Page images

cated, I think that argument very inconclusive. I lute, imperious manner, and most tamely and The right claimed by Spain to search our ships abjectly received by the ministers of England. is one thing, and the excesses admitted to have Can any verbal distinctions, any evasions what. been committed in consequence of this pretend- ever, possibly explain away this public infamy? ed right is another. But surely, sir, to reason To whom would we disguise it? To ourselves from inference and implication only, is below the and to the nation! I wish we could hide it from dignity of your proceedings upon a right of this the eyes of every court in Europe. They see vast importance. What this reparation is, what that Spain has talked to you like your master. sort of composition for your losses forced upon They see this arbitrary fundamental condition you by Spain, in an instance that has come to standing forth with a pre-eminence of shame, as light, where your own commissaries could not in

a part of this very Convention. conscience decide against your claim, has fully This Convention, sir, I think from my soul, is appeared upon examination; and as for the pay- nothing but a stipulation for national ignominy; ment of the sum stipulated (all but seven-and- an illusory expedient to baflle the resentment of twenty thousand pounds, and that, too, subject to the nation ; a truce, without a suspension of hosa drawback), it is evidently a fallacious nominal tilities, on the part of Spain; on the part of Enpayment only. I will not attempt to enter into gland, a suspension, as to Georgia, of the first the detail of a dark, confused, and scarcely in law of nature, self-preservation and self-defense ; telligible account; I will only beg leave to con- a surrender of the rights and trade of England clude with one word upon it, in the light of a to the mercy of plenipotentiaries, and, in this insubmission as well as of an adequate reparation. finitely highest and most sacred point-future Spain stipulates to pay to the Crown of England security-not only inadequate, but directly reninety-five thousand pounds ; by a preliminary pugnant to the resolutions of Parliament and the protest of the King of Spain, the South Sea Com- gracious promise from the Throne.

The company is at once to pay sixty-eight thousand of plaints of your despairing merchants, and the it: if they refuse, Spain, I admit, is still to pay voice of England, have condemned it. Be the the ninety-five thousand pounds; but how does guilt of it upon the head of the adviser : God it stand then? The Assiento Contract is to be forbid that this committee should share the guilt suspended. You are to purchase this sum at by approving it! the price of an exclusive trade, pursuant to a national treaty, and of an immense debt of God The motion was carried by a very small ma. knows how many hundred thousand pounds, due jority, the vote being 260 to 232. Mr. Burke's from Spain to the South Sea Company. Here, statement respecting the merits of this question, sir, is the submission of Spain by the payment of as it afterward appeared, even to those who took a stipulated sum ; a tax laid upon subjects of the most active part against the Convention, may England, under the severest penalties, with the be found in his Regicide Peace. Whether Lord reciprocal accord of an English minister as a Chatham was one of the persons referred to by preliminary that the Convention may be signed; Mr. Burke as having changed their views, does a condition imposed by Spain in the most abso- not appear, but it is rather presumed not.



INTRODUCTION. War was declared against Spain in October, 1739, and it soon became extremely difficult to man the British fleets. Hence a bill was brought forward by Sir Charles Wager, in January, 1741, conferring aathority on Justices of the Peace to issue search warrants, under wbich constables might enter private dwellings either by day or by night-and, if need be, might force the doors—for the purpose of discovering seamen, and impressing them into the public service. So gross an act of injustice awakened the indig. nation of Mr. Pitt, who poured out the following invective against the measure, and those who were en. dearoring to force it on the House.

SPEECH, &c. S18,—The two honorable and learned gentle- | make them wholly so. Will this increase your men' who spoke in favor of this clause, were number of seamen? or will it make those you pleased to show that our seamen are half slaves have more willing to serve you? Can you expect already, and now they modestly desire you should that any man will make himself a slave if he can

· The Attorney and Solicitor General, Sir Dudley avoid it? Can you expect that any man will Ryder and Sir Jobu Strange. The former was sub. breed his child up to be a slave ? sequently Lord Chief Justice of the King's Bench, pect that seamen will venture their lives or their and the latter Master of the Rolls.

limbs for a country that has made them slaves ?

