Page images

lords should take up the performance of a duty appertaining to them. And now, when a bill of the same tendency, which originated with, and peculiarly relates to themselves, is unanimously passed, and sent up by that house, the same noble lord endeavours with all his might that it would be rejected, without the smallest consideration of the danger of a breach between the two houses, which he had on the former occasion held out as an object of so much terror.

They concluded, by a strong appeal to the necessities and the temper of the times, and by hoping, that the lords would have too full and lively a fense of what they owed to their own honour and dignity, to suffer that house to become an engine in the hands of the minister; and thus to do that for him, which he was ashamed and afraid to attempt doing for himself in the other.

The question being put, astir a very long debate, the bill was rejected by a majority of 20; the slumbers being 61 to 41. A protest was entered, signed by .25 peers; and in the greater part by another.

Nothing ever happened more fortunately in favour of any administration, than the illness, nt this peculiar juncture, of the speaker of the house of commons. It seemed as if nothing else could at that time have saved them. The recess, indeed, was not long; but it produced extraordinary and unexpected effects For besides that the ardour and animation which ever attend new enterprize, and perhaps more in cafes of reform than any other, naturally cool and

slacken under a cessation of action;

the recess likewise afforded time

and opportunity, which were by

no means lost or neglected, for

using effectual means to bring the

numerous deserters from the court,

who had been afraid to oppose the

late popular torrent, back to their

original standard.

In effect, the meeting of the

house of commons, after this short

recess, presented so new a face

and appearance of things, and

such a total change of temper

and disposition, that it leaned no

longer the same identical body.

The first public ques- . ., iL .• re April 2.1th.

tion of consequence v

before the house, was a postponed motion of Mr. Dunning's, which had been deferred on the last day of meeting, on account of the speaker's illness. The motion was for an address tp his majesty, requesting that he would not dissolve the parliament, nor prorogue the present scstion, until proper measures mould be taken by that house, to diminish the influence of the crown, and to correct the other evils complained of in J.he petitions of the people.

This motion brought out great and long debates; in the course of which, almost every ground, that we have hitherto seen trodden, re* lative to the various great objects of the present controversy, was again, upon some occasion, and in some degree taken. Whether it was, that the leaders of the opposition understood, or that they only apprehended, the defection of their late but new allies, they however took all imaginable pains, and used every possible argument, to soevv the necessity of tlieir supporting their own determinations; as

[As] 3 well well as the (hame and disgrace that must attend a dereliction of those principles, which they had so recently avowed and established.— They had already substantiated, they said, by the resolutions of the sixth of April, the grievances complained of in the petitions; and they had also bound themselves, by the fame -resolutions, under the most indissoluble obligation to the people of England, to procure full redress for those grievances. So that no gentleman, who had supported those resolutions by his vote, could, without the most shameful incorisistency of conduct, and a dereliction of principle so manifest, as to assord room for the most odious surmises, refuse giving his support to any fair measure that was proposed for obtaining that redress, unless he could himself substitute a better, or at least ffiew, that the means offered were in themselves essentially faulty.

A few, though but very few, freely declared, that they neither did nor should, whether upon the present, or upon any suture occasion, hold themselves at all settered in their conduct, by any former resolutions or opinions. They flu.1 ild estimate every question that came before them by its own intrinsic value; and consider its probable consequences, merely as it then appeared, without the trouble of any retrospect. It by no means necessarily followed, that those who supported the resolutions of the 6th of April, were to approve of the present motion; no charge of inconsistency could therefore be incurred by their oppoling either that, or many others which might possibly be held out under the fame idea. Jf they

promised their endeavours to procure redress for the people, they did not thereby give up the right of exercising their own judgment, whether in chusing the most eligible means of obtaining that end, or in deciding upon the measure of redress which it might be right and necessary to obtain.

