Imagens da página
PDF
ePub

liaments and frequent general elections ; but it is apparently the interest of Ministers, especially wicked Ministers, to have Parliaments as long, and general elections as seldom, as possible ; therefore I hope it will be granted, that annual Parliaments are more agreeable to the reason of things, and the nature of our Conftitution, than Parliaments of any longer duration ; and of this we must be convinced even to demonftration, if we will but consider, that we are, properly speaking, the Attornies of the People. Is it prudent, is it reasonable, that any man should give a power of attorney irrevocable for a long term of years ? Shall a whole people do what would be the height of foolishness in every individual ? The People, or at least such of them as have any knowledge of public affairs, and by such the rest are general, ly governed ; I say, the People may guess at what sort of bu. finess is to come before the next ensuing session of Pațliament, and they may choose an attorney, who, they think, has capacity and integrity enough for transacting that sort of business for them ; but they cannot so much as guess at what may come before Parliament in a course of seven years, nor can they depend upon the continuance of any man's integrity for such a number of years. It is therefore most unnatu, ral and unreasonable to force the People to give an irrevoca, ble power of attorney for such a long term. The practice was first introduced under the reign of Richard II. and was approved of by a Parliament that in every instance betrayed the liberties of the People they represented, and sacrificed the interest of their country to the violent passions of their Sovereign and the insatiable avarice of his Ministers.

They concealed from him, or misrepresented the discon. tents and murmurings of his People ; and thereby led him into a deceitful security, which foon ended in his ruin, and the advancement of the Duke of Hereford, or rather Lancaster, to the Throne, without any other title than that of hav, ing rescued the People from llavery,

This,

· This, Sir, was the fate of the Prince who first introduced long Parliaments; and therefore from experience, as well as reafon, we may be convinced that short Parliaments, and frequent general elections, are most for the interest of the King ; but unluckily the interest of Ministers lies, as I have said, upon the other fide of the question, not only for the fake of preventing the Members of this House from being affected with the cries and groans of the People, but for another reason, which is still more effectual for their wicked purposes ; I mean, that of corruption. From the very principle adopted by all wicked Ministers, that every man has his price, it is evident to a demonstration, that a ministerial corruption may be more successful at elections when they are but rarely to happen, than when they occur an. -nually; and that a Minister may more probably obtain a corrupt majority in a long Parliament than a short one. To draw the comparison between annual and feptennial Parliaments, and first with regard to elections, in every county, in every little borough of the kingdom, it must be granted that there are some gentlemen who have a natural interest; they are acquainted with and efteemed by the leading men in the county or borough ; and many of the lower class, perhaps, support their families by the employment they have from such gentlemen and their friends. If cle&tions were allowed to go in their natural course, such men only would be chosen who had the greatest natural interest; but against such an one a Court candidate, with the Treasury at his back, comes to set up, and to set up zipon the ministerial principle, that every man has his price; which, for argument's sake, I shall allow to be a true one, and I am sorry it has of late years been so much confirmed by experience. Suppose then, that every one of the electors in this county or borough has his price, or that a man in tolerable circumstances will facrifice his country, his friends, and his cliaracter, or a tradesinan his employment, for what

appears appears to him to be a trifle; we must therefore suppose, that a man whose price is seven guineas, will not sell his vote for one ; nor will a man, whose price is seven hundred, sell his vote for one hundred. Now, suppose the Treasury 'could secure a majority in this borough for seven guineas a man, this they may spare to give for a seven-years Parliament, but cannot spare to give so much every year: therefore, in annual Parliaments, this borough will return to, and be governed in its election, by what we call the natural interest; whereas in septennial Parliaments it will always be governed by corruption.

