's head, if he had not been wrought upon by the most pernicious suggestions of secret advisers. By the pledge the king could gain nothing, for he could dismiss his ministers at any time; but his secret advisers had every thing to gain, by forcing into action this unconstitutional pledge on the ministers they wished to supplant. The secret advisers by this had to gain the exclusion of that association of talents, property, and consideration, which composed the ministry as nothing else 464 but the exclusion of that ministry could enable them to remain in power. The secret advisers, therefore, gained every thing; the king nothing. It was an object, therefore, to shut out by such an artifice, all the talents which composed the late ministry. "All the Talents," he said, was a phrase which gave offence to the other side, but it should be recollected that the right hon. gent. over the way was himself the person who first had employed this very phrase when he used to argue so strenuously some years ago for the formation of a ministry, combining all the talents of the country, in which combination, however, the talents of no one person in the present ministry, except his own, did he (Mr. Canning) propose to include. It was said, however, that the new ministry were to act towards Ireland with a mixture of firmness and conciliation. As to firmness, it was easy to guess what was meant but with regard to conciliation, which supposed mutual giving and receiving, he could not conceive what kind of conciliation that was by which the new ministers pledged themselves to take every thing from the people of Ireland, and give them nothing in return. Besides, was it not absolutely insulting to the people of Ireland, that a noble lord (Castlereagh) was to be a principal member of an administration founded upon avowed hostility to the Catholic claims? That noble lord had written to the Irish Catholics in his own name and in that of Mr. Pitt, telling them to conduct themselves with propriety, and trust to this disposition to promote their cause. Good God! trust to the noble lord! and what had been the consequences? Had not the Irish Catholics for the list six years, conducted themselves with the most unimpeached loyalty? Were they to come to the noble lord and say, "We have fulfilled our engagements; we have followed your counsels; now do you fulfil the engagements you contracted to us." What could the noble lord say, but that "all you say is true; you have been quiet and loyal; you have trusted to me, and in return I have pledged myself never to mention your names?" What sort of conduct was this? and could the gentlemen on the other side deny that they were virtually pledged never to mention to the king any question connected with the Catholics? If they had given no pledge, how stood the matter? Why, that from one set of men a pledge was demanded, and from another not, so that the king had it in his 465 power to apply partially and not generally a test, which must operate to exclude all honourable men from the service of their country. And this system was patronized, too, by one of those (Mr. Canning) who was, beyond all others, vociferous and incessant in calling for administrations that, to use his own phrase, should combine all the talents of the country. The hon. gent. who spoke last, was of opinion that the Catholic question ought to have been settled in Ireland before the Union. That, however, even Mr. Pitt found to be impracticable. The hon. gent. said too that Mr Pitt had, before his last entrance into administration, given satisfaction to the royal mind, that he never would agitate the Catholic question. If this be true, by what means did Mr. Pitt communicate such a satisfaction or pledge? If he did communicate by any member of the administration of that day any thing to that effect, it would confirm a suspicion he then and now entertained, that the administration in question, with which he himself was connected, had fallen the victims of secret intrigues, and that the principal intriguer was the same in both instances. He had for upwards of a month before the fall of that administration, thought that things were not going well, but he was now perfectly satisfied that the same secret advisers had been at work in both cases. With respect to the satisfaction given by Mr. Pitt, he was convinced it must have related to the Catholic question as a whole, for he knew for certain that about a year before Mr. Pitt died, he had it in view to adopt some measure for conciliating the Catholics, and if this was denied, he could show the proofs. It was dear therefore that Mr. Pitt could have given no pledge upon any thing connected with the Catholics. As to the motion before the house, he could not conceive the house of commons so limited and stinted in its functions, that it ought not to presume to ask for any satisfaction respecting the extraordinary and regretted change which had taken place. The king could undoubtedly appoint whom he pleased his ministers, as he could remove them, by his prerogative. But the house of commons had its privileges too; and it ought to express its opinions upon an event so intimately affecting the public welfare. But it was said, to represent the necessity of a permanent and efficient administration, and to express regret at the change, would tend to remove the new and force back the old ministers. As to the first, it was clear, in- 466 deed, that if a permanent and efficient administration was necessary, the new ministers could not remain; it did not follow, however, that the late ministers were to be forced back. It was asked too, would the house stultify the new ministers? That was needless, they had stultified themselves; for on the death of Mr. Pitt they publicly proclaimed their own imbecility, and threw up the government. What had happened since, but that they were thirteen months older, and