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few debates without rancour, could be established, such a Chap.
course might probably restore us to the good opinion of the CXLV
public, and then the distress of the times might work them
into an opinion that the Opposition mean really the good of
the whole. This or any idea may serve to talk of, but, to say
the truth, I have no hopes left for the public, the whole people
have betrayed themselves, and are not worth fighting for."
In the session of 1780 Lord Camden delivered a very long Lord Camand animated speech in answer to Lord Thurlow, now Chan- gp"esch oa cellor, who was resolved to throw out a bill which the*the ConCommons had passed almost unanimously, to disqualify go- Bui!"" vernment contractors from sitting in their House. He began by observing that "his noble and learned friend on the woolsack had maintained his opposition to the bill in contradiction to the clearest principles of the constitution, indeed to ► every rule of common sense and common experience, and to the whole system of parliamentary jurisprudence. His noble and learned friend had expressed himself in very strong language against innovation, and had rallied their Lordships to the post of danger, as if the constitution were to be overturned; but might not the same opposition have been given in the same words to bills now universally acknowledged to be necessary to preserve the purity and efficiency of our representative system, — the Place Bill, the Pension Bill, nd the Bill for disqualifying officers of the Excise or Customs (from sitting in the other House, because they may be preferred or dismissed at the pleasure of the Crown? Would noble and learned friend have called these measures 'idle 'fanciful suggestions, the phrenzy of virtue and the madness [p/ ideal perfection?'" The bill was rejected by a majority >f 61 to 41, — a decision which rendered the Lords very'
lious, the Commons a few days before having passed the famous resolution moved by Dunning, — " that the power of the Crown has increased, is increasing, and ought to be linished."*
\. debate took place, in the beginning of 1781, on the Jan. 23. ng's message relative to the rupture with Holland, which I78'
CHAP, rendered the situation of public affairs still more difficult and
alarming. There being, as yet, no symptom of any change
Lord Cam- of policy on the part of the Government, Lord Camden, denjs fare- rising with great solemnity, and speaking in a tone of the on Ame- deepest grief, said, " He rose from a call of duty, for the last rica- time, and, whatever might be the event of this final effort to
save his country, at least to mitigate her distresses and misfortunes, he should retire from his fruitless attendance in that House with this consolation, that he had discharged his duty to the best of his poor abilities so long as it promised to be productive of the smallest or remotest good, and that he declined giving their Lordships any further trouble where hope was at an end, and when zeal even had no object which could call it into activity. He regretted that he had not formed the resolution earlier, as he should thus have been saved from much chagrin and a series of the most mortifying disappointments, for he had been able, in no degree, to prevent or retard the ruin which now seemed impending." * Nov. 27. He interfered no farther with any political question during beforePLord *n'8 l)rotraeted session; but in the recess which followed there North's re- was such a loud expression of public opinion against the war, signatioii. and sucri strong rumours were circulated of Lord North's wish to retire, that, when Parliament reassembled, he attended to make another effort for peace. His speech on supporting the amendment, moved by Lord Shelburne, was, I think, decidedly the best he ever delivered in Parliament, and it is fully and correctly reported; but, to its credit, there is no passage in it which I can select for quotation. Instead of aiming at fine sentences, (the sin which most easily beset him,) he confined himself to a simple and rapid narrative of facts, — from which he deduced the incapacity of ministers, and attempted to show that the only chance of saving the empire from final ruin, as well as dismemberment, was by an immediate change of men and of measures.
The extraordinary merit of this speech is said to be demonstrated by the eulogy which it extorted from the unwilling Thurlow who followed in the debate f; but, with more
* 21 Pari. Hist. 1060.
f Sec Lord Brougham's " Statesmen of George III." 3d series, 177.