Can you ex



or can you expect that any seaman will stay in of you, gentlemen, allow this law to be executed the country, if he can by any means make his in its full extent ? If, at midnight, a petiy conescape ? Sir, if you pass this law, you must, in stable, with a press-gang, should come thundermy opinion, do with your seamen as they do ing at the gates of your house in the country, with their galley-slaves in France-you must and should tell you he had a search-warrant, chain them to their ships, or chain them in and must search your house for seamen, would couples when they are ashore. But suppose you at that time of night allow your gates to be this should both increase the number of your opened? I protest I would not. What, then, seamen, and render them more willing to serve would be the consequence? He has by this law you, it will render them incapable. It is a a power to break them open. Would any of common observation, that when a man becomes you patiently submit to such an indignity ? a slave, he loses half his virtue. What will it Would not you fire upon him, if he attempted to signify to have your ships all manned to their break open your gates ? I declare I would, let full complement? Your men will have neither the consequence be never so fatal; and if you the courage nor the temptation to fight; they happened to be in the bad graces of a minister, will strike to the first enemy that attacks them, the consequence would be your being either killbecause their condition can not be made worse ed in the fray, or hanged for killing the constaby a surrender. Our seamen have always been ble or some of his gang. This, sir, may be the famous for a matchless alacrity and intrepidity case of even some of us here; and, upon my in time of danger; this has saved many a Brit- honor, I do not think it an exaggeration to supish ship, when other seamen would have run be- pose it may. low deck, and left the ship to the mercy of the The honorable gentlemen say no other remedy waves, or, perhaps, of a more cruel enemy, a pi- has been proposed. Sir, there have been several

For God's sake, sir, let us not, by our other remedies proposed. Let us go into a comnew projects, put our seamen into such a condi- mittee to consider of what has been, or may be tion as must soon make them worse than the proposed. Suppose no other remedy should be cowardly slaves of France or Spain.

offered : to tell us we must take this, because no The learned gentlemen were next pleased to other remedy can be thought of, is the same show us that the government were already pos- with a physician's telling his patient, Sir, there sessed of such a power as is now desired. And is no known remedy for your distemper, therehow did they show it? Why, sir, by showing fore you shall take poison—I'll cram it down that this was the practice in the case of felony, your throat." I do not know how the nation and in the case of those who are as bad as selons, may treat its physicians ; but, I am sure, if my I mean those who rob the public, or dissipate physician told me so, I should order my servants the public money. Shall we, sir, put our brave to turn him out of doors. sailors upon the same footing with felons and Such desperate remedies, sir, are never to be public robbers ? Shall a brave, honest sailor be applied but in cases of the utmost extremity, treated as a felon, for no other reason but be- and how we come at present to be in such excause, after a long voyage, he has a mind to sol- tremity I can not comprehend. In the time of ace himself among his friends in the country, and Queen Elizabeth we were not thought to be in for that purpose absconds for a few weeks, in any such extremity, though we were then threatorder to prevent his being pressed upon a Spit- ened with the most formidable invasion that was head, or some such pacific expedition? For I ever prepared against this nation. In our wars dare answer for it, there is not a sailor in Brit- with the Dutch, a more formidable maritime ain but would immediately offer his services, if power than France and Spain now would be, if he thought his country in any real danger, or they were united against us, we were not supexpected to be sent upon an expedition where posed to be in any such extremity, either in the he might have a chance of gaining riches to time of the Commonwealth or of King Charles himself and glory to his country. I am really the Second. In King William's war against ashamed, sir, to hear such arguments made use France, when her naval power was vastly supe. of in any case where our seamen are concerned. rior to what it is at present, and when we had Can we expect that brave men will not resent more reason to be afraid of an invasion than we such treatment ? Could we expect they would can have at present, we were thought to be in stay with us, if we should make a law for treat- no such extremity. In Queen Anne's time, when ing them in such a contemptible manner ? we were engaged in a war both against France

