The History and Proceedings of the House of Commons: Volume 6, 1714-1727. Originally published by Chandler, London, 1742.
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SPEECHES and DEBATES In the Fifth Session of the First Parliament of King George I.
Anno 6. Geo. 1. 1719.
The King went to the House of Peers on the 23d of November, with the usual State, when the Lord Chancellor, by his Majesty's Command, read the following Speech to both Houses:
King's Speech at opening the Fifth. Session.
My Lords and Gentlemen,
THE Satisfaction, with which I always meet you, is very much increas'd at this Time, when it has pleas'd Almighty God so to strengthen the Arms of Great Britain and our Confederates, and so to prosper our several Negotiations, that, by his Blessing on our Endeavours, we may promise our selves to reap very soon the Fruits of our Successes. I am persuaded it will be accounted, by all my good Subjects, a sufficient Reward for some extraordinary Expence, that all Europe, as well as these Kingdoms, is upon the Point of being deliver'd from the Calamities of War by the Influence of British Arms and Counsels. One Protestant Kingdom has already been reliev'd by our seasonable Interposition; and such a Foundation is laid by our late Treaties for an Union amongst other great Protestant Powers, as will very much tend to the Security of our Holy Religion.
"I believe you cannot but be surpriz'd at the Continuation of a War, where our Enemies have nothing to hope, and so much to fear. It is indeed difficult to frame any Judgment of those Counsels, which have broke out of late in so many rash and ill-concerted Measures: If they depend upon our Divisions at Home, I doubt not but in a very short Time, their Hopes, founded upon this Expectation, will prove as vain and illgrounded as any of their former Projects.
"In congratulating with you on this happy Posture of Affairs, I must tell you, that as I have been very just and faithful to my Engagements, so I have met such frank and powerful Returns of Assistance from my Allies, as will, I doubt not, establish a lasting Friendship among us.
Gentlemen of the House of Commons,
You will see, by the Accounts I have order'd to be deliver'd to you, how moderate a Use I have made of the Power entrusted with me to augment my Forces by Sea and Land. I depend upon the eminent Duty and Affection you have always shewn to my Person and Government, that you will be vigorous in dispatching the necessary Supplies for the Year: To which Purpose I have order'd the Estimates to be laid before you. And, at the same Time, I must desire you to turn your Thoughts to all proper Means for lessening the Debts of the Nation.
My Lords and Gentlemen,
You all must be sensible of the many undeserv'd and unnatural Troubles I have met with during the Course of my Reign. Our Divisions at Home have gone magnified Abroad, and by inspiring into some foreign Powers a false. Opinion of our Force, have encourag'd them to treat us in a Manner which the Crown of Great Britain shall never endure while I wear it. The Trouble and Expence which this hath brought upon us have been the most loudly complain'd of by those, who were the Occasion of them. But with your Assistance I have hitherto got through all those Difficulties, and by the Continuance of your Help, I hope very soon to overcome them, since the Hand of God hath so visibly been with us in all our Undertakings.
"If the Necessities of my Government have sometimes engaged your Duty and Affection to trust me with Powers, of which you have always with good Reason been jealous, the whole World must acknowledge they have been so used, as to justify the Confidence you have repos'd in me. And as I can truly affirm, that no Prince was ever more zealous to increase his own Authority, than I am to perpetuate the Liberty of my People, I hope you will think of all proper Methods to establish and transmit to your Posterity the Freedom of our happy Constitution, and particularly to secure that Part which is most liable to Abuse. I value my self upon being the first who hath given you an Opportunity of doing it; and I must recommend it to you, to compleat those Measures which remain'd imperfect the last Session.
"So far as human Prudence can foretell, the Unanimity of this Session of Parliament must establish, with the Peace of all Europe, the Glory and Trade of these Kingdoms on a lasting Foundation. I think every Man may see the End of our Labours. All I have to ask of you, is, that you would agree to be a great and flourishing People, since it is the only Means by which I desire to become a happy King."
Earl of Hertford moves for an Address of Thanks.
The Commons being return'd to their House, the Earl of Hertford mov'd for an Address of Thanks.
Tho' this Motion was carry'd without dividing, yet it did not pass without Opposition. Mr Shippen in particular said, 'That no Man was more ready than himself to concur in giving his Majesty unfeigned Assurances of the Zeal and Affection of that House to his Person and Government, in returning him Thanks for his Care and Endeavours to procure the Tranquility of Europe, and in congratulating his safe Return amongst us; but he could not forbear observing that his Majesty's Speech contain'd many Heads, of different Nature, and of great Importance; and as he remembred that this House had formerly been reflected on, for approving the Measures of the Ministry by the Lump, and without knowing what those Measures were, he therefore was of Opinion, they ought to proceed with Caution in this Juncture, the rather, because Mention was made in his Majesty's Speech, of a Thing of the highest Consequence, viz. the altering some Part of our Constitution; that it was plain enough that thereby was meant the Bill of Peerage; but it was surprising, that this Affair should be brought again upon the Stage, after it had miscarry'd the last Session in the other House, and that the major Part of this House had express'd such an Aversion to it; concluding with a Motion to congratulate his Majesty upon his safe Return, and to give him Thanks for Part of his Speech, and appoint a Day to take the rest into Consideration.' Mr Herne hereupon seconded Mr Shippen; but Mr Hungerford foreseeing, that if the House should divide, a Negative was like to be put upon Mr Shippen's Motion, said, 'That Addresses of this Nature were but customary Compliments; but he hoped that in the Course of this Session they should have Opportunities enough to inquire into the Grievances of the Nation, and the Conduct of the Ministry; that as to the Bill of Peerage in particular, since the Court seem'd to have it at Heart, he doubted not but it would soon pass the other House, and be sent down to them, and then, and no sooner, he hoped to see a great Division in that House.' Hereupon Mr Shippen wav'd his Motion.
