Imatges de pàgina

always done under the supposition that the application would appear in the act of appropriation; and thus, before the close of the session, be brought under the consideration of both Houses of Parliament. A resolution for supply, voted by the House of Commons, if not followed up by an act of appropriation, was, in fact, only so much waste paper. But the present was a very peculiar case; for this and the other House of Parliament had been informed that a dissolution was about to take place. The resolution was adopted in one House of Commons, and the appropriation was to stand over to another Parliament. The vote was not for services that might be expected to come under the cognizance of Parliament in the regular course of business, but for payments which were to cease on the demise of the King. Among these payments were several pensions and annuities, one of which was 35,000l. a-year to the Princess of Wales; but the resolutions bore that these sums should be paid to the Prince Regent himself, although they were granted for other persons. He complained that the other House of Parliament, knowing that those annuities were to expire on the demise of the Crown, thought fit to say, on its own authority, that they should be continued. The message requested them to adopt the necessary measures for expediting the public services. The House of Commons certainly took the quick est mode of doing this; but in accomplishing their purpose they had broken through every rule in proceeding to do that by a resolution which could only legally be done by Act of Parliament. The noble lord finally read three resolutions, arising out of his views on this subject. The first merely enumerated the money votes which had been passed by the Lower House.

"Resolved-That the Commons House of Parliament, informed by his Majesty's message of the intended dissolution of Parliament, have, in these resolutions, attempted to appropriate money to be paid for services subsequent to the dissolution, which can only legally be effected by an Act of Parliament appropriating the supplies voted; and that they have further, in a most unprecedented manner, assumed the power of providing for, and authorising the payment of, certain pensions and annuities, subsequent to the dissolution of Parliament, which by law are declared to be at an end.

"Resolved-That under these circumstances, we feel it our duty to declare, that though we regard these proceedings as derogatory to the privileges of this House and of Parliament, yet we are induced, by a sense of the state in which public business is now placed, to forbear from any immediate proceedings, and to declare that we will concur in indemnifying those who may pay money, or otherwise act under these resolu

tions, which we must nevertheless deprecate, as threatening the subversion of the best and wisest principles of the constitution of our country."

Their Lordships would see, that in proposing these resolutions it was by no means his wish to embarrass in any degree the measures of Government, but merely to enter a protest against the proceeding which had taken place being hereafter drawn into precedent. He concluded by moving the resolutions.

The Earl of Liverpool was certainly ready to admit, that the resolutions moved by the noble earl were consistent with the description he had given of them in the conclusion of his speech. They were well drawn up, as to his view of offering no ob

that, after the first resolution, words should be inserted, stating in effect that this House was induced, in consequence of the state of public business, to acquiesce in the payments voted by the House of Commons, though no act of appropriation had been preferred, or had come before them.

Some fresh observations were stated by the Marquis of Lansdowne, who considered their present situation as one of the evils arising from the

gross act of inadvertency, to call it by no worse name, of which ministers had been guilty, in calling upon Parliament to deliberate on its own dissolution. The Earl of Donoughmore, however, declared himself satisfied with Lord Liverpool's amendments, which were agreed to without a division.

struction to the progress of public business; but, at the same time, they contained a censure on the other House of Parliament, which, before their Lordships could admit, would induce them to pause, and consider whether any thing had been done by that House, which was not fully warranted by precedent and practice. There was an important distinction between granting money, and appropriating it when raised; but into this distinction the noble earl had not entered. No money, either in the shape of a tax or avoluntary contribution, could be granted except by an Act of Parliament; but in cases of supply the practice of Parliament was to be very liberal. Nothing was more common than to grant for specific services, sums from money already voted. If the noble earl extended his objection so far as to say, that no money ought to be granted without an Act of Parliament, that might be a matter of consideration, though the practice was otherwise; but if money were to be applied in the usual way, he could see no real practical difference, whether the appropriation was sanctioned by an Act passed in this or in the next Parliament. What was the nature of the resolution complained of? It was not raising money, but making it lawful to issue, out of money already voted, sums for certain services until Parliament should open. This was not levying money on the subject, and in that lay the chief distinction. At the same time he was not unwilling to meet any fair proposition on the subject, for removing the scruples of the noble earl, if he gave up parts of the resolution which could not seriously be intended to be pressed. Before their Lordships could agree to resolutions censuring the other House, they must be assured that there had been a departure from the usual prac--that the House had, from time to tice, but no such thing had been shewn. He would therefore propose,

