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quod optanti Divûm promittere nemo
I find that men, who have turned their thoughts to what is now the great subject, not only of our parliamentary debates, but of our private conversation, are apt to complain, it is a matter of such a preplext nature, and admits of so many arguments on either side, that they are rather bewildered than instructed, by what they have heard in discourse, or seen in print, upon this occasion. But, as I think this perplexity does not arise in men's minds from the nature of the thing itself, so much as from the way of handling it, I shall endeavour to draw out the whole state of this affair with such brevity and method, as may neither tire nor puzzle the reader; but carry his thoughts through a series of observations and arguments, that will regularly grow out of one another, and set this matter in its full light."
a Among the pamphlets occasioned by the Peerage Bill, we may reckon, · The Thoughts of a Member of the Lower House, in relation to a project
1. Those who are thought the best writers upon Government, both Antients and Moderns, have unanimously agreed in opinion, that the most perfect and reasonable form is a mixt Government, in opposition to that of any single person, or any single order of
For whether the Supreme, that is, the Legislative Power, be lodged entirely in a Prince, or in an Aristocracy, or in a Democracy, it is still looked upon as Tyrannical, and not properly calculated for the happiness of the whole community.
2. It is also established as a maxim among Political Writers, that the division of the Supreme or Legislative Power is most perfect, when it is distributed into three branches. If it all centers in one man, or in a body of men of the same quality, it is that form of Government which is called Tyrannical. If it be hrown into two branches, it wants a Casting Power, and is under
r restraining and limiting the power of the Crown, in the future creation of Peers. Printed for J. Roberts, price 3d."
* Si violandum jus, regnandi causa violandum.
DEVIL'S SPEECH IN MILTON'S PARADISE Lost." Published March 17, 1718–19. [This was written by Mr. Asgill.]
"Some considerations relating to the Peerage of Great Britain; wherein the arguments for the reasonableness and expediency of a Bill said to be depending are stated pro and con. Printed for Bez. Creake. Price 6d.” March 18.
“ A Letter from a Member of the House of Commons to a gentleman without doors, relating to the Bill of Peerage lately brought into the House of Lords; together with two Speeches, for and against the Bill, supposed to be spoke in the House of Commons. Printed for J. Roberts, price 18.” March 19.
“Considerations concerning the Nature and Consequences of the Bill now depending in Parliament, relating to the Peerage of Great Britain. In a Letter from one Member of the House to another. Printed for J. Roberts, Price 4d." March 19.
“The OLD Wmg,” March 19. [Two numbers only; both here pre served.]
"Some Reflections upon a Pamphlet called the Old Whig. By the Author of the Thoughts of a Member of the Lower House.
"The Evils that I have done cannot be safe
But by attempting greater; and I find
“Flectere si nequeo superos, Acheronta movebo. "Printed for J. Roberts, Price 6d,” March 2d.
such a divided authority as would often draw two different ways, and produce some time or other such a discord as would expose the weaker to that which had most strength in it, and by degrees end in a single authority. If it consist of four Branches, it wants likewise a Casting Power, and is liable to the same inconve. niences as when it is composed of Two. And if it be divided into five or more parts, it necessarily runs into confusion, and will not long retain either the form or the name of Government. For this reason, three branches in a Legislature have been always fixed upon as the proper number; because it affords a Casting Power, and may moderate any heats in any two contending branches, and overpower the third in case it should prove unreasonable, or refuse to come into measures apparently necessary for the good and preservation of the Community.
3. The most natural and equitable division of these three branches of the Legislature is the Regal, the Noble, and the Plebeian; because the whole Community is cast under these
“Two Lists. shewing the alterations that have been made in the House of Commons, from the beginning of the Reign of King Henry VIII. to the end of that of King James I. And in the House of Peers, from the accession of King James I. to this time. Printed for J. Roberts, price 6d.” March 20.
“ An exact list of the Peers of Scotland at the time of the Union. Printed for J. Morphew, price 2d.”. March 21. [This and the preceding article are preserved in the “Political State, 1719." vol. XVII.]
"Some considerations humbly offered relating to the Peerage of Great Britain. By a Gentleman.
* Res Italas armis tuteris, moribus ornes,
Legibus emendes."— IIor. Er, AD. AUGUSTUM. VER 2.
“The PATRICIAN. To be continued Weekly. No. 1. Being Considerations on the Peerage. In answer to the PLEBEIAN.
that sins against his Reason, Calls sawcy loud Sedition Public Zeal,
And Mutiny the Dictates of his Spirit."-Orway's ORPHAN. “By one who is neither a Knight, nor a Member of the House of Commons, Printed for J. Roberts. Price 3d." March 21.
Three other Numbers of this Work appeared, which will all be duly noticed as they arise in order of time.
several heads, and has not in it a single Member who is without his Representative in the Legislature of such a Constitution.
4. In the next place it is necessary that these three branches should be entirely separate and distinct from each other, so that no one of them may lie too much under the influence and controul of either of the collateral Branches. For if one part of the Legislature may any ways be invested with a power to force either of the other Two to concur with it, the Legislative Power is in reality, whatever it may pretend to, divided into no more than Two Branches.
5. It is the usual boast of Englishmen, that our Government is fixed upon this triple basis, which has been allowed even in speculation, and that by persons who could have no eye to our Constitution, a form the most accommodated to the happiness of a Community, and the most likely to stand secure in its own strength. But if upon examination one branch of its Legislature is liable on any occasion to be entirely mastered and controled by one of the other, it is certain that nothing can be more desirable than such an improvement in our Constitution as may remove out of it this visible imperfection. If a King has power, when he pleases, to add what number he shall think fit to a body of Nobles who have a vote in the Legislature, it is plain he may se cure his point in that branch of the Legislature, and by that means command two votes out of three.
This has made many assert, and I wish I could hear a satisfactory answer to it, that there are not properly more than two branches in our Legislature, notwithstanding we flatter ourselves that they are three.
6. In this case, a precarious power of Nobles, so far subject to the Regal Power in their legislative capacity, might sometimes be more pernicious to the public than if the power of both the Branches were confessedly united in the Sovereign; because we might well suppose a bad King would scarçe venture upon some things, were the whole odium of them to turn upon himself; whereas a body of Peerage, should they only be created in an emergency to carry any unjustifiable design, would serve to divert or silence the murmurs of the publick.
7. It is a known saying of the late British King, " That if his friends could gain him a House of Commons, he would throw his troop of guards into the House of Lords, rather than miscarry in his measures." And whether it is possible for a Court to gain a House of Commons of what complection they please, and what would be the consequences at some time or other of their success in such an attempt, whilst the Crown is possest of a certain means, by virtue of its prerogative, of filling the House of Lords with its own creatures, are points too evident in themselves to be
8. The foregoing reflections are like first principles that have scarce been ever called into dispute, and have not only been the avowed maxims of those who have been distinguished by the name of Whigs, but have furnished matter of complaint to every party in its turn. This power of the Prerogative has always occasioned murmurs, when either side has found it exerted to their prejudice. We have often wished for a redress of it, and have now an opportunity of coming at it, which if we do not lay hold of, is not likely to offer itself again so long as we are a people.
9. It is proposed, to prevent those many inconveniences which may arise from an arbitrary creation of Peers, in what proportion and at what time the Sovereign shall please, to restrain the Peers to a certain number. It is evident that such a law would remedy those many evils that may proceed from such sudden and numerous additions which have been made to the House of Lords in the most critical conjunctures. But I find there are objections