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the sovereignty to the powers of the country, upon terms advantageous to its commerce, than to be at the mercy of a minister.
It was shewn, that commerce waj of so tender and delicate a nature, that it could only thrive where it had the most unrestrained liberty, as well as the mo" perfect security: and that the restraints or exertions of power, though seemingly founded upon salutary principles, had generally proved destructive to it. The fatal effects of ministerial interference in commercial matters, was exemplified in the present ruinous condition of the French East-India Company; as the great and flourishing state of that in Holland, was brought to shew the happy consequences that resulted from a different condust. That the States General were so well convinced of the importance of the East-India trade, and saw so clearly into the great national benefits arising from it, that every territorial, or other acquisition cf the company in India, was considered by that wife body as a national one. That they supported it at all'events, and risque J the mo" dangerous wars upon its account; that in the greatest exi-' gencies cf the state, the -compariy's property, at home or abroad, was held as sacred as any nun's private property; and that the f :ll yearly rrofits arising fiom their trad^ or revenue in India, were fairly <i:v:dcd aTiong the proprietors, even when they amounted so Itieh as 75 ;,er c?: t. That, in the pr-T?»if Cu.fe, the demands of gove1:,.m*'nt rose \v proportion f- the fac'':,v ""ich wnicf. i!!-judg*d concessions' had a'-T/hy been •on^ined; that the granting of an- annual
sum which exceeded their whole dividend, without a renewal of their charter, or anv adequate consideration being given, might have been deemed a sufficient gratification for the present, and did not deserve to be immediately succeeded by an attempt that struck at their very existence.
On the other hand, it wa« said, that officers bearing the king's commission, would add dignity to the negociations that might be set on foot for establishing peace in India; that the \ owers of the conntry being sovereigns themselves, would more readily listen to propositions, sanctified by the name of a great king, than coming only from a delegated company of merchants, to whom the necessity of submission must ever be hateful j that such submission could, from the nature of things, be only tern-, porary; for it was folly to suppose, that millions of reasonable beings would endure the yoke of a handful of rapacious individuals, longer than they could unite to destroy them. That if government did not discover, by a spirited interposition, a timely disposition to grant the territorial acquisitions in India, the most powerful assistance and protection, these imt ortsnt acquisitions would be lost to tiie nation, and all the immense advantages to be expected from them, sacrificed to the humour of a few interested and turbulent persons, who, by the rro!: unjust proceeding' , had raised themselves into consequence; and who, to maintain it, would traffic away the greatest national advantage?. That the misconduct of the companv's servants in India was universally allowed; and that if it had adn itted
before of any doubt, the measure of sending out supervisors would sufficiently prove it; that nothing could prevent these enormities for the future so effectually, as the kicg's maintaining a person of rank, honour, and integrity, in such-a'station in that part of the world, as would enable him to be a sufficient check upon the rapacious and exorbitant conduct ef their servants; at the fame time, that he would not only be answerable for his own conduct to his majpsty, but also to the nation in general.
After many debates, and several proposed modifications, the matter was at length rested upon the following question, which was put to be decided by baliot: "That this court will give the officer of the crown.commancling (hips of the line, a lharein the deliberations andresolutions of the company, merely ■with regard to the two objects of making peace and declaring war when his majesty's forces are employed ;" when it was rejected by a great majority.
In the mean time the commiflion for the naval commander in chief was made out: but as the proposed requisition for extraordinary powers had not been complied with, his operations were limited to the gulph of Persia only. The company's affairs had for some time been embroiled upon that coast, through the lawless conduct of the neighbouring chiefs, who, taking advantage of the troubles that prevailed in Persia, to become independent, had thrown off at the fame time all regard to order and justice. Thus a sort of compromise was made; the power of making peace and war was granted by the directors to the naval commander in the gulph of Persia, beyond which his authority did not extend; and the demand for ships of the line to the bay of Bengal was suspended. Two frigates of war were however ordered upon that service, and to convey the supervisors, whole powers were at length finally adjusted, and an end put to this tedious course of debate and altercation.
