§ On the Resolution, "That a sum not exceeding 62,159l. 13s. 912 6d. be granted to his Majesty, for defraying the charge of Pensions to be paid to Widows of Officers of the land forces and expences attending the same, in the united kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, from the 25th of Dec. 1811 to the 24th of Dec. 1812,"
said, he rose to move as an Amendment, That the salary to the Paymaster of Widows' Pensions should be struck out of this sum. Before he proceeded to state his reason for this Amendment, he would move, That the two first of the Resolutions which, upon the 31st day of May 1810, were reported from the Committee of the whole House, to whom it was referred to consider further of the Report which, upon the 29th day of June 1808, was made from the Committee on Public Expenditure, and which were then agreed to by the House, might be read; and the same were, as agreed to by the House, read, and are as follows:
Resolved, That the utmost attention to economy, in all the branches of public expenditure, which is consistent with the interests of the public service, is at all times a great and important duty.
Resolved, That for this purpose, in addition to the useful and effective measures already taken by parliament for the abolition and regulation of various sinecure offices, and offices executed by deputy, it is expedient, after providing other and sufficient means for enabling his Majesty duly to recompence the faithful discharge of high and effective civil offices, to abolish all offices which have revenue without employment, and to regulate all offices which have revenue extremely disproportionate to employment, excepting only such as are connected with the personal service of his Majesty, or of his royal family, regard being had to the existing interests in any offices so to be abolished or regulated."
The hon. gentleman also moved, "That so much of the 10th Report from the commissioners appointed to examine take and state the Public Accounts of the kingdom (which was presented to the House upon the 2nd day of July 1783), and so much of the 6th Report from the commissioners of Military Enquiry (which was presented to the House upon the 25th day of June 1808), and so much of the 22nd Report, which (upon the 20th day of July 1797) was made from the Select Committee who were appointed to examine and state the 913 total amount of the Public Debts, and other matters relating to the public revenue and expenditure—as relates to the Office of Paymaster of the Widows' Pensions, might be read;" and the same being read, the hon. gentleman said, that it appeared that this office was stated in all the Reports as a perfect sinecure, and one that ought to be suppressed. If the question stood merely on the recommendation of the two Reports of 1783 and 180", made by commissioners acting on oath; if parliament had taken no one step in the business, and if the Resolution of the 31st of May 1810 had never been passed, there would yet be sufficient reasons to induce the House to call any minister to account, who should dare to act in contradiction to what had been so decidedly pronounced upon. Among other things, the last time the subject was discussed in the House, he was astonished a good deal at what had fallen from the hon. gentleman (col. M'Mahon) who held the office, who attempted to shew that since the period of the Report, this office was something like an efficient one. But nothing could be farther removed from this description than it really was. It appeared from the Report of 1808, that the whole business was then transacted for 100l. per ann. by a first clerk of the War Office. From what passed in the former debate, he had found himself in a singular and unfortunate situation. He thought he had made some impression on the House, and that they would have supported their Resolutions; but the argument took a most un-looked for and perverse turn. It was argued, that, because the Finance Committee had recommended certain sinecures to be retained as a reward for services, those sinecures which the House had expressly declared ought to be abolished, could not be touched on till parliament should decide what were to be retained; and that this office in particular should be considered as entitled to indemnity till parliament should come to discussion on the merits of the rest. Was this declaration of awaiting the decision of parliament paying that consideration to the Resolution of the House which it was entitled to? If the right hon. the Chancellor of the Exchequer meant by the decision of parliament, the decision of that House, this was already pronounced and recorded. The office was already condemned by the Resolutions of the House, and ought not to be continued. He 914 could not sufficiently condemn such an appointment. It was calculated in a particular manner to implicate the character of his royal highness the Prince Regent. The right hon. gentleman had denied this; but he would ask him, if he really thought that the master of such a servant as col. M'Mahon was not implicated in his appointment to this office? The right hon. gentleman had said, that the subject with respect to discussion was precisely as it was before; and that it was as competent as ever to the House to decide with respect to this office. Did the right hon. gentleman think that he could come as freely to the discussion as if no appointment had taken place? Did he think he could still discuss it as a plain naked question, whether the office ought or ought not to be abolished? It would certainly now come forward in a way which was not very fair towards those members who conceived themselves bound to act up to the Resolutions of the House. It was impossible not to feel a difficulty in deciding for the immediate abolition of an office however, useless, filled by a gentleman of whom so much good had been said, and who, in addition to this, enjoyed a situation under his Royal Highness. Into this embarrassing situation had the House been thrown by the counsels of the right hon. gentleman. But however disagreeable the task it would have been a base dereliction of the duty he owed to parliament, after the situation which he had filled in the committee of finance, not to come forward on the present occasion. He had not sought out the occasion, he was not fond of it, but it had been obtruded on him. This office appeared in the Estimates laid before the House, and it was for the House to consider whether or not it was to be continued. The question was before them, and they must decide. From their decision that night would be seen what was the disposition of the House with regard to other sinecures: from the vote about to be given, the country would have a very good earnest of what they" had to expect from them. The language of the Report of 1783 stated that the whole duty was done by deputy, and that that duty wag extremely overpaid. He had caused the extract respecting sinecures to be read, to shew that this was not an office of a description that could come within the comprehension of those that were to be assigned as a reward for merit. He knew not how to argue so plain a case. 915 It was impossible, in fact, to have selected any one situation which came more under the description of those which ought to be abolished, than the one in question. He denied that it was in the contemplation of any of the framers of these Reports, that offices with large salaries, and no duty, should be kept up as a reward for services of the description of those of the honourable gentleman colonel M'Mahon. These rewards were not intended for personal services to his Majesty, or his Royal Highness. Such an idea never entered into the contemplation of parliament. It was to be regretted that his Royal Highness had ever been advised to make this appointment. In the outset of a new reign, a colour was thrown on the transaction, which was by no means calculated to ease the minds of the people. For whatever might be thought or said within the walls of the House, the public would look with no small anxiety towards the result of that night's debate. He did not speak in this manner from any fondness for the motion, because he was the mover of it, but because he was convinced of the disappointment which its rejection would occasion to the country. They had no security that this office might not be given in reversion, but the word of the right hon. the Chancellor of the Exchequer. It had already been granted in reversion to the late general Fox. He should therefore move as an Amendment of the Resolution, "That a sum not exceeding 59,369l. 12s. 6d. be granted to his Majesty, for defraying the charge of Pensions to be paid to Widows of Officers of the land forces, and expences attending the same, in the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, from the 25th of Dec. 1811 to the 24th of Dec. 1812.
