The History and Proceedings of the House of Commons: Volume 9, 1734-1737. Originally published by Chandler, London, 1742.
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SPEECHES and DEBATES
In the Second Session of the Second Parliament of King George II.
ON the 15th of January the King came to the House of Peers; and the Commons attending, his Majesty open'd the Session with the following Speech to both Houses.
The King's Speech at opening the Second Session.
My Lords and Gentlemen,
THE happy Turn which the Affairs of Europe have evidently taken since the End of last Parliament, must, I am persuaded, give you all, as it does Me, the greatest Satisfaction.
"I acquainted you then that a Plan of Pacification, concerted between Me and the States General of the United Provinces, had been proposed to the Parties engaged in War, which had not the Effect to prevent the Opening of the Campaign: The Armies took the Field, and the War was carried on in some Parts, in such a Manner as to give very just Apprehensions, that it would unavoidably become general, from an absolute Necessity of preserving that Balance of Power, on which the Safety and Commerce of the Maritime Powers so much depend.
"This Consideration determined Me to persevere jointly with the States, in repeating Our most earnest Instances to the contending Parties to agree to an Armistice, and to enter into a Negotiation for obtaining a general Peace, upon the Basis of the Plan we had then proposed to them.
"Whilst Affairs continued in this State of Deliberation, the Heat and Fury of the War abated; and the Emperor and the most Christian King, in Consequence of their repeated Professions of a sincere Disposition to put an End to the War by an honourable and solid Peace, concerred and agreed upon certain preliminary Articles to answer that most desireable End. An Annistice is since agreed to by all the Parties engaged in the War; and the contracting Powers, in Regard to the good Offices employed by Me and the States, have communicated to Us, by their respective Ministers the Preliminaries; desiring Our Concurrence for effectuating a general Pacification upon the Terms thereby stipulated.
"It appearing upon due Examination, that these Articles do not essentially vary from the Plan proposed by Me and the States, nor contain any Thing prejudicial to the Equilibrium of Europe, or to the Rights and Interests of Our respective Subjects, We thought fit, in pursuance of Our constant Purpose to contribute our utmost towards a Pacification, to declare, by a joint Resolution, to the Courts of Vienna and France, Our Approbation of the said Preliminaries, and Our Readiness to concur in a Treaty to be made for bringing them to Perfection.
"These Preliminaries have been likewise communicated to the Kings of Spain and of Sardinia; and altho' those Princes have not as yet, in Form, declared their final Resolutions upon them, there is great Reason to believe that the Love of Peace, their avowed Dispositions for putting an End to the Troubles of Europe, and the amicable Interposition of common Friends, will prevail upon them to agree to what has been thus concerted, upon reasonable Security given them, for the peaceable Possession and Enjoyment of the Countries allotted to them.
"In these Circumstances, My first Care was to ease the Burthens of My People, as soon and as far as Prudence, in the present Posture of Affairs, would permit. I have therefore ordered a considerable Reduction to be made of My Forces, both by Sea and Land: And if the Influence of the Crown of Great Britain, and the Respect due to this Nation, have had any Share in composing the present Troubles in Europe, or preventing new ones, I am persuaded you will be of Opinion, that it will be necessary to continue some extraordinary Expence, until there be a more perfect Reconciliation among the several Powers of Europe."
Gentlemen of the House of Commons,
"I have ordered the proper Officers to lay before you the Estimates for the Service of the current Year; and I make no doubt, but My Desires to make the Charge of the Publick as low as possible, will find in you the same Readiness to grant the necessary Supplies with Chearfulness and Unanimity."
My Lords and Gentlemen,
"I am willing to hope, this pleasing Prospect of Peace Abroad will greatly contribute to Peace and good Harmony at Home. Let that Example of Temper and Moderation, which has so happily calmed the Spirits of contending Princes, banish from among you all intestine Discord and Dissension. Those who truly wish the Peace and Prosperity of their Country, can never have a more favourable Opportunity than now offers, of distinguishing themselves, by declaring their Satisfaction in the Progress already made towards restoring the Publick Tranquility, and in promoting what is still necessary to bring it to Perfection."
Mr Stephen Fox's Motion for an Address of Thanks.
The Commons being returned to their House, and Mr Speaker having reported his Majesty's Speech, Mr Stephen Fox mov'd, 'That an humble Address be presented to his Majesty, to return his Majesty the Thanks of that House for his most gracious Speech from the Throne: To express their grateful Sense of his Majesty's continued Endeavours to restore the publick Tranquility, and to avoid involving this Nation unnecessarily in the fatal Consequences of a general War: To congratulate his Majesty upon the happy Turn, which the Affairs of Europe had taken, by their Imperial and most Christian Majesties having agreed to preliminary Articles for a general Pacification; and upon the great Probability of their being accepted by all the Powers engaged in the War: And to declare, from the Assurances his Majesty had been pleased to give them, that those Preliminaries did not essentially vary from the Plan of Pacification concerted and proposed by his Majesty and the States General; from a just Confidence, in his Majesty's Goodness, and the Experience they had of his constant and paternal Care of the true Interest of his People, through the whole Course of this great and intricate Work; and from his Majesty's having declared, in Conjunction with the States, his Approbation of the said Preliminaries, as proper Conditions of a general Pacification; that they could make no Doubt, but they were such as would give a general Satisfaction: To return his Majesty their Thanks for his early Care in easing the Burthens of his People, and reducing a considerable Number of his Forces both by Sea and Land: To assure his Majesty that they would, with great Chearfulness, raise the necessary Supplies: And, to testify their Gratitude from a just Sense of the Blessings they then enjoyed, and from the Prospect of future Happiness, That they would support his Majesty in such Measures, as should be found reasonable and necessary to render that great and desirable Work perfect and lasting.'
Mr Fox was seconded by Mr Hanbury Williams: And Lord Tyrconnell declar'd, 'That he thought the Peace was more safe, honourable and glorious, than it was possible for us to expect.' Upon this Occasion Mr Shippen and Mr Walter Plumer took Notice of that Part of the King's Speech, which related to the Reduction of the Forces, and added, 'That they hoped some whole Regiments would be reduced, and not a Number of private Men only, as had been formerly practised upon the like Occasions; for that the reducing of a whole Regiment would be a much greater Saving to the Nation, than the reducing of an equal Number of private Men: That in our present melancholy Circumstances, every Method ought to be practised by which the publick Money might be saved, in order to apply as much as possible yearly to the Payment of our publick Debts:
'That the Advantage of reducing whole Regiments, was apparent to every Gentleman who would make the Calculation; for by the Establishment of last Year, a marching Regiment, which consisted of 815 Men, cost the Publick about 15,217 l. yearly; so that if a whole Regiment should be reduced, there would be a Saving of 15,217 l. a Year. Whereas if an equal Number of private Men only be reduced from that and other Regiments, there would be a Saving to the Publick of the Pay of so many private Men only, which in a Year amounted to but 7,427 l. from whence it is evident, that by a Reduction of 8000 Men made by reducing whole Regiments, the Publick would save 149,369 l. yearly; whereas, a Reduction of 8000 Men made by the reducing of private Men only, saves but 73,000 l. yearly; so that the Difference to the Publick was a Saving of 76,369 l. yearly; a Saving which ought not to be neglected: That tho', for the first Year or two, we should be obliged to issue near one half of this Sum yearly for Half-pay to the reduced Officers, yet in a few Years they would either die or be incorporated in the standing Corps; so that we should soon save this whole Sum yearly.
