§ Mr. W. Dundas
argued against the principle of the Bill. His chief ground of objection was, however, that it violated the articles of Union with Scotland. The 1160 Bill pretended only to regulate Sinecure offices, but he contended, that as far as Scotland was concerned, it went altogether to abolition. In a question of this kind, it ought, in his opinion, never be forgotten that the rights of two countries were to be considered; and though the making of distinction might be invidious, yet he never could suffer the rights of his country to be violated without opposition; he never could suffer the rights of the Scottish people, the remnants of their ancient monarchy, the memorial of their pride as an independent nation, to be done away, without making all those efforts which his private duty as well as his love of country dictated. The people of Scotland had stipulated at the Union, that their chief offices of slate should be preserved. This was to them a son of remuneration, and not merely an act of grace or favour; and he should like to know un what ground it was, that the very first offices in Scotland were, in defiance of solemn treaty and plighted national faith, to be now abolished was this preserving that honourable feeling in the contemplation of which the Union with Scotland was formed; or was it not rather, for a paltry consideration, a dereliction of that honourable feeling? When Mr. Burke made his attempt at the reformation of offices, did such a departure from good faith ever enter into his head? Did he not in fact know human nature too well ever to have ventured on a breach of faith with a people who were too much alive to feelings of that description to have suffered such an insult and such an injury with lame insensibility? The right hon. gentleman then protested, that he had no quarrel with the mover or supporters of this Bill; that he opposed it totally on high national ground. That he respected the rights of England, but that he never would desert the rights of Scotland; and that if this Bill were to pass, he should feel it his duty to say that it was an unnecessary infringement on the character, faith, and honour of a nation.
The Lord Advocate
of Scotland followed on the same side. He was quite aware that gentlemen by no means conceived to what evil results this Bill might lead. At the time of the Union with Scotland it was stipulated, that the municipal law and its regulations should be preserved entire. This was done as much for the sake of supporting private right as for any public consideration; it was done, in fact, for the safety of the landed proprietors. Scot 1161 land was united to England in their public seal, but in matters of private right it was reserved that Scotland should have a keeper of the great seal. This office was therefore a memorial of the ancient Scottish monarchy,—it was a lasting symbol of that independent kingdom: and, he conceived, that, without the greatest outrage to the feelings of a great portion of the British empire, it could not be destroyed. In this instance he stood up for his country, not as asking a favour from England, but as demanding the preservation of a right. In fact, Scotland was asking nothing from England but the mere keeping of a covenant; and he was confident that the House would never consent to depart from stipulations which were solemn in their origin and rendered sacred by time. The hon. and learned gentleman then argued on the enactments of the Bill, which entrusted to deputies what it took from the principals. The offices were destroyed or sunk into inferior situations, which no persons but those of inferior rank would ever think of filling. All responsibility was therefore at an end, because it could not be expected that deputies calculated for situations of a few hundreds a year could be sufficiently responsible to the land proprietors of Scotland were the landed rights of Scotland to be thus trifled away In fact, when deputies would be converted into principals as holders of the offices of Scotland, he wished to know what, except the honesty of the deputies, could the landed proprietors of Scotland depend upon? And as to their honesty, he was afraid that it would require all the pure virtue and all the immaculate character of the chairman of the committee of finance, to withstand the temptations which they would continually meet.—He then went into the details of the Bill. It abolished, in he first place, the office of the keeper of the great seal of Scotland. (No, from Mr. Bankes.) The hon. gentleman said no, but he said yes. He should not mind the interruptions of the hon. gentleman, but he would look to the Bill itself. The Bill abolished the emolument of this great office. (Hear, hear, from Mr. Bankes and the opposition.) Well what remained of the office after the emolument? The emolument was what induced responsible persons to take it; and it was the want of responsibility which he attributed to the enactments of the present Bill. The Bill, to be sure, only said that it regulated this office, but 1162 it in truth abolished it. It gave up a place of high trust and public care to obscure and inferior individuals, who should act as deputies; and by it, therefore, the property of Scotland was put into unsafe hands. He then contended, that as far as the Bill regarded Scotland it enacted contradictions. It commanded one to be doing particular acts in distinct places at the same time; and even on this ground the absurdity of the Bill was too evident to be borne with. In fine, the Bill, if it should pass into a law, would, in his opinion, cause the greatest confusion in Scotland: it would strike the whole people with immeasurable astonishment. The House had lately heard of Ireland coming in person to their bar—of Ireland appearing there with her imperial crown, demanding the concession of what were called rights, but what he might conceive as privileges, which, if granted, would endanger the safety of the state. The House had lately been threatened with this pompous appearance; but he did not appear in his place as the advocates for Ireland did. He asked no privileges,—he prayed for no favour; but he demanded the fulfilment of a contract, the preservation of rights which were never considered injurious to any mortal, which were the legacy given to her children by an ancient kingdom, and which were now sanctioned by an Union of one hundred years.
