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1781. Reform bill of Mr. Burke re
BOOK minate the civil and parliamentary history of the
The famous Reform Bill of Mr. Burke was re
vived soon after the recess : but, on the motion for vived, and the second reading, it was rejected in toto, by a maagain rejected.
jority of 233 voices to 190; though ably and powerfully supported by many of the most eminent members of the house.
Amongst the speeches which attracted most strongly the public attention, was that delivered with much grace and energy by Mr. William Pitt, second son of the late earl of Chatham, who in very early youth had been elected a member of the present parliament, and who now exhibited himself to an admiring nation as equally the heir of his talents and yirtues. “ One great object,” Mr. Pitt said, “ of all the petitions which had been presented, was a recommendation of economy in the public expenditure; and the design of the present bill was, to carry into effect the wishes of the people, by introducing a substantial system of economy.
Besides the benefits which would result from the bill in this respect, it had another object still more important, and that was the reduction of the influence of the crown--an influence which was the more to be dreaded, because more secret in its attacks, and. more concealed in its operations, than the
of prerogative.” Mr. Pitt adverted to the extraordinary objections which had been made to the bill; it pro
posed to bring no more than 200,0001. per annum BOOK into the public coffers, and that sum was insignificant, in comparison of the millions annually expended.
" What then is the conclusion we are left to deduce? The calamities of the present crisis are too great to be benefited by æconomy. Our expences are so enormous, that it is useless to give ourselves any concern about them ; we have spent and are spending so much, that it is foolish to think of saving any thing. Such is the language which the opponents of this bill have virtually employed. It had also been said, that the king's civil list was an irresumable parliamentary grant, and it had been even compared to a private freehold. The weakness of such arguments was their best refutation. The civil list revenue was granted to his majesty not for his private use, but for the support of the executive government of the state. His majesty, in fact, was the trustee of the public, subject to parliamentary revision. The parliament made the grant, and undoubtedly had a right to resume it when the
pressure of the times rendered such resumption necessary. Upon the whole, he considered the present bill as essential to the being and independence of this country, and he would give it his most determined support."
Early in March, the minister, lord North, brought Corrupt forward the annual statement of the public account. vagant loan The entire expenditure of the year his lordship cal- North.
BOOK culated at twenty-one millions, - twelve of which it
would be necessary to raise by a public loan: as to the terms of which, his lordship had contracted with the subscribers, to grant 1501. capital stock at three per cent. and 25l. capital stock at four per cent. for every 100l. in money; thus creating a new capital of eighteen millions three per cent. and three millions four per cent., being nine millions more than the sum actually paid into the Exchequer. To defray the iriterest of this loan, new taxes would be wanting to the amount of 660,000l. annually, i. e. 60,000l. more than the legal established interest of five per cent. : exclusive of which, as the subscription to the loan bore an immediate premium of ten per cent., the further sum of 1,200,0001. was lost to the nation. The terms of this extraordinary contract were, even by several of the friends of the minister, declared to be extravagantly high ; and it was by Mr. Fox reprobated in the most indignant expressions of severity, as - the most corrupt in its origin, the most shameful in its progress, and the most injurious in its consequences, that ever came under the contemplation of that house. In order to carry on a wicked, impolitic, and bloody war, the minister would not scruple,” said this formidable speaker, “to extort the last guinea from the pockets of the people. The noble lord stands convicted of having made, in the character of agent and trustee for the nation, an improvident, scandalous, and profligate bargain, for
which he deserves public execration and exemplary BOOK punishment.” On a division, the motion of the minister was carried by a majority of 169 to 111 voices.
In the house of lords it was again vigorously opposed by lord Rockingham, the duke of Portland, and other peers, who, in a joint protest, recorded their names, to adopt the language of their lordships, “ in testimony of their strongest condemnation of the terms of this loan, and of the motives which they conceive dictated terms so very disadvantageous to the crown and nation. All the influence and all the activity of the ministers of the crown were now indeed obviously necessary to prevent a parliamentary abandonment of the present system. Some weeks afterwards, the subjeci was again revived in the house of commons, by a motion of sir George Saville, that a select committee be appointed, to inquire into the circumstances of the last loan, to make an esti. mate of its terms, and report the same to the house. “Though the bargain of the minister had been irrevocably ratified by the house, this distinguished patriot observed, that it was not yet too late, on discovering the shameless prodigality of the terms on which it was concluded, to pass a vote of censure, or even of impeachment, on the man who had sacrificed the public in so gross and daring a manner. This gave rise to a vehement debate, at the conclusion of which the motion was rejected by a majority of 46 only, in a house consisting of 377 members.
BOOK And thus were the loud calls of the nation, for an
economical reform in the public expenditure, set at contemptuous defiance by the unprincipled effrontery
of the ministers. Pacificato- Towards the end of the session, Mr. Fox moved Ty motion of Mr.Fox. the house, to resolve itself into a committee, to con
sider of the American war, for the purpose of devising some means of accommodation. This motion was supported in an animated speech by Mr. Pitt, who expressed his utter abhorrence of a war, “which was conceived,” he said, “ in injustice, nurtured in folly, and whose footsteps were marked with slaughter and devastation. It exhibited the height of moral depravity and human turpitude. The nation was drained of its best blood and its vital resources, for which nothing was received in return but a series of inefficient victories or disgraceful defeats, – victories obtained over men struggling in the holy cause of liberty,-or defeats which filled the land with mourn, ing for the loss of dear and valuable relatives slain in a detested and impious quarrel.” The motion was rejected by a majority of 172 to 99 voices.
On the 18th of July 1781 the session was closed by a speech, in which his majesty observed that the great efforts made by the nation to surmount the difficulties of the present arduous and complicated war, must convince the world that the antient spirit of the British nation was not abated or diminished, and he was resolved to accept of no terms or conditions of