§ Mr. Charles Adams
said, that he imagined the right hon. the Chancellor of the Exchequer would have considered himself bound by the Resolutions of that House; but the right hon. gentleman was the best judge of his own conduct. It was, however, rather strange, that he should thus pick and choose among the sinecures; for it was in the recollection of the House, that some of the resolutions recommending the abolition of sinecure offices had been already acted upon. Much more could be said on this subject; but the business was so barefaced, and so palpably against every principle on which the House of Commons ought to act, that he would not waste one word more upon it, 916 but give his decided vote for the Amendment.
Mr. Matthew Montague
thought the House ought not to follow any cry which might be raised in the country. It was for the good of the country, that a due proportion of reward should be held out for the duties which might be discharged towards it. He would ask the hon. mover of the Amendment, whether the scheme of reward in the Resolutions was not too narrow? It was limited to high and eminent offices; and this was certainly too narrow. It was to be remembered that parsimony was not economy,—no money was so badly employed as that which prevented money from being employed beneficially. [Laugh on the Opposition side.] Did the gentlemen opposite think that they were entitled to ridicule this proposition, because they held themselves out as great patriots and great apostles? He was as honest in his intention as they were themselves, although he sat on a different side of the House. He declared he hardly saw one person over against him to whom he could not give a hint of something. Nothing could be more contemptible than that nonsensical attempt at ridicule which gentlemen opposite resorted to. (Laugh.) Let them not imagine that he would be put down. He would now take the liberty to proceed in the argument, from that part of it where he was interrupted. Considering it on the general principle, he thought nothing was more clear, than that a faithful servant of the prince who had long discharged important duties merited reward, and there could be as little difficulty in conceding the opposite conclusion, that those who would attempt to thrust themselves into the situation of servants to a prince, merely for the sake of the remuneration to be obtained, and who would perhaps, the moment they were secure, barter his most important interests, deserved only degradation and contempt. He acknowledged, that upon this subject, he was not as well instructed as he ought to be; but he was perfectly competent to form this opinion, that the servants of a prince ought to be upright and sagacious men, and that if they were, they had a claim upon the country for eminent reward. They had a far better right to the appellation of patriots than those who, augmenting the popular clamour by invectives against government, covered their despicable designs by a title to which they 917 had no pretensions. He insisted that the honourable mover of the amendment had gone much farther than the Resolution he had quoted would support him in, nor indeed could be for once concur in the idea, that the mere Reports of committees were to be deemed as binding legislative enactments. He felt himself incompetent to do justice to the cause be espoused, but he could not resist this opportunity of shewing, as far as his feeble powers would permit him, how little deserving of attention were the specious arguments urged by the supporters of the amendment.
was firmly convinced, that it was not less the duty of faithful ministers to support the just prerogatives of the crown, than to maintain the acknowledged rights of the subject. He would rather that the general question of the abolition of sinecures had been debated, than that this insulated instance had been selected for discussion; but at the same time he admitted that it ought not to have been passed over in silence, since it had more than once received parliamentary animadversion. He could not, however, agree, that in this instance the conduct of the right hon. the Chancellor of the Exchequer was culpable. He had two duties to discharge, the first to the country, and the second to the crown. If he had neglected to appoint a successor to the office of Paymaster of Widows' Pensions, it might justly have been considered a compromise of the prerogatives of the crown, but by giving it to colonel M'Mahon, under the conditions imposed, he had left the important question of the abolition of the sinecure still open to the future decision of parliament, and had not neglected the interests of the country.
, of Kerry, opposed the Amendment, and conceived it would be a harsh and strong measure to refuse the concurrence of the House to an. appointment made at the commencement of a new reign.
