Page images
PDF
EPUB

the least dislike against going into the committee; but he certainly had a very great objection to the business being so precipitately hurried through the house. On this occasion, he trusted that he should be allowed to express his anxious hopes that the consideration of the commercial treaty would not induce the house to forget the remainder of the charges against Mr. Hastings. If the treaty was to be gone through entirely before they entered on the discussion of any other business, the affairs of Mr. Hastings might be referred, so far as he could judge, ad calendas græcas; for he understood that there were now above three thousand different resolutions preparing for the house to digest; and he supposed that, during the progress of the business, the minister would just bring in about half a dozen bills each day, and have them read a third time, for the sake of expediting a matter, which he held to be of such importance. He must remind him, however, that he could not, from past experience, flatter himself with the hopes of passing the bill over so glibly; as, in every stage, it was liable to meet with opposition.

The house shortly after resolved itself into a committee, on the commercial treaty.

FEBRUARY 16.

PROCEEDINGS AGAINST MR. HASTINGS.

The honorable Thomas Pelham moved, that the order of the day for the house to resolve itself into a committee of the whole house, to consider farther of the several articles of charge of high crimes and misdemeanors against Warren Hastings, Esq. be now read; it being read accordingly, he moved to discharge the order, which being agreed to, he next moved, that the house should resolve itself into a committee for the said purpose, on the ensuing Thursday. Mr. Pitt said, he would give his consent provided it was understood that the order should be farther discharged, should it so happen that the business of the commercial treaty with France, was not finished by that day.

Mr. SHERIDAN contended, that the charges against Mr. Hastings were undoubtedly matters of

infinite seriousness and importance, and ought not to be set aside as secondary considerations. He begged the house to recollect, that something was due from them to Mr. Hastings, whose character, and whatsoever could prove dear to him, was at stake; and whose feelings, therefore, ought not to be sported with by wanton and unnecessary. delay.

COMMERCIAL TREATY WITH FRANCE.

This day Mr. Fox made his last effort to induce the house to take some step for securing the continuance of the Methuen treaty, and averting the danger, to which he contended it was exposed, by a resolution* the house had come to the preceding night-a resolution which, if not followed by some correspondent proposition respecting Portugal, would manifest a disregard to that nation, little short of a direct affront. He concluded with moving, "That it be an instruction to the committee, that they do, in the first place, proceed to consider of reducing the duties upon wines directly imported from Portugal into Great Britain; so that such wines may pay no higher duties than two-thirds of the duties to be imposed upon wines imported. directly from France." The motion was opposed by Mr. Pitt, as interfering, by a premature resolution, in a matter delegated by the constitution to the executive government. He asserted, that a declaration delivered by him in his place, and as a minister, that such a negotiation was pending, was entitled to be considered as formal parliamentary information. He concluded with stating, that he had every reason to expect the negotiation would prove successful; if, however, it should not succeed, he would lay before the house, for their judgments, the grounds upon which it had failed.

Mr. SHERIDAN affirmed that the house of commons was constitutionally empowered to interfere with treaties, even pending their negotiation. There were treaties over which the prerogative was paramount: there were treaties, also, of another description, with which the house was particularly concerned, and which the execution of depended solely

* "That it appears to be expedient that all the articles of the growth, produce, and manufactures, of the European dominions of the French king, which are not specified in the tariff of the treaty, shall be imported into this kingdom, on payment of duties as low as any which shall be payable on the like articles from any other European nation."

on the voice of the house of commons. He added that the motion of his right honorable friend (Mr. Fox) was not an active measure in favor of Portugal; it was a point of right due to the Methuen treaty, and merely a motion to do that immediately, which the right honorable gentleman (Mr. Pitt) had pledged himself to do, (granting that he would do it at all) previously to the bill, or bills going out of the house.

