This is a peoples’ history. It is a record of events 1793 – 1844 culled from the newspapers and edited for today’s style. These articles were written before interpretation of events had commenced. They are by and large an important part of the raw intelligence on which historians endeavour to create national history. Their unadulterated presentation here will allow the reader to make his own interpretations of the significance of this or that event.
To introduce the rise of Britain to global hegemony that occurs in this period, I have collected together the newspaper articles on British political institutions of the time.
This chapter concerns the management of the British people. The information details the means whereby power was concentrated on the King and his Minister and its use to effect political ends. It may be categorised under the usual heads – legislation, peer-group pressure and intimidation, bribery, deception, concealment and violence – although some of these techniques can hardly come into focus in a newspaper.
The most ubiquitous and persuasive form of control was bribery.
As Samuel Whitbread said “it is fulgently apparent that any Briton obtaining an income of a few thousand pounds a year instantly becomes the target of the King and / or his Minister for a Lordship.” (in the days of gold and silver money an ounce of gold equated with nearly four Pounds Sterling so two thousand pounds equalled 500 ounces of gold) Supposedly independent MPs found all sorts of lucrative jobs or diplomatic positions available in return for cooperation with the Ministry. The availability of such jobs increased throughout the Great War with France as the colonial possessions of all the European imperial countries become available to British occupation and management.
Almost every candidate for MP was expected to pay for votes. They seldom did so directly but their election committee would organise payments or they might petition their patron, usually a great landowner in whose Estate the constituency was located, to satisfy the electorate. Electors were routinely bought-off in this way whilst the successful candidate was obliged to promote the wishes of his patron thus maintaining the power of the nobility.
Patronage pervaded all aspects of life – church, army and navy, media, civil service and politics and the Chartered Companies of the King. It was understood that the patron was owed a duty of obedience by those he patronised and it was thus that, for example, the country MPs, were controlled, for they could have no opinion other than their Lord’s. It was the same with the clergy who owed their duty to the bishop, and he to the King, who ultimately controlled what was preached on Sundays. The army sold commissions to intending officers and the East India Company sold all its jobs in India on a well-known tariff. Patronage was everywhere.
In this way a coterie of ‘safe pairs of hands’ was amassed in London to fulfil the Minister’s requirements. Generally speaking a great many electoral constituencies, particularly in Cornwall, contained only a handful of voters who were accustomed to be paid for their votes. Indeed they made financial commitments in anticipation of payment. It will appear from the Helstone election below that the tariff for a seat at the turn of the century was the cost of the Poor Rates for that area but that may not be conclusive in other boroughs. In any event, the ownership of a borough was considered as just another piece of property which the owner could use as he chose. Sir William Pulteney, who specialised in this type of investment and owned a great many constituencies, was in consequence courted by all the political factions. Sir Christopher Hawkins likewise owned six boroughs returning 12 MPs to Westminster.
These captive MPs legislated in accordance with the minister’s wishes. There was a slight ministerial embarrassment when the Whig opposition stopped turning up for parliamentary sessions, recognising they could not influence Pitt, and this was a factor in their obtaining office briefly thereafter, but it did not last long. In fact a majority of people were in parliament for the money and they could not be denied. The opportunities for windfall wealth were just too numerous and overwhelming. The absence of culpability was a factor too – MPs claimed their ancient privileges. Oppressive laws did not apply to them; indemnities for their acts were readily available, and the Member could not be arrested for a majority of criminal offences. It has been well said that any law that does not apply to everyone is a bad law. Political representation was nice work if you could get it.
It was not until the economic and social costs of spending well beyond the country’s ability throughout the twenty years of war with France began to appear uncontrollable, that the attempt to restore prudence started. That was concurrent with the revolution in the pecking order of power centres that occurred in the middle of this period, during and immediately after the end of the Great War i.e. when the profits from investments on the stock exchange and from trade exceeded the profits from land-owning and agricultural production. This initially reversed then amalgamated the positions of those two groups. These important developments are discussed in the Economy chapter.
An aspect of this period was the British response to the change of government that the French embarked upon and I am deeply indebted to Sir James Mackintosh for a lyrical explanation of it:
The French Revolution was an attempt to assert and protect the natural rights of man.
The British objection created by Burke, probably based on the popularity of Bentham at that time and on no lesser legal authority than that of Blackstone, was that, on coming into society, a man gives up some rights in order to preserve the remainder. This utilitarian view had been approved by the powerful in preference to Adam Smith’s “Moral Sentiments’ which had been published at about the same time. Ultimately, in Burke’s / Bentham’s view, it can be imagined that the peoples’ rights were a matter of political convenience.
The sole reason a man might be induced to surrender some rights is to obtain protection for the rest from the abuse of other men. All such usurpations of rights, supposedly for mutual security, are inevitably Constitutional derogations, things that the administration of the day should have been required to at least mitigate if not prevent. The inequalities of strength and skill amongst the people are supposedly restrained by laws enacted by the will of society. Civil inequality must remain, for someone has to carry out the popular will, but political inequality should be struck down everywhere. Deviations from this rule facilitate tyranny, so the Revolutionaries concluded.
It has to be said that British governments have never been admirers of popular rights except when their money-making proclivities lead them into frightful difficulty, as at the end of the war against Napoleon and democracy and after the two later wars with Germany. Then there is a brief political willingness to embrace social responsibility until the bankers again reassert themselves. I am old enough to remember the last occasion this mindset manifested and the astonishingly emotional popular response when Clement Atlee led his party in singing Jerusalem on achieving electoral victory.
It is particularly important that natural rights be maintained politically. The slightest infraction, always on grounds of convenience, and the bulwark of upright politics is lost. Pretences multiply without difficulty and without end. An inflexible adherence to the principle of natural rights generally will preserve a free state of free people – nothing less.
This was and is the British difficulty and the political classes in Westminster give themselves away when they talk of an ‘unwritten Constitution.’
Magna Carta, the Petition of Right, the later Bill of Rights, the Act of Settlement, etc., are all written documents but they have been left as mere statutes and never accorded the status of a Basic Law. It is by this device that successive ministries have been able to make Constitutional changes by simple majority vote. An ‘unwritten Constitution’ is no Constitution at all. It is like Burke’s concept of natural rights – a matter of convenience. We can thus establish that the first duty of legislators is to assert and protect natural rights. The Rights of Man is their Pole Star by which they steer their course.
These duties did not fit with the intentions of the British ruling class as expressed by Burke. Their preference was for an hierarchical structure of government, like a commercial venture or an army, so the chaps at the top gave the orders and those down below carried them out. It is plainly not democratic but then if Britain was a democracy it would have grass-roots Primary Constituencies in which everyman knows every other. That familiarity is the foundation of democracy as exemplified in the Primary Assemblies that the French set-up in all the Departments.
The Primary Assemblies in France comprised many voters but the importance of their individual votes was little. Owners of land or other wealth could only be represented as men. Population alone regulated the number of delegates a constituency sends to the national legislature. Elected officials served for two years and then had to step down. To continue to serve they must get re-elected. This tended to limit conspiracies of federation, such as the factions that now dominate European politics, and to ensure that the will of the electorate and the will of their representatives are united. The elector knows his Primary representative, he is a neighbour or a school-friend with whom he can talk and open his heart, so the venality of big constituencies is avoided.
The British response to these new French principles was shaped by the pure hostility of the King. He was the defining force behind the political position that Britain took. In those days the King was the greatest power centre in the land. He had many reins on power. He owned a large part of the country and its colonies. He hired and fired his Minister and Privy Council. As Head of the Anglican Church he controlled the bishops. He appointed the nobility and gave them Lieutenancies of Counties and the lucrative right to raise regiments. He issued commissions to all army and navy officers. He profited from both the navy and the ordnance. He controlled the building of barracks near every town for control of the population and he approved the appointment of administrators for all the world’s colonies as they fell into British hands during the war. In spite of the endeavours of the Commons to control the national purse, he had his own financial sources from Hanover and from his partisans in his Chartered Companies (primarily the Bank of England and the East India Company), his landed Estates and the collection of Droits (see the Prizetaking chapter for details of this immense fund of the King’s). Pitt even procured the passage of an Act allowing the King to dabble in the property market. And, at the end of the day, it has to be said, that he was fighting for his crown and possibly his head.
The Kings and nobility of Europe preferred to receive their antecedent principles from Rome. That was the history they were tutored in. Looking at events in Rome, it was lucidly apparent that the formation of a Republic required the prior deaths of the ruling families to prevent their return to power. European aristocrats consequently cleaved to the belief that Republicanism must be annihilated before it annihilated Monarchy. Republican America was far away and its people, so far as they acted internationally, appeared solely concerned with commerce but France was at the heart of Europe and its Republicanism was a threat to all the neighbours.
Burke’s insistent wrong-headedness about the factual nature of the new French administrative arrangements met a welcome in the City of London where nascent capitalists were dependent on the absence of equality in the British social contract that was largely preserved by the Master / Servant laws controlling employment. The villager on a noble’s estate enjoyed much the same position as the hireling of a company. No Englishman voluntarily abandoned his natural rights but they were taken from him on the basis that they were incompatible with the structure of British society, with British Principles. These abandonments worked to inflate the self-interest of the landlord and employer. They did not improve the citizen’s position. For an individual to approve them, had he stopped to think about it at all, he must also approve slavery. The French revolutionaries recognised that there is little basis to the argument that one must surrender some rights in order to live in society. For them the only restraint was good neighbourliness – the “your rights end where my nose begins” argument – beyond which it was a nullity.
These were the ideological positions of the contending parties. I take it as understood that the twenty plus years of war with France was basically a tussle of monarchy against democracy and the Kings won.
There was no limit assigned to loyalty either, it being assumed in those days that all public acts were innately and justifiably necessary and honourable. This unity of purpose amongst the ‘safe pairs of hands’, based on shared pecuniary advantage guaranteed by patronage and reinforced by a code of conduct, was an important cultural factor in the success of British arms and colonial administrations. It created a cadre of British people who dedicated their lives to honour and duty and were willing to die for an impersonal cause – the essential tools of Empire.
The financial aspect of empire, which is the fundamental purpose of the political control described in this chapter, is addressed in the Economy chapter later in the text.
At the end of the chapter the reader will find two helpful documents – one describing my understanding of democracy and the other a brief outline of Magna Carta.
The articles below with datelines before 1824 are from the Bombay Courier; the remainder are mainly from the Canton Register with a handful of articles at the end of this chapter from the Friend of China between 1842 – 1844.
Sat 27th April 1822
Lord Waldegrave’s mid-18th century Memoirs contains an insightful word-picture of George III, as he is now known:
The Prince of Wales is 21 years old. When his allowance was small his maxim was ‘a man should be just before he is generous.’ Now he is in receipt of the resources of the Heir Apparent his generosity has not increased in proportion.
He is a true Christian but not a charitable one, tending to focus on the ‘sins of his neighbour.’ He is obstinate and although he seldom does wrong, when he does, he is strongly prejudiced in his own favour.
There is a kind of unhappiness in his character which if allowed to take root will adduce to anxiety. When he is displeased, he becomes sullen and retires to his closet, where he seems to wallow in his melancholy ill-humour. This depression often reasserts itself – it seems he can forget nothing.
He had little formal education, although the Bishop of Peterborough and M/s Stone and Scott were his tutors. He preferred to rely on his mother and on his own opinions. He is now under the instruction of the Earl of Bute. Hopefully he will progress.
George III was a ‘hands-on’ King. Where George I and II had been docile and submissive, George III had his own opinions which he argued for tenaciously. He seems to have lacked mental flexibility. His education was entrusted to his mother who had herself been tutored in the Court of Saxe Gotha where sovereignty was considered as property, contrary to the British position post-1688 that sovereignty was a chief magistracy. He exercised power in many ways.
One was by use of the fund comprised of ‘droits’ of the Crown. Droits represented valuable property for which no ownership could be established. In George’s reign it mainly arose from British acts of war against countries with whom we were at peace – capture of the Danish fleet in Copenhagen or the Dutch fleet that the Stadtholder brought with him to England or Commander Moore’s capture of a Spanish treasure fleet. In George’s reign receipts from Droits totalled £10 – £15 millions.
A second source was as Elector of Hanover which state lay across the principal trading routes (rivers) into N W Europe and included the city of Bremen. This trade was facilitated and encouraged by the Elector for a fee and was protected by Anglo-Dutch policy barring use of the River Scheldt, the only alternative route.
George III was the treasurer of the Holy Roman Empire (one of the five secular appointments in the Empire) and his ability to collect and disburse funds should not be under-estimated; indeed he became treasurer to all Europe in the Napoleonic Wars. He controlled multiple votes in the Holy Roman Imperial assembly and his Hanoverian diplomats were said to be the most diligent and peripatetic of all the diplomatic community of Europe.
His third source of power was the one normally associated with him – as King of Britain and later the United Kingdom. This included his income from estates in West Indies and financial support from his Chartered Companies – principally the Bank of England and the East India Company. It required he pursue a dexterous course with the Lords, Bishops and the Minister to ensure these subsidiary power centres adopted a convivial course of action.
In the wars with France, George was fighting for the institution of monarchy – to restore the Bourbon family to the French throne and expunge the stain of democracy from the continent. In general His Minister’s acts were fully in conformity with the Royal wish but the death of the Tsar Paul was an affront to his monarchical agenda – George was fighting to save Kings not remove them.
Sat 30th July 1814
An American doctor has attributed the widespread stupidity of the Royal families of Europe to their inter-marriages.
George III’s disease also affects the Queen of Portugal. The Regent of Portugal is slow-minded. The late Kings of both Sweden and Denmark were quite mad. Charles IV of Spain was little better and his relative the King of Naples is a notorious idiot. The late King of France is remembered for his goodwill not his intellectual abilities indeed all the Bourbon family are alike. The last Prince of Orange is sufficiently known to our readers to need no introduction on this subject. The Austrian Emperor and the King of Prussia are both nice people but lack strength of mind.
The American doctor says such general imbecility cannot be attributed to chance and certainly not to defective education. He concludes its a disease that is spread through inter-marriages. All the Royal Families of Europe (except Russia) trace their descent from the marriage of the daughter of James I to the Elector Palatine.
Britain is about to give new expression to this deleterious effect. Charlotte, Princess of Wales, is expected to marry the young Prince of Orange next year.
Sat 18th July 1801
The Elector of Hanover (George III) is the Arch-Treasurer of the Holy Roman Empire and a descendant of the ancient family of Guelphs, the Dukes and Electors of Bavaria. One of this Bavarian family, Henry the Lion, married Maude daughter of Henry II of England in 1140. Their son William succeeded to the Estate of Brunswick Lunenberg and William’s son Otto became Duke of that estate. The fief descended in a direct lineage to Ernst who, in 1546, divided it into Brunswick Lunenberg Wolfenbuttel and Brunswick Lunenberg Zell.
It was his descendant, Ernst Augustus, the possessor of Brunswick Lunenberg Zell, who was raised to be an Elector of the Holy Roman Empire in 1662. Ernst Augustus married Sophia, the daughter of King Frederick of Bohemia and Elizabeth, daughter of James I of England. Sophia was the Protestant heir to the House of Stuart. This lineage persuaded the British parliament to fix the English crown on Sophia, once Queen Anne had passed away, at which time Sophia’s son George Louis became George I of England. It was by this lineage that the Electors of Hanover, possessors of Brunswick Lunenberg Zell, became Kings of England.
The Electorate today (1801) comprises just over 10,000 square miles and supports a population of over a million. It is divided into several petty Duchies – Lawenburgh, Lunenberg, Brunswick Zell, Calenburg (containing Bremen) and Verden which are all in the circle of Lower Saxony, and Hoyt, Diepholt and Bentheim in the Circle of Westphalia. Bremen has a larger population (28,000) than Hanover (20,000) which is the capital city. Zell (11,600), Lunenberg (11,000) and Gottingen (8,000) are the other main towns.
The Electorate supports a peacetime army of 20,000 divided into 11 regiments of cavalry, dragoons and hussars, 14 regiments of infantry, and 1 corps of engineers and artillery. There are four battalions of garrison troops and 10 battalions of provincial troops. Hanover has no navy but a large mercantile marine on the Rivers Elbe and Weser.
The annual revenue of the Electorate is about £820,000 of which £230,000 is spent in maintaining the military force and £550,000 is spent in general administration. The small surplus funds a debt which rose to £5.5 millions some years ago but which has since been substantially reduced by application of the proceeds of a poll tax on residents.
Sovereignty resides in the English Kings and is entrusted to Lords of Regency whom the Kings appoint.
Hanover is agriculturally productive. Various minerals are also produced including tar, pitch and salt. The forests provide much useful timber. Local manufactures are inadequate for demand but the excess production of cattle, horses, salt, iron and fuel are exported to fund necessary imports.
Education is well supported. There are many well-established schools and colleges, foremost of which is the University of Gottingen whereat some 60 tutors instruct about 800 students of various nationalities.
The national religion is Lutheranism but other forms of Christianity are publicly tolerated.
Sat 30th March 1799
George III is a member of the council of the Counts of Westphalia as Lord of Sayn-Altenkirchen and Count of the three states of Hoya, Speigelberg and Diepholz.
George III personally has seven votes (out of 108) in the proceedings of the Austrian Empire. The willingness of successive British ministers to employ German mercenaries gives the House of Brunswick greater influence amongst several of the smaller states, particularly Hesse.
George III’s third source of Austrian power derives from his being one of only five secular Electors (with the rulers of Bohemia, the Palatinate, Saxony and Brandenburg). Finally he is an arch-Treasurer of the Empire. That gives him a loud voice in German affairs. 
The above articles describe the British King’s European background and power. The remaining articles in this chapter relate to the power of the barons who shared authority with him and the way in which it was deployed. A good many articles describe the exercise of power domestically. For a review of its uses internationally the reader should consult the main text and a few of the specialised chapters – South America, Iberia, Prize-taking and the like. The activities of the King’s Chartered Bank of England are mainly in the Economy chapter whilst His East India Company’s actions are contained mostly within the Asia chapter with a few articles on the Company’s accounts appearing in the Asia Economy chapter.
Sat 1st June 1793
Bombay Courier Editorial – Monarchy is always preferable. A Republic merely exchanges the One Man for a band of demagogues sharing a single defining characteristic – ambition. Republics destroy union and perpetuate disagreements in the cabinet and between the parties until someone rises from the wreck of government to seize total control. After years of misery, the people find themselves back where they started.
Sat 15th June 1793
Crown and Anchor Tavern, Strand, 20th Nov 1792:
A meeting of numerous gentlemen was held, the lawyer John Reeves in the Chair, to consider the danger to peace and order in Britain posed by mischievous opinions founded on plausible but false reasoning.
Societies should be formed in all parts of the Kingdom in support of law and for suppression of sedition, in order to defend our persons and property from those opinions contained in ‘The Rights of Man’ – ‘Liberty and Equality’, ‘No King, No Parliament’ – and other similar opinions all of which are inconsistent with the well-being of Society.
These opinions require us to voluntarily surrender our religion, our laws, our civil government and civil society and attempt something new on principles of equality under the auspices of speculative men who have conceived ideas of perfection previously unknown in the world. Missionaries of this ‘sect of perfection’ aim to overthrow the present system of government and society by raising causes of discontent with our present station. Some of these causes are wholly imaginary whilst others derive from the trade-off from living in communities.
The inequalities of rank and wealth in this country are more the result of each man’s own exertions than of a controlling institution behind the state. Men become great in this country through the talents they acquire. They become rich through perseverance. Many of our rich men began their careers in shops and counting houses. They built their careers by assiduous personal industry and began to employ others to promote the provision of their goods and services. This happy inequality, a dependence of one man on another, improved both employer and employee. More talent and industry equals more reward and more inequality. Hitherto we have thought this a peculiar feature, distinctive of our own society. It is ascribed to the protecting influence of law on property. We feel that to pull out the thread of this fabric that has been gradually woven over the years by successive generations and to submit to a new system of equality is a matter of gross folly.
In such a case, whoever rose above his neighbours by industry and talent would again create inequality. In France the result has been to expose the lives and property of all men to the arbitrary proposals of philosophers operating on the mob whom they delude and instigate with expectation of being raised in society. In France the rich have been plundered to the immediate benefit of the mob and the wealth of the country has been dispersed amongst the people. There is no longer a concentration of surplus wealth in a few hands from which to create employment by the investment of capital in factories, ships and farms. Where are the blessings of this reform?
Murder and assassination have been willingly adopted by these philosophers in furtherance of their aims. In effect the people have only changed their masters, they have not achieved equality because they do not know how to be equal. This philosophy is the idle talk of schoolboys.
We Britons every day enjoy true liberty and the abundant blessings of productive industry, protected under property laws and a free government. Honest virtue is the common route to wealth in this country. We have liberty and property, France has liberty and equality. Why should we surrender our property just to exchange it for a new name. We have as much equality as necessary without diminishing the equality of our neighbours. We still have our religion which tells us to ‘do unto others what we would have them do to us’ and this is achieved by the application of our laws.
Believing in the truth of all this, we form ourselves into an Association to discourage, by every means we can, the progress of the reformers.
Sat 3rd August 1793
Sir John Mitford, MP for Bere Alston, has advised the Commons of the Constitutional duties of an Englishman:
Englishmen do not assume the role of their parliamentary representatives. The Revolutionary Society of Norwich prefers a majority of the people to express the national will. In England we do that by Act of Parliament. If we have a grievance, we petition for redress. Mr Tom Paine treats this proceeding with contempt but it serves us.
In France they speak of liberty and equality but these two things are politically incompatible. Where equality is established, liberty is curtailed and vice versa. Society can only be hierarchical, Mitford said.
Sat 10th August 1793
A review of the political life of Lord North:
Lord Guildford was appointed the tutor of George III in 1750. The then King had confidence in the House of Leicester. Guilford’s son Lord North became a firm friend of King George. In 1754 North entered parliament aged 21 years. He later became Commissioner of the Treasury and Treasurer of the Exchequer. It was expected that, when George became King, North would prosper. He was a good orator and had a sound understanding of national finance.
After the peace of Paris (ending the Seven Years War), our national administration was feeble and the French even contested control of the Channel. When government is weak, faction is strong. Wilkes led the rabble on to rebellion. He was injudiciously favoured with persecution and his fame grew.
North’s early financial measures respecting America were judicious. He repealed the duty on paper, colours and glass imported to America but retained the tea duty. This was his response to the American merchants who petitioned against our right to tax them. This compromise invoked greater violence from America and war resulted. North always held the view that Britain would have succeeded in war but for the involvement of France and the faction in England that supported the colonists.
It was during North’s administration in 1771 that the press finally triumphed over the administration and daily prints accurately reporting the proceedings of Parliament were allowed.
The confrontation over the Test Act in 1772 was memorable. The clergy and lawyers petitioned for relief from subscription to the 39 articles. North and Hans Stanley supported the Act and Burke was persuaded to attempt to overthrow the hierarchy, supported by George Savile and Dunning. The House divided to consider receiving the petition and only 25% were for it. By trying to get too much, the petitioners lost everything.
The Marriage Act was also contentious, being effectively an Act to restrain the adultery and fornication of the King’s brothers. The debate lasted three weeks.
But the overwhelming thing was the loss of America. North’s dismissal was correct. Even if his mind had the incisive penetration of Chatham, his gross torpor negated the gift. His apathy was total. While he conspired for commercial and financial advantage, his country was spending millions in vain, and was sinking in the order of nations. He then rashly joined Fox and assured his own political destruction.
Whilst he was an unsatisfactory minister, he was a benign and philosophic man; a constant friend who discharged every moral obligation. We fear that history will omit his palliative characteristics and focus only on the loss of America by an incapable and abused minister.
Sat 14th September 1793
London news – The Scots have eulogised our political administration:
Dr Johnson laid it down that abundance is based on liberty and property. The man who, by economy and labour, acquires wealth is protected in his enjoyment of it by law. His wealth gives him power over those who remain poor. He hires them to do his bidding. This concentration of wealth in fewer hands permits the construction of factories, buildings and ships which increase prosperity. Liberty and property are the legs of the British system.
The French speak of liberty and equality. We have liberty in England subject to law designed to preserve the natural rights of each man. Equality is a mysterious thing. Common men suppose it to mean equal power, equal conditions and equal prosperity. If this were actually realised, it would destroy our society for it would require the rewards of industry to be equally shared amongst those who produced the rewards and those who did not. It would be a burden on the industrious man.
Government founded on the principle of force is tyranny, wherever the power is lodged. What feature of British life is there that requires the interference of our people in the administration of this country?
Are we overburdened with taxes? If tax is reasonable it should be paid. Government must be maintained. A failure of government credit would affect us all. The wages of hirelings are proportionate to the wealth of the country. As the country gets richer, wages go up.
The workers assert that abuses are common. If so, it is the duty of the Legislature to pass such laws as may be necessary for the happiness of the people. The progress of our system requires the law to be constantly updated to address popular needs.
The personal services of vassals was abolished by George I. Ward-holdings and hereditable jurisdictions were abolished by George II. Thus the power of the aristocracy was curtailed in Scotland. In the present reign we have witnessed the restitution of forfeited families, the emancipation of colliers and salters, the exclusion of revenue officers from elections, the abandonment of police boards and many encouragements to arts, navigation, commerce and manufacture. In the past Judges were made independent, leases of land were registered and tenant’s interests protected, public registers were introduced, schools endowed and liberal sentiments promoted. This is genuine liberty. These wholesome developments were produced spontaneously by parliament. We may expect more of the same.
But men who seek to overawe and confront the legislature must establish that their cause is just. Some of them have bound themselves by Oaths, like the Cataline conspirators. The impropriety of this act should make us indignant. (populist advocates of debt cancellation such as Catiline and his supporters were assassinated from the very start of the Republic after the aristocracy overthrew Rome’s kings. This opinion of the senator Catiline reveals the politics of the author of this article.)
