Page images

for he had himself adverted to the latitude which might be taken in interpreting the exception; and therefore, instead of stating the order for the military even in such cases to be legal, had only called it justifiable; leaving the specific justification, as now, open to the review of parliament in every particular case. He had, however, no objection, he said, to` leave out that clause, and advised it to be done; but was informed by the speaker, that as the motion had been made and seconded, it could now only be altered by another motion for an amendment.

Mr. Sheridan withdrew the first motion; and the house divided on the second proposition.

For the motion 94; against it 171.-—The third motion was negatived without a division.



The object of Mr. Byng's motion was to convict the minister of having made a worse bargain for the public than he might have made, to shew, that he might have borrowed money at 5 per cent. That he was offered the immense sum of £38,000,000, and consequently was under no necessity of hurrying on a bad bargain. That these offers were made by wealthy and responsible men, who were fully equal to the support of their propositions. That their proposals were rejected with contempt; and that it was evident the new loan could have been made with no other view than that of corrupt influence. The minister admitted that he had no objection to the first motion, which was for a list of all the subscribers to the new loan specifying the sums subscribed by each: the second (for a list of those whose offers to become subscribers to the new loan had been rejected) he considered as useless: and the third (for copies of all letters and papers sent to the minister or his secretary respecting the loan) he regarded as unfair and improper. The first motion being then agreed to, the second was rejected upon a division, and the third negatived without. In the course of the debate Lord North observed that with regard to the idea of extending the influ ence of the crown by means of a loan, if that argument was to be

[blocks in formation]

tried by the test of the present loan, itwould be found he had made more enemies than friends by the list sent to the bank;-upon which

Mr. SHERIDAN said, that an expression had dropped from the noble lord, which to his surprise, had not been taken up by any gentleman. The noble lord had said, "he believed it would be found that he had made more enemies than friends by the list he had sent to the Bank," as it served to make him believe that the noble lord was coming over to the opinion of an honorable friend of his, who had brought in a bill lately to regulate the civil establishment; and had contended that taking away from the minister the power of bestowing great pecuniary emoluments by loans, &c. and of appointing to places, would strengthen the true and proper influence of the crown; remove a very heavy clog from the heel of government; and assist the progress of its operations. By the noble lord's complaining that the present loan had made him enemies, if his lordship was sincere in his present declaration, it would not be at all surprising, if, in a few days, the noble lord should bring in a bill for abolishing all those places; lest, by keeping them up, and making enemies to government by them, he should destroy the influence of the crown.

MAY 15.


Mr. SHERIDAN said, that whenever the vice of gaming was to be suppressed, he hoped that most pernicious species of it, the adventuring in lotteries, would be the first object of attention. This, it was true, was patronised by the legislature, and yet nothing could be more detrimental to the morals of

the people; for it not only promoted the spirit of gambling among the lower orders of society, but by suspending all industrious pursuits, tended to introduce every kind of depravity. While the evil was permitted to reign in its late extent, it was in a fair way of curing itself; for every second tradesman being a lottery-office keeper, and very few possessing any capital, the smallest loss made them abscond, and the public credulity was thereby gradually diminished;-but now the practice had been regulated, by the wisdom of parliament, for the better security of adventurers, it would no doubt perpetually increase, with all its train of mischievous consequences; for government had entered into a sort of partnership with the office-keepers ; and as they were to derive a benefit from the success of the delusions, they would no doubt do every thing in their power to extend their dealings.

As the learned gentleman, (the solicitor general) who brought in the bill, had already on one occasion stood forward, not only as the censor morum, but as the arbiter elegantiarum, at once the Cato and the Petronius of the age, he hoped he would be active in his new character, and join in putting a stop to lottery gaming, by bringing in a bill to abolish all the present lottery offices, and preventing the opening of any new ones in future.

MAY 17.


Mr. SHERIDAN said, that the honorable gentleman (Mr. Penton) had omitted to take notice of one objection adduced by Mr. Dunning, which was, that when sailors, suspected to be deserters, were brought before a justice of the peace, by virtue of this act, though the suspicion turned out to be

groundless, they might, nevertheless, by authority of former statutes, be impressed. He ironically complimented the board of Admiralty for the high sense they seemed here to entertain of the honor of British sailors;-it might be illustrated by a very trite anecdote of Julius Cæsar; for, like his wife, the character of our seamen must be as clear of suspicion as just impeachment; they not only must not be deserters, but not suspected to be so.

The Attorney-General answered Mr. Sheridan, and concluded the debate; when the question was decided by a division :

[ocr errors]

For the second reading 65; against it 73.—The bill in consequence was thrown out.

JUNE 20.


Mr. Fox moved a clause by which persons were declared marriageable without the consent of parents and guardians at the ages, the woman at sixteen and the man at eighteen; and that all marriages solemnized ut an earlier age of each of the parties, should be null and void. An amendment was moved by Lord Mahon to alter the ages, to eighteen the woman, and twenty-one the man.

Mr. SHERIDAN said, gentlemen were so inveterate against the marriage act, that in the heat of their zeal, they seemed to argue as if that act was designed to prevent marriages; when it was undoubtedly true, that to encourage marriages of a regular and proper sort, was its real aim and intention. He said his honorable friend, who brought in the bill (Mr. Fox), appeared not to be aware, that if he carried the clause, enabling girls to marry at sixteen, he would do an injury to that liberty of which he had always shewn himself the friend; and promote domestic tyranny, which he could consider only as little less intolerable than public tyranny. If girls were allowed to marry at sixteen, they.

would, he conceived, be abridged of that happy freedom of intercourse, which modern custom had introduced between the youth of both sexes; and which was, in his opinion, the best nursery of happy marriages. Guardians would, in that case, look on their wards with a jealous eye, from a fear that footmen and those about them, might take advantage of their tender years, and immature judgment, and persuade them into marriage, as soon as they attained the age of sixteen. In like manner young men, when mere boys, in a moment of passion, however ill-directed, or perhaps in a moment of intoxication, might be prevailed upon to make an imprudent match, and probably be united to a common prostitute. Mr. Sheridan said he was ready to admit, that the marriage act had some absurd clauses in it; but he could not agree, that the whole of that act was so impolitic, or so productive either of mischief or of inconvenience, as to stand in need of a total repeal.

To this Mr. Fox replied, that his honorable friend Mr. Sheridan had so much ingenuity of mind, that he could contrive to give an argument what turn he pleased; he considered not therefore, when what he said was really in support of domestic tyranny, he should ground it on a wish to preserve liberty.

Ayes (for Mr. Fox's motion) 36; Noes (for Lord Mahon's amendment) 7.



The King opened the session with a speech containing a declaration of the intentions of government to continue the prosecution of the American war to the last extremity, notwithstanding the desperate situation of our affairs; and an address, framed in the usual form, was moved by Mr. Perceval. The attempt to pledge the house by the proposed address to the unqualified support of a determination so frantic and desperate, in spite of seven years dearbought experience, and in the teeth of national bankruptcy and ruin; the audacity of holding such language at the very instant when the calamitous effects of the misconduct of ministers called for penitence and humiliation; were topics urged by Mr. Fox with great eloquence and ability; and followed by a severe reprehension of the principles of the war of the delusions by which parliament had been

« PreviousContinue »