§ Mr. Whitbread
rose to make his promised motion, founded on the tenth report of the Commissioners of Naval Enquiry, and spoke as follows:—When first, sir, I gave notice that, I should call the attention of the house to the subject on which I am now to address you, it was my intention to follow, the precedents by which the house have been generally guided, and to move that the tenth report of the commissioners of Naval Enquiry be taken into consideration in a committee. I have, however, since, on mature reflection, seen reason to alter this original resolution, and confining myself to the most important part of that report, to make that the foundation of certain propositions with which I shall have the honour to conclude. With due respect to all the commissioners which have ever sat under the authority and appointment of this house, I must be permitted to say, that none was ever more honourable in its origin, none had ever prosecuted its inquiries with more real advantage to the public interest. It is well known that this commission originated from the late Board of Admiralty, at the head of which presided that noble lord 256 who had so often signalized his prowess in fighting the battles of his country. That noble lord, however, not satisfied with combating and subduing her enemies abroad, returned home to overturn her domestic foes, by exploding those mines of corruption which rendered all advantages of victory fruitless and unavailing. The commissioners thus constituted have already made a variety of reports, though I am sorry to say that on few have any proceedings hitherto be en founded. I certainly do take some degree of merit to myself for having moved for certain papers calculated to elucidate the first report, and was then given to understand that a commission had been appointed to carry into effect such suggestions in the report as appeared likely to be adopted with advantage. What progress has been made by this commission does not hitherto appear, though at a future time I may feel it my duty to bring the matter again under the consideration of the house. But to return to the Commissioners of Naval Inquiry, I think it clearly demonstrated, that if they had greater difficulties to encounter than any former commission suffered; if they have been attacked in a manner contrary to all decency by the whole host of jobbers and depredators, whose villainies it was their object to expose; if they have been described as exercising the office of inquisitors rather than of commissioners; if their views have been vilified not only in this house but throughout the public at large; if every possible obstacle has been thrown in the way of their investigations; if every thing, in short, has been done to disgust them, and make them relinquish the great task entrusted to them by this house; and if, overlooking all these considerations, they have thought only of discharging their duty to their country, it will not surely be denied that their merit has, been greatly enhanced, that they are entitled to the warmest gratitude of the best interests of this empire. By their firmness and their perseverance they have discovered what eluded the most diligent inquiries of various commissions appointed for the purpose of ascertaining the amount of various abuses in the public expenditure, what all the vigilance of committees of this house could not fully bring to light. The commissioners having thus done their duty to the public, it falls to my lot to bring to justice the criminals whom they have exposed. It is needless for me to insist on 257 the importance of the subject on which I am now addressing you. It is important to the high person whom the propositions with which I shall conclude principally involve. It is important to the very salvation and existence of our country. It is important to the commissioners who have brought forward this most interesting report. If the house decide, as it appears to me that they are in duty bound, and as it strikes me it is almost impossible for them not to decide, it will prove that no person guilty of so flagrant a violation of an express act of parliament, as that contained in the tenth report, that no individual strongly suspected of conniving at such unwarrantable application of the public money, or receiving any advantage from this misapplication, however high Ins rank or extensive his influence, shall escape with impunity. The public will look with reverence to ours decisions; they will be convinced that a door is opened for the introduction of regularity and economy in our public expenditure, and that if our burthens are extreme, their produce will at least be applied to the purposes for which parliament intended them. If, on the contrary, our decision should be contrary to these just hopes and expectations; if we shall, in defiance of the report on our table, pronounce the noble lord not guilty, then indeed tile people will have serious cause for complaint and indignation; then the vulgar assertion may with great apparent plausibility be employed; we may with truth be accused of seeking only emolument as our sole object, in place of the good of our country. No longer can we he considered as statesmen animated by a laudable spirit of ambition—that ambition implanted in our nature to incite us to high deeds. We must then be considered as acting only from the base, sordid motives which degrade the character of the statesman, and render him contemptible in the eves of his fellow citizens. Feeling these truths severely, I do trust that the house will accede to those propositions which it is my intention to found on the facts which the tenth report has disclosed. This report involves a considerable number of individuals. It is not only Lord Melville and Mr. Trotter, his pay-master, that are involved, but we have Mr. Wilson and Mr. Mark Sprott, who cut on inconsiderable figure in the scene. We have also brought before us the high and 258 respectable company of the bank of England. If I am not also misinformed, the report to a certain degree involves the character of the right hon. gentleman (Mr. Pitt) on the other side of the house. With respect to what is said in the report about the Bank of England, I am not satisfied that the conduct of the governors in allowing the money, the public money, to be withdrawn in the way in which it has been, was correct. On the contrary, it has every appearance of being in direct opposition to the express regulations of an act of parliament. The evidence of the, officer of the Bank, who was examined before the commissioners, does not fully do away this impression. With respect to what I alluded to respecting the right hon. gentleman opposite, I shall explain my meaning in a few words. I have been informed that the right hon. gentleman, several years ago, when he last held the same situation which he now enjoys, was informed of the existence of the practice of withdrawing the public money contrary to an express act of parliament, and that no steps whatever were taken to put an end to it. If this statement be correct, the right hon. gent. will permit me to say, that his conduct betrayed very culpable negligence, and a very unjustifiable connivance at a practice which every man who values the proper regulation of the public expenditure must consider as highly dangerous. In bringing forward a charge against lord Melville, I do not bring a charge against a mere unprotected individual. During the greater part of his life he has enjoyed an ample share of the public rewards, and public honours. For a period of thirty years he has been in the uninterrupted possession of some lucrative office, and he has at the same time exercised a most extensive influence. He has, no doubt, many friends attached to him by the consciousness of obligation, and though he is not now present to hear the charge preferred against him, he has many friends in this house who will be happy in the opportunity of undertaking his defence. Thinking, then, that I take no unfair advantage of him, I proceed to that charge which his friends will be fully able to explain to him in another place. In conducting this business, it will be my object strictly to adhere to that moderation which is the most adapted for the investigation of truth, but, at the same time, with that firmness and perseverance which my duty 259 to the public imposes on me. In the case which I have to lay before the house, there are some circumstances of aggravation which will render it necessary for me to occupy a greater portion of your time, than I could otherwise have wished, and to employ terms of greater severity, which, on other occasions, would readily be spared. When I look to the individual who is the principal criminal, against whom my charge will be directed, I see many reasons which increase the magnitude of his offence. .At the close of the American war, when we were plunged into the greatest national distress, and when the public began to see that there had been a gross misapplication of our resources, petitions flowed in from all parts of the country, praying for some reform in the expenditure of the public treasure. The right hon. gent. opposite was then in the dawn of his political life, and in nothing did he seem more desirous of recommending himself to notice and distinction, than by his zeal for the reform of abuses, and his anxiety to have a well-regulated system of economy established it, every part of the public expenditure. Committees were accordingly appointed, and on the reports which they produced, regulations were framed for diminishing every sort of unnecessary expenditure, and for removing all those causes which had formerly created these excesses. Of these the most prominent was the regulation for lessening the balances in the hands of public officers. It was at the same time resolved that a number of the fees and gratuities formerly existing in public offices should be withdrawn, and instead of them permanent and adequate salaries should be allowed. It was particularly laid down, as a most important regulation, that the paymaster of the forces and the treasurer of the navy should have a specific salary, and that they should neither directly or indirectly derive any advantage from the use of the public money. Now, these resolutions are alive in the recollection and feelings of many gentlemen who are at present members of this house; and sure I am, that lord Melville is the very last man in the world who can at all plead ignorance of their existence, He, indeed, distinguished himself at that period for his professed zeal, for the reform of abuses, with what sincerity I leave to the judgment of the house to decide. He surely could not have possibly misunderstood the intention of the legislature, and I am not now to inform him for the first time, that 260 the abuses in the offices of the paymaster of the forces and the treasurer of the navy were the leading features in all the reports of the parliamentary committees of that day. In 1781, a positive resolution passed on the reports of one of those committees, declaring it as their opinion, that neither the paymaster nor the treasurer of the navy should draw any part of the public money till it was positively wanted for the public service. The report further goes on to state the opinion of the committee, that the treasurer of the navy should henceforth act as an accountant, and not as a banker, to the nation. A report was at the same time made of the amount of the treasurer of the navy's salary, which was 2000l. exclusive of profit arising from the use of balances of the public money in his hands. It was on these reports resolved that all these balances should be forthwith paid into the bank of England, and that the salary of the treasurer should be fixed at 4000l. in lieu of all fees, emoluments, or gratuities of whatever description. What was the conduct of Mr. Barré, at that time treasurer of the navy? Even before the resolution had been submitted to the legislature, he spontaneously paid into the Bank of England the whole amount of the balances at that period in his possession. In this case the house will see clearly that Mr. Barré was not placed in circumstances at all parallel to those under which lord Melville has acted. There hitherto existed no positive law to force Mr. Barré to surrender up his balances, but he very wisely bowed to the decision of a committee of the house, and shewed his readiness even to anticipate the future resolution of the legislature. Mr. Barré thus gave the promptest proof of his obedience to the voice of parliament, and it was proved before the commissioners by the only person now surviving to attest the fact, that Mr. Barré, never afterwards, directly or indirectly, received the least emolument from the public money beyond the established salary; and the same observation applies to every one of those in his employment [A cry of hear! hear!]. Lord Melville succeeded Mr. Barré for a few months, as treasurer of the navy; and whether, during this short period, be received any advantage from the public money, whether it was placed in the Bank of England, locked up in the iron chest, or lodged in the hands of a private banker, I have not at this day the opportunity of deciding. 261 This is at least certain, that Lord Bayning, who succeeded Lord Melville, had no sort of difficulty in answering the commissioners. His answer was manly and honourable. On being asked, whether he enjoyed any separate emolument or advantage from the public money, he unequivocally answers in the negative. After the dissolution of the ministry of that day, we again have Lord Melville treasurer of the navy. On his resuming his old station he discovered that the salary did not exactly amount to the sum which parliament proposed. An act of council accordingly passed on this representation, and the net salary of 4000l. a year was established. This sum so established, was expressly declared to be in lieu of all emoluments, fees or advantages. In 1785, in consequence of a recommendation of his majesty in his speech from the throne, an act was passed, containing those regulations on which the future conduct of the civil department of the navy was to be orgarnised. At that tune the right hon. gentleman .opposite held out to the house the most brilliant picture of the beneficial effects of these plans of improvement. While he spoke of the means by which economy was to be promoted, he did not forget the noble lord against whom my charge is now to be preferred, but selected him as the person most fit to carry them into the fullest activity. He must now have seen his mistake, or, at least, the public were long since convinced both of the fallacy of the hopes by which they were flattered, and the peculiar unfitness of the noble lord to undertake any thing like national reform in any one of its departments. From the conduct which the noble lord has since pursued, one would think that he had been employed in the work of reform only to bring it into contempt; that he was put forth as an instrument of correcting abuses only to render them more inveterate. The bill of 1785 did pass, and the noble lord was the person selected to carry it for the approbation of the other branch of the legislature. Never was the spirit as well as the letter of any act less favourable to willful misrepresentation; never could any thing afford a more ,wretched handle for any thing like subterfuge and equivocation. I cannot suffer myself to believe that the friends of the noble lord will attempt to screen his conduct, under pretence that the letter of the law has not been violated. Such an apology would only serve to heighten his criminality; and, for the no- 262 ble lord's own sake, I trust it will not be resorted to. But, sir, let me only call your attention to the preamble of the bill, and the house will see that neither its letter nor spirit can be misunderstood for a single moment. The preamble of the bill recites all the abuses specified in the several reports, alludes to the resolutions for the correction of those abuses, and specifies that a specific salary is to be given in lieu of all fees, emoluments, or advantages. A competent salary was established, that all temptation to make an improper use of the public money might be avoided. Thus then, both according to the spirit and letter of the act, it was impossible for the noble lord, or any other human being, to mistake what was the direct object of the legislature. Now, what was the first act of the first part, in the second treasurership of Lord Melville, with this act expressly in his view? The act says, that all money shall be immediately taken from the hands of the treasurer, and lodged in the Bank Of England. The act passed in July, 1785, and it was not till the subsequent January that the balances were paid into the Bank, agreeably to the terms of the act. What possible excuse can be set up for such an extraordinary violation of an act of parliament, in the framing of which the noble lord himself, in all probability, took a. material interest? He is the first to violate that law to which so much importance is attached. In what manner too does this violation take place? It appears, that on the 31st January, 1784, the-balance in the hands of the treasurer of the navy was upwards of 70,000l.; and in July, 1785, it had increased to upwards of 113,000l. being an augmentation of more than 42,000l. betwixt the two periods to which I have alluded. I wish to know then why this delay, in the transfer of the balance took place? It is impossible to account for this by any consistent principle. The only way of accounting for the matter satisfactorily, is to suppose that it was withheld with the sole view of private emolument I know it has been contended that the delay took place in consequence of some regulations in the treasurer's office being incomplete, but will such a pretext as this impose even on the weakest understanding? What difficulty was there in the transfer which the act required? What new regulations were wanting to complete the sate lodgment of the balances of the treasurer of the navy in the 263 Bank of England? But it is to such wretched pretexts .as this that the noble lord is reduced when unable to give any other reason for the violation of an act of parliament than that which I have just referred to. Such is the situation in which we find the noble lord at the expiration of the first part of his second treasurership. I shall now go on to the consideration of the sequel of this second treasurership, which forms the grand subject of the tenth report. In doing this I shall arrange my observations under three distinct charges. In the first place, then, I charge Lord Melville with having applied the money of the public to other uses than those of the naval department with which he was connected, in express contempt of an act of parliament, and in gross violation of his duty. I charge the noble lord, in the second place, with conniving at a system of peculation in an individual, for whose conduct in the use of the public money he was deeply responsible, and for this connivance I denounce him as guilty of a high