The History and Proceedings of the House of Commons: Volume 10, 1737-1739. Originally published by Chandler, London, 1742.
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SPEECHES AND DEBATES IN THE House of Commons, DURING The Fourth Session of the Eighth Parliament of Great-Britain.
ON the 24th Day of January, 1737-8, the House of Commons being, according to Proclamation, assembled,
A Message came from his Majesty, by Sir Charles Dalton, Gentleman-Usher of the Black Rod, commanding the bonourable House to attend his Majesty immediately, in the House of Peers. Accordingly Mr. Speaker, with the House, went up to attend his Majesty, and upon their Return, the Speaker reported to the House his Majesty's Speech from the Throne, which was as follows:
The King's Speech
My Lords and Gentlemen,
I Have called you together for the necessary Dispatch of the publick Business, which, I hope, will be carried on with that Prudence, and Expedition, which becomes the Wisdom of Parliament.
Gentlemen of the House of Commons,
"I have ordered the Estimates for the Service of the current Year to be laid before you; and the Readiness, which I have always found in you to make the necessary Povisions for the Honour, Peace, and Security of my Crown and Kingdoms, leaves me no Room to doubt of the same Zeal, Affection, and due Regard for the Support of my Government, and the publick Safety.
My Lords and Gentlemen,
"I hope you are met together, in a Disposition to lay aside all Heats and Animosities, which may unnecessarily protract this Session. I am determined, that the Affairs of the Publick shall suffer no Delay, or Interruption, from me, upon any Account whatsoever."
Henry Fox, Esq; moves for an Address of Thanks.
Mr. Fox then stood up, and introduced his Motion for an Address of Thanks, in the following Manner:
'Sir, it has been always the Custom of this House, at the Beginning of every Session of Parliament, to return his Majesty our Thanks for his Speech from the Throne; but, the severe Stroke, which not only his Majesty and the Royal Family, but all the Nation have received since our last Meeting in the Death of the Queen, requires, that on this Occasion our Thanks to his Majesty for his most gracious Assurances should be attended with our Condoleance for his unexpressible Loss. A Loss, Sir, which, I flatter myself, I read in the Eyes of every Genleman who hears me, and which must be regretted by every Subject in the Kingdom, who retains in his Breast one Spark of Loyalty and Gratitude.
Gentlemen cannot miss to observe, that if his Majesty has expressed himself on this Occasion with more Brevity than usual, it is owing to the Remembrance of a Princess who endeared herself in every Relation of Life, either as a Consort, a Mother, or a Queen. And tho' her Death, Sir, is an afflicting Dispensation to all the Nation, yet we cannot suppose that any of us can feel it so deeply as the Royal Breast, which, while she was alive, she so much eased of the Toils of Government by her Counsels, which never had any other Tendency than to promote his Honour by promoting the Happiness of his People. Of this, Sir, we had many late Instances, especially when the sovereign Power, in the Absence of her Royal Consort, was delegated into her Hands. On that Occasion, Sir, we may all remember with what Moderation she governed, with what Chearfulness she rewarded, and with what Reluctance she punished; tho' the Prudence of her Measures, rendered the Exercise of this last and most ungrateful Branch of the Royal Prerogative, but seldom necessary. Therefore, Sir, however some amongst us may differ in particular Views and Interests, I hope we shall all unite in paying a Debt of Gratitude to the Memory of the best of Princesses, as well as of Duty to the best of Kings. I move, therefore, that this House should resolve, that an humble Address be presented to his Majesty; to return his Majesty the Thanks of this House for his most gracious Speech from the Throne; to condole with his Majesty on his, and the Nation's irreparable Loss, by the Death of her late Majesty, and to assure his Majesty, that this House does always take Part in every Thing that nearly concerns and affects him, and will endeavour to soften every Care that may approach him; to assure his Majesty, that we will carefully avoid all Heats and Animosities; that we will readily and effectually raise the Supplies necessary for the Service of the current Year; and, as we are truly sensible of the Regard his Majesty has always shewn to the Liberties and Privileges of his Subjects, that we will, as becomes the Representatives of a grateful People, lose no Occasion of testifying our Affection and Zeal for the Support of his Government, and the Preservation of our excellent Constitution; and farther, to beseech his Majesty to be careful of his sacred and inestimable Life, on which the Happiness of his Family and his People so immediately depends.'