Nov. 24. The House presented their Address to his Majesty, as follows.
The Commons Address of Thanks.
May it please your Majesty,
We your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal Subjects, the Commons of Great Britain in Parliament assembled, do return our most unfeigned Thanks to your Majesty for your most gracious Speech from the Throne, and assure your Majesty, that our Hearts are fill'd with unspeakable Joy upon your safe and happy Return to these your Kingdoms, and with the most just and grateful Sense of your unwearied Labours for our Welfare, and the Security of the Protestant Religion.
'We heartily congratulate with your Majesty on the Success of your British Arms, and return the Thanks of this House, in the most dutiful Manner, for such Measures taken by the Influence of British Counsels, as afford the nearest Prospect of a general Peace Abroad, and of enjoying with Glory the Benefit of Trade and Tranquility.
'And we crave Leave to assure your Majesty, that we will, on our Parts, by the Vigour of our Resolutions for the Support of your Government, and by the Dispatch which we will give to the necessary Supplies, convince the World, that if our Enemies have conceiv'd any Hopes from our Divisions at Home, this hath been the vainest of all their Projects. And we will enable your Majesty, in Concert with your Allies, effectually to support and perfect those just and equitable Measures which have been taken to establish a general Peace.
'And we farther assure your Majesty, That we will apply ourselves to find out the best Means for lessening the Debts of the Nation, and supporting the publick Credit; and will concur in all proper Methods to establish and preserve the Freedom of our happy Constitution, for which, your sacred Majesty has given so many tender Proofs of your Care and Affection.
To which Address the King return'd the following Answer.
The King's Answer thereto.
This loyal Address deserves my best Thanks. It contains the most dutiful and affectionate Expressions to my Person and Government; and you shall perceive my Sense of them, by the Endeavours I will always use to procure your Welfare and Prosperity."
A Bill sent from the Lords, For settling the Peerage of Great Britain. ; Debate thereon.
December 1. Upon a Message from the Lords, by the Lord Chief Justice King, and the Lord Chief Baron Bury, that the Lords had pass'd a Bill, intitled, An Act for the Settling the Peerage of Great Britain, to which they desir'd the Concurrence of the Commons, the said Bill was read the first Time, and a Motion being made that the said Bill be read a second Time the Friday next ensuing, the same was oppos'd by a great many Members, who mov'd, That this important Affair might be put off to the 18th of this Month; which last Motion, after a long and warm Debate, was carrry'd by a Majority of 203 against 158.
Debate on the second Reading of the Peerage Bill.
Dec. 7. The engrossed Bill from the Lords, intitled, An Act for the Settling the Peerage of Great Britain, was read a second Time, and a Motion being made by the Lord William Paulet (fn. 1), Member for Winchester, for committing the Bill, which was seconded by Sir Charles Hotham, the same occasion'd a warm Debate, which lasted eight Hours. The Members who spoke for committing the Bill, were Lord William Paulet, Sir Charles Hotham, Col. Moreton (fn. 2), Knight of the Shire for Gloucester, Mr Hampden, Mr Craggs, Mr Plummer, Mr Lechmere, Mr Aislabie, Serjeant Pengelly, and Mr Hungerford; Against committing it, Sir Richard Steele, Mr Pitt, Sir Wilfrid Lawson, Mr Horatio Walpole, Mr Wykes, Sir John Packington, Mr Methuen, Mr Herne, Mr Tuffnell, Mr Robert Walpole, and Mr John Smith.
Sir Richard Steele spoke first against committing it, as follows,
Sir Rich. Steele's Speech against the Peerage Bill.
'I am against the Bill, because I fear it may change this free State into the worst of all Tyrannies, that of an Ari stocracy, which is the most likely Consequence to attend such a Law as this would be: The whole Tenor of the Bill is very unfortunately put together, if any Thing, but an Addition of Power to the Peers, is intended by it. All Mankind must allow, that the only plausible Reason for this Law, was what happen'd in the last Reign, when twelve Peers were made in one Day; but the Preamble assigns no such Reason, but says, 'That Sixteen Peers of Scotland, by Reason of many new Creations since the Union, are not a sufficient and proportionable Representative of that Nobility.' And therefore they shall hereafter not be represented at all: But, 'A Thing much more suitable to the Peerage of Scotland ought to be done for them', to wit, 'That twenty-five of them should, at all Times hereafter, have Hereditary Seats in Parliament.'
'I always imagin'd that no Man could judge what was suitable to him but himself; and that it could be no Manner of Comfort to one who has any Thing taken from him, that the Possession of it is more suitably plac'd in another. How is it suitable to the Peerage of Scotland, that instead of having a Representative of sixteen sitting by their Election, they are hereafter to be favour'd with having five and twenty there instead of them, and not one there in their Behalf? It must be confess'd, that the Peers of Scotland cannot complain of any Thing like being trick'd; but their Potential Seats in Parliament are barr'd and taken from them, not by Collusion and Double-dealing, but by the most unreserved and candid Usurpation imaginable: But tho' this is done with so much Ease, and no Reason given but that they who do it are pleas'd to say it is most suitable; it is to be presum'd, that those, whose Consent is necessary for the divesting innocent Men of their Liberty and Honour, will desire some better Account of the Matter, before they deprive their Fellow-Subjects of their undoubted Rights. I cannot but, from a natural Detestation of Injustice, say, that it is the highest Wrong done to the Indulgence mention'd in the Preamble, to expect it will be granted in Favour of any Men, in Wrong of any other; and I doubt not but this House will alarm that Benignity from being imploy'd to the Destruction of itself, or Oppression of others.
