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wor shall any thing but age restrain my resont- ' thus :) Sir, if this be to preserve order, there is ment--age, which always brings one privilege, no danger of indecency from the most licentior. that of being insolent and supercilious without tongues. For what calumny can be more atropunishment. But with regard, sir, to those cious, what reproach more severe, than that of whom I have offended, I am of opinion, that if I speaking with regard to any thing bat truth. had acted a borrowed part, I should have aroid Order may sometimes be broken by passion or ed their censure. The heat that offended them inadvertency, but will hardly be re-established is the ardor of conviction, and that zeal for the by a monitor like this, who can not govern aus service of my country which neither hope nor' own passions while he is restraining the impetu fear shall influence me to suppress. I will not osity of others. sit unconcerned while my liberty is invaded, nor Happy would it be for mankind if every oro look in silence upon public robbery. I will ex- knew his own province. We should not then ert my endeavors, at whatever hazard, to repel see the same man at once a criminal and a judge; the aggressor, and drag the thief to justice, who- nor would this gentleman assume the right of ever may protect them in their villainy, and dictating to others what lie has not learned himwhoever may partake of their plunder. And if self. the honorable gentleman
That I may return in some degree the favor (At this point Mr. Pitt was called to order by he intends me, I will advise him never hereafter Mr. Wynnington, who went on to say, "No di- to exert himself on the subject of order; but versity of opinion can justify the violation of de- whenever he feels inclined to speak on such occency, and the use of rude and virulent expres- casions, to remember how he has now succeed. sions, dictated only by resentment, and uttered ed, and condemn in silence what his censures without regard to
will never amend. Here Mr. Pitt called to order, and proceeded
SPEECH OF LORD CHATHAM ON A MOTION FOR INQUIRING INTO THE CONDUCT OF SIR ROBERT WAL
POLE, DELIVERED IN THE HOUSE OF COMMONS, MARCH 9, 1742.
INTRODUCTION. BIR ROBEBT WALPOLE was driven from power on the 11th of February, 1742. Bo greatly were the pablic excited against him, that the cry of "blood" was heard from every quarter; and a motion was made by Lord Limerick, on the 9th of March, 1742, for a committee " to inquire into the conduct of affairs at home and abroad during the last twenty years.” This, of course, gave the widest scope for arraigning the conduct of the ex-minister; while, at the same time, no specific charges were requisite, because the question was simply on an inquiry, which was expected to develop the evidence of his guilt.
This motion was strongly opposed by Walpole's friends, and especially by Mr. Henry Pelham, who remarked, in allusion to one of the preceding speakers, that "it would very much shorten the debate if gentlemen would keep close to the argument, and not run into long harangues or flowers of rhetoric, which might be introduced upon any other subject as well as the present." Mr. Pitt followed, and took his exordium from this sarcasm of Mr. Pelham. He then went fully, and with great severity of remark, into a review of the most important measures of Walpole's administration. This led him over the same ground which had been previously traversed by Walpole, in his defense against the attack of Mr. Sandys and others about a year before. The reader will therefore find it interesting to compare this speech on the several points, as they come up, with that of Walpole, which is given on a preceding page. He will there see some points explained in the notes, by means of evidence which was not accessible to the public at the time of this discussion.
