Page images
PDF
EPUB

CHAP. VIII.

MR. PULTENEY’S SPEECH ON THE MOTION FOR

REDUCING THE ARMY.

SIR, W e have heard a great deal about parliamentary armies, and about an army continued from year to year. I have always been, Sir, and always shall be, against a standing army of any kind: to me it is a terrible thing, whether under that of parliamentary or any other designation ; a standing army is still a standing arny, whatever name it be called by; they are a body of men distinct from the body of the people ; they are governed by different laws; and blind obedience, and an entire submission to the orders of their commanding officer, is their only principle. The nations around us, Sir, are already enslaved, and have been enslaved by those very means; by means of their standing armies they have every one lost their liberties : it is indeed impossible, that the liberties of the people can be preserved in any country, where a numerous standing army is kept up. Shall we then take any of our measures from the example of our neighbours ? No, Sir; on the contrary, from their misfortunes we ought to learn, to avoid those rocks, upon which they have split.

It signifies nothing to tell me, that our army is commanded by such gentlemen as cannot be supposed to join in any measures for enslaving their country: it may be so; I hope it is so; I have a very good opinion of many gentlemen now in the army; I believe they would not join in any such measures ; but their lives are uncertain, nor can we be sure how long they may be continued in command; they may be all dismissed in a moment, and proper tools of power put in their room. Besides, Sir, we know the passions of men; we know liow dangerous it is, to trust the best of men with too much power. Where was there a braver army than that under Julius Cæsar? Where was there ever an army, that had served their country more faithfully? That army was commanded generally by the best citizens of Rome, by men of great fortune and figure in their country; yet that

army enslaved their country. The affections of the soldiers toward their country, the honour and integrity of the under officers, are not to be depended on : by the military law the administration of justice is so quick, and the punishments so severe, that neither officer nor soldier dares offer to dispute the orders of his supreme comniander; he must not consult his own inclination; if an officer were commanded to pull his own father out of his house, he must do it; he dares not disobey; immediate death would be the sure consequence of the least grumbling. And if an officer were sent into the court of requests, accompanied by a body of musketeers with screwed bayonets, and with orders to tell us what we ought to do, and how we were to vote, I know what would be the duty of this house; I know it would be our duty, to order the officer to be taken and hanged up at the door of the lobby: but, Sir, I doubt much if such a spirit could be found in the House, or in any House of Commons, that will ever be in England.

Sir, I talk not of imaginary things ; I talk of what has happened to an English House of Commons, and from an English army; not only from an English army, but an army that was raised by that very House of Commons, an army that was paid by them, and an army that was commanded by generals appointed by them. Therefore do not let us vainly imagine, that an army raised and maintained by authority of Parliament will always be submissive to them : if an army be so numerous, as to have it in their power to overawe the Parliament, they will be submissive as long as the Parliament does nothing to disoblige their favourite general ; but when that case happens, I am afraid, that, in place of the Parliament's dismissing the army, the army will dismiss the Parliament, as they have done heretofore. Nor does the legality or illegality of that Parliament, or of that army, alter the case: for with respect to that army, and according to their way of thinking, the Parliament dismissed by them was a legal Parliament; they were an army raised and maintained according to law, and at first they were raised, as they imagined, for the preservation of those liberties, which they afterward destroyed.

It has been urged, Sir, that whoever is for the Protestant succession must be for continuing the army: for that very

reason, Sir, I am against continuing the army. I know, that neither the Protestant succession in his Majesty's most illustrious house, nor any succession, can ever be safe as long as there is a standing army in the country. Armies, Sir, have no regard to hereditary successions. The first two Cæsars at Rome did pretty well, and found means to keep their armies in tolerable subjection, because the generals and officers were all their own creatures. But how did it fare with their successors? Was not every one of them named by the army, without any regard to hereditary right, or to any right ? A cobler, a gardener, or any man who happened to raise himself in the army, and could gain their affections, was made emperor of the world. Was not every succeeding emperor raised to the throne, or tumbled headlong into the dust, according to the mere wbim or mad frenzy of the soldiers ?

