Графични страници
PDF файл

defensive between them, why should we murmur? We are CHAP, told that a remonstrance should be made against the fortifi- ■ CL1Xcations now carrying on at Cherbourg. Where is the Mi-" nister who would venture to make such a remonstrance? [Marquis of Lansdowne. 'I would.'] By what part of the law of nations have we a right to remonstrate? [Marquis of Lansdowne. 'We have no right.'] Then the noble Marquis would do what he confesses he has no right to do; so that he and his application would be laughed at, as absurd and ridiculous." *

The House however, soon after, for once rebelled against Thurlow their tyrant The Duke of Queensberry and the Earl of overTM'«l

, , ' — on a ques

Abercorn, while two of the sixteen representative Peers of tion reScotland, being created British Peers, Lord Stormont moved ^Scotch a resolution, which he founded on a just construction of the peerage. Articles of Union, that they ceased to sit as representatives of the Scotch Peerage, and Dr. Watson, Bishop of LandafF, ably supported the motion. — Lord Chancellor. "Your Lordships are not to listen to supposed or real convenience,—to this or that set of men, — nor to consider what an act of parliament ought to be, but what it is. Here you have the Treaty of Union which contains no such disqualification; and I say you are bound to abide by the letter of it. I must take the liberty of reprehending the noble Viscount for using the arguments with which he introduced his motion, and the Right Reverend Prelate would have done well to have read the Articles of the Union before he ventured to let loose his opinions on the subject. I insist upon it, my Lords, that giving an English title to a Scotch Peer cannot take away or diminish any one function previously belonging to him, and that he is as fully capacitated to be a representative Peer of Scotland as before." Nevertheless, Lord Loughborough, taking the opposite side, and making out a strong case, as well by the words of the statute as by precedent, the motion, to the great mortification of the Chancellor, and the

• 26 Pari. Hist. 586. We could not have remonstrated on this occasion as we formerly did about the fortifications of Dunkirk,—which, by treaty.were to be demolished; but all warlike preparations may be made the subject of representation and remonstrance, —although the law of nations does not forbid a state to arm all its citizens, and to make all its territory one garrison.

CHAP, general surprise of the by-standers, was carried by a majority CL1X" of52to38.*

Timriow The Chancellor soon recovered his ascendency, and, acting

throws out on his usual illiberal principles, threw out "a Bill for the

lief of In-6" Relief of Insolvent Debtors," which, till he spoke, was in

solvent great favour with the House. It had been read a second

Debtors. °. . ... ,

time without opposition; but on the motion tor going into a committee upon it, Lord Thurlow, denying that he was so malignant an enemy to the happiness of mankind as to feel a satisfaction in the distress of any portion of his fellow creatures, pointed out what he called the manifest injustice of breaking in upon that power of "coercion of payment with which the law had armed the creditor for the security His speech 0f nis property. "If there is to be," said he, "such a thing of impri'' as imprisonment for debt, it ought to continue unchecked and sonmentfor unrestrained, unless in cases of flagrant oppression and unnecessary cruelty. The general idea, that humanity requires the intervention of the legislature between the debtor and the creditor, is a false notion -— founded in error and dangerous in practice. A much greater evil than the loss of liberty is the dissipation and corruption that prevail in our prisons; to these your Lordships had better direct your attention, than to defrauding the creditor of the chance of recovering his property by letting loose his debtor, and taking from him the very hope of payment." So blinded was he by prejudice as not to sec that the "dissipation and corruption" of which he complains were produced by the very power of imprisoning which he defended. It is important that such distorted sentiments should be recorded for the use of those who are to Site of the write the history of human errors. How delightful to think so'iTa cen- that, imprisonment for debt being abolished, the site of the tral railway Fleet prison, the scene of misery and vice, the description of the'me-01 which, in the pages of Fielding and Smollett, harrows up tropolis. our souls, is now to be converted into a centre railway station for the metropolis, — so that those who are henceforth to congregate there, instead of being immured for life in darkness and filth, and forced to resort to ebriety as a temporary

* 26 Pari. Hist. 590—608.

relief from despair, may in a few hours be conveyed, for Chap. the purposes of useful industry or of innocent recreation, CLIX

through pure air and over verdant fields, to the remotest extremities of the kingdom! While the perfectability of our nature must be acknowledged to be a delusion contrary alike to religion and philosophy, the vast improvements which have been made in our social system should stimulate and encourage our efforts to diminish the sum of crime and of suffering, and to raise the standard of intellectual cultivation and of material comfort among mankind.

