§ The Speaker
then acquainted the house, that that house had been in the house of peers, where the lords authorised by his majesty's commission had delivered a speech to both houses of parliament, of which, to prevent mistakes, he had obtained a copy. (See p. 577)—After the Speaker had read the speech,
Lord Newark rose
and addressed the house as follows:—In rising, sir, to move an Address of thanks to his majesty for his most 609 gracious Speech from the throne, I cannot but feel a considerable degree of solicitude and embarrassment, from the apprehension of my not being able to acquit myself as ought, in the arduous task I have undertaken. Conscious as I am, that I have but little pretensions to warrant me in such an act of presumption, as that of troubling this house with my sentiments, I feel more peculiarly the force of this difficulty, when I have to address you on a question, which may probably occasion a very important am interesting discussion. This consideration sir, would have prompted me to decline the honor I now have of presenting myself to your notice, had I not been encouraged by this indulgence uniformly shewn by this house to every gentleman who has offered himself under similar circumstances. With this impression on my mind, I shall not, sir presume to trespass long on the patience of the house, while I beg leave to call its attention to the leading points of his majesty's most gracious speech, and to request its concurrence in the address of thanks I shall have the honour to move. It is unnecessary for me, sir, to enter at any length into the circumstances which led to the dissolution of the last parliament, as those circumstance have repeatedly been discussed in this house, and are now become the subject of public notoriety. I am the more disposed to avoid any such discussion, as it must necessarily involve points on which I am aware there is a great difference of opinion. His majesty has, in his wisdom, thought it expedient to avail himself of the only constitutional mode of collecting the sense of his people, by dissolving the late parliament, and by calling that which is now convened. By this measure, this house is now become the organ of expressing the public opinion; and I trust we shall, if not by our unanimous vote this night, at least by a considerable majority, prove, not only our affectionate attachment to his majesty's person and government, but also to those sound constitutional principles, expressed, as they have been, in the many loyal and dutiful addresses presented at the foot of the throne. The country, sir, has, beyond all question, shewn its determination to support his majesty in the exercise of the rightful prerogatives of the crown, and in his efforts to withstand every unconstitutional innovation. Need I advert, sir, in support of nay argument, to that recent instance of his patriotism, to that paternal solicitude and regard for the best interests of his Protestant subjects, which has endeared him to 610 us more than any other act of his long eventful reign ? While this, sir, is yet fresh in our recollection, can this house withhold its tribute of gratitude to him, for having thus approved himself as the watchful guardian of our constitutional rights, and as the faithful and patriot sovereign of a loyal and affectionate people?—His majesty, having expressed to us his solicitude to cultivate among his allies on the continent that mutual good understanding and confidence so essential to the success or the common cause, next calls our attention to his ineffectual attempt to mediate between Russia and the Porte, and to the hostilities with the latter power, in which it has been the necessary cause of involving him. He laments, as we have all to lament, in two unfortunate instances, the failure or the gallant efforts of his navy and army, and the loss of so many of his brave and valuable subjects. These reverses are I trust, but partial and temporary; and it would be in vain to hope for uninterrupted success, in so extensive a scale of military operations, as that in which we are engaged. His majesty next appeals to the loyalty and zeal of his faithful commons, for their furnishing such farther supplies, as may be necessary for the public service; and expresses his conviction of the necessity of a careful and economical administration of them. I am willing to flatter myself, and moreover to believe, that the same laudable principle will influence the conduct of his majesty's confidential servants; and am happy to hear, that those inquiries into the public expenditure, which were prosecuted in the last parliament, will be revived in this. I shall now, sir, detain the house no longer with my observations, than while I make a remark on the conclusion of his majesty's speech. He calls on us to cherish among ourselves a spirit of union and harmony; and when, I would ask, was ever such a suggestion more seasonable, or more impressive? We have still an arduous conflict to sustain, we have to withstand and counteract the hostility of a powerful, inveterate, and rancorous foe; and have surely need of all our united energies for the attainment of a secure and honourable peace. I shall conclude with moving, "That an humble Address be presented to his majesty, humbly thanking his majesty for the most gracious speech which the lords commissioners have read by his majesty's command: to return his majesty our cordial thanks for having, in conformity to his declared intention, caused the present parliament to be assembled without loss of time, after having deem- 611 ed it expedient, at so important a moment, to recur to the sense of his people: to express our sincere satisfaction at hearing that, since the events which led to the dissolution of the last parliament, his majesty has received, in numerous Addresses from his subjects, the warmest assurances of their affectionate attachment to his person and government, and of their firm resolution to support him in maintaining the just rights of his crown, and the true principles of the constitution; and to assure his majesty that we shall be disposed to afford him our most zealous and affectionate support under all the arduous circumstances of the present time: to express to his majesty our warmest acknowledgements of his majesty's wisdom and goodness, in having most anxiously employed his endeavours for the purpose of drawing closer the ties by which his majesty is connected with the powers of the continent, of assisting the efforts of those powers against the ambition and oppression of France, of forming such engagements as may ensure their continued co operation, and of establishing that mutual confidence and concert so essential, under any course of events, to the restoration of a solid and permanent peace in Europe: to assure his majesty, that it would have afforded us the greatest pleasure to have heard that the mediation undertaken by his majesty for the purpose of preserving peace, between his majesty's ally the emperor of Russia and the Sublime Porte, had proved effectual to that important object: and to concur with his majesty in deeply regretting the failure of that mediation, accompanied as it was by the disappointment of the. efforts of his majesty's squadron in the sea of Marmora, and followed as it has since been by the losses which have been sustained by his gallant troops in Egypt: to assure his majesty, that we should have lamented the extension of hostilities in any quarter which should create a diversion in the war so favourable to the views .of France; but that we lament it especially in "the instance of a power with which his majesty has been so closely connected, and, which has been so recently indebted for its protection against the encroachments of France to the signal and successful interposition of his majesty's arms; and that we hear, with satisfaction, that his majesty has thought it right to adopt such measures as might best enable him, in concert with the emperor of Russia, to take advantage of any favourable opportunity for bringing the hostilities in which they are engaged against the 612 Sublime Porte to a conclusion consistent with his majesty's honour, and the interests of his ally: to assure his majesty, that his faithful commons will cheerfully make such provision for the public service, as well as for the, further application of the sums which were granted in the last parliament, as may appear to be necessary: that we are deeply sensible of his majesty's paternal goodness, in constantly bearing in mind the necessity of a careful and economical administration of the pecuniary resources of the country; and that he may rely upon our proceeding, without delay, in the pursuit of those enquiries connected with the public economy, which engaged the attention of the last parliament: to assure his majesty, that we are deeply impressed with the peculiar importance at the present moment of cherishing a spirit of union and harmony amongst his people, satisfied as we are that such a spirit will most effectually promote the prosperity of the country at home, will give vigour and efficacy to its councils and its arms abroad, and can alone enable his majesty, under the blessing of Providence, to carry on successfully the great contest in which he is engaged, or finally to conduct it to that termination which his majesty's moderation and justice have ever led him to seek—a peace in which the honour and interests of his kingdom can be secure, and in which Europe and the world may hope for independence and repose."
§ Mr. Hall
seconded the motion for the address. Although the noble lord had anticipated, him in most points, he would shortly submit to the house the considerations which induced him to do so. Parliament had been assembled at an important crisis: the country looked with extreme anxiety to the result of their deliberations. They were called upon to discuss subjects of the utmost consequence; .and by their wisdom and judgment to give effect and direction to the exertions of the people, as well as to secure and augment their constitutional rights. They were also called upon to express their sense of the firmness with which, under peculiar difficulties, his majesty had asserted the just rights of the constitution, and of those establishments which were the foundation of our civil and religious liberties. The prerogative which his majesty had recently exercised, was one of the most important that belonged to the crown; and the propriety of its exercise could be estimated only by a deliberate consideration of the necessity, by which it was demanded. Under a due sense of political and religious considerations, his 613 majesty felt himself compelled firmly to combat those whom he had but lately called to his councils, and to oppose his veto to the measures which they were desirous of introducing. But this was, not all; it had been said in another place, that the king could have no conscience, but what was in the keeping of his Confidential ministers. What monstrous conclusion was to be drawn from this extraordinary assertion! The voice of the people had been sufficiently expressed by the general concurrence, which dictated addresses to his majesty from every part of the kingdom. The measure proposed by the late administration was uncalled for, and unwise. Uncalled for, because it had been lately discussed, and rejected by a large majority of parliament; unwise, because it tended to raise hopes which could not be realized. The refusal of his majesty to accede to this measure prevented the gradual abolition of those land-marks in the constitution, Which were necessary to its existence. In this country there must be religious distinction, and the catholics must be contented with the share of political power which they now enjoyed: and, therefore, by the measure which they proposed, the late ministers lost the confidence of the king, nod as it immediately appeared, forfeited the approbation of the house. His majesty had since had recourse to the abilities of those, who had been intimately connected with that great statesman Mr. Pitt, whom he could not but consider as the only pilot to other ministers; that man who, amidst all the dangers by Which he was surrounded,rose in firmness in proportion to the exigencies of the times, and left that constitution which he loved and protected; unimpaired by the attacks of either foreign or domestic foes. To those who long fought under his banners, the country must now look for direction. They had advised his majesty to refer to the general sense of the people, in order that they might present themselves to the enemy as possessing the confidence of a brave nation and to the allies of Great Britain, as ready to afford them the necessary support. By the promptitude of their measures they had already shewn themselves adequate to the duty in which they had been engaged. By such measures alone could effect be given to any negotiation which might lead to a successful termination of the present contest. Yet notwithstanding all that he asserted, the dissolution of the last parliament had been attributed to the earnest desire of his majesty's ministers, to 614 smother the labours of the Committee of Finance; but his Majesty's speech proved that they were as much interested in the continuance of that committee, as the gentlemen opposite. So far from wishing to smother it, they advised his majesty to applaud the institution of it by the last parliament, and to recommend that it should be renewed by the present. Under all these circumstances, he was not sanguine enough to expect that this address would be unanimously acceded to, but he called on the gentlemen opposite who had quitted the helm of state, to feel for the situation of the country. The people were duly sensible of the justice of the cause in which the country were engaged, and he had no doubt that they would cheerfully submit to the sacrifices that would be necessary for the prosecution of it. He trusted their. efforts might be effectually directed to secure the advantages which we already possessed, and to enable us successfully to oppose that system of aggression which threatened the downfal of every independent state in Europe. In this object all parties were equally interested. Our country was at stake; and he trusted that but one opinion could exist with regard to the exertions necessary for its defence.—The Speaker having read the Address,
