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permanency of this great system, stand responsible to God and man, for all the fatal consequences of such neglect, and for the disasters and dreadful calamities which may befall their country.
Lord Camelford expressed his wish, that the House should proceed with such cau tion, as to avoid throwing the least discredit upon the Bill, or to give the world an idea that it was thought an imperfect measure. He well knew both the integrity of the noble earl's intentions, and his ardour in carrying into effect any measure which he thought was for the good of his country. He was fully persuaded that every word he had uttered came from his heart, and that they were the result of a laudable desire to assist in the great work of supporting the national credit. But the time of proposing such a resolution, was what he chiefly and entirely disapproved. He would not then go into a discussion of the arguments of the noble earl; neither would he discuss the resolution, which stood not in need of the authorities of great and respectable monied men, nor of any authority whatever, as it turned chiefly upon self-evident propositions. That the plan should be permanent was a matter which every one of their lordships must wish; but they all knew how impossible it was to make it more so than it was made by the Bill upon the table. With regard to the noble lord's proposal of paying off the 3 per cents at 90, he professed it struck him, that the plan of paying them off at the market price, as provided by the Bill on the table, was more advantageous for the public, because it made paying off in war time, the time most easy of discharging the debt.
be oppressed by burthens which it scarce can bear, ministers will not dare (even for their own sakes) to involve this country in expensive wars, without provocation, or without necessity; for the nation would tear that minister to pieces, who, in the present situation of our finances, should involve this country in war, or attempt to lay on an additional load of heavy taxes, without sufficient cause. Our national poverty has therefore at least this one good attending it, namely, that it tends to make the governing powers of this country cautious to avoid wars, and to make them prudent from necessity. But this Bill of the minister that is now before the House, tends to subvert, as it were, this great system of nature. For though it does not make us rich, it takes from us any advantage which we might derive from our property. This Bill of Administration may, in its consequences, prove fatal to this kingdom. For, if it be not followed up by some other measure to make it permanent, and to render its operation certain and safe, it will tend to destroy one of the noblest gifts of Providence, inasmuch as this Bill will tend to destroy that security which we otherwise should have against the rashness of future ministers; and inasmuch as it will tend to destroy that necessity of doing right, which is our best preservative against folly, and our surest guard against imprudence.-If, my lords, the present or any future minister should come forward, with a wise measure to secure the sinking fund, and to insure to us and posterity the advantages of an unalienable plan for the redemption of our public debt; that minister will deserve not the praises, not the thanks, but the blessings of a grateful people. But, if it should unfortunately happen, that this measure before the House shall be the last, if no plan shall be adopted to render this important measure permanent, and to place this new sinking fund out of the reach of any profligate minister, and out of the reach of any corrupt and abandoned parliament; and if public bankruptcy shall ensue, with all its concomitant evils; I, my lords, shall have at least one (though perhaps only one) consolation left, that of reflecting that I had not contributed to those national misfortunes, and that I had done my duty by lodging my distinct opinion and forewarning upon the Journals of your lordships; and let those men who are possessed of power, and who shall neglect to use that power to secure the
Earl Stanhope said, that instead of finding reason for an alteration of his opinion in consequence of what he had heard, the noble lord's arguments would induce him to press his motion still more strongly on their lordships. He complained, however, of having been misunderstood, and stated in what particular, entering into an explanation as to the effect of the 10 per cent. advantage gained by the public in consequence of the compact proposed to be entered into with the public creditors. He illustrated his argument, that the public by gaining priority of redemption to the subscribers holding 3 per cent. stock, would give away what was in fact of no use or advantage to them, though extremely beneficial to the public creditor, by putting the case of a man living in
London, having an estate in Yorkshire, which entitled him to a right of pasturing cows on a common where his estate lay. Having no cows in Yorkshire, the right of pasturing could be of no use or advantage to the London landlord; but if he sold that right to a person in Yorkshire, resident close to the common, he parted with what he could not himself derive any immediate advantage from, to a person to whom it proved a real benefit.
Lord Camelford admitted, that upon the public creditor giving up 10 per cent. of his principal, the public would find their advantage in paying him off first.
Earl Stanhope said, that he would meet the noble lord on the issue which he had himself stated. Let him shew him a shop that sold all manner of shop goods at 10 per cent. under the price charged by other shops, and he would in future confine his custom to that shop only.
