HL Deb 14 May 1827 vol 17 cc774-83
The Marquis of Londonderry

said, that, after the debate on Thursday last—after the extraordinary eulogium that they had heard on a right hon. gentleman, —after the unanswerable speech they had heard from a noble earl who sat behind him, detailing the proceedings by which that gentleman had succeeded, and which seemed to amount to a kind of conspiracy, —after all the display of that person's consistency—he felt that he must again claim their lordships' indulgence, while he stated the reasons which induced him to bring forward the motion which he was induced to press; not imputing to the noble lords opposite any improper distribution of the funds intrusted to their charge, not with any view of finding fault with the expenditure, or the persons who had received it, or with any expectation of displacing them, but merely to show the different state of the Foreign Office in the year 1822 and at the present period. If his noble friend opposite would declare, that the present government was to be the permanent government, he would at once cease to press this or any other motion on the subject; but, unless he received some assurance on the point, he felt it his duty to call on noble lords to declare whether they meant to carry on the business of the country to the conclusion of the session, under all its present disadvantages—to call on his noble friend to answer how long that disgusting—for that was the phrase now—that disgusting concubinage was to last. He would ask the reverend bench if they were a party to the settlement of the affairs?—if they were the advisers of the noble marquis, as one of the high contracting parties? He would ask the reverend bench this, as they were the guardians of our morals and our virtues. The noble marquis was an old stager; he was no green-horn in politics; but he would tell him, that before he had brought the victim of his seduction to his embrace, he might be thrown aside, after defaming the character of his victim. He should like to know from the learned lord on the woolsack, if, after such a breach of promise in another place, an action would lie. In point of conscience he would say, the conduct was such as to put it out of the power of the individual to get compensation. He would again appeal to the right reverend bench, whether what was stated in the Treasury journals respecting a further accession of recruits was correct; or whether the present noble lords were only holding their offices as trustees who were to be brought in alliance to bear on the important question of Catholic emancipation? He would tell his noble friend opposite, as well as the noble marquis, with regard to that great and important question, that he had always been its most zealous supporter; but he would not suffer that measure to be carried by any sinister means; knowing, as he did, the sentiments of the highest person [order, order] on that subject. With respect to the present provisional government, it was notorious, that several of the offices were not filled up. We had no Judge Advocate; no Commissioners of Woods and Forests; no Master of the Mint—that very important office, without which the Treasury could not be as well filled as it should be. He should like to know from those gentlemen, the editors of the daily press, what was intended by the remarks that had been made on the subject in a paper which he had seen— My speech on Canning's master mind Involves a great mistake you'll find. Please to correct this gross misprint, For master mind, read Master Mint. The noble marquis proceeded to refer to the resignations of six of his majesty's ministers. He pronounced a warm eulogium on the duke of Wellington, dwelling on the fact of his grace having been selected for various foreign missions of importance; and contended, that the God of War and not the God of Chicane, ought to be the director of his majesty's councils. The circumstances of the late changes were, he said, before their lordships and the country. On them he should rest the question, leaving it to the sense of the country to decide whether this juggle, as he would call it, was not a disgrace to the House and the country. The noble marquis concluded by moving, "That a return be laid on the table of the House, of all appointments at home or abroad connected with the Foreign-office, from the 5th Jan. 1817, to the 5th Jan. 1827; specifying the name, situation, salaries, and allowances, including his majesty's ambassadors, ministers, and consuls; specifying all such appointments as are held by one and the same person; with the total expense of the whole department: distinguishing each year, and the number of regular and special missions."

