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incapacitating members to bear offices: It is this that could not only indemnify, but honour a leading member, for his audacious procuring and accepting a grant of lands, which, by the parliament, had been set a-part for the publick service; a vote that shall stand recorded in their own journals, to the never-dying infamy of that mercenary assembly: It is this could make the same person most confidently affirm, that he was sure the majority of the house would agree to what he was going to propose: It is this that could make men of peaceable dispositions, and considerable estates, vote for a standing army: It is this that could bring admirals to confess, that our fleets, under their command, was no security to us: It is this could make wise men act against their own apparent interest: In short, it is this that has infatuated our prudence, staggered our constancy, sullied our reputation, and introduced a total defection from all true English principles. Bribery is, indeed, so sure and unavoidable a way to destroy any nation, that we may all sit down and wonder, that so much as the very name of a free government is yet continued to us. And, if, by our wary choice of members, we should happen to recover our ancient constitution, we shall, with horror and amazevent, look back, and reflect upon the dreadful precipice we so narrowly escaped.
7. Fatal experience has now, more than enough, convinced us, that courts have been the same in all ages, and that few persons have been found of such approved constancy and resolution, as to withstand the powerful allurements and temptations which from thence have been continually dispensed, for the corrupting of men's minds, and debauching their honest principles. Such instances of the frailty of human nature may be given, within these few years past, as might make a man even ashamed of his own species, and which, were they not so open and notorious, ought, out of pity to mankind, to be buried in perpetual silence. Who can enough lament the wretched degeneracy of the age we live in? To see persons, who were formerly noted for the most vigorous assertors of their country's liberty, who, from their infancy, had imbibed no other notions, than what conduced to the publick safety, whose principles were further improved and confirmed by the advantages of a suitable conversation, and who were so far possessed with this spirit of liberty, that it sometimes transported them beyond the bounds of moderation, even to unwarrantable excesses: To see these men, I say, so infamously fall in with the arbitrary measures of the court, and appear the most active instruments for enslaving their country; and that, without any formal steps or degrees, but, all in an instant, is so violent and surprising a transition, from one extream to another, without passing the mean, as would have confounded the imaginations of Euclid or Pyrrho. All the stated maxims, in relation to the nature of mankind, which have been long ago settled and established by philosophers, and observing men, are now baffled and exploded; and we have nothing left us to contemplate, but the wild extravagancies of romantick fables, the sudden conveyances of nimble-fingered jugglers, the inimitable dispatches of transubstantiating priests, or the now more credible metamorphoses of men into beasts.
8. The necessity we have lain under of frequent meetings of par. liament, during the war, has taught our managers so much dexterity and address in their applications to the members of that assembly, that they are now become consummate masters in that most detestable art of corrupting our representatives, by hopes and fears of attaining or losing offices and preferments. And though I here name offices, yet those offices are downright bribes and pensions, since they are held precariously from the court, and constantly taken away upon non-compliance with the court-measures; though I am not ignorant, that several considerable pensions were also paid out of the Exchequer to members of both houses. For places could not be had for all, though they have tried all imaginable arts, for dividing among them. selves the considerable posts of the kingdom: for, either by splitting of offices among several persons which were formerly executed by one, or by reviving such as were sunk, or by creating others which were altogether useless and unnecessary, or by promises of preferment to those who could not presently be provided for, they had made above two-hundred members absolutely dependent upon them. And what points may not such a number carry in the house, who are always ready, and constantly attending, with more diligence to destroy our constitution, than the rest were to preserve it? Who represented not their country, but themselves, and always kept together in a close and undivided phalanx, impenetrable either by shame or honour, voting always the same way, and saying always the same things, as if they were no longer voluntary agents, but so many engines, merely turned about by a mechanick motion, like an organ, where the great humming bases, as well as the little squeaking trebles, are filled but with one blast of wind from the same sound-board. Yet a few of them may, in somejneasure be distinguished from those pointhlank Toters, whom neither their country's safety, nor their own more dear and valued interest, nor the persuasion of their once intimate friends, nor fear of reproach, nor love of reputation, could ever prevail to join in an honest point, or dissent from a question that carried in it the violation of the rights and properties of the subject. These are the men who have persuaded his majesty, or rather assumed to them. selves, not to fill up any vacant offices, whilst the parliament is sitting; but to keep all pretenders in a dependence till the end of the session, and bind them up to their ill behaviour, which will then be their best pretence to demand their wages of unrighteousness s Witness the commission of excise the last session, which was sued for by, and promised to above thirty competitors, who all did their utmost to signalise their several merits for an office, which, doubtless, will be at last divided amongst those who have deserved worst of their country. By these means, they made their numbers and in. terest in the house so great, that no miscarriage in the government could ever be redressed, nor the meanest tool, belonging to them, be punished: Some of which they did, indeed, take into their own bands, which raised in the people a high expectation that some ex.
