§ Lord Boringdon
observed, that it was not unusual, when a motion of great magnitude was brought under the consideration of the House, for the noble lord who intended to make it, to preface his speech by dwelling on the purity of the motives by which he was actuated, and by declaring, that a strong sense of public duty impelled him to offer himself to their lordships' notice. On no occasion, by no individual, he could justly say, were such expressions ever made use of with more entire sincerity, than by him who then had the honour of addressing the House. The motion which he should have to submit to their lordships, originated entirely with himself—it was not suggested by any man, or set of men, either in that House or out of it; it had arisen from feelings of a purely public nature, from an anxious wish to make an exertion which might dispel the gloomy prospect that surrounded the country, and avert the occurrence of the worst calamity that could befal the empire. He knew he had made use of a bold expression. But the calamity he referred to fully justified it—that calamity was nothing less than the separation of the two sister countries—the dismemberment of the empire. Of no less magnitude was the evil which he fearfully contemplated—and which, in his opinion, reasoning from cause to effect, the system pursued at present, must necessarily produce—and, at a period far less remote than was, in all probability, imagined by the generality of persons. It was under the strong and serious apprehension of this calamity, whether that feeling were erroneous or justly founded, that he earnestly solicited 37 the indulgent attention of the House. On this occasion, it would not be necessary for him to carry their lordships back to the commencement of the melancholy illness of the sovereign, who, for more than half a century, had swayed the sceptre of those realms; nor would it be necessary to do more than to advert to those amiable sentiments, those refined principles of duty and affection, which, at the commencement of the restricted Regency, and throughout its duration, had induced his royal highness the Prince Regent, to adopt and pursue that course to which his royal father was known to be attached. While any hope remained of his Majesty's recovery, it would have been extremely difficult for him to have acted differently. But at length a new æra arrived, when, from the utter hopelessness of his Majesty's restoration to health, the Prince Regent could no longer be influenced by those considerations, which, prior to that period, had so honourably operated on his conduct; and could no longer be precluded from pursuing such a course as to him might seem best calculated to advance the interests of the country. What was the general situation of the country, at the beginning of the æra to which he had adverted? What were the prospects of their lordships and of the nation? And what had overshadowed and overclouded those prospects? At that period, Java, the last colonial possession of the enemy, had been wrested from him, and added to the dominions of the British crown. Though a formidable navy had been prepared by France, the British navy had been every where triumphant: the enemy's ships only quitted their ports to enter those of Great Britain. The colonial power of the enemy had been literally annihilated all over the globe. Portugal had been wrested from the military occupation of the French; and in the 10th year of the war, and in the fourth year of its existence in the peninsula, not only had Portugal been defended, but our armies had on every occasion,—and those occasions had, as their lordships knew, often occurred,—covered themselves with glory in the territory of Spain. The operations of the war in that quarter were conducted by one of the first generals of the age, whose services were still at the disposal of his country. What was the picture on the other hand? Commercial distress all over the country,—our manufacturers reduced almost to a state of starvation,—new laws, 38 giving unprecedented encouragement and effect to our paper currency,—to which circumstance, in the existing situation of the country, he certainly however was not disposed to object. In the interior of the country there appeared a spirit of disorder and contempt of the law, bordering on insurrection. At a time when we were not only at war with a power whose dominions were more extensive than those of Charlemagne, but also with every potentate of Europe except those of the peninsula, this was an appalling state of things; but the most appalling circumstance was, that while almost the whole population of the continent of Europe was united against these islands, whose numbers were so small in proportion, and notwithstanding the general complexion of the times, one fourth of our population was excluded from the pale of the constitution—excluded by various laws founded on causes and principles which had long ceased to operate,—laws which had relation only to the peculiar circumstances of the age in which they were enacted, and the continuance of which, till this day, was a scandal to the nation, and a serious detriment to the political power of the country. Such was the general outline of our situation, at the period to which he referred. He was anxious, however, to be understood, as not stating any thing that might look like the suggestions of passion, rather than sober reason. He hoped no expression of his would be so construed as to carry the appearance of giving way to dismay and despair. He was convinced on the contrary, that our resources, if properly managed, and called into action, were fully adequate to overcome all the difficulties by which we were surrounded. It was, indeed, out of this conviction, that the motion which he was about to submit to their lordships grew; for, he was persuaded, that, with an united people, and a government, meriting and receiving their confidence, the empire was perfectly competent to avert every danger which threatened it; and that the energies and resources of this island were equal, not only to its own necessities, but to continue the assistance at present imparted to its allies—and even, if it were found expedient, to extend it still farther. But, he was no less certain, that, without such an union among the people, without such a confidence in the government, no results, beneficial to the interests of the empire could be expected. It was under those 39 circumstances, which he had just described, that, according to an authentic, though not official document,* it appeared,
§ * The following is the Correspondence referred to in the course of this debate:
§ LETTER from his Royal Highness the Prince Regent to the Duke of York, and ANSWER from Earl Grey and Lord. Grenville.
§ My dearest Brother;
§ As the restrictions on the exercise of the royal authority will shortly expire, when I must make my arrangements for the future administration of the powers with which I am invested, I think it right to communicate to you those sentiments which I was withheld from expressing at an earlier period of the session, by my earnest desire, that the expected motion on the affairs of Ireland might undergo the deliberate discussion of parliament, unmixed with any other consideration.
§ I think it hardly necessary to call your recollection to the recent circumstances under which I assumed the authority delegated to me by parliament. At a moment of unexampled difficulty and danger, I was called upon to make a selection of persons to whom I should entrust the functions of the executive government.
§ My sense of duty to our royal father solely decided that choice; and every private feeling gave way to considerations which admitted of no doubt or hesitation. I trust I acted in that respect as the genuine representative of the august person whose functions I was appointed to discharge; and I have the satisfaction of knowing, that such was the opinion of persons, for whose judgment and honourable principles I entertain the highest respect.
§ In various instances, as you well know, where the law of the last session left me at full liberty, I waved any personal gratification, in order that his Majesty might resume, on his restoration to health, every power and prerogative belonging to his crown. I certainly am the last person in the kingdom to whom it can be permitted to despair of our royal father's recovery.
§ A New Æra is now arrived, and I cannot but reflect with satisfaction, on the events which have distinguished the short period of my restricted regency. Instead of suffering in the loss of any of her possessions, by the gigantic force which has been employed against them. Great Britain has 40 that his royal highness the Prince Regent had expressed his wish that a government should be formed on an extended and li-
§ added most important acquisitions to her empire. The national faith has been preserved inviolate towards our allies; and if character is strength, as applied to a nation, the encreased and encreasing reputation of his Majesty's arms will shew to the nations of the continent how much they may still achieve when animated by a glorious spirit of resistance to a foreign yoke. In the critical situation of the war in the peninsula, I shall be most anxious to avoid any measure which can lead my allies to suppose that I mean to depart from the present system. Perseverance alone can achieve the great object in question; and I cannot withhold my approbation from those who have honourably distinguished themselves in support of it. I have no predilections to indulge—no resentments to gratify—no objects to attain, but such as are common to the whole empire. If such is the leading principle of my conduct—and I can appeal to the past in evidence of what the future will be—I flatter myself I shall meet with the support of parliament, and of a candid and enlightened nation.
§ Having made this communication of my sentiments in this new and extraordinary crisis of our affairs, I cannot conclude without expressing the gratification I should feel, if some of those persons with whom the early habits of my public life were formed, would strengthen my hands, and constitute a part of my government. With such support, and aided by a vigorous and united administration, formed on the most liberal basis, I shall look with additional confidence to a prosperous issue of the most arduous contest in which Great Britain was ever engaged. You are authorised to communicate these sentiments to lord Grey, who, I have no doubt, will make them known to lord Grenville.
§ I am always, ray dearest Frederick, your affectionate Brother,
§ (Signed) GEORGE, P. R.
§ Carlton House, Feb. 13, 1812.
§ P. S. I shall send a copy of this letter immediately to Mr. Perceval.
§ February 15, 18I2.
§ Sir—We beg leave most humbly to express to your Royal Highness our dutiful acknowledgements for the gracious and condescending manner in which you have 41 beral basis: (and here he must, once for all, observe, that in speaking of the share which his Royal Highness had in the transaction he considered him as acting by the advice of responsible persons.) A
§ had the goodness to communicate to us the Letter of his royal highness the Prince Regent, on the subject of the arrangements to be now made for the future administration of the public affairs; and we take the liberty of availing ourselves of your gracious permission, to address to your Royal Highness in this form what has occurred to us in consequence of that communication.
§ The Prince Regent, after expressing to your Royal Highness in that letter his sentiments on various public matters, has, in the concluding paragraph, condescended to intimate his wish that "some of those persons with whom the early habits of his public life were formed, would strengthen his Royal Highness is hands, and constitute a part of his government; and his Royal Highness is pleased to add, that with such support, aided by a vigorous and united administration, formed on the roost liberal basis, he would look with additional confidence to a prosperous issue of the most arduous contest in which Great Britain has ever been engaged."
§ On the other parts of his Royal Highness's letter we do not presume to offer any observations; but on the concluding paragraph, in so far as we may venture to suppose ourselves included in the gracious wish which it expresses, we owe it, in obedience and duty to his Royal Highness, to explain ourselves with frankness and sincerity.
§ We beg leave most earnestly to assure his Royal Highness, that no sacrifices, except those of honour and duty, could appear to us too great to be made, for the purpose of healing the divisions of our country, and uniting both its government and its people. All personal exclusion we entirely disclaim: we rest on public measures; and it is on this ground alone that we must express, without reserve, the impossibility of our uniting with the present government. Our differences of opinion are too many and too important to admit of such an union. His Royal Highness will, we are confident, do us the justice to remember, that we have twice already acted on this impression; in 1809, on the proposition then made to us under 42 negociation was accordingly set on foot in order to carry this desirable object into effect. That negociation had unfortunately failed, and the wishes of the Prince Regent, and the expectations of the country
§ his Majesty's authority; and last year, when his Royal Highness was pleased to require our advice respecting the formation of a new government. The reasons which we then humbly submitted to him are strengthened by the encreasing dangers of the times; nor has there, down to this moment, appeared even any approximation towards such an agreement of opinion on the public interests, as can alone form a basis for the honourable union of parties previously opposed to each other.
§ Into the detail of these differences we are unwilling present policy of the empire; but his Royal Highness has, himself, been pleased to advert to the late deliberations of parliament on the affairs of Ireland. This is a subject, above all others, important in itself, and connected with the most pressing dangers. Far from concurring in the sentiments which his Majesty's ministers have, on that occasion, so recently expressed, we entertain opinions directly opposite: we are firmly persuaded of the necessity of a total change in the present system of government in that country, and of the immediate repeal of those civil disabilities under which so large a portion of his Majesty's subjects still labour on account of their religious opinions. To recommend to parliament this repeal, is the first advice which it would be our duty to offer to his Royal Highness; nor could we, even for the shortest time, make ourselves responsible for any farther delay in the proposal of a measure, without which we could entertain no hope of rendering ourselves useful to his Royal Highness, or to our country.
§ We have only therefore further to beg your Royal Highness to lay before his royal highness the Prince Regent, the expression of our humble duty, and the sincere and respectful assurance of our ear nest wishes for whatever may best promote the ease, honour, and advantage of his Royal Highness's government, and the success of his endeavours for the public welfare. We have the honour to be, &c
§ (Signed) GREY.
