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pushed upon expedience; and then what they wish us to do is, to prefer their speculations on that subject to the happy experience of this country, of a growing liberty and a growing prosperity for five hundred years. Whatever respect I have for their talents, this, for one, I will not do. Then what is the standard of expedience ? Expedience is that which is good for the community, and good
for every individual in it. Now this expedience is the desideratum to be sought either without the experience of means, or with that experience. If without, as in case of the fabrication of a new commonwealth, I will hear the learned arguing what promises to be expedient; but if we are to judge of a commonwealth actually existing, the first thing I inquire is, what has been found expedient or inexpedient ? And I will not take their promise rather than the performance of the constitution. Bnt
no, this was not the cause of the discontents. I went through most of the northern parts,—the Yorkshire election was then raging; the year before, through most of the western counties—Bath, Bristol, Gloucester,--not one word, either in the towns or country, on the subject of representation; much on the receipt tax, something on Mr. Fox's ambition; much greater apprehension of danger from thence than from want of representation. One would think that the ballast of the ship was shifted with us, and that our constitution had the gunnel under water. But can you fairly and distinctly point out what one evil or grievance has happened, which you can refer to the representative not following the opinion of his constituents ?
What one symptom do we find of this inequality? But it is not an arithmetical inequality, with which we ought to trouble ourselves. If there be a moral, a political equality, this is the desideratum in or constitution, and in every constitution in the world. Moral inequa- ! lity is as between places and between classes. Now I ask, what advantage do you find, that the places, which abound in representation, possess over others, in which it is more scanty, in security for freedom, in security for justice, or in any one of those means of procuring temporal prosperity and eternal happiness, the ends for which society was formed ? Are the local interests of Cornwall and Wiltshire, for instance, their roads, canals, their prisons, their police, better than Yorkshire, Warwickshire, or Staffordshire ? Warwick has members; is Warwick, or Stafford, more opulent, happy or free than Newcastle, or than Birmingham ? Is Wiltshire the pampered favourite, whilst Yorkshire, like the child of the bond-woman, is turned out to the desert ? This is like the unhappy persons, who live, if they can be said to live, in the statical chair; who are ever feeling
their pulse, and who do not judge of health by the aptitude of the body to perform its functions, but by their ideas of what ought to be the true balance between the several secretions. Is a committee of Cornwall, &c. thronged, and the others deserted ? No. You have an equal representation, because you have men equally interested in the prosperity of the whole, who are involved in the general interest and the general sympathy; and, perhaps, these places, furnishing a superfluity of public agents and administrators, (whether in strictness they are representives or not, I do not mean to inquire, but they are agents and administrators,) will stand clearer of local interests, passions, prejudices and cabals, than the others, and, therefore, preserve the balance of the parts, and with a more general view, and a more steady band, than the rest.
In every political proposal we must not leave out of the question the political views and object of the proposer; and these we disco ver, not by what he says, but by the principles he lays down. I mean, says he, a moderate and temperate reform; that is, I mean to do as little good as possible. If the constitution be what you represent it, and there be no danger in the change, you do wrong not to make the reform commensurate to the abuse. Fine reformer indeed! generous donor! What is the cause of this parsimony of the liberty which you dole out to the people? Why all this limitation in giving blessings and benefits to mankind ? Yon admit that there is an extreme in liberty, which may be infinitely noxious to those who are to receive it, and which in the end will leave them no liberty at all. I think so too; they know it, and they feel it. The question is then, what is the standard of that extreme? What that gentleman, and the associations, or some parts of their phalanxes, think proper. Then our liberties are in their pleasure ; it depends on their arbitrary will how far I shall be free. I will have none of that freedom. If, therefore, the standard of moderation be sought for, I will seek for it. Where ? Not in their fancies, nor in my own: I will seek for it where I know it is to be found, in the constitution I actually enjoy. Here it says to an encroaching prerogative-Your sceptre has its length, you cannot add a hair to your head, or a gem to your crown, but what an eternal law has given to it. Here it says to an overweening peerage,—Your pride finds banks, that it cannot overflow: here to a tumultuous and giddy people,—There is a bound to the raging of the sea. Our constitution is like our island, which uses and restrains its subject sea; in vain the waves roar. In that constitution I know, and exultingly I feel, both that I am free and that I am not free dangerously to myself or to others.
I know that no power on earth, acting as I ought to do, can touch my life, my liberty, or my property. I have that inward and dignified consciousness of my own security and independence, which constitutes, and is the only thing which does constitute, the proud and comfortable sentiment of freedom in the human breast. I know too, and I bless God for my safe mediocrity ; I know that if I possessed all the talents of the gentlemen on the side of the house I sity and on the other, I cannot, by royal favour, or by popular delusion, or by oligarchical cabal, elevate myself above a certain very limited point, so as to endanger my own fall, or the ruin of my country. I know there is an order, that keeps things fast in their place; it is made to us, and we are made to it. Why not ask another wife, other children, another body, another mind?
