Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

sumptuous in me to contradict. But, Şir, let me state it fairly and candidly, and see what is the influence gained to government. It has been repeatedly said that a great deal of patronage has been 'all along derived to government from the company: what is the

case by this bill? In the first place, all influence in England is left to the company; an influence infinitely more dangerous to this constitution, and more liable to abuse, than that which is exercised abroad, the nomination of all the numberless clerks, labourers, and servants here, is left entirely to the company; all contracts (than which nothing can be more adapted to the purposes of corruption) are left to the company; the preference of what ships, captains, shopkeepers, buyers and sellers, they please, is, in my opinion, most properly left to the option of the company; the nomination of all writers remains also to the company, as well as the nomination of the far greater part of the servants abroad. The crown, in short, appoints none but the supreme servants abroad, whose authority must be transcendant, and who must, for the sake of unity, be cordial with government. These superior servants, it is true, have a great command of influence in India ; that influence, however, is materially broken, by being exercised only through their instrumentality; and it must be further remembered, that these very servants will have been named in the first instance by the company, and are chosen to these high offices only after a regular and necessary gradation. If less influ. ence than this will suffice, let it be still further reduced in the committee; I hope, however, it is indisputably clear that influ. ence is not the object of this bill. I avow, indeed, that whatever is given, should, in my opinion, go fairly to the crown, and not be delegated to any set of men, who may pervert it to their own purposes.

One word more, Sir, with respect to the bill of the right honourable gentleman over the way; -he affects to tell you, with all the simplicity in the world, that his bill created no new power, gave no new influence, erected no new estate in the constitution of this country; for that it was a mere transfer of power from one body of men to another. Sir, I have already proved it was

not a mere transfer of power; for the former directors were in some degree at least connected, and in some measure co-operated with government: the new commissioners were not to be connected, were not to co-operate with government. But, Sir, this is not all. It was a transfer of power from a body of men, unconnected with each other, numerous, and fluctuating, by whom the boundless patronage of India was divided into a thousand little wandering streams : it was a transfer from that large unconnected body, into the hands of a small junto, politically connected, established in a manner independent of the crown, by whom India was to be converted into one vast political engine, an engine that might be brought to bear against the independence of this House. Is the right honourable gentleman so dim-sighted, so unsuspecting, on a subject thus deeply affecting the freedom of parliament, and this whole constitution, as not to perceive the political bearing which must be given to this vast machine ? Let the characters of his seven commissioners be what they may, even in that view, I say they are one political band; the collected patronage of all India at home and abroad, was to be knit together in their hands, to be levelled, as the party chose, either against the prerogatives of the crown, or against the independ. ence of parliament. Compared to these things, the very loss of India, Sir, nay, the loss of every dependency of this country, were light and trifling ; the loss of India were a sacrifice easy to be borne ; but the loss of liberty to this country, the sacrifice of the independence of parliament, and the ruin of this constitution -- this is a calamity, this a kind of ruin, to which I will never yield without a struggle.

The total overthrow of the chartered rights of the East-India company, was another most important objection, Sir, from which the present bill is indisputably free, since, in spite of all the cavil of the right honourable gentleman, it does come forward fortified and recommended by the consent of the company.

These are the grounds on which I maintain this bill. I offer it not to the House as a perfect plan. Let the right honourablegentleman himself propose any amendments in the committee. Ifits

principle be right, if it be practicable, as a plan of reform for India, and above all, if it be safe as to the constitution of this country, the House, I trust, will so far recognise it, as to suffer it to pass into a committee. The House divided on the second reading,

Ayes.......................... 214

. Noes..................... 222 The bill was then rejected.

