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(which has ultimately rendered the res- cretaries of state, who had originally been ponsibility of the king's advisers, the ir- no more than the sealers and addressers responsibility of the sovereign, and the of the king's letters, became gradually inquiring power of this House, so certain, great officers of state, with great powers so indisputable, and so perfect) was gra- and great responsibilities. The office of dually and imperceptibly forming into chancellor was, during those periods, regular shape, and by degrees brought to brought nearly into its present shape. that pitch of correctness and accuracy, The office of lord high treasurer, or first which better days, quieter times, and commissioner of the treasury, came to be more enlightened discussion, have made a matter of regular fixed appointment the sure and easy means of extending and establishment. The office of lord freedom to so large a mass of mankind. high admiral, or first commissioner of the If you will look into the history of ihe admiralty, the same. The offices of segreat offices of state, you will find that cretaries of state, the same. Thus, instead it was during the Tudor tyranny (a most of the irregular selection of early times, extraordinary and unlooked-for occur those great offices of trust, responsibility, rence) that the bitherto shapeless offi- and state, which are now, and have for a cial mass first began to assume a more long period been, perfectly and completely regular form and method that after- formed; were regularly appointed to diswards, during the reign of the Stewarts, charge the duties of government, and to amid all the various conflicts of that advise the sovereign. On the appointperiod, the official system was pro- ment to those offices by the king, the per. ceeding more and more to perfection-and, sons appointed, if not before of the privy certainly with no such intention on the council, are sworn, ex officio, into the privy part of either race of princes, became at council ; and, as the confidential servants last so correctly formed, and firmly esta and advisers of the crown, form, with little blished, as to be the main safe guard of the occasional variations, what is now called person of the King, and a grand security the cabinet. of the freedom of the people*. The se- In this manner, by this imperceptible
* Lord Coke's Second Lustitute, 556, in that the law in some cases takes notice his reading upon the Article Clerici. of the signet ; for a ne ereat regno may be " At the making of this statute, the king
by commandment under the privy seal, had another seal, and that is called Signet- subject ought to take notice of it ; for it is
or under the signet, and, in this case, the tum, bis Signet. This seal is ever in the custody of the principal secretary.
but a signification of the king's command.
And there be our Clerks of the Signet, called his Third Institute, he had been acquaint
ment. If, at the time my lord Coke wrote Clerici Signetti, attending on him. The ed with the authority that is now ascribed reason wherefore it is in the secretary's to the secretary, he would certainly custody, is, for that the king's private let- have mentioned it in this place ; it was ters are sealed therewith."-N.B. is not called at this period Secretary of too important a branch of the office to be
omitted ; and his silence therefore is a State.
strong argument, to a man's belief at least, Lord Camden's Judgment in the Court of that no such power existed at that time.
Common. Pleas, in the Case of the He has likewise taken notice of this officer Seizure of Papers.State Trials. in the Prince's case, in the eighth report.
He is mentioned in the statute of 27th “ To consider then the question of the Henry 8 cap. 11: and in the statute capacity of secretary of state. This offi- of the same king, touching precedency; cer is in truth the king's private secretary; and it is observable that he is called in he is keeper of the signet and seal used these two statutes by the single name of for the king's private letters, and backs secretary, without the addition which the sign manual in transmitting grants to modern times have given him of the dig. the privy seal. This seal is taken notice nity of a state officer. of in the Articuli super Chartas, cap. 6 ;
« I do not know, nor do I believe, that and my lord Coke, in his comment upon he was anciently a member of the privy the chapter, page 556, describes the se. couxil: but if he was, he was noteven in cretary as I have mentioned. He says he the times of James and Charles the First, has four clerks that sit at his board, and according to my lord Clarendon, an oficer course, the mere physical body of the is permitted to pass uncensured, the true official system (if I may be allowed the principle of the executive government of espression) was brought to perfection in England is at an end.
