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ways have a due regard, though I have not the honour to represent them.
Mr. William Bromley, March 13, 1734.
The honourable gentleman who made this motion, has supported the necessity of it by so many strong and forcible arguments, that there is hardly any thing new to be offered. I am very sensible, therefore, of the disadvantages I must lie under, in attempting to seek after him, and I mould content myself with barely seconding him, if the subject matter of this debate was not of so great importance, that I should be ashamed to return to my electors, without endeavouring, in the best manner I am able, to declare publicly the reasons, which induced me to give my most ready assent to this question.
It is evident from what has been said, that the people have an unquestionable right to frequent new Parliaments by ancient usage, and that this usage has been confirmed by several laws, which has been progressively made by our-ancestors, as often as they found it necessary to insist on this essential privilege.
Parliaments were generally annual, but never continued longer than three years, till the remarkable reign of Henry VIII. He was a Prince of unruly appetites, and of an arbitrary will; he was impatient of every restraint; the laws of God and man fell equally a sacrifice as they stood in the way of his avarice, or disappointed his ambition : he therefore introduced long Parliaments, because he very well knew, that they would become the proper instruments of both; and what a slavish obedience they paid to all his measures is sufficiently known.
If we come to the reign of Charles I. we must acknowledge him to be a Prince of a contrary temper ; he certainly had an innate love for religion and virtue, and of consequence for the liberty of his country. But here lay the mis
Vol, II. P fortune— fortune—he was led from his natural disposition by syco-» phants and flatterers ; they advised him to neglect the calling frequent Parliaments; and therefore by not taking the constant fense of the people in what he did, he was worked up into so high a notion of prerogative, that the Commons, in order to restrain it, obtained that independent fatal power, which at last unhappily brought him to a most tragical end, and, at the fame time subverted the whole Constitution; and I hope we shall learn this lesson from it, never to compliment the Crown with any new or extravagant powers, nor to deny the People those rights which by ancient ufuage they are entitled to ; but to preserve that just and equal balance, from which they will derive mutual security, and which, if duly observed, will render our Constitution the envy and admiration of the world.
King Charles II. naturally took a surfeit of Parliaments in his father's time, and was therefore extremely desirous to lay them aside: but this was a scheme impracticable. However, in effect he did so; for he obtained a Parliament, which by its long.duration, like ail army of veterans, became so exactly disciplined to his own measures, that they knew no other command, but from that person who gave them their, pay.
This was a safe and most ingenious way of enslaving 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 specious form of their antient Constitution: It existed, indeed, in their fancy; but like a mere phantom, had no substance, or reality in it; for the power, the authority, the dignity of Parliament were wholly lost. This was that remarkable Parliament which so justly obtained the opprobrious name of ibt Pensioners Parliament, and was the model from which, I believe, some latter Parliaments have been exactly copied.
At the time of the Revolution, the people made a fresh claim of their ancient privileges, and as they had so lately experienced the misfortune of long and servile 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 settlement the intention of all parties should be specifically manifested, the Parliament never ceased struggling with the Crown till the triennial law was obtained. The preamble of it, is extremely full and strong, and in the body of the bill you will find the word declared before enacled, 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 the first meaning ; and therefore stands as part of that original contract, under which the Constitution was then settled. His Majesty's title to the Crown is primarily derived from that contract; and if, upon a review, there shall appear to be any deviation from it, we ought to hear them as so many injuries done to that title. And I dare fay, that this House, which has gone through so long a series of services for His Majesty, will at last be willing to revert to these original stated measures of Government, to renew and strengthen that title.
But I think the manner in which the septennial law was - first introduced, is a very strong reason why it should be repealed. People in their sears have very often recourse to desperate expedients, which, if not cancelled in season, will themselves prove fatal to that Constitution which they were meant to secure. Such is the nature of the septennial law; it was intended only as a preservative against a temporary inconveniency: the inconveniehcy is removed, but the mischievous effects still continue; for it not only altered the Constitution of Parliaments, but it extended that fame Parliament beyond its natural duration ; and therefore carries this most unjust implication with it, that you may at any
P 2, time time usurp the most indubitable, the most eflential privilege of the People, I mean that of choosing their own representatives ; a precedenfof such a dangerous consequence, of so fatal a tendency, that I think it would be a reproach to our Statute Book if that law was any longer to subsist, which might record it to posterity.
This is a season of virtue and public spirit; let us take advantage of it,t to repeal those laws which infringe on our liberties, and introduce such as may restore the vigour of our ancient Constitution.
Human nature is so very corrupt, that all obligations lose their force, unless they are frequently renewed. Long Parliaments become therefore independent of the People ; and when they do so, there always happens a most dangerous dependence elsewhere.
It has of late been denied that the People have a right of remonstrating to us. It has been called on unjustifiable control upon our proceedings. But then let them have more frequent opportunities of varying the choice of their representatives, that they may dismiss such who have unfaithfully withdrawn their attention from them.
The influencing powers of the Crown are daily increasing, and it is highly requisite that Parliaments should be frequently responsible to their Constituents; that they should be kept under the constant awe of acting contrary to their interests. Modern history, I believe, will inform us, that some very dangerous attempts upon our liberties have beenNdisappointed; not so much from the virtue of many in this House, as from the apprehensions they may have had of an approaching election.
It is true there is a provision against such whose places vacate their feats here, but this is no guard against secret Pensioners and place-holders. Give me leave to fay, that the laws, with respect to them, are very insufficient, and as
we are not allowed to make them effectual, the people have no other remedy but a new election.
I think that long Parliaments are a great hardship on those who may be excluded out of this House, and ought reasonably to take their turn: but seven years is the purchase of a man's life. It is equally hard upon such, whose private fortunes will not admit them to engage in so long and painful a service. It must be so to those who mean no view or advantage by it.
I think too, that nothing can be of greater use to His Majesty than frequent new Parliaments; that he may often take the fresh fense of the nation, and not be partially advised. For his measures will always have a greater weight both at home and abroad, the more generally he refers himself to the opinion of the People.
A farther mischief of long Parliaments is, that a Minister has time and opportunities of getting acquaintance with Members, and of practising his several arts to win them into his schemes. But this must be the work of time. Corruption is of so base a nature, that at the first sight it is extremely shocking. Hardly any one has submitted to it all at once. His disposition 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 surrenders his virtue. Indeed, there are some who plunge themselves head over ears into any base action; but the generality of mankind are of a more cautious nature, and will proced only by leisure degrees. One or two perhaps have deserted their colours the first campaign, some have done it a second. But a great many, who have not that eager disposition to vice, will wait till a third.
For this reason, short Parliaments have been less corrupt than long ones; they are observed, like streams of water, P 3 always