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The hiftorian proceeds to relate the political events in which the prevalence of the Whig intereft at this period appeared, and briefly to defcribe the rife, progrefs, and termination, of the rebellion in 1715. The rigour, with which not only the leaders but many of the inferior agents of the rebellion were treated, is very juftly condemned.
The introduction of the Septennial bill in 1716 is noticed as a most unconftitutional exertion of parliamentary authority, and extracts are given from the fpeeches of the Earl of Nottingham, Mr. Shippen, and Sir Robert Raymond, on this fubject. The following memorable paffage in Mr. Shippen's speech cannot be too often tranícribed:
High-Churchifm, the ever-memorable decree of the University of Oxford, paffed in full Convocation, July 21, 1683, and prefented to the King (Charles II.), July 24. "The Vice Chancellor, Doctors, Proctors, and Mafters, regent and not-regent, met in Convocation, decree, judge, and declare, to the honour of the holy and undivided Trinity, the prefervation of the Catholic truth in the Church, and that the King's Majefty may be fecured from the machinations of treache rous Heretics and Schifmatics-all and every of the following propofitions (cum multis aliis), to be falfe, feditious, and impious, and deftructive of all government in Church and State,
« All civil government is derived originally from the people.
"That there is a mutual compact, tacit or exprefs, between a Prince and his fubjects, and that if he perform not his duty, they are difcharged from theirs.
"That if lawful governors become tyrants, or govern otherwife than by the laws of God and Man they ought to do, they forfeit the right they had unto their government.
"The Sovereignty of England is in the three eftates-viz. King, Lords, and Commons; the King having but a co-ordinate er fubordinate power.
"Self-prefervation is the fundamental law of nature, and fuperfedes all others whenfoever they stand in competition with it.
"There is no obligation upon Chriftians to paffive obedience, when the Prince commands any thing contrary to the laws.
"It is not lawful for fuperiors to impofe any thing in the worship of God that is not antecedently neceffary.
"Wicked Kings and Tyrants ought to be put to death; and if the Judges and inferior Magiftrates will not do their office, the power of the word devolves to the people."
I humbly conceive we have it not in our power to confent to this Bill; for I cannot discover by what rule of reason or law, we, who are only reprefentatives, can enlarge, to our own advantage, the authority delegated to us-or that by virtue of fuch delegated authority, we can deftroy the fundamental rights of our conftitution. This Houfe has no legislative authority, but what it derives from the people. The members of this affembly were chofen under the Triennial Act. Our truft is therefore a triennial trust, and if we extend it beyond the strict legal duration, we cease from that inftant to be the trustees of the people, and are our own electors. From that inftant, we act by an unwarrantable affumption of power, and take upon us to create a new conftitution. For though it is a received maxim in civil science, that the fupreme legiflature cannot be bound, yet an exception is neceffarily implied, that it is reftrained from fubverting the foundation on which it ftands.'
Mr. Belfham next takes a general view of the political ftate of Europe at this period; inveftigates the grounds of the parliamentary difpute which arofe on the German interefts and connections, a ftanding army, and other topics; and traces the progrefs of the animofities between the Whigs and Tories. Of the memorable Bangorian controverfy, a brief, fpirited, candid, and juft account is given.
Through the remainder of this reign, Mr. B. relates the more important particulars refpecting the ftruggles of parties, the changes of adminiftration, the commercial South Sea bubble, the confpiracy for restoring the Pretender, the trial of Bishop Atterbury, the rigorous act paffed against the Roman Catholics, and other domeftic occurrences. At the fame time, he takes a curiory glance at foreign affairs, as far as was neceffary to explain the grounds of foreign policy pursued by the British court.
