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any man received a pension from him, or any thing like a pension, and yet kept his seat in the other House, he would himself declare it, or withdraw his pension, because he knows it is against law. This bill, therefore, no way dimi nishes or encroaches upon the prerogative of the crown, which can never be exercised but for the public good. It diminishes only the prerogative usurped by ministers, which is never exercised but for its destruction. The crown may still reward merit in the proper way, that is, openly. The bill is intended, and can operate only against clandestine rewards, or gratuities given by ministers. These are scandalous, and never were, nor will be, given but for scandalous services.
It is very remarkable, my Lords, it is even diverting, to see such a squeamishness about perjury upon this occasion, among those, who, upon other occasions, have invented and enacted multitudes of oaths, to be taken by men who are under great temptations, from their private interest, to be guilty of perjury. Is not this the case of almost every oath that relates to the collection of the public revenue, or to the exercise of any office? Is not this perjury one of the chief objections made by the dissenters against the Test and Corporation Act? And shall we show a less concern for the preservation of our constitution, than for the preservation of our church? The reverend bench should be cautious of making use of this argument; for if they will not allow us an oath for the preservation of the former, it will induce many people to think, they ought not to be allowed an oath for the preservation of the latter.
By this time, I hope, my Lords, all the inconveniences pretended to arise from this bill have vanished; and therefore I shall consider some of the arguments brought to show that it is not necessary. Here I must observe, that most of the arguments made use of for this purpose, are equally strong for a repeal of the laws we have already in being, against admitting pensioners to sit and vote in the other House. If it be impossible to suppose, that a gentleman of great estate and ancient family can, by a pension, be influenced to do what he ought not to do; and if we must suppose, that none but such gentlemen can ever get into the other House, I am sure the laws for preventing pensioners from having seats in that House are quite unnecessary, and ought to be repealed. Therefore, if these arguments prevail with your Lordship, to put a negative upon
the present question, I shall expect to see that negative followed by a motion for the repeal of those laws; nay, in a few sessions, I shall expect to see a bill brought in, for preventing any man's being a member of the other House, but such as have some place or pension under the crown. As an argument for such a bill, it might be said, that his Majesty's most faithful subjects ought to be chosen members of Parliament, and that those gentlemen will always be most faithful to the king, that receive the king's money. I shall grant, my Lords, that such gentlemen will be always the most faithful, and the most obedient to the minister; but for this very reason, I should be for excluding them from Parliament. The king's real interest, however much he may be made by his ministers to mistake it, must always be the same with the people's; but the minister's interest is generally distinct from, and often contrary to both: therefore I shall always be for excluding as much as possible, from Parliament, every man who is under the least inducement to prefer the interest of the minister to that of both king and people: and this I take to be the case of every gentleman, let his estate and family be what they will, that holds a pension at the will of the minister.
Those who say, they depend so much upon the honour, integrity, and impartiality of men of family and fortune, seem to think our constitution can never be dissolved as long as we have the shadow of a Parliament. My opinion, my Lords, is so very different, that, if ever our constitution be dissolved, if ever an absolute monarchy be established in this kingdom, I am convinced it will be under that shadow. Our constitution consists in the two Houses of Parliament being a check upon the crown, as well as upon one another. If that check should ever be removed, if the crown should, by corrupt means, by places, pensions, and bribes, get the absolute direction of our two Houses of Parliament, our constitution will, from that moment be destroyed. There would be no occasion for the crown to proceed any farther. It would be ridiculous to lay aside the forms of Parliament; for under that shadow our king would be more absolute, and might govern more arbitrarily, than he could do withA gentleman of family and fortune, would not, perhaps, for the sake of a pension, agree to lay aside the forms of government; because, by his venal service there, he earns his infamous pension, and could not expect the continuance of it, if those forms were laid aside : but a gentle
man of family and fortune may, for the sake of a pension, whilst he is in Parliament, approve of the most blundering measures, consent to the most excessive and useless grants, enact the most oppressive laws, pass the most villanous accounts, acquit the most heinous criminals, and condemn the most innocent persons, at the desire of that minister who pays him his pension. And, if a majority of such House of Parliament consisted of such men, would it not be ridiculous in us to talk of our constitution, or to say we had any liberty left?-This misfortune, this terrible condition, we may be reduced to by corruption; as brave, as free a people as we, the Romans, were reduced to it by the same means; and to prevent such a horrid catastrophe, is the design of this bill.
