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gether irreconcileable; those whose political doctrines are known to be inimical to legal government, and those who are distinguished by the moderation of their tenets. With respect to the moderates, it could not be too minutely attended to by the house, that they propose no plan of reform whatever ; that they prefer no complaints ; that they set out with no petition on that subject; and is it proper or reasonable that the house should spontaneously give what had not been even demanded ? With regard to the other persons alluded to by the learned gentleman, the house, by agreeing to what has been urged in their favour, would give them not merely what they claim, but what they demand as an absolute right, and what is in reality the first step to the accomplishment of their real views. That the present moment should be a time for the measure of reform appears rather inconsistent, when it is admitted by the learned gentleman himself that radical discontent is prevalent in the country, and when it is undeniable, that the men who talk of liberty aim merely at licentiousness, and set up the name of reform as a disguise to mask theit revolutionary projects, and as the first step to their acknowledged system of innovation. Concessions to such men, at such a time, would be impolitic, would be fatal, would be absurd. The house also, by agreeing to the arguments of the learned gentleman, would grant what could not be of any use to one set of men, and what would be productive of great mischief to the other description. Such concessions, I will maintain, are not warranted by the sound maxims of philosophy, nor to be measured by the nume. rous examples drawn from the history of the world.
The honourable gentleman * has talked highly of the blessings which are to result to mankind from the establishment of French liberty; and because new lights have appeared to set off the doctrine of freedom, this house is therefore to alter their principles of government, and to accommodate themselves to the new order of things. The system of French liberty is represented as a new light diffusing itself over all the world, and spreading in every
region happiness and improvement. Good God! is the house to be told, after the benefits which have been derived from the revolution in this country, that other and more esseutial benefits are to be added by adopting the principles of the French revolution? From such lights, however, I hope we shall ever protect this constitution, as against principles inconsistent with any government. If we are to be relieved from any evils under which we may at present labour, by means of this new light, I for one beg leave to enter my solemn protest agaiøst the idea. The doctrines upon which it is founded, are, as I have already saic, false, shallow, and presumptuous, more absurd than the most pestilent theories that were ever engendered by the disordered imagination of man; more hostile to the real interests of mankind, to national prosperity, to individual happiness, to intellectual and moral improve. ment, than any tyranny by which the human species was ever afflicted. And, for this new luminary, shall we abandon the polar star of the British constitution, by which we have been led to happiness and glory, by which the country has supported every danger which it has been called upon to encounter, and risen superior to every difficulty by which it has been assailed ? But, independent of these general grounds on which I have
op? posed this motion, I have no difficulty in stating that the particular measure appears liable to so many objections, that in no circumstances could I have given it my assent. Indeed I could as little concur in the plan of the honourable gentleman as in a proposal for universal suffrage : how near it approaches to that system I shall not now discuss. The honourable gentleman, on a former occasion, has said, that he would rather have universal suffrage than no reform. The learned gentleman, however, disclaims universal suffrage, when asserted as a matter of right. Certainly, indeed, some people have reason to complain of the learned gentleman who, in supporting a plan of reform on grounds of practical advantage, refuses that universal suffrage to which he has no objection on practical grounds, merely because it is asked as a matter of right. He will, however, find it difficult to
Teconcile that practical expedience with the new light of general freedom which has so unexpectedly broken in upon the world. The proposition, however, is neither more nor less than, with the exception of one fifth,' to abolish the whole system of the representation of this country, as it has been formed by charter or by parliamentary arrangement, as it has been moulded by time and experience, as it has been blended with our manners and customs, without regard to the rights or compensations, or to the general effect of modifications. All these are to be swept away, and a numerical scale of representation to be substituted in its place; the country is to be divided into districts, and every householder, paying taxes, is ļo vote ; thus a system would be introduced little short of universal suffrage. On what experience, on what practice is this gigantic scale of numerical representation to be introduced? In former plans the variety of the modes of representation was admitted to be proof, how much better time and circumstances may mould and regulate representation than any institutions founded on reasonings a priori, and how necessary it was to give way to the effects of such experience. It is not the harsh uniformity of principles, each pushed to its extreme, but the general complexion arising out of the various shades, which forms the harmony of the representation, and the practical excellence of the constitution, capable of improving itself consistently with its fundamental principles. Who will say that this beautiful variety may not have contributed to the advantage of the whole? That system was practical, and experience has confirmed the excellence of it, but the present plan goes the whole length of destroying all the existing representation, with the exception only of the county members (why they alone are excepted I am at a loss to conceive), and bringing all to one system. Are the gentlemen who propose this system aware of the benefits resulting from a varied state of representation, and are they ready at once to resign them?
