« PreviousContinue »
with as much self-attention, and as much observing, that the hon. gentleman had neglect of reform, as any minister what- not lost his temper merely, but his memory; for so far from having introduced the noble lord's name into the debate, an hon. gentleman opposite to him had forced it upon him; neither had he made, at any time, the least charge against the noble lord, as a ground of censure, or with a view to the charging him with corruption or criminality, but had merely, as he before remarked, stated certain proofs of the want of regulation and check in the higher offices of government as arguments in favour of the necessity for a reform. Mr. Pitt took notice of the coalition, and said, that the persons whom the noble lord had joined, had not been thought to include all the virtue and ability of the country until after that event.
Mr. Pitt replied, that the hon. gentleman, as usual, had grossly misrepresented facts. In the first place, he had not made the speech he alluded to, while in office, but when, on the other side of the House, from knowledge obtained, when Chancellor of the Exchequer, at the Treasury, and he had stated them to the House, not as charges against the noble lord in the blue ribband, but as a proof of the want of regulation and check in the particulars to which they alluded. As to nothing having been done in the way of reform, let any man recollect the state of the country when he came into office, and look at it now, and see if nothing had been done.
Mr. Fox observed, that his hon. friend did not impute it to the right hon. gentleman that he had charged his noble friend who was absent, with having done any thing which bore the appearance of corruption or criminality, but with having thrown out, as loose insinuations, what he ought not to have mentioned at all, unless he had brought them forward in the shape of charges capable of proof and refutation. Mr. Fox defended lord North from the shadow of suspicion, by declaring, that in his hottest hour of opposition to the noble lord, when minister, he never dreamt of imputing any thing like corrupt motives to him for any part of his conduct; not had he ever heard an individual hint at such an idea. He defended the coalition from the attack which Mr. Pitt had made upon it, and said, when that gentleman had stood up in 1782, after the noble lord had been driven from his post, and declared against a retrospect with a view to punishment, it had been understood that he wished to court the noble lord with a view
Mr. Adam thought the right hon. gentleman excessively reprehensible, for having introduced the name of the noble lord in the blue ribband in his present helpless state, and made him the subject of animadversion in his absence. The right hon. gentleman was correct in stating that he was in opposition, and not in office, when he made the charges relative to whipcord, the new kitchens in Downing-street House, &c. He would not have presumed to have said a syllable of that nature, while the noble lord was out of office, when he thought he might have been able to have prevailed on him to join him. The noble lord had since joined himself to men of the first genius, ability, and virtue, and the right hon. gentleman had acted in a manner directly opposite; he had received those former dependents on the noble lord, who, by their recent conduct, had proved how much the noble lord's confidence had been misplaced, and, with their aid, he had been enabled to collect his members of Parliament.-to a junction. [Mr. Pitt said across [A cry of Order! order!] Mr. Adam said, that he meant no offence to the House, but his zeal, his affection, his attachment to the noble lord, had rendered it impossible for him to express himself calmly, when he heard him, in his present unfortunate condition, made the subject of personal animadversion.
Mr. Pitt declared, that no man could more readily forgive improper words, when dictated by affection and tenderness for an absent friend, labouring under severe indisposition, than himself; and no person regretted the cause of the noble Jord's absence more; but he could not help
the table, "Who understood so?] Mr. Fox replied, I did for one, and so I have reason to believe did many others, from the conversation I then held with them. Certain it was, that before the coalition the right hon. gentleman never expressed himself with that acrimony, which he had since used when speaking of the noble lord.
Mr. Pitt denied the fact, and concluded, that the right hon. gentleman chose to forget all that had passed previous to the coalition. He chose, however, to date his recollection from his first appearance in that House, and to appeal to all who
he had those means in his power, to which it would then be proper to resort.
Mr. Pitt and Mr. Sheridan rose together; but the latter declaring that he flattered himself that the House would wish rather in such a moment, that he should delay the right hon. gentleman's speaking for a very few seconds, was heard first.
had witnessed his conduct, whether he had not uniformly persisted in declaring, that he thought the noble lord a bad minister, and that he never would act with him in any public situation as a minister. If the right hon. gentleman had understood that he meant to court the noble lord's political friendship, at the time which he had mentioned, as he then lived with him on terms of friendship, why did he not put the question to him fairly? The fact was, he never had afforded colour for such a sentiment being entertained by any one, and had no other motive for being against a retrospective inquiry in 1782, than that he thought the situation of the country made it more wise to press forward with a view to the future, than to look back to the past. As to charging the noble lord with having been actuated by motives of personal corruption, he had never sug gested or entertained such an idea.
