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day's transactions, comparing them recognized modes of collecting the with the rumours and the threats that sense of the English people! Was it preceded them, will dispute that such by meetings such as these that the reinight have been the result of that volution was brought about, the great very day's meeting, if that meeting, so event to which our antagonists are so very legally assembled, had not, by fond of referring ? Was it by a meetthe happy decision of the magistrates, ing in St George's-fields ? in Spabeen so very illegally dispersed ? fields ? in Smith-field ? Was it by
It is, therefore, not in consonance, untold multitudes collected in a vil. but in contradiction to the spirit of lage in the north? No; it was by the law, that such meetings have been meeting of corporations in their corholden. The law prescribes a cor- porate capacity-by the assembly of porate character. The callers of these recognised bodies of the State-by the meetings have always studiously de interchange of opinions among porvoided it. No summons of freehold- tions of the community known to each ers-none of freemen-none of the other, and capable of estimating each inhabitants of particular places or pa- others views and characters. Do we rishes-no acknowledgment of local want a more striking mode of remeor political classification. Just so at dying grievances than this? Do we rethe beginning of the French revolu- quire a more animating example? And tion: the first work of the Reformers did it remain for the Reformers of the was to loosen every established politi- present day to strike out the course by cal relation, every legal holding of which alone Great Britain could make man to man, to destroy every corpo- and keep herself free? ration, to dissolve every subsisting Gentlemen, all power is, or ought class of society, and to reduce the na- to be, accompanied by responsibility. tion into individuals, in order, after- Tyranny is irresponsible power. This wards, to congregate them into mobs. definition is equally true, whether the
Let no person, therefore, run away power be lodged in one or many; with the notion, that these things whether in a despot, exempted by were done without design. To bring the form of government from the contogether the inhabitants of a particu- trol of law; or in a mob, whose lar division, or men sharing a com- numbers put them beyond the reach mon franchise, is to bring together an of law. Idle, therefore, and absurd, assembly, of which the component to talk of freedom where a mob doparts act with some respect and awe of mineers ! Idle, therefore, and absurd, each other : ancient habits, which the to talk of liberty, when you hold Reformers would call prejudices, pre- your property, perhaps your life, not conceived attachments, which they indeed at the nod of a despot, but at would call corruption, that mutual the will of an inflamed, an infuriated respect which makes the eye of a populace ! If, therefore, during the neighbour a security for each man's reign of terror at Manchester or at Spagood conduct, but which the Reform- fields, there were persons in this ers would stigmatize as a confederacy country who had a right to complain among the few for dominion over their of tyranny, it was they who loved the fellows all these things make men Constitution, who loved the Monardifficult to be moved on the sudden to chy, but who dared not utter their any extravagant and violent enterprize. opinions or their wishes until their But bring together a multitude of in- houses were barricadoed, and their dividuals having no permanent rela- children sent to a place of safety, tion to each other, no common tie, That was tyranny ! and, so far as but what arises from their concurrence the mobs were under the control of as members of that meeting-a tie a leader, that was despotism. And it dissolved as soon as the meeting is at was against that tyranny, that despotan end in such an aggregation of ism, that Parliament at length raised individuals there is no such mutual its arm. respect, no such check upon the pro- All power, I say, is vicious, that is ceedings of each man from the awe of not accompanied by proportionate reshis neighbour's disapprobation ; and if ponsibility. Personal responsibility ever a multitudinous assembly can be prevents the abuse of individual powwrought up to purposes of mischief, er; responsibility of character is the it will be an assembly so composed. security against the abuse of collective
How monstrous is it to confound power, when exercised by bodies of such meetings with the genuine and men whose existence is permaner
and defined. But strip such bodies Manchester or at Birmingham, that of these qualities, you degrade them he therefore speaks the sense of the into multitudes, and then what secu- town which he disquiets and endanrity have you against any thing that gers; or still more preposterously, they may do or resolve; knowing that because he has disquieted and enthat the moment the meeting is at an dangered half a dozen neighbourhoods end, there is no human being respon- in their turn, he is, therefore, the orsible for their proceedings? The gan of them all, and, through them, meeting at Manchester, the meeting of the whole British people. at Birmingham, the meeting at Spa- Such are the stupid fallacies which fields or Smithfield, what pledge could the law of the last session has extinthey give to the nation of the sound- guished ! and such is the object and ness or sincerity of their designs ? effect of the measures which British The local character of Manchester, liberty is not to survive! the local character of Birmingham, To remedy the dreadful wound thus was not pledged to any of the proceed inflicted upon British liberty, to reings to which their names were ap- store to the people what the people pended. A certain number of ambu- have not lost, to give a new impulse latory tribunes of the people, self- to that spirit of freedom, which noelected to that high function, assumed thing has been done to embarrass or the name and authority of whatever restrain, we are invited to alter the place they thought proper to select for constitution of that assembly through a place of meeting ; their rostrum was which the people share in the Legispitched, sometimes here, sometimes lature ; in short, to make a Radical there, according to the fancy of the Reform in the House of Commons. mob, or the patience of the Magis- It has always struck me as extraortrates ; but the proposition, the pro- dinary, that there should be persons poser was in all places nearly alike; prepared to entertain the question of and when, by a sort of political ven- a change in so important a member triloquism, the same voice had been of the constitution, without considermade to issue from half a dozen dif- ing in what way that change must ferent corners of the country, it was affect the situation of the other memimpudently assumed to be a concord bers, and the action of the constituof sweet sounds, composing the united tion itself. voice of the people of England.
