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Mr. Grey -
So it was resolved in the affirmative.
Mr. John Smyth
YEAS Mr. Sylvester Douglas
So it was resolved in the affirmative.
the Prince and his creditors, that it might be known what terms would be accepted, 266 if a certain security was given. The right hon. gentleman had intimated his intention to fill up the blank in the committee with the whole additional sum of 65,000l., and the revenue of the duchy of Cornwall. He certainly did not think the sum of 78,000l., a year too large for the purpose of liquidating the debt. But how was the right hon. gentleman to get at the revenue of the duchy of Cornwall, as he under stood that the present income of his Royal Highness was conveyed in trust for the benefit of his creditors? It was very unfortunate that the House should be called to impose a contingent burthen upon the public, without either the certainty of relieving the Prince of Wales, or of satisfying his just creditors.-He was now called upon to perform the last disagreeable task which had fallen to his share in the present discussions. He had not flattered the people, for he had voted for the larger sum; he had not flattered the Prince, for he had pretty plainly explained his sense of the manner in which that sum ought to be appropriated; nor would he, in what he had now to say, flatter that other party, whose immediate favour might be deemed still more important. He sincerely lamented that parliament had received no intimation from his majesty, that in any possible contingency he would take upon himself the charge of the debts. They might then have had the consolation to say that it was a transaction which had been equally unfortunate for all parties; that the public had suffered from the imposition of an additional burthen; that the Prince had suffered from a diminution of splendor; and that his majesty had suffered in common with his family and his people. If the bill went forward, he certainly should vote for the appropriation of the 78,000l., which would extinguish the debt in about nine years. The risk of the public in that case was certainly not great; but why, he asked, should the public be subjected in this instance to any contingent risk? He proposed to move, that in case of the demise of the Prince of Wales, the portion of his debts, which should then remain unpaid, should be defrayed out of the civil list. It might be said, would not so large a defalcation oblige parliament to grant an additional supply to the civil list? To this he would only answer, that it would then remain for parliament to consider whether the state
June 5. Mr. Pitt moved, "That this House will, on Monday next, resolve itself into a committee of the whole House, to consider of providing for the appropriation of an annual sum out of the consolidated fund, for the liquidation of such of the debts, now owing by his royal highness the Prince of Wales, as may remain unpaid, in the event of the decease of his Royal Highness."
Sir William Young said, that because he was attached to the royal family he did not wish the debts should be taken notice of at all. The mode of procedure adopted by the right hon. gentleman tended to degrade the Prince of Wales: it put him, as it were, in leading-strings, and held him out as unworthy of confidence.
Mr. Fox said, that he conceived no such construction could apply to any measures taken to regulate the expenditure of his Royal Highness. When the House voted for Mr. Burke's bill, they had acted in the same spirit. He then conceived that the elevated situation of his majesty gave a right to that House to lay him under the restrictions which they then imposed; because, proud as his situation was, he owned no greater station than that of servant of the people. Before, in the present instance, he consented to burthen the people, he wished to know, whether what he should grant would be effectual for the purpose for which it was demanded. As far as he understood, there was no compulsion upon the creditors to accept of the terms now offered. He did not wish to impose an additional burthen upon the public without some reasonable certainty that it would really be effectual. The whole of the business had been conducted unfortunately. There ought first to have taken place some arrangement between
the civil list was such as called upon them for an additional sum. If the civil list should be lightened of some of the burthens with which it was at present charged, it might then be adequate to undertake the debts; if not, it would be for parliament to consider, what supply it would be proper to grant. Some gentlemen had lamented that the Prince's debts should be mentioned at all in a parliamentary way, after the promise contained in the message of 1787. As to that promise, it might have been made without consideration; but the House in the address recited that promise the Prince knew that, and by accepting the terms, deliberately bound himself. He adverted to the argument that had been urged, that parliament were bound to provide for the debts as having approved of the marriage of his Royal Highness. How much more, then, his majesty, who was an immediate party in the contract? Was he to be supposed the only one who was ignorant of the embarrassments under which his son laboured? Gentlemen should recollect that the marriage was concluded without the knowledge of the House, and would, but for the casual severity of the season, have been consummated before parliament met. Nothing but absolute necessity could induce him to lay any additional burthen on the public. He was perfectly convinced, if his Royal Highness was assisted by the credit of his royal father, that with the annual appropriation of 78,000l., the creditors would be perfectly satisfied with their security.
