HC Deb 04 March 1808 vol 10 cc896-8
Mr. Tierney

held in his hand a Petition against the Orders in Council Bill, framed in consequence of the rejection of the petition from the merchants of Liverpool offered last night. That petition being incompatible with the orders of the house, the present was framed to suit those forms, and that was the reason why it was signed only with the names of the three gentlemen who acted as delegates, instead of the 400 merchants who had signed the other.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

having heard the prayer of the petition read, feared it still militated against the forms of the house, as adverting and being applicable principally, if not exclusively, to the bill before the house. If the petitioners would state their grievances under the Orders in Council generally, the petition might be received and attended to.

Mr. Tierney

defended the petition against this objection of applying to the bill before the house. It applied simply to the Orders in Council.

Mr. Huskisson

argued that the petition applied substantially to the bill before the house.

Sir John Anstruther

contented, that the undoubted right of the subject to petition for redress of grievances was trifled with, when the petitioners were told one day, that it was exceptionable to petition against the bill, and another day that it was equally exceptionable to petition against the Orders in Council; to which he contended this petition exclusively applied.

Mr. S. Bourne

argued against the petition. If his majesty recommended a vigorous prosecution of the war, it would be competent to petition against the continuance of the war, but not against any tax that might be imposed to carry on the war.


maintained, that the petition in its present form ought to be received. The present petition was, in fact, altered from a form which was objected to, to a form deemed unexceptionable. If the petition in its present shape was objected to, he wished to know in what shape the aggrieved persons who signed it could apply for redress.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

felt it his duty to oppose the petition equally as the last, if it was in terms contrary to force. There was no objection but in point of form; and if the petition were put in proper form, no doubt the house would and must receive it.

Mr. W. Smith

represented the extraordinary situation in which the house would be, if by any captious objections in point of form, the grievances of the petitioners should not be taken into consideration till the bill had gone out of the house. He understood the chancellor of the exchequer had represented the measure in some of his conferences with the merchants, to be not a measure of revenue: why then should it be now put on such a footing in order to preclude the petition? But, in the present form the prayer was general, and therefore the petition ought to be received.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

thought it possible that in his conferences with the merchants, he might sometimes have said the measure was not intended as a revenue measure, neither was revenue the object, though revenue may be the means of carrying the other objects into execution.

Dr. Laurence

thought the present attempt to get rid of the petition a trick not unworthy of the worst attorney, or the worst exciseman, in the country. He hoped the house would not be involved in such absurdity as to come to a decision, and afterwards find themselves under the necessity of hearing evidence. It was their duty to give that degree of redress to the grievances that they could, and reject that part that was objectionable on account of form.

Mr. Adam

blamed the cruelty of barring the petition in every shape. The petitioners might have applied to the king in council, they might have applied to parliament before the bill was introduced; but now they could not apply to the king because the measure was before parliament, and they could not apply to parliament because it was a revenue bill.

The Solicitor General

understood it to be the received sense, that, as applying to the bill before the house, the petition could not be received; as distinct from that measure, it was unexceptionable. The remaining question was merely on the construction of the petition before the house, which he referred to the bill, and was of course of opinion that it could not be received. If a petition not applying to the bill should be offered, it must be received; but whether the petitioners should, after all, be heard by counsel, was a separate question for the discretion of the house.

Sir Arthur Pigott

contended that the petitioners ought to be heard, and evidence examined at the bar, for the purpose of putting the house in possession of the valuable information which the petitioners could give. It would be too late for them to present their petition when the bill should have passed, and therefore they ought to be heard in this instance. The bill had been originally introduced, not as a revenue bill, but for the purpose of carrying the Orders in Council into effect, and therefore the petition should be considered as applying against the Orders in Council.

Mr. Bankes

agreed in the principle laid down in yesterday's debate; but was of opinion, that the petitioners could not suffer any material injury by having their petition deferred to Monday.

Mr. Tierney

declared, that no eloquence nor any earthly influence should induce him to depart from the line he pursued with respect to this Petition, because he had never stood upon a broader principle than when pressing it. The reason why the title of the bill was rehearsed in this Petition, was because the petitioners were the same parties who had been last night before the house, and they felt it necessary to state a reason for their appearance again as petitioners. The petition yesterday had been rejected, because it had been laid clown by the chair that no petition could be received against a Money bill, but no such authority bore upon the present petition; and he had the authority of the petitioners to state, that they did not petition against the bill, but against the Orders in Council; and the rejection of this petition would lower the house of commons in the estimation of the public.—A division then took place:

For receiving the Petition. 57
Against it 111