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country, he did not speak of it as of a system, which had been established at any one time. No—it had arisen out. of various contingencies, and at different periods; and its goodness and excellence originated from the very cause, on account of which some persons have pretended to deny that we have any constitution at all. But if there was one principle more strongly inculcated than another, at the time of the revolution, it was this, that the election of the house of commons should be free. One of the resolutions carried at that important æra was, that King James had violated the freedom of election, whence it would follow that the crown ought not in a degree to interfere in the election of those who were to represent the people; but that the latter should be left to send to Parliament the persons who were the objects of their free choice. Another principle asserted at the revolution was, that a man ought not to be governed by laws in the framing of which he had not a voice, either in person or by his representative; and that he ought not to be made to pay any tax, to which he should not have consented in the same way. Now, he asked, was it possible more completely to trample upon these two principles, than to make the house of commons consist of persons not chosen by the people ? At the revolution also the necessity of short Parliaments was asserted ; and every departure from these principles is in some shape a departure from the spirit and practice of the constitution : yet, when they are compared with the present state of the representation, how does the matter stand? Are the elections free? or are Parliaments free? With respect to shortening the dua ration of Parliament, it did not appear to him that it would be advantageous, without a total alteration of the present system. But if it be said, that we are now in possession of that constitution derived from our ancestors,
and settled at the revolution, he would ask whether there have been no alterations since the revolution?
“ Has not the patronage of Peers encreased ? Is not the patronage of India now vested in the Crown ? Are all these innovations to be made in order to encrease the influence of the executive power, and is nothing to be done in favor of the popular part of the constitution to act as a counterpoise ? But has there been no alteration, since the revolution, even in the form and constitution of the house of commons itself, which has gone to the encrease of influence? The introduction of forty-five members to represent in the British Parliament the people of Scotland had also strengthened the hands of the crown; an assertion which no one could dispute, who was at all acquainted with the manner in which the Scotch members were elected. The abuse of burgage tenures, in defiance of an act of King WILLIAM, gave the crown an influence in many boroughs in England. He read a passage from that Act, in which it was declared, that all splitting of tenure tenements, and messuages, and hereditaments, for the purpose of multiplying votes, should be deemed illegat and of no effect; and yet, though this statute, by extending to all kinds of towns, necessarily included burgage tenures, the latter had unaccountably been suffered to creep out of the statute, and were daily multiplied in defiance of it, for the purpose of multiplying votes and encreasing influence at elections. On this subject he quoted an opinion given judicially by lord Thurlow, when sitting as Chancellor in the house of Lords, in an appeal cause from Scotland, respecting the right of voting at elections in that part of the kingdom. That learned Lord, after having said, that the right of election in Scotland had been debased, and put on the level of an English burgage tenure ; the house of commons, he said, had an unlimitted jurisdiction in the trial of
all questions respecting the election of its members ; but if the right of election could by law be decided in a court of law in England, as it was in Scotland, he was convinced an English court of law would not be satisfied with such a mode of election as this, that a Nobleman's steward should go down to a borough with ten or twelve pieces of parchment in his hand, containing each the qualification for a vote, and having assembled round a table as many of the tenants or servants of his lord, should distribute among them the parchments,-then propose a candidate,-and afterwards collect these parchments, and declare his lord's friend duly elected for the borough: And yet, such was the mode of electing those who represented the boroughs where the right of election arose from burgage tenures. Such elections, Lord Thurlow did not hesitate to call a mockery. Mr. GREY remarked, that, when Mr. PITT moved for an addition of 100 members to be added to the counties, he could not carry his motion; and yet he had contrived to procure the nomination of 40 members by indirect means ; for he had added to the house of Peers 30 members, who either nominated directly, or by irresistible influence, that number of members of the house of commons, as appeared from the petitions then on the table, and which the petitioners were ready to prove.
Mr. GREY then read the resolutions which are entered in the journals at the commencement of, every
session in the following words:
Resolved, “ That no Peer of this realm hath any right to give his vote in the election of any member to serve in Parliament.
Resolved “ That it is a high infringement upon the liberties and privileges, of the commons of Great Britain for any Lord of Parliament, or any Lord Lieutenant of
any county, to concern themselves in the elections of members to serve for the commons in Parliament."
If the present system be. right, these resolutions, and the principles upon which they are founded, must be wrong ; and it would be better to expunge them from the journals, than to allow them to remain there while the practice is so totally inconsistent with them. It may perhaps be said, however, that although the constitution may have been in some shape impaired since the revolution, it still remains so good, as to make a change hazardous. In speaking on this subject, the influence appeared to him so excessive, and the occasion so important, that if he should even go a little beyond the strict bounds of what it may be usual to advance in that house, he hoped it might be overlooked. Were the evils of the American war nothing ? These were in his mind entirely owing to the unequal and corrupt representation in Parliament. It may be said, however, that the house of
, , commons are really a just representation of the people, because, on great emergencies, they never fail to speak the sense of the people, as was the case in the American war, and in the Russian armament; but had the house of commons been a real representation of the people, they would have interfered sooner on these occasions, without the necessity of being called upon to do so. He feared much that that house was not a real representation of the people; that it was too much influenced by passion, prejudice, or interest. This may, for a time give
for a time give to the executive government apparent strength; but no government can be either lasting or free, which is not founded on virtue, and on that independence of mind and conduct among the people, which creates energy, and leads to every thing that is noble and generous, and that alone can conduce to the strength and safety of a state.
06 What constitutes a state
“ Thick wall, or moated gate ;
“ Not bays and broad-armed ports,
" Not starr'd and spangled courts
« No; MEN! high-minded men,
“ In forest; brake, or den,
“ Men who their duties know,
“ But know their rights, and knowing, dare maintain." If the present practice deviates from the principle of the constitution, he had surely a good right to call upon the house to enquire into the subject, and to consider in what
be amended. Indeed it was evident, that many leading members of that house considered a great part of it in a state of dependence; else what could mean the frequent appeals to those who were emphatically called the independent members. An Honorable Gentle. man [Mr. Powis] had, in 1784, assembled round him a little senate of his own, composed of those independent country gentlemen, from which he had excluded the botough members, as probably not coming within the description of independent members of Parliament. Surely this might be considered as a tacit avowal, on the part of a great enemy to reform, of the absolute necessity of that very measure which he so strongly opposed. There were arguments for reform, which he need only to state, to pro