§ Viscount Melbourne
said, that, by command of her Majesty, he had to communicate to their Lordships a Message from the Throne, in which her Majesty announced her consent to "the Bill for the support of her Majesty's Household, and of the honour and dignity of the Crown of the United Kingdoms of Great Britain and Ireland," and in which she, at the same time, informed their Lordships that they were at full liberty to proceed with the said Bill as they might think fitting. The noble Viscount then moved, that an humble address be presented to her Majesty in reply to the Message which he had just communicated to their Lordships, thanking her Majesty for the consent which she had so graciously given to the said Bill, and for the permission which she had granted to the House to proceed on the said Bill as it might think fitting.
§ Ordered accordingly.
§ Viscount Melbourne
then said: I now rise for the purpose of moving the second reading of the Bill to provide for the better support of her Majesty, and for the due maintenance of the dignity of the Crown, according to the notice which I gave to your Lordships yesterday. With respect to the settlement of her Majesty's civil list the same course has been pursued as that which was adopted at the commencement of the late reign. In the House of Commons a Committee has been appointed, with powers similar to those which were given on the former occasion. That Committee has sat, has made its report, and on that report has been framed this Bill which has been sent up to your Lordships, and to which I have to request your Lordships' attention. My Lords, this Bill, as I said before, follows exactly 1338 the precedent of the Civil List Act of the last reign. That Civil List Act adopted, and not only adopted, but carried much further, a principle which had been already adopted in the Constitution, and which in fact is a right constitutional principle, in as much as it gives the greatest possible amount of benefit and advantage both to the Crown and the people. Your Lordships know very well what this principle is. It is the entire separation of the whole of the charges which belong to the civil government of the country from those which be long to the personal dignity and convenience of the Sovereign. On the former occasion to which I have referred many noble Lords in this House, censured I will not say, for that, perhaps is too strong a word, but expressed great doubts as to the prudence, wisdom, and propriety of acting on that principle. Though, however, there might be reason then for questioning its prudence, wisdom, and propriety, your Lordships, having the precedent before you, would not think it either prudent or wise or proper not to follow it on the present occasion. I beg your Lordships' attention for a certain portion of time, while I attempt to show the progress of the principle on which this Bill is founded. That it is a wise principle, in my opinion, cannot now be questioned, experience showing that it sacrifices none of the real dignity, comfort, and power of the Crown, while it tends in a great measure to the satisfaction and to the advantage of the country. My Lords, the ancient revenues of the Sovereign of this country before the Restoration—not, probably, from contrivance, not from arrangement, but having grown up from the state of affairs, having in fact grown up with the growth of society in this country—I say the ancient revenues of the Sovereign of this country were partly territorial, partly feudal, and partly, I apprehend, arising from the personal property of the Crown. But that revenue so composed was entirely the property of the Crown, out of which the Crown was bound to provide for the civil and military service of the country; and it was only on extraordinary occasions, when the Monarch had been improvident, when he was desirous of making aggressions on his neighbours, or when the country was threatened with danger or difficulties, that he came to Parliament, and he then did so for the purpose of obtaining Parliamentary grants. Now, my Lords, 1339 whatever the advantages of this system, it is impossible not to see, à priori, that there never was a system worse calculated to secure constitutional liberty in this country. Under such a system there was no security for that without which there can be no constitutional freedom—namely, the free, the regular, the periodical meeting of those representative bodies by whose active and vigilant superintendence alone constitutional freedom can be preserved. Your Lordships know very well that there were indeed plenty of acts of Parliament directing that Parliament should meet once in every year; but, my Lords, what are acts of Parliament without the means of enforcing them? Your Lordships are aware that even now merely preceptive and declaratory acts are not apt to be very strictly observed, and if inquiries were not occasionally made—if vigilance were not exercised — would be of no value whatever. In ancient times, as I have before stated, the only security for the meeting of Parliament was in the improvidence of the Monarch, in his desire to make war on his neighbours, or in the dangers and difficulties of the country. Fortunately for the liberties of the country, these securities, though very imperfect, were found sufficient to secure its constitutional rights. But what would have been their fate if there had been one or two prudent monarchs who kept within their incomes, like Henry the 7th, who called only two Parliaments in his whole reign of I believe twenty years, and established such a tyranny as undoubtedly had never been known in the country before; a tyranny that required protracted efforts, torrents of blood, and years of contests in order to vindicate those principles and those rights which from the disuse of Parliament appeared to have fallen almost into oblivion. This state of things continued with more or less alteration until the restoration of Charles 2nd. At that time, the increasing liberality of the times, the anxiety to obtain popularity, and to a certain degree, I believe, what had taken place during the preceding fifteen years, which had, to a certain degree, shaken the power of levying those dues on which the revenue of the Crown greatly depended, those various considerations induced the Crown to give up its great feudal rights — its lordship rights, even its right to the property of the country—its rights of pre- 1340 emption, and many others; and to accept from the people in place of them, a Parliamentary revenue founded on Parliamentary taxes. This was the first great change that was made in settling the revenue of this country. The next important change that took place with respect to the revenue of the Crown was introduced at the Revolution. Your Lordships know what great difficulties were in the way of the settlement of the revenue of the Crown at the time of the Revolution. The Revolution, as well as the Restoration, was very popular. The Restoration was accompanied with, perhaps, more of the clamours of party, but the Revolution was exceedingly popular throughout the country. In those clays the clamour of a political party, or the huzzas of the populace outside, were no great criterion of the liberties of the country—Parliament did not then reflect on the general feeling or the prevailing opinion of the country. With great difficulty, the revenue at last was settled for the life of the Sovereign—after two or three years struggling, after many legal questions had been discussed, and after many doubts, the revenue was settled for the life of the Sovereign, and that was the first occasion of bringing up a civil list. The great war which broke out about this period, induced the necessity of making an adequate provision for the naval and military services, and Parliament was obliged to meet annually for this purpose, without which the country would not have been safe, nor could the Government have been carried on. That was the second great alteration which, in fact, divided and separated from the Crown—which in fact removed from the Crown, not the control and direction, but the power of paying the great and efficient servants of the Sovereign. The same principle was, with additions rather than alterations, continued—voting a certain amount of money, and guaranteeing that if that sum was exceeded it would be made up: this system was continued during the reign of George 3rd. That plan was subsequently given up, and a regular annual income was voted by Parliament for what was called the civil list of his Majesty; that was, for the support of his Majesty's household, and also for defraying the expenses of certain of the civil servants of the Sovereign, My Lords, it is not my intention to go through all the amendments and reforms of the civil 1341 list, which took place up to the time of Mr. Burke's Bill, or to the Act which passed in 1816; by the former of which the division into classes was introduced; by the latter, the division of these classes was carried still farther; various charges were removed from the civil list, and an auditor was appointed. But still the old principle of the civil government of the country being defrayed by the monarch continued. This separation, however, was intended to be carried further by the Bill introduced by a noble Friend of mine opposite (Earl Spencer), and it was carried into effect by that Bill which was introduced in the year 1831, on occasion of the settlement of the civil list of his late Majesty. The civil list then was relieved from all the civil charges of the Government, and it was confined to those matters which related to the dignity and to the personal comfort and ease of the Crown. Now, my Lords, this, in the first place, was a considerable gain in point of clearness and perspicuity. I fear that there is no such thing as a royal road in public accounts any more than in mathematics; it requires some pains to understand them: but I think, that in the arrangement of the civil list, of which I am now speaking, it was worded as clearly as possible what sums were paid by the public, and for what purposes they were paid. I trust the time will never come when we shall have to consider the Crown a hostile body in the constitution—when we shall have to consider its power with reference to the other estates of the realm—when we shall have to look at its resources for contest; I hope that that is the last way in which we shall ever have to contemplate it; but of this I feel confident, that the preservation of that form of payment which existed so long would not have afforded it any real strength—would not, in any degree, have added to its real power or influence in the state. Whatever may be said of the feudal system, as affording greater dignity and a more becoming character to the Crown, I am sure that it is impossible to look to the history of those times without feeling that it in no way added to