§ The order of the day for resuming the adjourned debate having been read,
The chancellor of the Exchequer
rose, and said that before the house proceeded to renew the debate the house proceeded to renew the debate he would beg leave to take that opportunity of making to them a communication which his right hon. friend (Mr. Bathurst) might think with him was of a nature that rendered further proceeding unnecessary. He had, then to state, that on last Saturday morning, after the decision of the house had been known, his royal highness the Duke of York, of his own immediate and spontaneous motion, waited upon his majesty, and tendered to him his Resignation of the Chief Command of his majesty's Army; and that his majesty had been graciously pleased to accept of that resignation; the motives which evidently influenced the mind of his royal highness in taking that step appeared to him, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, to be of a nature so honourable and proper that he was sure, when he had stated them to the house, the house would think of them as he did. The right hon. gentleman then proceeded to read, from a paper he held in his hand, extracts, of which the following is a copy.
"The house of commons having, after a most attentive and laborious investigation of the merits of certain allegations preferred against him, passed a resolution of his innocence, he might now approach his majesty, and might venture to tender to him his resignation of the Chief Command of his majesty's Army, as he could no longer be suspected of acting from any apprehension of the result, nor be accused of having shrunk from the extent of an inquiry which, painful as it had been, he trusted he should appear, even to those who had been disposed to condemn his conduct, to have met with the patience and. firmness which could arise only from a conscious feeling of innocence.—The mo- 713 tive which influenced him arose from the truest sense of duty, and the warmest attachment to his majesty, from which he had never departed, and which his majesty had, if possible, confirmed, by the affectionate and paternal solicitude which he had shown for his son's honour and welfare upon the present distressing occasion. To his majesty, as a most kind and indulgent father, as a most gracious sovereign, he owed every thing; and the feeling of this alone would have prompted him to forego all considerations of personal interest in the determination which he had taken. It would not become him to say that he should not quit with sincere regret a situation in which his majesty's confidence and partiality had placed him, and the duties of which it had been his anxious study and his pride, during 14 years, to discharge with integrity and fidelity. Whether he might be allowed to add, with advantage to his majesty's service, his majesty was best able to decide."
The right hon. gent. then said, that he made this communication, and left it to the house without a comment. Whether the communication of such an important fact did not render any further proceeding unnecessary, he left it to his right hon. friend to determine.
In rising Sir, to express my sentiments upon the motion of which I had given previous notice, it becomes me to bestow peculiar attention upon the communication which has just now been made by my right hon. friend, the Chancellor of the Exchequer. That, Sir, which he has stated for the consideration of the house, is undoubtedly a fact of a most important nature; which at once inclines me to offer a few observations on the subject so long under discussion. There is no person in the country more sensible of the consequences likely to result from this event; there is no person more sensible than I am of the loss which the public will experience and sustain by his royal highness the Duke of York retiring from the command of the army. The many institutions which he was instrumental in commencing and promoting, and the regulations which he thought proper to adopt, have produced many salutary benefits; and what still more increases the importance of that illustrious personage's station, and made it more conducive to the good of the country, was, that by possessing the high rank which individually belonged to him, he 714 was more enabled, because he possessed more authority than any subject of inferior degree, to carry every proper measure and every due regulation into its full effect. At the same time it is my wish to call the attention of gentlemen to the observations which I made on a former night, during the discussion on the Evidence contained in the Report of the Committee, and to bring their recollection to what I then stated to be the grounds of my proposing a certain Resolution to be laid before you, for the consideration of this house. The same reason which actuated me at that time, does not cease to urge me at present to pursue the same line of conduct and the same principles which I was then disposed to adopt; such a mode of procedure still remains unaffected by the communication of the fact just now alluded to by the right hon. gent. The principle, Sir, upon which I have previously assigned my intention to propose a Resolution, by which the house might come to an ultimate decision on the question, is not at all altered; though I am ready to allow the grounds upon which I intended to have acted have become in some degree narrowed, in consequence of what has transpired upon the present occasion. In reverting to the sentiments delivered during the debate, I may venture to declare, I never thought there was any proof of corruption, or criminal connivance at corruption, against this illustrious personage, and I may still further venture to affirm, although his royal highness, amidst those who have defended him from such an accusation, has had advocates of great eloquence and of superior ability, he has not met with a more sincere opponent to these charges of corruption than myself. So far has been my mind from forming an unfavourable opinion on this part of the subject, whereby corrupt practices have been imputed to this illustrious personage, that I can assure the house, I did not harbour even a lurking suspicion of any criminality which could prevent him from going forth into the world with clean hands, and free from the charge of any foul imputation. The house must still bear in recollection, how the question respecting the conduct of the duke of York was brought before their consideration; and they will also recollect how I came to bring forward any distinct motion on the subject. An hon. member, who was the original mover of these proceedings, thought it his duty to propose an Address to his majesty, which 715 went at once to implicate this illustrious personage in the most criminal point of view; to this Address was proposed an amendment, and afterwards the same right hon. gent. who proposed the amendment, thought proper that a Resolution, Aye or No, should be submitted to the consideration of the house, whether there was or was not proof of. corruption or connivance on the part of his royal highness? In the Amendment first proposed to the Address, it went on further, addressing his majesty, saying, that his majesty's faithful commons felt with the greatest regret and concern, that a connexion should have subsisted which had thus exposed his royal highness's character to public calumny; it also expressed a confidence, on the part of this house, that his royal highness would keep in view his majesty's most exemplary conduct, thereby, Sir, drawing a comparison on that occasion. I was therefore led during the discussion to meditate upon these proceedings, and to turn my mind upon the whole course of this most important debate. Looking at the whole of the question which had thus come under our serious consideration, I was of opinion the house should come to a decision, and I was the more induced to think the house ought to adopt such a line of duty, on the present occasion, that they ought to insert such a decision on their Journals, as would contain both example and admonition, because the Resolutions, by way of amendment, proposed by the right hon. the Chancellor of the Exchequer, amounted to no more than a disposal of the question of corruption and criminal connivance. They had no further merit attached to them, but went directly to sponge over every other consideration arising out of the subject; and, what is still another objection, in addition to those which I have already stated, was that of drawing an improper comparison between the example manifested by this illustrious personage, and the eminent virtues which so splendidly adorn the wearer of the crown. I still continue, as I have already said, to think those grounds for my calling upon the house to come to a direct decision on the whole of the proceedings now before us, are not in the least removed; and I conceive it my duty, even since the intervention of what has been communicated, to place on the table some proposition, which, although it does away the charge and imputation of any corruption, does not wipe away every 716 thing else that calls forth our serious attention amidst the whole of the evidence