appeared at the bar, with the report of the Address to his Majesty, in answer to his most gracious Speech.
Sir Francis Burdett
rose, and began by observing, that he had paid that attention that was due to the sentiments of the different gentlemen, gentlemen who had already delivered their respective opinions on the various topics which the full discussion of the King's Speech naturally embraced. He had listened, he hoped, with equal candour, to the defence of the men who thought themselves still qualified to govern the country, and to the arguments of those who thought themselves better fitted for that arduous situation; and the result of the whole was, to confirm more and more that calm conviction of mind, with which he had entered that House, of the necessity, sooner or later, of an entire change of system; of a thorough, constitutional, and temperate reform in parliament. When they considered the extent and nature of the failures abroad, the numerous instances of obstinacy, fatuity, and incapability at home, that had stigmatized the short period of time since their last meeting in that place; and when they compared, with that consideration, the confidence that the majority of that assembly were still willing to repose in the authors of our disgraces, it did appear to him astonishing, how any well-meaning reflecting man could doubt, that there was something in our system radically wrong. With respect to the leading complaints made against the present ministers, never were men in such a state of self-abandonment; they had nothing to say for themselves, and could have confidence in nothing but in that assembly, in which there seemed to be a mysterious something that might justify the most culpable in expectations the most extravagant, not only of impunity, but protection. This he did not say out of any sentiment of personal asperity to the gentlemen composing the present administration, and the principle of it, which, without a reform, it must have in common with every future administration: he spoke not against this individual or that, or in favour of this or that party. If gentlemen at this very awful crisis felt alarm, because the conduct of public affairs were intrusted to the present ministers, and thought that their apprehensions for the public safety could be removed only by the appoint- 115 ment of other men in their stead, more able, more experienced, or more honest, how should he (sir Francis) feel alarmed, when he could derive no one hope for the public benefit from any such change? Change of men would do nothing, could do nothing, while they would be necessarily obliged to act up to that fatal system in which all our real danger lies. Ministers were but the instruments in the hands of that pernicious system; and while they were but its passive instruments, they must work its destructive will. To him, therefore, it was idle to talk of a change of tools; it was to the design and nature of the work itself that he objected; and while he thought that big with peril to the constitution, perhaps the less skilful and adroit the workmanship the better. Among the many acts of the present administration, since the commencement of the recess, which had been the subject of general complaint, there was one of a nature more immediately growing out of that system to which he had alluded, and more directly to be traced to that bad source than any of the rest. He alluded to the treatment which his Majesty had been advised to give the first corporation in the empire. How, he asked them, could they otherwise account for that wild and preposterous policy, that could affect to rind wisdom in an insult, inflicted by the crown on the corporation of the city of London. Did it not look as if it was essential to the preservation of that fatal system, to throw obstacles in the way of communication between the people and the throne? It naturally revolted at all means of facilitating the growth of that confidence between the King and his subjects, which of all other national blessings it had most reason to dread, and therefore was it urged, by the all-paramount motive of self-preservation, to keep wide asunder, to alienate the two parties, net withstanding their common interests; because it, well knew, that the fair, cordial, conciliatory, and constitutional commerce between both must precede its own radical extermination. It was to such a system that the insult given to the right of petition and remonstrance, was to be fairly traced; that system, he did not hesitate to say, owed its birth, and growth, and maturity, to the corrupt state of that assembly; for if ministers were not fully aware to what length they might safely go, and how readily they would be borne out in their most extravagant criminali- 116 ties, by the more extravagant servility of that assembly, was it to be believed that they would have had the temerity to advise the King to call in question the most valued privilege of the people of England, by such an insult as had recently been past upon the metropolis of the empire? The first and most respectable of all the corporations, the city of London, in bad times treated with respect, and, in the worst of times, never insulted with impunity: a corporation, not to say politically, but integrally, the first in the King's dominions; whether they considered the liberality of principle, the high honour, the rigid integrity, the immense wealth, the commercial