Imágenes de página

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 imsuccessful, 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 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 inflnences, 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 too well known, and I appeal to many gentlemek

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 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 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 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 maintainance of his power should become the sole object of their attention, and they shoald be guilty of the most violent breech of Parliamentary trust , by giving the King a discretionary liberty of taxing the people without limitation or controul ; 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 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 whole, 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 which the honourable gentlman has

made you.

C H A P. X.
Sir Robert Walpole's Reply:-
Mr. Chancellor of the Exchequer,-

HQUGH 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 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 mixt government, and the perfection of our constitution consits in this; that the monarchical, aristocratical, and democratical forms of government, are mixt 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 ihat they are often involved in factions , seditions, and insurrections, which exposes 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 toa 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 wlience the justice and the wisdom of their measures would clearly appear.

Then, Sir, it is by experience well known that what is called the populace of every couns try, 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

t 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 seplennial 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 elections come on, to give the people proper information, in order to shew 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 grants in that in monarchical and aristocratical governnents, it generally arises from violence and oppression ; but in democratical govermments, : 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 many factious and unquiet spirits, who can never be at rest either in power or out of power : : When in power, they are never easy, unless every man submits entirely to their direction ; and when out of power, they are always working and intriguing against those that are in, without any regard to justice, or to the interest of their country: In popular governments such men have too much game, they have too many opportunities for working upon and corrupting

« AnteriorContinuar »