The only other measure which excited much interest in this concluding portion of the session, lay in the penal steps proposed against the boroughs convicted of bribery-Barnstaple, Grampound, Penryn, and Camelford. The lead in this affair was taken by Lord John Russel, who observed, that as it was intended to take care that the civil list, and several other matters, should not receive any detriment from the dissolution of Parliament, he hoped that the House would be equally anxious to protect their own privileges, by directing that new writs for members to serve for certain boroughs in the ensuing Parliament should not be issued. For this proceeding a precedent was to be found in an Act of the 15th of George 1II., cap. 30, which related to the borough of Shaftesbury. That Act set forth, "that there was gross and notorious corruption practised in the election of members for that borough

time, ordered the issuing of a new writ to be suspended-and, as a pro

rogation was about to take place, it was enacted that the writ should not be issued, until after that prorogation had expired." He proposed to extend this principle to the dissolution of Parliament. There evidently was considerable analogy between the two cases; and it had been held, that, where an impeachment was prosecuting, a dissolution of Parliament did not affect the proceeding more than a prorogation.

Lord Castlereagh, without objecting to the principle of the Bill, suggested some difficulties which would occur in its passage through the Houses. He had traced the progress of the Shaftsbury bill through the House of Lords, and he found that a message was sent to the House of Commons, requiring that all the information which had been laid before the House, and which induced the House to pass the bill, should be submitted to their Lordships. On the consideration of the evidence in that case, the bill was agreed to. Now, the proceedings of the Committee on the Grampound election were more grave and serious than those connected with the Shaftsbury case; and they must be aware, that if they sent this bill up to the other House, their Lordships would demand all the information on which it was founded.

Mr Wynn, however, strongly supported the bill, observing, The noble ford (Castlereagh) said he would consider this question, if it came before a new Parliament, whether an election of members did or did not take place in these boroughs, as exactly in its present state, and that Parliament, under these circumstances, might still exercise the same plenitude of power as it now could with respect to them; but the noble lord must feel how strong the argument would be against such a proceeding: after a general


election had taken place, and no corruption, in the course of that election, was proved against those boroughs, they might continue as corrupt as ever. But they would take very good care, on such an occasion, to keep their corruption completely out of sight.

When, however, on the 21st February, the second reading of the bill was moved, it was opposed even by several whig members. Mr Calcraft could not give it his support, because he thought it would be something like imposing upon the country, to hold out to it any expectation that the House of Commons was in earnest. It was too much to expect that the House of Lords would not throw out the bill for withholding the writ in four cases, when in regard to one only, Barnstaple, it had any information or evidence before it. With regard to Grampound, Penryn, or Ca melford, it had not a tittle of information. An address to the throne, praying that writs might not be di rected to the boroughs enumerated, was the true parliamentary course of proceeding. To this Mr Wynn replied: If the House should address the Throne for such a purpose, it would be a recognition of the right of the Crown at any time to suspend the sending of writs to any county or borough. Mr Marryat argued: As to the danger of allowing the writs to be re-directed to places like Penryn or Camelford, he could not discover any :' half the voters of Grampound were now suffering in gaol, and two members were also enduring the heavy punishment of the law for corrupt practices. Surely, then, they would now, if ever, take warning, and not repeat their offences: and if he were called upon to point out boroughs in the kingdom where the elective franchise would be exercised with the


greatest purity, he should point out the very places enumerated in the bill before the House.

Mr Brougham, considering the extreme importance of such a measure as the disfranchisement of four boroughs, thought that it ought to be deliberated upon more calmly, and upon fuller evidence. It might be right, or it might be wrong, to disfranchise, when they should be more prepared, and when evidence respecting the four boroughs should be before them; but when they were not prepared for the disfranchisement, he asked, was it right to deprive those boroughs at the dissolution, pro hac vice, of their elective franchise? He had no such sanguine expectations as Mr Marryat as to the amendment of the offending boroughs. At the same time, in justice to his own feelings, and to his observation of feelings out of doors, as well as in that House, he would say, that some exertion of the elemency of the House ought to be extended to a person whose punishment might be just, but was not very lenient. Two years' imprisonment at their instance was not a lenient punishment upon one of their members. Oh, he was not a member-he meant then Sir Manasseh Lopez. With this person he had had no acquaintance, he knew not his face, and he was not disposed to say he had not been guilty of corruption; but, however culpable he might have been, and however correct his conviction, their separating without doing something to shew that there was on their part no impediment to the extension of royal clemency, he thought would be too hard and too severe. He was 68 years of age. Two years' imprisonment was a most severe punishment upon such a person for an offence, which he would not palliate it was an offence, grave and serious, against morality, against the consti

tution of the country, against the privileges of that House, but it could not be said to be extremely rare.