influence, the great weight of political interest, which had so long constituted the inseparable characteristics of that body, and which, in the present times, distinguished so many of its members; to insult such a body, in regard to the disputed exercise of their long established corporate privileges, was to insult the whole people of this country. Was it not an unwise thing to engage his Majesty in an indecent struggle with such an important portion of his subjects? He knew of no more dignified prerogative to be exercised by the King, than that of admitting to his presence the loyal effusions of his people. Even William the Conqueror respected the privileges of the city of London; and William 3, evinced for them that sacred respect that was worthy such good privileges, and worthy of the good times of that Revolution, that more firmly established them. We knew that such formerly was the merited influence of this corporation, that the Convention Parliament thought the weight of the sanction of the city of London absolutely necessary to its existence. A body of such absolute and relative importance ought not to have been treated with levity, much less with insult. It was not long since an occurrence had taken place, which, by the interposition of that House, proved that the King himself could not turn aside or stop up a common bye-path in his own demesne. The question was brought to the test—He could not do it. If then, the executive power, armed with all its influence, could not turn a little footpath across his own park, what were we to think of those men who would dare to block up the great highways to the subjects hereditary right of Petition and Remonstrance. The right of Petition was 117 the subjects' high road to the throne—the Revolution opened that road, and it was essential to the health of the constitution that it should he kept at all times open, But to say nothing more upon the abstract right of the subject to Petition—to say nothing more of the peculiar weight and respectability of the party exercising that right in the present instance, he wished to ask, if the occasion of the Petition was not of a nature to justify the exercise then made of that privilege? Had the corporation no grounds for petition or remonstrance in our calamities abroad, and our sufferings at home? Was the act of petitioning altogether impertinent and unprovoked by any of the late or passing events of the day? Whatever cause might be assigned for the seemingly unaccountable treatment the city of London had met with, he felt confident that it could not be attributed to any such motives. And, indeed, he could not help observing, with regret, that the present was by no means a solitary instance of encroachment upon the right of petition. In the whole course of his present Majesty's unfortunate reign, were to be found repeated instances of the same insulting indifference towards the exercise of this invaluable and indisputable privilege.—The next point to which he had to advert was, what appeared to him a violation of the usages of that House; it had been the custom to submit to the members of the House a copy of the King's Speech, at least one day before the meeting of Parliament; but on the late occasion, the great majority of the House were ignorant of the Speech till it was read from the chair—Another circumstance which he had, by the way, to advert to, was, that when they broke up last session, they were in possession of the circumstances of that foul and scandalous job respecting Chelsea hospital. But what would the House now think, when they were told that, notwithstanding all his exertions to defeat that job, it had been recently concluded upon, and the grant made out? Did ministers suppose that this sort of precipitance was the way to stop all further inquiry? They would find themselves deceived if they thought so, for it was his intention to move at a future day for the revocation of the grant in question. He had left ministers a fair retreat, they had not taken the advantage of it, and he was determined to follow up what he had already attempted, in order to defeat that job.—He should now pass to 118 the more immediate consideration of the Speech itself. And, in the first place, he thought the Speech singularly defective; the King's Speech at the opening of Parliament ought to be a general exposition upon every prominent event and extensive operation that had occurred during the recess; and not a mere milk and water composition, full of unmeaning generals that could not be disputed, and the truth of which had neither importance nor application. It ought not to be that kind of composition, so cautiously modelled and shaped by the apprehensions of ministers, so as to slide harmless through discussion. The present Speech said nothing of the state of our affairs in India; and as to what it did say, there was a passage towards the conclusion of it, that he thought deserved more animadversion than it had yet met with; he meant that part that was tacked to the Speech, relating to a provision for the poorer order of clergy. He should be sorry to oppose any justifiable method of relieving the wants of that body of men, but never would he consent to do so by imposing additional exactions on a burthened and almost exhausted country. If the poor clergy were so indigent, they could not derive relief from a fitter source than the wealthy part of their own calling.