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although few new topics were introduced, the division was comparatively more favourable to the minister than before; it exceeded two to one*.
In the committee, the first operation was to appoint 3rd Dec. the commissioners, as they had originally been termed; but which denomination, on the motion of Mr. Fox, was changed to Directors. The first was the Earl Fitzwilliam, a nomination which, it was said, defied opposition; but no objection was offered to any person namedt. It was proposed to give salaries to the Directors from the public money; but, as this would constitute a money-bill, Mr. Fox objected to it, because, on the slightest altercation by the Lords, the lower House must reject it; but he allowed, out of the funds of the Company, a salary of five hundred pounds to each assistant Director, which, he said, would, in comparison with the present expense, effect a saving of three thousand pounds a-year. If the motion for a third reading produced little sth Dec.
Third reading. novelty in argument, there were yet some circumstances worthy of notice. Two new opponents appeared ; Mr. Wilkes, who for the first time engaged in the discussion, termed the measure a swindling bill, made to obtain money under false pretences; and Mr. Flood, who, for the first time, entered the House, and whose maiden speech gave birth to some humorous observations by Mr. Courtenay. Some peculiar expressions in this and former debates deserve notice, either as characteristic in themselves, or as leading to subsequent attacks or pleasantries. The Attorney-general, Mr. Lee, urged the folly of talking of the sacredness of chartered rights, when so great an object depended upon their violation.
their violation. What was a charter ; a skin of parchment with a piece of wax dangling at
• 217 to 103.
† The principal Directors were Earl Fitzwilliam, the Right Honourable Fre. derick Montague, Lord Lewisham, the Honourable George Augustus North, Sir Gilbert Elliot, Henry Fletcher, and Robert Gregory, Esquires. The assistant Directors were Thomas Cheap, George Canning, John Harrison, Richard Hall, John Mitchie, Stephen Lushington, John Smith, George Tatem, and Jacob Wilkinson, Esquires; from which list the names of Stephen Lushington and Jacob Wilkinson were, at their own desire, expunged, and those of Joseph Sparks and James Moffatt substituted.
the end of it, compared to the happiness of thirty millions of subjects, and the preservation of a mighty empire? This phrase, separated from its accompaniments and circumstances, was, according to the custom of party, often cited to the disadvantage of the truly honest and worthy individual who uttered it. The coalition, in this, as in preceding debates, produced many vituperative and some pleasant remarks. Mr. Powys said that the bill, although introduced by Mr. Fox, was the old system of prerogative revived: it was in the true spirit of Lord North’s administration; “its voice was the voice of Jacob, but its hands were 66 the hands of Esau.” Mr. Martin wished to see a starling perched on the right elbow of the Speaker's chair, which, whenever a pernicious measure, like that under consideration, was brought forward, should repeat incessantly to the treasury-bench, disgraceful, shameless coalition*. Mr. John Scott compared the new power to be created to the Beast in the Revelations, with seven heads and ten horns; but Mr. Sheridan, by another quotation from the same book, compared it to the seven Angels clothed all in white.
The division was again more than two to one in Bill passes the lower House. favour of ministerst.
In full triumph, and attended by a great number of members of the lower House, Mr. Fox carried his bill up to the Lords, where it was read, and ordered to be read a second time and printed; but here all triumph ended: far different was its reception from
that which it had obtained in the Commons. Earl Temple
Earl Temple seized the earliest moment solemnly to protest against so infamous a bill; it was a stretch of power truly alarming, and went near to seize upon the most inestimable part of the constitution, our chartered rights. It was the duty of the House not to be satisfied with the partial selection of papers now on the table; and he asked the Duke of Portland whether ministers would object to a motion for more papers.
9th Dec. Read in the Lords.
* For a descriptive account of this debate, see Wraxall's Memoirs of his own Times, vol. ii. p. 430.
† 208 to 102.
The Duke answered that he thought the papers sufficient; but should it appear that others were necessary, they should be brought forward.
In this debate, the opponents of the bill were the Debate, Duke of Richmond, Earl Temple, and Lord Thurlow; its defenders, the Duke of Portland, Earl of Carlisle, Lord Viscount Townshend, and Lord Loughborough.
In language, fully as strong as that which had been used in the House of Commons, the bill was termed an atrocious violation of private property, an injury which cut every Englishman to the bone, a direct and daring attack upon the constitution, and a subversion of the first principles of government. To these observations were opposed assertions that it was impossible to regulate the Company's affairs without an infringement of their charter;—something must be done. In England, the Company owed above a million to government, and bills had been drawn from India to a great amount. Abroad, the Company's settlements exhibited appalling scenes of desolation and distress! a Prince driven from his palace, his treasures seized, and himself a fugitive; fertile provinces had been laid waste; wars unnecessarily waged, and even the peace with the Mahrattas led to a new war for the conquest and partition of Tippoo Saib's dominions. Invasions of charters were not without precedent. Even in the case of the East India Company, the proprietors of five hundred pounds in stock had been disfranchised, while large proprietors had acquired a double vote; but, in fact, their charter extended only to a monopoly of the trade, which was not to be taken from them, nor were they deprived of any other power, except that of committing such horrid ravages and massacres.
