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INFLUENCE OF THE CROWN.
IN the same session that Mr. BURKE first brought for.. ward this great plan of œconomical reform, the house of commons resolved itself, on the motion of Mr. DUNNING, into a grand committee, in order to take into consideration the petitions of the people, when the titles being read, in all forty in number,
Mr. DUNNING said:
It was unnecessary to observe, that the subject-matter to be taken into consideration was the subject-matter contained in the petitions. Independent of the great objects, which the petitions recommended to the care and attention of Parliament, which had been according to the particular ideas of the several classes of petitioners of a various nature, there was one great fundamental point on which they hinged, that of setting limits or paring down the encreased, dangerous, and alarming influence of the crown, and an economical expenditure of the public money. In one point of view, both these objects might be fairly consolidated into one great principle. For instance, if the public money was faithfully applied and frugally expended, that would reduce the influence of the crown: if, on the other hand, the influence of the crown was restrained within its natural and constitutional limits, it would once more restore that power which the constitution had vested in that house, the enquiring into and controuling the expenditure of public money: but nevertheless, though the principle embraced one great
object, a necessity arose that the principle should be divided; that is, the remedy should, in pursuance of the objects held forth and recommended in the petitions, be directed to two points.
Before he proceeded any further, therefore, he should take it for granted, because the fact stood so stated in the petitions on the table, that a reform of the public expenditure, and limiting and restraining the encreasing influence of the crown, were the two great objects which must draw the attention of that house, and necessarily force those two important subjects into discussion. These being the evils set forth in the petitions, it was his duty, however unequal he might be to the task he had undertaken, to apply what he deemed specific and distinct remedies to them both; that was to propose some remedy, or frame some resolution, which would serve as a basis, on which he might afterwards erect a system of measures, to answer the purpose, and to comply with the wishes of the petitioners. Before he proceeded any further, it would be necessary for him to state, and remind the house of what had been done, as it was supposed, in consequence of the petitions now on the table; and how far those attempts had or had not succeeded; because such an enquiry would partly point out the resistance already made and avowed to the great objects of the petitions; and would have this important effect; it would shew that no redress could be, or was meant to be given to the petitioners by the modes already tried; and, at the same time, prove precisely, nay literally, in what particulars, those who were supposed to lead and direct the majorities of that house, meant to resist and defeat the prayers of the petitions. An honorable gentleman behind him [Mr. BURKE] had produced a bill partly on the plan of the petitions. It might not embrace every object described
described or pointed to in the petitions; but he believed no person on any side of the house would dispute with him, that the bill contained nothing but what was consonant to the letter and spirit of the petitions, nor excluded or determined against a syllable of their contents. He should not attempt to do that gentleman justice for his unwearied endeavours on that occasion, because, with the very best disposition to do it, he found himself totally unequal to the undertaking. He knew it would be painful to his honorable friend to hear his sentiments, while present; but as an act of duty which he thought himself bound to discharge, however irksome to his honorable friend, he could not pass over in silence what must remain as a monument to be handed down to posterity of the uncommon zeal, unrivalled industry, astonishing abilities, and invincible perseverance of the honorable gentleman. He had undertaken a task big with labor and difficulty--a task that embraced a variety of the most important objects, extensive, various, and complicated; yet such was the eminent and unequalled abilities, so extraordinary the talents and ingenuity, and such the fortunate frame of the honorable gentleman's mind, his vast capacity, and happy conception, that, in his hands, what must have proved a vast heap of ponderous matter, composed of heterogeneous ingredients, discordant in their nature, and opposite in principle, was so skilfully arranged, as to become quite simple as to each respective part, dependent on each other, and the whole at the same time so judiciously combined, as to present nothing to any mind tolerably intelligent, to divide, puzzle, or distract it. This was a true description of his honorable friend's bill. He trusted he would permit him to use that appellation, and it was his peculiar pride to be permitted so to do. But what was the consequence of such a bill brought
brought forward by such a man? Upon its being first proposed, the united approbation of (he believed) every individual in that house. The highest, and in his opinion, the best deserved eulogiums of every part; and he believed most sincerely its genuine sentiments at the time, for he could safely make a distinction between the real sentiments of that house, permitted to act according to its own immediate feelings, and the impressions afterwards made upon it arising from without.
The house, he believed, expressed the former on the occasion alluded to; when other opinions seemed to prevail, he most sincerely believed, and was firmly persuaded, that the latter temper and disposition which appeared towards his honorable friend's bill, originated out of that house, and not within these walls. Such being the reception of the bill, or of the proposition for introducing it, what was its reception when introduced? Doubts were immediately started as soon as it made its appearance-a shew of candor, a kind of mock approbation was to be observed. It might contain some matter worthy of approbation; but it was shortly avowed by the noble lord, who is supposed to lead the majorities of this house, that the bill, as to the great objects it proposed to attain, was fundamentally wrong. What were those objects? Almost the very objects proposed to be obtained by the petitions now on the table; a reduction of the undue and unconstitutional influence of the crown, and an enquiry into the expenditure of the civil list, the abolishing sinecure places, exorbitant salaries, &c.
Whatever dexterity may have been used, some matters came out in the course of this contest, which have in fact been the occasion of the trouble I am now going to give this house. In the course of this very important dis cussion, two fundamental points came into controversy,
but more of that as I proceed. The first clause in the honorable gentleman's bill, relative to the office of a third secretary of state, pursued the idea of the petitions. It went to the reduction of the public expenditure, and to the abolishing of an useless office. The noble lord in the blue ribbon, and an honorable gentleman of great abilities and of great supposed weight in this house, met both principles fairly in argument; but, at the same time, contended that the place was not useless. The noble lord in the blue ribbon said, that the influence of the crown was not too great; another noble lord [NUGENT] contended, that the influence of the crown, as stated in argument, was constitutional and necessary; and the honorable gentleman, to whom I have just alluded [Mr. RIGBY] met the other point insisted on in the petitions, the enquiry into the expenditure of his Majesty's civil list revenue, by saying it was not competent to this house. The honorable gentleman was challenged to bring his question. forward: the noble lord shrunk from the contest, under the same pretext that I foresee he will endeavour to defeat or evade the resolution which I shall have the honor to move, and the honorable gentleman seemed himself not so sanguine, when the matter was decided by a question moved to take the sense of the house. Be that as it may, my honorable friend's clause was lost, under the pretence that the office proposed to be abolished was not useless, or if it was, that no evidence of its being useless had appeared. I foresee likewise, that I shall be called on for the evidence of the truth of what I shall move in this committee.
The next clause, relative to the abolition of the board of trade, was opposed on the same ostensible grounds of its not being useless. The minister, however, besides the ostensible ground, maintained both the other doctrines,