Through the reign of George II. fo pregnant with important occurrences both domeftic and foreign, Mr. Belfham ftill beftows his principal attention on parliamentary business; and, in unfolding the political character and fpirit of this period, he makes free extracts from the minutes of speeches delivered in the houses of parliament. Instead of accompanying him through the variety of matter which this reign affords, we muft content ourselves with extracting another paffage or two, which may farther ferve to fhew the manly ftyle and free fpirit in which this hiftory is written. The following reflections on the political character of Sir Robert Walpole, and on parliamentary reformation, are too important and too seasonable to be omitted:
In forming a juft eftimate of the political character of Sir Robert Walpole, who, for more than twenty years, governed thefe kingdoms with diftinguished reputation and ability, we fhall find ample ground
both for applause and cenfure. Regarding him in the most favourable point of view, we are compelled to acknowlege that, under the au fpices of this Minifter, juftice was equitably and impartially adminifered; the prerogative of the Monarch was invariably restrained within the ftrict limits of the law; commerce was, by many wife laws, encouraged and extended; the riches of the nation rapidly increased; and the rights and liberties of the people were maintained inviolate. But, if we contemplate the interior policy of his administration, we perceive it, however fair in appearance, ratten at the core, tainted and ficklied o'er with the cadaverous hue of corruption; and threatening, in its progrefs, to undermine all public virtue, and to extinguish every fpark of public fpirit. Compelled, in order to fecure the favour of his Sovereign, and with the vain hope to perpetuate himself in office, to adopt measures contrary to his better judgment, and the true interefts of his country, he faw that the moft, or rather the only, certain method of carrying those obnoxious measures into effect, was to create an interest in Parliament feparate from that of the people: by the bafest and most degrading arts of political depravity, a majority of votes in both Houses was obtained and fecured; and fince the eftablishment of this fyftem which has defcended to us in its full force, the deliberations of Parliament are become little better than the conflicts of faction, or the empty forms of freedom. Parliament, which ought to exhibit an unclouded difplay of wisdom, integrity and benevolence, combined in one illuftrious affemblage, may be thus virtually degraded to a court convened only for the purpose of enregistering the royal edicts. It is not the grave and well-weighed counfels of the legillature which, under this fyftem, direct the movements of the executive power; but it is the caprice, the pride, and the folly of the executive power, which have too frequently influenced and governed the velitions of the legislative body. It is an acknowleged truth, a truth upon parliamentary record—that "THE INFLUENCE OF THE CROWN OUGHT TO BE DIMINISHED;" but no vigorous steps have yet been taken to effect that diminution. A reform of the reprefentation, a reduction of the standing military force, a progreffive redemption of the public debt, and a total abolition of all ufelefs and fuperfluous places, penfions, and finecures, upon which the monster CORRUPTION feeds and thrives, are alone adequate to accomplish the mighty talk of a national regeneration. And if that energy and virtue are wanting in the community at large, which will in time incite to the adoption of fuch means as are neceffary to effectuate this end, what remains but to await, in deep and tranquil filence, the moment in which the national liberty is fated finally to terminate in that abfolute monarchy which, according to a profound and celebrated writer, forms the true euthanasia of the BRITISH CONSTITUTION ?'
In January 1745, an attempt was made to reftore annual parliaments, which the author calls the laft ftruggle of expiring patriotifm. The Houfe having been moved that the acts of the 4th and 36th of Edward III. for holding a parliament once in every year be read, Mr. Carew declared his intention to bring a decifive teft of the fincerity of those profeffions
which the minifters of the crown had been accustomed to repeat. He faid,
This is a confiitution not only fanctioned by ancient practice, but by the unalterable dictates of reafon. In order that the reprefentatives of a great nation may be perfectly acquainted with the state of its wishes, wants, and grievances, it is neceflary that there fhould be an intimate and habitual communication between them and their conflituents. But, when gentlemen are chofen for a term of years, they too frequently, on their election, appear at once to relinquish the character and feelings of delegates; they fix their abode in the metropolis, and vifit their conftituents only when it becomes necessary to solicit their votes at the eve of a new election. Nay, fuch was the degraded and corrupt ftate into which the national reprefentation had fallen fince the establishment of Septennial Parliaments, that