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pence in the present instance is unquestionably great; and how is it attempted to be justified?' We are told that the different circumstances occasioning it were unforeseen. This, indeed, if

any, is the only excuse which can be made: but mark the inconsistency, observe the application of this excuse to the manner in which the subject has been treated this evening. We are told that barracks were erected, and expence incurred upon the spur of the occasion. This is the excuse; but not satisfied with this, the right honourable gentleman, in the same breath, enters into an elaborate justification of the propriety of keeping them up as a permanent source of expence. He informs us, that necessity produced all this of a sudden, and at the same time assures us that it has been long a matter of experience, that the military could not be properly accommodated in

any

other manner. The plan has avowedly been long in agitation, but ministers have never thought proper, as they ought to have done, to bring it regularly before this House. They have, on the contrary, incurred all the expence, and gone on in the prosecution of an extensive system, not only without the authority, but in absolute defiance of parliament. When I talk of erecting barracks on a system, the right honourable gentleman may perhaps not chuse to understand me. I remember a dispute I had with him upon the laws of nations. Those he treated with

very little ceremony, and seemed to be of a similar opinion with Citizen Genet, who thought that without any great loss, they might all be thrown into the sea. If this system is to be defended, and defended in such a manner as I have heard this night, we may dispose in the same manner of all the laws of England. We may, when we please, throw into the sea, the commentaries of Mr. Justice Blackstone, and the brilliant speeches on this subject delivered by the late Lord Chatham. We are triumphantly told, that our ancestors gave their occasional consent to such a measure. What! can the right honourable gentleman say, there is any resemblance between small cantonments partially taking place, and the whole army of this country being constantly secluded from the rest of the inhabitants, and shut up in permanent barracks? I certainly do not ask much upon the present occasion, when I state it as my opinion, that before we introduce innovations contrary to the avowed doctrines of Mr. Justice Blackstone and other constitutional writers, parliament ought to be consulted, ought to have time for deliberation, and ought to have given its solemn decision.

Great reliance has been placed upon the argument, that this subject was actually discussed in the debate upon a motion brought forward by my honourable friend who spoke

*

last, (Mr. M. A. Taylor.) That motion was for the purpose of passing a resolution, that such a system as was then entered into of erecting barracks, was contrary to the practice and example of our ancestors. What was then done by the House? They did not put a direct negative upon it, but got rid of it by the order of the day. Can this be called a solemn decision of parliament, upon the principle of this measure? The most that can be said of it is, that they did not disapprove of what was immediately doing; but that decision gave no countenance whatever to the unauthorized expenditure of public money. I very well recollect, that that debate, in which I took a share, by no means turned upon the principle, but upon the words of the motion. The right honourable gentleman has certainly logic enough to perceive the difference, and to allow that the denial of any particular proposition is not an universal affirmation of its opposite. But how stands this question with the constitution ? Its opposers say it is but a name, but a mockery of a constitution. How many melancholy facts daily occur to justify the assertion ! Large sums are expended, without consulting parliament, without bringing forward any estimate whatever; a thing surely not difficult to be obtained. An argument has, with propriety, been adduced from the civil list. The king has it not in his power to make any arrangement in his parks or pleasure grounds, where a salary is to be given to the amount of sool. without an order passing the sign manual, and being approved by the lords of the treasury. I applaud this with reluctance, as I do any thing relative to the management of the civil list. But I have not heard of any estimate on the subject of barracks being approved by the lords of the treasury; if there has, why has it not been presented to this House?

The right honourable gentleman seems to hold all arguments of fact extremely cheap. He says, he understands our manner on this side of the House. I think he was long enough with us to understand our sentiments too; and he ought to know, that when we talk of the increase of patronage, it is not as a mere matter of declamation, but as an object of serious apprehension and danger to the liberties of the country. He defends himself by saying, What! would you deprive the poor officer of this his last resource? I know not how many worthy objects may be selected to fill such situations under government, but I do venture to say, on good authority, that many are appointed for no real purpose

* See Vol. v. p.49.

but that of forwarding ministerial elections. There is an ostensible and a secret purpose combined. It is, in the language of the right honourable gentleman himself, like a theatrical dress, where the gold and embroidery serve to conceal the dirt and dowlas beneath. The right honourable gentleman tells us, that no barrack-masters were appointed without an intention of erecting barracks. I hardly, indeed, could suppose that they would be so absurd as to appoint barrackmasters without any intention at all. He allows, however, that there were three instances where no duty whatever was performed. He has appealed to the honour of the gentleman at the head of that department, the barrack-master-general, for the propriety and economy of the manner in which the business is conducted. Does he not recollect, that to pledge a man's honour is not the most honourable mode of accounting? and that to such a man it may be answered, I have no intention of disputing the point of honour, but I want to know what you have done with the money ? For these different reasons I exceedingly approve of appointing a committee of inquiry; and if it still be resisted, I do say, however liable I may make myself to invidious observations, that we have but a mockery of a constitution. If ministers disregard all fundamental principles, if this House calmly tolerate their excesses, if the power of raising and applying money be exercised, not by the House of Commons but the king's ministers, what is our constitution, but a farce and a mockery?

