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notice the declaration made by the right honourable gentleman, that he would not enter into the particulars of the respective discontents of both parties, and yet he immediately after, notwithstanding that declaration, laid before the house a minute detail of circumstances on which I will not now dwell, thinking as I do, that a discussion of that nature is more calculated to inflame the minds of many than to prove of any essential service, When he came to mention the subject of religion, which has, according to his statements, produced many of the present discontents, he certainly did not seem very solicitous to preserve the church establishment, and though he does not wish to address the throne for the adoption of any particular line of conduct, it is something singular that he should recommend a measure that must affect a great mass of private property and even injure the church itself,
Not deeming it necessary to trouble the house any longer on these particulars, and convinced, as I am, that neither we nor the crown can interfere to effect that which exclusively belongs to the parliament of Ireland, I shall make a few observations on what has fallen from the right honourable gentleman with respect to the rights of which the Roman catholics are possessed, and also on the subject of those additional rights which it is his desire they should yet obtain. He observes that the catholics ought to have the general right of voting, of sitting in the legis, lative assembly, and of filling the public offices. To this, Sir, I answer, that they are in the actual possession of every other right, but that they certainly do not possess the right of voting for members of parliament, unless according to qualifications prescribed by law. This I conceive to be the mere state in which the catholics are placed. But, says the right honourable gentieman, enough bas not been done to extend to them civil and religious liberties. Have not concessions of the most liberal kind been made to them since the revolution; and, during the present reign, has not every possible pledge been given to them of real affection and sincere zeal for their best interests on the part the crown? But, Sir, it is curious to remark the detail which
the right honourable gentleman proposes, even admitting that the present subject is a proper one for us to recommend to the adoption of the executive government. In this detail there une questionably arises an inconsistency, which he will find it no easy matter to do away. He first declares that he means to satisfy the catholics, by conferring on them the power of voting generally. But he immediately adds, that, by pursuing that measure, we shall not be able to give them any weight in point of political liberty; for, as he maintains that the elective franchise is so managed in Ireland, that it is entirely in the power of corporations to bestow or to withhold it, it would consequently be impossible for them to gain any material benefit, or to obtain any political influence, even if the law, which he himself wishes to be passed in their favour, were to take place. It therefore appears evident, that the remedy proposed by the right honourable gentleman himself, must be inadequate to meet the evil which he so seriously laments. And it naturally follows, as I have before had occasion to observe, that the great end of his plan is to alter essentially the whole frame of the constitution of the legislature of Ireland. In other words, Sir, the right honourable gentleman proposes an investigation and a scrutiny into the pretensions of the catholics of the south, and of the pro, testants of the north, for the express purpose of laying down what he considers to be just principles; and then the parliament of Ireland must be new modelled and revised, in consequence of his previous inquiry. But is it reasonable to call on the parliament of England to do that very thing which inust not only. be condemned by the parliament of Ireland, but is not entertained in the opinion of even a considerable number of persons ? Yet, Sir, this question, which calls into doubt the existence of the whole constitution of Ireland, is to be brought forward on mere surmise, and without the shadow of authority. I say, it does not come within the constitutional right which we may possess, of controlling the executive government. It certainly does not come within the possibility of any right, which we can possess, of interfering in considerations which exclusively belong to a legislature totally separate from, and independent of us.