The ministers cheared their old or new friends with the warmest plaudits, forj that liberality of sentiment, which disdained the trammels of vulgar restraint. They likewise exclaimed loudly at the impropriety, indecorum, and indelicacy of their antagonists, in endeavouring to put gentlemen out of countenance, by confronting them with their former conduct and opinions. This they declared to be unparliamentary and unfair. Nor could there be any lack of precedents or reasons, to support a change in either or both.

The question being put a little before midnight, in an unusually full house, the motion was rejected upon a division by a majority of 51 j the numbers being 254, to 203.

Mr. Fox rising to speak immediately after the motion, a most extraordinary scene of disorder was displayed, arising (as the minority affirmed) from the unwillingness of the majority to hear the deserters treated as they deserved. The chair being repeatedly called on to exercise its authority, the speaker at length, with the utmost vehemence of voice, called on every side of the house to order; and having ordered the officers to clear the bar, required and insisted that every member sliould take his place.


This opened the way to Mr. Fox; and after all that had been supposed done to prevent it, the gentlemen concerned found themlelves condemned to hear, the keenest philippic, that perhaps ever was spoken in that house. No calls to order, nor other means, could either check the torrent of his eloquence, or restrain the bitterness of his invective. He declared die vote of that night, to be scandalous, disgraceful, and treacherous. He did not apply these charges to the 215 gentlemen, who had, along with the minister, opposed the resolutions of the 6th of April. These gentlemen acted an open, a consistent, and a manly part, in their opposing the address proposed on the present day. They had differed from him; he was lorry for it; but he could not blame them, because they difiered from him upon principle.

But who could contemplate, he said, without a mixture of the greatest surprize and indignation, the conduct of another let of men in that house ? Those who had resolved that the influence of the crown was increased, and ought to be diminished; that the grievances of the people ought to be redressed; who pledged themselves to that house, to the nation, to their constituents, to each other, and to themselves, that it was their duty to redress the grievances complained of; and who had now lhamefully fled from that solemn engagement 1 It was shameful, it was base, it was unmanly, it was treacherous. The gentlemen he meant, he said, surrounded him; they fat at his side of the house; be was sorry for it. They were

those who voted with him on the 6th of April, and who voted with the minister that night. No man held in greater contempt those who were at the devotion of the minister, than he did himself: they were slaves of the worst kind, because they sold themselves; yet, base as the tenure of their places was, they had one virtue to pride themselves on; their fidelity, consistency, and gratitude, were subjects of commendation. To all their other demerits, they had not added the absurdity and treachery, of one day resolving an opinion to be true, and the next of declaring it to be a fallhood. They had not taken in their patron, their friends, or their country, with false hopes, and delusive promises. Whatever their motives or sentiments might be, they had adhered to them; and so far as that went, their conduct was entitled to his approbation.

Mr. Dunning joined him in the charge of direct treachery to the nation. For that the counties, depending on the faith of parliment, for the redress held out by those resolutions, had relaxed greatly in the measures whjch they were pursuing for obtaining it by other means; and that the county of Cambridge in particular had, upon that dependence, rescinded its own resolution for appointing a committee of aflbeiation. They both likewise declared, that the division of this night was totally decisive with respect to the petitions; that it amounted to a full rejection of their general prayer; and that all hope of obtaining any redress for the people, in that houso, was at an end.

The minister answered Mr. Fox
[M} 4 ia


in a long speech; in which he ex-
pressed the 'utmost astonishment at,
and a reprehended, the
strange language, and the un-
bounded censure he had heard.
The administering comfort to his
suffering friends, was not, how-
ever, his principal object, He
was much more anxious to obviate
the impression, which the charges
made, of rejecting by the present
decision the petitions of the people,
might occasion without doors -
He accordingly laboured that
point much, and upon the fame
ground which had been before
taken relative to the rejection of
some of the clauses in Mr. Burke's
bill. He asked, whether any con-
clusion could be more extravagant,
or irreconcileahle to common sense,
than that the giving a negative to
a single proposition, should be conr
fidered as deciding the f:ite ot the
petitions, and as amounting to a
general rejection of the whole?
The resolutions of the 6th of April
were still in full being. Other
measures might be proposed on
them. Aiid surely it might very
well happen, that those who did
pot approve of the means in one
mode of redrolf,
concur in others.

