House Of Commons
Thursday, March 4, 1824
Communications With France And Spain Relating To The Spanish American Provinces
on presenting, by command of his Majesty, copies of communications with France and Spain, relating to the Spanish American provinces said, it would probably be recollected, that in the debate which took place on the address, he had stated, that some time would elapse before he should he able to communicate precise information as to the course which government had pursued with regard to the Spanish American provinces—The papers which he now laid on the table contained that information.
The said papers are as follow;
Communications With France And Spain Relating To The Spanish American Provinces
No. 1.—Extract of a Memorandum, of a Conference between the Prince De Polignac and Mr. Canning, held Oct. 9th, 1823.
The prince de Polignac having announced to Mr. Canning, that his excellency was now prepared to enter with Mr. Canning into a frank explanation of the views of his government respecting the question of Spanish America, in return for a similar communication which Mr. Canning had previously offered to make to the prince de Polignac on the part of the British cabinet, Mr. Canning stated—
That the British cabinet had no disguise or reservation on that subject; that their opinions and intentions were substantially the same as were announced to the French government, by the despatch of Mr. Canning to sir Charles, Stuart of the 31st of March; which despatch that ambassador communicated to M. de Chateaubriand, and which had since been published to the world.
That the near approach of a crisis, in which the affairs of Spanish America must naturally occupy a great share of the attention of both powers, made it desirable that there should be no misunderstanding between them on any part of a subject so important.
That the British government were of opinion, that any attempt to bring Spanish America again under its ancient submission to Spain must be utterly hopeless; that all negotiation for that purpose would be unsuccessful; and that the prolongation or renewal of war for the same object would be only a waste of human life, and an infliction of calamity on both parties, to no end.
That the British government would, however, not only abstain from interposing any obstacle on their part to any attempt at negotiation which Spain might think proper to make, but would aid and countenance such negotiation, provided it were founded upon a basis which appeared to them to be practicable; and that they would, in any case, remain strictly neutral in a war between Spain and the colonies, if war should be unhappily prolonged.
But that the junction of any foreign power, in an enterprise of Spain against the colonies, would be viewed by them as constituting an entirely new question; and one Upon which they must take Such decision as the interests Of Great Britain might require.
That the British government absolutely disclaimed, not only any desire of appropriating to itself any portion of the Spanish colonies, but any intention of forming any political connexion with them, beyond that of amity and commercial intercourse.
That in those respects, so far from seeking an exclusive preference for British subjects over those of foreign states, England was prepared, and would be contented, to see the mother country (by virtue of an amicable arrangement) in possession of that preference; and to be ranked, after her, equally with others, on the footing of the most favoured nation.
That, completely convinced that the ancient system of the colonies could not be restored, the British government could not enter into any stipulation binding itself either to refuse or to delay its recognition of their independence.
That the British government had no desire to precipitate that recognition, so long as there was any reasonable chance of an accommodation with the mother country, by which such a recognition might come first from Spain.
But that it could not wait indefinitely for that result; that it could not consent to make its recognition of the new states dependent upon that of Spain; and that it would consider any foreign interference, by force or by menace, in the dispute between Spain and the colonies, as a motive for recognizing the latter without delay.
That the mission of consuls to the several provinces of Spanish America was he new measure on the part of this country: that it was one which had, on the contrary, been delayed, perhaps too long, in consideration of the 6tate of Spain, after having been announced to the Spanish government in the month of December last, as settled; and even after a list had been furnished to that government of the places to which such appointments Were intended to be made.
That such appointments were absolutely necessary for the protection of British trade in those countries.
That the old pretension of Spain to interdict all trade with those countries, was, in the opinion of the British government, altogether obsolete; but that, even if attempted to be enforced against others, it was, with regard to Great-Britain, clearly inapplicable.
That permission to trade with the Spanish colonies had been conceded to Great Britain in the year 1810, when the mediation of Great Britain between Spain and her colonies was asked by Spain, and granted by Great Britain: that this mediation, indeed, was not afterwards employed, because Spain changed her counsel but that it was not, therefore, practicable for Great Britain to withdraw commercial capital once embarked in Spanish America, and to desist from commercial intercourse once established.
That it had been ever since distinctly understood that the trade was open to British subjects, and that the ancient coast laws of Spain were, so far as regarded them at least, tacitly repealed.
That in virtue of this understanding, redress had been demanded of Spain in 1822, for (among other grievances) seizures of vessels for alleged infringements of those laws: which redress the Spanish government bound itself by a convention (now in course of execution) to afford.
