Sidebilder
PDF
ePub

a measure on which the oppositioning to pirates ; ships detained or tamade a vigorous stand, and whịch they ken previously to a declaration of war, described as of the highest importance such as come into port in ignorance in a constitutional point of view, will that hostilities have commenced, and be prepared to acknowledge the firm- all those which become prize to nonness and good sense displayed by the commissioned captors, are sold, and the ministers. In the most critical circum- profits arising from the sale are thrown stances, while their own destinies were into this fund. Its gross amount, uncertain, and their enemies were flush- when the question, as to its approed with hopes never to be realised; priation, came before parliament, was when the nation had been anxiously 7,344,6771. From this sum, howtaught the lessons of a narrow and pi- ever, several heavy deductions fell to tiful economy, while it was, at the same be made. The payments to captors time, warned against the insults which amounted to 2,336,7451., to neutral an ambitious ministry was offering to claimants 406,554l., to the receiverthe royal authority, did these same mi- general of droits, law charges, &c. nisters, at a small additional expence 289,6911. ; various miscellaneous payof the public treasure, combine a due ments had, moreover, been made to the regard for the comfort and dignity of amount of 425,6871. Large sums had, an aged and afflicted monarch, with a also, been paid out of this fund to insuitable care for the splendour and demnify officers for the costs incurred magnificence of that illustrious charac- in admiralty courts ; the deduction on ter who was now to be permanently account of such payments, which, from invested with the highest functions of the character of the late war, must the state. The prudent firmness of have been considerable, could not well the ministers, in this as in other in- be challenged even by the most scrustances, obtained a complete triumph pulous economist. The balance, there. over the animosity of their opponents. fore, could not, at the period at which

Some questions of considerable im- this question was agitated, amount to portance, andintimately connected with more than three millions sterling. This the establishment of the civil list, were balance, however, was still considerable; agitated during the present session of and it deserved the consideration of parliament. It had been avowed by parliament, whether the constitution ministers, during the discussions on the placed it under the absolute controul household bill, that the deficiency ari- of the crown. sing on the civil list had been supplied From the earliest periods of English partly out of a fund which is denomi- history, the maxim universally prevailnated the Droits of Admiralty," and ed, that “all prize vests in the crown;" which had, from the earliest periods of and very high authorities have declaEnglish history, been vested in the red, that prize is the very creature of crown.---The king, in ancient times, had the crown. Some old statutes, ina right to this fund as lord high ad- deed, in the reigns of Edward III. and miral of England ; and as that great Richard III. have either omitted to office had not, for a century past, been mention prize as the peculiar property conferred on any individual, the droits of the crown (an omission from which of admiralty remained vested in the no inference can safely be drawn,) or crown. This fund is partly composed have, in expreas terms, given all prize of the profits arising from the sale of taken at sea to the captors. Great wrecks, of prizes, and of goods belong. constitutional lawyers have also decla

red, that the droits of admiralty, as and, in particular, by the act passed well as all the other prerogatives of in the first year of the present king's the crown, are granted for the attain. reign, which settled 800,0001. on his ment of certain specific purposes, and majesty for life, several branches of rethat the specific purpose in this case, venue were collected into one aggregate is the guarding and maintaining the fund, in which, however, the droits of rights and privileges of the sea. Lord admiralty were not included. The Coke thinks that tonnage and pound- right of the crown, therefore, to this age were granted to the crown for fund, seems unquestionable ; and when safeguard of the seas, and that it per we reffect, that, so lately as the comtains to the lord high admiral to see mencement of the present reign, when these droits administered; he qualifies the various funds out of which the this opinion, however, by stating, that royal expences were to be supplied had the guard of the sea belongs not to been carefully examined by parliament, the high admiral alone, but to private the droits of admiralty were left with adventurers also, who fit out vessels the sovereign in addition to the ordifor that purpose. But opinions of a

But opinions of a nary revenue of the civil-list, the fair date so ancient cannot be implicitly presumption seems to be, that unless relied on with reference to the cir- gross abuse can be made out in the apcumstances of the present times. In plication, the legislature has no right judging of the question, whether the to interfere. droits of admiralty belong to the crown Mr Brougham, however, was either as matter of right, or are subjected to unacquainted with these facts, or chose the controul of parliament, it is safer to disregard them. He accordingly to look to more modern authorities. brought forward a motion, by which When the civil list was originally es he tried to establish, first of all, that tablished in the reign of William and the crown has no right to the fund Mary, various rights and prerogatives in dispute ; and, in the second place, of the crown were formally surrender. that even supposing the right to be ed; and in all the acts re-establishing proved, it is proper that it should be. the civil list at the beginning of suc. abolished by parliament. He considerceeding reigns, several branches of re. ed the subject to be of the gravest imvenue, the exclusive property of the so portance, as it involved the consideravereign, have been collected into one tion of the best privileges of the House aggregate fund, and named specificat. of Commons ; of that privileg'e, the ly as the surrender which the crown power of granting or refusing the supagreed to make in consideration of the plies, which is the great and only secivil-list granted by parliament. The curity that the people have in their reprinciple of this arrangement is obvio presentatives, against the influence and ous ;. nothing was surrendered by the encroachments of the crown. He