Regarding the liberty of the press, it has in recent years overleapt its ancient boundaries and audaciously attacked law, government, even religion. The liberty to speak freely has received little check from the law.
There are complaints about elections. If the rights of voting in counties and the Constitutions of ancient boroughs are both reformed, we hope that justice between one man and another will be preserved under law, that a multiplication of law suits will be avoided and that the morals of the lower classes will be kept free of corruption.
We owe it to those of our ancestors, who gave their blood and treasure in defence of the liberties we now enjoy, to examine every speculative plan for reform so that we may bequeath to our descendants the invaluable rights that we possess and which they ought to inherit.
Sat 12th Oct 1793
Sermon at the Abbey Church, Westminster, 30th Jan 1793:
Every monarchy is a contract between the King and the people. The contractual terms are in the Coronation Oath. In this country, it is further developed legislatively in the Petition of Right, the Habeas Corpus Act, the Bill of Rights and the Act of Settlement.
Parliament holds both King and people accountable for their agreement to these Constitutional provisions.
There is no doctrine in our country that says ‘the King is the servant of the people’ or that ‘the people have a right to dismiss the King for misconduct’. These seditious maxims are the principles of revolution. In fact the King is prevented from misconduct by two devices – sharing legislative authority with the two Houses of Parliament and by the responsibility with which he must treat the advice of ministers.
The aristocrats and the representatives of the people who sit in the two Houses insert themselves between the King and their constituents and assure that agreed measures balance the interests of all parties.
The private citizen has two channels of action – he can elect whom he prefers and he can petition parliament, direct or through his representative, for redress of any grievance. This later provision prevents excessive use of the Royal prerogative and assures two further things – that the King can do no wrong and the citizen’s liberty is inviolable. This is how the British Constitution works.
By way of comparison, the Bishop then catalogued atrocities in France, past and present… ……
Sat 5th October 1793
Some petitions for the reform of Parliament have been presented:
- Sheridan produced one which he wrote for the City of Norwich but after a discussion with the Speaker and others he agreed to withdraw it.
- Charles Grey presented one from the ‘Friends of the People’ which itemised the evils of representative democracy. Burke said all the petitions received by parliament had come from the same sort of person, known to be inhabitants of a particular town or district, but Grey’s petition came from unknown people. Grey replied that the names annexed to the petition were all respectable Londoners and he could personally authenticate every detail of their complaint.
- He continued: Parliament naturally finds calls for its reform unpleasant. The reform of representation had been attempted by honourable men previously but without a jot of success. He requested the candour and justice of the House. Since he had given notice of his motion, the prejudices of members had increased but he was not targeting any particular member. He was acting from duty. A change in the existing form of government was absolutely necessary. This is not about personal animosity or resentment of ill-treatment. He confessed he formerly supported the system he now opposed. He was now convinced of the fallacy of his first conceptions and would zealously promote reform. He understood many members opposed all reform and others thought it was not the time to consider it. He repudiated the alarms that the ministry had raised, calling them trite and frivolous. They amounted to a faith that the country, whether at peace or war, prosperous or impoverished, was against reform. He was accused of sowing dissension when no real discontent existed. When calamity started to envelope England, he was accused of disloyalty. He concluded the people who sought a postponement of reform actually opposed it in perpetuity. He recalled during the American War, Burke had brought-in a Bill to prevent the expenditure of public money which everyone knew was destined for private pockets. It was voted down. On the slave trade, the necessary resolutions had been postponed. These examples showed how reluctantly the legislature took-up its duty to remedy grievances. Now the petitions for reform provoked the same reluctance. Looking further back, a motion to repeal the Septenniel Act in 1733 had been powerfully supported but was negatived. The reasons given was the danger that Papists and Jacobites presented. Why was this reason not urged in 1745 when the country was in civil war and France threatened us? The same motion was repeated in 1758 but again the then war was urged as good reason for delay. The present Chancellor of the Exchequer (Pitt) urged the same cause in 1784 and 1785 and on both occasions the same trivial grounds for delay were pleaded. It seems that whenever a matter of reform is presented the Members find it inconvenient. Thus popular oppression continues until the Members are forced by circumstances to debate it. When the Royal Prerogative was thought to be endangered, the strongest protections were readily provided by the Commons. The Aliens Bill and the Traitorous Correspondence Bill were willingly passed. But when a suggestion to ameliorate the condition of the people arose, we are instantly reminded of the supposed dangers of innovation and the need for caution. From 1785 – 1790 all appeals for reform were ignored. In the latter year, Flood MP attempted to introduce a motion but his supposed supporters deserted him.
- I now consider the current state of England. The country is in a state of danger due to the imprudence of ministers. On this occasion it is the French Revolution that has petrified our representatives. Prosperity and peace can no longer be urged as grounds for denial of redress as both are threatened. The House has acquiesced in plans to support the tottering credit of speculators (the Commercial Credit Bill). Multiple bankruptcies and diminished credit indicate this is the time to reform, not when times are good. This country should not be allying itself with a confederation of despots (the King of Prussia and Emperors of Russia and Austria) who plan the destruction of human liberty under the pretence of relieving the excesses of France. The fact that there are dangers from within; that we make these imprudent alliances with autocratic powers, clearly reveal the need for reform. Had we done this timely, the contest with America might have been avoided, and had it been done recently, the present war with France might not have occurred. No-one approves recent events in France but our response aids monarchy not the people. French administration is a matter for France. French activities do not connect with our internal need for reform. Previous to the declaration of war, we were at peace and, with France distracted by internal affairs, it is a golden chance to attend to our own internal affairs. I am proposing neither an affection for arbitrary power nor an experiment with visionary theory. I wish only to remove a widely-held opinion that this House is not a body of national representatives but a body of individuals who use their legislative power for personal advancement. Grey noted his views were endorsed by great historical figures – Blackstone, Locke, Sir George Savile and the late Lord Chatham (Pitt Senior). They are also shared by the present Chancellor (Pitt Junior), the Lord Chief Baron, the Lord Chief Justice and the Master of the Rolls. They were supported in the King’s Speech of 1785. This is not something new but a call to amend errors that have been universally admitted. In this petition you will read that the county of York sends the same number of Members as Rutland; that Cornwell sends more Members than all Scotland; that seats in this House are bought and sold almost daily; that Peers appoint Members to sit in the Commons. I will rest my case on facts and the obvious corollaries that may be deduced from them. If Members really did what they said, there would be no need for reform but the corruption of elections was the foundation of a rotten system. Some petitions have called for universal suffrage. That was wrong. The right of nominating a chosen representative is clearly widely supported and would remove the calls for ‘one man, one vote’. He recalled there had been a lot of talk about the Constitution and wondered how far present practice accorded with Constitutional requirements. The English Constitution arose from fortuitous circumstances and was designed to address those circumstances. It did not necessarily have universal application. The law binds all but none should be bound who has not assented to law. Taxes can be levied only on those who assent to be taxed. Parliaments should be free. These are the products of the Revolution of 1688. We enforce these rules through representative democracy here at Westminster but who can say we do not routinely deviate from them. I am not arguing for triennial parliaments. Some say an Englishman is in possession of every security granted in 1688 / 89 but we have legislated to increase the influence of the peerage, to increase the King’s patronage, to add 45 captive Scottish members to this House, to support the Burgage Tenures (landholdings where service to the lord was supposedly replaced by monetary rent) contrary to the express enactments of William III. The American War is irrefragable proof of the influence of the King on our national policy. We say this House follows the people. It is a shame we did not do so instead of exhausting ourselves in war with America. Grey then quoted the opinion of Lord Thurlow on the fictitious votes in Scotland. He observed that 40-odd MPs were returned by the peerage contrary to the vote passed by the House at the commencement of every session. Now the ministry has created 30 new Peers, it has incidentally created the power to send 30 new captive MPs to the Commons.
(continued in a supplement which is unavailable in my copy of the newspaper)
Editor – The French experiment with reform has turned into revolution. All Europe is threatened with unpredictable change. No one disputes that reform is necessary but it should be managed. The need is so obvious it does not admit of dispute. Reform is undertaken incrementally and cautiously. Dissenters in England do not recognise this.
Sat 1st Mar 1794
Edmund Burke, MP for Malton, on Equality and Party (a criticism of Fox):
“There are two types of men in England, those with money and those hoping to acquire it. The limited extent of education of the lower classes meant that an aspirant to wealth might employ his labour to obtain it or resort to robbery.
“The main obstacle to robbery as a profession is the attitude of religion and the law, but in a system that espouses the Sovereignty of the People and equality between all citizens, the religious and legal obstacles are removed.
“It is impossible to extend political power to the lower classes because their ignorance makes them incompetent at using it. The term ‘the people’ must refer to the whole population, including the lower classes. If there is a difference between classes it is education.”
Burke is concerned by the arbitrary disposition of the leaders of parties. They hold that Kings might be discarded at the will of the people but refuse to apply the same criterion to themselves. The party leader fetters his adherents and combats opinion with force.
Burke distinguishes parties from factions. Party is a concurrence of men in a laudable and honest cause having a just end in view; factions are indifferent to ends and merely concerned to answer their immediate purpose, right or wrong.
Sat 3rd May 1794
Pitt’s ministry has sought to better assure the allegiance of the army by a huge list of promotions of senior officers, details of which were published 18th October 1793:
3 Generals are created Field Marshals; 28 Lt Generals are made General; 32 Major Generals are made Lieutenant General; 38 Colonels are made Major General; 24 Lt Colonels are made Colonels and 22 Majors are made Lt Colonels.
By comparison with what has been revealed in John Reeves meeting (above) of the danger posed by French principles to the British system, I have included an article below describing the social contract enacted in Republican France to better expose the difference between British and French principles:
Sat 24th May 1794
Summary of the Declaration of the Natural, Civil and Political Rights of Man. These are liberty, equality, security, property, the social guarantee and relief from oppression. These rights form the basis of the social compact and underpin the French Constitution:
- Liberty is the ability to do anything that does not diminish the rights of others. It requires submission to law based on the general will. Whatever is not proscribed is allowed. Everyman can express his own thoughts and opinions. The Liberty of the Press cannot be limited. Every citizen is free in the exercise of his religion.
- Equality is the enjoyment of all these rights by all citizens equally. The law must be equal whether it rewards or punishes, whether it protects or oppresses. All people have the right of access to all public places, employments and functions. Instead of preference there may only be talents and virtues.
- Property rights allow everyman to control his capital, revenue and industry. No type of commercial activity may be forbidden to him. Everyman may sell his services but no man may sell himself. No property may be taken from another without his consent. In cases of public necessity, full indemnity must be provided. Tax must be applied to the general utility and to supply public wants and to no other purpose. All citizens have a right to concur personally in the extent of their contributions.
- Security is the protection of every citizen – of his life, property and rights. No-one may be arrested, detained, accused or tried except in conformity with law and in the prescribed forms. All other police action is null. Those promoting null police acts are themselves culpable. Citizens exposed to nugatory police acts may resist and offer force against force. Every citizen restrained by legal process must submit. The enforcement officers may use only such force as is necessary to achieve their ends. Every man is presumed innocent until found guilty. No law may be applied retrospectively. Punishments will be proportioned to the offence. They should benefit society.
- Social Guarantee: Education is a right of all citizens. Public welfare is characteristic of society and the law determines its extent and application. The social guarantee of these rights rest on national sovereignty which is indivisible and inalienable. It resides in the whole population and every citizen has an equal right to concur in the exercise of it. No individual or group of individuals can arrogate sovereignty or authority without being formally delegated such powers. The social guarantee relies on the law precisely limiting the extent of public functions. The law assures the responsibility of all public functionaries. All citizens are bound to concur in this guarantee and to uphold the law whenever called upon to do so.
- Relief from oppression: Men in society ought to have the means to resist oppression. Oppression is when the law violates the natural, civil or political rights listed above. Oppression is when public functionaries violate law. Oppression is when arbitrary acts violate the rights of citizens. Resistance to oppression is legal and will be regulated by law.
- The constitution may be revised by citizens.
- One generation may not subject future generations to its laws.
- All hereditary offices and functions are tyrannical.
Sat 28th June 1794
Pitt has told the Commons that we are not contending with regular armies but with the whole French nation. He attributes the vigour with which France has acted in the war to fear of despotic rulers and says it is only temporary. Pitt has arranged our national finances without raising taxes that might alienate commerce and industry.
He has introduced an onerous tax on admission to the legal profession that will restrict their numbers to the wealthy and encourage greater professionalism – one has to be rich to get a Practicing Certificate.
Government expenditure for the present year is estimated at £11 millions. It will be raised from an issue of annuities (raised on securitised government debt) and the revenue on spirits, bricks & tiles, paper, glass and the new lawyers fee. Lawyers’ clerks will also have a stamp duty of £50 – £100 put on their employment contracts.
In February government introduced a Bill to prevent the transmission of French property in England to France. All French property will be preserved by the British government for its individual owners.
Sat 20th Sept 1794
Burke’s anti-sinecure Bill (This debate is reported over several editions and consolidated here):
John Harrison, MP for Great Grimsby, wanted to amend the Bill to curtail placemen and pensions. He did not mean to deprive the King’s friends of their sinecures. He was solely concerned to reduce the cost of administering the country which fell disproportionately on the poor. He wished the rich to make a greater contribution. Ministers had just called on the landowners and merchants to support the state (by creating militias) and he thought his motion would work in the same way. Those whose wealth derived from the general labour of the country should be foremost in alleviating distress.
He proposed to tax all work-free sinecures over £200 and working sinecures over £500. Of these sinecures, those that required no effort should pay 50%. Placemen holding more than one sinecure should be taxed 50% of the balance above £500. He thought this would be a suitable contribution from placemen to the national emergency and expected, when placemen share in the national distress, they might more clearly see the advantages of peace.
Here Harrison digressed to mention a distressed Norfolk industrialist who had formerly supported his local parish but was now thrown upon it for help. He said parish rates had become enormous and they were still scarcely sufficient to care for their parishioners.
He continued by noting that in the Exchequer are places worth thousands of pounds a year that require no work – they need regulation. He would exclude judges and the Speaker of the House, similar to the plan proposed in 1778. Harrison thought the discontent in England was not serious, certainly nothing like as serious as ministers suggested. Ministers should meet the people and listen to their concerns to reassure themselves.
The complaints of labourers and industrialists were against the men in power. For this the labourer is labelled seditious. The evils that afflicted France were caused in the same way – by men in power. What the ministry was doing was arming one citizen against another; it was dragooning the people into submission by thwarting free speech. This revealed that the rottenness in the system extended to its foundations. Ministers must act equitably to inculcate justice before generosity. Justice to the English people at large should precede generosity to the government’s supporters.
Coke of Norfolk seconded. He lamented the demise of the trade of his county and the thousands of workers who were thrown on the poor rates although it had been augmented to £21,000.
Drake, MP for Norwich, said his constituency was healthy and he supposed the motion had been brought solely to embarrass the government.
Harrison confirmed the parlous state of Norfolk and was corroborated by Coke.
Hobart (Charles Grey) said the war was not the cause of Norfolk’s distress. It was the arbitrary act of the Tsarina in proscribing the importation of thatch (of the type Norfolk produced) that caused the distress. It had thrown 10,000 men into unemployment.
Hawkins and Browne thought it unfair to single-out the men who governed the country to subscribe to its defence. The burden should fall on everyone equally.
Montagu said rewards for public service are absolutely necessary. People would not work without reward. He considered daily attendance in the Commons qualified MPs for rewards. He noted all executive functions in France were undertaken without reward. Such men, on receiving the nation’s trust, abused it and contributed to the oppression of the people. We should recognise the danger.
Curwen demurred. He thought most men sought public service for personal gain and he wanted all sinecures abolished.
Burke ridiculed Harrison’s amendment. He thought it would raise hopes in the poor that were unobtainable. He had expected Harrison to produce an account of the savings to be made and proposals for the useful applications of the savings. It turned out that the amounts involved were tiny. He thought a Grant from the Crown was as good a piece of property as any other. Was not Harrison’s estate comparable to a sinecure? He received the rents without doing any work. Burke thought the motion would do very little to help the poor.
He then adverted to the dangers, using the French experience as an example. The Revolution commenced due to the intolerable expense of the government. The first response was to abolish sinecures; then the numbers of real appointments was reduced; then landed property was attacked; then commercial profits were attacked – thus was the security of capital diminished. This motion has the same tendency. If it is carried, there can be no telling how far it might go.
Sheridan supported the motion. He noted those MPs most affected by the motion had remained silent. He was astonished at what had been said. He recalled Burke’s Economical Bill wherein the doctrine now proposed was originally found. In that debate Burke said the amount of patronage was immense; now he says it is tiny. Another opponent of the motion had previously proposed the salaries of Secretaries of State be limited.
Any matter involving the public purse was precisely a matter requiring the attention of parliament. However much the savings made, they would still alleviate distress. Sheridan then referred to a single (unidentified) nobleman who had done nothing for his country but had received £500,000 in public money over the years. He thought the matter of sinecures was like the matter of political reform – because some people wanted total change, the entire project was deemed dangerous and rejected.
He noted one spoken objection was that any change would become known to the French who might conclude our finances were poor. This was inappropriate from people who had supported public subscriptions to the war effort. The Member for Norwich (Drake) might reasonably have contributed £15,000 but had actually donated £50. It required more than mere words to convince the public of the government’s determination to prosecute the war. Sheridan then produced a list of the sinecures held by one MP (George Rose of the Treasury, Pitt’s patronage manager) – Clerk of Pleas in the Exchequer; Superintendent of Green Wax, Secretary of the Treasury – and suggested 4 years of sinecure income would be a proper donation from Rose.
Sheridan then averred voluntary subscriptions would not come near to the amount that could be accumulated by abolition of sinecures. He noted that for 10 years past, the national finances were delinquent and expenditure repeatedly exceeded income. Every ministry spoke of balancing the books but always the task was deferred and the loans increased. He gave his warmest assent to the motion.
Rose, MP for Christchurch, resented being named. He said Pitt was reforming the Exchequer – sinecures, places, Customs, Auditor of the Imprest, etc., – which had already saved £170,000 per annum. All former ministers took commissions from subscribing bankers to national loans, on government contracts, on sale of national lottery tickets, etc. Formerly British Chancellors distributed national loans to their banker friends, now they went to the highest bidder. Similarly the award of contracts was now done by a well-paid Commissary which provided everything for the army. He indicated the costs of the present war were comparatively less due to the absence of those commissions paid in the last war. There now remained only £10,000 on the civil list that might be used at the minister’s discretion and such a small sum could hardly buy the slightest favour, he said. He noted that it had been the practice, sometimes for a century or more, to not require Tellers of the Exchequer to audit their accounts. Pitt had required a general settlement with the Tellers which had produced a negotiated £800,000 for the national account.
“As for my own places”, Rose continued, “I was called to be Secretary of the Treasury in 1782. Pitt gave me the Clerk of Pleas job but its worth nothing.” Another sinecure had followed an address in the House of Lords long before he had held any public post. And he denied being Superintendent of Green Wax, having quitted the job as soon as he could. Rose noted that even Fox had a sinecure and two pensions. He categorised Sheridan’s speech as an appeal to popular prejudice.
Fox said he had been Clerk of the Pells in Ireland. He had received the place from George II in consequence of some service his father had performed. After his father died it passed to his elder brother and then to him but to accommodate the Irish Government he had agreed to exchange it for a pension. He was, according to Rose, also Receiver of South Wales but Fox himself did not mention it. Fox wished to state his view that private property was sacrosanct. If a sinecure was unworthily bestowed by a minister it was the fault of the minister but, provided it was done legally, the recipient could not be relieved of it.
He approved of the motion but, in light of current interest in the voluntary subscriptions, and their doubtful legality, he thought it right that those with sinecures should show their zeal by contributing whatever the instant Bill required. He noted that both Secretaries of State (Dundas and Grenville) had publicly declined to receive the whole salaries of their offices. It was said that Dundas took the salary of Treasurer of the Navy and declined the Home Secretary’s salary; and Grenville had declined the emoluments of the Auditorship of the Exchequer. In fact Fox knew that both Secretaries had the ‘unpaid’ salaries transferred to the Civil List and not to the general revenue (i.e. to be used as patronage).
Fox also disputed Rose’s contention that the Civil List held only £10,000 for the minister to play with. He said the expenses on the Civil List could never be limited. Foreign ministers are continually dipping into it, he said. However overall he thanked Burke for the proposed legislation and the effect it had of reducing the power of the King. Less sinecures = less King’s friends.
On those sinecures that entailed work, he thought some were well rewarded and others less so but overall the compensation was about right. He regretted that Burke had not taken Ireland into account. He thought it unfortunate that the influence of the King and his minister in Ireland through sinecures was so strong. He also noted new sinecures in India since the creation of the Board of Control. Fox castigated Rose for saying the country was in a flourishing condition. Only the government revenue was flourishing and that resulted from £1 million of new taxes. He supposed the tax on alcohol was salutary but had no doubt the people would resent the tax on sugar when tea had become the national drink and sugar was the sole nutrient in it.
Rose reiterated that commerce was flourishing considering we were at war.
Fox thought this might easily be evaluated by comparing the state of commerce before and during the last war with the state now. He thought generally that the cost of government in England was not unduly expensive except in comparison with France. He would vote for this Bill should it survive the debates. He would propose to exempt all places where the holder had a legal vested right. The others should be considered case by case and the appropriate value awarded. He reiterated that his support derived from ministers approaching the public for supposedly voluntary donations. Had they followed the usual means of funding, he would not concern himself.
He then turned to Rose’s comments on the tiny savings to be made from ending sinecures and the matter of contracts and loans, etc. Fox noted that great fortunes had been made by abuses in the Pay Office. He recalled his father when Paymaster had been a beneficiary and so were the Paymasters before and after him. The modus operandi of the sinecure holder was to produce no accounts.
Pitt defended the voluntary contributions as reflecting the opinion of the people and as involving them in the national effort. They had been zealous in subscribing and zeal was what England needed to overcome France. He noted Fox would exempt all places where the holder had a legally vested right and said this would exclude 90% of sinecures. He said England got good value from its Secretaries of State who performed several duties without taking all the emoluments attached to those duties. He agreed the savings went to the Civil List but were barely sufficient to support the King’s dignity. He said the cost of the Royal household and representation at foreign courts had steadily increased and, had it not been for the reduction in pensions, the Civil List would be inadequate for its purposes despite its careful management. Finally he thought it was unfair to tax people, such as placemen, who had more to do in wartime.
Concerning the national debt he noted that expenditure was increasing due to war but he would continue to reduce the debt. War had reduced commerce and thus revenue but income was now increasing and he had a balance of £230,000 to pay over to Ways and Means. The increase came from taxes in the last quarter of 1793 that were greater than taxes in the last quarter of 1792. He thought the entire debate suggested the country was in financial difficulty when it was not the case and he suspected the opposition had brought it on to create embarrassment when we should all unite to vigorously prosecute the war.
The House divided – 48 for Harrison’s amendment, 117 against.
Sat 8th Nov 1794
The progress of popular democracy in the French style was checked in England at end 1792 by ministerial action but has since revived. Then it was discovered that the London Corresponding Society proposed, immediately after the prorogation of parliament, to assemble a National Convention at its address at Chalk Farm in London on 14th April 1794. This provoked Pitt’s message requiring the formation of a Secret Committee of the Commons. The 21 committee members are all from Pitt’s side of the House but some few of them were formerly Foxites who followed the Duke of Portland across the floor. These people are reliable. They understand that equality is incompatible with the British property system.
The Ministerial response is to suspend Habeas Corpus. The initiative was argued in the Commons on 16th and 17th May 1794. Habeas Corpus has rarely been suspended since the Constitution was introduced in 1689. On each of the two days the debate continued until 3 am. The government wishes to detain people to prevent their acting criminally. It wishes to disable their bailing themselves or obtaining securities for their release. Preventive detention is unConstitutional but MPs can vote away popular rights if they think it appropriate.
At the outset, on 16th May, the Minister introduced a Report of the Secret Committee of the House. The committee is comprised of Pitt, Dundas, Welbore Ellis Attorney General, Wyndham Solicitor General, Grenville, Steele, Banks Jenkinson, Sir H Houghton, Powys, Lords Mornington and Mulgrave, J H Brown, J Anstruther, T Stanley, C Townshend and Edmund Burke. Its report concerns solely the proceedings of the London Corresponding Society (LCS) and the Society for Constitutional Information (SCI).
It outlines the pre-war connections of the two Societies with the French Convention, the Jacobin Club of Paris and other popular French societies; it lists the missions sent to Paris; the offers and assurances they had given and the replies they received and the union they had proposed with the Jacobins.
Thereafter the declaration of war interrupted these communications and the Societies had redirected their efforts to spreading French principles domestically, particularly in the manufacturing towns where the populace is ‘enslaved to the industrialists.’ It lists the inexpensive publications they circulated and the 27th March proclamation of the SCI convoking an assembly of all the Deputies of its regional Societies at a National Convention.
All this was represented to parliament by Pitt as a conspiracy against the King and the ministry.
The opposition vociferously opposed Pitt’s speech. First Fox, then Robertson, Martin Lambton, Harrison, Jekyll, Charles Grey and Sheridan all made successive and largely satirical responses – the report contained nothing new, the men involved had no influence, their conduct was not dangerous, they desire a reform of parliament which is a legal object, just as Pitt himself and the Duke of Richmond had countenanced previously in this House.