Mr. Jekyll said, that after the heavy load of taxes already sustained by the people, he would not consent to add the weight of a single hair to their burthens, unless it could be made out that they had no other resource to look to. A temporary alienation of the duchy of Cornwall might produce a considerable sum. To vote 125,000l. for the establishment of the Prince, was not liberality but jus'tice, as every man who considered the relative value of money must be convinced that a less sum could not be sufficient. No reason had yet been given why a resource might not be found in the sale of the Crown lands. With respect to the revenues of the duchy of Cornwall from the birth of the Prince to his attaining the age of twenty one, he conceived that the commissioners to be appointed by the bill must have powers to inquire into debts due to the Prince, as well as into debts due by him, and that it would be their duty
to inquire into this matter, and sue for the recovery of the money if necessary. He wished to see royal resources applied to the relief of royal embarrassments.
The Attorney General expressed himself truly sensible how necessary it was for that House to consider the essential interests of the Prince of Wales: but it would not be to study his fundamental and permanent interests, if they did not at the same time also consult those of the public. Gentlemen seemed to forget that the law of the land would attach upon the income voted to the Prince, for the benefit of his creditors, unless the House interposed. All that they were now called upon to do, was, to provide for a judicious application of that money to the liquidation of the Prince's debts, which otherwise he might be compelled to apply in a more unpleasant and less effectual manner. He was, he owned, a little astonished to hear the learned gentleman talk of the temporary alienation of the duchy of Cornwall, without specifying the limitation of the time. This was loose and incorrect; if he meant the Prince's life estate, he certainly might legally dispose of it; but if the learned gentleman would consult the original charter, he would find that he could not legally dispose of the fee simple; it was simply the property of the Prince of Wales for the time being: a property held in succession, and no principle of justice could warrant the total alienation of it, but suppose it could be alienated for the payment of these debts, they then would be paid by the public, and out of a public fund; for as these revenues were in aid of the income of the Princes of Wales, that income must be increased if they were alienated. The same principle, applied to the sale of the Crown lands; the hereditary revenues of the crown were ne cessary for the support of regal dignity? and if the forests were capable of improvement, so as to yield a large revenue that might be made applicable to the support of the monarchy, it would make it unnecessary for the people to contribute an increase. He doubted whether the revenue of the duchy of Cornwall was to be accounted for during the minority of the Prince of Wales. In every instance, since the first grant of the duchy, the king had maintained the Prince of Wales out of the revenues, till he thought proper to give him the livery of the duchy, which he might do at any age. The revenues of Cornwall might be considered as for
[106 knights service, and regulated by the act | commissioners to be appointed by the bill, of Charles 2nd. Since the reign of Ed- ought to have the power of inquiring into ward 3d, no king had been held account- the Prince's right to the revenues of the able for these revenues during the mino- duchy of Cornwall, during his minority. If rity of the heir apparent. In law a guar- his right should appear, and if the money dian in soccage, as a father to a son in should be to be refunded by the public, private life, was held accountable; but a the difference would be, that of the prince's guardian in chivalry was by no means ac- being solvent or insolvent. In voting countable, nor ever had been held so. If 125,000l. a year for the Prince's estabthe revenue, during the period of the lishment, were not gentlemen conscious Prince's minority, was the property of the that they were voting 25,000l. a year for Prince, it was the property of his creditors. the liquidation of debts while they profesIf the money had been applied to the ge- sed to be doing no such thing? To vote neral purposes of the civil list, it had been more than 100,000l. a year, was laying applied to the public service, and the down the prodigal principle, that every public, not the king, must refund. He future Prince of Wales was to have an saw no benefit that would arise from charg- equal income with that now voted. The ing the contigent burthen upon the civil minister who proposed it was not consistlist in the first instance; but if necessary ent with himself; for he had formerly the law would decide; the king was thought 60,000l. not only sufficient but amenable to the law, and though he might ample. Would any man contend that the not be sued by as pressing means as his Prince's marriage called for an addition to subjects, yet might debts due by him be his income of more than double? That the as effectually recovered as from any indi- Princess of Wales, for whom, in case of vidual; and the trial of a single case would the death of the Prince, 50,000l. was determine the whole. Let the Prince of thought sufficient to maintain an entire esWales therefore, if he pleased try; but tablishment, would occasion an increase his Royal Highness would certainly then of expense to an existing establishment of bear in mind what he had already received 65,000l. a year? He thought the Prince's from his royal father from his infancy. debts ought to be provided for in the first instance; but he should oppose taking any thing from the sinking fund, immediately or contingently, for that purpose, till