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nothing but his own inclinations, they would have led him to a very opposite conclusion. But, speaking as a member of Parliament, and a minister of the Crown, he deemed it advisable to keep the incomes of the royal family within the limits already assigned them.
Mr. Warburton said, that the course taken by the noble Lord did him the greatest honour, and would, he hoped, be estimated by the country, as he perceived it was by gentlemen on the other side of the House.
Sir Robert Peel remarked, that he felt fully that Lord John Russell, from his habits of intimacy, and community of political sentiment with the Duke of Sussex, had very great temptations to depart from the strict line of duty. But he had that night set an example to public men which was well deserving of imitation. Sir Robert proceeded to say, that, in supporting Lord John Russell in his opposition to the motion, he was doing what was personally disagreeable to himself; his feelings, as an individual, being in favour of the motion. After adverting to the duke's scientific pursuits, and to his hospitality, Sir Robert observed, that it would be dangerous to acquiesce in the precedent that the motion would furnish-that governments were more inclined to economy on questions of the kind, than the House of Commons itself; and, lastly, that such propositions ought always to originate with the ministers.
Mr. Freshfield, Mr. Tennyson D'Eyncourt, Lord Dungannon, Sir De Lacy Evans, Sir M. Wood, Lord Worsley, and Sir E. Codrington supported the motion, which Mr. Hawes and Mr. Hume, unwilling to oppose, and unprepared
to support, entreated the mover to withdraw.
Mr. Gillon, however, insisted upon dividing the House, when his motion was rejected by a majority of 98 to 48.
The Duke of Sussex, not long afterwards, abdicated the office of President of the Royal Society, under the plea of inability to incur the expense which that situation entailed upon him.
Mr. Hume had, at an earlier period of the session (May the 1st), moved the suspension of the Duke of Cumberland's allowance, so long as he should continue King of Hanover. The Chancellor of the Exchequer, of course, opposed this motion, which, after a short discussion, was negatived by a majority of 97 to 62.
It may be also here mentioned, that the House of Commons refused to recognize the claim of the late Speaker, Lord Canterbury, to indemnity for the loss of furniture and effects incurred by him, when the Houses of Parliament were burned down. It seems that the right hon. Gentleman whose residence was contiguous to the House of Commons had suffered his insurance to expire, when he first retired from the chair, which he had then no expectation of being again called upon to occupy. And that he had, when re-elected, omitted to renew his policy. The loss, which he sustained by the fire, amounted to several thousand pounds. The ground, upon which he claimed compensation was, that, as a public servant of the country, he had been compelled to reside in a particular building, which building had been destroyed through the negligence of other public servants, over whom he had no control. That he had no obliga
tion to insure his house against such contingencies, and that even if he had insured, his policy would not have been valid at law, inasmuch as the construction of the building was not in accordance with the conditions prescribed by the insurers.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer said he felt himself bound, on public grounds, to resist this application. If admitted, it would be followed by many others. To relieve public servants from the prudential obligation of insurance, merely because their duties imposed upon them the necessity of residing in buildings belonging to the public, was surely no desirable object. And he could not consent to establish any precedent to that effect.
The proposition for indemnity, however, was only negatived on a division, by a majority of 173 to 163. We may now notice the claims of another class of petitioners for compensation, which were also resisted by Mr. Spring Rice, though with less success than the preceding. For many years past, the attention of the House of Commons has been, from time to time, solicited to the case of a class of persons usually denominated "the Danish claimants." And it is but lately, that the representations made on their behalf have met with a favourable consideration. The particulars of the claims in ques tion are shortly as follow. After the capital of Denmark had been bombarded by the British expedition in 1807, and its fleet seized and carried away, previous to a declaration of war, the Danish Government, by way of reprisals, proceeded to confiscate whatever British property was within their reach.
The property, belonging to Brits
ish subjects, which was seized, upon this occasion, consisted of three classes-book-debts, merchandise on shore, and ships with their cargoes. And the parties who had sustained these losses, in consequence of the unlooked for aggres sion of their own Government, contended that they were entitled to indemnification from the country.
It should be observed, that the law of nations varies in its respective application to the three classes of goods just indicated. At least such is the opinion of the law of. ficers of the crown.
In the event of a war between two countries, book-debts and merchandise on shore cannot, it is said, consistently with the maxims of that law, be confiscated; but it is otherwise with ships and cargoes at sea.
When, therefore, the Danish Government seized property of the former description belonging to British subjects, it acted in violation of law. And it became open to the sufferers, to say to their own Government, "the Danes have done what they had no right to do, even in a state of war. We call upon you to compel them to do us justice, or to give us compensation yourselves." With respect to those, who had incurred loss by the seizure of ships and cargoes, the case was different. They had no claim for redress, or for compensation in lieu of it.
The British Government on resuming its amicable relations with Denmark did not choose to prefer any claim against that power, on account of the illegal confiscations, and therefore incurred a prima facie liability to its own subjects. This, for the first time, was acknowledged by Lord Althorpe, in 1834, though to a limited extent.
