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William Cobbett, Selections from Cobbett’s Political Works, vol. 2 [1835]

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William Cobbett, Selections from Cobbett’s Political Works: being a complete abridgement of the 100 volumes which comprise the writings of “Porcupine” and the “Weekly political register.” With notes, historical and explanatory. By John M. Cobbett and James P. Cobbett. (London, Ann Cobbett, 1835). Vol 2.

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Volume 2 of a six volume collection. Vol. 2 contains essays from 1805-1809.

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Table of Contents:

Edition: current; Page: [i]
Edition: current; Page: [ii]

London: Printed by Mills and Son,

Gough-square, Fleet-street.

Edition: current; Page: [iii]


  • Sinking Fund . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Page 2
  • Stipendiary Curates . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 7
  • Same continued . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9
  • Boxing . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11
  • “Perish Commerce” . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 17
  • Fate of the Funds . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 20
  • Same Subject continued . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 29
  • Same Subject continued . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 36
  • Parliamentary Reform . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 42
  • Honours to Mr. Pitt . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 53
  • To the Electors of Honiton, Letter I. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 60
  • To the Electors of Honiton, Letter II. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 79
  • Honiton Election . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 81
  • To the Electors of the City of Westminster, Letter I. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 85
  • To the same, Letter II. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 90
  • To the same, Letter III. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 94
  • To the Right Hon. William Windham, Letter I. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 96
  • To the same, Letter II. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 105
  • To the Electors of the City of Westminster, Letter X. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 115
  • To the same, Letter XI. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 127
  • To the same, Letter XII. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 142
  • To the same, Letter XIII. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 153
  • To the same, Letter XIV. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 171
  • To the same, Letter XV. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 189
  • To the Right Hon. Spencer Perceval, Letter I. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 198
  • To the same, Letter II. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 208
  • To the Electors of the City of Westminster, Letter XIX. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 216
  • Parliamentary Reform. Dinner to Lord Milton . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 220
  • Wrangling Factions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 225
  • To the Electors of the City of Westminster, Letter XX. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 231
  • To the same, Letter XXI. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 238
  • To the same, Letter XXII. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 247
  • To the same, Letter XXIII. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 258
  • To the same, Letter XXIV. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 264
  • To the same, Letter XXV. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 268
  • Irish Insurrection Bill . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 275
  • Same Subject continued . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 279
  • Poor-Laws . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 285
  • To William Roscoe, Esq., Letter I. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 305
  • To the same, Letter II. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 317
  • To the same, Letter III. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 325
  • To the same, Letter IV. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 334 Edition: current; Page: [iv]
  • “Perish Commerce” . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 343
  • Same Subject continued . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 360
  • Same Subject continued . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 370
  • Same Subject continued . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 382
  • Same Subject continued . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 394
  • Same Subject continued . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 395
  • The Poor . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 396
  • Law of Libel . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 402
  • Same Subject continued . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 411
  • “Crim. Con.,” actions for . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 415
  • Libel Law, continued . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 419
  • To the Right Hon. Lord Ellenborough, Chief Justice of the Court of King’s Bench, on the Law of Libel . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 422
  • Spanish Revolution . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 432
  • Austria . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 438
  • Portugal . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 439
  • Spain . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 442
  • Convention in Portugal . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 446
  • Spain . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 454
  • Convention in Portugal . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 456
  • Same Subject continued . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 468
  • Spain . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 479
  • Same Subject continued . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 482
  • Spanish Revolution . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 485
  • Portugal . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 487
  • Spanish Revolution . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 492
  • Same Subject continued . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 494
  • Same Subject continued . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 500
Edition: current; Page: [1]

Selections from Cobbett’s Political Works


I have repeatedly stated, and, I think, proved, that our sinking fund does not at all lessen the national debt; that it has not the least tendency to lessen that debt; and that the words, reduce, redeem, liquidate, &c. &c. as applied to the effects of that fund, are totally misapplied, and are intended to deceive the people, or, which is more likely to be the case, are made use of from the deception under which those who make use of them do themselves labour.—My position is this: that as the national debt is felt by the people only in the interest, which they are annually called upon to provide in taxes, the amount of that interest is the only measure of the magnitude of the debt; and, that, as the operation of the sinking fund has not, and cannot, lessen the amount of the interest, it cannot lessen the magnitude of the debt. We are told, that the Sinking Fund has accumulated to such an extent, that it has already redeemed 70 millions of the debt. But, how has it redeemed it? How can these 70 millions be said to be redeemed, while we have annually to pay interest on them? So long as we have to pay interest upon the whole of the debt, what is it to us, whether we pay it to individuals or into the hands of ministerial Commissioners? What signifies the name that we give to it, whether redeemed or unredeemed debt, so that we are still compelled to pay the interest upon it; so that it lies just as heavy upon us, as it would have done, if no trick, like that of the Sinking Fund, had been devised? This is so evident to every man of common sense, that the people in generel (I may say nine hundred and ninety-nine out of every thousand) have entertained hopes of relief from the Sinking Fund, only because they understood, and firmly believe, that the effect of that fund was gradually to lessen the amount of the interest and expenses, which constitute the annual charge on account of the national debt, and consequently to lessen the taxes raised upon them on account of debt. Into this error they were deluded by the use, or rather abuse of words, which had never before been used but for the purpose of expressing the act of making a real diminution in the quantity of the thing spoken of. When they were told, that the sinking fund was to reduce, to redeem, to liquidate, to clear off, to pay off, &c. &c. such and such portions of the national debt annually, how were they to avoid supposing, that the interest of the debt would go on diminishing with the principal? This they did believe, and this they do, for the far greater part, believe now. They feel, indeed, that the taxes come on them incessantly; but, they ascribe this to any thing rather than the national debt, because most of them, even down to footmen and chambermaids, have something in the funds. So general is the persuasion, that the sinking fund reduces the interest of the debt, that, no longer than about eighteen months ago, the fact was asserted to me Edition: current; Page: [2] by a merchant of considerable eminence, and one who possessed at the time from thirty to forty thousand pounds in funded property. When I insisted, that the sinking fund produced no relief to us; that it did not, and would not, in the least lessen the annual charge upon us on account of interest of the debt; he not only expressed his astonishment, but contested the point with me, till I brought him to my house, and showed him the accounts, where he saw, that, since the year 1791, the annual interest (including charges) of the national debt, had gone on increasing from 10 to 25,000,000l., and that the sinking fund had not tended to check its increase even in the smallest degree; where he was all the stock still continue in existence, just the same as if there had been no sinking fund, only that part of it was said to be held by government commissioners instead of being held by individuals, but that interest must still, he clearly saw, be continued to be paid upon it all, or else the whole of the paper fabric would instantly vanish. Now, if a person like this was so completely deceived, what must we naturally suppose to be the case with the public in general?

In America they pursue a different course. They have measures for reducing their debt; really reducing it; and they are reducing it accordingly. When Mr. Gallatin* tells the Congress that there is an “annual appropriation of 8,000,000 of dollars for the payment of the principal and interest of the public debt,” he tells them, at the same time, that 3,700,000 of those dollars are to be “applied to the redemption of the principal;” that is, to the real redemption of the principal; to the discharge of it; to the paying of the holders for it; to the taking of it up and destroying it. It is truly a shame to employ so many different phrases to express what is equally well expressed in one word, in the word redeem only; but, the fault is not mine; that word, as well as all others of nearly the same signification, have been so abused, their meaning has been so perverted; they are become so equivocal, in consequence of the use that has been made of them with regard to the Pitt sinking fund, that they are, upon subjects of this sort, no longer capable of filling their former places, or of performing their proper functions.

The Americans do, I say, really reduce their national debt. They raise a sum of money in taxes annually, and they redeem with it as much stock as it will purchase. Really redeem it. They buy it, pay for it, take the evidences of it from the individual holders, they throw those evidences in the fire; that which they have so redeemed is no longer in existence, and, of course, they no longer pay interest upon it. This is redeeming; but, can we be said to redeem; we, who continue to pay interest upon all the stock, just the same as if we had no sinking fund?

But, the fact is, that the original intention of our sinking fund, as expressed in the act of parliament, by which it was established, and which was passed in the year 1786, was somewhat similar to the plan pursued in America. Not so good, indeed; but, in principle, bearing some analogy to it. It provided for the redeeming, I mean (good reader, have patience with me!) I mean real redeeming, of a portion of the debt, when the annual income of the fund should amount to 4,000,000l. It did not, like the American plan, raise a sum of money every year, lay it out in stock, destroy the stock, and take from the taxes the amount of the interest before wanted for the said stock. It was not so simple, satisfactory Edition: current; Page: [3] and efficient as this plan; but it afforded some foundation for a rational hope that an alleviation of burdens would arise from it. The commissioners, to whom was to be entrusted the management of it, were to keep it accumulating, till the interest upon it, or, in other words, the amount annually paid by the people on account of it, should amount to 4,000,000l. Then it was to cease accumulating, and its 4,000,000l. a year were thenceforth to be applied to the real redeeming of the debt; that is to say to the purchasing of stock, upon which stock interest was no longer to be paid by the people. The words of the act, as touching this point, are “the dividends” [that is the quarterly interest] “due on such parts of the principal stock, as shall thenceforth be paid off by the said commissioners, shall no longer be issued at the Exchequer, but shall be considered as redeemed by parliament.” Yes; that would have been real redeeming; but, if such an effect was required in order to justify the application of the word redeem, with what propriety do the ministers now apply that word to the effect of the sinking fund, which effect, in consequence of subsequent alterations in the plan of the sinking fund, and particularly the last that was made, never can, according even to the calculations of the ministers themselves, take place till about forty or fifty years hence? What front, then, does it require; what a reliance on the forbearance or ignorance or impotence or servility of others does it require to enable the advocates for the act of 1786 now to speak of, and to state in writing, as stock redeemed, that stock upon which the dividends (that is to say, the interest) are still issued at the Exchequer!

The great alteration, or rather the total abandonment, of the original plan of our sinking fund, took place in the year 1802, and in the act which was passed on the 22nd of June in that year, that is, stat. 42nd of the King, c. 72, wherein the former act, as far as related to the real redeeming provision, was repealed; and the stock purchased, and to be purchased, by the commissioners was made to remain unredeemed, the interest still being to be paid on it, as it now is. The merit of the original plan was questionable. It was, I think, pretty evident, that, unless we began to extinguish at once, as the Americans did, we never could do it afterwards; and, that which might have been foreseen has now proved to be the case. The sums paid quarterly from the Exchequer into the hands of the commissioners, answer no other end than that of keeping up the price of the funds, by creating a demand for stock, a considerable purchase of which the commissioners are, by law, obliged to make every week. So that, in fact, the 6,000,000l. a year, which Mr. Pitt tells us the sinking fund produces, is, so much money raised yearly in taxes, for the purpose of enabling the minister to make such purchases in the stockmarket as shall prevent the commodity from falling to a degree that would blow up the system; upon exactly the same principle that the old woman sent her daughter on before her to market with money to buy up other people’s eggs, in order to keep up the price of those that she was about to bring in her basket.

The difference in the American sinking fund and that of Mr. Pitt is fully shown in their different effects. The American general government began in 1789-90 with a debt of 70,000,000 of dollars. The sum annually required for interests and charges was about 3,300,000 dollars; and such their annual charge on account of debt remains to this day. But, observe, that they have, during the 14 years, made new loans to the amount of about 40,000,000 of dollars; so that, it appears, they have, during the 14 Edition: current; Page: [4] years, actually redeemed extinguished, and destroyed, about 40,000,000l. of debt. They borrowed money for the armament against France; for that against Algiers and Tripoli; and, lately, to the amount of 13,000,000 of dollars for the purchase of Louisiana, for which 13,000,000 they have, of course, value received. Yet, their annual charge on account of debt has been kept down to what it originally was, by means of the sums which they have so judiciously appropriated for reducing the principal of that debt.* But, what have we done? We, too, have been making new loans; but, have we paid off, have we extinguished, have we destroyed any part of the principal of the debt? Not a single pound’s worth of it. We still pay interest upon the whole of the stock that was in existence in 1786, and also upon the whole of the stock that has been created since that time. In 1786, the total capital of the debt was 259 millions, and the annual interest and charges amounted to 9,000,000l. At December, 1803 (for the last year’s account is not yet delivered), the total of the capital was 588,000,000l., and the annual interest and charges amounted to 25,000,000l. Let any man show me, then, if he can, what advantage we derive, or are likely ever to derive, from this sinking fund. What alleviation of burdens it produces, or is likely to produce. Does not every one see the clear difference between the American mode of reducing their debt, and our mode? That the former produces a real reduction, and that the latter produces no reduction at all?

“In time of peace,” some son of credulous hope will exclaim: “it will work miracles in time of peace!” Not at all; for, supposing us never to make another loan, and suppose peace to come to-morrow, the Edition: current; Page: [5] annual sum to be paid by us in taxes, on account of debt, will remain just as great as it now is, as long as the present pernicious system is persevered in.

But, is it not madness to think of discontinuing to make loans, as long as this system lasts? For this year the army, navy, ordnance and contingencies, are estimated at little short of 40,000,000l. Does any one believe, that a peace now made, by Mr. Pitt or by any body else, would much reduce this annual charge? Was the annual charge much reduced during the last peace? Nay, were not loans made both those years? And was not the annual charge on account of debt augmented in the sum of 2,500,000l.? And, is it likely that a peace to diminish much our naval and military expenses can now be made? The whole of the annual income of the nation, war taxes included, does not now, and will not next year, amount to more than 40,000,000l. The charge on account of the national debt alone, will never again, as long as the Pitt system lasts, amount to less than 29,000,000l. a year; leaving 11,000000l. a year for the purpose of defraying the expenses of army, navy, ordnance and contingencies, which, as was before stated, now amount to 40,000,000l. a year, and which none but a madman, or a fool, can hope to see reduced to a sum less than about 25,000,000l. in time of peace, if peace should be made now. Here, then, even upon the peace establishment. are 14,000,000l. a year left to be raised by loans; and, observe, that this is supposing that all the present war taxes, as they are termed, will (as they must) be rendered permanent! Never, therefore, in peace or in war, can we again expect to see a year pass over our heads without a new loan. What must those persons be, then, who console themselves with the hope of the relief to be derived from the operations of the Sinking Fund; that fund, that very fund, which, on a future occasion, I think I shall be able to prove to be the principal cause of our embarrassments and our dangers!

But, if, upon a supposition that peace should be concluded this year, we are doomed to make annual loans, what have we, as to this point, to expect as the consequences of a six years’ longer continuation of the war? Such a continuation would, in all probability, swell the annual charge on account of debt to the amount of 40,000,000l., and, indeed, to a greater amount; that is, to an amount equal to that of the whole present income, war taxes included, leaving the whole of the expenses of the army, navy, &c. &c., to be provided for by loans. Is it possible, I will ask any reasonable man, for the state to exist, for the monarchy to stand, in such a state of things? And, is it, then, not time for men, for public men, for legislators, for ministers, for noblemen, and, above all, for princes, to think of making preparation for the crisis; to consider of the means by which the stroke may, when it comes, be prevented from subverting the throne and burying our liberties beneath its ruins?——He who is disposed to smile at these apprehensions, should, before he gives too much latitude to his mirth, consider seriously, whether there be, or be not, any foundation for my opinions. He should look attentively at the progress of the annual charge on account of debt; he should compare the present amount of that charge with the annual amount of the national income; he should estimate the probable duration of war, the probable yearly expenses of peace, and the inevitable consequences of continuing to make annual loans in peace as well as in war. He should look into the history of public debts; of currencies depreciated; Edition: current; Page: [6] and should ask himself: What have invariably been the consequences of a state of things, in which all contracts become nugatory, or, are binding only to the destruction of right? When he has duly considered these things, let him reflect on the consequences that might arise from an invasion, an insurrection (even if confined to the capital), from combinations of different descriptions of men, drawn together and pushed on in a desperate course by the injuries arising from the disturbance of prices, occasioned by the increase, and consequent degradation, of the currency.* And, let him be well upon his guard against drawing a conclusion favourable to the Sinking Fund, merely because he finds the theory of that project good; always remembering, that that which is perfectly true in figures, may be completely false in fact. Upon a point of this sort, Lord Lauderdale, in his admirable work upon Public Wealth, has in Chapter IV. the following remark: “Lest the reader should be disposed to think, with the generality of mankind, that what is true in figures, and the result of accurate calculation, must be true in practice, and possible in execution; he is desired to reflect, that one penny put out, at our Saviour’s birth, at 5 per centum, compound interest, would, before this time, have increased to a greater sum than could be contained in five hundred millions of earths, all of solid gold; and that this is a calculation as accurate, and as true, as any with which parliament has been furnished in the progress of this delusion.” This chapter is upon the sinking fund. Before his Lordship’s pen the smoky mists, raised by the Aucklands, the George Roses, the Chalmerses, the Vansittarts, the Sinclairs, and other dabblers in political economy, fly in every direction, leaving Mr. Pitt and his project clearly exposed to every man who has common sense and a common degree of discernment.

The theory of the Sinking Fund must be considered separately from the practice. In theory it is true that the national debt is in a course of redemption by means of the Sinking Fund; in practice the same proposition is utterly false.——I shall, on the first convenient occasion, return to this important subject; when I intend to give a succinct history of the Sinking Fund, showing, as I proceed, how its purposes, and the opinions of its advocates, have been continually upon the shift. Particularly I shall endeavour to show the fallacy of the argument, which is built upon the acknowledged and undeniable efficacy of a Sinking Fund (founded upon a theory like that of the Public Sinking Fund) in clearing off the mortgage upon a private estate. Much of the present deception arises from the want of perceiving the fallacy of this comparison; by removing which, therefore, we shall certainly make an advance towards the truth.

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The bill now before parliament relative to the stipends of curates, who shall serve and reside in parishes where the incumbent is lawfully excused from residence, is intended principally to promote residence on the part of such curates; and, it appears to be well calculated to effect its purpose. The bill provides, that, in cases where the living exceeds in annual value 400l. a year, clear of all expenses, the Bishop of the diocess is, by this bill, authorized to assign to the resident curate a stipend not exceeding one-fifth of the annual value of the living, provided, however, that the said one-fifth shall not exceed 250l. a year; that where more than one curate is necessary, the Bishop may assign to them both or altogether a stipend amounting to one-third of the clear annual value of the living; that the Bishop shall have it in his power to direct where the curate or curates shall personally reside, and, if he pleases, he may direct the residence to be in the parsonage house, or, in lieu thereof, assign him 20l. a year for a place of residence, to be paid by the incumbent. These are the principal regulations; and, though it will be seen, that the bill gives great discretionary powers to the Bishop, yet, it is to be hoped that they will be exercised with wisdom and justice, and, no one can deny, I think, that such powers must be lodged somewhere, or that the church will very soon fall under the daily-increasing influence of the sectaries, who are spreading over every part of the country, and whose pernicious progress can be checked only by a vigilant clergy in the church, and, to be vigilant, they must reside.

The objection urged to this bill, that it was unconstitutional, as it would place the property of one man at the disposal of another, appears to me to have arisen from an erroneous idea of the nature of that property which consists of church benefices. The living of a clergyman seems to have been regarded as his private property; but, that it cannot be so, in the usual meaning of those words, must, I think, appear evident to every one, who, for a moment, looks back to the origin of that property. A church was built by some proprietor of the land, and the tithes of a certain district round the church were left by that proprietor to the clergyman who should perform divine service there. This, generally speaking, was the way in which parishes were formed; thus was this sort of property created; and, though the laws regulating its distribution have undergone great alterations, the nature of the property itself can never be changed. We do, indeed, call a living private property, and this appellation is countenanced by the fact of its being a freehold, and conferring the right of voting at elections for members of parliament; but, if we take but a moment to reflect, we always find the living inseparable from the clerical duties of the possessor of the living; that the possession is a conditional one; that the thing possessed cannot be, positively, either sold, or let, or lent, not even for the life of the possessor, no, nor for a single month. The condition upon which a clergyman receives his living is, that he shall perform the duties attached to it, according to the ordinances of the church and the laws of the country; and, as by a disobedience of those ordinances and laws, he may forfeit the living altogether, Edition: current; Page: [8] it follows, of course, that a part of the income of that living may be justly applied to the causing of those duties to be performed, which he either does not or cannot perform himself, and for the performance of which, and that only, the living was given him.

To the same error as to the origin of church property is to be attributed much of the clamour against tithes. The possessors of the land, and more especially the immediate possessors, always speak of the tithe as of something which is theirs, and which the law unjustly takes from them to give to another person. But, by looking back to the origin of this sort of property, they would soon perceive that it is not theirs; that the tithe is a charge entailed upon their land; that they purchased or rented the land with a full knowledge of the existence of such charge; and that, therefore, to withhold any part of that tithe from the clergyman is an act of fraud. They would further perceive (and I heartily wish every poor man in England could be made to perceive it), that they, the possessors and cultivators of the land, are by no means to be regarded as persons who pay the clergy; as persons who maintain the clergy; as persons to whom the clergy are under obligations. They would perceive, that what they render to the clergy they have no right, either legal or moral, to withhold; that they confer no favour; that they give no gift; that the gift comes from those who founded the church and settled the perpetual charge upon the land; and, at this stage of the inquiry both those who grudge the tithes and those who regard livings as private property would perceive, that the gift was not only for the maintenance of the clergyman, but also for the support of religion, and this, not only for the sake of the owners and the renters, but also for the sake of the tillers of the land. In short, they would perceive, that the living of each parish, is a pious bequest from some one or more of our ancestors to all the people, but particularly to the poor, of the parish; which living is to be so disposed of and conferred as to ensure to the people the due performance of religious duties in their church and parish.

This, though a mere glance at the subject, must, I should imagine, produce in the reader’s mind such a train of reflection as will make him reject the principle, upon which chiefly the bill has been opposed.

It must, however, be confessed, that there is a palpable inconsistency in passing a law like this; a law to produce residence; while the practice of bestowing pluralities is every day becoming, in all the channels of preferment, more and more prevalent. We have seen above, whence church property arose, what is its nature, and what is its object; and, can we, then, behold the number of pluralities that exist, can we observe who the pluralists but too frequently are, without being amazed, almost stunned, at the sound of a law for the purpose of inducing to residence?——It has been said, out of doors, at least, that the consequence of the beneficed clergy will be diminished by this law, while the increase to the stipends of the curates will not raise them high enough in society to give them any consequence at all; so that, upon the whole, the clergy will lose consequence. If I thought so, I should disapprove of the bill. But, people very often lose their breath in dispute, for want of settling the meaning of the terms upon which they are disputing. What is meant by the consequence of the clergy? Is it their consequence in the pulpit, or in a ball room? It is certain, that misery, such as some curates are left in, is calculated to bring the clerical character into contempt; but, I can see no advantage that religion is to derive from that sort of consequence, Edition: current; Page: [9] which is to be produced by the incumbent’s being enabled to spend a great deal of money, and that, too, observe, away from his living; while, on the other hand, I can conceive, that an addition to the curate’s stipend will very usefully add to his consequence in the eyes of the people, amongst whom he is to officiate. But, I really am afraid, that this is not the species of consequence that is contemplated. There seems to be something beyond this. Something very like a wish to spend up to the tune of the ’squire, at least; and, if so, the case is desperate; for, the clergy never have been, they never will be, and they never ought to be, able so to spend. This is, besides, quite a new way of acquiring clerical consequence, which was formerly sought for rather by the road of humility, abstinence, and mortification. Without, however, entertaining any wish to drive the clergy back to primitive manners, while their flock, or rather their herd, are wallowing in the luxury of the day, I may venture to assert, that the only useful consequence for the clergy to maintain, or acquire, is to be maintained or acquired, by means very little connected with the possession of large incomes. They will easily perceive the means I allude to you; but, alas! it is so much pleasanter to acquire consequence by riding a fine horse, by lolling in a coach, by strutting at a ball, by melting away at a music meeting, by eating fricandeaus, and by drinking claret, that it would be presumption in the extreme to hope that my hint would not be treated with disdain.


In the preceding article some grammatical errors were made, in an article upon this subject. A few lines from the beginning there occur an instance or two of tautology, and in one place, the word “you” is inserted by mistake after the words, “I allude to.” But, what I am most desirous of correcting is, a part of my statement which a correspondent has noticed as containing an historical inaccuracy. I allude to the description which is given of the origin of church property. As a description of the origin of the whole of the property of the church, it certainly is inaccurate, or, at least, defective; but, the reader must have perceived, that my wish was, for perspicuity as well as for brevity’s sake, to avoid a complicated picture, and yet to select such a single object as should afford a fair and firm foundation for the argument which I was endeavouring to construct.

Since the aforementioned article was written, a passage in Sir William Scott’s speech of the 7th of April, 1802, has occurred to me. The passage I particularly allude to is that describing advowsons as private property. He tells us, that advowsons were “originally, perhaps, mere trusts;” but, that they “are now become lay fees. They are bought and sold, and are lay property, just as much as any other tenements or hereditaments.” That this is the truth there can be no doubt; and, I think, there can be as little doubt of its being a truth greatly to be deplored. For, with submission to Sir William Scott, I presume, that, in describing advowsons as Edition: current; Page: [10] being originally mere trusts, the word “perhaps” might have been omitted, without any risk either to the argument or to historical truth; and, that the buying or selling of presentations to church livings is a shameful abuse, and tends directly to the degradation and ruin of the church, will, I think, be denied by nobody. There may be law for it; but, it is of comparatively modern invention; and, as the rights of the church stand upon an ancient foundation; as that foundation is an excellent one, I am always sorry to see any attempt made to prop them up by modern contrivances, and, especially, when those contrivances have evidently been suggested by the very excess of abuse. When the right of presentation to a living is openly bought and sold, there is little wonder that the living itself is regarded as private property; and, there is no very great wonder, that common men should not clearly perceive the justice of their being obliged to give to the clergyman the tenth part of the produce of their land; seeing that it is hardly possible for them to conceive a reason for property really private being held in such a way. I am convinced, that it is to the prevalence of this notion of the advowsons and livings being private property, and being by the holders considered as such, that the church owes great part of that grudging and ill-will which we find to exist with respect to its claims and its clergy. Do away this notion; tell the people, and let them see by your manner of bestowing benefices and of performing the duties attached to them, that you regard the livings as things held in trust for the convenience, consolation, and salvation of the people; let the people see this; let it be visible to them in the conduct of the patron and the incumbent, and I am much deceived if you will not, even in a short space of time, perceive a returning attachment to the Church, at least, amongst the common people, and particularly people of no possessions in house or land, such as we may properly enough call the poor; all of whom would then perceive the church establishment to be neither more nor less than a means of securing the consolations of religious service to them, who, otherwise, would, from their poverty, be excluded therefrom. They would perceive that they had some interest in the tithes, and it would be difficult for the farmers to persuade them, as they now do, that to rob the parson is doing God service. But, if the patron, by his manner of bestowing the living, and the incumbent, by his manner of performing, or, rather, neglecting his duty, give to the whole the appearance of a concern entirely private, we need not be surprised, that the poor join the farmers in their clamours against tithes.

I will take some other opportunity of endeavouring to point out some of the principal evils which result from considering livings as private property; and, I think I shall be able to show, that, in differing very widely from Sir William Scott as to the indulgences which ought to be granted to the beneficed clergy, I am not, according to my capacity, less than he a friend of the church. I must here observe, however, that it is not to his speech, as a whole, that I object. It is a most valuable performance, and should be read and well considered by every one whose attention is turned to public affairs; for, however slightingly some persons may think of the church establishment altogether, I am persuaded, that, as the state grew up with the church, so it will fall with it, whenever it falls.

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“Whereas divers cruel and barbarous outrages have been, of late, wickedly and wantonly committed in divers parts of England, upon the persons of divers of His Majesty’s subjects, either with an intent to murder, or to maim, disfigure, or disable, or to do other grievous bodily harm to such subjects; and, whereas the provisions, now by law made, for the prevention of such offences, have been found ineffectual for that purpose; he it therefore enacted,” &c. &c.

Preamble to the Act 43 Geo. III. chap. 58, passed 24th June, 1803.

The public attention having been called to a recent, an extraordinary, and somewhat alarming decision of a Coroner’s jury upon a case wherein death was the consequence of a boxing-match, I cannot, consistently with the opinions I have always entertained and frequently expressed upon the subject, omit, upon this occasion, to submit to my readers, some few of those reflections that press upon my mind. The case, here particularly referred to, is, as stated in the Morning Chronicle of the 25th ultimo, as follows: “George Hodgson, Esq., one of the coroners for the County of Middlesex, yesterday evening, at 7 o’clock, resumed his court of inquiry as to the means by which Patrick, otherwise Michael, Lenon came by his death. The Court was again held at the Cannon Tavern, the corner of Carburton-street, Portland-road. The evidence of yesterday was repeated to the jury, and in addition to it they had the testimony of Mr. Charles Lane, of Carburton-street, surgeon, who examined the body of the deceased in company with Mr. Reeve, of Great Portland-street, surgeon. The substance of his evidence was, that they had been employed about three hours in the examination, and that, upon the most minute observation that could possibly be made, it did not appear that there was any injury done to the viscera of the thorax, neither was there any extravasated blood within the head, such as would have been the case if a bloodvessel had burst.—Upon the whole, he conceived that the loss of life must have been occasioned by some injury done to the nervous system, or else by a violent concussion of the brain, which might have arisen either from great exertion or passion or from repeated heavy falls, in which cases there might not be any mark upon the subject from which a professional man could form a decided opinion. But, from the evidence which he had heard of the fight, which was sworn to have taken place, he had no doubt that it was from some circumstance that had taken place during that affray that the deceased came by his death. The coroner repeated his admonitions to parish officers in general, to provide a surgeon in such cases as the present, but added, that it did not appear to him that in the instance then before the jury, there appeared to have been any thing of culpability in the officers. He then acquainted the jury, that in his opinion where there was a premeditated design between the parties to commit a breach of the peace, and where that violation of law terminated fatally to one of them, with the additional consideration that it was a prize fight, in which each had money as an inducement to do an injury to the other; in such case he thought the act of the one man who killed the other, Edition: current; Page: [12] was clearly murder. If they thought otherwise, however, they would say so. But of this the jury had not the least doubt, and immediately gave a verdict of WILFUL MURDER, by Dennis Dillon.”

Such is the account given in the public prints. Upon inquiry I find, further, that the combatants were two journeymen in the same shop, who, having quarrelled at their shop-board, agreed to decide their quarrel by a boxing match. It is said, that the only pecuniary stake, for which they contended, was a bet of half a guinea, which bet, however, did not take place till the moment before the fight began. There was so little of what could be truly called malice, between them, that the deceased had proposed to make up their difference without fighting; and, though this was not accepted, a similar proposition was made by the survivor, during the course of the battle. There was, as, indeed, it clearly appears from the above-stated evidence, no reason to suppose the death to be occasioned by any particular blow, but merely by the effect of exertion, and the breaking of a bloodvessel, as might have happened in a race, a rowing-match, a jumping-match, a cricket-match, or in any other exercise requiring, either constantly or occasionally, any extraordinary exertion of bodily strength. These being the circumstances of the case, one may confidently hope, that this will not be the instance, in which the last blow will be struck at that manly, that generous mode of terminating quarrels between the common people, a mode by which the common people of England have, for ages, been distinguished from those of all other countries. But, though we may safely rely upon the wisdom and justice of the courts, before one of which this unfortunate boxer must finally take his trial, the occasion calls for some remark upon those exertions, which, of late, have been, and which yet are, making in every part of the country, with the obvious, and, in many instances, with the declared, intention, of utterly eradicating the practice of boxing; than which, I am thoroughly persuaded, nothing could be more injurious, whether considered as to its effects in civil life, or in its higher and more important effects on the people regarded as the members of a state, and, of course, always opposed to some other state, and therefore always liable to be called upon to perform the duties of war.

As few persons will be inclined to believe it possible so far to work, by any human laws, such a change in the hearts and minds of men as shall prevent all quarrelling amongst them, it is not necessary to insist, that, in spite of the law and the gospel, in spite of the animadversions of the bench and the admonitions of the pulpit, there will still be practised some mode or other of terminating quarrels, some way in which the party injured, or offended, will seek for satisfaction, without waiting for the operation of the law, even in those cases where the law affords the means whereby satisfaction is to be obtained. If this be not denied, it will remain with the innovating foes of the pugilistic combat to show, that there are other modes of terminating quarrels amongst the common people less offensive to the principles of sound morality, less dangerous in their physical effects, better calculated to produce the restoration of harmony, to shorten the duration, and to prevent the extension, of resentment, together with all the evils attendant upon a long-harboured spirit of revenge. Without proceeding another step, I am confident, that the reflecting reader, though he may, for a moment, have been carried away by the cry of “brutality,” latterly set up against boxing, will, from our thus simply stating what our opponents have to prove, have clearly perceived, that the proof is not within their power. He will have perceived, Edition: current; Page: [13] that, of all the ways in which violence can possibly be committed (and violence of some sort there must be in the obtaining of personal satisfaction), none has in it so little hostility to the principles of our religion, and that none is so seldom fatal to the parties, as boxing. He will have perceived, too, that this mode, by excluding the aid of every thing extraneous, by allowing of no weapons, by leaving nothing to deceit, and very little to art of any sort, is, in most cases, decisive as to the powers of the combatants, and proceeds, besides, upon the generous principle, that, with the battle, ceases for ever the cause whence it arose; a principle of such long and steady growth, so deeply rooted in the hearts of Englishmen, that to attempt the revival, or even to allude to, with apparent resentment, the grounds of a quarrel which has been terminated by the fists, is always regarded as a mark of baseness, whether visible in the conduct of the parties themselves, or in that of their relations, or friends.

Instead, however, of rejoicing at the existence of a practice which is so well calculated to soften the natural effects of the violent passions, there are but too many amongst us, who seem to be perfect enthusiasts in their efforts to extirpate it. Whether, if they could extirpate those passions themselves, or could so far neutralize them as effectually to prevent their producing acts of violence; whether, in that case, they would leave us any thing whereby, and whereby alone, private injustice, domestic oppression, or foreign hostility, is to be resisted, I submit as a question to the doctors in the school of modern philanthropy; but, unless those passions can be extirpated, and until that great work be completed, I think, that every one who listens to reason in preference to an outcry, and who is attached to the substance and not the mere sounds of humanity and gentleness, will readily agree, that, to attempt the extirpation of the practice of boxing is to make an attempt, which, if successful, would lead to the frequent commission of all those sanguinary and horrible acts, by which the common people of but too many other countries are disgraced, and which, amongst the people of England, have, till of late, been almost unknown. In support of this opinion, I may, as to an argument of experience, surely appeal to the law, recently passed, and the preamble of which I have chosen for my Motto;* and, that such a law should have become necessary, I am sure the reader, if he has an English heart in his bosom, will reflect with sorrow and with shame. What is now become of those manners which authorized the honest exultation of so many of our eminent writers, that, from the generous spirit of Englishmen, acts of cruelty were rendered so rare in their country? Our travellers must now hold their tongues; for the world is told, and that too by the legislature itself, who have placed the disgraceful truth upon the records of parliament, that the laws and statutes of the land, heretofore in force, are no longer sufficient to prevent us from committing “cruel and barbarous outrages, with intent to murder, maim, disfigure, or disable, one another.” It is not till “of late,” certainly, that such a law has been necessary, and, it is not till of late, that such a general desire to suppress the practice of boxing has prevailed. The mere coexistence of this desire (and of the measures proceeding from it), with the frequency of the commission of cruel and barbarous acts, may not, indeed, be regarded as a conclusive argument in favour of the practice of boxing; Edition: current; Page: [14] but, no one can deny, that it strongly corroborates the conclusion, which reason, without the aid of experience, has taught us to draw; and, if this conclusion, thus fortified, be legitimate, it follows, of course, that we must either have cuttings and stabbings, or boxing; the former of which, as being perfectly compatible with “a godly conversation,” and with the cant of humanity, it is more than probable that the saints and philanthropists would not hesitate to prefer.

But, it is the political view of this subject which appears to me to be most worthy of attention; the view of the effect which may, by the contemplated change of manners, be produced upon the people, considered as the members of a state, always opposed to some other state; for, much as I abhor cuttings and stabbings, I have, as I hope most others of my countrymen have, a still greater abhorrence of submission to a foreign yoke.—Commerce, Opulence, Luxury, Effeminacy, Cowardice, Slavery: these are the stages of national degradation. We are in the fourth; and, I beg the reader to consider, to look into history, to trace states in their fall, and then say how rapid is the latter part of the progress! Of the symptoms of effeminacy none is so certain as a change from athletic and hardy sports, or exercises, to those requiring less bodily strength, and exposing the persons engaged in them to less bodily suffering; and when this change takes place, be assured that national cowardice is at no great distance, the general admiration of deeds of hardihood having already been considerably lessened. Bravery, as, indeed, the word imports, consists not in a readiness and a capacity to kill or to hurt, but in a readiness and a capacity to venture, and to bear the consequences. As sports or exercises approach nearer and nearer to real combats, the greater, in spite of all we can say, is our admiration of those who therein excel. Belcher has, by the sons of cant, in every class of life, been held up to us as a monster, a perfect ruffian; yet there are very few persons, who would not wish to see Belcher; few from whom marks of admiration have not, at some time, been extorted by his combats; and scarcely a female Saint, perhaps, who would not, in her way to the conventicle, or even during the snuffling there to be heard, take a peep at him from beneath her hood. Can as much be said by any one of those noblemen and gentlemen who have been spending the best years of their lives in dancing by night and playing at cricket by day? The reason is, not that Belcher strikes hard; not that he is strong; not that he is an adept at his art; but that he exposes himself voluntarily to so much danger, and that he bears so many heavy blows. We are apt to laugh at the preference which women openly give to soldiers (including, of course, all men of the military profession), a preference which is always found, too, to be given by young persons of both sexes. But, if we take time to consider, we shall find this partiality to be no fit subject for ridicule or blame. It is a partiality naturally arising from the strongest of all feelings, the love of life. The profession of arms is always the most honourable. All kings and princes are soldierss. Renowned soldiers are never forgotten. We all talk of Alexander the Great and of Julius Cæsar; but very few of us ever heard, or ever thought of inquiring, who were the statesmen of those days. There is not, perhaps, a ploughman in England, who has not a hundred times repeated the names of Drake and of Marlborough; and of the hundreds of thousands of them, there is not one, perhaps, who ever heard, or ever will hear, pronounced, the name of Cecil or of Godolphin. When princes are not renowned military commanders, Edition: current; Page: [15] they themselves, though they leave so many and such various traces behind them, are, amongst the mass of the people, soon forgotten, except as having reigned during the victories of such or such a commander. Literary men have, almost uniformly, spoken with more or less contempt of military fame; but, notwithstanding the singular advantages which they have over soldiers, in perpetuating a knowledge of their famous deeds, within how narrow a sphere, comparatively speaking, is their fame confined! Where is the man, woman, or child, in this kingdom, who has not heard and talked of Nelson? And, does not the reader believe, that there are many parishes, in either of which the knowledge of Pope or of Johnson’s having existed is confined to two or three persons? Such, too, is the nature of military fame, that it obliterates all the folly and all the crimes of the possessor. The discriminating few, the criticisers of character, will, indeed, take these into account; but, with the people in general, and particularly those of the nation, to which the renowned soldier belongs, his deeds of valour only are remembered.

Whence, then, arises this universal suffrage of mankind in favour of military heroes? Why are their deeds prized above those of all other men? Not because their profession demands more skill than that of others; not because it supposes hard study or great labour of any sort; not because it is thought to require an extraordinary degree of genius or of wisdom. Some have ascribed it to the terror inspired by military combats; but, we often admire those heroes most at whose deeds it is impossible we can have felt any terror. Others have ascribed it to the signal and extensive consequences produced in the world by the deeds of military commanders; but, the deeds of statesmen produce much more signal and more extensive consequences; and yet, these latter sink silently to the grave, and rot there, without ever being named by the common people of only the very next generation. To what, therefore, can we ascribe this universal preference of military fame before all other fame, but to that all-pervading and ever-predominating principle, the love of life, and the consequent admiration of those who voluntarily place their lives in the most frequent and most imminent danger? This principle exists, naturally, in the same degree, in every human breast; and, bravery consists, as was before said, simply in the capacity of subduing the love of life so far as knowingly, deliberately, and voluntarily to put it to risk. Hence it is, that we cannot refrain from admiring the hardihood of miners, well-sinkers and the like; but, in them we justly ascribe a good deal to habit, to hard necessity, and, besides, we do not, in their case, see where and what is the immediate cause of their danger; but, in the case of the soldier, we clearly perceive this cause; we see him voluntarily going forth and marching on till he comes within reach of those, who, on their side, are advancing for the sole purpose of taking his life. In proportion as the readiness to hazard life exists in a country, that country is brave, and, consequently, in proportion to its numbers, powerful. How deeply sensible of this does our rival and enemy appear to have been! Amongst all the changes and chances of the French revolution, there has never been a single day, when the rulers were not careful to reward and to honour those who had distinguished themselves by putting their lives to risk. The consequences we have seen, and now but too sensibly feel. We, on the contrary, seem to be using our utmost endeavours to extirpate every habit that tended to prepare the minds of the common people for deeds of military bravery. Am I told, that there are no boxers in France? Edition: current; Page: [16] I answer that there never were; that their exercises and their combats were of another description; I have seen peasants in France turn out into a field, and cut one another with their sabres. But, if you extirpate boxing in England, can you substitute any other mode of exercise or combat in its stead? No: and that is not the object; the professed object is, to cry down and to put an end to, every species of exercise or of combat, in which life shall at all be put to the risk, or, indeed, in which bodily opposition and great bodily strength and a great capacity of bearing bodily pain are acquired.

Not only boxing, but wrestling, quarter-staff, single-stick, bull-baiting, every exercise of the common people, that supposes the possible risk of life or limb, and, of course, that tends to prepare them for deeds of bravery of a higher order, and, by the means of those deeds and of the character and consequence naturally growing out of them, to preserve the independence and the liberties of their country; every such exercise seems to be doomed to extirpation. Even the very animals, for the bravery of which the nation has long been renowned, are to be destroyed, as men would destroy savage and ferocious beasts. Every thing calculated to keep alive the admiration, and even the idea, of hardihood, seems to have become offensive and odious in the sight of but too many of those, whose duty it is to endeavour to arrest, and not to accelerate, the fatal progress of effeminacy. That many of the persons so zealously engaged in supporting the system of effeminacy (for such it may properly be called), are actuated by motives of tenderness for the common people there can be no doubt; but, while I must think, that such persons act without due reflection, I hesitate not to declare my belief, that those with whom the system originated, and who are the principal instigators of all the measures adopted for effecting the extirpation of boxing and other hardy exercises, are actuated by motives far other than those of compassion for the persons who are in the habit of being therein engaged. Let, however, what will be the motives, the consequences are, some of them, already obvious, and others it is by no means difficult to foresee. That cuttings and stabbings are more fatal than boxing, to say nothing of the disgrace, every one must agree; and, it cannot be denied, that the former have increased in proportion as the latter has been driven from amongst the people. But, boxing matches give rise to assemblages of the people; they tend to make the people bold: they produce a communication of notions of hardihood; they serve to remind men of the importance of bodily strength; they, each in its sphere, occasion a transient relaxation from labour; they tend, in short, to keep alive, even amongst the lowest of the people, some idea of independence: whereas, amongst cutters and stabbers and poisoners (for the law above-mentioned includes English poisoners), there is necessarily a rivalship for quietness and secrecy; they generally perform their work single-handed; their operations have nothing of riot or commotion in them; as to labour, they lose little of the time for that, seeing that their mode of seeking satisfaction is with the greatest chance of success pursued in the dark; and there is not the least fear, that their practices will ever render them politically turbulent, or bold. In fact, the system of effeminacy as it has grown out of, so it is perfectly adapted to, the Pitt system of internal politics, which, by making, in a greater or less degree, almost every man, who has property, a sort of pensioner, or, at least, an annuitant, of the state, aims at ruling the nation by its base, instead of Edition: current; Page: [17] its honourable feelings. On the selfishness of the common people, particularly the labouring part of them, the Pitt system of finance and taxation has, directly at least, no hold; and, therefore, it required the aid of the system of effeminacy, which includes the suppression of mirth as well as of hardy exercises, and, indeed, of every thing that tends to produce relaxations from labour and a communication of ideas of independence amongst the common people. Systems better calculated for preventing internal opposition to the government never were invented; but, this is not all that a wise statesman and one that loves his country will look to. Such a statesman will perceive, that if he destroy the feelings, from the operation of which the government might occasionally have something to apprehend, he thereby destroys the means, by which alone the government can be permanently preserved. Render the whole nation effeminate; suffer no relaxation from labour or from care; shut all the paupers up in workhouses, and those that are not so shut up, work in gangs, each with its driver; this do, and it is evident, that you will have no internal commotion; it is evident, that you will hold the people in complete subjection to your will; but, then, recollect, that they will be like the ass in the fable, that they will stir neither hand nor foot to prevent a transfer of their subjection to another master.

Thank God, we are yet at a great distance from a state so full of wretchedness and of infamy, and, I trust, that we shall long be so preserved. In speaking of the system of effeminacy as adapted to a cooperation with the Pitt system of internal policy, I by no means would be understood as supposing, that it has been contrived, or at all encouraged, at least wilfully, by Mr. Pitt, or by any other minister. It is, indeed, one of the many evils that have naturally grown out of the Pitt system; but, whatever other faults I may impute to Mr. Pitt as a minister, justice to him obliges me to confess, that I have never heard of his directly favouring the endeavours of those weak, meddling, and, in many instances, fanatical persons, who are the chief instruments in the persecution of all manly and mirthful exercises; and, I confidently hope, that, if any further attempts are made at legislative innovation upon these subjects, he will be found amongst their determined opponents.


This is the title of an article in the Courier of the 6th instant, in which an attempt, by way of last shift, I suppose, is made to terrify the fund-holders and the merchants with the persuasion, that, if the Opposition were to come into power, they would instantly overset the funds, that they would destroy all the manufactories, and that they would give up our ships and our colonies to the Emperor of the French, and that, too, because the monied and commercial influence have been the support of Mr. Pitt.——The words, “perish commerce,” are put into the mouth of Mr. Windham, though every reader must now know, that they, with their context, “let the constitution live,” which expressed the proper sentiment, mean that, to preserve the constitution we ought to wish the loss of our commerce; it is well known, and it has been so stated more than Edition: current; Page: [18] once in the House of Commons, that Mr. Windham never used these words; but that they were used by Mr. Hardinge, who, in his place in parliament, owned, or rather claimed them as his. To this fact, if the reader will add another and that is, that the words were uttered at the time that Mr. Windham, even supposing him to have spoken them, was in office with Mr. Pitt, he will have tolerably good means of judging of the candour of this tool of the “young friends,” as well as of the sincerity of that alarm for the safety of commerce, which alarm, he would fain make us believe, arises, in part at least, from this sentiment having been expressed by Mr. Windham.

After quoting, or rather garbling, several passages in the Register and one in the Morning Chronicle, relating to the funding and commercial influence of the nation, and more especially to the dangerous predominance of that influence over every other, over the spirit of the people as well as over the legal and constitutional prerogatives of the crown; but, at the same time, making such an arrangement of, and giving such a turn to, these passages as to make them convey a personal censure upon, and a personal hatred of, all monied and all commercial men; after this effort of candour, the writer proceeds as follows: “Such are the sentiments, the views, and the expectations, of the two journals of the two party branches, which, united, make the coalition. Though disagreeing on so many points, on the subversion of the commercial system, on the ruin of commercial men, they are most cordially of opinion, for no other reason, than, that Mr. Pitt having successfully cherished that system and these men, who in their turn support him, both must be swept away, that the road to power may be made accessible for the Opposition. It is for the King and the Country to consider whether an Opposition having such designs should be intrusted with any degree of power, even with the privilege of sitting in Parliament. To nothing is this nation so much indebted for its greatness as to its commercial system. Every commercial nation in the world has been powerful as well as rich. There never was a commercial nation in the world the twentieth part so powerful or so rich as England now is; nor was there ever one the twentieth part so formidable as a military state. In our navy we have more than 100,000 of the bravest, of the most skilful, of the best troops in the world; they are the bulwark of this country; but without the reprobated commercial system that gallant race of men would soon be extinct. It is for the King and the country to consider whether they will give the reins of Government to a party whose first object avowedly is to destroy that system, for the purpose of crippling a political rival.”

Of the tolerance and the truth of the direct assertions here made, nothing needs be said; but, there is one opinion, upon which I cannot refrain from offering a remark or two. And, first of all, who has said, that commerce was injurious to this country? I have always said, that without commerce, and particularly commercial navigation, that this island could not possibly continue to be great; that it could not possibly retain its consequence amongst the nations of Europe. With this qualification I have always spoken; but, it is the system of rendering every thing commercial; of making merchants and bankers into Lords; of making a set of fund-dealers the distributors of honours and rewards in the army and the navy; of the government, in its several departments, making official reports to Lords Mayor and Lloyd’s Coffee-House; of a Edition: current; Page: [19] system, in short, which, day by day, is drawing every thing, in the way of influence, from every part of the country, and depositing it in the hands of those, who necessarily become tools in the hands of the minister of the day, be he who or what he will. It is the commercial system, thus distended, thus spread over the whole country, thus swallowing up and preventing all the influence of the aristocracy and the church and all the constitutional influence of the crown; it is this system that I reprobate, and that, most assuredly, has nothing to do either in creating or in supporting “that gallant race of men,” by whom the nation has been so long defended, and by whom her glories have been caused to shine forth in every quarter of the world. In what way is the creating or the preserving of this race of men connected with the commercial system, as now extended and perverted? How does gambling in the funds tend to support the navy? England was great; she was powerful upon the sea; she was queen of the ocean; all this was long, very long indeed, before her sons ever heard of funds. The real merchant, as I have a hundred times observed, is a person to be cherished; his calling is as honourable and as conducive to the good of the country, as that of the farmer. It is only when his calling is perverted; when his trade becomes, as it must become under a funding system so extended, a species of gambling; when he trusts more to craft than to industry, prudence, and integrity; when he, if he be lucky, may become richer than a lord by the speculations of a few days; when his fortune may be made, when the means of bringing five or six members in amongst the representatives of the people, may be obtained in consequence of one valuable hint from a minister, or a minister’s favourite. Then it is, that the commercial system becomes dangerous to the liberties of the people and the throne of the king; and then it is, that it becomes an object of my reprobation.

But, to suppose, that the Opposition would set about overthrowing the fund-dealers, because they have been, and are, stanch friends of Mr. Pitt, is to have a very great opinion of their vindictiveness, or a very little one of their discernment and their recollection; for, must they not have perceived, that it is to the minister of the day; not, to this or to that minister, but to the minister of the day; the minister who makes loans and lotteries, and who gives bonuses; the minister who makes contracts for hemp and timber and tents and baggage and slops and corn and wine and brandy, and who expects, perhaps, to be treated civilly in return; must not the Opposition have perceived, that it is this sort of minister that the money-lenders and merchants are attached to? And, must they not remember, that the money-lenders and merchants were as much attached to Mr. Addington as to Mr. Pitt? Or, if there was any little falling off in the case of Mr. Addington, might it not be reasonably ascribed to his not having afforded any of those little accommodations so judiciously afforded by his predecessor to those excellent persons Messrs. Boyd and Benfield? And, if the Opposition, thus perceiving and thus remembering, should harbour any designs hostile to the fund-dealers and the merchants, must they not be actuated by something other than a love of place and emolument? As to the way of lessening, or of removing, if possible, the enormous evils attendant upon the funds, I know, as I have frequently said, nothing of the sentiments of any one member of the Opposition; no, not even by hearsay; and, being fully persuaded, that the whole nation will think with me at last, I am by no means anxious to hear their opinions. My own I shall freely state, as often as it appears proper and Edition: current; Page: [20] is convenient. In the next number but one I intend to do this somewhat at large; and, in the mean time, I beg leave to refer the reader to a letter, which he will find in a subsequent page, and to which letter I propose to give an answer. I will just now observe, however, not by way of answer to the Courier, whose paragraphs I only introduce as convenient openings to my remarks (and very convenient and useful they are in that respect), but by way of remonstrance to those who seem to think me rash upon this subject, and unaware of the consequences of the measures I have sometimes alluded to as necessary; and, I must say, that before such an opinion be expressed, something should be done, in the way of argument, to convince me of the erroneousness of the premises whence my conclusions have been drawn. This has been attempted by my correspondent; and, if I am not convinced by him, I shall, I trust, be able to show that my want of conviction is founded on reason; and, at any rate, the reader will have an opportunity of deciding between us; but, to the conduct of those who bestow the term rashness upon my opinions, without giving me any, even the least, proof, that they have themselves ever taken the trouble to think upon the subject, I cannot bring myself to affix any epithet milder than that of presumptuous. I mean not this for the Huskissons and the Cannings and the Old Roses and the Wards: I mean it not for the men of the Two Bulletins; but for men whose opinions I respect, but whom I cannot permit to censure my opinions, unless they condescend to favour me with the reasons whereon that censure is founded.


“There is a set of men, my Lords, in the City of London, who are known to live in riot and luxury upon the plunder of the ignorant, the innocent, the helpless; upon that part of the community, which stands most in need of, and that best deserves, the care and protection of the legislature. To me, my Lords, whether they be miserable jobbers of ’Change Alley, or the lofty Asiatic plunderers of Leadenhall Street, they are all equally detestable. I care but little whether a man walks on foot, or is drawn by eight horses, or six horses; if his luxury be supported by the plunder of his country, I despise and detest him. My Lords, while I had the honour of serving his Majesty, I never ventured to look at the Treasury but at a distance; it is a business I am unfit for, and to which I could never have submitted. The little I know of it has not served to raise my opinion of what is vulgarly called the ‘Monied Interest;’ I mean, that blood-sucker, that muck-worm, that calls itself ‘the friend of government;’ that pretends to serve this or that administration, and may be purchased, on the same terms, by any administration; advances money to government and takes special care of its own emoluments. Under this description, I include the whole race of commissaries, jobbers, contractors, clothiers, and remitters. Yet, I do not deny, that, even with those creatures, some management may be necessary; and, I hope, my Lords, that nothing I have said will be understood to extend to the honest industrious tradesman, who holds the middle rank, and has given repeated proofs, that he prefers law and liberty to gold. Much less would I be thought to reflect upon the fair merchant, whose liberal commerce is the prime source of national wealth. I esteem his occupation, and respect his character.”

—Speech of the great Earl of Chatham, in the House of Lords, on the 22nd of November, 1770.

What I am now about to submit to the reader, upon this subject, I wish to be considered as an answer, as far as it is, at present, necessary Edition: current; Page: [21] to give an answer, to the letter of my correspondent, “D. N.” The writer of that letter, by admitting, that the national debt, even in its present magnitude, goes far towards cramping public spirit, enervating patriotism, and deadening the love of our country, and that taxes upon taxes cannot fail to extinguish virtuous independence; by making this admission, he saves me the trouble of proving (if, indeed, such proof were necessary), that the national debt, or, rather, the funding system, is an enormous evil, and, of course, that something ought to be done to get rid of it, or, at least, to prevent its further increase. And, by the proposal of a new scheme for paying off the debt, he renders it unnecessary for me to show, that the present scheme is inefficient for that purpose. I do not conclude, hence, that the public ought to be satisfied upon these points: I am speaking of nothing more than the admissions of an individual: I think myself bound to prove these positions, at some future time; but, in answer to this writer, I am not so bound. When I enter into that proof, I shall, I think, not find it very difficult to show, that his scheme for paying off, or diminishing the amount of, the debt, is unjust in its principle, and would prove utterly impracticable in the execution; and that his notions respecting the nature of capital are those of a mere banking-house man, and are founded in no one principle of political economy. At present, as well for the sake of clearness as of brevity, I shall confine myself to a defence of my opinions and my wishes against the two charges, distinctly preferred by this writer, of INJUSTICE and of CRUELTY.

But, previously to entering upon these, it is incumbent upon me to make a remark or two upon the charge of levity, not very equivocally preferred at the outset of this letter; and, surely, I may ask him to point out, if he can, the passage, in which I have ever treated this subject with levity; to show wherein I have used it as a “hobby;” to make good the charge of my having sported with the well-being of thousands and hundreds of thousands of people; to reconcile with this dread of the effects of the promulgation of my opinions the idea, clearly conveyed by him, of their being rash, inconsiderate, and characteristic of shallowness. Nor can I omit, here, to refer the reader to my motto, and then to put it to his candour, whether I have ever spoken of what is vulgarly called the monied interest in terms more degrading than those in which that “blood-sucker, that muck-worm,” was spoken of by the great Lord Chatham;” by that man, under whom England was so truly great; by that man under whose administration this country had to record the events of “the glorious year 1759;” by that man, whom the nation honoured while living, and commemorated by a public funeral and by statues of marble after his death. Let the hired writers, or any of the vile calumniators of office, any of the tribe of bulletin-makers, search through the pages of the Register, and put, if they can, their foul hands upon the passage, wherein I have ever expressed, against the swarm of city locusts, sentiments more hostile than those expressed by Lord Chatham. The passage selected for the motto was pointed out to me by a correspondent; I had never in my life read it, previous to the writing of the Register of the 11th instant; and, when the reader looks back at page 41* of the present volume, he will, I am sure, think it excusable, if I feel and express no small degree of pride at the striking coincidence of those sentiments with the sentiments of Lord Chatham. The principles Edition: current; Page: [22] there laid down were just in 1770, and must always be just; but, the indignation due to the plunder and the insolence of the “blood-sucker” admits of degrees; and, how greatly, how beyond all measure, has this degree now been heightened! If, on the day when Lord Chatham made that speech, some one, gifted with a foreknowledge of what was to come, had risen up, and requested him to be cautious how he gave way to his feelings against the “blood-sucker,” for that the times were approaching when this same “blood-sucker” should be taken to the bosom of the government; when it should be cherished in preference to, and at the expense of, every other being in the community; when after having wormed itself into every department of the state, it should effect the dissolution of the parliament, and, bearing down all before it, enforce measures for the creating of a mortgage upon the nation to the amount of 27,000,000l. of annual interest, payable to itself; when, from a “muck-worm” it should rear itself up into a pretender to the highest honours in the gift of the crown; and, when, after having thus triumphed, it should, with unpunished boldness and insolence, invade at once the privileges of parliament and the prerogative of the king, by raising, of its own mere motion, money upon the people, and by making itself a fountain of honour and of reward for the army and the navy, by bestowing badges of distinction and by the granting of sums of money and of pensions, at its pleasure. If any one had told him this; and, while his heart was still exulting at the events of “the glorious 1759,” if it had been added, that these things should finally reduce the country to such a state, that it should become a question (as put by the Committee at Lloyd’s) “whether Englishmen should remain free, or become the slaves of Frenchmen; if, at that time, this had been foretold him; and, if, by way of finishing the horrid picture, he had been again cautioned to beware, for that all those things should come to pass under the rule, and should be produced by the measures, of his own son, would he not, with Macbeth, have exclaimed: “Down! down! damned prospect; thou searest mine eyeballs?”*

In entering upon the two points which I propose to discuss, it is necessary first to state in general terms, what is the measure that I wish to see adopted, with regard to the national debt; and this is done in a very few words; for, I wish to see the interest now paid upon it, first greatly lessened; and, finally, I wish to see no interest at all to be paid upon it. The time and the manner of doing this would require much consideration; and, a preliminary measure, a measure of which no one could, with reason, complain, would be, to stop the operation of what is drolly enough called the sinking fund, for the support of which the people now pay 6,000,000l. sterling every year. This would be, so far, removing the fictitious Edition: current; Page: [23] support to the funds; it would be leaving them to their own natural credit and solidity; and would ease the land and the labour of the burden of upholding that which, if it stand at all, ought, in justice, to stand upon its own bottom. This would neither be taking, nor deducting, any thing from any body but those, who, at an enormous expense to the people, manage the sinking fund. But, all these are matters of detail, and are, of course, matters of future consideration; the object being, as I explicitly avow it, to relieve the nation from the weight of that millstone, which is now dragging it down to the mud, and to do this by ceasing to pay any interest at all upon the national debt (except in a few cases hereafter to be mentioned); and, while I endeavour to defend this measure against the charge of INJUSTICE, I beg the patient and candid attention of the reader.—The declamation, which my correspondent has not thought unbecoming him to give way to; his horror at the prospect of the name of Britons being handed down to posterity with a tarnished and polluted character; his reprobation of the baseness that would reduce thousands to wretchedness and despair for no other crime than that of confiding in the national honour; his pathetic appeal in behalf of the widow, the orphan and the helpless, to which he might, with full as much propriety, have added, the halt and the lame and the blind: all this has a fine and affecting sound; but, it has nothing to do with the reason and the justice of the question.

On this question, as well as on all other questions relating to national credit and national wealth, there is, amongst men little accustomed to think upon them, a radical vice in the reasoning. From the habit, which we all naturally contract, of comparing great things with small, and of bringing high things down to the level of our comprehension, we, in speaking of the affairs of nations, of their engagements and obligations, are universally prone to illustrate our meaning and to enforce our arguments from comparisons drawn from common life; and this is the more likely to take place, in a case like the present, where the terms are the same. It is, therefore, not at all surprising, that an honest, well-meaning man, as my correspondent appears to be, should have considered the debt and the credit and the honour and the honesty of the nation in the same light as if he had been speaking of those of an individual; it is not at all surprising that he should view the nation as a rich individual withholding (if my wish were to be accomplished) property due to a number of poor individuals; and, that he should put to me the solemn question: “Do you, Mr. Cobbett, really mean to argue, that a British parliament should enact, or that a British public should sanction, a measure which, if acted in private life, would expose the most hardy individual of that public to the lash of British law, as well as to merited reproach and indignation?” To this question I answer in the negative. Certainly I do not mean to argue any such thing, the cases being entirely dissimilar, and it being completely impossible, that, with regard to the claimants upon the national funds, or taxes (for that is the word), any such measure should be adopted. As to the dissimilarity, there are, to all contracts between man and man, three parties; first, in the case of a loan, the borrower; second, the lender; and third, the nation, which, by its laws, and its executive authority, compels the two former to fulfil their contract with one another, without any consideration as to the ruin which such fulfilment may bring upon either of them. But, in a case where the nation itself is a party, there are only two parties; there is no one to compel Edition: current; Page: [24] it to proceed on to its ruin; the very first duty of its rulers is, to take care, let who will suffer by it, that it be not ruined; and this upon the maxim, laid down by all the civilians, universally acknowledged to be just, and daily acted upon by this same British legislature, that the good and the safety of individuals must give way to the good and the safety of the community. We proceed, observe, too, upon the position, that the measure, which I wish to see adopted, is necessary to the safety of the nation; its ability to maintain its independence, its power to keep out the conqueror; and, if it be necessary to this, the not adopting it would, of course, produce the same effect, as to the fund-holders, as if it were adopted; but would, in that case, be attended with no benefit to the nation.

In speaking of contracts we must not refer merely to the letter of them. Even between man and man, equity steps in, and rectifies whatever may have become amiss, and cannot be rectified by the ordinary course of law. The circumstances under which a contract is made, the facts known to or hidden from the parties, the true intent and meaning of their arguments with one another, are all subjects of consideration, and of weight in the decision. And, here we touch very closely upon the point immediately before us; for, when any one of those who have bought part of a loan scrip, and who, in consequence thereof, now draws interest from out of the taxes of the nation, did he not well know, that there were only two parties to the contract? Did he not well know, that the borrower had it in his power, at any time, to refuse to pay the interest? And did he not consider, that, if such a refusal should become necessary to the safety of the nation, that it would be the first duty of its rulers to make it? What was he purchasing? Any thing real? Any thing that he could see, or feel, or hear? Any thing which he could claim, in the same state, and take away at his pleasure; or, in the same state, transfer it to another? Any thing of a specific and fixed value? No: he was purchasing nothing more than a right to demand a certain nominal amount of interest from the nation; and, of course, as the nation could not be, and ought not if it could be, ruined for his sake, the right to demand could, even in his contemplation, have extended no further than the ability of the nation to pay without risking its ruin. He purchased scrip, or stock, or call it by what name you will; and be knew, that it was liable to great fluctuations in its value; he had seen that its value depended upon the state of the nation; and, long before he lent his money, or rather, purchased his right of drawing upon the people’s taxes, he, and every one else, had talked of, and regarded as possible, that event which has been denominated a national bankruptcy. With all this knowledge of facts, still he bought. He had heard, that, at former periods, the legislature had reduced the interest upon the national debt; he had, if he purchased of late years, seen that the same power and authority had, contrary to the express provisions under which the several loans had therefore been made, or, more properly speaking, by a tacit repeal of those provisions, made a deduction from the interest upon the national debt, under the name of Income Tax; and, must he not, then, have known, must not his contract have been made with the full knowledge, that, by the same power and authority, a further and a further deduction, and, if so, a total extinction, could at any time take place? Had he not seen, that the promissory notes of the Bank of England, payable to bearer, upon demand, in specie, and carrying upon the face of them the proofs of a contract as sacred as law could Edition: current; Page: [25] make it; had he not seen this contract between a company of merchants and the holders of their notes annulled by an order of the king in council, and the act sanctioned and ratified by the legislature, with, at least, a score of acts and charters hostile to the measure, and, could he, with that fact before his eyes, regard acts of parliament relative to what is called public credit as being like the laws of the Medes and Persians? He will tell me, perhaps, and, if he be a “blood-sucker,” he certainly will tell me, that that measure was necessary to the good of the community, before which the good of individuals must give way; and, without, however, admitting of the propriety of the application, I cheerfully acknowledge the justice of the principle, and the more so, because it is precisely that upon which I found my present defence against the charge of wishing for an act of injustice.

From this view of the circumstances, the well-known facts, under which the contract was made, it must, I think, be evident to every one, that this purchaser of stock, or this lender to the nation, if you will, was duly apprized of the risk that he ran; that his contract was, in fact, made upon a calculation of chances, of an order one degree, and only one degree, higher than that of gambling; and, is not this position strengthened, nay, completely established, by the fact of his expecting to receive, and of his now being in the receipt of, a much higher interest than he could expect to have received, or than he could now actually receive, if his money had been laid out in real property? This brings us, at once, to the point of equity; and, as my opponent has chosen to make an appeal in behalf of the widow, I shall, by way of simplifying my argument, suppose a case of two widows, each of them, twenty years ago, left with a family of children and with a landed estate worth ten thousand pounds sterling. The one, whose views are unambitious, who is not carried away by the temptations to vanity, visiting, and luxury, and who is content to live at home, and to educate her children for those walks in life where they will be likely to get bread and even to obtain a competence for old age without bowing and cringing, lets her land, and lives upon the income, which, at three per centum, and that is rather above the average, yields her 300l. a year. The other is a dashing dame. Hardly is her pains-taking, plodding husband, laid in the grave, when her head begins to run upon London; upon sentimental plays, and haberdashers’ shops. Her gaping sons are all instantly destined for the Excise, the Custom-House, or for plunder in the East. She cannot accomplish this with 300l. a year; and, besides, she is impatient under the pestering of clownish and dirty-shoed farmers. In this embarrassment some sleek-headed, deep-sighted attorney (who, thanks to the funding system, is, most likely, also a tax-gatherer, a second-hand stock-broker, and a coiner of paper-money) at once discovers her distress, and points out the remedy; and, up she comes, in a post-chaise overladen with her and her litter. At first, upon the money advanced her by brother Scut, who is left with a power to sell her land, she takes a lodging in Portland Place, but finding a half year’s income gone in a week, she removes with her laced footman to a tawdry ready-furnished lodging at Camberwell or Kentish-town, where, though the best of her company consist of stock-jobbers’ wives, her efforts to hide her poverty is the topic of their continual ridicule. Her daughters waste their lives in turning the cast-off finery of the mother into finery for themselves, in reading novels and the Morning Post, and in ogling the spruce apprentice stock-jobber, who lodges over the way; while her sons are thumped black and blue at a school for French and commercial education, into which Edition: current; Page: [26] they have been inveigled by a large board with golden letters upon it; and while the silly mother expends the rest of her 500l. a year in hackney coaches, wherewith genteelly to dance attendance upon the clerks of Leadenhall-street and the Treasury.

But, observe, she has, all this time, been receiving, from the sale of her land laid out in stock, at least, 500l. a year, while the widow, the good and sober and considerate mother, who has remained in the country, and who has of necessity been expending her income upon the spot whence it was derived, instead of throwing it away upon the vermin collected together in this overgrown and corrupted metropolis, has been receiving only 300l. a year. From real property, possessed twenty years ago, of exactly the same value, the former, in consequence of speculations, her risk, her gambling, received and expended 10,000l., while the latter, whose moderation and economy prevented her from putting the independence of herself and her children to hazard, has received and expended only 6000l. And, to this gentleman, who declaims in behalf of “the widow,” I put the question, whether it would be just to take from the sober matron, who has not ventured to gamble, in order to make up the losses of her who has gambled? Observe, too, that the land of her who did not purchase stock, has been taxed all this time, and in all manner of ways, for the purpose of getting money to pay the 500l. a year to the gambler. And when the chances begin to run against this latter, shall she, at the end of twenty years of comparative luxury, come to the person who has been practising economy, and say to her, “Give me part of your land, that after all, I may still be as well off as you?” Is this justice? Is this the justice for which my correspondent contends? Is it the contrary of this against which he so declaims? He may, if he choose, again resort to his powers of exciting passion and prejudice; he may again assert, that the weight of the measure I propose would fall upon the helpless and the destitute, upon the widow, the fatherless, and the orphan, and that all these would sink into the vale of misery, calling for the vengeance of Heaven on the barbarous authors of their misfortune and ruin. He may again assert, that this measure would stain the annals of our age and country with an everlasting stigma; but neither these assertions, nor the lofty exclamatory appeals to “British honour,” will, in the minds of men of sense and of justice, avail him aught, unless he can overset the argument, imperfect as it is, that I have made use of.

I shall, I am aware, be told, that the fund-loving widow, whom I have described, is an over-charged picture. Be it so; but is there any man who will deny, that there are many instances of that sort? Will he deny that thousands upon thousands have become fundholders from motives similar to those given to that widow? Will he deny that this enormous, this overgrown, this wen-headed metropolis, including its environs, owes one-half of its population to the funds? And will he deny, that this system is the cause of the villages being depopulated, and impoverished, by inducing persons to draw their incomes from the places where it is produced by labour, and from suffering hardly any part of it to fall back again to cheer the heart of the labourer? Will he deny, that, by removing the population from the country to the metropolis; by crowding the people into lanes, courts, and alleys, great injury is done to the health of the people, great injury both to their bodies and their minds? Will he deny, that they are rendered, by this system, feeble, mercenary, and base, in every possible way? And, if he cannot deny this, and I think he cannot deny any part of it, will he contend, Edition: current; Page: [27] that, for the sake of putting an end to an evil of such magnitude, the good, the comfort (as it is called) of individuals ought not to give way?

“The widow,” I shall perhaps be reminded, has, in great likelihood, been compelled to be a fundholder; for, that the stock may have been purchased by her husband, or ordered, by his will, to be purchased. But, what is that to my argument? The wife must submit to the consequences of having had a foolish and avaricious husband; and so must orphans submit to similar consequences flowing from the disposition of their parents, as, indeed, is, and must be, the case, in all ranks and situations of life, and with reference to all sorts of contracts. In regard to stock held in consequence of compulsion, there is, indeed, one exception; and that is, where the compulsion has arisen from some positive law, or some legal decision. Here the deposit is not the voluntary act of the party; the nation, by its laws and its executive officers, has forced the property from its right owner, and to its right owner it is, therefore, bound, in justice, to restore it.—But, when my correspondent is declaiming about the widow, the orphan, and the helpless, he seems entirely to overlook the great body of fundholders. To hear him, one would think, that all the fund-holders were poor, helpless mortals, unable to shift for themselves; and, what is more, unable to sell their stock, not only at this time, but even after it shall have begun evidently to depreciate! One would think this impossible, too, in a person who has a mind capable of embracing such mighty objects and of inventing such grand schemes; one would think it quite impossible, that such a person should not, long ago, have perceived, that the fund-holders, generally speaking, are the most active, the most greedy, the most cunning part of the community; that they are persons who are constantly upon the look-out; that their minds embrace all possible chances; that they are seldom without two strings to their bow; that they are persons who have risen from the dirt, merely by their speculations in the funds and in other things therewith closely or more remotely connected; and that, as to the far greater part of them, they have received ten, or from ten to twenty per centum for any thing of real value that they have ever advanced. With respect to the loan-contractors, too, though they do not still hold, though they would not, if they could, still hold the stock proceeding from their loans; though they have sold it out in little parcels to subaltern speculators, who would have made loans themselves if they could; though the stock is not still theirs, it is gone elsewhere with all its qualities along with it; with all its bonuses and its other immense gains; and, justice will never cause a separation in its view of them; they must always remain united; it being no matter to the nation who are the holders; who swallows the fruits of its labour, whether it goes into the belly of the shark or the gudgeon. Take a loan, then, of twenty years ago, and you will find, that the interest and the bonuses, and other emoluments arising from it (to say nothing of the political and other indirect gains), are much more than double the amount of what land, equal in value to the amount of the loan, would have produced in the same time. Where then is the injustice of now cutting off, or, at least, greatly reducing, the interest upon such loan? and, where would be the justice of coming to the land-owners and seizing a part of their property, in order to divide it with those who have already drawn therefrom the full amount of whatever they advanced? Aye, says this writer, but, the loan-contractors are land-owners too. It is not they who would suffer, but the poor helpless creatures who Edition: current; Page: [28] have bought their scrip. What is that to the nation? It may be, and must be lamented, that these people were so foolish, or so greedy, as to become funnels for the loan contractors to suck the fruit of the nation’s labour through; but the act was their own; it was perfectly voluntary; there was no compulsion for them to purchase stock; and they made the purchase with a full knowledge of all the risks and chances attending it, and in consequence of a determination to run those risks and chances for the sake of enhancing their emoluments. They saw that, by becoming unfair “blood-suckers,” they could add to their incomes; and are they not to submit to the consequences of having chosen that way of life? Are they now to be huddled together with those whose blood they have been so long sucking, and have been enabling others to suck more copiously?

My correspondent, pursuing his erroneous notion of a perfect similarity between a national debt and a debt between man and man, argues as if the national debt was an actual mortgage upon the land and goods of the nation; but, not only is it not so by law, but it never was, or could be, considered in that light by any one of the loan-makers, whether great or small. It is a mortgage upon the taxes of the nation; and it was, of course, understood, at the making of every loan, that if those taxes were not sufficient to pay the interest, the interest must go unpaid; so that, at last, we are naturally brought back to the question whence we started: whether it be consistent with the safety of the nation; with its independence; and not only with its mere independence, or, in other words, its existence as a nation, but with the preservation, or the restoration, of its due degree of power and greatness; whether it be consistent with these any longer to continue to raise 27,000,000l. a-year upon the people to defray the expenses attendant upon the national debt. I am decidedly of opinion, that it is not consistent with the safety and well-being of the nation any longer to continue such levy; I am decidedly of opinion, that we cannot make either war or peace in a way that shall not accelerate our ruin, as an independent people, without a discontinuance of it; I am decidedly of opinion, that to express myself in the words of the greatest of political philosophers, the nation must destroy the debt, or that the debt will destroy the nation. Nor is this opinion so singular as the fund-holders may imagine; but, even amongst those who entertain it, it is not rare to find persons ready to avow, that, such is their love of that justice, for which my correspondent is so sturdy an advocate, they would prefer the destruction of the nation; that is to say, its subjugation to a foreign power. The folly of this preference may not be evident to those who can console themselves with the base hope of being still permitted, as the Dutch are, to derive something of an income from the continuation of the funds protected by the edicts, and the arms of a conqueror; but, the justice of it, my correspondent will not, I presume, attempt to maintain; for, here, still more obviously than in the former comparison, his argument, founded upon the similarity between the debt of a nation and a debt between man and man, would fail him. Why? perhaps, will he say. Is the ruin of a bankrupt any reason for his creditors abstaining from taking his all? No: it is not to prevent them from taking all his goods and all his property; but, they cannot take his life; they can make him as poor as a day-labourer; they can, in some cases, and in virtue of commercial laws, take away his liberty, in a certain degree, and under the control of certain regulating powers in the state; but they cannot cut off his limbs; they cannot poison or suffocate him; they Edition: current; Page: [29] cannot demand a pursuit of him to the very verge of existence; they cannot kill him; they must leave him life and limb, together with all his capacities, mental and physical, for the purposes of prolonging his existence and for those of regaining his weight and consequence in the world. But, the argument of the “blood-suckers” would destroy the nation rather than quit their hold; they would make it cease to exist as an independent community; and not to exist in that state, is, with a nation, not to exist at all. And this they call justice and honour and honesty! In favour of this it is that we are to listen to the incessant and noisy and hypocritical declamation that we daily hear in behalf of the widow and the orphan and the helpless; to support this destroying principle we are invoked to consider the fate of our character in the world; and that we are to submit to be called, unless we yield to it, by every name descriptive of a base and abominable people, for whose signal punishment the thunders of Heaven and the vapours of the earth are gathering themselves together! And shall we thus submit? Shall we, after having been inveigled even to the brink of the fatal precipice, be bullied, because we hesitate at taking the leap; shall we, indeed, tamely submit to be thus taunted and insulted, because we wish to retain that small portion of the vital principle that the “blood-sucker” has left in our veins?

Having trespassed so far upon the patience of the reader, I will not now enter upon my defence against the charge of CRUELTY. Those who think that I have done away the charge of INJUSTICE, will not regard it necessary that much should be said upon the other point; but, I think, I am able to show, and, for many reasons, I shall endeavour to do it in my next Number, that the calamities to individuals, from the measures that I would propose, would not be of nearly so fearful a magnitude as people in general appear to apprehend, an apprehension industriously propagated by all that large portion of talkers and of writers, who are under the influence, direct or indirect, of the “blood-sucker.”

I must once more express my desire to be understood, as speaking, upon this subject, my own sentiments, without knowing that any one member of what is called the Opposition agrees with me. It would be contemptible as well as false to pretend, that, in no instance, one’s opinions are not to yield to those of others, particularly for persons of whose talents and wisdom one entertains the greatest possible degree of deference; but, in most instances, I have followed my own original opinion; and, upon all subjects relating to the funding system, I have suffered the judgment of no one to bias me. If I am in error, let the error be my own, and if not, I have a right thus early to put forward my claim to the merit.


  • “The Tempter saw his time; the work he plied;
  • Stocks and Subscriptions pour on ev’ry side,
  • Till all the Demon makes his full descent
  • In one abundant show’r of cent. per cent.,
  • Sinks deep within him, and possesses whole,
  • Then dubs Director, and secures his soul.”
  • Pope, Epi. iii.
Edition: current; Page: [30]

The reader will have seen, upon this subject, a letter from a correspondent, who takes the signature of A. Z. That letter was written by way of comment upon my defence of a proposition for the reducing of the interest upon the national debt, and for adopting such measures as would, in a very short time, have annihilated all demands upon the public on the part of that description of persons who are called public creditors. This correspondent is an opponent, of whom one need not be ashamed. His arguments have considerable merit in them, and are well and fairly urged. Still, however, I think, it will be found, upon examination, that they leave my principles unshaken, and that no great deal will need to be said in order to convince the reader, that, after trial, those principles are sound and just.

But, unwilling as I am to be, for a moment, drawn off from this examination, there is an opponent of quite another description, of whom I must first of all take some notice. Allusion is here made to an article, which appeared in the Courier newspaper of the 14th instant. The main object of the writer appears to be, to cause it to be believed, that the sentiments published by me, relative to the fate of the funds, proceed from the instigation of Mr. Windham, and, that as these sentiments are greatly dangerous in their tendency, it is greatly dangerous that Mr. Windham should be a cabinet-minister. This conclusion would be just enough, were not the premises false. But, in the first place, the dangerous tendency of my sentiments is a position which should have been proved by a refutation of my arguments, and not assumed without any attempt to effect such refutation; and, secondly, with regard to my publications upon this subject proceeding from the instigation of Mr. Windham, the fact is entirely false, and the falsehood is uttered with a perfect knowledge of its being a falsehood, as the reader must remember, that I have all along expressly declared, that the opinions upon the subject of the funds are my own. In spite, however, of these repeated declarations, this candid gentleman infers the exact contrary, and the facts, whence his inference is drawn, are, first, that, when in 1803, Mr. Windham was, in a like spirit of candour, charged, in the House of Commons, with being the instigator of my publications, he “refused to disavow the fact.” But, surely, this might have been fairly attributed to his disdain at the falsehood of the imputation, and not to his consciousness of its truth. The other fact is, that the Political Register is entirely devoted to Mr. Windham; that, “it addresses itself to the promotion of his views, to the flattery of all his passions, animosities, and even eccentricities,” which is instanced, particularly, in its having, “though strictly a political paper, lately descended to defend the practice of boxing, because Mr. Windham is an admirer of it.” Now, as to the real merits of the case, what matters it whence arguments proceed, so that they be good and irrefutable? And, that the arguments made use of by me in favour of boxing are such, is tolerably well proved by the fact, that no one has ever attempted to answer them with any thing but canting or abusive declamation. To those who confine the epithet political to the manœuvring of parties and the intrigues of a court, or who extend it, at the utmost, not beyond the circles of Whitehall and the Diplomatic Body; to such persons, those customs, which have an influence upon the minds and manners of the people, must, to be sure, seem of a nature not at all political. But, to those, and, I trust the number of them is very great, who take a wider range of thought, and whose minds Edition: current; Page: [31] penetrate more deeply into the sources of national character and national power, discussions relative to a practice, so intimately connected with that character and that power, will, surely, not be thought uncongenial to the nature of a Political Register. And, moreover, the fact, which this writer assumes, and on which he proceeds, is here, again, totally false; for, though it would be perfectly natural in me to imbibe opinions from the expression of those of Mr. Windham, and having so imbibed them, it would be perfectly proper in me to defend them; yet, the truth is, that my opinions, either upon the subject of boxing or of bull-baiting, were not so imbibed; and, I can, at any time, produce proof, that, being at a dinner, the second or third day after my return to England, when Mr. Windham’s speech, the day before made in parliament upon the subject of bull-baiting, was criticised, I declared myself to be of his opinion, and avowed, that, at Philadelphia I had always assisted at, and encouraged, bull-baits. This was before I had spoken to, or had the most distant notion of ever having the honour of speaking to, Mr. Windham. Say, then, if you will, that this congeniality of sentiment was cause instead of effect; say that, out of it, first arose that respectful attachment which I have constantly discovered towards that truly enlightened statesman, and, assuredly, I need not seek to trace it to a more honourable source; but do not produce it as a mark of servility; be not so unjust as to ascribe it to a base devotion to his will, when every man who has been a constant reader of my writings, and who knows any thing of the state of parties and of the feelings of the great actors upon the scene, must be convinced, that, in very many instances, my opinions and my views have not accorded with those of Mr. Windham; to which I will, however, frankly add, that, where they have not so accorded, I have, in the end, generally found the error to be with myself. No: I have never been the servile tool of Mr. Windham; his nature abhors servility; and, I repeat my former declaration, that he has never attempted to remonstrate very earnestly with me, except in behalf of those whom I regarded as his foulest enemies.

