§ Mr. Beaumont ,
seeing the Secretary of State for the Home Department in his place, for the first time, wished to ask him whether he considered his appointment only provisional, or in what light he viewed his nomination to the office he now held?
§ Mr. Sturges Bourne
replied, that he held the office of Secretary of State for the Home Department as long as it pleased his majesty to retain him in it.
§ Mr. Beaumont
expressed himself not at all satisfied at this reply, and stated, that, in consequence of it, he felt himself bound to bring before the House a motion respecting the manner in which the office of Secretary for the Home Department, and other offices were at present held.
An hon. member asked lord J. Russell, whether it was his intention to bring forward his motion for the Repeal of the Test and Corporation acts
Lord J. Russell
said, he was perfectly ready to answer the question which had been just put to him. He had been applied to, by many of those respectable persons who were aggrieved by the Test and Corporation acts to bring forward a motion for the repeal of those acts, which he most willingly undertook to do; and gave notice of a motion accordingly. He had been informed, that, since the late change in the administration, many of the leading men among them were consulting whether it might not prove injurious to the cause of civil and religious liberty generally, to urge their claims at this present moment. He had taken measures to ascertain what were their real sentiments on that head. As yet he had received no regular answer, but he understood that the opinion of the most of them was, that their case should be fairly stated to the House, the public; but that, as to the time when it should be brought forward, they were desirous to consult those who were friends to their cause, in order to ascertain their sentiments about the time which would be best. He thought these sentiments did them the highest honour, since they there by preferred the cause of general liberty to any partial considerations. For his own part, he thought that, even with reference to the cause of general liberty, civil and religious, the point ought to be moved on the day which he had fixed for bringing it forward, and he therefore was perfectly willing to persevere in it on his own responsibility, although he would not proceed without their consent. Unless, therefore, he should hear from them a decided opinion to the contrary, he would bring forward his motion for the repeal of the Test and Corporation acts, on the 7th of June next.
moved, that the House re- 745 solve itself into a committee of Supply. On the question, that the Speaker leave the chair,
§ Sir Thomas Lethbridge
said, that it was his intention to detain the House with only a few words. He would only ask the chancellor of the Exchequer a few questions, which he might answer or not, as he pleased. But, if answer the right hon. gentleman chose to give, he trusted that it would be couched in language conformable to the usage of former ministers on such occasions. He trusted that he would answer in such a tone and manner as became the ministers of the Crown when they were questioned by the members of that House, who felt it their duty to put questions to those ministers from time to time, according to the usage of parliament. He had quite as good a right to put questions to them, as they had, to give, or to refuse to give, answers as they thought proper. His first question had been anticipated by the hon. member who had put a question to the Secretary of State for the Home Department, relative to the terms and conditions on which he held his office. The answer of the right hon. Secretary, if he understood it correctly, was, generally, that he held the office as long as it pleased his majesty to retain him there. It was true, that no man could hold an office of that description on any other terms; but still it was evident, that the answer was by no means what the hon. member who put the question expected. It was certainly of the greatest consequence that some such motion should be brought forward; considering the unprecedented predicament in which those ministers stood, who, as there was reason to presume, held their offices only provisionally. That question, then, having been already put, he had no occasion to say anything further about it. His second question was, whether the office of Secretary of State for the Foreign Department was held temporarily or provisionally, or was intended to last as long as that of the right hon. the Chancellor of the Exchequer himself, or the administration which he had formed, or was forming. If the office was held only provisionally, it was surely a circumstance of the most unprecedented nature; and, if the example should be imitated, it would lead to a complete alteration of the whole course of conducting the affairs of government in this country. It was for that reason that he had on a 746 former occasion, objected to the granting of the supplies, because he could have no confidence in a government thus constituted; and when he had also suggested that when a member of parliament had no confidence in the administration, his best method would be to oppose the granting the supplies. He had resorted to that method on the first opportunity that occurred; but had been told by a right hon. gentleman, that the question for postponing the going into a committee of supply was not the legitimate opportunity, but that the matter ought to be delayed until it should be moved, that the House should go into a committee for immediately granting a supply to his majesty. The Chancellor of the Exchequer had afterwards said, that such would be the most convenient time for those who, from loyalty to his majesty, wished to stop the supplies, to make a motion to that effect. Now, he had always felt the warmest loyalty to his majesty, as every good subject ought to do; and he should be sorry if he could be thought capable of taking any course which might have the least appearance of disloyalty. But a member of parliament had a right to object to the supplies; without being liable to any imputation of disloyalty, when he had no confidence in the existing administration; and this course had been followed, not very long ago, by the right hon. member for Knaresborough, who had felt himself called upon to say, that he would not vote for the supplies, because there was no minister