« PreviousContinue »
not to be supposed that so direct an attack still smaller majority than the last. The upon the authority and wisdom of the com- house,“ humbly besought his majesty that mons, would be passed over in silence. In he would be graciously pleased to lay the return therefore they resolved, at the mo- foundation of a strong and stable governtion of lord Beauchamp, “ 1. That the house ment, by the previous removal of his present had not assumed to itself a right to suspend ministers. To this address, which went dithe execution of law, and 2. that for them rectly to the point at issue, and left no room to declare their opinion respecting the exer- for evasion, the king replied in the same cise of any discretionary power was consti- mild and firm language as before, repeating, tutional and agreeable to established usage." " that no charge nor complaint, nor any
The opposition, who were still the major-specific objection, was yet made against ity of the house of commons, found them- any of his present ministers ;" and adding selves daily in a more embarrassing situa- this remarkable observation, “ that if there tion. But no difficulties however pressing, were any just grounds for their removal, it no dangers however formidable, could sub- ought to be equally a reason for not admitdue their spirit, or suspend their exertions. ting them as a part of that extended and On the eighteenth of February, previous to united administration which is stated to be the house entering on business, Pitt thought requisite." proper to acquaint them, not as a message The measure of addressing having been from the king, but as a piece of information fully and unavailingly tried, and it now aphe conceived himself pledged to communi-pearing unquestionably clear, that any farcate, “ That his majesty had not yet, in com-ther experiment of this kind would prove pliance with the resolutions of the house, useless and nugatory; Fox, in the following thought proper to dismiss his ministers, and week, moved a representation to the crown, that his ministers had not resigned.” This a mode of addressing to which no answer intimation so far affected the temper and was customary, and which at great length, feelings of the house, that it was found ne-and in energetic language, stated “ the dancessary to adjourn for two days, in order to gerous and pernicious tendency of those mearecover a state of mind suitable to the dis- sures and maxims, by which a new system cussion of a question, which involved the of executive government had been set up, character, the attributes, and the existence which, wanting the confidence of that house of the popular branch of the legislature. and acting in defiance of their resolutions, On the twentieth of February the house must prove at once inadequate by its ineffimet again, and an address, carried by a ma- ciency to the necessary objects of governjority of twenty voices only, was presented ment, and dangerous by its example to the to the king, expressive of the reliance the liberties of the people.” This motion was house had on the wisdom of the sovereign, carried by a majority of one. that he would take such measures as might On the following day, Fox perceiving himtend to give effect to the wishes of his faith- self deserted by many of his partisans, abanful commons, by removing every obstacle to doned his original intention of moving the the formation of such an administration as postponement of the mutiny-bill, as a secuthe house of commons had declared to be rity against a sudden and premature dissolurequisite.” To this the king again replied tion. Here then the contest finally termin. in terms happily adapted to the occasion. ated, and administration obtained a complete He mentioned “his recent endeavors to victory. And on the twenty-fourth of March unite in the public service, on a fair and the parliament was prorogued, and the next equal footing, those whose joint efforts might day dissolved by proclamation, and a new parhave a tendency to put an end to the unbap- liament convened to meet on the eighteenth py divisions and distractions of the country. of May. Observing, at the same time, that there was
NEW PARLIAMENT. no specific charge or complaint suggested At the general election, the influence of against his present ministers, and that num- the crown being evidently combined with bers of his subjects had expressed to him in the inclination of the country, the effect pro the warmest manner their satisfaction at the duced was astonishing. The coalitionists, late changes. Under these circumstances even those who once stood highest in the he trusted his faithful commons would not estimation of the public, were almost everywish that the essential offices of the execu- where thrown out. But the most distinguishtive government should be vacated, until ed contest was that of the election for the such a plan of union as he had called for, city of Westminster; where the parties mainand they had pointed out, could be carried tained a long and violent struggle, almost as into effect.”