SPEECH, &c. What the gentlemen on the other side mean pid sergeant-at-law that ever spoke for a half. by long harangues or flowers of rhetoric, I shall guinea fee. For my part, I have heard nothing not pretend to determine. But if they make use in favor of the question but what I think very of nothing of the kind, it is no very good argu proper, and very much to the purpose. What ment of their sincerity, because a man who has been said, indeed, on the other side of the speaks from his heart, and is sincerely affected question, especially the long justification that with the subject upon which he speaks (as every has been made of our late measures, I can no honest man must be when he speaks in the cause think so proper ; because this motion is founded of his country), such a man, I say, falls natu- upon the present melancholy situation of affairs, rally into expressions which may be called flow and upon the general clamor without doors, ers of rhetoric; and, therefore, deserves as little against the conduct of our late public servants. in be charged with ufferation, as the most stu- / Either of these, with me, sł nll always be a saffi
sient reason for agreeing to a parliamentary in- der to detect those practices, if any such existquiry; because, without such inquiry, I can not, ed, and to find proper evidence for convicting sven in my own mind, enter into the disquisition the offenders. The same argument holds with whether oor public measures have been right or regard to the inquiry into the management of Bot; without such inquiry, I can not be furnished the South Sea Company in the year 1721.? with the necessary information.
When that affair was first moved in the House But the honorable gentlemen who oppose this by Mr. Neville, he did not, he could not, charge motion seem to mistake, I do not say willfully, the directors of that company, or any of them, te cifference between a motion for an impeach- with any particular delinquencies; nor did he ment and a motion for an inquiry. If any mem attempt to offer, or say that he was ready to offer, ber of this House were to stand up in his place, any particular proofs. His motion was, “That and move to impeach a minister, he would be the directors of the South Sea Company should obliged to charge him with some particular forthwith lay before the House an account of crimes or misdemeanors, and produce some their proceedings," and it was founded upon the proof, or declare that he was ready to prove the general circumstances of things, the distress facts. But any gentleman may move for an in- brought upon the public credit of the nation, and piry, without any particular allegation, and the general and loud complaints without doors. without offering any proof, or declaring what he This motion, indeed, reasonable as it was, we is ready to prove; because the very design of know was opposed by the Court party at the in inquiry is to find out particular facts and par- time, and, in particular, by two doughty brothticular proofs. The general circumstances of ers, who have been attached to the Court ever things, or general rumors without doors, are a sinco ; but their opposition raised such a warmth sufficient foundation for such a motion, and for in the House, that they were glad to give it up, the House agreeing to it when it is made. This, and never after durst directly oppose that insir, has always been the practice, and has been quiry. I wish I could now see the same zeal the foundation of almost all the inquiries that for public justice. The circumstances of affairs have ever been set on foot in this House, espe. I am sure deserve it. Our public credit was cial.y those that have been carried on by secret then, indeed, brought into distress; but now the and select committees. What other foundation nation itself, nay, not only this nation, but all was there for the secret committee appointed in our friends upon the Continent, are brought into the year 1694 (to go no further back), to inquire the most imminent danger. into, and inspect the books and accounts of the This, sir, is admitted even by those who opEast India Company, and of the Chamberlain of pose this motion; and if they have ever lately London ?! Nothing but a general rumor that conversed with those that dare speak their minds, some corrupt practices had been made use of. they must admit, that the murmurs of the peoWhat was the foundation of the inquiry in the ple against the conduct of the administration are year 1715 ? Did the honorable gentleman who aow as general and as loud as ever they were moved the appointment of the secret committee upon any occasion. But the misfortune is, that upon the latter occasion, charge the previous gentlemen who are in office seldom converse with administration with any particular crimes? Did any but such as either are, or want to be, in office, he offer any proofs, or declare that he was ready and such men, let them think as they will, will alto prove any thing? It is said, the measures ways applaud their superiors; consequently, gen pursued by that administration were condemned tlemen who are in the administration, or in any by a great majority of the House of Commons. office under it, can rarely know the voice of the What, sir! were those ministers condemned be- people. The voice of this House was formerly, fore they were heard? Could any gentleman I grant, and always ought to be, the voice of the be so unjust as to pass sentence, even in his own people. If new Parliaments were more fremind, upon a measure before he had inquired quent, and few placemen, and no pensioners, adinto it? He might, perhaps, dislike the Treaty mitted, it would be so still ; but if long Parlia. of Utrecht, but, upon inquiry, it might appear ments be continued, and a corrupt influence to be the best that could be obtained; and it should prevail, not only at elections, but in this has since been so far justified, that it appears House, the voice of this House will generally be at least as good, if not better, than any treaty very different from, nay, osten directly contrary we have subsequently made.
