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ticular charge, have been the foundation of al- | false in fact, and contrary to experience. We most every parliamentary inquiry.
have had many parliamentary inquiries into the I readily admit, sir, that we have very little conduct of ministers of state ; and yet I defy any to do with the character or reputation of a min- one to show that any state affair which ought to ister, but as it always does, and must affect our have been concealed was thereby discovered, or sovereign. But the people may become disaf- that our affairs, either abroad or at home, ever fected as well as discontented, when they find suffered by any such discovery. There are the King continues obstinately to employ a min- methods, sir, of preventing papers of a very seister who, they think, oppresses them at home cret nature from coming into the hands of the and betrays them abroad. We are, therefore, servants attending, or even of all the members in duty to our sovereign, obliged to inquire into of a secret committee. If his Majesty should, the conduct of a minister when it becomes gen- by message, inform us, that some of the papers erally suspected by the people, in order that we sealed up and laid before us required the utmost may vindicate his character if he be innocent of secrecy, we might refer them to our committee, the charges brought against him, or, if he be instructing them to order only two or three of guilty, that we may obtain his removal from the their number to inspect such papers, and to recouncils of our sovereign, and also condign pun- port from them nothing but what they thought ishment on his crimes.
might safely be communicated to the whole. After having said thus much, sir, I need scarce- By this method, I presume, the danger of disly answer what has been asserted, that no par-covery would be effectually removed; this danliamentary inquiry ought ever to be instituted, ger, therefore, is no good argument against a unless we are convinced that something has parliamentary inquiry. been done amiss. Sir, the very name given to The other objection, sir, is really surprising, this House of Parliament proves the contrary because it is founded upon a circumstance which, We are called The Grand Inquest of the Nation; in all former times, has been admitted as a and, as such, it is our duty to inquire into every strong argument in favor of an immediate instep of public management, both abroad and at quiry. The honorable gentlemen are so ingenhome, in order to see that nothing has been done uous as to confess that our affairs, both abroad amiss. It is not necessary, upon every occasion, and at home, are at present in the utmost emto establish a secret committee. This is never barrassment; but, say they, you ought to free necessary but when the affairs to be brought be- yourselves from this embarrassment before you fore it, or some of those affairs, are supposed to inquire into the cause of it. Sir, according to be of such a nature as to require secrecy. But, this way of arguing, a minister who has plunas experience has shown that nothing but a su- dered and betrayed his country, and fears being perficial inquiry is ever made by a general com- called to an account in Parliament, has nothing mittee, or a committee of the whole House, I to do but to involve his country in a dangerous wish that all estimates and accounts, and many war, or some other great distress, in order to other affairs, were respectively referred to select prevent an inquiry into his conduct; because he committees. Their inquiries would be more ex- may be dead before that war is at an end, or act, and the receiving of their reports would not that distress is surmounted. Thus, like the most occupy so much of our time as is represented. detestable of all thieves, after plundering the But, if it did, our duty being to make strict in-house, he has only to set it on fire, that he may quiries into every thing relative to the public, escape in the confusion. It is really astonishing our assembling here being for that purpose, we to hear such an argument seriously urged in this must perform our duty before we break up; and House. But, say these gentlemen, if you found his present Majesty, I am sure, will never put yourself upon a precipice, would you stand to an end to any session till that duty has been fully inquire how you were led there, before you conperformed.