—the higher order of the established clergy were, in all conscience, rich enough to contribute to the necessities of the poorer class of their brotherhood; there could be no doubt that so opulent a body had the means to assist the individuals attached to it, and while they were so amply gifted with the means, it would be invidious to express a doubt, that men of their profession would be wanting in the inclination. To the rich clergy, therefore, he would leave their poorer brethren, or to whatever benefit might be drawn from an application to that purpose of queen Ann's bounty; in short he would agree to any plausible expedient for their relief, but never would hear of wringing from the hard hands of honest industry the last shilling for such an application.—With respect to the Expeditions, it could not be contended, that the prima facie result of our military operations was not disgrace. There was marked disgrace upon the face of the campaign; (to apply that term to the whole of our military operations) failure, total failure in Spain, and utter disgrace in Walcheren. He should not now enter 119 into the merits of the plan, or the question of the delay that had occurred in carrying that plan into effect; but it was well known that such either was our secrecy or our dispatch, that for three months before our expedition sailed, general Monnet's proclamation disclosed the object of that armament, and during that period counter-preparations were making by the enemy to oppose it. But there was one circumstance connected with this subject that appeared to him not a little extraordinary. He bad read an order from a noble lord lately at the head of the war department (lord Castlereagh), directed to the captains and commanders in the fleet employed in the descent upon Walcheren, and requiring them to search their respective ships and vessels, and (when found) to send back to this country a person who was said to have sailed with the fleet; the person to whom he alluded was Mr. Finnerty, and it seemed that in order to comply with the directions of the noble lord, every minor consideration was thrown aside; the other objects of the grand expedition were suspended, and the British fleet put into active requisition for the purpose of facilitating the apprehension of Mr. Finnerty. He did not wish to be too curious in inquiring into the cause of this important part of the service; but as to its effects, it had transpired, that owing to the busy occupation that now engrossed the attention of the commanders, a transport containing the entrenching tools was left behind, and the want of those tools produced, it is said, he knew not with what truth, some delay in the construction of the works before Flushing. With respect to the other topics, the campaign in the Peninsula, our affairs in the East Indies, our dispute with America, he could not but assent to the substance of the objections that had been made, though be confessed that as to questions involving military topics he thought himself, and many of those who heard him, not the most competent judges; but he could judge of the change that had taken place in the prospects of the country since the year 1793. When the war that then broke but, founded as it was in folly and injustice, what terrible predictions did they then hear of the probable consequences, resulting from that ill-omened step? but how insignificant were those predictions, compared with the more terrible events that had since occurred? 120 Not even the prophetic despondency of that inauspicious period could have dared but imagine all the evils that have since afflicted and humbled us. Nor could he without pain and astonishment observe the too prevalent disposition even then, to cite and to bow down to the authority of a departed statesman, whom as a minister he looked upon as the greatest curse that ever visited this country. He, for his part, could not so soon, nor so easily unlearn the lessons, the terrible lessons, impressed upon his mind by the uniform tenor of Mr. Pitt's administration, and so strongly inculcated at one period by the severe but deserved animadversions of those gentlemen who had since learned to think of that minister with greater charity; but he could not yet endure to hear such a man panegyrized; for if he was fit to be panegyrized, he was fit to be imitated. He could not yet think it other than an insult, the burthening with his debts the people he had so reduced. He thought it a still greater insult to make that people pay for the erection of a monument to his memory. It was, indeed, unnecessary. He had left his monument behind him—'Exegit monumentum aere perennius.' A monument that would be as lasting as those ruins in Europe of which he was the founder; or, if there must be a monument in this his injured country, he (Sir Francis) would propose that a pillar should be reared in the adjoining square; that on the one side Magna Charta should appear in large and imposing characters, and on the other should appear, equally conspicuous, all the host of Mr. Pitt's acts in direct violation of the provisions, and in utter subversion of the principles of that great bulwark of our liberties. He should propose, also, that the Speaker should, on the initiation of every new minister, lead him up to the foot of that pillar, and thus make the name that ought not to be an example, what it ought—a warning to all who took upon them the charge of the future government of this country.