The History and Proceedings of the House of Commons: Volume 8, 1733-1734. Originally published by Chandler, London, 1742.
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Dobate on a Bill for limiting the Number of Officers in the House of Commons.
Feb. 15. the House ordered, That Leave be given to bring in a Bill for securing the Freedom of Parliament, by limiting the Number of Officers in that House; and that Mr Sandys, Mr Wortley, and Mr Cholmondley, do prepare and bring in the same.
Mr Haye. Mr J. Campbell.
'In my Opinion, this Bill is one of the most extraordinary and most unreasonable Bills I have ever seen brought into Parliament. It is, I think, not only unreasonable, but in several Respects unjust: For as to the Electors, the People of Great Britain, it is certain, that they are the best, and indeed the only proper Judges, who are the most capable, and the most proper Persons to represent them in Parliament; and for us to pretend, by a Law, to lay a Restraint upon them in their Choice, is certainly doing them very great Injustice. If the People, the Electors of any Shire, City, or Borough, make Choice of a Gentleman to represent them in Parliament, who has an Employment in the Government, that very Choice is a sufficient Proof that they do not think the Service of their Country in Parliament, and the Service of the Crown incompatible: And the Law has already wisely provided, that in case any Gentleman accepts of a Place, or an Employment in the Government, after he has been chosen a Member of Parliament, his Seat in Parliament shall thereby be vacated; he must return to his Country, City, or Borough, to be rechosen; and if they again chuse him, it is a certain Sign, that they continue to think him the most proper Person to represent them, notwithstanding his having accepted of a Place or Employment under the Crown. Then as to the Gentlemen who are now, or may hereafter be in Offices, Civil or Military, under the Crown, it is certain, that they generally are Gentlemen of Families, and many of them have very large Properties in their Country. Have not they therefore as good a Right to stand Candidates for being chosen Members of Parliament, as any of those Gentlemen who are out of Employment? And if the People do them the Honour to chuse them, why should we, by a Law, deprive them of that Honour, which the People have thought fit to confer upon them? Is it not robbing them of a Part, at least, of those Rights which they have a just Title to as Englishmen, or as Free Britons?
'By this Bill, I must likewise think, there is a very great Piece of Injustice done to the Crown; I cannot but think it a very extraordinary Thing to put such a Mark of Disgrace upon all the Officers employed by the Crown, as to exclude them from the Right of having Seats in Parliament, and that for no other Reason but because the King has thought them worthy of serving their Country in some Office, Civil or Military, under him. It is, really, not only putting an Affront upon his present Majesty, but even upon the Crown itself, and rendering it impossible for our Government to subsist under its present Form; for if such an Ignominy shall be put upon all those, who shall accept of any Employment under the Crown, as to render them incapable of serving their Country in Parliament, which is one of the highest Honours a Gentleman can have in this Country, what Gentleman of Family or Fortune, of Honour or Capacity, will accept of any Employment under the Crown? And thus by rendering it impossible for the King to get any Man of Family or Fortune, of Honour or Capacity, to serve under him, you will render it impossible for our Government or Constitution to subsist under its present Monarchical Form.
'Should the Bill now before us pass into a Law. I think it is easy to foresee the Consequence. It would bring the House of Commons into the highest Contempt, or it would bring all those Gentlemen, who accept of any Offices in the Government, Civil or Military, under Contempt. It is natural for every Man to endeavour to render contemptible that Honour, that Post, or that Thing, which he knows he cannot attain to: The Gentlemen of the Army, the Nevy, or in Civil Offices, knowing that by Law they were all absolutely excluded from the Honour of having Seats in the House of Commons, would all join together in endeavouring to render the House contemptible in the Eyes of the People's and we need not doubt, but that the Clergy would join with the rest, because, I think, they are already excluded: On the other Hand, the Gentlemen of the House of Commons, and those who might continue to be elegible into this House, would endeavour to support the Honour of this House, by endeavouring to render contemptible all those, who accepted of any Post or Employment, either in Church or State. Is it not much to be seared, that such an unnatural Division as this might, in the End, prove fatal to the Constitution? For the Success of either Party would certainly overturn our present Form of Government.
