« ForrigeFortsett »
Effect of the Inquiry upon the Public. Parliamentary Proceedings arising
from it. Colonel Gordon's Lease at Chelsea. Lord Folkestone's Motion for a Committee of General Inquiry. Mr Perceval's Bill for the Prevention of the Sale of Offices. Motions against Lord Castlereagh. Meeting at the Crown and Anchor, Mr Curwen's Reform Bill.
The affair of the Duke of York was debated at unexampled length, and coatinually before Parliament for two on no former occasion had more inmonths, occupying a third of the genuity or more ability ever been diswhole session, to the grievous inter- played in Parliament. Yet the imruption of public business, and the mediate consequences of the inquiry more grievous excitement of the peo- were prejudicial to the House of ple, even to the extinction in most Commons, to the ministry, and to the minds of all other public interest government, whatever. The result was at least The complete acquittal of the duke as much matter of honour as of dis- had been carried by a majority of honour to the English government. only 82 ; but the opinion of the The king's second son, a prince en public was so decidedly against him, joying the favour of his father, and that the people would not believe it 10 near the throne himself, had been possible for any man conscientiousdriven from office by a member of the ly to have acquitted him. They did House of Commons who was unheard not consider that their own minds had of before this transaction, and who been prejudiced upon the subject ; keither possessed any influence of that they were predisposed to believe character
, property, nor talents. It the charges ; and that the evidence had been proved to the conviction of was dealt out to them daily and the country that his royal highness weekly by journalists desperately hosFa: 80 far culpable as to render his tile to the duke, who suffered no resignation proper ; that resignation argument which bore against him to had taken place in consequence, and pass unenforced, and slighted or slur. public opinion had thus obtained a red over all that could be urged in
signal triumph than could be his defence. Neither did they ask parallelled in the history of any other themselves what was the extent of age or nation. The subject had been the criminality which they supposed
had been established; for this was tween him and his mistress
the so little, admitting even the whole to affairs of the army, it was so utterly have been proved, that when the impossible that such things should
of the commander-in-chief, the not have occurred, that the duke power of the courtezan over him, and would not even recollect them as im the profligacy of her character were prudencies. But when it appeared taken into the account, the few who in the hand-writing of the duke himjudged dispassionately of what was self that his mistress had been sufferpassing were astonished that the abu- ed to interfere with him upon these ses were so much less than had been subjects, ministers should themselves supposed, and might reasonably have have proposed the milder vote, which, been expected. Enough, however, while it acquitted him of corrupt had been substantiated to render his connivance, censured him for having removal necessary; and yet he had permitted the existence of an undue been acquitted in the face of the evi- influence. Even if the alternative dence, as it appeared to the people, had been to forfeit the favour of the and by the exertion of the whole in- crown, or shock the sense of justice fluence of administration. This pro- in the people, a right view of their duced an impression upon the public own interest should have led them mind highly unfavourable both to the to this course ; but in their zeal to House and to the ministry.
clear the character of his royal highThe ministry had been placed in a ness, they forgot what was due to most unfortunate situation. From their own. The mere circumstance the duke they received the most po- of voting in a party upon points of sitive assurances of his innocence, evidence was sufficient to render the assurances which, according to all integrity of their motives suspected. reasonable presumption, could have This conduct was injudicious as it proceeded from nothing but inno- respected themselves. The great cry cence ; for his royal highness chal- of their antagonists, who reckoned in lenged inquiry, desiring that it might their own ranks almost all the old be as full as possible, and constantly families and leading aristocracy, was, affirming that nothing could appear that they were men of no influence against him. Had he indeed appre- in the country, and that they held hended any thing from Mrs Clarke, their places solely by the favour of a trifling sum of money would effec- the crown. It was indeed true, that tually have secured him ; her sole the crown had chosen them of its motive being to obtain money, whe- own free pleasure ; but the total unther from him or from his enemies popularity of their opponents had she cared not. This conduct on the given them strength, and they had part of the duke must be admitted acquired a hold upon public opinion among the reasons for clearing him by the spirit with which they mainof the heaviest part of the charge. tained the honour of England. That Kennett's case, which was a case
of hold they in great measure forfeited corruption, had no relation to Mrs by their obsequiousness to the royal Clarke or the army, and was not likely family in this unhappy transactionto rise in judgement against him; a transaction which rendered it more and for the conversation and corre- than ever essential to the interests of spondence which had taken place be- the crown that its ministers should possess the confidence of the people. ment was, that government was en. For it could not be doubted that the gaged in war against a people who enemies of government would avail were fighting for liberty. The disthemselves to the utmost of the dis- affected of the present times adapted graceful facts which were brought to their arguments more wisely to the light in the course of the inquiry, vulgar. The reform for which they and that no means would be spared pleaded was to save money. Ac. to exasperate and inflame the popu- cording to them, the wisdom of publace. There was less real disaffec- lic measures was to be estimated extion in the country at the commence- clusively by their expence : Government of the anti.jacobin war, and ment was a combination of the rich that disaffection was of a less danger. to raise money from the people, and ous kind. The success of jacobinism divide it among themselves and their in England at that time was impeded dependants. Never before had sediby many causes, and by none more tion appeared in so sordid a shape.
