ePub 版

and shall take a proper carę to model the army for that purpose.




MR. SPEAKER, The subject matter of this debate is of such importance, that I should be ashamed to return to my electors, wibout endeavouring in the best manner I am abir, to declare publicly the reasons which induced me to give my most rearly assent to this question.

The people have an unquestionable right to frequent new Parliaments by ancient usage; and this usage has been confirmed by several laws, which have been progress sively made by our ancestors, as often as they found it necessary to insist on this essential privilege.

Parliaments were generally annual, but never continued longer than three years, till the remarkable reigo of Henry VIII. He, Sir, was a prince of unruly apperites, and of an arbitrary will; he was inpatient of every restraint ; the laws of God and nan fell equally a sacrifice, as they stoorl in the way of his ararice, or disappointed his ambition : he therefore introduced long Parliaments, because he very well knew, that they would become the proper instruments of both; and what a slavish obedience they paid to all his measures is sufficiently known,

If we come to the reign of king Charles the First, we must ackuowledve him to be a prince of a contrary temper; he had certainly an innate love for religion and viriue. But here lay the misfortune-he was led froin his natural, disposition by sycophants and ffatterers; they advised him 10 neglect the calling of frequent new Parliaments, and therefore, hy not taking the constant sense of his people in what he did, he was worked up into so high a notion of prerogative, that the Commons (in order to restraio il) obtained that independent fatal power, which at last unhap

[ocr errors]

pily brought him to his most tragical end, and at the same time subverted the whole constitution. And I hope we shall learn this lesson from it, nerer to compliment the crown with any new or extravagant powers, nor to deny the people those rights which by ancient usage they are entitled to; but to preserve the just and equal balance, from which they will both derive mutual security, and which, if duly observed, will render our constitution the envy

and admiration of all the world. King Charles, the Second naturally took a surfeit of Parliaments in his father's time, and was therefore exa tremely desirous to lay them aside. But this was a scheme impracticable. However, in effect, he did so; for he ob tained a Parliament, which, by its long duration, like an army of veterans; became so exactly disciplined to his own measures, that they knew no other command but froma; that person who gave them their pay.

This was a safe and most ingenious way of enslaving a nation. It was very well known, that arbitrary power, it was open and avowed, would never prevail here. The people were therefore amused with the specious form of their ancient constitution; it existed, indeed, in their fancy; but, like a mere phantom, had in substance nors reality in it; for the power, the authority, the dignity of Parliaments were wholly lost. This was that remarkable Parliament which so justly obtained the opprobrious name: of the PENSION PARLIAMENT; and was the model from which, I believe, some later Parliaments have been exactly copied.

At the time of the revolution, the people made a fresh claim of their ancient privileges, and as they had so lately experienced the misfortune of long and servile Parliaments, it was then declared, that they should be held frequently. But it seems, their full meaning was not understood by this declaration : and therefore, as in every new settlement, the intention of all parties should be specifically mani. fested, the Parliament never ceased struggling with the crown, till the triennial law was obtained: the preamble of it is extremely full and strong; and in the body of the bit you will find the word declare 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 thrir first meaning, and therefore stands a part of that original contract under wnich the constitution was then selised. His Majesty's title to the crown is primarily der:ved from that contract; and if, upon a review,

there shall appear to be any deviations froin it, we ought to i rear 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 pruve falal to that con. stitution which they were meant to secure. Such is the nature of the septennial law; it was intenderl only as a prest'rvative against a temporary inconvenience: the inconvenience is removed, but the mischir vous effects still continue ; for it nut only altered the constitution of Par. liamens, but it extended that saine Parlianient beyond its natural duration : and therefore carries this most unjust implication with it, that you may at any tinate usurp ihe most indubitable, 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 was 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 inay 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 gire the minister an opportunity of gettiug 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, aiways 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 expenses, but I think quite the contrary; I am really of 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 com operate upon these occasions.

Bribery at clections, whence did it arise ? Not from country gentlemen, for they are sure of being chosen without it ; it was, Sir, the invention of the wicked and corrupt ministers, who hare, from time to time, led weak Prioces, 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 wortb purchasing at any rate :

L'ountry gentle. men, who have only their privale fortunes to rely upoll, 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 etturis ; 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 uuderstand 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 impossible 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 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 speculation only:-- I live in a country where it is 100 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 assertion. Sir, it is a sore which has been long earing into the most vital part of our constitution, and I hope the time will come when you will probe it to the bnitom. For if a minister should 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 representation of the people, the offspring of his corruption, wlio will be at all times ready to reconcile and justify the most contradictory measures of his adiuinistration, and even to pote 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 L, each of Parliamentary trust, by giving the king a discretionary liberty of taxing the people with out limitation or control; the last fatal compliment they can pay to the crown:

-if this should ever be the unhappy condition of this nation, the people indeed may complain ; but the doors of that place where their conplaints 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

« 上一頁繼續 »