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the headlong course of ambition thus precipi- | Legislature and their different powers invariably tantly, and vault into the seat while the reins of point. Whoever interferes with this primary government are placed in other hands; but the and supreme direction must, in the highest deminister who can bear to act such a dishonora- gree, be unconstitutional. Should, therefore, his ble part, and the country that suffers it, will be Majesty be disposed to check the progress of the mutual plagues and curses to each other.5 Legislature in accomplishing any measure of
Thus awkwardly circumstanced, the best min- importance, either by giving countenance to an ister on earth could accomplish nothing, nor on invidious whisper, or the exertion of his negative, any occasion, however pressing and momentous, without at the same time consulting the safety exert the faculties of government with spirit or of his ministers, here would be an instance of effect. It is not in the human mind to put forth maladministration, for which, on that supposition, the least vigor under the impression of uncer- the Constitution has provided no remedy. And tainty. While all my best-meant and best-con- God forbid that ever the Constitution of this. certed plans are still under the control of a vil-country should be found defective in a point so lainous whisper, and the most valuable conse- material and indispensable to the public welfare ! quences, which I flatter mysell must have result Sir, it is a public and crying grievance that we ed from my honest and indefatigable industry, are not the first who have felt this seare thus defeated by secret influence, it is im- cret influence. It seems to be a habit tion of secret possible to continue in office any longer either against which no change of men or with honor to myself or success to the public. measures can operate with success. It has overThe moment I bring forward a measure ade- turned a more able and popular minister (Lord quate to the exigency of the state, and stake my Chatham) than the present, and bribed him with reputation, or indeed whatever is most dear and a peerage, for which his best friends never corinteresting in life, on its merit and utility, instead dially forgave him. The scenes, the times, the of enjoying the triumphs of having acted fairly politics, and the system of the court may shift and unequivocally, all my labors, all my vigil. with the party that predominates, but this dark, ance, all my expectations, so natural to every mysterious engine is not only formed to control generous and manly exertion, are not only vilely every ministry, but to enslave the Constitution. frittered, hut insidiously and at once whispered To this infernal spirit of intrigue we owe that away by rumors, which, whether founded or not, incessant fluctuation in his Majesty's councils by are capable of doing irreparable mischief, and which the spirit of government is so much rehave their full effect before it is possible to con- laxed, and all its minutest objects so fatally detradict or disprove them.
ranged. During the strange and ridiculous inSo much has been said about the captivity of terregnum of last year, I had not a doubt in my The King's the throne, if his Majesty acts only in own mind with whom it originated; and I looked
concert with his ministers, that one to an honorable gentleman (Mr. Jenkinson) oppoonly being der would imagine the spirit and soul of site to me, the moment the grounds of objection sponsible. the British Constitution were yet un- to the East India Bill were stated. The same known in this House. It is wisely established illiberal and plodding cabal which then invested as a fundamental maxim, that "the King can do the throne, and darkened the royal mind with igno wrong;” that whatever blunders or even norance and misconception, has once more been crimes may be chargeable on the executive pow- employed to act the same part. But how will er, the Crown is still faultless. But how ? Not the genius of Englishmen brook the insult? Is by suffering tyranny and oppression in a free this enlightened and free country, which has so government to pass with impunity; certainly often and successfully struggled against every not; but the minister who advises or executes species of undue influence, to revert to those an unconstitutional measure does it at his peril; Gothic ages when princes were tyrants, ministers and he ought to know that Englishmen are not minions, and governments intriguing? Much only jealous of their rights, but legally possessed and gloriously did this House fight and overcome of powers competent, on every such emergency, the influence of the Crown by purging itself of to redress their wrongs.
