Page images

ambition of monarchy might endanger this Constitution, but here was a power still more unfriendly to its existence.

Mr. Martin expressed his disapprobation of the address.

Sir Williato Dolben agreed with the address, so far as it SirwilHam went to express the considence in the wisdom and goodness Dolben. of Majesty. Such sentiments of gratitude and loyalty were on all occasions becoming the House, and should ever have his concurrence. He could not, however, go along with it in those passages which contained a lamentation on account of the Sovereign's refusing to gratify what was stated to be the wish of the House. He considered the present address as putting that union at a distance which was so ardently desired, and vesting the House with an unconstitutional power which did not belong to it. The House of Commons had surely a right to advise His Majesty in the exercise of his prerogatives, but it had no title to put a negative on them; and was not this the very power which it wished at present to usurp? If the House of Commons, for reasons frivolous or capricious, were to pass censure, .or negative the exertions of prerogative in the choice of Ministers toties quoties, the power of appointment must immediately and virtually devolve to that House from the Crown. Had not a similar mode of reasoning been adopted by the opposite side of the House during the reasoning on the India bill which had lately been thrown out? Was it not on that occasion alledged, that if the Crown had a negative on the appointments of the Court of Directors, if it was authorised to reject them toties quoties, the power of election would not rest in the Company, but be transferred to the Crown? And might not the fame mode of reasoning now be applied to the case in question? He thought in justice it might. He stated the case pf secret influence, so much insisted on. He affirmed, that the influence which had been employed had been exercised for the best purposes. It had served the best purposes in the view of a constitutional government, and enabled men, in the discharge of their duty, to steal the false die from the pockets of Ministry. The late Administration had held the bank for some time, but had unfortunately now lost that false die on which all their credit and all their prosits depended. The doctrines of passive obedience and nonresistance, of divine, indefeasible right, had been long reprobated. He hoped there was no person now so hardy as to maintain them in all their dangerous latitudes. But there


was surely a difference between these political absurdities and the assertions of prerogative, which were this day called in question, and which it was the duty of every Englishman , to support. He alledged that the honourable gentleman (Mr. Fox) had flattered the gentlemen who composed the meeting at the St. Alban's tavern; he had cajoled them into a coincidence of sentiment and of view with himself, and on this foundation had built all his naivetes. It was in this way that he had induced them into error, and by the resolutions which had passed in the House, and in particular the sirst of them, had brought them into a cul de sac, out os which there was no passage. He bestowed a. high encomium on the noble Lord opposite to him; he had long concurred with him in sentiment, and hoped soon to have that honour again, as he had the highest opinion of his integrity and political ability. .. General Conway did not wish to go into a repetition of argument on the question, but would not allow what had fallen from the last speaker to pass without stricture. He said it had been alledged that the House had no right to advise the Sovereign in the exercise os his prerogative — This advice had been considered as a daring infringement on the rights of the Sovereign, and a direct negative on them. He could not hear such doctrines advanced without reprobating them. These maxims had never been broached by the rankest Tories in this country, nor had they been maintained in an arbitrary reign by the most zealous Anti-Exclusionists. He affirmed that if there was any balance of power in the government of this country, it rested in Parliament: the Constitution, if it existed any where, separately existed there. He wished for union, and would make every honourable sacrisice to it, as it was undoubtedly connected with the public peace. Sir william Sir William Dolben denied his having advanced any new Polben. or unconstitutional doctrines. He had said, that if the House assumed a controling right over the exercise of she prerogative, in that instance the interests of the Sovereign would be asfected, and that balance of power which the Constitution had given to the Monarch as the executive branch of the Legislature, destroyed. This was a tone of advising equal to a command, and which surely ought not to be admitted; these were the sentiments he had advanced, and which were neither new nor unconstitutional.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer wiihed to avoid, as much The ck as possible, all those repetitions of argument which had be- «Horof come so frequent, and had mingled themselves of late so Exchetu much in the progress of debate. He wistied to confine himself as much as possible to what he considered the point in question, and to deliver hi? sentiments on this subject ■with as much conciseness as lay in his power, that those who speak might not be deprived of an opportunity of giving their opinions, and that those who hear might not be tired by a fatiguing and disagreeable reiteration of beaten themes and of hacknied arguments. It had been insinuated by an honourable member, (General Conway) and some others, that he was averse to union. He could by no means admit this assertion — Had he not on many occasions given the strongest evidence of his predilection for the principle? Had he not expressed these attachments repeatedly in the course of his speaking on the subject? It was his wifli to erect a strong government — It was his desire to contribute all in his power to the formation and support of so desirable a system. He was therefore one of those who would express his sentiments of reprobation against those who opposed union, as he considered this measure as necessarily connected with the interest'and the happiness of the public. But whilst he emitted these strong and decided sentiments in savour of union, he by no means thought that this desirable object would be brought nearer by the address under consideration, nor could at all be forwarded by the resignation of Ministers. On this point he had already given his sentiments. Those sentiments he had seen no reason to alter. He was equally struck at another assertion of the honourable General — It had been affirmed that the words of one side of the House aimed at the annihilation of its privileges. Good God! how could such ideas be formed or entertained? Had he in any part of his conduct or of his past procedure, manifested any peculiar predilection in favour of Monarchy, or of the undue influence of the Crown? Had he, during the progress of his parliamentary actings, wished to encroach on, or to destroy, the privileges of Parliament i The Constitution and the rights of the House of Commons were circumstances which he had always been taught to venerate. He would therefore appeal to the candour of the House, to its recollections of his expressions on this subject, whether he had not, on all occasions aud under every description of circumstances, maintained its privileges