In returning to the subject of the funds, I shall, previous to making any remark upon the article in the Courier, insert, according to my usual custom, the article itself. Not the whole of it, indeed; for this gentleman plies me, in the course of his six days, with not less than thirty of his columns; columns, the whole of which, in the sinking state of this vehicle of Ward’s and Huskisson’s Bulletins, are not read, I should suppose, by above thirty readers; a supposition which will need little to corroborate it, when the following specimens have been produced.——“A pretty story about two widows is given, equally false, ignorant, and malicious. It is said, supposing twenty years ago two widows had each 10,000l. One of them a frugal, prudent lady, lays out her money in land for which she obtains but 3 per cent.; the other, a dashing dame, lays it out in the funds, for which she obtains 5 per cent. (five is not always to be had). At the end of the twenty years, the landed lady has spent but 6000l. while the funded lady has spent 10,000l. The conclusion drawn is, that the funded lady has no such claims to protection on the State as the landed lady. Now what is the fact? The funded lady’s property has not at all improved, while the landed lady’s has probably doubled in value. The one, by selling her land and buying into the funds, can have 1000l. per annum, while the other must remain with her 500l. only, all the necessaries of Edition: current; Page: [32] life being enormously increased in price. In such a case the fundholder is to be pitied, the landholder envied. The proprietors of lands and houses fatten on the distresses of the times, while the fundholders suffer. Almost all landholders, who are not immediately prevented by leases, advance their rents to pay the property-tax, for instance, and annually increase them as taxes and commodities rise. But what relief has the stockholder? None. He goes on, year after year, his income reduced, and reduced by the advance of commodities. One thousand per annum is not now worth more than 600l. twenty years ago. The fundholder is in fact the only sufferer by the public distresses. Landlords, tradesmen, and mechanics have all increased their incomes in proportion to the increased expense of living. The interest paid on the national debt is not, perhaps, more at this moment than it was twenty years ago, with relation to the price of commodities, though nominally it is double; and this may explain how it is that the large amount is so easily paid. But for all this it is the fundholder and the fixed annuitant, such as a mortgagee, that suffers. Every new loan raised for the state, ultimately and absolutely comes out of their pockets. And shall we be told that these persons, whose property is daily eaten up by the wants of the nation, should be robbed of the remainder? The suggestion is most cruel and atrocious. Let not the landed proprietors be flattered with the notion that their lands would be secure if the funds were swept away, or that their rents would be larger. The same feeling in the landed proprietors of France produced the revolution. The nobles would not pay taxes to defray the interest of the national debt. The funds went, and the lands followed. The French Monarchy fell with the funds; the French nobles fell also. Why are such libels on the faith of Parliament, such attacks on the property of the subject, suffered to pass? Persons have been punished for saying the king should be destroyed, the Parliament should be destroyed, the land should be divided, &c. and why are doctrines so truly, so systematically revolutionary, suffered to pass with impunity? The funding system is still sound and salutary, though somewhat feeble from having been so rapidly drawn upon. It should be eased a little by raising the whole, or nearly the whole, of the supplies within the year. The sinking fund is making rapid advances towards the extinction of the debt. Never was there a time when the country would bear burthens more patiently than the present, because it is satisfied of the justice and unavoidable necessity of the war. Ministers have no clamorous opposition to dread to inflame the people and paralyze the efforts of government.”

Taking these assertions (for they are very little better) in the order in which they present themselves, the first thing to observe is, that this writer presumes, that the lands of the country are not let on lease, and, of course, that the owner has, at the end of every year, or on any day, the power to raise his rent to meet the effects of the depreciation of money. But, is this true? and, if it were generally true, how alarming would be the consequences! The several surveyors, employed by the Board of Agriculture, and paid out of the taxes of the nation, have represented, indeed, that it is fast becoming the custom of the landowners to refuse to grant leases, and to hold the cultivators as tenants at will; a custom, say they, which, in the proportion that it obtains, deadens industry, diminishes the produce of the soil, lessens, in a national view, the value of the land, and reduces the farmer to a mere Edition: current; Page: [33] wretched dependent upon the will of his landlord; and, observe well, this terrible evil, these deep-sighted gentlemen ascribe to the caprice, the unaccountable prejudice, and the hard-heartedness of the landlords. Against these heavy charges the Courier does, I think, furnish the landowners with a tolerably complete defence, by showing, that, if they do let leases, they throw away, in consequence of the depreciation of money, nearly one half of their incomes. This is a subject worthy of the most serious attention of the government. The effect, here spoken of, of the depreciation of money, arising from the funding system and its paper of all sorts, is one of the great evils, against which we have now to contend; or, rather, of which we have to get rid; for, while the funding system remains, it is utterly impossible to overcome, or even to check it. But, all this belongs to a separate question, and has nothing at all to do with the question arising out of my comparison of the two widows, which, as the reader will see, supposes the landed widow to have let a lease of her land twenty years ago; and, as it is evident, that her rent depreciated in the same degree that the annuity of the fund-holding lady depreciated, it must also be evident that my argument is not at all impaired by the producing of any circumstance relating to the depreciation of money. If I am told, that, at the expiration of the lease, the landed widow may raise her rent; or, that she might have kept the land in her own hands; or, that she might have let it by the year, or the month: if I am told this, I answer, that the gambling lady might have left off in time; or, that she might have bought in low; or, that she might have sold out high. We are not to talk of what may have, or might have, happened, in the last twenty years; but, of what has, upon a general view, taken place.

We are next told, that, in consequence of the depreciation of money, 1,000l. now, is not worth more than 600l. was worth twenty years ago; and, therefore, that, as the nominal rate of interest paid upon the amount of the national debt continues the same that it was twenty years ago, “the total amount of interest paid upon the debt, is not, perhaps, in relation to the price of commodities, more than it was twenty years ago, though, nominally, it be double.” We will, if you please, Sir, leave out the “perhaps” in a statement like this, particularly when the statement be made in answer to an argument, which you have represented as “ignorant, false, and malicious.” I not only allow that money has depreciated in the degree which you say it has, but, I will go further, and say, because I can prove it, and, indeed, have proved it, that money has, since the time referred to, depreciated one half; and, of course, that 1,000l. now is not worth more than 500l. was twenty years ago. I shall, indeed, leave you to apply this to Mr. Pitt’s and old Rose’s boasting accounts of the increase of imports and exports, and in which no allowance at all was ever made for depreciation of money. I take your statement, even with my addition to your degree of depreciation, and a very few words will show against whom the charge of ignorance and falsehood and malice ought to be preferred. In 1784, when the late pretending projector took upon him the direction of the nation’s concerns, the annual charge on account of the national debt was, to speak in round numbers, 9,000,000l.; it is now 27,000,000l. Nominally, therefore, it is now tripled, instead of being doubled; and, as the depreciation is only in the degree of one half, the real annual charge on account of debt is now half as much again as it was twenty years ago. We are got out of our subject Edition: current; Page: [34] here; but, that is not my fault; and, as we have digressed, I will digress a little further, in order to remind you, that, this addition to the taxes on account of the debt has arisen, not in twenty years, but in thirteen years; and that the depreciation of money, of which you speak, has arisen in the same time. This is said for the comfort of yourself and your “blood-sucking” employers, and by way of giving you a foretaste of that which is to come.

But the land proprietors are told, that, if the funds were swept away, their lands would not be secure. “The same feeling in the landed proprietors in France produced the revolution. The nobles would not pay taxes to defray the interest of the national debt. The funds went, and the lands followed. The monarchy fell with the funds, and the French nobles fell also.” That they all went together we know very well; but as to the cause, “as to the cause, good Japhet,” we differ very widely in opinion. The nobles and others; in short, the people of France, were unable any longer to pay the full amount of the annual interest of their national debt, without submitting to such vexation and oppression as were beyond mortal endurance. There were Mr. Huskisson’s and other clubs of the like philosophers, and many most famous bulletin-makers upon a grand scale. But the deficit in the finances was the grand cause; and, that deficit arose, not out of the want of will, but out of the inability to pay, without a submission to that which would have rendered life not worth preserving. The fund-holders, the “blood-suckers,” hung on like leeches; the government had not the courage to tear them off; an outcry just such as that set up by this writer, prevailed; the state went reeling on, buffeted on one side by the people, and on the other by the fund-holders; and, at last, down it came never to rise again, an awful warning to all those nations who have been so unwise as to contract great public debts, and who have thereunto added the folly of acting upon the maxim, that, let come what will, the interest upon those debts is to be paid. The question in France was, “Shall the nation destroy the debt, or the debt destroy the nation?” that is to say, the government and constitution; and such is, at this moment, the question in England; with this addition, however, as to the latter choice, that, the liberties, the independence, and the very name of England are at stake as well as the government and the constitution. Yes, yes; it is true enough, that the French monarchy and the French funds fell together; not, however, because the monarchy was supported by the funds, but because it was so foolish as to support them too long. They fell together as a man and his load fall together, the supporting, and not the throwing off, of the latter, being the cause of the falling of the former.

This is my opinion; and who does not apprehend similar, not to say much worse, consequences in England, if England does not, while yet there is time, throw off her intolerable load? And, shall those who warn her; those of her sons who yet dare to put up their voice for her preservation, be stigmatized as “libellers?” Libels, these are called, upon what? “Upon the faith of parliament!” Why, what I say is, that the faith of parliament is no more pledged for the continuation of the payment of the interest upon the national debt, than it was pledged for the payment of the Bank of England notes in specie; or than it is now pledged for the continuation of that famous project the Parish-army-bill. And this is to libel the faith of parliament, is it? But, we are guilty of sedition, too, if not of treason. “Persons have been punished,” Edition: current; Page: [35] we are gravely reminded, “for saying the King should be destroyed, the parliament should be destroyed, the land should be divided, &c.” Aye, and very justly, too! When I make a proposition for destroying either king or parliament, I shall certainly not hope to escape punishment; and, as to dividing the land, why, you wiseacre, is not this the very thing that I am objecting to! Is it not a proposition, on the part of my correspondent, for the seizing of the land and dividing it, that has given rise to this discussion? The fund-holders and their advocates are for dividing the land; they see that the taxes must very soon fail to produce a sufficiency wherewith to pay their dividends at the present rate, and therefore are they endeavouring to prepare men’s minds for a division of the land, to which I object; and, I am ready to join any one in calling for the vengeance of the law upon the heads of all such revolutionary incendiaries.

As a consolation at parting, we are assured, that “the funding system, though somewhat feeble, from having been so rapidly drawn upon, is still sound and salutary.” We are told, “that the sinking fund is making rapid advances towards the extinction of the debt; and, that the funds should be eased a little by raising the whole, or nearly the whole, of the supplies within the year.” Comforting assurance! Profound remark! Judicious advice! As to the operation of the Sinking Fund, we have seen, that, in the space of twenty years, it has tripled the nominal amount of the annual taxes raised upon us on account of debt, and has added in the degree of one half to the real annual amount of the taxes raised upon us on account of debt. This is rapid enough, I think. Does this sagacious politician, this profound political economist, want it to go on faster? What, then, in the name of all that is shallow and empty, does he want? But, the funding system is to be “eased;” and how? By raising the whole, or almost the whole, of the supplies within the year. Does this wise man bear in mind, that, last year, the taxes raised amounted to about 38,000,000l., and the expenditure to about 70,000,000l.? And, if he does, does he besides think it possible to raise this year taxes nearly double in amount to the taxes raised last year? Away, away with all such dabblers and dreamers! Send them to ’Change Alley, or to Bedlam; but, let them not approach even the steps to the cabinet or the parliament. No: the present ministers have not come into place to hide the sins of the last. The last contracted the debt; and let those who supported them in it, and who lent them the money, be very well contented if their interests be not immediately stopped. A wise scheme indeed would it be in the present minister, to say nothing about its absolute impracticability, to squeeze the whole of the annual supplies out of the people, in order to avoid adding to, and thereby impairing the solidity of, the interest upon the national debt! On the contrary, not one penny of new tax ought they to lay on, other than that which will be necessary to pay the interest upon the money which they borrow. They ought, in fact, to have nothing at all to do with the old debt; or, they ought, at least, to distinguish it by some name different from the debt now to be contracted; they ought always to be able, in a moment to show the state in which they found the concern. And, observe, that this was what the great reformer Pitt did, when he began those measures, which he boasted should cause his name to be inscribed upon the proud column about to be raised to public credit!

Having, and not, I think it will be thought, quite unnecessarily, occupied Edition: current; Page: [36] so much of the time of the reader with the remarks upon this article in the Courier, I am compelled to defer an examination of the arguments of A. Z. till my next number. It would, moreover, be great injustice to him to couple his production with that of a stock-jobber’s hireling; for, in no other light can I possibly view the person, whose at once feeble and malignant efforts I have here thought it right to expose.


As I regard this subject as being second to none in point of public importance, excepting solely that of forming a permanent military system, I shall make no apology for now entering upon that examination, which, in my last number, I stated it as my intention to enter upon, of the arguments advanced by A. Z. in opposition, not to the main principle whereon I proceeded in justification of my proposition for ceasing to pay the interest upon the national debt, but to my arguments in support of a distinction, in point of right, between funded and other property. But, in this stage of the controversy, it is necessary to revert a little, in order to come at the true state of it, by taking a short view of its origin and its progress.

Much has, at various times, been stated in the Political Register, respecting the justice and the policy (the measure being supposed necessary to the preservation of the independence of the country) of ceasing to pay the interest upon the national debt; and, much has also been said, in speeches as well as in print, in disapprobation, not to say execration of such sentiments, my opponents always having, in the superabundance of their wisdom as well as their candour, chosen to appear to consider the whole debt as due by me, and, in the regular course of reasoning to conclude, that I had deliberately conceived the intention of committing a fraudulent bankruptcy upon a large scale. From adversaries thus proceeding it is no wonder that I had little to dread; and that, without any trouble on my part, the doctrine I had broached made an impression upon the public mind, men beginning, at last, seriously to talk of throwing off the almost insupportable millstone. Early, in the present year, however, seeing the cause, perhaps, in a desperate way, and wishing to retrieve it while yet there was time, an opponent of another stamp did me the honour of addressing to me the result of his reflections upon the subject. In his letter, he acknowledged, first, that the national debt, in its present magnitude, was an evil full as great as I had ever described it; secondly, that the present scheme for reducing it was totally insufficient for the purpose; but, he insisted, that the nation possessed ample means for paying it off; that it had effects wherewith to make the liquidation; and that, this being the case, to cease to pay the interest, until the debt was paid off, would be an act of injustice and of cruelty, which would stamp eternal infamy upon the character of the nation. This conclusion, however, resting upon the fact of the nation’s possessing ample means of paying it off; he thought himself bound to prove this position; but, unfortunately for his argument, this proof was Edition: current; Page: [37] drawn from the statements of Old Rose and Mr. Pitt, statements, the falsehood of which I was not called upon to prove; first, because the falsehood of them was matter of notoriety, and, secondly, because he himself had repudiated them in asserting the inefficiency of the sinking fund, the efficiency of which never failed to make a part of those very statements. Nevertheless, the statements whence his conclusion of ability to pay were drawn, were hardly noticed; because, in his scheme for turning this ability to account, he brought the whole controversy to one simple question: namely, whether, the taxes being insufficient to pay the interest upon the debt, the land and the goods and chattels ought not to be seized for the purpose of being sold by the government, in order to pay off the principal. More amused with than alarmed at this project, I took little notice of it in detail; but, endeavoured to show how unjust it would be in principle, even if it were practicable; and, in doing this, as I could not deny that something must be done to get rid of the debt, it became necessary to maintain the justice of my own proposition. This answer, preceded by a most appropriate motto, taken from a speech of the great Earl of Chatham, will be found in page 20. Here I endeavoured to establish a clear distinction between the debts of a nation and those of an individual; I endeavoured to show, that, in no way in which the bargain of the fund-holder could be viewed, did he acquire a right of pursuing the nation to its ruin, which ruin being compared with the ruin of a bankrupt individual, a total dissimilarity between them was made manifest; and as to the main point, the injustice of seizing upon the land and the goods and chattels, in order to reimburse the fund-holder, it was, I think, incontrovertibly established.

These comments drew forth a letter from A. Z. which I was about more fully to notice last week, when, as the reader’s exhausted patience will, in all probability, remind him, my attention was drawn aside by a wise-acre in the Courier, who, having stolen a thought or two from my own correspondent, had made a most violent effort to work them into a ground of calumny on myself. We must now turn back to the letter of A. Z. which I am disposed to treat with every mark of respect due to talents and to controversial candour.

This writer appears to be duly impressed with the evils produced by so enormous an amount of debt; he states no reliance and no hope whatever on the operation of the sinking fund; he advances nothing by way of proof, that the nation is able to pay off the principal of the debt, and even seems to doubt of its ability to continue much longer to pay the interest; he contends not for the justice of seizing upon the lands and the goods and chattels, for the purpose of indemnifying the fund-holder; on the contrary, he allows, that the parliament has the power to cause the payment of the interest to cease, that the exercise of such power may become an act of justice, and that, when the nation is no longer able to pay out of the taxes, the fund-holder must go unpaid; but, he does, nevertheless, lay down, and surrounding himself with divers illustrative statements, endeavour to maintain this plain and broad proposition, that the interest upon the national debt stands upon precisely the same foundation as the ownership of lands and houses. I say that it does not. Here we are at issue; and I think myself able to convince him, that, in maintaining, that to cut off the interest upon the national debt is merely a matter of expediency, I do not “strike at the root of every species of property.”

Edition: current; Page: [38]

But, previously, and for the purpose of removing whatever may tend to prevent our coming at a clear and distinct view of the principal point at which we aim, it will be necessary to notice two or three detached, and somewhat irregularly-introduced statements.—The statement relative to the great change in the value of money, as shown in the height of prices, was purloined by my old friend of the Courier, and has been answered.

As to the high rate of interest, which the nation has paid, and still pays, to the fund-holders: this, embracing a point of fact, cannot be wholly answered without a reference to those documents, which would give us correctin formation as to the terms of the several loans that have been made, from which documents we should, I believe, find that the conjecture of my correspondent is not correct. But, whether the nation has, upon the whole, paid more or less than five per centum a-year for the money that has been borrowed by its successive administrations, is a point upon which I laid very little stress, it being quite sufficient for my purpose, that it has paid a higher rate of interest than land will bring; and, I think no one will deny, that upon the supposition that lands are generally let by lease, it has paid nearly twice as high an interest as lands will bring, loaded as they are with poor-rates, and with several other burdens, from which the stocks are entirely exempted. The partial instances of great gains from speculations in land, at the sea-side, or elsewhere, are not to be noticed in an argument of this sort; and, besides, the writer did not see me including the partial gains of fund-holders; the large fortunes acquired by their gamblings I do regard as a terrible evil, but I did not proceed upon a supposition, that, in a mere pecuniary point of view, the nation was a loser by the acquirement of such fortunes. As being closely connected with this point, I will here notice an observation, that the willingness of persons to purchase stock and to hold it at a lower rate of interest than they could obtain by letting their money out on mortgage is a proof, that my argument, founded upon a supposition that every fund-holder knew beforehand the uncertainty of his tenure, is not sound. But, are there not many advantages, present advantages, always the most powerful in deciding men’s conduct; are there not many of these advantages which the funds possess over mortgages upon lands and houses? First, the funds are always open for deposit; not a single day need ever be lost; the nature of the security is such, is so well known, as to render the advice of no lawyer necessary, as safely to dispense with the burdensome aid of attornies and negotiators of every description. Next, the short periods and the punctuality of payment, to the very hour, of the interest; whereas, in the case of mortgages, though the payment be, in the end, secure; yet it may be, and it frequently, not to say generally, is, very far from being punctual; and, in numerous instances, is, at last obtained not without a lawsuit, a part, at least, of the expenses of which must fall upon the mortgagee. Then comes the facility of transfer. From the funds money can at any hour be drawn, without either expense or trouble. A part can be withdrawn and a part left. In short, it is the same almost as having it in your desk, with the advantage of its bringing interest while it remains there. Can the same be said of mortgages? And, when to all these real present advantages we add the chance of great gain, of the sudden acquirement of fortune without any gift of talent or any exertion of labour, is it wonderful, that men though they clearly perceive the inferiority of the funds in point of permanent Edition: current; Page: [39] solidity, should prefer them to morgages, as a place of deposit for their money? Arising out of these observations, there is another, which, though not immediately belonging to the subject before us, I cannot refrain from making; and, that is, that, while every transfer of propery, whether real or personal, out of the funds, is loaded with a heavy duty, the transfer of funded property is loaded with no duty at all; no tax of any kind; and hereby, in addition to the sole payment of the poor-rates (now amounting to 6,000,000l. a-year), is the land-holder most grievously injured. He is loaded with taxes on one side, while on the other, a general, a national borrower has set up against him, and has offered terms so advantageous to every lender, that it is, and must be, with the utmost difficulty, that he can obtain a mortgage upon his land. The consequence is, he sells it; the fund-holder, the jobber, the contractor, the “blood-sucker and the muck-worm” purchase it; and thus are the ancient gentry in the kingdom become nearly extinct. Why not, if we must have, as we must have, new taxes; why not tax the transfer of stock? Not, however, that I would aid in deluding the public with any hope of effectual relief from any measure of this description, being fully convinced, that, unless the payment of the interest of the debt be discontinued, all other measures will prove useless.

A. Z. acknowledges, that the fund-holder has no claim whatever to his principal, unless the nation choose to pay him off at par, in which acknowledgment, I should think, he would have perceived, that he himself was making a pretty clear distinction between the foundation of funded and other property. But, laying this aside for the present, let us proceed to the observation made upon my statement, that the interest of the fund-holder had upon former occasions, and by the sole will of the nation, been reduced. This fact, says A. Z., does not alter the case; that is to say, it is no precedent for lowering the interest now; because those of the fund-holders, who, upon the particular occasion referred to, “did not choose to subscribe to Mr. Pelham’s plan, had the option of being paid off their stock at par.” This circumstance may be of weight as to degree; but, how does it impair the precedent as to the principle? The stock-holder had, perhaps, purchased at a price above par. The loans had been made at various prices; and when, from favourable circumstances, the possession of funded property was become more advantageous than it before had been, where, supposing that property to rest upon precisely the same foundation as landed property, was the justice of compelling the fund-holder to sell out at par, or to take a less interest than he had hitherto taken? But, proceeding upon the contrary supposition; upon the supposition, that funded property rests upon no other foundation than that of the ability of the nation to pay the interest without risking its ruin, and, that, of that ability the parliament must be the judge; proceeding upon this supposition, the measure of Mr. Pelham was perfectly just.

In coming now to the main position of this writer, that the interest of the national debt rests upon precisely the same foundation as the ownership of lands and houses, it ought, at the very outset, to be observed, that, if this position be established, the proposition for seizing upon, and dividing the real property of the nation, as an indemnification for the fund-holders, becomes, at once, just and reasonable, though, as to its practicability, few, even amongst the inhabitants of the ’Change, can, I should think, be very sanguine. In order to maintain this position, my Edition: current; Page: [40] correspondent has recourse to a description, sometimes not very correct, and I might, perhaps, add, not quite so fair, as one could have wished, of the origin of the proprietorship of lands and of tithes. He describes this proprietorship as proceeding from the “arbitrary grants of despotic sovereigns;” or, more recently, from grants made by limited monarchs, in conjunction with their parliaments; and, having characterized these grants as founded in violence and injustice, he asks, “Is not the title of the fund-holder as good as the title of those land-proprietors, whose proprietorship arose from such grants?” As to the goodness of the title, he himself has admitted, that a case of necessity may fully justify the parliament in cutting off the payment of the interest upon the debt; all, therefore, that I have to prove, is, that the proprietorship of lands and that of funds, rest upon different foundations, the goodness or badness of either being a matter of inference, left entirely to those who may choose therein to deposit their wealth. And here, first of all, I must protest against the description of “arbitrary grants by despotic sovereigns;” for, what are we, the English nation, but the descendants of invaders, possessing the country in right of conquest? Another conquest did, at a subsequent epoch, confer a new right of the same sort, which was exercised either in making new grants, or in confirming the grants made in virtue of the former right; and this description, whether applied to land or to titles; whether to England, Scotland, or Ireland; whether to times ancient, or to times recent; whether to periods previous to the existence of parliament, or to periods since its existence, is equally correct, is perfectly simple, and is as perfectly consonant with all the principles of natural and universal law, strengthened in many respects, and in very few impaired, by the common and statute law of this realm. This is the foundation of the real property of the nation. The original grants consisted of what the sovereign acquired by right of conquest. They consisted of things which nobody possessed. They consisted not of things taken or collected from the people; for the people were not originally the owners of the soil; and, for this simple reason it is, that the people, considered in a body, have no claim, either in law or in reason, to property the ownership of which has grown out of such grants. But, is such the foundation of funded property? Is such the foundation of the claims to a continuation of the payment of the interest upon the national debt? Can it be said, that the money raised for this purpose is not previously private property? Can it be said, that it is not taken, or collected, from the people? Can it be said, that the interest to be paid this very year is not at the moment I am writing the property of the people who are to pay it? And, if this cannot be said, will it yet be said, will my correspondent yet contend, that landed property and funded property rest precisely upon the same foundation? And, will he still persist, that, in contending for an inferiority of right in the fund-holder; that, in contending for the justice, on the part of the people (through their representatives), not to take away what they have granted out of their private property, but to refuse to grant any more from that source; that, in contending for the justice of this measure, rendered necessary, too, for the preservation of their liberties and of the throne of their sovereign, I “strike at the root of all property whatsoever?”

Here, as to matter of controversy, I naturally stop, and wait for a reply; notifying, however, that, as the position just discussed, and, as I Edition: current; Page: [41] think, refuted, is the point upon which every thing inferior must turn, I shall hope, considering the scantiness of my space and the various disadvantages arising from voluminous discussions, to see the reply confined solely to this point.

Merely as matter of observation, there are two passages of A. Z.’s letter which remain to be noticed. The first is that, wherein he admits, that “when it shall have been proved, that the interest of the debt can no longer be paid without ruin to the country, it must be lowered, and possibly, in the end, be altogether done away.” This admission, coupled with the position, that the interest upon the debt stands upon precisely the same foundation as the ownership of lands and of houses, does, indeed, produce a strange confusion of ideas; but, what I am now tempted to ask, is, what will this writer regard as proof, that the interest of the debt can no longer be paid without ruin to the country? Or, as this would naturally depend upon the answer to another question, I would wish to ask him, what he should consider as national ruin? If, in answer to this latter question, he says: “The total annihilation of the people, or, at least, their subjugation to a foreign power.” If no proof short of this will content him, it must be confessed that it has not yet been given; though it must, at the same time, be observed, that, if he wait for such proof, his remedy would be as useless as a dose administered to a patient already most effectually relieved by the hand of death. But, if his notions of national ruin extend not to the utmost verge of national existence, then, let him look around him; let him view the miseries and degradation of the people; let him look over the melancholy account of 1,200,000 parish paupers, upon a population of nine millions of souls; let him survey the innumerable swarms of tax-gatherers; let him trace back the failures of the last war, the miserable attempts at peace, and finally the peace of Amiens, big with the seeds of another and more disastrous war, to their pecuniary causes; let him think of the influence, given by the funding system, to jobbers and contractors and all that description of men, whose interest is ever in opposition to the true interests and the honour and the power of the country; let him, casting his eyes abroad, first look at India, with all its fundholders, its debts, and its consequent wars; returning to Europe, let him estimate the power of our natural and now implacable enemy, punishing every where our friends, deposing kings, creating monarchies; and, last of all, let him look at Boulogne, asking himself, at the same time, what are the terms, how long the duration, and what the natural and no very distant consequences, of the peace which next we shall make. This let him do, and in doing it chase from his mind the fumes of delusion; and then let him say, whether national ruin is not at hand, and whether the application of the remedy, if it come not soon, will not come too late.

The other passage, on which I think it necessary to make an observation, is that, in which my correspondent introduces the authority of Mr. Fox, and this is the only instance of a deviation from controversial fairness, of which I have to accuse him. I have had recourse to no authorities; I have come to the controversy unaided by the strength and unadorned by the brilliancy of authorities; I have declared my opinions, as far as relate to living political economists, to be my own; I have ventured forth at the risk of the imputation of peculiarity; I have rested for success solely upon the truth of my facts and the force of my arguments; an example which will, I trust, be, in future, followed by all my opponents. Edition: current; Page: [42] As an omission, I might notice, that it was incumbent on my correspondent, before he drew his conclusions with respect to the binding engagements of parliament, to reconcile his notions upon that subject with the measure for exempting the bank of England from making payments in specie. But, as he has not chosen to meet this argument, it must, of course, be concluded, that he was persuaded, that he could not meet it with any probability of success.


“Upon this last score it is, that the people feel most sensibly; and, it must have been evident to every tolerably accurate observer, that, by his tortuous measures to protect peculators, Mr. Pitt lost more of the public confidence, than by all his other measures and tricks put together. If, therefore, the new ministers shall set their faces against all measures of this sort; and if, as I trust will be the case, they should resolve to institute an inquiry into the corruptions of the last twenty years; if they should do this, they need fear neither the ‘blood-suckers” voices nor the arms of the French. But, if they do not something, at least, in this way, all their other measures will be useless. For they will inspire no public confidence; and truth to say, no public confidence they ought to inspire.”

Political Register, Feb. 1, p. 143.

Much as I have, at different times, heard upon this subject; various and contradictory as have been the schemes for effecting, in the mode of electing members of parliament, such a change as should render the House of Commons the real representatives of the people, the real and efficient guardians of their properties and their personal rights; little room as was left us for surprise at any project of this sort that might now be broached, there are, I think, but few persons, who could have been entirely free from emotions of that sort upon listening to the speech of Mr. Tierney, made in the House of Commons on Monday last, the 10th instant. This gentleman, upon the occasion here referred to, moved for leave to bring in a bill for the purpose of altering and amending the act of the 7 and 8 of William III. chap. 4, commonly called the Treating Act. Leave was given; but not without some observations from Mr. Secretary Fox, which shall be noticed by-and-by; and, the bill will, accordingly, be presented to the House in the course of a few days.

As every one, who feels the least degree of interest in the preservation of the constitution, must necessarily regard this as a subject of great importance, I think no apology necessary by way of introduction to the remarks which I am about to submit thereon; and I am fully persuaded, that every reader, who has, in any way or degree, the power of preventing this bill from becoming a law, will, if he should not have already perceived the dangerous extent of it and of the principles upon which it is to be supported, thank me for my endeavours thereunto to draw his attention while yet there is time.

Mr. Tierney, whom I had never before heard, opened his subject with a statement as concise and as clear as his manner was unaffected and unembarrassed; the arguments by which his proposition was supported exhibited similar evidence of talent; his speech fully came up to what I had always considered as the perfection of parliamentary oratory; and the Edition: current; Page: [43] impression it left upon my mind was, that the speaker was a much greater man than I had ever before thought him. But, in spite of this impression, which, especially under such circumstances, was eminently calculated to produce acquiescence, the proposition appeared to me, even at the moment most favourable to it, to be grounded upon a partial and erroneous view of the great subject to which it related; and, as I am perfectly ready to ascribe to the proposer none but the most laudable of motives, I trust that, in endeavouring to maintain my opinion with respect to his proposition, I shall be regarded as acting from motives equally laudable.

He stated, that, from the different constructions of the Treating Act, by different committees and even different benches of judges, it was become matter of uncertainty whether it was or was not lawful for candidates to pay for the conveyance of electors to and from the place of election. That no law of uncertain construction ought to exist was manifest; and, therefore, he concluded, that something ought to be done to remove the uncertainty; a conclusion, in which, of course, every one must be ready to concur. But, then, it remained to be considered, what ought to be done: whether the uncertainty should be removed, 1st, by enforcing the act according to its letter, and thereby prohibiting, in all cases whatsoever, the conveyance of electors to be defrayed by candidates; or, 2dly, by clearly distinguishing the cases, wherein candidates should be permitted to defray, from those wherein they should not be so permitted; or, 3dly, by giving the permission in all cases indiscriminately. He chose the first of these; and, accordingly, his bill, if it become a law, will contain an entire prohibition to defray the expenses of conveying electors to and from the place of polling for members to serve in parliament.

When we consider the scattered situation of electors; when we reflect how large, comparatively speaking, is the number of those who reside at such a distance from the place of polling as to render it improbable that they should, were they compelled to travel at their own expense, that they should, in any considerable proportion, ever poll at all; when this is considered, every one will readily perceive, that a law, founded upon the proposition of Mr. Tierney, would virtually disfranchise one-half, perhaps, of the present electors. An objection, at once so powerful and so obvious, was not to be overlooked, and, of course, not to be suffered to approach unanticipated, by such a person as Mr. Tierney, who met it in advance, therefore, by observations to the following purport. First, that the elector (in the case of boroughs and cities, leaving that of counties to be hereafter noticed), if he removed from the place where he inherited, or acquired, his franchise, did, as far as his distance therefrom operated against his exercise of it, voluntarily disfranchise himself; that, if in consequence of such distance, he was prevented from being able to give his vote, the prevention arose from his own choice, and that, therefore, he had no equitable claim to any indulgence or assistance, whereby to remove the inability; and, further, that by his removal, he, in all probability, acquired the right of voting elsewhere, and therein obtained a compensation for what he had lost, having, indeed, done nothing more than exchange his franchise of Guildford, for instance, for that of some other borough or city. These arguments are plausible, but are they not much more plausible than solid? For, who that contemplates, but for a moment, the state of society in this country, the never-ceasing, and, in Edition: current; Page: [44] most cases, the necessary, migration from place to place, will allow, that the removal of an elector from the place of polling is an act, which ought to be called voluntary? Since the times, to which Mr. Tierney reverted, and to which we shall by-and-by follow him back more closely; nay, since the time that the Treating Act was passed, has not the state of society in England undergone a total revolution? Have not the capital and its environs now become, in population, equal to one-eighth of the whole kingdom; and is not this population kept up and daily increased, in great part, by migrations from the several towns and cities of the country; a migration rendered absolutely necessary to the persons migrating, in order to their obtaining of bread from the hands of those, who, through the means of the taxing and funding system, draw the wealth of the country within the vortex of the Bank and the ’Change? And, with these facts before us, shall we tell the migrating electors, that, if they are unable to defray their own expenses to and from the place of polling, they must put up with a virtual disfranchisement, it having proceeded from an act of their own choice? Mr. Fox, who, in expressing his intention not to oppose the bringing in of the bill, could not help making an observation or two as to the difficulties that there would be to surmount in the adoption of it, pointed out, in adverting to this effect of disfranchisement, the case of soldiers, both of the regular army and militia, particularly the latter, who, he said, would, if such a bill were to pass, be virtually disfranchised, and that, too, not in consequence of any act of their own choice, but in consequence of having been actually by law, compelled to absent themselves from the place where they had acquired their franchise, and that, too, for the purpose of defending, probably at the hazard of their lives, the country together with all its franchises. This remark was very just and pertinent; and, I hope to live to see the day when the principle of it will be carried much further; for, as was long ago asked, in the Register, where is the reason for expecting men to fill the ranks of the army, to offer their lives for the service of their country, while to them, and to them alone, the hope of participating in the much-valued franchises of that country, is for ever cut off by the very act of their enlistment? As the army now stands, this hope is very faint indeed; the soldiers are very nearly severed from the rest of their countrymen as to all common interest; and to pass an act that would sever them quite, and that, too, just at the moment when all men are wishing to see formed an army whose interests should be completely interwoven with those of the people, and who should feel, that, in fighting for England, they were fighting for their own rights and immunities, must, I think, be regarded as extremely impolitic as well as unjust.

But, to return to the latter part of the argument of Mr. Tierney; namely; that, by his removal, the elector does, in all probability, acquire the right of voting elsewhere, and does therein obtain a compensation for what he has lost: does Mr. Tierney, then, mean, that in every place, to which an elector can remove, he will have a vote for members of parliament? Surely he cannot mean this? If, from Guildford, for instance, where the right of voting is in the freeholders and the freemen, an elector removes to Southampton, indeed, where the right of voting extends to scot and lot, he acquires the right of voting again, but even here, he must first be able to pay scot and lot, and he must have done it for some time too previous to the day of election; but, if he remove to Winchester, where the right of voting is confined to the Mayor and Corporation, he Edition: current; Page: [45] must spend many years, and those very fortunate ones, before he can have any thing to say in the choosing of members of parliament; and, if his removal be to Croyden, which sends no members to parliament, he cannot even, by possibility, obtain a compensation for the loss of his franchise as an elector of burgesses to serve in parliament. But, the main tide of migration constantly sets towards the cities of London and Westminster. In the former, the migrating elector has to purchase his freedom before he can be entitled to a vote: in the latter, to pay scot and lot is sufficient, but, then, he must not only pay scot and lot first, but, after all, the city and liberties of Westminster, after having swallowed up country voters equal to those now found in forty or fifty restricted boroughs, afford but two members to represent the whole of them, together with all its own native population. When we take this view of the real state of the case, Mr. Tierney’s theory of compensation does, I think, in a moment, melt into air. But, this is not all; for, it is quite impossible for any man, deriving his right of voting from his freedom, to find a compensation elsewhere; or, more properly speaking, it is impossible for the community to find a compensation in any right of voting that he may acquire elsewhere, unless, indeed, we are ready to allow (what Mr. Tierney afterwards seemed to be strongly disposed to assert), that a diminution in the number of votes would be a good, rather than an evil. In talking of a compensation for the loss of a freeman’s vote in a borough like Guildford, Mr. Tierney appeared to suppose, that, in case of a removal to and residence at Westminster, the elector could vote, and ought to vote, at only one of the places; but, the fact certainly is, that his scot and lot vote at Westminster does not deprive him of his freeman’s vote at Guildford, and it as certainly ought not so to deprive him, any more than his freeholder’s vote at Guildford ought to deprive him of his freeholder’s vote for the county of Surrey; or, than his liveryman’s vote in London ought to deprive him of his freeholder’s vote, if he has one, in the county of Middlesex, or in any other county.

With regard to freeholders, resident within the county to be polled for, but at a distance from the place of polling, Mr. Tierney, perceiving clearly that to them the theory of compensation elsewhere could not be applied, did, indeed, confess, that, in the minds of some persons, there might be a difficulty in enforcing the Treating Act according to the rigorous construction contemplated by his bill; because it was evident, that many freeholders, though resident within their county, must, from their utter inability to defray their own expenses to and from the place of polling, be virtually disfranchised by the operation of the Treating Act as altered and amended by him; and therefore he was ready to grant, that many persons, amongst whom he had been one, had thought, that, as to counties, some regulation should be adopted, such as appointing different places of polling in the same county, in order to prevent so serious a diminution being made in the number of those who now vote for county members. But, further reflection had, he said, convinced him, that no such measures of prevention were called for by the spirit of the constitution; and in order to show, that this his conviction was founded in reason, he reverted, and here I must beseech the reader to revert along with him, to the origin of the forty-shilling qualification of freeholders. Let it be assumed, says he, for the sake of arguing upon the inability of the distant freeholder to defray his own expenses to and from the place of polling; let it, for this purpose, be assumed, that forty shillings a-year is the utmost Edition: current; Page: [46] value of each freehold; and then let us see under what circumstances, compared with the present, this qualification was fixed as the suitable qualification for an elector of members to serve in parliament. He then proceeded to state, that the qualification was fixed in the eighth year of the reign of King Henry VI.; and the reader will find, that it was by the act chapter 7. Now, said he, whoever has paid attention to the subject will find, that, such has, since that time, been the depreciation of money, that thirty pounds of the present day is a sum not more than equal to forty shillings of that day; whence the House were left to infer, not, perhaps, that no man not having a freehold worth thirty pounds a-year should now be permitted as a freeholder, to vote for members of parliament; but, certainly (because there was no other practical or rational inference to be drawn), that there would be no departure from the spirit of the constitution in virtually disfranchising a considerable portion of the forty-shilling freeholders.

To this doctrine, which I am persuaded I have stated with perfect fairness, I am very anxious to direct the reader’s attention; because, if the time, which I have bestowed upon matters connected herewith, has not been much worse than thrown away, the doctrine, so far from being consonant with the spirit of the constitution, tends to the utter destruction of whatever remains of that once noble and hallowed fabric.

And, first of all, when Mr. Tierney was reverting to first principles, it behoved him to give the House some reason for stopping short at the reign of King Henry VI. It behoved him to say a word or two at least as to the justice, or, at least, as to the policy, of a measure, which began the abridgment of the liberties of the people of England, and which was adopted in the reign of a prince, whose councils were always distracted, whose life, from the interference of foreigners and of women, was a scene of alternate tyranny and imbecility, terminating at last in the destruction of himself and of his house. It really did behove Mr. Tierney to say some little, in order to convince the House of Commons, that the act of 8 Henry VI. to which he was resorting, as the basis of his doctrine, was not itself a departure from the spirit of the English constitution, as it then stood; that it was not an act of disfranchisement; that it was not outrageously unjust; that it did not tend to degrade the people, to throw them back into a state of subjection to the nobles, to alienate them from the crown, and to render them the instruments in the hands of those by whom that crown was afterwards, with so much facility, shifted from head to head and from house to house. But, let us, for argument’s sake (for as to the fact I shall always deny it), allow the act to have been both just and politic; and then let us, agreeably to Mr. Tierney’s desire, compare the circumstances, under which that act was passed, with the circumstances of the present day. As Mr. Tierney chose to deal in theory whenever it suited him, and where it suited him, to deal in practice, we will not stop to do anything but smile at his assuming, that service in parliament must “still be considered a burden,” just as much as it was in the reign of Henry VI. We will say nothing about the price of seats, nor about the emoluments frequently arising out of them. We will not dispute, that there might be, though we never read of it, a Treasury Bench in the House of Commons, during the wars of the red and white rose. Nor will we positively insist, though we have neither record nor tradition for the affirmative, that there were no Bank or East India directors and no loan or lottery contractors in the parliaments of the Edwards and the Henrys. Upon Edition: current; Page: [47] none of these points will we dispute; but, when Mr. Tierney talks about the depreciation of money, and would fain have us infer, that since the reign of Henry VI. a vast increase has, from that cause, arisen to the number of voters for members to serve in parliament, and, of course, a vast addition to the weight of the people in the legislature, we must be allowed to inquire a little into the state of the fact.

It would, perhaps, be very difficult to come at the bare fact of what was the number of persons, who actually voted for members of parliament immediately after the passing of the law, of which we have been speaking; and, if we could come at it and were to see how many members were then sent to parliament, we should, destitute as we are of all authentic information as to the then populousness of the kingdom, be as far as ever from the means of making a correct comparison in that way. But, we know, that previous to the passing of the forty-shilling act, every man having a freehold had a vote; and that, after the passing of that act, every man having a freehold of the value of forty shillings a-year had a vote. Now, then, in applying this in a comparison with what exists in the present times, I beg Mr. Tierney not to overlook the important circumstance, that all men, who had real property of their own, were, in the times, to which he has thought proper to carry us back, freeholders, the property which is now called copyhold, being then in reality the property of the lords, occupied by themselves, or let out on lease and at a rent quite or nearly in amount equal to its annual value, instead of being, as it now is, in reality the property of others, who are merely tenants in form, and whose rent, or fines, are, in point of property, in most cases, little more than a recognition of the feudality of the tenure, but politically, they have the important effect of depriving the persons, by whom they are paid, of one of the most valuable and most valued rights of Englishmen. To bring us back, then, to the spirit of the English constitution, since Mr. Tierney is resolved upon the task, let him, without saying a word about the Treasury Bench, or about directors and loan-makers, they being too tender to be touched; let him, laying aside all trifles about Treating, which, in itself, is no bad thing; let him propose, since forty shillings has been (and I allow it has) turned into thirty pounds; let him, at once, propose, and he shall have my hearty assent to the proposition, to make the qualification thirty pounds a-year instead of forty shillings; but, let him, in the name of the constitution of England I conjure him; let him include the copy-holders as well as the freeholders; and, let him, too, restore, by an extension of district, or by some other means, the ancient boroughs and cities to their former population and relative opulence: these things let him do, or, which may be full as well, let him, in the name of that same constitution, suffer every thing to remain quietly as it is, or, at least, let him forbear to remind us of the spirit of the English constitution.

Since, however, Mr. Tierney has forced the subject upon us, we must, lest our silence should be construed into acquiescence, go a little further in controverting his doctrine. He seems to have taken for granted the position, that, in consequence of the depreciation of money, the number of voters has increased. It would be very easy to show, that no increase whatever in the number of voters would counterbalance the great, the irresistible, the terrible influence of the taxing and funding system, to which, almost entirely, the rapid depreciation of money is to be attributed. But, has the number of voters actually increased in consequence of the depreciation Edition: current; Page: [48] of money? I do not ask whether it has increased since the reign of Henry VI.; I do not ask whether it has increased at Old Sarum and many other boroughs that could be named; I do not mean to ask, whether, relatively considered, the number of voters have not greatly decreased, taking as the points of comparison, the reigns of Henry VI. and of George III.; I ask only, whether the number, not of voters neither, but of freeholders merely, has actually increased since the rapid depreciation of money began; that is to say, since the commencement of the funding system? I am fully persuaded that it has greatly decreased; for, though, on the one hand, a piece of ground or a house, that was formerly worth less than forty shillings a year, is now worth forty shillings a year, and, of course, entitles the owner to vote now though it did not formerly give him such title; yet, on the other hand, how many hundreds and thousands of small freeholds have been swallowed up by the immense fortunes amassed through the very same means which have occasioned the depreciation of money! The taxing and funding, or, in other words, the paper system, has, and from its very nature it must have, drawn the real property of the nation into fewer hands; it has made land and agriculture objects of speculation; it has, in every part of the kingdom, moulded many farms into one; it has almost entirely extinguished the race of small farms; from one end of England to the other, the houses which formerly contained little farms and their happy families, are now seen sinking into ruins, all the windows except one or two stopped up, leaving just light enough for some labourer, whose father was, perhaps, the small farmer, to look back upon his half-naked and half-famished children, while, from his door, he surveys all around him the land teeming with the means of luxury to his opulent and overgrown master. Is this not so? Will any man say that it is not? Will any man say that the picture is over-charged? And will Mr. Tierney, while he must see that the number of parish paupers has been nearly doubled in the last twenty years; while he must see that we are daily advancing to that state in which there are but two classes of men, masters and abject dependants; while he must see this, does he yet represent the number of freeholders as having been increased by these causes; and does he, indeed, hold a doctrine evidently tending to justify a virtual disfranchisement of a considerable part of those that still exercise the right of voting for members of parliament?

When Mr. Tierney touched upon the depreciation of money, as affecting the civil or political rights of the people, he was, as we shall, I think, easily convince him, touching a cord, which, for harmony’s sake, might as well have remained untouched; and, as this conviction may possibly tend to render him more cautious for the future, it may not be amiss to endeavour to produce it. Numerous are the ways, in which the depreciation of money, especially when viewed in conjunction with the other effects of the taxing and funding system, have abridged the privileges, the immunities, and the liberties of the people; but, at present, I shall, for the sake as well of brevity as of clearness, confine myself to one. In order to prove to us, that the depreciation of money had worked in favour of the lower classes of the people, a material change, and had caused, in this respect, a material deviation from the spirit of the constitution of England; in order to prove this, Mr. Tierney went back to the reign of Henry VI. For proof of a most striking instance of the contrary, I will go back no farther than the reign of Henry VII. In the 11th year of Edition: current; Page: [49] that reign was passed (chap. 12), the famous act of Forma Pauperis, and, under that law, the sum of qualification for demanding justice free of all cost was five pounds, which five pounds were equal to fifty pounds, at least, of the present day; and, therefore, in order to restore to the people of England the spirit of their ancient constitution, Mr. Tierney should propose, that the act of Forma Pauperis should now be so altered and amended as to give to every man, not worth fifty pounds, the benefit of this just, this wise, this fostering, this truly paternal statute; this most effectual means of protecting the little against the oppressions of the great, of preserving to the poor man the fruit of his labour, of giving him a fair chance for rising in the scale of political importance, and, above all things, of preventing him from falling into that degradation of mind, and that indifference as to the good and the renown of this country, which must ever be inseparable from a state of habitual dependence and perpetual dread of petty tyranny.

Of instances of this sort I could make a voluminous chapter; but, as this one may suffice to convince Mr. Tierney, that he has here touched upon a cord of more than one tone, it will, until a new necessity shall arise, be as well to spare the probably too far exhausted patience of the reader, and to hasten to a conclusion with a remark or two upon the objects, which, besides that of rendering the Treating Act no longer liable to misconstruction, Mr. Tierney appears to have in view. These objects, indeed, he stated; and, considering the admirable perspicuity of the statement, it would be a shame in me not to have clearly comprehended and remembered them. They were two: 1st, to prevent the bustle and noise and loss of labour arising from the conveying, at the charge of the candidate, non-resident voters to and from the place of polling; and, 2nd, to prevent the necessity of those enormous expenses of conveyance, which expenses now operate as an exclusion from the House of Commons, of men of moderate fortunes, who would otherwise, from the merited confidence acquired amongst their neighbours, be returned to parliament in preference to those persons that now are returned only because they have the money wherewith to defray those enormous expenses, while men of moderate fortunes have not.

As to the first of these objects, though I perfectly agree with him, that men travel in a manner much more orderly, more silent, more expeditious, perhaps, and less costly, when they travel at their own expense, than when they travel at the expense of another, I am by no means disposed to allow that this is an advantage, in the case of elections. An election ought to be a time of bustle and of noise (if noise it must be called); for, if we think the contrary, let us at once join in the cry of those pious and independent gentlemen, who so severely censured Sir Francis Burdett, for “disturbing the peace of the county of Middlesex;” and let us declare, that, as there will always be, while men are mortals, bustle and noise produced by drawing great numbers of them together, especially for the purpose of opposing one another; since such is the inevitable consequence of opposition at elections, let us, in the fulness of our hatred of bustle and of noise, frankly declare, that there ought never to be an opposition at elections; to which let us add, that, for the purpose of saving trouble to the electors, and of ensuring wisdom and public virtue in the elected, that the nomination shall always be in the minister of the day. That this savours a little of the absurd, I allow; but, I cannot help thinking, that it will be regarded as a fair and natural deduction.

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With respect to the loss of labour; who, I would ask, is the object of Mr. Tierney’s economical views; the elector himself, or the community? If the elector, let it be observed, that if, in losing labour, he loses money, he saves the labour itself; he spares himself all its exertions, its vexations, and its pains; and, though labour be necessary, both to his sustenance and his public morals, continual, never-ceasing labour is not, or, at least, it ought not to be. It is, I am aware, becoming, amongst some persons, a favourite maxim, that the handicraftman, the mechanic, and the ploughman, ought to pass six days in constant labour, and the seventh in thanksgiving for all the good they enjoy. As to the latter, disapproving, however, of any puritanical construction of the precept, it has my decided concurrence. But, as to the former; as to imposing the necessity of never-relaxing toil and care upon the lower classes of the people, in order, as the expression is, to keep them out of mischief, it is a maxim that never could have been engendered in any mind not by nature formed for the exercise of the worst of tyranny; whereunto may be added, that the acting upon such a maxim would not be less impolitic than unjust, the natural and inevitable consequence being, either that the lower classes of the people would become disaffected to the state, or would sink into total indifference as to its welfare and existence, and would, when the occasion served, contribute, by their activity on the one hand, or by their inertness on the other, to overthrow, instead of defending, that from the destruction of which they could not possibly apprehend any change for the worse. Besides, and to dismiss this point with a remark which seemed to have escaped the mind of Mr. Tierney, the loss of labour, whether a voter travel at his own expense or at that of another, must be nearly the same; the loss of labour must bear an exact proportion to the loss of votes; and, therefore, any hope of producing, in this way, good to the community from his proposed alteration of the law, must necessarily be founded upon a diminution to be produced in the number of voters, which, as a project for effecting “a parliamentary reform,” has, it must be confessed, all the attractions that perfect novelty can give.

There remains to be considered, if the reader be not too weary to follow me, the other object professed by Mr. Tierney; and in this there is much plausibility; but, I think, a very little reflection will convince us, that this is the very highest merit, to which it has any pretensions. We have seen, that the necessary effect of the proposed law would be to diminish the number of voters; but, where is the ground for hoping that the salutary consequences of which Mr. Tierney speaks, would follow? Where is the ground for hoping, that, while the paper system lasts, the good character and good will which the man of moderate fortune acquires amongst his neighbours will, except in some particular ease, operate so much in his favour as to enable him to oppose, with success, the effect of the riches of the loan-jobber, the contractor, or the naboh? It will not be disputed; indeed, Mr. Tierney allows, that the operation of his proposed law would prevent from voting many of those persons who now vote; and, I think it is evident, that, upon an average, more than one half of those who vote at present would no longer vote. What, then, is the immediate consequence? The close boroughs would, indeed, remain as they are; those boroughs where the right of voting is confined to a dozen of persons could experience no change from the proposed law; but, the open boroughs would experience a material change, and which change, in a degree exactly proportioned Edition: current; Page: [51] to the effect of the proposed law, would bring the open boroughs down to the state of the two before-mentioned classes. In the counties, few, if any, of the small freholders residing at more than six or seven miles from the place of election would vote; and thus, every county, large or small, would be reduced to a level with an open borough, and would, perhaps, poll a less number than a large open borough. That such would be the effects of the project cannot be denied; and, therefore, the only questions we have to ask of Mr. Tierney are these: Does he think, that the rendering of the open boroughs close boroughs, and the rendering of the counties open boroughs, would be likely to operate in favour of the object which he professes to have in view? Does he think, that lessening the number of the persons who are to decide an election will tend to ensure the independence of those persons? Does he think, that the money of loan-jobbers and contractors would not be as likely to operate upon a small number as upon a large number? Does he think, that, if the voters of a county were reduced to so small a number as to be worth their weight in gold, the gold would not be forthcoming? In fine, does he really mean to say, that the county-members are now less respectable and less connected with the people than the borough-members, and that the boroughs, in proportion to the smallness of their number of voters, are now represented by men of moderate fortunes, who have acquired their seats through the confidence excited by their good character amongst their neighbours? No: none of this does Mr. Tierney believes; yet, all of it he must believe, before he can seriously hope to effect his professed object by the means which he has proposed to employ.

That Mr. Tierney does wish to carry his project into effect, it were uncandid to express a doubt; but, that he should really expect to be able to do it is quite incredible, especially when we consider what are the principles which have, for twenty-six years past, been held and openly avowed by more than one half of the persons who compose the present ministry. Let the Treating Act be rendered plain; let its liability to misconstruction be removed; let it be rendered as fair and as certain in its operation as the nature of the case will permit; but, let it not be so altered as to have a necessary tendency to diminish the number of voters, to render opposition at elections less frequent and less obstinate, and to put an end to all that bustle and agitation, which, in some instances, at least, elections still give rise to, and which are so favourable to the preserving, amongst the people, a recollection of those rights, for which their fathers so often and so nobly struggled.

Of what has been denominated Parliamentary Reform, I have always disapproved; because I never could perceive, in any one of the projects that were broached, the least prospect of producing a real reform. Of universal suffrage I have witnessed the effects too attentively and with too much disgust ever to think of it with approbation. That the people of property; I mean all persons having real property, should have some weight in the election of members of parliament I allow; but, even if this were provided for by law, the funding and taxing and paper system still continuing in existence to its present extent, I should be glad to hear the reasons, whence any one is sanguine enough to conclude, that the evil complained of by Mr. Tierney, the evil of leaving the making of laws in the hands of men of mere money, who have little or no connection with or feeling for the people; I should be glad to hear the reasons, Edition: current; Page: [52] whence, the present money system continuing in full force, any man can conclude, that this evil, as to the magnitude of which I agree in opinion with Mr. Tierney, is to be gotten rid of. To me, it appears, that, while the present means of acquiring such immense fortunes, at the expense of the people, remain, there can be found out no effectual cure for this evil; and this is, I think, fully proved by the uniformity in the parliamentary irresistance from the time the funding system began to the present hour. Without laying much weight upon the theories of Montesquieu, De Lolme, Paley, and others, who have written in praise of the English constitution, we must allow, that the real protecting power of the House of Commons lies entirely in their being able to refuse money. There was a “pensioned parliament” in the reign of Charles II. But, in that reign, the most excellent of our modern statutes were passed; and, let it be remembered, too, that they were wrung from the throne solely by the power, the real and active and frequently-exercised power of refusing money; not little paltry sums for this public purpose or for that private job; but of refusing supplies, and thereby checking the will of the king and his ministers, and effectually controlling their measures, with regard to foreign as well as domestic affairs. Since the establishment of the funding system we have seen many just and virtuous measures originating in the House of Commons; we have seen kings thwarted and ministers turned out by that House: whether the main object of these struggles has generally been for public good, or party triumph; whether they have generally tended to the happiness and honour of the country, or merely to the emolument of the victors, are points that may admit of dispute; but, that no House of Commons, since the establishment of the funding system, has ever refused to grant supplies, however large and burdensome, and for whatever purpose wanted, is a fact which admits of no dispute; and, as to the present, we all know, that, when the minister now comes for money, the question for the consideration of the House of Commons, is not, in fact, whether it shall, or shall not, be raised upon the people, but, simply, in what manner it shall be raised. Viewing the House of Commons, therefore, as “the guardians of the property of the people,” as Mr. Pitt, in his better days, described them; and not as assembled merely to discuss, or rather, to sanction executive measures, I cannot, with the above facts before my eyes, perceive any ground for hoping that any practical good would, while the funding system exists in its present extent, result from the adoption of any of those projects, which have professed to have in view what is called Parliamentary Reform; to which I must add, that, in my opinion, every such project would be found utterly impracticable; that it would, at once, drop lifeless from the hands of the projector, or, which is infinitely worse, would disseminate the seeds of a convulsion, to be freed from the numerous torments and horrors of which, the people would gladly resort to the at once protecting and deadly shield of a military despot. When the funding system, from whatever cause, shall cease to operate upon civil and political liberty, there will be no need of projects for parliamentary reform. The parliament will, as far as shall be necessary, then reform itself; and, until then, no attempt at alteration in this respect, should, in my opinion, and for the reasons I have above-stated, be made, either in or out of the Houses of Parliament.——For the length of these observations I have no other apology to offer than my persuasion of the vast importance of the subject; and, if Edition: current; Page: [53] my arguments should be regarded as imperfect, or my opinions as erroneous, my mind is, I trust, open to conviction, or, at any rate, my pages are open to those who may think it worth their while to produce conviction in the minds of my readers.

William Pitt
Pitt, William


  • “Prais’d, wept, and honour’d by the men he lov’d.”

I have before expressed my confident hope, that the intention of granting, by parliament, funeral honours to the memory of this gentleman, would be abandoned. I have been greatly disappointed; and, certain I am, that, at the proceeding, which I am now about to record, every honest and reflecting man in the country has felt, and still feels, mortification such as has seldom been experienced.

On Monday last, the 27th instant, Mr. Henry Lascelles, the same person who moved for the bill of indemnity for Mr. Pitt’s conduct relative to the unwarranted and unauthorized loan of the public money to Boyd and Benfield, then two members of parliament; this person, on the day above-mentioned, made a motion, in the House of Commons, that the House should come to a resolution in the following words: “That an humble address be presented to his Majesty, that his Majesty will be graciously pleased to give directions, that the remains of the Right Honourable William Pitt be interred at the public charge; and that a monument be erected in the collegiate church of St. Peter, Westminster, to the memory of that excellent statesman, with an inscription expressive of the public sense of so great and irreparable a loss; and to assure his Majesty, that this House will make good the expenses attending the same.” This motion found a most suitable seconder in the Marquis of Titchfield, and as suitable an opponent in Lord Folkestone, who, at the close of a short speech, characteristic of modesty, of sound understanding, of political integrity, and of a high and paramount sense of public duty, declared, that, if any other gentlemen entertained and expressed an opinion similar to his own, he should certainly divide the House upon the question. Whereupon a debate of some hours ensued. The speakers for the motion were, Lord Louvaine, Mr. Isaac Hawkins Brown, Mr. Hiley Addington, Sir Robert Buxton, General Tarleton, Lord Temple, Mr. R. Ryder, Sir Robert Williams, Mr. Wilberforce, Lord Castlereagh, and Old George Rose! The speakers against it were, Mr. William Smith (not a relation of Lord Carrington), Mr. Pytches, The Marquis of Douglas, Mr. Windham, Mr. G. Ponsonby, and Mr. Fox.

The speech of the Marquis of Douglas was distinguished by every thing, which such an occasion was calculated to draw forth, worthy of an intelligent, a just, and a gallant nobleman, feeling as he ought for the distressed and disgraced situation of his country. And, indeed, it is Edition: current; Page: [54] not unpleasant to observe, that there are, besides the two young noblemen whose exemplary conduct is here particularly mentioned, many young men, either in parliament or having obvious and legitimate pretensions to enter it, who have discovered a degree of talent, of spirit, and of application to public affairs, which, while they reflect great honour on their possessors, form a ground for national hope and confidence. For my own part, it is with a degree of satisfaction that I should in vain endeavour to express, that I view this race of young men, who stand upon their own fortunes and who act upon their own opinions, succeeding over and treading down, never again to rise, the penny-less, place-hunting, crawling, toad-eating crew of “young friends,” whose greediness has so long been sucking the blood, and whose impertinence and upstart assurance have so long been insulting the understanding and the feelings of the people. This change, which has been gradually and imperceptibly taking place, and which has been produced by the striking events of the six last years, and by the unveiling of the at once odious imbecile Pitt system of government, is one which ought to be, and that will certainly become, a subject of general congratulation. To the young noblemen and gentlemen whom I am alluding to, no advice can be necessary: but, if any were, it would be, that they should persevere in their present course; that they should continue to inquire, to read, to devote their time to public affairs; to form their opinions upon the result of their own researches, to act upon those opinions, and not to become the blind instruments of any leader, whether in or out of office; to give their disinterested support, upon a great and general principle, to that set of men whom they regard as the most wise, the most able to serve their country, and the most disposed to exert their powers for its good; but, in doing this, to take special care, so to act as to convince the people, that there is no resemblance between the support which they give and that which was derived from the “young friends,” who were the supple slaves, the mere mouth-pieces, of a leader and a master, and whose pens and tongues were always at his command, whether for the purpose of fulsome eulogium on himself, or for that of calumny on his opponents.

In returning to the debate, the first thing we have to notice, is, that the division produced 258 for the resolution and 89 against it. Many persons kept away, who would not have voted for it; others, from family considerations, gave it their support; but, after all, it was carried by much less than one half of the House, and, with some few exceptions, by the very same persons who voted with Mr. Pitt in favour of Lord Melville on the memorable 8th of April last, when, by virtue of the casting vote of the Speaker, that Lord was declared to be guilty of a gross violation of the law and a high breach of duty. This was perfectly consistent on their part; it was as it should be; it was fitting that funeral honours to William Pitt should be decreed by those who had supported him upon that occasion, and who, afterwards, enabled him to remove the intended trial from the Court of King’s Bench to the House of Lords. But (lest the honourable circumstance be not engraven upon the monument) it is also fitting that it should be recorded somewhere, that, if the monument should be erected and should remain many years erect, some, at least, of our children may be acquainted with its history.

The resolution, it is to be observed, is copied from that which was passed in the case of Lord Chatham; that Lord Chatham, who “never Edition: current; Page: [55] dared look at the Treasury but from a distance;” that Lord Chatham who scorned all petty and dirty intrigues; that Lord Chatham who declared his hatred, and who stemmed the pernicious influence of “the blood-sucker and muck-worm that calls itself the friend of government, that advances money to the government, but that takes special care of its own emoluments;” that Lord Chatham who was the sworn, the steady foe of corruption, and the terror of all corrupt men, whether walking on foot or drawn in a coach with six horses; that Lord Chatham, who rested, for support, upon the wisdom, the justice and the efficacy of his measures, who disdained the aid of jobbers and contractors, and who, when he could no longer keep his place and his power without submission to the low intriguers of the court, resigned it without looking back, without any hankering, without any juggling project for the purpose of keeping open a way to his return; that Lord Chatham who preserved undiminished the liberties, who extended the dominions and the power of England, and upon whose tomb it was recorded, that he had reduced the power of France. This is the statesman, the parliamentary resolution for doing honour to whose memory has now been copied and passed for doing honour to the memory of Mr. Pitt!

Mr. Windham and Mr. Fox argued, and most satisfactorily, against the resolution, upon general principles, expressly denying, however, that the deceased was an “excellent statesman,” and, of course, denying that his loss was “irreparable” to the nation. But, they admitted much which I am not disposed to admit, and which I am certain the people of England will deny. As to Mr. Pitt’s being an excellent statesman, no man dare attempt to maintain the position by argument. The view, short as it was, the mere outline of a view, which the Marquis of Douglas took of the subject, was quite enough to convince his opponents, that they had no resource but in assertion. Indeed, the bare facts, well known to every man of common sense; a mere look at the situation of the country, especially when that of France meets the eye at the same time, is more than sufficient to silence any one but a mere creature of the Pitt system, any one who has not fattened upon that system, any one who does not hope still to gorge upon its continuance, or its revival.

To describe the particular measures of this minister; to show the nature and the consequences of them and also the motives whence they arose; to trace him, in the use of his power, from the time when he first scaled the walls of the cabinet to that when he saw France the absolute mistress of Europe and the hourly threatener of England; to put upon record all the deeds of this man, in his public capacity, all his conduct whether with regard to the throne, the parliament, the church, his opponents, his colleagues, or the people, is a task, not to be performed in a short space, either of time or of paper; but, it is one which I look upon it as my duty to perform, and which duty, if I have life and health, I assuredly will not neglect, nor delay, nor listlessly discharge, being sincerely persuaded, that such neglect would be a desertion of principle, that it would be treachery to those, however few they may be, amongst the people who have contracted a respect for my opinions and a reliance upon my statements, and that, supposing my influence to be confined under my own roof, it would be there to leave falsehood and evil example to work their malignant effects, and eventually to corrupt and debase those minds, in which, as it is my first of duties, so it is my first of wishes, to implant an immoveable attachment to the good, the Edition: current; Page: [56] liberties, and the renown of their country. It is not amongst ministers only that exists the desire of being thought and spoken well of after their decease. I, too, should wish it; and though I cannot hope to be heard of beyond the circle of my family, there, at least, it shall never be said, that this monument was erected without my protest. If I live to see it erected, I will take my children to its foot, one at a time, as they become able to comprehend and to remember, and there will I count them the history of the intrigues, the disasters, and the disgrace of the Pitt administration, not forgetting the part which therein was borne by Lord Melville. The power of these men, from its dawn to its extinguishment, will I trace; all their deeds will I describe; shun this, will I say, my sons, as you would shun the curse of your father.

But, though I am necessarily unable to enter upon a history of the Pitt measures and intrigues, at this time, I must not postpone some few observations upon a point or two, which has been touched upon in the course of the newspaper discussions (under various names and titles) upon the public character and conduct of Mr. Pitt.—And, first, our notice is attracted by an admission, said to have been made, with respect to the great talents of Mr. Pitt. But, of what sort were these talents? For, Kemble has great talents, and Cooke has great talents, in their way, and in his way, so had Katterfelto. Mr. Pitt never gave proof of any talents, except as a debater. He was a great debater; a person of wonderful readiness and dexterity in conducting a contest of words; a most accomplished, a truly incomparable advocate. But, that was all; and that, from the use which he made of it, was pernicious to his country. His eloquence was frothy; it was always unsubstantial; it very rarely produced conviction; but, its object was answered by the plausibility of it, which furnished the means of a justification, or rather which protected against an unbearable sense of shame, those who, from motives of self-interest, gave him their support. In all matters of state, rightly so denominated, he was conspicuous for nothing but the imbecility of his plans, and the fondness of his expectations, arising from that arrogance which had been born with him, and which had been nursed up by the flattery of the supple slaves, with whom he was, and loved to be, continually surrounded. In all his schemes, whether of war or of peace or of interior economy, you trace the shallow mind, which was no where more conspicuous than in his schemes of taxation and finance, which was so glaring in the pamphlet published under the name of Old Rose in 1799, and which has been so ably exposed in the work of Lord Lauderdale. Allusion is not made here to mere errors, errors into which a man of great talents might have fallen; but to proofs of sheer ignorance, arising, too, not from a deficiency in the knowledge of recorded facts; but from an evident want of that sort of mind which is necessary in a profound search after causes, and in the tracing of those causes to their natural effects. In point of talent, he was, in short, exactly what Mr. Grey once described him to be: “A man of showy, but of shallow, parts.”

The newspapers have circulated, under the name of Old George Rose, a paragraph, which they call a speech in parliament, stating, in praise of Mr. Pitt, that he had doubled the commerce of the country. This statement is as false as any of those in the Treasury pamphlet of 1799, and that is saying quite enough of it. But, why did not the paragraph add, that this “excellent statesman” had tripled the number of tax-gatherers; that he had tripled ten-fold the bank-notes; that he had banished specie Edition: current; Page: [57] out of the kingdom; that he had more than doubled the number of parish paupers; that he had effaced the Lilies and yielded the honour of the Flag; and that, under his administration, the power of France had broken through all bounds, and had finally extended itself over every part of Europe; Old George, or whoever else wrote this paragraph, appears to have forgotten, too, the very flourishing state of the pension and place list, which has been more than tripled by Mr. Pitt, in number of names as well as in amount of sums. Had he he not quite forgotten this, he would, surely, have adverted to the vast increase of the last year; the famous grant to the Duke of Athol; and to the no less famous grants to Lord and Lady Melville. Paul Benfield: O, Paul! you should have been here! The thing will be incomplete, it will be botched, without you! How hard; how blind is fortune! At the moment when funeral honours are decreeing for Mr. Pitt, Paul Benfield is begging his bread! That great man, who, as Mr. Burke described him, was the very soul of the new system of “parliamentary reform,” once sat, with no less than seven members at his back, voting for Mr. Pitt. And, shall he now be suffered to pine in want? Shall he not have a single vote? Shall he, merely because his speculations have failed; merely because he has not succeeded; merely because his efforts have proved abortive; shall he, for this cause, be forbidden to share in the honours of the day?

Upon the point of purity, too, I must be allowed to differ from Mr. Windham and Mr. Fox. I cannot shut my eyes to what has so recently passed before them. I cannot already forget the Tenth Report and its sequel. I cannot forget the want of recollection so conspicuous in the examination before the Select Committee. I cannot forget the loan made without interest to two members of parliament. I cannot forget the neglect to pay attention to the information of Mr. Raikes. I can efface from my memory none of these things; and, while they remain there, never can I bring myself to act with so much injustice as to separate Mr. Pitt’s conduct from that of Lord Melville; Lord Melville, whom he excused, whom he defended, whom he justified, whom, to the last moment of the struggle, he protected, and whom, to the last moment of life, he cherished; and, I must say, that I do, from the bottom of my soul, believe, that if Lord Melville were to die, his memory would have as fair and as just a claim to public honours as that of Mr. Pitt. In those, who, from the beginning to the end, defended Lord Melville, it is perfectly consistent to call for funeral honours for Mr. Pitt, or, at least, to contend for his purity; but, if it was a gross violation of the law and a high breach of duty in Lord Melville to do what he did, how, in the name of truth and of reason, is the conduct of Mr. Pitt to be defended or palliated? Lord Melville, by suffering the public money to be drawn from the Bank and lodged at Mr. Coutts’s, violated the law; but was not Mr. Pitt informed of the violation? Did he not hear of it from a bank-director, and was not the report, even according to his own confession, confirmed by Lord Melville himself? And did he take any measures to put a stop to it? Nay, did he even desire, that the violation should cease? He has confessed, that he did not. At another time we find him in an act of direct participation in the illegal application of the Naval Money. Not only did he wink at the drawing of 40,000l. of that money away from the Bank; but, he himself took it and lent it to two members of the then parliament, taking care to communicate the matter to no one but his confidential secretary, and taking good care likewise that no minute, or record of any kind, should be made of the transaction. What difference, Edition: current; Page: [58] therefore, is there in the conduct of the two men? And, yet, to the memory of the one we are granting all the honours due to the untarnished and meritorious dead, while we are pursuing the peace, the fortune and the fame of the other?

It has been stated, in some of the paragraphs to which I have alluded, that the loss of Mr. Pitt is a subject of regret amongst the people. This is an impudent and insulting falsehood. That he may be regretted by those who were looking up to his power for emoluments, or for shelter: by the numerous swarm of “blood-suckers and muck worms;” that his loss may be regretted, and deeply regretted, by these, I am far from meaning to deny; but, that he is regretted by the people of England, is a falsehood which, come whence it will, never shall pass uncontradicted by me. They do not regret his loss; so far from regarding his death as an “irreparable” loss, they regard it as no loss at all; they feel and they express satisfaction at it; their resentment has ceased; they retain little or no anger against him; it is in their nature easily to forgive; but, they look upon his death as the first dawn of their deliverance from an accumulation of danger and disgrace. They will be, as will be seen, very indifferent spectators, either of the funeral or the monument. They will be silent; and so they have been under the operation of all the other long train of measures proceeding from the same source; they will coldly submit, but a cold submission is not what, upon such an occasion, wise men would be content to secure.

One person is said to have talked against raking up the ashes of the dead, and we have been reminded, that, of the dead, we should speak well, or not at all. But, surely, this maxim applies to voluntary speaking of the dead, and not only voluntary, but unnecessary speaking of them; otherwise, away goes, at one sweep, all historical truth, and, with it, all the advantages therefrom derived, whether in politics or in morals. There is a time, however, for all things; and, just at this time, one could have wished to refrain from all mention of Mr. Pitt or of his actions. But, this forbearance has been rendered impossible, without a shameful abandonment of public duty. The movers for honours, for an act that, if passed unanimously, would have given a sanction to all his and all their measures. They it is who have raked up the ashes of the deceased. They have challenged all men who think like me to the contest. They have compelled us to protest against this indirect censure upon our opinions and our conduct. They are the unprovoked assailants; and they ought not to complain that we have recourse to the only means of defence left us by their ungenerous mode of proceeding. Ungenerous, too, it is, in the extreme, towards the deceased as well as towards us; for, the use they make of his memory, is, to bespeak an eulogium for themselves, though thereby they expose that memory to the natural effects of our sense of the injustice of such an eulogium. Allow that Mr. Pitt was an “excellent statesman,” and you therein allow, that they were excellent colleagues; next grant that his loss is “irreparable,” and you proclaim that unworthiness in yourselves which you before tacitly admitted, you having been, for the far greater part of your political lives, in direct opposition to his measures. This is the extent of their proposal; and, shall they complain that it is resisted? Shall they silence us by their whining and their cant about the ashes of the deceased? Peace to those ashes, with all my heart! Profound peace to them, as far as historical truth will permit. But, let it be real peace; peace on both sides; let them not be raked up for the purposes of annoying Edition: current; Page: [59] us; let them lie quiet; let them not be thrown either in our eyes or our teeth; for, if they are, we must, and we certainly shall, as in self-defence and in duty we are hound, throw them back again. Let him be wept by the Cannings and the Jenkinsons and the Huskissons and the Roses and the Melvilles: they have, indeed, lost by his death; to them the loss is truly “irreparable.” Let that race of creatures, whom the great Lord Chatham called “blood-suckers” and “muck-worms;” let them weep; their mourning is suitable, and sincere; but, in their feelings the people of England have no participation. Let the City of London erect a monument to his memory, if they choose; it will become both them and him. I should be sorry if they did not do it by an unanimous vote. I should exceedingly regret that their conduot, in this respect, was not clearly distinguished from that of the people of England, acting by their representatives in parliament. To be “praised, wept and honoured” by the swarm of contractors and jobbers is due to his memory. He loved them; they were the part of the community that he selected for his own; and that man must be unjust indeed who would wish to deprive his memory of the honour of their praise. But, let them not abuse us, because we do not partake in their feelings and their acts. Let not their newspapers slander the men, who, only about seven months ago, were called upon to grant him a bill of indemnity for misapplication of the public money, and who now refuse to acknowledge that he was an “excellent minister,” and that his loss is “irreparable.” So far from meriting censure for their opposition to the resolution, I am fully persuaded, that ninety-nine-hundredths of the people, could they be polled upon the question, would declare that Mr. Fox and Mr. Windham went much too far in the way of acquiescence: much farther than strict justice warranted; much farther, I think, than can be fully justified; or, indeed, justified at all, upon any other plea than that of magnanimity, they having, for so long a time, and to the day of his death, been his political opponents and his rivals for power. Too far they certainly went; much too far they stretched their magnanimity, in their expressed acquiescence in the proposition for the payment of his debts by the public; for, to say nothing, just at present (though I certainly shall, hereafter) about his disinterestedness, what a dangerous precedent is here! To admit, that, though a minister does not merit the honours of the tomb, the public ought to pay his debts. This principle once established, there is no bounds to the extent of its operation. A minister has only to contract debts: he has only to owe, or acknowledge, debts. And, I should like to hear the argument, by which it is to be shown, that the creditors of one subject of the King are to be secured by parliament more than those of another subject of the King. If such a resolution pass, who, henceforth, will scruple to trust a minister? What minister need ever, henceforth, want money? Mr. Pitt brought no fortune to lose in the public service: he did not, like the old Duke of Newcastle, waste a princely estate in supporting the dignity of office: and why should his debts be paid by the public, by that public who was never called upon for a penny to restore the estate of the truly noble statesman here mentioned? Every view of this subject presents an obstacle to the adoption of the proposed resolution; it will not be just; it will not indicate a due regard to the interests and the laudable feelings of the people; and it will be a precedent productive of insidious comparisons, and of other most extensively dangerous consequences.

Edition: current; Page: [60]
William Cobbett
Cobbett, William
23rd May, 1806


Note by the Editors.—In June, 1806, Mr. Bradshaw, member for Honiton, having vacated his seat by accepting the office of Teller of the Irish Exchequer, a new writ was issued, and an election ensued. Mr. Cobbett had been writing for some time against Mr. Pitt’s system of Government; but he had now formed the opinion that a reform of abuses, and, in order to obtain that, of the Parliament itself, was necessary. He accordingly addressed two letters to the Electors of Honiton, one of the rottenest of the rotten boroughs of Devonshire, and resolved to offer himself as a candidate. The late Colonel Bosville, who was a leading man amongst the early Parliamentary Reformers, but who had not till then been acquainted with Mr. Cobbett, offered to carry him and his friends down into Devonshire in his carriage. The offer was accepted, and thus the affair became one of pleasure, mixed with a faint hope of doing something towards calling the public mind to the subject of the flagrant corruptions of the then House of Commons. Mr. Bradshaw was, of course, returned, but not without some annoyance.

“The dangers principally to be apprehended from regal government, relate to the two articles, taxation and punishment. In every form of government, from which the people are excluded, it is the interest of the governors to get as much as they can. Wisely, therefore, hath the British constitution guarded the safety of the people, in this respect; for, every law, which, by the remotest construction, may be deemed to levy money upon the property of the subject, must originate, that is, must be first assented to, in the House of Commons; and the application also of the public supplies, is watched with the same circumspection as the assessment, many taxes being annual, the produce of others appropriated to specific services, and the expenditure of all of them being accounted for in the House of Commons.

Paley: Moral and Political Philosophy; book vi. chap. vii.

Upon the principle that example is more powerful than precept, and that, to the producing of virtuous actions nothing is more conducive than the bestowing of just praise on those who have virtuously acted, it was, perhaps, my duty, in common with that of other public writers, to have, before now, recorded, commended, and honoured, your discernment and public spirit, as exemplified in your choice of Mr. Robson as a member in the present parliament, and in the truly disinterested and constitutional manner in which that choice was made. But, Gentlemen, an opportunity now offers for our discharging this duty in a manner which will compensate for the delay; because our eulogium upon your conduct now comes forth accompanied with proofs the most satisfactory of its beneficial effects.

Having witnessed the enormous abuses lately, by inquiry, brought to light, with regard to the expenditure of the public money, and having traced that inquiry back to the repeated, though then unsupported, exertions of Mr. Robson; having perceived, that, but too many of those persons, into whose hands devolved the finishing of what he so well began, were actuated by motives very different from his; having seen, that those persons were ready to accede to, nay, themselves to propose, a bill of indemnity for Mr. Pitt, who himself had connived at a gross violation of the law, in lending 40,000l. of the public money, without interest, to two Edition: current; Page: [61] members of the then parliament; and, finally, having seen these very same persons, these pursuers of abuses under the administration of Mr. Pitt, propose to vote away, and actually vote away, 40,000l. of the public money to pay the debts of that Mr. Pitt, and that, too, upon the ground, as by them explicitly stated, of his “public merits:” having all this before your eyes, you naturally looked back to Mr. Robson, the man with whom the inquiry originated, and who had had no participation in the compromises, the inconsistencies, and the abandonment of principle exhibited in the subsequent proceedings thereon. You saw, in Mr. Robson, no sycophant, either of the court or the populace; no seeker for place, either by cringing at a levee or by hollow professions to the people; you saw, in him, no warrior against the Treasury Bench, no stickler against the free use of the King’s prerogative in appointing his servants, but a determined enemy of corruption and of all abuses, through those servants committed, and, provided these were prevented, caring very little who those servants might be; in short, you saw, in Mr. Robson, a plain, honest, and independent man, wanting nothing from the public, either for himself or his relations, having the good of his country warmly at heart, and having industry and resolution sufficient to bring his wishes into action. Such were the reasons for which you chose him to be your representative in parliament; and, it is the bounden duty of all those of your fellow-subjects, who have the means in their hands, to acknowledge to you publicly, and to proclaim to the world, that experience has already proved, that your reasons were well-founded, that you have not been deceived, and that, in the effect as well as in the motive, you have a just claim to the praise and the gratitude of your country.