sidered how to get off? No, sir ; but if a guide It is said by some gentlemen, that by this in- had led me there, I should very probably be proquiry we shall be in danger of discovering the voked to throw him over, before I thought of any secrets of our government to our enemies. This thing else. At least I am sure I should not argument, sir, by proving too much, proves noth-trust to the same guide for bringing me off; and ing. If it were admitted, it would always have this, sir, is the strongest argument that can be been, and its admission forever will be, an argu- used for an inquiry. ment against our inquiring into any affair in We have been, for these twenty years, under which our government can be supposed to be the guidance, I may truly say, of one man-of concerned. Our inquiries would then be con- one single minister. We now, at last, find ourfined to the conduct of our little companies, or selves upon a dangerous precipice. Ought we of inferior custom-house officers and excisemen; not, then, immediately to inquire, whether we for, if we should presume to inquire into the con- have been led upon this precipice by his ignoduct of commissioners or of great companies, it rance or wickedness; and if by either, to take would be said the government had a concern in care not to trust to his guidance for our safety ? their conduct, and the secrets of government This is an additional and a stronger argument must not be divulged. Every gentleman must for this inquiry than ever was urged for any forsee that this would be the consequence of ad- mer one, for, if we do not inquire, we shall probmitting such an argument. But, besides, it is ably remain under his guidance; because, though he be removed from the Treasury Board, he is | ions had been distributed among the poor sort of not removed from the King's Court, nor will he annuitants, it would have been both generous be, probably, unless it be by our advice, or un- and charitable ; but to give it among the propriless we lodge him in a place at the other end of etors in general was neither generous nor just, the town [i. e., the Tower), where he can not so because most of them deserved no favor from well injure his country. Sir, our distress at the public. As the proceedings of the directors home evidently proceeds from want of economy, were authorized by general courts, those who and from our having incurred many unnecessary were then the proprietors were in some measure expenses. Our distress and danger abroad are accessary to the frauds of the directors, and evidently owing to the misconduct of the war therefore deserved to be punished rather than with Spain, and to the little confidence which our rewarded, as they really were; because every natural and ancient allies have reposed in our one of them who continued to hold stock in that councils. This is so evident, that I should not company received nearly fifty per cent., added think it necessary to enter into any particular to his capital, most part of which arose from the explanation, if an honorable gentleman on the high price annuitants were, by act of Parliament, other side had not attempted to justify most of obliged to take stock at, and was therefore a our late measures both abroad and at home. most flagrant piece of injustice done to the anBut as he has done so, though not, in my opin- nuitants. But we need not be at a loss for the ion, quite to the purpose of the present debate, true cause of this act of injustice, when we conI hope I shall be allowed to make some remarks sider that a certain gentleman had a great many upon what he has said on the subject; begin- friends among the old stockholders, and few or bing, as he did, with the measures taken for pun- none among the annuitants. ishing the South Sea directors, and restoring Another act of injustice, which I believe we public credit after the terrible shock it received may ascribe to the same cause, relates to those in the year 1720.
who were engaged in heavy contracts for stock As those measures, sir, were among the first or subscription, many of whom groan under the exploits of our late (I fear I must call him our load to this very day. For after we had, by act present) prime minister, and as the committee of Parliament, quite altered the nature, though proposed, if agreed to, will probably consist of not the name, of the stock they had bought, and one-and-twenty members, I wish the motion made it much less valuable than it was when had extended one year further back, that the they engaged to pay a high price for it, it was number of years might have corresponded with an act of public injustice to leave them liable to the number of inquirers, and that it might have be prosecuted at law for the whole money which comprehended the first of those measures to they had engaged to pay. I am sure this was which I have before alluded. As it now stands, not the method to restore that private credit upon it will not comprehend the methods taken for which our trade and navigation so much depend. punishing the directors (of the South Sea Com- Had the same regulation been here adopted pany), nor the first regulation made for restor- which was observed toward those who had bor. ing public credit; and with regard to both, some rowed money of the company, or had a sort of practices might be discovered that would de- uti possidetis been enacted, by declaring all such serve a much severer punishment than any of contracts void so far as related to any future those directors experienced. Considering the payments, this would not have been unjust; on many frauds made use of by the directors and the contrary, such a regulation, sir, was extheir agents for luring people to their ruin, I am tremely necessary for quieting the minds of the not a little surprised to hear it now said that people, for preventing their ruining one another their punishment was considered too severe. at law, and for restoring credit between man Justice by the lump was an epithet given to it, and man. But there is reason to suppose that not because it was thought too severe, but be- a certain gentleman (Walpole] had many
friends cause it was an artifice to screen the most hei- among the sellers in those contracts, and very nous offenders, who, if they did not deserve few among the buyers, which was the reason death, deserved, at least, to partake of that total that the latter could obtain little or no relief or roin which they had brought upon many un- mercy by any public law or regulation. thinking men. They very ill deserved, sir, those Then, sir, with regard to the extraordinary allowances which were made them by Parlia- grants made to the civil list, the very reason ment.
given by the honorable gentleman for justifying Then, sir, as to public credit, its speedy res- those grants is a strong reason for an immediate toration was founded upon the conduct of the inquiry. If considerable charges have arisen nation, and not upon the wisdom or justice of the upon that revenue, let us see what they are ; let measures adopted. Was it a wise method to re- us examine whether they were necessary.
