Page images
PDF
EPUB

THE PLEBEIAN.

No. II. MONDAY, MARCH 23, 1718–19.

CONSIDERATIONS UPON TUE REPORTS RELATING TO TIIE PEER AGE CONTINUED; AND RE

MARKS UPON TIIE PAMPHLETS THAT HAVE BEEN WRIT FOR THE SUPPOSED BILL. BY A MEMBER OF THE HOUSE OF COMMONS.

* Quis enim jam non intelligat Artes
Patricias ?" *

*-Juv. SAT. IV, 101.
Who sees not now through the Lords thin disguise !--DRYDEN.

Those who are not particularly acquainted with the vocation of Pamphlet-writing, have very much wondered that a matter of so great consequence, as the affair of the PEERAGE, and espoused by such persons as are very well known to be its patrons, could have been so long a while upon the stage, and no champion appear for it; but others, who are more versed in this kind of business, know, there could not be wanting persons enough to make their court, by producing their lucubrations on this head. But as it is a subject that will not very well bear debating, their masters, without doubt, were of opinion, that the best way was, to let all manner of writing alone, and keep all that could be said on the subject for the time and place where it was absolutely necessary to say something.

The agitators for the bill assured themselves, that nobody would be so bold as to attack first; and consequently judged themselves out of all danger. But the PLEBEIAN starting forth unexpectedly, they were forced, like people in a surprize, or on an invasion, to march immediately any troops they had; and indeed these are some of the most tattered I ever saw.

The first Champion that appeared for this bill, was a person who exhibited himself in the St. James's-Post, of Wednesday, March 18, in this advertisement: “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.”

VOL. III.--14

This performance I have not been able to venture upon; for Ile that can state arguments for the bill, both Pro and Con, is too slippery a person for any body to lay hold of.

The next that entered the lists, on the same side of the question, having been more fortunate than to discover himself beforehand, I have perused bis labours. The account he gives of himself, is, “ That he is a Member of the House of Commons, who has a friend with whom he uses to talk over in private all arguments and considerations which concern any thing of momc it, as far as they could collect and remember them: and they having both agreed that this was a matter of a very extraordinary nature, the one entreated the other to put his thoughts about it in writing, that he might be better able to judge of them all together, And in order to continue the privacy of this correspondence, those thoughts came out, printed for J. Roberts in Warwick-Lane."

This notable introduction was very near having the same effect upon me, as to this pamphlet, as the advertisement just mentioned had to the former ; but with much ado I went through the performance. All I can learn from it is, That this Gentleman was present at the debates of the Hlouse of Lords; where he does not seem to have been mightily enlightened as to the true state of the case, the debate having in all probability run pretty much one way.

The next that follows these two combatants for this bill, is somebody or other that is used to masquerading, as I suppose; and indeed he is so well disguised, that it is impossible to know him. When I first read the title, The Old Whig, I expected no less than the utmost wrath and indig. nation against the House of Lords. I could not help thinking but he would have been for Voting them useless at least, as his ancestors did formerly: but I was extremely surprized to find just the contrary; that he is for giving them such a power, as would make the House of Commons useless; and therefore he might as well have taken any other title in the world, as The Old Whig. I am afraid he is so old a Whig, that he has quite forgot his Principles.

But I shall shew now more plainly, what is said in the former PLEBEIAN, that this is neither a Whig nor a Tory point, but is a jumble, a hodgepodge, a confusion of all parties and all persons together; and must inevitably in its consequences destroy first Whig and Tory, and afterwards Crown and People. As ail sorts of people unite for it, so ought all sorts, and of every denomination, that have any value for their Constitution, to unite against it.

This Pamphlet, by the marks it appears with, being in all probability the best performance that is to come from that quarter, the PLEBEIAN will consider it thoroughly; and in order to proceed more methodically, for this Author's satisfaction?

First, I will answer the objections made to the last PLEBEIAN.

Secondly, I will consider the argument, as the Old Whig states it himseli.

The first objection the Author of the Remarks makes to the PLEBELAN, is page 299, where he says, “That the Introduction, the Digression upon the Ephori, and the Conclusion, are all arguments ad conftandam invidiam.” He who says that arguments drawn from History, which can only shew what has happened in former times, are arguments ad conflandam invidiam, gives up the matter in dispute, and lets the world know, by passing them so slightly over, that he feels their force : for it is a tacit admission, that in all probability the like disasters will happen from the alterations now projected in our Constitution ; which, history informs us, were the real consequences of alterations of the like nature in other countries; otherwise those arguments could not now contribute to make persons invidious. Besides, I always thought that bringing examples from history was looked upon as the most impartial and unexceptionable method of arguing, as it is abstracted from the passions and interests of the present times : for what is Learning and History, if it be not to draw inferences of what may happen, from what has happened?

As to the digression upon the Ephori, the PLEBEIAN was very careful to avoid giving offence. Amongst the many extraordinary Powers exercised by those magistrates, there was one of a very uncommon nature; which was, that as they took upon themselves the sole inspection of the youth, they were particularly curious of the persons of the Boys. They employed every tenth day in examining the youths of about fifteen, stark-naked, Oportebat Ephebos decimo quoque die Ephoris se sistere sine veste, Ubbo Em mius, de Rep. Lac. p. 235, with whom Crags agrees almost in the same words, in the Treatise mentioned in the former PLEBELAN, p. 284.

What an ill use was made of this power, we may see in Emmius, p. 236, where speaking of the manner how the Ephori lived with those young men they liked best, he says, lis (Ephebis) assiduo fere adhærebant. Which words, for fear of offending the PLEBELAN Ladies, I am not at liberty to translate. However, it is very plain all this was omitted to avoid the least appearance of personal reflection.

