* I would almost be content to give up the whole cause at once, if a single instaffce could be produced in which this assembly, corrupt as it may be, has ever acted for a long time at once in contradiction to the will of the peoople of England. What the present : composition of parliament enables us to do, is not to act in opposition to that wish, but to wait till it is clearly, strongly, and finally expressed, to separate the real permanent sense of the people, from their hasty passing im: pressions, and to keep up that right of : appeal from present passion to future : judgment, which is necessary in order to preserve us from all the hor: rors and absurdities of democratical government. “In the next place, the project of reform, if carried to any considerable extent, would completely put an end to that regular, systematic discussion of the measures of government, which, if ; all the notions we have entertained on * the subject for the last hundred years and more, are not completely wrong, } is essential to the well-being of the a country, and forms an indispensable inA gredient in our free constitution. This a discussion is conducted, as we see, under great parliamentary leaders, that i is, by persons who bestow all their a time and the very best abilities on this : s


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object, and who, under the present system, are nearly certain of always obtaining a seat in this house. That certainty is in a manner essential to the formation of such characters; for what Person—at least, what person of that description, would throw away his time and his talents in qualifying himself for a situation from which mere accident might exclude him through all the best part of his life 2 And yet one of the objects of any such reform as would satisfy the petitioners, is to put an end

to every thing like permanence and

stability in the situation of a member

of this house. As it is, no great party

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is ever so completely crushed by another as not to retain all its principal organs and spokesmen in this branch of the legislature, and not to remain as a watch and a check upon its opponents. If every election depended upOn op. feeling, any party that was once fortunate enough to raise a successful cry against its opponents, might drive from within these walls every individual that was at once able and willing to discuss its measures, and reign undisturbed till a new election gave a new turn to affairs. At the time, for instance, when the present ministry came into power, it would have been very difficult by method of popular election to secure the return of Lord Howick. Still, was it just, nay, except in a moment of phrenzy and intoxication, was it the wish of the country, that at the end of a brilliant career of near twenty years, that distinguished statesman should be deprived of every opportunity of contributing to the deliberations of this assembly that wisdom and eloquence, which no man will deny him to possess : , Mr Windham too would probably have shared the same fate, and yet I would have ventured to ask his most determined political enemy, even before his death had mitigated all feelings of animosity in every liberal mind—whether it would have been creditable to the house, or useful to the country, that popular violence should exclude from these walls, the most accomplished gentleman of whom England could boast 2 It is one of the most important duties of a public man to oppose vulgar prejudices, and to stem the tide of popular opinion when flowing in a direction contrary to reason and justicea duty which is already rendered sufficiently painful by the unavoidable discouragements of odium, calumny, and misrepresentation, that attend it. But

if, in addition to all these, it is to be

visited by a total exclusion from pub

lic life, small, I am afraid, indeed, will be the number of those endowed with the heroic courage and self-devotion which the performance of it will then require. Human virtue is too feeble for such a task: , , , “And this, sir, leads me to mention the change in the description of persons composing this house—a change which, in my judgment, we ought rather to deprecate as an evil than to wish for as a blessing. If the reform were carried to any great extent— which, if it is once suffered to begin, it will undoubtedly be—the house would consist, almost exclusively, of men of great landed estate and their connections, who would sit for the counties; and of persons that had acquired influence in large towns by their wealth or their political activity—that is, of great proprietors, greatmerchants, and demagogues. No man could hope for a seat unless he was possessed of a large property of a particular kind, or ess he had been fortunate enough to ingratiate himself with some large body of people. So that a perpetual bounty would be held out to every species of turbulence and intrigue. Every candidate, except the few whose wealth ensured them influence independently of exertion, must go through a species of political probation. Where the court party was stron gest, he must shew himself capable of becoming an useful agent in procuring ministerial favours; where the democratical influence prevailed, he must give proofs of civism. So that the whole country would exhibit a perpetual struggle who should go furthest in subserviency to the court, or in democratical violence: not that I am by any means an enemy to popular elections. I am perfectly aware that they are indispensably necessary in order to keep alive a spirit of discussion and of independence, and to preserve the public mind from languor and stagnation. But then

branches of knowledge, which mo

it appears to me that we have them uite in sufficient numbers to answeral these purposes most completely...And I must confess that there is no evil that I should more dread than that state of morbid agitation which would be pro. duced in the political body by bringing all the active enterprizing talents of the country into constant and immed. ate contact with the most powers, turbulent, and self-willed part of the population—by teaching, every man that the first, and the last, and in so | the only material step towards politi | cal reputation and power, was pool. larity, and, consequently, b raising the art of flattering and bribing th: . people, above all other arts. Sir, I hope 1 may be pardoned for saying that I do not see why the practice of ` this art ought to be made a necessay . step in the education of every Englio statesman. No theory that I can form would lead me to such a conclusion; i. all experience, I am sure, is againstit. If I look round this much-reviled āk i sembly, which, in spite of all its defect appears to me not inadequately to so. present the wisdom and the properts of the country, I see many personi, and those among its most conspicuo ornaments, who, after an early list | spent in liberal studies, in learned pro fessions, in the acquisition of all those