That Great Britain, however, had no desire to set up any separate right to the free enjoyment of this trade; that she considered the force of circumstances, and the irreversible progress of events, to have already determined the question of the existence of that freedom for all the world; but that, for herself she claimed, and would continue to use it; and should any attempt be made to dispute that claim, and to renew the obsolete interdiction, such attempt might be best cut short by a speedy and unqualified recognition of the independence of the Spanish American States.
That, with these general opinions, and with these peculiar claims, England could not go into a joint deliberation upon the subject of Spanish America, upon an equal footing with other powers, whose opinions were less formed upon that question, and whose interests were less implicated in the decision of it.
That she thought it fair therefore to explain beforehand, to what degree her mind was made up, and her determination taken.
The prince de Polignac declared,—
That his government believed it to be utterly hopeless to reduce Spanish America to the state of its former relation to Spain.
That France disclaimed, on her part, any intention or desire to avail herself of the present state of the colonies, or of the present situation of France towards Spain, to appropriate to herself any part of the Spanish possessions in America, or to obtain for herself any exclusive advantages.
And that, like England, she would willingly see the mother country in possession of superior commercial advantages, by amicable arrangements; and would be contented, like her, to rank, after the mother country, among the most favoured nations.
Lastly, that she abjured, in any case, any design of acting against the colonies by force of arms.
The prince de Polignac proceeded to say,
That, as to what might be the best arrangement between Spain and her colonies, the French government could not give, nor venture to form an opinion, until the king of Spain should be at liberty.
That they would then be ready to enter upon it, in concert with their allies, and with Great Britain among the number.
In observing upon what Mr. Canning had said, with respect to the peculiar situation of Great Britain, in reference to such a conference, the prince de Polignac declared,
That he saw no difficulty which should prevent England from taking part in the conference, however she might now announce the difference in the view which she took of the question, from that taken by the allies. The refusal of England to co-operate in the work of reconciliation might afford reason to think, either that she did not really wish for that reconciliation, or that she had some ulterior object in contemplation, two suppositions equally injurious to the honour and good faith of the British cabinet.
The prince de Polignac further declared,
That he could not conceive what could be meant, under the present circumstances, by a pure and simple acknowledgment of the independence of the Spanish colonies; since, those countries being actually distracted by civil wars, there existed no government in them which could offer any appearance of solidity; and that the acknowledgment of American independence, so long as such a state of things continued, appeared to him to be nothing less than a real sanction of anarchy.
The prince de Polignac added,
That, in the interest of humanity, and especially in that of the Spanish colonies, it would be worthy of the European governments to concert together the means of calming, in those distant, and scarcely civilized regions, passions blinded by party spirit; and to endeavour to bring back to a principle of union in government, whether monarchical or aristocratical, people among whom absurd and dangerous theories were now keeping up agitation and disunion.
Mr. Canning, without entering into discussion upon these abstract principles, contented himself with saying,
That, however desirable the establishment of a monarchical form of government in any of those provinces might be, on the one hand, or whatever might be the difficulties in the way of it, on the other hand, his government could not take upon itself to put it forward as a condition of their recognition.
P. G. C.
No. II.—Sir William A'Court to Mr. Secretary Canning. (Received Jan. 14,)
(Extract.) Madrid, Dec. 30, 1823.
The enclosed note, though dated the 26th, did not reach me till yesterday. By my answer, a copy of which I have the honour to enclose, you will see, that I merely acknowledge its receipt, promising to transmit it to my government.
(Signed) WILLIAM A'COURT.
(Translation of First Enclosure in No. 2.) Count Ofalia to Sir William A'Gourt.
Palace, Dec. 26, 1823.
Honoured Sir,—I have the honour to inform you that the king, my august master, has determined to devote his particular attention to the regulation of the affairs concerning the disturbed countries of Spanish America, being solicitous to succeed in pacifying his dominions, in which the seeds of anarchy have taken root, to the prejudice of the safety of other governments. His majesty has therefore thought, that he might justly calculate on the assistance of his dear allies, towards obtaining results which cannot but prove beneficial to the tranquillity and happiness of all Europe.
The enclosed copy will put you, Sir, in possession of the orders issued to his Catholic majesty's representatives at the Courts of Austria, France, and Russia; and as the ministers of Spain have not yet proceeded to London and Berlin, the king has directed me to address to you, Sir, and to the minister of Prussia at this Court, a transcript of the said communication; which his majesty hopes you will have the goodness to transmit to your government, whose friendship and upright policy, the king, my master, trusts, will know how to appreciate the frankness of this communication, and the equity which has dictated the basis on which it is founded.
I avail myself of this opportunity, &c. (Signed) THE CONDE DE OFALIA.