then in existence, to whom the supplies could be properly trusted. He therefore maintained, that no just imputation could be cast on his loyalty for having taken the course which he did; and he would now take that course, if he had any chance of being supported by the House. He would do this, because—assuming the government even to remain as it appeared—he thought it his duty to the country to resist a coalition so extraordinary, and, he was almost tempted to say, so unconstitutional, as that by which it had been formed. He knew that what he did exposed him to the attacks of the vast phalanx of talent which was marshalled on the other side; but he would say, that the alliance between the right hon. gentleman and the hon. individuals who had joined him, was contrary to every principle that public men in this country had been accustomed to hold dear. The hon. members who had quitted 747 that side of the House from which he was speaking had made a sacrifice, if not of their honour, at least of their political principles; and he would, and did, hold them up to the country, as men devoid of that high sentiment of faith and steadiness which had been used to characterise, in England, such persons as aspired to serve his majesty in high official situations. The right hon. the First Lord of the Treasury had made some disclosures himself, which threw considerable light upon this coalition; and the public mind was becoming disabused, as to the blame which it had been taught to throw upon those who had resisted it. The right hon. gentleman had made a speech, which produced—as his speeches always must produce—a considerable impression upon the House; but there were members in the House, notwithstanding its ingenuity, who would not be satisfied with it. It might be that he (sir T. L.) was more obstinate than many people, but he was one of those. The eloquence of the right hon. gentleman would not persuade him, that a course had not been taken in the forming of the present administration, which it would be unpleasant to the right hon. gentleman, perhaps, to hear described, and equally unpleasant to him to name. In his view, the whole thing had been a treaty for place, between the right hon. gentleman and the hon. members who now sat behind him; and a treaty, if he was not mistaken, of no very recent date. He believed that, for some time past, an understanding had existed, that a time was approaching when the hon. members who were then sitting on the side of Opposition might have an opportunity of taking office with some who sat on the other side. Perhaps he might be asking that which he had no right to ask; if so, the right hon. gentleman would refuse to answer; but he would put the question to the right hon. gentleman, or to any other gentleman on the opposite bench who was competent to give him the information, whether there had or had not been a treaty in existence, during the existence of the late ministry, between the right hon. gentleman and those who were called the leaders of the Whigs, for their coming into office, or supporting the government of the right hon. gentleman, whereon he might be able to compose one? This was a point which, for the honour of the right hon. gentleman, ought to be cleared up. There were reports abroad; and he thought that, where 748 they existed upon particular subjects, they demanded contradiction: because, if this treaty, or negotiation, had been on foot before the dissolution of the old government, then what became of the difficulty in which the right hon. gentleman had suddenly been placed? If, at the time when the right hon. gentleman had waited on the king to receive his commands for the forming an administration, he had an offer from the Whig party to coalesce with him in his pocket, his view of the value of the government would be more decided, perhaps, even than it was. The question went to this point-had the right hon. gentleman in his possession, at that time, an offer which he neither divulged to his then colleagues, or to the illustrious individual who was intrusting him? This was certainly a question which deserved an answer; and, eventually, the right hon. gentleman would thank him for having given him an occasion of replying to it. The right hon. gentleman had described to the House his situation in the king's closet, when he went to receive his majesty's commands for the forming a new administration, and the difficulties which the resignation of his colleagues exposed him to. This, too, was an administration to be formed upon the principles of that of lord Liverpool; but what became of the whole affair, if it appeared, that, before the right hon. gentleman presented himself to receive those commands, he had an arrangement which rendered it impossible for him to execute them? The House would not forget the right hon. gentleman's own account of the interview that he had with his sovereign; the sudden check that, from the abdication of the other ministers, he had received, and the rapid completion of the arrangement that followed; but, he (sir T. L.) disapproved and suspected that haste, and believed that the king had been hurried into an alternative, in which circumstances did not justify the placing him. But the king's commands had been, that the right hon. gentleman should form an administration upon the plan and principles of that of lord Liverpool. When the right hon. gentleman became prime minister, had he formed such an administration? Not at all. He had formed one of a totally contrary spirit and character. He had always felt inclined to support the right hon. gentleman. His talents and principles, in many points, had fairly commanded his support. But that disposition 749 was now over; when he saw the right hon. gentleman coalescing with parties who, upon the most important questions that could affect the interests of the empire, were, or had been, vitally opposed to him. The questions upon which the right hon. gentleman and his colleagues had been opposed, were endless. What would be the course when any of them came on? There was but one public question upon which they had been agreed—Catholic emancipation; and what had been done with that? The very moment they got into power, it was hung up. He knew that it was flung in the teeth of himself and those who acted with him, that they—the determined enemies of the Catholics—were gulling them, as it was called, by affecting to speak in