'I will not say, but that Country Gentlemen are very proper Representatives of the People, and I believe the Majority of this House will always consist of such, as it has formerly done; but I believe it will be granted me, that it is necessary, for dispatching the Business that properly comes before this House, to have likewise some of those Gentlemen among us, who belong to, and are acquainted with the Manner of transacting Business in the several great Offices under the Government. Every Gentleman, who has been but a short Time in this House, and has attended to the several Sorts of Business that have come before us, and the several Sorts of Papers and Accounts, we have, from Time to Time, found necessary for us to call for, must have taken Notice, that the House would have been sometimes greatly bewildered, if we had not had some Gentlemen among us belonging to the publick Offices, capable of explaining to the House the Matters, which we then happened to have under our Consideration; which must convince every Man of the Necessity of having some such Gentlemen always amongst us. If, indeed, there were Reason to suspect, that Gentlemen in Offices, were by their enjoying such Offices, any way influencedin their way of Acting or Speaking in this House, it might then be necessary to contrive some Way of preventing that Influence for the future; but as I am convinced, that a Man's being in an Office, does not in the least influence his way of Thinking, or his Manner of Acting, in this House, I therefore think we have no Occasion for contriving any such Remedies at present, and far less for such an extraordinary Remedy, as is proposed by the Bill now before us, for which Reason I am against committing it.'
'As this Bill met with no Opposition, either when it was moved for, or when it was brought in and read the first Time, I was very little apprehensive, that we should have had any Debate upon it; and much less was I apprehensive, that our going into a Committee upon it would have been opposed, for as yet it can be called little more than a Blank; it cannot well deserve the Name of a Bill, 'till it has gone through the Committee, where the many Blanks which are now in it, are properly to be filled up. I was, indeed, surrpised, to hear the worthy Gentleman, who spoke last, say that he thought it the most extraordinary and unreasonable Bill he had ever seen brought into this House; for if the Gentleman will look into our Journals, he will see that this very Bill has been often brought in, and has almost always been passed in this House; and I am sure, if ever it was thought reasonable by this House, it must now be thought much more so, when the Number of Placemen is much greater in this House than it was ever heretofore. The worthy Gentleman has likewise told us, that he thinks the Bill unjust, both with respect to the Crown, the People, and the Gentlemen who have the Honour to be employed by the Crown; as to which, I shall take Notice in general, that, by the same Method of reasoning, he may pretend to shew us, that all the Laws that were ever made for regulating Elections were unjust, and were Encroachments upon the Rights of the People. I shall readily agree with him that the People are the properest Judges, who ought to be chosen by them for Representatives in Parliament; and I am confident, that were they left to a free Choice, we should not see so many Civil and Military Officers brought into Parliament.
'The People, I believe, would always think themselves more secure in being represented by Country Gentlemen, with whom they are well acquainted, and who can have no Interest separate from them, than by Clerks of Offices, or such other Persons, whom they perhaps never saw or heard of before they came down to be chose their Representatives, and whom, probably, they may never see again, 'till they return to ask the same Favour; which every Gentleman here knows to be often the Case of many of our little Boroughs in England. But, to say, that it would be any Injustice in us, to lay any Restraint upon the People, as to the Choice of their Representatives, seems to me very extraordinary, when we consider the Laws now in Being, by which the People are restrained from chusing any Gentleman for their Representative, who is not possessed of such an Estate. Surely, we may, with respect to Elections, without being guilty of any Injustice, lay what Restraints we think necessary for the Good of the Publick, and the Preservation of our Constitution; for I am sure, that whatever is for the Benefit of the People, cannot be justly said or thought to be injurious to the Crown. It is extraordinary to say, that what is proposed by this Bill, would be an Injustice done to those, who are thereby to be made incapable of being elected; for have not we already a Law, by which all the Officers concerned in the Collection of the Customs or Excise, are rendered incapable of being chosen Members of Parliament? And yet I have never before heard it urged, that there was any Injustice done to those Gentlemen, by excluding them from having Seats in Parliament, as long as they are in an Office which is inconsistent with their being Members of this House.
