must ultimately affect national strength and national credit) so very difficult, as to become next to impracticable.

But what, I confess, was uppermost with me, what I bent the whole force of my mind to, was the reduction of that corrupt influence, which is itself the perennial spring of all prodigality and of all disorder, which loads us more than millions of debts; which takes away vigour from our arms, wisdom from our councils, and every shadow of authority and credit from the most venerable parts of our constitution.

Sir, I assure you very solemnly, and with a very clear conscience, that nothing in the world has led me to such an undertaking, but my zeal for the honour of this house, and the settled, habitual, systematic affection I bear to the cause, and to the principles of government.

I enter perfectly into the nature and consequence of my attempt; and I advance to it with a tremor that shakes me to the inmost fibre of my frame. I feel that I engage in a business in itself most ungracious, totally wide of the course of prudent conduct; and I really think, the most completely adverse that can be imagined to the natural turn and temper of my own mind. I know that all parsimony is of a quality approaching to unkindness; and that (on some person or other) every reform must operate as a sort of punishment. Indeed the whole class of the severe and restrictive virtues, are at a market almost too high for humanity. What is worse, there are very few of those virtues which are not capable of being imitated, and even outdone in many of their most striking effects, by the worst of vices. Malignity and envy will carve much more deeply, and finish much more sharply, in the work of retrenchment, than frugality and providence. I do not, therefore, wonder, that gentlemen have kept away from such a task, as well from good-nature as from prudence. Private feeling might, indeed, be overborne by legislative reason ; and a man of a long-sighted and strong-nerved humanity might bring himself not so much to consider from whom he takes a superfluous enjoyment, as for whom in the end he may preserve the absolute necessaries of life.

But it is much more easy to reconcile this measure to humanity, than to bring it to any agreement with prudence. I do not mean that little, selfish, pitiful, bastard thing, which sometimes goes by the name of a family in which it is not legitimate, and to which it is a disgrace;-I mean even that public and enlarged prudence, which, apprehensive of being disabled from rendering acceptable services to the world, withholds itself from those that are invidious.

Gentlemen who are, with me, verging towards the decline of life, and are apt to form their ideas of kings from kings of former times, might dread the anger of a reigning prince ;—they who are more provident of the future, or by being young are more interested in it, might tremble at the resentment of the successor; they might see a long, dull, dreary, unvaried vista of despair and exclusion, for half a century, before them. This is no pleasant prospect at the outset of a political journey.

Besides this, Sir, the private enemies to be made in all attempts of this kind are innumerable ; and their enmity will be the more bitter, and the more dangerous too, because a sense of dignity will oblige them to conceal the cause of their resentment. Very few men of great families and extensive connections, but will feel the smart of a cutting reform, in some close relation, some bosom friend, some pleasant acquaintance, some dear protected dependent. Emolument is taken from some; patronage from others; objects of pursuit from all. Men, forced into an involuntary independence, will abhor the authors of a blessing which in their eyes has so very near a resemblance to a curse. When officers are removed, and the offices remain, you may set the gratitude of some against the anger of others; you may oppose the friends you oblige against the enemies you provoke. But services of the present sort create no attachments. The individual good felt in a public benefit, is comparatively so small, comes round through such an involved labyrinth of intricate and tedious revolutions; whilst a present personal detriment is so heavy, where it falls, and so instant in its operation, that the cold commendation of a public advantage never was, and never will be, a match for the quick sensibility of a private loss; and you may depend upon it, Sir, that when many people have an interest in railing, sooner or later, they will bring a considerable degree of unpopularity upon and

So that, for the present, at least, the reformation will operate against the reformers ; and revenge (as against them at the least) will produce all the effects of corruption. This, Sir, is almost always the case, where the plan has complete

But how stands the matter in the mere attempt? Nothing, you know, is more common, than for men to wish, and call loudly too, for a reformation, who, when it arrives, do by no means like the severity of its aspect. Reformation is one of those pieces which must be put at some distance in order to please. Its greatest favourers love it better in the abstract than in the substance. When any old prejudice of their own, or any interest that they value, is touched, they become scrupulous, they become captious, and every man has



his separate exception. Some pluck out the black hairs, some the grey ; one point must be given up to one, another point must be yielded to another; nothing is suffered to prevail upon its own principle; the whole is so frittered down and disjointed, that scarcely a trace of the original scheme remains. Thus, between the resistance of power, and the unsystematical process of popularity, the undertaker and the undertaking are both exposed, and the poor reformer is hissed off the stage, both by friends and foes.

Observe, Sir that the apology for my undertaking (an apology which, though long, is no longer than necessary) is not grounded on my want of the fullest sense of the difficult and invidious nature of the task I undertake. I risk odium if I succeed, and contempt if I fail. My excuse must rest in mine and your conviction of the absolute, urgent necessity there is, that something of the kind should be done. If there is any sacrifice to be made, either of estimation or of fortune, the smallest is the best. Commanders-in-chief are not to be put upon the forlorn hope. But indeed it is necessary that the attempt should be made. It is necessary from our own political circumstances, it is necessary from the operations of the enemy, it is necessary from the demands of the people; whose desires, when they do not militate with the staple and eternal rules of justice and reason (rules which are above us, and above them), ought to be as a law to a House of Commons.