calculate a man for business and the conduct of great affairs, have ato acquired their seats in this house of those very means, hitherto so fami. to the practice of our constitution, but which we are now told it is our d". to prevent. I must own that I am." a loss to understand how this des;" | tion of persons could have found a f mittance into a reformed House." Commons, still less can I persuade"). self that they would have been . enlightened, more independent, o: ; ter fitted to guide the councils : e country wisely and magnanimou.”

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their youth had been spent in the labours of a canvass, in the study of a poll-book, or in the care of cherishing some local interest, or in devising mouno tricks and mischievous projects, ike the orators of old in the petty republics of Greece, to delude and to ruin the people. From those gentlemen, sir, whom I mention with all that respect which is due to great talents usefully and honourably employed, we may, I think, fairly expect some aid in § that constitution to which they are indebted for the opportunity of displaying their talent upon that great theatre on which they must naturally be most auxious to display them, and on which, for the sake of the country, it is most desirable that they should be displayed—talents which might otherwise have been buried in obscurity, or debased and perverted by those habits to which, under another form of government, it would be necessary to have recourse, in order to obtain a seat in the free, uninfluenced, democratical House of Commons. Sir, when I call to mind the names of all our most distinguished statesmen, when I place before my eyes the long and venerable order of those to whom Eugland is most deeply indebted for her liberty and her fame, those whom we most reverence, those whom we most regret, and those whose like we most wish to see again, I cannot at the same time forget that they almost all owed the first opportunity of appearing in that assembly in which they were destined to rule by the force of their gehius, to those very places, and to those very means, to which it seems no person in future is ever to owe a similar advantage, and that they made their first spring towards glory from that contaminated ground which we are to cut from under the feet of all succeeding generations. *But then, sir, comes the selling of seats, which is always stated as the un

answerable part of the case; that grier vance for which a reinedy must be pro- - - - - * vided, that scandal for which iro sapor logy can be found. This is associ upon which a great deal might be said; but having already troubled the house at such length upon other points, I shall content myself with a very o words upon this, In the first place, if, as I have endeavoured to shew, the existence of what are called close boroughs is almost essential to the very existence of our constitution, it is no argument against the whole system to say that it is liable to abuse, and that some evil is interwoven with the good. In the next place, there is no manner of reason to suppose, that the evil has extended very far; on the contrary, it is perfectly well known that the bought seats bear a very inconsiderable proortion, indeed, to the whole number ; in the next, unless some actual evil can be shewn to have arisen from the practice, it is no more wrong that a cer. tain number of seats, should be sold than that commissions in the army, or situations in the old magistracy of France, should be disposed of in the same way ; and, lastly, granting that the sale of a seat in parliament is a thing in its own nature utterly infamous and inconsistent with all the principles of free government, it remains to prove how you can prevent it, or, at least, how you can prevent something to the full as bad. You may, indeed, by disfranchising the small boroughs, prevent any person, or small number of ersons, from acquiring a certain fixed interest which they may dispose of for money to any body they please, but still f insist that it is utterly out of your power to prevent Praotices quite. as objectionable in Point of principle, and far more extensively oschievous. The plaintruthio. that nothing is more corrupt than pool. o: It has any merit i. please besiaes purity. Ge well-fought °w"; Soss occasion to more bribery than half the boroughs in Cornwall put together. So that if purity is the object, more is lost than gained, since, for one act of corruption you substitute many, and extend the mischief further by involving more persons in the guilt. For in what, I beg to ask, does bribery consist 2 Does it consist merely in giving a man money, or in what is called treating him, in order to obtain his vote 2 No, it consists in a thousand things which cannot he prevented, nor so much as defined by law. It is impossible to draw an accurate line between friendship, benevolence, and good neighbourhood on the one hand, and corruption on the other. It is not bribery, for instance, to let a great estate in a county you wish to influence, very much below its value; it is not bribery to procure some mark of honour from the crown for some neighbouring gentleman who can command a good many votes; it is not bribery to obtain from the treasury all the patronage, as it is termed, of any particular place, that is, to distribute among your own supporters all the offices in the revenue and other departments that may happen to become vacant there. This is not bribery in the technical sense of the word, but do not these things exist? And is not their motive just as unquestionable as their existence 2 Does any man think that in point of morality there is any difference between them and the passing of money from hand to hand, 2 The distinction between them is altogether of a special kind—it might get off a culprit at the Old Bailey, but, in the discussion of a political question, it is utterly inadmissible. There is no doubt that a certain number of persons do owe their seats to the disinterested attachment, or the political enthusiasm of their constituents, but I am afraid that in matters of this sort, affection and enthusiasm are far less powerful

