§ The Speaker reported, that the House had attended his Royal Highness the Prince Regent, in the House of Peers, where his Royal Highness was pleased to make a most gracious Speech from the throne to both Houses of Parliament, in the name and on the behalf of his Majesty: of which he had, to prevent mistakes, obtained a copy, which he read to the House [See p. 1].
rose to move an Address, and after expressing his entire concurrence in the sentiments contained in the Speech from the throne, proceeded to state the grounds upon which those sentiments met his cordial approbation. It was, indeed, peculiarly grateful to re-Sect that the great object of the war hid been fully attained: that the powerful military despotism which had so long desolated Europe, and threatened our own overthrow, was completely overwhelmed; that order and tranquillity were universally restored; that the people of all nations were allowed to enjoy that peace, the preservation of which was become, in fact, a part of our religion which all the dynasties of Europe were pledged to maintain inviolate; that doctrine of legitimacy which was so essential to the happiness, the repose, and the security of all nations. With regard to the victory which had distinguished our fleet at Algiers, he con- 6 ceived it to form a source of unmixed congratulation: for whether viewed with reference to the motives which led to the undertaking, or the consequences which marked the result, it was most honourable to the national character, and must conduce to our solid and permanent interest. In relieving the unfortunate beings who had so long pined in captivity, and obliging the Algerine government to abandon the barbarous practice of reducing captive christians to slavery, our government had erected an immortal monument to the fame of England, and secured the universal benediction of humanity. Civilised Europe had, indeed, been too long disgraced by tolerating the horrid system of those barbarians, and it was the more creditable to the wisdom of the British government, and the valour of the British navy, that Great Britain had the merit of putting an end to those outrages against which she herself was protected by the superior power of her arms. In this case, then, the liberality of England was unquestionable, as it was universally acknowledged. There might be some who thought that enough had not been done; that the humble apology exacted for a personal affront to our consul—that the emancipation of all the christian captives—that the solemn pledge of the Algerine government, not to repeat the horrid acts which provoked the war—were not sufficient, as the dey of Algiers was likely, when he had recruited his strength, and restored his navy, to resort again to the same system. But for himself, he declared that he could by no means concur in any such opinion. The apprehension appeared to his mind to be quite visionary, considering the unimpaired power of our fleets, and the cordial disposition of all civilized states to act in concert for the prevention of such a horrible calamity.
With regard to the Nepaul war, it was notorious that this contest was forced upon us by the repeated and long continued outrages of the Nepaulese upon the population of all the adjoining provinces, whom we were bound to protect, and that hostilities were not resorted to until the remonstrances of our government in India were found utterly unavailing. The conduct of our government was, indeed, highly meritorious. With that spirit of moderation which characterized real wisdom, and which always had signalized the principles of lord Hastings: that distinguished nobleman, endeavoured, by all the means 7 the resources of his great mind could devise, to conciliate the government of Nepaul before he had recourse to war. It was only when those means were found totally ineffectual that hostilities were commenced, and upon that event the vigour of the chief governor's councils became eminently conspicuous, not only in the efficiency of his preparations, and the promptitude of his movements, but in the selection of that able officer, general Ochterlony, to command the army. The result of this war was, therefore, such as might be naturally expected, and such as to form a legitimate cause of triumph in the Speech from the throne.
That Speech was, he observed, satisfactory in a peculiar degree, in the prospect it held out of every practicable retrenchment in the scale of our public expenditure. That this prospect would be realized he had not the slightest doubt. But while he felt assured that every possible reduction would be made in the public burthens, the people would, he trusted, be sensible, that the dignity, the power, and the character of our government must be duly maintained. To preserve order, to ensure security, was manifestly essential not only to the interests of our manufactures and commerce, but to the maintenance of our proper station among the nations of Europe. In this view it must be felt that nothing could be so expensive as weakness—nothing so prodigal as insecurity. It therefore became the duty of that House to assure the Prince Regent of its readiness to support that system of wise arrangement mid vigorous precaution which it was evidently the policy of his royal highness's councils to pursued The recommendation of his royal highness fully to consider our financial circumstances, would, he had no doubt, be duly attended to, and that such a system would be adopted, as was best calculated to preserve our national safety, and to maintain inviolate our great national credit. This subject, indeed, called for the most serious examination of parliament. It was true that there had been a material deficiency in the revenue, but yet not such as to create any degree of despondency. Up to the month of April last, it was notorious that our revenue had been as productive as in any former year. The falling off had taken place within the last nine months. And was it from such a circumstance that any cause could exist for despairing of the resources 8 of this great empire Was it possible, from such a circumstance, to derive any justification for the gloomy calculations and melancholy prognostics of which we had lately heard so much? Similar calculations and prognostics had been frequently indulged in throughout the late war, and the energy of the country, directed by the wisdom of the government, had been always found sufficient to prove their fallacy. Why, then, should we despair of our ability to surmount all existing difficulties? The distress of the people was no doubt severe, and its severity was candidly admitted in the Speech from the throne. For that distress, however, he had no doubt that every possible remedy would be devised by the wisdom of parliament. Into a consideration of the causes of this distress he did not at present propose to enter, as the subject would be fully discussed hereafter. But there were two causes which he could not forbear from noticing, for they were indeed obvious: first, the transition from a war of twenty-three years duration to a state of peace, in which a great portion of the people had to seek for new avocations: and secondly, the reduction of the national expenditure within one year from one hundred and twenty millions to seventy millions, leaving a difference of fifty millions. It was evident, then, that such a reduction must operate to diminish the employment of a vast number of persons, who, combined with the soldiers and sailors, and others discharged from all the departments of the state, must necessarily give rise to considerable distress. The country, however, could not be surprised at such consequences, for they were naturally to be expected, and had uniformly followed the termination of every war. The country had always been found gradually to overcome such inconveniences, and why should we despair of the future.
