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arise? not from country gentlemen, for they are sure of being chosen without it; it was, Sir, the invention of wicked and corrupt ministers, who have from time to time led weak princes into such destructive measures, that they did not dare to rely upon the natural representation of the people. Long parliaments, Sir, first introduced bribery, because they were worth purchasing at any rate. Country gentlemen, who have only their private fortunes to rely upon, and have no mercenary ends to serve, are unable to oppose it, especially if at any time the public treasure shall be unfaithfully squandered away to corrupt their boroughs. Country gentlemen, indeed, may make some weak efforts, but as they generally prove unsuccessful, and the time of a fresh struggle is at so great a distance, they at last grow faint in the dispute, give up their country for lost, and retire in despair; despair naturally produces indolence, and that is the proper disposition for slavery. Ministers of state understand this very well, and are therefore unwilling to awaken the nation out of its lethargy by frequent elections. They know that the spirit of liberty, like every other virtue of the mind, is to be kept alive only by constant action; that it is impoflible to enslave this nation, while it is perpetually upon its guard.—-Letcountry gentlemen then, by having frequent opportunities of exerting themselves, be kept warm and active in their contention for the public good: this will raise that zeal and spirit, which will at last get the better of those undue influences by which the officers of the crown, though unknown to the several boroughs, have been able to supplant country gentlemen of great characters and fortune^
who live in their neighbourhood. ]
do not fay this upon idle speculation only: I live in a country where it is too well known, and I appeal to many gentlemen in the house, to more out of it, (and who are so for this very reason) for the truth of my assertion. Sir, it is a fore which has been long eating into the most vital part of our constitution, and I hope the time will come when you will probe it to the bottom. For if a minister should ever gain a corrupt familiarity
with our boroughs; if he mould keep a register of them in his closet, and, by sending down his treasury mandates, should procure a spurious representation os the people, the offspring of his corruption, who will be at all times ready to reconcile and justify the moil contradictory 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 controul; 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 dignity of this house, than by seconding the motion which the honourable gentleman has made you.
§ 81. Sir Robert Walpole'j Reply.
Though the question has been already so fully opposed, that there is no great occasion to fay any thing farther 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 mixt government, and the
O o 4. perfection perfection of our constitution consists in this, that the monarchical, aristocratical, and democratical form of government, are mix: and interwoven in ours, so as to give us all the advantages of each, without subjecting us to the dangers and inconveniencies of either. The democratical form of government, which is the only one I have now occasion to take notice of, is liable to these inconveniencies;—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 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 disagreeable 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 wl at 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 fame 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 ort 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 shew 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 (hare 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 governments 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 impreffion of, and to raise discontents
against, against, those that have the manage. merit 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 mixture 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. 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 chuse 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 establistimentosarbitrary power, I would readily allow, that the calculations made by the gentlemen of the other fide 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 one 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 os the man who is to be bribed; but it must likewise be granted, that the humour he happens to be in at the time, the spirit he happens to be endowed with, adds a great deal to his virtue. When no encroachments are made upon the rights of the people,
when the people do not think themselves in any danger, there may be many of the electors who, by a bribe of ten guineas, might be induced to vote for one candidate rather than another; but if the court were making any encroachments upon the rights of the people, a proper spirit would, without doubt, arise in the nation; and in such, a case, I am persuaded, that none, or very few, even of such electors, could be induced to vote for a court candidate ; no, not for ten times the sum.
There may, Sir, be some bribery and! corruption in the nation; I am afraid there will always be some ; but it is no. proof of it, that strangers are sometimes chosen; for a gentleman may have so much natural influence over a borough in his neighbourhood, as to be able to prevail with them to chuse any person he pleases to recommend; and if upon such recommendation they chuse one or two of his friends, who are perhaps strangers to them, it is not from thence to be inferred, that the two strangers were chosen their representatives by the means of bribery and corruption.
To insinuate, Sir, that money may be issued from the public treasury for bribing elections, is really something very extraordinary, especially in those gentlemen who know how many checks are upon every shilling that can be issued from thence; and how regularly the money granted in one year for the public service of the nation, must always be accounted for the very next session, in this house, and likewise in the other, if they have a mind to call for any such account. And as to the gentlemen in offices, if they have any advantage over country gentlemen, in having something else to depend on besides their own private fortunes, they have likewise many disadvantages: they are obliged to live here at London with their families, by which they are put to a much greater expence than gentlemen of equal fortunes who live in the country: this lays them under a very great disadvantage, with respect to the supporting their interest in the country. The country gentleman, by living among the electors, and purchasing th. necessaries for his family from them,
keeps up an acquaintance and correspondence with them, without putting himself to any extraordinary charge; whereas a gentleman who lives in London has no other way of keeping up an acquaintance or.correspondence among his friends in the country, but by going down once or twice a year, at a very extraordinary charge, and often without any other business: so that we may conclude, a' gentleman in office cannot, even in seven years, save much for distributing in ready money, at the time of an' election; and I really believe, if the fact were narrowly enquired into, it would appear, that the gcntlcment in office are as little guilty ofbribing their electors with ready money, as any other set of gentlemen in the kingdom.
That there are ferments often raising among the people without any just cause, is what I am surprised to hear controverted, since very late experience may convince us of the contrary. Do not we know what a ferment was raised in the nation towards the latter end of the late queen's reign? And it is well known what a fatal change in the affairs of this nation was introduced, or at least confirmed, by an election's coming on while the nation was in that ferment. Do not we know what a ferment was raised in the nation soon after his late majesty's accession? And if an election had then been allowed to come on, while the nation was in that ferment, it might perhaps have had as fatal effects as the former; but, thank God, this was wifely provided against by the very law which is now wanted to be repealed.
