Page images
PDF
[merged small][ocr errors][graphic][graphic][graphic][ocr errors][ocr errors][graphic][graphic][graphic][graphic][ocr errors][graphic][ocr errors][ocr errors][graphic][ocr errors][graphic][ocr errors][graphic][ocr errors][ocr errors]

he commercial policy of that Gentlenan, he was sure there was no Member of that House who did not feel regret for his leath, and deplore the loss of a man whose talents were unquestioned,- and whose life had been devoted to the service of his country. This eulogium might be styled foreign to the subject before the House; but although that right hon. Gentleman's political opponent, he thought he Bhould be unworthy of a place in that House if he failed to pay a just and proper tribute to his talents and his services. With regard to the questions of the Civil List and the Regency, he was confident they would receive due consideration from the House; and he therefore should now conclude by expressing his belief, that the distress of the country, felt so strongly at the commencement of the Session, had, as was anticipated, subsided under the influence of time. He thanked the House for the indulgence with which they had been pleased to hear him; he would no longer trespass upon their time, but would conclude by expressing his cordial concurrence in the Address moved by his noble friend.

The Speaker having read the Address, Lord AIthorp said, that the subjects to ■which his Majesty's Speech, and the Address which had been moved by the noble Lord referred, might be classed under two heads—our domestic and our foreign relations; on both of which he begged to say a few words. With respect to the first, he had heard with gratification that part of the King's Speech which declared his Majesty's determination to enforce strict economy in every branch of the public expenditure. Such a declaration, if duly acted upon, would communicate general satisfaction throughout the country. With respect also to the passage in his Majesty's Speech which related to the Civil List, it was most gratifying to him, and it must be most gratifying to every one, to find that his Majesty was disposed to place his interests in the hereditary revenues, and in the other funds, which, in former settlements of the Civil List, had been reserved to the Crown, at the disposal of Parliament. He was quite sure that in doing so' his Majesty might rely with perfect confidence on the House and the country; because he was certain, that while the House and the country must feel the absolute necessity of the most rigorous economy and retrenchment, they would

be very sorry indeed to make such an arrangement with respect to the Civil List, as would be incompatible with the comfort and dignity of the Sovereign. He hoped, however, that whenever this subject was brought under the consideration of Parliament, the particular interests of his Majesty would be carefully separated from all other interests; for nothing could be more inconvenient, or more calculated to foster unjust prejudices, than that questions relating to the maintenance of the properdignity of the Crown should be united to questions with which they ought to be altogether unconnected. He hoped, therefore, that the estimates of the Civil List, when submitted to the House, would be in such a shape as would admit of their being discussed with reference solely to what was due to the honour and dignity of the Crown; and that the other questions to which he adverted should be considered with reference to the general expenditure of the country. As to the Regency question, he was happy to understand that it was to be brought forward. Until, however, the provisions which it was intended to propose were known, it would, of course, be impossible to make any particular observation on that subject. With reference to the last topic of a domestic nature to which his Majesty's Speech adverted, it must be quite unnecessary for him to say, that he lamented as much as any man could lament, the turbulence and malicious mischief which had been manifested in various parts of the country, and especially in the neighbourhood of the metropolis. It was certainlv most deeply to be regretted that any portion of the people, however suffering from distress, should be so misguided as to be induced to destroy the property of their employers, and thereby to diminish the power of those employers to assist them. He would not say any more on the domestic topics of his Majesty's Speech. As to our foreign relations, and first with respect to the recent occurrences . in France, he begged to observe, that the honorable Seconder had expressed a regret at those occurrences which was not to be found in the King's Speech. All that the Speech did, was to announce the fact, "that the elder branch of the House of Bourbon no longer reigned in France, and that the Duke of Orleans had been called to the Throne by the title of King of the French." If the hon. Gentleman meant by his regret, that he regretted that any government had been induced to invade the liberties of a country, in such a regret he perfectly concurred. But if the hon. Gentleman meant that he regretted that a sovereign and a ministry, so misconducting themselves, should suffer for their behaviour, in a regret of that nature he could not for a moment concur. As to the Netherlands, he was sorry that his Majesty had been advised to express any opinion on the state of public affairs in that country. He entertained considerable objection to the part of the Address which expressed to his Majesty a corresponding opinion on that subject; but it was so inconvenient, and was attended with so much disadvantage to, discuss a question of that nature on an occasion like the present, that he would abstain from saying or doing anything more than entering his protest against any interference on the part of our Government in the domestic concerns of the Netherlands. As to the external and diplomatic considerations which might arise out of existing circumstances, that was a question which stood on very different grounds. With respect to the proposed recognition of the Sovereign of Portugal, when he considered that the present sovereign of that country had been a sovereign de facto for three years, his hostility against any foreign interference with a de facto government compelled him to say, that he did not think we should do well if we delayed the proposed measure. Having stated his views on these several points, he would proceed to make a few observations on the general state of the country. He confessed that he was not alarmed on that point. He did not believe that the country was in such a state of general discontent as to justify immediate apprehension. At the same time he felt that great skill and great care would be necessary to guide it safely through its difficulties; and he was bound to say, that he did not think his Majesty's present Ministers were qualified for so arduous an undertaking. But while he stated this he would add, that he should look at their measures, and if those measures appeared to him to be such as to deserve approbation, they should receive his most cordial support. He made that declaration for himself, but he believed it would also be found to express the sentiments and intentions of all his hon. friends near him [assenting cheers from the Opposition]. At