If people would at all think, if they would consider the consequences of corruption, there would be no occasion, my Lords, for making laws against it. It would appear so horrible, that no man would allow it to approach him. The corrupted ought to consider, that they do not sell their vote, or their country only: these, perhaps, they may disregard; but they sell likewise themselves: they become the bond slaves of the corrupter, who corrupts them, not for their sakes, but for his own. No man ever corrupted another for the sake of doing him a service. And therefore, if people would but consider, they would always reject the offer with disdain. But this is not to be expected. The histories of all countries, the history even of our own country, shows it is not to be depended on. The proffered bribe, people think, will satisfy the immediate craving of some infamous appetite; and this makes them swallow the alluring bait, though the liberties of their country, the happiness of their poster ty, and even their own liberty, evidently depend upon their refusing it. This makes it necessary, every free state, to contrive, if possible, effectual laws agatast corruption: and, as the laws we now have for excluding pensioners from the other House, are allowed to be ineffectual, we ought to make a trial, at least, of the remedy now proposed: for though it should prove ineffectual, it will be attended with this advantage, that it will put us upon contriving some other remedy that may be effectual; and the sooner such a remedy is contrived and applied, the less danger we shall be exposed to of falling into that fatal distemper, from which no free state, where it has once become general, has ever yet recovered.
II.-Lord Mansfield's Speech, in the House of Lords, 1770, on the Bill for the further preventing the delays of Justice, by reason of Privilege of Parliament.
WHEN I consider the importance of this bill to your Lordships, I am not surprised it has taken up so much of your consideration. It is a bill, indeed, of no common magnitude: It is no less than to take away from two thirds of the legislative body of this great kingdom, certain privileges and immunities of which they have long been possessed. Perhaps there is no situation the human mind can be placed in, that is so difficult and so trying, as when it is made a judge in its own cause. There is something implanted in the breast of man so attached to self, so tenacious of privileges once obtained, that, in such a situation, either to discuss with impartiality, or decide with justice, has ever been held as the summit of all human virtue. The bill now in question puts your Lordships in this very predicament; and doubt not but the wisdom of your decision will convince the world, that where self-interest and justice are in opposite scales, the latter will ever preponderate with your Lordships.
Privileges have been granted to legislators in all ages, and in all countries. The practice is founded in wisdom: and, indeed, it is peculiarly essential to the constitution of this country, that the members of both Houses should be free in their persons in cases of civil suits; for there may come a time when the safety and welfare of this whole empire may depend upon their attendance in Parliament.God forbid that I should advise any measure that would in future endanger the state: but the bill before your Lordships has, I am confident, no such tendency; for it express ly secures the persons of members of either House in all civil suits. This being the case, I confess when I see many noble Lords, for whose judgments I have a very great respect, standing up to oppose a bill which is calculated merely to facilitate the recovery of just and legal debts, I am astonished and amazed. They, I doubt not, oppose the bill upon public principles: I would not wish to insinuate, that private interest had the least weight in their determination.
This bill has been frequently proposed, and as frequently miscarried; but it was always lost in the lower House.Little did I think, when it had passed the Commons, that it
possibly could have met with such opposition here. Shall it be said that you, my Lords, the grand council of the nation, the highest judicial and legislative body of the realm, endeavour to evade, by privilege, those very laws which you enforce on your fellow-subjects? Forbid it, justice !I am sure were the noble Lords as well acquainted as I am with but half the difficulties and delays occasioned in the courts of justice, under pretence of privilege, they would not, nay they could not, oppose this bill.
I have waited with patience to hear what arguments might be urged against the bill, but I have waited in vain; the truth is, there is no argument that can weigh against it. The justice and expediency of the bill are such as render it self-evident. It is a proposition of that nature, that can neither be weakened by argument, nor entangled with sophistry. Much, indeed, has been said by some noble Lords on the wisdom of our ancestors, and how differently they thought from us. They not only decreed, that privilege should prevent all civil suits from proceeding during the sitting of Parliament, but likewise granted protection to the very servants of members. I shall say nothing on the wisdom of our ancestors; it might perhaps appear invidious; that is not necessary in the present case. I shall only say, that the noble Lords who flatter themselves with the weight of that reflection, should remember, that as circumstances alter, things themselves should alter. Formerly, it was not so fashionable either for masters or servants to run in debt as it is at present. Formerly, we were not that great commercial nation we are at present; nor formerly were merchants and manufacturers members of Parliament, as at present. The case now is very different; both merchants and manufacturers are, with great propriety, elected members of the Lower House. Commerce having thus got into the legislative body of the kingdom, privilege must be done away. We all know, that the very soul and essence of trade are regular payments; and sad experience teaches us, that there are men, who will not make their regular payments without the compulsive power of the law. The law then ought to be equally open to all: any exemption of particular men, or particular ranks of men, is, in a free and commercial country, a solecism of the grossest nature.
But I will not trouble your Lordships with arguments for that which is sufficiently evident without any. I shall only say a few words to some noble Lords, who foresee much