'I will allow that the Choice made by the Burgesses of a little Borough, or by the Freeholders of a County, if it falls upon an Officer, Civil or Military, shews that the Majority of those Electors, at that Time, did not think the Office he then enjoyed incompatible or inconsistent with his being their Representative; but I hope it will not be said, that the Burgesses of a little Borough, or even the Freeholders of a County, are better Judges in this Respect than the Representatives of the whole People of Great Britain met in this House; especially when the Opinion of this House is approved of and confirmed by the other two Branches of our Legislature. As to the Alternative pretended, that if this Bill should pass into a Law, it would render either the Officers, Civil and Military, contemptible, or this House contemptible in the Eyes of the People, I cannot imagine how it could produce either of these Effects; for as to the Officers, Civil or Military, is it to be imagined, that a successful General or Admiral, a brave and experienced Captain, by Sea or Land, or a Civil Officer, honest, expert, and diligent, in the Station he is in, would be contemned, because he was not capable of being a Member of this House? Were the Clergy ever brought into Contempt, by their being excluded the Privilege of being chosen Members of Parliament? On the contrary, I believe, they never got any Honour by being Members of either House; and, I believe, there are very few Officers, either Civil or Military, in the Kingdom, who ever gained much Honour, or much Repute, among the People, by their being Members of either House of Parliament, unless when their being such was the Occasion of their being turned out of the Offices they enjoyed, and might have continued to enjoy, to their own Honour, and the Advantage of their Country, if they had not been Members of Parliament. As to the other Part of the Alternative, that this House may be rendered contemptible by what is now proposed, I am not in the least afraid of it; but I am very much afraid, that if some Bill of this Nature is not speedily passed into a Law, this House will become contemptible in the Eyes not only of our own People, but of the whole World.
'Gentlemen may pretend, that no Man is influenced in his way of Thinking, or in his manner of Acting, in this House, by the Post or the Office he possesses, and may be turned out of, whenever a Prime Minister may have a mind; but while Men are Men, I am convinced, there will always be a great Number, by far, I fear, the greatest Number, who will rather vote according to the Directions of the Prime Minister for the Time being, than run the Risk of being turned out of the lucrative Post or Office he then holds at the Pleasure of the Crown: And if ever a Majority of this House should happen to be composed of such Men, I am sure it will become as contemptible as ever the Senate of Rome was, after it became the political Tool of their arbritary and tyrannical Emperors. I will likewise agree with the honourable Gentleman, that it may be necessary, at least, it may be convenient for this House, always to have in it some of those Gentlemen, who belong to and are conversant in the Methods of transacting Business in the several great Offices of the Kingdom; and therefore I am not for excluding from Seats in Parliament all those who are in Offices Civil and Military; I believe no Gentleman in this House ever had any such Thoughts in his Head; and if Gentlemen will but peruse the Bill as it stands now, they will see, that there is to be an Exception, which is now left blank, as in all such Cases is usual, in order that when we go into a Committee, Gentlemen may then propose the filling up in that Blank as many Officers, or as many Sorts of Officers, as they have a mind. About this, indeed, I expected there might have been some Debates; but considering the great Number of Officers of all Sorts we have now in the House, considering how greatly that Number may be intreased in Times to come, considering the great Clamour already raised in the Nation against so many Officers being in this House, I really did not expect, that any Gentleman would have opposed the committing of the Bill, or would have pretended, that the passing of some such Bill was not now become necessary; both for the Honour of this House; and the Safety of our Constitution. To conclude, the Bill is at present but a Blank, but I am confident, it may be made a good and a reasonable Bill, and agreeable to every Gentleman in this House; therefore I hope the House will agree to the going into a Committee upon it, because if Gentlemen do not like it after the Blanks are filled up, they may then drop it, or throw it out upon the third Reading.
