impracticable, from the prodigious increase of bufinefs in each. The fame objection lay to others. Never had the public fervice required more labour, and never indeed had more been exerted by the refpective incumbents in every office. The abolition of patent places, another fubject of complaint, could not be always affected with equity; but ftill they were in a gradual courfe of being abolished. Refpecting the fyftem of barracks, fo much reprobated; the old plan allowed them for twenty thoufand men, to which the new one had, for confiderations well founded, added others for fifteen thousand more. The difficulty of a fpeedy adjustment of accounts, in time of war, was too well known to enlarge upon; but the afcertainment of all public expences occupied the attention of minifters to the fulleft extent which their magnitude would permit, and they had not the leaft apprehenfion of being found defective in their accounts. With regard to the bank, the power vefted in it was clearly independent of minifters, and the afiiftance it afforded to government was entirely optional. To the other obfervations of the marquis he made fuch replies as he thought juftificatory of minifterial mea fures, and concluded by aferting, that when impartially reviewed, they would meet with certain approbation.

Thefe aufwers, to the marquis of Lanfdowne, were, by the earl of Lauderdale, reprefented as fallacious and unfounded. The immenfe amount of the debts, which miniftry left unfunded, fhewed their illmanagement and want of economy: 'the discount given occafionally on 'exchequer-notes was equally dif

creditable and alarming: the accounts relating to the barracks were confufed and erroneous; and the reafons affigned for other measures were vague and unfatisfactory.

The difference between the pecuniary fituation of this country, in 1783 and that in 1795, was circumftantially investigated by lord Ankland, in order to prove the fuperiority of our finances at the prefent day. The revenue was then two millions below the peace eftablishment, amounting to fifteen millions, but was now actually three millions four hundred thousand pounds above that establishment; and, by adding the two millions then deficient, was in reality five millions above it.

The lord chancellor, earl Spencer, and lord Hawksbury, opposed the motion, and it was farther fupported by lord Moira, and lørd Guildford, who gave the house notice of his intention to move an inquiry into the ftate of the nation. The marquis of Lanfdowne's motion was rejected by one hundred and four votes against twelve.

The report of the committee of fupply upon the refolution, for granting a fubfidy of two hundred thoufand pounds to the king of Sardinia, was prefented to the houfe of commons on the third of May, when it was observed, by Mr. Fox, that circumflances were no longer the fame refpecting that prince, as when that fubfidy was first voted. He was then to act against France with the coalition; but it was now underfood that he was about to forfake it, and to make a peace with the enemy. If fuch were the cafe, it was proper to know whether he thought himfelf at liberty to act in this manner, or whether indeed he were able to act otherwife, and mi


nifters had acceded to his defire for a feparate peace.

Mr. Pitt afferted, that lately the king of Sardinia, in circumstances of great difficulty, had confented to a fufpenfion of arms with the French, provided it were in conjunction with the emperor, but on no other terms: the emperor not confenting, the armiftice did not take place. The French had, in the mean time, offered him peace, if he would make a ceffion of their acquifitions in his country, and an alliance with them, but he had refused their offers.

It was observed, by Mr. Francis, that the motives of action with that prince would originate in the preffures he was in. His fituation required him to confult the neceffity of his affairs, rather than the magnanimity of his difpofition; exclufively of which, hiftory had long fhewn, that no dependance could be placed on the stability of the princes of the houfe of Savoy. Mr. Pitt however being farther pressed upon this fubject, put an end to it by declining to reply.

Three days after this difcuffion Mr. Grey brought feveral heavy charges against minifters, and moved them to be fufficient grounds of impeachment. They had, he faid, violated the act of appropriation, the main pillar of the pecuniary privileges of parliament, by diverting the grants of money to other purpofes than thofe for which they were voted, and they had endeayoured to screen themfelves by fpurious accounts. He then detailed the particulars in proof of his aceculation, adding, that if the neceffities of the times had compelled them to have recourse to fuch methods for procuring money, they

ought, without difguifing the fact,
to have applied to parliament for
indemnity. The house of commons
had, he faid, been notoriously faulty
in not fetting limits to the extraor-
dinaries during the American war;
and the committee appointed to
examine and digeft the public ac-
counts had particularly pointed out
the ruinous confequences of fuch
negligence. Mr. Pitt had cenfured
it himself with peculiar feverity,
but had nevertheless been more
guilty than any of his predeceffors
in the miniftry. So determined
was the houfe to put a stop to these
infractions of its rights, that it passed,
in 1784, a refolution, that should
parliament be diffolved before the
act of appropriation had pafied, to
mifapply the money granted fhould
be reputed a high misdemeanour.
An act had also been paffed under
the prefent minifter, to obviate the
bad confequences of balances re-
maining with the paymafter-gene
ral, and to provide for the conftant
pay of the army; but this act had
been notorioufly infringed; the pay-
mafter having actually in his hands
a balance of eighty-three thousand
pounds. Mr. Grey, after mention-
ing other inftances of mifapplica
tion, adverted to the difpofition
paper, a fpecies of voucher first
ufed in the prodigal reign of Charles
II. and established at the revolution,
as an authentic document, to inform
parliament in what manner the fup-
plies they had granted had been
expended. This paper he considered
as a mere deception; its contents
reprefented the fums voted by par-
liament, as iffued and applied con-
formably to its intent, which was
contrary to truth. This he might
be told was only a form; but the
practice was in fact directly oppofite


to the regulations enacted by the legiflature, in order to preferve to itlelf the power over the national purfe, against the attempts of minifters to difpofe of the nation's money at their own difcretion. On thefe various premifes Mr. Grey founded no less than fifteen refolutions, the laft of which fumming up the purport of the whole, ftated, that, in the inftances mentioned, the king's minifters had been guilty of prefenting falle accounts, calcu lated to mislead the judgement of the house, of a flagrant violation of various acts of parliament, and of a grofs mifapplication of the public money."

