Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

his Royal Highness should be ignorant of its contents. The object which ministers had in contemplation was, to effect the discharge of the Prince's debts with as little burden and risk as possible to the public. The plan proposed, in his opinion, attained this end. According to the mode suggested by the chancellor of the exchequer, the public were only responsible contingently upon the Prince's demise; of course, some degree of risk was run by the public; but he wished the House to compare the risk on the one hand with the advantage on the other. From the circumstance of the public guaranteeing the payment of the debts in case of his Royal Highness's death, the creditors had been induced to accede to this plan of payment: this was a considerable point gained, and the risk was certainly small. But instead of having the public security, the hon. gentleman wished to substitute that of the civil list. Now the civil list was never considered as good security as the public. But if at present the public did not approve of the civil list as a security, how much less so must they consider it, if the civil list was voted annually? This was a proposition that went so far beyond even the wildest plan of reform, that he could not suppose the hon. gentleman was serious. The civil list was granted to the crown, in lieu of the landed property it formerly possessed; and this change was considered as a favourable one to the constitution. But the House would recollect, that the sum voted for the civil list was distributed under various heads of service, and.under the control of different officers; and he would venture to assert, that the annual amount of the civil list was not more than adequate to the purposes to which it was applied. But it had been asserted that his majesty ought to contribute something to the payment of the Prince's debts. He thought the hon. gentleman had not considered this point with his usual accuracy, or he would never have pressed this argument, for it was clear that his majesty was less called upon to provide for his eldest son than any other part of his family, because the Prince was considered, in some degree, as the property of the public. Why should his majesty be called upon to discharge any of those incumbrances which he could not prevent being contracted? With respect to taking a part of the queen's private purse to pay the Prince's debt, he would not appeal to the judgment of the House to

reject the proposal, he would appeal only to their taste; it was a kind of proposi tion which could not properly be argued. Her majesty had 50,000l. a year allowed her for her own expenses and for those of the princesses, and yet 5,000l. was to be picked out of her majesty's private purse for a purpose, and in what manner the hon. gentleman could best suggest. As to the other part of the hon. gentleman's plan, when he talked of converting all useless offices to the purpose of defraying the Prince's debts, and called that not taking it out of the pockets of the public, he professed he could not understand how it was so. If these were places of no use, abolish them; but what then? Did not the money so saved revert to the public purse? and was it not as much taking money from the pockets of the public otherwise to apply it, as any other mode could be? As to the other parts of the hon. gentleman's speech, he thought them of such a nature as best to be passed over in silence; he should not therefore attempt to reply to them.

Mr. Bankes said, he wished to give a direct negative to the original motion, but could not agree in the amendment. He would vote, as he had formerly done, against so large an income being given to the Prince. He thought the creditors of the present day were very different from the creditors of 1787; then they were ignorant of the Prince's situation, but after the Message delivered to parliament, those who gave him credit ought to take the risk.

Mr. Fox said, he could not agree to the amendment moved by his hon. friend, He thought with the right hon. secretary, that it was better to give the civil list to the king for life, than annually. But he could not agree with him, that the king should not come forward upon this occasion, because the debts were contracted without his knowledge, and out of the power of his control. For if this reason applied to the king, it surely more forcibly applied to the public. The Prince ought not to be accused of breach of promise. He did not believe that he had got into this dilemma intentionally; but ministers were much to blame for the bad advice they had given both to his majesty and to the Prince. It must always be an unpleasant thing to lay new burthens on the people for the royal family. What had happened in a former reign had shown the impolicy of such steps; and they

must be particularly obnoxious at present. ! If the king had had honest ministers about him, they would have advised him to have come forward. He thought the new advisers of the Prince had not increased his popularity; and he believed, that his own wish and inclination three years ago was, to have retrenched his expenses, in order to get into some probable train of paying his debts: but it was suspected; and he, for one, was now certain of it, that very different advice had been given to him; and that the example of M. Egalité was held out as a warning, that, to take any steps such as were proposed, would be dangerous to the cause of monarchy. He thought his hon. friend had done well in proposing that the civil list should contribute towards the payment of the debts.

[blocks in formation]
[ocr errors]

}

148

NOES {Mr. Whitbread

- .

