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Royal assent had been given, by commission, to several public and private Bills.]
Mr. Jekyll proceeded. "At the moment that I was interrupted by the summons to attend in the Upper House, I was endeavouring to conciliate the attention of Gentlemen, by stating my conviction how much the subject for their present consideration had been both privately and publicly discussed, and the necessity which I thence felt of intruding upon their time as shortly as possible. In bringing forward this question, it may not be improper to declare that I stand, both politically and personally, wholly unconnected with that Noble Person, whose fate and reputation are involved in the discussion } disapproving even of a great part of his public conduct, and particularly lamenting his secession from that phalanx, to which, for a considerable time past, I have looked as alone capable of effecting the salvation of the empire. When I consider that the question involves not only the character of the Noble Lord, but is connected with consequences that tend to the dismemberment of the empire, I feel it to be my duty to bring forward the subject to the most serious consideration of the House, and I trust they will feel they are called upon not only by their feelings of what is due to that Noble Personage, whose conduct has been called in question, but by the strongest motives of patriotism, and their regard to the most essential interests of the country, to enter upon the inquiry, which I shall propose to them to institute. I have always thought that the Public had an interest in watching over the characters of public men, and in vindicating them from insinuated abuse and unjust aspersion. Public character I regard as public property, ever to be held sacred, till it has openly been forfeited; nor is the stock of public character existing among eminent individuals to be diminished, or frittered a%vny by indirect attack, or consigned to censure without inquiry. If we are to believe the assertion of the Noble Lord, his public character has been impeached by his recal from the high office which he held in the government of a neighbouring kingdom. And here I hope I am not to be told that the prerogative which empowers the Crown to dismiss its officers at discretion, operates as a bar to any inquiry in the present instance. I am disposed to subscribe to the just exercise of the prerogative on all proper occasions. But where the House see a minister stretching the prerogative for particular purposes, and beyond ordinary bounds, I am aware that they are possessed of an inquisitorial power to examine into the grounds of such extraordinary and unwarranted exertion of an authority delegated by the constitution, and, if they shall find neces*Vofc. III. N n sary, ssry, to confine that prerogative within its fair and natural limits. It is pariiculavly the business of the House to watch over the extension of Court influence to that sifter kingdom, whose situation forms the principal object of the present consideration. This jealousy of Court influence is a constitutional principle which ought to actuate the Legislature of both countries, and this vigilance to guard against its progress in either, a duty of reciprocal protection which they owe to one another. That on this score there is ground of serious alarm cannot be denied. Let the House only advert to a question formerly brought forward by that great lawyer (Mr. Dunning), whose seat I now unworthily fill, and adopted in a resolution, " That the influence of the Crown had increased, was increasing^ and ought to be diminished." It will not surely be contended that the danger is less at present than it was at that former period.
Having said so much to the general principle, I shall more particulaily advert to the transaction which has given birth to the present discussion.' And I think that it must be admitted • that the recal of a Viceroy of Ireland by the Cabinet of this country, in the midst of a session, and at a time that he was acting with the full applause of those whom he was appointed to govern, and that addresses from all quarters were heaped on his table, is prima ftuk tantamount to a charge of not doing his duty. On a former day, when the subject was dated by my Right Hon. Friend (Mr. Fox), though I then happened to be engaged in the country on a professional concern, I have understood that the Right Hon. Gentleman declared in his place, "That whenever the period came for investigation, he should undertake'to prove that no blame whatever attached to the ministers of this country for any share which they had in the transaction."—What was this but a charge by implication? Upon that day then it should seem that an inquiry was in the contemplation of the minister, and if the blame of the transaction did not attach to ministers, it necessarily must attach to Earl Fitzwilliam. It would indeed have been a more fair and manly mode of procedure- if the Right Hon. Gentleman had come forward, and openly charged the Noble Lord with obstinacy and contumacy, with disobedience to the instructions of the Cabinet here, or disregard to the interests of the country which he was deputed to govern. It might perhaps however, better suit the views of the Right Hon. Gentleman to whisper away the reputation of the Noble Lord, and to insinuate blame of his public conduct. It would well, however, become the House to reflect that, if this procedure be countenanced, there is no public man whose character is safe, or
whose whose conduct may not by the artifice of a minister be overwhelmed in disgrace or obloquy without the smallest chance of inquiry or vindication. This declaration then of the Right Hon. Gentleman, "that no blame attached to the ministers of this country," I must consider in every point of view as a charge against the Noble Lord. In this light it was considered by the Noble Lord himself, who, in a paper which is published with every proof of authenticity, gives a direct and complete negative to the charge. In this paper, which I shall quote as part of my speech, the Noble Earl represents, that, previous to his assuming the government of Ireland, the Duke of Portland, and the whole of the Cabinet, concurred with him in his opinion on the question of Catholic emancipation; and that, had he found it otherwise, he never would have undertaken the government of the sister kingdom. Under this conviction he sets out and arrives in Ire 1 ami: He there finds it impossible, both from the situation of the country, and the opinion of the most respectable individuals, to resist the immediate discussion of the question.