Imágenes de página

strongest inducements to abandon the interests of their constituents, and that a mortal blow would thus be given to the popular branch of the constitution. Ilow could the noble duke reconcile his present conduct with these senti. ments? The noble lord on the other side (Mulgrave) had said that he and his friends had not set up the cry of " no popery,” and that the dissolution was the consequence of a personal attack on the king. He desired that the speech respecting the di solution should be read (this was accordingly read by the clerk at the table). He now appealed to the honour of the house, to the English language, and to common sense, whether the cry of no popery did not run through the whole speech, and whether, as appeared from that, the pretended danger to the church, and not the explanation of ministers, was not the alleged cause of the dissolution ? The late ministers had been grossly calum.' niated ; they had been accused of disrespect to their sovereign, whom no man more deeply revered than he did, and, of an attempt to deceive him. Under these circumstances, they had requested permission to state the facts as they really were, not for the purpose of discussion, but merely to bring before Parliament the true state of the case, and to clear themselves from a most foul and groundless ca-" lumny. The noble lord said, that they had abandoned a measure which they had stated to be indispensable to the security of Ireland. But there was surely some difference between what was highly expedient, and what was cssentially necessary. They had consented to give up the measure for the present, in deference to the frelings of his majesty, being convinced, however, of its expediency, and reserving the liberty of submitting to the king, for his decision, the same question, it it should appear to them, at a future period, to be absolutely necessary. But could this proceeding bethe ground for dissolving the Parliament ? Were parliaments then to suffer for the conduct of ministers? What had the late House of Cominons done that it should be lis:olved ? In 1784, the house had passed a micasure which w is considered as obnoxious; but what had the late Ilouse of Commons done? It had certainly not Tassed the catholic bill, though the ministérs had proposed it. U; on what principle then was it charged with the ics of ministers? The previous dissolution, in October, hid tahen place when Parliament was not sitting, and wben Do public business was interrupted. It was a material ob


ject to have greater unanimity in times of great danger and difficulty, and the dissolution answered that purpose. llow, then, could the cases, he said, be parallel ? Were pariiaments then to be dissolved, always, whenever the king thought proper to change his ministers?. If this was the case, if the threats of secretaries of state were to be held out in ierrorem, and if parliaments were to suffer for the conduct of ministers, it was much to be feared that the consequences to the constitution would be of the most alarming nature. lle was afraid that it would be thought the crown, from the greatness of the expenditure, and the consequent increase of offices, had too much influence in the choosing of the inembers, and that the constitution would be considered as degenerating fast into an absolute monarchy. Ile dreaded lest the House of Commons might be placed in a situation where the represent tives would find the strongest temptations to abandon the cause of their constituents, and become little better than appendages to the ministers of the crown. - He declared his firm conviction of the truth of chris. tianity, and of its benignant and civilizing influence, although it bad often been wrested to the worst of purposes. Of the melancholy effects of stirring up religious clamours, history afforded abundant instances. ivas it, then, amidst the prevalence of a fanatical and unfounded cry, that parliament ought to have been dissolved ? Ought advantages to fl ve been taken of the agitations produced by an appeal to the worst and most violent passio:is of a misgnided people: lle did not observe his noble and learned friend, the chief justice of the king's bench, in his place. But if he were in the house, he would have appealed to him, whether it was not the practice in his court to put off the hearing of a common cause, when the public mind was strongly agitated about the circumstances. How much more, then, was it necessary to have allowed the passions of the people to cool, before they should be called on to decide on a measure of this magoitude ?

There was a very marked distinction between the dissolution of 17 and the last one. The last House of Commons had done no one act that could call for it-it had not even expressed any bad opinions of the present ministers; except, indeed, its having passed a resolution against granding offices in reversion, oroffices for life that had been usually held during pleasure, could be considered as such. His


noble friend, (Holland) had told a ludicrous story about a method for having a row. He recollected another story that was something in point. A person wishing to have a quarrel came up to another who was standing with his back to the fire and feeling very comfortable, and said, “ You lie, Sir.” 46 Truly,” said the other," I did not speak.”_“ No matter," said the quarrelling gentleman, “ You lie, Sir."So the last Parliament stood with its back to the fire; it did nothing of. -fensive, and yet it was dissolved. But if Parliaments were to look with apprehension to ministers, instead of ministers baving a proper respect to Parliaments, then the House of Coinmons was destroyed, and there was an end of the constitution. If when the people were so much burthened with taxes which they cheerfully paid whe'i convinced that the public service required them, if in these circumstances they should be compelled to believe that they had no security in their representative, what would be the consequences ? Convinced that they had no safeguard against the exactions of ministers, no security for the proper application of the revenue, they would begin to think that their burthens were heavier than the public service required, and having no remedy for the grievance, they might be apt to become desperate. This was the origin of revolutions, and was a state of things which ought to be carefully avoided. It was ridiculous and anconstitutional to set the ad. dresses of corporations and meetings against the opinion of the House of Commons, which was the proper organ to convey the sense of the people to ibe crown. If these addresses were favourable, then they were held up as the sense of the people--if unfavourable, they were said to be seditious, and trials for such addresses might be recollected. If the ad. dresses were not favourable, then the grapes were sour, and they could not eat them. He concluded by declaring his assent to the amendment.