The outcry, then, of those malcontents, who availing themselves of the existing distress, sought to inflame and infuriate the public mind, should not be allowed to damp our spirits or to depress our hopes. But the system of those malcontents must be guarded against. For they preached the most dangerous innovations. They indeed endeavoured to withdraw altogether the confidence of the people from the disposition and wisdom of parliament, and to shake the security of the constitution. In pursuance of this object a general cry was heard about universal suffrage 9 and annual parliaments. But it was the duty of the House to withstand such efforts, and he had no doubt that the resolution of the government would meet with an appropriate support in that House. Should it become necessary to provide measures against such evil designs, he felt satisfied that that House would be forward to do its duty by devising effectual means for the safety of that constitution it was elected to maintain, and that the danger alluded to would be completely repelled, whatever guise its authors might assume. The interest of our manufactures and commerce, as well as our vital safety called indeed upon parliament to preserve good order and tranquillity. For if that order were destroyed or endangered, those who by their capital could give employment to the people, would be found to transfer their capital and industry to other countries, where that capital and industry might be more secure. It peculiarly behoved, then, those who were most aggrieved by the want of employment, to preserve good order and tranquillity, and to rally round the government and constitution, upon whose stability and strength the preservation of those great blessings so mainly depended; for that disorder and insubordination must be fatal to their interests which should threaten the security of parliament. The House had a delicate and arduous duty to perform. The eyes of the whole country were upon them—one part of the nation looked to them for relief in its distresses, the other for the support of property and the constitution. He hoped the House would do their utmost to maintain that constitution we had so long enjoyed—a constitution which, in spite of clamour, was still unrivalled, and acknowledged to be the most perfect that had fallen to the lot of any people. The noble lord concluded by moving,
"That an humble Address be presented to his royal highness the Prince Regent, to thank his Royal Highness for his most gracious Speech:
"To assure his Royal Highness of our participation in the deep regret expressed by his Royal Highness at the continuance of his Majesty's lamented indisposition:
"To express our satisfaction at the assurances which his Royal Highness continues to receive of the friendly disposition of foreign powers towards this country, and of their earnest desire to maintain the general tranquillity:
10 "To offer our humble congratulations to his Royal Highness on the complete success which has attended the hostilities to which he was compelled to resort in vindication of the honour of the country against the government of Algiers:
"To assure his Royal Highness, that we reflect with pride and satisfaction on the splendid achievment of his Majesty's!-fleet, in conjunction with a squadron of the King of the Netherlands, under the gallant and able conduct of admiral viscount Exmouth, which led to the immediate and unconditional liberation of all Christian captives then within the territory of Algiers, and to the renunciation by its government of the practice of Christian slavery; and that we are duly sensible of the importance of an arrangement so interesting to humanity, and reflecting, from the manner in which it has been accomplished, such signal honour on the British nation:
"To express our thanks to his Royal Highness for informing us that peace has been concluded with the government of Nepaul, in India, upon just and honourable terms, in consequence of the judicious arrangements of the governor-general, seconded by the bravery and perseverance of his majesty's forces, and of those of the East India company:
"To return our humble thanks to his Royal Highness for having directed the estimates for the current year to be laid before us, and for the gracious assurance that they have been formed upon a full consideration of all the present circumstances of the country, with an anxious desire to make every reduction in our establishments which the safety of the empire and sound policy allow:
"To assure his Royal Highness that we shall not fail to enter into an early and serious investigation of the state of the public income and expenditure:
"That we learn with sincere regret that there has been a deficiency in the produce of the revenue in the last year, which we shall be happy to find may be ascribed to temporary causes; and that it may be practicable to provide for the public service of the year without making any addition to the burthens of the people, and without adopting any measure injurious to that system by which the public credit of the country has been hitherto sustained:
"To return our humble thanks to his Royal Highness for his gracious commu- 11 nication of the progress which has been made in carrying into effect the arrangements made in the last session of parliament with a view to a new silver coinage, which we trust will be productive of considerable advantages to the trade, and internal transactions of the country:
"To assure his Royal Highness that we are fully sensible that the distresses consequent upon the termination of a war of such unusual extent and duration have been felt with greater or less severity throughout all the nations of Europe, and have been considerably aggravated by the unfavourable state of the season:
"That, while we deeply lament, with his Royal Highness, the pressure of these evils upon this country, we participate in the apprehension expressed by his Royal Highness, that they are of a nature not to admit of an immediate remedy; and that while we observe, with peculiar satisfaction, the fortitude with which so many privations have been borne, and the active benevolence which has been employed to mitigate them, we trust it will be found that the great sources of our national prosperity ate essentially unimpaired, and that the native energy of the country will, at no distant period, surmount all the difficulties in which we are involved:
"To assure his Royal Highness, that in considering our internal situation, we cannot but feel a just indignation at the attempts which have been made to take advantage of the distresses of the country, for the purpose of exciting a spirit of sedition and violence:
"That we are persuaded his Royal Highness may rely with confidence on the loyalty and good sense of the great body of his Majesty's subjects, as a security against their being perverted by the arts which are employed to seduce them; and that, while his Royal Highness is wisely determined to omit no precautions for preserving the public peace, and for counteracting the designs of the disaffected, we shall at all times be ready to afford our cordial support and co-operation in upholding a system of law and government, from which we have derived inestimable advantages, which has enabled us to conclude, with unexampled glory, a contest whereon depended the best interests of mankind, and which has been hitherto felt by ourselves, as it is acknowledged by other nations, to be the most perfect that has ever fallen to the lot of Any people."
