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ought not now to be estimated at fewer than eighty thousand
Considering the scrutinizing discussions which have so long engaged the public attention, it is not to be imagined that if I should incidentally mention Lord Melville, either here or in other parts of this work, it can create any prejudice in the minds of the Judges who are to try him upon specific charges, a judgment upon which must depend as a proof of facts. The writer never can admit that, in pleading the cause of his deeply injured country, he is not to give effect to his argument, by naming a person whose general counsels have been pernicious, merely because that person happens to lie under accusation for specific acts, for which he is to be tried. But on the present occasion, the friends of Lord M. have furnished a strong reason why the writer should not shun the mention of his name. Mr. Pitt, and many others, even hundreds in the house of Commons have acted, as if under a conviction that Lord M. has not committed any crime, and at most only a trivial inadvertency; and there has appeared amongst them no small desire to see him again restored to power. This being the case, there can be no objection to our making a due estimate of his former counsels, and shewing what have been the fatal consequences.
Let ihose then who, with Lords Liverpool and Melville, shared in the pernicious counsels, or abetted the measures, which dissolved our once glorious and happy, but delicate union with America, now make to their country the best atonement in their power, by a fu-. ture adherence in England, to that great, prominent, sacred principle of the constitution, which then they attempted to violate in America ; that, whereby taration and representation are inseparably united? To the writer of these pages it is now a source of satisfac tion, which neither court honours nor official wealth could bestow, that, more than thirty-one years ago, and anterior to the American war, he recommended through the medium of the press, a legislative declaration of American independance on parliament, and a voluntary federal union between that country and England, un
der the crown which then was common to both; on a simple plan, amply providing against the present ill consequences to this country, from the fatal separation. Had that temperate and reasonable counsel been then attended to, the shIPPING, the SEAMEN, the strength, and prosperity of America, would at this time have been in effect the shipping, the seamen, the strength and prosperity of England; and such policy naturally producing a train of events, very different from what we have since experienced, it is not probable that, had we so avoided the American war, and so improved our American connection, we should now have seen the shipping, the seamen, the strength of Holland, Belgium, Spain, Genoa, and all Italy, augmenting the power of France; nor would there have been in any Englishman's mind, place for the anxiety which must now be felt by every friend of his country on viewing the state of the nation, as exposed to the attempts of its enemies, even upon its own shores: but on the contrary, the observation made to the author by one of the unwilling founders of the American republic, would have been verified; that the united countries would thereby have been placed, with the irresistible means of commanding peace, at the head of the civilized' world. Comparing a situation so enviable and so'glorious, in which we might by ordinary prudence have soon been in the same situation in respect of taration, as that which Mr. Jefferson lately announced to the people of America, with the perilous situation in which the nation now stands, staggering under a debt of between sir and seven hundred millions, we may learn the high importance of constitutional principles, and of strict political integrity; and the low-estimation in which self-important speechmaking, and intriguing statesmen, who are corruptly subservient 'to' a faction 'behind the throne, calling themselves the King's friends, or treacherously subservient to kings themselves, ought to be held; for by this retrospect we shall have reason to conclude, that, by the adoption, or by the rejection, of a single political principle as a rule of government, it shall depend whether a people are to become the greatest, or the
most insignificant of nations, the envy or the scorn of mankind.
