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was opposed by Lord John Cavendish.-Mr. Pitt noticed in course of the debate a remark made by Mr. Sheridan who had charged the late Board of Treasury with having created a new fee at the very time they professed to be employed in forwarding plans of economy and reform respecting office-fees in general.-He said the charge was ill founded; that the matter related to a sum claimed as a gratuity upon a contract; and which the Treasury had admitted upon grounds of custom.
Mr. SHERIDAN said, in answer to the observation of Mr. Pitt, he found by a Treasury minute, that a charge under the head of fees, having been referred to the comptroller of army accounts, he had reported to the late Treasury that it was somewhat greater than what had usually been allowed, yet the Treasury allowed it; and thus, by establishing this regulation, they would of course increase the compensation that must be made to the clerks, who should suffer by the abolition of fees.
After some further debate the speaker left the chair; and the house going into a committee, went through the bill, and afterwards adjourned.
LORD SURREY'S MOTION FOR LEAVE TO BRING IN A BILL TO EXPLAIN THE THIRTY-FIRST OF ELIZABETH, CALLED "AN ACT FOR REGULATING THE ELECTION OF SCHOLARS, AND PRESENTATION TO OFFICE.
Mr. Sheridan in order to get rid of the motion, without treating it so harshly as to put a direct negative upon it, moved for the order of the day, which was carried; Lord Surrey's motion consequently fell to the ground.
Mr. SHERIDAN then stated briefly the great hardship of the case of Colonel Erskine and the Swiss officers, who had been fined in their own country and banished from it, and were now starving here. Mr. Sheridan recommended it to gentlemen to exert themselves in a committee, to en
quire into the merits of the case, and report upon it in as few days as possible to the house. With a view to institute such enquiry, he moved, "That the East India Company do forthwith lay before this house, copies of all orders, and other papers, relative to raising a regiment on the borders of Swisserland during the last war." The same was agreed to, and ordered accordingly.
BILL FOR A TAX ON REGISTERING BIRTHS AND
Sir Adam Ferguson said, that viewing the bill in the light of a measure, to procure a correct knowledge of the number of people in the kingdom, he thought a compulsatory clause necessary; for without it, the births among Quakers, and all the different dissenting congregations, would not be ascertained.
Mr. SHERIDAN said, he intended to move a clause to compel the Quakers to register the birth of their children; but as the dissenting congregations were so numerous, he was afraid they could not be very clearly, and with certainty, described in the bill.
BILL FOR REGULATING CERTAIN OFFICES IN THE EXCHEQUER.
It was proposed by the Chancellor of the Exchequer, that after the interest of the present auditor and tellers of the exchequer, and of the clerk of the polls, in their respective places, should have ceased and determined, the salaries of those officers should be fixed and certain. To this Nir. Arden moved a clause exempting Lord Thurlow from the operation of the bill; His Majesty having in the year 1778 promised him, on his accepting the office of Lord Chancellor, & reversion of a tellership of the Exchequer, in as large and beneficial a manner as tellership were then enjoyed.
