§ Mr. Madocks
began by moving that the Resolution of that house on the 10th Dec. 1779; be then read; it was read accordingly, and stated in substance, that it is "highly criminal for any minister or ministers, or any other servant of the crown in Great Britain, directly or indirectly, to make use of the power of his office, in order to influence the election of members of parliament, and that an attempt to exercise that influence was an attack upon the dignity, the honour, and the independence of parliament, an infringement of the rights and the liberties of the people, and an attempt to sap the basis of our free and happy constitution." Mr. Madocks next moved the Resolution of that house on the 25th April, 487 1809, be then read; it was read accordingly, and alledged in substance, "That while it was the bounden duty of that house to maintain at all times a jealous guard upon its purity, and not to suffer any attempt upon its privileges to pass unnoticed, the attempt in the present instance (that of lord Castlereagh and Mr. Reding), not having been carried into effect, that house did not think it then necessary to proceed to any criminatory resolutions respecting the same." Mr. Madocks then said, that before he proceeded to redeem the pledge he had given to the house of bringing forward the charges he had that day to adduce, he thought it right to remind them of the opinion they had recorded of that criminal conduct, of which he then rose to accuse two of their own body. Before he entered directly into the statement of his charge, he trusted that the indulgence of the house would allow him to make a few preliminary observations, arising out of and bearing upon the subject. In his attempt at that time to discharge his duty, he hoped that he would discharge it in a manner that became his sense of it; and in the first place, he was most anxious to abstain from every thing personal, from any thing that could give pretence for an imputation of the kind; for he could in truth say, that no such charge could be justly imputed to him. He was influenced by no personal motives, it was to measures he looked, not to individuals. He entirely overlooked the men in the system; a system which seemed to say, that corruption was necessary to govern Englishmen; a system, which seemed to say that the English constitution was inadequate without the aid of corruption to the purposes of good government, was insufficient without corruption for social order, foreign relations, or self-defence. He denied, in the name of the constitution, the necessity of such a system, and thought that any attempt to argue its necessity was one of the strongest proofs of its dangerous and fatal tendency. It was against such a system his hostility was directed, and when he stood forth in that house the avowed enemy of corruption, he felt he had a right to claim the alliance of the hon gentlemen opposite in the same cause, who had recently stated that if instances of corruption did exist, it was the duty of the house to hunt them out, and drag them to light. In that feeling he shared with those hon. gentlemen, and trusted that the indignation they seemed to express at the theory of 488 corruption would not be allayed by an exposition of the practice. He for his part, was no party man—he was bound to no man, or any set of men, except as far as he agreed with those who were anxious for the extirpation of corruption and abuses of every kind, and the restoration, in their original purity, of all the good and sound old principles of the constitution. This was what he looked for, and what, if the house and the country were true to themselves, he did not vet despair of attaining. It was a favourite opinion with some of the right hon. gentlemen that no times were less corrupt than the present, that this was, as it were, the age of purity. If such an opinion was well founded, it would be rather inconsistent with such an opinion, and not very conformable to the spirit of such times, to resort to any party expedient, in order to resist or to evade any direct charge of corruption against any individual whatever. Gentlemen, therefore, who thought so purely of present times, and public men, would no doubt, with a suitable jealousy, insist upon every charge of corruption being directly met, minutely examined into, and impartially decided upon. Upon a former night he had been accused of having been guilty of a violation of the usual courtesy of that house, in not having given the customary notice to the hon. gentlemen particularly interested in the charges he had to bring forward. To this he could only reply by reminding the house that two or three years ago, when a member of that house (Mr. Asheton Smith) presented the Hampshire Petition, it was objected by the gentleman charged with undue interference in the Southampton election, (Mr. Freemantle,) and complained of by his friends, that no notice whatever had been given that gent. of the charge to be preferred against him—but it was at the same time contended by those now composing his majesty's government, that the Petition should be received, and that the allegations contained in it should be brought under the special consideration of the house. In that opinion the house concurred; thinking then, as he hoped they would now, that where the charge was of so serious nature, involving the paramount question of their own privileges, it would not become their dignity or their justice to suffer themselves to be led away from so great an object by any light objection to mere introductory informalities. He did not wish to take any hon. gent. by surprise, nor was the charge he 489 had to bring forward calculated to do so. It was a charge that the moment it was heard might be rebutted by an innocent man, unless it would be contended that there were degrees of corruption now so sanctioned by prescription, that that house must necessarily connive at them. He was of an opposite opinion—an opinion founded upon the history of better times. In the whole course of the history of England he no where found that Sinecure Places and Offices, and Rotten Boroughs, were to be considered and venerated as comprising the palladium of England. He read no where that the constitution was only to be preserved by the preservation of its abuses. He rather believed that it would be best secured by rooting out such abuses; and that the spirit in which a memorable attack upon corruption had originated with an hon. friend below him (Mr. Whitbread), and in which another had been conducted so lately by his hon. friend (Mr. Wardle,) was the best stay to which the constitution could look for safety and support. Serious as the charges were which had been brought in both the instances he alluded to, they were comparatively trifling, when considered in relation to that most flagitious of all abuses, by which the influence of the Treasury was exerted in returning members to that house. In the good old times of the country, the crime was looked upon in its proper light—it was considered as fraught with the most dreadful consequences. In 1734, sir John St. Aubin declared in that house that such a system alone could give the last fatal blow to the liberties of the country, and that if the Treasury governed that house, the popular part of the constitution was gone for ever—that the people might continue to exist, but that the doors of that house would be effectually closed against their wishes and their wants. But he would read to the house the passage:—"For if a minister should ever gain a corrupt familiarity with our Boroughs, if he should keep a register of them in his closet, and by sending down his Treasury mandates, should procure a spurious representation of the people, the offspring of his corruption, who will be at all times ready to reconcile and justify the most contradictory measures of his administration—if the maintenance of his power should become the sole object of their attention, and they should be guilty of the most violent breach of parliamentary trust, by giving the king a 490 discretionary liberty of taxing the people without limitation or controul, the last fatal compliment they can pay the crown; if this should ever be the unhappy circumstance of this nation, the people indeed may complain, but the doors of that place where their complaints should be heard will be for ever shut against them. Let country gentlemen, by having frequent opportunities of exerting themselves, be kept active in their contention for the public good, this will raise that zeal and indignation, which will at last get the better of those undue influences, by which the officers of the crown, though unknown to the several boroughs, have been able to supplant country gentlemen of great character and fortune, who live in their neighbourhood."—The nature of that influence branched out into so many and various ways of misapplying the money taken out of the pockets of the people, that it was impossible to have an adequate idea of its magnitude and danger, or to be too vigilant in retrenching the one and guarding against the other. He had already signified his intention of taking an early opportunity of submitting to the consideration of the house the present state of certain boroughs in England. He trusted that the statement he should then submit to the house would induce them to a revision of the entire system of boroughs. He should take the liberty of adverting at present to one or two instances of this borough influence. The first was the borough of Hastings, which consisted of only fourteen voters. The right of election being in the corporation. This borough was the property of Mr. Milwood and his son, who were agents for government, and were the mayor of the town alternately. The younger Mr. Milwood was comptroller of the excise, with a salary of 1,425l. per annum, a place which was nearly, if not quite a sinecure, though by the 5th of William and Mary, chapter the 30th, collectors and officers in the excise were interdicted from any interference in elections. If the sum of 1,425l. be multiplied by seven, it would be found that it cost the people for every parliament 9,975l.—With respect to the borough of Rye there were but six electors. Mr. Thomas Lamb was agent for the Treasury, and this gentleman was in the enjoyment of the lucrative situation of tally-cutter, another in the Exchequer, and was also cursitor of Hampshire. This borough was under similar restrictions as the last mentioned 491 borough of Hastings.—The next borough he should advert to was that of Cambridge. Here the agent for government was Mr. John Mortlake, a banker, and resident at Cambridge. This gentleman was receiver-general of the post-office, with a salary of 800l. per annum., and had a deputy, a Mr. Bowden, at a salary of 500l. a year, though by the 9th Anne, chapter 10th, officers of the post-office were prohibited from interfering in elections.—The next borough he should mention was that of Queenborough. The influence of this borough was divided between the ordnance and the admiralty. The amount of the salaries of the places held by the freemen of the borough under the ordnance and the navy boards was annually 2,368l. So that the public money paid to the electors of Queenborough, during a parliament of seven years or sessions, independent of other sorts of influence, amounted to no less a sum than 14,576l. Not to mention that the boroughs of Westbury and New Romney were openly sold for money.—But of all the various corruptions and abuses; of all the fatal misapplications of the public money, none he thought so imperatively called for an immediate check as the corrupt interference to which he had already alluded, exercised by the Treasury, to procure the return of members to that house.