'I hope the best Man and best Prince in the World, will be gracious, so as to have it always in his Power to be gracious: I am sure he will never give his People any Reason to complain, but of his too great Goodness: Happy the Sovereign and happy the People, when excessive Grace is all that can be fear'd of him!
'The Peers of Scotland have an indefeasible Right by the Act of Union, to be elected and serve in Parliament as Peers of Great Britain, in the Manner therein stipulated, and it would be but more cruel, not more unjust, to take from them their Lives and Fortunes, than this Honour and Privilege, which their Ancestors purchased by the frequent Hazard of theirs: The Terms of the Union are plain and absolute; nor can any Privilege, Liberty, or Property secur'd by it to the meanest Subject of either Nation, be violated or alter'd against his Will, and no satisfactory Reparation done him, without Infringement of the whole Act, and leaving the Persons, so injur'd, at Liberty to avenge by Force what was done by it: For Protection and Obedience are reciprocal, and the withdrawing the one, discharges the other. What then is the Condition of these unhappy Men, who are to be divested of their Rights and Privileges of Subjects, and yet, no doubt, to be deem'd Traitors, should they fly to any foreign Power, or Invader of that Nation, which has in the dearest and greatest Considerations, those of Honour and Distinction, made them Foreigners? The Terms of the Union cannot be revok'd without disuniting the Kingdoms; for when that is done they are no longer held together by the Law, but by Force; and the Power which then keeps us together must be arbitrary, not legal; or if legal, not righteous: For a Law, not supported by Justice, is, in itself, null and void; nor are the Makers of it Legislators, but Oppressors. It appears, without any possible Contradiction, that the Parliament of Great Britain cannot exclude the Peers of Scotland from the Benefit of the 23d Article in the Act of Union without becoming an arbitrary Power, acting with an Indifference to Good and Evil, on the Foundation of Might only.
'We are safer under the Prerogative in the King, than we can be under an Aristocracy. The Prerogative is a Power in the Sovereign, not express'd or describ'd in the Laws, but to be exercis'd in the Preservation of them by the Rule of the general Good: And if it could be prov'd, that the Business of the twelve Gentlemen [meaning the twelve Lords created by Queen Anne in the Time of the Earl of Oxford's Ministry] was purely done to save the Nation, and that it was done for the Good of the Whole, the Statesman, who advis'd it, would deserve the Thanks of all Mankind, for exposing himself to the Misrepresentation and Resentment of future Parliaments, for the Good of his FellowSubjects.
'I will not pretend to doubt but those noble Personages have, under the Hands and Seals of all and every of their Electors, the Peers of Scotland, full Power and Authority for this Alteration, without which their Proceeding could not be reconcil'd to common Honour: And if the thirty odd, who are to be ennobled by this Bill, are to be made up by present Members of the House of Commons, such Members are to climb to Honour through Infamy.
'The Bill seems to me to be calculated for nothing but an Aristocracy, and, indeed, has not so much as the Appearance of any Thing else; for tho' a Man of Honour and conscious Integrity knows, that he is a Peer for the Sake of his Fellow-Subjects, and that this Right is vested in him and his Family for the Sake of Society, not for himself and Successors only, yet is there no Part of Society consider'd in this Bill, but merely the Peers and Nobles. The Lords exercise a Power in the last Resource; and an Appeal lies to them from all the Courts of Westminster-Hall, for determining all the Property of Great Britain, and yet they are willing to have a Law, which must necessarily disable them from being a capable Court of Justice for the future; for the Bill even provides for their Insufficiency as to this Purpose; and there is a Clause, which, instead of looking out for Great and Knowing Men, is very careful to leave the Power in the King to give Titles, in Case of Extinctions, to Minors: Much of the same Stamp is the Partiality of the Bill, that Females are excluded from their future Right; as if a Lady of good Sense were not as capable of bringing into the World a Man of Sense, as a Boy, under Age, is of becoming a Man of Justice and Honour from the mere Recommendation of his Fortune; for it is not to be doubted but that would be his best Pretensions; but Lords have thought it more eligible to have in View the Providing rich Husbands for their Daughters from among the Commons, than the leaving it to their female Heirs, to make Lords of the Descendents of meritorious Commoners.
'Thus the Aristocracy is set out by this Bill; for all the Provisions and Limitations of it regard only the Titles and Honours of the Peers, and prodigious Care is taken, that no one should suffer from possible Contingencies and distant Incidents among themselves, but no Regard had to the known immediate present Rights of those who do not sit in their House, but have Title of Election into it: There is no Difficulty of destroying those whom they know to have Titles, but they are prodigious tender of hurting those who may have Titles, of which they do not know: The Lords will be Judges, and give and admit to whom they please incident Claims; but Extinctions are to be supply'd only by the King, and he might possibly give them to Persons they should not like. The Restraint of the Peers to a certain Number will make the most Powerful of them have the rest under their Direction; and all the Property dispos'd before them will be bestow'd, not by Judgment, but by Vote and Humour, or worse. Judges so made by the blind Order of Birth will be capable of no other Way of Decision.
