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said he, “You are therefore requested not to go home.”
DEBATE IN THE Commons on MR. SPEAKER Norton's SPEECH To THE KING on PRESENTING THE BILL FoR THE BETTER SUPPoRT of His MAJESTY's Household.*] As soon as the preceding question was determined,
The Speaker rose in his place, and begged leave to draw the attention and recollection of the House, to what had fallen in the course of the debate from the right hon. gentleman on the floor, (Mr. Rigby). Previous, however, to his
* “When the Speaker presents a Bill in the course of the session, in the delivering of which he thinks proper to make a Speech to the throne, the House of Commons, on their return, have sometimes come to a resolution to desire the Speaker to print his Speech ; as they did on .. 2nd of December 1761, when sir John Cust presented the Bill for settling a jointure on the Queen"; and on the 7th of May, 1777, when sir Fletcher Norton presented the Bill for the additional sum to his Majesty’s Civil List; and on the 26th of May 1786, when Mr. Cornwall presented the Bill for establishing a fund for the discharge of the National Debt; and these Speeches are then entered on the Journals. As the Speaker receives no instructions upon what particular topics, or in what manner, he shall express himself upon these occasions, it may happen that he may, in the name of the House of Commons, whose mouth he is, declare sentiments, which, though they coincide with the opinions of one part of the House, are entirely contrary to those of another part. This was the case in the Speech of sir Fletcher Norton, on the 7th of May 1777: for, in a debate on the 9th of May, some allusions being made to this Speech, as if the Speaker had used expressions to the throne which he was not authorized to use as the sense of the House of Commous, the Speaker immediately called the attention of the House to the subject, and desired a copy of his printed Speech might be read; and then demanded the judgment of the House, whether what he had said was liable to this objection. The House, by a question put, declared, “That Mr. Speaker did, upon that occasion, * express, with just and proper energy, the • zeal of this House for the support of the * honour and dignity of the crown, in circum* stances of great public charge.” Under these difficulties, therefore, the Speaker can only, upon such occasions, endeavour to express what he conceives to have been the intention of the majority of the House, and the principles upon which they appear to him to have passed the Bill.” Hatsell's Precedents, vol. 3, p. 146.
* See vol. 15, p. 1158.
taking any particular notice of the censure that right hon. gentleman had passed on his conduct as Speaker of that House, he begged that his Speech to his Majesty at the bar of the House of Lords, on Wednesday last, might be first read by the clerk: and the same being read accordingly (see p. 213.), he then appealed to the Journals for the Vote of Thanks, which followed on his return, to shew, that the sentiments which he expressed to his Majesty, when he presented the Bill for the better support of his Majesty’s household, were the sentiments of the House, and not his own particular sentiments, as had been asserted by the last-mentioned right hon. gentleman. While the Speaker was yet on his legs, up rose Mr. Rigby, who adhering to what had fallen from him in the former debate, spoke of the Chair in terms very nearly bordering on disrespect. He insisted that he had a right to animadvert on the Speaker's Speech, or on his conduct, within or without that House, if he thought it improper. He was certain the Speech now read did not convey his sentiments, whatever it might those of the 281 who voted for the augmentation of the King’s Civil List. He said he had a right to appeal to the Chair, and from the Chair, and would never be intimidated, or led by any inducement, to forfeit the privileges of a British senator. The Speaker was no more than another member, and he was as free to differ from the Chair as from any other individual in that House. He proceeded to great heat, which seemed to make the Treasury bench uneasy. Mr. Foz replied to the right hon. gentleman, and observed, that he had brought the matter to a direct decision; that was, he had rendered it necessary for the Speaker to seek the sense of the House, as the charge was open and direct. The Speaker had either misrepresented the sense of the House, or he had not; as an individual, he had disclaimed the sentiments of the Speaker, as far as the same respected himself; and had plainly hinted that it was the opinion of a majority present: it was coming to the point at once, and bringing the matter to a fair issue. For his part, he suspected the Speaker did not deliver the sentiments of the majority, though it was plain he did the sense of the House; because he was immediately thanked on his return, nem, con. as appeared by the Journals. The question, then, which remained to be decided, was,
Whether the Speaker had done his duty ? dropped a word or expression without any The truth, he believed, was, that the court intention, he wished that the motion might thought he had exceeded its by their so be withdrawn, and the affair be thus termihighly disapproving of the speech. He nated; for it was pretty evident, that was resolved, however, to take the sense though the Speaker might imagine lie was of the House by motion, which, if nega. delivering the sentiments of the House, tived, in his opinion, the Speaker could from hurry and inadvertency, it was posa sit no longer in that chair with reputation sible, he might not even have delivered to himself, or be further serviceable in his his own. He recommended warmly to station, after having been publicly de- the Speaker, and the friends of the moserted, bullied, and disgraced. He then tion, that the matter might be ended made the following motion :