We hear, Sir, many orations upon the necessity of obedience and subjection to the laws; but if those at the head of the government paid equal deference to the laws, with the other orders of the community, we should have little reason to complain. Example would avail ten times more than precept. It is strange that those who have the law constantly in their mouths, should, with equal perseverance, be acting in direct opposition to it. My honourable friend who spoke before me, illustrated this subject by an allusion to what passed on the fortification act. The illustration was certainly in point. If this House had not entered into the examination of that system previous to its being carried into execution, what would have been the consequence? Would it have met with the fate which it experienced? By no means. Had the expence been first incurred, and the plan brought forward afterwards, this House, I believe, would have acceded to the measure. I am not, indeed, so sanguine as to imagine, that the barrack-system would, in these degenerate days, have been resisted, even if it had been brought forward in a way equally regular. But at all events, ministers would have acted more openly and avowedly in the business: and if it

had been carried, it would have been, as it ought, an act of the legislature, and not merely of the executive government.

The only tools which ministers seem not to think dangerous are edge-tools; they play with them with all the complacency imaginable. I repeat, that the maintaining of a standing army in this country, and dissolving the connection between the soldier and the citizen, is a subject of the highest delicacy, of the greatest intricacy, and is not thus wantonly to be sported with by ministers, without condescending to consult the wisdom of parliament. We seem to have thrown away all that constitutional jealousy which ought ever to be awake in a free country. We have sacrificed it to a false alarm. The exorbitant power and influence of the crown in this country must ever be pregnant with danger to its liberties, In better times than these, the opinion was that it ought to be curtailed; and, in the present day, is there no ground for a continued and watchful jealousy? On the contrary, the more power we give, there is the greater cause for jealousy. Such was always the opinion of our ancestors; such ought to be our opinion; and before ministers dared, in the present instance, upon a plea of necessity, to trample upon the rights of Englishmen, it would have been but decent, even for form's sake, to have given this House an opportunity of exercising its deliberative functions, before a measure was carried into execution so hostile to the general freedom and happiness of the nation.

The motion was also supported by Mr. M. A. Taylor, Mr. Wil-,
liam Smith, Mr. Courtenay, Mr. Grey, and Mr. Sheridan. The
House divided :
Tellers.

Tellers.
YEAS
S Mr. Sheridan

Noes
So it passed in the negative.

{Mr: MeridaTaylor } 24.

{ Mr. Sargent} 98.

Mr. Francis's MOTION RESPECTING THE

BETTER REGU-
LATION OF SLAVES IN THE WEST INDIES.

April 11.

'HIS day Mr. Francis moved, “ That leave be given to bring

in a bill for the better regulation and improvement of the state and condition of negroes and other slaves, in the islands, colonies, or plantations in the West Indies or America, under the

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dominion of his majesty, his heirs, or successors.” After the motion had been opposed by Mr. Serjeant Adair,

Mr. Fox rose and said: The case, Sir, which we have now before us is unquestionably one of very considerable magnitude. I am still

, however, ready, when called upon, to give a decided opinion upon the subject, and to shew the reasons upon which that opinion is formed. Before I enter upon the discussion of the question, it is impossible for me not to premise, that whatever may be the result of the motion, the House and the public cannot fail to be gratified with the ability and philanthrophy of the honourable mover, and must ever do honour to his humane intentions. It is undoubtedly a question attended with many and serious difficulties, and nothing of an extraneous nature ought, if possible, to be introduced or enlarged upon; the attention ought not to be diverted from the main object immediately submitted to our decision. I cannot, however, refrain from taking notice of what has been said relative to this country or America, being the proper asylum where the friends of freedom may expect to find themselves secure from the encroachments of arbitrary power, and the miseries of unjust oppression. My honourable and learned friend opposite to me has talked of the blessings of this free constitution, and the advantages resulting from it to those who live under it. Such things may have existed; but, if I am to speak of our constitution as it now exists, if the retrograde movement which has commenced is suffered to continue, if the present system of government is persevered in, there is an end of all those blessings; we may go any where else we please in search of true liberty. Let us look back, Sir, to the year 1784; let us trace the progress of ministers at different periods, but let us particularly consider what has passed in the present session, and we must perceive such enormous alterations in this constitution, that those who were formerly acquainted with it, could not possibly know it again. America is said to have a new and untried constitution: the observation may be just; but I cannot help thinking, that from the late wonderful innovations, the constitution of this country may practically be said to be of a later date, than even that of America or any other country whatever. Upon this, however, I shall not enlarge farther at present.

As to the object of my honourable friend's motion, it seems to be admitted, that the principles upon which it is supported, are of the most desirable nature. So much, indeed, do I conceive this to be the case, that I think it unnecessary to argue upon the wisdom of them, considered in an abstract point of view. He has likewise admitted that the improvements he looks up to, must be of a gradual nature; and he has cer

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