It never was contended that the inequality of the representation has been attended with any practical disadvantage, that the interest of Yorkshire was neglected because it sent only two members to parliament, or that Birmingham and Manchester expe. rienced any ill consequences from having no representatives, How does it appear that universal suffrage is better than if the sight to vote be founded on numerical, or even alphabetical arrangement? There is no practice, certainly no recognised practice, for its basis. The experiment proposed is new, extensive, overturning all the ancient system, and substituting something in its stead without any theoretical advantage, or any practical recommendation. In the mixed representation which now subsists, the scot, and lot elections are those which have been chiefly objected to, and the honourable gentleman opposite to me formerly agreed with me in opinion, that burgage tenures and small corporations were even less exceptionable than open burghs with small qualifications. Yet this extension of small qualifications, from wbich it has been a general complaint that much confusion, debauchery, and abuse at elections arose, forms the principal fea. ture in the honourable gentleman's plan.
Upon these grounds, therefore, looking seriously at the situation of the country, examining facts with attention, unless we would seal our own dishonour, unless we would belie the testimony of our constituents, we must dissent from the reasons on which the necessity of this proposition is founded. We ought to resist the specific plan which the honourable gentleman has offered, unless we would renounce the tried system of our representation, for a plan at once highly exceptionable in theory, and totally unsupported by experience.
June 2, 1797.
MR. Pizt moved the order of the day for taking into consideration his Majesty's message relative to the Mutiny in the Fleet
« GEORGE R. " It is with the deepest concern his Majesty acquaints the House of Commons, that the conduct of the crews of some of his ships now at the Nore, in persisting in the most violent and treasonable acts of mutiny and disobedience, notwithstanding the full extension to them of all the benefits which had been accepted with gratitude by the rest of his Majesty's fleet, and notwithstanding the repeated offers of his Majesty's gracious pardon, on their returning to their duty, have compelled his Majesty to call on all his faithful subjects to give their utmost assistance in repressing such dangerous and criminal proceedings, His Majesty has directed a copy of the praciamation which he has issued for this purpose, to be laid before the House ; and he cannot doubt that his parliament will adopt, with readiness and decision, every measure which can tend, at this important conjuncture, to provide for the public security. And his Majesty particularly recommends it to the consideration of Parliament, to make more effectual provision for the prevention and punishment of all traiterous attempts to excite sedition and mutiny in his Majesty's naval service; or to withdraw any part of his Majesty's forces, by sea or land, from their duty and allegiance to him ; and from that obedience and discipline which are so important to the prosperity and safety of the British Empire,
G. R." The message being read, MR. Pitt spoke to the following effect:
Important as the present occasion is, I feel that it will not be necessary for me to detain the house with a long detail upon the subject of the gracious communication from the throne, which has now been read to us. By that communication we learn that all the benefit of his Majesty's gracious favour, which restored satisfaction to part of his Majesty's forces, was attended with every mark of duty and gratitude by that part, and was extended to the whole of his Majesty's fleet ; but that, nevertheless, there are now at the Nore deluded persons who have persisted in disobe. dience, and proceeded to open acts of mutiny and disorder, Although all the same benefits have been allowed to them;