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necefsitated a septennial instead of a triennial duration. These circumstances, I mean the constant habit of authority, and the unfrequency of elections, have tended very much to draw the House of Commons towards the character of a standing Senate. It is a disorder which has arisen from the cure of greater disorders; it has arisen from the extreme difficulty of reconciling liberty under a monarchical Government, with external strength and with internal tranquil
• It is very clear that we cannot free ourselves entirely from this great inconvenience; but I would not increase an evil, because I was not able to remove it; and because it was not in my power to keep the House of Commons religiously true to its first principles, I would not argue for carrying it to a total oblivion of them. This has been the great scheme of power in our time. They who will not conform their conduct to the public good, and cannot support it by the prerogative of the Crown, have adopted a new plan. They have totally abandoned the shattered and old-fashioned fortress of prerogative, and made a lodgement in the strong-hold of Parliament itself. If they have any evil design to which there is no ordinary legal power commensurate, they bring it into Parliament. In
Parliament the whole is executed from the be«ginning to the end. In Parliament the power of obtaining their object is absolute; and the safety in the proceeding perfect; no rules to confine, no after reckonings to terrify. Parliament cannot with any great propriety punish others, for things in which they themselves have been accomplices. Thus the controul of Parliament upon the executory power is loft; because Parliament is made to partake in every considerable act of Government. Impeachment, that great guardian of the purity of the Constitution, is in danger of being loft, even to the idea of it,
By this plan several important ends are answered to the Cabal. If the authority of Parliament supports itself, the credit of every act of Govern ment which they contrive, is saved; but if the act be so very odious that the whole strength of Parliament is insufficient to recommend it, then Parliament is itself discredited; and this discredit increases more and more that indifference to the constitution, which it is the constant aim of its enemies, by their abuse of Parliamentary powers, to render general among the people. Whenever Parliament is persuaded to assume the offices of executive Government, it will lose all the confidence, love, and veneration, which it has ever enjoyed whilft it was supposed the corrective and controul of the acting powers of the State. This would be the event, though its conduct in such a perversion of its functions should be tolerably just and moderate; but if it should be iniquitous, violent, full of passion, and full of faction, it would be considered as the most intolerable of all the modes of tyranny.
For a considerable time this separation of the representatives from their constituents went on with a silent progress; and had those, who con
ducted the plan for their total separation, been persons of temper and abilities any way equal to the magnitude of their design, the success would have been infallible : but by their precipitancy they have laid it open in all its nakedness; the nation is alarmed at it: and the event may not be pleasant to the contrivers of the scheme. In the last session, the corps called the King's friends made an hardy attempt all at once, to alter the right of election it felf; to put it into the power of the House of Commons to disable any person disagreeable to them from sitting in Parliament, without any other rule than their own pleasure ; to make incapacities, either general for descriptions of men, or particular for individuals; and to take into their body, persons who avowedly had never been chosen by the majority of legal electors, nor agreeably to any known rule of law. * The arguments upon which this claim was founded and combated, are not my business here. Never has a subject been more amply and more learnedly handled, nor upon one side in my opinion more satisfactorily'; they who are not convinced by what is already written would not receive conviction though one arose from the dead.
I too have thought on this subject : but my purpose here, is only to consider it as a part of the favourite project of Government; to observe on the motives which led to it; and to trace its political consequences.
A violent rage for the punishment of Mr. Wilkes was the pretence of the whole. This gentleman, by setting himself strongly in oppo
fition to the Court Cabal, had become at once an object of their persecution, and of the popular favour. The hatred of the Court Party pursuing, and the countenance of the people protecting him, it very soon became not at all a question on the man, but a trial of strength between the two parties. The advantage of the victory in this particular contest was the present, but not the only, nor by any means the principal, object. Its operation upon the character of the House of Commons was the great point in view. The point to be gained by the Cabal was this ; that a precedent should be established, tending to thew, That the favour of the People was not so sure a road as the favour of the Court even to popular honours and popular trufts. A strenuous resistance to every appearance of lawless power ; a spirit of independence carried to fome degree of enthu. siasm; an inquisitive character to discover, and a bold one to display, every corruption and every error of Government; these are the qualities which recommend a man to a seat in the House of Commons, in open and merely popular elections. ' An indolent and submissive disposition ; à disposition to think charitably of all the actions of men in power, and to live in a mutual intercourse of favours with them; an inclination rather to countenance a strong use of authority, than to bear any sort of licentiousness on the part of the people; these are unfavourable qualities in an open election for Members of Parliament..
The instinct which carries the people towards the choice of the former, is justified by reason ;
because because a man of such a character, even in its exorbitancies, does not directly contradict the purposes of a trust, the end of which is a controul on power. The latter character, even when it is not in its extreme, will execute this trust but very imperfectly; and, if deviating to the least excess, will certainly frustrate instead of forwarding the purposes of a controul on Government. But when the House of Commons was to be new modelled, this principle was not only to be changed but reversed. "Whilft any errours committed in support of power were left to the law, with every advantage of favourable construction, of mitigation, and finally of pardon; all excesses on the fide of liberty, or in pursuit of popular favour, or in defence of popular rights and privileges, were not only to be punished by the rigour of the known law, but by a discretionary proceeding which brought on the loss of the popular obje&t itself. Popularity was to be rendered, if not directly penal, at least highly dangerous, The favour of the people might lead even to a disqualification of representing them. Their odium might become, strained through the medium of two or three constructions, the means of fitting as the trustee of all that was dear to them. This is punishing the offence in the offending part. Until this time, the opinion of the people, through the power of an Assembly, still in some fort popular, led to the greatest honours and emoluments in the gift of the Crown. Now the principle is reversed; and the favour of the Court is the only sure way of obtaining and