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presenting of the Hampshire petition. I do not mean to say, that one was produced by the other ; but certainly the surrender has been produced by the petitions of the people. However, it is an abolition of all sinecures and all pensions and grants, not fully merited by well known public services ; this is what we pray for ; and, I am fully persuaded, that this is what we shall very soon see take place.
TO EARL GROSVENOR.
Thanks for his Lordship's Defence of the People.— Fair Play's a jewel.— The Question of Reform fairly argued.-Annual Parliaments.-Universal Suffrage.-Mr. Brougham's Sincerity. Foul Conduct of the Corrupt Writers.-Green Bag and Cheap Publications.
(Political Register, February, 1817.)
London, February 19th, 1817. My LORD,
Your Lordship's speech, as given in the newspapers of last week, has given great satisfaction to every candid man in the country, and to no man more than to him who has now the honour of addressing you. If people are in error, it is not by misrepresentations and revilings and abuse that they are to be convinced of their errors. This desirable end is not to be arrived at by imputing to the leaders seditious designs, and to the people the grossest of ignorance. This is not the way to silence the former, nor to gain over the latter. If we, who hold for Annual Parliaments and Universal Suffrage, be in error, your Lordship has taken the right course to make us patient, at least, and to wait to hear what can be urged in opposition to our opinions. The flippancy and rancour and affected contempt, with which we have been assailed by corrupt and scrambling men, have only tended to excite our just resentment against them, and, which is worse, to make us confound with those corrupt scramblers, all other persons, who appear to be co-operating with them in general."
The course, which your Lordship has pursued, is precisely the opposite of that of the persons here alluded to. The mildness of your language, the justice of your sentiments, the whole tenor of your manly declarations call upon us to listen to you with the greatest respect, and if we still retain our opinions, to show by fair statement and reasoning that the grounds of those opinions are such as to warrant us in differing, as to those opinions, from those which your Lordship has 80 explicitly and fairly expressed.
You have been, in your reported speech, pleased to observe, my Lord,
that a Reform of Parliament of some sort is necessary and just; and, that you consider the seven years Parliament “as a direct infringement of “ the Constitution, as a violation of the rights and liberties of the people, " and that the Act, sanctioning those Parliaments, ought not to re• main in the statute-book ;” and, your Lordship is pleased to add, that you would give your support to a bill for Triennial Parliaments ; but, as to Annual Parliaments, you do not think them agreeable to the Constitution; and, as to Universal Suffrage, you cannot help calling it universal impracticability. But, though you differ with us in opinion upon these points, your Lordship's words, which I cannot help repeating here, convince us, that while you would leave our minds free, you have a mind of your own, open to receive whatever we have to urge in defence of our opinions.
“ But because he differed with others on that subject, was he therefore (as was “ well expressed by a noble person on a former evening, in a most eloquent “and convincing speech) to wish to see those with whom he differed, imprisoned " and gibbetted, hung, drawn, and quartered? Was he to wish to see a Judge Jef
feries, or one acting in the spirit and power of a Judge Jefferies, placed on the " Bench, for the purpose of committing a legal murder on these people ? For instance, “ should he wish to see MAJOR CARTWRIGHT, whom he understood to be a most “ respectable person, because he entertained such contrary sentiments, and en“deavoured to propagate them through the country, should he wish to see his “ mouth closed, not by argument and fair discussion, but by the bloody hands of an “ executioner?—The thought was shocking, monstrous, and diabolical! As the “ fortitude of the people had been great under their difficulties and privations “ and sufferings, so had their conduct in all places, where meetings for retrench. " ment and reform had been held, been most exemplary; and, indeed, it was re“markable and even surprising that it should have been so, considering the great “ numbers that have been assembled in various places, and the warmth that na. “turally arises in large bodies when assembled from various quarters to discuss “matters, where grievances are felt. This was at least no symptom of disaf"fection, and he trusted, from such patient discussion, much good would arise."
My Lord, these words will endear your name to the people of this king. dom; for it is nothing short of the whole people, in the proper sense of the word, of whose conduct your Lordship has here spoken ; and I venture to assure your Lordship, that the satisfaction, which the people will derive from your just description and your high commendation of their own conduct, will still fall short of their gratitude to your Lordship for the manner in which you have been pleased 10 speak of that venerable patriot, that learned, able, wise, disinterested, brave, unconquerable, truehearted Englishman, Major Cartwright, whose private life has been as amiable and as spotless as his public exertions have been long, arduous, and valuable. It is indeed “ monstrous and diabolical” to think of an. swering such a man by the hands of an executioner, and scarcely less mon. strous, or less diabolical, to think of answering him by shutting his mouth by force of any sort, or to think of answering any body else by similar means. The folly, too, is equal to the wickedness of such attempts ; for, is it possible to suppose, that, if the people have been induced to believe anything, no matter what, they will be induced to unbelieve it by the use of force to compel their teachers to hold their tongues ? or to lay down their pens ? No, my Lord, there is something so unfair, so unjust, so tyrannical, and so insolent in all propositions tending to encourage such attempts, that the very tamest drop of blood in the very tamest of hearts is roused into resentment at the very idea.