adduced before us, to support the accusation. In doing this, Sir, I am peruaded I shall be found only to act in compliance with the general feelings of the house. If it be considered how this subject was first of all taken up by me, and in that precise view which I have thought proper to explain, and to take up a considerable portion of time in detailing before the house, it will not be deemed extraordinary when I declare the resignation of his royal highness does not make any change with respect to my intended proposition. I certainly do not acquiesce in any opinion which may have been delivered by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, or any other member, which should preclude observations upon what is brought at this time before our determination. If any inference should be drawn, which might tend to induce the house to come to any other result upon the conduct of his royal highness than that proposed by the original charges, the house having come to a certain determination, would have exhibited the propriety of removal, or of the acceptance of resignation. In submitting the Resolution which I am about to propose, it will not be my wish to detain the time of the house by entering into all the observations which I was led to make on a former night, nor to recapitulate all the arguments which I then stated. Neither, Sir, do I consider it necessary to enter into many arguments at this time, for the purpose of shewing how and in what manner the evidence justifies the Resolution proposed. If any blame attach to another quarter from adopting it, I would only wish that gentlemen will not suppose the stigma rises out of my Resolution, but proceeds from those facts which have transpired in the course of the evidence. And surely there can be no impropriety, since the house has been examining into the origin of the complaints made, and has found it to exist in a connexion, which even his royal highness laments himself, that they should come to a determination of expressing their disapprobation of what they are convinced has taken place. Disapprobation, on the ground of morality alone, would not perhaps justify calling for the interference of the House of Commons. I am not aware, after having paid great attention to the formation of the present Resolution, that it contains any thing whatever, which is not borne out by the evidence. His royal highness's resigna- 717 tion certainly precludes much more being said upon the subject. I shall only consider it necessary to desire the house will duly appreciate one important consideration. We ought, on a question like the present, to come to some final Resolution, so that our journals may shew we have done our duty. The house, Sir, on its Journals, has acquitted this illustrious personage of all criminality in respect to corruption or connivance, but he is not acquitted of irregularity and negligence. How will it be in regard to our proceedings, if we do not get quit of the subject before the house by a proposition of this description? Why, here is a letter of the Duke of York, on our Journals, declaring his royal highness's in nocence; here is also a communication made this day, and yet there is not any thing on our Journals to save this illustrious personage from condemnation. For although he is declared to be innocent of criminality, as far as connivance and corruption extend, yet there is other evidence which fully imputes to him the charge of irregularity and negligence. It was, Sir, with great pain, I considered myself called upon, early in the debate, to make a proposition of the nature of this I am about to submit to the sober consideration of this house. I know there are others who view this question differently from myself, who are more violent, who are much dissatisfied with what has already been done, and who altogether entertain opposite sentiments to my own; for I can assure the house, I have, from the first, if not impelled by duty, felt an objection in inviting parliament to form their opinion on the conduct of this royal personage. But persuaded in what way I am bound to discharge my duty on the question I would impress upon the house, I see no reason why they should not come to this Resolution, although the illustrious personage has thought proper to resign. This, Sir, I contend, ought to be their conduct, because a great cause is at issue, the cause of justice between two parties of important consequence, between the public on one side, and this illustrious personage on the other, and this house ought to decide. I do not in the mean time believe a more judicious decision can be come to, than what shall be at once both an admonition, and an example. I shall now, Sir, detain the time of the house no longer, but shall submit the following Resolution:—"That while this house acknowledges the beneficent effects 718 of the Regulations adopted and acted upon by his royal highness, in the general discharge of his duties as Commander in Chief, it is observed with the deepest regret, that in consequence of a connexion the most immoral and unbecoming, a communication on official subjects, and an interference in the distribution of military appointments and promotions, have been allowed to exist; which could not but tend to discredit the official administration of his royal highness, and to give colour and effect, as they have actually done, to transactions the most criminal and disgraceful."
§ Sir William Curtis
spoke shortly in favour of this Resolution, and thought there were some things on the table which ought not to go unnoticed.
said, that there were one or two positions advanced by the right hon. gent, who had just sat down, in which he could not entirely concur. With regard to the regret of the right hon. gent. for the resignation of the Duke of York, he admitted that it was a great loss to lose the services of those who had, while in office, efficiently discharged their duty, but the loss of the services of the Duke of York was considerably lessened, when they recollected in what manner it had been proved at their bar that royal duke discharged his duty. He differed also from that right hon. gent., as to the great use and importance he thought proper to attach to the elevated rank of that illustrious person. He (lord Althorpe) was rather disposed to think that such high rank and affinity to the throne, were not the most recommendatory qualifications for the most responsible situation under the Crown; (Hear ! hear!) and he appealed to those who heard him, if, in the course of the late proceedings, their debates were not, in some degree, influenced by considerations of delicacy, inseparable from any discussion involving the character and honour of one so near his majesty; and therefore, it did appear to him to be of the greatest importance that no person should, for the future, be called to such high situations but such as could be completely responsible (Hear! hear!). Another assertion of the right hon. gent, went to the total acquittal of the Duke of York, as to corruption or connivance. It was not necessary now, perhaps, to go into this, but as it was mentioned, he would state, that he did think the Duke of York had been proved guilty of connivance at the corrupt practices which had taken place; and if his royal 719 highness had continued in office, he thought that the house must have gone farther, and passed a sentence upon him that would have rendered his resignation unavoidable. With regard to their subsequent proceedings, he was of opinion, that the question stood in a state in which the house of Commons ought not to suffer it to remain. He wished to place it on the Journals, that the Duke of York had resigned. This notification would give consistency to the entire character of their proceedings, and bring it to its proper close, at the same time satisfactorily accounting why it was closed. Not, however, that he would be understood to say that he considered removal from office a constitutional punishment; but it would be in this case so far effective, as to preclude the possibility of that royal Duke being ever re-appointed to a situation he has proved himself so incompetent to fill. No man could, or ought to hold that important situation, who was not in full possession of the confidence of the country. The Duke of York had forfeited that confidence. He had lost the confidence of the country for ever, and by consequence he must abandon all hopes of ever again returning to that situation. This was a severe lesson, but it was as salutary as it was severe; it would prove to all who might succeed that royal Duke, that it was not within the power of any sovereign, however beloved, or confided in, to protect his most favoured servant from the just consequences of the mal-administration of his public duty. The noble lord then concluded with moving, " That his royal highness the Duke of York having resigned the command of the Army, this house does not now think it necessary to proceed any farther in the consideration of the Evidence before the Committee appointed to inquire into the conduct of his royal highness, as far as that Evidence related to his royal highness the Duke of York."