After the division, Mr. Pitt was urgently pressed to give the House some satisfactory explanation respecting the probability of a dissolution of parliament; and, on his remaining silent to all their entreaties, a loud and general call was repeated from every side of the House. At length, upon some harsh expressions from General Conway, who charged the minister with standing against the voice of the representatives of the people by means of bribery, and by other dark and intricate arts, which, if the imputation was false, he was bound for the sake of his own honour to explain and refute,

Mr. Pitt called the right honourable general to order, and desired him to specify the instances where the agents of ministers had gone about the country practising bribery. It was an assertion which he believed the right honourable general could not bring to *proof, and which, as he could not prove, he ought not to assert. He begged the right honourable general to suffer him to be the judge of his own honour. He had not been long accustomed to the violence of that House, or to its harsh language ; but he had been long enough accustomed to it, to assure the House, that neither unsupported slander, nor intemperate invective should discompose his mind. He would not condescend to answer interrogatories, which he did not think gentlemen entitled to put to him. He said, he should not give any answer whatever to their questions, and he concluded in a tone of high and elevated sentiment, and with a classical text, expressive of its being inconsistent with dignity to attend to either their rash slanders, or their modest questions.

Here the conversation was terminated by an adjournment.

January 29. 1784.

The order of the day for resuming the committee on the State of the Nation was, on the motion of Mr. Fox, adjourned till Monday. In reply to Mr. Fox's observations, which severely inveighed against ministers for retaining their situations in direct opposition to the sense of the House,

Mr. Pitt declared he did not rise to oppose the motion of the right honourable gentleman, but was called up in very express terms to state his objections to the mode of arraignment thus constantly adopted by those on the opposite side of the House. Against all that very high language thus personally addressed to him, he would only oppose his simple assertion, as he should affect no more argument on one side than was used on the other. Indeed he doubted not the House would think with him, that such a torrent of criminating assertions could not by any facts whatever be established. He was conscious to himself no part of his public, life or official conduct stood in the least need of any apology..

The delicacy of his present situation required discretion. He was determined to sustain it with as much firmness and decency as he could. This resolution was the result of deliberation ; and no invective or aspersion which the right honourable gentleman could throw out should divert him from that sort of behaviour he had already pursued; he could only act as his own judgment directed him. This direction, he trusted, would not lead him into any very palpable mistake; and while he retained a confidence of this kind, it was in vain to expect he would be the dupe of any other.

The right honourable gentleman, in saying they did not possess the requisites of a legal administration, was wrong, as they certainly had every formality which belonged to them as the servants of the public. These epithets, so well calculated to throw an odium on them, were therefore improperly applied; for whatever the right honourable gentlemen might think of a majority, he would not allow that, in every case, a majority was to prescribe what in such and such circumstances it was proper for ministry to do. He did not believe there was a power in the House of Commons for the control of the prerogative. He rather thought every branch of the legislature was instituted to secure the legal and constitutional exercise of the other. He hoped, therefore, that it would never be contended, that the sovereign, in creating peers, or chusing his ministers, must first ask leave of the House.

The right honourable gentleman had said too, that there was now no government in the country: an allegation to which he. would give an open and avowed negative. What! Were ministers of no use but to attend their duty in parliament ? Was there no official business to transact of a public and national description without the walls of the House of Commons? And whether these measures or schemes which depended on the assistance and concurrence of parliament, were or were not suspended, undoubtedly other matters, however inferior they might be thought, came under their inspection and control.

He wished, however, the right honourable gentleman would speak out. If His Majesty's ministers were as criminal as he would insinuate, there were only two ways of rendering them amenable to their country- by criminating their conduct, or turning them out of place or power. Why does not the right honourable gentleman come boldly forward, and do one or other of these ?

The charge of disturbing the tranquillity of the country, or impeding public business, he considered as invidious and groundless. This he might retort, but he would not adopt the language of recrimination.

The throne was still as accessible as ever, and would still listen to the voice of reason and necessity. But it was as futile as it was improper to be coming down from time to time to the House, sounding the minds of gentlemen, and exciting them to opposition against a ministry whom they had it so much in their power to remove. It would be more manly as well as candid, to come at once to some specific charge, and decide the fate of a ministry thus obnoxious and uncomplying.

As for his own part, he regarded all threatenings of that sort with great indifference. The right honourable gentleman had un

« AnteriorContinuar »