—This, continued Mr. Madocks, is poisoning the fountain of health. The only quarter to which we can look for the prevention or redress of other corruption. What, Sir, can be more fatal than to suffer any thing to vitiate the legislative, inquisitorial, and remedial branches of the constitution; it has been always held, in all periods of our history, that any corruption practised by individuals to obtain seats in this house, is an offence against the constitution, and laws have from time to time been enacted conformably to that principle; but for the executive power to attempt to corrupt the legislative, has been considered as most fatal, and your Journals and Resolutions proclaim the enormity of such offence in the eye of the constitution. Treasury influence, from the various shapes it assumes, may, in its nature, be divided into several classes; but that the most alarming and obnoxious is where public money is made instrumental to the return of members to this house, either by actually buying or selling seats with money, or by applying annually part of the taxes taken out of the pockets 492 of the people towards the keeping up a corrupt influence in the boroughs which return members at the nomination of the Treasury, while those members again pay a certain sum of money to the Treasury for their seats, which money is carried to a certain fund, and then doled out to carry elections in other places.—But, Sir, having enumerated these cases, which, in my opinion, ought to be submitted to a Committee to examine, sift, and regulate, I now come, Sir, to a case of what I consider as aggravated in the extreme, and one that calls for an immediate investigation at your Bar. I mean, Sir, the case of the borough of Cashel in Ireland, in all the transactions relating to which at the last general election, and since that time, it will be found that the Treasury have conducted themselves not only directly in the teeth of your Resolutions, but have exercised an influence beyond all parallel, and have not only violated the constitution in the most unequivocal manner, but, have inflicted signal injustice on a most honourable individual, because he had too strict a sense of propriety to vote against his conscience, and what he felt to be his right line of duty. The conduct of the hon. gent. to whom I allude, has in this instance been so strikingly correct, manly and upright, that I am confident he will meet with, as he is entitled to, the esteem of every honest man. This is not an inchoate or unfinished act. Sir, it is to this case that, for the present, I propose to call the particular attention of the house, and to conclude with a motion for hearing evidence at the Bar, in support of the statement, the facts of which I am fully? prepared to prove. I have so far departed from the proceeding of the other night, though I cannot, on a revision of the precedent, find that I am not fully justified in such a course. I affirm then, that Mr. Dick purchased a Seat in this house for the borough of Cashel, through the agency of the honourable Henry Wellesley, who acted for and on behalf of the Treasury; that upon a recent question of the last importance, when Mr. Dick had determined to vote according to his conscience, the noble lord (Castlereagh) did intimate to that gentleman, the necessity of either his voting with the government, or resigning his Seat in that house; and that Mr. Dick, sooner than vote against principle, did make choice of the latter alternative, and did vacate his Seat accordingly; to this trans- 493 action I charge the right hon. gent. (Mr. Perceval), as being privy and having connived at it; this I will engage to prove by Witnesses at your Bar, if the house will give me leave to call them; if the house, will permit me to do so, I am satisfied that they could not take a more direct method to remedy the abuses in the representative system of such places as Hastings, Rye, Cambridge, Queenborough, and many other places that could be mentioned, where large annual sums were paid out of the taxes, in the maintenance of sinecure offices and places to uphold the influence of the Treasury in such boroughs.—I shall now, Sir, detain you no longer than by again asserting the purity of my motives. They originate in my aversion to such practices, which, (to use the concluding language of the ever-memorable Hampshire Petition), with all due deference to the superior wisdom of the house, I venture to describe as "calculated to bring into discredit the government of the country, and to shake the confidence of the people in the honour and independence of the House of Commons."—I have, therefore, like the Petitioners, felt it my bounden duty, not only to my constituents, and to my fellow-subjects, but especially to the house, to bring under their notice these outrages, as I deem them, against the liberties of the country, and I have been encouraged the more to do so by the Resolution which stands recorded in the Journals, which has been this day read at your table, and also by the language contained in the first paragraph of the Resolution which was recorded on your Journals but sixteen days ago.
Here the hon. gent. sat down, and immediately the Chancellor of the Exchequer rose, when lord Folkestone called the right hon. gent. to order, and contended that he need not withdraw, and ought not to be heard, according to the precedent of Shepherd, until the motion of his hon. friend was before the house. Here a short discussion, as to the point of order, arose between lord Folkestone, sir John Anstruther, and Mr. Horner, when, upon the Speaker's interposition, it was agreed that Mr. Perceval and lord Castlereagh should be severally heard in their defence, and be permitted to withdraw before the motion was put from the Chair.
§ The Chancellor of the Exchequer (Mr. Perceval)
then rose, and said that he had waited for the decision of gentlemen upon the point of order, as he felt himself na- 494 turally anxious to conform to whatever was the wish of the house, as to the form of their proceedings upon the present occasion. He however acknowledged that he was prepared to expect the decision that had been made by the Chair, as to the propriety of his then speaking, and afterwards immediately retiring. He did not wish to quarrel with or canvas whatever might have been the wish of the house, as to the manner in which he was to act in the present instance, but he thought that the usage of the house on such occasions was founded in wisdom, as the presence of the individual accused during the agitation of the charges against him might be fairly suspected to operate in a way that would fetter and restrain the freedom of the discussion itself. At the same time he felt that that order of the house was not without its inconveniences as well as its advantages. It might be as much, if not more necessary to the just vindication of a man's innocence, to hear the close of a discussion of that sort as well as the commencement, and perhaps the progress of it as much as either; but be that as it might, the course being otherwise, it was for him now only to abide by it. And here he was free to confess, that he felt exceeding great doubt as to the line of address which it best became him in that situation to pursue. If he thought it mere criminatory proceeding against an individual of that house, for alledged mal-practices, there he could have no doubt that the house would willingly entertain the Charge, and of course the individual would proceed at once upon his defence, meeting the charges either with direct denial, explanation of the fact, or examination into the law arising out of the fact. But with respect to the present charge, he confessed that he could not look upon it in that simple light. As well as he understood the hon. gent. he intimated in the opening of his charges, that there was still behind them a mass of other matter; and, indeed, that intimation had been sufficiently illustrated in the detailed statements entered into by the hon. gent. respecting the boroughs of Hastings, Rye, Cambridge, and Queenborough. By stating these circumstances it did appear that it was not so much the vindication of the injured honour of that house which was the object, as that more general one of following up the pursuit of what was denominated 'a certain system.' This, it 495 seemed, was to be a first step to general Reform. The notice with respect to the great measure itself appeared to have been withdrawn, and this proceeding to be substituted in its place. If this was so, perhaps the house would think it right to pause, before they lent their sanction to such a mode of introducing the discussion of any great public question; (hear, hear!) Perhaps they would feel it to be their indispensible duty not to establish a precedent that would introduce a system of inquisitorial proceedings, fraught with the most violent inroads upon all species of private and social confidence (Hear, hear!). No matter through what means the charge had been elicited—no matter how sacred the confidence the discovery had violated, or how solemn the engagements it had broken through, (hear, hear!) at any period it would be ill advised to establish such a precedent, but particularly so at the present day. They lived in a time in which the popular appetite fed upon attacks on public men. The favourite doctrine was, that public men must be necessarily corrupt; and they were the purest patriots who prosecuted most charges against them—they lived in a time when they saw individuals raised to the highest state of popularity, and honoured with crowded tributes of the nation's gratitude and applause for prosecuting such charges. Those who were ambitious of the same flattering distinctions might think it wise to pursue the same course—no matter whatever the means, if the end could be attained. They had seen private confidence abused—they had heard of letters being seized in the unsuspecting moments of social intercourse, and had known serious charges to be grounded upon the public disclosure of those very letters (hear, hear!) and they had seen those who thought it necessary to resort to such means, not to confirm, but to institute a charge which ranks high in the esteem and veneration of the people of this country; whether at such a time it would be wise to warrant such species of charges as merely introductory to the agitation of the great question of Reform, he left it to the house to determine; but as far as he might be allowed to judge, he rather thought that it would be more consistent with what was due from him to the house and to the public, if he, for the present, declined putting in the plea (he could so conscientiously put in), until that house had come to a determination on the pro- 496 priety of entertaining that charge or not, (hear, hear!) protesting at the same time against any, the slightest inference of his guilt from his deferring such a plea till after that decision.—Then would he come before them prepared, and indeed (what he was not yet) in a manner authorised to meet that charge, and explain, as he trusted he could do, every particular relating to the transaction upon which the charge had been grounded; and he did not despair of that explanation proving satisfactory to the house, and vindicatory of his own honour. Before the house had come to such a decision, he should not hold it wise in any public man to enter into an explanation of the circumstances upon the one side or the other. He should say no more, but make his bow to the Chair, as was usual in such cases, and leave it with the house to determine as they in their judgment might think proper.—The right hon. gentleman then made his obeisance to the Speaker, and retired amidst the general cheers of the house.
then rose, and said, that he could not express what he felt on this occasion better, nor more adequately, than by adopting the statement which had been made by his right hon. friend who had just left the house. He had nothing to add to that statement, and fully adopted every part of it. Whatever might be the practice on similar occasions, he could not, under the circumstances in which he was placed, sit in the house during the discussion of the question. He did not conceive that he was in the present stage of the business bound to give that explanation which he was confident he could, if it should be the pleasure of the house to enter into the investigation. To the house, therefore, he should leave it to determine, whether he should be called upon to give that explanation, which at present he was prepared to do, if it appeared to him to be called for, on this occasion. (The noble lord then made his bow, and withdrew).
§ Mr. Madocks
then explicitly moved, That the said Charge against the right hon. Spencer Perceval and lord viscount Castlereagh should be heard at the bar on Monday next.