'That it was not possible for them to find a military Reason why we ought to keep up, and in whose Pay too, a greater Proportion of Officers in Time of Peace than we did in Time of War; and as there was no Military Reason for so doing, People would be apt to suppose it was done for a Civil Reason; which was a Supposition injurious to his Majesty, or at least to his Ministers; and for that Reason they would in a particular Manner recommend it to an honourable Gentleman on the Floor, [Sir Robert Walpole] to reduce whole Corps, instead of reducing private Men only.'
Then Mr Fox's Motion was agreed to without Debate, and a Committee ordered to draw up an Address accordingly.
A Petition of Sir Rowland Winn, complaining of an undue Election for the County of York.
Jan. 16. A Petition of Sir Rowland Winn, Bart. was presented to the House and read, complaining of an undue Election and Return for the County of York, which was ordered to be heard at the Bar of the House on the 24th of February; and it was ordered, that the List of Voters to be objected to by either Party, be delivered to the other by that Day three Weeks.
Jan. 17. The Commons presented their Address of Thanks to the King as follows:
The Commons Address of Thanks for his Majesty's Speech.
Most Gracious Sovereign,
We your Majesty's most dutiful and loyal Subjects, the Commons of Great Britain in Parliament assembled, return your Majesty our unfeigned Thanks for your most gracious Speech from the Throne.
'We are truly sensible of your Majesty's early Endeavours to put an End to the War, and can never enough admire the steady Application, with which you pursued that great Work, by the joint Interposition of the good Offices of Your Majesty and the States General.
'And it is, with the warmest Gratitude, we acknowledge Your Majesty's particular Care and Circumspection, in all Your Proceedings not to involve this Nation unnecessarily in the War; when at the same Time, Your Majesty shewed You were not insensible of the imminent Danger that threatened the Liberties of Europe, from a long Continuance of it upon so unequal a Foot. A Conduct wherein Your Majesty plainly proved, You equally consulted the immediate Interests of Your People, and that Balance of Power in Europe, upon which the Safety and Commerce of this Nation so much depends: At once saving this Nation from all the present Calamities of War, and trying to avert the future Necessity of its being at last obliged to take its Share and Hazard in them.
'We can't but be sensible of Your Majesty's Wisdom and Impartiality, in forming the Plan of Pacification, proposed by Your Majesty and the States General, to the Powers engaged in War; which although not immediately accepted by the contending Parties, nor answering the desired Effect by preventing the opening of the Campaign, has been so far adopted, that the most material and essential Parts of it have been agreed to by the Princes originally and principally concerned in this Rupture, and recommended by them to their Allies as Preliminary Articles to a General Pacification.
'Upon this happy Turn the Affairs of Europe have taken, we most heartily congratulate with Your Majesty; and when we consider the Assurances Your Majesty has been graciously pleased to give us, that these Preliminaries do not essentially vary from the Plan of Pacification, concerted by Your Majesty and the States General, and the ready Approbation Your Majesty and the States General have given of them; a just Confidence in Your Wisdom, and the Experience we have of Your constant and paternal Care of the true Interest of Your People, through the whole Course of this great and intricate Work, leaves us not the least Room to entertain a Doubt, but that the Preliminary Conditions of this Pacification, are founded, and so approved, as will give general Satisfaction; in which Persuasion we are farther confirmed, by the great Probability there appears to be of their being accepted and agreed to, by all the Powers engaged in the War.
'The early Regard Your Majesty has been graciously pleased to shew to the Welfare of Your People, in taking the first Opportunity, on this great and fortunate Event, to lighten the Burthen of their Expences, by making a Reduction of Your Forces, both by Sea and Land, is such a Mark of Your Care in consulting their Interest, and of Your tender Concern for their Ease, that we should be as unjust to our Gratitude, as to Your Majesty's Goodness, if we failed to testify the one, and acknowledge the other, in the strongest and most dutiful Manner. And as we look upon this, added to all the other Measures of Your glorious and happy Reign, as a Proof that the Estimates for the present Year will be proportioned to the Situation of Affairs, and the Purposes to which they shall be sound necessary; so we beg Leave to assure Your Majesty, that we will chearfully and effectually raise such Supplies, as the Posture of our present happy Circumstances shall require, and sufficient to support the Dignity of the Crown, and the Honour and Interest of Your Majesty's Subjects and Dominions.
'And if such Motives could want any additional Circumstance to excite us to fulfil our Duty to Your Majesty and our Country, the Reflection on the good Effect the extraordinary Supplies, granted the last Year to Your Majesty, must have had, in contributing to bring this long-laboured Work to so happy an Issue, joined to the Consciousness of the Influence Your Majesty's Counsels must ever have in the Affairs of Europe, whilst a loyal Parliament shews itself determined to support the Resolutions of a wise and cautious Prince, cannot fail to operate with their due Weight, in making us persevere in our Endeavours to give a Lustre to Your Majesty's Reign abroad, equal, if possible, to the Happiness we enjoy from it at home.'
To this Address his Majesty gave the following Answer.
His Majesty's Answer.
I Return you my Thanks for this dutiful and loyal Address. I am very well pleased, that my Endeavours to restore the publick Tranquility have met with your Approbation; and you may be assured, my future Care shall be employed, to the utmost of my Power, to render the Peace of Europe perfect and lasting, and to make you a flourishing, and happy People."
Debate on a Petition complaining of an undue Election for the County of Norfolk
Jan. 19. A Petition of the Gentlemen, Clergy, and other Freeholders of the County of Norfolk, whose Names were thereunto subscribed, in behalf of themselves and a great Number more of the Freeholders of the said County, complaining of an undue Election and Return for the said County, was presented to the House and read; and a Motion being made for hearing the Matter of the said Petition at the Bar of the House on the 26th of February, Sir John Hynde Cotton stood up and said,
Sir J. Hynde Cotton.
'I am surprised to hear such a Motion made, considering the House, but three Days since, appointed the Yorkshire Petition to be heard at the Bar of this House on the 24th of next Month, which is but two Days before the Day now moved for hearing the Norfolk Petition. This looks as if the honourable Gentleman imagined, that we could go thro' the Yorkshire Petition in two Days; whereas, in my Opinion, if we examine into it as we ought, and as I hope we will, it will take us up two Years, or at least the usual Time of two Sessions. I confess, Sir, I have not the Honour to be let into the Secrets of any of the Yorkshire Petitioners, but I believe the honourable Gentleman, who made the Motion, is thoroughly acquainted with their real and most hidden Designs; therefore, from his making such a Motion as he has been just now pleased to make you, I must conclude, that the Yorkshire Petitioners are resolved to drop their Petition, in case they should find themselves unable to carry some very remarkable Question the first or second Day. If this be really the Case, the honourable Gentleman was much in the Right to make you such a Motion as he has done, with regard to the Norfolk Election; but while we are Members of this House, I think, we ought upon no Occasion to be directed, in our way of voting, by the private Opinion or secret Knowledge of other Men; and therefore if the honourable Gentleman knows of any such Secret with regard to the Yorkshire Petition, he will stand up again and acquaint the House with it, that we may have the same Reason for agreeing to his Motion, which he had for making it.'
