Slike strani
PDF
ePub

which he returned with equal affection, to be prevailed on by the arts of his enemies to adopt this opinion, it became his duty to clear himself of so infamous a charge. That if this charge had been true, he should not only have been unable to deliver his sentiments on this Bill as he had just done, but should have been ashamed to appear within those walls.

Mr. Macdonald said, he had considered the Bill with mature deliberation, and the result was that he was clearly an enemy to its principles. It contained two positions, both essential to support it, and yet neither of them proved by any better evidence than mere assertion; for first it recited, that the influence of the crown had improperly increased, and secondly, that a reformation in point of public economy was necessary. Neither of these positions, he thought, should be taken for granted without evidence to support them, and yet the House must proceed that way, or reject those hazardous innovations to which they formed a basis. The influence of the crown was said to have improperly increased; but, by what means? for the power of corruption had always remained the same ever since the Revolution. From that period to this, 800,000l. a year had been the amount of the civil establishment: our ancestors, therefore, in giving that, had given what they thought a proper share of influence into the hands of the monarch, to compensate for that more arbitrary and equally profitable share of prerogative he had voluntarily relinquished. If, then, 800,000l. worth of influence was not then thought dangerous to the liberties of the people, why should it be deemed so now? He entirely agreed with the hon. gentleman who had proved himself the deserving son of the great man whose name he bore, and whose talents were equal to the expectations that were formed of them, that to guard the property of the people was the first duty of that House; but it was not the only one. If they should be so attentive to this duty as to practise no other, and should prefer the interest of this branch of the legislature so much to the other, as to suffer an encroachment on the equipoise, they would be as criminal as if they were to become the abject tools and accomplices of the crown against the people. Democracy was as much to be avoided as monarchy, or as aristocracy. He then entered into the argument, that the crown possessed the revenue of the civil list by a contract,

[ocr errors]

on the faith of which the hereditary revenue had been given; and said, that it would be the grossest infringement of the good faith of that contract to attempt to pass the present Bill.

po

Mr. Wraxall said, he felt great timidity in rising, because he was aware that every man who attempted to object to a Bill, one declared object of which was to introduce a large and beneficial system of public economy, must stand on very unpopular ground. Projects of reform were at all times seducing to a nation, let the circumstances of the publie be ever so promising and prosperous; but when a great people were struggling under a variety of pressing difficulties, when those difficulties rather increased than diminished, and when the happy hour that was to put an end to them was out of sight, projects of reform became more seductive, and therefore it was no wonder that they were grasped at with the greatest eagernesss by men of almost every turn of litical sentiment and opinion, because where the burthen was generally felt, every man must unite in wishing that it were alleviated, if it could not be removed. Projects of reform also became the more alluring, where they were supported by recent precedent, and upheld by the powerful aid of the most polished eloquence: he should not therefore be surprized at any aspersions that might be thrown on him, for presuming, under such circumstances as he had stated, to endeavour to draw the attention of the House to a few observations, which he had to offer in objection to the Bill. His duty, however, which should ever be his first object, impelled him to surmount every terror that he felt, and to proceed in his purpose, unawed with the dread of any consequences that might arise from it; and first, he disapproved of the grand principle on which the Bill proceeded. His objection was a radical one; he could not subscribe to the resolution of the last parliament, which asserted, "That the influence of the crown had increased, is increasing, and ought to be diminished." Not feeling the truth of a resolution come to by so respectable an authority as a British House of Commons, and which had been since so strongly insisted on by some of the ablest men of the age, he was aware that it was incumbent on him to account for his resisting the assertion, and denying the extent of it, and this he would do as shortly as possible.