crime and misdemeanour. To these two charges I shall, on the present occasion, chiefly confine myself; but there is still a third, on which I shall not insist very largely now, but which, if the inquiry is instituted, I shall feel myself most powerfully called on to support in this house. I mean here to allude to the strong suspicion that the noble lord himself was a participator in that system of peculation to which I have referred, and is consequently liable to very severe pains and penalties. Unless what has been said could be unsaid, unless what has appeared before the commissioners could be obliterated, it appears to me almost impossible to get rid of this impression. I have said that I will pursue this inquiry with moderation on my own part, but I repeat, that I will follow it up with steadiness and firmness for the country. It is certainly to the honour of our public men, that even in times when party spirit was at its height, when the political world was the most violently agitated and convulsed, charges such as that which I now bring forward against the noble lord have seldom been preferred. It is a singular circumstance, however, that the only instance of a similar charge for a great number of years was brought against a great public criminal by the same noble lord whose accuser I now appear, I allude to the case of Sir T. Rumbold for malversations in India; but it is not my wish to carry matters to 264 such an extremity against the noble lord, though my duty impels me to bring him, before the proper tribunal. In making out my charge against the noble lord I must call your attention to what is stated in the report, for it is material to see what is the nature of the evidence produced. First of all, then, the commissioners found that there had been for a number of years deficiencies in the treasurer's department, to the amount of upwards of 674,000l. a year. I am not now wishing to rest much on the correctness of the particular sum. Whether it be ten pence, ten pounds, or even a million, the principle is the same, whatever be the magnitude of the deficiency. That a deficiency did exist is not denied, for even lord Melville himself owns its existence. In this situation the commissioners evinced a very laudable desire to ascertain how the deficiencies had originated; and for this purpose it was necessary that lord Melville and Mr. Trotter should be summoned before them. As in this state of the business I shall have frequent occasion to allude to Trotter, it may be proper, to say a few words in explanation. When I speak of Trotter, I speak at the same time of lord Melville, for in the whole of this business they are completely identified. The action of the one I view as the action of the other. This, indeed, is the exact view taken by the committees which, reported on the situation of the treasurer and paymaster of the navy. They considered the office of treasurer as a mere sinecure, the whole of his, business being done by a deputy, and in this relation precisely does Mr. Trotter stand to lord Melville. The one transacts the, business, and the other incurs all the responsibility. The treasurer of the navy, as in lord Melville's case, was often a privy and even a cabinet counsellor, and it is very fit that he should be relieved from the cares of office. But if he is to enjoy, emolument without labour, it surely is not, asking. too much to have a little responsibility attached to the distribution of the public money. So much then as to the, identity of Mr. Trotter and lord Melville in this business. So zealous did lord Melville appear for the proper administration of the civil department of the navy, that, not satisfied with the bill of 1785, he actually proposed and obtained an act of council for authorizing, in the management of the pecuniary concerns of the navy, a variety of fresh regulations. [Here the hon. member read a few passages from the, act.]—Thus, continued he, 265 were all the regulations that the noble lord proposed for the economical govt. of the navy conceded to him, and he had nothing left to impede his favourite plans of improvement; and he is the man to authorize his own paymaster to hold in contempt the peremptory orders of the legislature! He heaps up regulations and takes not the least care that they shall be in one shape or other observed. On the contrary, these deficiencies are evidence how grossly the intentions of the legislature have been evaded.—Before I consider what Mr. Trotter's answer was, let me remark, that the general complexion of the evidence before the commissioners was of a very extraordinary description. I had almost said, all the witnesses gave a reluctant and disgraceful testimony. I was rather unguarded in my expression, for I own that several respectable gentlemen gave their testimony with a candour that did honour to their character and feelings. The others gave a testimony extorted from them, or sheltered their guilt under mysterious silence.—Much as I approve of and admire the proceedings of the commissioners, I do wish that they had forced some of these gentlemen to favour us with a little more of their reluctant information. I think they might have done this in perfect consistency with the powers with which they were invested. What is stated in this reluctant testimony has, however, this advantage, that it possesses the strongest character of credibility. It has been strangely asserted by some persons that the report of the commissioners is altogether ex parte, and ought not to be the foundation of any decision. I really am at a loss to conceive: how any man can make such a strange assertion. I ask, had not lord Melville and Mr. Trotter a fair opportunity of vindicating their character before the commissioners, if they were conscious of innocence? When lord Melville was asked a plain question as to his appropriation of any part of the public money, what had he to do? Why, he had only to declare on his oath and his honour—No. What had Mr. Trotter to do? He had only to give the same answer of—No. But how do they think fit to proceed? Instead of following the plain path of integrity and honour, they profess total ignorance of deficiencies in the public money to a vast amount. The paymaster is called before the commissioners, and he professes to know nothing at all of the matter. By and by he, however, turns the matter 266 a little seriously in his mind, and he does begin to recollect that he does know something of the business. He confesses that he had been, from 1786 down to the period when he was examined, in the habit of drawing out the public money, and placing it in the hands of his own banker. The commissioners inquire a little further into the matter, but he will give them no satisfaction. "You have no right to ask me these questions, that is my private money." Nay, he even arraigns the commissioners, and in a paper which, from mere indulgence, they allowed him to present, he pretty clearly insinuates that they were a parcel of gentlemen making themselves a great deal too free with other people's secrets. Five different times is Mr. Alexander Trotter examined, and he refuses to give the commissioners the information they require. He talks, indeed, of sums advanced for other departments of the government, and alludes to Mr. Long having repaid to him some of the sums so advanced. I am sorry that Mr. Long was not examined before the commissioners. I think his statements might have thrown a good deal of light on this subject. Though, however, Mr. Long was not examined before the commissioners, the fact of the advances is admitted by lord Melville in his first letter to the commissioners. Indeed this letter was altogether of an extraordinary complexion. It was, however, of a piece with his lordship's evidence, and with his last letter, on both of which I shall, before I sit down, make a few observations. His lordship tells the commissioners that he cannot give them the information they required, because he cannot disclose confidential communications of government; but his great argument is, that he is not in possession of the papers containing the advances to other departments, having, for mere amusement no doubt, committed them to the flames. I do maintain, that this avowal of the noble lord is highly culpable. The destruction of these papers was, in a person of his knowledge of business, a great crime and misdemeanor. He ought to have known that papers of such a description are the property of no individual; they are the property of the nation. I recollect several committees complaining of the destruction of papers, and stating that, in consequence of such destruction, their inquiries were either retarded or altogether destroyed. To destroy public papers, referring to a recent date, does, in my 267 mind, imply something suspicious. I cannot easily trace it to any other principle than a wish to prevent criminal proceedings from being unravelled, and accompanied with merited punishment. But it seems that the noble lord has not only destroyed his papers, he has also actually lost his recollection of the whole affair, though it had so recently occurred. This does, I confess, seem a little strange, that a person of his lordship's great talents should labour under such a wonderful decay of memory. Of this, however, I shall say something more before I finish my observations. On the subject of these advances to the other departments, I condemn the practice in the strongest terms. I would in no case permit it to exist, but I could never for a moment suffer it to exist without explanation, and that too of the most satisfactory nature. Here, however, I hear the noble lord allowing that such advances were made, but he will give me no satisfaction as to the extent of the advances or the manner in which they were applied. In spite of the noble lord's silence, we know that the navy service was not in a situation to allow great advances of money, and what an apology would it offer if a demand on the navy board could not be paid, because, forsooth, lord Melville, and Alexander Trotter his paymaster, had agreed to accommodate the other branches of the service with loans of the public money? It may be said that the advances were to the secretary of state for important purposes. I shall not easily be brought to sanction these accommodations betwixt different servants of the crown. But lord Melville was minister at war, president of the board of control, and treasurer of the navy, all united in his own person, and here is a transaction, not betwixt two individuals, but one individual, uniting three different characters. It is Mr. Dundas lending Mr. Dundas with the one hand, and borrowing of Mr. Dundas with the other. It was a ridiculous, as well as dangerous combination. I know that some gentlemen on the other side will find all this system of accommodation very excusable. The public service is expedited, .and no loss is sustained. I confess I cannot assent to such doctrines. I know that they were often urged by the right hon. gent. opposite, last war, and I have not forgotten all the fine things he told the house about the appropriation paper, and the manner in which each sum was satisfactorily accounted for to the public. I 268 was never satisfied with such a loose way of dealing with the public money, and I always thought that the solid reasoning of my hon. friend near me (Mr. Fox) shewed completely how hollow and dangerous they were in practice. But even allowing the right hon. gent.'s arguments all their weight, they did not at all go to prove that such advances were either legal or expedient. Legal no man dares to call them, and certainly there is a great difference betwixt the treasurer of the navy and the finance minister of the country.— My second charge against lord Melville is, that he connived at the appropriation of the public money to private purposes. Mr. Trotter does not deny that he had large sums in the hands of Mr. Coutts, his private banker; and he has the effrontery to tell the commissioners, that it is more convenient for him to have his cash in the hands of a private banker than in the Bank of England, where an express act of parliament has declared that it shall be placed. This very ingenious gentleman thinks proper to add, that he finds himself more secure when his money is in the hands of Mr. Coutts than when it is in the Bank of England. Not only does he affirm, but he calls his patron, Lord Melville, to confirm his testimony;—Lord Melville, who had promoted the passing of the act of 1785, which expressly says the money shall be lodged in the bank;—Lord Melville, who, not satisfied with the act of 1785, gets new regulations, still more stict, in 1786. He likewise tells the commissioners, that Mr. Trotter's mode is also most convenient for the public service. Sir, I am really astonished to hear of the inconveniencies of having the money at the bank instead of a private banker's! Is not the discount at the bank easier than at a private banker's establishment? Cannot bank notes be more easily procured? But if the present mode, of which Mr. Trotter appears so fond, be so very advantageous, how comes it that Lord Melville never came to parliament to get it formally recognized? Mr. Trotter, indeed, finds a very ingenious reason for placing his money in the hands of a private banker. He says, that he was so anxious for the security of the money that he placed it in Mr. Coutts's, as the best place of safety. If any thing comes of the money I am an undone man, and my mind will never be at ease till Mr. Coutts has taken it into his protection. Now, it was not, though very improbable, altogether impossible that 269 a house, respectable as Mr. Coutts's was, might fail, and what then becomes of the careful Mr. Trotter's security?. Why, sir, it is completely crushed and annihilated. But if he was so very careful as he pretends to be, why did he not place it in the Bank, where, even if a failure were to take place, still Mr. Trotter would be secure in his obedience to an act of parliament? I wish to ask the house for what purposes these perpetual draughts of money, this constant fluctuation of accounts in the name of Mr. Trotter, took place? At the time that Mr. Trotter is so anxious for the security of his money, was it lodged at Mr. Coutts's, allowing that to be a place of safety? No, it was employed in discounting bills, in forming speculations, in gambling on the stock exchange. I am really almost appalled, and I think that the house will likewise be appalled, at the reflection of no less than 134 millions of the pubic property having passed through Lord Melville's paymaster's hands. Why, sir, the report states explicitly that upwards of 8,000,000l. had been in the hands of the private banker, and nearly 7,000,000l. more. is alluded to as having passed through the same channel. But, what we have hitherto had disclosed is, perhaps, not one fourth of the money transactions of Lord Melville's paymaster, and much of the money in his hands when he was absolutely destitute of funds to make good the loss of one thousandth part of the public property in his hands. But while all these transactions were going forward, on what was Lord Melville employed? Does he know any thing at all of the state of Mr. Trotter's accounts, for every one of whose actions he alone is responsible? Has he carefully examined the use which Mr. Trotter has made of the public money, and is, he satisfied with the result? The truth is, if you are to believe Lord Melville himself, he knows nothing of the matter. What, then, is the state of Mr. Trotter's accounts? He himself pleads ignorance, and cannot satisfy the commissioners. What was the cause of all this affected ignorance may hereafter appear.—One would have thought that a person of Mr. Trotter's perplexed turn of mind would have been anxious to do business in as simple a manner as possible, and in order to separate the public from his own private money, nothing would have been more easy than the simple device of having a public and a private account. This, 270 however, did not exactly suit Mr. Trotter's purpose. He preferred having a chest in which he was to receive money promiscuously. One man comes with live guineas, another with ten guineas, and a third with twenty, and so with different sums, and they are all thrown promiscuously into the chest. They return in a short time for their money, and Mr. Trotter, very complaisantly, says, "Tis true, gentlemen, I did receive your money, but I threw it promiscuously into the chest, and it is altogether impossible for me to separate the different sums." Exactly similar to this is the conduct of Mr. Trotter in transacting his money concerns. He opens no less than five accounts. We have his own account—his separate account—his account as paymaster of the navy—his broker's account—and Jelicoe's account. He opens all these accounts, and when the commissioners ask him for what they were intended, he has the assurance to tell them that they had no right to interfere with his private affairs, and very flatly disclaims their powers.—He draws under these heads immense sums of the public money—as for example, a million of money in one day. On all the accounts there might be expected to be a number of curious and interesting items. The commissioners demand explanation, and again Mr. Alexander Trotter refuses to answer, and tells them to draw their own inference. The commissioners, baffled in getting information from Trotter, take up the business themselves, and here a curious scene is disclosed. Mr. Trotter, it is found, is busily engaged in buying all sorts of stock, and particularly active in purchasing navy bills, when they were at a price which rendered it almost certain that they might be afterwards disposed of to advantage. But while Mr. Trotter is so busy, what has become of lord Melville and his responsibility? Does he ever interfere to prevent these speculations? Does it never occur to him that it is extremely indecent for a paymaster of the navy thus to be sporting with the public money? I do think that it was the sacred duty of lord Melville to have told Mr. Trotter that he must either give up these connexions, or cease to be paymaster of the navy. If it had happened that in some of his extensive speculations he had been disappointed, inevitable ruin must have been the consequence. Had Mr. Trotter fell, it was not to him but to lord Melville 271 that the public were to look for redress. Lord Melville was involved in the fall of his paymaster, and all the consolation the public had, was to know that they were again to make good what the, servants of the public had peculated. I. cannot allow myself then to think that the house will be backward in agreeing with me that the negligent criminality of lord Melville was deserving of the severest reprehension. Let me, sir, recal to your attention what was the period when these speculations were going forward. It was in the very midst of our distresses; it was while the people were struggling up against that load of public burdens under which we groaned, that Mr. Trotter, with the assistance of that silent and discreet stock-broker Mark Sprott, were laying their heads together to lay out the public money to the greatest advantage. What was the whole amount of the sums so employed we have not the means of ascertaining. But this is of no consequence; for, as I have already observed, it is not the extent of the sum misapplied, but the general principle of misapplication that I contend for. I assert that Mark Sprott ought to have been more severely interrogated. There is no doubt that he is the man to give the clue to this nefarious business. Even his silence, however, was extremely expressive. It is not easy to conceive any thing more strange than the reasons, he urged for his silence. He tells the commissioners openly, "I have had the opinion of Mr. serjeant Shepherd and other eminent lawyers, and they advise me to preserve a religious silence." Only be silent, say nothing, and we may be able to do something for you; but if you give answers, we much fear it is all over with you. Lord Melville and Mr. Mark Sprott are not quite uniform on this part of the business. Mr. Mark Sprott says nothing, but Lord Melville owns he knew of the transaction, but not of the detail. Sir, I say, if he knew of the transactions generally, and not of the detail, this, so far from rendering him less criminal, renders him still more guilty. If be was apprised that his paymaster was speculating in the funds, and if he derived no part of the profit, he was bound to see what was the extent of such speculations. He ought to have felt that his responsibility was in danger, and that it was full time for him to put a stop to so serious all evil.