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parliament to make an alteration on its stitution; that they are not provided or own constitution or condition; and we acquainted with any institution which must come, in fine, to the single point should enable them to perform this feat of which my imagination can suggest, as a self-legislation, even if they were desirous possible ground of distinction, namely, the of attempting it. They have no comitia ; great and superlative importance and no assemblies of the people in Hyde Park, magnitude of this transaction. We have or St. George's-fields, to the decrees of seen that all other cases of a similar nature which the millions of absent Englishmen, ejusdem generis, are within the acknow- owe, or choose to acknowledge any obe. ledged powers of parliament, and the daily dience. And there being a physical imexercise of those powers. But this is a possibility to collect their voices indivi. measure, we must say, of such transcendent dually, even if that physical and practical importance, as to exceed the ordinary impossibility, if I may say so without the capacities entrusted by the constitution to imputation of incorrectness, were not the parliament, and to which the inherent so. weakest objection to such a mode of levereignty of the people itself is alone com- gislation, there is an established organ of mensurate.
the general will, qualified by its frame and I can conceive no other rational shape constitution, to apply the collective wisinto which this argument can be cast ; but dom of the nation to its collective interis it rational in substance also; or is it not ests, and to administer the sovereign the most palpable and the grossest viola- power of the state on this secure and solid tion of reason, the widest departure from foundation. The sovereignty of parliaevery sound principle in the theory either ment, thus explained, is in the end no of this constitution, or of government in more; it is neither more nor less, but general? It would be strange indeed if identically and precisely the same with this point of superior importance should the sovereignty of the people itself, apserve my adversary, since it is the very pearing in the only visible, tangible or ground on which I rest most firmly my perceptible form in which it can be recogclaim of exclusive cognizance to the par- nized in this country. It is, then, first, liament.
on the vices and inabilities of all other On what principle is the trust of legis. modes by which the voice of the people lation committed to parliament at all ? can be expressed, or even its opinions Because no people on earth, not even the formed agreeable to their general and smallest population in the smallest terri- collective interests; and secondly, on the tory, could ever exercise a democratic le- peculiar and approved excellence of the gislation in its entire and theoretical pu- constitution which we enjoy, that the au.. rity. If we look back to that most ancient thority and sovereignty of parliament has and simple of all constitutions, I mean the been established. patriarchal or the government of families Let us endeavour, for a moment, to which has been regarded as the first, and imagine some better mode of collecting, original model and archetype of all suc- in a popular way, the sense of the nation, ceeding governments, we shall find that on any great point of policy or law, or, if even these have rejected a mode of admi- you please, on this specific measure. nistration which it was, at least, easier Shall it be by meetings convoked by anoto execute within the walls of a single nymous hand-bills, in the fields adjoining tent, or the bounds of a wandering camp, to this metropolis, and directed by orators and amongst a few individuals, than in any on carts, tubs, or other moveable rostra? other more populous state. Authority Every one knows that the union with Irewas still deposited with selection in fewer land, for the discussion of which such ashands than the whole even of those narrow semblies were to be called, would not be communities. The heads of families, the the first order of the day. The most pressing chiefs of tribes; the elders; in a word, sympathies and fellow feelings of such a lesome select body or other, administered gislature would be for the suffering felons, these small commonwealths. It would lead traitors, or mutineers, in Newgate and to unprofitable length if I were to pursue Cold-bath-fields. Their first and second this reasoning with minuteness, as it would measures, in favour of the liberty and probe easy to do, up to the conclusion, to perty of the subject, would be to deliver which we all assent; namely, that the the gaols, and emancipate the bank ; and people of England cannot make law for they would soon simplify this intricate themselves in any democratic form of con- and complex constitution, by uniting the legislative, the judicial, and the executive legislation, and because it is itself the most powers; as they would abridge the tedious perfect model of human polity, in all matdelays of all those functions, by carrying, ters of legislation, must be yet better enwith their own hands, into instant effect, titled to preference and to exclusive and their own laws and judgments. I remember sovereign jurisdiction, in cases of great to have seen a parliament deliberate in and signal importance, than in any other? St. George's fields in the forenoon; and I It seems to me, therefore, the strangest do not forget, that on the same evening I perversion of reason, and the most palpasaw London and Westminster in flames. ble contradiction and absurdity to place Shall the appeal from parliament lie to the incompetence of parliament on that county meetings, called by the sheriffs, on ground on which its sole and exclusive the requisition of a few dozens of signa- competence most firmly and securely tures: and shall