§ The Speaker
acquainted the House, that that House had been in the House of Peers, where the Lords Commissioners had delivered a Speech to both Houses of Parliament, of which, to prevent mistakes, he had obtained a copy. [See p. 17.] After the Speaker had read the Speech,
§ Mr. Brownlow
rose and spoke to the following effect:—I should indeed, Sir, present myself to your notice on this occasion with peculiar diffidence and embarrassment, did I not most sanguinely hope that, however inadequate my efforts may prove to engage the attention of the House, the same unanimous sentiments may: be found to pervade his Majesty's Commons—those of pride and satisfaction in their country's calm peaceful joy, and of unbounded duty and attachment to that presiding wisdom and royal authority, from whence has proceeded the gracious Speech we have now heard delivered to us by the Lords Commissioners, so ex- 36 pressive of his Royal Highnesses paternal regard for the welfare and happiness of his people.
With regard to the melancholy events with which this Speech has commenced, there can be but one opinion; for who that is an admirer of the virtues and excellencies of human nature; but must sympathize in the continued indisposition of our revered monarch; while I trust the House will not be merely guided by form, but irresistibly worked on by feelings of affectionate regret, to condole with his Royal Highness on the severe loss he has; sustained in the death of her late Majesty. Surely, if weight can attach to the descending influence of royalty on the morals and happiness of society, in the queen, whose loss we deplore, has disappeared an invaluable example of strict and unerring decorum. In love and mutual honour, joined to her royal consort for a long course of years, his joy, his solace, and the faithful guardian of his person; promoting the interests of strict morality and religion, and, in the true spirit of a Christian, possessed of an active though secret principle of benevolence, that always led her to the alleviation of sorrow, denying to misery nothing but her name. It is, however, gratifying for us to consider, and may it engage to his Royal Highness, in a still increased degree, the hearts and affections of all his subjects, that the close of a life so honourably passed, was soothed by his most anxious and unremitting attentions;. and this strict observance of filial duty must in another sense, be most satisfactory to the House, as it affords the best pledge, that every measure suitable to the dignity and consequence of the object, but consistent with economy, will be taken for the care and maintenance of the person, of his Royal Highness's father ["Hear, hear!].
Turning from these distressing events, abundant sources of congratulation may be found, both in our foreign connexions, as lately confirmed abroad, and the internal prosperity of our country. And, first, with regard to the Congress, whose deliberations have led to the evacuation of the; French territory. If this distinguished meeting had taken place for the purposes of individual interest or ambition, or for any other end than the promotion of the general peace, I should predict to such a confederacy disunion and discomfiture. But what has been the object of this happy concord of nations, at which his majesty's 37 ministers bore so distinguished a part, may be seen by the papers ordered to be laid before the House. The most striking result of this august assemblage has been, on serious investigation of the policy of the measure, to take the earliest opportunity of restoring to a great and afflicted people, that weight in the scale of nations, of which they had, for their own and the common safety, been for a while deprived, and which sad necessity no longer existed in consequence of the past unfit dynasty being now so happily replaced by the natural race of her kings. While France, by the most honorable and scrupulous adherence to her engagements, and by the success that has hitherto attended the efforts of his most Christian majesty towards the consolidation of his government, has rendered precautionary measures any longer unnecessary on the part of the allied powers, and now rests, once more on her own means for support, to our own shores have been given back our distinguished heroes, equally moderate and dignified in the trying hour of fortune, as irresistible in danger. It is not for me to attempt to enter into the various political arrangements of these conferences; but so strongly do they bear on them all the characteristics of peace, and so fully do they evince the spirit of the allied powers to establish and preserve such relations among themselves as may tend to the harmony of the civilized world, and advance the march of national liberty, that they cannot but justify his Royal Highness's persuasions, that the result of his measures in this quarter of the globe, will meet with the peculiar satisfaction of his Commons.
I shall now take the liberty of calling your attention to the result of his Royal Highness's arms in India; and to all who weigh the wealth and importance of our undisturbed possessions in the East, to all who consider the intricacy and comprehensive nature of its affairs, it must be a source of peculiar congratulation, to be assured, that our operations in that country have been as decisive as they were well matured, and quickly executed. The total suppression of the attacks of the Pindaries, and of the restless intrigues of their perfidious supporters, the Mahratta powers, is the happy result of one short campaign; and to its vast advantages, such as we always may anticipate, with justice warring on our side, to the character of the British employed, and to the 38 politic conduct and administration of the most noble the governor, the most unequivocal testimony has been borne at the close, and on the arena of the campaign and its results. And, however, at the date of the document to which I allude, there might have existed some features of protracted contest, subsequent intelligence announces the total cessation of those hostilities that had been forced on us by constant predatory attacks on our adjacent dominions; and under this auspicious administration of affairs, Bajah, Row, a restless intriguing spirit, disturbing the general tranquillity, has paid the penalty of his unprovoked attacks, and is the prisoner of war of his Royal Highness's governor in India.
From east to west, a kind Providence seems to favour the efforts of his majesty's ministers, for the good and prosperity of these realms, and the result of his Royal Highness's negotiations in the United States, is equally favourable with the issue of his arms. By previous treaty the commercial convention between this country and the United States, would expire in the course of a few months; but I have considerable pleasure in understanding, that the same arrangements which have already proved so beneficial to the wealth and industry of this country, have been renewed for a term of years—regulations to be viewed with the same satisfaction, and as the more permanent, as we have acted on the liberal policy, that, in contributing to the rising prosperity of America, we but increase good custom for ourselves, and open new resources of wealth to the commercial and manufacturing parts of the kingdom.
But, Sir, I need not have wandered thus far and long from home, in search of the flattering picture of prosperity; for I believe every man who now honours me with his attention, will allow, that never was the measure of joy more full, or peace absolute, as that which now reigns through every part of the united kingdom. There never was a period at which all branches of the different manufacturers of the country were more universally employed, or received a fuller or more comfortable remuneration for their labour. A revived and enterprising spirit exists in all our sea-port towns, and national credit never stood higher than under the care of those to whom the present charge is entrusted. I am far from pressing the dangerous principle, that a country's resources must 39 increase indefinitely, in proportion to the demands made on its exertions, for the greatest affluence may be drained, and the firmest patience exhausted; but it is surely the purest source of congratulation, that after an unexampled contest of twenty-three years duration, and the more trying crisis of a state of peace in which the greater part of the people were forced to seek for new employment, the most gratifying and unanswerable proof of the elasticity and resources of the country should be given in the increase of the revenue in all its most important branches. This individual and general financial prosperity was however naturally to be anticipated, as the consequence of that system of economy and retrenchment so quickly established and steadily pursued, after our expensive career of glory, in the reduction of the army and navy, and the other war establishments of the country, in every respect as extensive as is consistent with domestic security, or the military occupation of our colonies.