declared, that before he required of the gentlemen opposite, some exposition of their opinions as to the situation of the country at home and abroad, and something in explanation of those—what should, he call them? charges and insinuations; there were in His Majesty's Speech itself, as well as in the speeches of the gentlemen opposite, and particularly of the last, passages so extraordinary, that even in this stage of the debate, he could not defer calling the attention of the house to them, arid demanding the justice, which his majesty's late ministers had a right to claim, namely; that if those passages were meant as charges, they should be fairly brought forward; that if as insinuations, they should be made clear. The noble lord by whom the address wan proposed, and the hon. gent. by whom it was seconded, had concluded their speeches in the same way in which his majesty's speech concluded—and here once for all he begged to be considered as deeming his majesty's speech the speech of the Ministers by whom it was advised, and who alone were responsible for its contents; and, however severe the expressions which he might find it his duty to use on this subject, he trusted they would not be miscon- 615 strued into any thing derogatory from that respect which, as a faithful subject of the king, and which as possessing a perfect confidence in his virtues, he was always ready to pay. But the noble lord and the hon. seconder had concluded their speeches as his majesty's speech concluded, by calling for unanimity. In one point alone he feared that he could agree with them. He agreed with them that there never was a more awful crisis; that the country was never in greater danger; and that there never was a greater call for unanimity and co-operation, if unanimity and co-operation could be obtained: but, at the time when they called for unanimity, they followed closely the, example of the speech, or rather of the ministers by whom that speech was advised. While the word unanimity was on their lips, they introduced topics, which must necessarily produce division. They had called the attention of the house to the late dissolution of parliament, and both bad contended, that the power of dissolving parliament was an indisputable prerogative of the crown, given for the advantage of the subjects; but neither of these gentlemen had stated that this, like every other prerogative, was subject in its exercise to be considered by parliament. The noble lord had commenced by saying, that he would not allude to the circumstances that led to the late dissolution of parliament; but in the progress of his speech he forgot this determination; he had stated, that the measures which produced; the dissolution had imperiously called on his majesty to step forward in defence of the Protestant establishment. The hon. seconder had gone more at length into this part of the subject. According to him, not the introduction alone of the measure which had been alluded to, but its introduction and subsequent abandonment, had necessarily demanded the exercise of the prerogative, as exemplified in the dissolution. For himself, he confessed, that he had scarcely as yet recovered from the astonishment which that measure had occasioned. Had it been adopted by any. other administration than the present, he could not have accounted for it on any principle of public security or national welfare; but coming from the gentlemen opposite, it was indeed extraordinary! Not a long,time had elapsed since parliament was before dissolved. On that occasion the house had heard a great number of observations from the gentlemen opposite. If human imagination, had, been tortured to devise,a combination of circumstances, which 616 should expose this prerogative of the crown to all the objections that had been then urged against it, it could not have been more successful than in the present instance. The hon. gent. reprehended the dissolution of parliament after it had been sitting four years; they themselves dissolved a parliament after it had been assembled only four months. The hon. gent. opposite censured the dissolution which took place at the end of a session; they themselves dissolved parliament in the middle of a session. The hon. gent. opposite had complained of undue influence having been exerted against them; they themselves had exercised an influence not in the detail, but in wholesale, and such as they ought to have been ashamed of. Unless parliament were to say at once, that the prerogatives of the crown ought to be curtailed, and that parliament should be rendered permanent, it could, never be contended that any dissolution was better timed than that which took place under his majesty's late ministers. At the end of a negotiation which left little hope of a peace, it was surely adviseable to shew the enemy and the allies of the country, that the king, the parliament and the people, were determined to unite in withstanding all the efforts of an unrelenting enemy. Never did greater unanimity prevail than on that occasion, interrupted only by those personal and local differences, which every general election must necessarily produce, But the hon. gent. opposite, by the dissolution which they advised, had created an infinity of public and private inconveniences; they had produced the utmost disunion, and instead of uniting the people, they had, as far as in them lay, kindled religious animosities, set man against man, and brother against brother: they had set the people of Ireland against the people of England, by shewing the great body of the Irish that the English were unfavourable to their claims. Such conduct would be at any time criminal; but when it was considered, with reference to the necessity that existed for making a due impression on our allies, it became still more so. Could this be denied? Let the house look at the state of the public business when parliament was dissolved. In the first place, there were in the last session a greater number of private bills, tending to improve the agriculture, increase the manufactures, and extend the commerce of the country, than in any former parliament. Those bills, by the regulations which he (lord Howick) had 617 had the honour to propose, under the advice of the highest authority in that house, had been brought almost to the last stage. On the 27th of April, the dissolution took place; on the 11th of May the reports upon those bills would have been received: the consequence was, that the greater part of the expenses attending them had been paid, and that they then had fallen to the ground. What expedient was to be resorted to in this case, he knew not; he should be glad to that individuals could be relieved from inconveniences occasioned by the misconduct of his majesty's ministers. But the house must be careful that in remedying a private inconvenience, they did not open a door to public evil, and afford facilities to subsequent ministers to dissolve a parliament, without having a stronger necessity for the dissolution, than what had been described by the noble lord and the hon. gent. opposite. So much for private inconvenience: with respect to public business, many useful measures had been depending on the dissolution; some might be resumed; others could not. The Reversion bill was one, perhaps, which might again be brought in. His noble friend's finance plan, good faith to the public creditor demanded should be speedily discussed and renewed. With respect to the Finance Committee, the hon. seconder seemed to be surprised that ministers should be supposed to have any wish to stop inquiry. Without imputing to the ministers any such wish, this he knew; that the dissolution had impeded the progress of the committee, and that there was no likelihood of its labours being completed in the present session. It was a Committee of Enquiry; and if many new members should be added, to it, they would, perhaps, not arrive at the result which the last committee had reached, without a fresh investigation of the evidence. As the committee was to be revived, he trusted that, as nearly as could be, the same members would be appointed, and that the would be chosen openly and not by ballot; in this case, they might, perhaps, prosecute the chief objects of their enquiry with effect, notwithstanding the serious interruption which they had experienced. With respect to the members of which the committee was to be composed, some facts had been lately developed in the fourth Report of the Commissioners of Military Inquiry, which might render necessary some change in the members. Still more, on the 27th of April, parliament was dissolved; on the 24th of April, there had been alarming accounts laid on the 618 table, of the finances of the East India Company. What time gentlemen opposite purposed to do, he knew not. It had been in he contemplation of his majesty's late ministers, to propose some expedient by which the company might have been relieved without imposing any additional burdens on the people. The proposition having been made, it might have remained a subject for consideration until the next session of parliament; but by the course which his majesty's present ministers pursued, in not proposing any measure before the 27th April, and thus by allowing no time for investigation, they had reduced themselves to the necessity of adopting, at present, almost any thing which offered itself. With regard to the state of the supplies at time dissolution, the necessary votes for the different services, and the sanction which his noble friends plan had obtained, nearly set that subject at rest; but still the Irish money bills had not been passed, and the consequence was, that there was not now sufficient time to pass those bills (the Irish Custom bill in particular); consistent with those forms which parliament had wisely provided, and which never yet had been departed from. Either the Collection of that part of the revenue must be suspended, or the forms of parliament must be violated; a circumstance which he strongly deprecated. Should ministers take upon themselves to collect without the authority of law, a tax on the people of Ireland, they would be highly reprehensible. At the dissolution too, none of the sums which had been voted for the public service, were appropriated, for no appropriation act had been passed. Without such an act, by a solemn principle of the constitution, the application of those sums to particular services, was not constitutional or legal. He readily allowed that there might be, situations in which a government ought to act without the support of law, when the state service required its suspension; but then these situations must be unforeseen and inevitable. If a ministry, with their eyes open, placed themselves in a situation in which, on the one hand the law must be broken, or on the other the country must be endangered, the exercise of their discretion, in such a case, called for the most solemn consideration of parliament. And; for what purpose had all these mischiefs been. occasioned? The hon. seconder had stated, that an attempt had been made by the late ministry to force the conscience of the king, an assertion completely unfounded in fact. 619 Having declared that there were acts of the royal prerogative which were personal and unadvised, and having thus brought his majesty into a state of responsibility, the hon. gent. maintained, that the late ministry had arraigned their king, and had asked the house of commons to pronounce him guilty or not guilty. While he possessed the power of speech, he would protest against a principle so fatal to liberty of debate, as that upheld by the hon gent. If the house were canvassing any proceeding of government, were they to be stopped by being told, that it was the act not of the ministry but of the monarch? If so, then farewell to all freedom of deliberation, and farewell to the personal security of the monarch himself; for, however convenient such a doctrine might at the moment appear, the consequences of it were too obvious to need illustration. A dissolution of parliament must always be inconvenient, and at that period of the session at which the late dissolution took place, more inconvenient than at any other. In the interesting debate on this subject, which took place in the year 1784, an opinion was quoted of lord Somers's that his majesty, during a session of parliament, had no power to dissolve the parliament. With all the deference which was due to the abilities of so able a lawyer, and so great a statesman, he confessed that he differed greatly from lord Somers on this point. The strongest necessity might, in his opinion, exist for a dissolution, during a session of parliament, namely, such a difference between the two houses, as should impede the progress of public business. Still however this assertion of lord Somers's was sufficient to shew the extreme inconvenience that resulted from a dissolution in the midst of a session, and that such a measure ought not to he resorted to without the most urgent necessity. Now, what necessity existed in the present instance? The hon. seconder declared that the late ministers had proposed measures replete with danger to the protestant establishment. What then? Those ministers had been turned out: the hon. gent. had himself stated, they had lost the confidence of parliament. What interruption therefore Was expedient? What necessity was there for a dissolution? The house were now told, that they were called together merely for a month, to wind up the business of the last parliament, and then to be sent home. If a month would be sufficient for that purpose in the present parliament a month would have been sufficient 620 for it in the last. His majesty's late minister's would scarcely have objected to their own measures, No necessity, therefore, did exist. Why, then, did they take this step? In order that an appeal should be made to the people, as it was stated in his majesty's speech, while recent events were fresh in their recollection; in other words, during the prevalence of that base cry, which, it was hoped, would have an influence on the elections. He defied any other interpretation to be made of this proceeding; although, in his majesty's speech, there was something like an attempt at this, and in the noble lord's address much more. In his majesty's speech, parliament was called upon to support him "in maintaining the just rights of his crown, and the true principles of the constitution." This passage was completely explained by the conduct of ministers, as evinced in their advertisements and publications, and in the speeches of tonight, the only purpose of which seemed to be, to excite that division in the country, which, if it were not produced, was owing to the good sense of the people, and not to the prudent conduct of administration. When the house recollected all that had been said about the Coronation Oath, was it not manifest to them, that an attempt had been made to alarm the nation, with an idea that the late administration had endeavoured to force the conscience of the king. As to the measure proposed having been incompatible with the Coronation Oath, no such apprehension Could be entertained by any one whose mind was larger than the mind of a child. Did the learned gent. opposite mean to say, that any measure favourable to the catholics would be against the Coronation Oath? Did he mean to say, because the king had sworn to maintain the Protestant Religion as by law established, that it would be contrary to the Coronation Oath, if certain absurd penal statutes existed injurious to sectaries; to repeal them? Such a senseless proposition no one could support; for what had been the effect of the repeal of similar statutes in Ireland? If therefore the learned gent. opposite renounced such doctrines, why introduce this passage into his majesty's speech, but for the purpose of taking advantage of the alarm which it must occasion? The thing was most absurd: if the last liaise of commons had carried the bill which he had proposed to them, there might have been some plea for this expression; but as that bill had been withdrawn, how could his majesty's ministers 621 with common decency assert, that the dissolution had been rendered necessary "for the maintenance of the just rights of the crown, and the true principle of the constitution." He would ask them, did they seriously believe that this limited extension endangered either the welfare of the kingdom, or the safety of the constitution he wished the hon. seconder had, in his observations on the subject, consulted the feelings of those gentlemen below him. Although he (lord Howick) should belie the whole of his political life, if he were to consider Mr. Pitt as the extraordinary statesman which he had been represented to have been by the hon. gent. he was yet aware that he possessed great qualities and splendid talents; and he could have wished, that the hon. gent. had not passed such a severe censure upon him as he had done, in asserting that any person who proposed indulgencies to the Roman catholics, was guilty of an attempt to undermine the protestant establishment of the country. On this subject he could with confidence appeal to the recollection of the house, whether an extension of privileges to the catholics had not been supported by Mr. Pitt, Mr Fox, and Mr. Burke, three men, whose talents, whose wisdom, and whose experience, were as great, or perhaps greater, than those of any triumvirate that ever existed. The present government was composed of the followers of Mr. Pitt, and therefore the hon. gent. had cast a censure on the living as well as on the dead. For his part, when he called to his mind the former conduct of the individuals of his majesty's present administration, he could not but wonder, after the cry that they had endeavoured to raise, how they could come down to that house with countenances unbalanced with fear and shame. To speak frankly—for to speak frankly was indispensable at such a crisis as the present—when he recollected the conduct of the learned gent. in 1801, at which time he did not think any interference in the protestant