§ Mr. Tierney
suggested the propriety of having the Paper, from which the honourable member had read the information he communicated to the house, laid upon the table, in order that gentlemen might have an opportunity of ascertaining what the 497 information was. At present they could only collect it from what they could remember of the speech of the hon. gentleman; and many members, who had come into the house since the hon. gentleman had concluded, could not possibly have any knowledge of the information it conveyed. He thought it right that before the house should come to a vote, they should know exactly what it was upon which they were to decide.
The Precedent was then read by the Clerk at the table.
§ The Speaker
stated that it would be convenient for the house to know whether it was the intention of the hon. mover to regulate his future proceedings by the precedent in the case of Mr. Samuel Shepherd. He wished that the two Resolutions subsequent to the information being given by a member in his place, should be read.—The two Resolutions were accordingly read:—the first, where a reference was made to the protest of Mr. Shepherd, as to his innocence, and the next as to the particular boroughs, viz. Newport and Wootton Basset, where he had been guilty of the corrupt practices, and the course pursued by the house in consequence.—From this precedent it did appear, resumed the Speaker, that after the member made the information to the house, a motion was made to hear the accused at the bar, previous to which hearing the particulars of the charge were ordered to be given to them in writing; and, lastly, that a particular day should be fixed.
§ Mr. Whitbread
said, he apprehended it would not have been consistent with the course of proceedings, had his hon. friend given in any written charge, and that therefore this being an oral charge, he could have no objection to leave out of the motion, now to be made, the naming any specific day, when it should be heard at the bar. We all knew, that in the late case relative to the Duke of York, the charge was orally made, and yet the house appointed a committee to inquire into the charge. As to the statement of his right hon. friend near him, (Mr. Tierney) that many of the members did not understand the nature of the charge, he had to observe, that it was always presumed that all members were in the house, and that the house collectively speaking was that body present at the time the charge was made, with the exception, that the individual charged must be necessarily present, particularly where an oral charge was made. 498 To remove all objections to the motion, he thought that the word 'now' might be left out, so as to leave the day when evidence should be heard undetermined.
Mr. Secretary Canning
. This is of the nature of a double question, the latter part presuming an affirmative of the former; and therefore when it is said that the charge shall be taken into consideration upon a certain day, the hon. gent. takes it for granted that the charge shall be gone into. This would render the motion objectionable, but if so altered as has been suggested, I apprehend there can be no objection to the charge being entertained, and the first question upon an oral charge is certainly as to whether it shall be entertained or not. If it be determined that it should be entertained, it will then become a matter of justice that it should be put into so clear a shape, as that it may be delivered in writing to the members so charged; and in order that the house may be enabled to know what they are to discuss upon a future day.
. If the house be to conform itself to this precedent as a standard, I hope they will adopt it strictly, for otherwise we shall fall into error. The right hon. gent. opposite says, he hopes that the charge will be given to the accused in a particular form; that may be very convenient to him and his colleagues, but it is not so in the precedent, for in it there appears to have been merely a statement of the names of places, where corruption and bribery had been alledged to have existed. There can be nothing less precise or particular than such a charge; and therefore I think it will be sufficient, to deliver in the present one in as general words as were used upon that former occasion.
§ Mr. Madocks
then begged leave to move, "That the matter of the Charge be heard at the bar of the house."—Mr. Whitbread and sir F. Burdett both rose to second the motion.—Upon the motion being put from the Chair,
§ Mr. Cartwright
said he was decidedly adverse to the motion, and whether he referred to the notice upon which it was founded, or the opinions of the hon. gent. who brought it forward, as expressed in the Resolutions which he seconded at the Crown and Anchor, he could only consider it as the first step to Parliamentary Reform. Mr. Cartwright was not ashamed to acknowledge himself one of those, far too much attached to the constitution as it 499 is, and far too sensible of the blessings so abundantly diffused throughout every class of people in this country, to give his support or countenance to any change or innovation. He wished however to guard against being supposed an advocate for corruption; it was not the case, but in his opinion we had the means of correcting abuses already in our hands. The courts of law were open, and recourse might be had to them. He would not risk the loss of the blessings and advantages we now possessed, in pursuit of any wild or visionary object of Reform. We had much to lose, and little to gain; and whatever might have been the language lately held at public meetings, he should ever maintain there was more real liberty, more real equality of condition, more equal administration of justice, more security of property and person, and more genuine principles of freedom in this country, than ever existed heretofore in any other nation upon earth.—With respect to the question of Reform, he conceived there were three points to be considered: The evil, the remedy, and the motive. He had no difficulty in saying, in his opinion no evil existed; there was no evil to be complained of, and consequently no remedy to be applied; and even those who did think there was something which required correction, did not, any two of them, agree upon the remedy. It was said on a former night, that should Reform of Parliament be determined upon, the advocates for it would not know where to begin or where to end. Mr. Cartwright did not agree with the right hon. gent. (Mr. Windham) who made that remark—they would know where to begin, because they would begin by pulling down, and then not know what to re-build. With respect to the motive, a celebrated writer had said upon the subject of Reforms, "Beware that it be the reformation that draweth on the change, and not the desire of change that pretendeth the reformation." Mr. Cartwright would not impute any improper motive to any member of that house; but he had no doubt there were many out of the house, whose object it was, under the pretence and cover of Reform, to introduce confusion, and prepare the way for revolutionary projects. It was said our rights and liberties were in danger. Mr. C. could not help calling to the recollection of the house, how often the cry of liberty had in all ages been perverted and employed as the instrument of mischief; and 500 how often the champions of liberty had become the first to trample it under foot, when they had succeeded in attaining their end, and in overturning the constitution—"Sunt qui, ut imperium evertant, "libertatem præferunt, si perverterint, ip-"sam libertatem aggredientur." In what had France benefited by the change which had taken place in that country? without having been partial to the old government, Mr. C. would ask what had been gained by the new government? What but the extreme of military despotism, and every sort of tyranny, injustice, and oppression. What was the origin of the present clamour and discontent? The Duke of York's' misconduct—and what had the case of the Commander in Chief to do with the incomplete state of the representation in the House of Commons? Mr. C. was sorry to see the tone of triumph which had been displayed in so many parts of the kingdom upon this subject. Mr. C. was himself one who thought the Duke of York ought not to continue in office; but he deeply lamented the circumstances and occasion of it; and could gee in them no cause for triumph or exultation.—Mr. Cartwright had thus freely stated his sentiments, avowing himself no friend to Reform or innovation. But were he of a different opinion, and had he been an advocate for Reform, he should not think the present a proper moment to begin upon it. We were engaged in a most serious contest with the most formidable enemy this country ever had; an enemy increasing every day in power and aggrandizement, and intent upon our destruction. He could not think it right at such a moment to sow divisions amongst the people, or encourage dissatisfaction and discontent. But it was said the general sense of the nation had been manifested in favour of Reform of parliament—he denied it to be the case—partial meetings, he was aware, had taken place, and he should mention one which had happened within his own knowledge, and in the county which he had the honour to represent. Seventeen persons signed a requisition to the mayor of Northampton to call a meeting in the town-hall, for the purpose of thanking the hon. gent. who took the lead in the investigation of the Duke of York's conduct; seventy-one persons signed a counter-requisition against it, and the mayor in consequence refused to convene a meeting; and none took place in the town-hall; but the seventeen persons met at an inn in the town of North- 501 ampton, and there passed their Resolutions, which Mr. C. supposed would be represented as the sense of the inhabitants of the town. Mr. C. could not think this a fair way of estimating the opinion of the public.—With respect to the particular cases adduced by the hon. gent. on this occasion; he should only say, that whatever the house might think it right to do hereafter, whatever regulations or restrictions might be determined upon in future, respecting the sale and disposal of seats in parliament, it was wholly inconsistent with every principle of common equity or justice to act upon them retrospectively. There was a bill now before the house relating to the subject, and whatever might be its fate, it would undoubtedly receive a cool and impartial consideration. He should give his decided negative to the motion.
§ Lord Milton
observed, that if the last speaker was even correct in the motives he attributed to the hon. gent. who brought forward the present motion, he must assure him that if such motives were justified, those who supported the motion were actuated by inducements wholly different. For instance, if he thought that the present motion tended to the success of the question of Parliamentary Reform, he would have been the first to oppose it; because he was free to say, that from its adoption he could not foresee any practical benefit. He still was impressed with the necessity of correcting public abuses, and none more imperatively called for correction, as none were more dangerous, than palpable and trident interferences of the king's ministers in obtaining the return of members to that house. In giving such an opinion, and whilst he voted for the motion in part, he still, in whatever way it was decided, should not think one jot the worse of either of the right hon. gentlemen accused, or that they were in any degree more criminal than all former governments. The evil ought, however, to cease, and any prospective remedy should have his support. As leading to that object he was anxious to refer the consideration of this charge either to a Parliamentary Commission or to a Select Committee, convinced that the greatest injury had evinced itself by giving a parliamentary strength to a government which did not possess the confidence of the people. The noble lord concluded by moving as an Amendment, That in place of the words "at the bar," the said Charge be referred to a Select Committee.
