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ercise it on, what the right honourable gentleman called, the adjudication of parliament. He, on his part, denied that the Prince of Wales had any right whatever, and upon that point the right honourable gentleman and he were still at issue--an issue, that, in his opinion, must be decided, before they proceeded one step farther in the great and important considerations to be disa cussed and determined.
Concerning one part of the right honourable gentleman's speech, it was impossible for him to remain silent, as the right honourable gentleman's ideas in that point had not appeared to him to be quite accurate and distinct. He seemed to have intended to have renounced all idea of the Prince of Wales's right to assume the exercise of the royal authority, under the present or similar circumstances, without the previous adjudication of parliament, or of the two houses; but, if he understood the right honourable gentleman correctly, he had used the words,“ during the sitting of parliament;" the plain inference from which expression was, that if parliament were not sitting, the Prince of Wales could assume the exercise of the regal authority. Mr. Pitt declared, that he thought the Prince of Wales could, in no one case, have power to assume the right. If there were no parliament in existence, he granted that the heir apparent, acting in concert with other persons in great situations, might, under such circumstances as the present, have issued writs, and convened the two houses, for the purpose of providing for the exigency. Such a proceeding would be justified by the necessity of the case, and with a view to the safety of the nation, which superseded all forms; but, that it would be a legal and formal summons of the parliament, or that a parliament could be called together, without legal authority, he must absolutely deny. Such a meeting would be a convention, like to that assembled at the time of the abdication of James the Second, and in other periods of difficulty; but it could not be a legal and formal calling together of a parliament. With regard to the question of the Prince of Wales's right of assuming the power, during the intermission of parliament, and his right not in possession, as it was called, during the
sitting of parliament, he need not rest much upon the distinction, denying, as he did, that any right to assume the regal authority, under any circumstances, independent of the consent and approbation of parliament, existed in the Prince of Wales. But, supposing the right of assumption of royalty given up altogether, and that the Prince must have the right adjudged by parliament, he denied that they were canvassing a right, and acting as judges, as the sentiments of the right honourable gentleman so manifestly intimated. It was subversive of the principles of the constitution to admit that the Prince of Wales might seat himself on the throne during the lifetime of his father; and the intimation of the existence of such a right, as he had remarked on a former occasion, presented a question of greater magnitude and importance even than the present exigency, and the provision that it necessarily required; a question that involved in it the principles of the constitution, the protection and security of our liberties, and the safety of the state.
Whatever, therefore, might be the order of their proceeding, he hoped there would be an unanimous concurrence of opinion, that it was impossible to let the question of right, which had been started, undergo admission, without its being fully discussed and decided. It was a question that shook the foundation of the constitution, and upon the decision of which, all that was dear to us, as Britons, depended. In his opinion, therefore, it was their first duty to decide, whether there were any right in the Prince of Wales to claim the exercise of the regal power, under any circumstances of the country, independent of the actual demise of the crown. In the discussion of the powers with which the regent was to be invested, there might be differences of opinion, whether the whole of the royal prerogatives should be delegated, on the grounds of expediency; there might be differences of opinion, whether a portion only of the royal authority should be delegated, and a part reserved, on the grounds of prudence and discretion. These were important topics, which they could not discuss, unless they first knew, whether they were sitting as judges, or as a house of parliament, possessing a power of deliberation, and capable of exercising a constitutional discretion. They must first ascertain, whether that which should be vested in the hands of the Prince of Wales, was matter of adjudication on their part, of right in His Royal Highness, or as a trust in behalf and in the name of His Majesty; and therefore he should think it his duty to bring forward the question of right, as a preliminary question. If that question should be decided in the affirmative, there would be no need of specific measures. Should it, however, be determined upon a contrary ground, the way would become cleared, and the House would know how to proceed. He had, indeed, mentioned the alternative, but Heaven forbid, that the fatal alternative should be decided in favour of the intimated right of the Prince of Wales !