by the contradictory views and To the writers of this faction no. characters of the jacobins themselves. thing could be more welcome than The better spirits, who were led astray this inquiry into the conduct of the by the hopes which the French re. commander-in-chief. During the volution seemed to open for human whole progress of the investigation kind, mingled their politics with prin- they devoted their whole attention ciples which were equally too gene- to it. This, they said, was of pararous and too wild to become popular; mount importance; it mattered not and the baser crew, who aped the what was going on on the continent, follies of the French, and felt no it mattered not what became of Spain, horror at their crimes, shocked their nothing was now worthy the consicountrymen by open professions of deration of the people of England irreligion and of profligacy. Jaco- except the business of the Duke of binism in those days had not reached York and Mrs Clarke! They who the populace; in spite of the dema- shall read the history of this eventful gogue writers, the popular cry was era hereafter, when temporary politics against it ; wherever riots took place will be reduced to their proper insigthe mob were loyal, and their object nificance, will wonder that such lanwas the destruction of those whom guage could have been successful. they were taught to consider as the Such, however, is the temper of this enemies of their king and country; generation, that for three months the Things were now entirely changed, public attention was monopolized by Jacobinism had disappeared from the this miserable subject. The provinmiddle ranks, and sunk down to the cial newspapers, now almost as unilowest ; it had lost its generalizing versally anti-ministerial as they were spirit and its metaphysics ; whatever otherwise in Mr Pitt's time, carried also had made it alluring to the young it into every ale-house throughout and the ardent was gone ; it was be- the kingdom, and there was not a come selfish and grovelling, yet from hovel in which the Duke and Mrs its very deterioration the more dan- Clarke were not the topic of congerous. Its watch-word had for. versation. « Every penny paid to merly been the rights of man, and its Mrs Clarke," the people were told, cause of complaint against govern. “ was out of their pockets. The money annually lavished upon her thanks were poured in upon him from was equal to the poor-rates of fifty almost every town in England, all parishes to all the direct taxes of accompanied with resolutions contwenty,—to the maintenance of above demning the corruption of govern. six hundred labouring families. By ment, and asserting the necessity of these means the farmer was deprived radical reform. of his comforts, the labourer pinched In this state of the public mind, the in his food, and fuel, and raiment. prosecutions which had been comOh how many widows, how many menced against the libellers oi the hundreds and thousands of the people duke, and the newspapers which had were suffering for her, and for the extracted from their works, were ne. accursed system of corruption and cessarily dropt, and his enemies did profligacy, of which this was but a not fail to take advantage of the lisingle sample! What we had yet cence which they had obtained. As seen was but a verse of one of the if some political Saturnalia had been chapters of one of the books of one proclaimed, they gave free scope to of the volumes of corruption—it was all the insolence and brutality of vul. but as a blade of grass to a whole gar exultation. This spirit was ea. meadow."
