« PreviousContinue »
to restore the constitution to present health, but, if possible, make it invulnerable hereafter,
Upon the whole, he recommended it strongly to their lordships, to fix an early day for taking into their consi. deration the state of this country in all its relations and dependencies, foreign, provincial, and domestic; for we have been injured in them all. That consideration would, he hoped, lead their lordships to advise the crown not only how to correct past errors, but how to establish a system of government more wise, more permanent, bet. ter suited to the genius of the people, and at least consistent with the spirit of the constitution.
DUKE OF GRAFTON,
He did not oppose the motion ; on the contrary, he engaged to second it, and to meet the noble lord upon the great question whenever the house should think proper. For the present, he meant only to exculpate himself from some severe reflections, which he thought were directed particularly and personally against himself. That he was ready to justify the measures alluded to by the noble lord, as well as every other part of his con. duct; and he did not doubt of being able to do so to the satisfaction of the house. That the resumption made by the commissioners of the treasury of a supposed grant of the crown land had been most unfairly represented. He wished the noble lord, instead of the word property, had only used possession; and then he would have truly described the fact and the object. That upon the application made to the board, by the person who had discovered the defect in the noble duke's title, he could not, consistently with his duty as an officer of the crown, have Vol. II,
rejected the claim made by that person. That if the noble duke, instead of being an opponent, had been the warmest friend of administration, the treasury board could not have acted otherwise than they did, without a flagrant violation of justice; and as for that hurry and precipitation of which they were accused, he took upon him to contradict the noble lord in the most positive manner, and offered to prove at the bar of the house that they had proceeded, not only with temper and deliberation, but with the utmost attention to the interests of the noble duke, and every possible mark of respect to his person; and had protracted their decision to the very last moment allowed by the rules of the board. With respect to the debt upon the civil list, he neither had nor could have any personal motives for wishing to conceal from parliament the particulars of the extraordinary expences by which that debt had been incurred. That the persons to whose offices it belonged, had been constantly employed in drawing up a state of that account, and that they had received every possible light and information from the officers of the crown, in order to shorten and facilitate business : but it was a work of infinite labour and extent, and notwithstanding the utmost diligence in the several public offices, could not yet be completed.
That in regard to foreign affairs, he believed the conduct of the king's ministers would bear the strictest exa. mination, and would be found irreproachable. That for his own part he had never thought, nor had he ever affirmed, that the conditions of the late peace were such as the people had a right to expect. He had maintained the contrary opinion in former times, and no change of situation should ever induce him to relinquish it. But that the peace being once made, and those advantages which we might have expected from a continuance of the war, being now irrecoverable, he would never advise the king to engage in an other war, as long as the dignity of the crown and the real interests of the nation
could be preserved without it. That what we had suffered already by foreign connections ought to warn us against engaging lightly in quarrels in which we had no immediate concern, and to which we might probably sacrifice our own most essential interests.
EARL OF CHATHAM.
His Speech on the same Subject.
My Lords, I MEANT to have risen immediately to second the mo. tion made by the noble lord. The charges which the noble duke seemed to think affected him particularly, did undoubtedly demand an early answer; it was proper he should speak before me, and I am as ready as any man to applaud the decency and propriety with which he has expressed himself.
I entirely agree with the noble lord, both in the necessity of your lordships' concurring with the motion, and in the principles and arguments by which he has very judiciously supported it. I see clearly that the complexion of our government has been materially altered; and I can trace the origin of the alteration up to a period which ought to have been an æra of happiness and prosperity to this country.
My lords, I shall give you my reasons for concurring with the motion, not methodically, but as they occur to my mind. I may wander, perhaps, from the exact parliamentary debate ; but I hope I shall say nothing but what may deserve your attention, and what if not strictly proper at present, would be fit to be said, when the state of the nation shall come to be considered. My uncertain state of health must plead my excuse. now in some pain, and very probably may not be able
to attend my duty when I desire it most in this house, I thank God, my lords, for having thus long preserved so inconsiderable a being as I am, to take a part upon this great occasion, and to contribute my endeavours, such as they are, to restore, to save, to confirm the constitution. My lords, I need not look abroad for griev. ances. The grand capital mischief is fixed at home. It corrupts the very foundation of our political existence, and preys upon the vitals of the state.
The constitution has been grossly violated.—THE CONSTITUTION AT THIS MOMENT STANDS VIOLATED. Until that wound be healed, until the grievance be redressed, it is in vain to recommend union to parliament-in vain to promote concord among the people. If we mean seriously to unite the nation within itself, we must convince them that their complaints are regarded, and that their enquiries shall be answered. On that foundation, I would take the lead in recommending peace and harmony to the people : on any other, I would never wish to see them united again. If the breach in the constitution be effectually repaired, the people will of themselves return to a state of tranquillity: if not, MAY DISCORD PREVAIL FOR EVER!I know to what point this doctrine and this language will appear directed. But I feel the principles of an Englishman, and I utter them without apprehension or reserve.
The crisis is indeed alarming : so much the more does it require a prudent relaxation on the part of government. If the king's servants will not permit a constitutional question to be decided on according to the forms and on the principles of the constitution, it must then be decided in some other manner : and rather than it should be given up, rather than the nation should surrender their birthright to a despotic minister, I hope, my lords, old as I am, I shall see the question brought to issue, and fairly tried between the people and the government. My lords, this is not the language of faction. Let it be tried by that criterion by which alone we can distinguish what is factious from what is not-by the principles of
the English constitution. I have been bred up in these principles, and know that when the liberty of the subject is invaded, and all redress denied him, resistance is justified. If I had a doubt upon the matter, I should follow the example set us by the most reverend bench; with whom I believe it is a maxim, when any doubt in point of faith arises, or any question of controversy is started, to appeal at once to the greatest source and evidence of our religion-I mean the Holy Bible. The constitution has its political bible, by which, if it be fairly consulted, every political question may, and ought to be determined. Magna charta, the petition of rights, and the bill of rights, form that code which I call the bible of the English constitution. Had some of his majesty's unhappy predecessors trusted less to the comments of their ministers, had they been better read in the text itself, the glorious revolution would have remained only possible in theory, and would not now have existed upon record-a formidable example to their successors
My lords, I cannot agree with the noble duke, that nothing less than an immediate attack upon the honour or interest of this nation can authorise us to interpose in defence of weaker states, and in stopping the enterprize of an ambitious neighbour. Whenever that narrow selfish policy, has prevailed in our councils, we have constantly experienced the fatal effects of it. By suffering our natural enemies to oppress the powers less able than we are to make a resistance, we have permitted them to increase their strength; we have lost the most favourable opportunities of opposing them with success, and found ourselves at last obliged to run every hazard in making that cause our own, in which we were not wise enough to take part, while the expence and danger might have been supported by others. With respect to Corsica, I shall only say, that France has obtained a more useful and important acquisition in one pacific campaign, than in any of her belligerent cam