As such ferments may hereafter often bappen, I must think that frequent elections will always be dangerous; for which reason, as far as I can fee at present, I shall, 1 believe, at all times, think it a very dangerous experiment to repeal the septennial bill.
$82. Lord Lyttelto-n'j Speech on the Repeal of the Ail called the Jeiu Bill, in the Tear 1753. Mr. Speaker, I see no occasion to enter at present
into the merits of the bill we pasted'the
last session, for the naturalization of Jews, because I am convinced, that in the present temper of the nation, not a single foreign Jew will think it expedient to take the benefit'of that act; and therefore the repealing of it is giving up nothing. I assented to it last year, in hopes it might induce some wealthy Jews to come and settle among us: in that light I saw enough of utility in it, to make me incline rather to approve than dislike it; but that any man alive could be zealous, either for or against it, I confess I had no idea. What affects our religion is indeed of the highest and most serious importance: God forbid we should ever be indifferent about that! but I thought this had no more to do with religion, than any turnpike-act we passed in that session ; and, after all the divinity that has been preached on the subject, I think so still.
Resolution and steadiness arc excellent qualities; but, it is the application of^them upon which their value depends. A wife government, Mr. Speaker, will know where to yield, as well as where to resist: and there is no surer mark of littleness of mind in an administration, than obstinacy in trifles. Public wisdom on some occasions must condescend to give way to popular folly, especially in a free country, where the humour of the people must be considered as attentively as the humour of a king in an absolute monarchy. Under both forms of government, a prudent and honest ministry will indulge a small folly, and will resist a great one., Not to vouchsafe now and then a kind indulgence to the former, would discover an ignorance in human nature: not to resist the latter at all times would be meanness and servility.
Sir, I look on the bill we are at present debating, not as a sacrifice made to popularity (for it sacrifices nothing) but as a prudent regard to some consequences arising from the nature of the clamour raised against the late act for naturalizing Jews, which seem to require a particular consideration.
It has been hitherto the rare and envied felicity of his majesty'? reign, th»t
his subjects have enjoyed such a settled tranquillity, such a freedom from angry religious disputes, as is not to be paralleled in any former times. The true Christian spirit of moderation, of charity, of universal benevolence, has prevailed in the people, has prevailed in the clergy of all ranks and degrees, instead of those narrow principles, those bigoted pleasures, that furious, that implacable, that ignorant zeal, which had often done so much hurt both to the church and^he state. But from the ill-understood, insignificant act of parliament you are now moved to repeal, occasion has been taken to deprive us of this inestimable advantage. It is a pretence to disturb the peace of the church, to infuse idle fear into the minds of the people, and make religion itself an engine of sedition. It behoves the piety, as well as the wisdom of parliament, to disappoint those endeavours. Sir, the very worst mischief that can be done to religion, is to pervert it to the purposes of faction. Heaven and hell are not more distant than the benevolent spiritof the Gospel, and the malignant spirit of party. The most impious wars ever made were those called holy wars. He who hates another man for not being a Christian, is himself not a Christian. Christianity, Sir, breathes love, and peace, and goodwill to man. A temper conformable to the dictates of that holy religion has lately distinguished this nation; and a glorious distinction it was! But there is latent, at all times, in the minds of the vulgar, a spark of enthusiasm; which, if blown by the breath of a party, may, even when it seems quite extinguished, be suddenly revived and raised to a flame. The act of last session for naturalizing Jews, has very unexpectedly administered fuel to feed that flame. To what a height it may rife, if it should continue much longer, one cannot easily tell; but, take away the fuel, and it will die of itself.
It is the misfortune of all the Roman Catholic countries, that there the church and the state, the civil power and the hierarchy, have separate interests; and are continually at variance one with the other. It is our happiness, that there
they form but one system. While this harmony lasts, whatever hurts the church, hurts the state: whatever weakens the credit of the governors of the church, takes away from the civil power a part of its strength, and shakes the whole constitution.
Sir, I trust and believe that, by speedily passing this bill, we shall silence that obloquy which has so unjustly been cast upon our reverend prelates (some of the most respectable thatever adorned our church) for the part they took in the act which this repeals. And it greatly concerns the whole community, that they should not lose that respect which is so justly due to them, by a popular clamour kept up in opposition to a measure of no importance in itself. But if the departing from that measure should not remove the prejudice so maliciously raised, I am certain that no further step you can take will be able to remove it; and, therefore, I hope you will stop here. This appears to be a reasonable and safe condescension, by which nobody will be hurt; but all beyond this would be dangerous weakness in government: it might open a door to the wildest enthusiasm, and to the most mischievous attacks of political disaffection working upon that enthusiasm. If you encourage and authorize it to fall on the synagogue, it will go from thence to the meeting-house, and in the end to the palace. But let us be careful to check its further progress. The more zealous we are to support Christianity, the more vigilant should we be in maintaining toleration. If we bring back persecution, we bring back the Anti-christian spiritof popery; and when the spirit is here, the whole system will soon follow. Toleration is the basis of all public quiet. It is a charter of freedom given to the mind, more valuable, I think, than thatwhich secures our persons and estates. Indeed, they are inseparably connected together: for, where the mind is not free, where the conscience is enthralled, there is no freedom. Spiritual tyranny puts on the galling chains; but civil tyranny is called in, to rivet and fix them. We fee it in Spain, and many other countries j we have formerly both seen and