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for the proper stage, they would, no doubt, receive what the honorable gentleman's abilities always did receive, the plaudits of the audience; and it would be his fortune" sui plausu gaudere theatri.” But this was not the proper scene for the exhibition of these elegancies: and he, therefore, must beg leave to call the attention of the house to the serious consideration of the very important question then before them.”
Mr. SHERIDAN then rose to an explanation; which having made, he took notice of that particular sort of personality which the right honorable gentleman had thought proper to introduce. He need not comment on it-the propriety, the taste, the gentlemanly point of it, must have been obvious to the house. But, said Mr. Sheridan, let me assure the right honorable gentleman, that I do now, and will at any time, when he chooses to repeat this sort of allusion, meet it with the most sincere good humour. Nay, I will say more, flattered and encouraged by the right honorable gentleman's panegyric on my talents, if ever I again engage in the compositions he alludes to, I may be tempted to an act of presumption, to attempt an improvement on one of Ben Jonson's best characters, the character of the Angry Boy in the Alchymist.
At half-past seven o'clock in the morning the house divided; ayes for the amendment 224; noes 208. Majority against ministers A committee was then appointed to draw up the address thus amended.
In the course of the debate, Mr. David Hartley said, that he believed he should move for an address to the King, to withdraw the troops from New York, when
Mr. SHERIDAN observed, that the evacuation of that place must, he presumed, be the work of time; for he supposed the troops were not to be withdrawn, until America should have fulfilled the conditions relative to the loyalists, viz. that prosecutions should
cease; and such loyalists as were in confinement should be released, after the signing of the treaty, which he supposed meant the definitive treaty. He said he could venture to declare for those who might be thought likely to come into office, that they had not the most distant idea of renewing the war in America.
In consequence of a censure on the peace, passed by a resolution of the house of commons on the 21st of February, the Earl of Shelburne quitted his office of first Commissioner of the Treasury; and the Chancellor of the Exchequer declared publicly to the house, that he only held his place till a successor should be appointed to fill it. A ministerial interregnum ensued, which lasted till the beginning of April; during which time, the kingdom remained in a state of great discord, without any responsible government at home; the finances neglected, the military establishments unreduced, and the negociations with foreign powers, which the critical conjuncture of affairs rendered peculiarly important, entirely at a stand. On the 31st of March, the Earl of Surrey proposed the following resolution : "That a considerable time having now elapsed, without an administration responsible for the conduct of public affairs, the interposition of the house on the present alarming crisis, is become necessary." This motion was afterwards withdrawn; and on the following day, a second negociation (a former one having failed) was opened with the Duke of Portland; and on the 2d of April, a new administration was announced, consisting of the following members:
MEMBERS OF THE CABINET.
First Lord of the Treasury-Duke of Portland.
Secretary of State for the Home Department-Lord North.
NOT OF THE CABINET.
Lords Commissioners for the Custody of the Great Seal-Lord
Master-General of the Ordnance-Lord Viscount Townshend.
Secretaries to the Treasury-Richard Brinsley Sheridan, Esq.
Speaker of the House of Lords-Lord Mansfield.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer brought forward the loan for the services of the current year. The loan borrowed amounted to twelve millions. Eleven bankers, with whom the terms of the loan were settled, had seven hundred thousand pounds each; the remainder was divided amongst the rest of the bankers, the great trading companies, and the clerks of the public offices. The premium, according to the value of the stocks on the day on which the bargain was concluded, was three pounds ten shillings per cent.; but, rising considerably within a few days after, much blame was imputed to the minister, for having made so disadvantageous a bargain for the public. In vindication of himself, he allowed that the premium was certainly much greater than ought to have been given in time of peace; but he begged the house to recollect the circumstances under which he had been obliged to negociate the loan. He had only been ten days in office. The late ministers had left the treasury without a shilling, and the public service admitted of no delay. These circumstances were well known to the money-lenders; and they had, doubtless, taken advantage of it; and as the necessity of coming to a conclusion on any terms would, by every day's delay, have been the more urgent, they would certainly have been raised upon_him_the nearer that period approached.-Mr. Pitt having observed, "that a letter signed by four persons of responsibility as monied men, the very fonr that managed the loan of last year, offering to take the loan on such terms, that those who bid lower must make a bargain for the publis exceedingly advantageous indeed, was delivered to the Chancellor of the Exchequer.
Mr. SHERIDAN stated, that there was no competition of the money-lenders; but that although two or three of the four who had signed the letter alluded to by Mr. Pitt, had been at Lord John Cavendish's house, when his lordship sent them in a proposal of lower terms than those which had ultimately been closed upon, they had not the virtue to accede to them, nor did they endeavor to persuade the rest to do so.
The resolution passed the committee, and was ordered to be reported.
MR. ROLLE'S MOTION FOR A COPY OF THE LIST OF SUBSCRIBERS TO THE NEW LOAN.
Mr. Frederick Montagu having seconded the motion,
Mr. SHERIDAN said, he was glad to see the motion seconded from the Treasury bench; if it had not been seconded by any one else, he himself would have done it with a great deal of pleasure; and though it might be imagined, from the situation he held, that he knew something of the persons to whom the loan had been parcelled out, he could assure the honorable mover of the question, that the list could not be a greater novelty to any man in that house than it would be to him; for, knowing the character and disposition of the noble lord at the head of the Exchequer, he did not venture so much as to recommend a single person to him for a share in the loan. What peculiarly rendered the present motion a matter agreeable to his mind, was the recollection of the many indirect insinuations that might create a suspicion in the minds of the public, which had been at different times, and by different speakers, thrown out in the course of the debate of the preceding day. Insinuations and surmises, whispered with an affected caution, and hinted by halves, he observed, did more towards imposing conviction on the minds of the credulous, than the most direct charge could effect. In the debate in the committee, more than one speaker had chosen to talk of the possibility of the present loan having been distributed unfairly, with a view to the exertion of parliamentary influence; or with a design to answer purposes of a less political, but of a more pernicious nature. The right honorable gentleman, in particular, who had stood forth so conspicuously as the leader of the opposition against the loan, had, in his first speech, talked in general terms of the impropriety of a reserve for ministerial allotment; and in
his subsequent speeches had said, " if the noble lord would say, he alone made the distribution; and if it had been solely the act of the noble lord," with other expressions of a sort that tended to convey a suspicion of the improper interference of other persons. It could not, therefore, but give him the most solid satisfaction, to hear a motion for a paper, which must necessarily carry with it incontrovertible evidence of the truth; and which, of course, would serve completely to acquit, not only the noble lord at the head of the Exchequer, but every other person about the Treasury. With regard to the speech just delivered by an honorable gentleman, Mr. Sheridan said, he could only conceive, from the many exceeding harsh expressions used by the honorable gentleman, that he had been absent from the house the preceding day. Had not that been the case, the honorable gentleman certainly would have had too much candor, to have stated charges of so reprehensible a nature in express terms, upon grounds that had been, as he trusted the house would allow, most amply and satisfactorily explained and refuted, in the course of the debate in the committee. Before he sat down, if he might be permitted so much egotism, in defence of himself, and in exculpation of his character, as a person, who very unworthily stood in that sort of connection with the Treasury, which rendered him liable to suspicion, he would take the liberty of assuring the house, in the most solemn manner, that he had neither directly nor indirectly interfered, in regard to the present loan.-The motion passed without opposition.
Mr. Sheridan brought in a bill founded on the resolution of the committee of ways and means for raising 12,000,000l. by a loan.The bill was read the first time without any opposition.