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Debate On A Motion For Inquiring Into The Conduct Of Publick Affairs

Title:     Debate On A Motion For Inquiring Into The Conduct Of Publick Affairs
Author: Samuel Johnson [More Titles by Johnson]



Lord LIMERICK rose, and spoke in the following manner:--Sir, as I am about to offer to the house a motion of the highest importance to the honour and happiness of our country, to the preservation of our privileges, and the continuance of our constitution, I make no doubt of a candid attention from this assembly, and hope for such a determination as shall be the result not of external influence, but of real conviction.

I cannot but congratulate myself and all lovers of their country, that we are arrived at a time, in which such hopes may be rationally indulged, that we shall soon see the triumph of liberty, and the renovation of senatorial freedom. It is not without the highest satisfaction, that I find my life protracted to that happy day, in which the yoke of dependence has been shaken off, and the shackles of oppression have been broken; in which truth and justice have once more raised up their heads, and obtained that regard which had so long been paid to splendid wickedness and successful rapine.

The time is now past, in which it was meritorious to harden the heart against pity, and the forehead against shame; to plunder the people by needless taxes, and insult them by displaying their spoils before their eyes, in luxurious riot, and boundless magnificence; when the certain method of obtaining what the greatest part, even of good men, cannot but sometimes wish to acquire, interest, affluence, and honour, was an implicit resignation to authority, a desertion of all principles, defiance of all censure, and an open declaration against any other motives of action, than the sole pleasure of an arbitrary minister.

It is now, sir, no longer considered as an instance of disaffection to the government, to represent the miseries and declare the opinions of the people; to propose their interest as the great basis of government, the general end of society, and the parent of law. It is now no longer criminal to affirm, that they have a right to complain when they are, in their own opinion, injured, and to be heard when they complain. It may now be with safety asserted, that those who swell with the pride of office, and glitter with the magnificence of a court, however they may display their affluence, or boast their titles; with whatever contempt they may have learned of late to look upon their fellow-subjects, who have no possessions but what they have obtained by their industry, nor any honours but what are voluntarily paid to their understanding and their virtue; with whatever authority they may dictate to their dependants, or whatever reverence they may exact from a long subordination of hirelings, are, amidst all their pomp and influence, only the servants of the people, intrusted by them with the administration of their affairs, and accountable to them for the abuse of trust.

That trusts of the highest importance have been long abused, that the servants of the people, having long thought themselves out of the reach of justice, and above examination, have very ill discharged the offices in which they have been engaged, that the publick advantage has been wholly disregarded, that treaties have been concluded without any regard to the interest of Britain, and that our foreign and domestick affairs have been managed with equal ignorance, negligence, or wickedness, the present state of Europe, and the calamities of this country, will sufficiently inform us.

If we survey the condition of foreign nations, we shall find, that the power and dominions of the family of Bourbon, a family which has never had any other designs than the extirpation of true religion, and the universal slavery of mankind, have been daily increased. We shall find that they have increased by the declension of the house of Austria, which treaties and our interest engage us to support.

But had their acquisitions been made only by the force of arms, had they grown stronger only by victories, and more wealthy only by plunder, our ministers might, with some appearance of reason, have imputed their success to accident, and informed us, that we gained, in the mean time, a sufficient counterbalance to those advantages, by an uninterrupted commerce, and by the felicity of peace; peace, which, in every nation, has been found to produce affluence, and of which the wisest men have thought that it could scarcely be too dearly purchased.

But peace has, in this nation, by the wonderful artifices of our ministers, been the parent of poverty and misery; we have been so far from finding our commerce extended by it, that we have enjoyed it only by a contemptible patience of the most open depredations, by a long connivance at piracy, and by a continued submission to insults, which no other nation would have borne.

We have been so far from seeing any part of our taxes remitted, that we have been loaded with more rigorous exactions to support the expenses of peace, than were found necessary to defray the charges of a war against those, whose opulence and power had incited them to aspire to the dominion of the world.

How these taxes have been employed, and why our trade has been neglected, why our allies have been betrayed, and why the ancient enemies of our country have been suffered to grow powerful by our connivances, it is now time to examine; and therefore I move, that a committee be appointed to inquire into the conduct of affairs at home and abroad during the last twenty years.

Sir John ST. AUBIN then spoke as follows:--Sir, I rise up to second this motion; and, as the noble lord has opened it in so full and proper a manner, and as I do not doubt but that other gentlemen are ready to support it, more practised in speaking, of greater abilities and authority than myself, I am the less anxious about the injury it may receive from the part I bear in it. I think the proposition is so evident, that it wants no enforcement; it comes to you from the voice of the nation, which, thank God, has at last found admittance within these walls.

Innocence is of so delicate a nature, that it cannot bear suspicion, and therefore will desire inquiry; because it will always be justified by it. Guilt, from its own consciousness, will use subterfuges, and fly to concealment; and the more righteous and authoritative the inquiry, the more it will be avoided; because the greater will be the dread of punishment.

In private life, I am contented with men's virtues only, without seeking for opportunities of blame. In a publick character, when national grievances cry aloud for inquiry and justice, it is our duty to pursue all the footsteps of guilt; and the loud, the pathetick appeal of my constituents, is more forcibly persuasive than any motive of private tenderness. This appeal is not the clamour of faction, artfully raised to disturb the operation of government, violent for a while, and soon to be appeased. It is the complaint of long and patient sufferings, a complaint not to be silenced; and which all endeavours to suppress it, would only make more importunate and clamorous. It is the solemn appeal of the whole people, of the united body of our constituents, in this time of national calamity, earnestly beseeching you, in a legal parliamentary way, to redress their grievances, to revive your ancient right of inquiry, to explore the most remote and hidden sources of iniquity, to detect the bold authors of their distress, that they may be made examples of national justice.

It is to you they appeal, the true, the genuine representatives of the people. Not like former parliaments, an instrument of state, the property of a minister, purchased by the missionaries of corruption, who have been dispersed through the kingdom, and furnished with the publick money to invade all natural interest, by poisoning the morals of the people. Upon this rotten foundation has been erected a towering fabrick of corruption: a most dangerous conspiracy has been carried on against the very essence of our constitution, a formidable system of ministerial power has been formed, fallaciously assuming, under constitutional appearances, the name of legal government.

In this system we have seen the several offices of administration meanly resolving themselves under the direction and control of one man: while this scheme was pursued, the nation has been ingloriously patient of foreign indignities; our trade has been most shamefully neglected, or basely betrayed; a war with an impotent enemy, most amply provided for, unsuccessfully carried on; the faith of treaties broke; our natural allies deserted, and weakened even by that power, which we now dread for want of their assistance.

It is not the bare removal from office that will satisfy the nation, especially if such removal is dignified with the highest marks of royal favour. This only gives mankind a reasonable fear that his majesty has rather condescended to the importunities, than adopted the opinion of his people. It is, indeed, a most gracious condescension, a very high instance of his majesty's just intentions to remove any of his servants upon national suspicion; but it will give his majesty a most unfavourable opinion of his people, if he is not satisfied that this suspicion was just. It is the unfortunate situation of arbitrary kings, that they know the sentiments of their people only from whisperers in their closet. Our monarchy has securer establishments. Our sovereign is always sure of knowing the true sense of his people, because he may see it through the proper, the constitutional medium: but then this medium must be pure, it must transmit every object in its real form and its natural colours. This is all that is now contended for. You are called to the exercise of your just right of inquiry, that his majesty may see what reason there is for this general inquietude.