§ Sir Charles Morgan
observed, that, it was the duty of every man to make a stand now, in support of the dignity of that house, and of the happiness of the people. He did not wish to see every public man, who was at present, or might at any time be employed in the administration of government, vilified and calumniated, and themselves thus rendered incapable of serving their country; therefore he should object to the motion. Would the hon. member stop here? would he be satisfied with his present victims? Certainly not: more, many more, would be brought to be filtered through the vessel of Reform. He did not wish to see a new order of things. He did not wish to see the valuable time of that house taken up in censorial proceedings against its own members, instead of being engaged in forwarding the public business. He had heard much of the sense of the people. No man valued the approbation of the people more than he did, or regretted their disapprobation more; but this was a case in which he could not suffer himself to be influenced by any thing but his own impressions. He should give the motion his decided negative.
§ Sir John Anstruther
rose to oppose the motion, not from any partiality to the individuals who were the objects of it, but from a partiality to the constitution of the country, because those individuals formed a part of the executive government under this constitution. If this proceeding should be adopted against the present government, a similar proceeding might be directed against any other government. The hon. gent. who brought forward this motion had stated that he was no party-man. Did the hon. member mean by that declaration, that he did not agree in the opinions of the great body of those who sat on the same side of the house with him? If he did, he had stated a great truth. But there was another party, to which he did not know whether the hon. member belonged; nor should he be solicitous to inquire, if the motion of the hon. gent. was calculated to promote the views of that party. The object of that party was to level every thing that was above themselves. Being unable to level up, they were determined to level down. Though he did pot say the hon. member belonged to that party, he must say, that his motion was calculated to promote the views of that party. The hon. member had, however, acted with candour; because though he said he should begin with 503 Cashel, be also stated that he should not stop there, but go on to other cases, to a series of investigations, which he meant to institute in that house. He first meant to go to the government, and thence he would go to individuals, so that no person could possibly conjecture where he might stop. But his objection to the hon. gent.'s motion was, and a considerable objection it was, that he had not stated what he meant to do in the committee. He should have taken his whole case at once, and not proposed to go on with the business by piece-meal. The course the hon. member had in view was to go to one committee with one point, and then to another on another point, and so in succession, which would lead to endless committees. This motion had been represented as the first step to Parliamentary Reform. All who knew the practice of his life must know that he was no friend to Parliamentary Reform; but this motion formed no part of that question. The hon. member proposed, by putting information on the table against one member, and then against another, to prosecute his object in a succession of charges. But this would have no effect but to gratify that appetite for slander, which had been excited amongst certain descriptions of the people, and to create and keep alive a taste for Reform. Indeed, the motion would lean not to Parliamentary Reform, but to parliamentary destruction. But here he begged to be understood not to mean, that to bring charges for abuse or corruption against any individuals in that house, would lead to parliamentary destruction; quite the reverse. It was to bring charges upon such information as the hon. member had given to the house, that he thought would lead to destruction. He agreed with the noble lord (Milton), that it was desirable to resort to prospective measures, to prevent the influence of the crown upon the votes of members of that house: but to refer this charge to a committee up stairs, was not the way to attain that object. What he condemned was the mixing prospective measures of prevention with retrospective crimination. When the noble lord (Milton) who stood so high for honour, loyalty, and honesty, had stated, that if the whole of the charges were proved, he should not think the worse of the individuals to whom they referred, could the house think that there was any good ground for entertaining them? The right hon. baronet then proceeded to ani- 504 madvert upon the charge, and the ground laid for proceeding with it. He contended that it was brought forward, not on information but surmise; and that if the hon. member had received any information upon the subject, it must have been through the breach of every principle of honour that existed in civilized society: and that the information derived from the rascality of a few persons, or the general surmise of the hon. gent., was made the ground of a charge which would gratify the appetite for scandal, which had been industriously excited in the public mind.—The right hon. baronet again objected to the committee, because the measure brought in by his hon. friend (Mr. Curwen) shewed a disposition in the house on all sides, to provide prospectively against the evils complained of. As to the sense of the public, that house never would, because it never could, resist the fair and legitimate voice of the people. It should not, however, suffer itself to be influenced by clamour, but maintain a steady integrity, neither yielding to the influence of the crown, nor giving way to the clamours of the people, anxious to do its duty with fidelity, and to deserve the gratitude of an affectionate people.
§ Mr. Curwen
had never risen in that house under more difficulty, because both his wishes and his duty inclined him to adopt a different line of conduct. His wishes prompted him to put an end to this question at once; but a sense of duty made him feel that something was due on such an occasion to the dignity of that house, to the nature of the charge, and to the character of parliament. He agreed with the noble lord behind him (lord Milton), that the more eligible course would be to refer the charge to a committee above stairs. The charge was of such a nature, that if the hon. member had brought it forward lightly or upon weak grounds, or should fail in substantiating it, much injury must be the consequence to the public. He did not himself believe that the hon. member would have brought forward this charge without having good grounds for it. The house was placed in an embarrassed situation by this charge, which consisted of two parts; the first was that of undue influence used to bias the votes of members of that house; the second, that corrupt means had been employed to procure the return of members to parliament. The charge he considered a grave one, and if the house should pass it over without ne- 505 tice, he must think that it had dealt out a hard measure of severity to his royal highness the Duke of York; and yet if this charge should be gone into, it was impossible to say where the investigation of such charges would end. If there had been an endeavour made to create an improper feeling in the country, he should condemn it as much as any man; but he was persuaded that the sentiments which had been expressed had sprung from the people; and certainly not from any feeling of triumph over the illustrious person, whose case had given rise to the expression of these sentiments. He could not suppose, that the people of this country, who had, during the last twenty-five years, manifested such an affectionate attachment to their beloved sovereign, could in this instance have been capable of such feelings with respect to one of his family. It was morally impossible that their sentiments could have been so changed at once. The hon. gent. opposite (Mr. Cartwright) had said, that he was for the existing state of things. For himself, he could say, that he was for the constitution, but not for its corruptions; and the best means of preserving that constitution would be to correct any abuses which may have crept into it. Though a friend to rational reform, he did not think the present a proper time for bringing forward the measure of Parliamentary Reform That question would better be deferred to another period. But no time could be unseasonable for the correction of abuses, and all our statutes speak in a decided manner against corruptions. He should wish, therefore, that the part of the charge relative to influence exercised to sway the vote of an individual member of that house should be examined. If he, however, had any influence with the hon. member, he would have dissuaded him from bringing forward this motion: because it might lend to exposures, which might be attended with very injurious consequences: and the hon. member must have observed a disposition in the house to prevent such abuses as his charge referred to in future, from the reception which the measure he had the honour to propose had met with. They should, if possible, cast a veil over the past, and take measures to prevent the recurrence of the evils complained of in future. He lamented the vote he should be obliged to give for the motion of the hon. member. But he was in such a situation, that he must do it, or do nothing.
§ Mr. Biddulph
supported the motion, which in his conception related in no way to Parliamentary Reform. He never adopted the opinion that all public men were corrupt; but whether the assertion were true or false, the best way of deciding it was by investigation.
Sir F. Burdett
said, that on a question which so nearly concerned the character and hononr of the house, he was anxious to hear the opinions of persons of more experience than himself. The subject under consideration, was one of the most important that could engage the attention of parliament; and one in which the character of the house was more involved, he could not well imagine. As to what related to the point of order, he would undertake to shew, that in whatever point of view it was considered, the conduct of his hon. friend, as well on this as on a former occasion, was strictly parliamentary, and that it was supported by usage and precedent. He had examined into the proceedings on former occasions, and from a great variety of precedents from the earliest period of the constitution to the present time, he could shew that the house had always received the assertion of a member in his place, as information sufficient to exercise its inquisitorial functions. In exercising these inquisitorial functions, in the better times of our ancestors, it was not the practice when a member preferred charges, to retort upon him, to question his motives, and the authenticity of the facts into which he proposed to inquire. Formerly they decided that even common fame was a sufficient ground for investigation. By this he did not mean mere rumour in the streets, but that general kind of report and understanding which came within every man's knowledge and belief. He should like to see the man who would stand up in that house, place his hand upon his heart, and say, upon his honour, that he did not believe that such abuses existed, as it was the object of his hon. friend's motion to investigate. He did not believe there would be one found who would stake his veracity and character upon such a point. Why was there such a reluctance to entertain this question? Was it from the dread of French principles? Why, this was the very way to avoid the danger of such principles, and the dreadful consequences that flowed from them. Did any man deny that the fact charged did not exist? If there did, he should be glad to listen to his argu- 507 ments, and to be confuted by his reasoning. This was the only nation in Europe which was not subverted by French principles, and he feared now by French arms. The people of England asked for no innovation; they called for nothing that was not their right. He was not surprized that those persons who, on a former occasion, called for accusation in a tangible shape, should perceive the folly of their conduct, and now shrink from an investigation into what they called falsehood, and calumnies.——He would now, with the permission of the house, say a few words on the subject of that dreadful monster Parliamentary Reform. A noble lord (Milton), with an indiscretion honourable to himself, perhaps, and incidental to youth, had expressed himself decidedly against agitating the question at this time; and, indeed, his sentiments seemed to go the length of condemning the principle of the measure altogether: this was not the proper time for discussing the propriety of a measure, which he conceived indispensably necessary to the salvation of the country; but when the time did arrive, he should be prepared to support it. The noble lord had also said, that he should not think a bit the worse of ministers if they were found guilty of these charges. In this sentiment he perfectly coincided with him, though not precisely upon the same grounds. A gentleman under the gallery (Mr. Cartwright) had talked a great deal in praise of the blessings of the constitution, and the liberty we enjoyed; but did he recollect that this was an instrument upon which another tune could be played? Where he saw beauties, other persons could only perceive deformities. For his own part, he wished for no innovation. The principles that he was anxious to see adopted were to be found in the statute book. It was impossible the constitution could exist if its vitals were to be palsied by corruption. He considered it a great happiness that the country looked to this house for redress, and if they refused inquiry, the undoubted conclusion would be, that they wished to shelter the persons against whom the charge was made by his hon. friend and that these persons were guilty. An hon. member (Mr. Curwen) was of opinion that his bill would preclude the necessity of any investigation of this kind. Now, he was not quite so sanguine respecting the efficacy of that measure. The effect of it, he thought, would be to 508 leave the corrupt borough in the market, and take the purchaser out of it. The effect of it would be to throw all the corrupt representation into the hands of the Treasury, who had other means of corruption in their power besides the mere giving of money, and to render it impossible for a man of great landed property and local influence to find a person to represent that property and influence.—One word more with respect to informality. He could perceive that the accusation made by his hon friend was not agreeable to the feelings of the house, but he would maintain that he was strictly parliamentary. He informed the house of the facts, and he offered proofs of the charges. That was the whole extent of the motion before the house, and it would be seen by their decision what value they set upon the future opinion of the country.
