A Petition to the King for the
Removal of Sir Robert Walpole
as written by Samuel Johnson
This is Part 2 of
DEBATES in the SENATE of LILLIPUT continued, from pag. 358 [in
the July issue] The Nardac Agryl [Duke of Argyle] spoke next, as
follows. If we will obstinately shut our eyes against the
light of conviction, if we will resolutely admit every degree of
evidence that contributes to support the cause which we are
inclined to favour, and to reject the plainest proofs when they
are produced against it, to reason and debate is to little
purpose: as no innocence can be safe that has incurred the
displeasure of partial judges, so no criminal that has the
happiness of being favoured by them, can ever be in danger. That any lord has already determined how to vote
on the present occasion, far be it from me to assert; may it
never, my Lords, be suspected that private interest, blind
adherence to a party, personal kindness or malevolence, or any
other motive than a sincere and unmingled regard for the
prosperity of our country, influences the decisions of this
assembly; for it is well known, my Lords, that authority is
founded on opinion, when once we lose the esteem of the public,
our votes, while we shall be allowed to give them, will be only
empty sounds, to which no other regard will be paid than a
standing army shall enforce. The veneration of the people, my Lords, will not
easily be lost; this house has a kind of hereditary claim to
their confidence and respect; the great actions of our ancestors
are remembered, and contribute to the reputation of their
successors; nor do our countrymen willingly suspect that they can
be betrayed by the descendants of those, by whose bravery and
counsels they have been rescued from destruction. But esteem must languish, and confidence decline,
unless they are renewed and re animated by new acts of
beneficence, and the higher expectations of our penetration to
discover its real advantages, and of our steadiness to persue
them, the more violent will be its resentment, if it shall appear
on this important question, that we are either ignorant or
timorous, that we are unconcerned at the miseries of the people,
or content ourselves with pitying what our ancestors never failed
to redress. Let us therefore, my Lords, for our own interest
attend impartially to the voice of the people, let us hear their
complaints with tenderness, and if at last we reject them, let it
be evident that they were impartially heard, and that we only
differed from them because we were not convinced. Even then, my Lords, we shall suffer for some time
under the suspicion of crimes, from which I hope we shall always
be free, the people will imagine that we were influenced by those
whose interest it appears, to continue their miseries, and, my
Lords, all the consolation that will be left us, must arise from
the consciousness of having done our duty. But, my Lords, this is to suppose what I believe
no history can furnish an example of, it is to conceive that
we may enquire diligently after the true state of national
affairs, and yet not discover it, or not be able to prove it by
such evidence as may satisfy the people. The people, my Lords, however they are
misrepresented by those, who from a long practice of treating
them with disregard, have learned to think and speak of them with
contempt, are far from being easily deceived, and yet farther
from being easily deceived into an opinion of their own
unhappiness; we have some instances of general satisfaction, and
an unshaken affection to the government in times when the public
good has not been very diligently consulted, but scarcely any of
perpetual murmurs and universal discontent, where there have been
plain evidences of oppression, negligence, and treachery. Let us not therefore, my Lords, think of the
people as of a herd to be led or driven as pleasure, as wretches
whose opinions are founded upon the authority of seditious
scriblers, or upon any other than that of reason and experience,
let us not suffer them to be at once oppressed and ridiculed, nor
encourage by our example the wretched advocates for those whom
they consider as their enemies, not represent them as imputing to
the misconduct of the ministry the late contrariety of the winds,
and severity of the winter. The people, my Lords, if they are mistaken in
their charge, are mistaken with such evidence on their side, as
never misled any nation before; not only their reason, but their
senses must have betrayed them, and those marks of certainty that
have hitherto established truth, must have combined in the
support of falshood. They are persuaded, my Lords, too firmly
persuaded, to yield up their opinions to rhetoric, or to votes,
or any proof but demonstration, that there is a First, or,
to speak in the language of the nation, a Sole minister,
one that has the possession of his sovereign's confidence,
and the power of excluding others from his presence, one that
exalts and degrades at his pleasure, and distributes for his own
purposes the revenues of his master, and the treasure of the
nation. Of this, my Lords, can it be maintained that they
have no proof? Can this be termed a chimerical suspicion, which
nothing can be produced to support? How can power appear but
by the exercise of it? What can prove any degree of influence
or authority, but universal submission and acknowledgement? And
surely, my Lords, a very transient survey of the court and its
dependents, must afford sufficient conviction, that this man is
considered by all that are engaged in the administration, as the
only disposer of honours, favours, and employments.
DEBATES in the SENATE of LILLIPUT continued, from pag. 358 [in the July issue]
The Nardac Agryl [Duke of Argyle] spoke next, as follows.
If we will obstinately shut our eyes against the light of conviction, if we will resolutely admit every degree of evidence that contributes to support the cause which we are inclined to favour, and to reject the plainest proofs when they are produced against it, to reason and debate is to little purpose: as no innocence can be safe that has incurred the displeasure of partial judges, so no criminal that has the happiness of being favoured by them, can ever be in danger.
That any lord has already determined how to vote on the present occasion, far be it from me to assert; may it never, my Lords, be suspected that private interest, blind adherence to a party, personal kindness or malevolence, or any other motive than a sincere and unmingled regard for the prosperity of our country, influences the decisions of this assembly; for it is well known, my Lords, that authority is founded on opinion, when once we lose the esteem of the public, our votes, while we shall be allowed to give them, will be only empty sounds, to which no other regard will be paid than a standing army shall enforce.
The veneration of the people, my Lords, will not easily be lost; this house has a kind of hereditary claim to their confidence and respect; the great actions of our ancestors are remembered, and contribute to the reputation of their successors; nor do our countrymen willingly suspect that they can be betrayed by the descendants of those, by whose bravery and counsels they have been rescued from destruction.
But esteem must languish, and confidence decline, unless they are renewed and re animated by new acts of beneficence, and the higher expectations of our penetration to discover its real advantages, and of our steadiness to persue them, the more violent will be its resentment, if it shall appear on this important question, that we are either ignorant or timorous, that we are unconcerned at the miseries of the people, or content ourselves with pitying what our ancestors never failed to redress.
Let us therefore, my Lords, for our own interest attend impartially to the voice of the people, let us hear their complaints with tenderness, and if at last we reject them, let it be evident that they were impartially heard, and that we only differed from them because we were not convinced.
Even then, my Lords, we shall suffer for some time under the suspicion of crimes, from which I hope we shall always be free, the people will imagine that we were influenced by those whose interest it appears, to continue their miseries, and, my Lords, all the consolation that will be left us, must arise from the consciousness of having done our duty.
But, my Lords, this is to suppose what I believe no history can furnish an example of, it is to conceive that we may enquire diligently after the true state of national affairs, and yet not discover it, or not be able to prove it by such evidence as may satisfy the people.
The people, my Lords, however they are misrepresented by those, who from a long practice of treating them with disregard, have learned to think and speak of them with contempt, are far from being easily deceived, and yet farther from being easily deceived into an opinion of their own unhappiness; we have some instances of general satisfaction, and an unshaken affection to the government in times when the public good has not been very diligently consulted, but scarcely any of perpetual murmurs and universal discontent, where there have been plain evidences of oppression, negligence, and treachery.
Let us not therefore, my Lords, think of the people as of a herd to be led or driven as pleasure, as wretches whose opinions are founded upon the authority of seditious scriblers, or upon any other than that of reason and experience, let us not suffer them to be at once oppressed and ridiculed, nor encourage by our example the wretched advocates for those whom they consider as their enemies, not represent them as imputing to the misconduct of the ministry the late contrariety of the winds, and severity of the winter.
The people, my Lords, if they are mistaken in their charge, are mistaken with such evidence on their side, as never misled any nation before; not only their reason, but their senses must have betrayed them, and those marks of certainty that have hitherto established truth, must have combined in the support of falshood.
They are persuaded, my Lords, too firmly persuaded, to yield up their opinions to rhetoric, or to votes, or any proof but demonstration, that there is a First, or, to speak in the language of the nation, a Sole minister, one that has the possession of his sovereign's confidence, and the power of excluding others from his presence, one that exalts and degrades at his pleasure, and distributes for his own purposes the revenues of his master, and the treasure of the nation.
Of this, my Lords, can it be maintained that they have no proof? Can this be termed a chimerical suspicion, which nothing can be produced to support? How can power appear but by the exercise of it? What can prove any degree of influence or authority, but universal submission and acknowledgement? And surely, my Lords, a very transient survey of the court and its dependents, must afford sufficient conviction, that this man is considered by all that are engaged in the administration, as the only disposer of honours, favours, and employments.
Attend to any man, my Lords, whi has lately been preferred, rewarded, or caressed, you will hear no expressions of gratitude but to that man; no other benefactor is ever heard of, the Royal Barony itself is forgotten and unmentioned, nor is any return of loyalty, fidelity, or adherence professed, but to the minister; the Minister! a term, which however lately introduced, is now in use in every place in the kingdom, except this house.