This motion is of a general nature; whom it may more particularly affect, I shall not determine. But there is a great person, lately at the head of the administration, who stands foremost, the principal object of national suspicion. He surely will not decline this inquiry, it is his own proposition; he has frequently, in the name of the whole administration, thrown down his gauntlet here; has desired your inquiries, and has rested his fate on your justice. The nation accepts the challenge, they join issue with him, they are now desirous to bring this great cause in judgment before you.

It must be imputed to the long intermission of this right of inquiry, that the people have now this cause of complaint; had the administration of this great person been submitted to the constitutional controls, had his conduct undergone strict and frequent inquiries, he had parts and abilities to have done great honour and service to this country. But the will, uncontrouled, for ever must and will produce security and wantonness; nor can moderation and despotick power subsist long together.

In vain do we admire the outlines of our constitution, in vain do we boast of those wise and salutary restraints, which our ancestors, at the expense of their blood and treasure, have wisely imposed upon monarchy itself, if it is to be a constitution in theory only, if this evasive doctrine is to be admitted, that a fellow-subject of our own, perhaps of the lowest rank among us, may be delegated by the crown to exercise the administration of government, with absolute, uncontroulable dominion over us; which must be the case, if ministerial conduct is not liable to parliamentary inquiries.

If I did not think this motion agreeable to the rules and proceedings of the senate; if I thought it was meant to introduce any procedure which was not strictly consonant to the laws and constitution of my country, I do most solemnly protest I would be against, it. But as I apprehend it to arise from the nature and spirit of our constitution, as it will defend the innocent, and can be detrimental only to the guilty, I do most heartily second the motion.

The hon. Henry PELHAM opposed the motion to the following effect:--Sir, if it was not daily to be observed, how much the minds of the wisest and most moderate men are elated with success, and how often those, who have been able to surmount the strongest obstacles with unwearied diligence, and to preserve their fortitude unshaken amidst hourly disappointments, have been betrayed by slight advantages into indecent exultations, unreasonable confidence, and chimerical hopes; had I not long remarked the infatuation of prosperity, and the pride of triumph, I should not have heard the motion which has been now made without, astonishment.

It has been long the business or the amusement of the gentlemen, who, having for some time conferred upon themselves the venerable titles of patriots, advocates for the people, and defenders of the constitution, have at length persuaded part of the nation to dignify them with the same appellation, to display in the most pathetick language, and aggravate with the most hyperbolical exaggerations, the wantonness with which the late ministry exercised their power, the exorbitance of their demands, and the violence of their measures. They have indulged their imaginations, which have always been sufficiently fruitful in satire and invective, by representing them as men in whom all regard to decency or reputation was extinguished, men who no longer submitted to wear the mask of hypocrisy, or thought the esteem of mankind worth their care; who had ceased to profess any regard to the welfare of their country, or any desire of advancing the publick happiness; and who no longer desired any other effects of their power, than the security of themselves and the conquest of their opponents.

Such, sir, has been the character of the ministry, which, by the incessant endeavours of these disinterested patriots, has been carried to the remotest corners of the empire, and disseminated through all the degrees of the people. Every man, whom they could enlist among their pupils, whom they could persuade to see with their eyes, rather than his own, and who was not so stubborn as to require proofs of their assertions, and reasons of their conduct; every man who, having no sentiments of his own, hoped to become important by echoing those of his instructors, was taught to think and to say, that the court was filled with open corruption; that the greatest and the wisest men of the kingdom set themselves publickly to sale, and held an open traffick for votes and places; that whoever engaged in the party of the minister, declared himself ready to support his cause against truth, and reason, and conviction, and was no longer under the restraint of shame or virtue.

These assertions, hardy as they were, they endeavoured to support by instances of measures, which they described as having no other tendency, than to advance the court to absolute authority, to enslave the nation, or to betray it: and more happily would they have propagated their system, and much sooner would they have obtained a general declaration of the people in their favour, had they been able to have produced a motion like this.

Should the influence of these men increase, should they grow secure in the possession of their power, by any new methods of deluding the people, what wonderful expedients, what unheard-of methods of government may not be expected from them? What degrees of violence may they not be supposed to practise, who have flushed their new authority by a motion which was never projected since the first existence of our government, or offered by the most arbitrary minister in all the confidence of an established majority.

It may, perhaps, be imagined by many of those who are unacquainted with senatorial affairs, as many of the members of this house may without any reproach be supposed to be, that I have made use of those arts against the patriots which they have so long practised against the court; that I have exaggerated the enormity of the motion by unjust comparisons, or rhetorical flights; and that there will be neither danger nor inconvenience in complying with it to any but those who have betrayed their trust, or neglected their duty.

I doubt not, but many of those with whom this motion has been concerted, have approved it without seeing all its consequences; and have been betrayed into that approbation by a laudable zeal for their country, and an honest indignation against corruption and treachery, by a virtuous desire of detecting wickedness, and of securing our constitution from any future dangers or attacks.

For the sake, therefore, of these gentlemen, whom I cannot but suppose willing to follow the dictates of their own consciences, and to act upon just motives, I shall endeavour to lay open the nature of this extraordinary motion, and doubt not but that when they find it, as it will unquestionably appear, unreasonable in itself, and dangerous to posterity, they will change their opinion for the same reasons as they embraced it, and prefer the happiness of their country to the prosperity of their party.

Against an inquiry into the conduct of all foreign and domestick affairs for twenty years past, it is no weak argument that it is without precedent; that neither the zeal of patriotism, nor the rage of faction, ever produced such a motion in any former age. It cannot be doubted by those who have read our histories, that formerly our country has produced men equally desirous of detecting wickedness, and securing liberty, with those who are now congratulating their constituents on the success of their labours; and that faction has swelled in former times to a height, at which it may reasonably be hoped it will never arrive again, is too evident to be controverted.

What then can we suppose was the reason, that neither indignation, nor integrity, nor resentment, ever before directed a motion like this? Was it not, because it neither will serve the purposes of honesty, nor wickedness; that it would have defeated the designs of good, and betrayed those of bad men; that it would have given patriotism an appearance of faction, rather than have vested faction with the disguise of patriotism.

It cannot be supposed, that the sagacity of these gentlemen, however great, has enabled them to discover a method of proceeding which escaped the penetration of our ancestors, so long celebrated for the strength of their understanding, and the extent of their knowledge. For it is evident, that without any uncommon effort of the intellectual faculties, he that proposes an inquiry for a year past, might have made the same proposal with regard to a longer time; and it is therefore probable, that the limitation of the term is the effect of his knowledge, rather than of his ignorance.

And, indeed, the absurdity of an universal inquiry for twenty years past is such, that no man, whose station has given him opportunities of being acquainted with publick business, could have proposed it, had he not been misled by the vehemence of resentment, or biassed by the secret operation of some motives different from publick good; for it is no less than a proposal for an attempt impossible to be executed, and of which the execution, if it could be effected would be detrimental to the publick.