Lord Dudley and Ward

said, that one thing only he could gather from the speeches of the noble lord, and others who had addressed the House in the same strain, on former occasions; namely, that he and they entertained a strong feeling of dislike towards the right hon. gentleman whom the king had been pleased to place at the head of his government. No other fact but that, was he able to make out from the speech of the noble lord. He had sat a good many years in parliament, and had seen many Oppositions—right or wrong, he had taken part in some of them. Those Oppositions were formed on various grounds; but some public principle was always involved in their construction. The present period, however, presented the only example to be found in the history of this country, of an Opposition founded on no one public principle, but merely on personal antipathy to the prime minister. The noble lord had alluded to the peculiar situation in which he supposed that he (lord Dudley and Ward), and some other individuals in the Administration, stood. Upon that point he certainly had no personal desire for concealment. He would willingly—as far as he himself was concerned—tell the noble lord all he knew on the subject; but when he was publicly interrogated, he must, on public grounds, refuse to answer. It was frequently the custom of parliament to address the king to dismiss his ministers on specific grounds, such as their incapacity, or the dangerous nature of their policy; but this was the first time in the history of the country, that any minister had been called upon to declare how long the king, his master, would choose to employ him, and how long he intended to serve his Sovereign. No such question, he believed, had ever been asked before; and most certainly he would not be the first minister to answer it [hear]. With respect to the papers moved for, he had formerly told the noble lord, when he gave notice of his intention to move for them, that there was no disposition on the part of government to withhold any information on the subject. The only doubt which had been entertained was, as to whether the information could conveniently be produced in the shape in which it was called for; and also whether it could be produced consistently with the just prerogatives of the Crown. Having made inquiries upon those two points, and having found that no objection existed on either ground, he had no hesitation in acceding to the motion.

Lord King

said, he agreed perfectly with the noble marquis in the present motion. It happened to be just such a one as he had himself formerly submitted to the House, with a view to obtain information. He had then shown, from the parliamentary returns, that the whole expense of ambassadors formerly amounted to 75,000l.; but on the new scale in 1816, it had increased to 133,000l.: the whole expense of secretaries of legation in 1815 amounted to 5,000l, which was subsequently increased to 33,000l. The charge for consuls amounted to 9,000l. which in one year was advanced to 30,000l. Disbursements to foreign ministers and extraordinaries, 50,000l which in 1815 increased to 145,000l. and presents to foreign ministers, 36,000l., making in all a total of 424,000l. expense in one year; while, in a former period, the whole expense did not exceed 120,000l. On looking at the different items, he found lord Castlereagh's expenses amounted to 21,106l. In addition to lord Stewart's salary of 7,000l., his lordship charged 5,134l. for contingent expenses, besides 6,538l. for losses by exchange, and 4,790l. for the journey to Mantua. The sum paid to lord Cathcart was 4,100l. besides 6,900, for extraordinary expenses. Then the various sums paid to the several Russian ministers amounted to 12,195l; which, he supposed, were the fees of admission to the Holy Alliance. With respect to the salaries of the consuls, he could not help thinking, that the increase was injurious to the country. Before the arrangement for paying them out of the consolidated fund was formed, the pay of foreign ministers was not deemed worthy of the attention of parliament; but that was not the case subsequently. He thought that arrangement extremely prejudicial to the public service, because it held forth a bounty to extravagance. Neither was it for the advantage of the regular professional men in the diplomatic department, that this increase of expense had taken place; for, since then, the men were not so much made for the offices as the offices for the men. His lordship, after referring to the appointment of Mr. Eden, Mr. Harris, Mr. Fitzherbert, and others, to situations of this description, observed, that if the House looked to the results of this increase, they would find that England possessed more influence in Europe while she pursued a system of moderate expense, than since she had adopted one of greater extravagance. In illustration of this, he referred their lordships to the state of British influence in Holland in 1808; and, subsequently, in Italy and the north of Germany. We had thought proper to sacrifice all the lesser states to two or three larger ones. We had sacrificed Geneva, the whole of Italy, Norway.—In short, the entire influence of this country in Europe we had sacrificed to three or four great powers. The consequences of this expenditure were more deplorable than any result which had ever flowed from the application of any sums of money within his knowledge. The noble marquis did not go back far enough; he should have gone as far back as 1815 and 1816, and not confined himself to 1817. The noble marquis had alluded to what he was pleased to designate "a disgusting concubinage"—the construction of the present ministry, which he seemed to regard as a kind of political minotaur —"monstrum horrendum informe"—an unformed monster—an abortion of a monster. But the noble marquis was too meek and gentle with these monsters. He should have taken a lesson from a rev. gentleman who, at a late meeting, expressed a wish that he had a hundred hands, like Briareus of old, and a sledgehammer in every hand, that he might beat down that monster the Roman Catholic religion. He would recommend the noble lords opposite, many of whom were young men, to attack the present cabinet with a hundred sledge hammers, and thus knock the monster to pieces. He did not know whether any of the other noble lords would bring forward the motions which they had threatened, but he rather thought they would not. However, he hoped his majesty's ministers would not be frightened by a few trifling words. They had nothing to fear from the noble lords; who would find that they had overloaded their pieces, and if they attempted to fire them, they would recoil upon themselves.

