§ Lord Milton
rose to submit his promised motion on the subject of the reappointment of the Duke of York to the office of Commander in Chief. In undertaking this duty, which he felt himself little competent to discharge, he heartily wished that the matter had been taken up by some member of longer experience and greater weight in the House. This was a subject deserving of the most serious attention of the House of Commons. If the two Houses of Parliament were at all competent to controul the execution of the public business, the matter which he now brought before them, imperiously called for their interference. If in any case the appointment of public officers ought to be inquired into, and animadverted upon, it was in a case of this description. It must be in the recollection of the House, that it had been on a former occasion engaged in a long and laborious discussion relative to the illustrious person who had lately been reinstated in the office of Commander in Chief. It must be in the recollection of the House, how the discussion had terminated: it must be in its recollection, what motions had been made on the subject, both those which had been negatived, and those which remained on the Journals. It was not his intention to enter at all into the evidence 471 given on the occasion to which he alluded. The result was all that he had now to do with. The House must remember, that the first motion was for an Address to the King, charging his Royal Highness with personal corruption and connivance. This proposition was negatived, and he himself was one of those who had voted against it. But he was not therefore of opinion that the Duke of York was absolved from the minor charges that had been brought against him. He thought he had been guilty of that criminal negligence bordering on connivance which rendered it impossible for him to continue in office. In this opinion the majority of the House perhaps did not concur, but there was every reason to believe that the majority of the House was then prepared to have come to a resolution which must have led to the resignation of his Royal Highness. He himself was not in the House at the time of the transaction which he was about to state, but he understood that a motion had been made by a right hon. gentleman, the member for Bristol (Mr. Bathurst) that must have had the effect of excluding the Duke of York from office. If the motion had been brought to a division, either that or somthing like it would certainly have passed; but an Amendment had been proposed by a noble friend of his (lord Althorpe) stateing that, as the Duke of York had resigned his situation, it was unnecessary now to proceed any farther in the business. With the exception of the word now, that Amendment stood on the Journals: it stood on their Journals that the reason why the House had net proceeded to a vote which must have been followed by the exclusion of his Royal Highness from office, was, that he had resigned. What other construction did the resolution of his noble friend admit of than this in substance, that if his Royal Highness had not resigned, the House would in that case have felt it necessary to have adopted some further course of proceeding? In so understanding that Resolution, he contended that he was putting upon it no forced construction, but one that arose fairly out of the obvious interpretation of it. It was upon this ground that he rested the motion which he intended to submit to their consideration. The object of that motion was to maintain the dignity of that House, which appeared to him to be not slightly questioned in the re-appointment of his royal highness; and by maintaining 472 the dignity of that House, he thought he took the most effectual means to uphold the reputation of the government, and to secure the purity of administration. He was well aware to what misconstruction he was liable as to the motives that had influenced him in taking the step he had done. It might be imputed to him, that he had been solely actuated by the poor ambition of courting a little transient popularity. Whether that actually was his character, or ought to be his character, he should leave to others to determine; but this he would say, that with the opinions he entertained of the re-appointment of his royal highness the duke of York, and with the deep sense of his public duty which such opinions had necessarily impressed upon him: if, under such a conviction, he had swerved from that duty, or had permitted any personal considerations to have obstructed him in the discharge of it, in that case he should have richly merited all the reproaches that could possibly have been cast upon him. This, however, he had not done; he had seen his duty, and had seen also that it would be a most painful one to perform; but, painful as it might be, he had resolved to follow it up as faithfully as he could, whether through evil report or good report. Thus much as to his motives. With respect, then, to the re-appointment of his Royal Highness, he would ask the House it they could agree to sanction an appointment made in virtual opposition to their own recorded sentiments? for the resignation was the result of the opinion known to prevail in that House, and the approving of the reappointment would be in effect a censure upon the Parliament itself, as the same fact would have been in that case approved of and reprobated by the same Parliament. Was it to be maintained that a great public officer—the higher the office the stronger the argument—who had been driven into resignation by the vote of that House, should scarcely two years alter be brought back into that office for which Parliament thought him unfit. This was the principal ground on which he wished to rest the motion he intended to make, because upon that ground was the character of the House affected, in case it suffered the re-appointment of his Royal Highness to pass unnoticed. If, indeed, there were persons whose uniform wish and aim it was to weaken the constitutional influence of that 473 House, by systematically degrading and vilifying its character, such persons, he was sure, must have rejoiced if they had seen no man stand forward to call their attention to such an instance of disrespect towards the declared opinions of that House—not that he claimed any merit for having taken that duty upon himself, since he had already acknowledged, that with the impressions upon his mind, had he hesitated to do so, he would have been highly criminal.
It might be objected, that though the House did at that period wish for the resignation of his Royal Highness, they did not intend to exclude him from all chance of return to office, and that upon this principle the punishment of his Royal Highness might be considered as fully commensurate to the extent of his offences; to this objection he was prepared to answer by saying, that he never would admit deprivation of office to be in itself a punishment—incapacitation for office was, he allowed, a punishment, but not mere deprivation, He denied, therefore, that his Royal Highness had been punished, but even admitting that he had, how did that affect the consideration of the fact, that he had been declared by that House unfit for that office. Now, if in March 1809, his Royal Highness was unfit for that situation, what since could have made him fit for it? The House thought him then unfit; what had since occurred to alter their opinion? He was pained to put it this way, and thus to question the character of a personage whose character every one must wish to have been unquestionable, but the fault was not in him, but in the conduct of his Royal Highness, which had unfortunately made it otherwise. The noble lord said he could not shut his eyes; he had seen what that conduct had been, and could not think of it, or speak of it in any other terms than it deserved. He repeated, that he could not understand how, if his Royal Highness was unfit for the situation of Commander in Chief in the year 1809, he could be fit for it in 1811. Upon this point he could not help dwelling as he had done, for it appeared to him to be one that involved in it insurmountable objections to his Royal Highness's restoration.
The noble lord said he knew that certain transactions had come to light since the inquiry, which it might be contended had a tendency very materially to change the general opinion, upon that question; 474 but he was afraid that those who took up that line of defending the restoration of his Royal Highness, would find it a very difficult task; for though the subsequent discovery of such transactions might make for the duke of York in one point, it yet made tenfold against him in others; for though his Royal Highness had been the victim of a foul conspiracy—(Here the noble lord was interrupted by a general cry of Hear! hear! from all parts of the House)—yet did the gentlemen who cried hear! recollect, that the truth of that subsequent discovery rested solely upon the testimony of that very person who had been the chief and material witness against his Royal Highness himself. Indeed, there were many persons who, he had observed, seemed prepared to argue the entire of this question, as if the character of the duke of York did not stand upon the same principle as that of any other man, and that instead of judging of that character from the customary evidence of his own actions, we were to determine according to the comparative testimony of them with that of others. So that the character of his Royal Highness was not to be in the fair and direct proportion of the rectitude or obloquy of his own conduct; but to have, as it were, an inverse relation to that of others—that was, to rise as the charac-of another fell, and to be respected in proportion as that other was despised. This would be to make a man's reputation depend not upon himself but others. In the inquiry, the noble lord said he had voted not upon authority, but evidence. If nothing had been done to subvert the evidence at that time, with what face did the present ministers come before the House to justify their recommendation of the duke of York to an office which (he was sorry to be obliged to say) he had disgraced the administration of. Would it be contended that the opinion of that House had not caused his Royal Highness's resignation? If it had not caused that resignation, he should be glad to know what had caused it; and if it had caused it, he demanded of the Prince Regent's ministers 10 slate upon what ground they took upon themselves to advise the restoration of his royal highness. The Resolution upon their Journals stated that his royal highness having resigned, it was unnecessary to pursue the business any farther, which was saying, in other words, that if he had not resigned they would have felt it necessary to take some farther proceeding 475 to bring about that resignation. To this Resolution the ministers themselves had been parties. He now called upon them to shew the paramount necessity of reappointing his royal highness in defiance of that Resolution, to which they and the House were pledged. He should not now enter into the question, whether persons of such exalted rank and station were the fittest to select for offices of such great importance and high responsibility, but he challenged the ministers to say, if they would have ventured to have recommended to that office a person in every way similarly circumstanced as the duke of York, his rank excepted. He was convinced that they would not have so ventured, though he thought, that if the consideration of rank made any difference, it ought to have been one more objectionable to those of that rank, than to those below it. There were, he believed, many individuals in the country, one of them had lately died, but that consideration was not necessary to make him abstain from any observation that might appear harsh; but there were persons who had been similarly circumstanced with the duke of York, who might, if deprivation was punishment, upon equally just grounds, put in their claim to restoration. What would be the difference? The difference, if any, would be against his royal highness, for the noble lord said he ventured to lay down as a position, perfectly maintainable, that the higher the rank of the person in such a case the more imperious the necessity for that House to interfere. He left it then to the ministers to say, why, if they recommended the re-appointment of the duke of York, they refused to recommend the restoration of lord Melville, not that he meant to institute the remotest comparison between the two cases in their separate details; but they so far agreed in their result of deprivation of office to both parties, one of whom had been reappointed, and the other had in vain applied to be restored.
here called the noble lord to order. He was proceeding to set the noble lord right as to some supposed mistake respecting lord Melville, when a general cry of Chair! Chair! called up
§ The Speaker
, who said that the observations of the hon. member did not appear to him to apply to any question of order, and to such only could he then speak.
