« ZurückWeiter »
The Prince Regent's Household.--In the various discussions on the limitations proposed in the Regency bill, the public cannot surely have forgotten, what was said on both sides of tļie two houses respecting the great importance of the various offices in the royal household, and of their absolute necessity, in order that the throne might be surrounded with that splendour, so requisite to render the monarchy respectable in the eyes of the people. The leaders of the opposition as well as those in administration, affirmed that much of the “strength" of government consisted in the “ influence" which was thus given to the executive authority; and that to deprive the Prince Regent of this « influence," would be to render his government inefficient, and difficult to be carried on with full effect. for the national benefit. This language seemed somewhat extraordinary, from the lips of men who had so frequently, and with such energy deprecated the increased, increasing, and overgrown infuence of the crown; and the friends of reform, we are tolerably well persuaded, read nothing in the speeches of either party to convince them of the fallacy of the resolution of the house of Commons, passed at a period when the influence of the chief executive Magistrate was scarcely one half what it is at present:-" That the “influence of the crown, has increased, is increasing, and ought “ to be diminished.” Nor was there that dread of the diminution of royal influence out of the two houses which had seized those honourable and right hovourable senators, whose imaginations were fondly dwelling on the places, and other good things which they hoped shortly to have at their command, under the expected new administration of the Prince Regent.
After the disappointment and disgust which so many of our countrymen experienced at the perusal of the debates to which we have alluded, it must afford them some degree of satisfaction to attend to the sentiments of the Prince Regent himself on a subject
so interesting, and in which he is personally concerned.--Mr. Perceval lately rose in the house of Commons “ for the purpose of " adverting to a former notice he had given, respecting the house“ hold to be provided for the Prince Regent." After detailing sonte particulars of his plan respecting an establishment for his Royal Highness, the Chancellor of the Exchequer proceeded as follows :“ When his Royal Highness was pleased to signify his determination “ of continuing in the service of the crown, the persons then carry“ ing on the government, hie (Mr. Perceval) felt that it became his “ duty to lay the plan of an household before the Regent ; but “ upon an audience with his R. H. he learned that his R. H. re“ mained fixed in a perfect determination of adhering to his former “ sentiments upon that subject. For the nature of those sentiments “ his Royal Highness was pleased to refer him to a learned and “ hon. friend of his opposite : (Mr. Adam). By him he had been « informed, that from the moment he (Mr. P.) had first communi. “ cated his intention respecting the course meant to be pursued by “ him respecting the household ; his Royal Highness had commu“ nicated to that learned gentleman, his determination not to add “ to the burdens of the people by accepting of any addition to his * public state, as Regent of the (Inited Kingdom! He (Mr. P.) “ felt satisfied that neither the house nor the public would have “ felt any indisposition in contributing to the expence of the due “ support of the state and dignity of the Prince Regent: at the “ same time, the country would not be backward in duly acknow“ ledging this instance of self denial on the part of the Prince ; “ and his Royal Highness could not fail to find that such refusal “ will in point of fact, throw round his character and station more “ real splendour than conld be borrowed from any pageantry “ however brilliant. That external magnificence calculated to dazzle " the vulgar gaze, and catch the giddy admiration of the popu. “ luce, the Prince did not hesitate to sacrifice to those solid good “ qualitäs which have long since won, and promise to secure to “ him the affections of the people.” Having stated these circum. stances to the house, it was scarcely necessary for him to add, that it was not now his intention to submit to them any such plan. Mr. ADAM then rose, and confirmed the statement of the right hon. gentleman, remarking---" That he had had long opportunity of beco“ ming minutely acquainted with the views and intentions of his Royal “ Highness, respecting his domestic economy, and that his deter"mination in this particular instance was but conformable to the “ principles which had governed the conduct of his Royal Highness.”
With respect to the disposition of the people in general to suffer new burdens for the sake of staring at a little additional state pageantry in the executive goveryment, we have our doubts; but no ope can entertain the shadow of a doubt of the correctness of Mr. Perceval's assertion respecting the disposition of the house of Commons to vote away the public money op this or on any other occasion. How many scores and hundreds of millions have been voted when not a tenth part of the representative body--a number little more than sufficient to make a house, has been present! Granting foreign subsidies, levying taxes, and raising loans, are considered as matters of course, and our “ guardians of the public purse," seem at all times well inclined to transfer their guardianship to the minister of the day. That the Prince Regent should have that consideration for the public burdens, as to decline a ministerial offer, which he very well knew would be unanimously agreed to by the two houses, is much to his honour; it is however, not the splendour of the throne for any useful purpose to which the most rigid economist would object; but it is to that influence which is increased by useless offices and sinecures; and as it is an instrument in the hands of the servants of the crown to corrupt and vitiate all orders of the community, every sincere friend to his country must ardently wish to see that fatal influence diminished.
The just opinion which the Prince Regent has expressed on this subject, seems to have had an effect somewhat surprising on both sides of the house. Mr. PERCEYAL has since discovered, that « this instance of self-denial in the Prince will throw round his cha. “racter more real splendour than could be borrowed from any “ pageantry however brilliant; and that external magnificence is “ only calculated to dazzle the vulgar gaze, and catch the giddy “ admiration of the populace.” Mr. ADAM, now informs us, that, “ after long observation on his part, the determination of his royal “ highness in this instance is only conformable to that system of do. “ mestic economy which had governed the conduct of his royal “ highness.” The corrupt ponsense with which we were so recently pestered—“The splendour of the throne, and the influence of the • crown, constitutes the strength of government,”-is no longer repeated.
