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But, as the end of all such inquiries is the promotion of the publick welfare, so they are not to be made in a manner by which that end may be defeated. Papers are not to be demanded, which cannot be produced without discovering our own secrets, and acquainting our enemies either with that weakness which we ought carefully to conceal, or that force which will be most effectually employed if it is not known, and, therefore, no preparations are made to oppose it.
It cannot be imagined, but that many of the papers which have passed between the admiralty and the commander in America, contain plans for the prosecution of the war, observations on the conditions of our own colonies, and, perhaps, intelligence of the estate of the Spanish fortresses and towns. Many informations of the utmost consequence to our enemies may be collected from those papers, but nothing can be expected from them, that will enable us to prosecute a senatorial inquiry with more success, that will put it in our power to discover frauds, negligence, or treachery.
There are, sir, other papers which may, indeed, be laid before us, without any benefit to our enemies, and, perhaps, with some advantage to ourselves; the papers which contain the accompts of our preparations and stores, the lists of our forces, and the calculation of our expenses, are the proper subjects of senatorial inquiries; and if the motion be restrained to those, I believe it will not be opposed by any gentleman engaged in the administration of our affairs. I shall beg leave to propose these words may be added, “ So far as the same relates to a supply of ships, marines, or land forces.”
The motion, thus amended, was agreed to,
HOUSE OF LORDS, FEB. 13, 1740-1.
DEBATE ON ADDRESSING HIS MAJESTY FOR REMOVING SIR
ROBERT WALPOLE. The opposition which for a long time had been made in the
commons, to the measures of the administration, was on this day pushed to a crisis, and produced a motion in both houses. In the house of lords it occasioned the following debate: Lord CARTERET began in this manner :-My lords, as the motion which I am about to make is of the highest importance, and of the most extensive consequences; as it cannot but meet with all the opposition which the prejudices of some, and the interest of others, can raise against it; as it must have the whole force of ministerial influence to encounter, without any assistance but from justice and reason; I hope to be excused by your lordships for spending some time in endeavouring to show, that it wants no other support, that it is not founded upon doubtful suspicions, but upon uncontestable facts; that it is not dictated by private interest, but by the sincerest regard to publick happiness; not abetted by the personal malevolence of particular men, but enforced by the voice of the people; a voice which ought always to be attended to, and, generally, to be obeyed.
To endeavour, my lords, to remove from places of publick trust all those who appear to want either the virtues or abilities necessary for executing their offices, is the interest of every member of a community. And it is not only the interest but the duty of all those who are, either by the choice of the people, or by the right of birth, invested with the power of inspecting publick affairs, and intrusted with the general happiness of their country. That, therefore, every motive combines to make it the duty, and every argument concurs to prove it the privilege of your lordships, is too evident to be doubted.
How often this privilege has been exerted by this house, and how often it has rescued our country from oppression, insolence, and rapine; how often our constitution has been
reanimated, and impending ruin been averted by it, a superficial acquaintance with history may inform us. And we are now called upon by the universal cry of the nation, and urged by the perplexed and uncertain state of our foreign affairs, and declension of our wealth, and attacks upon our liberties at home, to recollect these precedents of magnanimity and justice, and to make another effort for the relief of our country.
This house, my lords, has proceeded against ministers, whose conduct they disapproved, by methods of greater or less severity, according to the necessity of affairs, or the supposed malignity of the crimes alleged against them; and, therefore, have sometimes thought it necessary to deter posterity from imitating them by rigorous censures, and exemplary punishments, and sometimes have thought it sufficient to set the nation free from its distresses, without inflicting any penalties on those by whose misconduct they imagined them produced.
What were the more violent and vindictive methods of proceeding, it is not necessary, with regard to this motion, to examine; since I shall only propose, that we should, in imitation of our predecessors, in cases of this nature, humbly address bis majesty to remove the minister from his presence and councils.