'It is said that Power attends Property; but it is as true, that Power will command Property; and, according to the Degeneracy of human Nature, the Lords may as well grow corrupt as other Men; and if they should do so, how will this be amended, but by the Consent of those, who shall become so corrupt? What shall we say then? Shall we expose ourselves to probable Evils, with the Foresight of impossible Remedies against them?
'It is hardly to be read seriously, when the Bill in a grave Stile and sober Contradiction has these Words, viz. 'The twenty five Peers on the Part of the Peerage of Scotland;' as if they who were made instead of the Peers of Scotland, could, without a Banter, be call'd Peers on the Part of the Peerage of Scotland; the true Description of them is, Peers made when the Peers of Scotland were no more to be Peers; for the Title resting in their Families, without Hopes of Succession in the Peerage and Legislature, is only a Bar against any Participation of Power and Interest in their Country: It is putting them into the Condition of Papists Convict, as to what ought to be most dear to them, their Honour and Reputation. It is held by true Politicians a most dangerous Thing to give the meanest of the People just Cause of Provocation; much more to enrage Men of Spirit and Distinction, and that too with downright Injuries.
'We may flatter ourselves, that Property is always the Source of Power; but Property, like all other Possessions, has its Effects according to the Talents and Abilities of the Owner; and as it is allow'd, that Courage and Learning are very common Qualities in that Nation, it seems not very adviseable to provoke the greatest, and, for ought we can tell, the best Men among them. Thus we are barr'd from making this Law by prudential Reasons, as well as from the inviolable Rule of Justice and common Right, with Relation to the Scots Peers.
'If we consider the Matter with Regard to the King's Prerogative, this Law will diminish it to an irreparable Degree; and it is a strange Time to take away Power, when it is in the Possession of a Prince, who uses it with so much Moderation, that he is willing to resign it: But we are to consider the Prerogative as Part of the Estate of the Crown, and not consent to the taking it out of the Crown, till we see just Occasion for it. His Majesty's Indulgence makes it safe in his Royal Breast; and we know of nothing, any other of the Family has done, to alter it for fear of him.
'The Prerogative can do no hurt, when Ministers do their Duty; but a settled Number of Peers may abuse their Power, when no Man is answerable for them, or can call them to an Account for their Incroachments. It is said, and truely too, that the Manner of their Power will be the same as now; but then the Application of it may be alter'd, when they are an unchangeable Body: Schemes of Grandeur and Oppression can be form'd to invade the Property, as well as Liberty, of their Fellow-Subjects; which would, according to the present Establishment, be vain to undertake, when they are subject to an Alteration before their Project could be ripen'd into Practice and Usurpation.
'As for any sudden and surprizing Way of Creation, That lies before the Legislature for Censure; and the great Diminution which all Creations bring upon the King's Authority, is a sufficient Defence against the abusive Imployment of that Authority this Way: For when the King makes Peers, he makes perpetual Opponents of his Will and Power, if they shall think fit; which one Consideration cannot but render frequent Creations terrible to the Crown. This Constitution has subsisted in spite of Convulsions and Factions, without restraining or repressing the Extent of the Legislative Powers; nor is it possible for any Man, or Assembly of Men, to circumscribe their distinct Authorities: No, they are to be left eternally at large; and the Safety of each Part, and the Good of the Whole, are to be the Rules of their Conduct: And as 'tis impossible to foresee all the Circumstances which must arise before them, there is no safe Way but leaving them at large, as vigilant Checks upon each other, unconfin'd, but by Reason and Justice.
'If there was any Outrage committed in the Case of the twelve Gentlemen, the Peers should have then withstood the receiving of them, or done what they thought fit at another Season for their Satisfaction; and not, when it is too late, instead of asserting their Liberties, mediate their future Security in unreasonable Concessions from the Crown, and Discouragements upon the Merits of the Commons: And can the Gentlemen in present Power reasonably think, that the Consummation of the English Glory and Merit, is to close and rest in their Persons?
'After the Bill has sufficiently provided for the Aristocracy over these Dominions, it goes into a kind of OEconomy and Order among themselves, which relates to their Nobility and not to their Peerage. We plain Men and Commoners will not dispute about any Thing which we know to be merely trifling and ornamental; and if they will be satisfy'd with a Power in them as Peers, they shall be Dukes, Marquesses, Earls, or whatever other Words they please, without our Envy or Opposition. But when we come seriously to consider what we are going to do we must take the Liberty to be very jealous at the last Time that it may be in our Power to make a Stand for ourselves and Posterity; and Noblemen cannot blame Commoners, who are as shy in bestowing, as they are importunate in urging, the Grant of such a Power in themselves, which can be of no Use or Advantage but to themselves: At the same Time one cannot resist observing to them, that, with Respect to the Prerogative, the Peerage of Scotland, and the Rights of the whole Body of the People of Great Britain, they cannot be more exorbitant in the Use of this Bill, should it become a Law, than in the Circumstances under which they send it to us for our Concurrence; and it is not Thirst of Power, but Moderation in the Demands made of it, which can recommend Men to farther Trust; and I cannot but apprehend that what is founded on Usurpation, will be exerted in Tyranny.
'It is to be hoped, that this unreasonable Bill will be entirely rejected, since none can pretend to attend what is in its very Nature incorrigible; for it would be in vain to attempt a good Superstructure, upon a Foundation which deserves nothing but Indignation and Contempt.