The first argument of the PLEBEIAN, which the Old Whig objects to, is, p. 299. “That though the PLEBEIAN declares against the proposed bill, because it will make so great an alteration in our Constitution, yet he produces an eminent instance of a great alteration of our Constitution in the Lower House under the reign of Queen Elizabeth, when the Crown erected several new Corporations, and relieved several ancient decayed ones from sending any Members at all.”

This, the Remarker says, was as great an alteration in one branch of our Legislature, as is now proposed to be made in another. The Remarker quite mistakes this point; for, instead of being an alteration of so great consequence to the Constitution of the Commons, as this new proposal is of that of the Lords, it was an alteration of no consequence at all. Suppose the towns of Watchet and Dunster, two sea-ports in Somersetshire, to have been destroyed in the wars with Ireland in Queen Elizabeth's time. The inhabitants, on account of poverty, apply to the Crown to be exempted from the charge of paying four Members to represent thom in Parliament. The Crown some time after grants Charters to two neighbouring towns in flourishing circumstances, and directs the writs at a following summons of a Parliament to be sent to Tiverton and Honiton, instead of Watchet and Dunster. Let any body judge if this alteration can be of any consequence to the House of Commons. Here is nothing else but the places changed ; and four Members from Tiverton and Honiton are the same thing as four from Watchet and Dunster. But to state this matter with nicety would require much more labour and time than I am able to allow it.

Another argument, which the Remarker says the PLEBEIAn furnishes against himself, is, “That he owns the Prerogative has been retrenched in several instances; because without such retrenchment the Power of it'appeared exorbitant and dangerous to the Commons.” But these retrenchments being now made, the question at present is, Whether the Commons ought to go on stripping the Crown of every jewel, till it becomes less resplendent than a Doge of Venice's coronet, or less comfortable than the Sword-bearer's Cap of Maintenance; and, what is of the greatest moment to the Commons, less able to protect them against the Power of a House of Lords, if ever their Lordships should be disposed to claim a larger share of authority than belongs to them!

As to the complaint the Remarker makes, That the PLEBEIAn applies to mens Passions, and not their Reasons; and declaims instead of arguing; what must be said in answer to this is, That people must make use of what arm they have. On the one side, it is evident there can be nothing but arguing and reasoning, and declaiming and exemplifying; but on the other, the PLEBEIAN is afraid there are more irresistible arts of applying to the Passions, rather than to the Reasons of men, or else he would not have one minute's pain for the issue of this question.

The manner in which the Remarker states the PLEBELAX's argument, relating to the shutting up the door of the House of Lords, shews he either wilfully or ignorantly mistakes that part of the Controversy : "For, after having cited the words of the PLEBEIAN, he asks, if it can be detrimental to the IIouse of Lords, and at the same time throw into their hands all the places and honours that the Crown can confer upon them? Will that body of men, which would become mean and despicable, and offensive as a stagnated pool, by the means of this alteration, be raised by the same means to be the most formidable and most honoured part of the Constitution! Or would they be able, without numerous recruits of wealth, learning, and industry, to

oppose

any thing for the good of the Community?” To this

I answer, It will not be detrimental to them in point of Power, but will be detrimental on account of those talents that ought to accompany Power; the want of which the Commons will feel in their Judicature, and in many more particulars. They will be offensive to others, but not perceive it themselves; they will be formidable, but not honoured. These are natural Effects that all Erorbitant Power produces. As to wealth, they will take it, it is to be feared, where they can find it; and learning and industry will be as useless baubles to their Lordships, as Dangling Peerages (as my Author describes them excellently well) are to men of sense amongst the Commons

The next objection of the Old Whig to the PLEBEIAN is, “That he avers the uneertainty of the extinction of families will leave so little opportunity for the Crown to reward merit by PATRICIAN Honours, that it will be much the same thing as if the Crown were never to have any such Power at all."

Whereas (says he) there will be two Titles extinct every year, according to the Calculation generally received.

By the Calculation generally received, I suppose the Remarker means the List published by way of prelude to this project. Whether it be true or false, if some Heralds know any thing of this matter, would take more time to examine into, than, I dare say, the Constitution it is intended to introduce would subsist. But supposing, for argument sake, that that Caleulation is right, and that in one hundred and sixteen years there have been one hundred and fifty-four extinctions, there will be found wanting seventy-eight to make up his number of two a year; so that the extinctions have not been during that term quite so many as after the rate of one Lord and a half per annum. But besides this error in Arithmetic, there is another error of an odd nature in this Computation ; which, unless some method is proposed to ascertain it, will reduce the extinctions to fewer than even one a year. And if so, those who expect to have their services rewarded by reversions so uncertainly computed, may have time enough to try all their patience, and at last find that, instead of advancing themselves to dignity, they have been forging their own chains. In the Computations of the Titles extinct, all those are comprehended who have been extinguished by the edge of the Law, for Treason, Rebellion, and other capital offences : and who, without the Spirit of Prophecy, can foretell what Vacancies may happen by such means for the future? But if, in favour of this scheme, it be admitted that in all probability there may be as many and as great Criminals hereafter in that Noble Body as there have been for the time past, is it not to be feared that the Path to justice may be more difficult, after this narrowing the way up to the House of Peers, than it has been formerly.

As to what the Remarker has objected to the arguments of the PLEBELAN, which prove, “That the Limitation of the number of the Lords will run the Constitution into an Aristocracy;” this matter shall be fully con

« PreviousContinue »