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to the wisdom of any measure which the responsible advisers CHAP, of the Crown might consequently recommend. In putting a ( 1 x construction on our treaties with Russia and Prussia, he affected a modesty which I do not understand, saying that "on subjects of state he begged to be understood as speaking with deference to statesmen." However, somewhat to countenance the notion that he considered himself a mere lawyer, and no statesman, he argued that their Lordships should not look merely to the letter of their contract with foreign nations, but should put an equitable interpretation upon it; giving as an illustration, that, although we only engaged to defend Prussia when attacked,— if we saw Russia surrounding Poland in a manner dangerous to the interests of Prussia, we were bound to interfere for the benefit of our ally. Lord His abuse Loughborough's compliments to the French revolution he ^^ch treated with the utmost scorn, asserting "that the National revoluAssembly had never assumed a bold or manly aspect, and tion' that its proceedings were, in his mind, a tissue of political fopperies, as distant from true wisdom as from morality and honour." *

There being now a new Parliament, the important con- Q-Whether stitutional question arose, whether Hastings's impeachment /mpca'ch" was abated by the dissolution of the House of Commons TMe"t^"r" which had commenced it? All impartial lawyers were of the dissoiuopinion that it was now to be considered as pending in statu {j^"^"' quo; and after a committee appointed to search for precedents had made their report to this effect, Lord Porchester moved, "that a message be sent to the Commons, to acquaint May 16. them that this House will proceed upon the trial of Warren Hastings, Esquire."

This was strongly opposed by the Lord Chancellor, who contended that the prosecution was at an end with the prosecutors; that Mr. Hastings's recognisance had expired, so that he, being neither in prison nor under bail, he was not subject to their jurisdiction; and that all precedents were in his favour, as well as all reasoning. As to the report of the committee, he had read it with attention, and it seemed to

• 29 Pari. Hist. 45.

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him to be little short of demonstration, that, by the usage and law of that House, an impeachment was universally understood to abate at a dissolution.—Lord Loughborough, however, clearly proved that the impeachment, being "in the name of all the Commons of England," was still to be carried on in their name by their present representatives; that the House of Lords is a permanent judicial tribunal, deciding in one parliament appeals and writs of error brought before it in a preceding parliament; that the assumption of the defendant's recognisance being at an end was a mere begging of the question; that the precedents, when rightly understood, negatived the doctrine of abatement; and that to sanction the doctrine contended for, would be to put it in the power of the executive government at any time, by a dissolution of parliament, to screen a delinquent minister from deserved punishment. Lord Grenville, and most of the government Peers, divided against the Chancellor, and he was beaten by a majority of 66 to 18.*

But he succeeded this session in defeating Mr. Fox's Libel Bill under pretence that there was not time to consider the subject, although, to the high credit of Mr. Pitt, who had supported the bill in the Commons, Lord Grenville anxiously declared that "he should be extremely sorry if it were to go forth to the world that the administration were against it, or unfriendly to the rights of juries." f

Thurlow's official career was now drawing to a close. On the 31st of January, 1792, he, for the last time, delivered into the hands of the King the speech to be read on the opening of parliament. It is exceedingly difficult to understand the wayward conduct during this session which led to his dismission. I have in vain tried to obtain a satisfactory explanation of it by studying contemporary memoirs, and consulting some venerable politicians whose memory goes back to thisara. He had formed no connection with the Whigs;— he was more than ever estranged from their society, and opposed to their principles, — and he could not have had the remotest intention of going over to them. I can only con

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jecturc that, as Mr.Pitt's reputation had been a little tarnished CHAP,
by the failure of the Russian armament, and he had not yet CLX-
been strengthened by the accession of the Duke of Portland, 1792
Burke, and the alarmist Whigs, which soon followed,—Thur-
low, still reckoning in a most overweening manner on his per-
sonal favour with the King, sincerely thought that he could
displace the present Premier, whom he regarded as little better
than a Whig, and that he could establish a real Tory govern-
ment, either under himself, or some other leader, who would
oppose the Libel Bill, and all such dangerous innovations, and
rule the country on true old Church-and-King maxims.

The occasion he selected for commencing hostilities was the He opposes introduction into the House of Lords of Mr. Pitt's celebrated Bill for"" Bill "To establish a Sinking Fund, for the redemption of the atablishNational Debt." This measure, which has proved a failure, sinking and which almost all financiers now condemn, was considered Fund" by its reputed author, his friends, and the bulk of the nation, as the greatest effort of his genius, and a lasting monument of his fame. * He staked upon it the stability of his administration. It passed the Commons with applause. But in the Lords, "to the astonishment of every one, it was violently reprobated by the Lord Chancellor." f His colleagues must have been even more startled than the rest of mankind; for he had not offered the slightest objection when the measure was considered in the Cabinet, and when he left the woolsack to throw it out, he had not hinted to any of them an intention to say a word against it. In truth he had not discovered its fallacy, and he made no attempt to show that, by the creation of additional stock and additional taxation to supply the sinking fund, the aggregate amount of the national debt would be encreased with diminished means of bearing the burden of it. He almost entirely confined himself to a rather futile objection, that an unconstitutional attempt was made to bind future parliaments. No one believed that future parliaments could be bound to provide for the sinking fund, if they should think that the money to be raised had better be left to

* The scheme was in fact Dr. Price's, and was the worst of three which he suggested.

t Tomline's Life of Pitt, ii. 513.