In your Lordship we have a fair, an open, a manly, a truly noble adver
sary, not of us, but of some of our doctrines ; and, therefore, my Lord, I shall proceed, with great respect, to state to you the reasons on which I conceive those doctrines to be well founded ; and this I shall do much less with a desire to triumph in the dispute, than with the hope of contributing some little matter towards gaining over to our side a person of such great weight and such high character as your Lordship.
In so manfully and truly stating, that seven-year Parliaments are“ a "direct infringement of the Constitution, and a violation of the rights "and liberties of the people," you have spared us the trouble of con. tending, that we have a right to a reform of some sort. Nor is this a small matter, seeing, that, for years past, all reform has been in another quarter, asserted to be wholly unnecessary, and that the whole thing, as it now stands, is agreeable to the Constitution.
Seeing, then, that the thing, as it now stands, is, “a direct infringe"ment of the Constitution, and a violation of the rights and liberties of " the people,” we come naturally to consider what sort of a Reform would reinstate the people in the possession of those rights and liberties, of which possession they are now deprived ? We say Annual Parliaments and Unie versal Suffrage; your Lordship thinks that the former are not agreeable to the Constitution, and that the latter is impracticable. These are the two points, which with great respect and submission, I propose to argue with your Lordship ; and, not to argue them upon mere precedent or ancient usage, but also upon the ground of equity, and of the fitness of the things, considered in their natural effects under the circumstances of the nation in these times in which we live.
That Parliaments annually chosen were the ancient law of the land is, I think, evident from the very words of the Statute of the 4th year of Edward III., Chapter 14, passed in the year 1331 ; for though the word holden once a year is made use of, it is, nevertheless, clearly proved by Mr. Granville Sharp, in bis “ Declaration of the People's Rights,” and which was published in 1775, that Parliaments were newly-chosen every time that they were called. He has there cited several instances of new Parliaments being summoned year after yeur successively by a new writ of election ; he mentions some years in which two, or more, new Parlia. ments had been summoned by different writs of election, in the space of a single year. And, that learned and venerable lawyer and excellent man, Mr. BARON MASERES, in speaking upon this subject, says : “SO " that it may truly be affirmed, that, in those ancient times, the people "enjoyed the privilege of electing new representatives in Parliament, "either once in every year, or more than once, if the King found it “necessary to have another Parliament before the end of the year."
These remarks of Mr. BarON MASERES are to be found in a new quarto edition, published a few years ago by White, in Fleet-street, of GENERAL Ludlow's famous Letters in defence of the Long Parliament in their conduct against Charles the First, in which Letters also LUDLOW insists upon the people's rights to “ Annual Parliaments.”
Now, my Lord, were Ludlow and GranvilLE SHARP, and is Mr. BARON MAS RES; are these to be looked upon as “wild and visionary men ?" Are they, too, to be considered as “ designing and evil-minded persons ?” Or, are they to be numbered amongst the “ deluded” and the “ seduced page Where will Mr. Perry, and Mr. Brougham be pleased to station Mr. Baron Maseres ? will they place him upon the list of the "knaves" or upon that of the " fools" of the day.
However, my Lord, I am ready to acknowledge, that, though the ancient laws and usages of the land are decidedly for Annual Parliaments. such Parliaments ought not to be contended for, if it can be shown, that the restoration of them would now be unfit ; that it would be productive, or tend towards, any mischief to the nation, or to any of the great and settled laws and establishments of the land ; and especially if it were at all likely to introduce that strife, confusion, and anarchy, of which our virulent opponents affect to be so much afraid. But, my Lord, why should annual elections lead to such consequences ? It is the opinion of Mr. BARON MASERES, that Annual Parliaments would have a precisely opposite tendency and effect.