§ Lord Milton
proceeded, in continuation, 476 to press the comparison between the duke of York and lord Melville as far as respected their common deprivation of office, and required to know upon what principle, peculiarly advantageous to the duke of York's case, he had been re-appointed and lord Melville not. He thought that there was in the difference of rank all that should awaken their jealousy. The higher the personage was, the more cautious the House should be; and the nearer his alliance to courts, and to the crown, the greater should be the vigilance that pursued his conduct. Upon these grounds, and conceiving that no reason could be adduced to shew that his Royal Highness was more fit in 1811 than in 1809, he had brought forward his motion. He did not wish to hurt the private feelings of any individual, but he must do his duty; for if the members of the House of Commons did not in many instances sacrifice their feelings to their justice, it would be impossible that they could discharge their duty to the people. He hoped the House of Commons would vindicate its character upon this occasion: he hoped it would shew that it was not to be treated in an insulting manner, and that the interests of the people were not to be sacrificed to the caprices of an impure administration. Ministers should be reminded that there was no public officer, however exalted his rank, whose responsibility was not within the cognizance of that House; this had been at all times an useful lesson; and, in? his mind, the case he had made out to the House made it necessary now to repeat that lesson, which he should now call upon the House to do, by maintaining their character, in the declaration of their consistency. The noble lord then moved, "That the entry in the Journal of this House, of the 20th day of March 1809, of the resolution of the House upon the subject of the investigation into the conduct of his royal highness the duke of York as commander in chief, might be read:"—and the same was read, as follows: "Resolved, That his royal highness "the duke of York, having resigned the command of the army, this House does not think it necessary to proceed, any further in the consideration of the minutes of evidence taken before the Committee who were appointed to investigate the conduct of his royal highness the duke of York, so far as they relate to his royal highness'. He also moved, "That the entry in the Journal of this House, of the 477 17th day of March 1809, of the resolution of the House upon the subject of the said investigation, might be read:"—and the same was read, as follows:
§ 'Resolved, that it is the opinion of this House, after the fullest and most attentive consideration of all the evidence reported to this House, from the Committee of the whole House, appointed to investigate the conduct of his royal highness, the Duke of York, that the said evidence affords no ground for this House to charge his royal highness, in the execution of his official duties as commander in chief, with the personal corruption alledged against him in that evidence, or with any connivance at the corrupt and infamous practices which are therein disclosed.'—The noble lord then concluded with moving the following resolution: "That, upon a deliberate consideration of the recent circumstances under which his royal highness the duke of York retired from the command of the army in March 1809, it appears to this House that it has been highly improper and indecorous in the advisers of the Prince Regent to have recommended to his royal highness, the re-appointment of The duke of York to the office of commander in chief."
The Chancellor of the Exchequer
said, that however full and complete in his own mind were the grounds upon which he meant to rest what he had to offer in answer to the speech and motion of the noble lord, and however satisfactory they might appear to the minds of others, yet all he had to say lay within so narrow a compass, and was of a nature so clear and obvious, that it would not be necessary for him to trespass at any considerable length upon the attention of the House. And first, he was anxious to assure the noble lord, that in what should fall from him he would not be at all influenced by any desire to shake off from himself or his colleagues the smallest portion of that responsibility in which they stood constitutionally bound to the House and to the country. He wished it to be distinctly understood, that the recommending the appointment of his royal highness the duke of York to the command of the army, was an act for which, be it right or be it wrong, his Majesty's servants were collectively and individually responsible, in fact as well as in law; and he was the more anxious to make this statement, because there seemed to have been something like an attempt to have it supposed 478 that this was an act from which the ministers had been anxious to withdraw themselves.
He begged now to state the circumstances that led to the re appointment. The House was aware that the gallant officer who lately filled the situation of commander in chief, had been known and recommended by his tried and eminent services, but that he was also of advanced age. He had spent nearly half a century in the active and zealous service of his country. In the early part of the winter he had contracted an illness, arising from a cold, which obliged him to apply for liberty to retire from the arduous duties of his office. This application had first been made at the commencement of the present year, and had since that period been repeated so frequently and earnestly, that it became a matter of necessity and justice both towards the gallant officer and the public, to yield to it, and the office, of course, became vacant.
In the present state of the country ha believed the House would think with him, that the office of commander in chief was one which ought not to be suffered to remain vacant. Then, as to the principle of the advice which in that case it became the duty of his Majesty's ministers to offer. Upon this head, he avowed that there was not in his mind, nor in those of his colleagues, the slightest hesitation as to the person whom they should recommend to be appointed. When they looked back to the nature of those tried and eminent services rendered to the army by his royal highness the duke of York, they were left no choice; and it was worthy of remark, that in the whole progress of those painful debates upon the inquiry, no gentleman hesitated to acknowledge the skill, industry, and talents evinced by his royal highness, in consulting the good of the army in general, in advancing the military character, promoting its discipline, and bettering the condition of the private soldier. Considering those services; and comparing them with the claims of others, his Majesty's ministers were bound, by every sense of public duty, to give the preference of recommendation to him only who best deserved it. Neither did it appear to them to be the least among the many leading qualifications of his royal highness, that there was in the army no indisposition to be placed under his command (Hear, hear!). He did not say that such a qualification was indispensible; 479 he did not say that the opinion of the army upon such an appointment ought to be allowed to interfere at all in some eases, or in any materially, but this he did say, that the wishes of the army were not in this case an objection. And indeed, though he did not urge it by way of argument, yet he could not help thinking, that if ever there was a period at which the feelings of the army deserved to be anticipated by the wishes of their grateful country, that period was the present. This, however, he did not assign as a reason, but mentioned rather as a circumstance favourable to the reasons he had assigned.—But the noble lord argued as if the selection of H. R. H. was not open to his Majesty's ministers; as if they could not constitutionally recommend him to that appointment. What was the Resolution upon which the noble lord laid so much stress? Was it meant to be eternal in its operation? Was it meant to exclude the duke of York for ever? If not for ever, then what was the period of time during which it became criminal in his Majesty's ministers to advise his restoration? Let the House see what were the Resolutions. The first distinctly acquitted his royal highness of all species of corruption. After that acquittal, he solicited his Majesty to accept his resignation. Here the noble lord presumed what he could not prove: he contended that the resignation of his royal highness was the result of the opinion of that House. The noble lord had no means of knowing that opinion. There were, indeed, various opinions among the members of that House, of whom some might have thought that his royal highness ought to resign, and many others certainly did think that such resignation was by no means called for. The noble lord had alluded to the Amendment proposed by his right hon. friend (Mr. Bathurst), as a motion which would have been carried, and which, if carried, must have had the effect of removing the duke of York. Did the noble lord mean to say that (hat removal was the object of the mover of that Amendment? If he did, he apprehended he was in error, for if his memory served him, he recollected his right hon. friend stating, in the speech with which he prefaced that Amendment, that it was not his wish or object to remove his royal highness [here Mr. Bathurst signified his assent]. He was right, then in point of fact, as to the intention of the mover of that Amendment, and could 480 not be wrong in inferring from that fact, that it was more probable that that Amendment would not have displaced the duke of York; so that the noble lord's argument was but conjecture, and conjecture professedly grounded upon that which justified an opposite conjecture. There was excited at the time of that painful discussion, a feeling of irritability in the public mind, which the duke of York knowing himself to have been the inadvertent cause of, might have felt it his duty to endeavour to allay, or to remove at the expence of any personal sacrifice. Might he not have felt it a duty to try to compose, by his resignation, the industriously excited feelings of the public, which might in its consequences have created embarrassments to his father's government? This he thought to be at least as probable, and certainly as charitable a conjecture of the motives of his royal highness in retiring, as that presumed by the noble lord.
