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^the call of the House being adjourned to a very remote day, upon a general opinion, which I hope is well founded, that no vote of credit will be proposed. 1 believe we cart scarcely expect a fuller House than this day produces. There cannot, therefore, be a better opportunity for making a motion, which I apprehend to be of such a national concernment, that I have long wished it undertaken by some person better able to support it than myself: but I have this satisfaction, that what I am going to offer will so far speak for itself, as may supply any defects in my manner of laying it before you, and I cannot doubt the concurrence of this House, when it comes to be maturely considered.
I believe we are none of us unapprifed of the dislike the people in general have always had to long Parliaments; a dislike justly founded on reason and experience; long Parliaments in former reigns having proved the unhappy cause of great calamities to this nation, and having been at all times declared an innovation upon our constitution. I am convinced there is no one that hears me, who does not believe the people thought themselves highly aggrieved by the septennial bill: that they even looked upon it as a dangerous infringement of their liberties, notwithstanding the cause alledged in the preamble to the acts which seemed at that time to carry some weight with it.
That clause being happily removed, they desire to revert, as near as may be, to their ancient constitution, and surely there never can be a more favourable opportunity to effectuate it than at this juncture, when his Majesty, to tha great joy of the nation, has been graciously pleased to declare his satisfaction, that the people are soon to have an opportunity of chusing a new Representation. The present Parliament jaent draws near its dissolution; what can it do more for its own honour? How can it crown its many meritorious acts better, than by redressing a grievance, which a succeeding Parliament may possibly have its reasons for not entering into?
Frequent Parliaments were early declared a fundamental part of the Constitution. In the fourth of Edward the Third, an act passed for holding them once a year, or oftener, if there should be occasion. In the 36th year of the fame reign, that statute was confirmed. In that Parliament, Magna Charta and Cbarta de Forejia, were confirmed, and several new privileges granted to the subject. Then. Comes the clause relating to Parliament, which sufficiently shews^the intention and original institution of them was, for the redress of grievances: for the bill enacts, That for the maintenance of the said articles and statutes; that is, the privileges before mentioned, and for redress of divers grievances and mischiefs, which daily happen, anew Parliament shall be held once every year, as at another time was ordained. The 16th of Charles the Second recites, that by the ancient laws and statutes, Parliaments used to be held very often, and therefore enacts, that the sitting and holding of Parliaments shall not be intermitted, or discon- tinued, for more than three years.
In the early days when this prudent care was taken for frequent meeting of Parliaments, the Crown was possessed of revenues, which made application to the people for money, unless upon extraordinary emergencies, unnecessary. It therefore plainly appears, that redress of grievances, making salutary laws for the good of the community, and preserving the liberties of the people, by supporting a due balance between the power of the Crown and the rights of the subjects, were the main ends for calling Parliaments. The power of calling them being the undoubted prerogative of the Crown, it became necessary, for the safety of the subject,
to oblige the Crown to call them frequently. I must confess, a caution of this kind is no longer necessary, nor can it ever be, so long as we preserve to ourselves the power of granting money; the Crown revenues being funk, or wantonly granted away, the annual call for a supply must necessarily produce an annual meeting of Parliament. But give me leave to observe, the grievance now complained of is of a very different nature. It is not founded on discontinuance of Parliament; but on a too long and dangerous continuance of one and the fame Parliament: a practice unheard of in former times, when prerogations were not known: for when a Parliament was annually called together for the redress of grievances, as soon as the business of the session was over, itwas dissolved, and a new one called the nextyfer for the fame purpose; by which means the country had a proper check upon their Representatives, and those who appeared to be too much under the influence of the Crown; those who were too much attached to the Minister, had less opportunity of injuring their country; the people had it more frequently in their power to shew a proper resentment, and remedy the evil, by sending others in their places next, year.
This matter seems fully explained by 16 Car. II. which does not only prevent discontinuance of Parliaments, but wisely provides against the too long continuance of one and the fame Parliament, by enacting it into a law, that a new Parliament shall be called once in three years, oroftener, if there be occasion. The Bill of Rights in the second session of William and Mary, among many other privileges which we possess, enacts, that for redress of grievances, amending, strengthening, and preserving laws, Parliaments ought to be frequently held; and the sixth of the fame reign explains the true meaning of the clause, when it declares, that frequent and new Parliaments tend very much to the happy union and good agreement between the King and the people j pie; it confirms the 16th of Car. II. that Parliaments shall be held once in three years at least, and adds, that no Parliament shall continue more than three years at farthest. Between that and the first of the late King, several Parliaments were held, and none continued longer than three years; some held for one session, which seems to be the original constitution, and best calculated for the good of the nation. That year the septennial bill passed, the repeal of which I am going to move, but believe it more agreeable to the rules of the House, that the act itself should be first read. [Here the Clerk read the act] The preamble to the bill, which is the foundation of it, will, I think, admit a very easy answer; as to the first point, that triennial Parliaments have proved"more grievous, burdensome, and expensive, than they were ever known before that law was passed, I readily agree; but let us consider the cause; the lengthening the term occasioned the expcnce. I fear I might add, the multiplicity of places enjoyed by the Members of this House, may be too justly alledged another cause; but I would willingly confine myself to the particular point, how far the time or duration of Parliaments might increase or lessen the expence, might add to, or diminish the grievance complained of? and will consider it only in this light, by submitting it to every gentleman who hears me, whether he would not give more for an annuity of three years than for a grant determinable at the end ot one? and by the fame parity of reasoning, whether septennial Parliaments must not prove more grievous, burdensome, and expensive, than triennial, at least, in such a degree as an annuity for seven years deserves a better consideration than one for three?
But supposing I should be out in this point, which I can never give up without due conviction, this argument in the preamble is, I hope, entirely at an end. The act against Bribery and Corruption, which must ever redound
to to the honour of this Parliament, will neceslarily remedy this evil: that glorious act will prevent corruption in the electors. Nothing but frequent new Parliaments can remedy it jn the elected.
The other reason upon which that act was founded, namely, a suspicion that designs were carrying on to renew the rebellion, and an invasion from abroad, was, in my humble opinion, the only justifiable pretence for enacting it into a law, and might possibly have induced some gentlemen of very great honour and integrity to give their votes for the bill at that juncture, whose assistance, I flatter myself, I shall have now in repealing it. For those who voted for it from that vievy, could never intend it should be made perpetual, or that it should continue longer than that misfortune subsisted.
I must beg pardon of you, Sir, and of the House, for the trouble I have given you. The nature of the motion, I am going to make you, has unavoidably drawn me into a length as disagreeable to myself, as it must have been to those that hear me. Numberless arguments will occur to every gentleman in favour of it, I will therefore conclude with this motion, viz.
That leave be given to bring in a bill for repealing the Septennial Act, and for the more frequent meeting and calling of Parliaments.
In this, Sir, I hope I sliall be justified, as it cannot proceed from any indirect or private views ; but from a real conviction that the happiness and safety of this nation de-» pends upon it, in which I am supported by the common voice of the people, and have it particularly recommended |to me by a great majority of those I have the honour pf re? presenting in Parliament, as well as from my neighbours of the city of Coventry, for whose recommendation I sliall aU