To the Minister of England.
(Translation of Second Enclosure in No. 2.)
Count Ofalia to his Catholic majesty's Ambassador at Paris, and ministers Plenipotentiary at St. Petersburgh and Vienna.
The king, our sovereign, being restored to the throne of his ancestors in the enjoyment of his hereditary rights, has seriously turned his thoughts to the fate of his American dominions, distracted by civil war and brought to the brink of the most dangerous precipice. As during the last three years the rebellion which prevailed in Spain defeated the constant efforts which were made for maintaining tranquillity in the Costa Firma, for rescuing the banks of the river Plata, and for preserving Peru and New Spain; his majesty beheld with grief the progress of the flame of insurrection: but it affords, at the same time, consolation to the king, that repeated and irrefragable proofs exist of an immense number of Spaniards remaining true to their oaths of allegiance to the throne; and that the sound majority of Americans acknowledge that that hemisphere cannot be happy unless it live in brotherly connexion with those who civilized those countries.
These reflexions powerfully animate his majesty to hope that the justice of his cause will meet with a firm support in the influence of the powers of Europe. Accordingly, the king has resolved upon inviting the cabinets of his dear and intimate allies to establish a conference at Paris, to the end that their plenipotentiaries, assembled there along with those of his Catholic majesty, may aid Spain in adjusting the affairs of the revolted countries of America. In examining this important question, his majesty will, in conjunction with his powerful allies, consider of the alterations which events have produced in his American provinces, and of the relations, which, during the disorders, have been formed with commercial nations; in order thereby to adopt with good faith the measures most proper for conciliating the rights and just interests of the Crown of Spain and of its sovereignty, with those which circumstances may have occasioned with respect to other nations. His majesty, confiding in the sentiments of his allies, hopes that they will assist him in accomplishing the worthy object of upholding the principles of order and legitimacy, the subversion of which, once commenced in America, would presently communicate to Europe; and that they will aid him, at the same time, in re-establishing peace between this division of the globe and its colonies.
It is, therefore, his majesty's pleasure, that, penetrated with these reasons, and availing yourself of the resources of your well-known talents, you should endeavour to dispose the government with which you reside, to agree to the desired co-operation, for which the events of the Peninsula have paved the way; authorising you to communicate a copy of this note to the minister for Foreign Affairs. God preserve you many years.
(Signed) THE CONDE DE OFALIA.
(Third Enclosure in No. 2.)
Sir William A'Court to Count Ofalia.
Madrid* Dec. 30, 1823.
The undersigned, &c. &c. has the honour to acknowledge the receipt of the count Ofalia's note, dated the 26th of this month. He will hasten to submit it to his government. He begs his excellency to accept, &c.
(Signed) WILLIAM A'COURT.
No. III.—Mr. Secretary Canning to Sir W. A'Court.
Foreign Office, Jan, 30, 1824.
Sir,—The messenger, Latchford, delivered to me, on the 14th instant, your despatch, enclosing a copy of the count de Ofalia's official note to you of the 26th of December last; with the accompanying copy of an instruction. Which has been addressed, by order of his Catholic majesty, to his ambassador at Paris, and to his ministers plenipotentiary at the courts of Vienna and St. Petersburgh.
Having laid these papers before the king, I have received his majesty's commands to direct you to return to them the following answer:—
The purpose of the Spanish instruction is, to invite the several powers, the allies of his Catholic majesty, to "establish a conference at Paris, in order that their plenipotentiaries, together with those of his Catholic majesty, may aid Spain in adjusting the affairs of the revolted countries of America."
The maintenance of the "sovereignty" of Spain over her late colonies is pointed out in this instruction as one specific object of the proposed conference; and though an expectation of the employment of force for this object, by the powers invited to" the conference, is not plainly indicated, it is not distinctly disclaimed.
The invitation contained in this instruction not being addressed directly to the government of Great Britain, it may not be necessary to observe upon that part of it, which refers to the late "events in the Peninsula," as having "paved the way" for the "desired co-operation."
The British government could not acknowledge an appeal founded upon transactions to which it was no party. But no such appeal was necessary. No variation in the internal affairs of Spain has, at any time, varied the king's desire to see a termination to the evils arising from the protracted struggle between Spain and Spanish America; or his majesty's disposition to concur in bringing about that termination.
From the year 1810, when his majesty's single mediation was asked and granted to Spain, to effect a reconciliation with her colonies,—the disturbances in which colonies had then but newly broken out,—to the year 1818, when the same task, increased in difficulty by the course and complication of events in America, was proposed to be undertaken by the allied powers assembled in conference at Aix-la-Chapelle; and from the year 1818 to the present time, the good offices of his majesty for this purpose have always been at the service of Spain, within limitations and upon conditions which have been in each instance explicitly described.