the Crown's real influence or power. It by no means protected the Crown from perpetual complaints of its extravagance, or from perpetual inquiries as to its expenses; it by no means protected the Crown from what appears to us at the present day to be—what I should hesitate and desire to 1342 be better informed before I described it—namely, great niggardliness on the part of Parliament. Ever since the Revolution there has been a general consent, a general union, and a full agreement between the Crown and the other branches of the Constitution; and unquestionably a liberality has been exercised by Parliament towards the Crown, and through Parliament by the nation, which is totally unparalleled in the early history of the Constitution. This principle has received the sanction of the two Houses of Parliament on former occasions, but thus much I have thought it necessary to say, in order to explain to your Lordships, that there is no foundation whatever for any alarm or doubt with respect to the principle of the Bill introduced to the present Parliament. With your Lordships' permission I will now advert to the provisions of the Bill to which I have to ask your Lordships' assent on the present occasion. The extreme simplicity of it, and its great similarity to the Bill which was introduced on the accession of his late Majesty, dispenses with the necessity of my taking up much of your Lordships' time. My Lords, the civil list, as your Lordships know, is divided into classes, for which provision is made by the money which is granted by Parliament. The civil-list is fixed at 60,000l. In the former Bill, that of his late Majesty, the sum under this head was 110,000l. The difference was occasioned, as your Lordships well know, by the provision which was necessarily made for the Queen Consort. Under the next head are classed the salaries of the household, and the retired allowances, for which we propose a sum of 131,260l. In the former Bill the sum was 130,300l. being but a small difference, which your Lordships will understand to be occasioned by the circumstances of the present reign. Under this head, my Lords, we have a reduction of the salaries of the three great officers of State—the Lord Chamberlain, the Lord Steward, and the Master of the Horse. The two first have been reduced to 2,000l., and the latter to 2,500l. These reductions were made in accordance with the recommendations of the Committee of the other House, which sat in 1831, but which, for some reason with which I am not acquainted, were not carried into effect. On the other hand, the ladies of her Majesty's establishment, who formerly derived their allowances from the Queen, 1343 are thrown upon the fund, and the result is produced which appears on the list. The expense of her Majesty's household is put at 172,500l.; in the former list it was 171,500l. The royal bounty is in the present list 13,200l.; in the former list it was 23,200l. This difference is occasioned by the withdrawal of the secret service money from the civil list, and its being transferred to the consolidated fund. My Lords, the pension list of 75,000l. is left blank in the present schedule, because, as your Lordships know, an entirely different system has been proposed. Interesting as this subject of pensions has become, it is not my intention to take up your Lordships' time by going into a consideration of them; they are about to be inquired into by a Committee of the other House, and it would not be proper in me to say anything that could bias or influence the decision of that Committee. The question of pensions is one of great difficulty. I know that for a long period of time a feeling of much dislike has been entertained in the country against the pension list. I must admit that it is a head of expenditure which is very liable to be abused—not from corruption, not from base motives, for I do believe, and I most confidently anticipate, that the result of the inquiry will be, that very few cases will be found in which it is possible even for suspicion to suggest any improper motive—but it is a branch of expenditure very liable to be abused in consequence of the indulgence of good nature, or of the exercise of influence, or of carelessness in those who have the dispensing of pensions. It is liable also to produce at times two very evil effects—a disposition to relax individual exertion from expectation of this aid, and great discontent in the minds of those who fail to obtain pensions whenever they compare their own claims with those of their more successful competitors. Taking all these matters into consideration, I am still prepared to say, in the language of the resolution of the House of Commons, which is incorporated into the present Bill, that for the purpose of encouraging literature and science, for the purpose of encouraging improvement in the arts, for the purpose of affording relief in special cases, and very often for the purpose of remunerating important public services, it is necessary and expedient that the Crown should be invested with the power of granting a 1344 certain number of gratuities of this description. That is my opinion. Upon that opinion the present Bill has been framed. Power is given to the Crown to grant pensions to the amount of 1,200l. in each year, and if that amount be not granted in any one year, the surplus is to go over to the next year. The pensions thus granted is also to be submitted to the control of Parliament. I know that there are certain disadvantages attending publicity in this case, but I also know there are certain advantages arising from it, and your Lordships have to choose between the two. There are disadvantages in its being known exactly what the public have to give, and there are cases in which all conscientious, right-thinking, and honourable people will wish that there should not be such publicity as is proposed by the present Act. But, on a balance of evils, it appears to me to be the least evil of the two to submit these pensions to the safeguard of a Parliamentary scrutiny. There can be no greater security against the abuses which so easily and so naturally creep into the exercise of power of this description. There is no other mode of guarding against them, except that it shall be known what the pensions are, to whom they are granted, and upon what grounds, and that from that knowledge Parliament shall judge of the grounds and motives on which they are given. The last head in the schedule is 8,040l. for unappropriated monies. This is given to meet any of those unforeseen demands which everybody knows must some time or other arise, and considering that her Majesty is about to give up many casual sources of revenue which have not been given up by her royal uncles, or by any other of the Sovereigns, her predecessors, and which in the last reign have amounted to 70,000l., and upwards, that sum is neither unreasonable nor exorbitant. Indeed, from my own practical knowledge and experience, I can say that it is highly expedient that such a fund should be placed at the disposal of her Majesty. I believe that the noble Duke on the other side of the House has created such a fund in the civil list which he framed for his late Majesty, and that my noble Friend, Lord Althorp, had taken a vote for it in the House of Commons, although his noble friend subsequently did not think it fitting to send it up to that House as a clause in the Civil List Act. I do not 1345 know that there was anything else in this Bill to which it is material that I should call the attention of your Lordships, except it was that in other Bills for the settlement of the civil list it has been provided that the civil list should expire on the death of the Sovereign, whereas it is provided that the powers of the present bill should continue for six months after the demise of the Crown, unless the successor of her Majesty should signify to both houses of Parliament his royal will and pleasure to resume the several hereditary rights and revenues which her Majesty had surrendered. There is also another clause in this Bill which is not to be found in former Bills, and which refers to certain duties levied on all beer, ale, and cider brewed in Great Britain. Your Lordships will perhaps recollect that at the close of the reign of his late most gracious Majesty George 4th, and at the commencement of the reign of his successor, certain duties on the brewing of beer, ale, and cider were repealed. In that act it was provided that the hereditary duties of excise on beer, ale, and cider in Great Britain granted to the Crown by an act passed in the reign of Charles 2nd, should be suspended during the life of his late Majesty, but should revive upon his death and become again payable. When those duties revived on the death of his late Majesty, it became necessary to send in the Excise to gauge the stocks of all brewers of beer, ale, and cider. They were exceedingly dissatisfied with that mode of proceeding, and began to believe, that ascertain duties on beer, ale, and cider had been repealed, the excise was levying duties upon them which it had no right to levy. Her Majesty's Government, acting upon the analogy of the continuance of Parliament to sit for six months after the demise of the Crown, proposed to get rid of this inconvenience in future by suspending the payment of these hereditary revenues for the same time, and by repealing them entirely after that period, unless the future sovereign should declare his indisposition to surrender his hereditary revenues. This is the plan of the civil list which I have now to lay before your Lordships, and when I ask your assent to the second reading of it, I ask your assent to it, not from your feelings of loyalty and duty to your present young and amiable Sovereign—loyal and dutiful as I know those feelings to be—but I ask your assent to it as 1346 a branch of the British Legislature interested in the preservation of the laws and liberties of your country. I call upon you. to pass it for the support of the hereditary monarchy of England—for the support of the hereditary monarchy, which has been established for so many ages among us, regarding which I will not enter into any frivolous dispute as to whether it may be the wisest or best form of Government that can be put in motion, but which I say it would be the height of insanity and the worst of criminality now to attempt to alter. I call upon your Lordships to support this Bill for the support of the monarchy; for in supporting that monarchy you will support the liberty and laws under which the country has attained an amount of property and a degree of prosperity hitherto unexampled in the history of nations. The noble Viscount concluded, by moving the second reading of the Bill for the support of her Majesty's household and of the honour and dignity of the Crown of the united kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland.