their behalf. It was true that he was an enemy of the Catholics; but if he was a determined, he was at least a fair and open one. If there was any gulling in the matter, it was not on his side. He had never held out hopes which he did not mean to realize; but if the question was not brought forward speedily, every member in that House would not be in the same situation. The fact was, that the right hon. gentleman, and hon. gentlemen who had clamoured so loud about the question when they were out of office, did not dare touch it now that they were in. Let the House observe whether they would dare to bring it forward, in its fair and accustomed shape. If they came with any shift or proposal of securities, the House would not be imposed upon by such a device; in fact, they gave up the question. When any one mentioned securities the hon. gentlemen used to laugh and say, "Securities! what securities can they give you?" He agreed that they could give no securities that were worth having; and he hoped, therefore, that the House would hear nothing of securities as a last shift now.—But he would leave the question of Catholic emancipation upon which the new ministry was agreed—and turn to those upon which they not only had differed, but avowedly differed still. It was scarcely three nights since the right hon. gentleman had declared, that he should resist the questions of parliamentary reform, and the repeal of the Test act. What could those who sat behind the right hon. gentleman think of that declaration? If he were asked, then, to give his confidence to an administration of such heterogeneous ingredients, his answer would be, that he could not consent to do 750 so. And if he could not do so, who was to assume the right of abusing him, because of his giving vent to opinions and feelings which he honestly entertained? He would say again, that the circumstances under which this coalition had been formed were most extraordinary and unprecedented. He could only account for it by supposing it to be the work of the right hon. gentleman, of whose persuasive eloquence, and tact, and talent in managing parties in that House, he had never, in the course of his political life, seen any resemblance. To use the expression of the hon. member for Stafford, the right hon. gentleman had actually succeeded in un-Torying Toryism, and un-Whigging Whiggism. From the bottom of his heart, he did think it was true, that the right hon. gentleman had un-Toried himself; and if his new friends should continue to act with him, it was quite plain they must un-Whig themselves. The hon. baronet, the member for Westminster, had talked with composure of doing away the old distinctions of Whig and Tory, since they had, as he declared, ceased to exist otherwise than in name. So that it would appear as if they wanted to let it sink into chaos; never to be heard of again. If he had any quarrel with the new arrangements, it was because of this mixture of the two parties whom it was for the welfare of the country to have discriminated. And again, if Whig and Tory were at liberty to combine, what was to be said of the friends of the people? Where was that hon. baronet sitting now? Behind the Treasury benches. He did not find fault with him for acting as he had done, since he had stated the motives of his conduct, referring them to principles which must always command respect. But what if these principles were to be thrown overboard, in the course upon which the new government might steer? He would say it again, that those hon. gentlemen had taken their new posts too hastily; and to that hon. baronet he would say, that he hoped he might not have reason to repent his having left his seat on the Opposition benches. The right hon. gentleman had told the House, that he would not go at much length into the subject of the finances. It was intended to make a very short business of it. And it was with the concurrence of the Whigs and the friends of the people, that they had been left from early in November to the 11th day of May, without one jot of intelligence upon the revenue and 751 the finances. The late Chancellor of the Exchequer, too, had been removed, in this new hurly-burley, from the place where he had obtained the highest credit, and tossed up into a higher place. This question was of importance. At present they knew nothing of the matter. It was extraordinary that a motion of so much importance should be again hung up.—The chief purpose which he had in rising was to ask questions, with the statement of which he had set out, and from which he had been led into a larger field of discussion than he had anticipated. He hoped that the right hon. gentleman would have no difficulty in stating to him, whether the noble viscount, now holding the high and responsible situation of Secretary of State for Foreign Affairs, held it as a permanent measure of the new government, or only as a locum tenens of another noble lord, who was, according to common report, to take that station. Secondly, whether any commucation had taken place between the right hon. gentleman and those other gentlemen and noblemen, as to the accession of any of them to office, on, or before, or near to, the period of the dissolution of the old administration and the formation of the new. He hoped he should receive the answers to these questions without any mixture of anger, or of any thing tending to insult; for he must be allowed to say, that there had been a little too much of that tendency shown from one side of the House. As long as they conducted their proceedings in a manner becoming their rank as English gentlemen, and while they preserved temper and good humour in their language, things would go well, but not afterwards. He would give up no jot of his opinions, neither would he enforce them with rudeness; and he did hope that he should not experience any such treatment, merely for doing that which he felt to be his duty. He would not divide the House upon the question of going into the committee. That had not been at any time his intention; but he invited any other member who might see reasons for doing so, to seize upon this as a fit opportunity to express whatever grievances he had to complain of. He hoped the House would forgive him for the time which he had taken up, and that they would give him credit for having no earthly motive, but that of doing his duty as a faithful member of the House of Commons.