Mr Pulteney stood up next, and said,
'I am very sorry to find so many Petitions complaining of undue Elections and Returns for Counties; for the Expence of controverting such Elections is so great, that it is impossible any Gentleman can bear to pay the whole out of his private Fortune. As the Case stands at present, whenever the Election for a County comes to be controverted, the Expence must necessarily be raised by a general Contribution among all the Freeholders of the County; and it will not signify much to ease the Landed Gentlemen of a Shilling in the Pound Land-Tax, if by the Controverting of Elections they shall be obliged, once in every Parliament, to tax themselves, perhaps in ten Times that Sum, for supporting the Rights of their Country.
'Injustice may, 'tis true, be sometimes done by the Returning Officers for Counties, as well as by the Returning Officers for Boroughs. But as there are such a great Number of Voters for every County, as almost every Freeholder's Right of voting must be examined into, before the Injustice of the Returning Officer can be detected, and as the naming of that Returning Officer depends entirely upon the Ministers of the Crown, the Election for all the Counties in England is certainly very precarious. And when any Injustice is done, the Discovering of it is so troublesome and expensive, that no private Man can well undertake it: In such Circumstances, it will always be easy for the Ministers of the Crown to appoint who shall be the Knights of any Shire, whenever they have a Mind; for if the Returning Officer makes an undue Return according to their Orders, it is almost impossible to discover the Injustice done by him, so as to subject him to the Punishment inflicted by Law; and if the Returning Officer should happen to disobey their Orders, it is but making their Candidates petition, by which the Gentlemen rightfully chosen, and duely returned, will be put to such an Expence in defending their Right, that no Man will thereafter choose to stand for any County in Opposition to the Court-Interest. This Injustice in the Returning Officers, as well as this Expence to the Gentlemen chosen or petitioning, might, in my Opinion, be easily prevented by a few small Amendments to the Laws now in Being for regulating Elections; for if the Oath to be taken by Freeholders, on occasion of their coming to vote at any Election, were made a little more full and explicit, no Man would dare to take it falsly, because it would be easy to convict him of Perjury; and those, against whom he voted, would always be ready to be at the Trouble and Expence of the Prosecution; in which Case the taking of the Oath might be made final and conclusive as to the Person's Right of voting, so that the Right of any Freeholder to his Vote at an Election would never come to be controverted at the Bar of this House; and then it would be easy to detect the Returning Officers, if they committed any Injustice, and the controverting of Elections would not be near so tedious, troublesome, or expensive as it is at present.
'As the Case now stands, Sir, the Expence of controverting a County Election is most grievous and most terrible; and as the County of Norfolk is one of the largest and most populous Counties in England, the Expence of controverting the Election for that County must be much greater than most others; but if you appoint the Petition from that County to be heard in so few Days, after the Day on which you have appointed the Yorkshire Petition to be heard, you would greatly enhance even that greater Expence; because both the sitting Member and the Petitioners for Norfolk, must have their Lawyers, Agents, Witnesses, and all the other Implements of a controverted Election, attending in Town, and living at their Expence, during the whole Time of the Controversy about the Yorkshire Petition. This, I say, Sir, must be the Case, at least of the sitting Member, [Sir Edmund Bacon] because I am pretty well convinc'd he is not in any Concert, nor knows any of the Secrets of the Petitioners for Yorkshire; and the laying him under such an extraordinary Expence, or indeed under any Expence, is the more unnecessary, because the only Gentleman, whose Right seems to be controverted, is now dead, [Mr Wodehouse] by which Means the Petitioners and their Friends might, if they pleased, have an Opportunity of trying their Interest in the County by a new Election, without putting themselves to the Trouble or Charge of controverting the former; but it seems the Petitioners know that the Expence of controverting the former Election, great as it must be, will be less to them than the Expence of a new Election; which, by the by, Sir, seems to me to be a Demonstration that their natural Interest in the County is not much to be depended on.
'But to this, Sir, I must add, that I have been informed, and really believe, that the Petitioners could not make near so good a Show upon a new Election, as they did upon the former; for every one knows that on such Occasions many Promises are made by those, who do not depend upon their natural Interest, but upon the unnatural and acquired Interest they may have by Means of the many Posts and Preferments they have at their Disposal: And I have heard, that many Promises were made upon the last Election for the County of Norfolk, which have not been performed; from whence it is to be presumed, that the Persons to whom those Promises were made, and who were thereby induced to vote contrary to their Inclinations, will upon a new Election vote according to Conscience. This, Sir, I am afraid, is the true Reason for renewing the Petition from that County, notwithstanding its being certain that the Hearing of these Petitions will cost them more than a new Election can naturally cost them; notwithstanding its being certain, that a new Election would bring their Candidates sooner to their having Seats in this House, than they can be by the Hearing of the Petition; and I must say, that the Motion now made to us seems calculated for nothing, but that of laying the sitting Member and his Friends under a Necessity of yielding to the Petitioners, rather than be at the Expence of trying the Merits of the last Election at the Bar of this House.
Mr Winnington. Sir W. Yonge.
To this it was answered by Mr Winnington, Sir William Yonge and other Members, 'That it was impossible to foretel how long the hearing of the Yorkshire Petition would last; but they could not imagine it would last near so long as the honourable Gentleman seemed to intimate; for as the controverted Votes on both Sides would be very much reduced, and fully ascertained, by the Lists that were to be mutually delivered, they could not think that Dispute would take up many Days, much less several Weeks: That they would readily join in any Measures for preventing the Injustice of Returning Officers, as well as for making the controverting of County Elections short and easy; but the controverted Elections then depending could not be regulated by any such Measures: And as many of the Freeholders of Norfolk had complained of Injustice done them at the last Election, it was a Duty incumbent upon them, as Members of that House, to hear their Complaints, and give the Complainants such Redress as they should find them intitled to: That this they were obliged to do with all possible dispatch; and if the hearing of the Yorkshire Petition should last two or three Days, which might probably be the Case, it would be doing Injustice to the People of Norfolk to put off the hearing of their Complaints for two or three Weeks: That they knew no more of the Secrets of the Petitioners for Yorkshire, than any other Gentleman of that House, so that their moving for having the Norfolk Petition heard, so soon after the Day appointed for hearing the Yorkshire Petition, could proceed from nothing but their great Desire to do Justice to the Norfolk Petitioners, and the sitting Member, with all possible Dispatch: That if the Petitioners, their Lawyers, Agents, and Witnesses should be obliged to attend in a few Days before their Affair could be brought on, it was an Inconvenience which could not be avoided; it was an Inconvenience which People had always been, and must always be subject to, in all Courts, and in all sorts of Causes; for unless People were subjected to such an Inconvenience, every Court of Judicature in the Kingdom would often be put to a full Stop, which would make it impossible to administer Justice to all those who might be obliged to sue to such Courts for Justice; but whatever Inconvenience there was in this Respect, it lay heavier in the present Case upon the Petitioners than it could do upon the sitting Member; because the Petitioners would be obliged to attend in Town, from the Day appointed for hearing their Petition, which they were not otherwise obliged to do; whereas the sitting Member was otherwise obliged to be in Town, in order to attend the Service of the House: That they knew of no Promises made upon the former Election, nor any Disappointments People had since met with; but believed that such Reports were without Foundation: That a new Election might perhaps be less expensive than to try the Merits of the last Election; and likewise Gentlemen might perhaps come sooner to their Seats in that House by a new Election, than by having their Right upon the former Election determined; but if any Gentleman had a Right to a Seat in that House upon the former Election, it was not reasonable to expect that he should give up that Right, which he must do by submitting to a new Election: That besides, if Injustice be done to him as well as the County upon the former Election, it was a Duty he owed both to himself and his County, to prosecute the Authors of that Injustice in such Manner as the Laws of his Country direct; and as that could not be done, but by bringing the Merits of the former Election to be tried at the Bar of that House, they thought that the Petitioners were in the Right to insist upon it: That this was certainly the Duty of the Petitioners, and it was their Duty, as Members of that House, to hear and determine the Affair as soon as possible, by agreeing to the Motion.'