observed, that notwithstanding the high authorities of Junius and Wilkes, he had always thought the assertion a calumny, that the Scottish nation was attached with peculiar fervour to any thing in the shape of pecuniary emolument; the speech just delivered had induced him to waver in his opinion, and perhaps his countrymen might thank the right hon. and learned gentleman for a confirmation of the truth of the statement. He (Mr. L.) could not give the Scotch credit for that zealous attachment to monarchy which had been so much boasted; nor would he dwell upon the subject, lest the headless ghosts of a Charles and a Montrose should be conjured up in the imaginations of the members for North Britain. He had passed a considerable portion of his life in Scotland, and he would not, as their countryman to-night had done, be so unjust as to assert, that he had noticed any peculiar affection for the majesty of inefficiency, or the dignity of idleness. With regard to the immediate question, he was fully convinced that the 1163 true reason why the influence of the aristrocracy of Scotland was so debased, was because these places, now the subject of contention, had been continued. It had been said, that persons of high rank and distinguished talents should fill sinecure offices, as the reward of meritorious services. He thought that this argument came with a very bad grace from those who had advised the recent appointment of colonel M'Mahon. In his opinion, if there ever was a time when it was fit that this power of augmenting influence should be wrested from the hands of the crown, it was the present. When it was known that there prevailed in the court a base system of unprincipled favouritism—[hear! hear! from the Chancellor of the Exchequer.]What! did the right hon. gentleman, of all others, express his dissent? With all other men it had ceased to be a matter of doubt.—It was notorious that the Regent was surrounded with favourites, and, as it were, hemmed in with minions. If there was among them a man of note or talent, there certainly was not one of any character—nor had a single individual selected the slightest claim to a farthing of the public money.—He would not now notice the merits of colonel M'Mahon, because a fit opportunity would soon be afforded for doing so, but thus much he would assert, that the public who paid him, knew nothing of any services he had performed. He thought that any minister who dared to recommend such an appointment, possessed a degree of fortitude and boldness, that scarcely fell to the share of any other individual in the kingdom. He was not one of those who would be parsimonious of public money, where it was claimed by merit, but he would rather give hundreds of thousands to a Nelson or a Wellington, than a single farthing to a Gaveston or a Despencer.
§ Mr. Courtenay
felt great difficulty in opposing a measure purporting to be a measure of œonomy, and the proposer of which professed himself to be treading in the steps of Mr. Burke and Mr. Pitt. He trusted that he should shew that so far from being an economical measure, it would be one of wanton profuseness, that it would tend to encrease the improper influence of the crown, and that it was, as it stood, a measure quite inconsistent with the principles and practice of Mr. Burke or Mr. Pitt. He begged that it might be remembered that in estimating the eco- 1164 nomy of the new system, the House ought not to compare it with that which had hitherto prevailed, and under which there had been various abuses, but with the present system, amended as it was proposed to be by his right hon. friend, (the Chancellor of the Exchequer), by which amendment a number of sinecures would be abolished and others regulated, without any such substitution as was proposed by the hon. mover, so that whereas the saving that would accrue from this Bill would be contingent and precarious, whatever saving there would arise from the propositions of the Chancellor of the Exchequer would be positive and certain.
But the present Bill was liable to objection in its entire formation; the offices to be abolished ought to have been divided into five or six classes, upon each of which different principles should operate, as well with respect to the mode of abolishing as the propriety of the abolition. In the first place, there were the offices upon the civil list, the existence of which was recognized when the amount of the civil list was fixed, and when the pensions were limited; and some even upon the hereditary revenue of the crown; it was against all parliamentary practice, and against that of Mr. Burke in 1782, and against the whole tenour of Mr. Pitt's conduct, without a single exception, to interfere with these offices without the consent of the crown previously signified; and this principle had during the present parliament been carried so far, that the Speaker had on one occasion declined putting the question upon a motion affecting the King's hereditary revenue.
To the next class the principle of abolition ought certainly to be applied. When that House had granted certain revenues to the crown, for public purposes, giving the crown the power of defraying out of those revenues the charges attending their collection, it was a great abuse, and one to which there was scarcely any limit, to make use of that power in the creation of sinecure places. In looking to the enactments of former times upon this part of the subject, he found a circumstance which might be considered as illustrative of his assertion in regard to the hereditary revenues. An act had passed a few years ago, for rectifying a supposed mistake in the Act of 1798, for confirming the abolition of certain places in the customs; the mistake was in the omission of the office of Surveyor of Petty 1165 Customs. Now, Mr. Courtenay had little doubt but that this office was omitted in the act, because those petty customs had been granted by parliament to one of the Edwards and his heirs for ever, and constituted part of the hereditary revenue, to which, upon a demise of the crown, the new king would become entitled.
In like manner, the salaries of offices which were paid out of the annual grants of that House, might be fit subjects for abolition or regulation, but not by Bill. If the House thought any such office useless or overpaid, the constitutional mode of proceeding was to withhold the vote of the salary, as had been recently done in the case of the Paymaster of Widows' Pensions.