The other points which the right honourable gentleman has referred to, are lost, if possible, in more obscurity than that which I have just noticed. The various and clashing pretensions of the different parties are so extremely opposite, that it would be an arduous task to reconcile them. And if, in commending certain political principles which are acknowledged by the northerns, he has in his mind principles founded on the French doctrine of the sovereignty of the people, and intimately connected with those revolutionary tenets which have produced such vast mischiefs throughout Europe, I maintain, Sir, that it would be contrary to the duty of the parliament of Great Britain to entertain the motion of the right honourable gentleman, supported as it is by the speech which he has this night delivered. There are, Sir, none of his considerations on which we can prudently or safely pronounce; for there are none of them which may not excite such a flame as we shall never have it in our power to extinguish. They involve objects most delicate in their nature, and dangerous in their consequences. They embrace difficulties of a prodigious extent; and on which I shall not dwell, as they have been sufficiently described in the speech of the right honourablé gentleman, so as to make us shudder with a just apprehension of the fatal and dreadful effects that must result from them. I must, therefore, Sir, consider the address proposed as a blind injunction, without any specific extent or means of execution. On this short ground I oppose the motion; and, with the conviction of the dangers that must arise from the adoption of it, with the solemn recognition of the independence of the parliament of Ireland, with a just sense of our duty that others may not in their turn be wanting to us, I cannot entertain a doubt but that the motion will be rejected by a considerable majority of the house; The motion was rejected ;
April 4, 1797.
Mr. Sheridan, conformably to the notice he had given on a former day, called the attention of the House to the subject of making further advances to the Emperor of Germany; concluding his observations with moving the fol. lowing resolution: “ That the House will resolve itself into a Committee of the whole House, to inquire whether it is consistent with a due regard to the essential interests of this country, that, under the present circumstances, any further loans or advances should be made to his Imperial Majesty,”
Mr. Pitt rose, as soon as the motion was read :
The speech of the honourable gentleman, who has just sat down, varied so much from his motion, and there was so little resemblance with the opinions he advanced, and the proposition with which he concluded, that I find it extremely difficult to adopt a train of argument which will bear upon both at one time. The argument of the honourable gentleman, which he pretended to found upon a long detail of circumstances, in his opinion undeniable in point of fact, and certainly, if they are true, very serious in their nature, pointed to a conclusion, in which, he premised that the house would betray their trust to their constituents, if they did not join, and from which, if they ventured to dissent, he apprehended the most fatal consequences would ensue to the country. He stated the subject now under discussion, as one not to be hung up or suspended, not as one upon which information ought to be collected, and mature deliberation exercised before a decision was passed; but he described it with all that richness of imagery and aptness of allusion of which he is 30 much master; with even multiplied illustrations, as one on which a moment's delay ought not to be permitted, and on which to hesitate was to sacrifice the best interests of the nation. It was a case, according to him, in which patience led to death. I must observe, in setting out, however, that his analogies, howa ever various and beautiful, were not very appropriate. He represented the absurdity of inquiring into the nature of the instrument by which a wound was inflicted, before bandages and styp
tics were applied, and the insanity of waiting for the coroner's inquest upon a person drowned, before the means recommended by the humane society were used for his recovery.
He forgot, however, that his motion, as calculated to operate upon the political malady of the state, did not correspond with the steps which ought to be taken in the first instance with a person wounded or drowned. In order to make the allusion accurate, his argument should have stated, that the continuance of remit. tances to the emperor would produce an inability in the bank to make good their money payments; or, supposing that inability to have just arisen, he should have shewn, that the measure recommended in his motion was the best which could be adopted to remove that inability. It so happens, however, unfortunately for the accuracy of his allusion, that money payments have been suspended at the bank for a considerable time; that an order of council was issued as the best remedy at the moment for the difficulties of the bank; that this suspension has been recognized by the house of commons; and that the legislature, anxious to devise the best mode of restoring the credit of that corporation by reinstating it in its former situation of solvency, has thought proper, as a fit preliminary to that deliberation, to appoint a secret committee to inquire into the causes of its embarrassments. This is is the true state of the question.
The honourable gentleman, in his argument, represented his motion as essential to the very being of the bank, and of the country, and as one from which the house cannot withhold its assent without sealing their own reproach and infamy, by sacrificing every trust which has been delegated to them by the nation; and when the motion was read, it turned out to be nothing more than an ambiguous attempt to make them pronounce indirectly an opinion upon a subject, upon which they were not yet in possession of information sufficient to enable them to pass a fair and just decision. For though the case was of such a nature, as represented in his speech, that it could admit of neither doubt nor delay, his motion went to nothing more than the appointment of a committee to inquire into the circumstances connected