Hereupon the Motion was agreed to without a Division; and the Lists of controverted Voters were ordered to be mutually delivered by that Day Month.
Debate on a Petition of John Neale, Esq; complaining of an undue Election for Coventry.
The same Day Mr Walter Plumer presented to the House a Petition of John Neale, Esq; complaining of an undue Election and Return for the City of Coventry; and the same being read, Mr Plumer stood up again and said, 'That tho' by the Forms of proceeding in that House, it was necessary for the Petitioner to present a Petition that Session, in the very same Words with the Petition presented by him upon the same Subject the preceeding Session, yet he had now given him Orders to acquaint the House, That in order to save Trouble to the House, and not to take up their Time any longer than was absolutely necessary, he was willing to pass from every Complaint in his Petition mentioned, except so far as related to the Qualification of John Bird, Esq; one of the sitting Members for the said City; which was the only Complaint he intended to insist on at the hearing of the Petition: And as the Determining of that Point could not take up above half an Hour of their Time, he would therefore move, that the Petition might be heard at the Bar of the House': But upon the Question's being put, it passed in the Negative, and the Petition was referred to the Committee of Privileges and Elections.
A Petition of Anthony Chute, Esq; complaining of an undue Election for Hampshire. ; Debate thereon.
Jan. 21. A Petition of Anthony Chute, Esq; complaining of an undue Election and Return for the County of Southampton, was presented to the House and read; and it was ordered, That the Matter of the said Petition be heard at the Bar of the House, on the 9th of March; after which it was moved to order, That the Lists, with respect to the said controverted Election, be delivered by that Day five Weeks: Hereupon Mr Lisle, one of the sitting Members for that County stood up and said, 'That he would willingly submit to any Order the House should make upon that Occasion, and would be ready to deliver his Lists by any Day the House should prefix; but as the Design of delivering such Lists was to shorten the Dispute, and to prevent taking up their Time with Inquiries into Objections against Voters, which were either false or frivolous, the longer the Time was which was to be prefixed for delivering such Lists, both the Petitioner and he would be more enabled to abridge their Lists; and therefore, in order to give the House as little Trouble as possible, which he was very much inclined to, he hoped the House would give him and the Petitioner as much Time as possible for making up and delivering their Lists: That with respect to the Objections against the Voters of either Side, they were obliged to depend upon the Information of others; and in order to prevent their being excluded from objecting against any Person, who was really a bad Voter upon the other Side of the Question, they were obliged to put every Man's Name in their Lists, against whom they could hear of any Sort of Objection; but that if he had Time, he would, by himself and his Agents, inquire particularly into every Objection; and would put no Man's Name in his List, if upon such Inquiry he should find that the Objection was not sufficiently supported by Reason and Evidence, by which Means he might probably very much abridge the List he was to deliver; and he did not doubt of the Petitioners doing the same: That as there were already Petitions from Yorkshire, Norfolk and Flintshire, appointed to be heard before the Day appointed for hearing of the Petition against him, it could not be presumed, that the hearing of the Petition against him would come on upon the very Day the House had appointed for hearing it: That therefore he thought it would be better for the House to suspend making any Order, for delivering Lists of bad Voters for the County of Southampton, till after the Determination of the Yorkshire Election at least; for as the Petition for the County of Norfolk, and that for the County of Flint, were both to be heard before the Petition for the County of Southampton could come on, there could be no Inconvenience in delaying to make any Order for delivering Lists with respect to the last; because after the Determination of the Yorkshire Election, the House might order the Lists for the County of Southampton to be delivered by that Day se'enight; and it was impossible the Norfolk and Flint Elections could both be determined in a Week's Time. For this Reason, he hoped the honourable Gentleman would, for the Convenience of the Petitioner, as well as for his Convenience, and also for the sake of saving the Time of that House, wave the Motion he had made; and that the House would suspend making any Order for delivering the Lists for the County of Southampton, till after the Determination of the Yorkshire Election.
To this it was answer'd, 'That the usual Method was for the House to appoint a Day for delivering Lists of all County Elections, at the same Time they appointed a Day for hearing the Petition: That the three other County Elections might for some Reason or other be put off, or perhaps entirely dropt, for which Reason it was necessary for those concerned in the Southampton Election, to be fully prepared and ready for the Hearing, against the Day the House had appointed, which they could not be, unless the Lists were delivered against the Day then moved for: And that, as the sitting Member, as well as the Petitioner, had already had near a whole Year to inquire into the Qualifications of Voters and the Objections that could be made against any of them, it was to be presumed that their Lists were then as much abridged as they could possibly be.'
Then the Question being put for delivering the Lists by that Day five Weeks, it was carried in the Affirmative without a Division.
A Petition of Richard Sheppard, Esq; complaining of an undue Election for Southwark. ; Debate thereon.
January 26. Mr Eversfield presented to the House a Petition of Richard Sheppard, Esq; complaining of an undue Election, and Return for the Borough of Southwark, which was accordingly read; and a Motion being made, and seconded, that the Matter of the said Petition be heard at the Bar of the House; Mr Winnington stood up and said, 'That altho' the honourable Gentleman, who presented the Petition, had moved to have it heard at the Bar of the House; and altho' that Motion had been seconded, and very much pressed by the honourable Gentleman, who was one of the sitting Members for Southwark, and against whom the Petition seemed to be chiefly aimed; yet he hoped Gentlemen would have some Regard to the honourable Gentleman in the Chair, to whom every Election heard at the Bar was a very great Fatigue. That besides, they ought to consider their own Time, and how much of it would be taken up in hearing the Petitions already appointed to be heard at the Bar, insomuch, that he was afraid it would be impossible for them to go thro' the publick Business, which could not be put off till another Session without doing a very great Prejudice to the Nation in general: That as there was a vast Number of Voters in the Borough of Southwark, there would of course be a very great Number of Witnesses to be examined; and consequently a great many Points of Law would probably arise, which must be argued by Counsel, and many of them might perhaps afterwards be argued for a long Time in the House; so that upon the whole, he did not believe the House could go thro' that Election in two or three Weeks, even tho' they should adjourn all other Business, and sit upon it De Die in Diem. For this Reason he hoped, that not only out of Regard to their Speaker, but out of Regard to the Publick, and to the Business of the Nation in general, they would allow that Election to go to their Committee, where it might be heard without interrupting the publick Business, without fatiguing their Speaker, and without doing any Prejudice either to their Petitioner, or to the sitting Member.'
Sir J. H. Cotton.
Hereupon Sir John Hynde Cotton stood up, and said,
'Upon the present Occasion, I cannot omit taking Notice of what happened when the Yorkshire Petition was presented. In the County of York there are certainly five or six times as many Voters as there are in the Borough of Southwark, and therefore, if the honourable Gentleman be of Opinion, that the Election of the Borough of Southwark will take up two or three Weeks of our Time, he must have been of Opinion, that the Election for Yorkshire would take up at least three or four Months; yet when that Petition was presented, I remember the same honourable Gentleman appeared very fond of having it heard at the Bar of this House; and I should be glad to know from whence proceeds that tender Regard, which he is pleased to testify in the present Case, for the honourable Gentleman in the Chair, since he did not seem to shew the least Regard for him in the former?'