He should follow the becoming example set him by the noble lord, and confine himself to the result of the inquiry, without dwelling upon the circumstances that led to that result, or animadverting upon the transactions which had come to light since that inquiry (hear! hear!) though he thought that he might deviate from such a rule, at least to this extent, if no further. He might venture to put it to the noble lord, or any other gentleman in or out of that House, whether he believed that if that House had been then aware of that conspiracy, which had been since discovered (Hear! hear!)—if they had been apprized of those honourable arts by which the evidence in that inquiry had been come at, prepared, and brought forward—if they then understood the true nature of those noisy pretensions to high and exclusive patriotism which were at that time put forth so vauntingly; if they had then known how to appreciate the angry virtues and indignant independence of these patriotic inquirers into corruption;—if they had known but all, where was the man who would say that such knowledge would not have had its due effect? He did not mean to say that it would necessarily have altered the result, but surely much, if not all, of that irritation of feeling which then so unhappily prevailed, could never have been excited; and therefore that motive which had induced his royal highness to retire, might not have been created.
481 As to the Resolution stating that the resignation of the duke of York rendered farther proceedings unnecessary, he begged leave to remind the noble lord that it was proposed and agreed to that the word "now" should be left out in order to preclude the possibility of supposing that it was the wish of the House to erect a perpetual bar against the return of his royal highness to office, but the fair inference from that Resolution was not that because of the duke's resignation that House did not feel it necessary to take any steps to compass an object already effected. That was not the fair construction, because the Resolution simply stated that the duke of York having resigned, that House did not feel it necessary—to do what? to pass a censure upon him?—No;—to vote his incapacitation?—No;—but did not feel it necessary to go further into the consideration of the minutes of evidence. This, he contended, pledged the House to nothing.
If it had been the object of the House, that the further inquiry was to cease only so long as his royal highness continued out of office, that would have appeared on the Journals? But when the Resolution appeared without limit or time, and not stating it to be the meaning of the House that his royal highness should not again be restored to his office, it would be unjust in any ministry, it would be cruel and unjust towards the individual who was the subject of the motion, to hold that it must be acted on as if it amounted to a total and perpetual exclusion from office. If the noble lord would take an opportunity of referring back to what occurred at the time, it would be found that, whatever might be supposed as to the propriety and decency of the royal duke's retiring for a time, the great majority of the House had no idea that this was to operate as a bar to his being ever again employed as Commander-in-Chief. It would have been most unjust in the House to have left matters in that state, thereby setting a trap for any minister or for any set of men who at any future period might advise his Majesty that it was for the interest of the country that his royal highness should be restored to the office he had formerly held, and that there was not anything appearing on the face of the Journals of the House, which could in any degree operate as a bar to such re-appointment. Every thing which was then agreed to became the subject of minute consideration; and he ventured to affirm, that nothing 482 was then done, or even contemplated, which could have had the effect of preventing the recall of his royal highness to the situation of Commander in Chief. At least such was the impression the transaction had on his mind; and he disclaimed the most distant idea of having given, or of being capable of giving advice to the Prince Regent, which could go to lessen the dignity of that House, or to call forth their censure upon his conduct.
He contended, therefore, that it must be obvious that this nomination had been made without any previous opinion as to the impropriety of it having been declared by that House. It was for the House now to say, however, whether this was a case in which the prerogative had or had not been well exercised? He contended that it had been wisely and properly exercised, at the time the nomination had taken place; that the nomination was called for by the tried and eminent services of his royal highness, who had already given convincing proofs that the situation would be more fitly supplied by him than by any other person. On that persuasion, he and those who acted with him acted, and in pursuance of the conviction on their own minds, recommended his royal highness to the Prince Regent as the very fittest person to supply the vacancy which had occurred in the office of Commander in Chief of the army. On that principle he had proceeded, and he hoped for the sanction of the House to the advice he had given.
did not think the right honourable gentleman who had just sat down could justify his own conduct in recommending to the Prince Regent to replace the duke of York in the situation of Commander in Chief, against the Resolutions standing on the Journals of the House, unless he was prepared to say that the duke of York was the only fit person in the country to fill the situation of Commander in Chief. When the House purposed agreeing to a Resolution, on the subject of the conduct of his royal highness, the natural consequence of which must be to cause the dismissal of his royal highness, when to prevent the adoption of such a Resolution, his royal highness himself gave in his resignation; and when the House then came to a Resolution, declaring that his royal highness having resigned, it was no longer necessary for them to proceed in the enquiry, was not this saying that it was his resignation alone which 483 precluded the necessity of their proceeding; and that their opinion was, that he ought not to come back into the situation, though they did not like to come to a positive resolution on the subject? He perfectly agreed that the public opinion must have undergone a considerable change, in consequence of circumstances which had more recently occurred. He admitted that the popularity of the hon. gent., by whom the charges against his royal highness had been preferred, had greatly decreased (hear! hear!) He did not understand what gentlemen meant by cheering, as if this tended to make the situation of his royal highness better. He could not conceive that the character of the counsel on either side could make the cause better or worse; that must depend on the credit of the witnesses, and not on the character of the advocate. The noble lord agreed that his royal highness had acted well while Commander in Chief, with the exceptions of which the House were already aware. But unless the right hon. the Chancellor of the Exchequer was prepared to shew that there was no other person in the kingdom fit for that office, he denied that the right hon. gent. could be justified in the advice he had given, after the Resolutions of that House. The noble lord concluded by declaring that the motion of his noble friend had his most cordial support.
§ Mr. W. Elliot
said, that into a subject of so painful a nature it was not his intention to enter, or to use many arguments in support of the opinion he felt himself bound to give. He should only shortly state a few of the reasons for his vote of that night—and even this was hardly necessary, as it would be conformable with his vote on the main question. He could conceive that there might be persons whose opinions had undergone a change in consequence of some recent developements. These, to his mind, however, rather went to an extenuation of guilt than to a complete change of the nature and extent of the charge. If there were men who thought as he had described, they had a right to change their opinions. With respect to himself, however, he had no need of experiencing such a change. With him, the persons who had sunk so much in favour, never stood so high, as, in his mind, to leave them much room to fall. There had not, in his opinion, been any evidence against his royal highness of corruption, or of accession to corruption. He did not vote, therefore, 484 for either of the two first addresses; but he could not conceal from himself that there were circumstances, in consequence of which his royal highness deserved to be removed from his office. With this view he voted for the address proposed by the hon. member for Corfe Castle (Mr. Bankes), but that address was negatived by a majority of the House. The House was of opinion that there was no corruption proved, but still they had some ulterior object, and with this view his right hon. friend (Mr. Bathurst) proposed an Address which had for its object the removal of his royal highness from his office (No! no!) He did not say that his right hon. friend had professed that object, when he latterly made his motion, but he surely did say, when be first proposed it, that it might have that effect. But the thing did not stop here. The House had recorded in their Resolutions, the fact of his royal highness's removal, or what was the same, his resignation, as the foundation of the step they bad then taken, of proceeding no farther in the enquiry. It was no doubt true, that the word "now" had been expunged from that resolution; but the reason was plain, namely, that it might not seem as if the enquiry was merely suspended, and might be revived against him at any future period, nay might even be brought forward as a reason to exclude his royal highness from the throne, should the succession ever open to him. He had resigned, however, and the House did not proceed any farther. It was unnecessary to do so; the object of the House was accomplished. He did not expect, at the time, that within two years from that date, in the very same parliament in which the Resolution in question had been come to, any ministers would have been found hardy enough to restore his royal highness; and such, he was convinced, was the impression of the House. By this step ministers had placed the House in a most uncalled for and most disrespectful embarrassment; and on that account, he should support the motion. He did not deny that there were great advantages to be derived from the duke of York being Commander in Chief; but there were inconveniences also. There was great responsibility attached to such a situation; and he was afraid the splendour of his royal highness's station might be supposed to diminish or detract from that responsibility.
said, in bringing forward the address which he had submitted to 485 the House in the course of the inquiry, he had discharged a painful duty: He saw no proof of any direct, or even implied, corruption on the part of his royal highness, but a degree of misconduct of which it was proper that the House should express their opinion. His right hon. friend who spoke last, however, had mistaken his view in stating that his object in moving the Address was to produce the resignation, or removal from office of his royal highness. He had, both in public and in private, to several members, disclaimed such an idea, and had expressed an opinion that his royal highness might continue in office with greater propriety after such an Address than before. He only meant the Address to operate as a reprehension of his royal highness for the connection which had led to these improprieties, and to be a check upon him in future, better than if the matter had passed over without any admonition. The word 'now', too, was expressly omitted to mark the opinion of the House, that the removal from office was not to be unlimited, or to amount to a total prohibition against his return to office. The charge now brought before the House was, that the appointment of the Duke of York was indecorous, because it was contrary to the express sense of the House. The omission of this very word now, he contended left it open for after consideration, whether he should be restored or not, as circumstances should seem to warrant. Indeed, it was but consistent with common sense and reason that the House should have left this to itself. The noble lord said that removal from office was no punishment. Was his royal highness, however, not degraded for the period of his removal? Had parliament said, that for this impropriety of which his royal highness had been guilty his removal from office should be total? It had not said so; and therefore the only question was whether the House was now called on to consider the propriety or impropriety of this exercise of the prerogative. That he did not think the House was called on to do: there was nothing here done contrary to the declared sense of the House.
