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upon me, and
and in this respect are well worthy of the study of honourable members of the present day. He usually commences each session of Parliament by requesting his constituents to consider, whether there were any local affairs in which they might more particularly require his aid, and to give him timely notice of them. His prudence is equally conspicuous in his abstinence from any dangerous comments on public affairs ; he usually contents himself with detailing bare facts. This caution was absolutely necessary at a period when the officials of the Post-office made no scruple of breaking the seal of private correspondence, for the purpose of obtaining information for the Government. On one occasion this seems to have been done in his own case, as he tells his constituents that a letter of his had been shown about town. They vehemently disclaimed all knowledge of any breach of trust, in a very complimentary reply. In acknowledging this letters he says—- I am very well satisfied, gentlemen,
by your letter, that it was none of you; but it seems, therefore, • that there is some sentinel set both upon you and 'to know it therefore is a sufficient caution: the best of it is, that none of us, I believe, either do say or write any thing, but what we care not though it be made public, although we do not desire it.'* He, notwithstanding, repeatedly cautions them not to let his letters be seen by any but themselves.
In this respect, there is a striking yet perfectly natural contrast between the cautious statements of facts in his public correspondence, and the lively comments upon them in his private letters ; in which his indignant patriotism expresses itself with characteristic severity against the corruptions of the court. Thus, in a letter to a friend in Persia, we find the following memorable passage
Now, after my usual method, leaving to others what relates to • business, I address myself, which is all that I am good for, to • be your gazetteer. The King having, upon pretence of the great preparations of his neighbours, demanded three hundred
thousand pounds for his navy, (though, in conclusion, he hath * not set out any,) and that the Parliament should pay his debts,
(which the ministers would never particularize to the House of Commons, our House gave several bills. You see how far things were stretched, though heyond reason, there being no 6 satisfaction how those debts were contracted, and all men fore
seeing that what was given would not be applied to discharge • the debts, which I hear are at this day risen to four millions ; .but diverted as formerly. Nevertheless, such was the number
* Marvell's Letters, p. 262.
of the constant courtiers increased by the apostate patriots, who were bought off for that turn—some at six, others ten, one at fifteen thousand pounds in money, besides what offices, lands, and reversions to others, that it is a mercy they gave not away the • whole land and liberty of England.'
In the same letter he thus speaks of the shamelessness with which the Parliament emulated the profligacy of the courtprostituting its own and the nation's honour as vilely as the royal mistresses it enriched had prostituted theirs :—' They have • signed and sealed ten thousand pounds a-year more to the
Duchess of Cleveland, who has likewise near ten thousand pounds a-year out of the new farm of the country excise of • beer and ale, five thousand pounds a-year out of the Post
office, and, they say, the reversion of all the King's leases, * the reversion of all places in the Custom-house, the green wax, and indeed what not ? All promotions, spiritual and
temporal, pass under her cognizance.'t On the King's unwelcome visits to the House of Peers, he says—. Being sat, he • told them it was a privilege he claimed from his ancestors to • be present at their deliberations. That therefore they should
not, for his coming, interrupt their debates, but proceed, and be 'covered. They did so. It is true that this has been done
long ago; but it is now so old that it is new, and so disused that at any other but so bewitched a time as this, it would have • been looked on as an high usurpation and breach of privilege. • He indeed sat still, for the most part, and interposed very little, 6 sometimes a word or two.
After three or ' four days' continuance, the lords were very well used to the • King's presence, and sent the Lord Steward and Lord « Chamberlain to him, (to know) when they might wait, as a • House on him, to render their humble thanks for the honour She did them! The hour was appointed them, and they thanked
him, and he took it well. So this matter, of such importance on all great occasions, seems riveted to them and us, for the future, and to all posterity.
The King has ever since continued his session among them, and says it is • better than going to a play.' I
Marvell’s stainless probity and honour every where appear, and in no case more amiably than in the unhappy misunderstanding with his colleague, or • his partner' as he calls him, Colonel Gilby, in 1661, and which seems to have arisen out of some electioneering proceedings. With such unrivalled talents for ridicule as
• Marvell's Letters, p. 405.
| Ibid. p. 406.
| Ibid. p. 417-419.
Marvell possessed, one might not unnaturally have expected that this dispute would have furnished an irresistible temptation to some ebullition of witty malice. But his magnanimity was far superior to such mean retaliation. He is eager to do his opponent the amplest justice, and to put the fairest construction on his conduct. He is fearful only lest their private quarrel should be of the slightest detriment to the public service. He says—' The bonds of civility betwixt Colonel Gilby and myself • being unhappily snapped in pieces, and in such manner that I . • cannot see how it is possible ever to knit them again : the only • trouble that I have is, lest by our mis-intelligence your business should receive any disadvantage.
Truly, I believe, that as to your public trust and the discharge thereof, * we do each of us still retain the same principles upon which • we first undertook it; and that, though perhaps we may some
times differ in our advice concerning the way of proceeding, yet • we have the same good ends in the general; and by this unlucky * falling out, we shall be provoked to a greater emulation of ser• ving you.'