§ Mr. Davies Giddy
thought that those who were so loud in the condemnation of corruption did not sufficiently distinguish between corruption, properly so called, and the influence which property would always have in every well regulated society. The influence of property was one which ought to prevail as well as that of ability. He would always be glad to have some eminent lawyers in the house; to see gentlemen of the army and navy there. The landed interest ought unquestionably to have its full weight, but he saw no reason why those who had their fortunes in chattels or money should be excluded. He saw no reason why some of the Directors of the East India Company should not possess seats in that house, since they had important interests to defend. (Hear, hear! in one quarter, and a laugh in another). There never was a question of importance discussed in that house, without a proof that the interests affected by it had some persons to represent them.—Under this system the country, in spite of all the wars in which it had been engaged, had flourished. Every town had been improved: new harbours had been constructed; and manufactures and trade en-creased together. These were blessings not to be rashly risked for any fanciful schemes of reform (Hear, hear! from Mr. Windham). At the same time, where corruption was proved to exist, he would concur in adopting the proper means to check it; always, however, distinguishing between corruption, and that just and proper influence which ought to be inseparable from property.
§ Mr. Tierney
expressed his wish that the charge against Mr. Perceval should be separated from that preferred against lord Castlereagh; and observed, that in the case of Shepherd, the charge had been given in writing, and he hoped the hon. gent. would give in his charge in this way, that gentlemen might clearly understand upon what they were to vote. He thought this question had, strictly speaking, nothing to do with Parliamentary Reform, for the offence was one which might be committed under any circumstances. The charge against Mr. Perceval and Mr. Wellesley was so vague, that he should be ashamed to receive it in its present shape. But as to the charge against lord Castlereagh, that certainly deserved attention, both from its being more distinctly laid, and from the circumstance that 167 members of that house had already pronounced that noble lord to have been guilty of a bleach of its privileges.—With regard to Parliamentary Reform, Mr. T. said, that he was as warmly attached to that measure as he had ever been. It was one of the greatest advantages of the constitution, that when things went wrong the house had the power of making them better. He, however, was perfectly aware of the inconvenience of the time which had been chosen to bring forward the question; chiefly because it did not appear to him that either the sense of the country or of Parliament was decidedly in its favour. The question had been raised merely by the business of the Duke of York; and he believed that there were many who supported the cry for Parliamentary Reform who had no specific view of the subject which they themselves desired to attain—(Hear, hear!) What many, he believed, understood by Parliamentary Reform was a relief from the weight of the taxes. He must have little associated with the various classes of society in this country, who was not convinced of the deep-rooted complaints which were called forth by the burthens of the taxes, and the manner in which they were collected. If any one would for a moment consider the weight of all the other taxes, added to that of the Income Tax, he would not be surprised that numbers were disposed to listen to any proposal which premised an alleviation of that burthen. There was no disposition any where for overturning the establishments of the constitution; but the people readily listened to those who from good or bad motives proposed Reform, because 510 the idea went to encourage the hope that by this Reform they would be in some measure at least relieved from the pressure of taxation. But that was a sense in which he did not wish Reform to be understood. Nor would he be in the least accessary to the propagation of such a delusion. The discussion of the subject of Reform, however, did not at all call for a question like that now before the house. If they intended to bring the subject of Reform before the house, why did they not do it directly? Why should they think it necessary to begin by attempting to degrade all public men and every government?—Tbe late Mr. Pitt, Mr. T. observed, had gone farther in his project than the mere prevention of the sale and purchase of seats, for he proposed that the burgage tenures should be bought up, as they had subsequently been in Ireland. But among all the schemes of Parliamentary Reform of which he had heard, he had never known of a commencement like that which the house was now called upon to adopt. He knew that a wonderful degree of popularity might at present be acquired, by saying that one belonged to no party. But of this kind of popularity he was far from being ambitious, because without being a party man it would be impossible to accomplish any great object, and because he was persuaded that the country had derived more advantages from party warfare in that house, than from any other circumstance whatever. He therefore, wished for none of the popularity that must result from his being no party man. He was a zealous party man, and only wished he were a better. But the gentlemen themselves who had set up this cry of "no party," after all, constituted a party. They attended and voted together on questions which some considered as of minor importance, but as to those which were generally considered as of the greatest consequence, such as the fate of armies, they did not think it necessary to give any vote, and all stayed away. They proceeded in all this as if they were acting under a leader; and a leader, be he who he may, they either had, or must soon be compelled to appoint.—One of the most remarkable characteristics of this party was the attention which it paid to stage effect, (Hear! hear!) in carefully concealing the ultimate object at which it aimed (Hear! hear!). Of the two other parties, they gave the preference to the gentlemen on the other side; but 511 yet the only result of that preference was a charge against two of them by which they were compelled to leave the house (Hear! hear!). But why did they think ministers better than those who sat near him? The reason very probably was, that a weak administration might be more valuable to those who had such views. For all this he might expect to be subject to reproaches. The usual cry would be renewed, "When any motion is made against corruption, the parties immediately understand each other, and join against it." There was, indeed, one charge against him, a very heavy one in their opinion, which he could not deny. He had certainly been in office: but these gentlemen referred the house to the reports of their committees in support of their assertions, that corruption prevailed in every department of the state. Did they really believe it possible, that, in the management of so many complicated concerns, and of so large an expenditure, no mal-practices should at any time occur? It could not be done; and hence the advantage of appointing committees from time to time. The abuses were not, however, greater perhaps, than might have been expected; and these being pointed out in the reports, the house, had an opportunity of applying the remedies. Many improvements in the conduct of various departments had been the consequence of this mode of proceeding.—Mr.T. then observed, that he differed widely from the hon. bart. with regard to the bill of his bon. friend (Mr. Curwen) behind him. He thought the bill would do a great deal of good; but if the hon. bart. (Burdett) was of opinion, that the security which it proposed against the sale of seats was not sufficient, he himself ought to attend and propose a better. It was sufficient for him, however, that parliament had agreed to the principle, that such trafficking in seats ought to be abolished. He saw no reason for going into the past; and he asked, whether any thing could be more unjust than to turn round upon two gentlemen, whose conduct had not been attended with any peculiar aggravation. Mr. T. however, acknowledged that some reform there must be, and the more gradual he would be the better pleased. Something, however, must be done to remove any injurious impressions which the people had of that house. The landed interest ought, for obvious reasons, to have the greatest weight in the house, though it ought not to be all in all. The monied 512 interest ought to have considerable influence. But at the same time it was proper that mere money should not procure a seat in that house, and give rise to speculations which no one could see without pain. But it would be great injustice to render a few individuals the victims of a system which did not commence with them. He concluded by saying, that he would move an Amendment to the Motion, with a view to exclude that part of the charge relating to Mr. Perceval and Mr. Wellesley, and to retain only that which related to lord Castlereagh.
§ The Speaker
said, that though an oral charge was perfectly regular, yet it was necessary to have the allegations recorded; and called on Mr. Madocks to furnish the Clerk with a copy of his motion.—This being done, and the Charge, being an epitome of the accuser's speech, read by the Clerk, the Speaker noticed that the motion contained two distinct points; first, a charge of trafficking in the seats of that house; and second of influencing the vote of its members. He then explained the manner in which the question would be put, and informed the last speaker of the mode in which he could introduce his Amendment.
§ Mr. Tierney
explained. If the Chancellor of the Exchequer was privy to the second part of the charge, he had no wish to exclude him from his Amendment.
