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not made use of the great seal on this occasion, said that it did not appear to him how he could have employed it to draw money from the exchequer for such services as these.
Some observations of Earl Spencer relative to the application of the privy-seal for this purpose, called up the Earl of Westmor land, who declared that, as far as he was concerned, if the necessity of coming before parliament, or of having recourse to the issuing of a warrant by the lords of the treasury, could have been averted by the exercise of the privy-seal, he, as being intrusted with the keeping of that seal, should have been willing to have taken upon himself the responsibility of affixing the seal.
After some other lords had spoken, and some amendments had been moved, which were negatived, the report was agreed to, and a message was ordered to be sent to the commons, desiring a conference on the subject of the said resolution...
A protest against the resolution was, however, entered on the journals, signed by 21 lords, in the following terms :
1. Because the principle on which the resolution is founded would justify the assumption of all the executive powers of the crown by the two houses of parliament, during any suspension of the personal exercise of the royal authority.
2. Because this unprecedented and unconstitutional measure might have been avoided without injury to the public service, by resorting (as was suggested in the debate)
to the mode of proceeding sanctioned by our ancestors in 1688, namely, an address to his Royal Highness the Prince of Wales, to take upon him the civil and mili tary administration of affairs, and the disposal of the public revenue, until the means of supplying the defect in the exercise of the royal authority should be finally adjusted.
The relation of the proceedings in the two houses during the debates on the several clauses of the Regency bill is involved in singular perplexity, resulting from the fluctuations of party and the va cillations of opinion, whence proceeded a variety of amendments and re-amendments, admitted in one house, and rejected in the other, according to the prevalent feelings of the day. In several of the contested points the ministers were defeated; and at one time it seemed probable that the proposed restrictions would be in great part annulled; but at the actual passing of the bill it appeared that they had recovered their ground, a circumstance that may reasonably be attributed to the flattering reports of the King's progress in amendment, which excited sanguine expectations that a very short period would intervene before he would be in a capacity for resuming the royal authority, It was doubtlessly recollected, that in 1789 a recovery had taken place while parliament was still occupied. with discussions concerning a regency bill; and a majority looked forward rather to the revival of the present administration, than to the temporary transfer of power to a new one. After, therefore, the draught of the proposed bill had.
undergone some inconsiderable alterations, it was presented to the Queen and the Prince of Wales for their acceptance, which was signified by those personages by their separate answers addressed to both houses jointly. In that of the prince, a regret was delicately expressed that he had not been ailowed the opportunity of manifesting, by his conduct, what were his reverential feelings towards his father and sovereign; and he accepted the office of regent, restricted as it was, "still retaining every opinion expressed by him on a former occasion."
According to the plan adopted by the ministers in conformity to the precedent of 1789, the great seal was affixed to a commission for the opening of parliament, which ceremony took place on January 15th; and on the 17th, the regency bill was committed. Its clauses underwent fresh discussion in its passage through the two houses, and various amendments were proposed by the opposition, but were negatived by the ministerial majorities. The last stand was made upon the duration of the restrictions, which Lord Grenville attempted to reduce from twelve months to six, but without success. In the debate on this topic Lord Grey renewed, with greater force, a charge which he had on a former, occasion brought against the lord chancellor, respecting his conduct in setting the great seal to a commission for giving the royal assent to various bills in 1804, while the King, who in that year suffered a return of his infirmity, was yet in a state requiring medi⚫ cal superintendance. He arraigned the chancellor on this account of a
crime little short of treason, and forcibly urged the necessity of making effectual provision in the present bill against the recurrence of a similar circumstance. The chancellor defended himself with vigour, and professed his readiness to submit the whole of his conduct on this occasion to the strictest investigation. Before the house rose, Lord King, on the ground of this charge, moved, that the name of Lord Eldon be expunged from the list of the Queen's council. On a division, there appeared for the motion 64, against it 189. Further proceedings on this subject will hereafter be mentioned.
