« PředchozíPokračovat »
In almost all these debates, the probable dissolution of Parliament was the fear which constantly beset
the opposition, and which they expressed in all possible Discussions on forms. On the night when Mr. Pitt obtained leave to of Parliament. bring in his India bill, Mr. Fox, professing that he did
not know what step the folly or frenzy of ministers might lead them to take, asked whether he should, at that late hour, move to go into a committee on the state of the nation; or whether he could be assured that Parliament would not be dissolved before the next day but one? Mr. Pitt said that, in his present state of imputed insanity, he hardly knew how to answer; but all his time in the interval mentioned would be employed in preparing his bill. After the division by which that bill was rejected, Mr. Fox obtained leave to bring in another; and, in moving to that effect, he asked if they were to be permitted to proceed with freedom and security in the bill, if they were to trust the promise made by the Crown, on the address of the House, or to be dissolved, because they had had the spirit and wisdom to maintain their opinion. Perhaps gentlemen might think it necessary to secure themselves against such an act of desperation and violence by an address to the throne. He did not think, however, that even the present ministers, mad,
weak, or desperate, as they might be, would venture to Mr. Pitt per- go such a length. He called on Mr. Pitt to answer sonally appeal- distinctly; but no answer was returned. In the course
of the debate, several members called on the minister for an explicit declaration ; but he still maintained the same silence, until General Conway observed that it was a new thing to see a minister sit in sulky silence, and refuse to satisfy the general desire of the House by an explanation of words, equivocal and calculated to deceive, which he had presumed to put into the mouth of his Sovereign. The ministry originated in, and maintained themselves by, darkness, secrecy, and artifice. They existed by corruption, and were now about to dissolve Parliament, after sending agents to bribe the electors. Mr. Pitt, with becoming indignation, called on the General to specify instances where
the agents of ministers had gone about the country practising bribery. If he could not prove, he ought not to have asserted such a fact. He had not been long accustomed to much violence and harsh language; but he could assure the House, that neither unsupported slander nor intemperate invective should discompose his mind. He concluded with the words which Scipio applied to Fabius, “Si nullâ aliâ re, mo“ destiâ certe,
et temperando linguæ, adolescens “senem vicero. *" General Conway replied, in terms rather vague and scurrilous, than satisfactory.
The debate became more and more violent; and many who had supported the minister expressed a determination to vote against him, if a motion were made on the present subject.
At length, Mr. Fox, at two o'clock in the morning, Adjournment. on Saturday, proposed an adjournment until noon, saying he did not wish to take advantage of the minister, who had so insulted the House, but would allow him that time to think of his situation.
When the House re-assembled, and, pursuant to a suggestion of Mr. Fox, in an unusually great number, Termination. the debate was found to produce nothing to answer the anxious expectation which had been excited. Mr. Powys, speaking in great agitation, almost in tears, asked whether they might expect to meet again on Monday? but he did not call for an answer that might proclaim the secrets of the Crown. Mr. Pitt said he had no intention to prevent the meeting; and the House adjourned.
Before these debates took place, Lord Charles Spen- 16th. cer, after recapitulating two of the resolutions adopted Motion of on the fourteenth, moved that the continuance of minis- Spencer. ters in their posts was contrary to constitutional principles, and injurious to the interests of the King and his people. In the debate, ample justice was done to
Attempt at a the characters of both the great leaders, and ideas union of parwere thrown out of a coalition between them. Mr. ties. Fox declared that he neither courted nor avoided union
with any party, if established on a broad and consistent basis. He would join, to form a permanent union, on sound and general principles, with men of any description, if they enjoyed the confidence of the House and of the public. He denied that the ministry could possess the confidence of the King in their political, although eminently entitled to it in their personal, character; and he treated the address from the city, which had been carried up that day, as a mere falsehood, if it asserted that the late ministers had threatened, or did then threaten, to invade the prerogative. The motion was carried by a majority of twenty-one*
Rumours of an intended union still circulated; but the acrimonious terms in which debates were conducted were not favourable to such an expectation. The charge that ministers had attained office by means of secret influence was frequently reiterated, and met with direct denial, with defiance to the proof, and with reflections equally personalt.
Another attempt to embarrass and discredit the minister was made, on presenting a petition from the freeholders of Yorkshire for a reform in the representation. It was brought up by Mr. Duncombe; Lord North declared his unchanged opposition to the measure; Mr. Powys intimated the possibility of a fourth estate in the realm ; and Mr. Burke, deriding such a notion, inquired in what part of the heavenly system the new planet might be discovered? At present it was invisible; and he desired to know what might be its influence or the effect of its gravitation in the political planetary systemi. He made some facetious allusions to a late member of that Houses, who, within a few days, had been translated, not transported, to a place of rest, which Lord Chesterfield called the hospital of incurables, or sometimes the hospital of invalides; and declared himself completely adverse to the object of the petition.
Debate on a
* 205 to 184.
Alluding probably to a planet recently discovered by Herschel, the astronomer, and, in compliment to the King, named Georgium Sidus.
Mr. Thomas Pitt, Lord Camelford.
Mr. Pitt, on the contrary, expressed his unchanged conviction of the necessity of a Parliamentary reform; the conduct of which he had been a witness for some weeks past in that House, and which he never should Mr. Pitt. have seen had the reform which the people so much wished for been obtained, confirmed him in his former opinions. He would not, however, be the advocate of any but a temperate and moderate reform, temperately and moderately pursued; and he seconded the motion that the petition should lie on the table.
This conduct, however fair and consistent, did not Lord Surrey. satisfy the Earl of Surrey, who expected more active support, and that Mr. Pitt would not consent to make part of a cabinet in which there was a man who was hostile to Parliamentary reform. To this indiscreet Mr. Pitt. speech, Mr. Pitt answered, that if he had gone further, he might indeed have expected censure; as gentlemen on the other side might have seized the opportunity to allege that he had presumed, with defiled hands, to pollute the fair petition of the people; that he, the creature of secret influence, had dared to interfere in a measure which was to root influence out of that House. He was at a loss to conceive where they had learned that he never would make part of a cabinet, any one member of which should be hostile to a Parliamentary reform: perhaps it would be absolutely impossible ever to form such a cabinet; and Mr. Fox entirely agreed in this last proposition.
In this tone and temper were debates conducted ; Situation of thus was public business disregarded, and thus was the public affairs. whole attention of Parliament engrossed by the single question, whether or not the ministers should retain their stations. The opposition, strong in their majority of public within the House, relied on it exultingly, although feeling. they were certain that the King and the Lords were adverse, and had many cogent reasons for believing that the sense of the people was not expressed by that majority. Of the King's feeling they avowedly had no doubt, although the extent of his repugnance to them and their measures was not then so fully disclosed. The House of Lords had clearly shewn their
State and views of the
judgment, and even the majority in the House of Commons was evidently diminishing. A dissolution
was, therefore, to be expected; but Mr. Pitt prudently Mr. Pitt's rea- withheld his assent from the measure, until the opinion solving Parlia- of the country should be still more clearly displayed.
The address from the Corporation of London was forci16th. London bly expressed. It described the late India Bill as a
measure equally tending to encroach on the authority
That such an address from such a body would be opposition.
followed by similar demonstrations from other parts of
Mr. Fox himself had cautioned his party neither
# See the address, with the King's answer, New Annual Register, vol. v.