The Age of George III

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Take Your Choice

by Major John Cartwright, 1776

I have changed the 'long S' to a modern 's' throughout this document; all other spellings are as they appear in the book. Some are indicated with [sic] but most are not. I have marked the note references with an asterisk and put the notes at the bottom of each page of the original text. The original page numbers precede the text of the relevant page and are indicated in square brackets. I did proof read the text but can't swear to having picked up all the gremlins. If you spot any howlers of spelling/transcript errors, please do let me know.

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Title Page


The wisest men and most accomplished writers have endeavoured to bespeak the indulgence of the public by prefaces. A proportionable diffidence in the author of the following sheets, would wholly consign them to oblivion, was not that sentiment over-ruled by a sense of duty, which tells him that he ought to risk every thing, except the reproaches of his own heart, in order to serve his country. He believes, that he hath pointed out some essential considerations in the question here discussed, which have hitherto been overlooked; and that his fellow citizens have been with-held from exerting themselves, in pursuit of the important object of it, through a persuasion that insuperable difficulties lay in the way. He can assure them that no such difficulties exist. They have none to contend with, but the selfishness and injustice of a set of individuals amongst themselves who make only a three thousandth part of their own number. If this shall prove an insuperable difficulty, [vi] he shall cease to pride himself in being a Briton. That the salvation of the ruin of his country, depends upon the right or wrong opinion and conduct of the commons, with regard to this one subject, he thinks will be apparent to every reflecting man who shall thoroughly consider it. In this discussion, he does not expect that he shall please either of our two grand national parties; because he flatters neither. His best hopes, indeed, are from the whigs; because their creed, would they but be true to it, is the creed of free men: but if Tories and Papists will, in earnest, set about repairing the constitution, he will embrace them, and be of their party. He will, probably, be called an enthusiast. He shall not however be shocked at such an appellation; because he believes that no man, in these days, can labour for the benefit of mankind upon disinterested principles, without being reckoned an enthusiast; — perhaps a Quixote. He will not, however, be called a slave. Neither shall any one say that he is the friend of tyrants. By some, he may perhaps be charged with want of respect, when he speaks of the [vii] House of Commons. To them he answers; that, towards the constitutional part of that house, no man living bears higher respect than himself. He esteems it, he venerates, he reveres it. In his estimation, there is more honour and dignity in sitting there as the real representative of two or three thousand free men, and the immediate guardians of public liberty; than having place amongst nobles, or being seated on an hereditary throne itself. But, if there be any part of that house which is not constitutional, he scruples not to acknowledge, that it moves, and ever will move, his indignation and contempt, and excite his abhorrence. And he knows of no obligation which a Briton is under, not to expose and condemn any thing whatever in the legislature of his country, which is a palpable departure from the constitution, and threatening to public freedom. With regard to the House of Commons, he would sacrifice a great deal, to be able to prove his own words a libel. He pretends not to write to philosophers and men of letters, so much as to his fellow citizens at large. For the former, the abstract elements of parliamentary science [viii] would be sufficient; and might be contained in three pages. But a more argumentative and explanatory manner, a plainer and indeed a coarser language is necessary for the unrefined, though sensible, bulk of the people. 'Tis them he wishes to inform, to move, to direct, towards the security of their liberties; which he apprehends to be in danger. Let his work, then, be considered in that light; and, if esteemed a necessary one which better writers have neglected, let it be read with candour, and meet with the indulgence due to an useful, though inelegant performance.


Having proposed to urge upon you, my countrymen! a reformation, both as to the length, and as to the constituting of your parliaments; it seems but proper, previously to state some of the inconveniencies and evils, which I apprehend to be the necessary consequences of, and inseparable from, our present rotten parliamentary system.

All men will grant, that the lower house of parliament is elected by only a handful of the commons, instead of the whole; and this, chiefly by bribery and undue influence. Men who will employ such means are villains; and those who dupe their constituents by lying promises, are far from honest men. An assembly of such men is founded on iniquity: consequently, the fountain of legislation is poisoned. Every stream, how much soever mixed, as it flows with justice and patriotism, will still have poison in its composition.

Nor will it be denied me, that, in consequence of the long duration of a parliament, the members, as soon as seated, feel themselves too independent on the opinion and good will of their constituents, even where their suffrages have not been extorted nor bought; and that, of course, they despise them.

From the first of these data, it will follow, that we are subject to have the House of [x] Commons filled by men of every bad description that can be thought of, and that strict integrity, which ought to be the strongest of all recommendations, amounts to a positive exclusion; except it happen indeed to be united with a capital fortune and great county connections.

From the first and second jointly; our representatives, who are in fact our deputed servants, are taught to assume the carriage and haughtiness of despotic masters; to think themselves unaccountable for their conduct; and to neglect their duty.

Whether, indeed, the house of commons be in a great measure filled with idle school-boys, insignificant coxcombs, led-captains and toad-eaters, profligates, gamblers, bankrupts, beggars, contractors, commissaries, public plunderers, ministerial dependants, hirelings, and wretches, that would sell their country, or deny their God for a guinea, let every one judge for himself. And whether the kind of business very often brought before the house, and the usual manner of conduction it, do not bespeak this to be the case; I likewise leave every man to form his own opinion: particularly that independent and noble-minded few, who experience the constant mortification of voting and speaking without even a hope of being able thereby to serve their country.

[xi] But without insisting on these things as fact, and only admitting the possibility of them from the combined causes already assigned, of long parliaments, undue influence and bribery, it is natural to expect, as indeed all experience shews it must happen, that a country, whose affairs are subject to fall into such hands must be ruined, sooner or later, by those very men who shall be in the office of its guardians and preservers; except it shall make an alteration in this particular.

And accordingly, we find our own country in a condition which shews that its affairs have long been in such hands. It has passed through all the stages of abuse, and is at length arrived at a precipice tremendous to look from. The current of corruption is smooth and flattering; and it meanders for a while through scenes not unpleasant to the careless passengers: but it is deceitful, and sure to terminate in a Niagarian fall; and to wash its navigators headlong in to the abyss of slavery and wretchedness, unless they take warning in time and will manfully exert themselves. Our giddy vessel of state is swiftly gliding down this current; and, by the velocity with which the passing shores of our fair provinces fly from our wondering eyes and are lost to sight, we may know that we are in the dreadful vortex, and we may hear the very roaring of the cataract. But yet, we need not perish, except by the character of our [xii] nation hath forsaken us. The English sailor, whether naval or political, is imprudent and thoughtless enough, God knows; but when dangers surround him, or an enemy comes in sight, he shews that he is neither a coward nor a lubber; he knows how to deal with either of them. We should, on this occasion do no more than right, were we to begin our work with putting the law of Oleron in execution, by throwing overboard our besotted pilots: but but that I think, there will be more magnanimity in suffering even those wretches to share in the general preservation.

But, dropping these metaphors, let us proceed with the proposed detail of the most material public inconveniencies and evils which may be attributed to the usage of long parliaments.

