« AnteriorContinuar »
SIR, upon the whole, I am of opinion, that I cannot express a greater zeal for his Majesty, for the liberties of the people, or the honour and dignity of this house, than by feconding the motion which the honourable gentleman has made you.
CHA P. X.
SIR ROBERT WALPOLE's REPLY.
MR. CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER,
THOU HOUGH the question has been already fo fully oppofed, that there is no great occafion to fay any thing farther against it, yet, I hope, the house will indulge me the liberty of giving fome of those reasons, which induce me to be against the motion. In general I must take notice, that the nature of our conftitution feems to be very much mistaken by the gentlemen who have spoken in favour of this motion. It is certain, that ours is a mixt government, and the perfection of our conftitution confifts in this, that the monarchical, aristocratical, and democratical formsof government, are mixt and interwoven in ours, so as to give us all the advantages of each, without fubjecting us to the dangers and inconveniencies of either. The democratical form of go vernment, which is the only one I have now occafion to take notice of, is liable to thefe inconveniencies. That they are generally too tedious in their coming to any resolution, and feldom brisk and expeditious enough in carrying their refolutions into execution: that they are always wavering in their refolutions, and never fteady in any of the measures they refolve to purfue; and that they are often involved in factions, feditions and infurrections, which exposes them to be made the tools, if not the prey of their neighbours: therefore
fore in all the regulations we make, with refpect to our conftitution, we are to guard against running too much into that form of government which is properly called democratical: this was, in my opinion, the effect of the triennial law, and will again be the effect, if ever it should be restored.
THAT triennial elections would make our government too tedious in all their refolves, is evident; because, in fuch cafe, no prudent administration would ever refolve upon any measure of confequence, till they had felt not only the pulfe of the parliament, but the pulfe of the people; and the ministers of state would always labour under this disadvantage, that as fecrets of state muft not be immediately divulged, their enemies, (and enemies they will always have) would have a handle for expofing their measures, and rendering them difagreeable to the people, and thereby carrying perhaps a new election against them, before they could have an opportunity of juftifying their measures, by divulging those facts and circumftances, from whence the juftice and the wisdom of their measures would clearly appear.
THEN, Sir, it is by experience well known, that what is called the populace of every country, are apt to be too much elated with fuccefs, and too much dejected with every miffortune; this makes them wavering in their opinions about affairs of ftate, and never long of the fame mind; and as this houfe is chofen by the free and unbiaffed voice of the people in general, if this choice were fo often renewed, we might expect, that this house would be as wavering, and as unfteady as the people usually are; and it being impoffible to carry on the public affairs of the nation, without the concurrence of this house, the minifters would always be obliged to comply, and confequently, would be obliged to change their measures, as often as the people changed their minds.
WITH feptennial Parliaments, Sir, we are not exposed to either of these misfortunes, becaufe, if the minifters, after having felt the pulfe of the parliament, which they can always foon do, refolve upon any measures, they have generally time enough before the new elections come on, to give the people proper information, in order to fhew them the juftice and the wisdom of the measures they have pursued ; and if the people should at any time be too much elated, or too much dejected, or should without a cause change their minds, thofe at the helm of affairs have time to fet them right before a new election comes on.
As to faction and fedition, Sir, I will grant, that in monarchical and ariftocratical governments, it generally arifes from violence and oppreffion; but in democratical governments, it always arifes from the people's having too great a fhare in the government; for in all countries, and in all governments, there always will be many factious and unquiet fpirits, who can never be at reft either in power or out of power; when in power, they are never easy, unless every man fubmits intirely to their direction; and when out of power, they are always working and intriguing against those that are in, without any regard to justice, or to the interest of their country: in popular governmerts fuch men have too much game, they have too many opportunities for working upon and corrupting the minds of the people, in order to give them a bad impreffion of, and to raise discontents. againft, thofe that haye the management of the public affairs for the time; and thefe difcontents often break out into feditions and infurrections. This, Sir, would in my opinion be our misfortune, if our Parliaments were either annual or triennial: by fuch frequent elections, there would be fo much power thrown into the hands of the people, as would destroy that
that equal mixture, which is the beauty of our constitution : in fhort, our government would really become a democratical government, and might from thence very probably diverge into a tyrannical. Therefore, in order to preserve our constitution, in order to prevent our falling under tyranny and arbitrary power, we ought to preferve that law, which I really think has brought our constitution to a more equal mixture, and confequently to greater perfection than it was ever in, before that law took place.
As to bribery and corruption, Sir, if it were poffible to influence, by fuch base means, the majority of the electors of Great-Britain, to chufe fuch men as would probably give up their liberties; if it were poffible to influence by fuch means, a majority of the members of this houfe, to confent to the establishment of arbitrary power, I would readily allow, that the calculation made by the gentlemen of the other fide were just, and their inference true; but I am persuaded that neither of these is poffible. As the members of this houfe generally are, and muft always be gentlemen of fortune and figure in their country; is it poffible to suppose, that any of them could, by a penfion, or a poft, be influenced to confent to the overthrow of our conftitution; by which the enjoyment, not only of what he got, but of what he before had, would be rendered altogether precarious? I will allow, Sir, that with refpect to bribery, the price must be higher or lower, generally in proportion to the virtue of the man who is to be bribed; but it must likewise be granted, that the humour he happens to be in at the time, the spirit he happens to be endowed with, adds a great deal to his virtue. When no encroachments are made upon the rights of the people, when the people do not think themselves in any danger, there may be many of the electors, who by a bribe
of ten guineas, might be induced to vote for one candidate rather than another; but if the court were making any en croachments upon the rights of the people, a proper spirit would, without doubt, arife in the nation; and in fuch a cafe, I am perfuaded, that none, or very few, even of fuch electors, could be induced to vote for a court candidate ; no, not for ten times the fum.
THERE may, Sir, be fome bribery and corruption in the nation; I am afraid there will always be some; but it is no proof of it, that ftrangers are fometimes chofen; for a gentleman may have fo much natural influence over a borough in his neighbourhood as to be able to prevail with them to chufe any perfon he pleases to recommend; and if upon fuch recommendation they chufe one or two of his friends, who are perhaps ftrangers to them, it is not from thence to be inferred, that the two ftrangers were chosen their representatives by the means of bribery and corruption.
To infinuate, Sir, that money may be iffued from the publick treasury for bribing elections, is really fomething very extraordinary, especially in thofe gentlemen who know how many checks are upon every fhilling that can be issued from thence; and how regularly the money granted in one year for the public service of the nation, must always be accounted for, the very next feffion, in this house, and likewife in the other, if they have a mind to call for any fuch account. And as to the gentlemen in offices, if they have any advantage over country gentlemen, in having fomething else to depend on befides their own private fortunes, they have likewife many disadvantages: they are obliged to live at London with their families, by which they are put to a much greater expence, than gentlemen of equal fortunes, who live in the country: this lays them under a very great disadvantage,