Burdon, Wigley and Burke spoke in support of Pitt and the motion passed 201/39. Grey asked that the debate be adjourned for a fortnight but was voted down 201/32. The First reading then occurred and was approved 197/33. The second reading was immediately held and passed 172/22 and the Bill send to committee where it passed 125/24. It was then adjourned to a special sitting on the following day (Saturday) when it was passed 146/28 and was sent to the Lords where Grenville read a message from the King in similar terms to Pitt’s in the Commons. Thus was habeas corpus suspended.
Sat 22nd Nov 1794
House of Lords, 12th May 1794 – The King requested an investigation of popular dissent and a Secret Committee of the Commons recommended the suspension of Habeas Corpus. An enabling Bill was rushed through the Commons in two days and has now come before the Lords.
Lauderdale observed that the secret committee was supposed to report facts and not recommend what action is to be taken. He was called to order by the Bishop of Rochester who thought any such niceties were out of order. Lauderdale disagreed.
Grenville pushed on with the Bill to suspend Habeas Corpus and urged their Lordships to complete all necessary work to pass the Bill that day. The new law would permit the imprisonment without trial of anyone reasonably suspected of treason. He referred to a conspiracy to overthrow the national authorities as ‘well-established’ and ‘everyone knows about it’. He said Habeas Corpus had been frequently suspended and now was the proper time to do it again. He said in former times it was only necessary for the King to intimate a danger, for parliament to pass legislation. In this case it had been investigated by the Commons and the clearest proofs of the conspiracy were on the record.
Grenville then reviewed the proceedings of the London Corresponding Society to suggest it was founded on Jacobin principles whose sentiments, reasoning, etc., it adopted:
- The members were called Citizens.
- They hold Parliament in contempt and say they will make their own law.
- They have addressed the National Convention in Paris and published opinions on the treason trials in Scotland.
- Their language is shocking.
- Their most recent action was to propose a General Convention of the People.
Grenville said, had they armed themselves, we would have defeated them. They are few and have little money – how can we trust our liberty to them? The most terrible conspiracies of history were begun by worthless men. We have Dumouriez’s word that the French Revolution was commenced by a mere two hundred men, of whom the majority were wretched peasants.
Grenville said this ‘little cloud on the horizon’ threatened a ‘great flood’ and there was no time to be lost. He urged the reading of the Bill.
Stanhope said he opposed the Bill which ‘reduces Englishmen to the same status as Frenchmen before the Revolution’. He thought it would be easy to refute everything Grenville had said. He thought a Congress of the People was a legal venture. It might agree to not support any candidate for election to the Commons who did not promote reform. He said such Conventions are not unprecedented in England – had not his Noble Friend ‘Citizen Richmond’ held one in Kent at which Lord Camden and Tommy Townshend and many other Lords had attended? Sydney (Townshend’s alter ego) instantly rose to deny ever being a member of a Convention. Stanhope said he had proof of Sydney’s membership of the Kent Committee. He then read a few of the resolutions of the Kent Committee and characterised them – ‘as inflammatory as anything in the Report of the Secret Committee.’ He noted these meetings were legal as the Irish parliament had been forced to enact a Convention Bill. He recalled Pitt and Sir George Saville had both avowed doctrines (such as those now objected to by the Secret Committee) when they had spoken on the desirability of parliamentary reform. Savile had despaired of reform occurring, except by an act of the people, such as was now occurring.
In his letter to Col Sharman, ‘Citizen Richmond’ reviewed the whole matter up to universal suffrage and annual parliaments. That letter noted that despite the best efforts of Pitt, none of the parliamentarians could be persuaded to forego corruption (the necessary pre-condition to peaceful parliamentary reform).
Burke had taken the same view as Pitt – his letter to the people of Bristol and his 1792 letter to Sir Hercules Langrishe about the exclusion of Catholics from the Irish elections, are evidence of his support. The activities of the Corresponding Societies had been common knowledge for the last two years and the government had done nothing – this was not some recent innovation that required urgent attention. It was obviously a pretext for popular repression.
The address of the Society to the National Convention was legal, having been made before the government declared war on France. Receipt of the reply (after war was declared) is said to have been a crime although the report does not indicate whether that reply was approved or even read in the Society’s proceedings.
The report is factually unreliable. Barrere and Roland are said to be leading members of National Convention when Roland was a minister and barred by his employment from being a legislator. Stanhope concluded that he would oppose the Bill.
Spencer said it was a strong measure but he would support it. So did Kinnoul and Burlington.
Thurlow said the Secret Committee had reported their opinion of Constitutional danger and it is the duty of legislators to uphold and protect the law. The worst tyranny was anarchy. Law restricted liberty to protect liberty. He opined that the offences which the Societies appeared guilty of were seditious not treasonable, as they had not sought to effect their beliefs by actions. He concluded he would support the Bill.
Lauderdale discovered an Order of the House of Lords dated 1715 that prevented a Bill being read more than once in a day. He requested an adjournment.
Grenville replied that in former matters concerning suspension of Habeas Corpus, this Order had been dispensed with.
Carnaervon, Abington, Leeds and Carlyle supported the Bill. Derby was opposed.
Lansdowne said suspension of Habeas Corpus was unnecessary. The course of conduct of the Societies flowed consistently from their former meetings going back to 1773 and the present plans were just the old (parliamentary) Jacobins persecuting the new.
Grenville (The Lord Chancellor) replied at great length and claimed to have shown that the Societies were not harmless. The legislature should take precautions before any blood is spilt. The Lords then voted for suspension 137/9. The sitting continued until 3 am.
Sat 6th Dec 1794
The Secret Committee has reported. It has examined the books and papers and finds they are a complete record of the proceedings of the London Corresponding Society and the Society for Constitutional Information.
These Societies are in correspondence with many others in all parts of Great Britain and Ireland. On 25th Jan and 1st Feb 1793, just before our declaration of war, Barrere and Roland, then leading members of the National Convention, were admitted to honorary associate membership of the Society. The speeches of Barrere and St Andre (another honorary member) that were reported in the Moniteur (the French Government Gazette) on 4th 6th and 7th Jan were republished in the books of the Society.
Our declaration of war interrupted their communications but the Society has continued to promote democratic ideals and follows the forms, even the words, of the French democrats. The Society has assiduously promoted these democratic views in publications and by resolutions and circulated all these papers throughout Britain and Ireland. The Societies of Sheffield, Norwich and Manchester were the most active of the regional Societies.
In a letter to the United Political Societies of Norwich dated 12th April 1793, the SCI writes:
“ … where then are we to look for the remedy? To that parliament of which we complain? To the executive power, which is implicitly obeyed, if not anticipated, in that parliament? Or to ourselves, represented in some meeting of delegates for the especial purpose of reform, which we suppose you understand by the term Convention?
“It is the end of each of these propositions that we ought to look to and, as success in a good cause must be the effect of perseverance and the rising reason of the time, let us determine with coolness, but let us persevere with decision. …. As to a Convention, we regard it as a plan the most desirable and the most practicable, so soon as the great Body of the People shall be courageous and virtuous enough to join us in the attempt. Hitherto we have no reason to believe that the moment is arrived for that purpose. …..As to any petition to the Crown, we believe it hopeless in its consequences. With respect to the last of the proposals, we are at a loss to advise. If the event is looked to in the vote which may be obtained from that body to whom this petition is to be addressed, which of us can look to it without the prospect of an absolute negative?
“In this point of view, therefore, it cannot require a moment’s consideration. But if we regard the policy of such a petition, it may, in our apprehension, be well-worth considering as a warning voice to our present Legislators, and as a signal for imitation to the majority of the People.
“Should such a plan be vigorously and generally pursued, it would hold out a certainty to our fellow countrymen that we are not a handful of individuals unworthy of attention or consideration, who desire the restoration of the ancient liberties of England; but, on the contrary, it might bring into the light that host of well-meaning men who, in the different towns and counties of this Realm, are silently but seriously anxious for reformation in the government.
“We exhort you with anxiety to pursue your laudable endeavours for the common good, and never despair of the public cause.”
But the main correspondence of SCI was with the British Convention at Edinburgh and the London Corresponding Society. On 15th October 1793 the SCI Secretary read a letter to the members from the Convention of the Friends of the People at Edinburgh after which it was resolved to hold an EGM to consider sending delegates to a Convention of all the Societies to be held in Edinburgh for the purpose of obtaining a reform of parliament. On 23rd October this EGM took place and two delegates were chosen. They were instructed to assist and support any constitutional measures to obtain real representation in the Commons. They were told to always keep in mind two principles – universal suffrage and annual parliaments. They were told to assert the inalienable right of the People to reform their government and to propose a fixed sum, raised by a one-off charge on the people, whereby existing MPs might be compensated for their loss of employment. The Secretary also agreed to write to all SCI correspondents telling them what had been decided.
The delegates attended at Edinburgh but the SCI records are silent as the ministry was then prosecuting several members of the British Convention at Edinburgh. On 17th Jan 1794, after the Edinburgh sedition trials were completed, the SCI passed the following resolutions:
- Oppressive laws need not be obeyed
- Remember with satisfaction the merited fate of Judge Jeffries who was torn in pieces by the people during the Glorious Revolution of 1688. Those who imitate Jeffries deserve the same fate.
- The Tweed may divide our countries but there is no separation of principles between Scots and English. The safety of Englishmen is threatened when Scots are banished like felons for wise and meritorious conduct.
- Regret, but do not fear, our seeming inability to reason with government. Oppose tyranny with undaunted resolution but do not quibble to use the tools of tyranny to defeat tyranny.
- We approve the conduct of the British Convention. Their arguments have not been answered with reason but with violence. Convention members are unlike MPs who have interests distinct from the common people.
- A copy of these resolutions will be sent to Citizen Skirving currently imprisoned in the Tolbooth of Edinburgh.
After this, the SCI books are full of approbation for Skirving, Margarot and Gerrald, the men recently convicted of sedition and full of inflammatory words towards the Court that convicted them.
Before reviewing those papers, the Secret Committee will comment on the LCS, which measures in the last six weeks result from a closer collaboration between the two Societies.
…. continued from last edition ….
On 27th March the LCS wrote to SCI proposing to concert their activities. They advised SCI of the resolutions they had made and proposed a full and explicit Declaration by all the Friends of Freedom. They enquired whether the ‘illegal’ prosecutions (in Scotland) would cause SCI to abandon reform or become more radical “Are you ready to act with us to obtain a fair Representation of the People”. Sgd T Hardy, Secretary.
The attached Resolutions:
We are resolved that Justice and Liberty must be permanent to be valuable. Equal laws can only result from fair Representation. We are willing to hazard our lives in this enterprise if that is the only way to assure our happiness. To protect us from illegal prosecutions and unjust sentences, in recollection of the wise laws which have been sequentially repealed, there ought to be a Convention of the People from all the Friends of Freedom in this country. We are further resolved to take the sense of SCI on this subject.
After the SCI’s views are obtained, another meeting will be held and further resolutions made; a General Meeting of the Friends of Liberty should be called to discuss means of obtaining full and fair representation. The membership to be canvassed for their agreement to instigate all the regional Societies to join this effort. That a Standing Committee of both SCI and LCS be formed to co-ordinate efforts.
The Secret Committee of the House has learned that in the last few weeks circular letters have been sent to the regional societies to convene a National Convention. A pamphlet in LCS files says:
The moment has come. Britons must chose to claim Liberty or submit to ministerial usurpation. There is only one peaceful measure we can propose for this. Notwithstanding the corrupt faction that presently tramples on our rights and liberties, our meetings require the adoption of a Convention Bill to better unify our various Societies. If we permit threats, prosecutions and unjust sentences to suppress the popular will, we are unworthy of Liberty. We must be quick – already Hessians and Austrians are amongst us. If we submit, a gang of armed barbarians will be released on us. We shall form a Convention in the centre of the country, which place will be identified later. Send us your answers before 20th April
Subsequently, the LCS held a meeting at Chalk Farm on 14th April at which a Society of Friends of the People was proclaimed to convoke a Convention to discuss a legal and Constitutional method of fair representation. The conveners complained that:
- government has proscribed the right of assembly; it disperses legal gatherings and seizes the papers of attendees.
- Some members have been transported for 14 years. One was said by Pitt in the Commons to have been convicted and condemned before his trial commenced.
- Pitt’s insidious attempt to introduce foreign mercenaries into England, without consent of parliament, and to present a Bill allowing foreigners into our army is grounds for fear.
- The government maintains, out of its public plunder, a gang of spies whose avowed business is to destroy us Libertarians.
These complaints are in addition to those that derive from the present unrepresentative nature of parliament.
However the authorities have themselves declared war on France and use the fact of war to say that this is not the time for reform. They say there is a risk of disturbance. Are we to have reform postponed by those who corruptly administer this country? What are these disturbances that threaten tranquillity? All the riots and disturbances that have occurred are fomented by government to create the appearance of the situation it says it fears. It is clear they are hostile to a genuinely representative assembly. We reformers are peaceful while Pitt is violent. Formerly he supported reform, now he has changed his mind. We must demonstrate to him that we are determined. We do that by a National Convention. Sgd Thomas Hardy.
.… continued in next edition ….
When the LCS started in 1792, it had 200 subscribers. After a few months the numbers increased dramatically and it was decided to create regional sub-groups around London. There are now about 30 regional groups which each send one member to form the General Committee of LCS. Whenever a group reaches thirty members it is required to create a sub-group for new applicants. The LCS corresponds with similar Societies in Sheffield, Manchester, Bristol, Coventry, Nottingham, Derby, Leicester, Norwich, Birmingham Leeds, Royston, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, York, Hereford, Edinburgh and other Scottish towns.
The LCS addressed the National Convention in France in 1792, just like the SCI. The only document we found on the Secretary was an Address that had been agreed in general meeting at the Globe Tavern, Strand, on 20th Jan 1794. John Martin was chairman. The LCS Address says:
Government has involved us in a war which has killed a huge number of our friends and relatives. A vast sum of money has been spent. Manufacturing and commerce have been destroyed. The country is ruined and starving. New taxes are reportedly about to be introduced. The load of imposts is already intolerable. All this has been done merely to re-establish odious despotism in France.
We do not approve the principles of this war. It is neither just nor discreet. We fear the likelihood of failure is high. The name of Britain is being disgraced. Everyday we hear from those in power (the MPs, placemen and sinecure holders) that the British Constitution is the perfection of human wisdom; that laws provide perfect justice; that the administration of law is impartial and provides equal remedies to rich and poor alike. On these assertions the government founds an opinion that our rights and liberties are well secured and cannot be diminished. They say Magna Carta, the Bill of Rights and the Glorious Revolution of 1688 are the bulwarks of our liberty.
Well, we have studied the documents. Wise and wholesome laws were indeed established then. But hardly a vestige of our admirable Constitution remains. The only chapters of the Great Charter that are still legally valid are Caps 14 and 29.
Cap 14 says ‘a freeman shall be amerced in proportion to his fault, saving to him his contentment; a merchant shall be amerced likewise, saving to him his merchandise; another’s villain shall be amerced likewise, saving to him his wainage. These amercements can be effected only by honest and lawful men of the vicinity (i.e. fines may be Constitutionally assessed only by jurors, not Judges). This Right has been unjustly ravished from us.
Cap 29 says ‘No freeman shall be imprisoned, his freehold or liberties seized, or his person outlawed or exiled. He will be judged by his peers or by applying the law of the land. We will not sell justice or right to any man neither will we deny or defer justice and right.
From the various methods now in vogue it may be thought that the Great Charter has been repealed but it remains the basis to our Constitution. The representatives of rotten boroughs have even less right than real representatives to diminish it yet we find ‘informations ex-officio’ (prosecutions by the Attorney General for the King) that usurp the role of the jury, are based on the bought testimony of a paid informer and pensioned Justice substituted for our birthright. In addition, the expense of hearings, the novel practise of annulling jury verdicts and the delay at every stage of trial, all most flagrantly contradict the Charter clause that forbids denial, delay or sale of Justice.
A felon may be bailed to appear, at the risk of his life and goods (under common law), on finding two sureties of £40 each. A man recently accused of a misdemeanour, by using a form of words, was required by the Attorney General to put up £1,000 bail (250 ounces of gold).
Upon conviction for misdemeanour there have been several recent cases of enormous fines and long and cruel imprisonments that are unknown to our ancient laws and not sanctioned by new law. The Bill of Rights provides that excessive bail shall not be demanded nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.
In Ireland the acknowledged right of the people to meet for the protection of their rights and liberties is supposedly removed by a late Act of Parliament whilst Irish ‘peerages have been distributed in England and new sources of corruption opened to gratify the greed of the ministry.
In Scotland not even an Act of Parliament countenances the interruption of the peaceful and lawful meetings of people by magistrates who disrupt proceedings and prevent association.
The wisdom and restraint of the British Convention at Edinburgh is applauded. They defy government to name the law which they have broken. Notwithstanding this, the members have had their papers seized and presented in evidence against them, many virtuous people have been disgraced by illegal sentences of transportation. And these judgments have been executed with a rancour and malignity never before known in this land. They have been fettered and gaoled with felons in the hulks, which conditions formerly required express words in the judicial sentence.
We associate to bring an end to all this. We expect fair, free and full representation of the people in a House of real national representatives. We are willing to be treated as felons to maintain these inherent rights and we will never forego them whilst we live. It is treason to withhold them. It is the same corrupt influence that dominates in Ireland, Scotland and England. Can you have confidence in those who send virtuous Irishmen and Scots to Botany Bay? Do you see that you may be next? The cause of the Irish and the Scots is our cause too. The Irish Parliament and the Scottish Judges, both acting under English influence, have brought us to the point we must take sides. Choose liberty or slavery for yourselves and your children. Do not wait until a barracks has been built in every village and the Hessian and Hanoverian mercenaries are upon us.
The means we will adopt to obtain redress is by law. It is the ancient law of the land not the new law of oppressive plunderers.
And it is resolved that in the next session of parliament we will sit daily and observe the proceedings and administration of government. Upon the introduction of any Bill that is inimical with liberty – the landing of foreign troops, the suspension of Habeas Corpus, the proclamation of martial law, or any other unconstitutional innovation – the General Committee will summons the delegates and call a General Convention of the People to consider such measures as are required. Sgd J Martin Chairman, T Hardy Secretary.
LCS Committee Room 23rd January – Resolved unanimously that 100,000 copies of the above address be printed and distributed. The following toasts, celebrated at our annual dinners, will be added at the end:
- The Rights of Man – may Britons never lack the spirit to assert them.
- The British Convention and success to its objects
- William Skirving who called that Convention into being.
- The LCS and the other patriotic Societies of Great Britain.
- Maurice Margarot, the condemned Delegate of LCS. May his manly conduct be rewarded with your approbation.
- Joseph Gerard, the other delegate of LCS now under prosecution. May his sentiments be engraved on every British heart.
- The transactions at Toulon (see the chapter of that name) – may we profit from this dearly-bought experience.
- Hamilton Rowan and the other patriots of Ireland. May the authors of the Convention Bill be confounded.
- M/s Muir and Palmer. May their sentences be speedily reversed and Botany Bay reserved to real criminals.
- Success to the arms of freedom; confusion to despots (whoever they ally with)
- To all that is good in every Constitution
- Thomas Paine. May his virtue rise above calumny and suspicion and his name be made dear among the people.
- Lord Loughborough, Earl of Moira, Gilbert Elliot and the other apostates of liberty. May they enjoy their profits for as long as they live.
- A speedy and honourable peace with France.
- To the starving manufacturers and neglected peasantry of Britain and Ireland.
- John Frost. May he soon recover the health he lost in Newgate.
- To all virtuous citizens now confined for their opinions. May they never be forgotten.
…. The Secret Committee report continued …..
At a meeting of the LCS, a letter from the Friends of the People dated 11th April was read:
Sir, Your letter to Sheridan, Chairman of the Friends of the People, was read in our last meeting. We share your alarm at recent government proposals. We will co-operate with you in every peaceable and constitutional means to promote the objects of our associations but we fear the means you propose will give our enemies grounds to attack us and deter our members from countenancing what they approve. The Friends of the People accordingly decline to send delegates to a Convention as proposed by LCS. We nevertheless assure you of our wish to preserve a good understanding with you and others who promote the cause of parliamentary reform. Sgd W Breton.
The following LCS resolutions were then passed:
- We are indignant at the rise of despotism in Britain, the invasion of public security, the contempt for popular opinion and the violation of those constitutional provisions intended for our protection.
- We abhor the flagitious proceedings in Scotland, reminiscent of the Star Chamber of Charles I, and we abhor the court’s sentencing that violates all law and justice and reveals that Britons are no longer free.
- We applaud the proceedings of the British Convention.
- We applaud the patriotism of Margarot and Gerard. We will always remember them and eventually redress the wrongs they have sustained.
- Any further attempt to vest legislative power in some of the Judges of the Scottish Judiciary will be considered as dissolving the social contract between the King and the people. We hold that the safety of the people is the supreme law.
- The arming and disciplining in these islands of émigrés driven from their own country for their attachment to despotism, is an outrageous attempt to intimidate the people of Britain and subjugate them to a band of mercenary cut-throats whose interests are necessarily opposed to true English interests.
- The project of raising troops and funds by forced subscriptions is unconstitutional (a requisition of the King or his minister can never be voluntary). The arming of one part of the people against another part (such as brought Charles I to the block and drove James II into exile) are acts of treason by the minister.
- This Society honours the respect that the House of Lords displayed on 4th April towards its constitutional rules in the matter of Lord Stanhope’s motion for an enquiry into ministerial interference in the domestic affairs of France. It is this Society’s belief that this matter alone will convince the nation of the danger we face from the Commons.
- We thank Earl Stanhope for his manly conduct in the Lords where he has single-handedly brought about the removal of the Hessian and Hanoverian mercenaries from these shores and prevented the creation of a military despotism.
- That it is our firm belief that a continued opposition in a virtuous cause must ultimately triumph. Truth and liberty are invincible.
Having already sent a letter to Margarot, an address to Joseph Gerard was then read:
To Gerard, a prisoner sentenced by the High Court of Scotland to transportation beyond the seas for 14 years, beloved and respected friend.
You are martyred to the honourable cause of equal representation. We cannot allow you to leave this degraded country without expressing the obligations of the entire populace. We admire your spirited exertions in the cause, particularly during the sitting of the British Convention at Edinburgh and at your subsequent legal proceedings (we will not call it a trial). We honour both your resistance of the wrongs against your country and your philosophical suffering under an arbitrary and, until recently, unprecedented sentence. You are put amongst felons and the vilest outcasts of Society, and doomed to a sojourn in New Holland. Remember our sincere regard. The equal laws of this country have fled. We daily commit the same actions and say the same words that caused your infamous sentence. We will continue to do so until we are successful. The law is either unjust to you or deprives us of our share of martyrdom. We pledge ourselves to you and to our country. We demand the rights that have been usurped from us. We will not cease to work for equal representation until we are triumphant. We wish you health and happiness. We will never forget you.
Sgd John Lovett Chairman and Thomas Hardy Secretary.
It was then resolved unanimously that the Committee of LCS convey its approbation to the following:
- Archibald Hamilton Rowan, prisoner at Newgate, Dublin, for his spirited assertion of popular rights.
- John Philpot Curran, for his defence of Rowan and his patriotic conduct in the Irish parliament
- The Society of United Irishmen with an exhortation to persevere for justice for the people of Ireland.
- Skirving, Palmer and Muir, who received the same sentence as our delegates.
- John Clark and Alexander Reid for raising bail for our delegates, uninfluenced by any personal considerations but the liberty of the British people.
- Adam Gillies, Malcolm Laing and James Gibson for their assistance to Gerard at the bar of the Scottish High Court.
- Thomas Walker of Manchester on the event of his late trial. We commiserate on the development of a system of government spies and informers.
- Sir Joseph Mawbey for his manly conduct at the recent surreptitious meeting at Epsom.
And it was resolved that 200,000 copies of these proceedings and resolutions be printed and published. Sgd J Lovett, T Hardy.
The Secret Committee of the Commons concluded that a meeting called a General Convention of the People assumes a representative quality and is intended to supersede the House of Commons. The references to reform are intentionally misleading. Margarot wrote to SCI in December 1793 advising them to say nothing about politics and to only mention reform instead. No petition to this House for equal representation has been made. This is an attempt to takeover the legislature.
The object of the Societies is the convocation of a General Assembly of the People composed of delegates of each Society to obtain fair and equal representation. The Societies have resolved to secure themselves from ‘future illegal and scandalous prosecutions, to prevent a repetition of unjust sentences’ This is not an attempt to apply to parliament for reform, it is an attempt to confer political authority on themselves. They have attacked the legislature and promoted resistance to parliamentary measures. They assert the doctrines of Paine in Rights of Man – the principles that direct France. It is a traitorous conspiracy to subvert the established laws and constitution and introduce anarchy as has occurred in France.
There are two more things the Secret Committee wishes to say. Although we have yet to find any mention of armed rebellion, we suspect measures have lately been taken to distribute guns to members. Since the arrest of the people who held the papers on which we have commented at length, there have been several meetings around London. These people have not abandoned their plans. We fear they will attempt a forcible resistance.
Pitt then moved an Address to the King. He asked for, and expected, the unanimous concurrence of the whole House. He said the Secret Committee had exposed a plot to overturn the Constitution. He considered the petition of LCS to the Commons in May 1793 (read and rejected) had been merely a matter of form and that everything they had done subsequently would have been done in any event. After Hardy’s arrest a paper had been found on him suggesting it was not the intention of the Convention to assume legislative power but it was to call into existence another Convention (by elections) that would assume the functions of this House. This proved the intent to overthrow the Constitution. He drew particular attention to the avowed intention of the Societies to achieve their ends by violence.