'It is a melancholy Consideration, that under the Pressure of Debts, the Necessities of a War, the Perplexities of Trade, and the Calamities of the Poor, the Legislature should thus be taken up and employ'd in Schemes for the Advancement of the Power, Pride, and Luxury, of the Rich and Noble. 'Tis true, this Affair ought to be treated in a most solemn Manner, by Reason of the awful Authority from whence it comes; but we must not, on such Occasions, be oppress'd by outward Things, but look to the Bottom of the Matter before us, divested of every Thing that can divert us from seeing the true Reason of what passes, and the Pretensions to what is ask'd.
'If this Bill is requir'd for preventing the Creation of occasional Peers, why, at the same Time, are five and twenty Scots, and eight English, to be now made? Is not this the same Thing, as to say, If you will let us make so many this one Time, under the Sanction of a Law, we will make no more, for we shall have no Occasion for any more? The latter End of this Bill seems to have some Compassion towards the Prerogative, and enacts something gracious towards the Descendents of the Sovereign, before the Commencement of the Aristocracy, viz. provided aibbaps nevertheless, 'That nothing in this Act contain'd, shall be taken or constru'd to lay any Restraint upon the King's Majesty, his Heirs or Successors, from advancing or promoting any Peer, having Vote and Seat in Parliament, to any higher Rank or Degree of Dignity or Nobility; nor from creating or making any of the Princes of the Blood Peers of Great Britain, or Lords of Parliament; and such Princes of the Blood, so created, shall not be esteem'd to be any Part of the Number; to which the Peers of Great Britain are by this Act restrain'd.' This is the Grace and Favour, which, as soon as all their own Posterity, and Accidents that could befall them, are provided for, is most bounteously bestow'd on the Children of the Royal Family: As this Goodness is conferr'd on those of it, who are not yet intitled to that Honour, it is to be presum'd, that nothing vested in others of them will be assaulted; but that whatever becomes of this Bill, their present Estates, their then remaining Estates, will be still inviolable.
'Since there is so full a House at this Debate, I doubt not but it will infallibly end according to Justice; for I can never think the Liberty of Great Britain in Danger at such a Meeting; but for my Part, I am against committing of this Bill, because I think it would be committing of Sin.'
Mr Pitt, Member for Old Sarum, spoke next against the Projectors of this Bill, whom he tax'd with mean Obsequiousness to Foreigners, and with Designs against the Liberties of their Countrymen.' Sir Wilfrid Lawson, Member for Borough-Bridge, and Mr Horatio Walpole, who spoke on the same Side, were answer'd by Colonel Moreton. Sir John Packington, Knight of the Shire for Worcester, spoke next as follows.
'We have all the Reason in the World to acknowledge the good Intentions his Majesty has been pleas'd to express in his Speech for the Good of his Subjects and the Liberty-of our Constitution; but, in my Opinion, his Majesty is not rightly inform'd of the Manner of making his Subjects feel the Effects of those gracious Intentions; and in particular, the Bill now before us is a very improper Return to all the Demonstrations of Duty, Zeal, and Affection, which his faithful Commons have given since his Majesty's happy Accession to the Throne. When the King and his Ministers thought fit to enter into a strict Alliance with France, and thereby give that ancient and almost irreconcilable Enemy of England, an Opportunity to retrieve the extreme low and desperate Condition of their Affairs, the Commons did not oppose those Measures. When his Majesty judg'd it necessary, either for the Good of his Subjects, or to secure some Acquisitions in Germany, to declare War against Sweden, and to send strong Squadrons into the Baltick, his faithful Commons readily provided for those great Expences. When afterwards it was thought proper to deprive his Majesty's Subjects of the beneficial Trade to Spain, by declaring War against that Crown, and sending a Fleet into the Mediterranean to serve as Ferry-Boats for the Emperor's Troops, the good-natur'd Commons approv'd those wise Counsels: After all these and several other Instances of Obsequiousness and Complaisance, which this House has shewn for the Ministers, it is Matter of Wonder we should, at last, be no better rewarded, than by a Bill, visibly calculated to exclude the Commons from Titles of Honour, and to raise the Dignity and Power of the Peers. It seems to have been the principal Design of the Ministry, since the Beginning of this Reign in particular, to give one Family the absolute Disposal of all Honours and Favours. For my own Part, I never desire to be a Lord, but I have a Son, who may one Day have that Ambition; and I hope to leave him a better Claim to it, than a certain great Man [meaning General Stanhope] had, when he was made a Peer. It is indeed an extraordinary and unexampled Condescension in his Majesty, to part with so valuable a Branch of his Royal Prerogative, as is the bestowing Marks of Honour and Distinction on such as have deserv'd them, by their eminent Virtues and Services to their King and Country: However, considering what Equivalent is given by this Bill to his Majesty, no Body will wonder at this Concession, if it reach'd no farther than his Majesty; but I hope this House will never concur in depriving of so bright a Jewel of the Crown, the Prince, who, in his proper Turn, is to wear it; and who is so worthy of it by all the Royal Virtues that shine in his Person; and which, during his Regency, have gain'd him the Hearts and Affections of all true Englishmen. And if some Persons have, thro' their Indiscretion, occasion'd an unhappy Difference, I am apprehensive, that if this Bill, so prejudicial to the Rights of the presumptive Heir, should pass into a Law, it may render that Division irreconcilable; and therefore I am against the committing this Bill.'
The Peerage Bill rejected.
