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CHAP, in the House of Lords, that assembly was allowed to remain
the Government and embarrassing its proceedings. Thurlow's On the second reading of the bill framed and introduced by the bill to the late Government for abolishing the right of appeal from acknow- the Irish Courts of law to the British House of Lords, and judicial in- acknowledging the supremacy of the Parliament of Ireland, of Inland6 ^ord Thurlow, to make his opponents unpopular in one island or the other, or in both,—instead of allowing it quietly to pass, according to the wish of prudent men, said, — "I desire to have a distinct statement of the grounds on which the measure is adopted by the present ministers. For what purpose is it to be carried? To what end is it to be applied? With what other measures is it to be followed up? There can be no embarrassment to ministers in answering such questions. The noble Duke [Portland] tells us he looks round for confidence, and claims it from the tenour of his past life. I am in great doubt, my Lords, respecting the meaning of this word 'confidence? Does it mean that his Grace has no other plan in view? that his Cabinet have no plan for the government of Ireland? and that they have taken this bill up without inquiry, without consideration, without caring whether it goes far enough or too far? Or does it mean that they have a fine system to develop, but that we must trust to their good character till the day arrives for making it known? Let me have the English of the word 'confidence.' Unless it means ' no plan,' no claim can be laid to it by this untried administration." Lord Loughborough.— "My Lords, I consider this conversation (for we have had no debate on the merits of the bill) extremely irregular, if not disorderly. No objection being made to the bill, ministers are called upon to divulge their future system of policy, and to declare what may be their opinions and conduct on various matters not before the House. This is an opposition hardly consistent with fairness, and hardly such as any ministers could expect to encounter. The present ministers have been so short a time in place, that to require them
already to proclaim all their plans, does seem very strange; CHAT, but above all is it strange, that they should be asked the grounds and objects of this bill. The persons who can best A „. 1783give that information are the ministers with whom it originated." Lord Thurlow. — "I deny, my Lords, that I am disorderly in taking the present opportunity of desiring to know the principles on which the present bill is to be passed into a law. If it is adopted without principle, if it is taken up merely on the authority of the predecessors of the present ministers, then it may well be said to resemble a school-boy's task, and the former ministers are to be considered as the 'prepositors' of the noble Lords opposite, — who are mere school-boys, and ought not to hold the reins of government half an hour. But I have too much respect for their understanding, and too much regard for their reputation, to entertain such an opinion. They must have taken up this bill as part of a plan for the government of Ireland. If they will not give us the least intimation of it, let them at least tell us whether they have any plan at all." *
During this short interval of opposition, Thurlow, to the June so. surprise and amusement of the public, professed himself a thurlow Reformer ; and that he might cast odium upon the Govern- opposition ment for throwing out an absurd bill, which professed to ^^ecsra correct abuses in public offices, he warmly supported it. Said he, "I feel for the fair fame of the present administration, and as a well-wisher to the men of honour and honesty who belong to it, I advise them not to rest satisfied with the pledge of the noble Duke [Portland,] that he will do what he can for economy. They are right not to mind the loss of mere popularity. He who rests on the empty clamour of a newspaper is an object only of contempt. But I advise the noble Duke to avoid the condemnation of wise, temperate, and thinking men, who never judge rashly or hastily. All such men must cry out against the resolution to stifle such a bill as this without due investigation. The reform is loudly called for, and we must have it immediately. The nation will not be content with the noble Duke's promise that he will begin the reform as soon as possible. The
CHAP. Legislature must interpose. It is not in the power of the CLIX . . . . best ministers to check abuses in their offices by their own
A.d. 1783. authority. We may have ministers bankrupt in fortune and in name, and therefore the present bill is indispensable." He actually divided the House upon it — but it was rejected by a majority of 40 to 24.* Fox's He soon had a better battle-horse. On the 9th of De
brought up cember appeared at the bar of the House of Lords, attended from the by an immense number of coalition members of the House of Dec. 9. ' Commons, Mr. Secretary Fox, and delivering a parchment 1783. rol l to Lor<i Mansfield, as Speaker, said, "The Commons have passed a bill for the better government of the territorial possessions and dependencies of this kingdom in the East Indies, to which they pray the concurrence of your Lordships." It is at- The bill, as a matter of course, being read a first time,—on Timrlow tne motion "that it be read a second time on Monday next," on the first Thurlow launched forth against it to a willing audience, — reading. Lord Temple having very intelligibly conveyed the information to their Lordships that the bill was highly disagreeable to his Majesty, and that the rejection of it would enable his Majesty to get rid of ministers whom his Majesty so much disliked. Lord Thurlow. —" There is much indecency in proposing so early a day for the consideration of such an important measure —a measure perhaps the most important which was ever agitated in parliament. In the first place, it is a most atrocious violation of private property. If it be necessary, the necessity must be fully and fairly proved by evidence brought to your bar; not by the report of a Committee of the other House, to which I would give as much faith as to the adventures of Robinson Crusoe. Whatever necessity for interference may be proved, still I contend that the present bill neither goes to the correction of any existing abuse, to the prevention of any evil in future, nor to the relief of the Company's pressing wants. In fact, my Lords, it is a most direct and daring attack upon the constitution of this country, and a subversion of the first principles of government."