Mr Heathcote spoke next:
'By an Agreement between me and the honourable Gentleman who presented the Petition, he promised to move for its being heard at the Bar of the House: He has accordingly done so, and I have seconded that Motion; after which I am not a little surprised to hear any Gentleman attempt to have it sent to the Committee; for when the sitting Member, as well as the Petitioner, insists upon having the Petition heard at the Bar, I believe there is no Example of such a Petition's being referred to the Committee. I have as great a Regard for the honourable Gentleman in the Chair as any Member in this House can pretend to; but I know he will grudge no Trouble in doing Service to the Publick, or Justice to any Member who thinks himself injured; and in the present Case I insist with the more Freedom upon having the Petition heard at the Bar, because I know the contested Votes are but very few; so that the Hearing can last but a very few Days; and I have some Reason to expect, that the Petition will be given up even before those Votes which are contested are all examined into.
'But, Sir, I have another Reason for insisting upon its being heard at the Bar of this House: The Petition which has been publickly read here, contains several grievous and heinous Allegations against me, therefore I think I have a sort of Right to have the Truth of these Allegations examined into, in the same Place in which they have been published; and I insist upon it, because, I have very good Reason to believe, that when this is done the Petition will appear to be as vexatious as any ever presented to this House. And my Reason for believing so is founded not only upon a Consciousness of my own Innocence, but upon the Candour and Sincerity of the Petitioner's own Scrutineers; for during the whole Time of the Election, the Returning Officer for that Borough acted so equally and fairly, that, after the Scrutiny was over, even the Scrutineers for the Petitioner returned him Thanks for his Justice and Impartiality.
'For these Reasons, I hope, Sir, the House will not only order this Petition to be heard at the Bar, but will appoint a short Day, considering the Place is just in our Neighbourhood, so that no Pretence can be made, that any of the Parties or Witnesses are at any great Distance.
Mr Walter Plumer spoke next.
Mr W. Plumer.
As the Elections, which are appointed to be heard at the Bar, are generally sooner determined than those which are referred to the Committee; and as it is always very much the Interest of the Petitioner, to have the Matter of his Petition soon heard, if he has any Confidence in it; therefore I have never observed the Hearing of any Petition at Bar refused, when it was desired and insisted on by the sitting Member: But there is something very extraordinary in the present Case, for not only the sitting Member desires and insists upon the Petition's being appointed to be heard at the Bar, but there seems to be a Design in the Petitioner not to have his Petition heard at all, or at least not this Session; for otherwise he would certainly have presented it among the first, as he might and ought to have done, whereas he has delayed presenting it almost as long as he could; which to me is really a strong Presumption, that he is sensible of his Petition's being such as the sitting Member has represented it to be; and if it be so. there can be no stronger Reason assigned, not only for its being heard at the Bar, but for its being heard as soon as possible.
The Question was then put for hearing the Petition at the Bar of the House; which upon a Division was carried in the Affirmative by 145 to 142. After which the Question was put for hearing it at the Bar on the 10th of February, which was carried in the Affirmative without a Division.
This Affair being over Mr Walter Plumer stood up and said, 'That, altho' he had before acquainted the House, that Mr Neale, Petitioner for Coventry, was willing to pass from every Complaint in his Petition, except so far as related to the Qualification of John Bird, Esq; one of the sitting Members; yet that something to that Purpose might appear upon their Votes, and to insure the sitting Member that no other Complaint would be insisted on against him, he would move, That since John Neale, Esq; who had exhibited a Petition to that House, complaining of an undue Election and Return for the City of Coventry, desired to withdraw the Complaints in the said Petition, except as to what relates to the Qualification of John Bird, Esq; one of the sitting Members for the said City, therefore it might be ordered, That the said Petition should be dismissed except as aforesaid: This was accordingly agreed to. Then Mr Plumer added, 'That as the examining the Matter of that Petition, as it then stood, could not require any long Preparation, or the bringing up many Witnesses; and as it could not take up so much as one Evening to determine that Complaint in the Committee; therefore he would move for an Instruction to the Committee to hear it on that Day three Weeks'. To this it was objected, as it had been to the former Motion in this Affair, 'That it was contrary to the common Course, and that there was nothing in that Affair so extraordinary as to induce them to hear it out of its due Course.' For this Reason, upon the Question's being put, it passed in the Negative.
Sir C. Wager's Motion for 15,000 Men for the Sea Service for the Year 1736.
The same Day the House being in a Committee of the whole House on the Supply, Sir Charles Wager moved, 'That 15,000 Men be employed in the Sea Service for the Year 1736.'
Hereupon Mr Walter Plumer stood up and spoke as follows:
Debate thereon. ; Mr W. Plumer.
'I do not rise up to oppose the Motion, because, as we have the Happiness to live in an Island, I have always been of Opinion, that we ought chiefly to depend upon our Naval Force; and for this Reason I shall never be against our keeping up a pretty large Number of Seamen, even in Times of the most profound Peace and Tranquility. We have, 'tis true, for some Years past, followed a quite contrary Maxim; we have kept up such a great Number of Land Forces, that it has not been in our Power to keep up such a Number of Seamen in Time of Peace as we ought to have done; but what has been the Consequence of this Maxim? It has forced a great Number of our native and gallant Seamen into the Service of foreign Powers, and from thence arose the Difficulty we found ourselves in upon a late sudden Emergency, with respect to the sitting out speedily a powerful Squadron: This Difficulty the whole Nation was lately sensible of; and to this Difficulty we shall always be exposed, unless we disband a great Number of our LandSoldiers, and bestow that Money upon keeping up a large Body of Seamen.
'But, Sir, I rise up to put you in Mind, that you ought to Proportion all your Expences for the current Service of the Year, not only to the happy Situation of your Affairs Abroad, but to the unhappy Situation of your Affairs at Home. Whoever considers this, will never give his Consent to the loading the present Generation or their Posterity with new Taxes, and much less to the laying of violent Hands on the Sinking Fund, when both may be prevented by our insisting upon the Payment of those Sums, to which we are justly intitled from foreign Powers; and therefore, Sir, when we go into a Committee of Ways and Means, in order to provide for the 15,000 Seamen now to be voted, I hope you will take under your Consideration, what I shall now presume to mention to you.
'As the keeping up of a great Number of Land-Forces in this Island is quite unnecessary, and even inconsistent with the Nature of our happy Constitution, and the Freedom of our Government; therefore, when any War is like to break out in which we may probably have a Concern, we are always obliged to take foreign Troops into our Pay: Whether we have always been in the Right when we did so, is what I shall not now controvert; but I have always observed, that no foreign Prince would lend us any of his Troops, without our engaging, not only to pay them, but to grant him a Subsidy, perhaps greater than the Pay of those Troops, upon their own Footing, would have amounted to; and that even in Cases where the Prince stood obliged, perhaps by former Treaties, to assist us with Troops at his own Expence, and often in Cases where his own Preservation was more immediately concerned in the Event of the War than ours.
