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likewise, that it was most shamefully indecent on the part of administration, and that it flatly contradicted the affectation of impartiality with which the bill was fraught, with respect to the mode of constituting the court of judicature; he had risen and stated his intention of proving the fact, by moving, "that the door-keeper be called to the bar of the house," which motion he was proceeding to ground upon argument, when he had been called down from the chair, (very properly called down, he was ready to admit, on the part of the Speaker, who had been reminded that two hundred members were present, and desired to lock the door and proceed to the ballot, in compliance with the act of parliament, which authorised the institution of the Court of Judicature.) This having proved the case, and the ballot having been actually proceeded upon, was there any inconsistency in his not afterwards attempting to make his motion? One reason upon which he meant to have rested it, and one object to which he intended to have pointed it, tended to shew the necessity and propriety of postponing the ballot to another day. Mr. Sheridan strenuously insisted, that it would have been most absurd in him to have attempted to have made his motion, when so essential an end aimed at by it as getting the ballot postponed was determined, and over, by the ballot's having taken place. That was an explanation of his conduct of the preceding day; and he left it to the house to decide, whether it was at all inconsistent or contradictory. He complained of the ministers having taken an unfair advantage of the letter of the act of parliament, in calling to the Speaker to shut the doors when he did. He admitted that, according to the letter of the act, such conduct was warranted; but under such a strict enforcement of the letter of the act, the minister might, when the house were in a division, and one hundred members (those in the opposition) out in the lobby, and two hundred (all the friends of the
minister) within the house, call to the chair to lock the doors, and proceed to ballot with a complete certainty of carrying the election his own way.
What could be more gross and preposterous than the minister's conduct the preceding day, when he prevented him from opening his motion, by calling to the chair to have the doors shut while he was on his legs? What he meant now to move, would be that part of his yesterday's purpose, which might be fully accomplished, and this was, "That the door-keeper be called to the bar of the house," there to state from whom he received the written lists, and by whose authority he delivered them to the members as they entered. The fact was an infringement of the privileges of the house, and an indecent and direct attempt to influence their members in their capacity of electors of the new Court of Judicature by treasury interference. He flattered himself that he should not again hear the ridiculous argument of the preceding day, that there was no compulsion used, and that the papers left the minds of the members as free and unbiassed as they were before they saw them. (Mr. Pitt said, across the house, so they did.) Mr. Sheridan declared his extreme surprise at the right honorable gentleman's still contending for so palpable an absurdity; he said, he had imagined even the shortest time for recollection would have convinced the right honorable gentleman that the position was truly ridiculous; and that, although Mr. Pearson had not taken the members individually by the shoulders, and forced them by manual strength to ballot for the list he had put into their possession, yet, certainly by thrusting the treasury list into their hands, he had not left their minds as completely free and uninfluenced as they had been before. The bill affected great impartiality on the part of the minister; and it had been argued at the time the bill was in progress, that it was intended that the minister for the timebeing should not interfere in the election of the new
Court of Judicature in any way whatsoever. How could this be reconciled to the conduct adopted? A conduct at once so indecent and so degrading to them, that if the right honorable gentleman dared rise and avow, that the lists were prepared by his orders, and delivered by his authority, he would pledge himself to move the severest censure of that house upon the right honorable gentleman; and indeed, it was the duty of the house to institute an inquiry, in order to ascertain what he had stated as matter highly culpable on the part of the treasury; and the house could take no means so effectual of doing that, as ordering their door-keeper to the bar. He desired not to be misunderstood as meaning to cast any sort of slur on the characters whose names were in the written lists; more respectable characters he knew not; and so far was he from wishing it to be conceived that he intended to throw any imputation upon them, he was not without hopes, that they would feel that he was combating their cause, and would all vote with him. With these impressions, he trusted that he could successfully move, "That Mr. Joseph Pearson, door-keeper, be now called in and examined in relation to the said complaint."
Mr. Pitt replied.
Mr. Sheridan, censuring the mis-statements of his argument, complained of the right honorable gentleman's having pointed him out as a person apt to treat that house with insult and contempt. Nothing, he added, could be farther from his intention; and as he had not the great abilities, the power, the influence of office, nor the other advantages that right honorable gentleman possessed, to recommend him to the good opinion of the house, the right honorable gentleman, he hoped, would not take from him his only possession, a most sincere respect for the house and all its members. Mr. Sheridan added, that he differed in one point from
his right honorable friend near him; he meant to have balloted, though an enemy to the bill, but he had been prevented by accident.
The question being put, the house divided; ayes 38; noes 138.
FORTIFICATIONS FOR PROTECTION OF DOCK
Mr. Sheridan expressed his wish that the motion concerning the proceedings, respecting the proposed plan of fortifying the dock-yards, should not occasion much debate, or even meet with resistance. But, previous to making it, he should imagine it would be right to call gentlemen's attention back to the situation in which the house stood at that moment, with respect to the subject. They would please to recollect that the minister having given them to understand that, previous to their being called upon to vote, that the 50,000l. granted towards fortifications to be erected for the defence of the dock-yards in 1784, should be so applied, the whole matter should be referred to a board of general officers, naval as well as military, to enquire into the nature of the plan proposed, the possibility of doing without it, the necessity for having it, the wisdom and policy of adopting it, and the expense which it would ultimately incur. He should also beg leave to remind the house of the turn of the argument of the right honorable gentleman, on the preceding Friday, when he formally announced his expectation, that when the ordnance estimates were voted this session, the application of 50,000l. in hand would be desired. At that time the right honorable gentleman had said, that the house would not now have the bare word of an individual, or of any minister, to rely on; but the report and unanimous opinion of a board of the most respectable nature ever instituted, a board composed of the first characters in the naval and military line now in being. What then (added Mr. Sheridan) was his
astonishment, and what must have been the astonishment of the house, to find an honorable general, a member of that board, rise in his place, and flatly contradict the right honorable gentleman, by denying that the result of the opinions of that board had been such as the right honorable gentleman had described, or that those opinions warranted any such declaration as he had advanced. The right honorable gentleman had risen a second time, and put the matter at issue between him and the honorable general, challenging the judgment of the house, and calling upon them to decide who was right and who wrong in his assertion? Where was the possibility of the house judging without either evidence or means of directing their determination? Assertion stood against assertion; and they, altogether uninformed as to the real merits of the fact at issue, and perfectly in the dark, were desired to decide? This was so obviously absurd, that he should have imagined, when the right honorable gentleman put the matter at issue, he would, himself, have furnished those who were called upon to give judgment, with the means of forming their opinion. As he had not proceeded thus far, he meant to do it by his motion of that day; but, concluding that a great deal of matter improper to be laid before the house, might be contained in the detail of the report of the board of naval and military officers, he had cautiously forborne to make his motion too extensive; and had worded it so as to empower ministers to lay such parts only of what papers the motion called for, before the house, as might be placed upon the table with the greatest safety to the state. If, however, his motion, in its present form, was to be found objectionable, and less objectionable words could be suggested, he would readily adopt them; and if the papers were furnished, and bore out the right honorable gentleman in his assertion, he would for one, abandon all idea of opposing the proposal to suffer the money to be applied to fortifications.