Sir Oswald Moseley
declared that he would not give a silent vote on the present occasion. Since the period when the inquiry on this subject was before the House, circumstances had occurred which tended materially to alter the situation of things, to diminish that degree of blame 486 which he then thought attached to his royal highness, and even to cause doubts of the truth of what remained. He asked, had not his royal highness been already sufciently punished for his indiscretions, he could not call them crimes? The noble lord said, that removal from office was no punishment. To his mind it was as degrading a punishment as it was possible to conceive. This was a punishment inflicted by the House, not on his royal highness as Commander in Chief, but for a breach of his moral character; for having had too much confidence in a fascinating woman who had deceived him. He put it to every gentleman in the House to say whether the punishment had not been too severe. When they scrutinized the conduct of the Duke of York, he advised them to look to themselves. Let him who was immaculate among them throw the first stone. For his own part, he hoped he might be excused for the vote he had given on a former occasion, as proceeding from an error in judgment, not one of the heart. In the present critical situation of affairs there was occasion for an energetic Commander in Chief. The Duke of York was known to be beloved by the whole of those over whom he presided; and to be competent to the situation beyond every other person.
§ Mr. Gooch
disapproved of the motion of the noble lord, and was of opinion that his Majesty's ministers were entitled to a vote of approbation for advising the Prince Regent to restore his royal highness. It would, in his opinion, have been rather an act of ministerial cowardice (if he might so express himself) to have abstained from giving that advice. His royal highness was better qualified for the situation than any other man, added to which, there was not a man in the army who did not almost worship him. With respect to the imputations on his moral character, he lamented as much as any man the necessity for those imputations, but it would become the House to recollect that the charges were established by as profligate a set of witnesses as had ever disgraced a public tribunal.
§ General Tarleton
was desirous to state his reasons for the vote he should give, standing as he did in a particular situation, and having partaken of the general feeling at the time of the inquiry. He had then laboured under an impression since removed, that some degree of blame attached to his royal highness. He then 487 thought that he had discovered a blot in the character of his royal highness, and notwithstanding the friendship with which he had been honoured, he could not abstain from doing his duty, in voting against him. That impression was now completely removed, and he could assure the House, that there was nothing more pleasant to the feelings of the army than the restoration of his royal highness. The situation of the country was such, that it was fit a prince of the blood should, if competent thereto, have the command of the army. The recognised merits of the illustrious duke in a military point of view, entitled him to the thanks of the country, and therefore he should vote against the motion of the noble lord.
§ Admiral Harvey
never having had an opportunity of delivering his opinion on the charges against his royal highness, begged to be indulged with a few words on the present motion. The noble lord who opened the business had said, that the royal duke had not been punished by being removed from his office. Was it no punishment to a man of a feeling mind to be removed out of the sphere in which he was accustomed to move, and in which he presumed to think his services had been, and might still continue to be useful? Could any man of an honourable mind submit to such a sentence, and not feel himself thereby lessened, not only in the estimation of the world, but in that of himself? Let any man put himself in that situation, and then he would be able to judge how great the punishment was. Had it not been publicly declared, and publicly proved, that this was effected through the means of a wicked conspiracy? We had lately seen it practically illustrated what our armies could do, and could we deny that to the duke of York was to be attributed, in a considerable degree, the merit of the state of discipline to which they had been brought. Those who recollected our army on its narrow establishment, and now saw it on its enlarged scale, would be the best able to judge of this; and when no man could deny, that to the duke of York was this in a great measure owing, must we not feel exultation at seeing him restored to a situation he so richly deserved!
§ Mr. C. Adams
said it was allowed on all hands that the army was now brought to a state of perfection it had never before reached, and that the duke of York had the principal share of the merit. Exclusion 488 from the office of Commander in Chief for two years, was, in his opinion, sufficient punishment for any delinquency of which he had been guilty; and this, he was convinced, was the opinion of the country. He should therefore vote against the motion of the noble lord.
§ Mr. Whitbread
contended that the evidence remained unshaken and uncontradicted. Among the many things which had excited his surprise in the course of the debate, one was, the different view in which the minutes of evidence seemed now to be taken. Was the House to be told that the minutes had undergone no change—that they were the same—precisely and distinctly the same, as when the House seemed to have but one feeling, whatever they might now determine by their vote, on the guilt of the duke of York? to the astonishment of the House, as he was convinced it must be, the minutes would be proved to be the same. No change had taken place there; and the hon. members who had thought so lightly of changing their opinions, could find no encouragement for it in any alteration of the evidence. He had unfortunately felt the impossibility of changing his opinion, while there appeared no apology for a change; and he must actually persist in believing the duke of York unfit for office, and the ministers who re-appointed him as acting in a mariner irregular, indecorous, and unconstitutional, so long as the minutes of evidence told him so. There was a practice of the right hon. the (Chancellor of the Exchequer), for which he probably claimed great credit, if it was to be thought so, from his fondness for it: it was a kind of bold, strutting, noisy claim of responsibility—an effort at what he called manfully meeting the charge, or claiming his share in the odium and danger of the acts of the ministry. His habit was, to throw himself forward when the public indignation was roused, and talk of his readiness to meet responsibility, and all possible enquiry into his conduct. His colleagues, too, were ardent and zealous, and equally ready in offering to meet the extremity of the public anger: but when this spirit, magnanimous as it was, came to be tried—when an offence was committed against the constitution—when the cry for justice was stem and strong and just, then those magnanimous ministers shrunk back, and hid themselves behind their majority, and baffled the attempt at enquiry. And was this really 489 the whole boast of the minister's responsibity? But let the House, without considering any farther how much these high-minded ministers might be able or inclined to stand its verdict, come to their reasons for the appointment of the duke of York. What was the first reason? The army was extensive, the business was heavy, and Sir David Dundas was old. He was too old for the overpowering business of the Commander in Chief's office. How old was he now! or how much older was he now, than when the office was given to him? Yes, this was a question which the magnanimity of ministers would probably leave to those who would investigate it. It had been said, and most disgraceful was the imputation, that Sir David Dundas was put into office, soiely that he might keep it for the duke of York. What else could have put in Sir David Dundas? He meant no slight whatever to that officer as a military man; he was already distinguished in the service; but was he so much in the vigour of youth two years ago, as to make him the fittest man for the station which now pressed upon his extreme and enfeebled old age? Who said this? This was the saying, the very language of ministers; and in whatever shape they might mould their defence, it must be an insult on the capacity of Sir David Dundas.—There was another point. The astuteness, the practised, active, professional subtlety of the right hon. the Chancellor of the Exchequer, had found out, that the word now, in a previous resolution, meant nothing but the exclusion of the duke of York for the time: and after establishing that point, his next discovery was, that the rejection of the word 'now' implied a perfect liberty in that House to reinstate the duke, or at least to agitate the question of his reinstatement. All this was to be expected from that right hon. gent.: but it was not the meaning of the Address of the member for Corte Castle; nor, if there was any thing like a faithful record in words, was it the language of that other hon. member (Mr. Bathurst) who had so suddenly changed his opinion. If the resolution had not been adopted, what had prevented it? What, but the retiring of the duke of York? Was not the language of the debate plain—was not the general feeling clear? But it was thought that the duke of York, by yielding to the sense of the House and of the country, had made it indelicate to press him farther. Delicacy was in such things a foolish word. What 490 had the duke of York actually done? He saw the cloud gathering round him, and he took his resolution to escape. He re-tired from office, and he thus evaded the shock which would have forced him from it.—An hon. member had said, in the course of the present debate, that a man of the duke's rank ought not to be entrusted with the command of the army of the empire. True; nothing could be more true. The very transaction of the moment was an argument worth all others. It was his opinion at all times; but if it ever wanted confirmation, it was confirmed now. He had been charged with alluding to the private life of the duke, but he had fully disclaimed all idea of the kind, until the duke's private life was mingled with public transactions, and then it became public and reprehensible. Was there a single man in the country, except the royal duke, who with these imputations still hanging on him, would be suffered to return to office? No, not one. Though he might not have been even charged with personal guilt; yet, his permission to make money by the sale of commisions, his negligence in the conduct of his civil office, and the remaining stigmas which attached to his public life, would have been an insurmountable obstacle to the return of any man but the duke of York. That man ought not to be entrusted with power whose failure and neglect brought down no responsibility. His royal highness the duke of York was now returning triumphantly to a great office, to which no other man, under similar charges, would have been permitted to return: and, therefore, the argument was irresistible, that his royal highness ought not to be reinstated in a situation which he ought never to have filled. A great inconvenience had resulted from his illustrious rank, as being of the blood-royal, the son of the king, and the brother of the prince of Wales. Where was the subject, who was not of the blood-royal, who could have hoped to be restored to office, if removed from it under circumstances similar to those under which the duke of York had resigned? If, then, no individual, not of the blood-royal, could hope to be restored if he were removed under such circumstances, it followed that gross injustice had been done to all the other persons who had been forced to walk out of office in consequence of their having been suspected of improper practices; for