Nothing, my lords, can be more moderate or tender than such an address, by which no punishment is inflicted, nor any forfeiture exacted. The minister, if he be innocent, if his misconduct be only the consequence of his ignorance or incapacity, may lay down in peace an office for which nature has not designed him, enjoy the vast profits of long employment in tranquillity, and escape the resentment of an unhappy people; who, when irritated to the highest degree, by a continuation of the same miscarriages, may, perhaps, in the heat of a more malevolent prosecution, not sufficiently distinguish between inability and guilt.
Those, therefore, among your lordships, that think him honest but mistaken, must willingly agree to a motion like this, as the best expedient to appease the people without
the ruin of the minister. For surely no man who has read the history, or is acquainted with the temper of this nation, can expect that the people will always bear to see honours, favours, and preferments, distributed by the direction of one universally suspected of corruption, and arbitrary measures; or will look only with silent envy upon the affluence of those whom they believe to be made great by fraud and plunder, swelled to insolence by the prosperity of guilt, and advanced to wealth and luxury by publick miseries.
Such of your lordships who join with the people in ascribing our present unhappy state not to the errours, but to the crimes of the minister, and who, therefore, think a bare removal not sufficient to satisfy the demands of justice, must, doubtless, give their consent to the motion, for the sake of obtaining proper evidence of his wickedness, which cannot be expected while he stands exalted in prosperity, and distributes the riches of the nation, and the gifts of his sovereign at his own choice; while he is in possession of every motive that can influence the mind, enforce secrecy, and confirm fidelity; while he can bribe the avaricious, and intimidate the fearful; while he can increase the gratification of luxury, and enlarge the prospects of ambition. For, my lords, if it be considered from whom this evidence must be drawn, it will soon appear that no very important discoveries can be made, but by those whom he has intrusted with his secrets, men whose disregard of virtue recommended them to his favour, and who, as they are moved only by interest, will continue faithful while they can hope for recompense; but may, perhaps, be willing to buy their own security by sacrificing their master, when they shall see vo farther prospect of advantage from serva ing him, or any other method of escaping punishment.
But, my lords, all must allow this motion to be reasonable, whatever they think of the minister's conduct, who are of opinion that a free people have a right of complaining when they feel oppression, and of addressing the crown to remove a minister that has incurred their universal detestation.
That such is the condition of the present minister, I believe, will scarcely be denied, or may be discovered by those who find themselves inclined to doubt it, by asking any man whom they shall accidentally meet, what are his sentiments on the situation of national affairs, and of the hands by which they are administered. What answer he will receive is well known to most of your lordships. Let him not be satisfied with a single suffrage, let him repeat the question to ten thousand persons, different in their ages, their conditions, and religious opinions, in every thing that produces contrariety of dispositions and affections, he will yet find them unanimous in complaining of publick misconduct, and in censuring one gentleman as the author of it.
Let us not imagine, my lords, that these accusations and murmurs are confined to the lowest class of the people, to men whose constant attention to more immediate distresses, hinder them from making excursions beyond their own employments. For though, perhaps, it might be made evident from the accounts of past times, that no general dissatisfaction, even among men of this rank, was ever groundless; though it might be urged that those who see little can only clamour, because they feel themselves oppressed; and though it might not unseasonably be hinted that they are at least formidable for their numbers, and have, sometimes, executed that justice which they had not interest to procure, and trampled upon that insolence that has dared to defy them; yet I shall not insist upon such motives, because it is notorious that discontent is epidemical in all ranks, and that condition and observation are far from appeasing it.
Whether the discontent, thus general, is groundless, whether it is raised only by the false insinuations of the disappointed, and the wicked arts of the envious, whether it is, in exception to all the maxims of government,
the first dislike of an administration that ever overspread a nation without just reasons, deserves to be inquired into.
In this inquiry, my lords, it will be necessary to consider not only the state of domestick affairs, increase or dimi