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LETTER XV.

My LORD

BUT so surprising an event was it in an English house of commons, to have a majority of one,-ONE, in favour of the people, that silly men burst into raptures at the virtue of the house; and factious men echoed this nonsense till it became nauseous. Yes truly, my Lord, we are much beholden to that house for its virtue! Elected the great attorney, the head steward of the nation, and entrusted with the title deeds to the nation's inheritance of political liberty, the first proof of uncommon virtue it gave, was to embezzle those deeds, and then, misquoting them, to dispossess six parts in seven at least of the people, of their inestimable birthright and sacred franchise, of electing representatives. 2 The Duke of Gloucester, who now governed in the infancy of the King, found about this time a general discontent, at the expence and the disasters, of the war in France ; wherefore, he probably resorted to this gross violation of liberty, as a means of keeping down the influence of the people on parliament, and of increasing his own influence among the wealthier sort, thus raised by him above their fellows. In the 9th, of that king, the restrictions of the act were still more narrowed, and there seems reason to believe that in the 10th. year, in resentment for these statutes, the people assaulted on their way to Westminster, some members of parliament; because in the 11th. year we find a statute assigning the punishment of those that make assault upon any that come to the parliament." By another instance of uncommon virtue, the house of Commons deprived the remaining electors of the exercise of this franchise for two years in every three ; thus compelling them to retain in their service, the same

% 8 Hen. vi, 7.

servants for three years continuance at a time, although those servants should have openly taken bribes to betray their masters, or had let thieves into the house, or had themselves been the robbers of it:1 and by a third effort of uncommon virtue, it extended this privation to six

years of every seven:? and in order to make sure of the object of these virtuous endeavours for the good of the people, it took especial care to have plenty of court placemen among its members; and it has had the farther virtue to resist all attempts for preventing a great number of peers, through the farce of what is called, borough elections, from disposing of even hundreds of its seats amongst their agents, led-captains, and other dependants; and, to complete all, its virtue has provided for the ordering, regulating, fortifying, and defending so admirable a system, no less than one hundred and twelve statutes, constituting such a barricado, of net within net, web within web, and furnished with such a bost of law spiders, that woe be unto either buzzing fly, busy bee, angry wasp, or even the most formidable horoet, that shall dare to attack this sanctum sanctorum of the borough faction !

Parliaments are the true guardians of liberty. For " this principally, they were instituted; and this is the “ principal article of that great and noble trust, which " the collective body of the people of Britain reposes " in the representative; but then no slavery can be

so effectually brought and fixed upon us, as parlia

mentary slavery. By the corruption of parliament, " and the absolute influence of a king or his minister,

on the two houses, we, return unto that state, to de"liver or to secure us from which parliaments were in6 stituted, and are really governed by the arbitrary " will of one man.

Our whole constitution is at once « dissolved. Many securities to liberty are provided ; " but the integrity, which depends on the freedom and

independency of parlia,nent, is the key-stone that “ keeps the whole together. If this be shaken our “ constitution totters. It it be quite removed, our con" stitution falls to ruin. That noble fabrick, the pride

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1 6 Williain. and M. 2.

? I Geo. III, 38.

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w of Britain, the envy of her neighbours, raised by " the labour of so many centuries, repaired at the ex

pence of so many millions, and cemented by such a “ profusion of blood; that noble fabrick, I say, which

was able to resist the united efforts of so many races “ of giants, may be demolished by a race of pigmies. “ The integrity of parliament is a kind of palladium,

a tutelary goddess, who'protects our state. When “ she is once removed, we may become the prey of any “ enemies.