traordinary penalties would be inflicted upon them; when their design, at the same time, was nothing else but to protect and screen them from the ordinary course of justice. Such is now the difference, in point of corruption, between a common jury and the grand jury of the nation! such a mutual assistance and support have they been to one another, in the several mismanagements of their trusts; so favourable have they been to their own creatures, and so implacable to those who have any way opposed their unjust proceedings, witness their scandalous partiality in the case of Duncomb, which I hope to see printed at large, for the satisfaction of the publick. If it were truly represented, I am sure there needs nothing more to excite in the people an universal detestation of their arrogance and injustice. And yet do these apostates pretend to value themselves upon their merit, in contriving that most destructive project of Exchequer bills, by which all impartial men must either think they notoriously dissemble with us, or that they have indeed lost their senses, when they speak of publick service; the word is so unbecoming in their mouths, and so aukwardly pronounced, that they seem not to breathe in their own element, when they usurp the name. These are the men who have endeavoured to render our condition hopeless, even beyond the power of the king himself to relieve us: For though his majesty be deservedly loved and honoured by his people, for his readiness to do them justice, and ease their oppressions, yet can we not expect it from him, whilst he is thus beset and surrounded, and his palaces invested by these conspirators against his own honour, and the welfare of his kingdoms. The only remedy, therefore, that remains is, to chuse such a parliament who lie under no temptations, and are acted by no other motives, but the real and true interest of his majesty and his dominions; a parliament that will fall unanimously upon publick business, and be free from those petty factions, and personal piques, which in the late session so shamefully obstructed and delayed the most important service of the commonwealth.
9. If it should be pretended, that the nation is yet unsettled, and the fear of King James has forced them upon these extraordinary methods for their own preservation; I answer, that no cause whatsoever can be justly alledged in vindication of such vile arts, and pernicious practices. But, I would farther ask them, what necessity there is, upon that account, for their gaining such prodigious estates to themselves, in so short a time, and in so merciless a way, when the nation was racked to the utmost by taxes in a long and expensive war? Is it the fear of King James, that has brought such a reproach upon our revolution, as if it needed to be supported by such mean and unjustifiable practices? Is it the fear of King James, that makes us content he should live so near us, or that he should be maintained at our own charge of fifty-thousand pounds per annum? Or has not rather King Jamesbeen made the pretence for the unwarrantable proceedings of our conspirators, during the war, and since the conclusion of the peace? It is very strange, that King James, who is but their jest in private, should be thus made their publick bugbear, to frighten us out of our senses, like children; so that King James must be at last our ruin abroad, who could not compass it by all his power and interest at home. And, in this sense, I am of their opinion, that we are not yet quite delivered from the fear of King James, who must be made the instrument of our slavery, by those very persons who pretend their greatest merit to consist in delivering us from him. But what is this, but making the old abdicated tyrant a footstool to ascend the throne of absolute power, and a scaffold for erecting that proud and stately edifice, from whence we have so justly tumbled him down headlong? But, it is to be hoped, the nation will be no longer imposed on by such stale pretences as these, and that a well chosen parliament will not fail to pass their severest censures upon those who would thus jest us out of all that is dear and valuable amongst us: That they will no longer resemble a flock of sheep (as Cato said of the Romans in his time) that follow the bell-wether, and are contented, when all together, to be led by the noses of such whose counsels not a man of them would make use of in a private cause of his own: That they will at last vindicate the honour of England, and imitate their wise ancestors, in hunting down these beasts of prey, these noxious vermin to the commonwealth, rather than suffer themselves to be led in collars and couples by one mighty Nimrod, who, upon the turning up his nose, shall expect a full cry of sequacious animals, who must either join voices, or be turned out of the pack.