establishment necessary—when he recollected his conduct in 1801, on the introduction of a measure much more extensive than that proposed by the late administration, he could not but be persuaded that the learned gent. did not believe in the existence of the dangers, the apprehension of which he had contributed to diffuse. On the same principle, when he recollected the measures which had been recommended by the noble lord opposite (lord Castlereagh) as necessary to the tranquility of Ireland; when he recollected the declaration of that noble 622 lord, that Ireland ,could not be governed without some concession of that nature; when he recollected that the noble lord had pledged himself to the execution of the measure; that for that pledge he received a valuable consideration; that by it he was enabled to complete the union of the two kingdoms; when he recollected these things, and considered the consequences that might have resulted in Ireland from the failure of the measure which he had proposed, his astonishment had not ceased. Serious, indeed, would those consequences have been, had the attempts which had been lately made to infuse into the people of England a rancorous animosity against the catholics of Ireland succeeded; had they made England a kind of Orange Party against the Irish, and taught the Irish that not trifling difficulties alone stood in the way of their claims, but the general and united opposition of the whole country. By the public declarations and advertisements in all parts of the kingdom, not excepting Northampton, the late administration had been arraigned as personally opposed to the king, and the people were called upon to decide between them and their sovereign. Never before did, a proceeding take place so injurious to the repose even of the royal person himself! To the sentiments avowed by the present administration, he had three distinct and decided objections. The first ,was, that they had declared the unconstitutional doctrine, that the king could act without any adviser; the second, that they had violated the freedom of election; indeed, within these few days, similar influence had been endeavoured to be extended to the present question, and it had been asserted, that whoever voted on the address against the wish of the present ministers would vote against his majesty, and bring him to trial: his last objection was, that they had endangered the personal security of the king himself. This was the first time that,his majesty had ever been advised to make a personal appeal to the people; and however convenient at the moment, it was a precedent which might hereafter lead to the most fatal consequences. If any thing could aggravate the conduct of his majesty's government, it was that these very men, who before opposed a dissolution at a favourable period should dare to advise his majesty to dissolve parliament in the midst of a session, and then assert, that no material inconvenience would result to the public service. With respect to the influence of the crown, it had been exercised during the last election, in a most unex- 623 ampled manner. In this country to a great degree, but in, the sister kingdom most unblushingly, both in temptation and in threats. In one borough Ireland, a candidate had dared a single elector to vote against him; and he had been told, that in another popular contest the crown solicitor had gone down, and informed Mr. Grogan, that the forfeiture of his estates would be enforced, unless he and all his tenantry voted for the partisans of government. But there was another mode of influence of public notoriety, which he would mention: it was the letter, dated the 25th of April, from lord Hawkesbury to the lords lieutenants of counties respecting the volunteers. Lord Hawkesbury stated, that it was intended to propose to parliament, to restore their pay to such volunteers as came in after a certain period, and also to re-appoint the inspecting;field officers; which last he (lord Howick) understood, had since been done. Now, let the house consider the date of this letter. On the 25th of April, the secretary of state declares, that it was intended to propose a Certain measure to parliament. In two days afterwards parliament is prorogued, previous to its immediate dissolution; so that the noble secretary must have known, that he deprived himself of the power of proposing the measure by advising the dissolution. The restoration of the inspecting field officers was a most objectionable step. He had never met with a single Volunteer officer who did not hold these Inspecting Officers in the utmost contempt: they had no command: they were not even empowered to order the Volunteers to come to be inspected. From the large Staff which was attached to the British army; consisting of Adjutants, Quarter-Masters, Brigade-Majors, &c. surely some better inspectors might be selected: aye, but then this was an object of great patronage! Just at the time, of the general election a hundred new offices were to be distributed, and these inspectors of elections, for so they were, in fact, were each to have pay and allowances, making the whole expense to the nation between 37 and 40,000l a year, for no advantage whatever! This was the little beginning of these mighty enemies to patronage: more pure and unadulterated jobs never existed than these appointments—There were other parts of his majesty's speech, on the exact purport of which he entertained some doubts, and of which he wished for an explanation. The house was told, "that his majesty's endeavours had been most anxiously employed for 624 the purpose of drawing closer the ties by which his majesty is connected with the powers of the continent; of assisting the efforts of those powers against the ambition and oppression of France; of forming such engagements as may insure their continued co-operation; and of establishing that mutual confidence and concert, so essential under any course of events to the restoration of as solid and permanent peace in Europe". Certainly he, in common with the rest of his majesty's late ministers, felt the necessity of cultivating the connexion, and drawing closer the ties by which his majesty was bound to the powers of the continent as far as was consistent with the security of Great Britain. But he wished to ask whether, by this passage in the speech, it was meant to insinuate, that the late government had neglected to do their duty on this subject? He was more desirous to know this as the subject had been publicly agitated. For his part he declared, that he should be mast glad that every thing which the late ministers had done, in aid of the powers of the continent, should be submitted to the consideration of the house and the public. It would then be found, that no rational effort but been omitted to draw closer the ties of connexion, and more especially between this country and Russia He would boldly and broadly state this, in answer to any assertions that might be hazarded of an opposite tendency. If ministers countenanced any insinuation of this nature, he hoped they would have the manliness openly to avow it. With regard to subsidies to Foreign powers, he thought that there were occasions in which subsidies, and even large subsidies might be advantageously employed; but he also thought that it was most impolitic to give subsidies to Foreign powers, for the purpose of drawing them into a war, into which their own inclinations and interests would not induce them to enter. While, therefore, he stated that the late government had neglected no prudent means of cultivating a connexion with the continental powers, he would also state, that in the present circumstances of this country, and of the world, due care should be taken that any assistance which might be afforded to foreign powers, should not be afforded to those by whom it could not be used at all, or to those by whom it would be misapplied. It was indispensibly incumbent on us to weaken as little as possible the means which we possessed of supporting a protracted contest, (for his majesty's speech had put an end to all apprehension 625 of a separate peace); after 14 years of expensive war, this country had reason to expect that the continent would take a share of its burthens, which its own defence renderer necessary. His majesty's speech contained a paragraph which lamented the rupture between Great Britain and Turkey; and another, which related to the unfortunate events by which it was followed. No one could regret more than he did the causes which produced a division between two powers, whose interests ought to be deemed inseparable. But he asked the hon. gentlemen opposite, if in the manner the subject was mentioned in the speech, it was intended to insinuate in the remotest degree, that the unfortunate rupture with the Porte was to be attributed to the late ministers? He deprecated the mode of introducing this topic into the speech in such a manner, that it could not be discussed without involving in the discussion the conduct of Russia. The late administration were placed in this dilemma, either to suffer the great unfairness which must result from abstaining from any defence, or to defend themselves by calling into question the conduct of Russia, our best ally. As to Turkey, was it meant to be inferred that the late government had asked too much or too little? Whenever the documents (of which his majesty's present ministers were possessed) should be produced, nothing would be found in them inconsistent with the policy of union, moderation, and good faith to Russia and the Porte. Was it meant to charge the late ministry with misconduct on this head? Aye, or No? If so, let there be an inquiry. There were modes of inquiry which prevented disclosures inimical to the public interest; the appointment of a Secret Committee would obviate every difficulty of that nature. If a charge were meant to be made, he owned he was surprised that the charge should proceed from the throne; he deeply regretted the failure of our arms which had been alluded to, but notice of such a failure was totally unprecedented in a speech from the king. After the affairs of the Helder and Ferrol, on the loss of Corsica, and on other disastrous events of the last war, he was not aware that any expressions of regret had been so studiously introduced into his majesty's speech; he must suppose therefore, that in the present instance, they were intended to convey a charge on the late administration. If so, he repeated, that they challenged the strictest inquiry into the destination of the Expedition to Turkey, and 626 into the manner in which that Expedition was arranged; into the original policy an attack on Egypt, and into the mode in which that attack was conducted.—Adverting to the changes which he was apprehensive the present administration would make in our military system, he remarked, that by the new arrangements in Scotland, the recruiting had encreased from 26 to 40 per week; and in England considerable benefit had been derived from it, although at the most unfavourable season of the year. He hoped that the gentlemen apposite would not rashly alter his right hon. Friend's plan, but would give it the fair trial to which it was justly entitled. He wished also to know, as soon as it would be convenient to ministers to tell him, what was to be the precise extent of the regulations in the Volunteer. System mentioned by lord Hawkesbury in his letter? He feared they would be expensive. The saving made by his right hon. friend's regulations amounted to 900,000l. a year. .Was it intended to restore some, or all of this? In that case, he should move for new estimates. Above all, he hoped the house and the public would deeply consider the effect of the system of the late administration, and the probable effect of that which would be pursued by the present. If it were still contended, that under the late ministers, the Volunteer system had declined, let evidence be adduced to prove the allegation.—The hon. seconder of the address, in alluding to Ireland, had stated, that great danger resulted to that country from the introduction of the measure which he (lord Howick) had had the honour to propose. To him it appeared, that the danger resulted from the failure of the measure, and not from its introduction. He earnestly pressed his majesty's ministers to attend to the advice of an hon. gent. now unfortunately no longer a member of parliament, the late Attorney-General for Ireland (Mr. Plunkett), and to make Ireland the first and the last object of their thoughts. He believed too much anxiety could not be shewn on this subject. He should be glad to hear that some system of conciliation was proposed. He did not allude to any extension of indulgences, but to other regulations which might tranquillize the people. If circumstances of discontent were seized hold of by the enemy, the consequences might be importantly injurious, and against these consequences he wished to guard his majesty's present ministry.—Of neutral nations nothing was said in his majesty's speech: 627 when he recollected that the late administration had been told by the gentlemen opposite, that they had sacrificed the navigation laws, and that they had provided inadequate means to resist the French blockading decree of the 21st of September, he was suprised at this omission. He trusted, that the learned gent. opposite would confess, that he had formed an erroneous opinion, and that the latter measure especially, was not quite so inefficient as he had announced it to be. The hon. seconder spoke of the appeal that had been made to the people, and of the multitude of Addresses that had been poured in from every quarter; of the loyalty of those addresses he had no doubt; but if it were meant to insinuate, that in those addresses the people pronounced the late ministers enemies to the king and the Protestant religion, he would appeal from the Addresses to the result of the General Election—a result so highly favourable to the late administration, notwithstanding the beastly cry of "No Popery," which had been raised against them. To the present administration he had avowed himself to be an enemy—of course, he meant a political enemy only; and yet he would oppose none of their measures which appeared calculated to serve the country. If he was an enemy to an administration engendered in court intrigue; if he was an enemy to an administration composed of men disagreeing with one another; if he was an enemy wan administration which did not possess the confidence of the country; if he was an enemy to an administration, of the first man of whom be would say nothing—it was because he was convinced that such an administration was pregnant with the greatest dangers to the king and the constitution.—The noble lord concluded by moving an amendment similar to that moved in the House of Lords by earl Fortescue, see p. 582.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer ,
