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which by ancient ufage they are entitled to; but to preferve the juft and equal balance, from which they will both derive mutual fecurity, and which, if duly obferved, will render our conftitution the envy and admiration of all the world.
KING CHARLES the fecond naturally took a furfeit of Parliaments in his father's time, and was therefore extremely defirous to lay them afide. 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 fo exactly disciplined to his own meafures, that they knew no other command but from that perfon who gave them their
THIS was a fafe and moft ingenious way of enflaving a nation. It was very well known, that arbitrary power, if it was open and avowed, would never prevail here. The people were therefore amused with the fpecious form of their ancient conftitution: it exifted, indeed, in their fancy; but, like a mere phantom, had no fubftance nor reality in it; for the power, the authority, the dignity of Parliaments were wholly loft. This was that remarkable Parliament which fo justly obtained the opprobrious name of the PENSION PARLIAMENT; and was the model from which, I be lieve, fome later Parliaments have been exactly copied.
Ar the time of the revolution, the people made a fresh claim of their ancient privileges; and as they had fo lately experienced the misfortune of long and fervile Parliaments, it was then declared, that they should be held frequently. But, it seems, their full meaning was not understood by this declaration; and therefore, as in every new fettlement the intention of all parties should be specifically manifefted, the Parliament never ceased struggling with the crown, till the triennial law was obtained: the preamble of it is extreme
ly full and strong; and in the body of the bill you will find the word declared before enacted, by which I apprehend, that though this law did not immediately take place at the time 'of the revolution, it was certainly intended as declaratory of their first meaning, and therefore stands a part of that original contract under which the conftitution was then fettled. His Majesty's title to the crown, is primarily derived from that contract; and if, upon a review, there fhall appear to be any deviations from it, we ought to treat them as fo many injuries done to that title. And I dare fay, that this houfe, which has gone through so long a series of fervices to his Majesty, will at last be willing to revert to those original stated measures of government, to renew and ftrengthen that title.
BUT, Sir, I think the manner in which the feptennial law was first introduced, is a very ftrong reafon why it fhould be repealed. People, in their fears, have very often recourse to desperate expedients, which, if not cancelled in feafon, will themselves prove fatal to that conftitution, which they were meant to fecure. Such is the nature of the feptennial law; it was intended only as a prefervative against a temporary inconvenience: the inconvenience is removed, but the mischievous effects ftill continue; for it not only altered the conftitution of Parliaments, but it extended that fame Parliament beyond its natural duration; and therefore carries this moft unjuft implication with it, That you may at any time ufurp the most indubitable, the most effential privilege of the people,-I mean that of chufing their own representatives. A precedent of fuch a dangerous confequence, of fo fatal a tendency, that I think it would be a reproach to our ftatute-book, if that law was any longer to fubfift, which might record it to posterity.
THIS is a feafon of virtue and public fpirit. Let us take advantage of it to repeal thofe laws which infringe our li berties, and introduce fuch as may restore the vigour of our ancient conftitution.
HUMAN nature is fo very corrupt, that all obligations lofe their force, unless they are frequently renewed. Long Parliaments become therefore independent of the people, and when they do so, there always happens a moft dangerous dependence elsewhere.
LONG Parliaments give the minifter an opportunity of getting acquaintance with members, of practising his several arts to win them into his fchemes.. -This must be the work of time.Corruption is of fo bafe a nature, that at first fight it is extremely fhocking.-Hardly any one has fubmitted to it all at once. His difpofition must be previously understood, the particular bait must be found out with which he is to be allured, and after all, it is not without many struggles that he furrenders his virtue.-Indeed, there are fome, who will at once plunge themselves into any base action, but the generality of mankind are of a more cautious nature, and will proceed only by leisurely. degrees.- -One or two perhaps have deferted their colours the first campaign, fome have done it a fecond.But a great many, who have not that eager difpofition to vice, will wait till a third.
For this reafon, fhort Parliaments have been lefs corrupt than long ones; they are obferved, like streams of water, always to grow more impure the greater distance they run from the fountain-head.
I AM aware, it may be faid, that frequent new Parliaments will produce frequent new expences, but I think quite the contrary; I am really of opinion, that it will be a proN 4
per remedy against the evil of bribery at elections, especially as you have provided fo wholefome a law to co-operate upon these occafions.
BRIBERY at elections, whence did it arife? Not from country gentlemen, for they are fure of being chofen without it; it was, Sir, the invention of wicked and corrupt minifters, who have, from time to time, led weak Princes into fuch deftructive measures, that they did not dare to rely upon the natural reprefentation of the people.-Long Parliaments, Sir, firft introduced bribery, because they were worth purchafing at any rate:Country gentlemen, who have only their private fortunes to rely upon, and have no mercenary ends to ferve, are unable to oppose it, especially if at any time the public treasure shall be unfaithfully fquandered away to corrupt their boroughs.-Country gentlemen, indeed, may make fome weak efforts; but as they generally prove unfuccessful, and the time of a fresh struggle is at fo great a diftance, they at last grow faint in the dif pute, give up their country for loft, and retire in despair.Defpair naturally produces indolence, and that is the proper difpofition for flavery. Minifters of ftate understand this very well, and are therefore unwilling to awaken the nation out of its lethargy, by frequent elections.They know that the spirit of liberty, like every other virtue of the mind, is to be kept alive only by conftant action; that it is impoffible to enflave this nation, while it is perpetually upon its guard. Let country gentlemen then, by having frequent opportunities of exerting themselves, be kept warm and active in their contention for the public good: this will raife that zeal and fpirit, which will at laft get the better of thofe undue influences, by which the officers of the crown, though unknown to the feveral boroughs, have been
able to fupplant country gentlemen of great characters and fortune, who live in their neighbourhood.—I do not say this upon idle fpeculation only,I live in a country where it is too well known, and I appeal to many gentlemen in the house, to more out of it (and who are so for this very reason,) for the truth of my affertion. Sir, it is a fore which has been long eating into the moft vital part of our conftitution, and I hope the time will come when you will probe it to the bottom. For if a minifter fhould ever gain a corrupt familiarity with our boroughs, if he should keep a register of them in his closet, and, by sending down his treasury-mandates, fhould procure a fpurious reprefentative of the people, the offspring of his corruption, who will be at all times ready to reconcile and juftify the most contradictory measures of his administration, and even to vote every crude indigefted dream of their patron into a law; if the maintenance of his power should become the fole object of their attention, and they should be guilty of the most violent breach of Parliamentary truft, by giving the King a discretionary liberty of taxing the people without limitation or controul; the laft fatal compliment they can pay to the crown :- -if this fhould ever be the unhappy condition of this nation, the people indeed may complain; but the doors of that place where their complaints should be heard, will for ever be shut against them.
OUR disease, I fear, is of a complicated nature, and I think that this motion is wifely intended to remove the firft and principal diforder.-Give the people their ancient right of frequent new elections; that will restore the decayed authority of parliaments, and will put our conftitution into a natural condition of working out her own cure.