Mr. Pitt next took notice of the call which Mr. Fox had made upon him, relative to the future propositions to be brought · forward by him in the committee which had been moved for, to
take into consideration the state of the nation. He said, that, if the question of right should be decided, as he thought it would, upon constitutional principles, he should, in that case, certainly proceed to propose measures for providing for the interruption of the royal authority, occasioned by His Majesty's present incapacity to exercise it; and, as he was always happy when he could concur with the requisition of the right honourable gentleman, he would state the outline, without feeling any prejudice to the person who had called for it; but, he begged to have it understood, that what he was about to state was not to be a matter of debate at that moment, nor were any arguments then to be raised upon it. He proceeded to declare, that, however decided he might be in his opinion against the whole, or any part, of the regal power being vested in the Prince of Wales, as a matter of right, in any way in which that right had been explained, he was equally ready to say, that, as a matter of discretion, and on the ground of expediency, it was, in his opinion, highly desirable, that whatever part of the regal power it was necessary should be exercised at all, during this unhappy interval, should be vested in a single person, and that this person should be the Prince of Wales: that he also thought it most consistent with true constitutional principles, and most for the public convenience, that His Royal Highness should exercise that portion of authority, whatever it might be, unfettered by any permanent council, and with the free choice of his political servants. With regard to the portion of royal authority which ought to be given, or that which ought to be withholden, it would be premature, in this stage, to enter into the particular discussion of it: he had no objection, however, even now, to declare in general, that whatever authority was necessary for carrying on the public business with vigour and dispatch, and for providing, during this interval, for the safety and interests of the country, ought to be given; but on the other hand, any authority, not necessary for those purposes, and capable of being by possibility employed in any way which might tend to embarrass the exercise of the King's lawful authority, when he should be enabled to resume it into his own hands, ought to be withholden; because, from its being given, more inconvenience might arise to the future interests both of the people and of the crown, than any which could arise in the mean time from its temporary suspension.
Mr. Pitt added, that he could justify the principles of this explicit declaration of his intention, on the ground, that, whatever was given to the regent, or withholden, ought to be given or withholden with a view to the moment when His Majesty should be capable of resuming his rightful prerogatives ; a circumstance to which it peculiarly became him to look, in the situation in which he stood, honoured with the confidence of a sovereign to whom he was bound, and strongly attached, by the ties of gratitude and duty; – but of that he would say no more. Whatever judgement might be formed of what he had declared, he was conscious of having given a free and an honest opinion, and was satisfied with that consciousness. He conceived, it could not be thought necessary for him to go any farther into the subject, as the adjustment of the whole proceeding must rest with the committee on the state of the nation, where it would be necessary to come forward with the different propositions separately, and to
proceed, step by step, to mark and define, by distinct resolutions, what parts of the royal prerogative should be given to the regent, and what withholden.
The motion was agreed to.
December 16. 1788. The House, conformably to the order of the day, resolved itself into a Committee of the whole House, on the consideration of the State of the Nation, Mr. Brook Watson in the chair; when
MR. Pitt rose, and, having premised that the House were then in a committee to take into consideration the state of the nation, under circumstances the most calamitous which had befallen the country at any period, remarked, that it was then a century ago since any point of equal importance had engaged the attention of that House. The circumstance that had then occurred was the revolution ; between which, however, and the present circumstance, there was a great and essential difference. At that time, the two Houses had to provide for the filling up a throne, that was vacant by the abdication of James the Second; at present they had to provide for the exercise of the royal authority, when His Majesty's political capacity was whole and entire, and the throne consequently full, although, in fact, all the various functions of the executive government were suspended, but which suspension they had every reason to expect would be but temporary. There could, he said, be but one sentiment upon that head, which was, that the most sanguine of His Majesty's physicians could not effect a cure more speedily than it was the anxious wish of every man in that House, and every description of His Majesty's subjects, that his cure might be effected, and that he might thence be enabled again to resume the exercise of his own authority. During the temporary continuance, however, of His Majesty's malady, it was their indispensable duty to provide for the deficiency in the legislature, in order that a due regard might be had to the safety of