—After illustrating this idea by reference to Mr. Trotter's salary as in- 272 adequate to any extensive speculations, the hon. gent. proceeded to animadvert on the origin of Mr. Trotter's connexion with lord Melville. Lord Melville had found Mr. Trotter clerk of the navy office. He made him his paymaster, and in a short time lord Melville contrives to make him his agent. In this situation of an agent, lord Melville has pecuniary concerns with Trotter to a vast amount, and when his lordship is examined he is unable to inform the commissioners whether the advances made by Mr. Trotter were from his own or from the public money. The honourable member animadverted strongly on this declaration, which was on the part of lord Melville extremely suspicious. How was it possible that lord Melville could for a moment suppose Mr. Trotter to be making advances out of his own fortune? The fact was, that Mr. Trotter had originally no fortune. He was a man of a good family in the part of the country to which he belonged; but lord Melville knew when he first began to patronize him that he had no property but what he derived from his salary as paymaster of the navy. It was absolute equivocation then to pretend that lord Melville could be ignorant of Mr. Trotter making use of the public money to a vast amount. He condemned, as extremely suspicious, Mr. Trotter's acting as lord Melville's agent. When Mr. Trotter, the paymaster and agent of lord Melville, was known to have extensive dealings with Mark Sprott a stock-broker, was not the inference the most natural that their dealings were mutual? Would not people have a right to presume that lord Melville shared in the profits of those speculations, to which there seemed every reason to think that he was accessary?—But, indeed, it was not easy to see how this conclusion could be evaded. Was lord Melville ready on oath to disclaim such a connexion, or that he had ever derived the slightest advantage from any speculation in which Mr. Trotter was engaged? What was the language of all the predecessors and successors of Lord Melville? When the paymaster of Mr. Barré was asked, whether he had received any emolument from the application of the public money? he readily answers—No. Had lord Bayning received any advantage? Had lord Harrowby?—No. Had Mr. Bragge? Had Mr. Tierney?—No. Lord Melville is compelled to give evasive answers. He shelters 273 himself behind the confidential communications of government. He can afford no information, for his papers were destroyed. He has no recollection of what took place only a few years ago. The noble lord was remarkable for his retentive memory. He could reckon up, with accuracy unexampled, all our losses or our victories during the late contest. The right hon. gentleman opposite had not unfrequently derived the benefit of the noble lord's memory, when recollection was not of the most trifling moment. Yet here the noble lord's recollection totally forsook him, and certainly such an instance of weak recollection was not a little remarkable. Surely it was no great effort of memory to recollect whether profit had ever been received from the use of the public money, and a simple monosyllable was sufficient to state that recollection. Unfortunately this monosyllable was absent, at a moment when it was most wanted. Mr. Trotter's answers, too, respecting lord Melville, were of the most damning description. Did you receive any emolument from the use of the public money?—I won't tell you. Did you know of the amount of the sums advanced for the confidential service of government?—I won't tell you. Did lord Melville authorize you to use the public money for private emolument?—I won't tell you. Did lord Melville share with you in any profit arising from such a use of the public money?—I won't tell you. Here the hon. gentleman read and commented on lord Melville's evidence, and adverted to the case of Jelicoe, who had been suffered to remain a public debtor for a whole year, after he was known to be in arrears upwards of twenty-four thousand pounds. During the next year eleven thousand pounds more arrears had accrued. He had a strong suspicion that Jelicoe was in the same partnership with Mark Sprott, Mr. Alexander Trotter, and his lordship. It would not have been fair to have turned too short on an old companion. It would have perhaps too been dangerous, since unpleasant discoveries might have met the public eye. It looked very much as if, mutually conscious of criminality, they had agreed to be silent and keep their own secrets.—Mr. Whitbread next commented on the last letter of lord Melville, which rather aggravated than palliated his guilt. His lordship even admitted the violation of the act of parliament. He allowed 274 that Mr. Trotter employed the public money for private emolument, but he denied his generally participating in the profit of such application. This denial was nothing. It was not that fair open denial which was the only test of innocence. The hon. gent. then apologised for having. exhausted the patience of the house in going through the statements which he had deemed it necessary to submit, to make the subject so intelligible as he could wish. If in the course of his investigation he had departed from that moderation which he had professed at his outset, and which it had unquestionably been his object to preserve, he should feel extremely sorry. He was happy, however, in supposing, unpleasant as his task had been, that he must have a majority of the members of that house to support him in the resolutions which he had that night to propose. A wound had been inflicted on the very existence of the country, which it was the duty of every member of the house to see checked and punished. When he turned his eves to the country gentlemen, those guardians of the public purse, he could not doubt of receiving their cordial support, in opposition to a principle of peculation which had been successfully practised on the public of Great Britain for many years, and that, too, by persons entrusted with the official conduct of its resources. If he looked to the officers of the army or navy, who composed part of the house, he knew that there was not one of them who would vote in support of a system of corruption, such as had been practised by the persons against whom his inquiry was directed. He was convinced that their minds were not tainted with such sordid and corrupt notions as to induce them to support public peculators. If he turned to the commercial men, he was satisfied that they were not filled with horror and disgust alone, but even with trembling, at the conduct which he had now endeavoured to point out, by which it was possible that ruin might have been hurled on them. Even as it was, had not the speculations of Mr. Trotter injured many of them? And might they not have injured not only the mercantile interests of the country, but also have been productive of great loss to the public in general? Would it have been a vindication of Aslett, supposing his speculations had been more fortunate than they ultimately turned out, to have come forward and said, "there is your money 275 back again—you are not injured—you have no right to complain—I only took an accommodation from you, by which you have lost nothing, and you have no right to pass any punishment on me for so trivial and innocent an offence?" Such, surely, would, to gentlemen acquainted with mercantile affairs, be an excuse provoking only indignation and resentment. Or would it be esteemed a better argument to allege that the books and other documents from which it might have been possible to have cast some light on the accounts, had been burnt or intentionally destroyed? An allegation of this kind must with them meet with equal respect and attention. Every day of their lives, they were called on to prosecute for offences of less magnitude. Would the right hon. and learned gent. who presided in a court of equity; would another right hon. and learned gent. whose duty it more particularly was to prosecute for delinquencies, and who did think it so incumbent on him to check even the appearance of corruption, as to prosecute a person in an inferior rank of life for an attempt to bribe a right hon. gent. then at the head of administration (now lord Sidmouth);—would they attempt to palliate a business of this kind, or would they not rather feel it their duty to join with him, and assist in bringing delinquents of a higher order also to justice? He begged gentlemen to keep in view the distressed state of the country in general. The opulent were obliged to part with their superfluities; and, from the nobleman to the peasant, every one was obliged to make corresponding sacrifices. We were told, indeed, that such were necessary for our salvation; but, in a case like the present, it was the duty of that house and of the public to be satisfied that our resources, so painfully raised, were not thrown away by improper management. The hon. member then moved,
§ 1. That it appears to this committee, that on the 18th of June, 1782, the House of Commons in a committee of the whole house, came, amongst others, to the following resolutions:—"That it is the opinion of this committee, that some regulations ought to be adopted, for the purpose of lessening and keeping down the balances of public money which appear to have usually been in the hands of the Treasurer of the Navy, and it would be beneficial to the public if the first 276 and other clerks in the different branches belonging to the said office were paid by fixed and permanent salaries, in lieu of all fees, gratuities, and other perquisites whatsoever.—That it is the opinion of this committee, that from hence forward the Paymaster General of his majesty's land forces, and the Treasurer of the Navy for the time being, shall not apply any sum or sums of money imprested to them, or either of them, to any purpose of advantage or interest to themselves, either directly or indirectly, That it appears to this committee, that the commissioners appointed to examine, take, and state the public accounts of the kingdom, have, so far as appears from the Reports which they have hitherto made, discharged the duty intrusted to them with great diligence, accuracy, and ability; and if parliament shall carry into execution those plans of reform and regulation which are suggested by the matter contained in the Reports of the said commissioners, it cannot but be attended with the most beneficial consequences to the future welfare and prosperity of this kingdom."
§ 2. That in furtherance of the intention of the House of Commons expressed in such Resolutions, his majesty, by his warrant, dated June 26, 1782, directed that the salary of the Treasurer of the Navy should be increased to the sum of 4000l. per annum, in full satisfaction of all wages and fees, and other profits and emoluments theretofore enjoyed by former Treasurers.
§ 3. That it appears to this committee, that during the Treasurership of the right hon. Isaac Barré,the conditions of the aforesaid warrant were strictly complied with; that the whole of the money issued from the exchequer to Mr. Barré for naval services was lodged in the Bank; that it was never drawn from thence previously to its being advanced to the sub-accountants to be applied to the public service; that during the time Mr. Barré acted as treasurer and ex-treasurer he had not in his possession or custody any of the public money, and that neither he nor the paymaster of the navy did derive any profit or advantage from the use or employment thereof.
§ 4. That the right hon. Henry Dundas, now lord viscount Melville, succeeded to the office of Treasurer of the Navy on the 19th of Aug. 1782, when a further addition was made to the salary of, the, said 277 office, in order to produce a net annual income of 4000l. after the payment of all taxes and charges on the same; and that this additional salary was considered by the said lord viscount Melville as granted to him in lieu of all wages, fees, profits, and other emoluments enjoyed by former treasurers.
§ 5. That the said lord viscount Melville continued in the said office till the 10th of April, 1783: that being asked, whether he derived any advantage from the use of the public money during that period, he, in his examination before the commissioners of Naval Enquiry, declined answering any question on that head; but that he has, in a letter since written to the said commissioners, and dated the 28th of March last, declared, that, previous to 1786, "he did not derive any advantage from the use or employment of any monies issued for carrying on the service of the Navy." But Mr. Douglas, who was paymaster, being dead, and his lordship having refused to answer any question on this head as aforesaid, no evidence has been obtained as to the application of monies issued for the service of the Navy, or the mode of drawing the seine from the Bank during this period.
§ 6. That the hon. C. Townshend, now lord Bayning, held the office of Treasurer of the Navy from the 11th April, 1783, to the 4th of Jan. 1784; and that from the examination of his lordship it appears, that, during his treasurership, no part of the money issued for the service of the navy, was applied to his private use or advantage; and that he does not believe that Mr. Douglas, who acted under him as paymaster, derived any profit or advantage from the use or employment of the public money, except the money issued for the payment of Exchequer Fees.
§ 7. That the right hon. Henry Dundas was re-appointed Treasurer of the Navy on the 5th of Jan. 1784, and continued in the said office until the 1st of June, 1800.
§ 8. That in the year 1785, An Act of parliament was passed, (25 Geo. III. Cap. 31), intituled "An Act for better regulating the office of Treasurer of his majesty's Navy;" whereby it is directed that no money shall be issued from the treasury to the treasurers of the navy; but that all monies issued for naval services shall be paid to the Bank on account of naval services, and placed to the account 278 of the Treasurer of the Navy, and shall not be paid out of the Bank unless for naval services, and in pursuance of drafts signed by the treasurer, or some person or persons authorized by him, which drafts shall specify the heads of service to which such sums are to be applied, and that the regulations under the said act shall take place from the 31st of July, 1785.
§ 9. That the execution of the said act was postponed till the month of January 1786, and from that time till the month of June 1800, when lord Melville left the office of Treasurer, contrary to the practice established in the Treasurership of the right hon. Isaac Barré, contrary to the resolutions of the House of Commons, of 18th of June, 1782, and in defiance of the provisions of the above mentioned act of the 25th Geo. III. c. 31, large sums of money were, under pretence of naval services, and by a scandalous evasion of the act, at various times, drawn from the Bank, and invested in exchequer and navy bills, lent upon the security of stock, employed in discounting private bills in purchasing Bank and East India stock, and used in various ways for the purposes of private emolument.
§ 10. That Alexander Trotter, esq. paymaster of the Navy, was the person by whom, or in whose name, the public money was thus employed; and that in so doing he acted with the knowledge and consent of lord viscount Melville, to whom he was at the same time private agent, and for whose use or benefit he occasionally laid out from 10 to 20,000l. without considering whether he was previously in advance to his lordship, and whether such advances were made from his public or private balances.
§ 11. That the right hon. lord viscount Melville having been privy to and connived at the withdrawing from the Bank of England, for purposes of private interest or emolument, sums issued to him as treasurer of the navy, and placed to his account in the Bank, according to the provisions of the 25th Geo. III. c. 31, has been guilty of a gross violation of the law, and a high breach of duty.
§ 12. It further appears, that subsequent to the appointment of lord Melville as treasurer of the navy, in 1784, and during the time he held that office, large sums of money, issued for the service of the navy, were applied to other services; and that the said lord Melville, in a letter 279 written in answer to a precept issued by .the Commissioners of Naval Enquiry, requiring an account of money received by him, or any person on his account, or by his order, from the paymaster of the navy, and also of the time when, and the persons by ,whom, the same were returned to the Bank or Paymaster, has declared, that he Las no materials by which he could make up such an account, and that, if he had materials, he could not do it without disclosing delicate and confidential transactions of government, which his duty to the public must have restrained him from revealing.
§ 13. That lord Melville, in applying monies issued for the service of the navy to other services, stated to have been of so delicate and confidential a nature, that in his opinion, no account can or ought to be given of them, has acted in a manner inconsistent with his duty, and incompatible with those securities which the legislature has provided for the proper application of the public money.
§ After the hon. gent. had read these Resolutions, he added, that he. did not mean to press beyond 11th, leaving the circumstances as to the application of the money to other services, to some future investigation.