Both houses being finally agreed on the clauses of the regency bill, the great seal was affixed to it by commission, and on February the 5th it received the royal assent. Strong protests were however made to the last by the opposition members against the fiction enployed of signifying the King's assent by the great seal to an act founded on that very incapacity. which disabled him from performing any legislative function; and the expedient was condemned in unqualified terms as fraudulent and unconstitutional On the other side it was not denied that there existed an irregularity in the case; but it was contended that the peculiar circumstance occasioning the suspension of the royal authority for which, no legal provision had been made, rendered some irregularity unavoidable, and that the application of the great seal was the least that could be devised. The speech which on this question appeared to make the greatest impression was that of Mr. Abbott, speaker of the house of commons,
who had hitherto taken no part in the debates, and whose station and character gave the stamp of importance and impartiality to his opinion. After citing examples to prove that the great scal was to be considered not only as the organ of the royal will, but as the seal of the united kingdoms of Great Britain and Ireland, and that it was by no means unusual for parliament to direct and control its application, he said, "but even if the proceeding upon which the two houses had hitherto acted were now to be abandoned, the Regent in the course of a few weeks would have to come down to parliament for a confirmation of his authority. They had no power by their address to authorize the Regent to perform any legislative
signature, without his personal violation, set to an act upon the authority of parliament. But why should parliament resort to such a course, when it could at once, by its own authority, direct the great seal to be applied to the commission for giving the royal assent to the regency bill?"
Of the clauses in the bill, the most important of those relating to the Regent himself are the following:-He is to exercise in the name of his Majesty the royal authority belonging to the crown. He is to be deemed a person holding an office in trust, and is to conform to the statutes relating to persons under that circumstance; he is restrained from granting peerages, or summoning heirs-apparent, or appointing to titles in abeyance; likewise from granting offices in reversion, or for a longer period than during pleasure, except those which by law are granted for life, or during good behaviour, and except pensions to the chancellor, judges, &c. These restrictions to continue till after the 1st of February, 1812, and then to determine, provided parliament shall be then assembled, and have been sitting six weeks previously,
If he were then to take upon him the exercise of the powers of government by an address, he would still have to look to parliament for a confirmation of his authority; he would then have to put the name of the King, by his great seal, to the act for establishing his own power without the consent of the King, in the same manner as this is proposed to be done by parliament to the commission for giving the royal assent to the regency bill. In what manner could be otherwise give the royal assent to the act but in the name of the King? In his own name; he understood some gentle - men to state; but by what authority? He could have no power to do that but by the authority of par-maintenance of his royal dignity, liament; and if his signing could and the full power of nominating not be valid until authorized by to all vacancies of officers of his parliament, then the proceeding by household, with the exception of addess would end as it began, by the Lord-chamberlain, the gentlethe necessity of having the King's men and grooms of the bed-cham
With respect to the Queen, the act vests in her the care of his Majesty's person during his indisposition, with the sole direction of such portion of his household as shall be deemed requisite for due attendance on his person, and the
ber, the equerries, the captain of the yeomen of the guards, and the captain of the band of gentlemen pensioners. Her Majesty is to be assisted by a council, the members of which are named in the bill; and in case of their death or resignation, she has authority to nominate others from among the members of the privy-council.
The important affair of the restoration of the King to authority is provided for in the following manner:-The Queen's council are to meet from time to time, and make a declaration of the state of his Majesty's health, of which a copy is to be transmitted to the President of the privy-council, to be published in the London Gazette; and they may examine the attending physicians on oath. The Queen and council are to notify the King's restoration to health by instrument sent to the privy-council, who are then to assemble and enter the instrument; after which entry his Majesty may by his sign-manual require the privy-council to assemble, and at his pleasure require proclamation to issue, when the powers of this act are to cease.-The members of the council appointed by this bill are, the archbishops of Canterbury and York, the duke of Montrose, the earl of Winchelsea, the earl of Aylesford, lord Eldon, lord Ellenborough, and sir William Grant.