Preferments, my Lords, whether civil, ecclesiastical, or military, are either wholly in his hands, or those who make it the business of their lives to discover the high road to promotion, are universally deceived, and are daily offering their adorations to an empty phantom that has nothing to bestow; for no sooner is any man infected with avarice or ambition, no sooner is extravagance reduced to beg new supplies from the public, or wickedness obliged to seek for shelter, than this man is applied to, and honour, conscience, and fortune offered at his feet.
Did either those whose studies and station give them a claim to advancement in the church, or those whose bravery and long service entitle them to more honourable posts in the army; did either those who profess to understand the laws of their own country, or they who declare themselves versed in the interests and transactions of foreign powers, apply to any other man for promotion or employment, he might then indeed be called the Chief, but not properly be called the Sole Minister.
But it is well known, my Lords, many of us know it too well, that whatever be the profession or the abilities of any person, there is no hope of encouragement or reward by any other method than that of application to this man, that he shall certainly be disappointed who shall attempt to rise by any other interest, and whoever shall dare to depend on his honesty, bravery, diligence, or capacity, or to boast any other merit than that of implicit adherence to his measures, shall inevitably lie neglected and obscure.
For this reason, my Lords, every one whose calmness of temper can enable him to support the sight, without starts of indignation and sallies of contempt, may daily see at the levee of this great man, what I am ashamed to mention, a mixture of men of all ranks and all professions, of men whose birth and titles ought to exalt them above the meanness of cringing to a mere child of fortune, men whose studies ought to have taught them, that true honour is only to be gained by steady virtue, and that all other arts, all the low applications of flattery and servility will terminate in contempt, disappointment, and remorse.
This scene, my Lords, is daily to be viewed, it is ostentaiously displayed to the sight of mankind, the minister amuses himself in public with the splendor, and number, and dignity of his slaves; and his slaves with no more shame pay their prostrations to their master in the face of the day, and boast of their resolutions to gratify and support him. And yet, my Lords, it is enquired why the people assert that there is a Sole Minister?
Those who deny, my Lords, that there is a Sole Minister to whom the miscarriages of the government may justly be imputed, may easily persuade themselves to believe that there have been no miscarriages, that all the measures were necessary, and well formed, that there is neither poverty nor oppression, felt in the nation, that our compliance with Blefuscu [France] was no weakness, and that our dread of the treaty of Vinena [Vienna] was not chimerical.
The treaty of Vinena, my Lords, which has been the parent of so many terrors, consultations, embassies, and alliances, is, I find, not yet to be acknowledged what it certainly was, a mere phantom, an empty illusion sent by the arts of the Blefuscudians to terrify our ministry. His late majesty's testimony is cited to prove that stipulations were really entered into by the two powers allied by that treaty, to destroy our trade, subvert our constitution, and set a new emperor upon the throne, without content of the nation.
Such improbabilities, my Lords, ought indeed to be proved by a high testimony, by a testimony which no man shall dare to question or contradict; for as any man is at liberty to consult his reason, it will always remonstrate to him, that it no less absurd to impute the folly of designing impossibilities to any powers not remarkable for weak counsels, than unjust to suspect princes of intending injuries, to which they have not been incited by any provocation.
But, my Lords, notwithstanding the solemnity with which his late majesty has been introduced, his testimony can prove nothing more than that he believed the treaty to be such as he represents, that he had been deceived into false apprehensions and unnecessary cautions by his own ministers, as they had been imposed upon by the agents of Blefuscu.
This is all, my Lords, that can be collected from the imperial speech, and to infer more from it is to suppose that the emperor was himself a party in the designs formed against him; for if he was not himself engaged into this treaty, he could only be informed, by another, of the stipulations, and could only report what he had been told upon the credit of the informer, a man, necessarily of very little credit. Thus, my Lords, all the evidence of his majesty vanishes into nothing more than the whisper of a spy.
But as great stress ought doubtless to be laid upon intelligence which the nation is believed to purchase at a very high price, let it be enquired, what proofs those have who dare to suspect the sagacity of our ministers, to put in the balance against their intelligence, and it will be discovered, my Lords, that they have a testimony no less than that of the Allemanuan [German] emperor himself, who could not be mistaken, with regard to the meaning of the treaty concluded at his own court, and to whom it will not be very decent to deny such a degree of veracity as may set him at least on the level with a traytor and a hireling.
If the treaty of Vinena was an imposture, most of our misfortunes are evidently produced by the weakness of the minister; but even supposing it real, as it was only a formidable mockery, an idle threat that could never be executed, it was not necessary, that in order to obviate it, we should give ourselves implicitly into the hands of Blefuscu.
It was not necessary, my Lords, that we should suffer from them first to elude the treaty of Ultralt [Utrecht], by making a port at Mardyke, and then directly and openly violate it by repairing Dunkirk. That this latter is a port contrary to the treaty, the bills of entry at the Custom-house daily shew; and as the customs are particularly under the inspection of the commissioners of the treasury, this man cannot plead ignorance of the infraction, were no information given him by other means. If it should now be asked, my Lords, what in my opinion ought to be done, I cannot advise that we should attempt to demolish it by force, or draw upon ourselves the whole power of Blefuscu by a declaration of war, but what it may be difficult now to remedy, it was once easy to obviate.
Had we shewn the same contempt of the Blefuscudian power with our ancestors, and the same steadiness in our councils, the same firmness in our alliances, and the same spirit in our treaties, that court would never have ventured to break a known solemn stipulation, to have exasperated a brave and determined adversary by flagrant injustice, and to have exposed themselves to the hazard of a war, in which it would have been the interest of every prince of Degulia [Europe] who regarded justice or posterity to wish their defeat.
Now they see us engaged in a war, my Lords, they may be animated to a more daring contempt of the faith of treaties, and insult us with yet greater confidence of success, as they cannot but remark the cowardice or the ignorance with which we have hitherto carried on this war. They cannot but onserve that either our minister means in reality to make war rather upon the Lilliputians [British] than the Iberians [Spaniards], or that he is totally unacquainted with military affairs, and too vain to ask the opinion of others, who have greater knowledge than himself.
Nothing, my Lords, is more apparent than that the minister was forced by the continual clamours of the nation to declare war, contrary to his own inclination, and that he always affected to charge it upon others, and to exempt himself from the imputation of it. It is therefore probable that he has not acted on this occasions so wisely as even his own experience and penetration might, if they were honestly employed, enable him to act, and that he has suffered our counsels to be embarrassed, that he sees with great tranquillity those suffering by the war, at whose request it was begun, and imagines it a proof of the excellence of his own scheme, that those who forced him to break it, may in time repent of their importunities.
For that in the management of war, my Lords, no regard has been had either to the advantages which the course of our trade inevitably gives to our enemies, or to the weakness to which the extent of their dominions necessarily subjects them, that neither the interest of the merchant has been consulted, nor the ease of the nation in general regarded, that the treasure of the publick has been squandered, and that our military preparations have intimidated no nation but our own, is evident beyond contradiction.
It is well known, my Lords, to every man but the minister, that we have nothing to fear from either the fleets or the armies of the Iberians, that they cannot invade us except in Columbia, and that they can only molest us by intercepting our traders. This they can only effect by means of their privateers, whose vessels being light and active may be easily fitted out, nimbly seize their prey, and speedily retire.
The experience of the last Blefuscudian war, my Lords, might have taught us how much we have to fear from the activity of men incited by prospects of private gain, and equipped with that care and vigilance, which, however omitted in national affairs, the interest of particular men never fails to dictate. It is well known, my Lords, how much we lost amidst our victories and triumphs, and how small security the merchants received from our magnificent navies, and celebrated commanders. It was therefore surely the part of wise men, not to miscarry twice by the same omission, when they had an opportunity to supply it.
I need not inform your Lordships of what every reader of news papers can tell, and which common sense must easily discover, that privateers are only to be suppressed by ships of the same kind with their own, which may scour the seas with rapidity, persue them into shallow water, where great ships cannot attack them, seize them as they leave the harbours, or destroy them upon their own coasts.
That this is in its own nature at once obvious to be contrived, and easy to be done, must appear upon the bare mention of it, and yet that it has been either treacherously neglected, or ignorantly omitted, the accounts of every day have long informed us. Not a week passes in which our ships are not seized, and our sailors carried into a state of slavery. Nor does this only happen on the wide ocean which is too spacious to be garrisoned, or upon our enemies coasts where they may have sometimes insuperable advantages, but on our own shores, within sight of our harbours, and in those seas of which we vainly stile our nation the soveriegn.
Who is there, my Lords, whose indignation is not raised at such ignominy? who is there by whom such negligence will not be resented? It cannot be alleged that we had not time to make better preparations; we had expected war long before we declared it, and if the minister was the only man by whom it was not expected, it will make another head of accusation.