Lord Loughborough tried to defend the bill by reason of
• 23 Pari. Hist. 1106—1114.
the insolvent state of the Company's affairs at home, and the Chap. deplorable Btate of their settlements abroad: "What scenes CLIXof desolation and distress do we behold? A prince has been A„ i783 driven from his palace, — his treasures have been seized, and It i8 dehe is now a fugitive wandering among the jungles of the i^rd by Ganges. Fertile provinces have been laid waste — wars have Loughbeen entered into without provocation and without advantage borou61'' — and a peace with the Mahrattas will only lead to a fresh war with Tippoo Saib. A country so misgoverned must be wrested from the hands of its present weak or wicked rulers."
Lord Thurlow. —" The noble and learned Lord has not ThurWs yet vouchsafed to give any solution to my difficulties. I ask re',ly' the noble and learned Lord whether he can reconcile the principles of this bill to the principles of the British constitution, even supposing the necessity for the interference of parliament to be apparent? The noble and learned Lord presiding in two of our supreme Courts, I might have expected to find him the champion of British justice. * It is not fitting that such a character should meddle in the dirty pool of politics. The present bill means evidently to create a power which is unknown to the constitution—an imperium in imperio, — but as I abhor tyranny in all its shapes, I shall strenuously oppose this most monstrous attempt to set up a power in the kingdom which may be used in opposition to the Crown, and to destroy the liberties of the people. I wish to see the Crown great and respectable; but if the present bill should pass, it will be no longer worthy of a man of honour to wear. The King, by giving the royal assent to it, will, in fact, take the Crown from his own head, and place it on the head of Mr. Fox."f
From the manner in which these observations were received by the House, it was clear that the victory was won. The only consideration was as to the manner in which the bill should be rejected. Without any division, an order was made for hearing counsel and evidence at the bar in support of the Petition of the East India Company against the bill, and Thurlow, notwithstanding the vigorous efforts of Lord
* Lord Loughborough was at this time Chief Justice of the Common Pleas and First Commissioner of the Great Seal, f 24 Pari. Hist. 122.
Rejection of Fox's India Bill.
Dismissal o f the coalition ministry.
Dec. 10. 1783.
Justification of George III. and Thurlow for their conduct in opposing the coalition ministry.
Loughborough, being supported by Lord Mansfield and Lord Camden, was able to dictate the mode in which the examinations should be conducted, — so that the final catastrophe was evidently at hand. In the debate on the second reading, Thurlow would not vouchsafe even to deal out any more vituperation or denunciation. He contented himself with calling out, "Question! question! Divide! divide!" The bill was rejected by a majority of 95 to 76.*
Next night, at twelve o'clock, a messenger delivered to the two Secretaries of State, Mr. Fox and Lord North, his Majesty's orders "that they should surrender up the seals of their offices by their under-secretaries, as a personal interview on the occasion would be disagreeable to him." The seals were immediately given to Earl Temple, who, as Secretary of State, sent letters of dismission the day following to the rest of the Cabinet Council. At the same time Mr. William Pitt, at the age of twenty-four, was declared Prime Minister, and the government was formed, which many predicted could not last more than a few weeks, but which proved the strongest and the most durable of any during the long reign of George III.
Thurlow was, of course, to be restored to his office of Lord Chancellor, and he promised very cordially to support the new chief, though laughing at him in private on account of his zeal for reform, and his professions of public virtue. We shall see that, from their very different characters and principles, their mutual jealousies and dislikes were ere long manifested to all the world.
Thurlow's conduct during the Coalition Ministry, though generally blamed with much severity, appears to me the most unexceptionable part of his whole career. He is censured for giving secret advice to the Sovereign when he was not in office; but we must not carry our constitutional notions to a pedantic length. I think George III. was fully justified in wishing to get rid, of Mr. Fox and Lord North as soon as possible; and I cannot condemn an experienced statesman, who was in opposition, for giving him hints as to the most
* 24 Pari. Hist. 226.