had placed the duke of Portland at their head? Was the duke of Portland to supply the place of Mr. Pitt, without whom the administration fell of itself? It could not be credited by any one that the duke of Portland, old and infirm as he was, could be the real minister. No one believed it. The performers were all the same, but their parts were to be new cast. Last year Mr. Perceval was attorney-general, now he was to be chancellor of the exchequer. Mr. Canning was as fit to be foreign secretary in 1806 as he was now; and lord Castlereagh quite as ready to be a secretary of state. Lord Mulgrave, indeed, was foreign secretary; now he was thought the fittest man to preside over the navy. The duke of Montrose, from having been president of the board of trade, had been qualified to be master of the horse. The duke of Portland was the only accession, and so strange did such an appointment seem, that no man could believe that it was any thing but temporary; and report gave it to lord Melville or marquis Wellesley. This really seemed probable, for why bring lord Melville into the privy council? But if such an appointment took was confident it would give no satisfaction to the country. As to marquis Wellesley, he certainly was a person of infinite ability; but as certain discussions would come on respecting that noble lord's administration in India, he should not be provoked to say any thing upon the subject at present. Every thing concurred to shew, that some changes must take place, and this formed an additional reason why the house should express their opinion as to the administration which was formed. When he considered indeed, that previous to the late change not so many as seventy members in the house had ever expressed disapprobation of the measures of ministers, he would not believe till he saw it, that the same house which had approved their conduct, would refuse to express regret at their removal. Sorry he was, therefore, to see that the 467 right hon. gent. (Mr. Perceval) had forgot himself so far as to put his name to the assertion, that the church was in danger. It was impossible. Had he believed so, he would not have been so anxious to secure a place for life, in case of removal, knowing that the constitution would fall if the late ministers came into power, and being secure that while in power himself he could retain the duchy of Lancaster if he pleased. As to a dissolution of parliament, he was convinced that it could not be intended, particulaly when he saw a religious clamour raised; because the malice of the devil himself could not have thought of preparing for a dissolution by the false and wicked cry of the church being in danger.
said, it would not be necessary for him to argue at great length, after the very able speeches that had been made on the same side. He should be content to put the matter to the decision of the house, upon the single speech of his hon. friend (Mr. Milnes). He utterly denied that his majesty's ministers had been the cause of introducing the king's name and personal character so much into the present debate. The introduction of it in this manner was a novelty, from which he apprehended serious consequences to the constitution. The introduction of it, however, became necessary from the conduct of gentlemen on the other side of the house. The noble lord (Howick) had thought it due to his own character to come down to the house, and make a statement for the vindication of his conduct, which contained several confidential transactions between him and his majesty, that would otherwise not have been known to the house. That noble lord had pledged himself to the house to make that statement, even before he had obtained his majesty's permission for that purpose; but when the permission was obtained, and the statement made, it became necessary that a statement should be made on the other side; and therefore the blame of introducing his majesty's name and personal character into the debate, rested with those who went out of their way to make formal statement to the house, which was by no means called for. Before that statement, his majesty's late ministers, or some of them, gave the minutes of the cabinet to persons who were not of the cabinet nor even of the privy council. This appeared to him a high crime and misdemeanour. The present ministers were therefore obliged to apply the antidote to the bane. As 468 to secret advisers, his majesty had expressly told his late ministers, that he had never communicated with any body on this subject except with his secretary, to whom he dictated the communications that were sent in his name. He did not know any practical good that could follow from the motion, and he thought it hardly fair and manly for the right hon. gent. (Mr. Tierney) to talk of dismissing the present ministers without wishing that the late ministers should come in, in their places. He should ask what third party did then exist, out of which his majesty could have formed an unexceptionable administration? It was not surprising, that when his majesty, in the exercise of his royal prerogative, thought proper to dismiss one party, he should choose his ministers from the other. He thought his majesty's late ministers were not justified in bringing forward the measure against the determined and conscientious scruples of his majesty; but when they had brought it forward, he could not conceive upon what principle they should have abandoned it, unless on the principle of throwing all the odium of the measure upon the king. His majesty must have seen that the giving it up was a mere concession of temporary convenience; but that the greater part of his then ministers were determined to support the Catholic claims when they should be brought forward, if not to agitate the question themselves. His majesty had therefore a right, after informing them that his mind was unalterably