the people of England be rests; I mean the superior importance of bound in this great interest, by a collation this law. of the various and discordant resolutions, Having spoken to the principle, let us passed by a respectable show of hands, at the see how the question stands on authority, Georges and different Angels of the king. I shall not encumber my argument with dom? Shall the magistrates at quarter ses. the authorities which are familiar in every sions, shall grand juries at assizes, or, in fine, mouth, to prove a position, not disputed shall the churchwardens and overseers of in any quarter, namely, the general suprethe poor, at parish vestries, supersede macy of parliament; and I shall respect parliament, on account of their superior your lordships leisure sufficiently to omit wisdom and knowledge ; and, above all, the book authorities on this general but because they have received a more au- fundamental truth, although the passages thentic and direct delegation from the I might refer to, assert distinctly, as your people at large? Or shall we prefer, lordships know, amongst other examples rather, those convivial parliaments which of the universal faculties of parliament, its hold their sittings occasionally at the dif- competence to this specific measure of a ferent taverns of this city? whose resolu- legislative union with other countries. tions, moved in the form of toasts, are There are two sorts of authority: first, agreed to in bumpers, and whose laws, the opinions of learned and eminent men. proposed in stanzas, to the tune of a Next, precedent. To begin with the first ballad, are passed in full chorus. Is not and to speak of the responsa prudentum. this jovial system of legislation, a mere To the learning of the corporations of inversion of the good old constitution, Dublin, and of the freeholders of the which, if it permits the electors to be county of Louth, and some other coundrunk, requires the parliament to be ties; io the authority of some members sober? But must we, then, to speak se- of the Irish bar, I shall oppose the chanriously, depose the parliament chosen by cellor of Ireland, and the chiefs of the the people, in favour of these self-elected, four supreme courts of law in that country. self-ballotted parliaments, attended by I shall oppose the clear and unequivocal very small minorities of that parliament sense of the House of Lords of Ireland, which was chosen by the people, after evinced not only by its vote, but by the they have withdrawn their attendance withdrawing that part of the amendment, from that parliament to which the peo proposed originally by lord Powescourt, ple sent them? In fine, what is to be the which involved that question. I shall opform of this arch parliament, which is to pose the opinion of the majority of the qualify it better than the British parlia- House of Commons of Ireland, for I ment, as it now stands, for legislating, think myself entitled to claim the dissent just in proportion as the subject is of of that House to this proposition on a higher import and dignity, and of greater fair and candid view of its proceedings. compass and difficulty, than those ordi- The House once agreed, by a majority, dinary acts of legislation to which those however slender, to entertain the meahigh authorities are utterly inadequate sure; and afterwards rejected it by a maand incompetent.
jority as slender; for the difference beIs it not, then, manifest, that a legisla- tween one and five hardly deserves notice. tare in which the sovereignty of the state If to this equality of opinion on the prinis vested, because every other political cipal measure be added the consideration body, known in this country, is deficient that the opposers of the union did not jathe requisites for common and ordinary even tender this proposition to the House, did not venture to load their the instances of such changes. They question with that denial of the compe. are frequent in the history of England. ience of parliament, of which it had been and they all prove the supreme authority found necessary actually to relieve the of parliament, even in these highest acts same question in the House of Lords, we of sovereignty. By whatever means such shall hardly doubt of their consciousness, changes have been brought about; whatthat in a balance trimmed so nicely, this ever has been the efficient cause, or inweighty point would have turned the strument of such revolutions, they have scale against them. But as time adds all derived their sanction and validity sanction and reverence to authority, let from parliament, the seal of which has me close this inquiry by opposing to all always been resorted to by the new sothe rash and intemperate opinions, or vereign, as the only effectual security for rather declarations of opinion, which the his title, whether he stood on a claim es. temerity of party spirit, or a false and sentially good, or on successful usurpa. misguided enthusiasm, have dictated in tion--and the anxiety with which the Ireland at this day, the single authority many repetitions of parliamentary recogof lord Somers; himself, I think, a host, nition have been sought after, by those on such a question. If any man in Eng. who were interested in a new or unquesland, or in Ireland, as has been often said tionable title, is remarkable on this arguof that great man, thinks himself a better ment. lawyer or a better Whig than lord Somers, But without dwelling on more ancient he is welcome to enter the list ; while I examples, it is surely suficient to recall shall rest contented with this single name, that of the Revolution which placed king supported as it might be by a cloud of William on the throne, and the subsequent learned, able, and upright statesmen, limitation of the crown to the house of lawyers, and friends of liberty, from that Hanover. Will it be said, that the deperiod to the present hour.
