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shall be a constant, active principle, that shall maintain tlifi Constitution the same at all periods; and I will boldly appeal to the House, whether those who argue for names and shadows, or for the substance and vital principles of the Constitution, argue most in favour of the Constitution? I beg the patience of the House to hear me state a principle limited and final, complete and adapted to all times; a principle that will serve as a barrier against any indefinite and arbitrary alteration of the Constitution. Adapting the state of representation to the circumstances of the country, I contend, is not contrary to the principles of the Constitution; my intention therefore is, so to model the representation of the People in future. The particular statute that disables the King from altering the existing mode of representation, I state to be the Act of Union, which fixes the respective number of representatives between the different parts of the country, and so they have remained ever since the statute pasted, although the circumstances of the times are extremely varied. To give a full security to all the interest of the country, is the first principle of that part of the Constitution, and it is wisely adapted to the purpose; but there are nevertheless feeds of future abuse in the Constitution as it stands, without the possibility of a future remedy; but though this is undeniable, still the enemies of reform will not listen to any positions to apply a remedy. Let us not, fay they, endeavour to improve nor to endanger the Constitution; neither let us try to make it better, for fear we should make it worse: generally viewed, it might be a wise consideration, but if deeper examined, it will be found to be far otherwise: if we can separate the defects of the Constitution from its perfections, so as to take away the former without injury to the latter, it is undoubtedly our duty to do it; for however wife our ancestors have been, they have still left much for the virtue of their descendant-s. Let us endeavour to give solidity, consistency, and uniformity to the Constitution. Its merit has not shor.e forth at once, but has been the result of gradual im• - . provements.
pTOvements. The sterling excellence of it has survived the corruption of the most corrupt times, and kept, alive the true flame of liberty in the country. In consequence of the alterations that have been at different times made in the Constitution, these essential advantages have been obtained, viz. that Parliament shall be assembled as often as the exigencies of the country shall require, and that Parliament shall meet every year, to hear and redress the grievances of the People, before they vote supplies. To obtain these, there have been long struggles, and many difficulties. The goed fense and the reason of the subject had been early apparent. Let us look to James I., a prince who mounted the throne with high ideas of prerogative, and who was not to be suspected osbeing too partial to the liberties of the subject. Yet even to that Prince did the danger of summoning a Parliament, at the discretion of the Crown, appear to be so unfit to continue, that measures were taken respecting it, though they were not afterwards car ried fully into effect. Again, in the time of the Protectorate, Lord Clarendon, the great historian of those days, stated, that the number of Knights was proposed to be made greater, and number of burgesses smaller. In the reign of Charles the First, the principles of Freedom gave rife to the Opposition against that Monarch; the Opposition degenerated first into licentiousness, and next into tyranny; a natural consequence. I do not quote from those reigns as reigns affording any authority or precedent, but as an illustration of my principle of correcting the Constitution, and with a view to shew that the seeds of some of the most essential benefits and advantages this country enjoys, have been sown in the worst of times. The defects of our Constitution have existed from its infancy; I wish therefore to provide against a return of the mischiefs those defects have produced, and gradually to bring together all the perfection the cafe is capable of.
I shall now state the outline of my plan, which consists of two parts; the first, the most pre.Tit g and most immediate;
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the second, without the introduction of any new principle, to rectify it hereafter. The House I mean to propose shall consist, as it does now, of 558 members, but to have a larger number of representatives for the more populous and opulent districts, as a general principle. The first feature of the bill is to provide for a transfer of about seventy, or seventy-two representatives from boroughs, which either have fallen to decay, or are likely to do so; and the criterion to decide by to be the number of houses, which will be extremely easy; this addition to be distributed among the different counties and the metropolis, as they may stand in need of them; the number to be limited by the nature of the thing, and not ascertained by any arbitrary line. If too many were added to counties, they would be liable to two objections, which are these: 1. It might be objected, that too many would be chosen for each; or 2. That if counties were subdivided, there would be too few electors to chuse the members. The thirty-six boroughs are to be disfranchised on their own voluntary spplication to be disfrancised, two ways, either as an act of power, or to make it their own act, by some compensation offered to them.
