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protifion, for the security and protection of so inestimable a possession—And, the actual and imminent internal and external dangers, to which the island has at several different times been subjected, through that neglect.
On the last ground, he particularly insisted, and endeavoured to demonstrate, as well by a letter from Governor Dalling. as by other authorities, that scarcely a tape could have been formed os living the island, if D'Estaing had bent his force thither, at the time that, so fortunately to this country, he directed his course to Georgia. So that the preservation of one of the most valuable appendages to the crown of Great Britain, retted upon the error, blindness, or folly of the enemy. He farther urged, that this conduct could not even be so for palliated, as to attribute it to mere negligence or forgetfulness; supposing that either could be admitted as any palliation. For that so early as the year 1773, and repeatedly since, ministers Had been warned, by petitions and applications from the island, of the danboth within and from without, to which it was exposed; and of which no other notice was taken ia the first instance, than the drawing away, for the unhappy purposes of the American war, one half of •he very weak military force, BBting to 300 men) which had ten before assigned for its defence. Nor had any thing effectual been since done.
On the other side, the protest
(of which we have before taken
■ -) was brought forward, and
>' Lord Onflow as part of his
l^ech, in order to shew, that the
petition-lhouid not be considered
as the fense of the island, but merely as containing the sentiments of thole persons by whom it was subscribed. He contended, that the protestors, though not so numerous, possessed property equal, if not superior, to the petitioners; from whence he argued that their opinions were of equal weight and importance.
This alsertion drew up the Marquis of Ilockingham. who having moved that the names of the petitioners should be read, observed, that he believed most of them were known to their lordships; it was now in the noble lord's power who had read the protest, to bring the matter to an immediate ilsue j ho had only to pals the names of the protestors in counterview before them, and the business would be settled; it would be at once seen on which side the questions of property and respectability lay.
The noble lord, however, declined to read the names of the protestors; but insisted on his general positions, that the petitioners, although many of them were respectable, did not possess half the property of the island , that one third of the merchants and planters had not signed either the petition orpro^ test; and it was fairly to be concluded, that thole who had not signed the former, did not approve of its contents.
The Marquis rejoined, that the motives for declining to read the names of the protestors were easily understood. The noble lord was tender of fume names; and did not wisli to bring certain characters forward, which had figured iu that transaction. After some observations on these, and drawing a strong contrast between the state of character, character, property, and respectability on both sides, he commented upon what he called rather a ludicrous passage in the protest; by which it is held out as a moriTe for their objecting to a petition for protection to parliament, that it was the interest of the merchants and planters to stand well with government.
. The first lord of the admiralty acknowledged, that the merchants and planters who signed the petition, were, in every instance, as worthy and as respectable a body of men, as any in this, or in any other kingdom; but that there was rot a single fact stated in the petition, nor alledged in its support, which he would not be. ready and prepared, one by one, ata proper time, to disprove. This brought out some altercation between him and the noble marquis; in which, besides a difference of opinion with respect to circumstances of danger and protection, several assertions and contradictions took place as to facts and dates. The petition was ordered to lie on the table for the perusal and consideration of the lords; under the avowed intention of the Marquis of Rockingham, to make it the foundation of a future motion, for the protection and security of the island of Jamaica; an intention which the measures adopted by government, about this time, rendered unnecessary.
On the last day of February, the minister of the House of Commons moved that the thanks of that hpuse sliould be given to Admiral Sir George Rodney, for the late signal arid important services he had rendered his king and country. The motion was .seconded by
Mr. Thomas Townfhend, warmly supported by the opposition, and unanimously agreed to by the house. A similar motion was made on the following day in t he House of Lords by the Earl of Sandwich, seconded by the Marquis of Rockingham, and agreed to in the fame manner.