gave crown but what was specifically men an exaggerated account of the value tioned ; and, as the droits of admiral- of these droits of admiralty, which he ty were not included in this specifica- stated in round numbers to amount tion, they were left of course with the to no less than eight millions sterling, crown on the same footing on which and enlarged upon the absurdity of they had been formerly claimed. This allowing funds to such an enormous principle has been recognised and act. amount to remain at the disposal of ed upon at the commencement of each the crown, without any act of parliareign, from the Revolution downwards; ment to controul the application. He

the crown.

referred to the famous case of ship-mo remain in the hands of the receiver-geney, which was argued in the reign of neral of droits, commissioners of prizes, Charles I, and in which it was held, and the bank of England, but never by the most eminent judges of that find their way into the exchequer ; day, that all the natural profits arising that the money is taken out of the from captures at sea, as well as the bank of England in a manner which inprofits of lettres of marque, ought to fers no responsibility--not only under be applied to the guarding and pro- the authority of the privy seal, but of tecting of the national interests at sea, a warrant under the sign manual only; and could not; upon any principle, be that the fund under consideration is, considered as constituting a right by perhaps more than any other, liable to prerogative. He maintained, that even abuse, and might be turned to pur. in the worst of times, not only parlia poses most detrimental to the real inmentary grants, but royal prerogatives, terests of the crown and of the counwere considered as destined to the ser try; that it gives the crown an intevice of the country; and he quoted rest in commencing hostilities in a a dictum, which had been repeated by way the least honourable to the naSir William Scott in the court of ad tion, and the least consistent with that miralty, capta bello cedunt reipublicæ, good faith, candour, and magnanimiand from this he inferred, that prizes ty, which form such proud features in must belong to the state, and not to the character of the English people,

That before the Revolu and that the fund in question is that tion the

expences of war were not re from which the most worthless minigularly supplied by parliament, but ge- ons of faction will, in all probabilinerally by the crown from those very ty, be remunerated; men, whom even funds which were now described as the the minister would not dare to place private property of the king; that par- openly on the pension list with such liament has often interfered with the names as those of Nelson, St Vincent, prerogative of the crown, when that and Wellington.-That having thus prerogative was turned into abuse,– urged his objections to the principles that upon this principle the tempo upon which this fund was left with the ralities of bishoprics had been taken crown, he was not called upon to spefrom the crown, when a shameful and cify abuses which had actually occurlavish use had been made of them : red ; but, at the same time, he could That the principle of parliamentary in not help alluding to the great surplus terference with the royal prerogative, of expenditure on the civil list, to the was recognized in the reigns of Wil provisions out of the droits of admiral. liam and Mary and Queen Anne ; and ty which had been made to the princes, even in the present reign, an act had and to the large allowance granted to been passed which directed the com Sir Home Popham, all of which at least missioners of Dutch prizes to pay

the

rendered the administration of this imprize droits into the bank of Eng: mense fund extremely suspicious. He land, and not to the receiver-general of concluded, by moving, that the posdroits. That the mode of receiving session by the crown of funds raised and issuing the various sums which otherwise than by the grant of parliacompose the fund in dispute, is quite ment, is contrary to the principles of unconstitutional ; that the droits of the constitution ; that it is the pecuadmiralty are received by the registrar liar duty of the House of Commons of the liigh court of admiralty, and to enquire into the nature of all such

funds ; that the prodigious increase in granted by the parliament.—That the the value of the droits of admiralty clamour which had been raised about calls for the immediate interference of the excess in the civil-list expenditure the legislature ; that their amount is was quite unreasonable ; that the cirnow nearly eight millions ; that this cumstances which had occasioned this enormous sum has been at the disposal excess were known to the whole coun. of the crown, although parliament has try; and that even Mr Justice Blackmade ample provision for the royal stone, a writer not disposed to comexpenditure ; and that the House of promise the rights of the people, had Commons, having taken these matters acknowledged the insufficiency of the into consideration, will adopt the most civil list to answer the claims upon efficient means for bringing this fund it.-That the amount of the droits of under the immediate controul of pare admiralty had been very greatly overliament.

