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ruptions from either prorogation or dissolution. The authority of the legislature too, in the preamble to an act of the 13th of the King, by implication, was also favourable to the point he endeavoured to establish; besides, many cases from Carthew's Reports, and other authorities, might be adduced, which abundantly proved it had been long held that impeachments were not affected by the operation of a dissolution. If such proceedings had abated, in consequence of such an event, it was evident that the course of public justice would be greatly interrupted. But there was neither precedent nor law which authorised such a deduction; and the continuance of impeachments was frequently rendered indispensably necessary, in order to produce a salutary operation, and to guard against their abuse. If impeachments were allowed to be a branch of the judicial power, they must necessarily have the same operation with the other acts of that power. Writs of error, petitions of appeal, as judicial acts, survived prorogation and dissolution ; so also ought impeachments. To admit the continuance of the former, and to insist upon the abatement of the latter, by the operation of a dissolution, were the grossest absurdity: since, as judicial proceedings, they were branches of the same power, and their connection depended upon a permanent union of principle. Those who insisted upon the abatement of impeachments, were consistent, if they also insisted upon the abatements of writs of error and petitions of appeal; but when once the cortinuance of the latter was allowed, and the abatement of the former contended for, in consequence of a dissolution, then it was evident that impeachments were made, in one instance, a branch of the judicial power, and in another, an act of the legislative, to serve some particular purpose. Now such confusion of the two parliamentary powers he had noticed, should be studiously avoided, lest their proceedings were impcded by endless doubts and difficulties, and might terminate in a great oppression and injustice to individuals, and eventually tend to subvert our excellent constitution. The power of impeachments is a privilege of the first consequence to the liberties of the country; it operated as a salutary check upon those in administration, and effectually guarded against every undue inHuence of the crown, in the protection of state-delinquency. Ought the event of an impeachment, then, to depend upon the operation of a dissolution ? No. If the exercise of this power were once to be influenced by such an event, there would be an end put to official responsibility; the most flagrant acts of corruption, oppression, and injustice, would pass with impunity; for the party impeached might procure, by his own interest, or the influence of his friends, a dissolution of parliament, in order to escape the punishment his offences might justly deserve. Voluntary exilement were, indeed, too heavy a punishment for injured innocence to endure, to avoid an unjust impeachment; but for the guilty delinquent to enjoy such an indulgence, would be no punishment, but rather a reward, for his villany. The abatement of impeachments, therefore, by a dissolution of parliament, would throw an insurmountable obstacle in the way of public justice, and would deprive the House of a power the most formidable to a corrupt administration, whose exercise served as a shield and bulwark for the constitution.
As to the honourable and learned gentleman's objection, that no man can be a judge, de jure, in a court, without a competent knowledge of the whole proceedings ; this was true in an inferior court of judicature, but was not applicable to the House of Lords: for this supreme court of judicature was liable perpetually to change its members in consequence of death, which naturally produced others as their successors. Supposing the new members were ignorant of the proceedings already had of the impeachment depending, what inconvenience could arise from that circumstance, when copies of the whole evidence were printed? They need only reter for the requisite information to the journals. They had a right to judge from the minutes, upon the fidelity and accuracy of which they might always depend, since they were distributed not only among those peers who were present at the taking of the evidence, but among those who were absent, for their information. An impeachment was an extraor. dinary case, which did not admit of being conducted upon the same rules with an inferior court of judicature. In the one, case, judgment was formed upon printed evidence; but in the other, viva voce evidence was certainly requisite. Were the rules of the court of King's Bench to obtain in the House of Lords, the question would be wholly at an end, and the right of impeach. ment at once annihilated; since it were better to file an indictment in the one than prefer an impeachment in the other. But the foundation of impeachments was, to bring delinquents to justice, who would have escaped if tried according to the ordinary rules of the courts of judicature. The practice of the House of Lords was incompatible with that of the other courts, in regard to viva voce evidence and decision, without separating. Notes were in constant practice, and written evidence consulted, without which it were impossible, in cases of impeachment, to reduce under one view the whole body of the evidence; for there were few instances in which impeachments did not occupy some days; written evidence were then as indispensable in a trial of ten days as of three years. But it was said, that in a long impeachment, in consequence of the constant change of the members in the House of Lords, some who had been accusers, became judges. In reply, he observed, that there was no period of prorogation to which the same objection would not apply. The members who were so circumstanced, certainly could not be deprived of their judicial powers; at the same time, the exercise and application of those powers remained at the sole disposal of their own feelings and consciences. It was an unavoidable circumstance incidental to the nature of such a proceeding as an impeachment, from which no danger of injustice could be apprehended, with any shadow of reason.
He should, he said, wave for the present, every consideration of the inquiry how far the House of Commons were disabled from proceeding in the impeachment depending, as it remained a subject for future investigation. When it was once established that the right of impeachment did not abate by dissolution, the discretion of the House would next determine whether it were expedient to prosecute the impeachment in question any farther; or whatever line of conduct to pursue in regard to such a proceeding. Of this he was very sure, that no fair objection could bé urged, from any defect of information. The court in which the trial had been conducted, was accessible to all; all the reports and papers respecting the evidence, were open to general inspection; so that it was entirely at the option not only of every member of the House of Commons, but also of every British subject, to remain in ignorance of any part of the proceedings, He wished it to be understood by all, as an established and incontrovertible principle, that impeachments continued in statu quo. A contrary mode of proceeding would be attended with consequences destructive of the privileges of the House, as well as injurious and prejudicial to the cause of the party accused. If an offence, for instance, were committed, the conviction of which required a proceeding by impeachment, upon the eve of a dissolution of parliament, the prosecution might be postponed until the meeting of a new parliament, in order to avoid a repe. tition of the proceedings; the consequence naturally to be ap. prehended was, the escape of the delinquent. If, on the other hand, an impeachment had been carried on for such a considerable length of time, as to exceed a dissolution of parliament, the repetition of the proceedings in that case might materially im. pede the progress of other public business. The death of a witness, in the mean time, might very considerably, too, affect the state of the evidence; and an impeachment, by this mode of proceeding, might be converted into an engine of oppression and injustice. Suppose the party impeached to have made some progress in his defence, his accusers might possess sufficient influence to procure a sudden dissolution of parliament; the consequence might be, a fresh accusation against him, fabricated out of his own defence. By such a nefarious proceeding, an individual might continue to be the object of a public prosecution all his life-time, without the possibility of the means of being pronounced either innocent or guilty. Thus, an impeachment must continue in statu quo after a dissolution, or the privileges of
parliament must suffer violence, and the cause of the accused
For the Speaker's leaving the chair...... 30
.........143 The original motion was then carried.
February 17. 1792.
The House having resolved itself into a committee of the whole House, (of which the Earl of Mornington was chairman,) to consider of so much of His Majesty's speech on the opening of the session, as related to the Public Revenue and Expenditure; the following paragraphs from the speech were read :
" It will, I am persuaded, give you great satisfaction to learn that the extraordinary expenses incurred in the course of the last year have, in a great measure, been already defrayed by the grants of the session. The state of our resources will, I trust, be found more than sufficient to provide for the remaining part of these expenses, as well as for the current service of the year, the estimates for which I have directed to be laid before you.
" I entertain the pleasing hope, that the reductions which may be found practicable in the establishments, and the continued increase in the revenue, will enable you, after making due provision for the several branches of the public service, to enter upon a system of gradually relieving my subjects from some part of the existing taxes ; at the same time giving addi