Mr. Fox admitted that he might not have put a question to the right hon. gentleman, but contended that he had thought so; and insisted upon it, that his manner of mentioning the noble lord had been more guarded, and less offensive in the interval between the noble lord's going out and his return to office, than at any time since.
Mr. Grey declared, that his motion arose from no motives of personal pique or resentment of any sort whatever; and that he possessed the materials for the charges in his mind adequate to the end proposed, since he held in his hand a copy of the memorial of Mr. Lees, and other documents important to the charges. He took notice of Mr. Pitt's argument, which he thought unwarrantable and injurious to his honour, and said, that no man should dare to question the purity of the principles on which he acted.
Mr. Pitt answered, that the hon. gentleman arrogated somewhat too much to himself, if he conceived that he should not take the liberty of calling his motives in question as often as his conduct warranted such a freedom. If the hon. gentleman chose not to have his motives questioned, he must take care that his conduct was such as not to render it necessary.
Mr. Sheridan then said, that his hon. friend, he saw clearly, had mistaken the Chancellor of the Exchequer's meaning but his words hastily heard, might, at their first sound, have made the sort of impression which he perceived they had made on his hon. friend; though he was ready to admit that this was not their true mean ing.
Mr. Pitt declared, that he had not before risen with heat, nor should there be any heat in what he was going to say. He then deliberately repeated the argu ment of his former speech, and added, that with respect to any means to which the hon. gentleman, in that case, might wish to resort, it would be for himself to determine whether they were proper or not.
Mr. Steele remonstrated against the tone of defiance which the hon. gentleman had assumed, and which could not but prove painful to every gentleman's breast. He desired to ask the hon. gentleman if, in his own opinion, he had the means in his power to complete the inquiry for which he had moved. If he had not, he would say that it was unworthy a member of parliament to have opened, at that period of the session, a matter involv ing a charge against the noble lord at the head of the post-office, and against his right hon. friend, and leaving them both in suspence before the public.
Sir James Johnstone declared, that he would suspect whom he pleased. He would suspect the Speaker; he would suspect my lords the bishops; he would suspect every man in that House; he was sent there to suspect them all, and he dared to do his duty.
Mr. Grey declared, that he meant not to assume a tone of defiance, nor was he conscious that he had assumed it. As to Mr. Grey replied, that he should never the question which the hon. gentleman had act in that house upon any principle put to him, he had, in his mind, proof which did not appear to him to be honour-sufficient of the facts which he had stated, able; and while he was conscious that his if Mr. Lee's memorial to the Postmastersconduct was governed by the unerring general was admissible as evidence. principles of honour, if any person chose to impute dishonourable principles to him,
The motion was put and agreed to, and a Committee was accordingly appointed.
May 21. Mr. Grey acquainted the House, that the Committee had gone through the several abuses in the Postoffice, to which he had alluded when he took the liberty of proposing a committee of inquiry a few days ago, and his mind was made up to the conviction, that the committee had heard evidence sufficiently satisfactory to substantiate every fact which he had opened to the House. He wished, therefore, to make a report of their proceedings as far as they included those facts. But as other gentlemen had stated other facts, which were then under inquiry, he could not make a complete report. This being the case, he trusted that his report would be received, and that it would be considered as a full and complete answer to those who had charged him with having wished to open accusations in the House, and propose a committee of inquiry, without having in his possession the materials and the power of making a report to the House before the prorogation. He concluded with moving, "That the Committee have leave to report their proceedings from time to time.'
Viscount Maitland complained of the injustice of making a partial report on a subject of so delicate a nature, as an accusation against a noble lord high in office, at a period of the session when it would be impossible for that noble lord to exculpate himself in time for the House to receive his exculpation previous to the prorogation of parliament.