T

He then drew a picture of the consti- | after the death of Charles 12, as well as tution of this country, and was warm upon her resignation of the throne in favour in its eulogium. He declared it to be of her consort, Frederick, landgrave of more perfect than the constitution of Hesse Cassel, up to the year 1772, when Rome, of Athens, or of Sparta; in short, the revolution took place. During all than that of any republic either of anti- that period, the strong features of Sweden quity or of modern Europe; its perfection were faction, venality, vilification, and he said, lay in the nice preponderance be- poverty; loss of glory, strength, and retween its three branches, in that wonder- spect. The navy reduced to seven ships, fully correct equipoise which balanced the the people enervated and spiritless, the power of the three distinct but relative government without system or public states of King, Lords, and Commons; nor glory; till at length the nation was sunk need there be a greater proof of its ex- into contempt, despised by every other cellence and its perfection, than the admi- European power, and the Swedes almost ration, the esteem, and the applause with annihilated as a people. All these calawhich it had been spoken of by the wisest mities, and all this disgrace had been enmen of all countries. In times previous tailed on Sweden, in consequence of the to the æra of 1688, when the glorious Re- people, in the year 1718, having, when volution was effected, prerogative was the they felt sore from the oppression and weapon of the crown. The liberties of rigour of the reign of Charles 12, madly the people were not then accurately de- precipitated into the opposite extreme, fined, and the people were from that very and robbed the crown of all its natural, circumstance liable to many inroads and just, and constitutional influence. After much oppression, which were exercised stating this pretty fully, he took notice of by that powerful engine, prerogative, Mr. Burke's declaration in his speech of under various pretences. But in 1688, the 15th inst." That France had made a prerogative was abrogated, and liberty reform, that Louis 16 had done it: why, defined. At that fortunate period of our then, should not we imitate so bright an history, when the Star Chamber, the example?" Few reasonings on French Court of Wards, and all the execrable conduct, Mr. Wraxall said, could ever tyranny introduced and practised by the apply to England; France was a despotic, House of Stuart was abolished, and in its this a free country. British kings could stead the Bill of Rights and Magna Charta not imitate arbitrary princes. In England established, the king stood, as it were, the throne is built on liberty. In France chained to the pillar of liberty. It was it rests on the necks of 200,000 soldiers. the great support of his reign, the sublime It is upheld by farmers general, by opfabric which he engaged to erect; and pression, by a servile parliament, banished who so proper to be the architect, as a at will, as the last parliament was, to prince who had been at the head of a free Angouleme and Pontoise, and by military republic, and had been called from thence, rigour and armed authority. But Mr. and invited to fill the throne of a yet freer Burke had said, that "Louis 14 and people? But still virtually and tacitly a Louis 15 had never made such a reform. barrier was wisely left to the crown. That It was left for M. Necker, a single unconbarrier was influence! William the 3rd, nected alien, to achieve so glorious a prothe avowed opposer of tyranny, the guar-ject, and to do his royal master so much dian of the liberties of his people, and the service, accompanied with so much hoadvocate for the general freedom of Eu- nour." He denied the whole of the asrope, was as jealous as any prince of his sertion. Retrenchments of the kind were influence. Why? Because he saw that if by no means novelties in France. In influence was lost, the crown would be 1689, in the reign of Louis 14, when M. degraded, and the nation must soon be Le Pelletier was at the head of the finance, degraded likewise. three millions of livres were raised by melting down the king's plate, and three millions more from that of his nobles. Such a reform was surely a very rigorous one, and it was the more extraordinary, as it was made in the beginning of a prosperous war. Again, in 1706, when Chamillard managed the finances of France, another reform took place; and again, a

In order to shew that this would have been the consequence, Mr. Wraxall adverted to the history of Sweden, citing the fate of that country as an example correctly in point. He gave an account of Sweden, as it stood at the time the constitution of it was changed in the year 1718, when it was governed by Ulrica,

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

[1274 third, in 1708, when Demarets was finan- seriously, felt himself justified in dreading cier. In the reign of Louis 15, cardinal a civil war, a calamity that would have Fleury's strict œconomy, and a long peace, completed our misfortunes! He concluded made a reform not so requisite in the war with saying, that those who love the Engof 1741. But in 1761 and 1762, a lish people, and their liberties, must asthorough reform, as was well known, took semble round the throne. They must place. defend it from all attacks, as well as from the innovating projects of dangerous but well meaning theorists, as from the open assaults of its avowed enemies, otherwise the constitution itself would fall, for the stability of the throne, and the security of the people were inseparable; weaken the one, the other must necessarily be injured; for which reason he should oppose the present Bill.

[ocr errors]

As to the hon. gentleman's reasons for dreading France, he differed from him extremely. The hon. gentleman had declared, that he feared her on account of her reform, and on no other account. He felt a very different motive for fearing France at present. It was not on account of her powerful fleets and her great alliances. No. Neither was it on account of her reform. That could do but very little indeed. He feared her because she could devote all her finances to her navy; because she had no land war; because we have no continental ally, and because the frontier of France was secure and peaceable. There was the deep evil, the source, and the only source of real danger to this country! While the frontier of France was undisturbed, and the Rhine flowed quietly within its banks, we had every reason to be alarmed, because while matters remained in that state, France could support her navy, she could recruit it rapidly, and could add daily to its number, its strength, and its service. He was ready to subscribe to Mr. Burke's arguments relative to the two boards, and the ridiculous establishments of the duchy of Lancaster and the duchy of Cornwall, the palatinate of Chester, and the principality of Durham; he was ready also to allow, that all he had said on those topics was equally just and beautiful, but he could not agree with him that they ought to be abolished, and the reason was, because he was not for destroy.juring the tree itself. It gave stability to ing the influence of the crown. power, by relieving it from the burthens bywhich it was oppressed. It was calculated to strip off the poisonous shirt with which this Hercules of the constitution was invested, and in which he laboured in all the agonies of death. Economy was the remedy to which we must refer. It was the sovereign specific, by which we might yet avert the consequences of consumptive decline. Those who objected to the present Bill, in fact, declared that œconomy was not necessary or not proper, and that corrupt influence ought to be maintained. It was an idle and an absurd quibble to dispute the existence of undue influence;