I have now attempted to give an outline of the political bearings and state of the country. Abroad, we have an unexampled concord of nations bound together by the most holy ties of alliance, by their duties towards God, and the people whom they govern; at home, peace, affluence, and prosperity, and above all other blessings, minds and dispositions calculated to enjoy them. Such is the happy country which, by the elective trust lately restored to the nation and exercised on us, comes under our charge. May we jealously watch over the laws of the land; may we honestly and impartially support every part of the constitution; and apply ourselves in harmony and union to amplify and perpetuate the blessings we enjoy! Having now trespassed a long time on your patience, T proceed humbly to offer for the consideration and judgment of the House, the Address of Thanks I shall have the honour to move to his royal highness the Prince Regent, which, pledging to no future line of conduct, but merely repeating those sentiments from the speech from the throne, to which every British heart must echo, will, I trust, meet with the unanimous concurrence of the House. He concluded with moving,
"That an humble Address be presented to his Royal Highness the Prince Regent, to thank his Royal Highness for the most gracious Speech delivered by his command to both Houses of Parliament:
40 "To assure his Royal Highness that we fully participate in the deep regret expressed by his Royal Highness at the continuance of his majesty's lamented indisposition:
"To offer to his Royal Highness our sincere condolence on the severe calamity with which it has pleased Divine Providence to visit his Royal Highness, the royal family, and the nation, by the death of her majesty the Queen, a princess whose exalted virtues and exemplary conduct in all the various relations of public and private life will cause her memory to be held in long and grateful reverence by a loyal and affectionate people:
"To assure his Royal Highness that we shall not fail to direct our early attention to the consideration of such measures as this melancholy event has rendered necessary and expedient, with respect to the care of his majesty's sacred person:
"To return our humble thanks to his Royal Highness for the information that the negotiations which have taken place at Aix-la-Chapelle have led to the evacuation of the French territory by the allied armies; and for the orders given by his Royal Highness that the convention con eluded for this purpose, together with the documents connected with this arrangement, shall be laid before parliament; and to otter to his Royal Highness the expression of our peculiar satisfaction at his Royal Highness's assurance of the intimate union which so happily subsists amongst the powers who were parties to those transactions, and of the unvaried disposition which has been manifested in all their proceedings for the preservation of the peace and tranquillity of Europe:
"To convey to his Royal Highness our further acknowledgments for his communication of the conclusion of a treaty with the government of the United States of America, which has for its object the renewal of the commercial convention now subsisting between the two nations, and the amicable adjustment of several points of material importance to the interests of both countries; and for his Royal Highness's gracious intention of laying a copy of this treaty before parliament, as soon as the ratifications shall have been exchanged:
"To return our humble thanks to his Royal Highness for having directed the estimates for the current year to be laid before us:
"That we learn with the greatest satis- 41 faction, that the present situation of Europe, and the circumstances of the British Empire, have enabled his Royal Highness to make a considerable reduction in the Naval and Military establishments of the country:
"That it is also gratifying to us to be informed, that a considerable and progressive improvement of the revenue has taken place in its most important branches; and also, that the trade, commerce, and manufactures of the country are in a flourishing condition:
"To return our thanks to his Royal Highness, for directing such papers as are necessary to show the origin and result of the war in the East Indies, to be laid before Parliament:
"To assure his Royal Highness, that we learn with much satisfaction, that the war on the part of the British Government in India originated in the strictest principles of self-defence; and that, under the prudent and skilful superintendence of the marquis of Hastings, the campaign has been marked in every part by brilliant achievements and successes; and that his majesty's forces, and those of the East India Company (native as well as European), rivalled each other in sustaining the reputation of the British arms:
"That we rejoice at the favourable change to which his Royal Highness refers, as having so rapidly taken place in the internal circumstances of the United Kingdom, and as affording the strongest proof of the solidity of its resources; and to assure his Royal Highness that it will be our earnest desire to direct our deliberations to the cultivation and improvement of our present situation, relying with confidence on his Royal Highness's concurrence and co-operation in whatever may be best calculated to secure to his majesty's subjects the full benefits of that state of peace which, by the blessing of Providence, has been so happily re-established throughout Europe."
§ Mr. William Peel
rose and said:—In seconding, Sir, the Address, which has been proposed with so much ability by the honourable member who has just sat down, I cannot but feel how absolutely necessary it is for me to put in my claim to the indulgence of the House, and express a hope that its liberality will be extended to one who stands so much in need of it. Many of the observations it was my intention to make, having very naturally been anticipated by the hon. 42 mover of the address, I fear I run an additional risk of wearying the patience of the House, by descanting on subjects which have already been noticed so much at large. I am, however, somewhat sustained by a belief that the address I propose to second, is not of a nature calculated to call forth opposition or objection, but that it will experience the cordial support and sincere approbation of every member in the House; for, as there can exist but one opinion as to the propriety of offering our condolence to the Prince Regent on those lamentable circumstances noticed in the speech from the throne, so there can exist but one wish as to the unanimity with which that offering should be conveyed to his Royal Highness. The afflicted state of his majesty becomes every successive year a subject of additional and still deeper regret; as the continuance of that affliction must have diminished in the minds of the most sanguine the hopes they had entertained as to the probability of his majesty's recovery. Another cause of the deepest national grief, presents itself in the lamented death of the Queen; and witnessing, as we do, a disposition on the part of every class of society to sympathise with the Prince Regent on the misfortune which he and the country have sustained in the loss of that royal personage, whose life was exercised in the discharge of every public and every private duty, the representatives of the people will, of course, be anxious to seize the very first opportunity of expressing their sense of the general misfortune, and their desire to participate in the general sorrow. It would be idle and presumptuous in me to dwell upon the many excellencies which adorned the character of her late majesty—inasmuch as these excellencies are so universally acknowledged; and I am perfectly sensible of my own incompetency to do them justice, were I to make the attempt. It having become necessary that some new arrangements should be speedily adopted, with respect to the custody of his majesty's sacred person, such arrangements have been recommended to our consideration in the Speech from the throne. Future opportunities will be afforded for a discussion of them. We are now merely asked to pledge ourselves to the consideration of the subject. It is a pleasing reflection, that the many topics would afford us occasion to mingle our congratulations with our expressions of condolence. Whatever 43 difference of opinion may have existed, as to the means by which events have been accompanied, or as to the events which have lately occurred to affect the circumstances of other countries, yet all must in candour admit, that the prosperous state and future prospects of the country, form the most ample grounds for exultation; for whether we compare ourselves to other states, or, according to the fairer criterion, compare our situation at the present day with the situation of the country at other periods of our history, the result of that comparison must be in every respect highly satisfactory.
