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vade us with a considerable force; such designs must always be discovered before they can be ready for execution; and as long as we preserve a superior fleet, we shall have it in our power to prevent the execution of any such design ; but granting that they should by any strange fatality or negligence, escape our feets at sea, vet still we should have time to prepare for their reception ; if our militia be always kept in good order and under a proper discipline, they will be sufficient for our defence against any power that can be brought against us, as long as the king is possessed of the affections of the people in general ; and those he can never lose so readily as by despising the people, and trusting entirely to his standing army.
As for those small invasions which the noble duke was pleased to mention, what though they had landed? What would have been the consequence ? I hope, my lords, it is not to be imagined, notwithstanding the contemptible state to which our militia has been by neglect reduced, that this country is to be conquered by six or seven thousand men.
Even the late king William, though he had escaped the English fleet, where it is supposed he had a good many friends, though he had double that number of men, and though he got all his troops safely, and without opposition, landed upon the English shore; yet, my lords,
, upon his seeing so few come in to join him, upon his first landing, he was very near going off again. It is not an
. tasy matter to bring about a revolution against an established government; but it is still inuch more difficult to come in as conquerors, and pretend to subdue such a powerful and populous country as this is. And if the great king William, who came to relieve us from slavery and oppression, who brought along with him so great an army and so powerful a fleet; if he, I say, was so doubtful of success upon his first landing, what have we to fear from any small invasion ? Surely, from such the nation can never have any thing to fear, whatever such a government as that of king James's was might have to fear from such invasions when encouraged, called in, and sup.
ported by the generality of our people at home. This is a case which I hope never will again happen ; it is a case against which we are not to provide; and for these reasons I shall be for agreeing to the reduction proposed.
As to our armies not being obliged to obey any but legal orders, I do not know, my lords, whether it be so or not; but in my opinion the noble duke has given us a good hint fo an amendment to the bill; this'word legal, ought certainly to be put in, and then in case of any disobedience to such orders, a council of war would cer. tainly have it in their power to examine first into the legality of the orders given; as to which there may be some doubt as the bill stands at present: it may be at least alledged, that as the bill now stands, the council of war would be obliged to pass sentence against the soldiers for mutiny, whatever they might afterwards do with the officer who gave the illegal orders.
SIR GILPERT HEATHCOTE, Was an alderman of London. He spoke frequently in the house
about this period, and always in a plain, sensible manner.
Sir G. Heathcote's Speech on the Establishment of Ex
cise Officers.* Sir, Other gentlemen have already fully explained and set forth the great inconveniences which must be brought on
* The introduction of the excise laws excited an immense ferment through the kingdon about this time, It was called by Pulteney, “that monster, the Excise." And Walpole had more difficulty in weathering the storm of opposition that rose on this occasion, than on any other. How tame are we grown! How familiar with that slavery and ruin, threatened us by so many succeeding prophets and politicians! We play with the bugbears, and handle them, and do not find that they hurt us. We look back, and smile at the disproportionate resistance of our inexperienced forefathers to petty vexations and imaginary grievances; and are like the old horse in the fable, who wondered at the folly of the young horse, who refu. sed even to be saddled, while he crouched patiently under the heari: est burthens.
the trade of this nation, by the scheme now proposed to us ; those have been made very apparent, and from them arises a very strong objection against what is now proposed : but the greatest objection arises from the danger to which this scheme will most certainly expose the liberties of our country; those liberties, for which our ancestors have so often ventured their lives and fortunes; those liberties which have cost this nation so much blood and treasure, seem already to be greatly retrenched. I am sorry to say it, but what is now in dispute, seems to me to be the last branch of liberty we have to contend for : we have already established a standing army, and have made it, in a manner, a part of our constitution ; we have already subjected great numbers of the people of this nation to the arbitrary laws of excise ; and this scheme is so wide a step towards subjecting all the rest of the people of England to those arbitrary laws, that it will be impossible for us to recover, or prevent the fatal consequences of such a scheme.
We are told that his majesty is a good and a wise prince : we all believe him to be so; but I hope no man will pretend to draw any argument from thence for our surrendering those liberties and privileges, which have been handed down to us by our ancestors.
We have indeed, nothing to fear from his present majesty: he never will make a bad use of that power which we have put into his hands; but if we once grant to the crown too great an extent of power, we cannot recal that grant when we have a mind; and though his majesty should never make a bad use of it, some of his successors may : the being governed by a wise and good king, does not make the people a free people ; the Romans were as great slaves under the few good emperors they had to reign over them as they were under the most cruel of their tyrants. After the people have once given up their liberties, their governors have all the same power of oppressing them, though they may not perhaps all make the same wicked use of the power lodged in their hands; but a slave that has the good for
tune to meet with a good natured and humane master, is no less a slave than he that meets with a cruel and barbarous one. Our liberties are too valuable, and have been purchased at too high a price, to be sported with, or wantonly given up even to the best of kings : we have before now had some good, some wise and gracious sovereigns to reign over us, but we find, that under them our ancestors were as jealous of their liberties as they were under the worst of our kings. It is to be hoped that we have still the same value for our liberties : if we have, we certainly shall use all peaceable methods to preserve and secure them : and if such methods should prove ineffectual, I hope there is no Englishman but has spirit enough to use those methods for the preservation of our liberties, which were used by our ancestors for the defence of theirs, and for transmitting them down to us in that glorious condition in which we found them. There are some still alive who bravely ventured their lives and fortunes in defence of the liberties of their country; there are many, whose fathers were embarked in the same glorious cause ; let it never be said, that the sons of such men wantonly gave up those liberties for which their fathers had risqued so much, and that for the poor pretence of suppressing a few frauds in the collecting of the public revenues, which might easily liave been suppressed without entering into any such dangerous measures.
This is all I shall trouble you with at present; but so much I thought it was incumbent upon me to say, in order that I might enter my protest against the question now before us,
SIR ROBERT WALPOLE.
His Speech on the same occasion. Sir, As I was obliged, when I opened the affair now before you, to take up a great deal of your time, I then ima.
gined that I should not have been under a necessity of giving you any farther trouble ; but when such things are thrown out, things which in my opinion are quite fo. reign to the debate ; when the ancient histories, not only of this but other countries, are ransacked for characters of wieked ministers, in order to adapt them to the present times, and to draw parallels between them and some modern characters to which they bear no other resemblance than that they were ministers, it is impossible for one to sit still. Of late years I have dealt but little in the study of history ; but I have a very good prompter by me, (meaning Sir Philip Yorke) and by his means, I can recollect that the case of Empson and Dudley, mentioned by the honourable gentleman who spoke last, was so very different from any thing that can possibly be presumed from the scheme now before us, that I wonder how it was possible to lug them into the debate. The case as to them was, that they had by virtue of old and obsolete laws, most unjustly extorted great sums of money from people, who, as was pretended, had become liable to great pains and penalties, by having been guilty of breaches of those obsolete laws which for many years before had gone entirely into disuse. I must say, and I hope most of those that hear me, think that it is very unjust and unfair to draw any parallel be. tween the character of those two ministers and mine, which was, I suppose, what the honourable gentleman meant to do, when he brought that piece of history into the debate. If I ever endeavour to raise money from the people, or from any man whatever, by oppressive or illegal means, if my character should ever come to be in any respect like theirs, I shall deserve their fate. But, while I know myself to be innocent, I shall depend upon the protection of the laws of my country. As long as they can protect me I am safe ; and if that protection should fail, I am prepared to submit to the worst that can happen. I know that my political and ministerial life has by some gentlemen been long wished at an end ; but they may ask their own disappointed liearts, how