Were our nation, sir, like some of the inland kingdoms of the continent, or the barbarous empire of Japan, without commerce, without alliances, without taxes, and without competition with other nations; did we depend only on the product of our own soil to support us, and the strength of our own arms to defend us, without any intercourse with distant empire, or any solicitude about foreign affairs, were the same measures uniformly pursued, the government supported by the same revenues, and administered with the same views, it might not be impracticable to examine the conduct of affairs, both foreign and domestick, for twenty years; because every year would afford only a transcript of the accounts of the last.

But how different is the state of Britain, a nation whose traffick is extended over the earth, whose revenues are every year different, or differently applied, which is daily engaging in new treaties of alliance, or forming new regulations of trade with almost every nation, however distant, which has undertaken the arduous and intricate employments of superintending the interests of all foreign empires, and maintaining the equipoise of the French powers, which receives ambassadors from all the neighbouring princes, and extends its regard to the limits of the world.

In such a nation, every year produces negotiations of peace, or preparations for war, new schemes and different measures, by which expenses are sometimes increased, and sometimes retrenched. In such a nation, every thing is in a state of perpetual vicissitude; because its measures are seldom the effects of choice, but of necessity, arising from the change of conduct in other powers.

Nor is the multiplicity and intricacy of our domestick affairs less remarkable or particular. It is too well known that our debts are great, and our taxes numerous; that our funds, appropriated to particular purposes, are at some times deficient, and at others redundant; and that therefore the money arising from the same imposts, is differently applied in different years. To assert that this fluctuation produces intricacy, may be imagined a censure of those to whose care our accounts are committed; but surely it must be owned, that our accounts are made necessarily less uniform and regular, and such as must require a longer time for a complete examination.

Whoever shall set his foot in our offices, and observe the number of papers with which the transactions of the last twenty years have filled them, will not need any arguments against this motion. When he sees the number of writings which such an inquiry will make necessary to be perused, compared, and extracted, the accounts which must be examined and opposed to others, the intelligence from foreign courts which must be considered, and the estimates of domestick expenses which must be discussed; he will own, that whoever is doomed to the task of this inquiry, would be happy in exchanging his condition with that of the miners of America; and that the most resolute industry, however excited by ambition, or animated by patriotism, must sink under the weight of endless labour.

If it be considered how many are employed in the publick offices, it must be confessed, either that the national treasure is squandered in salaries upon men who have no employment, or that twenty years may be reasonably supposed to produce more papers than a committee can examine; and, indeed, if the committee of inquiry be not more numerous than has ever been appointed, it may be asserted, without exaggeration, that the inquiry into our affairs for twenty years past, will not be accurately performed in less than twenty years to come; in which time those whose conduct is now supposed to have given the chief occasion to this motion, may be expected to be removed for ever from the malice of calumny, and the rage of persecution.

But if it should be imagined by those who, having never been engaged in publick affairs, cannot properly judge of their intricacy and extent, that such an inquiry is in reality so far from being impossible, that it is only the work of a few months, and that the labour of it will be amply recompensed by the discoveries which it will produce, let them but so long suspend the gratification of their curiosity, as to consider the nature of that demand by which they are about to satisfy it. A demand, by which nothing less is required than that all the secrets of our government should be made publick.

It is known in general to every man, whose employment or amusement it has been to consider the state of the French kingdoms, that the last twenty years have been a time not of war, but of negotiations; a period crowned with projects, and machinations often more dangerous than violence and invasions; and that these projects have been counteracted by opposite schemes, that treaties have been defeated by treaties, and one alliance overbalanced by another.

Such a train of transactions, in which almost every court of France has been engaged, must have given occasion to many private conferences, and secret negotiations; many designs must have been discovered by informers who gave their intelligence at the hazard of their lives, and been defeated, sometimes by secret stipulations, and sometimes by a judicious distribution of money to those who presided in senates or councils.

Every man must immediately be convinced, that by the inquiry now proposed, all these secrets will be brought to light; that one prince will be informed of the treachery of his servants, and another see his own cowardice or venality exposed to the world. It is plain, that the channels of intelligence will be for ever stopped, and that no prince will enter into private treaties with a monarch who is denied by the constitution of his empire, the privilege of concealing his own measures. It is evident, that our enemies may hereafter plot our ruin in full security, and that our allies will no longer treat us with confidence.

Since, therefore, the inquiry now demanded is impossible, the motion ought to be rejected, as it can have no other tendency than to expose the senate and the nation to ridicule; and since, if it could be performed, it would produce consequences fatal to our government, as it would expose our most secret measures to our enemies, and weaken the confidence of our allies. I hope every man who regards either his own reputation, or that of the senate, or professes any solicitude for the publick good, will oppose the motion.

Lord QUARENDON spoke to this effect:--Sir, I am always inclined to suspect a man who endeavours rather to terrify than persuade. Exaggerations and hyperboles are seldom made use of by him who has any real arguments to produce. The reasonableness of this motion (of which I was convinced when I first heard it, and of which, I believe, no man can doubt who is not afraid of the inquiry proposed by it) is now, in my opinion, evinced by, the weak opposition which has been made by the honourable gentleman, to whose abilities I cannot deny this attestation, that the cause which he cannot defend, has very little to hope from any other advocate.

And surely he cannot, even by those who, whenever he speaks, stand prepared to applaud him, be thought to have produced any formidable argument against the inquiry, who has advanced little more than that it is impossible to be performed.

Impossibility is a formidable sound to ignorance and cowardice; but experience has often discovered, that it is only a sound uttered by those who have nothing else to say; and courage readily surmounts those obstacles that sink the lazy and timorous into despair.

That there are, indeed, impossibilities in nature, cannot be denied. There may be schemes formed which no wise man will attempt to execute, because he will know that they cannot succeed; but, surely, the examination of arithmetical deductions, or the consideration of treaties and conferences, cannot be admitted into the number of impossible designs; unless, as it may sometimes happen, the treaties and calculations are unintelligible.

The only difficulty that can arise, must be produced by the confusion and perplexity of our publick transactions, the inconsistency of our treaties, and the fallaciousness of our estimates; but I hope no man will urge these as arguments against the motion. An inquiry ought to be promoted, that confusion may be reduced to order, and that the distribution of the publick money may be regulated. If the examination be difficult, it ought to be speedily performed, because those difficulties are daily increasing; if it be impossible, it ought to be attempted, that those methods of forming calculations may be changed, which make them impossible to be examined.

Mr. FOWKES replied in the manner following:--Sir, to treat with contempt those arguments which cannot readily be answered, is the common practice of disputants; but as it is contrary to that candour and ingenuity which is inseparable from zeal for justice and love of truth, it always raises a suspicion of private views, and of designs, which, however they may be concealed by specious appearances, and vehement professions of integrity and sincerity, tend in reality to the promotion of some secret interest, or the gratification of some darling passion. It is reasonable to imagine, that he, who in the examination of publick questions, calls in the assistance of artifice and sophistry, is actuated rather by the rage of persecution, than the ardour of patriotism; that he is pursuing an enemy, rather than detecting a criminal; and that he declaims against the abuse of power in another, only that he may more easily obtain it himself.