  1. The kingdom, under long (and always meaning corrupt) parliaments, hath been proverbial for making war without wisdom , and peace without policy. and yet, one of the pretences against annual parliaments hath been that they would occasion such ministerial instability and incertitude of national councils, that foreign powers would not confide in your treaties nor alliances. But this, so far as we have any business with the argument, is diametrically opposite to the truth. annual parliaments will always adhere to the true interests of the nation; and upon all [xiii] alliances formed upon that basis, foreigners would most assuredly rely, sooner than upon the faith of kings. But annual parliaments would not, it is true, suffer ministers to negociate away the blood and treasure of this kingdom, in order to flatter the weaknesses or partialities of the prince; nor to gratify their own avarice or ambition. Such parliaments would, moreover, give stability and permanency to administrations; by extinguishing party and faction, and leaving a minister of state nothing to do but to attend to the duties of his office and the preparing of plans for the public good. He would not longer have the greatest part of his time taken up in forming and conduction one faction, and opposing the rest; nor would his station then have those charms for an unprincipled man which it has at present. It would only be desirable to men of a generous ambition for serving their country by their personal labours, and who could content themselves with no more power than should be consistent with the liberties of their fellow citizens. Such men would be too estimable in the opinion of the public, and consequently in the judgment of an annual parliament, ever to be disturbed with an ill-intended opposition to their wise and honest measure. Opposition, from which alone we find protection against tyranny in the present corrupt state of things, is in itself an evil: but one that would [xiv] vanish together with long parliaments; for to them it owes its being, and with them must die. An annual parliament properly chosen, would not be composed of two or three contending factions, each aiming at power by the overthrow of its rivals; but would be in fact, as in theory it is called, a national council. The opinion of every individual (making some allowances for oratory) would have its weight, in proportion to its solidity: and it would be the desire of a very great majority of the members to assist the minister in perfecting his plans of government by sage advice; not to oppose nor to support, right or wrong, according to pay or party.
  2. It has been owing to the constant sacrifices which have been made of the national interests to the separate interests of the court, that so many continental connections and subsidiary engagements have been formed by our ministers under the sanction of long parliaments. Besides the lavish waste of money which have been occasioned, the demands upon us for troops, have brought us to imagine a very considerable army necessary to us. Hence in a great measure it is, that our military establishment is so large, and so kept up, as to be but half a step from a standing army in the worst sense of those words.

  3. And it has been in order to answer ministerial, not national purposes, that an army has been kept in our colonies during [xv] peace. So far from their being for the protection of the colonies against the irruptions of the savages, the troops never were seen upon the borders; but were quartered in the chief towns along the sea coast, for the tyrannical purpose of keeping the people in awe.
  4. Our country, fertile as it is by nature, enriched by commerce, and inhabited by a people characteristically active and industrious, is nevertheless mortgaged like the estate of a prodigal. We groan under the burthen of an enormous debt; no less than 137 millions sterling; while our ministers are still going on in the ways of waste and profusion. This debt is not only a grievous evil in itself; but it is a fruitful parent of other evils. Amongst the most considerable, are its making so many people creatures of the crown, by being dependent for a livelihood on the manifold arrangements respecting our funds. Hereby a very powerful and united party is formed against every reformation in finance. Money'd property in the funds also converts whole herds of men into drones, who contribute nothing towards the public stock; but, on the contrary, are a dead weight on the industry of the nation.

  5. Under annual parliaments (always supposing them to have contained a full representation of the commons) these evils would not have been known: or if any temporary [xvi] debt had been unavoidably contracted, it would as certainly have been speedily discharged. The nation would consequently be in no danger of bankruptcy from any untoward event, as it is at present; and would have been at all times ready to repel the attacks of its enemies. But the feelings of the great bulk of the nation, are not the same with the feelings of long parliaments founded in corruption; nor will the language of such parliaments to their prince, ever express the sense of the people.
  6. Are not our sanguinary statues, by which we year by year spill rivers of blood, a reproach to the political knowledge, to the humanity, to the religion of our island? And are not our prisons and our treatment of prisoners shocking and foolish?
  7. Are we not suffering from the distress and idleness of the poor, and from a visible depopulation; and do we not leave millions of acres uncultivated?
  8. Is not the metropolis and the whole kingdom over-run with vagrants and beggars, notwithstanding our astonishing provisions against want?
  9. Is not every city, town and village, crowded with alehouses, those hotbeds of idleness and vice? And are not gaming and adultery, amongst the higher ranks of the people, become such enormities in a civilized [xvii] community, as to cry aloud for the attention of the legislature?*
  10. Are we not alienating the affections of the people from the crown by injuries and insults? Are we not grieving and provoking peaceable subjects, and thereby nourishing sects and schisms by adhering to their detriment to trifles and to nonsense in church government; instead of sacrificing them to good sense and charity, and forming a new pale for our church on the foundations of reason and truth?
But when will any national evil every be taken into consideration, and corrected by the spontaneous act of a long parliament? Men who are too ignorant to legislate for a tavern club, or who are voluptuaries and debauchees, or whose whole thought are engrossed by the loaves and fishes, are they
*When I had fed them to the full, they then committed adultery, and assembled themselves by troops in the harlots houses. They were as fed horses in the morning; everyone neighed after his neighbour's wife. Shall I not visit for these things? saith the Lord: and shall not my soul be avenged on such a nation as this? Jeremiah, c. 5; which is entitled, The judgments of God upon the Jews for their manifold corruption. But we are Christians; and it hath moreover pleased the Lord, to raise up the Earl of Chesterfield (see his letter Dec. 3, 1763) in these our days, to declare it in the house of Jacob and publish it in Judah, that adultery (see several of his letters) and treason to our country, (see vol. II. let. 161) are amongst the virtues of a senator, and the proper pleasures of a man of fashion.

