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ist. That it was the opinion of the house, that measures were highly necessary to be taken for the future prevention of bribery, and expence at elections.
2dly. That for the future, when the majority of voters for any borough should be convicted of gross and notorious corruption before a select committee of that house, appointed to try the merits of that election, such borough should be disfranchised, and the minority of voters, not so convicted, should be entitled to vote for the county in which such borough should be situated.
3dly. That an addition of the Knights of the shire, and of representatives of the metropolis, should be added to the state of the representation.
Mr. Pitt said if he should be so happy as to succeed ini carrying these resolutions, his intention was to bring in a bill upon their respective principles. When that bill was under consideration, it would then be the proper time for discussing and deciding on the number of Knights of the shire to be added, and for making all such other regulations, and restrictions, as to the wisdom of the house might appear necessary. He therefore should not hold any gentleman, who chose to vote for his resolutions as containing general. propositions, to be bound and pledged either to support the bill he intended to bring in, provided the house agreed to his present motion, or to any clauses it might be fraught with ; but to be wholly at liberty, and as much unrestrained in that respect, as if he had not voted in support of the resolutions. Before he sat down, he again earnestly pressed the house either to adopt his propositions, or to suggest some other plan equally calculated to remedy the grievance.
The motion was seconded by Mr. DUNCOMBE; but met with a very strenuous opposition from Mr. Powis, who paid however a very high complement to the beautiful
theory, the elegant speculation, and the bright oratory of the right honorable mover.
Lord NORTH also spoke against the measure, declaring, with an happy allusive pleasantry “that, whilst some with Lear demanded an hundred knights, and others with GONERIL were satisfied with fifty, he with Regan exclaimed “No--not one.” As Mr. Fox, Mr. SHERIDAN, Mr. BEAUFOY, and several other very able speakers took a share in the debate, it was continued till past two o'clock in the morning, when the house divided on the order of the day, the ayes 293—noes 144~majority against Mr. Pırt's propositions 144.
Mr. Pitt's last attempt of this kind was made in April 1785, when, in conformity to the notice he had previously given, he again called the attention of the house, to the subject of a reform in the representation of the people. In entering upon this subject, he said he was aware of the division of sentiment, and of the pertinacity with which some men adhered to opinions inimical to every species of reform. But he rose with hopes infinitely more sanguine than he ever felt before, and with hopes which' he conceived to be rationally and solidly founded. There never was a moment when the minds of men were more enlightened on this interesting topic than now: there never
moment when they were more prepared for its discussion. A great many objections, which from time to time had been adduced against reform, would not lie against the propositions which he intended to submit to the house ; and the question was in truth new in all its shape to the present Parliament.
He was sensible of the difficulty there was now, and ever must be, in proposing a plan of reform. The number of gentlemen who were hostile to reform, were a phalanx, which ought to give alarm to any individual
upon rising to suggest such a measure. Those, who with a sort of superstitious awe reverence the constitution, so much, as to be fearful of touching even its defects, had always reprobated every attempt to purify the representation. They acknowledged its inequality and corruption ; but in their enthusiasm for the grand fabric, they would not suffer a reformer with unhallowed hands to repair the injuries which it suffered from time. Others, who, perceiving the deficiencies that had arisen from circumstances, were solicitous of their amendment, yet resisted the attempt, under the argument, that when once we had presumed to touch the constitution in one point, the awe which had heretofore kept us back from the daring enterprize of innovation might abate, and there was no foreseeing to what alarming lengths we might progressively go, under the mask of reformation. Others there were, but for these he confessed he had not the same respect, who considered the present state of representation as pure and adequate to all its purposes, and perfectly consistent with the first principles of representation. The fabric of the house of commons was an ancient pile, on which they had been all taught to look with reverence and awe; from their cradles they had been accustomed to view it as a pattern of perfection : their ancestors had enjoyed freedom and prosperity under it; and therefore an attempt to make any alterations in it would be deemed by some enthusiastic admirers of antiquity as impious and sacrilegious. No one reverenced the venerable fabric more than he did; but all mankind knew that the best institutions, like human bodies, carried in themselves the seeds of decay and corruption; and therefore he thought himself justifiable in proposing remedies against this corruption, which the frame of the constitution must necessarily experience in the lapse
of years, if not prevented by wise and judicious regulaç tions.
To men who argued in this manner, he did not presume to address his propositions, for such inen he despaired of convincing ; but he had well grounded hopes, that, in what he should offer to the house, he should be able to convince gentlemen of the former descriptions, that though they had argued so strongly against general and unexplained notions of reform, their arguments would not weigh against the precise and explicit proposition, which it was his purpose to submit to them. The objection to reform, under the idea of innovation, would not hold good against his suggestion ; for it was not an innovation on any known and clear principle of the constitution. Their objection to reform, because it might introduce habits of change and alteration, of which no man could foresee the extent or termination, would be equally inapplicable to his plan; for, in his mind, it would be complete and final. In his mind it would comprehend all that a rational reformer would think it necessary now, or at any time, to do, and would therefore give no licence to future or more extensive schemes. The argument that no alteration of the number of members composing the house ought to be at any time suffered, and that no reform of the representation in what was emphatically called the corrupt parts ought to be accomplished by an act of power, would be equally inapplicable ; for, by his proposition, he meant to lay it down as a first principle, that the number of the house ought to remain the same ; and that the reform of decayed boroughs ought not to proceed on disfranchisement. This he said was the third effort made by him, since he had the honor of a seat in Parliament, to prevail upon the legislature to adopt a reform in the representation of the people. He
had twice failed in his endeavours to effect this salutary purpose ; and yet he was not discouraged from renewing them this day: he was encouraged by two circumstances which he had not in his favor on the former occasions, The reform which he now meant to propose, was more consistent with the views of the best and most moderate men: and this was a new house of commons, that had never been consulted on the subject of reform, and consequently had not, like the two last, negatived a proposition made for introducing it. Therefore, though the subject might be thought stale by the public, as it had been so frequently agitated, it was perfectly new to the house of commons which he had then the honor to ad dress.
That gentlemen should have set themselves against general and unqualified notions of reform he did not much wonder; and that they should be still more inimical to the vague, impracticable, and inconclusive chimeras which had been thrown out at different times by different reformers, he was not astonished. Reverencing the constitution, and feeling all the pride of an Englishman on the experience of its beauty, even with all its blemishes, it was no wonder that gentlemen should be alarmed at suggestions which were founded on no principle, and which admitted of no limit. But there were certain propositions, in which he had reason to think all men must coincide. If there were any specific means of purifying the state of representation on its first principle, without danger of altering the fabric, and without danger of leaving it either in uncertainty or disorder, such means ought, with becoming caution, to be used. On this clear and
. indisputable proposition it was that he wished to go. It was because he imagined that a plan might be formed congenial with the first principles of representation, which