What is the distinc- ministerial dependents; but what was the contion between an absolute and a limited monarchy tractors' bill, the Board of Trade, or a vote of but this, that the sovereign in the one is a des- the revenue officers, compared to a power equal pot, and may do what he pleases; but in the to one third of the Legislature, unanswerable other is himself subjected to the laws, and con- for and unlimited in its acting ?? Against those sequently not at liberty to advise with any one we had always to contend; but we knew their on public affairs not responsible for that advice; strength, we saw their disposition ; they fought and the Constitution has clearly directed his under no covert, they were a powerful, not a negative to operate under the same wise restric- sudden enemy. To compromise the matter tions. These prerogatives are by no means vest- therefore, sir, it would become this House to say, ed in the Crown to be exerted in a wanton and
6 Between the resignation of Lord Shelburne and arbitrary manner. The good of the whole is the the appointment of his successors. exclusive object to which all the branches of the
? This refers to a bill excluding certain placemen
from Parliament, and others from voting at elections, Mr. Pitt was at this time but twenty-four years on the ground of their holding offices or contracts un. old.
der the government.
acting with his ministers the
“Rather than yield to a stretch of prerogative orable gentleman, I doubt not, will soon teach thus unprecedented and alarming, withdraw your him experience and caution; and when once he secret influence, and whatever intrenchments has known them as long, received as many of have been made on the Crown we are ready to their promises, and seen their principles as much repair : take back those numerous and tried de- tried as I have done, he may not, perhaps, be pendents who so often secured you a majority in quite so prodigal of his credulity as he now is. Parliament; we submit to all the mischief which is he apprised of the lengths these men would even this accession of strength is likely to pro- go to serve their own selfish and private views ? duce; but, for God's sake, strangle us not in the that their public spirit is all profession and hypocvery moment we look for success and triumph by risy ? and that the only tie which unites and keeps an infamous string of Bed-chamber janizaries !" them together is that they are known only to each
The right honorable gentleman has told us, other, and that the moment of their discord puts Reply to Mr. with his usual consequence and tri- a period to their strength and consequence ? Put is to re- umph, that our duty, circumstanced as Il, however, a change must take place, and a signing
we are, can be attended with no diffi- new ministry is to be formed and sup- Consequerice culty whatever: the moment the Sovereign with ported, not by the confidence of this ministeret er draws his confidence it becomes us to retire. House, or of the public, but by the such grounds. will answer him in my turn, that the whole sys- sole authority of the Crown, I, for one, shall not tem in this dishonorable business may easily be envy that right honorable gentleman his situation. traced. Aware of that glorious and independent | From that moment I put in my claim for a momajority which added so much dignity and sup- nopoly of Whig principles. The glorious cause port to the measure which appears thus formida- of freedom, of independence, and of the Constituble to secret influence, they find all their efforts tion, is no longer his, but mine. In this I have to oppose it here abortive; the private cabal is lived; in this I will die. It has borne me up unconsequently convened, and an invasion of the der every aspersion to which my character has throne, as most susceptible of their operations, been subjected. The resentments of the mean proposed. It was natural to expect that I, for and the aversions of the great, the rancor of the one, would not be backward to spurn at such an vindictive and the subtlety of the base, the dereinterference. This circumstance affords all the liction of friends and the efforts of enemies, advantage they wished. I could not be easy in have not all diverted me from that line of conmy situation under the discovery of such an in- duct which has always struck me as the best. sult; and this critical moment is eagerly em. In the ardor of debate, I may have been, like all braced to goad me from office, to upbraid me other men, betrayed into expressions capable of with the meanness of not taking the hint, to re- misrepresentation ; but the open and broad path mind me in public of the fate which I owe to se- of the Constitution has uniformly been mine. I cret advice. When that hour comes—and it never was the tool of any junto. I accepted of may not be very distant—that shall dismiss me office at the obvious inclination of this House; I from the service of the public, the right honora- shall not hold it a moment after the least hint ble gentleman's example of lingering in office from them to resume a private station. after the voice of the nation was that he should The right honorable gentleman is, however, quit it, shall not be mine. I did not come in by grasping at place on very different Mt. Pitt's kita the fiat of Majesty, though by this fiat I am not grounds. He is not called to it by in a minister on unwilling to go out. I ever stood, and wish now a majority of this House; but, in de- such greanda. and always to stand on public ground alone. Ifiance of that majority, stands forth the advocate have too much pride ever to owe any thing to and candidate for secret influence. How will he secret influence. I trust in God this country has reconcile a conduct thus preposterous to the Contoo much spirit not to spurn and punish the minstitution with those principles for which he has ister that does !
