Page images


General Elections.-Important change in public opinion, respecting an usual Majority in the House of Commons.-Westminster Election. Meeting of Parliament-His Majesty's Speech.-Debates thereon, in both Houses.-Measure for obviating the inconveniencies respecting private Bills, arising from the late Dissolution of Parliament.-Debate thereon.-Appointment of a new Committee of Finance.-House of Commons, in a Committee of Supply.-Army and Navy Estimates.-New Military Plan for recruiting and reinforcing the Army.-Irish Arms, and Insurrec tion Bills.-Motion by Lord Cochrane, for discovering to the Public what Sinecure Places, Pensions, &c. were held by Members of Parliament.-Bill against the granting of Offices in reversion, thrown out of the House of Lords.-Address by the House of Commons to Ilis Majesty, on the subject of granting Places in Reversion.-Notice by Mr. Bankes of a Motion against Places in Reversion, to be made by him early in next Session of Parliament.-Prorogation of Parliament.


HE most striking feature or characteristic in the general elections that followed the disso. lutions of the short parliament, in April 1807, was, that the progress of public opinion appeared to have in a great measure, superseded the influence of faction and party. The men in power, with their dependents, cried, Beware of popery, and of the encroachments of powerful families combined, on the prerogative of the crown: the late ministers, with theirs, Beware of the intrigues and artifices of subtle courtiers, and chicaning lawyers. The great opposite factions were loud in their accusations of each other. Each maintained, that the other grasped at offices, and the administration of government, not that they might have an opportu. nity of serving the country, but

merely for the purpose of getting possession of the public money. The people appeared very well disposed to believe both. Both par. ties, the Ours and the INs, as they were familiarly called, had so uni. formly embarrassed government, when it was not in their own hands, and yet so uniformly taken the first opportunity of deserting the cause they had professed to maintain, that the people at large had abso. Intely lost all confidence in a ma jority of them; a change in public opinion, fraught with many remote, if not speedy consequences. Sir Francis Burdett, and lord Cochrane, became popular by disclaiming all attachment to all parties and factions, and declaring their wishes to overturn abuses, and nothing but abuses; to look only to the measures of men, and not to their persons


and connections. Their election for Westminster was a complete triumph over aristocratical combination, and all parties and factions whatever. These two men were not unworthy of being so honourably and so singularly distinguished. The matured talents and virtues of sir F. Burdett, his acute understanding, prompt eloquence, and manly sense, uniformly employed for the good of his country, and mankind, soared above the clouds of calumny and detraction, and had procured him a reputation not to be tarnished by any, or all of the surmises, concerning the danger of innovation; that is, the danger of timeous reformation, or reparation. The blooming virtues of lord Cochrane, uniting the genius and generous ardour of his family, with the most consummate skill in his profession, and an audacious and fortunate boldness, had classed him for years, though yet a very young man, among the most distinguished heroes of the age. Nor has his political courage, and the purity of his views, shone forth less conspi. enously, whether in his harangues to the people, or his speeches and conduct in parliament, than his intrepidity did on the bosom of the ocean, or the shores of the enemy.

The new parliament was opened with the accustomed formalities, on Monday the 22d of June, when Mr. Abbot was re-elected speaker of the house of commons unanimously, and with universal applause and acclamation. The first four days were employed in administering the oaths prescribed to the mem. ber. The day appointed for the delivery of his majesty's speech to both houses of parliament, was

Friday, June the 26th. This was a very interesting day. Public at tention had been roused in no ordi. nary degree. Passion had been powerfully excited, and with this, a concomitant curiosity and expec tation. Loth parties, that is, the ministerialists, and oppositionists, had assembled the whole of their respective forces. A circular let. ter was sent from the house of lord Howick, to all the members of the house of commons, that were sup posed to be on the side of the old ministry, soliciting their presence on the occasion of the debate, and division expected on the address that should be moved, in answer to the speech from the throne. In order to ascertain, or form some notion, of the number of their adherents, a most magnificent dinuer was gi ven, June 24th, at Willis's great rooms, St. James's; at which din ner, there were present 188 members of the house of lords and com mons, in opposition to the new ministry.The number of members assembled, on the 26th of June, in the house of commons, amounted to 505; the greatest, it was sup posed, that had ever been assembled on any occasion.

