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The Warder. No VI.
[April and defined. But strip such bodies Manchester or at Birmingham, that of these qualities, you degrade them he therefore speaks the sense of the into multitudes, and then what secu- town which he disquiets and endanrity have you against any thing that gers; or still more preposterously, they may do or resolve; knowing that because he has disquieted and enthat the moment the meeting is at an dangered half a dozen neighbourhoods end, there is no human being respon- in their turn, he is, therefore, the orsible for their proceedings ? The gan of them all, and, through them, meeting at Manchester, the meeting of the whole British people. at Birmingham, the meeting at Spa- Such are the stupid fallacies which fields or Smithfield, what pledge could the law of the last session has extinthey give to the nation of the sound, guished ! and such is the object and ness or sincerity of their designs? effect of the measures which British The local character of Manchester, liberty is not to survive ! the local character of Birmingham, To remedy the dreadful wound thus was not pledged to any of the proceed. inflicted upon British liberty, to reings to which their names were ap- store to the people what the people pended. A certain number of ambu- have not lost, to give a new impulse latory tribunes of the people, self- to that spirit of freedom, which noelected to that high function, assumed thing has been done to embarrass or the name and authority of whatever restrain, we are invited to alter the place they thought proper to select for constitution of that assembly through a place of meeting ; their rostrum was which the people share in the Legispitched, sometimes here, sometimes lature ; in short, to make a Radical there, according to the fancy of the Reform in the House of Commons. mob, or the patience of the Magis- It has always struck me as extraortrates; but the proposition, the pro- dinary, that there should be persons poser was in all places nearly alike; prepared to entertain the question of and when, by a sort of political ven- a change in so important a member triloquism, the same voice had been of the constitution, without considermade to issue from half a dozen dif- ing in what way that change must ferent corners of the country, it was affect the situation of the other memimpudently assumed to be a concord bers, and the action of the constituof sweet sounds, composing the united tion itself. voice of the people of England.
I have, on former occasions, stated Now, Gentlemen, let us estimate here, and I have stated elsewhere, the mighty mischief that has been questions on this subject; to which, done to liberty by putting down meet- as yet, I have never received an anings such as I have described.
“ You who wish to reform the ask, what lawful authority has been House of Commons, do you mean to curtailed ; let us ask, what respect. restore that branch of the Legislature able community has been injured ; let to the same state in which it stood at us ask, what form of municipal insti- some former period ? or do you mean tutions has been abrogated by a law to re-construct it on new principles?” which fixes the migratory complaint Perhaps a moderate Reformer or to the spot whence it professes to ori. Whig will answer, that he means only ginate, and desires to hear of the to restore the House of Commons to grievance from those by whom that what it was at some former period. grievance is felt; which leaves to I then beg to ask, and to that quesManchester as Manchester, to Bir- tion also I have never yet received an mingham as Birmingham, to London answer, “ At what period of our hisas London, all the free scope of utter- tory was the House of Commons in ance which they have at any time en- the state to which you wish to restore joyed for making known their wants, it?" their feelings, their wishes, their re- The House of Commons must, for monstrances ; which leaves to each of the purpose of this argument, be conthese divisions, its separate authority, sidered in two views: first, with reto the union of all or of many of them spect to its agency as a third part in the aggregate authority of such a con- the constitution; secondly, with resent and co-operation ; but which de- spect to its composition, in relation to mies to an itinerant hawker of grie- its constituents. As to its agency as vances, the power of stamping their a part of the constitution, I venture to names upon his wares; of pretending, say, without hazard, as I believe, of Because he may raise an outcry at contradiction, that there is no period
in the history of this country in which effectual representative of the people ; the House of Commons will be found representing them not as a delegate to have occupied so large a share of commissioned to take care of their inthe functions of Government, as at terests, but as a deputy appointed to present. Whatever else may be said speak their will. Now to this view of of the House of Commons, this one the matter I have no other objection point, at least, is indisputable, that than this--that the British Constitufrom the earliest infancy of the con- tion is a limited Monarchy; that a stitution, the power of the House of limited Monarchy is, in the nature of Commons has been growing till it has things, a mixed Government; but almost, like the rod of Aaron, absorbed that such a House of Commons as the its fellows. I am not saying whether Radical Reformer requires, would, in this is or is not as it ought to be. I effect, constitute a pure Democracy, merely mean to say why I think that which, it appears to me, would be init cannot be intended to complain of consistent with any Monarchy, and the want of power, and of a due share unsusceptible of any limitation. in the government as the defect of the
I may have great respect for the modern House of Commons.