I have, on former occasions, stated Now, Gentlemen, let us estimate here, and I have stated elsewhere, the mighty mischief that has been questions on this subject; to which, done to liberty by putting down meetas yet, I have never received an anings such as I have described. Let us swer. “ You who wish to reform the ask, what lawful authority has been House of Commons, do you mean to eurtailed ; let us ask, what respect, restore that branch of the Legislature able community has been injured; let to the same state in which it stood at us ask, what form of municipal instin some former period ? or do you mean tutions has been abrogated by a law to re-construct it on new principles ?" which fixes the migratory complaint Perhaps a moderate Reformer or to the spot whence it professes to ori- Whig will answer, that he means only ginate, and desires to hear of the to restore the House of Commons to grievance from those by whom that what it was at some former period. grievance is felt; which leaves to I then beg to ask, and to that quesManchester as Manchester, to Bir- tion also I have never yet received an mingham as Birmingham, to London answer, “ At what period of our hisas London, all the free scope of utter- tory was the House of Commons in ance which they have at any time en the state to which you wish to restore joyed for making known their wants, it ? their feelings, their wishes, their re- The House of Commons must, for monstrances ; which leaves to each of the purpose of this argument, be conthese divisions, its separate authority, sidered in two views : first, with reto the union of all or of many of them spect to its agency as a third part in the aggregate authority of such a con- the constitution ; secondly, with resent and co-operation, but which de spect to its composition, in relation to nies to an itinerant hawker of grie- its constituents. As to its agency as vances, the power of stamping their a part of the constitution, I venture to names upon his wares; of pretending, say, without hazard, as I believe, of hecause he may raise an outcry at contradiction, that there is no period.
in the history of this country in which effectual representative of the people ; the House of Commons will be found representing them not as a delegate to have occupied so large a share of commissioned to take care of their inthe functions of Government, as at terests, but as a deputy appointed to present. Whatever else may be said speak their will. Now to this view of of the House of Commons, this one the matter I have no other objection point, at least, is indisputable, that than this-that the British Constitufrom the earliest infancy of the con tion is a limited Monarchy; that a stitution, the power of the House of limited Monarchy is, in the nature of Commons has been growing till it has things, a mixed Government; but almost, like the rod of Aaron, absorbed that such a House of Commons as the its fellows. I am not saying whether Radical Reformer requires, would, in this is or is not as it ought to be. I effect, constitute a pure Democracy, merely mean to say why I think that which, it appears to me, would be init cannot be intended to complain of consistent with any Monarchy, and the want of power, and of a due share unsusceptible of any limitation. in the government as the defect of the I may have great respect for the modern House of Commons.