§ On the question being put, on the first resolution;
The Chancellor of the Exchequer
rose. He said, he could not but admit, that the hon. gent. had, during the former part of his speech, adhered strictly to the observance of that moderation and temper which he had promised at the outset. Towards the end, however, of his speech, he had departed altogether from the tone in which he had begun it; and in the address, with which he concluded, to the house, appeared to endeavour, by an appeal to the passions on topics not applicable to the subject in discussion, to excite an undue impression favourable to his proposition. The hon. gent. had adverted to the burthens which the exigencies of affairs had rendered necessary, and appeared to insinuate broadly, that the transaction, which was the object of his motion, had been the means not only of augmenting those burthens, but a considerable aggravation of them. It was important to have this matter investigated, as, if the fact were so, that the public burthens had been aggravated to any extent by the misconduct or malversation of any person or persons in office, there was no man in the 280 house would deny that such practices were a fit object of accusation in that house. But that appeal to the feelings of gentlemen, and with reference to irrelevant topics, was by no means calculated to promote a just and impartial decision on the merits of the case, according to any principle of equity or fairness. Whatever opinion might be entertained respecting any part of the materials contained in the report, it was evident that it did not contain a single allegation of any mischief having arisen to the public, or of any loss having been actually sustained—(a loud and tumultuous cry of "hear! hear!" from the opposition.) This indecent attempt to prevent the freedom of speech by clamour was little suited to the dignity and solemnity of their proceedings, and he looked upon it as no good omen that the moderation professed by the hon. member in the discussion had been departed from, if those gentlemen who approved of his arguments should interrupt those who might undertake to reply to them. He was one that would not be interrupted by clamour; and he would repeat it, that such an appeal to the passions was little consistent with the professions of temper and moderation with which the hon. gent. had set out. This would be the more evident, when it was recollected also with what industry similar misrepresentations had been propagated without doors, and on subjects the most dangerous and inflammatory, for the purpose of raising a prejudice in time public mind. It had been represented abroad, though not charged to the slime extent by the hon. gent. that the pay of the seamen had been delayed in the navy pay office. So far from such a circumstance having taken place, he had the satisfaction to state, that that gallant and meritorious class of men had not suffered the delay of a single day in the discharge of any of their demands. But he had not only to complain of the hon. gent. having deserted his moderation in the latter part of his speech, but also of the manner in which he had represented the transaction and stated his charge. The hon. gent. had told the house that the noble lord, and the others implicated in his charge, had had an opportunity of being tried, and informed them also of the manner in which this trial was conducted. Questions had been put to them, and they might have answered. They undoubtely had the opportunity of answering to such and such questions; but whatever might be the character of such an 281 interrogation, it was not a trial. What trial was there in which the party accused was not made acquainted with the charge against him, had not an opportunity of hearing the evidence to the charge, and of cross-examining that evidence; as also of adducing evidence in his favour? But in a trial a man was not bound to criminate himself, and in this case that was the only feature, whilst every other character of a trial was absent. The parties had no knowledge of the charge against them, could not confront nor cross-examine the witnesses, nor were allowed to call evidence in their defence, but were examined to criminate themselves by their evidence. He stated this only for the purpose of having an opportunity of adding, that it was impossible for the house to accede to the hon. gent.'s propositions, because the materials then before them were not sufficient to enable them to come to a fair, impartial, and final decision on the merits of the case. He admitted that the contents of the report were of a grave and serious nature, and that it was important to have it fully investigated; and he was ready also to allow that, with reference to any instance of irregularity, it was the duty of the house to set their mark upon the transaction, after a full and fair consideration of all the circumstances of the case. But in the case of the present Report, he contended that there were not sufficient materials, to justify the house in a vote of censure, or to enable them to determine how far it might be necessary to follow it up with further proceedings. He contended, therefore, from the documents on the table, that further explanation would be necessary, before the house could be justified in expressing any opinion on the merits, or to state what lengths they should proceed, If he had not entertained that opinion before he came to the house, the arguments of the hon. gent. founded not on the report, but on a statement of numbers which he had found in the appendix, on calculations taken from intricate, and difficult accounts, would have excited it in him, He had also observed, that the hon. gent. had gradually changed the grounds of his charge, which he had narrowed at last to an intention to take the sense of the house on one particular point. The hon. member had divided his charge at first into three heads, which he then reduced to two, and at present he proposed to confine himself to one of them, reserv- 282 ing the second for future crimination; and in urging this charge the hon. gent. had stated, that though it formed but one of the several heads of charge, it was impossible for the house to form a judgment upon it without considering the whole case. He had at the conclusion of his speech left out altogether the suspicion which he had so strongly urged in the preceding parts, of the participation of the noble lord in the profits that had accrued from the application of the public money to private speculations. With regard to this suspicion, if the hon. gent. thought that it was borne out by the Report, he ought not to have brought it forward with a view to giving a complexion to other matters of charge, but be made a separate ground of crimination. It was impossible that it should not be revolting to the feelings of every person connected with the noble lord, either by blood or by friendship, to have such a charge brought against him in such a way. For his own part, he was desirous that the house should look at the whole of the case, in all its circumstances and bearings, and then do, without delay, whatever the interest of the public, a just sense of their own duty, and the nature of the case may require. For this purpose, he thought the best course to pursue would be to refer the Report to a select committee, inasmuch as there were many points contained in it which required further explanation. The committee might be appointed previous to the recess, so as to proceed in the business without delay, and to be able, a short time after the holidays, to make their report to the house, upon which they might come to a decision on the whole case, according to the dictates of impartial justice, and a scrupulous regard to their duty. The hon. gent. had dwelt with much earnestness on the application of certain sums for the accommodation of other branches of the public service; but in his own view of the question, the house was not in a situation to decide upon that transaction. Did the hon. gent. mean to say, that in judging of this transaction, the house was not to take into its consideration the motives, the circumstances, and the necessity of the transaction? Was the house, knowing only the bare fact, that the application of the money in such a manner was a violation of the law, to decide upon its merits without taking into consideration whether any loss had arisen from it? Whether the motives were justi- 283 fiable, wanton, or necessary; whether the circumstances were such as to warrant a departure from the letter of the law, and what was the magnitude of the transaction? It would not be necessary for him to argue the propriety of permitting such a latitude with Englishmen, or with persons of liberal and enlightened minds, for he was confident that all such would agree with him, that cases might occur when the circumstances under which such a transaction might take place would make it meritorious in the public officer to incur the heavy responsibility. This he stated, with a view to the stress that had been laid on the application of a particular sum to a different service from that for which it had been voted. There was an allegation in the Report on this head, and the hon. gent. had stated a particular sum as having been advanced in this way, and was afterwards repaid by his right hon. friend (Mr. Long). He had himself been a party to that transaction, and he should be .ashamed to address the house on the subject if he could not explain the matter, as far as related to the share he had had in the business, to their entire satisfaction; so that however illegal the application might have been in the first instance, and he was ready to take that for granted, it would appear to have arisen from considerations of public interest, and to have been transferred from the service for which it had been voted only for a time, and, without either any inconvenience or loss, replaced afterwards. It was impossible to disclose the circumstances under which it had been applied; but if the house would consent to appoint the committee, he should produce the most convincing statements, so far, at least, as he was concerned. The whole sum particularized amounted to 100,000l. out of which two different sums of 40,000l. each had been drawn with his privity, under circumstances which he could fully justify to the house; and as these sums made the much greater part of the whole sum specified, there was every reason to think that the whole had been applied in a manner equally justifiable. The noble, lord had, at that time, other high official situations, and might have had occasion, and could, without his privity, have applied sums occasionally to a different service from that for which they had been voted, with a view to the public interest; and though he was not in possession of the circumstances, he had no 284 doubt that the noble lord could satisfactorily account for the transaction. As to the other part of the hon. gent.'s charge, that lord Melville had connived at the Paymaster of the Navy keeping the public money in his hands, and applying it to purposes of private profit, he confessed that this appeared to him a fit object of attention, when they should come to consider the question in the whole of its bearings. He was prepared to admit that the conniving at such conduct in a paymaster of the navy was not justifiable, but thought, nevertheless, that. much would depend on the circumstances; the extent, and the danger that had been incurred. He maintained that the commissioners had not stated that the issue had been greater than the service required; and he insisted that from their report it was evident that they believed that to be the case. It was also agreed to by them, that the money had not been applied so as not to be ready to satisfy any demand or sudden emergency; and they had not even insinuated that any effect had been produced in the increase of expence, or the aggravation or augmentation of additional burthens; nor had they attempted to charge that any demand of any individual had been a single moment retarded. As to this application of the money to private purposes of profit, it did not appear that lord Melville had been aware of it; the hon. gent. however, had dwelt much on this circumstance, founding his observations on the intricate accounts of the commissioners, by which it appeared that he had not considered the matter in detail. The hon. gent. had said much of the risk that had been incurred; and he was not disposed to deny that if the danger had been great, the practice was unjustifiable; but the circumstance that no loss had been sustained, was a strong ground of presumption that no great hazard had beep incurred, and again, a more favourable circumstance was that no payment had been delayed. Under all these circumstances, as there were many points in the matter of the Report which required considerable further explanation and elucidation, the house would, he trusted, be persuaded of the expediency of the course he had proposed; and when the variety of the matter of which the Report was composed was taken into consideration, it would be admitted to be the duty of any member to point out any error or inaccuracy that he 285 might discover. The commissioners had stated, that various sums had come into the bank of Messrs. Coutts, which had not been procured by draft on the bank, and they had supposed that these consisted of sums for other services in transitu, applied in this way. One million had been particularly specified. But that million had been brought directly from the bank to the house of Messrs. Coutts, by one of the forms of draft prescribed by the statute, and the whole of it had been issued thence, in the course of a few days, to take up navy bills then due. So that this was one instance of an error, on which they had rested much, and which being capable of being thus satisfactorily explained, proved the necessity of further investigation. The sums that had been vested in Messrs. Coutts had been neither lodged there for the benefit of the treasurer of the navy or of the navy paymaster, but in the course of business; and this was another error of the Report; for the same practice prevailed at present of drawing in gross for the multiplicity of small payments, instead of drawing all the small sums in detail. The act of parliament directed no such drafts for small sums, but for sufficient sums to enable the paymaster, from day to day, to issue the necessary sums to the sub-accountants, so that the balances in hand appeared not to contravene the law, but to be in direct conformity with it, and necessary for the management of the business of the office. The question, therefore, was, whether more had been issued than was necessary, and whether an expence to the public had been the consequence? The house was aware that no. money was issued to the treasurer of the navy, but on memorial from the different boards, and that consequently the treasurer could have no power of increasing the issue to him. The right hon. gent. here described the operation by which the treasurer of the navy drew money from the bank, and proved thence that it was nut in his power on any occasion, or under any circumstances, to draw for more than the occasions of the different boards required. There was no ground, therefore, in reason for the supposition apparently entertained by the commissioners, that the treasurer had such a power, neither was there any foundation for it in fact. It was important to see what they had stated as to the fact; and this would afford another reason for instituting the inquiry he proposed. 286 The balances in the hands of the paymaster were for two purposes, to advance from day to day to the sub-accountants, and to have the means of satisfying assignments, outstanding to a considerable amount, for which the parties had a right to demand immediate payment. The hon. gent. could have no difficulty in admitting that the transaction, so far as these assignments went, was solely between the commissioners and the individuals; and it appeared that the sums in the hands of the paymaster and sub-accountants, in any year, had not exceeded the amount of these assignments, The commissioners had stated, that the balances ought not to exist at all, and yet that balances in the hands of the treasurer in one year had amounted to 40,000l. and in another to 33,000l.; this was very material to have investigated. The commissioners had examined a very intelligent gentleman, a clerk in one of the offices, as to the number of days for which a paymaster should have a supply in his hands, and the result of his examination fixed the number at fourteen or fifteen; the commissioners were of opinion themselves, that ten were sufficient, so that the number of days necessary in advance was between ten and fourteen. In the next place, the commissioners had divided the time during which lord Melville had been in office into two periods in making the average, instead of making the average for the whole of the time of his being in office. The first period they calculate up to I796, the next to 1800; so that they had not given the average on the whole, nor distinctly in the separate periods. They, calculated the balances on the first period at 45 average, and the last at 33, but they had taken the amount of the gross balances without deducting the assignments. When the commissioners had stated ten days as the number that ought to be in advance in the paymaster's hands; they calculated it exclusive of the out-ports; and if .the money at the out-ports were to be deducted, the balances would be in the first or most favourable period, an average of seventeen days, and in the latter period an average of eight days; and on the whole period the average was but fourteen or fifteen, only five more than the commissioners had thought necessary, and nearly the same number that the clerk had stated in his examination. Now if it should turn out that this state- 287 ment was correct, he could not admit a doubt that it would be sufficient to determine the house to examine more narrowly and minutely into the matter and allegations of the report before they would ground upon it either censure or disapprobation. There were four different errors in the single statement, and these proved unanswerably the necessity of a fuller investigation. It was only by adopting such a course that they would be enabled to do what was right for the public, and at the same time fair for the individual. As the supposition of participation on the part of his lordship in the profits arising from the use of the public money formed no part of the charge, but was glanced at as matter of suspicion only, it was wholly unnecessary for him to advert to it, particularly as that was to be made the ground of further investigation. He had hoped, after the declaration that had been made by the noble lord in his communication to the commissioners laid before the house, which he had stated himself ready to verify with the sanction of a solemn oath, that he should have heard no more of suspicion. The hon. gent. had observed, that the ground upon which the noble lord had declined answering had been well understood; but the noble lord by his letter had declared, that his refusal to answer had arisen solely in consequence of the way in which Mr. Trotter had kept his accounts, and because he could not possibly know whether Mr. Trotter might not have made advances to him out of the public money.—The hon. gent. had adverted to the sum of 100,000l. paid to lord Melville's account, during the whole period that he was in office, and until the whole of lord Melville's account with Mr. Trotter should be made up, it was impossible to decide upon that fact. The house should look into those accounts which were loose and difficult, before it could pronounce whether any advances from the public money had been made to his lordship. If the investigation should be proceeded with, he was convinced, that many sums stated to have been paid in the name of lord Melville, would appear to have been applied to official purposes; how far that was the case it was not for him to anticipate then, before the inquiry should be instituted. The house would determine for itself when the investigation should take place. Before they could judge whether any sums of pub- 288 lic money had been so advanced, they should see the credit account of lord Melville, they should also see the different sums paid in by Mr. Trotter for lord Melville, on account of his salary as treasurer of the Navy, as also on account of his unappropriated salary as keeper of the signet in Scotland, and for dividends in the funds. Would gentlemen under these circumstances give way to surmises? Would they think it strange that lord Melville, knowing that he had no contract with Mr. Trotter, no participation with, and knowing also the unfortunate way in which Mr. Trotter kept his accounts, had declined answering until he had ascertained the state of these accounts? And if it should appear even that a few thousands had been, by inadvertence so advanced, could any, gent. suppose that that would have been any object to a noble, lord in a high and distinguished office of trust and honour? He would not think it possible for a liberal and enlightened, mind, for even common sense, to entertain such an opinion. If so, then he contended, that the materials before the house were insufficient to form a final judgment, and that a further investigation was absolutely necessary, and that such investigation could not be conducted in the house, but in a select committee, which could be managed without much delay. With these sentiments, he felt it unnecessary and improper to say more on the subject. He should therefore move, as an amendment, "that the Tenth Report of the commissioners of Naval Enquiry be referred to a select committee of this house, to examine the matter thereof, and report the same to the house."