The public attention now began to be entirely engrossed Impeachby the prosecution of Warren Hastings. The opinion of a barren subsequent generation has been, that this great man, who, in Hastings, a time of national depression, and amidst appalling dangers, preserved and extended our Indian empire,—although he had committed faults, and even crimes,—upon the whole deserved well of his country, and ought to have been honoured and rewarded. The opposition, however, misled by exaggerated History of accounts of his misconduct, eager to recover the popularity' which they had lost by the Coalition, and surrendering themselves into the hands of the vengeful Francis and the enthusiastic Burke, became his accusers, and were insensibly involved in the impeachment, — which, notwithstanding the unexampled eclat attending it, conferred upon them as a party no lasting credit or solid advantage. The suspicion is, that Pitt, a little alarmed by the high favour shown to Hastings at Court, and not displeased to see his own adversaries waste their strength in exposing the misgovernment of distant regions, instead of attacking his ministerial measures at home, — although he took a just view of the merits of the cause, — with professions of strict impartiality threw the weight of his influence into the scale of the prosecutors. But Thurlow — partly let us hope from a belief of the groundlessness of the charges (although he was not supposed to have had leisure or inclination to examine them)—partly to please the King and Queen, who took Mr. and Mrs. Hastings under their special protection* — partly from a desire to

* In the libels of the day, this reception was ascribed less to the King's sense

CHAP, find a rival to Pitt, whom he ever regarded with secret enCLIX- mity—warmly and openly embraced the opposite side—enlarging without qualification on the distinguished virtues and great services of the accused — and supporting him on every occasion " with indecorous violence." * Pitt having professed scruples when the King hinted a wish that Hastings, a few months after his return, should be called to the Upper House, Thurlow treated these scruples with contempt, and said, "there was nothing to prevent the holder of the Great Seal from taking the royal pleasure about a patent of peerage." So encouraged, Hastings actually chose his barony. Having fulfilled the resolution he had formed when an orphan boy at a village school — to recover the estate which had been for many centuries in his family,—he now took his title from it, and declared that he would be "Lord Daylesford of Daylesford, in the county of Worcester." But Pitt put an end to all these speculations, after voting for him on the charge respecting the Robilla war,—one of the best established,—by voting against him on the charge respecting the treatment of Cheyte Sing, — one of the most unfounded, — although, when it was to be brought forward by Mr. Fox, a Treasury circular had been sent to all the ministerial members, asking them1 to attend, and vote against it. Great was the astonishment of the friends of Mr. Hastings, and of the whole House; but it is said that, a few hours before the debate began, Pitt received intelligence of the intrigue respecting the peerage, and of Thurlow's declaration that, under the King's authority, he would put the Great Seal to the patent without consulting any other minister. The turn was so sudden that even the Attorney General divided against the prime minister; but the impeachment was carried by a majority of 119 to 79. The other articles were voted without

of the services of the husband than to the presents made by his wife to the
Queen. — Thus, in the famous Eclogue of " The Lyars," we have Banks's
stanza to show the power of gold:

"Say what that mineral, brought from distant climes,
Which screens delinquents and absolves their crimes,
Whose dazzling rays confound the space between
A tainted strumpet and a spotless Queen."
• Macaulay's Ess. iii. 429.

difficulty, and on the 14th day of May, 1787, Mr. Burke CHAP, appeared at the bar of the House of Lords, attended by CLIXmany members, and "in the name of the House of Commons, and of all the Commons of England, impeached "Warren Hastings, Esq. of high crimes and misdemeanours." Thurlow was at no pains to conceal his disapprobation of the proceeding, and resolved to do every thing in his power to defeat it.

Mr. Hastings being arrested by the Serjeant-at-Arms of May 21. the House of Commons, and handed over to the custody of Hastings the Gentleman Usher of the Black Rod, as the officer of the hy House of Lords, the Duke of Norfolk having proposed that he of Lords, should be held to bail for 50,000/., — the Lord Chancellor not improperly procured the sum to be reduced to 20,000/1, with two sureties in 10,000/. each. *

But the trial did not begin till the 13th of February in A.d. 1788. the following year. The charge not being capital, no Lord weMmin*?1 High Steward was appointed; and Lord Thurlow, during ter Hall, the time he held the Great Seal, presided over it as Chancellor, or Speaker of the House of Lords, although, at the conclusion of it, having been deprived of office, he was the lowest in dignity.

"There have been spectacles," says Mr. Macaulay, "more Descripdazzling to the eye, more gorgeous with jewellery and cloth tion of the of gold, more attractive to grown-up children, than that which was now exhibited at Westminster; but, perhaps, there never was a spectacle so well calculated to strike a highly cultivated, a reflecting, an imaginative mind. Still the various kinds of interest which belong to the near and to the distant, to the present and to the past, were collected on one spot and in one hour. All the talents, and all the accomplishments which are developed by liberty and civilisation, were now displayed with every advantage that could be derived both from co-operation and from contrast. Every step in the proceedings carried the mind either backward through many troubled centuries to the days when the foundations of our constitution were laid; or far away over boundless seas and deserts to dusky nations, living under strange stars, worshipping strange gods, and

• 26 Pari. Hist. 1217.

« ПредишнаНапред »