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when experience comes to the aid of theory and speculation* In all these, the voice of the People, when deliberately and general! y collected, is invariably sure to succeed. There are moments of periodical impulse and delusion, in which they should not be gratified; but when the views of a people have been formed and determined on the attainment of any object, they must ultimately succeed. On this subject the People of this country have petitioned from time to time, and their applications have been made to their Parliament. For every reason therefore they mould be gratified, lest they may be inclined to sue fcr redress in another quarter, where their application will have every probability of success, from the experience of last year. Failing in their representatives, they may have recourse to the prerogative. It has been urged, that now, while this business is in agitation, the people of Birmingham and Manchester have not petitioned to be represented. This is an argument which at this time, of all others, can have but little weight; for while they are alarmed for their trade and their subsistence, it is no time for them to set about making- improvements in that Constitution, in which they are not certam how long they may have any share. On the eve of emigration, they are to look for this in another country, to which their property and business are soon to be transferred. The different ^parts of this plan would certainly, in a Committee, be submitted to modification and amendment; but as it now stands, admitting only the first principle, every other part, and the means taken to attain the principle, are highly objectionable. I shall not hesitate to declare, that I will never agree to admit the purchasing from a majority of the electors the property of the whole. In this I fee so much injustice, and so much repugnance to the true spirit of our Constitution, that I cannot entertain the idea one moment. On the other hand, when the property of a borough is in one man, there is no chance of his disposing of it on.the terms this day mentioned; for when a particular sum k laid down for a certain purchase, and interest 3 - suffered
suffered to accumulate on that sum, the man must be a fool who could be in haste to get the possession of it. There ii something injurious in holding out pecuniary temptations to an Englishman to relinquish his franchise on the one hand, and a political principle which equally forbids it on another. I am uniformly of an opinion, which, though not a popular one, I am ready to aver, that the right of governing is not property, but a trust; and that whatever is given for constitutional purposes, should be resumed when those purposes shall no longer be carried into effect. There are instances of gentlemen offering to sacrifice the interest they may have in boroughs, to the public good. It is strange that none of them now come forward, when the occasion has presented itself. I am averse to the idea of confining parliamentary situations to men of large fortunes, or those who have distinguished themselves in, public professions. Should this be the cafe, there is scarcely any man so little acquainted with the history of Parliament, as not to know that the House would lose half its force. It is not from men of large and easy fortunes that attention, vigilance, energy, and enterprize, are to be expected. Human nature is too fond of gratification not to be somewhat attentive to it, when the means are at hand; and the best and most meritorious public services have always been performed by persons in circumstances removed from opulence. The right honourable gentleman need not be asl)amed to take some of those regulations formed in the time of the Protector Oliver Cromwell; for though a character too odious ever to be the object of praise or imitation, his institutions, confirmed afterwards by his successor Charles II., bear strong marks of genius and ability; for his political disposition was as good as that of his successor, and his genius infinitely more powerful. I shall conclude with earnestly entreating all sides of the House to concur in the question now before them. I am sorry the honourable gentleman who spoke last (Mr. Powys) did not, in all the wajmth he professed on the occasion, take the most conciliatory
mode mode of acquiring strength to it. Instead of reproaching the noble Lord (North) for confining himself to old arguments and observations, he should rather tremble for the success with which these old observations has been applied by his noble friend, and the contrary fate which has before attended the novel and more variable stile of the Minister.
Mr. Fox, April 18, 1785.