§ Mr. Dawson
, in rising to second the address, said, that he felt considerable embarrassment, as well from a sense of the great importance of the subject, as from a consciousness of his own incapability. The several topics alluded to in the speech of the Prince Regent, called, no doubt, for the undivided attention of the House, but there was nothing in the state of the country to justify that degree of gloom and despondency which some persons sought to produce. The speech was throughout marked by a wise candour, for while it dwelt upon those events which formed a just cause of triumph, it neither exaggerated the public distress on the one hand, nor did it attempt on the other to blindfold parliament as to the severity of its pressure. While it adverted to difficulties, which he hoped would be found to exist but for a short time, the speech from the throne called only for the congratulation of the House upon the triumph of our arms. And who could withhold that congratulation from such an achievement as that performed at Algiers? That achievement indeed, and the undertaking which led to it, served to show that Great Britain was forward to remedy an evil, by the exertion of which it could not be personally affected; that without any immediate interest of its own, to consult, the practice of injustice or oppression towards other nations was enough to excite active interposition. This achievement, indeed, presented a further display of the gallantry of our navy, recalling to our recollection, that however dazzled we had been of late years by our military exploits, the only reason why our navy had not continued to conquer was, because it had had no enemy to contend with. The accession to our national fame which our navy had obtained in this instance, was indubitably of the utmost importance, forming, as it did, an additional bulwark for our national security, as well as for the great object of the expedition. The observation was often heard, that it would be idle to talk of the blessings of peace, if those blessings did not include a reduction of the public expense; and that observation was undoubtedly just. But had not important reductions already taken place; and was there not every reason to look for still further reduction. He had no doubt indeed that reduction would be carried as far as a due regard to circumstances would warrant, and that the exertion of a wise government, with the patience of a considerate people, would be 13 found soon to rescue us from all our difficulties. But it should be recollected that the government and the people had great and imperious duties to perform; and it became the people to consider that as they encouraged and excited the government to prosecute the late arduous contest, that in participating the glories which marked the progress and termination of that contest, they were bound patiently to bear the burthens, and honestly to discharge the debts which, through that contest, were inevitably contracted. From the consideration of this duty, then, he trusted the people of England would never allow themselves to be withdrawn by the delusive appeals of those, who, under the pretence of petitioning for a redress of grievances, were found haranguing large assemblies upon topics which were quite above the comprehension of the vulgar. [Hear,hear! from the opposition side of the House]. But the design of such demagogues could not be misunderstood. Under the pretence of declaiming about public distress, those demagogues were in fact seeking only their own private interest. Such demagogues were indeed as bad as the fanatics who went forth with the bible in one hand, and the sword in the other, preaching peace and benevolence, while they meditated war and bloodshed. But he trusted, with the speech from the throne, that the good sense and loyalty of the country would effectually defeat those wild and desperate projects. In referring to those projects, he did not mean to call upon parliament for the enactment of any strong measures to put down their authors. Their proceedings were no doubt calculated to create alarm, but those demagogues and their acts would die of themselves. He did not therefore mean that the deliberations of parliament should be influenced by the ebullitions of their fury, or that it should proceed to legislate in any vindictive spirit.Non civium ardor prava jubentium Mente quatit solida.Reverting to the severity of the public distress, which he trusted that every possible means would be devised to relieve, and that with this view every practicable reduction would be made in the public expenditure, the hon. gentleman begged the people to compare their condition with that of other nations, in which great towns had been destroyed, and whole districts depopulated by the progress of the war; and hence it would be found that 14 this country had not, comparatively so much reason to complain. This comparison would also suggest, that until the waste of war was repaired in other nations, which repair would require the expenditure of a considerable capital, our commerce could not be expected to resume its activity with our former customers. That expectation, however, was naturally to be indulged, and when it was realized, it must operate as a proportional stimulus to our industry, which promised to supply that deficiency of revenue alluded to in the speech from the throne; which deficiency although so serious, could not serve to justify any thing like gloom or despondency as to the financial resources of this great and enterprising country. After some further animadversions upon the several objects alluded to in the speech, and forcibly urging the propriety of maintaining an adequate military force for the fulfilment of our pledge to the allies to cooperate in the maintenance of that tranquillity in France, which was so rapidly re-establishing there—for the protection of those colonies which so materially contributed to our own domestic advantage— for the preservation of that peace and good order at home, which were so essential to our security, the hon. gentleman concluded with observing, that under all the considerations he had stated, he felt it his duty to second the address.
began by expressing his entire concurrence with many of the observations which had been so eloquently made by the mover and seconder of the address, and, like them, professed himself not in the smallest degree disposed to exaggerate the existing distresses of the country, or to add to the present feelings of despondency. He agreed with them, that the fate of the country was at all times, but now most particularly, placed in the hands of parliament; and that on the conduct of that House in particular, during this session, depended very much what would be the fate of the country. The first paragraph of the Speech entirely coincided with his own views, namely, that part of it which related to the late conflict with the dey of Algiers. With respect to the second, namely, that which related to the war in India, he should not at present make any remarks, though he by no means gave any pledge respecting what he should do when the question should hereafter come before the House. The rest of the speech, and the address 15 founded on the speech, referred principally to the revenue, and to the state of the country, On these particular points he felt himself irresistibly bound to differ from the mover and seconder of the address. It was unnecessary for him here to repeat that the Speech delivered from the throne was always considered as the production of ministers. It was proper that this should be kept in view in the observations necessarily made in parliament on the speech, as whatever remarks might be made on it, were solely made, on the ground of its being a ministerial document, and could not therefore be considered as having any allusion whatever to the illustrious personage by whom it was delivered. He merely stated this, because he intended to submit some remarks to the consideration of the House on the Speech delivered at the beginning of the last session of parliament by the commissioners, and on that which had this day been delivered by the Prince Regent. Previous, however, to doing so, he would wish a paragraph in the former to be read by the clerk, and which was accordingly read. "His Royal Highness is happy to inform you, that the manufacturers, commerce, and revenue of the United Kingdom, are in a flourishing condition. The Prince Regent laments the heavy pressure upon the country which such exertions could not fail to produce; and his Royal Highness has commanded us to assure you, that you may rely on every disposition on his part to concur in such measures of economy, as may be found consistent with the security of the country, and with that station which we occupy in Europe."
