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that revenue was granted, and the wealth at the present time. It would serve, however, to shew, that the sum of revenue which was necessary to the support of the common dignity of crown and people, at that time, ought now to be abated, as the necessities had increased. The people who granted that revenue, under the circumstances of the occasion, were justified in resuming a part of it, under the pressing demand of an altered situation. They clearly felt their right; but they exercised it with pain and regret. They approached the throne with bleeding hearts, afficted at the necessity of applying for retrenchment of the royal gratifications; but the request was at once loyal and submissive. It was justified by policy, and His Majesty's compliance with the request was inculcated by prudence, as well as by affection.
He confessed, that when he considered the obligations of the House, he could not cherish the idea that they would dispute the principle of the bill before them. He could not believe it possible that the principle of economy would be condemned, or the means of accomplishing it abandoned. For his own part, he admitted the plan proposed. He felt hiinself, as a citizen of this country, and a member of «hat House, highly indebted to the honourable author of it; and as he considered it essential to the being, and the independence of his country, he would give it the most determined support. On a division, the motion for the second reading was negatived.
Noes............. 233 and the bill was then put off to that day six months.
May 31. 1781.
The order of the day was read for going into a committee on the bill for paying into the exchequer the balances in the hands of public accountants. On the question for the Speaker's leaving the chair,
Col. Barré moved “ That it be an instruction to the committee, that they have power to make provision in the said bill for removing the commissioners named by the said act, and for substituting other commissioners in their stead, who are members of the House of Commons.”
Lord North opposed Col. Barré's motion.
It was so universally admitted, on general principles of theory, that the House could not constitutionally delegate any of its powers and privileges, that he wondered that any gentleman could hesitate upon a question of so important a nature, for a single moment; for what was the matter in dispute at present? no less than, whether that house should forego, and delegate into other hands, that most essential of all the various privileges with which it was invested by the constitution, the privilege of redressing the grievances, and alleviating the burthens of the people! The people had called upon them to examine into the expenses of the war, to see if they could find a system of reformation and economy; and if they could, to take care that it was immediately adopted, and closely adhered to for the future. This was a duty which, even undirected, they were bound to perform ; but it was a duty which they not only had aniformly neglected to discharge, but were now going to appoint others to do for them. It was the peculiar duty of that house to watch, examine, and correct, the expenditure of the public money. He conceived the proposed delegation to be an absolute surrender of that most invaluable right with which they were invested by their constituents, and for which in particular they were appointed. What was it that gave the House of Commons their importance in the legislature, their respect and their authority? What, but the power of the purse ? Every branch of the legislature had something peculiar to distinguish and to eharacterize it; and that which at once gave the character and elevation of the Commons House of parliament was, that they held the strings of the national purse, and were entrusted with the great important power, first of granting the money, and then of correcting the expenditure. To delegate this right, then, he considered as a violation of what gave them their chief consequence in the legislature; and what, above all other privileges, they could not surrender nor delegate without a violent breach of the constitution.
The noble lord * seemed fully impressed with the importance of this commission : he admitted its proper execution to be essential for the public interest, and that the salvation of the state depended upon it, yet he called upon the constitutional guardians of the people to commit into the hands of others, a trust so unspeakably consequential, and be mere spectators of an in. quiry which was to decide upon the fate of their country. The noble lord had said, that the present commissioners of accounts were merely to inquire, examine, and report, and that it was reserved for parliament to judge, to determine, and to act; that the final deliberation was reserved to them, and they had the power to reject such measures, proposed by the commissioners, as they might deem inconsistent with the public welfare. How humiliating, how miserable a picture of parliamentary power was this! So then, all the power of parliament, with respect to the alleviation of national burthens, the redress of grievances, the reform of expense, the economy, the system, the elucidation of office, was sunk into a disgraceful negative! One positive power, indeed, an odious power remained, — the power of taxing the people, whenever the noble lord thought proper ; the power of making them pay for the noble lord's wild schemes and lavish corruption. If any plan was formed and suggested, by which thousands might be saved, by which the expenditure might be simplified, the influence of the crown diminished; and the responsibility of ministers be more clearly established; by which the engine of government might be relieved from that load of machinery which rendered its movements so slow, so intricate, and so confused; then the House of Commons possessed only the power of putting a negative upon every such proposi
The power of oppressing and burthening the people, therefore, was the only parliamentary power that remained positive and active, while the power of doing good, and of relieving the distresses of the subject, was merely negative. He had often heard that the crown had a constitutional power of putting a negative on the acts of the commons, but he had never before heard that the commons had the power to put a negative on the wishes of the people, when those wishes tended towards the establishment of a plan of reformation. He was almost going to say, he could hardly have imagined that the noble lord would have ventured to assert as much: perfectly sure he was that no man else would have dared to have suggested ever an opinion that approached towards such a position. What then were the arguments on which the noble lord had rested the vindication of the House for such scandalous inattention to their business?
* Lord North.
The noble lord had talked a great deal of the experience of the present commissioners, and had said every thing in their praise that the most elaborate panegyrist could have attered; he had collected their eulogy from all sides of the house, and had poured forth a profusion of compliments on their wonderful efforts, and the great and successful effects of their inquiry. Without designing to detract in the least from their real merit, it was perfectly fair, he conceived, to examine a little what were the mighty benefits deduced to the public from the acknowledged industry of these commissioners? Theoretical principles, he was ready to admit, must sometimes be suffered to give way for the sake of practical advantages ; but then, the first ought never to be departed from, but in cases where there was almost a moral certainty that the second were within reach, and would be attained. In the present case, the commissioners had examined into, and stated in their reports, the amount of several balances in the hands of several public accountants ; in doing this, the noble lord would not, he trusted, venture to say that they had done any more than a commission, filled by members of that house, was competent to perform. In his opinion nothing could be more degrading to parliament than such an idea ; for, by the nature of his duty, every representative of the people should be capable of examining how their money was expended. But were not many of them, in fact, versed in the business of public accounts? In one of their reports, however, they had come a
little nearer to a compliance with the prayers of the people, and had gone so far as to point out, with great humility and great deference, an alteration that seemed to them likely to be attended with advantage to the people, by a more economical regulation of office. What did the noble lord in that case ? He put a negative upon it, and that not by any parliamentary proceeding; he did not even allow them the exercise of that power of judging and of acting, of which he had said so much, but he took upon himself to negative the proposition of those commissioners of accounts, in whose praise he had been so lavish, and to tell parliament, that although the commissioners had pointed out the inconvenience, and even suggested a remedy, he did not mean to attend to the one, or adopt the other, because he had been told by a great board that the alteration proposed was impracticable. So that the noble lord had disregarded the report of the commissioners, a report delivered in upon oath, and having all the facts stated in it ascertained upon the oaths of a variety of witnesses, and had preferred the loose conversation of a public board; suffering them to become the unsworn witnesses in their own cause. He had not the smallest objection to the board of treasury's conferring with the navy board or any other ; but it was a little extraordinary that the noble lord should have assigned it as a reason for not adopting the regulation proposed, and for not even giving parliament an opportunity of putting its own negative upon it, that he had been told it was impracticable by the very board likely to be affected by the alteration.
Such was the distressed situation of this country at present, that he was aware mere forms, and even those which were the most dear, most essential, and most valuable forms of parliament, must be foregone for the sake of immediate and essential public ease, 'satisfaction, and benefit; he, therefore, much as he clisliked the idea of continuing the present commissioners, in preference to members of that House, so far differed from his honourable 'friends, that he was ready to vote for the present bill, 'even under the noble lord's limitation of it, provided that immediate ease, satisfaction, and benefit would result from it to