On the contrary, shape and figure, but before the revolution if a private and secret communication to it was an uninspired and lifeless form, sub- the King of public matter is condemned as ject to violation by the reigning monarch, adverse to the clear and invariable practice while the powers of parliament were not of the constitution, we are safe. always properly directed to counteract Sir, the course taken by the earl of the infringement ; and when the pliancy Chatham is as injurious to the inquisitorial of those appointed by the crown was al. power of this House as it is to the system most at all times ready to make the duties of the executive government itself; for of their situation yield to the will of the instead of being able to trace the public sovereign, and to become the base instru. acts of the state through their accustomed ments of tyranny, instead of being upright channels, we shall remain ignorant of advisers. But, Sir, the revolution came. what the public acts are, or where the That great and wonderful event infused public documents are to be found; wherelife and sonl into this well-formed, but as, if the regular, well-known, and longhitherto inanimate frame. Then it was established official system is adhered to, that the passing of the Bill of Rights information and inquiry can proceed with gave certainty and vigour to the efforts of certainty and without obstruction. But, Parliament, secured its power and its inde. Sir, if the public documents of the king. pendence, and, by forming the character dom are to be locked up in secrecy in the of its members, confirmed and regulated private repositoty of the king, and all acthe discreet but firm exercise of the in-cess to them shut out, there is not only an quisitorial functions of the House of Com- end of the great system of official responmóns. Then it was that the character of sibility and its controlling concomitant those who were employed in the public the inquiring power of parliament; but service, secured the just execution of the that most sacred principle of the constitusystem, and established the great doctrine tion 10 which my hon. friend under the of responsibility on a firm and unalterable gallery (Mr. Johnstone) has so justly rebasis ; a position from which it cannot be ferred, will be shaken to its foundation I displaced if this House does its duty. But mean the principle, that the king can do , if the violation of the system thus recog. no wrong. nised in ancient, and thus practised in mo
In all discussions of the constitution, in dern times—if a distinct act, subverting every elementary book it is laid down, as the established, invariable course of offi- a first and leading maxim, that the king cial communication by official document, can do no wrong; and it seems to me, of such magnitude as he grew up to after State Trials, Vol. 2. Page 731.-See also the restoration, being only employed, by the Commons Journals, 1678. this account, to make up dispatches at 6. The first article of impeachment the conclusion of councils, and not to go against the earl of Danby was for giving vern or preside in those councils.
instructions to his Majesty's ambassadors " It is not difficult to account for the without the participation of the secretary growth of the minister's importance. He of state, or privy council.” became naturally significant from the time that all the courts in Europe began Clarendon's History of the Rebellion, Vol. to admit resident ambassadors ; for, upon
1. Page 210. the establishment of this new policy, the
« The earl of Bedford was to be trea. whole foreign correspondence passed surer ; in order to which, the bishop of through the secretary's hands, who by this London had already desired the King to means began to be an instructed and • receive the staff into his hand, and give confidential minister.
• him leave to retire to the sole care of his • The first time he appears in our booksbishoprick;' by which he wisely with to be a granter of warrants is in 1 Leonard, drew from the storm.-And so the treasury 70 and 71, 29th and 30th Elizabeth, was for the present put into commission, where the return to a Habeas Corpus was Mr. Pym was to be chancellor of the exa a commitment by sir Francis Walsingham, chequer: which office the lord Cottington principal secretary, and one of the privy was likewise ready to surrender, upon ascouncil.”.
surance of indemnity for the future."
were it not for the strange and unheard-of of a free people; to the king of this mixed maoner in which this question has been and limited monarchy. What is more, dealt with, that it would be almost absurd this maxim, which sounds too strong for to rest upon this obvious topic for a mo- despotism itself, is that which (paradoxi. ment. I refer to all who hear me, whe- cal as it may seem at first sight) fortifies ther this is not what we are taught in early us against the inroads of royal power ityouth, and what we now teach our chil. self, and protects the people froin all illdren. And am I now to be called upon in regulated arbitrary authority whatever. this enlightened age, in this enlightened This is it which secures the monarch from assembly, after having learned these prin- degradation, and places him in the most ciples in my early life, and heard them in elevated state of dignity and safety: and this House for thirty six long years sanc- such is the extraordinary and well-contioned as invariable and leading maximns as trived system, under which we live, such plain and certain as that I hear myself the just temperament of the different jarnow speaking I say, Sir, arn I now to be ring elements of which our constitution called upon to prove this constitutional appears (at first sight) to be composed, maxim to the House, when re have only that by the sound practice of the appato open the commentaries of Blackstone,* rently discordant parts of the machine it to see, that when he discusses the king's proceeds with periect smoothiness and reubiquity, the king's perpetuity, and the gularity, uniting the purest system of other aitributes of the Sovereign (as he freedom with the most efficacious execucalls them,) that he likewise represents tive authority that ever blessed the civi. the king's perfection as the greatest and lized world, or was ever in any age or inost important feature of the royal cha- country extended over so large a portion racter, as that which, together with his of the human race.
Whether the repreperpetuity, secures at once to this free sentative body is a little more or a little country the safety of the monarch, and the less correct, is not pow ihe consideration independence of the people.