in reply, observed, that, whatever might have beeen the manner in which his majesty's ministers had conic into power, the speech of the noble lord had shewn that it would not meet with his approbation, though he had declared that, in consequence of the state of public affairs, he should give his support to any measures that might be brought forward for the national interest From the manner in which the noble lord had concluded his speech, however, he did not think that he took the proper course to carry that declaration into effect. As the 628 noble lord had introduced a variety of topics into his speech, he should endeavour to follow him through all upon which he had touched, in the best manner he could; and here he could not but observe, that the great object of the noble lord, the sole point to which he seemed to wish to call the attention of the house was, the dissolution of the last parliament. That, with the exception of a few topics introduced towards the conclusion of his speech, of which he should take notice before he sat down, constituted the gravamen of his accusation. The noble lord had thought it necessary to guard himself against any insinuation, that his observations applied to the speech, as the speech of the king and not of his ministers, as if any person could suppose that any other than the king's ministers were responsible for the contents of the speech. The noble lord, however, had admitted, that there could be no doubt of the prerogative of the crown to dissolve the parliament at any time, though he had referred to an authority upon the subject, which he had no sooner quoted than he rejected. But whilst the noble lord had denied the doctrine laid down by lord Somers, he endeavoured to extract out of it a principle that might bear upon the question before them. The propriety of the exercise of the prerogative of the crown in dissolving the parliament, must ever depend upon the circumstances under which such a prerogative might be exercised. In discussing this point, the noble lord had contended, that the prerogative had been properly exercised in the dissolution of the former parliament, but that the late instance of its exercise was founded upon an abandonment of every sound principle upon which that prerogative of the crown ought to be regulated. In the state in which the parliament and the country were placed, when that event took place, his majesty's ministers would not have done their duty, if they had let a moment pass without appealing to the people. It was in that sense of duty he acted, when in conjunction with his colleagues, he had advised his majesty to dissolve the parliament at the earliest moment, when that measure could be resorted to without any material interruption to public business (Hear hear! from the Opposition). He repeated, that it was the duty of his majesty's ministers to advise the dissolution under the existing circumstances. The noble lord had enumerated the circumstances under which that measure was 629 adopted, for the purpose of condemning it; but he was prepared to contend, that these very circumstances were a justification of it. The noble lord had stated, that the parliament had been then but recently chosen, and that that was a reason why it should not have been dissolved; but in his mind the circumstance of its having been so recently chosen, and the circumstances under which it had been elected, were a good ground for the dissolution. The noble lord had argued in support of the preceeding dissolution, that it was necessary to give to our allies; and to Europe, a proof that the king and his government were supported by a united parliament and a united people. The noble lord, whilst in office, with a parliament in which he encountered no formidable opposition, except upon the iron tax, when ministers usually divided in the proportion of two to one against their opponents, felt it necessary to dissolve parliament, in order to shew to Europe that we had a united parliament. But the noble lord could see nothing in the last parliament to justify such a measure; nothing in the manner in which the question that led to it had been brought forward, nor in the manner in which it had been supported; nothing in all these circumstances to shew any ground of apprehension the permanence of government; nothing to shew that his majesty's government might be prevented from the efficient administration of the public affairs. But he would appeal to the house and to the country, if any reason existed on this ground for the dissolution recommended by the noble lord, which was not strengthened and confirmed, as applied to the late measure, by the manner in which it had been opposed. On that ground alone he might rest the necessity of calling a new parliament. But the house must see that this was a question upon which his majesty's ministers must have decided before they came into office, and not after. They were not so blind to the situation in which they would be placed, as not to have made up their minds, in case it should be necessary, to call a new parliament, and to appeal to the sense of the people? What would be the situation of the king, if his ministers had not made this appeal to the sense of his people? Had not his majesty been held up as the sole obstacle to an extension of indulgences to a great portion of his subjects, and against the opinion of his late ministers, who had pressed the measure as indispensably necessary to the interests of the empire? Had 630 not the king been represented as the sole barrier against this measure? Under these circumstances nothing was so necessary to the character of the king as such an appeal to his people, in order to shew that it was not the king alone who was the obstacle to the indulgences, but the great majority of the nation. On these grounds it was, that the dissolution had been resorted to; on these grounds he was convinced that it would appear not to be objectionable. It might be a question, whether such a measure was justifiable at any particular time? And here he must observe, that, if the opinion of the people was to be taken upon the bill introduced by the late ministers; if, upon the measure which had been brought forward avowedly for the purpose of forcing them back into office, it would be most properly done at the nearest possible time, when. those events were still recent in their memory, and whilst they should be able to form their judgment with most accuracy and correctness. The noble lord had objected to a passage in the speech at the close of the last session, which stated that the session was put an end to at a time when that could be done without inconvenience to public business. But that was a question of a relative or comparative nature: he could state, with confidence, that no inconveniences had arisen from the dissolution commensurate with the great importance of calling a new parliament. The noble lord had first adverted to the inconvenience that arose with respect to private bills, and certainly no man could imagine that a dissolution in the middle of a session would not be attended with some inconvenience to the parties, though not to the extent stated by the noble lord. As to the expence, which formed a principal part of that inconvenience, the noble lord would find that means could be devised to render that comparatively light. The expence consisted of the fees of the house, and the cost of witnesses. The former would be obviated by the known liberality of the officers; and as to the expence of witnesses, he had it in intention to make a proposition on Monday, which would do all that away. When he submitted his proposition to the house, it would be his duty to explain the nature of it; for the present, he should only state, that he proposed to refer the proceedings in the former committees to the committees that should now be appointed, in which case, there would be no necessity for the attendance of the witnesses again. As to the 631 inconvenience to the public business, the noble lord appeared to him to be totally mistaken. The noble lord assumed, that in the interval between the two parliaments, public money had been issued as in 1784, without any parliamentary appropriation. As to the fact of the issue of money, the noble lord was mistaken, because no such issue had been made, and he was sure the noble lord would learn with satisfaction, that the public expenditure had been maintained out of the sums appropriated by parliament. [I know what you mean, said lord Howick, in a low tone across the table]. The noble lord had observed, that he knew what he meant, in a manner that led him to conclude, that the noble lord supposed him to be wrong, but he knew himself what he meant, and thought the noble lord mistaken. In each of the bills respecting the English Loan, the Irish Loan, some duties of Excise out of the war taxes, and the additional duty on brandy, there was an appropriating clause, authorising the application of the monies, raised under the respective bills, to certain services voted by parliament. In the issues that had taken place, therefore, the government had acted according to law, and under the authority of parliament. The noble lord had not gone at length into this subject, but he had the authority of that noble lord, so far as silence could be considered an evidence of acquiescence, on the occasion in 1784, that, under certain circumstances, money might be issued by government without a parliamentary appropriation. At any rate, he had the authority of a person to whom that noble lord would not think it a discredit to be compared, the late Mr. Fox, on this head. Before the dissolution in 1784, a resolution had been voted, declaring it illegal to issue money in the event of a dissolution, without a parliamentary appropriation. The dissolution took place, the money was issued, as appeared by accounts moved for and laid on the table in the following session, and yet Mr. Fox never thought of instituting any proceeding upon the subject. The noble lord would not contend that this silence was not an admission of the legality of the act at any rate, the noble lord, who had been at the head of the late government, would not be disposed to disapprove of the course that had been pursued in that instance. A bare resolution of the house was not of any effect after a dissolution or a prorogation, unless taken up in a subsequent session, and confirmed by some legislative enactment, But it might be asked, if these 632 clauses of appropriation were not introduced for the first time last session, of what use was the Appropriation act? That act was intended not alone for the appropriation of sums raised by loans, but other sums not raised in that way, and the preamble of that act stated, that it was for the appropriation of particular sums to particular services, and for the further appropriation of other sums not appropriated by parliament, which implied, that appropriations had been antecedently made during the session.—Another inconvenience which the noble lord had stated to arise from the dissolution, was the interruption of the proceedings of the Committee of Finance, which could not in this session be prosecuted to any successful issue. No man could doubt that it was the deliberate determination of the present ministers to revive that committee and undoubtedly there could be no reason why the proceedings of the former committee should not be referred to the revived one. The noble lord had stated, that the committee should consist as nearly as possible of the same members as before, with the exception of the only two members (sir H. Mildmay and Mr. S. Bourne) who, from their parliamentary conduct, could be considered as the friends of the present ministers. (Hear, hear!)—There were, undoubtedly, some members in the committee, not connected with either party. This, therefore, would be an extraordinary mode of reviving the committee, and the house would do well to recollect the manner in which that committee had been formed. The hon. gent. who had first proposed the appointment of that committee, (Mr. Biddulph) had met the kind support of the noble lord (H. Petty), who as kindly took the nomination out of his hands! The hon. gent., no doubt, had been appointed on the committee, but when he wished afterwards to have one or two of his friends nominated to it, his application was resisted, because it was indispensable that the committee should consist of 21 members only. Yet, in a few days this imperious necessity vanished, and the noble lord himself proposed the addition of three other members. In this manner it was that this just and enquiring committee had been formed! But it should be remembered that another administration of government had also taken place, whose acts were to be enquired into, and yet the committee was to be composed as before! This, however; would hereafter be subject of discussion, when the committee would be to be revived, and when it 633 would be most seasonable to state the particular acts of that other administration that called for inquiry.—As to what had fallen from the noble lord on the subject of India, he saw no reason why the same course that had been in contemplation last session, might not be pursued in this. But thougn no inconvenience would result to the private business, and no breach of law had been committed in the appropriation of the public money, there was one point upon which he felt, that it would be necessary for him and his colleagues to come to the house for indemnity—he meant their having taken upon themselves to continue the provisions of the American Treaty, which had expired since the dissolution. This treaty had been renewed from time to time, and he trusted the house would admit the propriety of the conduct of government respecting it, considering the circumstances of our relations with that country.—Another topic of charge made by the noble lord was with respect to the Irish customs; but he was happy to state, that this bill could be passed without any violation of the order of this house, or of the house of peers, and without any inconvenience to the public service. He proposed, that the bill should be brought in, and read a first time, after the debate this night; that it should be read a second time to-morrow, and referred to a committee of the whole house on Monday next, in which case, the bill might be finally passed on Tuesday se'nnight, the day next but one after the present bill would expire.—(Some marks of dissent from the opposition). This bill had been passed in a similar manner by the gentlemen opposite, last session.—The noble lord had objected to the dissolution, whilst the events that caused it were yet fresh, and whilst a cry existed, which had been termed a base cry, a false cry, and a beastly cry, but which had pervaded a great majority of the country; and the noble lord had put it to him as a lawyer, and as a man, whether he thought that the concessions to the Catholics were a violation of the king's coronation oath? But, though neither the indulgences that had been given to the Catholics, nor the concessions then proposed, were, or would be a violation of the coronation oath, he would maintain, that if his majesty, the obligation of whose oath was personal, thought them dangerous to the church, they ought not to be forced upon him, on the authority of any minister.—The noble lord had adverted to his conduct on former occasions, as inconsistent with his present conduct. But the no- 634 ble lord alluded particularly to his conduct in 1801, when Mr. Pitt went out of office. He. should have recollected what was the situation of the country at that time; and what was the conduct of the receding minister, who did not retire reluctantly from office, nor oppose his successors with a view to force himself again into office. Had any attempt been made to bring his majesty to the bar of that house?—As to the measure of the noble lord, he should solemnly and sincerely declare, that if carried, it would have proved extremely dangerous to the church, because it was only-the beginning of a system which was to be followed up by a repeal of the Test acts on the first convenient opportunity. Would the noble lord state that they would repeal the Test act?—[Yes!] Then they could not think it surprising, that those who thought the repeal of those acts dangerous to the Protestant church should oppose their bill. The noble, lord had said, that the measure had been dropped; but was it not to be taken up at a convenient opportunity? He contended that it was the duty of those who thought the repeal of the tests dangerous, to oppose this bill. But then they were told of the inhuman cry that had been set up, and of the blood that might be spilt in consequence if the cry were false why had it produced such an effect, or spread like wildfire over the kingdom? It was not the speech its parliament, nor the address to his constituents at Northampton, of so humble an individual as himself, that could produce such an effect. He gave the gentlemen opposite credit for having brought forward the bill as a measure of conciliation, but he was convinced that the destruction of it had prevented the grievance. Though it might have conciliated one party,it would have encountered the most determined opposition from another. As to his conduct in the year 1804, the measure that had then been adopted was only to allow his Majesty to take into his pay 10,000 foreign troops, some of them Catholics. What had that to do with the establishment? It was only a temporary measure, resorted to during a war. Could any man suppose that his majesty would think of appointing any one of these foreign officers as first lord of the admiralty, or commander in chief? It was not the effect of the late measure alone, but its consequences that he apprehended.