—And here it is material to attend to dates. He writes two letters to the Noble Secretary of State, stating to him what was the situation os the country, and the mode of procedure which he should in consequence find himself compelled to adopt. Of neither of these letters was any notice taken, and the Noble Earl drew the conclusion which any rational man would have formed in the same circumstances, from the silence of ministers. Four weeks were suffered to elapse before the Noble Earl received a letter from the Duke of Portland, putting a direct negative on the business. At last comes out thefons mahrum; the Noble Earl had thought it necessary as a measure of his government to dismiss from office the family of the Bercsfords, who, whatever might be their claims in other respects, were at least no favourites with the Public. And here I cannot help noticing a piece of conduct adopted by the Right Hon. Gentleman in the management of this business; the Duke of Portland is the person selected from the r«st of the Cabinet, on thi3 occasion, to wound the same and the feelings of his friend. This iii a refinement of cruelty; in which the Right Hon. Gentleman excels; it was not enough simply to murder the reputation of the Noble Lord —the hand of a friend must be directed to plunge the dagger in his bosom. The Duke os Portland, connected with the Noble Earl by habits of early friendsliip and old politic al connexion^ appeared to be the fittest instrument of the cruel and insidious policy of the Right Hon. Gentleman. 4* Cruelly," lays the Noble Earl in the paper to which I have referred, "cruelly as she Duke of Portland has treated me, I feel no difficulty to
fay, that his judgment was deceived before he abandoned me: On whatever ground he has suffered himself to be ir.Juced to change his former opinions respecting the politics r»f this country, and the characters and views of its principal personages, he did change those opinions; and, in consequence of that change alone, he has been driven to consent to the measure of my instant recal." At last the Chancellor of the Exchequer himself comes forward, and tears off the veil. In a letter addressed to Earl Fitzwilliam he tells him openly the grounds of his removal. He fays, "that on the subject of arrangements, he felt himself bound to adhere to these sentiments, not only with respect to Mr. Ber.sford, but to the line of conduct adopted in so many instances towards the former supporters of Government •, by these sentiments he must, at all events, be guided from a regard to the King's service, and to his own honour, however sincerely he might lament the consequences which must arise from the present situation." Here the interest of the Beresford family, and of the former supporters of Government, is held out as the only ground of dissension; the question of the Catholic emancipation appears to be a mere stalking-horse assumed by ministers for the convenience of the occasion, while at the fame time every hireling paper on the fide of ministers was representing the conduct of the Noble Earl on that question ns a source of the most serious alarm to ministers, and as pregnant with consequences the most mischievous to the country in which it was agitated; consequences which could only be obvi..ted by the immediate removal of the Noble Person fr^ni office. Ail the while, fays Earl Fitzwilliam, it was the object of the Right Hon. Gentleman "not to strengthen Administration bv an accession of character, but to debase, degrade, and disgrnre that characterj he did not wish for our assistance, butknowr g the importance we gave to the system then pursuing relative to France, he snatched at the opportunity, and made that the means of disgracing our character, and rendering us sit for Do other service, but to be his vile tools and instrument.--." If this turn out to be ti.e fact, a scene of more gross dupl city, rt more scandalous dupery was never exhibited by an artful and i' induing minister in the most credulous or corrupt periods. Here then was a virtual charge, and a recrimination upon v.-K-ch to found aa inquiry. But this is not all. In another place, to which the etiquette of Parliament does not allow me more particularly to allude, a Noble Person (Lord Westmorland) condescended graciouslv and grucrfully to step forward, and dissolving all the Tegard which had been so affecte'.'Jy .uiached to the oath of secrecy of a Cabinet minister, said that the Chancellor of the
ExcheExchequer, whom he called by an ordinary and a coarser name (the plain appellation of Mr. Pitt), had assured him; "That Earl Fitzwilliam had no authority whatever from ministers in this country for taking the steps which he had done on the Catholic question:"—Nay, he went further, and said, "That they were steps taken, not only without their authority, but even with their positive disapprobation." Mr. Ponsonby in the House of Commons in Ireland, broadly stakes his reputation, u That all measures adopted with respect to the Catholic question under the administration of Earl Fitzwilliam were taken with the previous concurrence of the Cabinet of this country." Here then we have the charge, the defence, and the recrimination, each contradicting the other. Under these circumstances, will the House decline to go into an inquiry, on a transaction which involves the public character of a distinguished Nobleman, perhaps the dismemberment of the empire, and at any rate a great and important constitutional question? Perhaps it was the intention of the Right Hon. Gentleman to degrade the character of public men in the eyes of the nation. It might be part of his system to degrade all those with whom he acted. Where now are his original friends? The degradation of his new allies, he might consider as the best security for their suture support. He might feel it to be his policy to degrade others, as it was only from the degradation of others, that he could himself possess pre-eminence. This system he had in many instances attempted to practise, though in all he had not been equally successful. The public voice had reversed the imperious decree, and attached to a removal from office, by that Right Hon. Gentleman, aTentiment very different from that ot disgrace. Was the Duke of Leeds considered as disgraced, when he was removed from his office of Secretary of State? Did any degradation attach to a Noble and Learned Lord who was dismissed from the Woolsack, because he would not lend his hand to a dirty job brought forward, I will not fay by what Member of Administration) in this House? Was any presumption of disgrace to be formed from the removal of the Dyke of Richmond from the Board of Ordnance? Let another Right Honourable Gentleman (Mr. Windham) whom I have seen writhing and agonizing under his new friendships the whole of the session, which to a mind like his, the desertion of principles, and the sacrifice of friendship, cannot but have rendered painful in the extreme, bcw;ire of the imputations which he may incur under a similar fatt; it does not require the aid of prophecy to pronounce, that he will be the jnext victim of the insidious policy of the Right Hon. Gen"• tleman.