« PreviousContinue »
That the King's right to appoint his Ministers was not, nor
Governor Johnstone, Mr. Fox, Sir William Dolben, Sir Edward Astley, and Mr. Cawthorne spoke shortly to the question.
On a division the numbers were, Aye», J 75; Noes, 168. Majority, f.
About a quarter before sive o'clock, the Minister having Mr. Fox. just come down to the House, Mr- F°x moved that the order of the day should be read, which was for taking into consideration His Majesty's answer to an address of the House for *. the removal of Ministers. This having been done, Mr. Fox stood up, and begged the House might allow him to preface what he now deemed it his indispensable duty to say, with a short review of those peculiar circumstances, in which the House of Commons, the people of England, and the Constitution of the country, were all inevitably placed by His Majesty's late answer to the address of his Commons, He \ connected -connected all these particulars into one view, because they were all formed to stand or fall together. It was not in the wit or machination of man to dissever them for a moment, and whoever made the attempt, would be taught from the issue that it was nugatory and chimerical. But on what ground did they now stand? Had not His Majesty put & negative on their joint wishes? Was not this a situation to which they had not been reduced since the glorious æra of the accession of the House of Brunswick to the Throne of these Kingdoms? The two sirst Princes of that auspicious and illustrious family were not, perhaps, wholly without favourites: for what Prince ever yet was? or whocould blame a King for having friends? It is the consolation of human nature to be susceptible of such predilections as suit the peculiarities of every temper, character, and situation. Where is the man, or the Minister, who would prescribe terms to Royalty, which injures the feelings, and would bar the comforts of an individual? Notwithstanding this, which perhaps was the feature of all reigns, unanimity marked those both of George the First and George the Second. Whatever attention they might pay to secret advisers, whatever degree of curiosity or inquisitiveness might affect their hours of social and friendly intercourse, the harmony of the nation, the public business, the great concerns of the public were seldom or never interrupted by an ill-advised and unconstitutional preference of any man, or set of men, in opposition to the representatives of the people at large. In the late reign especially, Lord Hardwicke evidently possessed much of the royal considence. His abilities were unquestionably eminent, and justly procured much respect both at home and abroad; but whea the circumstances of the country demanded a surrender even of his counsels, when some of his Majesty's subjects were in open rebellion, and when the Crown was satissied that a new system had become indispensable, was not every system of favouritism readily, generously, and magnanimously relinquished? Had it been otherwise, and had those who were said to have deserved His Majesty's favour, retained their situation, and in direct opposition to all the calls and expostulations of the House, the country, and individuals, all those splendid and incomparable actions which graced the subsequent war, had most undoubtedly been prevented; the glorious victories which then took place, and overwhelmed all Europe, and all the world with astonishment, had not been. acquired. The vast appendages Of the British empire
rnust consequently have hem so little as to hare excited no envy, it is true ; but neither would they, in this hypothetical scale, have produced such emoluments, such wealth, such grandeur, such influence in the scale of nations, as they unquestionably did. If on that pressing and interesting occasion the system of personal favour had not given way to objects of public safety and tranquillity, the illustrious name of Fitt had never been known in this country, had never given the people of England such an influence in government as the Constitution has assigned them: had never infused such a spirit of intrepidity and enterprise in the executive government of the country, as must tor ever distinguish the period in which he reigned, and the measures which originated in his advice.