With respect to the offices belonging to the courts of justice, he (Mr. C.) felt incompetent to say much; but it appeared to him that the consideration involved a variety of details, which were by no means sufficiently provided for by the Bill. And the same observation applied to the offices in the colonies, in touching which, the House might perhaps be legislating for the colonies in a way that might be productive of evil consequences. Much depended upon the nature of the emoluments and the purposes to which they were applied. As far as making effectual the Act of 1782, relative to patent places in the colonies, which had been notoriously evaded, there could be no objection to the Bill.
There were very many other objections to the detail, but he objected to the whole principle upon which the pensions, which were to be substituted for the sinecures, were grounded. Under the Bill, pensions would be given to those who ought not to have them; and with holden from those upon whom they ought to be conferred. At present, sinecures were often given to persons who held high and efficient offices, but such as were not sufficiently lucrative; such were the sinecures of lord North, Mr. Pitt, and lord Grenville. The pension under the Bill only attached after a certain number of years service; if, there fore, you deemed the emoluments of these high offices insufficient, and pensions were not to be given except for previous service, you must permanently increase those emoluments, though the offices would frequently be in the hands of persons whose circumstances rendered the increase unnecessary. He contended that the crown ought to have the power of conferring 1166 pensions to a limited amount on the whole, but upon such persons as for any cause it might think proper to select. The hon. mover admitted that the crown ought to have the power of granting rewards, but said that, under this Bill, rewards could only be given to meritorious persons; and what was his test of merit? It was exceedingly difficult to appreciate merit, in persons living, or in persons long dead; but the hon. gentleman professed to have a test for appreciating all future merit,—and this test was Place. It was only necessary for a man to shew, that he had filled such or such an office for the number of years specified in the Bill, he was a meritorious officer, and entitled to his reward!
Rewards were now given to persons who held offices, in which they might be very useful, but which the hon. gentleman had properly enough left out of his Bill, because it would have been a still more extravagant measure than it now stood, if all such offices had entitled the holders to the pension. Here was another proof of the hopelessness of any attempt which, like the famous plan of finance, or other schemes, professed to apply a fixed principle to that which was in its nature fluctuating and uncertain.
But Mr. C. held that the crown ought to have the power of conferring pensions or sinecures even upon persons who had filled no offices at all. There were various kinds of merit, which it was utterly impossible to define. Very useful exertions in that House, such as those of Mr. Burke, ought to be rewarded; and though his pension was the subject of obloquy at the time, few now doubted the propriety of granting it. The hon. mover himself, if not, fortunately for him, placed in affluence, would be a fit subject for a similar mark of approbation.
In fact, the power of granting permanent rewards, tended to diminish rather than to increase the hurtful influence of the crown. (Hear, hear!) To those gentlemen who seemed to receive this with something more than doubt, he would say, that the sentiment was borrowed from Mr. Fox's Speech on the Teller's Bill in 1782. It created independent men, whereas the hon. gentleman's system, making place the only channel through which to obtain reward, created a great inducement to side with the government of the day. It was an encouragement to take office under any circumstances, and discouragement to re- 1167 signing it upon public grounds. It was an inducement to desert party, thought to be so necessary in that House; the gentlemen opposite probably thought there might be much merit in opposing ministers; and certainly, it was as fit to promote the removal of evil counsellors, as to encourage good counsellors. And supposing the sovereign, after a long struggle, to be convinced of the rectitude of the conduct of a new set of ministers, he could. Tinder the present system, reward them for the services which they rendered him in removing the old. He trusted that the right hon. gentlemen opposite would experience this—some time hence. (A laugh.) But under this Bill, if there was any man among them who had left them, and joined for the sake of a place those whom they had opposed, he would be entitled to reward, and they to none.
He should be told, that among those to whom sinecures had under the present system been given, he should have named another class, namely, those who were obviously unworthy. He believed that this class had not been numerous, and he was sure that it was daily becoming less so. If this Bill passed, it would be difficult to refuse the pension to any person upon whom it might lawfully be conferred, with his act of parliament in his hand; but under the present system, and particularly, with reference to the state of the public mind, when instruction, as it were, was accumulating, under the new plans of education, at compound interest, no violent abuse could lake place; there would be much more real and hurtful abuse, profusion, and undue influence under the present Bill. Mr. C. was anxious to make further observations upon other parts of the subject, but having already detained the House so much longer than was his usual practice, he would postpone them to a future stage.
