H́nh ảnh trang

After many other observations tending to show the impropriety of relying on the statements of physicians in such cases, and the cautions observed in restoring lunatics in private life to the exercise of their social privileges, he concluded by moving, "That a committee be appointed to examine the Lord's Journals for the evidence of the physicians respecting his Majesty's state in 1804, and to report the same to the House."

Lord Castlereagh, as the only cabinet minister of that year now present, rose to defend the LordChancellor, and at the same time to take upon himself an equal share of responsibility respecting the transactions on which the charge was founded. His defence turned upon the unanimous declaration of the physicians, of the King's competency to transact business on Feb. 27th, though, in fact, none was submitted to him till March 5th, when the physicians again agreed that it might be done. On the 9th it became necessary to submit other bills to him, one of which was the mutiny act, which could not have been suffered to expire without the greatest danger; ministers therefore took upon themselves to obtain the sign manual upon the same assurance. On March 26, a message came to the House relative to the Irish militia, and the physicians being again examined on April 9th, declared the King fully competent to act. Having thus laid the whole case before the House, his Lordship submitted to its judgment and that of the country, whether ministers could justly be charged with having acted improperly.

Mr. Yorke followed, as one of

the ministers of that time, in confirmation of the statements of the last speaker. He also made some

remarks upon the length of time which the hon. gentleman had suffered to elapse before he had thought proper to bring on his accusation.

Sir Fr. Burdett spoke in support of the charge. He observed that it was, in his opinion, impossible for any man to believe that the King could be in a proper state of mind to transact public business when it was thought necessary to keep such persons as Dr. Simmons and Dr. Willis in constant attendance about him. If the King was to be considered as a person of any consequence in the government (and he thought him a most essential one), if the kingly power was essential to the constitution, then his Majesty ought to be free from such restraints as the presence of such attendants imposed, before he could be judged competent to transact the most important business of the state. If, on the contrary, the King was a puppet, to be occasionally brought down to parliament in a gilt coach, then the argument of ministers was valid.

No other speaker rising in defence of the ministers, Mr. Whitbread concluded with asserting that not a word had been advanced against the truth of his charge. Let him have an opportunity of cross-examining the physicians before the house, or a committee, and he would pledge himself satisfactorily to make out the whole of it. As to his not having brought forward the charge sooner, his answer was, that he did not know that the King was under such control at the time, The noble lord had spoken

spoken of the great affairs then pending, and had said, Would you have the mutiny act anpassed, and every thing thrown into confusion? According to this doctrine, whenever the King is in a state of mental derangement, though parliament be then sitting, minis ters may refuse to make any provision for the misfortune, and perform all the acts of the executive government themselves, because, say they, the King has responsible advisers; and afterwards these very advisers come to the house, and use all their influence to persuade it to vote against their responsibility.

The house then divided, when the motion was negatived by 198 against 81.

Upon the whole, though it was not supposed that on this occasion the royal assent had been obtained to any measure not in itself proper, yet the public appeared to be considerably impressed with a conviction that he had been induced to exercise his functions at a time when he was not in possession of a free will and distinguishing judgment, and that it would be highly expedient to obviate any future occurrence of the same kind.

The growing commercial distresses of the nation now began to be so sensibly telt, that the attention of government was necessarily drawn to them; and on March 1st, the chancellor of the exchequer moved for a committee to consider the present state of commercial credit in this country. He said that various applications had for some time been made to him on the subject, which at first did not seem to demand serious attention; but that of late they


had become so numerous, and were supported by such authorities, that he thought it expedient to bring the matter before the house. He accordingly proposed the appointment of a committee of 21 members, which was then nominated, and comprized the in dividuals most distinguished for commercial knowledge, taken in differently from both sides of the house. On March 7th, the first report of the committee brought up. It began with stating three points to which they had thought proper to direct their attention:-1st, the extent of the difficulties and embarrassments at present experienced by the trading part of the community; 2dly, the causes to which the same might be ascribed; 3dly, the expediency, with a view to the present and future interests of the merchants and manufacturers, of the affording any assistance by parliament. The committee then refer to memorials presented to the treasury board from the cotton manufac turers of Glasgow and Paisley, and to the representation of a meeting held in London on February 12th, the statements of which they had found upon the examination of evidence to be founded on fact; and whence they drew the conclusion, that the principal part of the distress com→ plained of had arisen out of great and extensive speculations, which commenced upon the opening of the South American markets in the Brazils and elsewhere, to the adventures of British merchants. The committee also found that great distress occurred in a quarter much connected with this trade, viz. among the importers of pro


duce from the foreign West-India islands, and from South America; a great proportion of the returns for the manufactures exported to those parts of the world coming home in sugars and coffee, which not being entitled to sale in the home market, there were no immediate means of realizing their value. Another cause which might be considered as connected with and aggravating the existing distress, was the extent to which the system of warehousing the goods of foreigners, as well as of native merchants, for exportation, had been carried. To this purpose they refer to the evidence of Mr. Cock, commercial and public agent for the corporation of Liverpool, and general agent to the merchants of that town.