We mit to the South Sea Company the whole seven have the more reason to do this, because the millions, or thereabouts, which they had solemn- revenue settled upon his late Majesty's civil list ly engaged to pay to the public ? It might as was at least as great as that which was settled well be said, that a private man's giving away upon King William or Queen Anne. Besides, a great part of his estate to those who no way there is a general rumor without doors, that the deserved it, would be a wise method of reviving civil list is now greatly in arrear, which, if true, or establishing his credit. If those seven mill. renders an inquiry absolutely necessary. For it is inconsistent with the honor and dignity of the ready heard one reason assigned why no other Crown of these kingdoms to be in arrear to its measures have been particularly mentioned and tradesmen and servants; and it is the duty of condemned in this debate. If it were necessary, this House to take care that the revenue which many others might be mentioned and condemnwe have settled for supporting the honor and ed. Is not the maintaining so numerous an army dignity of the Crown, shall not be squandered or in time of peace to be condemned? Is not the misapplied. If former Parliaments have failed fitting out so many expensive and useless squadin this respect, they must be censured, though rons to be condemned? Are not the encroachthey can not be punished; but we ought now to ments made upon the Sinking Fund;' the revivatone for their neglect.
ing the salt duty; the rejecting many useful bills I come now, in course, to the Excise Scheme, and motions in Parliament, and many other dowhich the honorable gentleman says ought to mestic measures, to be condemned? The weakbe forgiven, because it was easily given up." ness or the wickedness of these measures has Sir, it was not easily given up. The promoter osten been demonstrated. Their ill consequences of that scheme did not easily give it up; he were at the respective times foretold, and those gave it up with sorrow, with tears in his eyes, consequences are now become visible by our when he saw, and not until he saw, it was im- distress. possible to carry it through the House. Did not Now, sir, with regard to the foreign meashis majority decrease upon every division ? It ures which the honorable gentleman has attemptwas almost certain that if he had pushed it far- ed to justify. The Treaty of Hanover deserves ther, his majority would have turned against to be first mentioned, because from thence him. His sorrow showed his disappointment; springs the danger to which Europe is now exand his disappointment showed that his design posed; and it is impossible to assign a reason was deeper than simply to prevent frauds in the for our entering into that treaty, without supcustoms. He was, at that time, sensible of the posing that we then resolved to be revenged on influence of the excise laws and excise men with the Emperor for refusing to grant us some favor regard to elections, and of the great occasion in Germany. It is in vain now to insist upon he should have for that sort of influence at the the secret engagements entered into by the approaching general election. His attempt, sir, courts of Vienna and Madrid as the cause of was most flagrant against the Constitution; and that treaty. Time has fully shown that there he deserved the treatment he met with from the never were any such engagements, and his late people. It has been said that there were none but what gentlemen are pleased to call the mob
? In the year 1717, the surplus of the public inconcerned in burning him in effigy ;6 but, as the into what was called The Sinking Fund, for the
come over the public expenditure, was converted mob consists chiefly of children, journeymen, and purpose of liquidating the national debt. During servants, who speak the sentiments of their par- the whole reign of George I., this fund was invarients and masters, we may thence judge of the ably appropriated to the object for which it had sentiments of the higher classes of the people. been created ; and, rather than encroach upon it,
The honorable gentleman has said, these were money was borrowed upon new taxes, when the all the measures of a domestic nature that could supplies in general might have been raised by dedibe found fault with, because none other have cating the surplus of the old taxes to the current been mentioned in this debate. Sir, he has al- services of the year. The first direct encroachment Majesty's speech from the throne can not here afterward did in the most absolute manner, and be admitted as any evidence of the fact. Every without any conditions. We wanted nothing one knows that in Parliament the King's speech from Spain but a relinquishment of the pretense is considered as the speech of the minister; and she had just begun, or, I believe, hardly begun, surely a minister is not to be allowed to bring to set up, in an express manner, with regard to his own speech as an evidence of a fact in his searching and seizing our ships in the American own justification. If it be pretended that his seas; and this we did not obtain, perhaps did late Majesty had some sort of information, that not desire to obtain, by the Treaty of Seville.11 such engagements had been entered into, that By that treaty we obtained nothing ; but we advery pretense furnishes an unanswerable argu- vanced another step toward that danger in which ment for an inquiry. For, as the information Europe is now involved, by uniting the courts of now appears to have been groundless, we ought France and Spain, and by laying a foundation to inquire into it; because, if it appears to be for a new breach between the courts of Spain such information as ought not to have been be- and Vienna. lieved, that minister ought to be punished who I grant, sir, that our ministers appear to have advised his late Majesty to give credit to it, and been forward and diligent enough in negotiating, who, in consequence, has precipitated the nation and writing letters and memorials to the court into the most pernicious measures.