—Another charge brought against ministers by the noble lord was, that the influence of government had been exercised beyond all former example, at the late election. He was con- 635 vinced, however, that no case could be produced parallel to what had been brought under the consideration of the last parliament, with respect to the Hampshire election. The noble lord had instanced one case respecting Mr. Grogan, but this was the first word he had heard of it. The noble lord had then stated, that it was notorious that 100 inspecting field officers had been appointed to the volunteer force previous to the election, with a view to influence the electors. There might or might not be merit in the appointment of these officers, but his majesty's present ministers, when out of office, had recommended the measure, and now they were in office they had adopted it. But the same officers that had been employed before were appointed, and they had not been appointed until after the election, and this was the measure which the noble lord had represented as an exercise of corrupt influence at elections beyond all former example! The noble lord appeared to him rather rash in his charge, and not to be acquainted with some of the acts of his colleagues: what would the house think of the nomination of 300, not inspecting, but surveying officers of taxes, who could not be appointed either in law, or in fact, till an act of parliament should be passed to authorise the appointment? What would they think of the designation of so many officers, previous to the election of that parliament which was to pass the act, which was to authorise the appointment of these officers? The appointment had not taken place, because the act had not passed, and there remained for the gentlemen opposite only to send lamentable letters of apology, where they had no longer the power to realise their engagements. Whether or not these officers were necessary, he did not take upon him then to express any opinion.—The noble lord had expressed his approbation of that expression in the speech, which stated his majesty's determination to cultivate the friendship of foreign powers, and yet asked whether it was meant by that to insinuate that the late government had been guilty of any neglect upon that head? Certainly no insinuation or opinion had been intended one way or the other, and he could truly say, that he agreed in every sentiment expressed by the noble lord upon the subject. The noble lord had said, that it was intended to impute blame to the late ministers, by the expression of his majesty's regret introduced into the speech, for the failure of the negociation with the Porte. But undoubtedly, regret for its failure could not be construed to imply disapprobation of 636 the negociation, the failure of which excited regret. But then the operations in the Sea of Marmora, and in Egypt, had been introduced; and here he could most conscientiously say, that infinite labour had been bestowed on the composition of that passage, so as that it might convey an account of the transactions historically, without imputing blame to any person. If the noble lord were to ask their opinion of these, as military measures, it would not be difficult to give the reply, but unquestionably no such thing was intended by the passage in the speech. The noble lord had alluded to the military measure which had originated with his right hon. friend, and expressed his hopes that they would give it a fair trial. In all his observations on this measure, his comparisons were founded on the combined operation of the regular recruiting, and the measure which was then proposed to be repealed, and which conjointly, he still contended, afforded a more ample supply than the right hon. gent's. system. But as long as the measure of the right hon. gent. should be in force, no opinions of his respecting it should be suffered to impede its progress. As to the allusion of the noble lord to the part which he had taken on the question respecting Neutrals, and the triumph he seemed to feel, because he had not, on coming into office, advised the adoption of different measures, he had only to say, that he was then as fully convinced as before, that the measure of the noble lord was wholly inefficient. Having gone through the whole of the noble lord's statement, he trusted the house would be convinced that he had made no case out for his amendment, and that they would therefore reject it.
§ Mr Windham
offered himself to the attention of the house, in order to bring back the question to its real grounds. They were all agreed, as it was natural they should be, with respect to the prerogative of his majesty to dissolve his parliament. The hon. gent. who seconded the address, therefore, had given himself unnecessary trouble in discussing a question of which nobody entertained a doubt. His noble friend (lord Howick) in quoting the opinion of lord Somers, that the dissolution of parliament during a session was illegal, had adverted to that authority, to shew, that if such a lawyer entertained such an opinion, the dissolution of parliament during a session ought not to be resorted to without great justification. That, was the argument of his noble friend, and he maintained that it was a sound one. The question then before the house was, whether 637 the dissolution was founded upon wise of good grounds. It was to this that he objected, and was about to state the grounds his objections. The question between annual and septennial parliaments was a question only of degree, so was the question between septennial and perpetual parliaments: but there was no rational proportion in the history of parliaments, between a parliament of four months, and a parliament of four years The right hon. gent. had contended, that the arguments urged in support of the former dissolution, applied with equal force to the late dissolution. But his noble friend had argued, that at the former period, a new crisis had arisen in the war. It was not a new war, but it was a renewed war; and it was therefore desirable, that there should be a parliament, which should continue for some time, because it might be attended with inconvenience, that any change should take place in the public council of the nation, whilst such a contest continued The doctrine of the right hon. gent. went to this, that the parliament should be changed until one should be found, that would accord with what he or any other person might please to state to be the opinion of his majesty; according to this doctrine, there should be a new parliament with every new administration; or, as had been grandly and greatly said by him, who said every thing grandly, and greatly, the late Mr. Burke, we should no longer choose parliaments which might approve of by ministers, but choose parliaments to be approved of by ministers. There might be a crisis which would require the exercise of this prerogative, as that in 1784, when a difference between the two houses threatened an obstruction to the progress of public business. He did not however say, that the measure was justifiable in that instance, though it might be defended on the ground of that disagreement between the two houses. For his part, he thought that the aristocracy had then received a blow from which it had not yet recovered. He should not say what might be the consequences, but certainly there was reason to fear, that the precedent would not be suffered to remain neglected, and the late instance shewed, that the principle was aggravated in each successive application. But he wished to know what was the expediency of the measure in the late instance, when it produced all the inconveniences of a general election, all the injury to private property, and all the detriment to public morals, which such an event was calculated to give rise to. 638 When all these inconveniencies were to be produced, there should be a good justification of the measure. If the Protestant religion was in danger, that would be a justification of the measure; if the ministers thought it was in danger, that would be a justification of them. As to the cry of the Church in danger, he would reply to that by asking of the right hon. gent. himself, did he really, and from his heart, believe any such thing ? When Dr. Johnson was asked by some one, did he believe the authenticity of Ossian's Poems? he replied by asking, Do you believe it? In the same way, he would put it to the right hon. gent., Did he believe that the church was in danger? The belief that every concession would be granted to the Catholics, was the sole ground on which he had voted for the union with Ireland. That measure had added genius and wisdom to the parliament of Britain, but these might well have flourished in their own sphere and added to the patriotisim and pride of their native land. In his opinion, nothing could have justified the Union, but a belief that every privilege could be more securely granted to the Catholics by the united parliament, than by that of Ireland. This was the opinion of Mr. Pitt, Mr. Burke, and Mr. Fox, the most distinguished politicians that had adorned any country. And he would ask the noble secretary, who had been a party to all the measures of Mr. Pitt on this very subject, how could he join in any cry that the church was in danger from measures which fell far short of those which Mr. Pitt had in contemplation? As to the defence which the right hon. gent. had given for his silence in 1801, when the same, and, indeed, more extensive measures were proposed, it was the mere plea of a pleader, and could hardly be listened to with patience, even in any of those courts to which he had been accustomed. He was then in parliament, the friend of Mr. Pitt, and though the late measure did not go one twentieth part as far as that which Mr. Pitt proposed, instead of regarding him as the betrayer of the Protestant faith, he held him up as the only fit man in the country to consolidate and direct its resources. The right hon. gent. however, considered this appeal to the people as having confirmed the truth of his opinions. But he must explain the adage, vox populi, vox dei, in a very large and extensive sense indeed, if he considered this appeal to their dormant prejudices as a decisive testimony to the justice of his opinions. It seem- 639 ed to .be the opinion of the ministers, on the occasion of the late dissolution, that they should take advantage of the cry of "No Popery" while it lasted. They said, we must make hay while the sun shines: the tide of popularity which seemed to run in their favour might otherwise have ebbed, and left them dry on the beach. But what must we think of men who could resort to such means in support of their influence; means which had produced for them that sovereign contempt with, which they have been treated by all sober and thinking men? For two successive parliaments they had abdicated their claims, and in fact declared their incapacity for conducting the affairs of government, and now they stole into power under the despicable cry of "No Popery." What was the common reproach which the enemies of the constitution urged against parliament? Was it not, that it was a body merely subservient to the will of the crown? Yet the ministers, at the close of the last parliament, had held out threats of dissolution, which was to render it more subservient. The house, however, were not to be intimidated by such threats, and were in consequence dissolved. The experiment, however, which they had had recourse to, had not produced the effect they desired. The cry of the Church being in clanger, had failed of its effect, and the candidates for the choice of the people had not been worried and torn to pieces by the fanaticism which it was wished to excite. The cry of "No Popery" had only been heard in remote and comparatively unenlightened places. What had happened in Westminster? There, (though the result of that election was, certainly not, what he Could have wished) it had not so much as been heard of. Though faintly uttered in Middlesex, it had there been equally unsuccessful. In the county of Norfolk, with which he was more immediately connected, though several hot spirits among the clergy had endeavoured to excite and propagate yet they had been repressed by the moderation of that most enlightened and liberal prelate, the Bishop of Norwich. Those who were content to rise to power by such appeals to the worst and most senseless passions of the people, were utterly unfit for its enjoyment and exercise. The house Was loudly called upon to reprobate such conduct by their vote this night. But what must be the effect of the principles which ministers had this night proclaimed with regard to Ireland, a most important 640 part of the empire? No farther concession it seemed was to be granted, and the expectations of a great part of its population were to be closed for ever. Was it nothing to say to them, the door is for ever shut against your claims, there is no farther hope left for you? Instead of being alarmed, however, and exasperated by these declarations, he trusted that they would rather rely upon the good sense of the people of this country, which, during the late election, had declared itself in their favour, and patiently wait for the wiser measures of other men. That stationary situation which the right hon. gent. had recommended, seemed the worst policy. It was perhaps even worse than going, back, and re-enacting those penal statutes, which had long been abrogated. Whatever explanation the right hon. gent. might put upon the doctrine respecting the Coronation Oath, yet this doctrine had been diligently propagated in pamphlets and sermons, and it had been said that it was positively inconsistent with his majesty's Coronation Oath that any further concessions, should be granted to the catholics. The propriety of the late dissolution of parliament was the great question on the present occasion, and on other topics that had been introduced he would not now enter. Ministers seemed to have adopted the doctrine, that it was necessary to form a parliament that was likely to support them, and for, this purpose they had taken a moment when they thought the people would be rendered furious by religious zeal—this was their chosen period. But he trusted that the doctrine which he had mentioned would be as much scouted and discountenanced by parliament, as the cry of "No Popery" had been by the bulk of the people.—One word, as to the present situation and prospects of the country. The present state of Europe might justly be regarded as a dead calm, such as usually preceded some terrible hurricane. Should Bonaparte be able to subdue the rest of Europe, as was too probable, his whole attention and efforts would then be directed against this country. We were therefore placed in a situation which required all the talents of the country (A laugh). He had not used the expression unthinkingly; he had done it on purpose, and he would again repeat, that the situation of the country demanded the exertion of All its Talents and energies, and perhaps even the combined talents of the country would not be sufficient to rescue it from destruction, if its resources should for any length of time 641 be placed under the direction of the present ministers.
spoke in justification of the change of ministers. The late ministers had brought his majesty before his late parliament to answer for that change, and a great portion of that parliament, though very far from a majority, having taken part against his majesty, an appeal to the people to decide between his majesty and his late ministers, was rendered absolutely necessary. The people had proved true to the call, and he hoped the house of commons would acquit itself duly and honourably to the crown and to the people. He had supported the late ministers from a high opinion of their talents; he however condemned them for attempting to force themselves on the crown, by compelling the crown to dismiss them. Oh! sublime patriotism, ending in political suicide, and confessed self-murder of their body politic!