In senatorial debates, I have often known this method of easy confutation practised, sometimes with more success, and sometimes with less. I have often known ridicule of use, when reason has been baffled, and seen those affect to despise their opponents, who have been able to produce nothing against them but artful allusions to past debates, satirical insinuations of dependence, or hardy assertions unsupported by proofs. By these arts I have known the young and unexperienced kept in suspense; I have seen the cautious and diffident taught to doubt of the plainest truths; and the bold and sanguine persuaded to join in the cry, and hunt down reason, after the example of their leaders.

But a bolder attempt to disarm argument of its force, and to perplex the understanding, has not often been made, than this which I am now endeavouring to oppose. A motion has been made and seconded for an inquiry, to which it is objected, not that it is illegal, not that it is inconvenient, not that it is unnecessary, but that it is impossible. An objection more formidable cannot, in my opinion, easily be made; nor can it be imagined that those men would think any other worthy of an attentive examination, who can pass over this as below their regard; yet even this has produced no answer, but contemptuous raillery, and violent exclamation.

What arguments these gentlemen require, it is not easy to conjecture; or how those who disapprove their measures, may with any hope of success dispute against them. Those impetuous spirits that break so easily through the bars of impossibility, will scarcely suffer their career to be stopped by any other restraint; and it may be reasonably feared, that arguments from justice, or law, or policy, will have little force upon these daring minds, who in the transports of their newly acquired victory, trample impossibility under their feet, and imagine that to those who have vanquished the ministry, every thing is practicable.

That this inquiry would be the work of years; that it will employ greater numbers than were ever deputed by this house on such an occasion before; that it would deprive the nation of the counsels of the wisest and most experienced members of this house, (for such only ought to be chosen,) at a time when all Europe is in arms, when our allies are threatened not only with subjection, but annihilation; when the French are reviving their ancient schemes, and projecting the conquest of the continent; and that it will, therefore, interrupt our attention to more important affairs, and disable us from rescuing our confederates, is incontestably evident; nor can the wisest or the most experienced determine how far its consequences may extend, or inform us, whether it may not expose our commerce to be destroyed by the Spaniards, and the liberties of all the nations round us to be infringed by the French; whether it may not terminate in the loss of our independence, and the destruction of our religion.

Such are the effects which may be expected from an attempt to make the inquiry proposed; effects, to which no proportionate advantages can be expected from it, since it has been already shown, that it can never be completed; and to which, though the indefatigable industry of curiosity or malice should at length break through all obstacles, and lay all the transactions of twenty years open to the world, no discoveries would be equivalent.

That any real discoveries of misconduct would be made, that the interest of our country would be found ever to have been lazily neglected, or treacherously betrayed, that any of our rights have been either yielded by cowardice, or sold by avarice, or that our enemies have gained any advantage over us by the connivance or ignorance of our ministers, I am indeed very far from believing; but as I am now endeavouring to convince those of the impropriety of this motion, who have long declared themselves of a different opinion, it may not be improper to ask, what advantage they propose by detecting errours of twenty years, which are now irretrievable; of inquiring into fraudulent practices, of which the authors and the agents are now probably in their graves; and exposing measures, of which all the inconveniencies have been already felt, and which have now ceased to affect us.

If it be wise to neglect our present interest for the sake of inquiring into past miscarriages, and the inquiry now proposed be in itself possible, I have no objections to the present motion; but as I think the confused state of Europe demands our utmost attention, and the prosecution of the war against Spain is in itself of far more importance than the examination of all past transactions, I cannot but think, that the duty which I owe to my country requires that I should declare myself unwilling to concur in any proposal, that may unnecessarily divert our thoughts or distract our councils.

Lord PERCIVAL then rose and spoke to the following purpose:--Sir, to discourage good designs by representations of the danger of attempting, and the difficulty of executing them, has been, at all times, the practice of those whose interest has been threatened by them. A pirate never fails to intimidate his pursuers by exaggerating the number and resolution of his crew, the strength of his vessels, and the security of his retreats. A cheat discourages a prosecution by dwelling upon his knowledge of all the arts and subterfuges of the law, the steadiness of his witnesses, and the experience of his agents.

To raise false terrours by artful appearances is part of the art of war, nor can the general be denied praise, who by an artful disposition of a small body, discourages those enemies from attacking him by whom he would certainly be overcome; but then, surely the appearance ought to be such as may reasonably be expected to deceive; for a stratagem too gross only produces contempt and confidence, and adds the vexation of being ridiculous to the calamity of being defeated.

Whether this will be the fate of the advocates for the ministry, I am not able to determine; but surely they have forgot the resolution with which their enemies bore up for many years against their superiority, and the conduct by which at last they defeated the united influence of power and money; if they hope to discourage them from an attack, by representing the bulk and strength of their paper fortifications. They have lost all memory of the excise and the convention, who can believe their eloquence sufficiently powerful to evince, that the inquiry now proposed ought to be numbered among impossibilities.

Whoever, sir, is acquainted with their methods of negotiation, will, indeed, easily believe the papers sufficiently numerous, and the task of examining them such as no man would willingly undertake; for it does not appear for what end the immense sums which late senates have granted, were expended, except for the payment of secretaries, and ministers, and couriers. But whatever care has been employed to perplex every transaction with useless circumstances, and to crowd every office with needless papers, it will be long before they convince us, that it is impossible to examine them. They may, doubtless, be in time perused, though, perhaps, they can never be understood.

The utmost inconvenience, sir, that can be feared, is the necessity of engaging a greater number of hands than on former occasions; and it will be no disagreeable method to the publick, if we employ some of the clerks which have been retained only for the sake of gratifying the leaders of boroughs, or advancing the distant relations of the defenders of the ministry, in unravelling those proceedings which they have been hitherto hired only to embarrass, and in detecting some of those abuses to which the will of their masters has made them instrumental; that they may at last deserve, in some degree, the salaries which they have enjoyed, may requite the publick for their part of its spoils, by contributing to the punishment of the principal plunderers, and leave their offices, of which I hope the number will be quickly diminished, with the satisfaction of having deserved at last the thanks of their country.

By this expedient, sir, the inquiry will be made at least possible, and I hope, though it should still remain difficult, those who have so long struggled for the preservation of their country, and who have at last seen their labours rewarded with success, will not be discouraged from pursuing it.

The necessity of such an inquiry will grow every day more urgent; because wicked men will be hardened in confidence of impunity, and the difficulty, such as it is, will be increased by every delay; for what now makes an inquiry difficult, or in the style of these mighty politicians impossible, but the length of time that has elapsed since the last exertion of this right of the senate, and the multitude of transactions which are necessarily to be examined?

What is this year an irksome and tedious task, will in another year require still more patience and labour; and though I cannot believe that it will ever become impossible, it will undoubtedly in time be sufficient to weary the most active industry, and to discourage the most ardent zeal.

The chief argument, therefore, that has been hitherto employed to discourage us from an inquiry, ought rather, in my opinion, to incite us to it. We ought to remember, that while the enemies of our country are fortifying themselves behind an endless multiplicity of negotiations and accounts, every day adds new strength to their intrenchments, and that we ought to force them while they are yet unable to resist or escape us.