§ Mr. Bathurst
said, that the question now to be decided, was merely whether the House, in considering the Army Estimates for the year 1812, would or would not vote a sum of money which had hitherto been applied to the salary of Paymaster of Widows' Pensions. The inquiry, whether the office should or should not be abolished, could by no means strictly form any part of the discussion. His vote upon the first point would certainly be in the affirmative; upon the second he would 918 not pledge himself, and whatever might be the constructive effect of a decision upon the former that night, it could not prejudge the determination upon the latter at a future period. He thought that too much importance had been attached to the appointment of colonel M'Mahon; and although he admitted that it was the duty of the House to watch carefully over the disposal of the public money, he was convinced that it little became it to be cavilling about trifles, when matters of such superior magnitude, in an economical point of view, might be contemplated.
§ Mr. Macdonald
trusted that the House would that night rescind the vote it had passed on Friday last, with regard to an appointment which was calculated only to throw obloquy upon the Prince Regent" and excite disapprobation in the people. If, indeed, the House of Commons wished only to be considered as the support of the convenient obsequiousness of interested ministers, such a determination would be perfectly in character; but while it claimed to be the guardian of the public purse, a line of conduct directly opposite ought to be pursued. Was it because during twenty years of continued warfare the expences of government had been augmented from 16 to 100 millions, or because the means of maintaining our independence by the destruction of our commerce were diminished, that a decision like that which the House had a few nights since adopted, ought to be confirmed, to the abandonment of the primary functions of the, representatives of the people? If it were, it would be the bounden duty of the House now to speak a language not difficult to be understood, and to read a lesson to princes, which, if not followed, would endanger the security of the monarchy itself. He was willing to admit that col. M'Mahon deserved remuneration; but was there no way of bestowing it but by this degrading appointment? Could no place of emolument be found in the splendid establishment of the Prince Regent, by which his services might have been adequately compensated? He begged to remind the House of the time at which the right hon. the Chancellor of the Exchequer had thought fit to fill up this vacancy it ought not to be forgotten that the right hon. gentleman was then a servant on trial. He was anxious to please his royal master by this nomination, and dreading lest the time might soon arrive when be could only gaze with wishful eyes up on it at a dis- 919 tance, he seized the favourable moment, and no sooner did the sinecure become vacant than colonel M'Mahon was, as it were, thrust into it.—He had cordially concurred in the grant on a recent occasion to lord Wellington, and gave his full assent to an assertion then made with pride on the opposite side of the House, that if it were put to the country at large the vote would have been unanimous in its favour. If the right hon. gentleman would consent that the present vote should be submitted to the decision of the same jury, he was convinced that the decision would be Scarcely less unanimous against it. The previous determination of the House upon this question was so flagrant a breach of its duty, that he thought upon reflection it must have so struck even the right hon. gentleman, and he flattered himself, instead of this continued resistance, that the right hon. gentleman would have appeared in his place this night with a Bill to abolish the odious sinecure of Paymaster of Widows' Pensions.
had attentively examined the journals, and could find no resolution of the House for the unqualified abolition of sinecures, even admitting the place of Pay master of Widows' Pensions to be so. The resolution which had been read recommended the substitution of one mode of reward for another, but before it could be maintained that it had been violated, it was necessary to shew that the substitute had been provided, which no hon. member had yet attempted to prove. The House was called upon by the mover of the Amendment to give as much validity to the Report of Commissioners as to the statement of a committee of its own, and to that statement as much authority as to an act of parliament This situation was denominated in the Journals a sinecure; but upon due investigation it would be found that the allegation was incorrect, and that although in 1783 only 600 widows were relieved, there were now not less than double the number of claimants on the fund; and if, as he had no doubt would be the case, colonel M'Mahon duly discharged the duties of his office, they would be found important and beneficial to the objects of the charity, for no scene could be more painful than to see a number of the wives of officers who had fallen in their country's service, eagerly crowding round the clerk of the War-office, like hungry paupers receiving their daily pittance from the master of a parish work-house. 920 In assenting to the Resolution of the committee of supply, he would not be under" stood to assert that the office required no regulation, since his opinion was directly the contrary. With one argument advanced, he never could accord, namely, that the House was to be intimidated by the manner in which this decision would be received in the country. If the determination were well founded, it would be a species of most degrading cowardice to shrink from it: such conduct might excite the contempt of the people, but never could ensure their confidence. The hon. and learned gentleman concluded by declaring, that although in this instance be acquiesced in sentiment with ministers, there were many and most important questions, with their decision upon which it was utterly impossible he could ever coincide.