Nor was his disregard of our dominions less flagrant than that of our trade, it was publickly declared by Don Geraldino, that his master would never give up his claim to be part of our Columbian colonies, which yet were neither forfeited on the frontiers, nor supplied with arms, nor enabled to oppose an enemy, nor protected against him.
One man there is, my Lords, whose natural generosity, contempt of danger, and regard for the public, prompted him to obviate the designs of the Iberians, and to attack them in their own territories, a man whom by long acquaintance, I can confidently affirm to have been equal to his undertaking, and to have learned the art of war by a regular education, who yet miscarried in his design, only for want of supplies necessary to a possibility of success.
Nor is there, my Lords, much probability that the forces sent lately to Venron [Admiral Vernon] will be more successful, for this is not a war to be carried on by boys; the state of the enemies dominions is such, partly by situation, and partly by the neglect of that man whose conduct we are examining, that to attack them with any prospect of advantage, will require the judgment of an experienced commander, of one who had learned his trade, not in Hyde Park, but in the field of battle, of one that has been accustomed to sudden exigencies, and unsuspected difficulties, and has learned cautiously to form, and readily to vary his schemes.
An officer, my Lords, an officer qualified to invade kingdoms is not formed by blustering in his quarters, by drinking on birth-nights, or dancing at assemblies; nor even by the more important services of regulating elections, and suppressing those insurrections which are produced by the decay of our manufactures. Many gallant colonels have led out their forces against women and children with the exactest order, and scattered terror over numerous bodies of colliers and weavers, who would find difficulties not very easily surmountable, were they to force a pass, or storm a fortress.
But, my Lords, those whom we have destined for the conquest of Columbia, have not even flushed their arms with such services, nor have learned what is most necessary to be learned, the habit of obedience; they are only such as the late frost hindered from the exercise of their trades, and forced to seek for bread in the service; they have scarcely had time to learn the common motions of exercise, or distinguish the words of command.
Nor are their officers, my Lords, extremely well qualified to supply those defects, and establish discipline and order in a body of new-raised forces; for they are absolutely strangers to service, and taken from school to receive a commission, or if transplanted from other regiments, have had time only to learn the art of dress. We have sent soldiers undisciplined, and officers unable to instruct them, and sit in expectation of conquests to be made by one boy acting under the direction of another.
To their commander in chief, my Lords, I object nothing but his inexperience, which is by no means to be imputed to his negligence, but his want of opportunities; tho' of the rest surely it may be said that they are such a swarm as were never before sent out on military designs, and in my opinion, to the other equipments, the government should have added provisions for women to nurse them.
Had my knowledge of war, my Lords, been thought sufficient to have qualified my for the chief command in this expedition, or had my advice been asked with regard to the conduct of it, I should willingly have assisted my country with my person or my counsels; but, my Lords, this man who engrosses all authority, seems likewise to believe that he is in possession of all knowledge, and that he is equally capable, as he is equally willing, to usurp the supreme and uncontroulable direction both of civil and military affairs.
Why new forces were raised, my Lords, is very easy to judge; new forces required new commissions, and new commissions produced new dependencies, which might be of use to the minister at the approaching election; but why the new-raised troops were sent on this expedition rather than those which had been longer disciplined, it is very difficult to assign a reason, unless it was considered that some who had commands in them had likewise seats in the senate, and the minister was too grateful to expose his friends to danger, and too prudent to hazard the loss of a single vote. Besides the commander in chief, there is but one senator in the expedition, and my Lords, he is one of too great integrity to be corrupted, and tho' sensible of the weakness of the troops, too brave to quit his post. How much our country may suffer by such absurd conduct, I need not explain to your Lordships; it may easily be conceived how much one defeat may dispirit the nation, and to what attempts one victory may excite our enemies, those enemies, whom under a steady and wise administration, we should terrify into submission, even without an army.
I cannot forbear to remark on this occasion, how much the ignorance of this man has exposed a very important part of our foreign dominions to the attempts of the Iberians. Grablitra [Gibralta], my Lords, is well known to be situated, as to be naturally in very little danger of an attack from the land, and to command the country to a great distance; but these natural advantages are now taken away, or greatly lessened by new fortifications, erected within much less than gun-shot of the place, erected in the sight of the garrison, and while one of our admirals was cruizing upon the coast.
The pretence, my Lords, upon which they were erected, was, that though Grablitra was granted to Lilliput, yet there was not district appendent to it, nor did the Lilliputian authority extend beyond the walls of the town: this poor excuse did the chicanery of the Iberians invent, and with this, my Lords, was our minister contented, either not knowing or not appearing to know what, I hope, the children whom we have dispatched to Columbia, have been taught, and what no man versed in national affairs can be ignorant of without a crime, that when a fortress is yielded to another nation, the treaty always virtually includes, even without mentioning it, an extent of land as far as the guns of the fortification can reach.
Whether this man, my Lords, was so ignorant as to be deceived thus grosly, or so abandoned as willingly to deceive his country, he is equally unqualified to support the office of first minister, and almost equally deserves to be prosecuted by the indignation and justice of this assembly in the severest manner; for how great must be his wickedness who undertakes a charge above his abilities, when his country may be probably ruined by his errors?
Your Lordships cannot but observe, that I make use rather of the term minister than that of the administration, which others are so desirous to substitute in its place, either to elude all enquiry into the management of our affairs, or to cover their own shameful dependance.
Administration, my Lords, appears to me a term without a meaning, a wild indeterminate word, of which none can tell whom it implies, or how widely it may extend; a charge against the administration may be imagined a general censure of every officer in the whole subordination of government, a general accusation of instruments and agents, of masters and slaves; my charge, my Lords, is against the minister, against that man who is believed by every man in the nation, and known by great numbers, to have the chief, and whenever he pleases to require it, the sole direction of the public measures, he, to whom all the other ministers owe their elevation and by whose smile they hold the power, their salaries, and their dignity.
That this appellation is not without sufficient reason bestowed upon that man, I have already proved to your Lordships, and as it has already been made appear that common fame is a sufficient ground of accusation, it will easily be shewn that this man has a just claim to the title of minister, for if any man be told of an accusation of the minister, he will not ask the name of the person accused.
But there is in the motion one title conferred upon him, to which he has no pretensions; for there is no law for stiling him the first commissioner of the treasury. The commissioners, my Lords, who discharge in a collective capacity the office of the Lord High Treasurer, are constituted by the same patent, invested with equal power and equal dignity, and I know not why this man should be exalted to any superiority over his associates.
If we take, my Lords, a review of our affairs, and examine the state of the nation in all its relations and all its circumstances, we cannot surely conceive that we are in a state of prosperity, unless discontent at home, and scorn abroad, the neglect of our allies, and insolence of our enemies, the decay of trade, and multitude of our imposts, are to be considered as proofs of a prosperous and flourishing nation.
Will it be alleged, my Lords, has this man one friend adventurous enough to assert in open day, that the people are not starving by thousands, and murmuring by millions, that universal misery does not overspread the nation, and that this horrid series of calamities is not universally among all conditions imputed to the conduct of this man?
That great evils are felt, my Lords, no Lilliputian, I am certain, who converses promiscuously with his countrymen, will attempt to dispute, and until some other cause more proportioned to see the effect, shall be assigned, I shall join with the public in their opinion, and while I think this man the author of our miseries, shall conclude it necessary to comply with the motion.
Though I very readily admit, that crimes ought to be punished, that a treacherous administration of public affairs is in a very high degree criminal, that even ignorance, where it is the consequence of neglect, deserves the severest animadversion, and that it is the privilege and duty of this house to watch over the state of the nation, and inform his majesty of any errors committed by his ministers; yet I am far from being convinced either of the justice or necessity of the motion now under consideration.
The most flagrant and invidious part of the charge against the right honourable gentleman appears to consist in this, that he has engrossed an exorbitant degree of power, and usurped an unlimited influence over the whole system of government, that he disposes of all honours and preferments, and that he is not only first but sole minister.
But of this boundless usurpation, my Lords, what proof has been laid before you? what beyond loud exaggerations, pompous rhetoric, and specious appeals to common fame; common fame, which at least may sometimes err, and which, tho' it may afford sufficient ground for suspicion and enquiry, was never yet admitted as conclusive evidence, where the immediate necessities of the public did not preclude the common forms of examination; where the power of the offender did not make it dangerous to attack him by a legal prosecution, or where the conduct of the accuser did not plainly discover that they were more eager of blood than of justice, and more sollicitous to destroy than to convict.
I hope none of these circumstances, my Lords, can at present obstruct a candid and deliberate enquiry; with regard to the public I am not able to discover any pressing exigences that demand a more compendious method of proceeding, than the established laws of the land, and the wisdom of our ancestors have prescribed. I know not any calamity that will be aggravated, nor any danger that will become more formidable, by suffering this question to be legally tryed.