Those limitations have uniformly excluded the employment of force or of menace against the colonies, on the part of any mediating power; and those conditions have uniformly required the previous statement by Spain, of some definite and intelligible proposition, and, the discontinuance, on her part, of a system utterly inapplicable to the new relations which have grown up between the American provinces and other countries.
The fruitless issue of the conferences at Aix-la-Chopelle would have deterred the British government from acceding to a proposal for again entertaining, in conference, the question of a mediation between Spain and the American provinces, even if other circumstances had remained nearly the same. But the events which have followed each other with such rapidity during the last five years, have created so essential a difference, as well in the relative situation in Which Spain and the American provinces stood, and now stand to each other, as in the external relations and the internal circumstances of the provinces themselves, that it would be vain to hope that any mediation, hot founded oh the basis of independence, could now be successful.
The best proof which the British government can give of the interest which it continues to feel for Spain is, to state frankly their opinion as to the course most advisable to be pursued by his Catholic majesty; and to answer with the like frankness the question implied in M. Ofalia's instruction, as to the nature and extent of their Own relations with Spanish America.
There is no hesitation in answering this question. The subjects of his majesty have for many years carried on trade and formed commercial connexions in all the American provinces, which have declared their separation from Spain.
This trade was originally opened with the consent of the Spanish government. It has grown gradually to such an extent as to require some direct protection, by the establishment at several ports and places in those provinces, of consuls on, the part of this country—a measure long, deferred out of delicacy to Spain, and not resorted to at last without distinct and timely notification, to the Spanish Government.
As to any further step to be taken by his majesty towards the acknowledgement, of the de facto governments of America, the decision must (as has already been, stated more than once to Spain and to, other powers); depend Upon, various circumstances; and, among others, upon the reports which the British government may receive of the actual state of affairs in the several American provinces.
But it, appears manifest to the British government, that if so large a, portion of the globe should remain much longer without any recognized political existence or any definite political connexion with the established, governments of Europe, the consequences, of such a state of things must be at once most embarrassing to those governments, and most injurious to the interests of all European nations.
For these reasons, and not from mere views of selfish policy, the British government is decidedly of opinion, that the re-cognition of suck of the new states as have established de facto their separate political existence, cannot; be much longer delayed.
The British government have no desire to anticipate Spain in that recognition. On the contrary, it is on every account their wish, that his Catholic majesty should have the grace and. the advantage of leading the way, in that recognition, among the Powers of Europe, But the court of Madrid must be aware, that the discretion of his majesty in this respect cannot be indefinitely bound up by that of his Catholic majesty; and that even before many months elapse, the desire now sincerely felt by the British government, to leave this precedency to Spain, may be overborne by considerations of a mere comprehensive nature,—considera- tions regarding not only the essential interests of his majesty's subjects, but the relations of the old world with the new.
Should Spain resolve to avail herself of the opportunity yet within her power, the British government would, if the court of Madrid desired it, willingly afford its countenance and aid to a negotiation, commenced on that only basis, which appears to them to be now practicable; and would see, without reluctance, the conclusion, through a negotiation on that basis, of an arrangement, by which the mother country should be secured in the enjoyment of commercial advantages superior to those conceded to Other nations.
For herself Great Britain asks no exclusive privileges of trade, no invidious preference, but equal freedom of commerce for all.
If Spain shall determine to persevere in other counsels, cannot but be expected that Great Britain must take her own course upon this matter, when the time for taking it shall arrive; of which Spain shall have full and early intimation.
Nothing that is here stated can occasion to the Spanish government, any surprise.
In my despatch to sir Charles Stuart of the 31st of March, 1823, which was communicated to the Spanish government, the opinion was distinctly expressed, that "time and the course of events had substantially decided the separation of the colonies from the mother country; although the formal recognition of those provinces, as independent states, by his majesty, might be hastened or retarded by various external circumstances, as well as by the more or less satisfactory progress, in each state, towards a regular and settled form of government."
At a subsequent period, in a communication* made in the first instance to France, and afterwards to other powers, † as well as to Spain, the same opinions were repeated; with this specific addition, that in either of two cases (now happily not likely to occur), in that of any attempt on the part of Spain to revive the obsolete interdiction of intercourse with countries over which she has no longer any actual dominion: or in that of the employment of foreign assistance to re
* The Memorandum of conference.—No. 1.