If we look, for instance, to the commencement of the last parliament, the country had to contend with the greatest difficulties. We saw ourselves engaged in an arduous and eventful struggle, waiting with unspeakable anxiety every arrival from the theatre of war; and though every arrival brought with it the tidings of success, yet were those tidings accompanied by others which could not fail to produce much private misery throughout the nation, and much anxiety as to the future contingencies of war. During the course of that parliament, this country had to undergo severe privations, resulting from the inclemencies of the season. At a very late period of that parliament, a spirit of outrage and disaffection manifested itself in the country, which I am willing to attribute rather to the pressure of the times, than to any general disposition on the part of the people to undervalue the blessings of the constitution under which they live. We have now to boast of peace abroad and tranquillity at home. We see our revenue increasing, and those branches of commerce which had suffered during the war, reviving and flourishing, under the free intercourse which peace affords. How gratifying to reflect, that after passing the severe contest, through which we have so triumphantly passed, nothing has occurred to tarnish a single laurel we have gained, or to bring discredit on our fair character.
Let us here not refuse to do justice to that illustrious individual, to whom this country still owes so great a debt of gratitude; to him who, for all his achievements, may put forth his claim to future fame, nut more on the grounds of his great military character as a conqueror, than on his moderation in the day of conquest. How splendid a compliment was paid to his country—how splendid a com- 44 pliment was paid to our great commander, on his being selected to the command of the combined armies on the continent; to the command of the troops of nations who have brought so much larger forces into the field than ever we could boast; and those troops too commanded by the most skilful and experienced generals; yet all concur in entrusting the chief command, not to that general who had distinguished himself for the magnitude of the armies he led to victory, but for the magnitude of the victories he gained! How fully has he justified the wisdom of that choice by the ability and moderation with which he executed the difficult and delicate task assigned to him! Happily for Europe, the necessity of these precautionary measures no longer exists. What can be a greater field of congratulation than to find the internal state of France such as to enable the combined powers to withdraw their forces from its frontiers? What can be more gratifying than to find that nation; after fulfilling, with the most honourable punctuality, all its engagements, restored to its proper station in the scale of nations, and invited to unite its councils to those of the other European powers assembled together in the confidence of friendship, not regarding each other with the jealousy of rivals, but acting on liberal and enlightened principles, and consulting together for the consolidation of the general peace. In this situation of France, we have particular cause for joy, as experience of the last thirty years has shown us how much this country is interested in every thing which can affect the order and disorder of that neighbouring state. We see with pleasure the affairs of that country, after being disturbed by the troubled waves of so many revolutions, gradually subsiding into a calm; and though some agitation may still exist, let us hope that it arises more from the conflict of honest though varying opinions under a free government than that it is to be considered as any indication of future storms. Let us hope that a country which has so sensibly felt the evils of so many revolutions, will become sensibly alive to the advantages to be derived from a limitted and constitutional monarchy. And seeing a disposition arising on the part of other nations to assimilate their forms of government to that of ours, to fashion themselves on our model, and willing to take the benefits of that constitution, the peculiar advantages of 45 which hare been so fully demonstrated, the more unwilling should we be to hazard the loss of the solid and substantial blessings we enjoy, by listening for a moment to the absurd and impracticable schemes of wild speculation and fancied improvement; for dearly as we have paid for the proof, yet the most satisfactory proof has been afforded, that there are no difficulties too great to be overcome by the resources of this country. For not in Europe only have formidable difficulties yielded to the superiority of British skill and valour: in India the same system has been maintained; the same justice is done to our national character, and the same credit due to our moderation in the exercise of the rights of conquest. There we have seen a war undertaken, not for the gratification of ambition, not for the expansion of territory and possessions, but for the punishment of aggression, and to afford protection to the peaceable from future outrage and oppression. The consequences of that war have been, that security and comfort have been established where terror and misery before existed. In looking to our present relations with America, let us hope that the commercial arrangements with that country are such as will prove highly satisfactory to both countries, from being established on the soundest basis—that of reciprocal advantage.
And now, having taken a review of the prosperous state of our affairs, and seeing the numerous blessings we enjoy, it will be our duty to endeavour to give a permanency to those various blessings; and as in times of peace parliament has an opportunity of affording a more undivided attention to domestic circumstances, let it be our concern to improve those circumstances, by promoting the industry and increasing the comforts of the people, and as they have heavily experienced the consequences of war, so may they now sensibly feel the advantages of peace. But, Sir, I fear that I have very indiscreetly abused the liberality which has been granted to me. I shall therefore conclude with seconding the Address; in which it appears to me that every hon. member in the House may acquiesce, whatever be his political views, without any impeachment of his character for consistency, or without pledging himself at all as to the support of future measures.
said, he could by no 46 means concur in the opinion of the hon. mover of the Address, that courtesy required it should pass altogether unopposed or unremarked upon, since that would not prejudice any future discussion of the subjects which it comprehended. And he was the rather induced to make this declaration by the especial reason advanced by the hon. mover in support of his proposition, namely, that there was one prominent feature in the Royal Speech that of condolence with his Royal Highness on his late melancholy loss, on which there could be but one sentiment in the House. This was an additional motive for making some observations, not on that particular topic, but on the general view which the Speech took of public affairs. And here he was compelled to say, that the extravagant and extraordinary representations of the state of the country, which the speech contained, would justify many more observations than those with which it was his intention to trouble the House. Certainly he was most happy to concur in one portion of the bold and universal satisfaction at that state which pervaded the Speech from the throne, and still more the speeches of the hon. mover and seconder of the Address. He rejoiced to find that considerable reductions had taken place in our military establishment—reductions, which when talked of in the last parliament by those who thought with him on the subject, were held by his majesty's government to be vain and groundless anticipations. It now appeared that the amount of the force withdrawn from the French territory was in a course of reduction. Ministers who would have ventured in time of peace, to maintain such a force, in addition to the large military establishment already existing, would have deserved impeachment. Nevertheless, he had no objection to concede to government as much merit on this subject as they might be considered entitled to. But with respect to civil retrenchment and regulation, it would, in his opinion, have been much more satisfactory if the Speech from the throne, instead of a vague promise of concurrence and co-operation in any parliamentary measures, to secure to his majesty's subjects the full enjoyment of the benefits of peace, had pointed out any such measures, which had either been carried into effect or were in contemplation. This appeared to him to have been especially necessary with reference to that subject, which called loudly for considera- 47 tion and amendmet—the collection of the public revenue. That collection cost the public at present no less than four millions: being about half of the entire public income at the accession of his present majesty! He was perfectly aware that the present was not the most convenient period for entering into any details on this subject, but he would just ask a question or two with reference to the Stamp Duties—that tremendous infliction on the commerce of the country: duties which, it might be supposed, would almost collect themselves. Was not the nature of the situation and emoluments of the distributors of stamps perfectly known to the country? Was not the nature of the situation and emoluments of the receivers of the land-tax perfectly known to the country? Was it not notorious, that these offices were frequently bestowed on individuals who were utter strangers to the counties in which they were appointed, and who farmed them out to other persons? Was it not notorious that by the suppression of some of those superior offices, not only a great saving would be effected in the expense of collection, but a better collection would be made? Reformation of this nature however could scarcely be expected to flow spontaneously from such ministers as the present as they would touch the operations by which notwithstanding their unpopularity they maintained their situations. They were points which would have long since been adverted to by a government in earnest in the cause of public economy.