Whenever the happy period shall arrive, that the people shall be fully and fairly represented in parliament, a reform in the expenditure of the executive government will, we doubt not, be thought absolutely requisite. One of our greatest writers in prose and poetry, JOHN MILTON observes, that~" A popular govern“ment is the most frugal; for the trappings of a monarchy would • set up an ordinary commonwealth ;” and whoever glances at the government of America, the whole expence of which, in all its different departments is not equal to that of our executive, will not be disposed to treat the sentiment of Milton lightly. Without entering on the question, whether the most frugal government must
be the best, surely no considerate person will now dispute, that mapy expensive “ trappings" of the British monarchy may be well spared, more especially at a period when one sixth part of the people are reduced to the state of paupers, and the influence of the crown, within these few years by means of our tripled taxation, (not to mention other means,) has been so eporinously increased. We have now the confession of Mr. Perceval, that the affections of the people are not to be gained “ by pageantry however brilliant, “ or by external magnificence calculated to dazzle the vulgar eye: “ no, it must be solid good qualities, which must win and secure “ those affections." We hope therefore, that we shall never hear a repetition of the idiotism, that the “ strength” of a government chiefly consists in the splendour of the throne, “ the trappings of monarchy,” a considerable portion of which it is to be feared have contributed in no small degree, in the hands of weak, or unprincipled ministers to dissipate the real strength of government, to transfer the prerogatives of the crown to a cabinet, and to injure the best interests of the people, by plundering them of their rights, liberties, and property, corrupting their principles and morals at home, and wasting their blood abroad in wars equally unjust and unnecessary.
Informations Ex Officio.-Lord Holland agreeably to notice bas brought forward bis motion--" For a list of all the individuals pro. “ secuted on Ex Officio informations for libel, from Jan. 1801 to “ Jan. 1811, and of the number of persons convicted in conse“ quence thereof during that period.” The design of his lordship appears to have been to institute some inquiry into the nature of the different cases, and whether the extraordinary power thus put into the hands of the Attorney General had not been perverted from its original design. His lordship asserted on the best authorities, that although the law authorising such informations was of ancient date, it was the evident intention of the legislature, that it should only be put in force in case of necessity; that Justice Blackstone remarked-" That the object of giving this power to the Attorney “ General was, that enormous misdemeanors, involving the safety “ of the state, and the prosecution of which did not admit a mo« ment's delay, might be instantly prosecuted without the delay of “ waiting for a grand jury." One would think it impossible for any man to say that the numerous ex officio informations which have distinguished most of the administrations during the present reign, come within the case described. What danger to the state would have arisen, if the printers and publishers who have been made the victims of different Attorney Generals, had been tried by common indictment, or if a grand jury had, as in the case of other misdemeanours, first determined whether such indictment constituted a true bill or otherwise? It appears that although the practice complained of had much increased during the despotic administration of Pitt, yet, tbat from the year of his resignation in 1801, to that of the PORTLAND or PERCEVAL administration in 1807 it declined, there having been only fourteen informations filed during that interval; but that during the last three years, no less than forty-two informations were filed, sixteen of which were brought to trial. When contemplating the enormous expences to which innocent persons have been subjected by the conduct of Attorney Generals, who although they filed their informations, thought proper, after suffering thend for a while to hang in terroren over the heads of the parties, to decline pursuing them to conviction, Lord Holland might well “ suspect, that as in former periods, such informations were “ used as the means of oppression, they might now be used as “ means of influence ;" and if bis lordship had added as means of " oppression and influence” united, his suspicion, perhaps, had not been without foundation.*
* Mr. Finnerty in a letter to Lord Holland, of the 16th of March last, states as follows :
« About the month of October, 1808, it was intimated to me that infor16 mations ex officio had been filed against me and a person of the name of “ Gorman, for publishing Major Hogan's Appeal. Having employed Gor6 man to publish that pamphlet, I felt it my duty to prepare for his de« fence, as well as for my own--and as soon as I received official informa" tion of the Attorney General's intention, I set about the necessary pre« parations-Counsel were furnished with briefs, and I expended about « 1001.; but a few days after I was apprised of the filing of the criminal « information, Gorman was taken into custody under the statute which in. « vests the Attorney General with the power of holding any man to bail “ against whom he thinks proper to file a criminal information. Gorman « was detained in prison for ten days, before bail was had to satisfy the " Crown Solicitor. He was released on finding bail; but he was ruined in “his circumstances, by the report of his confinement, and was under the “ necessity of accepting the office of clerk to a military commissary, with “ whom he went to Walcheren, where he fell u victim, leaving a widow at “ an advanced age, in the most abject poverty. Notwithstanding the im, “ prisonment and sufferings of this man-notwithstanding the expence " which I incurred, and the anxiety of mind which I suffered, the Attorney « General never attempted to prosecute his informations. But Gorman and “I were not the only persons subjected to expence and anxiety upon that “ occasion ; for criminal informations were filed against the proprietors of « The Times, The Statesman, and The Eraminer, and also against Mr. 6 Bagshaw ; yet not one of these informations has been followed up. From “ these facts, particularly Gorman's imprisonment, it will appear to your “ lordship and to the public, that the Attorney General hus it in his power “ to deprive any man in England of his liberty and property, while thut “ leurned gentleman is subject to no responsibility whatever, und while the fi individual aggrieved is without any adequate means of legal redress."