''Tis true, Sir, we are always obliged upon such Occasions, to have Recourse to the Princes of the North, who by Reason of their Poverty plead an Inability to send us, or to have ready to be sent, the stipulated Succours, unless we, by a new Contract, agree to pay them a Subsidy; which has some Shew of Reason, or at least of Necessity, when they raise any new Troops for our Service; but I never could comprehend either the Reason or the Necessity for such a Pretence, when they make no real Addition to the Land-Army they before kept up, nor put themselves to one Farthing Additional Expence on Account of their Subsidy from us. This I know has sometimes been the Case for Years together, during all which Time we have been so generous as to pay their Subsidy regularly, for enabling them to defray an Expence they never were at: At least, in the publick Accounts delivered to this House, those Subsidies have been yearly stated as fully and regularly paid, in Pursuance of the Treaties we had before approved of; though indeed, an Accident happened not long ago, which gave Room to think, that all those Subsidies had not been fully and regularly paid to the Princes so intitled to them.
'Now, Sir, if we narrowly consider our Circumstances, I believe we shall find that we are as poor, and in as great Difficulties, as the poorest Prince in the North; and as we have lately sent a very powerful Squadron to the Assistance of a very rich Prince, I make no Doubt but that our wise and srugal Ministers let that Prince know, before they sent out the Squadron, that with respect to him we are a Northern Power, and as needy as any Power he could apply to; and that therefore they have obliged him to pay us a very large Subsidy, for the powerful Squadron we sent to his Assistance.
'I am very sure our Ministers had much more Reason to insist upon such a Subsidy, than the Ministers of any Northern Power ever had to insist upon a Subsidy from us; for with respect to the Breach between Portugal and Spain, it was, in my Opinion, at least, as great a Question which of them were acting upon the Offensive, as it was with respect to the Breach between Spain and the Emperor; therefore, we were not by any former Treaty obliged to send him any Assistance: Then as to the Expence, it is certain we have put ourselves to a very considerable additional Expence on Account of the Assistance we have sent to him; and as to the Benefit he has reaped from that Assistance, it appears plain to me, that the Tranquility he has enjoyed, and does still enjoy, has been, and is still owing to nothing but the powerful Squadron we have sent to his Assistance; which, I am positive, is much more than can be said of any Assistance we have ever got from any of those, to whom we have paid such large and such generous Subsidies: To this I must add, that it cannot be said that the Preservation of this Nation was immediately concerned in the Event of the War between Portugal and Spain; which has generally been the Case with respect to those Northern Princes to whom we have hitherto distributed our Subsidies.
'From these Reasons, I am induc'd, Sir, to think that our Ministers have certainly stipulated a large Subsidy from Portugal; and I have taken Notice of it upon this Occasion, only to put Gentlemen in Mind to call for an Account of this Subsidy, at a proper Opportunity; and to appropriate it to the maintaining the 15,000 Seamen now to be voted; in order to prevent our being obliged to load the present or the future Generation with additional Taxes, or to lay violent Hands upon that Fund, which ought always to be held sacred to the Payment of our publick Debts; by which only we can free our poor Labourers and Manusacturers from those Taxes, which at present render the Necessaries of Life so much dearer in this Country than they are in any other.'
Then the Question being put on Sir Charles Wager's Motion, the same was agreed to without Opposition.
Debate on Mr Pulteney's Motion for referring the Estimate of the Navy for the Year 1736 to a select Committee.
Jan. 28. A Motion was made by Mr Pulteney, 'That the ordinary Estimate of the Navy for the Year 1736, be referred to a Select Committee; upon which ensued a Debate, in which Mr Pulteney's Motion was supported by Mr Plumer, Mr Sandys, Sir John Barnard, and Mr Gibbon, as follows:
'Among the many ancient Methods of Proceeding in Parliament, drop'd by the Complaisance of latter Times, I think no one more necessary to be re-assumed, than that of appointing Committees to inspect the Estimates that are laid before us, for enforcing the Demands made, by the Crown. It appears from the ancient Journals of this House, that when a Demand of Money is made for answering the Expence of any Measure necessary for the Honour or Interest of the Nation, an Estimate of that Expence was laid before this House, and a Committee appointed to examine that Estimate, to see whether every Article was fairly stated. Our Parliaments in those Days were not so complaisant as to take any such Estimate upon the Credit of the Ministers: They thought it incumbent upon them to see, with their own Eyes, the Necessity of every Article of the Expence proposed, before they would open their Purse. This Method of proceeding is, in my Opinion, proper upon all Occasions, but at present, with respect to the Navy, it is become absolutely necessary, because the yearly Expence of the Navy now vastly exceeds what it was in former Times; and there is almost every Year some new Article brought into that Estimate which was never before heard of. I do not deny, Sir, but that it may be now necessary for us to keep up a much larger Fleet, and to keep a much greater Number of Seamen in our Pay than we formerly used to do; but the greater our Expence is that Way, the more Room there is for defrauding the Publick; and therefore we ought to be the more careful to prevent loading the Publick with any unnecessary Article of Expence. These Estimates, 'tis true, are laid yearly upon our Table; but I believe no Gentleman, even of those who are best acquainted with the Affairs of our Navy, will pretend to say, that he can from a bare Perusal at our Table determine, whether the Articles of Expence mentioned in such Estimates are all necessary, or that no one of them has been overcharged? And I do not see how any Gentleman can answer to his Constituents the loading of them with an Expence, a great Part of which, for what he knows, may be altogether unnecessary.
'We ought, Sir, likewise to take Care that so much Money may be granted as shall be necessary for our yearly Expence; for by Estimates and Grants of Money which are afterwards found to be deficient, especially with respect to the Navy, we deceive our Constituents; we do Injustice to the particular Men employed in the Navy, who are generally obliged to sell their Claims at a Discount; we enhance the Price of all Materials necessary for the Support of the Navy; and we discourage our Seamen from entering into the Service of their Country: This we have the more Reason to take notice of at present, because of the great Debt that has been lately contracted on Account of our Navy; a most extraordinary Debt, considering the short Time in which it has been contracted, and that in a Time of profound Peace. And the Method, which we were last Year obliged to take for paying off a Part of it, ought to make us extremely cautious of being again led into the same Error, by any short Estimates that may be laid before us; for we may remember, that during the Time we were running ourselves insensibly into that considerable Debt, there were Estimates yearly laid before the Parliament, which it was pretended, contained an Estimate of the whole Expence necessary for the Service of that Year. The Nation may be accidentally drawn into an additional Expence not to be foreseen; but that additional Expence ought always to be laid before the very next Session of Parliament, and ought to be provided for within the very next Year.
'Another Consideration, Sir, which ought to make us look the more narrowly into all publick Accounts, is the great Debt the Nation groans under. A Gentleman of an opulent Fortune, may perhaps pass slightly over his Steward's Accounts; he may even allow his Servants to heap up Expences upon him, and to charge him with new and extraordinary Articles, without inquiring whether or no there was any Necessity for them; but a Gentleman whose Estate is deeply mortgaged, and cannot even support the yearly Expence of his Family, without laying Hands upon that Part of his Estate which stands appropriated for paying off old Mortgages, ought to inquire strictly into the Management of his Stewards, and ought never to pass any Account, before he is thoroughly convinced of the Necessity of it. This, Sir, is our melancholy Case at present; we cannot provide, even for the current Service of the Year, without laying Hands upon that Revenue, which was long since appropriated to the Payment of old Debts; and therefore we ought not to approve of any Estimate, till we are thoroughly convinced of the Necessity of every Article; and this can be done only by referring them to Select Committees.