Mr Ed. Thompson.
'If we do resolve to go into a Committee on the Bill now before us, which I hope we shall not, I must take Liberty to move for an Instruction to receive a Clause, for excluding all those who have asked for any Place or Employment, or any other Favour, from the Government, and have been refus'd what they asked for; because I am persuaded, that Anger; Revenge and Disappointment, may influence Mens Actions, and even their Behaviour in this House, as much as the Hopes of getting a Place, or the Fears of losing one, can possibly do; and therefore I think it fully as reasonable to exclude the former, as it is to exclude the latter, from having Seats in this House. If it can be supposed, that the Hopes of getting a Place, or the Fears of losing one, can influence some Men so much, as to make them approve of all the Measures of the Government, right or wrong; I am sure it may be supposed, that the Passions of Revenge and Disappointment may likewise influence some Men so much, as to make them find Fault where there is none, and to oppose whatever is proposed by the Government, even when they are in their own Consciences convinced that what was proposed is right, and necessary for the Support of our Government and Constitution: But for my own Part, I can make no such Supposition; I cannot suppose; that the being in a Place or Employment under the Government, is inconsistent with common Honour and Honesty; nor can I suppose, that any Man would, for the sake of satisfying his Malice or Revenge, oppose any Thing that he saw was necessary for preserving or improving the Happiness of his Country; and I would gladly ask those Gentlemen, who have formerly been in Places under the Government, and happen now to be out, if they looked upon themselves as less honest, when they were in Place, than they are now when they are out?
'As the Bill appears to me to be a total Exclusion of all Officers, civil and military, from having Seats in this House, I would really advise those Gentlemen, who now seem so fond of it, to be a little cautious in passing such a Bill, for if that, which they have so long struggled to come at, be so near at Hand, as some People have been pleased to give out without Doors, the passing of such a Bill may soon affect a great many of themselves. They may then, perhaps, think of the Bill as I now think of it; and I must declare, that I can by no means agree to the committing of it, because I think it impossible to make it a good Bill.'
I differ so far, in my Opinion about the Bill now before us, from the honourable Gentleman who spoke last, that I think it is not possible to make it a bad Bill. It is a Bill that has often, as was before observed, passed through this House; and I am sure it was never more necessary for securing the Freedom and Independency of Parliaments than it is at this present Time: I am afraid, that even the Transactions of this Day may be a convincing Proof, of the great Necessity that there is for having some such Bill passed; or rather that they will be a melancholy Proof of its being already impossible ever to get such a Bill passed. It is certain, that the Preservation of our Constitution depends upon preserving a just Ballance between the several Powers of which it is composed; for if ever the Scale should be so much turned, as to overthrow and destroy that Ballance, our Constitution will, from that Moment, be at an End: And it is certain, that the many penal Laws which have been enacted since the Revolution, the many Taxes that have been laid on and still continued, and the great Number of Officers that are necessary for the collecting of those Taxes, have thrown a great and a dangerous Power into the Hands of the Crown; such a Power as, 'tis greatly to be feared, may enable the Crown to swallow up the two other Branches of our Legislature, by making them entirely dependent on the Crown, if ever those employed by the Crown should be wicked enough to make such a cruel Use of the Power they have got into their Hands. I will not say, that ever such a Use, or any wicked Use, has as yet been made of the great Power which the Crown has lately acquired; but there is no doubt but that such a Use may be made of it: Some future Minister may arise, who may make an absolute and a blind Obedience to his Commands, both as to voting and speaking in either House, and as to voting at Elections for Members of this House, the only Tenure by which Gentlemen in Office can hope to continue in their respective Offices, and the only Merit which can intitle a Man to Preferment either in Church or State; and if this should ever happen to be the Case, I must leave it to every Gentleman that hears me to consider, whether our Constitution would not then be in the most imminent Danger: Shall we then, who are the Guardians of the People's Liberties, neglect or refuse