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Liberty. But it was undoubtedly one of the highest exertions of the legislalive authority. It was a deviation from the course of the Constitution,
too extensive in its effects, and too dangerous in its example, to be warranted 1 by motives of political expediency. It could be justified only by the
necessity of preserving liberty. The Revolution itself was a breach of the w laws; and it was as great a deviation from the principles of the Mo
narchy, as the Septennial Act could be from the Constitution of the House its of Commons: -and the latter can only be justified by the same ground of és necessity, with that glorious Revolution of which it probably contributed to !! preserve-(would to God we could say to perpetuate) ihe inestimable blessings.
It has been said by some, that as the danger was temporary, the law 3 ought to have been passed only for a time, and that it should have been ..delayed till the approach of a general election should ascertain, whether ! a change in the temper of the people had not rendered it unnecessary. But
it was necessary, at the instant, to confound the hopes of conspirators, * who were then supported and animated by the prospect of a general election ; * and if any period had been fixed for its duration, it might have weakened its effect, as a declaration of the determined resolution of Parliament to stand or fall with the Revolution.
It is now certain, that the conspiracy of the Tories against the House of Hanover continued till the last years of the reign of George II. The
Whigs, who had preserved the fruits of the Revolution, and upheld the tolda tering Throne of the Hanoverian Family during half a century, were, in in this state of things, unwilling to repeal a law, for which the reasons had not at entirely ceased. The hostility of the Tories to the Protestant succession mi was not extinguished till the appearance of their leaders at the Court of
King George the Third, proclaimed to the world their hope, that Jacobite ** principles might reascend the Throne of England with a Monarch of the House of Brunswick.
The effects of the Septennial Act on the Constitution were materially altered in the late reign, by an innovation in the exercise of the prerosalive of dissolution. This important prerogative is the buckler of the Monarchy,--it is intended for great emergencies, when its exercise may
be the only means of averting immediate danger from the Throne, -it is strictly a defensive right. As no necessity arose, under the two first Georges, for its defensive exercise, it lay, during that period, in a state of almost lotal inaclivity. It was exercised without any political object, and, as it seems, merely for the purpose of selecting the most convenient seasons for election. Only one Parliament, under these two Princes, was dissolved till its seventh Sear. The same inoffensive maxims were pursued during the early part of the reign of George the Third. For the first time, in the year 1784, the power of dissolution, hitherto reserved for the defence of the monarchy, was employed to support the power of an Administration. The majority of the House of Commons had, in 1782, driven one Administration from office, and compelled another to retire. The right of the House of Commons to interpose, with decisive weight, in the choice of Ministers, as well as the adoption of measures, seemed by these vigorous exertions to be finally established. George the Second had, indeed, often been compelled to receive Ministers whom he hated ; but his successor, more tenacious of his prerogative, and more inflexible in his resentment, did not so easily brook the subjection to which he thought himself about to be reduced. In 1784,
he again saw his ministers threatened with expulsion by a majority of the House of Commons. He found a Prime Minister who, trusting to his popularity, ventured to make common cause with the King, and to brave ihat Parliamentary disapprobation to which the prudence or principle of both his predecessors bad induced them to yield. Mr. Pitt persisted in holding office, in defiance of the opinions of a majority of the House of Commons. He thus established a precedent, which, if followed, would have deprived that body of the advantages it had gained in the two preceding reigns. Not content with this great victory, he proceeded, by a dissolution of Parliament, to inflict such an exemplary punishment on the same majority, as might deter all future majorities from following their dangerous example.
The Ministers of 1806 gave some countenance to Mr. Pitt's precedent, by a very reprehensible dissolution : but in 1807, its full consequences were unfolded. The House of Commons was then openly threatened with dissolution, if a majority should vote against Ministers; and in pursuance of this threat, the Parliament was actually dissolved. From that moment, the new prerogative of penal disso was added to all the other means of Ministerial influence : every man who now votes against Ministers, eodangers his seat by his vote. Ministers have acquired a power, in many cases more important than that of beslowing honours or rewards.
It now rests with them to determine, whether Members shall sit securely for four or five years longer, or be instantly sent to their constituents, at the moment when the most violent, and perhaps the most unjust, prejudice has been excited against them. The security of seats in Parliament is made to depend on the subserviency of majorities.