Retrospeilive view of some matters previous to the General Election. Mr. Wilket elecledfir the county ofMidMeJex. Great licentiousness prevails, which is not sufficiently restrained by .the civil power. Condu6i os administration. Causes of dissatisfaction. State'of'the ministry. Parliament meets. Speech from the throne. Parliament adjourns for the holidays.
AN event which took place at the late general election, as it has been pioductive of several extraordinary consequences, some of which Are supposed by many to affect even the first principles . of she constitution, all the circumstances relative to it, deserve, upon
that account, our more particular attention. We have before seen, that Mr. Wilkes (of whose mixed character, conduct, and adventures, some account has been given in a former volume) having reri"-ed to France, was not only expelled the house of commons, but in consequence sequence of his not appearing to the indictments that were laid against him, was run to an outlawry. The great popularity which he had acquired, was, in consequence of some circumstances that attended that prosecution, a good deal lowered. A book written by him, of an obscene and immoral tendency, though, in appearance, not intended for general publication, and brought into public notice by means net very honourable to the managers of the prosecution against him, had however a considerable influence on the public opinion, and, for a time, abated even the fervor of his warmest advocates. Other matters, of great national import, became soon afterwards subjects of general discussion, and drew away the attention of the public. (
In this situation, an exile from his country, distrest in his circumstances, and, in a great measure, abandoned by his friends, Mr. Wilkes seemed not only totally ruined, but also nearly forgotten. The outlawry having run beyond the limits allowed by the law for a reversal, he was apparently cut off from the benefit of the laws, and the protection of his country; and it seemed that nothing but a pardon from the crown could restore him to the civil rights of a citizen.
This ray of hope seem ed however to shine upon his affairs, by the promotion to power of some persons lately in high office, and of some who are still in considerable employ menti. These had not only bees his intimate friends, but they had also a great lead in the party with whom he had originally embarked* and in whose cause he had encoun
tered all his sufferings. It was y therefore supposed by many, and not unnaturally, that these gentle* men would use all their influence to procure a pardon for a man,' who it was conceived had done them real services, and who at least had suffered severely jn the course of their common opposition. Many of his friends also thought, that what he had already undergone, might sufficiently satisfy the dignity of the crown; and that it would he better consulted and provided for, by an occasional act of grace and lenity, than by pursuing, with the appearance of a vindictive and personal resentment, the ruin of an individual, infinitely below it» notice, to the utmost line of extremity.
On the other hand, those who had been active in his original prosecution, asserted, that his offences, and the popularity which, by a strange perverseness in the people, had arisen from them, had jointly rendered him a person of importance enough to be strictly watched, and severely punished; that, as his misfortunes seemed not to have inspired him with any degree of penitence for his crimes, a pardon from the crown would be an act rather of weakness thaa of benignity. Above all, they insisted that it was necessary a severe example should be made, to prevent other persons from aspiring to a popular character by outrageous insults on government. We must observe, that notwithstanding the frequent changes in administration, the greatest number of the person* who had been the most direct objects of Mr. Wilkes's attacks still preserved their places, and seemed, at this particular time, to have , rather rather risen in interest and importance.
This circumstance did not prevent Mr. Wilkes from applying, through the duke of Grafton, who was now at the head of the treasury, for a j>ardon; and it is probable made no doubt of his using all his influence to procure it. In this however he was disappointed. Whether it was, that the political Rntiments of this noble person were changed, or that the opinion held of the ma.n was altered, or that the application to be made, was of so critical a nature as not to be attempted with safety; from whatever cause it proceeded, the request was not only rejected, but treated with some appearance os neglect.
It may be conceived, from some traits of Mr. Wilkes's character, that have appeared upon other occasions, that he was not likely to jemain totally dormant, or to acquiesce in a treatment, which he probably considered to be as unjust, as it was full of indignity. He accordingly upbraided the first lord of the treasury, and several other old friends, with the greatest acrimony, in a number of publications; and a letter to the p. of Q——■, which was; only wrote to be pub'ifhed, abounded with anec-. dotes, reflecting on the consistency of their public conduct, and on their friendship and sincerity in pri^ vate life.
