Abbildungen der Seite

feelings, or to stimulate our exer. Although the general principle tions ? This will be an incalculable which the right honourable genileaddition to all the wces and cala. man stated as the essence of the mities which the war has induced; freedom of the constitution were and if, after all that we have lost, admitted, it was subject to limitain money, in reputation, and in tion ; at every period since the blood, we are also to submit to commencement of those times to this oppression, the house of com. which we refer for the pure practice mons is no longer to be considered of the constitution, in the best and as a branch of the constitution, and most glorious æras of it, the prin. there will be little in our govern- ciple of extraordinaries had been ment to distinguish it from that of received; not merely for indiviabsolute monarchies.

dual expenses, but recognized upon Mr. Pitt replied, that those peo. general views. Did it never occur ple who had never before had an to the right honourable gentleman opportunity of hearing the speeches that parliament had sometimes which the right honourable gentle committed to his majesty not new man had been accustomed to pro- but special powers, which supernounce, the cry of alarm which he seded all general questions? Mr. often had been pleased to raise, and Pitt said, that he intended to more the destruction of our liberties that his majesty's message of the 8th which he had otten affected to see, of December last year should be would suppose this had been the read, and likewise the act granting first time in his life that he had felt a vote of credit : from this it would real apprehension for the constitu- appear, that a power was given to tion of his country.

his majesty to apply the sum conMr. Pitt wished it to be observed, tained in the vote of credit as the that the right honourable genileman exigencies of the state might redid not merely propose a reproba- quire. Suppose that powers had tion of the particular measure, nor been conferred to give that assistthe punishment of the guilty mini. ance to the allies of our country, ster, but a suspension of those sup- which our own interest and the plies which were calculated to give circumstances of the state required. confidence to the negotiations of Could any man doubt that the peace, or energy to the operations minister who should have hesitated of war; and by giving a negative to issue the sum, which, granted, to the whole resolution, to tell the would have defended the safety of enemy, by the very next post by Europe; could any man doubt which the unanimous determina- that he would have been a traitor tion of parliament would be con to his country, and merited the veyed, that the house of commons severest punishment? The vote of had interfered to stop the effects of credit did actually invest the executheir former decision, had suspended tive government with á discretionthe means which were to add weight ary power of applying the sums to the exertions of the executive granted in a manner best suited to government, and at so critical a mo- the public exigencies; and the ment of the negotiation had com- money applied to the service of the mitted the interests of this country emperor was within that grant. and her allies, and flattered the He did not mean to say, that the hopes, and raised the pretensions of discretion thus vested in the crown the enemy.

was absolute, and independent of

the the controul of parliament, or that war: but, surely it never was in. the minister who exercised it im- tended that subsidies to foreign properly was to be exempt from powers should be supplied by a Censure ; but in what manner he vote of credit. New circumstances understood this limitation, he would might occur to render it proper for state when called upon to make his ministers to exercise their discredefence.

tion; but here the circumstances The question, however, now, was were foreseen, and had been laid be-' not whether ministers had acted fore parliament; the discovery that properly, or improperly ; it was, this sum had been advanced came whether the house should announce out in a very suspicious manner to France, ibat the supplies of the indeed; it could no longer be conyear were to be stopped, and the cealed; there seemed to have been exertions of the executive power a desire of concealing it as long as suspended.

. possible, and a disclosure was only Mr. Fox stated, in explanation, compelled by necessity. He could that he had only said that extraordi- not however go to the length of naries were, in some measure, ine- stopping the supplies, though he vitable, but were an evil not to be' was of opinion that a very strong extended beyond the necessity, and mark of censure ought to be inthat it was criminal to resort to this Aicted by the house. As to the expedient when other means might influence a parliamentary sauction be employed.

