Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

country. What England is now “of England." Sospokelord North; Ireland was in 1791: what was said and yet it was notoriously otherof the few they had now applied wise; so notoriously, that the preto the many; and as there were sent chancellor of the exchequer discontents in this nation which made a just and striking use of this we could neither dissemble nor fallacious arguinent to demonstrate deny, let us not, by an unwise the necessity of a parliamentary reand criminal disdain, irritate and form. “You see i said he) that so fret them into violence and disor. “ defective, só inadequate is the der, nor leave to the operation of “ present practice, at le:ist, of an chance what we might more cer- " elective franchise, that no im. tainly obtain by the exercise of rea. “ pression of national calamity, no son. It had been affirmed that the "conviction of ministerial error, ministers possessed the confidence of “ 110 abhorrence of disastrous war, the country in the same degree as is sufficient to stand against the ever, since the majority of the house “ corrupt influence which has supported the measures of the go. “mixed itself with elections, and vernment, and gave their counte. “ drowns and stifies the popular nance to all the evils we were doom. " voice." Upon this statement he ed to endure. He was surprised to acted in 1782, and repeated this hear the noble lord advance a pro. warning in 1783 and 1785: it was position so unaccountable, when a the lea ling principle of his connumber of petitions had been pre. duct: “Without a refoi m (these sented to his majesty for a dismissal “ were the words) the nation cannot of his ministers. Why was the “ be safe ; this war muy be ended, question of reform agitated, but “but what will protect us agunst because a general election did not “another? As certainly as the spiafford the people the means of ex- “ rit which engendered the present pressing their voice; because this “ actuales the secret councils of the house was not a sufficient represen- “ crown, we shall, under the intation of them? When we contend « Auence of a dcfective representa. (said hc) that ministers have rot “tion, be involved in new wars their confidence, they tell us that " and similar calamities.” This parliament is their faithful represen, was the right honourable gentletative; and when we prove that the man's prophecy (continued Mr. house does not speaktheir sentiments, Fox), and it has been fully accom. from the petitions to the throne, we plished; another war did take place, are desired to observe the general equal in disaster, and at least equal election, as, at this period, they had in disgrace! In what a state of an opportunity of choosing faithful whimsical contradiction did he now organs of their opinion. Lord stand! After having complained of North had made use of the same the defect of representation being argument in the American war : the nation:disease, and unless we “ What! can you contend it is applied our remedies here, we must “ unpopular, after the declara. submit to the inevitable ill consed« tion in its favour which the peo- quences," after having affirmed, “ ple have made by their choice of "that without a parliamentary re“ representatives?' The general form we could not be safe against « election is the proof that it conti- bad ministers, nor could any good “ nues to be the war of the people ministers be or use;" it seems as it his whole life, from that period, and reform, should be presented, a had been destined by Providence motion was made for thanks to for the illustration of the warning! earl Moira and himself, on account During the whole course of the of the steps taken to induce gopresent war every prediction which vernment to attend to the critical the chancellor of the exchequer state of that kingdom; but the she. had made, every hope that he had riff declared he could not put the held out, every prophecy he had question, not because he personally hazarded, had failed; he had disap- objected to it, but because it did pointed the expectations he had not make part of the business men. raised, and all the promises he had tioned in the requisition. Mr. For given had proved fallacious. Yet, said he did not mean to complain of for those very declarations, and note this refusal as wrong, but to show withstanding their failure, we had the power of the sheriff in such a called him a wise minister; though case; and it was an example to 90 event he had foretold had been prove, that, however well the peo. verified, we had continued to be ple might be disposed to parliamenhold him as the oracle of wisdom; tary reform, they could not introbut in the only instance in which duce the matterinto petitions agreed he really predicted what had come upon by meetings called for a difto pass, we had treated him with ferent purpose: but granting that stubborn incredulity! But the gen. the people did not yet call for a re. temen on the opposite side of the form, was it not probable that the house tell us that a reform in the universal demand for it, which had tepresentation of the people is not just burst from the people of Irecalled for by the country; and land, would be specdily communithough petitions have come up for cated to England? The nearness of the dismissal of ministers, they have the two countries, the sympathetic not expressed a wish for reform. - In interest, the similarity of language, answer to this argument it was on. of constitution, almost of suffering, ly necessary to observe that the re- made it likely that one nation would strictions recently laid on meetings catch the disease of the other, unof the people, and on popular dis. less we interposed a seasonable cure, cussions, accounted for the question or rather a preventative, of the maof reform not being mixed with lady. France was the phantom that that which was the subject of their was continually held out to terrify immediate consideration. The pur- us from our purpose : let us then pose of the meeting was necessarily look at France; it would not be specified in the requisition to the denied that she stood upon the sheriff ; and if any other business broad basis of free representation: was attempted to be brought for whatever cther views its govern. ward, the sheriff would have the ment might exhibit, and which power of dispersing the meeting. might afford just alarm to other na. This had actually been experien- tions, it could not be denied that her ced; for at a meeting of a respect- representative system had proved able county in Ireland (Antrim), itself capable of vigorous exertion; after the business for which they that it had given her, in truth, gi. had assembled was transacted, that gantic strength. Europe felt it too 2 petition for the dismissal of the sensibly for denial. Mr. Fox avow. minister, and Catholic emancipation ed, that he had no wish we should

