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cation of the edict of Nantz, having no test laws for its protection, was also foreign to the present question. Had there prevailed less bigotry in those times, the church would have been secure, since the sovereign will of the monarch was the only law of the country
The right honourable gentleman's argument that no test laws existed in America, was as inapplicable as the other references and examples he had adduced in elucidation of his point. The American constitution resembled ours neither in church nor state ; he most sincerely wished it had, in affording equal security for liberty and happiness to the subject. But in America there was no uniform established religion; no test laws were therefore necessary for the protection of such an establishment. Although the opinions of men were much divided at one time on the subject of the American dispute, while one party was contending that the revolting colonies ought to be coerced to obedience, and another was as strenuously insisting that they ought to be for ever abandoned, and the world in general was willing to believe that England could not exist independent of her colonies : yet the event, however, had happily proved the reverse of these different opinions; for, in the loss of the territorial government of the thirteen American colonies, Great Britain had sustained but a very inconsiderable diminution in her commerce ; while she had to boast her deliverance and exemption from that load of expense which attended the support of the civil establishment of the states.
The test laws had been declared inefficacious and nugatory, as the legislature had been obliged every session to pass an act of indemnity. If the fact was so, the ground of all complaint of oppression must cease; for, from the right honourable gentleman's own argument, it was obvious that the laws were not enforced. Although the temperate forbearance of the government from the non-execution of the laws was truly laudable, when the danger was neither imminent nor alarming to the church, whose security and permanent safety was their object, yet to repeal the laws in question, because their execution was not always necessary, would be impolitic in the extreme; as the legis. lature, in thus suffering the remedy to such danger to depart from their hands, might not very easily be able to recover such salutary influence, as might stem the torrent of danger in the hour of pressing emergency. So far was he from agreeing with the right honourable gentleman, that no danger whatever was to be apprehended, that lie could easily conceive a man, with all the abilities of the right honourable gentleman, but without the integrity of his principle, who, influenced by ambition and corrupt views, might exercise his powerful talents in rousing the disaffected to an attack upon the church. Would there not, in that case, be real danger ? Most certainly. To guard against danger to the constitution, however distant, was the indispensable duty of every member of that House, but of none more than of a person in the situation he had the honour to hold, with whom the safety of his country ought ever to be his principal object. He must, therefore, give his decided negative to the motion. The motion was negatived;
Ayes ... .105
December 22. 1790. The order of the day having been read, for the House to resolve itself into a committee of the whole House to consider the state of the impeachment of Warren Hastings, Esq., Sir Peter Burrell took the chair of the committee: when Mr. Burke moved, “ That it appears that an impeachment by this House, in the name of the Commons of Great Britain in parliament assembled, and of all the Commons of Great Britain, against Warren Hastings, Esq. late governor-general of Bengal, for sundry high crimes and misdemeanours, is now depending.”
Mr. Erskine opposed the motion, and, in order that a committee might be appointed to search for precedents, he moved, that Sir Peter Burrell leave the chair :" upon which a debate ensued of very considerable length.*
* The parliament had this year been dissolved: and the question to be decided by this debate (which lasted by adjournments for three days) was, whether an impcachment brought by the Commons of Great Britain Mr. Pitt, in rising, requested the attention of the committee in that early stage of the discussion, while he submitted to their consideration his solemn and deliberate opinion upon the ques. tion at issue, the decision of which involved in it considerations of the first magnitude ; the rights and privileges ot' parliament were concerned, which must remain ever inviolably sacred, or our valuable and excellent constitution was subverted and destroyed. Notwithstanding such display of ability, learning, and eloquence, on the part of the honourable gentleman opposite to him, his arguments, however ingeniously and forcibly urged, did not impress his mind with that conviction which etfected any change in his sentiments upon the point in question. Precedents had been consulted, with the laborious industry, no doubt, of many months' investigation, by several honourable and learned gentlemen ; but those adduced, upon the present oocasion, in favour of impeachments abating upon a dissolution of parliament, were in number so few, and of such questionable authority in his opinion, as clearly to evince the imbecillity of the cause, without the most distant reflection upon the abilities of the learned advocates who supported it. After the most diligent and accurate investigation in his power, of the subject under discussion, after deliberating for a length of time upon almost every possible ground on which it might be argued, he was come prepared to deliver his sentiments, how far impeachments were affected by a dissolution of parliament.
