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which they will both derive mutual fecurity, and which, if duly obferved, will render our conftitution the envy and admiration of all the world.
CHARLES the Second, naturally took a furfeit of parliaments in his father's time; and was, therefore, extremely defirous to lay them afide. But this was a scheme impracticable. However, in effect, he did fo; for he obtained a parliament, which, by its long duration, like an army of veterans, became fo exact ly difciplined to his own measures, that they knew no other command, but from that perfon who gave them their pay.
THIS was a fafe, and most ingenious way, of enflaving a nation. It was very well known, that arbitrary power, if open and avowed, could never prevail here. The people were, therefore, amused with the fpecious form of their ancient conftitution. It exifted, indeed, in their fancy; but like a mere phantom, had no fubstance nor reality in it: for, the power, the authority, the dignity of parliaments, were wholly loft. This was that remarkable parliament, which fo juftly obtained the opprobrious name of the Penfion Parliament; and was the model, from which, I believe, fome 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 fo lately experienced the misfortune of long and fervile 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 fettlement, the intention of all parties should be fpecifically manifested, the parliament never ceafed ftruggling with the crown, till the triennial law was obtained. The preamble of
it is extremely full and ftrong: 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 firft meaning; and, therefore, ftands a part of that original contract, under which the conftitution was then fettled. His Majesty's title to the crown, is, primarily, derived from that contract: and if, upon a review, there fhall appear to be any deviations from it, we ought to treat them as fo 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 Majefty, will, at laft, be willing to revert to those original ftated measures of government, to renew and ftrengthen that title.
BUT, Sir, I think the manner in which the feptennial law was first introduced, is a very strong reafon why it should be repealed. People, in their fears, have very often recourfe to defperate expedients, which, if not cancelled in season, will themselves prove fatal to that conftitution, which they were meant to fecure. Such is the nature of the feptennial law. It was intended only as a prefervative against a temporary inconvenience. The inconvenience is removed; but the mifchievous effects ftill continue: for, it not only altered the conftitution of parliaments, but it extended that fame parliament beyond its natural duration; and, therefore, carries this most unjust implication with it, That you may, at any time, ufurp the most indubitable, the most effential privilege, of the people-I mean, that of chufing their own reprefentatives: a precedent of fuch a dangerous confequence, of fo fatal a tendency, that I think it would be a reproach to our statute-book, if that law were any longer to fubfift, which might record it to pofterity.
THIS is a feafon of virtue and public fpirit. Let us take the advantage of it, to repeal those laws which infringe our liberties, and introduce fuch as may reftore the vigour of our ancient conftitution.
HUMAN nature is fo very corrupt, that all obligations lose their force, unless they are frequently renew, ed. Long parliaments become, therefore, independent of the people; and, when they do fo, there always happens a moft dangerous dependence elsewhere,
LONG parliaments give the minifter an opportunity, of getting acquainted with members, and of practifing his feveral arts, to win them into his fchemes. This must be the work of time. Corruption is of fo base a nature, that, at first fight, it is extremely shocking. Hardly any one has fubmitted to it, all at once. His difpofition 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 ftruggles, that he furrenders his virtue. Indeed, there are fome, who will, at once, plunge themfelves into any base action; but the generality of mankind, are of a more cautious nature, and will proceed, only by leifurely degrees. One or two, perhaps, may defert their colours, the firft campaign; fome, the fecond: but a great many, who have not that eager difpofition to vice, will wait till a third.
For this reafon, fhort parliaments have been lefs corrupt than long ones. They are obferved, like ftreams of water, always to grow more impure, the greater distance they run from the fountain-head.
I am aware, it may be faid, that frequent new parliaments, will produce frequent new expences: but I think quite the contrary. I am really of opinion, E 5
they will be a proper remedy against the evil of bribery at elections; efpecially, as you have provided fo wholesome a law, to co-operate upon these occafions.
BRIBERY at elections, whence did it arife? Not from country gentlemen; for they are fure of being chofen without it. It was, Sir, the invention of wicked and corrupt minifters; who have, from time to time, led weak princes into fuch deftructive measures, that they did not dare to rely upon the natural reprefentation 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 ferve, are unable to oppofe it; efpecially, if, at any time, the public treasure fhall be unfaithfully fquandered away, to corrupt their boroughs. Country gentlemen, indeed, may make fome weak efforts; but, as they generally prove unfuccefsful, and the time of a fresh ftruggle is at fo great a distance, they, at laft, grow faint in the difpute, give up their country for loft, and retire in defpair. Despair naturally produces indolence; and that is the proper difpofition for flavery. Minifters of ftate 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 conftant action; and that it is impoffible to enflave this nation, while it is perpetually upon its guard.
LET country gentlemen, then, by having frequent opportunities of exerting themfelves, be kept warm and active in their contention for the public good. This will raife that zeal and fpirit, which will, at
laft, get the better of those undue influences, by which the officers of the crown, though unknown to the several boroughs, have been able to fupplant country gentlemen of great characters and fortune, who live in their neighbourhood. I do not say this upon idle fpeculation 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 fo for this very reafon) 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 minifter fhould ever gain a corrupt familiarity with our boroughs; if he fhould keep a register of them in his clofet; and, by fending down his treasury-mandates, fhould procure a fpurious representative of the people, the offspring of his corruption, who will be at all times ready to reconcile and juftify the most contradictory measures of his administration, and even to vote every crude indigefted dream of their patron into a law; if the maintenance of his power fhould become the fole object of their attention; and they should be guilty of the moft violent breach of parliamentary truft, by giving the king a difcretionary liberty of taxing the people, without limitation or controul, the laft 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 fhould be heard, will for ever be fhut against them.
OUR difeafe, I fear, is of a complicated nature; and, I think, that this motion is wifely intended to remove the firft and principal disorder. Give the people their antient right of frequent new elections. That will reftore the decayed authority of parlia