he had taken the sense of the House upon a plan he meant to suggest. The minister would have consulted both the king's honour and his own, if when the marriage was proposed, he had said that he would not bring down a message calling upon the House for money, unless his majesty would bear a part of the burthen. It was the duty of ministers to have done this in the first instance, but as they had not done so, it became the duty of parliament. If the worst of Jacobins had devised a plan for disgracing the Prince of Wales, and dishonouring the crown, it would have been such a plan as ministers had brought for ward. Were the expenses incurred by the Prince so very unpardonable? His majesty possessed many great and good qualities; but on the subject of expense, or of keeping promises with the public would the Prince suffer by comparison with his majesty. When an establishment for the Prince of Wales was first proposed, the duke of Portland and his colleagues in office, were of opinion that it ought to be 100,0007. His majesty thought otherwise, and it was settled at 50,000l. He had soon after
Mr. Sheridan said, that as he found it impossible for him to vote a shilling, nay the weight of a hair, of the public money, for the payment of the Prince's debts, he must make his stand against that proposal; at the same time, he could not agree with the plans suggested by his learned friend, for the sale of Cornwall, or the forest lands. He had no objection to the sale of the duchy of Cornwall, but he could not agree to have all the money arising from such sale applied to pay the Prince's debts. The duke of York had a contingent property, and all subsequent princes would be injured: but if the duchy was sold, and an equivalent to the Prince's life estate only applied, he thought the sale would be attended with many advantages. The greatest part of the revenues were swallowed up in the collection; it answered the purposes of jobbing and court influence. The duchy though nominally of Cornwall, was ridiculously split and dispersed; we had Cornwall in Coventry, in Lambeth, and in Westminster; and, as a property, it could not possibly be less beneficial or productive in any other shape or figure. The plan which he should propose would be of a different nature. He would not wish to press on the civil list. The
opportunities of seeing the Prince's embarrassments from the narrowness of his income, and the feelings to which those embarrassments gave rise. Although holding no official situation about his Royal Highness, the Prince honoured him with his confidence, and often asked his advice, chiefly from the knowledge of his fixed determination to accept of no obligation of any kind whatever. It was not his custom to answer calumnies, many of which he had suffered to pass unnoticed; but he now declared, in the face of the House and of the country, that he never received from the Prince of Wales so much as the present of a horse or a picture. Lately, he had seen his Royal Highness but seldom, from circumstances, which, although it had always been his opinion that a prince of Wales ought to adopt no party in politics, it was unnecessary to explain; but on that very account he was the more desirous of doing justice to the Prince, especially, when he saw a disposition to place every part of his conduct in the most odious point of view. Let gentlemen recollect, what was paid for the Prince in 1787. It was 160,000l., of this 60,000l. was for Carlton House, and 80,000l. more was voted to complete the building. A suspicion arose, that this money was not applied to the purpose for which it was voted; but upon investigation by a committee, it was found to be faithfully applied. Take all the money he had got from the date of his first establishment to the present day, and it would be found not to exceed 75,000l. a year. In 1787, a pledge was given to the House, that no more debts should be contracted. By that pledge, the Prince was bound as much as if he had given it knowingly and voluntarily. To attempt any explanation of it now would be unworthy of his honour, as if he had suffered it to be wrung from him, with a view of afterwards pleading that it was against his better judgment, in order to get rid of it. He then advised the Prince not to make any such promise, because it was not to be expected that he could himself enforce the detail of a system of economy; and although he had men of honour and abilities about him, he was totally unprovided with men of business, adequate to such a task. The Prince said he could not give such a pledge, and agree to take back his establishment. He (Mr. S.) drew up a plan of retrenchment, which was approved of by the Prince, and after
wards by his majesty; and the Prince told him, that the promise was not to be insisted upon. In the king's message, however, the promise was inserted; by whose advice he knew not. He heard it read with surprise, and being asked next day by the Prince to contradict it in his place, he inquired whether the Prince had seen the Message before it was brought down. Being told that it had been read to him, but that he did not understand it as containing a promise, he declined contradicting it, and told the Prince that he must abide by it, in whatever way it might have been obtained. By the plan then settled, ministers had a check upon the Prince's expenditure, which they never exerted, nor enforced adherence to the plan. In so far, ministers, and not the Prince, were to blame. In the expenditure upon Carlton House, they were still more blameable, for with complete authority they had never interposed to stop the most extravagant and useless waste of money. By the bill, the House was declared a public work, and the money expended upon it to be put out of the power of the Prince's creditors; the public ought, then, to pay for it. While ministers never interfered to check expenses, of which they could not pretend