to, the voice of the people. However, as this Sir, it was not the Treaty of Utrecht, nor any is not, I believe, the case at present, I hope measure openly pursued by the administration there is a majority of us who know what is the which negotiated it, that was the foundation or voice of the people. And if it be admi:ted by the cause of an inquiry into their conduct. It all that the nation is at present in the atmost was the loud complaints of a great party against distress and danger, if it be admitted by a maihem ; and the general suspicion of their having jority that the voice of the people is loud against carried on treasonable negotiations in favor of the conduct of our late administration, this ma ibe Pretender, and for defeating the Protestant tion must be agreed to, because I have shown succession. The inquiry was set on foot in or. ''at these two circunstances, vithout any par.
did.. p. 685. ir Robert and Mr. Horatio Walpole
licular charge, have been the foundation of al-false in fact, and contrary to experience. We most every parliamentary inquiry.
i have had many parliamentary inquiries into the á readily admit, sir, that we have very little conduct of ministers of state; and yet I defy ang !o do with the character or reputation of a min. one to show that any state affair which ought to ister, but as it always does, and must affect our have been concealed was thereby discovered, or sovereign. But the people may become disaf- that our affairs, either abroad or at home, eve) fected as well as discontented, when they find suffered by any such discovery. There are the King continues obstinately to employ a min. methods, sir, of preventing papers of a very se. ister who, they think, oppresses them at home cret nature from coming into the hands of the and betrays them abroad. We are, therefore, servants attending, or even of all the members n duty to our sovereign, obliged to inquire into of a secret committee. If his Majesty should, the conduct of a minister when it becomes gen- by message, inform us, that some of the papers erally suspected by the people, in order that we sealed up and laid before us required the utmos: may vindicate his character if he be innocent of secrecy, we might refer them to our committee, the charges brought against him, or, if he be instructing them to order only two or three of guilty, that we may obtain his removal from the their number to inspect such papers, and to re. councils of our sovereign, and also condign pun- port from them nothing but what they thought . ishment on his crimes.
might safely be communicated to the whole. After having said thus much, sir, I need scarce- By this method, I presume, the danger of disly answer what has been asserted, that no par-covery would be effectually removed; this dan liamentary inquiry ought ever to be instituted, ger, therefore, is no good argument against a unless we are convinced that something has parliamentary inquiry been done amiss. Sir, the very name given to | The other objection, sir, is really surprising, this House of Parliament proves the contrary. | because it is founded upon a circumstance which We are called The Grand Inquest of the Nation; in all former times, has been admitted as a and, as such, it is our duty to inquire into every strong argument in favor of an immediate in step of public management, both abroad and at quiry. The honorable gentlemen are so ingen home, in order to see that nothing has been done uous as to confess that our affairs, both abroac amiss. It is not necessary, upon every occasion, und at home, are at present in the utmost em. to establish a secret committee. This is never barrassment; but, say they, you ought to free necessary but when the affairs to be brought be yourselves from this embarrassment before you fore it, or some of those affairs, are supposed to inquire into the cause of it. Sir, according to be of such a nature as to require secrecy. But, this way of arguing, a minister who has plunas experience has shown that nothing but a su dered and betrayed his country, and fears being perficial inquiry is ever made by a general com-called to an account in Parliament, has nothing mittee, or a committee of the whole House, I to do but to involve his country in a dangeruik wish that all estimates and aconunts, and many war, or some other great distress, in order to other affairs, were respectively referred to select prevent an inquiry into his conduct; because he committees. Their inquiries would be more ex- may be dead before that war is at an end, or act, and the receiving of their reports would not that distress is surmounted. Thus, like the most occupy so much of our time as is represented. detestable of all thieves, after plundering the But, if it did, our duty being to make strict in- house, he has only to set it on fire, that he may quiries into every thing relative to the public, escape in the confusion. It is really astonishing our assembling here being for that purpose, we to hear such an argument seriously urged in this must perform our duty before we break up; and House. But, say these gentlemen, if you found his present Majesty, I am sure, will never put yourself upon a precipice, would you stand to an end to any session till that duty has been fully inquire how you were led there, before you conperformed.
