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most clear and distinct, indeed so clear as to magnify the danger, and to aggravate the offence. This declaration, which he now feels to be so fatal to the liberties of the country, so repugnant to the principles of the constitution, as to render it incumbent upon him to make it the ground of an extraordinary proceeding, and the reason of signal animadversion against me, did not yesterday strike him as of so much importance as immediately to call him up! It did not inspire with any particular sensation his honourable friend near him*, a gentleman by nature not free from jealousy, and of a vigilance which it is not easy to elude — it had not drawn from him the smallest remark of any kind, that could expose the danger with which it was pregnant. It never disturbed the serenity of his temper, though perhaps not the least liable to irritation, nor had it prevented him from laying before the House the details of his various calculations with the most calm and placid equanimity, the very moment after he had witnessed the death-wound of the constitution! After an interval of debate, it had deranged none of the calculations of the right honourable gentleman, it had not driven out of his head his reasonings of the three per cents., his remarks upon the navy debt, nor a single circumstance of objection which the survey of the snbject had presented, nor had it deterred him from allowing the resolutions to be carried with an unanimous vote. But after the right honourable gentleman had slept upon this subject, he discovers that the speech which he yesterday heard with so much indifference, contains principles of such dreadful tendency, and threatens consequences of such fatal operation, as to lead him not merely to propose a censure of the doctrines, or the reprobation of the particular measure; not merely the punishment of the person by whom it was uttered; but which would induce him, in the first instance, to take revenge for the error or the guilt of a minister, by giving his negative to the whole resolutions, which have no relation to the particular measure in question; which would prompt him to suspend those supplies which
are calculated to give confidence to the negotiations for peace, or in case of being reduced to that alternative, energy to the operations of war; that would induce him to tell the enemy by the very next post, by which the unanimous determination of parliament to provide for every situation is conveyed, that the House of Commons had interfered to stop the effect of their former decision, had suspended the means that were to add weight to the exertions of the executive government, and at so critical a moment of the negotiation had committed the interests of this country and her allies, and flattered the hopes and raised the pretensions of the enemy. Such is the length to which the proposition of the right honourable gentleman goes. It is not to remedy the imputed crime which has been committed, nor to guard against the chance of its occurring in future, but it is calculated to derange every measure which may be in train, and to disappoint every design that may be in contemplation. I cannot, however, but hope, that when the right honourable gentleman has viewed the subject with more consideration, when he has again slept upon his wrath, he will recur to that coolness which he first experienced, and that his vehemence and his alarm will subside. But whether the right honourable gentleman is to be deterred by the prospect of the dangers which must arise from the measure which he proposes, at least I cannot doubt that consideration will have its just weight with the House.
The right honourable gentleman says, that if he succeeds in his present motion, he will move the House against His Majesty's ministers for the part they have acted upon this occasion. There is one thing that I will entreat of the right honourable gentleman, and he may be assured it is the only supplication that I will address to him upon this subject, and it is, that if he can prove to the House that I have violated the constitution, and committed the crime of which he accuses me, he will not defer a single moment to take the step which he has threatened; that he will confine his efforts to that object, and that he will not combine with the vengeance he pursues, a measure that involves the ruin of his country. Let the punishment destined for
ministers light upon them alone, and let the consequences of the measures which they employed to avert the dangers which threatened their country, the measures which they adopted for its safety, for the salvation of Europe, rest upon themselves. This much I address to the right honourable gentleman, not for personal considerations, nor do I entreat the boon as a matter of personal indulgence. If it be refused by him, I hope at least that the House will he actuated by more moderate feelings, and guided by wiser maxims.