§ Mr. Whitshed Keene
rose and said:— Mr. Speaker, I am one of those who would have thought it his duty to support the Resolution which the right bon. gent. has laid before the house, if the event this day announced by the Chancellor of the Exchequer had not taken place. I beg leave to submit to the house the reasons which would have determined my vote in the former case, and those which induce me to think those Resolutions inexpedient at present. When the house, after a laborious disscussion of all the circumstances of the 720 evidence adduced in support of the baser part of the charges, had acquitted the royal Duke, it appeared to me to be their imperious duty to animadvert on those minor parts which were so supported as to leave not a doubt in any man's mind that transactions most disgraceful and degrading to government had taken place, in consequence of the influence which the letters before the house prove to have been acquired by a profligate woman over the mind of the Commander in Chief. The weakness and irregularities of those in private stations stand between their conscience and their God. If the same weaknesses are proved before this house to have existed in a great officer of the state, and to have produced degrading consequences, it is its duty to require adequate satisfaction to the public. Every officer in this country, from the first magistrate (the king excepted) down to the lowest, is held under personal responsibility to this house. The king alone is wisely excepted, because his ministers are personally responsible for his acts of state: and if this house is convinced of any malpractices in the ministers, the crown cannot screen them from the censures of this house. It behoves it to adhere most closely to this principle, as it was the want of it, which during so many centuries, under the Planta-genets, Tudors, and Stuarts, caused the scaffolds of this country to be so often stained with blood, and its jails filled with arbitrary imprisonment; which left it in the power of the crown and its ministers to sell the dearest interests of this country to its enemies; as the authentic memoirs of preceding times have proved. From the time this principle was established, by the expulsion of the Stuart family, these horrors ceased. Since the illustrious family of Brunswick was invited to the throne of these realms, no doubt has been entertained of the loyalty of the crown and its advisers to the interest of Great Britain, although great difference of opinion has often prevailed as to the ability and wisdom of the measures. As the preservation of the liberty of the country, and of the influence of this house over the people, depends on the due vindication of this vital principle, so I am persuaded our present venerable sovereign is too enlightened at present not to feel that the security of the crown in his illustrious family is no less eventually interested in it. His majesty, born and bred in this country, having filled its throne near half a century, must know the mighty share 721 this house must have in tempering and regulating the feelings of the people of England: he must know that the crown of this country stands not on, superstition or an armed force, but on the more permanent support of a conviction in the minds of an immense majority of its inhabitants, that monarchy, limited as it is by the constitution, is the form of government best calculated to afford the enjoyment of rational liberty which has been devised by the wit of man during the progress of successive ages. As long as the sober part of the community shall be satisfied that their representatives will vindicate the privileges of this house, by animadverting on the abuse of the prerogative of the crown, as the case may require, so long will it be able to be a barrier against wild democracy. Much has been said, in the course of the present debates, on the members of this house yielding to popular clamour, while others assert that it is deaf to the voice of the people. If I am not mistaken in the object of the cunning artificers of the British constitution, their view was to give the people due weight with the government of the country, and at the same time to avoid those evils which have afflicted all governments where the people individually decided on public measures, as was the case in the Athenian and the latter periods of the Roman Republics. The anarchy, oppression, and bloodshed which prevailed in those unhappy states are as well known to the enlightened body of men, which compose a British House of Commons, as it is that foreign conquest and internal despotism were the sequel of that state of things. Anarchy begets despotism, which is again followed by oppression; oppression begets resistance and revolution, and they thus succeed each other in a perpetual round. To avoid these evils, and at the same time give the people their due weight, our artificers devised their chusing representatives from among themselves, over whom they must have great influence, but who, being at the same time almost universally men, whose circumstances in life have exempted from the necessity of bodily labour, have had leisure to acquire the advantages of education and reflection, which the situation of the lower class of mankind will not admit. An assemblage of men of this description, though they will have the people always in view, will also think it their duty to stem the intemperance which a mass of well meaning but uneducated men may be apt to run into. He is 722 not more unworthy to be a representative of the people, who acts always at the nod of the crown, than he who conducts himself always arbitrio popularis aur. What is called a tool of the crown is not more dangerous to the happiness of the people than he who is a pander to their passions. They will both betray what they were sent here to protect, and are equally foreign to what it was intended a representative of the people should be. In this view of the duty of a member of parliament, I should have voted for the Resolutions proposed by the right hon. gentleman (Mr. Bathurst), in the persuasion that on the affirmative of these Resolutions by this house it was impossible the royal Duke could continue in office, and I considered his relinquishing that great trust as an amende honorable for the injury done to the public by his indiscretions, and that it vindicated the constitutional authority of this house, by proving that every man in this country, whatever may be his rank, who fills an office of trust, is responsible de facto as well as de jure for every thing that passes in the office he holds. Without this proof I should have thought the sober thinking part of the community would have had a right to complain that their representatives had failed in this most important part of their duty, and that responsibility, though held forth in words, was a nullity in practice, when applied to persons of that elevated rank. Should this opinion prevail amongst the reflecting part of the nation, then indeed serious apprehensions might be entertained that the public mind would be disturbed as to the safety of the constitution under the present checks on the prerogative of the crown, and that the limitations established at the Revolution, and on the accession of the present illustrious dynasty, were hot adequate to protect the public against the injuries which may arise from the sons of the crown being placed in offices of high trust. Perhaps some well intentioned warm minds may think, that on the present occasion enough has not been done by this house; but I rely on the good sense of the people of England, when they reflect on all the circumstances attending persons and things, they will see enough has been done to attain the substantial object of proving that no rank in this happy country can preserve in office a person who by weakness or irregularities in conduct injures the public. Those who attended to the progress of opinion in this house, during the 12 nights 723 laborious inquisition into the disgusting transactions which were laid before the committee, had no doubt, but that, though the royal Duke might, from the nature of the evidence and of those who gave it on the baser part of the charge, be acquitted, yet, that it was impossible the remaining part of his conduct could escape animadversion, from this house. Accordingly we have seen that the Resolutions proposed by Mr. Wardle, which considered all the charges as proved, were supported only by a minority of 125. It is to be remarked that before the house came to a division on them, two other sets of Resolutions were also laid before it, those the right hon. gent. (Mr. Bathurst) has now read, which appeared to me sufficiently strong to oblige the royal Duke to resign, and those of Mr. Bankes, which were something stronger. There were then before the house three sets of Resolutions. That all those members who considered themselves in the light of jurymen (I shall not Stop at present to enquire whether a member of this house ought or ought not so to consider himself) should vote against Mr. Wardle's Resolutions, is not surprizing, as I am persuaded they would have done so on the same evidence before a court of justice. On the division which next took place on Mr. Bankes's Resolutions, the minority increased to 199. It is to be remembered that if Mr. Wardle's and Mr. Bankes's were negatived, those of Mr. Bathurst remained to be decided on by the house. It was plain that, if this had not been so, the minority on Mr. Bankes's would have been much more numerous, and there could be little doubt, but that if Mr. Bathurst's had been proposed before the resignation of the Commander-in-Chief, they would have been supported by a majority of this house, and it was obvious, if the effect had not been produced, the house would not have stopped there.
It is true the royal Duke, in his letter to the Chancellor of the Exchequer, announcing his resignation, does not allude to any effect produced on his mind by what has passed here on this subject; but it is plain his advisers saw what would have been the consequence if he had not resigned, and that, had not the house thus shewed itself, a resignation would not have taken place; but actions are more emphatic than words. The fact of the resignation establishes this salutary truth, that the sons of the crown, if a great public office is confided to them, 724 are de facto, as well as de jure, responsible to this house, if any misconduct in them should be proved before it.
When a favourite son of our much loved, much respected monarch, a son, who, having been Captain General, and Commander in Chief during 14 years, had the means of attaching so many military and near connexions of the military in this house; a son, to whom much credit is due, for having introduced institutions and regulations well calculated to improve and maintain the efficiency of our army, has thus been made responsible, no doubt can remain in present or future times on that subject. If it was possible that any future sons of future monarchs of this country, surrounded as they probably will be, with flattery from the moment of their birth, should lose sight of this sacred principle of our constitution, this fact must recall to their' minds that this house will not acquiesce in their holding offices of great trust, if consequences injurious to the public have been proved to have proceeded from misconduct in them. But the amende honorable having being made by this resignation, I am now disposed to concur in the proposition that no further proceedings are necessary.