§ Sir Henry. Mildmay rose
to vindicate his character from the aspersions which the noble lord (Howick) had cast upon it. The noble lord ought in justice to have communicated to him his intention of countenancing the scandalous libels uttered against him and his hon. friend (Mr. S. Bourne) in the newspapers. Without such notice it was not handsome to mention them seriously in the house. He gave notice, as it had been already his intention to do this night, that on Monday he would submit to the house the whole of the circumstances of the transaction alluded to between him and the government. The result of the inquiry would shew, that there was no foundation for the scandalous insinuations uttered against them.
Mr. Denis Browne
said that he was not a little surprised to hear the noble lord and the right hon. gent. dub themselves champions of the cause of the Roman catholics, for bringing forward a measure, which those who called themselves the representatives of that body, declared they would not thank them for; and which measure, such as it was, they had openly abandoned for the declared, avowed purpose, and for no other, of retaining their places and their power, thereby forsaking all claims to independence as members of parliament. The propriety of the late dissolution of parliament, which had been so much dwelt upon this night, appeared to him to be easily resolved and understood, The late ministers had dissolved the parliament they had found when they 642 came into office, and the people who justly valued their king, and the principles on which he had so long governed this empire; returned the friends of his ministers. A difference soon after arose between the king and his ministers; the consequence of which was their parting; but several members of the commons chose rather to adhere to their patrons the ministers, than to the principles on which their constituents, the people, had elected them. The natural consequence was an appeal to the people. No other question, no other principle was connected with this dissolution than the avowal of the late ministers, either you shall govern with us, or you shall not govern at all. The hon. gent. said he should vote for the original address, and consequently against the amendment. He saw in that amendment the continuance of a plan that first was acted on in 1784, that had often been repeated, often had failed, and that he sincerely hoped ever would fail, forcing the constitutional right of the crown to choose its own advisers, and substituting a faction of that house to rule in its place.
§ Lord Cochrane ,
in a maiden speech, observed, that if any thing could tend to open the eyes of the people as to the mode in which elections were influenced by government, enough had been said to that effect this night, by the two parties into which the house was divided. He alluded to the nomination of the 300 surveyors of taxes, and the appointment of 100 Inspecting Officers. What the real motive of appointing these officers was, whether for influencing the elections or not he would not say. But this much he knew, they were appointed before parliament was dissolved, at least he had been told by one gentleman before that period, that he was to be one of those Field Officers. However, after the mutual charges and recriminations which had been made, he thought there could be little doubt as to the motives and object of these appointments. But he should ever deprecate every interference of ministers in election concerns. He hoped, that as each party charged the other with making jobs with a view to influence the elections, the conduct of both, in this respect, would be inquired into. He hoped some third party would arise, which would keep aloof from selfish interest, and sinecure places and pensions. Unless they acted upon different principles he could not honestly support either of the present parties. Both the address and the amendment seemed to him objectionable in some points. He disapproved of pre- 643 judging the expedition to Egypt, or of passing an oblique censure on it, while he could not approve of the amendment, since he could not find fault with the exercise of the royal prerogative in dismissing his late ministers and dissolving the parliament.
§ Mr. Grattan rose ,
and spoke to the following effect:—I shall, Mr. Speaker, consider the present question in two points of view, both as it regards the Catholics of Ireland, and as it affects his Majesty's late ministers. In Speaking of their conduct, I cannot suppress the feelings I entertained for them while in office; neither can I be silent on the circumstances which led to, and attended their dismissal. I approve of that ministry, because they preferred their principles to their places. I approve of them because they constitutionally refused to be restricted by an unconstitutional pledge. I approve of them because they were sincere in their wishes to create national strength, by national unanimity. I approve of them because they endeavoured to unite the people, and dissolve a party; and I most approve of them because they wisely ceased to prosecute the justified claims of the Irish Catholics, when they were convinced the prosecution was highly inexpedient. I say, his majesty's late ministers acted wisely in introducing a measure, which in its origin, appeared highly practicable, and in withdrawing it, when they were satisfied it was for the time impracticable. They proposed it with a view to conquer, and they abstained from precipitately pressing it, when they were unfortunately disappointed in that expectation. To this dilemma they were reduced, that if the bill was expedient, why not introduce it? and being expedient, why abandon it? [a laugh from the ministerial benches.] The hon. gentlemen on the opposite side may laugh, but I contend, that the true view of legislation and policy, is not to push even a good principle too far; when there is no opportunity of effecting the object, and where the evils arising from the failure, must materially detract from the benefits of even ultimate success. But, when I lay down this position, I feel it my duty strenuously to oppose that principle, which, at a moment when we are surrounded with enemies, and assailed with dangers, at a moment when our best and surest safeguard exists in the unanimity of the people, would defeat the benefits of that unanimity—would, at the same moment that it divided the publ[...] feeling, and distracted the popular energy, hold out to the foe, who menaces 644 us, the alarming and detestable hope, that a great majority of those who were most prominent in rank, in talents, in property, had conspired with a great proportion of your physical force, against the acknowledged establishment of Church and State. To admit such a position, is to perpetuate an incurable evil. It is to infuse into two classes of your fellow subjects, the principles and resources of an inextinguishable hostility. To support this evil, great reasons should be adduced by the advocates of disunion, or at least better reasons than we have either heard or found in the speeches and productions of those who have thought it their interest to promote it. For, however you apply your ingenuity, however anxious to realize the mischief which gentlemen have contrived to apprehend, reduce it to plain sense, analyze whatever either of dignified, profound, or learned, that has been advanced by your ecclesiacties or your corporations, whatever of wisdom or of research has been in their addresses or their communications, to this plain conclusion it must be reduced—that in the Catholic bill proposed by my noble friend (lord Howick) there was a danger from admitting, Catholic fellow subjects into our armies, and into a participation of the privileges of our constitution. What was the fact? The danger, either way, has, and does exist. The Catholics constitute a great portion of your military force. They constitute almost the whole of the Irish Militia. They bear a considerable proportion to the establishment of the Irish Yeomanry. They have been admitted by the act of 1793, to a participation of the civil rights of the constitution and, therefore, if the clamour which has been raised, if the outcry which has been circulated of the danger arising from the catholic bill be in any part, or to any extent, justified, that has been substantial danger to your establishment, to your army, to your religion, for, the last 14 years. Nay, your country has, for that period, been in a great degree defended by those whom the alleged supporters of Church and State have presumed to represent as their country's enemies. If has been their constant and unceasing cry, that ruin, inevitable ruin, would be the consequence of repealing the disqualifying statutes against the Irish catholics. Let us examine the validity of this apprehension, and ascertain the length to which it ,runs. If ruin be the consequence of Catholic indulgence, then I answer, you must retrace your steps, you must undo what the king 645 and. the parliament have already enacted for Catholic liberation, you must again recur to your penalties, and annul your grants. For by such a reasoning, to this inference we must come, that if the hon. gentlemen, the friends of Church and State, refuse to repeal those grants, they must give up their argument, and if they repeal them, they must abandon their army. For, however it has been the interest of those who opposed the Catholic bill, as introduced by my noble friend, to misrepresent it, yet in their face, and in the face of this house, I assert, that the measure introduced in the last parliament did not go one step farther, either in its provisions, or its extension, than the Irish bill of 1793. The case is plainly this, that in opposing the late bill, you admit this strange principle, that disloyalty does not exist amidst the lower classes of the Catholic Multitude, but that it does pervade the higher and more respectable description of that persuasion. They are already tolerated, it will be said; they are permitted to enjoy the full exercise of their religious feelings. This, I say, is not sufficient, nor is it the proper or enlarged view of that great and important subject. The Catholics of Ireland are identified with the constitution of the empire. They are our equals, our brethren, fully entitled to the participation of civil rights, and the enjoyment of constitutional blessings. When, therefore, we are told, that they exist by sufferance, we are giving ear to an opinion which attacks a fundamental branch of the state and of the national security. The measure of the Union between the two countries made no change between the relative rights of the people. It made no alteration nor admitted of any infringement in the existing claims of the Irish subjects. You took the Irish Catholic with his privileges, and can now find no pretext for destroying them. The dangers which have been attributed to this measure; are chimerical; if they are real, they go to destroy the treat organization of your military system. Indeed the argument is,so false, that no drunken boaster, or corporation orator, with all their prejudices or their passions, could seriously give utterance to these alarms, which have been both mentioned and propagated by some apparently great politicians. For reasons, even they are inclined to admit that the bill was innoxious but that the minister who propounded it was dangerous. The, noble lord (Castlereagh) and the right hon. secretary (Mr. Canning) could not consistently with 646 their former conduct and recorded pledges; war with the principle, they therefore have directed their present hostility against the minister; who had the sincerity to act upon that principle. The right hon gent. the chancellor of the exchequer, cannot adopt the principle of his colleagues, because it appears big with danger, and reple[...]e with ruin. I condole with him for his fears, but can give no credit to the validity of his statement. I cannot for a moment admit the validity of a statement, the most hostile to the particular interests of Ireland, and the general security of the empire. I cannot, I say, as the friend of my own country, as solicitous for its fame and fortune, give credit to a proposition, monstrous in its conception, and destructive in its effects. As a member of Europe I protest against this unjustified, dangerous argument, which tends unavoidably to deprive it of the means of rescue and recovery from the alarming and impending calamities with which it is threatened. I feel proud that with all the temptation, with the endeavours which have been so unwisely and so improperly made, the expedient has not only proved unsuccessful, but hopeless. There is not, I say, any disposition on the part of this country to quarrel with their Irish brethren on account of religion. The good sense and liberality of the people have prevailed against the misapplied zeal of the bigot, and the interested speculation of the miserable politician. It is the victory of the unadulterated good sense of the English people, over religious discord and unchristian rancour. All Church cries, have, in every stage of society, been mischievous; calamity has ensued, although the objects of their propagation was not accomplished. Though they "like the, tall bully lift their heads and lie," yet the annals of our history prove that they have injured. In the reign of Charles I. and II. they created a party which overturned the establishments of the country, and shed the best blood of its people. In the reign of queen Anne, they paralysed, the energies of the nation, and rendered unavailing the great victories of the duke of Marlborough. The religious animosities of England aggrandised the power,of France, and led to that disposition of Europe, which now alarms us with its tremendous effects. In 1780, the cry of "No Popery" was nearly successful, in defending the church, by burning the city. Religious alarms are not the efforts of great or comprehensive minds; they originate in low malicious cunning, and operate on ig- 647 norant irritability. It is not on religion they are founded, because they are generally the expedients of the depraved. They are hatched with the hope of delusion, and are the worst political vices baptized. There is nothing,profound, nothing wise, nothing dignified in their influence; nothing to excite public spirit, or to stimulate to great exertion. They call forth no proud or honourable energies, and have not embattled on. their side, even the manly vices of the country. I rejoice to find that the people of this kingdom have not fallen into the snare, which was laid with so much art and duplicity to entrap them. In my country the wicked attempt has not only failed, but the opposite principle has triumphed. The people of Ireland have not only, scouted the abominable yell, but have avoided a policy which might, have been dangerous to the general interest. They have not answered folly by folly; when you wrote upon your walls, "No Popery;" they did not retort the cry of "No England." They left an idle bugbear to perish by its own imbecility an unfounded calumny to be defeated by its appropriate incredibility. They disdained to make a serious comment upon senseless cant. I do not pretend to say that there were some amongst them who entertained strong feelings, upon the rejection, or rather the withdrawing of the Catholic Bill, but I contend that the great body of Irish people were so far satisfied, as not to be dissatisfied, and that their conduct evinced a great and striking tenacity, of good order, and the love of national peace. The College of Dublin would not address the throne, on the ministerial change which had taken place; the set of learning would not disgrace itself by lending support to this vulgar and abominable cry of the Church in Danger. They who were well acquainted with the precepts and interests of religion, knew best to defend that religion by a religions dignity and a Christian moderation. They wisely separated an inviolable reverence for their king from an attachment to a despicable court intrigue. The city of Dublin also disbelieved this church alarm, and even the most illiberal, I myself found free from the animosity of religious madness. It was true that the corporation voted an address to the throne; but though bound to my country by the ties of honours conferred for services performed, and though I can differ from any part of my constituents but with regret, yet I will boldly say, that my own opinions on this subject, are the opinions of 648 my country. I treat with respect the feelings of those who differ from me. I condemn the principle, but do not deprecate the authority. To the people of England I say, that the Irish Catholic never has entertained the opinion that they were hostile to his emancipation. He could not suppose that though you first removed the parliament under the pretext of releasing him from religious disqualifications, you would afterwards declare not only war against that religion, but hostility against his constitutional freedom. Beware of that hostility; it will be only a division of public interest, and a diminution of national strength. Extend that feeling of sympathy which rejoice to see so strongly exemplified amongst your people. By so doing, you will compensate for the defection of allies, and the failure of expeditions; you will fortify that great western-barrier, which is best calculated to counterpoise the destruction of the balance of power, and behind which are secured not only your own immediate advantage and security, but the reversionary interests of Europe. Let your ecclesiastics, corporations, statesmen, and great dignitaries, consecrate it. For, unfortunately, should you recur to an unjust and illiberal policy, instead of a manly and enlarged system, you will not only fill up the measure of your own overthrow, accelerate the means of your own subjugation, but actually destroy the hopes of the civilized world, and lose the globe itself. Under these impressions I give my ardent and sincere support to the amendment of my noble friend.