* Although I do not rise with the desire of Opposing my noble Friend's (Lord Melbourne's) motion, so as to take the sense of the House upon it, I am nevertheless desirous of calling the attention of your Lordships to the manner in which this Bill has been framed and has passed through the other House of Parliament, with the view of ascertaining how far a due consideration has been given to so important a subject, and of seeing if there do not exist at this hour substantial reasons for adopting a course different from the one that has been pur-* From a corrected report published by Ridgway, with the following notice: —This speech is published separately in order to bring under the consideration of the people of this country, when they come to reflect seriously upon the late proceedings in Parliament, what it is that has been done with respect to the royal establishment, and in what manner this has been done. There is also reason to believe, that many who bore a part in those proceedings were not fully aware of the state of the question. This is almost unavoidable, when an important measure is carried through all its stages with great dispatch; more especially when men entrusted with legislative authority, act under the influence of excited feelings, and do not give themselves time to reflect, that the funds upon which their generosity is exercised, belong to others, for whom they are only trustees.1347 sued. Against the concluding remarks of my noble Friend, I will neither waste your Lordships' time nor degrade myself by making any defence. I am sure he did not mean to throw out any thing against me personally, or against those who may agree with me, as if by taking a different view of this measure, we showed ourselves less attached than himself to the established Constitution of the country, and were, to use his own expression, "insane" enough to put in hazard the benefits which it bestows, by seeking after some other untried form of Government. There is no question of the kind raised by the present discussion; all are agreed that a limited Monarchy such as ours, is better adapted to the present state of society in this country, and the existing circumstances of the European world,—more calculated to secure the great end of all government, the happiness of the people,—than those Commonwealths which have been established in other regions where they are greatly preferred even to our constitution, as being better suited to the wants and opinions of the community. Thus much my noble Friend's somewhat needless observations have made it necessary to say, lest any one should fancy that they conveyed against those who disapprove of the present scheme, an insinuation of fondness for revolutionary doctrines, or a disposition to seek changes of a sweeping and dangerous kind.
I will now come to the matter before us, from which I have been drawn aside, and I begin by assuming that your Lordships are consulted upon the present occasion with the intention of really asking your opinion, and not as a mere form and empty ceremony; that you are appealed to as a deliberative body; that you are called upon to exercise your judgment, and that you have the duty laid upon you of exercising your unquestionable right to give the whole subject a full consideration. Now I am under the necessity of declaring, both that I can discover no sufficient reason for adopting the principle of this Bill, and making, prospectively, an arrangement of the Civil List, which may last, as we all hope it will, fifty or sixty years; and that, even if the principle were a sound one, and it were fit to make such an arrangement, we have not before us the information which might have been communicated, to which we were clearly entitled, and without which it is utterly 1348 impossible to deny that we must, upon every view of the matter, be legislating in the dark. Nor has my noble Friend urged a single argument to the contrary. I agree in all the argumentative part of his speech; I dispute not one of his historical details; but neither his reasonings nor his facts have any bearing upon the question before us. Thus I nowise doubt, nor do I believe any one can be found who will doubt, that a very beneficial change was effected at the Restoration, when the Monarch, instead of bearing the whole expense of the Government, and enjoying the feudal and other hereditary revenues of the Crown, gave up these to the country, and received as an equivalent an income out of the taxes. No one has ever doubted for these last 150 years, that this was an improvement upon the former usage; and I cannot help thinking, that my noble Friend gave himself an unnecessary trouble, when he laboured to dissuade your Lordships from recurring to the ancient feudal method of supporting the Monarchy. So too of the change in our financial arrangements, introduced after the Revolution, and which led to the necessity of Parliament being regularly held every year, so that the whole business of the Government must be transacted there. That this, like the former, was a great improvement, I take for granted nobody will be inclined to dispute. Then again as to the third of those changes, dwelt upon by the noble Viscount, the plan of separating the expense of the royal household from the other charges of the civil Government, first adopted at the accession of his late Majesty, I am not aware that there exists in any quarter the least disposition to deny that this too was an improvement upon the old method of mixing the whole expenses together, and classing them all, how various so ever their nature might be, under the name of civil list, a method equally inconvenient and indeed detrimental both to the Crown and | country. Upon all these points, I must profess my entire acquiescence in every thing that has fallen from my noble Friend; and to these points his speech was wholly confined; but the matter in dispute between us, namely, the proposed arrangement, is left altogether untouched by him. I have heard not one word in support of the sums allotted by the Bill; nor in answer to the demand of information upon the amount of the Royal in- 1349 come; nor in defence of the proposal to grant a civil list for the Sovereign's life; and in the absence of all explanation, and of all reply to what I urged nearly a week ago,—with no one fact stated—no one argument adduced in support of the measure in any point,—I remain of the opinion which I then expressed, and which all the attention I have since devoted to the subject has only confirmed, that it is a most unwise, un becoming, unstatesmanlike course of proceeding, to legislate upon such a subject prospectively for a period of perhaps half a century or more. What man can foresee,—what being with our limited understanding can pretend to foresee,—what audacity, Jet me ask, can inspire any one to foretel anything however trifling, touching the state of affairs forty, thirty, aye even ten years hence? Yet here are we about to lay down a rule by which the expenditure of the Sovereign is to be governed, and the contributions of the people towards it fixed, as long as the reign shall endure. We are to ascertain at this moment for all that period of time, how much of each article that enters into the royal expenses, shall be required for duly supporting the dignity and splendour of the Crown, and how much each article shall cost in monies numbered, we being of necessity in the dark, absolutely in the dark, as to any one of the circumstances in which this prospective arrangement must be carried into execution. Utterly ignorant of all that must determine whether too much or too little, or only enough has been allotted—not pretending to know, or even to have the power of guessing at any portion of the details which must decide this great matter from time to time—here are we taking upon ourselves to form an estimate, wholly depending on these unknown details, and by that estimate, fixing a civil list for ages to come! In 1837 we are deciding what shall be a proper court establishment in all its branches for the Sovereign of England, in the year 1880 or 1890. Am I to be told that we can now have the means of divining anything about a court in those distant days? But are we in a condition to fix in all its details, what that court shall be in an age to which the eye of fancy alone can pierce, so as to give objects their weight, and form, and colouring? Yet this is what we are about doing; we are acting as if we could tell what in an unknown age,—an age of 1350 which we can know nothing, except that we do not even know how far distant it may be,—what shall be required for the comfort of the Monarch,—what the establishment shall be which the unknown habits of that uncertain time may render necessary, and no more than necessary for the dignity of the Crown,—what shall be the cost of that establishment, decorous and needful, nor more than decorous and needful. And on such conjectures as these, or rather giving up all attempts at conjecture as utterly hopeless, and blind as to the future, and shutting our eyes with our own hands as to what we are about, we sit down to legislate as though men were not subject to change, as though time made no alteration in human affairs, or as though courtly state and circumstances alone were exempt from its inroads! What must be the inevitable consequence? In a little while, to take only the most obvious possibility, money may fall in value, and prices rise; then will come down the Minister of the day, and remind us of the regard which is due to the maintenance of the royal dignity, perhaps deprecating that "niggardliness of Parliament" to which my noble Friend alluded in his retrospect.