Lambton said if arms have been found in the possession of persons guilty of treasonable intent, then Pitt’s proposals are reasonable. He confessed that he had not assessed the Secret Committee’s report as justifying the fears of Pitt. He agreed that some of the words were very like sedition, but had they been produced in context they appeared more reasonable. He noted the repeated declarations to pursue their aims with moderation in obedience to law. Those declaration would satisfy a Judge if not this House, he thought. He noted that at Algernon Sydney’s trial, he (Sydney) had told that execrable Chief Justice (Jeffries) that if he selected passages out of context he could prove anything. The language of Pitt and the Duke of Richmond was as seditious as anything in the instant documents. The minister’s focus on armed rebellion was based on the discovery in Scotland of 18 pike-heads, 10 battle axes and about 20 unfinished sword blades. The democrats could hardly take over the country by violence with that arsenal. And he objected to the Society of Friends of the People, of which he was a member, being confounded with the other Societies.
Serjeant Watson said the courts had been libelled. He thought the conspirators had few arms because the government had foiled their plot timely. Should we have waited, like we did in 1780, until they had 1,800 pikes? Instruments of death had been found and H M’s ministers had prudently stepped in to prevent mortality.
Sir Watkin Lewes knew and respected many of the members who formerly belonged to the SCI. He thought a plot did exist.
Alderman Newnham said he had expected this development since the commencement of the war. He had warned against a conspiracy in the first session of this parliament.
Martin said a man has a right to bear arms in his own defence. He did not see any offence in the papers presented to the House.
Burdon said every living Englishman should rejoice that this conspiracy had been detected.
Fox said he had often spoken on this subject and would not take long. All the alleged conspirators had been faithful friends and supporters of Pitt and now they were providing the pretext for his assuming extraordinary powers and suspending the best parts of the Constitution. It was a nice question whether they had given Pitt better support then or now.
He recalled in the reigns of the two last Princes of Brunswick there were many who wished to subvert the Constitution and remove the King. They were rich men of high rank connected with foreign powers. In this case there is no evidence of wealth, rank or foreign involvement against the participants. Why had government extraordinarily intervened in this case? Were the laws now inadequate? If these conspirators are formidable it can only be by assistance from France and there is no evidence of that. We have just heard of Lord Howe’s victory over the French fleet. The threat of invasion has receded. He had hoped on hearing that news that Pitt would withdraw his proposal to suspend Habeas Corpus.
This House’s opinion of its loyalty to the King is well known. The King sent down some papers; the House, without seeing them or interviewing anyone, votes in accordance with the King’s proposals. That is the state of parliamentary representation.
In France the King was not removed by inconsiderable people. All the great families, the propertied people and the philosophers united to overthrow him. He noted the Secret Committee’s report focused on Scotland and was glad it drew attention to the severe anti-sedition laws in that country that produced disaffection. Mild measures were preferable. The trials of Muir and Palmer were a disgrace. Oppressive government provokes rebellion.
His love of the Constitution was not for its form but its principle, which he identified as political liberty. He regretted the King’s alarm at his people meeting to discuss political subjects. It is said they had arms, but may not the time come when we have no means of preserving our Constitution but by resisting oppression? Do ministers say that the people must in all circumstances submit? He feared that ministers were emulating the French parliament and endeavouring to pass unpopular measures by invoking alarm. He thought there are as few Royalists in France as there are Republicans in England.
He reiterated that the best way forward was by mild measures. The Constitution can withstand attack. He hoped the members of these Societies would be tried with justice and mercy. Conspiracies are only dangerous when they adopt violent measures. He exhorted the House to protect all persons, of whatever religion, abolish tests, treat neutral nations, particularly America, with respect and end the war.
Sir William Dolben thought there had been a dangerous conspiracy. He recalled Fox had said, on the passage of his India Bill in the Commons, that the Lords could hardly reject a Bill that had passed with such éclat. It seemed to him that Fox wanted an obedient King, an unresisting House of Lords and a Republican Commons.
Dent wondered how any MP could defend the Societies.
Loveden said there are people in London who want to behead the King.
Wharton said he had attended a meeting of SCI and found the membership all innocent men. He had been President and its purposes were solely convivial.
Pitt’s motion was then carried.
The Address to the King:
We the Lords and Commons have considered Your Bill concerning designs against the public peace. We see a seditious and traitorous conspiracy intended to subvert the authority of Your Majesty and His Parliament and destroy the Constitution and government. It was intended to use violence to achieve its ends. It has been caught in the nick of time.
We are grateful for Your paternal care in bringing it to our notice. We have empowered Your Majesty with additional authority to punish these crimes and suppress rebellion.
And we assure Your Majesty that we will defend Your reign from foreign enemies and support You in maintaining the Constitution of the realm and preserving internal peace. We will resist the desperate purposes of those who would introduce the miseries now prevalent in France.
Sat 21st Feb 1795
London news, 14th July:
The following were created peers at the recent levee:
Earl of Upper Ossory becomes Baron Ossory; Lord Mulgrave is Baron Mulgrave; Sir Thomas Dundas is Baron Dundas; Sir H Bridgman is Baron Bradford; Sir J Peachey is Baron Silsea; Mr Ellis is Baron Mendip; Mr Pelham Baron Yerborough; Mr Curzon is Baron Curzon; Sir A Hood is Baron Bridport (Irish).
Sat 28th Feb 1795
George III has made Lord Clive a peer of the realm. Admirals Bowyer, Gardner, Pasley and Curtis are made baronets. The Earls of Chesterfield and Leicester are made Postmasters General. Sir A S Hammond is Comptroller of the Navy. Burke gets a pension of £1,200 per year which is transferable to his wife if she outlives him.
Sat 9th May 1795
The Civil List provided by the minister for the Prince of Wales is £150,000 per annum of which £50,000 is earmarked for the settlement of outstanding debts.
Sat 4th July 1795
Dublin Castle 24th Nov 1794 – Thomas Graves and Sir Alexander Hood have been made hereditary barons in the Irish peerage. They are both admirals of the Blue Squadron.
Sat 12th Sept 1795
Letter to the Editor – The Duke of York has circulated Colonels of H M’s regiments enquiring how many captains they have under 12 years of age and how many Lt Colonels under 18 years of age.
It is not a confusion of age with years of service. It reveals the venal effects of patronage on the King’s army. Veteran officers cannot afford to buy rank whilst these sons of nobles can.
Sat 28th Nov 1795
The House of Commons was cleared of strangers on 1st June before a letter from Prince of Wales concerning his debts was read.
J Anstruther, the Prince’s Treasurer, said ‘We need to support the dignity and splendour of the Crown; French influence was causing a degradation of the institution of monarchy”.
Pitt said the Commons regarded the House of Brunswick with affection and loyalty but also felt a duty to the British people. Some restriction of the Prince’s income would be necessary to discharge old debts.
Duncombe said scarcity was developing, the middle class cannot get all its usual goods, the poor are barely subsisting. If the Prince is pleading poverty he should ask his Dad for a loan.
Curwen thought George III should contribute something to the general settlement of the Prince’s debts.
Charles Grey thought the Prince’s private debts were of no concern to parliament.
Dundas said it was inappropriate to ask George III to rob his Hanoverian subjects in order to pay the debts of the heir to the British throne.
Anstruther said the Duchy of Cornwall was formerly a perquisite of the eldest surviving son of the Monarch. If the Prince of Wales dies it will belong to the Duke of York. It is not personal property.
Lambton said the monarchy was a national asset. All the millions for the war, all the subsidies and loans, were to protect the Constitution, secure public happiness and tranquillity and destroy French principles.
Sumner thought the Prince’s annual establishment of £125,000 was enough.
Sat 2nd Jan 1796
On 5th June, the House of Commons debated the Prince of Wales’ debts. Sheridan provided the background:
On George III’s accession he was voted £800,000 a year and he personally assured parliament that he would not overstep that limit. To insure he performed his agreement, an Act was passed disbarring ministers from receiving their salaries until all other claims on the Civil List had been discharged. Since that assurance was given, a debt has accumulated in the Civil List which, with compound interest, is now £7 millions.
When the establishment of the Prince was first discussed, the Duke of Portland, then as now a minister, thought £100,000 was appropriate. George III disagreed and got it halved. Very soon the Prince was in debt and his debts have continued to increase over time.
In 1787 we voted £160,000 for the Prince of which £60,000 was for Carlton House. A one-off payment of £80,000 was voted for fitting-out the residence. All the money he has received from us averages just over £75,000 a year; a good deal less than ministers originally thought fit.
That year (1787) a pledge was wrung from the Prince to incur no more debts. It was actually not the Prince’s pledge but the King’s who put it in his annual message. No-one knows who put the pledge in the King’s speech (i.e. the King or Wm Pitt, his Minister). The extravagance of Carlton House was condoned by ministers who forced through a Bill deeming the palace a public work so it could not be distrained by the Prince’s creditors.
In 1792 Lord Thurlow obtained the agreement of the Prince of Wales that he would retire from public life and liquidate his debts. He was required to ‘promise’ to not apply to parliament for funds. He agreed he would not involve himself in party politics or permit his financial embarrassment to influence his political views. This contract was approved by the House of Commons in autumn of 1792 but was never actioned. At about the same time the Prince of Wales accepted a loan from M. Égalité.
Some of his debts are to tradesmen who should be paid. Others are to staff on his establishment, some of whom have not been paid for 3½ years. The Prince may not need more money at all but simply a better financial manager.
In the last reign the privy purse was £36,000 a year. At the beginning of George III’s reign it was £48,000. In 1777 the debts of the Civil List were paid off and £100,000 was added annually. The privy purse became £60,000 and the Queen’s establishment was increased to £50,000. All the King’s and Queen’s houses and villas were completed and decorated by the nation. As they did not use their own money, they must be flush with cash.
Sheridan proposed docking £10,000 a year from the King, £5,000 a year from the Queen and terminating those sinecures that required no work to the extent of another £10,000 a year. He would not displace the holders whilst in office but cancel the sinecures as they fell vacant. This would create a fund to top-up the Prince’s income to the £100,000 originally thought appropriate.
Dundas replied that Sheridan merely sought to destroy the independence of the King and his proposals were foolish.
Fox wondered why Dundas found the granting of any assistance from the Civil List to be improper.
Sat 30th July 1796
House of Commons, 26th November – A debate was held today on Justice John Reeves’ pamphlet ‘Thoughts on the English Government’ which is said by the opposition Whigs to libel the Constitution:
Reeves is described as the Chairman of all the political societies that the ministry supports. He is a JP. The costs of all his publications are paid by government.
The instant pamphlet says that all liberty depends on the King; the rule of law depends on the King. The events of 1688 were a chimera; they were not a real Revolution – the involved dissenters were the enemies of the King. All Whigs are either bribed by the King or are threatening Him through the seditious societies. They all meditate the King’s removal. He says that the Houses of Commons and Lords might easily be closed and the King would still govern well. His Majesty makes law and executes it. The Reformation accords with French principles. Those dissenters should have been annihilated, he says.
Sheridan categorised the pamphlet as libellous. The charges against Dr Sacheverall had established the nature of events in 1688 (Sacheverall was convicted and prevented from writing for two years). It was that Revolution that seated the Hanoverians on the throne. He thought the pamphlet was published merely to strengthen the hand of the Crown.
He mentioned another pamphlet ‘The example of France, a warning to Britain’ by Arthur Young as example. (Young is the Secretary of the Agriculture Board – a position annually elected – and thereby a government pensioner). Young’s pamphlet was commended by Reeves to members of all his Societies.
Young holds that the House of Commons is corrupt and bribery is essential to its continuance while Reeves would abandon the whole Constitution and make Parliament and Jurymen subservient to the King. It is true the King makes peers and the minister pays them but Young adds that the representatives in the Commons are not actually representative. He says the House of Commons is a creation of the King and is not responsible to the people. Corruption is the oil that makes parliament work.
Secretary Young formerly promoted parliamentary reform but was now paid by the minister. He decries rotten boroughs, corrupt representatives and selfish ministers. He says the ministerial system is extravagant and the Courts are prodigal – do away with them. The Constitution comes from the King; the nobility is created by the King and these two are the father and mother of the people. No notice need be taken of this pamphleteer were it not that he is in the pay of Pitt and his Societies, he said.
Sheridan noted that the accumulation of private wealth in England had never been so great but capitalists exhibited neither public spirit nor virtue and this was the cause of the corrupt state of the nation. If England should fall it would not be the result of a want of funds but a want of national spirit and an indifference to public corruption. He concluded that the facts surrounding Sacheverall’s case were the proper guide for parliamentary action in this case.
The Solicitor General and Attorney General both declined to comment, supposing that they might become professionally involved later.
Erskine said the instant pamphlet was quite different to Stockdale’s book (on which the House had approved prosecution). This was not an attack on the House of Commons or its individual members but against its existence. He thought it required the House to act.
Windham, for the ministry, thought the book harmless. Its all a matter of intention. He did not know the author but he recalled the democrats had been found innocent by the Judge although thought guilty by the people (due to the legal difficulty of establishing a suspect’s intentions). He thought it had not been written with criminal intent – there might be errors of judgment, that’s all. The legal significance of 1688 was obscure. He disbelieved the popular supposition that the King held office by the choice of the people. That opinion would be a better subject for prosecution than these pamphlets, he thought.
Pitt thought the pamphleteer guilty. The Constitution allows a mixed monarchy. No King could now rule England alone.
Wilberforce said the House should at least disapprove the book.
Hardinge said he thought the book was a gross libel on the House but not on the Constitution.
Fox thought the intention of the book was to bring both Houses into contempt and to set up the King alone as an alternative form of government. He suspected the Secretary at War Windham of partiality to the principles advocated in the book.
It was agreed to identify the author conclusively and question him at the bar of the House.
Sat 6th August 1796
Reeves’ ‘Thoughts on the English Government’ has been examined by a Select Committee of the House.
Wm Augustus Miles said he read the pamphlet and first drew Pitt’s attention to it (Pitt said he had not had time to read it). Miles was sure Reeves was the author. He wrote Reeves that ‘it was more prejudicial to government than all the works of Thewell and that group. Thomas Wright, the owner of the concerned printing house, declined to identify his client on the grounds that its bad for business. He agreed that a correction in the pamphlet’s wording had been made by Reeves. Jones, who is Wright’s proof-reader, confirmed Reeves was the author.
Reeves is John Reeves, Chairman of The Association for Protecting the Liberty and Property of Subjects against Republicans and Levellers and several other political associations. The Select Committee report has characterised the pamphlet as a seditious libel and a breach of the privileges of the House.
Before the examination of Reeves commenced, Owen MP was accused of not surrendering Reeves to due process. He agreed the function of Reeves’ Societies was to bring the Lords and Commons into contempt and to raise the King as the sole government of England. Reeves asserted the protection of liberty and property, an alluring prospect, but actually promoted a change of government. He thought Reeves dangerous on two grounds – first he had this ability to circulate opinions and secondly he had the ear of both the Secretary and the Solicitor of the Treasury. The seditious tendency of the pamphlet was apparent from a single sentence – ‘…. corrupt Courts, rotten boroughs and the corruption of ministers increased in proportion to their Power, as they had always more to sell and less to buy.’ The pamphlet could be the ‘opening shot’ in an initiative to establish a military despotism in these islands, he thought.
Sheridan said he had papers in his possession proving a connection between Reeves’ Society and the State trials. He noted Reeves was a JP and held magisterial powers. Suppose a public meeting was to be held under the proposed new law and the application for a permit made to Reeves (whom Windham had eulogised in a former session) or someone like him. It was people like Reeves who procured the recent sedition trials. In 1792 it had been Reeves who raised the alarm through his many Associations, and convinced the Duke of Richmond to reinforce the Tower. It appeared to be Reeves who initiated the alarm of ministers and caused the oppressive legislation that ensued. Many people had been imprisoned for long periods without trial. Others had been gaoled or transported. It now appears that this has all been caused by the one man Reeves.
Sheridan wanted him prosecuted. He requested the hangman perform a public burning of the book; he also called for an Address to the King to remove Reeves from state employment and he wanted Reeves brought to the bar of the House to be reprimanded rather than gaoled.
Bombay Courier Editor – the rest of the newspaper report on this debate is unavailable.
Sat 3rd Sept 1796
The House of Commons, 4th March:
The Lords have agreed to a request of the Commons to vote the King £2.5 millions for this year.
Sat 13th Jan 1798
Fox has given his opinion, in seconding a motion of Charles Grey, on the reform of elections. Here it is:
People paying ‘Scot and Lot’ (householders) are the appropriate people to have the franchise. I deprecate universal franchise – it prevents the deliberative voice being heard. One does not augment the deliberative body of the people by counting all the heads. You merely confer the numbers on the people without the necessary deliberative content supporting their views.
The best plan of representation is the one that brings forth the greatest number of independent thinkers. I should prefer to grant the franchise to women than to the population at large. Their mental powers, acquirements, discrimination and talents are as ours. Their interests are as dear to them as ours. Superior women are more capable of discharging the responsibility of the vote than the uninformed men who cry for universal suffrage. It is the Law of Nations, and perhaps the Law of Nature, that assures they are not empowered.
Our concern is to increase the numbers of independent voices. This does not require voting soldiers or servants. The perfect representation includes independent thinkers and excludes mindless dependants.
If we enfranchise each of the householders in the country it will produce some 600,000 voters and give every MP a constituency of about 1,500. That is enough to diminish bribery at elections to a tolerable level. A second means of enforcing honesty on MPs would be shortening the length of each parliament.
It has long been a question in this House how far a representative should be bound by the instructions of his constituents. I am myself unsure but I feel, as representatives are legislating for the Empire, they should not be altogether guided by instructions based solely on local interest. If the Member represents a populous city, it is arguable that he should follow his own conscience; but if he represents a Lord or Duke, he is honour-bound to promote the interests of his master for he has no opinion, no discretion and no liberty apart from his Lord. That is the present philosophy of this House. Is this fair? May a Member oppose the wishes of his constituents with honour, but not his Lord? This is the tyranny of corruption that we call parliamentary representation.
The country members are in thrall to the powerful land-owning families. They have all been diverted from the representation of their constituents to the side of the King. Every representative of counties, corporations and boroughs is similarly diverted.
Pitt, in the course of his administration, has so far made 115 Peers – some are new creations, others elevations. It is a nice question how many of these are for service to the nation and how many for parliamentary control. The people well know what is going on and I wonder how long they will endure it. Sir James Mackintosh’s able book on the French Revolution was quoted by Hawkesbury to support his opinion that the Primary Elections in that country would lead to the evil of universal suffrage. Now there is one Right of Man that all in this House will assert – that is the right to be well-governed. People are unlikely to endorse a representation from which they are excluded.
In Scotland the state of representation is monstrous. Its only benefit is that, by comparison, it makes our defective system appear more tolerable. There is no representative element in Scottish elections. Voting rights are vested in ‘superiorities’ and it is quite conceivable that Scottish MPs might be sent down here without the owner of a single foot of land supporting them. In Scottish boroughs the magistrates are self-elected so the MP has no duty to the townspeople.
It should be lucidly apparent that parliament requires reform. Without it, there will be increasing calamities and everything could be overthrown. Parliamentary reform is the only means of addressing popular grievances.
We taxed America on the grounds the colonists were virtually represented in the same way as Manchester and Birmingham, etc. (the new industrial towns set-up where no tithes were payable and thus lacking political representation) – look where that got us! An experiment in reform can hardly cause a deterioration in our position. What advantages would we lose? Look at the evil that has fallen on Ireland. A little reform will attract the moderates, increase their numbers and decrease the numbers of those who oppose us with violence.
Those who support the present disastrous war say we reformers are causing mischief and should be gone. This House has confided in the Minister and supported him. Members have not considered their individual liability after seeing the transparent failure of his policies. I have discharged my duty and would enjoy devoting more time to private pursuits. It is still possible for this House to obtain the grace and favour of the people by a spontaneous act of reform. We will inevitably have to do so sooner or later. The alternative will be to have reform extorted from us by violence.
Some say there is more liberty now than hitherto and the people ought to be content. I agree that liberty has gained but centralised power has gained more. The encroachments of autocracy have everywhere progressed throughout the course of the present reign. All virtuous public men (Sir George Savile, Lord Rockingham, Camden) have advocated popular rights. They saw the secret advisers to the King advance His power and obstruct any ministry that did not submit to His requirements. The constant theme of this reign has been the aggrandisement of the monarchy and the diminution of the people. In the course of this reign only three administrations supported popular aspirations and they lasted totally 24 months. For the rest of the long period, each ministry has been hand-in-glove with the King.
The evils we have seen in Ireland will come here too unless we act responsibly. The few dissenters today will become many tomorrow and then we will have to pay for our pride. Members may recall a noble lord saying about France ‘What! Shall we negotiate with regicides, shall we go to Paris and ask to be on good terms with such people?’ Well, now we have negotiated with France.
Can we continue to be blind to the events that have occurred? Our pride, obstinacy and insults must end in concessions and they will require humility. Can we conquer our own passions? Those evil ministers who have brought us to this must make way for a ministry that can reform the legislature and conciliate the people.
Wed 31st Jan 1798 Extraordinary
Scotland is disturbed by the Militia Act – there are occasional street riots. Ireland is under military government. In England the people are deeply unhappy too.
Parliament is supposed to reconvene on 2nd November.
Pitt says he needs an extra £40 millions to fund next year’s war. He proposes to borrow £25 millions and raise the rest in taxes.
3% consols fell to 47½ / 49 on the news – investing capitalists are less numerous as they evaluate the risks and benefits of support. The opposition scents weakness and is expected to attack as soon as parliament reconvenes.
Wed 31st Jan 1798 Extraordinary
Lord Mornington (in the Irish peerage) is appointed to replace Sir John Shore as Governor-General of India. He was concurrently elevated to Baron Wellesley of Somerset in the English peerage on 10th Oct 1797.
At the same time Sir Gilbert Elliot was made Baron of Minto in County Roxburgh in recognition of his services in bringing Corsica into the British Empire. Numerous other elevations of the King’s friends were made at the same time.
Sat 9th June 1798
The core of the oligarchy ruling England with the King is:
1/ William Pitt, Chancellor of the Exchequer
2/ William Cavendish-Bentinck, 3rd Duke of Portland, as Home Secretary,
3/ George John, 2nd Earl Spencer, commanding the Admiralty,
4/ William Wyndham, Lord Grenville, responsible for foreign affairs and
5/ William Windham, War Minister.
Sat 9th June 1798
The traders and merchant bankers of London have met at the Bank of England to organise a voluntary subscription for the war effort. A committee was formed comprised of Directors of the Bank and India Company and all the Aldermen of the City.
Bosanquet (a Bank Director) addressed the meeting on the need to raise funds against an implacable foe.
When the subscription book was opened The King paid £20,000. Boyd (of Boyd Benfield & Co – see the Economy chapter for details) signed-up for £3,000. A & B Goldsmid signed-up to pay £1,500 annually. Angerstein paid £2,000. Each cabinet minister will pay £2,000. A total of £46,524 was quickly raised.
A further £20,000 was later pledged at the Mansion House.
By Friday night the promised subscriptions totalled £512,000 and yesterday a further £100,000 was added, mostly from aristocrats.
Sat 7th July 1798
The absence of the liberal Whigs from the Commons has exposed the spectator role of the country MPs to legislation, a few of whom have been galvanised into proposing a new ministry. Here is the Earl of Moira’s reply to Lt Col McMahon, 15th June 1797:
Concerning the recent political negotiations for the formation of a new ministry in London, it has been rumoured that I favour a coalition. I do not agree to be a principal mover in political initiatives. My views are private.
A group of independent MPs approached me before Easter. They said a considerable number of their independent colleagues, who routinely voted with government, had been alarmed by the difficulties which the country was facing. They said they thought those difficulties would increase unless a change of ministry occurred, as a first step. They wanted me to front their opposition and offered to follow my lead and give me their parliamentary votes. Their intent was to form a populist administration.
I also recognised the danger Britain faces. But their plan required we overthrow both Pitt’s group and Fox’s. I told then they would have to ally with Fox if they were to have any prospect of success. They would only need to fix a limit on the extent of measures that Fox was likely to promote when in power. They told me they had hitherto been so strongly opposed to Fox that no accommodation was conceivable. I commended them to reconsider as there was no alternative.
Then I left town.
Whilst away, the state of national affairs continued to deteriorate and the same group of MPs wrote to me again. I returned to London and met them but their repugnance of Fox was insuperable. They said it did not matter – the concerns of MPs had become so generally felt that Pitt could be overwhelmed without Fox’s support. They produced a very long list of MPs who would support a new administration and, if they all came up to proof, it was a majority. They said all the people on the list were prepared to serve under me. I did not want to be chief of a party. I would not do it unless the King ordered me to or the public sufficiently indicated that it was the general wish.
I had the impression that Fox was aware of the initiative, saw it was in the national interest, and would do nothing to prevent it as his acts are always primarily for the good of the country. That was certainly a strong support for the independents. I wondered if they could expect Pitt to have the same elevated view as Fox and step aside. One of them said, if Pitt and Grenville would step aside, the rest of the cabinet were acceptable as colleagues.
None of the group has expressed a wish for a particular office except Sir William Pulteney who wanted to be Chancellor of the Exchequer. I told him there was no-one better suited! Lord Thurlow expected an unspecified cabinet position as well. It occurred to me that if the three of us joined the cabinet and Pitt and Grenville went out, it would be insufficiently different to assure the public that a genuine change in direction had occurred. I saw it as fundamental that public confidence should underwrite our administration.
In any event I could never work with the Duke of Portland (William Henry Cavendish-Bentinck, 3rd Duke of Portland) – he has single-handedly done more damage to the Constitution than any other man. When he accepted office under Pitt, it was apparent that either all his prior calls for Constitutional reform were sophistry or that he readily waived them for a promise of office. I do not wish to be fixed with the same imputation of moral laxity.