It is with a melancholy remembrance of the influence of the human passions, to obscure the plainest truths in the science of civil government, that even amongst the parliamentary opposers of the American war, the writer does not recollect any but the · Earl of Abingdon, and Mr. David Hartley, and latterly the Duke of Richmond, who opposed that war as rudically unjust in principle, and as striking at the root of our own constitution; nor any one of them except Mr. Hartley,who made known to him his approbation of the plan of free union, above-mentioned; although the author had industriously used means of making it known to the members of both houses of parliament.As for that king of sophistry, that elernal dealer in the contradictions which necessarily flow from atiempting to combine inveterate theoretic despotism, with chimerical notions of practical good government, who “ had his full share in the counsels of 1766," it was his pride and his boast, that throughout the dispute with America, he, more than any other individual member of the house of commons, was the champion of that right, 1 the assertion of which, was the fatal cause of so much mischief. Accursed be such pretences to political wis. dom ! But whatever Englishmen in particular may have suffered from those subtleties, which not only then corrupted the whig creed, but which afterwards also caused a great apostacy;or,whatever Europeans in general may have suffered from eloquent sophistries in recommendation of despotic power, mankind at large have had ample consolation in the circumstance, that age which produced a learned, a metaphysical, and a mysterious Burke, also produced a Washington, an Adams, and a Jefferson, honest politicians, exercising sound understandings, in the cause of human liberty.
1 The reference to his words is mislaid.
: My LORD,
BEFORE we pass from the American war to the war of 1793, that is, from Lord North's war, to Mr. Pitt's war, we must pay due attention to the most important question that in any period of English history ever agitated our nation ; namely, that which respects a reform in our parliamentary representation, and the duration of parliaments : I say the most important question, and I say it with confidence; because that which is political liberty itself, must hold precedence of that which is only an aid or a security to liberty, whatever may be its dignity or its magnitude: this question therefore exceeds in importance any thing that was settled either by Magna charta or the Bill of Rights; both of which, inasmuch as they secured not such a representation of the people in Parliament, nor such a short duration of parliaments, as both the English constitution and the rights of nature require, much as they did in aid of our liberties, were yet to our cost lamentably defective.
At various periods, attempts were made to restore annual elections, particularly in 1744, and 1745; and according to my recollection, the late Mr. Sawbridge also annually, for several years made a motion to that effect ; and in the year 1776, Mr. Wilkes moved, and made a good speech, for a more equal representation : but, the writer of this letter was himself, so far as he knows, the first who introduced the actual discussion of the question now under consideration, through the medium of the press ; 1 to which he was much stimulated, by reading Burgh's Political Disquisitions.
1 His friend Mr. Granville Sharp published in 1774, in vindication of the liberties of the people of Irel as not bound by British statutcs, “ A Declaration of the People's Natural Right to a share in the Legislature;” in which the general principles applying to all just legislation are laid down.
His attention was first drawn to the subject, by his haviny (then a sea officer in retirement) entered into the American controversy ; by which he was led to notice the extreme ignorance and disregard of the constitution, then observable in the legislature ; and, examining these phenomena, he soon perceived the cause. In the spring 1775, on republishing collectively a series of Letters for preserving to us America, he slightly touched on the subject of parliamentary reform; expressing a hope that Lord Camden, acting upon his
“ wish” that the maxim of Machiavel should be followed, “ of examining a constitution at certain “ periods, according to its first principles, in order “ to correct abuses, and supply defects,” would take up the question, and “ frame a proper bill on the
occasion."1 . But as this was not done by that nobleman, and as the subject was near his beart, he himself afterwards entered regularly upon the discussion, and early in 1776, published his original treatise, and to the best of his power pressed the question upon the attention of persons in both houses of Parliament, as well as upon that of such private persons, as, in his retired situation, he was acquainted with. In 1777, he published his second treatise on reform ; and in 1779, he in conjunction with the late Dr. John Jebb, and the present Mr. Capel Lofft, laid the first stone in founding the Society for Constitutional Information. Many distinguished persons both in and out of parliament became members, the immortal Sir William Jones accepted our election “ with pleasure and gratitude,"2 and the Society, according to the object of its institution, widely disseminated the principles of parliamentary reformation.
In 1780, the writer published his third treatise on the subject, and in the same year a poble member of the society, the Duke of Richmond, offered to the House of Lords, in an able and impressive speech, a Bill of Reform, on the principles laid down in the treatises above mentioned. The subject now engrossed much of the public attention; and the more it became understood, the greater. was the interest it excited. Your Grace will recollect the quintuple alliance of London,
Amer, Independ. &c. p. 29. 2 Memoirs.