—The hon. baronet next proceeded to observe upon the rigorous mode of collecting the taxes, which he alledged to be oppressive in the extreme, vexatious and harrassing; that there was no mode of redress, but by means that involved the injured parties in greater expence than the fraudulent exaction amounted to. He instanced cases where poor farmers were surcharged for dogs; the tax itself was 20s. ten of which went into 121 the informer's pocket, and in general the fraudulent surcharges went only to enrich the exactor without contributing a mite to the treasury. He next adverted to the Jubilee, which he denounced as a clumsy trick, to thrust joy down the throats of the people, and repeated his opinion, that all such evils were to be traced to a radical error in the system, and that no matter what changes took place while that remained unchanged. How happy would they be if they could place the country in the position in which it stood at any former period for the last fifteen years. How happy if it stood even in the same situation as after the much abused treaty of Amiens; in short, there was no preceding year for that space of time in which it did not stand better than in the succeeding. With respect to their military operations, he would put this simple question; if neither the generals nor the soldiers were to blame, why was their failure so great and general? Changes were imperceptibly taking place that were of an alarming nature; the country was set thick with barracks, and foreign mercenaries were introduced daily, without exciting comment or curiosity. The regiment of the Duke of Brunswick Oels, who, immediately before, were stigmatised in the general orders of the Archduke Charles, as unfit to be employed, or serve with soldiers, were brought here to defend Englishmen—Englishmen wanted no such defence. He had to reprobate another monstrous innovation, hateful to the constitution, and destructive of our liberties, the practice of secret and solitary imprisonment. No power of despotism could invent what was more subduing to the mind of man, or odious to his feelings. Three warnings that he could state, would evince that there could be no apathy on such points; at present he would forbear going into the subject. The insult to the city of London did afford a rallying point to every county in the empire, to support the right of petitioning and stand up together against despotism. If the king was not to be made acquainted with any thing, but through the polluted medium of his ministers, then were they on the brink of destruction, and all that remained of their freedom, and of their constitution, was lost. He was not one of those who could attribute all the misfortune and calamities of this reign to the influence of a malignant star—no star was necessary; there was something wrong in themselves, 122 from which all these evils sprang. He could see in that room the root of all the evil. Here was the root; and the branches spread over, and extended to every extremity of the country. Under their shade flourished no useful plants, nothing but noxious weeds. The fruits upon the boughs were tempting to the eye, but to the taste they betrayed the bitterness of ashes. They knew the passage to which he alluded, and also knew what it was said ought to be done to the tree which was not good. Our corruption interfered with every branch of the state—it injured our navy, our army, our commerce—and ministers, at any price, must have a majority in parliament.—(Hear! hear!) He had read of a Roman, whose unremitting advice to the senate was "Carthage must be destroyed;" so would he return ever to the same point, "This House must be reformed."
called upon the House to observe the remarkable words made use of by the hon. baronet; whenever he spoke of the House of Commons, the hon. baronet never condescended to call them the House of Commons, but in speaking of them, called them "this assembly" or "this room," or "this meeting:" If by this, the hon. baronet meant to insinuate that they were not the legal and constitutional representatives of the people, he altogether dissented from any such monstrous doctrine, and gave it as his opinion, that the Reform recommended by the hon. baronet would only increase the danger it was designed to remedy. With respect to the Jubilee, he strongly reprobated the very improper terms made use of by the hon. baronet in his description of that memorable festival, where he spoke of it as forcing joy down the throats of the people; never, he contended for it, was the popular affection of joy so spontaneous, so sincere, and so universal: coupling this with the "malignant star," of which the hon. baronet spoke so eloquently, he wished to know if the reign of our beloved monarch, commencing in such an æra of national glory; and with the gift to his people of a noble and honourable peace, partook of any portion of that malignant influence so pathetically deplored by the hon. baronet? The hon. baronet had said a great deal of how happy we should be could we travel back to any one epoch of our past condition for the last fifteen years. He would go a little higher than the hon. baronet went, and say, that 123 happy would it have been for this country, for Europe, and the world, had they never witnessed the calamitous event of the execrable French Revolution. The hon. baronet had, with no inconsiderable