Had I been in a situation to attract the Speaker's notice in an earlier stage of the debate, I should probably have in some degree expatiated on the very wide field which the right honourable gentleman has opened to the House: much of my work has now been done, and much that I should have urged has been anticipated; and much I shall pass over, from a fense how greatly the patience of the House has already been wearied, and how particularly I am indebted to their present attention. Tacitus, that learned and penetrating historian, could not presume the duration of a Commonwealth, consisting of mixed states; he knew that the momentum of the democracy, whether acting by the body of the People, or by a representation unqualified and adapted purely to popular ideas, must quickly bear down one or both of the other branches of government; and had it been moreover told him, that in this pure and direct representation of the numbers of the people were to originate the resources of war and peace, the primum mobile of public revenue, the doubts of Tacitus would not have been hypothetical: such a state he could not have-pre-conceived to exist a moment. This is not a time of night to trace those errors back to their source; and in a history from the Courts de More, through the progression of parliamentary growth, to mark the grounds of mistake; I shall therefore join issue with the right honourable mover, on the actual and existing state of Parliament. The errors of the right honourable gentleman, were derived from a similar source with the difficulties of Tacitus. The representation of the people is his favourite ex, prefsion j prestion; but if he means a representation of poll or numbers, and so every point of his reform implies, we are not the representation of the People, but of the People's interests. The consistency of this House is qualified by the equipoise of the landed, the commercial, and the popular interest. This proportion of balance can be shifted, but with danger to the Constitution of the country; adding to one of these principles may in the end be subversive of the very existence of this House, which, loaded with a new and false bias, may be thereby directed to some gulph of ruin, now unforeseen. Much has been said of the cohesion of parties; much on the other side of individual independency, and of mouldering away every connection of men in this House. In the present state of public manners, it is not to be apprehended, that to buy or to retain would lapse into disusage, or that a Minister may not engage a consistency of support to his measures. The right honourable gentleman may anticipate, perhaps, the application of the famous sentence in Montesquieu,—but is there no other corruption but venality? I fear a worse, and of more fatal tendency, than the holding out merely places of public trust to men of ability and adventurers in policy, were these county members to be added. In one light, they must be men who come into this House on the great landed interest of a county; and in a county, perhaps, there is as much undue influence as at an elec-tion for any borough. When seated here, some future Minister may find it necessary to attach an authority to his support, become thus numerous'and weighty; the Coronet is his only bribe, his only attraction to men of this description; and an attraction, as experience has proved, not often relisted. Thus, perhaps, in a short succession of Ministers, much more of the great landed interest would pass into the House of Lords, there ever accumulating, and rarely or never returning. The consequence is obvious; the great landed interest the people would ever look up to in their counties, mid in the national councils; $0 them would their confidence be directed, to them their petiy°J- II.. S Jtioijs
tions addrested; and, under all these circumstances, it is idle to fay, that the revenue and money bills would not then originate there; whilst this House, fallen into disrepute, and even to derision, may sit idly disputing about unimportant matters, or matters they have scarcely weight to interfere in, and idly at« tended by forty members, instead of the very numerous assembly that dignifies the present question. On the call of additional county members, other, and dangerous circumstances, may arise, from causes widely different, and of different tendency. I allude to the adventurous candidates, who oppose the aristocracy of a county, and who, to secure an election, may feed the prejudices of the commonalty, may sign tests, and pledging themselves to every self-injurious prepossession, may find their way into this House under engagements, and with abilities too, backed by the popular clamour, to urge new claims, new reforms, fresh innovations. The right honourable gentleman has adduced, as favourable tahis reform, that its principle is completed in his plan, and is thus final. The right honourable gentleman may answer for himself; but who can say, that a new man will not propose a new mode; and having cut down the prescriptive barrier of the constitution of this House, will he not leave a breach open for every forlorn hope, qui crumenam perdidit, to enter and ride at pleasure? and the more is this to be feared, as prejudices of the people may join too under the precedent, to aid those who by such ruinous means would seek to push him from his stool; for it cannot be said that the present plan comes up to the present declarations of the reformers. The Chancellor of the Exchequer has said, that Jeaving the Constitution in -its present state, is tending to weaken, the love of the people to their country; a more proper application may be made of those words; to innovate, is tending to weaken the love of the people to their country; it is tending to weaken that confidence in this House; in a word, that attachment to the old British Constitution, which arose from a prescriptive veneration, and which cannot