[xviii] to watch over the good of a great nation, to remark its deviations into political error, and to recal it by wise institutions? Is it not known by too melancholy an experience, that the proposer of any individual improvement, is first received with the coldness of a miser to a beggar or alms; and if his zeal for the public be too strong to be damped by such usage, that he is then opposed and baited in parliament as a mad enthusiast? Who can tell me of any the least improvement in our laws and policy that hath been made of late years by long parliaments, which has not been the sole effect of some very spirited exertion in individuals favoured by the circumstances of the day, and backed by some pressing and urgent evil which could no longer be endured? What sort of an idea does this give one of a national council? 10, 100, 1000, 10,000. But to recite, one by one the evils proceeding from long parliaments, would require volumes. And it is to be noted that there is not a public evil existing, which would have been prevented or would now be remedied by an annual, that ought not to be placed to the account of a long parliament. The reader, if he wishes to go deep into that enquiry, will do well to peruse the political disquisitions of the late Mr. Burgh. I will only further say in general, that, to the extreme venality of the boroughs and the prostitution in parliament, to the barefaced [xix] pillage of the public treasure practised by ministers, and their preferring men without the smallest regard to decency in point of character, are originally owing without doubt, that sordid devotion to avarice which hath generally infected the people from the highest to the lowest, and that almost universal insensibility to the public good which accompanies it. Instead of counteracting the natural ill effects of luxury proceeding from wealth and prosperity, and giving it a beneficial turn by wise and humane laws; it has been the business of government (which "in almost every age and country", says Burgh, "has been the principal grievance of the people") to debauch and corrupt the manners and morals of the people by every possible invention; in order to remove every obstacle in the way to absolute power. It beats up and bids high for volunteers in iniquity. The greater felons, who are ready at its command to destroy their country, are caressed and rewarded: but little ones, indeed, who take a purse or steal a sheep, are hanged without remorse, for not being proof against example and temptation. Is not everyman taught to sell himself, his honour, his conscience, his soul, for a price! And is not he who hath a scruple, the butt of ministerial ridicule! We should justly esteem that mariner mad, who, in order to carry a leaky ship to the end of a long voyage, should be continually boring [xx] fresh holes in her bottom. Is there less madness in corrupting the parliament, in order to carry on the business of government? He who knows no better mode of governing than that is fit to govern no where but in the infernal regions.

This has been more or less the condition of our government ever since we have had long parliaments. "We see the same corrupt or impolitic proceedings going on in the administration of a Harley, a Walpole, a Pelham, a Pitt, a Bute,a Grafton, a North; and we see every parliament implicitly obeying the orders of the minister. Some ministers we see more criminal, others less; some parliament more slavish, others less; but we see all ministers and all parliaments, the present always excepted, guilty; inexcusably guilty, in suffering the continual and increasing prevalency of corruption, from ministry to ministry, and from parliament to parliament."* But there never has been a time when these descriptions were so applicable as they are at present. Are not men of the most blasted characters the confidential servants of the crown? Are not the scales of council weighted down with ministerial ayes and noes instead of solid and weighty arguments; and is not all parliamentary debate become a mockery? Have not millions of your unoffending brethren in America

*Pol. Disq. vol III. p. 452.

been devoted by mercenary majorities to slavery or to slaughter? Is not your commerce put to the hazard on a cast, whether or not it shall be ruined? And are you not inviting an unequal war; all to no one end or purpose, but because two or three desperate ideots will have it so, rather than abandon the vicious schemes of ambition they had once formed? Have not defaulters of millions upon millions constantly escaped parliamentary vengeance! And fields who have fattened on the famine and butchery of the inoffensive Asiatics, are they not amongst your legislators, respected and honoured! — What national depravity, what extremes of wickedness, and what public calamities must we not experience, while the fountain of legislation and the springs of government are so impure! —

So ruinous a system needs must, in its progress, grow worse and worse. The chariot of corruption, (if I may be allowed an new metaphor) under the guidance of rotten whigs would soon enough have arrived; without the whip, at the goal of despotism: but now, that furious tories have seized the reins, 'tis lashed onward with impetuous haste; nor do they seem sensible to their danger, though its axles are already on fire with its rapidity. The ministers of the present reign have daringly struck at your most sacred rights, have aimed through the sides [xxii] of America a deadly blow at the life of your constitution, and have shewn themselves hostile, not only to the being, but to the very name of liberty. The word itself has been proscribed the court; and for any one who dared to upper it, the gentlest appellations have been Wilkite, republican and disturber of the peace. Facts recent in every one's memory I have no need to repeat. I will only therefore just mention the atrocious violation of the first principle of the constitution in the never-to-be forgotten business of the Middlesex election. An enumeration of all their crimes would shew them to be deserving of the highest punishments. And yet, the sum of all the evils they have brought upon us, added to all those which former ministers had intailed upon the nation, are light and trivial in comparison of the ONE GREAT EVIL OF A LONG PARLIAMENT. Feast the fowls of the air with such ministers, but leave your legislature unreformed; and you will add a few inglorious days to the period of your expiring liberties. succeeding ministers might be more circumspect; but, with the aid of a prostitute parliament, they would at length succeed. "Could we have had every one of our corrupt ministers impeached, and even convicted, would a corrupt parliament filled with their obsequious tools, have punished them? If we did nothing [xxiii] toward a radical cure of grievances, and obliging the succeeding to be honester than the foregoing; what should we have gained by such prosecutions? The greatest part of the Roman emperors was massacred, and so are many of Asiatic and African tyrants,, But did the Romans or do the Turks, and the people of Algiers, gain any additional liberty by the punishment of their oppressors? We know that they did not. Nor shall we by clamouring, nor even by punishing; any more than we stop robbing on the highway by hanging, unless we put it out of the power of ministers to go on abusing us and trampling upon our liberties; and this can only be done by restoring independency to parliament."* It is downright quixotism to imagine, that so long as your parliament remains corrupt, you can ever have a patriot minister: and, except parliament be reformed, 'tis a matter of very great indifference who are in and who are out. I will not utterly deny the possibility of your having a patriot minister prior to a parliamentary reformation, bur I do not myself conceive how such a man is to arrive at such a station. One of that stamp could not go through thick and thin, and wade through all the miry paths that lead to it: nor have I any great expectation of a miraculous conversion of any one, who hath once passed through those ways to

*Pol Disq. vol. III. p. 452.

[xxiv] the seat of power. Neither do I see the prudence of waiting for so rare a phenomenon as a patriot minister, to do that for you which you can do for yourselves; and thereby put things in such a state, that a patriot minister will no longer be a phenomenon, but a natural and common appearance.

The revolution which expelled the tyrant James from the throne, glorious as it was to the character, and essential to the safety of this nation, was yet a very defective proceeding. It was effected in too anxious a moment, and in too precipitate a manner, to lay a lasting foundation for the security of public freedom and prosperity. William the deliverer was but half the friend to liberty which he pretended to be. Had he been a truly patriot prince, his share in the expulsion of a tyrant would have been his smallest merit; and he would have embraced the opportunity afforded him by his own success and the tide of reformation being set in, to have guarded the constitution against every conceivable danger towards which it had any tendency to be exposed in process of time. when the immortal and blessed Alfred had overthrown the oppressors of his country, he thought the work of a king only begun; and devoted the rest of his reign to the correction abuses, the establishing of justice, and laying the broad foundations of liberty and [xxv] happiness.*

* "It is delivered down to us as a proof of the good government of king Alfred; that a maiden bearing a purse of money in her hand might in his reign have gone from one end of the kingdom to the other, without fear of violence either to her person or property. How is it with us? Can a man almost sleep in his bed within the walls of our metropolis; &c." Further Examination, p. 142.