Then came the congratulatory passage in the Speech, on the increase of the revenue. Very good tidings certainly! It was well to hear that the people had been enabled to pay nearly four millions more than they had done last year; but it would be much better to be told that in future they would have to pay less. The omission in the Speech of all allusion to a reduction of our taxation was highly inauspicious. It was evident that the administration had done nothing towards the fulfilment of the national desire on the subject, until this alternative was proposed to them—"do it or go"—an alternative by the way, which they never hesitated to comply with, to the preservation of their places. If, however, they were still reluctant—if they stopped short of that which ought fairly to be expected—that House must, and the was persuaded would, do its duty. There were some of 48 the gentlemen opposite who were not quite satisfied with the temper of the last parliament; let them try what they could take on themselves to do with the present, With unmingled satisfaction would the people hail any improvement of the public revenue, if the past afforded them any assurance that that improvement would be the means of diminishing the evils under which they laboured. But, burdened as the country was—paying more than twofold that which it had paid even in any former period of war—what prospect could the right hon. the Chancellor of the Exchequer hold out, of a removal or even of any considerable diminution of that galling taxation which it suffered? He had as firm a reliance on our general resources as any man ought to have, but he could not forget the precariousness of trade. Of the evils attendant on a revulsion of commerce all had been witnesses. It was true that the revenue was this year three or four millions better than it was last year; but it still fell between two and three millions short of what it was in 1803. It was true that there were a few hundred thousand pounds surplus of the consolidated fund. But great and gratifying as this recovery of the revenue was from the state into which it had sunk, it was, as the hon. mover of the Address had said, not unexpected. But if the right hon. the chancellor of the exchequer took this as the ratio of our future progress, its inefficiency to remedy the ills which the country endured was evident. The fact was, that a realization of the hopes which had been held out on that subject could be effected only by such a demand for our productions as would absorb a very large additional portion of our population in manufactures—an evil of the most serious kind, morally and politically. And here he must observe, that he probably looked with different eyes from the honourable gentlemen on the great, and afflicting increase of crime in the country; on the sad overflow of oar prisons; on the continued legitimization of pauperism.
When he contemplated the dreadful mass of human misery which these circumstances occasioned, he could not help being surprised at those mutual felicitations on the state of the country, which a little sober reflection would have checked. If in a time of peace we were unable to diminish the public expenditure, either by a material reduction of the public 49 debt, or otherwise (and of that reduction the financial transactions of the last, year afforded little hope, since, although the Sinking Fund was nominally fifteen millions, it in fact amounted to only three), how should we be prepared for a time of war? It might happen that we should be engaged in a war for the defence of every thing that was valuable to us. It might happen that we should be assailed by the vengeance of those whom we had conquered, by the ingratitude of those whom we had assisted, by the just indignation of those whom we had conspired to oppress. Were the House to listen to the tone of the royal Speech, and of the speeches of the honourable gentlemen, it seemed they might be spared the trouble of contemplating any such possibility. They were told they might safely rely on the inviolability of treaties—on our "intimate union" with foreign powers—words, in his opinion, too amatory to meet just ideas of British policy. As to any substantial security for the continuance of peace, those treaties did not appear to him to be worth a single pinch of snuff from the diamond boxes presented to the distinguished individuals who assisted in their completion. The one substantial security for permanent peace was, a wise and economical and conciliatory administration of public affairs—an undeviating system of justice and liberality to the people of other countries whether powerful or weak. As to any other objects of the alliances in question, the British public regarded them with the utmost indifference. They never troubled themselves to inquire when the noble lord (whom he regretted not to see in his place) went to the scene of their formation, or when he returned—what he did do, or what he did not do. As to the principal result of the congress, it was well known that the withdrawing of foreign troops from France had long before been decided—not by us, but for us. It appeared indeed, that in order to avoid any awkward reclamation of promises made by sovereigns in the hour of need, and forgotten by them in the hour of success,—to enable the parties to steer clear of the chaos which threatened to overwhelm them if they entered on the consideration of various subjects dear to the interests of mankind—no course could be resorted to, but that of deprecating every species of discussion. There was one subject to which the people of this country had looked with anxious expec- 50 tation. They anxiously expected that length the detestable traffic in human creatures would be denounced and finally extinguished, by the high and assembled professors of peace and of Christianity. Although the speech from the throne had not condescended to notice the subject (which under all the circumstances of the case it would have been most fitting to do), and although he did not know whether or not any reference to it was made in the treaties which that speech promised should be laid before the House, yet it was well known that the power which had opposed so desirable a consummation was France. Fiance! a member of the holy alliance! France! under the restored rule of his most Christian majesty! Thus it appeared, that all the sacrifices which this country had made in favour of the Bourbon dynasty, had been insufficient to obtain from the court of Louis Dixhuit a measure which was little more than one of decency—a measure which Spain herself, under Ferdinand himself, had been—he was going to say brought—but had been bought to consent to. There was a power in Europe which, by its wisdom and its moderation, had succeeded to that ascendancy and influence which once were England's. Had the Russian government undertaken the task of putting an end to the slave trade, who could doubt that on that, as well as on every other public consideration in which it had interfered, it would have prevailed! Were the noble lord by whom the negotiations at Aix-la-Chapelle were conducted in his place, he should be inclined to say something of the conduct of the British negotiator on this most, interesting subject—conduct which, in his opinion, rendered it very doubtful, whether the zeal professed by this last lingering advocate in this country of the Black Slave Trade, did not arise, not so much from his love of humanity, as from his disposition to obtain in that House the support of men whose names would be ever honoured for their efforts in the destruction of the barbarous trade in question. On no other ground could he conceive that the right of France to negotiate on the question of reciprocal search would have been admitted. It was impossible that France could seriously believe her acquiescence in that reciprocal understanding, which had been recognised by the greatest and the smallest powers in Europe, ought to be made matter of ne- 51 gotiation. It was evident, that so long as France opposed herself to its entire abolition, by opposing the regulations which tended to prevent the admitted law on the subject from being evaded, that infernal trade (for so he must call it) would thrive, and thrive it did: and in his opinion it would be most fit to advert to this subject in the address to the throne.