claration of king James's abdication, and Let us now look at precedent. It is the vacancy of the throne, was a point of not to be expected that there should be less note or value, or of a lower rank in many. Such transactions must be rare. the scale of sovereign functions, than the It is enough for my argument to say, that union with Scotland or Wales, or than the only examples our history furnishes, the measure now in contemplation ? Will of legislative unions, since the institution it be said, that the whole transaction of of parliaments, are precedents io point on the Revolution was of a lower or meaner the question I am now debating; namely, class and order, in legislation, than any the competence of parliament to enact union, or any other national event that them. Wales and Scotland have both is either known or can be imagined ? I do been united to England by incorporating not fear that it will. By what authority, legislative unions. In both cases the then, was that great change in one branch parliament alone sanctioned the measure. of the legislature, and in the condition of The union with Scotland is, perhaps, yet the nation operated ? To what authority more closely in point with the present was the prince of Orange advised to reproposal. Since a separate parliament sort, for the sanction of his enterprise and existed in both countries, and the respec- the security of his crowo? Observe the tive parliainents were the parties in the difference between the circumstances in treaty, that treaty was negotiated under which he stood, and those in which the the authority of the two parliaments; present proceeding is tendered to parliae they sanctioned the conclusion; and they ment. By the flight and abdication of the executed finally and irreversibly that king, and the consequent vacancy of the happy system, under which we now live throne, an actual and practical dissolution secure, at the distance of almost a century. of the government seemed to have taken
; Although our history cannot furnish place, it it can ever do so, in any pose many precedents of this precise measure, sible or imaginable case. It was in such I mean of incorporating union, there are, a predicament, if it could happen in any, however, many examples of other pro. that the supposed dormant title of the ceedings, bearing a strong analogy to the people to administer the sovereignty in present, and equal, if not superior, in their own persons, so far, at least, as reimportance.I mean those acts of the le- garded the reintegration of the deficient gislature which have altered the succes- and truncated government, must have sion of the crown, I need not citę been awakened and called into action.
That motion was, indeed, different from tion-which, however, was yet hardly the present, in which we have every deemed perfect, until it was branch of the legislature complete, and mated by the ratification of subsequent the whole frame of our government not and yet more regular parliaments. only perfect and apt to all its purposes, The subsequent limitation of the crown, but in the actual and daily exercise of after the death of the duke of Gloucester, its functions; and in which'we are ours was also the work of parliament; and I selves debating this very question, con- believe so far from deeming that authority cerning parliamentary powers, within the incompetent, or wishing to rely on any walls of a subsisting parliament, and in other higher or more transcendent power, the ordinary discharge of our parliamen- none of those whig statesmen and lawtary duty. Yet, under the circumstances yers who presided in every step of the which I have described, what did the Revolution, and who had the Protestant prince of Orange resolve, under' the succession at heart, would have thought direction of his whig advisers ? Did he that great object secure, if the limitation apply to the people at large in any new to the princess Sophia had stood on a deand anomalous form? Was it to county cree of the people, conveyed by any meetings, or assemblies in the fields, or, other organ than precisely that which in a word, to any unknown and unusual they employed, I mean the parliament. organ of the public mind, that he applied If these great men, then, were content to sanction his title ? Far from it. Even to rest the Revolution itself, that vast the first Convention, under the authority and prime concern, embracing every of which he afterwards summoned the other possible interest of Englishmen, on Convention of parliament, was composed, the single and perfect efficacy of an act in the first place, of the House of Lords; of parliament, we are not to wonder if and next, of those who had been members the same men thought the respective parof parliament in the reign of Charles 2nd. liaments of England and Scotland, the It will not be said, that these persons had competent, and the only competent inany specific delegation from the people, struments to accomplish the union between either for this special act, or for any the two countries. other end; either express, by positive What overweening preference is it of commission, or implied, by their recent our own times, or our own persons, that election. A whole reign had elapsed should make us thus fastidious in casting since they came from the people. by, as of inferior and more imperfect Their delegation and functions had been growth, the constitutional Whiggism and exhausted and had expired long since. wholesome liberty of the reigns of king WilYet so much preferable did this approxi- liam and queen Anne, to intoxicate ourmation to the regular constitutional au- selves and our country with that doublethority, when an entire conformity with refined, that sublimated and adulterated it was impossible ; so much preferable did modern drug which is now poisoning the even this shadow, this surviving Alavour world? I own, for my part, that I like of the parliamentary character, which to see, on the liberty of my country, and still hung about these relics of a deceased your lordships know the revered authority parliament, appear, when compared with by which I am supported in that sentiment, any new and strange invention for con- that I like to see on my own and my juring up the latent sovereignty of the country's liberty the seal of the old people, and substituting some phantom Whigs, and am apt enough to think that and chimera to represent that sovereignty counterfeit which does not bear this mark. in the room of its only true and acknow-|I am above all disposed to fly, as from ledged form, I mean that of parliament, certain ruin, the spurious philosophy, the that the prince of Orange did not think sophisticated and fatal abstractions, which the validity of a Convention parliament, so far from lighting us to the temple of to be summoned by his new authority, Liberty, are but decoys to plunge the would stand on a sure foundation, until world into the toils of wretchedness and its convocation should receive the sanction slavery. I confess, then, that I recoil if not of a subsisting parliament, at least with disgust, and not without alarm, from of a body as pearly and closely resembling every pretence for disavowing or superone as the circumstances admitted. The seding our established government, howConvention parliament was convoked-- ever qualified in time, occasion, or limited and that parliament enacted the Revolu- purpose.