to this measure might have had Sir William Pulteney declared, upon public credit at an earlier that it was with much concern and period, he thonght it too trifling a astonishment he heard, that the consideration to weigh against the minister had taken upon him to fundamental principles of the conappropriate so large a sum of the stitution, and with regard to the public money without the consent credit which the minister assumed of parliament. The controul of for acting advantageously when he the house of commons over the concealed from the enemy the inpublic purse was the main point tention of affording supplies to our upon which rested the whole of the ally, he considered that concealconstitution of Great Britain ; and ment as having a very different thougb Mr. Fox might be accus- effect; for it was, in a great measure, tomed to use strong language, yet on the supposition that this country this was a case which every man refused all pecuniary supplies to must feel to be of the last impor. the emperor, that the French wero tance. The justification offered by emboldened to make redoubled the chancellor of the exchequer efforts, and advance so far into the was chiefly grounded on two argu- heart of Germany. The right ments, drawn from the words in honourable gentleman: had asked, which the vote of credit must be whether, in order to pass a previous graoted in every year of a war. censure on his conduct, the house First, that it was meant to defray would adopt the proposition of Mr. the extraordinary expenses of the Fox, and, in this critical emeryear. Undoubtedly it was, and un- gency, stop the supplies of the na. fortunately it happened, that ex- tion? It was this dilemma which traordinaries and a vote of credit aggravated the inisconduct of the must be granted in every year of a minister, who put the house in that


situation, that it must either ac- paramount to the constitution; that quiesce in an expenditure made in no duty is so sacred as its support: so blanieable a manner, or bring true, its most vital parts have been danger on the country by stopping attacked, and their vigour essen- , the supplies, and afford some room tially crippled and destroyed, but it for a charge against national faith. is nevertheless incumbent on the

He trusted that this proceeding friends of order to uphold what would not pass the house without remains of it, and struggle for the receiving strong marks of disap- restoration of such of its fundaprobation; and he hoped it would mental elementary attributes as have never witness in future a similar vio- been either subverted or abused. lation of the principles of the consti. The existence of the constitution, tution.

in fact, depends on the vigilance Mr. Grey expressed his surprize of a discerning house of commons and indignation at what he termed respecting the acts of ministers. the desperate measures of the mini. Such a house will not be satisfied ster, in an animated speech. Had on great constitutional questions the house, he said, perceived sooner with pompons declamatory denunthe danger which theatened the ciations of the opposers of miniconstitution, the present measure sterial arrogance, or the foes of would never have been attempted; ministerial profusion : it will not be and if their obsequiousness and ser- satisfied with retrospective and unvility had not encouraged the design constitutional measures of any kind, of ministers, they never would have but will in every situation evince, seen this bold and daring invasion of by the conduct of its members, that their rights.

there is still a barrier to encroachHow must the astonishment and ments, a line beyond which not displeasure of the house be increas- even his majesty's ministers can exed when they found, that, when par- tend their predatory efforts. In liament had been sitting, when the the present case, it cannot for a embarrassment government had felt moment be arglied, that it was not for money was so great, these ad. the duty of ministers to come forvances had been made ! nay, at the ward with a specific proposition, very time when be himself had soliciting the advice and concurasked Mr. Pitt, what he intended sence of the representatives of the as to an Austrian loan, vory considere people before the money of the alle advances had been made, and people was applied in a way that only 77,0001, had been given during must subject them to be assessed the recess of parliament. Such was with new and extraordinary burthe fact proved by the dates in the dens. That the public money was account on the table.

thus applied is evident; that the “I am aware (continued Mr. consiitution was infringed, is equally Grey) that the right honourable so; but the right bonourable gen. gentleman will rest his defence on tleman has told us, that the sum adthe general principle of army extra- vanced to the emperor was advanced ordinaries; that he will tell us a under circumstances, and at a time, case of real exigency must and when it was necessary that an excepought to supersede the inferior de- tion should be adopted. mands of economical, or even le Thus he takes the exception, gislative prudence. But I reply, and argues from the necessity of the dat no financial exigency can be case. We :night in the same way

