Графични страници
PDF файл

Highness the Prince of Wales should be increased to 125,0001. per annum.

Mr. (now Earl) Grey, and other members, opposed the motion on the popular grounds, that, as the community at large were suffering great privations, on account of a burdensome and expensive war, the Prince of Wales, having incurred debts to an enormous amount, ought not at such a period to have recourse to the public purse for assistance, but make such a reduction in his expenses as would enable him to discharge the claims of his creditors. However exalted his rank, he ought, thy said, to endeavour to come to a composition with his creditors, which it was probable they would gladly accept, and that, until he had satisfied their demands, until the calls of strict justice were completely answered, he should limit his expences, and abstain from the splendour of a court. Mr. Grey moved an amendment to Mr. Pitt's proposition, that the Prince of Wales should only have an augmentation to his income of 40,0001. per annum, instead of the sum of 65,0001. which the minister's proposition recommended.

Mr. Fox, in an admirable speech, took a luminous view of the question. He admitted, he said, the necessity of supporting the splendour of the crown, as an essential part of the constitution; but he did not understand calling it, as it had been called, the centre of the constitution. He did not regard the establishment of former Princes of Wales as the most creditable part of the history of the house of Brunswick. The establishment of George II., when Prince of Wales, had been a mere matter of a party, still more so was that of his son, Frederick Prince of Wales. The establishment of the latter had been 60,0001. when he happened to differ from his Majesty's ministers, and 100,0001. when he agreed with them Mr. Fox delicately adverted to the suspicious circumstances in which such a transaction placed that Prince*, and wished the house to avoid such a conduct as might expose the Prince of Wales to similar suspicions. He blamed the scantiness of the former income granted to his Royal Highness, and exculpated himself for having concurred in it, on the ground of its having been an experiment; and that great deference was due to his Majesty, who gave 50,000l. out of the civil list. A few years afterwards, other ministers advised his Majesty to apply to parliament to exonerate the civil list from this allowance. In 1787, provision was made by parliament for paying the debts of his Royal Highness, and 10,0001. a year was added to his income. This he thought insufficient, but could not oppose it after both his Majesty and the Prince had declared that it was sufficient. The declaration of his Royal Highness, that he would not again apply to parliament, had greatly surprised him: it was, however, a promise which, in honour, he thought him obliged to keep. It was, however, the opinion of ministers, that 60,0001. a year in addition to the duchy of Cornwall, was sufficient for reinstating the Prince in all his splendour. Upon what principle then did they now say that 125,0001. a year was necessary ? This, he thought, could not arise from his marriage-a circumstance which, whatever, changes it made in the lower classes, very little altered the expenses of those in superior life. How then could those who said. in 1787, that 73,0001. a year was sufficient, say that 138,0001 must be necessary now? It seemed that, like his grandfather, ministers measured the extent of his allowance by the degree of approbation he bestowed upon their measures. He was not actuated by the same motives, and therefore he should vote for the larger sum, provided that no similar application should be made to parliament in future. Mr. Fox then proceeded to vindicate the character of the Prince of Wales from some of the imputations that had been thrown out against it by preceding speakers. Was the Prince of Wales, he asked, the first example the house would select for reform, or, in some sort, for punishment ? It would ill become him to be very pointed in his disapprobation of imprudent expenses in others ; but he would say to Westminster, to the public at large, 'if you

* A particular account of the intrigues here alloded to, and certainly not very favourable to the character of Frederick Prince of Wales, or to the purity of his political advisers, is to be found in the Memoirs of Bubb Doddington, Lord Melcombe, who, it is well known, entered as largely as any man into the cabals of his day.

complain of increased habits of expense, begin the reformation by reforming yourselves. Considering the influence allowed to the crown, was it seemly to act harshly and austerely towards a prince, who had no such influence ? Something on this occasion might, he thought, have been spared out of the civil list. Queen Anne, from a civil list of 600,0001., gave 100,0001. towards the support of the war. George I., out of 700,0001. a year, gave 100,0001. for the establishment of his heirs; and George II, the same sum. In the American war, parliament paid a large debt for the civil list, and added to it 100,0001, a year. The sum for the privy purse had been gradually increased from 36,0001. to 60,0001. a year. Why should not the establishment of the Prince be proportionably increased ? After the promise given in 1787, and that no engagement appeared on the part of his Royal Highness against future claims of the same nature, he was averse from noticing the debts. On account merely of the Princess of Wales, for whom the house, by its addresses, was pledged to make a suitable provision, would he assent to relieving the Prince from his embarrasments, but not without a sinking fund for liquidating the debts within a reasonable time. The small sum proposed by the minister for liquidating his debts, the payment of which would take twenty-seven years, Mr. Fox thought only exposed the Prince to injurious reflections on the part of the public: relinquishing his state for the present would leave a sum for the payment of his debts in a short time, at the end of which the public would gain a beloved and respected Prince of Wales, and his future years must be prosperous indeed, if he counted the years of his probation as the least happy of his life.

