Sidebilder
PDF
ePub

repeatedly a pension bill, a place bill, a responsibility bill, a barren land bill; in resisting a repeal of the police bill, in patronizing the abuses of that police, in attacking the rights of the corporation of Dublin; in SELLING the peerage, in BUYING the Commons; in creating near twenty new parliamentary provisions to procure a majority to support the Marquis of Buckingham; in persisting to probibit our trade to the East, and in various other particulars, too trifling to be added to so black a catalogne. Could such a conduct be other than unpopular? No,says the right honourable gentleman, it was not the crime, it was the comment; the people, says he, never would have known that such a conduct was criminal, if they had not been inforined by the opposition ; they were informed; their eyes were openeil by the ministers of the Crown, who told them in this House, speaking to the chair, that half a million had been expended to buy the House in 1769, and that another half million, if opposition persisted, would be expended to buy them once more; and this threat was followed by an increase of almost all

your

establishments, for provisions for members of Parliament. A right honourable baronet has said, that he condemns the speeches of this side of the House, as tending to depreciate Parliament. He should direct that discourse to his own side of the House, and to the minister with whom he votes ; to those whose conduct, whose bribery, whose bartering has publicly attacked the integrity of the House of Commons, and therefore has endeavoured to destroy its character; what? will the right honourable baronet say, It is not the notorious sale of the honours of one House, to buy seats in the other, but that it is the observing on the enormity, that degrades Parliament; that man who supports the minister publicly and notoriously assailing the purity of Parliament, and who only objects to the indecorum of animadverting on the offence, may have an idea of public order, but not of public honesty. But, however, the minister has not left the discovery to us; he has proclaimed his own secret.

He told you of the half million; and if Parliament is defamed, he is the defamer. I apprehend, therefore, that those wishes that gentlemen may hear no more of such a subject will have but little effect ; much more will they hear, until the evil is cured, and the purity of Parliament restored. This leads me to the argument of a right honourable gentleman, who requested that instead of resorting to general observ- : ations, we should come to particulars; he is right; we will come to particulars; we will propose special remedies for existing grievances; among other remedies we will bring

forward a reform of Parliament. This House, by the constitution, should be the organ of the people; by abuse it has become the organ of the minister; and until the public voice speaks through this House that mind, the nation, will not be

at ease.

The question is now abroad, and had better be settled here; such a settlement tends to introduce that union of mind so desirable at all times, and now so critically necessary. I do not agree with those gentlemen who think that men cannot be friends to the constitution, except they are also friends to its abuses; but sure I am, if you remove the abuses, they will be much more friendly to the constitution, and sure am I also that until you remove those abuses, however attached they may be to the King, they will not have any confidence in his ministers; it is therefore I must resist an opinion advanced in this debate, that no man could, on the present emergency, be discontented with the administration who was attached to the constitution ; this, indeed, would confine the friends of monarchical government in this country to very few; it were to narrow the foundation of the throne to a small circle. I heard a right honourable gentleman has confessed the administration was unpopular; join the fact of the one gentleman with the argument of the other, and it would follow that the monarchical constitution was unpopular, because no man, according to this gentleman's idea, can be a friend to the constitution, who is an enemy to the administration. I think I remember instances where the greatest enemies to the constitution were the ministers; I think I remember an instance where ministers and monarchy have been at variance. What was the state of the question on the regency, but the monarchical principle on the one side, and the minister on the other? Let us not confound Kings with their servants, nor do such an injury to the royal cause, as to tell the people they are not to be considered as amical to the Crown, unless they are also friends to Lord Westmorland. The very statement must excite ridicule. Let us keep the causes ever distant; if indeed we were disposed to confound them, you will find in the speech from the throne matter to correct that error; a speech where the King appears not only distinct from his Irish ministry, but so distinct, that he rescues his people from that ministry's intolerance. Let ministers be criminal--let them be unpopular— let them, if you please, be the object of punishment; but whatever be their fate or their offences, let the fortunes of the Royal family be immortal.

I had more to say, but the House is exhausted. " I sit down. Mr. Grattan's amendment was unanimously agreed to,

[merged small][ocr errors]

PARLIAMENTARY REFORM.

MR. GRATTAN MOVES FOR A COMMITTEE TO ENQUIRE INTO THE

STATE OF THE REPRESENTATION.

January 14. 1793.

MR. William Brabazon Ponsonby, after a short speech, gave

notice, that he would take an early opportunity of submitting a proposal to the House for a more equal representation of the people in Parliament.

Mr. Connolly declared his intention of giving his warm support to the proposed measure. He had formerly opposed such a motion, when it came from an armed body of men sitting in the metropolis, because the power to reform Parliament rested with itself; now,

however, the evil has so encreased, that a remedy must be adopted, and the Catholics should be admitted to the benefits of the constitution.