§ Lord A. Hamilton
urged as a motive to adopt the Bill, the disappointment which would be felt by the people at large, if after the expectations held out to them, some measure of this kind should not be adopted. There was no reason to think, that this measure would prove less popular in Scotland than in England. It appeared to him, that if there were defects in the Bill it was the duly of those who pointed them out to have assisted in amending them in the Committee, and not to bring them forward for the purpose of getting rid of the Bill altogether. The 1168 House had now been receiving Reports from the Finance Committee for three years, they had affected great anxiety concerning them, and now in a year when the national expenditure would probably hardly fall short of a hundred millions, they were called on by the hon. gentlemen opposite, to reject the Bill before them, because there were certain imperfections to be found in particular parts of it. Seeing, as he did, that this was the true object of those who opposed it, he should feel ashamed to discuss the provisions of such a measure in detail in the present stage of the question.—He regarded it as a partial fulfilment of some of the many pledges which that House had given to the country, and considering that it had now to decide whether it would do any thing or nothing, he should certainly vote in support of the motion.
professed, that he looked at the opposition given to this measure as not a little insidious. That House had been long engaged in exciting expectations and feeding hopes in the people, which, whether they were for ever to be disappointed, the vote of that night would probably determine. They had been told, that they ought to consider this measure with reference to past, not to present times, and to try it by principles abstracted from any immediate considerations. Was it then possible for them to shut their eyes to all that was passing in the country; to those grievous burdens under which almost all classes were now suffering? Was it possible that the peasant, who could scarcely procure the loaf that was to sustain the lives of his children, should not feel impatience at finding himself compelled to contribute to the gratification of the luxurious appetites of those, whose only recommendation was, that they were the favourites or the creatures of a minister? The time was now come when something must be done. They had indeed that night been told, that they could not with propriety enter upon this subject without an instruction from the crown. Good God that it should be stated even in that House itself, that they had no right to enquire into, or to provide for the redress of public grievances, except in the case of a message from the throne: such a proposition carried with it its own refutation in the mind of every man. Much had been said of the necessity of furnishing reward to service, but was no other motive expected to operate, at least with 1169 members of parliament, in stimulating them to their duty, than to the certainty and the amount of the pecuniary compensation they might have to receive? The hon. mover had doubtless laboured a long time with a commendable perseverance, but he must say that he had yet done nothing. He had himself some objections to the mode pursued by the present Bill, and should have greatly preferred seeing every separate office put to the vote, and a Bill subsequently prepared conformably to that decision. But at least it was incumbent on those who talked of the necessity of remuneration, to shew the reality of the service. So far from believing them to be always concomitant, he was convinced it would be difficult to point out ten in the whole list that partook of this character. The public money was too often given, rather as a consideration for accepting office, than for the labours or the services performed in it. Pensions were allowed on all occasions, however, to those who had filled office, let the period be ever so short; the mere fact of having been in office, being held an indisputable title to a sinecure or a pension for life. Looking at the present situation of the country, he knew not what consequence might ensue, if parliament did not exhibit to the people some proofs, that they had the interests of the country rather than their own at heart. He implored the House therefore, to attend carefully to the real circumstances of the times, and to evince a disposition to protect, and act a guardian part to the people, by adopting at once a vigorous system of retrenchment and œconomy.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer
objected so much to the Bill in its general principle, and in its sweeping operation, that he did not conceive it necessary for him to abstain any longer from delivering his opinion. He was sorry to hear that it was conceived by some gentlemen, that be had not acted fairly by the Bill in letting it go through the committee without observation, and delaying until the present stage of it to make any observations upon it. His opinion on the principle of the Bill was, however, well known, as he had never concealed it. As the House appeared to be in some measure pledged to the principle of the Bill, he wished at least, that the hon. gentleman 1170 should carry it through the committee, in order to present it to the House in the most perfect shape that he could bring it to. Now that it had come from the committee, he felt himself bound to state his objections to it, both in the details and in the principle. In considering the details of it, he could not avoid coinciding with his learned friend (the Lord Advocate of Scotland), in considering that the Bill proposed a most inconvenient union of different offices which should rather check each other, as the keeper of the great seal in Scotland, and the office of chief-justice general. He conceived that the idea of retaining many offices, and abolishing their salaries, was rather an extraordinary idea. In the same way the Bill had proposed to incorporate the office of auditor-general with that of president of the council, and saving the salary of the former place. Now he could not conceive upon what principle of justice the president of the council could be called on, without any additional remuneration, to take upon himself the responsibility of auditor of the exchequer also. The hon. gentleman said, that the latter office might be discharged, as it had hitherto been discharged, by deputy. Now it appeared to him contrary to every principle of justice, and most absurd to make any man responsible for the conduct of a deputy not of his own appointing. The Bill provided, that the office of clerk of the pells should be united to that of keeper of the privy seal; and yet on a very recent occasion, where money was to be raised, it had appeared, that the deputy clerk of the pells was a check upon the privy seal. After the Bill had stated what offices were to be abolished in Ireland, there was the remarkable proviso, "provided always that, no offices shall from henceforward be granted in reversion." Now if all the sinecures were to be abolished, it was evident that nothing would be left of which reversion could be given, as it was most evident that efficient offices could not be so granted. The clerk of the first fruits and the custos brevium were offices in which a fee-simple had been granted, and therefore it was quite useless to talk of making any alteration in them, while it was professed that all vested interests must be protected. As to the law offices now in the disposal of the chief justices, he conceived, that with the present chief justices these were vested interests which could not be taken away from them; and 1171 that the labours of the offices, particularly that of chief justice of the King's Bench, were extremely ill paid, if it were not that the disposal off those offices, in addition to their other emoluments, made something of a reasonable compensation to them. If the disposal of those offices were taken away from the chief judges, a very considerable addition to their salaries ought to be made.