those men were removed without 491 any hopes of return. The right hon. gent. had dwelt much to-night on the general conduct of the Duke in the command of the army, the affection they bore towards him, the admirable organization and various checks which had been introduced by him. These were, however, no new topics; and he therefore could not see why they should influence the House now to form a different opinion on the evidence than what they had come to at the time of the investigation. If the good of the army was now their paramount consideration, and it was for that object alone that they wished the duke of York to be restored, he wondered how they could ever have consented that this command should be taken away from a person whom they stated to be so eminently qualified for it; and he wondered still more that they should have consented to transfer it from the direction of so much vigour and ability to the extreme of feebleness which was to be expected from the advanced age of Sir David Dundas. He could not, however, suppose, even if there was no royal prince fit to take the situation, that England could ever want men fit to be trusted with the command of the army. When serious charges had been brought against the duke, and investigated, then his royal highness was advised to withdraw from the storm: but now, ministers were found fearless enough to propose his re-instatement. Now, he would put it to the feelings of any member in that House, whether, as a simple subject, he had been removed from office under such circumstances., the road to re-appointment would ever be opened to him? He was convinced there was no one who would answer in the affirmative. He would put it to the right hon. the Chancellor of the Exchequer himself, whether, even after a verdict of acquittal upon charges brought against a minister, he ever ventured to propose bringing that nobleman again into office? A noble lord (Chatham) had last year gone out of office, and there had been no talk of his re-appointment. He felt that a painful duty was now cast upon him; but such as it was, he was bound conscientiously to discharge it. The nation had lately been told of victories gained, and glorious achievements performed, by our armies in the Peninsula. He joined as warmly as any other man in the universal feeling of gratitude to those generals whose valour and ability had gained those victories, which had not been 492 surpassed by any in our history. He must, however, say, that he thought those victories very dearly bought, if lord Wellington thereby conquered the House of Commons, and obtained a triumph over the constitution. He remembered that at the time when the Habeas Corpus Act was suspended in this country, and lord Howe had gained a victory over the enemy, Mr. Fox said, in the House of Commons, that he hoped the consequence of the noble lord's victory would be to secure our internal peace, and reconquer for us the constitution of the country. If the restoration of the duke of York was to be the consequence of lord Wellington's victories, he thought that the country would buy those victories dear. He was at a loss to conceive what could have changed any gentleman's opinion upon this subject. He had looked with great attention into the resolutions which the House had adopted, and that which was proposed for its adoption, as well as into the minutes of the evidence, and he could see no reason to alter the opinion he had then formed. As to the resolution" that the existence of such corrupt practices had been fully proved,"—that he had voted for, and still believed. That "those corrupt practices could not have been carried on for such a length of time, and to such an extent, without the knowledge of the duke of York," was another resolution for which he had voted, and which he still believed. It appeared to him, that the fair, manly way of proceeding would be, for those who thought parliament had then come to a wrong opinion, to bring the matter again before them for their reconsideration, before they recommended the re-instatement of the Duke. For example, those who thought the House had been misled, and that the evidence was improper, might have first pointed out to the House wherein they had been misled, and called upon them to express a different opinion. If they had prevailed upon the House to do so, then it would be less objectionable to recommend the re-appointment. As to the fitness of a person of the royal blood to fill such an important office, that was rather an abstract question which he did not wish now to discuss. He must, however, say, that great inconvenience had resulted in the present case from the circumstance of the very illustrious rank of the royal duke. He, however, had never supposed, that the matters with which the duke was charged 493 would justify his exclusion from the throne. On the contrary he had stated in express terms, that he did not consider that the harshest of the resolutions which were submitted to the House could have produced that consequence.—Some sneers had been thrown out on the manner in which the charges were brought forward; and it was insinuated, that the evidence had received much discredit from circumstances which had since transpired, and that a great slur had been thrown on the character of those who were principally instrumental in bringing forward those charges. He would ask, when, where, and how, had this taken place? All the evidence which was hinted at was completely before the public, and it did not appear to him to justify the imputations which had been cast. He was free to confess, that if he had been a juryman on those trials, he thought that he should have given the same verdict on the evidence produced at those trials; but was that to wash away, and carry to the grave, all that immense mass of evidence, and the many written documents which were produced at the bar of the House? Was there any proof then given, that any person on whose testimony those charges had mainly been supported was unworthy of credit in a court of justice? He could see no reason to change the opinion which he had then formed, and therefore, he should not now change his vote. He conceived that a vote in favour of the conduct of ministers upon the present occasion would be hurtful to the constitution, and disgraceful to the House of Commons. It was generally understood at the time, that a vote of censure was only suspended by the resignation of his royal highness. Under these circumstances it was hardly to be conceived that ministers would have been hardy enough to have proposed his re-appointment.
Mr. Secretary Ryder
thought it necessary for him to take his share of responsibility upon this occasion, and state shortly his reasons for advising the reappointment. Much labour, however, had been spared him by what had fallen from his right hon. friend, (Mr. Bathurst). His right hon. friend had truly stated, that no resolutions which passed the House, or which had any chance of being agreed to, implied that the duke of York was never at any future time to return to an official situation. It had, indeed, been expressly stated by the right hon. gent. at that time, that 494 if his royal highness could be advised at that time to retire from office, it would afford a facility for his return to it at a future time. The hon. gentleman who spoke last had stated, that no circumstances had occurred since that investigation which ought to change the judgment of the House. He believed, however, that not only the opinions in that House, but the impression on the public mind, had been very materially changed upon the subject since that time. If the evidence had been delivered upon oath at that bar, he would have a right to say that the cause was supported by subornation of perjury. Such was the language of a noble lord (Ellenborough) who tried the actions; and who added, that if the evidence had been on oath, an indictment for subornation of perjury would he against the person "ho so suborned the witnesses. His opinion was not altered, for he never had believed a single word of what came from the infamous witnesses, unless when confirmed by other evidence. He was sure the public must have changed their sentiments on that subject, and that the re-appointment of the duke of York would be hailed by the country at large with satisfaction. Of this he was absolutely certain, that there was one portion of the public, he meant the army, who would be highly pleased at his return to power; and yet it was the array that would have been degraded and injured by the corrupt practices imputed, if such practices had really existed. The right hon. gent, then read the evidence of lord Wellington in support of the merits of the duke of York as Commander-in-Chief. When it was necessary, then, to select a Commander-in-Chief, the most able to keep the army in the highest state of efficiency, he knew no person who could be a candidate for that high office whose claims would bear any comparison with those of his royal highness. He was ready to allow, that upon general principles, it would be more advisable that members of the royal family should not hold official situations; and he had therefore voted against the duke of York's appointment to be one of her Majesty's council, as it would subject him to be examined at the bar of that House, and the duties might be performed fully as well by another; but as to his appointment to the head of the army, that was for the public good, and the country might bless the day on which he first took the command.
said, that the question, whether sufficient responsibilty did or did not attach to persons of the elevated rank of his royal highness, was a question foreign to the present business, and which should now be dismissed from the consideration of the House. His hon. friend (Mr. Whit-bread) had argued with still more than his usual force on the injustice that humble individuals would sustain from having the return to power shut against them when it was open to a royal duke under circumstances precisely similar. There certainly could not, on the other hand, be any reason why injustice should be done to the duke of York, because justice was not always done to others. He felt perfectly convinced, that if any other person was presented to the consideration of the House under the very same circumstances that the duke of York stood, he should vote for his re-appointment. He believed that the noble mover had, as he expressed it, felt this a very painful task. A painful task had devolved upon them all; and he could not, without great pain, reflect upon the violent proceedings against the duke of York, and upon the votes which he had himself been persuaded to give. He had at that time voted on a conviction that was then strong in his mind, that a more complete investigation of the charges was necessary. If he had, however, then been called upon to say, "guilty, or not guilty,"—not withstanding the many suspicions, and unexplained circumstances in these transactions—notwithstanding it appeared that pecuniary embarrassments had urged him to the very brink of criminality, yet be should have said, "not guilty." He certainly then wished that the duke should be removed from his office; and he did not know, but that the fear that ministers intended to retain him, might have induced him to stronger votes than he otherwise would have concurred in. He conceived that the duke had been very hardly dealt with; he had been run down by a public cry, and charged with peculation, when, in fact, the crime which he had really committed, was one not of public cognizance, and such a crime as no other man had been removed from an high situation for committing. As to what was the opinion of the House formerly, he thought there could be no better mode of ascertaining it, than hearing what was now the opinion of the same House of Commons upon that question. The opinion" of gentlemen at that time might be 496 ascertained by their feelings now. He could positively say, that for himself he never intended by any vote he gave to preclude himself from giving an opinion at a future time of the propriety of the return of his royal highness to office.