give an unlimited vote of credit to 150,0001. was given to colonel ministers; perhaps we shall be told Crauford. He was certain that the next, that any account of the disc right honourable gentleman was abbursement of the army extraordina- stractedly of opinion, that any apries might thus be avoided; so it propriation, such as he had made might. There was a time, how. of that vote of credit, was unconever, when he would have, called stitutional, nor did Mr. Grey think such an exception paltry; a time that the last parliament, servile and when he was an enthusiast in the obsequious as it was, could have incause of liberty; an economist; tended, could have considered that a reformer. In the year 1782 vote of credit as conveying unlimitthis circumstance of extraordinaries ed power to ministers. He asked, would have been reprobated as an if there now were present any eril by the right honourable gentle- gentlemen who were members of man, which could not be too jea. that parliament, whether, if it lously watched : a principle that had been stated to them at the time could not be too severely con- the vote was passed, that two mil. demned ; an infringement ever to lions and a half were to be given be resisted. These avowedly were as a subsidy to the emperor, at the then his sentiments of that species discretion of his majesty's ministers, of ministerial chicanery, insomuch whether they would have agreed that, immediately after he was made to place such extraordinary power minister, the house was called upon in the hands of the executive ço. by a speech from the throne, to vernment? Many apprehensions watch with jealousy, and repel had arisen from the danger of an with dignity, every such attempt invasion : he ventured to affirm, to dilapidate and infringe the con- that no invasion or attack would stitution. The extraordinaries be. So more decidedly to the destruc. ing thus formally and solemnly tion of all that was valuable ; name, made the subject of a speech from ly, the liberty of the country. the throne, it is not a litile remark- Viewing the subject in this light, able that the minisier himself has it was his duty to oppose, or, at adopted the exception instead of the least, vote for suspending the supprinciple; has frittered away the plies. If he were asked, were those Jaws, and attempted, by a sort of supplies to be suspended which special pleading, to deprive us of would afford to government so our liberties."

much weight and vigour ? he Mr. Grey then mentioned the act would answer yes, and he was cerof parliament, whereby a certain tain that we should not negociate sum was given to his majesty for less favourably if the French saw the service of the year 1790. The that the house was determined to application of this sum was restrictmaintain its rights; the firmness ed to certain purposes : it was to be with which they asserted their own applied in such a way as the exigen- dignity would be a pledge of the cies of affairs might require ; but spirit with which they would resist it was meant prospectively, not re- the enemy. Assuming that exalted trospectively. He could prove, he state on which a free people ought said, to the house, that the sum to stand, they would negotiate more then granted had been used retro- advantageously with a free people; spectively instead of prospectively, a people that he hoped would reOn the 31st of December, 1795, main free; a people whom the right


honourable gentleman now con- rectory of France: and had that sidered as' capable of maintaining transaction been publicly known at peace and amity, who had now the tine of its completion, it might snorted away the undigested fumes have injured our public .credit. of the blood of their sovereign, and Gentlemen, he said, might rant with whom he had now conde- about the excellences, the wounds, scended to treat.

and the death of the constitution; But the proposition did not go to but it ought to be remembered, negative the supplies ;. it was in that those to whom they addressed tended to suspend them till the their medley esfusions were more wound given to the constitution sincere supporters of freedom than was made whole. He moved an they. amendment, that the second read- Mr. York contended, that the ing should be postponed till the assistance given to the emperor was' next day, and he would then move out of a sum of money granted by the house to resolve that the mini- a vote of credit to defray any exster had been guilty cf a high crime traordinary expenses which might and misdemeanour.

accrue; and as those extraordina.' Mr. Wilberforce was averse to ries were not ven voted, it was postponing the passing of the reso consequently a separate consideraJution, even till the morrow, on tion. Yet the opposition side of the score of propriety and policy. the house bad proposed a negative The nature of the vote of credit, to the resolutions of the committee he said, bad not been sufficiently of ways and means, on the principle commented upon; it would be that the money granted by the vote found to convey an impression that of credit in a former year was mis· ministers were authorised in em: applied, and thereby to postpone the ploying it in such a manner, or on supplies necessary for the current such measures, as the state might year. require. This construction was so Mr. Curwen declared, that the literally obvious on the face of the safety of the British constitution bill, that it could not be contested. was involved in the question then

Upon this a question arose, whe- before the house. The commons ther the mode in which ministers were always considered as the guarhad applied the money was, or was dians of the public purse, and in that riot, necessary to the cause in which view this question was more importhe nation was embarked.

tant to them than if the threatened He thought that the mode in invasion had been put in execution, which the money had been applied and the French actually at our doors. was a proper one; tbe representa. Supposing the assistance given to the tives of a generous nation would not emperor to have been instrumental make the saving of the Germanic in saving Germany, still the British empire the subject of censure. At constitution was not to be destroyed the time the money was remitted on that account; the minister had the emperor was on the verge various opportunities of pleading of a great precipice, and all Eu- some necessity to parliament for inrope in danger of being ruined by formality in granting that assistance, his fall. To that seasonablo supply or he might have applied for a bill might be attributed, in a considera- of indemnity. ble degree, the good reception lord The master of the rolls and lord Malmsbury met with from the di. Hawksbury defended the conduct of


« ZurückWeiter »