But history shews William to have been a cold-hearted Dutchman, ungrateful to a people who had given him a crown, and more fond of power than of squaring his government with the principles of the constitution and this was one of the best of our kings. Then put not your trust in princes: neither have confidence in ministers! Whether they covet inordinate power for its own sake, or for the sake of lucre, they will have it if possible. and when one lusts for gold, the other for dominion, they will be reciprocally the pimps to each others passion. The prince will invade the people's property, in order to enrich his minister; the minister will violate their liberties, in order to render his master absolute. For one Alfred, there are a thousand Charles's, for one Falkland, a thousand Walpoles. Trust not, I say in princes nor in ministers; but trust in YOURSELVES, and in representatives chosen by YOURSELVES alone!



THE human species form an intermediate class, between the angelick and irrational orders of existence. They are intended for a sphere of action and a degree of happiness, in a future state, of which their present faculties can give then no accurate conception: but these only on condition of their having acted virtuously in this life; which their Creator has told them is no more than a state of probation. The first, and great end, then, of their existence, is by the study of wisdom and practice of virtue, to be constantly approximating towards moral perfection; in order to the attainment of that future exaltation and happiness: and the next material, and indeed only remaining point, is, to render themselves, individually and collectively, as happy as possible during their term or mortality [2] to which they are also invited by the whole law of nature and religion. They have, therefore, necessarily been created FREE. Were it otherwise, neither virtue nor vice, right nor wrong, could be ascribed to their actions; and to talk of happiness, would be to talk nonsense.

Hence, they are doubtless under an eternal obligation to preserve their freedom to the utmost of their power: because, by parting with it, in any degree more or less, they so far deprive themselves of the means of doing their duty, and of performing those actions which the laws of virtue may require of them; and because, they will thereby make themselves, and frequently their posterity, subservient also to the wicked designs of those, to whose power they have submitted. That people, who have suffered their prince to become a tyrant over themselves, soon find themselves employed as the instruments of his lawless will, in extending the limits of tyranny, and spreading devastation amongst their fellow creatures. How base and degrading is such a condition!

2. The all-wise creator hath likewise made men by nature EQUAL, as well as free. They are all of "one flesh," and cast in one mould. There are given to them the same senses, feelings and affections, to inform and to influence; the same passions to actuate; [3] the same reason to guide; the same moral principle to restrain; and the same free will to determine, all alike.

There are, therefore, no distinctions to be made amongst men, as just causes for the elevation of some above the rest, prior to mutual agreement, how much soever individual may be qualified for or deserve any elevation, he hath no right to it, till it be conferred upon him by his fellows there is perhaps, more occasion to advert to this distinction between desert of authority, and a right to authority, obvious as it is, than maybe commonly imagined. As all elevation depends upon common consent; so it may, consequently, whenever found inconsistent with the common good, be, by common consent, abolished.

Hence we find that it is liberty, not dominion, which is held by divine right. The prince as a man has, in common with other men, a divine right of being exempt from any unnecessary restraints; but, as a king, all his rights are derived from the common consent of the people, of whom he made, prior to his elevation, an individual only equal with the rest. His portion of the sovereign power of the state is greater by many degrees than any other man's; but still it is only a portion, and every man in the community is, in a smaller degree, a joint partaker with him in the sovereign power. If it be the possession of supreme power in states [4] which constitutes kings, then are a free people a nation of kings; for every man, where there is freedom, has a share in the supreme power.

3. An accidental superiority in muscular strength or personal accomplishments; that fineness of organization and harmony of physical causes from which proceed clearness of intellect, parts and genius; that cultivation of the mind which produces knowledge and wisdom; but, more especially, that rectitude of the heart which constitutes virtue; are all just causes of distinction in society; and have accordingly raised men in all ages and countries to an elevation above their fellow citizens, by common consent. and it is to be noted, that, in no age or country hath common consent ever elevated particular men above their fellows, for either their vices, of follies or infirmities;* or for any other reasons, but in order to promote the common good, or to express the public gratitude for good already received. But kings and ministers do often elevate those very men, who would be the last to whom their fellow citizens would shew such a preference.

4. In small communities only, suited to democratical government in its purity, have all

* The superstitious and gross prejudices of idolatrous and barbarous nations, may have led them into such absurdities: but that, it is presumed, will not form any solid objection to the justness of this remark.

[5] distinctions been made in favour of merit; and in such alone hath it, therefore, been ever possible for the elevation of particular persons above the rest, to operate, in its full effect for the common weal.

5. But, in larger communities, where this pure democratical or republican form of government cannot be carried into practice, it hath been found expedient to make artificial, as well as natural distinctions amongst men; and even to agree upon hereditary elevations. And, notwithstanding there is herein a departure from strict natural justice; and that, by such means, hereditary virtue is so far from being insured, that such an elevation increases the difficulties of being virtuous, in those who are born to it; yet, these artificial and hereditary elevations have, nevertheless, under judicious regulations, been found by experience, to answer very great and good purposes to large states. The nature of the case, however, makes it apparent, that the powers annexed to all such elevations, which are altogether as we have observed an infringement on rigid justice, ought to be circumscribed by very clear and impassable limitations, and ultimately to depend on the will of the people; who whose benefit and security these elevations have been, or ought to have been contrived. Nay, so far as we have either right or authority to pronounce, the great rule and end of every divine institution which concerns mankind, has [6] been for the benefit of the species at large; and not the elevation of particular persons. There have been men, however, even Englishmen, who have written books, in order to prove that persons neither wiser nor better, but oftentimes more worthless and despicable than other men, have been elevated for their own sakes; and that drivelers and scoundrels have had a divine right to be the guardians, the guides and lawgivers of mankind. I am myself inclined to believe that the Deity is no respecter of persons. It being a fundamental maxim of the English constitution, that the title and authority of a king depends upon common consent, or the will of the people; it will, I conceive, necessarily follow that all inferior titles and authority, which flow from, and are as it were included in, the regal office, must lie under the same predicament and indeed we have frequently asserted this doctrine by acts of attainder; whereby peerages with all their privileges have been abolished. Not to mention that, with regard to Roman catholics, this power of the people, though mitigated, is constantly in a state of exertion. Though not divested of their titles, they are deprived of their parliamentary authority and privileges. Seeing, then, that all elevations depend on the will of the people, and that common consent never causes unnecessary elevations, nor elevates unworthy objects; we may see how much it is the duty of a king, to [7] whom this important power is delegated, to consult, in all the elevations he makes, the good and the pleasure of the people alone. Should he raise men by wholesale to the house of peers, for no other cause than their servility to the court while in the house of commons, he would doubless [sic] betray his trust; and it would be high time to form an impassable limitation, beyond which the number of the peers should never extend. A more numerous peerage than should give respect and dignity to that order of men, than should form a well proportioned council of state and court of judicature, and constitute a due balancing power between the kind and the commons, should never be exceeded. An excess must necessarily operate against the good of the public.