Nor is there, my Lords, in the circumstances of the person accused, any thing that can incite us to a hasty process, for if what is alleged by the noble Lords is not exaggerated beyond the truth, if he is universally detested by the whole nation, and loaded with execrations by the public voice, if he is considered as the author of all our miseries, and the source of all our corruptions, if he has ruined our trade, and depressed our power, impoverished the people and attempted to inslave them, there is at least no danger of an insurrection in his favour, or any probability that his party will grow stronger by delays. For, my Lords, to find friends in adversity, and assertors in distress is only the prerogative of innocence and virtue.
The gentleman against whom this formidable charge is drawn up, is, I think, not suspected of any intention to have recourse either to force or flight, he has always appeared willing to be tryed by the laws of his country, and to stand an impartial examination, he neither opposes nor eludes enquiry, neither flies from justice, nor defies it.
And yet less, my Lords, can I suspect that those by whom he is accused, act from any motive that may influence them to desire a sentence not supported by evidence, or conformable to truth; or that they can, with the ruin of many man whose crimes are not notorious and flagrant, that they persecute from private malice, or endeavour to exalt themselves by the fall of another.
Let us therefore, my Lords, enquire before we determine, and suffer evidence to precede our sentence. The charge, if it is just, must be by its own nature easily proved, and that no proof is brought, may perhaps be sufficient to make us suspect that it is not just.
For, my Lords, what is the evidence of common fame, which has been so much exalted, and so confidently produced? Does not every man see that on such occasions two questions may be asked, of which perhaps neither can easily be answered, and which yet must both be resolved before common fame can be admitted as a proof of facts.
It is first to be enquired, my Lords, whether the reports of fame are necessarily or even probably true? A question very intricate and diffusive, entangled with a thousand, and involving a thousand distinctions, a question of which it may be said, that a man may very plausibly maintain either side, and of which perhaps after months or years wasted in disputation, no other decision can be obtained than what is obvious at the first view, that they are often true, and often false, and therefore can only be grounds of enquiry, not reasons of determination.
But if it appear, my Lords, that this oracle cannot be deceived, we are then to enquire after another difficulty, we are to enquire what is fame?
Is fame, my Lords, that fame which cannot err, a report that flies on a sudden through a nation, of which no man can discover the original, a sudden blast of rumour, that inflames or intimidates a people, and obtains without authority a general credit? No man versed in history can enquire whether such reports may not deceive. Is fame rather a settled opinion prevailing by degrees, and for some time established? How long then, my Lords, and in what degree must it have been established to obtain undoubted credit, and whence does it commence infallible? If the people are divided in their opinions, as in all public questions it has hitherto happened, fame is, I suppose, the voice of the majority; for if the two parties are equal in their numbers, fame will be equal; then how great must be the majority before it can lay claim to this powerful auxiliary? And how shall that majority be numbered?
These questions, my Lords, may be thought, perhaps with justice, too ludicrous in this place, but in my opinion they contribute to shew the precarious and uncertain nature of the evidence so much confided in.
Common fame, my Lords, is to every man only what he himself commonly hears; and it is in the power of any man's acquaintance to vitiate the evidence which they report, and to stun him with clamours, and terrify him with apprehensions of miseries never felt, and dangers invisible. But without such a combination, we are to remember that most men associate with those of their own opinions, and that the rank of those that compose this assembly naturally disposes such as are admitted to their company, to relate, or to invent such reports as may be favourably received, so that what appears to one Lord the general voice of common fame, may, by another be thought only the murmur of a petty faction, despicable with regard to their numbers, and detestable if we consider their principles.
So difficult is it, my Lords, to form any solid judgment concerning the extent and prevalence of any particular report, and the degree of credit to be given to it. The industry of a party may supply the defect of numbers, and some concurrent circumstances may contribute to give credit to a false report.
But, my Lords, we are ourselves appealed to as witnesses of the truth of facts which prove him to be sole minister, of the number of his dependents, the advancement of his friends, the disappointment of his opponents, and the declarations made by his followers of adherence and fidelity.
If it should be granted, my Lords, that there is nothing in these representations exaggerated beyond the truth, and that nothing is represented in an improper light, what consequence can we draw, but that the followers of this gentleman, make use of those arts which have always been practised by the candidates of preferment, that they endeavour to gain their patron's smile by flattery and panegyric, and to keep it by assiduity and an appearance of gratitude. And if such applications exalted any man to the authority and title of first minister, the nation has never in my memory been without some mane in that station, for there is always some one to whom ambition and avarice have paid their court, and whose regards have been purchased at the expence of truth.
Nor is it to be wondered at, my Lords, that posts of honour and profit have been bestowed upon the friends of the administration; for who enriches or exalts his enemies? Who will encrease the influence that is to be exerted against him, or add strength to the blow that is levelled at himself?
That the right honourable gentleman, is the only disposer of honours, has never yet appeared; it is not pretended, my Lords, that he distributes them without the content of his Majesty, nor even that his recommendation is absolutely necessary to the success of any man's applications. If he has gained more of his Majesty's confidence and esteem than any other of his servants, he has done only what every man endeavours, and what therefore is not to be imputed to him as a crime.
It is impossible, my Lords, that kings, like other men, should not have particular motions of inclination or dislike; it is possible, that they may fix their affection upon objects not in the highest degree worthy of their regard, and overlook others that may boast of greater excellencies and more shining merit, but this is not to be supposed without proof, and the regard of the King, as of any other man, is one argument of desert more than he can produce, who has endeavoured after it without effect.
This imputed usurpation must be proved upon him either by his own confession, or by the evidence of others; and it has not been yet pretended that he assumes the title of Prime Minister, or indeed, that it is aplied to him by any but his enemies, and it may easily be conceived how weakly the most uncorrupted innocence would be supported, if all the aspersions of its enemies were to be received as proofs against it.
Nor does it appear, my Lords, that any other evidence can be brought against him on this head, or that any man will stand forth and affirm that either he has been injured himself by this gentleman, or known any injury done by him to another by the exertion of authority with which he was not lawfully invested; such evidence, my Lords, the laws of our country require to be produced before any man can be punished, censured, or disgraced. No man is obliged to prove his innocence, but may call upon his prosecutors to support their accusation, and why this honourable gentleman, whatever may have been his conduct, should be treated in a different manner than any other criminal, I am by no means able to discover.
Though there has been no evidence offered of his guilt, your Lordships have heard an attestation of his innocence, from the noble Nardac [Duke of Newcastle] who spoke first against the motion, of whom it cannot be suspected that he would, voluntarily, engage to answer for measures which he persued in blind compliance with the direction of another. The same testimony, my Lords, I can produce, and affirm with equal truth that in the administration of my province, I am independent, and left entirely to the decisions of my own judgment.
In every government, my Lords, as in every family, some either by accident, or a natural industry, or a superior capacity, or some other cause, will be engaged in more business, and treated with more confidence than others; but if every man is willing to answer for the conduct of his own province, there is all the security against corruption that can possibly be obtained; for if every man's regard to his own safety and reputation will prevent him from betraying his trust or abusing his opwer, much more will it incite him to prevent any misconduct in another for which he must himself be accountable. Men are usually sufficiently tenacious of power, and ready to vindicate their separate rights, when nothing but their pride is affected by the usurpation, but surely no man will patiently suffer his province to be invaded when he may himself be ruined by the conduct of the invader.
Thus, my Lords, it appears to me to be not only without proof, but without probability, and the first minister, can in my opinion be nothing more than a formidable illusion, which when one man thinks he has seen it, he shows to another as easily frighted as himself, who joins with him in spreading terror and resentment over the nation, till at last the panic becomes general, and what was at first only whispered by malice or prejudice in the ears of ignorance or credulity, is adopted by common fame, and echoed back from the people to the senate.
I have hitherto, my Lords, confined myself to the consideration of one single article of this complicated charge, because it appears to me to be the only part of it necessary to be examined; for if once it be acknowledged that the affairs of the nation are transacted, not by the minister but by the administration, by the council in which every man that sits there has an equal voice and equal authority, the blame or praise of all the measures must be transferred from him to the council, and every man that has advised or concurred in them, will deserve the same censure or the same applause; as it is unjust to punish one man for the crimes of another, it is unjust to chuse one man out for punishment from among many others equally guilty.
But I doubt not, my Lords, when all those measures are equitably considered, there will be no punishment to be dreaded, because neither negligence nor treachery will be discovered. For, my Lords, with regard to the treaty of Vinena, let us suppose our ministers deceived by ignorant or corrupt intelligence, let us admit, that they were cautious where there was no danger, and neglected some opportunities, which, if they had received better information, they might have improved to the advantage and security of the nation. What have they done even under all these disadvantageous suppositions, but followed the lights which they judged most clear, and by which they hoped to be conducted to honour and to safety?