§ Mr. Canning
promised that he would 752 not detain the House many minutes in answering the two questions which the hon. baronet was so anxious to have solved; and, in doing so, he would try to observe that courtesy which he conceived to be due to the hon. baronet, by replying to him in a tone and manner, which he should never think it necessary to use towards those who put similar questions with a feeling merely hostile. He would distinguish clearly those questions, of which, as he understood, the hon. baronet had given the customary notice, from those which he had answered on a former evening, without receiving any such notice. He must take leave, before answering, however, to enter one caution, for the advice of the hon. baronet. His speech, so far from being confined to the questions which he had proposed, had laid the foundation of a wide debate. If this were done now with a view of preventing him from speaking in the course of the discussion which should arise this evening, he hoped he might not be considered as exhausting his privilege. He would now proceed to the two grains of question which were included in the hon. baronet's bushel of declaration. First, as to the question concerning the formation of the ministry, which he could answer plainly, courteously, but he feared not satisfactorily; because the same question had been put to his right hon. friend: and, as notice had been given of a motion on the subject for a future day, he would not utter one word upon it. The hon. member for Stafford had taken a more manly course, and he thanked him for it: it was much better than those disgusting modes [cheers]—he used the word advisedly—those disgusting tricks, by which it was intended to get rid of highly important questions. He reserved himself for the opportunity which would be given by the motion of the hon. member for Stafford. Till then, neither courtesy nor taunt should extort one single word of explanation from him [cheers]. The second, and most important question was—"Did any negotiation take place at, or during, or about the time of, the dissolution, or re-construction of the administration, between him and certain persons, whose support he had the happiness to enjoy." Notwithstanding the objection which the hon. baronet felt the other day at hearing the monosyllable "Yes" for an answer, he now hoped that he would not take it uncivilly if his reply 753 were "No" [a laugh]. In saying that, he felt that he should not be doing justice to others, if he did not make it known that he had received an intimation, if he would take office, that, from a certain number of persons, not very numerous, but of no inconsiderable weight, he would receive an entirely disinterested support [cheers]. Not that my of them bargained for office: they tendered, unconditionally, a cordial and disinterested assistance. He would be doing still more injustice, if he did not add, that, driven to straits, as he certainly had been, a question had arisen upon the subject of accession to office; which question had been raised by himself, and not by any of those gentlemen. This was his answer to the second question. The hon. baronet wondered how he could agree with any individuals of a party with whom he had never agreed upon any question except the Catholic question; and with whom he differed so widely upon the question of parliamentary reform. The hon. baronet had stated, that, for twenty years past, up to the time of the present arrangements, he had always felt towards him (Mr. Canning) the greatest respect and the greatest confidence. But then it appeared, that he had, during the whole of that time, differed quite as much from the hon. baronet on both those questions. In the year 1822, when he introduced the bill for emancipating Catholic peers, the hon. baronet had cautioned the House against being led away by what he was pleased to call his (Mr. Canning's) persuasive powers of eloquence; and declared, that he had been seduced by them, two nights before, to vote against parliamentary reform, to which he had always before been inclined [cheers]. This was the person who was chosen, in the cast of parts for this night's exhibition, to object to a government which had been joined, without any views of interest, by a few, though very important persons; because, upon one of those two questions, some of them differed from him in sentiments! The hon. baronet had very fully discharged the duty which he had undertaken; and he hoped that he also had as satisfactorily to the House, answered the hon. baronet's two questions. As to the first of them, or as to any particulars concerning the present or the future arrangement of the cabinet, he preferred the course taken by the hon. member for Stafford, who was above the artifice of treating high questions 754 of policy by these wretched driblets of discussion, but had boldly proposed to open the subject to the deliberation of the House in due form. He had no doubt, that, whenever the time should come, the result would be entirely satisfactory to the House, and a full vindication of the government.
§ Sir T. Lethbridge
said, that the right hon. gentleman had used the words "cast of parts for the exhibition of the evening:" he could only say, that there was no concert between himself and other members as to what he had been doing.
§ Mr. Canning
said, he meant no offence by coupling the hon. member for Stafford with the hon. baronet. But, since it was displeasing, he would take care, in future, to separate them.