But the opposition wished for 'some more substantial return, thsn a mere vote of thanks, for the essential services performed by that brave commander; and accordingly warmly contended in both houses, that while the impreslion of service was recent and warm, they should proceed a step further t and apply for some mark of royal favour, which, in case of any sij nister accident, or future misfortune, might afford to him some security, against his being again neglected, aud his services forgotten.
This, they said, wa3 the morenecessary, as that admiral had Iri the last war received the thanks of both houses for the important services which he then performed; and yet he was afterwards most shamefully laid by and neglected, without any provision being made for him suitable to his rank and high character; so that honour was almost the only harvest which he reaped. It was likewise, they said, the more necessary, as it wai understood that he was destined with an inferior force to the pro-, tection of our West India islands j and that nobody was ignorant, in cafe of misfortune or loss, with what dexterity the present ministers could shift the blame from themselves, however culpable, upon the shoulders of their commander. In such a case Sir George Rodney ney must expect the same site, which, they said, every other officer, who ventured to act under their direction, had already experienced.
The post of Lieutenant General of the Marines, which had been instituted as a reward for extraordinary merit and service, and which had unusually continued vacant erer since the resignation of Sir Hugh Palliser, was the immediate object which the opposition had in view, in favour of Sir George Rodney; but this was mentioned only as a matter of convetfation, or proposal to the ministers, as they would not seem to prescribe to the crown by any specification. Nor did they with to pusli the business toan address in the House of Commons, (where only, consistently with forms, it could be done) if they could obtain a satisfactory promise from the minister on the subject. This, however, not appearing to them to be immediately done, Mr. Marsham framed a motion for an address, that his majesty would be graciously pleased to bestow some high post of honour on Admiral Sir George Brydges Rodney, for his late signal lerrices.
The minister declared the greatest personal regard for the absent commander, as well as the fullest fense of his great merits, services, and high naval character; nor was sny gentleman in the house more witling that be should be most amply rewarded. But he observed, that it would not only be unprecedented 'o follow a vote of thanks with an immediate address for a reward; bat that so coupling the two matten would in future subject the house to very great difficulty, and 8
establish a precedent which they would hereafter have cause to repent. He therefore wished the motion was withdrawn, as it would be exceedingly irksome to him to oppose it; which yet he must otherwise be tinder a necessity of doing, merely for the sake of parliamentary precedent.
As the minister likewise assured the house, that he was far from thinking the place of lieutenantgeneral of the marines, by any means more than equal to the admiral's high deserts, the justness of his reasoning, and the clearness of his declarations, afforded such conviction and satisfaction on the other side, that the motion was withdrawn; but under the declared presumption, that something was intended, and would be effectually done, in savour of the admiral. It may be difficult to determine whether the two great naval commanders in the House of Commons, (Admiral Keppel, and Lord Howe) did greater honour to themselves, or to Sir George Rodney, by the liberal, clear, and unreserved approbation and applause, which they bestowed upon his conduct and services.
The ground taken by the Marquis of Buckingham, and other lords on that side, was, an endeavour to obtain from the marine minister, by stating the propriety and expediency of the measure, some assurance, that either the vacant place, or some equivalent mark of royal favour and reward, was intended to be bestowed on the absent admiral; the disarranged state of whose private affairs, afforded motives which were strongly urged in both houses, for its not being merely honorary.
But this, the noble lord at the head cf the admiralty absolutely refused. He said, it was the peculiar province of the crown to dittinguilh aud reward those who had served it ably and faithfully: that it would be presumption in him to undertake or say, what his majesty might or might not, or ought to do; that it would be a direct invasion of his prerogative to prescribe to him ou such an occasion; that graces and favours, such as those delcribed, were the proper gist of the sovereign; that he never wished that house to intrench ou this exclusive right; and it was well known to be one of the leading characteristics of his majesty's reign, to reward such of his subjects as seemed worthy of his favour and protection.