Earl Bathurst lamented that they should hear in that House that as the Bill stood, the commissioners might gain money by gambling in the stocks. When it was considered who those commissioners were, what degree of credit and respect their characters must necessarily stand in from the offices which they held, and that they must always be a check upon each other, it was not possible for him to entertain any such suspicion, or patiently hear it suggested. Was it considered, that one of them was an officer, who for fifty years together, had bought and sold all the money belonging to the suitors of the Court of Chancery, which amounted to upwards of nine millions, and yet that officer (the accountant-general) had never once had his integrity impeached by the slightest imputation?
Earl Stanhope desired, in considering a great public question, not to be held out as speaking at all personally. The six commissioners named in the Bill were undoubtedly most respectable characters, and were above suspicion; but in arguing a question of that magnitude, it was his duty to look at possibilities. It ought to be considered that any one commissioner separately, or any individual in their secrets, might use their advantage improperly, and gamble in the stocks.
Lord Sydney did not feel it requisite to investigate the plan which the noble lord had stated to the House, as it was not at that time properly before them, neither would he enter upon any argument relative to the resolution moved by the noble
lord, in which he was ready to admit that there were parts of which he entirely approved, and others to which he could not agree. All that he thought necessary, therefore, was, to consider in what manner he had best proceed to get rid of the resolution; but conscious of the extreme difficulty of persuading one so inflexible in his determinations as the noble earl to withdraw his motion, he should move the previous question.
Lord Loughborough was thoroughly convinced, from having listened to the observations of the noble earl, that all his future arguments, like the present, in that House would deserve the serious attention of their lordships in general. He was a little surprised at hearing the noble earl talk of binding future parliaments to any particular line of conduct. That was, he conceived, an unconstitutional idea. For the present, he was much inclined to support the proposition of the noble Lord high in office, and that because it was impossible for him to be ready on the sudden, to decide upon a resolution so important as that moved by the noble earl.
Earl Stanhope said, his aim was to get his resolution entered on the journals, as a test of his sentiments upon so important a subject. For that reason he would not withdraw his motion.
The Duke of Richmond having complimented earl Stanhope upon his lately written pamphlet, added that the plan therein suggested, was extremely different from that which he had just stated to the House. His printed plan went upon the proposition of paying off the 3 per cents at 75, whereas he had now suggested a scheme of paying them off at 90. The duke reasoned on these different plans comparatively for some time, and stated why he approved the plan of buying them up at the market price, as directed by the Bill on the table. He thought it a pla infinitely more likely to save the public money, and to support the national credi by raising the price of stocks.
Viscount Stormont said, that he neve recollected a first speech in that assembly which had come with more weight, made a more evident impression on thei lordships than that of the noble earl, not withstanding which he must take th liberty of advising him to withdraw hi motion, since it was impossible for thei lordships to decide upon it without proper knowledge of its extent.
The previous question was put and carried.
Viscount Stormont begged to remind the House, that it was extremely necessary that they should have before them the Report of the Committee of the House of Commons; and he justified the measure, that he should move, viz. for a message to be sent to the Commons, "to know the grounds on which they had passed the Bill," by reminding the House, that on a former occasion the minister had laid upon their lordships table, minutes of the evidence which the Commons had heard at their bar, and which they stated to have been the grounds of their proceeding in the particular case alluded to. He concluded with moving a message to the Commons.
This occasioned a short conversation upon the practice of the House. Earl Bathurst resisted the motion as unusual, and rather beneath the dignity of their proceedings. Lord Sydney, and lord Hawke, were also against it, and in answer to what viscount Stormont had said, of the evidence heard at the bar of the Commons, having been laid on their lordships table, it was observed that it had been stated, that in the case alluded to, viz. the Irish propositions, the evidence heard by the Commons could not be considered as any authority deserving of the least reliance. At length the duke of Richmond drew a motion for a message to his Majesty, desiring that a copy of the Report might be laid before the House. This was ordered.