made up upon this point, to demand an assurance from them that they would not harass or disturb him any more upon the subject. Was it possible that he could have confidence in his late ministers ceasing to harass him upon this subject, when he was expressly informed that many of them would vote in favour of the Catholic petition whenever it should be brought forward. If his majesty had not dismissed his ministers upon their refusing to give such assurance, the crown would have been subservient to a party in that house. It must be also considered, that although his majesty retained all the energy of his mind, and the decision of his character, yet he was now advanced in years, and subject to infirmity. It was a very serious thing for him at present to be obliged to quarrel with his government and dismiss his ministers. If he were still to live ten or twelve years longer, it would be a most melancholy consideration to think that he 469 was to be perpetually exposed to such a painful circumstance, when it was well known that his mind was irrevocably made up on the subject, not from political considerations, but from a paramount religious feeling. In the conduct of the late ministers, which led to their dismissal, he saw nothing of "All the Talents" which they were said to unite. Their dispatch was not only misunderstood by his majesty, but by some of their colleagues, and by their friends in Ireland. They had also omitted to summon three members of the cabinet, who differed from them, to the council. The withholding the summonses in this instance appeared to him a crime, which almost deserved impeachment. Lord Erskine, who was one of the ministers who were not summoned, was, from his office, the highest servant of the crown, and in a peculiar manner, the keeper of his majesty's conscience, and yet he was never summoned upon the occasion. He believed that the late ministers had now discovered that their conduct was rash and ill considered. It was not only his majesty that had dismissed them, but they were no longer supported by the majority of that house. The other house had also, in the fullest attendance of peers that was ever known, decided against them by a very great majority, and the general feeling out of doors was also in favour of his majesty and against the conduct of his late ministers. The parliament as well as the nation had determined to stand by the crown, and there was a general feeling of attachment to the person of the Sovereign that would not allow the latter years of his long and glorious reign to be clouded and rendered unhappy by the perpetual agitation of a question most distressing to his private feelings. He would not allow, that the dismissal of ministers would be a fatal blow to Ireland. The Catholic bill had been brought in upon a statement which was directly contrary to the information which ministers had received from the duke of Bedford, as that nobleman had expressly informed them that the disturbances in the West of Ireland were not at all occasioned by any religious question. As to his own opinion upon the Catholic claims, he had always been against giving political power to the Catholics until the Union. Before that period, he conceived that letting the mass of the population of Ireland into the constitution, would be subversive of the principles upon which it was founded. He 470 considered, however, that that danger would in a great measure be done away by the Union, and he stated this opinion in the Irish parliament, and he stated it not only as his opinion, but as that of many of the leading members of the English government with whom he was connected; but in stating this opinion, he never did give any thing like a direct pledge to the Catholics. Although Mr. Pitt retired from office upon the Catholic question, yet when he found how deeply rooted his majesty's objections were, he never thought of agitating the question again, and declared expressly to his friends, that should the question again come on, since he found that it was so distressing to his majesty, he should not support it, but protect him against it. This resolution was communicated to his majesty some time before he again called him to his councils. For his part, he considered it his chief duty to consult the ease and comfort of his majesty in his administration of the affairs of the empire. His lordship then passed in review the whole conduct of the late ministers. From their first entrance into power, he thought they had been overbearing, and had disgusted all the principal bodies in the kingdom. They first endeavoured to force the East-India company to accept a governor-general of their appointment. They dispirited the volunteers, by speaking contemptuously of them; they disgusted the shipping interest, and lastly, they attempted to force the conscience of the king to their measures; but when they found that was not to be done, they were content to put their Catholic bill in their pockets, and to keep their places. There never was exhibited in this country, a government of such complete imbecility. They had claimed all the talents in the country, and yet had shewn no vestige of talents. They had excluded all the friends of Mr. Pitt from an administration that was to contain "All the Talents in the country." They should have recollected, however, that at the death of Mr. Fox, they lost that superiority of talents which they might have boasted of during his life time. As to the present ministers, they came in without any intrigue or solicitation on their part, and if they had refused to enter into the service of his majesty, he did not exactly see where this third party were to come from, who were to form a new administration. If it was improper then to accept of offices under these circumstances, it would follow that the crow 471 was to be completely subservient to and dependent on a party in that house.