On the forenoon of the same day, sir Francis Burdett proceeded, in compliance with the desire of the electors of Westminster, in a triumphal car, blazoned with a num ber of emblematical figures, with the utmost magnificence and pomp, from his house in Piccadilly, through streets crowded with innumerable multitudes of applauding spectators, to the Crown and Anchor tavern, in the Strand; where he di ned with 1,500 of his friends. It was the first time that he had ap


peared in public since his duel with his quondam friend Paul.* His visage was pale, his mien languid, and a pearance altogether ex, tremely interesting. His leg that had been wounded, lay stretched on a cushion. His other foot was placed on a figure, on which were inscribed the words VENALITY and CORRUPTION.

speech from the thronet, was delivered in his majesty's name, by the chancellor, lord Eldon, one of the commissioners. The others were, the archbishop of Canterbury, and the earls of Aylesford and Dartmouth. The speech, as usual, turned on the principal topics to be brought under the consideration of parliament. It touched on the dissolution of last parliament, and the dutiful and affectionate addresses from different cities, counties, and corporations, which his majesty had received since the events that had led to the adoption of that measure; the political connections that had been formed with different powers on the continent; the failure of a media tion for the purpose of preserving peace between Russia and the Sublime Porte; and the necessity of economy, and continuing the inquiries that had been begun into the abuses of the finances.

An address in answer to his ma. jesty's speech, in the usual strain of assent and approbation, was moved in the house of peers, by the earl of Mansfield, and seconded by lord Rolle.-Lord Fortescue, when he considered the manner in which the last parliament had been dissolved, and the speech which had been now put into the mouth of his majesty,

could not avoid expressing the great, est surprise at the conduct of his majesty's ministers. The last parliament had teemed," beyond any other, with measures of the greatest importance to the country, many of which were interrupted by its sudden and abrupt dissolution: a dissolution which had a,so been productive of the greatest inconve nience and distress to numerous individuals, from the interruption given to a great number of private bills. It had been urged by the supporters of the present ministers, that this inconvenience might be easily remedied, by taking up these bills at the stages where they were left. But this tended to establish a principle pregnant with the utmost danger to the country.And, after the parliament was dissolved, the most jacobinical means were resorted to, for the purpose of inflaming and irritating the country. A cry of "no popery" was set up, commencing with an address to the electors of Northampton, bursting into open riot at Bristol and Liver. pool, and extending over the whole country the most irritating and inflammatory influence. It had been said, that numerous addresses had manifested the sense of the people. But was it to be contended, that because addresses had been procured from chapters and corporations, they spoke the sense of the people? On these grounds, lord Fortescue felt it to be his duty to move the following amendment, (after expressing the most dutiful attachment to his majesty's person, an i government :) "That this measure of the disso. lution of the late parliament, advi

For an account of which, see Chronicle, p. 425. + See State Papers, p. 709.

sed by his majesty's ministers, at a time when there existed no difference between any of the branches of the legislature, and no sufficient cause for a fresh appeal to his majesty's people was justified by no public necessity, or advantage. That by the interruption of all pri vate business, then depending in parliament, it had been productive of great and needless inconvenience and expence, thereby wantonly adding to the heavy burdens. which the necessity of the times require. That it had retarded many useful laws, for the internal improvement of the kingdom, and for the encouragement and extension of its agriculture, manufactures, and commerce. And that it had either suspended, or wholly defeated, many most important public measures, and had protracted much of the most weighty business of parliament, to a season of the year when its prosecution, must be attended with the greatest public and private inconvenience. And that they felt themselves bound still farther to submit to his majesty, that all these mischiefs were greatly aggravated by the groundless and injurious pretences on which his majesty's ministers had publicly rested this their evil advice; pretences affording no justification for the measure, but calculated only to excite the most dangerous animosities among his majesty's subjects, at a period when their united efforts were more than ever necessary, for the secu rity of the empire; and when, to promote the utmost harmony, and co-operation amongst them, would have been the first object of wise and prudent ministers."-The amend ment was supported by lord Holland, lord Erskine, the earl of