It is, Gentlemen, but a few weeks, since, as the consequence of your choice, as the consequence of your unshackled and constitutional exercise of that right, so valuable in itself, and once so dear and so much revered by Englishmen, that Mr. Robson was returned to the House of Commons; yet, as will appear from the report of a debate and proceeding which I propose here to lay before you, he has already done more than any member of this present parliament towards the correction of those abuses in the expenditure of the public money, which are now, by all men, except the mere slaves of corruption, acknowledged to exist, and which, there is no one to deny, do greatly contribute to the weight of those burdens that are weighing us to the earth. But, before we proceed to the particular subject thus placed before us, and even before we come to a statement of the circumstances which led to the proceeding in question, it is not unnecessary that we advert, for a moment, to the doctrine of the constitution, as touching the powers and duties of members of the House of Commons. The celebrated writer, from whom I have taken the motto to this paper, represents the power of the purse as the sole security for the liberties, properties, and the lives of the people; and, if this was always so, how much more necessary is it to cling to the doctrine now, when there is a regular army of 200,000 men in these kingdoms, about 30,000 of whom are foreigners? But, Gentlemen, what is this “power of the purse,” and what is the use of talking about it; what is its use to you and me; how can we possibly derive any benefit from it, unless our representatives, I mean, any one of them, can bring before parliament proof, if it exist, of frauds in the expenditure of the public money? The House of Commons, Paley tells us, is to watch over the expenditure of the public money; and this is the language of all those who have praised Edition: current; Page: [62] our constitution of government. They tell us, that we tax ourselves, and that we ourselves have a check and control over the expenditure; and this they explain by saying, that we choose members of the House of Commons to act for us, and that whatever they do is done by us. Well, then, Gentlemen, have not our representatives the right of inquiring how the money has been expended? And, how is such an inquiry ever to begin, unless some one man begins it? And, can you possibly conceive any good reason for checking any inquiry into the expenditure of the public money, from whatever quarter the first motion for such inquiry may come?

Now, Gentlemen, previously to my submitting to you the report of the proceeding, in which Mr. Robson has taken so considerable and so useful a part, and which, as you will see, related to the wasteful expenditure in the Barrack-Department, it will be necessary to state to you, with somewhat more precision than they may as yet have reached you, the circumstances which led to it.

The disclosures, with regard to Lord Melville, gave rise to public observation respecting the abuses in other departments; and, it was proposed, by the then Opposition, who are now ministers, to move for the appointment of a Commission to inquire into the Military Branch in general. Mr. Pitt, the then minister (whose debts, observe, we have since paid!), thought it would be better for himself to have the appointment of this Commission; and, accordingly, he brought in a bill for the purpose, and, in the month of June last, five men, picked out by himself and OTHERS, were appointed by law. To work this Commission went, beginning with the Barrack-department, and not, as one might have expected, with that of the office of COMMANDER-IN-CHIEF, that being, certainly, the head department belonging to the army; but, upon reference to the act, I find, that that particular office, was, for some reason or other (a very sufficient one, no doubt), not included; so that, there, even these Commissioners, have no power of inquiry at all. But, at any rate, upon the Barrack-department they began; and, in the space of nine months, the seven Commissioners and their clerks, produced to the House of Commons their first report, contained in 111 pages of loose print, being, in the whole, about three times as much print as is contained in this letter, which, on this 22nd of May, I am writing to you, and which must be finished and printed by to-morrow night at 12 o’clock! And, Gentlemen, what is the subject-matter of the report? Is it a statement in result? No: it consists of the evidence taken down, as well as of the observations thereon; and, it relates to one single little point in the affairs of the Barrack-office, namely, the arrears due from the Barrack-master-general to the public; as to which arrears I will, begging leave to digress for the purpose, give you a brief account. The report, thus made to the House of Commons, states, that De Lancey, the Barrackmaster-General, by the means of incorrect statements, had drawn from the Treasury large sums which he ought not to have drawn; that Greenwood, an army agent, who was the Treasurer to the Barrack-Office, and who was also the private agent of De Lancy, did, in the years 1803 and 1804, transfer 11,096l. of the money drawn for the Barrack-Office, to De Lancy’s private account, instead of applying it to meet demands upon the Barrack-Office; and that, upon the whole of his account, Delancy stood indebted to the public (to say nothing of the large sum for interest) to the amount of 97,415l. This report, which had cost nine months in making out, Mr. Edition: current; Page: [63] Robson had seen lie nearly two months longer upon the table of the House of Commons unnoticed by the ministers, when he obtained information relative to some flagrant abuses and peculation in the Barrack-Department in the Isle of Wight; and, upon obtaining this information, he, on the 16th instant, came into his place in the House, where, like an honest representative of the people, he moved for the production of the papers, which, in the following report of the debate of that day, you will find accurately described:

Mr. Robson rose to being forward his promised motion for the production of certain documents relative to the Department of Barracks, with a view to institute an inquiry into certain gross abuses in the Department, through the wasteful expenditure of the public money. He said it was now four years since he had ventured to obtrude himself upon the attention of the House, by some observations, and a motion, on the very subject which it was now his purpose to offer to their consideration; namely, the scandalous abuses then existing in the Barrack Department; and he, on that occasion, warned the House of the enormity of those abuses, upon which he had not the good fortune of being able to institute, at that time, any inquiry; but which now were palpably proved to have existed to the full extent which he then asserted, by the Report of the Military Commissioners now in his hand, and which for some weeks had lain, most unaccountably, unnoticed upon their table: and he now ventured to say, that had his advice been then taken, many millions of the public money would have been saved, and no occasion would have existed for laying such a Report before Parliament. It was now some years since the House had been in the habit of voting large sums of money for the erection of Barracks in various parts of the kingdom; but those votes had, of late years, increased to an enormous extent. Last year it was 2,300,000l. and for the present year it was 1,700,000l. Having upon a former occasion, attempted in vain to induce the House to go into some investigation, finding his former opinions justified by the Report now before the House, and desirous once more to bring forward the subject to the notice of Parliament, it was natural for him to look a little into the cause why this expenditure had so increased, and the more so after he had heard the plea of necessity which the ministers had set up as a reason for the heavy taxes they had recently imposed upon the people. He felt it incumbent upon him, now that the reins of government had passed into the hands of other ministers, who, he sincerely trusted, would offer no impediment to fair inquiry, to ascertain, if possible, what became of those enormous sums so voted. At present it was his intention to move for the production of certain papers relative to the Barrack Department, for the purpose of investigating some very recent transactions. Without entering into any detail on the subject in the present instance, he should proceed to name the papers for which he intended to move. They were short, and their production would neither be troublesome nor expensive, the first of which, and he would now move for it, was ‘A List of the several Barns rented by Government and used as Barracks, in the Division of Sandown Bay, in the Isle of Wight; specifying the time when first taken, and also the weekly or annual rent thereon paid, respectively, from the time of their being so taken up to the 25th Dec. 1805, inclusive.’—Mr. Martin seconded the motion.——Lord Henry Petty said, that if the hon. gent. had done him the honour to Edition: current; Page: [64] make the slightest communication to him of his wishes or intentions upon the subject, he believed he should have been able to have satisfied the hon. gent. that his motion for papers and the purpose he had avowed, were rendered unnecessary, by another arrangement which had already taken place. As the hon. gent. had not thought proper so to do, he would beg leave to say now, that, although he saw no objection whatever to the production of the papers named in the hon. gent.’s motion, yet, at the same time, as the House had already appointed Commissioners, for the very purpose of the investigation avowed by the hon. member as his object, and had delegated to them its authority to inquire, with the utmost minuteness, concerning every expenditure in the Barrack, as well as other Military Departments; which Commissioners were proceeding with all the expedition in their power, consistently with the nature of the subjects referred to their examination; he would put it to the good sense of the hon. gent. whether it would not be much more orderly and consistent with the regular proceedings of parliament, first, to await the Report of those Commissioners, or to communicate to them any information that could aid or accelerate their inquiry, before he proceeded to call upon the House to institute another inquiry, to proceed at the same time, and upon the very same subject. He would submit to the hon. gent. whether it was a proper, whether it was a discreet procedure, while a Parliamentary Commission was occupied in this very inquiry, to supersede the authority delegated to them, without any alleged ground of imputation upon their proceedings, and to move for another inquiry upon the same topic. If, indeed, when they should make their Report, the hon. member should find any just cause to complain of their negligence, or partiality, or unnecessary delay, it would be competent to him to call upon the House for the inquiry now proposed; but until such an occasion should occur, he hardly could conceive the House would be disposed to comply with the hon. gent.’s wishes for such an inquiry.——Mr. Robson rose and said: If, Sir, my eyes did not convince me to the contrary, I should have conceived that it was the ghost of the late minister I have just heard. What the noble lord has just said is, word for word, the objection made by the minister four years ago, to a motion which I then made for inquiry upon the same subject, and I have brought down with me the Parliamentary Register to prove the fact. But, notwithstanding the disappointment I feel at such an answer coming from the noble lord, as one of his Majesty’s present ministers, I shall persist, aye, inexorably persist, with the leave of the House, in my determination of having this business sifted to the very bottom. It cannot interfere with the Military Commission. But, am I to be told, that the House of Commons has, in any case, abandoned its inquisitorial authority, and delegated it to any Board of Commissioners, so as to preclude itself from investigation upon any similar subject it may think necessary? The Military Commissioners have now been sitting almost a year, and what have they produced? Why, only one Report; and this Report, notwithstanding the enormous, corrupt, and profligate waste of the public money which it has exposed, has now lain nearly six weeks upon your table; and I take shame to myself as a member of this House that it has laid there so long unnoticed. As a member of parliament, I have a right to inquire, though a Commission is sitting. Don’t tell me, Sir, that a Commission of Inquiry is sitting? Am I to be told, that the House of Edition: current; Page: [65] Commons, apprized as it is of such an enormous profusion of the public money, is to delegate its privilege of inquiry to any Commissioners of Barracks, or Commissioners of Accounts, or Commissioners of any sort, military or civil; and then wait a year or two until those Commissioners shall think proper to report their opinions? I can admit of no such argument. What do I sit in this House for, but as a guardian of the public purse? What is the duty of the House of Commons, but to watch over and control the public expenditure? Am I then, as a member of parliament, to be denied the right of calling for papers, to inform myself, and the House, upon the subject of public expenditure, in order to institute inquiry, if necessary? I never will listen to such an argument, as that parliament is bound to wait, year after year, the slow progress of a board of Commission, before it can proceed to the prompt steps necessary on the discovery of any prominent or enormous instance of profusion or peculation. What appears by this Report? Why, that 184 unsettled accounts were then before the Commissioners, not yet entered upon. Let not this House be told, then, that this subject is already before Commissioners of inquiry, who may sit year after year, before the result of their inquiries is known, while the House is, in the mean time, called upon to vote, year after year, new and enormous supplies, without inquiring how the past has been expended. The House, without the grossest dereliction of its duty, cannot any longer persevere in such a mode of proceeding. How long, I would ask the noble lord, has this account of the Barrack Department been bandied about from one office to another for investigation, without effect? First, it was sent to the Treasury; from thence it was referred to the Auditor of Public Accounts; then it was sent to the Secretary at War: and, at last, the system blew itself up, and corruption and venality had wrought their own reform. But the fact not to be denied, is, as I stated four years ago, that the expenditure in the Barrack Department has grown to an enormous amount. Why, I ask, has not parliament done its duty and prevented the progress in time? The purpose I have in view, is to examine the old accounts, in order to prevent similar profusion from occurring in future. I wish also to procure the protection and justice of parliament for many of those persons who have had the misfortune to give credit to a considerable amount to the Barrack Department, whose accounts now remain ten years unsettled, and whose families may be driven to ruin and beggary while they are waiting the tardy investigation of the Military Commissioners. I do not mean to charge any individual with a criminal misapplication of the public money. I am only desirous to do justice, and to ascertain where the fault lay; and I believe the Barrack Master General will turn out to be a very ill-used man, in the delay of settling his accounts.——Lord H. Petty appealed to the House, whether government could be said to have lost any time in proceeding on the suggestions of the Report of the Military Commissioners. He had himself made a distinct statement to the house on the subject of that Report. He did not deny the right of members of parliament to interfere with the inquiry delegated to the Commissioners. He only appealed to the hon. gent.’s discretion, an appeal of which, after what he had just heard, he should be inclined to doubt the success.——Mr. Bastard recommended to the hon. gent. to substitute the word ‘Buildings’ instead of ‘Barns,’ and to make the motion general.——Mr. Robson thanked the hon. Edition: current; Page: [66] gent. but would defer that till another day.——The question was then put upon the first motion and agreed to. The hon. gent. then moved, for a ‘Copy of a Letter to the late Secretary at War, dated 29th Dec. 1805, from the then Barrack-Master of Sandown Bay division, enclosing Proposals on the part of Mr. James Day of Brading, for the building of a Barrack at Brading.’—Mr. Perceval wished the hon. gent. would explain to the House what was the object of his motion, and the nature of the letter.——Mr. Robson observed, that he was prepared to give an answer, but he thought he was entitled to the papers upon the grounds he had already stated. He observed, that there seemed a disposition to resist him in every step he advanced upon the subject, instead of thanking him for his endeavours to expose to the House a system of delinquency in the public expenditure. His object in moving for this paper, the contents of which he already knew, was to produce what the learned gent. would call legal evidence.——The Speaker having looked at the written copy of the motion, wished to know whether the letter alluded to, was a letter to or from the Secretary at War.——Mr. Robson, From, Sir, if you please.——The Speaker. The hon. member having in his verbal motion spoken of the letter which is the subject of it, as being a letter from the Secretary at War, and the written motion being for a letter to the Secretary at War, the object of my question is to know which the hon. member meant.——Mr. Robson. To, Sir, if you please; as it is written in the paper now in your hand. (A laugh).—Mr. Paull said, he was confident that if his hon. friend had not felt himself perfectly acquainted with the business he had undertaken and the objects of the motion he had offered, he would not have moved them. His hon. friend had moved for papers upon a subject of grave and serious importance, no less than a gross and corrupt profusion of the public money, to which it was at all times the duty of that House to attend; and he thought his hon. friend had experienced a levity of treatment ill comporting with the gravity of the House, or the respect due to one of its members.——Lord H. Petty was not aware that there was any ground for the charge of levity, when the House had discovered every disposition to grant the information required. He trusted the House would act always with becoming gravity, and that when the papers granted for its information were produced, it would not countenance any proceeding upon them derogatory to the Commission it had appointed.—Mr. Rose did not think it decent or becoming to charge the House with levity. He was surprised that the hon. gent. who made the motion should refuse to explain to the House what was the object of it. He was entirely of opinion with the noble lord, as to the impropriety of instituting an inquiry in that House at the same time that Parliamentary Commissioners were employed in the investigation elsewhere, who had power to call for papers and to examine witnesses on oath.—Mr. W. Smith was convinced the hon. mover had too much pleasantry and good humour to feel hurt, if a smile was excited in the House by the uncertainty he had evinced on his own motion, as to whether the letter for which he moved was to or from the Secretary at War. He thought it more regular for the Commission to go on and do its functions, and afterwards for the hon. gent. to come forward with his motion, if he should then deem it necessary.——Mr. Robson explained, that the motion was written in the sense in which he wished to have it put, but the hand-writing not being the most Edition: current; Page: [67] legible, he had inadvertently read one word for the other.——Mr. Hiley Addington still pressed for an answer. Could the House, he asked, enter into the inquiry when there was a Parliamentary Commission actually sitting?——Mr. Robson thought he had made out a strong case for inquiry. If the letter he had moved for had been attended to, there would have been an absolute saving of 100 per cent. to the public.——Mr. Calcraft thought there never was a case on which a motion for the previous question could so properly be put. Unless suspicions were entertained of the Commissioners, he did not see how the House could proceed further. It had delegated its authority for the present to those Commissioners, and till there was some ground made out, that they were not doing what was right, he thought it would be improper to interfere with their proceedings, and should therefore move the previous question.——Mr. Bastard could not agree with the hon. gent. that inquiry in that House should stop, because inquiry happened to be going on elsewhere. He did not think that parliament, by delegating its power to a Commission, did thereby preclude itself from adverting to the subject if it thought proper.——Mr. Robson was sorry that the hon. gent. had not been in the House to move the previous question upon his first motion. By moving for the previous question the House would put itself in the situation of having ordered one paper, which was of no use, unless explained by those which there was now a disposition to refuse. To say, continued the hon. gent., that a commissioner is equal to a member of parliament is ridiculous. Are there not men in this House as good as any commissioners can be? All I ask for is two or three short letters which a clerk can copy out in half an hour. Give me but these, and I will take upon me to prove that there has been a corrupt and profligate profusion in a branch of our expenditure which has cost the country 10 or 12 millions, and I pledge my character as a member of parliament to do it. What am I to think, Sir, when the Treasury Bench start up and move the previous question on such an occasion? I am resolved to take the sense of the House day after day, till I see that there is no intention to keep the public accounts private. And this at a time, Sir, when the people of England are loaded with new and intolerable burdens, and when every man is called on to shed the last drop of his blood, and to deliver up the last guinea from his bureau, for the defence of the country! Surely, upon cool reflection the hon. gent. (Mr. Calcraft) will withdraw his motion!——Mr. Calcraft said that nobody was more fond of inquiry than he was, and it was because an inquiry was actually going on, that he thought it proper to move the previous question. He advised the hon. gent. to give his papers to the Commissioners, who might make a Report upon them. Had he been in the House when the first question was put, he should certainly have moved the previous question upon it.——Lord Henry Petty said, he felt himself justified in supporting the previous question moved by his hon. friend, specifically on the grounds that the hon. gent. had not satisfied the House as to the nature of the papers for which he had moved. In supporting the previous question, however, he desired expressly to disclaim any wish of precluding inquiry, or any denial of the undoubted right of every member of that House to move for any papers he might think necessary. But the question of right was one thing, and the expediency of exercising that right in all cases, quite another: there might be many rights unquestionable in the Edition: current; Page: [68] possession of many men, but there were many cases in which it might be wise and expedient to dispense with the exercise of them. The present he conceived to be one of those cases: but by opposing the hon. member’s wishes on this occasion, he by no means meant to preclude him from the fullest information he should feel it necessary to demand upon this subject at a future day, when those Commissioners should have finished their inquiry, to which, under the authority they possessed of examining evidence upon oath, they were more competent to accomplish than any inquiry that could be carried on by that House.——Mr. Martin said, he thought it his duty to stand up in defence of a gent. who, he was convined, was desirous of doing good to the public, and who ought to be supported in his honest endeavours to do his duty, and was of opinion he had made out his case.——Mr. Robson asserted that there would have been a saving of 100 per cent. on the transaction, if the letter he moved for had been attended to. Surely, Sir, said the hon. gent. this case is clear enough! My motion seems to cut upon both parties, the goers out and the comers in. The previous question is a thing that I hold cheap. In my motion four years ago respecting the 19l. 10s. business, when I wanted to see the Bill-book, I was met with the previous question. The motion on the 10th Report was also attempted to be done away by the previous question; that famous Report which has excited the attention of all Europe, nay, I might say of all the world. My motion then did good, and this will also do good; for ever since that time government acceptances have been regularly paid.—He then moved for a Copy of proposals transmitted by the Barrack-Master of the Sandown Division to the Secretary at War, on the part of Mr. James Day, of Brading, for the building of a Barrack at Brading.——Mr. Rose thought it would have been much the better way, if the hon. gent. had stated to the Commissioners what had come to his knowledge about the business.——Mr. Bourne agreed with the last speaker, and observed, that those Commissioners had greater powers in this respect than the House itself, as they could examine upon oath.——Mr. Calcraft said, that as all the objects could be obtained by the Commissioners, he should move the previous question on this motion also.——Mr. Paull said, that his hon. friend had given sufficient grounds for his motion, by stating that a clerk could copy out in half an hour what would enable him to prove that gross frauds had been committed.——Mr. Bastard said, as the hon. gent. had stated that 100 per cent. might be saved, he thought that a sufficient ground. He wished to know what security we had that the public would not continue to pay this sum, till the Commissioners had reported upon it.——Mr. Huskisson, as the hon. gent. had stated that the granting a few papers would enable him to prove such gross abuses, thought it would not be right to wait till the Commissioners might have leisure to inquire into the business.——Lord H. Petty said, that as the hon. gent. had now assigned some reason for his motion, he should consent with the leave of his hon. friend (Mr. Calcraft) that the previous question should be withdrawn.——Mr. Huskisson wished the hon. mover would state the object for which he moved for these papers.——Mr. Robson then confessed, that the shameful waste of money he complained of was not only in building the barracks, but in the rent of the barns, which might have been got for a quarter of the money.——Sir J. Newport said, this was a quite different thing: the motion was about Edition: current; Page: [69] building barracks, while the meaning of the hon. gent. was about renting barns. He thought the hon. member should state what object he had in view, as the House could never get through their business, if every individual member might move for whatever papers he pleased, without assigning any reason, and if the House were to consider themselves always bound to grant papers when moved for.——Mr. W. Smith suggested to the hon. mover, that he had better withdraw his motions for the present, and bring them forward in a more distinct form on an early day, suppose on Monday.——Mr. Robson refused, and said he should be content if his motion were put upon the Journals, as it would then be upon record that he, at least, had done his duty.——Mr. Vansittart begged the hon. gent. would give the House some explanation why he wished for these papers? He might understand his own motions, but certainly he had not succeeded in making him understand them.——Mr. Robson said, he had already explained himself sufficiently; he would not submit to be examined and questioned as if he was a witness at the bar: as a member of parliament he thought it beneath his dignity to wait upon any set of Commissioners, standing in a hall, going up one staircase and down another in pursuit of them.——Lord H. Petty thought, that if the hon. gent.’s sense of the dignity of a member of parliament would not allow him to answer a question put to him in that House, or to explain why he brought forward motions, the House would probably think it was agreeable to their dignity, as members of parliament, not to give any countenance to such motions. He should therefore again move the previous question.——Mr. W. Smith took notice of what fell from the hon. mover, ‘that he only wished to have his motions on the Journals.’ This certainly was not a sufficient reason for the House agreeing to them. He thought the best way would be at once to move the previous question upon all the motions. The previous question was then agreed to upon this question.——Mr. Robson then moved for a ‘Copy of the answer (if any) that was given, or communicated to Mr. James Day, in consequence of his making proposals to the Secretary at War, for the building of a barrack at Brading, in the Isle of Wight; and, if no answer was given, information to that effect.’ Also, ‘A List of the several Barns rented by Government and used as Barracks in the division of Sandown Bay, in the Isle of Wight, specifying the rent now weekly or annually paid for each Barn, and also specifying the precise time when any alteration (if any) in the rent of the said Barns took place.’ Upon these the previous question was also put and carried.——Mr. Rose expressed his regret that the business would make its way into the public prints.”

Thus, Gentlemen, ended the debate. The first paper (a paper of no use without the rest) was ordered to be produced; but, all the others, all those that were necessary to bring the abuse to light, were, in effect, refused; and Mr. Robson stood represented, as far as the proceeding could so represent him, as a person who had brought forward an unfounded complaint. But, before we proceed to further remarks, let us attend to the sequel of this proceeding. When the “previous question” was moved by Mr. Calcraft (a person in the Office of Ordnance, observe), Mr. Robson, as you will have seen, reminded the ministers, that the proceedings upon the occasion of the 19l. 10s. bill of exchange had taught him to hold previous questions very cheap; and you will remember, that, upon Edition: current; Page: [70] that occasion, after having been called upon to retract his words; after his words had been taken down; after he had been actually threatened with the censure of the House, unless he retracted and begged pardon of the House, he made good his charge, and reduced the minister (one of the present cabinet) to the necessity of acknowledging, that the charge was just, and of getting rid of inquiry by a “previous question.” Of this, as you will have seen, Mr. Robson reminded the mover of the previous question, predicting, at the same time, that a similar fate would attend the present attempt to defeat his laudable purposes; and, accordingly, on Wednesday last, the 21st instant, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Lord Henry Petty, the very person who had stood at the head of the opposition against Mr. Robson’s motion, came to the House, and himself moved for those very papers, which he had before represented as improper to be called for. But, let us take his words, as given in the Morning Chronicle newspaper of this day, the 22nd of May:—“Lord Henry Petty rose and observed, that before he proceeded to the statement of the business of which he had given notice, he trusted the House would indulge him with their attention for a few moments, while he said something respecting what had lately passed in the House concerning the Barrack Department. It would be in the recollection of the House that when the honourable gentleman behind (Mr. Robson) brought forward some motions on that subject, one of them had been agreed to, while the previous question had been moved and carried with respect to the others. This, the House would recollect, had been done in the absence of all explanation, as to the object which the honourable gentleman had in view, that was intelligible to him, or, he believed, that could be intelligible to any person in the House. He had moved the previous question with a view to induce the honourable gentleman to come forward with the necessary information, and also with the intention, in case he should still refuse, to examine into the business himself, and find it out either with or without assistance. He now flattered himself that he had discovered the object of these motions. He found that they related to transactions which took place in 1805, respecting the barns hired as barracks in the division of Sandown Bay, in the Isle of Wight, which were paid for at a very extravagant rate, when a building for barracks was offered at a much more reasonable expense. He would, therefore, under these circumstances, move all the motions of the honourable gentleman, respecting which the previous question had been before carried, and also add a new motion, which would relate to the Barrack-Master, who, it appeared, had hired these barns at an extravagant rent, and made an improper report with regard to the building offered as a barrack. It was right that he should be called upon to explain his conduct with respect to this transaction. He concluded by moving for all the papers that Mr. Robson had before moved for, and the motion was carried without a division;” to which you, Gentlemen, will, doubtless, add the observation, that by a voice, equally unanimous, these identical motions had been rejected only four days before! Upon this motion of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Mr. Robson observed “that when he had before made these motions, he had pledged himself to the House and to the country, as a member of parliament, to call their attention to an affair that highly deserved it. And now, after some days had elapsed, and the affair was in the mouth of every body, Edition: current; Page: [71] the minister, who had before moved the previous question, came down to the House and moved for them himself;” but, as Mr. Robson further observed, some apology was, upon this occasion, necessary, if not to him, at least to the House. To which Lord Henry Petty replied, that, when the papers were before moved for, a sufficient notice had not been given, and that no grounds were laid for their production. Mr. Robson rejoined; “that he had given notice on the Tuesday of the motion that he made on the following Friday; that, as to the grounds, he had very distinctly stated, that his object in calling the attention of the House to the subject, was, that double the money had been expended, in the case referred to, that ought to have been expended; and that” . . . . . . but here he was CALLED TO ORDER by the Speaker, upon the ground, that he had spoken before in the debate!

In observing upon these proceedings, Gentlemen, the first thing that presents itself, is, the doctrine as to notices of motions; and, you will, doubtless, observe, that the giving of notices at all, upon any subject, is of quite modern invention; that it never was heard of until of late years; that, if the intentions of all parties were right and fair, there could be no one to desire any such thing; and, that if all the members of the House regularly attend in their places, as in duty they are bound, there can be no use whatever for a notice. Besides, to insist upon notices of motions is greatly and most dangerously to abridge the powers of individual members of parliament; may there not an emergency arise, when the safety of the state may depend upon the instantaneous making of a motion? Nay, do we not daily see the ministers making motions without any notice at all? And, indeed, notices of motions are entirely unknown to the laws and orders of the House, in which we have heard this very important motion of Mr. Robson set aside upon the alleged ground, in part, at least, of a want of notice. But, as Mr. Robson himself observed, a notice was given in this case, and that, too, four days before the motion was made. Surely four days were enough to afford time for preparation! One would have thought, that the minister of finance would have panted for the moment, when some one should point out to him how the public money might be saved, at the time when he himself was endeavouring to convince us that it gave him so much pain to be compelled to add to our taxes! At the time when he was raising the rate of the Income Tax to ten per centum; was proposing a tax upon the raw material of our manufactories, and was proposing a tax upon beer brewed in private houses! At a time when Mr. Fox was declaring, that, such was the state of our pecuniary concerns, that the ministry were “driven to impose taxes that must affect the prosperity of some branch or other of our commerce!”

The next thing that calls, and it most loudly calls, for your attention, is, the demand for “grounds,” whereon to found a motion. With respect to which, on no transaction that occurs to me at present, can any “explanation” as to the “object” of a motion be demanded from the mover, consistently with the idea which we have always been taught to entertain of the rights and privileges of a member of the House of Commons, and, as to the expenditure of the public money, what object, other than that of a desire to know how it has been expended, need any member state as the ground of a motion? It is not as a right, or a privilege, that we ought to regard this; but, as a duty, as a duty incumbent upon every member of the House of Commons. And, when a member moves Edition: current; Page: [72] for an inquiry of this sort, upon what ground can any one pretend to call him to account as to the object that he has in view? And where, Gentlemen, is the right which any one possesses of inquiring into his motives, seeing, that unless he does make such inquiries, he is guilty of a manifest breach of his first and greatest duty? Perhaps we shall be told, that the amount of the whole of the Public Expenditure is annually laid before the House of Commons; and, that there Mr. Robson ought to have looked for information. Such an account, that is to say, the account of the foregoing year, is, or ought to be, laid before the House on, or before, the 25th of March in each year; and, I must confess, that this account ought to convey some information; but, Gentlemen, this amount is a lumping one; it lies in a very small compass, and, as to the immediate object of our attention, the whole of the Barrack-Expenditure, the whole of the immense sum drawn from us on account of Barracks, is accounted for in one single line, thus, and even in one single word, thus:

“BARRACKS 1,786,048l.

This is all that Mr. Robson would have found in the account for the year 1805; and what shall we say of a member of the House of Commons, who would be satisfied with this? Who, merely by looking at this, should pretend that he had “watched over the expenditure of the public money?” From this account how was Mr. Robson, or any body else, to know, or even to guess how the money had been expended? What check does such a document form to a wasteful expenditure? It must be manifest to you, that it forms no check at all; and that it is the duty of every individual member to inquire how this enormous sum of more than a million and three quarters was expended upon barracks in one year; or that, if this be not his duty, he can be of no use in the House of Commons.

There was one argument, Gentlemen, which was used against Mr. Robson upon the first occasion, which must not here be overlooked; to wit; that the affairs of the Barrack-Office being now before the Commissioners of Military Inquiry, there could be no occasion for any such matters to be taken up in the House of Commons; which argument was urged with great vehemence and with an air of triumph by Lord Henry Petty. Of the dangerousness of this doctrine one never can speak too often, nor in terms too strong; but, Gentlemen, how comes it, that this argument, which was so good on the Friday, was good for nothing at all on the next Wednesday? For, you will observe, that this same Commission was full as effective when Lord Henry Petty moved for the papers, as it was when Mr. Robson moved for them. There must, then, one would naturally suppose, have occurred some cause for this change of doctrine; and, I think, you will agree with me, that Mr. Robson was not very uncharitable in imputing the change to the impression, which, in the interim, did evidently appear to have been made upon the mind of the public. The detection and exposure of this instance of glaring inconsistency are, however, of no importance, when compared with the doctrine itself, which strikes at once at the very root of the constitution by taking from individual members of parliament, in their capacity and in their places, as members, to begin and to prosecute inquiries as to the expenditure of the public money. The minister (and, in this case, it was Mr. Pitt) appoints a list of commissioners to inquire into the expenditure of the public money in the Military Department; and, if the existence Edition: current; Page: [73] of this commission is to take away the right of individual members of the House of Commons to move for and to prosecute any inquiry with regard to the expenditure of the public money in that department, there is, at once, half the power of the members taken away; for, at this time, the annual expenditure of the army and its appendages amounts to about twenty millions, and, in the account annually laid before the House of Commons, this expenditure does not occupy twenty lines! Again and again, therefore, I beg you, Gentlemen, and I beg, I beseech, every man in England, to whom the happiness and the honour of England are, in anywise, dear, to reflect upon the dangerousness of this doctrine. Let it but once be established; only let a refusal to suffer an individual member to inquire; let such a refusal, upon such a pretext, once grow into a precedent, and who does not perceive, that we shall have commissioners for every department, and, that all notion of a control in the expenditure of the public money will be given up? Let this doctrine be once established, and, very soon afterwards, the ministry and their boards of commissioners will know how to dispense with the House of Commons; and, indeed, of what use would that House, in such case, be; and what regard could the people have for it, or what confidence could they have in it? Excuse me, Gentlemen, for urging and re-urging this point; for, compared with this, of what importance to us are the disputes about Malta and Hanover? The time, too, that these commissioners take to make their inquiries, and the comparative secrecy, with which they conduct them, are well worthy of your consideration; for, if it took nine months merely to report upon the balances due from De Lancey to the public, how long, good God! would it have been ere they had come to the contracts in the Isle of Wight? I wish you to observe, too, that it is provided in the act constituting this Commission, that none of its members shall, during the time that they are Commissioners, “accept or hold any Civil office of profit, during pleasure, under His Majesty.” But, they may accept and hold such offices for life; and as to military offices (which are all held during pleasure), they may accept and hold as many of them as the king, or any one under him, will give them; and, just by way of illustration, I wish you to know, that, since the creation of this commission, the first commissioner, Major General Hildebrand Oakes, has accepted, and that he does now hold, the office of Colonel of a regiment, worth from 1,200l. to 1,500l. a year! The second commissioner is a Colonel Beckwith; the third is a Lieutenant-Colonel Drinkwater; either of whom may, of course, accept, at any time, of any military office, depending for duration upon the sole will of the king, or his advisers.

Lord Henry Petty, as you have seen, Gentlemen, seems, in his speech of Wednesday last, to say, that he has taken up the matter himself, because Mr. Robson did not understand what he was about. You have read a faithful report of the debate, Gentlemen, just as it took place; and, do you think, that Mr. Robson appeared not to understand what he ought to do? It is easy to set up a laugh. There is an affectation of this sort, which has been very fashionable; but, amongst many other foolish fashions, it is growing stale; and, I think, you will agree with me, that, if, upon a subject so serious, laughter was not disgusting, the laugh would not be against Mr. Robson. A man of very good sense, and even a very wise and a very clever man, may, in the haste of delivery, use the word to instead of from; and may, even from his laudable anxiety, be for Edition: current; Page: [74] a moment, confused; but what is this compared to such an instance of glaring, of. . . . I would fain not, but I must, call it puerile inconsistency, as that exhibited in the conduct of Lord Henry Petty, who, after having spoken against the production of the papers on the Friday, upon the ground that the Military Commission was sitting, came, on the next Wednesday, and moved for those identical papers himself, the said Commission being still sitting? And, here, Gentlemen, I must repeat to you his words; I must save you the trouble of referring back to them, and must beg you to mark, and to retain them in your minds. He said, that, “if the honourable gent. had done him the honour to make the slightest communication to him of his wishes or intentions upon the subject, he believed he should have been able to have satisfied the hon. gent. that his motion for papers, and the purpose he had avowed, were rendered unnecessary, by another arrangement which had already taken place. As the hon. gent. had not thought proper so to do, he would beg leave to say now, that, although he saw no objection whatever to the production of the papers named in the hon. gent.’s motion, yet, at the same time, as the House had already appointed Commissioners, for the very purpose of the investigation avowed by the hon. member as his object, and had delegated to them its authority to inquire, with the utmost minuteness, concerning every expenditure in the Barrack, as well as other Military Departments; which Commissioners were proceeding with all the expedition in their power, consistently with the nature of the subjects referred to their examination; he would put it to the good sense of the hon. gent. whether it would not be much more orderly and consistent with the regular proceedings of parliament, first to await the Report of those Commissioners, or to communicate to them any information that could aid or accelerate their inquiry, before he proceeded to call upon the House to institute another inquiry, to proceed at the same time, and upon the very same subject. He would submit to the hon. gent. whether it was a proper, whether it was a discreet, procedure, while a Parliamentary Commission was occupied in this very inquiry, to supersede the authority delegated to them, without any alleged ground of imputation upon their proceedings, and to move for another inquiry upon the same topic. If, indeed, when they should make their Report, the hon. member should find any just cause to complain of their negligence, or partiality, or unnecessary delay, it would be competent to him to call upon the House for the inquiry now proposed; but until such an occasion should occur, he hardly could conceive the House would be disposed to comply with the hon. gent.’s wishes for such an inquiry.”—Yet, this same gentleman, who could give such a lesson upon good sense, order, regularity, propriety, discretion, and consistency, all which, on the Friday, were so directly opposed to the production of the papers, could, aye, and he actually did, come, into the same seat, and looked the same persons in the face, and moved himself for the production of those very same papers! This Lord Henry Petty is, Gentlemen, the representative of the University of Cambridge, which learned body have, too, the honour to claim him as a member; whence, in conjunction with what you have just seen, you may, I think, pretty safely conclude, that a man may swagger about a long while in a black gown and a four-cornered cap without acquiring many of the faculties of a conjuror. The fact is, that the mere knack of making speeches, the mere knack of twirling of strings of sentences, is no mark whatever of Edition: current; Page: [75] superiority of mind; but is, very frequently, a mark of the contrary; heads, like other things, being, in general, empty in proportion to the noise that they make. By the fools and the sycophants of the last twenty years, Mr. Pitt has been compared to Cicero and Mr. Fox to Demosthenes, these being the two most famous orators of antiquity. What they might be besides talkers, whether they contributed to the prosperity, or the ruin, of their countries respectively, it would, perhaps, be difficult precisely to ascertain; but, as to ours, we know, that, under the sway of Mr. Cicero, we have, as Mr. Demosthenes himself tells us, been brought into the last stages of national distress, and, indeed, without his telling us of it we know it very well; and, what is quite disheartening, we do not perceive the least sign of Mr. Demosthenes’s intention to do better than his famed predecessor, whose debts, however, Mr. Demosthenes has, with great liberality, called upon us to pay. Let us be no longer thus amused, then; let us no longer be the sport of this sort of brotherhood amongst the pretenders to superiority of mind. Let us ask for the proof of their superiority: let us inquire whether our country has increased in domestic happiness and in consequence abroad, while it has been in their hands; and, if we find that it has decreased in both, let us turn with contempt from their pretended superiority. To conduct the affairs of the government of a great nation demands great talents; talents such as few men, comparatively speaking, possess; but, not the talent of public speaking, which, though it may serve to gloss over bad measures, can be of no use whatever in the conceiving or adopting of good measures; and, as to a member of parliament, as far, at any rate, as relates to inquiries into the receipt and expenditure of the public money, all that he need possess, are, common sense, common industry, and common honesty, which last ingredient is, as to all the purposes for which a member of parliament is sent to the House, worth much more than the combined talents of Cicero and Demosthenes. Gentlemen, you have done honour to yourselves in sending Mr. Robson to parliament; it is the duty of us all to support him in his laudable efforts, by all the means in our power; it is our duty to stand by him, to lend him our assistance, to join him in his combat against the brotherhood of placemen by trade, who, whether in or out, will always support the abuses and corruptions that exist, and who, though they may hate one another, though they may seek the destruction of each other, will, at any time, suspend their animosities, and most cordially combine to keep down, and, if possible, to destroy, any man, who, they are convinced, has the good of his country at heart.

There remains one other part of Lord Henry Petty’s speech, Gentlemen, to which I am desirous of drawing your attention; I mean that, wherein he conveys a feeling of dissatisfaction at Mr. Robson’s not having made a previous communication to him, with regard to the object of his motion. What! is it come to this, then; is it become; is it actually become the custom for members of parliament to wait upon the minister and know his pleasure, or, at the very least, his opinion, as to the propriety of making a motion before they make such motion? Is it really true, that the minister; that a person appointed by the king; that a servant of the king, is to be consulted by a member of parliament before such member can make a motion in his place in the House? What shall we hear next? Where is this to end? What are members of parliament finally to become? If in one case, so in all cases is this doctrine Edition: current; Page: [76] sound; and then, Gentlemen, let me ask you how we can, without the most shameful mockery, the most gross insult to our own understandings, affect to regard the members of the House of Commons as the “guardians of the public purse?” It is their business to watch the ministers, and, if they can make no motion for inquiry into the expenditure of the public money, without previously stating their object to those ministers and obtaining their consent to such motion, is it not evident that no useful motion of that sort will ever be made? Mr. Robson acted as he ought; he came forward upon the ground of right as a member of the House of Commons; he firmly stood upon that ground; the public, seeing that his cause was their cause, stood by him; the press (I allude particularly and with hearty approbation to the Courier, the Independent Whig, the Morning Herald, and the Morning Advertiser) expressed the feeling of the public; and the result has, thus far, been what every honest man wished it to be.

But, Gentlemen, in our anxiety to maintain the principles upon which Mr. Robson has undertaken this inquiry, we must not lose sight of the matter of the inquiry itself. You have seen, that Mr. Robson, probably for the sake of avoiding complexity, has begun with one small point of the Barrack-office abuses, namely, the rent of barns, used as barracks, in Sandown-Bay Division, in the Isle of Wight; and you have heard him state, that double the money was paid for such barns that ought to have been paid for them. But, what would you think, Gentlemen, if it should appear, that five times as much had been paid, in this case, as ought to have been paid? What would you think, if it should appear, that we have been paying for each barn annually as much as the fee simple of the barn is worth? What would you think if it should appear, that we have been paying annually for each barn, for the mere shell of each barn, a sum nearly equal to the annual rent of the whole farm, on which such barn stands, and of which, of course, the barn forms a part? What would be your conclusion from such facts? What other conclusion could you form, than that a most profligate waste of the public money has prevailed in this department; that here alone nearly a million a year might be saved; that this sum now ought to be saved; and that, if it should be saved, we shall all have Mr. Robson and his informant to thank for it. And here, Gentlemen, bear with me, if I again press it upon you to observe, that the Chancellor of the Exchequer, who has now confessed the existence of these shameful abuses, knew nothing at all of them until Mr. Robson made his motion, a fact, I think, quite sufficient to convince you of the great danger that would arise from “delegating” the powers of inquiry to boards of Commissioners. I wish to give credit where credit is due; and I do sincerely believe, that, until the motion of Mr. Robson, led Lord Henry Petty to inquire, he knew nothing at all of the abuses we are speaking of. But, Gentlemen, the discoveries which his lordship has now made, will, if I am not greatly deceived in my conjecture, place some of his colleagues in an awkward predicament; for, by a reference to the motion, you will clearly perceive, that the representation of the Barrack-Master of Sandown-Bay Division, for the saving of the public money, though it was transmitted to the late Secretary at War, came under the consideration of the present Secretary at War; that at any rate, in his office did Lord Henry Petty find those very documents, which have convinced him of the necessity of a speedy parliamentary inquiry into the matter; and, that the same person Edition: current; Page: [77] was Barrack-Master General last year is still the Barrack-Master General; and that, moreover, the Assistant Barrack-Master General, who made, as Lord Henry Petty now says, “the improper report,” and who, as he further says, “ought now to be called to account for it,” is, to this hour, an Assistant Barrack-Master-General! This discovery, observe, Gentlemen, Lord Henry Petty has made from documents that already existed; and, therefore, it behoves us to inquire, where they have existed? In whose hands they have lain, all this while, as inactive as a sleep mouse? For, if it be now, upon a few hours of inquiry, on the part of Lord Henry Petty, become so evident that great abuses have taken place; if this has, as once appeared, and that, too, upon a bare inspection of the documents; what are we to think, and what ought the ministry to do, with regard to the persons, in whose hands these documents are, and under whose inspection they so long have been? Is not the conduct of these persons a proper and a necessary object of inquiry? For, if such an inquiry with appropriate consequences, do not take place, how can we reasonably entertain a hope, that abuses will not in future be committed? Anxiously, therefore, do I hope that the inquiry will not stop at the conduct of the inferior agents, but that it will mount upwards to the source of the evil; at any rate, certain I am that the further proceedings in this, will furnish us with an excellent criterion, whereby to judge of the real views, with which the ministers have now brought forward their new plan for the examining into the public accounts; though, if we were to judge from the language of the Morning Chronicle, which is now the slave of the Ins, we should not entertain any very great degree of hope from the execution of this plan: “The measure,” says that fallen print of this day (Friday, the 23rd of May), “The measure proposed by Lord Henry Petty, for the institution of an effectual audit of the public expenditure, has justly engaged the most serious attention as well as gratitude of the public. It is a great and laudable attempt; and no part of it promises to be so useful as that which goes to check abuse for the future; for it is almost vain to hope for much benefit from the revisal of what is past. What check or audit can there be of the Commissariat Accounts of our famous campaign in Flanders, where a convenient fire at every depot settled the accounts of all Commissaries, Contractors, and Insupers? But it is a material thing to institute a new system; and that the check should go on hand in hand with the expenditure. Nor will it be enough to see that there are vouchers for the actual expense, but that the expense itself is actually economical. For instance, in the Report of the Barrack Department, we see that the barracks were built, at what is technically called measure and value, though it is well known that contracts for building, even on a small scale, are made at 25 per cent. under measure and value. General De Lancey well knows this fact. He has built for himself a beautiful villa in Surrey, and he boasts that it only cost him 1,000l.” This is perfectly consonant with the new doctrine of Mr. Fox; and perfectly consonant, too, with the wishes of the Brotherhood, whether in or out of office; for, to them, nothing surely can be so convenient. “What check or audit can there be of the Commissariat Accounts of our famous campaign in Flanders, where a convenient fire, at every depot, settled the accounts of the Commissaries, Contractors, and Insupers?” What a question is here to ask, and to be asked, too, by that same Morning Chronicle, that bellowed so loudly for punishment upon the Edition: current; Page: [78] head of Lord Melville and Mr. Trotter, because they had destroyed their books and accounts! The House of Commons and Westminister Hall still ring with the indignant reproaches of the late opposition (who are the present ministry) against those who wished to bury in oblivion the past with regard to Lord Melville and Mr. Trotter; and, do their writers now; good God! do they now tell us; now, the moment that their friends are in power; do they tell us; do they, with an air of languor, as if weary of inquiry, ask us how we are to make inquiry about the burnt accounts, relating to the Commissary-General’s Department, during those ever-famed campaigns of Flanders, from which the DUKE OF YORK happily returned in a whole skin to go again on the no less famed campaign of the Helder, from which he also happily returned in a whole skin to command, with such distinguished celebrity, the army at home?

In coming, Gentlemen, by way of conclusion, to the practical application of the facts and observations here presented to you, let me, in the first place, caution you against the cry of disaffection and of revolutionary designs, which, upon all such occasions, is sure to be set up, first, by the innumerable swarm of peculators, and next, by the Brotherhood in general. It is their way to tell you, “abuses have always existed, in all countries; and, that, after all, this is the best government and the best country in the world;” the inference left to be drawn from which, is, that things must remain as they are, or that the government will be destroyed. So each of them will declare to your teeth, if you push him to the point; and, so they say one and all. But, Gentlemen, if, by “disaffection,” they mean, disaffection to the country and to our sovereign, clothed with all his constitutional authority; if, by “revolutionary designs,” they mean designs tending to the destroying of the present orders in the state; if this be their meaning, their charge is utterly groundless, and it is equally malicious, because they know it to be false. It is the sincere desire of every good man, that the monarchy and that all the ranks and degrees in the state should remain unshaken; that the property, lawfully obtained, of every man should continue secure in the hands of its owner; but, it is also his sincere desire, that the people in general should be happy and free, as their forefathers were. And, Gentlemen, it is because we wish not to see things destroyed; it is because we love our country and its unimpaired constitution, in all its branches and in all its provisions; it is because the name, the laws, the liberties, and the renown, of England are dear to our hearts, that we anxiously seek to promote a real reformation of abuses, being fully convinced, that, unless such a reformation do take place, and that right speedily, a sweeping destruction will ensue. We have been told, Gentlemen, by the present ministers, that they are, by the pecuniary distresses of the state, “driven to impose taxes which must affect the prosperity of some branch or other of our commerce;” we have, in defence of every new tax, heard them urge the argument of hard and cruel necessity; in every other breath we have heard them exclaim, “money must be obtained!” And, gentlemen, at the same time that we hear these arguments and exclamations, we see at the Board of Admiralty, a gentleman who has recently declared, in open parliament, that, in the department of the navy, a saving of one-third might be made. Add to this what has actually come to light in the Barrack Department; and, I think, you will not find it difficult to believe me, when I say, that, after the fullest consideration that I have Edition: current; Page: [79] been able to bestow upon all the branches of the national expenditure, my sincere opinion is, that, in the current expenses of the year, leaving quite a sufficiency to support the splendour of the throne and fully to reward every service rendered to the state, one-half of the present expense might be saved; and, Gentlemen, this object; this object, the effecting of which is, in my opinion, absolutely necessary to the preservation of the monarchy, and even to that of our existence as an independent nation; this object in comparison with which all others in this world shrink into nothing, may be effected, and easily effected, by a few, and a very few, independent, honest, and zealous members of parliament; members of parliament, in short, like the honourable Gentleman, whose upright and useful endeavours have given rise to this letter, and for whose ability to serve us the thanks of the whole nation are due to the Electors of Honiton.

With an anxious hope, that you will pursue the good path, to walk in which you have begun, and that you will scorn to sell your birthright for a mess of pottage to a venal slave who will take care to obtain a double mess in return,

I remain, Gentlemen,
Your humble and obedient Servant,
Wm. Cobbett.
William Cobbett
Cobbett, William
1st of June, 1806


“Fire shall consume the tabernacles of bribery.”

Job, ch. xv.

Perceiving that Mr. Cavendish Bradshaw has, since by your voice he was constituted one of the guardians of the public purse, taken care to obtain a place by the means of which he will draw into his own pocket some thousands a year out of that purse, and this, too, at a time when the load of indispensable taxes is pressing his honest and industrious constituents to the earth; perceiving this, and being fully persuaded, that, whenever the electors of any place re-choose representatives under similar circumstances, the cause is not so much in their own disposition as in the apathy and lukewarmness of those independent men who may have the ability to rescue them from such hands; with this truth being deeply impressed, I did, upon hearing of the approaching vacancy, use my efforts to prevail upon other men of this description to afford you an opportunity of evincing your good sense and uprightness, and, having failed in those efforts, I have thought it my duty to afford you this opportunity myself; it being manifestly true, that, unless men of independence and of public spirit will offer themselves as candidates, to rail at electors for choosing and re-choosing the dependent and the mercenary is, in the highest degree, unreasonable and unjust.

As to professions, Gentlemen, so many and so loud, upon such occasions, have they been; so numerous are the instances, in which the foulness and shamelessness of the apostacy have borne an exact proportion Edition: current; Page: [80] to the purity and solemnity of the vow; so completely, and with such fatal effect, have the grounds of confidence been destroyed, that, it is now become necessary, upon all occasions like the present, to give a pledge, such as every man can clearly understand, and such as it is impossible to violate without exposing the violator to detection and to all the consequences of detected hypocrisy and falsehood; and, such a pledge I now give in declaring, that, whether you elect me or not, I never, as long as I live, either for myself, or for, or through the means of, any one of my family, will receive, under any name, whether of salary, pension or other, either directly or indirectly, one single farthing of the public money; but, without emolument, compensation, or reward of any kind or in any shape, will, to the utmost of my ability, watch over and defend the property, the liberties, and the privileges of the people, never therefrom separating, as I never yet have, the just and constitutional rights and prerogatives of the crown.

This declaration, Gentlemen, is not made without due reflection as to the future as well as to the present, as to public men in general as well as to myself. It proceeds, first, from an opinion, that the representatives of the people ought never to be exposed to the temptation of betraying their trust; secondly, from long observation, that those who live upon the public are amongst the most miserable of men; and, thirdly, from that experience in the various walks of life, which has convinced me of the wisdom of Agur, who prayed for neither riches nor poverty; not riches, lest he should forget God; not poverty, lest he should be tempted to steal; and, to receive the public money unjustly, is not only stealing, but stealing of the worst and basest sort, including a breach of the most sacred trust, accompanied with the cowardly consciousness of impunity. From reflections like these, Gentlemen, it is, that the declaration now made has proceeded, and, when I depart, in word or in deed, from this declaration, may I become the scorn of my country; wherein to be remembered with esteem, I prize beyond all the riches and all the honours of this world.

But, Gentlemen, as it is my firm determination never to receive a farthing of the public money, so it is my determination equally firm, never, in any way whatever, to give one farthing of my own money to any man, in order to induce him to vote, or to cause others to vote, for me; and, being convinced, that it is this practice of giving, or promising to give, money, or money’s worth, at elections; being convinced, that it is this disgraceful, this unlawful, this profligate, this impious practice, to which are to be ascribed all our calamities and all the dangers that now stare us in the face, I cannot refrain from exhorting you to be, against all attempts at such practices, constantly and watchfully upon your guard. The candidates who have resorted to such means have always been found amongst the most wicked of men; men, who, having, by a life of adultery or of gambling, or of profligacy of some other sort, ruined both their character and their fortunes, have staked their last thousand upon an election, with the hope of thereby obtaining security from a jail, and of selling their vote for the means of future subsistence drawn from the sweat of the people at a hundred-fold; and thus expecting to pocket the profit of the corrupt speculation, sneering at their bribed and perjured constituents, as Satan is said to have sneered at the reprobate with whom he had bargained for his soul.

Far from you, Gentlemen, be credulity so foolish! Far from you, Edition: current; Page: [81] disgrace so deep, infamy so indelible! Far from you, so flagrant a violation of the law, so daring a defiance of the justice and the power and the wrath of God! But, were it otherwise, and did I find in Honiton but as many righteous men as were found in Sodom and Gomorrah, I would tender them my hand to lead them from the rest. Very different, however, are my hopes; these hopes forbid me to believe it possible, that there should be, collected upon one spot, four hundred Englishmen, having the eyes of all England upon them, who will not, by their votes, freely and cordially given, sanction the great principle upon which I now stand; and, in these hopes, I will, if I have life, do myself the honour to meet you on the day of election. In the mean while

I am, with great respect, Gentlemen,
Your most humble and most obedient servant,
Wm. Cobbett.


Note by the Editors.—This article closes the affair of the election at Honiton; but, as the reader will perceive, the close view of corruption taken by Mr. Cobbett during this short contest, made him, from that day, leave nothing that he could do undone, in order to obtain a thorough reform of the Parliament.

This contest, the very existence of which has been justly considered as matter of wonder, has terminated in favour of Mr. Bradshaw, if any success obtained by such means can, with propriety, be called favourable. That he will not be again elected for Honiton is, I believe, pretty certain; but, of small consequence indeed is any thing of this sort compared with the facts that have come to my knowledge through the means of offering myself as a candidate for the borough, into which I entered with some hope, though no very great hope, that all notions of public virtue were not quite extinguished in the minds of the people, but out of which I came with the sad assurance of the truth of every thing which, from tongues the most censorious, I had heard.

But, before I proceed to give a description of the deplorable state of this borough, let me do away a misrepresentation relative to a supposed preconcerted scheme between Lord Cochrane and myself, such a representation of the matter being highly unjust to us both, as it would clearly imply, that my professions of purity were intended solely to stay the progress of the usual means, until those means could be brought into action against Mr. Bradshaw. It is well known that Mr. Cochrane Johnstone (Lord Cochrane’s uncle) went down to Honiton with me; and this appears to have been the main circumstance whence the above representation proceeded; but, a few words will explain this matter. Two days before I set off from London, having then fixed upon the hour of my departure on Friday morning the 6th instant, I met Mr. Johnstone, and, having asked him if he had any news from his nephew, of whose recent gallant conduct the newspapers had just informed us, he pulled out a Edition: current; Page: [82] letter, saying he had just receved it from him, that he was safe arrived at Plymouth, and that he, Mr. Johnstone, was then going to the Admiralty, in order to get him leave of absence to come part of the way to London to meet him upon some business between them: Whereupon I observed, that as I was going to Honiton, he might as well go with me, especially as there was plenty of room in the coach of Mr. Bosville, who (never having seen me in his life before) had, with the greatest kindness, and, I may add, with as great a desire to promote the public good, come to me, and offered to carry me and my friends to Honiton and back again. Mr. Johnstone accepted of my offer, and we set off accordingly at three o’clock on the Friday. That night we stopped at Blandford in Dorsetshire; we arrived at Honiton on Saturday the 7th instant, and, on the same day Mr. Johnstone received a letter from Lord Cochrane informing him that his Lordship could not leave Plymouth just then. But on the Sunday, while we were at dinner, there came an express from Lord Cochrane, bearing a letter for me, informing me, that his Lordship, having read my address to the people of Honiton in the London newspapers, and having perceived that I had resolved to stand myself, merely because I could find no other independent man to oppose Mr. Bradshaw, he had determined to accept of my general invitation, and that he was actually on his way (dating his letter from Exeter) to put his purpose in execution. In an hour afterwards, having stopped at Exeter to provide lawyers &c., his Lordship arrived. What passed after this until I declined proceeding to the poll, has been faithfully recorded in the Register of the 14th instant; and, it remains only to state, that the poll opened on Tuesday, the 10th instant, and that, on Wednesday morning, the 11th instant, I set off from Honiton on my return to London, never having been at the place of polling, and never having, in any one instance, made use of any means whatever to induce any man to vote, or to refrain from voting, one way or the other, and having from the beginning to the end strictly adhered to the principles upon which I offered myself to the borough. Those principles led me anxiously to wish for Lord Cochrane’s success; because he stood upon the ground of self-denial, the only ground that any man ought, in my opinion, to succeed upon; but, I never interfered otherwise than in my exhortation publicly delivered to the electors, and, of course, the whole that Lord Cochrane has done to thwart this dependent placeman, and to set an example of disinterestedness to candidates in future, has proceeded from his own mind, and has been performed by his own zeal and public spirit.

Now, as to the state of the borough, who shall describe it? Who shall describe the gulf wherein have been swallowed the fortunes of so many ancient and once respectable families? There is, the electors will tell you, no bribery. They take a certain sum of money each according to their consequence, their degree of influence, and their services to their candidates respectively; “but this,” they say, “comes in the shape of a reward after the election, and, therefore the oath may be safely taken.” Considered as a question of morality, how contemptible this subterfuge is need hardly be noticed; but, to say the truth, they do not deceive themselves, and I must do them them the justice to say, that they are not very anxious to deceive any body else. They tell you, flatly and plainly, that the money, which they obtain for their votes, is absolutely necessary to enable them to live; that, without it, they could not pay their rents; and Edition: current; Page: [83] that, from election to election, the poor men run up scores at the shops, and are trusted by the shopkeepers, expressly upon the credit of the proceeds of the ensuing election; and that thus, the whole of the inhabitants of the borough, the whole of the persons who return two of the members to every parliament, are bound together in an indissoluble chain of venality! There are in the borough about forty or fifty dissenters, who, we were told, never did take any money themselves; but, even these men, are so bound down in one way or another, as to retain hardly any portion of freedom; and, in short, the election of members in this borough is made from motives precisely the opposite of those from which it ought to be made, it being quite impossible to imagine a perversion of the spirit and the end of the law and the constitution more complete than is in this deplorable scene openly exhibited.

Far from me, however, be it to join in the contemptuous reproaches of those, who ascribe this shocking disgrace, this terrible evil, solely to the electors themselves; and, these reproaches are always the more unjust and the more disgusting when they come from the corrupters, which is not unfrequently the case. The greater fault is in those who expose the poor and miserable to the temptation of selling their votes. The people of Honiton are not, except as far as this cause has operated against their morals and their public spirit, less moral and less public-spirited than other men. I found many amongst them duly impressed with the injury which conduct like theirs produced to their country; but, except in one solitary instance, I found the plea of hard necessity urged as their justification. As to myself they treated me with the greatest respect; and, to use their own expression, “I had their hearts and Bradshaw their voices!” Two or three of them, with whom some of my friends remonstrated upon their selling their votes, observed, that “the member took care to get well paid, and they had a right to do the same if they could.” The poorest of the people made a sort of pun upon my name as being descriptive of my non-bribing principles, and moulded their sentiment into a cry of “Bread and Cheese, and no empty Cupboard;” and some of them, in a very serious and mild manner, remonstrated with me upon my endeavour to deprive them of the profits of their vote, or, in their own phrase, “to take the bread out of poor people’s mouths,” describing to me, at the same time, their wants and their misery. There was one man, whom I had observed amongst the most vociferous in the ranks of Mr. Bradshaw, who came to me early on the Tuesday morning, told me that what I had said the day before, and what I circulated in print, had made a deep impression on the mind of himself and of his wife; that they had lived in the borough all their lives, and had never before heard a word of truth from a candidate; that they were convinced that if all members of parliament were such men as I, things would be managed much better and that the people would be much happier; that it was a shame for men to vote from motives such as those from which they voted; that he himself saw that he was a disgraced creature in giving his vote for a man like Mr. Bradshaw; “but, Sir,” said he, “I have a numerous family of small children, and I cannot bear to see them crying for bread!” What other feeling than that of pity could such a statement possibly excite? “My poverty, and not my will consents,” was the language of their hearts, while their tongues pronounced the name of Bradshaw at the close of the awful protestation they made in the presence and in the name of their God! One man, Edition: current; Page: [84] and one man alone, as far as I know, did entertain the intention of accepting of my invitation to come forth and be distinguished from the rest. This man, whose name is WILLIAM PORTER, seeing me walking by his workshop on the day before my departure, came out to me and said: “I am sorry, Sir, you do not stand the poll, for I wished to vote for you, because my conscience tells me it would be my duty so to do.” He had all the appearance of a hard-working man; the sweat stood upon his forehead; he had not taken time to lay the tool out of his hand; and his manner, joined with his declaration, excited in my mind a pleasure which alone would have been an ample compensation for all the trouble I had taken. Had I gone to the poll, there would, probably, have been found twenty or thirty such men as this; but, justice to William Porter bids me record, that, though there are residing several men by the name of Lot in the borough, he was the only man that openly and manfully declared his wish to be led forth from the sons of bribery and corruption.

In quitting this scene; in looking back from one of the many hills that surround the fertile and beautiful valley in which Honiton lies, with its houses spreading down the side of an inferior eminence crowned by its ancient and venerable church; in surveying the fields, the crops, the cattle, all the blessings that nature can bestow, all the sources of plenty and all the means of comfort and of happiness, it was impossible to divest oneself of a feeling of horror at reflecting upon the deeds which the then rising sun was about to witness, upon this one of his most favoured spots. And, is there, said I to myself; can there be a statesman, who can say that he has done his duty; who can quiet the calls of his conscience; who can calmly lay his head down upon his pillow; who can close his eyes without a dread as to where and how he shall awake; is there a statesman in England who can do these things, until he has formed a solemn resolution to endeavour to correct this shocking abuse; to remove this terrible curse from the land committed to his care?

As to the manner of prosecuting an endeavour of this sort, that shall be the subject of future inquiry; but, the more I reflect upon what I have now seen with my own eyes, the more firm does my conviction become, that this is the cause of all our calamities and our dangers, and that it is not, as Blackstone vainly imagines, to be removed by the laws now in existence.——With respect to my own views relative to the Honiton election, they have been stated with great distinctness and with perfect sincerity. Self-interest, in offering myself as a candidate, either now or at any future time, I can have none. My declaration precludes the possibility of my having any; and, as to personal ambition, if I know my own heart, I have not a particle of it. I never desire to be higher in life than I now am. I have as much acquaintance with the great and the rich as I want to have. I know that happiness is not to be procured by riches: and I have no desire to be thought better than others, merely because I am resolved not to partake of the public money. That this resolution has not arisen from any new thought of mine many persons in public life, and particularly he, with whose acquaintance I have been most honoured, can testify. It was always my resolution; and, it is my opinion that it ought to be the resolution of every man that offers himself as a member of the House of Commons. This opinion can be maintained by argument irresistible, and so strongly is my mind impressed with the necessity of a declaration, such as I have made, from every candidate for a seat in the House of Commons; so firm is my conviction that this is Edition: current; Page: [85] the only means of bringing about the adoption of the measures that are wanted at this time, that, I shall, as often as a favourable opportunity offers, come forward myself, if no one else will, to put it in the power of the electors to sanction this great and saving principle. I repeat, that, for my own sake, I have no desire to be in the House of Commons; for, though it would be contemptible affectation to pretend to doubt of my ability to discharge the duties of a member of that House, yet my habits do not lead me that way, nor any way that takes me from my home. But, if I think that I can serve the country more effectually by becoming a member of parliament, a member of parliament I will, if I can in the constitutional way, certainly become; and, the present impression upon my mind is, that, if neither of the candidates for the City of Westminster, do, at the next election, make a declaration against accepting of the public money, I ought to afford the electors of that city an opportunity of choosing a man that will make that declaration. I do not hereby promise so to do; but my present opinion is, that I ought, in such case, to do it. If any other man will do it, I shall be glad, and shall be ready to lend him all the assistance in my power; for, again and again I repeat, that I have no desire to be in parliament, nor any desire ever to appear in public, if the good I wish to see done can be done by others, and others there are enough and more than enough if they will but bestir themselves.

William Cobbett
Cobbett, William
6th August, 1806


“The English are free only forty days, once in seven years; and, the use, which they then make of their freedom, shows that they deserve to be enslaved all the rest of their lives.”

Rousseau: Social Contract.

On the 10th of May last, I addressed a letter to you upon the subject of the waste of the public money, under the head of “letter the first,” it being then my intention to address a series of letters to you upon that, and other subjects, therewith connected. But, it being now become almost certain, that a dissolution of the present parliament will speedily take place, I propose to address to you about four or five letters thereupon, and upon your duties which will therefrom arise; which letters, that they may not be confounded with any others, I shall number from one to as many as they shall amount to.

Before I proceed to submit to you the observations and suggestions, which, upon the above-mentioned subject, present themselves to my mind as being likely to be useful at the present moment, give me leave to express a hope, that you are duly impressed with the importance of the subject itself; for, if you regard, or, if you act as if you regarded, the days of an election as a time merely for keeping holiday and making a noise; as a time for assembling in a tumultuous manner, without running the risk of smarting under the lash of the law; if, like the slaves of Rome, whose tyrannical Edition: current; Page: [86] and cunning rulers let them loose, once in a while, to commit all manner of foolish and beastly acts, in order thereby to terrify their own children from the commission of such acts; if, like these degraded creatures, you suffer yourselves to be made the sport of those who solicit your votes, then, indeed, will you verify the assertion of the French writer, from whom I have selected my motto; then, indeed, will you deserve to be slaves all the rest of your lives. But, my hope is, and, indeed, my expectation is, that your conduct will be exactly the reverse; that, 1st, you will look back to the days of your forefathers, and revive in your minds the arduous and successful efforts, which, at various times, they made for the preservation of the privilege, which you will soon have an opportunity of exercising, and that you will duly reflect upon the nature of that privilege: that, 2ndly, you will view, in its true light, the present situation of your country, and that you will diligently and impartially inquire, whether all the evils we endure, and all the dangers that threaten us, are not to be ascribed to the folly and baseness of those, who have possessed, and who have so shamefully abused, their privilege of choosing members of parliament; that, 3dly, you will inquire, whether, at any time heretofore, the members whom you have chosen, have held to their professed principles, or their promises, and that you will endeavour to ascertain the cause of their desertion of their principles and of you; that, 4thly, you will, beforehand, while you have time well to weigh and to consider, inquire, and resolve upon, what sort of men those ought to be whom you shall elect, and what sort of security you ought to demand for their holding to the principles which they profess; and that, 5thly, you will, as soon as may be, determine upon the very men for whom you will vote, and in support of whom, as your representatives in the parliament, as the makers of the laws to which you are to submit, as the guardians of your property and your personal freedom, you will use all the lawful means within your power. To assist you in these considerations and inquiries is the object of the letters that I am now beginning to address to you; and though I am well aware that the far greater part of you stand in need of no such assistance, yet I am persuaded, that want of the habit of reflecting in some, and want of leisure in others, have heretofore prevented them from forming right opinions upon the subject, and, under that persuasion I cannot refrain from endeavouring to do some little in the way of guiding those opinions upon the present important occasion, begging you to bear in mind, however, that it is not my intention to offer myself to you as a candidate, unless it shall be found, that no other man in the kingdom has the public spirit to stand forward upon that ground, whereon alone I think any man ought to be chosen as a member of the House of Commons, and particularly as a member to represent the City of Westminster.

1. In looking back to the days of our forefathers, we find them, in ancient times, fallen into a state of personal bondage to the few great possessors of the soil, who were the only part of the subjects of the king enjoying anything worthy of the name of freedom; we find, that, from this degraded state they began to rise under the reigns of those Kings of England, who carried the English banners in triumph over the fields of France, who won and who left, as an everlasting memorial of the valour of Englishmen, those Lilies, which, only six years ago, were effaced from their arms; we find, that the right, or the duty, of voting for members of the House of Commons, which right had, by those gallant kings, been conferred upon every man not a mere bondsman, was, by a foolish Edition: current; Page: [87] and cowardly successor, restricted, in many cases, to persons having a certain portion of property of a particular kind; we find, that, in more recent times, the advisers of the kings, the creatures who swarm about a court, and who rob the people of their substance as the drone robs the industrious bee, contrived various means of rendering the representatives of the people the mere tools of the court, and, that, when unable to succeed in corrupting them to their purposes, they caused the parliament to be dissolved; we find, that, when this scheme had been tried to its utmost without success, a weak and bigot king endeavoured to govern without a parliament, and soon after we find him driven from his throne, the crown being settled in succession upon another family, and provision being made, a solemn compact being entered into, that, for ever afterwards, the people should have an opportunity of choosing a new House of Commons once in three years; we find, however, that a House of Commons, so elected, became parties to a law for depriving the people of this right, and for making the term seven years instead of three, from the passing of which law we may date the rapid decline of public liberty, and the no less rapid increase of the public burdens. Until that fatal day great and almost constant were the exertions of the people to maintain their due weight in the Government; since that day, they have made but few and those very contemptible exertions; but, now, when they see that there is no hope left of safety from any other source, ought they not to rouse themselves? Ought they not to exert their power as often as it comes into their hands? The object of our ancestors in contending, with their lives, for their rights as relating to the choice of members of parliament, was, to keep a check upon the power of the crown; to prevent the king, or his favourites, from taking from them any more of their property than what should be found necessary for the support of the government and for the carrying into effect such measures as should be found requisite for the good of the nation in general; to prevent their substance from being drawn from them to fatten idlers and profligates; to prevent any part of their fellow subjects from becoming oppressors of the rest; to prevent, in short, the loss of their freedom and of the enjoyments therefrom arising. The means was the power, given to representatives of the people, of refusing to grant money to the king. And, when I say the power, I mean the real power of refusing, and not the mere nominal power of refusing; for, if the power be merely nominal, it is no power at all; and, if it be never exercised, it is merely nominal.

“To what,” some one may say, “does all this tend, but to convince me, that all exertions on the part of the electors would be useless?” Yet, this is not so. The fault has been with the independent electors; for, though, owing to several causes, there always will be, until a material change in the representation take place, a great majority in favour of whomsoever is minister; though the representation arising from the decayed boroughs will always produce, in point of mere numbers, the means of overbalancing anything that can be done by the independent electors, still, these latter are able, if they were willing, to make such a choice as would be a sufficient means of protection against all the schemes of oppression that ambition or rapacity could devise. The electors of boroughs, where their numbers are small, or where they are, in some way or other, dependent upon one or two rich men; the electors of such places, whether they actually take bribes, or not, have some excuse for becoming the miserable and degraded tools of a corruptor. Their crime is, indeed, Edition: current; Page: [88] detestable; they deserve to be held in execration; their names ought to be inscribed upon the gallows-tree, after their carcasses have therefrom been carried piece-meal by the fowls of the air; “BE SUCH THE FATE OF THE VENDERS OF THEIR CHILDREN’S LIBERTIES AND HAPPINESS,” ought to be uttered from the lips of every honest man; but, still, they have some excuse; they have the excuse of the hungry robber and assassin, whose crimes they equal and whose fate they deserve. But for you, Electors of Westminster, what excuse shall be made for you, if you fail in the performance of your duty; if you violate so sacred a trust? If you, who have all the political advantages that time and place can give; who well understand what is right, and who have no temptation to do what is wrong; who can plead neither ignorance nor want; who are, in short, as free as you could possibly be made by any scheme of liberty that human art is capable of devising; what shall be said for you, if, setting at nought all considerations of country and of individual honour, you become the passive instruments, the trodden-down things, of some half-dozen of opulent men, whose only merit, in the eyes of the world, would be, that they would hold you in a degree of contempt, surpassing that which they entertain for the beasts that perish?

To hear some persons talk of an election for Westminster, a stranger to the state of things would believe, that the electors were the bondsmen, or, at best, the mere menial servants of a few great families. The question, upon hearing such persons talk, seems to be, not what man the electors may wish to choose, but what man is preferred by a few of the noblemen, though, by-the-by, it is well known, that the law positively forbids such noblemen to interfere in elections. Notwithstanding this law, we hear the boroughs called after the names of the peers who are the owners of them; we hear that such a peer has so many members in the House of Commons, and such a peer so many more; and this we, at last, have come to hear and to talk about with perfect unconcern; but, this is no excuse for you. Neither peers nor any body else can render you dependent, if you are disposed to be free. You are nearly twenty thousand in number. Your trades and occupations are, generally speaking, full as necessary to your employers as their employment is necessary to you. If you are turned out of one house, there is always another ready to receive you; if you lose one customer, you gain another; you need court the smiles, you need fear the frowns, of no man, and no set of men, living. Some few unfortunate dependants there may be amongst you; but, the number is so small as to be unworthy of notice, when compared to the whole. Yet, under these circumstances it is that we hear of the interest of such or such a nobleman, and, indeed, of such or such a nobleman’s Butler or Housekeeper; and, after hearing what we do hear in this way at every Westminster election, it seems surprising, that the Butler does not himself become your representative in parliament. The king has his powers; the peers have theirs, and ample powers they have, every one of them being his own representative in parliament. These powers it is our duty to maintain; but, it is also our duty to maintain our own powers, and, if we basely surrender them at the command of the Butlers and Footmen of peers, we deserve every species of insolence that the minds of Butlers and Footmen are capable of conceiving. To make use of any interested motive for the purpose of inducing an elector to give, or to withhold, his vote, is a crime in the eye of the law, which has Edition: current; Page: [89] provided injunctions and oaths, which has prepared shame and punishment for every such crime; but, to attempt to induce an elector to vote contrary to his conscience, is also a personal offence, that every honest man will resent with as much indignation as he would an accusation of perjury. How scandalous, then, is it that tradesmen should patiently listen to the commands of their customers, nay, that they should obey those commands, in direct opposition to the dictates of their own minds, from the paltry consideration of gain, which, when compared to the weight of taxes, brought upon them from the want of real representatives, is as a farthing to a pound!

Men who have been born slaves, who, and whose fathers before them, have never had an idea of freedom, may be pitied, but they cannot reasonably be blamed, any more than the Pagans of Peru could be blamed for their want of Christian faith. Yet, it is not rare to hear Englishmen speaking contemptuously of those nations who quietly submit to the absolute will, and who lick the foot, of a ruler; but, if such nations be objects of just contempt, what shall be said of us, if, with all the noble examples of our ancestors before us, with all the laws which their valour obtained and their wisdom has secured, we give up, and that, too, from the basest of motives, all the real freedom, which we enjoy, or which we might enjoy? In the exercise of perfect freedom at elections, we are not only secured by the law; not only does the law say, that we shall be permitted freely to make our choice of persons to represent us; but, it commands us not to be biassed, and it provides heavy penalties for all those who attempt to bias us. In short, men must arrive at a state of sheer baseness of mind, before they can suffer themselves to be induced to vote for persons, of whom, in their consciences, they do not approve; and this must be more especially the case in a city like Westminster, where it is morally impossible that any motive of real interest should exist sufficiently powerful to bias a rational man.

The possessor of the elective franchise is the holder of a trust; he acts not only for himself, but for his country in general, and more especially for his family and his children. To violate his trust, or to neglect the performance of what it imposes upon him, is, therefore, not merely an act of baseness, not merely a degradation of himself, but a crime against others; and, a man so acting, ought to be regarded by his neighbours as a public offender: as an injurer of every other man; as a person to be shunned and abhorred; as a person very little, if at all, less detestable than one who betrays his country into the hands of an enemy. It is no justification of such a man, to say that those who bias him are his superiors, or that the temptation is great. In the case of Westminster there is no temptation at all; and, besides, what crime is there which might not, upon such a principle, be justified? And, as to the “superiors” who bias, they may be superior in riches; but, in every other respect, are they not the basest of mankind, except only those who are biassed by them? Are they not violators of the law? Are they not hypocrites of the most odious description? Are they not, with the sound of loyalty and patriotism on their lips, the worst of enemies to their King and their country? I shall be told, that, in some instances, even the Clergy have used the means of corruption at elections. I hope such instances are rare; and it cannot but shock any one to know that they at all exist; but, if they existed in ever so great a number, no countenance would thereby be afforded to the corrupted; for, of all detestable characters, the Edition: current; Page: [90] most detestable assuredly is, what is called “an electioneering parson.” From the chalice of such a priest one would flee as from a goblet of poison; and if ten such instances could exist, without producing an ecclesiastical censure and punishment, the Church ought to be destroyed, root and branch, for ever.

Having now endeavoured to describe to you the nature of the privilege, which you will speedily be called upon to exercise, I shall, in my next, proceed upon those inquiries, the result of which will, I trust, convince you, that it is entirely owing to the shameful abuse of that privilege, that we now have to lament being so situated as to have very little to hope either from peace or from a continuation of the war. In the meanwhile I am, Gentlemen, yours, &c. &c.

Wm. Cobbett.
William Cobbett
Cobbett, William
18th Sept. 1806.


  • “E’en liberty itself is barter’d here.
  • At gold’s superior charms all freedom flies;
  • The needy sell it, and the rich man buys.”
  • Goldsmith.

The words of the above motto contain a description of the political state of Holland about forty years ago. From such a state abject submission to a foreign power is never far distant; it never can be far distant; to which I will add, that it ought not to be far distant; and, so far from pitying the people of Holland, we shall, if we duly reflect, be inclined to think, that the conqueror rules them with too light and gentle a hand, and that their punishment is by no means adequate to the political crimes which have brought that punishment upon them.——We are apt to ascribe the overthrow of states, and the subjugation of nations, to adventitious circumstances, to the fortune of war, to the ignorance or treachery of statesmen. No nation is willing to attribute its ruin to its own baseness, and the world is generally disposed to listen to accounts given by those who have been engaged in the scene. But, if we inquire diligently into the causes which have led to the subjugation of nations, we shall find, that nine times out of ten, the baseness of the people, low as well as high (as in the case of Holland), has been the principal cause.

Our country is not yet subjugated; let us hope that it never will; but, it is, by every one, confessed to be in a perilous situation; it is, by every one, confessed to be in a situation in which it cannot possibly for many years maintain its independence; and, if you see it in that light, does it not behove you, at this moment in particular, “diligently and impartially to inquire, whether all the evils we endure, and all the dangers that threaten us, are not to be ascribed to the folly and baseness of those, who have possessed, and who have so shamefully abused, their privilege of choosing members of parliament?”

Edition: current; Page: [91]

These evils are, first, a system of taxation so extensive as to leave to no man scarcely any thing, scarcely any species or article of property, in which the tax-gatherer does not, in one way or another, come to claim a share on the part of the government; second, an universal prevalence of disguise, insincerity, suspicion, fraud, and ill-will between man and man, engendered by the system of taxation; and, third, the existence of nearly a million and a half of paupers, in England and Wales only, upon a population of less than nine millions of souls.——The dangers that threaten us, are, an increase of taxes, an increase of immorality thereby engendered, an increase of paupers, and, as the natural consequence of all these, a further decrease of public spirit, and, in short, such a state of things as may finally render England what Holland now is.

The greater part, the far greater part, of the evils which we now endure, have been brought upon us by the councils and the measures of Pitt. The immense sums which he squandered upon East-Indian speculators; the millions he wasted in pensions and grants of various sorts; the hundreds of millions he expended upon ill-concerted schemes of war, and upon the inuumerable swarm of his friends and supporters, who profited from that expenditure: all these rendered taxes absolutely necessary; but, it was, at all times, in the power of the House of Commons to have prevented the minister from adopting the measures by which that necessity was created, it being the chief use of that House to watch over the expenditure of the public money, and to withhold it, unless in cases where the granting of it is evidently necessary for the public good. Yet, during the twenty years squandering of Pitt; during the whole of the time that he was more than doubling the national debt, never did the House of Commons, in any one instance, refuse him the money he asked for, however enormous the sum, and however foolish or profligate the purpose. The law required, that the formality of a vote should take place, in order to enable the minister to levy each successive tax upon the people; but, with the exception of this form, what was there more than the mere mandate of the minister?

The fault, then, lay in the House of Commons. That House we have to look to for all the evils we feel, and all those we apprehend. But, the House of Commons is called the representative of the people, and, in many cases it is so; and, if that House do wrong, it is because the people themselves have made a bad choice. I shall, perhaps, be reminded, that Mr. Grey, now Lord Howick, asserted in parliament, that there were 300 of the members, whose seats were the private property of noblemen and others, and who came into the House without having had any connection or acquaintance with those who were called their constituents. But, though we cannot deny this, the people have still power enough, if they had the virtue, to elect such a House of Commons as should protect them against the effects of every weak or wicked measure, on the part of a minister. There are upwards of 70 county members; there are 50 more sent by cities or boroughs, over the electors of which no man can have any other control than that which is given him by the folly or the baseness of the electors; and, though 120 members are but few in comparison with the whole number of which the House now consists, every one must perceive, that, against the decided will of 120 such members as might be selected, no minister would be able to carry any measure whatever; because, in the mind of the nation, those members would be Edition: current; Page: [92] estimated according to their real worth, and not merely according to their numbers. Nay, it is my opinion, that if there had been, for the last twenty years, but twenty members, chosen upon principles such as ought to prevail, we should have avoided great part, if not the whole, of our present calamities and dangers. We have, upon particular occasions, seen what only one or two members are capable of effecting; what, then, might not be effected by 20 members, entering the House with a fair resolution to do their duty, and particularly with a resolution never to touch the public money, either by their own hands, or by those of their relatives? This is the great test. All professions, short of this, I account as nothing; for, experience has proved to us, that, the moment the patriot begins to pocket the profits of a place or a pension, he changes his tone, or he becomes mute, and seems to forget every thing that has therefore passed in his life-time.

These are truths which hardly any man will attempt to deny; but, the worst of it is, that the electors are, but in too many instances, participators in all the worst feelings of the elected. They can complain, most bitterly complain, of oppression; but, comparatively speaking, there are very few of them who will scruple to avail themselves, as often as they can, of the advantages, or imaginary advantages, to be derived from assisting those who are the cause of such oppression; and, perhaps, in their complaints against the government, none are more clamorous than those, who find themselves compelled to refund in a tax the price of their vote at an election. Such men may complain; but, who will be weak enough to pity them? A nation of such men may be subjugated, and crawl along the remainder of their days under the lash of a conqueror; but, is there any man that will not say, that those who have sold their liberty ought not to be slaves? In the City of Westminster, as was observed in my last letter, there is less excuse for base conduct, than there is in almost any other body of electors; and, therefore, for you to barter your liberties, is a crime such as can be committed but by very few others.

Let no man deceive himself by the subterfuge, that it is not money, for which he gives his vote. To give money to all, or to half the electors of Westminster, would strain the purse, even of a Nabob, or a contractor; but, to bribe with the hopes of gain, with the hopes of increased trade, or with the more seducing hope of causing the elector or his relations to be maintained at the expense of the government: or, in other words, of enabling them to cheat the public; to bribe in this way is easy enough; and, in this way has bribery been most successfully practised. Weak, however, must that elector be, who hopes, by a pitiful evasion, to escape from the punishment which awaits such conduct; who hopes to escape from the contempt of mankind, and from those stripes of oppression, which, by his own baseness, he has enabled others to inflict upon him. To hear such a man complaining of the weight of taxes, and to see him, with that complaint upon his lips, go to the hustings and give his vote for a man, from whom he has no reason to expect anything but a tame acquiescence in every measure proposed by any and by every man who happens to be minister, is something too disgusting to admit of an adequate description.