On every topic connected with the redress of the acknowledged grievances in the internal condition and regulations of the country, the Speech from the throne was wholly silent. It had not been thought fit to insert in it any notification that the act of the last Parliament had been put in force, which directed the appointment of commissioners to inquire into the abuses of public charities. He ought not to call them commissioners for inquiring into "the abuses" of public charities. They were any thing but that; and he knew that in speaking of any correction of any abuses, he spoke of that which the nation desired, but which the ministers would, it seemed, not permit. Of the particular act to which he had alluded, he would then say nothing. His hon. and learned friend below him (Mr. Brougham) would, in the course of the session, furnish the House with abundant matter for discussion with respect to it. But he could not refrain from observing, that it would have been much better, with reference to the attainment of the object in view, if ministers had succeeded in a direct attempt to put down all inquiry, rather than in appointing the lame and impotent commission which had been constituted. But even had the powers of the commission been as ample as they were contracted—had the objects to which they were to direct their attention been as extensive as they were limited, they would have wanted one great recommendation to public confidence. It would have been recollected, that the members of the commission were nominated, not by the House of Commons, but by the Secretary of State. It was true there were in the Commission the names of two individuals who would do credit to any body with which they were associated, and who from their zeal, integrity, and ability, were every way calculated to fulfil the important trust reposed in them; but whatever personal sacrifices those individuals might be disposed to make, it would be idle and absurd to expect that any fundamental or continuous reform could 52 be effected by their unaided efforts. With respect to the general selection of the members of the commission, all that it was necessary to say was, that it did so happen, as it had happened in many other instances of a similar nature—that the principles and opinions of those members were directly hostile to the spirit of the inquiry which they were appointed to institute. It did so happen, that in their number the name of the original mover of the proceeding did not appear. Surely this was as foolish as it was indecent. For if his hon. and learned friend were as over zealous and as enthusiastic as he was represented to be by the gentlemen opposite, there would undoubtedly have been sufficient coldness in some of the other members of the commission, to correct the effects of his ardour; while, by the omission of his name, ministers left it to be said—and it was said—that they feared a man who had talents, and who was in earnest.
It seemed to be thought by the honourable gentlemen who had moved and seconded the Address, that there was nothing so simple and natural as to admire every thing that was done by "the powers that be;" and that no fault ought to be found with any of their proceedings. For himself, it gave him little satisfaction to find general discontent in the country; and more especially when that discontent occasionally exhibited itself in an intemperate and malignant character. But it was impossible not to reflect, that all this could not exist without adequate cause. If the good order, and tranquillity, and happiness of a community, were justly deemed the fair criterion of a sound administration of public affairs, the insubordination, the disturbance, and the dissatisfaction of a community, ought to be justly deemed the fair criterion of an unsound administration of public affairs.—Whence came the extreme irritation among the people, the existing tendency to tumult and violence? He should be glad to know how the hon. gentlemen opposite, if their description of the flourishing state of the country was correct, could account for some very extraordinary appearances at the late general election. How came it, that towards an administration under which, notwithstanding their egregious blunders, the military glory of this country had been carried to the highest point (for it would be a most paltry spirit of party that would under- 53 rate that glory), how came it, that towards an administration so circumstanced, so much apathy had been shown by most classes of society, and so much decided disinclination by the remainder? Why was this? Because the people found them deficient in those qualities, without the possession of which no administration could ever enjoy public confidence, decision, and union. All measures of domestic policy were by them either compromised or abandoned. From them the most important propositions experienced neither friendly support, nor manly resistance. When the opinion of Government was called for on questions of the greatest general interest, it was discovered that they had no opinion. Let, the House try back, and they would find numerous proofs of the truth of this assertion. For instance, the question of Bank paper, on which subject, as on all subjects of political economy, his hon. friend near him (Mr. Grenfell), had thrown so much light, and by his remarks on which he had done himself so much credit. Was it to be perpetual or was it to cease was a question in the solution of which every man in the country had a deep interest. What thought government? Their financial oracles were so diametrically opposed to each other, both in their premises and in their conclusions, that it was impossible to guess. They exhibited the utmost fluctuation, the utmost equivocation, the most eager desire to catch at any pretence, however feeble, which might arrest the necessity of coming to any positive determination. Again, on the subject of the poor laws. Every one was sensible of the evils of the present wretched system—a system that tended to the destruction of all that remained of a sound and independent spirit among the inferior classes of the community. The public had long waited for the plans of government for its amelioration. They might wait till doom's-day. Government would propose no plan—government would concur in no plan—they could not afford the risk of so much decision. Then there was the criminal code. All agreed that something must be done in the way of its revision. But need he remind the House, that when that great and good man, whose loss had occasioned so deep a feeling of sorrow throughout the country, whose life had been spent in the active, perhaps too active, pursuits of philanthropy—when sir Samuel Romilly—a name never 54 to be utterred without reverence in any corner of the civilized globe—when he brought forward his limited measures for the amendment of that code, he experienced the most persevering and thwarting opposition. Most of the members of his majesty's government absented themselves on the discussion of his lamented friend's propositions. A few gave them a lukewarm support, to be counteracted the next clay by another detachment with adverse sentiments. Another instance of the indecisive conduct of ministers was to be found in the Catholic question. A large body of the nation entertained a confident hope that in the nineteenth century, that intolerant spirit by which those who professed a religion different from that of the established Church were excluded from an equal participation of civil rights might safely and finally be extinguished. There were others, on the contrary, who conscientiously, no doubt, still cherished alarm at such a proposition. All, however, conceived it to be a subject of such primary importance, as to demand the most serious attention. What did government do? They pledged themselves to be neutral; which; being interpreted, meant, they pledged themselves neither to discuss the Catholic claims in council among themselves, nor to give the Prince Regent, their master, any advice with respect to them, nor to assist parliament in its deliberations on the subject. What could be expected under such an administration, but mischief? When had they ever, by their measures, presented the Prince Regent to the people in a popular light? Was it in the unaccountable replies which had recently been made to certain petitions, in which replies it was most strangely intimated, that it was useless and nugatory to petition his Royal Highness on such objects, as his Royal Highness had delegated to one of his servants the discretion of exercising, according to his own opinion and feelings, the best prerogative the king possessed—that of mercy? The right hon. the Chancellor of the Exchequer shook his head, but he challenged him to disprove the fact. When had the present ministers upheld the true dignity of the crown? Not surely when they endeavoured to obtain from parliament, for branches of the royal family, grants which parliament indignantly threw back in their teeth, after a discussion calculated to lower those branches of the royal family in the public 55 esteem. Such ministers could not refrain, on the appearance of a partial disorder in the country, arising (as was admitted by the honourable mover of the Address) from temporary causes, to rush to the last and most dangerous expedients, complaining that the existing laws under our free constitution, were inadequate to the repression of disturbances which eventually, however, they proved sufficient, both to repress and to punish. It was well known that the power and authority of the laws partly consisted in the respect felt for those by whom they were administered. How could any respect attend those who, on all occasions, shewed that they had no respect for one another?—They might continue to cry "wolf;" they might resort to violence and rigour; they might suspend the constitutional rights of the subject; they might themselves violate the law by turning libellers; they might introduce a foreign police into the country; but they could not blind the public eye, or stifle the public voice, and the end of all would be, that they would recruit the ranks of their enemies, and insure their own destruction, after they had by their measures thrown odium on the Prince they served, and left the Crown almost without support. The honourable mover of the Address, therefore, must not be astonished if he found that a considerable portion of the House could not see in his recipe of union and harmony any thing but a general prostration at the shrine of ministers. God knew the course which the present parliament would pursue in their deliberations and decisions! That which was clearly marked out for them was, neither to truckle to power on the one hand, nor to yield to clamour on the other, but steadily to follow that path which in their conscience they believed to be prescribed by their public duty. He would not trouble the House with any amendment, and must apologise for having so long detained them. ["Hear, hear!]