Mr. Sheridan then moved, "That a proposition having been made to this House, in consequence of a Message from his Majesty, for a further increase of income to his royal highness the Prince of Wales, this House think it their duty to consider how far that object may be obtained, without any additional burthen to the public, by the reduction of useless places and unnecessary expenses." Mr. Pitt thereupon moved, "That the House do now adjourn." Upon which the House divided:

[VOL. XXXII.]

93

[blocks in formation]

June 8. The House having resolved itself into a committee on the Prince of Wales's debts, Mr. Pitt moved, “That provision be made for the appropriation of an annual sum of 65,000l. out of the consolidated fund, towards the liquidation of such part of the debts now owing by the Prince of Wales, as may remain unpaid, in the event of the decease of his Royal Highness." The resolution being agreed to, Mr. Pitt next moved, "That it be an instruction to the committee of the whole House, to whom the bill for enabling his majesty to settle an annuity on his Royal Highness the Prince of Wales, during the life of his majesty, and of the life of his said Royal Highness; for making provision for the payment of any debts that may be due from his Royal Highness, out of his revenues: for preventing the contracting of the like debts in future; and for regulating the mode of expenditure of the said revenues, is committed, That they have power to make provision in the said bill pursuant to the said resolution."

General Smith said, that he was convinced the Prince of Wales was as fairly entitled to the profits of the duchy of Cornwall, as any other minor would be to the income of his estate in similar circumstances. He was of opinion, that a clause ought to be inserted in the bill, to enable the commissioners to inquire also into the claims of his Royal Highness, and that the sums found owing to him, should be placed opposite to his debts. He believed, that the revenues of Cornwall, during the minority of the Prince would nearly cover the whole of the Prince's debts, or at least be found to come within 100,000l. of their amount.

Mr. Lambton was of opinion that there ought to be a special clause inserted in the act, appointing commissioners to examine the Prince's accounts, and state the sums that he would be entitled to, during his minority, out of the revenues of the duchy of Cornwall.

Sir M. W. Ridley said, that the revenue of the duchy during the minority must have been applied either to the privy purse, or to the other purposes of the civil list. In either case, it was a debt to the

[I]

Prince from his majesty, or from the public. As a debt due to him it belonged undoubtedly to his creditors. He thought it was a claim which well deserved to be inquired into, as the result might tend to rescue the Prince from the odium artfully attempted to be thrown upon him on account of the extent of his debts.

Mr. Pitt did not conceive the duchy connected in any manner with the question before the House. That House had already discharged the incumbrances of the civil list three times. In 1787, they had discharged the Prince's debts, besides voting a sum towards finishing Carlton House. If parliament, on those occasions, had conceived that the Prince was entitled

"That it be an instruction to the said committee, that they have power to make provision in the said bill, for appropriating a certain part of his majesty's civil list revenues towards the liquidation of the debts of his Royal Highness the Prince of Wales, in case of the event of the death of his Royal Highness before the demise of the crown." On this the House divided:

Mr. Pitt said, that the debts of the royal dukes were now put into such a state of liquidation, that their creditors would not be likely to come upon the heir apparent.

The Committee divided: Yeas, 93; Noes, 68. The Resolutions of the Committee being reported, it was ordered, on the motion of Mr. Anstruther, "That it be an instruction to the said committee, that they have power to make provision in the said bill, for appropriating a certain yearly sum out of the revenues arising from the duchy of Cornwall, towards the liquidation of the debts of his said Royal Highness, during such term as his majesty, or as his Royal Highness, may continue to be interested in the revenues of the said duchy." Mr. Fox then moved,

[merged small][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][merged small][merged small]

96

The order of the day was then read for going into a Committee on the Prince of Wales's Annuity Bill. The question being put, That the Speaker do now leave the Chair,

to the revenues of the duchy during his minority, was it to be supposed that they would not have resorted to that, as a fund for the discharge of the incumbrances he had just enumerated?

Mr. Sumner suggested the possibility of the creditors of the dukes of York and Clarence making a claim upon the Prince for the sum for which his Royal Highness was joint security.

