Page images

and of punishing their authors suitably to the nature of their offences. It was very hard that a gentleman should lie under the imputation of crimes of which he was innocent, for a whole year, perhaps for a longer period. He observed also, that under such circumstances, every member who had been fairly and independently elected, must feel equally for the credit of his constituents, from whom he derived his trust, and whose character, as well as interest, it was his duty to defend that it certainly was a most serious hardship, that upon the accusation of a few of the lowest and most unprincipled voters in any borough, a numerous and respectable body should remain traduced and stigmatized in the eyes of that house, for the space of a year, in a petition which should at last be proved a gross and groundless libel. He therefore hoped that some gentlemen of more experience than himself, would turn their thoughts towards providing some just and adequate remedy to this evil, and some exemplary penalties, whenever charges of so gross a nature are preferred on frivolous grounds, and with unfair purposes. [He was heard with particular attention, the house being uncommonly still while he was speaking.]

Mr. Rigby agreed with the honorable gentleman in the justness of his complaint. He afterwards, however, thought proper to attempt to ridicule the idea of any member's being concerned for the character of his constituents; and to throw out some insinuations against the burgesses of Stafford.

Mr. Fox observed, that though these ministerial members, who chiefly robbed and plundered their constituents, might afterwards affect to despise them, yet gentlemen, who felt properly the nature of the trust allotted to them, would always treat them and speak of them with respect. He then alluded to the late member for Stafford, Mr. W. and drew a comparison between him and his

honorable friend S. not very much to the credit of the former, &c. &c.

Mr. Rigby thought, that all such matters were to be judged of in the committees. It was very hard to lie under the suspicion of such enormities as bribery and corruption. He pitied poor Stafford ; but poor Stafford must endure suspicion, and even imputation, for a time!

Mr. Fox supported Mr. Sheridan'; and at length the Speaker reminded the house that there was no question before them.



Mr. SHERIDAN observed, that Mr. Coke had expressed an earnest desire that this motion might pass unanimously, though he knew that there were in that house different descriptions of men, who could not assent to a vote that seemed to imply a recognition or approbation of the American war. If so many were to be included in this vote of thanks, why exclude any who had an equal title to the applause of the house, with those particularized in the motion? Why not thank General Prevost, for example, for his victory over the enemy at Savannah? a victory that had laid the foundation of the success at Charles Town, and which led the way to that at Camden?

He hoped that a motion would not be objected to, to thank General Prevost, that the victory gained by him was a victory only over the French. Mr. Sheridan asked farther, why the thanks of the house had not been voted to Sir Henry Clinton, immediately on the arrival of the success at Charles Town? And what must be the feelings of that general officer, when he reflected that the thanks

of the house were voted to him only in consequence of a resolution to thank Earl Cornwallis ?

Mr. Sheridan apologized to Mr. Rigby for not answering some things that had fallen from him, in the same ludicrous strain, in which he chose to view every thing, excepting what related immediately to his own interest. In his own opinion, there were some things too serious for ridicule; and the question before them, if ever any question did, merited a serious and grave discussion. He acknowledged the honorable gentleman had a fund of drollery and humour; but he liked his ingenuity, his humour, and his counsels, better than his political argu


The motion was carried without a division.



Mr. Courtenay having ridiculed the conduct of the opposition members, in a speech of some length, and in which he observed that O liberty! O virtue! O my country! has been the incessant pathetic, but fallacious cry of former oppositions; the present, he was sure, acted on purer motives. They wept over their bleeding country; yet the "patriot eye, in a fine phrenzy rolling," deigned to cast a wishful squint on riches and honors enjoyed by the minister and his venal supporters. If he were not apprehensive of hazarding a ludicrous allusion (which he knew was always improper on a serious subject) he would compare their conduct to the sentimental alderman's in one of Hogarth's prints, who, when his daughter is expiring, wears indeed a parental face of grief and solicitude, but it is to secure her diamond ring, which he is drawing gently from her finger.

Mr. SHERIDAN rose and reprehended Mr. Courtenay for turning every thing that passed into

ridicule; and for having introduced into the house a stile of reasoning, in his opinion, every way unsuitable to the gravity and importance of the subjects that came under their discussion. If they could not act with dignity, he thought they might at least debate with decency. Mr. Sheridan said, he would not attempt to answer Mr. Courtenay's arguments, for it was impossible seriously to reply to what, in every part, had an infusion of ridicule in it. Two of the honorable gentleman's similies, however, he must take notice of. The one was, his having insinuated that opposition was envious of those who basked in court sunshine; and desirous merely to get into their places. He begged leave to remind the honorable gentleman, that though the sun afforded a genial warmth, it also occasioned an intemperate heat, that tainted and infected every thing it reflected on. That this excessive heat tended to corrupt as well as to cherish; to putrify as well as to animate; to dry and soke up the wholesome juices of the body politic; and turn the whole of it into one mass of corruption. If those therefore, who sat near him, did not enjoy so genial a warmth as the honorable gentleman, and those who like him kept close to the noble lord in the blue ribbon, he was certain they breathed a purer air, an air less infected and less corrupt. Another of the honorable gentleman's allusions was not quite a new one-he had talked of the machine of state, and of the drag-chain of opposition. He would only observe upon this, that a drag-chain was never applied but when a machine was going down hill, and then it was applied wisely. As to any thing else the gentleman had said, he should not offer a reply; but should sit down with assuring the honorable gentleman, that the most serious part of his argument appeared to him to be the most ludicrous.




Mr. SHERIDAN now rose, agreeably to his intimation, to offer his propositions respecting the police of Westminster. He began with saying, that if he had presumed to offer his sentiments to the house on this subject at the opening of parliament, he should have felt the necessity of apologizing for the presumption of taking up the matter; since after the recollection of the dreadful tumults which ravaged and disgraced the metropolis in the month of June last, he should have naturally conceived that some gentleman, of more experience and more weight than himself, would have thought it worthy his own attention, as well as that of the house. But as so long a time had elapsed, and no gentleman undertaken the important consideration, he thought himself both justified and called upon to the task. The police of every country was an object of importance. (Gentlemen would understand what he meant by the term police; it was not an expression of our law, or of our language; but was perfectly understood.) In a despotic country, where the laws were regulated by the will of the sovereign, the view and purpose of the police is to give comfort and security to the subject, and, perhaps, to furnish secret information to the rulers. In a constitution of liberty, like that of Britain, it was the duty and the object of the people to prefer the essentials of freedom, to the comforts of ease; and they were not to purchase internal protection at the expense of slavery. It is not a dead and slavish quiet; it is not a passive calm and submission, that is the ultimate object of police in such a state; but as much good order as is consistent and busy bustling genius of liberty. They were not to be awed into submission by a military, dependent on the will of one man, to whom they de

« PreviousContinue »