† Austria, Russia, Prussia, Portugal, the Netherlands, and the United Stales of America.
establish her dominion in those countries by force of arms; the recognition of such new states by his majesty would be decided and immediate.
After thus declaring to you, for the information of the court of Madrid, the deliberate opinion of the British government on the points on which Spain requires the advice of her Allies, it does not appear to the British Cabinet at all necessary to go into a conference, to declare that opinion anew; even if it were perfectly clear, from the tenour of M. Ofalia's instruction, that Great Britain is in fact included in the invitation to the conference at Paris.
Every one of the powers so invited has been constantly and unreservedly apprised not only of each step which the British government has taken, but of every opinion which it has formed on this subject—and this despatch will be communicated to them all.
If those powers should severally come to the same conclusion with Great Britain, the concurrent expression of their several opinions cannot have less weight in the judgment of Spain,—and must naturally be more acceptable to her feelings, than, if such concurrence, being the result of a conference of five powers, should carry the appearance of a concerted dictation.
If (unhappily, as we think) the allies, or any of them, should come to a different conclusion, we shall at least have avoided the inconvenience of a discussion by which our own opinion could not have been changed;—we shall have avoided an appearance of mystery, by which the jealousy of other parties might have been excited; we shall have avoided a delay which the state of the question may hardly allow.
Meanwhile, this explicit recapitulation of the whole course of our sentiments and of our proceedings on this momentous subject, must at once acquit us of any indisposition to answer the call of Spain for friendly counsel, and protect us against the suspicion of having any purpose to conceal from Spain or from the World.
I am, &c.
(Signed) GEORGE CANNING.
Foreign Silks—Petition Against Importation Of
presented a petition from the silk weavers of Coventry: against the importation of Foreign Silks. The hon. gentleman stated, that the petitioners alleged, that so long as the prohibition on the importation of foreign corn, and the consequent increase of the price of provisions continued, with the great pressure of taxation, it was out of the question to expect that the English manufacturers of silk could run the race of competition with the French artisans. The principal outlay in the manufacture of this article was, to a great extent in meeting the price of labour; now, that price was double as much in this country as it was in France. Such a difference prevented the chance of a successful competition. And it was an extraordinary fact, that at the very moment the master manufacturers of Coventry were assembled to consider of the propositions of the chancellor of the Exchequer, a representation was actually made to them by the magistrates of that city, that it was impossible for the labourers employed by them to go on, without an increase of wages, under the advancing price of provisions. At all events, he besought the chancellor of the Exchequer not to permit any great interval of time to elapse before he put these manufacturers in possession of his determination. Under existing circumstances, and the consequent state of uncertainty, the whole trade was suspended. It was impossible that such a state of things could long go on without disagreeable results.
contended, that the petitioners did not view the proposition of the chancellor of the Exchequer in the true light. The object was, not to increase the domestic consumption of the articles manufactured of silk, but to extend the foreign commerce of the country, by enabling foreigners to have that assortment in this country which allowed them to complete their investments. The question for removing the prohibition on the exportation of long wool was a more delicate one, the article being the exclusive growth of this country; but still he thought viewing the other great interests of the state, that, by the reduction of the tax, more general benefit would arise than partial evil to any particular class.
rose for the purpose of giving his decided support to the petition. The House would recollect, that the city of Coventry contained a population of nearly 50,000 persons, the greater proportion of whom depended for actual subsistence on the prosperity of the ribbon trade. When that trade flourished, the whole of Coventry smiled; when it drooped its whole population were reduced to a distress, so general, as to throw upwards of ten thousand persons upon the poor's rate. He had, therefore, to express his most anxious hopes, that the chancellor of the Exchequer would take the case of such a body of industrious persons into his consideration, and not persevere in a measure that must destroy their trade and subsistence.
Ordered to lie on the table.
French Pecuniary Indemnity
rose, pursuant to, notice, to move for the production of certain papers, calculated to shew the application of the Monies received from France by way of Indemnity. The question had been already submitted to the consideration of parliament in a most able and eloquent speech, by his distinguished friend the member for Knaresborough (sir J. Mackintosh). The constitutional objections which his hon. friend had then offered to the appropriation of monies thus accruing had been too forcibly expressed in that House to be soon forgotten, and, therefore, it was not his intention to enlarge upon the subject, but powerful as were the arguments of his distinguished friend, they were not successful at the time. It was contended by ministers, that money, thus obtained, was to be considered as droits of the Crown, and that consequently the executive were not responsible. But if the ministers were not responsible, where was the necessity of accounts? If they were the stewards of the people, the money they received, in consequence of those treaties, was the property of the people, and could only be appropriated by a vote of their representatives. Had the right hon. gentleman, who now filled the office of chancellor of the Exchequer, been in the same situation at that time, he felt a strong persuasion that no such objections would have been put forth. In the appropriation of that money there was a sum of 9,971l. given to the chevalier Canova, for the removal of the works of art from Paris. Perhaps there was no one measure that gave greater virulence to the inveterate hatred of Frenchmen against this country than the removal of those works from the Louvre for which this amount was paid. After fighting the battles of Europe, or subsidizing other nations to fight their own battles, Great Britain had to pay, above the amount of the French indemnity 1,269,000l. for the support of our army of occupation in France. The hon. member concluded with moving for a variety of accounts, tending to shew the specific appropriation of the money received under the head of French indemnity.
