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than irregular and preposterous, ministers have thought proper by admonition from the throne, implying distrust and reproach, to convey the expectations of the people to us, their sole representatives’; and have presumed to caution us, the natural guardians of the constitution, against any infringement of it on our parts.
This dangerous innovation we, his faithful commons, think it our duty to mark; and as these admonitions from the throne, by their frequent repetition, seem intended to lead gradually to the establishment of an usage, we hold ourselves bound thus solemnly to protest against them.
This House will be, as it ever ought to be, anxiously attentive to the inclinations and interests of its constituents; nor do we desire to straiten any of the avenues to the throne, or to either house of parliament. But the ancient order, in which the rights of the people have been exercised, is not a restriction of these rights. It is a method providently framed in favour of those privileges, which it preserves and enforces, by keeping in that course which has been found the most effectual for answering their ends. His majesty may receive the opinions and wishes of individuals under their signatures, and of bodies corporate under their seals, as expressing their own particular sense : and he may grant such redress as the legal powers of the crown enable the crown to afford. This, and the other house of parliament, may also receive the wishes of such corporations and individuals by petition. The collective sense of his people his majesty is to receive from his commons in parliament assembled. It would destroy the whole spirit of the constitution, if his commons were to receive that sense from the ministers of the crown, or to admit them to be a proper or a regular channel for conveying it.
That the ministers in the said speech declare, “His majesty has a just and confident reliance, that we (his faithful commons) are animated with the same sentiments of loyalty and the same attachment to our excellent constitution, which we had the happiness to see so fully manifested in every part of the kingdom.”
To represent, that his faithful commons have never failed in loyalty to his majesty. It is new to them to be reminded of it. It is unnecessary and invidious to press it upon them by any example. This recommendation of loyalty, after his majesty has sat for so many years, with the full support of all descriptions of his
" I will never submit to the doctrines I have heard this day from the woolsack, that the other House (House of Commons) are the only representatives and guardians of the people's rights ; I boldly maintain the contrary-I say this House (House of Lords] is equally the representatires of the people." Lord Shelburne's Speech, April 8, 1778. Vide“ Parliamentary Register,” vol. x. p. 392.
subjects, on the throne of this kingdom, at a time of profound peace, and without any pretence of the existence or apprehension of war or conspiracy, becomes in itself a source of no small jealousy to his faithful commons; as many circumstances lead us to apprehend that therein the ministers have reference to some other measures and principles of loyalty, and to some other ideas of the constitution, than the laws require, or the practice of parliament will admit.
No regular communication of the proofs of loyalty and attachment to the constitution, alluded to in the speech from the throne, have been laid before this House, in order to enable us to judge of the nature, tendency, or occasion of them; or in what particular acts they were displayed; but if we are to suppose the manifestations of loyalty (which are held out to us as an example for imitation) consist in certain addresses delivered to his majesty, promising support to his majesty in the exercise of his prerogative, and thanking his majesty for removing certain of his ministers, on account of the votes they have given upon bills depending in parliament,—if this be the example of loyalty alluded to in the speech from the throne, then we must beg leave to express our serious concern for the impression which has been made on any of our fellowsubjects by misrepresentations, which have seduced them into a seeming approbation of proceedings subversive of their own freedom. We conceive, that the opinions delivered in these papers were not well considered; nor were the parties duly informed of the nature of the matters on which they were called to determine, nor of those proceedings of parliament which they were led to censure.
We shall act more advisedly.—The loyalty we shall manifest will not be the same with theirs ; but, we trust, it will be equally sincere, and more enlightened. It is no slight authority which shall persuade us (by receiving as proofs of loyalty the mistaken principles lightly taken up in these addresses) obliquely to criminate, with the heavy and ungrounded charge of disloyalty and disaffection, an uncorrupt, independent, and reforming parliament'. Above all, we shall take care that none of the rights and privileges, always claimed, and since the accession of his majesty's illustrious family constantly exercised by this House (and which we hold and exercise in trust for the Commons of Great Britain, and for their benefit) shall be constructively surrendered, or even weakened and impaired under ambiguous phrases, and implications of censure on the late parliamentary proceedings. If these claims are not well founded, they ought to be honestly abandoned ; if they are just, they ought to be steadily and resolutely maintained.
