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H IS TO RY
Lord NORTH's Administration.
P A RT
the Treasury, to the disolution of Parliament
the Middlesex election-Partial repeal of the American port
-Negotiations Resignations-The dispute with Spain adjusted--Probable motives which led to that eventSitudtion of France--Meeting of Parliament--Misunderstanding between the two houses---Lord North’s plan of finance B
for 1771–Proceedings of the house of Commons against certain printers.-Conduct of the magistrates of London--The record of their proceedings erased by order of the houseThe Lord Mayor and Alderman Oliver committed to the Tower -Resolutions respecting Mr. Wilkes—Bill to enable the East India Company to raise a military force.
ISTORY cannot furnith such another instance
of a great nation, the wonder and admiration of
the whole earth, under an established form of government, and in a time of profound peace, so rapidly losing the respect and estimation in which it was held, as this country exhibited, during the few short years that intervened between the conclusion of the peace of Paris, and the time when the minister, whose administration we are now to treat of, took the lead. Instability and weakness marked each successive appointment. In some, these defects were inherent in the men; in others, they arose from the partial fupport, which they derived from the source of power;
whilst among the people discontents, clamours, and outrages prevailed; so as that neither the respect which is naturally annexed to lawful authority, nor even the intervention of a military force, could suppress or check them. The administration which immediately preceded that of which lord North became the head, was indeed the longest, but, at the same time the weakest, of any in that period. It would scarcely be credited, if the fact was not incontrovertible, that a French frigate refused to pay that compliment to the British flag, in our own channel, which has been regularly given ever since we claimed a superiority on the ocean.
These domestic broils were first excited, and afterwards kept up, by a bold and able leader of the people, who hav
ing diffipated a large fortune by unbridled excesses, found his creditors become clamorous and his expedients forsake him, whilft an habitual negligence of his affairs, ferved to precipitate those diftreffes which he seemed unmindful to avert. Reduced to extremities, he became a patriot, and, in conjunction with some men equally bold, and possessing talents equally well adapted to the attempt, gained the warm patronage of the people. The opposition to government raised by these active partisans was more violent and effectual, than that which was carried on against Sir Robert Walpole, even when a Pulteney spoke and a Bolingbroke wrote, to rouse the indignation of the people. A daring attack upon the Sovereign; in a publication supposed to have been written by Mr. Wilkes, the head of this confederacy, caused his papers to be seized, and himself to be taken into custody. This proceeding brought to light a licentious poem, equally replete with profaneness and obscenity. Every individual member of administration was shocked at fuch flagitious impiety; and the offences of the man, in whose custody it was found, against his God and his King, were descanted upon with all the energy of virtuous reprobation in both houses of Parliament. Even Mr. Wilkes's associates in those unhallowed orgies, which this poem was composed for the purpose of animating, declared their abhorrence of the crime. The discovery worked an immediate conversion on a noble lord, who had heretofore been distinguished by his zest for these profanations : with tears in his eyes he read to the house the maledictory verses, and execrated them with all the fervour of new-born zeal. The house of Lords censured, the house of Commons expelled, the offender; the latter voted that Mr. Wilkes, in whose custody the poem was found, should be deprived of his feat in that house, and a new writ' was accordingly issued by the speaker for electing another member for the county of Middlesex, which he
represented. The freeholders, whether from diffruft of the purity of the motives which led the house of Commons to inflict this punishment on their profligate member, or actuated hy a fpirit of indifcriminating opposition, rechose Mr. Wilkes for their representative. The house rejected him as ineligible, and declared that a member expelled their house, was virtually incapacitated from fitting there during that parliament: notwithstanding which, a second election terminated in the fame manner.
At length another candidate was prevailed upon to start; he had 296 votes, Mr. Wilkes 1193; the sheriffs returned the latter, the house rejected him, and voted his opponent, Capt. Luttrell, duly elected *. It was even debated, whether the sheriffs should not feel the displeasure of the house for their conduct; but this disposition was renounced, when Sir Fletcher Norton declared, that those officers were bound in duty to act as they had done : the house, indeed, might set afide their return, but could not punish the sheriffs for making it under the peculiar circumstances of the case.
This decision excited great discontents; the people denied that the house of Commons had a right to reject a member who had been duly returned by a majority of good votes, and who had no legal incapacity: expulsion, they said, threw such an one on his constituents, for them to decide, as they thought fit, on his delinquency; and if he was still the man of their choice, the utmost power poffefied by the Commons reached to make the election void, but it could not give the seat to a candidate who had the fewest fuffrages. They contended, that although the house of Commons .expelled, it could not incapacitate ; such a proscription could be only rendered legal, by the concurrence of all the three distinct parts of the legislature. The cry was industriously * April 15, 1769.
spread, that the house of Commons was assuming to itself a power, which had never been exercised in such a latitude; it was dangerous to the constitution, in the present instance, and likewise a flagrant violation of the rights of the people ; and, when drawn into a precedent, might in future times be made use of to still more fatal purposes. On these grounds the city of London petitioned the King, praying him to dissolve the parliament. The nation caught the alarm, and petitions to the fame purport were sent up from various parts of the kingdom; the object of which was, in some measure, counteracted by the addresses to the throne, expreslive of the peoples approbation of the conduct of parliament. It was whilst this ferment was at its height, that the Duke of Grafton thought fit to withdraw himself from power, and resign the administration of affairs to Lord North *.
This minister, the eldest son of the Earl of Guilford, is defcended from an ancient family, the younger branch of which rose into considerable consequence under the favour of Henry VIII, and from the ancestors fo patronized, many eminent men have sprung in different ages, distinguished for their valour, wisdom, learning and abilities, When the States of Holland threw off the yoke of Spain, Roger, the second Lord North, distinguished himself among the English who supported the cause of religion and liberty in the Low Countries, and was wounded in the engagement before Zutphen, in which Sir Philip Sidney was fain. His son died in the Netherlands, and his grandson, Dudley Lord North, was nominated by both houses of parliament in 1645, in conjunction with the Earls of Northumberland, Essex and Warwick, to manage the affairs of the Admiralty. The statesmen and writers who have since sprung from this stock, are well known to every one,
* Jan. 1770. B 3