observed, that whatever difference of opinions existed heretofore on the question of constitutional right, as to whom the money thus received belonged, he should now say, that it formed no part of the present consideration. It was sufficient for him; in answer to the hon. and gallant member, to state that he had no objection to the returns called for, satisfied that such returns would afford a full and satisfactory explanation of the manner in which such money was applied.
The motion was agreed to.
Renewal Of Offices On The Demise Of The Crown
rose to ask leave to bring in a bill to prevent the necessity of the Renewal of Offices on the Demise of the Crown. It might be proper for him to account for the delay which had occurred since the time—nearly two years ago—at which he had given his first notice of a motion on this subject. At that time there were so many subjects of pressing and immediate expediency, that he thought it best to give way. In the course of last session, the temporary indisposition of the king prevented him. It ocurred to him, that such a moment would be the most unfit in point of delicacy, and that respect which was at all times due from the parliament to the Crown. It was well known that formerly, the occupation of every office, and the existence of parliament itself, terminated with the life of the king. It was found that great incovenience arose from this sudden suspension of all the legislative and executive functionaries, and a bill was brought in to prevent that effect with respect to the parliament. Various acts were passed from time to time which partially and by degrees removed the inconvenience of the renewal, with respect to some of the superior offices. At length it suggested itself to the enlightened mind of the late Mr. Ponsonby, to extend that principle, to introduce a temporary bill to prevent the renewal of offices on the demise of the late king. He was persuaded that Mr. Ponsonby's motive for limiting his measure to a temporary bill, was for the purpose of getting, in the first stage, the assent of many who would have been indisposed to go further. Now, he was utterly at a loss to discover any one objection that was applicable to his present object, that was not equally applicable to Mr. Ponsonby's bill. On what principle was it, that a large class of meritorious officers were to be taxed to produce a large amount of revenue to the lord chancellors and to the attorney-generals? Either these high offices were already well paid, or they were not. If they were well paid, they did not stand in need of such an augmentation, particularly on a principle of an accidental and fortuitous nature. And if they were ill paid, though he would not give a shilling to a useless officer, yet he felt that it was the opposite of economy to refuse ample remuneration to effective service. The House would feel it to be a great hardship to the officers of the army and navy, to be obliged to pay large fees on the renewal of their commissions, and which they were obliged to do by the existing law. He did not see how it could be contended, that the moment of the accession of a new sovereign to the throne was that which ought to be chosen for sanctioning so ungracious a proceeding. In fact, he found it extremely difficult to imagine what could be the objection to any part of his proposed measure. He had heard something of its being objected to on a constitutional principle. What constitutional principle it affected, he was wholly at a loss to discover. Although, when Mr. Ponsonby's bill was passed in 1817, there was a regency, yet his late majesty's bodily health was at that time very good; at least so it was stated in the bulletins, and no doubt ministers would not have permitted the people to be deceived on that point. He might therefore have recovered, and resumed the regal functions; and unquestionably it might have been advisable on the part of the prince regent to take care, that in that event his father should not find himself surrounded by persons, against whom, unfortunately, he had so long entertained a political objection. But, unless the measure were opposed on constitutional grounds, he was really at a loss to know on what grounds it would be opposed. He thought no one could possibly defend the payment of the fees, considering the manner in which they went adventitiously into the pockets of various persons. They might pass by a chancellor, grown grey in the harness, and who had been a quarter of a century in office, and fall to an upstart, without experience, and who might afterwards prove the most profligate of the human race. In making this observation, he begged not for a moment to be supposed to mean any thing of a personal nature. The hon. baronet concluded by moving, for leave "to bring in a bill to prevent the necessity of the Renewal of Offices on the Demise of the Crown."