6. When we reflect upon the nature of those artificial and hereditary elevations which obtain in the complicated frames of mixed governments like our own, and duly consider their usual causes, and their attendant circumstances; together with their too common effects upon the frailty of human nature, when, I say, we thus deeply reflect, it becomes apparent to reason, and it is abundantly proved by experience, that it is utterly unsafe for the commons of any community, to intrust in the hands of the few who are thus set apart by heredity, or detached in any degree from the common interest by artificial, elevations, any [8] of those powers on which more immediately depend the preservation of their liberties. Among these, the powers of the purse have the first place. So sure as the few shall ever obtain the power of taxing, at their discretion, the many; so sure will the latter by in a state of servitude. It is therefore, on the soundest principles of wisdom, that the commons of this kingdom are scrupulously tenacious of the power of the public purse; and exercise the exclusive right of originating, and wholly modelling, every parliamentary act with shall operate in the nature of a tax. When they shall cease to do this, they will cease to be free.

7. The legislative power of our constitution have been intrusted in the hands of a king, nobles, and a limited number of delegates, to be nominated by, and to represent the commons; or that part of the people which remains, after the king and the nobles have been set apart.* Pains have also been taken

* The neglect of this necessary distinction has in various excellent writers, occasioned obscurity. And others have purposely neglected it, in order to confound. "It is not;" says a most elegant an honest writer, "the three estates, but those whom the people elect, who represent them." Here, he doubtless should have said commons. Appeal to the justice and interests of the people of Great Britain in the present disputes with America. "In a free state, every man, who is supposed a free agent, ought to be, in some measure, his own governor; and therefore a branch at least of the legislative power should [9] reside in the whole body of the people." Here again it would have been commons. Black. Com. Vol. I. p. 158.

"Surely the nation might have expelled Mr. Wilkes, or have struck his name out of the list of committee, had it been assembled, and had it thought proper so to do. What then should hinder the deputies of the nation from dong the same thing?" Here nation is synonymous with people. It is first used properly, and afterwards it artfully calls the commons by the same name. The house of commons are not the deputies of the nation or people, but the deputies of the commons only. Tucker's Tracts, p. 172.

[9] to effect a due poize of the several members of this legislative body, and to define the distinct duties and privileges of each; so that both its separate movements, and its joint operations shall be such, as best to bring about those ends for which it was instituted: namely, the security, prosperity and happiness of the whole.

8. It is confessed by foreigners and boasted by Englishmen, that our constitution of government is the best that hath ever yet been framed by human wisdom. Most of the causes which contribute towards this very superior excellence, are obvious to but slight observers: but, if I mistake not, there is one particular cause, perceived only by the more contemplative, to which it is owing in a pre-eminent degree. I mean that perfect harmony and correspondence which our constitution of government, in its genuine spirit and purity, holds with the great constitution of moral government, called the law of [10] nature. The excellence of our common law cannot be more strongly expressed, than by its well-known definition, of being "the perfection of human reason. The constitution is a frame of government co-eval with, erected upon, and regulated by, the spirit of the common law of England. It may consequently be defined to be a government agreeable to the perfection of human reason." The uncertainty of our common law is, notwithstanding the ludicrous use often made of those wards, truly glorious. Departing from former precedents and decisions which are any way defective, in order to come nearer and nearer to the perfection of human reason, its determinations continue to vary and to refine, as experience and wisdom dictate. When the perfection of reason, on any point, is once attained; then, and not till then, is our law unalterable.* And until the like perfection, on any point respecting the frame of our government, be arrived at, the like glorious uncertainly belongs to the English constitution. But this uncertainty in the constitution we have no reason to be alarmed at; because it can only operate to its improvement, as the other does to the amendment of the laws. Nay, it is the duty of our

* An alteration must be for the worse and therefore wrong: and it is absurd to suppose that any legislature can have a right to do wrong.

[11] legislators to declare and to vindicate this uncertainty, and, from time to time, to amend by it our frame of government; which, tho' "agreeable to the perfection of human reason," is but, as yet, in a state of approximation towards that absolute ideal perfection we very properly attribute to it.* This, I say, is the duty of our legislators, as much as it is the duty of our judges to depart from all defective precedents in law decisions, and to establish new ones in their room, more agreeable to truth and right treason. And this improvement of the constitution ought at all times to be made were it only suggested by reason, and not by inconveniences and miseries already felt. A dog, a horse, or an ass will grow wise by experience, and learn to shun what has injured him. And, if, instead of making improvements, any gross abuses, or a perversion of the clearest principles of the constitution were to be practised by these legislators, to the detriment of the people, it would be a language far too mild and forbearing to say only that they neglected their duty. But, should we ever observe them, sedulously to seek out all those points on which no constitutional doctrine had yet been enacted into positive law, than there to make their attacks;

* Kingstone cause: in which has been over-ruled a defective mode of administering justice, that had been practised 1475 years.

[12] in order to destroy the constitution itself, and in its stead to render themselves the arbiters of our lives and liberties, would it not be time to act a little for ourselves, instead of continuing wholly to confide in such treacherous agents? We ought at least to act the part of a distrustful master; by requiring them, on the points in question, to make the written law speak the true language of the constitution: and this we ought to do in such a tome, as to convince them that we meant to have our commands punctually obeyed.

9. Whenever we may think such a conduct necessary, and shall seriously take up the matter, these versatile gentlemen will affect to applaud the rectitude of our intentions; but at the same time, they will not be wanting in their kind endeavours, to shew us that we are ignorant of the subject, and have misjudged the measures proper for the occasion. They will, with all imaginary dexterity, shift off, if possible, all suspicion of blame from themselves; and, by an inundation of words to overwhelm the truth, and by the subtilest arts to warp the judgment, they will hope to satisfy us that the gross corruption and misgovernment we have complained of, were mere creatures of the imagination. whatever may happen to be too glaring to be hid by any veil, and they shall condescendingly acknowledge to be wrong in itself, they will take especial care to justify, [13] or at least to extenuate, by a necessity arising from the licentiousness of the people: and, as far as they shall dare, they will insinuate that the cure of this licentiousness, and consequently of the evils complained of, would be, to arm the crown or themselves with greater and more summary powers. If all these admirable arguments should fail them, they would then be seized with sad apprehensions and horrors at the thoughts of innovations. Every intended improvement of the constitution, and even the restoration of any former salutary practices, would all be, in their artful language, dangerous innovations; and there would be no end of their declamation. Happily for us they have no prescriptive title to infallibility; and therefore they cannot, like his Holiness, absolutely forbid us the use of our reason in matter of government. They will, however, on such an occasion, like all other benevolent impostors their predecessors, do all they can to work on the prejudices of the people, or rather the commons; and to persuade them that things are mighty safe if they would but think so; but that, should they unwisely either remove, or restrict, such faithful and able servants, their affairs must all go to wreck and ruin.

10. Here, I confess, I am afraid of their abilities, and that their arts will meet with too much success. Let the friends of freedom, then, guard against their artifices, and take [14] care to blunt those weapons with which it is know they will attempt to wound still deeper their bleeding country. With this view, our fellow citizens should be perpetually warned on this delicate point; and taught how to distinguish between what are, and what are not innovations; as well as between innovations which may be dangerous, and innovations which might be eligible. See Polit. Disq. vol. 3. p. 298, 303, 304.