§ Mr. Home Sumner
would have preferred to meet the question in another shape, though he should regard it as a dereliction of his parliamentary duty, to avoid it many shape. For him self, he would abolish all sinecures, and trust to the generosity of a British parliament to reward those who had faithfully discharged their duty in the public service. He should give his vote for the Amendment.
thought the hon. member for Newcastle (Mr. Macdonald) hardly warranted in saying that he expected the right hon. the Chancellor of the Exchequer would have come down that evening with a bill in his hand, to abolish the office in question, when it was remembered that only a few evenings ago the right hon. gentleman had declared his opinion upon the subject in a manner so little calculated to excite such an expectation. He thought also that the hon. gentleman bad been a little unfortunate in his vehement declamation against sinecures; for, it should be remembered, that he was himself the holder of a sinecure. There was, however, this difference between the two cases: in the one, the office had been granted as a reward for meritorious services, as a reward for actual and acknowledged merit, and in the other it had been bestowed upon the hon. member, when a school-boy. [Here Mr. Fitzgerald said he would not proceed further in his remarks, because he had just perceived the hon. member not to be in his seat.] In adverting to the hon. mover of the Amendment, he had no doubt that the praises he had so lavishly bestowed upon his right hon. friend the 921 Chancellor of the Exchequer were sincere; but they seemed to him extraordinary, And he knew not how he could conscientiously affirm that he would repose confidence in the word of a minister whom he believed capable of insidiously, of obsequiously recommending to the Prince Regent the filling up of an office, merely that he might divide with him the obloquy of such a nomination. By what rules of candour did he attribute such motives to his right hon. friend? Why did he estimate them with a degree of unfairness, which he surely would not like to have applied to his own motives on the present occasion? This, however, he would say, in commendation of his right hon. friend, whose motives had been so severely aspersed, that he was the only man in the country, who, at the head of an administration, had never recommended to the crown the grant of a reversion. With respect to the office of Paymaster of Widows' Pensions, he did not think the granting of it, in the way it was granted, an insult to parliament; unless, indeed, the report of every committee, and even the report of a military commission, was to be regarded as a deliberate act of the legislature. The person to whom it had been given, was one whose merits all concurred to admit, and it had been justly observed by a right hon. gentleman on a former occasion, that he was a man who had won the confidence and regard, without ever abusing the ear of his prince. He thought that parliament ought not to be the sole and exclusive source of rewards, but that some power of remunerating faithful service should be lodged in the crown. The way, he observed, in which the present appointment had been granted, subject to such stipulations as had been specified, and not being held by such a tenure as general Fox held it, was a proof of the motives that led to the appointment; and he would ask, if this was an insult to the House, or if, had it been otherwise granted, had it been granted with any securities for its retention, parliament could, consistently with its sense of justice, proceed as they were now competent to proceed?—There was another question also, and that was, whether if the Vote of the House should, that night, pronounce the subtraction of the fees to the Paymaster of Widows' Pensions, any essential economical reform would be effected? He thought not. The object of the Amendment, indeed, had not all that merit in it which was commonly sup- 922 posed—he alluded to what appeared in the public prints: it was not to give 2,000l. more to the Widows, but merely to save 2,000l. Under such circumstances, he should certainly vote against the Amendment.
§ Mr. Macdonald
, in explanation, said, that his sinecure was of very inferior value, and the emolument of it did not burden the public, but proceeded from some small fees from gentlemen taking office; and in that way he supposed he might have received some of the money of the right hon. gentleman. He was, however, at all times ready to surrender his sinecure, if others were abolished also: and notwithstanding the very modest tone in which the right honourable Lord of the Treasury had criticised his parliamentary conduct, he conceived himself perfectly free to oppose sinecures in general, or this one in particular.
, in explanation, said, he did not impure moral or political guilt to the hon. gentleman. He had only urged, that the hon. gentleman, in the warmth of his declamation against sinecures, seemed to forget that he himself was a sinecure placeman; and that there was this difference in the two cases—that colonel M'Mahon was appointed for his services, and the hon. gentleman while he was a school-boy.
§ Mr. Wilberforce
observed, that the argument of the hon. gentleman who had just sat down went to this, that if a member of that House held a sinecure office, he ought not to be expected to give a full, free, and fair vote upon any occasion in which that subject was involved. But what would be the state of parliament if this doctrine were carried to its extent; if such things were to be bandied from one member to another, as "You are a placeman and ought not to vote, and you are in place and should not speak?" It was such matters as these, and such appointments as the present, that gave rise to all that public obloquy which was so much to be deprecated. A good deal had been said about the Committee and Commissioners with whom the Resolution had originated, which was the ground of the opposition of his hon. friend the mover of the amendment. He remembered the appointment of these commissioners, and that they were recommended not to be members of parliament, in order that their deliberations might be the more fair and uninfluenced. They in their Report ad- 923 vised that this office should be entirely abolished, as of no utility whatever; and the fair inference which he drew from this was, that if thirty years after such report the office was not abolished, the people had a right to complain. For what must be said on the occasion? That ministers thirty years ago, when sorely pressed by colonel Barré and Mr. Burke, did yield to inquiry—but that when that inquiry came to a point, and the abolition of the place in question came to the vote—then they, ministers, would say, "You have carried the farce too far, this is too serious a matter, and we will take a fresh lease of the office in the name of a person so involved that it must give pain to all who oppose it." And what was the office so desired to be continued? One, that from its very nature—from the small duties attached to it—from the mode of its payment—was (however unjustly as against the government) subject to the greatest obloquy and unpopularity. It was not so much the appointment itself, but the principle on which it took place that he felt to be wrong. The public interest was always in danger, when such broad blots were left to be pointed at by the disaffected, and held up with all their colourings to inflame the public mind. He could not help, therefore, condemning that policy, which, under the pressure of such times as the present, went to lay this new load on the people, which though small, was highly contrary to the public feeling. He consequently regretted, that his right hon. friend the Chancellor of the Exchequer could not see the matter in the same light that he did. He knew him to be a man conducting the government honourably and justly, in every point of view which he took of the common welfare, and could not help being sorry that he did not view some of these subjects in a way which would induce him to do them away, and not suffer them to remain to inflame a suffering people. The merits of the hon. colonel he was as willing to admit as any body; but they were merits of which the House could have no cognizance—it was not a ground upon which a member of parliament could proceed—it was a principle which might lead to every excess, and upon such a pretext the public expenditure might be abused without limit. He should therefore vote with great pleasure for the amendment.
