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THE public mind being at this moment greatly agitated, on account of certain abuses, generally understood to have taken place in the administration of certain departments of the state, it has been thence concluded, that a considerable portion, not to say the whole, of the evils complained of, has arisen from a defective representation of the democracy in the lower House of Parliament; and a general outcry has been consequently raised, in almost every part of the kingdom, for such a reform in that representative body, as shall bring it as nearly as possible to, what is termed, the true and genuine Spirit of the British Constitution. To this end various discordant and impracticable plans have been at different periods proposed, most, if not all, of them, deemed by the more sober and enlightened part of the community completely wild and visionary; unadapted, as well to the present condition of things, as to the existing circumstances of the times; and so far from being applicable to the remedy of any abuses, supposed to exist, as demonstrably to bring with them much greater mischiefs than those they are proposed to remove. One speculator in this line, is for universal suffrage; so that
every male, from a certain age upwards, shall have a voice at the election of his department: another is for the opening of all boroughs generally, not only to their residents, but their neighbourhood within certain limits; or without any limits at all, but those of the county in which such boroughs chance to be situated: another, for doing away the boroughs altogether; and transferring the elective rights to the counties at large, &c. &c. In a word, to detail all the plans of all the different projectors on this subject, would alone occupy a volume of no inconsiderable magnitude; suffice it, therefore, to say, that they all appear, to the cool and reflecting mind, rash and impracticable in the extreme; and not a single one of them more likely to suit the fancies of the other reformers, who, although looking to the same professed end, are yet eager to proceed to it by far different routes, than the present existing state of things, under all its pretended circumstances of abuse and mismanagement. With respect to the supposed corruption of Parliament, partly attributed to the influence of the crown, and partly to the borough system, an unprejudiced and considerate man would naturally say, first ascertain the facts on which you found your conclusions, and do not lay down premises which may be afterwards demonstrated to be fallacious, and then argue from them as if they were proved. Let it be in the first place considered, that the crown having the disposal of an immense revenue, dispersed through every department of the state, must neeessarily, and in the very nature of things, have a considerable influence over those departments, in all their several branches and in what manner, if it be deemed an evil, such evil can be remedied, must remain with the proposers of reform to suggest. Would they annihilate the revenue and resources altogether? or throw the direction of them into the hands of the aristocracy, or democracy? or how
else would they dispose of them? Within no very long space of time, restrictions have been laid upon the royal prerogative, and various descriptions of people disfranchised of their rights, either to sit in Parliament, or to give their voices for representatives in it, on account of their supposed connection with the immediate servants of the crown; and had not the increased revenues of the state occasioned a proportional increase in the number of those employed in their collection, as well as of those through whom such revenues are dispensed, the crown had at this moment possessed little, if any influence at all; none at least in any degree adequate to the demands of strictly constitutional necessity. For it should be considered, that without a certain portion of influence on the part of the crown, the public business could not be carried on, probably for a single day; but the state engine, with all its nice and complicated machinery, would fall into confusion at once.
With regard to the borough system, it seems the natural and necessary consequence of the ordinary progress of human affairs, that certain parts of a great community should mount in the scale of population and opulence, whilst others proportionally sink in it; and if every city, town, and borough, in the kingdom, were to have their chartered and representative rights done away, the moment their commerce, their manufactures, or other sources of population and opulence began to decay, there would be no end to such changes in the municipal bodies of the state; as they must in that case be for ever necessarily varying, according to the ever varying condition of the different parts. Independently of these considerations, which cannot fail to have their weight with every thinking man, is it reasonable to suppose, that an assembly, so constituted as the lower House of Parliament now is, would submit, without the compulsions of external force, to any such extraor
dinary modes of reform, as either of those above alluded to? by which one moiety of its members, at the least, would be immediately deprived of their seats, and with them of the greater part of their personal consequence; and the other moiety be rendered the absolute slaves of a wild democracy, without a power of judging, or acting, for themselves but be compelled, like puppets, to play such parts in the political drama, as from week to week, and from day to day, should be arbitrarily assigned to them by their constituents? Let any reflecting mind he turned for one moment to this view of the subject, and the total impracticability of such a measure, without such others of external compulsion as should tend to overturn every part of the existing constitution, must be sufficiently apparent to render all other statements, and all other arguments on the subject, unnecessary. What then, it will be said, remains to be done, or attempted, with any probability of success? Various abuses are supposed to have been discovered, which demand a remedy, and if those who have been guilty of them will not apply it, either the people must take the power into their own hands, or some conciliatory measures be adopted by those who possess that power, calculated to ameliorate future prospects, and to afford a sort of earnest to the people, that the unauthorized commission of such supposed abuses will hereafter be provided against. This, in the humble opinion of the writer, is no otherwise to be practically effected, than by rendering the lower house of parliament as respectable as the spirit of the existing laws and constitution of the country will admit of, without abandoning first principles, or exciting any violent convulsion in the state. And this every one must allow to be desirable in the highest degree, though how to be effected may not be so immediately apparent. The very short and simple plan, the writer has to propose, will, he
humbly submits, untie the Gordian knot, and solve the difficulty at once; not only without altering the spirit of a single existing law, but merely by a strict adherence to, and enforcement of, the genuine principles of those already in existence; the spirit of which has been shamefully violated, equally to the evident dishonour of the representative, and the just dissatisfaction of the constituent bodies. A violation, by which in direct contradiction, or, at least, evasion, of one of the plainest, and most clearly expressed acts, which the legislature of this country ever framed, the lower house of parliament, instead of being constituted of individuals, each and all of them possessing a certain defined stake in the great national interests, is become an asylum for men of ruined and desperate fortunes, who seek their seats in it at any expense of honour, or money, or other means within their reach, for the purpose of sheltering themselves from the demands of their just creditors,' and of obtaining besides a chance for their share in the general scramble, according to their several measures of talent, or want of principle, which chance too seldom turns up a blank, if well supported by both those constituent parts. Perfectly ware that inviolability of person is absolutely essential to the freedom of parliament, the writer would be one of the very last to propose its infringement in the most distant way; so far indeed is any such infringement from his intention, that it would be the warmest wish of his heart, that every member should not only be free in his person (so far as is necessary to the execution of his public functions), but be equally so in his thoughts and his actions, and
'An instance has recently occurred, where a party, actually in prison, procured himself to be elected, and thus obtained his emancipation and future protection, with that money which ought to have been applied in satisfaction of the demands of his creditors.