- From these facts and speculations, he desired the House to observe what part they now acted. They were, in his opinion, standing up for the Constitution, as enjoyed, as established, as transmitted by their ancestors to their posterity. This ground they had taken; in this it was their duty to intrench themselves; and from this asylum he was certain no honest and sincere friend to the Constitution would wish to drive them. They were at least founded in the constitution of the country, and whenever they fell, so would it. They were so united as to live or die together. It was now, perhaps, more than ever committed to their care, who had always been its preservers; and to abandan it thus beset, thus assaulted, thus doomed, for aught he knew, to destruction, would be to deal persidiously with their obligations to the public and to their constituents. When he complained, that no other Prince of the race of Brunswick had ever given such an answer to an address of that House, he was answered, no House of Commons had ever made such an address. But this question he would beg leave to answer with an anterior question — Did ever the Crown, since the Accession, keep in office a ministerial arrangement, not only without the considence of the House, but against its express requisition? This made the matter altogether new and unprecedented: but new and unprecedented as it was, it did not originate in the House; they had acted only on their defence, and would have ill deserved the considence reposed in them, had they not done every thing in their power to preserve the privileges at once os the House, and those for whose great original rights it was at sirst instituted. He referred to the case of Sir Robert Walpole, No man ever possessed the considence of the House of Commons more completely than this Minister. He would not enter into the question, whether he deserved it or not; but the fact was notoriously as he had stated it. Was he then resolutely inclined to dispute the eager deiires of the House to remove him? Did he resist nil their efforts for that purpose? No; when the moment came which convinced him that he was no longer the person on whom they chose to rely, instead of urging the inconsistency of such a revolution in the political sentiment of the House; instead of taking shelter in the arms of Prerogative; instead of placing any dependance on those about the Throne* who had been long his fast and tried friends, he freely and at once abandoned a station to which, from this single circumstance, he found himself inadequate. How, then, was; the Constant harmony which then subsisted in every part of Government sustained and cultivated? It was, at least, as often owing to the compliance of the King with the sentiments and wishes of his faithful Commons, as of their complaisance to his inclinations. He did not deal in the extension of prerogative, nor they in the assertion of their privileges. A reciprocal disposition to cordiality and accommodation in case of any accidental collision was not more predominant in the House of Commons than at Court. Since the unfortunate reigns of the Stuarts, prerogative had never been so much the topic of discussion- as it had become of late in Parliament. His ideas of whatever the Constitution had vested in the Crown were no secret; he ever had and ever would avow them. No prerogarive of the Crown was, in his opinion, distinct or unconnected with the whole of that free and liberal system in which our Government chiefly consisted. The people were the great source of all power, and their welfare the sole object for which it was to be exerted: but who in this cafe were to be the judges? The House of Commons undoubtedly were competent to profcct the rights of the people, to pronounce on whatever they deemed an encroachment on their privileges; and the moment they could not prevent every- thing which struck them as such, they were not equal to the design of such an institution. This he called a due seasoning or modisication of that enormous power devolved by the Constitution on the executive Government of the country. - The House of Commons consequently were possessed of the power of putting a negative on the choice of Ministers; they were stationed ascentinels by the people, to <watch over whatever could snore or lei's remotely or nearly > - Vol, XIII. H h affect affect their interest:; so that whenever they discovered in those nominated by His Majesty to the several great offices of state, want of ability, want of weight to render their situations respectable, or want of such principles to give effect to the wishes of the House; in any or all of such cases they were entitled to advise His Majesty against employing such persons as his faithful Commons could not trust. They would then lay to such Ministers, and fay it with the greatest propriety, " We admire your abilities; we love your virtues; and we wish your politics were of a fort to exite our admiration, and conciliate our considence: but your system is inimical to the object we have most at heart. We wish toencrease the .weight of the people in the Constitution; your object is to lessen their weight. We are anxious to establish a strong, an essicient, an united Administration; you endeavour only to preserve one who possesses none of all these qualities. We would found an executive Government on public, open, unequivocal responsibility; you are endeavouring, in its room, to perpetuate a cabal. We assert the controul of Parliament wherever the general interest requires their interference; you are attached only to what you imagine is the independence of the Prerogative. In lhort, we are the friends of the people; they made us what we are; to them we are accountable; and for them, as far as the Constitution bears us on, we will act : but you avow sentiments so materially and flatly contradictory to these, that we are bound in duty to withhold from you that considence, which your avowed attachments and opinions must inevitably lead you to abuse." Much offence was taken, it seemed, against the House of Commons, on the score of not putting the most unlimited considence in the present Ministers: but why are not the jealousies, which are the causes of this treatment so loudly complained of, also taken into the account? Would any man come forward and affirm, that the House had no cause of jealousy; or had acted capriciously in the several steps which it had been oblged to take in its own defence? He begged gentlemen would recollect the mode in which his Majesty's Ministers had been called to office. What was the manner of the nomination which took place, and was the only reason that could be alledged in behalf of Ministers? Were not grounds of jealousy involved in that circumstance, which justisied the diffidence of the House, which had put them on their guard, which had treated them with a disrespect to which they had for a long and happy period been