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fusing itself over all the world, and spreading in every region happiness and improvement: Good God ! is the house to be told, after the benefits which have been de rived from the revolution in this country, that other and more essential benefits are to be added, by adopting the principles of the French revolution ? From such lights, however, I hope, we shall ever protect this country, as against principles inconsistent with any government. If we are are to be relieved from any evils under which we at present labor, by means of this new light, I, for one, heg leave to enter my solemn protest against the idea. The doctrines upon which it is founded are, as I have already said, false, shallow, and presumptuous, more absurd than the most pestilent theories that were ever engendered by the disordered imagination of man; more hostile to the real interests of mankind, to national prosperity, to individual happiness, to intellectual and moral improvement, than any tyranny by which the human species was ever afflicted. And for this new luminary shall we abandon the polar star of the British constitution, by which we have been led to happiness and glory; by which the country has supported every danger which it has been called upon to encounter, and risen superior to every difficulty by which it has been assailed?
“ But, independent of these general grounds on which I have opposed this motion, I have no difficulty in stating, that the particular measure appears liable to so many objections, that in no circumstances could I have given it my assent. Indeed I could as little concur in the plan of the honorable gentleman as in a proposal for universal suffrage : how near it approaches to that system, I shall not now discuss. The honorable gentleman on a former occasion has said, that he would rather have universal suffrage than no reform. The learned gentleman, how
ever, disclaims universal suffrage, when asserted as a matter of right. Certainly indeed some people have reason to complain of the learned gentleman, who in supporting a plan of reform on grounds of practical advantage, refuses that universal suffrage to which he has no objection on practical grounds, merely because it is asked as a matter of right. He will however find it difficult to reconcile that practical expedience with the new light of general freedom, which has so unexpectedly broken in upon the world. The proposition, however, is neither more nor less than, with the exception of one fifth, to abolish the whole system of the representation of this country, as it has been formed by charter or by parliamentary arrangement, as it has been moulded by time and experience, as it has been blended with our manners and customs, without regard to the rights or compensations, or to the
general effects of modifications. All these are to be swept away, and a numerical scale of representation to be substituted in its place; the country is to be divided into districts, and every householder, paying taxes, is to vote; thus a system would be introduced little short of universal suffrage. On what experience, on what practice is this gigantic scale of numerical representation to be introduced ? In former plans, the variety of modes of representation was admitted to be proof, how much better time and circumstances may mould and regulate representation than any institutions founded on reasonings a priori, and how necessary it was to give way to the effects of such experience. It is not the harsh uniformity of principles, each pushed to its extreme, but the general complexion arising out of the various shades, which forms the harmony of the representation, and the practical excellence of the constitution, capable of improving itself consistently with its fundamental principles.
Who will say
that this beautiful variety may not have contributed to the advantage of the whole ? That system was practical, and experience has confirmed the excellence of it; but the present plan goes the whole length of destroying all the existing representation, with the exception only of the county members (why they alone are excepted I am at a loss to conceive) and bringing all to one system. Are the gentlemen, who propose this system, aware of the benefits resulting from a varied state of representation ; and are they ready at once to resign them?
“ It never was contended, that the inequality of the representation has been attended with any practical disadvantage, that the interest of Yorkshire was neglected because it sent only two members to Parliament, or that Birmingham and Manchester experienced any ill consequences from having no representatives. How does it appear that universal suffrage is better than if the right to vote be founded on numerical or even alphabetical arrangement? There is no practice, certainly no recognised practice for its basis. The experiment proposed is new, extensive, overturning all the ancient system, and substituting something in its stead, without any theoretical advantage, or any practical recommendation. In the mixt representation.which now subsists, the scot and lot elections are those which have been chiefly objected to, and the honoratle gentleman opposite to me formerly agreed with me in opinion, that burgage tenures and small corporations were less exceptionable than open burghs with small qualifications. Yet this extension of small qualifications, from which it has been a general complaint that much confusion, debauchery, and abuse at elections arose, forms the principal feature in the honorable gentleman's plan.
« Upon these grounds, therefore, looking seriously at the situation of the country, examining facts with atten
tion, unless we would seal our own dishonor, unless we would belie the testimony of our constituents, we must dissent from the reasons on which the necessity of this proposition is founded. We ought to resist the specific plan which the honorable gentleman has offered, unless we would renounce the tried system of our representation for a plan at once highly exceptionable in theory, and totally unsupported by experience."
After several other gentlemen expressed their sentiments on the subject, Mr. Fox wound up the debate in the following manner :
“ Much and often as this question has been discussed both within these walls, and without, and late as the hour is, I feel it my duty to make some observations, and to deliver my opinion on a measure of high importance at all times, but which at the present period is become infinitely more interesting than ever. I fear, however, that my conviction on this subject is not common to the house. I fear that we are not likely to be agreed as to the importance of the measure, nor as to the necessity; since, by the manner in which it has been discussed this night, I foresee that, so far from being unanimous on the proposition, we shall not be agreed as to the situation and circumstances of the country itself, much less as to the nature of the measures which, in my mind, that situation and those circumstances so imperiously demand. I cannot suppress my astonishment at the tone and manner of gentlemen this day. The arguments that have been used would lead the mind to believe, that we are in a state of peace and tranquillity; and that our circumstances are flourishing and glorious ; that we enjoy the happiness of internal concord, order, and prosperity; which again
convey for our foreign relations, strength, security, and respect; and that we have no provocation to any steps to improve the benefits we enjoy, or to retrieve any misfortune that we have incurred. To persons who feel this to be our situation, every proposition tending to meliorate the condition of the country must be subject of jealousy and alarm; and if we really differ so widely in sentiment as to the state of the country, I see no probability of an agreement in any measure that is proposed. For myself, and according to my view of our circumstances, all that part of the argument against reform, which relates to the danger of innovation, is strongly misplaced by those who think with me, that, so far from procuring the mere chance of practical benefits by a reform, it is only by a reform that we can have a chance of rescuing ourselves from a state of extreme peril and distress. Such is my view of our situation. I think it so perilous, so imminent, that though I do not feel conscious of despair, an cmotion which the heart ought not to admit, yet it comes nearer to that state of hazard, when the sentiment of dem spair, rather than of hope, may be supposed to take possession of the mind. I feel myself to be the member of a community in which the boldest man, without any imputation of cowardice, may dread that we are not merely approaching to a state of mere peril, but of absolute disa solution ; and with this conviction, impressed indelibly on my heart, gentlemen will not believe, that I disregard all the general arguments that have been used against the motion on the score of innovation, from any disrespect to the honorable members who have urged them, or to the ingenuity with which they have been pressed, but because I am firmly persuaded that they are totally inapplicable to the circumstances under which we come to the discusn sion. With the ideas that I entertain, I cannot listen