there were Gentlemen in that House who never faw the borough which sent them thither; who, perhaps, would be at a lofs even to recollect its name; and who were obliged to have recourfe to the Court Calendar to inform them of whom they were the reprefentatives. It was the peculiar and proper province of the Houfe of Commons, he faid, to convey to the Sovereign the fentiments of the nation, both with refpect to the meafures he adopts, and the Minifters he employs. But could this duty be justly or faithfully executed, when there is no proper intercourse eftablished between those who reprefent and thofe who are represented? The interefts of the Prince and the People cannot really and truly differ; he can only be great in their greatnefs, and profperous in their profperity. But the general intereft of the People, and the perfonal intereft of the Minifters, may very effentially differ; they may have no other ends in view than to impoverish and enflave the people, in ørder to enrich and aggrandize themselves: and, during a long term of delegation, how eaty will it ever be for artful and defigning men to misrepresent the fentiments of the People to the Sovereign, and to pervert, by finifter and corrupt practices, the integrity of thofe perfons whofe duty it is, and who are exprefsly appointed, to guard the liberties, and protect the rights of the community? Properly fpeaking, Mr. Carew faid, the Houfe of Commons were no more than the attornies of the People: and is it reasonable that any man should be entrufted with a power of attorney irrevocable for a long term of years? Shall a whole People do that which would be the height of foolishness in every individual? Who can depend upon the continuance of any man's integrity? But the Septennial Bill was pafled for the purpofe of compelling the People to give an irrevocable power of attorney for that term. The practice of long Parliaments was firft introduced in the reign of Richard II. when the interests of the country were facrificed by wicked Ministers, to gratify the violent paffions of the Mɑnarch. But what was the refult? The difcontents and murmurs of the People, fo carefully concealed from the knowlege of the King, at laft produced an univerfal convulfion, which terminated in his ruin, and in the advancement of the Duke of Lancaster to the throne, without any other title than that of having refcued the People from flavery. This was the face of the Prince who first introduced long Parliaments;
but fo long as a corrupt majority may be more easily obtained in a long than a thort Parliament, fo long will it be the intereft of Minifters to oppofe any limitation of the duration of Parliaments, though the interefts both of the Monarch and the People ever fo manifeftly require it. If Septennial Parliaments be continued in this country, the Minifter's letters of recommendation may, in time, be as implicitly obeyed in our counties, cities, and boroughs, as the King's congé d'elire is now in the chapters of our epifcopal cathedrals. But will any one affert, that we fhould then have the flighteft pretence to the character of a free nation? No-we should be flaves; God knows to whom-not, it may be hoped, to a Minister from Hanover; though it is hard to say what a corrupt Parliament may not attempt, or to what a corrupt nation may not fubmit.'
The heads of a fpeech to the fame purpose by Mr. Sydenham are added; and the author relates the refult of the motion, that the question, in a house of 263 members, was negatived by a majority of 32 voices only. He adds,
No attempt at parliamentary reform, in any shape, after this, was made for thirteen years, when a motion for fhortening the duration of Parliaments was negatived almoft without the formality of a debate. Very recently, indeed, the queftion has been revived with great luftre and advantage under the auspices of men of the highest talents, and bids fair to excite the ferious and continued attention of the public, efpecially as it is at laft combined, as it ever ought to have been, with the kindred question of an equalization of the reprefentation *. long as this grand reform of Parliament itself remains unaccomplished, no effential reform in other refpects is to be expected.'
Though the writer of thefe volumes terminates his present narrative at the death of George II. he gives his readers reafon to hope that, at fome future time,-if in future time the truth may be fafely spoken-it may be refumed.' When the truth is fo well spoken-with fo much correctnefs, temper, and judgment-as it is by this memorialift, we truft that it may be deemed too fevere a fatire on the times to fuppofe that it cannot be fpoken with fafety.
It will eafily be fuppofed, that an allufion is here intended to the Affociation lately inftituted in the metropolis, for obtaining, a reform in Parliament; which, exclufive of the avowed approbation of the great rival-ftatefmen, Mr. Pitt and Mr. Fox, refpecting its object, boats the diftinguished names of Grey, Francis, Lambton, Whitbread, Erskine, Smith, and many others, which would reflect honor on any caufe; and this is certainly a caufe which would reflect honor upon any names.' Memoirs, p. 153.