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SIR ROBERT WALPOLE'S REPLY.
THOUGH the question has been already so fully opposed, that there is no great occasion to say any thing farther against it; yet, I hope, the House will indulge me in the liberty of giving some of those reasons, which induce me to be against the motion. In general, I must take notice, that the nature of our constitution seems to be very much mistaken by the gentlemen who have spoken in favour of this motion. It is certain, that ours is a mixed government; and the perfection of our constitution consists in this, that the monarchical, the aristocratical, and democratical forms of government, are mixed and interwoven in ours, so as to give us all the advantages of each, without subjecting us to the dangers and inconveniences of either. The democratical form of government, which is the only one I have now occasion to take notice of, is liable to these inconveniences; that they are generally too tedious in their coming to any resolution, and seldom brisk and expeditious enough in carrying their resolutions into exécution; that they are always wavering in their resolutions, and never steady in any of the measures they resolve to pursue; and that they are often involved in factions, seditions, and insurrections, which expose them to be made the tools, if not the prey of their neighbours; therefore in all the regulations we make, with respect to our constitution, we are to guard against running too much into that form of government which is properly called democratical: this was, in my opinion, the effect of the triennial law, and will again be the effect, if ever it should be restored.
That triennial elections would make our government too tedious in all their resolves, is evident because, in such case no prudent administration would ever resolve upon any measure of consequence, till they had felt not only the pulse" of the Parliament, but the pulse of the people; and the ministers of state would always labour under this disadvantage,
that, as secrets of state must not be immediately divulged, their enemies (and enemies they will always have) would have a handle for exposing their measures, and rendering them disagreeable to the people; and thereby carrying perhaps a new election against them, before they could have an opportunity of justifying their measures, by divulging those facts and circumstances, from which the justice and the wisdom of their measures would clearly appear.
Then, Sir, it is by experience well known, that what is called the populace of every country are apt to be too much elated with success, and too much-dejected with every misfortune: this makes them wavering in their opinions about affairs of state, and never long of the same mind; and as this House is chosen by the free and unbiassed voice of the people in general, if this choice were so often renewed, we might expect, that this House would be as wavering and as unsteady as the people usually are; and, it being impossible to carry on the public affairs of the nation without the concurrence of this House, the ministers would always be obliged to comply, and consequently would be obliged to change their measures, as often as the people changed their minds.
With septennial Parliaments, Sir, we are not exposed to either of these misfortunes; because, if the ministers, after having felt the pulse of the Parliament, which they can always soon do, resolve upon any measures, they have generally time enough, before the new election comes on, to give the people proper information, in order to show them the justice and the wisdom of the measures they have pursued ; and if the people should at any time be too much elated, or too much dejected, or should without a cause change their minds, those at the helm of affairs have time to set them right, before a new election comes on.
As to faction and sedition, Sir, I will grant, that in monarchical and aristocratical governments it generally arises from violence and oppression; but in democratical governments it always arises from the people's having too great a share in the government; for in all countries, and in all governments, there always will be many factious and unquiet spirits, who can never be at rest either in power or out of power; when in power, they are never easy, unless every man submits entirely to their direction; and when out of
power, they are always working and intriguing against those that are in, without any regard to justice, or to the interest of their country in popular governments such men have too much game; they have too many opportunities for working upon and corrupting the minds of the people, in order to give them a bad impression of, and to raise discontents against those, that have the management of the public affairs for the time; and these discontents often break out into seditions and insurrections. This, Sir, would in my opinion be our misfortune, if our Parliaments were either annual or triennial by such frequent elections, there would be so much power thrown into the hands of the people, as would destroy that equal mixture, which is the beauty of our constitution: in short, our government would really become a democratical government, and might thence very probably diverge into a tyrannical. Therefore, in order to preserve our constitution, in order to prevent our falling under tyranny and arbitrary power, we ought to preserve that law, which I really think has brought our constitution to a more equal mixture, and consequently to greater perfection than it was ever in, before that law took place.