As I know how disorderly it would be to introduce the king, as having any influence on an opinion to be given in this house, I shall abstain from such irregularity, but I will say that if the son of a venerable private gentleman, who by the observance of all moral and religious duties had acquired the respect and affection of his neighbours, could be brought before this house on a case similar to that now before it, I should say, My paramount duty is, to take care that the case should be so marked as to deter others from similar misconduct; this object being attained, my mind would then feet for such a father, and I would say, I will not give him an additional pang. If these feelings would not be reprehensible in such a case, I conceive that, as the advantages to the public from exemplary manners, are in proportion to the elevation in rank, I cannot be less disposed on the present occasion Co concur with the amended motion, that the Duke of York having resigned, no further proceeding is necessary.
thought, that although this motion was not so necessary after the resignation as before it, yet still it was proper for the house to express its sentiments upon those other points, which their 725 former votes bad not included. He had to complain of some misrepresentations of what he had formerly said upon the subject of this investigation; for he was convinced there was no part of the conduct of his royal highness that could deserve that degree of reprehension which he was stated to have expressed. This much be should say, however, upon the immorality disclosed in this business, that although it did not fall to the house to take cognizance of private immorality, yet when it had a public effect upon official duties, it unquestionably should come before them, and it was their duty to express their sentiments regarding it. Under such circumstances as the present, it became peculiarly ruinous for the mistresses of princes to interfere with the army, and therefore it was highly necessary the house should express its sentiments upon such an occasion. There was not one word of that motion which was not perfectly verified, for surely it could not be denied, that a connexion, the most indecorous, had subsisted, and had had an influence on official duties; an undue interference of a female having taken place in regard to army promotions, and which had led to all those transactions which, were most injurious in their consequences. The only objection he had to the Resolution was, that it did not disclose the degree of culpability that had been displayed by the evidence adduced at the bar.
§ Mr. Cartwright
stated, that his intention was to have voted with the right hon. gent, who had proposed this resolution, as he thought the Duke of York culpable, so far as it expressed that culpability; but now, since his royal highness had resigned, the necessity of the house going further was entirely done away. Resignation, in his opinion, was a sufficient atonement, under existing circumstances; and his royal highness had evidently acted the more manly and prudent part in postponing it till after their decision. As to the Amendment proposed by the noble lord, it was, no doubt, extremely consistent with the opinions which that noble lord had expressed; but it was certainly going too far when it implied that his royal highness should never attain any high or responsible situation. Upon the whole, therefore, he thought it was quite unnecessary for the house to adopt either the Resolution or the Amendment.
observed, that not having had an opportunity of expressing his senti- 726 ments in regard to the Charges against his royal highness, the house, he hoped, would pardon him for saying a few words upon the subject in general, after stating that he dissented from both the Resolution and the Amendment proposed. He thought there was nothing that should induce the house to interfere with the royal prerogative. There was, no doubt, a strong feeling to be satisfied; but, at the same time, the people of England were not so extravagant in their wishes and ideas, as not to be satisfied with the decision which the house had already expressed, after having gone so minutely into details of the evidence in every point of view. The house had now come to two Resolutions, vindicating his royal highness; and it was now understood, he was no longer Commander-in-Chief. He could not help being sorry for that circumstance; but what would the people of this country have more? He could not help thinking that as the Duke of York was above ministerial influence, it was a matter of serious consideration with the public, that such an individual should be at the head of the army. Ministers might be changed, but a person of the Duke of York's rank and consequence in society would still remain in his situation as Commander-in-Chief. If another individual possessed that high and important situation, he must be necessarily subject to the influence of ministers, change when they change, and retire from office when they retire; so that the power of ministers would have a double operation in regard to influence. In the present instance, it appeared to him that the private connexion that subsisted between the royal Duke and Mrs. Clarke had had no operation injurious to the public welfare, and no effect upon the army. There was, indeed, a wrong and reprehensible influence subsisting between her and the Duke, but he could not see that that influence touched upon the interest or promotion of any officer whatever; for wherever officers had a proper right and claim to be advanced, according to the beneficial rules established in the army, they had an opportunity afforded them. All those that were appointed or promoted were only such as were deemed worthy of being so, and therefore parliament had no occasion to interfere with the prerogative of the crown. Neither of the Resolutions were necessary; but in his opinion a third might be passed, expressive of how far promotions in the army had been effected by private influ- 727 ence; a Resolution declaring, that although private influence appeared to have existed, yet that his royal highness had never promoted officers, otherwise than by his being satisfied those officers deserved it, according to the rules and regulations established in the army. If there should be a third Resolution proposed to that effect, he should support it.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer
said, that after the communication he had had the honour to make, he did think the house and his right hon. friend would have been of opinion that to proceed farther was wholly unnecessary; if, however, it was considered proper to proceed, he could have no objection to meet the discussion. With respect to the proposed Resolution and Amendment, he could only say, he preferred the Amendment to the original Resolution, but he could not agree even to the Amendment, unless it was farther amended, as he considered it by no means unexceptionable. He did justice to the motives which actuated his rt. hon. friend (Mr. Bathurst), who, he believed, throughout the whole business, had ever given his vote as the best feelings of his heart dictated; but he could not accede to the proposed Resolution, as he thought much censure was contained in it with little foundation. Convinced as he was of the Duke of York's innocence, he could at no time have given it his approbation; at no stage of the proceedings could such a Resolution have received his support; if, then, such a procedure would not have appeared just to him at any period of the investigation, it certainly was not to be expected that he could now give it his suffrage, when the Duke of York, by voluntarily resigning his situation, had given the most ample atonement he could possibly be desired to make by his right hon. friend, a greater than he could have expected: nay more, a greater than he could have asked. He objected most particularly to the word ' now' in the proposed Amendment; if his ideas were correct, the noble lord distinctly stated corruption, and connivance proved; if he (Mr. Perceval) was of that opinion, he should undoubtedly think effectual measures ought to be taken to guard against his ever being placed again at the head of the army. But he, for his part, was naturally of opinion that his royal highness was wholly innocent of corruption or connivance, and the house had negatived the charges preferred against him. If he un- 728 derstood right, the house, in adopting such a Resolution, would countenance that which had so recently been dismissed with their negative. The noble lord had made some observations on the impropriety of placing one of the royal family in a responsible office, from the difficulties which obstructed any proceedings instituted against one so near to the throne, through the delicacy which must necessarily be observed, while endeavouring to make a person thus situated amenable to the laws of his country. Now, he did think, if there was a time when that assertion appeared to be unfounded, it was at the present, for he was not aware that in the course of the recent investigation any peculiar difficulties had retarded their proceedings, and he really was unable to perceive that they had been withheld by any peculiar delicacy, from prosecuting their inquiries, as they otherwise would have done had the Commander in Chief been of less exalted rank. He did not see, after negativing the charges brought forward, how the house could, consistently with its dignity, exclude his royal highness from the army for ever; had not the noble lord made use of the word ' now', he (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) would have been at a loss to comprehend the drift of his Amendment; but it appeared to him unjust thus to reserve to themselves the right of again reviving their proceedings against his royal highness at any future period. He did think the punishment so disproportionate, that he thought every one who had voted for acquitting the Duke of corruption and connivance would agree with him in the propriety of expunging the word 'now' from the Amendment: he therefore should move as an Amendment on the noble lord's Amendment, that the word 'now' be expunged.
had objections to some words in the Resolution, although he agreed with the right hon. gent. in many points of his speech. He agreed with him, that for the credit of the house something more was necessary than had already been done, and he had therefore been anxious the other night, that it should not go forth to the public that the business was finished. Having differed from the majority of the house on a former occasion, he knew with what delicacy he must advert to past proceedings. But he could not help observing, that the character of the house was greatly involved in this transaction, and he 729 hoped, that if any harsh opinions had been entertained of the house, its conduct on this occasion would banish them.
