« AnteriorContinuar »
and passing the feptennial bill. Though, perhaps, the para ticular necessities of the times might render such an act at that day necessary (a rebellion just crushed, and a Pretender to the throne, making it highly improper to call the people together at that time) yet that necessity is now at an end, none of those dangers now hanging over us.
The length of Parliaments gave up that power which the conftituents ought to have over their representatives, that of frequent examination into their conduct, and rejection of them if they thought them unworthy.
That long Parliaments gave an opportunity for such an intimacy between the Ministers and the Members, as was always dangerous and destructive to the Constitution, is as undeniable, as that the shortening the duration of Parliaments is subject to fewer objections, especially if rendered annual, than triennial.
Mr. Sawbridge, April 26, 1771.
Frequent Parliaments, Sir, are the antient constitution of England, and the right of the people to them from the nature of all delegated power. If a representative acts contrary to the duty of the trust reposed in him at the very first session of a Parliament, is it fit that his constituents should be compelled to wait till the end of a tedious period of seven years, before they are to have an opportunity of depriving him of a power he has already abused ? I think the cafe I have mentioned, Sir, exactly exists as to this very Parliament. Gentlemen have talked of the late Parliament in terms of reproach and indignation which fo profligate an assembly merited. But I fear, Sir, the present Parliament are treading in the same steps which led their predeceffors to the utter hatred of the nation. The people out doors, especially in the capital, make no scruple to affirm, that the majority of this House have, even thus early, in one great instance, acted contrary to the plain duty which
they they owe to their country, and to the sacred trust reposed in them. I allude, Sir, to the contempt shewn of the petition of so respectable à body as the merchants trading to North America; and this they have done in defiance of all the great principles of the Constitution. I ain forry to observe, that the fear is become very general; that from this very early abuse of their trust, the delegated powers the same men have so lately received, for the security and preservation of our rights, will be employed in a course of the next seven years for our destruction, and that of our fellow subjects in America, and the ruin of our common liberty, notwithstanding the present excellent motion of the honourable gentleman (Mr. Sawbridge) for shortening the duration of Parliaments. A new argument, Sir, in favour of the motion in your hand, seems at this time to arise from the nature of many of the petitions for undue elections, which have been presented to us this session. They
complain chiefly of bribery and corruption. Short Parliaiments, Sir, if they did not totally eradicate this most pernicious practice, would certainly greatly diminish the evil ; nor at the return of frequent appeals to the People would the public money, in a Minister's hands, be always adequate to counteract the wishes of the nation; nor the foodgates of the Treasury, being opened in such a case, afford torrents copious enough to carry away all sense of duty to the Constitution, 'or love of the country. .
I will only trouble you, Sir, with one more short observation I look upon this motion as a kind of test which must come home to our consciences. It cannot fail of meeting, in this House, the support of the true friends of the Constitution, of all who mean to act honestly, as well as the opposition of the venal and interested, of those who have already forgotten their duty to their constituents, and of those who think lightly of all such ties and obligations. Those who have merited well of their constituents will always rejoice at the opportunity of applying for the most frequent proofs of regard and trust, will VOL. II.
desire and solicit this appeal; who have acted contrary to the clear dictates of their duty, will dread every such occafion, and tremble at the very idea of the spirited indignation with which they would be rejected.
Mr. Wilkcs, Feb. 1, 1775.
With all respect and deference to this honourable House, I assert, that it is an observation of a wiser man than any within these walls,-) except not the right honourable personage who again so ably, so worthily, so impartially, and foʻunanimously fills the chair,--that to every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under Heaven.
Perhaps it may not be amiss that I should inform fome noble Lords and gentlemen in this august assembly, that the words are the words of Solomon, and that they are taken from an obfolete book, commonly called the Bible.
It is, however, much to be feared, that the honourable gentleman (Mr. Sawbridge) who made the motion, notwithstanding all he has been saying, has not paid due regard to those words of the wisest of men, else he would not have chosen the present time to manifest his zeal for our reformation; a time when so much public national business calls for our immediate attention. But the ruling passion will ever be uppermost; and when a man is tired of every thing else, he can mount his own hobby-horfe with alacrity.
Sir, I am a cordial friend to a Parliamentary Reform ; I mean so far as relates to a more equal representation; I have voted for it; I have spoken according to my poor abilities in favour of it; and I hope to give it my support again, whenever I see it brought forward at a proper time, and in a proper man, ner. But I folemnly declare, that I think the honourable gentleman's injudicious and ill-timed ardour will greatly hurt the cause he means to defend; insoinuch, that if the House comes to a division to-night, I doubt whether the honourable gentleman's hobby will carry double: and whenever I act the part of a
Don Quixote, I should be sadly disappointed indeed, if I could not get one poor Sancho Pancha to mount behind me on my Rosinante.
Sir, I have been considering what could be the honourable gentleman's reasons for bringing on his motion at this time, .and the three following have been suggested to me:
1. The honourable gentleman might think it would give him a little more importance.
And indeed, when I reflect on the importance of the thing itself, and the many difficulties attending the execution of it, the honourable gentleman cannot think I depreciate him, when I affirm, that all the weight and consequence, all the judgement and abilities of this House collectively, are not more than equal to an undertaking of such prodigious magnitude,
2. The honourable gentlemen might imagine it would raise his own popularity, and be the means of wiping away from the minds of his constituents what they might perhaps think some little faux pas in his late conduct.
But I am far from thinking he will be able to gain their favour by this device, or at all raise his popularity among a respectable body of sensible, judicious, opulent citizens, from whom I am sure the honourable gentleman has received no instructions to begin his parliamentary career with an attempt to ftop parliamentary business.
3. The honourable gentleman might think, (I don't say he does so think, but there are abundance of cogitations in the human mind,) that if his own popularity would be increased by bringing on the motion, that of the Minister would be leffened by rejecting or postponing it; notwithstanding the 'honourable gentleman's great politeness and profound humility in offering him the preference in the business. But I must say, that the conduct of the Minister has been so uniformly confiftent in favour of a Parliamentary Reform, that all attempts to injure him on that score must appear poor and futile indeed. And I am persuaded, that if he were now to begin on a busi
nefs ness fo arduous in itself, and which must neceffarily be attended with so many obstructions, that instead of making himself more popular, he would justly rouze the popular indignation against him.
Would it not be said on all sides, what is to become of loan and taxes? What of public credit? What of commerce? And, after all, what is to become of India ?
Instead of disputing by whom parliamentary business ought to be done, why don't we proceed to the immediate doing of parliamentary business? · Such, Sir, would be the language both within and without doors, were the Minister, at this busy crisis, to bring on any projects for a reform of Parliament. And I am sure the honourable gentleman himself is of opinion there are many things which inay be very fit and proper to be done at one time, which at another he would think extremely inexpedient and mal-a-propros.
To particularise only in an instance in familiar life. I have heard that the honourable gentleman is remarkably fond of whist, and that he is so excellent a player, that he can correct even Hoyle himself: yet, if a few friends were to come to the honourable gentleman's house in the middle of the night, knock up all his family, awaken him out of a sound sleep, and infist upon his immediately getting up and playing a rubber at his favourite game, might he not well answer: “My friends, “ what are you about ? Are you out of your senses ? · Whilft « I love, and will play as many rubbers as you please to-mor“ row evening; but sleep is now the thing that I want, and “ that my constitution wants also.”
Besides, the honourable gentleman might perhaps add, 66 You have disturbed me in a moft pleasing dream, wherein " methought I was in the House of Commons, and mcthought “ we were dividing on my motion for a Parliamentary Re“ form, and methought I had a inajority of more than 200.".