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ferring the substance and reality of representation to the name and exterior, was solicitous of changing its seat from one part of the country to another, as one place might flourish and another decay? It was his idea, that if they could deduce any good principles from theory, and apply them to practice, it was their duty to do so. It was then the theory, and it had been the practice, in all times, to adapt the representation to the state of the country; and this was exactly what it was his intention to recommend to the House. Now and in all future time to adapt the representation to the state of the country, was the idea of reform which he entertained.
Perhaps gentlemen would be apt to exclaim that this contradicted the declaration with which he set out, viz. that the plan which he meant to propose would be final and complete. When they came, however, to hear the whole of his idea, he trusted they would find that his proposition had in view not only an immediate reform, but that it comprehended an arrangement which must operate in all future time, and provide for the changes which in the nature of things must incessantly arise in a country like Britain. He wished to establish a permanent rule to operate like the discretion, out of which our present constitution had sprung. That discretion would be very improper to exist now, though in ruder times it was not so dangerous, when representation was rather a burthen than a privilege, rather a duty than an object of ambition. For that discretion he was no advocate; but he wished to remind gentlemen, that that discretionary power had never been wrested from the hands of the executive branch of the legislature, and that to this day there existed but the act of union to prevent the crown from adding to or diminishing the number of that House. By the act of union, the proportionate numbers for the two parts of the kingdom were fixed, and from the date of that act, but not till that act, the discretion of the crown was at an end.
The argument of withstanding all reformation, from the fear of the ill consequences that might ensue, made gentlemen come to a sort of compromise with themselves. “ We are sensible of certain defects; we feel certain inconveniencies in the present state of representation; but fearing that we may make it worse by alteration, we will be content with it as it is.” This was a sort of argument to which he could not give his countenance. If gentlemen had at all times been content with this doctrine, the nation would have lost much of that excellence of which our constitution now had to boast. Who would say but that the excellence of the constitution was the fruit of constant improvement? To prove this fact required but little illustration. It was, for instance, a first principle in our constitution, that parliament should meet as frequently as the exigencies of the state should require. This was a clear principle, but the periods were not fixed. Practice, however, had improved on this principle, and now it was established that parliament should annually meet.
Something like that which he meant now to recommend, did take place in very early periods of our history. It was remark. able that James I., a prince who mounted the throne with high ideas of prerogative, and who was not to be suspected of being too partial to the liberties of the subject, stated, in his first proclamation for calling a parliament, that the sheriffs of the counties should not direct such boroughs to send members, as were so utterly ruined as to be incapable or unentitled to contribute their share to the representation of the country. Another period of our history, which, whatever objection he might have to its general principles, had given rise to many salutary laws; he meant in the days of Cromwell : it was declared by the Protector that there should be a greater proportion of knights than of burgesses in the House of Commons. Hementioned this authority, (for which, as he said, he had, in the general, no great reverence, whose opposition to Charles I. began in licentiousness, and proceeded, as licentiousness always did, to tyranny,) because it would shew, that whatever was his respect for the constitution of the country, his opinion evidently was, that representation should be proportioned to the people represented. Lord Clarendon, in speaking of the plan of Cromwell, had said, and it was to be found in his writings, " that it was worthy of a more warrantable authority, and of better times." From these circumstances, he thought that a doubt
could not be left on the mind, but that it always had been the principle of representation that it should change with the changes which the country might endure, and that it should not be merely governed by exterior and local considerations.
Feeling, therefore, that this was the clear principle of representation, he begged the House to remember, that he had told them in the outset that his plan was free from the objection of altering the number of the House, and also from the objection of making any change in the boroughs by disfranchisement: his plan consisted of two parts; the one was more immediate than the other, but they were both gradual. The first was calculated to procure an early, if not an immediate change of the representation of the boroughs; and the second was intended to establish a rule, by which the representation should change with the changes of the country. It was the clear and determined opinion of every speculatist, that there should be an alteration of the present proportion between the counties and boroughs, and that, in the change, a larger proportion of members should be given for the populous places, than for places that had neither property nor people.
