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be considered in its probable effects upon the of present reputation and future fame. These, principles of the members of this House, or the and whatever else is precious to me, I stake upon manners of the people at large; more especially the constitutional safety, the enlarged policy, the when a reflection that Orientalists are in general equity, and the wisdom of this measure; and the most exemplary class of people in their mor- have no fear in saying (whatever may be the als, and in their deportment the most moderate, fate of its authors) that this bill will produce to and corresponding with the distinction of their this country every blessing of commerce and high birth and family, furnishes a very reasona- revenue; and that by extending a generous and ble presumption that the expenditure of their humane government over those millions whom money will be much about as honorable as its the inscrutable destinations of Providence have acquirement.97
placed under us in the remotest regions of the I shall now, sir, conclude my speech with a earth, it will consecrate the name of England few words upon the opinion of the right honor- among the noblest of nations. able gentleman (Mr. Pitt). He says " he will stake his character upon the danger of this bill." I meet him in his own phrase, and oppose him, The vote was carried by a majority of 217 to character to character. I risk my all upon the 103. But when the bill reached the House of excellence of this bill. I risk upon it whatever Lords, it was met and defeated by the influence is most dear to me, whatever men most value, of the King, as already mentioned in the sketch the character of integrity, of talents, of honor, of Mr. Fox's life.
SPEECH OF MR. FOX ON THE USE OF SECRET INFLUENCE TO DEFEAT HIS EAST INDIA BILL, DELIVERED
IN THE HOUSE OF COMMONS, DECEMBER 17, 1783.
INTRODUCTION. On the ninth of December, 1783, when Mr. Fox's East India Bill went up to the House of Lords, the ministry supposed themselves to possess the fullest evidence that it would pass that body by a decided majority. Within three days, however, rumors were in circulation of some extraordinary movements in the interior of the Court. It was affirmed that Lord Temple was closeted with the King on the eleventh, and that his Majesty had intrusted him with a message of some kind, expressing a strong disapprobation of the bill; which message his Lordship and others were circulating among the peers, and especially among the Lords of the Bedchamber and other members of the royal household who were more immediately connected with the King's person. On the fifteenth, the Duke of Portland, as head of the ministry, alluded to these rumors in the House of Lords. Lord Temple admitted that the interview referred to had taken place, but would neither acknowledge nor deny any thing farther touching the reports in question. It was evident, however, that a powerful impression had been made. Some peers who had given their proxies to the minister or his friends, withdrew them only a few hours before the time appointed for the second reading of the bill; and a letter was at length placed in the hands of the ministry, containing the message of the King which had produced these unexpected results. The substance of this letter is given in the speech below.
In view of these facts, before the bill had been decided upon by the Lords, Mr. Baker moved a resolation in the House of Commons, that "it is now necessary to declare, that to report any opinion or pretended opinion of his Majesty upon any bill or other proceeding depending in either House of Parliament, is a high crime and misdemeanor, derogatory to the honor of the Crown, a breach of the fundamental privileges of Parliament, and subversive of the Constitution of this country." In his remarks on the subject, Mr. Baker divided the criminality into two parts ; first, the giving of secret advice to his Majesty; and, secondly, the use that had been made of the King's name for the purpose of influencing the votes of members of Parliament in a matter depending before them. He proved from the journals, that “any reference to the opinions of the King touching a bill before either House had always been judged a high breach of the privileges of Parliament.” The motion was seconded by Lord Maitland, and was vebemently opposed by Mr. Pitt, who was a near relative of Lord Temple. Mr. Fox then delivered the following speech, in which he gave full vent to his indignation at the injustice done to ministers and the wound inflicted upon the Constitution by this interference.