Yet the offence, whatever it was, must have been a grave one, for he says at the conclusion of the same letter-'I ' would not tell you any tales, because there are nakednesses • which it becomes us to cover, if it be possible; as I shall, un« less I be obliged to make some vindications by any false report
or misinterpretations. In the mean time, pity, I beseech you, 'my weakness; for there are some things which men ought not, • others that they cannot patiently suffer.' †
ix Of his integrity even in little things—of his desire to keep his conscience pure and his reputation untarnished—we have some striking proofs. On one occasion he had been employed by his constituents to wait on the Duke of Monmouth, then governor of Hull, with a complimentary letter, and to present him with a purse containing six broad pieces' as an honorary fee. He says—' He had before I came in, as I was told, con
sidered what to do with the gold ; and but that I by all means "prevented the offer, I had been in danger of being reimbursed with it.' I
In the same letter he says, I received the bill which was sent me on Mr Nelehorpe ; but the surplus of it exceeding much the expense I have been at on this occasion, I desire you to make use of it, and of me, upon any other opportunity.' In one of his letters he makes the following declaration,
• Marvell's Letters, p. 33, 34.
+ Ibid. p. 36. s Ibid.
which we have no doubt was perfectly sincere, and, what is still more strange, implicitly believed :- I shall, God willing, mair• tain the same incorrupt mind and clear conscience, free from 'faction or any self-ends, which I have, by his grace, hitherto preserved.' *
We have said that these letters are also interesting as incidentally illustrating parliamentary usage. Marvell was one of the last—if not the very last- who received the wages which members were entitled by law to demand of their constituents. To this subject he makes some curious references. On more than one occasion it appears, that members had sued their constituents for
pay; while others had threatened to do so, unless the said constituents agreed to re-elect them at the next election,
To-day,' says he in a letter dated March 3, 1676-7, • Sir Har• botle Grimstone, Master of the Rolls, moved for a bill to be • brought in, to indemnify all counties, cities, and boroughs for
the wages due to their members for the time past, which was in• troduced by him upon very good reason, both because of the
poverty of many people not able to supply so long an arrear, especially new taxes now coming upon them, and also because • Sir John Shaw, the Recorder of Colchester, had sued the town for his wages; several other members also having, it seems, threatened their boroughs to do the same, unless they should
chuse them, upon another election, to Parliament.'p The conditions of re-election are assuredly strangely altered now—it is no longer possible to drive so thrifty a bargain, or bribe after so ingenious a fashion. But these . wages,' moderate as they were -only about two shillings a-day to a member of a borough, and to a county member four-were in some cases alleged to be so heavy a tax, that instances occur of unpatriotic boroughs begging to be disfranchised, to escape the burdensome honour of sending members to Parliament! Nor was the reluctance always on one side. At earlier periods of our history, we have accounts of members who, notwithstanding this liberal pay-about that of a hedger and ditcher in these more luxurious days---found the inconveniences of membership so great, and the honour in their unambitious estimate so small, that they shrank from representing a borough, as much as the borough from the dignity of being represented ; and expressed their aversion with as much sincerity as ever primitive Bishop, in times of hot persecution, cried • Nolo
Episcopari.' Nay, there are authenticcases on record, in which the candidates fairly ran away from the proffered dignity, and even
* Marvell's Letters, p. 276.
† Ibid. p. 289.
resisted it vi et armis. Strange revolutions ! we are ready to exclaim, that a man should now be willing to spend a fortune even in the unsuccessful pursuit of an honour which his ancestors were reluctant to receive even when paid for it; and that constituencies should resist, as the last insult and degradation, that disfranchisement which many of them in ancient times would have been but too happy to accept as a privilege !
In such a state of things we can hardly wonder, that the attendance of members was not very prompt and punctual, or that great difficulty was often found in obtaining a full House. Severe penalties were threatened at various times against the absentees. In one letter we are told—' The House . was called yesterday, and gave defaulters a fortnight's time, by • which, if they do not come up, they may expect the greatest severity.' In another. The House of Commons was taken up for the most part yesterday in calling over their House, and • have ordered a letter to be drawn up from the Speaker to every ' place for which there is any defaulter, to signify the absence of their member, and a solemn letter is accordingly preparing, to be signed by the Speaker. This is thought a sufficient punish'ment for any modest man ; nevertheless, if they shall not come up hereupon, there is a further severity reserved.'t
More than once we find a proposition, that these absentees should be punished by being compelled to pay double proportions toward the never-ending subsidies. One member proposed that the mulcts thus extorted from negligent or idle senators, should be exclusively employed in building a ship, to be called The Sinner's Frigate-an ill-boding name, and applicable only to a vessel
• Built in the eclipse, and rigg'd with curses dark.' Though the law-makers of that age were paid at little more than the rate of a journeyman tailor of modern times, their performances, if estimated by their value, were greatly overpaid. When we see in Marvell's correspondence how the House was frequently employed --shamefully betraying the nation with whose interests they were entrusted-taxing the groaning people to support the royal profligacy-ingeniously contriving the most elaborate and comprehensive methods of ruin, and pursuing the worst ends by the worst means-diminishing, by their absurd enactments in relation to trade and commerce, that very revenue which was almost their sole object of solicitude_addressing the King, that he will be pleased
• Marvell's Letters, p. 117.
f Ibid. p. 210.