The Earl of Malmesbury

said, that in the times to which the noble lord referred, the salaries of diplomatic situations were unequal to the expenses of the office, and those who filled them were obliged to draw upon their private fortunes to meet them. It had, therefore, become absosolutely necessary that an increase should take place. With respect to the change in the mode of paying consuls, he did not think it an advisable one. He should have preferred their drawing their remuneration from the mercantile world; but even then they required, that that remuneration should be increased.

The Earl of Darnley

was sorry to see the noble marquis continuing that species of attack on the ministry, of which he had intimated his intention on a former night. He was quite sure that the motives which actuated the noble marquis were perfectly pure; but, at the same time, he would recommend to him to wait until the government was guilty of something which should call for parliamentary animadversion. He could not but lament, that another noble friend of his, who ended the discussion on a former night, was not present; because he wished to take that opportunity of making a few remarks, which he could not have attempted after such a speech as that which their lordships had heard from his noble friend, to command their lordships' attention. So long as the opposition to ministers was confined to the bitterness of disappointment, or personal animosity, he thought it ought to have no weight; and, in some cases, it only proved the truth of the assertion, that dulness was the natural enemy of genius. If he had any personal feelings of hostility towards the head of his majesty's government, he would not suffer them to interfere with his duty to his country: but he had known that right hon. gentleman ever since they had been at school together, and had always felt a just pride in his brilliant career. However, he did not stand there to vindicate every passage in his right hon. friend's political life; on the contrary, there were some in it, of which he could not approve. But, feeling the situation into which his sovereign was forced by those who had lately enjoyed his confidence—knowing that his right hon. friend had been called on to form a cabinet—and approving, in common with his noble friends, of those liberal sentiments which that right hon. individual entertained, he had no hesitation in declaring, that he would give him all the support in his power. But there was a wide difference between supporting a minister, and taking office under him; to do the former he had no hesitation; but, as to the latter, he confessed there were great difficulties. The circumstances were certainly somewhat untoward, and rendered the acceptance of office very different from giving support to government; but, he must add, that circumstances had occurred, since parliament had last met, which very much removed his scruples on that point. The moderation of the Roman Catholics, and their confidence in their friends on the one hand, and the factious violence (so he must call it) of the present Opposition on the other, had reconciled him to the acceptance of office by his noble friends. He thought the noble marquis (Lansdown) the fittest person to lead the councils of this country, if any change took place. He was quite sure that his noble friend never could do any thing which had not for its object the promotion of the best interests of the country. He had heard something of a vulgar desire of office: he was perfectly satisfied of the utter impossibility of his noble friend being actuated by any such desire. The only motive that governed his mind was derived from the conviction that, by accepting office, his services might be useful to his country. He must apply the word "factious" to the Opposition of the noble lords. Now, a noble earl had given notice of a motion, which was certainly done with a view to embarrass the government. That noble earl was a decided enemy to Catholic emancipation, and, as he must know, from the results of the repeated discussions of that question, that such a motion would only end in rejection, his object in bringing it forward at this moment could only be to embarrass the government; and, therefore, it justified the application of the term factious. Not that he believed the noble earl to be of a factious disposition; but this showed how much the judgment of a man the least likely to indulge in such feelings, might sometimes be warped by particular circumstances.—It was not his business, if his majesty had placed confidence in the present ministry, to inquire how long it would continue; and, although he had heard the term "rubbish" applied to those of whom it was composed, he saw no reason why they should not carry on the government of the country with advantage to the nation. He rejoiced, that there was at length a prospect of those principles, under the operation of which the country had suffered so much, being removed—principles which had been adverse to every species of amelioration, with the exception, indeed, of those professed by the right hon. gentleman why had filled the office of Secretary of State for the Home Department. But, since he had heard from report, of the eagerness of that right hon. gentleman to join in what he could not help again designating as a faction, he considered him as having degraded himself by such a junction. It was the duty of every friend to those liberal principles which his majesty's government professed, to give them all the support in his power.