But suppose, sir, we had no regard for our and Spain, and were obliged to make great lev. seamen, I hope we shall have some regard for ies yearly for the land service, no such remedy the rest of the people, and for ourselves in par. was ever thought of, except for one year only, ticular; for I think I do not in the least exag- and then it was found to be far from being esgerate when I say, we are laying a trap for the sectual. lives of all the men of spirit in the nation. This, sir, I am convinced, would be the case Whether the law, when made, is to be carried now, as well as it was then. It was at that into execution, I do not know; but if it is, we time computed that, by means of such a law as are laying a snare for our own lives. Every this, there were not above fourteen hundred sea. gentleman of this House must be supposed, 1 men brought into the service of the government; hope justly, to be a man of spirit. Would any and, considering the methods that have been already taken, and the reward proposed by this I shall be for leaving this clause out of the bill, bill to be offered to volunteers, I am convinced and every other clause relating to it. The bill that the most strict and general search would will be of some service without them; and when not bring in half the number. Shall we, then, we have passed it, we may then go into a comfor the sake of adding six or seven hundred, or mittee to consider of some lasting methods for even fourteen hundred seamen to his Majesty's increasing our stock of seamen, and for encournavy, expose our Constitution to so much dan- aging them upon all occasions to enter into bis ger, and every housekeeper in the kingdom to Majesty's service. the danger of being disturbed at all hours in the night?

In consequence of these remarks, all the clausBut suppose this law were to have a great es relating to search-warrants were ultimately effect, it can be called nothing but a temporary struck out of the bill. expedient, because it can in no way contribute It was during this debate that the famous al toward increasing the number of our seamen, or tercation took place between Mr. Pitt and Ho toward rendering them more willing to enter ratio Walpole, in which the latter endeavored to into his Majesty's service. It is an observation put down the young orator by representing him made by Bacon upon the laws passed in Henry as having too little experience to justify his disthe Seventh's reign, that all of them were cal-cussing sueh subjects, and charging him with culated for futurity as well as the present time.? petulancy of invective,'' pompous diction," This showed the wisdom of his councils; I wish and "theatrical emotion." The substance of I could say so of our present. We have for Mr. Pitt's reply was reported to Johnson, who some years thought of nothing but expedients wrote it out in his own language, forming one for getting rid of some present inconvenience by of the most bitter retorts in English oratory. running ourselves into a greater. The ease or It has been so long connected with the name of convenience of posterity was never less thought Mr. Pitt, that the reader would regret its omisof, I believe, than it has been of late years. I sion in this work. It is therefore given below, wish I could see an end of these temporary ex- not as a specimen of his style, which was exactpedients; for we have been pursuing them so ly the reverse of the sententious manner and ballong, that we have almost undone our country anced periods of Johnson, but as a general exand overturned our Constitution. Therefore, sir, | hibition of the sentiments which he expressed.


Sie,—The atrocious crime of being a young deserves not that his gray hairs should secure man, which the honorable gentleman has, with him from insult. Much more, sir, is he to be such spirit and decency, charged upon me, I abhorred, who, as he has advanced in age, has shall neither attempt to palliate nor deny, but receded from virtue, and becomes more wicked content myself with wishing that I may be one with less temptation; who prostitutes himself

I of those whose follies may cease with their youth, for money which he can not enjoy, and spends and not of that number who are ignorant in spite the remains of his life in the ruin of his country. of experience. Whether youth can be imputed But youth, sir, is not my only crime; I have to any man as a reproach, I will not, sir, assume been accused of acting a theatrical part. A the province of determining ; but surely age may theatrical part may either imply some peculiar. become justly contemptible, is the opportunities ities of gesture, or a dissimulation of my real which it brings have passed away without im- sentiments, and an adoption of the opinions and provement, and vice appears to prevail when the language of another man. passions have subsided. The wretch who, after In the first sense, sir, the charge is too trifling haring seen the consequences of a thousand er- to be confuted, and deserves only to be mentionrors, continues still to blander, and whose age ed to be despised. I am at liberty, like every has only added obstinacy to stupidity, is surely other man, to use my own language ; and the object of either abhorrence or contempt, and though, perhaps, I may have some ambition to

please this gentleman, I shall not lay myself un7 Certainly bis (Henry the Seventh’s) times for der any restraint, nor very solicitously copy his good commonwealth's laws did excel, so as he may diction or his mien, however matured by age, or jastly be celebrated for the best lawgiver to this modeled by experience. If any man shall, by nation after King Edward the First; for his laws. charging me with theatrical behavior, imply that wboso marks them well, are deep, and not vulgar; I utter any sentiments but my own, I shall treat not made upon the spur of a particular occasion for the present, but out of providence for the future, to him as a calumniator and a villain ; nor shall make the estate of his people still more and more any protection shelter him from the treatment happy, after the manner of the legislators in ancient he deserves. I shall, on such an occasion, withand heroical times.”—Bacon's Works, vol. iii., p. out scruple, trample upon all those forms with 233, edition 1834.

