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not stand in need of such justification. Mr. Alderman Lushington said, it was true there had been a meeting of his constituents that day, and a large majority of the Common-hall had resolved to give their instructions to support a motion for censuring ministers; but he could never consent to receive instructions to pronounce a verdict in a criminal case before he had heard the defence. It was said that the constitution had been violated; but the papers on the table proved the contrary. He was at first inclined to think a bill of indemnity would be proper, but he had since heard enough to convince him that it was not necessary.
sort of individual confidence, to which some of the animadversions more justly applied. The confidence reposed in the executive servants of government, was of a public and constitutional nature, to be exercised for the benefit of the public, and for the use or abuse of which, they were responsible. This confidence was far from being unknown in the general administration of government; for surely ministers might, with much better reason, be trusted with the disposal of this vote of credit subject afterwards to the revision and approbation of parliament, than with the secret service money; of which no account whatever could be demanded of them. Parliament, in passing that vote, was sensible that the public service would be liable to exigencies which could not at that moment be foreseen, and the money was made generally applicable to any exigencies which might arise. The situation of our principal and truly faithful ally produced that exigency; the state of public credit required that the mode in which assistance was conveyed to him should not be generally known, and those combined circumstances brought on the necessity which fully justified the minister in the measures he had so meritoriously adopted. The conduct of the minister, so far from meriting censure, was highly deserving of the gratitude of the nation; at the same time, he was desirous that the proceeding dictated by necessity should not be drawn into precedent in future, notwithstanding the auspicious consequences with which it had been attended. He would therefore move, as an amendment to the motion, to leave out from the first word "That" and to insert these words, "The measure of advancing the several sums of money, which appear, from the accounts presented to the House in this session of parliament, to have been issued for the service of the Emperor, though not to be drawn into precedent, but upon occasions of special necessity, was, under the peculiar circumstances of the case, a justifiable and proper exercise of the discretion vested in his majesty's ministers by the vote of credit, and calculated to produce consequences, which have proved highly advantageous to the common cause, and to the general interests of Europe."
Mr. Samuel Thornton said, that, he at first felt some difficulty, whether a bill of indemnity would not be proper, but he was now convinced that the measure did
Mr. Alderman Curtis said, he had been that day at the Common Hall, where a majority appeared in favour of the resolution to censure the minister beforehand. Previous to the meeting, he knew that such would be the result; nor did he consider it as a regular expression of the sentiments of the livery. He told his constituents that he could not, under such circumstances, promise to abide by their instructions, but would attentively consider all that should be advanced on both sides, and act as his conscience should direct.
Mr. Alderman Anderson said, there were about one-tenth of the livery assembled, and it was his fortune to differ from his constituents; when they were assembled, an hon. gentleman (Mr. W. Smith) made a flaming speech to them, and they immediately gave the instructions as stated by his colleague. He told them he would not vote to censure ministers until he heard their defence. With this defence he was fully satisfied, and would support the amendment.
Mr. J. Nicholls blamed the measure in discussion, from the inconvenience to which the country was exposed by too sudden a diminution of the circulating coin; which had of late very alarmingly diminished. It was necessary that there should be a certain proportion between the coin and the paper in circulation. Though he could not agree to the original proposition, he thought the constitution should be protected, by an express declaration on this point. No minister should have power to send money out of the country, without the previous consent of parliament. This important fact should be settled, but by what means he was not prepared to say. Perhaps a bill of indemnity sounded too harshly in ministers ears. A declaratory
law, or any thing more palatable, might be passed. He wished Mr. Fox would withdraw his motion, and yet he owned it was necessary that some proceeding should take place to prevent the establishment of a bad precedent.
Colonel Wood said:-Sir; were any minister to be so far wanting in his duty, as, without any previous sanction of par liament, to dispose of the public money for the purpose of subsidising foreign states, I agree that no censure in the power of this House to impose would be an adequate punishment. The question for us to determine is, whether or not parliament ever granted to ministers any direct, or even implied power, under which they can justify their conduct in giving a temporary aid to the Emperor; and if so, how far that power had been exercised for the advantage of this country. It is certain, that parliament voted a credit of 2,500,000l. for the general services of the country. The nature of such a credit seems to imply a discretionary power to make use of such money towards such extraordinary and unlookedfor services, for which parliament had not provided, trusting to the future responsibility of ministers, that it would be disposed of in such manner as might be most beneficial to the nation. If, from the disastrous events at the beginning of the last campaign -events which put the very existence of the Emperor in danger-the minister, with a vote of credit of between two and three millions at his command, had hesitated to give some pecuniary aid towards encouraging those glorious exertions which had rescued Germany, such minister would have merited execration.