without bringing it to a question. “ That the Speaker of this House, in The Speaker said, he understood that his Speech to his Majesty, at the bar of great pains had been taken without doors the House of Peers, on Wednesday last, to represent his Speech as not conveying and which was desired nemine contradi. the sense of the House. For his part, it cente, by this House, to be printed, did he erred, he did not err intentionally ; he express, with just and proper energy, the meant to convey the opinion of the House, zeal of this House, for the support of the and looked upon himself fully justified both honour and dignity of the crown, in cir- | in point of fact and precedent. If he miscumstances of great public charge.” represented what he meant faithfully to
The Speaker assured the House, that he convey, he trusted the House would exmeant to deliver nothing but their senti.cuse him. He knew such addresses to ments. He thought he was justified in the throne had been frequent; he was what he said, considering the time, the sure they were proper. He said, he occasion, and the various current circum- thought it incumbent on him to let his Mastances which combined to stamp what he jesty know what was the sense of the offered with peculiar propriety. Conceiv. House; and, in so doing, imagined he was ing, therefore, that he had discharged his acting in the faithful discharge of the trust duty, and that the same had been after committed to him: if the House thought wards publicly approved of, he could not otherwise, he could not, nor would not, think of remaining in a situation where he remain in that chair. could be no longer serviceable; which must | Mr. Dunning said, the dignity of the be certainly the case, if the present motion House was gone, if the Chair was permitted should be rejected.
to be degraded. It was plain the blow Mr. De Grey did not approve of the was altimately aimed at the House through word wants, in the speech. He said, such the Chair; and that the present was an an expression was disrespectful to the so- experiment, made purely with a view to vereign; and, in his opinion, the whole see to what a pitch of humiliation and speech conveyed a very improper idea to disgrace the House would bear to be foreigo powers in particular, who, presum-humbled and let down. It was, in fact, ing on its contents, might be tempted to an attempt of a court faction, to render disturb the public tranquillity.
the representatives of the people despi. The Speaker replied, that he thought he cable, as well as detestable, in the eyes of did not make use of the word wants, as it their constituents. . could mean nothing. As to what effect Mr. Attorney General Thurloro entered his speech might have in foreign courts, into a kind of dissection of the Speech. or any other political consequence which He insisted, that it neither contained the Inight arise from it, he never considered. / sentiments of the House, nor was it strictly He wished to express the sense of the supported by fact ; for, “ the large preHouse ; he imagined he had done so ; and sent supply, &c. great beyond his Ma. he could never think of sitting longer in jesty's highest wants, &c." did not exceed that chair, than while he was in the exer. | 14,0001. which was represented in the cise of his duty.
speech to be " à very great additional reMr. Welbore Ellis said, he presumed venue.” The great stress laid on the the Speaker delivered his own sentiments overplus might have been better spared, with great candour and sincerity ; and in as it would have been extremely mean, so doing, in his opinion, he acted a very when they were voting the augmentation, commendable part. But as probably he to withhold the difference between the spoke without notes, and might bave expenditure and the grant. He contended,
that the Speaker spoke his own sentiments, not those of the House. He mentioned the word wants, and recommended, that the affair might go no farther, but that the motion might be withdrawn. Mr. For spoke in justification of his motion. He said, the right hon. gentleman Mr. Ellis) had given, what he should call the watch-word; which had been followed by the Attorney General. He observed, that those gentiemen had founded their argument for withdrawing the motion chiefly on the speech not being the sentiments of the House; whereas the contrar was the fact, and the Journals gave evidence of it. But, however, if those gentlemen and their friends thought differently, as the framer of the motion, he
was ready to come to issue on that point
with them, and doubted not but he should prevail. He was satisfied that the House would never consent to their own degradation and disgrace in the person of their Speaker, nor would ever submit to contradict on a Friday, what they had approved on the Wednesday immediately preceding. He said, among the many censures, and more numerous insinuations, thrown out against the Speech, it was said not to be grammar. He should not enter into nice grammatical distinctions, or trouble himself or the House about a choice of words, or elegancies of expression; but he was sure, if the Speech was not grammar, it abounded in good sense, which was of infinitely greater value, and conveyed the true, unbiassed sense of the House, and of every man on either side, till he was bought over to a sacrifice of his principles and conscience. Mr. Rigby still adhered to his former opinion, and justified his conduct on his right to deliver his sentiments freely on every subject arising in that House, or out of it, if it was a matter properly cognizable there; but he disclaimed the least intention of making any personal reflection on the Chair; and moved “that the House do now adjourn.” Governor Johnstone observed, that the right hon. gentleman who spoke last had somewhat lowered his tone. He thanked the Speaker for his speech, and applauded his firmness, in not accepting of any compromise short of immediate reparation, notwithstanding the threats and soothings that had been alternately held out and employed to induce him to recede, and by so doing, sacrifice the dignity of that House, and his own honour, to the desires
