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THIRD READING OF THE BILL FOR VESTING AFFAIRS OF THE EAST INDIA COMPANY IN THE HANDS OF CERTAIN COMMISSIONERS, FOR THE BENEFIT OF THE PROPRIETORS AND PUBLIC.
Mr. SHERIDAN replied to the Lord Advocate (Mr. Dundas), went through the principal parts of his bill of last year with him; and contended, that the despotism it clothed Lord Cornwallis with, was so plain and palpable, that he declared he wondered how the learned gentleman could keep his countenance when he seriously insisted upon it, that his bill was not equally dangerous in point of creating influence and arbitrary power, and in regard to invasion of chartered rights, with that of his right honorable friend. It was, in fact, Mr. Sheridan said, ten times more so; and that if it had not been so late an hour of the night, he would then have proceeded to prove it was so. This serious part of his argument over, Mr. Sheridan came to the more pleasant part, and took up the several quotations from Shakespeare, Milton, and the book of Revelations ; of Mr. Wilberforce, Mr. Arden, and Mr. Scott, foiling them each with their own weapons, and citing, with the most happy ease and correctness, passages from almost the same pages that controverted their quotations, and told strongly for the bill. He quoted. three more verses from the Revelations, by which he metamorphosed the beast with seven heads, with crowns on them, into seven angels, cloathed in pure and white linen. One side of the house were extremely entertained with the turns Mr. Sheridan gave what he quoted.
Ayes 208; noes 102.
Mr. Fox's celebrated East India Bill having passed, on the 8th of December the house of commons was, on the next day, carried up to the house of lords. No symptoms had hitherto appeared before
the public, that indicated the approaching fall of the bill, and the ministers. Great pains indeed were taken, and with considerable success, by an almost incredible circulation of pamphlets and political engravings, to influence the nation against the measures and persons of administration. And it was also remarked, that in the house of commons, several of that description of members, well known by the name of King's friends, gave their votes on the side of opposition. But it was generally imagined, that as, on the one hand, the ministry was too strong to be shook by the breath of popular clamour; so, on the other, it seemed to the last degree improbable, that they should have adopted a measure of such infinite importance, either without knowing, or contrary to, the inclinations of the King, On the first reading of the bill in the house of lords, Earl Temple, Lord Thurlow, and the Duke of Richmond, expressed their abhorrence of the measure in the strongest and most unqualified terms. A brilliant panegyric on Mr. Hastings was pronounced by Lord Thurlow; and the flourishing state of the Company's affairs insisted on. After a short debate relative to the production of papers, on which the lords in opposition did not chuse to divide the house, the second reading was fixed for Monday, December 15. In the mean time, various rumours began to circulate relative to some extraordinary motions in the interior of the court. It was confidently affirmed, that on the 11th of December, the King signified to Earl Temple, who had been ordered to attend him in the closet for that purpose, his disapprobation of the India Bill; and authorised him to declare the same to such persons as he might think fit:—that a written note was put into his hands, in which His Majesty declared," that he should deem those who should vote for it, not only not his friends, but his ́enemies ;—and that if he (Lord Temple) could put this in stronger words, he had full authority to do so." And, lastly, that in consequence of this authority, communications had been made to the same purport to several peers in the upper house, and particularly to those whose offices obliged them to attend the King's person. Some extraordinary circumstances, which happened on the 15th of December, the day of the second reading of the Bill, confirmed the probability of the truth of these reports. Several lords, who had entrusted their proxies to the minister, and his friends, withdrew them only a few hours before the house met; and others, whose support he had every reason to expect, gave their votes on the side of opposition. On the division, which took place on a question of adjournment, the ministers were left in a minority of 79 to 87.-On the 17th of December, the India Bill was rejected by the lords, on a division of 95 to 76. It was remarked, that the Prince of Wales, who was in the minority on the former division, having learned, in the interim, that the measure was offensive to the King, was absent on this occasion. At twelve o'clock, on the following night, a messenger delivered to the two secretaries of state, His Majesty's orders, "that they should deliver up the seals of their offices, and send them by the under Secretaries, Mr. Frazer and Mr. Nepean, as a personal interview on the occasion would be disagreeable to him.”—The seals were immediately given by
the King to Lord Temple, who sent letters of dismission, the day following, to the rest of the cabinet council; at the same time Mr. Wm. Pitt was appointed first lord of the treasury, and chancellor of the exchequer; and Earl Gower president of the council. On the 22d, Lord Temple resigned the seals of his office; and they were de livered to Lord Sidney, as secretary of state for the home department, and to the Marquis of Carmarthen for the foreign. Lord Thurlow was appointed lord chancellor; the Duke of Rutland, lord privy seal; Lord Howe, first lord of the Admiralty; and the Duke of Richmond, master-general of the ordnance. Mr. Wm. Grenville and Lord Mulgrave succeeded Mr. Burke in the pay office; Mr. Henry Dundas was appointed treasurer of the navy; Mr. Kenyon, attorney-general; Mr. Arden, solicitor-general; Sir Geo. Yonge, secretary at war; Mr. Rose and Mr. Steele, secretaries to the treasury; and Mr. Orde, secretary to the lord lieutenant of Ireland.
JANUARY 12, 1784.