March 2d. . On the following day, the minister surprized at least one side of the house, by opening his scheme for the appointment of a Comuii/Jion of Accounts. He observed, that the amount, the increase, and the manner os conducting the public expenditure, had of late afforded continual topics of debate, conversation, and complaint; and that it had even been proposed to withhold the supplies for those parts of the public service, for which estimates were not previously produced. With respect to that matter, he must repeat what he had often said before, that while we were engaged in a widely extended and expensive war, it would be impossible in many instances, from the very nature of the services, to lay previous estimates before the house. The extent, peculiar nature, and circumstances «f the war, were likewise to ac
count for the enormity of the expence.
He wished, however, as heartily as any one gentleman in that house, to give the public the fullest satisfaction, that the money was duly applied to their service; and he equally wilhed that some method could be devised for stating and settling the public accounts in -such a manner, that the numerous balances upon each head of expence might be brought forward more speedily, and in consequence be the sooner applied to the public service. Various methods had been hinted at for effecting this purpose j the method he should propose, would be to bring in a bill for appointing a commission of accounts. He thought a commission would have many advantages over a committee of accounts; as it might be strengthened with powers, with which the house was not capable of investing the latter; particularly the calling for papers of all forts, and the examining witnesses upon oath. That former commissions of this nature had proved nugatory, he said, was easily to be accounted for, and as easily to be remedied. The fault lay partly in the cause, and partly in the form and extent of their jurisdiction. They had merely been authorized with a retrospective view; he meant to carry the present idea much farther. He intended that the bill should expressly authorize the commissioners, not only to enquire into the alcounts of the past expenditure, but into the current accounts; and farther direct them to consult, prepare, and report to the house, what Ihould, upon due examination and consultation, appear to them to be a more easy and speedy mode of keeping keeping the public accounts, and fettling them to, that their true state might from time to time, as near as possible, he laid before the House when called for, and the various balances in hand be immediately brought forward, and applied to the service of the ensuing year.
The minister observed, that when he had readily promised his assistance upon this subject some time before, to an honourable member on the other side, who had called upon him for it; notwithstanding some ironical compliments, he could easily perceive that his sincerity was called io question, and that his promise or concurrence was only considered as a parliamentary trick. The only return be then determined to make, was to seize the earliest opportunity of affording indisputable proof to the house, that his offer of assistance included his real sentiments, and that no man wished more than he did himself, for some effectual means of expediting the public accounts. An honourable gentleman had likewise at that time thrown out, that it would appear from the sun ot committee that was appointed, whether he was sincere, or whether the whole enquiry was to be a farce and a mockery. He should not consider how far this insinuation affected the honour of that fe, which was to appoint the ■littee-, but he would now convince them of his own sincerity. To put the matter therefore totally out of doubt, and to obviate the various objections which would be made, whatever fide of the house the members of the committee were drawn from, he thould make it a provision iu his intended bill,
that the commissioners br respectable, intelligent, and independent gentlemen, who were not members of either house of parliament.
Colonel Jtorre, who had first introduced or proposed the business, complained of this unexpected, and, as he understood it, extraordinary procedure. The history of parliament, he said, could not afford an instance of a similar transaction. His scheme was foundtd on a with to serve the public> on a wist* to cheek the profusion of those who managed the public expenditure; the ltrong arm of the minister had wrested it out of his hands, and had put an end to his labours. He had called upon the noble lord to know whether he would assist him or not, for two reasons; the one, that he knew nothing effectual could be done in opposition to his power; the other, that he knew it would be impossible, without the aid of his authority, to penetrate into the arcana of many matters which loudly demanded investigation. This was the assistance, which he required from the minister; and he was not without hope, that he would have interested him in the enquiry, by making him a party in the business. Bat the noble lord, instead of giving assistance, makes himself at once the principal; and without once, he said, consulting or advising with him; without any comparison of scheme, or communication os design, comes out now with a plan of his own, at tl e very instant that he had brought his to the point aimed at.
His complaint, he said, was not the effect of disappointment.