The Chancellor of the Exchequer
had no wish to prevent the motion from appearing on the journals, and should therefore consent, instead of the amendment he had proposed, to move the previous question, it being it being however understood, that should that be carried, he should then move for the committee he had mentioned.—The speaker then proceeded to put the previous question. Upon which,
§ Lord Henry Petty
rose and said, that although he trusted that others, more able to follow the right hon. gent. than himself, would reply to the speech they had just now heard, he was desirous of taking this early opportunity of stating the reasons for which he should vote for the original motion, in preference to the mode recommended by the right hon. gent.; but he must, in the first place, observe, that if he objected to the proposition of the right hon. gent. for a select committee, it was not because he thought such an inquiry unnecessary, but because he thought it would be better timed after the resolutions of his hon. friend had been carried: after the opinion of the house was recorded on the matter that was clearly proved, then they might proceed to an investigation of that which still remained obscure. He had never heard the right hon. gent. with more surprise, than when he had accused his hon. friend of travelling out of the road of facts, to inflame the passions of the house, although the resolutions were composed entirely of facts, and the speech principally of deductions from facts. Another accusation against his hon. friend was one which might be thought not very consistent with inflaming passion, that he had loaded his speech with a complication of figures, But if his hon. friend had travelled out of the road of facts, had not the right hon. gent. in his view of the case, omitted facts, and those the most essential, on which the whole strength of the question rested? Had he not forgot that lord Melville had, by his own confession, proved that money had, with his knowledge, been drawn from the bank and placed at a private banker's? Had he not forgot, that lord Melville himself admitted, that he applied to other services, money issued for the service of the navy? Had he not forgot, that lord Melville had found himself unable to deny, that he had connived at his paymasters reaping private and illegal profit from the use of public funds? Was this complication of figures? Were they not, on the contrary, plain and important facts, which no subsequent inquiry could do away, no other evidence or examination of evidence could shake or invalidate; unless, indeed, that could be believed of lord Melville, which, even after all that had passed, would hardly be imputed to him, that he would wantonly forswear himself, and declare that to be false before one tribunal which he had declared to be true before another,—The right hon. gent. had endeavoured to extenuate the guilt of 290 the noble viscount, by stating, that the public had suffered no loss. He could neither admit the argument nor the inference to be founded. If no loss had been suffered, a great risque of loss had been incurred. But the right hon. gent. contended, that no loss from anticipation could have taken place, because the forms of office rendered it impossible that money should be drawn for before it was wanted. He would not pretend to follow the right hon. gent. through the forms of office, with which he was so much better acquainted, but he would put this dilemma to him: if money could not be obtained till it was due for navy services, how was the money obtained with which other departments had been accommodated by the treasurer of the navy, which the right hon. gent. admitted in another part of his speech, and was willing to proclaim, that a part of them had passed through his own hands? Why, then, it was plain, that either by some means or other, money could he drawn by the paymaster of the navy, before it was wanted for navy services, or the navy service must itself have been left in distress for want of its necessary supply, which would only be an aggravation of guilt. Thus means were discovered to procure money before it was called for; and this path once entered upon, let the house consider to what length it might be carried. But it was contended, that the speculations in which the money was employed, had at least been successful. For this it was not impossible to account. Let it be remembered, how the persons were situated who were thus connected together. Mr. Mark Sprott, the broker, confidentially employed by Mr. Trotter, the paymaster; Mr. Trotter, the paymaster, confidentially employed by lord Melville; and lord Melville confidentially employed for the public. He had heard of jacobin combinations, and other combinations; but it would be difficult to imagine a combination more detrimental to the public, than that of these three persons, which touched the cabinet on one side and the stocks on the other. What changes of fortune, what convulsions in finance, was it not capable of effecting! But that which he thought would alone afford ground for the house to proceed immediately, was the systematic deception practised by lord Melville, by which he, eluded any inquiry that was instituted into his office, and most especially his declarations to the committee of finance. To that committee the right hon. person who was at the head of it, and now so honorably filled the chair 291 of this house, might recollect, that he had stated, that by the institution of the, accountant's branch, all the old arrears would be brought up, and a prompt mode of settling established for the future. But did he tell them, that as soon as the accountant had settled the balances of the other ex-treasurers, when he came to those of the right hon. Henry Dundas, he was to be withdrawn, and employed in other business?. Did he tell them, that a period of 7 years would be allowed to elapse, between the final settlement of the accounts immediately preceding, and any attempt to investigate those of his own treasurership? But he had gone still further. He had positively affirmed to the committee of finance, that by the regulations he had introduced, the intention of the beneficial acts that had been passed was carried into full effect; although at the time he made this affirmations he must have known, that the principal, and avowed object and purpose of the acts in question, that of transferring the custody of the public money from the treasurer of the navy to the bank, was at that moment directly and grossly violated, and that not accidentally for a particular occasion, but had been so, systematically and constantly, for a period of ,10 years. Did not such wanton misrepresentation call for an immediate expression of the indignation of the house? He was at a loss to conceive, where the difference could be seen between this case, and that of any private gentleman with his agent or steward. Let it be supposed that Mr. Mark Sprott, in answer to any inquiries that might have been made by Mr. Trotter, had told him, that he was not quite certain whether he did not sometimes vest money of Mr. Trotter's in his own name, that he might occasionally have placed some of the interest, when he received it, to his own account: could any one imagine, that after such an answer Mr. Sprott would long have remained broker to lord Melville or Mr. Trotter? But, perhaps, Mr. Sprott might have said, that he did it unintentionally, and that it was the necessary result of the manner in which he kept his accounts. Some one might exclaim; what broker on the exchange would keep his accounts in such a manner! To this he would answer: what treasurer of the navy of Great-Britain would keep his accounts in such a manner; and had not the people of England, who paid the public servants largely and liberally, and in no instance, perhaps, more largely and liberally than in that of the office now be- 292 fore the house, had not they a right to be served with as much accuracy, and as much fidelity, as any gentleman who employs a broker on the stock-exchange? It was impossible for the house to recognize innocence when guilt was professed. When he considered the examination of lord Melville, the letter of lord Melville to the commissioners, and most of all, the extraordinary letter which had been addressed to them subsequent to the report, he was reminded of Cicero's address to Piso, when after enumerating the various proofs of his misconduct, he breaks off, and exclaims, "Quis te miserior? Quis te damnatior. Qui neque scribere ad senatum de te rempublicam bene esse gestam, neque præsens dicere ausus es."—If when lord ,Melville first, introduced his bill in 1785, such member of this house had arisen, and addressing his lordship, with something of a prophetic spirit, had said, "I oppose your bill, and the resolution of the house on which it is founded; but your labour is vain, your scheme is useless, for 2 years will not have past, before there will be found treasurer of the navy, who will wantonly and successfully violate the bill, and that treasurer. will be yourself:" with what apparently just indignation would the noble lord have repelled so foul an assertion upon his character? Yet such was the case. But what should we say; if such a person had carried his conjectures further, though it was to be hoped with a spirit less prophetic, and said, "still more useless is your plan, still more vain is your labour; because, when this violation of law, after having been systematically carried on for 14 years, during which the public expenditure will have doubled or tripled in its amount, shall at last, by a happy coincidence of circumstances come to be discovered, there will be found another house of commons, so different from that in which we sit, so indifferent to the care of the public purse, and so lost to every feeling of public duty, that they will turn away from the discovery, and readily embrace any pretence that is offered to them, to avoid .pronouncing an opinion on an act so gross, so flagrant, so unjustifiable." This last conjecture, he trusted, would not receive the same confirmation with the former. It would be fortunate, indeed, for the country, had this commission never been appointed, and these abuses never been discovered, if the result was to be, that these reports were to lay a dead letter on the table, to prove and to proclaim, that although there might exist in 293 this country a minister virtuous enough to institute inquiry, although there might be found persons honest and assiduous in conducting it, there was after and behind all this, a power able and willing to interpose between justice and its object, to step in between the law and the offender against the law and thereby to establish at once the most fatal and the most shameful of all precedents, that of guilt known and acknowledged but not censured, of a breach of the law ascertained but not punished. He trusted, that the event of this night would teach a very different lesson to the world; that it would shew, that whatever difference might exist amongst us, if indeed there did exist any, on the principles of government, or on the application of those principles to public measures, yet when such questions as these came to be determined, whether the law should or should not be observed, whether the public expenditure should be watched, or should pass unexamined and uncontrolled, there was to be found but one voice, one opinion, and one cause: the cause of men of all descriptions, who pretend to any sort of principle, in opposition to those who either do not profess any, or what is as dangerous, if not as bad, who think none essential to the honour, the safety, and the existence of the country.
The Attorney General
said, that nothing, had fallen from his right hon. friend to prevent the judgment of the house from being taken on the matter in question. The hon. mover had thought proper to call upon persons of different classes for their opinion and support that night. He had called on all those who were in office, and on those who aspired to it. The noble lord might be classed in the latter description, and he would appeal to him whether he did not feel that parliament ought not to judge upon the conduct of a public officer, without having the fullest information on the subject of the charge made against him? How would he feel should such ever be his own situation? It was called a plain violation of law, and a simple matter of fact: but was it not extremely material to ascertain the real circumstances attending that transaction in a committee of the house? Respecting the diversion of public money to other branches of the pubic service, it was material that it should not be considered in piece-meal, but taken on the whole, and if ever there was a case which demanded such investigation it was this, in which gentlemen took so much pains to heap together every possible accusa- 294 tion. The house must, therefore, feel it absolutely necessary, before they proceeded farther, in order to see the true character and colour of the transactions, to enter into a farther examination.
§ Mr. Tierney
complimented his noble friend. It was a matter of pride to any man to be allowed to call himself the friend of such rising talents and eloquence. He agreed with him that nothing was more fit than to appoint a committee after the first point should be agreed upon, a committee in which all that related to accounts and calculations might be sifted arid made clear. The transfer of money from one service to another was also matter for a committee, but what was to be done with the remainder of the tenth report? Did lord Melville ask for further delay, saying he had evidence sufficient for his acquittal? Did Mr. Trotter say any thing to that effect? But the people of England looked to this night for the opinion of their representatives on this important case. He would ask the right hon. gent. how long it was since the expedient of a reference to a committee occurred to him? The right hon. gent. was anxious for the production of lord Melville's letter, and still more, that the public mind should be set at rest on this point before the Easter recess. Why send to a committee that which no committee of that house could, throw any fresh light upon? Could any man in that house lay his hand to his heart, and say he could controvert those propositions? Would any evidence disprove that money had been drawn from the bank contrary to law? Would Mr. Sprott say now what he would not say before? Would he be open-mouthed when not on his oath, and close when sworn? No farther explanation could be given. He then reminded the house of the report of the committee on the late sheriffs of Middlesex, when the committee made their report, which was received as full evidence, and counsel were merely as a supplementary explanation. Would any man in being, he asked, say that lord Melville, Mr. Trotter, or Mr. Mark Sprott, by an after examination of the facts, could add any thing for the satisfaction of the house? His right hon. and learned friend had gone over the whole of the case, and pressed the necessity of a select committee; but the commissioners of naval inquiry had been occupied for 6 months in no other business than that of investigating the matters of the tenth report. What utility could it then be of, to go into a new com- 295 mittee? he wished to see what reason could be urged for it. The right hon. gent. Appeared anxious to know the extent of the deficiencies, not for the purposes of criminating, but for the purposes of refunding, as appeared from his enumeration of the several sums paid and received. The money was not kept in the bank; no, says the right hon. gent., it was lodged at Messrs. Coutts, to save trouble: a clerk of the navy office takes a cheque for a large amount, receives the value at the bank of England, passes Somerset-house, and carries it down to Messrs. Coutts. This was the convenience. He did not want any further illustration of the fallacy of the pretence.—One point more he begged leave to advert to. While he had the honour of holding the office of treasurer of the navy, no inconvenience whatever arose from a strict adherence to the act of parliament, which was one of the most salutary and useful ever framed, nor could he see how it was possible Mr. Trotter could see any thing in the act which could leave the least doubt upon his mind of the true spirit and meaning of it.—With respect to the participation of the emoluments by lord Melville, with Mr. Trotter, there did not remain a doubt upon his mind on that part of the case. Was it possible for lord Melville to go on as he did, for 12 years, merely for the advantage of Mr. Trotter? He could not be blind to the rising prosperity of Mr. Trotter; he knew he originally had nothing; and this alone should have been sufficient to rouse his jealousy. The accommodation of 10,000l. of 20,000l., and various other considerable sums, left not a shadow of doubt upon the subject; and it fully appeared his lordship had gone on systematically for 12 years together. He hoped it could not be said he was actuated by any peevish motive to lord Melville in giving his vote in support of the resolutions that night. Nothing would satisfy the country but meeting the question fairly, broadly, distinctly, and without delay. The public understood the question as well as those who made speeches for his lordship; but what defence could the house make to the public, if they delayed or passed by the consideration of such transactions? As to impeding sailors' wages by these speculations, he wished to state it publicly, from having been in the office himself, that such a report, which he hoped had not been made, was groundless, as the thing was impossible. But he must add, that in such a war as this, the loss of public confidence, and of the respect the people pay to 296 high authority, would be the worst blow that could be inflicted on this country. He would be the last man to proceed harshly against lord Melville or Mr. Trotter, but they did not ask to be heard by counsel, or pray for any delay. Their friends allowed they could not ask for an acquittal upon the tenth report: and, therefore, why go out of the way and delay the business for 3 or 6 months? The house of commons would only incur odium by such a step. Shew him the law was not violated, or he would not consent to a moment's delay. This was an odd way of treating the parliamentary commissioners. The right hon. gent. Had said there was no regular trial, and had described all the forms of a trial. In this case the witnesses were the accounts of the persons accused, and the parties were called upon, and had every opportunity given them. "Can you make out the answer in June?" "No."—"Can you do it in July?" "No." "Have you any thing to say or to shew in your favour?" "Nothing." The trial was as fair as the nature of the transaction admitted. What more trial could they have before the committee of the house? Was this sort of language used respecting the report of the commissioners of accounts? As to the errors the right hon. gent. Had endeavoured no argument of weight against the commissioners, since the very documents on which the right hon. gent. Reasoned were furnished by the commissioners themselves. It was his pride that he had been a member of the last administration, to which that commission of inquiry was owing; and he called on all those gentlemen who supported that administration, particularly in that measure, to come forward now and support the commissioners in the hour of their need.—When the right hon. gent had concluded, the Master of the Rolls and Mr. Canning rose at the same time, but Mr. Canning first caught the eye of the speaker.