Sir William YONGE then spoke to the following effect:--Sir, however I may be convinced in my own opinion of the impracticability of the inquiry now proposed, whatever confidence I may repose in the extensive knowledge and long experience of those, by whom it has been openly pronounced not only difficult but impossible, I think there are arguments against the motion, which though, perhaps, not stronger in themselves, (for what objection can be stronger than impossibility,) ought at least more powerfully to incite us to oppose it.

Of the impossibility of executing this inquiry, those who have proposed it well deserve to be convinced, not by arguments but experience; they deserve not to be diverted by persuasions from engaging in a task, which they have voluntarily determined to undergo; a task, which neither honour, nor virtue, nor necessity has imposed upon them, and to which it may justly be suspected, that they would not have submitted upon any other motives, than those by which their conduct has hitherto been generally directed, ambition and resentment.

Men who, upon such principles, condemn themselves to labours which they cannot support, surely deserve to perish in the execution of their own projects, to be overwhelmed by the burdens which they have laid upon themselves, and to suffer the disgrace which always attends the undertakers of impossibilities; and from which the powers of raillery and ridicule, which they have so successfully displayed on this occasion, will not be sufficient to defend them.

They have, indeed, sir, with great copiousness of language, and great fertility of imagination, shown the weakness of supposing this inquiry impossible; they have proposed a method of performing it, which they hope will at once confute and irritate their opponents; but all their raillery and all their arguments have in reality been thrown away upon an attempt to confute what never was advanced. They have first mistaken the assertion which they oppose, and then exposed its absurdity; they have introduced a bugbear, and then attempted to signalize their courage and their abilities, by showing that it cannot fright them.

The honourable gentleman, sir, who first mentioned to you the impossibility of this inquiry, spoke only according to the common acceptation of words, and was far from intending to imply natural and philosophical impossibility. He was far from intending to insinuate, that to examine any series of transactions, or peruse any number of papers, implied an absurdity, or contrariety to the established order of nature; he did not intend to rank this design with those of building in the air, or pumping out the ocean; he intended only to assert a moral or popular impossibility, to show that the scheme was not practicable but by greater numbers than could be conveniently employed upon it, or in a longer space of time than it was rational to assign to it; as we say it is impossible to raise groves upon rocks, or build cities in deserts; by which we mean only to imply, that there is no proportion between the importance of the effect, and the force of the causes which must operate to produce it; that the toil will be great, and the advantage little.

In this sense, sir, and nothing but malice or perverseness could have discovered any other, the motion may be truly said to be impossible; but its impossibility ought to be rather the care of those who make, than of those that oppose it; and, therefore, I shall lay before the house other reasons, which, unless they can be answered, will determine me to vote against it.

It cannot be doubted, but the papers which must on this occasion be examined, contain a great number of private transactions, which the interest of the nation, and the honour of our sovereign require to be concealed. The system of policy which the French have, within the last century, introduced into the world, has made negotiation more necessary than in any preceding time. What was formerly performed by fleets and armies, by invasions, sieges, and battles, has been of late accomplished by more silent methods. Empires have been enlarged without bloodshed, and nations reduced to distress without the ravages of hostile armies, by the diminution of their commerce, and the alienation of their allies.

For this reason, sir, it has been necessary frequently to engage in private treaties, to obviate designs sometimes justly, and at other times, perhaps, unreasonably suspected. It has been proper to act upon remote suppositions, and to conclude alliances which were only to be publickly owned, in consequence of measures taken by some other powers, which measures were sometimes laid aside, and the treaty, therefore, was without effect. In some of these provisionary contracts, it is easy to conceive, that designs were formed not to the advantage of some powers, whom yet we do not treat as enemies, which were only to be made publick by the execution of them: in others, perhaps, some concessions were made to us, in consideration of the assistance that we promised, by which the weakness of our allies may be discovered, and which we cannot disclose without making their enemies more insolent, and increasing that danger from which they apply to us for security and protection.

If to this representation of the nature of the papers, with which our offices have been filled by the negotiations of the last twenty years, any thing were necessary to be added, it may be farther alleged, that it has long been the practice of every nation on this side of the globe, to procure private intelligence of the designs and expectations of the neighbouring powers, to penetrate into the councils of princes and the closets of ministers, to discover the instructions of ambassadours, and the orders of generals, to learn the intention of fleets before they are equipped, and of armies before they are levied, and to provide not only against immediate and visible hostilities, but to obviate remote and probable dangers.

It need not be declared in this assembly, that this cannot always be done without employing men who abuse the confidence reposed in them, a practice on which I shall not at this time trouble the house with my opinion, nor interrupt the present debate, by any attempt to justify or condemn it. This, I think, may be very reasonably alleged; that whether the employment of such persons be defensible by the reciprocal practice of nations, or not, it becomes at least those that corrupt them and pay them for their treachery, not to expose them to vengeance, to torture, or to ruin; not to betray those crimes which they have hired them to commit, or give them up to punishment, to which they have made themselves liable only by their instigation, and for their advantage.

That private compacts between nations and sovereigns ought to be kept inviolably secret, cannot be doubted by any man who considers, that secrecy is one of the conditions of those treaties, without which they had not been concluded; and, therefore, that to discover them is to violate them, to break down the securities of human society, to destroy mutual trust, and introduce into the world universal confusion. For nothing less can be produced by a disregard of those ties which link nations in confederacies, and produce confidence and security, and which enable the weak, by union, to resist the attacks of powerful ambition.

How much it would injure the honour of our sovereign to be charged with the dissolution of concord, and the subversion of the general bulwarks of publick faith, it is superfluous to explain. To know the condition to which a compliance with this motion would reduce the British nation, we need only turn our eyes downwards upon the hourly scenes of common life; we need only attend to the occurrences which crowd perpetually upon our view, and consider the calamitous state of that man, of whom it is generally known that he cannot be trusted, and that secrets communicated to him are in reality scattered among mankind.

Every one knows that such a man can expect none of the advantages or pleasures of friendship, that he cannot transact affairs with others upon terms of equality, that he must purchase the favours of those that are more powerful than himself, and frighten those into compliance with his designs who have any thing to fear from him; that he must give uncommon security for the performance of his covenants, that he can have no influence but that of money, which will probably become every day less, that his success will multiply his enemies, and that in misfortunes he will be without refuge.

The condition of nations collectively considered is not different from that of private men, their prosperity is produced by the same conduct, and their calamities drawn upon them by the same errours, negligences, or crimes; and therefore, since he that betrays secrets in private life, indisputably forfeits his claim to trust, and since he that can be no longer trusted is on the brink of ruin, I cannot but conclude that, as by this motion all the secrets of our government must be inevitably betrayed, my duty to his majesty, my love of my country, and my obligations to discharge with fidelity the trust which my constituents have conferred upon me, oblige me to oppose it.