Of all the silent revolutions which have materially changed the English Government, without any alteration in the letter of the law, there is, perhaps, none more fatal to the Constitution than this power of penal dissolution, thus introduced by Mr. Pitt, and strengthened by his followers: and it is the more dangerous, because it is hardly capable of being counteracted by direct laws. The prerogative of dissolution, being a mean of defence on suddee emergencies, is scarcely to be limited by law. There is, however, an indirect, but effectual, mode of meeting its abuse. By shortening the duration of Parliaments, the punishment of dissolution will be divested of its terrors. While its defensive power will be unimpaired, its efficacy, as a means of influence, will be nearly destroyed. The attempt to reduce Parliament to a greater degree of dependence will thus be defeated ; due reparation be made to the Constitution ; and future Ministers taught, by a useful example of just retaliation, that the Crown is not likely to be finally the gainer in struggles to convert a necessary prerogative into a means of unconstitutional influence.
We endeavoured, on a former occasion, to prove by arguments, of which we have yet seen no refutation, that Universal Suffrage would be an institution hostile to liberty; that lawgivers chosen by all might naturally disregard important interests of society, or oppress great classes of men : while a representative assembly, elected by considerable bodies of all classes, must generally prove a faithful and equal guardian of the rights and interests of all men. We have now endeavoured to show, that the English representation was actually founded on these first principles of po
Edinburgh Review, Vol. xxviii. p. 165.
litical theory ;-that the tendency of that representation has always been, to make as near approaches towards reducing them to practice, as the irregularity and coarseness of human affairs would allow ;-and that the unrepresented state of great communities in the present age has sprung from the disuse, and may be remedied by the revival of our ancient constitutional principles. Having, in the first place, resisted plans of change,
which could neither be altempted without civil war, nor accomplished be
without paving the way for tyranny, we have now presumed to propose a scheme of reformation, which would immediately infuse a new popular spirit into the House of Commons, and provide means for gradually correcting every real inadequacy of representation in future times; which would be carried on, solely by the principles and within the pale of the Constitution; where the repair would be in the style of the building, and contribute to strengthen, without disfiguring, an edifice still solid and commodious, as well as magnificent and venerable.
Moderate Reformers have been asked, by the most formidable of their opponents, at what period of history was the House of Commons in the th
state to which you wish to restore ii ?* An answer may now be given to that triumphani question. Had the object of the moderate reformer been total change, he might be called upon to point out soine former state of the representation which he would in all respects prefer to the present. But it is a part of his principle, that the institutions of one age can never be entirely suitable to the condition of another. It was well said by an English politician of keen and brilliant wit, that“ neither king nor people would now like just the original Constitution, without any varyings.” It is sufficient for the “ Whig, or Moderate Reformer” (for Mr. Canding has joined them,
and we do not wish to put them asunder) to point out a period when the da Constitution was in one respect better, inasmuch as it possessed the means Dit of regulating and equalizing the representation. Its return to the former ul state, in that particular only, would be sufficient for the attainment of all
If no conciliatory measures on this subject be adopted, there is great
reason to apprehend that the country will be reduced to the necessity of it chusing between different forms of Despotism. For it is certain that the
habit of maintaining the forms of the Constitution by a long system of coercion and terror must convert it into an absolute monarchy. It is equally
evident, from history and experience, that revolutions effected by violence, Hi and attended by a tolal change in the fundamental laws of a commonwealth, ** have a natural tendency to throw a power into the hands of their leaders,
which, however disguised, must in truth be unlimited and dictatorial. The restraints of law and usage necessarily cease.
The factious among the partisans of the revolution and the animosity of those whom it has degraded or despoiled, can seldom be curbed by a gentler hand than that of absolute
power; and there is no situation of human affairs, in which there are stronger temptations to those arbitrary measures of which the habit alike unfits rulers and nations from performing their parts in the system of liberty.
2 bis objects.
Mr. Canning's Speech Liverpool, p. 45.
PARLIAMENTARY REPRESENTATION OF SCOTLAND.* There is scarcely a prospect in the world more curious than that of Eng. land during a general election. The congregations of people—the interests called into operation—the passions roused—the principles appealed to—the printed and spoken addresses—the eminent men who appear—the pledges required or proffered—the Parliamentary speculations—the symbols—the vicissitudes of the poll—the triumphant chairing—these, with all the other circumstances, exhibit the most peculiar and stirring scene that any country has to show, It is a scene in which there is much to attract the eye and the ear, but more to fix the mind. A person who understands the bustle before him, and thinks what it implies, sees in it the whole practical working of the constitution. He sees the majesty of public opinion; the responsibility of representatives to constituents; the formation of the political virtues; the union of all classes and sorts of men in common national objects; the elevation of the popular character; the prodigious consolidation given to the whole civil fabric, by the incorporation of all parts of the state with the mass of the population; the combination of universal excitement with perfect general safety; the control of the people softened and directed by eloquence and wisdom; the establishment of the broadest basis on which the happiness of a slate can rest.
