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ke to house is instituted, not to follow yond the letter, and without which
the example, but to watch over the letter cannot be rightly underto the proceedings of inferior courts. stood. Shall not the same be said
The House of Commons is com of that grand body of written and posed chiefly of those who are not unwritten law relating to the pow
lawyers, in order that they may ers of government, and the rights of le do act on the plain and broad princi- the subject, called the constitution?
ples of reason and the constitution. As that which defeats the purpose It is their duty to inquire whether without infringing the words of an the result of legal subtilties be the act of paliament is justly said 10
furtherance of the ends of justice; be inconsistent with its spirit and da je and above all, to determine whe principles, so acts are with equal
ther there be any reasonings or propriety termed unconstitutional precedents received by other tri. which resemble in their mischief bunals which may be dangerous to acts already condemned as conliberty. These are questions of fartrary to the constitution, which ob
more importance than any discus- struct the attainment of its univercat sions of mere law; and on them sally acknowledged ends, weaken
this house may decide with as the authority of its most useful prinmuch discernment as lawyers, and ciples, and of which the example, with much less prejudice. There if consistently followed in all like are even occasions in which law cases, would leave no constitution itself, in order to be preserved, remaining. It is by the condemnamust be overruled by the great tion of practices and pretensions principles of justice and liberty, which are unconstitutional without for which and by which it can being, in the strict and narrow alone exist.
sense of the word, illegal, that the Whatever may have been said of House of Commons bas most often late, I shall always consider that, performed its high function of to prove the tendency of a claim preserving liberty. Illegal practices to be unconstitutional, it is in the may be checked by courts of law House of Commons the strongest -unconstitutional claims can be of all legal arguments against it. resisted only by parliament. This It has been said, that “unconsti. house may, indeed, animadvert on tutional" can have no meaning, is a breach of law, but only where it be not synonymous with “ille- that breach of law is in effect, or gal.” But the assertion is false and example, dangerous to the constipernicious. Every single statute tution. has a general object and intention This constitution has provided which may be defeated by acts various means of check on that which do not offend against the most unmanageable instrument of letter of any of its clauses. Every power-a standing army. Whether class of statutes relating to one the union of all of them be an ade. subject has a more general scope quate security, may be doubted; and spirit against which there may but no man ever thought that all
many offences not prohibited in were niore than enough. One of so many words in any one statute these controls is, the annual mu. of the class. The inost subordinate tiny bill, which renders the means part of law, besides its literal pro- of maintaining discipline annually visions, has a spirit, an object, ge- dependent on the pleasure of par. neral principles, which extend be liament. This check is held by the
whole legislature. Another, and and the spirit of the people, when the only control exclusively vest they cannot prevent an encroach. ed in the House of Commons is, ment in one quarter, have often the annual grant of money for the gained a compensation in another. support of the army. It is in its But it is never too much to say, nature the most effectual: it is the that those who contend for the privilege of the House of Com- exception must always prove it mons alone. The constitution al- and that those who rely on the lows the other house to reject our constitution need only allege it. votes of supply; but neither to Where is the proof? It is no ordi. alter their nature nor to increase nary evidence which can outweigh their amount. It is the peculiar such principles as those now uncharacteristic of the Commons der our consideration the exclu. House: it is that which forms our sive right of this house to grant strength and our pride: it is that supply, and the danger of every which has given us a preponderat. prerogative which may be a source ing authority over all measures of of independent revenue. state. On this subject we have It will probably be said, that ever thought that the smallest ministers are responsible for the dangers are to be guarded against exercise of this like every other with the utmost vigilance. No power of the crown. Wherever a jealousy has here appeared un power is proved to be legal, rereasonable: no encroachments, sponsibility is doubtless our safehowever slender and unintentional, guard against its dangers: wherehave been thought too harmless to ever the creation of a new power be repelled. Such, sir, has been is shown to be absolutely necesour jealousy, and (I may add in sary, there also we must content justice) your jealousy, of this ourselves with such security as great privilege in our intercourse the responsibility of ministers may with the other house of parlia- afford. But we must not speak of ment. What new, term can be responsibility till either the legaimagined adequate to the feelings Jity or the necessity of the power with which we are bound to guard it be first made out. Responsibility is as a control over a standing army? no reason either for recognizing
I am well aware that in every or for granting political power; it human system, especially in a go is only a security of a certain ra. vernment so complicated as ours, lue against the abuse of an authoand formed by the course of cir- | rity which legal evidence proves cumstances in a long series of to exist, or urgent danger renders ages, there are anomalies which it necessary to create. must be owned to have the cba. Anciently while our kings deracter of law, though they be ut frayed their expenses from their terly irreconcileable with the ge own revenues, with occasional aid neral principles of the constitu from parliament, there are but tion. These irregularities are, I few traces of parliamentary interam ready to admit, often balanced ference in appropriating public by similar deviations on the oppo- money to particular objects. Afsite side. So that the last result, terwards, when the kings of Enthe just counterpoise of constitu- gland were reduced by a happy tional authority, is maintained. poverty to that dependence on the The principles of the constitution commons which preserved the