person who theoretically prefers a ReI admit, however, very willingly, public tó a Monarchy. But, even that the greater share of power it ex- supposing me to agree with him in ercises, the more jealous we ought to this preference, I should have a prebe of its composition ; and I presume, vious question to discuss, by which therefore, that it is in this respect, he, perhaps, may not feel himself emand in relation to its constituents, that barrassed; which is this, whether I, the state of the House of Commons is born as I am (and as I think it is my contended to want revision. Well, good fortune to be) under a Monarthen, at what period of our history chy, am quite at liberty to consider was the composition of the House of myself as having a clear stage for poCommons materially different from litical experiments; whether I should what it is at present? Is there any be authorized, if I were convinced of period of our history in which the the expediency of such a change, to rights of election were not as various, withdraw Monarchy altogether from and in which the influence of property the British Constitution, and to subwas not as direct, in which recom- stitute an unqualified Democracy in mendations of candidates were not as its stead
; or whether, whatever efficient, and some boroughs as close, changes I may be desirous of introas they are now? I ask for informa- ducing, I am not bound to consider tion, but that information, plain and the Constitution' which I find as at simple as it is, and necessary, one, least circumscribing the range and in should think, to a clear understand- some measure prescribing the nature ing, much more to a grave decision of of the improvement. the point at issue, I never, though so-, For my own part, I am undoubtedliciting it with all humility, have ever ly prepared to uphold the ancient Moyet been able to obtain from any Re- narchy of the country, by arguments former, Radical, or Whig.
drawn from what I think the blessings The Radical Reformer, indeed, to which we have enjoyed under it; and do him justice, is not bound to fur- by arguments of another sort, if argunish me with an answer to this ques- ments of another sort shall ever be tion, because with his view of the brought against it--But all that I am matter, precedents (except one which now contending for is, that whatever I shall mention presently) have no- reformation is proposed, should be thing to do. The Radical Reformer considered with some reference to the would, probably, give to my first established constitution of the counquestion an answer very different from try. That point being conceded to that which I have supposed his mo- me, I have no difficulty in saying, that derate brother to give. He will tell I cannot conceive a constitution of me fairly, that he means not simply which one-third part shall be an asto bring the House of Commons back sembly delegated by the people, not either to the share of power which it to consult for the good of the nation, formerly enjoyed, or to the modes of but to speak day by day, the people's election by which it was formerly re- will, which must not, in a few days turned, but to make it, what, accorde sitting, sweep away every other branch ing to him, it ought to be, a direct of the constitution that might attempt to oppose or control it. I cannot con- ~ Resolved, That the Commons of ceive how, in fair reasoning, any other England assembled in Parliament, branch of the constitution should pre being chosen by and representing the tend to stand against it. If Govern- people, have the supreme authority of ment be a matter of will, all that we this nation.” have to do is to collect the will of the In this resolution the leap is taken. nation, and, having collected it by an Will the Radical Reformers say that adequate organ, that will is paramount it is taken unfairly–with such a and supreme. By what shadow of ar- tempting precedent before them? But gument could the House of Lords be the inference did not stop there. The maintained in equal authority and ju- House of Commons proceeded to rerisdiction with the House of Commons, solve, without one dissenting voice : when once that House of Commons “ That whatsoever is enacted and should become a mere deputation, declared law by the Commons of Engspeaking the people's will, and that land assembled in Parliament, hath will the rule of the Government? In the force of law, and all the people of one way or other the House of Lords this nation are included thereby, ale must act, if it be to remain a concur- though the consent and concurrence rent branch of the Legislature. Ei- of the King and House of Peers be not ther it must uniformly affirm the had thereunto.” the measures which come from the Such was the theoretical inference Commons, or it must occasionally take of the House of Commons in 1648, the liberty to reject them. If it uni- the logical dependence of which upon formly affirm, it is without the pre- the foregoing proposition, I say, I tence of authority. But to presume to should be glad to see logically disreject an act of the deputies of the proved. The practical inferences were whole nation !-by what assumption not tardy in their arrival, after the of right could three or four hundred theory. In a few weeks the House of great proprietors set themselves against Lords was voted useless; and in a few the national will ? Grant the Re- more we all know what became of the formers, then, what they ask, on the Crown. principles on which they ask it, and it Such, I say, were the radical docis utterly impossible that, after such a trines of 1648, and such the conseReform, the constitution should long quences to which they naturally led. consist of more than one body, and If we are induced to admit the same that one body a popular assembly. premises now, who is it, I should be
