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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 manifested, 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 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 first meaning: and therefore stands a part of that original contract, under which the constitution was then settled. His Majesty's title to the Crown is primarily derived from that contract; and if, upon a review, there shall appear to be any deviations from it, we ought to treat 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But, Sir, I think the manner in which the septennial law was first introduced, is a very strong reason why it should be repealed.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 prove fatal to that constitution, which they were meant to sea cure. Such is the nature of the septennial law; it was intended only as a preservative against a temporary inconvenience: the inconvenience is removed, but the mischievous effects still continue : for it not only altered the constitution of Parliament: but it extended that same Parliament beyond its natural duration : and therefore carries this unjust implication with it, that you may at any time usurp the 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 were 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 may restore the vie gor
of our ancient constitution. “ Human nature is so very corrupt, that all obligations lose their force unless they are frequently renewed. Long Parliaments give the minister an opportunity of getting 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 actions : 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 a third-For this reason, short Parliaments have been less corrupt than long ones: they are observed, like streams of water, always to grow more impure, the greater distance they run from the fountain head.
“ I am aware it may be said, that frequent new Parliaments will produce frequent new expences: 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 especially as you have provided so wholesome a law to cooperate upon these occasions. Bribery at elections whence did it arise ? not from country gentlemen, for they are sure of being chosen without it: it was, Sir, the invention of wicked and corrupt ministers, who 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 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 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 influences, by which the officers of the crown, though unknown to 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 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 long been 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 representation 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 maintenance of his power should become the sole object of their attention, and they should be guilty of the most violent breach of parliamentary trust, by giving the King a discretionary power of taxing the people without 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 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 honor and dignity of this House, than by seconding the motion which the honorable gentleman has made you."
A long debate ensued in which several of the ablest speakers distinguished themselves, particularly Sir WilLIAM WYNDHAM, who made a very strong, though not a decisive, impression upon the House, by the following burst of descriptive eloquence.
“ I have been told, Sir, that no faith is to be given to prophecies: therefore I shall not pretend to prophesy: but I
may suppose a case, which, though it has not yet happened, may possibly happen. Let us then suppose a man of mean fortune, and obscure origin, abandoned to all notions of virtue, and honor, and pursuing no object but his own aggrandizement, raised by the caprice of fortune to the station of first minister: let us suppose him palpably deficient in the knowledge of the interests of his country: and employing in all transactions with foreign powers, men still more ignorant than himself: let us suppose the honor of the nation tarnished : her political consequence lost: her commerce insulted: her merchants plundered : her seamen perishing in the depths of dungeons, and all these circumstances palliated or overlooked lest his administration should be endangered : suppose him possessed of immense wealth, the spoils of an impoverished nation : and suppose this wealth employed to purchase seats in the national senate for his confidential friends, and favorites. In such a Parliament suppose all attempts to enquire into his conduct constantly over-ruled by a corrupt majority, who are rewarded for their treachery to the public by a profuse distribution of pensions, posts, and places under the Minister: Let us suppose tliis
, Minister insolently domineering over all men of sense, figure, and fortune in the nation : and having no virtuous principle of his own, ridiculing it in others, and endeavouring to destroy, or contaminate it in all: With such 7