to provide proper Fences, against that Power, which may, some time or other, be made use of for invading or breaking down all those Fences, which now serve to protect and defend the Liberties and the Properties of the People? We all know, that the Service of the Crown and the Service of the People ought always to be the same; we know that the Crown ought never to ask any Thing but what is for the Service of the People, and that the People ought never to refuse what is necessary for the Support of the Crown, and for their own Defence; but we likewise know, that the Service of the Crown and the Service of the People have not been always the same; we know that the Crown has sometimes been the People's most dangerous Enemy, and the People may, perhaps, have sometimes refused what was necessary for the Support of the Crown, and for their own Defence. What has happened may happen again; but as long as the Parliament continues pure and uncorrupted, they will always be proper Mediators between the Crown and the People; whereas, if both Houses of Parliament should ever come to be entirely dependent on the Crown, and ready to follow blindly whatever Instructions they may receive from the Ministers of the Crown, could it then be said, that the Parliament would be proper Mediators between the Crown and the People? Could it be expected, that the Parliament would ever put a Check upon the most arbitrary Demands of the Crown? or could it be expected, that they would ever have Weight enough with the People, to prevail with them to comply willingly with the most necessary Demands of the Crown? This is a Case that is certainly to be apprehended by all those, who have any Regard for our present happy Constitution; and as the Number of Officers in the Service of the Crown is daily increasing in this House, I think it high Time to put a Stop to it; for the Disease may, very soon, become incurable.
'That some dangerous Practices have formerly been attempted, by the Ministers of the Crown, upon the Members of this House, cannot be denied; since an honourable Gentleman of great Worth, a Gentleman of great Distinction in the Army, General Wade, has but lately told us, that even he himself was threatened, for daring to give his Vote against one of the most destructive ministerial Schemes that was ever brought into Parliament; and the' he had Virtue and Courage enough to despise such Threats, yet it is probable, that many were brought over by such or the like Arguments; because that Scheme, destructive as it was, got the Sanction of a British Act of Parliament; an Act, which, for its many fatal and iniquitous Effects, will for ever make a considerable Æra in the Annals of this Nation. But I need not enlarge, upon the Necessity of our having some such Law as is proposed by this Bill; the Thing speaks itself; the Independence of our Parliaments is certainly our greatest Security; and if we cannot render them altogether independent, the more they are so, the less our Danger will be, therefore I am for our going into the Committee moved for.'
'This Bill, as Gentlemen have observed, has, 'tis true, been often proposed, and has sometimes passed in this House, but it has likewise been sometimes rejected; so that if there is any Argument in this, it is equally strong on both Sides; and as it has been often proposed, and never yet has passed into a Law, it is a certain Proof that it has never yet been thought reasonable: Indeed, if we look into the History of it we shall find, that it has, at all Times, been brought in and supported by those, who were at those several Times endeavouring as much as they could to distress the Government. I will likewise agree with the honourable Gentleman who spoke last, that it is necessary to keep a Ballance between the three Branches of the Legislature; but I cannot agree with him in saying, that that Ballance is now in any Danger of being destroyed: I hope it never will; I am sure it never was in less Danger than it is at present; and I am persuaded, that if the Government should ever attempt any Thing against the Liberties of the People, they would find no such servile Dependence, or blind Obedience, among the Gentlemen in Office as has been talk'd of: Many of those Gentlemen are, and, I believe, always must be, Gentlemen of good Families, and possessed of considerable Estates of their own; they may not perhaps be very ready to join with any Set of Men to distress that Government they serve; but if they should observe that Government incroaching upon the Liberties of the People, they would then, without doubt, shew some Regard to the Families they were come of, and the Preservation of their own private Fortunes; and would rather throw up the Posts or Places they enjoyed under the Crown, than join with the Crown in overturning the Laws and the Constitution of their Country.
