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would certainly give a fresh infusion of fine subsequent noble and generous efforts, to efblood into the constitution of the house of fect a total abolition of this detestable and commons." Though the lord advocate and inhuman commerce. Pitt had been in office together during the A variety of business comprehending de short-lived Shelburne administration, they tails not sufficiently important to claim a had continued until now rather shy than place in history, having been completed; familiar, but this unexpected support and the parliament was at length prorogued, July patriotic effusion effected a cordial and last- sixteenth, by a speech, in which his majesty ing union between those two celebrated declared his intention of calling them to characters. But Pitt's motion and resolu-gether at an early period, in order to resume tions were lost by a majority of two hundred the consideration of the affairs of the East and ninety-three to one hundred and forty- Indies, which would demand their most senine.
rious and unintermitted attention. Pitt having failed in his attempt to im- In the course of the summer, few material prove the constitution of the house of com- events occurred deserving of particular no mons, alderman Sawbridge brought forward, tice. The king, by virtue of an act passed May sixteenth, his motion for shortening the for that purpose, issued an order in council
, duration of parliaments. He observed that limiting the commerce between the continent he had heard the British constitution char- of America and the British West India islacterized, on a former day, as the most glo- ands, to ships British built. This was conrious fabric, the work of ages, and the won- formable to the grand principle on which the der of the world. It was his rooted persua- act of navigation was originally founded; sion, that the British constitution, till the de- and though this restriction gave extreme ofcollation of Charles the first, was a system fence to the inhabitants of the United States, of the most wretched despotism. No gleam they had certainly no just reason to comof liberty had ever shone out till after that plain, as they could have no possible right to era. It was in late times only, that the claim the advantages of dependence and inflame of public liberty illuminated the con- dependence at one and the same time. stitution. It was in late times only, that our On the third of September the definitive constitution had become the wonder of the treaties of peace with France, Spain, and world. To talk of it as having been so for America, were with some alteration signed; ages, was to falsify records and history." and also preliminaries of peace with the The motion of Sawbridge was seconded by States-General, by which all the conquests alderman Bull, and warmly supported by of England were restored, except the town the earl of Surrey and others, but was lost of Negapatnam on the coast of Coromandel
, by a majority of one hundred and twenty- which their high mightinesses were at last three to fifty-six.
most reluctantly compelled to cede. QUAKERS PETITION AGAINST THE
In the speech from the throne, at the SLAVE TRADE
meeting of parliament on the eleventh of A BILL for regulating the trade of the November, his majesty, after noticing the African Company, being introduced towards conclusion of peace with France, Spain, and the close of the session, with a clause pro-America; and the ratification of the prehibiting the officers of the company from liminary articles with the States-General; exporting negroes, that humane, intelligent, stated as a principal object of their conside and respectable class of citizens, known by ration, the situation of the East India comthe appellation of Quakers, convened in their pany: “ The utmost exertions of their wisannual assembly in the metropolis, embraced dom,” he said, “would be required to mainthis favorable occasion to petition the house tain and improve the valuable advantages de of commons, “ That the clause in question rived from our India possessions, and to pro might be extended to all persons whatsoever, mote and secure the happiness of the native professing themselves deeply affected with inhabitants of those provinces." The adthe consideration of the rapine, oppression, dress passed without opposition. and blood attending this traffic: under the
FOX'S INDIA BILL countenance of the laws of this country, say On the eighteenth of November, accordthe petitioners, many thousands of these our ingly, Fox moved for leave to bring in a bill fellow-creatures, entitled to the natural rights for vesting the affairs of the East India com of mankind, are held as personal property in pany in the hands of certain commissioners, cruel bondage. Your petitioners regret, for the benefit of the proprietary and the that a nation professing the Christian faith public. The plan proposed by Fox, was should so far counteract the principles of marked with all the characteristics of his humanity and justice.” This petition awak- ardent, daring, and luminous mind. The ened in a remarkable degree the compassion total derangement of the finances of the of the house, and of the public, for those un-company, and their utter incompetency to happy beings, and laid the foundation of the govern the vast territories of which they bad by very questionable means obtained the to the examination and censure of the com possession, was too evident to admit of con- missioners. tradiction. The evil was notorious, and dif- It is scarcely possible to conceive the as ficult indeed was the task of devising an tonishment excited in the house of commons adequate remedy. This famous bill proposed by the disclosure of this system. It was to take at once from the directors and pro- espoused with zeal and enthusiasm by the prietors, the entire administration, both of friends of the minister; and it was attacked Their territorial and commercial affairs; and by his opponents with all the vehemence of to vest the management and direction of indignation, and all the energy of invective. them in the hands of seven commissioners It was on one side of the house extolled as named in the bill, and irremovable by the a masterpiece of genius, virtue, and ability; crown, except in consequence of an address while on the other it was reprobated as a of either house of parliament. These com- deep and dangerous design, fraught with missioners were to be assisted by a subordi- mischief and ruin. Pitt distinguished himnate board of nine directors, to be named in self on this occasion as a formidable adverthe first instance by parliament, and after-sary of the minister. He acknowledged, wards chosen by the proprietors.