Policy, my Lords, is very different from prescience, the utmost that can be attained is probability, and that for the most part in a low degree. It is observed that no man is wise but as you take into consideration, the weakness of another; a maxim more eminently true of political wisdom, which consists, very often, only in discovering designs which could never be known but by the folly or treachery of those to whom they are trusted. If our enemies were wise enough to keep their own secrets, neither our ministers nor our patriots would be able to know or prevent their designs, nor would it be any reproach to their sagacity, that they did not know what nobody would tell them.
If therefore, my Lords, the princes, whose interest is contrary to our own, have been at any time served by honest and wise men, there was a time when our ministers could act only by conjecture, and might be mistaken without a crime.
If it was always in our power to penetrate into the intentions of our enemies, they must necessarily have the same means of making themselves acquainted with our projects, and yet when any of them are discovered we think it just to impute it to the negligence of the minister.
Thus, my Lords, every man is inclined to judge with prejudice and partiality. When we suffer by the prudence of our enemies, we charge our ministers with want of vigilance, without considering, that very often, nothing is necessary to elude the most penetrating sagacity, but obstinate silence.
If we enquire into the transactions of past times shall we find any man, however renowned for his abilities, not sometimes imposed upon by falshoods, and sometimes betrayed by his own reasonings into measures destructive of the purposes which he endeavoured to promote? There is no man of whose penetration higher ideas have been justly formed, or who gave more frequent proofs of an uncommon penetration into futurity than Clewmro [Cromwell], and yet succeeding times have sufficiently discovered the weakness of aggrandizing Blefuscu by depressing Iberia, and we wonder now how so much policy could fall into so gross an error, as not rather to suffer power to remain in the distant enemy, than transfer it to another equally divided from us by interest, and far more formidable by the situation of his dominions.
Clewmro, my Lords, suffered himself to be hurried away by the near prospect of present advantages, and the apprehension of present dangers; and every other man has been, in the same manner, sometimes deluded into a preference of a smaller present advantage, to a greater which was far more remote.
Let it not be urged, my Lords, that politics are advanced since the time of Clewmro, and that errors which might then be committed by the wisest administration, are now gross and reproachful; we are to remember that every part of policy has been equally improved, and that if more methods of discovery have been struck out, there have been likewise more arts invented of eluding it.
When, therefore, we enquire into the conduct, or examine the abilities of a minister, we are not to expect that he should appear never to have been deceived, but that he should never be found to have neglected any proper means of information, nor ever to have willingly given up the interest of his country; but we are not to impute to his weakness what is only to be ascribed to the wisdom of those whom he opposed.
If this plea, my Lords, is reasonable, it will be necessary for those who support this motion, to prove, not only that the treaty of Vinena was never made, but that the falshood of the report either was or might have been known by our ministers, otherwise those who are inclined to retain a favourable opinion of their integrity and abilities, may conclude, that they were either not mistaken, or were led into error by such delusions as would no less easily have imposed on their accusers, and that by exalting their enemies to their stations, they shall not much consult the advantage of their country.
This motion, therefore, my Lords, founded upon no acknowledged, no indisputable facts, nor supported by legal evidence; this motion, which by appealing to common fame, as the ultimate judge of every man's actions, may bring every man's life or fortune into danger; this motion, which condemns without hearing, and decides without examining, I cannot but reject, and hope your Lordships will concur with me.
The state of the question before us has, in my opinion, not been rightly apprehended by the noble Lord who spoke last, nor is the innocence or guilt of the minister the chief question before us, because a minister may possibly mean well, and yet be in some particular circumstances unqualified for his station.
He may not only want the degree of knowledge and ability requisite to make his good intentions effectual, but, my Lords, however skilful, sagacious, or diligent, he may be so unfortunate in some parts of his conduct, as to want the esteem and confidence of the people.
That a very able and honest minister may be misinformed by his intelligence, disappointed by his agents, or baffled by other men of equal capacity and integrity with himself, cannot be controverted, but it must surely be owned likewise, that when this has happened so often, and in cases of such importance, as to deprive him entirely of the regard and affection of the people; when he is reduced to intrench himself behind his privileges, to employ all the influence of the crown for his own security, and make it his daily endeavour to create new dependencies, he ought to be pitied and discarded.
That this is the state of the minister whose removal is desired by the motion, cannot be denied; the exaltation of his adherents to places and preferments, the noble Lord has been so far from questioning, that he has endeavoured to justify it, and has in plain terms enquired, who would have acted otherwise?
Every man, my Lords, would have acted otherwise, whose character had not been blasted by general detestation; every man would have acted otherwise who preferred the publick good to his own continuance in power, and every man has acted otherwise who has distinguished himself as a friend to the publick.
It is the interest of the nation, my Lords, that every office should be filled by that man who is most capable of discharging it, whatever may be his sentiments with regard to the minister; and that his attention should be confined to his employment rather than distracted by various concerns and opposite relations. It is therefore an injury to the public, to thrust a skilful commissioner into the senate, or to embarrass an industrious senator with a post or commission.
Yet, my Lords, that multitudes have obtained places, who have no acquaintance with the duties of their offices, nor any other pretensions to them, than that they have seats in the other house, and that by distinguishing himself in that assembly, any man may most easily obtain the preferments of the crown, is too obvious for controversy.
If the minister, my Lords, has made it necessary to employ none but his adherents and blind followers, this necessity is alone a sufficient proof, how little he confides in his own prudence or integrity, how apprehensive he is of the censure of the senate, and how desirous of continuing his authority, by avoiding it. And surely, my Lords, it is our duty, as well as our right, to address the throne, that a minister should be removed who fears the people, since few men fear without hating, and nothing so much contributes to make any man as enemy to his country, as the consciousness that he is universally abhorred.
But, my Lords, if this is done by him without necessity, if the general preference of his friends is only the consequence of mistaken judgment, or corrupt gratitude, this address is equally necessary, because the effects are equally pernicious.
When a minister suspected of ill intentions is continued in employment, discontent must naturally spread over the nation; and if the end of government be the happiness of the people; if suspicion and jealousy be contrary to a state of happiness; and if this suspicion which generally prevails, this discontent which fills the whole nation, can only be appeased by the removal of the minister, prudence, justice, and the examples of our ancestors, ought to influence us to endeavour that the affairs of the nation may be transferred to such whose greater integrity or wisdom has recommended them to the affection of the people.
In this motion therefore, we need not be supposed to imply that the minister is either ignorant or corrupt, but that he is disliked by the people, disliked to such a degree, my Lords, that it is not safe for his Majesty to employ him.
It is doubtless our duty, my Lords, to guard both the rights of the people, and the prerogatives of the throne, and with equal ardour to remonstrate to his Majesty the distresses of his subjects, and his own danger. We are to hold the balance of the constitution, and neither to suffer the regal power to be overborn by a torrent of popular fury, nor the people to be oppressed by an illegal exertion of authority, or the more insupportable hardships of unreasonable laws.
By this motion, my Lords, the happiness of the people, and the security of his Majesty, are at once consulted, nor can we suppress so general a clamour, without failing equally in our duty to both.
To what, my Lords, is the untimely end of so many kings and emperors to be imputed, but to the cowardice or treachery of their counsellors, of those to whom they trusted that intercourse, which is always to be preserved between a monarch and his people? Were kings honestly informed of the opinions and dispositions of their subjects, they would never, or at least rarely, persist in such measures, as by exasperating the people, tend necessarily to endanger themselves.
It is the happiness of a Lilliputian monarch, that he has a standing and hereditary council, composed of men, who do not owe their advancement to the smiles of caprice, or the intrigues of a court, who are therefore neither under the influence of a false gratitude, nor of a servile dependence, and who may convey to the throne the sentiments of the people, without danger, and without fear. But, my Lords, if we are either too negligent, or too timorous to do our duty, how is the condition of our sovereign more safe, or more happy, than that of an emperor of Korambeck [Turkey], who is often ignorant of any complaints made against the administration, till he hears the people thundering at the gates of his palace.
Let us therefore, my Lords, whatever may be our opinion of the conduct of the minister, inform his Majesty of the discontent of his subjects, since whether it is just or not, the danger is the same, and whenever any danger threatens the emperor, we ought either to enable him to oppose, or caution him to avoid it.
I cannot but observe in this debate, an ambition of popularity, in my opinion not very consistent with the freedom of debate, and the dignity of this assembly, which ought to be influenced by no other motive than the force of reason and truth.
It has been a common method of eluding the efficacy of arguments to charge the opponent with blind adherence to interest, or corrupt compliance with the directions of a court, nor has it been less frequent to prevent enquiries into publick measures, by representing them as the clamours of faction, the murmurs of disobedience and the prelude to rebellion.
So necessary, my Lords, has it been always thought to be uninfluenced in our examinations by dependence or interest, that the most irrefragable reasons have lost the power of conviction by the condition and characters of those by whom they were produced, and so much is it expected from innocence and justice to despise all foreign assistance, and to stand the test of enquiry without asking the support of power, that every man has been concluded guilty that has fled for shelter to the throne.