The Earl of Longford

said, that the noble earl had described the conduct of the Irish Roman Catholics as being extremely moderate. He should only say, that if they were moderate, they had concealed their moderation under so perfect a mask that he could not perceive it. He had witnessed many acts, on the part of the Catholics, the reverse of moderation. The noble earl had applied the term "factious" to those who opposed the present administration. Now, he could not submit to have such an epithet applied to those who conceived it to be their duty to oppose an administration so constructed. The noble lord had said, that at no time had he witnessed such an Opposition. To which he would answer, that at no time had he witnessed a government composed of such ingredients, and so utterly unworthy of confidence. If a steam-engine of a hundred horsepower were employed to force together the most dissonant particles, and unite them into an administration, it could not produce a more discordant combination of persons, diametrically opposed to each other in principle. Such were the persons by whom they were to be governed; and, because they declined to support them until they knew by which of those Opposite principles they were to be so governed, they were designated a factious opposition. A noble friend of his had dropped the word "rubbish," as applied to this administration. Now, when he repeated the term, he only meant it to describe a mass of materials, heaped together without any common foundation, and formed into a fabric which was only to be held together by the agency of Roman cement. All that could be expected from such a fabric was, that it might please the eye and suit the taste for a little time. Could it be expected that they could hold together a building composed chiefly of the quicksands of political inconsistency, and of the destructive mountain torrent of revolutionary desolation? [a laugh].

Lord Melville

observed that, his noble friend had said, that his right hon. friend, the late Secretary for the Home Department, had embarked with his late colleagues in a factious opposition to his majesty's government. He could assure the noble earl that he was misinformed on that subject. That right hon. gentleman, if he could believe that the principles of those individuals who had seceded from the ministry were to be abandoned, would then, indeed, be found opposed to the measures of that government; but, while the government, continued to be conducted on those principles upon which it had heretofore been carried on, his right hon. friend would not be found in the ranks of Opposition.

The Earl of Darnley ,

in explanation, said, that the right hon. gentleman had certainly exhibited a wish to oppose the present government; but it appeared that he had since become ashamed of his associates ["No, no," from lord Melville.] He was happy to be set right; as he had no wish to misrepresent.

Lord Goderich

said, he was prepared, so far as his own opinion and belief were concerned, to confirm all that had been stated by the noble lord, with respect to his right hon. friend. He had no reason to suppose that his right hon. friend did now contemplate, or ever had contemplated, any thing which merited the name of a factious opposition to the government. Unless he could suppose that his right hon. friend was insincere in all he said, he must believe that he entertained intirely opposite views on the subject. If, however, it should he found that he (lord Goderich), or any of those individuals who now constituted the government, and who had recently not felt themselves called upon to reject the invitation which was offered them to continue to form part of the king's council—if it should be found that they abandoned the principles on which they had hitherto acted—they would indeed abdicate their honour, and cover themselves with disgrace, and would merit not only to lose the confidence of parliament, but to be visited with its disapprobation. If certain individuals, who had watched and approved of the conduct pursued for some years past, not alone by the minis- ters who remained in the government, but conjointly with others who formed part of the late administration, and with whose perfect concurrence measures had been introduced which were deemed essential to the best interests of the country—if those individuals, seeing the critical situation in which he and his colleagues were placed, and the difficulties which surrounded them, could reconcile it to their honour and character (and he had no right to suppose they could not) to give them their support, why, in God's name, was that to be made a reproach either to them or to the administration? Why should it not be supposed, that both parties acted for the honour of the king, and the good of the country, and not for any mean, miserable, and contemptible purpose?

The motion was agreed to.