May 25. The House having resolved itself into a Committee on the National Debt Bill,
Viscount Stormont opened his remarks on the Report of the Committee of the House of Commons, by stating, that taking the income of one year instead of the average income of several years, was too narrow to build upon, when the erection was to be a fabric of such magnitude and importance, as the Bill upon their lordships table. He produced a paper on which he had written down the sums already voted under the head of supplies, and that in all probability would be voted, and setting them against the ways and means voted and to be voted, reasoned upon both as hypotheses, and declared, that if they were tolerably correct, the full balance to go towards the million of surplus, to be applied by the Bill, would [VOL. XXVI.]
amount, even after the India Company had paid their debt to Government, to no more than 25,000l. His lordship declared the whole of the plan was constructed like some pyramids, of which he had heard the superstructure was raised first, and the foundation was left to follow afterwards. He paid great compliments to earl Stanhope's plan, and contended that one of the first proceedings of the plan contained in the Bill, ought to have been to contract with the public creditors, to give them a right of priority of redemption, on their agreeing to subscribe to a condition of being paid off at the fixed price. He concluded with declaring that he would give the Bill his vote, not because he approved of the mode of beginning to pay off the national debt, but because he thought it expedient that it should have an immediate commencement.
Lord Camelford defended his former argument, and maintained that the idea thrown out by earl Stanhope of fixing the price of stocks below their present par, would not only be diadvantageous to the public, by raising the price of stock greatly, but would amount to a violation of the public faith, at which every honest man's breast ought to recoil. He reprobated the idea of fixing the 3 per cents at 90, and asserted that, compared with the plan contained in the Bill on the table, the noble Earl's scheme had not a leg to stand upon.
Earl Stanhope rose, to rescue his plan from the animadversions of the noble Lord. As to raising the price of stock, undoubtedly in proportion as the day of redemption was known to approximate, the price would increase, and on that account it was, that he thought the present Bill imperfect, inasmuch as it did not guard against the loss the public were likely to sustain, in consequence of the price at which the stocks were to be redeemed, not being by previous contract fixed with the public creditor.
Earl Bathurst asked whether such a doctrine was ever before heard of, as that the minister was to be blamed for having added to the public credit, and at the same time to private accommodation, in respect to borrowing of money, by occasioning a considerable rise in the price of stock. He objected against the plan of the noble Earl, declaring that heretofore it had been deemed an advantage that the redemption of stock was not near at hand, [D]
and therefore, it appeared to him extraordinary indeed to contend, that the public creditors would willingly pay a premium of 10 per cent. for a right of priority of redemption.
Lord Loughborough observed, that he should find himself excessively at a loss in what manner to argue, were the first principles of the plan of the noble Earl to be questioned. His lordship proceeded to take a comprehensive view of the subject. He made most handsome mention of lord Stanhope's pamphlet, declaring, that it had afforded him great pleasure and information; that its facts were strongly urged, its calculations demonstrably just and correct, and its reasoning clear and convincing. He explained the relationship which the price of stock bore to the real interest of money and its value, and contended, that it was absurd to take the estimation of the latter from the price of the former. He denied that the increase of the price of the 3 per cents from 58 to 72, was a proof of the great increase of trade. The increase of trade always produced a gradual, but not a rapid effect on the funds. He entered fully into the report of the committee of the House of Commons, and dwelt on the various parts of it, contending that they were grossly erroneous. He said that he could not speak so favourably of the Bill on the table, as his noble friend had done; because he feared it would be productive of most mischievous effects. His prejudices in favour of a Bill, professing so great and so desirable an object, had been at first so strong, that it cost him some struggles before he could surmount them, and Look at the subject fairly, and with a view to the consideration of its real merits. Having examined it deliberately, he was convinced it might entail disadvantages, instead of conferring a benefit on the country, and that in a future war should we be obliged to sell stock, we should be buying cheap and selling dear; the one would act in an arithmetical, the other in a geometrical progression; a state either the permanence or extent of which might lead to irrecoverable ruin.
The Committee having gone through the Bill, it was reported, and read a third time.
The Speaker's Speech to the King on presenting the Bill for the Reduction of the National Debt.] May 26. The King being come to the House of Peers, and
the Usher of the Black Rod being ordered to go to the Commons, and desire their presence, the Speaker of that House came to the bar, attended by several members. Upon presenting to his Majesty the Bill for the Reduction of the National Debt, the Speaker addressed his Majesty as follows:
"Most gracious Sovereign;
"Your faithful Commons have passed a Bill, intituled, An Act for vesting certain sums in commissioners, at the end of every quarter of a year, to be by them applied to the Reduction of the National Debt;' by which they have manifested their attention to your Majesty's recommendation, at the opening of this session, for establishing a fixed plan for the reduction of the national debt.
"By the unanimity which attended the last and most important stage of this Bill, they have given the most decisive proof, that they have but one heart, and one voice, in the maintenance of the public credit, and prosperity of their country.