And surely, my Lords, if that man's suffrage is of little weight who appears determined to subscribe to the dictates of a minister, no greater credit can be assigned to another who professes himself only the echo of the clamours of the populace. If it be a proof of a weak cause, and consciousness of misconduct to apply to the Crown for security and protection, it may be accounted an acknowledgment of the insufficiency of arguments, when the people is called in to second them, and they are only to expect success from the violence of multitudes.
That all government is instituted for the happiness of the people, that their interest ought to be the chief care of the legislature, that their complaints ought patiently to be heard, and their grievances speedily redressed, are truths well known, generally acknowledged, and I hope always predominant in the mind of every lord in this assembly. But, that the people cannot err, that the voice of fame is to be regarded as an oracle, and every murmur of discontent to be pacified by a change of measures, I have never before heard, or heard it only to disregard it.
True tenderness for the people, my Lords, is to consult their advantage, to protect their liberty, and to preserve their virtue; and perhaps examples may be found sufficient to inform us that all these effects are often to be produced by means not generally agreeable to the public.
It is possible, my Lords, for a very small part of the people to form just ideas of the motives of transactions and the tendency of laws. All negociations with foreign powers are necessarily complicated with many different interests, and varied by innumerable circumstances, influenced by sudden exigencies, and defeated by unavoidable accidents. Laws have respect to remote consequences, and involve a multitude of relations which it requires long study to discover. And how difficult it is to judge of political conduct, or legislative proceedings, may be easily discovered by observing how often the most skilful statesmen are mistaken, and how frequently the laws require to be amended.
If then, my Lords, the people judge for themselves on these subjects, they must necessarily determine without knowledge of the questions, and their decisions are then of small authority. If they receive implicitly the dictates of others, and blindly adopt the opinions of those who have gained their favour and esteem, their applauses and complaints are with respect to themselves empty sounds, which they utter as the organs of their leaders. Nor are the desires of the people gratified, when their petitions are granted; nor their grievances overlooked, when their murmurs are neglected.
As it is no reproach to the people, that they cannot be the proper judges of the conduct of the government, so neither are they to be censured when they complain of injuries not real, and tremble at the apprehension of severities unintended. Unjust complaints, my Lords, and unreasonable apprehensions are to be imputed to those who court their regard only to deceive them, and exalt themselves to reputation by rescuing them from grievances that were never felt, and averting dangers that were never near.
He only who makes the happiness of the people his endeavour, loves them with a true affection and a rational tenderness, and he certainly consults their happiness who contributes to still all groundless clamours, and appease all useless apprehensions, who employs his care not only to preserve their quiet and their liberty, but to secure them from the fear of losing it, who not only promotes the means of happiness, but enables them to enjoy it.
Thus it appears, my Lords, that it is possible to be a friend at the same time to the people and the administration, and that no man can more deserve their confidence and applause than he that dissipates their unreasonable terrors, and contributes to reconcile them to a good government.
That most of the clamours against the present government arise from calumnies and misrepresentations, is apparent from the sanction of the senate, which has been given to all the measures that are charged as crimes upon the administration.
That the army is supported by the consent of the senate, that the senate has approved the convention, and that our taxes are all imposed and continued by the senate, cannot be denied. What then is demanded by those that censure the conduct of publick affairs, but that their opinion should be considered as an overbalance to the wisdom of the senate, that no man should be allowed to speak but as they dictate, nor to vote but as they shall influence them by their rhetoric or example?
To repeat the particular topicks of accusation, and recapitulate the arguments which have been produced to confute it, would be a tedious and unnecessary labour; unnecessary because it is well known that they once had the power of convincing this house; and that nothing has since happened to lessen their force, and because many of them now have been already repeated by the noble Lords that have opposed the motion.
To search far backward for past errors, and to take advantage of later discoveries in censuring the conduct of any minister, is in a high degree disingenuous and cruel, it is an art which may be easily practised, of perplexing any question, by connecting distant facts, and entangling one period of time with another.
The only candid method of enquiry is to recur back to the state of affairs, as it then appeared, to consider what was openly declared, and what was kept impenetrably secret, what was discoverable by human sagacity, and what was beyond the reach of the most piercing politician.
With regard to the Hanevro [Hanover] treaty, it is not, my Lords, requisite that we should engage our selves in a very minute examination; for it was not only not transacted by the Rt. Hon. Gentleman whose behaviour is the subject of this debate, but cannot be proved to have been known by him till it was formally ratified. If he afterwards approved it either in the council or the senate, he cannot justly, how destructive or ridiculous soever that treaty may be thought, be charged with more than his share of the guilt, the bare guilt of a single vote.
But there is one accusation yet more malicious, an accusation not only of crimes which this gentleman did not commit, but which have not yet been committed, an accusation formed by prying into futurity, and exaggerating misfortunes which are yet to come, and which may probably be prevented. Well may any man, my Lords, think himself in danger, when he hears himself charged not with high crimes and misdemeanours, not with accumulative treason, but with misconduct of public affairs, past, present, and future.
The only charge against this gentleman, which seems to relate more to him than to any other man engaged in this administration, is, the continuance of the harbour of Dunkrik [Dunkirk], which says the noble nardac he must be acquainted with as commander of the treasury; but if the title of first commissioner be denied, if his authority be but the same with that of his associates, whence comes it, my Lords, that he is more particularly accused than they? Why is his guilt supposed greater if his power is only equal?
But, my Lords, I believe it will appear, that no guilt has been contracted on this account, and that Dunkrik was always intended, even by those that demanded the demolition of it, to continue a harbour for small trading vessels, and that if larger ever arrived from thence, they lay at a distance from the shore, and were loaded by small vessels from the town.
With regard to other affairs, my Lords, they were all transacted by the council, not by his direction, but with his concurrence, and how it is consistent with his justice to single him out for censure, I must desire the noble Lords, to shew who approve the motion.
If the people, my Lords, have been by misrepresentations industriously propagated, exasperated against him, if the general voice of the nation condemns him, we ought more cautiously to examine his conduct, lest we should add strength to prejudice too powerful already, and instead of reforming the errors, and regulating the heat of the people, inflame their discontent and propagate sedition.
The utmost claim of the people is to be admitted as accusers, and sometimes as evidence, but they have no right to sit as judges, and to make us the executioners of their sentence; and as this gentleman has yet been only condemned by those who have not the opportunities of examining his conduct, nor the right of judging him, I cannot agree to give him up to punishment.
Though I do not conceive the people infallible, yet I believe that in questions like this they are seldom in the wrong, for this is a question not of argument but of fact; of fact discoverable, not by long deductions and accurate ratiocinations, but by the common powers of seeing and feeling.
That it is difficult to know the motives of negociations, and the effects of laws, and that it requires long study and intense meditation to discover remote consequences is undeniably true. And with regard to the people in general, it cannot be denied, that neither their education qualifies them, nor their employments allow them to be much versed in such enquiries.
But, my Lords, to refer effects to their proper causes, and to observe when consequences break forth, from whence they proceed, is no such arduous task. The people of the lowest class may easily feel that they are more miserable this year than the last, and may enquire and discover the reason of the aggravation of their misery, they may know that the army is increased, or our trade diminished, that the taxes are heavier, and penal laws become more grievous.
Nor is it less easy for them to discover that these calamities are not brought upon them by the immediate hand of heaven, or the irresistible force of natural causes; that their towns are not ruined by an invasion, nor their trade confined by a pestilence; they may then easily collect that they are only unhappy by the misconduct of their governors, that they may assign their infelicity to that cause, as the only remaining cause that is adequate to the effect.
If it be granted, my Lords, that they may be mistaken in their reasoning, it must be owned that they are not mistaken without probabilities on their side; it is probable that the ministry must injure the public interest when it decays without any other visible cause, it is still more probable, when it appears that among those whose station enables them to enter into national enquiries, every man imputes their calamities to the minister, who is not visibly dependent on his favour. It becomes more probable yet when it appears that it is the great business of the minister to multiply dependencies, to lift accomplices, and to corrupt his judges.
At least, my Lords, if it be granted, which surely cannot be denied, that the people may be sensible of their own miseries, it is their part to declare their sufferings, and to apply to this house for relief, and it is our business to discover the authors of them, and bring them to punishment.
That the people are very loud and importunate in their complaints, is daily evident, nor is it less apparent that their complaints are just; if therefore their miseries must have an author, let the defenders of this gentleman point out the man whom they may more properly accuse.
But, my Lords, nothing is more evident, than that the crimes and the criminal are equally known, that there is one man predominant in his majesty's councils, and that it has long been the practice of that man, at once to oppress and ridicule the people, to plunder them, and set them at defiance.
Nothing is more known than that this man pretends to a superior knowledge, and exerts a superior power in the management of the public revenues, and that they have been so ill managed for many years, that the expences of peace have been almost equal to those of a most vigorous and extensive war.
