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alike respectable throughout, in his conduct, his character, and his situation. This the writer, upon the best founded conviction, not only believes, but knows may be done by a rigid adherence to the sense and spirit of the Qualification Acts, as they now stand-By the act of the 9th of Queen Anne, Chap. 5th, it is, for the better preserving the freedom and constitution of Parliament, enacted, that "no person shall be capable to sit or vote as a member of the House of Commons, for any county, city, borough, or cinque port, within that part of Great Britain called England, the dominion of Wales, and town of Berwick upon Tweed, who shall not have an estate, freehold or copyhold, for his own life, or for some greater estate, either in law or equity, to and for his own use and benefit, of or in lands, tenements, and hereditaments, over and above what will satisfy and clear all incumbrances that may affect the same, lying or being within that part of Great Britain called England, the dominion of Wales, and town of Berwick upon Tweed, of the respective annual value hereinafter limited, videlicet, the annual value of six hundred pounds, above reprizes, for every knight of a shire; and the annual value of three hundred pounds, above reprizes, for every citizen, burgess, or baron of the cinque ports; and that if any person, who shall be elected or returned to serve in any parliament, as a knight of a shire, or as a citizen, burgess, or baron of the cinque ports, shall not, at the time of such election and return, be seized of, or entitled to such an estate, in lands, tenements, or hereditaments, as for such knight, or for such citizen, burgess, or baron, respectively, is herein-before required or limited, such election and return shall be void."
In order the better to ensure the observance of the above statute, another act passed in the 33d of the late King, chap. 20., by which, after reciting the former act, it was enacted, that in order to enforce and render the said act more ef
fectual, every person, who shall be elected a member of the House of Commons, shall, before he presumes to vote in the House of Commons, or sit there during any debate in the said House of Commons, after their speaker is chosen, produce and deliver in to the clerk of the said House, at the table in the middle of the said House, and whilst the House of Commons is there duly sitting, with their speaker in the chair of the said House, a paper or account signed by every such member, containing the name or names of the parish, township, or precinct, or of the several parishes, townships, or precincts, and also of the county, or of the several counties, in which the lands, tenements, or hereditaments, do lie, whereby he makes out his qualification, declaring the same to be of the annual value of six hundred pounds above reprizes, if a knight of a shire; and of the annual value of three hundred pounds above reprizes, if a citizen, burgess, or baron of the cinque ports; and shall also, at the same time, take and subscribe the oath therein set forth to verify the fact."
By the second section of the last-mentioned act, the election of persons presuming to act without being so qualified, ' is declared to be void. Now it should be observed, that the quantum of this qualification was fixed in times, when money, by its proportional scarcity, was in fact equal, in real value, to three or four times the same nominal amount in those we live in; so that a fair demand might perhaps be made by the people for its proportional increase; but as that would be attended with various difficulties, as to the precise ascertainment of the now proportional equivalent, the writer, whose sole object is to attain much, or at least as much as he thinks at all necessary, at the smallest possible expense, consents to waive that consideration altogether, and content himself simply with the spirit of the law as it' now stands; the evasion of which is notoriously, and every
day, practised without the smallest notice whatever. Men, without a single foot of land in the world, without a single guinea they can justly claim as their own, borrow qualifications as they purchase seats in Parliament, and frequently of the very same parties; the furnishing a qualification being made a specific part of the contract for the seat. Now to do away this evasion altogether, and render the representative at least as independent as he professes to be, and ought to be, the writer's proposal is, that every qualification, whether real, or borrowed, shall remain liable to the demands of the member's creditors, during the whole period of his sitting in Parliament; instead of its being lent, as is frequently the case at present, for four and twenty hours, for the mere temporary purpose of enabling the member to take his seat, and to be then returned to the real owner:-in other words, if a person really choose to accommodate a member with a qualification, let him do it at the peril of being liable to that member's debts. In order to avoid all possible inconvenience, respecting doubtful or disputed demands, the writer proposes, that the claims of creditors should not attach, or become a lien upon the qualification, until a judgment shall have been actually recovered at law for the amount; and that immediately after the recording of such judgment, the member should have three months' time given him to furnish an additional, or new quali fication; so that he should at all times possess a clear unincumbered qualification to the stipulated legal amount, while he sits in Parliament; and in default thereof, that his seat should become, ipso facto, and irrevocably vacated. By this simple measure, without any innovation on, or substantial alteration of, the existing laws, the NO. XVIII. VOL. IX.
end and object of those at present in force, for designating the qualifications of representatives would be preserved; and every ruined, or much incumbered, individual, instead of seeking refuge from the claims of his fair creditors in the House of Commons, would, from the publicity of the measure, fly from it, as from plague, pestilence and famine;" and the body at large thus purified become at once the most respectable, and the most respected too, of any that history has handed down to us in the annals of the world. Every player would then have a real stake in the political game, and not be liable to be driven, by personal distress, into measures injurious to his country, and dishonourable to himself. The writer is well aware, that so moderate and plain a mode of reform, as is here proposed, cannot hit the tastes of all alike. The Crown and Anchor reformers will probably, on the one hand, consider it as nothing; a mere drop in the ocean of corruption, which could neither purify its waters, or alter the course of its current; whilst the men of ruined and desperate fortunes, now basking in the sunshine of representative immunity, would proclaim it one of the most visionary, impracticable, and inefficient schemes, ever submitted to the consideration of the public. Visionary, however, and inefficient as it may appear, nothing can be more easy than its execution; and nothing more certain and salutary than its effects. Without either altering or infringing the spirit of any existing law, the representative body would thus be at once purged of its most objectionable and destructive parts; and new life and vigour, in consequence, be restored to what remains. Every individual, occupying a seat in the lower House of Parliament, would then be, in circumstances, at least, of some independence: and what
ever germs of corruption might be discoverable in him, must be co-existent with his natural frame and constitution; and not derived from the circumstances of external situation. It will be asked, perhaps, how, in such times as the present, when the prices of every article, essential not only to the comforts, but even the necessities of life, have experienced so immoderate and disproportioned a rise, could the possession of a clear three hundred, or six hundred pounds a year, place a man beyond the reach of corrupt influence? The answer is, that, though it might not do so wholly (which probably might be the case,) yet would it be well worth the experiment; for surely one possessing either of those incomes, or the moiety, or even the quarter of them, "above reprizes," would stand upon much more respectable ground than another, who does not possess any income at all, and is induced, by that very circumstance, to seek an asylum in Parliament from the just demands of his creditors. The former may prove, it is true, a very dishonourable and unworthy member of society; but the latter, almost necessarily, is such before he would aspire to a seat in Parliament, on the grounds, and for the purpose, ́stated; and should any spark of honour lurk latent in his frame, is liable to have it extinguished by the very first drop from the phial of temptation that is poured upon it. How many individuals do we not know under this degrading predicanient? How many disguised under the cloaks of patriotism, and pretended zeal for the rights of the people, who are themselves the greatest enemies to those rights, by an equal disregard of their own honour, and the claims of those who have just demands on them? How many, on the other hand, become the most active and mischievous creatures of ministerial influence, from the same degrading and dis