Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

by this victory, and the seducing terationstime may have introduced,
dominion of venal influence stole this character can never be sus.
upon us in its stead, bestowing a tained unless the house of commons
more faral authority ihan ever ex. be made to bear some stamp of the
isted in the most arbitrary periods actual disposition of the people at
of government. The crown, in- large. It would be an evil more
stead of being balanced and curbed natural and tolerable, that it should
in this house, had, during the be infected with every epidemical
greater part of this century, erected phrensy of the people, as this would
its standard within those walls, indicate some consanguinity, some
and thrown the privileges of the sympathy of nature with their con.
people into the scale of the prero- stituents, rather than be wholly un.
gative, to govern the nation at plea. moved by their opinions and feel.
sure. So far was the house of com. ings. By this want of sympathy
mons from being any control upon they would cease to be a house of
it, that it was the great engine commons ; for it is not the deriva.
of its power. Appearing to acttion of the power of that house
with the consent of the people, from the people which makes it, in
through their representatives, yet a distinct sense, their representative.
in fact carrying on a system which For the king is the representative of
the most absolute prince in our the people, so are the lords, and so
history could not have fastened are the judges; all are their trustees
upon England for centuries past. as well as the commons, because
The celebrated judge Blackstone, no power is given for the sole sake
with all his leanings to the crown, of the holder; and although go-
had confessed, that such a system vernment certainly is an institution
could not have been intended by of divine authority, yet its forms,
our patriot ancestors, who struggled and the persons who administer it
to curb the prerogative, but by originate from the people. Apo-
an unaccountable want of fore. pular origin'cannot, therefore, be a
sight had established a principle popular representative, which be-
more dangerous in its stead. Se longs equally to all parts of go-
said lord Chatham, sir G. Saville, vernment, and in all forms. The
and lord Camden; so lastly, said viriue, spirit and essence of a kouse
the right honourable gentleman of commons consist in its being tbe £x.
himself (Mr. Pict), and he would press image of ibe feelings of tbe na.
not have said so in vain, had herion. It was not instituted to be a
honourably persevered in that glo. control ufor the people, as of late
rious course, which was the pledge it had been taught, but a control for :
and promise of liis youth to his them. A vigilant and jealous eye
country and to the universe. Mr. over executory and judicial magis.
Erskine declared, that he did not iracy-an anxious care of public
bring this to the memory of the money an ear open to public com-
house for the purpose of personal plaini-these are the true character-
insult and mortification, but to acid istics of a house of commons. B*
the authority of the minister's un. au ua dressing house of commons, and a
derstanding to the other great oncs potiriining nation ; a bouse of com-
he had cited. He begged the house 27015 fuit of confidence, wbum the
to judge of his opinion then, as it nation is plunged in despair; it
stands on record_"Whatever al. the utmost harmony witb ministers

[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]
[ocr errors]

whom

whom ibe people regard with abbor. in vain, at the head of a corrupt rence; who vote thanks when the pubs government, that he now endeahe opinion calls upon them, for impeach. voured to repress the doctrines ment; who are eager to grant, when which himself had propagated, or the general voice demands reckon. to extinguish the popularity of a reing and account; who in all dis. form in parliament, without which putes between the people and adminis. he had himself solemnly maintaintration decide against the people; ed that the liberties of this nation wbo punish their disorders but refuse were undone. The only cure for to inquire into ibeir provocations, the evils of government was, to this is an unnatural, a monstrous make it what it had been in the state of things in abis constitution.days of our fathers, when it pre. "And this (continued Mr, Erskine) served the freedom of the people, is the degraded and disgraceful state, and was crowned with their love of this assembly at this moment. and veneration. Upon that sound There was a time, when the right principle, Mr. Grey had brought honourable gentleman admitted this forward his former motion in the to be the truth. He confessed, dur. year 1793, which Mr. Erskine said ing the American war, what he now he considered it his duty to second, denies, in order to maintain the as he was now seconding the mo. cause of his own war. It has been tion of this night; that they then said, that the American was at first thought, as they thought yet, that the war of the people ; it was so, the only made of giving a safe dias every act of government would rection to a spirit turbulent in the be popular which began from demand of liberty, was to give to the people's representatives, in- Englishmen the substantial blessings stead of the crown. The crown of their own government. The secures all the men of influence, surest antidote against those vision. property, and consideration in par. ary and dangerous theories which liament, and they carry the people constantly spring up from the heat with them until they are brought of revolutionary movements, was at last to their senses, by calato hold out to the people the real mity and impending ruin. By the advantages which the British con. Crown having in its hands the ma- stitution in its native purities was nagement of our mighty revenue, calculated to bestow-to raise a together with the manner in which standard, around which the lovers of the members of the house were English liberty might proudly rally, elected, the house of commons had which would secure allegiance, not totally lost its original office and by terror (which always fails in the character as a balance against the moment of peril), but by the en. crown. By the concurrence of ac- joyment of solid happiness, by the cidents, rather than by the operation return of lenient laws, of personal of permanent causes, great events of security, and the possession of the the world were brought to pass. fruits of their own industry, which The seeds of reformation came up now were squeezed to the very at first but slowly, but they had been husks by the grinding machinery carefully gathered and re-sown by of an overwhelming revenue. This the right honourable gentleman was the proposition set forth, and himself. That which a man rejected. The right honourable soweth shall he also reap.' It was gentleman, not contented with

