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Mr. Whilbread resumed.--He was not surprised at what had fallen from an honourable Member (Mr. Davies Giddy), coming as that Member did from the very focus of anti-reform. He would, on the contrary, have been surprised if the honourable Member had not been an anti-reformer. Notwithstanding the contempt which Mr. Windham chose latterly to express for popular opinion, the House know very well that Mr. Windham stood both for Norwich and the county of Norfolk, and that he would have esteemed the being elected for these places a feather in his cap. It was argued against the reformation of the Scotch representation, that no petitions bad been presented against it. It was very hard that when any question was brought forward accompanied with petitions, it should be alleged that they had their origin in faction; and when no petitions were presented against any measure, it should be said that no person cared for it. That the Scotchmen who came from Scotland to that House were unanimously against Parliamentary Reform, he had not the smallest doubt'; and if Ministers were at all anxious to liave something like an unanimity in the House, they could wish nothing further than that England and Ireland should be represented after the same manner as Scotland. Those Members had since the Union supported regularly every Government. -(Laugh!) If any person were inclined to doubt the influence of the Crown, he would merely refer him to the recent rejection of the claims of the Roman Catholics of Ireland. No person could doubt but that it was the Crown, and not the people, who decided that question. Would any man maintain that if it had been known the interest of Government was to be given in favour of the Catholics, the question would not have been determined in another way? -(hear!) It would have been decided as the question of the Slave Trade was decided, after a struggle of twenty years, whenever it was known that the Government was favourable to it. An allusion had been made to the opi. nion of the President Montesquieu in favour of the English Constitution, but it ought to be borne in mind that the destruction of that Constitution was prophesied by that great man when the Legislature should be more corrupt than the Executive. There was a new æra.
If it could be said of some of those gentlemen who had lately gone over to the opposite side of the House cælum, non animum mutant qui trans mare currunt, he thought he might safely at least say this much for himself, that he had never shrunk from the people, but had at the same time never sacrificed his own opinions. If he could arrogate any thing to himself, he thought it was consistency. He had maintained his own opinions with the people, and against the people. The present war was once popular, and the American war was also popular in the beginning. At the end of the American war, however, infinitely worse terms of peace were procured than might have been got at the commencement., That war was at last terminated by clamour, and the present would be terminated in the very same manner-(Heur, hear!) He was glad that the honourable baronet (Sir F. Burdeti) had this night explained bis speech on the question of the Barrack Estimates. He had heard it rumoured that some would have voted against the Barracks, had it not been for that speech. From what he knew of the feelings of the honourable baronet, he believed he would rather have done any thing than made that speech, had be been aware it would have been attended with such consequences. This was fining the country in no less a sum than 90,0001. a year for this unfortunate speech of his honourable friend(a laugh!) With respect to the decision on the question of the Walcheren Expedition, there were three titled Members of the City of London wbo voted for it, and one untitled Member who voted against it. This, he believed, the citizens of London had not yet forgot. If these honourable Members claimed a right to have their own opinions, he believed the citizens had a right to have their own opinions also. This constitution had its origin in the people. Were it not for the people the Prince Regent would not be now exercising the supreme authority. But the democratic branch of the Constitution had been invaded from time to time ; and unless a stop was timely put to the invasion, the consequences would be alarming indeed. Upon the goodwill of the people at present depended the salyation of the empire.
Mr. Ponsonby began by stating, that he had no objection to giving his vote in favour of the first Billintended to be brought in by bis bonourable friend, that of extending the right of voting to copyholders ; and as to the second Bill, he should equally support its being brought in, though he did not thereby mean to pledge himself to a support of it in its future progress. With regard to the general question of Reform in Parliament, no one was more sensible of the VOL. III.-1812.
delicacy of the subject than he was : but at the same time it equally appeared to bim, that no mode of attempting reformation could be more safe than by Bills. It was preferable to any sweeping measures, of which no one could anticipate the consequences. As to the necessity of Reform, he would only say, that however excellent the Constitution might be, no one would surely say it was so excellent and immaculate, or so sacred, that its abuses, when obvious, should not be removed.