said he had not seen any thing in the circumstances which had been so often alluded to, to make him at all change that opinion which he formerly expressed by his vote. A right hon. gent, had stated, that the conspiracy which had since been proved, had thrown a shade over the whole of the case, and deprived the witnesses of any title to credit. He could not. at all view the subject in that light. While the investigation was going on, he always felt, that the evidence of such a woman as Mrs. Clarke ought to be left wholly out of their consideration, un-less when it was confirmed by other evidence. There were many strong points of the case, however, which were proved without the testimony of Mrs. Clarke. The case of Kennet did not at all stand on the evidence of Mrs. Clarke. It stood on the testimony of a witness of the highest character (colonel Taylor) and upon the duke's own letters. The cases of general Clavering and Mr. Tonyn did not stand upon the evidence of Mrs. Clarke, but upon the Duke's own hand-writing. If the case of Kennett were single and unaccompanied by any other, he was of opinion, that it would be sufficient to prove decided corruption, and to call for the censure of the House. It was corruption, though not strictly corruption in office. It was not upon this account the less criminal. Although the Duke might not have trafficked promotion in the army for money, yet if it appeared that he had trafficked the interest that his situation gave him for money, he was unfit to hold a high place in the state. He would venture to say, that if any one of his Majesty's ministers had been detected in a transaction like that of Kennett's case, in attempting for a sum of money to procure a place for any individual, that minister would be prosecuted for it with the utmost severity. The hon. gent. who spoke last, had said, that pecuniary distresses had urged the Duke to the very brink of criminal conduct. It was his opinion, that they had urged him beyond the brink, and involved him in practices actually criminal. For such practices as those, in a man in high trust, he thought it was no excuse at all to set up the weakness and frailty of human nature. 497 Men who had so large a portion of this weakness and frailty were not fit to hold high offices in the state. It might not indeed prevent them from being useful, nay almost respectable in private life, but utterly incapacitated them for the public service. For human frailty, considered as an object for punishment, he was willing to make every allowance that justice would warrant; but the question at present was not what censure a delinquent should undergo, but whether it was prudent to entrust the command of the army to a person liable to such habitual weakness. The whole argument in favour of this re appointment seemed to proceed upon the assumption of some imaginary inherent right which the duke of York possessed to the office of Commander in Chief, and which could only be forfeited by a crime legally proved and the sentence of a criminal court, instead of being like every other subject of this realm, liable to be removed whenever upon any account it appeared that the public service might be promoted by any other disposition of that appointment.
The House was not now to determine what degree of moral guilt attached to the Duke's conduct, but whether it was wise to expose him to temptations, which he had already shewn he was unable to resist. Would it be contended that it was safe to place this high office in the hands of a person, who could, with a view "to his own private advantage, recommend a person of infamous character for a situation of trust and confidence, who could permit a woman like Mrs. Clarke repeatedly and habitually to interfere in military promotions, and who was corrupt enough to sanction, or blind enough to overlook the traffic which she carried on. But it had been said, that the Duke had been now two years out of office, and that this was a sufficient punishment. He must deny, however, that the Duke had received any punishment at all. If he had even received any censure from the House, then he might have been said to have been forced from his situation; but no censure whatsoever had been voted. The Duke was simply advised by his friends to resign his office, for the purpose of avoiding a vote of censure, and as it now appeared for the purpose of returning again into office at a future time. If he had not taken this course, it was notorious that a majority of the House of Commons would, on the next day, have probably agreed to a vote of 498 censure which would have rendered his removal from office unavoidable, but as he was no longer Commander in Chief, the House had wisely abstained from that vote, and had determined that they would not proceed in the discussion of his misconduct for the mere purpose of punishment when it could no longer be dangerous to the public. The Duke's re-appointment made it now necessary to resume that consideration, and to decide whether he had not been guilty of such misconduct as disqualified him from holding that high situation. It was so manifestly necessary that the heads of the great departments of the state should not only be untainted but unsuspected, that even a suspicion of such practices as had in this case been proved, would be held sufficient to exclude any other man from public employment. Different individuals had lately been severely animadverted upon for misconduct it) office, yet no person had as yet ventured to hold out the punishment which they had undergone as a security for their future good behaviour, and a reason for re-instating them in their former situations.
It had been asked whether this exclusion from office was to be perpetual, and if not, at what period it was to expire? To these questions he must decline giving an answer, and would only say, that it was ridiculous to speak of so short an interval as that which had elapsed since the duke's resignation as affording any adequate pledge for amendment or reformation. He was not quite sure that the opinions and wishes of the army, about the person who was to be their Commander in Chief, were entitled to such stress as had been laid upon that argument by the right hon. Secretary. Perhaps it was not perfectly constitutional to state what was the desire of the army upon such occasions, as it was the duty of ministers to recommend the person who appeared to them to be the most fit to command the army. As to the evidence of lord Wellington with respect to the great improvements which the duke of York had made in the army, he did not see how that could now change the opinions of those who had heard the evidence before they came to their former vote. If ministers really thought it of such prodigious importance to the army that the duke of York should be Commander in Chief, why did they advise his Majesty to accept of his resignation? He could not see with what consistency those 499 members who had before voted the connivance or participation of his royal highness in corrupt practices, could now support his return to office. For his own part, the more he considered the evidence which had been given on that investigation, the more satisfaction he felt at the vote he had then given; and as his opinion was unchanged, he should now support the motion of the noble lord.
§ Mr. Barham
rejoiced that he had this opportunity of retracting and confessing those errors under which he, with many others, laboured some time ago, from the delusion which then prevailed. He regarded the duke of York as a most injured man, and therefore rejoiced at the opportunity now afforded of making some amends for the injustice that had been done him. The duke had been censured with a severity beyond example. The hon. gent, said he was not one of those who went farthest in their votes against the duke of York, and he was one who fortunately escaped those delirious thanks that were voted to so many hon. gentlemen from one end of the country to the other. But he would now do all in his power to repair the injustice that had been done, thinking that the dignity of a public body, as well as that of an individual, consisted in acknowledging an error, not in persisting in it. The noble lord had talked of the appointment being an attack on the dignity of the House; but to confess an error was not to descend from dignity, but rather to maintain it. The example of what took place two years ago, ought to operate as a warning to the House to be on their guard against such sudden gusts of public opinion as then prevailed. When the public mind was fixed and permanent on any subject, then that House should follow its guidance, but should not too rapidly follow on every sudden impulse. In fact, there appeared to exist at the time, a sort of epidemic disorder, a species of Puritan mania; as if that House were to be the censors of private life, as well as of official conduct: a part for which they Were entirely unfit. For his part, he wished the noble lord's motion should not merely meet with a negative, but that some resolution should be adopted expressive of a desire to do justice to the character of a man who, he verily believed, had been grossly injured.
said he would detain the House very shortly, while he assigned his reasons for the vote he, should give that 500 night. He had no difficulty in reconciling the vote which he should now give, with that which he had given on a former occasion. He had voted against the Resolution which declared that the duke of York had participated in or connived at corruption; he had then attributed to his royal highness only a certain degree of negligence in his high office. He remained of that opinion still; he still thought him chargeable with negligence then, and yet should find no difficulty in reconciling that opinion with his vote this night. He was far from thinking that nothing which had happened since the investigation had affected the nature of the evidence that was then given: for when the principal witness was asked at this bar, she answered, she had received no consideration for her evidence; and afterwards she swore in another court, that she had received a consideration. He might be allowed to know something of the nature of evidence, and it was really new doctrine to him to hear it stated, that such a circumstance as that made no alteration in the evidence. It was quite impossible to say, that where the principal witness had been so shaken in credibility, it made no alteration whatever in the complexion of the case. It had been said, to his no small surprise, that the duke of York had suffered no punishment by his resignation. He was one of those who thought at the time, that the duke ought to be removed from his office, in consequence of the evidence which appeared. His resignation was in fact a removal, and made in contemplation of what was nearly the universal sense of the House and the country. But what did the noble lord's Resolution say? Why, it went to the perpetual exclusion of the duke of York; for no administration would venture to replace him in office, in the face of such a Resolution as that. Would the House be justified in adopting a measure of such great severity? His royal highness had been guilty of great indiscretion: but the whole accusation rested on the testimony of one witness, who, it appeared, had received a valuable consideration for her evidence, and yet denied it at their bar. This very denial implied a consciousness that the consideration was received for improper purposes. He would not, therefore, pass a sentence of perpetual exclusion, nor visit the offence with such severity. What! could it really be said that the duke of York had not been punished 501 that he had not suffered the severest mortification? Was it no punishment that the son of the King should be removed from the head of that army which was the glory of the country—that he should be forced to fly into retirement from the severity of public censure? Where was the man who possessed any of the high spirit of an Englishman, who would not say, that all this was one of the severest punishments that could possibly be inflicted. The duke of York, then, had been punished already; and, in his mind, he had been punished severely. That punishment, he thought, had been already enough, and he thought also that the royal duke ought not to be further punished with exclusion. It had been asked, whether any other person would have been so restored? but he would answer, that there was no such case then before the House, and it would be time to consider it when it might come before them. Although he could not vote for the Resolution of his noble friend, he could not help applauding his conduct, in having undertaken, from a sense of duty alone, that which would have appalled many other men.