doubtful claims to praise, it might possibly have been very CHAP, favourably criticised by this dissembler, who, under the guise CXLVof bluntness, had ever a keen eye to his own advantage, and who, seeing a change approaching, was rather willing to soothe opponents, and to show that his enmities were placable. Whatever might be his motives, he thus began: "I must acknowledge, my Lords, the great abilities of the noble and learned Lord who has just sat down. I affirm that, to the best of my judgment, I never heard a more able discourse within these walls: the premises were openly and clearly stated, and the deductions followed without constraint or false colouring. I trust that the noble and learned Lord will receive these as my real sentiments, for I am not at any time much in the habit of travelling out of the business before the House, to keep up the trivial forms of debate—much less to pay particular personal compliments to any man." He then proceeded to combat the amendment, — which was negatived by 75 to 31—but which he well knew embodied the sentiments of a majority of both Houses. *
The crisis soon arrived, Lord North declaring in the March 20. House of Commons on the day fixed for Lord Surrey's mo- p08r^ation tion on the state of the nation," that "his Majesty's minis- of the ters were no more." f Now was formed the second Rock- H^^fng. ingham administration, and the Whigs, till they quarrelled ham admiamong themselves, were completely in the ascendant. There mstrationwas considerable difficulty in disposing of the Great Seal. Lord Camden might no doubt have resumed it with the full concurrence of all sections of the party, but for twelve long years he had been unaccustomed to daily judicial drudgery; he was now verging upon seventy, and his attacks of the gout were becoming more frequent and more severe. He, therefore, preferred the office of President of the Council.
It has always been unaccountable to me, that, on his de- Lord Camdining the Great Seal, it was not given to Dunning, a most j'nt oHh" consummate lawyer, as well as a great debater and a zealous Council. Whig. — If he unaccountably preferred the Duchy of Lancaster, the subordinate office conferred upon him, why was
not the Great Seal given to Sir Fletcher Norton, who had become a favourite with the Rockingham Whigs, and was most eager for judicial elevation? The King, no doubt, was desirous that Thurlow should still be the "Keeper of his Conscience," so that he might have a "friend" in the Cabinet; but his wishes at that moment might easily have been controlled. I suspect that the Shelburne and Rockingham sections continued distinct even at the formation of the government, Dunning belonging to the former, and Norton to the latter, and that neither would agree to the appointment of the other's lawyer to the woolsack. This jealousy was openly manifested in a few days, for although it be the province of the prime minister to "take the King's pleasure" with respect to the creation of peers, Dunning was made Baron Ashburton, on the advice of Lord Shelburne, without the knowledge of Lord Rockingham; whereupon Lord Rockingham immediately insisted that Norton should be made Baron Grantley. Thus the Great Seal remained in the clutch of Thurlow, who hated all Whigs of all degrees with a most perfect hatred, and could not possibly be expected cordially to act in a government founded on principles which he had uniformly and vehemently opposed.
CONTINUATION OF THE LIFE OF LORD CAMDEN TILL THE KING'S
The inconvenience of having Thurlow for Chancellor was CHAP.
• 11 • CXLVI
soon experienced by the new government. Lord Rockingham and Lord Shelburne both agreed upon the propriety of Lorj chancarrying the "Contractors' Bill," which had been lately re- cellor jected,— and by way of redeeming their pledges, and main- opposes the taining their popularity, the reintroduction of it was one of soveTMtheir first measures. In the House of Lords it was fiercely attacked by the "Keeper of the King's conscience," who was thus answered by his colleague, Lord Camden, the new Lord President of the Council: "My Lords, I must Lord Camexpress my astonishment at the laborious industry exerted by "avXrof the noble and learned Lord on the woolsack. I can only the "Consuppose that he wishes to eke out a long debate, which (con- Bin!"TM fining ourselves to solid and rational discussion) might, in my humble apprehension, have terminated in half an hour. The bill presents to my mind but one idea; it is simple and obvious. The noble and learned Lord said its principles should be examined, and, in that single observation of all he addressed to you, I agree with him. I believe there is no noble Lord present who doubts of the existence of' undue influence' in one shape or another, however denominated, or whatever aspect it may lately have assumed. A very distinguished member of the other House*, now transferred into this on account of his great talents and inflexible political integrity, moved a resolution which was carried against the minister by a considerable majority,— 'That the influence of the Crown has increased, is increasing, and ought to be diminished.' This is a full recognition on record of the existence of that evil which the principle of the bill was calcu
* Dunning, Lord Ashburton. See 21 Pari. Hist. 310., fith April, 1780; majority. 233 to 215.