This Motion was seconded by (fn. 1) J. Selwyn, jun. and then W. Shippen, Esq; spoke to the following Purpose:
'It would be very unbecoming any Gentleman in this House, to oppose the Motion made by the honourable Gentleman who spoke last. For my own Part, Sir, I have so deep a Sense of the Loss we all sustain by the Death of that incomparable Princess, that I think no Expressions of Gratitude or Sorrow can do more than Justice to her Character. Thus much, Sir, I speak as a Subject of his Majesty: I shall now beg Leave to trouble you with a few Words, as one who has the Honour to fit in this House.
Speeches from the Throne, Sir, have often, in my Time, been looked upon as expressing the Sense of the Ministry, rather than that of the Prince. For which Reason there have been many Instances wherein this House has taken the Liberty to debate on every Sentence of such Speeches. I do not indeed affirm that the Speech now to be consider'd is drawn up to serve any private ministerial Ends; but think that, in our Address of Thanks, we ought to go no greater Lengths than the general Expressions in the Speech require. I am, Sir, confirmed in this Opinion from former Instances, wherein I have known that too warm an Address from this House has been looked upon by the Ministry as an Approbation, not only of their past, but their present and future Measures. I have known, Sir, a Minister, when any Part of his Conduct was objected to, tell Gentlemen; 'Did you not give the Crown all the Assurances possible, that you were perfectly satisfied with the Measures taken by the Government? Did not you return an Address of Thanks, and express your Resolution to concur with his Majesty in every Step he should take for the Welfare and Security of the Government?' I say, Sir, such Speeches as these have formerly been made by Ministers, and Gentlemen have found themselves very much embarrassed by the fine Words and fair Promises inserted in their Address. Therefore, Sir, I think it not improper, as his Majesty has not been pleased to inform us of the Situation of Affairs, to suspend our Approbation of any Measures that may have been taken since last Session. When they come to be laid before us in a regular Manner, let us then approve 'em, if they are right Measures; but let us not by an over-forward Zeal preclude ourselves from the Liberty of objecting to them, if they are wrong ones. Some of them, Sir, may very soon come under our Consideration; for I believe no Gentleman here is ignorant, that our Merchants have of late made very strong Applications to the Government for a Redress of the Injuries they have suffered by the Spanish Depredations. This Affair may very probably come before us, in this Session; and then, Sir, I hope we shall have a fair Opportunity of doing Justice to the Zeal of the Administration for the Honour and Interest of the Kingdom. Besides, Sir, this last Speech from the Throne being, as the honourable Gentleman observed, shorter than usual, we can learn nothing from it concerning the State of our Affairs, with Respect to the other Powers of Europe; we know nothing of the many Negotiations set on Foot, since our last Session, for securing the Balance of Power, and for preventing our aspiring Neighbours of France from becoming too formidable, and from rising by the Depression of the Emperor. And here, Sir, I must beg Leave to take notice, that if ever the Sentiments of those without Doors are to have any Weight in this House, we have on this Occasion the strongest Reason for our being cautious, how we do any Thing that may look like an Approbation of our late Measures; for whereever I have happened to be since we last met, I have heard them unanimously condemn'd. But be that as it will, when these and the like Points come under our Consideration, if it shall appear that our Ministers have acted a Part becoming the Dignity, and consistent with the Welfare of this Nation, I shall very readily consent to our making them as ample Acknowledgments as their Conduct deserves; but till this appears, it is my humble Opinion, that we ought not to be lavish of our Compliments, but leave ourselves at Liberty to object or approve, according as Truth, Justice, and the publick Good shall direct.
(fn. 2) Watkin-Williams Wynn, Esq; spoke next.
'I cannot but own myself to be entirely of the Opinion of my hon. Friend who spoke last. As Speeches from the Throne have been taken for the Sense of the Ministry, too lavish Addresses from this House have been regarded rather as Incense to the Minister, than a just Acknowledgment to the Sovereign. But, Sir, I hope we shall always look upon ourselves as the Trustees of the People, and endeavour to speak their Sense in our Addresses, as well as act for their Interests in our Proceedings. Tho' the Expression, Sir, proposed to be inserted in this Address, that we will carefully avoid all Heats and Animosities, is, to be sure, a very proper Part of Resolution of this Nature, and what I am persuaded every Gentleman will willingly agree to; yet there have been Instances, Sir, when from as well guarded Expressions Ministers have taken Occasion to attempt the Subversion of that Liberty of Debate, and Freedom of Speech, which ought to distinguish the Representatives of a free People. Amongst such a People, Sir, an Opposition always must, and perhaps it is their Happiness that is does, exist. And, Sir, tho' it is to be wish'd that Heats and Animosities were banished from all Opposition, yet I am afraid while Men have different Passions, different Interests, and different Views, this can scarcely be effected.
