Reign of George III. (Continued.)
Scrutiny into the Westminster Election - Determined Attempt of Pitt's Government to keep Fox out of Parliament as the Westminster Representative - Fox triumphant - Obtains Damages from the High Bailiff- Affairs of Ireland - Formidable Aspect of the Volunteer Body - Their National Congress - Resolutions regarding the Trade of Ireland passed in the Irish Parliament - This introduced by Pitt to the English House of Commons, but there modified - These altered Resolutions rejected by the Irish Parliament - Pitt's Motion for Reform of Parliament - His Motion for Regulation of Offices - Pitt's Irish Taxes - Review of our Affairs with Holland since 1781 - Pitt's Financial Measures - Proposes a Sinking Fund, and carries it - Fresh Arrears of the Civil List - Duke of Richmond's Plan of Fortifying our Dockyards rejected - Indian Affairs: Clive Returns to India in 1765 - His Fame as Sahib Jung - He returns again to England - War with Hyder Ali - Peace - Attacks in Parliament on Clive - His Death - Warren Hastings First Governor-General - The Munny Begum - War with the Rohillas - Nuncomar Tried and Hanged - Case of Sir Elijah Impey - Philip Francis - Hastings Supreme - Affairs of Madras - Lord Pigot - Paul Benfield - Sir Thomas Rumbold - War with the Chiefs at Poonah and with the French - Scindiah and Holear - Francis and Impey - War re-commenced with Hyder Ali - Victories of Sir Eyre Coote - Cheyte Sing - Hastings' Journey to the North-Western Provinces - Begums of Oude - Rumours of Hastings' Cruelties - Parliamentary Inquiries into them - War with the Dutch in India - Suffrein - Deaths of Hyder Ali and Sir Eyre Coote - Peace concluded with Tippoo Sahib- Wretched State of Oude - Journey of Hastings thither - Shah Allum - Hastings resigns the Governorship of India - Lord Cornwallis appointed - Mr. Francis moves for a Bill to amend Pitt's India Bill - Dundas's Bill - Death of the Nabob of Arcot - Burke's Motions on Indian Affairs- Papers on India demanded by Philip Francis - Impeachment of Hastings voted.Pages: <1> 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18
Fox came into the new parliament in a very remarkable and anomalous position. In the election for Westminster, the candidates had been, beside himself, admiral lord Hood and Sir Cecil Wray. The election was of the most violent kind, distinguished by drunkenness, riot, and abuses of every kind. It continued from April the 1st to the 16th of May, and the numbers on the poll-books, at its termination, stood as follows: - For lord Hood, 6,694; for Fox, 6,233; for Sir Cecil Wray, 5,598. The prince of Wales had shown himself one of the most ardent partisans of Fox, all the more, no doubt, because Fox was detested by the king. The prince had displayed from his carriage the "Fox favour and laurel," and, at the conclusion of the poll, had given a grand fete at Carlton House to more than six hundred Foxites, all wearing " blue and buff." But Fox was not allowed to triumph so easily. The tory candidate, Sir Cecil Wray, as was well understood, instigated and supported by the government, demanded a scrutiny; and Corbett, the high bailiff, under the circumstances, could make no return of representatives for Westminster. As a scrutiny in so populous a district, and with the impediments which government and its secret service money could throw in the way, might drag on for a long period, and thus, as government intended, keep Fox out of parliament, he got himself, for the time, returned for a small Scotch borough, to the no small amusement of his enemies.
Almost immediately on the meeting of the house of commons, Welbore Ellis demanded whether a return had been made for Westminster, and being answered in the negative, moved that Mr. Corbett, the high bailiff, with his assessor, should attend the house; and the next day, February 2nd, colonel Fitzpatrick presented a petition from the electors of Westminster, complaining that they were not legally and duly represented. In fact, the scrutiny had now been going on for eight months, and as not even two of the seven parishes of Westminster were yet scrutinised, it was calculated that, at this rate, the whole process would require three years, and the city would, therefore, remain as long unrepresented. The high bailiff stated that the examinations, cross-examinations, and arguments of counsel were so long, that he saw no prospect of a speedy conclusion; and Mr. Murphy, his assessor, gave evidence that each vote was tried with as much form and prolixity as any cause in Westminster Hall: that counsel, and this applied to both sides, claimed a right to make five speeches on one vote; and that propositions had been put in on the part of Sir Cecil Wray to shorten the proceedings, but objected to on the part of Mr. Fox.
On the 8th, the high bailiff was called again before the house on the occasion of another petition from the electors, but he declared that he had no authority to enforce greater speed, and that it would take more than three years from first to last, rather than less, to terminate the scrutiny. On this avowal, Mr. Welbore Ellis moved that the high bailiff should at once make a return. There was a warm debate. Mr. Windham, on this occasion, made his first speech in the house, with great effect. But the ministers, through lord Mulgrave, made and carried an amendment that the high bailiff should proceed to make a return when he thought it best.