I shall now open the second head of the first part of my plan, by stating, that the only method of carrying this into execution is, by providing a fund for the purpose of giving to the owners and holders of such boroughs as shall apply to be disfranchised, a compensation for their property. Even considering the burdens that the People always labour under, I declare I shall not think it difficult to find a fund for this purpose, as the situation of the country is less gloomy than many men imagine. I mean not to have the boroughs estimated, but appreciated; for as it is well known the holders of them have found a way to convert them into a source of profit, as .well as the other parts of their estate, rtnay venture, without any affectation of extraordinary delicacy, to speak out at once upon the subject. This being a fact, and the ^presentations
of the boroughs in question not being exercised as a trust, they certainly ought not to be suffered to remain in the hands of their present owners any longer. I state farther, that the compensation is to be taken without discontent or dissatisfaction, by acquiescence and consent, and not by force and compulsion. Such is the mode by which I hope to attain my object. I speak of the laws that tend to correct the criminal laws against bribery and corruption. The boroughs might be transferred, in £act, as any other estate, without bribery or immorality; declaring I am ready to throw a veil over the fact, if I could be free from the inconvenience. I speak of the different burgage tenures, on a less scale, possessed between an individual and a species of electors an fliares; and there is a reasonable probability that there might he a compensation that it would fcehove the country to offer, which might be accepted; but the rule should be general, and the same condition given to one sort as another; all the inconsiderable boroughs to be put on a footing. The manner of carrying this plan into execution I state as follows: If a majority of electors ihould offer to relinquish, the natural question that would arise would be, who are the electors? Let that question be referred to the Committee sworn under Mr. Grenville's bill to try the question of right to a feat. I contend that there ought to be no discretion in the sum to be offered 1 but then it ought not to be exactly equal to -each borough-holder, because there are different classes of borough-holders; some hold in perpetuity, others have only a life interest in a borough, and others again are in expectancy of a reversion. The number of boroughs that would be to purchase are thirty-six; I mean therefore to set apart the money for each, to let it accumulate at compound interest. Thus, if the sum set apart is not a sufficient compensation, it will become one by laying by, as it will increase till it .becomes irrejijliblc. *
This is the first part of my plan, by which much is gained by the Constitution of the country.. Another .pact I will
R 4 state, state, to shew the extent of the scheme, and to prove it to be as comprehensive and as complete as possible. When all that ought to be added to counties are added, the number must either be added to the number of the whole House, or transferred from those boroughs which are still small and inconsiderable, within a certain size, to cities and great towns, which from time to time shall best deserve them. As the sources of representation are, first, to give to counties which have not their share; secondly, to allot to the towns and cities which shall be considerable enough, and desirous of receiving more, or who from their population shall be best entitled to it; and this rule to remain to operate, in perpetuo, as boroughs fall into decay. This shews at once the extent of the system; and will, I flatter myself, remove the alarms that prevail upon the subject, by establishing a consistent and complete system, and a final one, as far as the principle goes. There is an end therefore to the objection, that this will lead to danger, and to perpetual alteration: on the contrary, it will lay that important question at rest; a point so desirable, that I hope it will induce the House to go the length, at least, of considering the bill I shall have the honour to bring in, in case I shall have the good fortune to be permitted to bring one in: and I trust the House will consider it with partiality, as a matter which the People of England have called for at different periods, sometimes more and sometimes less.
Having thus gone through the two parts of my plan, I shall proceed to answer the probable objections that will be made against my propositions; and first, I mention the expence it will load the public with. If the measure is a good one, and it is agreed to be an important one, the money, in my mind, that it would cost, would be well applied. It would give security to the Constitution, to the liberties of the country, the dearest rights of the People at large, and to their freedom, which is truly invaluable. Let us be œconomical, and we cannot be too much so, in some other instance, but in carrying the proposi-- . tions