Colonel Gascoyne said, he came down to the House with a determination to vote in favour of the motion; but from the precedents that had been quoted, he was convinced that the transaction was perfectly constitutional.
of parliament to declare, that the money which the House voted for the purpose of defraying unforeseen charges, and answering a particular species of expenditure, should not be applied to purposes for which it obviously was not intended. The great argument which has converted so many gentlemen is this, that the measure at first deemed so reprehensible is justified by precedent. It is however not a little extraordinary, that while precedent so powerfully operates conviction, it is not to be permitted to pass as an example for future imitation. In reality, while they admit the cases which have been urged in justification, they say that the present instance is so fatal in its operation, that it must not be established. The hon. mover of the amendment seems to have had his proposition previously arranged. He does not seem to have been aware that a great part of the sums sent abroad were remitted to the army of Condé, to which his motion does not at all refer. The amendment is wholly silent upon this part of the motion. What is this but an implied censure upon the transaction so far as it relates to the prince of Condé? This disposal of the money is likewise stated by the right hon. gentleman to be a justifiable use of this vote of credit, though in reality part of the money was contained in the army extraordinaries, to which the defence does not apply. The proposition which my right hon. friend has moved, consists of two parts, perfectly distinct. That part which we bring forward as a charge, we are bound to prove; but when we have established the principles of the constitution, and alleged the facts by which they are violated, the onus lies upon the right hon. gentleman to show that the statement is fallacious, or to produce the circumstances of palliation by which the transgression is to be excused. In this view, therefore, we have to prove that certain sums are destined and appropriated to particular services. Here I will not examine whether the power of granting supplies and controlling their application be as ancient as the government itself, and coeval with the existence of the constitution. It is sufficient that I refer to the best times in which its principles were established. This salutary regulation arose from the abuses of the government, from the misconduct of ministers, from the treachery of parliament, from tyranny, from cor
Mr. Sheridan said:-The hon. gentleman who moved the amendment, is determined to turn every expression of censure into a testimony of approbation. The hon. gentleman behind me (Mr. Nicholls) does not approve of the measures of ministers upon this occasion, but he wishes to have a bill, enacting that a similar application of the vote of credit shall not in future be made. To this last proposal I least of all can agree. consider it to be a libel upon the constitution, to say that it requires a new act
ruption. The reign of Charles 2nd is a sufficient authority for the appeal to history. At the Revolution it was solemnly recognized, and since that period it has been interwoven with our parliamentary usage. The precedents, upon which so much stress has been laid, do not apply to the present case. The first is that in 1706 of the advance to the duke of Savoy of 47,000l. If gentlemen, however, will take the trouble to look into the Journals, they will find that this sum was granted during the recess of parliament; that not only was the ally of this country placed in perilous circumstances, but that Turin was actually in a state of siege. A demand was made for 50,000l., and the letter which Mr. Secretary Harley sent in answer to the ambassador of Savoy, will show the inapplicability of the precedent. The letter states, that it is not practicable, according to the custom of the constitution, while parliament is not sitting, to comply with the request; yet, in the pressing circumstances of the case, her majesty was willing to grant a certain sum to be deducted out of the subsidy that was paid to the duke of Savoy. Will it then be said, that the present measure can be justified by an appeal to the authority of this precedent. The next precedent was in 1742. The money was then disposed of when parliament was not sitting, and it was afterwards moved in that House, that the sending sums to any foreign prince, without the consent of parliament, was a dangerous misapplication of the public money. On these words an amendment was moved, adding that the measure was necessary, and of great consequence to the common cause. At that time, therefore, the measure was condemned, and the only justification set up was its indispensable necessity. The next precedent is the case of Holland, in 1787, when the money was taken out of the secret-service money; and it is well known, that, by Mr. Burke's bill, if the secretary of state makes oath the money was actually employed for the interest of the country, no farther inquiry can take place.-Such then, are the precedents, on the credit of which every idea of atonement for our violated laws and constitution is to be
The right hon. gentleman wonders, that after having allowed the subject to pass over upon the first day on which it was brought forward, we should now so keenly make it the object of investigation. He seems to conceive us to be bound by the same rules which limit the country in the prosecution of a thief, where, unless the hue and cry be raised, the benefit of prosecution is taken away. We have been called, ironically, I suppose, a vigilant opposition. I am ready to put in for my share of blame for want of vigilance, when the circumstance which is now erected into a precedent took place upon the communication of the intended loan to the Emperor, by But even the king's message in 1725. any negligence which might have been displayed upon that occasion is by no means of such a magnitude as our acquiescing in the present measure would imply. The situations were very different. Then there was a certainty that the advances to the Emperor would be repaid, because they were to be deducted from the loan which was to be granted. In the present case, the concealment which has taken place precludes the House from remedying any negligence that has been