—As to the principle of the Bill, his opinion was still that it was perfectly wrong and mistaken. It went to say, that the crown should not hare the power of securing for its service men whom it might judge to be the most capable, if those men happened not to be in a situation to resign all other professions or pursuits in order to enter into the public service. It was only by such places as these, that the crown had now the power of prevailing on men to accept of offices who were not completely independent in their fortunes, and who were obliged to look to their own exertions for the maintenance and provision of their families. It might be supposed that those observations proceeded from a personal bias; but he should not pretend to say, that his public services were of such importance to the country, as to make such a measure necessary. He should, however, suppose a case of the crown being at any future time surrounded by aristocratic combinations, and that to preserve its proper place in the constitution, it should deem it necessary to call to its service some gentleman from the other side of the House. It would be very possible, that the gentleman whom it might so select, and who might be more worthy of such selection, would be found in such a situation as not to be able, in duty to himself or his family, to accept of office unless the crown had something of this sort to bestow, in addition to the salary of the office. In such a case as he had supposed, it would be evident that the existence of such offices would contribute materially to the independence of the crown, and to enabling it to keep its proper rank in the constitution. He knew that there were some who conceived the influence of the crown exorbitant. (Hear, hear!) He supposed that those who cheered the expression so clamorously, were of that opinion; but he should appeal to the opinion of the House in general, whether this influence was too great. He conceived that the progress of information, and the accumulation of wealth, had added, of late years. 1172 much more influence to the aristocratic and democratic part of our constitution—much more weight and influence, than all the existing offices, together with the increased patronage of the army, and the collection of the revenue, gave to the crown. Even the late debates and divisions which had taken place in that House upon col. M'Mahon's appointment, shewed pretty clearly that there was no such preponderating influence as the crown was supposed to have over parliament. There was no man who could say that the proposed measure would be a matter of indifference, as respecting the crown. It would certainly be a considerable diminution of the influence of the crown; and it was for the wisdom of parliament to say, whether it would not be a dangerous diminution of an influence which was by no means too great. It would be hazarding a great blow to the monarchy, to deprive the crown of the means of calling any man to its service who was not completely independent in his fortune. A pension, after a certain number of years' service, would be by no means such an inducement as every man of honour and proper feeling would prefer the means of providing for his family, to any provision which was to be made merely for his own life. No man who could secure a provision for his family by his exertions in private life, would consent to accept of office, unless he had also a prospect held out to him of securing a provision for his family, which one of those sinecure offices might give him.
certainly was apprised a long time ago of the hostility of the right hon. the Chancellor of the Exchequer to the principle of this Bill. He thought, however, that it was somewhat extraordinary, and contrary to parliamentary usage, to let the Bill be read a second time, and pass through the Committee, without any observations; and then to come forward in the present stage, and condemn not only the principle of the Bill, but those details which might have been altered in the Committee. He had not expected to have been hampered with this double difficulty: but, however, he should answer as well as he could the objections which he had now heard. The gentlemen from the North had opened a pretty sharp battery upon him; but they really appeared to him not to be able to perceive the distinction between office and salary, or to think it possible that the salary might be saved, 1173 and the office not abolished. The right hon. gentleman, however, clearly comprehended the distinction; but when he spoke of those offices and their responsibility, he should have recollected that they were rather quasi offices with quasi responsibility, and neither the duties of such offices, nor the responsibility attached to them, appeared to him at all too great to be confined to such men as would usually be appointed deputies. He knew that his Bill was necessarily defective in many parts; and he could have wished to have had the benefit of the right hon. gentleman's observations on the Committee. As to the Scotch places, which it was recommended to incorporate with other places, he was by no means convinced of the justice of the observations made by the Lord Advocate. He believed that those places which had been stated as checks on each other, had never, within the memory of the oldest man, been known to act in any way as checks. The honourable and learned gentleman had represented this measure as likely to overturn all vested and landed rights in Scotland; but he believed that it would appear to the House, that his description was considerably overcharged. The honourable member proceeded to declare, that he knew of no better mode of paying high and efficient offices in the state than by salaries proportioned to their importance. He had conceived, that as the House had formerly agreed to certain resolutions proposed by him, which laid down the principles that certain sinecure offices should be either abolished or regulated, they were bound to support the present Bill, which was in fact formed upon these resolutions. His right honourable friend had intimated an opinion, that the power of the crown had not increased of late years: but was it possible to look at the immense expenditure of the country,—at our great military and naval establishments,—at the vast patronage thus placed in the hands of the crown—at the increase of our revenue, and of the number of people employed in its collection;—was it possible, he would ask, to look at all these things, without being convinced, that dependence on the crown was extended to all parts of the country, in a degree quite unexampled in former times? (Hear!) It was no light consideration, also, that some of the greatest commercial and corporate bodies in the country were in the habit of looking 1174 up to the ministers of the crown. With regard to its immediate influence in that House, there had been times when such influence had been more openly excited; but could there be a doubt that much of it remained, and continued to be an object of just suspicion