That there will, upon the present occasion, be few such men found amongst you, it would be too much to hope; but, surely, it may reasonably be hoped, that a majority of you will not be found of that class. The journeymen who compose no small part of the electors of Westminster, Edition: current; Page: [93] appear to me to be entirely out of the reach of seduction. They are, generally speaking, independent of the power of their employers; and, if that power be attempted to be exercised over them; if their employers attempt to deter them from voting according to their consciences, every means should be taken of exposing to public scorn and indignation the conduct of such employers. The artisans of a workshop, led to the hustings under the command of the master, are degraded to a level with cattle, retaining all the sins of the worst description of men. The language of law, and the language of reason, is, that “elections should be freely and indifferently made;” that is, that there should be no undue influence used; no threats, no promises, to any individual elector; nothing to induce him to vote, or to abstain from voting, contrary to his own will and intention: and, every man, using such undue influence, is guilty of an outrage towards the person he attempts to seduce, and of offence against the law. That such attempts have been made with impunity, and even with success, is no justification of those who may again make them, much less is it a justification of those who leave them unresented; and, I earnestly hope, that upon this occasion, every elector, upon whom such attempts may be made, will act like a man who retains a due sense of his rights, and who is resolved to exercise those rights solely for the good of his country.

As to the candidates, who have offered themselves to you, at this time, I could have wished, that either one or the other had explicitly pledged himself never, in his whole life, to touch, either by himself or his relations, one farthing of the public money. But, since neither of them has done this, your choice, if no new candidate offer himself, must be influenced by other considerations; and, it appears to me, that the very first consideration is, that of preventing your city from becoming, as to all practical purposes, a mere family property, handed over from one Lord to another Lord, just like a private estate, with all the game and deer thereon feeding and being. I beg you to reflect, only for one moment, upon the shocking degradation of being thus transferred; upon the shame, the infamy, of being bargained for, bought and sold by ATTORNIES, and of becoming the subject of a Bill and Receipt! On the extent and weight of your example, I beseech you to reflect still more seriously. Where, if not in Westminster, shall we look for evidences of freedom in elections? Where, if Westminster become a family borough, shall we find an object of imitation, towards which to direct the attention of other places? In short, so fearful are the consequences of your becoming the slaves of a great family or two, that I scruple not to say, that upon your decision on this occasion depends infinitely more than upon any other event, which, at this day, can be regarded as within the compass of possibility. In your hands is now placed the fate of the people of England, as far as regards their political liberties; and, in the confident hope, that you will not betray your trust,

I remain,
Your friend and humble servant,
Wm. Cobbett.
Edition: current; Page: [94]
William Cobbett
Cobbett, William
25th Sept. 1806.


  • “. . . . . . . . . . . . . . And when transferr’d
  • From one to t’other, like a flock or herd,
  • The crowd, with senseless shout, the contract seal.”
  • Dayden.

When, in my last letter, I was endeavouring to warn you against the effects of being handed to and fro, like a family borough, I had been informed, that Mr. Sheridan meant to offer himself to you, as the successor of Mr. Fox; and, though I should greatly have preferred an independent man, though I should have preferred a man unplaced to Mr. Sheridan, who and whose son together receive about 7,000l. a year out of our taxes, yet, Mr. Sheridan, even with all his recent conduct before me, with all his tergiversation and abandonments, with all his shrinking from the tasks to which he was solemnly pledged, and with all his silence upon the subject of the bills, which he denominated acts of unbearable tyranny, upon the subject of parliamentary reform, and many others; even Mr. Sheridan, with all this his conduct before me, appeared to me greatly preferable to the Lord that had been offered to you; because, by the choosing of that Lord, it seemed very clear, that Westminster would, in fact, place itself upon a level with Old Sarum, or Gattom, or any such borough. But, with all my suspicions, as to the motives and conduct of Mr. Sheridan; with all my doubts of his ever acting but from some motive closely connected with self; with all my experience as to his twisting and turning, I really was deceived, and I had not the least suspicion, that, when, at his instigation, you had been called together, the purpose was to transfer you to the Lord, against whose becoming your representative he had at a meeting privately called by himself, said all that his mind could suggest, and that his eloquence could express. This meeting was, as I understand, held at his quarters in Somerset-place, on Sunday, the 14th instant. He there called together all those persons most likely to be able to aid him in a contest for Westminster, and particularly, several gentlemen connected with the press. The mischiefs to be apprehended from suffering Westminster to sink into a family borough were dwelt upon, and it was resolved to call a public meeting of the electors to agree upon the nomination of a proper person; or, in other words, of some other person than the Lord, and, that other person, it was clearly understood, was Mr. Sheridan himself. With these sentiments in their minds, and with this object before them, the meeting adjourned to Thursday, the 18th instant, then to become, at the Crown-and-Anchor Tavern, a public meeting of the Electors. How, at this meeting, he amused some of you, and melted others, with his pathetic descriptions; how he drew your attention from the object of your assembling; how he first divested you of your public feelings in order to lead you to an abandonment of your public duty, his speech, imperfect as the report of it must necessarily be, will explain. But, yet, I must confess, that I was grievously mortified at the apparent want of indignation in you, when, Edition: current; Page: [95] upon the mere paltry pretext of fulfilling what would have been the wish of his deceased friend, in not “disturbing the peace of the city,” he had the boldness to propose to you as a proper representative, the very Lord, for the professed purpose of opposing whom, he himself had caused you to be convened! You did, indeed, reject, and decidedly reject, the proposition; and, I am inclined to believe, that the resolution in compliment of Mr. Sheridan was smuggled up amongst some half-dozen of his friends; but, what I would have fain heard from you, what was necessary to your reputation, was, a resolution expressive of your indignation at such a barefaced attempt to treat you like a transferrable property.

Now, Gentlemen, as to his pretended reason for declining the contest, how came he to suppose, that Mr. Fox, if he had been consulted previous to his death, would have recommended an acquiescence in any thing, rather than “disturb the peace of the city?” What does he mean by “disturbing the peace?” Is it to disturb the peace to hold an election? If so, we had better have no more elections. It would be better for the ministers to nominate all the members, at once, without any reference to the choice of the people. But, Gentlemen, this is now a fashionable phrase; and, that we may have nothing left to wonder at, the Whigs are the first to make use of it.

Yet, how came Mr. Sheridan to suppose, that Mr. Fox would have been averse from a disturbance of the city’s peace? Mr. Fox, who had been a disturber (if we must go on with the notion) of that peace all his political life-time? Or, did Mr. Sheridan mean to infer, that six months of office and salary had operated upon the mind of Mr. Fox a conviction of the errors of the former twenty years of his life?——But, after all, if we were foolish enough; if we were idiots enough to believe, that this was the real motive from which Mr. Sheridan gave way to the Lord, may we not ask how this motive came to have no influence with him previous to the calling of the meeting at his quarters at Somerset House? The Lord had already been announced as a candidate. The Lord was the same then that he was on the next Thursday. And, how did it come to pass, that Mr. Sheridan did not, at that time, discover, that it would have been the wish of his deceased friend, that the peace of the city should not be disturbed? He was, at that time, fully apprized of the intentions of the Lord, with whose father’s Steward he is in close intimacy; in fact, the Lord’s intentions and pretensions were the subject of discussion at Somerset House, where it was agreed to support Mr. Sheridan against him; and, therefore, to some other motive than the unmeaning one, held out at the meeting, you must ascribe his attempt (and I am afraid, successful one) to transfer you to the Lord.

There was, indeed, a threat thrown out in a ministerial paper, that Mr. Sheridan should lose his place if he opposed the Lord; and, I am of opinion, that such would have been the case; but, if a fear of losing his place had been the sole object before him, that fear would have operated with him previous to the meeting at Somerset House as well as afterwards; and, upon a view of the whole of the transaction, it appears clear to me, that, from the beginning, he was in concert with the Lord and his Steward; that the meeting at Somerset House, and the advertisement for a public meeting, were for the purpose of preventing any other candidate from coming forward against the Lord, and for keeping the Electors in a state of suspense, until it should be too late for them to fix upon a proper person to represent them.——This is the only interpretation of which his Edition: current; Page: [96] conduct admits. What is to be his reward, I shall not pretend to predict; but, you may have the satisfaction to assure yourselves, that you will have to contribute towards it, whatever it may be.——His scheme has not, however, completely succeeded; for, besides, that you seem not satisfied with his nomination, the Lord does not appear to treat it with any great degree of respect, another meeting having been called, where the Lord has again been nominated by Mr. Whitbread, as if the first had been something clandestine, a sort of Gretna-Green union between you and the lord, and as if the bridegroom was rather ashamed of the priest and doubted of the efficacy of his functions.——But, it is for you, Gentlemen, and for your country, that the deep mortification and disgrace is reserved, unless you instantly bestir yourselves; unless you instantly fix upon some man, some commoner of real independence, as your representative. Let me hope, that your conduct will be such as to prove that you abhor being transferred from hand to hand like a family borough; let me hope, that you will not, like the crowd described by the poet, in the words taken for my motto, seal the contract with shouts of applause. If you must submit, let it, for God’s sake, be with every mark of reluctance; with a firm resolution to retrieve your honour as soon as possible; and, above all things, with a solemn vow, never again to be made tools in the hands of Mr. Sheridan.——With the hope, that there are some at least, amongst you, who will not reject this advice,

I remain, Gentlemen,
Your humble and obedient servant,
Wm. Cobbett.
William Cobbett
Cobbett, William
27th Nov. 1806
William Windham
Windham, William


I. Upon the Westminster Election.* II. Upon the Situation of the Younger Sheridan in the Army. III. Upon the general State of Public Affairs.

“Unless the next change in the ministry be speedily followed by great changes in the system of ruling the country, a new race of men will arise, and what changes they may produce God only knows. This has long been my opinion, and though I have often expressed it, I have yet met with no one to convince me that it is erroneous.”

Letter to a Friend, in the Autumn of 1804.

The conduct of the younger Sheridan, during the recent election in Westminster, suggested to my mind the propriety of addressing a letter publicly to you upon the subject of his situation in the army, that army for the exciting and preserving of emulation in which you have shown such a laudable anxiety. But, Sir, upon taking up my pen for this purpose, my thoughts naturally fly back to the time, when you as well as I Edition: current; Page: [97] had to encounter the effects of the elder Sheridan’s mob-courting cant and misrepresentations; and, thus reflecting, I cannot refrain from endeavouring to give you, who were in Norfolk during the whole of the period of the contest in Westminster, a tolerably accurate idea of the occurrences with respect to this our former assailant, who, during the existence of the Addington ministry, was, as he succeeded in persuading the House of Commons, the only man possessing popularity in an extensive degree.

I. You have read, Sir, in the Political Register an account of the reception which Mr. Sheridan met with upon his first appearance at the hustings in Covent Garden; but, Sir, the scene was far beyond the ordinary powers of description. Mr. Sheridan, according to his usual custom, kept every thing waiting for his arrival; and, when he did arrive, he appeared to have been hurried away in an unprepared state. By surplus of misfortune he placed himself on the side of Sir Francis Burdett. Good heavens, what a contrast! An involuntary shout broke forth from the multitude, through whose voice honest nature seemed to exclaim: “Look on this picture, and on this!”——It was not until this moment that Mr. Sheridan was convinced, or, perhaps, that he suspected, that, so far from being popular, he was an object of unanimous unpopularity and odium. I could have told him of the fact several days before; and so could his friends; but facts of such a nature friends are not, in general, very ready to communicate.——The general hissings and groanings, with which Mr. Sheridan and his supporters were received, have been before spoken of; and some notice has, in the venal daily prints, been taken of the particular reproaches of a person, whose face Mr. Sheridan attempted to render a subject of ridicule, an attempt which I will not repay by giving a description of Mr. Sheridan’s face. This person, as soon as the speeches and the uproar were at an end, approached as near as he could to the hustings, where, raising his arm and shaking his clenched fist, he, in a loud and clear voice, audible within as well as without the hustings, thus began: “Sheridan! many days and weeks and months and years I have longed for an opportunity of daring to speak the truth of you to your face; that opportunity is now come, and I will not let it slip.” He then began, and, though it took him no little time, he went through the whole of his character and conduct, private and public, moral and political. His description was nervous and eloquent; and, when I tell you that it was perfectly true, you will not, I am sure, expect me to repeat it in print, notwithstanding all Mr. Sheridan’s professions respecting the liberty of the press.

From the reports of the venal press, Sir, you would imagine, that Mr. Sheridan kept his temper through all this. Nothing is further from the truth. He did, indeed, vent a few of his threadbare jests; but, by the few who were able to hear them, they were received with expressions of disgust and contempt, and, at the close of the first day, he, in these words, took his leave of the people, of that people whom he had so long succeeded in deluding: “You have behaved like a set of blackguards, particularly you, you broad-faced bully, and d——you, I’ll stay with you no longer.”——The venal press has told you, Sir, that this “broad-faced orator” was hired by Mr. Paull; but, the fact is, that neither Mr. Paull nor any of his friends had ever spoken to the orator, nor, until after the day was over, did any of them know who he was. We then learnt, that his name was Burrage, and that he kept the Old Parr’s Head in Swallow Street. Edition: current; Page: [98] But, while I say this, I for my own part shall say, that I highly approved of his conduct; and was glad to find, that there was one man, at least, who had spirit enough to discharge so useful a public duty.——The venal prints have said, Sir, that Mr. Paull hired a mob; and, that very profound personage, Mr. Peter Moore, swore, that he, forsooth, would look to Mr. Paull for any violence that might take place. But, if any thing had been to be done by hiring, is it likely that Mr. Paull would have had the advantage? Was it possible for him to have the 50,000 young men, who every evening conducted him from the hustings? Mr. Sheridan (and it was truly curious to hear it) requested Mr. Paull, on the first evening of the election, “to speak to the mob” to cease hooting him. “The mob!” exclaimed Mr. Paull. “They are the people, my very good friends, and it is not for me to dictate to them, as to the manner in which they shall express their feelings.”

But, though Mr. Paull hired nobody, Mr. Sheridan, or his supporters, hired people enough. On the first day, Mr. Paull, in compliance with custom, had a band, if I may so call them, of marrow bones and cleavers; but, they were that night dismissed. The Sheridan party had not only a large body of this description, but also 200 bludgeon men. Yet this formidable corps, though aided by a large gang of Sir Samuel Hood’s sailors (who would have been better employed on board ship), were unable to keep the field, when, towards the close of each day, the people were assembled at the hustings. The fact is, that the whole of the free part of the people were with Mr. Paull; and if he had not been extremely moderate in his conduct, his opponents never could have brought any body to poll for them.——You have seen, Sir, that the heroic Sheridan kept away from the hustings for several days; and, after what has already been published, you will want nothing to convince you, that the illness ascribed to a blow received at the hustings, was a mere pretence. Such it certainly was. No blow ever was, in my opinion, given. Mr. Sheridan, that same night, drank many toasts and made a long speech, at the Crown-and-Anchor, and he was, the next day, seen by many persons canvassing from door to door. Of the letter, which has appeared in the newspapers, under the name of the pretended striker, you will easily guess at the origin; and, if this man was really guilty of a breach of the peace, and was, as he is said to have been, committed for it, upon oath made against him, it will not fail to occur to you to ask, by what sort of law it was that Mr. Sheridan was able to order him to be released!

After Mr. Sheridan had been spurred on to come again and show that face of his at the hustings, he took occasion, one evening, to put in his claims to public gratitude on account of what he had done, or rather said, with respect to the Volunteers, of which establishment, he said, he had the honour to be a colonel.—Upon this the hisses and groans, which, from the effects of fatigue, had begun to subside, broke out again louder than ever. “No regiments of tax-gatherers; no Major Downes the undertaker; no palavering; no canting patriotism,” were heard from ten thousand mouths at once. Finding that this did not take, he, as a prelude to another meditated stroke, began to pay some compliments to me, which compliments, coming from him, I took the earliest opportunity to say that I rejected with scorn. They, however, answered his purpose in obtaining silence, which he availed himself of to say, that he “detested my recommendation for breaking faith with the public creditors;” which words were hardly out of his mouth when the air rang with a shout of Edition: current; Page: [99] indignant surprise; and this unusual clamour, in which every voice had been strained to its utmost, being followed by a short interval of comparative silence, a man, from the middle of the crowd, in a very distinct voice, uttered the following words: “Hear! hear! hear! Sheridan; Richard Brinsley Sheridan, DETESTS BREAKING FAITH WITH CREDITORS!” which words were echoed and re-echoed through every part of the immense multitude collected in Covent Garden and the adjoining streets and houses. The venal prints have recorded his observations levelled at me; but, they have taken special care not to notice the indignation and sarcasm drawn forth from the people by those observations.—Mr. Paull’s address to the Electors, after the election, you have seen, Sir, in the Register. Mr. Sheridan’s you may also have seen; and, if you have, I think I may venture to say, that so strong a mark of mental imbecility never before met your eye. Is this the man of great talents? Whither, then, are those talents fled? And what has chased them from their former abode? Is this the man, who has the modesty to rail against Mr. Paull, as a person unfit, from want of talents, to represent the city of Westminster? Could not the Whitbreads and the Moores and the Russells and the whole of the pompous pretenders to superiority of mind, make up any thing better than this senseless address, especially after having taken three days to write and alter and improve? Are we, indeed, to be told, that we shall all be ruined, unless we have men like these to rule us? In yourself, Sir, and in men like you, I, for my part, have no objection to acknowledge a real superiority; but, in men, such as we have had to contend with at Westminster, and of whom, at every step, we have proved ourselves to be the superiors in every thing of which men are laudably proud, base and despicable is the meanest man amongst us who acknowledges a superiority, and especially when the acknowledgment is, and with so much insolence, too, demanded at our hands.

Of the high blood of our opponents, and particularly of the Sheridans, I have before spoken, and I will not, therefore, offend your ears with their disgusting pretensions upon this score. But, Sir, it was impossible to hear the language of our opponents in general; the language of the several branches of but too many of the titled families, of the bankers, of the farmers of taxes, of loan-makers, and others, without looking back to the real causes of the destruction of the French Government, and to the conduct of the titled families when the French revolution broke out, and when the unhappy king stood in need of the defence of the titled families. And, what had we done, that we were to be treated as persons too low and insignificant to be heard in public? We had only claimed the exercise of that right, which the King’s writ not only called upon us, but commanded us, to exercise. We had called upon all the free electors to choose a candidate free from the influence of either king or minister; and, were we, for this, to be treated as low and insignificant men? We have convinced our adversaries, that we are not insignificant even now; and, let fortune but give us another opportunity, and we will produce in their minds, if they are not completely stultified, the further conviction, that ours is not a sinking propensity.

Mr. Paull, as you have seen, Sir, obtained not only much more suffrage than either of the other candidates, but much more than had ever been before obtained by any candidate for the representation of the city of Westminster. And, Sir, this was done without any unfair means. We made no attempt to deceive or seduce the people. No sentiment Edition: current; Page: [100] was expressed by us, that I myself had not expressed in print, when addressing myself to the dispassionate judgment of my readers, who, from the very nature of my publication, are, in general, to be found in what we commonly call the higher ranks of life. I never addressed myself to the ignorance and discontent and prejudice of the people; nor has Mr. Paull done it now. No influence, other than that which was visible to all the world, did any of us use; and as to myself, though there were many persons in Westminster, on whom I might have imposed almost a command to vote for Mr. Paull, I defy any man to say, that I even solicited a vote from any person under obligations to me. The law says, that “elections ought to be perfectly free;” and the dictates of the law I have, both in Hampshire and in Westminster, strictly obeyed. To say the truth, however, no commands were, on our part, necessary. We found all the free voice of the people for us; and, amongst those who were not free, we invariably met with hearty wishes for our success. The united influence of the government, the aristocracy, and the dependent clergy, operating upon avarice, upon self-interest, and upon self-preservation, was, with the aid of splitting votes, too numerically powerful for us; but, we had with us all the truly independent and virtuous men in the middle class of society. If the list of our voters were examined, it would be found, that we had not for us one play-actor, not one vagabond, not one of those immense numbers who live by means, which are notoriously illegal or immoral. Yes, Sir, it will always be our boast, that, out of the 4481 persons, who voted for Mr. Paull, only 335 voted for Mr. Sheridan; and, it will be amusing enough for you to hear, that Mr. Sheridan has the honour to number amongst his voters every one who voted at all of those godly persons, the members of the Society for the Suppression of Vice!!! Mr. Baldwin, to whose name, though he verges upon three-score, is generally prefixed, for what reason you may probably guess, the infantine appellation of Billy; this gentleman who is a Commissioner of Taxes, Paymaster of the Policemen’s salaries, and a member of the House of Commons, in which latter capacity he, of course, votes the money that he himself receives on his own account; this gentleman, who was as busy and as clamorous in the cause of Mr. Sheridan as if he had never been a dependant of the Duke of Portland; this gentleman had the modesty to say, upon the hustings, that he would have the names of Mr. Paull’s voters published, “that none of them might ever be admitted into gentlemen’s company.” Now, what will Billy Baldwin say, when I publish the names of all the placemen, pensioners, and the relations of placemen and pensioners; of all the tax-gatherers, magistrates, police-men, and dependent clergy; of all the play-actors, scene-shifters, candle-snuffers, and persons following illegal or immoral callings? What will Billy Baldwin say, when I publish the names of all the persons of these classes, who have voted for Mr. Sheridan, and when I take care to show the people of England the sums which the voters of the former classes receive from them in taxes? He surely will not complain of illiberal dealing? Billy Baldwin, as the organ of our high-blooded adversaries, has thrown down the gauntlet; and shame upon our cause if there be a single man amongst us so base as to be afraid to take it up!

You have, doubtless, read, Sir, a description of the chairing of the two “favourite” candidates, as they are called by the venal writers of the daily press; and, until you read Mr. Paull’s last address, it will certainly have appeared odd to you, that favourites as they were, they should not Edition: current; Page: [101] have followed the invariable custom of being chaired round Covent Garden. They no more dared to attempt it, than General Regnier dared to attempt being chaired through our army in Egypt, they slipped away from the hustings, carefully keeping from the people all knowledge of their intentions; and, while the people were waiting in Covent Garden, they got to their CAR, through a narrow passage, which leads from St. Paul’s Church into Henrietta-street. The car, which had been constructed by the people of Drury-Lane Theatre, was surrounded by beadles, constables, police-officers and police magistrates, to whom, even their own venal prints inform us, had been added the numerous officers of the Thames Police. “The people,” of whom they talk, as huzzaers, consisted of the play-actors, scene-shifters, candle-snuffers, and mutes of the Theatre, aided by a pretty numerous bevy of those unfortunate females, who are, in some sort, inmates of that mansion. So that, the procession did, altogether, bear a very strong resemblance to that of Blue-beard. The “favourite” candidates were almost entirely hidden by large branches of laurel, which the Property-Man, as they call him, of Drury Lane Theatre, had placed round the car; but, notwithstanding this, and notwithstanding the constables and police-officers (some of them on horseback and armed with cutlasses) were placed six deep on each side of the car, the mud found its way to the inside of it; and as the venal prints inform us, one man was actually seized, and committed to prison, for this act of throwing mud at the “favourite” candidates! About the time that they had got in safety to their place of dining, Mr. Paull set off from Covent Garden to his house, conducted by thousands upon thousands of men. Soon afterwards Mr. Paull, together with Sir Francis Burdett, set out from Charles Street to the Crown-and-Anchor; and, though it was now dark, the zeal of the people overcame even that inconvenience; for, the street quickly became as light as if it had been day. There needed no money to be given to buy torches. The people felt, that they were asserting their own rights; that they were engaged in their own cause; and, Sir, if I am told that they were foolish, let me never again be told, that they discover their good sense and their patriotism when they draw the carriages and light the way of such men as Lord Nelson.

Let us now look back upon the “favourite” candidates. As to the Commodore, few people, I believe, grudged him the honour of being the colleague, of being encircled in the embraces, of that man, from whose political touch Lord Percy had recoiled; and, as to Mr. Sheridan himself, though he talked of a victory, he well knew, he severely felt, that the 19th of November, the day when he was returned for Westminster, was the day of his everlasting political disgrace. Before Mr. Paull offered himself as a candidate, no notion existed in the mind of Mr. Sheridan that he should have any even the slightest opposition to encounter. He expected that the election would pass off as Lord Percy’s had done; and, I dare say, his speech for the occasion was already prepared. He would have considered himself as the successor of Mr. Fox; so he would have been considered by the greater part of the country; and, he would have taken care to make the minister consider him as having the people of Palace-Yard always ready to petition, or remonstrate, at his nod. In short, the cup of his ambition was just touching his lip when we came and dashed it to the ground. The charm was dissolved; all his arts of delusion we baffled; we exhibited him in his true colours; Edition: current; Page: [102] and, in those colours he will be seen unto the end of his days. Previous to the publication of Mr. Paull’s first address Mr. Sheridan’s friends gave it out, that he had refused any assistance from the ministry, being resolved to be the candidate of the people. What, then, Sir, must have been his feelings, when he was, at last, compelled to go, surrounded with his friends, and humbly implore the protection of the minister; aye, of that very man, whose public character and conduct, and whose talents as a statesman, had, for years, been subjects of his almost incessent censure and his affected contempt!——Sir, I cannot see him, thus stripped of his independence by an over-weening confidence in his powers of delusion; I cannot see him upon a level with the holder of a Treasury-Borough, while I see you a representative of your native county, having had recourse to no mean arts, but relying upon your own virtue and upon the friendship of a truly independent and honourable man; I cannot view this contrast without reverting to the time, when Mr. Sheridan, conscious of a hundred-to-one majority at his back, revelled in the delight of misrepresenting your arguments and your views, and of exciting a prejudice against you, amongst the very people, by whom, politically speaking, he has now been trampled in the dirt.

Here I should dismiss this part of my subject; but, the following passage in a publication of Mr. Sheridan demands a remark or two:——“To this I can only repeat the answer I gave to a similar remark at the Thatched House, that I am far from being anxious to obtrude on the notice of the public Mr. Paull’s praises of me, and still more reluctant to assist in circulating a very coarse, though impotent, attack on the Duke of Northumberland and Earl Percy. And as to Mr. Cobbett, I must again beg leave to differ from the committee. Believe me there can be no use in continuing to detect and expose the gross and scurrilous untruths which his nature, his habits, and his cause, compel him to deal in. Leave him to himself; rely on it, there is not a man, woman, or child, in Great Britain, who believes one word he says. With regard to the passage repeating the scandalous words, he continues to assert, I spoke on the hustings, notice of a different sort will be taken of that.”——I will not stop to ask who is most likely to be believed, Mr. Sheridan or me; but, I cannot refrain from observing with what ingenuity he is attempting to shift “the coarse and impotent attack on the Duke of Northumberland and Earl Percy” from his own shoulders to mine. I merely asserted that he had made such an attack, in addressing himself to a gentleman who was ready to make oath of the fact. So far from joining in this attack, I have, upon all occasions, expressed my decided disapprobation of it, well knowing, as I do, that the Duke of Northumberland stands as high in virtue, private and public, as he does in rank and in real dignity. The conduct of this nobleman, and all the persons acting under him, has been, during the contest at Westminster, truly exemplary and constitutional. They have, in no instance that I have heard of, attempted to interfere in the election. The manner in which the Duke withdrew his son from the city was most dignified and patriotic; and the public have only to regret, that the laudable example of both father and son was not followed by others who ought to have been proud to follow it. A fact has come to light, too, which I have great pleasure in stating, because it will operate as a correction of an error, into which, with many others, I was led with regard to Lord Percy’s election, namely, that there had, from the beginning, been a Edition: current; Page: [103] secret understanding between Mr. Wilson and Mr. Sheridan. It now appears, from unquestionable authority, that there was no such understanding; but that Mr. Sheridan, having his own objects with respect both to Westminster and Stafford in view, was the sole cause of all the public discontent which, upon that occasion, was so visible.——Mr. Sheridan and his committee interchange resolutions and vows not to publish any contradiction of my statements. They are wise, Sir; for they well know, that I have stated nothing which is not perfectly and notoriously true.

II. The situation of the Younger Sheridan in the army was, Sir, when my foregoing Number was written, but imperfectly known to me. I observed, that he had given up the sword for the more profitable pen; but, I now find, that the sword, as far as the profit of it goes, is retained by this person of wonderful versatility of talent.——What the younger Sheridan was, in what line of life he was known, previous to the Autumn of 1803, it is quite unnecessary for me to say; but, at that time he became a cornet in the Prince of Wales’s regiment of Dragoons, which corps has now the honour to number the well-known Mr. Mellish amongst its officers! Hardly upon the list of cornets, the younger Sheridan became, as the newspapers told us, an aide-de-camp to the Earl of Moira, to whose wisdom was committed the protection of the Sister Kingdom, then threatened with invasion.——From the cornet of dragoons, however, our hero soon became a Lieutenant of foot, in the 7th Regiment, then and now at Bermuda.——Without having seen this his new corps, he became, in Sept. 1805, a captain in the 27th Regiment of foot, of which Lord Moira is the colonel, and, though the regiment, which is now in Sicily, was then at home, our hero did not go abroad with it.——Since the change in the ministry, our hero has become Muster-Master General in Ireland, a place, I find, worth three thousand pounds sterling a year; and, Sir, if I am rightly informed, a large pension has been settled upon the person, who before held that office, as an inducement for him to retire in order to make way for our hero.

Now, Sir, leaving for a moment this waste of the public money out of the question, upon what principle is it, that this captain of foot is permitted to be, not only absent from his regiment, but placed in a situation of enormous emolument, which necessarily compels him always to continue absent therefrom, and which, as necessarily, throws his share of the regimental duty and of personal danger upon some other officer, or causes that duty to remain unperformed? Is this the way, Sir, that military merit is rewarded? Is this the way to excite and preserve emulation in the army? Is it thus, that the officers of our conquering enemy have been formed, and have been led to the performance of those deeds, by which almost the whole of Europe has been subdued? Is it, Sir, I put the question close to your bosom; is it reasonable, is it just, is it politic, that this man should cost the country, at a time like this, not less than five thousand pounds a year? And are we, Sir, to be abused and reviled; are we to be called jacobins and levellers; are we to be accused of a wish to pull down the government, to destroy all property and all rank, morality, and religion, because we complain of such an application of the public money? Is this the way, Sir, to ensure the affection of the people; to inspire them with ardour in defence of their country; to induce them cheerfully to make sacrifices of property, and, if necessary, to shed the last drop of their blood in that defence? To your wisdom and your integrity Edition: current; Page: [104] I put these questions of infinite importance; and, be assured, Sir, that I entertain and utter the sentiments of millions.

III. The general state of public affairs is, Sir, it cannot be denied, becoming, every day, more and more alarming. This fact nobody will attempt to controvert; but still, no one, as far as my observation goes, thinks seriously about the means of averting the threatening danger. As to the people, Sir, what I have recently witnessed in Westminster (whence the whole country will inevitably take its tone) has given me greater hope than any thing I have ever before contemplated. I found the people of that populous city full of public spirit, of real loyalty, and of resolution to defend their country. In all the various situations, into which I was thrown during the contest, I heard, from no man, a single sentiment of disloyalty; and, the sentiments the most favourably received were those of attachment to the King and the constitution, and those of hatred towards their and our enemies.

This disposition in the people, Sir, if properly cherished and cultivated, leaves us nothing to dread, even from the conqueror of Europe, should be land upon our shores; but, Sir, when we view the situation of all the other states; when we contemplate the mighty means that will now be brought to bear against us; when we consider how long this war may yet last, and when we reflect on the burdens which the people now bear; and the daily increase of that portion of them who have no property to preserve: when thus we reflect, can we avoid entertaining the most anxious apprehensions as to what time may produce?——One of the worst features in the aspect of our affairs is, that we have no plan, whether for domestic or foreign operations. Every one sees the danger; every one agrees that something great must be done; but no one, that I hear of, attempts to tell us what. In my view of the matter a great change is necessary in our financial and fiscal affairs; for, after all, it is here that the feeling of the people is most alive; and, I imagine, it will not now be contended, that it is even possible to defend a country, where the people are indifferent as to its fate. Never could the French in so few days have arrived at Berlin, if the people’s hearts had been made of the right sort of stuff. A province, or a kingdom, may be invaded and overrun, indeed, in certain cases, though the whole of the people may be bent upon resistance; but, for an enemy to advance with post-horse celerity, driving over regularly constituted armies as if it were over so many flint stones, and to take possession of cities and fortresses with as little difficulty as if they were sheep-folds, argues a total rottenness in the couquered state; a rottenness, from the fatal effects of which God preserve our country.

In the Autumn of 1804, when a report prevailed, that a coalition was about to take place between the party of Mr. Pitt and the persons then composing the opposition, I publicly gave my reasons for thinking, that such a coalition would prove destructive to the country, because it would prevent any change in the system. These reasons I stated more fully in a letter to a friend, which letter you, I believe, saw, and from which letter, as correctly as my memory will enable me, I have taken the motto to this letter. I retain the same opinion still. Every day’s observation serves to strengthen it; and, I ask you, Sir, whether you really think it chimerical? Only, for a moment, look back to the year 1800; and then turn to the scene now before you. What a change! Whither are fled the great, well-organized, and regularly combating parties? All is now disjointed. Edition: current; Page: [105] Men know not on what to rely. There is no rallying point; no fixed object of political confidence left. A general confusion of opinion prevails; and, it appears to me, that there needs nothing but some untoward event, however trifling, especially if it come near home, to plunge us into miseries of which no human foresight can anticipate the extent. Yet, Sir, to avert this dreadful danger, there requires only such measures as the present ministry have it in their power to adopt. I, for my part, wish to see no change of ministry. If the present cannot save us, none of the sort that would follow it, can save us; and, Sir, these opinions of mine, are those of all the persons, with whom I have had an opportunity of conversing upon the subject.——The present ministry have it completely in their power to endear themselves to the people; and, I am of opinion, that there requires nothing but some one man amongst them to speak the first word. The rest, even if their hearts were not with him, would be ashamed not to follow; and, Sir, perceiving, as you must from the general tenor of my observations, the specific measures which I have in view, and acting, as you always have done, from a disinterested desire to serve your country, why should I not hope, that you will be that man?

I remain, Sir,
Your most humble, and most obedient Servant,
Wm. Cobbett.
William Cobbett
Cobbett, William
4th Dec. 1806
William Windham
Windham, William


I. Upon the State of the Continent. II. Upon the natural consequences with respect to England. III. Upon the measures necessary to prevent those consequences.

“No person, who has an office, or place of profit under the King, or receives a pension from the Crown, shall be capable of serving as a Member of the House of Commons.”—Act of Parliament, passed in the twelfth and thirteenth of William III. Chap. 2; and by which Act the crown of these realms was settled upon the present reigning family.

  • Qu. Who is likely to be frugal of the people’s money?
  • Ans. He who puts none of it in his own pocket.”
  • Bolingbroke.

In the last letter, which I did myself the honour to address to you, I alluded to the measures, which I considered as absolutely necessary to ensure the preservation of our country from the perils that await it. Those measures I now propose to speak of in a manner more specific, troubling you previously with some remarks tending to show that the necessity of those measures actually exists.

I. To attempt a description of the present state of the Continent of Europe would be a waste of time. That Continent is now subdued. The whole of it, Russia excepted, has fallen before the arms of one nation; and that nation is our implacable enemy. To see so many governments, so many ancient establishments, so many of the works of centuries swept down one upon another, like the pines of America yielding to the force of Edition: current; Page: [106] the hurricane; to see so many noble and royal Houses annihilated, or worse than annihilated by owing their existence to the mere compassion of men, who were but yesterday unheard of in the world; to contemplate this picture the heart sickens within one. Yet, I must confess, that with all my veneration for antiquity; with all that desire, which is so powerful in me, to see preserved whatever has been long established and held in honour; notwithstanding all my feelings on the side of birth and of rank, I must confess, that the contumely and insolence of our “high-blooded” opponents at Westminster, and that the foul combination there formed against the exercise of the undoubted rights of the people, a combination avowedly founded upon the arrogant and unjust allegation, that, on account of our low birth, we were unworthy of any public influence or trust; this, I must confess, Sir, has had a tendency to mollify, in me, the mortification and grief, which the fate of certain persons on the Continent was so well calculated to excite. To forgive, and even to love our enemies, is, in certain cases, our duty; but, this precept, if stretched too far, would subvert every principle of justice, and would leave nations as well as individuals without the means of defence against aggressors of every description. Not to carry resentment beyond the period of repentance is reasonable and just, and is strictly commanded; but, to love and cherish those, who discover their inward hatred, and who openly affect contempt of us, is commanded by neither morality nor religion.——But, Sir, to apply these remarks to the subject more immediately before us, may we not be permitted to ask, whether contumely and insolence, somewhat resembling that above noticed, may not, upon the Continent of Europe, have largely contributed towards the producing of those events, which now seem to have stricken terror to the hearts of even the most arrogant and foolish? May we not be permitted to ask, too, where, in the history of the last eighteen eventful years, the superior wisdom and courage and virtue of “high blood” has discovered itself in a manner so decided and so conspicuous as to warrant the doctrines held forth by our haughty and supercilious adversaries at Westminster? Yes, surely, we may ask, whether any one will now venture to maintain, that none but “high-blooded” men are capable of defending the honour and the territory of their country?——With respect to what may yet take place in the way of subjugation upon the Continent, the erection of a kingdom in Poland seems pretty certain; and, this, it will be recollected, was predicted by me more than a twelvemonth ago. It was, indeed, an event easy to foresee; and, whatever effect it may produce upon Russia by carrying the armies and the principles of the South into that vast Empire, it will not fail to produce astonishing effects elsewhere, and of which effects we shall, if I am not greatly deceived, soon have ocular demonstration. This last event will complete the “federative system” of France; or, in other words, her scheme of “universal dominion,” so much laughed at by the elder Sheridan and others, and so much dreaded by Mr. Burke and yourself. These Islands (God be praised!) are still unsubdued; but when the Romans had, in the common acceptation of the words, “conquered the world,” there were still many parts of the world wherein they had never set foot. To be called the conquerors of the world it was sufficient that they had left no nation in a state to be their competitor for power.

II. Of the consequences, which the subjugation of the Continent by our enemy must naturally produce with respect to England, we have already, in the transactions at Hamburgh, seen a trifling specimen. Often, as the Edition: current; Page: [107] public can bear testimony, have I reminded the Balaams of the city, that the soldier was abroad, and that, rail and curse and cry as much as they pleased, he would, I was afraid, before he sheathed the sword, have his share of the good things of this world. They may now, probably, begin to believe me; and, when they consider, that at the very moment when their goods were seized at Hamburgh, they were exulting in their triumph at Brentford, they will certainly excuse the people, over whom they triumphed, for being too much absorbed with their own chagrin to have time to break their hearts with sorrow for that seizure. For my own part, events of this sort do, I will freely confess, give me very little uneasiness; because I am persuaded, that, with respect to the general and permanent interests of the kingdom, the seizure of mercantile property, already deposited in foreign states, can be productive of very little injury. I know well enough, that the merchants and the daily press will set up a most lamentable outcry upon this score; and they will accuse me of rejoicing, or, at least, of not weeping, at the success of the enemy; but, this will not deter me from expressing my opinion upon this subject; and, they cannot, in this instance, at any rate, accuse me of magnifying the power and success of that enemy. I will go a little further in this way, and say, that, were the French to succeed in seizing all the English goods and property in every port and place in Europe, and if they were to prevent such goods from being sent thither in future, I do not believe it would, even in the smallest degree, tend to disable England either for the defending of herself, or for the annoying of her foes. That it would shut up a great number of commercial houses, I allow; that it would lower a great number of merchants and bankers; that it would diminish the means by which the Shaws and the Mellishes have been put into Parliament; that it would do much in this way I am ready to allow; but, I am by no means prepared to allow, that it would be injurious either to the liberties and happiness of the people, or to the permanent security and dignity of the throne.

There is a strange perversity, which, upon matters of this sort, appears to have taken possession of men’s minds. “How are we to live,” say they, “if we cannot get rid of our manufactures?” They regard the nation in the light of an individual shopkeeper; and then they run on reasoning upon all the consequences of a total loss of customers. But, they forget, that the individual shopkeeper must sell his goods in order to obtain food and raiment and money to pay for his goods, whereas the nation has nobody to pay for its goods, and can never receive an addition either to its food or its raiment for the sale of its goods. The fact is, that exports of every sort, generally speaking, only tend to enrich a few persons and to cause the labouring part of the people to live harder than they otherwise would do. We have seen, that many other nations have arisen to the highest pitch of greatness without the exporting of a single article of merchandise; and we have, I think, a pretty satisfactory example, at this time, in the situation of France. Yet, our eyes are not opened. We are not, indeed, so stone-blind as we were some few years ago, when, in answer to those who dwelt upon the dangers to be apprehended from the increasing power of France, the conceited and shallow-headed Pitt talked of nothing but the inexhaustible resources of our commerce, and of that poverty and bankruptcy, which must, he said, end in the total destruction of the power of the enemy. You well remember, Sir, that, at the peace of Amiens, your apprehensions of the still further increasing Edition: current; Page: [108] power of France were, by that enlightened statesman, Lord Hawkesbury, answered by a constantly repeated appeal to our Capital, Credit, and Commerce, to which he as invariably and triumphantly pointed, as the no less profound Mr. Mellish lately did to the state of the poll. But, if one were now to go and ask that famous possessor of a four-thousand-a-year sinecure what Capital, Credit, and Commerce have been able to do in arresting the progress of French power, and how they are likely to operate in the preserving of England from the lot of Prussia, he would, methinks, be puzzled for a reply.

To the embarrassment and obstruction in our commercial pursuits, I do not, therefore, for my part, attach much importance; but, in the complete subjugation of the Continent, I see, and, I think, every man must see with dread, the means which the French will acquire of meeting us with an equal, if not with a superior force, upon that element, where we have hitherto been the acknowledged masters, and upon which mastership, talk as we may, we do, at bottom, place our only hope of safety. Exactly how long it may be before our enemy will be able to arrive at such equality, or superiority, it would perhaps be difficult to say; but, is it possible to believe, that, with the naval arsenals of every state upon the Continent, those of Russia excepted, at his command, he will not, in a comparatively short space of time, be able to send out fleets equal, at least in numbers, to ours? Holland, let it be remembered, is now no longer under the rule of an assembly of fat-headed burgo-masters. That Denmark will be somewhat worse than neutral who can doubt? Whatever force Prussia had will now belong to France. Genoa, Spain, Portugal, must contribute to their last ship and last sailor. With all the ports and all the arsenals of continental Europe at his command, he may, and I trust he will, be unable, for a long while, at least, to equal us in naval skill and prowess; but, while defeats will cost him little, victories will cost us much. We have seen what he is able to do by land; and can it be doubted, that, when all the Continent is fashioned to his will, the same extensive plans and unremitting perseverance will be applied to his operations by sea? The conquest of England has always appeared to me to be, by him, reserved for his last labour. To suppose that he has not resolved to attempt it would be a mark of downright insanity. The only question is as to the time.

There has been, and yet is, much difference of opinion with respect to the practicability of his landing a large army in England, while our fleets can keep the sea; but, in the case of those fleets being unable to keep the sea, there can be no doubt upon the point; and, if he arrive at the capability of engaging, at the same time, or nearly the same time, all our naval forces in the Channel and in the North Seas, our fleets, even supposing them to be at all points completely victorious, will not, immediately after such engagements, be able to keep the sea.

In viewing his points of attack he surely will not overlook Ireland. To risk a fleet and an army of thirty or forty thousand men, will not, with such an object in view, be the subject of an hour’s hesitation. If one expedition fail, another will follow; and, if that fail, another, until success, in some degree, at any rate, crown his enterprises. This is a war, which, with him, will be now only beginning. There will be novelty to recommend it to his people and his army, while to the latter will be held out the powerful enticement of plunder unparalleled. Every day his means of carrying on this war will be increasing in quantity and improving in Edition: current; Page: [109] quality; while, with us, it will be singularly fortunate, if the reverse is not the case.——To hope, therefore, that we shall not have, at no great distance of time, to fight for England upon English ground, can be expected in nobody but such men as Messrs. Bowles, and Mellish and Shaw, and the Sheridans, and Byng and Moore, and their like. We have long been talking about this fighting for England upon English ground; but we must now think of acting; for, as sure as we are in existence, the necessity will come.

III. If we regard it as certain, that, first or last, we shall, before the contest with the Emperor Napoleon is at an end, have to fight against his armies upon our own land; if this be our opinion, it then behoves us to consider what may be the final consequences; it behoves us to ask, why we should not, in such a war, share the fate of our neighbours; or, in the language of the courts, to show cause, why we should not be subjugated. For, though we must all, of course, have the greatest possible confidence in the wisdom as well as in the personal courage of the Duke of York, and in the wisdom and personal courage of the Dukes of Cambridge, Cumberland, Gloucester, and all the other persons, whom his Majesty and the Duke of York have selected as commanders upon the staff in these islands; and though we have the happiness to know, that our army have all been disciplined and dressed in exact conformity to the discipline and dress of the Prussian army, while we, at the same time, reflect, that we have the excellent example, both military and moral, of at least, thirteen thousand Hanoverian troops; yet, Sir, since we have seen great commanders, like ours, I mean the Duke of Brunswick, Prince Hohenlohe, &c. &c. defeated and their armies captured by wholesale; since we have seen that Prussian discipline and dress could not defend Prussia; since we have seen, that Hanoverian troops, though animated by the presence of one of those illustrious and gallant princes, to whom the defence of England is now so judiciously committed, were not sufficient to defend Hanover: since we have seen all this, and that, too, within a very few months, I think that every man who is really anxious to preserve the independence of the country will wish to see it provided with something more than the wisdom and courage of our generals, great as they may be, and aided as they are by Prussian discipline and dress and by Hanoverian troops.

The states, which, one after another, have fallen before the arms of France, have contained a miserable and degraded people. We have seen all their princes and nobles and armies active enough; but, except in Switzerland, we have never seen any thing of the people. In every other instance the people of the conquered country seem to have been quiet and indifferent spectators of the conflict; or, if they have appeared to feel any interest at all, it has, as far as our intelligence goes, been on the side of the conqueror. France, on the contrary, has exhibited a most complete proof of what the people alone are able to do. There, not only had the people no princes or nobles to assist them against the invaders of their country; but, their princes and nobles were either inactive, or expressing impatience for the arrival of the invaders, or, were employed in stirring up and encouraging those invaders, and actually aiding them in their attacks upon France. We know the result: love of country supplied the place of generals, of discipline, of magazines, of resources of every kind, or rather, it created them all in abundance. The king and his family, the nobles, the clergy, the farmers of taxes, the merchants, the parliaments, the courts of justice, all were overthrown and destroyed; Edition: current; Page: [110] but, amidst the wreck the people lived, fought, defended their country, and finally became the conquerors of their invaders.

With this example before him, Sir, is there any man, is there any statesman, who, in calculating the means of defending England, will leave the hearts of the people out of the question? “No,” I shall, perhaps, be told, “but the hearts of the people are now decidedly with the government;” a fact which I certainly shall not deny. But, this being happily the case, then, all that I shall venture to do, is, to point out such measures as appear to me to be necessary to prevent the hearts of the people from being alienated from their government, or, in other words, to prevent the people of England from looking at an approaching invasion with the eyes of Italians and Germans.——It is greatly to detract from the merit of patriotism, or love of country, to regard it as an attachment to the mere soil, an attachment of which brutes are not only capable, but which they invariably entertain. Love of country is founded in the value which men set upon its renown, its laws, its liberties, and its prosperity; or, more properly speaking, perhaps, upon the reputation, the security, the freedom from oppression, and the happiness, which they derive from belonging to such country. If this definition of the foundation of patriotism be correct, it follows, of course, that, in proportion as a country loses its renown, has its laws and liberties frittered away, and its prosperity diminished, the patriotism of the people will decline; and, if we could suppose it possible for England to become, in matters of government, what many of the states upon the Continent were, upon what ground could we expect to see Englishmen voluntarily risking their lives in its defence?

The objects, for which men in general contend with the most zeal, are those in which they are most deeply interested. Amongst men who set a high value upon reputation, whether for talents or for courage, the renown of their country will be an object full as interesting as its liberties or its prosperity; but, amongst the mass of the people, freedom from oppression, and that happiness which arises from a comfortable subsistence, will always be the chief objects of attachment, and the principal motives of all the exertions which they will make in defence of their country.

If this be true, and I do not think that any one will deny it, does it not behove us, Sir, to think seriously of some means of alleviating the burdens of the people, or, at any rate, to prevent the increase of those burdens? Are these burdens imaginary? Are they not but too real, and too severely felt? Can you, Sir, contemplate the 1,200,000 paupers in England and Wales, without lamenting that so large a portion of the people have nothing, no, not even the rags upon their backs, to call their own? Add to these the vast numbers, who, though not actually paupers, have nothing worthy of the name of property; consider how fast this class is increasing from the natural and unavoidable effects of such a system of taxation as ours; and then say, how great is the number of persons who are in the enjoyment of that for the preservation of which they may reasonably be expected to venture their lives.

Persons, who do not examine or reflect; persons, who, in certain situations of life, can know nothing of the distresses and miseries of the labouring part of the people, may be excused for paying no attention to them; but, such inattention in a statesman is, at all times, and particularly at a time like the present, inexcusable. Experience, daily observation, minute and repeated personal inquiry and examination, have made me familiar with the state of the labouring poor, and, Sir, I challenge Edition: current; Page: [111] contradiction when I say, that a labouring man, in England, with a wife and only three children, though he never lose a day’s work, though he and his family be economical, frugal, and industrious in the most extensive sense of those words, is not now able to procure himself by his labour a single meal of meat from one end of the year unto the other. Is this a state in which the labouring man ought to be? Is this a state, to preserve the blessings of which he can reasonably be expected to make a voluntary tender of his services? Is this a state, to prevent any change in which he must naturally be ready to make, if necessary, a sacrifice of his life? How this state of hardship and of misery is produced by the system of taxation; how that system, by creating idlers, lessens the quantity of production, at the same time that it feeds one man upon that which has been produced by the sweat of another; how that system diminishes the number of proprietors of the soil; how it increases the riches and the luxuries of the few and the poverty and wretchedness of the many, I have heretofore, to my own satisfaction at least, amply proved. And, Sir, in answer to all this, shall we be told by those “petty tyrants,” of whom you speak in your Address to the Norfolk Freeholders, that the labourer’s miseries arise from his vices, and that, instead of bread he stands in need of the lash? Shall we be told by the elder Sheridan and Messrs. Bowles and Redhead Yorke, wallowing as they are in luxuries derived from our labour; shall we be told by these men, that we must make further sacrifices? Sacrifices “not only of the comforts but of the necessaries of life?” And, if we complain at this cool and hardhearted insolence; if we say that it is for them to begin at last to make some little sacrifices, shall we be stigmatized as Jacobins and Levellers? Not merely to the labourer is the degrading effect of the taxing system confined. The tradesman, the farmer, the clergyman, and the gentleman of ancient family, if he be not already driven from the mansion of his forefathers; all these feel, and most grievously feel, the effects of a system, which is daily and visibly depriving them of the hope of seeing their children able to move in the same circle that they themselves move in, and the means of accomplishing which hope they see taken away by the tax-gatherer, to be carried to aggrandize such men as the Bowleses and the Sheridans. And, if these persons, when they see themselves and their families thus stripped, complain; if they express a wish to have their burdens alleviated, and to see the public money more wisely and justly applied, are they to be told, by the Bowleses and the Sheridans, that they are Jacobins and Levellers? And that, though it is just to call them Jacobins and Levellers, it is also just and reasonable to call upon them to make voluntary sacrifices, and, if necessary, to shed their blood, in defence of this same system?

But, what are the specific measures that I would recommend? They are not few, Sir, in number, nor do they relate solely to a reduction of taxes; but, there is one thing, which must, if any good be to be done, take the lead of all attempts of an inferior description; and that is, a House of Commons, in which there should be neither placeman nor pensioner.——From a thorough conviction, that all our calamities and dangers had arisen from the members of the House of Commons being capable of receiving the money of their constituents, in consequence of votes given by themselves, I did, when I offered myself to the Electors of Honiton, state that I thought that no member of that House ever ought to touch the public money. I was instructed thus to speak from the reason of the Edition: current; Page: [112] case, as well as from experience; but, until I saw Sir Francis Burdett’s last Address to the Freeholders of Middlesex, I did not know that the principle had been so clearly laid down in a legislative enactment, and that a law had actually been passed, containing the wise and important provision, the words of which serve as a motto to this letter. That act of parliament I have now read; and, considering the time when it was passed, and the persons by whom the passing of it was advised, I should like to hear how the Whig, Mr. Whitbread, would answer the observations of Sir Francis. Mr. O’Bryen too (of whom, by-the-bye, I think much more highly than I do of Mr. Whitbread), after declaring Mr. Whitbread’s letter to be unanswerable, says: “The objection to Mr. Sheridan (as a candidate for Westminster) of holding an office, is neither English, nor even French, nor Grecian, nor Roman; it is of no clime or country, but totally original; it may be the best of doctrines, but it is wholly new.” How Mr. O’Bryen will answer the act of parliament, made for the security of the liberties of Englishmen, I will not presume to guess; but, I am very strongly of the opinion, that, by this time, both these gentlemen are heartily sorry for having suffered their wish to annoy Sir Francis Burdett to carry them to such lengths. Mr. Whitbread’s attack, when the obvious motives are taken into view, was the most unfair and the most unmanly, that, as far as my observation has gone, has ever disgraced electioneering contests. But he evidently estimated his character and his power far too highly. Like Mr. Sheridan, he does not seem to have had a friend to tell him that he was upon the wane in public opinion. He thought his stock of reputation so great as to leave him enough to squander in defence of his placed and pensioned friends: and, like Mr. Sheridan, too, he did not discover his error, until it was too late.

To return to the principle, for which I am contending as proper to be acted upon most rigidly at this moment; there is, upon the very face of the thing, such an evident incongruity, nay, such a barefaced indecency, in members of an assembly, who are chosen to represent the people, and who are specially charged to see that their money is not misapplied, voting part of that money to themselves, that it appears to me passing strange, that any disinterested and reflecting man should ever have been reconciled to it. That members of the House of Commons should have been paid by the people who sent them, and that they should now be paid, for their time and expenses, was, and now would be, just and reasonable; but, that they, or any of them, should receive, in any shape, remuneration from any other quarter, and especially in virtue of appropriations made in consequence of their own votes, the money coming out of that purse to guard which is their office, is, whatever Messrs. Whitbread and O’Bryen may say of it, without a parallel amongst all the mischievous inconsistencies and incongruities that ever were heard of in the world.

Mr. Whitbread’s doctrine is, that, if the members of the House of Commons were prohibited from holding places of profit, the people would be reduced to the necessity of being governed by the worst of mankind. Upon this point he has been answered by Major Cartwright; and, in this sheet, he will find another letter addressed to him by that gentleman, after which if he can hold up his head in public he must have more confidence or less feeling than generally falls to the lot even of the Whig of the 19th century. But, why does it follow that we must be governed by the worst Edition: current; Page: [113] of mankind, unless our representatives in Parliament hold places of profit under the king? If the profit of your place, for instance, and that of Lord Howick’s and Lord Henry Petty’s were taken away, would you, all at once, become the worst of mankind? “No,” but, perhaps, it will be said, “you would be unable, from want of means, to defray the expenses attendant upon the filling of a high office.” I do not, for my part, see the necessity of any such expenses, when I know that every thing belonging to the office, down to the very pens and ink, is furnished by the public; and, when I am told of the keeping up of the dignity of the office, I really never can perceive how this is to be done by money, especially when I see no outward and visible signs of this dignity, and hear of nothing, for which ministers are, in the way of splendour, distinguished above other men, but the giving immense Dane-like dinners, the very accounts of which are surfeiting to men of mind, while they are cruelly insulting to the sinking and starving families with which the country abounds. You may read all the Paris papers long enough, Sir, without meeting with the history of a turtle-feast given by any minister of the Emperor Napoleon; and, if Napoleon himself had given turtle-feasts, and had associated with play-actors and buffoons, be assured that he never would have been an emperor.

But, supposing, merely for argument’s sake, that a man, when he becomes a member of the ministry, is compelled to live at a more expensive rate than he otherwise would do; or, supposing, that it is in vain to look for men who will serve as ministers without deriving profit from their services. If this be so; if the people, on whom the ministers call for sacrifices even of “the necessaries of life,” are to be told that these same ministers will not sacrifice so much as a part of their time; why, then, be it so; but, all that we in such case contend for is, that those ministers ought not to be members of the House of Commons, there to vote the public money into their own pockets. And, Sir, I think it would be very difficult to show how the business of the state would suffer from the banishment of that thing called the Treasury Bench out of the House of Commons. On the contrary, is it not notorious, that the business of that House interferes so much with the official business of ministers as to leave them little or no time for those reflections and deliberations, which are absolutely necessary to the well-governing of the country? And, how many are the instances, Sir, which you well know I could point out, where measures in the cabinet have been fashioned much more with a view to their effect in debate, than with a view to their national utility!——The great business of the House of Commons is, to watch over the interests of the people, and not to grant any money which ought not to be granted. The writers upon our “Excellent Constitution,” that constitution of which Mr. Mellish vows to be the champion, have, all of them, spoken in high terms of this third branch of the legislature. To be sure, say they, the King has great prerogatives and power, and so have the peers; but, then, the people are completely protected against all these; because without the consent of their representatives, that is, of themselves, not a shilling can the King obtain in taxes. This is the “glorious constitution,” of which we have heard, and of which we talk so much; but, is this the sort of constitution which Mr. Mellish, and the like of him, have in view? Or, do they mean a constitution, which admits of a House of Commons, elected as the late House was, and headed by the servants of the King? A House of Commons, in which, when a member Edition: current; Page: [114] moved for certain papers relative to the expenditure of the public money, a servant of the King had the audacity to tell him, that the paper should not be produced, because the member who moved for it had not previously communicated his motion to him! This, Sir, is the constitution, which Mr. Mellish and Mr. Sheridan eulogize, and which, I doubt not, they will defend to the utmost of their power.

That a man cannot serve two masters is universally allowed, and this maxim may, surely, be regarded as particularly applicable to a case where the two services have been devised as a check upon each other; but you, Sir, if you are not grossly misreported in the newspapers, have, in your speech to the Freeholders of Norfolk, not only denied the truth of this maxim, as applicable to the case in question, but have asserted, that the contrary is the truth; and, that a servant of the King, so far from being loss able to serve his constituents, is more able to serve them! If you meant, by serving his constituents, the obtaining of places for them, the making of them officers in the army or navy, or the giving livings to them, or the making of them excisemen or clerks or doorkeepers or sweepers or messengers; if you meant, that he was more able to scatter the public money amongst them; more able to bribe them with the spoils of their country; if this was what you meant, Sir, you were certainly correct. But, I hope, and do believe, that this was not your meaning; yet, Sir, how, in any other sense, are the words attributed to you reconcilable to reason? If you spoke of services to be performed in the House of Commons; and if your doctrine were sound, it would, of course, be better for the country, if that House consisted wholly of servants of the King. In one way or another, the House is, to say the truth, pretty well furnished with such persons already; but, as they are more able to serve the people than any other description of persons; as they are even better than independent men, why should we not be completely blessed at once; especially when there are so many hundreds of placemen and pensioners, who have nothing upon earth to do, and to whom the passing of laws and the voting of money at St. Stephen’s might offer an agreeable afternoon’s amusement, and might a little relieve the booksellers’ shops from that lounging which is now their curse?——Surely, Sir, when you uttered the words to which I have referred, you must have entirely forgotten the act of parliament above quoted, which act was passed, observe, for the two-fold purpose of settling the crown upon the family of his Majesty and for securing the liberty of the subject. That act, with a view to this latter object especially, provides, “that no person holding an office or place of profit under the King, or receiving a pension from the crown, shall be capable of sitting in the House of Commons;” but you tell the people, that the fittest of all persons to sit in the House of Commons are those which this law so explicitly disqualifies! And yet, Sir, you do not fail, when occasion offers, to call upon us to make sacrifices for the preservation of our “glorious constitution!”

The House of Commons ought to have the power, the real and practical power, of refusing to grant money. Has it this power, Sir? Does it ever refuse? Let the minister that asks it be what he may; whatever may be the purpose for which the money is wanted; have you ever witnessed a refusal? And, if every sum, be it what it may, is sure to be finally granted, where, I should be glad to know, is the use of that power of the purse, with which the world has been so long amused? That this invariable submission to the will of the minister of the day, no matter who Edition: current; Page: [115] or what he is, has proceeded from the power which that minister has of bestowing places and pensions upon the members, there will no doubt be pretended to be entertained by any well-informed and candid man: and, therefore, Sir, until this evil be removed, by restoring to us the practice of the constitution in this respect, I, for one, expect to see nothing efficient done for the preservation of the country; because, until then, it would be folly worse than childish to look for any measure calculated to lighten the burdens of the people and to encourage them to make those exertions, without which you will find regular armies, though partly composed of Hanoverian troops, of little avail against a powerful host of invaders.

Nevertheless, I shall in my next letter, proceed in pointing out such measures as I think ought to be adopted; and, in the meanwhile,

I remain, Sir,
Your most humble and most obedient servant,
Wm. Cobbett.
William Cobbett
Cobbett, William
26th March, 1807.


Note by the Editors.—Letters three to nine, to the Electors of Westminster, relate to nothing but the conflict between the parties to the Westminster Election, and are of no importance in any way; but, those which relate to the turning out of the Whigs in 1807, on the Catholic question, are of great importance, both as to the question itself, and as to the state and intrigues of parties.

“That nothing of this sort” [the Pitt deceptions] “will now be attempted I am confident; and, if it were, it certainly would not succeed. The nation is not again to be duped in that way. It would look with abhorrence upon the attempt; or, which is still worse, it would entirely give way to that feeling of indifference, which has long been creeping over it, and which, of all possible feelings, is the best calculated to ensure and accelerate our destruction as an independent people. Let us, however, hope for better things; let us hope, that there is now forming, and that we shall soon enjoy the benefit of, an administration, including all the distinguished men in the country, all the weight, whether or rank or of talent, that the nation possesses. Let us hope, that, after this long, long night of ignorance, of jostling selfishness, of serpentine intrigue, of crawling sycophancy, and of miring corruption, the dawn of knowledge, of talent, of public spirit, and of integrity is approaching. If so, and, surely, we have good reason to hope that this is the case, we may safely rely upon the spirit of the people. That spirit is not dead: it is only dormant; it only wants to be roused; but, as was before observed, this is not to be done by rabble-rousing words. The threats of invasion, and other, all other terrors, will now be of no avail. The people have ‘supped of terrors,’ foreign as well as domestic. They want nothing to terrify them. They want something to confide in; something to cheer them; something that shall present itself to them as a fair foundation for hoping that they will, at some time or other, be restored to their former state of happiness at home, and of renown in the world; something that shall make them love their country as Englishmen were wont to love it; something that shall make them think it an honour to arm and to defend it. They want to feel the beneficent effects of the acts of the government; they stand in need of the impression to be produced only by great and striking measures; and to adopt such measures, with a fair prospect of success, will demand an exertion of legitimate influence to be Edition: current; Page: [116] hoped for only from the union of all those public men, who have distinguished themselves as the enemies of corruption and of corrupt rulers. Upon this last score it is, that the people (without whose hearts, let men say and think what they will, the nation cannot be saved) feel most sensibly; and, it must have been evident to every tolerably accurate observer, that, by his tortuous measures to protect peculators, Mr. Pitt lost more of the public confidence than by all his other measures and tricks put together. If, therefore, the new ministers shall set their faces against all measures of this sort; and, if, as I trust will be the case, they should resolve to institute an inquiry into the corruptions of the last twenty years; if they should do this, they need fear neither the ‘blood-suckers’’ voices, nor the arms of the French. But, if they do not something, at least in this way, all their other measures will be useless. They will inspire no confidence; and, truth to say, they ought not to inspire any confidence. To a change, a great change, in this respect, I have always looked forward as the natural consequence of the overthrow of the Pitt system of rule; and, if no such change take place, not only shall I be cruelly disappointed and mortified, but, though, I trust, I never shall despair of my country, I shall be compelled to transfer my hopes from the present to a future day; for, as to going on in the corrupt path of the last twenty years, I shall hate myself if I did not recoil with horror at the prospect.”

Political Register, Feb. 1, 1806. Vol. ix. page 143.

It was my intention to have analyzed, in this letter, the whole of the evidence given in the House of Commons, relative to the last petition of Mr. Paull against Mr. Sheridan, and then to have inquired into the justice of the decision, which was, at last, made on Wednesday the 18th instant, by that famous House (with the sole dissenting voice of Lord Folkestone), namely, that “the petition was false and scandalous,” and that Mr. Drake, the unfortunate acquaintance, son-in-law, and election supporter of Mr. Sheridan, should be committed to Newgate; but, though it would be an entertaining and not unuseful task to trace Mr. Sheridan through his connections with the persons, whom he has now blackened, and with those respectable personages, Mr. Homan, the Matron Butler, and the not less respectable Mr. Aaron Graham, who is, at once, superintendent of convicts and of the Theatre of Drury Lane; yet, I shall decline this task, at least for the present; and for the two following reasons: first, because I am satisfied, that, as to the evidence and decision, there can be but one opinion in the minds of all uncorrupted men; and, second, because, in speaking of the decision, I should not, in the present state of things, dare to express myself in the manner that I could wish; I should not dare to express my feelings, and I am unwilling to disgrace them by having recourse to rhetorical inventions, especially as a time is, probably, at hand, when with respect to every thing done by the present parliament, we shall be at liberty to say what we please.——With respect to the petition against the return of Mr. Sheridan, I have no scruple to say, that I am decidedly against its further prosecution. To the reasons, which I urged against it, at the beginning; or, rather, before it was begun, I might now add the argument of experience. Of all the means that the powerful and corrupt have of keeping down the people, that of ruining those who stand forward in support of their rights is the most effectual. Those, who are resolved not to take the wages of corruption, should take care not to expose themselves to the necessity of doing it. The corruptors say to those who would defend the people’s rights: “We will make you betray the people and join us in plundering them, or we will compel you to cease from your exertions, or we will ruin you; one way or the other we will prevent the people from deriving any benefit from what you are able to do.” Such is their threat, Edition: current; Page: [117] Gentlemen, and, unhappily, they have, at present, the power to execute it with but too much punctuality. When they have succeeded, upon any such occasion, they never fail to boast, that it is the effect of the people’s voice; but, they and the devil well know, that, through the influence of that very corruption, which it is their chief object to support, the free voice of the people is as completely stifled, as it could possibly be by the feather beds of the murderer’s den.

But, Gentlemen, though I decline addressing you any further, at present, upon the foregoing subject, there is another, upon which I cannot refrain from addressing you, as being of the greatest importance to us all, because likely to lead to the destruction of the system of corruption, by which we are so grievously oppressed; I mean, the change in the ministry.

This change, which cannot possibly be for the worse as to men, or as to present measures, and which may possibly produce future good, has arisen out of a bill which was before the House of Commons, relative to the removal of certain restraints, under which Roman Catholics and other Dissenters laboured. I propose, first, to submit to you some remarks upon the effect which the bill would have naturally produced; second, upon the motive whence the ministers brought it forward, as clearly demonstrated by the readiness with which they gave it up; third, upon the conduct which is, by the newspaper writers, ascribed to the King upon the occasion; fourth, upon the causes of the boldness of their opponents; fifth, upon the way, in which we, the people, are considered and treated in this and similar cases; and, sixth, upon the great and general cause of these struggles, so manifestly hostile to the interests, the tranquillity, and the honour of our country.

I. The Roman Catholics and other Dissenters, who refuse to comply with certain religious tests, are, by the law, as it now stands, disqualified from holding superior ranks in the Army or the Navy; and, the natural effect of the bill in question would have been to open the road of promotion to persons of that description. This road is, in fact, already open to every class of Dissenters except the Roman Catholics, because the former either comply with the ceremony required, or are freed from the penalties of noncompliance by an act of parliament, annually passed, called the “Annual Indemnity Bill,” which is no other than a law for the purpose of excusing from punishment men who have been guilty, knowingly, of a breach of the law. But, there is one test, which the Roman Catholics refuse to give, namely, that, according to which they are called upon to acknowledge the supremacy of the King, as relating to the church. This they make a point of conscience. They hold, that the Pope is the true and legitimate successor of St. Peter, whom, they say, Jesus Christ placed at the head of the Church, or, in other words, gave him the supremacy over it. They see plainly enough, that the Popes, like our prime ministers, are set up and pulled down by whatever power happens to be strongest; and that, at some times, there are two Popes at once. They see, that any old man, sometimes a grasping miser, sometimes a concubine keeper, sometimes an incestuous beast, sometimes a tyrant, sometimes a consummate hypocrite, and sometimes much more than half a madman, may be Pope; yet are they kind enough still to regard him as a being perfectly sacred. We, of the Church of England, who scorn such self-degrading bigotry, who are enlightened by philosophy, and have liberty to say what we think, hold, on the contrary, Edition: current; Page: [118] that our King is the head of our church, as we hold him to be also of the army and the navy and the courts of law and justice; and, all that we ask the Roman Catholics to do, is, to swear that they hold the same, which they, to a man, refuse to do; alleging, as was before observed, that, as Jesus Christ’s Church is one, as theirs is that one, and as the Pope is the only legitimate head of that, our King cannot possible be the head of the Church. They are willing to swear, as often as we please, that they regard the King as the only temporal sovereign in his dominions; that with such matters their Pope has nothing at all to do; and that they own no earthly allegiance to any other sovereign than our King; but, we insist upon their swearing, that they own no religious allegiance to any body but the sacred person at the head of our Church; and, here it is that we split.——Now, Gentlemen, the bill in question would (as far as related to military and naval officers, and no farther) have done away the necessity of Roman Catholics giving this test; and, the natural effects would, as was above stated, have been to have placed our Roman Catholic fellow subjects, in the army and navy, upon the same footing with ourselves, leaving them in the quiet enjoyment of their notion, that an old man, living at Rome, whence he was sent for, the other day, by Buonaparté, to travel over the Alps, in the dead of winter, at the evident risk of his neck, is the true and only successor of St. Peter, the supreme head of the Church all over the world, and that it is agreeable to the will of a God of infinite wisdom, that this old man, or much about such a one, should be universally regarded as possessing sacredness and infallibility. Such a notion is, to say the least of it, consummately ridiculous; but, after having given due consideration to the subject, I cannot, I must confess, perceive any practical mischief that could possible have arisen out of it. Had the measure, indeed, tended to re-introduce the Roman Catholic religion here, with all its attendant temporal abuses, such as they are, or have been, in some foreign countries; with all its abbots and bishops, who, instead of residing in their abbeys and diocesses and superintending their priests, spent their time, in the metropolis, at balls, routs, dinners, cards and dice, and who, instead of bestowing benefices upon men of exemplary piety, crammed their abbeys and cathedrals with their stupid and profligate relations, and, not unfrequently, with their own bastards: yes, indeed, if this measure had tended to re-introduce an establishment, the clergy of which were promoted, not according to their merits, but through the influence of family connection, of government interest, of party or court cabal, or amorous intrigue; where benefices were frequently the price of political apostacy, of successful sycophancy, of prosperous pimping, or of the prostitution of a sister, a wife, or a daughter; and where so scandalously partial was the distribution of benefices (four or five of which were sometimes bestowed upon one clergyman), that it seemed as if the design was to belie the Gospel, and, instead of giving the hire to the labourers, to bestow it on the lazy and pampered pluralists, while the curates, the real pastors, were starving in rags, and while the flocks were regularly fleeced, but never fed: let any man reflect upon these things; let him compare what I have here described with our present happy situation; and then let him say, whether we ought not to have exposed our lives, to the last man, rather than submit to a system of imposture so degrading to us, had the ministers attempted to introduce it. But, Gentlemen, as I said before, Edition: current; Page: [119] I am fully persuaded, that the bill would have had no such tendency; that it would not have altered our church affairs at all for the worse; and that, therefore, the cry, which the detestable hypocrites are setting up, about danger to the church, from the dreaded prevalence of popery, is surely one of those tricks, by the means of which knaves impose upon fools, and amongst which fools, I am confident, none of you will be found.

II. But, Gentlemen, while I am fully persuaded, that the bill in question would have produced no harm, either as to church or state, and while, I think, you will discover no reason why any class of our own countrymen should be excluded from posts of military trust, at a time when we see an army of Hanoverians, commanded by Hanoverian officers, stationed in the heart of the kingdom, I have, I confess, no very high opinion as to the good that would have been done by the bill; and, as to the motives of the ministers in bringing it forward, they appear to me to be much worse than doubtful.——There has been much shuffling and quibbling upon the subject; but, in few words, the state of the case is this. The ministers stood unequivocally pledged to bring forward some measure for the further relief of the Roman Catholics of Ireland. You will tell me, I know, that they stood as firmly pledged to bring forward many other measures, all which pledges they have set at defiance, laughing in the faces of those who were credulous enough to believe in their former professions. But, you will please to observe, that, upon this question, the Grenvilles also stood pledged, and not the less firmly because the Marchioness of Buckingham was a Roman Catholic. Yet, having seen, that Pitt found some difficulty in getting off from this rock, they would have avoided it, had they not seen, that the Roman Catholics were coming forth with a petition to Parliament, in order to put their fidelity to the test. Thus penned up, they fell upon a scheme, by which they thought to be able, at once, to silence the Catholics and to keep their places; and this was, to get the bill in question passed, which they would have held out to the Catholics as a mere beginning of the fulfilment of their promises, and as a proof, that if more was not now done, the fault lay elsewhere. Their newspapers assert, with what truth I know not, that to this bill they obtained the previous approbation of the King. We will speak, by-and-by, upon this mode of originating bills; but, that they really did obtain this approbation is, I think, pretty certain from that love of place which has marked their subsequent conduct, and which would have prevented them from agitating the question, if they had therein seen any danger to the duration of their power and emoluments. But, it is, with equal confidence, asserted, on the other side, that the King was not fully apprized of the purport of the bill; and that he began to express his disapprobation of it, the moment the Mutiny Bill had passed. The real truth, however, is, I believe, that the King thought this a good opportunity of humbling them; and was resolved to avail himself of it accordingly. When, therefore, he expressed his disapprobation of the bill, and when they instantly consented to withdraw it (though it was in the hands of the parliament, you will observe), that, as they now say, did not satisfy him, and he demanded from them a written promise, that they would, for ever after, refrain from interfering with him upon certain points, this, of course, amongst the rest. This written promise, which the Morning Chronicle denominates an “indenture of servitude,” they refused to sign; and that refusal is the cause of their being stripped of their offices. Now, Gentlemen, if, after all that we have seen of these Edition: current; Page: [120] ministers, since they have been in power, we wanted any proof of their want of principle, of their total disregard of every thing when put in competition with place and emolument, what other proof do we want than this their offer to withdraw this bill? In my last Register, not aware of this fact, I observed, that if they did not press this bill upon the House with all their might, they must be covered with everlasting disgrace; and, we now find, that not only do they not press the bill upon the House, but that they would have kept their places even on the condition of withdrawing the bill. Yet has this, even this part of their conduct, met with an advocate in the Morning Chronicle. Its defence of it is, I think, rather more curious than any thing I have seen for some time; I, therefore, beg you to read it with attention, bearing in mind, all the while, that when Pitt returned to office, without bringing forward a bill of the same sort of much greater extent, this Morning Chronicle accused him of the basest abandonment of principle. I must once more press upon you the necessity of reading the whole of the passage with attention; for, be assured, it contains the substance of their defence; and it contains, too, some very pretty doctrines about our “invaluable constitution,” as they are continually calling it, in the House of Commons.——“The Prerogative by which the King may remove his Ministers is, like every other, a Prerogative vested in the Crown for the good of the Nation, and to be exercised with no other view and to no other end. The House of Commons has just as unquestionable a constitutional right to refuse Supplies as the King to change his Ministers—but in neither case is the right arbitrary. It is to be exercised with a sound discretion, and, in fact, in both cases is a latent remedy, inherent in our Constitution, to be called into use upon great emergencies, rather than the ordinary healthful system of our Government.—Ministers felt that they had a most important duty to perform. They had recourse, therefore, to no abstract theories. They knew that measures were to be conducted from their commencement to their conclusion, according to the PRACTICE OF THE CONSTITUTION, and every measure they have proposed has been framed and brought forward, as much with a just acknowledgment of the authority under which they acted as Ministers, as with an ultimate view to the best interests of their country.——When a particular measure came to be discussed, either as to pressing or abandoning it, it was their duty to consider the whole ends and views of their general administration, and its tendency to advance the public interest, as well as the value, at the time, of a single measure, however important. They were under no DIRECT pledges; and they knew that if they could not, as Ministers, effect the object, their abandoning the Government would, in every way, render worse the situation of those whom they wished to benefit. In the situation in which the country stood, it was not one question on which its fate was staked, and they did not feel themselves justified in forsaking the general management of affairs at so important a crisis, because one measure had encountered obstacles.—They knew, moreover, that if a conscientious scruple might have influenced in one quarter, that scruple was sure to create a whole swarm of tartuffs and hypocrites from interest; and that the very supposition of extorting a disagreeable concession from the King, was sure to set all the activity of pettifogging devotees in motion, to make religion and conscience the watchwords of faction. Ministers, therefore, resolved to deprive their enemies of this Edition: current; Page: [121] factious pretence of conscience and principle; they resolved to strip the pettifogging casuists of all apology for exciting old prejudices, and kindling forgotten rancours. They gave up the question, the success of which, in the circumstances of the case, would not have been advanced by their adherence to it. They did not wish to afford an excuse to a set of unprincipled intriguers for exciting a ferment in the state, under the cloak of any assumed authority above them.—This firmness, and this just consideration of the whole interest of the State, has withheld Ministers from giving up their places to the intriguers, who wish to supplant them.”—To take this defence in due order, we are first called upon to express our admiration at the discovery, that the prerogative of the crown to dismiss ministers and the privilege of parliament to refuse supplies are “latent remedies” in our constitution, to be brought forth and applied in great emergencies, and not to be used in the healthful state of the patient. With respect to the latter, it is very latent; very latent indeed; and it is hard to conceive any state of the patient that will be able to call it forth. But, the former is not so latent. It is used pretty often, and with wonderful effect. The truth is, Gentlemen, that this difference arises from the state of the doctors and not of the patients. The prerogative of turning out ministers is in active hands, while the privilege of refusing supplies is a remedy that is deposited with those who seem to have been, by some means or other, prevailed upon to leave off business. Yes, Gentlemen, it is this power of refusing supplies that constitutes the sole check which the parliament has upon the crown, and, if this power ceases, no matter from what cause, there is no check at all upon the crown.——The ministers, we are told by this writer, “did not amuse themselves with abstract theories,” but acted upon “the practice of the constitution.” That is to say, they threw aside what ought to be done, and did what others had done before them; and, accordingly, they first obtained the consent of the king to the passing of a law, before that law was propounded to the House of Commons. This is a fine doctrine to urge in favour of men who have, for twenty years past, been bawling about the constitution, and railing against the increase of the power of the crown! No; they “did not amuse themselves with abstract theories” about checks and balances: that was a treat they kindly kept for us: mountebanks never play their tricks for the amusement of one another: they would as soon think of curing their ailments with their own brick-dust and yellow-ochre drugs.——But, now for the two grand reasons for withdrawing the bill; the first of which is, that the ministers, being under “no direct pledges,” thought it for the good of the country, in such an important crisis, that they should give up the bill and keep their places. As to the pledges, they mean, I suppose, by introducing the word direct, to say, that no man holds a bond, under their hand and seal, for their bringing forward the measure relative to the Catholics; for, in every other way, short of this, had they pledged themselves to that measure. Several of them had resigned with Pitt, in the midst of war and difficulty, because the king would not consent to it; all of them, except Lords Sidmouth and Ellenborough, had urged the adoption of it after Pitt’s return to power; and had reproached him, and justly reproached him, with the basest apostacy and love of place, because he accepted of that place upon conditions which disabled him from carrying the measure. No; there was no bond to hold up to their teeth, there was no “direct pledge,” nor was there any in the case of the Spartan Edition: current; Page: [122] General towards Colonel Johnstone; but, Gentlemen, those who were not to be held to a pledge, such as these ministers had given to the Catholics, and such as the Spartan General had given to Colonel Johnstone, would, I think you will agree, have made, with the help of a pettifogging attorney, a tolerably decent struggle against the trammels of a parchment bond. “No direct pledge!” Verily, when the king had heard this from them; when he had seen the readiness with which they acted upon it, it was high time to have their pledges down in black and white.——With respect to the plea, that they gave up the bill, in order that they might be able to keep their places for the good of the country, it is, I will say that for it, the most modest I ever heard in all my life; but, at the same time, it is a plea that every set of placemen have made use of from the days of the famous Cabal down to those of Lord Howick and General Fitzpatrick. Pitt did not court place. Lord Melville never wanted place. Nor the Addingtons nor the Hawkesburys nor the Hobarts nor the Edens nor the Roses nor the Huskissons nor the Cannings nor the Calcrafts nor Alexander Davison nor General De Lancey; no, none of them ever wanted, or now want, place and pelf, any more than these are wanted by the Grenvilles: all, all to a man, have wanted merely the power of serving the country; that country which is so dear to them, and to which they are so dear. But, in such case, men, in the ardour of their zeal to be serviceable, are apt to overrate their ability; and, I think, if we look at the thirteen months’ administration of these men, we shall find it difficult to imagine how they could possibly have done less good to the country; the putting a stop to the increase of the taxes being the only act of theirs worthy of marked approbation, and that was a measure, which the state of things would, of itself, have effected. It may, indeed, be said, that, after having, most of them, been kept out of power for twenty years, nay for twenty-two years, it was no more than fair to allow them the first year to settle themselves and their relations well down; and that, when we accuse Mr. Sheridan of having fulfilled none of his pledges, we uncandidly overlook the fact, that he has been settling his son in a place worth three thousand pounds a year, at home, while he is captain of a regiment serving abroad; is this doing nothing? Is it nothing for Mr. Grey to have made his father an Earl and himself a Lord? Did he do nothing while he was at the head of the Admiralty? Those who accuse him of that forget, surely, that he turned off Sir Charles Saxton, the Commissioner at Portsmouth, upon a pension, for life, of six hundred pounds a year, in order to make way for his brother, the “Honourable” Mr. Grey; and that another brother of his, who has acquired his military fame I know not where, has been appointed to supersede General Baird in the command of the Cape of Good Hope. Is this doing nothing? And this is only a very small part of what he has done for his own kindred, to say nothing of what he has done for those who have shown themselves willing to defend him against the reproaches of his former friends. Then there is my Lord Henry Petty, has he done nothing? Let any one look at the brood of young friends that he was nursing up, and some of whom he had actually got, not only into office but into parliament, though, to ignorant observers, it would not seem that nature ever intended them for any thing beyond the desk of a counting-house. This is, I think, doing much; and, only a little of his lordship’s works, in this way, have become visible, the chief part of his brood having not yet made their appearance, being, at this moment, in much Edition: current; Page: [123] about the same situation as that of a nest of callow rats at the tearing down of the building, amongst the rotten and hollow parts of which they are deposited. Has Mr. Calcraft done nothing? Has General Fitzpatrick done nothing in not only attending to his office, but in securing to himself, independent of that office, a colonelship of an old regiment, though he sold his company in the Guards twenty years ago, and though he has not seen a day’s service since? Has Lord Erskine done nothing? Is the taking of his son from the bar (where, doubtless, he would soon have got briefs and fees), and the making an ambassador of him; is this nothing? Is it nothing to have bestowed a large church living upon a son of Mrs. Bouverie? Is it nothing to have made comfortable provision for every relation that was dependent upon himself? And, are all these things; are they, and a hundred others that might be mentioned, nothing? Are they nothing at all? And, coming to reason and conscience, Gentlemen, could we expect, that, amidst all these important concerns, the old musty pledges about parliamentary reform and the sedition bills should be remembered? To be sure, it may be said, that any body else; that any fifty men that one could have stopped in the Haymarket, would have been as able, though, perhaps, not quite so willing, to do all this, as the Whig ministers have been; and, as this is probably true, I really can see no reason to regret, upon the score of ability, their departure from office, especially when I consider, that they will be succeeded by men equally adroit in the creating and disposing of places and pensions.——The second grand reason alleged for their offering to withdraw the bill, is, that they wished to deprive the tartuffe courtiers, as they call them, of an opportunity of asserting, that they were turned out for attempting to force the king to do that which was contrary to the dictates of his conscience. Now, Gentlemen, you will observe, that, either they did attempt to force the king’s conscience, or they did not. If they did not; if they proposed to him nothing but what was constitutional and expedient; what a pretty proof of their firmness have we, in their having given up the measure, lest their adversaries should make of their perseverance a handle wherewith to excite popular prejudice against them? And, if they did attempt to force the king’s conscience, what shall we say to the sincerity that taught them to endeavour to make the world believe, that they did not? Their choice, therefore, seems to lie between unparalleled pusillanimity and unparalleled hypocrisy, the very least of their meannesses being, that, at any rate, and upon any condition, they wished to keep their places. “No,” they will say, “we refused to keep them upon the last condition proposed to us.” Aye, aye; so you did; but, you well knew, that if the king had once had you down in black and white, your places would not have been worth an hour’s purchase; and that, in fact, you would have been turned out, and, if possible, in a plight a little worse than that in which you now are.——As long as there was any, even the faintest hope, of preserving those places, you stuck to them like a louse to a German’s beard, which retreats and advances with the ebbing and flowing of the beer mug or the gin glass; but, when you were certain that you could keep them no longer, then, and not until then, you made a refusal that might serve, as you hoped, to reinstate you in the opinion of your former friends; a hope in which you will, assuredly, find yourselves deceived. Your promised explanation cannot have reached me, before this sheet is in the press; but, after what I have seen in your associate, Mr. Perry’s newspaper, I want not Edition: current; Page: [124] to hear it, in order to enable me to judge of its substance. It will consist in dark hints, in general, loose, and common-place observations, upon the prerogatives of the crown, upon the duty and responsibility of ministers, upon the critical situation of affairs, and upon your own endeavours and virtues; but, mark my words, your harangues will be received, out of doors, at least, with as much indifference as you received the petition of Colonel Johnstone. The newspapers containing them may be read, and may be suffered to lie upon the table; but, not one sigh of sorrow will they draw forth, not one word will they cause to be articulated in your favour.

