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FEBRUARY 9, 1785.


The order of the day being for the house to resume the consideration of this business, the Right Hon. Wilbore Ellis moved, “that it appearing to this house that Thomas Corbett, Esq. high bailiff for the city of Westminster, having received a precept from the sheriffs of Middlesex for electing two citizens to serve in parliament for the said city; and having taken and finally closed the poll on the 17th of May last, being the day next before the day of the return of the said writ, be now directed forthwith to make a return of his precept of members chosen in pursuance of it." This was opposed by Lord Mulgrave, Mr. Bearcroft, and the Master of the Rolls (Sir Lloyd Kenyon.)

Mr. SHERIDAN replied to different arguments adverse to the motion, that had fallen from Mr. Bearcroft, Lord Mulgrave, the Master of the Rolls, and other speakers. He began with observing, that they had that day been honored with the councils of a complete gradation of lawyers; they had received the opinion of a judge, of an attorney-general in petto, of an ex-attorney-general, and of a practising barrister. The encomiums passed on his right honorable friend by one learned gentleman (Mr. Bearcroft) were so applicable, that when the learned gentleman added, that, besides his other great and shining talents, his right honorable friend stood distinguished for his boldness and candour, for his quickness of discernment and good sense, every body who knew his right honorable friend thought the learned gentleman had really been successful in his description, and drawn a just portrait; but when the learned gentleman afterwards stated, at the time that his right honorable friend professed most candour he was then most dangerous, and that he was to be the least trusted when he wished to throw himself into the arms of the house, the learned gentleman completely did away the resemblance, and proved that he was wholly unacquainted with the true character of his right honorable friend, who was not more remarkable for his splendid abilities than

for the genuine liberality and unaffected candor of his mind, and the manly, direct, and open conduct that he had ever pursued. Had the learned gentleman's statement been correct, his panegyric would have proved a satire, and it must have been understood, that when he talked of his right honorable friend's boldness, he meant his craft; and when he mentioned his candor, he designed to charge him with hypocrisy. It was not from such men as his right honorable friend that danger was to be dreaded. If the wolf was to be feared, the learned gentleman might rest assured it would be the wolf in sheep's clothing, the masked pretender to patriotism. It was not from the fang of the lion, but from the tooth of the serpent-that reptile which insidiously steals upon the vitals of the constitution, and gnaws it to the heart, ere the mischief is suspected, that destruction was to be feared. With regard to the acquisition of a learned gentleman, who had declared he meant to vote with them that day, he was sorry to acknowledge, that from the declaration the learned gentleman had made in the beginning of his speech, he saw no great reason to boast of their auxiliary. The learned gentleman, who had with peculiar modesty stiled himself a chicken lawyer, had declared that, thinking them in the right with respect to the subject of that day's discussion, he should vote with them; but he had at the same time thought it necessary to assert, that he had never before voted differently from the minister and his friends, and perhaps he never should again vote with those to whom he meant to give his support that day. It was, Mr. Sheridan remarked, a little singular to vote with them professedly, because the learned gentleman found them to be in the right; and in the very moment that he had assigned so good a reason for changing his side, to declare, that in all probability he never should vote with them again. He was sorry, he said, to find the chicken was a bird of ill omen, and that its augury was so unpro

pitious to the well, under pitious to their future interests. Perhaps it would have been as well, under these circumstances, that the chicken had not left the barn-door of the treasury, but continued, side by side, with the old cock, to pick those crumbs of comfort, which would, doubtless, be dealt out in due time with a liberality proportioned to the fidelity of the feathered tribe. Mr. Sheridan very happily introduced an elegant latin quotation, which he addressed to Mr. Taylor, in this part of his speech.