The House had now heard the professions of economy made by ministers at the opening of last session, and they were able to judge, and the country could judge, how far they were to be credited. Ministers had last year advised his Royal Highness to tell both Houses of parliament that the country was in a flourishing condition, but in no one instance had that been proved to be true. They had also said they would adopt measures of economy. It was in the recollection of the House what measures had been proposed last session, which those who brought them forward, thought to be of essential consequence to the country. These measures tended to abolish many kinds of unnecessary expenditure, and to introduce economy; but how had they been received by his Majesty's ministers? Was it 16 not an indisputable fact that they had on every occasion resisted them? Was it not also equally true that they decidedly opposed every exertion made to save unnecessary expenses, and resisted one proposal for economy after another, till they were, unfortunately for themselves, obliged by the votes of the House, with the greatest reluctance, to cut down what they otherwise would have strenuoushy clung to? When such conduct was in the recollection of the House, he desired to know what real encouragement there was now to hope that a different line of policy would be followed by ministers for the time to come? What ground had the country now to believe that ministers were more sincere than they were before, or that their conduct would be marked with more anxiety for the public welfare than it had hitherto been? It was said, that the causes of these distresses were merely temporary. He professed himself by no means actuated by any wish to exaggerate the distresses, or to give them any, even the slightest colouring. He was, on the contrary, rather willing to admit (he would say hope), that this, to a certain extent, was true. But he denied that this was the whole cause of our present calamity, and trusted he should be able to prove his assertion before he sat down. Last session we were told by the right hon. the chancellor of the Exchequer, that sufficient provision had been made to meet the exigencies of the year. It was worth while to notice how that provision had been made up, and he would therefore do so, taking it in round numbers. There were three millions on one account with the Bank, six on another, 5,600,000l. the surplus unapplied of the grants for the year 1815, and three millions which the right hon. gentleman assumed, would be the surplus of the consolidated fund. But he contended, there was no surplus whatever now, nay, were it necessary, he might carry the point a great way further, and say more. Much had been said respecting the propriety of preserving the public faith, and no man could be more anxious that this should be done than he was. There was, as he maintained, no existence whatever for the sinking fund, if it was considered as a means of redeeming the debt. When we spoke of a sinking fund, we obviously and unquestionably meant that it was something by which a debtor was enabled to lessen his debt. This was the obvious and indisputable meaning of a real sinking 17 fund, and he would be glad to learn what other rational definition could be given of it. Surely then the sinking fund, which instead of bettering the condition of the country, left it equally as bad as when it found it, deserved no such name. The revenue had now totally failed; and were they to take the whole of the sinking fund in its room, they would still be obliged to borrow a considerable sum, be would not say ten millions, but still it must be a considerable sum. It was obvious to the plainest understanding that no benefit whatever could result to the country from ten millions being taken from the public debt on one page by the operation of the sinking fund, while the same sum was added to it on the other.
While such was the real nature of she case, he begged to ask how it was possible for ministers to assert, as they had done last year, that the revenue of the country was in a flourishing condition; and now, when they saw the total destruction of the revenue, how could they declare it had arisen from merely temporary causes? Such could not certainty have arisen from a sudden transition from a state of war to a state of peace. The war undoubtedly had been long in its continuance, and had been attended during the whole of that continuance with an unparalleled expense. Still, however, no man who dispassionately viewed the subject, could admit that the return of peace had at once produced this dreadful mass of evils. It was equally worthy of remark, that at the time this Speech was delivered by the commissioners, the country was in a state of profound peace, and was so still. On the one occasion our revenue was described as flourishing, and on the other as having greatly failed. Now, if the cause of the calamity was a mere transition from war to peace, why, one might naturally ask, had the calamity not been in some degree alleviated before the present period? Twelve months had elapsed since the first speech was delivered, and instead of amelioration, the country was a thousand times worse. This could not be the case if the cause were a mere transition from war to peace. It became, therefore, the House to be extremely cautious in delivering their opinion respecting the existing distresses. He, for one, decidedly condemned the idea of their arising from temporary causes, and should have no hesitation in thinking the House guilty of attempting to delude the 18 people of the country, if they gave that as their opinion. He knew that it was morally impossible for a British parliament to act in that manner, and were they to do so, then, he was persuaded, no intelligent individual in the country would believe them. The real cause of the distress were, the immense debt and taxation of the country. It was by these that the people were so dreadfully borne down as they were at present. When, therefore, we presumed to exhort the people to exercise fortitude under the trials they were called to endure, and to be patient while they made so many sacrifices, it was surely the duty of the House to speak the truth, the whole truth to the people, and not attempt to blind or delude them by a false statement of what were the real grounds of their calamity; and it was equally the duty of the House to show the country that they were determined to act as the representatives of such a nation as Great Britain were bound to act; that they were no longer to be put off their guard by the promises of ministers, but would, by rigid economy, show they felt, as representatives ought to feel, what was their duty, and would manfully and conscientiously discharge that duty. Day after day had promises of economy been made, but the painful experience of the country demonstrated how little intention there was to perform those promises. This particularly led him to believe, that by adopting the address as now proposed, the House would be only deluding the people, and exposing themselves to the danger of being hereafter blamed by their own consciences for a dereliction of duty.