observed, that the hon. baronet had kept his word with the House in refraining from going into any great length on the subject of his motion, and he would follow the hon. baronet's example. The hon. baronet appeared, indeed, to assume, without argument, that considerable alterations were necessary in the principles of the constitution, even in the most sacred of them. He knew none more sacred than that which threw on the Crown the most pleasing, and took away from it the most unpleasing functions. But, the hon. baronet seemed to think, that a new sovereign ought immediately to have imposed upon him acts of severity and harshness; and that he should have a ministry fastened on him who had not received his approbation, unless he had recourse to the ungracious step of instantly dismissing them. He must either leave his cabinet precisely as he found it, or act with apparent harshness. Now, it was one of the great principles of the constitution, that every appointment under the Crown flowed as a favour from the Crown; and it was neither just nor wise to invert that principle, and to assume, that, at the demise of the Crown, every man possessed of office must remain in office, unless dismissed by the new sovereign. One of the hon. baronet's views was very inaccurate. The hon. baronet had said, that in former times, not only offices but parliament itself terminated on the demise of the Crown; but that was felt to be so monstrous a thing, that the legislature stepped in to prevent it. But the principle now was, that parliament did terminate at the demise of the Crown. It was true, that to prevent confusion, the dissolution was postponed until six months after the demise of the Crown, not on the principle which the hon. baronet supposed, but on the principle, that parliament ceased and extinguished on the demise of the Crown, but continued assembled for six months for practical purposes. Such being the case, the House would at once see the importance of placing the great officers of the Crown on the same footing, and thereby not imposing upon the new sovereign the harsh necessity of beginning his reign by the dismissal of any of his servants. If they agreed to the bill recommended by the hon. baronet, and enacted that ministers should remain in office until they were dismissed, they would invert the whole practice of the constitution, and, instead of leaving it to the new monarch to perform acts of favour, would throw on him the ungracious task of inflicting disgrace. On that ground alone he must oppose the motion. Nor was that ground changed by the bill passed in 1817, called Mr. Ponsonby's bill, in which parliament acquiesced, because in the event of the demise of the Crown at that time, there would have been in fact no change of the sovereign authority, and his royal highness the prince regent had, in the former part of his regency, made his choice of ministers. The change from unrestricted power, as regent, to his power as king, was a change in title not in substance. Mr. Ponsonby's bill, therefore, afforded no precedent for the bill proposed by the hon. baronet. Whether some relief might or might not be afforded to certain offices expiring on the termination of a reign, he was not immediately prepared to say. A relief might be afforded in the article of stamps, fit was observed by Mr. Hume, "and of fees."] Aye, and of fees; but that could not be done without some previous inquiry into the nature of particular offices. The hon. baronet, however, had placed the question on broad constitutional or rather unconstitutional grounds. He wholly differed from the hon. baronet. He would not change the character of the privileges of the monarch on his accession, nor consent to his being bound up by the act of his predecessor, unless he chose to rescue himself from his trammels by severity.
thought, that an important part of the object of the hon. baronet, namely, that which related to the fees, might be obtained without going to the extent proposed by the hon. baronet's bill. That was at present a very great hardship, especially as it respected the army and the navy; and he thought a satisfactory arrangement might be made with regard to it. Few of the persons who held high official appointments would mind the expense of fees; but, to many of the officers of the army and navy, and to others, it was of importance, and, therefore, whether the bill were withdrawn or not, he trusted that that part of the subject would be taken into consideration.
remarked, that the whole argument of the right hon. gentleman was applicable to the form and to the substance of the proposed measure. The question was, to what description of offices it was fit that it should apply? It appeared to him, that a previous inquiry would be the most satisfactory way of proceeding; and he suggested to his hon. friend the expediency of withdrawing his present motion, for the purpose of moving for the appointment of a committee, to examine and ascertain the facts.
was of a similar opinion. The inequality of the fees was, he said, at present most unjust. Some of them were exorbitant; on several offices they amounted to two or three thousand pounds. He was at a loss to conceive how an act of the sovereign, by which so many of his subjects were required to pay a heavy fine, could be called an act of grace and favour.
observed, that this was very different from a mere question of fees. He was sure the hon. baronet would disdain the narrow ground on which his hon. and learned and his right hon. friend wished to place his motion. The fact was, that the hon. baronet's object was, to amend the constitution; to place the monarch in a situation in which he had not before been placed. It was impossible that the hon. baronet should have been concocting his bill for two years, and that then he should make it the miserable, paltry, money question that the hon. and learned and the right hon. gentlemen wished to make it. As to Mr. Ponsonby's bill, the word "fees" was not in it.
said, it was his firm belief, that the right hon. gentleman and those who opposed this bill would not have done so, if it related to constitutional principles only; but that their opposition was excited by the "miserable, paltry question" of fees.
