« ПредишнаНапред »
that the Contents were 34, and the Not-contents (of whom he was one) were 18. *
Notwithstanding that Mr. Burke and several other leading Members of the Government were hostile to a sweeping measure of parliamentary reform, they concurred with their colleagues in the desire to punish corruption at elections, and the whole party in the House of Commons strongly supported the bill for transferring the franchise of Cricklade to the adjoining "hundreds" on account of the universal bribery proved upon the burgesses. But when the bill came up to the Lords, it likewise was, vehemently opposed by the Chancellor. The Duke of Richmond thereupon charged, the noble and learned Lord on the woolsack with "opposing indiscriminately every measure of regulation or improvement which was laid before the House." The Lord Chancellor complained of the asperity with which he had been treated by the noble Duke, and said, "he thought it rather a peculiar hardship that his manner—that of a plain man, who studied nothing but to convey his sentiments clearly and intelligibly—should be imputed to him as if arising from a habit of indiscriminate opposition or of intentional rudeness.*
Lords Mansfield, Camden, Loughborough, Ashburton, and Grantley, having taken part in the discussion, "Lord Fortescuc bewailed the degraded dignity of the House, lowered and tarnished by a profusion of lawyers: it was no longer a house of peers, but a mere court of law, where all the solid honourable principles of truth and justice were shamefully sacrificed to the low pettifogging chicanery and quibbles of Westminster Hall. That once venerable and august assembly now resembled a meeting of attorneys in a Cornish court acting as barristers; the learned Lord on the woolsack seemed fraught with nothing but contradictions and law subtleties and distinctions, and all that." The Chancellor was not to be deterred fWm his obstructive course by such observations; but notwithstanding all his efforts, the bill was carried, f
Again, when a motion was made by the organ of the government in the House of Lords for an address of congratulation to the throne on the great victory obtained by Rodney
* 23 Pari. Hist. 95—101.
f 22 Pari. Hist. 1383 — 1395. ; Adolphus, iii. 363.
over De Grasse in the West Indies, which was stated to be CHAP. "conducive to an honourable and advantageous peace," CLVIHThurlow objected to these words, as containing a political ~ m„ opinion on the expediency of peace; and, for the sake of unanimity, they were omitted.*
The Marquis of Rockingham expired on the 1st of July. t^ea^ of On the third of the same month stood an order of the day quis of for the second reading of Mr. Burke's famous bill to reform j^1""8" the Civil List Expenditure — a measure which was highly distasteful to the Court. No arrangement had yet been announced for the appointment of a new premier. The Thurlow Chancellor was eager to give a blow to that section of the Mr.086* administration which was most hated by himself and his j^Jj"^.8 master—the personal adherents of the deceased minister. nomical Therefore, at the sitting of the House, in an abrupt manner, reforaihe left the woolsack to make a motion for the purpose of throwing out the bill. After calling their Lordships' attention to its importance, he said, "At this late stage of the session, and with so thin an attendance, it would ill become you hastily to adopt a string of propositions, in themselves very complicated, and in many respects contradictory. But, my Lords, I am surprised to find that the Right Honourable Gentleman who prepared this bill, and who, some years ago, introduced one on somewhat similar principles, has now left out several important offices and places which he formerly represented as peculiarly standing in need of his speculative remedy. One of these offices is occupied by a noble Duke (Richmond) who cannot be anxious to receive its emoluments. He certainly would not suffer any corruption to be practised in any department in which he presides. Whether the Ordinance be left out in compliment to his Grace's virtues and talents I will not pretend to decide, but I am sure that the 'Ordinance' and the 'Mint,' and the 'Duchy of Lancaster,' held by the Right Honourable Gentleman's colleagues, are very properly left out, and I could only wish that he had dealt in the same way with other offices which he has included, — some of them the most ancient and illustrious in
* 23 Pari. Hist. 72. CHAP, the state,—so that to annihilate them was, in fact, an attempt CLVI11- to destroy the constitution." He then started a technical D. 1782 objection, that there being for the protection of their privileges a standing order, passed in the year 1702, which provided, that "no money bill should be allowed to pass containing extraneous enactments," this bill granted a supply to his Majesty of 300,000/., and was a money bill, while it abolished or regulated half of the offices under the Crown. "Therefore," said he, "with all my aversion to the evils which the bill seeks to remedy, I cannot give it my support. There appears to me to be objectionable and absurd matter almost in every clause of it, and I adjure your Lordships to adjourn the consideration of it — more especially, as if you agree, in compliance with the menaces of another branch of the legislature, to send it to a committee, you will sacrifice your standing order, and surrender your dignity." He concluded by moving that the order for the second reading of the bill should be discharged.