denied that the Reso- 924 lutions of the commissioners or committees referred to by the hon. mover, should have controlled government in respect to this appointment; though, he confessed, that those Resolutions were a great direction to them in the line of conduct to be pursued. But the great point in the present question was, whether the Resolution alluded to ought to be binding on government? And he was of opinion that it ought not. It was laid down for the conduct of the House, and, until a countervailing fund was provided for the crown to reward its servants, they had no right on their own principles, to expect that these inchoate resolutions were to be acted upon. It was, therefore, most unjust to demand of the minister, that he should make that selection of offices for abolition, which the House had itself undertaken; and it was his full justification that he had granted the place subject to the revision of parliament. He gave the hon. mover credit for his motives in bringing the question forward, but would vote against it, as it went to destroy the profits of an office, which office it left in existence, while the more proper mode of dealing with it would have been to decide, whether the office itself should or should not be abolished.
§ General Tarleton
passed the highest encomiums upon the personal character of colonel M'Mahon, and thought he had been greatly injured, if not insulted, by the appointment. It drew upon him a degree of obloquy both in that House and throughout the country, in consequence of the discussions which had taken place on the subject. The motives of the right hon. the Chancellor of the Exchequer he conceived to be very equivocal; for if, at the time he recommended the appointment, he had any expectation of going out of power, then he must have intended to involve the Prince Regent solely in the consequences of such an appointment.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer
said he should trouble the House with but few observations, as he had given his sentiments fully in the committee. He certainly had not expected to be charged with ill-treating, not only the Prince Regent and the country, but Colonel M'Mahon also. If it was enough to move the indignation of a gallant officer to be recommended to a lucrative situation as the reward of his services, he was afraid that he had incurred the indignation of 925 the gallant general also by recommending him to be governor of Berwick. (A laugh). He must confess that his views of the question were totally different from those which had been taken by his hon. friend (Mr. Wilberforce), and, therefore, he acted from a very different conviction. If he had anticipated any serious danger to the country from recommending to this appointment, he should certainly have abstained from doing so. He could, however, see no danger in giving the place, on the express understanding that the continuance of it was as fully open to the determination of parliament after the appointment, as it was before. It must be remembered that he had opposed those resolutions which had been so often alluded to; and it was also to be recollected that they were mere resolutions of committees upon which parliament had not thought proper to proceed. When it was said, that a committee thirty years ago recommended the abolition of this place, he should consider the length of time rather an argument the other way, as it shewed clearly that parliament, during all that time, had not thought proper to act upon those resolutions. It, therefore, was too much to say, that it was the duty of ministers to act at all times in conformity to a resolution of a committee, which if it came to be discussed in that House, would possibly not be adopted. One hon. gentleman had conceived that he ought to have given the appointment to some political friend of his own, instead of selecting as he had done a gallant officer who had gained the favour of the Prince by faithful services for twenty or thirty years. Now, although many seemed disposed to argue that those places should only be the reward of political services of a civil nature, he was ready to maintain an opinion directly contrary. He would not allow it to be constitutional doctrine that every thing was to come through parliament, and nothing from the favour of the crown. He was convinced that there was no man who would say that such services as colonel M'Mahon's ought not, in some way or another, to be rewarded. He always conceived that there was nothing improper in the crown having the power of rewarding services by sinecure places; and it had been allowed on all hands, that if even the sinecures were abolished some other fund must be provided, in order to preserve to the crown its prerogative of re- 926 warding services: and when he spoke of the constitutional prerogative of the crown in this respect, he thought that the question of services might be somewhat mixed with the consideration of the personal favour of the sovereign; and he was not afraid to say, that he thought it right that the crown should have the prerogative of conferring certain places not merely as a reward of services which parliament could take cognizance of, but in some instances, as acts of grace and favour, independent of any consideration of important services, either civil or military. He had often stated to the House his opinion respecting those sinecure places, and he did not see why he was, bound to recommend the abolition of this particular sinecure more than any other. The question of sinecures generally, and of this particular sinecure, as well as, any other, was still open to the discussion of parliament at any time; and he was convinced that there was nothing in this appointment, under all its circumstances, which could at all prevent parliament from freely discussing either sinecures generally, or this sinecure in particular, and determining as they might think proper.