imitate imitate France : yet we ought to sions which they engender, their take example of what was good in short duration, and their disgust. it'; and if it was demonstrated be. ing vices, they have exacted from yond the power of subterfuge to the common suffrage of mankind question, that genuine representa. the palm of strength and vigour. rion alone conferred solid power, Oughi Britons to refuse to take adand that, in order to make govern- vantage of this invigorating princiment strong, the people must make ple? refuse to accept the benefit the government ; we ought then to which the wisdom of our ancestors act on this grand maxim of political had resolved it should confer upon wisdom thus demonstrated, and our constitution :-with the kaow. call in the people, according to the ledge too, that it could be re-inoriginal principles of our system, to fused into our system without viothe strength of our government. In lence, and without disturbing any doing this we were not innovating, of its parts? Without disguising ve did not imitate, we only should the vices of France, without overrecur to the genuine constitution of looking the horrors that had been England. When we looked at the committed, it could not be denied democracies of the ancient world, that they had exemplified the doc. we were compelled to acknowledge trine, that if you wish for power their oppressions to their depen- you must look to liberty. Let us dencies, their horrible acts of injus. then try the people, said Mr. Fox, tice and ingratitude to their own ci- by the only means which experi. tizens; but they compelled us to ence demonstrates to be invincible ; admiration by their vigour, their let us address ourselves to their love; constancy, their spirit, and their let us identify them with ourselves : exertions in every great emergency let us make it their own cause as in which they were called to act*. well as ours. To induce them to We could not deny that it gave come forward in support of the a power of which no other form state, let us incorporae them in it; of government was capable. Why? and when we have given them a Because it incorporated every man - house of commons which shall be with the state ; because it aroused the faithful organs of their will ; every thing which belonged to the when we have made them feel and soul as well as to the body of man; believe that there can be but one because it made every individual interest in the country, we never creature feel that he was fighting should call upon them in vain for for himself and not another; that it exertion. Could this be the case was his own cause, hisown safety, his as the house was now constituted? own concern, and his own dignity Could they review the administra. on the face of the earth, and his tion of the right honourable gentleown interest on the identical soil, man, without being convinced that which he had to maintain; and ac- the present representation was a cordingly we find, that whatever shadow and a mockery? He then may be ascribed, whatever be ob-, took a review of the circumstances jected to the turbulence of the pas- under which the minister came in without deliberation, would impli- for the empire, they ought not altocitly ac: on the will of others. The gether to be guided by instruction, best plan of representation was dictated by local interests--yet he that which should bring into acti- could not approve of the ungra. vity the greatest number of inde- cious manner in which he somependent voters-it would be a de. times had heard expressions of confective system which would bring tempt for the sentiments of constiin regiments of soldiers, of servants, tuents; they were made with a bad and of persons whose low condi- grace in the first session of a septention necessarily curbed the inde. nial parliament, especially if ther pendence of their minds; univer- should come from individuals who sal suffrage would extend the right had not scrupled to couit the fac to three millions of men, but there vour of the very same constituents, were not more than seven hundred by declaring that they voted against thousand houses which would come their conscience in compliance with within the plan proposed; and he their desire, as was the case of an begged that gentlemen would de- alderman of the city of London. tide whether it would not be sufli- There was one class of constituents, ciently extensive for deliberation on indeed, whose instructions it was the one hand, and sufficiently lin considered as the implicit duty of mited for order on the other. But members to obey. When gentle. would this reform protect us against men represented populous towns bribery and corruption. He dared and cities, then it was disputable not say that it would. We had, whether they ought to obey their alas! for a course of years, habi- voice, or follow the dictates of their tuated the people to that sordid vice, own conscience; but if they repreand we certainly could not wonder sented a noble lord or duke, it be that a poor man should not scruple came no longer a question of doubt; to take five guineas for his vote, he was not a man of honour who when he knows that the noble lord would not obey the orders of a sinin his neighbourhood took four or gle constituent, he was to have tiu five hundred; but it might be conscience, no liberty, no discrehoped, that when this banetul en- tion of his own; he was sent here couragement was removed, these by a lord or duke, and if he would regulations would tend to diminish, not follow the instructions he had if not remove, the evil. Contract. received, he could be no gentle. ing the duration of parliament man, Mr. Fox warmly reprobated a would be one strong corrective, this conduct. Is a gentleman (said and this would be easy by the he) to act in opposition to the sens.