We are told this army is desired to be continued but for one year longer, or for a limited term of years. How absurd is this distinction? Is there any army in the world continued for any term of years? Does the most absolute monarch tell his army, that he is to continue them for any number of years, or any number of months? How long have we already continued our army from year to year? And if it thus continue, wherein will it differ from the standing armies of those countries, which have already submitted their necks to the yoke? We are now come to the Rubicon; our army is now to be reduced, or it never will; from his Majesty's own mouth we are assured of a profound tranquillity abroad, we know there is one at home : if this is not a proper time, if these circumstances do not afford us a safe opportunity for reducing at least a part of our regular forces, we never can expect to see any reduction; and this nation, already overburdened with debts and taxes, must be loaded with the heavy charge of perpetually supporting a numerous standing army, and remain for ever exposed to the danger of having it's liberties and privileges trampled upon by any future King or Ministry, who shall take it in their heads to do so, and shall take a proper care to model the army for that purpose.

CHAP. IX.

SIR JOHN ST. AUBIN’S SPEECH FOR REPEALING THE

· SEPTENNIAL ACT.

MR. SPEAKER,

The subject matter of this debate is of such importance, that I should be ashamed to return to my electors, without endeavouring, in the best manner I am able, to declare publicly the reasons, which induced me to give my most ready assent to this question.

The people have an unquestionable right to frequent new parliaments by ancient usage; and this usage has been confirmed by several laws, which have been progressively niade

on this essential privilege.

Parliaments were generally annual, but never continued longer than three years, till the remarkable reign of Henry the Eighth. He, Sir, was a prince of unruly appetites, and of an arbitrary will; he was impatient of every restraint; the laws of God and man fell equally a sacrifice, as they stood in the way of his avarice, or disappointed his ambition; he therefore introduced long Parliaments, because he very well knew, that they would become the proper instruments of both; and what a slavish obedience thev paid to all his measures is sufficiently known.

If we come to the reign of King Charles the First, we must acknowledge hiin to be a prince of a contrary temper; he had certainly an innate love for religion and virtue. But here lay the misfortune-he was led from his natural disposition by sycophants and flatterers; they advised him to neglect the calling of frequent new Parliaments; and therefore, by not taking the constant sense of his people in what he did, he was worked up into so high a notion of prerogative, that the Commons (in order to restrain it) obtained that independent fatal power, which at last unhappily brought him to his most tragical end, and at the same time subverted the whole constitution. And I hope we shall learn this lesson from it, never to compliment the crown with any new or extravagant

powers, nor to deny the people those rights, which by ancient usage they are entitled to; but to preserve the just and equal balance, from which they will both derive mutual security, and which, if duly observed, will render our constitution the envy and admiration of all the world.

King Charles the Second naturally took a surfeit of Parliaments in his father's time, and was therefore extremely desirous to lay them aside. But this was a scheme impracticable. However, in effect he did so; for he obtained a Parliament, which by it's long duration, like an army of veterans, became so exactly disciplined to his own measures, that they knew no other command but from that person who gave them their pay.

This was a safe and most ingenious way of enslaving a nation. It is very well known, that arbitrary power, if it was open and avowed, would never prevail here. The people were therefore amused with the specious form of their ancient constitution: it existed, indeed, in their fancy; but, like a mere phantom, had no substance or reality in it; for the power, the authority, the dignity, of Parliaments were wholly lost. This was that remarkable Parliament, which so justly obtained the opprobrious name of the Pension Parliament; and was the model, from which, I believe, some later Parliaments have been exactly copied.

At the time of the Revolution, the people made a fresh claim of their ancient privileges; and as they had so lately experienced the misfortune of long and servile Parliaments, it was then declared, that they should be held frequently. But it seems, their full meaning was not understood by this declaration : and therefore, as in every new settlement the intention of all parties should be specifically manifested, the Parliament never ceased struggling with the crown, till the triennial law was obtained: the preamble of it is extremely full and strong; and in the body of the bill you will find the word declared before enacted, by which I apprehend, that, though this law did not immediately take place at the time of the Revolution, it was certainly intended as declaratory of their first meaning, and therefore stands a part of that original contract, under which the constitution was then settled. His Majesty's title to the crown is primarily derived from that contract; and if, upon a review, there shall

« PreviousContinue »