§ Mr. Whitbread
declared, that he had never heard a sarcasm more misplaced than that with which the right hon. gentleman began his speech. Was he acting in the conscientious discharge of his duty, when he gave the government of Berwick to his gallant friend near him, or was he not? Was it in reward of meritorious services, or was it with a view to parliamentary support? He would say, that the right hon. gentleman had seldom given more proper advice than when he advised the appointment of his hon. and gallant friend to that situation. As to colonel M'Mahon, it, would be the general opinion in the public mind, that the place which he held, was granted to him as to the personal favourite of the Prince Regent. The right hon. gentleman himself had, in the course of his administration, made more offers of efficient situations than almost any other minister: he had very recently made offers of a similar nature, in various quarters; and it was one of the most inauspicious symptoms of the "new era which had lately commenced, that these offers had been made, and had also been rejected. A noble lord under the gallery (lord Castlereagh) had told the House, that the present motion was quite unparliamentary; that the office itself should 927 be struck at, and not the salary. On the contrary, it was quite parliamentary. The crown might proclaim war, but it rested with that House to provide the means of carrying it on. The right of appointing to this office was vested in the crown; but it rested with that House whether or not they should ratify that appointment, by granting the money for the salary. The money once taken away, you took away the life of the office; if the House took away the money, the person who held the office would not be very ready to perform the duties, if any, that were attached to it. So that, in fact, the real point now for the House to determine was, whether they would concur in this appointment of the Prince Regent, by the advice of his minister, to an office their commissioners had more than once proclaimed ought to be abolished. But the right hon. gentle man alleged, that because the report of these commissioners had never been taken up, or acted upon, therefore parliament had, in fact, passed a silent negative on their resolutions. He would readily acknowledge, that many of the reports of their committees on finance and public offices had been suffered to slumber in oblivion on their table. Ministers had been able to stave off, and defeat by their manœuvres, from time to time, many of the measures successively recommended; and now, after an interval of years, they come forward and say, that it would be inconsistent in the House to take up a measure which they had contrived to stave off, on the ground that it had slumbered so long unheeded and unacted. But there was this to be said on the subject of delay, that in 1783, when the commissioners recommended the abolition of the office, there were two persons had vested interests in its continuance. But now he came to the pinching point; and would say, that the House was bound in every point of view, to take up the matter, because an improper appointment had been made;—an appointment improper as it respected the Prince Regent,—improper as it respected the declared form of the House,—and odious as it regarded the feelings of the people. Because this cancer had existed so long, was it sufficient to say that no remedy ought now to be applied? Colonel M. Mahon had told them, that he put himself, as to this office, entirely at the disposal of parliament. This was not saying much, for how could he do otherwise. The Chancellor of the 928 Exchequer had said the same thing; but he had followed it up with a declaration which was virtually conveyed by his conduct, that he would do every thing to prevent parliament from taking the office away from the hon. colonel. To use his own language, he had given the office to its present possessor, (meaning, doubtless, that he had only advised the grant;) and he virtually declared that he would protect him in the enjoyment of it. If not counteracted by the vote of that night, the right hon. gent. might perhaps advise the Prince Regent to grant also a reversion of the office. He would again repeat, that it was a grant not decent towards the House of Commons; and he trusted their sense of its indecency would be expressed that night. What effect such a decision might have on the right hon. gentleman would remain to be seen. He had remained minister when supported by very small majorities; nay, even when in minorities he had still clung to power. Whether, should this Amendment be carried, he would still remain in power, what his future colleagues may be, what principles may prevail among them, could not be foreseen at present; these were things which remained for the future knowledge of the House, and of the country.—He would again repeat, that it was a grant most obnoxious to the people. The place was odious in itself. It was not to the additional expence of 2,700l. that the House could object: had it been thrown into the fund provided for the relief of the widows and orphans of those gallant and meritorious men who had lost their lives in the service of their country, no objection could possibly have been made. The abolition of a place so obnoxious, and such an application of the salary attached to it, would have been congenial to the best feelings of the people. No one would then have been heard to complain with feelings of indignation, that a person had reaped from the scanty pittance destined for the relief of widows and orphans, a remuneratien for services performed to his prince. Was it not possible to give some other appointment for such services? Why, an office attached to that very House was now vacant, through the death of the gallant officer who lately filled it, (Mr. Colman), and what better or more appropriate place could have been found for rewarding the services of colonel M'Mahon? Why, then, was the minister so unadvised, as to be the instrument of casting this odium 929 on the Prince, at the very commencement of his administration? The office was most odious to the people, and though the emoluments might be small, yet the people would pay them with reluctance; while, on the contrary, if the same sum was added to the Widows' Fund, they would never think of begrudging it. In all these views he thought the appointment most improper; and it was still more to be lamented, as it seemed to stamp a character on the commencement of the new reign. It was an appointment which would be remembered in future times, if not to the obloquy of the Prince Regent, at least, to the discredit of his advisers. It would be said, at least, that the Prince Regent had a minister who advised him to do that, the inauspicious remembrance of which would prevail for a period, longer even than that to which the reign of his royal father had extended. He felt persuaded, however, that the House would that night express an opinion, that the office ought not to be retained.