§ Mr. Manning
had chearfully acquitted the Duke of York of any corrupt practices, but he could not acquit him of having permitted an undue influence, and would, therefore, vote for the Resolution.
§ Sir Charles Price
did not think his royal highness guilty of corruption, but, at the same time, he found from the evidence something highly censurable in the Duke of York's conduct, and therefore he would vote for the Resolution, as he conceived it due to the country, that the opinion of the house should be recorded, with a view to its acting as a prevention of such practices in future.
considered it absolutely necessary that some cause should appear on the Journals of the house, why the present, proceedings should cease. If the Duke's Letter, which the right hon. gent. had communicated, had been addressed to the house, it would have been a different thing; but all the house had heard was a speech; which could not be entered on their Journals and commented upon. The noble lord could agree in the Amendment of his noble friend, and in no part more cordially than in the word 'now.' It was certainly very unfit that the Duke of York should ever return to his command, after the corruption of which many members had believed him guilty; and if the noble lord agreed to the word for that reason, many might agree to it for other reasons, on account of the Duke's indiscretion, or his loss of the public confidence. The right hon. the Chancellor of the Exchequer had taken an-objection to what his noble friend had said upon the subject of the royal family's holding places of trust. The noble speaker felt the position of his noble friend to be perfectly true; and however long the house might have been enquiring into the Duke's conduct, asked whether if he had been any other person than a royal Duke, he would not long ago have been removed from his situation? The noble lord was glad to find the right hon. gent, intended to support his noble friend's Amendment, and then those gentlemen who preferred it, as it originally stood, to the right hon. gent.'s Amendment of it, would have an opportunity of declaring such opinion.
said, he had intended to have given a silent vote upon this occasion- 730 but after what he had heard stated, he felt it necessary to make a few observations. We had already seen that in all the monarchies and states of Europe, promotions in the army had generally taken place by means of the mistresses of princes, and therefore nothing had taken place in the present instance that could be deemed extraordinary nor unexpected. He did sincerely wish that this matter might be allowed to rest, but if any thing more must be done, be confessed he would rather vote for the Amendment than for the motion, with the exception of the word 'now.'
Sir John Sebright
supported the Amendment, reserving to himself the right of giving his subsequent opinion as to the word 'now.'
§ Earl Temple.
It was not my intention, Sir, to have troubled the house this night: but from what has fallen from the right honourable the Chancellor of the Exchequer, I feel it impossible to give a silent vote. A report had been prevalent previous to my entering the house, that the Duke of York had resigned; and I had made up my mind on the naked fact of his resignation, that no further proceedings were necessary. Had the mere statement of the fact been unaccompanied by the observations of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, I should have acquiesced in his wishes, without thinking it necessary to offer an observation. But, Sir, the facts which he has assumed, are so totally at variance with my opinions, and with what has been proved, that it is impossible for me to conform to the desire he has expressed, of suspending all further proceedings, and shall most certainly give my vote for the amendment suggested by my noble friend. Sir, I cannot but deeply lament, that, considering the Duke of York thought proper to address this house by letter, during the investigation of the charges which had been adduced by the hon. gent. he should have permitted the important fact of his resignation to have been communicated to us by an extract or copy of a letter to his majesty, through the medium of the Chancellor of the Exchequer; or that such a communication; which cannot be recorded on the Journals of the house, should have been made the foundation of a measure of public importance, so great as that of suddenly desisting from the decision of a question, which has now occupied, unceasingly, the attention of the house from the beginning of February. Sir, I must say, it would have been more 731 satisfactory to me, had the Chancellor of the Exchequer made a verbal communication, without reference to the letter of resignation addressed to his majesty, than that this house should receive the intimation of so important an event at second hand; and I must confess myself to be greatly at a loss to comprehend 'the propriety, which, having dictated a letter to the house of commons at one period of the investigation, should have deemed it unnecessary in the present instance to make a direct communication, by the same mode of address which he had already, in a previous stage of the business, found it expedient to adopt. The Chancellor of the Exchequer states, that the Duke of York withheld his resignation until his innocence had been clearly manifested. Now, Sir, feeling as I do, that although on one point his innocence was so far manifested, that by the Resolution of this house he is declared to be acquitted of direct and personal corruption, I must most seriously and solemnly protest against the general assertion, that the innocence of his royal highness has been clearly manifested in the enlarged and extended sense of that expression, as it was introduced and applied by the right hon. gent.; for, Sir, it must be apparent to every gentleman in this house, that the complete and absolute innocence of the Duke of York on every part of the charges against him has not been substantiated. The discussion before the house was not terminated, and if the Chancellor of the Exchequer had not made the communication we have heard this night, the house was prepared to proceed on a very strong and material point; I mean, Sir, the conduct of Mrs. Clarke, whose interference a very large proportion of this house appears to have thought utterly inconsistent with that cautious purity of official conduct which the public had a right to expect from the Commander in Chief of the military force of the British empire. This, Sir, was a part of the accusation which had not been disposed of, and on which we should have unquestionably come to a vote. Can it then be said, Sir, that the innocence of the Duke of York has been already fully proved? Sir, I wil1 not pretend to say, what might have been the vote of this house on that question; but I do affirm, that the facts do not bear out the statement of the innocence of the Duke of York having been fully proved. The influence of the Duke of York had been used by 732 Mrs. Clarke to obtain the unwarrantable appointment of improper persons; and until that accusation be disposed of, it is too much to tell the house that the innocence of the Duke of York is fully proved. Sir, the Chancellor of the Exchequer having, as he conceives, made good his ground by the assumption of this false position, proceeds consecutively to inform us, that it cannot be supposed that the resignation of the Duke of York was produced by any apprehension of the consequences of this discussion. Sir, the correctness of this assertion I will not take upon me to doubt; but this I will say, that it would have well become the advisers of his royal highness to have refrained from any thing which could be construed into a tone of defiance. Sir, it would have been more decorous to have recommended his royal highness to have admitted, that his resignation was not wholly uninfluenced by the strongly avowed sentiments and opinions that have been expressed not only in this house, but throughout the united empire; that his resignation was not ex mero motu, not the result solely of his own pleasure, but in some degree, however inconsiderable, in deference to the sentiments of a considerable proportion of this house, and to those of a very large majority of the British public. Sir, it would have been no disgrace to the understanding of the Duke of York, or his advisers, professed or otherwise, to have said, "I bow to the opinion of the country, on the incompatibility of my retaining the high office of Commander in Chief in opposition to the voice of the people; they have generously and justly acquitted me of that accusation, under a conviction of which life would have been an insupportable burthen—direct and personal corruption or participation; I therefore withdraw myself from a situation which I can no longer fill with satisfaction, because it is not in unison with the feelings of the country." The people, Sir, would have felt this; and it is not easy to appreciate the effect which might have been produced by a dignified and manly appeal to the generosity of the British nation; but to assume as a proof of absolute innocence a half-pronounced sentence of acquittal, is that to which I can never agree. To close the door against all future proceedings, by this presumptuous assumption of that which is not yet proved, is that against which I will ever loudly protest. Sir, I will not admit that the resignation of the Duke of York has been uninfluenced 733 by his dread of the event of the inquiry and discussion of this house. But, Sir, if we had not received this communication of the resignation of his royal highness from the right hon. gent., I cannot but hope that the decision of this house would have been consistent with the firmness by which it ought ever to be characterised. It would not have been enough to have expressed our opinion indirectly, to have censured by a side wind; the Crown ought not to have been left to collect our opinion by insinuations, suspicions, or inferences; it becomes the Commons of England to speak out plainly, broadly, and in such a manner as to prevent the possibility of being misunderstood. Sir, the Duke of York having resigned, the object which the house of commons had in view is attained; and I am the last man in this house who would urge any question beyond its fair, candid, and rational bearing. An impeachment has more than once been mentioned; but I disclaim all idea of the necessity or propriety of any such measure; it is, in my opinion, a subject not to be agitated. I am merely anxious to support the dignity of this house and of the people, whose representatives we are, by protesting against the admission of a fact which is assumed, not proved, the entire innocence of the Duke of York; and I, therefore, in consequence of the assertion on that point of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, shall certainly vote for the Amendment of my noble friend.