§ Lord Howick denied that the late ministers had been deserving of the numerous charges which the noble lord had brought against them. The first person appointed by them to go out to India, as governor-general, was the earl of Lauderdale, a nobleman in every respect highly qualified to fill that high and important station, but against whom an opposition was raised, perhaps by the influence of the noble lord himself, and others who still retained an influence; and so far from forcing the directors, that appointment was given up, and a nobleman, who had since gone out, had been appointed, against whom no opposition had been made. He complained of the unconstitutional use made of the king's name, and insisted that nothing had been said by the late ministers that required the introduction of it; for they had admitted there had been a misunderstanding, and it had been consented to, that that misunderstanding was imputable to them; there was, therefore, no reason for using the king's name. Then came the pledge, which was proposed and refused. He had stated over and over again, that such pledge was unconstitutional, and the arguments had been admitted by the whole house. What was this pledge? Why, that his majesty's confidential servants should undertake in writing not only to abstain from bringing forward the Catholic question, but that they should not mention any thing connected with it. The present ministers, who are the legal advisers of the king, say they did not advise this measure, but that it was the king's own act, than which declaration nothing could be more unconstitutional, for they by that threw the whole upon the king, and they only are therefore to be blamed for introducing his sacred name into the present and late debate. If it were allowed that one act might take place without advisers, others might do the same; and in such case all responsibility would be at an end, and his majesty would be as arbitrary as any monarch in Europe. The noble lord had by his letter, written under the sanction of Mr. Pitt, assured the Catholics, that if they would be patient, their case should be duly attended to, and every possible means used that it might ultimately be crowned with success; for that he and Mr. Pitt would do every thing in their power to recommend it to the public.—The noble lord had also attacked the late ministers for having 472 abandoned the bill. He had so often answered this, that he should be ashamed so far to trespass on the attention of the house, as to do it again. An hon. gent. (Mr. Gore) had asked, what the duke of Bedford had done? He would tell him and the house, that the duke had acted with firmness and mercy; he had quelled disturbances in Ireland, without infringing on the constitution, or trampling under foot the liberties of the people. If there ever was a time of peculiar peril and danger, which required a firm and vigorous administration in this country, he believed it was the present. Was the present such an administration? He thought not. He was not a little alarmed, when he saw the spirit with which they commenced their administration, by endeavouring to excite religious animosities and to set up the cry that the church was in danger. He thought the house could not place confidence in such an administration, and therefore he should support the motion. He acknowledged his majesty had a right, by his prerogative, to choose his own servants, but insisted that the house had the privilege of giving its opinion on the fitness of such servants to fill the situations to which they were appointed. He should not become a vexatious opponent to their measures, but would do his duty as a member of parliament, and narrowly watch their measures, in which he had no doubt but he should be warmly assisted by a very large portion of the house.
opposed the motion, expressing at the same time his regret, that the late ministers should have been removed, and his entire, approbation of every part of their conduct, with the exception of that only which led to their removal: disapproving of that part, he could not consistently support a motion which implied an unqualified approval of all their measures. But he had another and a stronger objection to this motion, and that was, as he had stated on a former evening, in discussing a proposition of a similar character, that it would serve to put a negative upon the exercise of his majesty's undoubted prerogative, in choosing his own ministers.