COMMITTEE ON THE STATE OF THE NATION.
As soon as the Speaker had taken the chair, Mr. Fox, in order to get possession of the house, and to prevent any other business from being brought forward by the minister, before certain resolutions that had been prepared were discussed in the committee on the state of the nation, moved for the order of the day. He was here interrupted by the new members who were brought up to be sworn; and as soon as that business was over, the Chancellor of the Exchequer rose at the same moment with Mr. Fox, declaring he had a message to deliver from the king. A great clamour immediately arose in the house who should be heard first, which was at length_ended by the Speaker's deciding in favor of Mr. Fox. The question, whe ther the house should resolve itself into a committee on the state of the nation was then debated. The grounds on which this was op posed by the minister and his friends, were the violent and unprecedented measures adopted by the committee on a former occasion; and the little probability that appeared from the present temper of the house, that their proceedings would in future be conducted with less violence and passion; as parliament stood pledged, as well from the duty they owed their country, as by their own solemn declaration, to direct their attention, without delay, to the affairs of the East India Company. Mr. Pitt implored the house to postpone, at least for a short time, the introduction of measures that might retard_or throw any difficulties in the way of this important consideration. He said he was then ready to bring forward his plan for the better regu lation of the company's affairs; and that he challenged a comparison between his, and the bill lately rejected by the lords; and that he desired to stand or fall by the merits or demerits of the measures he should propose. In answer to these arguments, it was denied
that either the resolutions already agreed to by the committee, or those which it was intended to propose, were violent or unparliamen» tary---unprecedented in the latter journals of parliament they undoubtedly were, and for good reasons, because, since the time of the revolution, the dignity and essential rights of that house had never before suffered so open and direct an attack. It had been asserted by many great lawyers, and amongst those by Lord Somers himself, that the crown did not possess the prerogative of dissolving parliament during a session while public business and petitions were pending. But without contending about the question of right, it was strenuously maintained, that the exercise of such a power, in the present instance, would be highly dangerous and criminal; and that the committee was fully justified in taking such steps as they might think the most effectual for the prevention of such a calamity. The circumstances of the case called for an open and unqualified declaration of their sentiments; and did not admit of that distant and respectful delicacy which parliament usuully adopted, when it thought proper to interfere, by its advice, with the executive government. A bill, the result of the most laborious investigations that had ever been carried on in parliament, had passed the house of commons with the warmest approbation of great and independent majorities. His Majesty had been advised to conceal from his ministers his disapproba tion of the bill till it was carried into the house of lords, where, through means of an unconstitutional use of the royal name and influence it was rejected. The ministers who brought it in were dismissed from the public service, for no other apparent reason, than be cause they had been supported in that measure, and were believed to possess the confidence of that house; and, lastly, menaces of dissolution were held over the house itself, for the purpose of awing them into an acquiescence in the measures of the new administration. Under such circumstances it was impossible the house should not feel, and feeling not express their indignation and resentment. The affairs of India were certainly of the most urgent and pressing nature, but it was absolutely necessary, in order to give the subject a free and unbiassed consideration, that the house should not be left dependent for its very existence upon the will of the person whose pro positions relative thereto they were about to decide upon. The minister was therefore called upon, if he wished to put a stop to such further measures as the committee might think necessary to adopt for their own security, to give the house some satisfactory assurance that no dissolution would take place. Mr. Pitt positively refused to comply with this requisition, declaring "that he would never compromise the royal prerogative, nor bargain it away in the house of commons;" and in the course of the debate accused Lord North of acting both meanly and hypocritically.
Mr. SHERIDAN attacked Mr. Pitt in terms of great severity. He said, if the right honorable gentleman applied hard words to other gentlemen, he
should take the liberty of attacking him with the same weapons. The right honorable gentleman had behaved that day not only with the utmost hypocrisy and meanness, but had held the most insulting language, and the most unconstitutional he had ever heard. He reminded the house of Mr. Banks's words before the recess, when he had pledged himself to the house, as he declared, by the authority of the right honorable gentleman, that there should be no dissolution nor prorogation of parliament; and had said, his right honorable friend not only would not himself advise any such measure, but would hold himself bound to quit his office, if any such measure was adopted by his colleagues. Mr. Sheridan reminded the house also, that Mr. Banks had desired to be furnished with stronger language to express what he said to the house, if the house were not satisfied with his words. Mr. Sheridan also attacked Mr. Dundas with considerable poignancy of wit and humour. After answering the serious parts of his argument, he touched upon the pleasant points of his speech, and said it was so unusual for the learned gentleman to indulge himself in merriment, that he presumed the success that had attended the arts practised to corrupt the majority during the recess, had given him a new flow of spirits, and encouraged him to think he should keep his place. The learned gentleman seemed to be in better humour with newspapers than usual; his speech, he said, might fairly be deemed hints for paragraphs and sketches for prints. He did not doubt but his hint was already taken; and that the next morning they would see the print he had recommended. He hoped, however, they would be favoured with a companion; and that another figure, a striking likeness of the learned gentleman would be engraved, with a scroll out of his mouth, on which should be written " appeal to the people." Another print might also contain a similar figure, and underneath might be wrote "an advocate for chartered rights," which might be