For this purpose, Mr. Fox wished the Prince of Wales to give up 65,0001. a year, with the income of the duchy of Cornwall, for the discharge of his debts. The sale of the duchy, he said would effect this much sooner, and without expense to the public. He had been informed that it would sell for 800,0001., but he would state it at 600,0001., and the Prince's life interest in it at 300,0001. There would then only remain

about 300,0001. of debt, which the fund he had mentioned would pay off in three or four years. Mr. Fox strongly recommended precautions for the prevention of future debts, provided they were applied to all future kings and princes; but thought there were inconveniences in making the officers of the Prince responsible for his debts, which could not be obviated.

After some further observations of Mr. Fox, on the propriety of his Majesty coming forward on such an occasion, and the right that the Prince had to the arrears of the duchy of Cornwall during his minority, and which had been applied by successive ministers in aid of the civil list , the house proceeded to divide upon Mr. Grey's amendment, when the numbers for it were 99, against it 260. On the division for repairing Carlton House, there were for it 248, against it 99. For the expense of the royal marriage 241, against it 100.

The debates in the House of Commons excited a corresponding sensation out of doors, which was artfully kept alive by inflammatory publications, and newspaper paragraphs, tending to degrade the Prince of Wales in the estimation of the public. In this state of the affair, Mr. Anstruther, then attorney-general to the Prince, and afterwards chief justice of the supreme court at Calcutta, was authorized to make the following communication to the House of Commons, in the name of the Prince of Wales.

• That his Royal Highness was desirous to acquiesce in whatever might be the sentiments of the house, both in respect to the future regulation of his expenditure, and the appropriation of any part of the income they might think fit to grant him, for the discharge of his debt; his wish, on the present occasion, was entirely to consult the wisdom of parliament. He was perfectly disposed to acquiesce in whatever abatement of splendour they might judge to be necessary, from a view of his situation, and desired to have nothing, but what the country might cordially be induced to think he ought to have. In fine, that his Royal Highness left all matters relative to the regula

3 T


tion of his establishment, and the payment of his debts, to the wisdom and discretion of parliament, with the assurance that whatever measures they might adopt, would meet with his hearty concurrence.'

Mr. Pitt, upon this occasion, congratulated the house upon the constitutional sentiments which his Royal Highness had expressed ; and said, he observed with pleasure that a parliament, which had never failed in any expression of loyalty to their sovereign, or attachment to his family—which had never been wanting in discovering a proper spirit of liberality, when the occasion called for it—had no less in the present instance shewn a degree of jealousy, care, and circumspection, when a demand was made upon the pockets of their constituents, attended with some circumstances which they could not altogether approve. He had no less satisfaction, he said, in ob serving that the illustrious personage himself was impressed with a just sense of that line of conduct, which, regard to his character and situation required him to pursue ; and trusted that the house had that day received an earnest of the future disposition of his Royal Highness, and of that regard to the welfare of the people which would distinguish him in the exalted situation to which he might one day be called. Under that impression, he hoped there would be little difference of opinion as to the proposition which he should submit to the house. The instruction he meant to move went precisely to the two objects which his honourable and learned friend (Mr. Anstruther) had referred to, in the communication from his Royal Highness: the regulation of the expenditure of his household, and the appropriation of part of the income for the discharge of his debts. It was certainly satisfactory, Mr. Pitt said, for the house to know that his Royal Highness was perfectly disposed to concur in whatever arrangements the wisdom of parliament might adopt in respect to those two objects. He hoped that by this communication every difficulty would be considerable lessened, though they might not, perhaps, be entirely removed; as some members, however, who were disposed to support the dignity and credit of the Prince of Wales

« ПредишнаНапред »