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Jerest at all in the forms of the constitution," when they shall not have seats in the house of commons? A few pages before he had told us, "The house of commons, "was supposed originally to be no part of the standing "government of this country. It was considered as a "controul, issuing immediately from the people. In "this respect it was in the higher part of government, "what juries are in the lower,"l—" The virtue, spirit, "and essence of a house of commons, consists in its "being the express image of the feelings of the nation. "It was not instituted to be a controul upon the peo"pie, as of late it has been taught, by a doctrine of "the most pernicious tendency. It was designed as "a controul/br the people."2 But yet, the Jesuitical reconciler of contradictions, would have this "jury," packed and bribed, by the admission of servants, in the pay of the crown; this, "image of the feelings of the nation," taught the feelings of the court, and this controul of the crown, become its dependent!!! In page 67, we are told point blank,—" It is not the derivation "of the power of that house from the people, which "makes it in a distinct sense their representative:" But when we get to p. 69, our Hibernian orator tells us, that the proper, constitutional state of the house of commons, in relation to the people, is, " an immediate state of procuration and delegation."
In so rich amine as the writings of Mr. Burke, it is lamentible to detect, in union with his valuable ore, so large a proportion of the glittering spar of cotrupt eloquence, employed to inculcate principles he knew to be wrong; such frequent alloys of the dross of faction, and such palpable nonsense, as must be apparent to those who take the trouble of bringing together and comparing his arguments. He himself, in explaining why other statesmen were not reformers of office, has, I doubt not, in a considerable degree, explained why he, who was so sensible of the corruptions in the house of commons, was not a reformer of parliament; when he says, " Gentlemen who are, with me, verging to"wards the decline of life, and are apt to form their "idea of kings, from kings of former times, might
1 Thoughts, &c. p. 66. 2 Ibid. p. 6T.
"dread the anger of a reigning prince ;—the)' who ar» "more provident of the future, or by being young are "more interested in it, might tremble at the resent-? "ment of a successor; they might see a long, dull, "dreary, unvaried visto of despair and exclusion, for "half a century before them. This is no pleasant "prospect, at the outset of a political journev."l Our sagacious and crafty politician, while working his own way to power, on the merit of his very popular economical reform; preserved himself we know, from despair" of court favours, by the " merit" of " baffling" others, and "preventing" their parliamentary reform.^
Mr. Burke, deep, and vast, and shining as were his parts, was not a truly wise or great man. Had his integrity been equal to his talents, he might have be, stowed the most solid blessings on his country. His capacity as a statesman appeared in front, but there was always faction in the rear, from which he diverted attention by rich displays of eloquence. Had his colonial politics been sound, I incline to think he might have " baffled," even the faction behind the throne, and "prevented" the American war.3
I have incidentally, in the foregoing pages, exposed much of that inconsistency and contradiction, on the subject of a house of commons, which are never found where the head and the heart are faithful to each other; and his want of integrity in that respect, were it necessary, might be set in a still stronger light. But let us endeavour to estimate at the same time his real character, and what we owe him. Every person who knows; the state of parties at that time, must know the very powerful ascendant which the knowledge, the genius, the energetic temper, and indefatigable industry of Mr. Burke, gave him in his party. .Every man of experience and observation must know, that when such an ascendant is employed with such men as the Marquis of Rockingham, and his political connections while in.
1 Speech 11 Feb. 1780. 2 See p. fit. 3 See a letter to E. Burke, Esq. controverting the principles of American government, laid down in his speech, on the 19th of April 1774. Published by Wilkie, 1715. Afterwards bound together with " American independence."