'Whether any unnecessary Articles of Expence have been lately brought upon the Nation, is what I shall not at present pretend to determine; but that several new and extraordinary Articles have been of late Years brought into almost every Estimate usually laid before us, is what must be known to most Gentlemen in this House; and no one of them has ever yet been inquired into, in that Manner which is necessary upon such Occasions. It is likewise well known, that we have had of late Years several new Offices erected, new Posts established, and new Salaries granted, all of which are a Charge upon the publick Revenue; and whatever may be the Case as to these new Offices, I believe, upon a proper Inquiry, it would be found that we have many old Offices or Officers that might be spared, and many Salaries which might be altogether suppressed or very much diminished. If the Nation were engaged in War, or if we were in any Danger of being engaged in War, it would not perhaps be proper to enter upon such Inquiries; but by the great Promotion lately made of General Officers, I am convinced the Peace of Europe is now fully re-established; for I am persuaded his Majesty would not have made so many brave Gentlemen useless as Colonels, by promoting them to be Generals, if there had been the least Ground to suspect that we should soon be engaged in War: 'Tis true, few of those Gentlemen lately promoted will, I believe, be brought upon the Establishment as Generals, and therefore it is to be hoped that Promotion will not increase the Publick Expence; but we are at present in a State of perfect Tranquility, therefore it is the most proper Time for us to inquire into all our publick Accounts; and as our Navy ought always to be the first Concern of the Parliaments of Great Britain, I shall beg Leave, Sir, to move, 'That a select Committee be appointed to inquire into the Estimate of the Navy for the Current Year.'
To this it was answer'd by Sir Robert Walpole, Mr Horatio Walpole, Mr Winnington, Sir William Yonge, and Sir Charles Wager, as follows:
'I shall not take up your Time with a Dispute about the ancient Usage in Parliament, but if there ever was any such Method as that mentioned by the honourable Gentleman who has made you this Motion, it is certain that it has not been followed for many Years; and as no Custom once established, is ever laid aside, without some good Reasons for so doing, we are to presume that if there ever was any such Method established, it was found to be inconvenient or unnecessary, otherwise it had never been discontinued for so many Years. This of itself is a sufficient Reason for our not re-assuming that Custom, unless it could be shewn that the Publick has suffered by its being laid aside; but there is this farther Reason, that our reviving such a Custom on the present Occasion, would make People suspect that some very great Frauds have been lately committed in the Management of the publick Treasure; and I cannot think it consistent with that Duty we owe to his Majesty, to give the People any such Alarm, when there is not the least Foundation for such Suspicion.
'Perhaps there may have been some new Articles lately brought into some of our Estimates, but I do not remember any that are very considerable; and there never was one new Article brought in, but what appeared, at first View, to be absolutely necessary for the publick Service. The honourable Gentleman seems to think it impossible to determine, from a bare Perusal of the Estimates at our Table, that the Articles of Expence mentioned in them are all necessary, and that no one Article has been overcharged; but I cannot be of his Opinion; for I never could observe any Mystery either in the Estimate of the Navy, or in any other Estimates laid before Parliament: The Articles are all well known, because it never exceeds what it was in the preceding Year, without some manifest Reason; therefore any Gentleman may sufficiently satisfy himself about every Article, by a bare Perusal at the Table; but if upon such Perusal any Doubt should arise, there are always, in the Committee of Supply, many Gentlemen able to give him as much Information as he can with Reason desire; so that there never can be a Necessity for our referring any Estimate to a Select Committee.
'The Estimates, yearly laid before Parliament, have always contained the whole Charge necessary for the Service of the ensuing Year, so far as could be foreseen when those Estimates were drawn up; but as it is impossible to foresee all the Accidents that may happen in the Course of a Year, therefore the Government may sometimes be obliged to increase the publick Charge, beyond what was contained in the Estimate laid before the preceding Session of Parliament: This is an Inconvenience proceeding from the Weakness of human Foresight, and cannot be removed by referring any Estimate to a select Committee of Parliament; for it is impossible to suppose, that any Committee can foresee every Thing that may happen in the Course of a Year; nay, it is not to be presumed that they can foresee Things as fully and clearly as those, who are immediately concerned in the Administration, under whose Direction the Estimates are generally drawn up. And if, by future Accidents, it should be found necessary to increase the publick Charge beyond what was at first proposed, an Account of that additional Charge certainly ought to be, and I believe has always hitherto been laid before Parliament, as soon as any such Account could be regularly made up. This was the Case with respect to the Navy-Debt, so that its remaining so long unsatisfied, could not be owing to the Estimates or Accounts not being referred to a select Committee, but to the Inability the Nation was under of providing for it out of the Grants of any succeeding Year.
'I shall grant, Sir, that the Load of Debts this Nation labours under at present is very great, but we ought to bear it with the more Chearfulness, when we consider that the whole was contracted in Defence of our Religion and Liberties; and surely no Man will grudge contributing a small Part of his yearly Revenue, towards paying the Principal and Interest, when he considers, that if it had not been for that Debt, he would have no Property at all. But this Debt, great as it is, was all contracted in Pursuance of Estimates yearly delivered into Parliament, no one of which was ever referred to a select Committee; and yet it cannot be alledged, that the smallest Part of this Debt was unnecessarily contracted, or that the Publick was in the least defrauded by any of those Estimates. I shall likewise grant that we ought to look narrowly into all Estimates laid before us, but when those Estimates are plain, this may be done without sending them to a select Committee; and let a private Gentleman's Estate be never so much mortgaged, I shall have no Opinion of his Prudence, if he sate half a Year poring over an Account, which a School-boy might fully examine in half an Hour.
'As for new Offices, Officers, or Salaries, I have not heard of any lately erected, and if any of them should ever appear in the Estimates delivered into this House, it will then be Time enough to inquire particularly into them. As for the late Promotion of General Officers, I hope no Gentleman will find Fault with it; both because there was no additional Expence thereby brought upon the Nation, and because it was absolutely necessary to give our Officers that Rank, which their Services have intitled them to, in order that they may be upon an equal Footing with their Cotemporaries in the Service of those Foreign Powers with whom we are in Alliance; otherwise, in case we should find it necessary to join our Forces with any foreign Power, an Officer in the British Service, by not being promoted soon enough to the Rank he deserved, might find himself under a Necessity of submitting to be commanded by a foreign Officer of not near so long standing in the Army; for every one knows, that in Detachments from confederate Armies, the Officers generally roll, first according to their Ranks in the Army, and next according to the Dates of their Commissions.
'To conclude, Sir, if there were any very new and extraordinary Articles in the Estimate of the Navy now under Consideration, if Gentlemen could shew any doubtful Articles in it, which could not be immediately set in a clear Light, there might be some Reason for agreeing to the Motion now made to us; but as there is no Charge in it but what is usual, I therefore cannot think there is any Occasion for our referring it to a select Committee.'
To this it was replied by the same Members who were for the Motion as follows:
'The honourable Gentlemen are much in the Right not to dispute whether there was ever such a Custom, as that mentioned by the honourable Gentlemen who made you the Motion, because it would be immediately determined by referring to the Journals of the House; it must therefore stand admitted, that there was once such a Method of Proceeding, but how it came to be laid aside is a Question of a very different Nature. I shall agree, that a Custom once established is never laid aside without some Reason; but that Reason is often very far from being a good one: In the present Case, it is to be presumed, that this Custom of referring publick Accounts and Estimates to select Committees, was found to be very troublesome to Ministers; and this was the true Reason for its being laid aside; but this was so far from being a good Reason for laying it aside, that it will always be a strong Reason for re-assuming that laudable Custom.
