Imatges de pÓgina
PDF
EPUB

mediate, distress throughout the nation: the people will soon cry out to their government. Whilst the advantages she promises herself are remote and uncertain, inHict present evils and distresses upon her subjects: thé people will become discontented and clamorous; she will find it a bad bargain, having entered into this busi. ness; and you will force her to desert any ally that brings so much trouble, and distress, and misfortune, the advantages of whose alliance may never take efl'ect; or if they should be subject always to disturbance from this country, which it always ought to be, and which I know you are able to give, if you once get your hands clear of America. What is become of the ancient spirit of this nation? Where is the national spirit that ever did honour to this country? llave the present ministry spent that too, with almost the last shilling of your mo. ney? Are they not ashamed of the temporizing conduct they have used towards France? Jer correspondence with America has been clandestine: compare that with their conduct towards Hoiland, some time ago but it is the characteristic of little minds to be exact in little things, whilst they shrink from their rights in great ones,

The conduct of France is called clandestine: look back but a year ago to a letter from one of your secre. taries of state to Holland; “it is with surprise and indignation” your conduct is seen, in something done hy a petty governor of an isiaud, while they affect to call the measures of France clairdestine. This is the way that ministers support the character of the nation, and the national hononr and glory, But look again how that same Holland is spoke of to-day; even in your correspondence with her your littleness appears :

Pauper & exul uterque, Projecit ampullas, & sesquipedalia verba, From this you may judge of your situation, from this you may know what a state you are reduced to. How will the French party in Holland exult over you, and grow strong! She will never continue your ally, when you meanly crouch to France, and do not dare to stir in your defence! But it is nothing extraordinary that she should not, while you keep the ministers you have:

[ocr errors][merged small]

to power in Europe is blind; there is none blind enough to ally itself with weakness, and become partner in bankruptcy; there is no one blind enough to ally them. selves to obstinacy, absurdity, and imbecility.

XLV. Mr. Fox, on parliamentary reforin.

AFTER the many occasions on which I have before expressed what my sentiments are on the subject of a reform in representation of the people in parliament, I shall not consider myself under any great necessity of troubling the house : but there have been extraordinary circumstances attending the introduction of the present question. That I have always been a friend to the prin. ciple of the bill, is a fact which does not require to be How repeated. Whether the means taken to effect that principle are such as are most unex tionable, must remain for future discussion, but cannot provoke my opposition to the motion. There remain ample opportu. nities in the future stages of the bill, to examine and correct it; opportunities which in themselves will be the highest acqaisition. In the review wbich has been taken of the question there are means used to implicate the American war in the subject now under discussion, by suggesting that it was supported by the influence of burgage tenures, and that if they had been withdrawn, that war would have had a more speedy termination. I acknow. jedge that it would have been in the power of the parliament to bring that war to a period, had they considered it as an improper one; but the manner in which it must have been done, would be such as I should little expect to hear recon mended from the gentlemen on the other side of the house. When the delay of a few days in passing the supplies was represented last year as the most heinous proceeding, what would have been the enormity of stopping, not the ordnance supply, as was the case, but all the other supplies also, as would be the case in the event which might here take place! This would be a conduct worthy of a parliament in certain situations, and would shew them to be sensible of their due weight and importance in the scale of the constitution, and not the instruments

of a superior power, kept for no other purpose but to register edicts, and perform an annual routine. Much has been said of the merit of dissolving that cohesion which has been said to subsist in the parties in this house. That cohesion does subsist, is a truth in which I take too much pride, to think of denying, and from which this country derives too much advantage to be an enemy to: my connections were formed on liberal and systematic principles, and could not be dissolved by any regulations, while the same union in sentiments and principles continued to cement them. When an honourable gentleman said, that parties on one side of the house occasioned si. milar engagements on the other, he should have consi. dered, that it equally applied to one as to the other : but there might be some circumstances which might in. duce that honourable gentleman to look forward with eagerness to the dissolution of such attachments, if they obliged him to support and defend measures in which his opinions did not correspond; if they forced him to act one way, and think another. Under such circum. stances, it was perfectly natural that he should pant to be disengaged from such connections, and resign the load which seemed so much to oppress him. To that prin. ciple, which, by a diminution of the members of bou roughs, tended to increase the proportion of representatives for counties, I am sincerely and cordially a friend. But while I am thus explicit on the subject of my appro. bation, it is but just to mention, that there is another point to which I totally disagree. With all respect, which I always pay to the house of commons, and among the rest to the present house, I can perceive in it no su. perlative excellence, no just superiority which can jus: tify the suspension of the operation of this bill. To de. fer for a period of years any system of reform, however partial and inadequate, is by no means complying with the declared wishes of the majority of the electors of this country, whose voice, though by no means to be ac. knowledged as that to which the house of commons must conform, when they are directed by any sudden impulse, as the opinions of a moment, should always be obeyed on points which the experience and consideration of yeats have taught them finally to decide on. The peo. ple, notwithstanding all that has been said, have ne pe

