Page images
PDF
EPUB

nothing but a pardon, upon the conviction of the offender, has ever yet been offered in this case : and how could any informer expect a pardon, and much less a reward, when he knew that the very man against whom he was to inform, had not only the distribution of all public rewards, but the packing of a jury or parliament against him? Whilst such a minister preserves the favour of the Crown, and thereby the exercise of its power, this information can never be expected.

This shows, Sir, the impotence of the act, mentioned by the honourable gentleman, respecting that sort of corruption which is called bribery. With regard to the other sort of corruption, which consists in giving or taking away those posts, pensions, or preferments, which depend upon the arbitrary will of the Crown, the act is still more inefficient. Although it would be considered most indecent in a minister to tell any man that he gave or withheld a post, pension, or preferment, on account of his voting for or against any ministerial measure in Parliament, or any ministerial candidate at an election ; yet, if he makes it his constant rule never to give a post, pension, or preferment, but to those who vote for his measures and his candidates; if he makes a few examples of dismissing those who vote otherwise, it will have the same effect as when he openly declares it. Will any gentleman say that this has not been the practice of the minister ? Has he not declared, in the face of this House, that he will continue the practice ? And will not this have the same effect as if he went separately to every particular man, and told him in express terms, “Sir, if you vote for such a measure or such a candidate you shall have the first preferment in the gift of the Crown : if you vote otherwise, you must not expect to keep what you have ? Gentlemen may deny that the sun shines at noon-day ; but if they have eyes, and do not wilfully shut them, or turn their backs, no man will believe them to be ingenuous in what they say. I think, therefore, that the honourable gentleman was in the right who endeavoured to justify the practice. It was more candid than to deny it—but as his arguments have already been fully answered, I shall not farther discuss them.

Gentlemen exclaim,“ What ! will you take from the Crown the power of preferring or cashiering the officers of the army ? No, Sir, this is neither the design nor will it be the effect, of our agreeing to the motion. The King at present possesses

4—(2170)

for a share of the plunder, should annually pass his accounts without examination, or at least without objection; would that be a reason for saying that it would be unjust to the infant, when he came of age, to call his steward to account? Especially if that steward had built and furnished sumptuous palaces, living during the whole time, at a much greater expense than his visible income warranted and yet amassing great riches ? The public, Sir, is always in a state of infancy ; therefore no prescription can be pleaded against it-not even a general release, if there is the least cause for supposing that it was surreptitiously obtained. Public vouchers ought always. to remain on record; nor ought any public expense to be incurred without a voucher. Therefore the case of the public is still stronger than that of an infant. Thus, Sir, the honourable gentleman who made use of this objection must see how little it avails in the case before us; and therefore I trust we shall have his concurrence in the question.

Speech in Support of Lord Limerick’s Second Motion. 1742 1 As the honourable gentleman who spoke last against the motion has not been long in the House, it is but charitable to believe him sincere in professing that he is ready to agree to a Parliamentary enquiry when he thinks the occasion requires it. But if he knew how often such professions are made by those who, upon all occasions, oppose enquiry, he would now avoid them because they are generally believed to be insincere. He may, it is true, have nothing to dread on his own account from enquiry, but when a gentleman has contracted, or any of his near relations have contracted, a friendship with one who may be brought into danger, it is very natural to suppose that such a gentleman's opposition to an enquiry does not entirely proceed from public motives; and if that gentleman follows the advice of some of his friends I very much question whether he will ever think the occasion requires an enquiry into the conduct of our public affairs.

As a Parliamentary enquiry must always be founded on suspicions, as well as upon facts or manifest crimes, reasons may always be found for alleging those suspicions to be without

1 This speech was made in favour of inquiring into the alleged corruption of Walpole's Government.

foundation; and upon the principle a Parliamentary enquiry must necessarily lay open the secrets of government, no time can ever be proper or convenient for such enquiry, because it is impossible to suppose a time when the government has no secrets to disclose. This, Sir, would be a most convenient doctrine for ministers, because it would put an end to all Parliamentary enquiries into the conduct of our public affairs ; and therefore when I hear it urged, and so much insisted on by a certain set of gentlemen in this House, I must suppose their hopes to be very extensive. I must suppose them to expect that they are. Speech on Sir W. Yonge's Motion Respecting the Hanoverian

Troops. 17421

If the honourable gentleman determines to abandon his present sentiments as soon as any better measures are proposed, the ministry will quickly be deprived of one of their ablest defenders : for I consider the measures hitherto pursued so weak and so pernicious, that scarcely any alteration can be proposed that will not be for the advantage of the nation. The honourable gentleman has already been informed that no necessity existed for hiring auxiliary troops. It does not appear that either justice or policy required us to engage in the quarrel of the continent : that there was any need of forming an army in the low countries; or that in order to form an army auxiliaries were necessary.

But, not to dwell upon disputable points, I think it may justly be concluded that the measures of our ministry have been ill concerted because it is undoubtedly wrong to squander the public money without effect : to pay armies, only to be a show to our friends and a scorn to our enemies.

The troops of Hanover, whom we are now expected to pay, marched into the low countries, Sir, where they still remain. They marched to the place most distant from the enemy, least in danger of an attack, and most strongly fortified, had an attack been designed. They have, therefore, no other claim to be paid, than that they left their own country for a place of greater security. It is always reasonable to judge of the

1 This speech was directed against the employment of Hanoverian troops by Great Britain.

the absolute power to prefer or cashier the officers of our army. It is a prerogative which he may employ for the benefit or safety of the public; but like other prerogatives, it may be abused, and when it is so abused, the minister is responsible to Parliament. When an officer is preferred or cashiered for voting in favour of, or against any Court measure, or candidate, it is an abuse of this prerogative, for which the minister is answerable. We may judge from circumstances or outward appearancesfrom these we may condemn, and I hope we have still a power to punish a minister who dares to advise the King to prefer or cashier from such motives ! Sir, whether this prerogative ought to remain as it is, without any limitation, is a question foreign to this debate; but I must observe that the argument employed for it might, with equal justice, be employed for giving our King an absolute power over every man's property -because a large property will always give the possessor a command over a great body of men, whom he may arm and discipline if he pleases. I know of no law to restrain him. I hope none will ever exist-I wish our gentlemen of estates would make more use of this power than they do, because it would tend to keep our domestic as well as our foreign enemies in

For my part I think a gentleman who has earned his commission by his services (in his military capacity, I mean) or bought it with his money has as much a property in it as any man has in his estate and ought to have it well secured by the laws of his country. Whilst it remains at the absolute will of the Crown, he must, unless he has some other estate to depend on, be a slave to the minister; and if the officers of our army long continue in that state of slavery in which they are at present, I am afraid it will make slaves of us all.

The only method to prevent this fatal consequence, as the law now stands, is to make the best and most constant use of the power we possess as Members of this House, to prevent any minister from daring to advise the King to make a bad use of his prerogative; as there is such a strong suspicion that this minister has done so, we ought certainly to enquire into it,

not only for the sake of punishing him, if guilty, but as a terror to all future ministers.”

This, Sir, may therefore be justly reckoned among the many other sufficient causes for the enquiry proposed. The suspicion that the civil list is greatly in debt is another; for if it is, it

awe.

must either have been misapplied or profusely thrown away, which abuse it is both our duty to prevent and to punish. It is inconsistent with the honour of this nation that the King should stand indebted to his servants or tradesmen, who may be ruined by delay of payment. The Parliament has provided sufficiently to prevent this dishonour from being brought upon the nation, and, if the provision we have made should be lavished or misapplied, we must supply the deficiency; we ought to do it whether the King makes any application for that purpose or not; and the reason is plain, because we ought first to enquire into the management of that revenue, and punish those who have occasioned the deficiency. They will certainly choose to leave the creditors of the Crown and the honour of the nation in a state of suffering rather than advise the King to make an application which may bring censure upon their conduct, and condign punishment upon themselves. Besides this, Sir, another and a stronger reason exists for promoting an enquiry. There is a strong suspicion that the public money has been applied towards corrupting voters at elections, and members when elected; and if the civil list be in debt, it affords reason to presume that some part of this revenue has, under the pretence of secret-service money, been applied to this infamous purpose.

I shall conclude, Sir, by making a few remarks upon the last argument used against the proposed enquiry. It has been said that the minister delivered in his accounts annually; that these accounts have been usually passed and approved by Parliament; and that therefore it would be unjust to call him now to a general account, because the vouchers may be lost, or many expensive transactions have escaped his memory. It is true, Sir, estimates and accounts have been annually delivered in. The forms of proceeding made that necessary, but were any of these estimates and accounts properly enquired into ? Were not all questions of that description rejected by the minister's friends in Parliament ? Have not Parliament always taken them upon trust, and passed them without examination ? Can such a superficial passing, to call it no worse, be deemed a reason for not calling him to a new and general account? If the steward to an infant's estate should annually, for twenty years together, deliver in his accounts to the guardians; and the guardians through negligence or

« PreviousContinue »