Mr. LITTLETON then rose, and spoke to this effect:--Sir, it always portends well to those who dispute on the side of truth and reason, when their opponents appear not wholly to be hardened against the force of argument, when they seem desirous to gain the victory, not by superiority of numbers but of reason, and attempt rather to convince, than to terrify or bribe. For though men are not in quest of truth themselves, nor desirous to point it out to others; yet, while they are obliged to speak with an appearance of sincerity, they must necessarily afford the unprejudiced and attentive an opportunity of discovering the right. While they think themselves under a necessity of reasoning, they cannot but show the force of a just argument, by the unsuccessfulness of their endeavours to confute it, and the propriety of an useful and salutary motion, by the slight objections which they raise against it. They cannot but find themselves sometimes forced to discover what they can never be expected to acknowledge, the weakness of their own reasons, by deserting them when they are pressed with contrary assertions, and seeking a subterfuge in new arguments equally inconclusive and contemptible. They show the superiority of their opponents, like other troops, by retreating before them, and forming one fortification behind another, in hopes of wearying those whom they cannot hope to repulse.

Of this conduct we have had already an instance in the present debate; a debate managed with such vigour, order, and resolution, as sufficiently shows the advantage of regular discipline long continued, and proves, that troops may retain their skill and spirit, even when they are deprived of that leader, to whose instructions and example they were indebted for them. When first this motion was offered, it seems to have been their chief hope to divert us from it by outcries of impossibility, by representing it as the demand of men unacquainted with the state of our offices, or the multiplicity of transactions, in which the indefatigable industry of our ministers has been employed; and they have therefore endeavoured to persuade us, that they are only discouraging us from an insuperable labour, and advising us to desist from measures which we cannot live to accomplish.

But when they found, sir, that their exaggerations produced merriment instead of terrour, that their opponents were determined to try their strength against impossibility, that they were resolved to launch out into this boundless ocean of inquiry; an ocean of which they have been boldly told, that it has neither shore nor bottom, and that whoever ventures into it must be tost about for life; when they discovered that this was not able to shake our resolution, or move us to any other disposition, they thought it proper to explain away their assertion of impossibility, by making a kind of distinction between things impossible, and things which cannot be performed; and finding it necessary to enlarge their plea, they have now asserted, that this inquiry is both impossible and inexpedient.

Its impossibility, sir, has been already sufficiently discussed, and shown to mean only a difficulty which the unskilfulness of our ministers has produced; for transactions can only produce difficulties to the inquirer, when they are confused; and confusion can only be the effect of ignorance or neglect.

Artifice is, indeed, one more source of perplexity: it is the interest of that man whose cause is bad to speak unintelligibly in the defence of it, and of him whose actions cannot bear to be examined, to hide them in disorder, to engage his pursuers in a labyrinth, that they may not trace his steps and discover his retreat; and what intricacies may be produced by fraud cooperating with subtilty, it is not possible to tell.

I do not, however, believe, that all the art of wickedness can elude the inquiries of a British senate, quickened by zeal for the publick happiness. The sagacity of our predecessors has often detected crimes concealed with more policy than can be ascribed to those whose conduct is now to be examined, and dragged the authors of national calamities to punishment from their darkest retreats. The expediency, therefore, of this motion, is now to be considered, and surely it will not require long reflection to prove that it is proper, when the nation is oppressed with calamities, to inquire by what misconduct they were brought upon it; when immense sums have been raised by the most oppressive methods of exaction, to ask why they were demanded, and how they were expended; when penal laws have been partially executed, to examine by what authority they were suspended, and by what they were enforced; and when the senate has for twenty years implicitly obeyed the direction of one man, when it has been known throughout the nation, before any question was proposed, how it would be decided, to search out the motive of that regular compliance, and to examine whether the minister was reverenced for his wisdom and virtue, or feared for his power, or courted for the publick money; whether he owed his prevalence to the confidence or corruption of his followers?

It cannot surely be thought inexpedient, to inquire into the reasons for which our merchants were for many years suffered to be plundered, or for which a war, solicited by the general voice of the whole nation, was delayed; into the reasons for which our fleets were fitted out only to coast upon the ocean, and connive at the departure of squadrons and the transportation of armies, to suffer our allies to be invaded, and our traders ruined and enslaved.

It is, in my opinion, convenient to examine with the utmost rigour, why time was granted to our enemies to fortify themselves against us, while a standing army preyed upon our people? Why forces unacquainted with the use of arms were sent against them, under the command of leaders equally ignorant? And why we have suffered their privateers in the mean time to rove at large over the ocean, and insult us upon our own coasts? Why we did not rescue our sailors from captivity, when opportunities of exchange were in our power? And why we robbed our merchants of their crews by rigorous impresses, without employing them either to guard our trade, or subdue our enemies?

If the senate is not to be suffered to inquire into affairs like these, it is no longer any security to the people, that they have the right of electing representatives; and unless they may carry their inquiries back as far as they shall think it necessary, the most acute sagacity may be easily eluded; causes may be very remote from their consequences, the original motives of a long train of wicked measures may lie hid in some private transaction of former years, and those advantages which our enemies have been of late suffered to obtain, were perhaps sold them at some forgotten congress by some secret article.

Such are, probably, the private transactions which the honourable gentleman is so much afraid of exposing to the light; transactions in which the interest of this nation has been meanly yielded up by cowardice, or sold by treachery; in which Britain has been considered as a province subordinate to some other country, or in which the minister has enriched himself by the sacrifice of the publick rights.

It has been, indeed, alleged with some degree of candour, that many of our treaties were provisions against invasions which perhaps were never intended, and calculated to defeat measures which only our own cowardice disposed us to fear. That such treaties have, indeed, been made, Hanover is a sufficient witness; but however frequently they may occur, they may surely be discovered with very little disadvantage to the nation; they will prove only the weakness of those that made them, who were at one time intimidated by chimerical terrours, and at another, lulled into confidence by airy security.

The concessions from foreign powers, which have been likewise mentioned, ought surely not to be produced as arguments against the motion; for what could more excite the curiosity of the nation, if, indeed, this motion were in reality produced by malevolence or resentment; if none were expected to concur in it but those who envied the abilities, or had felt the power of the late minister, it might be, perhaps, defeated by such insinuations; for nothing could more certainly regain his reputation, or exalt him to more absolute authority, than proofs that he had obtained for us any concessions from foreign powers.

If any advantageous terms have been granted us, he must be confessed to have so far discharged his trust to his allies, that he has kept them with the utmost caution from the knowledge of the people, who have heard, during all his administration, of nothing but subsidies, submission, and compliances paid to almost every prince on the continent who has had the confidence to demand them; and if by this inquiry any discovery to the disadvantage of our allies should be struck out, he may with great sincerity allege, that it was made without his consent.

Another objection to this inquiry is, that the spies which are retained in foreign courts may be detected by it, that the canals of our intelligence will be for ever stopped, and that we shall henceforth have no knowledge of the designs of foreign powers, but what may be honestly attained by penetration and experience. Spies are, indeed, a generation for whose security I have not much regard, but for whom I am on this occasion less solicitous, as I believe very few of them will be affected by this motion.

The conduct of our ministers has never discovered such an acquaintance with the designs of neighbouring princes, as could be suspected to be obtained by any uncommon methods, or they have very little improved the opportunities which early information put into their power; for they have always been baffled and deceived. Either they have employed no spies, or their spies have been directed to elude them by false intelligence, or true intelligence has been of no use; and if any of these assertions be true, the publick will not suffer by the motion.