3 In that parliament the House of Commons by two several resolutions put an end to the American war. Immediately on the change of ministry, which ensued, in order to secure their own independence, and to prevent the accumulation of new burdens on the people by the growth of a civil list debt, they passed the establishment bill. By that bill thirty-six offices tenable by members of parliament were suppressed ; and an order of payment was framed, by which the growth of any fresh debt was rendered impracticable. The debt on the civil list from the beginning of the present reign had amounted to one million three hundred thousand pounds and upwards. Another act was passed for regulating the office of the paymaster-general, and the offices subordinate to it. A million of public money had sometimes been in the hands of the paymasters : this act prevented the possibility of any money whatsoever being accumulated in that office in future. The offices of the exchequer, whose emoluments in time of war were excessive, and grew in exact proportion to the public burdens, were regulated ; some of them suppressed, and the rest reduced to fixed salaries. To secure the freedom of election against the crown, a bill was passed to disqualify all officers coucerned in the collection of the revenue in any of its branches from voting in elections ; a most important act, not only with regard to its primary object, the freedom of election, but as materially forwarding the due collection of revenue. For the same end (the preserving the freedom of election), the House rescinded the famous judgment relative to the Middlesex election, and expunged it from the journals. On the principle of reformation of their own House, connected with a principle of public economy, an act passed for rendering contractors with government incapable of a seat in parliament. The India Bill (unfortunately lost in the House of Lords) pursued the same idea to its completion; and disabled all servants of the East India Company from a seat in that House for a certain time, and until their conduct was examined into and cleared. The remedy of infinite corruptions and of infinite disorders and oppressions, as well as the security of the most important objects of public economy, perished with that bill and that parliament. That parliament also instituted a committee to inquire into the collection of the revenue in all its branches, which prosecuted its duty with great vigour ; and suggested several material improvements.
Of his majesty's own gracious disposition towards the true principles of our free constitution, his faithful commons never did, or could, entertain a doubt : but we humbly beg leave to express to his majesty our uneasiness concerning other new and unusual expressions of his ministers, declaratory of a resolution “to support in their just balance, the rights and privileges of every branch of the legislature.”
It were desirable that all hazardous theories concerning a balance of rights and privileges (a mode of expression wholly foreign to parliamentary usage) might have been forborne.
His majesty's faithful commons are well instructed in their own rights and privileges, which they are determined to maintain on the footing upon which they were handed down from their ancestors : they are not unacquainted with the rights and privileges of the House of Peers; and they know and respect the lawful prerogatives of the crown: but they do not think it safe to admit any thing concerning the existence of a balance of those rights, privileges, and prerogatives ; nor are they able to discern to what objects ministers would apply their fiction of balance; nor what they would consider as a just one. These unauthorized doctrines have a tendency to stir improper discussions; and to lead to mischievous innovations in the constitution.
That his faithful commons most humbly recommend, instead of the inconsiderate speculations of unexperienced men, that, on all occasions, resort should be had to the happy practice of parliament, and to those solid maxims of government which have prevailed since the accession of his majesty's illustrious family, as furnishing the only safe principles on which the crown and parliament can proceed.
We think it the more necessary to be cautious on this head, as, in the last parliament, the present ministers had thought proper to countenance, if not to suggest, an attack upon the most clear and undoubted rights and privileges of this House '.
* If these speculations are let loose, the House of Lords may quarrel with their share of the legislature, as being limited with regard to the origination of grants to the crown and the origination of money bills. The advisers of the crown may think proper to bring its negative into ordinary use ; and even to dispute, whether a mere negative, compared with the deliberative power, exercised in the other House, be such a share in the legislature, as to produce a due balance in favour of that branch ; and thus justify the previous interference of the crown, in the manner lately used. The following will serve to show how much foundation there is for great caution, concerning these novel speculations. Lord Shelburne, in his celebrated speech, April 8th, 1778, expresses himself as follows : Vide“ Parliamentary Register," vol. x.