British constitution, they were and forethought are banished; imstill considered as contracting to providence and immorality encoudefray the whole expense of the raged. To restore the respectabi. slate, on condition of their receiv-lity and the happiness of the ining a certain gross annual reve. ferior classes, they must be nue. They were allowed to appor- brought back to those manners tion it according to their own from which they have swerved. judgment, unless where the ap- Their general good sense I think pearance of great abuse called for as highly of as any man, but, misinvestigation, rather for the puo led as they have been by dependnishment of delinquents, than for ing on parochial relief, an immethe better regulation of the expen- diate and complete reformation is diture. Attempts to improve this not to be expected. From the depractice were made at various basement which has arisen out of times under the princes of the that system, gradually operating house of Stuart. It was not until for two centuries, half that period the glorious era of the revolution, | may perhaps be necessary before that the system was established of the stain can be removed, until appropriating all parliamentary this can be effected, I would by grants, by the authority of parlia no means recommend any other ment, to services previously ap- than a gradual change in the sysproved by parliament, which give tem. Evidence may there be adreality and energy to all the an duced, that the effect of the precient constitutional principles, re sent system is to degrade the poor specting the power of the purse, man as well in his own estimation created a constant and irresistible as in that of the persons on whom control over the public expendi. the charge of maintaining him is ture in this house, and ought to be devolved,--that his happiness is at regarded as the most important an end-his existence embittered. reform in the practice of the Bri- The relief bestowed on him may tish constitution which has been remove indeed the cravings of effected in modern times. Since hunger, but it is at the expense of that happy period, every part of all the best feelings of his nature. public law and parliamentary To restore independence of mind usage on the subject of finance, is to the labouring classes is an indis. consistent and intelligible. We pensable ingredient in every plan have only to open the journals of for bettering their situation. Need this house to comprehend the there be any other proof requisite constitution.
of this than the superiority of our people, on the whole, over every
other nation. Whence does this ENGLISH POOR LAWS.
arise? Is it not among the blessed MR. CURWEN.
fruits of our free constitution, inThe abuse of the poor laws has spiring independence of mind and transferred from the individual to action, giving consequence in his the public, not merely the charge own eyes to every member of the of providing for the casualties and community? Hence has arisen the misfortunes incident to humanity, glory, the pre-eminence of Enbut for the direct consequences of gland. Extinguish the vital spark men's vice and folly. Economy of liberty, destroy the political
character of the people, and we consists in wanting little: in cos shall soon sink to a level with tradiction to it, worldly or vulgar countries groaning under despo- happiness is to want and enjo tism! Is it then consistent either much.-Thus it will be invariably with sound policy, or with huma- found, that where the earnings nity, that three millions of people, are greatest the foretbought is or nearly a third of our population, least. should be suffered to remain in From year to year the malady the degraded state of pauperism? has been augmenting The The loss of public estimation takes amount of the poor rates in 1760, away a principal incentive to right was not quite two millions: in the action, and lessens the influence of last fifty-six years they have quamoral principle, which places the drupled. It will not, I believe, be reward of merit in the esteem of difficult to assign the causes that the virtuous. On this ground, be have produced this melancholy yond all others, does this ineasure change, presenting us with such press itself on the consideration of an accumulated prospect of human the house.
misery. From 1760 we may date The sums now collected for the a great revolution in the state of poor are an intolerable burthen: the country; from that period we the industrious, who are now com- began to become a great manufacpelled to contribute to the support turing nation; agriculture shortly of the idle and the profligate, after declined. By the politicians though their utmost exertions are of those days it was viewed as a hardly adequate to procure sup- subordinate object. The wealth of port to their own families, are the country was doubtlessly rapid. daily depressed into the class of ly augmented: luxury spread its paupers. It will not be questioned baleful influence through all ranks by those who have paid attention of society. The price of labour to the past and present state of the rose, and the earnings of the work. poor, that their moral conditioning classes were increased, though has undergone a most unfavour. not their happiness. The demand able change,
and particularly for workmen in the various manu. within the last fifty years, during factures transferred to them num. which period the sum collected bers from the peaceful occupation for their maintenance has quad- of agriculture. The habits of their rupled. The increased wealth of former lives were soon lost: highthe nation, advancing their wages, er wages were obtained, more has at the same time lessened expensive habits acquired, and their happiness. By destroying no thought taken, or provision the principle of economy, their made, for any reverse. Temporawants have augmented beyond ry depressions of trade occurred; their earnings. The present mo the numbers that were thus at ment has acquired undue prefer- once exposed to hunger and the ence, as compared with the fu- extreme of misery were too great ture. Much is this change to be for private benevolence to suclamented, as it operates on their cour: so numerous were the demoral and philosophical happi-mands for parochial relief, that all ness. Moral happiness dwells in sense of shame was lost sight of the mind; philosophical happiness The plague is not more rapid in
its progress than this malady has dearing relation destroyed. In its
to them the enjoyment of their
will not form the most brilliant The best regulated poor houses and striking feature in the future present a dreadful state of existe history of the present times. The ence,-a society with no one com- admiration of succeeding ages mon bond of feelinga-erery en- will be directed to that revolution