said, he had not alluded to the niggardliness of Parliament; his reference was to Parliament before the period of the Revolution.
I understood my noble Friend to have made the allusion generally, and in connection with a later period; although certainly whatever might be said of the period before 1688, I am not aware of any ground for charging with niggardliness the Parliaments which have sat since that time. But I was about to say, that no sooner shall any change in prices take place, than down will come the Minister of the Crown, armed with a gracious message, and feelingly represent the necessity of providing additional income to meet the increased expenditure; and if the country should complain, pleading the bargain made by Parliament at the commencement of the reign,—if the people should presume to say, "It was contracted and agreed in 1837, that during your Majesty's life a fixed yearly sum should be paid, without any deduction on account of prices falling, or any reference whatever to any other benefit which you might receive from change of times; and therefore, although 1351 the change has turned out to be in our favour, or at least against you, you must keep by the bargain, as we should have been obliged to do had the event been the other way;"—what will be the answer instantly given to such a remonstrance? Why, that were Parliament to listen to such things, it would be niggardly, unmindful of the dignity of the Crown, indifferent about the decent support of the Royal Family, disposed to leave the necessary expenses of the Monarch unprovided for; and the result would be, if there is any trust due to experience—if from the past we may now reason to the future—that the country will be overcome in the contest; give way, as it always has done; open the contract; make an entirely new arrangement in compliance with the new demand, and in accordance with the novel circumstances, and suffer no one to set up against it the final and conclusive nature which is now, as it always has been before, ascribed to the proposed arrangement. All this happened again and again in the reign of George 3rd, and if it did not take place also in the reign of George 4th and William 4th; this was in all probability owing to the short duration of their reigns: the former Prince having only lived ten years after his civil list was settled in 1820; and the latter unhappily not much more than six years after the arrangement of 1830.
But it is said, that any departure from the course recommended, of a contract for the Sovereign's life, is wholly without precedent. Be it so; there is nothing in the plan I propose, of voting a civil list for a limited time, more unprecedented now than those far greater changes which my noble Friend eulogised so lavishly. I recommend no departure from former usage nearly so wide as the change which he justly described as most beneficial to all parties, at the Restoration, when the feudal revenues were commuted for a fixed sum, and the expense of the Government defrayed by the country. I recommend nothing like so great a change as that which my noble Friend most justly praised, the entirely new manner of transacting all financial, and indeed all Parliamentary business, introduced in the reign of King William. The change I recommend approaches more nearly the one to which he and I were ourselves parties in 1830, and which, though objected to at the time by some, appears now to 1352 have gained general approbation, since I hear not a word said against it, nor anything urged to show, from the experience of those six or seven years, that we should return to the former practice upon the present occasion. But when men speak of the precedents, and refer to the former civil list arrangements as always having been for life, they ought to be sure that the circumstances are the same. Can anything be more different than those of the present and the two last civil lists? The late King ascended the throne at the age of sixty-eight. George 4th was sixty at his accession. The present Sovereign is eighteeen. So that we must go back to George 3rd, before we can find anything like a parallel case. But I confidently appeal to your Lordships, if there be any real similarity between the circumstances of the country now and in 1760? Instead of a public debt of less than a hundred millions, we have one approaching to a thousand; the expense of the peace-establishment has risen from five millions to two and twenty; and the revenue extracted from the people is no longer under ten millions, but above fifty; cramping their industry in every direction in which it is possible for taxation to be felt. In every particular the case of 1760 offers a contrast, rather than a parallel to the present. But even if we were now in 1760, and had to make the arrangement for a Sovereign in the prime of life, with the experience of that arrangement, and our knowledge of the manner in which the plan worked, I ask should we be tempted to repeat the experiment? What happened after the settlement of 1760? The Legislature said then, as the Legislature says now, that they were making, for the life of the Sovereign, a conclusive, unalterable arrangement with him. They told the people, as the people are now told, that the Sovereign was to have, by the year, so much and no more than was fixed, all the days of his life, happen what might as to prices, one way or the other; and men flattered themselves, that at least with the reigning Monarch a final settlement had been made. What followed this perpetual bargain? In less than ten years—I believe in the ninth year—after its date, a message comes from the Throne, setting forth that in consequence of the change of times the income settled had proved insufficient, a debt of above half a million had been contracted, and an appeal to the 1353 liberality of Parliament had become unavoidable. In short, the arrangement was found inapplicable to the altered circumstances of the court or the country; and the debt was paid of course. Well, in nine years more, at the most disastrous period of the American war, the year when France took part against us, it was discovered that a second series of changes had taken place; another load of debt, but larger in amount, had been incurred; another message was sent down; the final and binding contract of 1760 was a second time opened for the benefit of the same party, the Crown, to the detriment again of the other party, the country; the new debt of above six hundred thousand pounds was paid off as before, and a new income settled on the Monarch. In the subsequent years deficiencies were again and again supplied by payments, though to a smaller amount. New arrangements were made under Mr. Burke's Bill, and afterwards in the early period of the Regency. All the changes thus freely made in the contract were for the advantage of the same party; while, as often as the other party claimed any relief from its provisions, the constant answer was, "The bargain cannot be touched; it is made for the King's life." And yet, in the face of all experience, and in disregard of all the dictates of reason and of common sense, we are going to commit the same mistakes that were committed in 1760; and, being now as completely in the dark as those before us were then, we are about to make a compact which is to bind the country for half a century, and to bind the Crown only while it proves a benefit.