SPEECH, &c.' I did not intend, sir, to have said any thing in my own opinion, its propriety and necessity are addition to that which has been already urged so completely and substantially established. A few ably in favor of the resolution now agitated. In particulars, suggested in the course of the debate
97 The adventurers to India, here called Oriental by gentlemen on the other side of the House, ists, such as Paul Benfield, &c., were in most in- 1 This speech has been slightly abridged by omitstances persons of no family, and of little worth or ting a few passages in which the ideas were unneceducation. Hence the sneering terms here used. essarily expanded.
may be thought, however, to merit some animad- mon way, and by no inferior agents. A noble version. And, once for all, let no man complain Earl (Lord Temple) is said to have used the of strong language. Things are now arrived at name of Majesty with the obvious and express such a crisis as renders it impossible to speak intention of allecting the decisions of the Legiswithout warmth. Delicacy and reserve are crim- lature concerning a bill, of infinite consequence to inal where the interests of Englishmen are at haz- thirty millions of people, pending in Parliament. ard. The various points in dispute strike to the I tell gentlemen this is not a newspaper surmise, heart; and it were unmanly and pusillanimous to but something much stronger and more serious; wrap up in smooth and deceitful colors objects there is a written record to be produced. This which, in their nature and consequences, are cal- letter (pulling it out of his pocket] is not to be put culated to fill the House and the country with a in the balance with the lie of the day. It states, mixture of indignation and horror.
that "his Majesty allowed Earl Temple to say, This, at least, has made such an impression on that whoever voted for the India Bill were not Greatness of my mind, that I never felt so much anx. only not his friends, but he should consider them the interests iety; I never addressed this House un- as his enemies; and if these words were not
der such a pressure of impending mis- strong enough, Earl Temple might use whatever chief; I never trembled so much for public lib- words he might deem stronger, or more to the erty as I now do. The question before the House purpose.” Is this parliamentary, or is it truth? involves the rights of Parliament in all their con- Where is the man who dares to affirm the one sequences and extent. These rights are the ba- or deny the other; or to say that he believes in sis of our Constitution, and form the spirit of what his conscience such a rumor was not calculated ever discriminates the government of a free coun- to produce an immediate effect? It certainly try. And have not these been threatened and as- tended, in the first instance, to vilify, in the grosssaulted? Can they exist a moment in opposition est and most violent manner, the proceedings of to such an interference as that which is supposed Parliament. It says to the public, that we are by the resolution, and has been stated by several not equal to our trust; that we either ignorantly honorable gentlemen to have taken place ? No: or willfully betray the interest of our constituents; human nature is not sufficiently perfect to resist and that we are not to be guided in our decisions the weight of such a temptation. When, there- by their convictions or our own, but by that unfore, shall the House assert its dignity, its inde- seen and mysterious authority of which the Sovpendence, its prerogatives, by a resolute and un- ereign, his counselors, and the Legislature, are equivocal declaration of all its legal and consti- only the blind and passive instruments. Both tutional powers, but in the instant of their dan- Houses of Parliament are, consequently, parties ger? The disease, sir, is come to a crisis; and in the contest, and reduced, by this unfortunate now is the juncture which destines the patient to and wicked device, to the predicament of a man live or die. We are called to sanctify or oppose struggling for his life. We are robbed of our an absolute extinction of all for which our ances- rights, with a menace of immediate destruction tors struggled and expired. We are called to before our face. From this moment, farewell protect and defend, not only the stipulated fran- to every independent measure! Whenever the chises of Englishmen, but the sacred privileges liberties of the people, the rights of private propof human nature. We are called to protract the erty, or the still more sacred and invaluable privruin of the Constitution. The deliberations of ileges of personal safety, invaded, violated, or in this night must decide whether we are to be free danger, are vindicated by this House, where alone men or slaves; whether the House of Commons they can be legally and effectually redressed, the be the palladium of liberty or the organ of des- hopes of the public, anxious, eager, and panting potism; whether we are henceforth to possess a for the issue, are whispered away, and forever voice of our own, or to be only the mechanical suppressed by the breath of secret influence. A echo of secret influence. Is there an individual Parliament thus fettered and controlled, without who feels for his own honor, callous to an appre spirit and without freedom, instead of limiting, hension of such a consequence as this? Does extends, substantiates, and establishes, beyond all not every regard which he owes to a body that precedent, latitude, or condition, the prerogatives can not be degraded without his disgrace, that of the Crown. But, though the British House of can not expire without involving his fate, rouse Commons were so shamefully lost to its own his indignation, and excite him to every exertion, weight in the Constitution, were so unmindful of both in his individual and delegated capacity, its former struggles and triumphs in the great which can reprobate, suspend, or destroy a prac- cause of liberty and mankind, were so indiffertice so inimical to public prosperity, as well as ent and treacherous to those primary objects and hostile to the very existence of this House ? concerns for which it was originally instituted, I
But what is this resolution? It has been trust the characteristic spirit of this country is Fact of in- called, with great technical acuteness, still equal to the trial; I trust Englishmen will terference.
