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The Letters of Junius

Letter XXII: To the printer of the Public Advertiser. September 4, 1769.

[80] ARGUMENT against FACT; or, a new system of Political Logic, by which the Ministry have demonstrated, to the Satisfaction of their Friends, that Expulsion alone creates a complete Incapacity to be re-elected; alias, That a Subject of this Realm may be robbed of his common right, by a Vote of the House of Commons.

FIRST FACT. — Mr. Wollaston, in 1698, was expelled, re-elected, and admitted to take his seat.

ARGUMENT. — As this cannot conveniently be reconciled with our general proposition, it may be necessary to shift our ground, and look back to the cause of Mr. Wollaston's expulsion. From thence it will appear clearly, that, "although he was expelled, he had not rendered himself a culprit, too ignominious to sit in parliament; and that, having resigned his employment, he was no longer incapacitated by law." Vide Serious Considerations, page 23. Or thus : "The House, somewhat inaccurately, used the word EXPELLED; they should have called it a MOTION." Vide Mungo's Case considered, page 11. Or, in short, if these arguments should be thought insufficient, we may fairly deny the fact. For example: "I affirm that he was not re-elected. The same Mr. Wollaston, who was expelled, was not again elected. The same individual, if you please, walked into the House, and took his seat there; but the same person, in law, was not admitted a member of that parliament, from which he had been discarded."

SECOND FACT. — Mr. Walpole, having been committed to the Tower, and expelled, for a high breach of trust, and notorious corruption in a public office, was declared incapable.

ARGUMENT. — From the terms of this vote, nothing can be more evident, than that the House of Commons meant to fix the incapacity upon the punishment, and not upon the crime; but, lest it should appear in a different light to weak, uninformed persons, it may be advisable to gut the resolution, and give it to the public, with all possible [81] solemnity, in the following terms, viz. "Resolved, That Robert Walpole, Esq. having been that session of parliament expelled the House, was, and is incapable of being elected a member to serve in that present parliament." Vide Mungo, on the Use of Quotations, page 11.

N. B. The author to the answer to Sir William Meredith seems to have made use of Mungo's quotation : for, in page 18, he assures us, "That the declaratory vote of the 17th of February, 1769, was, indeed, a literal copy of the resolution of the House in Mr. Walpole's case."

THIRD FACT. —His opponent, Mr. Taylor, having the smallest number of votes, at the next election, was declared NOT DULY ELCTED.

ARGUMENT. — This fact we consider as directly in point, to prove, that Mr. Luttrell ought to be the sitting member, for the following reasons: "The burgesses of Lynn could draw no other inference from this resolution, but this, that, at a future election, and in case of a similar return, the House would receive the same candidate as duly elected, whom they had before rejected." Vide Postscript to Junius, page 37. Or thus: "This, their resolution, leaves no room to doubt what part they would have taken, if, upon a subsequent re-election of Mr. Walpole, there had been any other candidate in competition with him: for by their vote, they could have no other intention, than to admit such other candidate." Vide Mungo's Case considered, page 39. Or, take it in this light. The burgesses of Lynn having, in defiance of the House, retorted upon them a person whom they had branded with the most ignominious marks of their displeasure, were thereby so well entitled to favour and indulgence, that the House could do no less than rob Mr. Taylor of a right legally vested in him, in order that the burgesses might be apprised of the law of parliament; which law, the House took a very direct way of explaining to them, by resolving that the candidate, with the fewest votes, was not duly elected: " And was not this much more equitable, more in the spirit of that equal and substantial justice, which is the end of all law, than if they had violently adhered to the strict maxims of law?" Vide Serious Considerations, page 33 and 34. " And, if the present House of Commons had chosen to follow the spirit of this resolution, they [82] would have received and established the candidate with fewest votes." Vide Answer to Sir W. M. page 18.

Permit me now, Sir, to shew you, that the worthy Dr. Blackstone sometimes contradicts the Ministry, as well as himself. The speech, without doors, asserts, page 9th, "That the legal effect of an incapacity, founded on a judicial determination of a complete court, is precisely the same as that of an incapacity created by an act of parliament." Now for the Doctor. The law, and the opinion of the judge are not always convertible terms, or one and the same thing; since it sometimes may happen, that the judge may mistake the law. Commentaries, vol. i. p. 71.

The answer to Sir W. M. asserts, page 23, "that the returning officer is not a judicial, but a purely ministerial officer. His return is no judicial act." At 'em again, Doctor. "The sheriff, in his judicial capacity, is to hear and determine causes of forty shillings value, and under, in his county court. He has also a judicial power in divers other civil cases. He is likewise to decide the elections of knights of the shire (subject to the control of the House of Commons) to judge of the qualification of voters, and to return such as he shall DETERMINE to be duly elected. Vide Commentaries, vol. i. p. 332,

What conclusion shall we draw from such facts, and such arguments, such contradictions? I cannot express my opinion of the present Ministry more exactly than in the words of Sir Richard Steele, "That we are governed by a set of drivellers, whose folly takes away all dignity from distress, and makes even calamity ridiculous."

Philo Junius


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