Page images
PDF
EPUB
[ocr errors]

BOOK
XIX.

1779.

[ocr errors]

The amendment of lord Rockingham was in fine negatived, on a division of 82 to 41 voices.

Lord John Cavendish moved in the house of commons an amendment agreeing verbatim with that of the marquis of Rockingham. Adverting happily and forcibly to the mention of Divine Providence in the speech from the throne, he observed that Providence was indeed the great ally to whom alone the kingdom owed its preservation : an inferior feet hiding among the rocks, and shunning the foe, a defenceless coast, an exhausted treasury, pre. sented an easy prey to the enemy. Ministers supine, negligent, divided, had brought the realm to the verge of destruction; but Providence interposed and saved us from the danger. Such were the follies, the inconsistencies, and the criminalities of ad. ministration, that unless they were banished from the royal presence, and the system which they had acted upon totally overturned, the nation must inevi, tably fall under the power of its enemies.

Mr. Fox, as usual, distinguished himself by the boldness and energy of his observations. He said that “ the plan of government which had been in this reign so pertinaciously pursued had been very early adopted. It was not the mere rumor of the streets that the king was his own minister ; the fatal truth was evident; and though denied by the members of the administration, it was propagated by their followers. It was a doctrine in the highest degree dangerous,

XIX.

1779.

as tending to relieve ministers from their responsi- BOOK bility, and to transfer it to a personage who could not, by the principles of our constitution, be called to an account. But he said, it should be a warning to sovereigns, that though in general the evils of a reign were, according to the principles of our government, ascribed to the wicked counsels of ministers, yet, when these evils reach to a certain height, ministers are forgotten, and the prince alone is punished. Thus it was with the royal house of Stuart.CHARLES and JAMES had no doubt wicked ministers, to whom the errors of their reign were justly in a great degree to be attributed. Yet the one lost his life, and the other his crown. The patience of the people was not unlimited; and however passive for a time, they would at last do themselves justice.

"No period in the history of the country,” he observed, “ furnished so just a parallel to the present as the reign of Henry VI. His family, like that of the king, did not claim the crown by hereditary right. Both owed it to revolutions. Both were amiable and pious princes. Both were descended from renowned and illustrious progenitors. Henry lost all his father's conquests, and all his hereditary provinces in France. George had already seen the conquests of his grandfather wrested from him in the West Indies; and his hereditary provinces of Ame, rica erected into an empire that disclaimed all con. dection. Brighter prospects could not be imagined

XIX.

1779.

BOOK than those which distinguished the commencement

of his majesty's reign. Possessed of immense dominions and the warmest affections of his people, his accession was highly flattering to himself and his subjects. How lamentably was the scene reversed ! His empire dismembered, his counsels distracted, and his subjects discontented or disaffected. - Treachery, and not ignorance, must have prevailed in the national councils to reduce the nation to so miserable a condition. Ministers might flatter themselves in the protection of a majority, or the security of the law; but when a nation was reduced to such a state of wretchedness and distraction that the laws could afford the people no relief, they would afford those who had caused the evil but little protection."

Mr. Temple Luttrel remarked, that three northern oracles of the long robe, alluding to the lord advocate Dundas, the attorney-general Wedderburne, and the lord chief justice Mansfield, had introduced a baleful policy into the government. “Taxation or starvation!'exclaims one" Let loose the Indians!” cries the second—“We have passed the Rubicon!" says the third : “ we must go forward through proscriptions, devastation, and carnage.” Instructed by these political commentaries, future civil and military leaders may learn their best lessons of barbarity, and improve in every art of increasing human wretchedness. Yet perhaps the day is not far distant, when, in the words of their countryman

XIX.

1779.

Macbeth, they may be compelled to confess that BOOK they have but taught bloody instructions, which being learned return to plague the inventors.

Lord George Gordon, brother to the duke of Gordon, by an attack equally eccentric and violent, exhibited, however, a sufficient proof that all the Scots were not in alliance with the ministry. Adverting to a late petition to government from the inhabitants of the shire of Dumfries, which had been exposed to the incursions of Paul Jones and other depredators, for arms to be used for the purpose of their own defence, and which had met, as his lordship represented, with a rude refusal from the secretary at war, he read to the house the letter written by the secretary to the duke of Queensberry on the occasion: then suddenly apostrophizing that minister, “ And you, Charles Jenkinson," he exclaimed, “ how durst you write such a letter ? ROBERT BRUCE would not have dared to write such an one: and yet the secretary of an elector of Hanover has had the presumption to do it! and the great earl Douglas of Scotland is not to be intrusted with arms!”

Mr. Minchin, a gentleman of the west, declared the garrison of Plymouth to have been, at the time the combined fleets appeared in the channel, sa weak, and so little capable of resistance, that, had the enemy landed, they must have destroyed the town. “We would have met them,” said he,

" with

XIX.

1779

BOOK the spirit of Englishmen; but sure I am, that to a

man we must have perished."

Amid this torrent of accụsation and invective, lord North, in mild language, endeavoured to convince the house, that a review of the last campaign would show that disgrace, not honor, had accrued from it to the enemy. They had equipped a formi. dable armament, threatened, performed nothing, and retired. Their professed object was invasion : they had not dared to make the attempt, and were therefore foiled. Their armaments had paraded to no purpose, and their millions were squandered in yain. On the other hand, our navy was daily augmenting; and though he was averse to render dis-, appointment dreadful by sanguine predictions, he had the firmest hope of a brilliant campaign in the spring. He, in common with all the other ministers, concurred in denying that they had endeavoured to eyade responsibility by implicating the personal character of his majesty in their measures. Such an attempt, it was alleged, would not have been less absurd than unconstitutional, since the law annexed to their situations a responsibility which no artifice could compromise or avoid.

His lordship acknowledged that the amendment proposed by the noble lord contained no language that was unparliamentary. It was, he confessed, the duty of parliament to cause bad ministers to be removed; but he insisted that proof should first be

« PreviousContinue »