Page images

nary, on the entire resignation of osfice on the part of the present Administration; but though he possessed an employment of eminence, it was not one of choice, and he trusted, whenever a favourable opportunity' offered, he would prove himself not to be tenacious of ppwer, or desirous to cling to office, but that he acted from patriotic, not private considerations: his duty obliged him to preserve his situation till another arrangement sliouldi be formed, and not suffer the nation to remain hy tljat state of anarchy which it experienced on a former and somewhat similar occasion; if gentlemen wished to treat on fair public principles, let them lay aside the trifles of etiquette and ceremony, which could answer no solid purpose j Jetsthem proceed on terms of candour, by which alone an union might be formed on a permanent aud sirm foundation, which could alone preserve this country, while ruin and misery must be the inevitable consequences of division. Mr. Fo*. .Mr. Fox said, if the honourable member before had not manifested his considering himself superior to this House, he in this instance had clearly expressed, standing up the unconstitutional Minister of the Crown.; he-despised the resolution of this insignisicant assembly. The honourable gentleman remarked on the advantage of appealing to the fense of the House, and very justly; the honourable gentleman was himself the only Minister who ever despised their approbation, creeping into power by means unfair, as they were unconstitutional; he did not pretend to that considence which so eminently distinguished the ; late Ministry, the considence of this House, and the considence of the people. Ceremony and etiquette he might be easily induced to forego; nay, he should even, on some occasions,t sacrisice his own honour, and that of his friends, and Isuffer their dignity to be diminished, if the emergencies of his country required it, but on no occasion would he suffer any sacrisice to be made of the honour or the dignity of the House-of Commons; both the one and the other were at stake in the contempt of their resolutions: as long as they conveyed a censure, as long as they reprobated- the principles on which,' the Ministry held their situations, so long would he refuse to unite with them; so long would he oppose them, though they should possess all the abilities, all the virtues, and the popularity which any former Administration might have possessed, or which might possibly fall to the share of any subsequent Administration. But how does the gentleman attempt to defend himself I On what ground does he stand I against

against the censure of Parliament? Because (he says) the majorities against him are diminishing. How would he exclaim if this argument had been used against him in the year 1782, when we lost a division by a majority of one; and next question gained it by a majority of 16. The Ministry of that time had the spirit to resign when they lost the support and confidence of Parliament, circumstances essentially necessary in the former Ministers; but the love of power and station has, in the present Minister of the Crown, always predominated over every other consideration; from the removal on a former occasion may be - dated the mine, which at length blew up the late Ministry. 1 have been much myself (said Mr. Fox) in the habit of differing from a majority, but it was on public points in which! had no concern as their servant. If I had at any time found the sense of the House against me as a Minister, I should immediately have resigned, and said, you must find some other instrument to do your business, for I shall never be agent in any cause I do not approve. Mr. Fox, with infinite point, and infinite success, combated all Mr. Pitt's positions, avowiag a determined resolution to enter into no terms with the Ministers of the Crown while they continued in office.

The question was again called for, and agreed to without a division.

Mr. Fox then rose, and moved that the House should go Mr. Fo». into the committee on the state of the nation on Thursday next the 29th. The House accordingly, adjourned tp the 29th,

The following Speech having through error been omitted, it is thought necessary to insert it in this place. Vide yd. XII. page 482.

On Mr. Erlkine's motion '* that an address be presented to the King," &c. Mr. Beaufoy, in reply to Lord North, Mr. Beu^ spoke to the. following effect:

Notwithstanding the pleasantry of the noble Lord who spoke last but one in the debate, notwithstanding the jocular mood in which he addressed you, I cannot but assent to the melancholy reflections with which the honourable gentleman who moved the address introduced that motion to the House. For that the present season is indeed a season of alarm •, that the distresses of the kingdom are great be/ C 2 • yond yslrid the experience of any former period) and that for a .considerable tjme past fe&rfUl apprehensions of the future have Seized on the minds of men, are truths which no one who loves his country, or who values the constitution, will venture to derty. Surely, Sir, in such a situation, the sirst question which every reflecting man will aflc, will not be,

Shall we address the Sovereign ?" it will lather be, " What are the causes of this unusual distress? who are the men who have biought these evils upon the State?" Does the noble Lord hear this question'? The time may come, perhaps, when his country will propose' if to him. What- was the state of the nation when the noble Lord sirst became Prime Minister of the kingdom? Respected and revered abroad as the foremost' nation of the earth', arid prosperous at horhe even to their utmost wish, the English saw themselves the happiest people of the world. Extension of commerce, improvements in agriculture, increase of income to thelandlord, increase of prosit to the tenant, were the circumstances which distinguished that singular æra. Indebted, indeed, the nation was, but not beyond her strength; en' gaged too she was in an unhappy contest, but the means of reconciliation were in her power, for at that time Mr. Pepn's petition had not been rejected. Such was the ftatepf the nation when the noble Lord sirst became its Mini, fter -—What was his conduct? The happiness of the country was vulnerable but in one part, and there the attack was made. With an appearance of candour and plain sincerity, he armed the pride of Parliament against its most essential interests; he persuaded the people that the Americans were their subjects as well as the King's; he cherished the contemptuous opinions, and fostered the furious resentments of the House, till the folly of the Minister seemed lost for a time in the madness of the Parliament.

