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Westminster, Southwark, Middlesex, and Surry; and the other associations of towns, cities, and counties all over the kingdom; particularly that which so distinguished, for its public spirit the county of York, where the first meeting for restoring independence to parliament, was called by a requisition to the Sheriff, with two hundred and nine respectable signatures. It was held on the 30th. December, 1779, and appointed a Committee of sixty one. “ to carry on the necessary “ correspondence for effectually promoting the object “ of their petition, and to prepare a plan of an associa“'tion on legal and constitutional grounds to support " that laudable reform, and such other measures as may
conduce to restore the freedom of parliament.”1 The solemn proceedings likewise of all the associating bodies, by their deputies, who in the years 1780, and 1781, met in the metropolis, and placed in their Chair, that' venerable and steadfast patriot, Mr. Wyvill, will not be forgotten. The Association of the Volunteers of Ireland, the grand National Convention, of that country, and the proceedings of their delegates in the same cause, are great and honourable features in the history of those times. The proceedings of the Associated Bodies both in England and Ireland, and of delegates, Mr. Wyvill has taken care for the most part to record in his invaluable collection of " Political Papers," which already amount to five bulky yolumes nor has the present writer ever since the first moving of the question, except while, in deference to Mr. Pitt, he waited for the fulfilment of that gentleman's engagements, been very negligent, as may be seen by the subjoined list of his publications, among which No. 13 is partly on another subject, and No. 19, 21,, and 25, embrace also a reform in the military branch of the constitution, no less essential to Jiberty and good government, than even a reform in our representation ; for they who can monopolize the swords are masters of all mens lives, diberlies, and properties.
1 Wyvill's Polit: Papers, I. 4., 2 No. 1. Take your Choice. 1776. 2. The Legislative Rights of the Commonalty V'indicated, 1777. 3. Declaration of those Rights of the Commonalty of Great Bri
tain, without which they cannot be free, 1799. 4. Declaration of Rights, without whichí no Englishman can be a
free man, nor the English Nation a free People, 1780.. 5v An Address to the Committees of the Associated Counties, &c. · 1780. i 6. The People's Barrier against undue Influence and Corruption,
Although it be true that a cause which rests on the eternal principles of truth and justice;, on principles without wbich liberty cannot exist, and without which dikewise property must be a word without a meaning, and the English constitution also a dream ; a cause which every human breast, not bribed against the common rights and interest, or not blinded by prejudices equivaleni to insanily, must feel.co be its own; al
7. Letter to the Freeholders of Middlesex, and Electors of London and Westminster, 1780. 8. Letters to the Deputies of the Associated and Petitioning Coun. ties, Cities and Towns, 1781. 9. Ditto---To which is annexed, the Right and Duty, as well as Wisdom and Necessity of being Armed, for defence of the Peacc,
and Laws, and Liberties of our Country, 1782. 10. Give us our Rights ! 1782. 10. Dialogue between a Clergyman and a Cottager, 1783. 11. Address to the Merchants, Manufacturers, &c. of Leeds, Wake
"field, &c. 1783 or 1784. 12. Internal Evidence.In answer to Soame Jenyns, Esq. 1784. 13. Letter to the Duke of Newcastle, 1792.1 14. Letter to a Friend at Boston, on associating in support of the
Constitution, 1793, 15. The Commonwealth in Danger, 1795. 16. Letter to thc High Sheriff of Lincolnshire, 1795. 17. Petition to the House of Commons, against the Pitt and Gren
ville Bills, 1795. 18. Appendix to the Letter to the High Sheriff of Lincolnshire, 1795. 19. Constitutional Defence of England, Internal and External, 1796. 20, An Appcal on the subject of the English Constitution, 1797. 21. An Appeal, civil and military, on the subject of the English · Constitution, 1799. 22. Letter to the Rev. Chr. Wyvill, 1801. 23. Letter to the Electors of Nottingham, 1803. 24. A Revicw of the Proceedings upon the Petitions, complaining
of an undue election and return for the town of Nottinghaid,
1803. 25. England's Ægis, 1804. 26. Declaration of the Middlesex Frecholder's Club: and a Spcech,
1804 - .....!
1 The principal matter of this letter is on another subject, but that of Reform makes part of it.
though sych a cause stands not in need of the authority of names to recommend it to approbation, yet as there is a natural curiosity in wishing to know what eminent men have in any degree contributed to the advancement of truth, and the promoting of human freedọm, I shall present my readers with a list of those, in whose works, or in whose occasional letters, according to materials in my hands, or my recollection, may be found direct testimonies of a wish, either for a more equal representation of the people in parliament, or for a much shorter legal duration of parliaments than at present ; for which list see the Appendix.