'We are told, Sir, that the reviving of this Custom will make People suspect, that some very great Frauds have been lately committed in the Management of the publick Treasure: But I am of Opinion, that the Nation will be much more alarmed, at least I am sure they'll have much greater Reason to be alarmed, if they see their Representatives in Parliament every Year receiving Estimates for most prodigious Sums of Money, and granting all the Sums desired by such Estimates, without ever making the least Inquiry into any one of them; for in private Life it is most natural to suppose that a Man will be cheated by his Servants, if he should always pass such Accounts as they are pleased to bring in, without ever examining into any one; and it is not to be supposed that the Servants of the Publick are honester, or less inclined to pilfer, than the Servants of private Men.
'The Duty we owe to his Majesty, ought never, Sir, to be brought into any Debate in this House; but it was never more improperly brought in, than it is now by the Gentlemen on the other Side of the Question; for as this House is the grand Inquest of the Nation, we ought to inquire for the King as well as for the People: We are in some Manner his Majesty's Trustees, and ought to take Care, that neither he nor his People be cheated by the Servants or Officers he employs; and therefore it is inconsistent with that Duty we owe to his Majestly, to pass any Accounts, or agree to any Estimates presented to us by his Officers or Servants, till we have strictly examined the Truth of every Article.
'The new Articles lately introduced into our Estimates, may not perhaps be very considerable, but the Charge upon those, and the additional Charge upon all the old Articles, amount yearly to a very considerable Sum; and I confess I never was so clear-sighted as to see at first View, that all these additional Charges were absolutely necessary for the publick Service. The Gentlemen say, that the several Articles in our Estimates are all well known, and that the Charge upon each is likewise known, because it never exceeds what it was in the present Year, without some manifest Reason: This, Sir, might be some Satisfaction, if any strict Inquiry had lately been made into any of our Estimates; but as no Inquiry has been made for many Years, we do not know but Frauds may have been introduced several Years since, and continued to this very Day; therefore, it can be no Satisfaction to any Man, who has never examined any of those Articles, to find that they do not exceed the Charge upon the same Articles for several Years past. But, Sir, I will take upon me to affirm, that most of the Articles in all our Estimates; especially that of the Navy, are of such a Nature, that it is impossible to say whether they are overcharged or not, without examining into them every Year: This every Man must be convinced of, who will but look into the several Articles of the Estimate of the Navy now upon our Table. Can any Gentleman determine how much will be necessary for maintaining superannuated Sea-Officers, or for paying Pensions, without inquiring yearly into the Number and Quality of such Officers or Pensions? Can any Gentleman determine how much will be necessary for Half-Pay to Sea-Officers, without inquiring every Year into the Number and Rank of such Officers? It is impossible; because by the very Nature of the Service, it must vary every Year; and most of the other Articles of the ordinary Estimate of the Navy will be found to be of the same Nature; therefore, I am surprized to hear it said, that the Charge upon any of these Articles can be well known to any Member of this House, or that its not exceeding the Charge upon the same Article in former Years, can be an Argument for the Justness of the Charge in any Time to come.
'I have, Sir, many Questions to ask, which I think necessary for my Information, in relation to every Article of this Estimate; but it would be ridiculous to expect the proper Information from any Gentlemen in this House, were he never so well acquainted with the Affairs of the Navy, because every Article of the Estimate refers to a long particular Account, which ought to be examined, before any other Gentleman can have that Satisfaction, which we ought to have as Trustees both for the King and the People. It is impossible for Gentlemen to discover the Fraud of any Article in an Estimate, or to state their Objections in any regular Method, without examining Persons, Papers, and Records, which cannot be done but by referring the Estimate to a Select Committee, with proper Powers for that Purpose. If this be done, I shall think it worth while to ask such Questions as are necessary for my Information; and I shall be glad to find the Suspicions I at present entertain, are without any Foundation.
'What was contained in the Estimates of late, yearly laid before us, or whether they contained an Account of all the annual Charge that could be foreseen, I cannot determine; for there is so little Satisfaction to be got from perusing Accounts at our Table, that I never gave myself the Trouble; but this I can say, that if they contained an Account of all the Charge then necessary, it is very extraordinary, that our Foresight should run above 100,000 l. in Debt yearly upon the Article of the Navy only. This I cannot believe, and therefore I am afraid that these Estimates were made deficient on purpose to conceal, for some Time, from the Nation the Expence our Measures had made necessary; because, as our Navy is a favourable Article, it was expected that the Parliament would readily agree, without any Inquiry, to make that Deficiency good, whenever it should be thought necessary to make Application for that Purpose. I am likewise at a Loss to determine whether there was, every Year, laid before Parliament an Account of the Deficiency of the Grants for the former Year with respect to our Navy: But if such an Account was regularly laid every Year before Parliament, it is with me a very strong Argument for referring every Account and every Estimate to Select Committees; for the Disadvantages attending our running into a long Arrear are so evident, that I am sure this House would not have allowed that Arrear to remain so long unsatisfied, if proper Notice had been taken of the Account of those Arrears, which, 'tis said, were yearly laid upon our Table. This shews that most of the Gentlemen of this House expect no Satisfaction from a Perusal of any Account at our Table, and therefore never give themselves the Trouble to look over them, which proves the Necessity of referring all such Accounts to be examined by Select Committees.
'I am convinced, that if the ancient Method of inquiring into all Accounts and Estimates, by Select Committees, had been constantly observed, the Debt the Nation now labours under, would never have risen to so large a Sum, nor would so small a Part of it been paid off in above twenty Years profound Peace. The great Haste made in contracting it, and the slow Steps in paying it off, is another Argument for our beginning to look a little more narrowly into our Affairs, which can be done only by reviving that ancient Method of Proceeding, which the honourable Gentleman has now moved for, with respect to the Estimates of the Navy for this Year.
'What the honourable Gentlemen may mean by Mysteries in Accounts, I do not know; but to me every Article in the Estimate now before us seems a Mystery, and must continue a Mystery to every Gentleman, who has never seen the particular Account to which each Article refers. Can any Gentleman understand the very first Article, which is upwards of 28,000 l. per Annum (fn. 1), without having looked into the particular Account of what is paid for Salaries and other Charges to the Lords of the Admiralty, the Commissioners of the Navy, the Secretaries, Officers, Clerks, and Contingencies relating thereto ? Or can any Gentleman say, that this whole Sum is absolutely necessary, without having examined whether such Commissioners, Secretaries, Officers, and Clerks, are all necessary for supporting the Business of that Office, and that such Salaries are necessary for supporting such Officers ? Let us look into every other Article of the Estimate, and we shall find the same Mystery. Therefore, instead of our not being able to shew any Article that is mysterious, I must desire the Gentlemen of the other Side of the Question to shew me any one Article that is not mysterious; especially, considering that no Inquiry has been made into either of the Articles, I believe I may say, within the Memory of any Gentleman now in this House.
'I hope, Sir, a Negative will not be put upon this Question; for it will certainly give too just an Alarm to the People of this Nation; they will imagine, that there must be Errors, and even Frauds, in the Estimates and Accounts delivered into Parliament, when the very Gentlemen who deliver them, or at least those who are principally concerned in the making them up, prevent any Inquiry into the Justice of them: Therefore, if Gentlemen are resolved to disagree with the Motion, I hope for their own Sakes, and for the Honour of Parliament, they will put the previous Question, instead of putting a Negative upon the Question now before us.'
The Question being then put upon the Motion, it was carried in the Negative by 256 to 155.