As to our circumstances, I do not mean to aggravate the difficulties of them, by the strength of any colouring whatsoever. On the contrary, I observe, and observe with pleasure, that our affairs rather wear a more promising aspect than they did on the opening of this session. We have had some leading successes. But those who rate them at the highest (higher a great deal indeed than I dare to do), are of opinion, that, upon the ground of such advantages, we cannot at this time hope to make any treaty of peace, which would not be ruinous and completely disgraceful. In such an anxious state of things, if dawnings of success serve to animate our diligence, they are good ; if they tend to increase our presumption, they are worse than defeats. The state of our affairs shall then be as promising as any one may choose to conceive it; it is however but promising. We must recollect, that with but half of our natural strength, we are at war against confederated powers, who have singly threatened us with ruin; we must recollect, that whilst we are left naked on one side, our other flank is uncovered by any alliance; that whilst we are weighing and balancing our successes against our losses, we are accumulating debt to the amount of, at least, fourteen millions in the year. That loss is certain.

I have no wish to deny that our successes are as brilliant as any one chooses to make them ; our resources too may, for me, be as unfathomable as they are represented. Indeed they are just whatever the people possess, and will submit to pay. Taxing is an easy business. Any projector can contrive new impositions, any bungler can add to the old. But is it altogether wise to have no other bounds to your impositions, than the patience of those who are to bear them ?

All claim upon the subject of your resources is this, that they are not likely to be increased by wasting them.

I think I shall be permitted to assume, that a system of frugality will not lessen your riches, whatever they may be; I believe it will not be hotly disputed, that those resources which lie heavy on the subject, ought not to be objects of preference, that they ought to be the very first choice to an honest representative of the people.

This is all, Sir, that I shall say upon our circumstances and our resources : I mean to say a little more on the operations of the enemy, because this matter seems to me very natural in our present deliberation. When I look to the other side of the water, I cannot help recollecting what Pyrrhus said, on reconnoitring the Roman camp,

These barbarians have nothing barbarous in their discipline." When I look, as I have pretty carefully looked, into the proceedings of the French king, I am sorry to say it, I see nothing of the character and genius of arbitrary finance; none of the bold frauds of bankrupt power; none of the wild struggles and plunges of despotism in distress ; no lopping off from the capital of debt; no suspension of interest; no robbery under the name of loan; no raising the value, no debasing the substance of the coin. I see neither Louis the Fourteenth nor Louis the Fifteenth.

On the contrary, I behold with astonishment, rising before me, by the very hands of arbitrary power, and in the very midst of war and confusion, a regular, methodical system of public credit; I behold a fabric laid on the natural and solid foundations of trust and confidence among men ; and rising, by fair gradations, order over order, according to the just rules of symmetry and art. What a reverse of things! Principle, method, regularity, economy, frugality, justice to individuals, and care of the people, are the resources with which France makes war upon Great Britain. God avert the omen! But if we should see any genius in war and politics arise in France to second what is done in the bureau, I turn my eyes from the consequences.

The noble lord in the blue ribbon, last year treated all this with contempt. He never could conceive it possible that the French minis. ter of finance could go through that year with a loan of but seventeen

same scene.

hundred thousand ponuds, and that he should be able to fund that loan without any tax. The second year, however, opens the very

A small loan, a loan of no more than two millions five hundred thousand pounds, is to carry our enemies through the service of this year also. No tax is raised to fund that debt; no tax is raised for the current services. I am credibly informed that there is no anticipation whatsoever. Compensations are correctly made. Old debts continue to be sunk as in the time of profound peace. Even payments which their treasury had been authorised to suspend during the time of war are not suspended.

A general reform, executed through every department of the revenue, creates an annual income of more than half a million, whilst it facilitates and simplifies all the functions of administration. The king's household at the remotest avenues to which all reformation has been hitherto stopped—that household, which has been the stronghold of prodigality, the virgin fortress which was never before attacked-has been not only not defended, but it has, even in the forms, been' surrendered by the king to the economy of his minister. No capitulation ; no reserve. Economy has entered in triumph into the public splendour of the monarch-into his private amusements-into the appointments of his nearest and highest relations. Economy and public spirit have made a beneficent and an honest spoil ; they have plundered from extravagance and luxury, for the use of substantial service, a revenue of near four hundred thousand pounds. The re. form of the finances, joined to this reform of the court, gives to the public nine hundred thousand pounds a-year and upwards.

The minister who does these things is a great man; but the king who desires that they should be done is a far greater. We must do justice to our enemies—these are the acts of a patriot king. I am not in dread of the vast armies of France ; I am not in dread of the gallant spirit of its brave and numerous nobility; I am not alarmed even at the great navy which has been so miraculously created. All these things Louis the Fourteenth had before. With all these things the French monarchy has more than once fallen prostrate at the feet of the public faith of Great Britain. It was the want of public credit which disabled France from recovering after her defeats, or recovering even from her victories and triumphs. It was a prodigal court, it was an ill-ordered revenue, that sapped the foundations of all her greatness. Credit cannot exist under the arm of necessity. Necessity strikes at credit, I allow, with a heavier and quicker blow under an arbitrary monarchy than under a limited and balanced government; but still necessity and credit are natural enemies, and cannot be long

« ForrigeFortsett »