11. Changes and alterations in government which should proceed from caprice, fickleness, or a mere spirit of innovating, without any fixed standard or sure criterion, by which they were to be regulated and might be judged of, would deservedly be thought dangerous, and ought to be rejected as such: but, with a constitution of government 'agreeable to the perfection of human reason' for a standard and criterion, with political maxims the most established, with the clearest informations of common sense upon self-evident propositions, to justify any particular measures concerted for the purpose of obtaining a recovery from any political malady, and the avoiding of a relapse; we might then know, that however novel or unexperienced, such particular measures might be, yet that, so sanctioned, they and the innovations they introduced ought to be adopted: — if, indeed that could be [15] properly termed an innovation which naturally grew out of the circumstances of the case.

12. It is, however, extremely fortunate for us, that making our parliaments annual, and our representation equal, can neither of them in any sense, nor without a direct falsehood, by stiled innovations. Both of them were the antient practice of the constitution. But parliaments of a longer duration, and that partial representation of the commons we now experience, when first introduced by kingcraft and court policy, and through the supineness of the commons were innovations:— and innovations the more destructive, as they were not greatly suspected of danger. That supineness in the commons brought on a relaxation; and relaxation engendered those impurities which, at first, made only a slight and secret impression on the health of the constitution; then became perceptible and visibly impaired its strength and beauty; but at length, having reduced it to a rotten carcass. I trust, however, that it is not incurable. The body politic (I mean our own) thought, like the natural body it be subject to disease and to death, is yet essentially different from it in this respect;— that, as the body grows weaker and weaker from the successive attacks of disease, though ever so well cured; and, from its first formation is perpetually and inevitably tending towards decay, so on the contrary, the body politic, if but properly cured [16] of its successive diseases, is renovated each time to a degree of vigour more than pristine, acquiring as it were a continual accession of youth and health, and perpetually adding to its sources of life. Its natural tendency is consequently towards all the immortality which the duration of this world can afford it. It is not corporeal. It is not formed from the dust of the earth. It is purely intellectual; and its life-spring is truth. Truth and intellect are eternal. Perhaps the careless figurative repression of body politic, may have contributed very much to the unphilosophical language commonly used, with regard to the supposed certainty that every state, like a human body, must necessarily perish through infirmities and old age, which I deny. I grant that the best may die of its diseases; and that it is not proof against suicide: but I maintain that it is in its power to live and flourish to the end of time: whereas, health itself cannot preserve the natural body beyond the period of nature: it dies of mere time when no other disease ever touches it.

13. We may now proceed to observe that the whole legislative body, of king, lords, and representatives of the commons, is the full and compleat representative of the people: (§7.) and that our constitution of government, (supposing it labouring under no abuses) is, in its spirit and principle, a perfect institution; being 'agreeable to the [17] perfection of human reason', and to truth; having a natural tendency towards perpetuity and being rightly calculated to protect the liberty, property, peace and good name of every member of the community. By perfect, I do not mean that which it shall be impossible to pervert, that which fools cannot depart from, nor knaves abuse; and which shall be necessarily exclusive of evil. I believe we may venture to call the law of nature and providence, a perfect institution; and yet we see that it doth not exclude evil; nor necessitate men to be healthy, wise and virtuous. On the other hand, every tyranny hath been necessarily introductive of evil. And in all free governments which have not had the law of nature and the perfection of reason for their fundamentals, there have been causes necessarily introductive of evil, in proportion to their respective defects. And how little soever christianity may be considered as a civil institution, I cannot but regard it as absolutely necessary towards the constituting of a perfect political institution. It reveals some most important truths in morality, which the unaided laws of nature could never have made known to us; and it gives man a knowledge of himself, and a command over his passions, which half-seeing philosophy could never have taught him. Hence, the fates of all the free states and flourishing empires [18] of antient and former times, are not to be looked upon as infallible proofs that our own shall as assuredly perish in process of time; Besides, it hath fared the same with all defective religious, as well as civil establishments. The idolatry and polytheism of the Assyrians, the Medes, Persians, Greeks and Romans, all perished, as well as their respective empires and constitutions of government. Does it then follow that the religion of the English nation shall also perish. We know it shall not perish. It hath nature and truth for its foundation: those were built on error, and with nature had nothing to do.

14. I have dwelt thus long on the nature and excellence of the English constitution; in order to shew that it is worth all the regard and concern we can possibly feel for it. 'Tis the declared opinion of too many, that,'it is vain to attempt a restoration of it from its present corrupt, condition and to oppose its downfall;' that 'it is become ripe for absolute power and must submit; that 'the island must in time become a province to some new empire;' that 'this is the inevitable course of things, and therefore we had better give ourselves no farther trouble, but resign ourselves patiently to our fate.' I deny every word of this shameful language. It inculcates nothing but vice, folly and meanness. Let Englishmen entertain more manly and rational sentiments! Those effeminate and dastardly [19] notions would of themselves be sufficient to bring us into servitude: for they tell any one who should with to become our tyrant, that we will meet him half way, in order to receive his yoke upon our neck.

15. Having considered the full representation of the whole people, and the benefits to be derived from it; let us now contemplate the representation of the commons alone. The first and most natural idea which will occur to any unprejudiced man, is, that every individual of them, whether possessed of what is vulgarly called property, or not, ought to have a vote in sending to parliament those men who are to act as his representatives; and who in an especial manner, are to be the guardians of public freedom; in which, the poor, surely, as well as the rich have an interest. Although no one of the commons can be originally without a right to this privilege of a free man; yet, indeed, it may be justly forfeited by his offending against the laws.

16. Though a man should have neither lands nor gold, nor herds nor flocks; yet he may have parents and kindred, he may possess a wife and an offspring to be solicitous for. He hath also by birthright a property in the English constitution: which, if not unworthy of such a blessing, will be more dear to him than would be many acres of the soil without it. These are all great stakes to have at risk; and, we must have odd notions of [20] justice, if we do not allow, that they give him an undoubted right to share in the choice of those trustees, into whose keeping and protection they are to be committed. Is it not sufficient that the possessions of the ploughman and mechanick are so scanty as to afford them but a slender security against penury and want! Shall we add to the unkindness of fortune, the cruelty of oppression and injustice! Considering the great utility and importance of those valuable members of the state by whose manual labours its very existence is preserved, and its dignity and grandeur maintained; and on which depend also the affluence, the ease, and all the elegancies of the most fortunate classes of the people, doubtless we ought most sacredly to secure to them whatever they can can call their own. Their poverty is, surely, the worst of all reasons, for stripping them of their natural rights! Let us rather reconcile to them the many hardships of their condition, by shewing them that it doth not degrade them below the nature of man. If they have not wherewithal to gratify the pride, let them at least retain the dignity of human nature; by knowing they are free, and sharing in the privileges inseparable from liberty. It is certain that every man who labours with his hands, has a property which is of importance to the state: for Mr. Locke has admirably well observed that, "every man has a [21] property in his own person; the labour of his body and the work of his hands, we may say are properly his." And farther, let it be remembered, that the labouring man or the mechanick can neither have his daily food nor necessaries; nor cloaths to cover him, nor tools to work with, without paying taxes in abundance; and that it is the fundamental principle upon which, above all others respecting property, our liberties depend, that no man shall be taxed but with his own consent, given either by himself or his representative in parliament.* Hence we find that, according to the received doctrine of property, no man can be without a right to vote for a representative in the legislature.