§ Mr. Davies Giddy
could not approve of the opinion, that, because the house had acquitted his royal highness of corruption, it had done enough; for he was one that always thought the house ought to inquire more particularly into all the existing abuses, with a view of reprimanding that officer, and expressing a decided opinion upon his conduct. He certainly had formed a decided opinion that no grounds existed for charging his royal highness with corruption; but still there were minor subjects which were to Vie considered, and he thought the general impression was, that the Duke had acted improperly, and it was therefore necessary to express that sentiment to the public. The right hon. the Chancellor of the Exchequer had already expressed an opinion, Unit he wished his royal highness to go from that house without any ambiguity existing as to his conduct; if, then, the ambiguity as to the major charge, namely, that of corruption, 734 was done away with, was it not equally necessary that no ambiguity should exist, as to the minor one, namely, that of suspicion and misconduct? It therefore appeared to him, that there could be no better mode of clearing the whole matter from ambiguity, than by their expressing an opinion of how far blame attached to him. He could not see that the Amendment was more severe in expressing those feelings than the motion itself, and indeed no expressions more gentle and delicate could be used for that purpose, even the word 'now' admitted.
§ Mr. Hiley Addington
said, it seemed to be imagined by the right hon. gentleman opposite, that this was a mode of bringing forward, by a side-wind, that which had been formerly attempted, without success. He should hope that there were none capable of the meanness of endeavouring to do that indirectly, which they had not the courage of doing openly and avowedly. As to popular clamour, which had been so much alluded to, he must confess that there was no one who held it in greater contempt than he did; but there was evidently a difference between popular clamour and public opinion. What, he would ask, were the sentiments of the thinking, the observing, and the most enlightened part of the community? Were they not such as had been represented, and ought not the house more or less to support that opinion? It was argued that the public were just as capable of forming a correct opinion and judgment of the case before them as the house could do, it being clearly a matter of evidence; but that he should deny, because it was well known that that evidence had been very incorrectly stated, not, perhaps, wilfully so, nor partially, but merely incorrectly, on account of the numerous inconveniences and laborious duties to which reporters were subjected. Those who had attended to the evidence as it was adduced at the bar, were certainly therefore much more capable of forming a correct judgment, than the public could do out of doors. It was only after the most attentive reading of the whole of that evidence, that he had been able to form an opinion upon any particular part of it; and he certainty thought, that upon an occasion of this kind, every member of the house of commons was bound to act upon his own conviction, and not listen, nor he guided by public opinion, and far less by popular clamour. Notwithstanding these corrupt 735 practices that existed, he was convinced that no appointments had been made by his royal highness except of men of merit. He should, therefore, most decidedly dissent from the Amendment of the noble lord. Worded as it was, nothing on earth could induce him to consent to it, but he had no objection to agree with the Resolution of his right hon. friend.
§ Mr. H. Thornton
was at first doubtful whether he should support the Resolution or the Amendment, but he now rather preferred the Amendment. The Duke of York had certainly displayed a great laxity of principle, in cases not immediately connected with his official situation, as in those of Kennett and O'Meara, and on these he wished to express an opinion. As his royal highness had resigned, he would content himself with voting for the Amendment, but wished the word 'now' to be struck out.
§ Mr. Whitbread.
Sir; Lassata et satiata as the house must necessarily be with all debate on the subject of the late enquiries, I must however press myself upon your notice, in order that I may state the grounds upon which I shall vote for the Amendment which has been proposed by my noble friend, behind me (lord Althorpe) in a speech as free from all affectation as it was full of ability. To have voted for the Resolution of the right hon. gentleman(Mr. Bathurst)I should have found quite impossible. From the known gravity of the right hon. gentleman who lately spoke (Mr. Hiley Addington,) and from the imposing manner in which he addressed the house, I cannot suppose he meant any thing jocose upon so serious a subject: yet I confess, I had some difficulty in determining whether he intended to be serious, or ironieal, when he said that the proposition of his right hon. friend would have a manifest tendency to facilitate the continuance of the Duke of York in the office of Commander in Chief. I do, however, believe, from the best consideration I can give the subject, that the hon. gentleman was really serious in an assertion so whimsically paradoxical. Is it not monstrous to suppose that it can be declared, in the Resolution supported by the right honourable gentleman, that this house sees, 736 with deep regret, the improper influence of such a person as Mrs. Clarke has been suffered to exist; that such influence has led to official misconduct; and that such a Resolution which so degrades the Commander in Chief, will facilitate his continuance in office? Sir, the record of such a Resolution upon your journals would in my mind for ever exclude him from that high station: nor can there, I am certain, be any one gentleman in this house, except those who have already given their opinions on that Resolution, who can imagine that the Duke could have continued a single hour in office after the passing of such a vote. With regard to that part of the Resolution which compliments his royal highness for his conduct in his official situation, the eulogium appears to me to be ill placed. I do not see the propriety of introducing in an Address, in which certain parts of the conduct of his royal highness are blamed, a compliment to other parts of his conduct which are not called in question. I am very far from intending to deprive the Duke of York of any part of the merit he can justly claim; but I cannot bring myself to admit that his conduct can with propriety be condemned and applauded in the same Resolution. With regard to the morality of the case, it is no longer time to read a lecture on morality. The Duke of York has resigned. Whether that resignation has proceeded from the innate consciousness of his own innocence confirmed by the division of the house: whether it has resulted from a deference to the opinion of a distinguished minority: whether he has yielded to that growing opinion on the subject of corruption, which was easily to be traced; or whether having been acquitted of direct corruption or participation, he apprehended this house would come to a vote, by a considerable majority, upon the subject of the improper influence of Mrs. Clarke and her agents, and therefore thought it more prudent to resign, it is not material to inquire. The Duke of York has resigned; that important object has been attained. The Chancellor of the Exchequer in the course of these proceedings has frequently attacked my hon. friends, for having deserted their original purpose. Sir, I think we may with much more justice retort upon the right hon. gentleman and his friends, the accusation of having, abandoned their purpose, and deserted the cause of the Duke of York. After having repeatedly declared his unqualified belief of the entire in- 737 nocenee of the Duke of York; after having expatiated upon the services rendered by the Duke of York to the army, and the loss the country would sustain by his removal, I cannot conceive upon what principle the right, hon. gent, could advise his majesty to accept of his royal highness's resignation. Every gentleman on that side of the house has declared his firm opinion of the high importance of the services of the Duke of York, and the great loss which the country would sustain by his retirement from the head of the army: why, then, if the Duke was innocent in the eyes of the right hon. gentleman, did he desert him in the hour of his difficulty? Sir, it was his duty, if he acted consistently with his declarations in this house, to have advised his majesty on no account to have accepted the resignation of the Duke of York; or, if he did so, and could not prevail with his advice, in a matter of such immense importance, why does he continue in the situation he now holds? On the part of myself, and those who have spoken their sentiments on the same side of