eloquence, indulged himself in vehement invective against a late illustrious statesman, Mr. Pitt, and had made a whimsical proposal for the erection of a new monument to that great man's memory; to which it seemed the Speaker, with his mace, and attendants, were to pay a visit for the purpose of introducing every new minister to its presence. Of the merits of the plan he should say nothing, but he denied, in the name of the people of England, and in the presence of those whom he thought their legal representatives, that they had repined at paying the debts, or reluctantly contributed to erect a monument to the memory of that great and justly lamented statesman. Mr. Fox himself, his great political antagonist, had not opposed the payment of his debts. In fact, there were many of the assertions of the hon. baronet that required only to be restated, in order to be refuted.—With respect to the city of London, the hon. baronet had first presumed the fact of insult, and then argued upon it; but the city of London had suffered no insult. He respected that loyal corporation as highly as the hon. baronet could do, and never would forget the glorious part they acted in establishing the present family upon the throne. The city of London he knew was, as it were, the heart of the kingdom, giving blood and spirit to the rest of the country. Far be it from him to wish to circumscribe its privileges; but there was no attempt of the kind in the case alluded to. The corporation, properly so called, had privileges, which, perhaps, did not extend to the corporation as comprehending the livery. The latter, perhaps, could not claim the audience upon the throne, to which the former was entitled, but how was the right of petition questioned or invaded? Was it refused to be received? Was not the question merely as to the form of presenting? and was there to be no allowance made for the advanced years, and peculiar personal infirmities of the King, that must make retirement so desirable, and all unnecessary publicity of transacting business so irksome? He was glad to hear the hon. baronet give the assembly, as he called it, such an instance of the dangerous state of our liberties and rights, when the King of one of the first 124 powers in the world could not 'turn aside' a little foot-path in his own demesne. The country was said to be in great danger. He thought it was; and that the danger was much nearer home than was generally imagined: it was in our intestine divisions, and that party animosity that made us hate one another more than the common enemy, and in the exaggerated manner in which every thing was taken against the fortunes of the country, and in favour of those of our enemies, industriously circulated as they had been by those who were enemies to our constitution, both in church and state.—With respect to the present administration, he regretted the differences that had occurred as much as any man; but denied that they were imputable to his right hon. friend, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who had done what he could to give it efficiency and vigour, and when his efforts failed, with a constancy and courage worthy his pure and honourable mind, had taken the resolution of standing by his sovereign. He (Mr. Yorke) would support his Majesty's administration—he meant that he would never enter into systematic opposition against it. He approved of the Address because it did not pledge the House to any thing: he thought that part of the Walcheren Expedition that succeeded, very much undervalued, and put the case of a French fleet entering the Thames, and landing their forces on the island of Sheppy, and taking Sheerness, and though not able to come up to Chatham and destroy it, yet, after blowing up the docks and works at Sheerness, retiring to Sheppy, keeping possession of it four months, and then retiring unmolested; their rear untouched; the enemy not daring to look them once in the face; would this bethought nothing of, or would it be thought disgrace? The capture of Flushing was an important service: 10,000 men fell into our hands prisoners of war; the basin that was destroyed held at low water 22 feet of water, and was capable of holding 15 or 20 sail of the line; the Scheldt was not navigable four months in the year, and the French fleet had begun already to feel the want of their basin. He repeated, then, that the capture of Flushing was an important service. The hon. general (Tarleton) turned up his eyes. He lamented to see in his hon. friend such a disposition on this, and other occasions, to withhold that defence from brother officers in their 125 absence, which it would so well become a brother officer to make. He then adverted to the advance of lord Wellington to Talavera, and thought there was no part of that illustrious officer's proceedings that was not worthy of his exalted reputation. If there was any thing that might admit of the nicer investigation of military criticism (to which, he agreed with the hon. baronet, so few in that House could have any just pretensions), yet, if there were any, he would select two points; one was, the seemingly too great reliance placed by that gallant officer on the Spaniards; and the other was, his not having secured the pass of Banos, which sir Robert Wilson had so gallantly defended against a superior force for 9 hours. These were the only points upon which he thought there could be any doubt.