Sir John Newport said, that he had waited all the evening to hear a noble lord opposite (Castlereagh) deliver his sentiments in support of the motion. As, however, he had been disappointed, he would beg leave to read to the House the opinions of that noble lord upon a former occasion, when a similar subject was discussed in the Irish Parliament -(Loud cries of No, no! from the Treasury benches, and of Hear, hear from the Opposition !). It was an historical document, continued the honourable baronet, and he had therefore a right to read it-(Cries of Question, question!) On a motion of Mr. Grattan's, Feb. 9, 1793, respecting a Reform in the representation of the Irish House of Commons, the honourable Robert Stewart, “ in an able speech reprobated the little special pleading which had been used against, the motion-a Reformation in Parliament he held to be necessary; the present system of representation, he maintained, was defective, and he advised the Ministers to meet the question fairly and freely; for a Reform in Parliament he would vote the money of his constituents, but he would not vote a shilling of it for the vices and follies of the Government"-(Hear, hear!) To do the noble lord justice, continued the honourable baronet, he preached his doctrine to an Irish Parliament, who would not listen to them. He then took the rod into his own hands, and rooted out the evil altogether. It was from the abuses of rotten boroughs the Parliament of Ireland fell into contempt with the people of Ireland : and the same causes would produce the same effect in England.
Lord Castlereagh said, he was not the least indisposed to adopt the sentiments which the honourable baronet bad read as his, though the opinions of early life were not always to be held to be the rest of strict consistency-(heat, hear!) If, however, the same cause existed now as did in 1793, he would still avow the same sentiments. He begged, however, to state, that he spoke in reference to the
Parliament of Ireland, which was certainly constituted in a manner most inadequately as to all the purposes of the representation. If, bowever, the honourable baronet concluded that his opinions, as to a Reform, applied equally to the English Parliament, he begged leave to assure him that he was completely mistaken. In the English Parliament he did not see the same necessity for Reform; he did not even see the expediency; and therefore he should certainly vote against the question.
Mr. R. Martin, of Galway, supported the motion.
General Tarleton rose to speak amid loud and repeated cries of Question ! and the purport of his speech was, that lieing sent to that House by the voice of the people in the purest possible way, be had no idea of scrutinizing the votes by which other gentlemen were sent there; but the Walcheren Inquiry had opened his eyes. (Question, question !)
Mr. Perceval said, he should detain the House but a very few minutes, for he bad never been present at a debate in which he felt less anxiety to offer his sentiments. His opinions, indeed, had been so completely anticipated by the right honourable gentleman opposite, and the noble lord ander the gallery, that he could say nothing in addition to what they had advanced. He had never listened to a speech with more pleasure than he had to their's. He wished, however, to offer a few words in reply to some things that had fallen from the gentlemen opposite, and particularly from an honourable Member who had alluded to what he (Mr. Perceral) had said on the preceding evening. He had been Tepresented as the panegyrist of his own Administration as one who had asserted that it was the most virtuous, the most vigorous, and in every respect the most superlatively good one that ever was seen. He denied, however, that he had said any such thing. He had indulged very little indeed in panegyric upon his own Administration, for he had done it only by comparisou—(Hear, hear from the Opposition.) He would repeat, he had panegyrised it only in comparison with one which he had not been accustomed to extol so very highly, as to feel any thing like vanity in excelling, or in equalling it—(Loud cheers from the Ministerial benches.) It appeared, however, that in the opinion which he had expressed he was not singular : such, at least, was the inference fairly deducible from what the noble lord had said.
- The people, it seemed, would rather have the present feeble and unsuccessful Administration, with all the demerits
of the Walcheren Expedition attached to it-(hear, hear!) -than the splendid, and glorious, and successful one of “ All the Talents”-hear, heur !)-Much had been said that night upon the increasing influence of the Crown, and the present Administration were supposed to be the peculiar instruments or that influence. Yet, was it not a little singular, if the influence of the Crown was so great as was pretended, that the gentlemen opposite had been able to defeat the Minister by a majority on that very Walcheren Expedition? They forced the Government to lay the papers upon the table respecting it, which they wished. Not contented with papers, however, they went into an inquiry, and that inquiry opened the eyes of the House.—(Cheering from the Opposition.)-He maintained, that a most material alteration of opinion was effected by tbat inquiry. Oh, but then, said the honourable gentleman opposite, if all the placemen had been struck out of the list of those who voted on that inquiry, what would bave been the result? Really, if all persons who were in possession of places were to be enumerated in that manner, he thought it would be but fair to set off against them all those who were in expectation of places--(loud cheers from all sides)—and then be had another request; if all divisions were to be dissected in that way, it should be remembered that only one could hold a place, while many might expect it, and many might long for it'; and who could answer for the secret influence of such longings-(loud cheers): so that they were also to be taken into ihe account: and if all expectants and all possessors were fairly set off against each other, he would at any time be content to go to a division with the remainder (heur, hear !)—He should conclude by repeating what he had often said, that with regard to the influence of the Crown, he believed it was daily becoming less and less; he meant comparatively with regard to the growing weight of property and intelligence in the country.
[This was the last speech ever made by Mr. Perceval in the House of Commons. ] The House then divided, when the numbers were,
For leave to bring in the Bill 88
127 The other Orders of the Day were then disposed of, and the House adjourned.