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of men, not known to them, and in whose judgment and integrity no confidence could of course be reposed. He admitted, that he proposed the resolution of the 24th of December in a thin house: but that was not his fault; he did it not by surprise; nor with an intention to avail himself of the advantage which he might be supposed to derive from the absence os the right honourable gentleman over against him, and of several other gentlemen, who having vacated their seats, by. the acceptance of offices under the Crown, were gone to new elections. The nature of the cafe, and the then situation of affairs, appeared to him to be such as to call for, and justify the motion he then made. However, he would not enter any farther into the subject at present; it would be first necessary for the House to know what had been done by the Lords, relative to the resolution he had made; and therefore he moved, "That a Committee be appointed to examine the Journals of the Lords, and fee if any, and what proceedings had been had by them on the subject of a resolution agreed to by this House on the 24th of December last, or any other resolution, and that they make a report to thb House."
Mr. Eden seconded the motion, but without making any speech.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer declared he had not the The Chanleast objection to the noble Lord's motion. If he was desi- ieJj[TMofBljjj.e rous to know whether any thing had been done in the House of Lords, founded on a resolution of this House, the mode his Lordship had adopted was certainly strictly parliamentary, and conformable to the practice of this House. He did not mean to take any notice of what had been urged by the noble Lord in support of his resolution, because he did not wish to anticipate what might be the subject of debate on the report which the Committee now moved for might make. He meant simply to observe, that he by no means believed the noble Lord had it in contemplation to take advantage of the absence of several gentlemen in office, when he moved his resolution before the holidays; still it was very true, that it was passed in their House, when of course they had no opportunity to resist it.
Mr. Fox begged the right honourable gentleman would Mr. Fo*. recollect, that the circumstance of his absence ought not to be memtioned as a kind of oblique censure of the resolution moved by his noble friend; for so far was the noble Lord from wishing to take an unfair advantage of the right hoL % nourable
nourahle gentseman's absence, that it was that very absence which made the resolution necessary; for had he been then a. member of that House, and present, it was probable the resolution would not have been pressed upon the House, or so> niuch as moved; for the noble Lord would have put some questions to the right honourable gentleman, and if, in answer, he had assured the House, that until their next meeting aster the recess the Lords, of the Treasury would not consent to the acceptance of any bills drawn upon the East-India Company, there would have been no necessity whatever for the resolution, and consequently it would not have been proposed.-^-With respect to the proceedings of the Lords yesterday, there was something in them whtch struck him as exr (Ceedingly singular, and very well worth the attention of the Houle. The resolution which gave their Lordships so much pffepee was passed on the 24th of December; the Lords, who conceived it to be a daring encroachment on the part of the Commons, and a violation of the Royal prerogative on pne hand, and of the privileges of the House of Peers on the pther, met on the 20th of January; and yet, though they fat almost every day since, they never once took notice of this bold attempt of the Commons till the 4th of February. Were the Lords indifferent, during all this interval, about their own rights, ancj those of the Crown? Or did any thing recently happen, which had served to awaken their sensibility? Yes; for the House of Commons had, on Tuesday, agreed to a motion for laying certain resolutions, which they had passed, before his Majesty. The very next day, and not before, their Lordships proceeded to take into consideration the resolution which the House of Commons had passed so long ago as the 24th of December last: so that before they thought of taking this daring, this illegal resolution into consideration, they waited until the Commons had agreed to 3 measure strictly legal, strictly constitutional, and strictly parliamentary, namely, a measure for giving advice to the Crown. From this proccedure of the Lords, this curious and alarming lesson might be collected ; that as long as the House of Commons should agree in opinion with the Ministers of the Crown, so long they might pass what resolutions they pleased, unheeded by the Lords; but that they no sooner should differ, and advise the Crown to remove them, than the Lords would stand forth their champions, and commence hostilities against the House of Commons. For his own part, he had long suspected, and the history of the last three
weeks weeks consirmed his suspicions, that there was a plan in this country, a conspiracy to sink the consequence of the House .of Commons, and vilify them to their constituents and to the world. There was a settled design somewhere to render the Commons subservient to the will of the Crown, and consequently useless to the Constitution. He remarked, that it was the constant practice of Ministers, when they found themselves supported by the House of Commons, to exaggerate their power and their consequence: but when they happened to be in opposition to Ministers, then they were cried down, then the prerogative of the Crown was mentioned in lofty strains, and the Lords were called upon to vindicate their right, which they were prompted to believe invaded by the exercise of the most constitutional powers of the House .of Common.?. Thus praised when they supported Ministers, vilisied and traduced when they opposed them, the Commons must at last be rendered contemptible in the eyes of the public, and consequently unsit for any one of the purposes for which they formed a branch of the Legislature. To render the House of Commons contemptible, and consequently useless, was the obvious wish and object of those who had entered into the