the question, it is sufficient that the Duke of York has resigned. That object was all we had in view. Those who believe that he has been guilty of connivance, and do not agree with the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that the guilt of connivance is paramount to that of corruption in the basest sense—are satisfied with the resignation; and the country will, I believe, be satisfied also. After the resignation of his royal highness, I cannot be a party to any attacks upon him. Amongst the many circumstances which have attended this inquiry, that, of the extraordinary anxiety of two worthy baronets, members for the City of London, who have favoured us with their sentiments to night, in support of the motion of the right hon. gentleman, is not the least curious. After long silence and inactivity, they come up, puffing and blowing, quite out of breath; but, unluckily for them, just a day after the fair. To be sure they have the triumph of jumping upon the dead carcase, which when living they dared not even look at. Here they are in at the death! how anxious, how keen, how active! can there be a doubt of their intention to give a vote against the Duke of York? Let their constituents, whose interests are their dear and only pursuit in life, see what they are made of! I shall, I own, be a little glad, if the bright project of these worthy baronets should be completely foiled, by the withdrawing of 738 the motion (Hear, hear!). An exception has been taken, Sir, to the word "Now," which I conceive to be essential to the Amendment. By discarding the word Now you leave room to suppose that the reinstatement of the Duke of York in the office of Commander is probable. Sir, I have said that I was assured the country would derive full satisfaction from the resignation; but if it is suspected that the Duke of York is to be reinstated, you will have done but little to quiet that violent ferment with which all England rings from side to side (Hear! hear! hear!) The right hon. gentleman says, you declare it impossible he should ever again be employed? Sir, I confess that to me it appears to be as nearly impossible as any thing can be (Hear! hear!) I will not take upon me to say that it is absolutely so, having no power to look into futurity. I will suppose however, that by some extraordinary event—some coincidence of circumstances beyond human apprehension, it shall, by possibility, be deemed proper to reinstate his royal highness in the place of Commander in Chief; if such an event should happen, by expunging the word "now," you will have given up the power of taking the propriety of the step into your consideration. If it be permitted to stand, it reserves the power of resuming the consideration of the report, and of examining the question, whether he ought to be so replaced in the command of the army or not, I therefore think the introduction of the word "now" not only proper but indispensible. Much has been said on the subject of party spirit, which, in the course of all the debates has been specifically imputed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer to gentlemen on this side of the house. I contend, Sir, that if there ever was a question, justly free from such imputation; this is that question. My hon. friend who brought forward the Charges, at the commencement of his proceedings, actually stood alone. He has not been supported by any of the parties into which this house is divided. Of one of those parties, I suppose the Chancellor of the Exchequer is to be deemed the head. Of another my right hon. friend who sits near me is the leader. A third, the right honourable gentleman who has this night moved the Resolution we are now discussing, may be said to conduct. Another party in the house is distinguished by an appellation which it is not now necessary to repeat. 739 Which of all these parties has assisted my honourable friend? or with what justice has it been said by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that this question is a party question? With almost all the principal persons of all the parties voting against him, my hon. friend has had the satisfaction to find one hundred and twenty three members of the house adopting his opinion to the most unqualified extent. Sir; It has not been the cause of any party, but the cause of the country! There is, Sir, one important object, which will, I hope and trust, at length be effected. I mean the annihilation of that party which has existed for more than forty years, secret, invisible, but possessing power so great, as to have drawn from the great lord Chatham the assertion that "there existed something behind the throne greater than the throne itself" This hidden, but irresistible power has upset various Administrations. It still exists, and at the head of it, if any credit is to be given to a pamphlet most audaciously published last summer, and which has hitherto escaped prosecution, is the Duke of York. An end must be put to that mischievous party, which falsely assumes to he composed of the king's friends. The claim of exclusive right to such title, is either a libel on the rest of his majesty's subjects, or an acknowledgment of devotion to the crown, without regard to the rights and privileges of the people. If we are to believe report, the last ministry was displaced, and the present ministry established by the contrivances of that party. I am not, however, without hope that the eyes of princes will be opened to the peril to which the royal family is exposed by such intrigues. To the existence of such secret, evil, unavowed counsellors under the princes of the house of Stuart, may be traced the downfall of that family, and the elevation of the house of Brunswick to the throne. It would be well for those who countenance such intriguing factions in the present day, to bear in mind a remarkable passage in the Memoirs of Sir William Temple. That great statesman has recorded of Charles II. that, on a certain occasion, he announced to his council his determination to prorogue his parliament for a twelvemonth, and added that he would hear no reasoning or argument against it, upon which he (Sir William Temple) told the King, that his humble advice to his majesty was, that he would in his affairs be pleased to make use of some council or 740 other, and allow freedom to their debates and advices: that if he did not think the persons or number of his present council suited to his affairs, it was in his power to dissolve them, and constitute another of Twenty, of Ten, or of Five; and to alter them again when he would; but to make counsellors, that should not counsel, he doubted whether it were in his majesty's power or not: and therefore he advised him to constitute some such council as he would think fit to make use of, in the digestion of his great and public affairs.
Sir, I am far from wishing to visit the errors of princes with any particular severity; they are not to be tried according to the rules which apply to the conduct of the general mass of society. By the base views and treachery of those generally about them, they are almost cut off from the truth. If a man amongst their servants is at any time found sufficiently bold and honest to state things as they are, the rarity of the fact makes it worthy of mention in history. Their rank in society precludes the possibility of the free enjoyment of friendly intercourse, the greatest solace of human existence. The disinterested and affectionate admonition of the most honest and virtuous servant may be cut short by a retiring bow. How then can we expect the same fruit where the same degree of cultivation is impossible? From the cradle to the grave they are exposed to the baneful influence of flattery. Their temptations are greater, and their means of resistance less. These considerations may check our disposition to envy, but it will add to our inclination to make allowances for those deviations from the strict line of conduct, which cannot be made in extenuation of their errors, to those of inferior rank. By a false and mistaken policy, the legislature has cut off the royal family of this country, from the common rights of mankind; if they form any legitimate connexion, it must almost inevitably be an union in which the heart can take no interest. I wish these bonds were broken; I know no evil, but I can foresee much good which would arise from their repeal. I think an intermixture with the first families of this country, quite as desirable as the most illustrious foreign connexion. The only example we have of a royal Duke so descended, is in the highest degree encouraging. He certainly has not exhibited in his conduct any deviations from the strictest rules of propriety.—Upon all accounts, I am averse to the 741 sermon which it is proposed to preach to the Duke of York. The examinations we have gone through, have been one long and painful lecture, and if no impression has been thereby made upon his mind, it is incapable of being impressed.