III. Upon the conduct of the King, in this case, there is no need of saying much. He acted as most other men do, in similar circumstances; he followed his own inclination. It is not necessary to enter upon the question, whether he did right or wrong; and, besides, the constitution says, that he can do no wrong. All that it seems to be worth our while to think about, as touching the conduct of the King, is this; that, the newspaper writers assert, that it was he, or persons acting under his commands, that stopped the progress of the bill in the House of Commons. I have before observed, that we have been taught to believe, that there are certain checks and balances in our constitution of government; but, Gentlemen, if these news-writers speak truth; if the King can, when he pleases, put a stop to the progress of a bill in the House of Commons; if this be the case, it is, in reality, the King who causes every law to pass that does pass; and, as he is also the executor of the law, where, in that case, are those famous checks and balances! And, of what use at all is the House of Commons? You will, of course, perceive, that I am arguing against the doctrine of the newspaper writers, without pretending to admit the fact; but, Gentlemen, I scruple not to assert, and that in the most unqualified manner, that, if the King had it in his power to stop, whether directly or indirectly, the progress of a bill in parliament, that parliament, like the old degenerated, corrupted, and despised parliament of Paris, would be a mere court wherein to register the edicts of the King, and that we, however we might endeavour to disguise the shameful truth, should be the subjects of an arbitrary monarch.——So far, however, am I from regarding this as our present situation; so far am I from looking upon the parliament as a set of puppets, moved backward and forward by a set of ministerial wires; so far am I from supposing that 658 of our countrymen could be found to be so detestably base, that I must regard the postponement of the Roman Catholic Bill as merely temporary. It was brought in by Lord Howick; but, having been read by the House of Commons, having been received by that House with every mark of approbation, some other member will, surely, move for the second reading, in due time. I confidently trust, that I shall not be disappointed in this, because it seems necessary in order to give a proof of the absurdity of the above-mentioned doctrine of the newspaper writers. Good God! the King cause a bill to be stopped in its progress through the House of Commons! I dare be sworn that such an idea never entered the mind of His Majesty even in a dream. If this were the case, what a farce would be the deliberations of that house! We might do with their votes what that excellent fellow, Swift, proposed to do with those of the Legion Club. Forbid it, decency! Forbid it the title of “honourable gentleman!” Why, if this abominable doctrine were to be admitted, the deliberations of the House of Commons Edition: current; Page: [125] would resemble the proceedings of a Dean and Chapter, acting, in the choice of a bishop, under the illuminating inspiration of a congé d’elire; that is to say, a leave to elect a bishop, accompanied with the name of the person to be elected.” Mr. Baron Maseres, in an excellent pamphlet upon church affairs, recommends that this mode of proceeding be discontinued; because, says he, it is ridiculous to hold an election, when the parties electing are commanded whom to elect, and it is particularly offensive, to a mind really religious, to see the aid of the Holy Ghost invoked upon such occasions. It were much better, he adds, for the King to appoint the bishops at once by letters patent. And, Gentlemen, if the doctrine of the newspaper writers were sound, would it not be much better for the King to make the laws himself and to issue them to his subjects, as the Emperors of Russia and Austria do? If the King and his ministers, no matter which, could stop the progress of a bill, in the House of Commons, when they pleased, they could of course cause to pass whatever laws they pleased; and, if they could do this, no matter by what means, whether by the bayonet or by securing a corrupt majority of the members, should we not be the most base of wretches to affect to believe ourselves to be the subjects of an arbitrary monarch? Far, however, from us, Gentlemen, be such thoughts as these. We know that this newspaper doctrine is base and wicked. We know, that the “faithful Commons” are the guardians of our purses and our liberties. We know that they are all, yea all, “honourable gentlemen.” We know how full of independence and of spirit they are; and, therefore, I call upon you to join me in execrating this abominable doctrine of the newspaper writers, who, when I consider what passed with respect to Mr. Reeves, must, I should think, certainly have their ears clipped off. Mr. Reeves had said, in a pamphlet, that the constitution was a tree, of which the King was the trunk, and the two houses of parliament the branches, or, rather the limbs. “These two,” said he, “may be hewn down and cast into the fire; but the trunk still flourishes.” This metaphor caused a prodigious uproar. The Whigs, with Mr. Sheridan at their head, brought the matter before parliament, and moved and voted for the pamphlet to be burnt by the hands of the common hangman, and to address the King never to suffer Mr. Reeves to enjoy any place of profit or trust, as long as he should live. This motion failed, but the House ordered the Attorney-General to prosecute Mr. Reeves in the Court of King’s Bench, and in the motion for this order they were nearly unanimous. Well, then, will the Whigs now be silent, when it is openly, and, doubtless “falsely and scandalously” asserted, that the King has caused a bill to be stopped in its progress through the House of Commons, and what is more, that these very Whigs have been the bearers of his commands? Oh, foul and wicked slander; equal, at the very least, to that contained in Mr. Paull’s last petition! And, shall this pass unnoticed? I trust not. I trust, that some one of those “youths of elevated rank and of lofty and generous sentiments,” whom Mr. Wilberforce so applauded, during the debate upon the slave-trade abolition bill; I do trust, that some one of them will, step forward, upon this occasion, to avenge us, who have been so grossly insulted in the persons and office of our independent and faithful and incorruptible representatives, called the House of Commons.

IV. As to the cause of boldness in the adversaries of the ministers, it is simply this; that they well knew, that there was not one sensible Edition: current; Page: [126] and sound man in the kingdom, or upon the face of the whole earth, that would make an effort to prevent their being turned out, or that would express, or feel, the smallest regret at the event; and, as to the great body of the people, exclusive of the government dependants, it was easy to foresee, that, though they might expect no good from their successors, they would feel satisfaction at the fall of those, who, after twenty years of pledges, had disappointed and betrayed them. In the passage which I have taken as a motto to this letter, Gentlemen, I express the hopes and the fears, which alternately pervaded my mind, at the time when these ministers came into power. In twenty other passages, written about the same time, I exhorted the ministers so to act as to merit the confidence of the people; and, in one of those passages, in particular, I predicted, that, unless they so acted, their power would be of short duration, and their fall unregretted. My exhortations passed by unheeded. Instead of a great change as to the system of Pitt, the new ministers began their career by voting away our money to pay the debts of Pitt, whose character and whose system have been, from that day to this, subjects of their incessant and even gratuitous applause, while, in their measures, in their doubling of the Income-tax; in their screwing up of the collections of the assessed and other taxes; in their stifling of inquiry, by their previous questions; in their backwardness to grant papers of information; in their constant and but too successful efforts to screen persons, accused of misrule or peculation; in their unrelenting oppression of all those who became accusers of such persons; in their dissolving of parliament and their interference in elections; in their introduction of foreign troops; in their creating of new offices and granting of new pensions; in all these, and in almost every thing else, they have followed the example of Pitt, and have, with all their might, both in words and in deeds, supported his destructive system. And, as if all this were not enough, the persons formerly attached to them, and to whom they principally owed their elevation, not being made of stuff sufficiently supple for their purposes, they uniformly turned their backs upon, while they embraced with political philanthropy, the ready-made sycophants of Pitt. Of the numbers upon whom they turned their backs, I am not one, I having, on the eve of their elevation, explicitly declared to them, that I never would have any public emolument as long as I lived; but, I know many, upon whom they have turned their backs; and, amongst all their sins, this, their sin of ingratitude, is by far the greatest. Let them now wail the lost love of the people; that people, whom, in the hey-day of their power, they despised and held in derision. Do they expect, Gentlemen, that you, for instance, to whom they formerly addressed themselves for support, and against whose free voice they have recently combined with the Pitts in such malignant hostility, representing as Jacobins and Levellers all of you who adhered faithfully to the principles formerly professed by themselves; do they, indeed, expect, that, amongst you, there will be found one single man foolish enough to regret their fall? Whatever they may expect, however an overweening vanity may lead them to conclude, that their powers of delusion and deception will again serve their turn, their adversaries will draw no such conclusion. Those adversaries well know, that while they have lost all their former friends, they have gained over not one of their former enemies, who, while they were cherished by them, were watching for the opportunity of ensuring their destruction. Those adversaries well know, that their Edition: current; Page: [127] professions will never again be believed; and that, when, from the opposition benches, where they are already seated, they again clamour about corruption, and about the increasing power of the crown, we shall remind them (as, with life and health, we will) of their own corruption, and of their having added so enormously to the pensions of the Royal Family, while, at the very same time, they passed an act to exempt from the Income Tax the King’s property in the funds. All this their adversaries well know, and knowing it, they also know, that they have nothing to fear from their clamours, which will all be ascribed as is most justly due, not to the love of their country, but solely to the love of power and emolument.

Upon the remaining topics I shall trouble you with some observations in a future letter. In the meanwhile,

I remain,
Your faithful friend and obedient servant,
Wm. Cobbett.
William Cobbett
Cobbett, William
2nd April, 1807


“I pledge myself to this house and to this country, to show, that the waste and profligacy, that attends places and pensions and abuse of various public offices, are so great as to be sufficient to maintain with bread all the labouring poor of this country. I do not speak hastily and at random; I have information to proceed upon; for I have been in a situation, in which I had an opportunity of examining into these matters.”

—Mr. Sheridan’s Speech, 13th March, 1797.

The two topics, which, from want of room, I left untouched upon in the last letter that I had the honour to address to you, namely, the manner in which the people are considered and treated in the changes of the several ministries, and the great and general cause of these struggles, so manifestly hostile to the interests, the tranquillity, and the honour of our country; upon these two topics I shall not now need to address you much in the way of reasoning, seeing that the debates, which have since taken place in the House of Commons, will, when merely analysed, afford you a practical proof of what it would have been my object to establish by argument.

But, before we proceed to this analysis, it seems necessary to observe, that the explanation, which was, with so much previous pomposity, given by Lord Howick, in the House of Commons, on the 26th of last month, differs in no material circumstance, from the statement of the case, as given in my last letter. It appears, 1st, that the bill in question, was before the House of Commons, where it had been received with great applause, and had been read a first time; 2nd, that the king expressed to the ministers his disapprobation of it; the ministers immediately consented to withdraw it, without, observe, seeming to think the consent of the House of Commons at all an object of solicitude; 3rd, Edition: current; Page: [128] that they made a minute of council, however, in these words:—“That they trusted that his Majesty would see the indispensable necessity of their expressing, on withdrawing the Bill, the strong persuasion they felt of the benefits which would result from a different source of policy to the Catholics of Ireland; and they further stated, that it was indispensable to their characters, that they should openly avow these sentiments, not only on the present occasion, but in the event of the Catholic Petition coming forward; and they further insisted, that the present deference to his Majesty might not be understood as restraining them from submitting for his Majesty’s decision, from time to time, such measures as circumstances might require respecting the state of Ireland;” 4th, that, upon perceiving this minute, the king not only dissented from it, but required of the ministers, that they should withdraw the latter part of it, and even substitute in its place a written obligation of a directly opposite nature, pledging themselves never to bring forward again the measure they had abandoned, nay more, never to propose, even to the king himself, any thing connected with the Catholic question; and, 5th, that, upon refusing to enter into this written obligation, the ministers were dismissed, and others, as we have seen, appointed in their stead. This is the fair state of the case, agreed upon by all parties. There is, indeed, a little dispute, as to whether the king was, beforehand, fully and circumstantially apprised of the whole extent of the measure, or whether a part of the tendency of the bill was not perceived by him previous to its introduction; but, of whatever importance this circumstance may be to those who attempt to reconcile with the spirit of our constitution the practice of originating bills under the express authority of the crown, and of withdrawing them under the same authority; of whatever importance this circumstance may be to such persons, it can, Gentlemen, be of no importance at all to us. These ministers we now find not ashamed openly to avow, that they proposed and brought in a bill, to which they thought it their duty to obtain the king’s consent; and that, the moment they perceived a change in the mind of the king with respect to it, they agreed to withdraw the bill from the House of Commons; and, this avowal they are not afraid to make in that very House of Commons, where, that the thing may be complete, they are heard with applause! Observe, too, that they complain most bitterly of having been misrepresented, and the gentle Lord Howick talks of newspaper libellers. But, what is this misrepresentation? Some one, no matter who, publishes their famous minute of council, leaving out the words which I have marked by italic characters; so that, from this publication, it might have been understood, that they reserved to themselves “the right of submitting, for the decision of parliament, such measures as circumstances might, from time to time, require, respecting the state of Ireland.” No, say they; no such thing; we did not attempt to reserve to ourselves any such right. All we attempted to do was, to reserve a right to submit such measures for the decision of the king. The newspaper libellers have represented us as having put upon record an assertion that we retained some small part of our rights as members of parliament; but their representations are false and malicious; for we were still willing not to stir an inch in proposing any act of parliament, without the previous decision of the king in its favour. These wicked “newspaper libellers” never think of accusing the ministers of any thing but of not going far enough in obeying the will of the king and in causing the parliament to Edition: current; Page: [129] obey that will; and all that these patriotic Whig ministers appear to be anxious about is, to convince the nation, and especially the House of Commons, that, as to all practical purposes, they went as far in this way as it was possible for any body to go, and that, therefore, it was extremely unjust to turn them out of their places; and this, Gentlemen, is the ground, upon which they mean, it seems, to appeal to the parliament against their successors in office!——But, let us take a little more in detail, the facts and doctrines contained in Lord Howick’s explanation. He tells the parliament, 1st, that the opinions of himself and his colleagues, respecting the Catholics of Ireland, had been, at the time when they came into power, recently manifested in their speeches and their votes, which opinions no one of them could be expected to give up for the sake of office and emolument; 2nd, that they stood pledged to the measures for the relief of the Catholics; 3rd, that, in addition to the general reasons of justice and of policy, they were induced to bring forward the bill in question, from a conviction that it was necessary to tranquillize and conciliate the people of Ireland, in which discontents and disturbances notoriously prevailed; 4th, that, though the bill was agreed upon in the cabinet before the ministers heard of the coming Catholic petition, yet, that the knowledge of that petition being in agitation, operated as an additional inducement to the ministers to press forward the bill, hoping that, if promptly passed, it might induce the Catholics to abandon the object they were pursuing, a motive, which was not overlooked by me, in my last letter, page 488; 5th, that finding the King resolutely bent against the bill, they immediately agreed to withdraw it; and, 6th, that this was, on their part, a painful sacrifice of personal feeling to public duty!——Of personal feeling to public duty! What! was the giving up of this measure, which they were “convinced was necessary to tranquillize and conciliate the people of Ireland, in which discontents and disturbances notoriously prevailed;” was the abandoning of such a measure, under such circumstances, a sacrifice of personal feeling to public duty? No; my Lord Howick, you may assert this as long as you please, and you may find a crowd of base place-hunting people (at your Whig Club or elsewhere) to swear to the truth of what you say; but, be assured, that every man of a just mind, uncorrupted by views of place or emolument, will say, that it was a sacrifice of public duty to personal feeling, to views of emolument and of low ambition. You may make professions of sacrifices; but the nation has grown weary of your professions. You trust, you tell us, that, “whenever that kind of sacrifice becomes necessary, no man will be found more ready to submit to it than you will.” I believe you with all my soul! But, believe that you would yield one guinea of emolument, or one rag of official pride, for the sake of your country, I do not.——But, Gentlemen, it is Lord Howick’s doctrine, relative to the introducing of bills into parliament by order, or, at least, under the authority, of the King, that I wish to turn your particular attention to. This lord found it necessary to say something in explanation of this part of the transaction; he had perceived, that men were struck with the wide difference between the theory of the constitution, relative to checks and balances, and the practice of it, as so strikingly exemplified upon this occasion; and, he seemed very desirous to reconcile the theory with this practice. The best way is, first to put upon record his words, as reported in the Morning Chronicle, and then to make our remarks upon them.——“It has been stated,” said he, “by some persons, who have Edition: current; Page: [130] animadverted upon this transaction, that ministers were not warrented in bringing forward a public measure without previously obtaining the consent of his Majesty. But this extravagant proposition scarcely deserves serious notice. According to any rational view of the subject, the duty of a minister appears to be two-fold. He may act in a double capacity upon different occasions; namely, as a minister, and as an individual member of parliament. There was no minister who had not acted so occasionally. If, indeed, it were culpable to pursue the course some extravagant writers now maintain, Mr. Pitt’s conduct upon the Slave Trade and Parliamentary Reform would have been highly censurable; for that distinguished statesman, in both these instances, brought forward the propositions as an individual member of Parliament. The constitutional distinction, which, in concurrence with my colleagues, I take between the duty of a minister in the one case and the other, is this; that when a minister brings forward any motion as a measure of government which has undergone any discussion in the Cabinet, he violates his duty, unless such measure shall have received the sanction of that authority. I should, of course, feel myself very culpable, if I attempted to bring forward any measures in Parliament as a ministerial measure unless I had previously submitted that measure to the consideration of the King, and obtained his Majesty’s consent to its adoption. It was therefore I laid before his Majesty all the particulars with regard to the measure respecting the Catholics, and waited to obtain his Majesty’s approbation before I attempted to submit the consideration of that measure to this house.”——Here we have the modern creed of the Whig politicians. What does the English constitution, or the law of parliament, know of any two-fold capacity of the members of the House of Commons? According to that constitution, those members are the guardians of the property and the liberties of the people; and they are nothing else. But, now we learn; now, for the very first time since the parliament of England began to exist, the House of Commons are flatly and plainly told, that there is another body, namely, the Cabinet Council, who discuss bills, and resolve upon adopting them, before they are presented to that House, before leave is given to bring them in! One of their own members rises in his place, and plainly tells them, that he has recently brought in a bill because the King wished him to do it, and that he has since withdrawn that bill because the King changed his mind, and for no other reason whatever, though he was, at the same time, firmly convinced, that the passing of the bill was necessary to tranquilize and conciliate a fourth part of the people of the kingdom! Nay, he does not stop here; but goes on to say, that, unless he had obtained the King’s approbation for bringing in the bill, he should have regarded it as an act highly culpable to have brought it in!——Thank him, however, for his frankness. We might, perhaps, have presumed, before, that such really was the case; but now it is openly avowed, that bills, before leave be moved for to bring them in, are discussed and resolved upon in the Cabinet, that is to say, amongst men who are the King’s servants during pleasure, and that they receive the sanction of their master, before they are proposed to the parliament.——What pretty stuff has Blackstone and Paley and that foreign sycophant De Lolme been writing about the checks and balances in that wonderful effect of human wisdom, called the English constitution!——As to the distinction between bills brought forward as measures of the Cabinet and bills originating with Edition: current; Page: [131] persons as individual members of Parliament, what does the constitution know of such distinction? Does any writer upon our constitution make such a distinction? Does Blackstone, who has given us a commentary upon the whole of our laws, talk of any such distinction? Has he once named such a thing as a Cabinet? Can the parliament recognise the existence of any such council, or body of men? Is not such a body utterly unknown to our laws? Besides, let us ask a little, what bills there are, of any consequence, which are not measures of the Cabinet, if we admit of this distinction? All bills relating to the army; all bills relating to the navy; all bills relating to the church; all bills relating to the colonies; all bills relating to foreign connections and subsidies; all bills relating to loans and taxes, not only in the principle but also in the amount; in short, I am sure no one will pretend to deny, that every bill, in which the people are generally interested, must, according to this distinction, be regarded as a measure of the Cabinet; and, therefore, if to all such bills, the King’s consent, previously obtained, be an indispensable requisite, again I call upon Blackstone and Paley to come forth from the grave, vindicate their writings, and tell, if they can, of what use is a House of Commons, except that of amusing the unthinking mass of the people with the idea that they are represented, and that the laws, by which they are taxed and bound, are made with their own consent. Yes, Mr. Blackstone, you, who, through four mortal volumes, which, piled upon one another might supply the place of a stool, have rung the changes upon the blessings arising from the checks and balances of the English constitution, do rise and tell us, where, if Lord Howick’s doctrine be sound, or if the parliament be content to act upon it, or, rather, to be passive under it, we are to look for those inestimable checks and balances? It is the peculiar business of the House of Commons to frame and to pass bills for the raising of money upon the people; and, when they pass any bill, for the placing of the public money at the disposal of the crown, it is called a grant. Now, as all these bills, without one exception, are what Lord Howick terms measures of the Cabinet, what a farce, if his doctrine were sound, would this granting work be? According to this doctrine, it is resolved in the Cabinet to bring in a bill for granting the King money; the King has the bill submitted to him, and directs it to be brought in; the Secretary to the Treasury brings it in; it is passed without a division; and, this, this, Gentlemen, my Lord Howick would tell us, is the true “practice of the constitution in this free country,” where, as Blackstone says, the people, by their representatives, tax themselves!

Having taken sufficient time to congratulate ourselves upon the inestimable blessings which must naturally flow from this doctrine of the Whigs, let us, next, take a view of their conduct, as exhibited in the debates of the 24th and 25th of last month, taking those debates as they stand reported in the Morning Chronicle newspaper, and commenting upon them as a newspaper publication.——On Tuesday the 24th, the King had chosen his new “confidential servants” and, amongst them, was Mr. Perceval, who was appointed Chancellor of the Exchequer, and was, it was understood, to be immediately appointed what is called Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster for LIFE. This last place, like the places held by Lord Grenville, the Marquis of Buckingham, Mr. Thomas Grenville, and many others, is a mere sinecure, worth about 4,000l. a year, and having attached to it a good deal of church patronage. It has sometimes been granted for Edition: current; Page: [132] life before, and was so granted to the greedy Whig patriot Mr. Dunning by a ministry of which Lord Rockingham was the head. But, generally, it has not been so granted. It has, according to the “practice of the constitution,” been a good decent reward for some one able to give pretty efficient support to the ministry of the day. But, Lord Howick and his public-spirited colleagues, seeing it going for a man’s life, and that man, too, not above four-and-forty, and withal very sober, abstemious, and moral, in his way of living; seeing it thus going, with respect to them, for ever and ever; seeing this part of their prey, not only snatched from them for the present, but about to be devoured by anticipation, they seem to have been inspired with an unusual degree of Whiggism, and to have resolved to preserve, if possible, the chance of again enjoying the profits of this fat sinecure. Accordingly, on the 24th, Mr. Plomer, member for Hertfordshire (for, as I had occasion to observe lately, in such case, some man of this description always begins the discussion), having first stated what he had heard, respecting the intended disposal of the Chancellorship of the Duchy of Lancaster, said, that he begged leave to protest against the granting for life any place usually held during pleasure. Sir John Newport (a member of the late ministry) joined in this opinion, and he said something about places granted in reversion, which we will hear in his own words, because, though relating to no very rare instance, it is good to have it upon record, as something declared in the presence of our faithful representatives. A reversion, Gentlemen, is, we should recollect, the right of possessing a thing after the demise of the present possessor. If, for instance, an annuity of a hundred a year was settled upon me for life, and upon one of my children after me, for his life also; this annuity would be settled in reversion, and my child might, if any one would buy it of him, sell his reversionary right. Little did I imagine, when I was writing in America, that a traffic of this sort was carried on with respect to places of trust under that government, in the defence of which I made such exertions! But, away with these mortifying reflections! Let us hear the cheering voice of Sir John Newport. “With respect to some of the Irish offices which had been reported as proper, some to be abolished, and some to be reformed, and which could not be touched in either way, on account of the interests of the reversioners; the office of customer and collector of the port of Dublin, one of those reported as requiring regulation and reform, had been granted on reversion TWO DEEP, and consequently could not be touched by the late bill for the retrenchment, reform, and regulation of offices in Ireland, though it had twice fallen vacant within the year, and though it was one of those that most particularly required reform and regulation.” A reversion “two deep,” Gentlemen, exists in the case, where a thing is settled for life upon one person first, and, upon his death, is settled to descend to a second person, and, upon his death to a third person. This is the way, then, in which the place of a high Custom-House Officer is disposed of! And, yet, there are wretches so impudent and so infamous as to call Sir Francis Burdett a Jacobin and a Leveller because he complains of these things!——In proceeding with the debate, we find Mr. George Johnstone (of whom more by-and-by) “could not help observing, that those who had been most clamorous in cheering the reflections cast upon the hon. and learned gentleman, were members of the family (the Grenvilles) which was loaded with wealth derived from public sinecures. He wished Edition: current; Page: [133] with the hon. gentlemen, that the resolution now before the house (against reversions) had been adopted long since, and then that family would not be drawing 60,000l. a year from the public. He hoped the indications they now gave of a different disposition would be permanent.” This was a fine slap upon the other side; but, Mr. Huskisson gave a better, because it came exactly in the right place. “As to the propriety of any arrangements with a view to induce individuals to accept of office he believed that the first measure of the administration then in office, with a view to enable a noble lord (Grenville), for whom he felt a very sincere respect, was a sufficient proof that such an arrangement was not very extraordinary.” This was very well done. The tap was light as air; but it was like the end of the finger upon the tender part of the arm, or under the ear, and which is much more painful than a broomstick laid across the shoulders. The thing he alluded to was this: Lord Grenville was Auditor of the Exchequer, a place worth five or six thousand pounds a year, and so completely a sinecure, that he had been, by act of parliament, relieved even from the trouble of signing his name. When, however, he was become prime minister and first Lord of the Treasury, it was discovered, that, as the law stood, it was illegal for the First Lord of the Treasury to be also the Auditor of the Exchequer; and, indeed, well it might be unlawful, the one office being a check upon the other. Yet, what was to be done? His Lordship had a mind to be First Lord of the Treasury, without having a mind to give up a life-certain place of such excellent revenue. Inclination said: “Take both places at once;” but the law said, “You cannot.” In this dilemma, recourse was had to the grand and infallible remedy, an act of parliament; and, it is the real truth, that the very first measure of the late reforming patriotic ministry, was, an act of parliamant, to enable Lord Grenville to hold, at one and the same time, the two offices above-mentioned. “Was it not shocking?” said a firm friend of Mr. Fox’s to me at the time, “was it not shocking to begin with a bill like this, and to make poor old Fox the instrument to bring it in?” It was shocking, indeed; and, you will, probably, remember, Gentlemen, that I lost no time in stating my opinion respecting it. I said, it would, one day or other, rise up in judgment against the ministers, and now it has so risen.——When the ministers have found themselves at a dead lift, as the vulgar phrase is, Mr. Whitbread has generally stepped forward to assist them, not only with his readiness at speaking, but with the strength of his character for independence and purity; which character, however, is, by no means, what it used to be. Upon the present occasion he so stepped forward; with what degree of success we shall presently see. He said, “that the case adverted to by the hon. gentleman, and that alluded to by his hon. friend (Mr. Plomer), were entirely different. The former case had been brought under the consideration of the house, the latter was to be by the act of the crown. The act that had been discussed in that house, was to enable a noble lord to hold a place, that had been granted to him for past services, and which he then held for life; but the case then under consideration, respected the grant of a place for life, which was always heretofore granted during pleasure, and before any services could be performed for which it was to be a reward.” Now, as to the Chancellorship of the Duchy of Lancaster having always heretofore been granted only during pleasure, Mr. Whitbread was misinformed; and, as to the distinction between past services and services to come, Edition: current; Page: [134] there is nothing solid in it. Those services are most amply paid for during their continuance; and, all the world knows, that the reward, as Mr. Whitbread chooses to term it, is neither more nor less than money given for the sake of enriching the receivers of it, without any reference at all to services, or else, I should be glad to know, upon what principle this very place was last given to the Earl of Derby. But, the other distinction is worthy of particular notice. This grant to Mr. Perceval was to be the act of the crown, whereas, says Mr. Whitbread, the grant to Lord Grenville was brought under the consideration of this house. Yes, Sir, and then take along with you Lord Howick’s doctrine, that it is culpable in ministers to bring forward such a measure without thereupon receiving the sanction of the King; take this along with you, Sir, and then, in the language of a plain honest man, tell me, if you can, where is the difference? Ah, Sir! there was a time, when you would have scorned such miserable shifts; and I cannot help hoping, that there are yet moments when you lament that you have been drawn into a situation that compels you now to have recourse to them.——Mr. Whitbread, by way of recrimination, stated, that Mr. Perceval was already a reversioner. That a large sinecure place (a place worth nearly ten thousand pounds a year) was now enjoyed by Lord Arden, a brother of Mr. Perceval; that, upon this place there was a reversion “two deep,” and that the second of the two was Mr. Perceval himself. This is very true, and not less notorious; and it is also true, that Mr. Perceval holds the sinecure of Clerk of the Irons, worth about one hundred pounds a year. But, still the Percevals are very far indeed behind the Grenvilles; and, one thing let us always bear in mind, that all these grants of which the late ministers complain, were made by that same Pitt, with the praises of whom they have been, and yet are, continually insulting this pauperized and bank-paper and tax-gatherer nation. Were it only for this they merit our execration. Mr. Windham has not praised him; but, he is the only man amongst them who has not. Mr. Whitbread has been conspicuous for it. It was a vile scheme for gaining over and securing the support of his old corrupt partisans; and, like all other schemes of the sort, it has, in the end, produced an effect precisely the contrary of that which it was intended to produce.—The last person, who spoke upon this occasion, was Mr. Parnell, who said: “A noble lord (lord Castlereagh) who had carried the practice of granting reversions to such an extent in Ireland, was to have a high office under the new arrangement, and he had a suspicion that he might introduce the same practice in England. He had had the honour of a seat in the Irish Parliament, during the whole of the proceedings on the Union. That measure had been lost in the first instance, because two of the great interests remained neuter. Before 12 months had elapsed, the measure was again brought forward, and carried by a majority of 30, on which occasion both those interests voted for the measure. The son of the gentleman, who was at the head of one of those interests, at present, had the reversion of the Clerkship of the Pells, in Ireland, and the son of the other had the promise of the first bishopric that should fall in after the Union.” Upon this, Gentlemen, we will make no comment at all. We will content ourselves with merely calling to mind, that this Union, and all its transactions, were the work of that Pitt, whom Lord Howick and Mr. Whitbread are now continually eulogizing, and whose debts they have caused us to pay. If we were to add any other reflections, they would Edition: current; Page: [135] naturally relate to the blessings of our invaluable constitution in church as well as in state, and particularly in those admirable checks and balances, upon which Blackstone and others have written such long chapters.——Before the House broke up, a Mr. Martin, who is, it seems, a “learned gentleman,” and, of course, a lawyer, gave notice, that he would, the next day, make a motion, for an address to the King, beseeching him not to grant, for life, any place, usually granted during pleasure; which motion was avowedly pointed at the grant about to be made to Mr. Perceval, and which motion was made accordingly, and, upon a division, was carried by a majority of 93; there being for the motion 208, and against it 115.——But, to you Gentlemen, to you, as free, independent, and honest men of plain common sense, I particularly address myself, when I remark, that my Lord Howick, who, while in place, was ready to withdraw a bill which he was convinced was necessary to the tranquillity of the most vulnerable part of the kingdom; that my Lord Howick, who was ready to do this while in place, from his tender regard for the personal feelings of the King; this same Lord, the moment he is out of place, urges on, aids and abets with all his means, this motion of Mr. Martin, which must, if successful, necessarily produce extreme pain to those feelings. This lord, who, while in place, had such high notions of the King’s prerogative, that he would have regarded it as culpable in himself to introduce a bill without the King’s approbation; steps forward the moment he is out of place, to obstruct that same King in the exercise of his undoubted constitutional prerogative of granting a place for life, which place had been more than once before granted for life. He, good gentle lord, could see no harm in the King’s having the power to cause, or to prevent, the originating of bills to become laws to bind all his subjects; but, the moment he finds him granting a lucrative place to a rival for power, and in such a way, too, as to preclude the hope of its ever coming into his own hands, that moment he takes alarm for the constitution!——Mr. Martin having made his motion, “that an humble address be presented to his Majesty, praying that he would not grant, in any other way than during pleasure, the office of Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, or any other office not usually held for life;” and, the motion having been seconded by Mr. Ward (not the famous pensioned Robert Ward), Mr. Perceval rose, and began by acknowledging, that, if he had not heard, that this motion was intended to be made, he should at this moment have been in possession of the much envied place, for life; that having heard of the intended motion, he had been to the King, and, for the present declined it; that, as to precedents, Mr. Dunning’s was a case in point, and clearly proved, that the King was now proposed to be addressed not to do precisely that which a Whig ministry, while in power, had prevailed on him to do; that the case of Lord Grenville was a still greater stretch of power in this way; and, that, whatever might be the decision of the house, and whether he had the place, or not, he was ready and willing, and was resolved to serve the King to the best of his abilities, if the King commanded his services. Having said this, he left the house. But, there was one fact, which Mr. Perceval brought out, relative to reversions. There are many places in the gift of the Lord Chancellor, and these also are frequently given in reversion. The late Lord Chancellor Erskine has, it would appear, given but one place in this Edition: current; Page: [136] way; and to whom do you think he gave it? To whom, Gentlemen, do you think that the liberty-loving, the abuse-decrying, and the place-condemning Mr. Erskine, now “Lord Erskine,” granted that one reversion? Why, to the person, who, for a great number of years, served himself, as clerk, in his private capacity of barrister! For such a person, Mr. Erskine must, upon retiring from the bar, have, for very decency, made some sort of provision; and, I suppose, his lordship thought that this provision would be more honourable if it came from the public purse than if it had come from his own. We have to thank Mr. Perceval for this fact, Gentlemen; and, if he does nothing else than make exposures of this sort, he will do much more for the people of England than has been done by his predecessors, one of whose great objects appears to have been to smother every thing done by Pitt, with praises of whom, with encomiums on whose wisdom and virtues, they have daily insulted us.——Lord Henry Petty, whose father was one of the ministers, when the Chancellorship of the Duchy of Lancaster was bestowed, for life, upon Mr. Dunning, afterwards Lord Ashburton, said, in answer to Mr. Perceval, upon that point, “that personally alluded to as he had been by the comments made by a right hon. gentleman (Mr. Perceval) upon an appointment sanctioned with the approbation of a noble and near relative of his (Lord Lansdown), he could not help offering himself then to the house at once to retort every sinister insinuation against his noble relative and himself. He contended, in the first instance, that between the case of the right hon. gent. and that of Lord Ashburton, there was a great and leading distinction; the latter was, in the technical phrase, a law lord, excluded from the duties of that profession from which he derived a great and valuable consideration, and receiving the Chancellorship of the Duchy of Lancaster, with the express understanding that he was to resign it on the occurrence of that event which would put into the hands of his Majesty the disposal of the place of Chief Judge of the King’s Bench; such was the honourable ambition of a lawyer the most eminent of his day. It was not then granted, it was not held forward as a bait to entice him to discharge the duties of an office great and lucrative, (loud and repeated cries of hear! hear!) no! he should say, in vindication of the noble personage alluded to, that it had never been offered to entice future services, but to reward past; and in equal vindication of the person who accepted it, he would say, that great lawyer did not accept it as a bargain, as a pitiful compromise to indemnify the apprehended consequences of risking his support to any administration (loud and repeated cries of hear! hear!).”—But, Gentlemen, let us not be hallooed out of our reason. What are these distinctions? What do they amount to? First, we are told, that Mr. Dunning was become a Lord, before the place was bestowed upon him for life; but, we are not told, what was the fact, that he would not accept of the peerage without the place; and, observe, that the bargain was, that he was to be Lord Chief Justice if a vacancy happened, and that the place in question was only a sort of stay-stomach, till the full-meal came to hand. But, Lord Henry Petty tells us (and upon this distinction he seems principally to rest), that the place was given to Mr. Dunning for past services, and not as an indemnification for the risk he might run in making part of a new ministry. The fact is, that Mr. Dunning had never rendered any public services at all; he had Edition: current; Page: [137] never been in the public service; he had spent his time, and had exhausted his health, in labouring for money, of which he was very fond, and of which he had amassed a great deal, as a private barrister; and, if the place was not given him as an indemnity for his risks in supporting the new administration of the day, I believe it would puzzle a more acute man than Lord Henry Petty to find out a reason for the gift. Mr. Dunning had been a great wrangler in parliament; he was the author of the famous resolution about the increasing influence of the crown, to which influence he, in the right Whig way, added, as soon as he got into place; he had been a most useful party-man. What services, then, had he to make a claim for? What past services had he performed? And, then, if we must take private circumstances into view, he was very rich, and had, I believe, neither wife nor child, and, consequently, no temptation, other than that of sheer avarice, to take the place in question for any term at all, much less for life; whereas Mr. Perceval has a numerous family, dependent almost, if not altogether, upon his labours for becoming support and provision; and, therefore, though I condemn the grant in either case, and though, generally speaking, I have no partiality for Mr. Perceval, yet, I must declare, that the grant to him would have been much more proper than the grant to Mr. Dunning; and there is no clamour, excited by a popular cry, coming from those who have proved that the love of place is their predominant passion, that shall prevent me from saying, that, in every way in which a comparison can be drawn, Mr. Perceval is in my opinion the worthiest man of these two——Mr. Sturges having represented Mr. Perceval as a barrister of the highest rank in point of professional emolument, and Mr. Sharpe having denied the fact, Mr. Montague asserted that the fact was true, and, in continuation (after a cry of order), said, “that if a member did not intend to be disorderly, whatever expressions might have fallen from him, that member was not to be put down by clamour (a laugh). He addressed himself to the independent members of that house, and to their attention did he particularly address himself. Whereupon, the reporter informs us, that there was again a loud and general cry of order, order, chair, chair,” a cry, we may suppose, Gentlemen, that arose from the idea (a misconceived one, no doubt), that there were some members in the house that were not quite independent. The Speaker, however, with that coolness which so well comports with the dignity of our representatives, put the matter at rest by uttering the following words: “The hon. member will be pleased to recollect, that in the language of this house no such distinction between its members is recognised.”——Mr. Montague proceeded, and said, that the distinction he meant was between those seeking for places and pensions, and those who were not candidates for either.”——A distinction that many people make; but one that it may be very improper to make in the House of Commons.——Next, according to the report, followed Mr. George Johnstone, who, “with great warmth, expressed his unqualified disapprobation of the entire course pursued by the late administration, and was inclined to think that the cabals of men about power could serve only, like those between Sir R. Walpole and General Stanhope, to discover secrets that would make all honest men disgusted with both parties.”——This is false; I mean the report, or, rather, the former part of it; for if ever Mr. George Johnstone spoke with more Edition: current; Page: [138] warmth than Little Moses in the School for Scandal, I will be contented to suffer martyrdom for the sake of a Whig ministry. No; with anger the honourable Gentleman might speak; but with warmth never in his life. He derives his philosophy from a school, of which he is a most eminent disciple, and which is much too cooling in the nature of its precepts and its practice to encourage, or permit, the indulgence of warmth. As to the latter part of what this honourable man said, I must leave you, Gentlemen, whose honesty is unquestionable, to judge of its truth.——This censure of the late ministers, however, brought up Mr. Sheridan, who, as you will see, “discovered a secret” with respect to Mr. George Johnstone. He said, “that it was not the first time he had observed in the hon. gent. who had just sat down, an eagerness to attack the late administration, and its friends, though certainly the present, like every former attempt, evinced rather an avidity to attack than a power to be offensive. He was glad, however, to see in the present attack something like a philosophical neutrality, and that as the late administration had had the misfortune of the honourable gentleman’s opposition, so the present would be now likely to come in for its due share. The hon. gent. had said a great deal about independence, and had congratulated himself in an angry tone upon his having no place under any government. He (Mr. S.) could only say that he was no divulger of private secrets; but he might make some allusion to a certain public message, which it had been deputed to him to deliver to a noble friend of his, at the formation of a certain administration. He was sure the hon. gent. perfectly understood him (a loud and general laugh). He was rather inclined to believe, from the nature of that message, that the hon. gent. notwithstanding his present acrimony, might then have been entirely dulcified towards that terrible administration he had been so much of late in the habit of condemning (a laugh).—Aye; and disinterestedly condemning too; or disinterestedly, if such pronunciation better suited the taste of the hon. gent., whether classical or vulgar.”——Now, what in all the world could Mr. Sheridan mean by this pronunciation? For what could he make shift to lay particular stress upon the letters making up the word interest? What has Mr. George Johnstone to do with interest? I will certainly sift this out, if I submit to the cruel vexation of reading all the India Papers over again.——That Mr. George Johnstone had made overtures for a place, at the forming of the last ministry, was pretty certain, from what Mr. Sheridan said; and, therefore, when our old friend sat down, the former rose, and said, “that he neither had, nor would have applied to the right hon. gent. who had just sat down for the purpose of procuring him any appointment upon the occasion alluded to, and for two reasons, the first, that he knew if he had applied the right hon. gent. was too much engaged in providing for himself and his family, to attend to any agency for others; and secondly, because if he had requested the right hon. gent. to undertake the commission, he was pretty sure that, although he might promise, he would have been very apt to forget it. Now, the fact was, upon the case referred to by the right hon. gent. simply no more than this. After stating to the right hon. gent. the substance of some conversations which he had had with an illustrious person, now no more (Mr. Fox), he did communicate to that right hon. gent. Edition: current; Page: [139] and authorize him to mention his readiness to accept of any office to which no salary should be attached, and in which he might be able to make himself useful. He remembered that he particularly mentioned Indian affairs: from his knowledge of which he stated to the right hon. gent. his opinion that he should be able to render some service to the country. In offering, to accept a situation in the conduct of those affairs, without any emolument for his services, he hoped he was making a proposition which should not expose him to censure, or to the suspicion of any unworthy motives.”——Mr. Sheridan rose again, and said what is well worthy of being remembered: “that he was sorry to have felt himself under the necessity of stating any thing which might serve to fix an unworthy imputation upon the character or motives of any hon. member. But he begged leave to observe, that men were induced to seek for offices from different views—some for honour, others for profit, [others for patronage,] and the disappointment of the views in the one case might create as much irritation and discontent as in the other. With regard to the very active agency which the hon. gent. imputed to him in his attention to his own interest, he would beg to state of what nature that agency was. Understanding that his illustrious friend, who was now no more, had mentioned, that in consideration of his services for 27 years, for which he had received nothing whatever, something permanent should be settled upon him; but that upon communicating this wish to his colleagues, they expressed their determination that nothing of the kind should in any case be granted, and again, he immediately declared to his illustrious friend, that upon no account should the thing be any further agitated, but at once dropped.”——Now, Gentlemen, leaving Mr. George Johnstone’s disinterestedness to pass for what it is worth, not forgetting, however, the nature of his connections with India; let us ask of what sort are those “servicesfor twenty-seven years, of which Mr. Sheridan speaks, as the foundation of his claim upon our purses, for a “settlement of something permanent.” His services, like those of Mr. Dunning, were given to a party. Great services, indeed, did he render in that way; but are we to be called upon to pay life annuities to members of parliament, for their services in that capacity? This is fine doctrine indeed. But, what place was it that it was proposed, by Mr. Fox, to give him for life? He himself, you will readily be sworn, did not propose the thing to Mr. Fox. It was, of course, to be pressed upon him. The thing was to be done entirely without his knowledge; and yet, that being the case, it does seem odd, that Mr. Fox should apologize to him for the failure. However, let us suppose, that all this was so; but what was the place, that Mr. Fox proposed to give him for life? Why, Gentlemen, it was this very Chancellorship of the Duchy of Lancaster! “By the mass,” as Falstaff says, “he would have made a brave judge.” And, to use his friend Weatherhead’s phrase, what choice “cushion-thumpers” he would have furnished us with; for he would have had considerable church patronage! If this statement be true, then, Mr. Fox recommended to be done for him precisely that which the King was about to do for Mr. Perceval. Whether church-benefices would not be as properly deposited in Mr. Perceval’s as in Mr. Sheridan’s hands is a question that I will not put to you; but, what a cruel satire is it upon the memory of Mr. Fox, to represent the bestowing of the Edition: current; Page: [140] thing in question as so flagrantly unconstitutional, at the very same time, that it is asserted, that Mr. Fox would, if he had been able, have bestowed it exactly in the same manner! The truth is, that the objection was not to the principle of the appointment, but to the man, whom the Grenvilles disliked, and whom the Foxites, with their accustomed meanness, would risk nothing to support. Mr. Sheridan has now the power of repaying them in their own coin. He is the only man amongst them, whom the change will not sink. Him it will raise. He has been eclipsed merely by the power of those, who owed so much to the former exertion of his talents. Now their power is gone, those talents will again have their worth; and, though he will not, perhaps, actually join the opponents of his supercilious and ungrateful party, he will not fail to make them feel, that he is not to be slighted with impunity. Whatever else he may be, he is a man of wonderful resources of mind; and, if he had been true to himself and to the people, he would never have had to sue for “a permanent settlement.”

Having but little room remaining, I must be very brief in what I have to say with regard to interference with the King, relating to the change of ministry.—Gentlemen, it is the King’s prerogative; a prerogative which he possesses, and which he ought to possess, to change his ministers, whensoever he pleases, and without being liable to be questioned, or taunted, respecting it, by any power upon earth. The House of Commons has its rights, too. It has the right to refuse to grant money; and this it can do at any time; but, it has no right to interfere with the King in choosing, or dismissing, of his servants. It can take up, and pass the Catholic Bill; it can refuse money; but, greedy turned-out ministers will never propose any such mode of proceeding; they will naturally desire the parliament to side with them upon a question of place. And, if the parliament were to side with them, were to adopt any measure, having for its object the forcing of them back upon the King, to what a degraded situation would it be reduced! They well know, that the House of Commons itself is armed with constitutional powers, quiet sufficient to render it an effectual check upon the crown; but these powers such ministers never wish to see it exercise; because they know, that, in such exercise, it would break from their trammels; whereas their object is, to render it always subservient to their views of interest and of ambition; to use it against the people as long as they are in place, and against the King the moment they are out of place. But, if such a thing were attempted, in the present instance, it would be too glaringly scandalous for any man, except perhaps Mr. Perry, to defend, the house yet resounding, as it does, with the declaration of Lord Howick, that, while he was in place, a Bill was brought into the house because the King approved of it, and was afterwards stopped in its progress and withdrawn, because the King changed his mind. What would that house be? In what light would it be considered by the country, or by the world, if, immediately after this declaration, it was to join the same Lord Howick in a complaint against that same King for exercising his undoubted prerogative in dismissing those, whom it calls his servants? What an absurd, what a preposterous conclusion would this lead to! The House of Commons hears, without a single whisper of disapprobation, that a Bill has been brought in, and afterwards withdrawn, by the sole authority of the King; and Mr. Perry has the impudence to tell us, Edition: current; Page: [141] that it is proper of this very same House of Commons to interfere with the King about the choosing of his own servants. “Aye,” will he say, “but you perverse, hard-hearted dog, Lord Howick and I were in place in the first instance, and now we are walking about arm-in-arm (this was really the case a few days ago) with our eyes nailed to the pavement, and with countenances as wise as those of a couple of briefless lawyers in Westminster Hall, while the unfortunate judges and jurors are stunned with the bawling of their more successful brethren.”

Mr. Perry, hoping, probably, that something of the sort above spoken of will be attempted, has, in his newspaper of the 30th of last month, made an attempt to prove, that to dissolve the parliament now would be unconstitutional, though he has, at the same time, the unparalleled profligacy to defend the dissolution of 1784 and also that of last summer! His arguments, as he would call them, in support of this monstrous proposition I have neither time nor room to answer at present; which may, too, be rendered unnecessary, if, in the small space that I have left, I should be able to console Mr. Perry with the hope that a dissolution need not be attempted. It may not have occurred to Mr. Perry, in his bustle of giving dinners to cabinet and other ministers, that it is just possible, that Lords Sidmouth and Ellenborough, if not another or two lately high in office, may join the new ministers before parliament meets again. And, as to the members of the Houses of Parliament, does Mr. Perry think, that a long prorogation, with the time which it would give for men to cool and reflect, would not tend to mitigate their passions and their opinions? Does he think, that members of parliament are stocks and stones; and that the soft and melting powers of eloquence will have no effect upon them? One of the faults which Mr. Burke found with the French National Assembly was, that they were permanently sitting. Retiring now-and-then to converse with one another as private persons, he said, was a great means of enlightening our legislators. Well, then, does Mr. Perry (who now quotes Mr. Burke too) think, that, the many occasions, which, during a recess, will offer for conversation, will have no effect at all? If you would convince a man, and particularly a politician of a certain stamp, of his error, there is nothing like a private interview; politics being, in this respect, very nearly akin to love, the arguments of which, when they approach to points of extreme delicacy, are never successfully discussed, never urged on to complete conviction, if there are more than two persons present. The cause of this I shall not presume to assign; but the fact will, I am persuaded, be denied by no man of common observation; and I am fully convinced, that a summer’s recess would render a dissolution of parliament perfectly unnecessary, though I must, at the same time freely confess, that a dissolution, and, of course, a general election, would be a measure for which I should heartily thank the King and his advisers.

I remain,
Your faithful friend, and obedient servant,
Wm. Cobbett.
Edition: current; Page: [142]
William Cobbett
Cobbett, William
9th April, 1807


  • “Yea, all which it inherit shall dissolve,
  • And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,
  • Leave not a rack behind.”
  • ——Shakspeare.

At the close of the last letter which I had the honour to address to you, I stated, that want of time prevented me from examining in detail a paper, upon the subject of dissolving parliaments, published by that notorious place-hunter, Mr. Perry of the Morning Chronicle. And here, Gentlemen, before we enter upon this always important, and now interesting subject, let us just cast a glance over the state of the press. This press, which has been called the Palladium of free men, and which, in plain English, might have been called the Guardian of free men; this press of which so much has been said and so much has been sung, has, like many other things in our political state, been so completely perverted, as to be one of the chief means, by which freedom, real and necessary freedom, the freedom which an honest and loyal man ought to enjoy, has been nearly extinguished amongst us. As to the operation of the law upon this press; as to the powers which the maxims and precedents established by different Judges have given to the Attorney-General, that is to say, to the ministry of the day, relative to publications in print; as to the severe penalties, enacted, under the administration of Pitt, against those who should, in print, animadvert upon the characters or conduct of ministers, let those characters and that conduct be what they might; which enactments Lord Howick, Mr. Sheridan, Mr. Erskine, Mr. Whitbread and all the Fox party, represented as justifying open resistance on the part of the people; and which enactments, observe, they have suffered to remain, not only without an effort to remove them, but without seeming to remember that they were in existence, while, at the same time, they daily insulted the nation with praises of the man by whom they were invented and caused to be adopted. It is not to these trammels, in which the press is held, these perils which surround every man who ventures to write and publish truth, that I am, at present, solicitous to draw your attention; but, to the corruption and baseness of the press itself, and the way in which it has been rendered an enemy to real freedom. Of this we have an instance sufficiently striking in the Morning Chronicle alone. For twenty years that paper, the property of the very same person who now owns it, was the eulogist and champion of the party of Mr. Fox. When Mr. Fox and his party came into power, that proprietor, Mr. Perry, had a place given him; and thus for his party-labours was he remunerated at our expense. The True Briton and Sun newspapers were set up with the public money; and, when Mr. Heriot, the person who conducted them for so many years, and whose sole and settled business was to eulogize Pitt and his minions, retired from the business, he had five or six hundred pounds a year of the public money settled upon him for life, in what is called a double-Commissionership of Edition: current; Page: [143] the Lottery, which salary, if at all necessary, should have gone to reward some man, who had rendered undoubted services to the country. Mr. Walter, the proprietor of the Times newspaper, did receive for many years, if he does not still receive, a pension of six hundred pounds a year from the public purse in consequence of his devoting his paper to the minister Pitt. The Anti-Jacobin weekly newspaper, in which those famous “young friends,” Messrs. Canning and Frere wrote, was set up at the public expense; and Mr. William Gifford, whom they employed to assist them and to edite the paper, had, first, a patent place of a hundred a year bestowed upon him; next he was made a double-Commissioner of the Lottery, and, since, in addition, Paymaster of the Gentlemen-Pensioners, making in all about a thousand a year for life at our expense; and, never in his whole lifetime, though he is a very modest, and, I believe, a very worthy man, has he ever rendered any service to the country. I will pass over the particulars relating to the “Pilot” and the “Royal Standard,” weekly papers set up by the Addington administration to oppose my Register; but, I cannot help pointing out to you the nature of the influence arising from advertisements in all the papers. This is the great source of emolument; and this source flows from all the public offices as well as from Lloyd’s and all its numerous connections according to the politics of the paper through which it runs. Some papers, the Morning Post in particular, are the property of companies of traders or speculators. The thing is regarded merely as a money speculation, is to be made the most of, and, of course, the most profitable politics will be always preferred. In all the daily papers, paragraphs from individuals, or bodies of men, are inserted for payment, no matter what they contain, so that the proprietor be not exposed to the lash of the law. The price is enormous, not less than half-a-guinea an inch; of course, the rich villain has the whole of the daily press for his defender or apologist, while the oppressed or slandered man, if he be poor, has no means whatever of appealing to the justice of the public. You and the whole nation will agree with me, that, after all the dark hints that had been thrown out about the conduct of Col. Cochrane Johnstone, previous to, and during his trial, the decision of the court-martial was a matter of general interest; yet I have been assured, that that deeply injured gentleman was unable to obtain the publication even of so brief a thing as the mere decision without paying, to the different daily papers, fifty or sixty guineas; while we see that paragraphs, and long ones too, in defence of Davison and Delancy, have appeared in all the daily papers in London. Add to this, the power which the Stamp-office has; add also the influence which the numerous sets of commissioners, surveyors, inspectors, &c. &c. have over the provincial papers, in which also the innumerable government advertisements are inserted, or not, as the papers may behave, and then wonder, if you can, at the torpor of the people, and say, if you can, that this press is “the Guardian of free men?” As to the Magazines and Reviews, the far greater part of them are in exactly the same state. The proprietor of the Gentleman’s Magazine, Mr. Nichols, has great profits as a printer to the government. The British Critic, Review, is conducted by two clergymen, Messrs. Nares and Beloe; the former is an archdeacon, had besides one living given him long ago, and has recently had bestowed upon him another large living by Lord Chancellor Eldon. Mr. Beloe has a living in the city of London, is a prebendary of Lincoln, and has lately been appointed to a place in the British Museum, in which his worthy Edition: current; Page: [144] colleague had a place before him; and, observe, that by an act of parliament, passed in the year 1803, these two holders of living upon living, are, under pretence of their offices in the Museum, excused from residing on any of their livings, and, of course, from all clerical duties whatsoever. Mr. Beloe is, indeed, now no longer in the Museum; but, that the public are not acquainted with the cause of his dismission is another proof of the corrupted state and base partiality of the press.——The Anti-Jacobin Review was begun by a person, who, for cogent reasons, no doubt, has, of late years, changed his name, by patent, from Green to that of Gifford, and who is now a police-magistrate, at a salary of £500 a year. This Review is now in the hands of the famous John Bowles, whom some persons humorously call the Reverend John Bowles, the intimate friend and associate and co-operator of Redhead Yorke. This John Bowles began his career of greatness by writing a pamphlet against Paine; that pamphlet, which did not preclude the necessity of a proclamation against Paine’s works, procured Bowles a Commissionership of Bankrupts. He was the agent in setting up the Anti-Jacobin newspaper; that procured him a Commissionership in the management of Dutch Property, sequestrated at the beginning of last war, and which office, an office that yields, probably, a thousand or two a year, is suffered to continue until this day. Mr. Bowles was, as the saying is, brought up to the bar; but he has found the press, the “Palladium of free men,” a much more profitable concern.—Pamphlets, and even large books, upon whatever subject, owe, in a great degree, their doctrines, if at all connected with politics, to the same all-influencing cause. Money, the public money; to share in the immense sums raised upon the people; in some way or other to effect this purpose is the object of ninety-nine out of every hundred persons who write and who publish their writings, and which object is, and must ever be, in direct and necessary hostility to the interests of the people at large. If therefore there ever was in the world a thing completely perverted from its original design and tendency, it is the press of England; which, instead of enlightening, does, as far as it has any power, keep the people in ignorance; which, instead of cherishing notions of liberty, tends to the making of the people slaves; and which, instead of being their guardian, is the most efficient instrument in the hands of all those who oppress, or who wish to oppress, them. An abusive pedagogue has lately told me, that, like all other rash and ignorant reformers, I am unable to distinguish the abuse of the press from the press itself; but, Gentlemen, when a thing becomes wholly abused; when it is totally perverted; when a cordial, no matter by what means, becomes poison, are we not then to represent it as an evil? But, the question is, should we be better off without any press at all? To which I answer in the affirmative; because, the public mind being then not misled by falsehood, being left to its own natural conclusions, its judgments would be founded upon events; every man would form his opinion according to what he saw and what he felt; and though oppressors would proceed unaccused, the oppression would not be of long duration. It is by the semblance of freedom that men are most effectually enslaved. Would you rivet their chains never again to be loosened; would you stifle the voice of compassion towards the injured and oppressed; would you provide complete impunity to the oppressor, shelter him from reproach and even from silent execration? your means are, the names and forms of freedom and justice. So, likewise, if you would suppress the promulgation of truth; Edition: current; Page: [145] if you would propagate falsehood; if you would engender and perpetuate ignorance; if you would rob of its utility experience, which is said to make fools wise; if you would prevent the natural effect of observation and of feeling, the most, and, indeed, the only effectual means, is a shackled and corrupted press; and that such is the press of England no honest man will attempt to deny.——But, you will ask me, where is the remedy? or, are we then to lie down in despair, regard ourselves and our children as slaves, and, of course, view the fate of our country with perfect indifference? No: none of these. The remedy for this evil, and for all the other political evils that oppress us, is very simple, and undeniably constitutional; but, of it I must reserve what I have to say, until I have submitted to you some observations upon the above-mentioned paper of Mr. Perry.

The paper, to which I refer, appeared in the Morning Chronicle of the 30th of last month; and, I must beg your perusal of the whole of it; because, as you will find, it leads to the discussion of many points, each of which is ten million times more interesting to you and me and to our children, than is the fate of Prussia, or of Russia, or of all the kingdoms and states of continental Europe put together.

“The symptoms of decided disapprobation with which the new Ministers have already been received by the House of Commons, and the sentiments which many leading individuals and connections are known to entertain respecting their conduct, have convinced them that they cannot expect the confidence and support of that Body.——Indeed the dangerous and unconstitutional principles which they have virtually recognised, has excited just alarm. The late Ministers, who had absolutely and completely given up the Catholic Bill, and in doing so had given a proof of deference to his Majesty’s feelings as strong as could be afforded, one necessarily carrying with it a security as valid as could be given that they would not wantonly urge the subject, were required to sign a written pledge not to advise or propose any thing relative to a great public question, involving the interest of a third part of the Empire, and the preservation of the state.——If they had subscribed such a paper they would have created a document that might have been the ground of impeachment. It would have been an abdication of their trust, a dispensation with their official oaths, and an exchange of their character as faithful advisers, for that of abject tools of the crown. It would have been wholly repugnant to the principles of this government, and tending to establish in the Crown a responsibility for every thing culpable, either of omission or commission in public affairs, that might be of the most dangerous consequences both to the welfare and the tranquillity of the nation.——The new Ministers have not, they say, subscribed any pledge; but can they deny that virtually they have agreed to observe that silence and reserve by which perhaps the greatest calamities may be entailed upon this country? the present Ministers have virtually discarded wisdom and counsel from their system, with respect to one part of the King’s affairs, and it may be doubted whether they have left themselves liberty to apprize him of what misfortune may teach, or to whisper those counsels which necessity may prescribe.——In this situation, abandoned by all those who have a real permanent interest in the state, the new Ministry affect to talk of what they call an appeal to the country by a dissolution of Parliament.——This proposition certainly was suggested, and is earnestly recommended by a certain class in the country, whom it would be improper to call by any antiquated nickname, but who, it may be presumed, have views very different indeed from those who would advise the dissolution of the parliament. That class wish to see a Westminster election, and a Middlesex election; telling us that a new election would be ‘a great good. An unmixed good, a good undisputable. A good that will make up for many an evil.’ The motive of those who wish to see a Westminster and a Middlesex election, for these objects are doubtless very deserving of encouragement from the Court! That class to whom we allude are wise in their generation. THEY think that THEY MUST GAIN. But what will the GENTLEMEN, the noblemen of England, nay, the PRINCES, who are supposed to be Edition: current; Page: [146] in their counsels (though we have from motives of delicacy considered our information as to the proceeding of these unfounded); can they consider a dissolution of parliament four months after its meeting a thing to be hailed with joy, for the same reason that the agitators of Westminster and Middlesex sigh for it? Surely, those who look to such a thing must be blind indeed, if they do not see that they are the dupes of their bitterest enemies.——But in dissolving parliament these gentlemen say they appeal to the country! Do they mean to say that they would gain a single vote by appealing to the gentlemen of England, to the counties, or popular boroughs? They know they could not. What then? Do they mean to say that they would gain their object by a traffic in the corrupt boroughs? And would they call that an appeal to the people, supposing it could succeed? They ought, however, to beware of these experiments. Every body knows what they mean, but they would not succeed. Let them be assured, however, that they will not be suffered to call this an appeal to the people, for the falsehood of the pretence shall be exposed.——The parliament would be dissolved if the House of Commons did not think proper to transfer their confidence from those who, according to Mr. Dickenson, possessed its confidence, and from whom it ought not to be withdrawn, unless they were guilty of something which would justify its being withdrawn.——What a situation then is this, that a ministry is removed by a positive interference of the King’s prerogative, without any fault whatever alleged against them; nay, because they would not enter into a most unconstitutional pledge with respect to their future conduct?——Suppose, what will unquestionably be the case, that the House of Commons adheres to those ministers who possessed their confidence, and who have done nothing to forfeit it, and therefore refuse their confidence to those adventures, without talent, property, connection, or permanent interest in the state; that are by the most ridiculous of all intrigues advanced to office, is the parliament to be dissolved? The Duke of Portland, at least, should remember what Mr. Burke, in his proposed address, said upon an occasion, which, deep as his Grace has since drunk of the oblivious stream, he cannot yet have forgotten.——‘It is the undoubted prerogative of the crown to dissolve parliament; but we beg leave to lay before his Majesty, that it is, of all the trusts vested in his Majesty, the most critical and delicate, and that in which this House has the most reason to require not only the good faith, but the favour of the crown.’——Again, ‘A House of Commons respected by his ministers is essential to his Majesty’s service. It is fit that they should yield to parliament, and not that parliament should be new-modelled until it is fitted to their purposes.’——In what situation then do we stand? The present parliament has now sat little more than four months; and is it to be dissolved merely that it may be ‘fitted to the purposes’ of those desperate adventurers, without property or consideration, avowedly seeking to be the pensioners of the public for bread before they commence their ministerial functions? Shall they dare to dissolve the parliament in order to fit it to their purposes? What say the people of England to such policy?——Since the Septennial Act was passed nothing of this sort has ever been attempted. It has been considered the leading difference between this and the arbitrary governments of the Continent, that our King was obliged to listen to the advice of his unfettered counsellors, but to defer to the wisdom of his great court of parliament. The prerogative of dissolution never was vested in the crown to enable the King to get rid of an honest and virtuous set of counsellors, but to protect him against a supposed exuberance of republicanism and independence, which might threaten the royal authority. Is that the vice or the excess of parliaments now?—No, no. Parliaments are not apt to commit such offences. The right of dissolving parliament was intended to protect the monarchical branch of the constitution—not to indulge the personal caprices of the monarch.——But in all that time have we ever seen parliament dissolved for displaying their confidence in ministers who had committed no crime, and for distrusting new ministers, who had, by their abdication on the death of Mr. Pitt, publicly proclaimed their own incapacity? Never can that memorable retreat be forgotten; and though Lord Mulgrave ventures to take the Admiralty, Mr. Canning the Foreign Affairs, Lord Hawkesbury the Home Department, Sir James Pulteney and Lord Castlereagh the War Department and Ireland, with Mr. Perceval and the Duke of Portland at the Treasury, every one must see that they are the very same people still, and that, as is natural, cowardice is changed for the Edition: current; Page: [147] moment from panic to presumption.——The only instance that can be quoted, is that of 1784, but we deny the precedent. The parliament of 1783, which Mr. Pitt dissolved, was in the middle of its fourth Session. Is there nothing of degree in these matters? Is there no difference between dissolving a parliament, after four years and after four months?—But the case of Mr. Pitt’s dissolution is every way unlike; and if it were, what Mr. Pitt did in the consciousness of his great genius, and supported, perhaps in some degree, by a misguided zeal of the people, in favour of his wonderful maturity, and promises of talents, can afford no precedent for the despicable drivellers to whom the great offices of state have fallen, in the present chance-medley distribution—But it is pretended too, that the late ministers dissolved parliament for party purposes, which forms a precedent. This is false two ways. It is false in point of fact, and in point of inference. The late ministry dissolved a parliament that had sat four complete sessions—a thing surely very different from dissolving a parliament that has not sat four months. But they did not dissolve that parliament from any doubt of its supporting them. They had come into power, and had produced various most important measures, some new, and exposed to a most furious, malignant, and factious opposition on the part of certain members of that parliament, but carried by very large and decisive majorities. They never were in the slightest degree pressed, far less compelled, to dissolve for support. They dissolved at the end of four sessions complete, and they dissolved at the time when, by the failure of the negotiation, a new era in the war had begun.—This is proved by the testimony, or the reproach, of the present ministers, that the failure of the negotiation determined the late ministers to call a new, instead of assembling the old parliament; and it was even matter of bitter, though unjust censure, that the determination to dissolve was taken in this manner. But the dissolving in that manner was founded upon the great event which then happened. It gave the people the opportunity of choosing a new House of Commons coolly, at a most important crisis, in which party spirit did not mingle. It was an era too, which, if the representations of the present ministers were well founded, was very unfortunately chosen, if the conduct of the negotiation was so foolish and contemptible as they chose to describe it.—But whether the moment, on account of popular impression, was well or ill chosen, at least it was not chosen with a view to any pitiful clamour artfully excited; it was not with a view to a parliamentary support indispensable to them; it was not with a view to a momentary existence, but the public had the opportunity of choosing their representatives, as coolly as fairly, as impartially as ever was known since the origin of parliaments.—Now, what would be the case were parliament at present dissolved?—1. It would be a bold exercise of the royal prerogative for an immediate purpose; and in order to get rid of a parliament which continued to confide in a ministry against whom no fault whatever could be alleged. 2. It would be an act justified by no precedent; inasmuch as no parliament was ever dissolved in this country, since the accession of the House of Hanover, so soon after its being convoked, particularly for ministerial purposes.——Such being the case, we may fairly inquire what pretence could be alleged for a measure which in its principle tends to the degradation of parliament, by avowing the object to be one that will be favourable to the creatures of the court. Dare the present men pretend—do they pretend, to have the country with them? They know it is not so. All they can hope then is by a corrupt exercise of Government influence to obtain a majority in parliament, without the least consideration of their public merits or principles—or rather in defiance of their self-convicted imbecility, and their flagrant subserviency.——Are they aware too of the agitation of men’s minds that must take place in Ireland, if a general election take place? Is it possible that the feelings of men naturally warmed during the quietest election, should not be inflamed by one that brought home to their bosoms questions in which they were so peculiarly interested? Would it be possible to make the people of Ireland forget, that in the circumstances which led to the dissolution, there were things most dear, most important to them? Could they enter upon election contests without feelings strongly excited? Hitherto the ill-used people of Ireland have been beguiled by soft words, and soothed with hope. Amidst all the evils of their destiny, hope at least has been kept at the bottom of the chest. But now these robbers and pilferers of the plan, who have stolen into power, have let even that escape. The people of Ireland see a ministry hostile Edition: current; Page: [148] to them from principle. Is that a time then to inflame the natural unavoidable feelings of four millions of our fellow subjects by the collision and heat of a general election? Those who love a Westminster and Middlesex election could tell the new ministers why they love it. It is on account of the turbulence, the jubilee suspension of authority; the immoderate license of debate which accompany that event. And would not all this happen in Ireland? Would it not give rise to the most violent exaltation of men’s minds, and perhaps prepare them for corresponding acts?—Let those who advise the King to dissolve his parliament, look to these things. It is not enough that they are prepared by martial law and military force to subdue discontent. Is the nation willing, or is it able, to spare its troops either to watch or subdue disturbances wantonly excited? This is not a moment for a diversion of our force. Buonaparte indeed will hear of these things with pleasure.

  • Audiet, cives acuisse ferrum
  • Quo graves Persæ melius perirent.

“No friend to England, however, no friend to Europe, can hear of such proposals without horror. They must lead to a total diversion of all our energies from the common cause, if they do not excite the rebellion which the national force will be called upon to surpress.——Let the noblemen and gentlemen of England and Ireland, who have an interest in the country beyond that which a thousand such fugitive ministers as the present have in possession or prospect, think to what such desperate counsels must lead; and let them join in preventing the mischief while yet it can be prevented.”

The great purpose of this paper is, as you will not fail to perceive, Gentlemen, to deter the king from dissolving the parliament; and, as the writer presumes, that the present members of the House of Commons will continue to vote on the side of the late, or turned-out ministers, he expects, as a consequence, that the present ministers will be unable to carry any measure in parliament, and, of course, that their rivals will regain the places, from which they have been ousted, not forgetting the attendant circumstance, that he himself would re-possess his place and his profits, which I am fully persuaded he would have gladly held under the present ministers, had he not been of the opinion, that, from their weakness, his chance was better in adhering to the former. The confused and bungling execution of this article in the Morning Chronicle, arising, probably, from the agitation in the writer’s mind, renders it necessary for us to pass over many of the topics, which he has introduced, or rather lugged in. We will, therefore, leave his representation of the “just alarm,” that has been excited by the supposition that the present ministers have given the king a written pledge not to propose to him that which the late ministers had abandoned the moment they found he was averse from it; we will leave his parade about oaths, which compel ministers to advise such and such measures, but which do not prevent them from putting a stop to such measures, even after they are before parliament, though in such measures are “involved the interests of a third part of the empire, and the preservation of the state;” we will leave his affected fears about the tranquillity of Ireland, the people of which he chooses to consider as deeply interested in supporting the late ministers, who, for what reasons the people of Ireland will, perhaps, be able to judge, withdrew the bill they had introduced, and which was pretended, at least, to be in their favour; we will leave the distinction between ministers who claim a right to advise measures, and who are ready to abandon them at the mere suggestion of the king, and ministers who, before hand, as he asserts, pledge themselves not to advise measures of which the king is known to disapprove; we will leave the ferment, which he foresees will arise in Ireland at the dissolution of a parliament, which, after it had Edition: current; Page: [149] before it a bill for the good, as it is assumed, of the people of Ireland, suffered that bill to be withdrawn without one single opposing voice: all these we will leave, including the sublime reveries of Lords Grenville and Howick about “conciliating the affections of the people of Ireland, uniting the whole kingdom in one bond of brotherly love, drawing off the superabundant population, and extracting the means of defence from the very bowels of discontent,” and that, too, observe, by the enabling of about three or four dozen of Irish Catholics, chiefly of the nobility, to become Generals upon the staff, looking upon this as a most rational scheme for rendering happy, and, of course, contented, two or three millions of ragged, half-starved, houseless creatures, not one out of one thousand of whom knows what a General upon the staff means: all these we will leave to produce that impression, which they are so well calculated to produce upon the minds of sensible men, and we will come, at once, to the question of the right and the expediency of dissolving the parliament, at this time; after which we may be allowed to indulge ourselves in a few remarks upon the insinuations of this writer respecting my views (for he quotes my very words) in wishing for a dissolution of the parliament.

That the king has a right to dissolve the parliament whenever he pleases, has never been denied by any man, who did not feel an interest in a parliament’s continuing undissolved. It is, in fact, the only constitutional means which the king has of protecting himself and his authority, of preserving his due weight in the scale, or of preserving to the Lords their due weight, against the encroachments of the House of Commons; for, that assemblies of men are as apt to encroach as individuals, history affords us many and striking proofs. This prerogative is also necessary to the protection of the people, seeing that it is possible for a House of Commons to betray its trust, and, by the means of the power of granting or withholding supplies, to tyrannize over both king and people. It is now, however, contended, that the parliament itself has the right of inquiring, whether this prerogative be justly exercised. We are told by this writer, that it was “given to the king not to enable him to get rid of honest and virtuous counsellors, but to protect him against the exuberance of independence,” which latter, he tells us, by way of question, is not the vice of parliaments now-a-days: and which assertion I am, Gentlemen, by no means disposed to deny. But, with regard to his two positions, before-stated, as applied to the present circumstances, I must first observe, that there would be, if we were to admit his principle, a previous question to be discussed, namely, whether the late ministers were “honest and virtuous counsellors;” and, I think it about ten to one that the result would not be exactly conformable to the assumption of Mr. James Perry, who enjoyed a pretty good place under those ministers. Than the principle nothing can be more false, nothing more contrary to the constitution of our government, nothing more degrading to both king and parliament, and nothing better calculated to keep alive a constant jealousy and hatred of the former. The true doctrine is, that the parliament has nothing at all to do with the choosing, or the dismissing of the king’s ministers, who are called, and who ought to be regarded, as “his servants.” The true office of the parliament is, to propound, to discuss, to pass laws, and to present them to the king for his approbation or rejection; and, it is the peculiar office of the House of Commons to grant, or refuse, money to the king, for any and for every purpose whatever. In this, and this alone, consists its power as a check upon the other branches; and, in the just Edition: current; Page: [150] and wise exercise of this power consists the only constitutional security that the people have, either for property, liberty, or life. Take away this power, or render it of no use, no matter by what means, and all we have, life included, is placed at mere hazard. Such a well-poised government, supported by laws so just and of so long standing, does not, all at once, sink down into an open and merciless tyranny, crushing every man without exception: but, by degrees, and with a motion continually accelerating, down it must come, if this power be once destroyed, or, by whatever means, rendered of no effect. If this doctrine be sound, and I think that no reasonable and disinterested man will deny that it is, what despicable nonsense is this that we hear about the confidence of parliament in the king’s ministers? A man cannot serve two masters. It is certain, that, the parliament, viewed in the constitutional light as a check upon the king, are the very last of all his subjects who ought to be able to interfere in the choice of his servants. If there be a limit upon the prerogative; if the exercise of it be subjected to any considerations of expediency, in any body besides the king himself, it is evident that the parliament must be the judge; and, if the parliament are of opinion, that it is inexpedient to dissolve them, of course they will not be dissolved. What, then, becomes of the prerogative? But, Gentlemen, the fact is, that people who preach such doctrine as this, wish to make a mere tool of the parliament; a mere mouth-piece wherewith to remonstrate against every measure of the king that may militate against their interests, whether in the way of power or of profit. They never tell us, that the House of Commons, upon seeing the affairs of the nation committed to dishonest or childish men, ought to refuse money, till they see those affairs in honester or abler hands; these writers never call upon the House to exercise this its constitutional and efficient power. That would not suit their purpose. It is always some dispute about who shall have power and profit, in which such men wish to engage the parliament; and it is, to be sure, ridiculous enough to see the whole nation engaged in the same disputes, taking the side of one place-hunting faction, or another, and seeming to think it of no consequence at all who compose the House of Commons, that House, which, as was before observed, forms the only constitutional check upon the exercise of the royal authority!——Mr. Perry does, however, acknowledge, that the prerogative of dissolution has been exercised before, an acknowledgment, which, when we reflect on the events of last year, certainly does great credit to his candour. His apology for the dissolution by Pitt, especially when we consider how often he has vehemently reprobated that measure, is really too disgusting to admit of an appropriate comment. “But,” says he, “is there no difference between four months and four years?” Yes, thou sagacious querist, there are just forty-four months difference; but what difference is there in the principle? Aware of the paltriness of this subterfuge, he next comes to the object of the dissolution. “The late ministers,” says he, “dissolved at the end of four sessions complete, and they dissolved at a time when, by the failure of the negotiation, a new era in the war had begun.” Well, and what then? Why not go on? Why not go on, and tell us why a parliament should be dissolved for that cause? You have stated your fact, but have left us to make the best use of it we can; and the use I make of it is to say, that, in my opinion, the reason why they dissolved it then, was, that they suspected, that, having failed in making peace, they would not be able to keep a majority in the House of Commons, Edition: current; Page: [151] without an appeal to the free voice of the people, which appeal they made, Gentlemen, in the manner that we witnessed in Westminster and Hampshire. Does Mr. Perry mean to say, that it is necessary to dissolve the parliament as often as the ministry find it expedient to take a new course as to their executive measures? If so, what a degraded thing would he make the parliament; and how far beyond expression degraded things would he make those by whom one branch of that parliament is chosen? One would hope, that he could not mean this; but, upon the supposition that he does, we may surely ask him whether a dissolution should not, upon the same principle, take place now, when I venture to assert, that there will be a perfectly “new era” as to warlike and all other measures.——In short, in the whole of this article, evidently intended, as was before observed, to deter the king from dissolving the parliament, there does not appear to me to be any one reason why that measure should not be adopted, if the king choose. Harm to the country it is impossible it should do; it is quite impossible it should do harm; and it may possibly lead, though indirectly, perhaps, to a great deal of good.