" that India indeed wanted a reform, but not These commissioners and directors were such a reform as this. The bill under conempowered to enter immediately into pos- sideration included a confiscation of the session of all lands, tenements, books, re- property, and a disfranchisement of the memcords, vessels, goods, merchandise, and secu-bers of the East India company. The influrities, in trust for the company. They were ence which would accrue from this billa required to come to a decision upon every new, enormous, and unexampled influence, question within a limited time, or to assign --was indeed in the highest degree alarma specific reason for their delay. They were ing. Seven commissioners chosen ostensibly never to vote by ballot, and they were al- by parliament, but really by administration, most in all cases to enter upon their journals were to involve in the vortex of their authe reasons of their vote. They were to thority, the patronage and treasures of India. submit once in every six months an exact The right honorable mover had acknowstate of their accounts to the court of pro- ledged himself to be a man of ambition, and prietors, and at the beginning of every ses- it now appeared that he was prepared to sion to present a statement of their affairs sacrifice the king, the parliament, and the to both houses of parliament.
people, at the shrine of his ambition. He This bill which vested the government in desired to elevate his present connexions to commissioners, was to continue in force four a situation in which no political convulsions, years, that is, till the year after the next and no variations of power, might be able to general election. It was accompanied by a destroy their importance, and terminate their second bill, enacting regulations for the fu- ascendency." ture government of the British territories in On the other hand, Fox with his astonishHindostan. It took from the governor-gene-ing eloquence and ability vindicated the bill. ral all power of acting independently of his The arguments of his opponents, he said, council. It declared every existing British might have been adopted with additional power in India incompetent to the acquisi- propriety, by king James the second. He tion or exchange of any territory in behalf might have claimed the property of dominof the company ;-to the acceding to any ion ; but what had been the language of the treaty of partition ;-to the hiring out the people ? No, you have no property in domincompany's troops ; to the appointment to ion ;-dominion was vested in you, as it is office of any person removed for misdemean- in every chief magistrate, for the benefit of or ;-and to the hiring out any property to the community to be governed. It was a any civil servant of the company. It pro sacred trust delegated by compact. You hibited all monopolies; and also declared have abused the trust. You have exercised every illegal present recoverable by any per- dominion for the purpose of vexation and son for his own sole benefit. But that part tyranny, not of comfort, protection, and good of the present bill, upon which the principal order. We therefore resume the power value seemed to be placed by its author, re- which was originally ours. I am also (conlated to the Zemindars, or native landholders, tinued Fox,) charged with increasing the whom it employed effectual means to secure influence, and giving an immense accession in the possession of their respective inher- of power to the crown. But certainly this itances, and to defend from oppression. It bill as little augments the influence of the particularly endeavored to preclude all vexa- crown, as any measure that could be devised tious and usurious claims that might be made for the government of India, with the slightupon them. It therefore prohibited mort- est promise of success. The very genius gages, and subjeeted every doubtful claim of influence consisted in hope or fear; fear
of losing what we had, or hope of gaining“ in the highest degree pernicious and un
Make the commissioners removable constitutional. To divest the company of at will, and you set all the little passions of the management of their own property, and human nature afloat. Invest them with commercial concerns, was to treat them as power, upon the same tenure as the British IDIOTS; and he regarded the bill, not so judges hold their station, removable upon much in the light of a commission of bankdelinquency, punishable upon guilt, but fear- ruptcy as of lunacy. But as a means of less of danger if they discharge their trust; throwing an enormous edition of weight and they will be liable to no seducement, into the scale, not of legal, but ministerial and will execute their functions with glory influence, it was still more alarming. Were to themselves, and for the common good of this bill to pass into a law, his lordship forthe country and mankind. This bill pre- cibly declared, we should see the king of sumes the possibility of bad