§ Mr. Whitbread
expressed his astonishment to hear the measure of Parliamentary Reform objected to by his right hon. friend in point of time; the more so as that objection was grounded upon the same arguments which his right hon. friend, he, and others, had on former occasions to encounter from the other side of the house. With regard to the public meetings, from which declarations of opinion had been published upon the subject of the decision of the house, relative to the conduct of the Duke of York, he maintained the right of the people to express their opinion upon any public question, asserting that there were numbers among the public who were as competent to form a correct opinion upon that or any other question, as the members of that house. To think otherwise on the part of the house, he would consider as an indication of arrogance and folly. The people had the whole of the evidence before them with respect to the transaction alluded to, and upon that evidence they thought proper to come to a conclusion directly contrary to that of the house. Was 513 it to be wondered at, that such a conclusion, and the considerations connected with it, should have induced the the mind of the country to conceive that all was not right in that house, and that some reform in the representation was necessary. As to the attack which it was alledged was systematically made upon public men, he wished to know whether serious disposition to very gross attack did not prevail against those who were anxious to expose and punish abuses, even more than against those who were supposed to profit by the existence of such abuses. He remembered, not many nights ago, to have heard it stated in that house by an hon. gent. that he would rather be Mrs. Clarke with all her vices, than pursue the conduct of the hon. gent. who brought her forward. This he offered as a specimen of what those were liable to who struggled upon the side of the people, and as some counterpoise to the murmuring of those gentlemen who felt so very indignant at accusations, accompanied by an offer of proof, which still they would not suffer the house to receive. So that although their pride was hurt, and their character impeached, they would not allow their principles to be vindicated. Although he supported the motion, as he would any measure connected with Reform, or the correction of abuses, there were two points in which he differed from those so pointedly alluded to by his right hon. friend: for he neither disclaimed party, nor did he profess that extraordinary purity, which was described as a cloak for mischievous designs. Giving every man credit for all the integrity that he could consistently claim, he believed there was no public man whatever whose motives wire not of a mixed nature. His own motives he confessed to be of that character, and still he believed himself as well disposed to do good as any other man; and in the prosecution of that good he would not suffer his mind to be warped by popularity either within or without doors. Parliamentary Reform he conceived to be the greatest good the country could experience, and therefore he sought for it. He thought it necessary in order to prevent convulsion; but he never did think, nor did he ever say, that it would operate like enchantment, as a panacea for all evils. He never was deluded by theories, but looked for that Reform only which was sought for by so many great men, by Mr. Blackstone, by Dr. Paley, by Mr. Fox, by Mr. Pitt, and many others. If 514 these great men could now be communicated with, if one of them at least were enabled to offer his advice, sure he was that that wise man, whose principles he contracted at his outset in political life, would strongly recommend the conduct he was now pursuing.—Several gentlemen, particularly about the ministerial bench, had, he recollected, professed their resolution to wage war with corruption; but if such a case as that then before the house did not rouse them to act, he could not conceive when they would give battle. Here were two ministers of state accused of receiving money for a seat in that house, calling upon the person purchasing such seat to vacate, because he would not vote against his conscience. How the money arising out of the purchase had been disposed of the house was yet to learn. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had talked of the violations of social confidence in the disclosure of this transaction. But in fact there was no social confidence in the case on the part of his hon. friend. The information he received he laid, as was his duty, before the house, and it was for the house to decide how it would act for the preservation of its own honour and character. But it was pretended, that as there was such a disposition to abuse public men, it was here proper to make a stand against inquiry.—What, in such a flagrant case? The present ministers would not determine upon such a stand in the instance of the Hampshire election. They would then prosecute Mr. Freemantle with the utmost rigour for writing a letter to a single voter: and yet now they would claim complete impunity for the Chancellor of the Exchequer and lord Castlereagh, who had sold a seat to a member upon certain terms to obtain his vote, and afterwards turned him out of his seat because he would not vote against his judgment. If such a case as this were overlooked, the house might as well, in his opinion, expunge its Journals, burn its statutes, and blot out the constitution. But, gentlemen asserted that there was no precedent for these retrospective inquiries; Did they forget that, in one of the most corrupt periods of our history, at the close of sir Robert Walpole's administration, a committee was appointed to inquire into the abuses of that administration for no less than ten years back? In these gentlemen, who voted against lord Castlereagh upon a former night or an act of corruption, which was only inchoate, he thought it would be 515 exceedingly inconsistent to vote against this motion, where the act was alledged to be complete.—The opinion in favour of Reform he believed to be much more general than it had been at any former period, and it was very easily to be accounted for. The result of the Investigation respecting the Duke of York, the rejection of the Reversion Bill, and the vote in favour of lord Castlereagh, formed strong additional reasons for discrediting the composition of that house, and naturally multiplied the advocates for Reform. Still he thought the sentiment in support of Reform, when it was last discussed, would have been much louder, more universal and effective, if it had not been for the extraordinary exercise of the influence of the crown. This exercise was most strongly exemplified in the case of the celebrated Robert Burns, the poet, as appeared from a letter of his published since his death. Burns was an exciseman, and having, by the liberality of his sentiments, incurred the imputation, the surveyor called upon him by order of the commissioners. Burns disclaimed the charge; but although under the apprehension of being sent with his family to seek for bread, for the produce of his works was insufficient to support a sick brother, he ventured to say that the corruption of the legislature, and the extending influence of the executive, boded no good to the country. Upon which the surveyor observed authoritatively—"It "is your business, Sir, to act, and not to "think—be silent and obedient." (A laugh at the back of the Ministerial benches.) Mr. Whitbread reprobated such levity. Sure he was, that those who could laugh at such an insolent observation, must be very much inferior indeed, in genius and worth, to the man to whom it was addressed.—It had become a fashion, he perceived of late, to call upon gentlemen, rather improperly as he thought, for a profession of faith upon certain political tenets.—For himself, however, he had no objection to make the profession required. He certainly was not an advocate for the exclusion of all placemen from seats in that house. Although he knew there were many who had no right to be there, he would rather prefer the presence of ministers, in order that they might be confronted with their accusers, that they might account for their conduct, and display their views to the house. He was also adverse to the idea, that it was of no consequence by whom the affairs of 516 the government were administered. It appeared to him quite preposterous, even if corruption were not removed or diminished, that it would not be material to consider by whom the power of the country should be directed. What, that if the vessel were in a crazy state, and its sails rent, it mattered not what pilot was at the helm!—There was not perhaps a man in society who felt more horror at the idea of revolution than he did. His all was at stake. He enjoyed many comforts, and valuing the British constitution, he would not risk its loss for any untried system—still less for a republic. He was no admirer of republican governments. They had both in ancient and modern times been corrupt and arbitrary. Even in Athens, supposed the purest republic, corruption pervaded the whole community, the people being bribed by the orators, and the orators bribed by foreign states, Demosthenes himself not being free from the imputation; but aversion to the idea of revolution must utterly blindfold the judgment of any man, who could suppose that such an evil was likely to arise, if lord Castlereagh were not granted impunity for a two-fold abuse of patronage, and if such a case as that before the house were not over-looked; the notion was perfectly ridiculous.—The hon. gent. concluded with exhorting the house to guard the country against the fate which all the corrupt governments of Europe had experienced—to conciliate the people to their government, and not to reduce England to the state in which Sicily now was, where the conduct of its government had rendered the people indifferent to the fate which seemed to menace them.
complained of the countenance given by the hon. gent. to the language held out of doors, arraigning the judgment of the house delivered after deliberate and painful investigation. From this superstructure it was, that he argued for the necessity of Reform. As one of that majority he would ask the hon. gent. why, because he gave no credit to a woman of Mrs. Clarke's character, he was to be accused of corruption, and such an assumption raised upon the case? The hon. gent. had told them, he approved of every sentiment expressed at one of those Meetings so much spoken of. One of the sentiments supported by the hon. baronet and his friends was, that there should be no placeman or pensioner in the house. How happened it then, that the hon. gent. ap- 517 proving of this Resolution, should this night maintain the directly contrary opinion? The hon. baronet expressed the strongest abhorrence of bribery, but he would ask him if there was no bribery for counties as well as for boroughs? Or if he had forgot the fate of the Sheriff of Middlesex for conniving at shameful votes at his own ejection? The house would do well to look, while they were destroying one source of influence, that they were not opening another to private wealth and individual influence. The object of such motions was to mike the government odious, while they were pretending to say they liked it better than any other, and the great danger that appeared to him, was in mixing this question with a charge of general corruption and consequent necessity for Reform. The hon. gentleman asked what inducement he could hare to abandon all his comforts and become a Revolutionist. He could not tell him; but this he could say that others with every comfort in their power had chosen to take that course, and felt the effect of a ferment they had raised, but never would allay. The public passions were raised and fed by these motions, which were not called for, since they had a measure in progress which would prevent their recurrence. If the hon. gent. who moved this question thought it necessary to excite clamour and discontent for the purpose of promoting the Parliamentary Reform, which he stood pledged to the house and public to bring forward, he had found means to do so even in the short speech he had made. The right hon. gent. expressed his resolution to oppose this motion, or any other of a similar nature, which promised to give food and fuel to that popular ferment, which it should be the object of the house to allay.
§ Mr. Whitbread
complained that the right hon. gentleman's speech was a tissue of misrepresentations of what he had said. He had never said the house of commons decided from corrupt motives, but persons out of doors said so, and not that he agreed in opinion with them.