apostatizing

apostatizing from the principles he to 'our readers the whole of Mr. had often professed, resisted them Erskine's speech ; the substance of in a spirit and language of the lof its remaining part was an examitiest pride and arrogance, which nation whether the plan proposed had since received their just rebuke by Mr. Grey was likely to produce in disgrace and humiliation--but the practical berefits we desired; unfortunately this once great na. and if it was, whether the pretion had also been humbled and sent was a fit moment for making degraded. The cause of reform any alteration in the constitution of was to be put down, and all who our government? Respecting the maintained it, were to be stigma. former, Mr. E;skine was clearly of tized, persecuted, and oppressed. opinion that it would be bereficial: The reformers had mixed with the house of commons, he said, their cause an enthusiasm for the ought to emanate from the people, liberties of France, and for that and this plan attained the object reason the liberties of France were with safety; the representation of to be crushed. But the insolence land would continue, only be more with which the changes of the ris. equally extended and widely difing world were denounced within fused. No good reason could now those walls, was an awful lesson to be assigned for excluding copy. mankind. It had tiught us, that holders from the right of voting ; there was an arm fighting against their estates only differed from freethe oppressors of freedom, stronger holds in the mode of conveyance, than any arm of flesh, and that the and the privileges of lords were no great progressions of the world, in longer what they had been in feu. spite of the confederacies of power dal times. They were not privi. and the conspiracies of corruption, leges of property, but merely con. moved on with a steady pace, and nocted with authenticity of title. would arrive in the end at a glorious Leaseholders of a certain value, and consummation. The object of min for a certain term, which amounts nisters, it seems, was to maintain to property, were in the same situa. the subordination of she laws, to tion. Inhabitants and householders ushold public credit, and preserve paying scnt and lot, through all the regular system of things. What their ranks and gradations, com. had been the consequence? In this pleted the system of rational reprenew moc’e of supporting monarchi. sentation. How could a people be cal establishments, they had abso- better described? Who could prelutely charged, and were lourly tend to say, that the masters of fa. changing into republican establish. milies, householders, every one of ments the whole face of the earth; whom had some relation, some tie, in support of public credit, they had some members of a little circle broke the bank ; in pursuit of pub. round his fire-side to whom he was lic order, tl.ey were driving Ireland, attached, had no stake in the public as America formerly was driven, to fate, and were unworthy to enjoy seek cmancipation in the arms of · political rights? Such a body of France; and if the present system constituents would, to a considera. was not overturned, England would ble extent, remove the disgraceful Shortly be what Ireland was.” ' practices wiich elections now ex.

We regret that it is not within hibited. Suffrages were sometimes the limits of this work to present bartered for money, for a place, for

a ribband,

rose

a ribband, for the most trifling con- equally oppose at all times, though siderations. Toremedy these abuses, dissimilar occasions would be altermake the electors Vote each in their nately used as pretences. It had particular parishes: they would been the opinion of the celebrated then come with calmness' to exer- Mr. Burke (whose extraordinary tacise the most important of political lents had since been so misemployed privileges, and weigh maturely up- in supporting prejudices, and dif. on whom they were to devolve the fusing errors which had been fatal guardianship of their civil rights. to all Europe)-it had once been Such a plan would have all the ad. his opinion, that the criterion vantages of universal suffrage with which more than all the rest distinout any of its defects; properly guished a wise government from an speaking, indeed, it was a univer- administration weak and improvi. Sue night of suffrage, because all dent was this, well to know when who were not included in it might and in what manner to yield what be said, without a fagure, to be vir- it was impossible to keep. Early tually represented. All the people reformations were amicable comin meir various degrees were repre. promises with a friend in power ; sented, nor personally, in the per- late, were terms imposed upon a

athers or their nearest conquered enemy. Early refor

bound in every feels mations are made in cool blood ; ing, as well as every in

every interest which late are made in a state of inflamsocial existence, to sup- mation. In such a state the people

assembly proceeding from see in government nothing respectwhereas, che personal inclusion of ance