administration, England and the king of Bengal contending for every word in it breathes suspicion. It for superiority in the British parliament." supposes that men are but men; it confides After a vehement debate, the motion of rein no integrity ;-it trusts to no character. jection was carried by ninety-five against It annexes responsibility, not only to every seventy-six voices. action, but even to the inaction of the powers Such was the concluding scene of an adit has created. He would risk (he said) his ministration from whose vigor its partisans all upon the excellence of this bill. He had conceived the most sanguine hopes ; would risk upon it whatever was most dear and whose strength had been represented to him, whatever men most valued, the cha- by its enemies so vast and irresistible, as racter of integrity, of talents, of honor, of would, in its progress, break down all the present reputation and future fame :-—these barriers of the constitution. As the first dihe would stake upon the constitutional safety, visions in the upper house were favorable to the enlarged policy, the equity and wisdom this bill, it will naturally be imagined that of the measure. Whatever therefore might such a sudden and remarkable change of be the fate of its authors, he had no fear that sentiment, must have been occasioned by the it would produce to this country every bless-intervention of some powerful cause, adeing of commerce and revenue; and by ex- quate to so extraordinary and unexpected an tending a generous and humane government effect. On the eleventh of December, ear] over those millions whom the inscrutable Temple had a conference with his majesty
, dispensations of Providence had placed un- which appears principally to have turned on der us in the remotest regions of the earth; the bill then pending in parliament. Though it would consecrate the name of England it was generally believed that the most enamong the noblest of nations."
tire cordiality and confidence on all points While the bill was pending in the com- did not subsist between the king and his mons, a petition was presented by the East ministers, yet upon this measure they had India company, representing the measure obtained his perfect concurrence. It was as subversive of their charter, and operating probably the language that had been held as a confiscation of their property without by some of the members in the house of charging against them any specific delin- commons, who, in the heat of debate had quency; without trial, without conviction; a asserted, that if the bill passed into a law, proceeding contrary to the most sacred the crown would be no longer worth wear. privileges of British subjects; and praying ing, that first excited doubts in the royal to be heard by counsel against the bill. The breast. The monarch considered himself as city of London also took the alarm, and pre- having been duped and deceived by his consented a strong petition to the same effect
. fidential servants. A card was immediately But it was carried with uncommon rapidity written, stating, “ that his majesty allowed through all its stages in the house of com- earl Temple to say, that whoever voted for mons by decisive majorities, the division on the India bill, was not only not his friend, the second reading being two hundred and but would be considered by him as his eneseventeen to one hundred and three voices. my. And if these words were not strong
On the ninth of December, Fox, attended enough, earl Temple might use whaterer by a numerous train of members, presented words he might deem stronger, or more to the bill at the bar of the house of lords. FOX'S BILL THROWN OUT BY THE PEERS. An interference of so extraordinary a na
The second reading of the bill took place ture, was not likely to pass without animadon the fifteenth of December, when counsel version and censure. William Baker, acwas heard at the bar in behalf of the compa- cordingly, moved the house of commons on ny: and on the seventeenth it was moved the seventeenth, the very day that the bill that the bill be rejected. On this occasion, was rejected by the lords ; “That it was lord Camden spoke with great ability against now necessary to declare, that to report any the bill, which his lordship affirmed to be opinion, or pretended opinion of the king
upon any bill, or other proceeding depend- the advice of that house, and not to the seing in either house of parliament, with a cret advice of particular persons who might view to influence the votes of the members, have private interests of their own, sepawas a high crime and misdemeanor.” After rate from the true interests of the king and an animated debate, the house divided upon people.”—This address was carried without the question, when the resolution was car- a division, and on the twenty-fourth was preried, by a majority of seventy-three. sented to the sovereign, who returned the CONTEST BETWEEN THE CROWN AND following answer: “Gentlemen, it has been THE COMMONS.