The other part of this article of Mr. Perry, to which, Gentlemen, I am anxious to turn your attention is, that where this sage personage quotes my words, and where, doing me the honour to rank me with some others, whom he styles the Agitators of Westminster and Middlesex, he says, in substance, this: “That we wish for a dissolution of parliament, on account of the turbulence, the jubilee suspension of authority that would arise from, and the immoderate license of debate that would accompany it; that we seek the total overthrow of the government and laws, because we are sure to gain thereby; that we are desperate Jacobins, though he will not make use of an antiquated name; that we are deep cunning fellows, wise in our generation, and well knowing what will tend to the accomplishing of our views; that the poor silly courtiers (and he broadly hints at some pretty high in rank) are doing our work for us; and that it is for the gentlemen of England to step forward, vote for the late ministry against the king and his new ministry, and thus prevent the whole fabric of the English government from being destroyed.”——This is pretty well, and particularly from Mr. Perry, who, for so many years past, has been the proprietor of the Morning Chronicle, in which the French revolution was eulogized, and in which all the acts, the silliest and bloodiest not excepted, of the French revolutionists were, if not actually defended, apologized for. We must keep our temper. For this, amongst other things, Mr. Perry was made. It is perfectly becoming him and his cause. But, Gentlemen, supposing the world were to believe what he says; supposing it to be believed, that I am in such desperate circumstances, or that the existence of government and law is so repugnant to my nature and my habits, or that I am so totally bereft of the love and esteem of my country, family, and friends, that any change would be a benefit to me, and that, as being most consonant to my disposition, I wish to see the destruction of the government effected through the means of degrading the parliament and the ministry; supposing all this, which he insinuates, to be true, what, I ask you, Gentlemen, must be my gratification at reading, for three weeks, the mutual exposures and recriminations, published in the Morning Chronicle and the Courier? Nay, why need I go farther than the very article above quoted. Here Mr. Perry describes the men, whom the King has now Edition: current; Page: [152] chosen for his confidential servants, as “adventurers without talent, property, connection, or interest, in the country, advanced to office by the most ridiculous of all intrigues;” as “desperate adventurers without property or consideration, avowedly seeking to be pensioners of the public for bread before they commence their ministerial functions.” He says that they mean to gain a majority in parliament “by a traffic in corrupt boroughs; that they shall not be suffered to call a dissolution an appeal to the people; that the right of dissolving parliament was not intended to indulge the personal caprices of the monarch; that all the new ministers can hope for is, by a corrupt influence of government, to obtain a majority in parliament, without the least consideration of their public merits or principles, or rather in defiance of their self-convicted imbecility, and their flagrant subserviency.”—Every one has his characteristic manner of doing a thing, and this is Mr. Perry’s way of supporting “government and social order” against us Jacobins and Levellers! In other of his papers he has been much more vehement in this sort of opposition to us. There is scarcely a term or an epithet expressive of his contempt, or of villany in them, which he has not applied to the members of the new cabinet, to “his Majesty’s confidential servants!” He has ascribed to them bad qualities, of all sorts, to each in the highest degree; insomuch that, if the world were to believe his statements, they must regard these “confidential servants of the king” as a set of wretches unfit to be trusted with the management of the most trifling individual concern, especially where honesty was required, whence the inference as to the master who has chosen them is inevitable. Yet, Gentlemen, this is the man who represents us as Jacobins and Levellers, and who has taken upon him the task of defending the “monarchy of England” against our crafty and wicked machinations!——The truth is, that he and his party well know, that they have nothing more to expect from the independent part of the people; they know, that the very weakest amongst them will never trust or believe them again. They may as well abuse us as not; for hate them we do, and hate them we shall. The deeds of the last six weeks of their power will never be forgotten by me; and, I hope, they never will be forgotten by you. They gained our good wishes and our confidence by their apparently sincere condemnation of the measures and the principles of Pitt; the very first vote they gave after their elevation was to oblige us to pay the debts of that very same man. From that day, until the day when their power was destroyed, they praised his measures, praised his character, and pursued his example. With what face can they now stand up to condemn the principles of his professed followers? Except, indeed, they condemn them for not acting contrary to their professions, which, in them, would be natural enough. Lord Melville, they tell us, is at the bottom of all this intrigue; and they throw out most significant hints about the indecency of consulting Lord Melville. You and I, Gentlemen, might consistently enough throw out such hints; but, for them, who volunteered with a bill of indemnity for Pitt’s lending the forty thousand pounds of the public money to Boyd and Benfield (two members of parliament), without interest and without the knowledge of his colleagues, and even without making any minute of the transaction, leaving the fact to be detected by a board of inquiry; for them, who well knew, who had evidence before them, that Pitt was duly acquainted with all that Lord Melville did in the concerns alluded to, and that he never expressed his disapprobation of it; Edition: current; Page: [153] for them, who saw Pitt contend, in all manner of ways, that Lord Melville’s conduct was justifiable; for them, who have since so eulogized that same Pitt, and who, even during the trial of Lord Melville, eulogized him to the skies; for them to complain of the “indecency” of Lord Melville’s being again employed in public affairs, is an instance of inconsistency too shameful, one would have thought, even for Mr. Perry to become the promulgator. They had their motive for eulogizing Pitt, for cherishing his under adherents, and for turning their backs upon those who had aided and supported them in their warfare against him; but, it was a motive of short-sighted ambition. Thirteen months of power they have purchased with political annihilation. They will, in a few weeks, find themselves without a single adherent; from the very highest to the very lowest, of those who were formerly attached to them, they will scarcely find a man, who does not, in his heart, rejoice at their fall; and, as to the independent part of the people, not one man of them will ever again be deceived by their professions or their clamours. They may call together their Whig Club; they may send forth their puffs about Francis Horner, and the rest of the new recruits of Whiggism; but, this old rump of a Club will, from this day to the day of its final extinction, be an object of contempt, a by-word and a reproach.

Of the remedy for all these things, of the means of protection against imposture and oppression, I shall, Gentlemen, speak in my next, and in the mean while I remain,

Your faithful friend and obedient servant,
Wm. Cobbett.
William Cobbett
Cobbett, William
15th April, 1807


“I know it may be said, that I and those with whom I have the honour to act, are no more actuated than those on the other side of the House by motives of a pure disinterested nature, though my conscience acquits me of the crime.”——Speech of Mr. Grey (now Lord Howick) on moving for a reform of parliament, on the 26th of May, 1797.


Much as I fear, that these letters of mine must prove wearisome to you, I must beg you to indulge me with your attention, until I have submitted to you all the observations which occur to me, relative to the unconstitutional doctrines, of which the recent change of the king’s ministers has caused the open avowal and promulgation. And, Gentlemen, I trust, that I shall not be thought to have led you much astray from the subject wherewith we started; for, now, as when I first had the honour to address you, the state of the representation of the people in parliament, and your interests and duties, as therewith connected, it is my wish to describe and exemplify.

In my last letter I deferred giving you my opinion respecting the remedy necessary to be applied, in order to remove the political evils, which Edition: current; Page: [154] we all see and feel. To speak of that remedy, which is at once constitutional, efficacious, and of easy application, I now propose, after having taken a view of what passed in the House of Commons, on Thursday, the 9th instant, when a discussion took place respecting the pledge, which, as the late ministers assert, they were called upon to give to the king, as the sole condition, upon which he would suffer them to retain their places.

This discussion arose from the following motion made by Mr. Brand: “That it is contrary to the first duties of the Confidential Servants of the Crown to restrain themselves by any pledge, expressed or implied, from offering to the king any advice which the course of circumstances may render necessary fer the welfare and security of any part of his Majesty’s extensive empire.”——This motion was discussed for a great many hours, at the end of which, as it appears from the report in the newspapers, a division took place, when there were for the motion 226, against it 258; and, of course, the new ministry, at the head of whom is the Duke of Portland, had a majority of 32; though, as you must have observed, Gentlemen, that, while these ministers were out of office, they were unable to obtain, at their utmost need, more than about 60 votes! What! what in all the world could have produced this sudden change! what could have induced so many members, who constantly voted with the late ministers, now to vote with their successors? Mr. Perry has positively asserted, that the present parliament was chosen as fairly, and with as much freedom on the part of the people, as have ever prevailed at the choosing of any parliament, since parliaments were known in England! He has, Gentlemen, positively asserted this; and, the conclusion, according to him, must be, that the majority aforesaid arose purely from the impulse of conscience in the honourable gentlemen composing it, who, of course, were convinced that Mr. Brand’s motion ought not to pass, and, that the late ministers, whom they had so long given their support to, were, at last, in the wrong. The result before-mentioned must, too, have convinced Mr. Perry, that he was much mistaken, when he called the new ministers “adventurers for place, without talents, and without interest in the country, men of notorious imbecility and flagrant subserviency;” for, if this description had been true, would they have obtained, in the very first division, a majority over men of such great talents, and that, too, you will please to observe, in a parliament chosen so very fairly and freely, as not to yield, in this respect, to any parliament ever before chosen in England? Time is a great teacher, and, if he has not yet sufficiently instructed Mr. Perry, that gentleman will, I hope, now have the candour to thank me publicly, for the consolation, which I endeavoured to give him, for the balm which I strove to pour into his wounded soul, through my Register of the 4th instant. (Letter XI.) I found him alarmed at the prospect of a dissolution of the parliament; I found his imagination disturbed by the dread of a ferment in Ireland, where he appeared to foresee, that the people would rise in a mass in favour of the late ministers; I found him shocked at the idea of “a corrupt traffic in boroughs,” which, as he asserted, would be resorted to; I found him seized with horror, at the prospect of new agitations in Middlesex and Westminster; I found his loyal heart sinking within him at the thought of that “jubilee of licentious debate,” to which a dissolution might give rise amongst us Jacobins and Levellers. To assuage these torments of his anxious and purely patriotic mind, I used my utmost exertions to convince Edition: current; Page: [155] him, that, for the purpose alluded to, namely, the gaining of a majority over to the new ministers, a dissolution would not be necessary. I reminded him (and I was ashamed to think it necessary to remind him) that reason and reflection were the characteristics of man, as contrasted with the brute creation; that these faculties, which were possessed, in a greater or less degree, by all men not shut up in a mad-house, were, doubtless, possessed by the members of parliament, who, I besought him to remember, were neither stocks nor stones. I pointed out to him the almost irresistible powers of eloquence, especially of a certain sort, employed upon politicians of a certain stamp; and, my conclusion was, that the opportunities for private interviews, for the sweet converse of souls, which would be afforded by a prorogation, particularly during the summer months, when our lawgivers would, of course, retire to commune with wisdom and conscience in solitude; my conclusion was, that such opportunities might lead to the producing, in the minds of the members, or, at least, of many of them, a way of thinking, which would induce them to vote for the new ministers, especially as these latter were engaged in protecting the royal conscience from violation, a point upon which we well know, that the members of the House of Commons are nice in the extreme. The event of the debate, of which I am now about to attempt an analysis, has proved, that I was perfectly right; or, that, if I erred at all, it was in supposing that a prorogation was necessary for the purpose in view; for, in the short space of ten days, without scarcely any opportunities for the soft powers of persuasion to operate; without any time for retirement or cogitation; without any other aid than that of their intuitive wisdom and integrity, their perspicacity and decision of character, they, as it were from sudden inspiration, at once gave their votes on the side of the new ministers. But, Gentlemen, in place of thanking me for having, and, as it now appears, with such correctness of reasoning, endeavoured to quiet his fears of the effects of a dissolution; in place of thanking me, Mr. Perry has, in his oblique way, most outrageously abused me. Nay, which must, I think, surprise you greatly, he has, in all possible ways, expressed his disappointment, his mortification, and his rage, that the new ministers have obtained a majority without a dissolution, rather than which, as it now appears, he would have seen the dreaded “ferment in Ireland,” and even the much more dreaded “jubilee suspension of authority” over us Jacobins and Levellers in Middlesex and Westminster. Leaving Mr. Perry, for the present, we will now proceed to the debate.

Mr. Brand, in prefacing his motion, is reported to have said:

“When he perceived that pledges had been demanded from the late ministers which were dangerous to the constitution, inimical to the interests of the country, and subversive of the prerogatives of the crown, he felt himself bound to confine his motion to that point. The advice to his Majesty, to demand from his ministers a written pledge that they would abstain from giving him advice upon subjects of importance to the security of the empire, must have originated with persons who had no regard to the rights of that house, nor the prerogatives of the crown. His Majesty had full discretion to dismiss his councillors, and to choose others in their place, but he could limit the range of advice which they might give him, and for which they were to be responsible according to the constitution. Where were they to look for responsibility for misrule, misconduct, or mismanagement of the public affairs, if such a pledge were to be given? Where was blame to attach for grievances, upon which ministers might have given a pledge, not to give any advice to his Majesty? Ministers might be men of great character and exalted name, but after giving such a pledge, they would not dare to advise their sovereign on such subjects. It Edition: current; Page: [156] would not be becoming in him to delineate the outline of the constitutional principles upon this point. If they were doubtful, it might be proper for him to endeavour to ascertain them; but these principles were admitted, recognised, and supported by the constitutional law of the land. The oath of a privy councillor, as reported by Sir Edward Coke, bound him to advise his Majesty to the best of his judgment upon all matters connected with the interests of his realms, without exception or partiality, and also with secrecy, and not to publish by word or letter what passed in council. The present oath, which was only a translation of the old oath, was equally binding upon the privy councillor. But if a privy councillor was to subscribe to any pledge to restrain his advice, he would sign judgment upon the violation of his oath to his king, his country, and his God. He would be ashamed to argue what he considered as the axiomatic law of the constitution; but as there might be some who might admit the principle, whilst they advised the infraction of it, who might allow the law of the constitution, but recommend its subversion, he thought it would be right to declare that law. He had confined himself to the immediate effects and future dangers of the proceeding that had taken place, and did not mean to go into any consideration of the measures of the late administration, their attention to the liberty of the subject, and to the rights and comforts of the people, nor of the benevolence that characterized their act for the abolition of the slave trade. When the constitution was in danger, he thought it not right to depart from the immediate question, and, therefore, should conclude with moving”——

As Mr. Brand did not think proper to go into any account of the “attention which the late ministers paid to the liberty of the subject,” neither will we lose our time in endeavouring to find out what the abolition of the Slave Trade could possibly have to do with the pledge demanded of the king’s servants; but, I cannot refrain from observing, as I frequently have done before, that the abolition of the Slave Trade will, at best, do no good to the people of this country, except, indeed, in the way pointed out by Sir Thomas Turton, that, by throwing the trade into the hands of the French, we might thereby the sooner fill up the measure of their iniquity, and, of course, bring down the vengeance of Heaven upon them; an idea of which it is difficult to say, whether it had its origin in legislative wisdom, christian charity, or pious devotion; but, I think, it will be unanimously agreed, that Sir Thomas’s is a way of fighting the French perfectly original; and, seeing, that he has taken up the affairs of India, I really do not despair of hearing him propose to throw our manifold sins in that country also into the measure of our enemy’s transgressions. To come back to the debate; I think, that Mr. Brand, if the above report of his speech be correct, confounded the office of privy councillor with that of the office of minister, or servant of the king. At the time when Sir Edward Coke wrote his famous book upon the laws of England, the king had nothing belonging to him resembling in the most distant degree what we now call a ministry; and, indeed, it was not until after the Revolution, at which time the Whigs, as they are called, began to rule in a body, that such a thing as is now called a ministry existed. The duty of a privy councillor is to advise the king in all matters whatever, and at all times, whether he hold any other office under the Crown, or not. The privy council, which, by way of eminence, is called The Council, is a thing known to the constitution of our government, and is, perhaps, nearly as ancient as the parliament itself. The Cabinet Council is a thing quite unknown to that constitution; and, until very lately, has never been named in the parliament. It was not as members of the privy council, that the king demanded a pledge of the late ministers. They were, indeed, members of the privy council; but, there are forty, or more, members of that Edition: current; Page: [157] council; and, if the pledge had been demanded of them, as such, it would, of course, have been, by implication, at least, demanded of the whole of the members of the council. But, and this puts the matter in a light not to be misunderstood, of the late ministers it was demanded to sign the pledge, or to give up their places. They refused the demand; they were dismissed from their places; but, still they are privy councillors; from the privy council they are not dismissed; they may still give their advice, as privy councillors, upon all matters whatever; and this clearly shows, that the pledge was demanded of them merely as servants of the king. Whether they, being also privy councillors, could, without a violation of their privy councillor’s oath, have given the pledge, is another matter; but, Gentlemen, as the ministers had, at the mere suggestion of the king, abandoned the only measure, at which the pledge pointed; as they had given way here, as they had actually withdrawn a bill which they have declared to be absolutely necessary to the safety of the nation; as they, who had introduced this bill amidst the applauses of the House of Commons, could, at the bare expression of the king’s disapprobation, do this, notwithstanding their oaths as privy councillors, one can hardly see why they should lay such stress upon that oath, as an obstacle to their proposing to the king any other such measure; unless, indeed, we are inclined to admit, that, so curious is the nature of this oath, that it binds you to advise what it permits you to abandon the very next moment. In their minute of council, they claim a right to submit to the king whatever measures they may think requisite for the good of the country. What was the use of this minute? They possessed the right. The king had expressed no doubt of it; and the minute had no meaning at all, if it did not mean, that, though they had abandoned the particular measure now, they were resolved to renew it again. “So far from that,” says the king, “I demand of you a pledge, that you never will renew it again.” This pledge they cannot give; their oath will not let them; but the very same oath leaves them free to abandon the measure the moment they have advised it, if they find it grating to “the personal feelings of the king.” Observe here, again, the nice discrimination of their consciences, which will not suffer them to abstain from giving advice, on account of the feelings of the king; but which, for the sake of sparing those feelings, will freely suffer them to prevent that advice from having any effect. Under this view of the subject, I should have seen no necessity for the adopting of Mr. Brand’s motion, and I really wonder, that such a motion should have been supported by men, who had expressed such extreme sensibility towards the “feelings of their gracious master,” that being, I think, the phrase recently most in vogue amongst them. It is truly astonishing that men, who, while in place, could, out of pure regard for the feelings of the king, withdraw a bill from before parliament, which bill they thought indispensably necessary to the safety of the nation, should, the moment they were out of place, have supported a motion, declaring that which the king had demanded to be contrary to the first duties of his ministers, than which nothing more hostile to the feelings of the king could I think well have been imagined.

So much for the merits of the question before the House; but there were some other topics, which arose during the debate, upon which, Gentlemen, I must request your permission to offer a few short remarks, as tending, either directly or indirectly, towards the elucidation of the great point Edition: current; Page: [158] which I always endeavour to keep in view, and in which alone either you or I have any real interest,—

“Mr. Maurice Fitzgerald was of opinion that there was not a single sentence in the resolution, nor a single part of the conduct of ministers, which derogated from the prerogative of the crown. If the prerogative had been infringed, it had been infringed by those who would destroy the responsibility of ministers. He entered into an examination of the recent proceedings of the late administration, and contended, that had they acted differently, they would have been guilty of a dereliction of their trust. It was an administration of talents, of consideration, and possessing the confidence of the country. By every man in the empire, therefore, it was to be lamented, that the services of such men should be lost to the country. He described the state of Ireland as very hazardous, deprecated the total ignorance, and even, he feared, the apathy, on this subject, and wished that he was of sufficient importance to rouse the attention of the house to the consideration of this question, namely, whether they would command the services of four or five millions of people, or hazard their enmity.

This speech as curtailed by the reporters, is very short, but full of matter; and, to say the truth, those reporters are exceedingly clever and judicious at this work of curtailing. They frequently sit sweating under a speech of several hours; and then down they clap all the substantial parts of it in half as many minutes; insomuch that some very shrewd men have been of opinion, that it would be of great convenience if the several orators were to commune with the reporters beforehand; but, this opinion, if acted upon, would not only put an end to parliamentary oratory, but would very little comport with the dignity of either house, and we know, from Pitt and Lord Howick, that that is an object of great importance.——Taking Mr. Fitzgerald’s points in their due order, our attention is first attracted by the anxiety expressed by the honourable gentleman lest it should be thought, that the motion tended, even in the smallest degree, to derogate from the prerogative of the crown; and, we have, indeed, observed, from the beginning to the end of the discussions, both in doors and out of doors, relating to the dismission of the ministers, the most earnest solicitude on their part, and on the part of their partisans, to deny, that, in any respect whatever, they were not submissive enough to the king. “They did,” said Mr. Perry, “they did withdraw the bill the moment they found it unpleasant to the king. They did not wish for parliament to control his will. We assert, we boldly assert (pray observe the extent of this boldness), we boldly assert that the ministers, in the minute of council, did not claim the right of submitting to parliament such measures as they might deem indispensably necessary to the safety of the nation, but to the king only;” and, this was the burden of Lord Howick’s famous complaint; he complained, that he and his colleagues had been scandalously misrepresented by a newspaper libeller (mark, and remember the terrible word); and, what was this scandalous, this libellous misrepresentation? Why, that Lord Howick and his colleagues (all members of parliament, observe) had, in words, asserted their right to submit to parliament whatever measures they might, from time to time, deem indispensably necessary to the safety of the country. This was the libellous misrepresentation of them, who had only asserted their right to submit such measures to the king alone, being ready, of course, to abandon them, if they found them unpleasant to him. Against this misrepresentation it is that they have so laboured to defend themselves in the eyes of Englishmen, whom they are, nevertheless, surprised to find totally indifferent as to their fate.——With regard Edition: current; Page: [159] to the effect which the pledge would have had in “destroying the responsibility of ministers,” as the speech before us seems to apprehend, that would be an alarming evil indeed! We have seen how real, how efficient, how active this responsibility is in practice, and Mr. James Perry has, within this week or two, given us the modern theory of it, which is this, that “resolutions of censure, and impeachments, are now become obsolete; that they can never have place but in the feverish fits of the constitution; and that, when the constitution is in its healthful state, the real responsibility of ministers consists in this, that when they lose the confidence of parliament they must quit their places.” And that is all! That is the whole history of the famous responsibility, of which we have heard so much, and which Mr. Maurice Fitzgerald is afraid would be destroyed by the precedent of ministers giving a pledge to the king not to offer him advice contrary to his wishes. If the doctrine of Mr. Perry be the right doctrine; and, we may presume, that it is the doctrine of my Lord Howick and his colleagues, what will the nation lose by the destruction of this responsibility? Besides, we now see that the thing is going on at full swing; for the late ministers lost the confidence of parliament, as it has been proved, clearly proved, upon the last division; they lost their places too; and there was the ultimate and complete effect of the responsibility. Now, none of your shuffling, Mr. Perry; here we have you fast; get out of the hobble if you can.——Of that universal lamentation, which Mr. Fitzgerald talks of, as arising from the dismission of the late ministers, and of the apathy which he perceives to exist upon the subject of that dismission, which are, doubtless, perfectly reconcilable in his mind, we will speak, after we have spent a moment or two in admiration of the astonishing effect which he seems to suppose the bill recently withdrawn would have produced; no less than that of commanding the services of four or five millions of people. Now, though I cannot possibly see any harm that the bill would have done, except that of gaining those who joined with the Pitts in order to stifle your voice at the last election; though, the gaining of them some degree of unmerited support is all the harm that I can see it possible for the bill to have produced, I can really see no good that it could have done, or that any other than a mere visionary projector could have anticipated from it. “Four or five millions of people!” Why, including even the infants in embryo, the Roman Catholics in this kingdom do not amount to more than about three millions; and, I think, it may be safely affirmed, that, of those three millions not three thousand, at the very utmost, would have thanked the king for acceding to the measure proposed. “To tranquillize Ireland,” indeed! Tranquillize two or three millions of half-starved, half-naked, half-barbarous people! To the principle of the bill I have nothing to object; but, to ascribe to it such amazing practical effects is, surely, most strangely to exaggerate. The state of Ireland is, indeed, full as alarming as the late ministers now describe it; though we cannot but recollect how earnestly they deprecated all discussion upon the subject, and even all allusion to it, no longer than about four months ago. But, the discontents, the heart-burnings of Ireland, are not to be cured by such means. The giving the Irish Catholics what is called complete emancipation would not, in my opinion, allay those discontents for an hour amongst the great body of the people, though it might gratify and even pacify a few of the principal persons of that sect. Since I have understood any thing of the matter, I have always remained convinced that Ireland stands in need of something very different from a law Edition: current; Page: [160] merely to enrich, or ennoble, a few scores of men. It is the whole state of Ireland; it is the system of governing Ireland, that all men, when they speak their minds, say ought to be changed. To refuse the oath of supremacy is the mere test of discontent at other things. The persons who refuse would have some other test, if they had not that. If the Pope himself were installed in Ireland, the same system of rule still continuing, those who now contend for his supremacy, would combine against him. The feelings of the people of Ireland are those of a people oppressed by their conquerors; but, these feelings are not of recent origin. All that they have had at the hands of the present king, at any rate, is concession. They are oppressed by numerous ills, arising from various causes; and, to suppose that these could be cured by heightening the ladder of promotion for a few officers in the Army and Navy is, in my opinion, absurd. One of the evils in the state of Ireland, and one, too, of the most mischievous tendency, is, the flagrant non-residence of the Protestant clergy; for, even here in England I, for my part, know of few things so grating to the heart of man as the being compelled to yield one-tenth part of the produce of his fields to enrich, or, at least, support a parson, who ought to be continually resident in the parish, but who never shows his face in it. This is a point upon which Mr. Perceval stands virtually pledged; and, unless he has the same way of getting rid of his pledges as Mr. Sheridan and Lord Howick and Mr. Whitbread and Lord Erskine had, he will surely do something in this way. If he can enforce residence in Ireland; or, if he only does, in Ireland, what his bill of last year (which our friends, the reformers, threw out) proposed to do in England, he will do more towards the tranquillizing of that country than has ever yet been done, or attempted to be done. That is the path for him to proceed in, and not in that of “extraordinary exertions of the law;” for, he may, I think, count upon it as a certainty, that every such exertion will be an exertion in favour of France. I, for my part, do not think that mere religious concessions to the Roman Catholics would do any good. Experience has proved, that they have done no good hitherto; but that, in the present state of Europe, leaving justice and humanity out of the question, policy calls for something to be done for Ireland nobody will deny. It is quite useless to call the Irish by hard names, to revile them as malcontents and rebels; there they are, they are pretty near to us, and, as we cannot make them cease to exist, we must either induce them to love us, or make up our minds to have their hatred with all its possible and probable consequences. A correspondent of mine, after having very ably described the non-efficiency of the bill in question, proposes, as a grand remedy for the evils existing in Ireland, to send Mr. Hastings, of all men living, to be the viceroy of that country! To this I should object, because that gentleman was the ruler of slaves once in his life-time. But, it is not in Ireland, any more than here, that a change of rulers is wanted; it is a change in the system of rule, by which I do not mean, a change in the name or the form of the government; but a change in the manner of conducting it, and especially in the manner of raising and expending the public money; and which change, so far from impairing the constitutional strength and permanency of the throne, would strengthen and confirm them. This it is that is wanted. This work, which is not the work of a day, once well begun only, all our apprehensions, and dreadful apprehensions they are, about Ireland, would be at an end; but, unless something in this way be attempted, we may consider as mere sublimated reveries all the talk about Edition: current; Page: [161] “extracting the means of defence from the bowels of discontent.”——Sir Thomas Turton, who, though he has taken in hand the questions respecting Marquis Wellesley, found time to reflect upon the subject of the debate before us, said, that “the late ministers had talked a good deal about pledges to the Catholics, though they had not hesitated to postpone the redemption of their many other pledges, such as that for a parliamentary reform, &c. &c. &c. &c. &c.”——This was the blow, Gentlemen, and not the less severe on account of the hand, from which it came. Well must you remember, Gentlemen, these pledges. Well must you remember the descriptions which the late ministers, the famous Whigs gave of the House of Commons, as at present constituted. Often have I had the book of their speeches thereon before me; often have I taken up the pen to make extracts from it; but, as often have I dropped it again, and with still itching fingers, threw away the book of temptation, when I recollected, that Pitt, whose conduct and character they have, since they succeeded to his power, so constantly eulogized, saw prosecuted for sedition, and even for treason, those, who, as the judge himself declared, had only endeavoured to effect such a reform as Pitt had asserted to be absolutely necessary to the preservation of any thing like liberty in England. Yes, Gentlemen, Sir Thomas Turton struck them to the heart. It was so good, so sweet to the ears of us, who had felt the effects of their reforming spirit at Westminster and in Hampshire, to hear them reminded of this their great and forfeited pledge. And to hear it come, too, not from any of our brethren, the Jacobins and Levellers, but from a Pittite, from a partisan of that “illustrious statesman,” from “a friend of government, of social order, and of our holy religion,” as the phrase is with John Bowles and Redhead Yorke. If all sense of feeling was not gone, how must they have felt at that moment! Making the change of a word or two in the exclamation of the fallen Woolsey, they must have said in their hearts: “Had we but served the people with but half as much zeal as we have eulogized Pitt, they would not thus have treated us in the wane of our fortunes.” Here is their great sin, and here, too, is the real cause of their fall. Mr. Fitzgerald seems to think, that their dismission has spread universal lamentation over the country; and yet he laments the apathy that prevails. Not one sensible and disinterested man laments their fall; and the apathy is complete indeed. The change has been productive of much exultation, on the one side of much chagrin on the other, and of unprecedented bitterness amongst place-men and place-hunters, and also amongst a few honest fools who yet, from habit rather than from reason, lend their lungs or their pens, to one party or the other; but, amongst the people at large, it has produced neither sorrow nor pleasure, and the only feeling that has arisen from it has been merely that of a momentary satisfaction at seeing the late ministers punished, and that, too, in the most appropriate of all ways, for their political apostacy, their eulogizing of Pitt, and their mockery of the country for expecting them to act up to their professions. They now tell us, after all their twenty years of professions and of pledges; after all the hopes which they excited with respect to a reform of abuses, and an amendment in our internal situation, including every thing that is, or that ought to be, dear to us; they now tell us that they had, when they came into power, two great objects in view; and what were these, forsooth, but the restoring of peace to troubled Europe, and the abolition of the slave trade, than which the reduction of one single sinecure place, Edition: current; Page: [162] the relieving us from one single tax-gatherer, would be, beyond all comparison, of more importance to us. How are we to restore peace to troubled Europe? The scourge is sweeping on, and sweep it will, in spite of us; and, as to the abolition of the slave trade, allowing it to be a good, which I deny, it is not a good unto us, who have, besides, amongst our own countrymen and our own colour of skin, a sufficiency of objects for our compassion, the number of our English paupers being three times as great as the number of slaves in all our West-India Islands. Aye, Gentlemen, these were the two great objects that they had in view, and it fortunately happened that by neither of them would any place or emolument have been touched, nor any source of corrupt influence dried up, or diminished. It is so good, it is so just, that, after all their praises of Pitt, after all their uncalled-for praises of his schemes and his character, after all their abandonment of the people, they should have been taunted with their apostacy by the Pittites themselves. Had they been true to their promises, had they made a stand upon some measure for the relief of the people, or for the restoration of those rights, of which they formerly talked so much, then, indeed, would there have been “universal lamentation” at their dismission; but, the bill, upon which they split, even supposing them not to have abandoned it, was no such measure: it was a measure which would not have been felt by us, while it would have added to their own influence. Not a single measure, in their view of it, did they propose, favourable to the people; for even their putting a stop to new taxes was, by them intended to perpetuate the system of funding and taxing. Of all this they were well aware; but they scoffed at our disappointment, mortification, and indignation, to which we dared not, and yet dare not, give utterance in suitable terms. They said in their hearts, “Let them fume; let their anger consume them; we hate the Pitts, as much as ever, but we hate them as rivals for power and emolument, and not as we hate those, who would tear up corruption by the very roots.” Scarcely were they seated in their places, when we heard them begin to talk of their disregard of “popular clamour”; of their resolution to do their duty, “heedless of what unreasonable men might think of them;” and their chief supporter, Mr. Perry, has treated us with several very serious dissertations upon the danger of listening to wild theoretic men, who know nothing of the difficulties which those have to overcome who are burdened with the management of state affairs. The growth of wholesome reform is, we have been told, like that of the oak, slow and sure; and that none but thoughtless hot-headed men could expect “his Majesty’s government” (for that is a very fashionable phrase) to do every thing at once. No: we knew they could not do every thing at once; nay, we might have excused them for some part of what they did not do; but, for their doubling of the income tax, while, at the same time, they added enormously to the pensions of the Royal Family and exempted the King’s funded property from the operation of the income tax; for these and for many other of their acts of commission, and, above all others, for their incessant praises of Pitt and his system, it was impossible for us to find an excuse. To praise Pitt and the Pitt system of taxation and of funding, to vote the payment of his debts expressly upon the score of his merits, was so galling, so cruel, so outrageous an insult to us, who had supported them for the very cause that they attacked that same Pitt and that same system, that it is not in the heart of man to forgive it. How justy, how fitly, are they punished overthrown Edition: current; Page: [163] as they are, not by us, but by the followers of Pitt, who revile them, too, for having attempted to do, though in a smaller degree, that which Pitt himself attempted to do! If they had begun by a steady adherence to their pledges; if they had said, “Have a little patience, and we will perform all that we promised you;” had they made a beginning only, we should have been patient. But, no; they scoffed at us. They told us of nothing but their power; and, by their acts they showed, that they praised Pitt’s system, because they found it to suit their purpose. There is a singular fitness in the whole of their punishment. The Wellesleys form a part of their successors. Let Mr. Paull complain no more. He is amply avenged on them for all their treatment of him and his cause. They took the Pitts to their bosom. All those, who were willing to be subservient to them, they embraced with eager arms; and these Pitts it is who have now crushed them, not forgetting to revile them for the forfeiture of their pledges to us, the people of England.

This appropriate hint of Sir Thomas Turton has led me to wander so far from the debate, that I hardly know where I left off. I must, however, return to it; for there are several points remaining unnoticed; and, besides, it would be unpardonable, and would certainly subject me to a charge of inattention to “dignity,” were I to pass over the speech imputed to my Lord Howick.

But, first, let us notice the speech of Mr. Romilly, the late Solicitor-General, apparently a very able man, and, by all account, a man of excellent principles. He said, “that, to choose his own ministers is, no doubt, the prerogative of the crown. By that prerogative the King can call any man he pleases to his councils. Even a man in whom that House has no confidence. He may call to his service a man who has been convicted by that House of a gross violation of the law, who has been brought to trial and acquitted; but so acquitted, that not one of his powerful friends in that House had ever yet ventured to move the rescinding of the resolutions which stood against him; who could not come into the other House of parliament without reading in the looks of men around him the sentence passed upon him, and who must still have resounding in his ears the words, “Guilty; upon my honour.” But then the ministers were responsible for that exercise of the prerogative, otherwise the constitution was no more: the King would be absolute, and the House of Commons lose its dearest privileges.”——What, then, do the dearest privileges of the House really consist in a right of demanding, at the hands of some one, an account of the King’s choice of his servants? Is this their dearest privilege? Verily it is one of very little importance to the people. That the speech before us aimed at Lord Melville there can be no doubt; but, as often as such allusions are made by the Whigs, so often will I remind them, that they voted the payment of Pitt’s debts, expressly upon the score of his merits, and that they have, from the day they came into power, been constantly eulogizing the character and conduct of Pitt, who, all the world must agree, was a full participator in all the acts attributed to Lord Melville. What did Lord Melville do? What was proved against him? Why, that he suffered the public money to be, for a time, diverted from the service of the public, and used for the profit of individuals. Well, and was it not proved to the House, upon the oaths of good witnesses, that Pitt was, during the time that Lord Melville so acted, apprized of it? Nay, was it not also proved, that, in one particular instance he himself took forty thousand Edition: current; Page: [164] pounds of the naval money, and lent it to Boyd and Benfield, two members of the then parliament, without interest, without consulting his colleagues, and also without causing any minute to be made of the transaction? Forty thousand pounds of this very money he lent to two of his loan-contractors to enable them to make good their bargain; forty thousand pounds of the public money, without interest, to enable two members of parliament to lend that money to the poor public itself, which public had to pay interest for the use of its own money so lent to it! All this the Whigs well knew; they had it before them upon oath; and what did they do? What did these lovers of justice, these talkers about responsibility do? Why, they supported; nay they proposed a bill of indemnity for the conduct of Pitt, and for that bill they unanimously voted in that same House of Commons, where they were then moving articles of impeachment against Lord Melville! What was the cause of this? Why, it is now known, that they were, at that time, negotiating with Pitt for a share of the powers and emoluments of office; and unless the power of Lord Melville was destroyed, there was no room for them. Lord Howick says, as we shall presently see, that no influence of government was exerted against Lord Melville. No; the Whigs had no motive for it after they were in power; and so great is my opinion of their christian charity, that I really believe they rejoiced at his acquittal. After the bill of indemnity for the conduct of Pitt, I became, as the public may remember, very cool with respect to the case of Lord Melville; for I held it to be partiality of the basest description to take advantage of popular opinion for the purpose of hunting him down, while Pitt was not only suffered to escape, but was complimented and praised by the pursuers.——These Whigs do, I know, accuse me of impatience, and I confess that I am, in some cases, impatient; but of this bad quality they, at any rate, have no reason to complain, as, I think, the public must be convinced. But the public know very little of my forbearance. At the time just mentioned, I remonstrated with them in private, through an infallible channel; I represented to them the impolicy as well as the injustice of their proceedings; at every stage of their political apostacy I endeavoured, in the most earnest and yet most respectful manner, to prevent that which has finally produced their overthrow, and, having, after they came into power, obtained an audience of Mr. Fox, I represented to him the inevitable consequence of following the example of Pitt, namely, the annihilation of not only the party of which he was the head, but also the annihilation of all confidence, on the part of the people, in the then existing race of public men. He who was, in his nature, kind and indulgent to a fault, who was wonderfully gifted in the faculty of perceiving and of judging, whose heart and mind were always disposed to the right side, and who only wanted, as Major Cartwright observes, “the resolution to say nay to bad men,” heard me with patience and with attention; but I gathered from the arguments he made use of to quiet my fears, that he had no longer any confidence in his powers of effecting any thing great for the country. In answer to all the reproaches of the Whigs, I might appeal to the gradual public warnings that I gave them; but, I further assert, that, at every stage of their dereliction, I remonstrated privately; I told them that if their impatience for office produced an abandonment of their principles, their power would be of short duration, and they would fall unregretted. That I was right in my judgment, they may now, perhaps, have the justice to say to themselves, if they have not the candour publicly Edition: current; Page: [165] to acknowledge it. The cause of their fall, and especially the cause of their falling unregretted, is to be ascribed entirely to the compromise that they have submitted to in order to obtain power and emolument; and, oh! how often have I, publicly as well as privately, remonstrated against any and every such compromise not only as fatal to the country, but as fatal, as totally ruinous, to themselves! “They wished to do good, they wished to relieve the country;” aye, and Balaam wished to do right, when, for hire, he cursed where he should have blessed, and blessed where he should have cursed. “They wished to do good, they wished to relieve the country;” but, they made us pay the debts, they eulogized the conduct and character, they adopted and pursued the system, of Pitt. To this charge, a charge which I will never cease to prefer against them as long as they keep their heads above, or as long as they shall at times make them appear through, the troubled surface of politics, I should be glad to hear their answer. I will give it publicity equal to the publicity of the charge; but, I forewarn them, that they must find something far better than the pleadings of their advocate, Mr. Perry, which amount to neither more nor less than an assertion, that a combination of interests and a compromise of principles, amongst great men, are, in this “the healthful state of the constitution,” necessary to counterbalance the power of the throne, than which a more detestable doctrine never was preached, the people and their representatives being, by such doctrine, totally excluded from any share in the real powers of the state, and no choice being left us but that of being governed by an absolute monarch, or an aristocracy as absolute, and ten thousand times more oppressive.

In returning once more to the debate, we find, in the speech of Mr. Perceval, the new Chancellor of the Exchequer, a minute and sort of official account of the steps which led to the dismission of the late ministers, and, as such, it is worthy of particular attention. He said,

“That it would, he conceived, be convenient in the discussion to consider the measure which had been the occasion of the dismissal in three stages: First, when the application had been made for his Majesty’s consent to bring it in; secondly, when it had been brought in in a shape very different from that in which his Majesty had understood and sanctioned it; and thirdly, when it was withdrawn, and the circumstances attending that proceeding. As to the first, it was quite clear that his Majesty could have understood the original intention only as meant to extend the provisions of the Irish Act of 1793 to Great Britain, by means of clauses in the Mutiny Act. The first dispatch to his Majesty, turning on the anomalies of the law in Ireland and Great Britain, and on the obligation of the pledge given in Ireland in an extension of the law of that country to this, and then the use of the words, of the Irish act in that dispatch, that is, to grant all commissions, and all the arguments offered to gain his Majesty’s consent, tended to show that nothing more was meant at that time than to extend that act to this country. This was rendered still more clear and unquestionable by the change which was introduced into the expressions when it began to be in the contemplation of the late Ministers to grant more than was granted by the Irish Act. Then the former expression of commissions was omitted, for it did not apply to the Staff, and the words “warrants and appointments” were introduced into the Bill. It was besides to be considered, that it was not till after much reasoning that his Majesty had been induced to withdraw his dissent from the original proposition; and that his Majesty had then declared, that nothing should ever induce him to go one step further. His Majesty, at the same time, expressed a hope, that his forbearance in this instance would save him from being pressed further upon a subject upon which his mind was unalterably made up against all further concession. It was not his Majesty alone that understood the original intention in the limited sense of extending the Irish Act to this country. The person who was employed Edition: current; Page: [166] in Ireland (Mr. Elliot) to communicate with the Catholics did not feel himself authorised to give any larger understanding till he had referred to his principals for explanation, and the noble lord employed to communicate to his Majesty (Lord Sidmouth), had understood it merely as a measure to get rid of an anomaly between the laws of different parts of the empire. He believed the noble lord opposite (Howick) when he stated a different understanding on his own part; but the right hon. baronet, late Chancellor of the Exchequer for Ireland, had given some sanction to the other belief, when, in opposing the delay of the proceedings on the bill, which was urged by some on the ground of the absence of the Irish members, the hon. baronet stated that the bill was already law in Ireland, and already sanctioned by the Irish members. But there was a still further sanction in the understanding of his Majesty, as three members of the late cabinet were under the same difficulty. (A communication from the other side, across the table, Only two.) He begged pardon; he thought the Lord Chancellor, the Lord Chief Justice of the King’s Bench, and the Lord President (Sidmouth), had been dissentient to the exclusion beyond the limits of the Irish Act; but he found that the Lord Chancellor had not been summoned on the second day, and he thought it not so right that the lord who had the particular guardianship of the King’s conscience should have been omitted in the order of summons; and still further he thought it right that the dissentient members of the council, as well as the consentient should be summoned, in order that the King might have the benefit of hearing the opinion of those who confirmed as well as the opinions of those who invalidated his principles, with respect to the church, which were known to have been heretofore unaltered. Having established that when it was a thing unknown to some of his Majesty’s cabinet ministers, and to the minister in Ireland, charged to negotiate this particular point, that it was intended to exceed the Irish Act of 1793, it was not extraordinary that his Majesty himself should have been at a loss to understand the extent of the proposed measure. Here he closed the first point of the question, contenting himself with having clearly established, that his Majesty had no knowledge in the first instance of its being intended to carry the measure so far as was afterwards proposed. As to the time when the measure was introduced into the house in its present extent, no communication had been made to his Majesty on that subject till 3rd March. In the intermediate time, dispatches had been laid before his Majesty, stating that the Irish Catholics would not be content with the measure then pending, without large additional concessions. The hope of keeping back the agitation of the general petition of the Catholics, could not, in the opinion of the Lord Lieutenant, nor of the Lord Chancellor of Ireland, who was more particularly concerned, be accomplished without granting, in addition to the Officer’s Bill, the situations of sheriffs and members of corporations to the gentry, and the situations of King’s counsel in the courts of law. The dispatch containing this intelligence was certainly sent to the King, but without any precise notification of its meaning; and here he must say, without any charge of intention to circumvent, or overreach the King, that the want of precision and explanation that existed was the cause of all, or a great part of the difficulties that were found to encumber this question. When the doubts arose in Ireland, and the dispatch sent back with a view to remove those doubts led to a more clear disclosure of his Majesty’s mind, it was attempted first to modify the proposed measure to his Majesty’s wish; but when it was found that that could not be done with the satisfaction which it was at first proposed to give to the Catholics, it was thought better by the advocates of the measure to withdraw it. And here was a point upon which the late ministers had overlooked a material duty indeed. After they had urged that the importance of this business would not admit of its being postponed a single day, they had, he would not say from the motive, but certainly with the effect of keeping their places, by the oddest sacrifice that had ever before been known, the sacrifice of private feeling to public principle. His Majesty’s late ministers claimed a right, in withdrawing the measure lately before the House, to state their sentiments strongly in favour of that measure, and of a general system of favour towards the Catholics. This was the strangest plan he had ever known; and he wished those who were so anxious to guard against the case of a crown, without responsible ministers, to consider in what situation we should be, if the ministers in this case were allowed to come down and state their own case against their sovereign, Edition: current; Page: [167] to say they were favourable, and they were right, but his Majesty opposed them, and they were obliged to concede. Was not that the fact? and he was sure the noble lord would support himself in nothing but the fact, and every thing he saw and heard confirmed the impression he had stated. What responsibility then had the House to look to? The late ministers would have said, if the pledge had not been required, we are strongly for the measure, but the King is strongly against it, and therefore we must give way. In such a situation, what responsibility would parliament have to look to? His Majesty here contented himself upon this too, with regretting that his ministers should have opinions different from his, and with lamenting the necessity of introducing discussions so improper; but when the right of submitting other measures was insisted on, not to combat a mere loose opinion, but a settled principle of his Majesty’s mind during his reign, the House would see the mischiefs that must result. He was ready to allow that, abstractedly, ministers were not to fetter themselves in the right to advise how the prerogative, to give or withhold consent to acts of the legislature, should be exercised. But the case in agitation was a case of bringing forward a great legislative question against the crown, with the authority and influence of ministers of the crown. It was ridiculous to say the King had the prerogative of changing his ministers, unless he could change them upon certain topics and principles. His Majesty’s mind was made up not to concede further upon this question, and further instances could produce nothing but agitation and irritation. If the minute had been suffered to pass without a pledge, an attempt might be afterwards made to bring forward the measure again, on the ground, that it was not contrary to the sanction of the profession, and acquiesced in. His Majesty therefore required a pledge in writing, that he should not be disturbed with applications which could only produce distress and irritation; and that pledge, at the present moment, went only to extend for a little time, the forbearance which the late ministers were disposed to show in conceding the measure lately proposed by them. When they could not go farther in that concession, they were bound to no eternity of service, they might resign.”

Mr. Perceval defended himself and his colleagues against the charge of having come into office under a pledge, and also against that of having advised the King to demand a pledge from the late ministers; but of these we must speak after we have heard my Lord Howick, who, as the reporter informs us, rose amidst a loud cry of question! question! which, Gentlemen, means, “Let us divide: we want to hear no more.” Nothing dismayed, however, and concluding, apparently, that those who intended to vote for him and his colleagues, were impatient so to do, the noble Lord, after some prefatory matter, said “that it was now confessed, that a pledge had been demanded of the late ministers; but who advised the proposing of the pledge was not acknowledged. But there was no act of the crown for which there must not be a responsible adviser. Who, then, were responsible for the advising the pledge? Those who gave it effect; the new ministers, the men who contrived to poison the royal mind. Yes, it was now well known, and these were times to speak plain. It was Lord Eldon who had an audience of his Majesty, at which, without exactly knowing what had passed, it was easy to see that then it was that the subject of the pledge was started. Lord Hawkesbury had also an audience of his Majesty at that conjuncture, and that noble lord, in conjunction with Lord Eldon, were employed by his Majesty to consult with the Duke of Portland, in framing a new administration. These noble lords are, then, the responsible persons; for they have given effect to the demand of the pledge.”——This, Gentlemen, is the reasoning of my Lord Howick, at least so the newspaper reporters of debates tell us. But, was there ever any thing farther fetched, or less worth the carriage? What a whimsical notion, that some one, other than the King, must be responsible for having caused the late ministers to be displaced? It was Edition: current; Page: [168] the new ministers who gave effect to the pledge, because, forsooth, they took the places of Lord Howick and his colleagues! But, suppose it had happened, that the demand of the pledge had been advised, supposing it to have been advised by any body, which does not appear to be the fact; suppose it had been advised by some one, who had not accepted of a place in the new ministry, what then would Lord Howick have done for a charge of giving effect to the demand of the pledge? The true doctrine of responsibility is this, that for all measures, adopted by the King, his ministers, for the time being, are liable to censure and punishment at the hands of the two houses of parliament; but, did any man ever before dream of a parliamentary censure or impeachment of ministers for having accepted of their places as such? If this doctrine were acted upon, how is it possible that the King should ever change his servants, without the previous consent of parliament? For what man would place himself in a situation which would instantly expose him to punishment? In the choosing of his servants the act must necessarily be the King’s own, without any responsibility any where; nor can there arise any harm from this, if the parliament be properly constituted; for, if the House of Commons are convinced, that the King has put foolish or wicked men into offices of great trust, they have the power, and it is their bounden duty, to refuse to suffer any taxes to be raised to be exposed to the management of such men. This is an effectual check upon the King; it is quite as much power as the House of Commons ought to possess; it is agreeable to reason and to the laws and usages of our country, and, at various times, has been exercised with complete effect, and to great national advantage. It is, indeed, that cause to which our forefathers owed those liberties, which, alas! they bequeathed to us. And is it not strange, Gentlemen, that my Lord Howick never thought of it? or, at least, that he appeared not to think of it? His Lordship averred, in the close of his speech, that he had no confidence in the present ministers. I believe him with all my heart, and so, I dare say, you will; but, why not, then, proceed in the constitutional way? Why not move to withhold all public money from their clutches? His Lordship, whose office now is that of “an individual member of parliament,” has no confidence in “his Majesty’s confidential servants,” but yet he seems to think nothing at all of letting sixty or seventy millions of his constituents’ money pass annually through their hands. Yes, my lord, “these are times to speak plain,” and I would speak, if I dared, upon many subjects, and particularly upon the deeds of the last six weeks of your administration; but this I dare speak, that I remember those deeds, and, remembering them, I rejoice that you are no longer surrounded by a majority in parliament; I rejoice, that that same majority which supported your motion for reprimanding Mr. Paull, have now, with singular justice, expressed their approbation of your dismission from office.

Mr. Canning, now Secretary of State for foreign affairs, concluded his speech and the debate in a strain of moving eloquence. He said, “that, whatever might be the decision of the House that night, he thanked God” (God, observe!)—there was an appeal from the bar of the “Commons to the nation. The discussion and correspondence that had taken place, however, had shown his Majesty to be not only as competent as any amongst themselves to the discussion of the most important concerns of his empire, but also to be in a state of health that promised many years addition to nearly the half century that he had Edition: current; Page: [169] auspiciously already reigned over this empire. Whatever might be the issue of the division or the succession of divisions in that house, his Majesty’s ministers would stand by their sovereign, though circumstances might occur, in which they would find it their duty to appeal to the country.”——It is not for me, Gentlemen, to dictate either to your taste or your feelings; but, for my own part, I think I never read any thing more sublime, affecting, or convincing. First, we perceive profound gratitude towards the Creator for the great blessing of being able to appeal from the House of Commons to the people, convoked, as upon such occasions we knew them to be, to give their free and unbiassed suffrages to their representatives in “the great council of the nation,” as the Morning Post, with appropriate reverence, calls the parliament. Next, and as naturally following an act of religious devotion, comes an effusion of loyalty and personal attachment to the King, or, “the sovereign,” as the modern phrase is, and an assurance to his faithful commons, that he is as competent as any of them (and I dare be sworn to the fact) to the management of the concerns of the kingdom (no, the “empire”) at this present time; and not only that, but that he is in a state of health that promises us many years’ prolongation of a reign, which has hitherto been so auspicious. Here I think, with great submission however, that Mr. Canning might have closed, without a significant avowal, that the new ministers might find it necessary to appeal to the country, that idea having been before pretty fully expressed. But, Mr. Canning is a better judge of these matters than I am; and, besides, I have always said, as well of speaking as of writing, “Give me that which produces the most effect;” and, that Mr. Canning’s speech was rich in this capital quality, the division, in a few minutes afterwards, abundantly proved. So confident was Lord Howick of a majority in his favour, that he actually talked, we are told, while the division was going on, of following up the motion then deciding upon with other motions of a similar tendency: and, particularly by one respecting “the threat,” as it is called, thrown out by Mr. Canning in the effusion of heart-melting and mind-convincing eloquence, which we have just been admiring! A threat! What does Mr. Perry mean by a threat? Is it to threaten the House of Commons to give them an assurance of the King’s competence and good health? Or, is it to threaten them to say, that it is possible that their constituents may have an opportunity afforded them of re-choosing their representatives, or, of choosing new ones? We know, that the House of Commons consists of the people’s representatives; we know, that there are the same persons to vote for members that voted last summer; we know, that the law forbids, under heavy penalties, bribery, corruption, treating, or undue influence of any sort, at elections; we know, that every member takes a solemn oath as to his qualification in point of property, and of course, that none of the members so recently chosen can be deficient upon that head. So that it is really hard to conceive how these people could have discovered a threat in the speech of Mr. Canning; for, as the seats of the members, we must take for granted, cost them nothing, and as their views, in offering themselves as candidates, are, as we plainly see from their several election addresses, purely to be able to serve us, to watch over our welfare, to protect and cherish our rights, and particularly to guard our money; as their views are so perfectly free from any tinge of self-interest, how could the telling of them that they might probably be dissolved, possibly be regarded as a threat, seeing that the utmost extent of Edition: current; Page: [170] the inconvenience of a dissolution, would be, to some of the members, a day or two of visit to their constituents, and, perhaps, to the far greater part of them, even this slight trouble might be spared, so perfectly satisfied are their constituents with their conduct? Yet, Gentlemen, do the Whigs, and particularly Mr. Perry, incessantly rail against this speech of Mr. Canning; and, since the House of Commons has discovered a majority against them, they rail against that too; and, would you believe it, Gentlemen, that this very Mr. Perry, who, observe, calls us Jacobins and Levellers, published, in his paper of the 13th instant, an article which he denominates “The Puppet Show,” but in which he evidently enough aims at the depicting of political scenes, and which I shall here insert for the purpose of drawing down upon him and his writings your just censure and indignation:

“The Westminster Company of independent performers being lately dissolved, and it being thought highly desirable to encourage a taste for pantomime, spectacle, melo-drames, legerdemain, and Bartholomew-Fair entertainments, a new puppet-show has been recently established upon a larger and more expensive scale than any ever before exhibited. No pains have been spared to procure the very best automata extant, remarkable for a certain degree of voluntary motion, combined with the utmost docility, and obedient to the slightest touch of the springs which set them in motion.——A few friends have been admitted to a rehearsal, which, however, from the unfinished state of the machinery, was entitled to every indulgence. The theatre is in the form of a chapel, dimly illuminated by a number of transparencies, the principal of which represent the burning of heretics, assassination, massacres, a conversation between the pope and the devil, and other subjects calculated to bring to the recollection of the spectator, those dark ages when mumming and puppet-shows were in high repute. The stage, as usual on such occasions, is furnished with a semi-curtain to conceal those managers, performers, or scene-shifters, who either wish to be invisible, or are ashamed to be seen. After waiting a considerable time, some person having called out “manage,” a voice from behind the curtain replied, ‘Wha wants me? Mun I be the manager?—Weel, come awa lads, be steady, and mind what I say—Recollect what you are—You are automata, mere puppets, you are greatly to resemble the idols of old in the hands of crafty priests. You are to have eyes, but to see not; ears, out to ear not; speak you may, but like wise fools, not a word more than is set down for you.’ The voice was here interrupted by some person who seemed to think these expressions were not intended for the ear of the audience, and who begged leave to remark that a regular performance was not as yet to be expected, the immediate object in view, being to inspect the materials and workmanship, and to see if the different figures were proof against nose-wringing, ear-pulling, kicks, cuffs, cudgelling, and the usual indignities to which performers of this class have been immemoriably subject, and which constitute the principal part of the entertainment.——In this respect it must be confessed, the figures have been manufactured in a style of high perfection, with faces insensible to shame, and apparently unconscious of their inferiority, degradation and disgrace. Hisses, groans, and cries of ‘Off, off,’ with the usual accompaniments, are to be of no avail. Large sums paid down, extravagant promises, and threats of a premature death, and subsequent damnation, are conjointly employed to hire and keep together a large establishment of chorus singers, to drown the loud notes of disapprobation. Nay, it is resolved, that should the theatre even tumble about their ears, John Bull shall still have his favourite fun, and with all the effrontery of itinerants they will continue to play their pranks in every county, city, and borough in the United Kingdom. Much is expected from the exhibition of a few harlequins, who in the rotatory motion of their heads, and vacillation of their bodies, possess so much rapidity that it is impossible to say on which side of the stage you perceive them.——A more particular description of this new establishment, the scenery, secret machinery, principal puppets, and general claim to public notice, must necessarily be deferred, not for want of rational anticipation, but until opinion be established by facts.”

Edition: current; Page: [171]

Who Mr. Perry may mean to designate by “the devil,” squabbling with the Pope, I must leave you to guess, and, indeed, all I shall say with respect to this article, is, that the author, or publisher of it, expressed his alarm, a few days before, lest a dissolution of parliament should produce “licentiousness of debate, and a jubilee suspension of authority,” among us, the “agitators of Middlesex and Westminster.”

To connect with high and authentic matter, like the foregoing, any notions, proceeding merely from myself, would, I feel, be indecorous in the extreme; and, therefore, I must beg leave once more to defer, until another opportunity, the observations, which I think it may be useful to offer you, upon the subject of what I regard as the sole remedy for our political evils in general, and especially for the heart-burnings which incessantly arise about the distribution of power and emolument in the state. In the meanwhile, anxiously hoping, that you will seriously reflect upon all these matters,

I remain,
Your faithful friend, and obedient servant,
Wm. Cobbett.
William Cobbett
Cobbett, William
30th April, 1807


“If the House reject this petition” [which it did reject], “notwithstanding the strong grounds upon which it is supported, what will be the consequence? What a proud precedent shall ministers have to boast of in this precious sample of their Treasury correspondence—then may they fix a Treasurer in every country, in every town, in every borough, then may each member circulate through his respective barrack department, the decree of the government against the subject’s birthright: provided only that they keep within the cautious limits of their precious precedent; provided only they do not pronounce actual menace; provided only they convey, through the medium of an innocent freeholder’s letter, a bribe taken from the public money; provided they keep within such limits, they are safe—the precedent of this night will bear them out, and they will again find a House of Commons who will countenance them in their breach of that House’s privileges, and in the violation of the subject’s constitutional rights, provided only that in the act of such breach and violation, the forms of discreetness and decorum prescribed in the present precedent, be observed.”

Mr. Perceval’s Speech, on the Hampshire Petition, 21st Feb., 1807.

The event, which we anticipated, has already taken place, the parliament has been dissolved, and another is immediately to be called.——This is a proper, and most favourable time, for us to take a view of our national situation, particularly as far as relates to any real share of political power, which the people enjoy through the means of that House, which is, when assembled, said to contain their representatives.

Upon the intrigues and cabals and contests which have led to the dissolution Edition: current; Page: [172] of parliament, I have already taken the liberty to address you; and, my present intention is, first to give an account of the last transactions of the House of Commons, and of the prorogation and dissolution, and then to offer you a few observations thereon.

After the late ministers had lost their places, and, with those places, their majority in the parliament, they began, as has been the invariable custom in similar cases for many years past, to make what is called “An Opposition;” they began to make motions for inquiry into abuses; they began to set about harassing those who had succeeded them; in short, they began to use all the means in their power to turn out their successors, and, of course, to get into place again themselves. Their successors, however, in nowise disposed to yield their places, and thinking them not secure without changing the House of Commons which had been elected during the day of their opponents’ influence, advised the King to dissolve the parliament; and, accordingly, dissolved it was, after a statement of the reasons had been given to the two Houses in the following speech, delivered by commission, on Monday, the 27th of last month. But, before I insert the speech, let me dwell for a moment on the critical circumstances, as to time, under which the parliament was prorogued. There had been appointed, during the power and influence of the late ministry, a committee denominated the “Committee of Finance;” and the professed object of it was to produce economy by examining into and correcting abuses; but, the real object, on their part, seemed to be to amuse the nation, and, perhaps, to let their opponents (who had been in offices while the abuses were committed) see, that they had a rod ready pickled for them. This committee appeared, accordingly, to be doing little or nothing for several months; but, as soon as the places of the late ministers had been filled with other men, the Committee of Finance became wonderfully diligent; and, some of the late ministers themselves, who were members of the Committee, and who had scarcely ever attended it before, now attended it every day! Upon a remark of this sort being made, Lord Henry Petty observed, that his occupation as a minister took up so much of his time, that he was unable to attend the Committee before; but that, having been released from those duties, he had now time sufficient to attend the Committee. Be the cause, however, what it may, the effect was, that the Committee made a progress truly astonishing; insomuch that it had, in the course of a few days, made discoveries of enormous misapplications and defalcations; and, it is positively stated, that they had a report drawn up, and ready to lay before the House on Monday evening. But, of this their alacrity and dispatch others were acquainted as well as themselves, and, just as they were going to make this report, which must have speedily found its way out into the world, came a command for the House to attend in the House of Lords, where they heard a speech, which at once prevented the making of the report of the Committee of Finance, which annihilated that Committee, and which put an end to the existence of the House itself. Lord Howick wished, apparently, to say something; there was an anxious desire, on the part of the late ministry, to send forth something to the public by way of exposure; but, the Usher of the Black Rod was ready at the door some minutes before the Speaker arrived; and, the moment the latter took the chair, the former, with his three well-known knocks at the door, sealed up the lips of every one present, and the House was compelled to go to the Lords to hear its death pronounced. With this little preface, gentlemen, Edition: current; Page: [173] we shall proceed with advantage to the perusal of the speech, every word of which is worthy of our attention.

My Lords and Gentlemen,— We have it in command from his Majesty to inform you that his Majesty has thought fit to avail himself of the first moment which would admit of an interruption of the sitting of parliament, without material inconvenience to the public business, to close the present Session: and that his Majesty has therefore been pleased to cause a commission to be issued, under the great seal, for proroguing parliament.—We are further commanded to state to you, that his Majesty is anxious to recur to the sense of his people, while the events which have recently taken place are yet fresh in their recollection.——His Majesty feels, that in resorting to this measure, under the present circumstances, he at once demonstrates, in the most unequivocal manner, his own conscientious persuasion of the rectitude of those motives upon which he has acted; and affords to his people the best opportunity of testifying their determination to support him in every exercise of the prerogatives of his crown, which is comformable to the sacred obligations under which they are held, and conducive to the welfare of his kingdom, and to the security of the constitution.——His Majesty directs us to express his entire conviction that, after so long a reign, marked by a series of indulgences to his Roman Catholic subjects, they, in common with every other class of his people, must feel assured of his attachment to the principles of a just and enlightened toleration; and of his anxious desire to protect equally, and promote impartially, the happiness of all descriptions of his subjects.——Gentlemen of the House of Commons,—His Majesty has commanded us to thank you, in his Majesty’s name, for the supplies which you have furnished for the public service.——He has seen, with great satisfaction, that you have been able to find the means of defraying, in the present year, those large but necessary expenses, for which you have provided, without imposing upon his people the immediate burden of additional taxes.——His Majesty has observed with no less satisfaction the inquiries which you have instituted into subjects connected with public economy; and, he trusts, that the early attention of a new parliament, which he will forthwith direct to be called, will be applied to the prosecution of these important objects.——My Lords and Gentlemen,—His Majesty has directed us most earnestly to recommend to you, that you should cultivate, by all means in your power, a spirit of union, harmony, and good will amongst all classes and descriptions of his people.——His Majesty trusts that the divisions naturally and unavoidably excited by the late unfortunate and uncalled-for agitation of a question so interesting to the feelings and opinions of his people, will speedily pass away; and that the prevailing sense and determination of all his subjects to exert their united efforts in the cause of their country, will enable his Majesty to conduct to an honourable and secure termination the great contest in which he is engaged.”

Now, Gentlemen, the question which is particularly interesting to us, is, what was the real cause of this dissolution.——Those public prints, which are partisans of the late ministry, assert, that the cause was not that which is held forth in the speech of the Lords Commissioners; though men who reflect coolly before they write or speak may censure so hasty and disrespectful an assertion, particularly as coming from the “friends of regular government, social order, and our holy religion;” but, it is but fair to hear what they say, which we will do, contrasting it with the assertion of their opponents, and then form our opinion.——The Morning Chronicle, which, as we well know, is the official partisan of the late ministry, contained, on the 27th of April, the following article:

“The present ministry, in dissolving the parliament, can have no other than the most manifest party objects. They cannot pretend to appeal to the people at large, as to the wisdom of their measures. They cannot pretend as yet to have claims to confidence from the experience of the past. They therefore avail themselves of a wicked clamour, which only one of them has had the front to avow and to justify; and while a certain degree of effervescence exists in the public mind, they will endeavour to procure a House of Commons to their Edition: current; Page: [174] purpose by every method which the actual state of the representation enables them to employ. They have brought this matter more home to the senses of the people of this country than all the reforming societies for the last thirty years.——But besides the object of getting a parliament more favourable to them than the present, the new ministers have another motive in dissolving the parliament without delay. The committee of the House of Commons lately appointed are daily making discoveries of the greatest importance, and if they sat but a month longer, it is impossible to say who might not be affected. Committees like this would make every department responsible. We are informed that something very important is come out respecting an issue of one hundred thousand pounds of the public money, which remains wholly unaccounted for. The proceedings and progress of the committee leave us no doubt of the determination to dissolve this parliament. It is absolutely necessary for certain persons, that inquiry should be quashed.——As to the party objects which ministers expect to gain, we are confident they will be disappointed. None of the present ministers, nor any man who supports them will, on the ground of their merits, try a popular election. Lord Castlereagh will not stand for the county of Down, but will sneak into an English borough. We do not believe that all their influence will carry even one member for Westminster, if proper candidates offer. In Ireland they will gain nothing, even with the menaced vigour of Mr. Perceval hanging over that country. Notwithstanding all the courtly doctrine and the religious bigotry, by which the ministerial candidates recommend themselves, the people at large have not been deluded, and are very little inclined to support the present ministry.——We have said, and we repeat, that it is the discoveries made, and likely to be made, by the committee of the House of Commons, that have precipitated this dissolution. We hope, however, if there is time this day, that some independent member of parliament will state the facts and point out the true causes of the dissolution. It would be of the greatest service to the public. In one of the parliaments of Charles I. when a House of Commons was about to be dissolved for its faithful examination of public abuses, the famous Sir Edward Coke boldly came forward and named the Duke of Buckingham as the great grievance of the nation, and in himself comprehending every other grievance. If there were a member of the House of Commons bold enough to follow this example, and to denounce the abuses ministers wish to screen, he might do his country infinite service, and check that torrent of corruption which must in the end, if unchecked, lead to the most fatal consequences.——The sudden dissolution of the parliament at a time so many private bills have at a vast expense been carried almost to their termination, must be greatly felt by many individuals. But ministers had no time to lose, and therefore they cannot be blamed. Their existence and that of the present parliament was incompatible. They had not a moment to lose, and it is no wonder that they preferred themselves and those who at present protect them, for the sake of protection, to every consideration of public advantage.”

Before we take the other extract from the Morning Chronicle, we may be permitted, perhaps, just to ask Mr. Perry, since when it is, that he has discovered there is a “torrent of corruption” existing in our government, seeing, that not many weeks have passed since he severely rebuked all those who threw out insinuations that the government stood at all in need of correction. But, Mr. Perry is now out of place. Place and profit are apt to produce mental blindness as to such matters; and, it is truly fortunate for the country and for truth, that place and profit have been taken from the late ministers. They will now see abuses with eyes very different indeed from those that they saw them with before; but, Gentlemen, however much we may rejoice at the exposures which they will make (for make them they will), we must never lose sight of the fact, that, while in office, they used every art in their power to prevent similar exposures. Never, do what they will, in the way of exposure, never shall I forget their abominable treatment of Mr. Paull, whose only crime, in their eyes, was, that he wanted to make exposures. Their treatment, too, of poor Atkins, the Barrack Master, whom they completely ruined, Edition: current; Page: [175] if not starved to death, with his numerous family. This is another thing which will always occur to my mind, when I hear them inveighing against abuses. When Mr. Robson moved for the papers relating to the Barracks in the Isle of Wight, we remember with what difficulty he obtained them; and, I do hope, that we never shall forget, that Lord Henry Petty refused the papers, in the first instance, merely upon the ground, that Mr. Robson had not submitted his motion to the ministers before he made it! Any thing more arrogant than this, more hostile to all notions of freedom of deliberation, more degrading to the House of Commons, I never heard of in my life. And all this was justified by Mr. Perry. It was all applauded by him, who has now discovered, that it is blamable in ministers to screen those, who have been guilty of peculation. He told us, that wise men went slowly to work in such matters; that it was easy to set up a cry about abuses; but, that, to reform them was a thing that required consideration. All his heroes, too, took the same tone; they discovered no haste in reformations of any sort; they seemed to set inquiries on foot for mere party purposes; and, in no one instance did they seriously attempt to bring any public robber to justice.——But, let us hear him again from his paper of the 28th of April.

“What we yesterday stated, has taken place; parliament is dissolved, and dissolved in such a manner as leaves no doubt whatever of the motives which led to it. We have now to state a fact in corroboration of what we yesterday mentioned, and we defy ‘all the swindlers’ in the country, great and small, to deny it. Nay, we defy any member of the present administration to deny it.——The finance committee of the House of Commons met yesterday, and had prepared a report to be presented to the House, but they were prevented by an artifice of ministers, which would have been worthy of ‘all the swindlers’ in the country.——The members of the committee were in the house, and the chairman was ready to present the report. Ministers, however, aware of what might take place, and dreading a charge that would have been made against a most notorious peculator and defaulter, kept the Usher of the Black Rod in attendance at the door of the House of Commons, and the instant PRAYERS were over, the Black Rod rapped, and being introduced, summoned the House to the House of Peers. By this manœuvre did the new ministry prevent the formal presentment of the peculators who have been plundering the public. We are happy, however, in being able to relate, in addition to the above circumstances (the truth of which we challenge any man to deny), that the report of the committee of finance, states in substance, that a sum of 19,800l. had been applied by a late paymaster of the forces to his own use; and that this fact came to the knowledge of his colleague, the Right Honourable George Rose, who did not give any direction to the clerks on the subject.—The report also states, that the committee had discovered other and great abuses in the public money concerns, on which they should shortly proceed to report.—These are facts for the truth of which we pledge ourselves. We leave it then to the public to judge of the motives which led to the present precipitate dissolution. It is, indeed, a strange thing that those who have on every occasion, and now most palpably, endeavoured to protect the peculators of the public money, should have the impudence to hold themselves out as most distinguished for their affection to pure and undefiled religion, and their attachment to the church of England! Such hypocrisy is truly shocking.—The proceeding of yesterday, and the management of the Black Rod to prevent disagreeable observations, so forcibly remind us of the conduct of that misguided Prince, Charles I. on a case very similar, that we cannot help detailing the circumstances. On the 5th day of June, 1628, Sir John Finch, the Speaker of the House of Commons, delivered a message to the House from the King, importing that his majesty had fixed a day for putting an end to their session, and therefore required that they should not enter into a new business, or lay aspersion on the government or ministers thereof. This produced a warm debate, in which Sir John Elliot, advancing somewhat as if he meant to touch the Duke of Buckingham, the Speaker rose up and said, ‘There is a command upon me that I must command you not to proceed.Edition: current; Page: [176] Upon this a deep silence ensued; and then the House resolved itself into a committee to consider what was fit to be done; and ordered that no man should go out on pain of going to the Tower. The Speaker, however, desired leave to withdraw, and had leave so to do; and Mr. Whitby being in the chair, Sir Edward Coke spoke to the following effect.—‘We have dealt with that duty and moderation, that never was the like, rebus sic tantibus, after such a violation of the liberties of the subject. Let us take this to heart. In 30 Ed. III. were they then in doubt in parliament to name men that misled the King? They accused John de Gaunt, the King’s son; and Lord Latimer and Lord Nevil, for misadvising the King; and they went to the Tower for it. Now, when there is such a downfal of the state, shall we hold our tongues? How shall we answer our duties to God and men? 7 H. IV. par. Rot. No. 31, 32; and 11 Hen. IV. No. 13, there the council are complained of, and removed from the King. They mewed up the King, and dissuaded him from the common good. And why are we now retired from that way we were in? Why may we not name those that are the cause of all our evils? In 4 H. III. and 27 E. III. and 13 R. II., the parliament moderateth the King’s prerogative; and nothing groweth to abuse but this House hath power to treat of it. What shall we do? Let us palliate no longer; if we do, God will not prosper us. I think the Duke of Buckingham is the cause of all our miseries, and till the King be informed thereof, we shall never go out with honour, or sit with honour here. That man is the grievance of grievances. Let us set down the causes of all our grievances, and all will reflect upon him.’——Such was the bold and constitutional language held by Sir Edward Coke, the greatest lawyer this country ever saw, at a time, too, when the liberties of the people were unconfirmed. He had no hesitation in denouncing the authors of ill advice, and showed that the House had a right to name evil counsellors, even the KING’S SON, and to moderate the prerogative even to the removal of the council or ministry that ‘dissuaded the King from the common good.’——And yet such lawyers as Mr. Perceval say, that the King’s right to choose his ministers is too sacred for the House of Commons to offer its advice upon.——But the management yesterday far excels that of the unfortunate Charles. The Black Rod is planted at the door to make it impossible to inform the King of those things, without informing him of which, as Sir Edward Coke says, ‘The House could neither go out with honour nor sit with honour there.’ Ministers yesterday did better than the counsellors that brought the unfortunate Charles to ruin. They utterly quashed all appeal to the King. They checked all denunciation of abuses, and took a desperate chance of getting a parliament that will overlook these proceedings, that will screen delinquents, that will connive at peculation. What can be expected indeed from those who conducted the scene of yesterday? To what can it be compared, and indeed their whole conduct, but to the device of a gang of pickpockets, who raise a false cry and get together a mob on any clamour, to enable a detected accomplice to escape, and to facilitate new depredations? Such is the cry of the danger of the church, set up by men who thus notoriously, and in the most public manner, have quashed the denunciation of the most scandalous abuses.

As to the instances of the reign of Charles I. Mr. Perry may be assured, that they will have very little terrors for those, whom he wishes to intimidate, and who know full well that, from a parliament, whenever it shall meet, composed for one half of placemen and pensioners, and for nearly the other half, of dealers in the funds, there is no patriotism to be dreaded. The new ministers, in whatever else they may be deficient, are not wanting in political cunning. They know that Charles’s parliaments were made of stubborn stuff. They know that he dissolved them over and over again; and, that, at every return, he found them more and more resolved to check the abuses of the times; and the new ministers also know, that exactly the contrary is always the effect of a dissolution now-a-days. The new ministers know that poor Charles’s parliaments refused him money; and they know, that, in no case whatever, for these thirty years past, has any House of Commons refused to vote whatever money the minister of the day demanded, the only question Edition: current; Page: [177] in any case, being, merely that of how the money shall be raised. The new ministers know exactly how many of the members of the last parliament will be turned out; and the late ministers know it too, for they took care to have the managing of an election. The new ministers may not know the causes of this great change in the nature of the House of Commons since the reign of Charles the First; they, possibly, may never have reflected upon the effect of the funding and taxing system with respect to the constitution of the House of Commons; they, possibly, may not have perceived, that, in establishing the national debt, the power of refusing money was, in fact, taken from that House; they, possibly, may not have had leisure to trace the pliancy of the House of Commons to its real cause; but, they are extremely well versed as to the effects; and Mr. Perry may quote and hint till he is tired about the “ill-advised and unfortunate Charles,” whose head, could he dig it up and restore it to the state in which it was immediately after amputation, would have no terrors for Mr. Perceval or Mr. Canning, unless Mr. Perry could, at the same time, prove to them, that there were a Hampden or two amongst their opponents, amongst those men who doubled the income tax, who added a third to the pensions of the Princes, while they exempted the funded property of the King from the income tax, at a time when they declared that, in imposing taxes, they were reduced to a choice of evils; those men, who, having discovered the famous loan of Pitt to Boyd and Benfield, moved for a bill of indemnity for his conduct; those men, who, amongst their very first acts, almost doubled the number of foreign troops in the kingdom; those men, who have declared, that Hanover ought to be as dear to us as Hampshire; those men, who, after having opposed Pitt for twenty years, after having, upon numerous occasions, represented him as the waster of our property, as the subverter of our liberty, and as the destroyer of the character and consequence of the country, voted for making us pay his debts, expressly upon the score of his public merits. Unless Mr. Perry can make Mr. Perceval and Mr. Canning descry a Hampden or two amongst these men, he may be assured, that all his comparisons about the reign of the “ill-advised and unfortunate Charles” will be totally thrown away.——But, is it not truly shocking, Gentlemen, to perceive the rage, into which this dissolution has thrown Mr. Perry and his Whig patrons? They call their opponents “swindlers;” nothing less than swindlers; and, in another part of the same paper, they are called miscreants; “the miscreants, who are endeavouring to excite a popular clamour against popery.” To be sure such an endeavour is rather in the miscreant way; but, it is painful to perceive Mr. Perry, who so lately deprecated “the immoderate license of debate,” falling into such “coarse language.” Really I begin to think, that the old hackneyed charge of coarseness, always preferred against me when I speak a home truth, will begin to attach to these wranglers for the public money, who have, until lately, always kept up a sort of decorum of phraseology towards one another, like lawyers at the bar, but who now appear to have lost all patience. Miscreants, indeed! This is a pretty term to use, as descriptive of statesmen and legislators, acting under “the best constitution in the world.” Miscreants! Why, that is a name to be applied to men, who seek to live entirely upon the earnings of others, who, in coarse language, are denominated robbers, or thieves, and who, if not, by some means or other, protected, are frequently transported or hanged. And, I ask Mr. Perry, if, in his cooler moments, he would have applied such a Edition: current; Page: [178] name to the persons whom he evidently has in view? What a pity, how sincerely to be deplored, it is, that passion, arising from disappointment in the laudable desire to live upon the public, should so far get the better of the “gentlemanly” taste of Mr. Perry! But, really, the quarrel is so much like that between Peachem and Lockit, that the comparison strikes every one. Never, according to all account, was there such virulence before heard of amongst politicians. The reason is, the contest is for place and profit. It is purely personal. There is nothing of a public nature that can be made to mix itself with it. Both sides are trying to make the world believe that they are, respectively, contending for principle. One side cries toleration: no says the other, you only want power and profit; your measure was merely intended to nullify the King, and to render yourselves ministers for life. The other side cries no popery: you lie in your hearts, says the other, and all you want is to obtain a corrupt majority, thereby to secure your power and your profits. Which are we to believe? For my own part, I have a great dislike to contradict people, and am, therefore, rather inclined to give credit to the assertions of both sides.——We must now hear what the partisans of the new ministers say as to the real cause of the dissolution; and, we will begin with a short extract from the Courier newspaper of the 28th of April, first observing, that this last-named paper is, to the new ministry, what the Morning Chronicle is to their predecessors, namely, an instrument of faction, the proprietors and editors respectively having in view no other object than their own gains. It will be observed, that the article I am now about to insert was written by way of comment upon the articles before quoted from the Morning Chronicle:

“We are not surprised at the anxiety of all the partisans of the Papists to put the question on other grounds; we are not surprised at their wishing to hear no more of the cry of the church and state being in danger; they would be glad to drown it, no doubt; but this cry they shall not drown—the people shall not fail to be told repeatedly, that the change of the ministers, and the necessity of a dissolution so soon after that unnecessary and uncalled-for dissolution last autumn, have been produced by these reformers, these ‘English Brissotins,’ who conceived a measure contrary to the fundamental laws of the land—a measure of such obscurity, and power of extension, that every one explained it his own way—who, having obtained their sovereign’s consent to one measure, extended it to a compass and capacity which never was in his contemplation—who were guilty of the most petulant disrespect to the King’s authority, in having consented first to return to the original measure, and afterwards having insultingly retracted and refused to do any thing, because they were not allowed to do all. Happily, however, for the constitution, and the prosperity of the country, these ‘English Brissotins’ had to deal with a Sovereign very different from the one which the ‘French Brissotins’ had.——But there is no fear that the people will be misled by the artifices of ‘all the partisans of the Papists,’ or that they will fail to see that the conduct of the late ministers has rendered the present dissolution necessary. But it was to prevent the presentation of the report of the finance committee we are told—and ministers kept the Black Rod in waiting at the door of the House of Commons to summon the House the moment prayers were over, because ‘they dreaded a charge that would have been made against a notorious peculator and defaulter.’ Here again we must remind our readers, that the person alluded to was an officer under the administration of which Lord Grenville, Mr. Windham, and Lord Spencer, were members. What reason, therefore, had the present ministers to dread any charge that could have been made against the person in question? But we are relieved from the necessity of saying more upon this absurd and idle charge, that parliament was dissolved to stifle the discoveries made by the committee of finance, by the language held by the Addington party, who, alluding to this charge, explicitly declare, that Edition: current; Page: [179] with respect to the committee of finance, we cannot suppose that any administration would be weak enough to imagine that public curiosity and inquiry are to be repressed and stifled by such means. The present ministers well know the men of whom that committee was composed. They know that they will do their duty; and that, if they have detected any flagrant instances of malversation or embezzlements, the country will hear them. It would be the idlest hope that ever was entertained, to think that a British parliament, by a temporary suspension of its faculties, is to be wholly diverted from pursuing and hunting down those great state delinquents, who ‘cover and devour’ the people. To obviate the impression which such a statement is calculated to produce, the speech particularly relies upon ‘the inquiries which have been instituted into subjects connected with the public economy,’ the prosecution of which is especially recommended to ‘the early attention of the new parliament.’ Such is the language of the Addingtons, and it renders it unnecessary for us to dilate upon the subject.”——

Yes, such may be “the language of the Addingtons,” but, Gentlemen, it must be manifest to every one who is at all acquainted with the subject, that the dissolution will also dissolve the Committee of Finance, set aside all their proceedings, afford time, which, in such cases, is a great point, and will enable the new ministers either to prevent another Committee of Finance from being appointed, or to select for that committee whatever persons they may like best to have it composed of; and, in short, that, though it may not totally stifle the inquiry, it may go nearly that length.——The observation of the Courier, that Lords Grenville and Spencer and Mr. Windham were in the cabinet, at the time when the peculation alluded to was committed, does not apply. Their being in the cabinet gave them no more opportunity of being acquainted with this misapplication of the public money than it did of the misapplication of the forty thousand pounds by Pitt. This writer might almost as reasonably render us responsible for it, because we were in the country at the time when it was committed. But, the Courier might have justly charged the late ministers of inconsistency in complaining of this act of peculation after all their praises of Pitt, who must have been acquainted with it, and whose debts they have made us pay, upon the score of his public merits. Here it is that they are assailable; but, here no hireling writer will ever assail them.——What I have further to offer upon this subject I shall defer, till I have inserted the article from the Morning Post of the 28th instant, which is, indeed, an elaborate, and somewhat pathetic “address to the electors of the United Kingdom,” the objects of which being, first, to justify the measure of dissolving the parliament at this time, and, second, to prevail upon those who have really any right of voting, to vote for men who are opposed to the late ministers.