No Agamemnon; no Achilles will be « wanted to take our city. THERSITES HIMSELF « WILL BE SUFFICIENT FOR SUCH A CONQUEST.”1 Again : the rights claimed at the revolution " ought to have been more than claimed, since

they had been so often and so lately invaded. That they were not more than claimed, that they were « not effectually asserted and secured, at this time,

gave very great and immediate dissatisfaction; and

ihey who were called Whigs in those days, distin“ guished themselves by the loudness of their com

plaints. Thus for instance they insisted that there “ could be no real settlement, nay, that it was a jest to o talk of settlement, till the manner and time of call

ing parlianients, and their sitting, when called, were fully determined ; and this, in order to prevent the “ practice of keeping one'and the SAME PARLIAMENT

so long on foot, till the majority was corrupted by offices, gifts, and pensions. They insisted that the

assurances given at the revolution, had led them to “ think that the antient, legal course of ANNUALLY

CHOSEN PARLIAMENTS, would have been imme~ diately restored.”

In February, 1780, Sir George Savile, moved for a full disclosure of the PenSION List. It was resisted by the minister, who moved and carried an amendment, by which the secret part of the list was still kept in the dark. The minority on that question was 188; the majority only 190, and composed as follows :

| Bolingbroke, Diss. upon Parties, 116. 126. 6th. Edit. 17 43.

Pensioners, avowedly so
Contractors
Placemen
Sons of placemen or others nearly related
Members under no visible infinence

6 14 94 26 50

1901

Here then, had the principles of impannelling and challenging, a Jury prevailed, the minister instead of stifling inquiry by a majority of two, would have lost his stifling amendment by a majority of one hundred and thirty eight. But, supposing no corrupt influence, and the minister to have had upon the whole as many votes as in the proportion of 50 to 190, bis whole number would then have been only 87, in which case the majority against him would have been two hundred and four, instead of gaining his point by two. A writer of eminence in the reign of William, had early noticed the effects of the Triennial Bill,and the corruptions that issued, when he says," and though I here name offices, " yet those offices are downright bribes, since they are “ held precariously from the court, and constantly taken away upon non-compliance with the court mea

measures."2

About seven years ago, we bad published in our Newspapers, comparative lists of the House of Commons as follows.

Members holding offices, commissions, and employments of honour or emolument;

129 (or in other words bribed,] Near relations of such,

19 Members who had received titles from Mr. Pitt, 7 Loan Contractors, &c.

9

164

5 Taken from lists published in the year.

2 The Danger of mercenary Parliaments, with the infinite mischiefs of long and packed parliaments, by the author of the Letters of the Earl of Shaftesbury to Lord Molesworth. p. 12.

3 Morn. Chron. 12th January, 1798,

Now supposing, for the sake of argument, even that nó greater number than this were under such influences on the 8th of April last, and by those means, giving in the whole 216 votes to the minister, it would then follow that the number of his friends “ under no visible influence,” would only have been 52 ; so that in an independent house of commons on that occasion we must reckon 164 to be substracted from the minister, and the same number added to Mr. Whitbread; in which case that gentleman, instead of his majority of ONE, including the Speaker, would have had a majority of THREE HUNDRED AND EIGHTY without the Speaker. Had such been the fact, the shameful things since done by the minister and his unblushing factions, so often in this work alluded to, would not have taken place under the eye of a disgusted nation.

That either sophistry or habit should ever have reconciled: Englishmen, among whom it would incur a perpetual stain of infamy to corrupt a single Juror, in a private cause, to a whole host of placemen in a house of commons, openly bribed against the interest of the people by power and rich emoluments, must upon reHection excite astonishment: nor less ought we to wonder, on looking back upon the apparent unconcern with which the people have looked on, while houses of commons so packed have voted, even with scarcely a debate or division, hundreds of millions in prosecuting the wars of factions to the misery of the nation : but as fast as a people actually lose their political liberty, (for which representation is a synonimous word) they lose the knowledge of its use and value, as well as the easy and most regular mode of obtaining a redress of grievances. They have none then left but those of personal exertion, union and perseverance ; and civifised nations, who are lovers of ease, are not to be brought to such efforts, but by the excess of misery, or the imuninency of danger, from oppression, misgovernment, or wanton abuses of power. While considering a house of commons as “ in the higher

part of government what juries are in the lower,"1 1 Burke's Thoughts on the Cause of the present Discontents,

P. 66.

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