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hesitation. Of the success of the second, he entertained sanguine hopes ; and concerning the third, he observed, that though it might meet with opposition, he was disposed to believe that it was founded in reason and propriety. - These resolutions were of the following import. “1. That it was the opinion of the house, that measures were highly nesessary to be taken for the farther prevention of bribery and expence at elections. 2. That for the future, when the majority of voters for any borough shall be convicted of gross and notorious corruption before a select committee of that house, appointed to try the merits of any election, such borough should be disfranchised, and the minority of voters not so convicted should be entitled to vote for the county in which such borough shall be situ. ated. 3. That an addition of knights of the shire, and of representatives of the metropolis, should be added to the state of the representation."
Mr. Pitt observed, that if he should succeed in these resolutions, it was his intention to bring in a bill upon their repsective principles; and that it would then be proper to discuss and decide upon the precise number of the new knights of the shire, and of the other regulations and restrictions which might be useful and expedient.
Insisted that the grievance should be pointed out and explained, before any alteration should be made in the constitution of the house. Ideas of reform so extravagant had gone abroad, that it was necessary to proceed with the greatest caution. He talked with ridi. cule of the duke of Richmond's scheme of universal representation ; and declared that the noble reformer being filled with the grandeur of his subject, dis
dained to regard the narrow_limits of practicability, He asserted, that the people of England felt no real griev, ance ; but that their passions had been excited by in, cendiaries, who had been sent into the different counties to promote the business of petitioning for a reform of parliament. But though petitions had been transmitted requesting a reform, yet they made no specific charges of criminality or grievance.
An appeal was made to ancient times, when our constitution was virtuous, and an anxious wish was expressed, that the true spirit of our government should be restored He was however' at a loss to recollect the period when there existed a virtuous and uncorrupted representation, Under what prince, and in what æra, were we to look for those happy, those chaste, those halcyon days ? The country might indeed labour under a disease ; but he wished that be. fore the physicians should prescribe for it they would establish and explain its prognostics. The constitution had lasted long, and he believed it would last much longer, unless it was tampered with. Politicians might be compared to quacks ; and in the present case their behaviour was not more absurd than that of the doctor, who, meeting in the street a lame man, should say to him, “Good God, sir, how came you by that leg-It is shorter than the other-I wonder how you walk with it?” The lame man might naturally enough reply, “ I was born with my leg in this condition. The infirmity is a natural one, and does not prevent me from doing my duty as a citizen, churchwarden, clergyman, or militia officer. I can walk, dance, and jump, notwithstand. ing my lameness; and have been able to do so these twenty years." " Your case, however (resumes the quack) is critical and unseemly. I must take you under my direction. I must break your leg in order to cure it.' In this light, he confessed, the resolutions which had been read struck his understanding. It was ridiculous to offer advice and remedies where they were neither
asked for nor wanted. To give way to jealousies on the subject of representation, was to court difficulties without necessity; and to new model the fabric of our liberties, was to sport with a trust the most invaluable. He professed himself to be as independent as any man could be ; his love of his country was sincere and strong; and he was ready to sacrifice his life for its support. But he would by no means consent to involve the kingdom in danger from a vain expectation of advantages, or from a preposterous indulgence in hopes that were never to be realized.
MR. T. PITT,
INTIMATED his dread of changes, and an apprehension lest any encouragement should be given to those impracticable plans of reform which were floating on the public. He expressed a strong disapprobation at the madness of theorists. But though he was an enemy to visionary speculations, he was friendly to reforms upon constitutional principles; and he could not but bestow his assent to resolutions which held forth specific remedies upon practical grounds. They involved no new principles, rescinded no ancient rights arbitrarily, and established no dangerous precedents. The county members were no doubt
bt the most respectable part of the representatives of the people ; and it would certainly be an improvement on the constitution to augment their number. He acknowledged, however, that the measure should be cautiously carried into execution ; and that the augmentation of new knights should not be too great. The constitution was a system so nice and so complicated, that its mechanism required to be touched with the greatest skill. It was his opinion, that the resolutions Vol. II.
pointed at an increase of members that would render the house of commons too bulky and unwieldy for busi
It seemed to him that the addition of one member to each county in England and Wales was sufficient. To overshoot the mark would tend to mischief and calamity. He admired the limited monarchy under which we lived; and he could desire nothing more anxiously than that all its checks should remain unimpaired. There was danger in giving too much power to the people, as well as to the prince. It was a pleasure to him to observe that the resolution did not meddle with the burgage tenures; for these he considered as fortresses against the influence of the minister. Yet from the peculiarity of his situation he was sensible that by this opinion he would expose himself to the charge of selfishness. As a proof however of his sincerity, he was ready to make a voluntary sacrifice of his borough to save the rest. It was of little consequence to the nation whether he or his posterity should have a seat in the house of commons, provided the constitution should be confirmed in its strength and purity.
CONSIDERED the mere touch of so venerable a fabric as the constitution, though for the purpose of amend. ing it, to be a matter of dread and apprehension. It was impossible to conceive an attempt of a more delicate nature. It was to tamper with a fabric which was the boast of Britons, and the admiration of nations. It became Englishmen to pause and to reflect deeply before they entered upon so awful an undertaking. The idea that the constitution was disordered, was a fancy ;
and to treat it as diseased, without any evidence of the distemper, was a phrenzy.
He called for proofs of any weakness that required to be repaired. Of real and consuming disorders he had heard nothing. Undue influence and corruption were indeed great evils ; but they were natural and unavoid. able. He deplored them as misfortunes and calamities; but they could not be effectually guarded against, any more than convulsions and earthquakes. He saw no reason for complying with the resolutions. The sense of the great body of the people of England was not contained in the petitions which had come from a few coun. ties and boroughs. Even the sense of the counties and boroughs which had sent petitions, was not expressed in them. The petitions were framed and subscribed through the hot zeal and the passionate folly of individuals who had been seized with the disease of reformation. He would not vote for the addition of a hundred knights, nor for fifty, nor for one. Those who were fond of beginning innovations should look forward to the point at which they were to terminate. Innovation, like the gra. vity of a weight in sinking, once begun, would carry all before it. Destruction and ruin would ensue. To seek a remedy when there was no disease, was itself a distemper. When the puny voice of a few discontented individuals breaks in upon the tranquillity of a vast and contented multitude, it is difficult to repress an emotion of indignation or scorn. The balance of the constitution would be infringed and violated by the addition of members for the counties. It would give a decided superiority to the landed interest over the commercial. It would tarnish the beauty of the house of commons, which, like the general fabric of the British legislature, provides and preserves a due poise between the great interests of the empire ; the landed, the commercial, and the monied. They were not the deputies, but the representatives of the people. They were to be go. Verned by their own discretion, and not by humours and