'As there may be Danger, in throwing too much Power into the Hands of the Crown, so, I hope, it will be granted, that the Hands of the Crown may be so much weaken, ed, as to render it impossible for the Crown to support itself, and administer the publick Affairs of the Nation as they ought to be; and this last would, I am convinced, be the Case, if this Bill should pass into a Law. For, as it certainly contains a total Exclusion of all Officers, civil and military, where must the Crown go to find Persons to fill up those Employments as they shall become vacant Gentlemen of Figure or Fortune in their Country would not certainly accept of any them, were they thereby to be branded with such a Mark of Infamy, as to be rendered incapable of serving their Country in Parliament; so that the Crown would be obliged to go among the very Dregs of the People, to find out Persons who would undertake, or accept of any Office under the Crown; and thus, in a short Time, we should have all our Offices and Employments, both civil and military, filled with Creatures of no Family or Fortune in the Kingdom: And if all our civil Employments, but especially our military Employments, should come into such Hands, I would gladly know, from the Gentlemen so fond of this Bill, if they would think the Constitution safe under such an Administration. This I take to be a very strong Argument against the Bill, and I cannot really see any one Argument for it; I can see no Reason, why a Gentleman, only because he is in Employment under the Crown, should be deprived of his Birthright, by being disqualified from sitting in Parliament. It is certain, that the People at present do not think so, otherwise they would not chuse so many of those Gentlemen as they do; and I must think, that it would be a very great Encroachment on the Rights of the People, to dictate to them in their Choice, and to tell them, you shall chuse only such or such Persons for your Representatives in Parliament, The Laws, as they stand now, have, I think, provided sufficiently in this Respect; if any Gentleman accepts of an Office or Employment under the Crown, he is sent down to be re-chosen, and if the People think him thereby disqualified, they may refuse chusing him again for their Repre; sentative; but the many Instances, which have even lately occurred, of Gentlemen being re-elected upon such Occasions, is with me a full Proof, that the People do not think any Gentleman disqualified from being their Representative, by his having accepted of an Office or Employment under the Crown. As for the South Sea-Scheme, which the honourable Gentleman was pleased to mention, however destructive it was, it is certain it is not to be laid to the Charge of the Crown, or of the Ministry even at that Time We all know how, and by what Methods, it was carried through Parliament: We know, that when the Inquiry came to be made, it appeared, that those Directors, who were let into the Secret, and intrusted with the Management of that Scheme in Parliament, were Men of all Denominations and Complexions, and Subscriptions were given to Members of as different Denominations and Complexions; by which there were, I believe, many more brought in to support that Scheme, than were brought in by any ministerial Influence: But whatever may be in that, it is well known, that the Ministers that now are, were strenuous Opposers of that Scheme; so that no Argument can be drawn from thence, for or against any Thing that is now proposed.'