The rest of the right honourable gentleman's propositions, and the point of his observations, are so exclusively confined to myself, that I am at a loss in what way to proceed, or whether I ought to trespass upon the House with any remarks upon them, since the subject is intended for a more full discussion. I cannot, however, refrain from exposing the strange and extraordinary misrepresentations which he has given of the general question upon which he builds the conclusion of criminality; and I cannot doubt, that when the House perceives the foundation upon which the accusation is raised, they will be able to judge of the effect that ought to be given to the others with which it was vested in the House of Commons. The right honourable gentleman stated the general principle which constituted the chief security of our liberties the power of controlling the public expenditure- and I hope there is little difference. of opinion upon this subject. The right honourable gentleman says, that if there is one thing sure in the constitution, it is this; and if it be violated, he maintains that the people still possess the means of obtaining redress After the representations which the House have heard upon the dilapidations which the constitution has suffered, and the invasions committed upon the public liberties, they may judge of the reality of the danger which is now threatened, when it is even yet admitted that resources are left by which it may be opposed. Although the general principle which the right honourable gentleman states as the essence of the freedom of the constitution be admitted, it cannot be dis
puted that it is subject to limitation. At every period since the commencement of those periods to which we refer for the pure practice of the constitution, in the best and most glorious æras in the history of our government, the principle of extraordinaries has been received, not merely for individual expenses, but recognised upon general views. It has prevailed under every administration, even those with which the right honourable gentleman was connected, during the three last reigns, and in the most approved periods of liberty and constitutional policy. The right honourable gentleman then holds this principle without exception, while the practice of every government proves that it has been always limited, and his whole argument is applicable to all the extraordinaries that ever were voted by parliament. It is impossible, therefore, that the right honourable gentleman could have correctly stated-I can hardly believe that he has sincerely stated this argument, which his experience must disavow, and his knowledge must inform him is neither consistent with the principles of the constitution, nor with its practice at periods which deserve to be followed as examples.
But though I am here arguing upon general points, the question in reality comes within a narrower compass. The right honourable gentleman chooses to overlook in one instance what he alludes to in another part of his speech. Did it never occur to him that Parliament had sometimes committed to His Majesty, not new, but special powers, which superseded all general questions? In reality, this discretionary power is expressly committed to His Majesty. Before I sit down, I intend to move that His Majesty's message of the 8th of December last year should be read, and likewise the act, granting a vote of credit. From this it will appear that a power was given to His Majesty to apply the sum contained in the vote of credit as the exigencies of the state might require. Suppose the case, which will not be a less suitable illustration, because it approaches the fact, that powers had been conferred to give that assistance to the allies of this country, which our own interest and the circum
stances of the situation required; can any man doubt that the minister, who should have hesitated to issue that sum, which, granted, might have enabled our allies to maintain their own cause, and to defend the safety of Europe, and who should have allowed the enemies of Austria to complete her destruction by withholding a seasonable supply, would have been a traitor to his country, and would have merited the severest punishment? The vote of credit last year does actually invest the executive government with a discretionary power of applying the sums granted in a manner that might best suit the public exigencies, and the money applied to the service of the Emperor is within the amount of the grant. I do not mean to say that the discretion thus vested in the crown is absolute and independent of the control of parliament, or that the minister, who exercises it in an improper manner, is exempted from censure; but in what manner I understand this limitation, I will state when I am called upon to make my defence.. Whatever be the issue of this discussion, I cannot forbear observing, even at the risk of incurring the imputation of arrogance, that I would rather be convicted of having acted a principal part in the measure of granting a supply by which the salvation of Austria was secured, and the independence of Europe was maintained, than be acquitted for withholding that aid, by which the cause of our allies was sacrificed, and the general interests of mankind compromised. At present, however, the question is not, Whether the conduct of His Majesty's ministers was proper or improper; whether they were entitled to praise or deserving of punishment? The House have now to determine, Whether they shall announce to France that the supplies of the year are to be stopped, and the exertions of the executive power suspended? Whether at a moment of such critical importance we are to be reduced to the unhappy situaation when we can neither prosecute the negotiation with that confidence which is calculated to insure a favourable issue, nor prepare for war with an energy which can afford the prospect of success to our exertions?