which wealth and dignity intrench themselves. F


nor shall any thing but age restrain my resent. thus :] Sir, if this be to preserve order, there is ment-age, which always brings one privilege, no danger of indecency from the most licentious that of being insolent and supercilious without tongues. For what calumny can be more atropunishment. But with regard, sir, to those cious, what reproach more severe, than that of whom I have offended, I am of opinion, that if I speaking with regard to any thing but truth. had acted a borrowed part, I should have avoid Order may sometimes be broken by passion or ed their censure. The heat that offended them inadvertency, but will hardly be re-established is the ardor of conviction, and that zeal for the by a monitor like this, who can not govern his service of my country which neither hope nor own passions while he is restraining the impetufear shall influence me to suppress. I will not osity of others. sit unconcerned while my liberty is invaded, nor Happy would it be for mankind if every one look in silence upon public robbery. I will ex- knew his own province. We should not then ert my endeavors, at whatever hazard, to repel see the same man at once a criminal and a judge; the aggressor, and drag the thief to justice, who- nor would this gentleman assume the right of ever may protect them in their villainy, and dictating to others what he has not learned himwhoever may partake of their plunder. And if self. the honorable gentleman

That I may return in some degree the favor [At this point Mr. Pitt was called to order by he intends me, I will advise him never hereafter Mr. Wynnington, who went on to say, “No di- to exert himself on the subject of order ; but versity of opinion can justify the violation of de whenever he feels inclined to speak on such oc. cency, and the use of rude and virulent express casions, to remember how he has now succeedsions, dictated only by resentment, and uttered ed, and condemn in silence what his censures without regard to"

will never amend. Here Mr. Pitt called to order, and proceeded





INTRODUCTION. Sir Robebt WALPOLE was driven from power on the 11th of February, 1742. So greatly were the public excited against him, that the cry of “ blood” was heard from every quarter; and a motion was made by Lord Limerick, on the 9th of March, 1742, for a committee “to inquire into the conduct of affairs at home and abroad during the last twenty years." This, of course, gave the widest scope for arraigaing the conduct of the ex-minister; while, at the same time, no specific charges were requisite, because the question was simply on an inquiry, which was expected to develop the evidence of his guilt.

This motion was strongly opposed by Walpole's friends, and especially by Mr. Henry Pelham, who remarked, in allusion to one of the preceding speakers, that "it would very much shorten the debate if gentlenen would keep close to the argument, and not run into long barangues or flowers of rhetoric, which might be introduced upon any other subject as well as the present.” Mr. Pitt followed, and took his exordium from this sarcasm of Mr. Pelham. He then went fully, and with great severity of remark, into a review of the most important measures of Walpole's administration. This led him over the same ground which had been previously traversed by Walpole, in bis defense against the attack of Mr. Sandys and others about a year before. The reader will therefore find it interesting to compare this speech on the several points, as they come up, with that of Walpole, which is given on a preceding page. He will there see some points explained in the notes, by means of evidence which was not accessible to the public at the time of this discussion.

SPEECH, &c. What the gentlemen on the other side mean pid sergeant-at-law that ever spoke for a hallby long harangues or flowers of rhetoric, I shall guinea fee. For my part, I have heard nothing not pretend to determine. But if they make use in favor of the question but what I think very of nothing of the kind, it is no very good argu- proper, and very much to the purpose. What ment of their sincerity, because a man who has been said, indeed, on the other side of the speaks from his heart, and is sincerely affected question, especially the long justification that with the subject upon which he speaks (as every has been made of our late measures, I can not honest man must be when he speaks in the cause think so proper ; because this motion is founded of his country), such a man, I say, falls natu- upon the present melancholy situation of affairs, rally into expressions which may be called flow- and upon the general clamor without doors, ers of rhetoric; and, therefore, deserves as little against the conduct of our late public servants. to be charged with affectation, as the most stu- Either of these, with me, shall always be a suffi


cient reason for agreeing to a parliamentary in der to detect those practices, if any such existquiry; because, without such inquiry, I can not, 1 ed, and to find proper evidence for convicting even in my own mind, enter into the disquisition the offenders. The same argument holds with whetber our public measures have been right or regard to the inquiry into the management of not; without such inquiry, I can not be furnished the South Sea Company in the year 1721.3 with the necessary information.

