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A CONSTITUTIONAL REFORM, FOUNDED ON PROPERTY, AND SUBVERSIVE OF OLIGARCHY,
AND OCHLOCRACY. The necessity of Reform in the election of the House of Compions is felt by all, and denied by those only, whose private advantage is at variance with their public interest. But the great argument of the latter, is the discrepancy of opinion among the Reformers, “Let all men," they say, " unite in one consistent system of Reform, and we will listen to their suggestions.” Had a complete similarity of opinions, -an event as unknown in history, as inconsistent with the nature of man,-been necessary for the adoption of any improvement, the world would still be immersed in the glooin of ignorance; neither Reformation nor Revolution would have taken place. It is to the general conviction of the existence of abusé, and to the good sense of a nation, that we are indebted for the salutary alterations that have been made in all public institutions."
Time is the universal innovator. As all public systems are subject to the frailty that pervades all the works of man, time will gradually and imperceptibly sap the foundations, and impair the stability of every human edifice. It is therefore the business of a wise policy to repair or rebuild that edifice, and prevent the impending ruin. To this salutary object the following short suggestions are dedicated. They will displease the violent of all parties,—the Radical Whigs, who indulge the wild and absurd reveries of Annual Parliaments and Universal Suffrage ; and the Radical Tories, who aim at the perpetuation of every corrupted and corrupting practice.
The English Constitution theoretically consists of the Monarchy, the Aristocracy, and the Democracy. But the slow and certain workings of corruption have introduced into its practical operation two extraneous bodies, an Oligarchy and au Ochlocracy.
The first is the most important and the most powerful. The members of it command the King, the Lords and the Commons;
and keep the administration in such a state of dependence, that the latter, sensible of the necessity of propitiating their influence and securing their support, dare not propose those plans of economy and retrenchment, which their duty and their inclination might induce them to attempt. The effects of those close elections, to which they owe their power, on the public morals are lamentable. Every engine of bribery and corruption is employed, and produces perjury and the most abject selfishness that degrades the human mind. To those, who understand the history of their country, it is unnecessary to trace the origin of those boroughs, or to describe the means by which they have gradually become the instruments of undermining the beautiful fabric of the Constitution..
The Ochlocracy is a species of Universal Suffrage, and therefore equally productive of bribery and corruption. The members of it are of two kinds, the forty-shilling freeholders, and the non-resident freemen of certain boroughs,
'', ü Leaseholders and copyholders were originally considered as dependent on the Lords of manors, and therefore, unfit to be trusted with the elective franchise. That cause has long ceased to operate, and they are now under no political control. But, by an absurdity, the continuance of which is unaccountable, a man possessing a large copyhold or leasehold property, is not permitted to yote, while a laborer in his service has the power of electing his legislators, ..;. . Pri - The non-resident freemen of boroughs are generally equally low in the scale of society, and must be sent for by the candidates, at a considerable expense, from East, West, North, and South ; and, like the low freebolders, are usually at the service of the highest bidder. It is not a very uncommon case to see the resident voters, who have placed their confidence in some neighbour of known integrity, as the object of their choice, defeated and overwhelmed by the sudden irruption of the out-voters, introducing a stranger, whose chief merit consists in the weight of his purse.
To correct these evils, and to bring the Representation to that state of purity, which was originally designed; and to prevent the injurious consequences, which have resulted from the present practice, the following sketch of a plan is humbly submitted to the
. [30 consideration of the impartial, the independent, the moderate, the moral, and the religious part of the community. From others, the most labored treatises, the most powerful arguments would not elicit the least expression of satisfaction or conviction.
: IN COUNTY ELECTIONS, Every Proprietor, and every Householder, paying direct taxes to the amount of eight pounds a year, shall be entitled to vote.
IN BOROUGH ELECTIONS,
Every resident Householder, paying direct taxes to the amount of four pounds a year, shall have a vote. But no Borough shall have the privilege of sending Representatives to Parliament, that has not at least one hundred such voters. The example of the disfranchisement of Grampound shall be followed ; the deficiency shall be supplied by Counties, and by the large towns at present unrepresented.
The advantages obtained, and the evils averted, by this plan, are too obvious to need description. It is merely a sketch; the wisdom of Parliament would easily mature and coinplete the system.It might be necessary to fix the qualification to vote on a basis, which would, at certain periods, accommodate itself to the fluctuations of the value of money.
It is probable that this plan would not only prove an incentive to industry, but would tend to the iñcrease of the revenue. Householders in Counties, paying six or seven pounds a year, and in Boroughs two or three pounds, finding that the right of voting was attended with some degree of respectability and consequence, might be induced to make some augmentation in their establishments to attain that privilege.
THE RIGHTS OF ENGLISHMEN.
BY BASIL MONTAGU, Esq.
He that takes
[This Essay was published a few years since, with the hope of
rendering some assistance in counteracting the mischievous opinions which were at that time circulated through the country under the title of Liberty.--I reprint it from the belief that it is calculated to do good ;'the drops of rain which fall separately into the river mix themselves at once with the stream, and strengthen the general current.']
DIFFERENT visiu.aries have at different times appeared in society, and will for ever appear, and contend that all men are or ought to be equal : that all men are or ought to be free: that law is oppression, and that general rules of conduct are improper restraints.
These visionaries are certain of a favorable reception from the multitude, because they are supposed to be disinterested, and because the sentiments which they inculcate are acceptable to their audience.
They are supposed to be disinterested, because, from the nature of their opinions, they cannot be expected to seek preferment.
Their sentiments are acceptable to the multitude, either because they are recommended by their novelty to that want of knowlege to which all things are new; or, because they proclaim the defects to which all human institutions are subject; or, because they pamper the vicious by promising sensual delights or an increase of property, which they represent as having been unjustly witheld; or, because they mislead the generous through their virtues, by recommending equality and liberty, which they deşcribe as the right of all men.
The different considerations on this subject appear then to be, 1. The disinterestedness of Demagogues. 2. The novelty of their doctrines. 3. Their power of misleading both vicious and virtuous youth. 4. Their proclaiming the defects of Governmenų.