my constant object to employ the authority This contest between the crown and the intrusted to me by the constitution to its commons, presented to the public a scene true and only end, the good of my people; truly novel and interesting. Prerogative and I am always happy in concurring with and privilege at war, is one of those alarm- the wishes and opinions of my faithful coming events, which the wisdom of preceding mons. I agree with you in thinking, that reigns had taken care to prevent. The the support of the public credit and revenue crown, therefore, boldly entering the lists must demand your most earnest and vigilant with the commons, exhibited a conduct with-care. The state of the East Indies is also out example in the annals of the present an object of as much delicacy and importroyal family. The situation of the prince ance as can exercise the wisdom and justice was critical: he had gone perhaps too far to of parliament. I trust you will proceed in be able to recede. The ministers were com- these considerations with all convenient mitted upon their Indian system, and could speed, after such an adjournment as the presnot, without a total sacrifice of personal in- ent circumstances may seem to require; and dependence, and the reputation of principle, I assure you, that I shall not interrupt your abandon the scheme. It was impossible to meeting, by any exercise of my prerogative, discover a medium to preserve, unwounded, either of prorogation or dissolution." the honor of both.
1784.- The house now with tolerable satAn entire change of administration was isfaction adjourned for the usual Christmas therefore determined upon; and accordingly recess to the tenth of January, 1784; on at midnight, on the eighteenth of Decem- which day the committee on the state of the ber, a royal message was sent to the secre- nation was resumed; and several resolutions taries of state, demanding the seals of their were brought forward by Fox, and agreed several departments, and at the same time to by the house ; prohibiting the lords of the directing that they should be delivered to treasury from assenting to the acceptance the sovereign by the under-secretaries, as a of the company's bills from India; forbidding personal interview would be disagreeable. also the issue of any of the public money Farly next morning, letters of dismission, after a prorogation or dissolution of parliasigned Temple, were sent to the other mem- ment, unless the act of approbation shall bers of the cabinet. In a few days after, have previously passed; and ordering acPitt was declared first lord of the treasury, counts to be laid before the house of the and chancellor of the exchequer, the mar- moneys already issued. These resolutions quis of Carmarthen and Thomas Townshend, were followed by a motion from the earl of created lord Sydney, were nominated secre- Surrey, “1. That in the present situation taries of state ; lord Thurlow was reinstated of his majesty's dominions it was peculiarly as lord-chancellor ; earl Gower as president necessary that there should be an adminisof the council; the duke of Rutland was tration that had the confidence of the public. constituted lord privy-seal; lord Howe placed 2. That the late changes in his majesty's at the head of the admiralty; and the duke councils were accompanied with circumof Richmond of the ordnance. The earl of stances new and extraordinary, and such as Northington was recalled from his govern- did not conciliate the confidence of that ment of Ireland, to which lord Temple, who house.” On this motion the house divided, had retained the seals of secretary only but it was carried in the affirmative by one three days, was again appointed to succeed. hundred and ninety-six to one hundred and
On the twenty-second of December, the forty-two voices. house of commons, being in a committee on On the sixteenth of January a resolution the state of the nation, Erskine moved, was moved by lord Charles Spencer, “ That * That an address be presented to the king, the continuance of the present ministers in stating, that alarming reports had gone forth trusts of the highest importance and responof an intended dissolution of parliament, and sibility, was contrary to the principles of the humbly representing to his majesty, the in- constitution, and injurious to the interests conveniencies and dangers of a prorogation of the king and people.” Upon this ques or dissolution in the present conjuncture; tion the house divided, ayes two hundred and entreating the sovereign to hearken to and five, noes one hundred and eighty-four ; VOL. IV.
