Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

voting, which certainly they were not empowered to do by the electors their constituents, the majority of whom were probably people of little property. The act was, therefore, not only unjust, but void. These lower people were, immediately afterwards, oppressed by another act, empowering the justices to fix the hire of day-laborers and their hours of work, and to send them to the house of correction if they refused to work for such hire; which was deposing them from their condition of freemen, and making them literally slaves.

But this was taking from many freemen a common right, and confirming it to a few. To give it back again to the many is a different operation. Of this the few have no just cause to complain, because they still retain the common right they always had, and they lose only the exclusive additional power which they ought never to have had. And if they used it, when they had it, as a means of obtaining money, they should in justice, were it practicable, be obliged to refund and distribute such money among those who had been so unjustly deprived of their right of voting, or forfeit it to the public.

Corporations, therefore, or boroughs, who, from being originally called to send deputies to Parliament, when it was considered merely as a duty, and not as a particular privilege, and therefore was never purchased by any equivalent service to the public, continue to send, now that by a change of times it affords them profit in bribes, or emoluments of various kinds, have in reality no right to such advantages; which are besides in effect prejudicial to the nation, some of those who buy thinking they may also sell.

They should therefore, in justice, be immediately deprived of such pretended right, and reduced to the condition of common freemen.

But they are perhaps too strong, and their interest too weighty, to permit such justice to be done. And a regard for public good in these people, influencing a voluntary resignation, is not to be expected.

If that be the case, it may be necessary to submit to the power of present circumstances, passions, and prejudices, and purchase, since we can do no better, their consent; as men, when they cannot otherwise recover property unjustly detained from them, advertise a reward to whoever will restore it, promising that no questions shall be asked.

SIR CHARLES WYVILL'S ANSWER TO THE FOREGOING

PAPER.

Paris, 17 June, 1785.

Sir, I have received the honor of your letter of the 16th instant, accompanied with a paper, in which you have proved, by a short train of clear and satisfactory reasoning, that the elective franchise, now enjoyed by the small boroughs in England, is not an absolute right, which can only be forfeited on condition of misusage, but that it is a privilege conferred upon them in different periods of our history with partiality, and in a manner injurious to the common right of representation; and consequently, that it is a privilege justly resumable by the state, without the consent of such boroughs previously obtained, without any previous proof of their delinquency, or any compensation for their abolished franchise; at the same time, you have admitted the expediency, in the present state of our constitution, and under the various disadvantages attending an attempt to restore it, that a pecuniary offer should be proposed, as an inducement to the small boroughs to make a voluntary surrender of their obnoxious privilege.

Accept, Sir, my best thanks for this very kind communication of your sentiments on a subject of much importance to the happiness of England. From their own intrinsic solidity, those sentiments must have great weight with every unprejudiced mind, even if it should not be thought advisable to apprize the public. They are the sentiments of a man to whose ability and persevering virtue the American States are principally indebted for their political salvation. But, highly as I esteem the wisdom of your opinion and advice, I place a still higher value on that philanthropy, which has induced you to bestow so much attention on this subject, in the midst of your many urgent avocations, when just on the point of leaving Europe to return to America; I consider this, not only as a mark of your general benevolence, but as a proof that your peculiar good-will to England, lately our common country, has neither been diminished by any personal disgust, nor impaired by the hostilities of an unhappy civil war. And I trust that, on this occasion, your benevolence has not been misplaced; since the advocates for a reformation of the English Parliament have been, I believe, without exception, zealous opponents of the American war; and the success of their attempt to improve the constitution of England may possibly conduct our two countries, in due time, to that modified reunion which recent events will admit, and which you seem to agree with me in thinking would be equally honorable and advantageous to both.

I am, with the highest respect, your obliged and most obedient servant,

C. Wyvill.

MILITIA PREFERABLE TO REGULAR TROOPS.

Abbé Morellet'a Questions and B. Franklin's Answers.

"Je prie Monsieur Franklin de vouloir bien répondre aux questions suivantes—by a yes or no.

Croit-il que les Etats Unis puissent dans la suite et après leur indépendance reconnue se passer de troupes régulières toujours sur pied?"—Yes.

"Feront-ils mieux de n'avoir que des milices nationales?"—Certainly.

"Des milices coûteront-elles moins cher à l'état ou plutôt à la nation; car ne peut-on pas dire, que, dans un état de choses où tous les citoyens doivent s'exercer à porter les armes, il y a en fin de compte, en perte de tems, en dépenses pour l'armement, pour l'habillement, pour le rassemblement des troupes à certains tems de l'année, &c., une dépense réelle plus grande que celle qu'il faudroit pour tenir sur pied un petit nombre de troupes régulières?"

Supposing a general militia to be equally expensive with a body of regular troops, yet the militia is preferable; because the whole, being especially disciplined, has nothing to fear from a part.

"Monsieur Franklin croit-il qu'on puisse entretenir en Amérique un corps de troupes sur pied dans chaque province confédérée sans mettre la liberté en danger?"

Europe was without regular troops till lately. One powerful prince keeping an army always on foot makes it necessary for his neighbour to do the same to prevent surprise. We have no such dangerous neighbours in America. We shall probably keep magazines of arms and ammunition always filled, and no European power will ever find us so unprovided as England found us at the beginning of this war, or can prepare to invade us with a sufficient force in so short a time as not to give us time sufficient to discipline force sufficient to repel the invader.

Mr. F. therefore thinks, that, to avoid not only the expense, but the danger of keeping up a body of regular troops in time of peace, none of the States separately will do it, nor the Congress for the whole.

ON SENDING FELONS TO AMERICA.

FROM THE PENNSYLVANIA GAZETTE.

Sir,

We may all remember the time when our mother country, as a mark of her parental tenderness, emptied her gaols into our habitations, "for the Better peopling," as she expressed it, "of the colonies." It is certain that no due returns have yet been made for these valuable consignments. We are therefore much in her debt on that account; and, as she is of late clamorous for the payment of all we owe her, and some of our debts are of a kind not so easily discharged, I am for doing however what is in our power. It will show our good-will as to the rest. The felons she planted among us have produced such an amazing increase, that we are now enabled to make ample remittance in the same commodity. And since the wheelbarrow law is not found effectually to reform them, and many of our vessels are idle through her restraints on our trade, why should we not employ those vessels in transporting the felons to Britain?

I was led into this thought by perusing the copy of a petition to Parliament, which fell lately by accident

« ZurückWeiter »