memorable as a battle between contending This answer was by no means satisfacto- nations. Fox, however, to the surprise of all, ry, and on the first of March a yet stronger closed the poll with a majority of two hunaddress was moved and carried, but by al dred and thirty-five; but the high-bailiff
a scandalous partiality, refused to make the still its termination. But to this simple and return in his favor, for which an action was barefaced plea, a decisive answer presentafterwards brought by Fox, in the court of ed itself. He was bound, by the nature of king's-bench, and a verdict with large dam- his office and the tenor of his oath, to make
his return at the period the writ was reThe meeting of parliament took place on turnable, according to the poll actually tathe eighteenth of May; and from this term ken. If he really felt any of those scruples we may date the commencement of the par- of conscience by which he professed to be liamentary existence of administration. The embarrassed, the law of parliament allowed remainder of the last session may rather be him to include all the three candidates in said to have been spent in a contest about the same return; which would at once have places and power, than in the characteristic transferred the burden of the decision from exertions of a regular government. The his own conscience to the conscience of the new ministers had now completed their ar- house. After long pleadings by counsel at rangements; they had now obtained every the bar of the house on either part, the moadvantage of situation; and had leisure to tion was renewed, " that the high-bailiff' be pursue, and strength to carry those measures directed forthwith to make the return;" but which were to decide their character as to the astonishment of every liberal mind statesmen and legislators. The king in in the kingdom, this motion was on a divis. his opening speech expressed "great satis-ion finally negatived by a majority of seventyfaction at meeting his parliament at this eight. It was then moved by lord Mulgrave, time, after having recurred in so important and carried ; " that the high-bailiff do proa moment to the sense of his people. He ceed in the scrutiny with all possible disrecommended to their most serious consid- patch." Thus ended for the present session eration to frame suitable provisions for the this shameful business. good government of our possessions in the On the sixteenth of June, a motion was East Indies. Upon this subject, parliament made by aiderman Sawbridge, “ that a comwould not lose sight of the effect which the mittee be appointed to inquire into the presmeasures they adopted might have on our ent state of the representation of the comown constitution and our dearest interests at inons of Great Britain in parliament.” Pitt, home.” The address of thanks proposed on in the usual language of ministers, stated, this occasion, contained strony expressions that the time was improper, but ol served of approbation respecting the late assolu- also, that the measure had his approbation, tion. On this point, therefore, the house and he should bring the subject before pardivided, and the address, as originally pro- liament early next session. But the most posed, was carried by a majority of seventy- remarkable circumstance attending this desix voices; a decisive proof that the disso- bate was, that Dundas, who had supported lution had fully answered its intended pur- the former proposition of Pitt, had the good pose.
luck to escape the charge of inconsistency HIGH-BAILIFF'S CONDUCT IN REFUSING in opposing the present motion, by the forTO RETURN FOX.
tunate discovery of a distinction which preThe business which chiefly occupied the served his reputation. His objection was, attention of the house and the public for that the committee now moved for, was a some time, was the complaint stated by Fox select committee, whereas the committee for respecting the conduct of the high-bailiff of which he had formerly voted, was a commitWestminster, who had daringly refused to tee of the whole house. Lord Mulgrave make the return in his favor, although he moved the previous question, which was car. was evidently entitled to it from a large and ried by a majority of seventy-four. decided majority.
PITT'S INDIA BILL On the twenty-fourth of May, a resolution Pitt had now reached the summit of was moved by Lee, late attorney-general, popularity, and the public with impatient " That the high-bailiff of Westminster, on anxiety expected the production of his plan the day upon which the writ of election ex- for the future government of India. He pired, ought to have returned two citizens therefore introduced the subject on the sixth to serve in parliament for that city.” A of July, by a bill, founded on the general long and violent debate ensued, but, on the principles of that rejected by the former parmotion of Sir Lloyd Kenyon, the previous liament, and to which the company had now question was put and carried, by more than given their slow and reluctant assent. By two to one. It was then ordered that the this bill, a board of control, composed of a high-bailiff and his deputy should attend certain number of commissioners of the rank the house on the day following. The only of privy-counsellors, was established, the ground on which that officer rested his de- members of which were to be appointed by fence was that he had granted a scrutiny, the king, and removable at his pleasure. and could not in conscience make the return This board was authorized to check, super
intend, and control the civil and military other of its clauses; and in a variety of subgovernment and revenue of the company. sequent amendments which it underwent, it The dispatches transmitted by the court of may be said to have lost entirely its original directors to the different presidencies, were shape; and after all, such were its radical to be previously subjected to the inspection defects, that it required (as will appear in of the board, and were also by them to be the sequel) a declaratory act to render it incounter-signed. The directors were enjoin-telligible. With respect to the amendments, ed to pay due obedience to the orders of the Sheridan humorously remarked, “that twenboard, touching civil and military govern- ty-one new clauses were added to the bill, ment and revenues; and in case such orders which were distinguished by the letters of do at any time, in the opinion of the direct- the alphabet, and he requested some gentleors, relate to matters not connected with man to suggest three more, in order to comthese points, they are empowered to appeal plete the horn-book of the present ministry.” to his majesty in council, whose decision is on the motion of commitment, the numbers declared final. The bill also enacted, that were, ayes two hundred and seventy-six, the appointment of the court of directors to noes sixty-one; and it was carried in trithe office of governor-general, president, or umph to the house of peers, where, after an counsellor to the different presidencies, shall opposition vigorous in point of exertion, but be subject to the approbation and recall of feeble in regard of numbers, the bill passed his majesty. As to the Zemindars, or great August ninth, 1784. It was however achereditary land-holders of India, who had companied by a protest, in which it was been violently dispossessed of their property, severely branded as a measure ineffectual in and who, agreeably to the generous and de- its provisions, unjust in its inquisitorial spirit, cisive tenor of Fox's bill, were to have been and unconstitutional in its partial abolition universally and peremptorily reinstated in of the trial by jury. their zemindaries, the present bill provided,