committed, or repairing any mischief that has been produced. The right hon. gentleman says, could parliament have judged of the propriety of the measure? I answer, yes; and might have judged, too, upon the same grounds upon which ministers formed their judgment. Indeed, the principle on which this measure is defended, appears more dangerous than even any application of it can be thought impolitic. It arrogates to ministers a right to judge of the extent, as well as the mode of public expenditure; it is erecting the minister into an absolute dictator; it is a pretension beyond humanity to claim; it is usurping the attributes of the Deity, the power of refusing the desires and disappointing the wishes of those over whom they rule. Joined with the other parts of the conduct of ministers, it forms a subject of serious alarm. If they claim the right of landing foreign troops without consent of parliament, and of paying them, by this delicate process, without application to this House, where is the security left for our liberties and our constitution?— Mr. Sheridan concluded with observ ing, that there was only one point which he should notice, and that was the
*For a report of the debate upon this occasion, taken from the MS. Parliamentary Journal of the hon. Philip Yorke, see Vol. 13, p. 698,
argumentum ad hominem which the right hon. gentleman used against his right hon. friend. But with what ill grace did this come from him, whose whole conduct had been one continued attack upon the liberties of his country. Were it possible that his venerable and illustrious father could look down upon the three last years of his history, to see him sit to applaud his confidential friends in reviling the sacred institution of juries, and that one of the most illustrious pensioners of the crown had not even been rebuked for saying, that courts of justice were become nothing more than schools for sedition; to see him covering the whole face of the country with barracks and bastilles, without even submitting the expense of their erection as a question to parliament; to see the whole country under military government, and the people placed under the subjection of the bayonet; while, as if this were not sufficient, their mouths were shut up, and themselves prevented from meeting to consult on their grievances; aad proceeding in his climax of constitutional violence, wresting from them, one after another, all their rights, till he came at last to take out of the hands of the representatives the guardian disposal of their money? When he recollected the means by which that right hon. gentleman came into power, the arts by which he had retained it, and the contempt with which he had treated the House of Commons, and the disregard of its declared opinion which he had shown, how could it be thought that he would resign himself to its judgment with that submission which the conclusion of his speech bespoke.
Sir W. Pulteney said, he had always understood it to be the exclusive privilege of the House of Commons to vote money for the public service. He understood it to be also their privilege to control the distribution of the public money. It had been contended, however, upon the dis cussion of this subject. that the power of distribution was given to the minister to the extent of a vote of credit. Now, the House would do well to examine what had been the practice of our ancestors with respect to the distribution of the public money. They all knew what that practice was in ancient times. If the House of Lords amended a money bill, the practice of the House of Commons was, to kick the bill out of their House. That practice had been set aside in modern times. We were become more po
| lite; and the mode now was to reject a money bill if the Lords had amended it. Should they then, be more complaisant to a minister than they were to the Lords? He saw no reason why they should, but many why they should not. The minister had that night relied a good deal upon precedents; but they did not apply to the subject now before the House. The minister had said a good deal upon the necessity of the measure, but nothing could do away the doctrine that the House had constitutionally the control of the purse. Gentlemen who defended the minister maintained, that a vote of credit was the grant of a sum for which the minister was answerable to the House, and that he ought to have the control of its distribution. Now he wished the House to examine what sort of an account might be given in such a case. The minister might say that the whole sum granted by the vote of credit was given to a foreign prince. How could the House have any assurance of the truth of the assertion? How could they be sure that such foreign prince had received it? How, if he had received it, could they learn the manner in which such foreign prince had applied it? The House had no power to put any questions to a foreign prince, nor any means of receiving official information from him. The power of the House was very different with regard to the minister of this country. They could call on him to lay before them an account of all the money they voted for the public service. He did not make these observations because he distrusted the present minister, or suspected him of any sinister motives. Nor did he make these observations because he disapproved of the present or of the last parliament, or that he saw any thing very dangerous in the present times. But the time might come when our situation in respect to govern ment and parliament might be very dif ferent from what it is at present, and it was the principle of the measure that excited his alarm. Suppose the hour should arrive when a minister of this country might wish to put an end altogether to the power of the House of Commons. Suppose the House had granted him 500,000l. by a vote of credit, for the service of a foreign prince in alliance with this country, and that, after all, not one penny of it should be given to such prince, but that the whale of it should be given to the members of that House, to assist $
to the enemy, which might be attended with great evil. In the other event, it might be injurious to our pecuniary interests. Whereas, by the mode which the minister adopted, the inconveniencies of either extreme were avoided. When he considered the matter fully, he was surprised that gentlemen should persist in their opposition to it.