Sir John Sebright
thought the present ministers incapable of serving the country efficiently at this awful crisis. He was not fond of systematic opposition. He respected the right hon. gent. at the head of the government; gave him full credit for his integrity, but that was not enough; gave him credit for his talents also, but did not think they were of the kind that were at present wanting at the head of an administration. He did not blame that right hon. gent. for the dissensions that lately occurred in the cabinet; but if there had been an efficient head, there would have been no such dissensions. When a regiment was in mutiny, the commanding officer was responsible.—With respect to the Walcheren Expedition, he could not see the necessity of waiting for the production of papers before they gave their opinion upon it.—What could those papers contain? Could ministers shew him a new map of Europe? Unless they could, and one essentially different from all that he had ever consulted, he never could be brought to approve of au Expedition up the Scheldt.—All the mischief that had been done at Flushing might, perhaps, be repaired in a month.—As to the glorious victory of Talavera, as it had been called, there was a glory of the soldier, and a glory of the general. The glory of the soldier was patience under privation and fatigue—discipline and courage. This glory had, indeed, been displayed in all its lustre at Talavera; but although he admired the talents of lord Wellington, he did not think that he had acted, in the advance into Spain, the part of a wise general. Before 126 he advanced he ought to have ascertained what was the strength of his ally and what the position of the enemy. He beat the French; but then he was compelled to retreat, as if he had been beaten. Barren laurels indeed! Why, this was the essence of laurel—laurel water, which was a poison—The hon. baronet then adverted to the disgraceful manner in which the high offices of the state had been bandied about. He likewise pointedly adverted to the abuse of the term loyalty. He allowed the right hon. gent. (Mr. Perceval) loyalty, and he considered loyalty as a very high virtue; but he could not allow the right hon. gent. to be the sole possessor of loyalty. He contended that nothing could be more injurious to his Majesty, than the manner in which the word loyalty had on many occasions been prostituted. No one had a right to identify himself and his party with the King. It was equally injurious to the King, and inconsistent with the constitution. The hon. baronet then strongly pressed the necessity of removing the present ministry, which he declared he did without the smallest interested motive; for every one knew that he was of no party, and would willingly have supported the ministers if they had been such as the present times required. He then recommended a rigid attention to economy; which, though it might give but little relief from the pressure of taxation, would at least induce the people to bear their unavoidable burdens with more patience. He also expressed his regret, that the hon. baronet (sir F. Burdett) had disturbed the ashes of a late great minister. He firmly believed it was to him that he owed his being there, and that he had an acre of ground of his own on which he could set his foot. He concluded by again urging the necessity of removal and inquiry; and said, that these were the sentiments, if not of an able, at least of an honest man.
§ General Tarleton
, adverting to the Walcheren Expedition, observed, that there was not a sufficient number of craft to bring the necessary number of troops at once against the enemy. This demanded inquiry. The damage done to Flushing, he said, might be repaired in a short time. He explained, that the reasons why he had on a former night, made some observations on the conduct of the officer commanding our army in Spain, were these—First, because ministers had declared that the advance to Spain was 127 purely his own act, done in the exercise of his discretion; Secondly, because, in these cases, he perceived in ministers a disposition uniformly to refuse inquiry. He appealed to the House, whether, when the merit of an officer had passed the ordeal of examination, there ever was a more generous public than that of this country, or more disposed to do its officers full justice? As a proof of this, he desired gentlemen to look at the cases of Marlborough, &c. &c. The merit of lord Wellington was still equivocal. He asked why, in cases of failure, the merits of the officer should not be inquired into as a matter of course, as was, in a great measure, the plan in the navy? He had blamed lord Wellington, when present in that House, for the convention of Cintra—for to him it was almost entirely to be attributed. He now blamed him for his rash advance into Spain. He might have known that it was first necessary to secure the supplies. From the days of Homer till now, armies could not march and fight without eating. He should think that he had not done his duty if he had not stated these opinions. He admitted that the army had gained great glory at Talavera. Never was there a greater display of intrepidity, fortitude, patience, and every thing which constituted the excellence of an army. But the conduct of the general was a totally distinct consideration, and that alone he blamed.
§ The Report was then brought up and read.
§ Mr. Whitbread
observed, that he wished to introduce an Amendment in one part of the Address, and to that part he would confine what he had to say. He had on a former occasion observed, that there was in the Address no pledge on the part of the House to turn its attention to an economical reform. When taxes were collected almost to as great an amount, as the people could bear; when such large sums had been prodigally wasted in the course of the last summer; when the right hon. gent. had joined with him persons whose views of economy were so different from those generally entertained; he particularly alluded to a Secretary of the Treasury (Mr. Wharton), who had been Chairman of the Committee of Ways and Means, and a member of the Finance Committee, in which he had evinced sentiments materially different from the Chairman, and was in a great measure the cause of the slow progress of that Committee. Under all these circumstances, 128 he thought that a pledge of this nature was requisite. Mr. Whitbread also noticed the modesty of the hon. gent. (Mr. Wharton), who, on a former night had expressed his hope that he would be able to learn to do his duty. But the misfortune was, that it was of the last importance that some one should have been placed in that situation who had learnt to do his duty before. The Amendment which he had to propose would be gratifying to a people, who, with a patience unexampled in any history, had submitted to a grinding system of taxation, at variance with the spirit of the constitution in which they had been accustomed to live. He had worded it in such a way, that he thought there could be no reasonable objection to it from any quarter. He concluded by reading his Amendment, the substance of which was, "That injustice to the people, the House would, at the earliest opportunity, diligently apply itself to the effecting of such economical reform as might be consistent with the welfare of the state; such as might be satisfactory to the feelings of the people, and, in some measure, prove an alleviation of their burthens."