pledged himself to the people of England ? By It is impossible to overlook or not to be sur-what motives can he be thus blind to a system Mr. Pitt's ea.
prised at the extreme eagerness of the which so flatly and explicitly gives the lie to all gemess on the right honorable gentleman about our his former professions? Will secret influence
places, when twenty-four hours, at conciliate that confidence to which his talents, most, would give him full satisfaction. Is it that connections, and principles entitle him, but which some new information may be requisite to finish the aspect under which he must now appear a system thus honorably begun ? Or is the right to an indignant and insulted public effectually honorable gentleman's youth the only account bars his claim? Will secret influence unite this which can be given of that strange precipitancy House in the adoption of measures which are not and anxiety which he betrays on this occasion ? his own, and to which he only gives the sancIt is, in my opinion, the best apology which cantion of his name to save them from contempt? be urged in his behalf. Generosity and unsus- Will secret influence draw along with it that af. pecting confidence are the usual disposition of section and cordiality from all ranks without this tender period. The friends of the right hon- which the movements of government must be
absolutely at a stand? Or, is he weak and vio. This refers to Mr. Pitt's continuing for a time lent enough to imagine that his Majesty's mere in office the year before, when Lord Shelburne, to nomination will singly weigh against the consti. whose ministry he belonged, was defeated.
tutional influence of all these considerations ?
For my own part, it has been always my opinion When I say in what manner and to what ends that this country can labor under no greater mis- the wisdom and experience of our an- Respect due fortune than a ministry without strength and sta- cestors have thus directed the exercise to the King. bility. The tone of government will never re- of all the royal prerogatives, let me not be uncover so as to establish either domestic harmony derstood as meaning in any degree to detract or foreign respect, without a permanent admin- from those dutiful regards which all of us owe, istration ; and whoever knows any thing of the as good citizens and loyal subjects, to the prince Constitution, and the present state of parties who at present fills the British throne. No man among us, must be sensible that this great bless- venerates him more than I do, for his personal ing is only and substantially to be obtained and and domestic virtues. I love him as I love the realized in connection with public confidence. It Constitution, for the glorious and successful elis undoubtedly the prerogative of the Sovereign forts of his illustrious ancestors in giving it form to choose his own servants; but the Constitution and permanency. The patriotism of these great provides that these servants shall not be obnox- and good men must endear, to every lover of his ious to his subjects by rendering all their exer- country, their latest posterity. The King of Entions, thus circumstanced, abortive and imprac- gland can never lose the esteem of his people, ticable. The right honorable gentleman had, while they remember with gratitude the many therefore, better consider how much he risks by obligations which they owe to his illustrious famjoining an arrangement thus hostile to the inter- ily. Nor can I wish him a greater blessing than ests of the people ; that they will never consent that he may reign in the hearts of his subjects, to be governed by secret influence; and that all and that their confidence in his government may the weight of his private character, all his elo- be as hearty and sincere as their affection for his quence and popularity, will never render the mid- person. night and despotic mandates of an interior cabinet acceptable to Englishmen.
The motion was carried by a majority of 73.
SPEECH OF MR. FOX ON THE WESTMINSTER SCRUTINY, DELIVERED IN THE HOUSE OF COMMONS,
JUNE 8, 1784.
INTRODUCTION. The leading facts respecting the Middlesex election of 1784 have already been given in the sketch of Mr. Fox's life. His contest with Sir Cecil Wray lasted forty days, and when the polls were closed there was a majority for Mr. Fox of two hundred and thirty-five votes.