Mr Scarlett, entertaining, as he was well known to entertain, the highest respect for his learned friend's opinion, could not agree with him in his view of this question. The offence was one, not only against morality and law, but it was a corruption of the very source of all that was dear to us as our rights and privileges. Sir James Mackintosh also argued for the bill, remarking, If they called upon the Lords to unite with them in disfranchising those boroughs, without hearing and examining evidence for themselves, they would be guilty of an invasion of their constitutional liberties. But they did not so by this bill; they only called upon the other branches of the legislature to give faith and credit to them, that the investigation, in the state it was now before them, would afford sufficiently strong evidence, in their opinion, to justify the suspension of writs, till final measures could be deliberately adopted.

The measure not being opposed by Lord Castlereagh, who admitted that there was a prima facie case against these boroughs, passed through the House of Commons without a vote. When, however, it appeared in the Lords, a petition was presented from one of the boroughs to be heard by counsel against it. As the delay attending such an arrangement would be fatal to a bill which must pass immediately or never, Lord Carnarvon strongly opposed it: If their Lordships did not pass the bill, their decision would be a condemnation of the practice of suspending writs, which had been followed by the House of Commons for half a century. No injustice would be done to the electors of these boroughs by passing the bill. They would only con

tinue until the meeting of Parliament in the same situation in which the House of Commons had placed them, and in which, had it not been for the dissolution, they must have remained until the decision of the great question at issue took place. It was impossible to look back upon the proceedings of the House of Commons without feeling the warmest approbation of the measures taken by that House to extirpate a system of corruption which disgraced the representation of the country. A young nobleman, actuated by those principles which distinguished his family, and did honour to the name of Russell, had been active in his endeavours to remove this stain from the constitution. He brought in a bill to transfer the franchise of one of these convicted boroughs to Leeds. When this was proposed, one minister of the Crown hailed the measure with his approbation, and the other ministers in the House of Commons gave the bill their silent assent. What then must be the feelings of the country when it should appear that the ministers of the Crown in the House of Lords put their chilling negative on the measure? Were it to happen that all the ministers of the Crown in the Commons supported the present bill, and that all the ministers in the House of Lords opposed it, the contrast would be singular. It was only proposed to hold these boroughs to bail for a period not exceeding 53 days.

Lord Liverpool expressed an opinion equally decided on the opposite side. If a case of corrupt practices was made out against a particular borough, he thought it would constitute a fair subject of inquiry in Parliament how it ought to be dealt with, and whether it ought not to be deprived of privileges which it had abused. But the question now be.

fore the House was very different. It was whether the House should disfranchise a borough not proved to be corrupt, or suspend its rights without inquiry and without evidence. The case of Shaftsbury was not at all analogous to what was now proposed to be done. The House of Commons in that case suspended the writ during a prorogation. The House of Commons might be right or wrong, and their Lordships should not surrender their right of inquiry.

The Lord Chancellor argued with equal foree against a bill, which required their Lordships' consent to a measure that would suspend the rights of the boroughs in question, without inquiry or evidence. Counsel ought to be heard, and the House ought not to agree to the bill without investigation. Their Lordships had been called upon to consult the feelings and interests of the public by passing this measure; but they would best consult their interests by attending to the claims of justice. If they did justice to their country, their country would ultimately do justice to them. The House of Commons did not decide on the question of depriving a single member of his seat without examining evidence upon oath; but here boroughs were to be disfranchised (or at least were to have their rights suspended) without any evidence at all. Evidence could not now be heard at their Lordships' bar; but he would not consent to suspend the rights of the subject on any thing short of evidence upon oath.

The determination to hear counsel rendered it, as the Chancellor admitted, impossible to go through with the bill during this session; so that, on the motion of Lord Lauderdale, it was disposed of by an adjournment of a fortnight.

On the 28th February, Parliament was dissolved by commission, in con

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