Why, Gentlemen, is this theory? or glad to know, that is to guarantee us is it a theory of mine? If there be against similar conclusions ? among those who hear me any man These, tben, are the reasons why I who has been (as in the generous en- look with jealousy at Parliamentary thusiasm of youth any man may Reform. I look at it with still more blamelessly have been) bitten by the jealousy, because in one of the two doctrines of reform, I implore him, classes of men who co-operate in supbefore he goes forward in his progress port of that question, I never yet found to embrace those doctrines in their any two individuals who held the same radical extent, to turn to the history of doctrines; I never yet heard any inthe transactions in this country in the telligible theory of Reform, except, year 1648, and to examine the beare that of the Radical Reformers. Theirs, ings of those transactions on this very indeed, it is easy enough to understand. question of Radical Reform. He will But as for theirs I certainly am not yet find, Gentlemen, that the House of fully prepared. I, for my part, will not Commons of that day passed the fol- consent to take one step without knowlowing resolution :
ing on what principle I am invited to Resolved, that the people are take it, and (which is perhaps of more under God, the original of all just consequence) without declaring on powers !"
what principle I will not consent that Well, can any sentiment be more any step, however harmless, shall be just and reasonable? Is it not the taken. foundation of all the liberties of man- What more harmless than to diskind ? Be it so. Let us proceed. The franchise a corrupt borough in CornHouse of Commons followed up this wall, which has exercised its franchise resolution by a second, which runs in amiss, and brought shame on itself, something like these terms:
and on the system of which it is a
part ?-Nothing. I have no sort of pool-bug on the bench immediately objection to doing, as Parliament has over against me, I descry' scarce any often done in such cases, (supposing other sort of representatives than always the case to be proved ;) to dis- members for close, or, if you will, for franchising the borough, and render- rotten boroughs. To suppose, thereing it incapable of abusing its franchisefore, that our political opponents have in future. But, though I have no any thoughts of getting rid of the close objection to doing this, I will not do it boroughs, would be a gross delusion; on the principle of speculative improve and, I have no doubt, they will be ment. I do it on the principle of spe- quite as fair and open with the Recific punishment for an offence. And formers on this point as I am. I will take good care that no inference And why, gentlemen, is it that I shall be drawn from my consent in this am satisfied with a system which, it is specific case, as to any sweeping con- said, no man can support who is not currence in a scheme of general al- in love with corruption? Is it that I, teration.
more than any other man, am afraid Nay, I should think it highly dis- to face a popular election ? To the last ingenuous to suffer the Radical Re- question you can give the answer. To formers to imagine that they had the former I will answer for myself. I gained a single step towards the ad- do verily believe, as I have already mission of their theory by any such said, that a complete and perfect deinstance of particular animadversion mocratical representation, such as the on proved misconduct. I consent to Reformers aim at, cannot exist as part such disfranchisement; but I do so, of a mixed government. It may exist, not with a view of furthering the and, for ought I know or care, may radical system, but rather of thwarting exist beneficially as a whole. But I it. I am glad to wipe out any blot in am not sent to Parliament to inquire the present system, because I mean into the question whether a democracy the present system to stand. I will or a monarchy be the best. My lot is take away a franchise, because it has cast under the British Monarchy. been practically abused, not because I Under that I have lived, under that I am at all disposed to inquire into the have seen my country flourish, under origin or to discuss the utility of all that I have seen it enjoy as great a such franchises, any more than I mean share of prosperity, of happiness, and to inquire, Gentlemen, into your titles of glory, as I believe any modification to your estates. Disfranchising Gram- of human society to be capable of bepound, (if that is to be so,) I mean to stowing; and I am not prepared to save Old Sarum.