Fox complained bitterly of the conduct of Pitt in the course of this debate. He said, " He had always wished to stand well with the right honourable gentleman. He remembered the day he had first congratulated the house on the acquisition of his abilities. It had been his pride to fight side by side with him the battles of the constitution, little thinking that he would one day lend himself to be the instrument of that secret influence which they had both combated so successfully. He might have been prepared to find a formidable rival in the right honourable gentleman - a rival that would leave him far behind in the pursuit of glory - but he never could have expected that he could have descended so low as to be the court persecutor of any man. He fancied that he saw in him so much generosity of soul, so much elevation of mind, that so grovelling a passion as malice could not have found an asylum in his breast. He saw plainly that it was a pecuniary contest, and that his friends were to be tired out by the expense of it. The scrutiny on both sides could not cost less than thirty thousand pounds sterling a-year. This was enough to shake the best fortunes. His own last shilling might easily be got at, for he was poor; but, little as he had, he would spend it to the last shilling. If, in the end, he should lose his election, it would not be through want of a legal majority, but through want of money! and thus would he, perhaps, be deprived of his right, and the electors of Westminster of the man of their choice, because he was not able to carry on a pecuniary contest with the treasury."
Pitt replied to these severe strictures in terms equally severe and more causticly insulting. He declared that Fox was 1' mad with desperation and disappointment; " and he continued, with a cold, sneering air, u I say, nevertheless, I am not rised that he should pretend to be the butt of ministerial persecution; and if, by striving to excite the public compassion, he should seek to reinstate himself in that popularity which he once enjoyed, but which he so unhappily has forfeited - for it is the best and most ordinary resource of these political apostates to court and offer themselves to persecution, for the sake of the popular predilection and pity which usually fall upon persecuted men - it becomes worth their while to suffer for a time political martyrdom, for the sake of the canonisation that awaits the suffering martyr; and I make no doubt the right honourable gentleman has so much penetration, and, at the same time, so much passive virtue about him, that he would be glad not only to seem a poor, injured, persecuted man, but he would gladly seek an opportunity of even really suffering a little persecution, if it be possible to find such an opportunity."
This was bitingly pungent satire in a man who really was all the time oppressing his defeated rival with all the power of the treasury and the secret approbation of the crown. Pitt was an able, but far from a generous man, and it was now his policy to degrade and irritate Fox, till he caused him to further injure himself by rash and impetuous conduct. But Pitt's wisdom, though of the successfully worldly sort, was not of the highest and more intrinsic kind, as this country has since had to acknowledge and heavily pay for, and in this instance he pushed his revenge a little too far.
On the 18th of February colonel Fitzpatrick, Fox's most intimate friend, presented another petition from the electors of Westminster, praying to be heard by counsel, in consequence of new facts having come to light, but lord Frederick
Campbell, on the part of government, moved that such counsel should not argue against the legality of the scrutiny. The counsel, on being admitted, refused to plead under such restrictions. The house then called in the high bailiff, and demanded what the new facts were on which the petition was based, and he admitted that they were, that the party of Mr. Fox had offered to take the scrutiny in the parishes of St. Margaret and St. John alone, where Mr. Fox's interest was the weakest, in order to bring the scrutiny to an end, and that Sir Cecil Wray had declined the offer. Colonel Fitzpatrick then moved that the high bailiff should be directed to make a return, according to the lists on the close of the poll on the 17th of May last. This motion was lost, but only by a majority of nine, showing that the opinion of the house was fast running against the new minister, and on the 3rd of March alderman Sawbridge put the same question again, when it was carried by a majority of thirty-eight. It was clear that the government pressure could be carried no further. Sawbridge moved that the original motion should be put, and it was carried without a division. The next day the return was made, and Fox and lord Hood were seated as the members for Westminster.
Fox immediately moved that the proceedings on this case should be expunged from the journals, but without success. He also commenced an action against the high bailiff for not returning him at the proper time, when duly elected by a majority of votes. He laid his damages at two hundred thousand pounds, and the trial came on before lord Loughborough, formerly Mr. Wedderburn, in June of the following year, 1786, when the jury gave him immediately a verdict, but only for two thousand pounds, which he said should be distributed amongst the charities of Westminster. Thus ended this truly unconstitutional attempt on the part of government to deprive a hostile member of his seat, but not with it ended the vexations and unworthy artifices of Pitt to irritate and obstruct his opponents. The method which continued to disgrace the house of commons to a late period of coughing, hemming, and making all sorts of noises, was now shamelessly practised by the ministerial members to drown the voices of the opposition members, and led to scenes of much angry violence. Pre-eminent amongst the tory members in this dirty work of government was Mr. Rolle, member for Devonshire, the hero of " The Rolliad," and afterwards made lord Rolle by Pitt for these and other services not more creditable.