Sir W. Wyndham,
'As it has always been my Opinion, that every Man, who is in a Place or Office under the Government, is not therefore necessarily to be supposed to be under any slavish Influence as to his Behaviour in this House, I have formerly opposed Bills of this Sort; and if this Bill, when it may properly be call'd one, does appear to be the same with those which I have formerly opposed, I shall oppose this likewise. But the worthy Gentleman, who brought in this Bill, has already, in Conversation, shewed me a good deal of Difference between what is now designed, and the Bills I have formerly opposed; for which Reason I shall be for going into a Committee upon it, because no Man can well say any Thing, either for or against the Bill, as it now stands, it being really nothing but a Blank; but when those Blanks are flled up, and the Bill brought into such a Shape, as to enable one to form some fort of Judgment about it, I can then easily determine, what farther I am to do; and if it be not then made very different from the Bills I have formerly opposed, under the same Title, I shall in this, as, I hope, I have on all other Occasions, act consistently with myself, and oppose the Bill's being carried any Step farther. At the same Time I must take Notice, that the Necessity for some such Bill is certainly much greater now than it was formerly: Parliaments are now of a much longer Continuance, and it must be granted, that a more intimate Acquaintance, and a more close Correspondence between the Crown and a Parliament, may be contracted in a Course of seven Years, than could possibly have happened in a Course of three Years only. This is a most dangerous Novelty, which has been lately introduced; and when such Novelties are introduced into our Constitution, if they can't be shaken off, if Things can't be brought back to where they were, Laws, which formerly were thought unnecessary and unreasonable, may then become both reasonable and necessary; and Gentlemen who formerly opposed them may then think themselves obliged, both in Honour and Duty, to support and promote them to the utmost of their Power.
'As the Bill is now but a Blank, we argue in the dark upon it, but if I have been rightly informed, there never was the least Design of excluding all Officers, civil and military; on the contrary, the great Officers of State, the Commissioners of the Treasury, Admiralty, Trade, and many others in such Offices are to be excepted: None of them are designed, nor indeed ought they to be excluded, because they are generally such, who by their Families and Fortunes have a natural Interest in the Country, and may be chose Members of Parliament without any Assistance from the Board to which they belong. Such Gentlemen may reasonably be supposed to be independent of the Board, or even of any Minister of State; but the same cannot be said of all the other little Officers belonging to those Boards, or to any other Office under the Government; if such little Officers should ever be brought into Parliament, it must be by the unnatural Interest of the Board or Office to which they belong; and as they'll then be entirely dependent on the Board or Office to which they belong, not only for their Seats in Parliament but likewise for their daily Bread, we cannot suppose, that their Behaviour in this House will be absolutely free from ministerial Influence; therefore I must think, that it may be very proper to exclude all such from being brought into Parliament; for though it may be necessary to allow a Secretary of State, or any such great Officer, a Seat in this House, yet it is not at all necessary he should come here with his Clerks, and the whole Equipage of his Office. Tho' the honourable Gentleman, who spoke last, seemed to think that no Argument could be drawn from the Success of late the fatal South Sea-Scheme, yet, I think he, from thence, gave us a very strong Argument for some such Bill as is now proposed, when he told us, that Gentlemen of all Denominations and Complexions were drawn in to support that Scheme, by means of the Subscriptions that were given them; for does not that shew, that Men of all Denominations and Complexions are apt to have their Inclinations byassed, and even their Understandings blinded, in Favour of that publick Measure, from which they expect to draw a private Advantage? Is not this one of the strongest Arguments, that can be given, for us to take all possible Care, that no Member of this House shall ever have any private Advantage to expect, or any private Loss to fear, from his Voting on either Side of any Question, that may happen in this House? And is not this a most unanswerable Argument, for our agreeing to exclude those from Seats in this House, who may have the whole, or at least the principal Part, of their daily Subsistence depending upon their way of voting or behaving, as Members of this House? However, it is impossible to argue with any Certainty, either for or against the Bill, as it now stands; if the Bill, after it has passed thro' the Committee, shall appear to be an unreasonable, or an unnecessary Bill, we may easily prevent its going any farther; and therefore I must say, that I can see no Reason for Gentlemen's opposing our going into a Committee upon it, unless it be, that they are afraid, lest it may be there made so good and so reasonable a Bill, that they cannot then, with any Confidence, oppose its being passed into a Law.'
Complaint against Sir Wm. Milner, Bart. for receiving a Pension of 500 l. per Annum for his Vote in Parliament.