ignorance, the prince had recourse to means for relieving himself from his embarrassments, which ultimately tended to increase them. It was attempted to raise a loan for him in foreign countries, a measure which he thought unconstitutional, and put a stop to: and after a consulta tion with lord Loughborough, all the bonds were burnt, although with a considerable loss to the Prince. After that, another plan of retrenchment was proposed, upon which he had frequent consultations with lord Thurlow, who gave the Prince fair, open, and manly advice. That learned lord told the Prince, that after the promise he had made, he must not think of applying to parliament; that he must avoid being of any party in politics, but above all, exposing himself to the suspicion of being influenced in political opinion by his embarrassments; that the only course he could pursue with honour was, to retire from public life for a time, and appropriate the greater part of his income to the liquidation of his debts. This plan was agreed upon in the autumn of 1792. Why, it might be asked, was it not carried into effect? About that period, his Royal Highness began to receive
unsolicited advice from another quarter. He was told by lord Loughboroguh, both in words and in writing, that the plan savoured too much of the advice given to M. Egalité, and he could guess from what quarter it came. These plans were soon after given up. By the plan now proposed, the Prince had not the grace of suggesting either the retrenchments, or the checks upon his future conduct. His past misconduct was exhibited in the harshest point of view; he was set in a gilded pillory; sent to do public penance in an embroidered sheet. He was left in possession of too much income to exempt him from envy, and too little to exempt him from scorn. To pay the debts, something ought to be given by the king. There were debts due to honest tradesmen, to which no exception could be taken. There were on the establishment gentlemen of honour, whose salaries were fourteen quarters in arrear; and to some of them it must be a great inconvenience not to be paid. The debts ought therefore to be divided into two parts, and those of the descriptions above-mentioned discharged immediately. Carlton House being made the property of the public for ever, the public ought to pay the expense of rebuilding it. This would reduce the debts to 500,000l. To pay the interest of this at 5 per cent. would require 25,000Z. For this he did not mean to apply to the civil list, which might now be almost considered as identified with the consolidated fund. In the last reign, the sum appropriated to the privy purse was 36,000l. a year. In the beginning of the present, it was 48,000l. In 1777, when the debts of the civil list were paid and 100,000l. a year added to it, the privy purse was made 60,000l., and the queen received 50,000l. for her establishment, all their majesties houses and villas were now finished, and they had no expenses to incur in the way of paraphernalia. The first and most natural feeling of a parent would be, to make some sacrifice to retrieve the imprudence of a son. He should therefore expect 10,000l. a year from his majesty's privy purse, and 5,000l. a year from the queen's establishment; for the remaining 10,000l. a year, he would look to those places and sinecures, which neither added dignity to the crown, nor were calculated to afford it support. He would just instance the place of teller of the exchequer, which produced between 18 and 20,000l. a year.
For the sinking fund he would not take away any gentleman's sinecure place, but appoint a committee as trustees, in whom might be placed the revenues of useless offices, which, after the death of the present holders, and as they fell, should be gradually applied to extinguish the principal. When they should be all paid off, it would be of service to our posterity, who would look back with exultation and gratitude for our arrangement, and with wonder that such places ever existed. For his part, he was a staunch friend to the British constitution, but was no friend to its abuses. There was one class who loved the constitution, but did not love its abuses; a second class loved it with all its abuses; and there was a third class -a large interested party, amongst which he placed his majesty's ministers, who loved it for nothing else but its abuses. But let that House, the best part of the constitution, consider its own honour and character; let all parties, as well those who were gorged with sinecure offices, as those who had none, have a contest who shall be most eager to destroy them. Let us, by such a measure as he now called for, build the ease and dignity of the Prince on the ruins of idleness and corruption, and not upon the toil of the industrious poor, who may think their loaf decreased by the payment of his incumbrances. He concluded by moving an amendment, by inserting, after the words "consolidated fund," these words, "provided it shall appear to this House, upon due investigation of the subject, that the means of paying the said annuity, or part thereof, or of his Royal Highnes's debts, cannot be derived either from his majesty's civil list, or from the suppression of sinecure offices and useless places now paid by the public."
Mr. Secretary Dundas said, the hon. gentleman had informed the House, that in 1787, when the debts of his Royal Highness were paid off, the promise which had been given to the House did not, in point of fact, come from the Prince, but had been given by ministers against his consent. To this positive assertion he had but one short answer to make-the message was read over to his Royal Highness before it was delivered in parliament, and no objection was stated to it. He was sure it would not be said that his Royal Highness was unacquainted with the force of the English language, and therefore it was to him a matter of great surprise that