Lord Maitland* rose for the first tinre, and entered fully into the question, on the ground on which it had been taken up by the other gentlemen who had gone before him. He combated the arguments that had been urged with great ability and force of reasoning. The hon. gentleman who had been the author of the Bill, was perhaps the only man in this country whose powers were equal to so systematic and generous a reform. He had connected liberality with interest. He had made it policy to be generous. It was no little, narrow, wretched scheme of retrenchment, breaking in upon the dignity of the crown, or the respect of the nation; but a great and beautiful arrangement of office, calculated to ornament, instead of stripping the court. It destroyed the underwood of grandeur, the bushes under which the serpent of influence lurked, and from which, unseen, it stung and tainted the dignity of the constitution. It chased away the contaminating excrescences, and by this means it fructified, instead of in

He here pointed out the great danger of popular inroad and democratic violence. He spoke of the insurrections of last summer, which he described as horrible atrocities, at the recollection of which every true friend to liberty, and every true friend to good government must shudder. He ascribed those mischiefs to a species of republican phrenzy, and touched on the danger of associations, which, though set on foot by the best lovers of their country, sometimes led to events not only totally foreign to the intentions of those who instituted such associations, but which they could not but detest and lament. In the course of the last summer, he said, every man that thought upon the subject 1814.)

*The present earl of Lauderdale. (A. Də

[ocr errors]

it was manifest, and like any simple pro- has enormously increased. His lordship blem of Euclid, could not derive more illustrated this position much at large, by perspicuity from explanation than it pos- supposing himself a novice in the service sessed from name. The Journals of the of state affairs, and requiring of some aged House had declared the existence of in- friend the solution of many political fluence, and in their subsequent conduct paradoxes, all of which the existence of the House had proved the fact. On that court influence, he shewed, could only exmemorable night, the 6th of April, a gleam plain. In that train of reasoning, he inof returning virtue shot through the troduced a detail of circumstances and House. Truth made its transient appear- events, which all combined to prove the ance, and pressed conviction on the minds extent of the power which the minister of men, not incident to conviction. For had acquired in parliament by the means once they yielded to the impression-the of that efficacious instrument. The noble touchstone was applied to the heart, and lord considered this Bill as the foundation from their mouths came honesty and truth stone of reformation. Its provisions were -but that influence which they acknow-wholesome and salutary: nay, he consiledged to exist, rose from its temporary de- dered them as palatable. He would be pression with accumulated strength. It the last man in that House to adopt, or to rose to justify the declarations of the 6th of approve of a measure, in which violent April, but it held them forth as a matter of hands were to be laid on the revenue of mockery and insult, a vor et præterea the sovereign. Attached to the family nihil as if it found a triumph in the ac- upon the throne, as they all were, by the knowledgment of its existence, and in the fervent bonds of loyalty and interest, it insolence of wickedness and power, pre-would be the last thing which that House sumed to say to the people, It is true, in- would attempt, to diminish the glory, or fluence has increased, is increasing, and to abridge the pleasures of the sovereign. ought to be diminished; but I am grown This did neither, but added to both; it was sturdy; I have taken possession of the not more calculated to introduceœconomy, last bulwark of the constitution, the Com- than to ascertain respect; and not more mons House of Parliament; and I am calculated to take from corrupt influence, superior to the feeble rage and the impo- than to add to honourable power. Such tent attacks of virtue. After this plain were his sentiments, because he considered proof, would it be denied that influence the true and solid power of the crown to existed? If the House had not virtue be seated in the glory and in the virtues enough to rescue themselves from the im- of the sovereign. If the sovereign posputation of returning to dependence, it sessed the confidence and the love of his became them at least to acknowledge the people, if he and they were bound togeservitude and the slavery in which they ther by the bonds of sympathetic regard were held. The noble lord traced the and affection, then the crown would be course of our calamities up to the fountain more splendid, and possess more lustre head-the mad and ruinous American war. than it could possibly derive from pageantry It was that which had exhausted our re- and parade. sources, and it was that which had made the increase of influence so necessary. It had become the infamous task of ministers to bribe men whom they could not persuade. They had been obliged, when delusion had evaporated, and all the architecture of chimeras was demolished, to resort to the insinuating powers of corruption and those men who had acted without system in the operations of government, had been both ingenious and successful in the management of parliament. Such now was the state of corruption, that no man could live and think in this country, without irrefragable proofs press-edly ing on his feelings every moment, to convince him, however incredulous, of this truth, that the influence of the crown

[ocr errors]

Sir Horace Mann said, that he had last year opposed parts of the Bill, which appeared to him at that time to be highly objectionable, but he had always approved of the principle. The regulations proposed in the King's household, particularly that of supplying his table by contract, was a species of œconomy to which he would never consent, becausé he considered it as a degradation of the royalty of England. He could never agree to set the King down to an ordinary: but those objectionable points having been given up, he undoubt

should vote for the second reading, | and he thought the House were most du tifully complying with the words of his Majesty from the throne, on the opening

[ocr errors]

Eof the session, in proceeding to pass a Bill like that before them. His Majesty had expressly desired to know the wishes of his people; and in the speech immediately subsequent to the late disgraceful outrages, had declared, that he wished to make the happiness and the welfare of the people his own. What could more forcibly convey to the royal mind the sentiments of the people, than the Commons of England agreeing to pass a Bill, the avowed objects of which were public reform and public œconomy? He was astonished at having heard the resolution of the 6th of April treated with so little respect, and hoped no man would presume to abrogate a resolution of the House, though agreed to by a former parliament. le congratulated the House on the burst of abilities, that had given lustre to the debate, and had done the young members on both sides so much honour.

[ocr errors]

Mr. Courtenay said, he rose with the utmost diffidence, lest he should be deemed presumptuous in attempting to controvert principles and combat arguments specious and popular in themselves, and rendered highly so by that brilliant and captivating eloquence, which peculiarly distinguished the hon. gentleman on his moving for leave to bring in the present Bill, and which must still vibrate on the ears of the House. No man entertained a higher respect for him than he did. The hon. gentleman merited it; for who was there gifted with such superior talents, who bore his faculties so meekly? Whose candour and ingenuousness were more conspicuous? Who arranged his matter with so much judgment, and who illumined it with so much fancy? It would argue want of taste in those who differed most from the hon. gentleman in the fleeting politics of the day, not to set a just estimation on his singular and shining abilities. Posterity would do them justice, and admire the man who had infused a spirit of Attic elegance into British oratory, and whose classical compositions would be read with delight by the scholar, the philosopher and the statesman.

The present Bill held out a very flattering and popular idea-œconomy, great savings to the public, and a consequent diminution of the dangerous influence of the crown; but the sum proposed to be saved was but trifling, considered as a great national object; consequently, a diminution of the influence of the crown must be the true and secret motive for this fa

vourite species of reformation. He remarked, that by the nature of our mixed government, the disposal of all places of trust and profit are vested in the crown; this liberal and constitutional prerogative, in the opinion of the ablest writers, was productive of many beneficial effects. In the first place, it had an obvious tendency to soothe, and allay those restless and irritating passions, which the invidious power and splendour of monarchy were very apt to excite in some men of a certain, temperature, especially if, from some cause or other, they had been chilled by remaining too long in the shade, deprived of that genial and exhilarating warmth which court sunshine is usually supposed to be. stow. Yet these perturbed spirits had their use; ever restless and uneasy in themselves, they watched with jealous and aching eyes, every motion of the state machine; often, indeed, they might obstruct and retard its motions, yet at other times, they prevented its descending too rapidly, on the wheel of prerogative, and checked it by the drag chain of opposition.

The distinction and opposition of parties, springing from the very nature of our free constitution, derived their full force and complexion from the glorious Revolution, when liberty was more firmly established, and prerogative more accurately defined. He said, it was a Revolution principle, and he liked it the better for being so, especially, as to this very principle we were indebted for that constant generation of patriots which every administration necessarily begets; they shine and twinkle a while in their orbits (like other constellations) whilst they preserve their due distance from our political sun; but when they approach too near, they become invisible, no longer attract the gaze of popular admiration, but are lost in the majesty of his beams. The effects naturally resulting from the genius and nature of the British constitution, as operating on the human passions, are admirably and justly described in the following passage by the celebrated Montes-.. quieu: "As those, who, with the greatest', warmth oppose the executive power, dare not avow the self-interested motives of their opposition, so much the more do they increase the terrors of the people, who can never be certain whether they are in danger or not. And as the executive power, by disposing of all employments, may give great hopes and no fears, i every man who entertains any favour from

ï

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
« PrejšnjaNaprej »