a truism, which seems as incapable of be as jealous of secret influence as superior to discussion as it is of proof. The foundation of open violence; I trust they are not more ready it, however, is a matter of such general and pal- to defend their interests against foreign depredapable notoriety, as to put every degree of skep- tion and insult than to encounter and defeat this ticism to defiance. Rumors of a most extraor- midnight conspiracy against the Constitution. dinary nature have been disseminated in no com- The proposition of this evening is, therefore,
challenged to deny it
sounded on a fact the most extraordinary and such magnitude as it does. But let us consider Greatness alarming this country could possibly the nature of the business which it is intended or the eval hear; a fact which strikes at the great to impede or suppress. For nearly twenty years bulwark of our liberties, and goes to an absolute have the affairs of the East India Company, more annihilation, not only of our chartered rights, or less, occasionally engrossed the attention of but of those radical and fundamental ones which Parliament. Committees of this House, comare paramount to all charters, which were con- posed of the most able, industrious, and upright signed to our care by the sovereign disposition characters, have sat long, indefatigably, and asof Nature, which we can not relinquish without siduously, in calling forth, arranging, digesting, violating the most sacred of all obligations; to and applying every species of evidence which which we are entitled, not as members of socie- could be found. Reports of their honest and ty, but as individuals and as men; the rights of elaborate conduct are before the House. The adhering steadily and uniformly to the great and public feel the pressure of this monstrous and supreme laws of conscience and duty; of prefer- multifarious object. Gentlemen in opposition ring, at all hazards, and without equivocation, were, at least, not insensible to its necessity, its those general and substantial interests which we urgency, and its importance. A right honorahave sworn to prefer ; of acquitting ourselves ble gentleman (Mr. W. Pitt), who has distinhonorably to our constituents, to our friends, to guished himself so much upon this occasion, proour own minds, and to that public whose trust- tested very solemnly against all palliatives, exees we are and for whom we act.
pedients, or any abortive substitutes for radical How often shall the friends of the noble Earl and complete measures. To meet that right Conduct of whom I have named be called upon to honorable gentleman's idea, as well as to suit Lord Temple's negative the proposition, by vouching the exigence of the case, the present bill was
for him his innocence of the charge? brought in. It has been called a rash, inconsid
Will any of them lay their hand on their erate, and violent measure. The House is aware heart, and disavow the fact in that nobleman's what discussion it has occasioned ; and I dare name? Let them fairly, honorably, and deci- any one to mention a single argument brought dedly put an end to that foul imputation which against it which has not been candidly and fairly rests on his conduct, and the House must imme- tried, not by the weight of a majority, but by the diately dismiss the report as idle and ill founded. force of plain and explicit reasoning. No bill But, while no man comes honestly forward and was more violently and systematically opposed, takes truth by the hand, we must look to the investigated at greater length, or with more abil. consequence. This House must not lose sight ity; passed the House under the sanction of a of its rights and those of the community. The more respectable and independent majority; or latter can subsist no longer than the former are had more the countenance and patronage of the safe. We now deliberate on the life and blood country at large. How, then, did it succeed in of the Constitution. Give up this point, and we the other House? What was the reception seal our own quietus, and are accessory to our which, thus circumstanced, it received from their own insignificance or destruction.