It was justly observed, by the honourable gentleman, that a parallel may be properly drawn between a nation and a private man, and, by consequence, between a trading nation and a trader. Let us, therefore, consider what must be the state of that trader who shall never inspect or state his accounts, who shall suffer his servants to traffick in the dark with his stock, and on his credit, and who shall permit them to transact bargains in his name, without inquiring whether they are advantageous, or whether they are performed.

Every man immediately marks out a trader thus infatuated, as on the brink of bankruptcy and ruin; every one will easily foresee, that his servants will take advantage of his credulity, and proceed hourly to grosser frauds; that they will grow rich by betraying his interest, that they will neglect his affairs to promote their own, that they will plunder him till he has nothing left, and seek then for employment among those to whom they have recommended themselves by selling their trust. His neighbours, who easily foresee his approaching misery, retire from him by degrees, disunite their business from his, and leave him to fall, without involving others in his ruin.

Such must be the fate of a trader whom idleness, or a blind confidence in the integrity of others, hinders from attending to his own affairs, unless he rouses from his slumber, and recovers from his infatuation. And what is to be done by the man who, having for more than twenty years neglected so necessary an employment, finds, what must necessarily be found in much less time, his accounts perplexed, his credit depressed, and his affairs disordered? What remains, but that he suffer that disorder to proceed no farther, that he resolutely examine all the transactions which he has hitherto overlooked, that he repair those errours which are yet retrievable, and reduce his trade into method; that he doom those servants, by whom he has been robbed or deceived, to the punishment which they deserve, and recover from them that wealth which they have accumulated by rapacity and fraud.

By this method only can the credit of the trader or the nation be repaired, and this is the method which the motion recommends; a motion with which, therefore, every man may be expected to comply, who desires that his country should once more recover its influence and power, who wishes to see Britain again courted and feared, and her monarch considered as the arbiter of the world, the protector of the true religion, and the defender of the liberties of mankind.

Mr. PHILLIPS spoke in substance as follows:--Sir, I am so far from believing that there is danger of exposing the spies of the government to the resentment of foreign princes, by complying with this motion, that I suspect the opposition to be produced chiefly from a consciousness, that no spies will be discovered to have been employed, and that the secret service for which such large sums have been required, will appear to have been rather for the service of domestick than of foreign traitors, and to have been performed rather in this house than in foreign courts.

Secret service has been long a term of great use to the ministers of this nation; a term of art to which such uncommon efficacy has been hitherto annexed, that the people have been influenced by it to pay taxes, without expecting to be informed how they were applied, having been content with being told, when they inquired after their properties, that they were exhausted and dissipated in secret service.

Secret service I conceive to have originally implied transactions, of which the agents were secret, though the effects were visible. When MARLBOROUGH defeated the French, when he counteracted all their stratagems, obviated all their designs, and deceived all their expectations, he charged the nation with large sums for secret service, which were, indeed, cheerfully allowed, because the importance and reality of the service were apparent from its effects. But what advantages can our ministers boast of having obtained in twenty years by the means of their intelligence? Or by whom have they, within that period, not been deceived by false appearances? When we purchase secret service at so dear a rate, let it appear that we really obtain what we pay for, though the means by which it is obtained are kept impenetrably secret. Wherever the usefulness of the intelligence is not discoverable, it is surely just to inquire, whether our money is not demanded for other purposes, whether we are not in reality hiring with our own money armies to enslave, or senators to betray us; or enriching an avaricious minister, while we imagine ourselves contributing to the publick security?

Colonel CHOLMONDELEY replied to the following effect:--Sir, it has been in all foregoing ages the custom for men to speak of the government with reverence, even when they opposed its measures, or projected its dissolution; nor has it been thought, in any time before our own, decent or senatorial, to give way to satire or invective, or indulge a petulant imagination, to endeavour to level all orders by contemptuous reflections, or to court the populace, by echoing their language, or adopting their sentiments.

This method of gaining the reputation of patriotism, has been unknown till the present age, and reserved for the present leaders of the people, who will have the honour to stand recorded as the original authors of anarchy, the great subverters of order, and the first men who dared to pronounce, that all the secrets of government ought to be made publick.

It has been hitherto understood in all nations, that those who were intrusted with authority, had likewise a claim to respect and confidence; that they were chosen for the superiority of their abilities, or the reputation of their virtue; and that, therefore, it was reasonable to consign to their management, the direction of such affairs as by their own nature require secrecy.

But this ancient doctrine, by which subordination has been so long preserved, is now to be set aside for new principles, which may flatter the pride, and incite the passions of the people; we are now to be told, that affairs are only kept secret, because they will not bear examination; that men conceal not those transactions in which they have succeeded, but those in which they have failed; that they are only inclined to hide their follies or their crimes, and that to examine their conduct in the most open manner, is only to secure the interest of the publick.

Thus has the nation been taught to expect, that the counsels of the cabinet should be dispersed in the publick papers; that their governours should declare the motives of their measures, and discover the demands of our allies, and the scheme of our policy; and that the people should be consulted upon every emergence, and enjoy the right of instructing not only their own representatives, but the ministers of the crown.

In this debate, the mention of secret treaties has been received with contempt and ridicule; the ministers have been upbraided with chimerical fears, and unnecessary provisions against attacks which never were designed; they have been alleged to have no other interest in view than their own, when they endeavour to mislead inquirers, and to have in reality nothing to keep from publick view but their own ignorance or wickedness.

It cannot surely be seriously asserted by men of knowledge and experience, that there are no designs formed by wise governments, of which the success depends upon secrecy; nor can it be asserted, that the inquiry now proposed will betray nothing from which our enemies may receive advantage.

If we should suppose, that all our schemes are either fully accomplished, or irretrievably defeated, it will not even then be prudent to discover them, since they will enable our enemies to form conjectures of the future from the past, and to obviate, hereafter, the same designs, when it shall be thought necessary to resume them.

But, in reality, nothing is more irrational than to suppose this a safer time than any other for such general discoveries; for why should it be imagined, that our engagements are not still depending, and our treaties yet in force? And what can be more dishonourable or imprudent, than to destroy at once the whole scheme of foreign policy, to dissolve our alliances, and destroy the effects of such long and such expensive negotiations, without first examining whether they will be beneficial or detrimental to us?

Nor is it only with respect to foreign affairs that secrecy is necessary; there are, undoubtedly, many domestick transactions which it is not proper to communicate to the whole nation. There is still a faction among us, which openly desires the subversion of our present establishment; a faction, indeed, not powerful, and which grows, I hope, every day weaker, but which is favoured, or at least imagines itself favoured, by those who have so long distinguished themselves by opposing the measures of the government. Against these men, whose hopes are revived by every commotion, who studiously heighten every subject of discontent, and add their outcries to every clamour, it is not doubted but measures are formed, by which their designs are discovered, and their measures broken; nor can it be supposed, that this is done without the assistance of some who are received with confidence amongst them, and who probably pass for the most zealous of their party.

Many other domestick occasions of expense might be mentioned; of expense which operates in private, and produces benefits which are only not acknowledged, because they are not known, but which could no longer be applied to the same useful purposes, if the channels through which it passes were laid open. I cannot, therefore, forbear to offer my opinion, that this motion, by which all the secrets of our government will be discovered, will tend to the confusion of the present system of Europe, to the absolute ruin of our interest in foreign courts, and to the embarrassment of our domestick affairs. I cannot, therefore, conceive how any advantages can be expected by the most eager persecutors of the late ministry, which can, even in their opinion, deserve to be purchased at so dear a rate.