It is impossible to behold this animaling and ennobling spectacle without turning with sorrow and humiliation to Scotland. This part of the empire originally formed a kingdom by itself; and it still retains its own laws, religion, interests, feelings, and language. It contains greatly above two millions of inhabitants, who are still rapidly increasing. It is full of generally diffused wealth. Education has, for ages, been habitual throughout the very lowest ranks. The people are extremely peaceable; and their character for steadiness and prudence is so remarkable, that these virtues have been imputed to them as vices. Yet this is the only portion of the United Kingdom which is altogether excluded from all participation in the representative system. It is not enough to say that their representation is defective. The only correct statement of the fact is, the people have no share whatever in the representation.
It is needless to waste time in explaining how this arose; for it would only lead us away from the consideration of the fact into historical disputes ; and an exact knowledge of the origin of the evil does not facilitate its cure. The substance of the matter seems to be, that when the representation of Scotland was adjusted at the Union, there was no party, and no man, who paid any attention to the principles on which popular representation must be founded. The people had not attained any public importance; and, amidst the miserable scramble for paltry and temporary objects by which all the proceedings connected with that measure were marked, their remote interests were completely disregarded, or rather, it never occurred to any body that they had any. But, however this may be, the result is certain, that there never has been, and, while the existing system endures, there never can be, any thing resembling real representation in Scotland.
* 1. Memoir concerning the Origin and Progress of the Reform proposed in the Internal Government of the Royal Burghs of Scouand. By Archibald Fletcher, Esq., Advocate. 2. Considerations submitted to the Householders of Edinburgh, on the State of their Representation in ParJiament. 3. An Explanation of the present State of the Case respecting the Representation of Edinburgh in Parliament. 4. Letter to the Freeholders of the County of Dumbarton, on Parliamentary Reform. By Alexander Dunlop, Esq., Advocate. — Vol. lü. p. 208. October, 1830.
In order to justify this statement, it is only necessary to explain the circumstances.
The only places which elect members are the counties and certain towns. Neither the universities, nor any other bodies or professions, possess the elective franchise. The counties return thirty members, the towns fifteen.
I. To entitle a person to vote in a county, he must either be the actual proprietor of a portion of land, or he must be the feudal superior of it ;the land itself, in this last case, being in the hands of a vassal. To afford a qualification, the property must be very considerable. The whole country was valued many centuries ago; and a freehold qualification can only arise from land of which it can be proved that it was then examined and found to be worth forty shillings Scots a year, or which is now valued by the Commissioners of Supply as yearly worth 4001. Scots. It is not easy to say what these ancient valuations denote in modern times ; but the subject was very much discussed about forty years ago ; and persons, who were then deemed competent judges, estimated 1001. Scots of valued rent as equivalent to a present yearly rent of from one to two hundred pounds sterling. If this was correct then, the subsequent improvement of the country, which has increased the modern worth of property, while the old valuations remain, must have greatly increased the difference ; so that, speaking with reserence to existing circumstances, the qualification in Scotland is probably at least thirty or forty times higher than in any other part of the empire; and above a hundred times beyond the general qualification in England. Besides this, there are two things very material to be kept in view. In the first place, the qualification attaches merely to land, including under this word, fisheries, mines, and such other things as are inseparable from land; it is not conferred upon property in houses. In the second place, not even land qualifies, whatever may be its extent, unless it is holden of the crown. So that a person may have an estate of 20,0001. a year, which affords him no vote, because he holds it of a subject. The qualification, therefore, is first high, and then it must be high within a limited description of property.
The result of this is, that the whole freeholders of Scotland are sewer in number (we believe than those in any English county, unless perhaps the very smallest. There are certainly not three counties in England in which the freeholders do not in each exceed those of all Scotland. We cannot state their amount with perfect accuracy; but, according to the list usually referred to, and which, we are confident, is not very far wrong, the total number, a few months ago, was somewhere about three thousand two hundred and fifty-three. These chosen few are thus distributed :
(* Each of these three pairs only returns a member alternately.)