Imágenes de página

aristocracy that he had recommended could not be a close aristocracy, which he disapproved as much as the right honourable gentleman himself. With regard to the declaration of the right honourable gentleman near him, that the whole must be governed by experience, experience was undoubtedly a very good general guide in most matters, but it was rather a strange argument to resort to in the present instance, for which there never had existed a precedent. There was no colony, ancient or modern, that ever had precisely the same constitution. It resembled that of some of the American states ; but that of Massachusetts the most nearly of any. Mr. Fox then took notice of Mr. Pitt's having said, that his principles were so far republican as he had described. Mr. Fox declared he had no difficulty to admit that his principles were so far republican, that he wished rather to give the crown less power, and the people more, where it could be done with safety, in every government, old or new; and from that principle it was, that whenever any bills for that purpose had been introduced, he had given them his support, and the right honourable gentleman opposite to him, he observed, had maintained republican principles, according to bis own mode of defining the word republican; for he had made several propositions of that kind to the House, and it was well known that the right honourable gentleman near him had done the same: they were equally chargeable, therefore, with republican principles, and to the extent that he had described, Mr. Fox said, he was extremely willing, nay desirous, to remain chargeable. With regard to foreign colonies, he was of opinion that the power of the crown ought to be kept low. It was impossible to foresee what would be the fate of distant colonies at a distant period of time; but in giving them a constitution, his idea was, that it was our interest, as well as our duty, to give them as much liberty as we could to render them happy, flourishing, and as little dependent as possible. We should make the free spirit of our own constitution applicable, wherever we could render it so; and if there was any risk or danger in so doing, he was persuaded the danger was not greater on one side than on the other; indeed he thought the more despotic the constitution we gave a colony, the more we made it the interest of that colony to get rid of such a constitution; and it was evident the American states had revolted, because they did not think themselves sufficiently free. - Mr. Fox summed up this part of his argument by declaring that he was decidedly of opinion, that the constitution of this country was more liable to be ruined by an increase of the power of the crown, than by an increase of the power of the people. He next took notice of what Mr. Burke had said of inflammatory publications; if any dangerous doctrines were disseminated in pamphlets, he said, it behoved the government to look to them, and in case the law officers of the crown failed in doing so, it was then the duty of that House to remind the ministers of their neglect. He owned, however, that for his part, he was of opinion that free discussions of the principles of the constitution ought to be suffered: if the constitution bad opposers, it would also have advocates, and the more it was discussed the better. He hinted that it was misusing the functions and privileges of that House, for any member to come down, and by holding long discourses, personal to himself, and relative to imaginary plots, which he (Mr. Fox), really believed had no foundation in fact, prevent a committee from doing its duty, and examining the clauses of a bill of great importance. It was their duty also to look to the conduct of the executive government, to watch and examine the measures of ministers, and to guard, check, and controul the public expenditure. For any gentleman to suppose, that by the authority of discussions on personal topics in that House, what he said there would have any effect on public opinion, respecting

a matter to which they had made up their mind, he believed it would be found a vain and fruitless expectation.

Mr. Burke rose in reply, and began with retorting on Mr. Fox for what he had said respecting the eulogies on the constitution. He said they were at least as useful as that right honourable gentleman's almost daily professions of admiration for the revolution of France. As the right honourable gentleman had thought proper to appeal to a passage from one poet in praise of the constitution, he would take the liberty of remembering another line from another poet.

Qui non defendit, alio culpante Mr. Burke also told a story of a Lacedemonian, who observing a man for ever praising Hercules, asked who blamed him? since he thought he was going to be put to the distaff, or something worse than all his labours. He referred to the books that were in circulation, and said there was serious cause for alarm, when associations publicly avowed doctrines tending to alienate the minds of all who read them, from the constitution of their country, especially at a time when it was notorious that it was systematically run down abroad, and declaimed against as the worst in existence. He again reminded the Committee from how trivial a commencement Lord George Gordon's riots began, in consequence of which London had bowed its head so low. Mr. Burke said, he had never desired any books to be prosecuted, but the right honourable gentleman near him had more than once. He took notice of what had been said, that if he would repent, he would be received. He stood, he said, a man publicly disgraced by his party, and therefore the right honourable gentleman ought not to receive him. He declared he had gone through his youth without encountering any party disgrace; and though he had then in his age been so unfortunate as to meet it, he did not solicit the right honourable gentleman's friendship, nor that of any man either on one side of the house or the other.

Mr. Martin expressed his surprise at Mr. Burke's having said that certain societies had circulated doctrines and pamphlets relative to the constitution, the doctrines of which he reprobated as foolish and adulatory. The right honourable gentleman in particular bad mentioned by name the Constitutional Society, the Revolution Society, and, what was rather strange, the Unitarian Society. Mr. Martin said, so far from thinking he had any cause to be ashamed of belonging to the Constitutional Society, it was his pride to be a member of it; persuaded as he was that they acted upon motives too pure to merit reprebension; and surely no gentleman would think a society, instituted to commemorate the revolution, illaudable. He said, that the other day he had taken up a volume of Locke on the Human Understanding, from which he would read a short extract, which appeared to him to be apposite to the present times. This extract he read, the object of which was to state that innovation was not the less founded on truth because it was new.

Mr. Martin added, that Mr. Burke's Reflections had called forth many comments, and among them an excellent pamphlet, from a gentleman formerly a member of that House: he said, he meant Mr. Rous, who proved himself to entertain sound constitutional principles.

Mr. Wilberforce complimented the Constitutional Society, declaring that he believed them more likely to repress than to excite clamour or commotion. Having said this, he desired to know from Mr. Fox whether he intended his elective Council to be for life or for a term of years?

Mr. Fox said, he had not decided upon that point, but be rather inclined to constituting for life.

Mr. Wilberforce, objecting to this, said, that let the elective Council be for life, or for a term of years, in the one case they would clog the prerogative, and deprive the subject of its protection; in the other point of view, it would be a democracy under another name, and give the popular branch of Government too much power: whereas, if they adopted an hereditary Council, they would form an open aristocracy, and though, at first, produce only saplings, in the course of years they would become forests, capable of bearing up against any innovation either of the crown or people.

A few words more passed between Mr. Fox and Mr. Pitt, after which the question was put, and the clause passed.

The House adjourned.


Thursday, 12th May. The order of the day having been moved by Mr. Chancellor Pitt, for resuming the Committee on the Quebec Bill, and the same having been read accordingly, the Speaker left the chair, and Mr. Hobart took his seat at the table.

The Committee then proceeded to fill up the several blanks in the clauses, beginning with page 7 of the printed bill. As the conversation was for the most part loose and desultory, we shall only give an account of the manner in which the blanks were filled up, without entering into a detail of the observations that were made, except where they require notice. .

Mr. Chancellor Pitt having proposed that the namber of members to be chosen for the House of Assembly in Upper Canada should not be less than sixteen

Mr. Fox rose, and objected to the number. He contended, that after so much had been said about obtaining a proper aristocracy for that colony, on the preceding days, they were not now to lose sight of giving it a proper share of democracy likewise, which was allowed on all hands to be requisite. Sare he was that sixteen was a

« AnteriorContinuar »