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" 2. That it is the opinion of this committee, that it is the right and duty of the Lords spiritual and temporal, and Commons of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, now assembled, and lawfully, fully, and freely representing all the estates of the people of these realms, to provide the means of supplying the defect in the personal exercise of the Royal Authority, arising from His Majesty's said indisposition, in such manner as the exigency of the case may appear to them to require.
“ 3. That it is the opinion of this committee, that for this purpose, and for maintaining entire the constitutional authority of the King, it is necessary that the said Lords spiritual and temporal, and Commons, of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland, should determine on the means whereby the royal assent may be given in Parliament to such bill, as may be passed by the two Houses of Parliament, respecting the exercise of the powers and authorities of the crown, in the name and on the behalf of the King, during the continuance of His Majesty's present indisposi
The two first resolutions were agreed to without a division. The third was opposed by Mr. Ponsonby, who entered into a very able and constitutional statement. He instanced the case of the Convention Parliament, who had proceeded by address; and several other cases, where the deficiency of the Royal Authority had been supplied. He argued, that in proceeding by bill
, it was necessary to have the royal assent before the bill could be complete ; and, by the law of the land, that assent must be given by the King personally, or by commissioners appointed by letters under the sign manual. His Majesty was not capable of either of these modes; and he therefore concluded by moving that, in place of the third resolution,
“ An humble address should be presented to His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales, requesting that he would be graciously pleased to assume and exercise the sovereign authority of these realms, during the continuance of His Majesty's indisposition, and no longer, under the title of Regent of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Ireland.” This was supported by Mr. Adam, Sir Samuel Romilly, Mr. Horner, and Mr. Whitbread. It was op-, posed by Mr. Canning, the Attorney-general (Sir Vicary Gibbs), the Solicitor-general (Sir Thomas Plomer), and Mr. Croker. On the division, the numbers were, for the third resolution, Ayes 269, Noes 157; Majority 112. On the ensuing day (the 21st), the report was brought up; and, on the motion that the House do agree to the resolutions, Lord William Russel moved “ the previous question.” It was supported by Sir Francis Burdett, Mr. Wm. Wynne, Mr. Stewart, Mr. Elliott, Mr. Whitbread, Mr. Adam, Sir John Newport, and Mr. Wm. Lamb; they contended that the mode of proceeding by address was the most consonant to the spirit of the constitution ; that, in proceeding by bill, the two Houses assumed a power which did not belong to them, when they directed the King's officer to apply the King's seal to a public instrument. They instanced several historical precedents; that
in the time of Henry VI. ; that of the Restoration; the Revolu
and the Irish Parliament in 1789. Lord Wm. Russell's motion was opposed by Mr. Stephen, Mr. Yorke, the Chancellor of the Exchequer, Mr. Addington, Mr. Lockhart, and Mr. Wilberforce.
Mr. GRATTAN rose to say a few words, on the question before the Committee, and to state briefly the grounds of the vote which he meant to give. The first consideration that presented itself to the mind on this occasion, was, that all the operations of the constitution were suspended by the unhappy calamity that had fallen upon the King. The functions of the royal authority thus suspended temporarily, it followed of course, that the two houses of Parliament should take measures for supplying the deficiency. To the two houses of Parliament, and to no other body of men in the nation, belonged the right and the power to supply the defect of the royal functions, and to make the constitution whole. If that right and that power could belong to any other class of the subjects of this realm, there would be at once an end to the constitution; if they were to devolve upon the society at large, the nation would be reduced to the state of primeval anarchy. The two houses of Parliament, therefore, one representing the, nation by hereditary right, the other by delegated authority, alone have the right and the power to provide for the safety of that community they so represent, upon such an emergency Their obligation was founded upon the comprehensive political maxim, salus populi suprema lex. That the community had the right to provide for its own safety, could not be questioned. in cases of extremity; but in all cases short of extreme neces-, sity, the two constitutional bodies of representatives of the nation were bound to act upon that general maxim for the salvation of the whole community.
Of the right, then, there was no question. The manner of exercising the right was next to be considered. It was obvious, that the two houses, failing the principal member of the constitution, could have no constitutional power of legislation. The first step then to be taken, was to put themselves in a capacity to legislate by the creation of a third estate, by repairing the defective state of the constitution, by restoring to full vigour the functions of that member which were at present unfortunately suspended, and by making the legislature whole. This would not be an act of legislation, for, to such an act, the two houses were not competent; but an act of power, authorized by the general right of the community to provide for its security.
In the first place, then, they had a power, qualified by necessity, for supplying the incapacity of the King, supported by the right of the community to preserve the constitution ; and, in the next place, they would have an act of Parliament sanctioned by the whole constitution. This was the fair state of the case; and the course to be pursued for the attainment of the desired object was fully borne out, and warranted by the best precedent in history, the precedent of the revolution.