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CCLXP "fructlfy m tne pockets of the people;" but the inability to insure a perpetual adherence to the plan could be no solid

argument against attempting it; for, if sound and beneficial, there was every reason to expect that it would become more and more popular. But Thurlow believed that he had gained a complete triumph by thundering out most impressively and awfully, "that the bill exhibited a degree of presumption and arrogance in dictating to future parliaments, which he trusted the House would never countenance. None but a novice, a sycophant, a mere reptile of a minister, would allow this act to prevent him from doing what, in his own judgment, circumstances would require at the time; and a change in the situation of the country may render that which is proper at one time inapplicable at another." He thus concluded,— " In short, the scheme is nugatory and impracticable — the inaptness of the project is equal to the vanity of the attempt." Such observations were probably better adapted to his audience than others more profound, and he had nearly succeeded in defeating the bill — which must have been followed by the retirement of Mr. Pitt. On the division, it was carried only by a majority of six.* Mr. Pitt Next morning Mr. Pitt wrote a letter to the King, the his du.0" tenor of which we may pretty well guess at from the followmissal. ing letter, which he at the same time sent to the Lord Chancellor.

"Downing Street, Wednesday, May 16. 1792.

"My Lord,

Mr. Pitt's "I think it right to take the earliest opportunity of achim. quainting your Lordship, that being convinced of the impos

sibility of his Majesty's service being any longer carried on to advantage while your Lordship and myself both remain in our present situations, I have felt it my duty to submit that opinion to his Majesty; humbly requesting his Majesty's determination thereupon.

"I have the honour to be, &c

"W. Pitt."

* This very important debate is not even noticed in the Parliamentary History, and the only account we have of it is in a very wretched book, Tomliues "Life of Pitt." See vol. ii. 513.; Giflbrd's Life of Pitt, iii. 187.

The coming storm had been foreseen by several, and the CHAP.


result had been distinctly foretold by that sagacious states

man, Lord North, who a short time before had said to a per- Lor<i eon peculiarly intimate with Lord Thurlow, " Your friend North's .

siig.icit v in

thinks that his personal influence with the King authorises foreseeing him to treat Mr. Pitt with humeur. Take my word for it, ^1efisniis" whenever Mr. Pitt says to the King, 'Sir, the Great Seal Thurlow. must be in other hands,' the King will take the Great Seal from Lord Thurlow, and never think any more about him." And so it turned out. The King at once yielded to Mr. Pitt's Thurlow wishes, and caused an intimation to be conveyed to Lord dlsmisse'1Thurlow that "His Majesty had no longer any occasion for his services."

We are not informed of the channel through which the dis- Thurlow'g missal was announced to the Chancellor, but the act was a ^'insfthe dreadful surprise to him, and the manner of it deeply wounded K'"ghis pride. "I have no doubt," writes'the same person to whom Lord North had uttered his prophecy, "that this conduct of the King was wholly unexpected by Lord Thurlow: it mortified him most severely. I recollect his saying to me, 'No man has a right to treat another in the way in which the King has treated me: we cannot meet again in the same room.""

However, as Mr. Pitt was not then provided with any Arrange

, . . i j i e merit that

successor; as great inconvenience would have arisen from he should putting the Great Seal into commission during the sitting of continue

T i- i • , , , in- Chancellor

parliament, and it was desirable that the present holder of till the end it should continue in office a short time to give judgment in of the *6•" causes which had been argued before him, an arrangement was made that he should not surrender it till the day of the prorogation.

Meanwhile, he tried to set the King against Mr. Pitt and

* Nich. Recoil. 347. The author adds: "It is well known that for some years before Lord Thurlow was a second time deprived of the Great Seal he and Mr. Pitt had not lived on pleasant terms. I never could discover the cause of this. I recollect Lord Thurlow's having once said to me —' When Mr. Pitt first became Prime Minister, it was a very unpleasant thing to do business with him; but it afterwards became as pleasant to do business with him as with Lord North.' Ix>rd Thurlow strongly disapproved of Mr. Pitt's conduct on the impeachment of Mr. Hastings: bow far that contributed to excite ill humour in him, I cannot say."

He tries to set the

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