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It signifies nothing to tell me, that our army as commanded by such gentlemen as cannot be supposed to join in any measures for enslaving their country: it may be so; I hope it is so ; I have a very good opinion of many gentlemen now in the army; I believe they would not join in any such measures; but their lives are uncertain , nor can we be sure how long they may be continued in command; they may be all dismissed in a moment, and proper tools of power put in their room. Besides, Sir, we know the passions of men, we know how dangerous it is to trust the best of men with too much power. Where was there a braver army than that under Julius Cæsar ? Where was there ever an 'army that had served their country more faithfully? That army was commanded generally by the best citizens of Rome, by men of great fortune and figure in their country -- yet that army enslaved their country. The affections of the soldiers towards their country, the honour and integrity of the under officers, are not to be depended on : by the military law, the admmistration of justice is so quick, and the punishments. so, severe, that neither officer nor soldier dares offer to dispute the orders of his supreme commander; he must not consult his own inclination : If an officer were commanded to pull his own father out of his house, he must do it: he dares not disobey; immediate death would be the sure consequence of the least grumbling. And if an officer were sent into the court of requests, accompanied by a body of musketeers with screwed bayonets, and with orders to tell us what we ought to do, and how we were to vote, I know what would be the duty of this house ? I know it would be our duty to order the officer to be taken and hanged up at the door of the lobby: but, Sir, I doubt much if such a spirit could be found in the house, or in any house of Commons that will ever be in England.
Sir, I talk not of imaginary things ; I talk of what has happened to an English house of Commons, and from an English army; not only from an English army,
but an army that was raised by that very house of Commons , an army that was paid by them, and an army that was commanded by generals appointed by them. Therefore do not let us vainly imagine, that an army raised and maintained by authority of Parliament, will always be submissive to them : if an army be so numerous as to have it in their power to over-awe the Parliament, they will be submissive as long as the Parliament does nothing to disoblige their favourite general; but when that case happens, I am afraid that in place of the Parliament's dismissing the army, the army will dismiss the Parliament, as they have done heretofore. Nor does the legality or illegality of that Parliament, or of that army, alter the case; for with respect to that army, and according to their way of thinking, the Parliament dismissed by them was a legal Parliament; they were an army raised and maintained according to law, and at first they were raised, as they imagined for the preservation of those liberties which they afterwards destroyed.
It has been urged, Sir, that whoever is for the Protestant succession must be for continuing the army : for that very reason, Sir, I am against continuing the army. I know that neina ther the Protestant succession in his Majesty's most illustrious house, nor any succession, can
ever be safe as long as there is a standing army in the country. Armies, Sir, have no regard to hereditary successions. The first two Cæsars at Rome did pretty well, and found means to keep their armies in tolerable subjection, because the generals and officers were all their own creatures. But how did it fare with their successors ? Was not every one of them named by the army, without any regard to hereditary right, or to any right? A cobler , a gardener, or any man who happened to raise himself in the army, and could gain their affections , was made emperor of the world: was not every succeeding emperor raised to the throne, or tumbled headlong into the dust, according to the mere whim mad frenzy of the soldiers ?
We are told this army is desired to be continued but for one-year longer, or for a limited term of years. How absurd is this distinction ? Is there any army in the world continued for any term of years ? Does the most absolute monarch tell his army, that he is to continue them for any number of years, or any number of months? How long have we already continued our army from year to year? And if it thus continues, wherein will it differ from the standing armies of those countries which have already submitted their necks to the yoke? We are now come to the Rubicon ; our army is now to be reduced, or it never will; from his Majesty's own mouth we are assured of a profound tranquillity abroad, we know there is one at home; if this is not a proper time, if these circumstances do not afford us a safe opportunity for reducing at least a part of our regular forces, we never can expect to see any reduction; and this nation, already overburdened with debts and taxes, must be loaded with the heavy charge of perpetually supporting a numerous standing army, and remain for ever exposed to the danger of having its liberties and privileges trampled upon by any future King or Ministry, who shall take it in their heads to do so, and shall take a proper care to model the army for
CHAP I X. Sir John St. Aubin's Speech for repeals
ing the Septennial Act..
MR. SPEAKER,, The subject matter of this debate.is of such importance, that I should be ashamed to return to my electors, without endeavouring in the best manner I am able , to declare publickly the reasons which induced me. to give my most: ready assent to this question.
The people have an unquestionable right to frequent new parliaments by ancient usage; and this usage has been confirmed by several laws, which have been progressively made by our ancestors, as often as they found it necessary to insist on this essential privilege.
Parliaments were generally annual, but never continued longer than three years, till the remarkable reign of Henry VIII. He, Sir, was a prince of unruly apperites, and of an arbitrary will; he was impatient of every restraint; the laws of God and man fell equally a sacrifice, as they stood in the way of his avarice, or disappointed his ambition : he therefore introduced long Parliaments, because he very well knew., that they would become the proper
instruments of both ; and what a slavish obedience they paid to all his measures is sufficiently known.
If we come to the reign of King Charles the First , we must acknowledge him to be a prince of a contrary temper; he had certainly an innate love for religion and virtue. But here lay the misfortune he was led from his natural disposition by sycophants and flatterers; they advised him to neglect the calling of frequent new parliaments, and therefore, by not taking the constant sense of his people in what he did, he was worked up into so high a notion of prerogative, that the commons ( in order to restrain it ) obtained that independent fatal power, which at last unhappily brought him to his most tragical end, and at the same time Bubverted the whole constitution. And I hope we shall learn this lesson from it, never to compliment the crown with any new or extravagant powers, nor to deny the people those rights, which by ancient usage they are entitled to; but to preserve the just and equal balance, from which they will both derive mutual security, and which, if duly observed, will render our constitution the envy and admiration of all the world.
King Charles the Second naturally took a surfeit of Parliaments in his father's time, and was therefore extremely desirous to lay them aside. But this was a scheme impracticable. However, in effect, he did so: for he obtained a Parliament, which, by its long duration, like an army of veterans, became so exactly disciplined to his own measures, that they knew no other command but from that person who gave them their pay.