But if, at some future time, Parliament shall be charged with having made an improvident bargain for the country, let it not be said that they received no warning in their course! Let it not be said that no warning was given in the House of Lords, nor any attempt made to arrest such imprudence! And let this be borne in mind, that notice was in this place fairly and explicitly given of the consequences which may be looked for in a few years! And what are those consequences? If the arrangement now made shall turn out to be unfavourable for the Crown; if prices rise, if from an altered state of society, or from any other cause an increased splendour is deemed necessary to the royal dignity; little will it avail the people to plead the final character of the 1354 settlement of 1837. That character will go for as little as it has done in former cases of the same kind; it will go for absolutely nothing. But if it shall be found that money goes further than it does in the present day—if the quantity of the precious metals is increased—if in the progress of manufacturing industry the great staples of luxurious expenditure become cheaper—or if the necessaries of life themselves are more abundant from improvements in agriculture—if, and I trust your Lordships will suffer me to contemplate such a possibility—if it shall be found that do what you will, you can no longer hold by the corn-laws; if it should happen that the people of this country, among whom of course your Lordships are to be included, will no longer allow those corn-laws to oppress them — will no longer submit to buy wheat or eat bread at the rate of 62s. by the quarter on this side of the channel, when as good or better may be had for between 30s. and 40s. on the other side; if your Lordships shall be compelled, whether you will or no—by the force of reason—to yield; if you should find yourselves unable any longer to resist the demands of the country—when backed by the strength of argument; if your assent to the repeal of those laws should be extorted by the hourly accumulating power of the resistance which all sound principle offers to their continuance, and you should at length give way, unable any longer to maintain the struggle against your own conviction and your patriotic feelings, and should repeal the law which keeps up the price of bread, and of labour, and of every one article that labour is concerned in providing; if from the combined effect of all these very possible changes, the altered value of money, improved manufacturing skill, increased agricultural produce, abrogated restrictions upon the corn trade, to say nothing of accumulated capital, all prices should fall a third or more, and every one thing which money can buy should become cheaper in that proportion—and the sum now bestowed as absolutely necessary for the royal expenditure should thus be really worth so much more, and consequently should really be so much more than it now is, and therefore so much more than is required for that expenditure—I ask any man capable of reflection, candidly to answer this short and plain question—what chance would there be of 1355 the Crown, or the Ministers of the Crown, or the Parliament itself, coming forward with a proposal to reduce by a third, aye, or by a thirtieth, the income now fixed, so as to give the country any benefit from the alteration produced upon its value by the course of events? Let any proposition, bearing upon the present settlement be but hinted at, and what would be the instantaneous reply? The contract would at once be set up as being conclusive; and the argument so often used during George the 3rd's long reign would be again urged, that it was a bargain for the life of the Sovereign, not to be broken, or opened, or touched—a settlement conclusively binding upon the people—a bond which they never could shake off—irrevocably their law, and absolutely their fate. In short, this is a bargain, which if the Crown finds it advantageous, must be adhered to through all times and all changes with equal tenacity; but if any benefit should accrue to the country from keeping it, and the Crown should find its interest in breaking it, then it may be broken over and over again, just as often as is convenient for one of the parties, and for the protection of the other its value is that of waste paper.
But, my Lords, even if it were fitting and were prudent to follow once more this course, and pretend to fix the civil list for the whole reign, I entreat your attention to the imperfect information which we have upon every matter the most necessary to be known before we can form any estimate of the income required. This much, I think, will at least be granted me, that the longer the duration of this arrangement is likely to be, the more it behoves us in common decency to know, at the least, all the facts which can at present be ascertained, and which bear upon the subject-matter. But will it be believed, that upon the most important part of the whole we are utterly in the dark?—that upon the amount of the income we are settling, we are all totally without information? Incredible as this may appear to be, it is yet strictly true. The whole question before us is, how much shall be bestowed upon the Sovereign for the due maintenance of the royal dignity. But, in order to ascertain this, it is absolutely necessary to know how much the Sovereign has already, independent of our gift. The measure of our gift is to be the necessities of the 1356 Crown; more than is required for the state and splendour befitting a limited Monarchy we have no right to grant; more than that there is no one thoughtless enough to dream of. If the Crown had nothing wherewith to meet the expenses, we might be said to know what we are doing when we fix a certain sum to meet the demand; but as the Crown has other revenues, all that we are now about, is fixing a sum, which, in addition to these, shall be adequate for the Royal occasions. Well, then, the amount of these revenues we know nothing whatever about. No one is disposed to make a niggardly provision; all are agreed that the income which the exalted station makes necessary, shall be given; but more than is necessary no one pretends to call for; and the question being how much shall be added to a certain income in order to make the sum total as much as is required, we are desired to answer that question without being told what the income is which is to be thus increased. We are only asked to do the impossible thing, of finding out how much must be added to an unknown quantity, in order to make a given sum—nothing more nor less. It is no question whether 385,000l. shall be given or not, or rather 395,000l., for the sum proposed is 10,000l. more than was found enough for the two last Sovereigns: one of them no very rigid economist, and the other having heavy expenses which the country could not provide for—and yet it was found that his income though 10,000l. less than is now proposed, exceeded by 20,000l. what was required—but that is not the question we are upon; nor are we asked to consider whether any of these sums, 395,000l. for example, is sufficient to maintain the dignity of the present Sovereign; but the question is this — The Sovereign is possessed of an income with which this arrangement is not to interfere; by how much is that deficient?— how much must be added to that income, in order to give the Sovereign a revenue such as her station requires? and of that income we know nothing at all. It never surely can be contended that the revenues of the two Duchies are private property, or any thing like private property. I should like to hear such a proposition advanced in this age and in this House. I should, like to see the man endued with the courage to maintain it.— I should like to see the man among your Lordships, 1357 whether on the ministerial or on the opposition benches, gifted with the confidence which must be exhibited by him who would affirm that Cornwall and Lancaster are private and personal property, and not public funds, vested in the Sovereign only as such, enjoyed as Sovereign, and in right of the Crown alone, held as public property, for the benefit of the State, and as a parcel of the national possessions. These revenues are just as much public property bestowed by former laws upon the Monarch for public purposes, as the sum we are now adding to them, wholly in the dark as to their amount, is public property bestowed by this law. Now respecting the amount of these revenues we are utterly ignorant, as indeed we are of every one particular relating to them. The debate upon my motion to produce a return of the sums really received by the Crown from these sources, comes on tomorrow, and to-night we are to fix what addition it is necessary to make, in order that the Crown may yearly have enough to defray its necessary expenses. To the production of this information now, can there possibly be any objection? You ask for money to make up a deficiency, and you won't tell us what you have got already, by which, of course, the deficiency is to be ascertained. I heard, indeed, the other night some difficulty raised, certainly not by the Government, as if there were oaths taken by the duchy officers which bound them to secrecy. My noble Friend (Lord Holland) near me, knows more of the obligations under which they are in the Lancaster department; but as to Cornwall, by far the most important in every respect, I know that there is not the least pretence for such a statement. The officers who take an oath of secrecy are the Members of the Duke's council and no others; but the officers who alone know any thing about the revenue take no oath of the kind, and from them it is that the councillors must obtain their information. They, the councillors, only swear to keep secret the Duke's counsel; but supposing they are bound not to tell what the unsworn officers have told them, all we have to do is to pass by the sworn councillor, and seek for information from the unsworn officer. Indeed it so happens, that when there is no Duke of Cornwall, and the Duchy is in the Crown, there is no council, and the affairs of the Duchy are invested in com- 1358 missioners, my noble Friend (Lord Duncannon), the Lord Privy Seal, and others, who none of them take any oath at all, and yet they must be in possession of the information we want; for as their commission is to look after "the better management of the Duchy," they must needs know its revenue before they can see to its improvement. However, there is not a pretence, nor even the shadow of a pretence for this concealment; information has been communicated in courts of justice, bills have been filed to set aside Duchy leases; the Duchy has called upon its own officer, its Surveyor General, at the very head of the revenue department, to answer on his oath touching the affairs of that department, and the legal advisers of that officer have been furnished with information by the other officers, in order that they might use it in the conduct of his cause. The objection from a supposed oath is therefore wholly groundless; and I must add, that even if there were such an oath, unless there also were shown a clear legal warrant for taking it, no such obligation of secrecy could stand in the way of the high authority of Parliament, any more than it could prove an obstacle to the inquiry of the Courts of the realm upon matters within their jurisdiction. We must, therefore, dismiss all consideration of oaths from our view, and then the question remains, Why we are left without the necessary information, and yet required to decide as if we had it before us?
