HL Deb 23 March 1808 vol 10 cc1244-6
Lord Auckland

rose to offer a motion to the house, which, in his opinion, might afford an opportunity of bringing the house to a decision on the long contested point, whether the Petitions against the operation of the Orders in Council, which had been presented to the house, were to be attended to or not. After insisting on the right which the subject undoubtedly had of being heard against measures which aggrieved him, and after enumerating a number of precedents, to shew that the object of his motion was strictly conformable to the standing orders of the house, and the best practice of parliament in the best times, his lordship concluded with moving, "That the Orders in Council be referred to a committee of the whole house, and that the petitioners against them be heard by themselves and counsel, as to such points in which the petitioners could shew they had a distinct and direct interest."

A long conversation ensued, in which the lord chancellor, lords Hawkesbury and Mulgrave acceded to the motion, on the understanding that it was not proposed to hear counsel against the Orders in Council bill, and that no delay should take place in the progress of that bill. Lord Grenville the earl of Lauderdale, and earl Spencer disclaimed any understanding upon the subject, which should fetter their judgments in the application of the information which might be communicated at the bar. Lord Sid-mouth had some doubts as to the form of proceeding, but was friendly to the object of the motion. The question was at length put, and the motion agreed to.

Lord Auckland,

after complimenting their lordships on at length adopting ,some mode of hearing the petitioners, then Moved, that the Petitions be referred to a committee of the whole house tomorrow.

Another conversation arose upon this motion, and lord Hawkesbury moved as an amendment, Monday next, instead of tomorrow. This amendment was strenuously supported by the lord chancellor, lord Mulgrave, and lord Redesdale; and opposed by lords Grenville, Holland, Darnley, Grey, and Spencer; after which a division took place on the amendment. Contents, 43: Non-contents 18.— Majority 25.

The order of the day was next read for the house to resolve itself into a committee on the bill, when earl Spencer moved, that the house do hear the Petitioners on Tuesday next; on this question, the house divided. Contents, 18; Non-contents, 47. —Lord Grenville then moved that it be an instruction to the committee to divide the bill into two parts, that part which regarded the bill as of Aid and Supply, and that which regarded the commercial regulations, on which latter part he wished Counsel to be heard. On this question, nearly the same noble lords again were heard, when the house again divided. Contents, 48; Non-contents, 109.

The house then resolved itself into a committee on the bill. A long and desultory conversation ensued, in the course of which,

The Lord Chancellor

attacked the late administration for their Order in Council of the 7th of Jan. and asserted that it was the foundation of the late Orders.

Lord Erskine

said, that this charge repeatedly made reminded him of Swift's Tale of a Tub. We produce, said lord Erskine, a piece of bread, we eat it in their presence, we bring the baker who baked it; every body round agree it to be bread, but the noble lords answer that it is not bread, but the fattest mutton that ever came out of Leadenhall Market, and the only proof they give of the proposition is, that if any man ventured to assert the contrary, they hoped that God might eternally damn him. Lord Erskine said, that these Were the words of the rev. Dean Swift, and not his, and therefore the bishops must pardon the profaneness. He said, he had no doubt, that if it were convenient to establish that his lordship's black coat was any green colour, it might easily be accomplished. As many as are of that opinion, say Aye'—would give it in a moment any colour in the rainbow. —His lordship here adverted to the Bark bill. He said, that Mr. Burke in one of his immortal orations, had also given immortality to the benevolent Howard;— speaking of that great man in his career of humanity, he had said, "He has visited all Europe; not to collate manuscripts or to collect medals, but to dive into the depth of dungeons; to plunge into the infection of hospitals; to survey the mansions of grief, misery and despair; to pity the forsaken, to remember the forgotten, and to collect and collate the distresses of all men in all countries. It was a circumnavigation of charity" It was fit, said lord Erskine that this circumnavigator of charity should have received his being in that country which had been the instrument of providence in her circumnavigation of the earth; not like the first discoverer, carrying cruelty and death in her train; but collecting mankind together under the dominion of laws and liberty. But what was the proposed circumnavigation of ministers? They at this moment, like Howard, were to visit all Europe; like him they were to plunge into the infection of hospitals; but not like him, to remember the forsaken and forgotten, but to pluck the balm of health, or rather of life, out of the mouths of the miserable. They were to rob them—not of one medicine, which, as he had said formerly, might be substituted for another; but which he would repeat again, even as often as they repeated the Order of the 7th of Jan. that would subject Great Britain to the final everlasting curse—"I was sick and ye visited me not."

Lord Grenville

moved that the chairman should report progress, but this was resisted. The preamble after a good deal of controversy was agreed to. It was ordered that the house should resume, and the chairman ask leave to sit again. The house accordingly resumed, and after receiving the report of the chairman of the committee, adjourned at four o'clock on Thursday morning.