Изображения страниц
PDF
EPUB

of the evils which are charged to an independent spirit, before we give sanction to any measure, that, by checking a spirit so easily damped, and so hard to be excited, may affect the liberty of a part of our Constitution, which, if not free, is worse than uscless.

The Editor does not deny that by possibility such an abuse may exist: but, prima fronte, there is no reason to presume it. The House of Commons is not, by its complexion, peculiarly subject to the distempers of an independent habit. Very little compulsion is necessary, on the part of the people, to render it abundantly complaisant to ministers and favorites of all descriptions. It required a great length of time, very considerable industry and perseverance, no vulgar policy, the union of many men and many tempers, and the concurrence of events which do not happen every day, to build up an independent House of Commons. Its demolition was accomplished in a moment; and it was the work of ordinary lands. But to construct is a matter of skill; to demolish, force and fury are sufficient.

The late House of Commons has been punished for its independence. That example is made. Have we an example on record of a House of Commons punished for its servility? The rewards of a senate so disposed are manifest to the world. Several gentlemen are very desirous of altering the constitution of the House of Commons; but they must alter the frame and constitution of human nature itself, before they can so fashion it, by any mode of election, that its conduct will not be influenced by reward and punishment, by fame and by disgrace. If these examples take root in the minds of men,

what members licrcafter will be bold enough not to be corrupt, especially as the king's highway of obsequiousness is so very broad and casy? To make a passive member of Parliament, no dignity of mind, no principles of honor, no resolution, no ability, no industry, no learning, no esperience, are in the least degree necessary. To defend a post of importance against a powerful enemy requires an Eliot; a drunken invalid is qualified to loist a white flag, or to deliver up the keys of the fortress on his knees.

The gentlemen chosen into this Parliament, for the purpose of this surrender, were bred to better things, and are no doubt qualified for other service. But for this strenuous exertion of inactivity, for the vigorous task of submission and passive obedience, all their learning and ability are rather a matter of personal ornament to themselves than of the least use in the performance of their duty.

The present surrender, therefore, of rights and privileges without examination, and the resolution to support any minister given by the secret advisers of the crown, determines not only on all the power and authority of the House, but it settles the character and description of the men who are to compose it, and perpetuates that character as long as it may be thought expcdicnt to kcep up a phantom of popular representation.

It is for the chance of some amendment before this new settlement takes a permanent form, and while the matter is yet soft and ductilo, that the Editor has republished this piece, and added somo notes and explanations to it. His intentions, he hopes, will excuse him to the original mover, and to the world. He acts from a strong sense of the incurable ill effects of holding out the conduct of the late House of Commons as an example to be shunned by future representatives of the people.

MOTION

RELATIVE TO

THE SPEECH FROM THE THRONE.

A

LUNÆ, 14° DIE JUNII, 1784.
MOTION was made, That a representation be

presented to his Majesty, most humbly to offer to his royal consideration, that the address of this House, upon his Majesty's speech from the throne, was dictated solely by our conviction of his Majesty's own most gracious intentions towards his people, which, as we feel with gratitude, so we are ever ready to acknowledge with cheerfulness and satisfaction.

Impressed with these sentiments, we were willing to separate from our general expressions of duty, respect, and veneration to his Majesty's royal person and his princely virtues all discussion whatever with relation to several of the matters suggested and several of the expressions employed in that speech.

That it was not fit or becoming that any decided opinion should be formed by his faithful Commons on that speech, without a degree of deliberation adequate to the importance of the object. Having afforded ourselves due time for that deliberation, we do now most humbly beg leave to represent to his Majesty, that, in the speech from the throne, his ministers have thought proper to use a language of a very alarming import, unauthorized by the practice of good times, and irreconcilable to the principles of this government.

Humbly to express to his Majesty, that it is the privilege and duty of this House to guard the Constitution from all infringement on the part of ministers, and, whenever the occasion requires it, to warn them against any abuse of the authorities committed to them; but it is very lately,* that, in a manner not more unseemly than irregular and preposterous, ministers have thought proper, by admonition from the throne, implying distrust and reproach, to convey the expectations of the people to us, their sole representatives, † and have presumed to caution us, the natural guardians of the Constitution, against any infringement of it on our parts.

This dangerous innovation we, his faithful Commons, think it our duty to mark ; and as these admonitions from the throne, by their frequent repetition, seem intended to lead gradually to the establishment of an 'usage, we hold ourselves bound thus solemnly to protest against them.

This House will be, as it ever ought to be, anxiously attentive to the inclinations and interests of its constituents; nor do we desire to straiten any of the avenues to the throne, or to either House of Parliament. But the ancient order in which the rights of the people have been exercised is not a restriction of these rights. It is a method providently framed in * See King's Speech, Dec. 5, 1782, and May 19, 1784.

“ I shall never submit to the doctrines I have heard this day from the woolsack, that the other House (House of Commons] are the only representatives and guardians of the people's rights. I boldly maintain the contrary. I say this House [ House of Lords] is equally the representatives of the people.Lord Shelburne's Speech, April 8, 1778. Vide Parliamentary Register, Vol. X. p. 392.

« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »