Slike strani

money to defray the necessary expenses, of the war, and here it was natural to expect, that in proportion to the magnitude of the sums borrowed, the interest must increase, yet even in this particular the money had been borrowed during this war, at an advantage of 14 per cent. in favour of the country, when compared with the loans made during the American war. The hon. member had adverted to former times as a reason why the House should agree to his motion for a committee of inquiry; but he had not given the chancellor of the exchequer any credit for the plan he pursued, for appropriating the annual million towards the sinking fund. The present war he must ever consider as one on which depended the liberty of the subject, and the very exist ence of the constitution. Considering the present contest as such, posterity could not, in justice, exclaim against the burthens which they would have to defray; for the war was entered into and continued, not more for the purpose of preserving ourselves, than for handing down to future generations, our constitution unimpaired, and our liberties inviolate. The next question was, how far the exertions of ministers had been proportioned to their expenses. Let gentlemen look at the number of men this country had brought into the field, and the number of ships put into commission, and the charge of improvidence against government must vanish. During the American war there were 314 ships in commission; at present there were 368. The number of men in the army had increased in the same proportion. We had a much larger force employed than on any former occasion, and it partook, from the nature of the contest, as much of a continental as it did of a maritime war. Reason dictated to us, that when at war with France, to engage the continental powers in our favour was politic. He therefore maintained, that there was no prodigality in subsidies. The Austrian loan had been called impolitic; and some gentlemen had gone so far as to say that a subsidy would have been better; but those opinions had already been found groundless, the interest had been punctually paid; and the gua. rantee of this country for the sum was not impolitic. What was the consequence of that loan? It had diverted the attention of the enemy from its marine; and even if it was never liquidated, this coun[VOL. XXXII.]

try would be amply repaid by the crippled state of the French navy.-It was true, there was a large unfunded debt; that, however, was provided for in the ways and means of the year. If the war was confined to one point, then it would be practicable to present clear and satisfactory estimates; but as we had never been engaged in a war which was carried on in so many different quarters, it was impossible to frame estimates more satisfactory. The hon. member had adverted to the erection of barracks; as if that was a subject to which parliament was a stranger. It would, however, be recollected, that the account of the annual expense for the last five years had been constantly laid on the table. The system was one which parliament had conceived to be prudent and wise; and of course the House must have been prepared for the estimates on which the hon. member had so much enlarged. The hon. gentleman had asked, what had been gained by the war, and why it was carried on? It was carried on for national objects; and, as a naval war, we had gained great acquisitions. Did the hon. gentleman consider the skill and valour displayed in the war as nothing? Did he hold our acquisitions in the East Indies, the Cape of Good Hope, the Dutch settlements, the post of St. Domingo, the island of Martinique (which marshall Bouille pronounced to be the key of the West India islands), and Corsica, as nothing? He defied any gentleman to show that there ever had been a more glorious and successful war. Mr. Jenkinson said, he heard constantly of the parliamentary jealousy in the reigns of George 1st and 2nd. but he knew nothing of it. History taught him that a larger share of confidence had been given to ministers in those reigns than in any other, when a million and a half had been used for secret service money for ten years, and no proceedings passed upon it; and afterwards, when parliament required an account of the expenditure of the secret service money, the minister advised the king to refuse it. It was impossible for him fairly to examine the whole of the hon. gentleman's arguments; but he would maintain, that for the last twelve years this country had enjoyed more political liberty than at any former period, and that the people had had a larger share in the constitution. Upon these grounds, he would negative the motion. [3 N]

Mr. Curwen said, he had listened at- it could be procured. He did not think tentively to the hon. gentleman's speech, it was by gentlemen opposite pestering and could have wished to have heard ministers with repeated motions every him justify, upon fair grounds, that sys-week, that peace could be obtained. He tem, so ably reprobated by his hon. friend. was therefore for the war, and would not When the conduct of France was selected enter into the consideration whether the as the fit object of continual abuse, it be-loan was a favourable one or not. He came a fair question for that House to disapproved of the motion. If the situaconsider, whether we had made those ex- tion of the country was critical, there ertions which we had the means of doing, was the more danger from public invesand whether the accounts on the table tigations. The debates got abroad, and were fairly and properly made out? if they were known in France, might reWhat could a member of parliament say tard negotiation. It was not our business to his constituents, after having imposed to confess our poverty if we were poor, additional burthens upon them, without nor to spoil our own trade by crying being able to tell how the money voted stinking fish. was applied? Such was their situation at present; and, if no inquiry was granted, they might come back and find the burthens doubled. During the American war, it had been thought necessary to institute committees of inquiry, because the expenses of the war were deemed to be improvident and misapplied. If that was the case when the amount was only nine millions, what could justify resisting inquiry now, when the amount was more than double that sum? As to the boasted acquisitions, he considered most of them, if not all, as misfortunes. He rather wished that some system could be pursued that would keep us rid of colonization, which tended to weaken the country. He denied that continental wars had ever been useful to this country. He was pointedly severe on the erection of barracks. Should ministers persist in the line of conduct they had pursued, they would compel the people to speak for themselves, not from any love of French principles, but from the burthens, calamities, and distresses of a ruinous and expensive war. If all inquiry was to be resisted, it was of no consequence for the representatives of the people to call themselves such, or to remain there; perhaps they might do better to retire.

Mr. Steele said, that the hon. mover was justified in asserting, that the expenses of the public services had of late years exceeded the estimates; but the amount was not equal to his statement. The navy estimates in the three years of the war had amounted to about 15,000,000l. the debt during the same period had increased somewhat more than 13,000,000l. but this debt could not fairly be stated to have been incurred without the sanction of parliament. It had been the practice, from the Revolution to the present time, to vote the sum of 41. per man per month, according to the number of seamen to be employed; this allowance, had not, for some years, been found equal to the expenditure, even in time of peace. The great causes of the excess in time of war were the high price of provisions, the price of naval stores, and the expense of transports. After the first year of the war, therefore, his right hon. friend, on opening the budget, had found it his duty to state the debt he had incurred in consequence of this excess, and the means which he had provided for discharging it; and the House, by its proceedings upon the statements of his right hon. friend, had given an indemnification and sanction for what he had done. His right hon. friend had provided for the discharge of the whole of this 13,000,000l. of navy debt, except one million and a half. On the opening of the budget in the present session, his right hon. friend had informed the House that the navy debt had increased 1,500,000l. which remained to be provided for, and the House acted upon it. After that information, he could not imagine his right hon. friend had proceeded without the authority of parliament. — The hon. gentleman had stated the estimates

Mr. M. Montagu said, that war was always attended with unforeseen expenses; but it was not optional with ministers whether those expenses were large or small. He thought much praise was due to them for the manner in which they had provided for the exigencies of the war. By a continuance of their exertions, the French must at last be brought to their senses.

Sir G. P. Turner lamented the expense of the war, and was very desirous for peace, but confessed he knew not how

of the army at 17,600,000l. which was provided for by the funded debt; and the extraordinary expenses, or unfunded debt, incurred during the last three years for the army, he calculated at 9,000,000l., to which he added the votes of credit, making in all 14,000,000l. and upwards of unfunded debt for the army, unauthorized by parliament. This, however, was not the true state of the case; for the vote of credit had received the sanction of parliament. From the sum of 9,000,000l. ought also to be deducted one million and an half, arising from the repayment of a large sum which had been advanced to general Clerfait, and from savings on the grants for the years 1794 and 1795, which having been applied towards payment of of the extraordinaries, reduced the real amount of those extraordinaries to 7,500,000l.-Comparing the 7,500,000l. therefore, with the unfunded debt left to be provided for at the end of every former war, he stated it at his belief that we had expended less in extraordinary expenses than in any former war. It had been next contended, that there was a direct violation of the law of appropriation. If his right hon. friend had violated the appropriation act, he had done no more than his predecessors had done before him. By that act, certain sums were to be estimated and provided for under such and such heads: but there had always been certain expenses incurred, which ministers had not been able to lay under any head of estimates, which were afterwards brought before parliament, under the head of extraordinary expenses, and as they had always been justified and approved by parliament, he did not see that any blame could attach to his right hon. friend. By the loan of the present year provision was made for the repayment of 2,600,000l. to the army service of the year 1795. This sum had been already voted by parliament, and repaid to the army, and with the addition of the farther extraordinaries that remained to be voted, he pledged himself there would be money more than sufficient to pay the whole of the army, and not to leave sixpence in arrear.-It had been urged, that the vote of credit had been misapplied, and that it was voted to answer any unforeseen demands during the recess. This he denied. The estimates and the vote of credit had made but one purse, and both were made use of indiscriminately for the public service. Upon

[merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][merged small][ocr errors][merged small][merged small]

Motion for Anatomizing the Bodies of Felons executed for Burglary or Highway Robbery.] March 11. Mr. Joddrell rose, pursuant to notice, to move for leave to bring in a bill to increase the punishment inflicted by law in cases of burglary and highway robbery. Those crimes, he said, had of late obviously increased to an alarming degree, and consequently, it became a duty of the legislature to take some means to check this growing evil. In the plan which he should submit to the House for that purpose, he had taken the act of the 25th Geo. 2nd, cap. 37, for his model. The House would recollect, that the object of that act was more effectually to prevent the horrid crime of murder. The principal provisions in that act were, that the person convicted should be executed the next day but one after his conviction, except that should happen to be Sunday, and, in that case, on the Monday following, and, that after execution, the body of the criminal should be given for dissection. The first part of this act, viz. that which ordains a speedy execution, he did not think necessary to adopt in the bill which he should propose to the House; because, though he wished to increase the punishment in cases of burglary and highway robbery, yet he wished to preserve a discriminating line between them and murder; but the next clause, viz. that which enacts that the body shall be given to the surgeons for dissection, appeared to him to be one which might, with great propriety, be applied in the two crimes to which he had alluded. By another clause in the 25th Geo. 2nd, the person convicted of murder was to be kept from the time of conviction till execution, upon bread and water. This was a severity which he did not see the necessity of adopting; for nothing could be further from his principles than to introduce more severity than the urgent necessity of the case called for. The regulation he suggested was not unknown to the law, as a statute of Henry 8th enacted, that the bodies of felons executed

should be sent to Surgeons-hall for dissection. He had spoken of this bill to lord Kenyon, and the late lord chief baron Skinner, who both seemed to approve of it: nor had he heard of any objection to it, but that it would confound the punishment of murder with lesser offences, and thereby render that pre-eminent crime more common. This he did not believe, as this circumstance was only a secondary consequence, which those who were so abandoned as to disregard life would not consider. He hoped, that by this increase of punishment, the crimes of burglary and highway robbery would be diminished; he confessed, however, he had another object in view, namely, to check a practice which had gained ground of late, and which loudly called for some remedy; he meant that of stealing bodies out of church-yards. The House were not, he believed, aware of the extent to which that infamous practice prevailed. He had made particular inquiries about it, and he found that it exceeded almost all belief. If the bodies of persons convicted of burglary and highway robberies were given for dissection, it would at all events diminish the necessity of robbing churchyards, and most probably check the practice. He concluded by moving, "That leave be given to bring in a bill for Anatomizing the bodies of felons executed for burglary, or highway robbery."

Mr. Buxton seconded the motion, simply on the ground that, by increasing the materials for dissection, it was likely to promote improvements in surgery.

Mr. Francis said, that when this subject was first mentioned to him, he was led to believe that anatomical improvement was the principal, instead of the secondary object of the hon. gentleman. However if the measure was likely to be attended by moral improvement also, in diminishing the number of burglaries and highway robberies, very important addditional advantage would certainly be obtained. There might be serious doubts entertained as to the general principle of the bill, lest, by extending to other offences those aggravated penalties, which the law now affixed exclusively to the crime of murder, that impression of horror which nature, co operating with legislative provisions, had implanted in the human breast against a crime so atrocious and detestable, might, in some degree be diminished. In this view it might, perhaps, be deemed inexpedient to add to the severity of our

laws; but though he would not recommend additional punishment to the latitude, at present proposed, he thought it might fairly be applied to those offences which came nearest to the guilt of murder. Of this description were those inhuman robberies, where the offenders, not content with taking the property of their fellow subjects, just stopping short of murder, exercised wanton cruelties by maiming and wounding those whom they plundered. Another species of crimes were those nocturnal depredations, in which men were deprived of their usual courage and means of defence, and were, during the process of the burglaries, exposed to terrors worse almost than death itself. In cases like these, where the offenders had not the same excuses, if, indeed excuses could be admitted, and certainly had none of the risk of common highwaymen, he should not object to their being subject to those penalties, even after death, which the law at present reserved for murderers. He should at the same time wish to exempt from these severities, burglaries which were not attended with such aggravating circumstances.

Mr. Serjeant Adair said, he felt great satisfaction in happening to be down at that early hour to hear the unexpected proposal made by the learned gentleman, and to give it his direct opposition. It was much to be lamented that there should be suffered to exist in the criminal laws of this kingdom, any thing which could operate as a deduction from that general admiration which our judicial code was otherwise entitled to receive. Unhappily, however, inequalities did exist in the classes and definitions of crimes, by which the severest penalties were attached to species of offence infinitely less obnoxious than others which were punished in a much slighter manner. This had been observed by all versant with the criminal justice of the country, and had been considered as a manifest defect in our criminal code. But were gentlemen aware of the extent that was given to the definition of this kind of burglary? Were they aware that a ragged boy who passed the most populous street in the metropolis after sunset, which was at four o'clock on the 21st of December, and who, taking out a pane of glass with his knife, and with a wire drawing out two penny-worth of ribbon, or a pair of garters, was guilty of the crime of burglary, and must receive

sentence of death? Was the person who took a few shillings, without committing any violence, to be compared to the noc turnal, way-laying murderer? Were the obvious moral distinctions of these crimes to be confounded, and held forth to the people, as meriting the same severity of punishment? In truth, the complexion of our criminal laws was already too sauguinary. The punishment of the torture had been long banished from this country; and God forbid that it should ever be revived! Since that time we had little more than the penalty of death to inflict upon offences the most foul and flagitious; and it was painful to reflect that it was not entirely reserved for murder and high treason, but was inflicted for offences which had no comparative enormity. He was far from wishing to justify, or even to palliate any breach of the law; he could not for a moment, however, lose sight of the distinction to be made between the man whom distress obliges to go out into the highway, and without any design upon the life of the person whom he met with, demands a few shillings, and the nocturnal assassin, who, without any immediate risk that he knows of, lies in wait to start upon his prey. The law had set up, on the impulse of God and nature, this barrier between murder and all other crimes, and that legislature would, in his opinion, act most unwisely, which should be induced on any account to remove it. The most that could be expected from it, and even that must be extremely uncertain, was that they would have fewer burglaries and highway robberies, but more numerous murders. It was the honourable boast of England, that murder was here less frequent than in any other country. Let them therefore be cautious how they destroyed, or even confounded those impressions, prejudices, and terrors, which separated murder in its consequences, as in its nature, from every other crime. As to the effect which the measure might have in the improvement of anatomy, it bore no proportion to the importance of the other considerations; nor would the provision of this bill, he believed, furnish all the supplies for which the surgeons might have occasion. He was not such an enthusiast for the promotion of the science of anatomy, as to advance it at such a price, and by such means. He trusted the bill would not be suffered to go into another stage.

The Attorney General said, that had he been apprized that this motion was to have come on, he would have made inquiry among those who were at the head of his profession, and who were stated to have approved of the measure. If they had entertained that opinion with any degree of confidence, he thought it probable that this business would have come forward in a different way. Death was, in his opinion, a sufficient punishment for any crime. The crime of murder alone appeared to him to call for the extraordi nary punishment of dissection. It certainly must take away part of the horror of that crime, to put it on a level with others of an inferior nature; and therefore he concurred entirely with the learned ser jeant who, by a long, able, and humane administration of the criminal law, had deserved the warmest thanks of his country.

Mr. Fox said, the point on which his opposition to the proposed bill rested was, that it annihilated that distinction between murder and other crimes, which was so essential to inspire just impressions of guilt.

The motion was negatived.

Debate on General Macleod's Motion respecting the Employment of Bloodhounds in the War against the Maroons.] March 21. General Macleod said, that the transaction he was about to state, and the motion he should ground upon it, were of so much importance, not only to the honour of the House and of the country, but the interests of humanity for ages to come, that he regretted his inability for such a task. Before he entered into any detail, however, he should endeavour to wipe away some aspersions which had been thrown upon him since he had undertaken this business. It had been both publicly and privately asserted, that he entertained two objects for his present motion, private malice and hypocrisy. In fact, that he endeavoured to calumniate a noble lord under the mask of friendship. In reply to this cruel insinuation, he appealed to all who knew him, whether they believed him to be capable of entertaining sentiments of private malice against any man, far less against a person whom he loved as a man, and respected as an accomplished soldier, and with whom he had always lived in habits of intimacy. The first account he had received of the importation of blood-hounds, from the

« PrejšnjaNaprej »