§ To his royal highness the Duke of York.43
§ try had been disappointed. It was from the period of the failure of this negociation that he dated the commencement of those alarming symptoms to which he had adverted, and the glaring deterioration in our domestic situation which threatened the integrity of the empire. What were those portentous features of the present time which foreboded so much calamity? I wish to God, Maynooth college had never existed!" had been, in another place, the expressions of a confidential servant of the crown. What was this but evincing a decided hostility to the religion and political rights of a great portion of the population of these dominions? What was it but the proof of a malus animus with regard to them, swaying the councils of the crown? The natural tendency of such an imprudent and impolitic declaration must be, to produce a spirit of irritation and hostility, which would sooner or later shew itself in the most alarming colours. A right hon. gentleman, a member of the other House of Parliament, (whose moderation in all matters connected with religion, whose talents and whose integrity did honour to his country and to the empire) had received a petition from the Roman Catholics of Ireland to be presented to the House of Commons, and had given notice of a motion for its being taken into consideration on the 14th of next month. The votes on the table informed them that a call of the House was to take place on the 13th of April,—a call not proposed by the right hon. gentleman who was to move the consideration of the petition, but by that minister of the crown, who was understood to be the bar to all conciliation. What must be the effect of this apparently deep-rooted hostility to their cause on the minds of the Catholics: What must be the consequence of such a system, if continued? It was not among the least alarming of these fearful symptoms, that some of the clergy, as he understood, taking the hint perhaps from those in authority, had, in a manner very inconsistent indeed with the principles of their religion, made themselves the instruments of discoid and disunion, and perverted even the pulpit it self to the worst purposes of bigotry and faction. Already had there appeared a disposition, fomented, probably by the tone of the government, to raise that execrable cry, which, to the disgrace of the country, had more than once marked the epoch of the present generation. But were these the only symptoms that evinced the 44 deterioration which had taken place in our domestic circumstances? Were their lordships aware of the state of the diurnal press of London, and, he might add of the provincial press?—Did they not know that it was formed into two distinct and opposite parties? and were not their lordships doomed every day, as had on a former occasion been remarked by a noble earl near him, (Grosvenor,) to read on the one side, of an overweening, overbearing, proud, ambitious aristocracy, that strove to domineer over the throne itself; and, on the other, the most virulent and scurrilous attacks, even upon the Prince Regent in person? Were they aware of the effect which these things must have upon the country at large; and could they be indifferent to the effect, under the present circumstances of the nation and the world, of such a mischievous application of that great engine of public opinion, the press? These were not all the symptoms that seemed to characterise the eventful period to which he had referred. The prince Regent himself, (speaking of his Royal Highness in the sense which he had before stated, as acting at the suggestion of responsible advisers), even the Prince himself was not exempt from his share in these alarming transactions. They had heard, for instance, of the highest honours, of the most distinguished situations, being offered to various individuals, and refused upon the ground, that acceptance would be contrary to the honour of those persons, who found it impossible for them to do any thing to assist, or give countenance to the system upon which the government was conducted. It was rumoured, that all the bent, aim, and force of the government, was inflexible hostility to the liberal principles which alone could ensure conciliation and union. This, however, was only rumour; but what was certainly true was, that on the 13th of February, the Prince Regent, in a manner that did honour to the high situation which he held, and with a sincerity and good faith well becoming his character, expressed his wishes, that at the present critical moment no measure should be adopted which could excite the smallest suspicion that he intended to abandon his allies, or cease to give them the same liberal assistance as formerly. Yet, subsequent to this declaration, it was well known, that his Royal Highness had been obliged to accept the resignation of a noble marquis, who had in some measure identified himself with the cause of our 45 allies. He hoped the noble marquis, whom he saw in his place, would in the course of this debate explain the reasons which had induced him to resign, at a moment when his services, with a view to the war in the peninsula, were so very essential. But he could not repeat, too often, that, subsequent to the wish expressed by his Royal Highness, with regard to the cause of our allies, his Royal Highness had received the resignation of the noble marquis, who for two years and a half had conducted the whole diplomatic correspondence with the peninsula; and, before that period, had acted as the minister of this country in Spain with so much honour to himself, and so much advantage to the nation. No correspondence that had ever been laid on their lordships' table, had ever excited more general applause. The noble marquis, too, was no less a person than the brother of lord Wellington himself; and yet, in the present critical state of the war, he had thought it his duty to resign, though the Prince had before expressed his wish to give every support to our allies. Such was the general view of the situation of the country, since the expiration of the restrictions upon the Regent. Our domestic policy of exclusion appeared to have assumed a more decided shape, and the brightening prospects which appeared to be opening to us, had given way to a deeper gloom. He had adverted to the difficulties under which the nation had to struggle, and the very inadequate composition of the present government to meet these difficulties; and from all this it followed, as a necessary consequence, that some change in the frame of that government should, if possible, be effected. Now he would ask, whether such a change was really hopeless? And here he must advert to a printed letter bearing the signature of a noble earl near him (lord Grey), and of a noble baron (lord Grenville), whose absence their lordships must deeply regret, both from sympathy with the noble family which had lately experienced the domestic calamity that occasioned that absence, as also on account of the delicacy of the situation in which the noble lord was placed. He, however, would endeavour to avoid every thing that could possibly appear to be inconsistent with a due regard to the circumstances in which the noble lord at present unfortunately stood and he had no doubt his noble friends who were to follow him, would adopt the same 46 precaution. If the construction which he put upon that letter, and which it was certainly capable of bearing, was the correct one; he flattered himself that hopes might still be indulged of fulfilling the wishes of his Royal Highness, and forming an administration adequate to the difficulties of the times. Whether his construction was the true one, the noble earl near him (Grey) would inform their lordships. But it might possibly be said, that he was not authorised to refer to these documents, as they did not come in an official shape before the House; and the unusual asperity of tone and manner of the noble Secretary of State on a former occasion, when he put a question to him relative to one of these letters, was such as to justify some apprehension that such an objection might be made. Yet, he maintained that any paper of public notoriety, and especially one bearing the signature of the Prince Regent, was a document for their lordships to proceed upon. He did not think, that out of the whole kingdom the House of Lords ought to be the only room in which such a document could not be made the subject of discussion. It was, however, sufficient for his purpose, that on the 13th of February a wish had been expressed by his Royal Highness to form an Administration on a broad and liberal basis. That wish had unfortunately, not been gratified. But the wish which existed then, no doubt still continued; and the object of his motion was, if possible, to give effect to the declared desire of his Royal Highness; provided nothing occurred in the debate which should change his opinion as to the construction to be put on the answer to the Prince's letter, he should still cherish a strong hope of being able to secure the accomplishment of so desirable an object. He would now draw the attention of the House to those parts of the noble lords' letter, which had been particularly dwelt upon, and which he believed,' had been misapprehended. The noble lords, having assigned the reasons of their refusal, say "It is on this ground alone that we must express, without reserve, the impossibility of our uniting with the present government." Now, he would ask, what had been understood by this expression of the noble lords? Why, that they insisted on forming the government themselves—that they would hear of no persons, but of their own selection, and of their own principles—and that they would not sit in the ca- 47 binet with those who were the confidential advisers of the Prince Regent. This was the interpretation which had been given of that part of their answer. Yet, without meaning to state what the feeling of the noble lords really was on this subject, it appeared to him, that in saying they would not consent to unite with the present government—that they could not assist an administration, whose proceedings they disapproved—it did not follow that they would not act with them, provided, of course, they were not placed in such situations as would prevent them from carrying into effect those measures which they thought most conducive to the general interest.—In the next paragraph the noble lords observe," Into the detail of those differences we are unwilling to enter; they embrace almost all the leading features of the present policy of the empire." The principles of policy here alluded to, were, the conduct to be pursued with regard to America,—the Bullion question,—the war in the peninsula,—and the treatment of the Catholics. Could it be fairly supposed, that it was the intention of the noble lords, if they should come into office, to concede the whole matter in controversy with America? Could it be fairly supposed that they were prepared to sacrifice the maritime rights of the country, and lay our naval grandeur and independence at the foot of America? It might be so, but he would not believe it, till he heard it from themselves; he would not believe any British statesman capable of such a thought; nor could he allow himself for a moment to attribute such intentions to the noble lords. The next question was, that of the bullion. What was the nature of the difference here? It might be said, that the noble lords would immediately open the Bank, and compel cash payments. It was no doubt probable, that they would make the situation of the currency a matter of serious consideration, and that they would act upon the system of restoring the cash payments to the country, when a favourable opportunity occurred for doing so. But was it to be said, that they would force such a measure forward before its time,—that they would urge it without preparation,—without regard to circumstances,—without any precaution that might render it regular and secure? As to the peninsula, the noble lords were boldly charged with a resolution to withdraw our assistance from the Spanish cause. They 48 might certainly disapprove of the circumstances of the war; but it was not to be conceived, that they would abandon it without due examination. Of course, their conduct in this point would be strongly influenced by the larger information on the circumstances, objects, and means of the contest, which office might give them, and to which they could not now have access. It was not to be supposed that they would proceed in this direction, without communicating with the distinguished person who was now at the head of the British force in the peninsula,—a man who deserved every attention and every praise,—who was at once the great general and the great statesman,—whose physical courage was equalled only by the moral fortitude which he manifested in opposing those who, not being perfectly acquainted with the situation of the peninsula, were desirous of withdrawing from the contest there. It was presumed, that, on their admission into the Prince's cabinet, the British forces would be recalled: but was this a just presumption? He had never heard it from the noble lords. It might be their determination; but, until he had it from their own lips, he could not believe it. The last point was the state of Ireland. With respect to the disallowance of the claims of a large portion of his majesty's subjects,—on this some difficulty arose. It was less easy to define the limit of the objects which the noble lords might have in contemplation. The difference between them and administration was more wide than on the other points. The noble lords observed in their letter, "We are firmly persuaded of the necessity of a total change in the present system of that country, and of the immediate repeal of those civil disabilities under which so large a portion of his Majesty's subjects still labour, on account of their religious opinions. To recommend to parliament this repeal, is the first advice which it would be our duty to offer to his Royal Highness." In this part, more than any other, the general interpretation seemed to be warranted by the construction of the words. The view he entertained of this subject was certainly different. His idea of the most suitable proceeding in bringing about this great measure of redemption, was, that the proposal of consideration should come from administration,—that the House should then sanction a resolution for taking the question into consideration at a future time,—and, finally, 49 that every thing relating to the management and detail of the question, should be left to the executive government, by whom a specific plan should be laid before the legislature. By this means, all the grace of originating the measure would attach to the crown, to which, in truth, it ought to belong. It would pledge parliament to nothing but the mere consideration of the question, and leave the arrangement and detail where it should be left, with the executive government; and, whatever was proposed by them, parliament, in the course of the next session, might reject or adopt. But still in the letter of the noble lords there certainly was nothing to give the idea, that they would at once recommend the total abolition of Catholic restraints, without delay, or regularity, or consideration. He would not deny, that the words might bear such an interpretation; but from their former declarations,—from every former means of expressing their sentiments, it might be not unjustly conceived, that they would proceed in this momentous affair, with all the necessary prudence; that they would suffer a certain period to elapse before the granting of full remission; and that they would grant nothing without providing for the security of the existing establishments. This was the fair construction of the policy which they were likely to adopt; and if this construction were justified by what their lordships might hear in the course of the debate, was it not to be desired that every strength that the country was capable of affording, should be applied to the purposes of conducting it through the difficulties of its present situation? Was it not most desirable, that this country, and what remained of independent Europe, should be gratified by seeing an administration combined of all the wisdom, experience, and authority that was to be found among us, formed to preserve domestic tranquillity, and to command the respect of foreign powers? He might be thought a great ignoramus in politics, to expect that no opposition would be offered to a motion which did not proceed from administration. He deprecated being overpowered by the eloquence of noble lords on the side of ministers: his motion was certainly not one which proceeded from them; but it was consistent with the principles of the constitution, and conformable to its practice in the best periods of our history, and therefore, unusual as the hope was in modern times, he 50 hoped they would suffer it to go to the Prince Regent, and let his consideration do the rest. He trusted that there was now no man who would call the administration, as it stood on the 13th of February, an administration upon a sufficient basis. After the proposition which had been made at that period, he believed that there was not a single person who would stand up in his place and maintain that it was then a sufficient administration: and if not sufficient then, what was it now, when the great talents and great weight of the noble marquis (Wellesley) had been withdrawn from the government? The only topic on which he could anticipate objection was, that as his motion touched upon ministers, it was to be considered as an opposition motion. For the honour of truth, and in the name of the best interests of the country, he deprecated this consideration. It was not an opposition motion. It had arisen with himself, and without any communication to the noble lords who had been alluded to. It bore no hostility to administration, for many of whose members he felt the most perfect respect, and he denied their right to impute party or factious motives to him. Did they mean to impute them to his Royal Highness the Prince Regent, when on the 13th of February he expressed a wish for an administration differently constituted? If they did, how could they, as men of honour, retain their situations? And if they did not, what right had they to attribute such motives to him, for expressing the same desire now, which his royal highness had formerly done? What had happened, since the 13th of February, to cause a change of opinion? What had been gained, and what had been lost? Was there anything in that loss or in that gain, which rendered unnecessary now the alteration proposed at that time? The motion was founded on the deep sense he entertained of the alarming evils which threatened the safety of the nation—which were every day more and more developing themselves—and the imperative necessity of obtaining an efficient administration capable of averting them. He framed the motion, neither for nor against any set of men, party, or faction, whatever; he made it for the sake of the country at large, and, in their name, he entreated for it a favourable reception. His lordship then moved—
§ "That an humble Address be presented to his royal highness the Prince Regent, 51 to assure his Royal Highness, that whilst we most deeply deplore the unhappy continuance of his Majesty's indisposition, we entirely rely upon his Royal Highness's wisdom and princely virtues fur the vigorous and beneficent exercise of those unrestricted powers, with which he is now invested; and that his Royal Highness may depend upon our affectionate attachment, and our constant and zealous support in all his measures, for the maintenance of the honour of the nation abroad, and of its happiness and tranquility as home. Humbly to represent to his Royal Highness, that for the attainment of these objects, it appears to us to be essential, that the administration to which his Royal Highness may be graciously pleased to commit the management of his affairs, should be so composed as to unite, as far as possible, the confidence and good will of all classes of his Majesty's subjects.
