Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

duce less complaint and murmurs than the present way in which they are conferred ? I beg, therefore, gentlemen will not conclude, because there may be some offices connected with government which it may be wise to reform, that all are indis. criminately to be wiped away. I should imagine, that a correct and particular statement ought to be made of useless offices, and excessive salaries; that specific objections should be precisely stated, and thus, by pursuing an authentic detail, the house might be enabled to entertain a probability of the saving which could be made for the country. But, Sir, if without resorting to any of these indispensable measures, if without establishing a proper clue, which in the course of inquiry would lead to a just conclusion, you were to precipitate this business, I must contend, that instead of striving to meet the popular opinion, instead of serving the essential interests of the nation, you would, on the contrary, act in opposition to both, and even excite general discontent. In such a case, the house would not do justice to themselves, nor to their constituents. This is not, however, the first time you have been called on to interfere in similar considerations. The honourable gentleman brought forward, in the last parliament, a resolution of the same nature which he has this night proposed; and the event of it is fresh in every person's recollection. In a former parliament, a plan, which contained a particular detail, which furnished a full statement of the grounds of the application, and which went to a general economical reform, was brought forward by a right honourable gentleman,* who is no longer a member of this house; yet parliament, at that period, and in an hour of confessed necessity, with every possible authority before them, with every document which a well-digested and a judiciously-executed plan could furnish, with the report of the commissioners invested with powers to examine into the various branches comprehended in the proposed reform--I say, Sir, parliament, with all these authorities before them, which the most exalted talents, or the most minute investigation, could supply, proceeded in a very cautious and limited manner. They abolished some offices, and reduced the value of others; but they did not allow themselves to extend their reform beyond à prudential and constitutional line of conduct; and what cannot be too closely attended to, they effected no change nor modification whatever, without the aid of incontrovertible evidence, and the assistance of positive fact. They wisely lopped off whatever was proved to be superfluous, and they made reductions to the amount of many thousand pounds. To them were added savings by the commissioners of his Majesty's treasury, which were confirmed by the vote of parliament. But when they came to investigate the offices held under the exchequer, and proceeded to take into their consideration the nature of the tenure by which sinecure places were held, they did not think fit entirely to lop them off. The tellers of the exchequer, and several other offices, were retained and recognized by the reso• lution of parliament as necessary to be continued. Such was the opinion of the right honourable gentleman who proposed the reform, and such were the sentiments even of some gentlemen whom I now see over against me. considerable reduca tion was then also effected in different offices of the customs, while some were entirely dropped ; and, with respect to subordinate employments, large additional savings were made. I have now to observe, that, in all these retrenchments, the house proceeded on the general and acknowledged principle of remuneration for public services which I have already stated; and of such weight was that principle, that even Mr. Burke himself, though animated with the most enthusiastic zeal to carry his plan into execution, was on every occasion ready to recognize not only the wisdom, but the necessity of adopting it. I maintain, Sir, that sinecure offices are given in the nature of a freehold tenure. Parliament has expressly said, they will respect them as freehold property: and if, in answer to this solemn declaration, it is urged, that parliament may rescind their former resolutions, I say they may, by a parity of reasoning, destroy every kind of property in the country. But to

* Mr. Burke.

dwell any longer on this kind of argument would be too absurd to merit attention; and I have only to observe, that we ought not to lose sight, even for an instant, of those grand principles which lead to, and are inseparable from, the administration of public justice. I repeat, Sir, it is my sincere and earnest wish, that the house should ascertain the particular offices which may be paid beyond the duties annexed to them, and beyond the trust and responsibility which attach to them. But until that great and necessary measure takes place, you cannot proceed to retrench or to lop off.

