« PreviousContinue »
done to merit honours superior to his fellow-ci. tizens? I will tell your Lordships what he has done: he has undone his country; and insomuch has executed the plan of that accursed, invisible, though efficient cabinet, from whom, as he has received his orders, so has he obtained his reward. For these reasons, I shall heartily support the motion. There is one thing I will just suggest to your Lordships' consideration, without any comment.
This matter having been debated by your Lordships before, was it proper in a noble Peer of this House, the Keeper of the Great Seal, to affix that seal to the patent, before the sense of your Lordships was known ?
Viscount Sackville rose next, and began with apologising for his venturing to trouble their Lordships, after having been only a few days a member of that House, but as the subject under discussion so very particularly concerned himself, he trusted their Lordships would not consider it an act of impropriety in him to wish to be heard early in the debate, and would favour him so far as to listen to the opinion he was about to deliver on the motion, and the grounds on which it had been opened to the House, with patience and with candour. With regard to the honour which his Majesty had been pleased to confer on him, as a mark of his royal grace, and in
approbation of his services, he knew not by whose advice it was that he had been so favoured, neither did he know that the advice of any minister whatever was necessary. To bestow honours was the peculiar, the indisputable, the admitted prerogative of the crown, when the person on whom those honours were bestowed was competent to receive them. He held himself to be in every way competent to receive the honours he had been so fortunate as to experience at the hands of his royal master, and he was ready to rest the whole of the question on his being able to prove in any manner, in any place, and on any occasion whatever, that he was the person so competent. The motion stated the sentence of the court-martial, as the ground of objection to his being made a peer: he was ready to meet the argument on that point, and to contend that the sentence amounted to no disqualification whatever. The court-martial which pronounced that sentence, had sat twoand-twenty years ago, and he conceived those of their Lordships, and the public in general, who were at all acquainted with the peculiarly hard and unfair circumstances that had attended his being tried at all, had long been accustomed to see the whole of that business in its true point ot' view. What had been the temper of those times? Paction and clamour predominated: they both ran against him, and he had been made the
victim of the most unexampled persecution that ever a British officer had been pursued with. In the first place, he had been condemned unheard, punished before trial. Stripped of all his military honours and emoluments upon mere rumour, upon the malicious suggestions of his enemies, without their having been called upon to exhibit the smallest proof of their loose assertion and acrimonious invective: he stood pointed out to the world as a man easy to be run down by clamour, and to fall a sacrifice to faction. Thus cruelly circumstanced, thus made to suffer in a manner equally unparalleled and unjust; what had been his conduct? Had he fled, like a guilty man, and hid himself from the world ? Many of their Lordships well knew that he had acted in a manner directly opposite. He had challenged his accusers to come forward, he had provoked enquiry, he had insisted upon a trial. Let their Lordships, in general, recollect that the courtmartial which sat upon him, sat under very particular circumstances, and that amidst all the faction and clamour that prevailed against him, and which at the time had been most industriously excited and encouraged, he had stood firm in his resolutions; and determining to clear his character at any hazard, he had, in spite of all the arts that were used to persuade him to the contrary, insisted on his conduct being enquired into, and
determined to abide the consequences. What could their Lordships imagine induced him to persevere in this step with so much firmness, but a consciousness of his innocence ? It was that, and that alone, which bore him up under the cruel difficulties he had to encounter, and that made him submit patiently to the consequence. During the progress of his endeavouring to obtain a trial, he well knew that had the sentence been more severe, had it been capital, it would have been executed. So much he was given to understand by those who took pains to persuade him not to persist in demanding a trial: but that did not deter him from his purpose, and he unremittingly persevered with that object before him. It did not become him to say a word of the courtmartial, or of its proceedings; he had submitted to his sentence, and having so done, he thought he had fully acquitted himself to his country at the time. At present, neither the charge, nor the defence, nor the evidence, nor any part of that proceeding was before their Lordships; and yet they were called upon to put the sentence in force a second time against him. Not that he meant to express any, the least objection, to the whole of the proceedings being examined; happy should he have been indeed, if the whole of the case had been submitted to their Lordships' investigation.
He would gladly now submit his honour and his life to their judgement : nay, to the noble Marquis's own decision, as a man of honour. He was conscious in his own mind, that the matter would not, in that case, have been taken up in the manner it now was, though he had no doubt the noble Marquis meant nothing but what was consistent with his own honour, and his sense of what was due to the honour of the House. He certainly had acted in a way that was manly and fair, to take it up while he was present, and not behind his back. With regard to the courtmartial and the sentence, let their Lordships recollect what had happened since that time, with respect to him. No longer after both happened, than four years, namely in the year 1765, he had been called to the Privy Council, and brought into office. Previous to his accepting the offers that were then made to him, of taking a part in the administration of that day, it had been agreed that he should be first called to the Council. board, which he had ever considered as a virtual repeal of the sentence of the court-martial. He had continued a member of the Privy Council for ten years (from 1765 to 1775) without hearing a word of the court-martial, or its being thought by any means a matter of disqualification. Several years ago his Majesty had honour