The great object of most of these reformers is to prepare the destruction of the constitution, by disgracing and discrediting the House of Commons. For they think, prudently, in my opinion, that it they can persuade the nation, that the House of Commons is so constituted as not to secure the public liberty ; not to have a proper connexion with the public interests, so constituted, as not either actually or virtually to be the representative of the people, it will be easy to prove, that a government composed of a monarchy, an oligarchy chosen by the crown, and such a House of Commons, whatever good can be in such a system, can by no means be a system of free government.
The constitution of England is never to have a quietas; it is to be continually vilified, attacked, reproached, resisted; instead of being the hope and sure anchor in all storms, instead of being the means of redress to all grievances, itself is the grand grievance of the nation, our shame instead of our glory. If the only specific plan proposed, individual personal representation, is directly rejected by the person, who is looked on as the great support of this business, then the only way of considering it is as a question of convenience. An honourable gentleman prefers the individual to the present. He therefore himself sees no middle term whatsoever, and, therefore, prefers of what he sees the individual; this is the only thing distinct and sensible that has been advocated. He has then a scheme, which is the individual representation ; he is not at a loss, not inconsistentwhich scheme the other right honourable gentleman reprobates. Now what does this go to, but to lead directly to anarchy ? For to discredit the only government, which he either possesses or can project, what is this but to destroy all government; and this is anarchy. My right honourable friend, in supporting this motion disgraces his
friends and justifies his enemies, in order to blacken the constitution of his country, even of that House of Commons which supported him. There is a difference between a moral or political exposure of a public evil, relative to the administration of government, whether in men or systems, and a declaration of defects, real or supposed, in the fundamental constitution of your country. The first may be cured in the individual by the motives of religion, virtue, honour, fear, shame, or interest. Men may be made to abandon also false systems by exposing their absurdity or mischievous tendency to their own better thoughts, or to the contempt or indignation of the public; and after all, if they should exist, and exist uncorrected, they only disgrace individuals as fugitive opinions. But it is quite otherwise with the frame and constitution of the state ; if that is disgraced, patriotism is destroyed in its very source. No man has ever willingly obeyed, much less was desirous of defending with his blood, a mis. chievous and absurd scheme of government. Our first, our dearest, most comprehensive relation, our country, is gone.
It suggests melancholy reflections, in consequence of the strange course we have long held, that we are now no longer quarrelling about the character, or about the conduct of men, or the tenour of measures ; but we are grown out of humour with the English constitution itself ; this is become the object of the animosity of English
This constitution in former days used to be the admiration and the envy of the world; it was the pattern for politicians; the theme of the eloquent; the meditation of the philosopher in every part of the world. As to Englishmen, it was their pride, their consolation. By it they lived, for it they were ready to die. Its defects, if it had any, were partly covered by partiality, and partly borne by prudence. Now all its excellencies are forgotten, its faults are now forcibly dragged into day, exaggerated by every artifice of representation. It is despised and rejected of men ; and every device and invention of ingenuity, or idleness, set up in opposition or in preference to it. It is to this humour, and it is to the measures growing out of it, that I set myself (I hope not alone) in the most determined opposition. Never before did we at any time in this country meet upon the theory of our frame of government, to sit in judgment on the constitution of our country, to call it as a delinquent before us, and to accuse it of every defect and every vice; to see whether it, an object of our veneration, even our adoration, did or did not accord with a pre-conceived scheme in the minds of certain gentlemen. Cast your eyes on the journals of parliament. It is for fear of losing the inestimable treasure we have, that I do not venture to game it
out of my hands for the vain hope of improving it. I look with filial reverence on the constitution of my country, and never will cut it in pieces, and put it into the kettle of any magician, in order to boil it, with the puddle of their compounds, into youth and vigour. On the contrary, I will drive away such pretenders ;-I will nurse its venerable age, and with lenient arts extend a parent's breath.
SPEECH ON THE PETITION OF THE UNITARIANS--1792.
I NEVER govern myself, no rational man ever did govern himself, by abstractions and universals. I do not put abstract ideas wholly out of any question, because I well know that under that name I should dismiss principles ; and that without the guide and light of sound, well-understood principles, all reasonings in politics, as in everything else, would be only a confused jumble of particular facts and details, without the means of drawing out any sort of theoretical or practical conclusion. A statesman differs from a professor in an university., The latter has only the general view of society; the former, the statesman, has a number of circumstances to combine with those general ideas, and to take into his consideration. Circumstances are infinite, are infinitely combined, are variable and transient; he, who does not take them into consideration is not erroneous, but stark mad-dat operam ut cum ratione insaniat—he is metaphysically mad. A statesman, never losing sight of principles, is to be guided by circumstances, and judging contrary to the exigencies of the moment he may ruin his country for ever.
I go on this ground, that government, representing the society, has a general superintending control over all the actions, and over all the publicly propagated doctrines of men, without which it never could provide adequately for all the wants of society; but then it is to use this power with an equitable discretion, the only bond of sovereign authority. For it is not, perhaps, so much by the assumption of unlawful powers, as by the unwise or unwarrantable use of those, which are most legal, that governments oppose their true end and object; for there is such a thing as tyranny as well as usurpation. You can hardly state to me a case, to which legislature is the most confessedly competent, in which, if the rules of benignity and prudence
NOTE.-This motion was made by Mr. Fox, and was chiefly grounded upon a petition presented to the House of Commons by the Unitarian Society