Nothing is more probable than that most of the foreign negociations are conducted by his direction, nor more certain than that they have generally tended only to make us contemptible.
That the excise was projected in his own head, that it was recommended by him upon his own conviction, and pressed upon the legislature by his influence, cannot be questioned; and if this were his only crime, if this were the only scheme of oppression that ever he planned out, it is such a declaration of war upon the public liberty, such an attack of our natural and constitutional rights as was never perhaps pardoned by any nation.
Nor is it less notorious that the late infamous convention was transacted by one of his own dependents, that he palliated or concealed the losses of our merchants, that he opposed the declaration of war, and has since obstructed its operations.
On this occasion, my Lords, it may be useful to remark the apparent partiality of this gentleman's vindicators, who declare that measures are not to be censured as imprudent, only because they are unsuccessful, and yet when other instances of his conduct fall under our examination, think it a sufficient defence to exclaim against the unreasonableness of judging before the event.
To deny that in the conduct both of civil and military affairs he has obtained, I know not by what means, an authority superior to that of any other man, an authority irresistible, uncontroulable, and regal, is to oppose not only common fame, but daily experience. If as Commissioner of the Treasury he has no more power than any of his associates, whence is it, that to oppose or censure him, to doubt of his infallibility, to suspect his integrity, or to obstruct his influence, is a crime punished with no lighter penalty than forfeiture of employment, as appears, my Lords, from the late dismission of a gentleman, against whom nothing can be alleged but an obstinate independence, and open disregard of this arbitrary minister.
But happy would it be, my Lords, for this nation, if he endeavoured not to extend his authority beyond the treasury or the court; if he would content himself with tyrannizing over those whose acceptance of salaries and preferments has already subjected them to his command, without attempting to influence elections, or to direct the members of the other house.
How much the influence of the crown has operated upon all public councils since the advancement of this gentleman, how zealously it has been supported, and how industriously extended, is unnecessary to explain, since what is seen or felt by almost every man in the kingdom, cannot reasonably be supposed unknown to your Lordships.
Nothing can be more contrary to the true notion of the Lilliputian constitution, than to imagine, that by such measures his Majesty's real interest is advanced. The true interest, my Lords, of every monarch, is to please the people, and the only way of pleasing Lilliputians, is to preserve their liberties, their reputation, and their commerce. Every attempt to extend the power of the crown beyond the limits prescribed by our laws, must in effect make it weaker, by diverting the only source of its strength, the affection of the subjects.
It is, therefore my opinion, my Lords, that we ought to agree to this motion, as a standing memorial, not only of our regard for the nation, but of our adherence to our Sovereign; that his councils may be no longer influenced by that man whose pernicious advice, and unjustifiable conduct, has added new hopes and new strength to his enemies, impoverished and exasperated his subjects, inflamed the discontent of the seditious, and almost alienated the affection of the loyal.
After all the exaggerations of the errors, and all the representations of the male-conduct of the Right Hon. Gentleman, after the most affecting rhetoric, and the most acute enquiries, nothing has appeared of weight sufficient to prevail with me to agree to the present motion if not of an unprecedented, yet of a very extraordinary kind, which may extend in its consequences to futurity, and be perhaps more dangerous to innocence than guilt.
I cannot yet discover any proof sufficient to convict him of having usurped the authority of first minister, or any other power than that accidental influence which every man has, whose address or services have procured him the favour of his Sovereign.
The usurpation, my Lords, of regal power must be made evident by somewhat more than general assertions, must appear from some public act like that of one of the Prelates left Regent of the kingdom by Richard the First, who as soon as the King was gone too far to return, in the first elevations of his heart, began his new authority by imprisoning his colleague.
To charge this gentleman with the dismission of any of his colleagues, can, after the strongest aggravations, rise no higher than to an accusation of hav[ing] advised his Majesty to dismiss him, and even that, my Lords, stands at present unsupported by evidence, nor could it, however uncontestably proved, discover either wickedness or weakness, or shew any other authority than every man would exercise, if he were able to attain it.
If he had discharged this gentleman by his own authority, if he had transacted singly any great affair to the disadvantage of the public, if he had imposed either upon the Emperor or the Senate by false representations, if he had set the laws at defiance, and openly trampled on our constitution, and if by these practices he had exalted himself above the reach of a legal prosecution, it had been worthy of the dignity of this house, to have over-leaped the common boundaries of custom, to have neglected the standing rules of procedure, and to have brought so contemptuous and powerful an offender to a level with the rest of his fellow-subjects, by expeditious and vigorous methods, to have repressed his arrogance, broken his power, and overwhelmed him at once by the resistless weight of an unanimous censure.
But, my Lords, we have in the present case no provocations from crimes either openly avowed, or evidently proved; and certainly no incitement from necessity to exert the power of the house in any extraordinary method of prosecution. We may punish whenever we can convict, and convict whenever we can obtain evidence, let us not therefore condemn any man unheard, nor punish any man uncondemned.
It is easy to charge the most blameless and gentle procedure with injustice and severity, but it is not easy to support such an accusation without confounding measures widely different, and disguising the nature of things with fallacious misrepresentations.
Nothing is more evident than that neither condemnation nor punishment is intended by the motion before us, which is only to remove from power, a man who has no other claim to it than the will of his master, and who, as he had not been injured by never obtaining it, cannot justly complain that it is taken from him.
The motion, my Lords, is so far from inflicting punishment, that it confers rewards, it leaves him in the possession of immense wealth, however accumulated, and enables him to leave that office in security, from which most of his predecessors have been precipitated by national resentment, or senatorial prosecution.
There is no censure, my Lords, made of his conduct, no charge of weakness, or suspicion of dishonesty, nor can any thing be equitably inferred from it, than that in the opinion of this house his Majesty may probably be served by some other person, more to the satisfaction of the Lilliputian nation.
Though it is not just to punish any man without examination, or to censure his conduct merely because it has been unpleasing or unsuccessful; though it is not reasonable that any man should forfeit what he possesses in his own right, without a crime, yet it is just to withdraw favours only to confer them on another more deserving; it is just in any man to withhold his own, only to preserve his right, or obviate an injurious prescription, and it is therefore just to advise such a conduct, whenever it appears necessary to those who have the right of offering advice.
To advise his Majesty, my Lords, is not only our right but our duty, we are not only justifiable in practising, but criminal in neglecting it. That we should declare our apprehensions of any impending danger, and our disapprobation of public misconduct, is expected both by our Sovereign and the people, and let us not by omitting such warnings, lull the nation and our Sovereign into a dangerous security, and from tenderness to one man prolong or encrease the miseries of our country, and endanger or destroy the honour of our Sovereign.
This is surely a day defined by the noble Lords who defend the motion, for the support of paradoxical assertions, for the exercise of their penetration, and ostentation of their rhetoric; they have attempted to maintain the certainty of common fame in opposition to daily observation; the existence of a Sole Minister in contradiction to the strongest evidence; and having by these gradations arrived at the highest degree of controversial temerity, are endeavouring to make it appear, that the public censure of the House of Hurgoes is no punishment.
If we take the liberty, my Lords, of using known words in a new sense, in a meaning reserved to our selves only, it will indeed be difficult to confute, as it will be impossible to understand us; but if punishment be now to be understood as implying the same idea which has hitherto been conveyed by it, it will not be easy to shew that a man thus publickly censured is not severely punished, and, if his crimes are not clearly proved, punished in opposition to law, to reason, and to justice.
It has been hitherto imagined, my Lords, that no punishment is heavier than infamy, and shame has by generous minds been avoided at the hazard of every other misery. That such a censure as is proposed by the motion, must irreparably destroy the reputation of the person against whom it is directed, that it must confirm the reports of his enemie, impair the esteem of his friends, mark him out to all Degulia as unworthy of his Sovereign's favour, and represent him to latest posterity as an enemy to his country, is indisputably certain.
These, my Lords, are the evident consequences of the address moved for by the noble Lord; and if such consequences are not penal, it will be no longer in our power to enforce our laws by sanctions of terror.
To condemn a man unheard is an open and flagrant violation of the first law of justice, but it is still a wider deviation from it to punish a man unaccused; no crime has been charged upon this gentleman proportioned to the penalty proposed by the motion, and the charge that has been produced is destitute of proof.
Let us therefore, my Lords, reverence the great laws of reason and justice, let us preserve our high character and prerogative of judges, without descending to the low province of accusers and executioners, let us so far regard our reputation, our liberty, and our posterity, as to reject the motion.
Several other Hurgoes spoke in this debate, which lasted 11 hours; at length the question was put, and on a division carried in the negative. Content 59, Not content 108.
After the determination of the foregoing question, the Nardac Maurolbrugh [Duke of Marlborough] rose up and spoke as follows.