§ Lord Cochrane
said, his principal reason for supporting Parliamentary Reform upon old constitutional principles was, as he had stated at a late popular meeting, in order to set ministers free from those discussions, which occupied too much of their time, and rendered them unable to attend to the important business of their several departments, the neglect of which 518 he had too often witnessed on foreign stations. If the people were fairly represented in that house, his opinion was, that there would be less of captious opposition or tedious controversy; corruption would be set aside; opposition would have no abuses to point out; and ministers, being disengaged from this task of defending such things, would be able to devote their minds more profitably for the state, to the objects he had before alluded to.
said he could remember no debate in which so many speeches had been thrown away. Ministers being accused of having procured the election of an individual by improper influence, and of dismissing or causing that individual to vacate his seat, because he refused to vote contrary to the dictates of his conscience; the question was whether or not an inquiry should be made into the circumstances, and in answer to it they had been about five hours debating on the proceeding that had taken place out of that house at public meetings, and discussing the propriety of attempting a Parliamentary Reform. Such a change as they proposed endeavouring to effect, he thought no trifling question. It would be a change most awful, most tremendous in the present state of the world, he should therefore be silent on that subject till some measure was proposed to that effect which he felt called upon by his duty to support. It was impossible for him to vote that the whole should be passed over without farther notice. He did not know that the facts stated were correct, but he did know that the individual whose name had been mentioned was a member of that house, and that he did vacate his seat about the time stated: whether or not it was in consequence of an intimation to that effect from the Treasury, he could not take upon himself to state. Therefore, when an hon. member brought such a subject forward, and stated it to be in his power to prove the truth of such allegations, he certainly could not oppose the inquiry.—With respect to the mode of procuring Seats in that house, it certainly was highly improper; but knowing how long such practices had been carried on, knowing how many had sat there in every parliament since the Revolution through similar influence, he could not think it would be acting like a man of honour were he to take advantage of a political adversary under such circumstances. There existed no man on the face of the earth who had so 519 strong a claim on his resentment as one of the accused. His conduct towards Ireland he could not remember but with indignation. It was owing to him in a great measure that the parliament of Ireland was put down—put down by practices which he would not name—and he could not but feel a more than ordinary decree of hostility towards that individual when he reflected on that circumstance. He felt therefore the necessity of being on his guard, lest he should carry his resentment to an unjustifiable length. A few evenings ago he had voted against lord Castlereagh; be would again do so were that discussion brought forward again, but in the present case the circumstances were, in his opinion, very different. It was impossible for him to reconcile it to his conscience to vote against him for having been concerned in alledged transactions of that nature. He did not think it justice when those practices were carried on by ten thousand different persons, to select those gentlemen charged by the hon. member to be the only victims, when so many who had sat there before him, nay who sat there with him, were suffered to escape with impunity. The hon. baronet had said that every sensible man laughed at a Bill recently brought in by his hon. friend (Mr. Curwen). The hon. baronet he supposed would not consider any man sensible who did not laugh at it, but he did not hesitate to state it as his opinion, that the bill was calculated to produce the most beneficial effects. Instead of considering of any wild plan of Reform, he thought it would be well if they took that bill into consideration, improve it when it would admit of improvement, and make the best they could of it, to prevent such evils from recurring in future; but not to proceed against individuals because that had been proved to exist which had long been notorious; which was not more strange to us than the sun at noon day; which was as well known as the streets of the metropolis. He was aware it might be said, because he thus defended ministers; that some of his friends were guilty of similar actions: he did not know, he could not answer for them, but he could answer for himself. Than himself no one could be more innocent; he had never given one shilling away in his life to bribe an elector. The question was not, whether one party had been more culpable than the other, but whether it would be proper to proceed against individuals situated as the 520 two ministers charged by the hon. gent. were. For his part, he did not think it would be just to select those gentlemen as the only persons who ought to be proceeded against on such a charge.
did not agree with the hon. gent. who had just sat down. He had stated two reasons why they should not proceed against the ministers charged with corruption: The first, because a Bill had been brought into the house which might prevent the so frequent recurrence of such abuses; the other, because the facts were so notorious that every one knew of them. He wished to know how long the hon. gent. who spoke last, as well as the right hon. gent. opposite, had thought so favourably of that Bill. Whatever might be the ultimate success of that bill, he thought it no argument against inquiring into the conduct of those accused, nor did he think the enormity of such practices diminished by their notoriety. He remembered with what a jeer of denial the statements he had made of a similar nature had been greeted. They did not deny that such abuses existed in words, but they did by signs, which every body understood; but now gentlemen opposed the measure, because they were ignorant how far its effects might extend. When he moved that a Committee should be appointed for the purpose of making a general inquiry into Abuses, it was opposed because it was too general. Had specific charges been brought, it was stated no opposition would have been made; but now specific charges were brought forward, it should appear they were too specific, and a general measure was to be preferred. Those who then said, "bring forward specific charges; let us see who among us is unworthy a seat in this house," now unblushingly stood forward to prevent such an inquiry being instituted, and to screen those charged with corruption. If their recent proceedings had excited the indignation of the country, he did not think their acting thus would tend to allay the ferment excited in the minds of the people. They ought to consider the question as it stood by itself, and pronounce aye or no accordingly, as the evidence adduced might preponderate for or against the persons accused.—The noble lord then entered into the case at large, and concluded by stating, that under all the circumstances, though he knew a general election had taken place since those who were accused had been in 521 power, though he knew that many who would be called on to vote that night, must, like Mr. Quintin Dick, vote in their favour, or vacate their seats, he did not think they could oppose the motion.
§ Mr. Windham
said, the abuses now so heavily complained of, had existed unnoticed in those times which had been called the best. They ought not with a rash and violent hand attempt to eradicate them till the whole of the circumstances had been maturely considered. For by so doing, we might with, or instead of, the evil, tear up that which was infinitely more valuable to us than any thing we could possibly gain by such a procedure The elements of the air we breathe contain particles which we know to be of a poisonous nature, but were we to attempt taking those away, we should probably take with them that which was essential to our existence. So if we attempted to reform and alter the representation from what it ever had been since the formation of our constitution, we might deprive our constitution by so doing of all that was good and valuable. Attempting to remove a blemish, we might tear the garment and render it worthless. Were all the great men of former times, whose names we had been accustomed to venerate, to be set down as corrupt men by the adoption of such a plan? He would not have that constitution, by which the country had risen to what it was, altered in any respect whatever. That corruption did exist was undeniable, corruption existed from top to bottom, but he believed more would be found at the bottom than at the top. The lower they went the worse they would find it. What man, however prudent and frugal in the administration of his own private affairs, could prevent the existence of abuses on his own premises? Abuses would exist in his kitchen, in his stable, or in his garden, which he could not see nor prevent. The motion went to charge government, not with abuses countenanced by them, but with those which they could not prevent, and seeking a reform in parliament they would go near to overturn the government. He did not know whether the taxes, great as they were, bore a greater proportion to the revenue of the country than formerly. If luxury did not increase with the taxes, he did not think their weight would be found so excessively great. Mr. Quintin Dick had not been forced to vacate his seat as his noble friend, had incorrectly 522 stated; no one could force him to vacate it. He thought it probable that Mr. Quintin Dick went to consult with ministers as to the line of conduct he ought to pursue, as his conscience would not suffer him to vote with them. When he found his inclinations run counter the wishes of those who had procured him a seat, he might have tendered it again to those from whom he received it. He did not think it would be proper to punish individuals for what had been so generally practised by others; and concluded by generally opposing the motion.
§ Lord Archibald Hamilton
rose, amidst a tumultuous call of question, question! His lordship expressed great surprize at the doctrines he had heard delivered on the present question. One right hon. gent. (Mr. Ponsonby) had declared, he could not listen to the charge, because the practice on which it was founded had long been as open and broad as the sun at noon-day. For his own part, if he understood the constitution; if he understood his duty as a member of that house, if he wished for the prosperity and tranquillity of the country, he should suppose that such a conviction in the mind of the right hon. gent. who made it would have been a very strong reason for his voting in favour of the motion. With respect to the speech of the right hon. gent. who had just sat down, he had with pain heard and observed that it seemed to cast such indulgence on every species of corruption, that if he had not himself heard he could not have believed. There seemed to be a doubt between that right hon. gent. and his majesty's ministers whether there was any thing whatever to correct in the present system of parliamentary representation. If the house should unfortunately determine to overlook the present charge, he trembled for its dignity and character having any longer a place in the estimation of the people.
§ Mr. Wilberforce
declared he never rose to speak with more pain and surprise. He thought the house ought to come to a resolution in favour of the motion for the sake of its own honour and dignity. There never was a time when under any state of things, either within or without the house, they ought to be more careful of observing the opinion of the people.—He was as much disposed as any man, not only to vindicate the character of the persons accused, but even to acknowledge the zeal and assiduity exerted 523 by them in the public service. But it was to its collective character which the house had now to attend to; and if they would but for a moment consider the question before them with a moral eye, there could be no doubt about their decision. This, among a multiplicity of other reasons, imposed it as a duty upon him to vote for the original question.