Mr. For said, that if he voted for the

Mr. Sheridan said, that this was a material circumstance. The debts of the dukes of York and Clarence, it had been said, were in a train of liquidation, and therefore were not included in the account of the Prince's debts. But though they were not included in the account, the House did not mean to extinguish the security which the creditors of their Royal High-Speaker's leaving the chair, he ought to nesses possessed; and, besides, it ought state the ground upon which he did so ; to be remembered, that the death of either for he confessed there were doubts and of the dukes was not an improbable event. difficulties in this business. Much of this In that case, the creditors would certainly bill, he confessed, he considered as procome on the Prince. per. He thought that making up the income of the Prince 125,000l. a year, was proper; he thought it becoming the dignity and the wisdom of parliament. The provision for preventing his Royal Highness from incurring any debt in future, had also his complete approbation. But what appeared to him objectionable was, that by this bill they gave to his Royal Highness that which they did not give him the management of. The whole matter, he feared, would be under the management of the minister. It was placing the Prince in a state of dependance on the king's treasury, which was, in other words, subjecting him to the power of the minister. He was dissatisfied with regard to the regulation respecting Carlton-house. The property there was added to the debts of the Prince. To whom should the furniture there be

Mr. Whitbread opposed the motion. He said, that by the provisions which this bill contained, ministers proposed to degrade and disgrace the Prince under the pretence of providing for his dignity and splendor.

Mr. Lambton did not think his Royal Highness disgraced or degraded. He had reason to know that the Prince entirely assented to the principle of the bill, and approved generally of the restrictions; as without them, he might be again exposed to the same inconveniences.

long? To the Prince who had paid for it, certainly. And yet they were to be made heir looms: so that parliament might say to the Prince-"You have furnished Carlton-house more expensively than you ought to have done, but we shall have it." This was a little unfair with regard to the Prince: it was very unfair with regard to the creditors; because the furniture, if this provision was not in the bill, would be moveable assets, subject to the pay ment of the debts; and perhaps this would operate to the prejudice of those very creditors who had provided this furniture. Now, if he voted for the Speaker leaving the chair, it must be under an understanding that these difficulties should be removed. As to the duchy of Cornwall, he was exceedingly anxious that it should be wholly sold. He confessed there would be some difficulty in ascertaining precisely the value of the interest which his Royal Highness had in that duchy, because it was not a life estate that he had in it, it was only while he continued Prince of Wales; but in any event, the sale would produce more than it would produce to his Royal Highness in its present state. He thought it would produce 600,000l. The sum to be appropriated out of that for his debts, instead of 13,000l. a year, would amount to 30,000. If this was called bargaining with the Prince, and therefore unworthy of the House of Commons, he should answer, that it was a perfectly constitutional proceeding, and that this country never had better security for its liberty than when it made these kind of bargains with its Princes. He should wish that something of this kind should be moved, and he had rather that any other person should move it than himself. If no other person did move it, perhaps he might; this, however, he did not pledge himself to do.

jurious to himself. His honour was also the honour of the nation. He hoped his Royal Highness was incapable of agreeing to such shameful restrictions, and consenting to such indignities as were offered to him in this bill. If he did agree to them, he could only say it reminded him of a passage in the work of a great poet"Is such a man fit to reign?" nor should he be sorry, in such a case, to add the rest of the passage. The bill was altogether an heterogeneous mass, a variegated tissue, a hodge-podge of absurdity.

Mr. Sheridan thought himself bound to negative the motion, because no an. swer had been given to the question, whether the Prince's debts could be paid by any other means than that of raising money on the people of this country? He was convinced they might do themselves credit, do the king credit, and the Prince of Wales credit, if they would consent to sell the duchy of Cornwall, and also the Crown lands. An hon. friend of his had said, that the Prince agreed to these restrictions. But whatever the Prince might choose to do, that House should take care that he did not agree to any thing in

The question being put, that the speaker do now leave the chair, the House divided:

[blocks in formation]

157

NOES {Mr. Whitbread

36

The House having resolved itself into the committee, Mr. Anstruther moved, "That the blank in the clause for granting his Royal Highness an additional allowance, be filled up with the words, 65,000l." Mr. Wilberforce moved, "That instead of 65,000l. the sum of 40,000l. be inserted."