§ Lord Milton
declared that he should consider himself guilty of a dereliction of his duty to the great and independent body of freeholders who delegated to him the important trust of representing them, if he suffered a question which, brought the conduct of his majesty's ministers into consideration to pass without his decided and most unequivocal animadversion. The right hon. chancellor of the exchequer, had cavilled and endeavoured to prove, that the period when himself and his colleagues had dared, to advice his majesty to dissolve the last parliament, was the least likely to interrupt the public business. But the, charge against them was not only the interruption which the public business received by that measure; it went further; it arraigned them of postponing that measure, until they had ascertained their strength and then recurring to a dissolution, because they were unable to meet the support of an independent 649 parliament. When unable to new model that parliament they resorted to this profligate and corrupt exercise of the prerogative. The noble lord observed, that the king's speech contained an intimation of an intention to revive the Committee of Finance; but this passage in the speech he considered as a kind of lure for public credulity, and inserted solely to catch the vulgar eye; for what reformation or improvement of any kind could be expected from ministers whose first act on coming into power was the introduction into his majesty's councils of a person stigmatized and pronounced guilty of mal[...]practices by the house of commons? What could be expected, he begged to ask, from ministers who had thus set the authority and decision of parliament at defiance, in order to accomplish their own ends; quite regardless as the fact had proved, of the substantial interest of the country? It was truly laughable, if, he could for a moment treat so important a question-with levity, to hear them say that they had appealed to the sense of the country: what make an appeal to the sense of the country, surely ministers must have meant that they appealed to the nonsense of the country, for it was from that chiefly they received support and co-operation. In a few places, they had indeed gained some advantage immediately after the dissolution, from the abom[...]nable cry of "No Popery," but at a time a little more remote from the dissolution of parliament, they failed in most places to accomplish their object, because men began to reflect seriously, and to examine coolly into the nature of the appeal made to the country. It was impossible in a country so distinguished for sound judgment and strong understanding, as this was, that deception could be long practised with success, and accordingly, the first moments of deliberation and enquiry, dissipated the mist of hypocrisy, and exposed to public view the design of ministers.—He begged pardon for trespassing so long on the time of the house, but he could not forego this opportunity of shewing to his constituents and to the nation, the opinion which he entertained of men, whose first act, as he had already stated, was to recall to his majesty's councils profligacy and corruption.
§ Mr R. S. Dundas
hoped the house would excuse him, if he was unwilling to suffer a moment to pass without replying to what had just fallen from the noble lord. He contended that the acquittal in the impeachment from which lord Melville had not 650 shrunk, left him as clear of imputation, as if he had never been accused. If the tribunal was competent, if the prosecution was not remiss, if the verdict was not incomplete, if there was any thing in English justice, it was that an individual so acquitted could not again be arraigned. He looked upon the, resolution against lord Melville as virtually annulled by his lordship's acquittal, or he should long since have moved for its erasure from the journals [a cry of move now, move, from both sides of the house.] He should move, but that he thought the resolution already annulled. If the noble lord thought otherwise, let him name a day, and he would be ready to go into the question with him upon a resolution of censure upon his majesty's ministers for the recall.
would confine himself entirely to the consideration of what the present ministers had done; the question of their appointment having been already decided. He would judge his majesty's ministers by their acts, and the only act of theirs that could come now under consideration was the dissolution of parliament. This act he thought justifiable under the peculiar circumstances of the case, and it was enough for him that it was justifiable, to induce him to vote in favour of the address and against the amendment.
was sorry to hear the name of the sovereign brought forward in the discussions of that house, a thing which should never be done without absolute necessity. He thought the late dissolution a very great interruption to private as well as public business in that house; and he took occasion to observe, without saying who was the cause of it, that the cry of "No Popery," was an infamous one.
adverted to what had been said on the subject of lord Melville's trial. That noble lord had been punished, and twice unjustly. He was punished before trial, which nobody could dispute was unjust. He was punished after he was acquitted, which was equally unjust; this he meant to refer to what had been said of that noble lord, under the authority of the late administration. He thought that the most prominent, as well as the most beautiful part of our constitution, was the administration of justice under it; but even that had not restrained the party rage of the late administration. The impeachment of that noble lord had been carried on by party, aided by no inconsiderable share of personal vanity; 651 and under that impression certain gentlemen acted, or they never would have become prosecutors.—
§ The Speaker
reminded the hon. general that he had transgressed the boundaries of order, in imputing unworthy motives to any hon. member of that house.
§ Mr. Croker
was happy to find the address now before the house unobjectionable, for it had been objected to, and the amendment was brought forward on the part of the late administration, to censure the conduct of the present; when they, the late administration, dared not bring forward any one measure of their own while in power; for this opinion he appealed to the house, whether that was not the view of the motion for this amendment, whether it did not relate purely to what passed formerly, and which, whether right or wrong, could not now be altered, and therefore there could be no good in discussing it? And yet, such was the course which was recommended to us by opposition, at a time when the map of Europe was only another word almost for the map of France; thus it was proposed that the time of the house should be taken up in hearing contests for places and power. Much had been said about the secret advisers of the crown; he wished to know whether it was to be contended that it was unconstitutional for the king ever to have any adviser who was unknown to the house of commons; or would they call his majesty to the bar of that house on any subject in which his adviser was unknown? If that was constitutional doctrine, it was unknown to him. Conduct had been observed that was infamous, as a noble lord had elegantly expressed it. Now, as to Ireland, he would venture to say, that as to political Matters, that description was much more applicable to the late than to the present administration. And as to what had been said of the family at Wexford, whose name, from the pronunciation of the noble lord, he did not understand, he would invite the noble lord to look at the last election but one for Wexford, and there he would find the conduct of the late administration in its true light. I will ask, said the hon. gent., the noble lord not to interfere in any of our concerns in Ireland; we are friends of peace, and I therefore advocate the non-advocating of the noble lord. As to what had been said by the right hon. gent. (Mr. Grattan) he had told the house that ministers, on the subject of the catholics, must either abandon their arguments or abandon the army. There was no occasion to 652 do either. Last year we had heard the same sentences on the same subject; we were told that we should by refusing what was asked, paralyze the army, and dismantle the navy; but there was no truth in it. We were told also that we should not inherit our country, and that the inhabitants should be deprived of their mother. It was in vain to talk of fleets or armies, the only thing to give tranquility to Ireland was unanimity in that house. Emancipation might do something, but without unanimity nothing would be effectual there. He was a friend to the most general toleration that could be desired by any statesman: he did sincerely hope to see the day when the happy work would be completed of the emancipation of the catholics; but more had been done already for them in his majesty's gracious reign than at any former period; more had been done for the dissipation of bigotry than in any former reign. He wished for the inhabitants of Ireland the full benefit of the constitution like other men, but that was a thing not to be accomplished in half a session of parliament. He did not blame the late administration for their motives in the late measures they offered on behalf of the catholics, but it had a singularly unfortunate effect, for it disgusted those whom it professed to relieve, and enraged those whom it disappointed. There had been much art made use of to mislead the Irish people. There was a person of the name of Keogh, who had delivered a speech to the Catholics in Ireland, and that speech had been afterwards made up into a pamphlet, which was of the most reasonable and rebellious tendency that ever disgraced the country in which it appeared, and so the house would say if they read it; but the house of commons attentively perused large folios on the affairs of India, while it would not look at a small pamphlet on those of Ireland. It was owing to inflammatory harangues, however, that men committed such excesses; and those who committed them were not genuine Irish catholics, but they were French Demagogues, Jacobins, and French emissaries. They had at one time, however, been so furious, that the right hon. gent. himself (Mr. Grattan), could not go to the Irish house of commons without his sabre, for which reasons, Ireland should give a specimen of at least ten years without rebellion, before she could reasonably look for emancipation: ten years was but a short period of probation on such an occasion, it was only three years beyond the pe- 653 riod of a common apprenticeship. But it had been said that his majesty had been unfavourably advised towards his Catholic subjects. Had gentlemen forgotten the series of indulgences his majesty had been graciously pleased to shew them? Had they forgotten what his majesty did in the year 1780, when he became the bold defender of his Popish subjects against a protestant mob. By this and by other acts, all ranks of his majesty's subjects, of whatever persuasion, were sure of benefiting by his paternal solicitude for his people. These were his sentiments; and he uttered them, not, with a view to please ministers, for he knew none of them personally; he did not think that he ever was in the same room with any of them; certainly he had, nothing to ask of them; but he delivered these sentiments on the pure principles of independence. He should oppose the amendment, and most heartily support the address.
§ Mr. Stuart Wortley
took notice of what the noble lord (Milton) had advanced concerning his constituents. That noble lord had impressed the house with an idea that the majority of the landed proprietors, and of the commercial interest in the county of York, as stated by the noble lord, was in favour of the late administration: though the noble lord had obtained a majority, it arose from the misconception of the clothiers, with respect to the conduct of one of the candidates, Mr. Lascelles. But surely this was no proof whatever that the late ministers were more popular than their successors.