the same time, feeling as he at present di with respectto the existing Administratis he should certainly not object to any proposition, the tendency of which might hi to displace them. On the question of economy and retrenchment, he thousi: the country had a right to demand the strictest limitation in every department of the public expenditure. He thought that the country had a right to demand this; and he also thought that his Majesty's Government ought, in the present Session, to take a more extensive and statesman-like view of the general system of our taxation than it had hitherto done. It would be affectation, however, on his part, if he were to say that he had any expectation that it would undertake such a task. It might be, however, that they contemplated some proceeding of the nature he alluded to; and if so, he confessed it would come upon him as a very agreeable surprise. The object ought to be to take such an enlarged view of the principle of our taxation as might tend to render its pressure as light as possible on the industry of the country. There was another great question which he had long supported, the importance of which had not hitherto appeared to have been duly estimated by the country, but which now seemed likely to assume a more practical character. The people at large seemed at length to be convinced that the most effective measure towards a remedy for the various evils under which they laboured, was a reform in Parliament. For himself he believed, that if concessions on this subject had formely been made, less would have satisfied the people than would now satisfy them. This was not to him, however, a matter of the slightest regret. The reform ought to be extensive; and he was very far from being sorry that at the late elections the people seemed to be almost universally of the same opinion. He hoped and trusted, that in the course of the present Session much would be effected in furtherance of this most desisable object; and every measure of that description should receive his most cordial support.

Mr. Dundas was understood to say, that the noble Lord had misconceived his observations on Don Miguel.

The Marquis of Blandford said, it was of the greatest importance, in these eventful times, teeming with jealousy and suspicion on the part of subjects towards their rulers, that from this new Parliament, which ought to speak the voice of the people, his Majesty should hear and know what they felt and thought of the measures and character of the last Parliament: because, if his Majesty should be led to believe, that the last Parliament was generally approved of by his people, it would be one of the most fatal errors that could be palmed upon his Majesty, and might lead him to connect himself with that small faction in the State, which was notoriously the master of the last Parliament. That circumstance alone might defeat and disappoint all the hopes of those who placed their reliance upon the personal disposition of his Majesty, who were sincerely attached to our ancient Constitution of King, Lords, and Commons—and who looked to his present Majesty, as he undoubtedly had the power, with hopes that he would be the great instrument of restoring that Constitution to its pristine purity, and thereby prevent— what, at such a period as the present, was but too likely to happen—the bringing into disrepute among1 the people even the very frame of that Constitution; engendering perhaps a spirit for theories, novelties, and questionable " improvements," in place of a lawful endeavour to get back the wellknown and long-tried Constitution of their ancestors. Under the last Parliament, laws were put in force which greatly increased the value of the current money then circulating in the kingdom, and a deaf ear was turned to all the just and reasonable petitions of the people for a corresponding reduction of the taxes. Hence the affairs of all persons concerned in land and trade became unexpectedly involved in confusion; and losses to so great an extent occurred, as in thousands and thousands of instances were productive of utter ruin—while the land itself, and most other sources of productive industry, suffered a diminution of their former value of the most alarming nature. Such, indeed, had been the influence of our fluctuating monetary system over other countries, that to it might be ascribed the contraction of the currency in France and elsewhere. That, again, had caused so great a want of employment among the working classes, wherever heavy taxes had to be paid, as seriously endangered the very existence of the governments where those in power had not the wisdom and the virtue to make large and corresponding reductions VOL. I.