vileges and its dignity. His own opinions, his partialities, and his views savoured those ideas; and he must have been deluded to have acted in opposition to them. But whilst he expressed his warmest sentiments for the honour and the dignity of the House of Commons, he felt himself under an obligation at the same time, to vindicate the doctrines of the honourable Baronet (Sir William Dolben) behind him, so far as they respected the rights of the other branches of the Leture, so far as they regarded the just and constitutional prerogatives of the Sovereign. These the Constitution had defined with as much accuracy as it had done those of the House of Commons; and it was surely the duty of Ministers, and of members of that House, equally to support the rights of both. No man was more zealous or more unreserved in admitting and asserting the right of the House to advise the Sovereign in the exercise of all his prerogatives than he was. This had always been a sentiment which he had avowed; but that a declaration of the disapprobation of the House of His Majesty's Ministers, should, ipso faflo, in any given instance, bind and compel the Sovereign to dismiss those Ministers, or oblige them to resign, was a point •which he never had admitted, and would never allow — Such a sentiment of disapprobation surely placed Ministers in aukward and unpleasant situations; but that it should force them to retire he would maintain was an unconstitutional doctrine, hostile to the prerogative of the Crown, and to that balance of power on which the excellency of our government depended. This was a point, therefore, which he was always ready to maintain, and from supporting which, he hoped he would never be precluded by any false theories or vague declamation respecting the dignity of the House. He alluded to the idea of a sa£tion existing in the House, stated by his honourable friend (Mr. Wilberforce) and which he had asserted to be dangerous to the balance of the Constitution. How far this was true, how far the conduct of the House of Commons during its late procedure justified this doctrine, and how far the address under consideration confirmed its truth, ought to be weighed, and ought to produce corresponding effects on the minds and votes of the members of the House. In deliberating, however, on this point, he would caution members not to be overawed by false alarms of an encroaching prerogative, by false fears of an extended monarchy, or to be decided by

the ring and sound of dignity, so incessantly poured into the ear of the House on the present and past occasion. But though he was thus the opponent of all capricious decision on the appointment of Ministers, he was as unfriendly to their continuance in office when disapproved of by the House of Commons on proper grounds, as by either branch of the Legislature. On this account, he called on the House to specify charges against Administration, to prove those charges, and not capriciously to condemn an Administration which had never as yet been found guilty, and had in fact, by an unaccountable obstinacy and untowardness of circumstances, been deprived of an opportunity of displaying its prudence and its zeal in the service os the public. When these accusations were proved, when these charges were substantiated, it would then be proper for Ministers to resign; and if in such a case he should afterwards continue in office, he would suffer himself to be stigmatized as the champion of prerogative, and the unconstitutional supporter of the usurpations of the Crown. But till this period arrived, he ffiould reckon it his duty to adhere to the principles of the Constitution, as delivered to us by our ancestors; to defend them against innovation and encroachment, and to maintain them with sirmness. t

Attempts had been made to six imputations of criminality on the present Administration. Their sins had been stated, and one of the most glaring of them was, that the late Ministry was dismissed against the sense of the House. But what was the meaning of this charge? To what conclusion did the argument, when followed up, lead? Did it not fairly admit of this comment, that it was improper for Majesty to dismiss his Ministers, provided they were not disapproved by the House of Commons, and that so long as they acted agreeable to its sentiment, so long, and no longer were they to enjoy the patronage of the Crown, and retain the offices of Administration? Was this a decent treatment of the Prerogative? Was this constitutional doctrine? Was it not degrading the dignity of the Sovereign? Was it not a transference of the prerogatives of the Crown to the House of Commons, and a placing of the Royal sceptre under the mace that lies on that table? The Constitution of this country is its glory. But in what a nice adjustment of parts does its excellence consist! Equally free from the distractions of democracy, and the tyranny of monarchy, its happiness consists in its mixture of parts. It was this mixed government which the prudence of r Vofc.XIII. Kk out

« PreviousContinue »