Mr. GRATTAN. Never, never since I have sat in Parliament, did I hear words that gave me more satisfaction. I have been near seventeen years a member of Parliament, and never did I hear in this House oratory more convincing or transporting. I feel myself young, and my mind possessed with rapture. little known to men of my time of life, except on such an occasion as this. I had myself intended to have brought forth the question of the reform of Parliament, but I did not wish to pre-occupy such a question ; for what right had I to earn popularity at the expense of other men ? Those are the gentlemen who ought to lead in this great question; the men who make the sacrifices, to them belongs the laurel; be it my humble office to follow on this subject, and to applaud,

And while along the stream of time their name
Expanded flies, and gathers all its fame,

Say, shall this little bark This is not the first time in which the right honourable gentleman has made sacrifices to the country; in 1769 that gentleman, and all his connections, were deprived of all their emoluments for supporting the privileges of this House against an altered money bill

. In 1789 they were also dismissed for defending the privileges of the two Houses of Parliament against an unconstitutional and condemned Viceroy; and now they advance a third time to surrender great power, all their monopolies, and to embark in the vessel of commonwealth, and fairly and proudly to rise or fall with

the fortunes of their country. They pledge it right; their natural situation in this country is so considerable that whatever family sacrifices they make to the public weal, they must always occupy a prime condition, from their property, character, integrity, and talents.

The question of parliamentary, reform is now fairly brought forth; it consists, I think, of two parts, external and internal. The external relates to the creation of the House of Commons; the internal to its corruption. A radical reformation in both is indispensable; first, it is indispensable that the House of Commons should be chosen by the people; second, that after it is chosen by the people, it should not be bought by the minister. In either of these cases, and still more in both, the people are not represented. The House of Commons is not chosen by them ; the house is governed by the minister. The people have not the blessings of the constitution; they are not represented; they are deprived of that great and invaluable blessing, supposed to be possessed by the electors of this kingdom, the blessing of being represented; and, accordingly, we find the House of Commons the organ of a will other than that of the people --the will of the minister, the will of the viceroy, the will of the secretary, but not the will of the people. This is an abuse so evident, and so fatal, that I need not impress it more deeply upon you; indeed, you seem fully sensible of it; and now, when the persons interested in the above come forth to you to surrender that interest; who can defend such a mischief, or refuse such a sacrifice ? I mean, therefore, to move for a committee to enquire into the abuses that obtain in the formation of the representation; but as those abuses are not all, I mean to extend the 'enquiry to the abuses that obtain in the corruption of that representation, which are both contained in the words “ abuses of the constitution.” It will not be sufficient, depend upon it, that the House of Commons should be chosen by the people; it is absolutely necessary that the House, after it is so chosen by the people, should not be bought by the minister, otherwise the people would have only the trouble to elect men for the minister afterwards to purchase; and therefore it is, I wish to impress on gentlemen the necessity of attending to this part of the reform of parliament, its internal reform, on which the purity of its conduct depends. In vain may the people send men to Parliament, fairly and popularly elected, if the minister has a power of giving those men places and pensions without number, and without responsibility; or, as has been disclosed by one of our ministers, a power of charging the nation with half a million, or any other sum, however great, to purchase you leave

a majority in Parliament; therefore, do not imagine you have secured to the people an adequate, or any representation, by giving them a fair and adequate right of choice, if to the minister the uncontrolled and indefinite right of bribery; a place bill, pension bill, responsibility bill, are, therefore, a necessary part of the great system which you are proceeding to form for your country. The whole must be reformed by a radical measure; the nation expects it, and you have taught the nation to expect it. The measure must secure to the people of this country a representation elected by the people, and independent of the minister; nothing less than that, is worthy of the occasion, nor adequate to the exigency or the expectation; we must have in these walls, the real, genuine, choice of the people, unbought, unstipulated. The motion, therefore, which I mean to submit, goes to this part of the subject, viz. to enquire into the abuses which have taken place in the regulation of the House of Commons, as well as its formation; it goes to the whole of the House of Commons; excess of influence and defects of representation. Gentlemen say, this is no time for such a measure. I answer the argument of those gentlemen who say not now, at least some of them, have at all times opposed parliamentary reform, and opposed it not on the time, but the principle; opposed it, because they had an interest in preferring a representation by borough, to a representation by the people. But, Sir, if the question wanted the aid of any argument arising from the time, I say the question has that argument in the present moment. Is not a French republic set up by a convention abroad, and alleged to be set up by a few at home, in rivalship to the British constitution; and is not this the moment to give that constitution all its natural advantages, by purging it of all its unnatural deforinities? How can you combat the French doctrine so well, or effectually, as by the reform of Parliament? That is, by the constitution of England, its substance and not its shadow. Another argument the time suggests is, the agitation of this question at present with the people: it is now abroad. At a period less anxious, the moving the question had been to agitate the people, but the people being now agitated, the moving the question is the only way to compose them. From the best information I can collect, nothing will satisfy the north but a reform of Parliament; nothing will satisfy the people but a reform of Parliament. There is another argument in favour of agitating the question now, which existed at no other time but the present, and that is, that there was no other time in which you had a chance of succeeding. It is in my mind always an argument for bringing forward a question, that you have it in

« ForrigeFortsett »