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always to grow more impure the greater distance they run from the fountain head.
I am aware it may be said, that frequent new Parliaments will produce frequent new expences; but I think quite the contrary. I am really of opinion, that it will be a proper remedy against the evil of bribery at elections, especially "as you have provided so wholesome a law to co-operate upon these occasions.
As to bribery at elections, whence did it arise? Not from country gentlemen, for they are sure of being chose without it; it was the invention of wicked and corrupt Ministers, who have from time -to time led weak Princes into such destructive measures, that they did not dare to rely upon the natural representation of the People. Long Parliaments first introduced bribery, because they were worth purchasing at any rate ; country gentlemen, who have only their private fortunes to rely on, and have no mercenary ends to serve, are unable to oppose it, especially if at any time the public treasure shall be unfaithfully squandered away to corrupt their boroughs. Country gentlemen, indeed, may make some weak efforts, but as they generally prove unfuccess ful, and the time of a fresh struggle is at so great a distance, they at last grow faint in the dispute, give up their country for Jost, and retire in despair. Despair naturally produces indolence, and that is the proper disposition for slavery. Ministers of state understand this very well, and are therefore unwilling to awaken the nation out of its lethargy by frequent elections. They know that the spirit of liberty, like every other virtue of the mind, is to be kept alive by constant action, that it is impossible to enslave this nation, whilst it is perpetually upon its guard. Let country gentlemen then, by having frequent opportunities of exerting themselves, be kept warm and active in their contention for the public good: this will raise that zeal and indignation,
which will at last get the better of those undue influences, by which the Officers of the Crown; though unknown to the several boroughs, have been able to supplant countrygentlemen of great characters and fortunes, who live in their neighbourhood. I do not fay this upon idle speculation only. I live in a county where it is too well known, and I will appeal to many gentlemen in this House, to more out of it (and who are so for this very reason) for the truth of this assertion. It is a fore that has long been eating into the vitals of our Constitution, and I hope the time willcome when you will probe it to the bottom; for if a Minister should ever gain a corrupt familiarity with our boroughs, if he mould keep a register of them in his closet, and by send-. ing down his treasury mandates, should procure a spurious representation of the People, the offspring of his corruption, who will be at all times ready to reconcile and justify the most contradictory measures of his Administration, and even to vote evory crude, indigested dream of their Patron into a law; if the maintenance of his power should become the sole object of their attention, and they should be guilty of the most violent breach of parliamentary trust, by giving the King a discretionary liberty of taxing the people without limitation or controul—the last fatal compliment they can pay to the Crown—if this should ever be the unhappy circumstances of this nation, the People, indeed, may complain; but the doors of that place where their complaints should be heard, will for ever be shut against them.
The power of the Crown is very justly apprehended to be growing.to a monstrous, I should have said, too great a size, and several methods have been unsuccessfully proposed for restraining it within its proper bounds.
But our discourse, I fear, is of a complicated nature, and I think that this motion is wisely intended to remove the first and principal disorder. Give the People their antient
? 4 r'S»5 right of frequent new elections; they will restore the decayed authority of Parliaments, and will put our constitution into a natural condition of working out her own cure.
Upon the whole, I am of opinion, that I cannot express a greater zeal for His Majesty, and for the liberties of the people, or the honor and dignity of this House, than by seconding the motion which the honorable gentleman has made you.
Sir John Saint Anhyn, March 13, 1784.
What may now be the way of thinking with some gen^ tlemen amongst us, about the liberties of their country, I Ihall not pretend to determine, Sir, but if people's way of thinking can be learned from their speeches and declarations, I am very certain, that their former way of thinking Was, that the liberties of this country would not be prefer-* ved, unless some proper methods should speedily be taken for preventing the effect of ministerial corruption, both in Parliament and at elections; and that the most proper and effectual method for this purpose, was to make elections as frequent as possible. This, lam sure, was formerly their way of thinking; I hope it is so still; but whether it is so or not, it is a right way of thinking; and therefore I shall conclude what I have now to say, with a motion for returning to our antient method, of having a new Parliament every year chosen. That this was our antient Constitution cannot be disputed, because it is so expressly declared by two acts of parliament in Edward 111.'s reign, that a Parliament shall be annually holden ; and every one knows that long prorogations or adjournments were not then introduced or known ; so that the meaning °f both these laws must be, that a Parliament should be every year chosen as well as had, which is the opinion of all those that have wrote upon the subject ; and if we consider the nature and business of this Asicmbly, it is certainly agreeable to reason it should be so.
The Members of this House, Sir, are the great and general inquisitors of the nation; we are to take notice of, and to take proper methods for redressing all the grievances that occur, whether they be such as relate to the kingdom in general, or such as relate to the particular counties, cities, or boroughs we represent. Now, as grievances are almost annually occurring, and as some grievances are the more difficult to be removed, the longer they continue; therefore it is necessary we should visit our Constituents, at least, once a year, to know their sentiments, and to examine, upon the spot, the grievances they complain of; but this is not to be expected, unless you make the elections annual; for we find by experience, that after gentlemen are once chosen for a long term of years, they fix their abode in this city, and 1 seldom re-visit their Constituents, till it becomes necesiary for them to go down to solicit their votes at a new election. Nay, since the establishment of septennial Parliaments, we have often had gentlemen in this House, who never saw the borough that sent them hither, nor knew any thing of its Constitution or interest, perhaps could not recollect its name, till they looked into the printed lists of Parliament, for their own name, and there found they represent such a borough.
Another part of our business, Sir, is to represent to our Sovereign the sentiments of our Constituents, with regard to the measures he is advised by his Ministers to pursue, as well as with regard to the persons he employs in the executive part of the government. If we ever think of doing this faithfully and sincerely, we must visit our Constituents at least once a year, because every year produces some new measure, and every year some new persons are introduced into public business. This, I fay, is anotherv part of our duty, and when it is faithfully or sincerely performed, it is of great advantage^ to the Prince upon the throne, because it prevents his being led on in a track of unpopular measures, till both he and his Ministers are overwhelmed in the torrent of popular resentment, which often happens in arbitrary countries, where the Prince is tumbled headlong from his throne, before he knows any thing of his having pursued unpopular or wrong measures; whereas, had he had timely information, he might have restored himself to the love and affection of his subjects, by making a just sacrifice of his wicked Counsellors to the resentment of his oppressed people. As the Prince can have no interest separate from his People, his interest if he rightly considers it, must lead him to gain the love and esteem of his People, and to avoid every thing that may give them discontent: It is, therefore, his interest to have always a House of Commons that knows, and will faithfully and speedily represent to him, the complaints and grievances of his People; but this is directly opposite to the interest of his Ministers. In all countries, and in this as much as any other, Ministers have an interest fepa rate from that of the People ; they are for enriching themselves, their families, tools, and sycophants, at the expence of the People; and it is their business to keep all the avenues to the Throne shut up against the complaints of the People, lest the Prince should, as every wife one will, sacrifice them to his own security. Ministers must, therefore, be for having always a House of Commons, that either does not know, or will not faithfully represent to their Sovereign the complaints and grievances of the People ; and as we are much more affected with what we fee than with what; we only hear of, it is the business of a Minister to prevent the Members of this House, if possible, from ever feeing their Constituents; because, the less we arc affected with, themors easily we may be prevailed on, to conceal from our Sovereign, or even to misrepresent to him, the complaints of th,e Pec-, pie.