sacrifice or to hazard the fruit of cenNow, Sir, I hope I deal fairly with turies of experience, of centuries of the Radical Reformers, more fairly struggles, and of more than one century than those who would suffer it to be of liberty as perfect as ever blessed any supposed that the disfranchisement of country upon the earth, for visionary Grampound is to be the beginning of schemes of ideal perfectibility, or a system of Reform: while they know, doubtful experiments even of possible and I hope mean as well as I do, not improvement. to Reform (in the sense of change) I am, therefore, for the House of but to preserve the Constitution. 1 Commons as a part and not as the would not delude the Reformers, if I whole of the Government. And, as a could ; and I know it would be quite part of the Government, I hold it to useless to attempt a delusion upon per- be frantic to suppose, that from the sons quite as sagacious in their gene- election of members of Parliament you ration as any moderate Reformers or can altogether exclude, by any contriAnti-reformers of us all. They know vance, even if it were desireable to do full well that the Whigs have no more so, the influence of property, rank, notion than I have of parting with the talents, family connexion, and whatclose boroughs. Not they, indeed. A ever else, in the Radical language of large, and perhaps the larger part of the day, is considered as intimidation them, are in their hands. Why, in or corruption. I believe, that if a rethe assembly to which you send me, form to the extent of that demanded Gentlemen, some of those who sit on by the Radical Reformers were grantthe same side with me, represent, to ed, you would, before an annual elecbe sure, less popular places than Liver- tion came round, find that there were Vol. VII.
new connexions grown up which you species of representation which, as an must again destroy, new influence ac- element in the composition of Parliaquired which you must dispossess of ment, I never shall cease to defend. its authority, and that in these fruit- In truth, Gentlemen, though the less attempts at unattainable purity question of Reform is made the preyou were working against the natural text of those persons, who have vexed current of human nature.
the country for some months, I verily I believe, therefore, that, contrive believe that there are very few even how you will, some such humble mo- of them who either give credit to their tives of action will find room to ope- own exaggerations, or care much about rate in the election of members of the improvements which they recomParliament. I think that it must and mend. Why, do we not see that the ought to be so, unless you mean to most violent of the Reformers of the exclude from the concerns of the na- day are aiming at seats in that assemtion all inert wealth, all inactive ta- bly, which, according to their own lent, the retired, the aged, and the in- theories, they should have left to walfirm, all who cannot face popular as- low in its own pollution, discountesemblies or engage in busy life; in nanced and unredeemed ? It is true, short, unless you have found some that if they had found their way there, expedient for disarming property of they might have endeavoured to bring influence, without (what I hope we us to a sense of our misdeeds, and to are not yet ripe for) the abolition of urge us to redeem our character by property itself.
some self-condemning ordinance; but I would have by choice—if the would not the authority of their names, choice were yet to be made I would as our associates, have more than have in the House of Commons great counterbalanced the force of their elovariety of interests, and I would have quence as our Reformers. them find their way there by a great But, Gentlemen, I am for the whole variety of rights of election; satisfied constitution. The liberty of the subthat uniformity of election would pro- ject as much depends on the mainteduce any thing but a just representa- · nance of the constitutional preroga. tion of various interests. As to the tives of the Crown, on the acknowclose boroughs, I know that through ledgment of the legitimate power of them have found their way into the the other House of Parliament, as it House of Commons men whose talents does in upholding that supreme power have been an honour to their kind, (for such it is in one sense of the and whose names are interwoven with word, though not in that of the Revothe history of their country. I can- lution of 1648,) the power of the not think that system altogether purse which resides in the democrativicious which has produced such cal branch of the constitution. Whatfruits. I cannot think that there ever beyond its just proportion was should be but one road into that as- gained by one part, would be gained sembly, or that no man should be at the expense of the whole ; and the presumed fit for the deliberations of a balance is now, perhaps, as nearly senate, who has not had the nerves poised as human wisdom can adjust previously to face the storms of the it. I fear to touch that balance, the hustings.
disturbance of which must bring conI need not say, Gentlemen, that I fusion on the nation. am one of the last men to disparage Gentlemen, I trust there are few, the utility and dignity of popular very few, reasonable and enlightened elections. I have good cause to speak men ready to lend themselves to proof them in far different language. jects of confusion. But I confess I But, among numberless other consi- very much wish, that all who are not derations which endear to me the fa- ready to do so would consider the ill vours which I have received at your effect of any countenance given, pubhands, I confess it is one, that as your licly or by apparent implication, to representative I am enabled to speak those whom, in their heart and judgmy genuine sentiments on this (as I ments, they despise. I remember that think it) vital question of Parliament- most excellent and able nian, Mr ary Reform, without the imputation Wilberforce, once saying in the House of shrinking from popular canvass, or of Commons, that he “ never believed of seeking shelter for myself in that an opposition really to wish mischief