sidered how to get off ? No, sir; but if a guide It is said by some gentlemen, that by this in- had led me there, I should very probably be proquiry we shall be in danger of discovering the voked to throw him over, before I thought of any secrets of our government to our enemies. This | thing else. At least I am sure I should not argument, sir, by proving too much, proves noth trust to the same guide for bringing me off; and ing. If it were admitted, it would always have this, sir, is the strongest argument that can be been, and its admission forever will be, an argu- used for an inquiry. ment against our inquiring into any affair in We have been, for these twenty years, under which our government can be supposed to be the guidance, I may truly say, of one man-of concerned. Our inquiries would then be con | one single minister. We now, at last, find ourfined to the conduct of our little companies, or selves upon a dangerous precipice. Ought we of inferior custom-house officers and excisemen; not, then, immediately to inquire, whether we for, if we should presume to inquire into the con have been led upon this precipice by his ignoduct of commissioners or of great companies, it rance or wickedness; and is by either, to take would be said the government had a concern in care not to trust to his guidance for our safety? their conduct, and the secrets of government This is an additional and a stronger argument must not be divulged. Every gentleman must for this inquiry than ever was urged for any forsre that this would be the consequence of ad.mer one, sor, if we do not inquire, we shall prob. mithing such an argument. But, besides, it is ahly remain under his guidance; locausc, ibrugt
be bo renoved from the Treasury Board, he is ions had been distributed among the poor sort of not removed from the King's Court, nor will he annuitants, it would have been both generous je, probably, unless it be by our advice, or un- and charitable ; but to give it among the propri. less we lodge him in a place at the other end of etors in general was neither generous nor just, che town i. e., the Tower), where he can not so because most of them deserved no favor fror: xell injure his country. Sir, our distress at the public. As the proceedings of the directora home evidently proceeds from want of economy, were authorized by general courts, those who and from our having incurred many unnecessary were then the proprietors were in some measure expenses. Our distress and danger abroad are accessary to the frauds of the directors, and ezidently owing to the misconduct of the war therefore deserved to be punished rather than with Spain, and to the little confidence which our rewarded, as they really were; because every gatural and ancient allies have reposed in our one of them who continued to hold stock in that councils. This is so evident, that I should not company received nearly fifty per cent., added think it necessary to enter into any particular to his capital, most part of which arose from the explanation, if an honorable gentleman on the high price annuitants were, by act of Parliament, other side had not attempted to justify most of obliged to take stock at, and was therefore a uur late measures both abroad and at home. most flagrant piece of injustice done to the an. But as he has done so, though not, in my opin- nuitants. But we need not be at a loss for the jon, quite to the purpose of the present debate, | true cause of this act of injustice, when we con. I hope I shall be allowed to make some remarks sider that a certain gentleman had a great many upon what he has said on the subject; begin- friends among the old stockholders, and few or ning, as he did, with the measures taken for pun- none among the annuitants. ishing the South Sea directors, and restoring Another act of injustice, which I believe we public credit after the terrible shock it received may ascribe to the same cause, relates to those in the year 1720.
