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House of Commons Hansard
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The Prince Regent Desires The House To Adjourn
01 March 1814
Volume 27

On the motion of the Chancellor of the Exchequer, the Committee of Supply was postponed from tomorrow until Wednesday the 23d instant.

On the Chancellor of the Exchequer's making a similar motion, with respect to the Committee of Ways and Means;

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expressed his surprise that the right hon. gentleman had abstained from assigning any reasons for these propositions.

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said, the reason, which induced him to wish for the postponement of the committees was that, in consequence of the existing state of public affairs, he had a communication to make to the House from his royal highness the Prince Regent, which communication he would make; namely. "That, it being the pleasure of his royal highness the Prince Regent, in the name and on the behalf of his Majesty, that the parliament should be adjourned until Monday the 21st day of this instant March, his Royal Highness desires that this House, will adjourn itself until Monday the 21st day of this instant March." In consonance to this intimation, he would move, that at its rising the House should adjourn to Monday the 2lst instant.

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observed, that although every one had anticipated the communication which had just been announced by the right hon. gentleman, yet it was certainly surprising that the right hon. gentleman had not preferred making the communication the preliminary step to the postponement of the committees, instead of making the postponement of the committees the preliminary step to the communication. If he were not aware, that such was the usual style of a communication of that nature—namely, that it was his Majesty's 'pleasure' the House should adjourn, he confessed that he should think it rather an ungracious mode of expression. It was certainly, however, justified by the precedents on the Journals. He did not rise by any means to oppose the adjournment; to which, on the contrary, he should assent with the same readiness as he did to the last proposition of that nature. Nor would he express either disappointment, or hope, or fear, with respect to the events that had taken place since their last meeting, or that might be taking place at that moment. It was his wish cautiously to abstain from any observations on the subject; reserving himself until the period when that information should be afforded, to which he, the House, and the country, looked with confident expectation. But although he had no hesitation in voting for an adjournment, and for an acquiescence in the pleasure of his royal highness the Prince Regent, yet he owned that he entertained some apprehensions lest the present proceedings should be drawn into a pernicious precedent. He was not without his fears, that when the circumstances of the times should not be well recollected, posterity might accuse those who consented to the present proposition, of an abandonment of their duty to their constituents.—He was aware, that in 1799 an adjournment of a much longer duration even than that, the termination of which had this day assembled the House, had been proposed, and without difficulty acceded to; but that was at a period of the session at which the public business did not press so heavily as it had pressed during the late recess, and would necessarily press during that which was about to take place. Therefore, although he did not regret having voted for the last ad- journment —although he did not repent having placed the confidence which he on that occasion placed the confidence which he on that occasion placed in his Majesty's government—although he was not disposed to cavil at the adjournment now proposed, yet he did wish to guard the proceeding from being converted into a dangerous precedent. He wished to have some record on the Journals of the House, of the grounds on which parliament had been induced to take such a step. In the words which he had committed to paper for this purpose, he hoped he had so entirely abstained from expressing an opinion, or any thing like an opinion, or an anticipation, with respect to public affairs, that he really entertained a confident expectation that the right hon. gentleman opposite would not object to their adoption. He would, therefore, move as an Amendment to the right hon. gentleman's motion, to leave out all the words after the word 'that,' for the purpose of inserting the following:— "An humble Address be presented to his royal highness the Prince Regent, to express to his Royal Highness the grateful acknowledgments of this House for the communication which his Royal Highness has been pleased to send to this House, in the name and on the behalf of his Majesty. "To assure his Royal Highness, that notwithstanding the recent adjournment of this House, at a season when so many matters of the gravest importance pressed themselves upon its consideration, and for a period of very unusual length, this House will cheerfully comply with the pleasure of his Royal Highness, signified by the Chancellor of the exchequer, and adjourn itself to the 21st day of March instant; trusting that the unexampled state of public affairs upon the continent of Europe will afford a justification of their conduct to their constituents and to posterity, prevent its being drawn into pernicious precedent, and preclude the possibility of its being attributed to inattention to the great concerns which call for the increased vigilance and activity of the House of Commons, or any dereliction of its sacred duties."

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, in reply, defended, on the ground of precedents, the propriety of his having moved for the postponement of the committees before the made the communication to the House from the Prince Regent; but the right hon. gentleman spoke in a tone of voice which was at times so nearly inaudible, that we were utterly unable to follow him, although he seemed to be arguing that the communication must, of necessity, be the last step; as respect to the crown would of course induce the House, without entering into any further business, to adjourn immediately on the intimation of the royal pleasure. He proceeded to say, that he could by no means consent to the amendment proposed by the hon. gentleman. The House would observe, that by the present mode of proceeding the suspension of the functions of parliament was left in the hands of parliament itself. If, however, by adopting such a proposition as that made by the hon. gentleman, any jealousy were evinced by the House, then, under similar circumstances, the crown would be put to the necessity of preferring the more inconvenient form of prorogation, to that of simply recommending an adjournment. The present was a proceeding sanctioned by the practice of all former periods. In very few instances had such a recommendation from the crown (the House resting on the responsibility of ministers) been even made the subject of debate. In one case, during the last war, the question of adjournment in similar circumstances had unquestionably been brought to a division—but what were the numbers? On the one side the tellers, on the other the whole body of the House! With respect to the last subject alluded to by the hon. gentleman, he would only say, that when the proper time should arrive, his Majesty's government would be ready to give every explanation that might be necessary to elucidate the discussion which the hon. gentleman anticipated.

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, when he considered the advanced period of the session, and the length of the adjournment which had already taken place, felt himself compelled to resist the motion of the right hon. gentleman. He would ask the House, whether, if they could have foreseen, when they agreed to the late adjournment, that at the end of two months a still farther delay would be asked, they would have consented so readily as they then did? He wished to throw no embarrassment in the way of his Majesty's ministers; but he really could not see in what way the sitting of the House would embarrass them. The quantity of papers exhibited that day in the House was a strong reason for opposing the adjournment.

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said, that no man could feel more forcibly than himself the inconvenience to the public with which an adjournment would at present be attended; but every man must also feel the very important and delicate situation of affairs at this crisis; and when his Majesty's ministers, on their responsibility, came forward to the House and asked an adjournment for three weeks, he felt himself unable to resist the application. He could not conjecture what the affairs were which rendered such a measure necessary; but when the time arrived, at which a disclosure should be made to the House, he would then be prepared to enter on the consideration of them. He should feel a difficulty, if his hon. friend pressed his amendment, of supporting it; for he knew no instance in which the House, when it agreed to any measure like the present on the recommendation of the crown, had entered a reason for that compliance on their Journals; as the House had always considered the recommendation as a sufficient reason for its compliance. To act otherwise, would be to bring on a premature discussion of that which it was the object of the measure to avoid bringing under discussion. He would therefore confide entirely, in this instance, to ministers, on that constitutional responsibility which attached to their situations, and which at no time could they be more imperiously called on to exercise.

The motion for adjournment was then put and agreed to.