The granting necessary Supplies for the current Year, Sir, is what seems very reasonable and indispensable in a House of Commons. But, Sir, I believe there are Instances when, in former Reigns, the Commons have refused to grant a Shilling for the Services of the current Year, till they were sure the Money granted for the Services of the preceding had been properly applied. Besides, Sir, the true old parliamentary Method of proceeding, was not immediately to vote an Address of Thanks for every Thing the Minister had done during the intermediate Time, right or wrong, but to appoint a Day for examining the Grievances of the Nation; and Redress of these was always insisted on before any Supplies were granted.
No House of Commons had ever greater Reason than we have to be frugal of the publick Money, and to enquire in what Manner it has been applied. We have already granted to his Majesty Sums sufficient to have enabled the Ministry to put the Nation into such a Situation, that she might have nothing to fear from any Enemies either at home or abroad; and consequently to have diminished the Taxes, and eased the People of same Part of the unsupportable Load of Debt they now lie under. If, upon Enquiry, it shall appear that they have acted in this Manner; if it shall appear that the People have so much as a Prospect of Relief from their present Pressures, I shall think the Sums we have already granted, not only well bestowed, but shall concur with any Motion that may be made for our granting the like in Time to come. But, Sir, notwithstanding the Sums we have already granted, if the publick Debt, instead of being diminished, is daily increasing, if it shall appear that any Part of it has been applied in promoting the Arts of Corruption, and betraying the Nation; I think it is our Duty to put a Stop to any such Grants for the future. In the mean time, Sir, I am as forward as any Gentleman here, that we should condole with his Majesty on the irreparable Loss of the late Queen, and that we express our Resolution of losing no Occasion of testifying our Zeal for the Support of his Government, and the Prefervation of our excellent Constitution: Nay, of our going the greatest Lengths for securing the Crown in his Majesty's Person and Family. But, Sir, give me Leave to say, that the readiest Way to make these Engagements good, is by reserving to ourselves a Right of enquiring into any Misapplication that may have been made of the publick Money and Credit, and by determining to let the World see that we are resolved to do as much as lies in our Power for making his Majesty the Sovereign of a great, a happy, and an uncorrupted People.
The Reply was to the following Effect, by Sir W. Yonge:
The Reply by Sir William Yonge.
'I really thought that the Terms in which the honourable Gentleman who spoke first, proposed we should address his Majesty, were so decent, and so expressive of our Veneration for the Memory of the late Queen, as well as of our Affection for his Majesty's Person and his illustrious Family, that they were unexceptionable. Therefore, I am surprised, that Gentlemen should take occasion from them, to throw out any Insinuations against the present Administration; because, perhaps, there have been corrupt Administrations in former Times. When Gentlemen seem to doubt, if we should assure his Majesty, that we will readily and effectually raise the Supplies necessary for his Majesty's Service, because the publick Money has been formerly misapplied, they may doubt, whether we should condole with his Majesty on the Death of his Royal Consort; because there have been Queens, whose Loss the Nation had no Reason to regret. If there has been any Misapplication of the publick Money, Sir, it will be Time enough for Gentlemen to produce their Objections, when the Bills for providing for the Supplies of the current Year come under our Consideration: But, Sir, I can, by noMeans, think that this is a Time for starting these Objections, on the very first Day of a Session, and immediately after his Majesty has recommended Unanimity in our Proceedings from the Throne. If it shall appear, Sir, that any Demands that shall be then made, are unnecessary, Gentlemen are not precluded by the Terms of the Address, now proposed, from starting their Difficulties; because, by it, we only promise to grant such Supplies as shall be necessary. I shall make no Doubt but the two honourable Gentlemen who spoke last, have lived under a very corrupt and very dangerous Administration in this Nation; an Administration, that by a scandalous Abuse of their Sovereign's Power, must have sunk us in the Esteem of all Nations abroad, and entailed Superstition and Slavery on us at home, had not Providence and the Counsels of a subsequent Administration interposed. But, Sir, till the honourable Gentlemen shall prove that we are now in the same despicable Circumstances, I think there can be no Objection to our resolving upon an Address in the Terms proposed by the honourable Gentleman who made the Motion.'
The Motion agreed to.
No Reply being made to this, the House came to a Resolution upon the Motion, and a Committee was ordered to draw up an Address to be presented to his Majesty on the same Resolution; and they immediately withdrew into the Speaker's Chamber, and drew up an Address in the following Terms, which was agreed to.
The humble Address of the House of Commons to the King.