On thinking it over I concluded that I could be of no use to the country in the way proposed by the independents. My preference was for them to form an alliance with Fox. But he had indicated, by his secession, that he would not hinder their attempts to form a new ministry. And they said to me that provided I would be responsible to them for measures, I might take whoever I chose. The plan I chose for the management of the country was precisely that of the independents.
Finally I required the King’s consent to three measures – immediate peace with France; a just and mild government in Ireland and a full disclosure of our financial difficulties (to justify the heavy contributions imperatively required to restore the national credit). I told the independents that I would not support any changes in the Royal Household, the Post Office, the Mint or any other office not directly under the minister’s control. They agreed. I also told them I would not associate with any party – I would merely serve for as long as the King or parliament thought appropriate. I declined to remain in London as I wished to avoid any charge of political intrigue.
I am telling you all this so you may contradict any contrary information you hear. You may show this letter to any respectable man of any party. I have nothing to hide. You say Sheridan is accused of abandoning Fox and wishing to start a new administration. Sheridan is a straightforward and upright man. Fox’s friends say they will support a change of ministry but want no part in it. They feel acceptance of office would indicate their acquiescence to the interdict that is fixed on Fox. I do not admit the fairness of that argument. I believe the entire political negotiation is at an end and I feel I have escaped a hazardous and unpleasant situation.
(McMahon showed this letter to Fox who merely replied that Moira is an honourable and judicious man for whom he has a great esteem.)
Sat 1st Sept 1798
When George III became incensed with Fox last season, he ask ministers what he could do to ‘rid himself of this troublesome man’ and was advised that he alone hired and fired Privy Councillors. It appears this power had been hitherto unknown to the King throughout his long reign.
Fox’s name was then struck-off the list of Privy Councillors by the King and an Advice sent to the watchman of the Chamber to exclude Fox when he turned-up for a meeting. The doorkeeper was instructed to say ‘I do not find your name on the list’ – just as Lord North had advised Fox when he had been denied a ministry by the King in 1774.
That former act was later reversed by parliament but times change.
Having learned his power over Privy Councillors, the King continued to peruse their names in the list and also struck-off the Duke of Devonshire. The Duke had opposed the policy of Lord Bute and stopped attending Council meetings.
Sat 6th Oct 1798
Reeves, Williamson and Adamson were hanged on the public scaffold at Newgate on 6th June. Reeves and Williamson were manly but Adamson had taken a preparatory draught of opium and could hardly stand up. Two men had to carry him to the scaffold. Some 10,000 spectators turned-up for the event.
These are the men who forged some of the Bank of England’s new small notes. Some people say the simplicity of these notes is an allurement to their forgery and a lot more lives will have to be taken if the advantage of paper money is to be continued to government.
Sat 20th Oct 1798
House of Commons, 16th May – A Bill to compel merchant ships to accept convoy was introduced. The Bill requiring they pay for naval protection will come later.
Rose of the Admiralty said most British losses at sea were of unconvoyed ships – this Bill will force them to accept convoy. It requires a ship leaving port without convoy to have a licence of the Admiralty. The proposal had the support of the City, it just required parliamentary sanction.
Tierney complained. Pitt had only said he planned something like this to raise a revenue of £1.5 millions a year. He did not give details. Now he is away and you are pushing through the Bill.
Dundas said the traders had offered to pay the tax. Exposing one’s insurers to risk and enriching the enemy when captured were events that the Bill sought to avoid.
Baring (Sir Francis) thought the merchants could themselves solve their problems. Our trade had been well protected. Why propose new convoys to raise a new tax. Our manufacturers have found all sorts of novel ways to force their trade into Europe. If they are captured the insurer pays and the merchant’s capital is replenished.
Dundas said Baring was confused – if British merchantmen are armed they will no longer be able to get their goods into France.
Peel said free trade is prosperous trade. The less regulation the better. But for the time being the Bill was useful as any losses we sustain must be advantages to the enemy. The object is to diminish French capital whilst increasing our own.
Rose said the tax on trade was required as a war tax. Once the war was ended the tax would be too. Initially the ministry had thought that 2½% of invoice value was appropriate. Then manufacturers supplying Europe said it handicapped them and he would only look for ½% on the contraband trade to Europe. Exports to America and West Indies would pay 2%; Ireland and India 3%. It would apply to imports from West Indies of cotton, indigo, sugar and coffee and on East India goods that competed with British home produce. American tobacco and rice would be exempted as we monopolise their import here. Tobacco and sugar exports from England would be taxed at 2½% as we have a monopoly of the colonial supply and all Europe must buy from London.
The enabling Act would also introduce a tonnage tax on the ship on a scale of 6d per ton to 4/- per ton depending on destination. He said the reorganised tax would produce over £1.3 millions a year. He thought reduced insurance premiums would balance the tax and the committee of merchants he had consulted was deliriously happy.
Edwards wanted to know on what rate the tax would be applied. The Customs deem values which are greater (sometimes double) the market price. If the Customs’ ‘deemed value’ is used, the tax will in some cases be 5% of value on imports.
Rose said a tariff of values would be agreed with the merchants. No second duty was payable except on export of our sugar and tobacco monopolies. Once any other goods had been imported and paid relevant Customs duty they might be exported tax-free.
Peel said our cotton manufacturers pay duty of 75% and should not be cramped.
Sat 10th Nov 1798
House of Commons – Dundas is in difficulties again. He has picked six militia regiments for Ireland which will be a great money-spinner for their proprietors. A host of MPs have formed regiments in expectation of employment. They want to know what the criteria for selection were and why they were not picked.
Lord Malden said he had offered his regiment for service in any part of Europe but had not been selected.
Dundas said only those regiments specifically offering to serve in Ireland had been chosen – it is a special case.
Malden said there was no rebellion in Ireland when he offered his regiment.
Discontent was widespread and the Speaker had to call the House to order.
General Tarleton, MP for Liverpool, said he hoped his comments on the unconstitutional nature of the use of militia had not exposed him to a charge of treason or sedition as had become customary in respect of people differing with the ministry.
He described Dundas as the ‘War Minister’ and said if he continues in office he will undo the country. He adverted to the army expenses and noted that after spending £15 millions we had an army of only 37,000 regular effectives. Given the 1,300 men lost at Ostend (Capt Popham’s raid to open the sluices and flood the country) he thought the country was exposed to danger and he continued to oppose the transport of 12,000 militia to Ireland.
Dundas expostulated ‘Tarleton may be a General but my advice comes from Generals too’. Dundas got his advice from Sir Charles Grey and Sir W Howe. He said there was more than the regular army to defend England – some 40,000 volunteers had been trained for three years and would be as good as regulars, so he was told.
Jekyll said that all parliament knew was that a force of 80,000 British troops had so far failed to make an impression on the half-armed peasantry of Ireland. He would not speculate on what 12,000 militia might achieve. Within this last week we have seen incomes taxed, the repeal of Habeas Corpus extended, press censorship introduced and parliament misled about the failure of Popham’s raid. Nothing more could surprise him.
Dundas then moved the standing order evicting strangers from the House, the news reporters were removed and further information is unavailable.
Wed 21st Nov 1798 Extraordinary
The new import / export duties commence on 13th July. By arrangement with the insurance industry a warranty has been added to the standard marine policy saying that any ship sailing without convoy breaches its insurance cover. British manufactured cotton exports are exempt; all others pay on export.
The following new convoy duties are applied to imports. French brandy 2¼d per gallon; wines 16/6d – 78/- per ton; timber 3% of value; yarn 3/- per lb; dressed flax 21/- per ton and hemp 19/3d per ton, etc.
Sat 16th March 1799
The result of the numerous promotions and advancements that the ministry has made annually to secure the loyalty of the armed forces is revealed. There are now 1,863 general and field officers in the British army, viz 6 field marshals, 289 generals, 325 colonels, 648 lieutenant colonels and 595 majors.
Sat 1st June 1799
The following item of British news was reported on the continent:
The Suspension of Habeas Corpus is continued for another 6 months to May 1799.
The liberal Whigs in opposition no longer refer to the Constitutional derogation, they just enquire into the conditions of the political prisoners in preventive detention.
Editions of the Bombay Courier for the second half of 1799 and all 1800 are missing from the British Library collection.
Sat 25th April 1801
Cornwallis has been created Duke of Suffolk.
Sat 2nd May 1801
32 Irish peers have joined the British House of Lords. There are already 40 Irish peers in the British House (Irish peerages awarded to English owners of Irish land). 94 Irish MPs, including Viscount Castlereagh, have also joined the British House of Commons.
Sat 26th Sept 1801
The government has made and published a calculation of its costs of tax collection. It works out at 6½d per Pound Sterling assessed (2.7%).
Sat 10th April 1802
Prince Augustus Frederick has been made a British peer as Baron Arcklow, Earl of Inverness and Duke of Sussex.
Prince Adolphus Frederick also has three new additional titles – Baron Culloden, Earl of Tipperary and Duke of Cambridge.
Sat 22nd May 1802
Addington has succeeded in snatching Hanover from Prussian jaws. It is now rumoured that George III wants Hamburg added to Hanover and Joseph Bonaparte is agreeable to compromise.
If the King can add Hamburg to Bremen, which is already under his jurisdiction, He will add the trade of the Elbe to the trade of the Weser and the Brunswick family will profit more greatly from European commerce.
Sat 5th June 1802
The House of Commons discussed the Civil List on 2nd Feb.
Pitt had mentioned selling some of the King’s estates to pay-off the encumbrances on the Civil List. He said there were difficulties in effecting the arrangement.
Canning asked when the matter would be discussed in the Commons.
Pitt said the arrears on the Civil List were huge but he thought they could be discharged without an increase in taxation by selling the King’s estates on St Vincent’s in the Caribbean. The King’s other estates in West Indies should not be disturbed.
Sat 19th June 1802
- The demand for the abolition of Income Tax continues and the ministry has said it will consider it once the budget estimates are prepared.
- The Chancellor of the Exchequer is considering a reduction of the Excise duty on paper to restore the former great circulation of the London Press.
Sat 7th Aug 1802
The odious Income Tax was repealed at end March 1802 once the definitive peace treaty was received and ratified. That is a true blessing of peace.
Sat 14th Aug 1802
The House of Lords is trying to limit the numbers of Irish Peers now eligible for membership. Ireland has 38 seats in the new Imperial House of Lords. A good many Irish Peers are Englishmen.
Lord Auckland feels an Irish Peer who has neither investment nor estate in Ireland is merely a titular Peer. He should not be permitted to send a proxy to London for election as a parliamentary Peer. Such a concession should be confined to real Irish Peers resident in Ireland.
But even real Irish Peers are having difficulty gaining acceptance at the House of Lords. The 4th clause of the Act of Union provides that no Irish Peer may vote at the election of another Irish Peer to the United Parliament unless he has formerly sat in the Irish Parliament or has the approval of the English House of Lords to vote.
The Act does not indicate the principles on which the merits of Irish Peers are to be assessed. The difficulty came to light in the cases of those Irish Peers who have succeeded hereditarily to their titles but have not been recognised by the English House of Lords. The English Peers want them to come before the bar of the House of Lords and prove their claims, and until they do, they continue disqualified from voting.
Another doubt concerns those titles that are in abeyance but have not been declared extinct.
Sat 4th Sept 1802
Parliament is using the peace of Amiens to involve itself in settling the claim of George, Prince of Wales, to the income of the Stannaries (the tin and copper mines of Cornwall). It has been withheld from the Prince Royal all his life but previously formed part of the Heir Apparent’s income.
Manners-Sutton has asked the House of Commons to resume paying the Cornish revenues to the Prince of Wales:
The King’s heir George, Prince of Wales, should have received an income from the Duchy of Cornwall. His title to it derives from a Grant of Edward III to his son, the Black Prince, to maintain that Prince in the dignity that was his due. At that time, Cornwall was the most productive of all the King’s dominions.
Prince George has only received a part of that income. He is due a part from birth to his coming of age and another larger part from then until 5th June 1795.
George III has been managing the revenues of Cornwall. He was entitled to do so until the Prince attained maturity but has continued to do so ever since. None of the Cornish revenues are said to have been received by the King (Pitt says the money is in the Treasury).
The Black Prince had it for 40 years; His son, Richard, had it; Henry IV gave it to his eldest son and in Henry VI’s reign an Act of Parliament was passed granting part of the revenue to the eldest son, then 10 years old, and the residue to the Royal Household. In 1459 a petition was presented by the then Prince of Wales asserting his right to all the Cornish revenue. Then in 1472 Edward IV granted them in their entirety to his eldest son under a patent that fully expressed the Prince’s rights and was ratified by House of Lords and House of Commons. Arthur was born in 1486 and got it from birth. Henry VIII got it as soon as Arthur died. His son Edward VI got it too but he and the subsequent reigns of Mary and Elizabeth produced no heir and consequently had no Duke of Cornwall.
It was James I who first sought to alter the historical arrangements. He wanted the revenue for himself but ultimately was persuaded to give it to his son Henry. When Henry died young it might have passed to his younger brother the then Duke of York but James I argued that he was not filius primogenitus and thus unqualified to receive it. The King’s opinion was judicially considered and the decision went against him.
When the House of Brunswick assumed the British throne, George I’s son and successor was 30 years old and he started to receive it. When he became King, Frederick was under age and no right was passed to him but he received an account of the sums due from the period of his notional right (until he came of age). In 1760 George III ascended the throne (who as a grandson had never had the benefit of the Cornish revenues) and in 1762 his son George was born Duke of Cornwall and was entitled to the revenue. His right was recognised by Act of Parliament when he was 6 years old (a 1768 Act permitting the King to grant leases in Cornwall during the Prince’s minority). Accordingly, the Prince’s title to the revenues may be established at law. Since 1768, all the profits of the Duchy have been paid into the Public revenue except for two sums of £12,000 and £16,000. The Prince wants parliament to consider this matter because the public is commenting unfavourably on his debts and he wishes it understood why he has difficulty making ends meet.
Manners-Sutton proposed a Select Committee should consider the matter and rule on the amounts due to the Prince. The Prince is willing to allow parliament to settle this matter and record the amounts due to his creditors in an Act of Parliament that will provide a basis for distributing the fund.
Fuller said that in 1692 when Humphrey Morris, a member of the Commons, was appointed Warden of the Stannaries, the House of Commons considered whether his appointment required him to vacate his seat in House of Commons. They concluded it did not because Cornwall revenue was the property of the Prince of Wales not the King so there was no conflict of interest.
Pitt said Fuller’s advice did not settle the matter because members accepting offices under the Duchy of Lancaster, which revenues belong to the King, did not resign their seats either. Pitt thought the Prince was not entitled to the revenue from his birth although he might have a historical right to it. He objected to a Committee asserting the right to both enquire and to appropriate revenues – its unprecedented. Manners-Sutton’s review left out two centuries of important developments during which parliament was empowered by the Bill of Rights and the Act of Settlement. Prior to those Constitutional enactments there were all sorts of peculiar activities but since then the Cornish revenues were clearly a matter for parliament. Pitt said he had traced £94,000 paid out of the Cornish revenue during Prince George’s minority by warrants of the Lord of the Treasury and this sum was applied to the Civil List for Special Services (a slush fund). He calculated the Prince had received £128,420 in his minority from the Civil List and extraordinaries of £50,552 during 12 years. The balance of the Cornish revenues due to him was a considerable sum but he himself could find no trace of parliamentary approval for payments of the revenue to the Prince (as is required under the Constitution since the House of Brunswick assumed the Crown). On the other hand the Prince’s allowances had manifestly been inadequate and should be increased.
Another MP noted that when this House passed a Bill in 1795 appointing Commissioners to superintend the liquidation of the Prince’s debts, it did not include the recovery of his receipts from Cornwall. It was then considered to be a matter of law for the Courts below. It was supposed that if the Prince had a claim of right, the money was his, if not, he should get nothing. The King took the revenues during the Prince’s minority. He asked ‘are we now to call the King to account to a Committee of this House for his expenditure’? The House of Commons should not become a collection agency. Its a property dispute and should go to the Courts. We may then have the King contending with his son in a public court but we should not get involved.
Fox said the committee to be appointed was merely to determine a matter of fact i.e. who spent the Cornish revenues, the King or the Treasury? As for the Prince’s right to the revenue there was no question. If we wish to be non-contentious, we might simply calculate the revenues of Cornwall during the Prince’s minority and consider how it is to be paid. If the King declined to be accountable (as is His prerogative), it was clearly a matter for legislative intervention. The Constitutional separation of judicial and legislative authority was important but it should not cause manifest miscarriages of justice.
Its not good enough to tell the Prince that his money has been received but the King does not have to answer for it. If the Treasury had the money and has not spent it, the Prince should be repaid. We should not be playing this game of requiring him to find it without telling him what we have done with it. The Prince has applied to parliament for help and Pitt tells him to ‘go away’. The King says he funded the Prince’s childhood, his board and lodging and education, which should be deducted from the Cornish revenues, and, once they are, he says there is little left. That’s nonsense. He provided the same funding for the Duke of York (George III’s 2nd son) who has the revenues of the Bishopric of Osnaburg from which British Estates have been bought for him. If the King could act correctly to his second son, why not to the first?
Fox thought there were three courses of action open to the House of Commons – if a majority think the Prince has the right, he should be paid; if a majority are uncertain, we should investigate; if a majority think he does not have the right, we should give him our reasons.
Hawkesbury said the King received the money and he should account for it.
Sheridan said it was embarrassing to the Prince. Government officials had been settling his creditors with deals that tax-off 10% of the debt for instant payment ‘take it or leave it’.
Pitt said the creditors were offered interest payments on their debts whilst the matter was being examined but most had wanted cash and had accepted the offer of 90% full and final.
The House then voted on Manners-Sutton’s motion 103 / 160 and it was rejected.
The King-in-Council subsequently referred the matter to the Court of Chancery for a decision. The Lord Chancellor responded by calling a meeting of the twelve Chancery judges to decide what to do. The resolution of this claim is expected to require many private meetings and consultations.
Sat 11th Sept 1802
The Prince of Wales, on being rebuffed by the House of Commons in his claim to the Cornish revenues, took the matter to the Court of Chancery as recommended. The proceedings are not published but he is rumoured to have succeeded.
Sat 11th Sept 1802
Another huge number of senior army and navy officers are given promotion in London. It is a discordant thing when we are moving to a peacetime economy.
Wed 20th Oct 1802 Extraordinary
The daily rates of half-pay in the navy have been reviewed. They apply to all warrant officers and above. Admirals get from £1 – £3; Captains get 8/- to 12/-. Commanders get 6/6d to 8/- etc.
Sat 13th Nov 1802
A new law has confined election expenses to cash – no more beer. The publicans are dismayed – elections have been a big money-spinner for them.
Sat 27th Nov 1802
The King has granted a hereditary baronetcy to Evan Nepean for his work in the Admiralty. He becomes Baron of Loders and Bothenhampton in Dorset.
Sat 27th Nov 1802
In the new parliament Sir Hugh Inglis is returned for Ashburton. John Pitt is one of the two members for Gloucester. H Robert Clive gets in for Ludlow. (These successes are of interest to the Bombay Courier readers in India.)
The City election took place on 6th July. All the candidates except one (Travers) are Aldermen of the City. The Livery of London required candidates to swear they will promote the wishes of the electorate. The candidates declined to do so, saying the electorate had no right to instruct MPs how to vote in the Commons. The candidates said their only duty was to be true to their own principles.
Travers said if he could not represent the City, except by joining the Aldermen, he would secede from parliament.
Sat 4th Dec 1802
The violence in the contested elections in Scotland has reminded the Bombay Courier Editor of an old Huntingdonshire election between Sir Robert Bernard, 5th Baron Huntingdon (1740 – 1789), and a son of Lord Sandwich.
Bernard kept back his supporters from one part of the electoral district to inculcate a false sense of security in his opponent. He intended to flood the voting booths with them on the last day.
Sandwich discovered Bernard’s plan however and erected a hut on the route from that area to the polling station. He stocked it with wine and laudanum. As the would-be electors arrived, they were given the intoxicant of their choice and rendered unconscious. They were then laid-out on straw at the roadside. When they awoke they found the booth, barmen and intoxicants had all disappeared.
Sat 25th Dec 1802
Addington has given the Clerk of the Pells sinecure to his 16 year old son. Its an old Treasury job without any function and worth a few thousand a year.
Sat 1st Jan 1803
Editorial on taxes – The Swiss do not pay taxes but every Canton is financed by voluntary subscriptions which answer the same purpose. Papal lands were not taxed either until Pius VI’s reign. The Popes had hitherto got their revenue from the tithes of the worldwide Catholic community.
The best tolerated taxes are those that involve no compulsion to pay, like the National Lottery. The most objectionable taxes are the ones that fall disproportionately on the poor like the salt tax.
At Naples recently a duty levied on fresh fruit, a staple of the Neapolitans, caused an insurrection. England is alone in taxing incomes but most European politicians would like to do so if they thought they could get away with it. Addington has recited Pitt’s description of it – a War Tax – which makes it just bearable.
Sat 16th April 1803
The Lord Chancellor has concluded his equitable examination of the claim of the Prince of Wales to the Cornish revenues and concluded it is merited. The debt is however irrecoverable from the King and must be paid by the people.
Sat 18th June 1803
The King has asked the Commons to finance the lifestyle of the Prince of Wales.
Sat 18th June 1803
A political review of England (unattributed):
Pitt may have said he resigned over Catholic Emancipation for Ireland but the fact is he might equally truthfully have said he resigned because he was leading the war party and the sense of the country was for peace, or that he had borrowed and spent so much of our progeny’s birthright that he could not afford to both continue fighting and maintain social order at home.
Pitt’s ministry was merely temporarily resigning office. They had collected a huge group of powerful people to their support – the generals, the church, the City merchants, the MPs and the King – who were all enriched by war and impoverished by peace. Its great to have a popular cause that is also profitable and no-one wants to give it up for long. Many of Pitt’s group were infatuated with the idea that Bonaparte, being a General, would be a hopeless civil administrator and France would implode under his ineptitude.
This is where that good man Addington comes in. It is the basis to and cause of his ministerial weakness – he’s a caretaker. There are of course a handful of men who were out of the money under Pitt and in clover under Addington and their attachment to power and its rewards gives Addington what little authority he has.
It is thus a rule of politics that caretakers can only be permitted a short shelf-life. The longer you leave them caretaking, the greater the risk their following will increase. They then become attached to power and reluctant to lose it.
Pitt’s answer is that he is the war minister and Addington is the peace minister and for the former to oust the latter merely needs the publication of convincing pretexts for renewed war.
Unfortunately Bonaparte has turned out to be a better civil administrator than the Kings and aristocrats in the neighbouring countries. His Republics are better run than Austria, Russia, Prussia or England. The British gamble with peace has not paid-off and its time to start stoking the embers of war again. Otherwise the hoi polloi will slowly recognise, in spite of government ownership and manipulation of the Press, that Republican nationals are getting a better deal than they are themselves – then the game will be up. No more British principles and d****d equality flourishing everywhere.
Fox is a pleasure to listen to. He knows his history and understands humanity so well but he is not getting anywhere against the overwhelming numbers of the King’s friends who are in politics for the money. The game today is not between ministry and opposition but between ministry and ex-ministry. That is what makes English politics so inscrutable – pacific today, warlike tomorrow.
Sat 16th July 1803
The Commons have continued to consider the Prince of Wales’ debts which the King recently required the people to fund. Since the Act of 1795 the Prince has been living quietly. The government has paid-off £568,895 of his debts and a balance of £235,754 is yet to be paid. It should be fully settled by 1806.
The Lord Chancellor had a trial of the issue and adjudged the Prince’s claims on the Cornish revenues to be enforceable. He cannot submit a Petition of Right to the King himself, only a Secretary of State can do that, but he can advise the Secretary to do so and it has since been done. That was what elicited the King’s request (in a prior article) to the Commons.
Sat 23rd July 1803
The Gatton (near Reigate) by-election of January 1803 is due to the sitting MP James Dashwood accepting the Chiltern Hundreds. He does so to permit Philip Dundas, the London candidate, to replace him. By delaying his resignation from the Commons until parliament was about to be prorogued for Christmas, Dashwood successfully concealed the need for a by-election from the electors. It will give Dundas a slight advantage at the polls.
The candidates are the India Company’s man Philip Dundas, late Royal Navy representative of Bombay, Clayton Jennings (an independent) and William Bryant (a local land owner and an elector).
Bryant is the ‘unknown quantity’. He is standing because he discovered that one of Dundas’ friends had intercepted and concealed the King’s Writ to deprive the electors of knowledge of the election and had continued to withhold it until the Sheriff of Surrey was moved to order him to deliver it.
Jennings, the independent, reprobated an agreement made by the two owners of the borough, Sir George Colebrook and the Reverend Tattersall, whereby they had dispossessed and evicted all the small-holders to reduce the number of electors to an affordable eight.
At the poll Dundas’ seven tenants voted for him; Bryant, the eighth tenant, tried to give his vote to Jennings but Patrick Hay, the Gatton constable and a relative of Dundas’ principal, disallowed it. Dundas has since barricaded all the horse roads to the polling station. He will doubtless get in.
Sat 6th August 1803
- The King has offered Pitt the government of the United Kingdom but he has reportedly declined because the offer excludes the Grenville family.
- The Prince of Wales is to get £60,000 a year for three years from the Consolidated Fund. This payment ceases when the Prince’s old debts have been paid off whereupon some new arrangement will be made.