It cannot escape observation, that the King's resumption of power is placed entirely in the hands of the queen and her council, and that no public body is vested with a cognizance of the fact of his recovery. As an examination by both houses of parliament preceded the declaration of his incapacity,
it may seem incongruous that the very momentous circumstance of . restoring him to his high functions should be decided upon by a kind of secret junta; and although the characters of its members in the present instance preclude all suspicion of collusion, yet it may perhaps be wished that such a prece
dent had not been established for future times.
The feelings of the Regent on his accession to power were soon made known in a way the nation had not been prepared to expect. It was announced that the present ministers were to be continued in office. As the restrictions imposed upon him, though some diminution of his influence, by no means prevented him from effectually supporting an administration of his own choice, it was obvious that some other cause had produced this unexpected determination. And it cannot be doubted that the expected short term of the regency operated as well to disincline the
Prince to the delicate and somewhat invidious task of marking out, the members of a new ministry, as to render the persons themselves who possessed his confidence unwilling to come forwards and take upon them, at such a critical period, the burthen and responsibility of offices which they were likely to hold for so short a time. In a letter which has been made public, as that by which his Royal Highness apprized Mr. Perceval of his intention not to remove from their stations, those whom he found in them as his Majesty's official servants, he explicitly declares, "that the irresistible im-. pulse of filial duty and affection to his beloved and afflicted father
leads him to dread that any act of the Regent might, in the smallest degree, have the effect of interfering with the progress of bis Sovereign's recovery, and that this consideration alone dictates the decision now communicated to Mr. Perceval." This motive, certainly laudable in itself, must have been enforced by the persuasion that his Majesty was in a progress speedily to resume the reins of government; for had there been only a distant probability of such an event, continuing to maintain a system of government which in his judgment he disapproved, would have been a violation of the Regent's duty to the public, which no sentiment of filial duty could justify.
That his Royal Highness really regarded his situation as that of the ceremonial, rather than the efficient, head of the state, was apparently indicated by his declining to open the parliament in person, and delivering by commission, on Feb. 12, a speech in no respect different (except in as far as it touched upon the circumstance of the regency) from that which the ministry would have dictated had the King still been sitting on the throne. With respect to foreign affairs, the speech expressed satisfaction on account of the fresh opportunities afforded during the last campaign for displaying the valour of his Majesty's forces by sea and land; specifying the instances of the reduction of the islands of Bourbon and Amboyna, the repulse of the threatened attack upon Sicily, and the frustrating of the enemy's designs upon Portugal and Cadiz. In alluding to the disputes now pending with America, it declared an earnest wish of an
amicable termination, consistent. with the honour of the kingdom, and the preservation of its mari-. time rights and interests. Of domestic concerns, it slightly adverted to the commercial difficulties of the country, and the deficiency of the revenue in Ireland, but held forth, as matter of consolation, the fact of a greater product of the revenue of Great Britain in the last year than was ever before known, though unaided by any new tax. It expressed the usual confidence in the zeal and liberality of the Commons" for the support of the great contest in which his Majesty is necessarily engaged," and concluded with the Regent's anxious wishes that he might be enabled to restore unimpaired into his Majesty's hands the government of his kingdom.
The customary addresses in echo to the speech were moved in the House of Lords by the Earl of Aberdeen, seconded by Lord Eliot; in the House of Commons, by Mr. Milnes, seconded by Mr. Richard Wellesley. In the upper house, Earl Grosvenor rose to make some. observations on the speech and address. To the former, he objected chiefly on account of the meagerness of its information, and its total silence respecting portant objects. address he said he could not concur, provided it were considered as a pledge to persist in the contest in the.. peninsula, concerning which he thought that the house had not heard enough to satisfy those who entertained doubts on the policy of sending further reinforcements to maintain the war in those countries.
In the im- ....
Lord Grenville followed on the