The Speaker said, he had always been for the larger sum, because he thought it barely adequate to the situation in which the Prince was placed, and not equal to what his grandfather had enjoyed, when the difference of expense between the two periods was taken into consideration. He lamented the circumstance of his Royal Highness's incumbrances, but he equally differed with those who wished to swell the burthen which the public was to sustain, and those who wished not to deduct any part of the income for the payment of debts. After the gracious communication which the House had recently received from his Royal Highness, he thought they had every reason to place a reliance on an avowal that must give them so much satisfaction-a communication equally brilliant and constitutional upon the part of his Royal Highness, and particularly to be admired when the principle upon which came to them was considered, namely, the principle that the public opinion in this country must always operate on the sentiments of persons even the most exalted in birth and situation, and would always have its due weight.

The committee divided: For the larger sum, 141; For the smaller 38.

|

June 15. The bill being reported, general Smith moved a clause, " directing the commissioners to institute suits for trying the right of his Royal Highness to the rents, issues, and profits of the duchy of Cornwall, which accrued due between the time of his birth and his attaining the age of twenty-one years, and for obtaining an account of such rents, issues, and profits, and for compelling the payment of the balance of such account."

The Attorney General began with admitting, that he had not been quite accurate in the statement which he had formerly given on the subject. The duchy of Cornwall was a tenure neither held by knights service, nor by soccage; it was of a nature so peculiar, as to be difficult for him to describe. The exact nature and extent of this species of estate was not legally defined. He therefore could but speak on general principles, and those principles he must derive from the usages which were made under former princes in the disposition of this estate. From hence, seeing that it was neither a tenure in knights service, nor a tenure in soccage, and this he proved from the reigns of Edward 3rd Henry 7th, and Charles 1st, when this right was called into debate, he would define it as nothing else than as a fund appropriated by the original grant of parliament for the maintenance of the Prince of Wales-who had very properly been represented as "major à die nativitatis. In support of this opinion, he went through the different cases which had been brought forward. The question of the right of the Prince he confessed to be exceedingly difficult. If this was a fund for the support of the Prince of Wales from the period of his birth, the king, as his natural guardian, had the disposal of that fund during his minority. The difficulty was increased by the long period which had intervened since that minority, which would render any claim on the part of the Prince extremely doubtful in the decision, if it was at all proper to be brought forward.

Mr. Pitt said, that if there existed any claim, it was a claim upon the public. The revenues of the duchy of Cornwall had been applied in aid of the civil-list; as such, they had been recognized by parliament, by whom the debts of that civil-list had been more than once paid. But it was next to be considered, how far, in point of substantial justice, any thing was due from the public to the Prince of

Wales. If this was a fund for the sup port of the state and dignity of the Prince of Wales, it was certainly intended that the appropriation of it should prevent any expense from falling either upon the civil list, or the public. The public would then have a right to set off against the amount of the income, during the minority, any expense which might have been incurred on account of his Royal Highness. This amounted to upwards of 300,000l. He conceived the present discussion could have no other effect than that of stirring a difficult and abstruse question, without any chance of practical benefit either to the Prince or the public. Neither the Prince himself, his creditors, nor parliament, had proceeded upon a supposition of any such sum being due to him.

Mr. Fox said, he saw the business in a very different light; and even if the assumptions of the right hon. gentleman were right, he thought a very opposite conclusion was to be drawn from them. What the attorney-general had said, had only confirmed him in his former opinion upon the subject. He had stated, that this was a fund granted for the support of the state and dignity of the Prince of Wales; but this was not the only fund conceived to be necessary, since afterwards the principality of Wales and the earldom of Chester, were granted for the same purpose. He conceived what had been urged, that the expense would fall upon the public, to be a most unseemly argument. Natural feeling suggested that the king, like every other father, ought to be chargeable with the educa tion of his own son; and because parlia ment had paid a debt of the civil-list, to the amount of 600,000l. it was not to be inferred, though it might probably have been the case, that they would, with the same facility, have paid a debt of 800,0007. He conceived it to be of the utmost importance to ascertain what was due to the Prince, at a moment when they were complaining of his debts, and talking of the liberality which they had shown in their conduct towards him.

The Solicitor General said, that the House had formerly acted upon the consideration of his majesty's applying the revenues of the duchy of Cornwall to the civil list; nor could he think the Prince had any interest in the present motion. The Prince's claim, if he had any, ought to be left to a court of law-a remedy to

« ZurückWeiter »