“ The noble and learned lord on the woolsack, in the debate which opened the business of this day, asserted that your lordships were incompetent to make any alteration in a money bill or a bill of supply. I should be glad to see the matter fully and fairly discussed, and the subject brought forward and argued upon precedent, as well as all its collateral relations. I should be pleased to see the question fairly committed, were it for no other reason, but to hear the sleek, smooth contractors from the other House, come to this bar and declare, that they, and they only, could frame a money bill ; and they, and they only, could dispose of the property of the peers of Great Britain, Perhaps some arguments more plausible than those I heard this day from the woolsack, to show that the commons have an uncontrollable, unqualified right to bind your lordships' property, may be urged by them. At present, I beg leave to differ from the noble and learned lord ; for until the claim, after a solemn discussion of the House, is openly and directly relinquished, I shall continue to be of opinion, that your lordships have a right to alter, amend, or reject a money bill.”
The Duke of Richmond also, in his letter to the volunteers of Ireland, speaks of several of the powers exercised by the House of Commons, in the light of usurpations : and his grace is of opinion, that, when the people are restored to what he conceives to be their rights, in electing the House of Commons, the other branches of the legislature ought to be restored to theirs. Vide “ Remembrancer,” vol. xvi.
By an act of parliament, the directors of the East India Company are restrained from acceptance of bills drawn from India, beyond a certain amount, without the con. sent of the commissioners of the treasury. The late House of Commons, finding bills, to an immense amount, drawn upon that body by their servants abroad, and knowing their circumstances to be exceedingly doubtful, came to a resolution providently cautioning the lords of the treasury against the acceptance of these bills, until the House should otherwise direct. The court lords then took occasion to declare against the resolution as illegal, by the commons undertaking to direct in the execution of a trust created by act of parliament. The House, justly alarmed at this resolution, which went to the destruction of the whole of its superintending capacity, and particularly in
Fearing from these extraordinary admonitions, and from the new doctrines, which seem to have dictated several unusual expressions, that his majesty has been abused by false representations of the late proceedings in parliament, we think it our duty respectfully to inform his majesty, that no attempt whatever has been made against his lawful prerogatives, or against the rights and privileges of the peers, by the late House of Commons, in any
of their addresses, votes, or resolutions: neither do we know of any proceeding by bill, in which it was proposed to abridge the extent of his royal prerogative; but, if such provision had existed in any bill, we protest, and we declare, against all speeches, acts or addresses, from any persons whatsoever, which have a tendency to consider such bills, or the persons concerned in them, as just objects of any kind of censure and punishment from the throne. Necessary reformations may hereafter require, as they have frequently done in former times, limitations and abridgments, and in some cases an entire extinction of some branch of prerogative. If bills should be improper in the form in which they appear in the House where they originate, they are liable, by the wisdom of this constitution, to be corrected, and even to be totally set aside, elsewhere. This is the known, the legal, and the safe remedy: but whatever, by the manifestation of the royal displeasure, tends to intimidate individual members from proposing, or this House from receiving, debating, and passing bills, tends to prevent even the beginning of every reformation in the state, and utterly destroys the deliberative capacity of parliament. We therefore claim, demand, and insist upon it, as our undoubted right, that no persons shall be deemed proper objects of animadversion by the crown, in any mode whatever, for the votes which they give, or the propositions which they make, in parliament.
We humbly conceive, that besides its share of the legislative power, and its right of impeachment, that, by the law and usage of parliament, this House has other powers and capacities, which it is bound to maintain. This House is assured, that our humble advice on the exercise of prerogative will be heard with the same attention with which it has ever been regarded; and that it will be followed by the same effects which it has ever produced, during the happy and glorious reigns of his majesty's royal progenitors; not
matters relative to its own province of money, directed a committee to search the journals, and they found a ular series of precedents, com from the remotest of those records, and carried on to that day, by which it appeared, that the House interfered, by an authoritative advice and admonition, upon every act of executive government without exception; and in many much stronger cases than that which the lords thought proper to quarrel with.