Much had been said respecting the attempts made by some individuals to inflame the public mind, by stating circumstances in aggravation of the present distresses, which had no connexion with the real causes. For himself, he felt confident that no man could charge him with having ever, in the smallest degree, directly or indirectly, given any countenance to such inflammatory designs; but this he knew, that if the House wished to give the people any confidence in what they did, it was only by showing their determination to do their duty, that that confidence could be produced. It was only by showing that they would trust to no class of ministers, whatever party those ministers might be of, but would themselves, with all that attention, anxiety, impartiality, and a love of justice, which as the representatives of a 19 mighty empire they owed to their constituents, examine into and correct whatever abuses they found to exist in the public government of the country. The people naturally looked up to the wisdom and energy of parliament, and it would be painful in the extreme that the good they expected from that wisdom and energy should be withheld from them. In looking still further into the argument respecting the temporary nature of our calamities, one naturally supposed from their being called temporary, that ministers had strong expectations of some relief. Now, he would ask, where were the resources from which such relief was to come? Was it from the manufacturing interests? Alas! the painful experience of thousands demonstrated the ruin of those interests. Was it from commerce? There were in the House many commercial men, but was there one of them who would say, that he entertained the smallest hope of an improved state in that quarter? In looking around, the prospect was equally gloomy in every direction. No improvement was to be hoped for, unless the House did their duty by feeling sincerely for the people, and carrying that feeling into practice. Ministers had now declared their intention to reduce the expenditure of the country. He sincerely wished they had begun that reduction a little earlier, as they might then have secured more confidence to themselves from the people than they now unfortunately had. They had put it off as long as they could, and when the House was about to assemble, they had then begun. Now, why had they not begun sooner? He was convinced, that it was the dread of meeting parliament, not any wish of their own, that made them now commence the work. They remembered the discussions which had taken place last session, and the consequences which those discussions had produced, and, afraid to meet them again, they now began to reduce. Was it then proper, he would ask, was it reasonable, that the affairs of the country should be entrusted to the hands of men, who had discovered no wish whatever to decrease expensive establishments when no longer called for, but on the contrary showed every inclination at least to retain, if not to increase them? Besides he was at a loss to know why parliament had not been earlier assembled. Ministers' must have known that the early meeting of parliament was the general wish of the country, and that no inconve- 20 nience could have been sustained by that wish being gratified. Had they been sincere in their professions of economy and retrenchment, they had a fair opportunity of proving that sincerity to the public by calling parliament together, and speedily beginning to carry these professions into practice. But he imagined, that whatever advantages he and those who were of his opinion might see in the speedy assembling of parliament, ministers saw the great inconveniences they should be exposed to, and therefore resolved to postpone it as long as they possibly could. The debates of last session seemed to have given them some alarm, and they therefore prevented those debates from being troublesome to them as long as they could.
Feeling these things very strongly, and feeling the absolute necessity of the House endeavouring by every exertion to secure the confidence of the people, he had prepared an amendment, respecting which he begged to say, that it contained no language of despondency or exaggeration, but a plain honest statement of facts, and a declaration by which the House, should it adopt the amendment, would come to a determination to show itself ready without delay to go into the state of the nation, and make every investigation which the urgency of the case required. Before he read that amendment, he called on the House to consider the situation in which they were now placed, and the duty they were now called to discharge to the public. The nation was at this moment looking up to the House with an awful and indescribable anxiety. Every eye was directed to their proceedings. By their discharging the duty which was now devolved, on them, in the manner which they ought, they would secure the love and affection of the people, but should they act in a different manner—should they show the country that they still wished the delusion to be continued, then indeed would every claim to public confidence be lost—despondency and discontent succeed—and, to say the least, that want of union between the representative and the constituent would take place, which would be productive of the most unpleasant effects. Should his amendment be unfortunately negatived he trusted that a noble friend of his, who had last year made a motion for a committee to make inquiry into the national expenditure, would again revive his motion. It had unfortunately been lost by the unhappy influence of ministers—the influence 21 of course of their eloquence and arguments only—[a laugh]; but he trusted, in the event of the present amendment being lost, his noble friend would revive it. The right hon. gentleman then concluded by moving, that the following amendment be adopted in that part of the address which relates to the financial distresses of the country:—
"That we have seen with the deepest concern the continued embarrassments of our agriculture, manufactures, and commerce; the alarming deficiency of the revenue and the unexampled and increasing distresses of all classes of his majesty's faithful subjects. Of these facts he was sure no one could have any doubt.
"That we are willing to indulge the hope that these distresses may be found, in part, to have originated from circumstances of a temporary nature, and that some alleviation of them may be produced by the continuance of peace, but that we should ill discharge our duty to his royal highness, and be guilty of countenancing a most dangerous delusion, were we to conceal from him our opinion that the pressure that now weighs so heavily on the resources of the country, is much more extensive in its operation, more severe in its effects, more deep and general in its causes, and more difficult to be removed than that which has prevailed at the termination of any former war.
"That we are firmly persuaded that the same exemplary patience and fortitude with which all ranks have hitherto borne the difficulties under which they labour, will continue to support them under such burthens as may be found indispensably necessary for the unavoidable exigencies of the public service, but that to maintain this disposition it is incumbent on this House, by a severe and vigilant exercise of its powers to prove to their fellow subjects, that the sacrifices which it may be their painful duty to make, are strictly limited to the real necessities of the state.
"That while we acknowledge the gracious dispositions announced in his royal highness's speech from the throne, we cannot help expressing our regret that his royal highness should not have been sooner advised to adopt measures of the most rigid economy and retrenchment, particularly with respect to our military establishments; that a prompt and effectual reduction in this and every other branch of our expenditure, his majesty's faithful Commons most naturally look as 22 the first step to relieve the sufferings and redress the grievances of which the people so justly complain, and that to enable themselves to assist his royal highness by their advice in the performance of a duty so imperiously called for by the present situation of the country, they will lose no time in instituting a strict inquiry into the state of the nation."