of the taxes, instead of endeavouring to prop their existence by forced loans, false credit, and all the abominations of the funding system. Under the last Parliament, the laws of England were fearfully altered; the Judges of the land, the ambassadors to foreign courts, the governors of our colonies, and a great variety of other officers, as well as placemen and pensioners, were paid far beyond what the country could afford; and at the same time doctrines and opinions were maintained, and conduct adopted by different functionaries, diametrically opposed to the maxims of our common law, and to those long-acted-upon principles of our ancestors, to which England owed her former prosperity and power. All this had, he contended, arisen from want of the proper intelligence, honesty, and superintendence of a fairly chosen and uncorrupted House of Commons, and the consequent dread of the due exercise of the power of impeachment by such a House. Trial by Jury—that palladium of our Constitution, had been, in some cases, absolutely set aside, in defiance of Magna Charta, and the declarations of the most learned textwriters and commentators upon our laws. In other cases, this celebrated mode of trial had been so accommodated and dealt with, as to have ceased altogether to be that palladium of the rights and liberties of the people that it used, and always was intended to be. The King's Attorney General, an officer utterly unknown even by name to the common law (and it would be difficult, he believed, for any lawyer to point out the Statute by which such a functionary was created), had assumed the most wanton and unconstitutional powers, and dared to threaten the liberty of the Press in language that ought to have deprived him of his office, even had it been a more legitimate one, and better known to the law and the Constitution than he supposed. Being wholly unconnected with those in place and power, or with any persons seeking place and power, he had determined to place upon record, for the information of his Majesty, what in his opinion—and, he believed, in the opinion of every intelligent and independent man in the kingdom—was the cause of all these evils; namely, the want of reform in the House of Commons. He meant, therefore, to move an Amendment to the Address. Very many of his brave and sensible fellow-subjects had already spoken their minds to his Majesty in the honest language of loyalty, and as in common with them, he had something to lose by misrule and convulsion, he could not suffer the present opportunity to pass by, without declaring fully and fairly those sentiments which were uppermost in his mind, and which he knew to be the prevailing sentiments in the minds of the great mass of his countrymen. The noble Marquis concluded by moving the following Amendment :—

"In this its first Address to the Throne of a new King, instead of making itself the mere echo of the Ministers of the Crown, this House feels that it ought to show itself to be the very mirror of the people; and that, to do so, it must not fail to lay before your Majesty all their thoughts and feelings, all their wants and wishes, as well as all their loyalty to your office, and attachment to your person.

"The discharge of this important duty, *nd the present serious aspect of public jffairs, render it impossible,- as well as improper, to address your Majesty otherwise than at considerable length.

"Your Majesty is to be informed that this House, in common with the great majority of your people, holds the memory of the House of Commons of the last Parliament in utter hatred and contempt, for the following reasons :—

"First, because the last House of Commons uniformly turned a deaf ear to the just complaints and petitions of your people; and, secondly, because instead of acting upon the old constitutional principle of withholding the supplies until the grievances of the people were redressed, which it was earnestly and seriously urged to do, it seemed to consider itself of no other use, and chosen for no other purpose, but to vote, night after night, immense sums of money, to be drawn from the pockets of the people; exhibiting, at the same time, the utmost indifference, and often the most sovereign contempt, of all consideration in what manner such enormous sums could be obtained, without the risk of involving Xhc great productive interests of the country in the most extensive embarrassment and ruin.

"That in proof of this, your Majesty has only to look at the unprecedented numbers of bankruptcies and insolvencies of farmers, traders, and others of your honest and industrious subjects, through all the years of the existence of the last House of

Commons; and your Majesty will thereby be convinced, that while great numbers of landed proprietors have been driven from their paternal mansions, and have been compelled to see them occupied by loanmongers and stock-jobbers, while others have removed themselves, their families, and their fortunes, for ever from your shores; and while the middle classes of your subjects have been reduced with frightful rapidity to the labouring- class, the labouring class has been reduced to absolute beggary and want. That numbers have actually died from starvation, and others have been obliged to submit to the most degrading services, and to see themselves and their families the victims of fever, induced by famine—that thus, in a short time, instead of ruling, like the two first Princes of the House of Brunswick, over a nation devoted to your government by the happiness and blessings it should enjoy, your Majesty may find yourself ruling over a nation of paupers and of placemen—of those who live upon the taxes and the poor-rates on the one hand, and on the other hand of loan-mongers and borough-mongers, wallowing in the stagnant and unproductive accumulations of their joint and several monopolies. Such, Sire, are the effects of the accursed and unnatural funding system, in its last agonies, and the vain attempts to save this monster in England are at this moment overturning the governments of other countries far more rapidly than the folly, or even the wickedness of their rulers. That the acts of the late (louse of Commons, both of omission and commission, under which the people of this once happy country have been brought to such a state of wretchedness and suffering, inculpate all concerned in the highest degree of criminality; from which nothing can excuse them but a sincere and contrite confession of their sins, and a total and immediate alteration of their conduct, without which it will be the duty of this House to expose, by name, to your Majesty, all those who are feeding upon the vitals of the country, as the only chance left, since argument has failed, of saving itself, and perhaps even the Throne of your Majesty, from the storms of convulsion.

"That in order to have obviated such complicated evils as are hereinbefore set forth, it was the duty of the late House of Commons to have done more, and to have talked much less.

[graphic]
« PreviousContinue »