Abbildungen der Seite
[ocr errors]

attempt to over-awe the legislature, and influence by clamour, or by the appearance of numbers, their decilions, --what is it, but an attempt, an impotent attempt I hope it will prove, to destroy their authority, and put the actual exercise of sovereignty in the hands of the populace ?

From the time that the Jacobine Club at Paris, in concert with other associations of the fame fort in other parts of the kingdom, and in conjunction with the mob of Paris, took upon them to decide upon the general buGness of the nation, and to prescribe measures to what was called the legislative assembly, every thing has rushed into confusion in France. The present convention, ever since it met, has been no more than a tool in the hands of the Jacobin Club and the Paris rabble; and the world has been witnefs to the dreadful consequences. Similar causes will always produce fimi. lar effects. If ever our clubs and conventions shall be come so powerful as to be able to dictate to parliament, or if parliament shall become so weak, in point of intellects, as to suffer them to attempt it with impunity, that day will put an end to all regular government and fubordination among us. Our happy constitution, the work of ages, and the admiration of mankind, will go to wreck in one hour : and the faine fcene will be acted here, that has been in rehearsal, for eighteen months past, on the other fide of the channel.

[blocks in formation]

3. This reform could have no tendency to reduce our taxes, nor to prevent our entering into new wars, by which our burdens may be increased. With regard to present taxes, I shall speak more fully hereafter. With regard to war; if the nation were threatened by a fo. reign enemy, if any neighbouring nation should cramp our trade, or otherwise injure or insult us, I am perfuaded the people of Britain have more spirit than to fuffer it without defending themselves. Supposing the body of the people averse to war, it is plain from what has been said, that this reform gives no additional fecu. rity, that Parliament will be of the fame mind. But ex very one who knows any thing of our history must have perceived, that the people have always been as much inclined to war as either Court or Parliament. The wars, in the days of King William and Queen Anne, were undoubtedly popular. Nor was there ever any measure of administration, since the revolution, more unpopular than the peace in the latter end of Queen Anne's reign. Yet, by these wars the foundation of the system of na. tonal debt was laid. The war which terminated in the year 1763, was undoubtedly the war of the people, and, though the peace of that year was the most honourable and advantageous to Britain, of any that ever she entered into, it may well be remembered how much it was bla ned by the people. Indeed, if all the people in Bris tain could be made, inftead of electors, members of Parliament, there is much reason to think that we would be engaged in more wars than ever.

4. Experience shews that we who have no vote in choosing members of Parliament, suffer no inconvenie ence on that account and we may be well assured, that if we could cbtain a vote, it would be of no solid advantage to us. The town of Jedburgh has a vote, and the town of Hawick has none. Are the people of Hawick subject to any oppressive laws, from which they of Jedburgh are free? Are trade, manufactures, or any useful improvement in a more flourishing state there than here? Or what have we to complain of, that does not ly equala ly heavy upon them? On the contrary, is it not manifest, through all Britain, that those towns that have no concern in elections, have risen to opulence, and are ring apace, while many of our Parliament burroughs are lolling in indolence, strutting in pride, and sinking into insignificance? Sheffield, Birmingham, Manchester, Paisley, permit me to add, Hawick, and Galasiels are instances of the former : instances of the latter are too common to require specification. Perhaps other causes may concur, in producing this effect; but I am persuaded it is not a little furthered by the exemption of those towns from the hurry and bustle, the riot and dissipation, the corruption, perjury, and chịcanery, that too frequently attend elections. Should we in this town, for instance, ever obtain a vote in elections, it could not better our condition. We might indeed have an opportunity of spending a week or two, once in seven years, in drunkenness and debauchery, without much expence to ourselves. We might have canvaffing and cajoling, and swearing and bribing among us, as our neighbours have, on every such occalion, Perhaps we might; now and then, have the pleasure of seeing our magistrates degraded, cur privileges suspend, ed, and commissioners appointed by a court of justice, to manage our public funds for seven years; as a punishment for our corruption. Our people, who now quietly mind their own business, and, by honest induftry make a decent provision for their families, would acquire habits of idleness and vice. Our trade and ma- .


mufactures nufactures would decline apace; and we would soon be temarkable for nothing, but poverty and pride. Unless we really wish for fuch a change, we had much better content ourselves as we are.

5. Besides all this, we in Scotland should consider, that if any advantage is to be derived from a reform in parliament, we could not enjoy an equal flrare of it. We are limited by the Union, to forty-five members in the House of Commons. Suppofing, as has been proposed, that one hundred more members were added to that house, our proportion of thefe would be no more than eight. And what advantage would we gain, by having eight mpre noses to fhew ? Perhaps we may be for breaking the Union, in hope of sending more representatives to Parliament; as, now a days, little regard is paid to treaties entered into by our forefathers; but how do we know that our Englifh brethren will be equally willing to break it in this article? Perhaps we only want an in. crease of the number of electors, not of representatives; but what would that do for us? Is there any reason to think, that they who should be chosen by the many, would be more worthy of the trust, or would discharge it better, than they who have heretofore been chosen by the few? In Scotland, a much {maller proportion of the people are electors than in England: but has there been, fince the Union, a fmaller proportion of honest men, and friends to their country, among the Scots, than among the English members?

Upon the whole, the principal thing to be attended to, in the matter of representation is, that the members of the House of Commons, being chofen from among the people, should never have an interest opposite to theirs; nor have it in their power to aggrandize or enrich themselves at their expence. While they can make mo'lays, that haall not affect themselves, as much as

[merged small][ocr errors]

their fellow subjects, it is comparatively


smalt importance, who their electors be. They will always be attentive to the interests of the people, and will oppose every oppressive law, for their own lakes.

6. Supposing the propofed reform to be both proper and necessary, this is surely 110 time for driving such a measure. The nation is engaged in war; the legillaCure, as well as administration must have their attention engaged to that, and other matters of present necessity. And they cannot have such leisure to deliberate upon the businefs of reform, as the importance of the affair would require. Things may appear early in theory, which are found very difficult, when we come to reduce them to practice. And, as no plan of reform has yet been proposed, by our Friends of the People, it is impor. fible for them to foresee what difficulties may occur, either in the formation of the plan, or in the execution of it: more efpecially as few of them have ever had ani opportunity to know much about affairs of state. How many, for instance, are to be added, to the number of our representatives? Who are to have a right to be electors? What number of people are to send a member to Parliament; or how fhall the numbers, at each etection be ascertained ; as they are always fluctuating ? What proportion of, the reprefentation shall be attached to the soil'; what to property, and what to population ? And how are these differences to be ascertained ? How fhall the proportion between England and Scotland be fixed to mutual fatisfaction? What compensation shall be given to our rotien burroughs, for the Icfs of their privileges, or to our freeholders in Scotland, for dividing their rights with the multitude ? Above all, how shall the balance of our constitution be preserved; and what security shall we have, that by loosing a few pin's, we fñall not bring down the whole fabric about our


[ocr errors]
« ZurückWeiter »