* If this be the best reason for the strength of democratic governments (and it is to be feared it is), namely, the promoting a spirit of national aggrandizement, every phi. lanthropist would prefer a monarchy.

to power ; it was against the sense od facts: such was the sentiment
st the majority of the then house of convered by the general election,
commons, and armed with the affording conviction in every carl-
corrupt power of the crown; he did mird, that if he repre-entalive
stood, and Iccessfully re isted the systein had been perfect, or the
house of commons. He tei de practice pure, the new parliament
clared it was not the representative would decidedly have voted ingainst
of the people that it did not (tor the continuance of the war. How
it opposed him) speak the sense of could the people have confidence in
the nation. What was the doc- the house-thit had countenanced
trine heie promulgated ? That the misrepresentation through the whole
house of coinmons, so long as it course of it! He gave it as his
obeyed the will of the minister, opinion, that however averse gen-
Was the genuine representative of themen might be to any specific
the country; but the moment it proposition of reform, if they were
presumed to be the censor of friendly to the principle they ought
kwerument, it became nothing ! to vote for the question, that it
Ministers had affirmed that the might be freely discussed in the
present war was popular at the committee, in hopes that the united
commencemert; the same had wisdom of the house might shape
been said of the American war; out something which migit be ge-
for would he deny, that through nerally acceptable. There was
che artfal machinations of minis- enough of enterprise and vigour
iets a clamvur had been raisei, in the plan to restore order, and not

dich they called the voice of enough io produce confusion. Mr. the nation : but whatever had been Fox thought the best and most ad. the case in the outset of both, visable plan of reform was to exthe progress in the public opinion tend the right of election to househad been the same in each ; it had keepers; it was the most perfect indisputably changed, though no recurrence to the first known and chage had been produced by the recorded principles in our constigeneral election in the American tution, according to the celebrated War, and the present war had been Clanville, in all cases where no mrpopular for the two last years in particular right intervened. The England, though its voice had not common-law right of paying scot been heard in the choice of repre- and lot was the airht of election in sentatives. Mr. Fox ven pointed the land; but it had been said, ex

ut the conduct of the candidates tending the right of voting to houcei populous places, on both sides, keepers might in some respects' be coring the elections. The opposin compared to universal suffrage: he tion boasted of having reprobated himselihid always deprecated unic , tris War, and resisted every one of ve sal sufirge, not so much on The measures by hihich government account of any confusion to which tad brought the country into their it might lead, as because we should present situation. The ministerial in reality lose the object we desired party apologized for their past of. to obtain : it would embarrass and terce in supporting it; they used prevent the deliberate voice of the woning, canting explanations; they country from being heard, and described alarms, and misrepresent would draw forth numbers who, 17.

without

[ocr errors]

scheme on which elections would timents of the city of Westminster, · be made. Mr. Fox then adverted or London, or Bristol, with impu.

to a question often discussed, both nity; and if he ventures to disagree within and without those walls, with a nobleman, whose represcii“ how far representatives ought to tative he is, must he be regarded as be bound by the instructions of unfit for the society of men of hetheir constituents.” He acknow. nour? It was, he observed, the ty. ledged that he inclined to the opi- ranny of corruption, the conse. nion (though he did not entirely quence of a number of peers posespouse it), that having to legislale sessing an overweening interest in

« ZurückWeiter »