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and that the High Bailiff of this city, and his two assessors, had been ordered to attend, abstained from desiring this honorable house to permit them to offer any evidence relative to the scrutiny carried on for Westminster, or to be heard by their counsel in support of their rights.
"That your petitioners have now reason to believe, that the evidence given at the bar of this honorable house, was defective and incompetent; and that farther material evidence may be laid before this honorable house, touching the said scrutiny.
"Your petitioners, therefore, humbly pray this honorable house, that they may be permitted to produce such evidence, and to be heard by their counsel at the bar of this honorable house."
Mr. SHERIDAN stated the propriety of the petition, and that the evidence meant to be adduced could not be given before. The petition was couched in decent terms, and therefore, he presumed, might be heard; for he trusted no person would lay down the doctrine, that the proceeding of 'parliament was not liable to be arraigned.
The motion was agreed to.
The order of the day for hearing counsel on behalf of the electors of Westminster, in support of their petition was moved and read. Colonel Fitzpatrick then moved "That the counsel be now called in,” but before the question could be put on this motion, Lord Frederic Campbell moved an amendment, adding, “that the counsel be restrained from going into any matters but such as tend to prove the evidence offered at the bar of this house on the 9th ;-defective and incomplete;-or such other matters as may have been discovered since the order of the house of the same date.”
Mr. SHERIDAN was of opinion, that the noble lord's amendment would lead the house into a greater inconsistency than that from which he would be thought desirous to guard it; for the house having received, and caused to be read, a petition from some electors of Westminster, and ordered that they should have leave to be heard by their counsel in support of the same, the noble lord wanted to persuade gentlemen to make the house in the present,
reject what in the former it had adopted and ordered. This would be an inconsistency the more inexcusable, as there was not so much as a single argument advanced that could give a colour to such a proceeding. This petition, on which the electors wished to be heard, had no necessary connection with any other; and therefore it was a most curious circumstance, that, for fear any thing should be said about another petition, with which the present was unconnected, the counsel were to be restrained from speaking in support of the allegations of their clients, who had already received the leave of the house to plead their cause by proxy; but if their proxy was to be restrained from pleading in support of the petition, for what purpose could leave have been given. The petition was far from being disrespectful; for though the electors complained that they were deprived of their representations, they said they had paid their share of the taxes that had been imposed by a parliament in which they were not represented. In order to throw ridicule upon the amendment, he moved an amendment upon it, so that the amended amendment would run thus: "and that they be restrained from going into any matter not contained in the said petition, in support of which the petitioners had prayed, and obtained leave of the house to be heard by their counsel."
Mr. Sheridan afterwards defended his amendment, and contended that the prayer of the petition was not absolutely to order the high bailiff to make a return, but to take measures by which that object might be attained. If the house were so tenacious of consistencies, and that the high bailiff stood so much upon his oath, the house need only take away his discretion; they might withdraw that authority under which he conceived himself to act, and accept his return. This would sufficiently remove all the objections on the score of the high bailiff's con
After this question was put, on Lord F. Campbell's amendment,
ayes 203; noes 145. Mr. Erskine and Mr. Pigott being then called to the bar, the former addressed himself to the speaker.
"As my learned friend and I cannot submit to the restraint which the House, in its wisdom, has been pleased to impose upon us, without departing from the positive instructions of the electors of Westminster, whose rights, under the law, we were engaged and prepared as lawyers, to assert and support, we must beg leave to withdraw ourselves from the bar.”
They accordingly retired. The high bailiff was then called to the bar; and after an examination and further debate, it was decided by a majority of nine to continue the scrutiny.
OFFICE REFORM BILL.
Upon the question "That this bill be engrossed,”
Mr. SHERIDAN rose and said, he had no objection to the motion, nor to let the bill go to the third reading, when he flattered himself he should be able-certainly not to conceive the right honorable gentleman, but-to shew him that the present bill was absolutely and entirely unnecessary; because the Board of Treasury had all the powers the bill proposed to invest in commissioners vested in them already. Mr. Sheridan said, the minute of the Treasury which he had moved would, he trusted, bear him out in this assertion; but as it was not presented before Friday last, he really had not time to read it with sufficient attention to speak upon it at that moment; but he was pretty confident it was sufficient ground for him to stand on. At present, if he objected at all to the report, he should have moved, by way of amendment, to leave out the names of the commissioners, and to insert, in their stead, the names of the lords of the Treasury. But not seeing any particular reason to press the debate then, he would let the bill be made as good a bill as it possibly could be; and then, in its perfect state, argue against its principle. Mr. Sheri
dan said farther, that the same argument that applied in objection to the former bill, applied in objection to the present. That objection had been used in the other house, where, when the former bill had been thrown out, complaint had been made of its being left to them to do dirty work, and to throw out a popular bill. Mr. Sheridan added, that the former bill had certainly been a bill the most nonsensical, absurd, and ridiculous, that ever was framed, and the authors of it had been heartily ashamed of it.
OFFICE REFORM BILL.
The order of the day, that this bill be read a third time, was moved and read.
Mr. SHERIDAN rose to make good his assertions of the preceding day, relative to there being no necessity for any such bill; as the board of treasury already possessed full powers to do every thing which the bill avowed for its object. He began by observing, that it was not the same bill as that of a former session, since at least four-fifths of the former bill were not in the present. He then stated, the minute of the board of treasury in Lord Shelburne's administration; and reasoned upon it as a proof that an inquiry, similar to that proposed to be instituted by the bill, had been gone into. He quoted the minute of the board of treasury likewise in the Duke of Portland's administration, to prove that they had also ordered a similar inquiry. He next examined the qualifications of two of the three commissioners named in the new bill; and urged the absurdity of appointing comptrollers of army accounts to reform the treasury; to the control of which they were themselves subject. He said, he supposed the appointment of two such persons to the commission was for the sake of fair play;
and that as the treasury had some time since re formed the comptrollers of army accounts, that they should now in their turn be permitted to reform the treasury. He dwelt on this for some time; and then went into a minute examination of the bill, clause by clause; arguing upon each, both in regard to the wording, the expression, and the style; and with regard to the necessity, expediency, and policy of the several provisos. He charged the Chancellor of the Exchequer with having shewn himself remarkably inattentive to the drawing of public bills; and said, he expected he would soon bring in a sweeping bill, to amend and explain every one of the revenue acts of the last session. The loose, careless, and unintelligible manner, in which they were, almost every one of them, drawn, had excited the contempt of the whole country. Accuracy of stile, and intelligence of expression were, he said, as necessary parts of an act of parliament, as the soundness of its principle, and the salutary effects of its operation. He pointed out the extravagant powers given to the commissioners by the clause that enabled them to send for persons, and examine them, when and where they pleased. He said, under such a boundless and unlimited authority, they might send for the right honorable gentleman opposite to him, or for the Speaker, to Brighthelmstone, or any other watering-place, and order them to bring all their papers with them. He said, he was aware that he was stating the case largely; but in considering a bill of that nature, he had a right to argue it in the extreme; and to shew to what an extent of absurdity, oppression, and injustice the letter of the bill went. After putting a variety of hypothetical cases, in order to present the defects of the bill the more glaringly, he said, it was not out of his recollection that, in answer to all he had urged, it might be said, the same powers were already given by an existing act of parliament, -the act instituting the commissioners of the public