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accounts; but he begged leave to shew that the act appointing commissioners of accounts, differed in some essential points from the present bill. In the first place, the commissioners of accounts had been loudly called for from all parts of the kingdom;— an extraordinary and momentous occasion made it indispensably necessary. One hundred and fifty millions had been added to the national debt; and the people demanded an investigation into the expenditure of so enormous a sum of the public money. That investigation could not be gone on with so well in any other hands, as in those of commissioners especially appointed for the purpose;— Here then was a great necessity for appointing commissioners; and for entrusting them with powers of an extraordinary nature;-a necessity that justified the measure. In the present case, there was no such necessity; the object was of little consideration; and the board of Treasury was fully equal to it. The bill, in fact, had no great view worthy the means it authorised; it was a rat-catching bill, instituted for the purpose of prying into vermin abuses. Again, the commissioners of accounts were men in no official situation, subject to the control of those into whose conduct they were to inquire. The new commissioners, he had already proved, were subject to the control of the Treasury. In the next place, the commissioners of accounts were from time to time to report their proceedings to parliament; who were by that means to watch over their conduct. The new commissioners were to make no reports to parliament, but merely to the board of Treasury. A fourth matter of difference was, the commissioners of accounts were named by parliament; the new commissioners by the crown; which was to appoint a successor in case of death or resignation. Mr. Sheridan reasoned on these four essential matters, in which the act, instituting a commission of accounts, differed from the present bill. He concluded with saying, that he flattered
himself he had shewn that the present bill was unnecessary, that it was absurd, and that it gave powers of an alarming and unconstitutional nature.
Mr. Pitt having replied,
Mr. Sheridan rose to explain. He said, he wished the right honorable gentleman, instead of answering arguments that had not been used, had confined himself to such as had. He had not said one word of the high character of the Duke of Portland, Lord John Cavendish, or Mr. Montagu, but had spoken of the minute itself, to shew that an inquiry had been ordered. With regard to its being an inquiry into such fees and emoluments as were legal, it was that, and that only; because the board of Treasury knew that the heads of the different offices would of themselves take care to prevent any illegal fees being taken. Mr. Sheridan reminded the house, that he had stated four grand and essential points; in which the act appointing the commissioners of public accounts differed from the present bill; whereas it had not been attempted to answer him but in one-and in that most feebly. As to the act for appointing commissioners to receive the claims of the American refugees, the reading of which had been so triumphantly recommended to him, it was an act that gave no powers of an alarming, or an extraordinary nature; and therefore it was not of the least importance, constitutionally considered, whether the crown or parliament appointed the successor or successors in case of death or resignation.
The question was put and carried without a division.
On the 3rd of March Mr. Fox had moved "that the former resolutions of the house respecting the scrutiny should be rescinded and
erased from the journals." This motion it was, however, agreed to postpone to a future day, it being a late hour when proposed. On the 9th the order for resuming the adjourned debate was moved to be read.
Mr. SHERIDAN rose to take notice, that the Chancellor of the Exchequer had, in the course of his speech, glanced more than once at him; and insinuated that he was answerable for the questionable shape of the return, and the nature of the paper of the high bailiff, which had been ordered to be annexed to the writ for Middlesex.
The Speaker said, as the affair of the return had been adjusted in a very thin house, and that was a very full one, he would take that opportunity of stating the particulars of the transaction. The Speaker then stated, that in consequence of the last order of the house, relative to the scrutiny, the high bailiff and the deputy clerk of the crown had been at a loss, in what manner the return should be made out and received. That he had ordered the deputy clerk of the crown to attend the next day, to receive instructions of the house. That the deputy elerk of the crown had, in consequence, attended on the Friday; when he had thought it his duty to state to the house, the case of the writ for Elgin; and the house had ordered the return for Westminster to be annexed to the writ for Middlesex.
Mr. Sheridan thanked the Speaker for having given the house the information he had stated; and desired that it might be remembered that his idea had been to antedate the return, and to make it bear the same date as the writ; because it was extremely absurd to annex a return to the writ, bearing date later than the writ was in existence. There was, he said, a wide difference between the affair of Elgin and the present case. The precept for Elgin was dated within the return of the writ for Elginshire; but, by some accidental blunder, had not been returned to the sheriff, to be by him delivered into the crown office with his writ. The return for Westminster was, they all knew, dated many months after the 20th of May, 1784, the day on which the writ was returnable. Mr. Sheridan read to the house the resolutions of the same day; in order to shew them that the resolution implied, that the scrutiny was illegal ;-a ground which his
friends had not once abandoned in the course of the business; but had always adhered to, as was evinced by their having kept uniformly to the same proposition. The right honorable gentleman opposite to him, Mr. Sheridan said, appeared to know but little about the act of parliament, to which he had referred as a statute, regulating the elections for London, and declaring a scrutiny there to be lawful. It is necessary very frequently, he added, for gentlemen to be acquainted with the history of the times in which particular acts passed, and the history of the circumstances under which they passed, to understand them perfectly. The act in question was not originally brought in as a bill for regulating the election of members of parliament to serve for the city of London, but for the election of mayors, sheriffs, and other city magistrates and officers. At the time, there had been great disturbances in London, upon the subject of choosing sheriffs; and matters had been carried with so high a hand, that the city was in danger of being without sheriffs,a circumstance that would have been attended with infinite inconvenience. On the spur of the occasion a bill had been brought in to regulate the election of sheriffs and other city officers. While that bill was in the house, it was suggested by a member, that the city also held elections for members of parliament, and that it might be as well to introduce some clauses that might refer to them. Hence the present act, that the right honorable gentleman had argued upon, as if its sole and principal object had been to regulate the city elections of members of parliament. Mr. Sheridan read two extracts from: the act, to shew that it only recognized the scrutiny on the election for sheriffs, as a lawful scrutiny; which, he said, it might well. do; as the city had a right under its charter to make bye-laws, and a scrutiny on an election for sheriffs was sanctioned by those bye-laws; but the act in those clauses, which referred to the election by wardmotes, drop
ped the word lawful, and only talked generally of a scrutiny, without recognizing its legality. Mr. Sheridan added some other arguments, all tending to convince the house, that what the right honorable gentleman had said, as to the necessity that they should extend their protection to the high bailiff who had been drawn in (as the right honorable gentleman had phrased it) by the house to go on with the scrutiny, amounted to nothing. Those arguments, he said, should have been urged before; because the house had withdrawn its protection from the high bailiff the moment they came to the former resolution, viz. that in which they set the high bailiff at liberty to make a return, without waiting for the orders of the house. Mr. Sheridan, before he sat down, contended that for the sake of consistency, all those gentlemen who had voted for the resolution of Tuesday, must vote for the motion of rescinding it now. Those who had uniformly defended the conduct of the high bailiff, and thought that a scrutiny carried on after the writ, under which the precept for the election for Westminster had been held, was a legal proceeding, he certainly did not expect would vote with him that day.
Mr. Stanley presented a petition signed by many thousands of the manufacturers of the town and vicinity of Manchester, against the Irish Resolutions, and praying to be heard by counsel. Mr. Stanley wished they might be heard on the Thursday following. Mr. Pitt objected to the delay of three days, and moved that they should be heard on Wednesday.
Mr. SHERIDAN remarked on the turn which the Chancellor of the Exchequer had given to the argu
1. That it is highly important to the general interests of the British empire, that the intercourse and commerce between Great Britain and Ireland should be finally regulated on permanent and equitable principles, for the mutual benefit of both countries.