“The parliament is prorogued, a dissolution is announced, and we hesitate not to applaud what every true lover of his country has anticipated and recommended. When the constitution is invaded, when the throne is attacked, there is only one true legitimate recourse, viz. an appeal to the sense and justice of the people.——His Majesty having found his prerogative and independency menaced and invaded by a cabinet junto, has been obliged to change his ministers. This cabinet junto has dared, as a measure of resentment or defiance, to accuse their Sovereign at the bar of the nation of unconstitutional conduct, and by false statements and unwarranted misrepresentations, to arraign his Majesty as a criminal before his people.——They further brought forward in parliament a resolution directly tending to censure his Majesty, though that censure was disguised in general terms. They had not even the decency to suppose that his Majesty was acting by any responsible advisers, but contrary to every principle of the constitution; their measures were so managed as to point at his Majesty alone, as the only guilty and responsible individual, and personally to censure and condemn him. The parliament, however, could not Edition: current; Page: [180] be brought, under any artifice or promises, to support a proposition so dangerous and unconstitutional; yet so deeply connected together and so widely extended were the adherents of the late cabinet, that 226 members of the House of Commons were induced to join in the censure of their Monarch.——After this unprecedented attempt, the King, with the most perfect consciousness of his integrity and uprightness, has appealed to the GREAT BODY of his subjects, in the firm confidence that they will confirm the decision of the House of Commons, approve the necessary change he has been forced to make of his ministry; and that they will give both him and them that countenance and support which will on the one hand secure the constitutional independency of the crown; and on the other, enable his present servants to carry on the business of the nation with ease and comfort, unawed by any combination of parties, which might otherwise conspire to interrupt the ordinary proceedings of Government.——We conceive that one of the great and fundamental principles of the British constitution, is this—that the House of Commons is to be considered as the organ of the people, the representative of their power, the interpreter of their will: and whenever the House of Commons speaks, it speaks, in legal and constitutional acceptation, the sense of all the Commons of the empire.—When, therefore, any great question arises affecting the rights of any branch of the legislature, or the interests of any great description of the people; which was not foreseen or in contemplation at the time the Commons were elected; which it was morally impossible for the electors to have foreseen, and which, consequently, they could not have referred to in the choice of their representatives; it is in strict conformity with the fundamental principles of the constitution, that an opportunity should be given TO THE PEOPLE of expressing their collective sense on the subject, and making their elections conformably. This doctrine is so evident as to need no proof, however it may be illustrated by stating the converse of it. Let us suppose that the House of Commons, when once elected, has a right to sit for its legal period of seven years—it might, by its power over the purse of the nation, dictate both to the Lords and the King, and create a septennial despotism.——We now, then, ask you, whether the late transactions which have taken place on the Catholic Question, were in your contemplation when you elected your late representatives, in October last?——1. Was it in your contemplation that a cabinet junto should, by every possible artifice, by alleged misconception, and by false misrepresentation, endeavour to deceive or to force his Majesty to a total repeal of thetest laws, as far as the army and navy are concerned? We answer boldly for you, it was not.——2. Was it in your contemplation, that, if his Majesty should evince an unshaken firmness in support of his conscientious engagements to the state, that his ministers should be authorised to impose upon him conditions which should empower them to turn against him all his influence, power, and prerogative for controlling his opinions, forcing his conscience, and exposing his character to obloquy and reproach? We again answer, in your name, that it was not.——3. Was it in your contemplation that, upon the tender of such degrading conditions from his ministers, his Majesty should surrender his prerogatives, authority, and independency, into the hands of a cabinet junto? Here, again, we answer for you in the negative,——4. Was it in your contemplation, that if his Majesty, in endeavouring to liberate himself from the attacks of his ministers, should demand them to retract the conditions they had imposed upon him, and to give him an assurance that they would not bring forward again measures connected with the repeal of the test acts, as his ministers, he should be held up to the public as a criminal, should be accused of having violated the constitution, and of having exacted an illegal pledge of his counsellors? We answer again, in your name, with confidence, no.——All these circumstances, unprecedented and preposterous, form such a combination of measures, as you could neither have foreseen nor conjectured: and which, although they have taken place, you can now hardly believe.—The attack on the King’s independency, the efforts to carry a repeal of the test laws, an act of supremacy in favour of Roman Catholics, and of every other Dissenter from the establishment, the attempt of ministers to force the Sovereign to admit the cabinet to act in defiance of his sentiments, and the accusing the Monarch personally, as guilty of a criminal act, in resisting this attempt, are all measures novel and extraordinary, totally out of the common course and current of affairs, and which require a distinct proceeding, conformable Edition: current; Page: [181] to their importance and novelty.——Under these impressions therefore, the Monarch with affectionate confidence in the attachment of his people, and with the most conscientious sense of his OWN SINCERITY, in endeavouring to perform the duties and maintain the trusts committed to his charge, makes a condescending appeal to your sentiments and impartiality.—1. He has refused to give his ministers leave to carry through Parliament, with the colour of his consent, a bill, which went to repeal the act of supremacy, and the test acts, as far as the army and navy are concerned, and to give the capacity of holding the highest naval and military commands to every species of dissenters from the church establishment, whatever sect they might belong to, christian or unchristian, or even if they were of no religion whatever.—2. His ministers having demanded that they shall, on abandoning their obnoxious bill, give their sentiments in support of it, and also give their sentiments in favour of the Catholic petition when presented; and, 3dly, be allowed from time to time, to bring forward, for his Majesty’s decision, such measures as they thought proper respecting Ireland.—His Majesty did, in answer, desire his ministers to withdraw these commands; and did also desire them to give assurances, that they would not bring forward any measures connected with the Catholic Question, as upon that subject his sentiments could never alter.—You have now, then, a plain case before you to decide upon.—Is it your wish to force the surrender of the test laws, and to give the whole power of the sword into the hands of Catholics, and of every dissenter from the church establishment? or do you wish to preserve the existing system of general toleration, but at the same time to maintain the established guards of the constitution of church and state?

We might here, at the very outset, ask that writer, who affects such anxious concern for the preservation of the constitution, how he thinks that constitution would, in practice, be rendered worse than it is now by the bill proposed to be passed. Does he conceive, that the passing of such a bill would add to the taxes? That it would lessen the value of our election rights? That it would make the House of Commons more subservient to the minister of the day? That it would enable that minister to cause the Act of Habeas Corpus to be suspended for more than seven years at a time? That it would render the system of influence more extensive and efficient? That it would make boroughs more venal? That it would throw more of them into the hands of the peers? That it would add to the long list of placemen, pensioners, and grantees of any description? That it would embolden ministers to add to the number of foreign troops in the kingdom? That it would increase the number of contractors, defaulters, and peculators? That it would add to the embarrassment, vexation, distress, poverty, misery, and degradation of character, which, owing to the all-pervading system of taxation, are now so general in this once free and happy country. These are the points, upon which we feel. These are the points, as to which we call for the “established guards of the constitution in church and state.” And, if the bill in question affect us in none of these points, I trust, Gentlemen, none of you will be such miserable fools as to be misled by the hypocritical declamation of writers such as that whom I have just quoted.——He tells us, that the late ministers would have “repealed the Act of Supremacy and the Test Acts, as far as the army and navy were concerned.” Well, and what then! These are now of no avail whatever. They prevent the advancement of no man, in practice; and, even supposing the intended measure to have opened the door for promoting Roman Catholics, you must well know, that to promote any one, Protestant or Catholic, is the act of the King, and of the King alone; so that, all that this measure would have done, would be to enable the King to promote Roman Catholics if he chose, leaving him at perfect liberty to follow his own inclination upon the subject; in Edition: current; Page: [182] other words, it would have made that perfectly legal, which, in fact, is now done without the sanction of law, but with a general connivance. Whether this was attempting to “force the conscience of the King; whether this was an attempt to subvert “our holy religion;” whether this would have placed the “church in danger;” you will easily decide.——But, this writer is alarmed, lest persons that are not Christians should, by the means of such a measure, get into offices in the army; nay, he fears, that it might open the doors to persons of no religion at all; just as if men who are not Christians, or who have no religion at all, would be restrained from doing any thing by an oath taken upon the four books of the Gospel! What a miserable pretence! What shocking hypocrisy! The sincerity of this hireling writer is, indeed, rendered manifest enough by his stating, that by a dissolution of parliament, the King appeals to the great body of his subjects, just as if there were no such things as Treasury Boroughs; just as if there were no members sent into the Commons House through the influence of peers; just as if all was fair and free according to the spirit of the constitution and the letter of the law! What a villanous hypocrite! Conscience, indeed; and talk at this rate!——The Courier insists, however, that the cry of “no popery” shall be kept up; but, if the cry has no more success any where else than it has in Westminster, it will, I should think, be of little avail. He tells us, that we ought now to be afraid of popery because our ancestors of a hundred years ago were justly afraid of it; but, he well knows, that the circumstances are totally changed; he well knows, that there is no more reason to be afraid of popery now than there is to be afraid of witchcraft, which was once a subject of legal provision and punishment. In fact, the cry of “no popery,” and of “danger to the church,” upon this occasion, is a mere trick to delude the people, and to turn their attention to the real cause of the struggle between the late and present ministry, as is also the cry of “toleration,” on the other side. The former well knows, that popery is extinguished, and the latter knows, that, as to all practical purposes, toleration, with respect to the army and navy, is already complete. The intended measure was merely to answer a party purpose, and the opponents of the late ministers seized hold of it as the lucky means of ousting them from their places. Both sides clamorously appeal to the constitution, that word of various interpretations; each accuses the other of a violation of the constitution; and the design of both is, to draw the attention of the world from the selfish views, by which they are actuated.——The late ministers, however, finding that empty sounds are unavailing; finding that their cry is inferior in point of effect to that of their adversaries, betake themselves to something more likely to attract attention; and, accordingly their partisans assert in terms the most unqualified, that the real cause of the dissolution, at this time, is to be found in the documents which have been discovered by the Committee of Finance. No, says the Courier, “because the speech of the Lords Commissioners says, that the subjects before that committee will be taken up by the next parliament.” But, in the first place time will have been gained; secondly, the documents will have been for some months in the hands of the new ministers; thirdly, another committee, if appointed immediately upon the assembling of the new parliament, will not be able to make any considerable progress this year; fourthly, that committee will be composed of such persons as the majority of the House shall think proper; fifthly, I think, you will agree with me, that the majority Edition: current; Page: [183] of the House will be very like to agree with the new ministry; and sixthly, the natural conclusion is, that the committee will be differently composed, and that its reports will breathe quite a different language and different sentiments.——The Morning Post says, that the parliament is dissolved, in order that the new ministry may be relieved from the embarrassing power of the opposition, and that they may “carry on the affairs of the nation with ease and comfort to themselves.” This is fine talk! Yet, this is, in truth, the object of the dissolution; and, Gentlemen, only think of the state to which we must be reduced, when such a reason is publicly given in justification of a dissolution of parliament! Just as if the increase, thereby, of the minister’s majority was certain! Plainly telling us, that it is for the sake of having a parliament devoted to their will; and, at the same time, telling us, that an appeal is made “to the sense of the people.” Never was there, in the whole world, a people so grossly insulted, and, I must say it, never was there, generally speaking, a people, whose apathy, whose torpor, whose willing degradation, so richly deserved it.——But, to enable the new ministers to carry on the affairs of the nation “with ease and comfort to themselves,” what need was there of a dissolution of parliament, seeing that, in the space of ten days only, the new ministers, who, before they were in place, could obtain only about seventy votes, had obtained much more than one half of the votes of the whole house, having a majority of forty-six. This fact, which cannot be denied, would lead one to conclude, that there must have been some other reason for the dissolution than merely that of obtaining a secure majority. Yet do the partisans of the Whig ministry stoutly deny, that the real object was the one alleged by the Morning Chronicle, who has been answered by his rival, the Courier, in an article which I shall insert, not only as it contains the justification of the measure, but as it contains also what there is to be urged in justification of Mr. Rose, and of the supposed defaulter.

Whenever a faction cry out against any particular measure, we may take it for granted they do not so much feel or fear that it will be detrimental to the country, as that it will be destructive of their own factious views. Such is the feeling of ‘all the talents’ with respect to the dissolution of parliament; they know that this appeal to the people cannot possibly be of the slightest injury to the rights and liberties of the people, but they know that it will be in the highest degree injurious to their own prospects and projects—they feel that the voice of the people is every where against them, and they dread looking their constituents in the face—they are trying, therefore, by every artifice to mislead the public mind; and though the people have been solemnly assured from the throne, that ‘his Majesty is anxious to recur to the sense of his people while the events which have recently taken place are yet fresh in their recollection,’ they are attempting to persuade them that his Majesty feels no such anxiety, but that parliament was dissolved to protect peculators and defaulters. Upon this subject we have some facts to state.—And first we must notice the following paragraph, contained in an article in the Morning Chronicle——‘We are happy however in being able to relate, in addition to the above circumstances (the truth of which we challenge any man to deny), that the report of the committee of finance states in substance that a sum of 19,800l. had been applied by a late paymaster of the forces to his own use; and that this fact came to the knowledge of his colleague the right honourable George Rose, who did not give any directions to the clerks on the subject.’——A respectable morning paper commenting on the above paragraph says, ‘This charge is of too serious a nature to permit the gentleman, whose character is thus aspersed, to be satisfied with a refutation in a newspaper: we are authorized to assert, that it will be made a matter of legal investigation, if it shall be found to be cognizable in a court of law. In the mean time, it is Edition: current; Page: [184] thought right to state, that the facts, as applicable to Mr. Rose, are utterly false. Mr. Rose was never the colleague of the paymaster of the forces alluded to in that situation. The transaction in question he never heard a syllable about till after he had retired from the duties of that office; when (after reproving the clerk whose duty it was to have made the communication while he was in office) he gave the advice that appeared to him to be proper on the occasion. These circumstances will be found in the minutes of the committee; how far they agree with what it is alleged is in the report of the committee, may hereafter be a subject of inquiry.’——Upon Mr. Pitt’s return to the administration in 1804, the person alluded to was removed from the Pay-Office, and Mr. Rose was appointed to succeed him—during the whole time he was there he had no intercourse whatever with the person, on account of the coldness naturally arising from the separation of Mr. Pitt (to whom Mr. Rose continued attached) from Mr. Addington—but Mr. Rose never heard a syllable on the subject alluded to till he had actually retired from the Pay-Office.——Even then, when the communication was made to him, after he had so withdrawn, no criminality appeared in the transaction, though it was apparent there was great irregularity in it. If it be now known that the money was received for private purposes, that discovery must have been made by recent investigation. When the communication was made to Mr. Rose he gave the best advice he could.——Orders he could not give—which advice was to the proper officer to call on the person in question for an explanation of the matter, and to that person to make an immediate communication of the whole transaction to Lord Grenville and the then Paymaster General.——The transaction was officially known to the late Treasury, and was repeatedly under their consideration. They gave directions for the repayment of the money at certain periods, without imputing any offence to the person concerned—no censure was expressed—no application to Parliament was made—no inquiry of any sort instituted on the subject, TILL THE LATE MINISTERS WERE OUT OF OFFICE. And then an attempt is made to criminate a gentleman who never heard the remotest allusion to the subject while he was in office.——Such is the case, the truth of which we challenge any man to deny—and such are the particulars as they appear in the minutes of the committee.——If there be any other improper transactions discovered, can they be suppressed by the dissolution of parliament? Will they not be produced upon the assembling of the new one with redoubled force and effect? The discovery now alluded to, was not made by the committee—the transaction had, as we have already shown, been the subject of proceedings in the Treasury—the minutes of which board on the subject it is hoped will be called for, and the whole matter fully investigated when parliament meets. We shall then see, when the honest indignation of the late ministers was first excited respecting it, and whether there was the same anxiety and eagerness to inform the country about it while they were in office, as when parliament was about to be dissolved.”

Aye, that is the rub. It was not until they were out of office; it was not until this engine was wanted for party purposes, that is to say, purposes connected with place and profit, that the Whigs thought of saying a word about the matter in public. We now find, that they had been long acquainted with the facts; that they had had the matter officially before them; and, so close did they keep it, so anxious were they to prevent its reaching the ears of the profane vulgar, that, not even a rumour of it found its way to the world, until they were out of place. Whether the fact was known to Mr. Rose when he was Paymaster, or not until after he quitted the office; whether it be at all probable that he could be in the office for a year and a half without becoming acquainted with it: how it came to pass, that he should be informed of it after he was out of office; why, as a member of parliament, as one of the guardians of the public purse, he did not happen to make it the subject of inquiry in the House; and, what were the motives whence the exposure was reserved for this late hour: these are questions, which it might take some little consideration to answer; but, this we know, that, on the one side, it is asserted, Edition: current; Page: [185] that a sum of nineteen thousand pounds of the public money has been embezzled by a paymaster of the forces; that is, on both sides, agreed, that this fact has been well known, for a considerable time, to several members of parliament; and we also know, that, until a great and mortal conflict of party arose, not one of those members, not one, no, not one of “the guardians of our purse,” said publicly a word upon the subject. With their quarrels we have little to do. With the means that they employ to assail one another, or to shield themselves, or their adherents, we need not much trouble ourselves; but, amongst them, the fact was well known, and, amongst them it was kept closely disguised, until it was brought forth by a contest for place and profit.——Here it is; in this fact, and in facts resembling this it is, that consists the strength of the new ministry, as opposed to the Whigs. There was a time, when a cry about Jacobinism, or danger to the church, would have had great weight. But those cries have seen their day pass, every man’s attention being now turned to the abuses in the expenditure of the public money; and, when he takes time to reflect, he finds that the Whigs, while in office, did really nothing at all in the way of correcting those enormous abuses. To this simple view men confine their attentions. In vain would Mr. Whitbread, whose address to his late constituents I shall take care to insert, endeavour to excite a friendly feeling towards the late ministry by dwelling, with weighty emphasis, upon the Scotch Judicature Bill and the abolition of the slave trade and the new plan of finance. The latter now appears to be a mere bubble, and, as to the former two, there is not a reflecting man in the kingdom that cares one straw about them. To his statement respecting the Report of the Committee of Finance, which was, as he tells us, just about to be made, when the tap at the door put an end to all further deliberation, we should have listened with great attention; but, the moment we hear of the circumstance of the report being suppressed by the dissolution, we ask, “Why was it not presented before?” To which question it is impossible for him to give a plain and honest answer, without stating for motive that which would instantly draw from us an expression of total indifference as to which party shall obtain the preponderance. Had the late ministers, I mean the Whigs, acted up to those professions, by which they gained your confidence; had they not appointed boards upon boards of Commissioners, at an enormous expense to the country, but brought subjects of peculation and default at once before that House which ought to be the real guardians of the public money; had they even encouraged others so to do; and had they proceeded to punish peculators and defaulters; then, indeed, would they have had the people with them. Then might they have laughed at the base hypocrisy of those, who are now running them down with a cry of no popery; and, indeed, that hypocritical trick never would have been thought of. But, the reverse they chose for a line of conduct. Under a show of investigation, they were sedulously employed in forming schemes for the effectual protection of peculators; and, as in the case of Mr. Paull and Mr. Robson, the whole force of their influence was employed to prevent others from doing that which they themselves were resolved not to do. Many are the peculators that have been talked of; but, where have we an account of any one sum that the Whigs caused to be refunded? Where is the single delinquent, whom they caused to be pilloried or imprisoned? These are the questions that men ask of the Whigs, and these questions they cannot truly answer without depriving themselves of all ground Edition: current; Page: [186] whereon to claim a preference before their rivals, who, if they do no more than their predecessors, in the way of reformation, can, assuredly, not do less. And this, I repeat it, is the sole point, upon which men’s attention is now earnestly fixed. Of the affairs of the Continent; of conquests in South America, and of means of defence at home, they have not leisure to think. The reading of tax-papers, and the providing for the incessant demands of the tax-gatherer, take up all their time. Their present grievous burdens are the only subject upon which they can be expected to think; and, while they feel these burdens, they know that enormous peculations remain unpunished; they see no hope of preventing them for the future; and they feel as men must feel under such circumstances. The last three years have brought to light most important truths relating to the public expenditure and to the representation in parliament. These truths must, and will, have their effect in due time; but, until then, it is perfectly useless to endeavour to fix the general attention upon any other object.——Now, Gentlemen, let us hear Mr. Whitbread, our old friend at Westminster. His address to the electors of the borough of Bedford contains some useful matter. It is good to hear it from him, and quite proper that we should remember it.

“The King’s ministers have rashly advised His Majesty to dissolve the Parliament which was first assembled for the dispatch of business on the 15th of December last; its duration has been short, but its career has been memorable.—The assiduity with which all public business has been dispatched is without precedent. The works which it has performed, and those in which it was engaged at the moment of its dissolution, will be recorded to its honour. In consequence of judicious arrangements, the election petitions, which have usually occupied the time and attention of the House of Commons during two or three years, would all have been decided in the course of one session. After wars so protracted and expensive, as you know those in which we are unhappily engaged to have been, a plan of finance was devised and adopted, notwithstanding the opposition of the persons now in power, adequate to the exigencies of the state, without imposing any fresh burdens upon the people. A committee was appointed to control and reduce the public expenditure, and to diminish the amount of salaries. A bill was brought in under the sanction of that committee for prohibiting the grant of places in reversion. A plan for the reformation and bettering the condition of the labouring class of society was under consideration. Measures for the improvement of the courts of justice in Scotland were in progress through the House of Lords. The slave trade, after a struggle of 20 hours, was abolished.—At the moment the Commons were precipitately summoned to attend His Majesty’s commission for the prorogation of the Parliament, preparatory to its dissolution, there was actually at their bar a special report from the committee above-mentioned, stating the discovery of some gross abuses in the department of the paymaster-general, which was thereby stopped. The bill to prohibit the grant of places in reversion is lost. More than a hundred private bills carried to advanced stages, at great expense to the parties in them, drop, and the improvement of the country is impeded. At the same moment the Scotch judges were in attendance in the House of Lords, with their answers to certain questions relative to the administration of justice in Scotland, for which purpose they had been expressly called to London, to the interruption of the ordinary duties of their important offices. The usual act of appropriation of the funds voted by Parliament has not been passed.—Under these circumstances the King has been advised to dissolve the Parliament, and in the speech delivered by the Lord Chancellor in his Majesty’s name, the assertion is made, that no material interruption in the public business will take place. In that speech satisfaction is expressed at the adoption of those financial measures, which exempt the people from the burden of additional taxes, but which the King’s present ministers would have persuaded the House of Commons to reject, and the completion of which is prevented by their conduct. It is professed to inculcate a spirit of union, harmony, and good will amongst all classes and descriptions of the people, Edition: current; Page: [187] when at the same time the only appearances of discord have been excited, by the attempt of one of his Majesty’s ministers to sow the seeds of religious animosity in the neighbouring county of Northampton, upon a ground which his colleagues have not avowed, and against his principles, in that particular, many of them have been heretofore solemnly pledged. In a situation so alarming, and when the councils of the King are guided by such persons, I have thought it necessary to make this exposition to you, my earliest, best, and constant friends; I have treated with freedom the acts of government and the speech delivered by the Lord Chancellor in the King’s name, because I abhor and deny the position lately urged in parliament, and to which (as it appears to me) countenance is given in the terms of that speech, that the King can ever act without an adviser; if that position be admitted, the people may be without redress, or the sovereign without security—by the constitution both are impossible.——Of my own conduct during the important interval which has elapsed since I last addressed you, I say nothing, because it has been so public that it cannot have escaped your notice. I court your inquiry, and if you are satisfied in the result of it, I hope for your votes at the present election. If you do me the honour again to return me, I shall indeed be proud of it, and I will again endeavour to do my duty.—I have the honour to be, gentlemen, with every sentiment of attachment and respect, your grateful and obedient servant, Samuel Whitbread.

Yes, this may have been as foul play as Mr. Whitbread pleases; there may have been manœuvring and jockying enough. All may have been as he would wish us to perceive it; but, I defy him to show, that he and his party have been so foully dealt by, as he and his party have dealt by you and Mr. Paull; and, if I had been at his elbow, when he was setting down the deeds of the short parliament, I should certainly have requested him not to omit the unanimous vote for reprimanding Mr. Paull, whose only crime was, that of denying a charge falsely, and to his face, alleged against him. I rejoice that that parliament is dissolved. That act alone deserved a death somewhat more than political. One of the members of it rises and charges a person, who stood as a petitioner at the bar, with having repeatedly gone out to communicate with and prompt the witnesses; the petitioner, who had never stirred from the bar, feeling as any man of truth and of spirit must feel, speaks in his own defence and denies the charge. Upon this, Lord Howick, the minister, moves that he be punished by a reprimand, and some of the members even propose that he shall be sent to prison. One member, however, Mr. Whitbread himself, asserts that the petitioner, on whom he has had his eye constantly fixed, has never moved from the bar, therein flatly contradicting the assertion of the accusing member, Sir Watkin Wynne. “That is no matter,” says Lord Howick, “I still say reprimand him, reprimand him,” after the manner of the Jews, when they importuned Pontius Pilate; and reprimanded he was. Such a proceeding would have become an assembly of Bashaws. I rejoice that it no longer exists. I rejoice that I have an opportunity of speaking my mind of it. “But, its successor . . . . . . . . . . . . . .” No matter. I care not for that. It is a satisfaction to me to see my oppressors humbled; and, in every human breast, this is a feeling perfectly natural and justifiable.——There is, too, Gentlemen, another consideration, and that is, that the Whigs were only beginning. My Lord Howick was merely making a commencement in his career of authority; and, with a parliament ready to support him; or, rather, ready to let him do what he pleased, in a case like that above referred to, would he not have been, if possible, ten thousand times more arrogant than Pitt, whose character and conduct he so often eulogized, and whose example he so strictly followed? One of the first acts of the Edition: current; Page: [188] Whigs was to prevent the trial of Lord Melville to be published in the newspapers, or in any shape except in one monopolized book, by which means the public have never been made acquainted with the evidence given. And now they complain, that Lord Melville has supplanted them. How justly are they punished! This act was also a beginning with the press. What they would have done, if they had subdued the King, we may easily guess; and, in short, when we consider what they did, and what they left undone, it is impossible not to rejoice, that both they and their parliament are politically dead.——Mr. Whitbread, Gentlemen, talks about “the constitution;” and, it would be strange indeed if he did not; for when have you heard a stickler for party who had not the word everlastingly in his mouth? But, though Mr. Whitbread can complain of the Speech as unconstitutional; though he can see something very dangerous to the constitution in the King’s changing his ministers without a responsible adviser; though he can see this, which I cannot see, he thought it, I suppose, perfectly constitutional to set on foot that famous Subscription, which was raised for the purposes of depriving you of the use of your elective franchise; and when Mr. Whitbread again complains of the hypocrisy of his opponents, remind him, I pray you, of his speech at the last of Mr. Sheridan’s election dinners, where he congratulated the company on their triumph, which, he said, was so much the more agreeable to him that it had been achieved without any undue influence; when, at the same time, he had been the great author of that Subscription, which has been brought to light by the Committee, and to which subscription alone, and the nefarious means that it enabled our enemies to resort to, the triumph of Mr. Sheridan was to be ascribed. Mr. Whitbread well knew, that, if your free voices had been heard, Mr. Paull would have been the member. This he knew. This he cannot deny; and, he cannot deny, that he had the principal hand in stifling that voice. Let him now himself complain of foul play, till his lungs are exhausted. Let him now cry out against unconstitutional dealing, till he be weary. What care you or I for his complaints? Us, and all the people, who are not subservient to his views, he would deprive of every benefit of the constitution. Except as the tools of himself and his party, he would not, if he could have his will, suffer us to exist. Let him complain to those who received his subscription money. Let those degraded wretches condole with him. From us he merits, on this occasion, nothing but contempt.——Another reason, too, for my rejoicing at the death of the late parliament, is, that it affords those electors who have yet any part of their franchise remaining, and especially you, an opportunity of choosing men in whom you ought to confide, and that one of those men ought to be Mr. Paull the whole nation is convinced. Much had he done when you before gave him your votes; but, what he has since done entitles him to your gratitude in a degree not to be expressed. You would have had, on the last occasion, no election, had it not been for him; and, had it not been for his exertions, for his unparalleled exertions and sacrifices since, you never would have had another. His firmness and perseverance, his devotion to the public cause, have prevented your city from becoming a close borough. It is from pure fear of him that those who before attempted to monopolize you have decamped. That you have, practically speaking, any voice at all to give, you owe solely to him, and, therefore, not to support him, upon the present occasion, would argue a degree of depravity, which I should be loath to ascribe to any part of my countrymen, Edition: current; Page: [189] and particularly to you. With Catholic bills, or ministerial pledges, or royal consciences, you have nothing to do. You want, in the House of Commons, a member, who, in spite of seduction and of threats, will set about the pursuit of public robbers, and who will never desist, until he has brought them to punishment. This is the man you want, and this man you have in Mr. Paull. Of the several millions of men, of whom this nation consists, there is, perhaps, scarcely one other, who, under all the embarrassments and dangers that he has had to encounter, would have done what Mr. Paull has done for the maintaining of his rights, and your rights still more than his own. It is not so rare to find persons of talent as of firmness, industry, and perseverance; and all these great public virtues are possessed by Mr. Paull in the highest degree. Two such men might do a great deal, even in the House of Commons; but, one man, if you cannot obtain two, may do much, particularly in the way of bringing to light useful facts, such facts as must, in time, produce their due effect. But, I freely confess to you, that, if, upon this great occasion, you fail in the performance of your duty, all your complaints, like those of Mr. Whitbread, will be a subject of ridicule rather than of compassion. You should remember, that the question with you now is, not whether you shall have a real representative in the next parliament; but, whether you shall ever have another real representative as long as the present mode of choosing members of parliament shall exist. It is a contest for your franchises; and, if you neglect to exert yourselves, of those franchises you ought to be deprived. These are not times for flattery. In the series of letters, which I have done myself the honour to address to you, I have, first or last, though in a manner somewhat irregular, laid before you the whole of the state of the country, in a way not easily misunderstood. You must see what is the cause of all our calamities; you must perceive, that it is in your power to aid in removing that cause; and, if you fail to afford that aid, you may still complain, but you will find no one to pity. In the anxious hope, that you will not be found wanting upon this great and trying occasion, I remain, with those sentiments of respect and admiration, which your conduct at the last election was so well calculated to inspire,

Your faithful friend and obedient servant,
Wm. Cobbett.
William Cobbett
Cobbett, William
7th May, 1807


A Borough.—A Gentleman of fortune and respectability will hear of one, by immediately applying to Mr. Prince, Bookseller, Old North-street, Red Lion Square.”

Morning Post, 1st May, 1807.

Seat in a Certain Assembly.—Any Gentleman having the Disposal of a Close One, may apply to Mr. Francis, Stationer, Cross-street, Hatton-garden.”

Morning Post, 2nd May, 1807.

Patronage.—Wanted, by a Gentleman of high honour and character, a respectable Official Situation, in England (either a Sinecure, or one which does Edition: current; Page: [190] not require constant attendance), for which an adequate compensation will be given, according to the annual produce. The most satisfactory reference will be given and required, previous to any treaty being entered into. Apply by letter (post paid) to A. B. at Mr. O. Turner’s, law-stationer, Chancery-lane.”

Morning Chronicle, 30th April, 1807.

“Wanted to Purchase the next Presentation to a living from 300l. to 500l. per annum, with the prospect of an early vacancy. Address, post paid, to A. B. Strawbridge and Tyler’s, 78, Warren-street, Fitzroy-square.”

Morning Chronicle, 30th April, 1807.

I have long been afraid of wearying you with my unasked-for observations and advice; but, though I do not see, that under the present circumstances, any thing that I can say is at all likely to produce any immediate effect upon your conduct, or, at least, any effect that can be of conspicuous utility to the public cause, I cannot refrain from addressing to you this one letter, first upon a topic or two of a more general nature, connected with the elections now going forward, and next upon the subject of your own election.

One of these topics is the recent exposure with regard to a great defalcation in the Army-Pay-Office, to prevent the publication of the report relating to which the partisans of the late ministry represent as one of the principal causes of the dissolution of parliament. Indeed, those ministers themselves so represent it; for we find the representation distinctly made in the address of Lord Howick to his constituents, the freeholders of Northumberland. Mr. Whitbread says the same in his address, and so does Mr. Herbert. In my last letter some observations were made upon this subject; but, since the publication of that letter, an elaborate defence of Mr. Rose, as having been made acquainted with the defalcation, has appeared in the Courier newspaper, which defence is, apparently, written either by Mr. Rose himself, or by some person nearly as much interested in the matter as he is, and on which, after inserting it, as I now am about to do, I shall have to beseech your attention to a few short remarks.

“The facts stated to the Committee of Finance by Mr. Rose, were, that on the 10th of February 1806 (some days after he had actually retired from the Pay-Office), three of the senior clerks called upon him at his house, respecting some matters that had passed in the office in his time, and to thank him for marks of attention, &c.; and that on their going out of the room, one of them (not the accountant, whose duty it was to have made the disclosure) turned about, and said that a circumstance of an extraordinary nature had occurred in the time of his predecessors; that MR. STEELE had in 1798, and 1800, applied two sums amounting to 19,000l. or thereabouts, out of the cash in the hands of the Pay-Master General, on giving his own receipt for the same, without any authority from the Treasury or the War-Office; at which statement Mr. Rose expressed great surprise, and, to the accountant, some resentment at the communication having been delayed till he was out of office, when he could apply no possible remedy; observing that the transaction was upon the face of it, at least a most irregular one; but that from his long knowledge of Mr. Steele, he was persuaded that he would be able to explain it, so as to acquit himself of having done any thing more than taking upon himself a serious responsibility; that he probably had vouchers in his possession; but that in any event it had been his (the accountant’s) duty to remind Mr. Steele of the transaction on his quitting office in 1804, in order that, if it had not been satisfactorily explained, he might then have stated it to Mr. Rose and his colleague, on their appointment; to which the accountant answered, he had called two or three times at Mr. Steele’s door, without finding him; which conduct appeared to render the conduct of the accountant less excusable, because if he thought it necessary to see Mr. Steele on the subject, he certainly should have apprized him of his Edition: current; Page: [191] wish to do so to ensure his meeting with him. Mr. Rose therefore desired him to write to Mr. Steele to render his seeing him certain, and to let Mr. Rose know on his return from Buckden, whether any interposition of his with Mr. Steele would be necessary.——Lord Temple has stated that Mr. Rose declined even to give advice to the accountant on the subject. On the 11th of February Mr. Rose went to Buckden, and returned the 19th; on the 20th the accountant called on him and told him he had seen Mr. Steele, who said generally that the sums before mentioned were received by him for army services of a secret nature. The accountant’s statement of his interview with Mr. Steele was so little satisfactory to Mr. Rose, that the latter went to Mr. Steele on the morning of the 21st, from whom he could obtain no clear explanation of the business; Mr. Steele said Mr. Rose must excuse his entering into particulars at present, as he did not feel himself at liberty to do so; that the advances were made to a person or persons for services of a secret nature; that the whole would be repaid, but that he could not at the moment fix the precise time, acknowledging that he had no warrant or other authority whatever for the issue. Mr. Rose then observed to him, that under such circumstances he (Mr. Steele) should see Lord Grenville or the present Paymaster-General, and explain so much of the transaction as should satisfy them; the whole of it certainly if they should think it necessary; adding that it was beyond all comparison better he should do that in the first instance as from himself, than wait to give an explanation when he should be called upon to do so; stating too, that as the matter had been spoken of publicly in the office, it would soon become a topic in a wide circle; that this appeared to be the more important, as the precedent would show to future paymasters-general the possibility of their taking money placed in the Bank on the account of the public for their own private accommodation at any time, when they should find themselves under a pressing urgency to do so, which was plainly against the spirit of the Pay-Office Act.——Instead, therefore, of the indifference imputed to Mr. Rose on the subject, the whole of this communication with the Accountant and Mr. Steele, shows his anxiety about it. But he could not reconcile to himself to become AN INFORMER out of office, against a man universally beloved, with whom he had no private intercourse whatever from political differences.——Not content with this verbal communication with Mr. Steele, Mr. Rose, in the afternoon of the same day, wrote to Mr. Steele, repeating what he had urged to him in the morning; and added, that however he might be justified in taking such responsibility upon himself by the exigency of the case, it was not desirable that a paymaster-general should have the power of applying money in his hands, at his own will, without any authority whatever, &c. &c. &c.; and then went on to say that his (Mr. Steele’s) making the communication he recommended, would remove the difficulty he (Mr. Rose) was under, of giving the accountant advice out of office: which he (the accountant) ought not to have called upon him (Mr. Rose) to do then, never having even alluded to the matter till after his retirement from it.——To which letter on the 23rd, Mr. Steele answered, he would certainly follow the advice given, and take an early opportunity of communicating to Lord Grenville the circumstances which related to the issue of the two sums in question; and that Mr. Rose might therefore, if he thought proper, apprize the accountant of that intention.——On the 14th of February, Mr. Rose wrote two letters from Buckden, to the accountant, on the subject. And after his return to town, he wrote to the accountant on the 24th, to acquaint him with the assurance he had from Mr. Steele of his intended communication with Lord Grenville, and concluded with telling him, that as no communication whatever was made to him (Mr. Rose) while he was in office, he did not think he could then with propriety give any further advice on the subject; and Mr. Rose hearing at the time no further mention of it from any quarter, FELT A CONVICTION, that a SATISFACTORY explanation had been given by Mr. Steele to Lord Grenville, relative to the services for which the sums were received by him; and the matter was completely discharged from his mind, till on the 9th of last February he received an official letter from Lord Temple dated the 7th, stating he had discovered the two issues having been made without any authority, and that as he found the circumstance was communicated to him some days before Mr. Rose resigned the paymastership, desired he would refer him to the documents in the office, in which he might find any minute or memorandum of it. It now appears by the Treasury minutes, that Lord Temple made the disclosure to that board Edition: current; Page: [192] the 31st of January: this attempt to implicate Mr. Rose must therefore have been an afterthought. To which Mr. Rose instantly answered, that the circumstance alluded to was not communicated to him till after he had quitted the Pay-Office; he could therefore make no minute, nor give any direction upon it; about which, as there were three gentlemen present at the time when the communication was made, any possibility of a mistake was precluded.—It now appears that so early as on the 31st of January last, and the 4th and 6th of February, Lord Temple acquainted Lord Grenville with the discovery made to him of the issue of the two sums, and that in consequence thereof, a minute of the treasury board was made on the 10th, calling upon Mr. Steele to pay the said sum, the first having been previously paid; and that other minutes were made on the 26th of February and 19th of March on the same business, in no one of which does there appear to be the slightest imputation of any thing tending to criminality in the transaction, no censure, no rebuke; nothing but directions about the repayment. The Lords of the Treasury, therefore, tacitly sanctioned what had been done by Mr. Steele, so far, at least, as not blaming his conduct. And yet a charge is attempted to be sustained against Mr. Rose, for not informing of it when out of office, by endeavouring to prove he was informed of it when in the public service. He had however positively retired from his employment several days before the 10th of February, 1806, and went on the 11th to Buckden for a week. The King’s appointment of his successors (it is found on inquiry) was not signed till the 13th, but of that he knew nothing till within the last fortnight; and the time when the cash at the bank was transferred to his successor, he was ignorant of till he saw it in the Morning Chronicle last week. It was therein stated not to have taken place till the 24th of February; it might not have been done till the 1st of May, for any thing Mr. Rose knew; he was not a party to it.——These are the circumstances of the case as it affects Mr. Rose. If he had at the time foreseen the attempt that would be made to implicate him in the transaction, he could hardly have acted with more caution and circumspection on a disclosure of a business which, as stated by the Accountant of the Pay Office (when reproved by Mr. Rose) had nothing criminal in it: Mr. Steele’s statement too led to a belief, that he had taken on himself a most severe responsibility, but to no suspicion of any thing beyond that. The charge against government for dissolving parliament to prevent the investigation of the whole matter by the committee of finance, hardly deserves serious refutation. What particular inducement had the present ministers to protect Mr. Steele? When the occurrence took place, Lord Grenville, Lord Spencer, and Mr. Windham, were in the cabinet; few of the present ministers were. Mr. Steele adhered to Mr. Addington after his separation from Mr. Pitt; and the latter, when he returned to the administration, removed Mr. Steele from his office. How then, it may be asked, does any thing done by Mr. Steele affect the present Ministers? The entire separation of Mr. Rose from him would have made it a very painful task for Mr. Rose to have become AN INFORMER against him when he no longer had a duty imposed on him to put himself in that situation.”

Now, Gentlemen, stripping this statement of all its quibbling and shuffling, the facts, as acknowledged by this defender of Mr. Rose, are these: 1st, that Mr. Rose was, on the 10th of February 1806, he being still paymaster-general, made officially acquainted with an embezzlement of his predecessor, Mr. Steele (Pitt’s favourite, “Tommy Steele”), to the amount of 19,000 pounds of the public money; 2nd, that Mr. Rose, then, and all the while since a member of the House of Commons, did not make any report of such embezzlement to the succeeding paymaster, nor any minute of it in the records of the office, nor any motion respecting it in the House of Commons; 3rd, that the embezzlement was discovered by Lord Temple, one of the succeeding paymasters-general, in January last; and, 4th, that the facts, having been communicated by Lord Temple to a committee of the late House of Commons, that committee was about to present a report upon the subject, when the Gentleman Usher of the Black Rod, the moment the reading of prayers was over, and before the House could possibly proceed to business, brought a summons Edition: current; Page: [193] for the House to proceed to the House of Peers, where they heard a speech, which, at once, put an end to the report, the committee and the parliament.——In Mr. Rose’s defence, it is by the above writer alleged, that he was out of office at the time when he received information upon the subject. This allegation however he is obliged to retract, for, it appears, that the new paymaster was not appointed, that is to say, did not enter upon the exercise of his functions, until the 24th of February, whereas it is expressly acknowledged, that the information was given to Mr. Rose on the 10th of that month. “Yes,” says this defender, “but Mr. Rose did not know that. He looked upon himself as being out of office on the 10th,” and as a proof of this, he states that Mr. Rose “went off to Buckden on the 11th.”——Gentlemen, what a sorry shuffle is this! Not know that his official duties had not expired! Not know the time, not know the day and the hour, when duties expired, for the performance of which duties he received, out of our hard-strained purses, 4,000 pounds a year! This fact, if true, would tend to show us, with what degree of care and diligence such offices are executed. He “went off to Buckden.” But, why did he go off to Buckden, and that, too, observe, the very next day? Why did he run out of the way the moment he had heard of so important a matter? He thought he was out of office, though he has received the salary for that office up to the 24th of the month, I dare engage. Yes, he might possibly think so: but, in such a case, it appears to me, that any man, worthy of such a place of trust, and so situated, would have wished to be able to probe the matter to the bottom, and to expose the embezzlement; and, that wish would naturally have led to an inquiry as to his official power of acting. Such a man would have said, “Let me see: my power as paymaster still remains; no successor has been actually appointed; I am yet able to bring this embezzler forth before I leave the office, or, at least, to put the facts upon record, so that my successor may be enabled to proceed upon the business, and to cause justice to be done to the public without delay.” What man, worthy of high public trust, would not thus have thought, and have acted accordingly? When we complain of the enormous salaries that we are compelled to pay to men in such offices, and allege, that their labours are nothing at all, we are reminded of the great responsibility, the dreadful load of care, which, for our good, they take upon themselves; but, how has this been proved in the instance before us? Mr. Rose makes no discovery of the embezzlement, though he is two years in the office, and receives 8,000 pounds from us; and, when the discovery is made to him, he does not take the pains to ascertain whether he be still paymaster, or not, but goes off to the country as fast as post horses can get along.—Nor, were we to admit of this miserable shuffle, that he did not know that he was still in office, would that admission at all diminish the blame imputable to him, if the facts, above stated by his defender, be correct; for, in the first place, it was his duty, his bounden duty, to have gone immediately to his successor, instead of going to Buckden, and to inform him of the facts, which had come to his knowledge. “My power, as paymaster,” he would have said, “has expired; I am unable, officially, to make any record of this embezzlement; but, I am come to enable you to obtain, without delay, justice for that injured people, from whom I and my family have received so much money, that it would be ingratitude black as hell in me, were I, for one moment, to wink at any frauds committed upon them, burdened and oppressed as they Edition: current; Page: [194] already are.” But, in lieu of this, which I trust would have been the conduct of either of you, Gentlemen, had you been in Mr. Rose’s place, what does he do? He sets off instantly for Buckden, whence however he writes upon the subject; but, not to his successor in office, not to the Lords Commissioners of the Treasury; no, nor to any person or persons having power to obtain justice for the public, but to Mr. Tommy Steele himself! To this person alone he confines his communications upon the subject; and, upon Steele’s telling him; that he would explain the matter to Lord Grenville, he, we are told, becomes, “without hearing any thing more of the matter, CONVINCED that a satisfactory explanation has been given to Lord Grenville!” A satisfactory explanation of the withdrawing of 19,000 pounds of the public money from the service of the public, in direct violation of the law! God Almighty! Was there ever a nation so pillaged and so insulted as this! And is it indeed for the honour of fattening, with the sweat of our brow and the straining of our sinews, Tommy Steele and his like, that we are to “spend our last shilling, and shed the last drop of our blood?”——Supposing, merely for the argument’s sake, that the being out of the office, or, rather, the mere thinking that he was out of the office, and supposing, to strain the hypothesis to the utmost, that such was the real thought of Mr. Rose; supposing all this, what sort of apology would the like of this be, if viewed in a moral or even legal light, and compared with the maxims and practice of men in the common concerns of life? If I know that my neighbour’s servant has purloined his cash or his plate, and do not make the fact known to my neighbour, I am manifestly chargeable with moral guilt, and, if my connivance be discovered and proved, the law deems me an accessary after the fact, and justly punishes me accordingly. And, if this be so in the case of an embezzlement, committed upon my neighbour, what is the judgment that ought to be awarded against me, if I am guilty of similar connivance, in the case of an embezzlement of the property of my master; my generous and confiding master, from whose means I have grown rich, and whose purse is to me still a source of riches? Nay, further, if I am, too, still one of “the guardians of this master’s purse,” and have solemnly pledged myself to execute that trust with fidelity and diligence? Could either of you, Gentlemen, had you been a member of the House of Commons, have remained in that post from the 10th of February 1806, until the end of April 1807, without making any motion relative to the transaction in question, had it come to your knowledge? I trust not; and, had there been upon Mr. Rose no other responsibility than merely that of a member of parliament, that alone demanded, on his part, an immediate exposure of the transaction.——By way of palliation, as to motive, it is stated, by the defender of Mr. Rose, that he was, at the time when the discovery was made to him, not in habits of intimacy with Steele, and that they had been separated by the separation of Mr. Addington from Mr. Pitt, to the former of whom Steele adhered, while Mr. Rose remained in adherence to Mr. Pitt. But, Gentlemen, a very slight effort of the memory will enable us to set a proper value upon this statement. Mr. Rose was not so separated from the friends of Mr. Addington as to be prevented from joining with them and with Mr. Addington himself, in December 1804, after the first separation took place; nor has his attachment to Mr. Pitt prevented him from now embracing the Duke of Portland, who remained, like Steele, separated from Pitt, till the day of the death of the latter. Separated! No, Gentlemen, such Edition: current; Page: [195] men are never separated as far as concerns transactions like that of which we are speaking. They may find it convenient, now-and-then, to affect being separated, and, sometimes, they may have their quarrels for place and emolument; but, as towards us, they are always firmly united, and are always found ready to stand by each other.——Denying that the dissolution of parliament had, for one of its objects, the protection of Steele, the writer, above quoted, asks, “What particular inducement had the present ministers to protect Mr. Steele?” No particular inducement, perhaps, but, I can easily suppose a general inducement, and that it was powerful with them I have no doubt. As to the circumstance of Lords Grenville and Spencer and Mr. Windham being in the cabinet, at the time when the embezzlement took place, namely, in 1798 and in 1800, that is a most foul insinuation against those gentlemen, because it is well known, that the two former were in offices not at all connected with the disbursement of the public money, and, it is, by this writer, declared, that the 19,000 pounds were withdrawn without the knowledge of the secretary at war, and Mr. Windham was that secretary at war. They were all, indeed, in the cabinet, but, we have seen that Pitt, being first Lord of the Treasury, could lend, of the public money, without interest, 40,000 pounds to Boyd and Benfield, two of his then majority in parliament, without consulting the cabinet, without ever making the fact known to any member thereof, without making any minute of it; and, has any body ever dreamed of making the cabinet responsible for that violation of the law? But, Gentlemen, though it is pretty certain, that Lords Grenville and Spencer and Mr. Windham were not privy to the embezzlement, it is by no means certain that some other persons, and those, perhaps, now in place, were not privy to it; this is by no means certain; and, therefore, it is not at all difficult to conceive a powerful motive for endeavouring to stifle the inquiry, which, as in the case of Lord Melville, would, in all likelihood, have led to further exposure, and would have implicated many persons, who naturally enough prefer the signal of “No Popery” to “No Peculation.” Whether, however, the stifling of this inquiry was, or was not, a principal motive for dissolving the parliament, will soon become evident, when the new parliament has met. If the committee of finance be renewed, and composed of the same persons as nearly as possible as the last committee was composed of, then I shall be ready to allow, that the stifling of the inquiry was not a principal object of the dissolution; but, if the committee be not renewed, or, being renewed, be not so composed, I shall be convinced that to stifle the inquiry was a principal object in making what Mr. Canning calls “an appeal to the people.”——Our writer again reminds the public, that the late ministers had been in possession of the facts relating to Steele’s embezzlement for several months previous to the time when they were bringing those facts out to light, and he infers, that they would never have brought them out, had they remained in place. This I believe; and this, Gentlemen, conveys a strong censure on the late ministers; but, it does not alter the case with respect to Mr. Rose or any of his party. It implicates two ministries instead of one in the charge of connivance; but, it lessens the blame due to neither, while it aggravates the grievance of the suffering people.——Were I to judge from the language of the defender of Mr. Rose, I should certainly anticipate a resolute endeavour, on the part of the new ministry, to stifle the inquiry in question. He calls the act of Steele an irregularity; he says that Mr. Edition: current; Page: [196] Rose saw nothing criminal in it; he talks of his being justified in taking so serious a responsibility upon himself; he talks of his having done nothing more than taking upon himself a responsibility; and he calls him a gentleman universally beloved! This is pretty language; pretty cant! The robber upon the highway only takes upon himself a severe responsibility. The murderer does no more. But, they are both hanged, if caught. Let us hope, at any rate, that we shall be favoured with the name of “the person to whom the money was given for secret services.” Let us hope, too (though that, perhaps, is too much to hope), that we shall know the nature of the services. But, Gentlemen, how infamously impudent it is to talk of services in such a case! What services could possibly be furthered by the misapplication of this money? What else than an injury to the country could possibly be effected by the employment of 19,000 pounds of its money for purposes that dared not be avowed, and that have been kept secret from 1798 to the present day?——When we see such things brought to light, what must we think of the magnitude of the peculations that remain hidden? Oh, that the day were arrived, when the whole mystery of iniquity shall be developed! In that day, when it comes, and come it will; in that day, when, to use the words of Sir Francis Burdett, “corruption shall have destroyed corruption,” we shall clearly see how we have been beggared, what has produced the income-tax, and what all the enormous burdens we bear; but, until that day comes, expect no good, I pray you, except in the way of exposure, from any human being, and much less from the apostate Whigs, who, while the prospect of long enjoyment of place lay before them, extolled the character and conduct of Pitt, and walked in all his footsteps, but particularly in those which tended to the screening of peculators, many of whom they saw clearly detected, but not one of whom did they punish, or cause to disgorge his plunder.

Another topic, which I wish to address you upon, is the election in general, of which, however, after your reading of the advertisements, which I have taken for my motto, it will be useless to say much. And this, Gentlemen, is what they call “an appeal to the people!” This is the mighty blessing, which, we are told, the world envy us! From one corner of the kingdom to the other corruption extends his baleful, his serpent-hatching wings. Can this last? Ought it to last? Of what avail is it that the miscreants engaged in this infamous traffic call us jacobins and levellers? Will any one of them say, that this ought to be? Has any one of them the ingenuity to find out any thing, even in imagination, worse than this? Politicians may endeavour to alarm us with cries of revolution, and divines may preach to us about hell; but, if the one can find any thing more disgraceful, or the other any thing more damnable, than what is described in these advertisements, I beseech them speedily to exhibit it to our view. Fifty-seven of these advertisements have I read in the London daily papers; and, I defy any man living to produce me, in the history of the whole world, any thing so completely descriptive of national degradation. Well may Mr. Fawkes say, in his address to his late constituents of the county or York, that a seat in parliament, which he once regarded as the height of laudable ambition, he now views in quite a different light; and, the only wonder is, that he should have been till now in the dark upon the subject. Again I call upon our accusers, upon those, who, for hire, denominate us jacobins and levellers, and who cry aloud for the preservation of the constitution, to say, whether the Edition: current; Page: [197] constitution sanctions these things. If it does, what an infamous imposture it is! and, if it does not, it is we, and not our revilers, who are endeavouring to support the constitution of England. Aye, it is we who would restore and support the constitution; the real constitution; that constitution which so strictly forbids the buying or the selling of a single vote, much more a seat in parliament; that constitution which inhibits peers from any sort of interference in elections, and that supposes it impossible that any peer should, in any way, send a member to the Commons’ House; that constitution, in short, which forbids, in the strongest terms, and under severe penalties, every one of the abuses, of which we complain; and yet have the hireling revilers the audacity to reproach us with a wish to overturn the constitution! In such a state the country cannot long remain. No country has ever long remained in such a state. Those who have an evident interest in perpetuating abuses of all sorts, may endeavour to terrify the people with the consequences of what is called a revolution; and, from a revolution, in the usual sense of the word, as applied to politics, God preserve us! but a change, and a great change too, must come, and come it will, in one way or another, and that at no distant day.

I should here make some remarks upon the baseness of those, who have, at a time like this, set up a cry of “No Popery.” Mr. Perceval may be, and for the honour of human nature, I hope he is, sincere in his alarms upon this score; but, as to the rest of the ministry, if they have had any hand in setting up this cry, while, at the same time, it is well known that they approved of the measures contemplated by Pitt, they must be the very basest of all mankind. I am inclined to expect, or to hope, little good from them; but, really, to impute such baseness to them, without positive proof, I cannot. Of all sins that of political hypocrisy excites the greatest degree of public hatred; and, if it should appear, that it is they who, while they have not dared to avow it openly, have thus set to work the mercenaries of the press and the pulpit, they will see the day when a terrible vengeance will fall upon their heads. On this subject, I refer you to the excellent Letter of Lord Grenville, contained in the Register of May 9, 1807, reserving my remarks upon it for another opportunity, but availing myself of this opportunity just to remind his Lordship, that there are other Societies besides Corresponding Societies capable of carrying on the work of “sedition,” and that, the trick of “no Popery,” in 1807, is very little, if any, worse, or more base, than the trick of “chartered rights,” in 1784. His Lordship seems to have been paid off in his own coin, or, perhaps, in the coin of his admired Pitt; but, the unhappy Whigs, have, owing to their own cupidity in the last instance, been overreached in both cases.

Now, as to your own election, Gentlemen, it will, perhaps, be too late to offer you any thing in the way of advice; but, I cannot refrain from thus publicly expressing my deep regret, that Mr. Paull is no longer in a state to be thought of as your representative, and more particularly that the cause of his incapacity should also have endangered his life; a life, which, from the time that I had the honour first to know him, I knew to have been ardently and disinterestedly devoted to the public. His conduct, in some instances, may have been precipitate, rash, violent; but, these are faults not of the worst stamp, and they are greatly overbalanced by his public virtues. Of those virtues, the exercise of which I have witnessed, I am sorry the country will now be deprived; but, in the consciousness Edition: current; Page: [198] of possessing them, he will, I hope, find more than a sufficient consolation for any disappointment that he may, at present, have experienced. Mr. Paull was first known to me through the means of Mr. Windham, in June 1805. From that time to the close of the last Westminster election, I was privy to all his public proceedings, and, I think, to all his motives; and, I am convinced, that all those proceedings flowed from a desire to render good to his country. He withstood temptations such as no other man, that I know of, ever withstood. There is nothing, in reason, that he might not have possessed, in the way of what is called honour, and what really is profit, if he would have desisted from the performance of what he regarded as his public duty. This I know; for this I honour him; for this I shall always rejoice at his good fortune, and mourn whatever of bad shall befal him.——Sir Francis Burdett I have, from the time of the second Middlesex election, regarded as the fittest man to represent you, an opinion to which Mr. Paull is no stranger, and, I am persuaded, that the latter would, at any time, have resigned all pretensions in favour of the former. That you will, at this late hour, succeed in electing Sir Francis Burdett, he being absent too, I can hardly expect, though I most anxiously hope it; for, until his principles, which are the real principles of the constitution, prevail, neither happiness nor liberty, nor one moment’s safety from without, will this our harassed and distracted country enjoy.——With respect to Lord Cochrane, excepting solely his being an officer appointed by, and liable, at any hour, to be promoted or cashiered by the King, or rather, his ministers, to him I have no objection; but, on the contrary, I have the highest opinion both of his head and his heart. He has a solid understanding, has much of the right sort of study, reflects deeply, is sober, industrious, politically brave, is proof against the blandishments of courts and of factions, hates sycophants, place-hunters, peculators, and oppressors of every description; and, if he should be elected, by you especially, I venture to predict that he will zealously discharge his trust. That your choice may fall upon him and Sir Francis Burdett is my anxious wish, and, let what will be the result of your present arduous endeavours, be assured, that for all and for every man of you a sincere respect will ever be entertained by

Your faithful friend, and obedient servant,
Wm. Cobbett.
William Cobbett
Cobbett, William
14th May, 1807
Spencer Perceval
Perceval, Spencer


  • “That elections of members to serve in parliament ought to be free.”
  • Bill of Rights.

Upon theAppeal to the People,theObligations under which the Crown is held,and upon theDanger to the Church.


As the series of letters, of which this is the first, may, probably, extend to a considerable length, I think it right to say, by way of preface, a few words, as to the light, in which I view the person, to whom Edition: current; Page: [199] they are, or will be addressed. As far as relates to private character, which always ought to be duly considered when we are estimating the worth of public men, I can, of course, possess no other knowledge of you than that which has reached me from mere report; but, it is generally believed, that, as to all the concerns and relationships of private life, it would be difficult to find a better man than yourself; and, in this belief, I sincerely join. As to public concerns, as there requires but very little more, in a minister (for you are now the minister) of this country, than strict honesty, a clear understanding, common powers of convincing others, industry such as is necessary in common life, love of country, and resolution to do that which the constitution demands, I should have no doubt of your being fit for the situation, were I not afraid, that the lures of ambition and your want of intrinsic political weight, may possibly drag you along, step by step, in the paths wherein your predecessors, for twenty-three years past, have invariably trodden. That you would not voluntarily join in those deeds of corruption, which are such a disgrace to the government and the country, and which have, at last, brought the latter to the brink of ruin, political as well as pecuniary, I believe; but, when a man has once staked his fortune upon the maintenance of any principle or any party, and particularly if he has persuaded himself that to maintain the same is for the public good, he is very apt to yield to the solicitations of those by whom he is surrounded, and, when the necessity occurs, to regard the end as sanctifying the means. I do not believe, that, for the love of the thing, you would wish to see your country bent down under an inexorable tyranny, but, I may think, and I do think, that you are too much of the opinion, that fear, and not love, is the principle by which we are to be governed, and, of course, that your reliance, for the maintenance of the governing powers, is much more upon coercive than persuasive means. I believe, that (self-interest out of the question), you are extremely anxious for the preservation of the independence of your country; but I may fear, and I do fear, that, in the struggle for preserving your power, the means of effecting this greatest of all public objects will be frequently overlooked, or neglected. Having thus, Sir, frankly stated my sincere opinion of you, give me leave to add, that, as to myself, however erroneous any of my notions may be, there is not, in the whole kingdom, a man who would go farther than I would go to aid in the preservation of the throne, as established by the constitution of our country; that I wish for no innovation, and that I hold in abhorrence every species of popular outrage; but that, at the same time, it is with a heart-burning hardly to be described, that I see myself, or any of my countrymen, deprived, no matter how, of any of those liberties, which our forefathers enjoyed. To me it appears evident, that a dreadful storm is gathering over our country. The elements, which have been for years collecting, seem now to be upon the eve of producing their combined effect. Of precisely what nature this effect may be, no man can tell; who amongst us may survive it, it would be presumptuous even to guess; and, therefore, I am anxious, that, when the war of faction shall have been drowned in the terrific contests, of which it is the mere forerunner, it shall, by some one or other, be said of me, that if my voice had been heard in time, the calamities of England would have been prevented.

With this motive, principally, it is, that I now address you upon two or three important subjects connected with the dissolution of parliament; Edition: current; Page: [200] and first upon the “appeal,” which is said to have now been made to the people.——The Lords Commissioners, in the speech, which they recently delivered to both Houses in the King’s name, and by his express command, state, “that his Majesty is anxious to recur to the sense of the people, while the events, which have recently taken place, are yet fresh in their recollection;” and, that “his Majesty feels, that, in resorting to this measure, he at once demonstrates, in the most unequivocal manner, his own conscientious persuasion of the rectitude of those motives upon which he has acted; and affords to his people the best opportunity of testifying their determination to support him in every exercise of the prerogatives of his crown, which is conformable to the sacred obligations under which they are held, and conducive to the welfare of the kingdom, and to the security of the constitution.” Here, Sir, are two positions clearly implied; first, that the wishes of the people are, or ought to be, consulted in the passing of laws; and, second, that there are certain obligations, or conditions, under which the prerogatives of the crown are held. Of the latter I shall speak hereafter, when I have inquired how far the measure here spoken of can, with truth, be called “a recurrence,” or appeal, “to the sense of the people.

It will not be denied, that, in this way, at least, the sense of the people can be expressed only in their free and unbiassed votes for members to serve in the next parliament; for, as to any mere popular cry, that never can be considered as a mark of their opinion, and, indeed, it is well known, that no appeal of that sort can be in such a manner made. In order, therefore, to form an accurate opinion upon the point, whether to dissolve the parliament, and to call a new one, be, in reality, to appeal to the sense of the people, we must endeavour to ascertain what number of the new members will be, or, indeed, can be, returned by the unfettered will, the unbiassed votes of the people, or, more properly speaking, of that now small proportion of the people, who have nominally the right of voting at elections for members of parliament. Mr. Pitt, in a speech, made on the 7th of May, 1782, in the House of Commons, in support of a motion, made by himself for reforming that House, gave the following description of the then state of the representation:—“It is perfectly understood, that there are some boroughs absolutely governed by the Treasury, and others totally possessed by them. It requires no experience to say, that such boroughs have no one quality of representation in them; they have no share nor substance in the general interests of the country; and they have in fact no stake for which to appoint their guardians in the popular assembly. The influence of the Treasury in some boroughs is contested, not by the electors of those boroughs, but by some one or other powerful man, who assumes or pretends to an hereditary property of what ought only to be the rights and privileges of the electors. There are hardly any men in the borough who have a right to vote, and they are the subjects and slaves of the person who claims the property of the borough, and who, in fact, makes the return. Another set of boroughs and towns, in the lofty possession of English freedom, claims to themselves the right of bringing their votes to market. They have no other market, no other property, and no other stake in the country, than the price which they procure for their votes.”——Was this a true description, Sir, or was it a false one? And when, in the same speech, Mr. Pitt represented Edition: current; Page: [201] the House of Commons as “the mere tool of the ministers of the day,” was he guilty of factious falsehood; or, did he utter the sentiments of a man, as yet uncorrupted, as yet feeling for the liberties and honour of the country, as yet unaccustomed to disguise the truth? If, however, he did, upon this occasion, speak the truth, how can a dissolution of the parliament be, with sincerity, called an appeal to the sense of the people?

I shall be told, perhaps, that Mr. Pitt afterwards changed his opinion. With regard to the subject of his motion, with regard to the necessity of a reform, he might change his opinion; but, with regard to the state of the representation, the nullity of the people’s voice; upon that we can admit of no change; without throwing upon him a charge of wilful falsehood. He spoke of facts, upon which he had full information, and, either he asserted what was false, or the state of the representation was what he described it; and this, indeed, he never did, as far as I recollect, ever attempt to deny. When steps were taken, at a subsequent period, by other persons, some in parliament and some out of parliament, to effect the object of his motion of 1782, he did, indeed, revile the movers as Jacobins, Levellers, and Traitors; he asserted, that the time was unfit for a reform; and he had recourse to all his means of terrifying the nation with the prospect of a bloody revolution; but, though backed as he was, he never did, that I could discover, make any recantation as to the facts, which he had stated at the before-mentioned period, when he used his exertions out of parliament, as well as in parliament, for effecting a reform, upon which subject I must beg your permission to enlarge a little; for it is quite proper, that the people of England should remember the deeds of a man, whose debts they have been obliged to pay, and for the rearing of a monument to the memory of whom they are now to be taxed. It will not soon be forgotten, that, in 1794, a state prosecution, Mr. Pitt being then minister, was carried on by the then attorney-general, who is now lord chancellor, against Mr. Horne Tooke and others, who belonged to what was called the London Corresponding Society. The charge was that of high treason, death was, of course, the meditated punishment. Yet, Sir, it clearly appeared, that the acts, and the views as far as could be proved, of this society, were exactly similar to those of a society formed in 1782, to which society Mr. Pitt himself belonged, and in which society he co-operated with this very Mr. Horne Tooke. When, upon this memorable trial for high treason, Mr. Pitt was called upon to say what passed in 1782, his recollection, as in the case of the money lent to Boyd and Benfield, appeared to be remarkably imperfect. He did, however, not deny his own hand-writing when it was shown to him; and, when the fact had been proved by others, he did acknowledge, that, at the period referred to, he joined in recommending, that an appeal should be made to the people, and their sense collected, by parishes, or smaller districts, with a view of effecting a reform in the House of Commons. The attorney-general, by a cross-examination, gave Mr. Pitt an opportunity of saying, that he never approved of any “affitiated societies;” but, that there was no essential difference between the proceedings of the Corresponding Society and those without which the sense of the people in their parishes, or smaller districts, was to be collected, must, I think, appear evident to every unprejudiced mind. All the difference that could possibly be discovered was in the times; and this must have been matter of opinion. Mr. Pitt might think, that what was “absolutely necessary to the safety of the nation,” when he was out of office, in 1782, would Edition: current; Page: [202] have been dangerous to the nation, when he was in office in 1794; but, Mr. Tooke and his associates might think the contrary; they might still retain their former opinions upon the subject; and, surely, to endeavour to give effect to those opinions was not, by any body, and least of all by Mr. Pitt, to be imputed to them as a crime worthy of death? To the length of this digression I will only add a remark, that Mr. Wilberforce was, in 1782, and about that time, one of the most zealous amongst those who sought a reform in the representation, as will appear more fully, when, upon a future occasion, I shall take an opportunity of referring to the papers of Mr. Wyvill and others, who united their exertions to those of Mr. Wilberforce and Mr. Pitt.

The political party opposed to Mr. Pitt, and, as we have seen, opposed to him merely as the possessor of that power and those emoluments which they wished to possess, have, at various times, given us their opinion upon the state of the representation, a reform in which they have constantly represented as a measure, without the adoption of which, no combination of talents, or events, could possibly produce any real and permanent benefit to the country. Of their abandonment of their principles; of their remaining a year in power without any attempt to effect this great purpose; of their language, which all along implied, that no reform, of the sort we are speaking of, was necessary; of the doctrine of their avowed advocates, who have asserted, that, for the House of Commons to be really independent of the crown is mere theory, and not at all conformable to the practice of the constitution in its healthful state; of their proceedings, during the election of 1806, specimens of which have been brought to light in the cases of Westminster and Hampshire: of these it is quite unnecessary for me to say any thing more than merely what is sufficient to call them to mind. Nor will I make a particular reference to any of their opinions relative to the necessity of a reform in the House of Commons. I will confine myself to the statement of facts, upon which they grounded their motions for a reform, which statement was, it was understood, drawn up by Mr. Erskine and Mr. Grey, which they offered to prove at the bar of the House, and which was expressed in the following words: “That seventy-one peers and the Treasury nominated seventy members of the House of Commons and procured the return of seventy-seven; that ninety-one commoners nominated eighty-two, and procured the return of fifty-seven: so that, together, one hundred and sixty-two persons returned three hundred and six of the members. Besides which, twenty-eight members were returned by compromises, and seventeen boroughs, not containing one hundred and fifty voters each, returned twenty-one members; those members together making a majority of one hundred and ninety-seven votes in the House.”

Now, Sir, whether the introduction of a hundred Irish members, the patronage of many of the boroughs they are returned for having been actually purchased by law, and with taxes raised upon the people; whether this alteration has produced an improvement in the state of the representation; whether an improvement has been produced by any other means; whether the open and public conversation about the proprietorship of boroughs; whether the numerous advertisements, for the sale and purchase of seats, which we daily read in the public prints, and for the publishing of which no man is ever called in question by the House of Commons, or by any body else; whether any or all of these amount to a Edition: current; Page: [203] sign of improvement in the representation, since the time, that Mr. Pitt and Lord Howick gave the descriptions that I have above faithfully quoted; and, indeed, whether their descriptions were true, or false; these are questions which I leave you, in your conscience, to answer. But, if those descriptions were true, and if no improvement in the state of the representation has taken place since those descriptions were given, I put it to your sincerity to say, whether, by dissolving a House of Commons and calling a new one, an appeal is really made “to the sense of the people.” I put it to your justice, whether men ought to be reviled, and punished, as traitors, or seditious libellers, because they are discontented under such a state of things; because they wish for, and seek, an improvement in the representation; because, in short, adhering to the principles of that constitution, for the sake of which they are called upon to shed their blood, they desire that a dissolution of the parliament should, to use the words of the Speech, be a “recurrence to the sense of the people,” And, I put it to your reason, whether the upholding of such a state of things, and whether such revilings and punishings, be the likely means of calling forth the zeal of the people, if need shall be, in defence of the government?

I am aware, that there are those, who hold the opinion, that the less weight the people have, the better it is; but, Sir, this is a question, which is totally set aside by the Speech, which you and your colleagues have advised the King to order to be made upon this occasion; for in that speech, as was before observed, you declare, in as clear a manner as possible, that, “the sense of the people” ought not only to have some weight in the passing of laws, but in regulating the conduct of the King and his servants; you challenge, therefore, an inquiry, as to whether the dissolution of the House of Commons and the calling of a new one, be really an appeal to the free and unbiassed voice of the people; and, if the result of that inquiry be a decided and incontrovertible negative to the proposition, it will remain for you, in some still moment of your life, to ask yourself how we ought to qualify the professions contained in the Speech.

The second topic upon which I think it useful, at this time, to address you, is suggested by that part of the Speech, wherein the King, by the advice, of course, of you and your colleagues, speaks of the “obligations under which the prerogatives of the crown are held;” that is to say, under which the crown itself is held; for, take away the prerogatives, and the crown is a thing to be estimated by the physical weight, and the nature of the materials, of which it is composed. And here, Sir, believe me, when I say, that I am one of those, who would by no means wish to see diminished any of the justly exercised prerogatives of the King. Boling-broke observes, and with great truth, that the real liberty of the people is in as much less danger from prerogative than from influence, as an open assailant is less dangerous than a secret assassin. When the kings of England exerted frequently, and boldly, their different prerogatives, we see that they were sometimes guilty of acts of injustice, and even of tyranny; but, we see also, that they had to deal with a boldly resisting House of Commons, and the final consequence invariably was, the asserting and establishing of the rights of the people. The Whigs, after they obtained a complete mastery over the King and the kingdom, introduced a new system, of which system, alas! we now feel the effects.

Of the obligations, under which the crown is held, we have, in varying Edition: current; Page: [204] phraseology, heard much, from different descriptions of men, since the agitation of the question respecting the Catholics. The course of reasoning with all of them is this: “That the placing of the crown upon the heads of His Majesty’s illustrious family was, at the time, and has been and will be, in its consequences, the greatest of national blessings; that the only principles which produced that inestimable blessing were, the maintenance of the predominance of the Church of England, as by law established and the preventing of every thing tending to re-exalt the Roman Catholic Church; that Lord Howick’s bill would have tended to re-exalt the Roman Catholic Church, and would thereby have sapped the predominance of the Church of England; and, therefore, that Lord Howick’s bill was contrary to the principles, which placed the crown upon the heads of His Majesty’s illustrious family;” a conclusion perfectly correct, and indeed self-evident, if we admit the premises; but, except as far as is contained in the first proposition (with which I presume not to meddle), all those premises I think that even I am able to disprove. But, before I proceed farther, let me put in my protest against the imputation of having, now that the ministers are out of place, become a supporter of them, and that, too, as some persons might say, merely because they are opposed to the servants of the King, who, in the modern style, are called the government. I am not, and never shall be, a supporter either of them or their bill. To support the one, indeed, is to attack the other; for they withdrew the bill, and therein pronounced a condemnation, either of the bill or of themselves. I have, for the reasons which I have more than once stated, always regarded the bill as likely to produce, neither immediately nor remotely, any harm or any good. I rejoice, for the reasons that I have before stated, that your predecessors were turned out of office; but, it by no means follows, that I am to join in a cry, which, apparently, for no other purpose than that of public delusion, has been set up against the measure which was the cause, or pretended cause, of their dismission. Them I accused (the Whigs, I mean) of public delusion; and, from whatever quarter it may come, my hatred of the thing is always the same.

Coming now to the proposed discussion, who that was a stranger to our laws and history, would not, upon hearing the language of the Speech, and of the divers addresses to the King, recently delivered, imagine, that when the crown of this kingdom was transferred from the Stuarts to the Guelphs, the sole condition with the latter was, that they should suffer no relaxation in the then-existing laws relating to the Roman Catholics? To hear these addresses, and, indeed, to hear the language of all those that opposed the late ministry, or that intend to support the present ministry, who would not suppose, that the revolution in the reign of James II. was produced by a dispute about religion solely; and, that the crown was transferred to the present family merely for the sake of preventing the return of papal power or influence? Yet, Sir, nothing can be further from the truth. Popish bigotry was only a part, and a very small part, of the objections which the people of England had to that king, who was a wilful, obstinate tyrant, without the cunning, which some tyrants, of more inveterate baseness, have, to disguise their rapacity and their cruelty. That he was a real bigot, and no hypocrite, there can be little doubt; and, the nation would have done well in getting rid of him, if he had had no other fault; for he was beginning to crowd his court and the country with greedy foreigners, under the name of priests, and, under Edition: current; Page: [205] whatever name they might come, they were, and in all cases must be, a grievous curse to any nation. But, that his crimes were not confined to tyranny in religious matters, will manifestly appear from the following list of them as recorded in that famous act of parliament, which was passed in the first year of the reign of William and Mary, and which is commonly called the Bill of Rights.

“Whereas the late King James the Second, by the Assistance of divers evil Counsellors, Judges, and Ministers employed by him, did endeavour to subvert and extirpate the Protestant Religion, and the Laws and Liberties of this Kingdom:

I. By assuming and exercising a Power of dispensing with and suspending of Laws, and the Execution of Laws, without Consent of Parliament.

II. By committing and prosecuting divers worthy Prelates, for humbly petitioning to be excused from concurring to the said assumed Power.

III. By issuing and causing to be executed a Commission under the Great Seal for erecting a Court, called, the Court of Commissioners for Ecclesiastical Causes.

IV. By Levying Money for and to the Use of the Crown, by Pretence of Prerogative for other Time and in other Manner, than the same was granted by Parliament.

V. By raising and keeping a Standing Army within this Kingdom in Time of Peace, without consent of Parliament, and quartering Soldiers contrary to Law.

VI. By causing several good Subjects, being Protestants, to be disarmed, at the same time when Papists were both armed and employed contrary to Law.


VIII. By Prosecutions in the Court of King’s Bench, for Matters and Causes cognizable only in Parliament; and by divers other arbitrary and illegal Courses.

IX. And whereas of late years, partial, corrupt, and unqualified persons, have been returned and served on Juries and Trials, and particularly divers Jurors in Trials for High Treason, which were not Freeholders.

X. And excessive Bail hath been required of Persons committed in criminal cases, to elude the Benefit of the Laws made for the Liberty of the Subjects.

XI. And excessive fines have been imposed; and illegal and cruel punishments have been inflicted.

XII. And several Grants and Promises made of Fines and Forfeitures, before any Conviction or Judgment against the Persons, upon whom the same were to be levied.

All which are utterly and directly contrary to the known Laws and Statutes and Freedom of this Realm.”

Such, Sir, were the crimes of James II. Whether, in any other reign, laws have been dispensed with, or suspended; whether, in any other reign, money have been levied, or expended (which is exactly the same thing) for other purposes than those for which it was granted; whether the freedom of elections of members to serve in parliament has, no matter how, been violated; whether there have been any packed juries, especially for the trial of those who were charged with crimes connected with politics; whether the laws for the protection of personal liberty have been eluded, and men kept in prison for years without any trial, from first to last; whether fines and forfeitures have been held out as inducements to every man to betray and to swear against his neighbour; whether these things have taken place in any other reign, I must leave you, who are, of course, better acquainted with such matters than I am, to say; but, I think, it must be allowed, that, when we see that they existed in the reign of James II., we need seek for no other cause of his being driven from his throne. That he was a bigot, and that the church, so soon after the days of Popery, Edition: current; Page: [206] were justly alarmed, is true; but, that his other crimes were of a much greater magnitude, we need only read the list of them to be satisfied. And, as to the declaration of rights, which follows the above list of crimes, not a single word does it contain upon the subject of religion.

I. That the pretended Power of suspending of Laws, or the Execution of Laws, by regal Authority, without consent of Parliament, is illegal.

II. That the pretended Power of dispensing with Laws, or the Execution of Laws, by regal Authority, as it hath been assumed and exercised of late, is illegal.

III. That the Commission for erecting the late Court of Commissioners for Ecclesiastical Causes, and all other Commissions and Courts of like Nature, are illegal and pernicious.

IV. That levying Money for or to the Use of the Crown, by Pretence of Prerogative, without Grant of Parliament, for longer Time, or in other Manner than the same is or shall be granted, is illegal.

V. That it is the Right of the Subjects to petition the King, and all Commitments and Prosecutions for such petitioning are illegal.

VI. That the raising or keeping a Standing Army within the Kingdom in time of Peace, unless it be with consent of Parliament, is against Law.

VII. That the Subjects which are Protestants, may have Arms for their Defence suitable to their Conditions, and as allowed by Law.

VIII. That Elections of Members of Parliament ought to be free.

IX. That the Freedom of Speech, and Debates or Proceedings in Parliament, ought not to be impeached or questioned in any Court or Place out of Parliament.

X. That excessive bail ought not to be required, nor excessive Fines imposed; nor cruel and unusual Punishments inflicted.

XI. That Jurors ought to be duly empannelled and returned, and Jurors which pass sentence upon Men in Trials for High Treason ought to be Freeholders.

XII. That all Grants and Promises of Fines and Forfeitures of particular Persons before Conviction are illegal and void.

XIII. And that for Redress of all Grievances, and for amending, strengthening, and preserving of the Laws, Parliaments ought to be held frequently.”

These, Sir, were the principles, which produced the revolution of 1668; and, though the maintenance of the Protestant established church makes a part of them, it is, as I said before, a very inconsiderable part.

The people of England saw, that, unless they overset the power of James II. they must become slaves, and, therefore, they drove him, and most justly, from the throne. Whether they acted wisely as to the appointing of his successor, is a question which I pretend not to discuss.

Out of these principles grew the Act of Settlement, as it is usually called, which was passed in the second year of the reign of William and Mary, and which was occasioned by the prospect of a total want of heirs to the crown from either Queen Mary or the Princess Anne, afterwards Queen Anne. By this act, which is entitled an act for limiting the crown, it was placed upon the heads of his Majesty’s family; and, let us see, therefore, what were the principles by which it was so placed, and what were the conditions, and “obligations,” to use the word of the Speech, under which it was to be held. Let us see if there was any obligation, either expressed or implied, that no relaxation should, thereafter, take place, under any circumstances whatever, in the laws and regulations relative to the Roman Catholics; but, first, let us fix well in our memory, that the act we are about to quote was, “an act for the further limitation of the crown, and better securing the rights and liberties of the subject,” saying, in its title at least, not a single word about either the Protestant or the Popish religion. This act, after providing, that the King, or Queen, in Edition: current; Page: [207] future, should take the coronation oath, as prescribed by a former act of parliament, of which oath I shall speak by-and-by, it proceeds to make the following further provisions for “securing the religion, laws, and liberties of the kingdom.”

“That whosoever shall hereafter come to the Possession of this Crown, shall join in Communion with the Church of England, as by Law established.

That in case the Crown and Imperial Dignity of this Realm shall hereafter come to any Person, not being a Native of this Kingdom of England, this Nation be not obliged to engage in any War for the defence of any dominions or territories which do not belong to the Crown of England, without the consent of Parliament.

That after the said Limitation shall take effect as aforesaid, no Person born out of the Kingdoms of England, Scotland, or Ireland, or the dominions thereunto belonging (although he be naturalised or made a denizen, except such as are born of English Parents), shall be capable to be of the Privy Council, or a Member of either House of Parliament, or to enjoy ANY OFFICE OR PLACE OF TRUST, EITHER CIVIL OR MILITARY, or to have any Grant of Lands, Tenements or Hereditaments from the Crown, to himself or to any other or others in Trust for him.


And whereas the Laws of England are the Birthright of the People thereof, all the Kings and Queens, who shall ascend the Throne of this Realm, ought to administer the Government of the same according to the said Laws, and all their Officers and Ministers ought to serve them respectively according to the same.”

These, Sir, were the principles which placed the crown upon the heads of his Majesty’s family; and here, and nowhere else, are we to look for the “obligations,” under which, as it is said in the Speech, the crown is held. It is true, that one of these obligations is, that the King shall join in communion with the church of England; but no obligation is there expressed; no obligation is there implied, that the King shall refuse his assent to any law for bettering the condition of his Roman Catholic subjects.——You will see, Sir, that I have distinguished certain parts of this quotation by italic characters; and I ask you, whether this nation has not been obliged to engage in wars for the defence of dominions which do not belong to the crown of England, without the previous consent (for any other consent is absurd) of even modern parliaments? I ask you, whether foreigners have not been suffered to fill offices of trust, and of emolument, civil and military? I ask you, whether no person who has an office or place of profit under the King, or receives a pension from the crown, is capable of serving as a member of the House of Commons? I shall be told, that this latter part of the provisions above quoted has been repealed by a subsequent act of parliament; but this only shows, that, unless the repeal was a most daring violation of the rights of the people, the repeal of no law relative to the Roman Catholics can be held as any very daring violation. If this, the far most important, in my opinion, of all the “obligations,” under which the crown was held, could be done away by an act of parliament, why could not any other of the obligations be done away by the same authority? There is, neither in the Act of Settlement, nor in any act of parliament now in existence, or that ever was in existence, no prohibition, no restriction whatever, with respect to a relaxation of the laws relative to Roman Catholics. Upon what ground, then, is it pretended, Sir, that Edition: current; Page: [208] the enabling of the King legally to promote Roman Catholics to certain ranks in the army and navy, would have been contrary to the “obligations,” under which his crown is held?

Thus, Sir, by doing little more than merely quoting from the great constitutional laws of the kingdom, I have, I think, clearly shown that the principles, “which placed the crown upon the heads of his Majesty’s illustrious family,” were not, as is assumed by the clerical and other addressers, solely those “of maintaining the predominance of the Church of England, and the preventing of every thing tending to re-exalt the Roman Catholic Church.” In my next, I shall endeavour to show, that Lord Howick’s bill would have had no such tendency as that which has been attributed to it, and which I have expressed in the succeeding proposition. This I should do now; but, the language and conduct of the Universities, and of some other bodies of the clergy in particular, together with what has been called, and, I must say, not improperly, “the miscreant cry of NO POPERY,” demand a more full exposure than, at present, I have room for.

