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LETTER

TO

THE CHAIRMAN OF THE BUCKINGHAMSHIRE

MEETING,

HELD AT AYLESBURY, APRIL 13, 1780,

ON THE SUBJECT OF

PARLIAMENTARY REFORM.

NOTE.

The meeting of the freeholders of the County of Buckingham, which occasioned the following Letter, was called for the purpose of taking into consideration a petition to Parliament for shortening the duration of Parliaments, and for a more equal representation of the people in the House of Commons.

Ꮮ Ꭼ Ꭲ Ꭲ Ꭼ Ꭱ .

,

IR, -Having heard yesterday, by mere accident,

that there is an intention of laying before the county meeting new matter, which is not contained in our petition, and the consideration of which had been deferred to a fitter time by a majority of our committee in London, permit me to take this method of submitting to you my reasons for thinking, with our committee, that nothing ought to be hastily deter mined upon the subject.

Our petition arose naturally from distresses which we felt; and the requests which we made were in effect nothing more than that such things should be done in Parliament as it was evidently the duty of Parliament to do. But the affair which will be proposed to you by a person of rank and ability is an alteration in the constitution of Parliament itself. It is impossible for you to have a subject before you of more importance, and that requires a more cool and more mature consideration, both on its own account, and for the credit of our sobriety of mind, who are to resolve upon it.

The county will in some way or other be called upon to declare it your opinion, that the House of Commons is not sufficiently numerous, and that the elections are not sufficiently frequent, — that an hundred new knights of the shire ought to be added, and that we are to have a new election once in three years for certain, and as much oftener as the king pleases. Such will be the state of things, if the proposition made shall take effect.

All this may be proper. But, as an honest man, I cannot possibly give my vote for it, until I have considered it more fully. I will not deny that our Constitution may have faults, and that those faults, when found, ought to be corrected ; but, on the whole, that Constitution has been our own pride, and an object of admiration to all other nations. It is not everything which appears at first view to be faulty, in such a complicated plan, that is to be determined to be so in reality. To enable us to correct the Constitution, the whole Constitution must be viewed to gether; and it must be compared with the actual state of the people, and the circumstances of the time. For that which taken singly and by itself may appear to be wrong, when considered with relation to other things, may be perfectly right, — or at least such as ought to be patiently endured, as the means of preventing something that is worse. So far with regard to what at first view may appear a distemper in the Constitution. As to the remedy of that distemper an equal caution ought to be used; because this latter consideration is not single and separate, no more than the former. There are many things in reformation which would be proper to be done, if other things can be done along with them, but which, if they cannot be so accompanied, ought not to be done at all. I therefore wish, when any new matter of this deep nature is proposed to me, to have the whole scheme distinctly in my view, and full time to consider of it. Please God, I will walk with caution, whenever I am not able clearly to see my way before me.

I am now growing old. I have from my very early youth been conversant in reading and thinking upon the subject of our laws and Constitution, as well as upon those of other times and other countries; I have been for fifteen years a very laborious member of Parliament, and in that time have had great opportunities of seeing with my own eyes the working of the machine of our government, and remarking where it went smoothly and did its business, and where it checked in its movements, or where it damaged its work; I have also had and used the opportunities of conversing with men of the greatest wisdom and fullest experience in those matters; and I do declare to you most solemnly and most truly, that, on the result of all this reading, thinking, experience, and communication, I am not able to come to an immediate resolution in favor of a change of the groundwork of our Constitution, and in particular, that, in the present state of the country, in the present state of our representation, in the present state of our rights and modes of electing, in the present state of the several prevalent interests, in the present state of the affairs and manners of this country, the addition of an hundred knights of the shire, and hurrying election on election, will be things advantageous to liberty or good government.

This is the present condition of my mind; and this is my apology for not going as fast as others may choose to go in this business. I do not by any means reject the propositions ; much less do I condemn the gentlemen who, with equal good intentions, with much better abilities, and with infinitely greater personal weight and consideration than mine, are of opinion that this matter ought to be decided upon instantly.

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