to the people? The present measure, if passed, would have the beneficial effect of purifying the future parliaments of the country. He was really surprised to hear the offices which this Bill proposed to abolish, represented as in some measure the outworks and safeguards which were necessary to the protection of the crown. On the contrary, he rather regarded them as a mill-stone appended to the monarchy, in danger of weighing it to the ground; because these sinecures were become low, degraded, and odious in the estimation of the people. (Hear, hear!) The recent vote of the House, by which the sinecure held by col. M'Mahon was abolished, had raised their character in the eyes of the country. There never was a moment when it was more important to preserve and increase that estimation. Let them now shew that the act to which he had alluded was not the mere effervescence of the moment, but that they were prepared to proceed upon principle to the abolition of sinecures equally useless, and equally odious. He was not one of those who would delude the people with the idea, that the abolitions which he recommended would materially diminish the public burthens; but it would not fail to afford them much satisfaction, when they saw parliament determined, that that only should be expended which was necessary for the public service. He had not expected a debate on the second reading of the Report, much less a browbeating one. His Majesty's ministers might think, from the number of members in the House, they would have an advantage over him on a division, as many of the hon. members were not present when the question was regularly debated; but he was not afraid to meet them on a division, for he knew the soundness of his cause. The right hon. gentleman, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, had told them, that the power of the crown had not increased; at the same time, staring him in the face, since the New Era had commenced a new office had been made at a large salary. He had not a doubt if the Bill passed into a law, but it would do away with many of the existing corruptions of parliament. Were Mr. Pitt 1175 and Mr. Burke living, he was persuaded they would give their support to the Bill; which did not go to deprive the crown of the power of rewarding merit, but to prevent the public money from being lavished on useless sinecures. He was always of opinion that the crown should hold its supremacy, but he thought the Bill before them was a safeguard to it, particularly when the public were in disgust with sine cures. It was the duty of the House to preserve the public interest. The House had, by a former vote, given the country an earnest of their independence, and would they then, by their vote that night, do away with the pledge?
§ Mr. Courtenay
said, in explanation, that in attributing to the hon. gentleman the adoption of a test of merit, he spoke from a note made at the time. He also said, that he had not objected to the abolition of sinecures, except in certain instances, but that his objections were to the principle upon which the substitution was to be established; and in that respect particularly, he charged upon the hon. mover a departure from the principles of Mr. Pitt.
rose and said, that at that late hour, and in the exhausted state of the House, he should only detain them a few minutes; but he was anxious shortly to explain the grounds on which he should vote for the original question. His right hon. friend (Mr. Perceval), had commenced his speech with arguing against the general principles of the Bill; but he could not resist the temptation of introducing some of its minor and petty details, for the purpose of mixing them with its principles, and obtaining the rejection of both together. This was a species of tactics which was not perhaps very unusual; but it would have been fairer to have made a stand against the principle of this Bill on the second reading; and on the other hand his hon. friend might be perfectly right in his objections to some of the minor details of the measure, while he made no way at all against its principles. The right hon. member (Mr. Canning) then commented on some of the arguments of the learned lord who spoke early in the debate, and ridiculed the importance which he attached to the continuance of certain sinecure offices in Scotland. He next alluded to the recommendation of measures of economy from the throne, at the commencement of the present parliament. The nature of the en- 1176 quiries into the means of diminishing expenditure, then recommended by the crown, could not be mistaken, as the resumption of measures of the same sort as had been carried on in the preceding parliament was particularly specified in the speech from the throne. This, in reality, was a virtual recommendation on the part of the crown of some measure similar to the present, and totally removed the necessity which his right hon. friend supposed to exist, of having a separate recommendation of abolition for each of the 200 offices specified in the Bill. His right hon. friend had contended, that these offices were means in the hands of the crown for remunerating high services, and alluring to its employment the talents of unpatrimonied men. He admitted there was a possibility of a set of persons of rank, birth, and high fortune uniting for the purpose of drawing a circle round the throne, and monopolising all the offices of state. It was equally proper that the crown should have the means of averting such contingencies; but was the system of sinecures better calculated to attain that object than the one now proposed, which was to operate by the power of granting pensions? In this point of view the two systems seemed equal; but in another respect, the one was more eligible than the other, inasmuch as public opinion was hostile to sinecures; they were become odious to the people, while this Bill provided that pensions should be openly given and received as the reward of past services. It was public opinion which caused the difference; and he argued not on the ground of a diminution of the influence of the crown being necessary, but merely on that of a commutation of its form. He agreed with his right hon. friend in thinking, that the influence of the crown had not increased; or, at least, that it was counterbalanced by the increased wealth of the people, and particularly by that increased spirit of intelligence which was so generally diffused, and which necessarily operated as a check on the crown. He concluded by remarking, that though there were some provisions in the Bill from which he dissented, yet he should support it, because he approved of the principle on which it went.
opposed the Bill, as tending to deprive the crown of the power of immediately securing to an individual of talent that which, consistently with his duty to his family, he might require to 1177 be secured to him before he would dedicate his lime to the public service. It went to deprive the crown of this power, and only left it the means of intimating to such a person, that if in the midst of conflicts with poverty, he could contrive to continue to serve the crown for five years; at the end of that time, he might be rewarded with a pension. He could not think the measure had been correctly described, when it had been represented as merely leading to a commutation of the power of the crown. He thought it unequivocally calculated to effect a great reduction in its power, and to make a retrenchment of its prerogative, inconsistent with the principles of the English monarchy.
