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While these masters were pending, the vote of credit for the sum of two millions and a half, brought in and already twice read, was (tupped in its progress by Mr. Grey, who contended, from what had passed, that the house ought to be on its guard against the appropriation os money at the will of the minister. A vote os credit, he observed, was to enable the executive power to meet expences unforeseen and unprovided for, but not to discharge debts already contracted, without the sanction of parliament. ,
Mr. Pitt replied, that the vote os credit having been specified in the estimate of ways and means, it* application was subject to the investigation of parliament. It (onstituted a fund ready at hand for exigencies, without encumber? ing the expences of the ensuing year.
Mr. Fox observed, that the money voted by a bill os credit was not illuable till an exigency appeared, whereas the money voted upon estimate of the expence was immediately provided. Votes of credit were not intended to supply the deficiency os estimates, but merely to answer unforeseen occurrences in the absence of parliament. The bill, aster some additional remarks ot the fame nature by Mr. Sheridan, went through a third reading, by a majority of seventy-seven.
It underwent a similar opposition in the house of lords, where the duke of Grafton and the earl of Lauderdale used much the same arguments against it as in the commons, and took occasion, at the feme time, to express their disapprobation of the Hamburgh bills, but it fasted in the affirmative.
Some of the new taxes were also opposed in the lower house. That upon tobacco was represented as bearing too heavily upon the lower clafles. Through general Tarlcton's interference, the soldiers on board were allowed to be supplied, with it, duty free. The horse-tax was also taken off those employed in the yeomanry cavalry. Free-holders, from ten to fifteen Bounds a year, ajid people holding farms of seventy, or freeholds of thirty-five pounds a year, were also exempted from it; and thu tax on , printed cottons was intirely given up.
The duty inlposed on legacies met with a strong opposition. It was objected to by Mr. Ncwnham, as of too inquisitorial a tendency into the affairs of families, and particularly of commercial people; it would prejudice illegitimate children, faithful domestics-, and old friends. He was ably seconded by Mr. Fox, who enlarged considerably on all his arguments.
They were replied to by the solicitor-general, who observed, that the principle os the bill was founded on a law of the fame import already in force. The tax took nothing from actual possession, and its bringing private property to> light was no" valid objection, as private credit would thereby be confirmed.
The tax was strongly supporte.l by the attorney-general. He particularly noticed the case of illegitimate children, who, instead of being injured by it, were, if acknowledged by the testator, intitled to the exception allowed ny the act to lineal descent. The bill, after some farther dilcuflion, pasted. by a majority of seventy-eight.
In the house os lords it was vehemently opposed by lord Lauclcrdale, as tending gradually to diminish the importance of that'house, by lessening the opulence of its members, such numbers of whom came to their honours and fortunes through collateral succession. He instanced the duke of Norfolk, who must, is such an act had subsisted, have been a loser by six hundred thousand 'pounds, taken from the family which he represented. The bill, however, was carried.
The tax on collateral succession to real estates was more successfully opposed in the house os commons, where it evidently appeared lo obnoxious, that Mr. Pitt found himself under the necessity qs totally relinquistiing it.
On the eight of December, a message was delivered from the Icing to the house of commons, informing them of his disposition to enter into a negociation for peace with the present government of France. Mr. Pitt thereon moved an address, expressive of their readiness to concur in such a measure.
■Mr. Sheridan avowed himself of opinion, that the intention os the minister was to frustrate the motion for peace of which Mr. Grey had given notice. What other motives could induce the minister to this change of language respecting the French, whom he had so lately represented as unable to continue the war, and on the brink of destruction. The men who governed that country were the lame who had put the king to death, and with whom, our ministry had declared, no settled order os things could ever take place. But, whoever were the governors of France, Mr. Sheridan insisted, that no reason of
that sort ought lo prevent an accommodation, and he moved an amendment lo the addrcls, to signify tho concern of the house, that any form of government in that country flioulcl induce the king lo be .-averse to peace; and to request dial, letting alide all considerations of that nature, he would direct his ministers to treat with- the enem\ on safe and honourable terms. He was seconded by Mr. Grey, who advanced a variety of facts and reasonings upon them to prove the propriety of treating.
Until the present opportunity, Mr. l'ilt replied, none had ottered to encourage ideas of peace, which, however, had not been prevented by the mere existence os a republic in France, but by a total absence of any species of regular government. The change now was ma* nifest: the new constitution was contrary to the doctrine of universal equality; the French had now a mixed form os government, admilting of distinctions in society j and their legislature was not coiir siructed on a pure democracy. This fully authorized ministry to consider them in quite another light than sormerl) ; but did not surnifli any pretence for depriving ministers of their right lo act in the name of the executive power, without undue interference, which must certainly be the cafe, were the amendment to be adopted.
Mr. fox severely reprehended ministry for pretending that, till now, the government of Franco was incapable of maintaining the relations of peace and amity with other nations. They had maintained them successively with every power they had treated with; nor was the character of the present
rulers rulers of that country more favourable to the preserving of such relations. Minister* ought, in the rcrin time, to be reminded with what powers they had not scrupled to enter into treaties oi amity, and of what deeds they had, in consequence, been the abettors. Mr. Fox reviewed the events of the war with great accuracy and precision, with a view of shewing the ill management of thole who had conducted it. He ridiculed the idea, that the French were more deserving os consilience on account ot their new constitution; their principles were still the fame, though they had adopted another mode of ruling. But neither those principles, nor their antecedent government, ought to have been made the pretext for waging a war of extermination. It was thae to end it on any conditions, not derogatory to the dignity of this country; and ministry ought no longer to be suffered to protract the war, on she pretence they had lb continually, but falsely, alleged, of incapacity in the enemy to maintain a good understanding.