On the other side, the ruin of the Company was ascribed to the interference of Government. They had supported themselves with credit, enlarged their settlement, and raised their stock to three hundred per cent., when Government interfered and had brought them to the brink of ruin.
The present Bill, it was said, did not tend to in
crease the influence of the Crown, but to set up a power in the kingdom which might be used in opposition to the Crown, and to the destruction of liberty. The King would, in fact, take the diadem from his own head, and place it on that of Mr. Fox; and for the extent of power which would be acquired, reference was made to the Ninth Report of the Select Committee, which shewed “ the East India Company in possession “ of a vast empire, with boundless patronage, civil, “ military, marine, commercial and financial, in every
department of which fortunes had been made which “ could be acquired no where else; and all this was to “ be thrown into the hands of the minister of the pre“ sent day.”
In support of the demand for papers*, it was said that their lordships would never sanction the bill without full proof of actual necessity. They ought to require, and examine with attention, every kind of evidence, and not be confined to Reports from a Committee, to which Lord Thurlow said he would pay as much attention as he would to the adventures of Robinson Crusoe. A petition was presented from the East India Company, on which they were allowed to be heard by counsel; but to the reception of the bill itself no resistance was offered.
A petition from the City of London was also preSpeech of the sented; but, before it was read, the Earl of Abingdon Abingdon.
attacked the bill and its promoters with great asperity.
He was, at this passage, called to order by the Earl of Derby, and his motion that the Judges should be summoned to give their opinions on four queries which he
Some papers had already been presented to the House; sce Lords' Journals, vul. xxxvii. pp. 9, 13, 15, 17.
proposed to submit to them, was unsupported, and negatived apparently without a division*.
Objections were made to the language of the petition; but the Duke of Richmond justified it by precedents, and, amongst others, a famous protest still on the journalst. Counsel then appeared in support of
1783. The Petition.
Journals. † The protest in question, and another on the same bill, have already been alluded to; and as the force of the arguments deduced from them is much increased by their having been signed, among other peers, by the Duke of Portland, the head of the administration, the late Marquis of Rockingham, and Earl Fitzwilliam, the inheritor of his estates, the successor to his political pre-eminence, and the first commissioner named in the bill, it may be fit to record a few extracts. The Lords protested, among other reasons :—Because a bill, evidently taking away, without consent or compensation, several rights and privileges enjoyed by a great corporate body, purchased for a valuable consideration, and confirmed by the most solemn sanctions of Parliamentary faith, can be justified only by such delinquency as incurs a forfeiture of those rights, or by such evident and urgent necessity as admits of no method, consistent with the charter of the Company, for the immediate preservation of those objects for which the Corpo. ration was formed. Because, the House of Commons having appointed Com. mittees to examine into the state and condition of the East India Company, and from them received several Reports previous to the bringing in this bill, a previous course of the same kind is equally necessary in this House; nor is it enough for Lords to be informed, from common conversation, that other men have done their duty, as a reason for neglecting ours. Because the bill was not only a high and dangerous violation of the yet unquestioned charters of the Company, but a total subversion of all the principles of the law and constitution. Because the election of executive officers in Parliament is plainly unconstitutional, and an ex. ample of the most pernicious kind, productive of intrigue and faction, and calculated for erten ling a corrupt influence in the Crown. Il frees ministers from responsibility, whilst it leaves them all the effect of patronage. It defeats the wise design of the constitution, which placed the nomination of all officers either immediately or derivatively in the Crown, whilst it committed the check upon impro. per nominations to Parliament. But this bill, by confounding those powers which the constitution meant to keep separate, destroyed this control, along with every wise provision of the laws to prevent abuses, either in the nomination to, or exercise of, office. Because, the clause of this bill which deprives of all share in the management of their own properly all proprietors not possessed of £1,000 capital stock, disfranchising, without the assignment of any delinquency or abuse, wo less than twelve hundred and forty-six persons, legally qualified, is an heinous acl of injustice, oppression, and absurdity, and a gross perversion of the high proers entrusted to the legislature. Because, the great principle upon which ihe bill has been supported will, not only in this but in all other cases, justify every infringement of the national faith, and render Parliamentary sanction ihe worst of all securities. We never can admit that a mere speculation of political im. provement can justify Parliament in taking away rights which it has expressly covenanted to preserve, especially when it has received a valuable consideration för the franchises 80 stipulaird. Nor are grants of Parliament, under these circumstances, to be cimsidered as gratuitous de nations, resumable merely at the pleasure of the giver, but matters of binding contract, forfeitable only on such delinquency or necessity as is implied in the nature of every other bargain. In this situation, the Protesters concluded, We feel the honour of the Peerage tarnished and its dignity degraded, if the provisions and precedent of this bill should render the public faith of Great Britain of no estimation, the franchises, rights, and properties of Englishmen precarious, and the Peerage distinguishable only by a more than common measure of indolence and servility; if the boundless fund of corruption surnished by this bill to the servants of the Crown should efface every idea of honour, public spirit, and independence from every rank of people. After