conspiracy against it; the life of the House of Commons was aimed at; of this, he declared upon his honour, he entertained not a doubt: and when he spoke of the House of Commons, he did not mean the House then sitting, but the House of Commons, in an abstract fense, as forming one of the three great bodies of the Legislature. If this was not the design of the conspirators, would the world have seen that phenomenon in this country, a Minister insulting the House of Commons, by daily appearing on the Treasury-bench as a Minister, after the House of Commons had declared they could place no considence in him; and after they had laid before His Majesty their resolutions, by way of advice to the Crown, to remove him and his col-, leagues? And would the House of Lords have been called upon to enter into resolutions against the House of Com-* mons, if there had not been a settled design to insult and trample upon them? Was it not known, that in His Majesty's cabinet there were not wanting thosej who were not the warmest friends to the Constitution in its present form? Was it now known, that there were in high legal situations in this country, persons who held and avowed in public, principles the most abhorrent to the Constitution? Could,
hoped they could not: but he hoped also, that they would proeeed not only with temper and moderation, but with extreme temper and moderation. It imported much, that in the proceedings into which they must go, they should not only be temperate, but that also they should be in the right; for if they had of late done any thing that was wrong, it became their dignity, their honour, and their justice; to recant their errors wiih all convenient speed, and to return to the right path of the Constitution. If, on the other hand, it should turn out, upon enquiry, that they had acted hitherto with the Constitution on their side, it became them to be sirm, and not surrender their own and their country's Tight to any power whatever. He would wait, therefore, for the result of the enquiry, which was the object of his noble friend's motion, before he should say any thing farther on the proceedings of the House of Lords. The Chan- 1'he Chancellor of the Exchequer observed, that the right Exchtouer.' honourable member might, if he pleased, have recollected, that though the House of Lords did not proceed till yesterday to take into consideration the resolution alluded to, yet the noble Earl, who introduced ihe business yesterday to the House of Lords, mentioned it soon after the recess, if not on the very day their Lordships met after the holidays; and that there was no very good -ground for the observations the right honourable gentleman had made on that part of the subject. The right honourable gentleman had also taken notice, that though the Lords had taken no step to express their disapprobation of the resolution in question, they did not fail to do it the very day after the House of Commons had agreed to lay before His Majesty their advice to him to remove his Ministers. The Lords probably knew that His Majesty's present Ministers had had the uniform support of the House of Commons ever since the recess, till yesterday; and if they did know this, (which no one in the world knew but themselves) there might be a foundation for the observation which the right honourable gentleman had made on that head: but if it should so happen, that the Lords knew, that ever since the present Ministers came into ofsice, they found themselves constantly in a minority; and that resolutions, no less unpleasant to Ministers, had pasted on the 16th of January, than that which passed on Wednesday last, he ftiould really be at a loss to discover how the right honourable gentleman could think of building his observation on so >bsurd a foundation as that on which it actually stood. Pret2 - ty
ty much as well founded was the observation, that there was a conspiracy to destroy the House of Commons, and that there were even in his Majesty's Council some persons, he knew not how many exceptions the right honourable gentleman might make, who were hostile to the present Constitution. There might possibly be persons so credulous as to believe such an idle and obsurd observation, and to such persons it would be in vain to fay any thing. The right honourable gentleman, however, had gone so far as to point out a learned Lord, high in a legal office, as a person who holds in public, principles the most opposite to the Constitution. He wished the right honourable gentleman was less fond of general insinuation, and that he would be good-natured enough to remember some of the expressions of-that learned Lord, on which he might be tried, on which he might defend himself. Until the right honourable gentleman should produce some specific charge, he should not attempt to'defend a character which stood equally above censure and panegyric.
Mr. Fox replied, that there was a great affectation of spi- Mr. Fox. rit in the right honourable gentleman, in challenging proofs, when he knew that from the offence no proof could be adduced. He alluded to doctrines laid down by that learned Lord in places, from which freedom of speech and of debate made it impossible that proofs could be brought: he spoke, therefore, only from what he and all the world has heard; but which was of such a nature, that while the man who could entertain such principles as those which he condemned ought to be looked upon as an enemy to the Constitution, there was no way of bringing him to account for them. He spoke, however, only from his own opinion. The doctrines which he had heard that learned Lord deliver, were such as appeared to him repugnant to every principle of the Constitution. He was a rnan who disregarded the opinions of the Commons of England, and would render them, as far as in him lay, what they had been called in this House — a dead letter.
Mr. H. Dundas said it had been frequently insinuated, Mr H. that he had called the resolutions of the House a dead letter ; Dund»s' but, iu reality, he never called them by any such name. What had given rise to the insinuation was simply this: when some late resolutions were proposed, he argued upon them, as if addresses were to be afterwards grounded upon them; and in order to deter gentlemen from voting for them in the first instance, lest they should be led afterwards to zd-'