Sir Francis Burdett
said, he should feel great satisfaction, if any injury had been done by his means to any person, in endeavouring to do ail in his power to remedy it. But in the present case, as he still continued to see it in the same light in which he had formerly done, and as he had formerly given his vote by no means on the evidence of that witness who had been so much spoken of that night, and who, he would say, was never looked upon in the House as a witness of credibility, he could see no ground for opposing the present motion. He was convinced, that had the honourable member in whom the accusation of the duke of York originated, been unsupported in that accusation by any additional evidence to that, which he possessed at the commencement of the proceedings, he would have retired disgraced and stultified. But it so happened, that a mass of evidence, written and oral, was produced in a manner almost accidental, he might even say, almost miraculous. That testimony remained untouched. It therefore was a source of astonishment to him to hear gentlemen state generally, that their opinion on the case was changed, without advancing any one circumstance to warrant that change, except the decreased credibility of a witness on 502 whose credibility, as he had before observed, little or no reliance had ever been placed. He remembered an honourable gentleman had said, that her evidence was not such as that he would have whipped a dog on it; and this statement was received by the House with acclamation. But could the House forget the letters which had been most unexpectedly produced; the letters brought out in consequence of general Clavering's evidence—the note of Tonyn, et cetera, and with respect to this last, if any thing like conspiracy existed in the whole affair, it was certainly manifested in the attempt of the right hon. gent. opposite (the Chancellor of the Exchequer) to suppress the note of that person.—He now came to the consideration of how far the duke of York stood criminated by the proceedings of the House. The House was certainly satisfied with agreeing in a vote in the case of his royal highness, which they would not, perhaps, have considered as sufficient, had the individual accused been of less exalted rank in the country. With that vote on their Journals, however, it seemed to him impossible, that with any regard to consistency, the House could refrain, when the subject was again brought under their consideration, from expressing a consonant opinion. In fact, the strongest things against his royal highness had been uttered by those who professed themselves to be his friends. An hon. gent. near him had stated that the duke of York, when he enjoyed the high office of Commander-in-Chief, was placed in a situation of great pecuniary distress. It would appear from, him, that he was some what in the situation of the needy man in the tragedy of Douglas,'Who has seen better days;One whom distress has spited with the world.Whom tempting fiends would pitch uponTo do such deeds as make the prosperous man.Hold up his hands, and wonder;And such a man was I——And such a man was the duke of York.—Another honourable member had also said that his royal highness did not participate in the corruptions of which he was accused, but that he only winked at them. Did he wink at them? How then could the honourable member, and those who thought with him, consent to give their vote against the motion of the noble lord? Much had been said of the changes that had taken place since the investigation. It was true that 'tempora mutantur', but 503 nothing else was changed.—An hon. gent, thereon had stated the House to have been led away by a popular delusion, and expressed himself glad of an opportunity of shewing his contrition. For his part, he could feel no contrition for the part which he had formerly taken: he could see nothing to repent of. He thought his royal highness had beet dealt with as leniently as possible. It was no doubt improper to be led away by popular opinion from the sound part which every man was bound to take—and there were cases when it might be proper to resist the Civium ardor prava jubentium;' but it ought to be "hewn that the objects here wished for by the public were prava. Public opinion, in his opinion, was by no means to be despised; and those who had the management of public affairs would find the public opinion no small assistance to them. However, if he had allowed himself to have been led away by this public opinion from expressing the dictates of his own mind, he should indeed think himself bound to express his contrition at present. Neither could he agree that the case of the duke of York had been one of peculiar hardship. The duke of Cumberland, by way of distinction termed the Great, although he had suppressed a rebellion, and rendered other eminent services to the state, was, nevertheless, by the operation of a mere misfortune, removed from the chief command of the army, in which situation it was not thought fit to replace him at any future period. Although he was not inclined to press this argument, yet it appeared to him to be very doubtful, how far the appointment of an individual of such illustrious rank to the office of Commander in Chief might not be injurious to the interests of the army, few as the rewards were which were enjoyed by those who embraced a military life in our service. He could not abstain from remarking, that the right hon. gent, opposite, for the purpose of throwing odium on the charge against the duke of York, spoke very lightly of the evidence of Mrs. Clarke, when it operated against his royal highness, but attributed to it considerable weight, when that witness was afterwards employed in swearing a debt off her own shoulders, and in swearing a sum of money into the pockets of a set of swindlers. It had been most clearly established, that Mrs. Clarke had interfered in military matters, and that others of more power had gone still further in suggestions, to the 504 injury of the service, which had been listened to by his royal highness. By these means it had been shewn, that a very valuable officer had sustained a serious injury in his profession. Under all these circumstances, and with the recollection of the decision formerly come to by the House, on evidence contradicted neither then nor since, he thought it impossible to sit quietly under the recent re-appointment, without a distinct expression of the sentiments entertained by parliament, on a subject into which they had formerly thought it their duly so minutely to inquire.
§ Mr. Manners Sutton
did not feel astonished that the hon. baronet should take up the case of his royal highness the Commander in Chief, in the manner he had done, and consider it as unaltered, notwithstanding what had passed since the House came to their former determination; neither was he surprised that the hon. baronet should conceive, that were the testimony of Mrs. Clarke to be expunged altogether from the evidence, the culpability of his royal highness would appear to him to be not less distinctly proved. He, however, fancied, there were few who entertained similar opinions to the hon. baronet, on this subject—opinions which he had not the least inclination to attempt to shake. There were those, however, who were inclined to support the motion of the noble lord, on the ground, that the re-appointment of his royal highness to the office of Commander in Chief, was in defiance of the recorded opinion of, and disrespectful to, the House of Commons, and in direct opposition to the opinion of the public. He, however who thought that it was neither of these, must be allowed to say a few words on the subject. And in the first place, how could it be called disrespectful to the House No one had ventured to contend that such an appointment ought to have received the sanction of parliament. It therefore came to this, that there must be something on the journals declaratory against the propriety or expediency of such re-appointment. But where was this? It had been already shewn by his right hon. friend, that no record of this kind was in existence. Unquestionably, an opinion of that nature pervaded the speeches of some hon. members during the investigation, but there was some difference between the opinions of a few individuals and the vote of the 505 House, and it was not very fair in them to set up their opinions as the proper standard, far less as the general decision So much for the records on the Journals of the House. As for the defiance of public opinion, if that public opinion were adverse to the duke of York, to the extent alleged by some hon. gentlemen, then certainly ministers would have incurred a heavy responsibility, by having advised the re appointment of the Duke of York. But he denied the fact. It had been asserted that since the year 1809, nothing had transpired to occasion a change in the public opinion. A great deal had transpired. The public had had the opportunity of seeing how little the evidence that had been adduced could be depended upon; they had had time to cool from the fever which had so studiously been excited; and their opinion had, in consequence, been materially changed. If he required authority for his statement, that the public opinion on this subject had been most materially changed, he would refer to an hon. member (Mr. Wardle) whom he then saw in his place, and who he had expected would have taken a prominent part in the present discussion. If, therefore, the re-appointment of the Duke of York was not disrespectful to the House of Commons, or in defiance of public opinion, on what ground could the motion of the noble lord be supported? Was it because his royal highness was peculiarly qualified for discharging the duties of the high station to which he had been recalled? Me one who had any connection or intercourse with the army could doubt the opinion entertained by them with respect to the Duke of York. The army knew, that by the regulations introduced by him, the military service of the country had been fostered, and brought to a degree of perfection which confounded our enemies, and astonished the world. An hon. member had said, that, if ministers had been disposed to act in a manly way, they should have proposed the rescinding of the vote to which the House had formerly come, before they advised the re-appointment. What that vote was had already been shewn, namely that it did not contain any thing imperative against that reappointment. The hon. baronet (sir F. Burdett) had stated, warmly and with indignation, that it had been insinuated by those on the opposite side of the House, that a foul conspiracy had been formed against the Duke of York, and declared 506 that he knew nothing of the existence of such a conspiracy. What! had it not been distinctly proved, that the main and principal witness to support that charge had received promises, and did actually receive bribes for the evidence which she gave? It was scarcely necessary to add, that he should most cordially vote against the motion of she noble lord.