The Chancellor of the Exchequer
did not see the least occasion for this Amendment, his Majesty having promised that the Estimates for the current year should be prepared with the utmost attention to economy. The proposed Amendment would only serve to mark a suspicion of this promise, and to raise expectations in the people which could not be gratified. He then objected to the language in which the hon. gent. spoke of the pressure of the taxes on the people—a language which, in his opinion, could answer no good purpose whatever. He rather thought the Amendment alluded to those measures of economy which were under discussion last summer; and, as he knew that an hon. gent. (Mr. Martin,) intended to bring forward his Resolutions again, he saw no reason for the proposed pledge.
supported the Amendment, upon the ground that the Estimates related to the war expenditure solely, while the Address related to measures of economy, proper at all times, but particularly so at a time when the war expenditure was so large. As to raising unreasonable expectations, the Amendment carefully avoided this by the introduction of the words, "as far as was consistent with the welfare of the state."
thought the paragraph unnecessary, as matters connected with the public economy were confided to the Finance Committee. His chief object in rising was to notice a statement made by an hon. baronet (Sir F. Burdett) respecting a noble relation of his. He understood the hon. baronet to state, that his relation (lord Sidmouth) received a peerage for having commenced the war; but he was misinformed as to the fact, for it was notorious he did not receive the peerage then, but afterwards, on coming into administration with Mr. Pitt; and then he was induced to accept of it from circumstances independent of personal gratification. He begged also to state, that his noble relation, on retiring from office, declined a title higher than what he afterwards received, and also refused any pecuniary reward or gratification which was then offered to him.
Sir F. Burdett
said in explanation, that he only meant to express his opinion generally, that the honour was ill bestowed, that the noble lord had done nothing to deserve it, and that he was still to learn what were his merits.
§ Earl Temple
thought it important that the House should shew a disposition to probe and examine into every abuse; for otherwise the people would he apt to think that abuses were greater than they were. He should therefore support the motion.
hoped for the indulgence of the House in replying to some allusions which had been made to him. He had not admitted on a former night that he was ignorant of the duties of the office which he had the honour to fill; but, if he was ignorant, he would not come to the hon. gent. for instruction. He came into office under great disadvantage, after it had been filled by the hon. gent. who lately left it; but he flattered himself, that from the knowledge which he had previously acquired of Finance, as Chairman of Ways and Means, and a Member of the Finance Committee, and by unremitting industry, the prophecy of the hon. gent. as to the detriment which the public service would sustain, would fail to be realised. As to retarding the Report of the Finance Committee, he thought he had done a public service, by procuring papers to be expunged from it, which, had they gone forth, would have had a most detrimental effect to the country. He believed it was the first time it had ever 130 been adduced as evidence against a man's capacity for a seat at the Treasury, that he had once been on a Committee of Finance, and had once been the Chairman of a Committee of Ways and Means.
§ Mr. John Smith
contended, that the general sentiment of the country was, that government had been guilty of a shameful want of economy, more particularly in the military department. He would vote for the Amendment, because it pledged the House to an inquiry on the subject.
Sir A. Pigot
also supported the Amendment, which pledged the House to enforce only such retrenchments as were consistent with the welfare of the country. What confidence could Parliament place in the assurance of ministers, that the estimates for the present year should be framed with a strict regard to economy, when they opposed an inquiry into the profuse expenditure of the year that was past?
The gallery was then cleared for a division. The numbers were, for the Amendment 54; against it 95; Majority 41.