rated by those who supported the moIn answer to these arguments it was tion ; and that it is highly expedient justly observed that the precedents and to have a fund of this kind at the disauthorities which had been relied on to posal of the crown, with a view to prove the right of parliament to inter- some of the most inportant branches fere with the droits of admiralty, were of the public service. Many cases may all of a very ancient date, and prior to occur in which captors, acting with the Revolution ; that, since that great the most perfect bona fides, may comevent, there have been in the Commons mit errors, which, but for the interpo. House of Parliament many intelligent sition of that government so faithfully lawyers, extremely jealous of the pre- served by them, might overwhelm them rogative of the crown, who have never with ruin. Mr Rose, in the course of questioned its right to the droits of the debate, mentioned a memorable inadmiralty ; that it has been the prac stance of this kind. He stated, that tice for a century past to fix the re the late Lord Nelson, then Captain venue of the crown at the beginning Nelson, when stationed in the West of each reign; and as continual appli- Indies, soon after the American war, cations to parliament to supply the had actions brought against him for upgradual increase of expenditure which wards of 90,0001. for having enforced arises from the depreciation of money the navigation act. The case of Capand the increase of prices, would lead tain Nelson was carefully investigated to great inconveniences, it is far better by government ; it was found, that al. that a fund should be at the dispo- though he had acted with a laudable sal of the crown from which deficien. zeal for the public service, the procies may be supplied, this fund, at the ceedings instituted against him might same time, remaining subject to the have ended in his ruin; but the minicontroul of parliament, which can al sters wisely interfered to give him that ways interfere to resist abuses in the support which he could never have reexpenditure. It was well observed by ceived, if the droits of admiralty, the some members, that if a grant such as only fund applicable to such purposes, this of the droits of admiralty be in. had not been at the disposal of the compatible with the constitution, so crown. Many such cases must occur must all the acts which settle the civil- in the course of the public service, list revenue, since, by each of them, which, from the constitution of parliathe legislature leaves at the disposal of ment, could never be brought under the crown, property not immediately its review.-As a question of right,

therefore, this motion could not be land of Barbadoes to the Earl of Kinsupported; the right to the droits of noul. After the Restoration, how. admiralty has been vested in the crown ever, the creditors of the Earl of Carfor upwards of a century; and what. Jisle having made some claim on the ever may have been the opinions enter. island, which threatened to disturb the tained at an early period, the various right of the settlers, a deputation of civil-list-acts which have been passed the latter came to England, and made since the Revolution, unquestionably a tender to the crown of certain rights continue this fund with the crown as a and duties, on condition of their being branch of the prerogative.- Whether secured in the possession of their proit be expedient that this prerogative perty. The patent in favour of the shall still remain untouched, and that Earl of Carlisle was accordingly surthe droits of admiralty shall continue rendered ; an annuity of 10001. was at the disposal of the crown, subject settled on Lord Kinnoul; the properhowever to the controul of parliament, ty of the planters was secured against when a proper case for interference is all challenge, and the right of the made out, is a different although not a crown to the duties was established. more doubtful question. The histo. It had been agreed, that these duties ry of parliamentary interferences with should be collected in the shape of an the royal prerogative, shews that it impost on the dead commodities of has not been usual, and is not of course the island, at the rate of 47, in specie constitutional, wantonly to trench up- for every five score; and the duties on any prerogative, until a case of have since got the name of the 4 per abuse shall be clearly established; and, cent. Leeward Island duties. Part of as it was not seriously pretended, in this revenue was to be applied to lo. the present instance, that abuses ex cal purposes in the island of Barbaisted, there could be no reason for ac. does, but the remainder was reserved ceding to the motion. These argu- to the king. In the reign of William ments had their proper weight with III. this fund was recognised by two the house, and the resolutions of Mr acts of parliament as part of the hereBrougham were accordingly negatived. ditary revenue of the crown; and alHe afterwards made an attempt to get though it was agreed, in the reign of a committee appointed to enquire into Queen. Anne, in consequence of an the alleged abuses of this fund; but application from the colony, to apply the house negatived his motion. this revenue to repair the fortifica

Another subject connected with tions of Barbadoes, no surrender of the arrangements of the household and the fund, on the part of the crown, of the civil list was brought forward by has ever been made, nor has parliaMr Creevey. About the beginning ment attempted to interfere with its

the reign of Charles I. a grant of application. At the beginning of the the whole island of Barbadoes, then present reign, this fund, like the droits of

very small value, was made to the of admiralty, was reserved to the Earl of Carlisle. During the troubles crown, and of course the prerogative of the civil war and protectorate, how. right cannot well be questioned. Mr ever, many persons went over as set. Creevey, however, was of opinion, tlers, and Barbadoes soon became a that these duties were the property

of prosperous colony. The Earl of Care the inhabitants of Barbadoes, and lisle died very much in debt, and his ought to be applied to colonial purson transferred the grant of the is- poses : an opinion in which

one

« ForrigeFortsett »