§ Mr. Sheridan
admitted, that if it were expected that the people should continue with passive fortitude to bear the burdens necessarily imposed upon them, an example must be set by the highest authority, of a disposition to abolish all unnecessary drains on the resources of the country. Still, however, he must think that a great deal of warmth had pervaded the present discussion, which did not properly belong to it. The place in question had certainly been condemned thirty years ago, as an useless sinecure, by a very respectable commission. That condemnation had been since confirmed by committees of the House of Commons. But he must agree with the right hon. the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that as no parliamentary proceedings had followed the reports of those committees, the right hon. gentleman would not have been authorised to say the place ought not to have been given. He lamented that the tone of his hon. friend who had just spoken, seemed to have been changed with respect to colonel M'Mahon. Although there had been many objections made to the grant itself, yet until the speech of his hon. friend, no objection had been adduced against the person on whom the grant was conferred. His hon. friend also accused the right hon. gentleman of selecting that person, with the view of gaining an undue influence, by humouring an undue prepossession on the part of his 930 Royal Highness in favour of colonel M'Mahon. He knew nothing of the motives of those who advised the Prince Regent on this subject; but he confessed, that he doubted whether his hon. friend really believed that such was their object. He certainly did think that the place ought to have been abolished; and he sincerely wished that colonel M'Mahon had never accepted it. But the present proceeding appeared to him to be unjust and unfair. Why not bring forward a direct motion against the place, and not make a proposition which seemed to be as much directed against colonel M'Mahon as the office? With respect to colonel M'Mahon, no one had enjoyed a better opportunity of knowing that gentleman than himself, and he was persuaded, that a more sincere, a more disinterested, and a more independent man, was no where to be found. Even in the present question, colonel M'Mahon had no interest; for it was not to be supposed that if the decision of parliament compelled him to relinquish the office conferred upon him, his royal master would fail to remunerate his faithful services in some other way.
, in explanation, disclaimed passing the slightest imputation on colonel M'Mahon. On the contrary, he had pointed out a lucrative and honourable office which in his opinion might have been with propriety conferred on that gentleman. His right hon. friend had mistaken his observations on influence. What he had said was, that the votes of that House would be more influenced by the consideration that colonel M'Mahon was the person filling the obnoxious situation, than they would have been, had any other individual been so circumstanced.
§ Lord Cochrane
said, that in the view he took of the question he would fail in the duty he owed to the public and to himself, did he not assign reasons for the line of conduct he should pursue, and for withholding his support from the amendment, which, giving every credit to the honourable mover for his intentions, seemed inadequate to relieve the public in any sensible degree, though it might deceive them by inducing a belief that thier interests were regularly watched, notwithstanding that this House had suffered the reports of various committees on the subject of measures to lie dormant on the table, some of them for a period of 30 years. It appeared to him that the blame 931 which had been so lavishly bestowed on the Regent and his advisers was due to the House, whose duty it was to revise and consider of the propriety of enforcing the opinions expressed by its committees. It was not for his Royal Highness or his ministers to judge of the fitness of enforcing their decisions, and he was the more confirmed in this belief by a Bill be held in his hand, prohibiting the renewal of three, and three only out of the long list, which their committees had declared to be useless and burdensome to the country. It was the bounden duty of the House then to have pronounced upon the whole class, and 'not partially; they ought to have enumerated the sinecures to be abolished, and so put it out of the power of any ministers whatsoever to do that which had been left to their discretion. For these reasons he could not consent to throw the odium on the shoulders of the Regent and his ministers, by singling out a comparatively insignificant place from a long list of enormous sinecures, upon which the House had not so much as expressed an opinion, notwithstanding the numerous reports of its committees. He should therefore quit the House without voting, in the hope that the question would be brought forward in an unobjectionable form.