Mr. Pitt declared that he was extremely impatient that a report from the Committee should be made; but no feeling of anxiety on his own account, nor on that of the noble lord in question, could reconcile him to the admission of a piece-meal and partial report upon so delicate a subject. A complete report the House was entitled to expect; a complete report he anxiously wished to see; but to nothing short of a complete report could he give his consent. Mr. Fox observed, that he had thought it extremely hard and unreasonable in the first instance to expect that his hon. friend, not having the power either of lengthening the existence of the session, or of knowing how long it would exist, should make any report before the House rose; but surely it was much more hard, and much more unreasonable, after his hon.friend had declared, that he had heard every witness, and was ready to make a report as far as those facts went, to expect that his hon. friend could undertake to make com
May 28. The order of the day for taking into farther consideration the Report of the Committee to inquire into certain abuses in the Post-office, having been read,
Mr. Grey rose and remarked, that after what had passed, it would be unnecessary for him to trespass long on the patience of the House; and therefore he would shortly touch upon the several facts stated in the report, in order to show that every abuse to which he before adverted, had been fully substantiated by evidence. He should not, he said, wonder if the charges he had made, although fully established by proof, were to appear light and trivial in the eyes of the House, or at least be so stated by those who might think proper to oppose the motion he should have the honour to make. All charges must indeed seem trivial, when compared with those enormous and flagitious charges, in the investigation of which the House had been so long and so solemnly engaged; but though he did not bring forward charges of unequalled oppression, rapacity, and corruption, of the most unprecedented plunder of lacks and crores of rupees with the one hand, and the most unexampled and lavish waste of them with the other, yet the charges he had to urge were not in themselves of an insignificant nature; they pointed directly to gross malversation in office, to illegal bargain and sale of public situations, to connivance at fraudulent abuse, to the dismission and disgrace of those who had showed themselves anxious for reform, and to countenance
and protection extended in favour of those who had opposed reform. Mr. Grey now proceeded to describe the different facts in the order in which they are noticed in the Report of the Committee; and first he desired to call the attention of the House to the sum of 350l. annually paid by Mr. Lees, secretary of the Post-office in Ireland, to a person no otherwise known than by the letters, A. B., although it appeared that the person so mentioned was Mr. Treves. He commented upon this fact as the most important of any stated in the Report, and contended that it was not only an indirect and undue application of the public money, but contrary to law, and as such highly deserving of censure. He expatiated on the evil tendency of such an illicit contract, and maintained, that it was clearly wrong in the conception of lord Carteret himself, from the secret and concealed manner in which the transaction had been veiled from the public eye, and from the great concern shown by the noble lord upon its having been discovered in the narrative of Mr. Lees, that Mr. Treves was the person who was described by the letters A. B. He mentioned also Mr. Todd's declaration before the Committee, that such a transaction was unprecedented, and that he had expressed his disapprobation of it to the Postmastergeneral at the time when it took place, and laid considerable stress upon that cir
He next proceeded to the second point stated in the Report; that of a payment of 2001. a year, which had been exacted from Mr. Dashwood, appointed to the office of Postmaster-general in Jamaica: this also was in favour of Mr. Treves, who had never performed any public service in the Post-office, or in any other public department, to entitle him to such reward. That fact being of a similar character and complexion with the first, it fell within the same observations which he had applied to the former; and it was unnecessary therefore for him to offer any additional remarks. The next fact was that of permitting Crisp Molyneux, esq., agent to the packets at Helvoetsluys, to dispose of his office to Mr. Hutchinson, against whom complaints had been made for improper conduct in his office. On this occasion Mr. Grey stated, that it appeared to the Committee that a letter had been written in the month of January last, informing Mr. Hutchinson, that if he did not perform his engagements to Mr. Moly[VOL. XXVI.]