The first point, he said, which claimed the attention of the House in discussing the subject under their consideration, was to ascertain if any evidence existed of an uniform established practice observed by both Houses in their conduct of impeachments, which was to be considered as the law of parliament in such cases. If there were precedents which clearly established the point, that, from the usage of parhament, impeachments did abate
in parliament assembled, in their own name, and in the name of their constituents, did not remain in statu quo, notwithstanding the intervention of a dissolution?
* Mr. Erskine,
by a dissolution, he would bow in silence to the authority, but would lose no time in providing a remedy against a practice whose tendency was hostile to the privileges of the house, and destructive of the liberties of the country. The authority of such precedents no one would say ought to be relied upon in preference to that of the fundamental principles of the constitution. But he was happy to find that there existed no evidence of such an uniform rule of parliamentary practice. From a dispassionate review of the different precedents, he was prepared to assert with confidence, and the sequel, he trusted, would abundantly justify the assertion, that impeachments did continue in statu quo from parliament to parliament, notwithstanding the precedents so much insisted upon by the honourable and learned gentleman in support of an abatement of such proceedings by a dissolution. That impeachments did not abate by a dissolution of parliament, was a principle sufficiently recognised and well established by many precedents in our history from the early times of antiquity. Cases perfectly in point might be adduced from the reigns of Richard the Second and others; but he should only insist upon the case of the Duke of Suffolk in the reign of Henry the Sixth, which indisputably proved that impeachments continued from one parliament to another. In his investigation of precedents, however, he did not mean to confine himself to the more doubtful decisions of antiquity, but should advance to more modern times, and advert to instances better ascertained and more applicable to his purpose. By the resolution of the Lords in the year 1673, writs of error and petitions of appeal were made to continue from parliament to parliament; but was contended, since no mention is made of impeachments in this resolution, that a dissolution of parliament operates an abatement of such proceedings. Now the very opposite conclusion was deducible from the report of the committee, which expressly stated that “writs of error, petitions of appeal, and other business of a judicial nature," ought not to be narrowed in their discussion, but to extend from parliament to parliament. Impeachments, therefore, as judicial proceedings, do not necessarily abate by a dissolution. But in the order of 1678, impeachments are expressly mentioned, in common with writs of error and petitions of appeal, to continue from one parliament to another.
To this precedent, however clear and decisive, objections are taken to invalidate its authority. First, it was affirmed to have been a very precipitate proceeding. But how can this objection apply? Did it refer to any new matter not included in the former resolution of 1673? Clearly not. . This order was only a deduction from the principles already laid down in the former decision; it could not then be a precipitate measure. But the critical juncture of affairs, during the terment of party violence and of civil contention, might probably, it was said, contribute materially to that resolution which authorised the continuance of impeachments. This objection, too, must vanish the moment the circumstances of the times when the decision in question took place, are contrasted with those of the subsequent period when it was rescinded. In 1678, the proceedings of the Lords were not influenced by any particular reference to some matter then depending; it was a general order, that writs of error, petitions of appeal, and impeachments, should survive a dissolution of parliament. Nor was this measure the production of any party violence or animosity; it was an unanimous decision founded upon the resolution of 1673, to serve as a standing pre. cedent for the conduct of future impeachments. But what was the case of the reversal of this decision in 1685, so much depended upon as a precedent in favour of the abatement of impeachments by a dissolution ? Was it not at the æra when James the Second, a bigotted and popish prince, had ascended the throne of these realms; when the parliament was obsequiously devoted to the will of the monarch ; when the sacrifice of principle was required to be made to practical abuse by the prejudices of the times; when certain popish lords were about to be solemnly impeached who were the supposed favourites of the king? Under such circumstances, wliat was the conduct of parliament? They very probably thought that compliance was better than resistance at such a period; and therefore they determined, probably