upon the Sinking Fund took place in the year 1729,
when the interest of a sum of £1,250,000, required 5 The Excise Scheme of Sir Robert Walpole was for the current service of the year, was charged on simply a warehousing system, under which the du- that fund, instead of any new taxes being imposed ties on tobacco and wine were payable, not when upon the people to meet it. The second encroachthe articles were imported, but when they were ment took place in the year 1731, when the income taken out to be consumed. It was computed, that, arising from certain duties which had been imposed in consequence of the check which this change in in the reign of William III., for paying the interest the mode of collecting the duties on these articles due to the East India Company, and which were would give to smuggling, the revenue would derive now no longer required for that purpose, in conse an increase which, with the continuance of the salt quence of their interest being reduced, was made tax (revived the preceding year), would be amply use of in order to raise a sum of £1,200,000, instead sufficient to compensate for the total abolition of of throwing such income into the Sinking Fund, as the land tax. The political opponents of Sir Rob ought properly to have been done. A third perverert Walpole, by representing his proposition as a sion of this fuud took place in the year 1733, before scheme for a general excise, succeeded in raising so the introduction of the Excise Scheme. In the previolent a clamor against it, and in rendering it so vious year the land tax had been reduced to one unpopular, that, much against his own inclination, he shilling in the pound; and, in order to maintain it was obliged to abandon it. It was subsequently at the same rate, the sum of £500,000 was taken approved of by Adam Smith; and Lord Chatham, at from the Sinking Fund and applied to the services of a later period of his life, candidly acknowledged, that the year. In 1734 the sum of £1,200,000, the whole his opposition to it was founded in misconception. produce of the Sinking Fand, was taken from it; and For an interesting account of the proceedings rela. in 1735 and 1736, it was anticipated and alienated.tive to the Excise Scheme, see Lord Hervey's Mem. Sinclair's Hist. of the Revenue, vol. i., p..484, et seq. oirs of the Court of George II., chaps. viii. and ix. Coxe's Walpole, chap. xl.