Mr Hampden answered one of the most material Objections against the Bill, viz. 'That it would give the Peerage an aristocratical Authority;' and endeavoured to shew on the contrary, 'That the Limiting the Number of the Peers would rather diminish than increase their Power and Interest, since these were mainly owing to the constant Addition of Riches which the Peerage receives by the ennobling of wealthy Commoners.' Mr Craggs spoke on the same Side, and urg'd, 'That his Majesty, since his Accession to the Throne, had had no other View than to procure the Good and Happiness of his Subjects, and to secure their Rights and Liberties. That having, in his Royal Wisdom, consider'd the Abuse that was made, in the last Reign, of that Branch of the Prerogative, relating to the Creating of Peers, which Abuse had brought the Liberties of Great Britain, and of all Europe, into imminent Danger; his Majesty, through a Condescension worthy of a Prince truly magnanimous, had graciously been pleas'd to consent, that such Bounds be set to that Part of the Prerogative, as may prevent any exorbitant and dangerous Exercise of it for the Time to come: That it was only in the Reigns of good Princes, that Legislators had Opportunities to remedy and amend the Defects to which all human Institutions are subject; and that, if the present Occasion of rectifying that apparent Flaw in our Constitution were lost, it might, perhaps, never be retriev'd.' Mr Methuen answer'd Mr Craggs, and shew'd the Danger of making Alterations in the Fundamental Laws and Ancient Constitution; 'Urging the Comparison of a Building, in which the Removing one single Stone from the Foundation, may endanger the whole Edifice.' Mr. Herne spoke on the same Side; after which Mr. Lechmere own'd, 'That he did not like this Bill, as it was sent down to them, yet he did not doubt but it might be made a good one, provided the Lords would give the Commons an Equivalent, and suffer them to share several Privileges and Advantages, which their Lordships enjoy. Therefore he insisted on the committing of the Bill, that they might make Amendments to it; and as to the Objection, that it was dangerous to make any Innovations in the Constitution, he alledg'd several Instances, particularly, the Act for limiting the Succession, and the Act of Union, which, indeed, had alter'd, but, on the other Hand, had rather improv'd and strengthen'd, than prejudic'd the original Constitution.' Mr Robert Walpole spoke next, and endeavour'd to confute all that had been offer'd in Favour of the Bill. He took Notice, 'That among the Romans, the wisest People upon Earth, the Temple of Fame was plac'd behind the Temple of Virtue, to denote that there was no coming to the former, without going through the other: But that if this Bill pass'd into a Law, one of the most powerful Incentives to Virtue would be taken away, since there would be no coming to Honour, but through the Winding-Sheet of an old decrepit Lord, and the Grave of an extinct noble Family. That it was Matter of just Surprize, that a Bill of this Nature should either have been projected, or at least promoted, by a Gentleman who not long ago sate amongst them; [meaning Lord Stanhope] and who having got into the House of Peers, would now shut up the Door after him. That this Bill would not only be a Discouragement to Virtue and Merit, but also endanger our excellent Constitution: For as there was a due Ballance between the three Branches of the Legislature, if any more Weight were thrown into any one of those Branches, it would destroy that Ballance, and consequently subvert the whole Constitution. That the Peers were already possess'd of many valuable Privileges, and to give them more Power and Authority, by limiting their Number, would, in Time, bring back the Commons into the State of the servile Dependency they were in, when they wore the Badges of the Lords. That he could not but wonder, that the Lords would send such a Bill to the Commons; for how could they expect that the Commons would give their Concurrence to so injurious a Law, by which they and their Posterities are to be excluded from the Peerage? And how would the Lords receive a Bill by which it should be enacted, That a Baron should not be made a Viscount, nor a Viscount be made an Earl, and so on? That besides all this, that Part of the Bill which related to the Peerage of Scotland, would be a manifest Violation of the Act of Union, on the Part of England, and a dishonourable Breach of Trust in those who represented the Scots Nobility. That such an Infringement of the Union, would endanger the entire Dissolution of it, by disgusting so great a Number of the Scots Peers as should be excluded from Sitting in the British Parliament. For as it was well known, that the Revolution-Settlement stood upon the Principle of a mutual Compact, if we should first break the Articles of Union, it would be natural for the Scots to think themselves thereby freed from all Allegiance. And as for what had been suggested, 'That the Election of the sixteen Scots Peers was no less expensive to the Crown, than injurious to the Peerage of Scotland,' it might be answer'd, That the making twenty five Hereditary sitting Scots Peers would still encrease the Discontents of the electing Peers, who thereby would be cut off of a valuable Consideration for not being chosen.' Mr Aislabie stood up next, and answer'd a material Objection that had been rais'd against the Bill, viz. 'That it was dangerous to make any Innovations in the Constitution;' and made it appear, that several Alterations had been made in the original Constitution by Magna Charta, the Habeas Corpus Act, and several other Laws made for the Benefit of the Subject; and upon the whole was for committing the Bill. He was back'd by Serjeant Pengelly, but they were oppos'd by Mr Smith, who urg'd, 'That the Foundation of this Bill being wrong and faulty, there was no Room for Amendments, and therefore he was against committing it.' Mr Hungerford, who brought up the Rear, was for committing the Bill; but about Eight in the Evening, the Question being put upon the Lord William Paulet's Motion, the same was carry'd in the Negative, by a Majority of 269 Voices against 177. After this it was mov'd and resolv'd, by about the same Majority, that the Bill be rejected.
The Reader will find a List of the Members, who voted for and against this remarkable Bill, in the APPENDIX.
The Commons take into Consideration the King's Speech relating to the Publick Debts, and the Proposals of the S. Sea Comp. and the Bank.
