Sidor som bilder

liberties of their country, I shall not pretend to determine, Sir: but if people's way of thinking can be learned from their speeches and declarations, I am very certain that their former way of thinking was, that the liberties of this country could not be preserved, unless some proper methods should speedily be taken for preventing the effect of ministerial corruption, both in Parliament and at elections: and that the most proper, and effectual method for this purpose was to make elections as frequent as possible. This, I am sure, was formerly their way of thinking: I hope it is so still: but whether it is so or not, it is a right way of thinking, and therefore I shall conclude what I have now to say, with a motion for returning to our ancient method of having a new Parliament every year chosen. That this ancient constitution cannot be disputed because it is so expressly declared by two acts of Parliament in EDWARD III's reign, that a Parliament shall be annually holden: and every one knows that long prorogations, or adjournments were not then introduced, or known so that the meaning of both these laws must be, that a Parliament should be every year chosen as well as held, which is the opinion of all those who have wrote upon the subject; and if we consider the nature and business of this Assembly, it is certainly agreeable to reason it should be so.

"The members of this House, Sir, are the great and general inquisitors of the nation: we are to take notice of, and to take proper methods for redressing all the grievances that occur, whether they be such as relate to the kingdom in general, or such as relate to the particular counties, cities, or boroughs we represent. Now as grievances are almost annually occurring, and as some grievances are the more difficult to be removed the longer they continue; therefore it is necessary we should visit


our constituents, at least, once a year, to know their sentiments, and to examine upon the spot the grievances they complain of: but this is not to be expected unless you make the elections annual: for we find by experience, that after gentlemen are once chosen for a long term of years, they fix their abode in this city, and seldom revisit their constituents till it becomes necessary for them to go down to solicit their votes at a new election. Nay, since the establishment of septennial Parliaments, we have often had gentlemen in this House, who never saw the borough that sent them hither; nor knew any thing of its constitution, or interest: perhaps could not recollect its name, till they looked into the printed lists of Parliament for their own name, and there found they represented such a Borough. Another part of our business, Sir, is to represent to our Sovereign, the sentiments of our constituents, with regard to the measures he is advised by his ministers to pursue, as well as with regard to the persons he employs in the executive part of the government. If we ever think of doing this faithfully, and sincerely, we must visit our constituents at least once a year, because every year produces some new measure, and every year some new persons are introduced into public business. This, I say, is another part of our duty; and when it is faithfully or sincerely performed, it is of great advantage to the Prince upon the throne, because it prevents his being led on in a track of unpopular measures, till both he and his ministers are overwhelmed in the torrent of popular resentment, which often happens in arbitrary countries, where the Prince is tumbled headlong from his throne, before he knows any thing of his having pursued unpopular or wrong measures; whereas, had he had timely information, he might have restored himself to the love, and affection of his subjects, by making a just sacrifice


of his wicked counsellors to the resentment of his oppressed people. As the Prince can have no interest separate from his people, his interest, if he rightly considers it, must lead him to gain the love and esteem of his people; and to avoid every thing that may give them discontent : it is therefore his interest to have always an House of Commons that knows, and will faithfully and speedily represent to him the complaints and grievances of his people but this is directly opposite to the interest of his ministers. In all countries, and in this as much as any other, ministers have an interest separate from that of the people they are for enriching themselves, their families, tools, and sycophants, at the expense of the people: and it is their business to keep all the avenues to the throne shut up against the complaints of the people, lest the Prince should, as every wise one will, sacrifice them to his own security: ministers must therefore be for having always an House of Commons, that either does not know, or will not faithfully represent to their Sovereign the complaints and grievances of the people; and as we are much more affected with what we see, than what we only hear of, it is the business of a minister to prevent the members of this House, if possible, from ever seeing their constituents, because the less we are affected with, the more easily we may be prevailed on, to conceal from our Sovereign, or even to misrepresent to him, the complaints of the people. Thus, Sir, it is apparently the interest of the King, it is apparently the interest of the country, to have short Parliaments, and frequent general elections-but it is apparently the interest of ministers, especially wicked ministers, to have parliaments as long, and general elections as seldom as possible; therefore I hope it will be granted, that annual Parliaments are more agreeable to the reason of things, and the nature of our



constitution than Parliaments of any longer duration; and of this we must be convinced even to demonstration, if we will but consider, that we are, properly speaking, the attorneys of the people. Is it prudent, is it reasonable, that any man should have a power of attorney irrevocable for a long term of years? shall a whole people do what would be the height of foolishness in every individual? The people, or at least such of them as have any knowledge of public affairs, and by such the rest are generally governed; I say the people may guess at what sort of business is to come before the next ensuing session of Parliament, and they may choose an attorney, who they think has capacity and integrity enough for transacting that sort of business for them: but they cannot so much as guess at what may come before Parliament in a course of seven years, nor can they depend upon the continuance of any man's integrity for such a number of years. It is therefore most unnatural and unreasonable to force the people to give an irrevocable power of attorney for such a long term. The practice was first introduced under the reign of RICHARD II., and was approved of by a Parliament, that in every instance betrayed the liberties of the people they represented, and sacrificed the interest of their country to the violent passions of their Sovereign, and the insatiable avarice of his ministers.-They concealed from him, or misrepresented the discontents and murmurings of his people; and thereby led him into a deceitful security, which soon ended in his ruin, and the advancement of the Duke of HEREFORD, or rather LANCASTER to the throne, without any other title than that of having rescued the people from slavery.

"This, Sir, was the fate of the Prince who first introduced long parliaments; and therefore from experience, as well as reason, we may be convinced, that


short Parliaments and frequent general elections, are most for the interest of the King: but unluckily the interest of ministers lies, as I have said, upon the other side of the question, not only for the sake of preventing the members of this House from being affected with the cries, and groans of the people, but for another reason, which is still more effectual for their wicked purposes: I mean that of corruption. From the very principle adopted by all wicked ministers, that every man has his price, it is evident to a demonstration that ministerial corruption may be more successful at elections when they are but rarely to happen, than when they occur annually; and that a minister may more probably obtain a corrupt majority in a long Parliament, than a short one. To draw the comparison between annual, and septennial parliaments; and first with regard to elections, in every county, in every little borough of the kingdom it must be granted, that there are some gentlemen who have a natural interest -they are acquainted with and esteemed by the leading men in the county, or borough; and many of the lower class perhaps support their families by the employment they have from such gentlemen, and their friends-If elections were allowed to go in their natural course, such men only would be chosen, who had the greatest natural interest but against such an one a Court-candidate, with the Treasury at his back, comes to set up, and to set up upon the ministerial principle, that every man has his price; which for argument's sake, I shall allow to be a true one; and I am sorry it has of late years been so much confirmed by experience. Suppose then, that every one of the electors in this county or borough has his price: yet surely it will not be pretended that all have an equal price, or that a man in tolerable circumstances will sacrifice his Country, his friend, and his character,


« FöregåendeFortsätt »