§ Mr. R. Thornton
congratulated the House and the country that so many opinions had been changed with regard to his royal highness the duke of York. It was candid in those who saw the developement of many subsequent facts to confess the delusion under which they had acted. His royal highness was popular with every individuals I of our brave army, and it was a just tribute to them, as well as an act of justice to this illustrious personage, to replace him in his office, when it did appear that he had paid a deference of his own free choice to public opinion, which public opinion had been much ruined. The same House of Commons, which by a triumphant majority had voted him free from corruption, would gratify all but Jacobins and enemies to the glory of Great Britain and Ireland, should hey now reinstate his royal highness, and place him at the head of that army, to the good organization and credit of which he had so much contributed. The country was ready to throw the veil of oblivion on what it was the duty and interest of the country to forget; and the Regent, who uniced the people at large into one family, was well advised by his ministers to give his royal protection to the duke of York, who had alone dismissed himself from his situation, and whose services were so universally acknowledged while he filled the office of Commander in Chief.
§ Mr. W Smith
shortly stated his reasons for voting in support of the motion. His opinion of the misconduct of the duke of York was not so much founded on the testimony of the prominent witness, as on the collateral circumstances which unexpectedly came out during the inquiry; The discrediting of Mrs. Clarke's testimony, therefore, did not affect the vote he gave on that occasion. He agreed that his royal highness had already suffered a severe punishment, and he did not wish for his perpetual exclusion. His objections to the re-appointment lay within a small compass: the principal one was, that it was unadvisable, because with the vote which stood on the Journals of the 507 House, and which implied that, as the duke had resigned, there was no occasion for the House preceding to any farther decision on the question. The manly way of acting would have been for any gentleman who was friendly to such re-appointment, to rise up in the House before it took place, and propose that the above vote should either be rescinded or modified. The sense of the House would thus have been taken before the appointment took place. This was the proper mode, in his opinion; but while the vote to which he alluded stood on their Journals, he should feel himself bound to vote in favour of the motion of the noble lord.
observed, that it required a strong case indeed to justify a parliamentary censure of the executive government in the ordinary exercise of their constitutional functions. That the power of appointing to the high offices of state belonged constitutionally to the Crown would not be denied; neither would it be said that the exercise of that power could with propriety be called in question, unless it appeared that there was something wrong, or a suspicion of something wrong, in the appointment. The question then was, whether that House was to pass a censure upon the advisers of the late appointment, or upon the object of it, by concurring in the motion. If on the latter, what, he would ask, became of all the arguments of those, who, in the most vindictive votes which they had formerly supported, denied that they had supported any Resolution which would amount to a perpetual exclusion of the duke of York from the office of Commander-in-Chief? If it was not right that his royal highness should be appointed now, when a vacancy had occurred in the office, at what time would it be right? If after two years of expiation he ought not to be restored to office, after what period of expiation ought he be restored into an office for which he had more than common talents? It had been argued, that it formed an additional ground of censure, that the Prince Regent had been advised to make this appointment during the sitting of the same parliament which had passed the previous Resolutions on the subject of the duke of York's conduct; yet so far was he from concurring in this opinion, that he thought the circumstance an extenuation, if the act even were censurable. It was undoubtedly an extenuating circumstance, that, advising the appointment, ministers 508 had not availed themselves of the facility of effecting it during a recess, without the danger of its being immediately called in question; and that they had resorted to the measure pending the sitting of the same parliament which had voted the former Resolutions. If that parliament had been dissolved, and a succeeding parliament called upon to rescind the Resolutions it had passed, he would allow, that such a course might be liable to the objection which had been urged. He would admit, that it was allowable to look back to former proceedings, in order to construe, by referring to the opinions then delivered, what was the intention of the House. The Resolution of the right hon. gent, opposite, (Mr. Bathurst) he looked upon as the most severe of all; and he thought it a considerable aberration on the part of that right hon. gent, (without meaning offence), with his acute and practical mind, to suppose that such a Resolution could remain a single day on their Journals without its producing the effect of having the duke of York driven in disgrace from his office. Yet that Resolution had been rejected, and the right hon. gent, himself had denied that any such effect was intended by him. Some hon. gentlemen, from the manner in which they had argued this motion, seemed to think themselves at liberty to go into the larger question, as to the propriety of appointing a prince of the blood to any office of responsibility. The question was large, but he would not consent to decide it in the person of the duke of York He had before stated, and should then repeat, that a deliberative opinion of the army ought not to be considered by that House: not that he valued the opinion of such an army as we had less than other gentlemen; but that to suffer them to influence the deliberations of that House would be to endanger the constitution. He should oppose the motion on the grounds that the duke of York was as eligible to the office of Commander in Chief as any other subject—that he was peculiarly fitted for that office—that a vacancy had occurred previous to his appointment—that there was nothing in the recorded opinion of that House to shew that be might not hold that office—and that there was much in the proceedings on the former occasion to shew that it had been the wish of the House to guard against such a construction. He should, therefore, oppose the motion.
§ Mr. Wardle
observed, that it was not his 509 intention to have said a word upon this question, if it had not been for the allusions which had been made to transactions subsequent to the investigation, and in consequence of the particular and personal call which had been made upon him by an hon. gent, opposite, (Mr. M. Sutton). A right hon. member had alluded to certain expressions which had been made use of by the chief justice of the King's Bench in one of the trials which had taken place before him. He admitted that the words quoted might have been used; but he would inform that right hon. gent., that the Chief Justice had held opinions in the course of that trial which he afterwards abandoned. The learned judge would at first not allow any allusions to what had taken place in that House, yet subsequently, in his charge to the jury, had himself alluded to what he supposed to have fallen from him (Mr. Wardle) in that House, which upon a reference to the evidence would be found not to have been said by him. On the trial of Mr. Cobbett afterwards, that learned judge would not allow of any allusion to be made to what passed in that House; and Mr. Cobbett, when making it, had been stopped in his defence. Much had been said with regard to a witness who had been examined on the investigation, as to her having been bribed to give testimony which she afterwards contradicted on her oath: but at the time when she was giving such contradiction, she was a rich pensioner of 400l. per annum, besides having also received a very considerable sum of money; and it was for those who gave her that pension, and that considerable sum of money, to state for what services they had been given to her. With respect to another witness who had given testimony on the trial, Daniel Wright, he should state one fact: that he brought an action against the editor of a newspaper, for publishing a paragraph representing him as a perjured witness, and laid his damages at 1,000l. To that action the editor entered a plea of justification; and the consequence was, that Wright had withdrawn his action, paying his own costs. A paper had been the day preceding put into his hands, re-asserting the charge of perjury. As to the other witness, who had been attorney to Mrs. Clarke, he had to state, that Mr. Alley, his counsel, had asserted at a public dinner in the city, that that person had stated at his table what was contrary to what ha swore on the trial. He had 510 thought it necessary to state these facts to the House, and should not trouble them with any farther observations at that hour.
§ Lord Milton
had but a few words to address to the House. An hon. member had said, that he was rejoiced that this motion had been brought forward, as it would give the House an opportunity to retrace its steps, and atone for its former error. He was glad to give that hon. gent, this satisfaction. The hon. member had asserted too, that during the former proceedings there was a kind of fever in the public mind, a purilo-mania, which, by the delusion it created, led to the errors which he wished to retract. If he (lord Milton) had acted on that occasion from such a delusion, he would be ready, with the hon. member, to retrace his steps; but he had formed his opinion in that instance as a juror, and with the same solemnity as if he had been on oath; but it was because nothing had since happened to change the opinion he then formed, that he came forward with his present motion.
§ A division then took place—
|For the motion||47|
|List of the Minority.|
|Antonie, L.||Lyttleton, hon. W. H.|
|Babington, T.||Maddocks, W.|
|Bating, Sir T.||Mildmay, Sir H.|
|Baring, A.||Ossulston, lord|
|Brand, hon. T.||Ord, W.|
|Burdett, Sir F.||Pierse, H.|
|Byng, G.||Romilly, Sir S.|
|Calcraft, J.||St. Aubyn, Sir J.|
|Coke, T. W.||Sharp, R.|
|Colborne, N. R.||Shipley, W.|
|Combe, H. C.||Smith, John|
|Creevey, T.||Smith, W.|
|Dickenson, W.||Thornton, H.|
|Elliott, right hon. W.||Tracey, H.|
|Folkestone, lord||Tremaine, J. H.|
|Grenville, lord G.||Wardle, G. L.|
|Hibbert, G.||Western, C. C.|
|Horner, F.||Whitbread, S.|
|Kemp, T.||Wilberforce, W.|
|Lambton, R. J.||Wynn, C. W.|
|Langton, Gore||Wynn, Sir W. W.|
|Lefevre, C. S.||Lord Althorpe|
|Lloyd, Sir E.||Lord Milton.|