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more generous kind, than that feries of poor and temporary expedients, by which they have long made a fhift to patch up matters, and barely keep the machine of government from bursting. in ruins about them, while the efficiency of the conftitution (as will too clearly appear in the fequel) is annihilated.
• The ableft politicians, he adds, have always been the moft. defirous of information. The great Colbert ufed to declare, that he thought his time well fpent in perusing an hundred propofals for advancing the wealth, the commerce, and the glory, of France, if but one of them deferved to be encouraged. If, on the contrary, any leviathan of power fhews himself bent on other objects than the public good, and with a brutal effrontery prefumes publicly to turn into ridicule all that tends to national benefit, and to declare, as fome ftatesmen have been known to do, that he knows of only one engine of government, viz. finding every man's price, and giving it to him;" it is to be hoped, that the independent people will find a hook for his jaws, and be able to drag him out of the fea of power, in which he wallows, that the vessel of the state may fail in fafety. To point out those enemies of mankind, and to animate the independent people against them, is as great a service as can be done the public. Whether thefe collections will,. in any degree, produce this effect, remains to be seen.'
There may be much quibbling and fallacy in our party fquabbles, yet furely there must be a right and a wrong in government as in other things. The fpirit of the con.itution and the intereft of the nation are fixed things; nor can it be fuppofed, as this Writer remarks, that they are to be altered backward and forward according as a Harley, a Walpole, or a Pelham, fhall be in or out of place. On thefe principles, we are told, he determined to take the fenfe of mankind on the great and interefting points of government, and to see what experience teaches to expect from wife and upright, as well as from blundering and corrupt adminiftration.' He applied, it is added, the leifure hours of many years to the perufal of the best hiftorical and political books, antient and modern, and made collections to the quantity of many folio volumes.'
He gives us a lift of fome of the various and voluminous writings which he has perufed: the refult of his labours, with his own inferences and obfervations, he proposes to lay before the public in this and fome fucceeding volumes. And, though the fubject of the fubfequent volumes is to be a continuation of what is treated in this first, viz. An Enquiry into public Abufes, and the Means of correcting them; it is yet his intention that this, and every fucceeding volume, fhould be in such a manner complete and independent, as to be fit to ftand
by itfelf without any of the others; as if each volume was a different book."
Should it be alledged, that a private gentleman, who has never been employed in the state, is the lels qualified to be of fervice to the public; our Author answers in the words of Harrington, I ftudy not without great examples, nor out of my calling; either arms or this art being the proper trade of a gentleman. A man may be intrufted with a fhip, and be a good" pilot too, yet not understand how to make fea charts. To fay that a man may not write of government, except he be a magiftrate, is as abfurd as to fay, that a man may not make a fea chart unless he be a pilot. It is known, that Chriftopher Columbus made a chart in his cabinet, that found out the Indies. The magiftrate that was good at his fteerage, never took it ill of him that brought him a chart, seeing whether he would use it or no, was at his own choice; and if flatterers, being the worst fort of crows, did not pick out the eyes of the living, the ship of government, at this day throughout Chriftendom, had not ftruck fo often as he has done. To treat of affairs, fays Machiavel, which as to the conduct of them appertain to others, may be thought a great boldnefs; but if I commit errors' in writing, thefe may be known without danger; whereas, if they commit errors in acting, fuch come not otherwise to be known than in the ruin of the commonwealth.'
The chief defign of the volume now before us, is to show, that our parliaments are, at prefent, on fuch a footing, as to the inadequate ftate of reprefentation, the enormous length of their period, and minifterial influence prevailing in them, that their efficiency for the good of the people is nearly annihilated, and the fubverfion of the conflitution and ruin of the ftate is (without timely reformation of these abuses) the confequence unavoidably to be expected. The fituation of the British parliament at this time is indeed unhappy, and the ill effects arifing from hence to the public are but too evident. But this Author enters into a particular difcuffion of the fubject, interweaving the materials he has collected with his own reflections: and here he appears not only in the light of a fincere friend to the welfare of his country, but also as a judicious and fenfible, though not elegant, writer, who prefents a variety of entertaining, inftructive, and useful matter to the public confideration.
This volume confifts of four books, which are fubdivided into chapters. The firft book treats briefly of government, and the neceffity of its laws and fanctions. It fhews that the people are the foundation of authority, and the laft refource of government; and confiders the advantages of parliamentary reprefentation, which have recommended it to many nations.
Rav: Feb. 1774.
Parliaments are the fubject of the fecond book, particu farly their deficiency and irregularity, when, by establishment, they form an inadequate reprefentation of the people, and their period becomes too long. Here we are fhewn what would be adequate parliamentary reprefentation; with the disadvantages of the contrary. A view is taken of the prefent ftate of parlia mentary reprefentation; the question how it came to be thus inadequate is difcuffed; the evil of allowing boroughs fo difpreportionate a fhare in parliamentary reprefentation is fet before the reader, and the book is concluded with an account of propofals offered by various perfons for redreffing this irregularity.
Book the third confiders the fecond conftitutional irregularity in our parliaments, viz. the exceffive length of their period.. Here we are reminded that parliaments were originally annual; a brief history is given of the lengthening and shortening of parliaments; examples are produced of feveral nations who have fhewn a fear of inveterate power, to which the example of the English is added as difcovering, in fome inftances, an apprehenfion of danger from the fame caufe; fome arguments are offered for fort parliaments, and the two laft chapters treat of exclufion by rotation, and of electing by ballot.
