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which there could be no doubt would operate to confirm the House in an adherence to its former principles; this was the situation into which the high bailiff of Westminster would be betrayed by such a conduct. This man, on the credit and faith of the House, had been reduced to proceed on the scrutiny : for that proceeding he was now threatened with a penal action ; and would the House, by rescinding the resolutions which had formed the basis of the high bailiff's determination to prosecute that line of conduct which had subjected him to those threats, seem, by abandoning the principles on which the whole proceeding had been founded, to prejudge a question which was to be the object of a judicial inquiry ?
Here he took occasion to exult in the complexion of the present House of Commons, which, notwithstanding the disadvantages that attended its constitution from the imperfect mode of its election, retained so much of the characteristic dignity of the British nation, as it had evinced in every stage of its existence. He attributed this, in a great measure, to the right honourable gentleman *, and his colleagues in office, who, by pressing forward a crisis, the most momentous and important any part of our history presented, had roused every exertion of public spirit that remained among the people, and had concentred the whole weight of those exertions in the assembly before whom he had the honour to stand. The present House of Commons, with a manliness and liberality that became the representatives of a manly and a liberal people, had proceeded hitherto in the face of all those prejudices which had so long bound down and restrained the faculties of the nation, to the reform of all abuses that militated against the great end of their free constitution. He was still in hopes farther to see every local prepossession, which now stood between the empire and its' true interests, vanish; and he derived a flattering presage, from the character of the House, that the great question which was nearest to his heart -- that on which the whole and only prospect of a final triumph over every obstacle to greatness and to glory depended
* Mr. Fox.
- that alone, which could entitle Englishmen to the appellation of free, and that alone, which could ensure to wise, to virtuous, and to constitutional endeavours, a victory over factious ambition or corrupt venality - the great and stupendous question of a parliamentary reform, would be taken up with a degree of determined and upright boldness, that must soon be crowned with success. In that case, he could not help flattering himself, that at the remote period to which the right honourable gentleman looked forward for the completion of his meditated triumph, he would, perhaps, find a parliament, that, like the present, should speak the sense of the people - of a people, who had in a most specific and decided manner already passed judgment beween him and the right honourable gentleman; and he warned gentlemen, particularly those whom the right honourable gentleman had so repeatedly marked with the most insolent contempt and invective, those new members, with whom the House was crowded on the opening of the session, “men, whose faces nobody was acquainted with,” how they trusted to those professions of regard and affection, those meretricious blandishments, which one successful day's good humour had drawn from the right honourable gentleman, to lure them into a dereliction of principle, a violation of law, and an undeserved self-condemnation !
An explanation afterwards from Mr. Fox, wherein he charged the assertions of the Chancellor of the Exchequer as being false in fact, and calculated solely for the purpose of rounding his periods to captivate the House, induced Mr. Pitt to rise again :
He was entirely satisfied, he said, that no person in that House would believe him capable of inventing and throwing out any charge or assertion whatsoever, for the purpose of “rounding his periods.” He desired the House to recollect whether the expressions he had made use of in his speech, of the House being crowded by "new members, men whose faces nobody was acquainted with," had not fallen from the right honourable gentleman; whether he had not repeatedly endeavoured to depreciate the respectability of the House by his repeated assertions, that it had been chosen under a delusion, and that it seemed to
act under a similar delusion; and whether he had not repeatedly thrown out the most pointed invectives against that East-India phalanx which had absorbed and swallowed up all the faculties of the executive government. –
Here he was interrupted by Mr. Fox, who again positively denied having used the expression, “ That the House was filled with faces which had never been seen there before," and contradicted the charges which the right honourable gentleman had advanced.