§ Mr. Bathurst
said, the right hon. gentleman who moved the amendment had referred to the speech of the Prince Regent at the opening of the last session of parliament, and had asked, if the language there held on particular topics could now be justified? He thought it must be felt by every one, that circumstances might change, as in this case he was of opinion they had done, so as to make it the duty of ministers to come forward now with a statement materially differing from that which they were bound to make then. The right hon. gentleman had said, that the commerce, manufactures, and revenue of the country were at that time described to be in a flourishing state, and he had asked, if this had subsequently appeared? Not content with pressing this on the House, he had represented the agriculture of the country to have been spoken of in similar terms. Now, with respect to the then state of the agriculture of the country, nothing of the kind had been advanced; but the commerce of the country was at that time certainly in a flourishing condition. On the subject of the revenue of the country, it had been truly asserted by the noble mover of the address, to have been in a prosperous situation up to the month of April. Under these circumstances, he could not discover that there was any thing in that speech, or in the events which had since occurred, with which ministers could fairly be reproached.—The next topic to which the right hon. gentleman had adverted, was that part of the speech of last year, in which the Prince Regent had expressed his disposition to concur in such measures of economy as might be recommended to him by the House. Instead of intimating that he would lend himself to any such plan which they should adopt, his royal highness might have assured them that he would recommend such measures to the adoption of his ministers. This, however, had not been asserted in the speech, and nothing had occurred that could be proved to contradict the declaration of the disposition of his royal highness to favour re- 23 trenchment and economy. He thought it right to offer these remarks on the speech which had been alluded to, though at the same time he felt it had no immediate reference to the subject in debate. It was now seen that the Prince Regent had been advised to recommend retrenchment, and also to advise that which he thought the right hon. gentleman opposite must have passed over from what had fallen from him while introducing his amendment. He wished to direct the right hon. gentleman's attention to that paragraph in the speech, in which, after lamenting the deficiency in the revenue, the Prince Regent suggests to the House the propriety of entering into an early investigation of the state of the income and expenditure of the country. This recommendation was echoed in the address which had been moved, and it was proposed that the House should assure his royal highness that they would not fail to enter into an early and serious investigation of the state of the income and expenditure of the country. Did the right hon. gentleman suppose his royal highness would have been advised to give such a recommendation, had not ministers been disposed to take the course which the right hon. gentleman wished them to take—had they not been sincerely desirous of such an inquiry? The retrenchment now recommended, the right hon. gentleman had said, was very well: but why was it not done sooner? On this subject he could not but think the right hon. gentleman manifested more than a fair impatience, as after a war of such magnitude and duration as the one recently brought to a close, it must be obvious that it was impossible at once to reduce the public expenditure to that which was suited to a time of peace. It must be a work of time. The right hon. gentleman had appeared to think the reductions in contemplation had been suspended for a few weeks, and were only at last brought forward, because parliament was about to assemble. From what he had said, it should almost seem that he was of opinion it was a new discovery on the part of ministers that parliament was to meet at all. It would however be felt that they knew parliament must meet, or the business could not go on; and, knowing this, it was not very likely that they should suspend the reductions about to take place for a few weeks till parliament again assembled. It would be in vain, 24 therefore, to state what reductions would have been made under other circumstances, or what were now in progress; as these must soon be brought in a regular way before the House, and they would be immediately followed by a motion for a full and complete investigation of the whole of the revenue and expenditure of the nation.—Leaving those allegations of the right hon. gentleman, which he had not followed up, to the eloquent explanations previously afforded by the mover and seconder of the address, he would remark, that inquiries into the present commercial and agricultural distress of the country appeared to be necessary under existing circumstances, in order to ascertain by what means they might be alleviated, and to determine whether one measure which suggested itself—the only-one, he feared, by which they could be immediately relieved—would be necessary.—But the right hon. gentleman had next stated his views—not very fully to be sure—of the state of the finances of the country. Taking the utmost he could advance to be proved, it would be found to amount to little that could alarm, but it would be seen that at present he had no means of comparing the expenditure with the revenue of the country, until he knew what were the reductions that were to be made. Granting, however, that the comparison which he had attempted to make was in every respect correct, what was the result? Why, that the revenue of the country, with the sinking fund, was nearly on a par with its expenditure; and though we paid none off, we should not go on incurring debt. If this were to be regarded as that state of things which was to be permanent, he would grant that it would be very bad, as it would disappoint the reasonable hopes of the people, who had looked forward to see the public debt in the course of being paid off by means of the sinking fund. But he did not consider this situation of our affairs one at all likely to be permanent; and at present he thought it sufficient to express a hope that a very short time would prove it but temporary. The right hon. gentleman had asked, how much of the distress was temporary? In reasoning on this subject, he had appeared to confound cause and effect. He had stated, that at present there was no surplus of revenue; that the revenue and expenditure were so completely balanced, that nothing remained of the former after the latter had been 25 met to pay off the public debt; but he did not show that this was what we had to expect. The right hon. gentleman had said that it was so; but there were two things to be taken into the reckoning—the reductions about to be made, and the probable improvement of the revenue. One circumstance which the right hon. gentleman had not dwelt on, was to be regarded as a cause of the falling off in the revenue. The agricultural distress had produced throughout the country a great diminution of the consumption of those articles on which the taxes and manufactories depended. It was at present impossible for the farmer to indulge in those luxuries and commodities which he formerly could purchase, and from which much of the public revenue arose. He therefore looked at that as one of the great causes of the present deficiency; and the late unfavourable harvest most undoubtedly aggravated the evil. Had the crops been housed earlier, he thought it probable that a different prospect would now have been presented to our view. On the subject of our commerce, the right hon. gentleman had appealed to commercial men if they saw any immediate prospect of an increase of trade. He had made this appeal as if ministers had held out a hope or discovering something new, by which the present depression might be removed. They had done nothing of the kind. Nothing new was expected or wanted; all they looked forward to, was a revival of trade. Last year we had a great export trade, and ministers now cherished the hope of seeing it again revive. He thought there could be nobody who did not see that a variety of causes had combined to produce the present effects, which were so severely felt; and no man could say at what precise moment they would cease: but, looking at the internal state of the country, and its external relations; looking at its wealth and resources, he was satisfied that confidence would revive and prosperity return, if no disturbances again broke out, like those to which some allusion had been made, and when the agricultural interest should be restored to its proper situation. He was unwilling to adopt the views of the right hon. gentleman, as he thought it would be seen that in the speech that had been recommended by the crown, and in the address, it was proposed to pledge the House to do that, which the right hon. gentleman wished to be done, namely, to 26 inquire into the state of the revenue and expenditure of the country. To him, therefore, it appeared, that the right hon. gentleman could obtain the object he had in view quite as well, and in a more regular way by the motion, than he could hope to gain it if his amendment were carried. On the observations which had been made as to the propriety of making those reductions sooner which were now to take place, he should only say, that till this period it had not been possible to arrange the estimates, so as to enable the House to see what were the views of government on the present state of the nation. He concluded by declaring the amendment to be wholly unnecessary.