Upon the whole, the committee state, that the embarrassments at present experienced are of an extensive nature, and though most severely felt among the manufacturers and merchants in the trades above specified, yet that they are so in a considerable degree in some other branches; that, however, it does not appear that they exist in the woollen trade to a degree that would justify parliamentary relief. They also state it to be their decided opinion, that though many circumstances create a great difference between the present period and that of 1793, yet that the distress is of such a nature as to render parliamentary relief highly expedient and necessary, and likely to be productive of extensive and important benefit; and having considered the happy effect of the relief afforded in 1793, they recommend similar provisions to be adopted in the present case, and

that the amount of exchequer bills to be issued should not be less than, or exceed, 6,000,000l. to be repaid by equal payments from three months to three months, the first not commencing till the middle of January next.

On March 11th, this report was taken into consideration in the house of commons, on a motion of the chancellor of the exchequer. After a speech in which he recapitulated the substance of the report, he moved a resolution for a sum not less than six millions to be advanced to certain commissioners for the assistance of such merchants as should apply for the same, on their giving sufficient security for repayment of the money so advanced.

Mr. Ponsonby rose to make some observations on the statements of the right honourable gentleman. Their tenor was chiefly to shew the great dissimilarity between the period of 1793 and the present, in the former of which the continent of Europe was open to British commerce, whereas in the latter it is almost entirely closed. He imputed the distresses chiefly to the improvident speculations to South America, promoted by the expectations of an almost unlimited demand for goods in that country, which had been so industriously fostered by the ministerial writers. The markets being hence so much glutted with manufactures thrown in beyond the natural consumption, little advantage could be expected from the proposed relief whilst the present state of things should continue; on the contrary, such relief affording a ready escape from the difficulties brought on by improvident specu


lation, might be attended with the ruinous consequences of encouraging merchants to engage further in them.

Mr. Huskisson took a larger view of the subject. The report of the committee of 1793 had clearly stated the cause of the distresses felt at that period to be the sudden discredit brought upon bankers' paper, and a consequent deficiency in the amount of the circulating medium which could not readily be replaced; and the remedy suggested was a supply of that circulating medium which had suddenly been withdrawn. At that time, though there was no scarcity of markets, or stagnation of the usual channels of commerce, there were no means of obtaining discounts. Even public securities were extremely low, and some of the most respectable houses could not procure funds upon their paper, to which, under other circumstances, no objection could be made. The case, at present, was quite the reverse. There was plenty of circulating medium, and no difficulty in getting good bills discounted to any amount; but good security was wanting to obtain them. The obvious cause of the present evils was the too great facility in speculating, afforded by the state of the currency. He would not deny the propriety of extending some relief, but proper care should be taken that it was not misapplied, and made a means of stimulating the spirit of speculation.

Mr. Henry Thornton briefly stated the difference between the period of 1793 and the present, to consist in three points:-1st, that in the former, the paper credit gave way, but now the commer

cial credit; 2d, that then the banks failed, now the mercantile houses; 3d, the most important difference was, that in 1793 the bank of England continued to make its payments in cash.

After several other speakers had given their opinions on the subject, in which some expressed a doubt whether any good at all would result from the proposed measure, and none regarded it as more than a remedy for some temporary distress, the resolution was agreed to without a division.

On the motion for the third reading of the commercial credit bill, on March 220, Mr. Whitbread stated his objections to it on the grounds of a possibility of its being made the means of an unconstitutional influence, and of its inadequacy to relieve the present distresses; and he divided the house upon it. The reading was, however, carried by 41 votes against 4.

On the third reading of the bill in the house of lords, April 1st, the Earl of Lauderdale moved an amendment to restrain the bank of England, under penalties, from issuing notes upon the proposed exchequer bills; the purpose of which was to prevent a proportional increase of circulating paper. This motion was opposed by Earl Bathurst; and the bill finally. passed. Its effects appear to have been inconsiderable in relieving the distre-ses for which it was meant as a remedy. The sums applied for were to a less amount than the provision made; for not many of those in embarrassed circumstances were able to furnish the required security; and the radical cause of the evil was


of a nature which such relief was not at all calculated to romove. How, indeed, should a manufacturer be induced to take on again the working hands he had been obliged to discharge, and recommence the making of goods, by a loan of money which would only plunge him deeper, without a renewed demand for the products of his manufactory? or a merchant

to add to his importations of articles which were daily depreciating in his warehouses for want of their usual vent? In fact, the commercial distresses went on increasing during the whole year, displaying themselves by frightful lists of bankrupts in every'gazette, amounting to an aggregate to which no former year exhibits a parallel.


« TrướcTiếp tục »