§ Mr. Canning
said, that on any other occasion he should undoubtedly have given way to his hon. and learned friend, but after the speech he had just heard from the high authority of the hon gent. Whom he had succeeded in the office he now held, and considering that the present question related peculiarly to that department of administration which he was most intimately connected with, he felt particularly anxious to deliver his sentiments on this occasion. He observed that the house, in its usual love of justice, would give an opportunity to 297 inquire, whether the whole of the charge now exhibited against the noble lord might not be done away, or was capable of being done away? And if they thought so they could not possibly vote for the motion proposed by the hon. gent. But what was the alternative? That the house should come to a final determination on the subject, by which all possibility of explanation would be excluded. Now, upon that subject he could not help saying, that the mode proposed by his right hon. friend was the true way to answer the purpose of justice, by instituting an inquiry, with all the circumstances of the case on both sides, which hitherto had not been done. But the right hon. gent. Who spoke last had stated to the house, that the mode proposed by the original motion was recommended by a late precedent in the proceedings of the house on the subject of the Middlesex election; in that case the house had decided that it would not proceed in the examination of evidence at the bar, but took up the case on the report of a committee, and adopted its statement upon the ground that the evidence which was adduced before the committee was upon oath, and that which was to be heard at the bar must be without oath—that the case was the same here, for that the evidence before the committee of naval inquiry was upon oath, but if the house heard any further evidence upon that subject, they must take it without that sanction. Now, begging pardon of that right hon. gent., the two cases had no common nature, or indeed any resemblance to each other. The decision on the late case of the Middlesex election, in which the house had adopted the report of the committee, and concluded upon it without hearing further evidence, did not turn on the point of difference between evidence upon oath and that which was taken without that sanction; but upon the principle, that the parties charged with misconduct had been fully heard, had been allowed all the forms, and what was much better than all forms, the substance of a fair trial; they were called upon to answer; they knew the charge, had heard all the evidence in support of it, had actually cross-examined that evidence, and were heard by counsel as to the effect of that evidence, and it appeared, upon full investigation of the case, that the party had nothing to say in answer to the charge; they were found guilty, because their guilt was fully substantiated, after they had been fully heard. But the present was the reverse of that case, for here the 298 party had not been heard, and all that was now asked was a full hearing. And here he would put it to the house, and, indeed, to the gentlemen opposite to him, whether it was fair to call on the house to convict the party without a hearing, which had not yet been had? and what would bring the point more distinctly before the minds of those whom he had now the honour of addressing was this, that no part of the case now before the house on this report was matter originally intended by the course of examination taken by the committee, but it came out incidentally, and it was no part of the object of the committee to try the noble lord who was the object of the present motion for any thing, and therefore it was, from the nature of things, absolutely impossible that he should have had a fair trial, since he had indeed hitherto had no trial. But the right hon. gent. Who spoke last had observed, that in former times a committee, on the model of which this was formed, had made many wise regulations, and that the act which was now the subject of the consideration of the house of commons passed without further investigation than that of a perusal of the report of the committee on which it was founded. This might be, but he believed the right hon. gent. could not shew him any regulation of parliament by which any individual had been condemned, without having had an opportunity of defending himself. And here the case was mot singularly hard, for it was the case of an individual knowing for the first time from the report, now said to be conclusive, what was the nature of the charge which was exhibited against him. He was speaking now of lord Melville, for he understood that noble lord was the only person against whom gentlemen on the other side of the house were pressing. From these complicated accounts, thus brought without notice to his lordship, before the committee, the guilt of that noble lord was to be inferred; and he was said to have had a fair trial! and the house was called upon to confirm that assertion, without its having at all investigated the case! This application to the house was repugnant to the principles of justice.—But then the right hon. gent. stated, that an act of parliament had in this case been violated by the application of public money to other uses than those specified by the act. Now he ventured to say, the violation of the act of parliament was a point by no means so clear as some gentlemen affected to state it; but on the contrary 299 he believed that doubts might be very reasonably entertained upon that subject. Here he wished to guard against, being misunderstood. When he said that the act was not so clear upon this point as it seemed to be conceived by some gentlemen, he was, not thereby to he regarded as the champion of illegal defiance to the rules of law, or an imitator of such a practice. He knew that laws even if unwise, must be obeyed, while they were in full force. But the question was, whether the party here said to be guilty of a breach of the law, knew that he was really causing to be applied the public money to the private use of individuals? Now, considering the law as attentively as he was able, he denied that either the letter, or the spirit of it, prohibited the drawing of money out of the Bank in the manner contended for by gentlemen on the other side of the house. He was confident that the spirit of the act could not be so, because it could never have been the intention of any law to throw insurmountable obstacles in the way of public business; and he contended that the strict letter of the act could not be so construed; for, in many cases, a compliance with an act, so construed would be physically impossible. In the course of 26 days the amount of the sums to be paid to claimants on the navy was 6,400l.; 3,500l; of which was made up of sums under 20l. A great multitude of the items were from 8s. 6d. to 1l. 8s. He wished gentlemen to turn this in their minds—whether all these sums could be paid by drafts immediately given to the claimants to receive the money at the Bank? And if this were so, he wished gentlemen, who maintained the affirmative of that proposition, to shew him the clause in the act by which it was supported; and when they had done so, they would have proved that every person who held the office of paymaster of the navy since the passing of the act had been guilty of an infraction of it. After all, if the law was so, the breach of it was of course not to be justified; but then came the question of the degree of impropriety of the conduct of the individual, and much of that depended upon the question of—whether he did it knowingly and unnecessarily? To pursue the idea of convenience in transacting public business of this kind a little further, he would observe, there were now 6,800 ships books for payment, and in the course of the last three weeks payment had been made upon 40 ships books, and they abounded with items of.14s., 12s., and 15s. 9d. Now he would 300 ask, whether it was to be contended by any gent. in that house, with any regard to practicability in the dispatch of business, that every one of these items should be paid by a distinct specific draft upon the Bank given to the claimant? If not, then there was an end of the argument upon the dry point of the illegality of drawing money out of the Bank for any but a specified purpose for the use of the navy! Thus the argument upon the illegality of the practice fell to the ground. Then the question of strictness of law being at an end, the rest was a question of degree, or extent to which the practice had been carried, and that, like every other, must be governed by that which was reasonable; for he did not say that it might with impunity be carried to a blameable extent, or be endlessly followed up. It would be always just to mark it with censure whenever it was done unnecessarily. But he said it was not a question of mere law, as gentlemen on the other side of the house took it, but a question of degree. That was to be determined upon the circumstances, and the house should judge, or rather a committee should judge, how far it. was necessary or unnecessary, and which the house possessed the power of deciding after a proper inquiry had been had into all the circumstances of the case, but no such proceeding had hitherto taken place. The diversion of the public money, which was another topic brought forward, was very fit for inquiry. As to the charge, or rather an imputation, founded upon an inference, against the noble lord; that he had some participation of the benefit arising from the use of the public money while employed for the advantage of private individuals, that was a subject fit for inquiry, but to decide which, the house, at present, had no materials; and upon the question of the extent to which the public money had been drawn out from the Bank and here he must advert to a part of the report of the committee of 1782, which had escaped the notice of the hon. gent. who brought forward the motion, which was to the following effect: "we consider that this excess is not money for which the treasurer is accountable to the public, but belonging to the proprietors of these bills, and remaining in his. hands at their risk, until they apply to him for payment." Now, he said, if this doctrine be correct, the whole money in the hands of the treasurer was not that for which he was responsible to the public, but to the individual to which these sums belonged, and if they had, received 301 their money upon application, there had been no breach of the act of parliament, and the house would find, upon inquiry, that what he had. stated hypothetically was the facts.—He maintained that the deficiency stated in page 128 of the Report was incorrectly stated as to the amount of it. He did not say that the mode stated on the other side was the proper mode of keeping the money of the public; but what he contended was, that the case was not that case of aggravation which was contended for on the other side. It was, however, a matter which he did not ask gentlemen to take on his statement, but leave it for inquiry; for that he believed it would turn out that the violation of the act of parliament in this respect, so much insisted upon, was in a great measure imaginary.—He now came to the great point, which was, the imputation to the noble lord that he had participated in the use of the public money. This was not made as a distinct charge, only it was thrown out, or insinuated as a matter of inference. Now, he would put it to the conscience of the hon. gent., who brought forward this motion, and to use language already uttered in the course of this debate, to lay his hand upon his heart, and ask himself, whether he could believe that out of the monies which had been drawn out of the Bank, the noble lord had really any participation in the profits of using for private purposes? And whether he believed that a vote, carried to the extent of that now proposed, in deference, as that hon. gent. might think, to the public opinion, would not be to confirm such opinion to its full extent? He would ask whether that was fair? Whether the carrying the motion now before the house, would not be to impress upon the minds of the public an idea that lord Melville had been found guilty by the house of commons of foul and corrupt malversation? (A cry of hear! hear! from the opposite side.) If gentlemen really thought so, they were right in pressing the motion; but he was at a loss to find out upon what foundation such a conclusion could be drawn from the premises before the house; for the case could not, even on the face of the report, before the other side was heard, amount to any thing more than a case of suspicion. He would then ask the hon. gent. what he would think of the hardship of that case, if hereafter it should appear as he believed it would, that the suspicion was without foundation?—He then pro- 302 ceeded to :observe on that part of the report of the commissioners, in which they disapprove of the manner in which the accountants' branch, consisting of principal and eight clerks having been established by order of council in: Aug. 1786, for the express purpose of bringing up the old, and keeping up the new accounts; and they were surprised this had not been done, but that the clerks had been employed in the current business of the pay-office; and on which the committee said, this was a false economy. He admitted that no economy was more pitiful than that of starving the public service by a paucity of clerks in public offices; but there was erroneous conception on this subject. It was generally considered, that the power of the treasurer of the navy was much greater than it was, he was considered as a kind of despot in the office, when in truth he could neither add to the number of the clerks nor to their salary This economy, pitiful as it might be, was not the economy of lord Melville, for he had applied to the admiralty for additional clerks for the accountant's branch, and they were not allowed. Since lord Melville became first lord of the admiralty, he had applied, and these clerks were allowed long before the commissioners suggested the necessity of them. There was another detached point, upon which great stress was laid and which seemed to be considered a material feature in the case. He meant the circumstance of Mr. Trotter having drawn 1 million in one day from the bank, and lodged it in the house of Messrs. Coutts. His right hon. friend (Mr. Pitt) had said, that much doubt lay upon this transaction, and that it might admit of explanation. Now he should go farther. He would undertake to explain it satisfactorily. The fact then was, that this million was not the whole sum drawn that day. He begged the house not to be startled when he stated how the case was. The fact was, it was part of a sum of 2½ millions drawn upon the same day, viz. the 10th of April. Of this due intimation was given in the Gazette by the commissioners of the navy and victualling office, stating, that treasurer of the navy had that day received money for the services of these departments for 6 months, and giving the creditors an option of money or bills, as they should think proper. The next day, the 11th, these 2½ millions were offered to the persons having any demands against these several departments, and therefore there was nothing secret or clandestine in the transaction. The 303 next detached charge particularly concerned himself. It had been insinuated out of doors, in consequence of something contained in the report, that he, as treasurer of the navy had thrown obstructions in the way of jnquiry. The right hon. gent. here entered into a justification of his own conduct. He said, he had been called upon by the commissioners to furnish four several lists, but, on consideration, he found he could not furnish more than three, and even these not in the precise form required. These three, however, he did furnish in the most complete form in his power, from the documents which his office afforded; and for any further information upon the subject he referred the commissioners to the books of his department, The report, however, in noticing this transaction, and his first answer, goes on to say, "his accounts were afterwards made out," implying, as he conceived, that they were at first refused. Having said thus much, however, he hoped he should not be suspected of having thrown any impediment in the way of the commissioners, to whose object, fairly and liberally pursued, no man was a greater friend than he. He added, that he wished to stand well in the opinion of the house and of the public. He concluded by observing, that if he thought this motion well founded, that a case was made out against the noble lord, he should not lift up his voice against such a motion; but he thought he did not ask too much, when he asked the house not to suffer itself by prejudice within, or by intimidation from clamour without, to take upon itself to decide without full and competent information upon the question now before them.