Lordships ? Some degree of decency might But how is the question, thus unsuccessfully have been expected from one branch of the LegConduct of put to the friends and abettors of se- islature to another. That respectable independLorde Temple cret influence in this, answered, when ence which ought to be the leading feature in the House of put to the noble principal in the other their decisions is not incompatible with, but es
House? Is he ready and eager to vin- sential to such a mutual deference for the prodicate his own character, and rescue that of his cedure of each, as must be the consequence Sovereign from so foul a reproach? No; but of acting constitutionally. The bill, however, he replies in that mean, insidious, equivocal, and though matured and debated by all the abilities temporizing language, which tends to preserve of this House, though urged by the most powerthe effect without boldly and manfully abiding ful of all arguments, necessity, and though recby the consequences of the guilt. Such was the ommended by almost two to one on every divianswer, as mysterious and ill-designed as the sion it occasioned, will, in all probability, be lost. delinquency it was intended to conceal; and the But, sir, I beseech the House to attend to the man only, who could stoop to the baseness of the manner in which it is likely to meet Means by one, was the most likely in the world to screen such a fate. Is this to be effected by the best himself behind the duplicity of the other. What, the voice of an independent majority ? defeated. then, shall we infer from a system of acting and Can any man view the Lords of the Bedchamspeaking thus guarded and fallacious, but that ber in that respectable light ? and the whole the device was formed to operate on certain fortune of the measure now depends on their minds, as it is rumored to have done ; and that determination. The rumor, so often stated and such a shallow and barefaced pretext could influ. ence those only who, without honor or consisten
' In the year 1781 two committees of the House cy, are endowed with congenial understandings! committee, were appointed to inquire into the af,
of Commons, one a select and the other a secret Had this alarming and unconstitutional inter- fairs of the East India Company, both at home and
ference happened in matters of no con- abroad. The reports of the select committee were or the bill in sequence, or but of inferior consequence, twelve, and those of the secret committee six in
the evil would not have appeared of 1 number.
alluded to, was calculated and intended to an- have broken that faith, and relinquished their swer an immediate and important end. I am own judgments, in consequence of a rumor that far from saying that it ought. Those in high such a conduct would be personally resented by office and of elevated rank should prove them the Sovereign. What bill, in the history of Parselves possessed of high and elevated sentiments; liament, was ever so traduced, so foully misrepshould join to an exquisite sense of personal hon- resented and betrayed in its passage through or the most perfect probity of heart; should dis- the different branches of the Legislature? The cover as much dignity and strength of under- stroke which must decide the contest can not standing as may be naturally expected from a come from its real enemies, but its false friends ; superior education, the distinctions of fortune, and its fate, without example in the annals of and the example of the great and the wise. But this House, will be handed down to the remothow does this description agree with their mode est posterity, not as a trophy of victory, but as a of managing their proxies? These they cordi- badge of treachery. ally give in (to the ministry] before a rumor of Here, sir, the right honorable gentleman (Mr. the King's displeasure reaches their ears. The Pitt), with his usual liberality, up- The real ammoment this intimation is made, on the same braids me with monopolizing, not only bition of Mr. day, and within a few hours, matters appear to all the influence of the Crown, the them in quite a different light, and the opinion patronage of India, and the principles of Whigwhich they embrace in the morning is renounced ism, but the whole of the royal confidence; but at noon. I am as ready as any man to allow, all such round, unqualified, and unfounded imwhat is barely probable, that these Lords might putations must be contemptible, because they receive new convictions, which, like a miracle, are not true; and the bitterest enemy, not lost operated