"The public credit of the nation, which is the result of just and honourable dealing, is now guarded by an additional security; and the future prosperity of this country will effectually be provided for, when it is considered, that, for the pur pose of pleading the cause of the continuance of this measure most powerfully with posterity, your faithful Commons. have, to the justice and good policy of it, added the authority of their own example: "Qui facit, ille jubet."
"They have not been discouraged by the burthens imposed during the last ten years from submitting in the present time, and in the hour of peace, to new, and the possibility of other, burthens; their object being to attain a situation for their country more favourable to her defence and glory in the event of future emergencies.
"A plan so honourable in its principle, and so conducive to the future happiness and safety of the kingdom, must be, in the highest degree, acceptable to the father of his people.
"Under that confidence, in the name of all the Commons of Great Britain, I tender this Bill to your Majesty; to which, with all humility, your faithful Commons desire your Majesty's royal assent."
Mr. Burke begged a pause of a few minutes, wishing, on account of the great magnitude of the subject, to have the House as full as possible before he began what he had to say to the Committee. Soon afterwards,
Debate on the Articles against Mr. | little could he be charged with, because Hastings-Conduct of the Rohilla War.] he had deliberately proceeded and exaJune 1. The House having resolved itself mined every step which he took in the into a Committee of the whole House to business with the most minute and cautious consider further of the several articles of attention; and least of all could it be said, charge of high crimes and misdemeanors with any colour of truth, that he had been against Warren Hastings, esq., late go- actuated by passion. Anger, indeed, he vernor-general of Bengal, Mr. St. John had felt, but surely not a blameable in the chair, anger; for who ever heard of an inquiring anger; a digesting anger; a collating anger; an examining anger; a deliberating anger; or a selecting anger? The anger which he felt was a uniform, steady, public anger, but not a private anger. That anger, which five years ago warmed his breast, he felt precisely now: he was, in respect to the British government in India, exactly in the same situation in which he stood when he first took it up. Not all the various occurrences of the last five years, neither five changes of administration, nor the retirement of summer, nor the occupation of winter, neither his public nor his private avocations, nor the snow which in that period had so plentifully showered on his head, had been able to cool that anger which he acknowledged to feel as a public man, but which, as a private individual, he had never felt one moment.
Mr. Burke, rising again, solemnly invoked the House, to shew that justice which he contended was particularly due to the subject, as well because the national credit and character were deeply implicated in the issue of the business about to be brought before them, as for the sake of their own honour and dignity. He described the precise question to be decided; declaring, that it was an appeal to British justice from British power. The charge contained matter which must either be criminal, or a very false accusation: there was no medium; no alternative: the result must be, that Warren Hastings had been guilty of gross, enormous, and flagitious crimes, or that he (Mr. Burke) was a base, calumniatory, wicked, and malicious accuser. He enlarged upon the degree of guilt ascribable to that man, who should presume to take up the time of the House by rashly coming forward and urging groundless and ill-founded charges against a person who had been intrusted with high and exalted offices in the government of a part of our territories much larger and more extensive than the whole island of Great Britain. For any private man to suggest such charges, would be to be guilty of a scandalous libel; and for any man, while under colour of authority, to hurl the thunders of parliamentary vengeance at the head of an innocent individual, would be such an abuse of power, as would not fail to rouse the justice and call down the punishment of that House. There were but three motives which were known to actuate men and excite them to turn accusers; these were ignorance, inadvertency, and pas sion. By neither of these three had he been actuated: ignorance he could not plead, because he knew the subject as fully as the labour and study of five years could make him know it: inadvertency as
The question which he was going to submit to their consideration was not a personal contest; it was a national and an imperial question, and not a trifling municipal regulation: it involved in it the honour of the country, and now, particularly, the honour and the justice of that House. They stood pledged by a resolution of a former day to bring it forward: let not their honour be tarnished, but let their character be safe; and let it be said, with respect to its justice, esto perpetua, whatever might become of him. He begged that the House would not regard the matter as a matter of party: there were no parties concerned in it, except the injured, the oppressor, and the accuser. It became their immediate duty to consider it in those three points of view. With regard to himself, he called upon the justice, the honour, the dignity of Parliament, to denounce their utmost vengeance on his head as the accuser, should it be found that he had dared to trifle with the sacred character of the British Legislature. He had made up his mind completely upon the subject, and was ready and prepared to submit himself to the severest punishment of that House, should it appear that he had wantonly and rashly pre