6 See Lord Hervey's Memoirs of the Court of 8 Here Lord Chatham was mistaken. It is now George II., vol. i., p. 203.
certainly known that secret engagements did exist,
of Spain; but, from all my inquiries, it appears At the time this treaty was entered into, we that they never rightly understood (perhaps they wanted nothing from the Emperor upon our own would not understand) the point respecting which account. The abolition of the Ostend Company they were negotiating. They suffered themwas a demand we had no right to make, nor was selves to be amused with fair promises for ten it essentially our interest to insist upon it, be- long years; and our merchants plundered, our cause that Company would have been more hos- trade interrupted, now call aloud for inquiry. tile to the interests both of the French and Dutch If it should appear that ministers allowed them. East India trades than to our own; and if it had selves to be amused with answers which no man been a point that concerned us much, we might of honor, no man of common sense, in such cirprobably have gained it by acceding to the Vien- cumstances, would take, surely, sir, they must na treaty between the Emperor and Spain, or by have had some secret motive for being thus guaranteeing the Pragmatic Sanction, which we grossly imposed on. This secret motive we may
perhaps discover by an inquiry; and as it must and there is no reason to doubt that the most im- be a wicked one, if it can be discovered, the portant of them were correctly stated by Walpole. They were said to have been to the effect, that the parties ought to be severely punished. Emperor should give in marriage his daughters, the
But, in excuse for their conduct, it is said that two arch-duchesses, to Don Carlos and Don Philip, our ministers had a laudable repugnance to inthe two Infants of Spain; that he should assist the volving their country in a war. Sir, this repugKing of Spain in obtaining by force the restitution nance could not proceed from any regard to of Gibraltar, if good offices would not avail; and their country. It was involved in a war. Spain that the two courts should adopt measures to place was carrying on a war against our trade, and the Pretender on the throne of Great Britain. The that in the most insulting manner, during the fact of there having been a secret treaty, was placed whole time of their negotiations. It was this beyond doubt by the Austrian embassador at the court of London having shown the article relating very repugnance, at least it was the knowledge to Gibraltar in that treaty, in order to clear the Em- of it which Spain possessed, that at length made peror of having promised any more than his good
10 By the second Treaty of Vienna, concluded on offices and mediation upon that head. (Coxe's His- the 16th of March, 1731, England guaranteed the tory of the House of Austria, chap. xxxvii.) With Pragmatic Sanction on the condition of the supreference to the stipulation for placing the Pretend. pression of the Ostend Company, and that the archer ou the throne of Great Britain, Mr. J. W. Croker, duchess who succeeded to the Austrian dominions in a note to Lord Hervey's Memoirs of the Court of should not be married to a prince of the house of George II., vol. i., p. 78, says that its existence “is Bourbon, or to a prince so powerful as to endanger very probable;" bat that it is observable that Lord the balance of Europe.-Coxe's House of Austria Hervey, who revised bis Memoirs some years after chap. Ixxxviii. . the 29th of March, 1734, when Sir Robert Walpole as- 11 By the Treaty of Seville, concluded between serted in the House of Commons that there was such Great Britain, France, and Spain, on the 9th of Sepa document, and who was so long in the full confi- tember, 1729, and shortly after acceded to by Holdence of Walpole, speaks very doubtfully of it. land, all former treaties were confirmed, and the
. On the 2d of August, 1718, the Emperor Charles several contracting parties agreed to assist each VI. promulgated a new law of succession for the in other in case of attack. The King of Spain revoked heritance of the house of Austria, under the name the privileges of trade which he had granted to the of the Pragmatic Sanction. In this he ordained that, subjects of Austria by the Treaty of Vienna, and in the event of bis having no male issue, his own commissioners were to be appointed for the final daughters should succeed to the Austrian throne, in adjustment of all commercial difficulties between preference to the daughters of his elder brother, as Spain and Great Britain. In order to secure the previously provided ; and that such succession should succession of Parma and Tuscany to the Infant Don be regulated according to the order of primogeni. Carlos, it was agreed that 6000 Spanish troops ture, so that the elder should be preferred to the should be allowed to garrison Leghorn. Porto Fer. younger, and that she should inherit his entire do rajo, Parma, and Placentia. This treaty passed over pinions.
in total silence the claim of Spain to Gibraltar.