“Now," observes that truly learned man, “ if this good old law were to be " revived, would there be any danger of such violent and expensive and often “ruinous contests, at the time of elections, as are seen in the present mode of “ proceeding, when the general elections occur only once in about six years? “ For, as the representatives would be constantly disposed to cultivate the good “ opinion of their constituents, and, by their conduct in Parliament, to promote “ their interests and wishes, as far as their own consciences and judgments “ would allow them; in order to be re-elected by them in the next year, it is “ probable that there would be much fewer contested elections, and changes of “the representatives, than there are at present. And from the harmony that “ would generally subsist between the members of Parliament and their electors, “ the dignity and respectability of the House of Commons would be increased, and " the confidence of the people, in the wisdom and uprightness of their measures “ would be restored ; and the resolutions that would be taken by them would be “ generally allowed to be in reality, what they are now often called and pretended “to be, the true expressions, or declarations, of the sense of the people at large, “ on the subjects to which they relate. It seems probable, therefore, that the “ revival of this good old law, for choosing new Parliaments every year, would be " attended with very happy consequences, and give general satisfaction to the “ nation."
I think your Lordship will agree with me, that these are the reflections of a sober-minded friend of his country; and, indeed, my Lord, the truth of them appears to me to be so obvious, that I cannot help thinking, that it must strike every one who reads with impartiality. Was it ever known that the shortening of the duration of any obligation to obedience tended to discontent, restiveness and violence on the side of the bounden party ? Men who have the power of choosing new masters weekly, are much less disposed to serious discontents than those who can choose them only yearly, and those who can choose them yearly, require a much less rigorous law to bind them than is required to bind those who are held to their masters for seven years, though there is in this case a sort of prize at the end of the term of obedience.—Your Lordship has seen how readily soldiers have enlisted for a limited time, and how backward they have been to give up their right of choice for life. In short, it is notorious, that men submit for a short time, peaceably and quietly, and even cheerfully, to that which they would die rather than submit to, if the period of submission were known to be of long duration, and the mere chance of redress removed to a distant day.-" Never mind! It is only for a few months !” Is not this the language of all mankind ? Is not this the language of every human being, who is aggrieved, or who thinks himself aggrieved, and who knows that the day of redress, or of his seeking redress, is at hand ? Is not this the effect, the invariable effect, of a short duration of every kind of obligation to submission or obedience ? How often has every gentleman,
every employer of every description, every occupier, every landlord, every guest at an inn, said, “ No matter! It is not worth while to quar"rel. I sball be rid of the connection by such a time, and I will take care "to avoid the same in future.” How often, how many scores of times, bas every man, be he who or what he may, said this during his lifetime!
Why, then, should it be supposed, that this tranquillizing effect would not be produced by Annual Parliaments? Why should it be supo posed, that the very cause of content and tranquillity in all other cases should be the cause of discontent and uproar and confusion in this particular case? Why should it be supposed, that the laws of nature herself would become perverted and produce their opposite in the breasts of Englishmen? I will not insult your Lordship by appearing to believe, that you will adopt, much less act upon, any such supposition.
If there are people to suppose, that the House of Commons would, by annual elections, be so varying for ever in its members, that the laws would be continually changing, I beg your Lordship, besides the weight of the observation of Mr. Baron MASERES, to remember the old maxim, chat “ short reckonings make long friends,” than which a truer maxim never dropped from the lips of wisdom ; and the experience of all mankind shows, that those quarrel least who have the most frequent power of adjusting their affairs. The Legislative Assembly of Pennsylvania, for instance, is elected by new writs annually ; and, I venture to assure your Lordship, that new faces and changes of laws are much less frequent there than in the House of Commons in England. The government of Pennsylvania is no very new thing. It is as it was originally formed by the famous Englishman, whose name the State bears. He carried to those desarts the laws of England. He built his government upon those laws, while the Stuarts were trampling them under foot at home. He knew that Annual Parliaments were the law of the land. He planted them in his new domain; there they have lived and flourished, and under them a system of sway, which has produced a scene of social tranquillity and happiness such as is to be found in no other part of the world. Because I refer to this instance in support of my argument, I am not to be supposed to desire other changes here after the model of Pennsylvania ; but, as far as the instance goes, it is, I presume, entitled to all the weight to which any case in point can be entitled.
As I am not aware of any objection, save those that I have here noticed, against Annual Parliaments, I shall now proceed to the second point, mentioned in your Lordship's speech, namely, Universal Suffrage. And, here, suffer me to take the liberty to refer your Lordship to the Hampshire Petition, which not only prays for suffrage to this extent, but which also briefly states the grounds on which the prayer is founded, and points out the futility, as the petitioners deem it, of the objection with regard to its impracticability.
It is, my Lord, a well-known maxim of the Constitution, that no man shall be tared without his own consent. Every man is now taxed; therefore, if he has no voice in choosing those who make the tax-laws, he must be taxed without his own consent. But, this is not all that the law of the land says in support of our claim. The laws of England have always held, that every man not a bondman (and there are no bondmen now) ought to have a voice in making, or assenting to, the laws, either