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Earl Fitzwilliam, the Duke of Manchester, and Lord Loughborough, were the opponents of these propositions. They saw, in the first resolution of the other House, nothing alarming, nothing violent, nothing that ought to excite jealousy or provoke interference. It was merely a piece of salutary advice, timely given, to the Lords of the treasury, on a subject to which it well became the House of Commons to attend. A discretion was vested in the Lords of the treasury, and the House of Commons, far from interfering improperly, assuming a power to suspend acts of Parliament, or arrogating and seizing upon the discretion so vested, had done only that which was necessary, prudent, and wise. The proposed resolutions were calculated to create a variance between the two Houses. The privileges of the Commons were defined by the constitution. To them it belonged to decide on the characters of ministers, and on the confidence due to them.
Earl Fauconberg, the Duke of Richmond, the Lord Chancellor, and Lord Sydney, supported the resolutions. Those of the lower House were of a very intemperate nature, more adapted to excite feuds and animosities, than to conciliate jarring interests and unhappy differences. The conduct which had been pursued was unprecedented, and the proceedings originated in a manner which no one could explain, which had no proof, and which was only circulated at random. What would be the consequence if they were suffered to go on, it was impossible to say; the extremities to which they had proceeded could not be viewed without anxiety, and shewed the necessity for interference. Their first resolution neither was, nor affected to be, a hint or piece of advice to the Lords of the treasury, but an explicit claim to direct the exercise of a vested discretionary power. In a political or commercial point of view, the resolution was ignorantly and stupidly drawn, and the late proceedings were wild efforts of childish ambition.
In the course of the debate, the character and conduct of Mr. Pitt, and particularly his disinterestedness
Observations on Mr. Pitt.
in the late transactions respecting the clerkship of the pells, were highly extolled. Lord Thurlow said he had been shabby enough to advise him to take that which had so fairly fallen into his hands, and he believed he should have been shabby enough to do so himself, as other great and exalted characters had so recently set him the example. But Mr. Pitt, entertaining notions of purity very uncommon in these degenerate days, and rivalling the purest times of Greece and Rome, had nobly preferred the public, to the consideration of his own private, interest.
Earl Fitzwilliam, while he admitted the laudable disinterestedness of Mr. Pitt, contended that all the good qualities which intitled him to applause as an individual, were insufficient to govern Parliament in their judgment of his fitness as a great officer of state. The Earl of Mansfield and Viscount Stormont wished the resolutions withdrawn, as inexpedient and dangerous; but the House, on a division, carried them by a carried. majority of forty-seven*.
To the address which was prepared in pursuance 5th. of this decision, his Majesty immediately returned a
Address. most gracious answer. Lord Beauchamp, whose measure was thus cen
Proceedings in sured, lost no time in urging the Commons to support Commons. it by precedents. He moved for a committee to search the journals of the Lords; and, on their report, ob- 6th. tained one to inspect those of the Commons. The debates on these occasions were distinguished by much asperity, but create no interest; and the reports furnish 12th. only a series of isolated facts, on which no proposition of general import could be founded, and from which no political axiom could be derived. Lord Beauchamp 16th. moved six resolutions, which were carried, after one division, in which the majority was twenty-ninet.
This extraordinary contest had now proceeded to Effect of the such an extent, that the several branches of the legisla- proceedings. ture were completely divided. The Lords had more
the House of
• Contents, 100; non-contents, 53, proxies included.
than indirectly censured the resolutions of the lower House, and the King had indicated, by his ready answer to the address of the upper House, and his tardiness in acknowledging those of the lower House, as well as by his retention of his ministers, that his opinions were firm and unaltered. The opposition maintained a majority in the House of Commons, although its numbers were evidently diminishing. It was, therefore, obvious that, in this state of things, the voice of the people, expressed in county and town meetings, must be of preponderating effect in deciding the question, whether a majority in the House of Commons could assume the right of dictating to the throne, in a matter of the highest prerogative, the election or dismission of ministers, in opposition to the known sentiment of the Lords, and upon the strict construction of that indisputable legal principle, that the sense of the people is only to be gathered from the expressed opinion of their representatives.