10. Notwithstanding what I have said, I would not have any of them either really imagine themselves, or falsly suggest to others, that I envy them their places and preferments, which I am so far from doing, that I wish they rather had them, for the term of their lives. I desire only they may be subject to the laws, and to some power on earth, that may call them to account for their misbehaviours, that they may not be their own judges, that our sovereign remedy may not prove our chief disease, and that the kid may be seethed in something else than its mother's milk. Nor would I, by any means, deny them their seats in parliament, provided they are in a condition to speak and act freely, and discharged from those temptations, which I find they have not constancy enough to withstand; for, after all, I still believe many of them so honest, that nothing but money, or preferments, will corrupt them. But if nothing will satisfy them, but the downright subversion of our constitution; if they will be content with nothing but the utter abolishing of all laws, and the rooting up of those fences, and securities, provided by our ancestors for the preserration of all things that are sacred and esteemed amongst mankind; it is high time for the electors to look about them, and disappoint their unreasonable and exorbitant hopes, and to spew them out as detestable members of the commonwealth; not only as unfit to be trusted with their liberties, but as unworthy to breathe in the air of a free government.
11. If any should say, that the alterations in elections will stand us in no stead, since, whoever are chosen, will still be bought off and bribed by court preferments; I answer, it will require a considerable time to new model and debauch a House of Commons, nor can it be done but by displacing all those, who are already possessed, to make room for these new comers, which will make the trade and mystery of bribery more plain, and consequently more abhorred. And, since no parliament can now sit above three years, the court will meet with fresh difficulties to interrupt them, which may possibly at last make them weary of these practices. It is true indeed, this consideration ought to make us more circumspect, in our choice of members, for though we should chuse but an inconsiderable number of pensioners, yet will they soon be able to work over a majority to their side; so true is the saying, 'A litttle leaven leavens the whole lump.' Whoever therefore out of any particular friendship^ othei motives of fear or private interest, should vote for any one person, so qualified; let him consider, that, as much as in him lies, he makes a compliment of all the liberties of England to the unsatiable avarice and ambition of statesmen and court ministers. Since, therefore, we have so narrowly escaped our destruction, and one session more of the last parliament would infallibly have ruined our constitution, we cannot surely be so grosly overseen as to neglect the opportunity, now put into our hands, for avoiding the like hazards, in time to come; which may easily be done, if the free-holders and burghers in England will petition, and engage their representatives to consent to a bill which shall be brought into the house, to incapacitate all members for holding offices and preferments; or, if it should be thought too much to debar them, altogether, from the enjoyment of posts of honour and advantage, let them keep them, during good behaviour, and not otherwise; that such places may not be reserved in store for those, who shall be from time to time elected, and thereby a continued course of corruption be carried on successively through the whole nation, who will, in a few years, insensibly find themselves so universally infected with this insinuating vice, that we shall be thoroughly ripe for destruction, and readily expose to sale the liberties of England, by auction, to the fairest bidder. If it was deservedly thought one of our most dangerous grievances, that the judges, who only declare the law, should hold their places, ad beneplacitum; what condition must we be in, when our law-makers themselves are subjected to the same temptations? Or what advantage have we got by having our judges commissions for life, when our very legislature itself is prostituted to bribery and sordid gain? The fortune of England is now brought to the nicest point, and there are critical seasons, which, if neglected, will never again be offered; and, should we now fail in our duty to our country, we shall assuredly fall un. pitied by the rest of the world. But if, on the other hand, we can, by our fore-sight and diligence, prevent, for the future, the bribing and corruption of parliaments, it is not to be imagined what security, what happiness, and what immortal reputation will be the never* ceasing concomitants of such a settlement. If the very rump of a parliament, even in the midst of domestick discontents, and beset on all sides with foreign assaults and invasions, were able, by that one self denying act, to maintain the publick welfare from the danger of inward convulsions at home, and violent concussions from abroad; if that small and broken number, without any head,