January 22. The Commons in a grand Committee, took into Consideration that Part of his Majesty's Speech at the Opening of this Session, which relates to the publick Debts, and read the Account of those Debts, as they stood at the Exchequer at Michaelmas 1719; as also a Proposal of the South-Sea Company, towards the Redemption and Sinking of the said Debts. But as this Proposal came short of what was expected, and the Friends of the Bank of England having represented, in Behalf of this last Corporation, the great and eminent Services they had done to the Government, in the most difficult Times, and which deserv'd at least, that if any Advantage was to be made by any publick Bargains, they should be preferr'd before a Company that had never done any thing for the Nation, the Consideration of that important Affair was put off till the 27th.
Jan. 27. The Commons in a Grand Committee consider'd farther of the publick Debts; and the Bank of England having laid their Proposition before the Committee, whereby it appear'd, that they offer'd about two Millions Sterling more to the Government, in less Time than the South-Sea Company; it was thought fit to give the said Company some Time to consider farther on that Matter; which was thereupon put off till the first of February.
Debate concerning the Proposals of those two Companies.
February 1. The Commons, in a Committee of the whole House, resum'd the Consideration of that Part of the King's Speech which relates to the publick Debts, as also the second Schemes, or Proposals, both of the South-Sea Company and of the Bank of England.
The House resolve to accept the Proposals of the S. Sea Company.
These two different Schemes occasion'd a Debate, in which Mr Robert Walpole was the chief Person who stood up for the Bank; but Mr Aislabie made it appear that the Proposals of the South-Sea Company were more advantageous to the Publick; and it was at last resolv'd, That the Proposals made by the South-Sea Company be accepted. This Resolution being the next Day reported, was agreed to by the House, and a Bill thereupon order'd.
Debate on a Bill from the Lords, For securing the Dependency of Ireland. ; Mr Pitt.
March 4. An engross'd Bill from the Lords, intitled, An Act for the better securing the Dependency of the Kingdom of Ireland upon the Crown of Great Britain, was read a second Time; and a Motion being made for committing it to a Committee of the whole House, it occasion'd a Debate. Mr Pitt first spoke against the Bill, saying, 'It seem'd calculated for no other Purpose than to increase the Power of the British House of Peers, which, in his Opinion, was already but too great. He was seconded by Mr Walter Plummer, who excepted against the Preamble of the Bill, as incoherent with the enacting Part, which was partly own'd by Sir Joseph Jekyll, who, in the main, spoke for the Bill. Mr Hungerford, on the contrary Side, endeavour'd to shew, That Ireland was ever independent, with Respect to Courts of Judicature: And he was supported by the Lord Molesworth, the Lord Tyrconnel, and some other Members: But Mr Philip Yorke (fn. 3), having back'd Sir Joseph Jekyll; and the Question being put upon the Motion, it was carry'd in the Affirmative, by 140 against 83, and so the Bill was committed to a Committee of the whole House.
The Bill, For securing the Dependency of Ireland, pass'd.
March 26. It was resolv'd, that the Bill, For the better securing the Dependency of Ireland do pass.
The Bill, For enabling the South Sea Company to increase their Capital Stock, passes the House.
April 2. An engross'd Bill, For enabling the South-Sea Company to increase their present Capital Stock, &c. was read the 3d Time, and some Amendments having been made thereto by the House, the Question was put, that the said Bill do pass, which, after a Debate, was carry'd in the Affirmative, by 172 against 55, and the said Bill was sent up to the Lords for their Concurrence.
May 4. Mr Aislabie (fn. 4), presented to the House the following Message from the King.
The King's Message relating to erecting Corporations for insuring Ships and Merchandize.
HIS Majesty having receiv'd several Petitions from great Numbers of the most eminent Merchants of the City of London, humbly praying, that he would be graciously pleas'd to grant them his Letters Patents for erecting Corporations to insure Ships and Merchandize; and the said Merchants having offer'd to advance and pay a considerable Sum of Money for his Majesty's Use, in Case they may obtain Letters Patents accordingly: His Majesty being of Opinion, that erecting two such Corporations, exclusive only of all other Corporations and Societies for insuring of Ships and Merchandize, under proper Restrictions and Regulations, may be of great Advantage and Security to the Trade and Commerce of the Kingdom, is willing and desirous to be strengthen'd by the Advice and Assistance of this House, in Matters of this Nature and Importance: He therefore hopes for their ready Concurrence to secure and confirm the Privileges his Majesty shall grant to such Corporations, and to enable him to discharge the Debts of his Civil Government, without burdening his People with any new Aid or Supply."
A Bill order'd to be brought in, in Pursuance thereof.
Hereupon a Bill was order'd to be brought in, to enable his Majesty to grant Letters of Incorporation to the Uses and Purposes mention'd in his Majesty's Message.
Motion for an Account of Debts owing for the Civil List, which is rejected. ; Motion for an Address of Thanks to the King for his Message. ; Which is agreed to. ; An Address for an Account of the 250,000 l. granted against Sweeden, Anne 1717; and for an Account of Pensions given to Members since the 10th of May 1719.
