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time of peace.” He observed, that, consistently with what he had said of the necessity of a further explanation on the part of the parliament of Ireland, respecting the permanency of the aid to be given for the protection of trade in general, he could not call upon the committee to give an immediate opinion upon his proposition; he would not, therefore, press for a vote now, but, on the contrary, would move that the further consideration of the resolution should be adjourned to a future day.
March 9. 1785. Debate on a motion made by Mr. Fox, “ That the former resolutions respecting the Westminster Scrutiny be rescinded and erased from the journals."
Mr. Pırt declared, that he had given the minutest attention to every thing that had fallen on either side of the House, and particularly to the right honourable gentleman *, not with any hopes of finding a new light thrown either on the legality or expediency of the question, but because he had been desirous to discover how far the ingenuity of gentlemen would go in giving an apparent diversity to arguments, which had already been so repeatedly handled in every shape that invention and subtlety could possibly give them. In aid to all the authorities which had already been adduced, the right honourable gentleman had resorted to new authorities of his own creation, those of the lord chancellor t, and the chief justice of the king's bench. I Gentlemen, no doubt, must have at first imagined that the right honourable gentleman had come to the House armed with the express opinions of those great luminaries of the law, by the confidence with which he had used the sanction of their names to enforce his argument ; but after availing himself for about a quarter of an hour of the credit which he assumed on the supposition of their opinions, he had at last thrown off his borrowed or. naments, and confessed that in the supposed opinions of those
* Mr. Fox. + Lord Thurlow. I Lord Mansfield.
great men he had been only gratifying his imagination in comtemplating in them, as in a mirror, his own conceptions. He wondered that with regard to the latter of those noble and learned personages, who had been so long ago, as the right honourable gentleman had mentioned, a “practical lawyer," it had not been observed, that he was a practical lawyer, just about the period of the scrutiny on the contest for Westminster between Trentham and Vandeput, and at that very time in a high department under government. He wished the right honourable gentleman had not forgot to refer to another authority- an authority, which, while true dignity of character, unbounded information, abilities of the most unparalleled magnitude, and an integrity on which no party had ever attempted to fix a stain, should conti. nue to be respected, would ever be an object of the love, the gratitude, and the admiration of England ; – the authority to which he alluded, was that of a noble lord *, who had formerly been chief justice of the court of common pleas, and afterwards chancellor of England, and who, he was happy and proud to say, was now at the head of His Majesty's councils. He presumed it would not be contended as probable, that that noble lord was of the same opinion as the right honourable gentleman; or, no doubt, he would also have availed himself of the strength which the supposed accession of his opinion would have given his motion. Another authority had been offered, and it was an authority to which he paid as great a degree of respect as the right honourable gentleman possibly could - the resolutions of the city of York. This authority was not, like the others, merely imaginary; and he rejoiced it was not so, as it was decidedly in his (Mr. Pitt's) favour ; for so far from desiring the House to correct the abuse complained of, in the manner in which they were, by this motion, pressed to do, the object of those resolutions was nothing more than an exact type of what had already been declared by so many of his friends to be the proper and necessary remedy, and which it was, and had been ever since. the abuse had arisen, his resolution to apply.
* Lord Camden.
