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MR. FOX'S SPEECH
IN THE HOUSE OF COMMONS, JUNE 8, 1784, ON THE SCRU.
TINY OF THE WESTMINSTER ELECTION.
At the close of the warmly contested election of Westminster in the year 1784, Mr. Fox had on the face of the poll a majority of two hundred and thirtyfive votes over his opponent, sir Cecil Wray. Notwithstanding this majority, the high bailiff refused to make a return in favour of Mr. Fox, alleging that he had reasons to suspect the validity of many of his votes; and therefore, he could not conscientiously do it without a scrutiny.
As soon as parliament met, Mr. Lee, late attorney general, moved, “ That the high bailiff of Westminster, on the day upon which the writ of election expired, ought to have returned two citizens to serve in parliament for that city.” This resolution being disposed of by ministers moving the previous question, it was succeeded by one which was carried, commanding the attendance of the high bailiff at the bar of the house. After an elaborate discussion by counsel in behalf of each party, the motion was renewed, “ That the high bailiff be directed forthwith to make his return." On this motion Mr. Fox delivered the annexed speech. The motion, however, was negatived, and then it was moved and carried, “ That the high bailiff do proceed in the scrutiny with all possible despatch.” Thus the matter rested during the session. Mr. Fox did not in consequence lose his seat in parliament. He came in through the kindness of a friend for a small borough in the Orkneys; which gave
occasion to Mr. Pitt to remark with the causti. city of sarcasm 'he sometimes indulged, “ that his great antagonist had undergone a sort of banishment; being driven by the impulse of patriotick indignation, as an exile from his native clime, to seek refuge in the stormy and desolate shores of the ultima Thule.”
Early in the next session, the subject of the election was revived, by a motion similar to the one of the preceding session, commanding_the bailiff to make a return. It too was rejected. But the friends of Mr. Fox were not discouraged by these repeated defeats. They renewed the same motion several times afterwards, and ultimately prevailed. Mr. Fox took his seat for Westminster.
BEFORE I enter upon the consideration of this question, I cannot help expressing my surprise, that those who sit over against me [the ministry) should have been hitherto silent in this debate. Common candour might have taught them to have urged whatever objections they have to urge, against the motion of my honourable friend before this time; because in that case I should have had an opportunity of replying to their arguments, and sure it would have been fair to allow me the slight favour of being the last speaker upon such a subject. But, sir, I have no reason to expect indulgence, nor do I know that I shall meet with bare justice in this house. * Sir, I say that I have no reason to expect indulgence, nor do I
* Expression of disapprobation from the ministerial side of the house.
know that I shall meet with bare justice in this house.t
Mr. Speaker, there is a regular mode of checking any member of this house, for using improper words in a debate, and it is to move, to have the improper words taken down by the clerk, for the purpose of censuring the person who has spoken them. If I have said any thing unfit for this house to hear, or for me to utter- If any gentleman is offended by any thing that fell from me, and has sense enough to point out, and spirit to correct that offence, he will adopt that parliamentary and gentleman-like mode of conduct; and that he may have an opportunity of doing so, I again repeat, That I have no reason to expect INDULGENCE, nor do I know that I shall meet with BARE JUSTICE in this house.
Sir, I am warranted in the use of these words, by events and authorities that leave little to be doubted, and little to be questioned. The treatment this business has received within these walls, the extraordinary proceedings which have sprung from it, the dispositions which have been manifested in particular classes of men, all concur to justify the terms I have adopted, and to establish the truth of what I have asserted.
If the declaration I have made, had happened not to have been supported by the occurrences I allude
consideration of Mr. Grenville's bill is of itself sufficient to vindicate what I have said. That bill, sir, originated in a belief, that this house in the aggregate was an unfit tribunal to decide upon contested elections. It viewed this house, as every popular assembly should be viewed, as a mass of men capable of political dislike and personal aversion; capable of too much attachment and too much animosity; capable of being biassed by weak and by wicked motives; liable to be governed by ministerial infuence, by caprice, and by corruption. Mr. Grenville's bill viewed this house as endued with these
| Expression of disapprobation repeated.
capacities, and judging it therefore incapable of deter. mining upon controverted elections with impartiality, with justice, and with equity, it deprived it of the means of mischief, and formed a judicature as complete and ample perhaps as human skill can consti
That I am debarred the benefits of that celebrated bill is clear beyond all doubt, and thrown entirely upon the mercy, or if you please, upon the wisdom of this house. Unless then men are to suppose that human nature is totally altered within a few months-munless we can be so grossly credulous, as to imagine that the present is purged of all the frail. ties of former parliaments—unless I am to surrender my understanding, and blind myself to the extraordinary conduct of this house, in this extraordinary business, for the last fortnight-I may say, and say with truth, “ that I expect no indulgence, nor do I know that I shall meet with bare justice in the house."
There are in this house, sir, many persons, to whom I might upon every principle of equity, fairness, and reason, object as judges to decide upon my cause, not merely from their acknowledged enmity to me, to my friends, and to my politicks, but from their particular conduct upon this particular occasion. To a'noble Lord,+ who spoke early in this debate, I might rightly object as a judge to try me, who from the fulness of his prejudice to me and predilection for my opponents, asserts things in direct defiance of the evidence which has been given at your bar. The noble lord repeats again that “ tricks” were used at my side in the election, although he very properly omits the epithet which preceded that term when he used it in a former debate. But does it appear in evidence that any tricks
* Mr. Grenville's bill enacted, that the persons to try disputed elections shall be drawn out of a glass to the number of forty-nine; that the parties in the dispute shall strike from these names alternately without ascribing any reason until they reduce the number to thirteen ; that these thirteen shall be governed by positive law, and sworn upon oath to administer strict justice.
were practised on my part? Not a word. Against him therefore who, in the teeth of the depositions on your table, is prompted by his enmity towards me, to maintain what the evidence (the ground this house is supposed to go upon) absolutely denies, I might object with infinite propriety as a judge in this cause.
There is another judge, sir, to whom I might object with greater reason if possible than to the last. A person evidently interested in increasing the numbers of my adversaries upon the poll, but who has relinquished his right as an elector of Westminster, that his voting may not disqualify him from being a judge upon the committee to decide this contest. too, Sir, who in the late election scrupled not to act as an agent, an avowed and indeed an active agent to my opponents.* Is there any interruption, sir, ? I hope not. I am but stating a known fact, that a person who is to pronounce a judgment this night in this cause, avoided to exercise one of the most valuable franchises of a British citizen, only that he might be a nominee for my adversaries ; concluding that his industry upon the committee would be of more advantage to their cause, than a solitary vote at the election. This, sir, I conceive would be a sufficient objection to him as a judge to try me.
A third person there is, whom I might in reason challenge upon this occasion.—A person of a sober demeanour, who with great diligence and exertion in a very respectable and learned profession, has raised himself to considerable eminence;t a person who fills one of the first seats of justice in this kingdom, and who has long discharged the functions of a judge in an inferiour but very honourable situation. This person, sir, has upon this day professed and paraded much
upon the impartiality with which he should dis
* Lord Mahon started up in much agitation, and exposed himself to the house as the person alluded to. He appeared inclined to call Mr. Fox to order, but his friends prevented him. † Mr. Kenyon, the master of the rolls. VOL. III.