The Marquis of Tavistock
said, that the real question which they had to decide was, should they give a patient hearing and fair trial to the administration formed by the right hon. gentleman, in obedience to the commands of the king? For his own part, he had no inclination for power, nor had he talent for office. In the performance of his duty to his constituents, he had found it necessary to keep as much as possible aloof from political connexions. It had been his anxious wish, in the late changes, to keep out of the way of the negotiations, until the arrangements were perfected; reserving to himself, under any circumstances, full power to adhere to those principles which it had been the business of his whole life to defend. Long as he had been opposed to the late government, and much as he had differed from the right hon. gentleman, he trusted that he never should be led to oppose him or his government, right or wrong, without reference to the nature of their measures. He did not wish to unite himself to either of the great parties; but, when he saw gentlemen so premature in their opposition, so suddenly pledging themselves to plans of hostility and embarrassment so exclusively personal—he had almost said so rancorous, to the right hon. gentleman—not having the patience to wait for measures, nor the decency to abstain from throwing dirt on one who was, for so long a time, their leader—on one under whom they had so lately served—when he saw, as the hon. member for Stafford had well 755 said, Toryism, in its most hideous shape, raising its frightful form among them—with all his inclination to watch vigilantly the conduct of every man in administration, and much as he was moved by the spirit of opposition, of which he could not, even now, entirely divest himself—he should be wanting in public duty, if he did not say, that though he could not give a certain promise of entire support to the new administration, he felt decidedly inclined to protest against the measures which had been taken against it, by the hon. baronet, and the two right hon. gentlemen who had thought fit to withdraw from his majesty's government. During the whole course of his political life, he never remembered to have witnessed conduct so hard, to say the least of it, as that which had been pursued towards the right hon. gentleman and those who had thought proper to act with him. He strongly objected to the anxiety which had been shown to perplex the right hon. gentleman at the outset of his government—to overthrow him by an overwhelming attempt, before he had got properly seated, and before he could choose his course; and it strongly inclined him to that side which seemed not to have fair play. He was certain that this must be the feeling of all who were not smarting from official disappointment, and the pangs of mortified ambition. As to the right hon. member for Oxford, he did not by any means intend to class him with the other opponents of administration. This expression of his sentiments, the opportunity of doing which he owed to their kindness and patient attention, he thought due to his constituents; and he had taken this course, with the view of making it known to them. Conceiving that the administration was formed on principles which bid fairer for the advantage of the country than that which preceded it, and reserving to himself the right of opposing it only when the measures of government should lead him to think otherwise, he would so far give his support to the right hon. gentleman.
said, that he must have extremely misunderstood the noble marquis, if he had not been classed with the two right hon. gentlemen upon whose conduct the noble marquis had commented, not in a very moderate manner, accompanied with personalities and censure, applied to him, because of his separating himself, in 756 an official sense, from the right hon. gentleman; whom yet he hoped he might call his right hon. friend. It was not with any view to office that he had taken his course in the first instance; nor was it on account of his regret for the loss of it that he had spoken on a former evening. So far from his acting as one of a factious and rancorous Opposition, he had come down on the night of the shipping question, to support his right hon. friend, the President of the Board of Trade. He certainly had stated that which he felt to be a difficulty in the formation of the new ministry. When he saw many hon. gentlemen who had been uniformly opposed to government, abandoning, as it seemed to him, their principles, and taking seats behind his right hon. friend, and about to take office under him, he did say, that he must refuse his confidence until he knew of whom the government was to be composed, and what were the measures which gave a cement to the coalition. He expected, naturally enough under the circumstances, that a triumph was Anticipated on the two great questions of Catholic Emancipation and Parliamentary Reform. When he heard the right hon. gentleman declare, that the question of Parliamentary Reform would be opposed as before, and that he would not support the repeal of the Test act, he then felt, that those questions, so far from being in any danger, had obtained, by the accession of their supporters to a government prepared to oppose them, a most signal triumph. What objection, then, could he be supposed to entertain to the formation of a cabinet, which secured the triumph of his own principles? What rancour or personal hostility could he, who had never served for the advantages of office, feel for the accession of a party to office, upon terms which established his own principles with more safety than ever? What objection could he have to a plan of administration formed on the principle of excluding, by those who before did not agree upon any but the Catholic question? He promised his most zealous support and assistance, in as full a measure as he had given them, to any inquiries into the ancient institutions of the country, with a view to their amelioration and reform. He had not adopted those plans which he had brought before the House because he was in office; nor was he disposed to abandon them because he had quitted it. 757 He hoped he had explained satisfactorily the reasons of the course which he had taken on a former evening. He admitted, that the right hon. gentleman had then explained the terms of the coalition in a perfectly satisfactory manner. He would only add an opinion which he still entertained, that if there were to be any junction of the members of that party to the administration, it was but fair that it should at once take place, that the House and the country might know what they had to expect. He was never more surprised than to find himself, as the consequence of that speech, classed, by the noble lord, as one of a factious Opposition. When he first came into parliament, his right hon. friend did indeed form a part of what he conceived, with great deference, to be a factious Opposition. His right hon. friend must know well, from his experience at that time, what a factious Opposition really was; of what value was its support; and the inconvenience which resulted from its success. He denied the fact, and utterly disclaimed the intention, of giving any thing like a factious Opposition to the present administration.
The Marquis of Tavistock
said, that if any thing which he had said, was offensive to the right hon. gentleman, he was sorry for having spoken it; nothing could be further from his intention. What he wished to have said was, that he was sorry to find the right hon. gentleman descend from that high station which he occupied in the House, to join an Opposition, headed by the hon. baronet, and the late under Secretary of the Home Department. It appeared that he had been mistaken in the views of the right hon. gentleman, and he was glad of the opportunity of having himself set right upon the subject.