§ Mr. George Ponsonby
rose, and spoke to the following effect:—Sir, I am satisfied that the right hon. gent. who spoke last, thinks, as he speaks, that there is matter in this business, highly deserving of the most serious consideration of this house. I am sure he thinks it a question highly deserving of a committee, for the purpose of proving the innocence and purity of Mr. Trotter; for, from all I have heard of his character, I am certain if he did not think Mr. Trotter pure and innocent, he would not continue him in office. I think it right, sir; to quote the right hon. gent.'s conduct, in proof of his sincerity; for, I am sure he would not vote for farther delay, if not from a consciousness that it was necessary to the exculpation of Mr. Trotter. He surely would not. continue him in office, or act in any way, merely for the purpose of screening an 304 accused person from justice. But while I give the right hon. gent. credit for all this candour and regard for truth, there is one circumstance which strikes me as somewhat extraordinary. The right hon. gent. through the whole of his speech, uses the phrase, 'this charge,' as if it were limited to one. Now, this is an error; for there are several distinct and separate charges comprised in the offence. For example, one of the heads of accusation is, that lord Melville, the very, man. who proposed the law in question, and afterwards treasurer of the navy, did violate the provisions of that law, by conniving at the conduct of his paymaster taking the public money from the bank, and applying it to his own private profit and emolument. Is not this single, distinct, and substantive charge? Has this any thing to do, in the, remotest degree, with accommodation afforded to another office? or with the charge of a participation of gain with lord Melville? Is not this, then, a distinct and separate accusation? and, if so, how does it become necessary to its ascertainment, to inquire what office received the loan; or whether Mr. Trotter divided the profits with lord Melville? The right hon. gent. pursuing this error, says, as a reason for farther time, and inquiry, it is difficult to decide upon complex and intricate accounts, meaning thereby the accounts of Mr. Trotter Sir, these accounts have nothing to do with the charge which I have stated. I ask the house, will they, after 10 years of consideration and examination, enable you to say, that lord Melville did not connive at Mr. Trotter, his paymaster, taking money out of the bank, and applying it to the purposes of, private emolument? You know they will not; and, therefore, as to this charge, no delay is necessary. But it has been said, that the accounts are not correct; as it will appear that the sums transferred to the bank of Messrs. Coutts were only 7 or 8 millions, and not 15, as therein stated. But how will this, admitting the fact to be so, acquit that noble personage of corrupt connivance at the breach of the law? Is he innocent, because he only connived at the misapplication of 7 millions of the public money? The next objection urged is, that the charge against the noble lord and Mr. Trotter is supported only by ex parte evidence. Why, this is indeed curious objection. The gentlemen chuse favorite terms for themselves, and then they quarrel with their own phrase. It is indeed ex parte evidence, but of what party? Is it of the accuser? no. It is the evidence of the 305 party accused stating every thing he thinks proper in his own defence and justification. But it has been said, that these parties have been hardly dealt with; they have been taken by surprise, and have had no notice of what was going forward. What! I thought that commission issued for the purpose of inquiring into abuses, with a view to correction and amendment. Have I been mistaken, and was it then for the purpose of inquiring into the transcendant merits and virtues of the treasurer and paymaster of the navy, and to ascertain what farther honours and rewards they deserved for their distinguished services? These worthy parties, it now seems, were most cruelly deceived. They attended the commissioners, never once dreaming that abuses could have crept into their office, which the commissioners wished to investigate, but fancying it was to be only an examination, to ascertain the degree of their merits and virtues, and confidently anticipating a brilliant reward. Now, to come to this ex parte evidence, as it is called: lord Melville being asked, did you permit Mr. Trotter to draw the money from the Bank of England, and place it in his private banker's hands? his lordship answers, "I never gave him a direct authority, but I knew he did it." Now, surely, it would have been more manly in his lordship to have said at once "I did," than to admit that he knew what was going on, and did not prevent it. It was skulling from his duty. It was as much as saying to Mr. Trotter, make money of your office as you can, and I will protect you. And who is this Mr. Trotter, with whom lord Melville cannot be presumed to have any fellow-feeling? Why, the general agent of lord Melville. Why, knowing him to be acting in this illegal way, did he continue him in the practice? Can any man believe it was exclusively for Mr. Trotter's sole benefit? But even though it were, lord Melville would not be the less responsible; as principal, he was as corrupt as if the act of his agent had been done personally by himself.—The next argument advanced is that no loss has been sustained by the practice. This I can easily conceive, without giving the parties much credit for their innocence. Mr. Alexander Trotter is an expert calculator. He might know very well how far he might use the public money, before the demands for it should come round upon him. It was only the common science of every banker, who knows when his bills are payable, and to what amount, and regulates his issues in the mean time, according- 306 ly. This argument, of no loss to the public from this practice, is an extraordinary excuse from a right hon. gent. so well versed in the financial system of the country, and the laws that particularly relate to it. Does he re collect the act which prescribes the form of the bills, and the mode of drawing them? That act says, "any man counterfeiting one of these bills, shall be guilt of a felony, without benefit of clergy." Now, suppose an expert forger, and many such there are, had forged a bill of 500,000l. but had the money to replace it when it became due; and supposing this transaction to be afterwards discovered, would or could the right hon. gent: advise his Majesty to pardon that man, because the money, was made good? To excuse, therefore, a public officer, guilty of mal-practices, upon the ground of no loss, is monstrous language. It is language that puts an end to the definite provisions of the law, and the constitution of the house of commons. What! no loss? Is then every public officer to speculate with the public money for private profit, and if no loss ensues, is there no criminality? What is the use of your laws, if they may be thus dispensed with at pleasure? What becomes of the house and its duties? Is the house to vote a sum of money for one particular service, and may any officer apply it to another as he pleas, and if no loss follows, is he to remain guiltless The right hon. the chancellor of the exchequer says he knows of one sum of 40,000l.that was thus applied to a purpose different from that for which it was voted, and he adds, judiciously applied. I ask, however, if any regard were paid to the votes of the house, why was not that payment afterwards disclosed, and a bill of indemnity demanded for those that made it? It is monstrous that any minister should think himself justified in taking such a liberty with the public money, and not call for a bill of indemnity. It said that the accounts are not correct; that the sums lodged with Messrs. Coutts are not so great as they are stated. This does not signify. It appears that Mr. Trotter took all he could. He was a good calculator; and if he took only 5 millions; instead of 15, it was because he could not make free with more. It is a proof of skill, not of his innocence, and, perhaps, it is for that skill he has been reinstated in office. Great pains, we are told, have been taken to inflame the public mind. It is said that hand-bills and publications have been circulated, for the purpose of exciting odium against the parties. If so, it is base. 307 The hon. gent. opposite (the, attorney general) will feel it his duty, I am sure, to ascertain the fact, and punish these libellers; but why are we to stop the proceedings of the house, because offensive and libellous publications have been circulated? The proceedings of the commissioners in 1782 have been referred to, but they have nothing to do with the present business. The question is, whether the act of 1785 has been violated? The conduct of the commissioners in 1782, he would venture to say, did not sanction the conduct of Mr. Trotter. Their recommendation was, that none of these public officers should have public money in their hands, or be exposed to the temptation of private gain, that might end in public loss. I cannot conceive why we should postpone the resolutions. Can you obtain evidence from a committee, that the law has not been violated? This is the first instance of an application to parliament in a grave business for delay, without stating any grounds. If you have any ground, why not state it? I think the gentlemen are not aware of the consequences of delay, if any is to take place. In such event, I think bills ought to be bought in to restrain lord Melville and Mr. Trotter from leaving the country. The proceedings of a committee will occupy a great length of time. What is to become of lord Melville and Mr. Trotter in the mean while? If it shall appear that the sums have been great, it will not be fit that they should be allowed to walk the streets at large, and be at liberty to convey in trust to their friends those funds from which restitution ought to be made to the country. The right hon. gent. (Mr. Pitt) will therefore find it due to his character to follow the case of Sir Thomas Rumbold, and take care that any funds they now possess shall be forthcoming to satisfy the public demands. And now, sir, let me tell you, there never was a moment in the history of the country where the character of the government was so essential to its welfare and security. By a measure, of which I own I did not approve, this house has received an addition of 100 members from Ireland. I own, sir, I am anxious that they should give this night a proof of their spirit and purity. Public rumour stated that at the time of the union many were induced by large sums to part with their legislature too easily, and their integrity was not free from doubt and suspicion. They have now an opportunity of throwing from them that imputation. I should be deeply afflicted if that measure 308 were only to give the minister an increase of influence, and not of purity and virtue. I should be ashamed to walk the streets of London, if it were the general opinion that the members from Ireland were not as clear of corruption as the members of this country, and that there was any virtue in the one from which the other was shut out. Sorry should I be were the two representations to meet like two running sores, wasting the strength and vigour of the body by their confluent corruption. This is the first opportunity they have had of giving a proof of the virtue and integrity of my countrymen, and I hope they will not lose it. You are now engaged in a war alone, without an ally, with a great nation, led by the most extraordinary man the world has ever produced. You have imposed heavy taxes upon the people. This session you have followed the poor man's last luxury into his cottage; you have taxed his salt. Will it not then be wise to shew, that if you call upon him to make great sacrifices, you will take care that they shall be administered with integrity and economy? Is it not incumbent upon you to shew, that no rank, no power, no influence can screen a public malefactor? and that the man who would abuse his trust, and misapply the hard earnings of the people, cannot be screened from the justice of the country? When you have established this character, as I hope and trust you will this night, you may carry on the contest as long as you may think it necessary for your honour or your safety; but, if the amendment be adopted, you will incur a very different opinion. I put it to you, whether it will be considered as a mode to ascertain the innocence of a man, who stands convicted upon his own oath, or a stratagem to shelter him from punishment by delay? I can make great allowance for private friendship. I am sure, however, it is the sentiment of the house that lord Melville cannot be defended; for I observe that not one gentleman has arisen this night to speak for him, but such as have been his colleague in office. I cannot find fault with that friendship; but sure I am, that if they cannot acquit him upon oath, of what he has admitted upon oath, they can not acquit him of a corrupt breach of the law.
§ Mr. Canning
rose to explain the cause of Mr. Trotter's continuance in office. He said he had never seen him until he was appointed paymaster under him. He restored him because he was a useful man. And he had not renewed him from office, because he considered his case adhuc sub judice.
The Master of the Rolls
argued in favour of an inquiry, because, he said, it had ever been the principle and practice of our jurisprudence to have the whole of a case before any man was pronounced guilty. It was not sufficient to state that the law had been violated by lord Melville; but before the house could pronounce a judgment against him, it would be necessary to shew that he had violated the law from corrupt motives. The law might be broken, and the motives not corrupt. It had never been the object of the naval commissioners to try criminals, or to convict men on their own confession. Their object merely was to inquire into abuses, and it was for that purpose alone that they had put questions to those who came before them. The house then could not, on the report of men having such an object in view, convict a person without hearing evidence at its bar. Such was the proceeding in the case of sir Robert Walpole, the duke of Macclesfield, and various other persons. He would not now say one word concerning the merits of the case, but he contended that the whole of it ought to be heard before the house proceeded to come to a decision upon it. It would be impossible for any man to be as capable at this moment of determining upon the various shades of guilt belonging to the case as he would be after an inquiry was gone into. From the report now before the house, it was impossible for any man to say that lord Melville was personally guilty of corruption—that he was corrupt for the sake of private emolument. Nothing like personal corruption was proved against the noble viscount. How was he to judge of his own offence but by his own understanding? How did it appear to what degree he connived at the misconduct of his servant. These and many other points were wholly left in the dark by the commissioners, and could not be cleared up without farther inquiry.
§ Mr. Fox
then rose. He said he should be extremely unwilling to suffer this question to be put without expressing his sentiments upon it. For if, unhappily, the vote of the house should be opposite to that which he hoped and wished, he should feel very uneasy indeed that his name should partake of the universal odium that must attach to any decision tending to second such notorious delinquency as the report on the table declared. He could never reconcile it to his mind to be silent upon such an occasion, lest he should be suspected of declining to mark with the strongest reprobation, guilt 310 of a nature so glaring, that any man who gave it the sanction of his vote, or attempted to protect it from punishment must be viewed in the light of an accomplice, or one at least disposed to become the accomplice of similar transactions. Before he would proceed to the merits of the charges under consideration, he thought it proper to notice the arguments of the gentlemen on the other side, not because he considered those arguments possessed of any intrinsic force, but lest from the authority of the persons from whom they proceeded they might have the effect of leading the house to a decision, which, if it should correspond with the wishes of those by whom such arguments were used, must destroy its character with the country and with all Europe. The first gentleman with whom he would begin was the last who spoke. That learned gent. directed the whole of his observations to shew that the house should go into a committee in order to ascertain whether the breach of the act of parliament, not of which lord Melville stood charged, but of which he confessed himself guilty, proceeded from corrupt motives. If corruption consisted merely in a man putting money into his own pocket, according to the vulgar conception, perhaps some of the deductions of the learned gent. would be right. But he would contend that nothing could be more corrupt, in his opinion, than to permit a man's own agent to convert the money of others to his own private emolument. This was the amount of lord Melville's confession; and although it might be possible, from a further examination, to prove the noble lord more guilty, it did appear to him utterly impossible to prove him less so. For the most conclusive evidence of the noble lord's corruption, he would only refer to that paragraph in the report, in which the noble lord stated, that although he knew his agent Trotter was applying the public money to other purposes than that for which it was legally intended, that he did not prohibit him from doing so. What was that, he would ask, but complete corruption, even taking the case simpliciter; but combining it with other circumstances, could any man entertain a doubt upon the subject of his guilt? What greater aggravation of his delinquency in tolerating the breach of his own act of parliament could be imagined than allowing his agent to misapply the public money, for the safe custody of which that act was intended? But it is pretended that no loss had accrued to the public from this 311 malversation, and a very singular argument was advanced, that as there was no loss there was no risk. Now, said the hon. gent., it unfortunately happened in certain parts of my life, which I do not quote with a view to recommend my example to others, that I was in the habits of engaging in certain speculations which are commonly called gaming. If a man should, in that kind of speculation, win a large sum of money, I am sure that an argument would not thence arise that he had made no risk. I rather think the natural inference would be that his risk was considerable. Probably however, in this case, lord Melville did take care that Trotter should not lose any money. Trotter was the confidential agent of lord Melville, and lord Melville was the confidential agent of the state. Therefore, in this sort of speculation in which Trotter engaged, lord Melville could guard against much risk. If two men play at cards together, and a third person stands behind one of them and throws hints to the other, he that receives the hints is tolerably sure of winning. Just so in this business; lord Melville knew when the navy bills were likely to be funded, and Mr. Trotter could act upon the information he might receive. Will any one say, then, that from such acting upon such information, no loss would accrue to the public? On the contrary, I maintain, that the public did suffer a loss of 1 per cent. upon the discount of such bills. But, then observed the hon. member, the learned gent. desired the house to go into an inquiry, in order to obtain facther evidence. He would appeal to the judgment of the house, whether any farther evidence could be necessary to enable it to come to a decided opinion upon the breach of law, which the noble lord himself confessed? That opinion the house was called on to declare. The public had a right to demand from them. It was said, that the house ought not to think of acting judicially, of inflicting punishment without the fallest examination into the merits of the accusation, and affording the accused the fullest opportunity of vindicating himself. And so far as the confession of lord Melville went, he had been already tried. He would, however, fey those gentlemen who rested their objection so much upon the question of punishment, to shew, that it was at all in the power of that house to inflict any punishment on such delinquents as lord Melville and Trotter. But if the house should determine on prosecution in any way with a view to punishment; whether by directing 312 the attorney-general to prosecute; whether by moving an impeachment, or preparing a bill of pains and penalties, which perhaps would