Though your patience must undoubtedly be wearied by the unusual length of this day's debate, a debate protracted in my opinion, not by the difficulty of the question, but by the obstinacy of prejudice, the ardor of passion, and the desire of victory; yet I doubt not but the regard which this assembly has always paid to the safety and happiness of the state, will incline you to support the fatigue of attention a little longer, and to hear with your usual impartiality, another motion.
The proposition which I am about to lay down, my Lords, is not such as can admit of controversy; it is such a standing principle as was always acknowledged even by those who have deviated from it. Such a known truth as never was denied, though it appears sometimes to have been forgotten.
But, my Lords, as it never can be forgotten without injury to particular persons, and danger to the state in general, it cannot be too frequently recollected, or too firmly established; it ought not only to be tacitly admitted, but publicly declared, since no man's fortune, liberty, or life can be safe, where his judges shall think themselves at liberty to act upon any other principle. I therefore move, "That any attempt to inflict any kind of punishment, on any person without allowing him an opportunity to make his defence, or without any proof of any crime or misdemeanour committed by him, is contrary to natural justice, the fundamental laws of this realm, and the ancient established usage of the senate, and is a high infringement of the liberties of the subject."
He was seconded by the Nardac Dovensh [Duke of Devonshire]
Though the motion made by the noble nardac, is of such a kind, that no opposition can be expected or feared, yet I rise up to second it, lest it should be imagined that what cannot be rejected, is yet unwillingly admitted.
That where this maxim is not allowed and adhered to, rights and liberties are empty sounds, is uncomfortably evident; if this principle be forsaken, guilt and innocence are equally secure, all caution is vain, and all testimony useless. Caprice will in our courts supply the place of reason, and all evidence must give way to malice, or to favour.
I hope therefore, my Lords, that your regard to justice, to truth, and to your own safety, will influence you to confirm this great and self-evident principle by a standing resolution, that may not only restrain oppression in the present age, but direct the judiciary proceedings of our successors.
The Hurgo Levol [Lord Lovel] rose next, and spoke as follows.
Liberty and justice must always support each other, they can never long flourish apart, every temporary expedient that can be contrived to preserve or enlarge liberty by means arbitrary and oppressive, forms a precedent which may in time be made use of to violate or destroy it. Liberty is in effect suspended, whenever injustice is practised, for what is liberty, my Lords, but the power of doing right without fear, without controul, and without danger.
But, my Lords, if any man may be condemned unheard, if judgment may precede evidence, what safety, or what confidence can integrity afford? It is in vain that any man means well, and acts prudently, it is even in vain that he can prove the justice and prudence of his conduct.
By liberty, my Lords, can never be meant the privilege of doing wrong without being accountable, because liberty is always spoken of as happiness, or one of the means to happiness, and happiness and virtue cannot be separated. The great use of liberty must therefore be to preserve justice from violation, justice the great public virtue, by which a kind of equality is diffused over the whole society, by which wealth is restrained from oppression, and inferiority preserved from servitude.
Liberty, general liberty must imply general justice; for wherever any part of a state can be unjust with impunity, the rest are slaves. That to condemn any man unheard is oppressive and unjust, is beyond controversy demonstrable, and that no such power is claimed by your lordships will, I hope, appear from your resolutions.
To the principle laid down by those noble Lords, I have no objection, and concur with them in hoping that all our proceedings will contribute to establish it; but why it should be confirmed by a formal resolution, why the house should solemnly declare their assent to a maxim which it would be madness to deny, it is beyond my penetration to discover.
Though the noble Lord's position cannot be controverted, yet his motion, if it is designed to imply any censure of the proceedings of this day, may reasonably be rejected, and that some censure is intended, we may conjecture, because, no other reason can be given why it was not made at some other time.
That a censure is intended will, I suppose, not be denied, and that such a censure is unjust must doubtless be the opinion of all those who are supposed to have incurred it, and it will therefore not be wondered that the motion is opposed by them, as indecent and calumnious; late as it is, my Lords, I will not for my part suffer such an indignity without opposition, and shall think my conscience and my honour require, that I should not be overborn by perseverance or by numbers, but that I should, if I cannot convince the noble Lords by argument, of the impropriety of the motion, record my reasons against it, which may perhaps be more candidly received by posterity.
It is not without indignation that I hear a motion so injurious to my own honour, and to that of the noble Lords who have concurred with me in the last debate, nor without contempt that I observed the motion confounded with the positions contained in it, the low subtility of such conduct is no less to be despised than the malice to be abhorred.
Fifty nine Hurgoes are here branded as strangers or enemies to the first principle of judicial equity, for doing what will entitle them to the general applause of every man in the kingdom that has the full possession of his understanding or the free use of his senses, of every man that can distinguish truth or feel oppression.
They have endeavoured to rescue their country from the rapine of pensioners and the tyranny of an army, from perpetual taxes, and useless expences, they have attempted to expose the errors of arrogant ignorance, and to depress the power of greatness founded on corruption and swelling beyond legal restraints.
That for such attempts they are vilified and reproached, is not to be observed without indignation and astonishment; astonishment which nothing could abate but the recollection of the situation of those Lords who have united to promote so unjust a censure.
Let us, my Lords, consider the circumstances of the three noble Lords by whom this motion has been made and supported, let us take a view of their conduct, and consider the visible motives to which it may be ascribed, their places, their dependence------------------
I rise thus abruptly to preserve that order and decency which is essential to public councils, and particularly suitable to the dignity of this assembly, which can only become a scene of tumult and confusion by such methods of debate, and lose that respect which it has hitherto preserved, not only by the justice of its determinations, but by the solemn grandeur of its procedure.
The motion, my Lords, is allowed to contain nothing but what every man avows in speculation, and observes, or ought to observe, in public transactions, and yet those that offer and support it are represented as abettors of oppression, and instruments of tyranny.
It is surely wonderful, my Lords, that those who are sollicitous for the preservation of their own honour, and so diligent to obviate the most remote reflection that may glance upon it, should not remember, that the same delicacy may raise in others the same resentment, when their reputation is openly attacked; and that while they are asserting the right of the minority to an exemption from censure, they shall not allow the greater number, at least an equal claim to the same privilege.
Whether any thing has escaped from me that deserves such severe animadversions, your Lordships must decide. For what I might intend to say, since by the interruption of that noble Lord, I was hindred from proceeding, I hope I shall not be accountable.
Not that I acknowledge myself to have asserted any thing either contrary to law, or to the privileges of the House, or inconsistent with the character of an independent Lord, a character which I shall always endeavour to preserve, and which I will not forfeit for the smiles of a court, the dignity of high employment, or the affluence of a pension.
Nor, my Lords, whenever the necessities of my country require that I should speak my sentiments with freedom, will I be awed into silence and submission, but will set any power at defiance that shall dare to restrain me.
I pretend not, my Lords, to be always in the right, I claim no other merit than that of meaning well, and when I am convinced, after proper examination, that I am engaged on the side of truth, I will trample on that insolence that shall command me to suppress my sentiments.
When I reflect, my Lords, on the distresses of my country, when I observe the security and arrogance of those whom I consider as the authors of the public miseries, I cannot always contain my resentment, I may perhaps sometimes start out into unbecoming transports, and speak in terms not very ceremonious of such abandoned such detestable ——— But as this is, perhaps, not the language of the House, I shall endeavour to repress it, and hope that the bounds of decency have never been so far transgressed by me that I should be exposed to the censure of your Lordships.
The present motion is undoubtedly just, but by no means necessary, or particularly adapted to the present time. It contains a general principle, uncontested, and established. A principle which this assembly has never denied, and from which I know not that it has ever departed.
As there is therefore no particular necessity of confirming it by a new resolution, and as the present time seems less proper than any other, I cannot but declare my opinion, that to resume it, at some other time will be more prudent, than to give the Lords who think their conduct censured, any occasion of resentment or discontent.
The maxim laid down in the present motion, is in itself incontestable, and so far from any inconsistency with the former, that as there was no reason for making, there is, in my opinion, none for opposing it, as it may at any time be made, it may at any time be properly passed. And I hope that our unanimity on this occasion will show that truth how ever unseasonably advanced, will, in this house, be always received.
But, lest the noble Lords who have opposed the motion, should think their honour engaged in continuing the opposition, I take the liberty, my Lords, to move that the previous question be put.
Other Hurgoes spoke on each side; at last the previous question was put by the President, who demanded, 'Is it your Lordships pleasure, that the quoestion be now put? Those Lords who are for it, say Content; Those who are against it say, Not Content.' There was accordingly a cry of both; after which the President declared, 'the contents have it', and some Hurgoes replying, 'The Non Contents must go below the bar;' which is the manner of dividing the House. Those who remained being told in their seats, and those who went out being told at coming in again, there were
Content 81 Not Content 54
So that the resolution moved for passed without a division.
N. B. A debate on the same subject has been published, which neither tells the issue, nor the numbers on the division, nor takes account of the last motion.