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XIX,

BO O K the state in such manner as to the wisdom of par

liament should seem mect,” This petition was pre-
sented to the house on the 8th of February, 1780,
by sir George Saville, member for the county, who
stated, that it was signed by above eight thousand
freeholders. This petition, he said, had been pro-
cured by no underhand arts or public canvass ; it
was first moved in a meeting of six hundred gentle-
men; and there was, he believed, more property in
the hall where it was agreed to, than was contained
within the walls of the house of commons.
a petition, he said, to which the administration
would not DARE to refuse a hearing, however
the arts of ministerial artifice and finesse might be
employed to defeat the purpose of it*.'

130,

of it*.” A number

It was

* The chief and almost the only opposer of this famous petition was a Mr. Leonard Smelt, who had formerly occupied the important office of sub-governor to the prince of Wales. This gentleman, in an elaborate harangue, avowed and vindieated the principles of Toryism in their full extent. He declared “the influence of the crown not to be exorbitant--on the contrary, that the king's hands ought to be strengthenedthat the proceedings of that day tended to confusion, as aiming to put the king under the guardianship of parliament, and to incite to an illegal interference with the prerogative. He charged his opponents with wanting to withdraw the sacred veil that hides from the people the splendor of majesty. He insisted upon the immortality and impeccability of the kingatlirming the protection of the sovereign to be the liberty of the subject. He exclaimed against the Whigs, as actuated by an illiberal and selfislı policy-quoting the well known aphorism

of other petitions of similar import being presented, BOOK Mr. Burke at length brought forward a specific plan of reform, professedly aiming at two grand objects : Reform “ first, the reduction of the national expenditure ; duced by second, the diminution of regal influence-that in- Mr. Eurke. fluence which took away all vigor from our arms, wisdom from our councils, and every shadow of authority and credit from the most venerable parts of the constitution.”—To effect these purposes, Mr. Burke moved for leave to bring in certain bills for the better regulation of his majesty's civil establishments, for the sale of forest and other crown lands, for more perfectly uniting to the crown the principality

XIX.

1780.

bills intro

of sir Robert Walpole, " that every man had his price.” The Whigs had usurped the power, and left the name only to the king. The Whigs had caused the war in America, and fomented the disturbances in Ireland. Lord Chatham, though he had glared a meteor in a storm, wanted the qualifications necessary to a minister in times of peace. He repeated, that the calamities of the country did not originate from the influence of the king, but from his not possessing influence enough. He did not think that at this time there was a disinterested patriot in Britain. If, said this courtly orator, there is one, he now sits upon the throne. And he vehemently deprecated that false principle on which parliament was called to interfere with the prerogative of the crown." As containing the opinions of an isolated individual, this speech could excite no other emotion than contempt: but considering Mr. Smelt as the organ of a dark, subtle, and inveterate court-faction, it was calculated to excite the highest alarm, resentment, and indignation.

XIX.

1780.

Commission of accounts instituted.

BOOK of Wales, the counties palatine of Chester and

Lancaster, and the duchy of Cornwall. But these bills, after a violent conflict, in the course of which the minister was more than once left in a minority, were finally lost.

A notice given by colonel Barré of an intention to move for the appointment of a select committee to inspect the public accounts, seemed, however, to meet with universal approbation. It was for that reason, therefore, artfully and unfairly taken up by the minister himself, who abruptly brought in a bill, contrary to the remonstrances of colonel Barré, and the concurring resentment of a large proportion of the house, for instituting a commission of accounts, consisting of persons not members of the house of commons. This was deemed unparliamentary, and in strong language opposed as an abdication of the rights and privileges of the house. But it passed into a law by a considerable majority; and the successive reports of the commissioners appointed in virtue of this act, form, by their accuracy, ability, and impartiality, the best reply to the various objections urged against it.

The house of peers in the mean time were far

from being indolent or inattentive spectators of the Earl of interesting scenes now passing. On the very day motion of that the petition of the county of York was prereform.

sented to the house of commons, the earl of Shelburne moved, in the house of peers,

Shelburpe's

« for the ap

XIX.

1780.

pointment of a committee of members of both BOOK houses of parliament, possessing neither employ. ments nor pensions, to examine into the public ex. penditure, and the mode of accounting for the same.” This motion was supported by his lordship in a very able speech, in which he declared, “ that the great point to which his wishes tended, and to effect which his motion was chiefly framed, was to annihilate that undue influence operating upon both houses of parliament, which, if not eradicated, would prove

the destruction of this country. To restore to parliament its constitutional independence, and to place government upon its true foundations, wisdom, justice, and public virtue, was (the noble earl said) his most earnest desire, and this could not be ef. fected without striking at the root of parliamentary corruption.—Exclusive of this great and primary object, his lordship shewed, that the most shameful waste of the public money had taken place in every branch of the national expenditure. To support a most ruinous and disgraceful war—a wicked, bloody, and unjust war! the minister had borrowed year after year upon fictitious and unproductive taxes, and anticipated the produce of the sinking fund to answer his own views. Solely intent upon BORROWING, he appeared to have lost sight of every idea of decreasing the debt. It was the uncontroled possession of the public purse which created that corrupt and dangerous influence in parliament, of

XIX.

BOOK which such fatal use had been made; which put

into the minister's hands the means of delusion, 1780.

which served to fortify him in his mad career, and which left no hope or prospect of punishing him for the enormity of his crimes. Influence so employed his lordship declared to be a curse far greater, and more to be deprecated, than pestilence or famine, The present motion, the noble earl observed, was not of a nature novel to parliament; in former times, particularly in the years 1702, 1703, and 1717, there had been commissioners of accounts appointed by act of parliament. The object of the proposition now before the house was of a nature exactly similar, and it went to the abolition of all offices, whatever their salaries or appointments, that answered no other end but that of increasing the undue and unconstitutional influence of the crown." In support of the motion, the duke of Grafton declared, “ that, from his own knowledge and immediate observation, he could assert with confidence that the spirit of discontent and dissatisfaction was almost universally gone forth, and that the petitions recently presented expressed the genuine sense of the people.” On the other hand, lord Chesterfield, a young man not distinguished by the eminence either of his knowledge or talents, and who had lately taken his seat in the house on the decease of his illustrious relation, the famous earl of Chester, field, affirmed, with singular temerity, that " the

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