sily instilled into the lowest classes Those writers, who deluded the of society. Among the vilest of the people by these inflammatory and rabble the duke was made a bye-word preposterous exaggerations, desired of reproach and mockery; the very nothing more than that the duke link-boys, and young ruffians who should be acquitted by ministerial in- gamble in the streets, cried “ Duke Auence. It afforded them new grounds or Darling" when they tost their for vilifying the House of Commons, pence in the air. This temper was and bringing government into disre. especially conspicuous in a circumpute. Overlooking, therefore, the stance which would have been honoursignal triumph which public opinion able to English generosity, had it not had actually obtained, overlooking been thus disgraced. That ruin which also the important fact, that, consti- Miss Taylor had anticipated, if she tuted as the House of Commons is, were compelled to appear in evidence the business had undergone the most before the House of Commons, had full and
open examination and discus. fallen upon her. She and her sister, sion, they kept in view the vote of under all the disadvantages which the acquittal. This, they asserted, was misconduct and the misfortunes of the work of Parliament; and for what their parents had brought upon them, little justice had been obtained, the were struggling to support themselves people were indebted, not to their by honourable means. Their sole re. representatives, but to the judgement liance was upon the school which they which they themselves had so uni- had just established; but no sooner versally and loudly expressed upon was their connection with Mrs Clarke the evidence. Colonel Wardle was made known by means of this inquiry, at once raised to the very height of the baseness of their birth, and the popularity; the city of London voted character of their parents, than all him its freedom ; he was proposed their scholars were immediately taken with general applause as a member from them; their creditors, whom at the Whig Club; and addresses of the continuance of the school might have enabled them to satisfy, became Colonel Gordon was preparing to urgent for payment, their goods were build, or to have any idea of its rela. seized for rent and taxes, and they tive situation to the hospital, and were threatened with imprisonment particularly to the infirmary, without for debts, amounting to 1501. beyond being convinced that such a building what they had any possibility of dis- should not be permitted, and that charging. A subscription to pay the whole bargain ought to be re. those debts, and purchase an annuity voked. An infirmary appropriated for their joint lives sufficient to sup- to our sick soldiers was cooped up port them in decent comfort, was and deprived of the free air, so essenproposed by Cobbett, and this object tial to their recovery, merely for the was speedily effected: but the sub- sake of gratifying an individual. He scription list was made a vehicle for moved therefore for a copy of the fresh scurrility, and so many black. warrant of treasury under which the guards gave sixpences and shillings, grant was made to Colonel Gordon, for the sake of conveying an insult which warrant was dated on the 11th to the duke in the name or motto of March last. which they affixed to their donation, In reply to this statement, Mr that the more respectable newspapers Long rose, as being one of the comsoon found it necessary for their own missioners for superintending the concharacter to decline the insertion of cerns of Chelsea hospital. The ground the lists.
in question, he said, had been purMeantime, the parliamentary pro- chased by government, on the repreceedings which grew out of the in- sentation of the physicians to the quiry contributed to keep up this state hospital that an infirmary was wantof political agitation. Sir Francis ed. All that was deemed necessary Burdett discovered that Colonel Gor- for this purpose was set apart for it; don had obtained a piece of ground the rest was valued by the surveyors, belonging to Chelsea hospital, lying according to the act for the disposal along the bank of the river, and par- of the crown lands. Colonel Gordon ticularly calculated, he said, for the became the purchaser : better terms air and exercise of the pensioners. could not have been obtained for it
When Sir Francis men- if it had been put up to public aucApril 13. tioned this in the House, tion, and special provision was made
Mr Huskisson admitted in the lease granted to him that he that what he said was not altogether should not build or plant in any way unfounded. The commissioners of to inconvenience the infirmary. Mr the hospital had thought that the Huskisson confirmed this statement, ground which could not be better adding, in contradiction to an asserdisposed of should be let for build- tion of Sir Francis, that the corner ing, and under these circumstances in which the sick were cooped up was Colonel Gordon had become a holder not a twentieth part of the ground of part of it. The next day Sir granted to Colonel Gordon ; that Francis entered more minutely into the surveyors had on oath valued the the subject. He had been, he said, land for the infirmary at 60001., and that morning to survey the ground, on the same oath the land of Colonel and he thought it impossible for any Gordon was only valued at 521. a. person to see the spot upon which year. Mr Perceval remarked, that