Mr. Yates Peel
said, that if any one accused him of being one of a rancorous and factious Opposition, it was an abominable falsehood.
explained the reasons why he had postponed his financial notices for this session, because he placed the fullest confidence in the right hon. gentleman's promise to appoint a committee of finance next session, to enter fully into all the parts of the public expenditure. To suppose that the proposed committee would not be a fair one, would be an insult to the government. In full reliance upon this promise, he should not oppose any of this year's estimates; not even the Penitentiary 758 item, to which he strongly objected. He hoped, however, that the committee would be nominated very early in the next session, so as to report before the end of it, and he begged leave to suggest that, during the recess, the Treasury would appoint additional clerks to get all the necessary papers ready for the committee, so as that no pause should occur in their labours.
§ Sir Joseph Yorke
said, it might be necessary for members like himself to state on the present occasion the grounds upon which they stood with regard to the present government. It was now thirty-seven years since he sat on the Opposition side of the House, and now that the lion and the lamb had lain down together, they ought, in the language of their parliamentary prayer, "to give up all partial affections." He meant to have risen after his amiable and excellent friend sir Thomas Lethbridge. Indeed when he had heard the hon. baronet, he thought, for the moment, that he was under a delusion as to his identity, and that the clerk of the Crown had just struck out the hon. baronet's name, and substituted that of sir Francis Wronghead. He rose, now, merely for the purpose of stating, that the speech of the right hon. gentleman (Mr. Peel) was any thing but factious. He thought it displayed a great deal of manly sentiment, couched in language of great perspicuity. He proposed to take that right hon. gentleman for his beacon upon the Catholic question; and, although he intended to give a general support to his majesty's government, he should consider himself led by that right hon. gentleman, as long as the cabinet continued to be composed of men who are not united upon the subject, and who do not choose to come forward and say, they proposed to make the carrying of the Catholic question a measure of administration. As long as the question remained in that state, he should continue to follow the course of the right hon. gentleman, unless the government came forward and declared that they could not govern Ireland, nor insure the prosperity of the empire, without giving emancipation to the Catholics.
said, he felt that, in the present crisis of affairs, every public man was bound to express his opinions. He had given the subject the best consideration in his, power; and, after mature deliberation, he had formed an opinion, which 759 he thought it his duty honestly and openly to express. He had, from the first, thought that the government, as at present constituted, was not such as was likely to command the confidence of the people or the House. That opinion he had formed from reasons of his own, which it was not necessary to state. While he held that opinion, however, he felt equally bound to declare, that he preferred that government to any which they were likely to obtain by a change, and that therefore he was determined to give it his support. He was the more induced to support it, from having had an opportunity of witnessing the conduct of some of those who were lately members of the administration. He had seen them running into an instantaneous Opposition, not to the measures of the new government—for measures none had been yet proposed—but into an avowed opposition to the personal characters of the very man who had been recently their colleague in office; and that, too, in such a tone and manner as must induce all rational men to beware of connecting themselves with them as a party. These were some of the reasons which induced him to support the present government; and he was not at all disposed to depart from that course from any thing he had heard respecting the Catholic question; for he never could consent to allow, that men were to be goaded into the adoption of any measure by the taunts of their adversaries, or that they were to be forced to bring forward the question merely because they were told to do so by those who acknowledged themselves to be its most inveterate enemies. But, above all, he must reprobate the conduct of those who, although the avowed friends of the Catholics, do not disdain to make this unwillingness to comply with the suggestions of their adversaries one of the reasons for their opposition to the present government.
Sir J. Sebright
said, he had been for twenty years a member of that House, and during that time it could never be said of him that he allied himself to any party. He did not mean to disparage, at the same time, those combinations of public men, for the furtherance of what they thought the public good, which went by the name of party. He knew that they had been eminently useful to the country at different times. He had, therefore, always acted independently on 760 those principles which he believed to be most nearly connected with the national benefit. It was in a spirit similar to that which guided him during his parliamentary life, that he now stated his determination, in duty to his sovereign, to his country and himself, to give his feeble, but his decided support to the administration, at the head of which, he rejoiced to say, was the right hon. gentleman opposite. Much had been said in censure of those gentlemen who had quitted the Opposition side of the House to join the ranks of the minister. He would not attempt to apologise for their conduct: they were fully equal to the task of answering for themselves; he would, however, beg to call the attention of some of the hon. gentlemen near him to this—that both during the last session and the session before the last, many of the measures of government had received the support both of himself and the gentlemen who usually constituted the Opposition. To the right hon. gentleman opposite he believed the country was much indebted for the recent change in its policy; and he was glad to see his government strengthened, by being purged of its greatest incumbrance—he meant of its narrow-minded and prejudiced portion. He rejoiced at the retirement of men who would have provoked the rebellion of five millions of their fellow subjects, rather than concede the Catholic question. In the place of such men there was now a cabinet, not pledged to unite in support of that measure, but possessing a majority in its favour. He looked to the right hon. gentleman for sustaining the honour and character of the country by his own transcendent talents, and the support of those who surrounded him. He respected the right hon. gentleman (Mr. Peel), and regretted the loss of his services as a secretary of state; but he did not regret him as a member of the cabinet. He did not think that a man holding opinions which he must call bigotted was fit to hold the helm of state in any country, Catholic or Protestant. The right hon. gentleman was, perhaps, only fitted to manage the estates of his holiness the pope; for the prejudices of their minds seemed to be precisely of the same genus, although there was some difference as to their application. His majesty had thought fit to exercise his prerogative in the appointment of a ministry, and the only question 761 to be determined in that House was, whether they would support those who were disposed to pursue a liberal and enlightened policy, or go back again to the control of that miserable remnant which had been discarded.