§ The House divided—
|For the motion||134|
|Majority in favour of the Bill||—11|
§ The Bill was then recommitted.
proposed to add the office of first commissioner for India affairs to the second class, which was objected to by Mr. Bankes and others, but was carried. He then proposed to include the office of judge advocate general.
§ Mr. Tierney
supported the proposition, contending, that such officers were not usually taken from high practice, in the law; and that there was no necessity to tempt persons to take them.
The Attorney General
said, that Mr. Bond wax eminent in the circuit, and that the present judge advocate had shewn great professional talent, though he had not been in great practice.
hoped the hon. and learned gentleman (Mr. Wynn) would not spoil the Bill by such extensions. This office ought to be viewed as a judicial one, and not as political.—It would be, therefore, more for its dignity and utility if it were exparliameantary.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer
saw no diffierence in the matter, whether the holder were in or out of parliament, as it respected the merit of his services.
§ Mr. Whitbread
thought his hon. and learned friend's amendment would overlay the present Bill: the office of first commissioner for India affairs for instance, depended merely on the existence of the East India Company.
was of opinion, that it would be better that the judge advocate should be an exparliamentary officer.
proposed to include the paymaster general, but after some conversation relinquished that amendment.
§ Mr. Tierney
said, he should move on the third reading, that it should be distinguished whether the service was in peace or war, on the same principle as the secretaryship of the Admiralty.
§ The amendment was carried.
§ Mr. Courtenay
said that, in the committee he had asked the hon. mover whether he had any objection to allowing that service in an office inferior to the lowest enumerated in the Bill, should in the case of a person promoted from such inferior office to one in either of the four classes, be reckoned in the number of years required; upon the same principle as that which provided, that service in an office in the fourth class, namely, under secretary of state,—should count towards entitling the party to the pension, in any higher class to which he might be promoted. The hon. mover had given an answer, which was understood not only by Mr. C. but by many other persons present, as being in the affirmative, but as no such provision was to be found in the Bill, he should propose it in a future stage.
objected to what affected the Irish pension list, as violating the agreement with the crown for the present King's life, and moved to omit that passage in the Bill.
said, that it did not affect the Civil List, but only its distribution.
Colonel Barry's amendment was negatived.
§ The House having resumed, the Report was received, and the Bill was ordered to be read a third time on Monday.
|List of the Majority, who voted in favour of the sinecure Offices Bill.|
|Adair, R||Baring, A.|
|Adams, C.||Bankes, H.|
|Astley, sir J.||Benyon, R.|
|Babington, T.||Biddulpb, R. M.|
|Blachford, B. P.||Lloyd, sir E.|
|Bourne, W. S.||Lockhart, J. T.|
|Bowyer, sir G.||Long, R.|
|Brand, hon. T.||Longman, G.|
|Brougham, H.||Lowndes, W.|
|Browne, A.||Lyttleton, hon. W.|
|Bennet, hon. H.||Macdonald, J.|
|Burrell, hon. P. D.||Manning, W.|
|Burrell, sir C.||Marryat, J.|
|Byng, G.||Martin, H|
|Bewicke, C.||Mathew, hon. M|
|Calcraft, J.||Maule, hon. W.|
|Calvert, N.||Mildmay, Sir H.|
|Campbell, gen. D.||Mills, W.|