§ "That in the present state of Ireland, it is, in our opinion, impossible that such general confidence and good will should be enjoyed by any administration, the characteristic principle of whose domestic policy, as well as the bond of whose connection in office, is the determination not only not to recommend, but to resist a fair and dispassionate consideration of those civil disabilities under which his Majesty's Roman Catholic subjects in that part of the united kingdom still labour, and of which they complain as most grievous and oppressive.
§ "That we therefore humbly express our anxious hope, that his Royal Highness may yet be enabled to form an administration, which, by conciliating the affections of all descriptions of the community, may most effectually call forth the entire resources of the united kingdom, and may afford to his Royal Highness additional means of conducting to a successful termination a war, in which are involved the safety, honour, and prosperity of this country."
said, he had heard the speech and motion of the noble lord with great regret, and he hoped and trusted their lordships would pause before they entertained the question, for, notwithstanding the caution and perfect forbearance exercised by the noble lord, this motion did impute some blame to an illustrious personage at the head of the executive government. There was something peculiar in the whole proceeding. He believed it was the general usage of that 52 House to have some distinct knowledge of the subject which was introduced before them as the ground of a specific motion, some distinct document on which to discuss it, and, under this impression, he would be of opinion, that their lordships would be justified in giving a decided negative to the motion just submitted to them, if he did not think that it would be more respectful to his Royal Highness and to the noble lord to meet it by the constitution of an amendment. He repeated, that it appeared to him, that some degree of blame was imputed to the Prince Regent for the manner in which he had conducted himself, and the line of con duct which he had adopted———
The Earl of Lauderdale
rose to order.—He had heard the commencement of the noble viscount's speech with great pain, and must interrupt him. It was highly irregular in any noble lord to make any personal allusion to the personage at the head of the executive government of the country. Such a line of argument was perfectly disorderly, and he had even felt great pain in listening to the speech of the noble lord who had spoken first in the debate, although he had not interrupted him, because that noble lord had not mingled the subject with the matter of his speech after the commencement. But here was an allegation, that direct blame was attributed to the head of the government. He had never heard a grosser infringement of order, nor any thing more likely to influence their deliberations.
The Earl of Liverpool
spoke to order. His noble friend had not charged any one with imputing blame to the Prince Regent. He had said, that the motion involved it,—that it was the natural inference,—and he had a right to make the observation to that extent. But what was the motion itself? Was it not founded upon a private letter? Was it not calling upon their lordships to debate upon a private paper?
§ Earl Grey
declared that he was speaking to the question of order. No point could stand upon more clear constitutional ground, than that the name of the sovereign should not be used to influence the debate in that House but if it was to 53 be alleged on the other hand that the act of the sovereign could not be questioned: in that House, although acting, as must always be presumed, by the advice of responsible advisers, there was an end of all freedom of debate. Had he understood any improper allusion or enquiry to have been made by his noble friend, he should have thought it his duty to interrupt him; but his noble friend had taken no such course. He had said, that he only looked to the responsible advisers of the crown, and in so doing he had followed the line of his duty. But not so the noble lord who followed him—he saw with pain the course he had taken, and hoped that he would have pursued a more parliamentary line of argument; but not having done so, he thought their lordships could not, with propriety, admit such language to be made use of. The question before their lordships was one which was distinctly in the cognizance of parliament, and which had been treated of by parliament in the best of times; and was neither more nor less than an expression of the sentiments of that House upon the inefficiency of the existing administration, to act beneficially for his royal highness the Prince Regent, or for the country; but upon the principles now introduced by the noble viscount, what was done by the sovereign only through the counsel of his responsible advisers, could never be arraigned, nor would the House ever have the power to call ministers to account for their proceedings. The noble earl (Liverpool) had complained that no documents were before the House on which to found a motion; but it was not necessary that there should. He did not understand the nature of such a necessity. The notoriety of the letters, and the general complexion of the administration, formed a sufficient ground for a motion; and he hoped their lordships would proceed uninterruptedly in the discussion, on the sound principles of parliamentary investigation.
§ Lord Boringdon
defied any noble lord in the House to mention a single word which fell from him, that tended in the remotest degree, directly or indirectly, to impute the slightest possible blame to, or to convey the most distant reflection on his royal highness the Prince Regent.
The Lord Chancellor
, long as he had sat in that House, never felt more pain than in the course of this discussion; but hoped that, though it was likely he might trouble their lordships again, they would allow 54 him to implore their attention for a few moments upon the subject of order. When by the indisposition of the sovereign, the executive authority was suspended, the estates of the realm had invested the, Prince Regent with the power to exercise the functions of the state. From that moment, he should have thought, that the name of his Royal Highness would be mentioned in that House with the same respect as that of his royal father. But when on a former evening, he saw a noble lord stand up in his place, with a newspaper in his hand, proceed to ask questions of a minister, about a private letter written by his royal master, he confessed his astonishment at what he conceived to be a most novel and unprecedented proceeding.
The Marquis of Douglas
rose to call the noble and learned lord to order. The observations of the noble and learned lord were foreign to the subject, and appeared more like a speech than a decision on a point of order. If the noble and learned lord meant to make a speech on the question, he appealed to their lordships whether he was entitled to proceed at present?
The Lord Chancellor
resumed, and contended that he was referring to a material question of order, with reference to this debate. He again reprobated the production of a newspaper for the purpose of asking, whether an article in it was a letter from the Prince Regent, and said, that if any confidential servant of his Royal Highness had given an answer to such a question, he would never again have entered the same room with that person for the purposes of confidential advice.
spoke to order, and arraigned the conduct of the noble and learned lord, in thus referring to a circumstance which had taken place a week ago and which had no connection with the question of order. It was at the same time most unconstitutional to attempt to influence the debate by the use of the name of the Prince Regent.
The Lord Chancellor
said he had been misunderstood, and begged to explain his meaning. He did not deny that any peer in that House had a right to make any motion he thought proper, with respect to the conduct of any administration; but what he meant to say was this, that he never would act so unbecoming the person placed on that woolsack, as to permit such language as he sometimes heard—for he was bold to assert, in the face of all the noble lords present that he had never wit- 55 nessed in the course of thirty years parliamentary experience, any thing so monstrous and disorderly as the production of a newspaper in that House. [Here his lordship was interrupted by loud and repeated cries of Order!]
The Marquis of Lansdowne
never heard any thing so disorderly as the language made use of by the noble lord on the woolsack. After the observations of the noble mover, he did not expect such animadversions as had a direct reference to a subject already disposed of. It was the duly of every noble lord to insist on a strict adherence to the rules of the House.
The Lord Chancellor
repeated, that he should always object to any observation being made in that House having a reference to his royal highness the Prince Regent, which, in the strict course of parliamentary proceeding, ought not to be applied to the King himself, whose representative he was, and he should certainly always protest against the production of a newspaper, or part of a newspaper pasted on any other paper, into that House in the course of a debate—(Cries of Order, order! Hear, hear!)
§ Lord Boringdon
repeated his statement, that he considered the act of the Prince Regent as the act of a responsible adviser.
was anxious to be understood as not at all intending to bring the person of the Prince Regent into the debate. He had merely conceived the spirit of the motion to turn that way, and there was nothing which he would more deprecate. The Address proposed by the noble lord did certainly impute blame to the ministers of the Regent, for which there appeared not to be the slightest foundation. He looked to their proceedings, which must be, after all, the great standard of their qualifications for the situation which they held; and he must acknowledge, that for men so incapable as they were represented, they had done some very peculiar and very fortunate things. His Majesty's arms had been eminently successful under the administration of the present ministers, during the time that the Prince Regent had been at the head of the government. During that time the country had to boast the conquest of the islands of Mauritius and of Java, the total expulsion of Massena and the French from Portugal, the repulse of the enemy at Tarifa, and lastly, the capture of Ciudad Rodrigo. Ministers, under whom 56 the arms of the country had been so successful, ought still to be required to guide the vessel of the slate. He did not conceive those successes to be the effects of chance, but of the energetic policy of ministers. He believed that the country was of the same opinion, and did not wish for any change of administration at present. Such being his sentiments, he conceived that an Amendment should be made in the Address proposed, viz. to leave out all the would after the words," His Majesty's indisposition," for the purpose of inserting the following:
" That we beg leave to express our most grateful thanks to his royal highness the Prince Regent, for the wisdom and prudence with which he has exercised in hit Majesty's name, and on his Majesty's behalf, the royal authority in these realms. To assure his Royal Highness that we have observed during this period with the greatest satisfaction the uniform success that has attended his Majesty's arms, in so many and such important operations; and the beneficial consequences that have resulted from the aid and assistance afforded by his Royal Highness to our allies. That we rely with the utmost confidence on his Royal Highness's constant and earnest endeavours to promote by every means in his power the honour and welfare of the country, and to provide effectually for its security and prosperity."