Sat 26th Nov 1803
A list of the MPs who opposed the King and his Minister’s requests for renewal of war is given in this edition. It is about 10 percent of the membership. As a preponderance of these people were effectively voting with their conscience rather than their pocket, their names are recorded here for posterity:
|ADAIR Robert||FELLOWES Robert||ORD William|
|ANSON Thomas||FITZPATRICK General||PIERSE Henry|
|AUBREY Sir John||FOX Charles James||PLUMER William|
|ANDOVER Lord||GREY Charles||PETTY Henry|
|ANTONIE William Lee||HAMILTON Archibald||PONSONBY William|
|BARCLAY George||HARRISON John||PYTCHES John|
|BANKS Henry||HOWARD Henry||RUSSELL William|
|BOUVERIE Edward||HEATHCOTE John||RAINE Jonathan|
|BURDETT Francis||HUSSEY William||RICHARDSON Joseph|
|BULLER James||JEKYLL Joseph||ST JOHN St Andrew|
|BENNETT Captain||JERVOISE Clarke||STANLEY Lord|
|BENT Robert||JOHNSTONE George||SPENCER Robert|
|CAVENDISH Lord G H||KINNAIRD Charles||SOMERVILLE Marcius|
|CAULFIELD Henry||LAMBTON Ralph John||TOWNSHEND John|
|COKE Thomas||MADOCKS William A||THORNTON Henry|
|COURTENEY John||MILFORD Lord||WALPOLE General|
|CREEVEY Thomas||MILBANKE Ralph||WESTERN C C|
|COMBE Hervey C||MILNER William||WILBERFORCE Wm|
|DALEY Bowes||MILNES James||WINNINGTON Edward|
|DOUGLAS Marquis of||MORE George Peter||WHARTON John|
|DUNDAS Laurence||MORE Peter||Tellers:|
|DUNDAS Charles||NORTH Dudley||SMITH William|
|DUNDAS George||NORTHEY William||WHITBREAD Samuel|
Sat 28th Jan 1804
General Gascoigne told the House of Commons that the country had acted for five hundred years on a policy of taxing imports at London less than imports at other ports. The duty on Port wine at London was 8/- a ton but was £3.10.0 at outports. He thought they should be equalised. Rejected.
Gascoigne also mentioned the varying levels of duty on indigo. Indian indigo paid £10.5.0 while West Indies paid £12.6.0. Vansittart said Indian indigo was subject to another additional 2½% charge which levelled the duties. He said as a general rule it was government policy to tax West Indies less than India (in consideration of the Company’s monopoly).
Sat 4th Feb 1804
The House of Commons is working through the ministry’s demand for new taxes and is considering the level of import / export duties. Opium from the Levant is taxed at 12/6d per pound and a drawback of 7/- is allowed on re-export. Bengal opium pays an extra 5/- per pound with a drawback of 6/- on re-export.
Sat 26th March 1804
Hutchinson MP has reminded the Commons that the British Constitution asserts the King can do no wrong. His infallibility is not supposed to operate to the injury of his people and the responsibility to ensure this is placed on the Minister who must take the advice of parliament.
In the matter of the Prince of Wales’s offer to serve the country, it is generally recognised that he is the most well-liked of the Royals and could bring considerable popular support to the government’s side.
Hutchinson concludes that a high military command of the Prince would produce greater public support for the government.
Sat 21st April 1804
A long correspondence between Addington, the Prince of Wales and Duke of York is published concerning a military role for the Prince Royal.
The King treats the Prince of Wales as a rival. He will assume the throne when George III dies. The King cares more for his second son, the Duke of York, and has given him the Bishopric of Osnaburg (not worth anything just now but usually paying several thousand pounds a year) but he not only gives no support to the Prince of Wales but has retained his Cornish revenues to keep him poor.
He seems to see the Prince of Wales as a threat to his reign, perhaps due to the Prince’s friendship with Fox who is the King’s one real enemy in parliament and would end monarchy tomorrow if he could. The Prince of Wales is the only man in England who cannot get the King’s permission to join the militia or army.
Plowden’s History of Ireland notes that after the Irish insurrection at end of 18th century, when the British government was persuaded to adopt a conciliatory policy towards the Irish, the Prince of Wales offered to be Lord Lieutenant of Ireland, where he is the most popular of the English Royals, and to take Lord Moira with him as CiC.
Plowden discovered no less than 14 precedents of Royal Princes being Lords Lieutenant of Ireland in the previous 300 years. It was refused by the King who has no intention of letting the Prince of Wales obtain any distinction or achievement on which he might build a following.
Sat 21st April 1804
Montesquieu in his comparison of the various types of government, notes that Monarchy is the best form for a warrior nation because war, to be prosecuted most effectively, requires a sole director.
A fine example of the benefits of sole direction was given recently in north Italy. While Bonaparte conducted his Italian campaign with individual flair and ingenuity, the Archduke Charles was obliged to heed the directions of his Council of War. This Council not only controlled the general scheme of the war but involved itself in the detailed planning, consulted maps and sketches and directed the Archduke to camp here or there to the extent, it is said, that the Generals might have been replaced by a surveyor. The Archduke commanding the army was often compelled by instructions to forego late-breaking opportunities and few of Bonaparte’s innovative movements had been foreseen by the Council.
Sat 1st June 1805
Edinburgh, 15th November – The King’s Friends have been able to exclude the Earl of Lauderdale, a liberal Whig, from the Scottish representatives in House of Lords. They supported the Earl of Kellier who got in by 32/20 votes. Lords Kinnaird and Semple supported Lauderdale. Had the English peers not voted, the decision of the Scottish contingent was in Lauderdale’s favour.
Lauderdale protested in favour of the independence of Scottish peers. The Earl of Morton reminded Lauderdale that the House of Lords had voted themselves the right to influence the election of peers in Scotland and Ireland.
Sat 25th Aug 1804
The Whig Club held a meeting on 7th March with the Dukes of Norfolk and Bedford, Lord R Spencer, Alderman Coombe and Charles Fox in attendance.
Fox said this club was formed twenty years ago to resist the principle that an administration may be founded upon the mere favour of the King, independent of the confidence of the people at large. We are still struggling against that principle but we are not discouraged, he said.
The present ministry came to power on a platform of religious intolerance to Ireland. They passed an Immunity Act to protect the maladministration of their predecessors (Pitt, Grenville, Dundas et al).
Some of their own acts are unprecedented. For example they have allowed the King an unlimited Civil List – whatever he spends, the Commons will pay. They have made both a satisfactory peace and an unnecessary war with France. In the defensive preparations against invasion they have created a huge force of Volunteers and then tried (unsuccessfully) to make the service no longer voluntary. I hope the Volunteers can repeat that victory should invasion come, Fox said.
Tues 11th Sept 1804 Extraordinary
The King has asked Pitt to form a government. The Monarch has withdrawn his conditions except that the new ministry should not include Fox. Castlereagh is expected to continue at the Board of Control. Melville will be at the Admiralty or President of the Council.
Sat 29th Dec 1804
An interesting election has been held in Middlesex. Middlesex is more or less a democratic constituency due to its having more than a handful of electors.
Sir Francis Burdett was declared the winner. His opponent Mainwaring objected. The House of Commons declared Burdett’s election void and accepted Mainwaring. Then Burdett objected that Mainwaring had bribed some electors and that was upheld by the House. Another election was ordered.
The difficulty with another election is that there are a large number of electors in Middlesex and getting elected as their representative by the usual means costs a fortune. Mainwaring declined to pay again and some investors backed George Boulton Mainwaring, his son, in the re-run.
It was a thoroughly contentious election and every aspect of the process was argumentatively assessed. It first looked as though Burdett had a majority of one but the Sheriff ‘changed his mind’ overnight and returned young Mainwaring. That decision elicited a Writ from Burdett and in the final result he was declared winner but had to stay in the election room until late to avoid Mainwaring’s mob.
He got back to his house in Piccadilly the next day and about 5,000 of his Middlesex supporters turned out to celebrate.
Sat 12th Jan 1805
Pitt presented his ministry to the King but George III was implacably opposed to having Fox in the Privy Council. Pitt called Fox to attend him and settle the best means of joining forces but Fox did not attend – he is not the man to compromise on matters of principle. It looks like a serious difficulty for Pitt.
Sat 19th Jan 1805
An alphabetical list of the MPs voting against Pitt’s Defence of the Realm Bill has been published in London indicating which of the three parties the MP belongs to – Grenville, Fox or Addington / Pitt.
There are 217 names. A further 26 names are added in the next edition but these voted both ways at different readings of the Bill. There is a similar list of the minority of the House of Lords who opposed the Bill.
Sat 26th Jan 1805
The Duke of Bedford has built a Temple to Friendship at Woburn and placed a bust of Fox within. The delectable Georgiana, Duchess of Devonshire wrote the inscription that has been engraved on the pedestal. It starts:
|Here, midst the friends he loved, the Man behold, In truth unshaken and in virtue bold; Whose patriot zeal and uncorrupted mind Dared to assert the Freedom of Mankind …..|
Sat 2nd Feb 1805
The King is feeling the pinch created by the loss of his Hanoverian revenues. The debt on the Civil List has ballooned and Pitt has asked parliament for an extra £60,000 a year.
Sat 5th Oct 1805
The House of Commons went into committee to discuss the Enquiry into Military Expenditure Bill. Rose said he wanted the terms widened to include the estate of Lord Holland (Fox’s father) which has remained open for 14 years since the death of the Peer. This £250,000 estate has been liquidated and invested by the Executors but, whilst earning interest, remains undistributed. Its not illegal but its unusual, he said.
Fox said he had declined to act as an Executor of his father’s estate and had no knowledge of the cause of the delay but he did not mind being questioned if that would satisfy Rose. The House agreed to extend the ambit of the Bill to include abuses that exist or may have existed in Lord Holland’s time.
Sat 5th Oct 1805
Whitbread has asked the House of Commons to expel Melville from his job at the Admiralty. The House of Commons Select Committee wished to question Lord Melville concerning the 10th Report of the Commissioners of Naval Enquiry. The House of Lords gave their assent but set so many restrictions on his appearance that the Select Committee concluded no useful purpose would be achieved by the interrogation.
Popular allegations of ministerial corruption are not limited to the Admiralty. The gutter press is full of malicious articles about most of the officials.
Sat 5th Oct 1805
11th May – The King has erased the name of Henry, Viscount Melville, from the list of Privy Councillors.
Sat 12th Oct 1805
When Sir William Pulteney died recently, the funded property in his estate was supposed to be worth £2 millions but reportedly no Will has been found even though the Knight was 85 years old. For the last few years of his life he ate only bread and milk. If he died intestate his entire Estate will go to his widow.
He will be buried in Westminster Abbey where several of his ancestors are entombed. He owned an immense amount in the American funds. Sir William owned more electoral boroughs than any other person and his influence on elections was often conclusive. As a result he was courted by all the factions.
Sat 26th Oct 1805
The enquiry into high spending at the Admiralty has reached Alexander Trotter, Melville’s assistant. He has been Paymaster to the Navy for over 10 years. He says the pay was small but he got the use of the Navy’s money briefly in his own account and that produced an income that made the job worthwhile. He says all Navy Paymasters do that.
Tues 5th Nov 1805 Extraordinary
The 10th Report of Naval Enquiry will not go away. Lord Melville (Henry Dundas), having obtained the support of the House of Lords to avoid questioning by the Commons enquiry, has since reversed himself and on 11th June 1805 volunteered a defensive statement to the MPs. It took 2¼ hours to deliver. At its conclusion Whitbread called for his impeachment but Bond amended Whitbread’s motion to permit criminal charges at the Court of King’s Bench.
That scared the ministry and Sir William Grant, Hawkins Browne, Lord Castlereagh, Dundas Saunders (one of Melville’s relatives), Canning and the Attorney General all rose to oppose the motion. The ‘usual suspects’ (the liberal Whigs – Lord Temple, Lord Henry Petty, Wilberforce and Charles Grey) supported Whitbread. The government got a majority against impeachment of 77 but on Bond’s amendment, Addington’s party voted with the opposition and the House decided by a majority of 9 for criminal charges.
This split between Pitt and Addington was unexpected and Pitt was further threatened by the King’s attitude which is generally hostile to Dundas.
Pitt’s party was obliged to support impeachment as the only means available to avoid a completely public trial. Leycester (Chairman of the Select Committee) proposed the amendment and a reunion of the big parties in the vote brought a majority of 23. On 26th June Dundas was impeached to answer eight charges. He will be tried by the House of Lords so there is some hope for him.
Pitt is also criticised in the 10th Report but he has made a good job of his defence and no MP thought he had benefited pecuniarily. They thought his only mistake was in failing to obtain a Bill of Indemnity for his informal public expenditure and belated leave was given to bring in the necessary legislation retrospectively.
Sat 9th Nov 1805
On 11th June Dundas came to the door of the House of Commons and asked to address the MPs. Dundas Saunders MP moved he be admitted. He came up to the bar of the House, pausing to bow three separate times to the assembled MPs, as he approached. After a two minute pause, he commenced his address:
When the Commissioners investigated me I did not know what they were after. They already had Trotter’s accounts (Trotter was clerk to the Paymaster to the Navy) and I had not been able to peruse them. In fact I did not know such accounts were kept until I read the Appendix to the 10th Report. Then I applied to amend my evidence but the Commissioners said it was too late and refused to hear me again.
I have been honoured to sit amongst you so long. I earnestly wish to offer myself to the House. I cannot properly defend myself without violating the order under which I am allowed to address you.
I understand that 14 Resolutions were made the first of which was a Statement of Facts. It is said large sums were withdrawn from the Bank of England for naval services but were actually applied to discounting Bills, purchasing stock and personal emoluments (the abuses that Trotter confessed to).
The 2nd Resolution says Trotter did those things as my Agent. It may be true that naval money was used to buy stock but I was not involved. To suggest otherwise is a libel. I know nothing. I never authorised Trotter to act as he did. I got no share of his profits. He was already there when I was appointed to the Admiralty by Gilbert Elliot (Minto). Trotter was later patronised by Mr Douglas. He was the man through whom suggestions for new legislation were referred to the ministry. For example, it was his recommendations that checked the practice of plundering seamen of their wages (the loans scams of the crimps). He seemed to be an excellent chap. I encouraged his diligence. When Douglas died, Trotter became Paymaster. He was so employed for 14 years during which time he transacted £34 millions of naval business without error or loss.
I never asked him to do any private business with the Bank of England. I did permit him to withdraw money from the Bank and deposit it with Coutts but I only allowed him to make the deposits when the navy had surplus funds. The Board of Enquiry interpreted that as criminal. If they had said as much to me, I would have explained more clearly. The Commissioners seemed to think the Act of 25th George III provided complete regulations for the Navy Pay Office. It does not go so far but merely makes the Treasurer personally responsible for his accounts. The Paymaster of the Forces Bill was different because all army business was transacted through Agents. The navy accounts are not like that. I had immense numbers of trifling amounts to pay and could not draw Bills for each and every one. Everyone knows that one cannot pay drafts without using a private banker. It made complete sense to draw occasional large sums from the Bank of England rather than myriad small ones. Once this is understood, the complaint becomes merely a matter of how the money was stored – should it be kept in a cashbox at the Admiralty or in a private bank. The Act of 25th George III has nothing to say on this subject.
It has been said that an income can be derived from a private bank for storing money with them; that there might have been an understanding between Admiralty staff and private bank staff. Where I come from (Scotland), private bankers pay interest on all deposits. I thought the same practice was followed in England. I did not know that the terms for deposits in English private banks was a matter for negotiation. I do know that Admiralty funds continued to be temporarily deposited with private bankers for two years after I went out of office and might still do so if Lords Bathurst and Harrowby had not discontinued the custom.
I continue to believe that the Admiralty imperatively needs an account with a private bank near the office for its numerous small payments.
When this matter was first protested, I availed myself of the 5th clause of the Act appointing the Board of Inquiry. It was not to avoid detection, but because many payments made by the Admiralty are secret.
I am also charged with using public money to my own advantage. I deny the charge and have no recollection of any such event (laughter). You scoff when I say ‘I have no recollection’ but, with so many transactions, it is really the case that one might forget. When I say ‘I have no recollection’ I can clarify that I never gave any order to use public money for my advantage.
I did not want the job anyway. I preferred running the Board of Control and dealing with Indian affairs. I only took the Admiralty job because the King pushed it on me (loud cries of ‘hear, hear’ from the Treasury Bench).
At this point there was another pause in Melville’s delivery. He then asked one further indulgence of the House.
I wish to clarify my relationship with Trotter. I think it was impossible for Trotter to make up his accounts with any degree of precision. I was even more remote from the sources of expenditure. I relied on Trotter. I had no knowledge of the business between Trotter and the late Mr Tweedy (the Coutts representative). I was personally involved in only one transaction with M/s Boyd Benfield and that was completed in a straightforward way. I ask the House for a fair interpretation of my conduct.
Whitbread regretted that Melville had not provided any indication of where corroboration of his innocence might be found. Trotter routinely transferred Admiralty funds to his personal account with Coutts. It was beyond Melville’s control. When Trotter went on holiday to Scotland he delegated control of the account to Wilson, even further beyond Melville’s control. When Wilson was questioned by the Select Committee he stood mute. He certainly had information but declined to give it. He should have been transferred to other duty. Control of the funds of the Admiralty might have been further delegated and Melville would have known nothing. Melville has often set himself up in this House as an expert on financial matters. When the 10th report was published Melville might have come down to the House and explained himself but instead he asked the Select Committee if he might change his evidence. He has no respect for the law.
This House commended the King to dismiss Melville but he resigned (with Pitt’s consent) before it could be accomplished. It has been in consideration to petition the King to remove Melville’s name from the List of Privy Councillors but again Pitt screened Melville by saying the King had already told him Melville’s name would be struck-off at the next Privy Council meeting. The ministry thus prevented a vote that would have damned Melville by its huge majority.
Many malpractices and habitual abuses have been detected by the Select Committee. Melville was expressly implicated in participating in the profits from investment of navy funds. If the House thinks that can be proved, there is no alternative to an impeachment. Some MPs have said that we should avoid the expense of an impeachment. This is a shocking thing to say after so many millions have been squandered in recent years. The House should be seen to act against these abuses of office.
Whitbread said he would not be surprised if other abuses were discovered as the matter progressed. And he asked the House to charge Melville with three offences – connivance in the peculation of Trotter; breach of duty, and participation in the use of the money derived from the acquittance granted to the representatives of the late Adam Jellicoe.
The Master of the Rolls said the suspicious thing to him initially was the Deed of Mutual Release done by Trotter and Melville, but this turned-out to contain only the usual covenants. He thought the House had spent enough time on the case.
Addington said Melville has suffered enough. We already have the means to take out an Order for Restitution against him. Forget the formalities.
Wilberforce said Melville had been given the opportunity to justify his conduct. He had said he did not breach the terms of the Act. The Act required that money drawn from the Bank be applied to naval purposes. Melville was in breach of that law and still he tried to wriggle out. The evidence was that Melville had received the benefit of the money. He and Trotter had made a formal agreement to destroy the vouchers (and had burnt them) so that the evidence of defalcation would be lacking but there remained the £10,000 expenditure that Melville had made but refused to account for, inviting us to infer it was a secret service affair. This refusal was surprising in a man of Melville’s public stature and legal knowledge. His defence amounts to a denial of culpability and an inference that we should be satisfied with that.
Grey said the evidence showed Melville received several sums and had paid no interest on the money. Trotter said not one payment had been repaid. It appeared Melville thought the money was his. £46,000 was raised to accommodate Mr Boyd of Boyd Benfield & Co. £22,000 was received by Trotter. Many other sums were paid informally. How can Melville say he knew nothing. The whole system of government has been one of concealment. They take money to run a navy and now it seems they use it to purchase Navy Bills and Exchequer Bills and India stock and speculate in the funds with it.
Dundas Saunders denied that the Bill purchases were made with public money. They were all bought out of Melville’s own funds, he said. Melville was then impeached (on the £10,000 payment of supposedly secret service money).
The MPs agreed to pass an Act of Indemnity to protect Trotter and get his evidence against Melville.
Sat 12th Oct 1805
The Royal Navy is short of seamen. On 8th May the King ordered all British ships, except his own warships and those bringing food, to remain in port. At the same time about 1,200 men were pressed in the London pubs and a press has been ordered in the other ports of Britain. A great expedition of some 8,000 men is being assembled at Plymouth. It is supposed to be intended to reinforce the garrison at Gibraltar in consideration of the Spanish threat.
Sat 14th Dec 1805
Pitt asked parliament for £5 millions to buy continental alliances but parliament reduced it to £3.5 millions. The Editor suggests this large cut was permitted by Pitt because he has little expectation of Russia accepting a subsidy.
Sat 15th March 1806
Robert Wigram, the London shipowner and Director of the East India Company has been made an hereditary Baronet by the King.
Sat 5th July 1806
Fox has been offered the Foreign Ministry. He has been campaigning at Westminster (his constituency). He says one of the most salutary laws of England is the one requiring an MP, on accepting office, to return to his constituents to receive their views on his appointment. This allows the electorate a voice in the composition of ministries.
He briefed the Westminster electors on their Constitutional position “If you feel my acceptance of office reveals a departure from those principles I hold and which caused you to vote for me, you may prevent my appointment by rejecting me as MP.”
He said, from the perspective of foreign affairs, the only bright spot in a gloomy picture was the popularity of the Royal Navy.
He said office left him unchanged. He remained a friend of liberty, an enemy of corruption and a strong supporter of the just weight that the people should have in the scales of the Constitution.
Sat 12th July 1806
Dundas’ (Melville’s) impeachment has stopped activity at the Board of Control. He has written to the India Company’s Directors on 30th June 1805 to express his concern for Indian affairs since the death of Cornwallis.
Dundas is the government man with whom the Directors prefer to liaise and he knows what is going on at India House. Perhaps this unique expertise will save him from punishment.
Sat 26th July 1806
The Whig ministry has published the documents leading our recent alliances in Europe and they are an appalling embarrassment. Instead of concealment under Pitt, we now have transparency under Fox.
In their correspondence, our diplomats routinely insult the Courts to which they are attached. Sir Arthur Paget’s comments from Vienna are explosive.
Sat 4th Oct 1806
London, 29th April – the impeachment of Melville has commenced. The House of Lords has prohibited comment on the case until the hearing commences. All the Lords and Commons are attending. Two of the Royal Dukes are in their places. The Duc d’Orleans and some foreign ministers are present in the gallery.
Sun 26th Oct 1806 Extraordinary
Melville has been acquitted by the House of Lords of all charges on 12th June. The Duke of Sussex and several others have protested the decision. Melville’s counsel charged him £1,000 for the brief and 20 guineas a day.
Sat 29th Nov 1806
Lord Caledon is made Governor of the Cape. His relative Henry Alexander, one of the MPs for Old Sarum, had sold his representation to Lord Blayney in order to join Caledon at Capetown.
Sat 10th Jan 1807
Fox’s illness has meant he is not in cabinet where his liberal group holds a 6/5 majority of the eleven votes. In his absence the policies he stands for are not progressing against the intransigence of Grenville, Windham and the war party.
The Earl of Lauderdale expects difficulty getting the terms London wants of Paris. The negotiations with France started in March. His first progress report caused the stock market to slide. The French have a fixed view on the terms they want.
Europe seems to think success hinges on Fox recovering his health and taking an active part. They see no-one else on the British political stage with the charisma and clarity to expose the defects in the war party’s strategy and unite the cabinet.
Sat 17th Jan 1807
Fox died on 13th Sept at the Duke of Devonshire’s estate in Chiswick. He was 58 years old. When he began to speak publicly he seemed awkward and one noted more the justice of his ideas and the transparent simplicity of his manner, but after a few minutes he would forget himself and his flow transformed into an irrefutable stream of eloquent wisdom that was so self-evidently right that it swept his listeners along and created agreement where formerly there had been uncertainty and discord.
Lord Howick (Charles Grey) succeeds him as Foreign Secretary.
Sat 7th March 1807
At Fox’s funeral service at Westminster Abbey, the Royal Family was conspicuous by its absence. Everyone else was there.
Sat 2nd May 1812
Dr J B Trotter says Fox died prematurely as a result of taking digitalis. He was recovering from the initial attack and subsequent bleeding. He was eating and sleeping well. A doctor then told him of the good effects of this new medicine and Fox himself was keen to try it. It was administered one morning.
He then arose and washed his face and hands. He appeared to be maintaining the improvement in his condition. He had started to brush his teeth when his appearance and condition changed very suddenly and he almost fell. “I managed to get him back on the bed but he went downhill from then on and died two days later.”
Sat 14th March 1807
There is detailed discussion in London about the measures taken by the present ministry to secure the election of its friends in the recent General Election. It is expected that this will procure a substantial change in the membership of the ministry.
Sat 28th March 1807
When Fox visited France after the Peace of Amiens, he received a succession of letters from French notables each alluding to him as ‘the benefactor of the human race’ or as ‘the English patriot’.
Bonaparte likewise held Fox in esteem and publicly said so on many occasions. He said if the English ministry contained men like Fox then France and England would remain at peace perpetually.
It was the knowledge that Fox acquired during his visit to France that enabled him to be so useful during the peace. Had he lived longer we might not be at war. Fox had a high opinion of Barrere. Fox described Napoleon as a man of constant purpose. He said Napoleon was concerned only about Continental Europe. His opposition to British commerce was a temporary affair and not intended to be permanent. Fox said “I never saw so little indirectness in any statesman as in the First Consul. He made no secret of his designs.”
Sat 4th April 1807
Sir Sidney Smith is contesting the seat for Rochester. He has the London electors of the constituency in his pocket but lacks the capital to get support in the town itself.
Now a naval officer named Turner who serves in the Mediterranean and whose family lives in Rochester, has written to his Dad to say “this government has given to Sir Sidney power over all its civil and military authorities, even the prerogative of life and death.”
England is justly proud of Sir Sidney. We repudiate this foul libel. Since the above was published, Sir Sidney has received a promise of £5,000 (and more if necessary) to ensure his election victory. It comes from an anonymous admirer, not a borough-monger, who explains his anonymity:
|Who builds a church to God and not to fame Never inscribes the marble with his name.|
Shortly after Smith got this letter, 5 x £1,000 bank notes were delivered.
