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description of bis Majesty's subjects for procuring redress in any matter of public concernment, is an unlawful assembly. The learned gentlemen say, that a representative of the people is so— which is not the case of that body who only assemble to represent in a particular matter, a particular province, county, city, town, district, or description of people. The case submitted to the gentlemen, and the case contained in the bill, rest illegality on the act of delegation for procuring in any manner redress in matters of public concernment. The case stated by the learned gentlemen, seems to rest the point of illegality on the generality of the representation, and their reason seems to rest it there still more than their case; for instance, they say a representative of the people, other than the house of commons, is an unlawful assembly; because the house of commons are exclusively the representatives of the people: and, therefore, to attempt to appoint a second house of commons is unlawful, because incompatible with the first. This reason in support of this case is a surrender of the principle of the bill. I do not say the bill is betrayed; but its defence is waved by the law servants of the crown: they acknowledge that there is neither statute nor adjudication in support of the principle of the bill; but they say there is reason, and that reason they allege to be this—that there cannot be at one time two representatives of the people; whereas the principle of the bill is, that any representation not of the people only, but of any description whatever thereof, for a public purpose. save only this house, is an unlawful assembly.
The case and reasoning of the learned gentlemen would comprehend nothing but a national convention; but the cases, principle, and description of the bill, would comprehend every subdivision of delegation for public matter. The presbyterian committee, of which I read a petition yesterday, and which the protestant dissenters of England have appointed by delegation to promote redress of particular grievances, touching church and state, viz. the repeal of the test act—the delegation of qnakers, if that delegation should join in an humble address for the commutation of tythes—the presbyterian synod, if that synod should presume to interfere in behalf of their flock in matters touching abuses in church or state:—all these come within the letter of the act, though by no means within the argument which attempts to defend it. They are all delegations, and in the cases I have suggested, would be employed in procuring redress of some abuses either in church or state.
I have thus merely considered the argument as far as it declined the question I proposed, and must say, that the only sense to be extracted from the argument is, that there cannot be at once two representatives of the people for the same purposes—but for different purposes it does not follow but there may.
The house of commons, whom we will, foi argument's sake, suppose the real representatives of the people, is appointed for the exercise of certain powers; powers of impeachment, powers of grant, and powers of legislation: certainly, any attempt on the part of the people to give a second order of delegates authority to exercise such powers, would in the highest degree be illegal; or what might seem to imply the same thing, the appointment of a second order of delegates to represent the people generally without any specific limitation, would be highly criminal and illegal, because that would imply the powers I have described; but the appointment of delegates for a specific and legal purpose—for instance, promoting the redress of a particular abuse touching the church or state, as the reform of parliament, a limitation of public expences, a repeal of the test act—such delegations, which do or have existed in England and Ireland, would not be an interference with the jurisdiction of the house of commons, nor within the reason of the case of the learned gentlemen. The people, in electing members to serve in parliament, part with some of their powers, and others they retain; the power of petitioning, of instructing, and of delivering their sense on abuses in church and state, they retain; with these powers, they of necessity retain another, that of forming themselves into such voluntary organization, of committee, delegates, representatives, or whatsoever you please to call them, for the purpose either of preparing their petitions, or of framing their resolutions, or calling their dispersed opinions into one consistent instrument, on the object of the particular grievance, with a view to render the exercise of the power they retain, consistent, tranquil and operative. In the proceedings of such delegation, care must be taken to preserve the peace, and in specifying its object care must be taken to observe the law; but if the destination of such delegation is lawful, and the proceedings peaceful, I know of no law, and the learned gentlemen have adduced neither law nor reason to pronounce it an unlawful assembly. I see plainly the necessity of leaving such powers free; because I see a time may come, we have seen when such a time did come, when the being of the constitution shall depend on the exercise of such a power. Suppose a house of commons, as was the case of the Middlesex election,conspire against the elective rights of the community. Suppose a house of commons, as was the case of the perpetual mutiny-bill, under the influence of the minister, vote the army for ever—are the people to have no power of interfering? or, which is the same thing, no power of communicating, in order to make their interference operative and consistent? It has been said, that representative conventions are illegal; but the question of legality depends on what those representative conventions arc. If they are national representative conventions, assuming expressly, or by the generality of their appointment, the functions of the house of commons, they are more than illegal—but if they are representative conventions, appointed for a special purpose, to prepare a petition, or to promote the redress of a particular grievance, such as may obtain in church or state; or such a representative convention as committees of correspondence, or the delegation of the quakers, or the synod of the preabyterians, or such as the delegates of the protectant dissenters now existing in England—I hold it that such representative conventions are not illegal.
The honourable mover, who had made the observation, made this distinction, for the representative convention he condemned as a mock parliament; plainly intimating, that representative conventions, not in any degree assuming the function of a parliament, did not come within his objection. It would seem, therefore, that it is the assumption of parliamentary functions, and not the act of representation, nor the public concernment, which is its object, that constitutes the illegality; and this observation brings the argument of the honourable member to the same principle with that of his honourable friend, that the law will not tolerate two houses of commons. As the principle of the argument is the same, so shall be my answer, that the assemblies, described in the bill, are not only such as assume the functions of a house of commons, nor such as assume the character of unlimited representation; but such as are descriptions of his Majesty's subjects, however small, met on or for any public purpose whatsoever.
This argument, then, like the other, leaves the bill undefended. But it is advanced, in further support of this argument, that the house of commons would not receive a petition from a delegation; and, it is thence inferred, that the act of delegation is illegal: but it does not strike me in that manner. It would seem that this observa