§ Mr. Sinclair
said:—The subjects recommended to our attention from the throne, have already been discussed by the hon. gentlemen who opened the debate, so amply, as to require, and so ably, as to admit of, no additional comment or illustration; I shall, therefore, content myself with briefly stating to the House my reasons for supporting the Address; in which I should have silently concurred, if my honourable relation had not clogged his assent, with so profuse a variety of 56 extraneous animadversions. I entirely approve of the Address, because I think it highly creditable to the candour and moderation of his majesty's ministers. It does not call upon us to pledge ourselves to the unlimited support, or unconditional approbation of any system, and it leaves the great questions, connected with our foreign and domestic policy, still open for future deliberation. If we consider its general scope and tenour, we shall find that it contains such sentiments, and is couched in such language, as no friend to his country can reasonably object to. We shall perceive that every topic has been studiously avoided, which could elicit any material difference of opinion, or excite any angry discussion. It has evidently been the wish, and the object, of those who framed it, to enable all parties, on the first day of our first session, to approach the throne, with an unanimous assurance of loyal and affectionate attachment. My honourable relation, however, has not thought proper to follow this laudable example of forbearance. There is scarcely a single measure, either in retrospect or in contemplation, upon which he has not attacked with severity the past conduct, or the presumed intentions, of his majesty's advisers. I am only surprised, that he has not embodied his sentiments into the form of an amendment; more especially if we call to mind the triumphant anticipations of a powerful accession to the numerical strength of his friends, which, ever since the results of the late elections were known, or even long before they began, have been loudly re-echoed in every part of the country. I expected that the honourable gentlemen opposite would have brought on, without a moment's delay, a trial of strength between the two great parties, which may be supposed to preponderate in the House, and would feel anxious, in some degree to ascertain, as soon as possible, the relative proportion of their respective adherents. They have, however, postponed, until some future day, the intended grand display of their forces. In the mean time, my honourable relation has descanted upon a multiplicity of topics, so important in their nature, and, at the same time, so unconnected with each other, that to attempt a circumstantial reply to his speech, would involve the House in a labyrinth of questions, which severally deserve and require a solemn and separate investigation. Far be it, 57 however, from me to expose my own presumption, by entering the lists of debate with one whom I so much respect. I am deeply conscious of my own deficiencies, and pay a willing homage to the advantages which my honourable relation possesses, from the splendour of his talents, the variety of his knowledge, and the extent of his political experience. I am also far from being decidedly hostile to all the opinions which he has enforced with so much eloquence; I am as little tied down to oppose, as to support them; and should think very meanly of my own fairness and judgment, if I did not always listen to his arguments with deference, as well as with attention. I am well aware that no individual is more obnoxious to both parties, than one who will not absolutely bind himself to either; and though a promise of unbiassed impartiality is often given and required at elections, it is seldom steadily adhered to—but I trust that there are some, of whom I do not hesitate to profess myself one, who think that they neither forfeit their independence, nor lessen their respectability, nor deviate from the path of constitutional consistency, by keeping aloof from a complete subjugation to party influence, and by presuming to judge for themselves. Deputed as each of us has been, to discharge the most important duties which can devolve upon a British subject, we must remember, that the eyes of all our constituents are rivetted with scrutinizing anxiety upon the proceedings of their new representatives. On this point all must agree; but if we proceed to define the wishes, which the people are supposed to entertain, our statements will be different indeed! Whilst, on the one hand, we shall be told, that the nation at large expects us to rally round the ministers, and whilst on the other we have been assured by my honourable relation, that the popular voice demands loudly their removal, there are others who will think that they are sent, neither to withhold entirely their confidence from government, nor implicitly to sanction their proceedings; sometimes to oppose their measures, but never to impeach their motives—to combine political candour with constitutional vigilance—rather predisposed to approve than predetermined to condemn: resolved to favour, but not to flatter; to controul, but not to embarrass. And here I cannot but advert, with feelings of deep regret, not unmingled per- 58 haps with indignation, to the tone which has lately been assumed, with respect to our future conduct, by the writers whose political sentiments are generally in unison with those of the hon. gentlemen opposite. By them it is expressly and indefatigably asserted, not only that to expel the present cabinet from office must be the sole and constant object of all who wish well to their country, but that every proposition which emanates from them, whether good or bad in itself, must be pertinaciously found fault with, and indiscriminately opposed. No terms are deemed strong enough to characterise the ignorance and imbecility of the existing administration; their supporters are accused of being swayed by every motive that is despicable or corrupt; and the well meaning, but not very clear-sighted politicians (as they are called), who occasionally presume, in the exercise of their own free judgments, to vote with the ministers of the crown, are represented as either useless, or dangerous, or insincere; their alleged vacillation, is assailed with keen reproof, or their weakness becomes the theme of contemptuous commiseration. Independent members of the new parliament are strenuously exhorted, and even confidently expected, to bury in oblivion every difference of opinion, and unanimously to in list under the standard of inveterate and unqualified opposition. Now, Sir, in what light can such language be considered, than as calling upon a British House of Commons to exhaust all their ingenuity, and exercise all their perseverance, in harassing most wantonly the advisers of their sovereign? Does it not invite us to make no allowance for any difficulties of their situation, and, instead of judging their very errors with candour and liberality, to overlook their past services, to disparage their best measures, and even perhaps to witness their successes with regret? Does it not enjoin us to adopt as a corollary to the sound constitutional maxim, that the king can do no wrong, the, I trust, far more questionable proposition, that his ministers can do nothing right? Does it not tend to cherish among the lower orders, the most malignant feelings of aversion and contempt towards those in authority over them?—feelings, which, in some quarters, are almost as predominant as they are mischievous; and which have chiefly been excited and nurtured by the coarse and scurrilous libels with which the press 59 is unremittingly disgraced; and especially on that day which the laws both of God and man have peculiarly set apart for religious meditation, and in some degree, for curbing those very evil passions which such writers are labouring to inflame? Such are, in my opinion, the dangerous consequences which these pernicious publications are intended and calculated to produce. With respect to the unpopularity of ministers, which my honourable relation represents to be so general, and undoubtedly states so with justice, in as far as regards many quarters, is it not chiefly to be ascribed to the clamour which has been raised against the suspension of the Habeas Corpus?—a measure which, though sanctioned by so many of their own friends, was made use of, during most of the late contests, by the hon. gentlemen opposite, as an engine for exciting, against their ministerial competitors, all the fury of popular resentment. I am unwilling at present to trespass upon the time of the House, and shall conclude by repeating, that, though desirous to support ministers as far as I conscientiously can, I shall oppose any measure which seems to militate against the spirit of the constitution, or to be at variance with the interests of the country.