person who theoretically prefers a ReI admit, however, very willingly, public to a Monarchy. But, even that the greater share of power it ex- supposing me to agree with him in ercises, the more jealous we ought to this preference, I should have a prebe of its composition ; and I presume, vious question to discuss, by which therefore, that it is in this respect, he, perhaps, may not feel himself emand in relation to its constituents, that barrassed; which is this, whether I, the state of the House of Commons is born as I am (and as I think it is my contended to want revision. Well, good fortune to be under a Monarthen, at what period of our historychy, am quite at liberty to consider was the composition of the House of myself as having a clear stage for poCommons materially different from litical experiments; whether I should what it is at present? Is there any be authorized, if I were convinced of period of our history in which the the expediency of such a change, to rights of election were not as various, withdraw Monarchy altogether from and in which the influence of property the British Constitution, and to subwas not as direct, in which recom- stitute an unqualified Democracy in mendations of candidates were not as its stead; or whether, whatever efficient, and some boroughs as close, changes I may be desirous of introas they are now? I ask for informa- ducing, I am not bound to consider tion, but that information, plain and the Constitution which I find as at simple as it is, and necessary, one least circumscribing the range and in should think, to a clear understand. some measure prescribing the nature ing, much more to a grave decision of of the improvement. the point at issue, I never, though so- For my own part, I am undoubted. liciting it with all humility, have ever ly prepared to uphold the ancient Moyet been able to obtain from any Re- narchy of the country, by arguments former, Radical, or Whig.
drawn from what I think the blessings The Radical Reformer, indeed, to which we have enjoyed under it; and do him justice, is not bound to fur. by arguments of another sort, if argunish me with an answer to this ques- ments of another sort shall ever be tion, because with his view of the brought against it-But all that I am matter, precedents (except one which now contending for is, that whatever I shall mention presently) have no- reformation is proposed, should be thing to do. The Radical Reformer considered with some reference to the would, probably, give to my first established constitution of the counquestion an answer very different from try. That point being conceded to that which I have supposed his mo- me, I have no difficulty in saying, that derate brother to give. He will tell I cannot conceive a constitution of me fairly, that he means not simply which one-third part shall be an asto bring the House of Commons back sembly delegated by the people, not either to the share of power which it to consult for the good of the nation, formerly enjoyed, or to the modes of but to speak day by day, the people's election by which it was formerly re- will, which must not, in a few days turned, but to make it, what, accord- sitting, sweep away every other branch ing to him, it ought to be, a direct of the constitution that might attempt to oppose or control it. I cannot con- « Resolved, That the Commons of ceive how, in fair reasoning, any other England assembled in Parliament, branch of the constitution should pre- being chosen by and representing the tend to stand against it. If Govern- people, have the supreme authority of ment be a matter of will, all that we this nation." have to do is to collect the will of the In this resolution the leap is taken. nation, and, having collected it by an Will the Radical Reformers say that adequate organ, that will is paramount it is taken unfairly-with such a and supreme. By what shadow of ar- tempting precedent before them? But gument could the House of Lords be the inference did not stop there. The maintained in equal authority and ju- House of Commons proceeded to rerisdiction with the House of Commons, solve, without one dissenting voice: when once that House of Commons “That whatsoever is enacted and should become a mere deputation, declared law by the Commons of Engspeaking the people's will, and that land assembled in Parliament, hath will the rule of the Government? In the force of law, and all the people of one way or other the House of Lords this nation are included thereby, almust act, if it be to remain a concur- though the consent and concurrence rent branch of the Legislature. Ei- of the King and House of Peers be not ther it must uniformly affirm the had thereunto.” the measures which come from the Such was the theoretical inference Commons, or it must occasionally take of the House of Commons in 1648, the liberty to reject them. If it uni- the logical dependence of which upon formly affirm, it is without the pre- the foregoing proposition, I say, I tence of authority. But to presume to should be glad to see logically disreject an act of the deputies of the proved. The practical inferences were whole nation !-by what assumption not tardy in their arrival, after the of right could three or four hundred theory. In a few weeks the House of great proprietors set themselves against Lords was voted useless; and in a few the national will? Grant the Re- more we all know what became of the formers, then, what they ask, on the Crown. principles on which they ask it, and it Such, I say, were the radical docis utterly impossible that, after such a trines of 1648, and such the conseReform, the constitution should long quences to which they naturally led. consist of more than one body, and If we are induced to admit the same that one body a popular assembly. premises now, who is it, I should be
Why, Gentlemen, is this theory? or glad to know, that is to guarantee us is it a theory of mine? If there be against similar conclusions ? among those who hear me any man These, then, are the reasons why I who has been (as in the generous en- look with jealousy at Parliamentary thusiasm of youth any man may Reform. I look at it with still more blamelessly have been) bitten by the jealousy, because in one of the two doctrines of reform, I implore him, classes of men who co-operate in supbefore he goes forward in his progress port of that question, I never yet found to embrace those doctrines in their any two individuals who held the same radical extent, to turn to the history of doctrines; I never yet heard any ina the transactions in this country in the telligible theory of Reform, except year 1648, and to examine the bear that of the Radical Reformers. Theirs, ings of those transactions on this very indeed, it is easy enough to understand. question of Radical Reform. He will But as for theirs I certainly am not yet find, Gentlemen, that the House of fully prepared. I, for my part, will not Commons of that day passed the fol- consent to take one step without knowlowing resolution :
ing on what principle I am invited to “ Resolved, that the people are take it, and (which is perhaps of more under God, the original of all just consequence) without declaring on powers !”