Mr. Secretary Canning
begged leave to offer a few observations, even at that late hour of the night, although he had but little to add to the arguments which had already been urged against the motion of the hon. gent. He could not well refrain from reminding the house that the motion at present before them was acknowledged to be a first step towards Parliamentary Reform; and that the means proposed for enabling the house to take that step, were impracticable. Against such a measure the house had now to make a stand—a determined stand against the encroachments of the factious. The time was now come, when not only a great majority of that house, but also all the reflecting and sound part of the country, would pronounce an opinion, that in resisting the motion of the hon. gent. they acted a part not less acceptable to the feelings of the people, than it was conducive to the safety of the state. The question before the house should not be considered on narrow grounds, or on its own particular and separate merits. It was the duty of parliament to view it in all its bearings, and while they attended to the particular case, not to overlook its general consequences; what these consequences might be, it was no difficult matter to conjecture, when due attention was paid to the nature of the Resolutions which had been passed elsewhere, and to the names that were affixed to those Resolutions. The house were told to take care how they acted in contradiction to the sense of the people. But how and where was the sense to be ascertained? Was it in the commons house of parliament, or in those meetings which were held to canvass the conduct of that house? Were the house to listen only to those among them who came reeking from those meetings, and who would inculcate on the house the lessons which they received and brought from such a school? Should we not look to the motives from which such persons acted, as well as to the principles they thought proper to profess, and in taking this view of the nature and tendency 524 of their conduct were we not to learn what we should avoid, as well as what we had to adopt? With respect to the scheme which was hatching in those meetings, no man could be in the dark. We had to guard against the machinations of dangerous demagogues: at least when such meetings presumed to bring the conduct of that house to account, that house had an equal right to enquire into, and animadvert upon the tendency of their conduct. Indeed, it were an abjuration of common sense not to see the motives, and to appreciate the consequences of the present motion. The attempt at Parliamentary Reform was at all times questionable; at a moment like the present it was dangerous in the extreme; and might lead to consequences beyond any conjecture or calculation. The object of the present motion was merely to immolate two public characters upon his side of the house; but if it were now to be acceded to, would it stop there? Would not the spirit it was intended to excite call to-morrow for more stately and more numerous victims on the other side? Where would its practical consequences stop? It must bear down all public men in all public situations, and leave their room to be filled by providential men without practice, without experience. The house would surely pause before they adopted a proposition that must lead to such a series of consequences. He must again be permitted to remind the house, that the main and sole object of the present motion was a reform in parliament; that the hon. mover, and more particularly the noble lord (Folkestone) who supported the motion, expressly stated that they were actuated by no hostile feelings against his colleagues; that they had no wish or intention whatsoever to see them removed from office; that their great object was a reform of that house; in short, that all their claims were directed to parliamentary reform. They had already advanced two steps; they had but one more to take, and that was to relieve his majesty's ministers from all attendance in parliament. They would first rob public men of all the influence of character, well knowing that without such a shield they must prove defenceless and impotent. In short, they would take every thing that was liberal from the ambition for place, and reduce public men to that degraded standard to which such a motion as the present must level them. With all his 525 anxiety for parliamentary reform, the avowed object of his motion, as originally announced, the hon. gent. thought proper to shift his ground, and with more depth of design, and dexterity of execution, he now came forward with a separate measure, with a measure that was only a preliminary to the attainment of his great end. Neither would he state the sort of reform he wished for, but merely dwelt upon the necessity of a general reform, as arising from recent opinions which had sprung from disclosures made by a recent investigation; but here he had to observe, that although public opinion, when legitimately pronounced, was always to be respected, yet the influence that was supposed to have guided that house on that decision, might in a great measure, have been misunderstood. For other causes than what were imputed to corruption: for other predilections than those which were supposed to be then acted upon tended to that decision. It spoke of the power of that house in terms not to be misconceived. It proved that there was nothing so high that might not be brought under the jurisdiction of that house. It proved that even the intimation of its disapprobation had produced as great an effect as could have been brought about by its most direct and severe animadversion. Good God! was this, then, the period to suppose that the character of the house of commons was lost; and that every, the most hazardous, experiment should be made to relieve it? Still it was the character and the influence of that house that achieved all our blessings, and distinguished the character and the condition of this country from that of any other country in the world; and was the source from which such blessings flowed to be described only as corrupt, to be stigmatized only as a sink of corruption, an object of alarm and disgust? Of whatever atoms such a body was composed, whether it was the result of some grand design, or merely the offspring of their fortuitous concurrence, it mattered not: Out of it grew the marked character, the vital principle which distinguished this country from all others, and which operated as the perennial source of blessings unknown to any other nation. Was this a thing to be wantonly or wicked trifled with? The right hon. gent. concluded, by suggesting a mode of combining in one both the original motion and the amendments that were proposed to it.
protested against the doctrine of that night, which posterity would reprobate. When it should hear that a house of commons was found so debased as to acknowledge the existence of corruption in its formation, and justify the existence of it. (Cries of withdraw, withdraw, and violent uproar). It was at least consistent for those, said the hon. member, to drown, if possible, the discussion of men who opposed them. Convinced, as they must be, that such conduct as they pursued that night, could neither bear inquiry, argument, or the touchstone of common integrity.
§ Mr. W. Smith
thought the house bound to reflect upon the alledged interference of lord Castlereagh, with the vote of Mr. Dick upon a judicial question of high importance. [No, No, from the ministerial benches]. If the fact be not so, why not inquire? [No, No, from the same quarter]. I repeat the words—If the fact be not so, why not inquire? and if with the question thus put to you, you refuse to inquire, the country will not fail to form its own decision.
§ Mr. Peter Moore
stated, that on a former occasion, when he opposed himself to the general motion of a noble lord (Folkestone), because it did not state some definite grounds, he had then the honour of being cheered by his majesty's ministers and their adherents. Their objection then was,—your motion is too wide-wasting, too indefinite, and therefore we oppose it; but give us something in a tangible shape and we will withdraw our resistance? Here then was something in a tangible shape; here was specific corruption offered to be proved against two members of their body, in confidential situations under the crown. How has it been received? Shame to say, its existence has not only been admitted from time immemorial, but even justified from both sides of the house. Let the house cautiously reflect how it sends abroad such principles, sanctioned by their decision. In such an attempt to vindicate the character of the two rt. hon. gentlemen, they will fail to retrieve them, whilst they sacrifice to eternity the honour, the credit, and the character of the house of commons.
§ Mr. Madocks
made a brief reply, defended the consistency of his public life and the purity of his motives. He felt impelled to the course by the sense of public duty, from which, not even the conduct of that night should succeed in 527 warping him. A right hon. gent. (Mr. Windham) had confessed, that corruption existed from the top to the bottom of the state. He was sorry to agree with the right hon. gent. on this point. It did, indeed, exist most generally. Its universality and ubiquity were frightful, and reminded him of Virgil's figure of Fame:'Ingrediturque solo, et caput inter nubile condit.'The Question being loudly called for, strangers were ordered to withdraw. The two Amendments were negatived without a division. The house then divided on the original motion, as proposed by Mr. Madocks; when the numbers were:—
Noes 310 Ayes 85 Majority against Inquiry —225
|List of the Minority.|
|Adams, Charles||Langton, Wm. Gore|
|Althorp, viscount||Lemon, sir Wm.|
|Antonie, William Lee||Lemon, John|
|Astley, sir J. H.||Lloyd, sir Edw. Pryce|
|Babington, Thomas||Lyttleton, h. Wm. H.|
|Barham, Joseph Foster||M'Donald, James|
|Baring, Alexander||Markham, John|
|Biddulph, R.M.||Martin, Henry|
|Bradshaw, h. A. C.||Maule, h. William|
|Brand, h. Thomas||Mildmay, sir Harry|
|Browne, Anthony||Miller, sir Thomas|
|Burdett, sir Francis||Milner, sir W. M.|
|Byng, George||Milton, lord viscount|
|Calvert, Nicholson||Moore, Peter|
|Cochrane, lord||Mosley, sir Oswald|
|Combe, Harvey C.||Mostyn, sir Thomas|
|Cooke, Bryan||North, Dudley|
|Creevey, Thomas||Northey, William|
|Curwen, J. Christian||Ossulston, lord|
|Dickenson, William||Parnell, Henry|
|Dundas, Charles||Pelham, h. C. A.|
|Fellowes, h. Newton||Percy, earl|
|Fitzpatrick, rt. h. Rd.||Porchester, lord|
|Forbes, viscount||Pym, Francis|
|Giles, Daniel||Romilly, sir Samuel|
|Gower, earl||Savage, Francis|
|Grant, Charles||Scudamore, R. Philip|
|Grattan, rt. h. Henry||Sharp, Richard|
|Halsey, Joseph||Shepley, William|
|Hamilton, lord A.||Smith, William|
|Hibbert, George||St. Aubyn, sir John|
|Honywood, William||Symonds, Tho. Powel|
|Horner, Francis||Talbot, Rd. Wogan|
|Howard, Henry||Thornton, Henry|
|Howorth, Humphrey||Tracey, C. Hanbury|
|Hughes, Wm. Lewis||Walpole, h. George|
|Hutchinson, h. C. H.||Western, C. Callis|
|Hussey, William||Wharton, John|
|Jekyll, Joseph||Whitbread, Samuel|
|Johnes, Thomas||Wilberforce, William|
|King, sir J. Dashwood||Wardle, G. L.|
|Lambe, h. William||Madocks, Wm. Alex.|
|Lambton, Ralph John||Folkestone, viscount|