Imagens das páginas
PDF
ePub

full and strong ; and in the body of the bill you will find the word declared before enacted, by which I apprehend, that though this law did not immediately take place at the time of the revolution, it was certainly intended as declaratory of their first meaning, and therefore stands a part of that origi-, nal contract under which the constitution was then settled. His Majesty's title to the crown is primarily derived from that contract ; and if, upon a review, there shall appear to he

any deviations from it, we ought to treat them as so many injuries done to that title. And I dare fay, that this house, which has gone through so long a series of services to his Majesty, will at laft be willing to revert to those original stated measures of government, to renew and Strengthen that title.

But, Sir, I think the manner in which the septennial law was first introduced, is a very strong reason why it should be repealed. People, in their fears, have very often recourse to desperate expedients, which, if not cancelled in season, will themselves prove fatal to that constitution, which they were meant to secure. Such is the nature of the feptennial law ; it was intended only as a preservative against a temporary inconvenience : the inconvenience is removed, but the mischievous effects still continue ; for it not only altered the constitution of Parliaments, but it extended that fame Parliament beyond its natural duration.; and therefore carrries this most unjust implication with it, That you may at any time usurp the most indubitable, the most effential privilege of the people,- mean that of chusing their own representatives. A precedent of such a dangerous confequence, of fo fatal a tendency, that I think it would be a reproach to our statute-book, if that law was any longer to fubfift, which might record it to pofterity.

THIS

[ocr errors]

This is a season of virtue and public spirit. Let us take advantage of it to repeal those laws which infringe our liberties, and introduce such as may restore the vigour of our ancient constitution.

Human nature is so very corrupt, that all obligations lose their force, unless they are frequently renewed.-Long Parliaments become cherefore independent of the people, and when they do so, there always happens a most dangerous dependence elsewhere.

LONG Parliaments give the minister an opportunity ofgetting acquaintance with members, of practising his several arts to win them into his schemes. -This must be the work of time -Corruption, is of so base a nature, that at first fight it is extremely shocking --Hardly any one has submitted to it all at once. His difposition must be previously understood, the particular bait must be found out with which he is to be allured, and after all, it is not without many struggles that he surrenders his virtue. -Indeed, there are some, who will at once plunge themselves into any base action, but the generality of mankind are of a more cautious nature, and will proceed only by leisurely degrees. One ortwo perhaps have deserted their colours the first campaign, some have done it a second.But a great many, who have not that eager disposition to vice, will wait till a third.

For this reason, fort Parliaments have been less corrupt than long ones ; they are observed, like streams of water, always to grow more impure the greater distance they run from the fountain-head.

I Am aware, it may be said, that frequent new, Parlia. ments will produce frequent new expences, but I think quite the contrary; I am really of opinion, that it will be a proper

remedy

remedy against the evil of bribery at ele&tions, especially as you have provided fo wholesome a law to co-operate upon these occasions,

Bribery at elections, whence did it arise ? Not from country gentlemen, for they are sure of being chofen with out it; it was, Sir, the invention' of wicked and corrupt ministers, who have, from time to time, led weak Princes into fuch destructive measures, that they did not dare to rely upon the natural representation of the people.

-Long, Parliaments, Sir, first introduced bribery, because they were worth purchafing at any rate :-Country gentlemen, who have only their private fortunes to rely upon, and have no mercenary ends to serve, are unable to oppose it, especially if at any time the public treasure shall be unfaithfully squandered away to corrupt their boroughs.Country gentlemen, indeed, may make some weak efforts ; but as they ge-. nerally prove unsuccessful, and the time of a fresh ftruggle is at so great a distance, they at last grow faint in the difpute, give up their country for loft, and retire in despair. Despair naturally produces indolence, and that is the proper disposition for slavery. Ministers of state understand this very well, and are therefore unwilling to awaken the nation out of its lethargy; by frequent elections. They know that the spirit of liberty, like every other virtue of the mind: is to be kept alive only by constant action ; that it is impoffible to enslave this nation, while it is perpetually upon its guard.----Let country gentlemen then, by having frequent opportunities of exerting themselves, be kept warm and active in their contention for the public good : this will raise that zeal and fpirit, which will at last get the better of those undue influences, by which the officers of the crown, though unknown to the several boroughs, have been

able:

able to supplant country gentleman of great characters and fortune, who live in their neighbourhood. I do not say this upon idle speculation only.--I live in a country where it is too well known, and I appeal to many gentlemen in the house, to more out of it (and who are so for this very reason,) for the truth of my affertion. Sir, it is a fore which has been long eating into the most vital part of our conftitution, and I hope the time will come when

you

will probe it to the bottom.

-For if a minister should ever gain a corrupt familiarity with our boroughs,. if he liould keep a register of them in his closet, and, by sending down his trèafury-mandates, should procure aspurious representative of the people, the offspring of his corruption,who will be at all times ready to reconcile and justify the most contradictory measures of his administration, and even to vote every crude indigested dream of their patron into a law ; if the maintenance of his power should become the fole object of their attention, and they should be guilty of the most violent breach of Parliamentary trust, by giving the King a discretionary liberty of taxing the people without limitation or controul; the last fatal compliment they can pay to the crown ;-If this fhould ever be the unhappy condition of this nation, the people indeed may complain ; but the doors of that place where their complaints should be heard, will for ever be shut against them.

Our disease, I fear, is of a complicated nature, and I think that this motion is wisely intended to remove the first and principal disorder.---Give the people their ancient right of frequent new elections ; that will restore the decayed authority of parliaments, and will put our.conftitution into a natural condition of working out her own cure.

Sır, upon the whole, I am of opinion, that I cannot express a greater zeal for his Majesty, for the liberties of the people, or the honour and dignity of this house, than by feconding the motion which the honourable gentleman has

made yollo

CH A P.

SIR ROBERT WALPOLE's REPLY.

MR. CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER, THOUGH the queition has been already so fully op

posed, that there is no great occafion to say any thing farther against it, yet, I hope, the house will indulge me the liberty of giving fome of thofe reasons, which induce me to be against the motion. In general I must take notice, that the nature of our conftitution seems to be very much miftaken by the gentlemen who have spoken in favour of this motion. It is certain, that ours is a mixt government, and the perfection of our conftitution consists in this, that the monarchical, aristocratical, and democratical forms of govern. ment, are mixt and interwoven in ours, so as to give us all the advantages of each, without subjecting us to the dangers and inconveniencies of either. The democratical form ofgo. vernment, which is the only one I have now occasion to take notice of, is liable to these inconveniences : that they are generally too tedious in their coming to any resolution, and feldom brisk and expeditious enough in carrying their resolutions into execution : that they are always wavering in their resolutions, and never steady in any of the measures they resolve to pursue ; and that they are often involved in factions, feditions and insurrections, which exposes them to be made the tools, if not the prey of their neighbours ; there

fore

« AnteriorContinuar »