of those who seemed solicitous to treat both with illiberality and contempt. He said, that the Speech was not only justifiable in point of fact, but might have gone to greater lengths, without incurring any just grounds for censure. However confident some of the gentlemen who spoke latterly in the debate might be, that this country was in a flourishing and prosperous condition, he begged leave to differ from them; the contrary would, nay, must inevitably be the case, if the American war should continue another campaign. It was, therefore, well said in the Speech, that the nation was “labouring under burthens almost too heavy to be borne,” and perfectly right, as applied personally to the King, to remind his Majesty of the true state of this country, and the generous efforts of parliament to relieve him in such a season, as the most powerful recommendation in future to frugality in the expenditure, and oeconomy in the management of the bounty they were then conferring on him. He contended, that the situation of this country was truly dreadful; that America was lost, he feared, beyond the power of recovery; nay, he might venture to say, was irretrievably lost; and called upon any, the most confident, on the other side of the House, to rise and contradict him. Lord Ongley objected to the Speech, chiefly on account of the word wants ; he insisted it was the Speaker's own sentiments: that perhaps he spoke what he felt himself, but he was satisfied they were not the sentiments of the House. He was totally of a different opinion from the hon. gentleman who spoke last. He was satisfied the nation was great and powerful, and abounded in such resources as would render her a match for all her foreign and domestic enemies, whether in America or Europe; and that her situation was such in every respect, as to forbid her to make any concession unbecoming her dignity, or short of her constitutional supreme rights over all the dominions of the British Crown, Sir George Savile said, he must condemn in the severest terms the indecent and unparliamentary language which he had heard for the first time, since his entrance into parliament. He was witty on the logic employed by the opposers of the motion, who argued through the whole course of the evening that the Speech was not the sense of the House, because the House had the very day it was spoken declared their most warm and hearty approbation of it. This might be a ministerial way of drawing conclusions; perhaps experience had long since taught them, that the sense of the House, as declared by a majority, was not its genuine sense; but the very contrary of what it would have been, were the members who composed it at liberty to give their suffrages according to their judgment and consciences, and not according to their interest.
Mr. Alderman Sawbridge observed, that some of the leading members on the other side wished to have the matter smuggled; but if that should be the case, and the question for adjournment should be carried, he did not see how the Speaker could occupy that chair a moment longer with
ropriety or reputation. He said, that the F. gentleman near him on the floor (Mr. Fox) was perfectly right in observing, that the Speech contained the sentiments of the whole House, if the individuals who composed it had not been bought over to adopt those of other people. He was satisfied that this was not only a general truth, but was supported by particular facts. He was certain that many attempts had been made to bring over gentlemen of parts on his side of the House, and to cause a defection among them from the true interests of their couno: It might be easily imagined from what he said, that he did not mean himself, for he was not worth gaining. As to the others, though it had been the fashion to brand all opposition with factious and interested motives, he presumed, a stronger instance of the contrary could not be given, than that they withstood every offer that had been made. It was their integrity that kept them on that side of the House, not any desire of thwarting or embarrassing government, merely for the pleasure of doing so. The idea was preposterous, and though it happened to be the case in some instances, where, he was sorry to say, the persons tampered with, had not the resolution to withstand the temptations, but had fallen; that circumstance, in his opinion, reflected the higher honour on those who remained behind firm and incorruptible.
Sir George Yonge said, if the motion of adjournment was carried, it would not be safe for the Speaker to remain an instant longer in his present situation; that he would on all future occasions lie at the mercy of his enemies, and be liable to disgrace whenever he performed his duty, if
the faithful discharge of it happened to contradict the opinions of those who were able to command a majority in that House. The effect of an adjournment would be a negative on the motion of o and would virtually charge the Chair with delivering a falshood at the bar of the other House, and of course imparting his own sentiments as the genuine sentiments of the body he was supposed faithfully to represent; which, in fact, if true, was an offence of a very heinous nature. He therefore trusted, that the Speaker would not recede, but would persevere with a spirit and firmness suitable to the important seat he occupied. Mr. Solicitor General Wedderburn said, he wished the affair might be suffered to pass off without taking the sense of the House upon it. Mr. Righy said, if it was the sense of the House, he was ready to consent that the motion of adjournment should be withdrawn. He |. no intention of driving the Speaker from the chair; nor, if he were ever so desirous so to do, was he of power or consequence enough to effect it. He maintained the right of private opimion, and freedom of speech; |. meant no more from the beginning; and, as a member of that House, in so doing, he presumed, he had not exceeded his duty. The motion of adjournment was then withdrawn, and the question being put on Mr. Fox’s motion, it was carried without a division, almost unanimously. | As soon as the motion was carried, Mr. Serjeant Adair moved, “That the Thanks of this House be returned to Mr. Speaker for his said Speech to his Majesty,” which was likewise agreed to.