Mr. PITT then spoke to the following purpose:--Sir, I know not by what fatality the adversaries of the motion are impelled to assist their adversaries, and contribute to their own overthrow, by suggesting, whenever they attempt to oppose it, new arguments against themselves.

It has been long observed, that when men are drawing near to destruction, they are apparently deprived of their understanding, and contribute by their own folly to those calamities with which they are threatened, but which might, by a different conduct, be sometimes delayed. This has surely now happened to the veteran advocates for an absolute and unaccountable ministry, who have discovered on this occasion, by the weakness of their resistance, that their abilities are declining; and I cannot but hope, that the omen will be fulfilled, and that their infatuation will be quickly followed by their ruin.

To touch in this debate on our domestick affairs, to mention the distribution of the publick money, and to discover their fears, lest the ways in which it has been disbursed, should by this inquiry be discovered; to recall to the minds of their opponents the immense sums which have been annually demanded, and of which no account has been yet given, is surely the lowest degree of weakness and imprudence.

I am so far from being convinced that any danger can arise from this inquiry, that I believe the nation can only be injured by a long neglect of such examinations; and that a minister is easily formidable, when he has exempted himself by a kind of prescription from exposing his accounts, and has long had an opportunity of employing the publick money in multiplying his dependants, enriching his hirelings, enslaving boroughs, and corrupting senates.

That those have been, in reality, the purposes for which the taxes of many years have been squandered, is sufficiently apparent without an inquiry. We have wasted sums with which the French, in pursuance of their new scheme of increasing their influence, would have been able to purchase the submission of half the nations of the earth, and with which the monarchs of Europe might have been held dependant on a nod; these they have wasted only to sink our country into disgrace, to heighten the spirit of impotent enemies, to destroy our commerce, and distress our colonies. We have patiently suffered, during a peace of twenty years, those taxes to be extorted from us, by which a war might have been supported against the most powerful nation, and have seen them ingulfed in the boundless expenses of the government, without being able to discover any other effect from them than the establishment of ministerial tyranny.

There has, indeed, been among the followers of the court a regular subordination, and exact obedience; nor has any man been found hardy enough to reject the dictates of the grand vizier. Every man who has received his pay, has with great cheerfulness complied with his commands; and every man who has held any post or office under the crown, has evidently considered himself as enlisted by the minister.

But the visible influence of places, however destructive to the constitution, is not the chief motive of an inquiry; an inquiry implies something secret, and is intended to discover the private methods of extending dependence, and propagating corruption; the methods by which the people have been influenced to choose those men for representatives whose principles they detest, and whose conduct they condemn; and by which those whom their country has chosen for the guardians of its liberties, have been induced to support, in this house, measures, which in every other place they have made no scruple to censure.

When we shall examine the distribution of the publick treasure, when we shall inquire by what conduct we have been debarred from the honours of war, and at the same time deprived of the blessings of peace, to what causes it is to be imputed, that our debts have continued during the long-continued tranquillity of Europe, nearly in the state to which they were raised by fighting, at our own expense, the general quarrel of mankind; and why the sinking fund, a kind of inviolable deposit appropriated to the payment of our creditors, and the mitigation of our taxes, has been from year to year diverted to very different uses; we shall find that our treasure has been exhausted, not to humble foreign enemies, or obviate domestick insurrections; not to support our allies, or suppress our factions; but for ends which no man, who feels the love of his country yet unextinguished, can name without horrour, the purchase of alliances, and the hire of votes, the corruption of the people, and the exaltation of France.

Such are the discoveries which I am not afraid to declare that I expect from the inquiry, and therefore, I cannot but think it necessary. If those to whom the administration of affairs has been for twenty years committed, have betrayed their trust, if they have invaded the publick rights with the publick treasure, and made use of the dignities which their country has conferred upon them, only to enslave it, who will not confess, that they ought to be delivered up to speedy justice? That they ought to be set as landmarks to posterity, to warn those who shall hereafter launch out on the ocean of affluence and power, not to be too confident of a prosperous gale, but to remember, that there are rocks on which whoever rushes must inevitably perish? If they are innocent, and far be it from me to declare them guilty without examination, whom will this inquiry injure? Or what effects will it produce, but that which every man appears to desire, the reestablishment of the publick tranquillity, a firm confidence in the justice and wisdom of the government, and a general reconciliation of the people to the ministers.

Colonel MORDAUNT spoke then, in substance as follows:--Sir, notwithstanding the zeal with which the honourable gentleman has urged the necessity of this inquiry, a zeal of which, I think, it may at least be said, that it is too vehement and acrimonious to be the mere result of publick spirit, unmixed with interest or resentment; he has yet been so far unsuccessful in his reasoning, that he has not produced in me any conviction, or weakened any of the impressions which the arguments of those whom he opposes had made upon me.

He has contented himself with recapitulating some of the benefits which may be hoped for from the inquiry; he has represented in the strongest terms, the supposed misconduct of the ministry; he has aggravated all the appearances of wickedness or negligence, and then has inferred the usefulness of a general inquiry for the punishment of past offences, and the prevention of the like practices in future times.

That he has discovered great qualifications for invective, and that his declamation was well calculated to inflame those who have already determined their opinion, and who are, therefore, only restrained from such measures as are now recommended by natural caution and sedateness, I do not deny; but, surely he does not expect to gain proselytes by assertions without proof, or to produce any alteration of sentiments, without attempting to answer the arguments which have been offered against his opinion.

It has been urged with great appearance of reason, that an inquiry, such as is now proposed, with whatever prospects of vengeance, of justice, or of advantage, it may flatter us at a distance, will be in reality detrimental to the publick; because it will discover all the secrets of our government, lay all our negotiations open to the world, will show what powers we most fear, or most trust, and furnish our enemies with means of defeating all our schemes, and counteracting all our measures.

This appears to me, sir, the chief argument against the motion, an argument of which the force cannot but be discovered by those whose interest it is to confute it, and of which, therefore, by appearing to neglect it, they seem to confess that it is unanswerable; and therefore, since I cannot find the motion justified otherwise than by loud declarations of its propriety, and violent invectives against the ministry, I hope that I shall escape at least the censure of the calm and impartial, though I venture to declare, that I cannot approve it; and with regard to the clamorous and the turbulent, I have long learned to despise their menaces, because I have hitherto found them only the boasts of impotence.

Mr. CORNWALL made answer to the following purport:--Sir, if to obtain the important approbation of the gentleman that spoke last, it be necessary only to answer the argument on which he has insisted, and nothing be necessary to produce an inquiry but his approbation, I shall not despair that this debate may be concluded according to the wishes of the nation, that secret wickedness may be detected, and that our posterity may be secured from any invasion of their liberty, by examples of the vengeance of an injured people.

[The house divided.--The yeas went forth.--For the question, 242; against it, 244: so that it passed in the negative, by a majority of two.]

[The end]
Samuel Johnson's non-fiction: Debate On A Motion For Inquiring Into The Conduct Of Publick Affairs