said, that the hon. gentleman opposite (Mr. Macdonald) had alluded to a variety of topics, on which he meant not now to dilate, as they would probably, in the course of the session, be regularly brought under the consideration of parliament. But one observation had fallen from him, which, holding the situation he did, he could not suffer to pass unnoticed. The hon. gentleman had asserted, that one of his majesty's ministers had stated, that the Prince Regent had delegated to him a discretionary power, as to the extending or withholding the prerogative of mercy. The fact was merely this:—A certain petition was sent, through the noble Secretary of State for the Home Department, to the Prince Regent, at Brighton; and the answer sent back, in this particular case, was, "he might act in the matter in the mode most consonant to his feelings and judgment.' It was only in that particular case, which had been before well considered by the cabinet ministers then in town—which had been investigated in the privy council, before the Prince Regent—and on which advice had been given to his royal highness, which advice he had been pleased to adopt.
explained. He said, that having seen the answer to the petition to which he had alluded, he had thought it his indispensable duty, as a member of parliament, addressing the House on the first day of the session, not to let such an infringement of the first and most essential right of the subject to pass by without animadversion. The hon. gentleman, the under secretary of state, had asserted, that the petition in question was sent to Brighton, and an answer obtained. When the hon. gentleman heard the official answer which had been made on the subject, he would allow that he had been mistaken. The petition was signed by nine very respectable inhabitants of Liverpool, in behalf of a man under sentence of death for uttering forged notes. It was transmitted to the right hon. George Canning, the member for Liverpool, by whom it was sent to the Secretary of State for the Home Department. With the permission of the House he would read the answer which was made by the noble viscount—[Mr. Macdonald here read the letter of lord Sidmouth to Mr. Canning, of which an authentic copy will be found subjoined*]. That was*(Copy.) Richmond Park, 14th Dec.1818, eight o'clock.Sir;—I have this moment received, by a special messenger, your letter of this afternoon, containing the petition of nine bankers of the town of Liverpool to his royal highness the Prince Regent, praying for a respite of the three unfortunate men who are condemned to be executed to-morrow morning at the Old Bailey, for the crime of uttering forged Banknotes.A similar petition from another quarter has been transmitted to his Royal Highness by me since his Royal Highness has been at Brighton: and I have been honoured by his Royal High-ness's authority to act in this matter in the mode most consonant to my own feelings and judgment. It would therefore be unnecessary (even if time permitted) to dispatch the present petition to Brighton; and I am sorry to inform you that I cannot perceive any grounds upon which I can, consistently with my sense of public duty, recommend the present convicts as fit objects of the royal mercy.I have the honour to be, Sir, &c.(Signed) SIDMOUTH.Right Hon. Geo. Canning, &c. &c.(Copy) London, Dec. 31, 1818.Sir;—I lost not a moment in transmitting to the secretary of state for the home department the memorial of the bankers of Liverpool, in behalf of the unfortunate men upon whom the sentence of the law was to be exe-61 the charge he had made, namely, that the secretary of state had declared to the petitioners that it was unnecessary to forward their petition for mercy to the Prince Regent, because he had been directed by his royal highness to act according to his own feelings and judgment.