I will now state a few particulars respecting the Duchy of Cornwall, in order to show your Lordships how important the subject is, and how entirely we are mistaking our way in legislating hastily and partially on the present important occasion, instead of waiting till the facts are before us and then making one general arrangement of the whole Crown revenues, for the benefit alike of the Crown and the country. I think you may rely upon the accuracy of my information as far as it goes, for I have taken pains to draw it from authentic sources, without, I do assure you, having asked any one to violate the obligation of his oath.
There are, belonging to the Duchy, between thirty and forty manors in the county of Cornwall, ten having been sold to redeem the land-tax upon the whole estates. There is, beside the manorial rights, a considerable extent of demesne 1359 land, and independent of all surface property, there are very extensive and valuable mineral rights all over the county. This is exclusive of the possessions of the Duchy, which are most valuable, in many of the other counties — Devon, Dorset, Somerset, Surry, Norfolk, Herts, and as far as Lincolnshire. There may be, in all, upwards of a hundred parcels of property of various kinds, manorial, and demesne, beside the mineral rights. I mention this to meet the doubt expressed by the noble Baron opposite (Lord Ellenborough), whether a return of the fines received for the last seven years would be any test of their amount in future. It is clear that in so many estates the fines will be renewable at various times, and thus that an average may easily be obtained.
Now, the property to which I have adverted, is let upon lease, for lives and for terms of years, and in either case upon a moderate rent, sometimes raised indeed, but with large fines upon renewal. For the twenty-five years between 1713, the late Duke's majority, and 1808, the average rents were from 3,000l. to 4,000l., the average fines from 5,000l. to 6,000l. a year; but these were years of comparatively small receipt. During the minority there had been received considerably more than 10,000l. a year, for about 225,000l. was paid out of the net revenues for the Prince of Wales's expenses, and it was never pretended that this was anything like the net profit upon the whole estates. Between 1808 and 1813 there were received in fines only, no less than 129,000l. in the space of five years. For a renewal of the lease of that valuable but small piece of ground called Prince's Meadow, which adjoins Waterloo Bridge on the Surry side, no less a sum than 55,000l. was taken; and for a renewed lease to the Corporation of the ground called Sutton Pool at Plymouth, a sum of 12,000l. The term of years in each case was 99, but there was a rent reserved of 4,000l. in the one and 1,000l. in the other, both to commence in 1841; so that whatever may be the unknown amount of the present Duchy income, we know that in three or four years it must on these two parcels of the estates, be increased 5,000l. a year. But let us consider the fines; on these two parcels they amounted to 67,000l. leaving of the whole sum of 129,000l. received, 62,000l. raised by fines upon the other leases renewed during these five 1360 years. Now, these other leases were not for years, but for lives, all of which will drop in about three years. They are almost all comprised in four leases of valuable mineral rights, which will enable the Crown to raise almost immediately, a sum of at least what was paid at the last renewal, namely, 62,000l. But the Crown will inevitably be enabled to gain a very great deal more; for since 1810, the value of mining property has greatly increased from the improvements in machinery, in the scientific knowledge and mechanical skill brought to bear upon the management of all underground property, and also from the general accumulation of capital. It would, therefore, by no means be too sanguine, or too bold a calculation to estimate the sum of money which the Crown, that is the reigning Sovereign may immediately after this civil list is settled, obtain upon these four leases at 80,000l. 90,000l. or even 100,000l. I have conferred with persons to whom the subject is familiar, persons themselves largely engaged in mining pursuits, and I will venture to affirm that I speak within the mark very considerably, when I put the least sum which can be expected to accrue from this source, at 80,000l. It is said, indeed, that the Sovereign, may instead of taking fines, raise the rents, which would only effect an increase of the Royal income we now are settling blindfold. But what security have we that any such thing will be done? How can we know that the improvident mode of fines will not be again resorted to? All we know is, that every thing is left unprovided for by this Bill; that it depends upon the will of the Monarch, whether large sums of money shall be taken at once and the Duchy revenue impoverished for years, or whether the just and prudent course shall be adopted of permanently raising the rents of the estates; and we also know that this Bill, so far from affording the least security against the bad or for the good plan of management, does not in any manner of way touch the subject, or so much as mention the Duchy from beginning to end. How, indeed, could the Bill make any provision respecting these things, when we see in what manner it has been, I will not say hurried, but carried, through Parliament, in all its stages and in both Houses? Not only has it been absolutely impossible that it should contain any settlement of this important 1361 affair, satisfactory to the people and becoming the station of the Prince, but any settlement at all—nay, any reference to those ample revenues; nay, time has not been allowed in the extremity of our dispatch, for making a mere statement of their net amount. That was to have come to-morrow, and we are assembled on this unwonted day (Wednesday) to pass it, in order that no time may be lost, or rather given to put us in possession of the necessary information. The income of 395,000l. a year is to be given to the Sovereign, who may on any day raise a vast additional sum by anticipating the rich revenues of the Duchy, that is of the future provision of the Duke of Cornwall, for whose support, as heir apparent, the Constitution has provided them. And here, my Lords, when I speak of the Sovereign, I must be understood only to adopt that expression for shortness sake, meaning always the responsible Ministers of the Crown. Nothing can be more reprehensible than the constant introduction of the Sovereign's name, and the constant allusion to the Sovereign as an individual, of late so much in vogue amongst us. My noble Whig Friends have carried this Tory practice to the utmost extent; the Ministers are hardly any more alluded to, than if there existed no such persons; and yet the old doctrine of the Constitution — the Whig doctrine of which we have got so wide under Whig auspices,—used in my younger days to be that of Kings and Queens we knew nothing in Parliament, but only of their servants and advisers. I, therefore, if I might be permitted such an old-fashioned liberty, would venture to name the Minister of the time being, and remind your Lordships that there is nothing whatever to prevent him, whoever he may be, my noble Friend, or the noble Duke, or some one as yet not known amongst us, from taking fines to the amount I have mentioned, and advising the Sovereign to spend the whole in any way he chooses, and for any purposes however extravagant, or however unconstitutional. None of these parties are bound by any thing in this Bill, for adding near 400,000l. to the fixed Royal