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mission and instructions, the powers vested by law in their representatives, yet I am very clearly of opinion, that the representative does not perform his duty, or consult the true interests of his country, who does not pay a due and respectful attention to the sentiments, and even, in many cases, to the inclinations and wishes of his particular constituents, and of the proprietors and inhabitants of the place he represents (with whom he commonly has the easiest means of communication), as well as to the opinions which prevail in general among the different classes of his sellow-subjects. It is very true that there neither exists, nor can exist, any legal or formal method of collecting the individual opinions and suffrages of a whole nation; still, however, the predominant sentiment will force its way to the observation and understanding of the legislators, and will be in many, perhaps in most cases, the best and most prudent guide for them to follow. If they neglect it, the period of re-election enables the voters (the majority of whom, even as now constituted in this kingdom, taking the whole country over, will, I believe, always be found to accord with the majority of the nation itself) to select others who think more as they do on those subjects of public concern which they have nearest their hearts.
After all, some may think I might have spared the House and myself the trouble of the foregoing discussion, as sew, very sew, within these walls have gone so far as directly to maintain the general incompetence of Parliament to such a measure as a Union. But several, by expressions of doubt and surmise, by ambiguous words, scattered abroad at the risk of misleading the vulgar, the illinformed, or ill-disposed, among his Majesty's subjects in Ireland, have set out with involving their opinion on this
material material point in oracular obscurity, and have then gone on to assert, that whatever may have been the right of the English or of the Scotch Parliament in 1707, a Union between Great Britain and Ireland, or, at least, such a Union as is supposed to be intended, cannot be lawfully agreed to or carried into effect.by either of the Parliaments of those respective kingdoms. They assume, as the cafe I think must be, that in the minds of those who have proposed, or are friends to the measure, the proportion of. members to be sent by Ireland to the united Parliament is meant to be considerably less than the number of British members; which, if the example of the Scotch Union shall be followed in this particular, will remain as at present. * This,' it is faid, * would, in efsect, amount to a total surrender of the legislative authority of Ireland to Great Britain. But the constituents of the Irish Parliament delegated to their representatives the powers with which they invested them, for the purpose of exercising, not of surrendering, those powers, for the purpose of maintaining a supreme, independent, and, exclusive Legislature for Ireland, not to enable them to betray and destroy the independency, or rather the existence, of the Irish Legislature. This,' it is aleged, ' must be the case, if the members for Ireland are in a great disproportion to those for Great Britain. Though the British Parliament, therefore, should be supposed competent to receive, in accession to its legislative authority over Great Britain, the like power over Ireland, the Irish Parliament can have no right to bestow that power, and subject their country, in that manner, to the government of a foreign Legislature. The addition of one sixth, one fifth, or one fourth, to the present aggregate number of British members will leave the British Parliament as exclusively supreme over
* Grett Britain as before, and will, at the fame time, 'communicate to Great Britain as entire a (supremacy 'over Ireland as she formerly claimed (before the "epoch 4 of 1782) when that country was totally unrepresented
* 'in Gteat Britain.'
In stating this fort of argument, which 1 have endeavoured <not 'to weaken or misrepresent, the ■cak of Scotland seemed to militate so strongly both against the tonclujion of incompetency, and the assumed faSt from which that conclusion is drawn, namely, the exercise of exclusive power by the greater over the lesser country, that every effort of ingenuity has been used, though unsuccessfully, to find out some intelligible ground of dis» tm'ction between that transaction and the measure now in agitation.
*st. With regard to the fact. It is a matter of such acknowledged notoriety, that in questions of a local nature, dr Which merely concern the northern division,of this united kingdom, the members returned by Scotland have .generally influenced the opinion and vote of the whole 'House of Commons, that the Gentlemen on the other ,'side have not been able to deny it. They have, therefore, been obliged to content themselves with the hope that this, like other circumstances relative to the Scotch UrtiOn, may be ascribed to something of * 'mysterious and undefinable nature, peculiar to the character and situation of that people; and they insist, that whatever may have in practice counteracted'tltenatural consequence of the superiority of numbers in that case, it is not'less certain that the whole legislative authority over Scotland is vested in the'English members, than that 513 is a larger number than 45.
C 4 ed.
id. As to the conclusion, they argue, that if the furrender fas they insist on terming it) which was made by the Scotch Parliament has not vitiated the whole transaction, it is either because the lapse of time and long acquiescence on the part of that country have, by a sort of prescription, confirmed the authority of the Parliament now denominated British, but still, in efsect, only English, over Scotland; or because the Scotch Parliament was expressly empowered and commissioned by the constituents in that kingdom to agree to a Union.
In answer to these refinements it may be observed,
ist. That it is a new fort of prescription^which can confirm or render valid, what, in its commencement, was a mere nullity; especially where the acts by which this nullity has been turned into a right, must, if the argument is well founded, have been throughout equally null and void. If the Scotch Parliament could not, in 1707, legally ratify the Treaty of Union, the act by which they purported to do so was void, and the royal assent, which was given to that act, having nothing on which it could operate, was void also; as much so as it would have been if given to an act by which the Parliament had attempted to legislate for France or Italy. But the ratification of the treaty by the Scotch Parliament was the essential condition on which that of England ratified it. If, therefore, the act of the Scotch Parliament was a nullity, so also must have been that which was only passed on the faith of its supposed validity. The one was the consideration for the other; and if England could receive nothing, neither could slie mean to give, nor could give any thing; and the whole business resembled, on her part, what the lawyers call a nudum paclum. 2 Thus
Thus this doctrine necessarily leads to the inserence, that the present Legislature of this country has no legitimate authority; that the powers it exercises are mere usurpation; and that no man, either in Scotland or England, is bound to submit to any of the laws which hav« been enacted for near a century.
2d. When, perceiving that this argument of acquiescence fails by leading to such a dangerous absurdity, Gentlemen resort to some supposed special delegation from the people or constituent body to the Parliament of Scotland, it will be recollected, as I have already shown, that the electors could not, by the constitution—in this respect the fame in that kingdom as in England—make any such delegation, so as to give it any force or validity; nor grant to the elected any peculiar powers, not incident to the mere character of representatives duly chosen. I will now prove, that in 1707 no such delegation was in fact attempted in Scotland.
There is undoubtedly a passage or two in De Foe's History of the Union, which seem to indicate something special in the appointment of the members of the Parliament of Scotland, which concluded that Treaty *; and a supposed specific authority, in that instance, though very little taken notice of in this House, has been much relied on in several speeches, and in various pamphlets, in the sister kingdom. This circumstance induced me to bestow some pains in the investigation of the matter, the result of which has been, as I was well persuaded it would be, what I have just asserted, that no such authority was in contemplation,
* Stockdale's Edit. p. 230. 289.