Great care had been taken throughout the contest to prevent false voting. At the suggestion of Lord Mahon, acting for Sir Cecil Wray, it was agreed, before opening the polls, that eleven inspectors and five friends should be constantly present on each side; and that whenever a person was challenged, his case should be reserved, and no vote allowed him until his claims were thoroughly investigated. A large part of Mr. Fox's votes were subjected to this test, and toward the close of the polls hardly one was received “ without an appeal to the presiding officer, and a decision that such vote was good.” Some of these decisions may have been hasty, but after such an arrangement Sir Cecil Wray ought to have acquiesced : to dispate the vote was unfair and uncandid in the extreme. But he did dispute it. Before the result was declared, he delivered to the presiding officer, Thomas Corbett, High Bailiff of Westminster, a list of bad votes which had been polled, as he aflirmed, by Mr. Fox, and demanded a scrutiny, or re-examination of the entire poll. This was granted by Mr. Corbett on the 17th of May, 1784, when, by the writ under which he acted, he was bound to return two members for Westminster on the 18th, being the next day! Two questions, therefore, arose ; first, whether a scrutiny into an election so conducted could be fairly and properly demanded; and, secondly, whether the presiding officer had a legal right to grant a scrutiny which ran beyond the time prescribed in his writ.
Parliament met May 18th, 1784, and Mr. Fox, who had been returned by a friend as member for Kirkwall, in the Orkneys, took his seat for that borough. Within a few days, the subject was brought before the House. Mr. Corbett appeared at the bar, and read a long paper in defense of his conduct. Witnesses were examined, counsel were heard on both sides, and the subject was discussed in the House, from time to time, under various aspects.
On the 8th of June, Mr. Wellbore Ellis offered the following resolution : "That it appearing to the House that Thomas Corbett, Esquire, bailiff of the Liberty of the City of Westminster, having received a precept from the Sheriff of Middlesex for electing two citizens to serve in Parliament for the said city; and hav. ing taken and finally closed the poll on the 17th day of May last, being the day next before the day for the return of the said writ, he be now directed forthwith to make return of his precept, and the names of mem. bers chosen in pursuance thereof.” During the debate which followed Mr. Fox delivered the following speech, in which,
* Parliamentary History, xxiv.,
I. He examines the evidence by which Mr. Corbett had endeavored to justify his granting the scrutiny. II. He discusses the question of law in respect to such a measure.
III. He enters into remarks of a more general nature respecting the authors of this scrutiny, the expense it involved, the alternative suggested of issuing a writ for a new election; and repels the intimation of Mr. Pitt, that he "ought not again to disturb the peace of the city of Westminster!"
A circumstance occurred at the commencement of the speech which turned greatly to the advantage of Mr. Fox. He began by complaining of a want of courtesy in the mode of carrying on the debate, and added, " But I have no reason to expect indulgence, nor do I know that I shall meet with bare justice in this House." Murmurs of disapprobation broke forth from a large part of the House, in which the minister had an overwhelming majority. Mr. Fox was at once roased to the utmost. His ordinary embarrassment and hesitation in commencing a speech instantly passed away. He repeated the words; he challenged his opponents to make a motion for taking them down with a view to his being censured; he referred to Mr. Grenville's bill in proof that the House was considered as peculiarly liable to act unjustly in such cases; he turned upon Lord Mulgrave, Lord Mahon, and Lord Kenyon, who had just spoken, commenting in the severest terms on the treatment they had shown him, and affirming that he might reasonably object to them as judges to decide in his cause; and repeated, for the fourth time, “ I have no reason to expect indulgence, nor do I know that I shall meet with bare justice in this House.” Never was a great assembly more completely subdued. From that moment, he was heard with the utmost respect and attention. He had remarked, in going to the House, that this would be one of the best speeches he ever made. It proved so; and if the subject had been equal to his manner of treating it, embracing great national interests, instead of the details of a contested election, roused to the utmost as he was, he would probably have made it the greatest speech he ever delivered.