§ The House then divided, when the numbers were,
|For Mr. Bankes's Resolution||115|
|For the Original Resolution||112|
|Majority for the Abolition of Colonel M'Mahon's Sinecure||—3|
|List of the Majority.|
|Abercromby, hon. J.||Byng, G.|
|Adams, C.||Calvert, N.|
|Babington, T.||Colborne, N. W. R.|
|Baker, John||Combe, H. C.|
|Baker, P. W.||Curwen, J. C.|
|Bankes, W. J.||Cuthbert, J. R.|
|Baring, Sir T.||De Ponthieu, J.|
|Bastard, J. P.||Dickinson, W.|
|Bennet, hon. H. G.||Dugdale, D. S.|
|Bennet, R. H. A.||Duncannon, visc.|
|Bernard, S.||Dundas, hon. R. L.|
|Biddulph, R. M.||Eden, hon. G.|
|Blackburn, J.||Elliot, rt. hon. W.|
|Bouverie, hon. B.||Fane, John|
|Bowyer, sir G.||Ferguson, R. C.|
|Brougham, H.||Fitzroy, lord W.|
|Brand, hon. T.||Folkes, sir M. B.|
|Buller, Jas.||Folkestone, visc.|
|Burdett, sir F.||Fremantle, W. H.|
|Burrell, sir C.||Giles, D.|
|Busk, W.||Gordon, W.|
|Gower, earl||Power, R.|
|Grattan, rt. hon. H.||Price, R.|
|Greenhill, R.||Prittie, hon. F. A.|
|Grenville, lord G.||Ridley, sir M. W.|
|Guise, sir W.||Robarts, A.|
|Halsey, J.||Romilly, sir S.|
|Hamilton, lord A.||Sebright, sir J.|
|Herbert, hon. W.||Sharp, R.|
|Hibbert, G.||Sinclair, G.|
|Horner, F.||Smith, A.|
|Howard, hon. W.||Smith, S.|
|Hutchinson, hon. C. H.||Smith, G.|
|Ingilby, sir W.||Smith, J.|
|Johnstone, G.||Scudamore, R. P.|
|Keck, G. A. L.||Shiffner,—|
|Kemp, T.||Smith, W.|
|Lamb, hon. W.||Speirs, A.|
|Lefevre, C. S.||Stanley, lord|
|Lemon, sir W.||Tarlton, B.|
|Lester, B.||Temple, earl|
|Lockhart, J. J.||Thornton, H.|
|Macdonald, J.||Tighe, W.|
|Madocks, W. A.||Tierney, rt. hon. G.|
|Markham, J.||Tracy, C. H.|
|Martin, H.||Tremayne, J. H.|
|Miller, sir T.||Vernon, G. G. V.|
|Mills, C.||Ward, hon. J. W.|
|Mills, W.||Warrender, sir G.|
|Neville, hon. R.||Whitbread, S.|
|North, D.||Wilberforce, W.|
|O'Hara, C.||Williams, O.|
|Osborne, lord F.||Wynn, C. W. W.|
|Ossulstone, lord||Wilkins, W.|
|Piggott, sir A.||Wrottesley, H.|
|Ponsonby, hon. G.||Bankes, H.|
|Ponsonby, hon. F.||Sumner, G. H.|
|Porcher, J. D.|
|List of the Minority.|
|Ashburnham, hon. G.||Disbrowe, col. E.|
|Arbuthnot, rt. hon. C.||Drummond, H.|
|Bagwell, rt. hon. W.||Dundas, rt. hon. W.|
|Beresford, J. P.||Duckett, col.|
|Bathurst, rt. hon. C.||Dufferin, lord|
|Bernard, visc.||Egerton, J.|
|Bernard, T.||Eliot, hon. W.|
|Bickerton, sir R.||Ellison, R.|
|Bisshopp, C.||Evelyn, L.|
|Bradshaw, hon. A. C.||Fane, gen.|
|Brodrick, hon. W.||Fitzgerald, W.|
|Brogden, J.||Farquharson, T.|
|Brooke, lord||Fitzhugh, W.|
|Browne, J. H.||Foulkes, E.|
|Burghersh, lord||Goulbourn, H.|
|Carew, rt. hon. R.||Graham, sir J.|
|Castlereagh, visc.||Greenough, G. B.|
|Chute, W.||Hall, B.|
|Clark, sir G.||Hamilton, Hans|
|Cochrane, G.||Hamilton, sir C.|
|Cooper, E. S.||Harbord, hon. E.|
|Corry, T. C. S.||Headley, lord|
|Courtenay, T. P.||Herbert, H. A.|
|Crickitt, R.||Hill, sir G.|
|Croker, J. W.||Holdsworth, A. H.|
|Collins, H. P.||Holford, G. P.|
|Desart, lord||Holmes, W.|
|Houston, A.||Pole, rt. hon. W.|
|Hume, sir A.||Porter, general|
|Kenrick, W.||Rainier, J. S.|
|Lethbridge, T. B.||Ramsbottom, J.|
|Leycester, H.||Robinson, hon. F.|
|Loftus, gen.||Rose, rt. hon. G.|
|Long, rt. hon. C.||Ryder, rt. hon. R.|
|Lovaine, lord||Seymour, lord R.|
|Lowther, visc.||Sloane, W.|
|Lushington, S. R.||Sheridan, rt. hon. R. B.|
|Lygon, hon. W.||Singleton, M.|
|Maitland, E. F.||Smith, Joshua|
|Montague, M.||Somerset, lord C.|
|Montgomery, sir J.||Sutton, rt. hon. C.|
|Moore, lord H.||Swann, H.|
|Moorsom, A.||Thornton, S.|
|Morris, E.||Thornton, R.|
|Myers, T.||Thynne, lord J.|
|Nepean, sir E.||Tyrwhitt, T.|
|Neville, R.||Wallace, rt. hon. T.|
|Nicholl, sir J.||Walpole, lord|
|Paget, hon. B.||Ward, R.|
|Palmerston, lord||Wellesley, R.|
|Perceval, rt. hon. S.||Wemyss, general|
|Percy, earl||Wharton, R.|
|Phipps, hon. E.||Wilson, G.|
|Peel, sir T.||Yarmouth, lord|
|Peel, R.||Yorke, rt hon. C.|
|Prendergast, M.||Yorke, sir J.|
|Plomer, sir T.|