Sat 18th April 1807
The borough of Old Sarum belongs to Pitt’s relative, the eccentric Lord Camelford, and comprises seven burgage tenancies. The borough has long been uninhabited but sends two MPs to parliament. M/s Massey and Brunsdon are the two principal tenants of Old Sarum. They live in London. The sitting MP is Alexander. He is uncle to the Earl of Caledon and brother to the Bishop of Down.
Sat 4th July 1807
The 3rd enquiry into military purchasing anomalies has focused on Alexander Davison, the banker of St James’ Square. Since Jan 1795 he has held the army contract for provision of all the main articles of consumption by the militia whilst in barracks – beds, bedding, coals, towels, utensils, candles, beer and forage. He was appointed by Lt General Oliver de Lancey and agreed to do the militia purchasing for a 2½% commission but neither the Treasury nor military board approved the contract.
His coal is about 40% more expensive than other wholesalers but he sells it as a merchant for his own account and it is not caught by the 2½% arrangement. Between 1795 and 1801 he was paid about £500,000 for coal. His delivery notes are unique in not indicating the weight of coal delivered. He says he buys by weight (bushels) but the army pays by measure (baskets). This has facilitated an uncertainty in the coal supply.
Davison says he always gave the best prices but he has mislaid the purchasing invoices to establish the point. The main complaint, due to the lack of records, has devolved on payments. He was supposed to be paid as he worked but in fact he submitted his own estimates of likely purchasing every six months and got the money up front. Davison has so far had nothing to say about that.
Sat 1st Aug 1807
Andrew Charles, one of the clerks at the Bank of England, has written to Lord Grenville that the Earl of Moira used information gleaned from Privy Council meetings to speculate in British funds. Moira employed the banker Alexander Davison as his Agent to make his transactions. Davison’s runners came to Charles for their purchases and sales.
Charles’ specific complaint relates to speculation in the funds when Lauderdale was returning from Paris to London but had not yet arrived. That was when the Privy Council, and no-one else, knew the peace talks had failed. Davison’s transactions were against the market and attracted Charles’ attention.
Grenville is persuaded that a crime has occurred. He has ordered the prosecution of Charles for libel.
Sat 26th Sept 1807
Alexander Davison, the man accused of over-charging the militia for provisions and undertaking the insider-trading of cabinet ministers, is in the news again. He is reportedly a banker and a lawyer. In cross-examination he says he is not an army officer (he is popularly known as ‘Major’ or ‘Colonel’) but served the East India Company for 25 years until his suspension for an (unspecified) event that occurred on board a ship.
He says that on one occasion he was seized of a case at the Court of King’s Bench involving a debtor named Richard Andrews who seemed to have fallen on hard times but who appeared to be a gentleman with good connections. Andrews claimed friendships with the Earl of Bessborough, Lord FitzWilliam and Lord Robert Spencer and evidenced he actually received letters from these people.
At that time Davison was concerned to obtain a parliamentary seat and Andrews claimed ability to effect the necessary introductions through his friends. Davison asked him to do so. The three nobles all supported Andrews whilst in prison (in so far as they received and answered his importunate letters) and, after he had left the bench, Davison himself provided occasional pecuniary help.
Soon after, Andrews ‘took the benefit’ of the terms of the Insolvency Act and was freed. He told Davison he (Andrews) had been offered a parliamentary seat by Earl FitzWilliam but he could hardly make use of it having so recently been released from prison. The seat in question was one of four in Ireland under the ownership of the Earl of Bessborough.
Davison went to dine with Benjamin Goldsmid, the City financier, at his Estate in Roehampton and he took Andrews along. The cost of each of Bessborough’s seats was advised at dinner as £4,000 which, it was said, would satisfy the Earl for five years, even if parliament was dissolved earlier. Davison canvassed his friends for expressions of interest and requested to buy all four seats. He paid a deposit to Goldsmid.
Thereafter Davison, to preserve his friendship with Andrews, accepted several of the latter’s Bills – for a carriage, for his stud and for several trade debts – but ultimately he became suspicious and enquired directly with Bessborough whereupon the fraud was exposed. Andrews was then discovered to have perpetrated numerous other frauds. A similar fraud on a Major is detailed in next year’s newspaper below.
Sat 5th Sept 1807
The brief liberal ministry of Britain, the Ministry of All the Talents, held that some degree of Catholic emancipation was necessary, once it was apparent that we would be at war again (to avoid the immense bloodshed that had characterised Ireland during the previous war and to make Irish people available in the struggle with France).
A preliminary measure thought adequate was to allow Catholics to hold commissions in the British forces in England as they can do in Ireland since 1793 – i.e. permit Irish Catholic captains of frigates and generals of armies in the Irish service to act in the British service. This would conciliate those militarily-capable Irish and make them available to the UK war effort.
The King totally disagreed. He insisted it was in breach of his Coronation Oath which required him to govern according to the laws and Constitution of the Realm.
On the other hand, the Catholics knew what was in contemplation and wanted more. The King was initially persuaded to agree to the concession. Then O’Connor asked if it applied to all military jobs. Ministers commended the King to agree which he did.
Sidmouth, Ellenborough and Erskine then felt they could not continue to support the measure. They were concerned to lose the advantages that the Reformation had given England over Ireland and feared a revival of bigotry, superstition and intolerance (i.e. Catholicism). Then the King resiled from his former agreement and told Grenville he now disapproved. Without the King’s consent the Bill could not proceed.
Howick (Grey), who has been pushing for emancipation, visited the King but was unable to reconcile Him to the measure. Worse, the King disapproved Grey’s lèse majesté and required a written pledge from each minister that they would not again introduce the matter. This was considered an unconstitutional demand and the ministers resigned.
The King had discussed a new ministry with the Lord Chancellor-in-waiting and, finding sufficient support, called the Duke of Portland to take up the ministry. This brings the King’s friends back into power and young Henry John Temple, Viscount Palmerston, to office as joint Lord High Admiral.
Sat 5th Sept 1807
The King’s rebuttal of Catholic hopes adduced a congratulatory message from the City. London merchants are both pro-King and pro-business. The City’s Court of Common Council has thanked the King for supporting the legally-established Protestant Reformed Religion. About 40% of the commoners and aldermen opposed the decision to offer thanks but there was a majority for the congratulatory message on a show of hands.
Sat 5th Sept 1807
The King’s requirement of a written pledge of his minister is thought to be unconstitutional. The minister (Grey) told the King that the pledge was inimical with the interests of the country. A Privy Councillor’s oath obliges him “to give His Majesty the best advice in all things, without publicity, and without dread, and to keep secret the King’s council and not disclose it by words.”
Sat 19th Sept 1807
London newspapers – The House of Commons has been debating the ease with which the King was able to dismiss the ‘Ministry of all the Talents’ and appoint another. They feel it was disrespectful of parliament’s Constitutional position. Some debaters felt the ex-ministers should reveal the extent of their parliamentary support and overcome the new ministry.
If the ex-ministry was satisfied that the King’s act stemmed from conscientiousness, they should have said so and publicly confirmed their support for their replacements. They have not yet done so.
The outgoing cabinet had proposed a measure of Catholic emancipation to parliament. They appeared to have the King’s support. When they discovered they did not, they withdrew the measure. That was insufficient for the King. He required written pledges from each of them never to raise the matter of Catholic status again. They refused and were dismissed.
Thus ended the brief ministry that had sought to respect parliament and had tried to answer all questions of national interest straightforwardly.
The new Chancellor of the Exchequer (Spencer Perceval) is the man who sold parliament back to the King. In return for a sinecure for life (the Chancellorship of Lancaster), he abandoned his professional labours as a lawyer and came forth as the champion of Protestantism. He knows nothing of finance. The pamphlet he circulated at the Northampton election adequately establishes his attitude. That fanatical invitation to religious warfare was produced by a skilled lawyer not some mischievous rabble-rouser.
The King’s act has deprived the country of able patriotic ministers and replaced them with incompetents. Melville, who refused to properly account to this House, is back in power. We know the attitudes of these people from their threat a few nights ago to dissolve the House and call new elections, as though there was the slightest possibility they should acquire power in such a legitimate way. These people have consolidated their doubtful hold on power by having the King create many new peerages. As a result there will not be another new peer for a decade or more.
Castlereagh, one of the new faces, defended Perceval’s ministry. The late ministry was no good. They upset everyone. They tried to force an unpopular Governor-General onto the East India Company; they irritated the Company’s shipping interest; they conducted cabinet meetings without notifying Grenville, Sidmouth or Ellenborough (the King’s friends who are opposed to Catholic emancipation). They were bad people.
The vote finally was 244 / 198 for the new ministry.
Mon 16th Nov 1807 Extraordinary
Sixteen new Peers have been elected for Scotland. They include Cathcart, Napier, Dalhousie, Saltoun, Hume, etc. Ten of the applicants – Elphinstone, Elgin and eight others – failed to obtain peerages.
Mon 16th Nov 1807 Extraordinary
The King demanded an express ministerial undertaking not to propose Catholic emancipation. This caused the liberal ministry to resign – it is composed of Grey and the Foxites and espouses honourable policies. Subsequently, those few elections that were contested were fought hard and numerous duels have been held.
- Colclough, a candidate for Wexford, was killed outright by a ball through the heart. He had been expected to succeed but his opponent Alcock won in both respects.
- Mellish, who was contesting an English borough, sustained an arm injury from gunshot requiring amputation.
- Alderman Hankey who was contesting a City of London seat died in mysterious circumstances and may have been poisoned.
- Westminster, that flower of democracy under Fox, had the unique experience of electing a man who did not know he was a candidate until after his victory. Another duel was fought there between Sir Francis Burdett and Paul.
- The Grenvillites have sprung a complete surprise on the liberals. Charles Grey (now Lord Howick) was totally deceived and only discovered there was another candidate for Northumberland when he arrived there. He had been told in London he was unopposed. He does not have the money to contest the seat and declined to throw such a great load on his friends (who may expect to be remembered) and has withdrawn his candidacy.
Feelings are inflamed. On a quick review of the results, it is difficult to gauge the extent of increased power that the Grenvillites have achieved. If they are strong enough, they will want to absolve Wellesley of misconduct in India and rehabilitate the disgraced Melville.
Sat 28th Nov 1807
Sir Francis Burdett has thanked the electors of Westminster for his victory. It was a unique speech, lamenting that government has institutionalised corruption whilst trumpeting its earnest enquiries into a handful of inconsequential cases of bribery. He says ministers seize every chance to enrich themselves from the public purse. Some of his supporters have distanced themselves from his views. The other successful member for Westminster is Lord Thomas Cochrane.
Lord Howick (Charles Grey) gave a similarly angry speech to the electors of Northumberland before withdrawing from the contest. His complaints were of slanders and misrepresentations that had been assiduously circulated amongst the freeholders. When the other (successful) candidate (one of the Percy’s) sought to address the electors he was unheard because of repeated shouts of ‘Howick’, ‘Howick’.
Sat 26th Dec 1807
The sudden elections have produced some disturbing signs amongst the populace, as the following events reveal:
- The Cornish borough of Grampound has always been considered to belong to Sir Henry Carew. He controls 13 votes through his ownership of Grampound Corporation whilst the freemen of the borough have 23 votes. Carew pledged both of Grampound’s two seats to the new administration and requested for the names of the candidates whom he himself had to nominate. Unknown to Carew some of the freemen asked Sir Francis Burdett to represent them. He said he would never represent a borough but he could recommend the brothers Charles and Cochrane Johnson. The 23 freemen then nominated the Johnson brothers instead of Carew’s names. Carew needed the support of an additional six freemen to ensure the election of the minister’s nominees but was unable to influence any one of them in the usual way. He lost his own borough by ten votes. The result has caused considerable consternation amongst the political classes and introduced an unpleasant measure of uncertainty into elections.
- The electors of Calne have likewise shocked the owner of their borough. Before parliament was dissolved Jekyll, one of the incumbent MPs for 20 years, found it appropriate to vote against the wishes of the Marquis of Lansdowne whose estate includes Calne. Jekyll accordingly notified his resignation before the Marquis could dismiss him. Then the voters told him they would re-elect him if he stood, which he did, and they did.
- At the Westminster election, Lord Thomas Cochrane made a frank speech which shocked many people. He said he was not the puppet of the Lords of the Treasury. He said he was an independent MP. He said he was an enemy of plunder, corruption and tyranny:
“I know what the Constitution is supposed to guarantee and I will restore that happy state. Terrible abuses prevail in every department of government and it is beyond the power of the average MP to know what is going on, but I am an Admiral and I know what is going on in the Navy alright.”
He attributed corruption to men at the top:
“Put an honest man in charge and his underlings will be more or less honest; put a villain in charge and everyone’s a villain.
“As regards the Commons, I am an enemy of placemen and pensioners. The Bribery and Corruption Oath that is administered to candidates at election should again be administered to MPs before every vote in the House. Do you suppose an MP would perjure himself and vote with the Minister just for a pension? (“all, all”) – well I am not like that. Return me to parliament and I will show you.”
Sat 2nd Jan 1808
There are 30,000 free-holders in Yorkshire. It is not a constituency that money can buy although all candidates provide free food and beer. Some 23,000 of them have elected Lord Milton (son of Earl FitzWilliam) and Sheridan. Milton has done really well – he is new and young and energetic. The incumbent Lascelles relied on block votes whilst Milton canvassed widely and tirelessly and most of his supporters are single voters. After ten years of representation, Lascelles is out and Milton is in – what has changed?
Milton was described by Lascelles as ‘a Jacobin lad leagued with a desperate faction’ (he commenced his political career as a member of the Rockingham Club and is identified with the liberal Whigs). He is accused of undermining the religion of this country by his public support of Catholic emancipation. Now a majority of free-holders in Yorkshire have voted for him.
It is a reproach to the King who hires and fires the Anglican Bishops and thereby controls the clergy. He can and does remove vicars who act independently. One of the King’s fundamental sources of influence is the Sunday sermon which gets discussed after church. Here in Yorkshire it appears the English King and the English people are not in agreement on the Catholics. Milton has told Yorkshire that the restrictions on Catholics were solely to frustrate the Stuart dynasty’s attempts to regain power and once that was achieved there was no good reason to continue the disability.
The cry of ‘no Popery’ which used to be so potent in elections has been drowned in this one by the cry of ‘no peculation’ which is considerably more apposite. It is after all the people’s money that disappears in the unauditable morass of naval and military spending.
Sat 9th Jan 1808
Alderman Combe of the City of London has complained that the unexpected prorogation of parliament prevented the proper punishment of one of the King’s friends. In light of the popular call of ‘no peculation’ he feels it is extraordinary. A gentleman at the Pay Office had taken £12,800 and £7,000 for his private purposes. When put on enquiry he said it was for payment of army contractors. When that defence was investigated and found unmerited he agreed it had been for private purposes but excused himself by saying it had been repaid with interest.
That was true but repayment occurred only after the investigation commenced. Combe says the entire parliamentary investigation was hindered by obfuscation and delay. Every attempt was made to screen the delinquent. When the committee was ready to present its findings to the House of Commons, the King called for prorogation. Combe concedes that parliament would likely have been prorogued even if the delinquency had not been uncovered.
The dissolution of this parliament is noteworthy mainly for the King’s criticism of his former ministers in respect of the reverses sustained at Constantinople and Alexandria. He never liked them and the Catholic Services Bill they forced through confirmed his gut feeling.
Sat 30th Jan 1808
Cochrane Johnstone MP has introduced a motion in the Commons concerning sale of army commissions. To quit the army or change regiments it is necessary for an officer to first obtain leave to fall-out then sell his commission. The officer, having originally bought the commission, receives something similar when he sells. When an officer dies he is replaced and the disposal of his commission is not recorded. Johnstone wants to know what happens to it.
Sat 22nd April 1809
Lord Milton, the newly elected MP for Yorkshire, has addressed his constituents on four matters that concern him:
- Every time the King prorogues parliament, the ministry makes some secret but important development in its war effort. On the last occasion, it was the attack on Copenhagen. The ministry talks of secret treaty articles, fears of hostility and other mysteries to justify this concealment of its activities from parliamentary oversight but it turned out that there was no evidence at all of Danish hostility.
- A second ground for criticism of ministers are the Orders-in-Council. The measures approved by the Privy Council last November (1807) have never been explained to parliament. The intention was to interdict global commerce and replace it with our national shipping and commerce to relieve the stagnation of British trade due to war.
Our commerce is actually worse now than before the Orders (loud applause).
- MPs control the national purse strings but that money is voted up-front for the forces. It comes in a dozen huge sums which can hardly be queried in their amount even by the many soldiers who are MPs. In any event the government is in receipt of a great income from prize taking – its share is openly admitted to be used for overseas ventures. Alternatively it can call on the India Company, as in the Buenos Aires affair, to fund an invasion first. In these circumstances, a British ministry is not really under any sort of parliamentary oversight – it has other sources of independent funding.
- A final ground for concern involves the Catholic petition presented by Ireland to both Houses of Parliament (there is a big minority Catholic population amongst Milton’s constituents in Yorkshire – that county was the locus of rebellion against Henry VIII’s Anglicanism). It is a strange thing, when one’s country fights completely alone against the entire world, to see our leaders shut-out one quarter of the population from our defence. Yorkshiremen are not opposed to Catholics because they have little property in this country compared to the Catholics of Europe. They are good citizens, hard-working and patriotic. Our laws against Catholics were enacted, not to guard against their religion, but to diminish support for the Stuart dynasty. Now the last of the Stuarts is dead, the laws against Catholics ought to be repealed.
Sat 17th June 1809
Alexander Davison is being prosecuted. He was appointed by General O de Lancey in 1797 to supply the British army with barrack stores for which he was to receive, as Agent, a commission of 2½% of invoice value. Davison made out two papers for every sale to the army – one showing the quantity of goods delivered and other showing the prices. It had proved difficult for the prosecution to relate the two.
Most of the goods he supplied were his own goods on which he received both the merchant’s profit and the 2½% commission. Davison’s warehouse manager Mungo Sheddon is named as the merchant supplying many of Davison’s own goods. The names of Watson and Allen, two of Davison’s clerks, also appear as merchant supplier’s names. This was the evidence of an intent to conceal.
In spite of a multiplicity of supplier names, Davison’s goods turned out to invariably be his own and 2½% was charged on their invoice value. The business was naturally substantial. Davison employed a hundred men in his warehouse and several hundred on outside duties.
Lord Moira gave evidence that he had known Davison a long time and approved his appointment as Commissary General. Evan Nepean, Andrew Hammond, William Rule, Wellesley Pole, Charles Long, Huskisson and many other notables gave evidence of good character.
Ellenborough found him guilty on 27th April. He gave allowance for £18,800+ paid into the Exchequer as repayment of 2½% commission for part of the period. He awarded Davison two years in prison.
Sat 29th July 1809
Perceval, the Chancellor of the Exchequer has told the House that he has received a letter from a man who responded to an advertisement in the press offering a place for sale. The man wrote to the advertiser, who sent him to the Treasury Solicitor to pay a deposit.
As it appeared from House of Commons deliberations that selling government jobs was now disapproved, the letter-writer wonders if the minister may wish to prefer charges against all the parties he has entrapped – Mr Pullen the placeholder, Heylock the solicitor producing the documents, Watson the banker receiving the deposit and a woman named Harvey whose role was not elucidated.
The Chancellor of the Exchequer said abuse of sinecures is a matter for investigation. He may form a committee.
Sat 2nd Sept 1809
Sir Francis Burdett has addressed the electors of Westminster on 30th March about recent scandals. He wondered why, after several committees of enquiry, none of the peculating officials had been brought before a Judge (loud applause).
He said detecting offenders and passing supposedly remedial Bills was not enough, they should be punished to deter the others. Burdett recalled that Lord Melville (Dundas) had himself brought-in a Bill to deter corruption in his office at the Admiralty and had later been found to be venal but the ingenious drafting of his Bill made conviction impossible.
He noted that the Constitution forbad standing armies in peace time – it was one of the main charges against James II – but the MPs had become so tame they permitted ministers even that in 1803. He thought Bills were useless.
He noted Magna Carta required that no man be imprisoned except by due process of law. Today the prisons are full of people who have been incarcerated by the Attorney General. A few years ago the young le Maitre, a youth of 17 years, was sent to ‘solitary confinement’ for seven years without being brought to trial. He was accused of intending the death of the King with a reed.
Burdett lamented the continuous extensions of the Bill suspending Habeas Corpus which passed without discussion as the expiry date of the previous enactment approached. He thought it was high time the House of Commons recalled it was the House of Commons, the representatives of the people, and not predators dependent on the favours of the King (loud applause).
Our rulers have become farmers. They are concerned to increase their estates and the production of them. They might better spend their time in rescuing the English people from oppression. We have tax-gatherers swarming over the country; we have Judges in London sending people to solitary confinement. The day this despicable award (solitary confinement) first arose in the judicial mind should stand accursed in the calendar, he said.
When Col Wardle made his motion in this House against sale of army commissions, he was accused of involvement in an unpatriotic conspiracy, a friend of France and an enemy of England. That is the constant response of the ministry to criticism – every revelation is instantly reflected back against the whistle-blower. The great mass of evidence incriminating the Duke of York was overlooked and the unevidenced possibility of Wardle being a conspirator was assumed, asserted and investigated. These are the things that clearly reveal what is going on in the ministry. Everything is abuse of power.
Abuse of power can be prevented only by an honest and alert House of Commons. We seek it out and correct it.
I see our national administration as a partnership. The three partners are King, Lords and Commons. What would you say if one or two partners monopolised all the profit of the firm, leaving the costs and risks to the third? That is the present condition of England. We should demand to be restored to our share (loud applause). You people do not expect improvement from a change in administration (‘no, no’ – ‘all the same’). We cannot tolerate factions any longer. We must take our proper share of the Constitution of this country. National administration must be subordinated to the peoples’ representatives.
Whitbread also spoke, taking for his topic the ease with which successive administrations had duped the public on important issues. He cited the use of ‘No Popery’ a few years ago to deny the Irish their religion – a call that was echoed from pulpits and hustings and government newspapers until the people supposed there was a real danger of Papal influence affecting the country.
Even if the people elect candidates concerned for their welfare, still they are outnumbered by MPs who are in parliament for the money and / or influence.
Sat 9th Sept 1809
In the developing debate over parliamentary reform, Burdett (one of the MPs for Westminster) has noted that Lord Chatham (Pitt the Elder) spoke darkly of ‘something behind the throne that was greater than the throne itself.’
Burdett believes Chatham was cautiously referring to the King’s Friends, a group of Lords, Bishops and MPs, whose reliance on the King’s patronage assures their votes in his favour.
Sat 16th Sept 1809
London newspapers – Wardle MP has been given the freedom of the City of London and a snuffbox worth £100. The City merchants approve his indictment of the Duke of York over sale of commissions.
Lord Folkestone in the Commons has proposed extending the ‘Half-Pay List’ enquiry (the sale of commissions) into government corruption generally. He was opposed by Canning and Perceval and a good many others and was shot down 178 / 30.
If the full extent of venality by the power-holders was even suspected by the people there would be a Jacobin government in power tomorrow, Folkestone said. For example:
- The Duke of York’s private secretary, Colonel Gordon, has obtained the lease of 4 acres near Chelsea Hospital for £52 a year. Burdett and Oswald Mosley had a look at the lot and opined it was worth over £10,000 a year. Ministers said they had relied on the surveyor’s valuation – case closed.
- Castlereagh, who inter alia has the gift of a Company writership to Bengal (he received the gift as President of the Board of Control in 1805), offered it to Clancarty’s nephew in exchange for a parliamentary seat for Lord Clancarty.
Archibald Hamilton proposed Castlereagh be prosecuted on the basis that if the India Company’s Directors are restrained from selling jobs, the Board of Control which supervises the Directors, ought to be subject to the same restriction.
Lord Binning defended Castlereagh and Canning proposed, as Castlereagh’s attempted interference in Clancarty’s election had failed, that he be exonerated – passed 214 / 167.
Regrettably there was evidence of guilty mind – Castlereagh had tried to cover-up his tracks (having imprudently advertised the job for sale in a newspaper) – and the liberal Whigs came back on the grounds that ‘if you prosecute one, you should prosecute all’.
Castlereagh said if he had made a mistake he would admit it and apologise for it. When he was appointed to the Board of Control he found everyone had patronage and disposed of it as they thought fit. He had not thought about the matter at all. He wanted Clancarty in the Commons because he was connected with the India Office and could share the load of business – he is my friend.
This frank disclosure that the seat would have been occupied by a man indebted to the ministry annoyed some MPs – they thought Clancarty would have felt obliged to always vote with the ministry. The ministry replied that the evidence showed Castlereagh had no moral guilt, he had just been caught by a documentary thing.
The minister averred there was a conspiracy to run down the highest ranks of the country. Burdett said Castlereagh’s intention of bringing in a friend to the House to assist in the India work was an inferred affront to the Constitution. Canning moved his original proposal that Castlereagh be exonerated and, although the liberals had called everyone to the House, this passed 214 / 167.
Sat 21st Oct 1809
In 1795 a Commission was appointed by the ministry to inventory, maintain and sell Dutch property that had been detained in English ports when we declared war. It was composed of James Crawford, John Brickwood, Allan Chatfield, John Bowles and Alexander Baxter. No rate of remuneration was fixed by government on appointing these gentlemen who unilaterally assessed the value of their services at 5% of the gross proceeds of sales.
The amount paid to the five gentlemen, including interest, exceeds £120,000 (about two tons of gold). Had they been restricted to 5% of nett sales they would have received about £50,000, but their costs were extensive. Their windfall profits derive partly from costs and partly from interest on the cash proceeds which was deposited with private bankers known to the committee members.