[blocks in formation]

The main question on the address was then put, and carried in the affirmative.


On the same day, an address in answer to the speech from the throne, was moved in the house of commons, by the lord viscount Newark, and seconded by Mr. Hall. The speaker having then read the address, lord Howick spoke long against it, particularly in defence of the catholic bill, and about the inconveniencies to individua's, and danger to the constitution, arising from the abrupt dissolution of last parliament. concluded his speech with moving an amendment to the same effect, as that proposed in the house of lords, by lord Fortescue. The amendment was supported by Mr. Windham, Mr. Grattan, lord Milton, lord Pollington, lord Temple, lord H. Petty, Mr. T. Grenville, and Mr. Whitbread: the original motion by the chancellor of the exchequer, Mr. Dennis Browne, Mr. Ryder, who spoke at great length, and Mr. Canning.-As to one of the main arguments against the address, or in other words, the dissolution of the last parliament, the inconvenience arising from thence, respecting private bills, the chancellor of the exchequer said, that he had it in intention to make a proposition

proposition on Monday, which would do all that away. In the course of this debate, lord Cochrane took an early opportunity of giving a public pledge of his pure and disinterested regard to the public welfare. He expressed a hope that, as each party charged the other with making jobs, with a view to influance the election, the conduct of both, in this respect, should be inquired into. He hoped some third party would arise, which would keep aloof from selfish interests, and sinecure places. He would not support either of the present parties, unless they should act upon principles different from those by which they appeared to be guided at present. The house becoming clamorous for the question, divided: when there appeared,

[merged small][ocr errors][merged small]

For the original address, 350
For the amendment,


The house adjourned at half-past six in the morning.

House of commons, June 29th.The speaker acquainted the house, that pursuant to its direction, an account had been prepared of all private bills, pending at the time of the late dissolution, with the se. veral stages in which they were on the 27th of April, and those that were passed with the exception of receiving the royal assent. The account was laid on the table and ordered to be printed. The chancellor of the exchequer then rose, to submit to the house a motion, which, he hoped, would remove all the inconveniences respecting private bills, arising from the late dis. solution of parliament.-He never had said that the dissolution was

not attended with inconvenience: / it was merely on a comparison of that inconvenience, with the superior importance of the reasons, that rendered the dissolution necessary at that precise time that he defended it. The principal inconveniences complained of, were the delay, and the additional expence. The delay of two months, he hoped, could not be attended with any material inconvenience; and as to the expence, it would be obviated in one of its branches, by the liberality of the officers, who, according to the precedent, established by their for. mer liberality in 1781, agreed to advance the bills so pending at the dissolution, to their former stages, without any additional fees. It remained only to obviate the expence of agency, and the attendance of witnesses in town. This was the principal object of the resolution he meant to propose, which was to give an instruction to the committee, to which every petition for a private bill should be preferred, to enquire whether any petition had been already presented in the late session, from the same parties, on the same subject; and if so, that the minutes of the evidence, taken before the committee on that former petition, should be evidence before the said committee; and so, in like manner, with respect to private bills, founded on such petitions, allowing the committees to call for further evidence, if necessary. Mr. Curwen could not reconcile himself to so dangerous a precedent as this, which, by presenting a mode for relieving the private inconveniences incident to such a stretch of power, would always render it a matter of facility, for ministers to dissolve parliament, in every case


« EelmineJätka »