Mr. SHERIDAN spoke more directly against the proposed motion, than any person who had risen in
the debate. He said, the noble lord who had just sat down, had reminded the committee of a circumstance which ought not to escape their observation, but upon which he felt himself obliged to argue to a conclusion directly contrary to that drawn by his noble friend: for, so far from regarding Lord Thurlow's pension as inadequate, he had always looked on it as containing and carrying with it a compensation for the curtailed state in which the reversion of the tellership was to be given to him. That this was the case, it was only necessary to recollect arguments used on a former occasion upon the subject; but if any doubt remained, he knew no way of judging, but by having recourse to precedent, and seeing what had been given to former chancellors in expectation of the tellership. And here he found, that as great and good a character as ever held the seals, a character respected and valued throughout the country, as highly thought of as Lord Thurlow for his abilities; and though, to his honor, very differently from his principles, had, upon his retirement, a pension only of a bare £1500. a year. Mr. Sheridan contrasted farther the merits of Lord Camden; and insisted that if it was reasonable, on the principles laid down in the debate, to countenance this extraordinary compensation to Lord Thurlow, the house would be bound in justice to consider of making a retribution to Lord Camden, for the deficiency of his income, for the space, he believed, of eleven years before the tellership had fallen to his son. But admitting that Lord Thurlow was entitled to this distinction, the manner of the reward proposed was most objectionable, for it was directly contrary to the principle of the bill upon the table, inasmuch as it was placing a person of great weight in this country, who had been one of His Majesty's confidential servants, and who might perhaps, as the wishes of the friends to the constitution might not always prevail, be so again, in such a situation
as to have a distinct and separate interest from his fellow subjects; an interest in the future wars and calamities of his country, which would be thrift and gain to him, though misery and ruin to the empire at large. Under such circumstances, Lord Thurlow might, at some future period, be called on for the sanction of his great authority to a question of war and peace. Undoubtedly the noble and learned lord had himself a soul above all mercenary considerations; though he had lately shewn, in the other house, that he gave no credit for such principles in others; but still it would be indelicate to place so high-minded a personage in such a situation of suspicion. If, however, his merit was so transcendent, and the house approved it, let the salary of the tellership in his case be doubled-but let it be fixed. Having argued this very closely, Mr. Sheridan concluded with some observations on the novel character which Lord Thurlow had lately assumed in the house of lords, of a furious reformer.
After some further debate,
Mr. SHERIDAN again rose, and stating the fact now admitted, that the promise of the tellership was an absolute bargain made by Lord Thurlow on his taking the seals, he called on Mr. Pitt to account for, and excuse his conduct, in having, while he was chancellor of the exchequer, deluded the house into an approbation of this pension, by urging, as his principal argument in defending it, the generous and magnanimous conduct of Lord Thurlow, in having, unlike his predecessors, made no stipulatiou whatever on his accepting the seals. Mr. Sheridan said, that to record the whole transaction properly, the patent for the reversion in question should run thus: "Whereas Edward Lord Thurlow has a pension of £2800 per annum, because he nobly disdained to make any stipulation on his becoming chancellor; and whereas, it is fit he should have the reversion of a tellership of the exchequer, be
cause he bargained for the same, before he would take the seals."
At length, the clause being regularly moved, was agreed to without a division.
MR. PITT'S MOTION FOR AN ADDRESS CONCERNING THE PUBLIC ACCOUNTANTS.
A book, containing a list of the persons to whom sums of public money had been issued, for public services, for which no account had yet been passed by the auditors of the imprest, was laid before the house by Lord John Cavendish; and upon which Mr. Pitt made a motion for an address to His Majesty, "that it appears that large sums of money, which have at different times, and many of them very long since been paid for public services to sub-accountants, amounting in the whole to above forty-four millions, have not yet been accounted for before the auditors of the imprest; and that though many of them may have been otherwise accounted for in the course of office, yet others to a very large amount have not been accounted for at all.
"That it appears to this house to be of the utmost importance, that all public accounts should be brought forward with as little delay as possible; and that therefore they do humbly beseech His Majesty to be graciously pleased to give directions that the most effectual measures should be taken to inquire concerning the persons to whom the said sums have been issued, or their legal represensatives; and particularly those to whom money has been issued in the course of the late expensive war; and to take measures, in all cases, where there shall appear to be sufficient ground, to compel them in due course of law to account for the same; and that this house will in due time cooperate in such measures as may on full deliberation appear to be proper, in order to prevent the like delays for the future."
Mr. SHERIDAN moved two amendments to the motion. The one was to leave out the words "it appears to this house," and insert in their stead the following: "this house having reason to believe; the other to leave out the specific sum of forty-four millions, so that the phrase would run generally that great sums, &c. had been issued, and had not been accounted for. He said these amendments appeared to him the more necessary, as the book on which the motion was founded, could not be called a par