The Earl of Darnley
expressed his own and the country's acknowledgments to the noble lord who had brought this important subject under the attention of the House. In expressing his decided opposition to the amendment suggested, he should not by any means feel himself shackled by the assertion, that it was disorderly to allude to publications in the news-papers of the day. Any peer of the realm had a distinct and indisputable right, even without the statement of a single ground, but the notoriety of existing facts, to submit any proposition he deemed expedient, more especially at this most critical period, surrounded as the nation was with dangers, some of which were of our own creation. He would not detain the House by impressing upon them a due estimation of the talents and means of the enemy with whom we were contending, or the near prospect of a war with the united States, into which we were about to be plunged by the destructive counsels of the present ministers of the Prince. He would not dwell upon the alarming upon the alarming insur- 57 rections in our manufacturing counties, or upon the scarcity of provisions by which the people were threatened. They were matters of minor importance compared with that subject before which all others sunk into insignificance, he meant the Catholic claims. Here we saw one-fourth of the population of the empire in a state of neutrality, (to say the least of it) who might be united heart and hand against the common enemy. Under such circumstances, was it to be tolerated, that a noble lord should be interrogated upon what specific foundation he rested a motion which had for its object to interpose a shield between Great Britain and her destruction? The noble viscount (Grimston) had violated the most acknowledged principle of debate, and with no other view than improperly to influence the discussion, had introduced the name of the sovereign (for the Regent to all intents was no less,) telling the House that it was in opposition to his wishes. He did not intend to throw any imputation on the sacred character of the Regent, from whom, for a long series of years, he had received the most gracious attention; but thus much he would assert, that whoever advised his Royal Highness to sign the letter transmitted intermediately to his noble friends, recommended an act, the baneful consequences of which had hitherto been very partially experienced. The noble viscount had entered upon a very wide head of argument, but had anxiously avoided the most dangerous part of his ground, the question of Catholic Emancipation, for he well knew (and indeed who did not know?) that the person now at the head of government had risen, had stood, and had expressed his determination to stand, upon a system of intolerance; and that those who acted with him must be guided by similar views. If then the welfare of the nation depended upon concession to the Catholics, (which few were bold enough deliberately to deny,) was not this a sufficient motive for acceding to the address proposed? With regard to the Letter of the Prince Regent, it was impossible in discussing this subject, not to advert to it. He wished to be as perfectly respectful in his language as he was in his feelings, but if that letter meant anything, it meant this—
The Earl of Liverpool
interrupted the noble lord by rising to speak to order. He wished, he said, to prevent the noble earl from making further progress on a 58 subject which he thought was generally admitted to be irregular. The letter alluded to was not a document before the House. If it were an act of state, it was not regularly brought before the House so as to entitle any peer to comment upon it. It merely bore upon the face of it the character of a private communication, of which no notice could be taken. If it were necessary to the motion of the noble lord, it ought to have been moved for in the customary mode.
said, that he wished the noble earl had condescended to state how such an allusion was disorderly, or what order of the House it violated. It was very easy for any noble lord to get up and say, "this is not in order, or that is not in order," but he thought it was necessary for them to do something more, and shew what order of the House was violated That it was disorderly to introduce the name of the sovereign in a manner to influence the decision of the House, was a thing which every body knew; but how it was disorderly to allude to any paper, merely because it was not a document already before the House, was a point which he wished the noble earl to explain. If he meant to say, that any of the standing Orders of the House was violated by so doing, he wished that he would have that Order read which he said was violated. As to the noble earl's supposition, that it was disorderly for a noble lord in his speech to allude to any matter of general notoriety, or to any paper that was not absolutely made a document by having been regularly laid upon the table of the House, he believed that such an idea was perfectly novel. If this were to be the case, a noble lord would not be allowed in future even to make a quotation from the classic authors. If he were to attempt it, he would be immediately called to order by some of his Majesty's ministers, who would exclaim," What do we know of the classics, were they ever laid upon the table of the House?" No more quotations must ever be made from Virgil, or from Horace; or the noble peer who ventured such quotation would be told, that Virgil and Horace were no regular documents,—that they were not state papers, and that it was unparliamentary to quote from them. He wished that the noble earl would point out what order of the House had been violated in the allusion of which he complained.
§ Lord Mulgrave
maintanied, that the ob- 59 jection of his noble friend, was to the introduction of the name of the person exercising the sovereign authority. The other side of the House assumed a great deal too much when they asserted, that the letter published had been signed by the Regent, since there was no proof of the fact; at present it appeared only to be a private letter, which had been published in the newspapers. If the subject were pressed he should take the sense of the House upon it
§ Earl Grey
requested that the noble lord who spoke last, if he really meant to take the opinion of the House, would state accurately and clearly what the proposition was. If it were upon the point whether or not the name of the Regent should be introduced into debate, undoubtedly he should vote with the noble lord without a moment's hesitation; but if the question were, whether the letter which had appeared in the public prints, bearing the signature of the Regent, could with a view to support a motion, or to illustrate an argument, be quoted in debate, he should vote against the noble lord with as little hesitation. The objection made by the noble lords opposite was differently stated by each of them; and indeed it seemed to arise from an utter confusion of ideas upon one of the most plain and simple principles. The introduction of the name of the Regent, and the reading of his letter were matters totally distinct, excepting in the opinions of the opposite side of the House. The practice of every day shewed, that his noble friend (lord Darnley) was perfectly in order. How many papers were constantly alluded to and made the subject of discussion in that House, which never were, and some of which never could be made documents, in the manner which the noble earl had mentioned? At different times, when the House had been called upon to vote their thanks to lord Wellington, (and he would take this occasion of saying, that he believed no noble lord felt more strongly than he did, the great merit of that gallant and most distinguished general,) how frequently did ministers themselves detail to the House the dispatches of lord Wellington, which were certainly not documents in the sense that the noble earl now wished to understand the papers that were to be alluded to in debate; and yet, had any objection ever been made to this as disorderly and unparliamentary? How often had the Berlin and Milan decrees been alluded to in that House, and been the principal topic in long discus- 60 sions; and yet the Berlin and Milan decrees never were, and indeed could not have been laid on the table of that House, so as to make them such documents as the noble earl required. But this was said to be a private letter. What then? Did the noble earl mean to say, that even a private letter, if it were a matter of general notoriety, and of great importance to the public, could not be alluded to in that House? Supposing that the motion had been different, and that, instead of the Address which his noble friend had moved, his motion had been for the production of this letter, could it be contended for, on any, principle of common sense, that it was un-parliamentary to state the substance of a letter, the production of which any noble lord thought proper to move for? If the noble lord really wished to take the opinion of the House on this point of order, he hoped that he would put it in some shape in which it might be discussed.
§ Lord Mulgrave
said, that he well remembered the proceedings of 1807, the effect of which seemed calculated to throw a scandal on the sovereign himself. The question then was, whether a certain pledge required from ministers by his Majesty, was constitutional or unconstitutional? The recurrence of that scandal he would use his utmost exertions to prevent. The course be should pursue, if the subject were pressed to a vote, would be first to have it decided whether the name of the Regent should be introduced into a discussion. Upon this there could be no dispute, and the next enquiry would be, whether it were regular to read in debate a letter from a newspaper with the signature of the Regent (which might be a forgery,) and upon which it had not been ascertained whether ministers had given any advice to the personage whose name it purported to bear.
§ Earl Grey
remarked, that the precedent of 1807, just cited, was a most unfortunate one for the noble lord, inasmuch as in that case had been done exactly what the noble lord was this night contending against. If, indeed, the noble lord meant to say, that the publication of cabinet ministers was a scandal, it would be for the friends of the noble lord to justify their conduct in this instance.
The Earl of Darnley
resumed, and maintained that if he so pleased he could, with perfect regularity, read not only a part, but the whole of the newspaper to the House. He was not surprized at the fre- 61 quent interruptions that had occurred, since it was obviously the design of ministers, if possible, by a side wind, to dispose of this question. God forbid that he should deny the sound principle of the constitution, that the crown could do no wrong; but if the letter were signed by the Regent, some person or other was answerable for its contents. Whatever exultation might be shewn by ministers, at their majorities in either House of Parliament, they knew that their existence depended upon a breath—upon advisers not avowed. It rested upon persons not officially known to the House; upon persons who, for their own selfish objects would poison the royal ear, and who, if allowed to remain, would prove the destruction either of the Prince or of the country. If the Regent had been advised by such persons (as there was little doubt he had), he trusted that the warning now given would not be unavailing. The only construction he could put upon the letter was, that the Prince Regent had been advised by somebody Or other to continue under him the same ministers who had acted under his royal father. What did this imply?—Destruction to the hopes of the Catholics—Destruction to the country. As to the answer returned by his noble friends, it had been certainly misunderstood; for nothing was more unfounded than to say, that they there expressed a determination to form an administration of themselves and their particular friends exclusively, He could not help wishing, however, that they had guarded themselves with more precision against a misrepresentation which had been generally circulated, viz. that if they came into office, they would abandon the interests of our allies on the peninsula. Whatever doubt might have been originally entertained as to the propriety of engaging our armies in Spain and Portugal, now we had gone so far, it was impossible that Great Britain could with honour recede. His lordship concluded by re-asserting his right to allude to, and to quote from, the letter of the Regent, as published in the daily prints.
could contemplate the Address of the noble lord in no other light, than as an attempt to exclude the present servants of the Regent from the offices they held so much to the advantage and satisfaction of the country. In the letter of the Regent, a sincere desire was expressed to procure a union of all parties; but the gracious offer was peremptorily 62 refused, and there appeared to be no opening left for the formation of an administration on a broad and liberal basis. As the motion suggested was founded on an instrument that could not be properly discussed, and as the amendment suggested was only intended to negative the proposition, he should give the latter his support, although there were parts of that amendment to which he certainly objected.
§ Lord Erskine
said, that if the subject before the House were dispassionately considered, it was impossible that any difficulty or breach of order could attend the discussion. Although ministers, upon a former day, had refused to acknowledge the authenticity of the Letter in question, the noble earl behind him had acknowledged having received it, and had admitted the authenticity of the answer, as printed in every newspaper of the day, which he had sent to the Letter so received by him. It was, therefore, trifling with the subject to deny the fact, and absurd in the extreme to connect the comment on it with any breach of rule and order. It must be taken by the House to be the Letter of the Prince's responsible advisers, and, in fact, it bore the intrinsic mark of having proceeded from them.—It was the acknowledgment of their weakness to stand alone, and the use of the Prince's authority to strengthen them whilst they stood on the vantage ground of office. But giving the Letter the most liberal interpretation, it was an invitation to lords Grenville and Grey to unite with them in forming an administration.
