Imatges de pÓgina
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number and value of the offices in the donation of the king.

But whilst we dispute concerning different schemes of reformation, all directed to the fame end, a previous doubt occurs in the debate, whether the end itself be good, or safe—whether the influence so loudly complained of can be destroyed, or even much diminished, without danger to the state. Whilst the zeal of some inen beholds this influence with a jealousy, which nothing but its entire abolition can appease, many wise and virtuous politicians deem a considerable portion of it to be as necessary a part of the British constitution, az any other ingredient in the composition—to be that, indeed, which gives cohesion and solidity to the whole. Were the measures of government, say they, opposed from nothing but principle, government ought to have nothing but the rectitude of its measures to support them ; but since opposition springs from other motives, government must possess an influence to counteract these motives; to produce, not a bias of the passions, but a neutrality: it must have some weight to cast into the scale, to let the balance even, It is the nature of power always to press upon the boundaries which confine it.' Licentiousness, fa&tion, envy,

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VOL. II.

the great

impatience of control or inferiority; the secret pleasure of mortifying the great, or the hope of dispossessing them ; a constant willingness to question and thwart whatever is dictated or even proposed by another; a disposition common to all bodies of men to extend the claims and authority of their orạers ; above all, that love of power, and of shewing it, which resides more or less in every human breast, and which, in popular assemblies, is inflamed, like every other passion, by communication and encouragement: these motives, added to private designs and resentments, cherished also by popular acclamation, and operating upon

share of power already poffeffed by the house of commons, might induce a majority, or at least a large party of men in that assembly, to unite in endeavouring to draw to themselves the whole government of the state ; or at least so to obftru& the conduct of public affairs, by a wanton and perverse opposition, as to render it impossible for the wisest statesmen to carry forwards the business of the nation with success or satisfaction.

Some passages of our national history afford grounds for these apprehensions. Before the accession of James the First, or, at least, during the reigns of his three immediate predecessors,

the

the government of England was a government by force; that is, the king carried his measures in parliament by intimidation. A sense of personal danger kept the members of the house of commons in subjection. A conjunction of fortunate causes delivered at last the parliament and nation from flavery. That overbearing system, which had declined in the hands of James, expired early in the reign of his son. After the restoration there succeeded in its place, and since the revolution has been methodically pursued, the more successful expedient of influence. Now we remember what passed between the loss of terror, and the establishment of influence. The transactions of that interval, whatever we may think of their occasion or effect, no friend of regal government would wish to see revived. But the affairs of this kingdom afford a more recent attestation to the same doctrine. In the British colonies of North America, the late afsemblies possessed much of the power and constitution of our house of commons. The king and government of Great Britain held no patronage in the country, which could create at: tachment and influence sufficient to counteract that restless, arrogating spirit, which in popular assemblies, when left to itself, will never brook

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an authority, that checks and interferes with its

To this cause, excited perhaps by some unseasonable provocations, we may' attribute, as to their true and proper original, we will not fay the misfortunes, but the changes that have taken place in the British empire. The admonition, which such examples suggest, will have its weight with those, who are content with the general frame of the English constitution ; and who consider stability amongst the first perfections of any government.

We protest however against any construction, by which what is here said shall be attempted to be applied to the justification of bribery, or of any clandestine reward or solicitation whatever. The very secrecy of such negociations confesses or begets a consciousness of guilt; which when the mind is once taught to endure without uneasiness, the character is prepared for every compliance: and there is the greater danger in these corrupt practices, as the extent of their operation is unlimited and unknown. Our apology relates folely to that influence, which results from the acceptance or expectation of public preferments. Nor does the influence, which we défend, require any

sacrifice of

perfonal probity. In political, above all other sub

jects,

1

jects, the arguments, or rather the conjectures,
on each side of the question, are often fo equally
poised, that the wisest judgments may be held
in suspense: these I call subjects of indifference.
But again, when the subject is not indifferent in
itself, it will appear such to a great part of those
to whom it is proposed, for want of informa-
tion, or reflection, or experience, or of capacity
to collect and weigh the reasons by which either
fide is supported. These are subjects of apparent
indifference. This indifference occurs still more
frequently in personal contests; in which we
do not often discover any reason of public
utility, for the preference of one competitor to
another. These cases compose the province of
influence; that is, the decision in these cases
will inevitably be determined by influence of
some sort or other. The only doubt is, what
influence shall be admitted. If you remove the
influence of the crown, it is only to make way
for influence from a different quarter.
tives of expectation and gratitude be withdrawn,
other motives will succeed in their place, acting
probably in an opposite direction, but equally
irrelative and external to the proper merits of
the question. There exist, as we have seen,
passions in the human heari, which will always

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