It was therefore his intention to submit to the House to provide, that the members of a certain number of boroughs of the last description, that is, of boroughs decayed, should be distributed among the counties. He would take the criterion, by which he should judge what boroughs were decayed, from the number of houses; and this was a mode of judgment which was not liable to error, and which he conceived to be perfectly consistent with the original principle of representation. He should propose, that these members should be transferred to the counties, beginning with those that stood in the greatest need of addition. Such a reform as this was in its nature limited; for, if once the standard for the lowest county was fixed, the proportion for all must be the same, and it would be impossible to add more for any one county than for the rest. In this view of the business, he imagined, that the House would agree with him in thinking, that there were about thirty-six boroughs so decayed, as to come within the scheme of such an operation. Seventy-two would therefore be the number
of members to be added to the counties, in such proportion as the wisdom of parliament might direct, and this number it was his intention to propose should be fixed and unalterable. The operation should be gradual, as he intended that the boroughs should be disfranchised, on their own voluntary application to parliament. Gentlemen must be aware that a voluntary application to parliament was not to be expected without an adequate consideration being given to the boroughs; and he trusted that gentlemen would not start at the idea of such a consideration being provided for. A reform could only be brought about by two means — by an act of power, or by an adequate consideration which might induce bodies or individuals to part with rights which they considered as a species of valuable inheritance, or of personal property. To a reform by violence, he, and he was sensible many others, had an insurmountable objection; but he considered a reform in the representation of the people an object of such value and importance, that he did not hesitate in his own mind to propose and to recommend to the House the establishment of a fund for the purpose of purchasing the franchise of such boroughs as might be induced to accept of it under the circumstances which he had mentioned.
It might be asked what the consideration could be for such a franchise. He knew there was a sort of squeamish and maiden eoyness about the House in talking on this subject; they were not very ready to talk in that House, on what, at the same time it was pretty well understood, out of doors they had no great objection to negociate, the purchase and the sale of seats. But he would fairly ask gentlemen, if these sorts of franchises were not capable of being appreciated ? and whether, notwithstanding all the proud boast of its being an insult to an Englishman to ask him to sell his invaluable franchise, there were not abundance of places where, without imputing immorality to any individual, such franchise might be purchased ? Could it not be proved, that in this country estates so situated as to command an inAuence in a decayed or depopulated borough, and to have the power of returning two members to parliament, sold for more money than they would have done if situated in any other place, however luxuriant the soil might be, however productive its harvests? Unless, indeed, its harvests could occasionally produce a couple of members, its intrinsic value was less. There were many reasons why men might be induced to surrender this franchise. In some instances, where the right of returning members was attached to the possession of an estate, and where it might be considered as an inheritance, giving to the possessor the power of doing so much good to his country, he might warrantably and honourably accept of a valuable consideration, since by the use of the equivalent, he might be equally serviceable to the community. In some instances, persons enjoyed the franchise in consequence of a life-right; and enjoying it only for their lives, interest would naturally induce them to accept of a consideration; others enjoyed it by a still more temporary tenure, merely by the circumstance of local residence; and to them, therefore, it must be an opportunity which they would covet to embrace. Seeing the matter, therefore, in these points of view, he had no doubt, in his own mind, but that the boroughs to which he alluded would voluntarily surrender their franchise to parliament on such consideration being given. He should propose that the fund to be established should be divided into two parts, and that it should be stipulated that a larger sum should be given for perpetuities than for temporary rights. He had stated before, that this operation would not be immediate, at least to the full extent: for he had reason to believe that it would neither be slow nor distant,
The second part of his plan was to provide, that, after the full and final operation of the first proposition, that is, after the extinction of thirty-six boroughs, and the transfer of their members to the county representation, if there still should remain any borough so small and so decayed as to fall within the size to be fixed on by parliament, such borough should have in its power to surrender its franchise on an adequate consideration, and that the right of sending the members to parliament should be transferred to such populous and flourishing towns as might desire to enjoy the right; and that this rule should remain good, and operate in all future time, and be applied to such boroughs as, in the fluctu