Theindemnity which he proposed to accord, was, at first, confined to the sufferers by losses from the interception of their book-debts, who were allowed three months time to come in, and substantiate their claim. Afterwards, however, persons whose claims were founded on the seizure of merchandize on shore, were comprehended in this scheme, and a like period of three months was allowed them; while the time granted to the former class of applicants was extended to six months.
In 1835, a sum of 112,000l. was voted in respect of the book-debts; and in the following year 78,3277. was granted under the other head. In this stage of the proceedings, Mr. Warburton, early in the present session (Dec. 4th), made an application to the House of Commons for an enlargement of the period allowed to those who had sustained losses in respect of merchandise on shore. The hon. Gentleman, contended, with great appearance of justice, that there could be no valid pretence for excluding the one class of claimants from the indulgence accorded to the other.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer was, at first, disposed to resist this proposition, but on finding that he was not seconded in his opposition by a single Member of the House, he gave way with great reluctance, and Mr. Warburton's motion was acceded to.
Thus far, however, it will be observed that the relief was limited to the two first classes of sufferers. But it would seem, that the remaining division of claimants, were encouraged by the apparent liberality of Parliament, to make one more attempt to be admitted into a participation of the relief
from which they had hitherto been rigorously excluded. Accordingly, on the 24th of May, Mr. Cresswell, one of the Members for Liverpool, brought their case before the House, and moved an address to the Crown, praying, that the commissioners, to whom the former classes of claims were referred, should be directed to extend their enquiries to the case of those who had sustained losses on account of the seizures of ships and cargoes.
Without discussing the legal distinctions before adverted to, as applicable to the different descriptions of goods captured by an enemy, Mr. Cresswell endeavoured, by an argument founded on a broader and more intelligible principle, to establish the general liability of the Government to all the claims in question. It was not upon the irregularity of the Danish mode of reprisals, but upon the conduct of our own Government in inducing those reprisals, that he insisted. No doubt, he said, the seizure of the Danish fleet might have been an act of state necessity, essential to the safety of the country. it was, surely, an act of common justice to give compensation to such British subjects as had suffered by reason of that extraordinary and unexpected proceeding. If the losses incurred upon that occasion were assignable to any fault or negligence of the parties, the case might stand on a different footing, but the very reverse was the fact. There was no ground, at the time for apprehending a war with Denmark; no increase of premium for insurance was required in respect of the ships and cargoes in question; the commander of the fleet proclaimed, as he advanced in the direction of Copenhagen,
that he came with no hostile designs, but as an ally and a protector, and assured the masters of British merchantmen, that they might navigate the Baltic without fear of molestation. But, continued Mr. Cresswell, the matter did not rest there. The British Government followed up their blow at Copenhagen by confiscation of Danish property to the amount of 1,300,000l. Under what pretence? What wrong had Denmark committed? What reprisals had we a right to make? How could such a violent measure be justified, except that the property was seized in anticipation of the reprisals which the Danes would inevitably make, and by way of providing a fund for the compensation of the British subjects whose vessels and goods might be captured?
The law of nations was clear upon the point. All the great authorities who had treated of the subject, were agreed in holding that a state occasioning reprisals, was bound to compensate those, who had suffered by them; that the sovereign, in such cases, must indemnify his subjects. Nothing could be clearer than, that if the public good required a proceeding which is attended with damage to blameless individuals, the public is bound to make up the loss. The present case was one of that description. A great national danger had been averted by extraordinary means, but it was at the expense of the petitioners, who were entitled to compensation from the country. The motion was opposed by the Law Officers of the Crown, and by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who contended that the present class of claims was distinguishable from the two others. VOL. LXXX.
Mr. Cresswell, in reply, positively denied that there was any such distinction, as that contended for, and asserted that the three classes of claimants must stand upon a precisely similar footing. The cause of the petitioners was also espoused by Messrs. Hutt, Ingham, Clay, Warburton, and by Sir Walter James.
Mr. Goulburn, on the other hand, declared, that he was convinced, that an acquiescence in the claims advanced in the present instance, would go far to shake the naval supremacy of this country.
The House divided on the motion, which was carried by a majority of 115 to 81.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer, apparently much disconcerted by this result, gave the House to understand that he should not "take upon himself any responsibility" in consequence of the vote which had just been come to.
It was, nevertheless, immediately acted upon. A "treasury minute" of the 22nd of June was issued, which contained directions for carrying into effect the resolution of the House of Commons, and for instructing the commissioners of Danish claims to inform the public "that they are authorised to examine claims for losses sustained on account of the seizure of ships and cargoes by the Danish Government in 1807."
Among the minor fiscal matters of the session, a motion of Mr. Gillon's for the repeal of the soap tax may be mentioned. It was opposed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, on the ground that the revenue would not bear so great a reduction as the motion involved.
Lord Sandon moved, as an amendment to it, that the duty be reduced one third-a proposal al
most equally unpalatable to Mr. Spring Rice. His protestations on the subject seem to have shaken the resolution of Lord Sandon, who was on the point of waving his proposition, when the House,
clamorous for a division, drove him to push his amendment to the vote, when it was, however, lost, by a majority of 166 to 78. The original motion was then put and negatived.