so that the antiministerial majority was re-pied. Every gazette threatened them with duced by defection from fifty-four to twenty-three or four addresses of thanks for their one voices.
late removal from power; their numbers About this time the chancellor of the ex- were daily falling off, and under such circhequer introduced into the house a bill for cumstances the most sanguine could not the better government of India, on princi- hope for ultimate success. Both parties, ples which left the commercial concerns of therefore, alarmed at the novel and dangerthe company in their own hands, and estab ous situation of the country, seemed at lished a board of control, consisting of cer- length disposed to pause; and a number of tain commissioners appointed by the king, respectable independent members having possessing a negative on the proceedings of expressed a strong desire, that the great the company in all matters of government. leaders of both sides would unite and form On the motion of commitment, this bill was an administration on a broad and comprelost by two hundred and twenty-two against hensive basis, the idea was listened to with two hundred and fourteen—so that the op- such general approbation as held out for a position majority was now diminished by an time a tolerable prospect of its being carried ominous detection to eight.
into effect. Whatever hopes the present cabinet might With a view to forward this general anion form, from this flattering accession of par- of parties, a meeting had been held of the liamentary strength, they were still more independent interest of the house of comencouraged by the addresses of thanks to mons. These gentlemen, finding their enthe king for the removal of his late minis- deavors fruitless, in attempting to induce ters, which now began to pour in from every Pitt to an actual or virtual resignation of quarter of the kingdom. In this the city of office; or to bring the duke of Portland to London took the lead, and in their address negotiate on any other terms; came at last
“ Your faithful citizens lately be- to the resolution that a message should be held with infinite concern the progress of a sent from the king desiring an interview measure which equally tended to encroach between his grace and Pitt, as the only reon the right of your majesty's crown-to maining expedient that could preserve unannihilate the chartered rights of the East sullied the honor of both, without any conIndia company—and to raise a power un- cession of principle on either side. His maknown to this free government, and highly jesty accordingly complied with this request, inimical to its safety. As this dangerous and sent a message to the duke of Portland, measure was warmly supported by your ma-expressing his desire that an interview jesty's late ministers, we heartily rejoice in might take place between his grace and their dismission, and humbly thank your Mr. Pitt, for the purpose of arranging & majesty for exerting your prerogative in a new plan of administration on fair and equal manner so salutary and constitutional.” And terms. The duke, previous to such interconcluding in a style widely different from view, requested to be informed in what the usual tenor of their addresses on former sense he was to understand the words fair occasions, they say, “ Highly sensible of and equal ; and Pitt declining any explanayour majesty's paternal care and affection tion, the negotiation finally terminated. for your people, we pray the Almighty that The king and the nation at large were you may long reign in peace over a free, a now evidently and openly united in sentihappy, and united nation.”
ment against the commons; and the house Though the dismissal of the late minis- of peers, who had hitherto remained the siters originated in a cause merely accidental, lent and passive spectators of this extraorand on the part of the crown from a sudden dinary contest
, thought proper to come for and strong resentment at a supposed inva- ward at this time, and at the motion of the sion of the prerogative; yet the monarch earl of Effingham their lordships resolved, acquired a popularity by the measure that "1. That an attempt in any one branch of effaced for a time all recollection of former the legislature to suspend the execution of disagreements; and elevated the loyalty of law, by separately assuming to itself the dithe people to a degree of ardor, which court rection of a discretionary power vested by flattery itself cannot but acknowledge was act of parliament, is unconstitutional. Ź at least commensurate with the merits of That by the known principles of the constithe sovereign. However grateful this cir- tution the undoubted authority of appointing cumstance might prove to the royal feelings, to the great offices of the executive governand however acceptable to the ministers; it ment was solely vested in the king; and still failed in securing to government the that this house had every reason to place the advantage most essential to the interests of firmest reliance on his majesty's wisdom in the country, an ascendency in the house of the exercise of this prerogative." These commons. Nor could the opposition expect resolutions, shaped in the form of an adto possess long the ground they now occu- dress, were presented to the king. It was