« PreviousContinue »
looked up to, as the Demosthenes of that assembly. He had acted, however, in that day's debate, perfectly consistent; he had assured the house, that he thought the noble lord ought to resign his offices; and yet he would give his vote for his remaining in it. The hon, gentleman had long declared, that he thought the American war ought to be abandoned; but he had uniformly given his vote for its continuance. He did not mean, however, to insinuate any motives for such conduct;-he believed the right hon. gentleman to have been sincere ;-he believed, that, as a member of parliament, as a privy-counsellor, as a private gentleman, he had always detested the American war as much as any man: but that he had never been able to persuade the paymaster that it was a bad war; and, unfortunately, in whatever character he spoke, it was the paymaster who always voted in that house. His attacks on the noble lord, he said, appeared only an ingenious method of supporting him; it was figurative; but aye and no were speeches that did not admit of a trope. Mr. Sheridan then attacked the language used by that honorable gentleman, on all occasions, where the constituents of that house were mentioned. His manner of treating the late petitions on the American war was highly indecent, and at that time extremely impolitic. The people began to be sufficiently irritated: gentlemen should be careful to drop no expressions of contempt towards them in that house they had borne a great deal; and it might be imprudent to treat their patience with insult. The way to prevent the interference of the people; the way to destroy those associations and petitions, which seemed so offensive to the right honorable gentleman, was to endeavour to make parliament respectable. Let that house shew itself independent; let it shew itself consistent; and the people will never think of interfering; but if parliament became contemptible in the eyes of the nation, the
people would interfere, and neither threats nor influence would prevent them.
He was sorry to have observed that the debates of that day had worn so much the complexion of a contention between two parties; the one eager to keep their places, the other to get them for this, he thought, the ground of all others on which the people, who were the real sufferers in the contest, had a right to say they would be heard and be attended to. Mr. Sheridan then adverted to the Lord Advocate's attack on the supposed dangerous principles of his honorable friend (Mr. Fox) supposing he were minister. He ridiculed the learned lord's apprehensions, that his honorable friend, were he at the head of affairs in that house, and ever to find himself in a minority, that he would fly from the decision of parliament, and appeal to the people. What did the learned lord mean that he would ever appeal to the people as a minister? Did he see no distinction between a member of parliament applying to his constituents, whose agent he was; and a servant of the crown holding an office at the will of His Majesty, attempting to appeal to them in that capacity against parliament ? No, were his honorable friend in the noble lord's place, and were he to forfeit, which he could not easily suppose, the confidence of parliament, he was sure he would neither fly to the people, nor to the throne for support. He would disdain to continue longer in his office; he would not cling with the convulsive grasp of despair to the helm, which he was no longer able to guide on the contrary, he would no doubt follow the advice, which the learned lord himself had successfully given to a late minister; he would instantly retire, though not to the other house perhaps, but to a situation more honorable in the hearts of the people.
The noble lord, however, in the blue riband, (North,) Mr. Sheridan said, was certainly not
likely to give any apprehensions of this sort to his friend the learned advocate. He gave him full credit for having no thoughts of flying to the people for refuge upon the majority which had appeared against him in parliament. He dared not look the people in the face, much less ask their protection. He would as soon fly to some town in America, disfigured with the blood and miseries of this inhuman war, which the noble lord had so obstinately persevered in, and hope to find a sanctuary there. Having pressed this idea with great force, he took a view of the arguments used by another gentleman (Mr. Adam) to prove that opposition had been chiefly instrumental in the calamities of the country; and after reasoning very forcibly on the subject, he put it to the minister, whether he would ever come forward and answer to the world with such an excuse as this; whether he would ever acknowledge, that he, having had every thing he had desired,-having been entrusted with an unbounded treasure and immense army,-having had the whole force and the purse of the nation in his hands, he had yet been defeated in all his projects, by the talking and writing of a party in the country, who had yet never prevented him from having a man or a guinea he had demanded? he believed that the noble lord himself, whatever situation he might be brought to, had too much candour and spirit ever to stoop to such a defence.
He concluded with a warm panegyric on the conduct and principles of opposition, which he said he should not presume to make, if it were not in his power to assert that he gave his vote as independently as any man in that house; that no man should ever dictate to him; that he gave it as he did, from a sincere conviction that that party had ability to retrieve the affairs of this country, as far as they could now be retrieved; and that they were men who had an honest meaning to the constitution
and liberties of the country, both of which he thought actually assailed under the present system.
On a division, there appeared ayes 226; noes 216; majority in favor of the ministers 10.
REPORT FROM THE COMMITTEE
OF WAYS AND MEANS-DUTIES ON THE CARRIAGE OF GOODS AND INSURANCE.
Mr. SHERIDAN said, he had determined to avoid saying a single word on the subject, as it was an aukward and embarrassing circumstance for any member to speak in opposition to a tax, when he happened to be materially concerned in the object of it. If he alone was interested, perhaps he should have taken no measure whatever on the subject; but as a very extensive property of others, as well as the welfare of numbers employed in that property, were concerned, it would be unjust to them, and an abuse of their personal confidence in him, were he to be inactive in the matter. It was not, however, his intention to trouble the house with opposing it then; he meant to pursue a very fair method in laying before the noble lord at the head of the treasury, his objections in writing, with a real and candid state of the question. The product of the tax was but a trifle to the public, in comparison to the injury it would do to private property, and the oppression with which it must be collected.
Mr. Gilbert declared that he was sure, the tax on the land navigation carriage went much beyond the noble lord's estimate; and might be rated certainly at an excess beyond, he believed, the whole of the tax of all the carriages. It would fall, too, more peculiarly heavy on the poor, especially in the article of coals, which would be burthensome on
every rank of life. He said, that he should endeavour, before the bill for regulating the carriage tax was brought into that house, to possess himself with sufficient arguments to oppose it.
MR. EDEN'S MOTION TO REPEAL SO MUCH OF THE ACT OF GEORGE I. AS ASSERTED A RIGHT TO THE KING AND PARLIAMENT OF GREAT BRITAIN TO MAKE LAWS TO BIND THE KINGDOM OF IRELAND.
On the 20th of March, Lord North communicated to the house, that His Majesty had come to a full determination of changing his ministers. On the first day of the meeting of parliament, after the recess, the affairs of Ireland were unexpectedly brought before the house, by Mr. Eden; who having been seceretary to the Earl of Carlisle, lord lieutenant of that country, was just arrived from thence with his resignation of the vice royalty. This gentleman after taking a political view of the history of Ireland during the last two years, acquainted the house with the measures, he said, were there forming, for rendering it totally independent of the British legislature, and made the motion stated above. The precipitation, with which a business of such magnitude and importance was thus attempted to be forced on the house, without previous communication; with any of His Majesty's new ministers, or knowledge of their intentions, was severely censured by many members; and the more especially, as it appeared Mr. Eden had refused to give any official information to government, relative to the state of the country he had just left. Mr. Eden, though loudly called on to withdraw his motion, persisted, urging its necessity; when
Mr. SHERIDAN rose. He observed, he could not sit still and see a question of this importance, which was then just going to be put from the chair, rejected or evaded in the manner which it was likely to be. He could not dismiss his hopes that the right honorable gentleman, who had moved it, might yet be induced to withdraw it; and he was convinced the greatest mischiefs would follow its being otherwise disposed of. The learned gentleman, (Mr. Mansfield,) who was the only person who had attempted to defend the extraordinary conduct of the secretary for Ireland, (Mr. Eden,)