[merged small][ocr errors]

The fpeech of Mr. Pitt was anfwered by Mr. Fox, who enforced and enlarged upon the arguments that had been urged by Mr. Grey. Mr. Steele replied in juftification of Mr. Pitt's maxims and measures, and clofed the debate by moving the previous queftion, which was carried by two hundred and nine to thirty-eight.

The reply, made by Mr. Pitt, ftated, that though ministers were The tenth of May was remarkbound faithfully to appropriate the able for a motion made in each public money to the purpoles fpe- houfe against the continuation of cified, yet there were a multiplicity the war, and for offering terms of of cafes wherein that rule could not peace. That in the house of lords ftrictly be obferved. Services, of was made by the earl of Guildford; the most critical importance, and that in the house of commons by the most imperious neceffity, often Mr. Fox. The fame arguments, compelled them to deviate from the with little variation, were ufed by letter of the act of appropriation: both fpeakers, that had so often but was that, or was any other, act to been urged in the preceding atftand in the way of material fervices tempts of this nature, and met of due to the nation by those who were courfe with much the fame answers. entrufted with its fafety and pre- The only matter of novelty was, the fervation? These deviations were conftruction put on Mr. Wickham's founded on wife precedents, and commiflion, to inform Mr. Barthelesanctioned as juft, by long and re- my, the French minifter at Bafle, peated experience. Extraordinaries of the difpofition on the part of this were the inevitable attendants of country, to enter into a negociation war, especially fuch an one as the for peace, and that minifter's reply prefent, which requiring unprece- to the British agent. Oppofition dented exertions, juftified unpre- treated the application of the cedented methods of conducting it. former as far from calculated to Mr. Pitt adduced a number of facts conciliate the French, while minito prove that he had acted conform- ftry aflerted that it was fully fufably to the practice authorised in ficient to induce them to treat, former wars, The very act of ap-had they been fincerely difpofed to propriation, he said, evinced the meet us on equitable terms. This propriety of extraordinaries, by particular conftituted the principal



object of debate, and exercised the abilities of both miniftry and oppofition: but after a long and animated conteft, the motion was negatived in the houfe of lords, by one hundred and ten against ten; and, in the house of commons, by two hundred and fixteen against forty


A repetition took place on the fame day in the houfe of lords, of the difcuffion upon the state of the revenue, the taxes, the imports and exports, and the other financial circumftances of the nation at the close of the American war, and at the prefent period. The earl of Moira combated the pofitions of lord Aukland in the preceding debate, and the latter exerted himfelf to maintain them. Numerous and intricate were the calculations on both fides. Lord Lauderdale zealously fupported the earl of Moira, and entered into a great variety of particulars to prove the juftness of his researches and computations: herein he was feconded by the marquis of Lanfdowne, and oppofed by lords Coventry and Hawkesbury, who took much pains to reprefent the ftatements of lord Moira as erroneous.

The fame fubject was refumed, on the thirteenth, by lord Lauderdale, who difplayed great financial knowledge in his arrangement of the matter of debate. His fupporters were the marquis of Lantdowne and the earl of Moira; and his opponents, lords Grenville, Hawkesbury, and Aukland. The inferences from the arguments and ftatements produced by the refpective parties were contradictory in the extreme; the one reprefenting the fituation of this country as replete with the most arduous difficul

ties, and almoft verging to ruin; and the other defcribing it as fulf of opulence and refources of every denomination, and able, with proper management, to encounter and furmount every obftacle, and to flourish with more luftre than ever.

Such were the moft material tranfactions of parliament during this feffion. An attempt was made, by Mr. Wilberforce, to enforce the decifion of the house, that the abolition of the flave-trade fhould take place on the first day of the year 1796, but his motion was negatived by a majority of four, and his fubfequent endeavours to regulate the flave-carrying trade, by the propor tion of tonnage, was lou for want of numbers to conftitute a house.

A bill for the relief of indigent curates paffed in their favour, alter fome oppofition in the commons, on account of its originating in the houfe of lords. But a petition from the quakers to be relieved from imprisonment for non-payment › of tythes, and for allowing their affirmation to be evidence in criminal as well as civil cafes was rejected by the lords, after paffing the coinmons. The humane effort made by lord Moira, in favour of perfons confined for debt, met with no better fuccefs.

The feffion clofed, on the nineteenth of May, with the customary fpeech from the throne. It informed the houles of the intention to dif folve the present, and to call a new parliament. The happieit effects, it faid, had been experienced from the provifions made for repreffing fedition and civil tumult, and for reftraining the progrefs of principles fubverfive of all established government.


The commons were thanked, in a more particular manner, for the liberal fupplies they had granted, to meet the exigencies of the war. Peculiar notice was taken of the increafing refources, by which the country was enabled to fupport the great expences it required. The nature of the fyftem introduced into France had, the fpeech faid, afforded to that country, in the midst of its calamities, the means of exertion, beyond the exertion of any former time; but, under the preffure of the new and unprecedented difficulties, arifing from fuch a conteft, the British conftitution had, by the counfels and conduct of parliament,

been preferved inviolate against the defigns of foreign and domestic enemies; the honour of the British name asserted; the rank and station held hitherto by this country in Europe, maintained; and the decided fuperiority of its naval power, eftablished in every quarter of the world.

Such were the principal paffages in the fpeech. It concluded with ftrong recommendations of unanimity and mutual confidence between the king and parliament, as beft promoting the true dignity of the crown, and the happiness of the fubject.




« ForrigeFortsett »