The fourth book gives an account of the effects of the above irregularities, one of which is, that members of parliament no longer hold themselves refponfible to the people. It is fhewn, that the denial of fuch refponfibility is a novel doctrine; and, feveral arguments are offered to prove that members of parliament are. thus refponfible. Another effect here brought under review is, unwarrantable privileges vffumed by the house of commons. Parlia mentary privileges, and profecutions, it is argued, have been; too generally frivolous and unjuft. Excluding the people from the houfe of commons, and punishing those who publish Speeches made there, are particularly enquired into; and the book is finished by a chapter on abfentees from the houfe, and members neglecting parliamentary bufinefs.
The laft book is intitled Parliamentary Corruption. The ori gin, funds, and materials of corruption are fet before us; corruption in elections is reprefented; with ftatutes, refolutions, &c. against thefe proceedings; and this volume is clofed by obfervations on minifterial influence in the house.
From this fhort account of the plan, our Readers will form fome notion of what is to be expected from the performance. We fhall proceed to lay three or four extracts before them, which may give an idea in what manner the plan is executed. The Writer's view of government in general is thus represented :
That government only can be pronounced confiftent with the defign of all government, which allows to the governed the
liberty of doing what, confiftently with the general good, they may defire to do, and which only forbids their doing the contrary. Liberty does not exclude reftraint; it only excludes unreafonable reftraint. To determine precifely how far perfonal liberty is compatible with the general good, and of the propriety of focial conduct in all cafes, is a matter of great extent, and demands the united wifdom of a whole people. And the confent of the whole people, as far as it can be obtained, is indifpenfably neceffary to every law, by which the whole people are to be bound; else the whole people are enflaved to the one, or the few who framed the laws for them.
Were a colony to emigrate from their native land, and fettle in a new country, on what would they propofe to bestow their chief attention ? on fecuring the happiness of the whole? or on the aggrandizement of the governor? If the latter, all mankind would pronounce those colonists void of common fenfe. But in every abfolute monarchy, the aggrandizement of the governor is the fupreme object, and the happiness of the people is to yield to it. Were only a handful of friends to form themfeives into one of thofe little focieties we call clubs, what would be their object? the advantage of the company, or the power of the chairman? Very fhrewd was Rumbald's faying in Charles II's time, viz. "He did not imagine the Almighty intended, that the greatest part of mankind fhould come into the world with faddles on their backs, and bridles in their mouths, and a few ready booted and fpurred to ride the reft to death."
From the view which this Writer takes of parliamentary representation in Great Britain, he draws the following conclufion: The British government, therefore, taking it according to its avowed ftate, is neither abfolute monarchy nor limited monarchy, nor ariftocracy nor democracy, nor a mixture of monarchy, ariftocracy, and democracy; but may be called a płochocracy (the Reader will pardon a new word) or govern ment of beggars. For a few beggarly boroughs do avowedly elect the most important part of the government, the part which commands the purfe. It is true, this is only the offenfible ftate of things. The British government is really a juntocracy, (I doubt the Reader will now think I prefume on his good nature) or government by a minister and his crew. For the court directs the beggars whom to choofe. Is this the universally admired and univerfally envied British conftitution? How much more proper would a petition have been from the friends of liberty to the King, to fet himself at the head of a plan for reforing independency to parliament, than petitioning him to diffolve that which was then fitting?'
That the Reader may judge for himself of the monstrous irregularity of parliamentary reprefentation, this Writer proI 2
duces a view of it, as given by the learned and laborious Browns Willis, Efq; in his Notit. Parliam. From whence it appears, that, taking the whole reprefentative for South and North Britain, the members for counties are only 131 of the 558; of which 131, 42 are for Scotland and Wales. The members, therefore, for the boroughs and cinque ports, which ought not to be one in ten compared with thofe for the counties, are 382, above four times as many. So that for one member who may be fuppofed to come fairly into the houfe, four (if we except a few for the great cities) are fent by the poorelt people, directed by court influence.
Befides the inequality of reprefentation occafioned by the boroughs (moft of whofe charters it would probably be a great bleffing to the public to take away), our Author confiders another cause of it in the following paragraph. In antient times, when parliaments were firft established, there was no property but that of land. Therefore all powers, and all bonours, were heaped on landed men, The confequence was, that the landed intereft was too well reprefented, to the detriment (in our times) of the mercantile and monied. This is an occafion of various evils. For many of our country gentlemen are but bad judges of the importance of the mercantile. intereft, and do not wifely confult it in their bills and acts. Of this kind are the game-act, the dog-act, and taxes on every neceffary of life, which give our rivals in trade a great advantage over us. And minifters, to curry favour with the house of commons, are tempted to burden commerce with taxes, for the fake of eafing the landed intereft. See the art of Walpole to this purpose, by propofing to eafe the land of one fhilling in the pound, and laying a duty on falt for three years, to make up the deficiency. It was objected to this propofal, that the falt duty was always reckoned a grievous burden on the manufac turing poor, and was therefore taken off; and that it was a ftrange paradox, that the landed gentlemen were poorer than the poor, and therefore in more need of relief from a heavy tax. It is the over-balance of the power in the hands of the landed men, that has produced the bounty on the exportation of corn, which increases the manufacturer's expence of living, and difcourages the exportation of our manufactures. This is, in the end, hurtful to the landed interest. But fhort-fighted and selfish men do not see it in that light, nor will feem to underftand, that the land-tax, while nominally three fhillings in the pound, is not really nine-pence. The time was, when land in England might have been purchased for a 50th part of its prefent value. What has given it the 49 parts additional
• Deb, Com, vii. 285.