When that affair was first moved in the House But the honorable gentlemen who oppose this by Mr. Neville, he did not, he could not, charge motion seem to mistake, I do not say willfully, the directors of that company, or any of them, the difference between a motion for an impeach with any particular delinquencies ; nor did he ment and a motion for an inquiry. If any mem- attempt to offer, or say that he was ready to offer, ber of this House were to stand up in his place, any particular proofs. His motion was, " That and move to impeach a minister, he would be the directors of the South Sea Company should obliged to charge him with some particular forthwith lay before the House an account of crimes or misdemeanors, and produce some their proceedings,” and it was founded upon the proof, or declare that he was ready to prove the general circumstances of things, the distress facts. But any gentleman may move for an in- brought upon the public credit of the nation, and quiry, without any particular allegation, and the general and loud complaints without doors. without offering any proof, or declaring what he This motion, indeed, reasonable as it was, we is ready to prove ; because the very design of know was opposed by the Court party at the an inquiry is to find ont particular facts and par- time, and, in particular, by two doughty brothticular proofs. The general circumstances of ers,who have been attached to the Court ever things, or general rumors without doors, are a since; but their opposition raised such a warmth sulficient foundation for such a motion, and for in the House, that they were glad to give it up, the House agreeing to it when it is made. This, and never after durst directly oppose that insir, has always been the practice, and has been quiry. I wish I could now see the same zeal the foundation of almost all the inquiries that for public justice. The circumstances of affairs have ever been set on foot in this Honse, espe- I am sure deserve it. Our public credit was cially those that have been carried on by secret then, indeed, brought into distress; but now the and select committees. What other foundation nation itself, nay, not only this nation, but all was there for the secret committee appointed in our friends upon the Continent, are brought into the year 1694 (to go no further back), to inquire the most imminent danger. into, and inspect the books and accounts of the This, sir, is admitted even by those who opEast India Company, and of the Chamberlain of pose this motion; and if they have ever lately London ?! Nothing but a general rumor that conversed with those that dare speak their minds, some corrupt practices had been made use of. they must admit, that the murmurs of the peoWhat was the foundation of the inquiry in the ple against the conduct of the administration are year 1715 ?? Did the honorable gentleman who now as general and as loud as ever they were moved the appointment of the secret committee upon any occasion. But the misfortune is, that upon the latter occasion, charge the previous gentlemen who are in office seldom converse with administration with any particular crimes? Did any but such as either are, or want to be, in oflice; he offer any proofs, or declare that he was ready and such men, let them think as they will, will alto prove any thing? It is said, the measures ways applaud their superiors; consequently, genpursued by that administration were condemned tlemen who are in the administration, or in any by a great majority of the House of Commons. office under it, can rarely know the voice of the What, sir! were those ministers condemned be- people. The voice of this House was formerly, fore they were heard? Could any gentleman I grant, and always ought to be, the voice of the be so unjust as to pass sentence, even in his own people. Il new Parliaments were more fremind, upon a measure before he had inquired quent, and few placemen, and no pensioners, adinto it? He might, perhaps, dislike the Treaty mitted, it would be so still ; but if long Parliaof Utrecht, but, upon inquiry, it might appear ments be continued, and a corrupt influence to be the best that could be obtained; and it should prevail, not only at elections, but in this has since been so far justified, that it appears House, the voice of this House will generally be at least as good, if not better, than any treaty very different from, nay, often directly contrary we have subsequently made.

to, the voice of the people. However, as this Sir, it was not the Treaty of Utrecht, nor any is not, I believe, the case at present, I hope measure openly pursued by the administration there is a majority of us who know what is the which negotiated it, that was the foundation or voice of the people. And if it be admitted by the cause of an inquiry into their conduct. It all that the nation is at present in the utmost was the loud complaints of a great party against distress and danger, if it be admitted by a mathem ; and the general suspicion of their having jority that the voice of the people is loud against carried on treasonable negotiations in favor of the conduct of our late administration, this mothe Pretender, and for defeating the Protestant tion niust be agreed to, because I have shown succession. The inquiry was set on foot in or- that these two circumstances, without any par

See Parl. Hist., vol. v., p. 896 and 900. ? Ibid., vol. vii., p. 53.

3 Ibid., p. 685.
4 Sir Robert and Mr. Horatio Walpole.

« PreviousContinue »