thought the proposed bill might be important in a view which had not hitherto been taken of it. It was one of the first acts of the last reign to make the office of a judge independent of the demise of the Crown, with a view to preserve the purity of the administration of that office. Now, there were other judicial offices which ought to be placed in the same situation; for instance, there were various commissions of inquiry which, under the existing law, would become inefficient on the demise of the Crown. The commission of every magistrate in the country would also cease under the same circumstances. Those were great objects; and ought not to be relinquished. He thought, therefore, that his hon. friend ought to be allowed to bring in his bill.
said, he had come to a conclusion exactly opposite to that of the hon. and learned gentleman who had just spoken. So forcible an objection to the bill, as the fact which had been stated by the hon. and learned gentleman in its favour, had not previously occurred to him. To render the judicial office independent, parliament had stepped out of its way, and provided that that office should not cease on the demise of the the Crown. But the hon. and learned gentleman wished the hon. baronet's bill to be brought in, by which bill the army and navy would be put on the same footing of independence of the Crown as the judges.
disclaimed any share in "concocting" the measure. It was word for word, with the exception of the provision respecting magistrates, copied from Mr. Ponsonby's bill. If the gentlemen opposite, therefore, thought the measure so erroneous in principle, and calculated to give so harsh a character to the exercise of the royal prerogative, why did they agree to Mr. Ponsonby's bill? For this was the same bill, except that it was perpetual instead of being temporary. The principal object of the bill was to prevent immense sums from coming adventitiously into the pockets of persons not entitled to them. As for the change in the constitution which the right hon. gentleman imputed to the bill, he could not see any. He would, however, withdraw his motion, and take time to consider what further proceedings to adopt.
The motion was withdrawn.
wished to put a question to the right hon. gentleman opposite. The evils which had resulted from the emigration to Poyais were well known to the House. He un- derstood, that an office called the "Poyais Emigration-office" was now opened in London, for the purpose of receiving money from persons who were disposed to emigrate, and that a number of individuals had been prevailed upon by the representations held out to them, and were collecting their all for the purpose of proceeding to settle in New Zealand. It was of the utmost importance to these persons and to the public in general, to know what foundation existed for the promises which were held out to them. He therefore requested the right hon. gentleman to inform him, whether these proceedings were sanctioned by his majesty's government, or whether there was any probability of their success?
said, the office to which the hon. gentleman alluded was altogether without the sanction of the government, and the people could not be too cautious in listening to the delusive representations which were made to them, and in relying on the promises of the mercenary projectors.
County Courts Bill
On the motion of lord Althorp, that this bill be read a second time,
rose to propose that some indemnity should be provided for the Prothonotaries and other officers of the Court of Common Pleas. Those officers held their places by patent, and had paid large sums for the purchase of them; and he submitted, that upon the principle which the House had recognized in other cases, they were entitled to be recompensed for any loss they might sustain by the bill now in progress. If the Court of Common Pleas were to be abolished altogether, there could be no doubt that the House would feel it necessary to provide for these officers, and as their emoluments were now to be materially diminished, he thought they had a proportionate claim. There were officers of the Court of King's Bench who were equally entitled, but these would probably be brought before the House by some other person.
hoped, that if the noble lord adopted the learned gentleman's suggestion, he would also insert a clause to prevent all such offices from being sold in future.
thought the House might, with great propriety, institute an inquiry into this subject. Nothing could be more detrimental to the administration of justice, than that such offices should be sold; by which practice they might fall into the hands of persons who were not capable of performing their duties. One of the offices in the court of Exchequer was at this moment held by a lady of quality. It was not necessary to go further, to prove the absurdity of this practice. Nothing could be more preposterous. Owing to the difference of fees, too, between the courts of Common Pleas and Exchequer, and the King's Bench, parties could not resort to the former courts upon the same terms, as they could to the latter: the consequence of which was, that the latter was loaded with business, while the others were comparatively deserted. This subject had been often in his mind, and the only difficulty he felt in proposing some measure to the House was, how to dispose of the claims of the existing agents.
said, that a commission ought to be issued, for the purpose of inquiring into the abuses of the law courts. Nothing, he was convinced, would operate on the system but a commission, with very extensive powers, or a committee of that House.
said, the question of compensation presented many and very great difficulties. He admitted, that where parties were in the possession of vested rights, they were entitled to be indemnified for any damage which those rights might sustain; but this principle did not apply to the case of a diminution of fees. He apprehended that if this principle were once admitted, the House would have to go much further than was at present contemplated.
The bill was read a second time.