As to bribery and corruption, Sir, if it were possible to influence, by such base means, the majority of the electors of Great Britain, to choose such men as would probably give up their liberties; if it were possible to influence, by such means, a majority of the members of this House, to consent to the establishment of arbitrary power; I would readily allow that the calculations made by the gentlemen of the other side were just, and their inference true: but I am persuaded, that neither of these is possible. As the members of this House generally are, and must always be, gentlemen of fortune and figure in their country, is it possible to suppose, that any of them could, by a pension or a post, be influenced to consent to the overthrow of our constitution; by which the enjoyment, not only of what he got, but of what he before had, would be rendered altogether precarious? I will allow, Sir, that, with respect to bribery, the price must be higher or lower, generally in proportion to the virtue of the man who is to be bribed; but it must likewise be granted, that the humour he happens to be in at the time, the spirit he happens to be endowed with, adds a great deal to
his virtue. When no encroachments are made upon the rights of the people, when the people do not think themselves in any danger, there may be many of the electors, who by a bribe of ten guineas might be induced to vote for one candidate rather than another; but if the court were making any encroachments upon the rights of the people, a proper spirit would, without doubt, arise in the nation; and in such a case, I am persuaded, that none, or very few, even of such electors, could be induced to vote for a court candidate; no, not for ten times the sum.
There may, Sir, be some bribery and corruption in the nation; I am afraid there will always be some: but it is no proof of it, that strangers are sometimes chosen; for a gentleman may have so much natural influence over a borough in his neighbourhood, as to be able to prevail with them to choose any person he pleases to recommend; and if upon such recommendation they choose one or two of his friends, who are perhaps strangers to them, it is not thence to be inferred, that the two strangers were chosen their representatives by the means of bribery and corruption.
To insinuate, Sir, that money may be issued from the public treasury for bribing elections, is really something very extraordinary, especially in those gentlemen who know how many checks are upon every shilling that can be issued from thence; and how regularly the money granted in one year for the public service of the nation must always be accounted for, the very next session, in this House, and likewise in the other, if they have a mind to call for any such account. And as to the gentlemen in offices, if they have any advantage over country gentlemen, in having something else to depend on beside their own private fortunes, they have likewise many disadvantages; they are obliged to live at London with their families, by which they are put to a much greater expense, than gentlenen of equal fortunes, who live in the country: this lays them under a very great disadvantage with respect to the supporting their interest in the country. The country gentleman, by living among the electors, and purchasing the necessaries for his family from them, keeps up an acquaintance and correspondence with them, without putting himself to any extraordinary charge; whereas a gentleman who lives in London has no other way of
keeping up an acquaintance or correspondence among his friends in the country, but by going down once or twice a year at a very extraordinary charge, and often without any other business; so that we may conclude, a gentleman in office cannot, even in seven years, save much for distributing in ready money at the time of an election; and I really believe, if the fact were narrowly inquired into, it would appear that the gentlemen in office are as little guilty of bribing their electors with ready money, as any other set of gentlemen in the kingdom.
That there are ferments often raising among the people without any just cause is what I am surprised to hear controverted, since very late experience may convince us of the contrary. Do not we know what a ferment was raised in the nation toward the latter end of the late Queen's reign? And it is well known, what a fatal change in the affairs of this nation was introduced, or at least confirmed, by an election's coming on while the nation was in that ferment. Do not we know what a ferment was raised in the nation soon after his late Majesty's accession? And if an election had then been allowed to come on, while the nation was in that ferment, it might perhaps have had as fatal effects as the former; but, thank God, this was wisely provided against by the very law, which is now wanted to be repealed.
As such ferments may hereafter often happen, I must think, that frequent elections will always be dangerous; for which reason, as far as I can see at present, I shall, I be lieve, at all times think it a very dangerous experiment to repeal the septennial bill.
LORD LYTTLETON'S SPEECH ON THE REPEAL OF THE ACT CALLED THE JEW BILL, IN THE YEAR 1753.
I SEE no occasion to enter at present into the merits of the bill we passed the last session for the naturalization of Jews; because I am convinced, that, in the present temper of the