COMMUTATION TAX. only that an inquiry should be instituted, in On the dismission of this unwelcome busorder to restore such as should appear to iness, the attention of the house was immehave been irregularly and unjustly deprived. diately transferred to a bill introduced by Lastly, a high tribunal was created, for the the minister for the more effectual preventrial of Indian delinquents, consisting of tion of smuggling, which had of late years three judges, one from each court, of four arisen to a most alarming height. This bill peers, and six members of the house of com-contained various prudential, but somewhat mons, who were authorized to judge without severe regulations. The distance from shore appeal; to award, in case of conviction, the at which seizures should in future be deempunishment of fine and imprisonment, and to ed lawful was extended, and the constructdeclare the party convicted incapable of sery-ing of vessels of a certain form and dimening the East India company. Such were thesion peculiarly calculated for smuggling grand and leading features of Pitt's bill. prohibited. But by far the most extraordi
Fox, with his usual powers of discrimina- nary part of the present plan was the reduction, pointed out the defects of the bill. He tion of the duties paid by the East India observed, “ that it established a weak and company on the importation of tea, which inefficient government, by dividing its pow- was declared to be the grand medium of the ers. To the one board belonged the privi- smuggling traffic; and the consequent imlege of ordering and contriving measures; position of a new duty on windows, already to the other, that of carrying them into ex-most grievously burdened, to the amount of ecution. Theories which did not connect the deficiency, stated at no less than six men with measures, were not theories for hundred thousand pounds per annum. This this world. The new tribunal he stigma- was styled by the minister a commutation tized as a screen for delinquents; as a pal- tax, and the equity of it was defended on pable and unconstitutional violation of the the simple and vague idea, that teas being sacred right of a trial by jury. Since no an article of universal consumption, the man was to be tried but on the accusation weight of the tax would be compensated by of the company, or the attorney-general, he a proportional abatement in the purchase had only to conciliate government in order of the commodity. to his remaining in perfect security. It was A vigorous but unavailing opposition was a part of the general system of deception made to the bill by Fox-He asked, “ what and delusion, and he would venture to pro- connexion there was between an impost upon nounce it a bed of justice, where justice tea, and an impost upon windows, to entitle would for ever sleep.'
the latter to be denominated a commutation With all the partiality of the house in fa- for the former? He affirmed it to be the esvor of Pitt, this bill was found to be so crude sence of financial injustice and oppression and imperfect on its first appearance, that to take off a tax upon luxury, and substitute almost all his own friends objected to one or in its stead a tax upon that which was of indispensable necessity.” The bill at length opinion, worthy of the justice and generosity passed the house by a great majority. of parliament. He said there was not one
The remaining great operation of finance of the families comprehended in the scope during this session, was the providing for of it, in which some person had not atoned the arrears of the unfunded debt left at the for the crimes and errors of his ancestors, conclusion of the war, amounting to more by sacrificing his blood in the cause of his than twenty millions. This was disposed country; and that the sovereign had not for of partly in the four per cents, and partly in a long series of years past a more loyal set a new created five per cent. stock, made of subjects than the highlanders and their irredeemable for thirty years, or until twen-chieftains. Of this the late lord Chatham ty-five millions of the existing funds should was deeply sensible, and that illustrious be extinguished. It must not be omitted, statesman had publicly recognized the recthat the sum of sixty thousand pounds was titude of the measure now proposed. He voted to his majesty, to enable him to dis- did not however mean, that the estates charge the debt contracted on the civil-list. should be freed from the claims existing This was the fourth grant for the same pur- against them at the time of forfeiture. This pose since his accession. A warm alterca- might be regarded as a premium for rebeltion took place as to the precise period when lion. He therefore proposed the appropriathis debt was incurred. All however that tion of such sums, amounting to about eighty the public could be fully certified of was, thousand pounds, to public purposes; fitty that with the civil-list revenue of eight thousand of which he would recommend to hundred thousand pounds, afterwards in- be employed in the completion of the grand creased to nine hundred thousand pounds canal reaching from the Frith of Forth to per annum, exclusive of the revenues aris- that of Clyde." ing from the crown lands, more than four- This liberal measure was received in a teen hundred thousand pounds had been manner that did honor to the feelings of the voted within the space of about fifteen years, house. Fox, in particular, with his usual for the payment of the debts of the crown. generosity, bestowed upon it the highest enThe stern observation of the great Milton comiums. Nevertheless when the bill was could not but forcibly recur at this time to sent to the lords, it met with a most deterthe public recollection—" That the very mined resistance from the lord chancellor, trappings of a monarchy were more than who expatiated with much satisfaction on sufficient to defray the whole expense of a that maxim of ancient wisdom, which prorepublic.”