I mușt once more entreat the attention of the house, to the nature of the honourable gentleman's motion, and to the time in which it is proposed. The tendency of it is completely in. cluded in the instruction of which I have already given a general statement, and which I have given notice I should move for the direction of the committee, and it is brought forward at the very moment when a general investigation is set on foot with respect to the whole finance of the country, and with a view of ascertaining a plan for controlling the public expenditure. If therefore, Sir, it should be the opinion of the house to refer to the committee the subject of the honourable gentleman's motion, as part of the general inquiry with which it was intended they should be entrusted, it would be an easy matter, if the words of the instruction were thought too general, to introduce particular terms that might peculiarly specify it.

On these grounds I oppose the motion, convinced as I am, that were I to agree to it, the public could derive no benefit from it, and that I myself should become a party in the disappointment, and in the delusion of the people: I therefore move the previous question.

The previous question was carried,

Ayes-Noes

169 77

March 23, 1797.

Mr Fox, in pursuance of a previous notice, this day submitted to the House the following resolution :

“ That an humble address be presented to his Majesty, that his Majesty will be graciously pleased to take into his royal consideration the disturbed state of his kingdom of Ireland, and to adopt such healing and lenient measures as may appear to his Majesty's wisdom best calculated to restore tranquillity, and to conciliate the affections of all descriptions of his Majesty's subjects in that kingdom to his Majesty's person and government." The motion being seconded by Sir Francis Burdett, Mr. Pitt rose:

Sir-However generally the terms of the motion of the right honourable gentlemen are couched, for an address to his Majesty, it is utterly impossible for any man to form his judgment on the merits of it, unless by proceeding to separate it from the va. rious and collateral topics which he has thought proper to introduce, and without which the proposed address would, in reality, be indistinct and unnecessary. He has, in the early part of his speech, developed a subject to which I most seriously desire to call the attention of the house. The right honourable gen. tleman, who has made a speech on the whole system of the Irish legislature, who has argued at large upon the principles and frame of it, who has considered in a very ample manner its aptitude to make laws, and who has gone at length into the disposition of the people, with respect to the practical effect of these laws, began by reminding us, when he stated to the House the discontents now existing in Ireland, that it was necessary to have recourse to that period when we recognized and fully established the complete independence of the Irish legislature, as it might be known whether we gave that independence as a boon or a right whether that measure was a concession to Ireland. There is one certain point in which we must all coincide by having recourse to that period, and the truth of which the right honoura. ble gentleman himself cannot controvert--that whether the esta. blishment of the independence of Ireland was a concession or a recognition on our part, it was putting Ireland in the absolute possession of independence in point of fact. He had himself, on former occasions, fully admitted and acknowledged that important truth, and to oppose it would tend to shake the authority of the parliament of Great Britain.

But, Sir, I beg leave to ask in what parliament of Ireland was it that he recognized the independence of the legislature of that country, and the necessity of which he then urged with so much force ? Was it one formed on a more extensive frame than that which now exists ? Did it include more persons attach: ed to the Roman Catholic interest of Ireland than it does now, or was it more calculated to give satisfaction at a time when con, cessions were not made in their favour, than now when such measures have actually taken place ? Yet that very parliament, which existed at the period to which the right honourable gentleînån has thought proper to have recourse, was conceived to be the national source of the most valuable blessings to Ireland. Surely he did not mean to say that, when he himself pressed for ward in establishing the independence of Ireland, he was then only putting the people of that country in possession of a delus sion, and that the legislature was incapable of conveying to the inhabitants of the country the enjoyment of practical liberty, The right honourable gentleman will not therefore now maintain, that, in the year 1782, he considered the parliament of Ireland şo extremely defective in its frame and principles, that the nation could receive no essential benefit from the line of conduct then pursued by it; and if he will not say that, (and I am perfectly convinced he cannot say what would necessarily expose him to the charge of the most glaring inconsistency,) I am naturally led to inquire on what ground it now happens, that we are to come this day to vote an address for an alteration in the frame of that parliament, the superintendance of which we have entirely put out of our controul by the recommendation of the right honourable gentleman, and the independence of which we have unequivocally acknowledged? By what means will he make it appear, that, having renounced all power over the legislature of

« ZurückWeiter »