neux, Mr. Molyneux must have his place again. The whole of this transaction, he contended, was directly illegal and unjustifiable; and the more so, as neither that nor the former transaction were entered on the books of the office. He afterwards mentioned the 100l. a year proposed by lord Carteret to be paid in lieu of his house to Mr. Staunton, postmaster at Isleworth, declaring that the earl of Tankerville had resisted the proposition, but that after his removal from office the allowance had been made. He next called their attention to the fact of the earl of Tankerville having made frequent representations to the First Lord of the Treasury, respecting the abuses which he had discovered in the Post-office, and that he was encouraged in the belief, that he should certainly have received the support and assistance of government in redressing the same, but that he was, soon after such encouragement, removed from his office of Postmaster-general. Mr. Grey contended, that the fact amounted to a criminal charge against the Chancellor of the Exchequer ; he mentioned that an attempt had been made to criminate the earl of Tankerville before the Committee, but that it was no sooner gone into than it had been abandoned as altogether untenable. He entered into a discussion of the cause and origin of the misunderstanding between lord Carteret and the earl of Tankerville, and denied that it arose from any other circumstance than the opposition which lord Carteret gave to the reform of abuses proposed by his noble relation. He took notice of the various abuses proved to exist in the management of the packet boats, particularly that no deduction had been made from the hire of any packet boat whilst under repair, seizure for smuggling, or when unemployed. He also stated the giving a two and half percentage upon the gross expenditure to the person having the management of the packet boats, as the means of creating an undue influence upon his integrity; but at the same time he acquitted Mr. Todd, who at present enjoyed that emolument, of ever having been biassed by it. He said, there had appeared a tolerably stout and ready witness before the Committee, who ventured to declare, that he was of opinion, that making contracts in the present manner without any reserve for nonemployment, &c. was the most economical that could be adopted. How far such an opinion deserved serious reliance, he [4 G]
submitted it to the good sense of the House to decide.
whole administration had been put in the
Sir John Aubrey complimented the earl of Tankerville for the part he had acted in bringing forward such an inquiry. He said, that the abuses stated had been all proved, and that had not the noble earl acted as he did, he would himself have been an offender. He was proud of the opportunity of doing justice to the character of a noble earl, so nearly connected with him by alliance and by friendship,
Viscount Maitland said, that the re
Mr. Grey now entered into a series of general reflections on the whole of the case, which, he said, in his mind involved a severer charge against the right hon. gentleman opposite to him, who, by turning out the earl of Tankerville after having given him reason to believe he should be supported in the reform of the abuses he had discovered, proved, that notwithstanding all his professions of purity and reform, he was by no means a sincere riend to either the one or the other. The ght hon. gentleman, when the subject was last under consideration, had read them the preamble to his own Office Reform Bill. He wished not for high-sounding expressions in the preamble of a bill; he wished to see deeds, and not mere words; that Bill had been passed above two years, and the House had heard of no report. The commissioners of accounts, on the contrary, who had been so ill-port contained facts of the most stale, treated as to have a secretary of the Treasury sent down to a thin House, to move a cold address to his Majesty respecting them, when scarcely any of the members present knew what was doing; those commissioners had been appointed in the Spring; and in November they brought in their first report, and by the time they had existed two years, they had presented seven reports; if, therefore, the commissioners under the right hon. gentleman's Bill could not find time to inquire into the abuses of the Post-office, and proceed to the reform of those abuses, the commissioners of accounts ought to have been directed to do it; but from the whole complexion of the case it was evident, that the right hon. gentleman had not been sincere, when he had either in that instance, or any other, dealt so largely in professions of his wishes of reform; if he had, that House must before that time have seen some fruits of so much promise; whereas there were not any traces to be found of real reform of office. Speaking of the dismission of the earl of Tankerville, Mr. Grey said, his noble relation had been sacrificed for the sake of arrangements in favour of a noble lord who had seated the right hon. gentleman in his present situation, and who could dismiss him from his office with a nod. The noble earl had been sacrificed in favour of that noble lord, who had been well described by an hon. friend of his as of so much weight and importance, that the
trivial, and unimportant nature, that had ever engaged the attention of parliament. The only difference between the present complexion of those facts and their former aspect was, that which had been in almost every body's hand without doors as a narrative of facts, was now dignified with the form and title of a report of the House of Commons. The first circumstance was a grant of 350l. a year to Mr. Treves, an intimate friend of lord Carteret, which was no charge whatever to the public, nor any impediment to the public business; but was, with the consent of the party most interested, paid out of the existing emoluments of the office of Secretary of the Post-office in Dublin. That such a measure was not strictly justifiable he was ready to admit, but it was by no means unprecedented; and, compared with the transactions in every public office only ten years ago, it was purity itself. Nor, indeed, had it been even insinuated that it originated in any thing like a corrupt motive in lord Carteret. His hon. friend had laid great stress on the opinion of Mr. Todd respecting the transaction. That opinion, he must take leave to say, was of no authority in that House, upon a point which every gentleman present was to the full as competent to judge about as Mr. Todd. The next transaction was that of Mr. Dashwood, Postmaster of Jamaica, which was, as the hon. gentleman had stated it, exactly similar to that of the 350., and therefore required