Page images

be sent to a Committee on Tuesday the 9th of March, it could be sent time enough to the Lords for them to pass it before the expiration of the present mutiny act, for he believed it differed in very few particulars from former mutiny bills; it might indeed he necessary to make the new one shorter in its duration; and he hoped that this one privilege was still left to the Commons, that the mutiny bill, providing quarters for the army, and consequently imposing burdens on their constituents, could not be altered by the Lords, after it should have

been sent up to them by the Commons. With respect to

the delay of public business, he thought the charge came with

a very bad grace srom the right honourable gentleman.

Seven weeks had passed since the meeting after the recess, and Jix weeks, wanting a day, since the only measure proposed by the right honourable member was rejected. In the whole course of that time he could lay at the door of opposition a delay of only four days, namely the adjournment from Wednesday last to Monday last. Por his part he approved of that adjournment, and also of that which was this day proposed; however in order to take away even a handle for misrepresentation, he would agree to meet to-morrow, provided it were understood that the fixfi. question to be discussed should be, whether the House should adjourn to Monday, or proceed then to business.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer expressed with a nod his approbation of the proposal.

Adjourned till to-morrow.

March 5.

Mr. Alderman Sawbridge alked the Chancellor os the Ex" MranA""~ chequer, if he intended to bring on his plan of reform in the representation of the people this session.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer answered in the negative.

Mr. Alderman Sawbridge gave notive, that he mould himself move the proposition.

The Secretary at IVar moved the order of the day, for The Sec. at going into a Committee on the Mutiny bill. War

Mr. Fox upon this immediately rose : he said, that as Mr. Fox. the House had made to itself a rule to make every other business give way to the consideration of His Majesty's Answers, when they were closely connected with the privileges of the Commons, it would not be decent either towards His Majesty or the House, to proceed on this day,

[ocr errors]

to send the Mutiny biil to a Committee: and indeed when he considered the nature of the bill, he found it to be one of the almost innumerable acts which were done every sessions on a principle of confidence; and therefore until the House should have taken some step to fill up and consummate the measures which had lately been adopted, he did not think proper that so very important a bill as was that for punishing mutiny aud desertion, should be debated. Of all the acts by which confidence in a Minister could be expressed, perhaps the passing of a Mutiny bill was the most striking: it was entrusting to the direction of a Minister a standing army, of which this Constitution is so justly jealous. How then could a Minister, in whom the House had already declared it could place no confidence, expect that at the moment, and without any previous deliberation, the House would bestow upon him the very strongest mark of confidence? He begged, however, not to be understood to insinuate in the most distant degree, that a Mutiny bill ought not to pass: he was sure there was not a man in the House who had the most remote idea of opposing it; a Mutiny bill was unquestionably necessary; and the House could not avoid passing it; for a standing army, however contrary to the genius of this Constitution, was now become an excrescence that could not now be removed; but though a Mutiny bill must of necessity pass, it by no means followed that it must be in point of duration equal to all those mutiny acts that had preceded it; a bill for a month or six weeks would keep the army together, without calling upon the House to surrender a right so very necessary at this moment for the preservation of its privileges. The delay from this to Monday or Tuesday, could be attended with no dangerous consequences. This was the 5th of March, and the present Mutiny act would not expire before the 24th or 25th, and consequently there would be full time for sending it to the Lords, and for them to pass it before the expiration of the present act^ And here he observed, that it was to be hoped the Lords would not attempt to make any alteration in a bill, which was to all intents and purposes a money bill. And he begged leave to conclude with an observation, that as the House had last year passed two or three ssiort Mutiny bills, so one of them was moved as late as the 14th of March, though it was to replace an act that was to expire on the ajth, and no poe expressed then an apprehension, that

being being moved so late, it could not be palled in so {hort a time as was. necessary j he requested therefore, that it might be remembered, that though the consideration of this year's Mutiny bill should be put off to Tuesday the 9th, still it would even then be moved for five days earlier than the Mutiny bill was moved for the last year. He then moved, that the order of the day, for going into the consideration of the Mutiny bill, be adjourned to Monday next. He said he fixed upon Monday, though he did not think there would be time for going into that bill on Monday, after the House should have taken His Majesty's answer into consideration; but he did it to shew, that he meant to bring it forward as soon as possible, so that it might stand the first in order for Tuesday.