power, for an adherence to fundamental principles of the constitution, and for urging reforms essential to the very existence of that constitution, that it must be sowing seed in good ground, to spring up and bear fruit an hundred-fold.1 What then was the course of facts? In March 1782, Mr. Burke, went into office with Lord Rockingham: on the 7th of May following, the question of Parliamentary Reform, was moved by Mr. Pitt, and lost by twenty votes. Mr. Burke then paymaster-general of his majesty's forces, did not on that day attend in his place in parliament, making it even a merit, with the friends of Mr. Pitt's motion, that he abstained from opposing it. The next morning, the private secretary to Lord Rockingham, the Rev. Walter King, crossed a street to join me, and to express his concern at the issue of the debate of the preceding evening; and in the course of the conversation, to my great surprize, informed me, that Lord Rockingham unfortunately forgot the day appointed for the discussion, which had occasioned a defect in the attendance of his friends. Here, then, had Mr. Burke's influence with his party been uniformly exerted in favour of this reform; had his energy and industry, been regularly employed in watching over and promoting it, he himself would not have been absent from this debate ; Lord Rockingham, would not have been allowed to forget the day; nor would there, a3 I presume, have been wanting one and twenty more votes, to have carried that question, now twenty three years ago.
While Lord Rockingham was at the head of opposition, h'i3 confidential friends and flappers were surhci-, ently active; they did not then allow him to forget the day of any great debate in the bouse of commons. On the 6th of April 1780, on the motion of Mr. Dunning, "That the influence of the crown has increased, isin"creasing, and ought to be diminished," the Rockingham party, could then muster two hundred and thirty four; on the l?tb, of February 1782, on the motion of General Conway, against continuing the war with
1 Luke, 8. 8. :'
G , . . .: ^America, they could bring up two hundred and thirty six; and on the 15th of March 1782, on the motion of Sir John Rous, against confidence in ministers, they could produce again too hundred and thirty six; and Lord : North's- ministry, on the twelfth succeeding day, were out of office; hut on the 7th of May following, when the nation was in the greatest joy at having got rid of the North ministry, when the tide of popularity was at its height, the borough faction in contempt, and the most important question to the people, that ever was, or ever can be agitated, was moved, the party of Lord Rockingham, his lordship then Minister, have but against them one hundred and sixty one, to oppose parliamentary reformation, and yet they lose the question,^ a majority of Twenty!!!'
There can be no doubt that the faction behind the throne, and the faction of the boroughs, had on that occasion brought into the field their whole strength; which compared with that of the Rockingham party while in opposition, was absolute weakness; and yet it prevailed over that party when in possession of. all the influence of the government, by twenty votes! Had therefore Mr. Burke been true to the constitution, and had as energetically employed his great talents to restore, as he did to undermine it, I have no doubt but that the liberties of our country, would at that time have been established on their right basis ; that it would now hav^ been at peace, and less in debt than it is, by Five hundred millions; and its situation with relatioa to France such, as to have called for, on a peace establishment, a less revenue by two millions a year at the least, than may be now expected, if the present war should ever cease. What, then, does the nation owe Mr. Burke?
But, it is time we had done with the weaknesses and vices of genius,to pursue our own steady course.Contrast, my Lord, all Mr. Burke's fine sounding nonsense, on the subject of representation, in his celebrated pamphlet, with any one plain American constitution; and contrast, also our case in England, with that of those who carried with them the English constitution across the Atlantic: we have a house of commons, in which it would be a bold assertion to say, we have even ten men,—-as many as would have saved Sodom from destruction—who, under a perfectly constitutional election, would have been the ten men that would have been chosen by the persons they are now supposed to represent; whereas the English Americans,iu nineteen houses of commons, representing a population of many millions, have not a single member, the spontaneity of whose election can be questioned, or so much as doubted: And again: We in England have a house of commons, which, in consequence of the usurpation of Private Proprietors, Peers, and the CROWN, has no pretensions to be a representation of the people; and in which one fourth part of the whole or more are besides placemen and dependents of the crown; whereas the nineteen English American houses of commons, are truly and completely, national representations by the spontaneity of free election; and in all those representative assemblies put together, there is not a single placeman, or person holding an office of honour or emolument, under the executive government. Which nation is most free from the "domiciliary vexation," of the "taxgatherer?"! Which of the two countries is governed most for the benefit, and most to the content of the people? And which of the two governments, can be most relied on, for the steady pursuit of wise national counsels, respecting treaties, or alliances with foreign powers?