That some appeal to the people must be made was so evident, that Mr. Fox, misjudging, perhaps, the state of the public mind, had taunted ministers for not submitting their pretensions to that test. 66 Where is “ that popularity,” he said, “ of the present administra“ tion in which they confide? why do not gentlemen “call meetings, muster their friends and partizans, " and carry their addresses to the throne? Till this is
done, till the fact is proved, I for one will question “ its truth*.”
The experiment had before been partially made by the City of London, where an address, favourable to ministers, had been voted and graciously received.
The county of Middlesex had also been convened, and 21st January. an address was carried, on a shew of hands, represent
ing to his Majesty the alarming state of public affairs, and requesting him to appoint such an administration as might possess the confidence of Parliament and the public. It was denied that this address contained the real sense of the county; and, it being asserted in a re
* Debate, 2nd February.
quisition, signed by upward of one hundred inhabitant freeholders, that the room where this meeting was convened was not sufficiently capacious, another public meeting was appointed*, at which an address and resolutions of a directly opposite tendency were voted. 19th February. The endeavours of the late ministers and their adherents to impede the business of the nation were said to be founded on private, interested, and factious motives, and not on public principles. The attempt to constrain his Majesty to restore the ministers, whom, in his wisdom and justice, he had displaced, was censured as an encroachment on the prerogative, and contrary to the sense of the whole kingdom ; and the representatives of the country were required equally to oppose every encroachment on the prerogative of the Crown, and on the rights of the peoplet. In Westminster, a still fiercer struggle was main
Westminster. tained. An address was presented to the King, by the Deputy-Steward, and Sir Cecil Wray, one of the mem- 2nd February. bers for that city, purporting to proceed from the Dean, Address. High Steward, and other officers, and signed by two thousand eight hundred and thirty-four burgesses, condemning the India bill, thanking his Majesty for having dismissed the ministers by whom it was proposed, and assuring him of their confidence in the present administration.
A meeting was speedily convened at the Shaks- 5th. peare tavern in Covent Garden, where resolutions Meeting at the
Shakspeare were passed, declaring that signatures had been as- tavern. sumed to the late address without the express consent of parties, or obtained by private solicitation, without public notice, and approbation was expressed of Mr. Fox's parliamentary conduct. Sir Cecil Wray and his Meeting in friends immediately held a public meeting in the Westminster Court of Requests in Westminster Hall, where, it is said, three thousand persons attended, and where another address, similar to the first, was voted; but, it having been intimated that the place of mecting had
The first was held at a room in a tavern near London, called the Shepherd and Shepherdess; the latter at a tavern called the Mermaid, at Hackney.
+ New Annual Register, vol. v.
been so early occupied by the other party, that Mr. Fox's friends could not gain admittance, the meeting was adjourned for four days. On this occasion, a scene of great disorder and tumult was exhibited. Sir Cecil Wray was about to assume the place of chairman, according to the call of the assembly, when the platform of the hustings broke down, and the chair was torn to pieces; Mr. Fox was borne by his friends to the front, and attempted to address the people, when, in the contest, the hustings again broke, and Mr. Fox being thrown down, a miscreant cast in his face a bag, containing some offensive drug Screams, , yells, and clamours of party prevented the possibility of an address being heard, until Mr. Fox, borne along by the crowd, retreated through the Court of Common Pleas, accompanied by his friends. Attention was then granted to Lord Mahon; a resolution was passed, confirming the proceedings in the Court of Requests, while Mr. Fox harangued his party in Palace Yard, from a window in the King's Arms Tavern. No address or resolution was moved on his part; but the populace took the horses from his carriage, and drew him to Devonshire House, stopping while he received congratulations at Carlton House, and other residences of his noble friends, and marking with characteristic insults, but no violence, the abode of Lord Temple, and some others, whom they deemed his enemies*.
Not to mention the public proceedings in other parts of the kingdom, these events, occurring on the very scene of political contest, afforded no grounds of hope to the opposition. Strong in no place but within the House of Commons, they could only expect a favourable termination to their efforts from the flexibility of the Sovereign, who might yield to repeated addresses, or from the alarm of government, at the suggestion that supplies might be refused, or the usual powers for governing the army withheld. It is not to be believed that either project had been seriously en
Effect of these meetings.
See New Annual Register, vol. v. p. 132; and a pamphlet called A full and authentic Account of the Proceedings in Westminster Hall.