effectually and at once; and that, not- to every sense of manliness, would scorn to bewithstanding their proxies, from such a sudden come an accuser on grounds so palpably false. and extraordinary circumstance, without hear. It is, indeed, as it has always been, my only aming any debate or evidence on the subject, they bition to act such a part in my public conduct might feel an immediate and unaccountable im- as shall eventually give the lie to every species pulse to make their personal appearance, and of suspicion which those who oppose me seem vote according to their consciences. Who would so anxious to create and circulate; and if to choose to say that all this may not actually have compass that by every possible exertion from been the case? There is certainly, however, a which no man in the sound exercise of his unvery uncommon coincidence in their Lordship’s derstanding can honestly dissent, be a crime, peculiar situation, and this unexpected revolution I plead guilty to the charge. This I am not of sentiment; and, were 1 disposed to treat the ashamed to avow the predominating passion of matter seriously, the whole compass of language my life ; and I will cherish it in spite of calumaffords no terms sufficiently strong and pointed ny, declamation, and intrigue, at the risk of all to mark the contempt which I feel for their con- I value most in the world. duct. It is an impudent avowal of political But, sir, in this monopoly of influence, the profligacy; as if that species of treachery were Lords of the Bedehamber ought, at least, Lords in less infamous than any other. It is not merely for the sake of decency, to have been waiting on a degradation of a station which ought to be oc- excepted. These, we all know, are concupied only by the highest and most exemplary stantly at the beck of whoever is minister of the honor, but forfeits their claim to the characters day. How often have they not been stigmaof gentlemen, and reduces them to a level with tized with the name of the household troops, the meanest and the basest of the species; it in- who, like the Prætorian bands of ancient Rome, sults the noble, the ancient, and the character- are always prepared for the ready execution of istic independence of the English peerage, and every secret mandate! I remember a saying is calculated to traduce and vilify the British of an able statesman, whom, though I differed Legislature in the eyes of all Europe and to the with him in many things, I have ever acknowllatest posterity. By what magic nobility can edged to be possessed of many eminent and usethus charm vice into virtue I know not, nor wish ful qualities. The sentence I allude to I have to know; but in any other thing than politics, always admired for its boldness and propriety. and among any other men than Lords of the It was uttered by the late George Grenville in Bedchamber, such an instance of the grossest experiencing a similar treachery; and would to perfidy would, as it well deserves, be branded God the same independent and manly sentiments with infamy and execration.
had been inherited by all who bear the name! Is there any thing, then, sir, more plain and ob- "I will never again,” said he, " be at the head Motives for vious, than that this great, this importthis interfer, ant, this urgent measure, is become the
3 Gibbon, speaking of the Prætorian bands, says, handle of a desperate faction, whose “They derived their institution from Augustus. principal object is power and place? It is the That crafty tyrant, sensible that laws might color, victim, not of open and fair reasoning, but of minion, had gradually formed this powerful body of
but that arms alone could maintain his usurped dothat influence which shuns the light and shrinks guards, in constant readiness to protect his person, from discussion. Those who pledged their hon. to awe the Senate, and either to prevent or crush or in its support, from an acknowledged convic- the first motions of rebellion."—Hist. of the Decline tion of its rectitude, its propriety, and utility, and Fall, ch. v.
of a string of janizaries, who are always ready as sound a judge of the practice as of the theory to strangle or dispatch me on the least signal." of government, he might have added, with still
Where, sir, is that undue, that unconstitution- greater truth, that we shall certainly lose our Kind of influ. al influence with which the right hon- liberty when the deliberations of Parliament are ence sought orable gentleman upbraids me and decided, not by the legal and usual, but by the by Mr. Fox.