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sult of his own observation.

principles than self-interest, and that so long as a seat in parliament continues to be a desirable object, the disposal of it, let it be vested in what hands it may, will be influenced-by motives that are neither pure nor degal—unless, indeed, gentlemen think that they can eradicate men’s feelings by act of parliament, and alter human nature itself by method of bill. . . . s “But, sir, it may be said, that the objections I have urged apply to a more extensive change than that which has been proposed by my honourable friend; and that he speaks of moderate, and I of radical, reform. Sir, of all the visionary expectations to which this project has given birth, the most visionary is to suppose that reform is a thing of such a manageable nature, that it will stop at the precise boundary to which its authors may wish to confine it, that the waters will cease to flow at the bidding of those that have torn down the dykes. My honourable friend’s plan indeed, to do him justice, is sufficiently moderate, and if it is not calculated to do much good, I must confess that, per se, it is not calculated to do much harm. In my view of the subject the main argument against this and all similar plans, is, that by adopting them we should admit the principle of altering what has been found practically good, upon mere theoretical grounds, which,whenever we do, a breach will be made in our constitution through which all that banditti will instantly rush, whom we are now, though with difficulty, able to repel. We are told, indeed, that it is necessary, not only on its own account, and for the sake of the benefits that are to flow from it, but in order to satisfy the people. This, however, is not so much a matter of argument, as a question of fact, and every person will be a good deal guided by the reAs far, however, as my own knowledge and experience have gone, I am inclined to think, that, with a view to this subject, the people of England may be *divided into two classes; those that are content with the existing order of things, and those that are desirous of a far greater change than any that my honourable friend is prepared to call for... I know it has been supposed that a large class of persons exists, desirous of what is termed “moderate reform,” persons in the main well affected to our constitution, and whom it depends on ourselves, either wholly to conciliate and make our own, by yielding to their just and temperate demands, or to drive into an unnatural but formidable: alliance with the Jacobins, by elinging blindly and pertinaciously to the most objectionable parts of our old system. Now, sir, I must own that of this moderate party so limited in their wishes, and consequently so easily to be contented, I am not able to see any very evident traces. That it exists. I do not deny, but that it exists in any considerable number I utterly disbelieve. On the contrary, in all the most numerous meetings that have been held for the purpose of agitating this question, in all the speeches and publications that may be supposed in the most authentic manner to promulgate the will and pleasure of the reforming body, the idea of moderate reform has either not been mentioned at all, or mentioned only to be reprobated and disclaimed. Their complaints and their demands are alike in compatible with any thing like what my honourable friend could call moderation. The grievances they state are such as never in the days of our forefathers were held to be grievances at all, and the remedies they propose are altogether subversive of the consti

tution as it existed in what are univer

sally confessed to have been the best of times. The substance of their objection (as I have already had occasion

to remark) consists in this, that what are called the representatives of the people are in fact returned by a very small minority of the people. Now, sir, I should beg to ask how this defect can be cured by any thing in the shape of moderate reform. To meet the wishes of these persons we must at once sweep away all our boroughs, we must burn all our charters, we must abolish all our franchises; and in place of this antiquated rubbish we must adopt a page or two of the American constitution. Short of this we shall do nothing to content them, the representation will still remain unadapted to the population, and their ground of complaint just as strong as ever. Such a reform as that proposed by my honourable friend will be received not only with dissatisfaction, but with scorn, and I, or any person who is resolved to concede nothing, but to oppose every plan for a change in the representation, will stand better with the real reformers than the authors of what they will consider as a contemptible and illusory project. What then are we to do by acceding to this motion, and whom are we to oblige 2 We are to change the constitution of the country, under which it has enjoyed the greatest share of prosperity and glory ever enjoyed by men, in hopes of conciliating a class of persons who are either too feeble to make their voices heard amidst the more powerful cry for a radical reform, too little united among themselves to agree upon any common plan, or too lukewarm about their object to take the trouble of stating it in a separate form

“There cannot, I am persuaded, be a more fatal error than to concede points of this sort in the hope of pleasing the multitude. The discontented, though numerous and powerful, more than in proportion to their numbers, from their zeal, their actoty, and that proselytizing spirit who adds daily

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