The sentiments of Mr. Dundas were, that to offer terms of peace to the enemy would be attended with no disgrace, but that ministers, in such case, sliould be left to act discretional ly, and not to be compelled to make a peace of which they disapproved. The amendment, for that reason, was inequitable, as it fettered their operations against all experience and precedent. He denied the object of the war to be the restoration of despotism in France, or that this country could have indulged the hope of an advantageous peace till the present period. Less than a year before,
the successes of the French had rendered them (intractable, and it was only since their late defeats that realonab'a men had begun to hope for equitable conditions. Never before had they, dining the whole of tiiis war, (Condescended to express the least willingness to reconciliation. The king's mestage could not have been delivered at a sitter opportunity: the supplies for the continuance of th:: war had been granted, and th : nation had proved itself able and willing to maintain the contest. This was exactly the situation in which we should appear to the enemy, upon whom it would doubtless make that impression which was intended. It would convince the French, that, however we might be desirous of peace, we were ready for war, and not disposed to treat on dishonourable terms. The debate closed by rejecting the amendment and carrying the address, A similar one to this was, on the next day, tenth of December, proposed and palled in the house of lords.
On the fifteen of February, Mr. Grey introduced his motion for peace by a speech, wherein he observed, that, contrary to general expectation, the ministry, in lieu of a negotiation for peace, were making preparations for a continuation of the war. But with what well-grounded hope of success could they persist in this unfortunate system! There was no confidence nor unity of views in the remaining parts of the coalition; and yet this country was to bear the weight of this pretended alliance in favour of the common interest ot Europe. 'The public was exhorted to rely on the discretion of ministers: but were they worthy of any trust, after be
ing ing deceived in their allies in (lie most niatcrial points, and still expressing a forwardness to depend on promises so frequently reiterated and so repeatedly broken, whenever induced by the slightest interest to falsify their word. The French, it was now acknowledged, were in a situation to be treated with; we ought, therefore, no longer to stand aloof. He would consequently move for an address to the king, requesting him to communicate to the executive government in France his readiness to embrace any opportunity of coinciding with them in mutual endeavours (or the re-establifliment of peace.
The situation of affairs, it was Teplied by Mr. Pitt, was such, that it could be no humiliation 10 this country to be the first in prolerring peace; but the conducting ot" a negoeiation, and when to time it, belonged solely to ministers. If they were deemed unworthy of Inch a trust, their opponents ought to petition for their removal; but while thev continued in office, they alone could be the proper agents in such a transaction; they ought, on this principle, to act unitedly, not only among themselves, but with the allies of this country, to whom no cause should be given to suspect us of duplicity, and of not acting in the sincerest conjunction with them. Jf they remained entire, to powerful a confederacy could not, in the nature of things, fail, by perleverence and unanimity, to obtain, iinally, an advantageous peace; but this desirable object depended on the moderation of the enemy. All had been done, consistently with honour and interest, to bring him to this issue; but neither of these would be lacrificed. Considering
the temper of our enemies, and how much they were inflamed by the pressure ol r-ircumst;inces, to give up their inordinate pretensions, peace would probably depend on the difficulty they would find to prosecute the war, and the prospect os it might not, of course, be sa near as wiffied or expected.
Whatever success onr arms might have in suture, still we ought not, said Mr. Fox, to presume that a better season for treating than the present would occur. There was a time when the enemy could not stand before the confederacy, and was driven from every place he had occupied abroad, and forced to retire for (belter into his own country. What si liiation could be more prosperous for the coalition? But it did not think the French sufficiently humbled and depressed, and lost an opportunity that would never return. We complained os that decree os the convention, by which they threatened interference in the affairs of other countries; but as they had solemnly rescinded it as .offensive to us, why did not we disclaim all interference in their own concerns? why had no steps been taken towards a pacification, as the public had been given to hope they would certainly be popular in this country and not displeasing to our allies nor to all Europe, which looked anxiously for such an event. The great obstacle t J peace was the animosity between the French and their enemies. This should be removed preferably to all other obstructions. This might be done by offering them reasonable conditions, which would disarm an enemy much sooner than violence and obstinacy. It was not surprizing the French should be exasperated, when we
spoke of them so contemptuously, and even sent an ambassador to the person who called himself their ling. It was illusory, in the mean time, to buoy up the spirits of the people, bv telling them to look at the distresses of the French, as if they were any mitigation of their own. These Were no arguments to lay before men who had suffered so much for the profusion and ill success that had so usually accompanied ministerial measures. The
opponents to these were arrogantlyadmonished, that it was the royal prerogative only to decide of peace and when to conclude it: but ministers also mould be reminded, that it was no less the prerogative of the commons of England to interpose their advice, both as to the time and the conditions that were seasonable. On closing the debate, fifty divided for the motion, and one hundred and ninety against it.