I cannot think those men (VOL. XXXIV.]
profitable servants of their country; nor | receive additional splendor, when she do I think their country disposed to should enjoy that as a right which she regard them as friends, who would now receives as a favour ; the dignity of weaken in the breasts of Englishmen Ireland would receive additional splendor the native and rooted love of our boasted when she should become an incorporated government and laws; and divert the and integral part of the most enlightened settled allegiance of the happiest peo- and powerful empire in the civilized ple upon earth, from the established sove- world. He had some difficulty in his own reignty of parliament, in which, however, mind as to the manner in which the subis inseparably bound up the whole of the ject of independence ought to be mensecurity, prosperity, and freedom, pre- tioned. He was convinced there were sent and to come, of the British nation. many who were either indifferent or hosAnd I must hold every proposal to abdi- tile to the measure, on the idea that the cate or surrender the sovereign power of nominal independence of the Irish parliaparliament, but for an hour, into the ment is converted into a practical depenhands of any strangers to the constitution dence on the British government. If that is to say, into any other hands what there were any in whose minds such a ever, as a mere fraud upon the people; ground of opposition lurked, he would as a gross violation of its most precious beg to ask them, whether they thought privilege; as a flagrant invasion of the such a practical dependence could dearest birth-right of Englislımen, which be maintained without a general and sysconsists, according to me, in the right to tematic corruption of the individuals combe governed by their parliaments, and by posing the legislature of Ireland ; and in no other human means.
this case he would ask, what sort of pria. There are a variety of topics, as your ciples of public faith and morality they lordships well know, to which I have not thought were likely to be engendered and even alluded, and on some of which I perpetuated by such a system? The should certainly be disposed to say a few idea that the independence of the Irish words: but in truth, I have already parliament would be affected by the abused your indulgence not only much transfer of its local existence, was in the too long, but, I am conscious also much highest degree absurd. That parliament too tediously; and I therefore refrain was intended to be composed of a number very grateful for having been permitted of members proportionate to the general to state such reasons as have satisfied my scale of the imperial representation ; and mind, on the whole matter, that this there could be no reason for supposing measure is expedient in itself, and that that it would be more indifferent to the parliament is competent to execute it. I interests of its immediate constituents have expressed a strong opinion, that the than were the members deputed either by union of these two nations, already Scotland or Wales; and its powers of united by nature in their interests, must, deliberation, instead of being confined in the order of human events, necessarily within a local and limited extent, would come to pass; and I shall conclude by a necessarily embrace the greatest quessincere and fervent prayer, dictated by tions of imperial concern. The idea that the purest and the most ardeñt desire for the political liberties of Ireland were to the happiness of both kingdoms, that the be sacrificed by the measure of a union blessings sure to flow from a consumma- altogether surprised him : it was with tion so devoutly to be wished, may not be difficulty he could believe that any such long delayed.
apprehension had ever been entertained, Lord Boringdon said, that however when one of the measures, which it was anxious he might be for the success of universally believed would sooner the measure, it should not receive support later follow from a union, was, the refrom him, if he thought it in any way moving the political incapacities of fourcalled for the sacrifice of the dignity, the fifths of the inhabitants of that country. independence, or the liberty of the Irish Was there any one with a particle of Engnation. The noble lord who had opened the lish feeling about him who would not discussion had placed, in the strongest experience inexpressible satisfaction at point of view, the immense commercialin- the adoption of any measure which was dulgences bestowed by this country on calculated to lead to the removal of poliIreland ; and it might reasonably be main-tical incapacities on the ground of tained, that the dignity of Ireland would religious opinions in a manner which