Last year, Mr. Sheridan observed, the whole of the question relative to the scrutiny depended upon the high bailiff's conscience, which, it was contended, he ought to have time to satisfy; whereas this year it was evident he had no conscience, at least none in his own keeping, for he had delivered it over to his assessor, as to a jury. This was the first time, Mr. Sheridan said, that he had ever heard of a man's conscience being to be satisfied through the sensations of another. He had always heretofore thought that the conscience saw with its own eyes, and was affected by its own organs; that conscience was the only thing one could not hear by proxy; no letter of attorney would be of use to it; it was that which decided for itself, and would by no means admit of another's judgment to decide for it. As the high bailiff's conscience, therefore, had now been proved to be made of transferable stuff, he hoped it would no longer stand in the way of the house's justice, but that they would exercise that discretion wisely, which they had, in his opinion, exercised most unwisely last year; and would put an end to that miserable, absurd, and oppressive institution, the Westminster scrutiny. A noble lord, he took notice, had early in the debate said, that it was a false idea that our constitution was injured by the absence of two or more members from that house; but that the fact was, the constitution required that no members should be illegally restrained from attending their duty there. This

doctrine, Mr. Sheridan said, he was persuaded, was ill founded; and he believed he could convince the noble lord that it was so. In case of death, which, though an insurmountable restraint, was certainly not an illegal one, what sort of language did the Speaker's warrant hold? Let the noble lord attend to the expression, and then ask himself if he was not mistaken. Mr. Sheridan here read those words, wherein the warrant assigns, as a reason for its being issued, the extreme necessity that the house of popular representation should be full and complete, when the business of the king and his people, the church and state, are to be agitated.

There had fallen an expression from the noble lord which appeared to him, Mr. Sheridan said, to be very extraordinary; and that was, in mentioning Mr. Grenville's bill, (to which, by the bye, the noble lord had paid no great compliment) he had talked of its having surmounted the opposition of the noble lord in the blue riband, notwithstanding all his influence as a minister. This reminded him of a most insulting sarcasm, aimed at the noble lord in the blue riband a few days since, by the right honorable gentleman opposite to him, which had not a little surprised him; he meant, when talking of the terms "as a man and a minister," the right honorable gentleman had alluded to the influence of a minister, in lofty language; declaring that he never used any but the honest influence of his abilities, and the services he might do his country; though he chose, at the same time, in terms of sarcastic insult, to suggest that the noble lord in the blue riband had used the influence of bribery and corruption only, when he was minister. At the time this was said, Mr. Sheridan declared, he looked over to the treasury bench to see how some of those felt who sat nearest the right honorable gentleman, who had formerly been in the councils of the noble lord in the blue riband, had shared his confidence, and who consequently must have borne a part in the sarcasm,

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had it applied to the noble lord. Perhaps the other noble lord had this day introduced the words " minister," merely that he might add to them his declaration that the noble lord in the blue riband had used no other influence as a minister, than the fair influence of his own character and abilities; meaning at the same time that the remark was a compliment, that it should also serve to wipe off the sarcasm of the right honorable gentleman from those of the noble lord's former friends, who were at this time so faithfully attached, for no corrupt motive doubtless, to the right honorable gentleman. Mr. Sheridan next took notice of Lord Mulgrave's declaration, that Sir Cecil Wray was an honest, plain man, who had no view but a seat in parliament. If that was the case, what was Lord Hood, who had shewn by his conduct that he was not very desirous of a seat there? Mr. Sheridan commented on the strange conduct of a man of Lord Hood's character, who certainly should act for himself, and be above condescending to be the tool of any set of men whatever. He took occasion also to pronounce a panegyric on Mr. Hargrave; and spoke of him in the most handsome terms. He said, he had no doubt in his own mind but that Mr. Corbett was bound by the act of 10 and 11 William, and that it was a miserable shift in those who pretended that he did not come within the meaning of that act, because in its clauses mention was made generally of mayors, bailiffs, under-sheriffs, &c. He spoke of the absurdities and inconveniences that were likely to arise from a frequent change of assessors. At present the votes at St. Anne's had been decided upon by rules and principles laid down by Mr. Hargrave; whilst votes exactly similarly circumstanced, had been decided upon by Mr. Murphy in St. Martin's parish, on different principles. For what they knew the high bailiff might again change his assessor; perhaps he might put his conscience in commission, and deliver it into the hands of three

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