Earl Grosvenor obscrved, that the speech, instead of being read at the cockpit as usual, was now read at private meetings, so that noble lords could not be prepared, and therefore he thought it might not be improper to adjourn for 24 hours, in order to have ime to consider the speech. Ile adverted to the conduct of the ministers since they came into power. Their first act was to have recourse to the assistance of Lord Melville, notwithstanding the resolution on the journals of the House of Commons. But that and · other things dwindled almost to nothing in comparison

with the unconstitutional act of dissolving the Parliament. The present momentous crisis required a firm, an able, and an efficient ininistry. Whether the present ministers came under that description, Parliament must determine. But he thought they afforded but an unfavourable specimen of their future conduct, by shrinking from the responsibilty of having advised the dismissal of the late ministers. It was a constitutional maxim, founded in wisdom, that, the king could do no wrong ; for if he could, what scenes of bloodshed must ensue before he could be brought to justice? The Parliament, he said, had done nothing that could rem quire a dissolution. The reason alleged for it was, the ex. pediency of taking the sen e of the people. That, he contended, was in favour of the late minis ers, and instanced the great county of York. His lordship then adverted to the accusations against the late ministers, for opposing the go. vernment. One would think, he observed, on hearing these, that this was some despotic government. The king had his prerogative, but the Houses of Lords and Commons had their prerogative also ; and there seldom had been an occasion on which it was more requisite for them to exercise it than the present.

Lord Sidmouth then rose, and observed, that if he had hopes before that unanimity would prevail on this occasion, he must now own he was afraid he was disappointed. But he did feel that unanimity was so important in the interests of the country in the present situation of affairs, that unless the address expressed opinions in which he could not con. cur, or contained unfounded accusations, he should teel himself bound in duty to support it. But if the noble lords on his right hand (he spoke from the cross benches) really thought that the dissolution of the last Parliament was ill advised he perfectly agreed that this was the most proper occasion for them to express that opinion. He would go further ; something had been said here, and a great deal out of doors, about the impropriety of giving notice, that a division would certainly take place on the address. That clainour he had no hesitation to say was unfounded. If it had been stated that amendments were to be proposed in certain passages before the speech was fully determined on, and betore the precise nature of it could be known, that indeed would have been indecent. But having in contemplation such an amendment as this, whey might safely say before hand that a division would certainly take place, because they might be assured that ministers would not censure their own act. He thought it due to thie noble, lords, therefore, to state the impression made on his mind by this circumstance. He again stated, that he most strongly felt the necessity of unanimity. Their lordships were now in a different situation from what they were before, when it was raatter of com. plaint, that an abstract proposition was brought forward, the effect of which, if assented to, would have been to annul the prerogative of the king in the choice of his ministers. The fact of the advice had been there assumed, and censure was to proceed upon that. But the dissolution was an act of government, and the fact of the advice was cer, tain. The only question, therefore, was, whether it was blameable? He had before stated bis deep regret at the change of the ministry, and that regret he still retained ; but that having been unavoidable, he thought the dissolu.. tion, in the state of parties, to be unavoidable also, and therefore warrantable and justifiable. The could not, therefore, say with the amendment, that the ministers were guilty of manifest misconduct in this particular

Much had been sail about the agitations which had been prorluced in the country. He trusted he need not state

that he would join in no party cry, that had deception -- and intolerance for its object. When he came into admi.'

nistration, in 1801, under circumstances not dissimilar, he had raised no cry about the church being in danger. Parliament was not dissolved till the year after, and not a · word was said about danger to the church. The fact was, that the late events had peculiarly interested the feelings of the people. If the cry was raised for the purpose of making a stalking horse of the danger to the church, it was undoubtedly censurable. But that had been disclaimed, and he hoped, that the negation was well founded. But much of the cry arose from an attachment to the established church, and an opinion that no further concessions ought to be made. Wberever that mouive prevailed, he respected the cry, and he thought that it had afforded additional security to the established church, which, notwithstanding what a noble lord (Holland) had said, he thought intimately connected with the constitution.

There was no distinction in principle, he said, between the dissolutions of April and October. As to the inconvenience to the public business, the same thing had taken place in 1781, and as hie had concurred in that, he could


« AnteriorContinuar »