Before I sit down, I must again call the attention of the house for a few minutes to a subject which I mentioned the other night; I mean, the meeting of general officers, in which it was proposed to address the Duke of York. I then understood, Sir, from the Secretary at War, that the proposition had been put down, and that, too, by the right hon. gent, himself, as soon as it was suggested. The story, which has been repeated to me, is very different, and considering how fatal the consequences of such a proceeding, if unchecked, might prove, I think it right again to submit it to the attention of the house. I have been informed, Sir, that this Address originated in a letter written by a general officer, commanding a garrison town; and that it was in the handwriting of Sir D. Dundas, who, at the meeting, communicated the substance of it in a speech to those general officers who were present, of whom a list, amounting to thirteen in number, has been given to me since I entered the house. The motion was seconded by the Secretary at War himself, (as I have been given to understand), and my further information is, that with the opposition of only one general officer, it was received with acclamation. That it was, in consequence of that opposition, withdrawn; that the proposition was not set aside, but deferred, with the probability of its being revived. Sir, I have reason to suppose that this is not a solitary instance of an intention to present an Address to his royal highness; because having accidentally met with a very respectable person in the street, a bookseller well known to the gentlemen on the other side; (Mr. Stockdale we apprehend) he communicated to me a singular application that had been made to him by a clergyman, who wished to find some person who was qualified to correct an Address to the Duke of York, paying him many just compliments, and at the same time suggesting to him the impropriety of his resignation. The good sense of the gentleman I have alluded to, led him to dissuade the person who addressed him from a measure so improper, and of such dangerous tendency. If the first step had been taken, the contagion might have spread far, and the consequences might have been fatal. I am 742 not in the least afraid of this now. To have mentioned the intention is sufficient to prevent its being carried into execution. As Caesar stopped his mutinous legions, simply by addressing them with the term "Quirites," the bare statement of the disorderly nature of the proposition which was entertained, will prevent its adoption. I have the satisfaction to see several gentlemen of high military rank in their places, and I am sure, whatever their feelings relatively to the Duke of York may be, they will agree with me in the propriety of what I have said. In this instance, I feel the advantage which results from the proper admixture of persons of the military profession in this house: they are capable of assisting our deliberations upon important questions, and they form a most useful channel of communication of the popular feeling to the body to which they belong. Sir, I do not foresee from the resignation of the Duke of York, those evil consequences anticipated in a former debate by an hon. officer (gen. Loftus). I cannot believe that it is necessary for a son of the Sovereign to hold the situation of Commander in Chief, for the protection of the army against the intrigues by which ministers would in other hands make it subservient to their purposes in this house. What a picture does the hon. officer draw of the state of the country, of the corruptions existing in the government and the representative body. Sir. I hope it is unjust. But even if it were not, of the two evils I should esteem it by far the greatest, that a Commander in Chief could be continued in his office in defiance of such accusations, and so supported, against him, as those which have been so long under the view of this house. None but a person so connected, could have been in the situation so long and so improperly retained by the Duke of York, for two days even after the exhibition of the charges. With the resignation of his royal highness, however tardy, I am satisfied. My hon. friend may be satisfied with the issue of the enquiries, and with the situation in which he stands. I am sure he has the thanks and good opinion of most of those whom he values in this house, and of almost every inhabitant: of the kingdom out of it.
§ Mr. H. Addington
said, in explanation, that he concluded the opinion which he had expressed, on which the hon. gent. had so much animadverted, must have been conveyed in ambiguous terms. What he meant was, that if the house did its duty, as he 743 thought it was called upon to do, by declaring explicitly its sentiments on that part of his royal highness's conduct to which the Resolution applied, that it would have facilitated his retention of office, not only by making a deep and salutary impression on his royal highness's mind; but that it would go farther than any thing towards appeasing those public feelings which this investigation had excited; and thus enable his royal highness to continue to execute his official duties, with less pain and anxiety to himself, and with more beneficial effects to the country.
The Secretary at War
said, he had only to repeat what he had said on a former night on the subject of the Club of general officers. From the statement of the hon. member that the proceeding was founded on a letter of a garrison commander, one would think that a formal address had been proposed; this, however, was not the case. It was merely the subject of conversation, whether it might be proper to pass a resolution of thanks to the Duke of York then or at any other time. Nothing farther was done; so it was unnecessary for him to say that he did not second a proposition which had never been made. So far from it, no intimation of such a proposal was made till the cloth was removed from the table. It was then talked of, and it was agreed that, at all events, such a measure would not be advisable till the conclusion of the discussion now going on in the house of commons. There were at the time only thirteen gentlemen present, and the proposition was not received with acclamations. As to any thing further on the subject, he was as ignorant of it as if he had not been present.
§ Mr. Whitbread
said, he understood the paper, on which the proposition was founded, was in the handwriting of sir David Dundas. There were gentlemen now in the house who were present when the information was given to him, and they could state that this was the fact as he had received it. He begged to say one other word. He should be happy to hear from the Secretary at War if the proposition was now abandoned?
The Secretary at War
said he had seen no paper in the hand-writing of sir D. Dundas. As to the other question, he could not say if the proposition was abandoned or not.
Mr. Secretary Canning
said, when he first heard of the circumstance alluded to by the hon. gent. he stated, that it, bad his 744 most decided disapprobation, as being one of the most improper steps which the army could adopt. If there did exist an attempt on the part of any military officers to protect the Duke of York against the house of commons, a more culpable idea never entered into the head of man. But, on the other hand, if it was only a simple conversation at a convivial meeting, he saw no occasion to swell it up into a. matter of importance. If, however, the idea of making it a formal resolution of military officers as a deliberative body should at any time be entertained, the hon. gent. should find him one of his most determined supporters in inquiring into the business.
§ Mr. Whitbread
again stated, that he had been informed the paper had been read before dinner; and if thought necessary this fact might be inquired into.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer
explained, that he had not deserted the Duke of York, as the hon. gent. (Mr. Whitbread) bad stated. His royal highness had resigned of his own proper motion, and the hon. gent, could hardly expect him to make any strenuous opposition against his royal highness indulging his own inclination.
§ General Loftus,
referring to the club of general officers, stated, that he. himself was not present, but that he had inquired into the particulars of a friend who was present, and the information he received was, that there was no paper produced, that the subject was started in a moment, without any formality, and was carried on and dropt like any other conversation.
Mr. Lee Keck
thought it proper that some entry on the subject of the inquiry should appear on the Journals of the house, and for that reason he disapproved of the Amendment. As to the question, whether the Duke of York should or should not be ever restored to the office of Commander in Chief, with that he had nothing to do.
replied. He could not consent to withdraw his motion. It did not come by surprise upon the house, but had been almost a week before them. He conceived the house was bound to pronounce upon the minor charge, that of his royal highness having permitted an improper influence to be exercised over him. The putting his Resolution on the Journals would be no bar to his royal highness's return to office. It did not charge him with corruption or connivance, but went merely to say he had been indiscreet. He thought it incumbent on the house to mark 745 their sense of this part of the Duke of York's conduct.
The question being loudly called for, strangers were ordered to withdraw. After which Mr. Bathurst's Resolution was negatived without a division.
§ The Chancellor of the Exchequer next moved, that the word "Now" should be left out of lord Altborpe's Amendment. After a conversation of some length, a division took place, when the numbers were,
|For lord Althorpe's motion||112|
|For the Chancellor of the Exchequer's Amendment||235|
|Majority for leaving out the word "now"||123|