May 6. A Motion was made by Sir William Wyndham, that an humble Address be presented to his Majesty, that he would be graciously pleas'd to direct an Account to be laid before the House, of the Debts which were owing to the several Heads of Expence for his Majesty's Civil Government, at Lady-Day last, and also an Account of the Arrears of the Civil List Funds to pay the same; but the Question being put upon the said Motion, it pass'd in the Negative. On the other Hand, Mr Henry Pelham made a Motion for an Address to return his Majesty the Thanks of this House, for his gracious Condescension, in desiring the Advice of this House upon a Matter of such Importance, as the Insurance of Ships and Merchandize, and to acknowledge his Majesty's Goodness, in applying the Advantages arising to him from such Proposals, to the Use of his Civil Government, for the Support of the Honour and Dignity of the Crown, without burdening his People with any new Aid or Supply; and to assure his Majesty, That this House would most readily concur to make his Majesty's most gracious Intentions effectual, for the Ease, Security, and Welfare of his trading Subjects.' Mr Pelham being seconded by Mr Robert Walpole, it was resolv'd to present the said Address, and a Committee was appointed to draw it up: It was likewise mov'd and carried to address his Majesty, I. For an Account of the Disposition of the 250,000 l. granted in the 3d Year of his Majesty's Reign, for enabling his Majesty to concert such Measures with foreign Princes and States, as might prevent any Charge or Apprehensions from the Designs of Sweden for the future. [See p. 125.] II. For an Account of what Pensions have been granted, and what Warrants for beneficial Grants have been issu'd by the Lords Commissioners of the Treasury, since the 19th Day of May 1719, to any Member of this House.
May 7. Mr Boscawen acquainted the House, that the King had given Directions, pursuant to the Desires of the House, express'd in those two Addresses; and, in the Afternoon, the Commons, in a Body, waited on his Majesty with their Address of Thanks for his Majesty's Message, as follows.
The Commons Address of Thanks for the King's Messages, relating to Insurance of Ships, &c.
Most Gracious Sovereign,
'We your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal Subjects, the Commons of Great Britain in Parliament assembled, return your Majesty our humble Thanks, for communicating to this House the Application made to your Majesty for obtaining the Charters for insuring of Ships and Merchandizes. Your Majesty's being graciously pleas'd not to take any Steps, in a Matter of such Importance to the Trade and Commerce of the Kingdom, without the Advice and Concurrence of your Parliament, is an Instance of so much Condescension, as deserves the highest Returns of Duty and Thankfulness.
'We acknowledge your Majesty's Goodness, in applying to the Use of the Civil Government the Advantages arising to your Majesty from such Proposals. It is a great Satisfaction to your Commons, to see the Honour and Dignity of the Crown supported under the Difficulties, which the Necessity of your Majesty's Affairs may have occasion'd, without laying the Burden of any new Aid or Supply upon your People.
'And we beg Leave to assure your Majesty, that this House is resolv'd to render effectual your Majesty's gracious Intentions for the Ease, Security, and Welfare of your trading Subjects.'
To this Address the King return'd the following Answer.
His Majesty's Answer.
I Receive this Address as a particular Mark of your Affection to me. It is a new Proof to me and all the World, how much I can always depend upon it. I thank you for it in a particular Manner."
June 11. The King came to the House of Peers, and gave the Royal Assent to several Bills; after which his Majesty made the following Speech.
King's Speech at concluding the Fifth Session.
My Lords and Gentlemen,
"I Am now come to put an End to this Session, which, tho' it hath advanc'd so far into the Summer, cannot be thought a tedious one, when we consider how much Business hath been done, and the great Advantages that may be expected from it.
"Your seasonable Vigour and Perseverance to support me in the Measures I have taken with my Allies, for restoring the Tranquility of Europe, have produc'd most of the Effects I could desire. Much the greatest Part of Christendom is already freed from the Calamities of War, and, by what hath happen'd both Abroad and at Home, my People must be convinc'd, that their Welfare is inseparable from the Strength and Security of my Government.
Gentlemen of the House of Commons,
"I return you my Thanks for the Supplies you have rais'd for the Service of the current Year; and it is a particular Satisfaction to me, that a Method has been found out for making good the Deficiencies of my Civil List, without laying any new Burden upon my Subjects. The good Foundation you have prepar'd this Session for the Payment of the National Debts, and the Discharge of a great Part of them, without the least Violation of the publick Faith, will, I hope, strengthen more and more the Union I desire to see among all my Subjects, and make our Friendship yet more valuable to all Foreign Powers.
My Lords and Gentlemen,
"You will see the good Effects which our Steadiness hath produc'd; there remains but little, on our Part, to satisfy the World, that more Credit, Security, and Greatness, is to be acquir'd by following the Views of Peace, and adhering strictly to just Engagements, than by depending on the Advantages of War, or by pursuing the Measures of Ambition. To compleat what remains unfinish'd, I propose very speedily to visit my Dominions in Germany, hoping to put an End to those Troubles in the North, which are now reduc'd to a very narrow Compass. I flatter my self, that my Presence this Summer in those Parts will prove useful to our poor Protestant Brethren, for whom you have express'd such seasonable and charitable Sentiments.
"I doubt not but to meet you again next Winter, dispos'd to put a finishing Hand to all those good Works which, by your Assistance, I have brought so near to Perfection. I could wish that all my Subjects, convinc'd by Time and Experience, would lay aside those Partialities and Animosities which prevent them from living quietly, and enjoying the Happiness of a mild legal Government: It is what I chuse to recommend at this Time, when I am sensible, that all Opposition to it is become vain and useless, and can only end unfortunately for those who shall still persist in struggling against it. I am persuaded that, during my Absence, every one of you will take particular Care to preserve the Peace in your several Countries, and that I shall find you, at my Return, in such a State of Tranquility, as will shew Mankind how firmly my Government is establish'd; which I chiefly desire, because I think the Security and Preservation of my People, and of this happy Constitution, depends entirely upon it."
Then the Lord Chancellor, by his Majesty's Command, prorogu'd the Parliament to the 28th of July: After which they were by several Prorogations farther prorogu'd to the 8th of December.