it absolutely necessary for us to commence the event declare against them, otherwise they would war. If ministers had at first insisted properly not then have dared to attack the Emperor ; for and peremptorily upon an explicit answer, Spain Muscovy, Poland, Germany, and Britain would would have expressly abandoned her new and have been by much an over-match for them. It insolent claims and pretensions. But by the was not our preparations that set bounds to the long experience we allowed her, she found the ambition of France, but her getting all she wantfruits of those pretensions so plentiful and so ed at that time for herself, and all she desired for gratifying, that she thought them worth the haz- her allies. Her own prudence suggested that ard of a war. Sir, the damage we had sustained it was not then a proper time to push her views became so considerable, that it really was worth further; because she did not know but that the that hazard. Besides, the court of Spain was spirit of this nation might overcome (as it since convinced, while we were under such an admin has with regard to Spain) the spirit of our adistration, that either nothing could provoke us to ministration ; and should this have happened, the commence the war, or, that if we did, it would house of Austria-was then in such a condition, be conducted in a weak and miserable manner. that our assistance, even though late, would have Have we not, sir, since found that their opinion been of effectual service. was correct ? Nothing, sir, ever more demand- I am surprised, sir, to hear the honorable gened a parliamentary inquiry than our conduct in tleman now say, that we gave up nothing, or the war. The only branch into which we have that we acquired any thing, by the infamous Coninquired we have already censured and con- vention with Spain. Did we not give up the demned. Is not this a good reason for inquiring freedom of our trade and navigation, by submitinto every other branch? Disappointment and ting it to be regulated by plenipotentiaries ? ill success have always, till now, occasioned a Can freedom be regulated without being conparliamentary inquiry. Inactivity, of itself, is a fined, and consequently in some part destroyed ? sufficient cause for inquiry. We have now all Did we not give up Georgia, or some part of it, these reasons combined. Our admirals abroad by submitting to have new limits settled by plendesire nothing more; because they are conscious ipotentiaries? Did we not give up all the repthat our inactivity and ill success will appear to aration of the damage we had suffered, amount. proceed, not from their own misconduct, but ing to five or six hundred thousand pounds, for from the misconduct of those by whom they were the paltry sum of twenty-seven thousand pounds ? employed.
This was all that Spain promised to pay, after I can not conclude, sir, without taking notice deducting the sixty-eight thousand pounds which of the two other foreign measures mentioned by we, by the declaration annexed to that treaty, the honorable gentleman. Our conduct in the allowed her to insist on having from our South year 1734, with regard to the war between the Sea Company, under the penalty of stripping Emperor and France, may be easily accounted them of the Assiento Contract, and all the privifor, though not easily excused. Ever since the leges to which they were thereby entitled. Even last accession of our late minister to power, we this sum of twenty-seven thousand pounds, or seem to have had an enmity to the house of Aus- more, they had before acknowledged to be due tria. Our guarantee of the Pragmatic Sanction on account of ships they allowed to have been was an effect of that enmity, because we enter- unjustly taken, and for the restitution of which ed into it when, as hath since appeared, we had they had actually sent orders : so that by this no intention to perform our engagement; and by infamous treaty we acquired nothing, while we that false guarantee we induced the Emperor to gave up every thing. Therefore, in my opinion, admit the introduction of the Spanish troops into the honor of this nation can never be retrieved, Italy, which he would not otherwise have done. 12 unless the advisers and authors of it be censured The preparations we made in that year, the ar- and punished. This, sir, can not regularly be mies we raised, and the fleet we fitted out, were done without a parliamentary inquiry. not to guard against the event of the war abroad, By these, and similar weak, pusillanimous, but against the event of the ensuing elections at and wicked measures, we are become the ridihome. The new commissions, the promotions, cule of every court in Europe, and have lost the and the money laid out in these preparations, confidence of all our ancient allies. By these were of admirable use at the time of a general measures we have encouraged France to extend election, and in some measure atoned for the her ambitious views, and now at last to attempt loss of the excise scheme. But France and her carrying them into execution. By bad econoallies were well convinced, that we would in no my, by extravagance in our domestic measures,
we have involved ourselves in such distress at 12 See Walpole's explanation of his reason for re- home, that we are almost wholly incapable of enmaining neatral, in his speech, page 39. Although tering into a war; while by weakness or wickEngland remained neatral during the progress of edness in our foreign measures, we have brought these hostilities, she augmented her naval and mil. the affairs of Europe into such distress that it is itary forces, "in order," said Mr. Pelham, in the course of the debate, “to be ready to put a stop to almost impossible for us to avoid it. Sir, we the arms of the victorious side, in case their ambi- have been brought upon a dangerous precipice. tion should lead them to push their conquests farther Here we now find ourselves; and shall we trust than was consonant with the balance of power in to be led safely off by the same guide who has Europe.”-Parl. Hist., vol. xii., p. 479.
led us on? Sir, it is impossible for him to lead