Imagens da página

gared his Exchequer, tarnished the splendor of his Court, funk his dignity, galled his feelings, discomposed the whole order and happiness of his private life? * It will be very hard, I believe, to state in what respect the King has profited by that Facțion which presumptuously choose to call themselves his friends.

If particular men had grown into an attachñent, by the distinguished honour of the society of their Sovereign; and, by being the partakers of his amusements, came sometimes to prefer the gratification of his personal inclinations to the support of his high character, the thing would be very natural, and it would be excusable enough. But the pleasant part of the story is, that these King's friends have no more ground for usurping such a title, than a resident freeholder in Cumberland or in Cornwall. They are only known to their Sovereign by kissing his hand, for the offices, pensions, and grants, into which they have deceived his benignity. May ño storm ever come, which will put the firmness of their attachment to the proof; and which, in the midst of confusions, and terrors, and sufferîngs, may demonstrate the eternal difference between a true and severe friend to the Monarchy, and a slippery sycophant of the Court ! Quantum infido fcurræ diftabit amicus.

So far I have considered the effect of the Court system, chieily as it operates upon the executive Government, on the temper of the people, and on the happiness of the Sovereign. It remains,


that we mould consider, with a little attention, its operation upon Parliament.

Parliament was indeed the great object of all these politicks, the end at which they aimed, as well as the inftrument by which they were to operate. But, before Parliament could be made subfervient to a system, by which it was to be degraded from the dignity of a national council, into a mere member of the Court, it must be greatly changed from its original character.

In speaking of this body, I have my eye chiefly on the House of Commons. I hope I shall be indulged in a few observations on the nature and character of that affeinbly; not with regard to its legal form and power, but to its Spirit, and to the purposes it is meant to answer in the constitution.

The House of Commons was supposed originally to be no part of the standing Government of this country. It was considered as a controul, issuing immediately from the people, and speedily to be resolved into the mass from whence it arose. In this respect it was in the higher part of Government what juries are in the lower. The capacity of a magistrate being transitory, and that of a citizen permanent, the latter capacity it was hoped would of course preponderate in all discussions, not only between the people and the standing authority of the Crown, but between the people and the fleeting authority of the House of Co:nmons itself. It was hoped that, being of a middle nature between subject and Government, they would feel with a more tender and a nearer


[merged small][ocr errors]

THE PRESENT DISCONTENTS. 69 interest every thing that concerned the people, than the other remoter and more permanent parts of Legislature.

Whatever alterations time and the necessary accommodation of business may have introduced, this character can never be sustained, unless the House of Commons shall be made to bear some stamp of the actual disposition of the people at large. It would (among public misfortunes) be an evil more natural and tolerable, that the House of Commons should be infected with every epidemical phrensy of the people, as this would indicate some confanguinity, some fympathy of nature with their constituents, than that they should in all casės be wholly untouched by the opinions and feelings of the people out of doors. By this want of sympathy they would cease to be an House of Cóminons. For it is not the derivation of the power of that House from the people, which makes it in a distinct sense their representative. The King is the representative of the people; so are the Lords; fo are the Judges. They all are trustees for the people, as well as the Commons; because no power is given for the sole sake of the holder; and although Government certainly is an institution of Divine authority, yet its forms, and the persons who administer it, all originate from the people.

A popular origin cannot therefore be the characteristicaldistinction of a popular representative. This belongs equally to all parts of Governmenty and in all forms. The virtue, spirit, and essence of a House of Commons confifts in its being the

F 2


express image of the feelings of the nation. It was not instituted to be a controul upon the people, as of late it has been taught, by a doctrine of the most pernicious tendency. It was designed as a controul for the people. Other institutions have been formed for the purpose of checking popular excefses; and they are, I apprehend, fully adequate to their object. If not, they ought to be made so. The House of Commons, as it was never intended for the support of peace and subordination, is miserably appointed for that service; having no stronger weapon than its Mace, and no better officer than its Serjeant at Arms, which it can command of its own proper authority. A vigilant and jealous eye over executory and judicial magiftracy; an anxious care of public money, an openness, approaching towards facility, to public complaint: these feem to be the true characteristics of an House of Commons. But an addressing House of Commons, and a petitioning nation ; an House of Commons full of confidence, when the nation is plunged in despair ; in the utmost harmony with Ministers, whom the people regard with the utmost abhorrence; who vote thanks, when the public opinion calls upon them for impeachments; who are eager to grant, when the general voice demands account; who, in all disputes between the people and Administration, presume against the people; who punish their disorders, but refuse even to enquire into the provocations to them; this is an unnatural, a monstrous state of things in this constitution. Such an Assembly may be a



great, wise, aweful Senate; but it is not to any popular purpose an House of Commons. This change from an immediate state of procuration and delegation to a course of acting as from original power, is the way in which all the popular magistracies in the world have been perverted from their purposes. It is indeed their greatest and sometimes their incurable corruption. For there is a material distinction between that corruption by which particular points are carried against reason, this is a thing which cannot be prevented by human wisdom, and is of less consequence) and the corruption of the principle itself. For then the evil is not accidental, but lettled. The distemper becomes the natural habit.

For my part, I shall be compelled to conclude the principle of Parliament to be totally corrupted, and therefore its ends entirely defeated, when I see two fymptoms: first, a rule of indifcriminate support to all Ministers ; because this destroys the very end of Parliament as a controul, and is a general previous sanction to misgovernment: and secondly, the setting up any claims adverse to the right of free election ; for this tends to subvert the legal authority by which the House of Commons fits. : I know that, since the Revolution, along with many dangerous, many useful powers of Government have been weakened. It is absolutely necessary to have frequent recourse to the Legislature. Parliaments must therefore sit every year, and for great part of the year. The dreadful disorders of frequent elections have also





« AnteriorContinuar »