Earl Percy rose
to express his approbation of the original motion. The measures brought forward by his majesty's late ministers, he could not but in general approve of. The act for the abolition of the slave trade, which had so lately passed, and the appointment of a committee for the reduction of 473 sinecure places and fees, were measures which would ever reflect upon them the highest honour, and be attended with the greatest advantage to the country. He could not however avoid lamenting, that they should have introduced a bill into the house, for giving an extension of power to the Roman Catholics; no man, he trusted, was a greater friend to toleration than himself, yet he could not help disapproving of any measure which would enable Roman Catholics in this kingdom to hold the appointments of commander-in-chief, and master-general of the ordnance, as it had been usual for persons holding those situations, to have a seat in the cabinet, and the concession of such offices certainly went to a great extension of power, but did not contribute to the free exercise of religion; but from what had lately dropped in this house, he understood the measure had been abandoned.
§ The Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. Perceval)
combated the notion, that the removal of the late ministers was the effect on a long and dark intrigue. If so, he contended that the evil spirit which conducted it, must have found its way into the minds on lord Grenville and his noble colleague on the other side, and have urged them to press forward the bill which was the immediate and obvious cause of their removal. The right hon. gent. also resisted the doctrine maintained by the supporters of the motion as to the idea that those ministers who accepted office were legally responsible for the change which led to the vacancies they occupied. He put the case of ministers being dismissed even from caprice, and asked whether other men were to refuse to succeed them, and the government was to stop merely under the notion of this responsibility? As to the notice taken of his address to his constituents, he begged it to be understood, that he did not by any means mean it as an election squib, as had been stated; for the sentiments which it contained were those which he really held. But so far from those sentiments serving to raise any dangerous outcry, he maintained that the danger was created by the proceedings of the gentlemen on the other side, and that the course which he took of resisting them was the best means of averting that danger. This, he thought, should appear to the gentlemen themselves, from the spirit which manifested itself throughout the country; a spirit, indeed, which could not be excited by any thing in the 474 power of an humble individual like himself to offer, and which must convince gentlemen on the other side that they had been quite mistaken as to the popular feeling: for if they had been allowed to go much further, those gentlemen must now see that they would have created considerable agitation and alarm throughout the kingdom.
§ Mr. Windham
entered his protest against the doctrines which the house had heard from the other side, upon the question of responsibility. If, indeed, these doctrines were to obtain; if it were allowed that the king could exercise his prerogative without an adviser in one case, so he might in another. His majesty might make his veto against an act or both houses of the legislature, and, if he could do so without a responsible adviser, then, instead of a balance of power in the constitution, all the power would be in the king; for, combining the maxim, that "the king can do no wrong," with the doctrine now attempted to be established, that the king can act without any responsible adviser, there would be an end of that controul of the executive authority which the constitution intended; because the king could not be personally arraigned, and because any act of the executive power, shielded by the pretence set up in this instance, that such act proceeded from the individual will of the king, could not be made the subject of accusation. But he deprecated such doctrines, as subversive of the first principles of the constitution, and ridiculed the idea of setting up the old and exploded notions with regard to any invasion of the prerogative arising out of the expression of the sentiment of that house, upon any exercise whatever of that prerogative.
The Master of the Rolls
was for the motion for passing to the order of the day. Many ministers had been dismissed from office without any cause assigned, but never until now had a minister come down to parliament to complain of his sovereign. Lord Somers was removed without the shadow of complaint. Did he come down to parliament to institute an investigation of the cause? When the celebrated Whig administration were removed by queen Anne, did they breathe a whisper against their royal mistress in either house of parliament? If a minister were to secure to himself the right of enquiring into the cause of his removal, he would approximate his situation to that of a judge, or any other 475 officer for life. In 1757, the dismissal of Mr. Pitt and Mr. Legge produced a great ferment; but was any thing said in parliament about that dismissal? Of a change in administration, parliament had no constitutional knowledge, and on such change could found no enquiry. He thought the permission given to a noble lord to detail the transactions which had led to the dismission, unconstitutional, as it was publishing the proceedings of the privy council, which ought to be kept sacredly secret. The question therefore, in his opinion, ought never to have been agitated in the house of commons.
After a few words from sir A. Pigott, a division took place, and the numbers were:
—Adjourned at half past six o'clock on Thursday morning.
For passing to the order of the day 244 Against it 198 Majority in favour of ministers 46