Lord Shelburne pretty clearly indicated his expectation (although Thurlow seems not yet to have been aware of the fact), that he was himself to be the minister, and he felt that, without an entire loss of public credit, he could not abandon the bill. He declared " that he joined with the House, and the whole public must join, in deploring the heavy loss the country had experienced in the death of the late Marquis of Rockingham. That great man, however, had by his example obliged whoever should be the minister to do his duty to the public, and had left this bill behind him as a pledge of his wisdom, his integrity, and his zeal, to further the strictest economy in every branch of the public expenditure." The noble Earl then professed himself favourable to parliamentary reform, and to all measures of improvement, but did not say a word in defence of the author of the bill — which misrht be the reason that Burke a few days after, when his Lordship had actually seized the helm, compared him to Catiline and to Borgia. Thurlow still called for a division on his motion against the bill, but was left in a minority of nine to fortyfour.*
* 28 Pari. Hist. 139—147.
Lord Shelburne being declared first Lord of the Treasury, CHAP. Mr. Fox, Lord John Cavendish, Mr. Burke, the Duke of CLVIIL Portland, and other Rockingham Whigs resigned. I cannot A „ 178Q say that they made a dignified or becoming exit. In the Lord Sheiexplanations which followed, their leader said he had intended pr|me to withdraw before the death of the Marquis of Rockingham; n»ter. but all the world believed the true reason to be, that Lord tton'of Mr. Shelburne was appointed to succeed him. It had long been th"x^nd|c quite clear that Thurlow ought never to have been admitted ingbam into Lord Rockingham's cabinet, and that Lord Rockingham hlgsought to have adopted the course pursued by Mr. Pitt in 1792, by asking his Majesty to elect between his first Lord of the Treasury and his Chancellor. At this crisis the retiring ministers should have objected to the retention of Thurlow — not to the promotion of Lord Shelburne. They presented to the nation the spectacle, ever disliked, of a squabble for places, and an unfair attempt to control the discretion of the Sovereign.
Lord Shelburne was strengthened by the accession of Mr. w. young Pitt, who, for the office of Chancellor of the Ex- j^'"^*"1 chequer, renounced the profession of the law, the highest ti£n to honours of which, had he continued in it, he must rapidly have attained. Thurlow joyously consented to continue Thurlow Chancellor, and the new administration being much less dis- "ha'ceii,,,. agreeable to the Court than that of Lord Rockingham, he and supwas much mollified, and gave it his support. Indeed, during Govern-6 Lord Shelburne's ministry, which speedily came to a violent "ent . end by the " Coalition," the Chancellor is not recorded to have opposed one Government measure, and in the grand debate on the Preliminaries of Peace he gallantly supported his colleagues.
On this occasion he followed Lord Loughborough, who, Feb. 17. having become a Foxite, had in a long and elaborate speech Q. Whether attacked the terms of the treaty, and particularly, in reference the King to the article agreeing to the cession of the Floridas, denied u* to I fo_ the power of the Crown, without an act of parliament, to reig" state
"- , part of the
alienate a portion of the British empire, and to transfer the British doallegiance of British subjects to a foreign state. Thurlow's ^ CHAP. CLVIII.
authority of parliament?
assertion that he may.
answer is supposed to have settled that great constitutional question; but I own it seems to me very unsatisfactory, for, as usual, he deals in sarcasm and assertion, not in reasoning or authority, and he does not define or limit the power he contends for — so as to exclude from its exercise the cession of the Isle of Wight, or the garrison of Portsmouth. "My Lords," said he, "I cannot claim your attention on the ground of eloquence and wit. These belong peculiarly to the noble and learned Lord who has so long and ably endeavoured to fascinate your Lordships, and whose skill and address in managing the passions of his auditors are not to be equalled,—and by a man of plain meaning and sober understanding like myself, whose only wish is to discriminate between truth and fiction, — not to be coveted. The noble and learned Lord has thought proper to allege that the royal prerogative does not warrant the alienation in a treaty of peace of territories which were under the allegiance of the crown of England. If this doctrine be true I must acknowledge myself strangely ignorant of the constitution of my country. Till the present day of novelty and miracle, I never heard of such a doctrine. I apprehend, however, that the noble and learned Lord has thrown down the gauntlet on this occasion more from knight-errantry than patriotism, and that he was more inclined to show the House what powers of declamation he possesses in support of hypothetical propositions, than anxious gravely to examine a power wisely lodged in the Crown, the utility, much less the existence, of which has never hitherto been questioned. One would have thought that when a great, experienced, and justly eminent lawyer hazarded an opinion respecting a most important point of the constitution of this country, he would deem it fit to produce proofs from our legal and historical records, or at least that he would attempt to show that the common opinion and consent of Englishmen went with him; but instead of this the noble and learned Lord resorts to the lucubrations and fancies of foreign writers, and gravely refers your Lordships to Swiss authors for an explanation of the prerogatives of the British Crown. For my own part, I at once reject the authority of all foreigners on such a subject .