I know it may be said, Sir, that a man who sells his vote for seven guineas to a feptennial-parliament candidate, will sell it for one to an annual-parliament candidate ; because he knows he may sell it for the same price yearly, and an annu. ity of one guinea yearly, is better than seven guineas every Seven years ; but this, I am convinced, will, by experience, be found to be false. It is the largeness of the sum that dazzles both the avaricious and luxurious, who feldom think of futurity ; if they did, they would never fell their vote at any price ; because they know that those who purchase must fell, and that by selling their votes at any price they render not only their liberties but their properties precarious. Besides, no man can be assured of having an opportunity to sell his vote the next ensuing year, and much less can he be fure of selling it yearly for seven years to come; he may die before the next election; the Administration may be changed, and a new one set up, that does not stand in need of corruption : a fpirit may arise in his borough that may render it impossible for any man to hope for success by corruption ; and without hopes of success no man will be at the expence of corrupting : Many other accidents may happen for disappointing him of ever having an opportunity to sell his vote at an election ; and if so, for the sake of one guinea, or fonie such paltry fum, he stands branded as long

as

as he lives, with the character of a venal betrayer of his country. I therefore think we may with great certainty conclude, that though a man may be tempted to sell his vote

for seven guineas to a septennial-parliament candidate, he · will disdain to sell his vote for one guinea to an annual-par

liament candidate; and consequently that it is much easier for a Minister to get the command of a majority of our elections, when they occur but once in seven years, than it would be, if they were made to recur annually.

Now, Sir, with regard to Parliaments, by the same way of arguing we must be convinced, that it is easier for a Minister to gain a corrupt majority in a septennial than an annual Parliament. Here again it must be allowed, that different men have different prices, and that a man who will fell his vote in Parliament for 7000l. or even for 3500l. would disdain to sell his vote for 1000l. Suppose then a Minister should not trouble his head with elections, but trust, as a late Minister (Sir Robert Walpole) wantonly said, to the buying the Members after they were brought up to market, and that by this means a majority had been chosc upon the country interest: in these circumstances, the Minister must presently apply himself towards buying off such a number of that majority as may be necessary to throw the majority upon his side of the question; and is it not evident, that in this attempt he may more probably succeed in a septennial than an annual Parliament? In the former, if he offers a pension of 500l. or 1000l. a year, as long as the gentleman continues a Member, it is immediately considered as a sumn of 7000l. or 3500l. to be paid in seven years; but in the latter, it can be considered only as a single thousand, or a single five hundred, because the gentleman who accepted of it, and upon that aca count deserted the interest on which he was chosen, would certainly be thrown out upon the next general election.

Sir, if our feptennial Parliaments be longer continued, I shall not wonder to see the Minister's letters of recommen

dation, dation, with respect to the choice of any candidate, as im. plicitly obeyed in all our counties, cities, and boroughs, as the King's Conge d'Elire is now in the cloysters of our epifcopal cathedrals ; and if this should ever come to be our case, I shall look with indignation upon every man who pretends to be a free Briton. The very pretence would be an insult upon the understanding of him it was addressed to. We Thould be all Naves : God knows to whom; but I hope it never will be to any Minister from Hanover. I say, I hope, it never will be to any Minister from Hanover ; though it is hard to tell what a corrupt Parliament may not do, what a corrupt nation may not do, or submit to. But happen what will, I am resolved, while I live, to endeavour to prevent such a dismal catastrophe; and therefore I shall conclude with moving for leave to bring in a bill to enforce the calling of a new Parliament every year, after the expiration of this present Parliament.

Thomas Carew, Esq; Jan. 29, 1744.

The House of Commons is a branch of the Constitutution, that has been established by our own Saxon ancestors, at which time they were only annual. They were set aside for one hundred and forty years by the Normans. On their revival they continued of short duration, being mostly annual, till the reign of Henry the VIIIth, wliere tyranny was never complete until established by that long Parliament. The next long Parliament was that commonly so called in 1641, who, by establishing their form of fitting, brought the greatest destruction on the Conftitution. The pensionary Parliament in the reign of Charles the IId was also productive of bad consequences to the Constitution ; to remedy which the Triennial Bill was passed, restraining them from sitting more than three years duration. This was overturned by that breach of the Constitution in George the First's reign, the voting themselves feptennial,

and

[merged small][ocr errors][ocr errors][merged small][ocr errors]
« AnteriorContinuar »