17. But, after all, surely it is not property — it cannot be the precarious possession of clay fields and piles of brick and stone; nor of sheep and oxen; nor of guineas and shillings and bank bills; — nor, indeed, of any other species of property; which truly constitutes freedom: no ;— doubtless it is the immediate gift of God to all the human species, by adding free-will to rationality, in order to render them beings which should be accountable for their actions. All are by nature free; all are by nature equal: freedom implies choice; equality excludes degrees in freedom.

* The labourer cannot put a bit of bread into his mouth without contributing towards the payment of the land tax.

[22] All the commons, therefore, have an equal right to vote in the elections of those who are to be the guardians of their lives and liberties; and none can be intitled to more than one vote. "In a free state," says Judge Blackstone in his Commentaries (vol. I. p. 158) every man, who is supposed a free agent, ought to be in some measure, his own governor; and therefore a branch at least of the legislative power should reside in the whole body of the people;" meaning the commons. I would not hastily dissent from a received opinion, especially one supported on great authorities; but yet my own conceptions of truth oblige me to believe, that personality is the sole foundation of the right of being represented: and that property has, in reality, nothing to do in the case. The property of any one, be it more or be it less, is totally involved in the man. As belonging to him and to his peace, it is a very fit object of the attention of his representative in parliament; but it contributes nothing to his right of having that representative. Did the accident of property constitute the right to representation, 'tis plain, that the property as much as the man, would then be represented. A member of parliament would, in that case, have farms, woods and houses for his constituents, and every other species of property which belonged to his electors. "It may [23] be alledged," says Beccaria," that the interests of commerce should be secured; but commerce and property are not the end of the social compact, but the means of obtaining that end" so that, by making property the object of representation, "we make," according to him, "the end subservient to the means, a parologism in all science, and particularly in all politics."

18. When all the commons, without distinction, shall vote in elections, we shall then effectually provide that "not a blade of grass be taxed except with the consent of the proprietor:" and we shall do more; much more; for guardians will be appointed to every species of property whatsoever; and to the poor man's mite, as well as to the rich ones superfluous wealth. Every man's whole is at a stake be that more or less. Every man is free; and therefore he ought to vote: no man, be his property what it may, can be more than a free man; and therefore no one is intitled to more than his single vote. If a wealthy person is to be indulged with more votes than one, 'tis evident that, in exact proportion as this practice shall prevail, the value of every poor man's vote will be diminished. But all such ideas are arbitrary and unjust, and proceed from our adopting false principles of liberty; as will be explained hereafter (§ 24). Surely riches give their possessors so many other advantages, that [24] they they may be content with their lot, without invading the liberties of the poor! — not to observe, that to restore the right of voting to the poor, would better secure the property of the rich, than any other means that can be thought of.

The rich man, by the assistance of lawyers, which his wealth will always procure him, can defend his property, even while legislation is very corrupt: but the poor man, for the security of his, depends altogether on the equity and wisdom of legislation; and therefore, if an indifference ought to be made, the poor man should have his representative in the legislature, and not the rich one.

19. This, together with an annual parliament, would purify the fountain of legislation. And it is better, for even a rich man, to depend upon the purity of legislation, than upon the ingenuity of a lawyer.

But farther: — there is yet another argument, in favour of the privilege which the poor, as well as the rich, ought to have in
voting for members of parliament: and, like each of the other separately, furnishes a full proof of their right. It is derived from public services to the community. He who has less than 40 shillings per ann. in common with him who hath more, is compellable to contribute his share towards the preservation of the public peace, the execution of the numerous poor laws, and the care of our places of public worship [25] worship, and of the public highways, &c. serving by rotation in the respective parish offices of church-warden, overseer of the highways, overseer of the poor, and constable. Is he, I pray, to be only a drudge in the service of the community, and to have no one privilege which can give him an idea of being a free member of it ? When harrassed [sic] by the duties of an unthankful office into which he is forced; when fined for sitting in his own waggon upon the road; when compelled to attend the summons of a justice of the peace on some frivolous misrepresentation; is he not, from his little insight into the nature of a national jurisprudence, but too apt to look upon the law, as a snare to the unwary, and an engine of oppression to the poor; made by he knows not whom, but, as he takes for granted certainly designed only for the benefit of the rich? Is it not benevolent, as well as just, to allow him that share in forming the legislature, which shall give him more respect for the law, and teach him contentment under its restraints. Had he annually a vote, for the most worthy gentleman he knew in the country to be his representative, would he not see the law and his own humble station with very different eyes from what he does now? — The pernicious consequences of partial and unjust laws are finely represented by the Marquis Beccaria in the person of a robber or assassin, whom he supposes to reason with himself thus: "What [26] are these laws, that I am bound to respect, which make so great a difference between me and the rich man? He refuses me the farthing I ask of him, and excuses himself, by bidding me have recourse to labour, with which he is unacquainted. Who made these laws? The rich and the great, who never deigned to visit the miserable hut of the poor; who have never yet seen him  dividing a piece of mouldy bread, amidst the cries of his famished children and the tears of his wife. Let us break those ties, fatal to the greatest part of mankind, and only useful to a few indolent tyrants. Let us attack injustice at its source. I will return to my natural state of independence. I shall live free and happy on the fruits of my courage and industry. A day of pain and repentance may come, but it will be short; and for an hour of grief I shall enjoy years of pleasure and liberty. King of a  small number as determined as myself, I will correct the mistakes of fortune; and I shall see those tyrants grow pale and tremble at the sight of him, whom, with insulting pride, they would not suffer to rank with their dogs and horses."* Nor, are the just pleas of the poor man yet exhausted. That which I am going to mention, though last, is not the least. He takes his constant

* Essay on crimes and punishments, p. 110

[27] chance on a ballot, which is equivalent to taking his regular turn, to serve his country, as one of its military representatives, in the militia; and an important service it is. Here he becomes subjected to all the restraints, the labours and severities of military duty and discipline; and, in case of necessity, must be the shield of his country, and expose his life in battle for its defence. How comes he to be subjected to such a condition? If it be by laws enacted by men, in whose election he had no voice, he is a slave. I can conceive no clearer idea of slavery, than for one man to be obliged against his will to be the soldier of another. Is it England or Prussia in which we live. "But, giving up the point," says the honest Burgh,* in consequence of having adopted a false principle,"concerning the right of the poor to vote for members of parliament," &c. This point, however, I can by no means give up. It is the poor man's right: and he who takes it from him is a robber and a tyrant, It is the most sacred of all his rights: and deprived of this, he is degraded below the condition of human nature; he is no longer a person but a thing. And "liberty is at an end," says the admirable writer quoted above, "whenever the laws permit, that, in certain cases,  a man may cease to be a person, and become

* Pol. Disq. vol. I. p. 38.