Whether it should be rendered more so, That the king can do no wrong is a' is not now the question. But I assert, that maxim which should seem, on its bare the grand and fundamental principles on statement, to be almost too strong for ab- which we have combined (the only insolute monarchy, or even for the most de- stance in the history of the world) civil plorable despotism; yet this is the attri- and political freedom on the one hand, bute of our king, this is the maxim appli- and a powerful executive government on cable and appertaining to the sovereign the other, rest mainly, and principally
upon the maxim that the king can do no * Blackstone's Commentaries, vol. 1. wrong-out of wbich the responsibility of
the king's advisers--the necessity of pub
lic documents—the absence of all secret “ Besides the attribute of sovereignty, advice and secret councils—the obligation the law also ascribes to the king, in on all executive officers to make their his political capacity, absolute perfec- communications to avowed ministers-and tion :--The king can do no wrong ;-- the great superintending inquisitorial auwhich ancient and fundamental maxim is thority of this House, necessarily and unnot to be understood, as if every thing questionably arise. Whatever therefore transacted by the government was of has a tendency to infringe upon, or to decourse just and lawful, but means only stroy, this attribute of the sovereign, bis two things~First, that whatever is excep. perfection, (is destructive of the constitutionable in the conduct of public affairs' is tion. Shall it then be said, Sir, as the not to be imputed to the king; nor is he learned gent. (Mr. Stephen) and the hon. answerable for it personally to his people: gent. (Mr. Bankes) have argued, that the for this doctrine would totally destroy that act of the earl of Chatham, in delivering constitutional independence of the crown, his Narrative to the King, is not unconstiwhich is necessary for the balance of power tutional ? Does not such an act tend to in our free and active, and therefore com- violate, directly violale, that great maxim pounded constitution. And, secondly, it which I have been endeavouring to enlarge means that the prerogative of the crown upon and enforce ? Does it not destroy the extends not to do any injury; it is created official and responsible, and establish an for the benefit of the people, and therefore unofficial and irresponsible, system : Does cannot be asserted to their prejudice.” it not, by removing the communication
from its regular channel, and placing the and that, from the year 1765, when the sorereign in a predicament unknown to old duke of Cumberland advised in form. the constitution, make him fiable to be ing the ministry, the earl of Bute never obliged to act without an adviser? Is not had any the least connection, directly or this the immediate result of the transac- indirecily, with public affairs. tion which we are examining, and does it But my opinion respecting the secret not besides, by the unconstitutional in- influence of lord Bute has, in my way of junction of secrecy, keep the other confi- viewing the motion before us, no influence dential advisers of the crown ignorant of whatever. I consider the question (if i those facts and circumstances, on a know. may be allowed to say so) in a more en. ledge of which their opinion must be larged point of view, as it regards the conformed, and their counsel to their Sove. stitution; and, as in practice, tending to reign depend ? So that it is an act which form, nay as actually forming, the most at once interferes with the official system; ruinous of all systems, a double govern embarrasses the inquiring power of this ment-with all the evils of ignorance and House ; infringes the great maxim that counteraction which belong to that dethe king can do no wrong; and, lastly, plorable system. what has not yet been adverted to, in- But, Sir, the name of Mr. Pitt is introduces into the government of the coun- voked with a view to create an influence try that most ruinous and unconstitutional in favour of this act of his brother the of all practices, a double government, earl of Chatham, as if Mr. Pitt, if now where one set of men, or one man, is to living, would have defended or given his advise, and another set of men are to act sanction to this proceeding. Mr. Pitt and and be responsible.
When I say that this is the immediate, Chatham's opinion of lord Bute's secret the necessary and mischievous effect of influence (as it is called,) by which he what has been done; I beg to have it has been imagined to dictate or control understood that I am not one of those who the measures of the cabinet ever since the have or ever had any belief in the secret earl of Chatham left it. Lord Bute has influence, which has been so much rested not been ignorant of the long prevalence upon by some gentlemen in the course of of this error, having seen himself most inthis discussion, referring to the secret in- juriously treated in consequence of it, for fluence of the late earl of Bute-On the many years past, by writers of pamphlets, contrary, I utterly disbelieve it. I have newspaper essays, and political parabeen very many years an observer of the graphs; all which he passed over in silent transactions of men in this country-I indignation and contempt; but when he have, during all that time, lived in the sees the same cruel mistake advanced and greatest intimacy with the family of that countenanced by such an authority as the noble person-I know their character to earl of Chatham, he thinks he should be be that of the most perfect veracity; and wanting to himself, if he did not encounter relying upon my own observation and it with the best evidence that can be supknowledge of public men and ministers, posed to lie within his reach. and upon the veracity to which I have “ There are but two persons in the kingalluded, I am most decidedly of opinion, dom who are capable of knowing the that the secret influence, which has been negative of that opinion with absolute cerso often referred to, had no existence ;* tainty. One of them is of rank too high
to be appealed to, or even mentioned on * Lord Mountstuart's Letter, 21st of
this occasion: the other is himself; he October 1778.-Dodsley's Annual Re does, therefore, authorize me to say, ibat gister, vol. 21, p. 256.