, as his name was implicated in this transaction, wished to be indulged with a few words upon it, trusting that if the debate on the main question should proceed, he would not be precluded from subsequently addressing the House. He thought the hon. gentleman who had just spoken was completely mistaken as to the degree of discretion vested in the noble Secretary of State, although he allowed that the letter which he had just read appeared to be an accurate copy of that which he (Mr. C.) had received, and which he would have brought to the House could he have anticipated the introduction of the subject. The circumstances of the transaction were these:—the case of the unfortunate men had, by the Recorder's report, been brought under the notice of his Royal Highness in full council many days before. Every circumstance, as well as the various petitions and representations respecting it, had been most anxiously considered; and after the fullest deliberation, and on the advice honestly, though with great pain, given by every counsellor present, the sentence of the law was directed to take its course. In the interval between that day and the day of execution, many petitions were presented in behalf of the par-cuted this morning. Inclosed is a copy of Lord Sidmouth's answer to my letter, I am grieved that the circumstances of the case were such as to preclude compliance with the prayer of your memorial.I have the honour to be, Sir, &c.Jon. Moss, esq. GEORGE CANNING.P. S.—I ought, perhaps, to mention to you, that your packet, by some accident, did not come to my hands till near four o'clock yesterday. The memorial was then dispatched by a special messenger to Richmond; the delay (as lord Sidmouth's letter shows) was of no consequence, though it was very distressing that in this instance it should have occurred. But I earnestly advise you, in any case requiring immediate dispatch, in which you may wish to employ the intervention of my service with any of the departments of state, to address the original memorial to the department itself, apprising me by the same post that you have done so, and furnishing me with a copy of the paper. G. C.62 ticular individual in question. Some of them—at least he was sure one had been forwarded to the Prince Regent, as a matter of decorum. The House was surely not to learn that bright as was that jewel in the royal Crown, the power of extending mercy, in cases in which the propriety of extending mercy or not, was to be considered, the Crown acted as in other cases on the advice of its responsible advisers. This case had been so considered; the advice had been given; the decision had been taken and recorded. The discretion given to the secretary of state was not of himself to condemn or pardon the prisoner, but only to determine whether in the interval after his condemnation, any new circumstances transpired which might render a solemn reconsideration of his case necessary. He had then the power, not of pardoning, but only of respiting. The voice of the secretary of state in the original decision on the case was merely the voice of a single counsellor among many: and the crime imputed to his noble friend now was, that on the eve of the execution of the sentence, he had been able to discover nothing to change the character of the case, and had therefore declined granting a respite to excite hopes which he knew must be frustrated, when the subject came to undergo a new inquiry. Now, in the course so pursued by the noble secretary of state, he could not see that he had exercised any power which the constitution did not give him as to appear guilty of any disrespect towards the Crown, or of any hardness of heart, or obduracy of feeling towards the unhappy man who had been executed. To himself, as the member for Liverpool, a petition in favour of the offender had been forwarded from that town. He had been of the council which decided for the execution of the sentence. He had given his voice against the man. It was a most painful task to perform, God knew; but, however painful, a man must discharge his duty according to his conscience. As a member of parliament, he had considered it his duty to transmit the petition, when received from Liverpool, to the noble secretary of state, as if he had been wholly ignorant of the merits of the case. Unfortunately it had happened that that morning, occupied by business (not of his own, but of the public), he had not turned to the letters of the day so soon as he usually did, and in consequence as 63 this, he had unknowingly detained the petition some hours. He thought it fair to state this, that it might be known that through him it was for a few hours kept from the noble secretary of state. He was in the habit of requesting his constituents, in cases where their applications must, if at all, be attended to immediately, to send a copy of what they might have to transmit to him, and the original to the department to which they desired to have it forwarded. Unluckily, on this occasion, doubtless from a wish to save delay, no copy was forwarded but that sent to him, and this arriving on a day when letters usually came late, on a Monday—and on a morning when, from circumstances which had been already explained, he had not been induced to turn to the letters of the day with his usual eagerness, had caused altogether a delay of some hours, for which he was anxious that no one should be held responsible but himself. He hoped he might be excused for defending the noble secretary of state from a charge which would go to the heart of any man, and which whatever opinion might be abroad to the contrary, he was sure would most deeply affect the noble lord against whom it had been urged.
§ Sir Henry Parnell
wished to know from some one of the ministers of the Crown, why, upon this occasion of calling the attention of parliament by the Speech from the Throne, to all the leading questions of our external and domestic policy, the situation of the Catholics of Ireland had been, as usual, wholly omitted? If ministers would but take half the pains in establishing an intimate union with so many millions of his majesty's subjects, as they did to contract alliances with the crowned heads of Europe, they would do a much greater public good, and obtain much more real strength and security for the safety and tranquillity of the country. It was to no purpose to treat the Catholic question as one of no importance; it had been for the last eighteen years by far the most important one, and it would so continue to be, that had come before parliament. Mr. Pitt, by his negotiations with the Catholics, at the time of the Union, and by his retiring from office immediately after it, had first introduced it before a British House of Commons, and since that time it had led to the breaking up of two administrations and the dissolution of one parliament, and been connected with the 64 arrangement of every successive administration. No one could deny that the Catholics had just cause to complain of the manner in which the engagements which were made to them at the time of the Union had been violated, and also of the various pretexts by which the settlement of their question had been avoided. One excuse giving way, as it was in its turn exposed, to some other, until there now remained no ostensible grounds on which further opposition could be supported. When it was remembered, that no less than seven of the cabinet ministers not only considered the concession of the Catholic claims to be wise and expedient, but went so far as to take every opportunity of informing the country by their speeches in this House, that in their opinion, without the settlement of this question, none of the many evils which belonged to the state of government and society in Ireland could be remedied, it must appear somewhat extraordinary in the eyes of the public to see these seven ministers sitting in the same cabinet with those who went just as far on the opposite side, and maintained that concession to the Catholics would be followed by the subversion of the constitution. It was in vain that an attempt was made by these ministers to establish a distinction between their obligations as members of parliament, and as members of the government, for every well-regulated mind must condemn it as contrary to every principle of political consistency and political honesty. To adopt the course that these occasional friends of the question pursued, was to leave the question to time and chance to work some, at present not foreseen, circumstances, to secure its final settlement. But this was a question, which, of all others, ought not to be left to time and chance; for the exclusion of millions of his majesty's subjects from their constitutional rights ought to be justified by some sound and visible principle of public policy, or it became an act of flagrant injustice and the height of oppression to continue it. Yet, without setting forth any such principle, when ministers, as individuals, excited the hopes and expectations of the Catholics, and in the council of the regent banished the question from their consideration, how could any man place a rational confidence in such a government? It was to be hoped that an end would soon be put to this system of things. The petitions which were now coming from the whole body of 65 the Catholics, assembled in their respective parishes, would produce a greater impression than the plan of petitioning heretofore acted upon. And as these petitions would state in respectful and moderate, but in the strong terms of plain truth, grievances which had a real existence, they would shew the absolute necessity of affording relief. As he wished to say nothing to provoke at this period the discussion of this great question, he should content himself for the present in entering a protest, in the name of a great part of his constituents, against this practice, which was uniformly pursued by government, of passing over, without any notice, the severe disabilities under which the Catholics laboured. They were not in the situation of many that come before this House with strong cases of hardship, consisting of few in numbers, and forming but a small portion of the public, but it might be said, almost with perfect truth, that they were a whole people, and as such they deserved some consideration from those who composed the government of the country.
§ Mr. Tierney
said, it was not his intention to oppose the motion, or to detain the House with any observations of his own, after the very able speech which had been delivered by his hon. friend behind him. His object in now rising, was merely to observe, that he wished it to be understood that by consenting to the Address he did not bar himself from all possibility of entering, at a future period, on the subjects alluded to in it. There were several things in the Speech—and in the latter part of it, more particularly, doctrines were laid down which he could only assent to with considerable modifications,—he meant what was said respecting the prosperity of the country. While that blot on our credit, the Bank paper, continued on its present footing, he could not consider the country in a sound state. It might be perhaps rather irregular, but he wished to take as early an opportunity as possible of giving notice, that on Tuesday the 2d of February, it was his intention to move for the appointment of a committee to inquire into the state of Public Credit, and particularly with reference to the Bank Paper system.
§ The Address was then agreed to, nem. con.