Most Gracious Sovereign,
"WE your Majesty's most Dutiful and Loyal Subjects, the Commons of Great-Britain in Parliament assembled, beg Leave to return our most humble and grateful Thanks for Your Majesty's most gracious Speech from the Throne.
"To speak our utmost Sense of the great Loss Your Majesty and these Kingdoms have lately sustained, would be to revive and aggravate, what we wish to alleviate and dispel; but we hope your Majesty will pardon the Intrusion of our sincere Condoleance, when you reflect on the double Duty, by which we are bound, as affectionate Subjects to your Majesty, and as Representatiyes of the People of Great Britain, not to pass over in Silence this Object of your Distress, and their universal Mourning.
"When we reflect on the amiable private Character of that great Princess, on her personal and domestick Merit, as an indulgent and instructive Parent, a mild and gracious Mistress; or, with regard to your Majesty, as uniting in one all the different Characters of the most pleasing as well as constant Companion; the most able as well as the most faithful Friend; the most tender as well as the most observant Wise; when we reflect on these Circumstances, we mourn her Loss, as the greatest with which Your Majesty and Your Royal House could have been afflicted: But when we turn our Thoughts to her great and publick Virtues, her Love of Justice, her Attachment to the Laws and Principles of this wise and happy Constitution, her extensive Charities, her boundless Benevolence, her Succour to Distress, her Favour to Merit, her Lenity to all. When we consider these Parts of her high Character, it is no longer for particular and personal Causes that we grieve; it is a national Loss we lament.
"If a due Submission to superior Authority, and a due Exercise of Power, when committed to her Hands, are the strongest Marks of Excellence in both Parts of Government; and if these justly claim Praise and Admiration; how can we sufficiently praise or admire her Conduct, either in the Presence or Absence of your Majesty? In the first we saw the most constant Compliance with your Will; in the last, the true Representation of him, with whose delegated Authority she was vested; for all her Acts were great, and wise, and good; alternately we beheld her Submission in this Character, and felt her Mildness in the other; and great as the Distance may seem from Command to Subjection, the Transition to her was easy, whose Abilities were equal to any Situation, and whose Temper could conform to all; as resigned to the Duties of a Queen Consort, as capable of the High Office of Guardian of the Realm; as ready to submit, as able to command, and equally an Example to all Sovereigns, when she ruled, and to all Subjects, when she obeyed.
"And though your Majesty's just and great Concern on this Occasion, would perhaps receive no Extenuation from the Comfort your faithful Commons might vainly try to administer; yet, that nothing may be wanting on our Parts, which may contribute to the making your Majesty's Government (the Source of our Prosperity) as easy to yourself, as it has ever been to your Subjects; we do assure your Majesty, that we will not only carefully avoid all Heats and Animosities, but will, with the greatest Readiness, effectually raise the Supplies necessary for the Service of the current Year; and, with a Zeal and Affection becoming the Representatives of a grateful People, make all necessary Provisions for the Honour, Peace, and Security of your Crown and Kingdoms; demonstrating to all the World, that the Support of your Majesty's Government, and the publick Safety, are constantly our Care; and that we desire nothing more than the Preservation of our wise and excellent Constitution in the same happy, firm, and envied Situation, in which it was delivered down to us from our Ancestors and your Majesty's great Predecessors.
"But whilst by these Means we endeavour to prevent any additional Disquiet from approaching your Royal Person, we must beg Leave to lay again before Your Majesty the anxious Grief of Your whole People, together with their most humble and earnest Wishes, that your Majesty's known Resolution may aid Time, in alleviating your Sorrow for that Loss, which nothing can repair, and in restoring to your Majesty that Tranquility of Mind, which can alone free us from the most solicitous Fears for a Life, on which the Happiness of your Royal Family, and of this afflicted Nation, so immediately depends."
Jan. 27. The Speaker reported his Majesty's Answer to the Address of the House, in the following Terms.
"I Return you my Thanks for this dutiful and very affectionate Address: I am so sensibly touched by this convincing Proof of your particular Regard to me, that I am not able, in this Distress, to command myself sufficiently to express the just Sense I have of your Affection and Concern for me upon this Occasion."
The House then going into a Committee of Supply, his Majesty's Speech was referred to the said Committee.
Jan. 28. The Lord Sidney Beauclerk reported his Royal Highness's Answer to the House; and it was as follows:
"I return the House of Commons my Thanks, and those of the Princess, for the Share they take in the Increase of the King's Family."
Several Estimates were then ordered to be laid before the Committee of the whole House, to whom it was referred to consider of the Motion for a Supply to be granted to his Majesty.