On the subject of order, he was sure he should not be interrupted by the noble lord on the woolsack for saying how happy he should have been, and ever should be, to manifest his attachment to the Prince, as the Lord Chancellor had frequently with great feeling expressed his attachment to the King. Lord Erskine said, he stood in a relation to the Prince which belonged to few others in the House. He had been in his service for thirty years, and had received many marks of kindness and confidence from his Royal Highness, and as he considered steadiness in friendship and attachment to be the source of all honour and usefulness, public and private, he was anxious to explain why it was not in his power, consistently with the attachment he must ever retain for the Prince, nor with his duty to his country, to give the smallest support to the present I administration.
63 The Letter pointed to an union with those now in office, whilst they differed in all the points which vitally affected the state. Now, notwithstanding all that had been said and written against coalitions, no such union had ever taken place as had lately been rejected. The union between Mr. Fox and lord North was of an entirely different character. The grand political difference between these statesmen, and their supporters in Parliament, was on the subject of America, before and during the continuance of the fatal war of separation. Mr. Fox contended for a system of conciliation—Lord North for a system of coercion. And surely it was a dreadful consideration, that Mr. Burke's immortal orations were made to empty benches; and great majorities of both Houses then voted propositions, which a man would now be consigned to Bedlam for supporting. Whilst such a difference prevailed, would it have been possible to have formed a union between lord North and Mr. Fox?—No: it never was even proposed until the administration was dissolved, and it was not until the act of American independence, when every question concerning our policy towards that country was at an end, that the union took place. Mr. Fox then thought that he owed it to the country to use the only means which were then practicable to give effect and influence to his principles and opinions—but this union produced great jealousy and suspicion in the minds of many, and that impression on the public mind ought to inspire the greatest caution in public men on the subject of such unions. No united government could become strong, however pure and upright the principle of union, if suspected by the people. Without public confidence, no government could serve the country with advantage.
The union with Mr. Fox and lord Grenville, which formed the late administration, was of the same character. It was utterly impracticable, and never thought of whilst the war waging with revolutionary France was on foot. How could a cabinet have been formed if one half had been deprecating the war with France, and the other half inflaming the contest; if one half had been passing severe laws to repress sedition, whilst the ether half were for repressing it by giving to the people full contentment, by the blessings of our free constitution? All these differences were at an end before the union took place which formed the late 64 administration—France had become a gigantic monarchy aiming at universal dominion, and no difference could exist any longer upon the principles which ought to govern propositions of peace, and accordingly no cabinet was ever more united on that and all other subjects. But if a cabinet were now to be formed by the proposed union, like plus and minus in equations, they would destroy one another—one half determined upon a perpetual exclusion of the Catholics, the other half convinced that to refuse their claims was to dissolve the empire. On the subject of America one half resolved to keep op the Orders in Council, the other half convinced that, putting the objections of America out of the question, their continuance was ruinous to our commerce and manufactures. Who was right or wrong on these subjects was nothing, whilst differences so irreconcilable and so vital in their consequences existed.
The noble lord said, that, for his own part, he had the most decided opinion on both these differences. He thought that the state was unsafe whilst so vast a portion of the empire as the Irish Catholics were discontented, and the church not safe whilst disabilities on the score of religion increased the multitude, and affected the temper of those who dissented from the establishment.
He always reprobated popery, but its period was come, and even with regard to the Catholic religion, the question was not, whether it was to be encouraged, but how we were to deal with four millions of subjects professing it. The question, as Mr. Burke well expressed it on a different subject, was, not whether the thing deserved praise or blame? What, in the name of God, were we to do with it? Could we man or victual our fleets without Ireland? Could we, in short, be a nation, if a separation were the consequence of our obstinate refusal to consider these Petitions? Lord E. said he considered it to be tyranny to keep up those distinctions, when the cause of enacting them was at an end.—The archbishop of Canterbury, on the debate upon the Petition of the dissenters, had given more advantage to the church than it had ever received from any prelate since these laws existed. After supporting, as became him, the establishment of the church, he said, that the Bible was not the gift of God to a nation for the exposition of a government, but the universal gift of God to his 65 creatures for their consolation and happiness, to be construed, by every individual, according to the dictates of his understanding and conscience.—How then could disabilities be maintained because the Catholics construed the Bible, however erroneously, according to their consciences, and as their fathers for ages had construed them? But it was said that penalties had ceased, and that full rights were only not conceded; but that was a palpable fallacy. All subjects had equal rights, unless disabled by dangerous misconduct; and therefore to refuse full rights to the Catholics, was disabling them only for enjoying this admitted gift of God to his, creatures, and was tyranny, when the danger which suggested the system was at an end.
He was far from condemning the laws regarding the Catholics in their origin—Had he lived in former days, he must as a Protestant have sanctioned them, if they were necessary for the security, perhaps for the very existence of a Protestant establishment, and they might have been so; but we had long since decided, that penal laws in restraint of the Catholic religion were no longer necessary, since we had repealed all of them. But still, undoubtedly, another great question remained after full toleration had been granted; viz. Whether Catholics should be excluded from the establishment? Religious toleration was one thing, and civil establishment another; and there might be very honest differences amongst the most enlightened men on such a subject. But this question also we had already decided, by consenting to their being established. They were already by consent of parliament members of the civil state—They could be grand, and petty jurors; they could be corporators and magistrates; they could be barristers and attornies, and officers in the army and navy, and even the elective franchise was conceded; they being excluded only from some of the highest offices civil and military, and from seats in parliament; By these concessions we had unquestionably given judgment against the objections now urged. The boundary between toleration and establishment had been completely broken down and obliterated; establishment was an entire thing; and there was no longer any principle of exclusion remaining. Before the Union he admitted that there was a solid objection against their sitting in parliament, but for that 66 very reason, devoted as he had always been to Mr. Fox, he never would vote against it, as he thought it removed the only bar to a complete system of harmony between the two countries. With regard to America, the difference was not less vital—Our policy regarding her ought to be distantly prospective: We should look to her at the distance of fifty years, or even of a century hence; the policy of individuals from our frail condition was very bounded; the laws would not even allow us to contemplate beyond a generation, but nations were immortal, and their governments should look far before them. He had always thought, that the only danger which could possibly assail England was, in the extreme difficulty of keeping this mutable world in its present state, so as to leave this island at the top of the wheel—Our whole policy therefore should be directed to keep her so; whereas our ministers had taken a directly contrary course. They had rapidly changed, and were still changing the face of the earth, and bringing up rival nations in hot-beds, ages before their periods of maturity, to weigh in the scale of manufactures and arts against us.—Surely, instead of quarrelling with America as we had formerly fatally done for two-pence upon tea, instead of a paper system of odious and impracticable monopoly, we ought to encourage by all possible means the prosperity of the United States; we ought to rejoice to see her rapid population keeping our looms constantly at work, not only to clothe her encreasing numbers, but through the most obvious communications springing out of a connection so natural, to spread our manufactures over the whole new world. Had our ministers looked besides to the interruption of our commerce even with our own settlements in the event of war with the United Slates? He had been stationed in the American seas, and knew the difficulty of our only path to Europe in heavy laden ships, if North America was a hostile coast. But nevertheless, the most positive declamation had been lately announced by government, of persevering in a system which he (lord E.) had over and over again reprobated; particularly when he submitted to their lordships resolutions against the Orders in Council, as not only inconsistent with sound policy, but as manifestly contrary to public law; and one might as well therefore invite a fish to come out of the channel and to roost with rooks upon an elm tree, as to ask him to 67 support such a system and its authors.—He meant no personal disrespect to the noble lords opposite, or to their other colleagues, as his own conduct had always been the result of his opinions, he was ready to give them equal credit for sincerity; but good intention was nothing, when the interests of our country were fatally misunderstood. The noble lord said, he deeply lamented the present inauspicious state of things; bat as there was no unmixed good in human affairs, so neither was there evil unmixed with good, and great advantage might spring out of the present conjuncture. It would furnish an unanswerable, and he hoped a final refutation, of one of the falsest, and most dangerous opinions which could be propagated amongst the lower orders of the people, viz. that these superiors were all alike—all equally corrupt—all looking only to office by the sacrifice of all principle.—Upon the present occasion not one public man had abandoned his pledges to the country, by departing from opinions delivered in parliament, and the public therefore ought to be convinced, that what was too frequently and invidiously stigmatised as party, might be better described as an honourable and useful union of men of great talents, and great fortunes, and influence, esteeming one another in private life, and publicly pledged to their country and each other by similar principles of government.—He was persuaded that a firm phalanx of such men who had acquired public estimation, and who could only hope to preserve it by attending to the interests of the people, was one of the greatest securities of the British constitution.
§ The Earl of Harrowby
had really hoped that the noble mover would have withdrawn his address immediately upon hearing the speech of the noble and learned lord who had just sat down; since the House were now told, that to form a broad and united administration was quite impossible at present. Had they not heard from the noble and learned lord, that there was no way of forming an administration which could include the present opposition, except by sweeping away the present administration, and that it was as impossible for him to coalesce with the existing ministry, as for a fish to come out of the channel and live on dry land? Upon what did the noble lord ground his motion?—He stated the situation of the country, to be now hopeless—and why? 68 Because it was reported that in another House, a certain member of the administration wished that the college of Maynooth had never existed. Could any thing be more futile than this statement? The next ground was the notice which had been given by a right hon. friend of his in another place, of a call of the House, when the Catholic petition was to be presented to the House of Commons.—Was this unprecedented or extraordinary?—Was it not important that a question of, such acknowledged magnitude should be considered in as full a House as possible? And as to the discourses of this or that clergyman on the subject of Popery, on which the noble lord laid so much stress, as indicating a wish to raise an outcry on the subject, there was surely nothing novel in that; as ever since the reformation, the clergy had been in the constant practice of discussing such topics. Then came the state of the press. Was that a reason that the noble lords should adopt such an Address as the present? When was there a period in this country that abuses of the press did not exist? He never recollected a period when much abuse was not conveyed through the medium of the press against those in high stations. Was it because the press was audacious enough to bid defiance to all decency that the Prince Regent should be called upon to change his ministers? If it was true that a part of the press was so audacious, he was afraid there was but one way of putting a stop to it, and that was to bring in the party to power with which that press was connected, and then no doubt it would be silenced. Such a strong measure as that proposed, had never been resorted to but on extraordinary emergencies. When such a measure was had recourse to in 1783, and in 1784, the occasions seemed to call for it: but in the present instance, the secession of one member of the administration was the only plausible reason given for its adoption. As to the arguments adduced in support of the Address by the noble and learned lord (Erskine), he would not attempt to follow him through them; but he would ask that noble and learned lord if he was a friend to the Catholic claims when he was in the cabinet? It was now counted tyranny to resist the Catholic claims. If any noble member thought so, he was certainly right in always agitating that question. But if it was tyranny not I to do away the disabilities under which 69 Catholics laboured, every other system of disability was also tyranny; and it was quite tyrannical to require a member of the House of Commons to be obliged to submit to the law of qualification. He defied the noble lords to say, that the administration did not possess the confidence of the country. If it was indeed so notoriously criminal, and so completely unfit for carrying on the affairs of the country with success, as was so decidedly asserted by the noble lords opposite, then it would be right to address the Prince Regent for its dismissal; but as the contrary was evidently the fact, there was no possible pretext for the motion.
§ Lord Erskine
in explanation said, that he considered a real change of opinions as no accusation, but he had not changed his opinions—he would have approved of all that had been proposed by the late cabinet, and much more than from circumstances they could venture to propose, had he not thought that from the prejudices of the King it would dissolve the administration. (Hear, hear, hear, from the other side of the House!) Lord E. said he was glad to be so cheered, he had laid the trap for it, as it marked most strikingly how general a sensation it was, indiscriminately to impute to public men the love of office and station as the ruling principle of their conduct, which furnished a sound, but thank God, at present an unnecessary caution against being too eager in forming administrations, and placed the conduct of his two noble friends in the very light in which he wished it to be viewed.