The consequences of his conduct I need not state: we all know its effects on our foreign dependencies; on America, on Ireland, on India, reduced by his means to that very poverty which is now made a charge against her. —Its effects on the internal happiness of the kingdom we all (deeply feel: the country gentleman feels it in the decline 16s agriculture, in the distresses of his tenants, in the diminution of his income, and the enormous increase of his annual expence. The stockholder feels it in the total annihilation of his fortune, and the fearful uncertainty of the fate that may attend the rest.


- The merchant and the manufacturer seel it in those accumulated taxes that enrich the fraudulent trader, while they weigh down the exertions of the honest, and finally consign him to a prison. The friends of the noble Lord applaud his good humour, and his classic wit; and it must be acknowledged that the sorrows of his country have not reached him; for while Britain beholds, with deep dismay, the ruined state of her finances, ruined during bit administration; while she laments the loss of half her empire, a loss which even his' associates ascribe to his folly v while she mourns the' blood of her people, shed under his conduct: in a most accursed cause, he himself possesses the utmost hilarity of temper, and insults her sorrows with his jokes.

What was, the conduct of the noble Lord after he was driven from office? At that time, great as the calamities were which he had brought on this unhappy kingdom, two sources of consolation still remained: the public faith had never yet been broken; and the British constitution was as yet entire. It was therefore hoped that if the shattered remnants of the empire could still be saved by the establishment of peace, time and means might be found for the gradual reduction of the public debts ; and for this purpose a plan of great ability, since published, was formed, at the particular request of the Minister who succeeded the late Lord Rockingham ; that plan the noble Lord's return to power rendered utterly abortive; that peace which saved the nation when on ruin's extremest verge, to which he had conducted her, he reprobated. What was the next measure that marked his Lordship's conduct? A plan. I am sorry I Cannot ascribe it wholly to him, for a person whose name once was dear to this country, stood forward on this occasion a volunteer against her; a plan it was for violating the public faith solemnly pledged to the India Company; a plan that tended to unroot from the minds of men all confidence in the State; a plan that converted questions of right so questions of mere convenience; and that left to the Bank of England, to the South-Sea Company, to the corporation of the city of London, and to the proprietors of the public funds, no other reasonable hope than that of being last destroyed: nor was this all; for lest the soundness of the Constitution should at length throw off this rotten excrescence, the Constitution itself was to be attacked. Executive authority was to bs given to the delegates of the people, and the Government be changed from a wiselylimited

limited andf admirably-constituted monarchy, to an aukward and ill-regulated republic. I say, Sir, an aukward and ill-regulated republic; for what i& a republic but a government in which executive authority, as well as legislative, is given to the delegates of the people? it the noble Lord was persuaded that the influence of the Crown ought still to be diminished, why did he not propose triennial Parliaments? Why did he not propose the exclusion of pensioners from feats in this assembly ? Why did he not propose a just and equal representation of the people? In all these I would gladly have supported him, for these are constitutional means of lessening the influence of the Crown: thus, Sir, I have pointed out (what, on enquiry into the state of the nation, it was my duty to show) the measures that have brought us with a rapidity unknown to past ages, and that will be incredible to the future, from the height of prosperity to the uttermost distress, from weal.tli to poverty, from power to weakness, from extended empire to mutilated and curtailed dominion. Does the noble Lord deny that the calamities of the State are imputable to the measures of his administration? Let him stand forward and assign, if he can, any other reason for the evils we now endure.

A9 to the question before us,. 1 do not much object to the motion itself, for God forbid that I should deny the right of this House to address the Sovereign; but I dread the spirit from which, on this occasion, it appears to me to be offered to the House. ,

The resolutions of the House in the year 1641 were not illegal; few of them could be called unconstitutional; yet the spirit that dictated those resolutions subverted both the law and the Constitution. If in the proceedings of a certain party in the present times, the fame spirit that governed . the long Parliament should appear; if they should be found to act on similar principles, if their conduct should discover the same contempt for the Peers, the fame desire of rendering them useless to the State; and above all, the lame dishke to the person whom the Constitution venerates most, it is time for every man who wishes well to his country or values the Constitution, to stand upon his guard; for if these things be so, the danger will not only be great but immediate: it will fall not on a distant age, not on a remote people, but on the age in which we live, on ourselves and on our children.

« PreviousContinue »