those with whom I act? Are our illegal and extraordinary exertions of prerogative. measures supported by any other means than The right honorable gentleman declares that ministers have usually employed ? In what, if the King is thus prevented from con- Secret induthen, am I the “champion of influence ?" of sulting his peers, who are constitution-ence not the the influence of sound and substantial policy, of ally styled the ancient and hereditary of the Lords. open, minute, and laborious discussion, of the counselors of the Crown, or any other of his submost respectable Whig interest in the kingdom, jects, whenever he is pleased to call for it, he of an honorable majority in this House, of public would be a captive on his throne, and the first confidence and public responsibility, I am proud slave in his own dominions. Does he, then, afto avail myself, and happy to think no man can fect to think or allege that it is the desire of bar my claim. But every sort of influence un- ministers to proscribe all social intercourse beknown to the Constitution, as base in itself as tween his Majesty and his subjects? I will tell it is treacherous in its consequences, which is the right honorable gentleman thus far his argualways successful because incapable of opposi- ment goes, and that is something worse than tion, nor ever successful but when exerted in the puerility and declamation; it is disguising truth dark, which, like every other monster of factious under such colors as are calculated to render it breed, never stalks abroad but in the absence of odious and detestable. The Lords are undoubtpublic principle, never assumes any other shape edly entitled to advise the throne collectively; than a whisper, and never frequents any more but this does not surely entitle every noble indipublic place of resort than the back stairs or vidual to take his Majesty aside, and, by a shockcloset at St. James's—all this secret, intriguing, ing farrago of fiction and fear, poison the royal and underhand influence I am willing and ready mind with all their own monstrous chimeras! to forego. I will not even be the minister of a Whoever knows the mode of digesting business great and free people on any condition deroga- in the cabinet must be sensible that the least intory to my honor and independence as a private terference with any thing pending in Parliament gentleman. Let those who have no other ob- must be dangerous to the Constitution. The ject than place have it, and hold it by the only question is not, whether his Majesty shall avail tenure worthy of their acceptance, secret influ- himself of such advice as no one readily avows, ence; but without the confidence of this House, but who is answerable for such advice? Is the as well as that of the sovereign, however neces- right honorable gentleman aware that the resary to my circumstances, and desirable to my sponsibility of ministers is the only pledge and sefriends, the dignity and emoluments of office shall curity the people of England possess against the never be mine.
infinite abuses so natural to the exercise of this The task, therefore, the gentleman has as- power? Once remove this great bulwark of the Mr Pitt the signed me, of being the champion of in- Constitution, and we are in every respect the decendo fluence, belongs more properly to him- slaves and property of despotism. And is not this
self, who has this night stood forward the necessary consequence of secret influence ? in defense of a practice which can not be in- How, sir, are ministers situated on this ground? dulged for a moment but at the imminent risk Do they not come into power with a Effect of se of every thing great and valuable which our halter about their necks, by which the cret influence Constitution secures. With what consistency he most contemptible wretch in the king. embarks in a cause so hostile and ominous to dom may dispatch them at pleasure? Yes, they the rights and wishes of Englishmen, those who hold their several offices, not at the option of the have known his connections and observed his sovereign, but of the very reptiles who burrow professions will judge. Let him not, then, in under the throne. They act the part of pupthe paroxysm of party zeal, put a construction pets, and are answerable for all the folly, the igon my conduct which it will not bear, or endeav- norance, and the temerity or timidity, of some or to stamp it with the impression of his own. unknown juggler behind the screen; they are For that influence which the Constitution has not once allowed to consult their own, but to pay wisely assigned to the different branches of the an implicit homage to the understandings of Legislature, I ever have contended, and, I trust, those whom to know were to despise. The only ever shall. That of the Crown, kept within its rule by which they are destined to extend authorlegal boundaries, is essential to the practice of ity over free men is a secret mandate which government; but woe to this country the mo- carries along with it no other alternative than ment its operations are not as public and noto- obedience-or ruin! What man, who has the rious as they are sensible and effective! A great feelings, the honor, the spirit, or the heart of a writer4 has said that the English Constitution man, would stoop to such a condition for any will perish when the legislative becomes more official dignity or emolument whatever? Boys, corrupt than the executive power. Had he been without judgment, experience of the sentiments
suggested by the knowledge of the world, or the * Montesquieu.-Esprit des Lois, liv. xi., ch. 6. amiable decencies of a sound mind, may follow