I am, Sir,
Yours, &c. &c.
Wm. Cobbett.
William Cobbett
Cobbett, William
4th June, 1807
Spencer Perceval
Perceval, Spencer


A certain great assembly.— Fourteen Hundred Guineas per annum will be given for a Seat in the above Assembly.—Letters addressed to C. B., Turk’s Head Coffee-house, opposite Catherine-street, Strand, will be immediately attended to.”

——Morning Chronicle, May 21, 1807.

Before I proceed to an examination of the proposition, relating to the danger in which the Church of England would have been placed by the Catholic Bill, brought into the House of Commons by the late ministers, whom we may, I think, call the Pledging Ministry, I must beseech you to bear with me yet a little, while I make a few further remarks applicable to the question mooted in my former letter, namely, how far the late dissolution of parliament, or any dissolution of parliament, can, in the present state of the representation, be called “a recurrence to the sense of the people,” and, of course, what opinion we ought to entertain of the sincerity of those persons, who advised the use of this phrase, in the speech, delivered to both Houses by order of the King, on the day previous to the late dissolution.

I before reminded you of the advertisements, which we daily see in the public prints, offering to sell, or to purchase, seats in the House of Commons. As a motto to this letter, I have taken one of those advertisements; and, Sir, I again remind you, that, for the publishing of such, no man is ever punished, or in anywise called to account, though we are continually told of the great blessing which the people possess in the being able to send representatives to parliament, and, though we Edition: current; Page: [209] know, that there are several laws, made for the express professed purpose of preventing seats in parliament from being obtained by any other means than that of a free election, and also for the punishing of every person concerned in the procuring of such seats by the means of money.——Shall I be told, that the House of Commons is not named in these advertisements, and that there are many other great assemblies besides that House? Not by you, Sir. You, who know well the extent of the law of libel; you, who know, that inuendoes are quite upon a level, in such cases, with plain appellations and assertions; you, who know, that the meaning is to be left to the jury, enlightened by the directions of the judge, and that, if the meaning be libellous, the words are of no importance; by you, I am sure, that this miserable subterfuge will not be set up as a reason for forbearing to punish the publishers of such advertisements as the one above quoted. What, then, give me leave to ask, is the real cause, that such publishers are not punished, and are never reproved, but proceed with these their publications as coolly, and in as much safety, as if they were publishing advertisements relating to the sale of lands or merchandise? In other matters, apparently of trifling importance, we find the House of Commons extremely jealous of their authority and dignity. What, Sir, can be the reason, then, that, upon this point, they are so astonishingly lenient and careless?——“Fourteen hundred guineas a year for a seat in a certain great assembly!” Precisely what motive the tenderer might have, it would, perhaps, be difficult to discover; but, that his motive must be powerful, that a compensation was in his view, and that he expected that compensation out of the public purse, are positions, which, I am persuaded, no one will attempt to deny. Yet, Sir, by Blackstone and Paley, and still more roundly by that German sycophant, De Lolme, we are assured, that the House of Commons are the true representatives of the people, and the guardians of the public purse!——It is useless to rail against me, and others who think and speak as I do. Statements and reasoning, such as I have here made use of, are proof against all railing. They set all nick-names and all abuse at defiance. They must be answered, or they must produce conviction.

But, if the advertisement, which I have quoted above, and others resembling it, leave any thing wanting in the way of appellation, the same cannot be said of almost any one of the numerous party publications, which have appeared of late, relative to the return of members to parliament. The hireling prints, on both sides, seem to have thought it unnecessary any longer to attempt disguise upon the subject. Each has accused the opposite party of rendering that constitution, which both extol to the skies, a dead letter, or, which is much worse, a mere show, whereby to cheat the people. From the numerous articles of this description, which have been published in the daily papers, within the last month, the following one, entitled “A Hog or a Horse,” in the Courier newspaper of the 29th of May, seems to me to be worthy of selection; and, I think, that, a few years hence, it is likely to be regarded as a great curiosity.—

“On the 13th of April, the Morning Chronicle showed the small number of the constituents who send the chief members of the present ministry to parliament, and desired they might be contrasted with the extensive numbers of the constituents of the late ministry. Transitory triumph! Lord Howick did represent a populous county, it is true; but now, alas! he is obliged to sneak into the House of Commons as a representative for one of the most contemptible Edition: current; Page: [210] of boroughs. The right of voting in Appleby, is in the burgage-holds, one-half of which belongs to Lord Thanet, the other to Lord Lonsdale. These two noblemen make whom they please burgesses for the day of election, and deprive them of the privilege next day. The two Lords, by compromise, send each one member, and Lord Howick is of course to be Lord Thanet’s man. Hogsties being burgage freeholds in Appleby, have been purchased by the Thanet family at prices exceeding all belief, and the electors of this place sit down quietly to be represented by a Hog or a Horse, as the noble proprietors think most proper. What! Lord Howick the substitute of a hog or a horse! Mr. Windham, lately the proud representative of the populous county of Norfolk, finds it necessary to sneak in for a rotten borough, as the substitute also of a hog or a horse. Higham Ferrers is under the sole influence, and at the entire disposal, of Earl Fitzwilliam, who might of course send a hog or a horse to parliament for it, as well as Earl Thanet might for Appleby. Lord Henry Petty also represented a populous place, and had a very honourable seat as the successor of Mr. Pitt, at Cambridge. He too is forced to become the substitute of a hog or a horse, as one of the members for Launceston, where the electors are but twenty, and all at the nod of the Duke of Northumberland, who could send to parliament a hog or a horse for this borough, as well as the Earl of Thanet could for Appleby. These were the only three cabinet ministers of the late ministry who sat for populous places in the House of Commons. They are all turned out; and obliged to sneak in for rotten boroughs, which the owners could compel to elect hogs and horses as representatives. ‘All the talents’ reduced to the situation of hogs and horses! How degrading!——There is but one of the members of the late cabinet who resumes his seat in parliament, and that is Thomas Grenville, who represents Buckingham, a borough, in the close grasp of his brother the Marquis, and for which the electors are no more than thirteen. Of course it will not be disputed that the Marquis of Buckingham might send into the House of Commons a hog or a horse for this borough, as well as Lord Thanet might for Appleby.”

Such, Sir, is the language openly made use of; such are the assertions daily published; such is the description of the House of Commons, not only tolerated, but given with exultation by those, who, in other columns of the very same newspapers, prove themselves to be the devoted tools of one or the other of the two parties, who are contending for the powers and emoluments of the state. Much has, at different times, been said about the representation in parliament by Sir Francis Burdett and others, but, I defy even the indefatigable John Bowles to produce me, even from the records of the Corresponding Society, any thing so degrading to the House of Commons as what I have here quoted from the writings of a man, who is devoted to the ministry of the present day, and who, while he is thus writing in one column, represents, in another, Sir Francis Burdett as aiming at the total destruction of the constitution, because he, in language less degrading to the House of Commons, expresses his abhorrence of the means by which the members of that House are returned. Why, Sir, should his words leave such a sting, while those of the Courier produce no sensation at all, especially seeing, that the former is held in “contempt?” Is it because Sir Francis is notin the regiment?” Is it because the Courier is known to be hostile to the man merely, and that Sir Francis is as well known to be hostile to the thing? But, Sir, is this picture of the Courier true, or is it false? If false, why is not the seditious libeller punished? If true, why is Sir Francis Burdett abused? I know, Sir, that you are one of those, who have been amongst the loudest in condemning his language and his views. You were amongst those, who subscribed against him, in his election for Middlesex; and, we were informed in the public prints, that you gave, as a lawyer, you advice for the raising of that subscription. Now, then, Sir, I beseech you to lay aside all reviling terms, as of no use, Edition: current; Page: [211] and to answer me, in words which you would wish the world to hear and to remember; if the picture of the Courier be true, why is Sir Francis Burdett abused? To this question I should like much to obtain an answer; and, however the people may have been worn down, and even corrupted, you may be assured, Sir, that, until a satisfactory answer is given to it, the revilings of the hired press will be of little avail. This press, which speaks the thoughts of both the factions, is undivided in its abuse of him. The factions hate, good Lord! how mortally do they hate each other; but, though they agree upon no one other point; though, as to all other matters, whether great or small, they are in direct and unvarying opposition; though, as to every thing else, the approbation of one faction is synonymous with the disapprobation of the other; on this one subject they perfectly agree in sentiment, in language, and in motive. There are, indeed, some few other men, whom they both hated; but, for him their most pure and cordial rancour is preserved. If from his pen, or his lips, such a picture as that drawn by the Courier had proceeded, what an outcry, what a yell, what an infernal howl would the all-devouring wolves have raised! “Aye, but he is not actuated by fair party motives. He is not running the fair race. He is not for any division or compromise. He is not at war with the men merely, but with the accursed thing. He is in earnest when he complains of abuses, and calls for reform.” This is his sin. It is this for which the factions hate him, and for which the people love him. There need no pledges from him. He has never given any pledges. There is a confident reliance upon him, which nothing can shake. He is distinguished above all other men in the kingdom in this respect. He is reviled by villains, blamed by some honest men; some hate him, from the same cause that thieves hate a judge, some fear him from mistake or from weakness; but, amongst all those who speak respecting him, not one, the notorious hirelings excepted, is to be found who even pretends to suspect the purity of his motives. “It is reported,” says the hireling of the Morning Post, in his paper of the 30th instant; “it is reported, and happy shall we be to find the report confirmed, that the most respectable part of Sir Francis Burdett’s friends, not content with a private condemnation of his late infamous Address, now that he has so far removed the mask, mean to proceed to some public measure, either to induce him to disavow the sentiments to which he has been led to subscribe his name, or to require that he will vacate his seat, and give them an opportunity of electing another member, who, whatever his political attachments may be, is actuated by constitutional principles, and resolved to maintain that system to which we have been so long indebted for the blessings of freedom and security. Should such an expedient be resorted to, those who now find themselves so grossly deceived in the opinion which their unsuspecting nature led them to entertain of the principles of the pupil and creature of Horne Tooke, the friend of Arthur O’Connor, and the associate of Colonel Despard, may depend upon justice being done to their motives by the Morning Post. We wage war only against the enemies of the constitution, and those who, having discovered the cheat, which under the specious mask of patriotism, has been practised upon them, honestly acknowledge their error and renounce the mischievous impostor, will not only receive our warm approbation, but be entitled to our full and firmest support.”—I do not say, that this poor hireling might not have hoped to Edition: current; Page: [212] be able to inveigle some weak man into the infamy of being applauded by him; but, I assert, with full knowledge of the fact, that all those, to whom he here alludes as “the friends of Sir Francis Burdett,” laugh to scorn his miserable device, which in point of contemptibleness, is surpassed by nothing but the clamour of the well-dressed rabble, who read his columns, and who, for the far greater part, share with him, either directly or indirectly, in the public plunder. No, Sir, we, the people of England, feel that Sir Francis Burdett is our best friend. We participate in his principles, we rely on his talents and integrity, we approve of his declarations, we despise the circulators of the a-hundred-times refuted calumnies against him, and we look forward with renovated hope, to the day, when those calumnies will be drowned in the unanimous applause of a no longer besotted people. Indeed, to suppose that this will not be the case, would be to libel human nature; for is it not to set the people of England down for brutes, to suppose that they can approve of a system such as that described by the Courier? And, again I ask; if that description be not true; if seats in the House of Commons be not bought and sold, why are not these writers and publishers punished, by that law, which, as to matters of libel, is so watchful, so jealous, and so severe?

I now come to the proposed subject of my letter. I said, that I thought myself able to prove, “that Lord Howick’s bill, if passed into a law, would not have tended to re-exalt the Roman Catholic Church, and thereby sap the predominance of the Church of England;” and this I shall now endeavour to do. But, first of all, let me observe, that there is one question, very material in this discussion, which seems to have been entirely overlooked, namely, whether the sapping of the predominance of the Church of England would be a national evil. I, for my own part, should regret to see it sapped, and overthrown, because I am persuaded, that it might easily be restored to its former purity and utility; but, when we see in what manner its benefices are but too generally bestowed; when we look at the endless list of non-resident incumbents; when we see the fruits enjoyed by those of its ministers who perform none, or very little of the labour; when we compare the solemn promises of the incumbents with their subsequent practice; when we see more than half of the people, who frequent any place of worship at all, turning from the church to the meeting-house: when we see all this, we must not be very much surprised, if there should be found many persons, who entertain doubts, at least, upon the question above stated; and, therefore, previous to the clamour against Lord Howick’s bill, as tending to sap the predominance of the church, those doubts should have been removed.——Viewing the church establishment as connected with the political state of the country, it should, in like manner, have been previously shown, that this establishment has been, and is, conducive to the greatness of the nation, the permanence of the throne, and the freedom and happiness of the people. It should have been shown, that the several persons embodied under the church establishment, are more jealous of the national character, than a Roman Catholic Clergy would have been; we should have been referred to a time when the Roman Catholic clergy taught political doctrine more slavish than that which has been, and is, taught by the clergy of the present day; we should have been convinced, that, if the Romish church had been re-exalted, its priests would, in general, have exceeded our priests in political sycophancy and election jobbing; we should have been assured, that an instance, of which I myself was a witness, of a Edition: current; Page: [213] Doctor of Divinity offering for sale two seats in parliament, if not previously disposed of, as the price of some dignity in the church, is only a specimen of what we should have seen in gross under the re-exaltation of the Romish church; we should have been reminded of a time, when, under a Romish hierarchy, a state of parliamentary representation would have been justly described in something worse than the “Hog or Horse” article of the Courier; we should have been brought back to Romish times, and shown, that then men like Mr. Sheridan were members of parliament; something should have been said, some effort should have been made to prove to us, either from experience or from reason, that, under a Romish hierarchy, Englishmen would have experienced something more than the Income-tax, than the seven-years suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act, than the introduction of foreign troops, something more than what, for these twenty-three years past, they have experienced; it should, if possible, have been shown, that, at some time or other, when England was under a Roman Catholic church, England was in greater peril from without, or in greater misery within, than she is at this moment. All this, Sir, or some of it at least, should have been shown, previous to the raising of an outcry against Lord Howick’s bill, as a source of danger to the church; because, to put reasonable men on your side, it was necessary to convince them, that the thing, said to be in danger, was a thing the protecting and preserving of which was of some importance to the good of the nation.

Taking it for granted, however, that the church establishment, even as it now stands, with all its pluralities and absentees, is a thing worth contending for, I cannot see how that establishment could possibly have been affected by Lord Howick’s bill, if that bill had passed into a law. It is now matter of general notoriety, and it is matter of fact not to be denied, 1st, that in 1793, the power of granting commissions to Catholics, in the Irish army, was, by law, given to the King, and that this law was passed with the approbation of Mr. Pitt, and of almost the whole of those who are now in the ministry with you; 2nd, that, in 1801, Mr. Pitt and Mr. Dundas went out of office, being followed by Mr. Canning, Mr. Rose, and others now in the ministry with you, because the King would not consent to the bringing in of a bill, intended to give the Roman Catholics even seats in parliament, upon the bench, and in the privy council; 3rd, that in 1804, a law, brought in by Mr. Pitt, was passed, authorizing the King to raise regiments of Roman Catholic foreigners, to grant commissions to foreign Roman Catholic officers, to dispense with all oaths from them, except a simple oath of fidelity, and to quarter and station these regiments in the heart of our country; 4th, that all this the King had done without any act of parliament to sanction it, and that the act of 1804, was, in part, an act to indemnify those who had advised him so to do; 5th, that, at the time when this bill passed, every person now in the ministry was in power, and that you, as Attorney-General, must have examined, if not actually have drawn up, that bill. Greatly puzzled, therefore, must the world be to discover any thing in the bill of Lord Howick more dangerous to the church than what was contained in the bill actually passed with your and your present colleagues’ approbation. Am I told, that, to admit Roman Catholic foreigners was not dangerous, because they could have no connection, or community of interests, with the Roman Catholics, whether priests or laity, in this country? My answer is, that this distinction Edition: current; Page: [214] is done away by the act of 1793, which authorized the King to grant commissions to Roman Catholics serving in the Irish army; so that, if the acts of you and your colleagues were not hostile to the established church, it is impossible that the bill of Lord Howick could have been so.

But, waiving all argument drawn from the example of Pitt and of yourself, what did Lord Howick’s bill propose to do? To render it lawful for the King to grant, if he pleased, commissions to English and Irish Catholics, through the whole of the several ranks of the army and the navy, and to insure, by law, the free exercise of his worship, to every Roman Catholic soldier or sailor. It is, Sir, beyond my powers of penetration to discover any danger, even the most remote, that could, from such a law, have arisen to the church of England; and, especially when I take into view the well-known facts, that the King, without any such law, has long granted commissions to his Roman Catholic subjects, and that the Roman Catholic soldiers and sailors are, and long have been, freed from all restraint as to the exercise of their worship. Besides, suppose the bounds to have been extended by this law, it rested wholly with the King to appoint or not appoint, to promote or not promote, to cashier or not cashier, any, and every, Roman Catholic, either in the army or the navy; so that, if there was any danger at all in the extension, it must have consisted solely in the possibility of the King’s not being guided by wisdom in the choice and promotion of his officers. But, even in this case, where shall we look for the source of danger to the church? In what way could this bill, a bill intended merely to extend the operation of the King’s pleasure, as to promotions in the army and navy, or rather, to render the operation of that pleasure legal; in what way could such a law endanger the safety of the church establishment? It gave nothing to the Roman Catholic priests or bishops, either in authority, in name, or in money. It took nothing, either of power or emolument, from the church of England. It left both churches just as they were before; and, if the church of England has experienced any danger from it, or does experience any danger from it, it is that danger which a false and hypocritical clamour seldom fails, first or last, to bring down upon the heads of its inventors and promoters.

“What, then,” some one will say, “induced so many of the clergy of the church of England to send addresses against Lord Howick’s bill?” That, Sir, which induces the crowds, that beset Whitehall, to address letters to the minister of the day: a desire to obtain money for doing nothing. If the motive had been other than this; if any thing but the goal of preferment had been in view, the clergy would not have been so tardy in their opposition to the bill. If they had been animated by an anxiety for the preservation of the church, and had regarded the bill as dangerous to it, how came they not to petition the parliament the moment the bill was brought in? They never thought of any such thing. They let the bill go quietly on; nor was it until the bill had been withdrawn, that they began to issue their godly fulminations against it. Nay, Sir, even this was not enough to overcome their propensity to be cautious; for they saw the ministry safely turned out, and even after that they waited to see you with a majority on your side, before they ventured to address their gracious and pious Sovereign for his care in preventing the overthrow of the church. It would be curious enough to see the list of those, who took the lead in Edition: current; Page: [215] these addresses; but, there needs no such list to make their motives evident to the world.

Hypocrisy, detestable in any man, is peculiarly so when met with under the garb of a minister of religion; and, therefore, the cry of “No Popery,” set up, or propagated, by too many of the clergy, must, first of last, receive its just reward, in the natural consequences of general detestation. This is not the first set of priests, who have kindled a flame in the multitude; and, as the usual consequence has, heretofore, been the destruction of the kindlers, let them beware. It is, upon this occasion especially, well worthy of remark, that there has been no savage, no mischief-doing mobs, in this country, for many years, except those who have been led by a cry of “church” or “king,” or both together. Amongst all the hundreds of thousands of persons, who have, at different times, and at some times under circumstances extremely irritating, assembled round Sir Francis Burdett, not one man, or woman, has ever committed an act of violence. Upon several occasions what mischief has been anticipated! What preparations have been made for resistance! And what disappointment has been felt at perceiving that all these preparations were unnecessary! “Church and King” mobs have assaulted and killed many people; have rescued prisoners from jail; have burnt and otherwise destroyed houses and goods; and many acts of violence, including one breaking open of a jail, have been commited by “loyal volunteers.” But, amongst all the assemblages of the people, the cause of which has been their attachment, real or expressed, to the cause of freedom, not a single act of violence, that I remember, has ever been committed. Is it, Sir, that the latter are less brutish than the former; or is it, that the former think themselves sure of impunity? Nevertheless, John Bowles and his clamorous comrades cease not to cry Jacobin and Leveller against every man who is too wise and too just to join them in the cry of “No Popery!” Every man, who wishes to see the burdens of the people lightened; every man who wishes to see the public money fairly and fully accounted for; every man who wishes to enjoy, whether in body or estate, the same degree of freedom that his father enjoyed; every man who wishes the church to be supported by the piety and diligence of its pastors, and who, therefore, expresses his dissatisfaction at seeing one half of the churches left to the care of those who receive not the revenues arising from them; every such man is sure to be marked out, by the “loyal” crew, as a Jacobin and Leveller; as an enemy to the Church and the King.

It is, however, pleasing to perceive, that this outcry has, on the present occasion, produced little effect, and, upon the whole, no effect at all in favour of those, by whom it was set up. Here and there a set of brutish, or bired, ruffians have made the streets resound with the hypocritical cry; but, in most other places, as in Westminster, it has been regarded as the cry of the crocodile; and, though the selfish Whigs have been humbled in the dust, their not-less-selfish adversaries have made little progress, except in the hatred of the nation. Praised without ceasing be the King for dissolving the parliament; for this his “recurrence to the sense of the people;” than which nothing could possibly be more advantageous to the country, unless it were, indeed, another dissolution, another “recurrence to the sense of the people,” in two or three months’ time. What light, through the yawning cracks made by this sudden and delightful shake, has broken in upon those who were before in comparative Edition: current; Page: [216] darkness! The idiot now begins to perceive, and those who were half fools, as to questions of politics, are now men of understanding. All the slang of party, all the trickery of debate, all that amused, lulled, deluded, or defrauded, is now laid bare, is now exposed to the criticism of returning good sense, and excites, by turns, hatred and contempt.

That these feelings, thus directed, may live and gather strength in the minds of Englishmen, and that the consequence may be the restoration of the honour and happiness of England, is the constant prayer of,

Yours, &c. &c.
Wm. Cobbett.
William Cobbett
Cobbett, William
22nd of May, 1807


  • “This more than half repays whole years of pain.
  • Time, health, and fortune are not spent in vain.”
  • Pope.

Note by the Editors.—We have omitted Letters XVI. XVII. and XVIII. of this series, because they contain very little matter likely to be of any permanent interest.


The intelligence, brought me by this day’s post, induces me to address this one more letter to you, with the hope that it may reach you before the close of the poll; for, if I should be the means of setting only a single man of you right, upon any one point, with respect to which that man may be in error, I am satisfied that I shall thereby render much more service to the country than will ever be rendered by the expenditure of all those millions of our earning, which, apparently, are now to be sent to the continent of Europe.

I do not suppose, that many of you are likely to be at all misled by the speeches of Mr. Sheridan; but, there are some parts of them, which have not yet been sufficiently commented upon by me; and, though I have already spoken (in a former letter) of his new language respecting Sir Francis Burdett, I cannot refrain from saying a few words more upon that subject.—In his speech of the 19th instant, he, as it were incidentally, but not without a premeditated design, introduced the name of Mr. Bosville, well known to have always been one of those most esteemed by Sir Francis Burdett; and, this gentleman he called “one of the honestest and best patriots in the country,” a character which Mr. Bosville certainly merits, and which he securely possessed without this extorted tribute on the part of Mr. Sheridan. But, Gentlemen, this master-stroke of flattery; this compliment to Sir Francis Burdett, conveyed in praises of his most valued friends, will not, I trust, for one moment, deceive you, for the sole purpose of securing whose votes at another, if not at this election, all these new professions of respect are manifestly made. Nevertheless, these professions, however insincere, are valuable, inasmuch as they are indications of what Mr. Sheridan, at least, considers as the growing sentiment of the public, with regard to the principles and the Edition: current; Page: [217] character of Sir Francis Burdett. He tells us, too, that Mr. Brand, one of the members for Hertfordshire, is upon the list of your subscription. Mr. Brand’s name has no peculiar value in it; but, while, as an individual, he has his share of merit, his connection with the Whig ministry, coupled with this act, stands as a tolerably good proof of the insincerity of the Whigs, who, to a man, at the last elections for Middlesex as well as Westminster, represented Sir Francis Burdett as being everything short of a downright traitor, and as aiming, at the very least, to overturn the kingly government of England. Gentlemen, all offences against ourselves are to be forgiven, the moment we are convinced of the contrition of the offender; and though we are justified in being more slow to forgive offences committed against our country, those offences too ought to be freely forgiven, but not until the offender has produced a security that he will offend no more. But, in both cases, there are some offences, which can never be forgotten; and, of this class was the wicked and base handle, which the Whigs made of the phrase, “the best of kings.” Oh! it were indeed a reproach to you to forget the interpretation which Mr. Byng and others put upon this phrase! That interpretation, that outcry, still baser than the outcry of “popery,” was used by the time-serving Whigs for the purpose of ingratiating themselves with the adherents of Pitt, for which they have been most justly punished, and that, too, by the intrigues of that very faction. How careful was Mr. Byng to disclaim all connection, all community even of wishes, with Sir Francis Burdett! He, good loyal gentleman, said, that he was “firmly attached to the constitution, and that he affectionately loved the best of kings,” turning, while he uttered the words, his sapient eyes towards Sir Francis. “The best of kings” has now most justly rewarded Mr. Byng and his faction; and that very magistrate, John Bowles, whom they left in quiet possession of all his offices and emoluments, apparently for no other reason than that he, in conjunction with his bosom associate, Redhead, were the notorious calumniators of Sir Francis Burdett, has now been the principal instrument of bringing the long possessed seat of Mr. Byng into jeopardy! Well done, John! Halloo, John! Hunt them with thy vice-scenting nose; tear them, good John, with thy worshipful fangs, and scratch, at last, a hole for them in that collection of incomparable rubbish, thy Anti-Jacobin Review!

There are two other topics, Gentlemen, upon which I must say a few words by way of comment on Mr. Sheridan’s speeches; the propriety of carrying on an election by subscription, and the expressions of my Lord Cochrane with respect to Mr. Fox. Upon these topics, Mr. Sheridan has, if his speeches have been truly reported, taken a most foul advantage of his lordship, who, as to subscriptions, complained of the manner in which Mr. Sheridan was supported at the last election, a complaint which his crafty adversary has endeavoured to represent as an implied censure upon your present subscription. But, Gentlemen, you certainly have not overlooked the wide distinction here to be drawn? Mr. Sheridan’s election was supported by a secret subscription of PEERS OF PARLIAMENT, several of whom were, at the same time, servants of the King, receiving large salaries out of the public purse, and, of course, engaged in carrying on an election against the people with the people’s money; to which must be added, that peers of parliament are, by that constitution, for the preservation of which we are called on “to spend our last shilling and shed the last drop of our blood,” strictly prohibited from Edition: current; Page: [218] interfering, either directly or indirectly, in the elections of members of the House of Commons; and, if, to pay money for the purpose of keeping out one man and of bringing in another; if this be not interfering in such elections, the prohibition can be considered as nothing more than one of those numerous nominal securities, by which the people have been so long deluded. Your subscription, on the contrary, is prohibited by no law or usage. You have been openly invited to subscribe. The list of subscribers shuns the inspection of no man. You are not servants of the crown; and, it is your own money that you give, which, if necessary to the preservation of your rights, it is full as much, at least, your duty to give, as it is your duty to pay any sum, in any shape whatever, for the purpose of keeping an enemy from your shores. Lord Cochrane, therefore, when he complained of the subscription by which the election of Mr. Sheridan was supported, conveyed, you must clearly perceive, not the smallest censure of that subscription, which has now been entered into by you.

As to Lord Cochrane’s expressions with respect to Mr. Fox, they were, as nearly as I have been able to discover, these: “that Mr. Fox in himself, was, or would have been, an honour to his country; but, that you should take great care not to bestow your confidence on those, of whom there had been many, who were attached only to the baser part of Mr. Fox.” Taking advantage of the cry, excited by these words, amongst some dozen or two of his own scene-shifters, or of those unthinking beings, who are led merely by the sound of names, Mr. Sheridan has made several efforts to excite a prejudice against Lord Cochrane, who gave you most wholesome advice, and who said, or insinuated, nothing, except in praise of Mr. Fox, which can with truth be denied. Observe, too, that the mention of Mr. Fox originated, not with his lordship, but with Mr. Sheridan, who had, with true theatrical address, introduced that name for the purpose of exciting in you compassion towards himself, whom he took care to represent as the faithful follower and bosom friend of the beloved deceased. Well; let us meet him upon this ground; and, then let us ask, what Mr. Fox did for us. Before he came into power, he solemnly declared, that he never would hold a place as a minister, until the parliament had been reformed; he came into place, and never did he utter the word reform afterwards, but, on the contrary, set his face against all those who endeavoured to bring about a correction of even notorious abuses; he was the man, who, as his very first ministerial act, brought in a bill for enabling one of his colleagues in office to hold a large sinecure place, which, by law, was incompatible with the active office he then had been promoted to; he, who had, only one year before, complained that the minister, Pitt, would, by degrees, take away all the income of the people, because he proposed to add a sixth to the Income-tax, defended, as soon as he was in office, a bill which raised that same tax to ten per centum; he, who had for so many years been complaining against the influence of the crown, was one of those who brought in the bill for adding to the Pensions of the Royal Family, at the same time that, by another act, the King’s property in the funds, under whatever name invested, was exempted from the Income-tax, and that, too, at a time when Mr. Fox declared, that it was impossible to lay a new tax without affecting the prosperity of the nation in some way or other; he, who had, upon every occasion that offered, all his life long, reprobated the introduction of foreign troops, did, amongst his first acts as a minister, give Edition: current; Page: [219] his sanction to a bill for adding to the ten thousand foreign troops then in this country; he, who had all his life long contended against unnecessary wars, and especially wars for the sake of Hanover, did, in his very first published dispatch, declare, that he should advise the King never to make peace for England, except upon the condition of Hanover being restored; he, who, upon numberless occasions, had asserted, that all the calamities and disgrace of this country were the work of the minister Pitt, gave a vote for making the people of that same country pay the debts of that same minister Pitt, and that, too, expressly upon the score of his merits; he was a sinecure placeman, doubly blessed, from his cradle to his grave, and he, upon more than one occasion, contended, in parliament, that it was unconstitutional to lessen the number of patent places, which he asserted to be private property as much as house and land.——These, Gentlemen, are a part of the things which Mr. Fox did for us; and, as I told you in my second or third letter, if this be the sort of representative that suits you, the honour of representing you would, in no case, be coveted by me. But, it is not so. You have opened your eyes. You have seen, that, for too long a time, names, and not principles, had been your guide; and you have now resolved, despising alike Whiggism and Toryism, to ask, who will act most justly by the country? The intention of Mr. Sheridan evidently is to wheedle you back into that state which exhibited you as the mere tools of the government, on one side, and of the great families on the other side, who, together, by the means of a quiet compromise, left you no more of the real freedom of election than is exercised by the electors of Old Sarum. From this degraded state you have manfully risen to the assertion and exercise of your rights; but, this honourable change you owe not to Mr. Fox, while to Mr. Sheridan you owe every means that he was able to use to prevent that change. The former contentedly suffered the minister of the day to give him his colleague; and, as to the latter, after having completely inveigled you into an election of Lord Percy, conducted as quietly as that of Gatton, or of Ryegate, he coslesced with Sir Samuel Hood, joined hand and heart with those who were your bitterest enemies, and who had been the bitterest enemies of Fox himself, in order to subdue you by force. Judge, therefore, Gentlemen, whether Mr. Sheridan be a fit person for the colleague of Sir Francis Burdett; or whether you ought to leave him to the support of the play-actors, scene-shifters, and police-runners, marshalled under that respectable matron, whom he brought as a witness against his electioneering friends, Messrs. Weatherhead and Drake.——Of Mr. Fox I never seek to say harm; but, if challenged to speak, the truth must be spoken; and, the truth is, as Lord Cochrane evidently believes, that, though Mr. Fox was a man of rare and wonderful talents, though he was kind and generous in his nature, and though he loved his country most sincerely; yet that he had not, as Major Cartwright told him, “the power to say nay to bad men,” and that that failing led him so to act as to render very little benefit to his country, while he notoriously gave countenance to many men, who did it great and lasting injury.

That, henceforward, you may reject, with equal scorn, the appellation of Foxite, of Pittite, of Whig, or of Tory; that you may, in the exercise of your elective rights, be influenced by principles and not by names; and that your conduct, by becoming an example to electors in general, or a timely indication to the elected, may lead to a constitutional reform Edition: current; Page: [220] of the gross abuses that exist, and thereby produce the restoration of our liberties and ensure the safety of the throne, is the unfeigned wish of

Your faithful friend
And obedient servant,
Wm. Cobbett.
William Cobbett
Cobbett, William
Lord Milton
Milton, Lord


“An Inquiring Parliament this must be, or the people will not be satisfied with it.”

——Mr. Calcraft’s Speech, 22nd June, 1807.

This dinner, which took place at the Crown-and-Anchor on the 13th instant, is of importance, as connected with politics, because, though, ostensibly, intended merely for the purpose of celebrating Lord Milton’s triumph in Yorkshire, over the no-popery candidate, Mr. Lascelles, it must be regarded, as it in reality was, a meeting for the purpose of declaring open war against the new ministry, and for embodying the means of carrying on that war.——In the opening speech of Mr. Fawkes (late member for Yorkshire), who was chairman upon the occasion, and who stands so highly recommended to the country by his excellent address, in which he said, that, after what he had seen in the House of Commons, he had no longer any ambition to be there; in this speech there was very little worthy of particular notice, except that the speaker made an open declaration against peculators. Some time after, however, upon his health being drunk, he is reported, in the papers, to have said: “I beg leave, in the first place, to return you my most sincere and heartful thanks for the very kind and distinguished honour you have just done me; and in the second place to assure you, that I shall ever consider your approbation of my conduct as the most valuable of all my possessions. My continuance in that situation to which your kind partiality so recently elevated me, was not long; but during the short time I had the honour of being your representative, I trust I proved myself, what I had ever professed myself to be, a steady supporter of the limited monarchy of my country, a friend to the cause of liberty at home and abroad, and an advocate for a temperate reformation of those numerous and enormous abuses, which no friend to his country can contemplate without apprehension and disgust.”——Well, then, there are “numerous and enormous abuses;” they excite “apprehension and disgust,” in every friend of the country; and Mr. Fawkes would fain see them reformed. It were to be wished that he had been more particular; that he had named some few of the abuses; and that he had, above all things, been specific as to the time and manner of reform. For, Mr. Fawkes was in parliament four months, and he never moved for any reform at all; nor did he, that I know of, ever say there, one word about numerous and Edition: current; Page: [221] enormous abuses. His temperate reformation, too! What does he mean by temperate? Does he mean, that he would not have the government torn up by the roots, and all law and property destroyed? This is a very good meaning, but what is the use of expressing it? Who is there that wishes to see such destructive work? I am afraid, that the qualification, temperate, means slow, and so very slow as for no one to be able to perceive it in any way whatever. As temperate as you please, Mr. Fawkes, but, let the thing be done. Let the reformation take place, especially as the abuses are so numerous and so enormous. This, Sir, was the way of the late ministry. They, after they got possession of office, talked of a temperate reformation; that is to say, in their evident sense of the words, a slow reformation; or, in other words, a reformation exactly the contrary of that, which, for twenty long years, they had been demanding. It is a quite wrong notion, I presume, that, to act with temperance, you must proceed at a snail’s pace. In many cases it happens, that, not to act with promptitude is the same thing as not acting at all; and this is a case of that sort, for if the abuses are numerous and enormous, to reform some of them should be set about instantly, because it being in their nature to increase, unless you begin by times, and clear your way as you go, the increase will certainly surpass the diminution. In short, the word temperate, thus applied, was used by Pitt as often as by any body, and I have no doubt at all, that it will be used by his disciples, who now compose the no-popery ministry; and, if their opponents have nothing better than general expressions about temperate reformation to offer the people, they may rest assured, that the people will place no reliance upon them; and, that, however great their number of seats, and, of course, their number of votes, their opponents may safely set them at defiance. It is a reformation of abuses that is wanted; a real reformation; a reformation that we can feel. We want to be able to say, “Such or such an abuse has been reformed; such or such a robber has been made to disgorge, or has been punished; such or such sinecures or unmerited pensions have been abolished; such or such taxes have been repealed.” We want to know that something has been done; and, until we do know this, Mr. Fawkes may be assured, that we shall pay but little attention to the speeches and motions of those who talk about a reformation of abuses, for the purpose, as we shall think, of ousting those who now profit by those abuses, in order to be able to profit by such abuses themselves.——Lord Milton’s speech, which I am now about to insert, as I find it reported in the newspapers, was not more definite than Mr. Fawkes’s.

“In rising,” said his lordship, “upon this occasion, as the representative of the great and respectable county of York, something more will very naturally be expected from me than merely to return thanks for the honour you have done me in drinking my health. When I became a candidate for the high and distinguished station in which the good sense and public spirit of Yorkshire have placed me, I was not actuated by any private pique or personal consideration, as the advertisement which my opponent has thought proper to publish seems to insinuate. No, I stood forward to vindicate the late administration from the calumnies so industriously propagated against them, and to vindicate the constitution of my country, which has been violated by his Majesty’s present ministers. Let those ministers who talk upon their boasted appeal to public opinion, reflect upon the answer they have received from the important county of York. There they have found a distinguished illustration of that which must be manifest to any thinking man in the empire—the county of York has decidedly expressed its opinion of the character of his Majesty’s present ministers—that the clamour they would excite is ineffective—that the calumnies they Edition: current; Page: [222] would circulate are unfounded—that the principles they would maintain are unconstitutional—that the motives by which they are actuated, are bad. Of the nature of their motives, indeed, it is impossible to entertain a doubt; for any set of men, who could for their own private advantage and emolument, or in order to satisfy an improper ambition, resort to expedients calculated to provoke a recurrence of those disgraceful scenes which agitated the country in the year 1780, cannot be influenced by good motives. Against such men and their views, I thought it my duty to contend; and against them, gentlemen, we have fought and conquered. But my opponent, Mr. Lascelles, has thought proper to ascribe his failure to the animosity of the clothiers: and certainly it is rather odd in a man to publish to the world that he has failed in a great contest through the unpopularity of his own character. I really believe, gentlemen, that Mr. Lascelles is the first who ever publicly assigned such a ground for his defeat. The fact however is, gentlemen, that our victory rests on public grounds, and has been achieved by the public spirit and independence of Yorkshire. When I make use of the term independence, I do not mean that hackneyed sense in which it is too often, with other phrases, used at elections for purposes of imposture. No, I mean that independence of mind, of character, and of station which belongs to those by whom I have had the honour to be supported. By them the genuine force of independence has been manifested; they saw that the cause in which they were engaged was not that merely of their own county but of the empire at large, of justice, and the constitution; and it is to be hoped, that their success will teach ministers an impressive lesson as to the policy of propagating slander; as to the consequence of violating the constitution. I do not triumph, gentlemen, in the result of our contest, because it is grateful to any personal ambition, but because it affords a satisfactory evidence that the spirit of real independence and the love of public liberty, as established at the revolution, is not quite blotted from the hearts of Englishmen. This, gentlemen, is the reason that I am proud of this great event. I am rejoiced to find that such men as the present ministers must be disturbed to feel, that whenever an attempt is made by any government to violate the principles of the constitution, there are such men as my constituents, determined to oppose, and to conquer.

To conquer what, my lord? What, or whom have they conquered? Conquered the no-popery ministry? If that be your lordship’s meaning, you must speak by anticipation, and may be deceived. It was a very hard run in Yorkshire. If, as your lordship seems to suppose, the votes given for you were all that were given for the constitution, the constitutution is in a poor way.——But, what I dislike most, or, rather, what I like the least, in this speech, is, that it says nothing. I find nothing in it characteristic of an independent and determined mind. When I came to one part of his lordship’s speech, I said to myself, “Oh, here we shall have something, at last: for he has said what he does not mean by the word independence, and he will now tell us what he does mean.” Not at all. We are still just where we were. He does not mean independence in that sense in which it is used at elections for the purposes of imposture; but, that independence of “mind, of character, and of station, which belongs to those by whom he has been supported.” As a compliment to his constituents; as a sugar phrase to attract political flies, this was very well; but, it was of no value with respect to the rest of the nation; for, to have given us a correct idea of the independence that he meant, it was necessary to have satisfied us with respect to the mind, character, and station of those who had voted for him; so that, upon this score, he leaves us just as wise as he found us. There is a good deal about “the constitution,” and, if his lordship had called that “a hackneyed phrase,” he would have been undeniably correct; but, how he can have vindicated the constitution by becoming a candidate for Yorkshire I am quite at a loss to discover, seeing that it was but by a mere Edition: current; Page: [223] trifling majority that he was chosen, and seeing, that the capacity of bearing the expense was one of the principal causes of his success. The truth is, however, that this, again, is an expression of no acknowledged meaning. It conveys no clear idea. Five men might, in reading it, attach five different meanings to it.—His lordship says, that his being chosen for Yorkshire proves that “the love of liberty, as established at the revolution, is not quite blotted from the hearts of Englishmen.” But, in order to ascertain, as nearly as may be, whether his lordship spoke with due reflection, let us first ask what that “liberty” consisted of, which was “established at the revolution.” And, here, we will not talk about the constitution as something which any man may interpret as it best suits his purposes; but of that constitution which is to be found written in the laws passed at and almost immediately after the stupid tyrant had been driven from the throne. These laws, the Bill of Rights and the Act of Settlement, which were, in fact, solemn contracts between the people and their sovereign and his successors, say, that the elections for members of parliament shall be free, and, of course, the buying and selling of seats in parliament are contrary to those laws, and hostile to liberty, as then established; those laws say, that no placeman or pensioner, under the crown, shall have a seat in the House of Commons; those laws say, that no person, not a native, born, of these kingdoms, shall hold any place of trust civil or military; those laws say, that, without the previous consent of parliament (the House of Commons, observe, having no placemen or pensioners in it), no foreign troops shall be introduced into this country. These, with other less important provisions, were enacted for the express purpose of “better securing the rights and liberties of the people.” Now, then, to prove that his lordship reasoned correctly in regarding his recent success as a proof that the love of liberty, as established at the revolution, was not “quite blotted from the hearts of Englishmen,” it must first be proved, that those who voted for him gave their votes upon a promise on his part, expressed or implied, that he would, to the utmost of his power, cause the provisions, of which I have been just speaking, to be revived and restored to activity; and, though I do not say, that no such proof can be produced, I am much afraid that it cannot; and, when his lordship was talking of liberty, “as established at the revolution,” I could have wished him to give us some description of that liberty, some characteristic mark of it, because, as he himself well observed, it is the practice of political impostors to make use of popular but always of indefinite terms. A cry about the constitution will no longer take; and, besides, the other party set up the same cry, and in still louder tones, if that be possible; so that, all that the people can, of a certain, know, upon this subject, from these accusations, is, that, either those who were in place the other day, or those who are in place now, are liars, or, that both parties have violated the constitution.——The conclusion of the proceedings at this Dinner were such as one would wish to attribute to the influence of the bottle. The committee, it seems, who had organized the dinner, had laid upon the chairman an injunction, that the health of no person not connected with Yorkshire should be given as a toast. But, it appears, that Mr. Fawkes was induced to set this injunction at defiance for the sake of toasting one super-excellent person; and who, reader, do you think that super-excellent person was? Mr. Sheridan? The late candidate for Westminster; Edition: current; Page: [224] he who called the matron Butler to appear against the character of Drake and Weatherhead who had been his supporters at the preceding election; he who, only the other day, set on foot a subscription to pay expenses which he had before declared to be paid; the protegé of Peter Moore, and “the father of Tom Sheridan.” But, let us hear the report of this part of the proceedings. It is too valuable to be lost. It is conclusive as to the political character and views of the meeting, and particularly of the character of Mr. Fawkes:—

“The Chairman said, that he must swerve from the injunction of the committee, and yield to the sense of the meeting, communicated to him by an inundation of notes from every quarter of the room, which notes completely concurred with his own sentiment. This sentiment naturally disposed him to pay every tribute of respect to the ILLUSTRIOUS person who was the highly valued, steady, and unvarying friend of Mr. Fox, and the powerful advocate of those principles which embalmed that great man’s memory. He, therefore, felt happy to propose the health of Mr. Sheridan; this proposition was received with loud and long-continued acclamations of applause. As soon as they had terminated,—Mr. Sheridan returned thanks for the honour which the meeting had conferred upon him, and which honour he felt to be materially heightened by a consideration of the distinguished man by whom it was preferred; for in that man he recognised the principles which were dear to his heart, accompanied by an ability eminently qualified to carry those principles into effect. The right hon. gent. pronounced an elegant eulogium upon the talents of Lord Milton, in whom he was happy to perceive a worthy successor to that great and good man the Marquis of Rockingham, under whose administration he commenced his political career, not as a member of Parliament, but as a member of the Rockingham Club—recollecting the utility and consequence of that institution, which comprehended some of the ablest men and best friends to liberty this country had ever known, and in which originated many highly patriotic propositions, he could not help expressing his wish and hope that it should be revived. After taking notice of the respect due to the old and genuine strength of the country, the right hon. gent. dwelt upon the manner in which attempts had been made of late years to depreciate that branch of the constitution, by introducing improper persons into it. This was an evil which appeared to be productive of much mischief. These improper persons obtained their titles by serving an apprenticeship of seven or fourteen years to corruption in the House of Commons; and then, when in the other House, the double mischief arose—that they neither had any sympathy with the people, nor were dissoluble by the Crown. The right hon. gent. remarked with peculiar emphasis, upon the connection which still continued to exist among the friends of Mr. Fox; and expressed his pride and pleasure to witness that connection. If indeed such a connection had ceased with the death of his illustrious friend, and his party had been dispersed, the record of history might have been, that Mr. Fox’s adherents had been influenced merely by personal attachment, which no doubt produced him many adherents, as it strengthened the adherence of all who knew him. But that the great connections of that great man were actuated by principle, was evident from the still-existing union which all the friends of principle must be proud to witness. The right hon. gentleman concluded with again recommending a revival of the ‘Rockingham Club.’——The Chairman expressed the pleasure he felt, in common, he was certain, with the whole company, in having on this occasion deviated from the recommendation of the committee. He thanked the right hon. gent. for the opinion he had been pleased to express of him. He should always feel proud of such a man. From him indeed, praise must be truly flattering to any man, for it is ever a just source of gratification—Laudari a laudato viro.

There is one gratification, which Mr. Fawkes undoubtedly had, and that was the consciousness of being envied, at this happy moment, by no man not actually in the pillory. Oh, the inexpressible meanness of this transaction! Mr. Sheridan was not one of the Stewards; Mr. Sheridan Edition: current; Page: [225] had not once been named as connected with the Dinner, until a paragraph in the Courier, written probably by Mr. Sheridan himself, hinted, that this slight of Mr. Sheridan might possibly be repented of when parliament came to meet. This hint it was, I am firmly convinced, that produced the toast. They hated the man, chiefly because he possessed greater talents than they; but, they feared those talents; and, all that can be said for them is, that their cowardice surpassed their hatred and their envy. Good God! Amongst all the men in the kingdom; amongst all the millions, “not connected with Yorkshire,” to select this man! The illustrious Mr. Sheridan! And then Mr. Sheridan larding Mr. Fawkes; and then Mr. Fawkes almost blubbering for very joy at being thought worthy of the praises of “the illustrious man!” Poor Mr. Fawkes has acted wisely in “retiring to private life;” for, never was there, in public life, any thing so foolish as this before.——What gives me the most pain, however, belonging to this Dinner, is, the strong presumptive evidence, afforded by the proceedings, that Lord Milton will be made a mere party instrument, as his success in Yorkshire has already been rendered. I was much pleased at that success, first because it was a triumph over no-popery; and, secondly, because it put political hypocrisy personified into bodily fear. Besides, the character of his lordship and of his father, so directly the reverse of that of their crafty and slippery opponents, compelled one, without any very minute reasoning, to wish for his success. But, I did hope, that he would not have been made a party instrument; that he would not have been persuaded, that, by supporting the mongrel whigs, the mere placehunters of the present day, he was supporting the principles of those, who effected the revolution of 1688.


  • “When rogues fall out, honest men get their due.”
  • Old Proverb.

The capture of Dantzic by the French having given a new feature to the war upon the Continent, and enabled us to reason, upon something like grounds, with respect to the result of that war, and particularly as far as may relate to this country, it is time now to take a view of our situation as connected with foreign nations, and to ask a question or two respecting the object of the expedition, now said to be preparing. But, as we shall, at last, find, that our sole hope of an escape from the fate of Prussia, Holland, Naples, &c. &c. must rest upon the measures to be adopted at home, I cannot refrain from making, before I proceed to other matter, one more record of the waste of the public money, as stated and exposed in the mutual accusations of the wrangling factions. Sir Francis Burdett complains of the Red Book; he uses the simile of the robbers; he calls for a destruction of the system of corruption. What is the consequence? The hirelings of both factions fly on upon him with the yell of wolves, and want not the will to use the fangs of that ravenous and vindictive animal. Now, then, let us hear their own account of the manner in which the Red Book is filled, and the motives by which the Edition: current; Page: [226] fillers are actuated. I have had my eye upon them for some time. I have heard their railings against the “Jacobins and Levellers;” and now I shall put their own exposures upon record. They are long and full in their statements; but, these statements should be read, and well remembered. They perish too soon in a loose open sheet. They ought to be bound up in a book, and frequently referred to. I beg every reader to peruse them with attention; and, when he has so done, to ask himself this question: “If this be true, is not Sir Francis Burdett’s address perfectly proper?”——We will begin with an extract from the Morning Chronicle newspaper of the 3rd instant:—

“A gross misrepresentation of the conduct of Mr. Fox and Lord Howick, with respect to their under secretaries, having appeared in several newspapers, we are induced to lay before our readers the following Statement of Facts, to the accuracy of which we pledge ourselves: Mr. Fox has been blamed for dismissing Mr. Hammond, together with Mr. Ward; and this removal has been represented as inconsistent with the censure which he himself bestowed upon the dismissal of Mr. Aust, in 1796. The cases were, however, entirely different. It had always been the practice for a new secretary to appoint his under secretaries; and if he continued those in their places whom he found there, it was to be considered equivalent to a re-appointment; for nothing can be more essential to the public service than that the principal and the under secretaries should be on confidential terms. But Mr. Aust was removed without any change of the principal Secretary of State, merely in order to make room for Mr. Canning, whom Mr. Pitt patrouized and wished to have near him. For no other reason was Mr. Aust obliged to retire. Of course a provision was made for him. He was appointed Commissary General of Musters and Secretary and Register of Chelsea Hospital. These two offices, thus united in his favour, had been held by two different persons; of course a provision was required for them. Now, it was to this traffic in places, and to a practice which must increase the expense of the service, by multiplying unnecessarily the pensions to those who quitted the office, that Mr. Fox decidedly objected. That the Secretary of State should be forced to retain in the confidential place of under secretary one who would not possess his confidence, is a position never maintained by Mr. Fox, or indeed by any rational man. Mr. Hammond, who had made himself a party man, in every sense of the word, and whose whole connections were with the avowed enemies of Mr. Fox, could no more have been allowed to remain in the foreign office than to hold a seat in the cabinet. To remove him was a matter of absolute necessity. Accordingly, he and Mr. Ward were succeeded by Gen. Walpole and Sir F. Vincent. When Lord Howick came to the foreign department, upon Mr. Fox’s death, he continued these gentlemen as under secretaries, because they possessed his confidence; and when he left the office, they retired also, without any pension or sinecure whatever.—If Mr. Fox had followed the example of his predecessor, he would have pensioned Gen. Walpole or Sir F. Vincent, on coming into office. And if Lord Howick had availed himself of the precedents left him both by Lord Hawkesbury and Lord Mulgrave, he would, even in succeeding to a friend, have removed at least one of the under secretaries, and pensioned him, to make way for a dependant or relation, whom also he would hare pensioned before he retired from office. We assert, as a known fact, that when Lord Harrowby retired early in 1805, Mr. Elliot was removed to make way for Lord M.’s brother-in-law, Mr. R. Ward; and that one of the last acts of Lord Mulgrave, before quitting the foreign office early in 1806, was to grant Mr. Ward a large pension for less than a year’s service, in a manner the legality of which was so much doubted that it was inquired into by the late ministers, with the determination of setting it aside. This Mr. R. Ward knows would have been done, had it not, unfortunately, been found that the grant, however unprecedented, both as to the grounds and manner of it, was nevertheless within the strict formalities of law. Mr. Fox and Lord Howick can certainly claim no praise for having avoided this example of Lord M. But that Lord M.’s friends and defenders should venture upon the discussion of any thing connected with this subject, is a matter of wonder, even to those who know the rashness of the new men.”

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The next article is the answer of the Courier newspaper of the same day:—

“There is a long article to-day in the Morning Chronicle on the subject of pensions to under secretaries of state. We have not time to comment now upon the general subject of sinecures and pensions, though we pledge ourselves to unmask the hypocritical pretensions of the late men to superior purity, in any respect whatever regarding the grants of public money. As, however, it has more than once been boldly stated, that the pension to Mr. Ward was granted on a fund never before applied to such uses, and as it is insinuated that it was given merely for a year’s service, we will state the real case. With respect to a provision generally to under secretaries on retiring, it is a very gross misrepresentation to say that it has not long existed, or that it ought not to exist. Mr. Aust was rewarded by Lord Grenville himself with sinecures to the amount of 2000l. a-year; Sir J. Burgess, under the same Lord G., with a pension of 1200l. a-year; Mr. Canning, by the same Lord G., with 1200l. a-year; Mr. Fisher, by the same Lord G., with 600l. a-year; Mr. Hammond, by the same Lord G., with 600l. a-year, having then 1200l. as a foreign minister, and 600l. a-year besides, added to it last year by Mr. Fox. Mr. Huskisson, by Lord Melville (then in the cabinet with Lord G.) with 1200l. a-year; Sir G. Shee, in the home department, with 1200l. a-year. So much for the novelty of an under secretary’s pension! Now as to the fund, namely the office; the constitution by which the right to recommend to allowances for offices retiring was settled, was the work also of Lord Grenville himself, in conjunction with the other secretaries of state, so far back as the year 1795, as appears by the order of his Majesty in council. And how often have allowances been granted? Was Mr. Ward’s the first instance? No—it was the tenth in succession, in the course of eleven years! and of the nine preceding instances, five were the work also of Lord G. If the writer in the Chronicle wishes to know them, he will find them in the office, under the heads of Allowances to Mr. Money, 380l. a-year; Mr. Jenkins, 400l. a-year; Mr. Hinchcliffe, 600l.; Mr. Hammond, 600l.; Mr. Fisher, 600l. The object of the last grant was the peculiar follower, protegé, and we believe connection, of Lord G.; the grant was made to him after a service of exactly five months and about fourteen days, and was ‘one of the last acts of Lord G. on quitting the foreign office.’ It was held also by him during his life, together with a commission of excise, worth 1200l. a-year more! Do we blame Lord Grenville for this? No; nor do we believe that the misrepresentations on which we are commenting proceeded from his authority. We know at least, in answer to another part of that misrepresentation, that he professed his opinion in favour of the legality of the grant to Mr. Ward, to which he also disclaimed all idea of hostility. Four other instances of allowances from the same fund in the office of secretary of state, occur before Mr. Ward’s, viz. Mr. Colquhoun, 300l. a-year; Mr. Moore, 800l. a-year; Mr. Higden, 500l. a-year; Mr. Hay, 500l. Now as to the motive of granting it! Was it a job to a relation, or a compensation to a man invited from a profession in which he was advancing, and from the benefit of a study of the Law of Nations, into an office in which that law was daily and hourly an object of discussion? We can state with accuracy that the chancellor was ready to put the seal to the vacant Welsh judgeship in favour of Mr. Ward, when he was desired to give his labours to another department in the state. This is not only a great professional honour, but a place for life; and this, together with his practice, Mr. Ward relinquished, to attend the call of Mr. Pitt and Lord Mulgrave, where it was thought his service might be of particular use. We ask the world, if a man foregoing such advantages to obey such a call, is either to have no compensation at all, or to have his compensation after the precedents adduced, stigmatized wholly unprecedented, and proceeding from favour alone? As to a former article in the Chronicle, that Mr. Ward retired to a commission of bankrupts, beside his pension, it is neither more nor less than a very foolish and wholly unfounded assertion, and as such we shall leave it. And so we also leave the public to judge of the justice, the virtuous accuracy, and purity of motive, which characterize this creditable, party, true, and most impartial statement.”

The Morning Chronicle’s reply, on the 6th instant, starts new and valuable matter:—

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“We have already exposed the unfounded calumnies of Mr. Canning’s journalists, respecting the conduct of his immediate predecessors in the foreign office; and have demonstrated by a plain statement of the facts, that in arranging the appointments of this department, Mr. Fox and Lord Howick were guided by a strict adherence to those maxims of economy which no one, save only the partisans of Lord Melville, ever dared to treat with open contempt. Attempts have been made, also, to charge the same distinguished characters with removing English envoys in order to make room for their own friends. As this accusation is false beyond the ordinary measure of party misrepresentation, we shall here again narrate the facts in question.——Soon after the change of Administration in 1806, Lord G. L. Gower was allowed to return from St. Petersburgh at his own desire. An offer was explicitly made by Mr. Fox, with a kind attention which Lord G. L. G. has not forgotten, that he might remain, if he pleased, at a court where his conduct had given satisfaction. His Lordship consulted his own convenience and preferred coming home.——Mr. Pierrepont solicited leave to return from Sweden, chiefly on account of his health; Mr. Stratton was appointed to succeed him; a gentleman only known to Lord Howick by his long and able services in the diplomatic line; and further recommended to Lord H. by the misfortune of having no powerful friends, which had kept him in the shade during the Administrations of the Hawkesburys and Mulgraves; and which we lament to find has now thrown him back again, when our foreign affairs are administered by a man very little indebted to family influence.——In the missions to Copenhagen, Lisbon, Hamburgh, Dresden, and Berlin, no change whatever was made either by Mr. Fox or Lord Howick. Mr. Jackson and Mr. Wynne were of course obliged to come home in consequence of the war; when a military man was required to replace the former of these gentlemen, we presume that most people congratulated the ministry on their prevailing with such a person as Lord Hutchinson to fill that station; for the peculiar merits of our present classical envoy in a military capacity had not as yet displayed themselves. He was thought, not so much to have in himself the science of war, as to be—‘the cause of war in others.’——In the embassy at Constantinople no change whatever was made until the Secretaryship became vacant, by Mr. Stratton’s well-earned promotion, and this appointment was conferred on Mr. Pole, in consideration of meritorious services performed by him in a subordinate capacity, and of the warm recommendations both from Mr. Arbuthnot and the Court of Petersburgh. This gentleman was in every respect wholly unknown to Lord Howick; unless, indeed, his being the eldest son of a very keen antagonist (Mr. W. Pole, now of the Ordnance office) should be viewed as ground for suspecting an undue preference.——The necessity of recalling Sir A. Paget has never been questioned by any one who read the secret correspondence published by Lord Mulgrave. The late ministers have always been ready to acknowledge that gentleman’s professional merits, and if the more serious irreparable evils produced by the publication in question had left any room for personal considerations, they would have regarded the necessary loss of Sir A. P.’s services at Vienna, as an additional ground for regretting that act of rashness and infatuation. That the conduct of his successor, Mr. Adair, has given the highest satisfaction, both at home and at Vienna, we venture to assert without the fear of contradiction, even from Mr. Canning; that Mr. Adair must be speedily displaced, could never be doubted by any one who reflected that our foreign department is now in the hands of the Anti-Jacobin poetasters, Messrs. Hammond, Canning, Frere, &c., whose political consistency would be impeached were they to leave in employment a gentleman formerly exposed to their attacks in that celebrated performance—and thus are the concerns of great empires administered!——The recal of Mr. Elliot and Mr. Merry was rendered necessary by circumstances which it is needless to specify. These regard, not so much the personal qualifications of the two gentlemen in question, as the peculiar state of affairs in the countries where they were resident; while the conduct of Mr. Erskine has given entire satisfaction, and amply justified his nomination. We confidently ask Mr. Canning himself, now that he has seen a little of the office, who could be more fit for the mission to Palermo than Mr. Drummond? This gentleman had no political connection, but a slight personal acquaintance with Lord Howick. He was recommended to the notice of the ministry, solely by his known abilities in diplomacy, and his former Edition: current; Page: [229] residence at the court of Naples, to which he had been appointed by Lord Hawkesbury; and here, indeed, lies the whole offence of Mr. Drummond in Mr. Canning’s eyes.——As for Consulships, they made not a single change in that department. They granted the usual floating pensions to Sir A. Paget, Messrs. Jackson, Spencer Smith, Pierrepont, and Wynne. These gentlemen were altogether the connections of former ministers; and the pensions which they now received, were such as the length of their respective services entitled them to, by the strictest precedents established in the foreign department.——It is after an administration of this kind—disgraced by no jobs—marked by the most punctual and decisive regard to the interests of the service—and distinguished by the most rigorous economy of the public money, that Lord Howick and his colleagues retire amidst the sincere regrets of their countrymen; leaving, however, an example behind them, which, if it may fail to excite the emulation, must at least prove some check to the misconduct of their successors.”

Now, either this is true, or it is false. If false, the Morning Chronicle, who abuses Sir Francis Burdett, is a liar; if true, does Sir Francis deserve reproach for what he has said of the Red Book?—Leaving the Morning Chronicle to answer this question, let us proceed to the rejoinder of the Courier of the same day.

“The late ministers conclude an article which they have published in a paper this morning by boldly asserting that their administration was ‘disgraced by no jobs.’ A more daring assertion we never remembered to have heard. The late ministry began their career by a job, the enabling Lord Grenville to hold a large sinecure with another office, the two being incompatible in the same person. Mr. Sheridan said that Mr. Fox proposed to settle on him the Duchy of Lancaster for life. Inquiries were set on foot to know if the Surveyorship of Woods and Forests could not be settled on Lord R. Spencer for life. The Muster Master General of Ireland, a lucrative sinecure, was divided between Mr. T. Sheridan and a relation of Lord Howick’s at the expense to the country of a large pension to the then holder to induce him to resign. An Irish sinecure of 3000l. per annum was given to Cavendish Bradshaw, without a pretence of claim. A pension was granted to Judge Johnstone, who has libelled Lord Hardwicke; valuable reversions were granted to Mr. Erskine’s clerk; and we believe a reversion, or some such job, was given to Mr. Wickham.—These foes to jobs and friends to reform and economy, dismissed Atkins, the Barrack-Master in the Isle of Wight, who had exposed enormous abuses, and who is now starving. A pension of 1200l. was granted to Col. Congreve for throwing a few burning arrows into Boulogne. Lord Howick’s brother, with four other Greys, have had lucrative appointments; one was sent out commander in chief to the Cape, with a salary of 4000l. per annum, and another salary of equal amount, as lieut. governor, though under such circumstances a lieut. governor’s salary has never been more than a hundred pounds or two.—300 dependants were provided for at an expense of nearly as many thousands per annum, as auditors, secretaries, and clerks upon the auditing establishment. When no appointment was open for an impatient dependant, the language was, ‘Put him upon the Auditors till something better can be done.’—15 Judges were thought by the late ministers insufficient for the administration of justice in Scotland, though in England it is administered by a smaller number. New judicial situations were therefore to be created, and one of them was to have been superior in rank, dignity, and emolument to any now in existence. To this new and highest office, not the present president, but a new officer, was to be appointed (the brother of a cabinet minister.)—300 new surveyors of taxes were on the eve of being appointed at an enormous expense to the public. This measure was to have received the sanction of parliament—and to make that sanction more certain, and to demonstrate that this addition of patronage and expense was intended by these foes to jobs, for the sole purpose of better collecting the revenue, on the eve of the general election last autumn, the future sanction of parliament was anticipated by privately but generally announcing to the favoured candidates that such appointments would be made, and that the recommendation of their constituents would be attended to. This fact Edition: current; Page: [230] however, was unfortunately delayed till the dissolution of the late vigorous administration, and nothing remained but the painful, yet necessary task of apologizing, which was actually done a few days before they quitted office, for those interests being so neglected, and those promises so broken. Such are a few of the proofs (not to mention any thing at present of the increase of sheriffs depute in Scotland, &c.) of the utter detestation in which the late ministers held all jobs!!”

The Courier, whose zeal for the public good is unwearied, was not content with what he had said on the 6th; and, therefore, on the 8th, after having availed himself of the rest of the Sabbath, he returned to his valuable exposures with renovated vigour, thus:—

“The late ministers alluding to the statements we made on Saturday, respecting their jobs, contradict some of them, and entirely pass over others. Thus, for instance, they pass over the job of enabling Lord Grenville to hold a large sinecure with another office, the two being incompatible in the same person, and contradict our statement that Mr. Fox proposed to settle on Mr. Sheridan the Duchy of Lancaster for life. We have Mr. S.’s authority, however, that he did think of it, and intend it for him. In the debate on the 25th of March, on Mr. Martin’s motion against granting places for life, Mr. Sheridan said, in answer to Mr. Johnstone, that ‘with respect to the charge of his (Mr. S.) being busy in providing for himself and his family, the fact was, that his hon. friend, who was now unhappily no more (Mr. Fox), thought that after a service, he hoped not unmeritorious, of 27 years in parliament, some provision for life ought to be made for him. It had happened rather singularly, that his hon. friend had intended, that the office that had been so much spoken of this night, the Chancellorship of the Duchy of Lancaster, should be appropriated to that provision.’ Here we have Mr. S.’s positive assertion, that Mr. Fox had intended the Chancellorship of the Duchy of Lancaster for life, for him.—With respect to one of Lord Howick’s brothers, the late ministers have disclosed a fact of which we were ignorant, that when Capt. Grey was removed from Sheerness to Portsmouth, he had a place which fell vacant in the West Indies given him, a valuable sinecure, we take it for granted, it having been held by Lord Ducie.——We find too that Col. Grey having been disabled by a severe wound in Holland, has been placed on active service at the Cape.——As to the reversion to Lord’s Erskine’s clerk, it was admitted in the House of Commons, that not one only, but two had been granted.——The increase of the number of Judges in Scotland, Surveyors of Excise, Auditors, &c. an increase which has entailed so immense an additional expense upon the country, is adduced by the late ministers as one of their regulations for enforcing economy!——Upon the sinecure to C. Bradshaw, the pension to Judge Johnstone, who libelled Lord Hardwicke, the dismissal of Atkins, who had exposed enormous abuses, they preserve a profound silence. In our enumeration however, of jobs, we beg the late ministers’ pardon, for forgetting to include their appointments, a day or two before they were dismissed from office, of persons to fill the situations of Collector of the Customs, Surveyor of the Customs, Waiters and Searchers at Buenos Ayres, a place not then in our possession!”

Now, reader, sensible and impartial reader, this is the picture, which the factions themselves draw of the conduct of each other. I will not ask you how, under a system like this, it is possible that our concerns with foreign nations should be properly managed, I will not ask you, whether you, as a farmer, or a merchant, or a gentleman, would intrust your affairs to such hands; but, I will ask you, whether, if what these writers say be true, they are not the most base of mankind to rail at the similes, and the assertions of Sir Francis Burdett? Here we have their own account of the conduct of the two factions. The two factions, through this channel, tell the world what they have done. It is in their own mouths that we find the accusations against themselves. Sir Francis Burdett says of them only what they say of each other; precisely that, Edition: current; Page: [231] and not a word more; and yet, they accuse him of seditious language, and call upon the parliament to expel him! They have been feeling the public pulse in this way for some weeks past; but, the public pulse beats to no such time. The public, even the very blindest of the public, now see; and, that they do see, thanks to these mutual exposures.

William Cobbett
Cobbett, William
12th August, 1807



When I concluded the last letter which I did myself the honour of addressing to you, I foresaw, that occasions would arise, when I might again think this the best mode of communicating my remarks to the public in general. An occasion of this sort has now arisen. The bill for preventing grants of Places in Reversion has been thrown out in the House of Lords, after having passed the House of Commons; and, as it is reasonable to suppose, that some of you may not be fully acquainted of the nature of such grants, and of the circumstances under which the bill was thrown out, I, who have had an opportunity of becoming acquainted with both, will endeavour to give you a just description of them.

There are, Gentlemen, numerous places under the Government, which are called sine-cures, from two Latin words which mean without care. Places having no care, no charge, and, of course, no employment, attached to them; places which give the holders no other trouble than that of receiving the salaries or fees arising from them. The reason why these places are described by outlandish words is evident enough; for, to call them, in plain English, places without employment, or nothing-to-do places, would naturally produce feelings, in the people, not very friendly to such a snug establishment; and, indeed, had these places always been described by English words, my opinion is, that they would have ceased to exist long ago. We have here, Gentlemen, a striking instance of the great utility of the “Learned Languages,” which once were so serviceable to the monks and friars, and which are now kept as much in use as possible by all those who are desirous of making a mystery of what ought to be clearly and universally understood. For the same reasons the law, that which every man ought to understand as clearly as possible, has been rendered mystical by the introducing and the retaining of foreign words. Latin, French, Half-French and Half-Latin, any thing so that it be incomprehensible to the people in general; no matter what it is, so that it keeps them from a knowledge of the real nature of the thing; and, what is above all things provoking, when a couple of empty-headed fellows have once got a gown and wig on, and have learnt the use of this barbarous jargon, they will, without the least sense of decency or shame, stand up amidst hundreds of spectators, and bestow upon each other, at every second breath, the appellation of “learned friend.” Much more depends upon names than seems to enter into our philosophy. When the excellent parliament, which made a law to provide against Englishmen being unjustly deprived of their personal liberty; when they Edition: current; Page: [232] were enacting that the persons of innocent men, of all ranks, should, for the future, be secure from the fangs of a tyrannical government, they should have taken care to give their act a name which all men must have clearly understood; and not have left it to the “learned friends” to call it the act of Habeas Corpus, a name that, as far as nine-tenths of the people know, may mean something to eat, or to drink. If it had been called the personal security act, or the act for preventing unjust imprisonment, be you assured, Gentlemen, that it never would have been suspended for seven years together, not, at least, without some complaint, on the part of Englishmen, against such suspension. The English name would, too, have sounded badly in debate. Pitt, even Pitt, would not have talked so glibly of suspending the act for preventing unjust imprisonment. Men out of doors would have been startled at such a proposition; upon inquiry they would have found, that, from the moment this act was suspended, any man in the kingdom was liable to be seized by a messenger from the offices of government, and to be imprisoned as long as the council thought proper, without any trial, and without any mode of obtaining redress, or even a hearing in his defence; and, finding this, it is not to be believed, that they would have acted as they did.

From this digression, in which I have anticipated myself as to one objection to the teaching of what modern imposture and impudence term “the Learned Languages,” I return to sine-cure places, the nature of which I have endeavoured to explain to you. But, Gentlemen, persons to fill, if it may be so called, places where there is nothing to do but to receive the salaries or fees, are found in such abundance and they meet with ministers so ready to reward their public services, that these places, alas! numerous as they are, fall far short of the number required. They are all filled, at all times. This being the case, all that a poor minister can do for his friends, or relations, is to promise them the first vacancy. But, here arises a difficulty: two difficulties indeed; for the minister may not been his promise; and, if, by any chance, he should be disposed to do that, he may not keep his place; besides which he may die, or the asker of the place may cease to support him. Therefore, in order to make things as sure as this sublunary state of things will admit of, the place-hunter says, if you cannot give me the place, give me the reversion of it: that is to say, obtain me a grant from the king, making me the heir of the man who now holds the place. Nay, sometimes these reversions are granted to two or three persons at once; first to one, and, if he or she should die, to another, and, if he or she should die, to another, in which way, the late ministers have asserted in open parliament, that most of the places upon the Irish establishment are now granted, many of the grantees being young children; so that the places are granted away for sixty or eighty years to come.

This, Gentlemen, is what is meant by granting places in reversion, pensions, observe, being frequently granted in the same manner, and also some offices which are not perfect sinecures.——The late ministry, composed of our friends, the Whigs, brought in a bill, a day or two before their being ousted, to prevent, for the future, the granting of places in reversion. Their successors, though they have, as you have seen, obtained a decided majority in both Houses of Parliament, did not oppose the passing of this bill. But, when it came to the noble Lords, the noble Lords quickly dispatched it. On the 4th instant they did this, after a debate, which I shall here insert exactly as I find it reported in the Morning Edition: current; Page: [233] Chronicle newspaper; and I beseech you to read every word of it with attention.

Lord Arden considered the bill to be an unnecessary and indecent attack upon the King’s lawful prerogative. Nothing whatever had been stated to prove that such a measure was necessary, except merely an expression in the preamble of the bill, that it was expedient for the public service. The manner also in which the bill originated was very unusual, and no ground had been shown to prove that there was any necessity to make such an attack upon the King’s just prerogative. He should therefore oppose the bill, and take the sense of the House upon it.

Earl Grosvenor expressed great regret at the opposition given to this bill by his noble friend. He conceived the bill to be so completely in unison with the popular feeling at the present moment, that it would be unwise to reject it, and he thought his Majesty’s ministers, by opposing the bill, would render themselves so unpopular that they would not long remain in office. He was a warm friend to the bill, not merely for its own sake, but for the sake of those measures of reform relative to the public expenditure, of which he considered this merely as the forerunner; measures which were highly necessary at a crisis like the present, when it was of so much importance to engage the hearts as well as the arms of the people. He trusted their lordships would not be induced to reject the bill.

The Earl of Lauderdale called their lordships’ attention to his Majesty’s speech at the close of the last session, in which satisfaction was expressed at the conduct of the committee of finance, and contended that this bill, being the only measure which that committee had then recommended, the King’s speech contained in effect an approval of the measure. After ministers had thus approved of the measure, after they had approved of it in the other House, and after the bill had been so long in this House, he was greatly astonished at the opposition it now experienced. He could not help also adverting to the conduct of his Majesty’s ministers upon this occasion. If they now thought this bill ought not to pass, why did they not attend in their places, and oppose it in a manly manner, instead of staying away themselves, and sending their friends and connections to oppose the bill?” [None of the ministers were present, except the Lord Chancellor.] “He did not mean by this to impute to the noble lord that he was sent there for that purpose; but that construction would be put upon such conduct by the public. He was convinced that the public feeling was strongly in favour of the bill; and that ought to be, at the present moment, a strong argument in its favour. The granting of offices in reversion he considered to be highly prejudicial to the public service, and highly improper, such grants being frequently made to children, at a very early age, and such offices, although requiring regulation, from a change of circumstances, could not, during such grant, be regulated for the benefit of the public. He would instance one case, that of the large office held by the noble lord (Arden), and the reversion of which had been granted to him after the death of his father, whose public services were undoubtedly great, at a time when the income arising from it was comparatively trifling. The profits of it had since increased to an amount which could not possibly have been in the contemplation of any one, and which arose, in a great degree, from the misfortunes of the country. It would, no doubt, have been thought expedient to regulate an office of that description. He thought, upon every ground that could be stated, that this bill ought to be proceeded in.

Lord Arden said he was not sent to that House to oppose the bill, nor would he be sent there by any man: he opposed the bill because he conceived it to be his duty as a peer of parliament to do so.

The Earl of Lauderdale, in explanation, disclaimed any intention of throwing the least imputation upon the noble lord; he only meant to allude to the construction which would be put in the public mind upon the opposition given to the bill, coupled with the absence of his Majesty’s ministers.

Lord Viscount Melville said there was only one point in which he agreed with the noble lord (Lauderdale), namely, that which related to the absence of ministers. He wished they had been there to declare their sentiments in opposition to the bill, if such were the sentiments which they entertained upon the subject. But when the absence of ministers was spoken of, Edition: current; Page: [234] he would ask, where were the illustrious members of the late administration? Why did not they attend to support their own bill, and display their parental fondness for their own offspring? He denied that this measure had been approved of or alluded to in his Majesty’s speech. The speech applauded the general object of the Committee of Finance, namely, to inquire into the means of reforming and economizing the public expenditure; but could not be made to apply to the present measure. No argument had, he contended, been adduced in favour of the present measure, except an assertion, that it was agreeable to the public feeling. He did not believe that there was any such feeling in the public mind, nor was there any thing in the bill by which the public could be benefited. If the bill were to pass, not a sixpence would be saved by it; the offices would remain the same; and, the only object of it would be to encroach upon the King’s just and lawful prerogative. The noble lord had spoken of reversions being granted to children, but was it not the practice, when great services had been performed by an Admiral or General, to confer hereditary honours, and to grant also an annual sum, which was not confined to the person to whom granted, but was extended to his descendants? It had been the constant practice of our ancestors to act upon this principle. He would put a case also to show the expediency of acting upon it in other instances: suppose a person was rendered incapable, by age or infirmity, from executing the duties of an office which he had held for 20 or 30 years; such a person was not to be turned out without some provision. There were in this case only two modes of acting; the one by a pension, and the other by granting the reversion of the office to his son or other relation, who might ASSIST him in the office. By the former mode, a charge was made upon the public during the life of that person, and in the latter there was no additional expense. He could discover nothing in support of this bill, but an assertion that it was expedient; whilst, on the other hand, there was the uniform practice of our ancestors. He could not, therefore, consent to such a bill as the present, nor could he for a moment consent, that after a beneficent reign of nearly half a century, such an attack should be made upon the prerogative and influence of a beloved and revered monarch.

Lord Holland said, as the noble viscount had begun his speech by stating that there was only one point in the speech of his noble friend (the Earl of Lauderdale) in which he agreed, so he would observe, that there was only one point in the speech of the noble viscount in which he had the good fortune to agree, and that was, that his Majesty’s ministers ought to have been present to have declared their sentiments in a manly manner upon this bill. As to the charge made by the noble viscount, of the absence of the members of the late administration, he could assure their lordships, that, had there been the least expectation that this bill would be opposed, there would have been a full attendance of those noble lords, with whom he had the honour to act. But when it was recollected that only four-and-twenty hours notice had been given of any intention to oppose this bill (he did not mean to throw any imputation upon the noble lord who had commenced this debate), there was not much ground for surprise at the thin attendance. He thought it, however, of so much importance that this bill should be debated in a full house, that he intended to move to adjourn the debate till to-morrow, in order to give an opportunity for that full attendance, which the importance of the subject demanded. After the bill had been nearly a month before the house, without appearing to meet with any objection, he was astonished that it should now be attempted to be debated in a thin house, and at so late a period of the session. His noble friends had not attended, because they thought there was no intention of opposing the bill; he was convinced they would attend if the consideration of the bill was postponed till to-morrow. He entirely agreed with his noble friend (Earl Grosvenor), that this bill was only to be considered as the forerunner of important measures of reform and economy in the public expenditure of the country. When it was in contemplation to abolish or to regulate offices, it was natural, as the first step to be taken, to prevent those offices being granted in reversion, because if they were it was obvious that for a considerable time no regulation could be applied to them. It was therefore that the public feeling was so much interested in this bill, which he contended it was, and he begged leave to say that he thought the noble viscount, in denying the existence of this public feeling, was mistaken. He was convinced that if Edition: current; Page: [235] ministers thought that the rejection of this measure would not be an unpopular measure, they would find themselves miserably mistaken. He denied that the bill was an encroachment upon the just prerogative of the crown; on the contrary, the granting in reversion was an encroachment upon that prerogative, and upon this subject he would put the case, which though an extreme one, would show the tendency of the argument, namely, that of all the offices being granted in reversion, it would necessarily follow, that the successor to the crown would find himself deprived of all influence. Reversions, besides, had a tendency to render the offices themselves sinecures, and sinecures were again granted in reversion: then reversions begat sinecures, and sinecures begat reversions. It might be true that, by the operation of this bill in itself, nothing would be saved; but when it was considered as the first step to other measures, it must be viewed in a very different light; and although there might be considerable exaggeration as to the saving which it was possible to effect, yet, at the present moment, every sixpence and every halfpenny ought to be saved, in order to lighten, as much as possible, the burdens of the people. There might, perhaps, be a popular delusion upon this subject; but even that was an argument, at a crisis like the present, for agreeing to this bill. He did not conceive, however, that a bill of so much importance should be decided upon in so thin a house, and he should therefore move, that the debate be adjourned till to-morrow.

The Earl of Lauderdale again referred to his Majesty’s speech at the close of the last session, his Majesty’s speech at the opening of the present session, and to the votes of the House of Commons, containing the Resolution on which the present bill was founded: and contended that his Majesty’s speeches contained a full approval of this measure.

Lord Viscount Melville again contended that his Majesty’s speeches only contained an approval of the general object of the Committee of Finance.

The Earl of Selkirk approved of the bill, upon the principle that it was to be considered as the forerunner of other great and important measures.

Lord Boringdon expressed his regret at differing from many noble lords with whom he usually acted; but when he considered that this bill had been supported by ministers, had passed the other House, and had been received with nearly an unanimous consent, added to the circumstances of the present moment, he felt it his duty to vote for it.”

After this, the noble Lords divided, as it is called, nine noble Lords voting for Lord Holland’s motion, and sixteen noble Lords against it; so that the bill, by a subsequent division, was thrown out.

It will not be necessary, Gentlemen, to say much to you upon this subject. You will have perceived, that, out of about three hundred noble Lords, there were only twenty-five noble Lords present upon this occasion. The Morning Chronicle has given a list of the places, which are held by the noble Lords, who voted against this bill; but I shall give no such list, nor any list at all of the majority, or the minority; for, as to motives, I believe every noble Lord of them is animated by such as are equally pure and upright, however the said noble Lords may, “under existing circumstances,” entertain, or act upon, sentiments widely different. It is, however, worthy of notice, that the fear of depriving the successor of the King of all influence from the granting of places, was openly avowed; and, I have heard, that this was the principal, if not the only motive, from which the late ministers introduced the bill: though, it must be observed, that this does not very well agree with the idea of economy, as connected with the bill for preventing grants in reversion. The truth is, that, if economy had been the object, the bill would have been of a different description. It would have enacted, that such and such places, when the present holders died, should be abolished, and the expenses of them put an end to. This would have been doing something; but, if we are still to be taxed to pay the holders of these places, Edition: current; Page: [236] what is it to you or me, whether the holders of them are appointed by the present King, or by his successor? Lord Holland, after Lord Grosvenor, regarded the bill as the forerunner of a series of reforms. Such reforms would have been, I imagine, of but very little service to us. They would, in fact, have been injurious; for, while they would have afforded us no real relief, they would have served to amuse ignorant people, and would have afforded the sycophants of office grounds whereon to defend their patrons. “Here,” would they have said, “don’t you see, that they have begun to reform?” And with this they would have deceived thousands upon thousands of well-meaning men.

Lord Melville compared the place-holders to Admirals and Generals, who have merited great rewards from their country, and whose descendants are generally provided for. The provision in such cases is just, bec