the public. But was this likely to be the case? Let the noble lord, and let the House remember, that it was on the noble lord's solemnly pledging himself, that the extraordinaries of the army should be submitted to the inquiry of the commissioners of accounts immediately, that the debate on that immense claim for the present year bad been given up. If, therefore, the noble lord now went back from his promise; if he shifted the matter and did not fulfil what he had pledged himself to perform, all the world must see that the noble lord had cheated and ensnared the House with false hopes; and hypocritically deluded them out of that full and scrutinous discussion, and inquiry into the extraordinaries of the army, which a subject of such great importance undoubtedly called for, and would have met with. But the noble lord having pretended that he himself was astonished at their enormous amount, and having pledged himself that the commissioners should be instructed to inquire into the cause of it immediately, the House had confidence in his promise, and dropped, or at least suspended the investigation. What was it that had carried the noble lord through the present session, but the promise of the reformation which the commissioners of accounts were to effect ? and what hopes were there of their doing any good under the present circumstances of the commission ? The noble lord has said, the reason why he was not willing to accede to the proposition, to insert the word “ immediately," moved in the preceding debate by his honourable friend, was this because they had not yet gone through that ground of inquiry they had begun upon; a ground of inquiry extremely narrow of itself; and which he could not but suspect had been studiously laid down by the original bill, as the object to which the commissioners were first to direct their attention, whereby parliament and the people would be diverted and silenced. And here he must remark, that he verily believed on his credit, his honour, and his conscience, that the noble lord meant and designed, that the commissioners should spend their time in inquiring into trifles without going into an examination of any great, extensive, and important object, the better to continue the deception, and to carry on the hypocrisy and deceit that had already led that House into so many votes, disgraceful to themselves, and ruinous to the public.

The noble lord, Mr. Pitt observed, affecting more than common modesty, had spoken in the third person — “the noble lord, he was sure, if the commissioners were to be chosen from among the members of that house,, would not wish to have the nomination of them." This was a singular remark from a minister who had named every one of the present commissioners; but, perhaps, it had some truth in it. Indeed, he would do the noble lord so much justice as to declare, that if his honourable friend's motion was carried, and it was agreed that the commissioners to act under the new bill were to be chosen from among the members of that house, by ballot, he did not believe the noble lord would interfere, and make up a list of names, who, on all occasions, were found among his followers. Such a measure would be too palpable, and too gross a mockery of all justice, and all fairness, for the noble lord to venture; it would be at the same time too shameful an avowal of influence for the noble lord's tools to submit to, pliant and accommodating as they were, and too gross even for the profligate impudence of his adherents to defend. The noble lord, therefore, might safely adopt the proposition, and might rest assured he would not be accused of having used the influence of his situation to procure a partial ballot.

The present commissioners were said to be experienced, because they had already executed some part of their business, and made very accurate reports; but it should be remembered, that the inquiry they had hitherto made, was of a nature quite different from that on which they were now to enter. As yet, they had only examined into the receipts of the exchequer, and other branches of public accounts, which were recommended to their attention by the board of treasury, as primary objects, when the commission was first instituted, and which were un. doubtedly very simple ; but those greater and more general objects of reformation, for which a commission of accounts was first proposed, had not been touched upon. In every future branch of the business, therefore, they were entire novices, except in one article of the first class, that still remained to be examined; they had still to determine how much current cash should remain with the paymaster-general: but there was time enough for an inquiry of that kind before the expiration of the former act, and another report might still be received this session. In what, then, as to the grand objects of reformation, were those gentlemen better qualified for commissioners than members of that House ? Not, surely, by their former habit of life! No one could respect their characters more than himself; but what were their former avocations? One was Sir Guy Carleton, an officer of distinguished merit; but military and numerical talents were not necessarily connected. Another, Mr. Pigot, was young in a profession to which he could not be thought an eremy, but he could not admit that it qualified gentlemen for a commission of this kind. Added to these, there were masters of chancery. In short, men of almost every description, but of that peculiar description which belonged to members of that House, viz. men accustomed to transacting national business.