SPEECH, & c. Mr. SPEAKER,—Before I enter upon the con- sprung from it, the dispositions which have been sideration of this question, I can not help express- manifested in particular classes of men, all coning my surprise, that those who sit over against cur to justify the terms I have adopted, and to me [the ministry) should have been hitherto si establish the truth of what I have asserted. lent in this debate. Common candor might have If the declaration I have made had happened taught them to urge whatever objections they not to have been supported by the occurrences I have to urge against the motion of my honora- allude to, the very consideration of Mr. Grenble friend (Mr. Ellis) before this time; because, ville's bill is of itself sufficient to vindicate what in that case, I should have had an opportunity of I have said. That bill, sir, originated in a bereplying to their arguments; and sure it would lief that this House, in the aggregate, was an have been fair to allow me the slight favor of unfit tribunal to decide upon contested elections. being the last speaker upon such a subject. But, It viewed this House, as every popular assemsir, I have no reason to expect indulgence, nor bly should be viewed, as a mass of men capable do I know that I shall meet with bare justice in of political dislike and personal aversion ; capathis House. Sir, I say that I have no reason to ble of too much attachment and too much aniexpect indulgence, nor do I know that I shall mosity; capable of being biased by weak and meet with bare justice in this House.3
by wicked motives; liable to be governed by Mr. Speaker, there is a regular mode of check- ministerial influence, by caprice, and by corruping any member of this House for using improp- tion. Mr. Grenville's bill viewed this House as er words in a debate; and that is, to move to endued with these capacities; and judging it have the improper words taken down by the therefore incapable of determining upon controClerk, for the purpose of censuring the person verted elections with impartiality, with justice, who has spoke them. If I have said any thing and with equity, it deprived it of the means of unfit for this House to hear, or me to utter—if mischief, and formed a judicature as complete any gentleman is offended by any thing that fell and ample perhaps as human skill can consti. from me, and has sense enough to point out and tute. That I am debarred the benefits of that spirit to correct that offense, he will adopt that celebrated bill is clear beyond all doubt, and parliamentary and gentleman-like mode of con- thrown entirely upon the mercy, or, if you please, duct; and that he may have an opportunity of upon the wisdom of this House. Inles then, doing so, I again repeat, that I have no reason we are to suppose that human nature is totally to expect INDULGENCE, nor do I know that I shall altered within a few months—unless we can be meet with BARE JUSTICE in this House.
so grossly credulous as to imagine that the presSir, I am warranted in the use of these words, by events and authorities that leave little to be 4 Mr. Grenville's bill enacted that the persons to doubted and little to be questioned. The treat- try disputed elections shall be drawn out of a glass ment this business has received within these to the number of forty-nine; that the parties in the walls, the extraordinary proceedings which have dispate shall strike from these names alternately
without assigning any reason until they reduce the * Expressions of disapprobation from the ministe number to thirteen; that these thirteen shall be gov. rial side of the House.
erned by positive law, and sworn upon oath to ad3 Expressions of disapprobation repeated. minister strict justice.
ent is purged of all the frailties of former Parlia- | very respectable and learned profession, has ments-unless I am to surrender my understand raised himself to considerable eminence; a per. ing, and blind myself to the extraordinary con- son who fills one of the first seats of justice in duct of this House, in this extraordinary business, this kingdom, and who has long discharged the for the last fortnight-I may say, and say with functions of a judge in an inferior but very hontruth," that I expect no indulgence, nor do I know orable situation. This person, sir, has
this that I shall meet with bare justice in the House."' day professed and paraded much upon the im
There are in this House, sir, many persons to partiality with which he should discharge his whom I might, upon every principle of equity, conscience in his judicial capacity as a member fairness, and reason, object as judges to decide of Parliament in my cause.