Mr. Pitt was proceeding to enter into a more minute detail of the instances of disrespect shewn by Mr. Fox to the House, when he was called to order for alluding to what had passed in former debates; and on the Speaker's interposing and stating that such allusions were disorderly, and contrary to the rules of the House,
Mr. Pitt rose once more, and assured the Speaker that he was not going to violate the established order; but that he thought it highly unbecoming in the right honourable gentleman to throw out such language as the House had just heardlanguage tending to fix the stigma of falsehood and dishonour on a member of that House, at a time when his general denial could not, by the orders of the House, be called into question. That for his own part, being precluded from coming to the proof of the truth of his assertions, he had only to rest satisfied, that the memory of many gentlemen in the House, and his own reputation, would do him justice. I cannot, he concluded, enter farther into the reality of what I have advanced, but I maintain it.
The question for rescinding the resolutions was negatived.
April 18. 1785.
Mr. Pitt, in conformity to the notice he had given, again called the attention of the House to the subject of a Reform in the representation
of the people:
In entering upon this subject, he said, he was aware of the divis sion of sentiment, and of the pertinacity with which some men adhered to opinions inimical to every species of reform. But he röse with hopes infinitely more sanguine than he ever felt before, and with hopes which he conceived to be rationally and solidly founded. There never was a moment when the minds of men were more enlightened on this interesting topic than now; there never was a moment when they were more prepared for its discussion: A great many objections which from time to time had been adduced against reform, would not lie against the propositions which he intended to submit to the House; and the question was in truth new in all its shape to the present parliament.
He was sensible of the difficulty there was now, and ever must be, in proposing a plan of reform. The number of gentlemen who were hostile to reform, were a phalanx, which ought to give alarm to any individual upon rising to suggest such a measure. Those, who, with a sort of superstitious awe, reverence the cons stitution so much as to be fearful of touching even its defects; had always reprobated every attempt to purify the representationi They acknowledged its inequality and corruption, but in their enthusiasm for the grand fabric, they would not suffer a reformer, with unhallowed hands, to repair the injuries which it suffered from time. Others, who, perceiving the deficiencies that had arisen from circumstances, were solicitous of their amendment yet resisted the attempt, under the argument that when once we had presumed to touch the constitution in one point, the awe which had heretofore kept us back from the daring enterprize of innovation might abate, and there was no foreseeing to what alarming lengths we might progressively go, under the mask of reformation. Others there were, but for these he confessed he had not the same respect, who considered the present state of representation as pure and adequate to all its purposes, and perfectly consistent with the first principles of representation. The fabric of the House of Commons was an ancient pile, on whieli they had been all taught to look with reverence and awe: from their cradles they had been accustomed to view it as a patteri vol: 1.
of perfection; their ancestors had enjoyed freedom aud prosperity under it; and therefore an attempt to make any alterations in it would be deemed, by some enthusiastic admirers of antiquity, as impious and sacrilegious. No one reverenced the vene rable fabric more than he did; but all mankind knew that the best institutions, like human bodies, carried in themselves the seeds of decay and corruption, and therefore he thought himself justifiable in proposing remedies against this corruption, which the frame of the constitution must necessarily experience in the lapse of years, if not prevented by wise and judicious regulations.
To men who argued in this manner, he did not presume to address his propositions, for such men he despaired of convincing; but he had well-grounded hopes, that in what he should offer to the House, he should be able to convince gentlemen of the former descriptions, that though they had argued so strongly against general and unexplained notions of reform, their arguments would not weigh against the precise and explicit proposition which it was his purpose to submit to them. The objection to reform under the idea of innovation, would not hold good against his suggestion, for was not an innovation on any known and clear principle of the constitution. Their objection to reform, because it might introduce habits of change and alteration, of which no man could foresee the extent or termination, would be equally inapplicable to his plan, for in his mind it would be complete and final. In his mind, it would comprehend all that a rational reformer would think it necessary now or at any time to do, and would therefore give no licence to future or more extenșive schemes. The argument, that no alteration of the number of members composing the House ought at any time to be suffered, and that no reform of the representation in what was emphatically called the corrupt parts, ought to be accomplished by an act of power, would be equally inapplicable; for, by his proposition, he meant to lay it down as a first principle that the number of the House ought to remain the same, and that the reform of decayed boroughs ought not to proceed on disfranchisement. This, he said, was the third effort made by him since he had the honour of a seat in parliament, to prevail upon the