§ Mr. Lamb
said, that the noble lord who had opened the debate, and the hon. gentleman who had seconded the address, had in some points touched upon and explained with ability the state and prospects of the country; they had forcibly dwelt with exultation on the general state and situation of the country, and in one of the topics of their gratulation he most fully concurred; he need not say that he alluded to the prompt undertaking and effective execution of the armament against Algiers. The hon. gentleman who seconded the address had, however, carried his feelings of eulogium into a sort of poetical enthusiasm on this event—he had described it as a proof to the nations of the earth that there was nothing selfish in the policy of Great Britain towards other powers—that her aid and co-operation were always in readiness to repress the injuries inflicted upon other states, and to relieve them in their hour of calamity. He was sorry to say, that he could not concur in this unlimited panegyric, and before the hon. gentleman who had framed it could have wound his mind up to such a pitch of affectionate credulity, he should have turned his eyes to the systems which England had revived in Europe, to the dynasties she had restored, and to the forms of government she had re-enacted. Had the hon. gentleman looked at the dynasties so restored by British influence, he would have had his answer as to the liberal and enlightened policy of our ministers, in those of Spain and other nations, which they had reared from their ashes. Had the expedition to Algiers been undertaken on other grounds than those of national insult, he for one would not have consented to its existence; great as was the principle connected with 27 its object, he could never consent to Quixotic projects upon this general scale. England was, and he trusted ever would be, capable of maintaining her own dignity, and the Commons House of parliament, her just avenger, would ever assert her title to that uncompromising claim. There was certainly no triumph more pregnant with satisfaction, or calculated to excite more heartfelt gratitude, than that to which allusion had been made. It was to be hoped that our great, object was, on that occasion, most fully and permanently established. The experience, indeed, of past ages, forbad any tiling more decisive than the indulgence of a hope on such an occasion. He was satisfied that the conflict had been waged for a cause, of the justice of which there could exist no doubt, and that it had been conducted and terminated in the most efficient manner. It was greatly the interest of England, and indeed of the human race, that that atrocious traffic should have been abolished. On no other part of the speech could he bestow the same unqualified approbation. One paragraph in the Speeeh, which ascribed the present state of distress to the sudden termination of the war, was certainly founded upon a very unfair view of existing circumstances; it was affixing to the end of the war that consequence which ought to be attached to its continuance. It was not its conclusion, but its long continuance, that had produced the effects which were now visible, and which might have been obviated by the adoption of a different course of policy. The war was the cause, and the distinct cause of the present prevailing distress; and if it should appear in any future investigation, that an opportunity had been culpably lost of terminating that war, and, of course, with it, a part of the public distress, that was incidental to its continuance, then the culpability would attach to those who had so misconducted themselves, and who became thereby responsible for the distresses, the continuance of which they had caused. If, on the contrary, no fair opportunity had been lost of terminating the war, then the distresses which had arisen were unavoidable, and must be met by patience and forbearance. Our calamities had been produced by the war, though their complete pressure was not felt till the arrival of peace; they were thus connected with the peace in point of time, but they could not be traced to the peace as their cause. In this situation 28 the great object for us to pursue was, not to propagate a delusion with respect to the cause of our distress, but to take every means of alleviating it, or preventing its extension, by supporting and maintaining public credit. He stated this opinion, not from any fear that the recommendations of those who attempted to justify a breach of the national faith would be attended to, but from a firm conviction, that breaking faith with the national creditor would bring no relief to the people, or tend to remove, in any degree, the embarrassments of the country. On the contrary, he was convinced that such conduct on the part of the legislature would aggravate and extend them. If we were to trust the dictates of experience, we had it in support of this opinion. Some time ago the complaints against the landholder were as loud as they now were against the fundholder. These complaints were now heard no more, for there was no reason for them. Rents had been reduced, the landed interests were straitened in their incomes, but who had benefited by the change? The distresses of the manufacturing and labouring classes, instead of being alleviated, had been increased; they had been deprived of employment by the reduced circumstances of those who employed them, and found no advantage in the diminution of the income of those against whose wealth they clamoured. Any interference with the fundholder, he was convinced, would be productive of similar effects, instead of relieving our distress. Our situation should be supported with that firmness and patience that could alleviate every calamity, instead of leading us to attempt plans and expedients which might aggravate temporary sufferings into irretrieveable ruin, by destroying entirely public confidence and national credit. But how were we to support public credit, if we did not resort to such expedients? He would answer—by economy and retrenchment. Parliament, he hoped, was prepared for entering into economical reductions; ministers, he hoped, were prepared for the task; and the country, he hoped, was likewise prepared. He said, he hoped the country was prepared for it; for, although he meant no reflection, against any particular individuals, he could not refrain from observing that those who now called for economy and retrenchment might be sorry that they were adopted. It should be recollected, that retrenchment was not an unmixed good. A 29 strict and rigorous attention to economy, and reduction of all our establishments to the lowest possible scale, must be productive of evils to certain individuals, and he was not disposed to under-rate their sufferings; but the national good and the public security were paramount to all other considerations. The right hon. gentleman who had spoken last had contended, that there was no necessity for the amendment, to obtain the object which his right hon. friend had in view, because the address pledged the House to the same course of conduct as the amendment. This he would by no means admit. The address merely pledged the House to take into consideration the state of the public income and expenditure; whereas the amendment went much further, and embraced an inquiry into the state of the nation in all its interests, financial, commercial, political, and colonial, examining all its concerns, its extension of colonial territory, which was made the ground or the excuse of extending military and civil establishments—in short, the whole of our expenditure at home and abroad. Our commercial situation and system required revision, after such a violent change as it had lately undergone by the political circumstances of the world. The whole should be taken into consideration, with the view of ascertaining whether the regulations which had guided it in war should be continued or altered on the return of peace.