Page:History of England (Macaulay) Vol 4.djvu/376

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had begun a session of Parliament singularly eventful, a session from which dates a new era in the history of English finance, a session in which some grave constitutional questions, not yet entirely set at rest, were for the first time debated.

It is much to be lamented that any account of this session which can be framed out of the scanty and dispersed materials now accessible must leave many things obscure. The relations of the parliamentary factions were, during this year, in a singularly complicated state. Each of the two Houses was divided and subdivided by several lines. To omit minor distinctions, there was the great line which separated the Whig party from the Tory party; and there was the great line which separated the official men and their friends and dependents, who were sometimes called the Court party, from those who were sometimes nicknamed the Grumbletonians and sometimes honoured with the appellation of the Country party. And these two great lines were intersecting lines. For of the servants of the Crown and of their adherents about one half were Whigs and one half Tories. It is also to be remembered that there was, quite distinct from the feud between Whigs and Tories, quite distinct also from the feud between those who were in and those who were out, a feud between the Lords as Lords and the Commons as Commons. The spirit both of the hereditary and of the elective chamber had been thoroughly roused in the preceding session by the dispute about the Court of the Lord High Steward; and they met in a pugnacious mood.

The speech which the King made at the opening of the session was skilfully framed for the purpose of conciliating the Houses. He came, he told them, to ask for their advice and assistance. He congratulated them on the victory of La Hogue. He acknowledged with much concern that the operations of the allies had been less successful by land than by sea; but he warmly declared that, both by land and by sea, the valour of his English subjects had been preeminently conspicuous. The distress of his people, he said, was his own; his interest was inseparable from theirs; it was painful to him to call on them to make sacrifices; but from sacrifices which were necessary to the safety of the