The Secretary at' War thought the bill ought not to be The Secreeonsidered merely as a matter of confidence in Administra- t»nritWartion. It might more truly be reduced to this simple question. Was the army to be kept together, or to be disbanded? Or, in other words, was the safety of the country to give ■way to the gratification of a party I

Sir Adam Ferguson said, he could not reconcile, with Sir Adam consistency, the argument he had heard in support of the Fer«uson* motion. A right honourable member said it was decent, with respect to the Crown, that His Majesty's answer should be taken into consideration before any other business: but the House could not have forgot how little the decency or respect due to the Crown weighed with the right honourable member some time ago, when the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the first day he took his feat, after his appointment, begged he might be permitted to deliver to the House a message from his Majesty, on a subject which could not create any debate or - delay (relative to the Hessians being detained in England by the frost) and yet the right honourable member would not give way, or suffer the message to be delivered till the morning, after a long debate had taken place on another subject. It had been sai4 some time ago, that delay of public business had been occasioned, to the very great detriment of the nation: he admitted the fact; but at whose door did the blame lie? Surely at the door os those who day after day moved to postpone and procrastinate business. "With respect to the . Mutiny act, he was not without an opinion, that though it should he suffered to expire, still the King might keep the army together, for the House had already voted the Vol. XIII. L \ men,

[ocr errors]

men, and it had also voted the money to pay them: there wanted therefore nothing more than the consent of the Lords to be obtained; and then the Crown might have an army in the country, with the consent of Parliament. Mr. Eden. Mr. Eden was greatly surprised to hear such a doctrine from a gentleman of eminence at the bar, and consequently from whom he might have expected to have heard doctrines much more consonant to the genius and spirit of this Constitution. Did not the honourable Baronet know that the army could not be kept together without discipline? And that military discipline could not be enforced without a Mutiny act, because nothing short of an express law could deprive a soldier of the right os a subject,—a trial by a jury of his peers. If the doctrines of t&e honourable Baronet had surprised him, he had reason alst' to be surprised at the charge brought by him against opposition, of delaying public business. Twelve weeks had nearly elapsed since the Chancellor of the Exchequer had been appointed to his office; and yet during all that time, he had taken a part in only two measures of public nature; one of which he himself proposed, the second inclia bill; the other, the bill for enforcing the Receipt tax: what other matter of business 'had he brought forward or proposed to the House? Not one; and consequently the delay of public business, could not with even a shadow os justice be charged to the account of the majority of the House. The supply indeed os the ordnance had been delayed for forty-eight hours; but it was afterwards voted without opposition. The navy estimates had been put off by the Minister himself for fortyeight hours; and therefore it was matter of astonishment how any member could lay the delay of public business at the door of opposition. Why had not the Minister brought forward his measures for restoring public credit? Whyhad he not mentioned and proposed the means for providing for the unfunded debt and navy, and other bills, amounting to thirty millions? Had he done all this, and found, himself thwarted and opposed, and his measures defeated, then he might complain of delay occasioned by opposition; but to charge it with delay at present, was to charge it with his own faults. * The Chan- The Chancellor of the Exchequer replied, that it was pretty StajM°aer* ^n8u^ar to t^lat gentlemen were day after day putting '"q off the business of the nation, and yet were apprehensive

that that this putting off might be construed to mean delay. The public surely could not hesitate to say that the delay rested with those who daily voted for putting business off, and who endeavoured to avail- themselves of the advantages that might derive to their party from procrastination, and at the fame time to deprecate the natural imputation of delay. He was alked, why he had not brought forward public business; his answer was, that in the present situation os affairs, when there was a majority against him, it would be in vain for. him to do it. (Here there was a tremendous shout of hear, hear, from the opposition side of the House, which meant that under such circumstances, being totally unable to carry on the business of the nation, he ought to resign.) With respect; to a short Mutiny bill, he would not at this moment enter into that question, which was not then regularly before the House; but he would make a few remarks in reply to something that had dropped on the other side, relative to a short mutiny bill.— It had been said, that a bill had passed last year for six weeks : but this made nothing in favour of the plan at present in agitation; for the House would recollect that the bill last year short as it was, was co-extensive in point of duration, with the army which it was to govern; for the army was not voted for the year, but until it could be known when the troops would arrive from abroadj and consequently when they could be reduced to a peace establishment ; the army was voted from six weeks to six weeks; and Mutiny bills of the fame duration were palled ; but that would not apply to the present case, for this year the army had been'voted not for a few weeks, but for the whole year. And here he could not help observing, that if a short bill should be sent up to the Lords, it would not appear very surprising to him, if the Lords should alter it so far as to bring it back to the standard of former Mutiny bills, and make it co-extensive with the duration of the army. If then such alteration should be made by the Lords, and the bill so altered should be returned to the Commons, what would be the consequence, if the latter, adhering to their order, and the practice of their proceedings, should reject such a bill? If such an event was to take place long before the expiration of the present Mutiny act, the consequences might not be dangerous; but when even at present there was scarcely a single day to be lost, even supposing the Mutiny bill should be sent up to the Lords in its usual form, and

L12 passed

« PreviousContinue »