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Held on the 13th April, 1780, at Aylesbury.
that there is an intention of laying before the County Meeting new matter, which is not contained in our Petition, and the consideration of which had been deferred to a fitter time by a majority of our Committee in London; permit me to take this method of submitting to you my reasons for thinking, with our Committee, that nothing ought to be hastily determined upon the subject.
Our Petition arose naturally from distresses, which we felt; and the requests, which we made, were in effect nothing more, than that such things should be done in Parliament, as it was evidently the duty
* The Meeting of the Freeholders of the County of Buck. ingham, which occasioned the following Letter, was called for the
purpose of taking into consideration a Petition to Parliament, for shortening the duration of Parliaments, and for a more equal Representation of the People in the House of Commons.
of Parliament to do. But the affair, which will be proposed to you by a person of rank and ability, is an alteration in the Constitution of Parliament itself. It is impossible for you to have a subject before you of more importance, and that requires a more cool and more mature consideration; both on its own account, and for the credit of our sobriety of mind, who are to resolve upon it.
The County will, in some way or other, be called upon to declare it your opinion, that the House of Commons is not sufficiently numerous, and that the Elections are not sufficiently frequent: that an hundred new Knights of the Shire ought to be added; and that we are to have a new Election once in three years for certain, and as much oftener as the King pleases. Such will be the state of things, if the proposition made shall take effect.
All this may be proper. But, as an honest man, I cannot possibly give my vote for it, until I have considered it more fully. I will not deny, that our Constitution
may have faults; and that those faults, when found, ought to be corrected; but on the whole, that Constitution has been our own pride, and an object of admiration to all other nations. It is not every thing, which appears at first view to . be faulty in such a complicated plan, that is to be determined to be so in reality. To enable us to correct the Constitution, the whole Constitution must be viewed together; and it must be compared with
the actual state of the people, and the circumstances of the time. For that, which, taken singly and by itself, may appear to be wrong, when considered with relation to other things may be perfectly right; or at least such as ought to be patiently endured, as the means of preventing something, that is worse. So far with regard to what at first view may appear a distemper in the Constitution. As to the remedy of that distemper an equal caution ought to be used; because this latter consideration is not single and separate, no more than the former. There are many things in reformation, which would be proper to be done, if other things can be done along with them; but which, if they cannot be so accompanied, ought not to be done at all. I therefore wish, when any new matter of this deep nature is proposed to me, to have the whole scheme distinctly in my view, and full time to consider of it. Please God, I will walk with caution, whenever I am not able clearly to see my way before me.
I am now growing old. I have from my very early youth been conversant in reading and thinking upon the subject of our Laws and Constitution, as well as upon those of other times, and other countries. I have been for fifteen years a very laborious Member of Parliament; and in that time have had great opportunities of seeing with my own eyes the working of the machine of our Government; and remarking where it went smoothly and did its 15
business, and where it checked in its movements, or where it damaged its work. I have also had and used the opportunities of conversing with men of the greatest wisdom and fullest experience in those matters; and I do declare to you most solemnly and most truly, that on the result of all this reading, thinking, experience, and communication, I am not able to come to an immediate resolution in favour of a change of the groundwork of our Constitution; and in particular, that in the present state of the Country, in the present state of our Representation, in the present state of our rights and modes of Electing, in the present state of the several prevalent Interests, in the present state of the affairs and manners of this Country, the addition of an hundred Knights of the Shire, and hurrying Election on Election, will be things advantageous to Liberty or good Government.
This is the present condition of my mind; and this is my apology for not going as fast as others may choose to go in this business. I do not by any means reject the propositions---much less do I condemn the Gentlemen, who, with equal good intentions, with much better abilities, and with infinitely greater personal weight and consideration than mine, are of opinion that this matter ought to be decided
upon instantly. : I most heartily wish, that the deliberate sense of the kingdom on this great subject should be known.
When it is known, it must be prevalent. It would be dreadful indeed, if there was any power in the nation capable of resisting its unanimous desire, or even the desire of any very great and decided majority of the people. The people may be deceived in their choice of an object. But I can scarcely conceive any choice. they can make to be so very mischievous as the existence of any human force capable of resisting it. It will certainly be the duty of every man in the situation, to which God has called him, to give his best opinion and advice upon the matter; it will not be his duty, let him think what he will, to use any violent or any fraudulent means of counteracting the general wish, or even of employing the legal and constructive organ of expressing the people's sense against the sense, which they do actually entertain.
In order that the real sense of the people should be known upon so great an affair as this, it is of absolute necessity that timely notice should be given ; that the matter should be prepared in open Committees; from a choice into which no class or description of men is to be excluded- and the subsequent County Meetings should be as full, and as well attended, as possible. Without these precau. tions the true sense of the people will ever be uncertain. Sure I am, that no precipitate resolution on a great change in the fundamental Constitution of any Country can ever be called the real sense of the people.