—There was one subject which pressed upon the attention of all, and which would be embraced in the inquiry that the amendment of his right hon. friend proposed—he meant the poor taws. The sums raised for the support of the poor, in the shape of rates, now amounted to a tax almost as great, and on certain classes of the community certainly more oppressive than the property-tax. It was impossible that eight millions a year could be collected or administered in the manner, and for the purpose, in which this tax was collected and administered, without the greatest oppression to the landed interest, and the ultimate diminution of the industry and resources of the country. Not only this, but many Other subjects, demanded an inquiry which might lead to amendments in our laws, institutions, and establishments, mild and moderate in their operation, and certain in their results upon the public prosperity and happiness. Nor ought the House to be deterred from its duty in 30 adopting improvements and economical reforms, by the rumours or the fears of any disturbances or breaches of the peace which they either had heard, or with which they were threatened. His opinion on this subject was always the same; it had always remained unaltered, and he believed would do so. He allowed, in their fullest extent, the rights of the people to petition for any lawful object that they thought connected with their interests, privileges, or well-being; he reverenced popular meetings, which were regularly and quietly conducted [Hear, hear!]; he reverenced the rights and the privileges which they exercised and was disposed to attend to their representations as much as any man; but when such assemblies proceeded to violence, when they led to breaches of the peace, he was for vigorous and immediate repression. This conduct he would recommend, not only from motives of public security, but from motives of tenderness and mercy to the deluded persons themselves. He deprecated all breaches of the peace, disturbance, and riot, not only for their immediate effects, but for their ultimate consequences. Tumult for liberty and right was not only dangerous and destructive, but was a liar, and never kept its promises. It led, in the end, through scenes of anarchy and blood to a political tyranny, or military despotism; the more fatal in its nature, and the more hopeless in its consequences, from the circumstances that the people were taught to take refuge under their protection from the more appalling evils of insecurity and confusion. For these reasons he would give his cordial support to the amendment of his right hon. friend. [Cries of Hear, hear!].
Mr. Charles Grant
jun. said, that as far as he understood the inquiry proposed in the speech of his royal highness, it included nearly all those topics in its recommendation to parliament, which were embraced in the amendment of the right hon. gentleman; and those which were not included, would necessarily enter in to the discussions of the committee that had been mentioned. In that committee the propriety of our colonial policy, and of our commercial system, would be taken into consideration. With respect to the poor-laws, that subject had been brought before the House last year, and a full examination of it deferred to the present session. He agreed with the hon. gentleman, that it would form a most important branch of that in- 31 quiry which the House would have to institute. He agreed also, that it would be their duly to support the public credit, which, with our agricultural prosperity, farmed the two great sources of our national wealth. Nor was he disposed to question the truth of the assertion, that our present distresses were attributable to; the war in some respect. But he was, at the same time, of opinion, that all the varying circumstances of our fortune during the last five and twenty years, had a more radical foundation than merely the continuance of that war. He should explain the matter upon a different principle. He would say that it was not simply a transition from a state of war to a state of peace, which had caused our distresses, but a transition of the country from a state in which it had been compelled to rely upon its own resources for food, to a state in which foreign supplies could be obtained. When the war took place, we were an importing country to a considerable extent. The continuance of the war, however, necessarily increased the price of what we imported, from the war charges, and the high rate of insurance required. An impulse was consequently given to our own agricultural system, which continued through the whole of the war. The effect of this upon the home market was immediately felt, for it gave the middling and the lower classes of society a greater power of demand for articles provided by our manufacturers. In the prosperity of our agriculture was found the prosperity of the whole kingdom. But the return of peace shook that internal system of demand and supply to its foundation. The corn bill did much towards restoring it, and, from its gradual operation, they might expect an improvement in all our manufactures, and in every branch of our trade. With regard to the disturbances that had taken place, he trusted there was but one opinion in that House upon the subject. There was a spirit at work, he was persuaded, throughout the country, of a most mischievous and daring character, which attempted to pervert our distresses into an instrument of disloyalty and sedition. The effect of its machinations, if indulged, would be the subversion of the constitution. The topics, most dear to Englishmen—Magna Charta and the Bill of Rights —were brought forward by demagogues, not for the purpose of inspiring the people with an attachment to their privileges and their rights, but of irritating, poisoning, 32 and misleading their minds. He was one of those who would not confound the conscientious friend of reform with such persons; but he thought it unfortunate that they should be led to lend themselves as tools to strengthen the power of those who would soon discard them as too reasonable and moderate, and take the game into their own hands.—
The hon. member was proceeding, when he was interrupted by the annunciation of a message from the Lords.