February 19. Complaint being made to the House, that William Noble, Clerk, had asserted, in a publick Coffee-house, that Sir William Milner, Bart. Member for York, received a Pension from the Court, and that he knew the Person who paid it; in Dishonour of the said Sir William Milner, and in Breach of the Privilege of the House, Mr James Farrer and Mr Brudenell Greenwood, who had heard and reported this Piece of Conversation, attending at the Door, they were called in, and examined touching the Matter of the said Complaint; and upon declaring that they had heard Mr Noble publickly assert, That Sir William Milner was a Pensioner, and received 500 l. per Ann. for his voting in Parliament, and that he knew from whom he received the same; it was ordered, That the said William Noble, Clerk, be summoned to attend the House forthwith, to answer the said Complaint. Mr Noble, being called in and examined, acknowledged, That he might perhaps have said in private Conversation, that he had heard of Sir William Milner's having a Pension from the Court, or something to that Effect; but as what he said upon that Occasion, was said only cursorily in Conversation, and without any Design of reflecting upon any Gentleman, he could not remember the very Words he then made Use of. He being withdrawn, Sir William Milner stood up, and spoke as follows:
Sir Wm. Miners Defence.
'I am extreamly sorry, that I should have the Mifortune of having my Name mentioned, in so infamous a Manner as what you have now heard at your Bar; but since it has been so mentioned, I think it incumbent upon me to make a dublick Declaration of my own Innocence: And I do, upon my Honour, and in the most solemn Manner, affirm, That I neither have, nor ever had any Place, Pension, Gratuity or Reward, from the Court, either directly or indirectly, for my voting in Parliament, or upon any other Account whatever: And likewise, That it is, and has ever been my constant Resolution, that, during the Time I have the Honour of serving my Country in Parliament, in order to keep my Opinion unbyassed, I never will accept of any Place or Pension either from this Ministry, or any succeeding one.
'The reflecting upon the Members of this House has been a common Practice of late Years, by the Enemies of our Constitution, to render his Majesty's Government odious, to inflame the Nation, and to lessen the Dignity and Authority of this House: For if Mankind can be once brought to believe, that the Members of this House are corrupted, it is a very natural Consequence to imagine, that whatever is done here proceeds from private Views, and a self-interested Principle, without regarding the Good of the Publick.
'For my own Part, I think, if the Gentleman, whose Character should be Sacred, can make good his Assertions, he ought to have the Thanks of this House, for doing his Country so publick a Service, as the detecting a corrupt and unworthy Member: But if it be false and groundless, I hope this House will have so just a Regard for one of their own Body, as to shew a proper Resentment.'
The said Complaint voted false and scandalous.
I. That William Noble, Clerk, had publickly asserted that Sir William Milner, a Member of that House, was a Pensioner, and received 500 l. per Annum, for his voting in Parliament; and that he knew from whom he received the same.
II. That the said Assertion was false and scandalous, highly reflecting upon the Honour of the said Sir William Milner, and of that House, and a Breach of the Priviledge thereof: And it was ordered that the said William Noble, Clerk, be, for the said Offence, taken into the Custody of the Serjeant at Arms attending the House.
Mr Noble was accordingly taken into Custody, but some Days after, upon a Petition to the House, expressing his Sorrow for his said Offence, and begging Pardon of the Member, and of the House for the same, he was discharged out of Custody.
The Salt Duty continued to March 25 1742.
Feb. 20. The House resolved itself into a Committee to consider farther of Ways and Means for raising the Supply granted to his Majesty; and resolved, That the several Duties on Salt, and also on white and red Herrings, delivered out for Home-Consumption, which by an Act of the 5th Year of his present Majesty's Reign were revived and granted to his Majesty until the 25th of March 1735, be farther continued and granted from the 24th of March 1734, to the 25th of March 1742: This Resolution was next Day agreed to by the House, and a Bill order'd in pursuance thereof, which accordingly was brought in and passed into a Law. Thus was that Duty continued for seven Years, without any great Opposition, notwithstanding the reviving of it had been so much opposed.