be the more proper mode of proceeding, he would maintain that the confession of the party accused, would be evidence to proceed upon, and that the house was now called on to act, as it must in every similar case, as a grand jury, to pronounce upon the guilt of the accused. It was strange to hear it asserted, that the accused was not guilty, because no loss had accrued from this scandalous transaction. To those to whom the loss of honour was nothing, perhaps, it might be said that no loss had arisen. But what was the loss of honour to that government which after such a palpable instance of delinquency, should preserve its connexions with the delinquent? and what the loss of character and honour to that house, should it attempt by its vote, to search such a delinquent? infinitely more than any sum of money could amount to—Whatever the learned gent. to whom he had already adverted might assert, he could not see that any farther inquiry could be necessary to enable the house to decide that a great public officer who allowed his servants to make illicit profits from the public money, in the teeth of an act of parliament, was guilty of a most serious offence. The guilt consisted in the violation of the law, and it never could be pretended that any such violation could be innocent. There were, indeed, many cases in which the most severe punishments attached to offences to which the charge of moral turpitude did not apply, but which were criminal in consequence of the precept of the law. Such were many of the offences against our revenue laws. Not two years ago an act was passed declaring a man guilty of felony, without benefit of clergy, if paper of a certain sort should be found in his possession, this sort of paper being used for the manufacture of bank notes. Now, the reason of this statue was this, that a man could not be presumed to have such paper in his possession but with a criminal intention. Therefore the breach of the act was proof against him. And the act of the 25th of the king, which applied to the case under consideration, was drawn up upon a similar principle, and the breach of it was to be deemed the proof of the criminal intention. Upon this proof those which arose out of the reason of the law, he had no hesitation in pronouncing the noble lord guilty. At all events, there was no man who could say that strong suspicion, 313 did not attach to him. When private individuals became the objects of suspicion, it was their own affair; but when suspicion attached to men of high rank in the state, it became a matter of great public interest. Putting all the circumstances of the case together, he could not see that any thing could be obtained to avert the judgment of the house from farther inquiry. Whatever delay might take place, there was only one mode of confirming still farther the guilt of lord Melville, and that was in case Trotter should "peach;" but there was no mode or evidence possible to be imagined that could refute that which lord Melville himself confessed. On that confession then, he called upon the house to proceed, by adopting the motion of his hon. friend. With respect to the charge of lord Melville's having participated of the profits resulting from Trotter's application of the public money, he could not say that there was direct evidence before the house; but there certainly was strong ground of suspicion. The noble lord, it would be recollected, retained the office of treasure of the navy for several years after he was appointed to that of secretary of state, and when in that house allusion was made to the circumstance of his holding the two offices, the answer from the other side of the house was, that although he held those offices, he only received the salary of secretary of state, and nothing from the treasury of the navy. Ay, that is nothing of the legal salary. Did not this justify something more than suspicion? Why should the noble lord so fondly cling to this office of his friend, Mr. Trotter? There were many other persons among even his own relations who would have been glad to occupy this situation. But no; lord Melville seemed particularly attached to it, and would any man of common sense, in considering a thing of this kind, make no inference from that attachment. Another objection arose against the proposed committee, from this consideration, that he did not see that any of the difficulties which some gentlemen complain of could be removed; that any of the obscure accounts could be explained. Those accounts were indeed of such a nature, that the parties themselves could not understand them, and how, then, could it be possible for a committee of that house to make any thing of them?—It had been said that the house should proceed with the utmost deliberation in deciding upon character. But upon whose character were they to decide on 314 this occasion? Not, upon that of lord Melville, for his character was entirely gone; but upon the character of the house and the government, which must depend upon the vote of this night. As to the character of lord Melville it was so completely destroyed in public estimation for ever, that he would venture to say, that were the vote of the house unanimous in his favour, it would not have the slightest effect in wiping away the stigma that was universally affixed to his name. What, then, must the world think of retaining such a man at the head of the glory of the country? It was dreadful to reflect that the most honourable claims should be placed at the disposal of a man, with whose name dishonour was inseparably associated—who had confessed himself guilty of an act of corrupt illegality.—Are we, said the hon. gent., to connive at and approve of all this, when even the right hon. gent. who has moved the previous question, will not go the length of approving all he has done. Sir, we have heard to-night, with sentiments of exultation, the brilliant efforts of a noble friend of mine (lord H. Petty) on the bench behind me: there is not a man in the house capable of appreciating virtue and genius, who did not feel a secret satisfaction in the speech of that noble lord. I recollect, sir, when the right hon. gent. on the opposite bench (Mr. Pitt) made his first essay in this house, I recollect, and many in the house must recollect also, the just pride which we all felt to see him, much at the same age then that the noble lord behind me now is, distinguishing himself in hunting down corruption, in unmasking abuses in the public expenditure, in proposing and enforcing reforms of various kinds. What a contrast does his conduct on this night afford! Under what sort of figure does he appear? "Heu! Quantum mutates ab illo!" The right hon. gent. (Mr. Canning) who now fills the office of treasurer of the navy, asserts that it is physically impossible to act up to the letter of the act, and has amused the house with an account of fractional sums of 8s. 6d. 14s. and 2s. and then turns short upon us, and asks how it is possible to pay all those trifling claims by drafts upon the bank? I do not say it is; but does he not keep money in the iron chest of his office to pay them, and are not the sub-accountants furnished with the means of liquidating them? But these abuses, it is said, can never occur again; Mr. Trotter, in his dying legacy to his successors, has pointed out the means of preventing it. 315 No;.it shall not be done for the future, says Mr. Trotter, and he bequeaths that to his successors which he never thought proper to enjoy himself. The act can never be violated again; I hope not; I hope the decision of the house this night, will render it impossible for the gent. who at present holds the situation of treasurer of the navy, or for any future treasurer, ever to violate it. But if we do not come to this decision, what security have we, that some future Melvilles and Trotters will not break through any new act we may pass, in the same way in which they have done the resolutions of this house in 1782, and the act of the 25th of his present majesty founded upon them. I hope and trust, sir, that a large and virtuous majority of this house will be found to put the seal and stamp of their reprobation upon such monstrous and unblushing delinquency. But, say some gentlemen, the depositions are not evidence. That I deny. If an impeachment were carried against my lord Melville and his associate, these depositions might be produced against them at the bar of the house of lords. Really, sir, I have a strong repugnance to enter into all the disgusting particulars of the conduct of this person with whom I had once some slight connection; God knows, it was a connection of hostility; but after what appears on the face of this report, I should be ashamed of myself if I belonged to the same class Of society with him. What is any honourable man to think of a person, who either refuses to answer a plain question, or who answers it equivocally and under reservation? Did you derive any advantage from the use of the public monies in the hands of your paymaster? 'To the best of my recollection I never did.'—Now, the hon. gent.s' objection to this is, that the noble lord should have occasion at all to mention his recollection, on the subject. He should have been confident. There are some cases where a man may be allowed to speak as to his recollection, while in others, to mention it is to betray him. If a man were asked whether he was on a particular night in a particular room with John a Noakes, it might he very well to answer, that to the best of his recollection he was not, but if he, were asked whether John a Noakes did not charge him with an attempt to pick his pockets, and kick him out of the room—what would be the inference if he were to answer that John did not, "to the best of his recollection?". With respect to the noble lord's offer to swear positively that he did not 316 profit from the misappropriation of the public money, it was remarkable that his offer was confined to the period in which Mr. Douglas, who was now dead, was paymaster of the navy, but did not at all extend to the paymastership of Mr. Trotter. What was the conclusion then to be drawn from this? Why, that he was ready to make oath as to the paymastership of Douglas, because he was dead, but did not think proper to swear as to Trotter, because he was alive.—As to the letter which has been brought forward, and which, in my opinion, only aggravates and confirms his guilt, we never heard any thing of it, although his examination took place in Nov., until a few days previous to the day appointed for his trial. It is said that lord Melville never saw it till it was in print. Can any one believe it? Is it credible that the noble lord never had the curiosity to dispatch some confidential friend to make an extract of that part of the report which he had good reason to suppose must refer to him? When, indeed, he finds the effect of it on the public mind, when he finds that there is not a man, woman, or child, in every corner of the kingdom, in whose mouth the tenth report is not to be found; then, in order to do away the impression of it, he comes forward with his letter. But what can he now gain by this last shift of his? Nothing at all. But if he was suffered to avail himself of the delay he sought for, would not the country feel that the house of commons favoured public abuses, screened a great and criminal delinquent, and that our navy, the greatness and glory of the nation, was still possessed by that very man? Then in what respect would the government be held in the eyes of the people, and of foreign nations, should this man, in a state of accusation and suspicion, be suffered to hold his present high situation, when the bravest and most honourable commanders in the army and navy are always suspended from duty during an accusation of which the result might be an honourable acquittal. The impression on the public mind would now be, that lord Melville fled for protection to power and not innocence. I hope and trust that this dreadful and disgusting business, like all other evils, will produce some good: that, this day will be an æra for commencing an examination into all public abuses, and be the former of such reforms as shall prevent great mischief in the country. I hope the right hon. gent. will himself undertake this great work; and that the commissioners of naval inquiry, to 317 whom the country is so much indebted, will continue their laudable and salutary pursuits, and bring every great delinquent to condign punishment.
opposed the motion, and insisted that the very severe animadversions which had fallen from the hon. gent. were not fu1ly justified by the nature of the charges against lord Melville. His lordship exhorted the house not to forget what was due to an old and faithful servant of the public, whose honour was dearer to him than his life. He expressed his sincere wish that the affair might be thoroughly, sifted to the bottom by parliament; but he also wished, that the house would not be induced by party clamour and vociferation to forget individual justice. His lordship, therefore, deprecated entering fully into the business at present, unless it were intended to move further for the dismissal of lord Melville from his Majesty's service. He considered, he observed, Mr. Trotter in the light of a deputy of lord Melville's; and that, therefore, the manner in which the public money entrusted to his care had been employed, demanded the particular attention of parliament; but his lordship was against treating lord Melville with the severity intended; and deprecated their being hurried by their sensations of strict rectitude into a premature decision upon a subject which involved objects of magnitude. His lordship also stated, that a strict examination of the accounts was very necessary to know to what length the supposed abuse had been carried.
supported the motion, and censured severely the conduct of lord Melville. He enlarged particularly upon the answer the noble lord had made when the plain questions whether he had connived at Mr. Trotter's practices, or received any emolument from them, were put to him by the commissioners. An answer, his lordship observed, very dissimilar to that of the Roman statesman, who, scorning any other justification, appealed boldly to the opinion his country at large entertained of his honour and integrity. Such was not lord Melville's character: his sensibility, his integrity, was not of that nature which "seeks the light, and courts the day."
§ Mr. Wilberforce
.—I do not rise, sir, at this late hour, to detain the house for any long time, but I cannot satisfy my mind without saying a few words in support of the original motion; for, notwithstanding I have listened with all the attention I am 318 master of, to the arguments of gentlemen who have opposed it, I must confess that it is impossible for me to leave the house this night without giving my vote in support of the resolutions moved by the hon. gent. It seems to me, that if I were willing to admit all which the advocates of lord Melville argue for, yet I am. equally bound to vote for the original motion. If the house were to step out of its way to adjust all the shades of criminality which belong to this case, then, indeed, it might be necessary to take some proceeding or other, similar to that which has been recommended to us by my right hon. friend, the chancellor of the exchequer. But here is plain, broad fact, which no subsequent elucidation can possibly explain away. Here is my lord Melville publicly declaring on his. Oath, that he has tolerated his dependant in a gross breach of an act of parliament, for the purposes of private emolument. I really cannot find language sufficiently strong to express my utter detestation of such conduct. In my mind, the friends of lord Melville have not at all affected the plain, simple state of the transaction. What advantage can we derive from going into a committee, for the purpose of contradicting an examination given on oath? I confess, sir, that I can not make up my mind to believe that lord Melville received any direct gain from the transactions alluded to. But, though I do not believe that lord Melville has been a participator in the profits, yet I think it by no means improbable that he may at times have drawn more freely upon Mr. Trotter than he ought to have done. I will not say that lord Melville has not received accommodation from these profits. The bare fact of his having borrowed 10 or 20,000l. at a time from one of his clerks, is a very suspicious circumstance. It is clear that Mr. Trotter is a man who acted on the great scale, and this fact was of itself calculated to produce strong suspicion. Let me ask any of my hon. friends around me, if there are no suspicious circumstances attending these transactions? If the house was once to suffer a minister to say that he had connived at the breach of a law by a person who had been his confidential servant for a number of years, and that superior was to pass un-censured because no personal corruption had been proved against him; if that was once to be admitted as a principle by which the house of commons was to be directed, it would open a door to every species of corruption, and there would be no security left 319 for. the faithful discharge of any public trust. Minsters may be desirous of waiting till the public feeling shall have subsided, and fancy that the whole business may blow over. But they are mistaken. They appear to me to have placed themselves in this situation. They might have prevented it. Had I been in their places I would not have risked my reputation by setting up such a justification as they have done for lord Melville.—As to the argument that there has been no actual loss to the public by these transaction; when we reflect upon the consequences that might arise from the detention of money intended for the payment of so great a department as the navy of this country, when we reflect upon the lengths to which men may be induced to go if the mind is once accustomed to abuses, and when we consider the influence such conduct must inevitably have upon all the inferior departments, I do contend that the loss in a pecuniary view, may have been to an extent almost incalculable. It has been elegantly and beautifully said by a noble lord (Petty), that it would be fortunate indeed for this country had these abuses never been discovered, if the result was to be, that these Reports were to lay a dead letter on the table of this house, to prove and to proclaim, that although there might be found in this country persons honest and assiduous in conducting an inquiry into abuses, there was after and behind all this, a power able and willing to step in between the law and the offender against the law, and thereby establish at once the most fatal and the most shameful of all precedents, that of guilt known and acknowledged but not censured, of a breach of the law ascertained but not punished. But have we not sustained a loss which no money can-repay? Such is the opinion which I entertain of the consequences of the loss of honour, that I esteem it beyond any thing that can be set in balance against it. Would to God we could be restored to the state we were in before this happened! If abuses such as have been brought to light by the commissioners of naval inquiry are tolerated or in any degree countenanced by this house, melancholy indeed will be the result. As to the "clamour" that has been mentioned, it is not the cry of popular faction, but it is the universal sentiment of persons of every rank, of the rich as well as the poor, of the middling class of the community, who understand the constitution perfectly well. Greatly as the people of England disliked the conduct of Charles the First in levying ship money, it was not 320 so much the measure itself which such general discontent as the circumstance of the judges having given their opinion favour of it. Lord Clarendon concludes his reflections on this transaction with remarkable words: "and here," says' he "the damage and mischief cannot be expressed, that the crown and state sustained by the deserved reproach and infamy that attended the judges, by being made use of in this, and like acts of power; there being no possibility to preserve the dignity, reverence, and estimation of the laws themselves, but by the integrity and innocency of the judges." It is not only lord Melville, but we ourselves that are upon our trial, and a fearful trial it is. If we shrink from it we shall hereafter have reason to repent of our conduct. The house is now appealed to as the constitutional guardian of the rights of the people, and I should ill discharge my duty to the public, if I did not give my most cordial and sincere support to the present motion.
§ Sir Charles Price
observed, that, as a magistrate and a man, he felt himself most fully justified in declaring that if lord Melville had been entirely free from any criminality, he would have answered more fully and unequivocally than he had done. He therefore supported the original motion.