Mr. W. Smith read the passages in Hatsell's Precedents quoted by Mr. Fox, which he thought were stronger than any precedents which could be produced. From these, he was of opinion that the minister had acted wrong; and the amendment itself contained a kind of acknowledgment which would, he thought, prevent the error from being repeated.
Mr. Fox, in reply, adverted to the allusions which had been made to himself. The right hon. gentleman had not thought it sufficient to defend himself, but he had chosen to accuse his accusers. The right hon. gentleman had said that his character was hostile to that of the last parliament, and that because he was generally in opposition to the majority of parliament, he was to be considered as disqualified from vindicating their privileges. So that, according to the right hon. gentleman, every member was disqualified from discussing constitutional questions who did not enjoy the smiles of the minister, and who did not prove his regard for the liberties of his country by his subserviency to the administration for the time being. Where could the House really look for the defenders of the constitution but among those who, disdaining the considerations of places and pensions, titles and ribbands, devoted such talents as Providence had endowed them with, to the services of the public, in an honest vigilance with respect to the measures of government, with no view to reward but the approbation of their consciences? The right hon. gentleman attacked his enemies without any regard to his friends; for if it were true that to have been long in opposition disqualified a person from asserting the character of parliament, and vindicating the constitution, what must be the situation into which he put his new friends? What would become of the duke of Portland and Mr. Burke? For himself he took the imputation of hostility to government, and to the Parliaments that had supported government, as a compli ment. He gloried in having been hostile to the parliament that spent above one
the minister in his wishes to overturn the constitution! He wished to know what security the people would have in that case for the constitution? Bad precedents ought to be resisted at all times, and the House ought to watch over them with jealousy, but more particularly in good times, for it was then the public were least liable to suspicion, and consequently it was then they were most likely to be carried. Precedents which were passed in good times might be made very dangerous use of in bad ones. On this account it was that he had taken so much alarm at this measure. He had attended to all that the minister had said upon the subject, and he thought him by no means justified from what had appeared in the discussion of the subject. The amendment, in his opinion, although it came from a gentleman who defended the minister, implied a degree of censure upon his conduct in this matter: he was content with any degree of censure, rather than have none. He thought there should be some mark set upon such conduct to denote the disapprobation of the House. Mr. Wilberforce said, it had been proved to be the general practice of parliament to give to the minister power by a vote of credit. That power was afterwards to be revised and confirmed by parliament; and until so confirmed, it was not complete. The minister, in arguing these points, had referred to precedents. He had adduced instances of money being given to foreign princes, as this had been given to the Emperor, without the previous knowledge of parliament. It remained for the minister, then, only to prove, that in so doing, he had acted from the necessity of the case. This he had done by explaining to them the situation of affairs upon the continent, and at home. Had the minister disclosed the matter sooner than he did, he would have been guilty of doing that which he could not have honestly avowed at the time; because he could not, as minister, honestly avow that which would be injurious to the country. But the gentleman on the other side did not understand how this could be more difficult to be done publicly than privately. Upon this he could only say, that if done publicly, it must have been done at once, which was liable to this objection, either the sum might be too large or too small for the purpose intended to be answered by it. In the case of being too small, it might operate as a declaration of weakness