who were engaged in heavy contracts for stock As those measures, sir, were among the first or subscription, many of whom groan under the exploits of our late (I sear I must call him our load to this very day. For after we had, by act present) prime minister, and as the committee of Parliament, quite altered the nature, though proposed, if agreed to, will probably consist of not the name, of the stock they had bought, and one-and-twenty members, I wish the motion made it much less valuable than it was when had extended one year further back, that the they engaged to pay a high price for it, it was aumber of years might have corresponded with an act of public injustice to leave them liable to the number of inquirers, and that it might have be prosecuted at law for the whole money which comprehended the first of those measures to they had engaged to pay. I am sure this was which I have before alluded. As it now stands, not the method to restore that private credit upon it will not comprehend the methods taken for which our trade and navigation so much depend. penishing the directors (of the South Sea Com Had the same regulation been here adopted pany), nor the first regalation made for restor which was observed toward those who had bor. ing public credit; and with regard to both, some rowed money of the company, or had a sort of practices might be discovered that would de- uti possidetis been enacted, by declaring all such serve a much severer punishment than any of contracts void so far as related to any future those directors experienced. Considering the payments, this would not have been unjust; on many frauds made use of by the directors and the contrary, such a regulation, sir, was ex. their agents for luring people to their ruin, I am tremely necessary for quieting the minds of the not a little surprised to hear it now said that people, for preventing their ruining one another their punishment was considered too severe. at law, and for restoring credit between man Justice by the lump was an epithet given to it, and man. But there is reason to suppose that But because it was thought too severe, but be- a certain gentleman (Walpolej had many friends cause it was an artifice to screen the most hei- among the sellers in those contracts, and very nous offenders, who, if they did not deserve few among the buyers, which was the reason death, deserved, at least, to partake of that total that the latter could obtain little or no relief or ruin which they had brought upon many un- mercy by any public law or regulation. thinking men. They very ill deserved, sir, those Then, sir, with regard to the extraordinary allowances which were made them by Parlia- | grants made to the civil list, the very reason ment.
given by the honorable gentleman for justifying Then, sir, as to public credit, its speedy res those grants is a strong reason for an immediate toration was founded upon the conduct of the inquiry. If considerable charges have arisen nation, and not upon the wisdom or justice of the upon that revenue, let us see what they aro; let measures adopted. Was it a wise method to re us examine whether they were necessary. We mit to the South Sea Company the whole seven have the more reason to do this, because the millions, or thereabɔuts, which they had solemn revenue settled upon his late Majesty's civil list ly engaged to pay to the public ? It might as was at least as great as that which was settled well be said, that a private man's giving away upon King William or Queen Anne. Besides, a great part of his estate to those who no way there is a general rumor without doors, that the Leserved it, would be a wise method of reviving civil list is now greatly in arrear, which, if true, or establishing his credit. If hose seven mill- / renders an inquiry absolutely necessary. For it is inconsistent with the hunor and dignity of the ready heard one reason assigned why no other Crown of these kingdoms to be in arrear to its measures have been particularly mentionei and lradesinen and servants; and it is the duty of condemned in this debate. If it were necessary, this House to take care that the revenue which many others might be mentioned and condemnwe have settled for supporting the honor and ed. Is not the maintaining so numerous an army dignity of the Crown, shall not be squandered or in time of peace to be condemned ? Is not the misapplied. If former Parliaments have failed fitting out so many expensive and useless squad. in this respect, they must be censured, though rons to be condemned? Are not the encroach. they can not be punished; but we ought now to ments made upon the Sinking Fund ;the revire atone for their neglect.
ing the salt duty; the rejecting many useful bills I come now, in course, to the Excise Scheme, and motions in Parliament, and many other do which the honorable gentleman says ought to mestic measures, to be condemned? The weak be forgiven, because it was easily given up." ness or the wickedness of these measures ha: Sir, it was not easily given up. The promoter often been demonstrated. Their ill consequences of that scheme did not easily give it up; he were at the respective times foretold, and those gave it up with sorrow, with tears in his eyes, consequences are now become visible by oui when he saw, and not until he saw, it was im- distress. possible to carry it through the House. Did not Now, sir, with regard to the foreign meas his majority decrease upon every division ? It ! ures which the honorable gentleman has attempt. was almost certisin that if he had pushed it far- | ed to justify. The Treaty of Hanover deserves ther, his majority would have turned against to a first mentioned, because from thence him. His sorrow showed his disappointment; springs the danger to which Europe is now exand his disappointment showed that his design posed; and it is impossible to assign a reason was deeper than simply to prevent frauds in the for our entering into that treaty, without supcustoms. He was, at that time, sensible of the posing that we then resolved to be revenged on influence of the excise laws and excise men with the Emperor for refusing to grant us some favor regard to elections, and of the great occasion in Germany. It is in vain now to insist npon he should have for that sort of influence at the the secret engagements entered into by the approaching general election. His attempt, sir, courts of Vienna and Madrid as the cause of was most flagrant against the Constitution; and that treaty. Time has fully shown that there he deserved the treatment he met with from the never were any such engagements, and his lato people. It has been said that there were none but what gentlemen are pleased to call the mob
. In the year 1717, the surplus of the public in
come over the public expenditure, was converted concerned in burning him in effigy ;6 but, as the
into what was called The Sinking Fund, for the mob consists chiefly of children, journeymen, and
purpose of liquidating the national debt. During servants, who speak the sentiments of their par- the whole reign of George I., this fund was invari ents and masters, we may thence judge of the ably appropriated to the object for which it had sentiments of the higher classes of the people. been created ; and, rather than encroach upon it,
The honorable gentleman has said, these were money was borrowed upon new taxes, when the all the measures of a domestic nature that could
supplies in general might have been raised by dedi: be found fault with, because none other have
cating the surplus of the old taxes to the current
services of the year. The first direct encroachment been mentioned in this debate. Sir, he has al
upon the Sinking Fund took place in the year 1729,
when the interest of a sum of £1,250,000, required 5 The Excise Scheme of Sir Robert Walpole was for the current service of the year, was charged on simply a warehousing system, under which the du that fund, instead of any new taxes being imposed ties on tobacco and wine were payable, not when upon the people to meet it. The second encroachthe articles were imported, but when they were ment took place in the year 1731, when the income taken out to be cousumed. It was computed, tbat, arising from certain duties which had been imposed in consequence of the check which this change in in the reign of William III., for paying tbe interest the mode of collecting the duties on these articles due to the East India Company, and which were would give to smuggling, the revenge would derive now no longer required for that purpose, in conse an increase which, with the continuance of the salt quence of the
vas iade tax (revived the preceding year), would be amply use of in order to raise a sum of £1,200,000, instead sufficient to compensate for the total abolition of of throwing such income into the Sinking Fund, as the land tax. The political opponents of Sir Rob- ought properly to bave been done. A third perverert Walpole, by representing his proposition as a sion of this fund took place in the year 1733, before scheme for a general excise, succeeded in raising so the introduction of the Excise Scheme. In the previolent a clamor against it, and in rendering it so vious yenr the land tax had been reduced to one unpopular, that, much against his own inclination, he shilling in the pound; and, in order to maintain it was obliged to abandon it. It was subsequently at the same rate, the sum of £500,000 was taken approved of by Adam Smith; and Lord Chatham, at from the Sinking Fund and applied to the services of a later period of his life, candidly acknowledged, that the year. In 1734 the sum of £1,200,000, the whole his opposition to it was founded in misconception. produce of the Sinking Fand, was taken from it; and For an interesting account of the proceedings rela. in 1735 and 1736, it was anticipated and alienated.tive to the Excise Scheme, see Lord Hervey's Mem- Sinclair's Hist. of the Revenge, vol. i., p. 484, et seg. oirs of the Court of George II., chaps. viii. and ix. Coxe's Walpole, chap. xl.
6 See Lord Hervey's Memoirs of the Court of Here Lord Chatham was mistaken. It is now George II., vol. i., p. 203.
I certainly known that secret engagements did exist,