Versal national will: able; they will look at the griev

personal inclusion of ance, and they will look at nothing every individual might

al might give an un- else : like a furious populace, produe influence inconsistent with the voked

inconsistent with the voked by the abuses of a house of true spirit of independent elections independent elections. ill fame, they no longer think of

ill fä e a right to be well regulation ; they go to work the right to insist vi

It they can have no shortest way; they abate the nui

upon any mode in- sance, they pull down the edifice." compatible with the very end pro. with the very end pro. This

This, said Mr. Erskine, is a sort of posed.

me system laid before the epitome of universal history; above
The syst
as practicable, it had no all, of the times we live in. From

o disorganize society, or the rejection of these maxims of

le establishments of the policy and prudence, the governnation. i

ments of Europe fall into ruin by f. Erskine then discussed his sudden violence, instead of being pont was the present a insensibly altered by peaceable re

ut for making any altera- formation. To this cause the intion in the government?" He pro- dependence of America is to be

to think it singularly and ascribed; in the beginning she sought

y seasonable, and that those only the reasonable privileges of a who denied it would lay the same dependent community; we refused hold on prosperity if the same mo- to look at her grievances while

" were proposed on the return they were curable, and America of peace. That which men were was separated from us for ever. determined to oppose from a cor- He protested he saw no alter. rupe interest in abuse, they would . native between an immediate reo

form,

[ocr errors]

mon

forn, and a revolution involving tude than that we were desirous to this country in blood and perdition. repair must be considered, and how We were now in the most perilous far it was prudent to give an opening predicament; government called to principles which aimed at nothing upon the people for greater exer- less than the annihilation of the tions than at former times; burdens constitution. which appeared insupportable and The learned gentleman (Mr. Er. impracticable even in speculation, skine) had remarked somewhat in. were now to be endured, and carried sidiously, that those who formerly into effect; this must be done by supported parliamentary , reforn!, affection or coercion, and this was had sown the seeds of eagerness for the moment for the choice.

it, which were now displayed;" to “Grant (said he) to the people which he answered, that it was no the blessings of the constitution, and inconsistency to forgo a present ad. they will join with ardour in its vantage for a future benefit, or to defence; raise a standard, around avoid impending evils; was it not which the friends of freedom may better to endure some little inconve: rally, and they will be attracted by nience rather than hazard the anni.. the feelings of confidence and of at. hilation of a system under which tachment. It will unite all wboare this country had fourished in its divided, and create a general spirit prosperity, by which it had been to bear up against the calamities supported in its adversity, and ac- , impending."

quired energy and vigour to recover Mr. chancellor Pitt stated his from the distresses which it had enreasons for giving his decided ne- dured ? gative to the motion. The ho. This moderate reform was pronourable gentleman, he said, who posed, to separate those whom such had introduced it, had disclaimed a plan would satisfy, from men very distinctly, and, as far as he who would be saisfied with none; went, very satisfactorily, all those but who by this means would only abstract principles of imprescribable labour with more success to subvert right on which those without dooss the whole constitution. Men who had rested the propriety of their could treat parliament as usurpa, demand, and upon which alone tion, and monarchy as an invasion they would be contented with any of the rights of man, would not respecies of parliamentary reform ; ceive that reformn which was not a but in disclaiming these views upon recognition of their right, and which the subject, he had not stated all they would conceive as vitiated if the considerations by which the conveyed in any other shape. Mr. conduct of a wise statesman was to Pitt affirmed, that there was no call be regulated, and the judgement of upon the house to adopt this mea. an upright senator to be guided. sure, in order to satisfy men friendly The question was not, whether to moderate reform, for such men some alteration might not be at. had not expressed any wish upon tended with advantage, but whether the subject. Before the practical the degree of benefit might be expediency was discussed, the prac. worth the chance of the mischief tical necessity must be established. it probably or possibly might in- The war with France, the inroads duce. The danger of introducing upon the constitution, the profuan evil of a much greater magni. sion of public expenditure, were

the

« ZurückWeiter »