Upon the responsibility which the minister agreed to take upon himself, Mr. Fox consented to withdraw his motion; and the house being resolved into a committee, Mr. Pitt proceeded to move several resolutions for imposing certain duties. On coming to that referring to brandies, Mr. Fox desired to know, whether, at the time the duties on brandies were meant to be reduced, it was not intended to accompany the alteration with a reduction in the duties on rums. Mr. Pitt replied in the affirmative; and also said, he intended, on an early day, to propose a still greater reduction on brandies and other spirits, from certain considerations of revenue, and with a view to extend the system so happily and successfully commenced three years since, to the great prevention and abolition of smuggling.

Mr. Sheridan observed, that at length, and consequently for the first time, the right honorable gentleman had confessed, that his much-boasted commutation bill had failed him. The right honorable gentleman had made it one great ground of exultation upon his assurances of the success of the measure, that it would entirely put an end to the smuggling of brandies. The committee would recollect, that he (Mr. Sheridan) had on frequent occasions told the right honorable gentleman, that a day would come, when he must experience the unavoidable obligation of confessing the measure had failed, and that all which he foretold had been verified.

In his reply, Mr. Pitt said, "he wondered which he ought most to admire the confidence, or the ignorance, of the honorable gentleman's assertions. Could any man in his senses have believed that such a speech as the honorable gentleman had just delivered, could have been excited by any thing which had fallen from him?” &c.

Mr. Sheridan observed, that if he had entertained the smallest doubt of the correctness of

his recollection before, he was now convinced he had been perfectly correct, from the right honorable gentleman's being so very angry. He begged leave, however, to remind the right honorable gentleman, it was not altogether decent for a minister to address any member of that house in such language; it was, besides, extremely ill judged of any gentleman to descend to it, because it laid him open to so easy a retort. All the return which he should make was by declaring (what he was persuaded the majority of the committee must feel with him) that the ill manners of the right honorable gentleman were not more conspicuous, than the weakness of his conduct, in charging him with confidence and ignorance without a single argument to prove the foundation of any such charge. Having said this, Mr. Sheridan declared, the committee were no strangers to the practice of the right honorable gentleman, when any member shewed that his words on a former occasion, and his subsequent conduct, were at variance with each other. On the present occasion the right honorable gentleman had endeavoured to shift the charge by the quibble of a word, and had confidently maintained that he never said, the commutation plan would entirely put a stop to the smuggling of brandy. He would not, Mr. Sheridan said, take upon him to assert that the right honorable gentleman had used the word entirely; but he appealed to the recollection of every gentleman who heard him, whether he had not, almost as often as he had talked of the advantages expected to arise from the commutation system, rested a great part of his argument on his entertaining little or no doubt of its having the good effects of putting an end to the smuggling of brandy in a very great degree; or words to that effect. Mr Sheridan asked, whether it was likely the right honorable gentleman should have confined his argument entirely to the prevention of smug

VOL. I.

X

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

gling of teas; and whether the abandoning of 700,0001. of the revenue merely with that view, would not have been a very weak scheme? Mr. Sheridan added a few comments upon the proposition respecting brandies, now hinted; and said, most undoubtedly, if the right honorable gentleman was to go from one article of excise to another, and commute, the duties on smuggling would be put an end to respecting those articles; but a day must in that case arrive, when the minister who pursued such a system, would have to come to that house, and to ask them to provide for a good round deficiency of revenue.

FEBRUARY 19.

COMMERCIAL TREATY WITH FRANCE.

Mr. Beaufoy presented the resolutions which the committee had directed him to report to the house. They were read a first time, and the Speaker put the question for a second reading; when

7

Mr. SHERIDAN remarked, that he considered himself obliged to trespass upon the patience of the house, whilst he adverted to some particulars, respecting which he thought it highly necessary that the right honorable gentleman (Mr. Pitt) should give satisfactory answers, previous to any final decision concerning the resolutions contained in the report which had been just read. What he first wished to be satisfied about was, the consolidation of the duties on the customs; which, if he had understood the right honorable gentleman correctly on Friday, he meant to mix and blend with the business of the commercial treaty. If this were really the right honorable gentleman's intentions, it would surely be highly improper for the house to give their vote for the second reading of the report, before they were in possession of the additions which were meant to be made to it; and much of addition he

« PreviousContinue »