§ Mr. William Smith
agreed with the right hon. gent. (Mr Bathurst) that the question lay within a very narrow compass, but differed from him in his view of it. He did not think that the question lay, in the first instance, between the king and his ministers, though the present ministers had made it a colour to answer their own views throughout, the country. In saying this, he had no occasion, on his own part, to quarrel with them for the dissolution, because it afforded him an opportunity of proving again the high opinion which his constituents entertained of his consistency and opposition to the system supported by the present minister. He asked the present administration what they had made of their cry of "No Popery" at Bristol, Liverpool, Westminster, and, Middlesex? He was decidedly in favour of the amendment.
explained, and said that he 654 did not believe his ill-treatment at Bristol was owing to any such cry.
§ Mr. Ryder
said, that when his right hon. friend, the present chancellor of the exchequer, consented to continue as attorney-general when Mr. Pitt came last into administration, he did so under an express stipulation that the catholic measure should be brought forward, he should oppose it. Gentlemen on the other side of the house complained of the manner in which the Catholic bill had been opposed; it was their own fault for bringing it forward; they produced every thing they now complained of. As. to the late administration, as a body, he had to observe, that some of them were great men, but, they were made up of discordant materials: like those of 1784, they promised a good deal, depended upon themselves much, but produced but little, and they met much the same fate, their dismissal being followed by a dissolution of parliament; with regard to the leading member of the late administration, the late Mr. Fox; of his talents there was but one opinion; of their application, a great variety. In opposition, he had done much mischief. In government he might have done much good; but really, with the exception of the Slave Trade bill, and the New Plan of Finance, which was a, good measure, although the defects of it were numerous, he knew of no public measure that reflected honour on the late administration.
§ Lord Temple
said, the question before the House had been amply discussed; and he would only make a few observations in vindication of the late Administration. The cry against the Catholic bill had been raised by the present ministers for the purpose of injuring those who projected it. How far that cry had succeeded would be proved. He should, however, think the house disgraced itself if it did not approve of the late ministers, as no fair pretence had been stated for the imputations cast on them.
§ Lord Henry Petty rose ,
and said, before he offered to explain some particulars relative to the late administration, he felt anxious to hear what reason could be assigned for the late act of dissolving the parliament without any apparent cause; but no satisfactory observations had transpired on that subject. The Catholic bill had been discussed last session of parliament, and if any animosity had been excited in the country it was by the character given of that bill, not by the bill itself. It would occur that no cry had been raised against the bill when it 655 was first proposed in parliament; but the right hon. the chancellor of the exchequer and his colleagues had opposed it, as the means of getting into office. An allusion was made by a noble lord relative to the opinion of lord Somers. He had read the passage from lord Somers, who stated that the parliament ought not to be prorogued, until the petitions before the house were satisfactorily answered. He was inclined to give credit to the statement, for he found it corroborated by historical fact. With respect to the observations which fell from the Chancellor of the exchequer, relative to the appointment of 300 Surveyors of Taxes, he would state the fact: in the summer before the last, not owing to any communication with the treasury, the Board of Excise proposed to the treasury a scheme for improving the revenue, by the appointment of the officers alluded to. The plan was adopted, and recommendations were given representing persons fit to become surveyors. Their appointments were not made out, but letters were written, stating that attention, should be paid to the recommendations. He considered this circumstance advantageous to the revenue, and was anxious to submit to any investigation the right hon. gent. might think fit to bring forward.
replied to the principal arguments which had been argued in support of the amendment. He alluded to the different accounts which had been given of the late change of administration. At one time, the honourable gentlemen stated, that they bad voluntarily retired from office, and at another, that they had waited until they were forced to abandon their places. They might choose which of these cases they liked best, but he could not allow them to take to themselves both all the grace of resignation, and all the grievance of dismissal. The latter, however, was the event. They had stuck with great obstinacy to their situations, and a main objection which seemed to be urged against some of his friends was, that they wanted that first quality of great statesmen—tenacity of place. In reply to the objection of a noble lord (Cochrane) in alluding to Constantinople and Egypt, that the address seemed to imply a censure on his majesty's late ministers, with respect to the distribution of the military and naval force of the country, he observed, that such certainly was not the object of the address. It had merely been intended to state facts with regard to the situation of this country and of Europe. He begged, however, in saying 656 this, that it might not be supposed his majesty's government had no opinion on the subjects alluded to by the noble lord. That opinion might in due time be expressed; but he would not have it understood that his majesty's ministers were pledged to any particular proceedings. He alluded to the libels which had appeared against himself and his friends near him. With regard to one which had been published, in order to insinuate, that he had in a certain case been influenced by a corrupt motive; if the noble lord (Howick) had searched the records of his office, he would have found that that proceeding had originated in an act signed by the hand of Mr. Fox.
§ Mr. T. Grenville
replied to the observations of the last speaker, and particularly complained of the insinuations thrown out against tine late administration, with respect to the expeditions to Turkey and Egypt. He remarked, that the opinion which had fallen from the right hon. secretary, respecting the subject of Turkey and Egypt, was very different from that stated by the chancellor of the exchequer. The latter right hon. gent. had disavowed any intention to impute blame on the late administration with regard to those points. The language of the right hon. secretary was however very different. He broadly insinuated censure. This conduct be could not but regard as highly unjustifiable. If no blame was meant, why make the insinuation? He trusted that either no insinuation would be made, or that a direct charge would be brought forward. If a distinct charge of censure was advanced, his friends knew how to meet and refute it.
§ Mr. Whitbread
observed, that a noble, friend of his (lord Milton) had been spoken of in terms of great asperity, because he alluded to his constituents, and spoke of them, it was said, as if nobody else in the house had constituents. He would ask the right hon. secretary, if he had constituents in the sense in which the word was understood by the noble lord? When the right hon. secretary had, in pursuance of his audacious and unconstitutional threat, sent the members of the last parliament back to their constituents, did he himself venture to appeal to any popular body? The noble secretary of state near him had once represented a populous county in Ireland, and had afterwards been rejected. But it did not appear, with all the anxiety of the present administration to appeal to the sense of the people, that the noble viscount it had thought it advisable to submit his conduct to the judg- 657 ment of his old constituents in the county of Down. He alluded to what had fallen from noble lord lately returned for the populous city of Westminster. It appeared, that neither the amendment nor the address were capable of satisfying that noble lord. He did not like the former, because he thought that to adopt it, would imply that the house approved of the conduct of the late administration. He condemned the address, on the other hand, because it seemed to contain a censure on the employment of the force of the country. In. this dilemma, he was at a loss to conjecture how the noble lord would act; perhaps he would think it his duty not to vote at all. He alluded to the late contest for Wexford, and stated, from a paper which he held in his hand, that, Mr. Ormsby, the solicitor for the forfeited estates in Ireland, went down to the election, and personally waited on Mr. Grogan for the purpose of influencing him to support the ministerial candidates, by a promise of the re-assignment of the estates of the late Cornelius Grogan, his brother, which were forfeited.
§ Sir Arthur Wellesley
declared, that the government of Ireland had not interfered, nor given any instructions to Mr. Ormsby upon this subject: had any improper use been made of that influence, it was unknown to government.
§ Sir John Newport
said, the letter of Mr. Ormsby was perfectly compatible with the fact, and he called upon the right hon. bart. to deny it if he could. He challenged the right. hon. secretary himself to shew the contrary, and said, that the first object the government was to dispossess him of the confidence of his constituents, but they failed, in this as almost every other effort of a similar nature, and the proof of the fact was, that he had fourscore more votes on his last election, than he has when he was chancellor of the exchequer for that part of the United Kingdom. The abuse of the constitutional power in that country was most scandalous and disgraceful, and the primary object of the government was to carry their point by the worst kind of influence.
The question being loudly called for, the house divided, when the members were,
The house being resumed, the chancellor 658 of the Exchequer gave notice, that he would, on Tuesday next, submit A motion for the consideration of the house respecting the revival of the Committee of Finance—Adjourned at 6 o' clock on Saturday morning.
For the original Address— 350 Against it——— 155 — Majority for the Ministry 105
List of the minority Abercrombie, hon. J. Hamilton, lord A. Adam. Wm. Hibbert, George Agar, Capt. Howard hon. W. Althorpe, Lord Howard, Henry Anson, George Howick, lord Antonie, Wm. Lee Hippisley sir J. C. Anstruther, sir J. Hughes, W. L. Aubrey, sir John Hurst, R. Baring, Alex. Jervoise, C. J. Baring, Thos. Jekyll, T. Barham, J. Foster Jackson John Bewicke, Calverley Jones, Love P. Bagenell Walter Kemp, Thos. Biddulph, R. M. Kensington, Lord Bernard, Scrope Knox, hon. Thos. Byng, George Knapp, G. Bradshaw, hon. C. Laing, Malcolm Brand, hon. Thos. Latouche, D. Bunbury, sir Chas. Latouche, R. Bu[...]iler, hon. J. Latouche, J. Butler, hon. C. H. Lambe, hon. W. Calcraft, sir Granby Lambton, R. J. Calvert, N. Lemon, sir W. Campbell, lord J. Littleton, hon. W. Campbell, Col. Lloyd, J. M. Cavendish, lord G. H. Leach, John Campbell, George Lushington, S. Cavendish, Wm. Laurence, Dr. Cavendish, G. H. C. Mackdona[...]d, James Coke, Thos. Wm. Markham, J. Coke Edward Martin, H. Combe, H. Maule, hon. W. Cowper, hon. S. Maxwell, W. Craig, J. Miller, sir Thos. Creevey, Thos. Milbanke, sir R. Curwen J. C. Milner, sir Wm. Cuthbert, R. Milton, lord Daly, D. B. Madocks, W. A. Dillon, hon. H. A. Mills, Wm. Dundas, hon. C. L. Mahon, lord Dundas, hon. Maj. Meade, hon. J. Dundas, C. Moore, P. Dundas, rt. hon. W. Morpeth, lord Eden, hon. Wm. Mostyn, sir Thos. Elliott, rt. hon. W. Neville, hon. R. Euston, Earl Newport, sir John Fitzpatrick, R. North, Dudley Fitzgerald, lord R. H. Nugent, sir G. Flemming, hon. C.J. O'Callaghen, Col. Foley, hon. A. Ord, Wm. Foley, Col. Ossulston, Ford Folkestone, lord Pierse, Henry Forbes, lord Petty lord H. Frankland, Wm. Phillips, W. Fellowes hon. N. Pollington, lord Ferguson, General Pigott, sir A. Grattan, H. Pe[...]ham, hon. C. Grenville, Thos. Power, R. Greenhill, R. Parnell, Henry Grenfell, P. Ponsonby, hon. F. Halsey, G. Ponsonby, hon. G.
Prettle, hon. Wm. Templetown, lord Pym, Francis Townshend, lord J. Quin, hon. W. Tall[...]ot. R. Ridley, sir M. W. Vernon, G. V. V. Romily, sir S. Ward, hon. J. W. Russell, lord, W. Walpole, hon. G. Shakespeare, A. Warrender, sir G. Shiely, Timothy Wharton, J. Savage, F. Whitbread, S. Sharpe, R. Wardle, col. Shipley, col. Williams, O. Smith, W. Windham, W. Smith, G. Western, C. C. Smith, John Wynne, sir W. W. Stanley, lord Wynne, C. W. W. Stanley, Thos. Tellers. Sommerville, sir M. Calcraft, J. Taylor, M. A. Temple, earl Taylor, C. W.