The Lord Chancellor
, in allusion to what had just fallen from his noble and learned friend, begged leave to remind him, that in the year or two subsequent to 1807, the same obstacle continued to exist; and yet he voted in those years for emancipation. He did not mean to say, that his noble and learned friend had acted wrong in so voting, if he, from conviction, had changed his mind. If he himself could be satisfied that the opinions he now held were weak and foolish opinions, he should act as his noble and learned friend did; but then he must be convinced, before he could change his opinions, that the system of conduct adopted in this country since the Revolution, and the principles on which the Revolution was founded, were erroneous. If Catholic emancipation could be proved to him to be for the general benefit of the state, then it should have his vote; but at present he saw nothing but 70 danger in concession. It was on this ground that his resistance to an extension of privileges and power to the Catholics, rested; and, indeed, he was ready to confess, that whoever resisted it on any other grounds, must be an object of detestation. The noble lord who introduced the motion took great pains to persuade the House that it arose solely from his own individual impulse; who doubted that? The noble lord might have given himself very little trouble on that point; it was of much more importance to consider what was his proposition. He wished it might be read, that the contrast between its complimentary professions, and the wish by which it concluded, might be fully apparent to the House. It began by using the most flattering language towards the Prince Regent. He was told in the beginning of it of his wisdom and prudence, and all his other good qualities and qualifications, and then it quarrelled with the only act which the Prince Regent had done since the cessation of the restrictions. The noble lord proposed, certainly, a most desirable object; that was the formation of an administration calculated to conciliate all his Majesty's subjects. Who disagreed with the noble lord on that point? But he also stated that such an object was impossible of attainment from the known principles of the present administration. He wished for a broad-bottomed administration, which, by the bye, was in general the most mischievous of all administrations. (A laugh.) He would assure the noble lords who seemed to feel this allusion, that he did not mean to speak ill-naturedly of them. Some how or other they had been for a long time out of humour with him; he was sorry for it, for he really wished them every happiness, and if he knew of any means whereby he could promote their comfort, he would be always ready to use them. But to return; the noble lord proposed a broad-bottomed—a more extended administration: what did this mean, after he had staled that the members of the present administration were, from principle, so obnoxious to the formation of any such administration? How would the noble lord extend the administration, if he himself and all his colleagues were to be excluded? As to the opinion in which the present administration was held by the public, he believed that the people of this good-natured country were weak and foolish enough to sanction it by their confidence. Good-natured people were 71 always weak. But let the cause be what it might, it so happened, that the confidence of the country was possessed by the administration; and that was certainly no very great reason for addressing the Prince Regent to change it. If the Prince Regent had any power at all inherent in himself, it was that of choosing his servants. What he said in 1807 he would now repeat, and that was, that he did not understand what advisers the sovereign could be supposed constitutionally to have in the act of choosing an administration. After an administration was chosen, then, indeed, there existed responsible advisers; but antecedent to that he did not know where to look for them. How this reasoning applied to one of the letters, he would leave it to the noble lords to judge. The particular mention of that letter, he considered disorderly, notwithstanding what had been said to the contrary. It was argued, that there was no particular standing order against which the mention of it militated, and his noble friend was called upon to produce such an order. He would say in reply, that there existed no standing order by which it was considered unparliamentary to use the king's name for the purpose of influencing the debates of the House; and yet who was there that would contend that the latter was not unparliamentary? If the proposed Address should be adopted, then parliament would be, in fact, doing all it could to destroy responsibility. It would be trenching on one of the dearest prerogatives of the crown; it would be attempting nothing less than to appoint the ministry itself: and besides, its conduct would be the more glaringly unconstitutional, because it brought forward not one act by which its dissatisfaction at the existence of the present administration was marked. It was said in-deed, that the present administration was averse to the consideration of the Catholic petition. Again he would repeat what he had said so often, that the basis of his opinions was the principle of the revolution. The chief principle of that revolution was civil freedom engrafted on religious freedom, on liberal and extensive toleration; but at the same time, all conected with a view to the maintenance of the Protestant national church, and the Protestant succession. Every thing was then done consistent with these objects; and now we were asked to depart from the establishments which were then so wisely and so liberally 72 formed We were asked also to depart from those establishments, without giving any counterpoise to the danger to be apprehended. Securities, indeed, were talked of, and were even paraded in publications, which he would not now allude to, because the noble author of one of them was absent; but when the nature of these securities was asked, who could explain it? Who could inform the House what they were? He confessed that nothing could give him more pleasure than to be convinced that no danger existed from concession to the Catholics. His heart would beat with joy to enter into the consideration of their claims, if any statesman was ready to tell him what securities were to be offered for the protection of our establishments. But when no person came forward with those securities—when the one already proposed was obliged to be abandoned, what could he do but take his stand with the establishments, as settled at the revolution? He had often asked of that great man, whose friendship for him he wished to have recorded on his tomb, as his best encomium, whether he had any specific securities to bring forward, in case the claims of the Catholics should be taken into the consideration of parliament? Although, however, he had pressed this enquiry over and over again, that great person died without being ever able to tell him what securities he thought might be proposed, and what checks adopted. Let the Catholics, then, bring forward their securities, and no person would be more willing than he to enter into the question of their claims; but until that event should come about, he was determined not to consent to a radical change in the constitution, or to adopt any measure which would put its existence to hazard. As to the complaint against the present ministers for their conduct to the States of America, he should not occupy the time of the House in shewing the futility of any such complaint. He believed that the example set by the last administration, in their treatment of America, had been followed by the present; and whatever differences existed, could not, he was assured, be attributed as a fault to either.—He was sure no man could assert, that, in the transactions between the two countries, Britain had been too tenacious. The wording of the Address he repeated was on the principle of exclusion, while it pretended to be on that of the formation of an administration on a 73 broad and liberal basis. If the noble mover could succeed so far as to get rid of the administration he considered so obnoxious, really where would he procure one to answer the purpose he had described? And, unless the noble lord was prepared to open to the House some future plan, and could shew this would be the effect of his motion, there could be no ground for agreeing to it.
§ Earl Grey
declared that if he were to answer the whole political catechism of the noble lords on the other side, or if he were to make a sort of profession of faith, on all the great subjects which had been introduced or alluded to in the present discussion, the task would be not more disproportionate to his own strength than to the patience of the House. Without however going into all those matters at length, before he sat down, he would advert, as well as he could, to most of the points on which he differed from the members of the present administration, well aware that in such a variety of topics, he had little chance of escaping considerable misrepresentation; for he knew from experience, that say what he would, he could not exempt him-self from having in the course of a few days, and frequently in the course of a few hours, sentiments imputed to him directly opposite to those which he actually delivered. Devoid of all expectation therefore of such a nature, he was simply anxious to state to their lordships what the opinions were, which he entertained on the present question. He did not deny that the motion appeared to him substantially intended to produce a change of administration. The noble lord by whom that motion was brought forward, could have had no other object when he made it. It could be understood in no other sense than an application to the Prince Regent, to remove the present ministers from their situations for the reasons there stated, that such a measure could alone conciliate the different parts of this empire, at a period which more than any other required the full exercise of alt the resources of the country. This, it had been said by the noble and learned lord who spoke last, was a strong measure. That it was a strong measure he would not attempt to deny. But he confessed he had heard with much surprize that night, that this measure was unconstitutional; and that to express the sentiments of the House, with respect to the present ministry, was to interfere with the prerogative possessed by the crown of 74 nominating its ministers. It was certainly no part of the duty of the House either to nominate the ministers of the crown, or to point out the method in which they ought to be nominated. But while he allowed this, he must be of opinion, that if sufficient grounds could be shown why a ministry were unfit to fill the situations which they held, there was nothing in parliamentary precedent to prevent the House from making an application to the crown for the removal of those ministers, when it was thought they were unequal to the crisis. This he would contend was a subject within the cognizance of parliament; and to exercise their powers on such an occasion, was not only a legitimate but a laudable object; it was an endeavour to consolidate all the strength and resources of the empire. The question for the consideration of the House then was, whether the present administration, in its quality and principles, presented obstacles to the union of the strength and resources of all parts of the empire. It might safely be said of this administration, that it was formed on the express principle of resistance to the Catholic claims. This was the principle by which the person who was at the head of that administration made his way to power. This was the principle which led him to make use of all the arts of detraction to attain that object. This principle he loudly proclaimed, from the moment at which he had been called from the bar to take a share in political life up to the present instant. It was his boast—it was put by him in the front of the battle—the eternal exclusion of his Roman Catholic fellow-subjects from any share in the constitution. When he had stated, that such was the principles of that person, he had no need to say more to shew that they were the principles of administration. He was the administration. Whither he led, the rest were obliged to follow.