The king's speech, at the opening of this session, recommended a consideration of the trade and general condition of Ireland; and indeed it was time, for the concessions which had been made by the Rockingham ministry had only created a momentary tranquillity. The volunteers retaining their arms in their hands after the close of the American war, were evidently bent on imitating the proceedings of the Americans. In September, 1783, delegates from all the volunteer corps in Ireland met at Dungannon, representing one hundred thousand men, who passed resolutions declaring their independence of the legislature of Great Britain. A circumstance which greatly interested the protestant party at that moment, was a proposal of a large body of natives of Geneva, who were at feud with their fellow-citizens on political and religious questions, to settle in Ireland. The idea of receiving a numerous population of protestant republicans was particularly agreeable to the Irish protestants; and it was contemplated to advance fifty thousand pounds for this purpose, and to settle them on a grant of crown lands in the county of Waterford, near the confluence of the rivers Barrow and Sair, there called Passage, and to give it the name of New Geneva. But it was soon found that the demands of the Swiss were inadmissible, for they insisted on being governed by their own laws, and upon having nevertheless representatives in parliament. The scheme was therefore abandoned.
There were, in fact, ample elements of disquiet in the native population without any fresh infusion of republican foreigners. The delegates at Dungannon claimed the right to reform the national parliament, and appointed a convention to meet in Dublin in the month of November, consisting of delegates from the whole volunteer army in Ireland. Accordingly, on the 10th of November, the great convention met in Dublin, and held their meetings in the Royal Exchange. They demanded a thorough remodelling of the Irish constitution. They declared the Irish house of commons was wholly independent of the people; that its term of duration was equally unconstitutional; and they passed zealous votes of thanks to their friends in England. These friends were the ultra-reformers of England, who had freely tendered the Irish reformers their advice and sympathy. The Rev. Christopher Wyvill, chairman of the committee of the Yorkshire association, had counselled them to avoid universal suffrage, but to admit as electors all who possessed property, however small, all who paid taxes, all copyholders and leaseholders for terms exceeding thirty years, of a yearly value of forty shillings, not excepting catholics, but still to exclude catholics from the lower house itself. Lord Effingham gave them a plan of very extended borough reform; but the duke of Richmond not only advised universal suffrage, but annual parliaments! Catholics were to enjoy these privileges; but ballot was to be rejected. Drs. Jebb and Price and major Cartwright recommended similarly extensive schemes of reform to them.
The Irish people were ready to hail the delegates as their true parliament, and the regular parliament as pretenders. Within the parliament house itself the most violent contentions were exhibited betwixt the partisans of the volunteer parliament and the more orthodox reformers. Henry Flood was the prominent advocate of the extreme movement, and Grattan, who regarded this agitation as certain to end only in fresh coercion, instead of augmented liberty for Ireland, vehemently opposed it.
On the 29th of November Flood moved for leave to bring in a bill for the more equal representation of the people. This was the scheme of the volunteer parliament, and all the delegates to the convention who were members of the house, or had procured admittance as spectators, appeared in uniform. The tempest that arose is described as something terrific. The orders of the house, the rules of debate, the very rules of ordinary conduct amongst gentlemen, were utterly disregarded. The fury on both sides was uncontrollable. When he could be heard, Yelverton, the attorney- general, vociferated, " We do not sit here to register the edicts of another assembly, or to receive directions at the point of the bayonet. So long as the volunteers confined themselves to their first line of conduct, it was their glory to preserve domestic peace, to render their country formidable to foreign enemies, to aid the civil magistrates, and to support parliament. They were then entitled to applause, and commanded respect; but when they form themselves into a convention, and with that rude instrument, the bayonet, probe and explore the constitution, which it requires the nicest hands to touch, respect and veneration for them are destroyed. If it be averred that this proposition, originating with them, can be carried, it decides the question whether the house or the convention represents the people, and whether parliament or the volunteers are to be obeyed."
Flood declared, in reply, that this was the voice of the people, and that it was opposed because it was said to be the demand of the volunteers; but the people and the volunteers were the same, and that his propositions had been made constitutional by every act except that of their adoption by that house, which, indeed, was not necessary, as they had the full assent of the people. The motion was indignantly rejected by one hundred and fifty-seven votes against seventy-seven; and the house immediately voted a cordial address to his majesty, declaring their perfect satisfaction in the blessings enjoyed under his most auspicious reign, and the present happy constitution, and their determination to support him with their lives and fortunes. The house then adjourned.
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