Yet this very perupon my cause, not merely from their acknowlson, insensible to the rank he maintains, or should edged enmity to me, to my friends, and to my maintain in this country, abandoning the gravity politics, but from their particular conduct upon of his character as a member of the Senate, and this particular occasion. To a noble Lord (Lord losing sight of the sanctity of his station, both in Mulgrave) who spoke early in this debate, I this House and out of it, even in the very act of might rightly object as a judge to try me, who, delivering a judicial sentence, descends to minute from the fullness of his prejudice to me and pred- and mean allusions to former politics—comes ilection for my opponents, asserts things in di. here stored with the intrigues of past times, and rect defiance of the evidence which has been instead of the venerable language of a good judge given at your bar. The noble Lord repeats and a great lawyer, attempts to entertain the again that “tricks" were used at my side in the House by quoting, or by misquoting, words supelection, although he very properly omits the posed to have been spoken by me in the heat of epithet which preceded that term when he used former debates, and in the violence of contending it in a former debate. But does it appear in parties, when my noble friend (Lord North) and evidence that any tricks were practiced on my I opposed each other. This demure gentleman, part? Not a word. Against him, therefore, sir, this great lawyer, this judge of law, and equiwho, in the teeth of the depositions on your ta- ty, and constitution, also enlightens this subject, ble, is prompted by his enmity toward me to instructs and delights his hearers, by reviving maintain what the evidence (the ground this this necessary intelligence, that when I had the House is supposed to go upon) absolutely de honor of first sitting in this House for Midhurst, I nies, I might object with in ite propriety as a was not full twenty-one years of age ! And all judge in this cause.
this he does for the honorable purpose of sanctiThere is another judge, sir, to whom I might fying the High Bailiff of Westminster in defraudobject with greater reason is possible than to ing the electors of their representation in this the last. A person evidently interested in in- House, and robbing me of the honor of asserting creasing the numbers of my adversaries upon and confirming their right by sitting as their the poll, but who has relinquished his right as representative! Against him, therefore, sir, and an elector of Westminster, that his voting may against men like him, I might justly object as a not disqualify him from being a judge upon the judge or as judges to try my cause; and it is committee to decide this contest. A person too, with perfect truth I once more repeat, that I sir, who in the late election scrupled not to act have no reason to expect indulgence, nor do I know as an agent, an avowed, and indeed an active that I shall meet with bare justice in this House.” agent, to my opponents. Is there any interrup- Sir, I understand that the learned gentleman tion, sir? I hope not. I am but stating a known I have just alluded to (I was not in the House fact, that a person who is to pronounce a judg- during the first part of his speech) has insinua. ment this night in this cause, avoided to exercise ted that I have no right to be present during this one of the most valuable franchises of a British discussion, and that hearing me is an indulgence. citizen, only that he might be a nominee for my Against the principle of that assertion, sir, and adversaries ; concluding that his industry upon against every syllable of it, I beg leave, in the the committee would be of more advantage to most express terms, directly to protest. I maintheir cause than a solitary vote at the election. tain, that I not only have a right to speak, but This, sir, I conceive would be a sufficient objec- a positive and clear right to vote upon this oction to him as a judge to try me.
casion; and I assure the House that nothing but A third person there is (Mr., afterward Lord the declaration I have made in the first stage of Kenyon) whom I might in reason challenge up this business should prevent me from doing so. on this occasion. A person of a sober demean. As to myself, if I were the only person to be or, who, with great diligence and exertion in a aggrieved by this proceeding, if the mischief of
it extended not beyond me, I should rest thor5 Here Lord Mahon started up in much agitation, oughly and completely satisfied with the great and exposed himself to the House as the person and brilliant display of knowledge and abilities alladed to. He appeared inclined to call Mr. Fox to order, but his friends prevented bin. His Lord which have been exhibited by the learned genship, as already stated, was an avowed and active tlemen (Mr. Erskine and others), who appeared agent of Sir Cecil Wray during the election, and had been placed by bis nomination on the joint com
6 We have, in this enumeration of qualities, one mittee selected by the two parties to conduct the of those side-blows so common with Mr. Fox, as he scrutiny.
is pressing forward to his main point.