income—or by any pledge given upon passing it—or by any promise made here or elsewhere—or by any statement, or intimation, or by any hint or understanding; none of them are in any way bound to have the Duchy revenues providently and 1362 honestly managed without anticipation; the Minister of the day may help the Sovereign of the day to such fines as will impoverish the Duchy for half a century to come, and no one will have a right to say, it is against the faith of any treaty, in breach of any contract, in contravention of any understanding whatever. The four mineral leases, to which I have alluded as worth 80,000l. or 100,000l. for converting future revenue into ready money, are not by any means all; there are other sources of as abundant supply to the Royal purse. For instance, there is the Kennington Estate in the near neighbourhood of this House; it is Duchy property, and the lease has actually expired. The fine for renewal was, I know, some years ago assessed at 100,000l. but the lessee declined to renew—that he would have given 80,000l. or 90,000l. there cannot be the least question;—but I make no kind of doubt that the Duchy officers were well advised respecting the value, and that the full 100,000l. will, if wished for, be obtained. Upon these five parcels of property then, now and during the next two or three years, a sum of near 200,000l. may be obtained for the Sovereign, if the course hitherto pursued shall be persisted in, and the reigning Prince be advised to enrich himself at the expense of the Duchy. No provision upon this branch of the revenue is made by the Bill; nor any information at all given to us upon the subject. Nothing, however, can be more clear, than that the present arrangement should not only be made with a full knowledge of that subject, but that the arrangement should comprehend the settlement of the Duchies on a right footing, by the transfer of Cornwall as well as Lancaster to the public, and the placing their administration under the ordinary departments of the public service, making fair compensation to the Crown or the Duke for the surrender. What do your Lordships think is the charge of managing these Duchies as their affairs are now administered? Of Lancaster I am not able to form so accurate an estimate; but I know that the gross revenues of Cornwall for the years from 1810 to 1819 inclusive, amounted to 333,000l.; and what think you was the net revenue, for the proportion of the net to the gross is the test of good management? Why, only 228,000l.—so that one pound in every three was taken, absorbed, for the cost of 1363 collecting and managing the whole. Match me that if you can, in the worst managed estate in any part of the United Kingdom! Shew me the man who submits to one pound being retained in the country or lost by the way, for every two that are paid into his account at the bankers! Another striking instance of mismanagement is afforded by the encroachments which are made every where upon the duchy domains. What think you of an estate of five and forty acres, having, within the period of two or three generations, extended to 200 of good arable land, without any miracle, or any fresh grant, without any gain from the sea by embankment, or the deposit of any alluvial soil? The extension was effected by the address and industry of one party, the proprietor, and the carelessness of the other party the duchy authorities. When asked by one who recollected the old bounds of the farm, how all this increase had been effected, the party now in quiet possession of the extended domain, answered innocently enough in his Cornish dialect, that it was all owing to his grandfather being a careful man and good at hedging by candlelight. Such care and such skill never could have succeeded in adding one acre to the possession, had the neighbouring property belonged to a private individual, or been under the management of my noble Friend (Lord Duncannon,) at the head of the woods and forests. A course of encroachment which increases men's estates tenfold within living memory at the expence of the public never could last six months after the affairs of the duchy were brought under the superintendence of that vigilant department.
But the other encroachments of which I have been speaking are still more deserving of reprehension, I mean those of the reigning Sovereign upon the duchy revenues, by fines, and other means of anticipation. Your Lordships are aware that the eldest son of the Sovereign, who is always created Prince of Wales, and Earl of Chester, is born Duke of Cornwall, For his support, and the maintenance of his state and dignity, as heirapparent to the crown, the revenues of the duchy are provided. While there is no Duke, and during his minority, those revenues are vested in the Crown; and although it is very possible that, if well managed during the abeyance of the title, they might suffice for the purpose 1364 when a Duke came into existence, this is altogether hopeless if the Sovereign be suffered to exhaust the sources of regular income by anticipation. What is the consequence? The nation settles what is supposed an adequate income on the reigning Sovereign; the duchy estates are appropriated to the support of the heir-apparent; and the reigning Sovereign being allowed also to exhaust and pervert all the revenue of the duchy, the nation has afterwards to support the heir-apparent also. I have indeed heard of a very different account of the matter being given in another place. It has come to my ears irregularly enough I admit, that a right hon. Friend of mine (the Chancellor of the Exchequer,) has there painted things in far other colours. If I could at this moment, without greater irregularity still, address myself to him, aware that what I speak he is now hearing,* I should add that he confounded some present on the occasion I allude to, almost to suffocation, by affirming that the duchy revenues were for the Prince of Wales's support, and that therefore he never came to Parliament for any grant of money. Was ever yet witnessed such profound ignorance of financial history? Was ever yet displayed such astonishing unacquaintance with princely natures? The heir apparent live upon the reduced Cornish revenue? The Prince of Wales never come to Parliament for money! Why, within seven years of his birth, the expenses of the King's family were given as a reason for debts of half a million having been incurred, which the country immediately paid; and in nine years more, the same plea obtained a still larger sum, with an addition of 100,000l. a year, to the final settlement of 1760! But grant, that on the Prince of Wales's coming in esse, and during his minority there was no specific application made to Parliament on his behalf,—the instant he came of age a message was sent down, and a sum of 50,000l. a year granted, over and above the revenues of the duchy,—those revenues which we are told preclude all occasion for an application to Parliament. From the hour that he became of an age to be capable of spending money, the public treasure was lavished in providing for his support, and in enormous sums* The Chancellor of the Exchequer was sitting near the Throne.1365 from time to time to pay his debts. What, then, can be more wild than the pretence that the duchy revenues should be withheld from the public, because they are a provision for the heir-apparent, unless it be the yet more extravagant inconsistency of pretending that you are keeping them for this purpose, and all the while suffering the reigning Sovereign to use them at pleasure, anticipating the income as often as money is wanted for any purpose, and reducing the amount to be afterwards enjoyed by the Prince?