culiar obligations to this parliament for uncommon in. stances of that propriety of conduct which could warraut so implicit a reliance in it. No very flattering proofs of extraordinary attention to the rights of the people have been given by his majesty's present ministers, in their support of that excellent measure, the Westminster scrutiny; and no very splendid testimony of their pru. dence in financial concerns, could be drawn from the commutation tar. This is a proceeding, the hardship of which they have already: felt; and there are sonie others now in agitation, which are not likely to turn out much more favourable. These only are the reasons the people can have for a reliance in their present parliament. I do not, however, mean to say any thing which can be construed into invective against them. I have before been accused of insulting them. I do not know that I did so; but if heat should have led me, at any time, to say any thing which could have that appearance, I am exceedingly sorry for it. There was nothing in any of these circumstances which could impress thein on iny memory; but I have observed, that nothing I hare ever said in my warmest moments have ever drawu forth so much passion and ill-temper on the other side of the house, as when I have attempted to praise them. The right honourable gentleman has, in this instance, receded from those opinions which, on two former occasions, he scerned to maintain ; and the alteration which he has now made, for the purpose of a specific plan, is infinitely for the worse. It is in vain that he endeavours to qualify the objections which the idea of innovation raises in the minds of some, by diminishing the extent and influence of reformation. Froin the earliest periods of our governinent, that principle of innovation, but which should more properly be called amendment, is neither more nor less than the practice of the constitution. In every speçies of government (for I will put alsolute monarchy out of the question, as one which ought never to take place in any country) democracy and aristocracy are always in a state of gradual improvement, when experience comes to the aid of theory and speculation,

In all these, the voice of the people, when deliberately, and generally collected, is invariably sure to succeed. There are moments of periodical impulse and delusion,

173 DELIBERATIV E. in which they should not be granted, but when the views of a people have been formed and determined on the attainment of any object, they must ultimately suc. ceed. On this subject the people of this country have petitioned from time to time, and their applications have been made to their parliament. For every reason, therefore, they should be gratified, lest they may be inclined to sue for redress in another quarter, where their application will have every probability of success, from the experience of last year. Failing in their representatives, they may have recourse to the prerogative. It has been urged, that now, while this business is in agitation, the people of Birmingham and Münchester have not peti. tioned to be represented. This is an argument which at this time, of all others, can have but little weight; for while they are ala: med for their trade and their subsistance, it is no time for them to set about making improve. ments in that constitution, in which they are not certain how long they may have any share. On the eve of emi. gration, they are to look for this in another country, to which their property and business are soon to be transferred. The different parts of this plan would certainly, in a committee, be submitted to modification and amend. ments; but, as it now stands, admitting only the first priociple, every other part, and the means taken to at. tain the principle, are highly objectionable. I shall not besitate to declare, that I will never agree to admit the purchasing from a majority of the electors the property of the whole. In this I see so much injustice, and so much repugnance to the true spirit of our constitution, that I cannot entertain the idea one moment.-- On the other hand, when the property of a borough is in one man, there is no chance of his disposing of it on the terms this day mentional; for when a particular sum is laid down for a certain purchase, and interest suflerud to accumulate on that sum, the man must be a fool who could be in haste to get the possession of it. There is something injurious in holding out pecuniary temptations to an Englishman to relinquish his franchise on the one hand, and a political principle which equally forbids it on another. I am uniformly of an opinion, which, though not a popular one, I am ready to aver, that the

« AnteriorContinua »