Abbildungen der Seite
PDF
EPUB

tradictory measures of his administration, and even to vote every crude indigested dream of their patron into a law; if the maintenance of his power should become the sole object of their attention, and they should be guilty of the most violent breach of parliamentary trust, by giving the king a discretionary liberty of taxing the people without limitation or control; the last fatal compliment they can pay to the crown: if this should ever be the unhappy condition of this nation, the people indeed may complain; but the doors of that place, where their complaints should be heard, will for ever be shut against them.

Our disease, I fear, is of a complicated nature, and I think that this motion is wisely intended to remove the first and principal disorder. Give the people their ancient right of frequent new elections ; that will restore the decayed authority of parliaments, and will put our constitution into a natural condition of working out her own cure.

Sir, upon the whole, I am of opinion, that I cannot express a greater zeal for his majesty, for the liberties of the people, or the honour and dig. nity of this house, than by seconding the motion which the honourable gentleman has made you. :

SIR ROBERT WALPOLE'S REPLY. MR. CHANCELLOR OF THE EXCHEQUER, THOUGH the question has been already so fully opposed, that there is no great occasion to say any thing further against it, yet, I hope, the house will indulge me the liberty of giving some of those reasons, which induce me to be against the motion.. In general I must take notice, that the nature of our constitution seems to be very much mistaken by the gentlemen who have spoken in favour of this motion. It is certain, that ours is a mixed government, and the perfection of our constitution consists in this, that the monarchical, aristocratical, and democratical forms of government, are mixed and interwoven in ours, so as to give us all tlie advantages of each, without subjecting us to the dangers and inconveniences of either. The democratical form of government, which is the only one I have now occasion to take. notice of, is liable to these inconveniences: that they are generally too tedious in their coming to any resolution, and seldom brisk and expeditious enough in carrying their resolutions into execution; that they are always wavering in their resolutions, and never steady in any of the measures they resolve to pursue ; and that they are often involved in factions, seditions, and insurrections, which exposes them to be made the tools, if not the prey of their neighbours : therefore in all the regulations we make, with respect to our constitution, we are to guard against running too much into that form of government which is properly called democratical: this was, in my opinion, the effect of the triennial law, and will again be the effect, if ever it should be restored.

That triennial elections would make our government too tedious in all their resolves, is evident : because, in such case, no prudent administration would ever resolve upon any measure of consequence, till they had felt not only the pulse of the parliament, but the pulse of the people; and the ministers of state would always labour under this disadvantage, that as secrets of state must not be immediately divulged, their enemies (and enemies they will always have) would have a handle for exposing their measures, and rendering them dis, agreeable to the people, and thereby carrying perhaps a new election against them, before they could have an opportunity of justifying their measures, by divulging those facts and circumstances, from whence the justice and the wisdom of their measures would clearly appear.

Then, sir, it is by experience well known, that what is called the populace of every country, are apt to be too much elated with success, and too much dejected with every misfortune; this makes them wavering in their opinions about affairs of state, and never long of the same mind; and as this house is chosen by the free and unbiassed voice of the people in general, if this choice were so often renewed, we might expect, that this house would be as wavering, and as unsteady as the people usually are; and it being impossible to carry on the public affairs of the nation, without the concurrence of this house, the ministers would always be obliged to comply, and consequently, would be obliged to change their measures, as often as the people changed their minds.

With septennial parliaments, sir, we are not exposed to either of these misfortunes, because, if the ministers, after having felt the pulse of the parliament, which they can always soon do, resolve upon any measures, they have generally time

enough, before the new elections come on, to give the people a proper information, in order to show them the justice and the wisdom of the measures they have pursued; and if the people should at any time be too much elated, or too much dejected, or should without a cause change their minds, those at the helm of affairs have time to set them right before a new election comes on.

As to faction and sedition, sir, I will grant, that. in monarchical and aristocratical governments, it generally arises from violence and oppression; but in democratical governments, it always arises from the people's having too great a share in the government; for in all countries, and in all governments, there always will be many factious and unquiet spirits, who can never be at rest either in power or out of power: when in power, they are never easy, unless every man submits entirely to their direction, and when out of power, they are always working and intriguing against those that are in, without any regard to justice, or to the interest of their country: in popular govern. Inents such men have too much game, they have too many opportunities for working upon and corrupting the minds of the people, in order to give them a bad impression of, and to raise discontents against, those that have the management of the public affairs for the time; and these discontents often break out into seditions and insurrections. This, sir, would in my opinion be our misfortune if our parliaments were either annual or triennial : by such frequent elections, there would be so much power thrown into the hands of the people, as would destroy that equal mix.

ture, which is the beauty of our constitution : in short, our government would really become a democratical government, and might from thence very probably diverge into a tyrannical one. Therefore, in order to preserve our constitution, in order to prevent our falling under tyranny and arbitrary power, we ought to preserve that law, which I really think has brought our constitution to a more equal mixture, and consequently to a greater perfection than it was ever in, before that law took place.

As to bribery and corruption, sir, if it were possible to influence, by such base means, the majority of the electors of Great Britain, to choose such men as would probably give up their liberties; if it were possible to influence, by such means, a majority of the members of this house, to consent to the establishment of arbitrary power, I would readily allow, that the calculations made by the gentlemen of the other side were just, and their inference true; but I am persuaded that neither of these is possible. As the members of this house generally are, and must always be, gentlemen of fortune and figure in their country, is it possible to suppose, that any of them could, by a pension, or a post, be influenced to consent to the overthrow of our constitution; by which the enjoyment, not only of what he got, but of what he before had, would be rendered altogether precarious ? I will allow, sir, that with respect to bribery, the price must be higher or lower, generally, in proportion to the virtue of the man who is to be bribed; but it must likewise be granted, that the humour he happens to be in at the time,

« ZurückWeiter »