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For the Year 1811.
Proceedings in Parliament respecting the Regency-Difficulty relative to Issues of Money.-Regent's Speech, and Debates thereon.-City Address to the Regent.-He declines a Provision for his Household.
HE great concern which oc
Tcupied the attention of par
liament, and excited the public interest, at the commencement of this year, was the supplying of that deficiency in the executive branch of the government which the continued mental indisposition of his Majesty had created. After repeated adjournments of parliament by the ministers, in hopes of a favourable turn in the King's malady, it appeared no longer possible to avoid the measure of forming a regency; and the chancellor of the exchequer, Mr. Perceval, on December 20th, moved in the house of commons three resolutions, copied from those of Mr. Pitt on the like occurrence in 1788-9; the first, declarative of VOL. LIII.
incapacity the So
tereign, the second, of the com
petency of the two houses of parliament to supply that incapacity; and the third, that the proper mode of doing it would be by bill. of these, the 1st passed unanimously; the 2d with the single negative of Sir Francis Burdett: but on the 3d, Mr. Ponsonby moved an amendment, That an address should be presented to the Prince of Wales, praying him to take upon himself the office of Regent. On this motion a division took place, in which the amendment was rejected, the votes for it being 157, against it 269, majority for the minister 112. house of lords the same resolutions were proposed, and carried [B]
after a similar amendment had been moved on the third, and rejected; the division being, Contents 74, Non-contents 100; majority 26. The arguments employed in these debates were in general so similar to those resorted to by the different parties on the former occasion, that it is unnecessary to recapitulate them. It is only observable that the principle then maintained by Mr. Fox and others of the opposition, that the Prince of Wales, as heir-apparent, succeeded of course to the regency on such an emergency as the present, seems in this instance to have been abandoned.
A conference between the two houses was appointed for the 31st, after which the assent of the lords to the resolutions was announced to the commons; and on that day, Mr. Perceval, at the conclusion of a long speech, moved five separate propositions as the basis of an intended bill for regulating the office of regent. Of these, the first appointed his Royal Highness the Prince of Wales, Regent, under certain restrictions and limitations; by the second he was restrained from conferring the rank of peerage for a time to be determined; by the third, from granting offices in reversion, or places or pensions for a longer term than during the royal pleasure; the fourth made regulations respecting the King's private property; and the fifth related to his household, vesting the management of it in the Queen. The first stand made by the opposition was against the leading proposition, "That the Regent should be laid under certain restrictions;" the Honourable Mr. Lambe moving an amendment upon it, “That
the entire royal power should be conferred upon him without any restrictions." In this debate the same ground was gone over again as on the occurrence in Mr. Pitt's ministry, with the same result, the amendment being negatived by 224 against 200; but the smallness of the majority indicated that the ministers began to totter in their seats. The views of the two parties at this period are easily understood. The opposition contemplated the establishment of the Regency as the conclusion of the present administration, the members of which were avowedly destitute of the prince's confidence ; they therefore naturally wished to put into his hands as much power as possible, and resisted every restriction which would operate as a limitation of that influence and au thority to which they expected to succeed. The ministry, on the other hand, borne up by the prospect of the King's speedy recovery, an event which his physicians represented as little less than certain, were chiefly intent upon the means for facilitating his resumption of the regal office, and in the mean time retaining a portion of the influence attached to the possession of court favour. It was therefore their policy on one hand to restrict the Regent in the distribution of his graces, and on the other, to establish a counterpoise to the authority necessarily conferred upon him, in the household appointments left at the disposal of the Queen.
At the very beginning of the year a difficulty resulting from the suspension of the royal authority occurred, which the ministers had not foreseen. It was stated to the
house of commons on January 3d, by the chancellor of the exchequer, and related to the issue from the exchequer of certain sums for the use of the army and navy. These sums had been expressly appropriated by parliament to the naval and military services, but a difference of opinion had arisen between the treasury and the exchequer, which required a resolution of that house to sanction the proceeding of the executive government. After putting to the other side of the house whether there was any objection to his making a motion on the subject without notice, which was answered by No, no, he moved, "That there be laid before the house a copy of the warrant from the lords commissioners of the treasury, directed to the auditor of the exchequer, dated the 31st of December 1810; together with copies of the correspondence that has taken place between the lords of the treasury and the auditor of the exchequer, relative thereto."
This motion, after some observations respecting the impruder.ce of deferring the application to the exchequer until the period when the money was immediately wanted for the public service, was agreed to, and the papers were presented and ordered to be printed.
The first of these was a warrant signed by the lords of the treasury to the auditor of the exchequer, requiring him to draw an order on the bank on account of the treasurer of the navy for $300,000l. for the service of the nav and the second was a warGant of the same kind for the same sum, on account of the army. The third was a letter from the auditor,
Lord Grenville, stating his objection to draw the order required without the authority of the great seal, privy seal, or sign manual, and desiring a short delay for consideration. After an answer from Mr. Perceval, Lord Grenville transmits a case for the opinion of the attorney and solicitor general, who give it in the following terms: "Having considered the several statutes to which we are referred, and the general practice which we understand to have prevailed in the exchequer, as well before as since appropriation acts similar to the 50th Geo. III. c. 115, have been annually passed, we do not think that the warrant of the lords commissioners of the treasury is in law a sufficient authority imperative upon the auditor, nor consequently a legal sanction for his proceeding to obey the same, no* that any discretion is left to him by the law on this occasion, for the exercise of which he will not be responsible. V. Gibbs. Thos.
The next letter is from Mr. Harrison to Lord Grenville, stating the urgent necessity of his complying with the treasury warrant, and the readiness of the lords commissioners to take the responsibility upon themselves. To this Lord Grenville returns the reasons for the difficulty he feels with respect to complying, and suggests an application to parliament far the means of removing it..
The subject being taken up again in the house of commons, on January 4th, a letter was produced from the deputy clerks of the privy seal, stating reasons why they could not prepare letters to pass the privy seal, Mess. Larpent, [B 2]
for the issue of sums of money for the service of the army and navy. They give a copy of the oath of office taken by them, the tenor of which they conceive prohibitory of their complying with the requisition made to them.
proposed of getting over the diffi
After the house had resolved itself into a committee for the discussion of this matter, the chancellor of the exchequer made a speech introductory to the following motion "That it is the opinion of this committee, that it is necessary, in the exigencies of the present conjuncture, that, until due provision shall be made for supplying the defect in the royal authority, such sums as have been appropriated for the services of the navy and army, by the act of last session of parliament, and other acts for enabling his Majesty to raise three millions, should be issued, in conformity with said acts accordingly; and that it is expedient that the lords commissioners of his Majesty's treasury should be required to issue their warrants to the auditor of the exchequer, for the payment of such sums as the exigency may render necessary; and that the said auditor and officers of the exchequer are authorized and commanded to pay obelieve the country from its present dience to the warrant in this be half, and to pay such sums as appear necessary, according to the warrant of any three or more of the lords commissioners of the treasury, which they may issue from time to time."
A long debate ensued, in which the members of opposition argued that the exigency of the case arose from the delays of the ministry in supplying the deficiency in the royal authority, and that the mode
On January 5th, the resolutions of the commons being brought up to the lords, produced a debate, opened on the part of ministers by the Earl of Liverpool. He was followed by Lord Grenville, who declared that he was still of opinion that the ministers in this business had acted in a manner as injurious to the real interests of the country, and as subversive of the principles of the constitution, as it was possible for them to have done. After various observations concerning the law with respect to issues from the treasury, and the illegality of the act required from himself, he concluded that it was the duty of parliament to re
difficulties in as short a time as
The lord chancellor, in answer