§ Mr. E. Wodehouse
said, that in the present state of the public mind, he had felt it would be highly satisfactory to the House, and advantageous to the country, if the subject was fairly brought forward by a motion upon the state of the country. He had accordingly addressed a letter to the right hon the President of the Board of Trade, on the 6th of May, stating that opinion, and he had received an answer from Somerset-house, which he would read to the House. "My dear Sir, when we parted, I think we were agreed that a great deal of good might result, in the present state of the country, from a motion upon the state of the nation, and that the sooner that motion was made the better; but you seemed also to think that it would be a great deal better if that motion came from a decided opponent of the government, rather than from a person who was an avowed friend"—
entreated his hon. friend, not to persist in reading the correspond-dence. He had reason to believe that his right hon. friend was averse to the exposure of letters which were intended to be private.
§ Mr. Huskisson
begged his hon. friend to recollect that the letter he held in his hand was marked "private." As far as he recollected, the hon. gentleman requested the letter to be returned to him; but he certainly did not contemplate the possibility of its being made public.
§ Mr. Wodehouse
exclaimed, "There sits the right hon. gentleman. I rose to vindicate my character from the foulest calumnies. This very day a gentleman I have known for years, both at Oxford, and while I have been a member of this House, declared to me, that there was no end to the calumnies propagated against me."
§ Mr. Portman
was confident there was no gentleman who could, for a moment, suppose the character of his hon. friend likely to be affected by anything which had taken place between him and the President of the Board of Trade.
§ Mr. Huskisson
did not think the hon. member could have any reason to fear calumny, on account of what was contained in the notes. He objected to their being 762 made public, more upon the principle of their being private, than from any disinclination to the exposure of their contents.
§ Mr. Wodehouse
said, he would offer only one word more. He did not rise to substantiate private honour, but public honour. He did not so much desire to vindicate his own character, as to defend public men, and to uphold official integrity. For that purpose alone he had offered himself to the House.
Upon the question, that the Speaker do leave the chair,
§ Mr. Hume
said, that the right hon. gentleman opposite must see, that the country expected of him a change of principle in financial matters. He concurred perfectly in the opinions which the hon. baronet had expressed in the very manly speech which he had just made, and he trusted that any observations which might now fall from him would not lead any hon. member to suppose that he differed from those opinions. This, however, he felt it his duty to say, that the country expected relief. They were now in the thirteenth year of peace. At the conclusion of the war, the nation had been led to expect relief year after year; but let the House reflect how those thirteen years had passed away. There had been a military establishment, only suitable to a state of actual warfare, constantly kept up, and they were now in a state of utter bankruptcy. In 1821, the expenditure was brought within the income of the government; and he hoped that the same would be done this year. In the last year, the House had agreed to add eight and a half millions to the unfunded debt, under a promise that a similar sum should be taken from the funded debt. That vote he should never have agreed to, had it not been from the unparalleled distresses of the country, and the promises of relief which were then held out. The House might not generally know, that no relief whatever had been given to the country. On the contrary, the expenditure had exceeded the revenue by four millions and a half, and the debt of the country had consequently increased. When the business relative to Portugal was brought forward, he had implored the right hon. gentleman opposite to pause before he took a step which, throwing the political consequences of it altogether aside, must entail great expense upon the country. And, how did matters now stand? 763 Why, there was a deficiency of four millions and a half last year, and there would be a similar deficiency this; and yet they were still keeping up the farce of a sinking fund. He hoped the right hon. gentleman would not be induced to defer his intended committee of finance until next year, but set about it immediately. With respect to going into the committee of supply now, he thought that he was entitled to ask of the right hon. gentleman not to proceed to it until he had first redeemed the pledge given by the late Chancellor of the Exchequer, not to ask for any more supplies, until he had brought forward his financial statement for the year. If he thought that the line of conduct which he was now pursuing would throw any impediment in the way of the right hon. gentleman, he would abandon it. He did not think that it would; and he thought, that, after what he had said, he was justified in asking how far ministers could make up the deficiency in the year's revenue; and whether the right hon. gentleman opposite meant to take any immediate means of lessening the expenditure of the country?