In this list we cannot expect to find many early complainants against the inequality of representation ; for while other dangers to liberty engaged mens' attention, and excited their efforts, it was not suspected that in this defect lay the seeds of a complete subversion of the constitution ; but I confess it appears to me very wonderful, that so little attention had in times past been paid to the circumstance of duration ; because from parliaments of a duration beyond a single session, the greatest evils had befallen both the nation, and its kings; and whether a longer duration had been against law, as by the proceedings of Richard the second, Henry the eighth, and Charles the second; or by law, as when the mistaken patriots in the reign of Charles the first, obtained an act to secure them from a dissolution without the consent of both houses, 1 the mischief had been equally certain, and deplorable.
It is not intended to insert in the lisi, parliamentary speakers in general, who in debate have shewn themselves favourable to reform, because their names are either familiar to the reader, or their sentiments accessi, sible to him at pleasure ; but two in particular are inserted, because of having spoken on both sides ; namely, Lord Melville, wbo, although these questions are of the very essence of the constitution on points at all times equally sacred, was against reform, and for it, and against it again, according to the ministerial order of the day ;2 and Mr. Pitt, once the very champion, and afterwards the assassin of reform. And I name these men, in hopes the reader will refer to their speeches ; in order that they may see how unanswerably men of abilities speak when on the side of truth and liberty ; and how much like drivellers when against them. For the same reason I may refer to the writings of Jenyns, Paley,2 and Burke,3 all men of distinguished talents ; when it will be seen that wit, reason, and eloquence, in a bad cause, only disgrace those who use them.' Besides these, I do not recollect any writers of eminence, who have taken the field as adversaries of parliamentary reformation ; for those, who have written with most plausibility, have for the most part had the sense to conceal their names. There is, indeed, a great body of anonymous writing, and some of it meriting great attention, on the side of reform. ' · By carefully looking over all the Wyvill Political Papers, many names might be added to the list in the Appendix, of persons whose sentiments are deserving of high respect; as there will also be found such wri. ting as never yet did, and never can, fail finally to give triumph to the cause in which it is employed. Had this writing been employed indeed on abstruse points of faith, concerning the affairs of another world, learning and ability might have been displayed perbaps on both sides, with equal reputation to the disputants; but in the case before us, there is neither reputation to be got for valuable writing, nor credit for integrity, except on one side ; for those whose arguments go io prove the English constitution a fraudulent bubble, and that mankind have no political rights ; how much sooner they may for a moinent be applauded by the courtly and the corrupt, will be sure to fall ere long into contempt and reprobation. It has not, my Lord, been fine writing, argument, and oratory, by which we have hitherto been “ baffled;" but by apostacy, treachery, chicane, and profligate voting ; such exactly as we have recently witnessed, in the disgraceful proceedings for screening from justice, a minister, who, by an infamous breach
1 16 Charles I. c. 7. 2 “ The Right Hon. Henry Dundas, " thought it his duty to state some of those reasons to the house “ which induced him to declare himself a sincere friend to this “ question. (A very hearty laugh.) Debate on Reform, 18 Ap. 1785. Sec Wyvill's Polit. Papers II. 340.
I Answered by Internal Evidence, in 1784. 2 Answered by Letters to W Paley, M. A. &c. bý T. Holt White, Esq. in 1796. Published by Johnson. , 3 Of this gentleman's reasoning on the subject, specimens will ap pear in this work. . .
of trust, and in gross violation of law, had been privy to, and connived at, the misapplication of public money, for the purpose of private emolument..
On reviewing the past controversy on the subject of parliamentary representation, and what has hitherto been the result, we shall be obliged to admit, that the reasoning of the faction behind the throne, on which they relied for overturning, as I have said, whatever stood in the way of their designs, was not built on slight foundations: nor shall we be surprised that such a face, tion, when the pillage of America had escaped them, fastened with the keener rapacity on England and Indostan. But amongst our authorities in favour of the necessity of a parliamentary reformation, let us not forget the words of the great Chatham, who wished " to “ infuse a portion of new health into the constitution, “ to enable it to bear its infirmities ;"1 nor those of his son, in his speech on the 18th of May, 1782, when he said, " That person was not apt to indulge vague and “ chimerical speculations, inconsistent with practice “ and expediency. I personally know, that it was “ the opinion of this person, that without recurring to " first principles in this respect, and establishiug a “ more solid and equal representation of the people, by “ which the proper constitutional connection should “ be revived, this nation, with the best capacities for “ grandeur and happiness of any on the face of the “ earth, must be confounded with the mass of those 56 whose liberties were lost in the corruption of the people."
1 Quoted by Junius, in his letter to Wilkes.
N OW the man who, twenty three years ago, said all. this, treacherously building on such a father's fame, and laying in a rich stock of personal popularity by thus