Debate in the Commons on the Bill for the better Securing Dock Yards, &c.] May 13. The House went into a Committee on a Bill “for the better securing and preserving the dock-yards, magazines, ships, vessels, stores, warehouses, goods, and merchandizes, being the property of private persons within the kingdom of Great Britain.”
Sir Charles Bunbury moved to fill up the blank with the words “benefit of clergy.”
Mr. Combe. Whoever reads your statute book, and sees how many crimes are punished with death, which are much less heinous than burning of ships, I am surprized any gentleman should not think it high time to put to death such dangerous incendiaries. It is true, John the Painter was hanged for burning Portsmouth dock, because there is an act of parliament that makes it death to burn royal docks; but there is no act of parliament to hang men for burning merchant ships or warehouses; for if John the Painter had burnt all the ships and warehouses in Bristol, he would not have been hanged; and I must think the example of death full as proper in one case as in the other. Sir William Meredith. I agree with my hon. friend, that no greater crime can be committed than the wilful setting fire to merchant ships, which may endanger not only lives and property, but public safety. I should think this crime, above all others, fit to be punished with death, if I could suppose the infliction of death at all useful in the prevention of crimes. But, in subjects of this nature, we are to consider, not what the individual is, nor what he may have done; but only what is right for public example and private safety. Whether hanging ever did, or can, answer any good purpose, I doubt: but the cruel exhibition of every execution-day is a proof that hanging carries no terror with it. And I am confident, that every new sanguinary law operates as an encouragement to commit capital offences; for, it is not the mode, but the certainty of punishment, that creates terror. hat men know they must endure, they fear; what they think they can escape, they despise. The multiplicity of our hanging laws has produced these two things: frequency of condemnation, and frequent pardons. As hope is the first and greatest spring of action, if it was so, that out of twenty convicts one only was to be pardoned, the thief would say, “Why may not I be that one " But since, as our laws are actually administered, not one in twenty is executed, the thief acts on the chance of twenty to one in his favour; he acts on a fair and reasonable presumption of indemnity; and I verily believe, that the confident hope of indemnity is the cause of nineteen in twenty robberies that are committed. But, if we look to the executions themselves, what example do they give? The thief dies either hardened or penitent. We are not to consider such reflections as occur to reasonable and good men, but such impressions as are made on the thoughtless, the desperate, and the wicked. These men look on the hardened villain with envy and admiration. All that animation and contempt of death with which
heroes and martyrs inspire good men in a good cause, the abandoned villain feels in seeing a desperado like himself meet death with intrepidity. The penitent thief, on the other hand, often makes the sober villain think this way. Himself oppressed with poverty and want, he sees a man die with that penitence which promises pardon for his sins here, and happiness hereafter; straight he thinks, that by o: forgery, or murder, he can relieve all his wants; and if he be brought to justice, the punishment will be short and trifling, and the reward eternal. Even in crimes which are seldom or never pardoned, death is no prevention. House-breakers, forgers, and coiners, are sure to be hanged; yet housebreaking, forgery, and coining, are the very crimes which are oftenest committed. Strange it is, that in the case of blood, of which we ought to be most tender, we should still go on against reason and against experience, to make unavailing slaughter of our fellow creatures. A recent event has proved, that policy will do what blood cannot do. I mean the late regulation of the coinage. Thirty years together men were continually hanged for coining, still it went on, but on the new regulation of the gold coin, ceased. This event proves these two things; the efficacy of police, and the inefficacy of hanging. But, is it not very extraordinary, that since the regulation of the gold coin, an Act has passed, making it treason to coin silver. But has it stopped the coining of silver? On the contrary, do not you hear of it more than ever? It seems as if the law and the crime bore the same date. I do not know what the hon. member thinks who brought in the Bill ; but erhaps some feelings may come across is own mind, when he sees how many lives he is taking away for no purpose. Had it been fairly stated, and specifically pointed out, what the mischief of coining silver in the utmost extent is, that hanging Bill might not have been so readily adopted; under the name of treason it found an easy passage. I, indeed, have always understood treason to be nothing less than some act or conspiracy against the life or honour of the king, and the safety of the state; but what the king or state can suffer by my taking now and then a bad sixnce, or a bad shilling, I cannot imagine. o, this nick-name of treason, however, there lies at this moment in Newgate, under sentence to be burnt alive, a girl just turned of 14; at her master's bidding