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majority of the people were well contented under BOOK the present government, and that the county petitions and associations were the last struggles of an EXPIRING FACTION.” The lords Stormont, Mansfield, and the lord chancellor, maintained, with far more plausibility, “ that the present motion was a violation of the inherent exclusive privilege of the other house to control the public expenditure, which no composition, compromise, or compact, would induce them to part with. They insisted that the motion was brought forward to embarrass government, and to throw an odium upon his majesty's confidential advisers ; and that the petitions with which the motion was connected were filled with absurd and impracticable notions of public reform, and specious theories calculated to mislead the nation, and to introduce universal confusion." The marquis of Rockingham distinguished himself in the debate by an animated speech in defence of the motion. His lordship said, “ that a system had been formed at the accession of his majesty to govern this country under the forms of law, but in reality through the immediate influence of the crown. This was the origin of all our national misfortunes ; the measures of the present reign wore every internal and external evidence of that dangerous and alarming origin; and, when combined, they presented such a system of corruption, renality, and despotism, as had never perhaps been known under any
BOOK form of free and limited government. This system
he had for seventeen years uniformly and vigorously opposed, and particularly during the short time he had presided at the head of the Treasury, but to very little purpose. As he had come into office at his majesty's desire, so he had quitted it in obedience to his authority. His lordship implored the ministry not to persist in that blind and hitherto invincible spirit of obstinacy, which had brought the nation into its present calamitous situation, but to pay some attention to the voice of the people, and the interests of their country.” On the division the numbers were, NON-CONTENTS 101, CONTENTS 55, five-and-thirty of whom entered their protest on the journals. This was the largest minority that had for many years been known in the house of peers in opposition to the court; and, exclusive of placemen, pensioners, and bishops, this expiring faction constituted a clear and decisive majority of the lords present at this interesting discussion.
On the 6th of April the house of commons reMr. Mund solved itself, on the motion of Mr. Dunning, into a firming the grand committee, in order to take the petitions of increase of the people into consideration; and on this occasion
a most extraordinary and memorable debate arose. “ The first object,” Mr. Dunning said, “ which he meant to submit to the house, was a proposition col. lected from the several petitions, which, if agreed to, would establish the grounds of their prayer
redress. His second proposition should include the BOOK means of that redress. Should the house concur in his propositions, he meant to follow them up
with real, substantial, and practicable measures. But, should they dissent from them, or endeavour to evade or procrastinate, there would be at once an end of the petitions and a full answer to the petitioners. His first motion was, that it should be resolved by this house, “ that the INFLUENCE of the CROWN had increased, was increasing, and ought to be diminished.” This motion was, by a singular fortune, warmly supported by the speaker of the house, who, though rarely accustomed to take part in their debates, declared, “ that, on an occasion like the present, he should deem himself criminal in remaining silent; the resolution proposed contained an allegation which was too notorious to require proof—which in its full extent did not admit of proof—it could be known only to the members of that house :- as they were the only persons competent to resolve it, they were bound as jurors by the conviction arising in their own minds, and were obliged to determine accordingly. The powers constitutionally vested in the executive part of the government were (he said) amply sufficient for all the purposes of good government, but its undue influence had increased to a degree absolutely incompatible with every just idea of a limited monarchy. What the petitioners demanded should
BOOK have originated within those walls; they were sit
ting as the representatives of the people, solely for their advantage and benefit, and were pledged to them for the faithful discharge of their trust.” Notwithstanding the determined opposition of the mis nister and of the courtiers in general, particularly of the lord advocate of Scotland, Henry Dundas, who moved, as an amendment, to prefix the words “ it is now necessary to declare," it appeared on the di. vision, which took place at midnight, on the ainended resolution, that the numbers were in favour of the motion 233, against it 215 ; so that
the court was left in a minority of 18 *. Mr. DunOther mo- ning then moved, “ that it was competent to that ed in oppo-house to examine into and to correct abuses in the
expenditure of the civil list, as well as in every other branch of the public revenue, whenever it shall seem expedient to the house to do so." This was
sition to the Court.
; * It is remarkable that, of thirty-three Scotch niembers who were present in the house of commons on this memorable occasion, twenty-eight voted against the motion of Mr. Dan ning—a striking proof how greatly the influence of the crown was increased by the union of the kingdoms; as indeed, through some strange fatality, by almost every great political event, whether originating in folly or wisdom, whether terminating in success or misfortune, which has taken place in this country during the course of the present century. The infiucune of the crown in its existing state is a monster unknown to the constitution, and which, if the constitution is
again opposed by lord North, who, in the strongest B08. terms, expressed his wishes that the committee would not proceed. The motion was nevertheless agreed to by the house. Mr. Thomas Pitt then moved, " that it was the duty of that house to provide, as far as might be, an immediate and effectual redress of the abuses complained of in the petitions presented to the house from the different counties, cities, and towns, in this kingdom.” The minister once more earnestly implored the committee to desist, but with no effect; the motion was agreed to. It was lastly moved by Mr. Fox, “ that the resolutions should be immediately reported to the house; which was deprecated and protested against by lord North, as violent, arbitrary, and contrary to the established usage of parliament. The motion, however, was carried; and the chairman reporting the resolutions accordingly, they were severally agreed to by the house.
unable to destroy, must ultimately be the destroyer of it. • The influence of the crown,” said the earl of Chatham in an interesting debate in the house of lords, May 1771, “is become so enormous that stronger bulwarks must be erected for the defence of the constitution. The Septennial Act must be repealed. Formerly the inconveniences attending short parliaments had great weight with me, but now we are not debating a question of convenience. OUR ALL IS AT STAKE. Our WHOLE ConstiTUTION IS GIVING WAY ; and with the most deliberate and solemn conviction I profess myself a convert to triennial parliaments."