With respect to the animadversions which he had levelled against his learned friend near him, (the attorney general,) they were such as he was sure could make no impression on himself, or the House. The learned gentleman (setting aside the consideration to which he was entitled from abilities, that, he would venture to say, were not surpassed in his profession) might well expect that some degree of credit was due to the high office he filled, especially on a question of this nature, where it was not in issue merely whether the conduct complained of was, on a close and deep investigation, contrary to the abstruse and more difficult point of law; but whether it was so manifest and so gross a violation of plain, avowed, and important principles, as must have proceeded from intentional corruption, or unpardonable error, which could alone justify the measure now demanded: a measure of so delicate a nature, that it certainly ought never to be resorted to on light and frivolous grounds, nor could it be adopted without the danger of introducing a wantonness and inconsistency into the conduct of parliament, that must effectually overturn all the good purposes of its institution - a measure that called upon the House in express terms to avow their own repeated resolutions, formed on the most mature deliberation, and the most patient debate and discussion, to be the offspring either of wilful dishonesty, or of the most disgraceful ignorance. For his own part, he said, that however he might have altered his sentiments, in respect to the expediency of the resolutions which the House was now called upon to rescind, he had by no means departed from his firm persuasion of the legality of those resolutions. The House had been warned against adopting legal analogies as the ground on which they were to decide the present question; positive precedents were insisted on, as the only documents that could support the legality of the scrutiny. He argued, that the doctrines of the gentlemen on the other side of the House, went to establish the necessity of a returning officer's sacrificing the substance to the exigency of the writ. It would ill become him, the avowed advocate for a pure representation of the people, and it would tend very little towards procuring for him the confidence of the public towards his profession on that subject, were he by any means whatsoever to contribute to the increasing of the many defects which were at present so justly complained of in the constitution of parliament; and surely there could be no greater abuse than that of compelling a returning officer to make a return of members, who were not elected by a majority of legal votes; yet this must be the case in many popular elections, if the returning officer, on a fair suggestion and rational belief of improper practices on the poll, had not the power of examining by a more regular and accurate mode, than the nature of such an election, according to the usual method of conducting them, was capable of affording.
The right honourable gentleman had disputed the calculation of the right honourable and learned gentleman (the master of the rolls *) of the time allowed to the sheriffs of London to make their return, by the statute of 13 Geo. II. in order to overturn the argument of analogy, which had been drawn by that gentlemas, who, though he had given the assistance of his opinion, he was sorry to inform the House, would not be able, from a domestic misfortune, to contribute his vote upon the question. That caiculation, however, of his right honourable friend he would venture to adhere to, as he knew it to be strictly accurate. By that statute, the time allowed to the sheriffs was fifty-two days; non the only question, with regard to the time for summoning a par. liament, was, whether it was forty or fifty days; this, the right honourable gentleman had well imagined, was, at the time of the dissolution of the late parliament, a subject of consideration with ministers, and from that consideration which he bad giren, he was ready to affirm, that it might lawfully be summoned in forty days, With regard to the argument drawn from the clanse in the act of union, that fifty days were positively prescribed, as the shortest time, that clause, he said, did not apply; the object of that clause was merely local, temporary, and partial, for it related only to the kingdom of Scotland, to the metabers for Scotland, and to the first parliament that should meet for the united kingd
+ Sir Lloyd Kenyone
doms. It enacted, that it might be lawful for Her Majesty, at any time, to call the then parliament of England, and also to issue writs for the election of the Scotch members, to meet in that parliament, but that there should be fifty days allowed between the issuing of the writs and the assembling of the parliament; the usual term was thus prolonged, in order to afford leisure for the confusion, consequent on the new arrangement, then taking place, to subside. Still, however, he would concede to the right honourable gentleman the difference between forty and fifty days, and take it at fifty : in this concession he lost nothing; for all he wanted was a principle, which he would find in either case, namely, that by absolute and positive statute, the very thing is allowed which the gentleman on the other side complain against as contrary to all law, common sense, justice, or precedent - the continuation of an election or scrutiny (for it was hard to discriminate between them) after the meeting of parliament, and consequently after the return of the writ. For if the parliament might meet in fifty days, and the election for London be deferred for fifty-two, then it was evident, that the principle was sufficiently established, as in a case of this nature two days were as strong as two hundred. He should be happy to hear any of the ingenious and learned gentleman on the other side attempt an answer to this.
But if he should not be allowed the benefit of a legal analogy with this act for the city of London, by the candour of those gentlemen, he would, at least, satisfy them with a precedent. The case of Trentham and Vandeput was that precedent: to prove this precedent fully adequate to the case, or as an honourable gentleman * opposite to him would, perhaps, call it a simile in point, he would lay down an alternative — a scrutiny either is, or it is not, a part of an election. 'If it be a part of an election, then the election cannot be said to be finished while the scrutiny continues, and, not being finished, no members can be chosen, because the event and termination of an election must be the choice of members; in this part of the alternative the
* Mr. Adam.