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XIX.

1779.

torce.

rook in the session of 1778, but accompanied with several

additional concessions, particularly the very impor. tant one that Ireland should be allowed the free exportation of her woollens. These resolutions passed unanimously, and were received in Ireland not only with satisfaction but ex ukation, from the flattering and delusive expectation of deriving from them an

effectual and immediate relief to her distresses. Fatimate of The attention of the public in England was not a the national

little attracted by the estimates of the army and navy, which were about this time laid before parliament. Eighty-five thousand men had been at an early period of the session voted for the sça service, and before the recess the secretary at war moved, “ that one hundred and eleven thousand men be voted for the land service, exclusive of militia, amounting with the additional volunteer companies to forty-two thousand. The forvign troops in British pay were calculated at twenty-four thousand, and the artillery at six thousand. The entire aggregate of this formidable force, therefore, fell litile short of two hundred and seventy thousand men, without including the troops serving upon the Irish or Indian establishments. To support this vast force twelve millions were raised by way of loan, in addition to the permanent means of supply; and those who most deplored the incredible and enormous folly which had reduced the nation to a situation so cri. tical and dangerous, could not but view with plea.

XIX.

1780.

sure and astonishment the power, the riches, and BOOK, the spirit now displayed in defence of all that was dear and valuable to a free and independent people. The opposition in parliament had been for some time past gradually acquiring strength; and the nation at large, notwithstanding their original predilection for the war, began at length to be seriously alarmed at the magnitude of the contest, and the prodigious and ruinous expense with which it was attended. The undisguised and unexampled profusion which pervaded every department of government could not but strike the most careless observer : and, on a sudden, ECONOMY became the prevailing and popular cry throughout the kingdom.

Early in the new year, 1780, public meetings Petitions to were convened in most of the principal counties, on the suband petitions to parliament were framed, with the ic ceconolaudable and express view of establishing a system founded upon principles of strict and disinterested frugality. The county of York, with great propriety and effect, took the lead on this occasion. In their petition tothe house of commons they earnestly requested, “ that, before any new burdens were laid upon this country, effectual measures might be taken by that house to enquire into and correct the gross abuses in the expenditure of the public money; to reduce all exorbitant emoluments; to rescind and abolish all sinecure places and unmerited pensions ; and to appropriate the produce to the necessities of

my.

VOL. VII.

XIX.

BOOK the state in such manner as to the wisdom of par

liament should seem meet.” This petition was presented to the house on the 8th of February, 1780, by sir George Saville, member for the county, who stated, that it was signed by above eight thousand freeholders. This petition, he said, had been procured by.no underhand arts or public canvass; it was first moved in a meeting of six hundred gentlemen; and there was, he believed, more property in the hall where it was agreed to, than was contained within the walls of the house of commons. It was a petition, he said, to which the administration would not dare to refuse a hearing, however the arts of ministerial artifice and finesse might be employed to defeat the purpose of it*.” A number of other petitions of similar import being presented, BOOK Mr. Burke at length brought forward a specific plan of reform, professedly aiming at two grand objects: Reform « first, the reduction of the national expenditure ; duced by second, the diminution of regal influence that in- Mr. Burke. fluence which took away all vigor from our arms, wisdom from our councils, and every shadow of authority and credit from the most venerable parts of the constitution."-To effect these purposes, Mr. Burke moved for leave to bring in certain bills for the better regulation of his majesty's civil establishments, for the sale of forest and other crown lands, for more perfectly uniting to the crown the principality

1780.

* The chief and almost the only opposer of this famous petition was a Mr. Leonard Smelt, who had formerly occupied the important office of sub-governor to the prince of Wales. This gentleman, in an elaborate barangue, avowed and vindicated the principles of Toryisin in their full extent. He declared “the influence of the crown not to be exorbitant-on the contrary, that the king's hands ought to be strengthenedthat the proceedings of that day tended to confusion, as aiming. to put the king under the guardianship of parliament, and to incite to an illegal interference with the prerogative. He charged his opponents with wanting to withdraw the sacred veil that hides from the people the splendor of majesty. He insisted upon the immortality and impeccability of the kingaffirming the protection of the sovereign to be the liberty of the subject. He exclaimed against the Whigs, as actuated by an Hliberal and selfish policy-quoting the well known aphorism

XIX.

1780.

bills intro

of sir Robert Walpole," that every man had his price." The Whigs bad usurped the power, and left the name only to the king. The Whigs had caused the war in America, and fomented the disturbances in Ireland. Lord Chatham, though he had glared a meteor in a storm, wanted the qualifications necessary to a minister in times of peace. He repeated, that the calamities of the country did not originate from the influence of the king, but from his not possessing influence enough. He did not think that at this time there was a disinterested patriot in Britain. If, said this courtly orator, there is one, he now sits upon the throne. And he vehemently deprecated that false principle on which parliament was called to interfere with the prerogative of the crown." As containing the opinions of an isolated individual, this speech could excite no other emotion than contempt: but considering Mr. Smelt as the organ of a dark, subtle, and inveterate court-faction, it was calculated to excite the highest alarm, resentment, and indignation.

XIX.

1740.

BOOK of Wales, the counties palatine of Chester and

Lancaster, and the duchy of Cornwall. But these bills, after a violent conflict, in the course of which the minister was more than once left in a minority,

were finally lost. Commis. A notice given by colonel Barré of an intention to sion of

move for the appointment of a select committee to instituted.

inspect the public accounts, secmed, however, to meet with universal approbation. It was for that reason, therefore, artfully and unfairly taken up by the minister himself, who abruptly brought in a bill, contrary to the remonstrances of colonel Barré, and the concurring resentment of a large proportion of the house, for instituting a commission of accounts, consisting of persons not members of the house of commons. This was deemed unparliamentary, and in strong language opposed as an abdication of the rights and privileges of the house. But it passed into a law by a considerable majority; and the successive reports of the commissioners appointed in virtue of this act, form, by their accuracy, ability, and impartiality, the best reply to the various objections urged against it.

The house of peers in the mean time were far

from being indolent or irattentive spectators of the Earl of interesting scenes now passing. On the very day motion of that the petition of the county of York was pre

sented to the house of commons, the earl of Shel. burne moved, in the house of peers, “ for the ap

reform.

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