Yet it had been argued, that as precedent only provided for an actual vacancy of the throne, it did not strictly apply to the present case, which was to provide for supplying the incapacity of an existing sovereign. This was a fallacy; because the precedent, which would be applicable to the greater, could not be inapplicable to the lesser necessity. The principle was the same in both; to supply some deficiency of the third branch of the constitution, and whatever may be the difference of degree, there could be no doubt of the equal application of the same principle to both cases. Besides it should not be forgotten, that the precedent of the revolution had been acted upon, had been tried, had stood the test of time, had been cheerfully submitted to by the people, and was devoutly looked up to as the great and permanent foundation of the rights and liberties of the nation. How stood the other precedent, which had been so much relied upon, that of 1788, in this respect? it was incomplete. The measure had passed that House it was true; but it was no less true, that it had not completed its progress in the other House, still more that it had not received the sanction of the third branch of the legislature; but, above all, that it had never been acted upon, nor consequently submitted to by the people. If that and the other House were to direct the King's officer to apply the King's seal to a public instrument, it would be an act of power; so also would it be an act of power to appoint a Regent.
But the difference would be this. In the latter case they would only exercise a power derived from general right, and qualified by the necessity of the case; in the former, they would usurp a power with which they could have no constitutional right to interfere. What power could the two houses of Parliament have over the servants of the King ? Could they enforce obedience to their commands ? Had they the power to punish the King's officers for disobeying their orders ? They had no such power, and to attempt to exercise it would be to assume the functions of the executive government, to overstep the bounds of their own constitutional powers, to make themselves, as it were, the inheritors of the personal functions of the Sovereign in every case of temporary incompetence, and thereby to overthrow the just equilibrium of the British contitution. Why then, he would ask, should the two houses of Parliament assume the powers of the King, whose incapacity they had already declared? If an act should pass, having the Royal assent given to it, in consequence of the usurpation, it would be a self convicted act of Parliament. He should object to such a measure on two grounds, because it would be an unconstitutional exercise of the political power of the king, and because it would be to assume, to two branches only, the authority of the supreme legislature of the nation, without even the semblance of the sanction of the King. Suppose the two Houses were to issue orders to the Commander in Chief to prepare for a particular expedition, could they expect that he would yield obedience to such orders ? Could they punish him for, disobedience? Suppose again that they were to command the Treasury to make a certain disbursement of the public money, could they enforce obedience to their orders ? If they could not, then, what sort of an executive power must that be which cannot command the officers of the Crown ? What sort of a legislative power must that be which cannot enforce the obedience of the subject ? Could the two Houses impose a tax, and punish a resistance to the levy of it, would the loss of life during such resistance be found murder by a jury? With respect to the distinction between the
political and personal character of the Sovereign, that was a distinction that ought ever to be made with great caution. It was well known, that when the Long Parliament overturned the constitutional monarchy, they made use of the political character of the King in support of their pretensions, though the King's personal character was in the ranks against them. As to limitations upon the powers to be exercised by the Regent, he should never consent to take away from him
of the powers belonging to the kingly office. He should acquiesce in the decision, but should vote for the proceeding by address.
The House divided on Lord William Russel's motion; for the previous question, Ayes 15, Noes 98; Majority 83. Tellers for the Ayes, Lord William Russel and Sir F. Burdett.
Noes, Mr. Croker and Mr. Barry. The resolutions were then agreed to.
HIS MAJESTY’S ILLNESS.
THE CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER (MR. PERCIVAL) PROPOSES'
A RESTRICTED REGENCY.
January 2. 1811. ON the 31st of December, both houses had a conference in the
painted chamber; and on that day there was a call of the lower House ; and, having gone into a committee on the state of the nation, the Chancellor of the Exchequer proposed the following resolutions, as the ground of a bill which he meant to introduce :
“ 1. That it is the opinion of this committee, that for the purpose of providing for the exercise of the Royal Authority during the continuance of His Majesty's illness, in such manner, and to such extent, as the present circumstances and the urgent concerns of the nation appear to require, it is expedient that His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales, being resident within the realm, shall be empowered to exercise and administer the Royal Authority, according to the laws and constitution of Great Britain and Ireland, in the name, and on the behalf of His Majesty, and under the style and title of Regent of the Kingdom ;' and to use, execute, and perform, in the name and on the behalf of His Majesty, all authorities, prerogatives, acts of government, and administration of the same, which belong to the King of this realm, to use, execute, and perform, according to the laws thereof, subject to such limitations and exceptions as shall be provided.
“ 2. That it is the opinion of this committee, that, for a time to be limited, the power so to be given to His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales, shall not extend to the granting of any rank or dignity of the peerage of Great Britain and Ireland, or of Ireland, to any person whatever, except such person or persons as may perform some singular naval or military achievement.
“ 3. That it is the opinion of this committee, that, for a time to be limited, the said power shall not extend to the granting of any office whatever in reversion, or to the granting of salary, or premium, for any other term than during His Majesty's pleasure, except such offices as are by law required to be granted for life, or during good behaviour.
" 4. That it is the opinion of this Committee, that such part of His Majesty's private property as is not now vested in trustees, shall be vested in trustees for the use and benefit of His Majesty.
.“ 5. That it is the opinion of this committee, that the care of His Majesty's royal person, during the continuance of His Majesty's illness, should be committed to the Queen's most excellent Majesty; and that, for a time to be limited, Her Majesty shall