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they might exercise their own judgment, and collect from the lights, which they would receive, full and complete information on the subject. He would therefore content himself with saying, that having mentioned the manner in which he would take the liberty of proposing to institute this inquiry, he hoped that he should be forgiven for undertaking this important business. The matter of complaint was clear to him; and he was strengthened in his opinion from the advice of some of the first and greatest characters in the kingdom. The assistance which he had received, he acknowledged with gratitude, as it fortified his mind in regard to the opinions which he had formed on the subject. It was also the opinion of many respectable characters, now no more, and particularly of one (Lord CHATHAM], of whom every member in the House could speak with more freedom than himself. That person was not apt to indulge vague and chimcrical speculations, inconsistent with practice and expediency. He personally knew, that it was the opinion of this person, that, without recurring to first principles in this respect, and establishing a more solid and equal representation of the people by which the proper constitutional connection should be revived, this nation, with the best capacities for grandeur and happiness of any on the face of the earth, must be confounded with the mass of those whose liberties were lost in the corruption of the people. With regard to the time, at which he had brought it on, he was convinced that it was the most proper and seasonable moment that could be imagined. If it had been brought forward during an eager opposition to the measures of government it might have been considered as the object of spight or peevishness; and if under such circumstances they had prevailed, it would have been said to be carried by assault But now there was no division of sentiment. His Ma.
jesty's ministers expected the voice of the people, and were anxiously bent on the reformation of Parliament. If there was any division of opinion at all it was about the means of accomplishing the object.
He concluded with moving," that a committee be appointed to inquire into the state of the representation in parliament, and to report to the house their observations thereon.”
The proposed inquiry having been negatived, Mr. Pitt, on the 7th of May following, submitted to the House a specific plan of reform for adding one hundred members to the counties, and abolishing a proportionable number of the burgage-tenure, and other small and obnoxious boroughs. Upon rising to open the business, he declared, that in his life he had never felt more embarassment, or more anxiety, than he felt at that moment, when for his country's good, he found himself obliged to discover, and lay before the House, the imperfections of that constitution to which every Englishman ought to look up with reverential awe; a constitution which, while it continued such as framed by our ancestors, was truly called the production of the most consummate wisdom : raised by that constitution to greatness and to glory, England had been at once the envy and the pride of the world. Europe was taught by experience that liberty was the foundation of true greatness; and that while England remained under a government perfectly free, she never failed to perform exploits that dazzled the neighbouring nations. To him, he did assure the House, it was interesting, indeed interesting and useful beyond the power of description. He wished, however, the House to view the arduous and very difficult task he had ventured to undertake, ir its true light. No man saw that glorious fabric, the constitution of this, country, with more admiration,
or with more reverence than himself: he beheld it with wonder, with veneration, and with gratitude : it gave an Englishman such dear and valuable privileges, or, he might say, such advantageous and dignified prerogatives, as were not only beyond the reach of the subjects of every other nation, but it afforded us a degree of happiness unknown to those who lived under governments of a nature less pregnant with principles of liberty : indeed there was no form of government on the known surface of the globe, that was so nearly allied to perfect freedom. But a melancholy series of events, which could be accounced for only upon this principle, that, during the last fifteen years, there had been a deviation from the principles of that happy constitution, under which the people of England had so long flourished.
Mr. Pitt reminded the House how and upon what reasons the public had begun to look at the state of parliamentary representation ; of the steps they had taken to procure some remedy for the inadequacy which they discovered; the degree of success that their endeavours had not met with; and what it was that particularly occasioned him to rise at that moment in support of their petitions. He said to put the House in possesion of all these circumstances, he need only advert to the history of a few years recently past; a history which he would touch upon as shortly as possible, because it was not onlya most melancholy picture of calamitous and disgraceful events, but because it was so extremely difficult to mention it in any shape, that would not appear invidious, and personal. He then stated, that the disastrous consequences of the American war, the immense expenditure of the public money; the consequent heavy burthen of taxes, and the pressure of all the collateral difficulties produced by the foregoing circumstances, gradually disgusted the people; and at last
provoked them to turn their eyes inward on themselves, in order to see if there was not something radically wrong at home, that was the chief cause of all the evils they felt from their misfortunes abroad. Searching for the internal sources of their foreign fatalities, they naturally turned their attention to the constitution under which they lived, and to the practice of it. Upon looking to that House, they found that by length of time, by the origin and progress of undue influence, and from other causes, the spirit of liberty, and the powers of check and control upon the crown and executive government, were greatly lessened, and debilitated.
Hence clamors sprung up without doors, and hence, as was perfectly natural in the moment of anxiety, to procure an adequate and a fit remedy to a practical grievance, a spirit of speculation went forth, and a variety of schemes founded in visionary and impracticable ideas of reform, were suddenly produced. It was not for him, he said, with unhallowed hands to touch the venerable pile of the constitution, and to deface the fabric; to see it stand in need of repair was suffi. ciently melancholy; but the more he revered it, the more he wished to secure its duration to the latest posterity; the greater he felt the necessity of guarding against its decay. Innovations were at all times dangerous, and should never be attempted but when necessity called for them. Upon this principle he had given up the idea which he suggested to the house last year; and therefore his object at present was not to innovate, but rather to renew and invigorate the spirit of the constitution, without de.viating materially from its present form. When he submitted this subject to the consideration of the House last year, he was told, that ihe subject ought not to be dişcussed amidst the din of arms: the objection was not then without its force: but at present it could not be renewed,
as we were happily once more in the enjoyment of the blessings of peace. This therefore was a proper time to enter upon the business of a reformation, which
every man who gave himself a moment's time to think, must be satisfied was absolutely necessary.
An Englishman, who should compare the flourishing state of his country some twenty years ago with the state of humiliation in which he now beholds her, must be convinced that the ruin which he now deplores, having been brought on by slow degrees, and almost imperceptibly, proceeded from something radically wrong in the constitution. Of the existence of a radical error no one seemed to doubt; nay almost all were so clearly satisfied of it, that various remedies had been devised by those who wished most heartily to remove it. The House itself had discovered, that a secret influence of the crown had been felt within those walls, and had often been found strong enough to stifle the sense of duty, and to over-rule the propositions made to satisfy the wishes and desires of the people: the House of Commons in former Parliaments had been base enough to feed the influence that enslaved its members ; and thus was at one time the parent and offspring of corruption. This influence however had risen to such a height, that men were ashamed any longer to deny its existence; and the House had at length been driven to the necessity of voting, that it ought to be diminished. Various were the expedients that had been thought of, in order to effect so salutary a purpose, as was that of guarding against this influence ; of shutting against it the doors of that House, where if it once got footing after the resolution alluded to, liberty could no longer find an asylum. The House of Commons, which, according to the true spirit of the constitution, should be the guardian of the people's freedom, the constitutional check and