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appear to be any deviations from it, we ought to treat them as so many injuries done to that title. And I dare say, that this House, which has gone through so long a series of services to his Majesty, will at last 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Sir, I think the manner, in which the septennial law was first introduced, is a very strong reason why it should be repealed.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 septennial 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 same Parliament beyond it's natural duration : and therefore carries this most unjust implication with it, that you may at any time usurp the most undubitable, the most essential privilege of the people I mean that of choosing their own representatives. A precedent of such a dangerous consequence, of so fatal a tendency, that I think it would be a reproach to our statute book, if that law were any longer to subsist, which might record it to posterity.
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 therefore independent of the people; and when they do so, there always happens a most dangerous dependence elsewhere.
Long Parliaments give the minister an opportunity of getting 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 sight it is extremely shocking.—Hardly any one has submitted to it all at once. His disposition 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 or two 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, short 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 Parliaments will produce frequent new, expenses, but I think quite the contrary; I am really of an opinion, that it will be a proper remedy against the evil of bribery at elections, especially as you have provided so wholesome a law to cooperate upon these occasions.
Bribery at elections, whence did it arise? Not from country gentlemen, for they are sure of being chosen without it; it was, Sir, the invention of wicked and corrupt ministers, who have, from time to time, led weak princes into such 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 purchasing 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 generally prove unsuccessful, and the time of a fresh struggle is at so great a distance, they at last grow faint in the dispute, give up their country for lost, 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 it's 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 impossible to enslave this nation, while it is perpetually upon it's guard. -Let country gentlemen then, by having frequent opportunities of exerting themselves, be kept warın and active in their contention for the public good; this will raise that zeal and spirit, 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 to supplant country gentlemen of great characters and fortune, who live in their neighbourhood. I do not say this upon idle speculátion only.—I live in a country where it is too well known ; and I appeal to many gentlemen in tlre House, to more out of it (and who are so for this very reason), for the truth of my assertion. Sir, it is a sore which has been long eating into the most vital part of our constitution; and I hope the time will come, when you will probe it to the bottom. For if a minister sliould ever gain a corrupt familiarity with our boroughs; if he should keep a register of them in his closet, and, by sending down his treasury mandates, should procure a spurious 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 sole 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 control; the last fatal compliment they can pay to the crown; if this should ever be the linhappy 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 constitution into a natural condition of working out her own cure.
Sir, upon the wlidle 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 seconding the motion wlñch the honourable gentleman has inade you.
SIR ROBERT WALPOLE'S REPLY.
Though the question has been already so fully opposed, that there is no great occasion to say any thing farther against it; yet, I hope, the House will indulge me in the liberty of giving some of those reasons, which induce me to be against the motion. In general, I must take notice, that the nature of our constitution seems to be very much mistaken by the gentlemen who have spoken in favour of this motion. It is certain, that ours is a mixed government; and the perfection of our constitution consists in this, that the monarchical, the aristocratical, and democratical forms of government, are mixed and interwoven in ours, so as to give us all the advantages of each, without subjecting us to the dangers and inconveniences of either. The democratical form of government, 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 seldom 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, seditions, and insurrections, which expose them to be made the tools, if not the prey of their neighbours; therefore in all the regulations we make, with respect to our constitution, we are to guard against running too much into that form of government which is properly called democratical: this was, in my opinion, the effect of the triennial law, and will again be the effect, if ever it should be restored.
That triennial elections would make our government too tedious in all their resolves, is evident : because, in such case no prudent administration would ever resolve upon any measure of consequence, till they had felt not only the pulse of the Parliament, but the pulse of the people; and the ministers of state would always labour under this disadvantage, that, as secrets of state must not be immediately divulged, their enemies (and enemies they will always have) would have a handle for exposing their measures, and rendering them disagreeable to the people; and thereby carrying perhaps a new election against them, before they could have an opportunity of justifying their measures, by divulging those facts and circumstances, from which the justice and the wis-dom of their measures would clearly appear. . .
Then, Sir, it is by experience well known, that what is called the populace of every country are apt to be too much elated with success, and too much dejected with every misfortune: this makes them wavering in their opinions about affairs of state, and never long of the same mind; and as this House is chosen by the free and unbiassed voice of the people in general, if this choice were so often renewed, we might expect, that this House would be as wavering and as unsteady as the people usually are; and, it being impossible to carry on the public affairs of the nation without the concurrence of this House, the ministers would always be obliged to comply, and consequently would be obliged to change their measures, as often as the people changed their minds.
With septennial Parliaments, Sir, we are not exposed to either of these misfortunes; because, if the ministers, after having felt the pulse of the Parliament, which they can always soon do, resolve upon any measures, they have generally time enough, before the new election comes on, to give the people proper information, in order to show them the justice and the wisdom of the measures they have pursued; and if the people should at any time be too much elated, or too much dejected, or should without a cause change their minds, those at the helm of affairs have time to set them right, before a new election comes on. - As to faction and sedition, Sir, I will grant, that in monarchical and aristocratical governments it generally arises from violence and oppression; but in democratical governments it always arises from the people's having too great a share in the government; for in all countries, and in all governments, there always will be inany factious and unquiet spirits, who can never be at rest either in power or out of power; when in power, they are never casy, unless every man submits entirely to their direction; and when out of