Mr. Herries ,
in the absence of his right hon. friend, would not undertake to enter into any explanation of the topics adverted to by the hon. member, but would submit to his consideration, and to that of the House, that although such an intimation as was adverted to by him might have been given, yet that some circumstances had since taken place which would justify a postponement beyond the period at which his noble friend had expressed his intention of bringing the budget forward. He knew it was his noble friend's intention to have brought it forward; but he trusted the circumstances to which he alluded would satisfy the hon. member why an altered course had been adopted. The estimates which he would that night propose would bear no considerable proportion to the general financial statement which his right hon. friend would bring forward on another occasion: after what had fallen from the hon. member for Abingdon, he did not expect that any opposition would be made to voting the Miscellaneous Estimates, which were brought down to the lowest possible standard.
§ Mr. Canning ,
who had just entered the House, said, that if he did not at that moment enter into the explanation which the honourable member re- 764 quired, it was because he reserved it for a future period, when he should be able to submit the financial statement in a manner more satisfactory to the House and country than he could do at present. That statement he hoped to make on that day fortnight. The estimates which would be previously proposed in the Committee of Supply would bear no immediate reference to that general statement, and would be only such as were indispensable to the public service. For his own part, he was desirous that the House should be put in possession of the annual financial statement as early as possible. It should be remembered, however, that it was not customary to bring forward the budget previously to voting the ways and means.
thought, that, considering the arduous duties which the right hon. gentleman had had to perform, he was entitled to the indulgence of the House, but at the same time, he must approve of the course which his hon, friend was pursuing, in requiring every possible reduction. Government ought certainly to bear a great share of the blame for mis-spending the public money; but that House, which was the guardian of the public purse, was more culpable in winking at such extravagance. Millions had been voted away at times when, if the House had been counted, there were not sufficient members present to make a House. If the right hon. gentleman would seat himself upon a basis from which he was not to be shaken, in the hearts of the people, he would do so by reducing the expenditure of the country, and make himself the most popular minister that this country ever had.
§ Lord Howick
said, that the late Chancellor of the Exchequer had promised, that the House should not be called to vote any more supplies until the general statement had been brought forward, and it was upon that pledge that he rested his opinion. It could not be denied that the right hon. gentleman had many difficulties to contend with; but, at the same time, he did not see why these supplies should not be deferred until he had brought forward his general statement. He was anxious not to throw obstacles in the way of government, but he thought that there ought to be no expenditure, until the means by which that expenditure was to be met had been pointed out; and, upon that ground, 765 the hon. member for Montrose should have his vote, if he persevered in his opposition.
§ Lord Milton
said, that when he gave it as his opinion, that the committee should be gone into, the hon. member for Montrose must not suppose that he meant to desert him in his endeavours to bring about an economical reform. Next to Ireland, he thought the state of the finances of this country the most alarming object that presented itself to the consideration of that House. He could not see without alarm so small a surplus as one million over the expenditure of the country.
Mr. Alderman Wood
said, he was sure the right hon. gentleman opposite would feel gratified when he told him, that a large number of his constituents were satisfied with his government. For his own part, though he continued in his former seat, he would give the right hon. gentleman his support as far as he could [cheers], in spite of the very degrading language which had been used towards him elsewhere. He had often heard severe reflections passed upon the debates of the common council of London. They had been called a set of men, who used nothing but vulgar language. But he must say, that he never heard anything elsewhere which nearly approached the language to which he referred. He hoped his hon. friend, the member for Montrose, with whom he had so often voted, would not embarrass the right hon. gentleman, and drive him to a corner of pounds, shillings, and pence. He had only one complaint to make against the right hon. gentleman, and that was for an express on into which he had been goaded. He hoped that whatever he might say as to parliamentary reform, which he had always opposed, he would not again get up in his place and say, that he would oppose the repeal of the Test act to the last hour of his life [No, no!]. Frequent allusions had been made to the march of intellect. Now, although the right hon. gentleman might have proceeded on this march, even to the very pinnacle, he thought the time would yet come when he would think that the difficulties under which so many thousand Dissenters laboured ought to be removed. He should conclude by observing, that on all occasions where the measures of government were directed to the public good, the right hon. gentleman might be sure of his support.
§ Sir Robert Wilson
rose to make one ob- 766 servation on what had fallen from the worthy alderman. To those who knew him, he need hardly say, that he was a friend to civil and religious liberty in the most comprehensive sense of the term. He therefore blamed the Dissenters for not having made common cause with their Roman Catholic fellow-subjects in petitioning the legislature for a repeal of those acts; and for that reason he, for one, should join the right hon. gentleman in opposing their repeal. It was for this reason—because there were eighteen millions composing the population of the country, eight millions of which were excluded from those rights which the other ten millions enjoyed. Now, if, according to the worthy alderman's view, the Test act ought to be repealed with reference to the Dissenters, that class of persons would unite in keeping the Roman Catholics from participating in the rights which were conceded to themselves.
Mr. S. Wortley
put it to the hon. gentlemen who were engaged in these irrelevant discussions, whether it would not be more beneficial to the public service, that the House should at once proceed to business.
The House then went into the Committee; in which the several Miscellaneous Estimates were agreed to.