« PreviousContinue »
plea for not affording timely relief to Ireland, because the parliament of that country was not then sitting. As if (they said) the British legislature was incapable of thinking justly, or acting rightly, with respect to the commercial interests of both kingdoms, until they were illuminat. ed by those beams of wisdom and knowledge which were to be reflected on them by the Irilh parliament. If the charge of incapacity was confined to the ministers, friends and foes, all mankind, they said, wrould readily concur in acknowledging the justness of the application; but with regard to the Britisli parliament, the reflection was not only uncivil, but indeed constituted a Jibel of a new and singular nature. They said, it was entirely neediest to take the trouble of entering at all into the question relative to the neceslity of the rising of parliament; for there had been more than sufficient time, between the nth of May, when the business was first brought before them, and the 3d of July, when the prorogation took place, to have done every thing that was then necessary with respect to the affairs of Ireland. But if they would not forward, why did they oppose the relief? Ministers themselves, said they, acknowledge, that one half of what must now be yielded to Ireland, would then have afforded satisfaction. What atonement C3n they then make, to •heir sovereign, to parliament, or to their country, for reducing them to the hard alternative, of either J icrificing the supreme authority of the British legislature, by a compelled compliance with all the
demands of Ireland, or of being driven to the direful neceslity of opening another civil war, when we are already surcharged by France, Spain, and America?
On the other hand, the ministry endeavoured to turn the tables on, the opposition. Here, laid they, is the uniform course opposition faithfully holds, without any deviation from the established precedents of all their forefathers in faction. Compulsion, concession, things done, or things left undone, are alike a subject of clamour. If measures of vigour for support of authority are adopted, a cry is raised as if tyranny were going to be established. If, for the sake of peace, concestions are to be made, then the dignity of the nation is sacrificed. If measures are prompt and spirited, the (Ministry 3re accused of precipitation; if they are maturely weighed and considered, then the charge is timidity, irresolution, and procrastination. Finding it impossible to please these gentlemen, they would discharge their consciences, and would do what they trusted would be both pleating and beneficial to England and Ireland. That, the loyalty of that country was too clear to be sliaken by all the endeavours of factions either there or here; although attempts were not wanting, by comparing her cafe to that of America, to bring on the like confusions in Ireland. The armaments in Ireland were solely directed against the common ^enemy; and they knew that' the concestions which would be proposed (and they hoped adopted) in parliament, as they would' be adequate to the neeslities of [/<;] 4 1,eland,
Ireland, would be satisfactory to her wisties. If they were not, both nations would know who to thank for the consequences. The ministers had long and inveterate prejudices to deal with in this kingdom, which obliged them to defer relief to Ireland, until England saw the propriety "of it. When such prejudices prevailed, it was necessary perhaps that some inconveniences should be frit from the prevalence of similar prejudices in others, and thus, that the opposite passions of men balancing each other, might bring them all at length to reason. History confirmed this principle; and it has been seldom or ever known, th.it one narrow self-' interest in states has been got the better of, but in the conflict with some other. It would be hard to make the present ministers answerable for the natural course of things. *"" The debates were long, vari
ous, and interesting. All the wit, ability, and eloquence of the opposition, were thrown out without measure or reserve against the ministers. On their side, they exerted themselves much more than they had done in the House of Lords. The two great leaders and speakers of the opposition in that house took a large Jhare in the debate, and were as usual distinguished. The appearance of Mr. Fox, after his recovery from the wound which he had received in the late duel, occasioned by something that had fallen from him on the first day of the session, afforded matter of much general curiosity; and that incident seemed now to have produced a renovation, rather than
any detraction of his former spirit.
The question being put at half after twelve o'clock, the motion was rejected, upon a division, by a majority of 173, to 100.
An unexpected motion , made on the following day by' the Duke of Richmond, brought on a considerable debate in the House of Lords. The noble duke having stated the vast combination of force which was formed against this country, which was left without friend or ally; the suspicious or unfavourable appearance of some, powers who were not in declared ■■enmity, and the total indifference, at best, of all others; then entered into a detailed statement of our present vast military establishments by sea and land; which, including the late augmentation of above 20,000 men to the land force, would not fall much sliort, he sliewed, in both departments, of 300,000 men. He proceeded to argue, that it would exceed the ability of any power whatever in Europe, to support, for any continuance, this prodigious force, by sea and land, at the enormous expence which it created to this country. Without* at all taking into the account, that the commercial losses of this country, including thole of all kinds which proceeded from the defection of her colonies, far exceeded in extent, what could well have fallen to the lot of any other st.ite.
He then proceeded to examine* the state of our resources,.„• and laid down the actual expenow-of the war. He sliewed, by a number of calculations, that if the war only continued to the end of
the ensuing year, and was only to consume the provision which parliament was now making for its support, it would, by that time, complete an addition from its beginning, of sixty-three millions to the former national debt; the whole then amounting to very little short of two hundred millions. And, that as the miJiister had given on an average about six per cent, for the new debt, the standing interest of the whole would not amount lo less than eight millions sterling annually; a tribute, to the payment of which, all ,fhe landed property in England was to be for ever mortgaged.
Such, he said, would be the state of this country with respect to its finauces at the close of the following year; and it would only be better by twelve millions, were peace to be concluded at the instant he was speaking. Under so vast a burthen, an expenditure constantly increasing, and which already exceeded all measure and example, the most exact and rigid public œconomy, along with the most liberal exertions of public spirit, were absolutely necessary for our preservation. Our formidable neighbour and enemy had set us the example of œconomy. Whilst the English were bent down to the earth under the pressure of their burthem, and the industry of our minister was exhausted, in multiplying new and vexatious, but unproductive objects of taxation, France, through the ability of her by a judicious reform in Election and expenditure of her finances, had not yet laid a single tax - on her people for the
support of the war. How different was the conduct in this country. Instead of any attempt towards the practice, or even any profession or pretence of œconomy, our expenditure was so shamefully lavish, as to surpass all recorded example of waste and mismanagement, in the weakest and most corrupt governments.