—Was he to be told by the noble and learned lord on the woolsack, who had just stated resistance to the Catholics to be a fundamental principle of the Revolution, that that noble and learned lord differed on this subject from the person at the head of the administration? Did the Secretary of State for the Home Department differ from him? He could hardly think that the person who wished from his heart that Maynooth College had never existed, was hostile to the principle of his leader. Perhaps it might be said that the new addition to their strength 75 differed on this point. Of the noble lord he alluded to (lord Castlereagh) he was unwilling to speak in his absence. He could not, however, forbear saying, that it appeared to him the principles of that noble lord were even very much what he himself described Europe to be, "in an unsatisfactory state." Agreeing to the principle of those who advocated the claims of the Catholics, that noble lord could never see a convenient time for the application of that principle, so that he fully coincided in the practical part of the conduct of his coadjutors. Perhaps it would be said, the noble earl opposite differed on this principle. But as the leading members of the cabinet maintained the necessity of exclusion, and the others blindly followed them in their practice he was warranted in stating the present administration to be founded on a principle of resistance to the Catholic Claims. The noble and learned lord had said, he had never heard of any sermons lately preached on this subject. Where the noble lord bad lived he knew not; but he knew that within these few weeks, persons invested with the sacred character of clergymen, forgetting all the principles of that religion which they professed, instead of preaching the doctrines of peace and unity, which it was their duty to preach, had thought proper to endeavour to inspire one part of the community with hostile feelings against their brethren; and of those persons who acted this most unbecoming part, some were supposed to be seriously connected with the persons who composed the present administration. One of them it appeared, from the Gazette, was lately selected to be one of the chaplains to the Prince Regent—Had he not a right therefore to call the existing cabinet a cabinet of intolerance, preventing that union of common interests and affection, so necessary to the country in her present hour of peril? They had heard that night of broad and narrow administrations; and the noble and learned lord on the woolsack had observed, that nothing was so mischievous as a broad-bottomed administration. With this character he was disposed to concur, if the noble lord meant such a broad and liberal basis as should comprehend persons of the most discordant opinions, who for the sake of coalition, must either sacrifice their own sentiments, or carry dissensions into the cabinet. But the present administration was narrowed to complete unanimity; for if report spoke 76 true of the other secessions to the administration, they would be found possessed of exactly the same character, and very suitable additions to an administration founded on a principle of resistance to the Catholic claims. He saw two noble lords on the cross bench (lords Sidmouth and Buckinghamshire) who were publicly designated as the future supporters of administration. He knew not whether any communication had yet been made to them from the ministry. Who were these noble lords? They were the only lords who, in the late debate on the Catholic claims in that House, ventured to assert the principle of eternal exclusion. One of them came forward with the doctrine of the coronation oath, operating as an eternal exclusion against the Catholics, and the other with perfect consistency had proposed measures which united every class of dissenters in one common cause. Now looking at an administration so formed, was it not, he would ask, an administration which must of necessity be obnoxious to a great part of his Majesty's subjects? The noble and learned lord had told them, that nothing would make him so happy as to extend the benefits of the constitution to all classes of the people, in so far as the same could be done without danger to the state; but, that the fundamental principles of the Revolution stood in the way of all further concession. For his part he denied this to be a fundamental principle of the Revolution. He denied that it was the principle of those great men by whom the Revolution was accomplished. The disabilities against the Catholics were not established for the purpose of guarding the national church against those who professed another system of religion, but for the purpose of withstanding political tenets, by which the constitution was endangered. "The noble and learned lord," exclaimed lord Grey, "calls upon us for securities. We ask him for his danger?" The danger consisted not in admitting the Catholics, but in excluding them from the constitution. Already they were possessed of great riches and great political power, and constituted an important part of the strength of the state. By this exclusion they were forced and united into a separate interest. Take away the exclusion and the motives for a separate interest no longer existing, the hostility to the state would also necessarily cease. But what securities were to be proposed? The noble and learned lord 77 had stated that Mr. Pitt knew of none, Mr. Pitt brought forward this very measure of concession to the Catholics, which he considered as necessary to the safety of the slate. Could he propose such a measure, if he thought it would endanger the safety of the slate? But the noble and learned lord had said, that Mr. Pitt had no securities to propose. Then all the conduct of Mr. Pitt was nothing but a pretence; and he did not state the securities because he was unwilling, but because he was unable to do so. The noble and learned lord had spoken in encomiastic terms of the value which he set on Mr. Pitt's friendship, he declared that he wanted no other eulogy on his tomb than that he had been Mr. Pitt's friend; but if this conduct of his to his departed friend was friendship, he would rather, for his part, have that noble and learned lord for his foe, than his friend. Let noble lords put themselves in the situation of the Catholics, and say, what would their feelings be, if they had been treated by the government in the same manner? They had received many concessions, in their very nature such, that they could not stop with them—no philosopher or statesman could think of them but as temporary expedients. The greatest names had deemed ultimate concessions right. Mr. Fox, Mr. Pitt, Mr. Burke, and Mr. Windham, all of them friends to the established church, however much they might differ on other subjects, concurred in this, that conciliation to the Catholics was absolutely necessary. In 1795, when a noble lord (Fitzwilliam) had gone over to Ireland with the power of conceding to the claims of the Catholics, their expectations, thereby excited, were speedily cut short by his sudden recal. He would not enter into a retrospect of the scenes of blood and torture that ensued—scenes even more horrible than those which attended on the French revolution. After this period came the Union, another source of the excitation and disappointment of the hopes of this body. By whose means was that Union obtained? By the support of the Catholics. By a too ready confidence the Catholics of Ireland did then come forward and support that Union which without their assistance could never have been carried. Their disappointment must now be aggravated by the feeling, that if not foolishly duped, their wishes might already have been granted. If the House, like the Catholics, had supported the Union, under the hopes 78 of attaining the cession of their right through the calmer discussions of the United Parliament, what would they think of the government which imposed an everlasting bar against their approaches? They could not wonder if great disturbances were the consequences, and if from affectionate subjects they should come to look on this country with ill-will and hatred. In what respect was the situation of the Catholics now hopeless? He did not wish to name the Prince Regent for the purpose of influencing the debate. He would not state what the feelings and opinions of his Royal Highness might be at the present moment, having only the opinion of his responsible advisers to look to. But he could not help stating, that a very general hope was entertained by the Catholics, that the Prince Regent was favourable to their claims, and that a new æra would by the course of nature arrive when bigotry and oppression should no longer oppose them. That new æra had now arrived; but instead of its being to the Catholics a consummation of their hopes, they saw the whole power of the government embodied against them, under some cursed and baleful influence; and nothing remaining to them but a prospect of perpetual exclusion from the benefits of the constitution. If the House believed the Irish to be what they had ever been represented, a brave, a warm-hearted, a sanguine, a high-spirited people—if they believed them to have contributed largely to the military glory of this empire, the dangerous effects which such a disappointment might produce, would be formidable in the same proportion. We might anticipate dangers greater than any which, this country had yet struggled with. A noble lord (Harrowby) had asked, if it was not mockery and insult to address the Prince to form a combined administration, after the correspondence which had been so much referred to? But in this a noble and learned lord had corrected him, and justly defined that it was not for a broader administration, but for one avoiding the character of the present, and calculated to ensure the affections of the people. It might be as narrow as the present, and as exclusive; but as it would exclude only those dangerous principles which went to disunite and distract the country, it would be preferable to that now in being. Those who were friendly to the Catholics would, of course, be more acceptable to that body. The noble and learned lord had 79 boasted that the present administration possessed the affections of the people of England. Undoubtedly popularity was dear to him; but he had never endeavoured to court popularity by a departure from any one principle of which he approved, whatever obloquy might be the consequence. He supposed the meaning of the noble and learned lord was, that the present administration was supported by the opinion of the majority of the people of England on the Catholic question. Of that he was very much inclined to doubt. He was aware, however, that the person at the head of the government might again employ all kinds of arts to inflame the people with imaginary dangers, aided as he might probably be with all the power of the church. But what would be the consequence of his success? To aggravate the evil and increase the danger—to make the Catholics perceive that it was no longer a set of men whom they had to consider as their enemies, but the people of England and what could be the result but the separation of the two countries?—Who would be able to repair the breaches of an administration powerful in all the means by which empires were hurried on to ruin? He believed, however, that the people of England were, as they had been at a former period, ready to support the measure of Catholic emancipation. That question would once have been carried with as little difficulty as any matter ever proposed to Parliament, but now the cry was raised against it by those who, with equal guilt, had first instilled into the royal mind those scruples of which they afterwards took advantage; for all which a deep and heavy responsibility rested upon their heads.—The noble lord had inquired, if the present administration were displaced, where would they get another? In the Letter subscribed by his noble friend and himself, they had stated, that they could not join with men united together on the principle of Catholic exclusion, and could not come into power without advising to give relief to the Catholics. But might they not unite with such as held similar opinions with them on this point?—When he signed the Letter, he was most sincere in saying, he did not act on personal exclusive principles; for he might perhaps be permitted to say this of himself, that, however much he had mixed in political controversy, he was little subject to political resentments. When an union could be honourable, and 80 advantageous to the nation, he would ever be ready to unite. But character was as much the strength of men as it was that of a nation, and he could conceive nothing more dangerous than to shock the public opinion by an appearance of sacrificing principle for the sake of attaining office and emolument; for himself he disclaimed any such views, or any great desire for place at all. But did the noble lords opposite—they who were the advisers of the Regent on this occasion—who were his ministers before, and had continued to be his ministers since; did they expect, that in consequence of the Regent's Letter his noble friend and himself could have consented to coalesce with them?—Would they venture to deny, that they were consulted on the Letter? If so, it would establish the point, that there was an influence behind the throne, the most dangerous that could exist. Nay, he would put the question in another form, and suppose he and his friends had been in power, and had sent such a Letter to the noble lords opposite, would they have acceded to the offer? He believed they would not. But were there no others with whom they (lord Grey and his friends) could unite? or, if both parties were put out of the question, were there not others to form an administration without them? If the address could be carried, and the Regent could find others of whom he might form a cabinet, holding the same opinions on the Catholic question with himself (lord Grey), they should have his warm support; and on any points in which he might differ from them, his opposition should be reluctant and gentle. He was too much exhausted to go through the remaining topics at any length. On the repeal of the civil disabilities of the Catholics, therefore, he would only briefly state, that he was prepared to define what securities he deemed sufficient en this score to satisfy him.