he declares, upon his solemn word and
honour, he has not had the honour of wait" Here is a letter under the earl of ing on his Majesty, but at his levee or Chatham's hand, vouched to be such drawing-room; nor bas he presumed to by the authority of his family, imputing offer an advice or opinion concerning the to lord Bute those counsels which lord disposition of offices, or the conduct of Chatham says (whether justly or erro- measures, either directly or indirectly, by neously, is not the present question,) himself or any other, from the time when have ruined the king and kingdom. The late duke of Cumberland was consulted Every reader will at once have understood in the arrangement of a ministry in 1765 this imputation to be founded on lord to the present hour.” VOL, XYI.
Mr. Fox, alas ! are in their graves, but the 15th of October. On the 20th of are we therefore to lose all sense and December the city vote their address to knowledge of the practice of the constitu- the King; and here, sir, give me leave to tion ? Are we to be idle and indifferent, say, that the address of the first corporaand make no research to learn that which tion in the united kingdom, nay, of the they knew? Is it fit or just to suppose first corporation of the world, is in the that Mr. Pitt would have sacrificed, even nature of an act of state, of no immaterial to a brother, his unvaried and well ascer consideration, either as to the form of its tained constitutional opinions on this sub. reception, or as to the manner in which it ject ? On this subject, Mr. Pitt's opinions is to be answered. Sir, the time has been were declared. They were uniform, when there was an earl of Chatham, who from his earliest youth, and acted upon to considered the acts and addresses of the his last hour. It was my fate to differ corporation of London of no very widely, upon great and leading pub- or trivial account-The address of lic points with that great man; but of the city was to be answered-His Mathis I am sure, that no one who observed jesty was to be advised by his confi. the whole tenour of his public life can dential servants to answer it-Under what doubt that he would have reprobated, in circumstances ?-In an utter ignorance of the strongest manner, this unofficial com- the earl of Chatham's Narrative-totally munication-this passing by the regular unacquainted with the fact, that his lorda established channels of responsibilityship had, by that Narrative (to be placed this secret communication to the king upon in the hands of the king, who was to be a public subject—this act of establishing a advised by the earl of Chatham to keep it double government-this course by which secret,) attributed the ill success of the the official and confidential advisers of the Expedition to the naval department of King were kept ignorant of the facts on the service. Is it possible for imagination which they were to advise their sovereign. to suggest a more opposite instance of evil As to the other great and illustrious per- effect, arising from evil conduct? Will, son, Mr. Fox, I lived with him for many, not the same principle apply to every other many years in the utmost private friendship, measure of advice to be given to the King, and the most unreserved confidence, com- in any other department of the state ? munication, and coincidence on public Can we then for one moment hesitate to subjects. I shall therefore say no more declare that the permitting such a practice of his opinions, than that I am confident would equally violate the constitution and that I have not expressed one sentiment injure the interest of the country? And that would not perfectly accord with his just is it a defence to say, that the noble lord and profound views of the constitution of had been acting in his character of milithis country.
tary commander, had approached his soSir, there now remains of this momentous vereign in that character; that he was a question but one topic untouched; and that peer and privy counsellor, and had a right is, the evil effects in practice attending such to approach the King, or that his right was a course as the delivery of the Narrative by founded on his appointment, being under the earl of Chatham. Fortunately, Sir, it the sign manual is not necessary to travel out of the facts I sincerely regret (as I have said in the which the transactions respecting this mat- outset) that lord Chatham is the person ter afford, in order to illustrate this mis- who has fallen into this predicament; chief. The earl of Chatham returned but whoever it might have been, at whatfrom the isle of Walcheren in September, ever æra of our history it might have hapand, most unaccountable desertion of duty! pened, I should' equally reprobate it as the right hon. gent. opposite, the prime unconstitutional. In the days when minister, the secretary of state for the Marlborough conquered and Godolphin war department, lord Liverpool, as I have planned,” had that illustrious commander, already said, never appear to have asked who extended the glory of his country, him for an account of the causes of his in defence of the liberties of Europe, reill success, or of the state of the forces | turning covered with laurels, attempted to which he left behind him.
step out of the official course to approach Lord Chatham, however, thinks it ne- bis Sovereign privately, to deliver a public cessary to compose, for his own defence narrative of his command, I should have and justification, a Narrative of his trans- said that it was a violation of the constiactions, and completes that Narrative on lution, which could not be permitted in