Another argument used by the noble lord was this, that a de. lay having occurred in the initiation of this business, it would be again retarded by changing its conductors; for the delay had not arisen from any official neglect of the treasury: No, that was impossible; they could never think of obstructing an inquiry into national expenditures ! But here his former answer would apply: the future subject of inquiry differing essentially from the past, if preparation was necessary it would be equally so to the old as to the new commissioners; for the former would of course deliver over to their successors all papers and articles of undigested evidence now in their possession.

The noble lord had admitted that it was true, Sir Guy Carleton and Mr. Pigot had desired to retire, and that for the reasons before stated; but that such were their good wishes, such their zeal to serve the public, from a consciousness of the good that had arisen, and of the greater degree of good that might arise

from the prosecution of their labours as commissioners, that they had determined to give up every personal consideration, and continue to act under the renewed commission. The plain English of this argument was, that Sir Guy Carleton had determined to have no more ill health ; and that Mr. Pigot was determined to have no more business. For this, ridiculous and absurd as it was, was the only rational interpretation that could be put on the noble lord's words. Again, the noble lord had boasted greatly of the experience of the present commissioners; and had said, that no persons could be equally capable of discharging the duty of commissioners with those who had been tried, who had been found able, and who had given proofs of their talents, their assiduity, and their integrity. He admitted that they were men able, industrious, and honest ; that their reports were clear, and their attention indefatigable ; but as to their superior abilities and assiduities, without his selecting any of those gentlemen whom he had the happiness to see round him, surely it would be no very difficult matter to find six gentlemen on either side of the House, to the full as able, as prompt, as industrious, and as honest, as the present commissioners of accounts had shewn themselves.

After a variety of particular arguments, all strongly applicable to what Lord North had suggested, Mr. Pitt resumed his general argument, as well on the propriety and the necessity of reformation, as on the duty of the House to listen to the voice of the people, and do something more than follow the noble lord in every proposition he offered, let it be good or bad, solid or superficial, politic or impolitic. He earnestly conjured them to use their own eyes, and to consult their own understandings; to return to a sense of their duty to the people ; to act like honest, independent members of parliament; and no longer implicitly to pin their faith on the sleeve of a minister, whose sole object it was to deceive and mislead, just as best answered his purpose. He concluded with a pathetic exhortation to the noble lord, that he would at least give up this point, and shew the public that some substantial remedy was intended for their complicated misfortunes. If this commission was properly constituted, there might still remain some hopes for the prosperity of this country;

for, having once returned into the path of rectitude, they might • go on progressively from one step of reformation to another.

But, if the motion was rejected, and the old and vicious system of government thus in every point tenaciously adhered to, the freedom of the people, and the independence of that house, must be buried in the same grave with the power, the opulence, and the glory of the empire. Colonel Barré's motion was negatived,

Ayes........ 42

Noes............ and the House then resolved itself into the committee.


December 6. 1782.

The report from the committee who had been appointed the preceding day, to frame the address to His Majesty, being brought up by Mr. Yorke,

* Two new Administrations had this year been formed, the one by the Marquis of Rockingham, and the other by the Earl of Shelburne.

The Marquis of Rockingham's Administration, which lasted only from
March till July, was composed as follows:
Marquis of Rockingham......... First Lord of the Treasury.
Earl of Shelburne......... Principal Secretaries of State. (The
Hon. Charles James Fox......... third secretaryship abolished.)
Lord John Cavendish............ Chancellor of the Exchequer.
Admiral Keppel............
(created a Viscount)

}First Lord of the Admiralty.
Duke of Grafton....... Lord Privy Seal.
Lord Camden........... President of the Council.
Duke of Richmond............... Master-General of the Ordnance.
Lord Thurlow............. To continue Chancellor.
General Conway....... Commander in Chief of the Forces.
John Dunning, Esq...........

Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancas

The above composed the Cabinet. Hon. Thos. Townshend............ Secretary at War.


« VorigeDoorgaan »