Mr. Burke's establishment bill, after lying for some time dormant, was brought forward p.. a few days after. The

first clause agitated was that for abolishing the office of the great wardrobe, and all those lesser offices and places depending on it. This question brought out long and very considerable debates; and it was supported by the frames with all his usual vigour and ability. The clause was, however, at length rejected upou

a division, by a majority of 210,, to 183. The principle of reform being in essect abandoned hy the late vote, the attendance on particular parts now grew daily less and less.

The committee then proceeded upon the succeeding clause, for abolishing the board of works. This brought out new dehate, in which the mover of the bill distinguished himself more than ever by the force of his arguments, the fertility of his invention, and the pleasantry with'which he enlivened a matter apparently dry and insipid in itself; but the question being at length put, the clause was rejected, upon a division, by a majority of 03 to 118.

The minister's bill, for a commistion of accounts, had brought out upon him, in the various stages of its progress, more asperity of language, and severity of censure, than perhaps had ever been undergone upon a similar occasion, by any other minister in that house. This partly pro-: ceeded from the manner in which, we have seen, he had taken the bill out of the hands of another might readily- gentleman, and partly from- the measure of appointing commissioners, who were not members ot the house of Commons. This was said to be directly subversive of the constitution. That it was no less than a surrender of the first right of that house, that of managing, as well as of'granting, the public money, and of directing and controlling its expenditure. And some ot" the opposition contended strongly that the house was not competent to such a resignation. That being only delegates themselves, they could not delegate to others.


They might as well appoint their own successors. If they were incapable, or indisposed, to discharge the duties ot the great trust deposited with them, they were bound in duty to return it into the hands of their constituents. But they had no right to appoint deputies to transact that essential part of the business of the nation, which was entrusted only to themselves.

On die other hand, the minister gave every assurance, that he had not the smallest with or intention, either of violating any of the privileges, or of abating any of the powers of that bouse; and that he was fully convinced, that there were gentlemen on both sides Aithin those walls, of as great integrity, honour, ability, and posIcil'ed of as warm a zeal for the I Jblic welfare, as any in the kingdom. That he had already riven one of his motives for reposing that the commissioners -ould not be members of that i^use, which was to avoid the Ævidou? reflections which that Ji'cumstance would draw both. -pon himself and them. That ■lebates ran so high, and the times were so contentious, that almost "try gentleman in thai house had tiken one side or other; a circumstance which must render their waduct, however pure, liable to great and continual misconstrue* two Among a number of other reaJbot, he tiaied the present immensity of parliamentary business, hich would not afford leisure to ie members for so tedious' and liWious an undertaking. That '-£ failure of former commissions proceeded from their originating 31 party. And that the commis

sioners being members of that house, had laid the ground of frequent difference with the other. He likewise endeavoured to support the measure by precedent, and for that purpose referred to the 13th of Charles the second, when nine commissioners were chosen by ballot, some of whom, he contended, were not members of parliament; but upon examining the reference, the evidence was found defective, it not positively appearing that any one was not a member, and it seeming certain that some were.

The house being in a ,, „ committee on the sub- ' *

ject, the nomination of the commissioners brought out great and various debates; and the naming of Sir Guy Carleton, in particular, afforded room for much censure and ridicule on the side of opposition. They said it was completing and rounding the present system adopted in the government of the army; as well as extending it to new objects. In the first instance, they dragged clerks out of offices, to place them at the head of regiments; and now, they pull the truncheon out of the hand of it brave and veteran commander, and placing a pen, an instrument totally out of the line of his profession, in its place, oblige him, at a time of life little calculated for new habits or acquirements, to commence commislary of accounts. It was still more absurd and improper, because Sir Guy Carleton was himself, at that very time, an accountant with the public. Why was not that gallant officer employed in his proper sphere of action, in a season when his services were so much wanted ? On


« PreviousContinue »