|Canning, rt. hon. G.||Milton, vise.|
|Chaloner, R.||Moore, P.|
|Coke, E.||Mostyn, Sir T.|
|Colbourne, N. W. R.||Neville, hon. R.|
|Combe, H. C.||Newport, Sir J.|
|Cotes, J.||North, D.|
|Craig, J.||Osborne, lord F.|
|Creevey, T.||Ossulston, lord|
|Daly, rt. hon. D. B.||Parnell, H.|
|Daniel, R. A.||Peirse, H.|
|Davenport, D.||Pelham, hon. C.|
|Dillon, hon. H. A.||Ponsonby, rt. hon. G.|
|Drake, T. T.||Ponsonby, hon. G.|
|Drake, W. T.||Ponsonby, hon. F.|
|Dugdale, D. S.||Power, R|
|Dundas, C.||Prittie, hon F.|
|Dundas, hon. L.||Pym, F.|
|Ellis, C. R.||Romilly, Sir S.|
|Fane, J.||Saville, A.|
|Fellowes, W. H.||Scudamore, R. P.|
|Fitzgerald, lord H.||Sebright, Sir J.|
|Fitzgerald, Maurice||Sharpe, R.|
|Fitzgerald, A.||Shaw, Sir J.|
|Foley, hon. A.||Shaw, R.|
|Foley, T.||Smith, G.|
|Folkestone, visc.||Smith, J.|
|Gell, P.||Smith, A.|
|Giddy, D.||Smith, W M.|
|Giles, D.||Speirs, A.|
|Grenhill, R.||Stewart, J|
|Gooch, T. S.||Sumner, G. H.|
|Gower, lord G. L.||Talbot, R. W.|
|Greenough, G. B.||Tarleton, B.|
|Greenfell, P.||Taylor, W.|
|Hamilton, lord A.||Taylor, M. A.|
|Hamilton, Sir H.||Taylor, C. W|
|Herbert, hon. W.||Thompson, T.|
|Hibbert, G.||Thornton, H.|
|Howarth, H.||Tierney, rt. hon. G.|
|Hughes, W. L.||Tracey, C. H.|
|Huskisson, W.||Tremayne, J. H.|
|Jekyll, J.||Vansittart rt. h. N.|
|Johnstone, G.||Vernon, G. G. V.|
|Keck, G. A. L.||Wharton, J.|
|Knight, Robt.||Whitbread, S.|
|Lamb, hon. W.||Wilberforce, W.|
|Langton, W. G.||Williams, O.|
|Latouche, R.||Williams, Sir R.|
|Lemon, Sir W.||Winnington, Sir T.|
|Lemon, J.||Wrottesley, H.|
|Lester, B.||Wynn, C. W. W.|
|List of the Minority who voted against the Sinecure Offices Bill.|
|Anstruther, sir J.||Hume, J.|
|Apsley, lord||Irving, J.|
|Attersoll, W.||Jones, G.|
|Arbuthnot, rt. hon. C.||Kenrick, W.|
|Bagwell, W.||Kingston, J.|
|Baillie, G.||Leycester, H.|
|Bathurst, rt. hon. C.||Lockhart, sir A.|
|Barne, S.||Loftus, gen.|
|Barry, J.||Loft, gen.|
|Beresford, lord G.||Long, rt. hon. C.|
|Bisshopp, C.||Longfield, M.|
|Bootle, E. W.||Lovaine, lord|
|Bradshaw, hon. A. C.||Lowther, James|
|Brodrick, hon. W.||Lushington, R. S.|
|Brooke, lord||M'Naughten, E. A.|
|Buller, sir E.||Martin, R.|
|Bruce, T.||Mellish, W.|
|Burghersh, lord||Montague, M.|
|Calvert, J.||Moorsom, adm.|
|Campbell, gen. A.||Moore, lord H.|
|Campbell, A.||O'Brien, sir E.|
|Castlereagh, vise.||Paget, hon. R.|
|Clive, W.||Paget, hon. C.|
|Clive, H.||Patteson, J.|
|Clonmell, earl of||Perceval, rt. hon. S.|
|Cochrane, hon. G.||Phipps, hon. E.|
|Coke, D. P.||Peele, R.|
|Courtenay, T. P.||Pitt, W. M.|
|Cripps, Jos.||Plomer, sir T.|
|Colquhoun, A.||Pole, rt. hon. W.|
|Croker, J. W.||Porter, Geo.|
|Davis, R. H.||Robinson, hon. F.|
|Deedes, W.||Robinson, gen.|
|Drummond, G. H.||Rochfort, G.|
|Duckett, G.||Rose, rt. hon. G.|
|Drummond, J.||Rose, G. H.|
|Duigenan, Dr. Pat.||Ryder, rt. hon. R.|
|Dundas, rt. hon. W.||Scott, rt. hon. sir W.|
|Dufferin, lord||Singleton, M.|
|Eliot, hon. W.||Sloane, w.|
|Ellice, W.||Smith, H.|
|Farmer, S.||Smith, T. A.|
|Farquhar, J.||Sneyd, R.|
|Ferguson, J.||Scott, Claude|
|Fitzhugh, W.||Somerset, lord A.|
|Foulkes, E.||Stephen, J.|
|French, A.||Stewart, sir J.|
|Gibbs, sir V.||Strachan, A.|
|Gordon, J.||Sullivan, rt. hon. J.|
|Graham, T.||St. Asaph, lord|
|Graham, S.||Thompson, sir T.|
|Gunning,——||Thynne, lord J.|
|Goulbourn, H.||Thynne, lord G.|
|Hamilton, Hans||Tyrwhitt, T.|
|Hamilton, sir C.||Wallace, rt. hon. T.|
|Harvey E.||Walpole, lord|
|Hill, sir G. F.||Ward, Robt.|
|Holford, G. P.||Wemyss, general|
|Holmes, W.||Wharton, R.|
|Houblon, J. A.||Yarmouth, earl of|
|Houston, A.||Yorke, sir J.|
|Hume, sir A.|