« AnteriorContinuar »
reign by kissing his hand, for the offices, pensions, and grants, into which they have deceived his benignity. May no storm ever come, which will put the firmness of their attachment to the proof; and which, in the midst of confusions, and terrours, and sufferings, may demonstrate the eternal difference between a true and severe friend to the monarchy, and a slippery sycophant of the court ! Quantum infido fcurræ diftabit amicus.
So far I have considered the effect of the court system, chiefly as it operates upon the executive government, on the temper of the people, and on the happiness of the sovereign. It remains, that we should consider, with a little attention, its operation upon parliament. "
Parliament was indeed the great object of all these politicks, the end at which they aimed, as well as the inftrument by which they were to operate. But, before parliament could be made subfervient to a system, by which it was to be degraded from the dignity of a national council, into a mere member of the court, it must be greatly changed from its original character... * In speaking of this body, I have my eye chiefly on the house of commons. I hope I shall be indulged in a few observations on the nature and character of that affembly; not with regard to its legal form and power, but to its fpirit, and to the purposes it is meant to answer in the conftitution.
The house of commons was supposed originally to be no part of the standing government of this couna try. It was considered as a controul, issuing imme-, diately from the people, and speedily to be resolved .. into the mass from whence it arose. In this refpect it was in the higher part of government what juries are in the lower. The capacity of a magistrate being transitory, and that of a citizen perma- . nent, the latter capacity it was hoped would of course preponderate in all discussions, not only between the people and the standing authority of the crown, but between the people and the fleeting authority of the house of commons itself. It was hoped that being of a middle nature between subject and government, they would feel with a more tender and a nearer interest every thing that con-. cérned the people, than the other remoter and more permanent; parts of legislature. : Whatever alterations time and the necessary ac
commodation of business may have introduced, :! this character can never be sustained, unless the
house of commons shall be made to bear fome
wholly'untouched by the opinions and feelings of the people out of doors. By this want of sympathy they would cease to be a house of commons. For it is not the derivation of the power of that house from the people, which makes it in a distinct fense their representative. · The king is the representative of the people; fo. are the lords; fo are, the judges. They all are trustees for the people, as well as the commons; because no power is given for the sole fake of the holder; and although government certainly is an inftitution of divine authority, yet its forms, and the persons who adminifter it, all originate from the people. . - A popular origin cannot therefore be the characteristical distinction of a popular representative. This belongs equally to all parts of government, and in all forms. The virtue, spirit, and effence of a house of commons confifts in its being the expreis image of the feelings of the nation. It was not instituted to be a controul upon the people, a3 of late it has been taught, by a doctrine of the inost pernicious tendency. It was designed as a controul for the people. Other institutions have been formed for the purpose of checking popular excefies; and they are, I apprehend, fukły adequate to their object. » If not, they ought to be made so. The house of cominons, as it was never intended for the support of peace and subordination, is miferably appointed for that service; having no
stronger stronger weapon than its mace, and no better officer than its ferjeant at arms, which it can com: mand of its own proper authority. A vigilant and jealous eye over executory and judicial magistracy; an anxious care of publick money, an openness, approaching towards facility, to publick complaint: these seem to be the true characteristicks of a house of commons. But an addressing house of commons, and a petitioning nation; a house of commons full of confidence, when the nation is plunged in despair ; in the utmost harmony with ministers, whom the people regard with the utmost abhorrence; who vote thanks, when the publick opinion calls upon them for impeachments; who are eager to grant, when the general voice demands account; who, in all disputes between the people and administration, presume against the people; who punish their disorders, but refuse even to inquire into the provocations to them; this is an unnatural, a monstrous state of things in this constitution. Such an assembly may be a great, wise, awful fenate; but it is not to any popular purpose a house of commons. This change from an immediate state of procuration and delegation, to a course of acting as from original power, is the', way in which all the popular magistracies in the world have been perverted from their purposes. It is indeed their greatest and sometimes their incurable corruption. For there is a material dilVOL. II.
tinction between that corruption by which parti cular points are carried against reafon, (this is a thing which cannot be prevented by human wifdom, and is of less consequence) and the corruption of the principle itself. For then the evil is. not accidental, but fettled. The distemper becomes the natural habit. :
For my part, I shall be compelled to conclude: the principle of partiainent to be totally corrupted, and therefore its ends entirely defeated, when I fee two fymptoms; first, a rule of indiscriminate fupport to all minifters; because this deftroys the very end of parliament as a controul, and is a general previous fanction to misgovernment; and fecondly, the setting up any claims adverse to the right of free election; for this tends to fubvert the legal authority by which the house of commons fits. 'I know that, fince the Revolution, along with many dangerous, many useful powers of government have been weakened. It is absolutely neceffary to have frequent recourse to the legislature. Parliaments must therefore fit every year, and for great part of the year. The dreadful disorders of frequentelections have also neceffitated a feptennial instead of a triennial duration. These circumftances, I mean the constant habit of authority, and the unfrequency of elections, have tended very much to draw the house of commons towards the