Sat 18th Nov 1809
The Edinburgh Review has a comment on political organisation of a country. It says it is one thing to form a Constitution and a very different thing to administer a Constitution.
In forming a Constitution the maxim to implicitly follow is that everything should be done for the people and nothing done by the people – they are quite unqualified to have an opinion.
In administering a Constitution something must be done by the people otherwise it is impossible to do anything for the people.
For example, suppose the interests of two sets of people are combined in an enterprise and the management of the enterprise left entirely to one set, it is lucidly predictable that the managing set will incrementally draw all the advantages of the enterprise to their own side, leaving all the disadvantages to the other set, and this process continues until the original purpose of the enterprise is lost. The effects of such an administration may be seen in the naturally rich countries of Sicily and Poland where a feudal aristocracy has swallowed all the power and turned the natural wealth to ashes.
The Review article says Constitutions can be drafted to provide abundant checks against undesirable popular impulses, so that the use of the power that must necessarily be entrusted to the people, can be shaped into purely salutary ends.
Sat 2nd Dec 1809
Mr Curwen’s Bill for securing the purity of parliament contains a novel Oath. It requires MPs to swear not to buy their seats. It is extremely long and details all the ways known to have hitherto been used to accomplish the sale and purchase of seats. It is a ‘how to’ guide to electoral corruption.
The Bill requires a prosecution for perjury if a Member breaks his Oath.
The sale of seats in the Commons is widespread and a preponderance of them are filled in this commercial way but the revelation that the job of an MP is just another form of patronage is galling for a supposedly representative body.
Sat 10th Feb 1810
Court of King’s Bench, Dublin 13th May 1809. Judgment in the case of the King on behalf of Henry Browne v Manus Blake:
“Manus Blake you have been found guilty of duelling with Colonel Browne and of using insulting language to provoke that gentleman to challenge you. On 9th April you accosted Browne in the street demanding satisfaction saying he offended you. You said you had formerly been prevented from expressing your feelings due to his senior rank. Browne declined your challenge saying the Law of the Land was adequate to address all injuries. You called him a coward and a poltroon and other shocking things too base to mention.
“You are convicted of intent to commit murder. The law of this country and of God holds life sacred. You break that law, whether you skulk behind a hedge like an assassin or stand in manly fashion in a duel. Browne’s refusal to rise to your baiting deserves the esteem of every wise and virtuous man in the community. You have been an officer in HM’s army. What would be the state of our defence if every officer holds his personal interests as important as those of the state? I will tell you Sir – every ruffian will tread down the law with impunity, military discipline will collapse and our tribunals will be superseded by the sword as arbiter of right and wrong.
“You are to be imprisoned for six months and you will find sureties each in £25 for your good behaviour for the next seven years.”
Editorial – duelling has been a popular activity of late. Its not only military officers who concern themselves with honour; the King’s two principal Secretaries of State (and principal advisers in his Council) – Castlereagh and Canning – had a go recently on Putney Heath and Canning has a hole in his right thigh to prove it, but there was no suggestion they be prosecuted, they instead resigned on 11th Oct.
Canning had aroused Castlereagh’s anger by ridiculing the expedition to the Scheldt, which was Castlereagh’s project, and preferring an attack in Pomerania or Spain, but those suggestions were mere matters of opinion.
It however went further – Castlereagh was infuriated to discover that Canning had proposed to the Duke of Portland as early as last March, and repeatedly since then, that he should convince the King to remove the Irishman from the War Ministry and replace him with Lord Wellesley. Effectively, certain secret aspects of war policy were concealed from Castlereagh and conducted by Canning. Castlereagh was left with the expedition to the Scheldt and some subsequent expeditions assuming that was the totality of British war projects. He met Canning almost daily and never suspected what was being done. He now suspects the failure of the Scheldt expedition was intended by Canning to be the cause of his removal. Effectively Canning had Castlereagh’s dismissal in his pocket and was simply awaiting an appropriate time to deliver it. His first recommendation was made after the failure to invest Antwerp but that and Canning’s subsequent demands were repeatedly frustrated by Portland. Ultimately Portland resigned before Castlereagh. That induced Canning to likewise resign. No-one is going to trust him again.
Its a provocative thing for a Minister to intend the removal of his war secretary but still entrust him with an expedition of 100,000 soldiers and sailors, the biggest action that Britain has taken in this war. It is more provocative to think that in our present danger our affairs are in the hands of men who deceive and shoot at each other. What happened to the sacrifices formerly made for unanimity, to collective responsibility? Is this war serious with us or just a commercial game. Napoleon will understand the significance of this duel even if we overlook it. Wilfully shooting at another Briton with intent to hurt is a felony punishable by death. Nevertheless these felons remain at large. Unequal treatment at law is the root of misrule.
When Castlereagh got a whiff of the conspiracy after the corruption debate in the Commons, he put it to Canning who admitted it, saying it was his duty to King and country. This was the reason assigned in Castlereagh’s letter to Canning demanding satisfaction.
Canning blames Camden for failing to keep Castlereagh informed of his acts. He also ridiculed Castlereagh’s bartering of an Indian writership for a seat in parliament but this risked Castlereagh’s total removal from government whereas Canning only sought his removal from the War Ministry. It seems an unrelated matter but note that Canning’s Royal support comes from the Princess Caroline of Wales – she may be concerned for the reputation of the Brunswick family in light of her brother-in-law’s embarrassments as CiC and wishes to show that sale of offices is customary in London.
Sat 3rd March 1810
There is a squabble going on in the cabinet for control. The Duke of Portland’s infirmity revealed he had to be replaced as 1st Lord of the Treasury and that meant a change of ministry. Canning proposed himself as the new leader. Perceval, as Chancellor of the Exchequer, declined to be inferior to Canning who became irate and resigned – he is a clever chap but ‘a loose cannon’ and not an ideal cabinet man. The whole spat has had the effect (and has been adopted) of deflecting attention from the egregious failure of the Walcheren expedition (and general planning failures in the War Department) which in the usual case should, of itself, require a change of ministry.
The proper course now is for the ministry to resign and a general election to be held. Perceval is absolutely opposed to taking any such risk. He is trying to woo Earl Grey and Lord Grenville to his side as they each have sufficient support to create a possible alternative ministry. It is said the King has asked to see them.
Perceval first suggested putting Lord Wellesley up as top man but Canning was obdurate. Then Grey told Perceval he will not work with him. Grenville is also equivocal on the subject and has told the Prince of Wales, Lord Holland, Tierney and other members of the late administration that he has refused Perceval’s proposal.
Perceval’s solution is to dump Canning, elevate Castlereagh and put himself up as leader. Canning is too clever to be trusted. What this country imperatively needs is unity amongst the prima donnas; a ministry with the confidence of the King, the Prince and the people but without the formality of an election.
Sat 24th March 1810
Exports from England may have diminished but revenue is buoyant. The new Legacy Tax required 30 new clerks to collect and produces an average £500 a day.
Sat 5th May 1810
Cobbett’s Political Register: A change of ministry is not yet decided upon. Those who are ‘in’ wish to coalesce with some of those who are ‘out’. The ‘outs’ suspect that if they hold out a little longer, the ministry will collapse. It might be best for England if they formed a grand Coalition with Popery and No Popery in fond embrace, but that is not on their minds.
Grey did not coalesce with Grenville and neither of them coalesced with Addington. The Foxites never coalesced with Pitt (whom they esteemed for 20 years as a greater enemy of England than France) and neither would Pitt coalesce with them. Those parties are only united since Pitt’s death to honour his memory and pay his debts on the grounds of ‘his public services’.
The Morning Chronicle speaks of a coalition as ‘appropriate’ in the present state of the representation. By striking out the intellectuals, it says the minister can achieve consensus. Was Canning’s motion for the acquittal of Castlereagh ‘appropriate’? Is Earl Grey in favour of reform of the representation or not? If he is, we will vote for Canning. Maddocks’ made a motion on the sale of seats, then did a bargain with Quintin Dick on voting – was the motion to set aside Maddocks’ motion and avoid all enquiry ‘appropriate’? Did not Grey’s group support that motion? It seems clear that what is ‘appropriate’ is the maintenance of the status quo, not the reform of the representation.
The Edinburgh Reviewers say reform is imperative if we are to preserve our liberties. This newspaper was called Jacobin and Leveller for supporting reform. Grey’s group dislike the state of the representation because it is presently keeping them out of office. When they were in power they did nothing about it. They shunned those to whom they had committed themselves to reform. Perhaps the sort of change in the representation that they have in mind is like 1806 when a parliamentary dissolution gave them a majority in House of Commons. If that is the extent of reform that they propose we may as well leave the present incumbents in place.
The Edinburgh Review allowed Canning to say some incautious things in his recent submission that they published. When Portland became ill, the top job was likely to fall to either Canning or Perceval. Canning said two prima donnas could not co-exist and he was the better choice because the House gave greater attention to him thus increasing his influence. Later on the same page he bemoans the ‘present state of the representation’. He talks of the ‘business of the House’ as though it was a House of Commerce and he represents the Commons as a tool of the Minister. If Canning is right, who cares who is in power for it has nothing to do with the popular will! When a politician deplores ‘the present state of the representation’ he means his group does not have a majority.
Why should we follow his recommendation to hold meetings to petition H M of the political dangers. It does not matter a straw which party is in power. If someone says the representation demands thorough reform we will support him, nothing less.
Sat 12th May 1810
Lord Melville (Henry Dundas) has been rehabilitated as a matter of factional pragmatism and is expected to get a post in the new administration – presumably at the Board of Control or Admiralty where he has expertise.
Sat 19th May 1810
Perceval’s difficulties in forming an administration have reached farcical dimensions. Lord Francis Spencer has been gazetted as a Commissioner for the Affairs of India at the Board of Control but Spencer knew nothing of the appointment and declined to accept it. Perceval first insisted that his orders should be obeyed; then he asked for a few days to find a substitute.
Perceval has sent an unprecedented letter to all MPs of his party demanding their presence at the opening of parliament on 23rd January 1810 and requiring a reply. They are imperatively required to attend unless really sick.
Many resent the instruction. They interpret the letter as an attempt to obtain their support for Perceval’s ministry and say the letter is disrespectful to a representative of the people. Perhaps they are finally recognising their duty.
- See his Vindiciae Gallicae (and the Revolution in England, 1688) for comparative information on the two systems. It was also the case that Thomas Paine’s Rights of Man was written as an answer to Burke’s untutored propaganda about the revolution in France. That publication earned Paine a prosecution for sedition. He was found guilty and sentenced to death but escaped to France.↵
- Hanover was more extensive than can be inferred from British histories. George I had prevailed on parliament to buy Bremen and Verden from Denmark for £250,000. This was approved in George II’s reign. It gave control of trade on the River Weser. George II himself added the Duchy of Saxe Lawenberg. George III added the Bishopric of Osnaburg and, in the carve-up after Napoleon, the Bishopric of Hildesheim, the Duchy of Minden and the principality of East Friesland, although His hankering ‘for a bit of Belgium’ was ultimately unsuccessful.↵
- Primarily the revenues of the Duchy of Cornwall – said to be about £15,000 a year.↵
- It caused the only serious spat George had with Pitt whose officials were then on the Russian frontier awaiting news. Paul’s death was part of a Machiavellian scheme to destroy the Armed Neutrality of the Baltic states that Paul led and was ‘part one’ of a two-part plot, the latter of which was the capture of the Danish fleet, the only capable naval element in the Armed Neutrality (see the Europe chapter for better information).
There was also a difference over Catholic disabilities which George sought to continue in light of the terms of his Coronation Oath, but it seems a reasonable bet, given the mercenary policy of the time and the constant flow of wealth from Ireland to England, that Catholic exclusion was too valuable to be foregone.↵
- This is the precedent for a comment that appears later in the text – that English Kings are appointed by Act of Parliament. See also an article dated 25th April 1818 and the footnote to it for an explanation.↵
- The British people at this time refer to George III’s family as the House of Brunswick, Anglicised from Braunschweig. The appellation appears in popular English songs and poems of the 18th and early 19th centuries↵
- The Diet of 1803 will shortly re-organise the number of German states from over 300 to 131 members and increase the number of secular Electors to nine by addition of the rulers of Baden, Hesse-Cassel, Wurtemburg and Salzburg.
There are five ‘arch’ positions in the Holy Roman Empire. The Austrian Emperor as King of Bohemia is arch-cupbearer, his brother Charles is President of the Rhine Confederation and arch-chancellor, King Frederick Augustus of Saxony is arch-marshal, King Frederick William of Prussia is arch-chamberlain and King George III of Britain is arch-treasurer.↵
- There are two large Republics at this time of Western history – the American and the French. There are several small ones in the Po valley – Venice, Genoa, Florence, etc.. The Swiss Cantons are also individually constituted as Republics.↵
- This ‘surplus wealth’ is a feature of the British economy. All wealth was derived from the land. It is by the purported ownership of land (commonly a gift from an impoverished King to His Barons) that the concentration is commenced. Land endures so long as the planet endures whilst people come and go endlessly. This “ownership” of surplus wealth appears questionable.↵
- This was the deal in Britain – the resident elects his MP whom he does not know but sees on the hustings and who claims to act ‘according to his principles.’ Voting for an unknown person gave rise to the bribery in British elections. The voter has a second power under the Bill of Rights – he may petition parliament if he is aggrieved.↵
- The British position was that she was recovering the costs of the Seven Years War from the beneficiaries of that victory, inter alia, the American colonies.↵
- This was true at the time but not for much longer due to the insertion of paper-money between work and value, which facility was beyond political will to control. In spite of a surfeit of credit notes, we still hear this today – most recently from President Reagan and his ‘trickle down’ hypothesis.↵
- Both these reliefs were obtained by rebellion but the insurrectionists had other aims and the relief obtained was incidental↵
- This may have been solicited by the Dundas family which enjoys peculiar authority in Scotland. As appears later in the text, Scotland at this time was controlled by 3,100 elected and hereditary representatives, many resident in London.↵
- Bishops of the Anglican Church are appointed by the King and they in turn approve the clergy. This allows the King a direct voice in the villages, through the local vicar, and is an important base to his power. The list of Constitutional documents in his address, to which should be added Magna Charta, appears to have comprised the then Constitution of Great Britain.↵
- Briefly, on coronation, George III swore to maintain the Protestant Reformed Religion and the settlement of the Anglican Church. The Petition of Right was enacted 1628. It empowered parliament to levy taxes, it better established the habeas corpus doctrine, it upheld the Magna Carta provisions for imprisonment. The Bill of Rights 1689 allows citizens to petition the Crown and to carry arms (Protestants only). The Habeas Corpus Act 1679 strengthened provisions against whimsical detention and the Act of Settlement 1701 appointed the House of Brunswick to the British throne but limited their authority in many ways.↵
- The concept ‘the King can do no wrong’ is not a statement of infallibility but merely a device to prevent a minister defending himself from criticism by saying he acted on the King’s orders.↵
- Henry Flood’s Reform Bill of 1790 was said by Fox to be the best scheme yet proposed.↵
- See the Economy chapter for better particulars of this public support to the merchants.↵
- See the Europe chapter, particularly the Treaty of Pavia, for the response of the Kings to the democratic infection in France.↵
- Savile represented Yorkshire. He brought in Bills in 1771, 1772 and 1774 to define the rights of electors but was defeated on each occasion. In 1780 he sought to itemise the Minister’s patronage but was narrowly defeated. In 1782 he supported Pitt’s reform bill. Marjie Bloy provides an excellent albeit brief biography at: http://www.historyhome.co.uk/people/savile.htm↵
- The argument that legislation requires constant revision appears to be a development of Tom Paine’s recognition that one generation should not legislate for another i.e. that legislators should spend a good deal of their time revising or repealing old law.↵
- The determined British resistance to Equality was founded on the threat it was said to pose to the Master / Servant laws upon which employment was regulated and, at a higher level in the capitalist system, the performance of contractual terms by the smaller party to the agreement. If the employee / sub-contractor was equal to his employer / main contractor he might not submit to the harsher terms.
Resistance to Equality continued throughout the war and British Principles were entrenched on the rest of Europe only after war ended, using the attraction of the City’s control of international trade to finance ‘borrow first, repay later’ to effect it. These loans to the Kings of Europe were securitised on each country’s stock exchange and exposed the monarch to the influence of capitalists. The British conviction was that society must be hierarchical. In fact it can be seen from these French provisions that British anxiety related to the next item – Property – and the prohibition on any man selling himself. This provision is a call to self-employment. In my opinion, it was the major threat to the master / servant laws that underpin British Principles.↵
- The family had two other representatives in parliament at this time – Daniel Parker for Nottingham and Edward for Derby.↵
- In December 1792 the King issued a Proclamation against Republicans and Levellers and ordered Magistrates throughout the Kingdom to suppress dissent. Thereafter the publicans, whose premises were used for meetings, only welcomed clubs supporting King and Church.↵
- Lord Chancellor Jeffries actually appears to have died in the Tower from the effects of drunkenness.↵
- Sergeant, or properly Serjeant, denotes a barrister of 16 years experience. It was from Serjeants Inn that Judges were selected.↵
- Britain has two PMGs, one for ‘special duties,’ and both enjoy the legislated powers attached to that office.↵
- The Editor receives a few uncomplimentary letters, probably from Indian army officers, concerning the Indian army’s dispute with Dundas over the proposed combined British Indian army. This is from one of them.↵
- Dundas doublespeak – George III has a considerable British and colonial income.↵
- John Stockdale was prosecuted in 1789 for a libel on the House of Commons. The libellous pamphlet was a defence of Warren Hastings’ administration of India. A few paragraphs of Sir Thomas Erskine’s Defence may be found at the start of the Asia chapter introducing the articles concerning Hastings’ trial. Notes of the Stockdale proceedings were most recently republished in 1974. Erskine’s defence is still considered important in determining the rights of the Press.↵
- Windham’s Dad was one of George III’s very few close friends, a relationship that Fox suspects has inured to the son.↵
- Reeves is a law clerk serving in Lord Hawkesbury’s office and the author of a scholarly history of the laws of England.↵
- There have been a series of trials of democrats for sedition, resulting in heavy sentences and effectively cowing dissenting opinion. See the Dissent chapter.↵
- The book was called Vindiciae Gallicae and is still regularly republished, most recently by Liberty Fund Inc. in 2006, Palgrave Macmillan in 2007 and Cambridge Scholars Publishing in 2009. The delightful Sir James Mackintosh appears frequently in these pages – see the Europe, Economy and Asia chapters.↵
- Pitt originated new policies to maintain government stock values. Apart from Sinking Fund purchases, he occasionally withheld some stock from market, he introduced the overseas balances of British merchants into the computation of national wealth to underwrite unfunded debt, he required landowners to invest in the market (to the extent of their Land Tax) and he applied the value of these together with the funds of national enemies within his grasp to the market as well. Later a 10% Income Tax was added. This market manipulation allowed him to eventually guarantee the bankers a floor price of 60 on the 3% consols which established the London bond market and displaced land as the best available investment.↵
- See the Toulon & Corsica chapter for the induction of Corsica into the Empire under Governor-General Minto after the allied expulsion from Toulon.↵
- The Whigs are not attending parliament this session to shame the country MPs into recollecting their duty.↵
- Sir William is the greatest of the borough mongers. He is wooed by all parties.↵
- Devonshire appears to have seceded from parliament along with the liberal Whigs. He is their major financier.↵
- The blood cost of simple banknotes from 1793 until money value was restored in 1820s was about 6,000 Britons hanged for forgery.↵
- See the dedicated chapter on Popham for details of his intrepid raid on the Bruges Canal and many other brave exploits. See the Economy chapter for the bankers’ requirement of an Income Tax.↵
- His earlier hankering ‘for a bit of Belgium’ was for the same result. The addition of the sovereignty of Hamburg will entrench George III as the financial equivalent to Prussia’s military role over the German states.↵
- This is a spat between George III and his eldest son. The King objects to the Prince’s friendship with Fox and apparent support for Republican ideals and declines to permit Pitt to pay the Cornish revenues to his son. Pitt has to support him↵
- The encouragement of import trade to London is thought essential to the maintenance of the Customs revenue. It also allows the City merchants to monopolise the off-loading, storage, auction and distribution of imports domestically and internationally. This is the basis to London’s greater wealth compared to the rest of the country.↵
- Turkish opium contains about 10% morphine and is too strong to smoke. It is medicine – eaten as pills, dissolved in wine or used recreationally in brewing and baking. The Company’s opium is about 6% morphine and smokable.↵
- The previous article also notes the Prince of Wales’ general popularity. It conflicts with the current opinions of English historians which appears to have been shaped by a couple of political cartoonists. George III’s frustration of his first son’s career opportunities caused the Prince to adopt displacement activities which are used to justify his present poor reputation.↵
- The facts seem to have come to public knowledge from Whitbread rather than the parliamentary enquiry. He is related to the owner of Coutt’s Bank.↵
- H M dislikes Dundas. The only published reason is Dundas’ spidery handwriting. The King has a cataract in one lens and another developing in the other. There is a treatment available involving lens removal or lens washing (in Prussic acid). Nevertheless, handwriting can hardly explain HM’s hostility. It may more probably be connected with events in India.↵
- Precisely as someone, granted an audience by King George III, does on approaching the monarch.↵
- Jellicoe was a former Paymaster who loaned large sums of public money to his son Samuel who was in partnership with Cort, the iron worker. Cort had invented the puddling process and was expected to invent a new stronger iron from sales of which Cort / Jellicoe would benefit but Cort’s experiments never ended and Jellicoe ended-up paying so much public money that it could not be concealed.↵
- Boyd ran the Paris office of the bank and provided services, inter alia, to the London government. Pitt brought Boyd Benfield into government loans business at the time he was trying to reduce the cost of funds from the usual contractors. Boyd Benfield were apparently unable to collect the subscriptions they had committed to and needed help, sourced partially from the Admiralty.↵
- The newspaper has little detail on the development of this case but the reader can get a better idea of Melville’s position from a subsequent trial of Mint Master Forster in Calcutta wherein Forster adduced details of Melville’s defence in explaining his own acts – see a 6th April 1811 report in the Asia chapter.↵
- The only winner in this matter was Sir Thomas Erskine whose sparkling career has unpredictably lurched to the Lord Chancellorship in which job he has management of the proceedings. To atone for the unconscionable delays with Warren Hastings and to provide a better example to the lower Courts, Erskine dextrously pushes this case through in six weeks. Melville’s counsel are Plumer and Adam.↵
- 2nd Earl Caledon, formerly Du Pre Alexander, bought Old Sarum in 1802 and nominated Josias Du Pre Porcher and Nicholas Vansittart as MPs.↵
- The borough was actually sold by Camelford in 1802 to the 2nd Earl of Caledon. Alexander was his relative and one of the sitting MPs until 1806. At this election the candidates were Vansittart, Pitt’s pupil in financial affairs, and Josias du Pre Porcher, the East India trader. They are both in the minister’s stable suggesting Pitt’s support is still considerable.↵
- He is Treasurer of the Ordnance, a lawyer, a former Governor of Madras Presidency and a confident of ministers. He appears in these newspapers on numerous occasions.↵
- de Lancey became Wellington’s quartermaster general in Spain where no auditing of expenditure was ever attempted.↵
- The Goldsmid brothers, Benjamin and Abraham, helped Pitt escape the London banking cartel that made government loans so expensive. The brothers were basically bills brokers but provided many professional services to the ministry and were important contributors to British victory in the war with Napoleon. Both were forced into bankruptcy by the City and committed suicide. They were exemplars and pathfinders to the Rothschild family.↵
- This judgement is quite harsh. The concern was for the King’s sanity and a belief the proposal was inappropriately timed.↵
- Informal legal opinion suggests the draft Act would have also permitted Muslims and Jews to command British armies and navies. When Pitt proposed something similar at the time of Tsar Paul’s death the King disagreed and Pitt resigned.↵
- The owner of the borough required £3,000 from each nominee, totally £6,000, whilst the electors only received £3,000 for their support. On discovering this they sold to another.↵
- In the Indian Army it is sold by the Commanding Officer under the Articles of War – so numerous advertisements in the Bombay Courier say – and the proceeds credited to the officer’s Estate.↵
- In the few months of the brief Whig Ministry of all the Talents, several Enquiries were initiated into government spending resulting in some embarrassing discoveries – see the Europe and Economy chapters for additional details.↵
- The reed was hollow and was said to be capable of delivering a projectile at lethal speed, like a blow-pipe. It was called ‘the pop-gun plot’ in the newspapers. The public had not conceived of the possibility of le Maitre succeeding in this offence – like the later émigré assertions of an assassination plot against Louis XVIII using a poisoned carrot, see the Assassination chapter.↵
- The terms appears to have originated in a comment of the King’s reported by Lord Temple (Buckingham, one of the Grenvilles) to the House of Lords that whoever voted for Fox’s India Bill was not the King’s friend but his enemy. It is clearly apparent at this time that the King’s friends were originating national policy and the ministers were formally uninvolved e.g. the invasion of Argentina.↵
- This is still an astonishingly good result for the liberals. Clearly the tide of parliamentary feeling is running against Perceval as minister.↵
- This enlarges on Burdett’s comments to the Westminster electorate on the tripartite division of power between King, Lords and Commons in that the spoils go to the King and the Lords whilst the costs remain with the people. No-one in Britain is proposing to adopt democracy since the ministry’s implacable opposition became apparent – it is said to be mob-rule and irredeemably anarchic. The means of managing anarchy have not yet been identified.↵
- A report on the 2nd reading of Mr Curwen’s Reform Bill was recently (May 2009) posted at http://hansard.millbanksystems.com/lords/1809/jun/15/mr-curwens-reform-bill but the contents of the Bill is still unknown.↵