Our affairs were now, however, he said, arrived at such a point of distress and danger, as laid us under an absolute necessity of recurring to that neversailing source of wealth, œconomy. We could not otherwise hope to work out our national salvation. It must begin somewhere, and in so trying a season as the present, he could not but be of opinion, that the example fliould come from the sovereign. It would then have a great and general effect; and he could not doubt, that after such a beginning, there was one of their lordsliips, who would not chearfully relinquish such a part of their public emoluments, as his majesty might think proper to recommend, The example would go still farther. li would spread through the different departments of the state; it would influence the conduct, and excite the public spirit of individuals; and it would likewise, in its effect, tend to restrain that boundless profusion in the public expenditure which at present prevailed. He did not wisli to abridge the crown of any thing which was necessary to support its splendour and dignity. He was certain his intended motion could not at all produce that effect. Parliament had, a few years before, augmented the civil
list list to the enormous amount of 900,0001. a year. His motion could go no farther, in its utmost presumed extent, than to bring it again to that state, in which both the honour and splendour of the crown had been well supported, in much happier times and more prosperous seasons.
He accordingly moved for an address to the following purport— To beseech his majesty to reflect on the manifold distresses and difficulties, in which this country is involved, and too deeply felt to stand in need of enumeration— To represent, that amidst- the many and various matters that require reformation, and must undergo correction, before this country can rise superior to its powerful enemies, the waste of public treasure requires instant remedy— That profusion is not vigour; and that it is become indispensably necessary to adopt that true œconomy, which, by reforming all useless expences, creates confidence in government, gives energy to its exertions, and provides the means for their continuance. —Humbly to submit to. his majesty, that a considerable reduction of the civil list, would be an example well worthy his majesty's paternal affection for his people, and his own dignity; could not soil of diffusing its influence through every department of the state, and would add true lustre to his crown, from the grateful feelings of a distressed people.— And, to assure his majesty, that this House will readily concur in promoting so desirable a purpose; and that ever)' one of its members will chearfully submit to such reduction of emolument in any office
he may hold, as his majesty in his royal wisdom may think proper to make.
The lords in administration agreed in general with the noble duke, as to the representation of public affairs which he had laid down as the grounds of his motion. We were certainly involved in a dangerous and expensive war, and obliged to contend with one of the most formidable confederacies that Europe had ever beheld. They likewise acknowledged, that there had been some want of œconomy during the present administration; but they rather considered this circumstance as incident to a state of war, than as being peculiar to the ministers. They, however, wished, that a more clear and satisfactory manner was adopted in stating the public accounts, and that the strictest aconomy should be practised in the public expenditure.
But they opposed the motion, with respect to its direct and principal object, on various grounds; particularly from a conviction that it could not be of any service, and considering it, besides, as being of an improper tendency. The mode, they said, was totally inadequate to its object, of extricating us in any degree from our present difficulties; at the fame time that it conveyed a censure upon the former proceedings of that House, in the augmentation of the civil list. It was inconsistent and unjust to attempt to withdraw from his majesty what had been so unanimously granted to him by parliament. It would be paltry and mean to tax the salaries of the servants of the crown; and the revenue so raised would
be trifling, and totally incompetent to any of the great purposes of national expenditure. If we were reduced to such an extremity of distress as rendered the measure indispensably necessary, let the contributions from the public benevolence or spirit be general and optional; let us follow the example of Holland in such a situation, where money was received, without any specificat'on, in the public treasury, and without its being in any degree accountable for.
Whatever system of œconomy might be adopted, it should not by any means, they said, begin
The noble lord at the head of the law encountered the motion, with all the weight of his own great natural abilities, as well as with that refined subtilty and acuteness of argument, which may in some degree be considered as professional. He afleed, who knew of those distresses which were stated in the motion? How were they before the House? From what investigation of their lordthips, as a house of parliament, was such a result drawn? Another assertion, he said, was surely of too much importance to be hazarded on mere speculation. The motion stated that "the waste of public
at the crown; the splendour of treasure required instant remedy
which should at all events be maintained, as including in it the honour and dignity of the empire. Œconomy ssiould be directed to the various departments which were connected with the
If the fact were so, the department of government ought to be directly pointed out, in which the waste of the public treasure lay; otherwise the charge was unjust, because it applied alike to all
public expenditure, so that their public offices. If the fact were respective business might be pru- not true, the injustice was manidently and honestly administered, festly still greater. No kind of They were all interested in sup- proof had been offered; much porting the honour and dignity of less had the fact been even atthe crown; and they must all par- tempted to be establissied in partake in the satisfaction of that in- liamentary form. Such being the crease of the royal family, which case, he submitted to the House, increased the necessity of an am- how far it would be decent, how pie revenue. Were we fallen to far it would be just, to vote an adthat deplorable and abject state, dress, which, in any part of-it, conto be under a necessity of publissi- tained a general and undefined
ing to all the world, that we were unable to continue that income which we had so freely granted to his majesty? Such a proceeding would fink and de
charge against the king's servants.
As to the main propositions, which included the substance of th(j motion, he objected to the want of specification, as he did
grade us ib much in the eyes of to the defect of proof with respect
all Europe, that instead of afford- to the preceding assertions. What
ing any benefit, it would be pro- was to be understood by the words
dacttve of great national preju- conjulcrabk reduction f Did they
foe. signify a moiety, or two thirds