what principle I will not consent that Well, can any sentiment be more any step, however harmless, shall be just and reasonable? Is it not the taken. foundation of all the liberties of man- What more harmless than to diskind? Be it so. Let us proceed. The franchise a corrupt borough in CornHouse of Commons followed up this wall, which has exercised its franchise resolution by a second, which runs in amiss, and brought shame on itself, something like these terms:
and on the system of which it is a
part?-Nothing. I have no sort of pool-bug on the bench immediately objection to doing, as Parliament has over against me, I descry scarce any often done in such cases, (supposing other sort of representatives than always the case to be proved ;) to disa members for close, or, if you will, for franchising the borough, and render rotten boroughs. To suppose, thereing it incapable of abusing its franchise fore, that our political opponents have in future. But, though I have no any thoughts of getting rid of the close objection to doing this, I will not do it boroughs, would be a gross delusion; on the principle of speculative improve and, I have no doubt, they will be ment. I do it on the principle of spe- quite as fair and open with the Recifie punishment for an offence. And formers on this point as I am. I will take good care that no inference And why, gentlemen, is it that I shall be drawn from my consent in this am satisfied with a system which, it is specific case, as to any sweeping con- said, no man can support who is not currence in a scheme of general al- in love with corruption? Is it that I, teration.
more than any other man, am afraid Nay, I should think it highly dis to face a popular election ? To the last ingenuous to suffer the Radical Re- question you can give the answer. To formers to imagine that they had the former I will answer for myself. I gained a single step towards the ad- do verily believe, as I have already mission of their theory by any such said, that a complete and perfect deinstance of particular animadversion mocratical representation, such as the on proved misconduct. I consent to Reformers aim at, cannot exist as part such disfranchisement; but I do so, of a mixed government. It may exist, not with a view of furthering the and, for ought I know or care, may radical syster, but rather of thwarting exist beneficially as a whole. But I it. I am glad to wipe out any blot in am not sent to Parliament to inquire the present system, because I mean into the question whether a democracy the present system to stand. I will or a monarchy be the best. My lot is take away a franchise, because it has cast under the British Monarchy. been practically abused, not because I Under that I have lived, under that I am at all disposed to inquire into the have seen my country flourish, under origin or to discuss the utility of all that I have seen it enjoy as great a such franchises, any more than I mean share of prosperity, of happiness, and to inquire, Gentlemen, into your titles of glory, as I believe any modification to your estates. Disfranchising Gram- of human society to be capable of bepound, (if that is to be so,) I mean to stowing; and I am not prepared to save Old Sarum.
sacrifice or to hazard the fruit of cenNow, Sir, I hope I deal fairly with turies of experience, of centuries of the Radical Reformers, more fairly struggles, and of more than one century than those who would suffer it to be of liberty as perfect as ever blessed any supposed that the disfranchisement of country upon the earth, for visionary Grampound is to be the beginning of schemes of ideal perfectibility, or a system of Reform: while they know, doubtful experiments even of possible and I hope mean as well as I do, not improvernent. to Reform (in the sense of change) I am, therefore, for the House of but to preserve the Constitution. Í Commons as a part and not as the would not delude the Reformers, if I whole of the Government. And, as a could ; and I know it would be quite part of the Government, I hold it to useless to attempt a delusion upon per- be frantic to suppose, that from the sons quite as sagacious in their gene- election of members of Parliament you ration as any moderate Reformers or can altogether exclude, by any contriAnti-reformers of us all. They know vance, even if it were desireable to do full well that the Whigs have no more so, the influence of property, rank, notion than I have of parting with the talents, family connexion, and whatclose boroughs. Not they, indeed. A ever else, in the Radical language of large, and perhaps the larger part of the day, is considered as intimidation them, are in their hands. Why, in or corruption. I believe, that if a rethe assembly to which you send me, form to the extent of that demanded Gentlemen, some of those who sit on by the Radical Reformers were grantthe same side with me, represent, to ed, you would, before an annual elecbe sure, less popular places than Liver- tion came round, find that there were