nounced treason to be a crime of so deep a RESTORATION OF THE FORFEITED dye, that nothing less was adequate to its ESTATES.
punishment, than the total eradication of The last measure which came before par- the person, the name, and the family out of liament during the present session, was a the community. Fortunately on dividing bill introduced by Dundas for the restora- the house, this nobleman was left in a mition of the estates forfeited in Scotland in nority, and to the entire satisfaction of the consequence of the rebellions in 1715 and public the bill passed, and an end was put to 1745: he declared "the measure to be, in his the session, August twentieth, 1784.
Meeting of Parliament-Westminster Scrutiny resumed by the Commons-Parlia
mentary Reform-The Shop-Tax—The Hawkers and Pedlars' Tax—both unjust and oppressive-The Irish Commercial Propositions pass the Commons—carried to the Lords-amended by the Lords-returned to the Commons-finally passedReflections on the System of Commercial Intercourse held out by the Irish Propositions-Plan of Fortifications submitted to the House of Commons-Proposal of a Sinking Fund-Bill passed— The Civil-List in Arrears—Burke commences his Charges against Warren Hastings-Attempt to assassinate the King by Margaret Nicholson Treaty of Commerce with France signed-A Convention with Spain respecting the British Settlements on the Mosquito Shore, and the Coast of Honduras -Consideration of the French Commercial Treaty-Embarrassed circumstances of the Prince of Wales—Hastings' Impeachment resumed by the Commons—Interference of the Courts of London and Berlin in the Atlairs of Holland— Meeting of Parliament- The East India Declaratory Act—Hastings' Trial—A Bill to regulate the Transportation of Slaves passed- The King's Indisposition-Disputes on the Mode of Establishing a Regency-Notification of the King's Recovery—Parliament regularly opened— The Shop-Tax repealed— Test and Corporation Acts— African Slare Trade—Prorogation of Parliament.
MEETING OF PARLIAMENT.-WESTMIN./a period of eight months, and only two
STER SCRUTINY CLOSED. parishes out of seventeen had been scruThe short interval between the proroga- tinized; so that there remained no probation of parliament and its reassembling, bility, by this mode of procedure, of deciding proved a period of profound national tran- the question of return Juring the existence quillity, in which no event occurred of suf- of the present parliament. The high-bailifi ficient importance to demand particular at- had no power to summon witnesses, to imtention. The people of England, highly pose an oath, or to commit for contempt; gratified with the recent change which had and in consequence of this miserable imbetaken place, seemed to repose with unbound-cility, both court and council were exposed ed confidence in the wisdom and integrity to low and sarcastic buffoonery: of the present administration. The young Pitt, however, condescended to vindicate premier had indeed become the idol of the the proceedings of this judicature, and led public, and the most sanguine hopes were Fox to remark, “ that he well remembered indulged, that, under his auspices, Britain the day when he congratulated the house on would soon resume her rank and dignity the acquisition of Pitt's splendid abilities: among the nations, and rise to a state of it had been his pride to fight, in conjunction prosperity and splendor superior to the bright- with him, the battles of the constitution: he est era of her former greatness.
had been ever ready to recognize in the 1785.—Such appeared to be the temper right honorable gentleman a formidable riof the public mind, and such the flattering val, who would leave him far behind in the hopes of the nation, when the parliament of pursuit of glory; but he had never expected Great Britain assembled for its second ses- that this rival would become his persecutor. sion on the twenty-fifth of January 1785. He thought he had possessed an elevation The measure, on this occasion, chiefly re- of mind wholly incompatible with so low commended in the speech from the throne, and grovelling a passion. He considered the was the adjustment of such points in the present measure, with regard to Westmincommercial intercourse between this coun- ster, as a succedaneum to expulsion, withtry and Ireland, as were not yet finally ar- out daring to exhibit any charge against the ranged. The address of thanks being car- person expelled.” ried unanimously, the first business which The motion of Welbore Ellis, “that the engaged the attention of the house of com- high-bailiff do attend at the bar of this mons, was the state of the Westminster house," was at length negatived, February scrutiny; and such was the violent and ma- ninth, by one hundred and seventy-four, to lignant spirit with which its continuance one hundred and thirty-five voices. This was defended, that this wretched burlesque being but a slender majority, the motion was on English jurisprudence was at last digni- renewed by colonel Fitzpatric, and rejected fied by the appellation of the “ Court of by a majority of only nine: and was finally Scrutiny." This court had now existed for repeated by alderman Sawbridge, on the