Adverting to the questions at issue between this country and America, he observed that this important subject had been so ably treated by his noble and learned friend, as in a great measure to relieve him from the necessity of adding any thing further. He would, however, embrace the occasion of saying, that if it was imputed to him that he was disposed to give up one single right, or to abandon any principle connected with the maintenance of our essential maritime interests, the imputation was most false and ground- 81 less. His feelings in support of those interests, would lead him to go as far as any man, although he should still deem it necessary to weigh the true value of those disputed interests, and to guard against making a sacrifice disproportionate to the object to be attained. If once persuaded that the national honour was at stake, or that those rights on which our national independence was founded, were attacked, he should feel no difficulty to act with all the directness, and vigour, and determination, which, under such circumstances, would be indispensible to our safety. But he could never lose sight of that principle which ought to lie at the basis of all national policy, namely, that, as it had been well expressed by Mr. Burke, "as we ought never to go to war for a profitable wrong, so we ought never to go to war for an unprofitable right." If the prosecution of the right were likely to lead to consequences more dangerous and destructive than those anticipated from its relinquishment, it was almost superfluous to say, such a right ought not to be insisted on. He well remembered, that during an opposition carried on with something more than parliamentary virulence and pertinacity, while he had the honour of holding an office in administration, he was often pressed in the other House to assume a different tone, and to act upon what was called a more decisive policy. He had then employed, as an illustration in defence of his own doctrine, the fable of the man who threw cocoa nuts at the monkey in the hopes that the monkey would throw cocoa nuts at him; because he believed that the object of Buonaparté was to embroil us with America, for the furtherance of his own purposes. A new System had, in his opinion unhappily for this country, enabled the enemy to succeed in his incitements; to triumph in his policy, and to make us the instruments of his ambition. Upon the subject of the State of circulation, interesting as it was, and decisive as his views were upon it, did it follow that he held it to be indispensible to recommend immediately the resumption of cash payments by the Bank? It was not to the omission of that particular measure that his principal objections were directed, but to a perseverance in a system not founded upon just principles, and which therefore the longer it continued became the more menacing and calamitous in its operation. His wish was to revert as mach as possible to true prince- 82 ples, and keep the circulating medium within certain bounds. Supposing, then, the Catholic question decided, an impassable line of separation existed between him and the present administration, in the proposition for making Bank-notes a legal tender. With respect to the policy which the circumstances of the present crisis demanded to be maintained in the affairs of the peninsula, he certainly was not prepared to say that it was expedient to recall our troops immediately home; but he certainly did not wish to proceed on that expensive mode of warfare, without having some military authority as to the probable result of it; and he wished, above all, to see the opinion of the illustrious commander of the forces in that country on the subject. No part of national policy was more open to repeated discussion, or more calculated to engender a diversity of opinion, than the most proper mode of carrying on foreign warfare. The first principle in the policy of all wars was to inflict the utmost possible injury on the enemy, at the expence of the least possible injury to ourselves. Such a question, therefore, as that which related to the I continuance of the present contest in the peninsula, depended on a variety of considerations, arising out of recent events and the consequent and relative situations of ourselves and of the enemy. In determining on the expediency of any mea-I sure of this nature, he was to be guided by calculations formed on an extensive combination and comparison of circumstances. He thought, and thought most decidedly, that a reduction of our expenditure was called for by reflections of the most urgent and powerful kind; and he would feel it to be his duty, before he could agree to the continuance of any continental enterprises like those in which we were now engaged, to take a wide survey of our own resources, to measure their extent, and the means of their application to the objects for the attainment or promotion of which they were proposed to be exerted. If the result of such an estimate were to establish any thing like a certainty of success in the schemes, that were devised, all his hesitations and difficulties would be removed, and he should consider even the most extensive scale of foreign operations as recommended and supported by the principles of œconomy itself. He hoped too that he felt as warmly, and was as willing to acknowledge that feeling as any noble lord, the 83 justice of that cause which we were maintaining in the peninsula. No cause related in the annals of mankind ever rested more entirely on sentiments of the most honourable feeling, or was more connected, if circumstances were favourable, with principles of national advantage. The spectacle exhibited was the most interesting that could engage the simpathies or the attention of the world, and it was impossible not to wish to afford assistance to the noble struggle of a free people against the most unparalleled treachery, the most atrocious violence that ever stained or degraded the ambition of despotic power. If he could but calculate on the probability of supporting such a cause to a triumphant issue, there could remain no doubt but that the separation from France of such a country as Spain, containing her extent of territory and amount of population, would be to augment in a great degree our own national security. But those principles, on which the prosecution of that war could be defended, must be reduced to a mere speculative theory, unless supported by adequate exertions from the Spanish people and the Spanish government; without that necessary co-operation all our efforts must prove useless. With a view to those advantages, we had unsuccessfully before contended in that very country against France, then much less powerful than at present. He did not mean to say that, from these considerations, we were to withdraw our armies from the peninsula; but he thought that, before we proceeded further on the present expensive system, the House should have the distinct opinion of the Commander-in-Chief, as to the probable result of the operations, and enquire into the means of carrying on the contest by a more limited expenditure of our remaining resources. It would be his maxim to guard against endangering our own safety in the prosecution of remoter interests. These were his principles and his opinions; he had stated them distinctly, however assured at the same time, that he should to-morrow see them completely misrepresented in the newspapers. He was desious of adding a few words upon what had fallen from the noble lord who moved the amendment, respecting what he was pleased to call the complete success of our arms, during the last two years. For his own part, when he looked back to the events of that period, when he recollected the original objects of the war, and knew, 84 as every other man knew, that the defence of Portugal must be impracticable after Spain should be entirely subdued, he could coincide in no such declaration. We had, unquestionably, achieved much; and in the capture of Ciudad Rodrigo he concurred in the admiration justly due to the vigour, celerity, and military skill so eminently displayed by the great commander who conducted that important enterprize. But when he looked to another part of that kingdom, and saw Badajoz in possession of the enemy—when he turned his attention to the operations in Catalonia—when he saw that, within the last two years, Tortosa, Lerida, Tarragona, Saguntum had yielded—that Valencia had fallen—that the province of Murcia was over-run—he was at a loss to discover what new prospects of success had dawned upon the Spaniards. Those conquests opened to the enemy a free communication between all their divisions; and they would soon be enabled by that circumstance to bring the whole weight of their united forces against the British. He did think too that ministers had been culpably negligent, in not having exerted, in the quarter to which he had just adverted, the means actually in their power, by employing a considerable naval force, for the purpose of lending our allies more effectual succour. In Catalonia for instance, such a system, if properly conducted, would, in all probability, have enabled the warlike population of that province to expel their invaders. Where then were the symptoms of this boasted success? Lord Wellington, at the head of an army of 62,000 as effective men as were ever led into the field, had been compelled to remain on the defensive. With a force greater than that commanded by the duke of Marlborough at the most splendid æra of our military history, lord Wellington had found himself limited to the pursuit of a defensive system. The country had been told, indeed, to look at the exertions of the Spanish Guerillas for a substitute to the assistance of regular troops, in which the natives of the peninsula were so deficient. On this he founded no great hopes, yet he was not able, from want of sufficient documents, to Slate precisely the weight which their assistance might have in the scale. But, momentous as all those objections were, in his opinion, against the present system of government, they sunk into insignificancy, when compared with one point on which he had to make a few observations; a 85 point in his estimation of paramount importance. He alluded to the existence of an unseen and separate influence which lurked behind the throne. An influence of this kind had too long prevailed, not less incompatible with the constitution, than with the best interests of the country. An influence of this odious character, leading to consequences the most pestilent and disgusting, it would be the duty of parliament to brand by some signal mark of condemnation. It was his rooted and unalterable principle, a principle in which those with whom he had the honour to act fully participated, not to accept of office without coming to an understanding with parliament for the abolition of this destructive influence; which consolidated abuses into a system, and by preventing complaints from reaching the royal ear, barred all hopes of a redress of grievances. Holding these views and sentiments, he had thought it his duly to submit them to the House, and however various might be the opinions entertained of them, he had at least to congratulate himself on his own self-approbation. He had, however, the pride and satisfaction of reflecting that he still continued to enjoy the esteem of those friends for whom he felt the most sincere respect. All the arts and intrigue that had been attempted, in order to seduce many of those who had previously concurred with him on most of the great public questions of the day, had failed, except in one solitary instance, and that was scarcely worth notice. He trusted he had sufficiently explained the reasons by which he had been induced to sign the Letter so frequently alluded to in the course of the debate; and with respect to his noble coadjutor in that proceeding, he must say of him, that the sentiments which that Letter conveyed, were in strict conformity to the whole tenour of his noble friend's political life.
§ Lord Mulgrave
denied the existence of that secret influence, to which such power was attributed; but without laying too much stress on the arguments adduced in debate, it was evident, as a noble friend of his had stated it, that the aim of the motion was to remove the present administration; and the proposed Address could have no other effect than that of dictating to the Prince Regent the choice of his ministers, which would not be a fair and constitutional proceeding towards his Royal Highness, who had already endeavoured to form an adminstration on a liberal and extended basis. Adverting to several of 86 the political grounds on which a difference; of opinion subsisted—the conduct of the war on the peninsula, the Orders of Council, the state of the currency, &c. he asked whether the noble lords opposite were so rash as to propose at once a radical change in all the measures adopted on those important subjects, or whether they were inclined to follow the same measures, and only to change the administration? It should be recollected, besides, that in every thing they had done, the present ministers had repeatedly obtained the sanction of parliament. And now the House were called upon, without any solid ground, to present an Address, which would go to operate an entire change of administration, and a complete alteration of the system hitherto pursued. The great question, which divided the opposition from the ministry, was not only the general policy of the country, but more specifically the state of the Irish Catholics. He wished, however, that it should be distinctly remembered by those who supported the justice of Catholic emancipation, how great was the difference between the present state of the Catholics and that in which they were when the concessions were granted in 1793. Every heart in the empire rejoiced then at the partial removal of their disabilities; they had deserved that favour by their constitutional deportment, and every one hoped that by continuing to pursue the same line, they would entitle themselves to further indulgence.—But now their petitions were urged in avowed contempt of the law, and in open defiance of the authority of the government. The objections to their claims arose not only from what was their conduct, but also from what were their demands. They demanded high situations in the law, the army, and the navy: "give them those situations," said their advocates, "and they will be satisfied." But were we sure of that? Were we sure that when these claims were conceded, fresh claims would not be advanced? Did they not say that they would be satisfied with the concessions in 1793: and yet had they been so Had they not since offered pledges of security, which they subsequently withdrew? Their demands indeed now, were; something like those of the beggar in Gil Blas, who levelled a musquet to enforce the charity he solicited. It remained, therefore, a question for their lordships' decision, whether they would hazard introducing the Catholics in to the govern- 87 ment of the country, disposed as they were, not to concede the guards that were requisite; and looking thus at one most important feature of the motion, he thought it utterly impossible for their lordships to entertain it. It would be, indeed, in his opinion only an insult to carry up an Address to the Prince Regent, worded as that was which had been submitted to them; and if a fresh Address were substituted, it would require the mature consideration of their lordships before it could be voted.
The Earl of Moira
had not entirely made up his mind as to the vote he should give on the question when he came down to the House. He should certainly have fell unwilling to interfere with a branch of the prerogative, by presuming to influence the opinion of the Prince in the choice of his ministers, and he was glad that no such idea could be deduced either from the motion itself, or from the arguments of his noble friends. Yet, if nothing else but the removal of the present ministers could give the Roman Catholics of Ireland any prospect of obtaining a redress of their grievances, he thought, that such a change ought to be rapturously hailed by the whole country. He was of the same opinion as his lamented friend (Mr. Fox,) that the measure could never be carried without the concurrence of administration, and the speech of the noble lord, who had just sat down, had removed all doubts as to the intentions of the present administration, if any doubts could have still been entertained. The noble lord had stated, that the broad and unqualified principle of excluding the Roman Catholics of Ireland from the benefits of the constitution, without even giving them a glimmering ray of hope, had been adopted by ministers; and he had attempted to justify that conduct, by the most unjustifiable assertions. To these he could not tamely listen. The noble lord had stated, that the Roman Catholics of Ireland acted in contempt of the law, and in open defiance of the authority of government; this he denied, and he called on the noble lord to substantiate his assertions by proofs.—There was, indeed, a nice point of law still left undecided, which might come by way of appeal before their lordships in their judicial capacity; but this did not authorise the noble lord to decide the question at once, especially when they had heard a high authority (lord Erskine) declare, that the Catholic Convention was not contrary to 88 law. The noble lord had urged to the House, that an indirect attempt to remove ministers ought to be considered as an encroachment on the prerogative. He might be right as to principles; but was no allowance to be made for the noblest and most patriotic feelings? When they considered the state of the country, involved in a struggle, in which her very existence was at stake—her population groaning-under a load of taxes, her manufactures ruined, and her currency depreciated, could any of the noble lords on the opposite benches say, that an extraordinary remedy was not necessary to remove evils so portentous and so complicated in their nature? And where could that remedy be sought but in the removal of men who were still so obstinately wedded to the very measures which had brought the country to such a crisis? Those men so bigotted in their opposition to the Roman Catholics of Ireland, could not be ignorant of the actual state of that country.—They were not to learn, that perhaps in the course of two months, an insurrection might be apprehended; that it had been lately on the point of breaking out, on account of an advance in the price of provisions—and this was the moment they chose to avow, in the most insulting terms, a system of perpetual exclusion against the Roman Catholics of Ireland.—The population of Ireland furnished one half of the forces of the empire, and this was the moment they chose to disgust them from the service. He declared on his honour as a peer, and as if speaking in the face of the Almighty, that in his opinion England could find no safety, but by conciliating the people of Ireland this was his confirmed, his unshakeable conviction. He knew of no other method, and he was confident there was no other method. There was no hope for safety in the present arduous struggle, but by cementing the bonds of union between all classed, of people, by uniting all hearts and all hands for the defence of the empire, and by rallying the whole of the population round the standard of the constitution. The language held out on that night by the noble lord, had, however, removed those pleasing hopes from the reach even of imagination, and no alternative remained for the safety of the country, but the removal of the ministers who had avowed such principles. He repealed that he had come down to the House undetermined as to the vote be should give. The 89 speech of the noble lord opposite had fixed his irresolution, and opened his eyes; he should therefore vote for the original motion.
§ The House then divided upon the amendment—Contents Present, 90; Proxies 75; Total 165. Non Contents Present, 43; Proxies 29; Total 72.—Majority for the Amendment 93. The original question was then put, and negatived without a division.
|List of the Minority.|
|Albemarle||Say and Sele|
|Spencer (M. Blandford)||Crewe|