These discussions began again to draw the attention of the public, to a subject thai bad, nearly sunk into oblivion, and a man whom they had almost forgotten. TV desertion of his frieids strongly excited their compassion; they Begs.* to think his sufferings out of
measure; to- reflect that he was at any rate a victim to the popular cause, and that even the exposure of many faults in his private character, was a part of the punishment which he incurred upon that account. The ministry, by being supposed, (uppn whatever foundation) even more than any former ad mini''ration, under an influence disrelished by the people, daily lost ground in the general opinion; and any very active instrument of opposition to them, was likely to advance considerably in the public favour. Here he laid in a fresh claim to their approbation; and as his imputed private failings had formerly been taken in the gross, to increase the sum Of his alleged public offences, so now the measures that sprung from accident, resentment, or necessity, were liberally laid to the account of public virtue.
So far we have thought it necessary to premise, as to matter* which in order of time do not c.ome within the line of our present narrative; but which lead to succeeding points of great and immediate consequence. Mr. Wilkes, who was not ignorant of the great change so much to his advantage, which had taken place in the public opinion, and whose private affairs were in a most desperate situation, determined to make a bold attempt to benefit by it, sensible that if it failed of success, the consequences could not place him in a much worse state than that in which he was already. ■ He accordingly came over to England previous to the general election, and to the astonishment of mankind, though he still lay under the sentence of outlawry, declared himself selfa candidate to represent the city of London in parliament.
The acclamations of joy with which he was received by the populace, are inconceivable ; nor were the marks of public regard which he received, confined solely to the lower order of the people; several merchants, and other gentlemen of large property and of considerable interest, openly espoused his cause, •and a subscription was immediately opened in the city for the payment of his debts. The success however upon the poll, was not equal to what might have been expected from the first sanguine appearance in his favour. The electors were obliged to record their names, and the consequences of an opposition to great co:porate and commercial connections, were too obvious not to be understood.
Though foiled upon this occafion, Mr. Wilkes had however received such an earnest of the attachment of the people, that it encouraged him to another attempt, which appeared almost as hazardous. He accordingly set up immediately for the county of Middlesex, in opposition to the established interest of two gentlemen, who had represented it for several years; who were supported by the whole interest of the court; and who had considerable fortunes and great connections in it. As the fame causes did not here operate upon the freeholders at large, which had before prevented the inclinations of the ljvery of London from taking effect in his favour; so, notwithstanding the natural interest and strong connections that opposed him, and the great weight and influence of the court in a
county in which it is resident, he was elected March 28, by a prodigious majo- 1768. rity.
The legal proceedings upon the surrender of Mr. Wilkes, on the reversal of his outlawry, on his sentence and imprisonment, have been circumstantially related in the year in which they happened. During these transactions a verygreat degree of extravagance and licentiousness prevailed among the populace ; which being encouraged by the inactivity of the civil power, broke out at length in acts of the most lawless and outrageous manner. Upon the committal of Mr. Wilkes by the court of king's bench, the mob stopped the coach upon Westminster bridge, and having taken off" the horses, dragged it back in triumph, notwithstanding his most earnest intreaties, through the two great cities of Westminster and London, all the way to Spitalfields, being almost from the farthest extremity of the one to that of the other of these cities. The officers of the court, in whose custody the prisoner was, were happy to obtain leave to depart; and he, after being kept some hours at a tavern, which was carefully surrounded and guarded, made his escape with great difficulty and address by night to the prison, where he voluntarily surrendered himself. No opposition was attempted to this act of violence, and no enquiry was made about the offenders. This remissness 'of' government brought on several other tumults and disorders. The enemies of administration did not hesitate to attribute this relaxation of civil authority, to design rather than to neglect 5