I think, my Lords, that I have said enough to demonstrate the absurdity of proceeding in the present arrangement without having before us all those heads of information; the great impolicy of making a partial and perpetual settlement of the royal revenue; and the improvident, unstatesmanlike precipitancy with which we are hurrying through this measure, instead of laying on the present occasion the foundation of a general and systematic plan which may comprehend all the branches of the Sovereign's income, and secure to all of them an efficient and beneficial administration for the future. But there is another part of the Bill upon which I feel it necessary to make one or two observations: I mean the project for newmodelling the pension list, and enabling the Crown to grant so many pensions yearly as amount to 1,200l. in the whole. This is a matter of great moment, and it is beset by no ordinary difficulties. That the power of rewarding merit, whether displayed in the immediate service of the state, or towards mankind at large, should exist somewhere, cannot be questioned. If that high and peculiarly delicate discretion is vested in the Sovereign, perhaps upon the whole the most unexceptionable arrangement, I yet am well aware of the abuse to which its exercise is liable. I have no fear of corruption, or of any gross abuse, so long as Parliament shall be informed of the grants made from time to time. It is rather the careless use of this patronage that I am apt to dread, arising from ignorance of the subject, and from indolently yielding to importunity. There must also be admitted to exist some risk of giving men of letters that habit of looking for court favour, so fatal to independence, and so often turned to a bad account in the monarchies of the Continent. Yet all this may be practised without any pension list, practised in corners where 1366 the eye of scrutiny cannot pierce, or the finger of reprobation point, by the abuse of other ample funds vested in the Crown, should the disposition to corrupt learned men exist, and be met by a willingness on their part to stoop from their proud eminence, and degrade themselves into the servile creatures of a court. Then I must look at the other side of the picture, and that leaves me no room to doubt that the evils which beset the steps of genius, demand relief; nay, that there must be the means provided of removing the actual obstruction to its career. I know so much of the struggles which are so often made by those great men—the lights of the world, born to exalt human nature, to stretch the views and the power of man by the conquests of science, and whose lowest title to our gratitude is, that their immortal labours polish, and multiply, and enrich all the arts of life. Following at an immeasurable distance, and, as it were, only with the eye, their bright path—slaking my thirst at the sources which they have opened,—or humbly bearing into darker regions the sacred light which their genius has kindled, I know how often it has happened that their course has been impeded by craving wants; that they have been fain to quell within them the desire of original investigation, to tame down their lofty spirit, and quit the congenial pursuits that were leading them on to extend the empire of science, or giving them to enchant countless ages with the inspirations of their fancy—for the humbler occupations that minister to the wants of frail humanity. Aware of this—having present to my mind such necessities as these, and the inevitable consequences of their not being relieved—can I hesitate in agreeing to some provision being made for removing such obstructions, and enabling the greatest benefactors of mankind to prosecute their highest vocation.
But even this part of the arrangement is liable to the objection I have urged against all the rest. We are legislating precipitately, and without the requisite information. In what position is the question at this hour? A Committee has been appointed by the other House to investigate the whole subject. Has its report been approved? It has not even been considered. Has it been made? It is not yet drawn up. Has the Committee agreed upon any report? It has not ex- 1367 amined a person, a paper, or a record. Has it proceeded to business at all? It has not yet met. It is barely appointed; it is only called into existence, after a stormy birth, and many a struggle for life; it is just alive, and no more. No man can divine what it may do when it comes to mature strength, and can act. No conjecture is offered of what may be the result of its labours, or so much as what course they shall take. And yet we are called upon to settle the pension list upon a very hasty and crude suggestion thrown out in quite another Committee. The Committee appointed expressly to consider pensions has done nothing; all men are anxiously awaiting its proceedings. The Committee on the civil list having no particular commission to consider pensions, makes a report as meagre and scanty as possible on the civil list, and throws in a hurried and ill-considered remark upon a subject not belonging to its inquiry. We are desired to legislate irrevocably touching pensions upon this remark of the Civil List Committee, and not to wait for the report of the pension Committee! If we had been about making provision for the pensions during a life of sixty, as in George 4th's case, or of sixty-eight as in William 4th's—even then such thoughtless haste would have been indecent. But we are providing for a life of eighteen; and such is the impatience, not only of a day's delay, but of all inquiry and all discussion, that in the absence of the information which a Committee has been appointed expressly to obtain, we are to catch at and grasp a chance expression in another Committee's report, and sitting on unwonted days, and assembling at unaccustomed hours, we hurry through the Bill which is to make law for half a century, in breathless impatience, for fear that by the least delay we should postpone our decision until the materials for making it are before us! But if all this haste was necessary, and not an instant of time was to be lost, why, let me ask, were we not called together earlier in the season? In 1830, we met at the beginning of November instead of the end. In former years, when the war raged, we were assembled in September. I ask my noble Friend at the head of the Colonies (Lord Glenelg) why did we not meet as early now? Would it not have been expedient to profit by the wisdom of Parliament, for adopting some definite 1368 course upon the great question that now agitates our principle settlement in America? Ought we not betimes to have resolved at least upon some principles of conduct, and steadily pursued them, instead of letting our precipitancy in one thing rival our slowness in another, and our vacillation of purpose where decision was required, maintain the strife with our pertinacity when the truest wisdom was to retrace our steps? Ought we not to have so early met the great council of the nation, as to give time for correcting, by the help of experience, the fatal errors of last May? If those who preceded us could aforetime meet in the Autumn, that the work of slaughter might be done, ought not we to have been early convoked, for the more blessed labours of conciliation and peace? Then there had been no occasion for that hurry which has marked every step in this measure, and must for ever sink its value to nothing in the eyes of all reflecting men. As many months and weeks would have been given as we have now had days and hours for considering all its provisions; and the same wise foresight and deliberate prudence which presided over the whole settlement for supporting the Crown, would have preserved the brightest of the jewels that it still retains.
But I have done my duty—I have unburthened my conscience—I have relieved my own mind. It remains that I render my thanks to your Lordships, which I sincerely and respectfully do, for the patience with which you have had the kindness to hear so many things in which you disagree with me, and which are not listened to without uneasiness, any more than they can be delivered without pain. It has indeed been my irksome task to obstruct you in the course all seemed most anxious to pursue with little reflection and no delay, and to obstruct you by a recourse to principles now, I fear, out of date—the principles of legislation, sanctioned by the spirit of former precedent, and the analogy of constitutional law. This unwelcome office you have suffered me to perform, and my humble thanks are your due. Will you indulge me with your attention yet a moment while I advert to the singular predicament in which the Sovereign is placed for whose high estate the provision that we are making is destined? It is wholly unnecessary that I should profess those sentiments of dutiful 1369 attachment which bind all of us to the illustrious House, called by the choice of the people to preside over the destinies of these realms. Nor does any one among you all rejoice more sincerely than I have done in the enthusiasm of affection which has burst from all her subjects, to greet the accession of the reigning Monarch. They have generously let expectation usurp the place of gratitude. They have taken counsel with hope, rather than experience. For as memory scatters her sweets with a cold and churlish hand, it has been found more pleasing to array the object of the general love in the attire of fancy; and as fervent a devotion has been kindled towards the yet untried ruler, as could have glowed in her people's bosom after the longest and most glorious reign, in which she should have only lived and only governed for the country's good; by some chronic miracle, escaping all error and all failure, and only showering down blessings upon mankind. I heartily rejoice in this enthusiasm, and I do not complain of it as premature. I rejoice in it because it must prove delightful to the royal object of it. I rejoice still more because I know that it will stimulate the Queen to live for her country, in order to earn the affections which have already been bestowed, and justify the opinion which has been formed and is so fondly cherished upon trust. But most chiefly do I rejoice, because it extinguishes for ever all apprehensions of the English people's loyalty and trustworthiness; puts to shame all who would represent them as disaffected towards Monarchical institutions; demonstrates the safety of entrusting them with an ample measure of political rights; and teaches to statesmen this great practical lesson, that the more we extirpate abuse from our system, the more searching we make our reforms, the more we endear the Constitution to the people by making them feel its benefits—the safer will be the just rights of the Monarch who is its head, and the stronger will be the allegiance of the subject who cheerfully obeys. So that far from dreading the policy which would strengthen the people's hands by confirming their liberties and extending their rights, we ought to pursue this course for the sake of the Monarchy itself, which we shall thus better entitle to the people's affections, and render, because more beloved, more secure.
§ Bill read a second time.1370