[28] a thing. Then will the powerful employ their address, to select from the various combinations of civil society, all that is in their own favour. This is that magic art which transforms subjects into beasts of burthen, and which, in the hands of the strong, is the chain that binds the weak and incautious. Thus it is, that in some governments, where there is all the appearance of liberty" (mark Englishmen the words of this wise Italian!) "tyranny lies  concealed, and insinuates itself into some neglected corner of the constitution, where it gathers strength insensibly. Mankind generally oppose with resolution, the assaults of barefaced and open tyranny; but disregard the little insect that gnaws through the dike, and opens a sure, though secret passage to inundation." That parliamentary corruption which, at the revolution, was an imperceptible embryo, and then a little insect, is at length become a huge, a filthy and gluttonous monster. It hath already devoured the whole dike of our defence, and is now making its last unrighteous meal upon its own vitals: being doomed, if we are tame enough not to accelerate its fate and stay the flood, to perish by the same inundation of despotism which it has, laboured to let in upon our liberties.

20. Nothing, then, but an absolute impracticability, or a care to prevent some great [29] public inconvenience which would overbalance the advantages proposed from an equal representation, can justify our departing in any degree, or for the shortest period of time, from these principles of freedom and equity, to the prejudice of any part of the community, how inconsiderable soever in the eyes of wealth or pride.

"Every Englishman (says Sir Tho. Smith) is intended to be present in parliament; either in person, or by procuration and  attorney, of what  preeminence, state, dignity, or quality soever he be, from the prince to the lowest person of England. And the consent of the parliament is taken to be every man's consent."

" The true reason," says judge Blackstone again (p. 177) "of requiring any qualification, with regard to property, in voters, is to exclude such persons as are in so mean a situation that they are esteemed to have no will of their own. If these persons had votes, they would be tempted to dispose of them under some undue influence or other.* This would give a great, an artful, or a wealthy man, a larger share in elections than is consistent with general liberty. If it were probable that every man would give his vote freely, and without

*The same reasoning would be equally conclusive for thinning the houses of parliament: for a majority of their members it is evident, grandees, prelates and wealthy ones as they are, are nevertheless in so "mean a situation," in such poverty of integrity that they are constantly [30] tempted to dispose of their votes under some undue influence or other;" and we accordingly find that this gives "artful me a larger share" in parliamentary divisions "than is consistent with general liberty."

[30] influence of any kind, then, upon the true theory and genuine principles of liberty, every member of the community, however poor, should have a vote in electing those delegates, to whose charge is committed the disposal of his property, his liberty, and his life."

21. If, therefore, it can be shewn that elections for members of parliament may be so contrived as to admit of every individual in the community giving his vote; not only with a probability of giving it freely, but so as wholly to prevent the possibility of an undue influence over him; and to set at defiance all the arts of wealthy and ambitious men; and this moreover without trouble, difficulty or expence; it is to be hoped, if justice be not banished from amongst us, that the practice of the constitution shall no longer be kept at variance with the theory, but that millions,* of men now disqualified by our unconstitutional statutes, shall be reinstated in this their undoubted, as their unalienable right. And it might also be hoped, that it might not be an insuperable objection to such a mode of electing, should it render bribery and corruption totally impracticable; and put a certain end to all tumultuary proceedings, and to those filthy and scandalous immoralities

*I beg pardon : only one million four hundred and eighty thousand,

[31] which, at our present elections, are so destructive to the morals of the people.

22. Borough qualifications to vote, differing so widely one from another, I shall here make no farther remark upon them, than to remind my reader that they are all arbitrary; and do none of them make any just distinction between free-men and those, who for any just cause, have forfeited their freedom.

23. In your counties, the distinction is equally arbitrary and more unjust than in most boroughs, as it disfranchises a greater proportion of free men. Might not that power which drew this arbitrary line at forty shillings, have drawn it, or may it not hereafter draw it, at any other limit whatsoever? How often are we put in mind, by the numerous friends of undue influence, that forty shillings in the reign of Henry the sixth, were equal to as many pounds of our present money? And what is the inference we are taught to draw from this observation? We certainly may, on such principles, live to see, not only our line of freedom drawn thus arbitrarily at such a point, as to exclude nine in ten, or nineteen in twenty, of the present small number of voters; but to have, to the idea of a qualification from wealth, the doctrine of proportion also introduced; whereby we should be compleatly in the power of a few citizens of overgrown fortunes; and consequently our happy system of government overthrown. We have just beheld an important revolution [32] in the government of our East India Company effected by the joint operation of these very means. It hath at the same time afforded a notable instance of some men's principles; and how little scrupulous they areas to the means of accomplishing their designs. In that company, the line of freedom had been drawn ever since its establishment, at a monied qualification of five hundred pounds. But this rule no longer answering the purposes of those who aimed to make the affairs of the company subservient to their despotic views, they first, by corruption, intimidation and undue influence, contract the limits of freedom, so as to include for the future only those who should hold one thousand pounds in stock; and then, to complete the business, they give the wealthiest stockholders an additional number of votes, in proportion to their greater property. I have heard this doctrine of proportion actually proposed, as an improvement in parliamentary elections: and that it should be adopted doubtless is the ardent wish of those who took so much pains to establish it in the case before us. Let us suppose, for the sake of argument, that it was adopted; as well as their other favourite point of raising the qualification to forty pounds per ann. and that every additional forty pounds per ann. should give an additional vote. Such a law would at once sweep away nine in ten at least of your present small number of voters; and, at the same time, it would annex to an [33] estate of 400L, per ann. 10 votes; to one of 4000L. per ann. it would give 100 votes; and a landed property of 40,000L per ann. (which is far short of what commoners have possessed) would then give its possessor no less than 1000 votes. Thus we see the errors into which we might be drawn, by admitting property, to confer the right of being represented; and wealth, that of being represented in a tenfold or a thousand-fold proportion. A right of being represented, every man owes to God, who gave him his freedom; but many a man owes his wealth to the devil. It ought, in that case, to give him a rope, rather than a representative.

24. Although I would warn my country men at large by the fate of the proprietors of East India stock; and think I am well warranted in believing that the movers in that business would gladly play a similar game in the nation; I do not mean to draw an unlimited comparison between the government of a little separate trading community, and of the great civil community of the public. The freedoms of their respective members depend on principles essentially different. An increase of wealth, not the preservation of civil liberty, is the grand object in a trading company. So property and not personality (contrary to the rule in civil society) is here the sole foundation of a right in the individual to be represented, and freedom may be constituted [34] by any arbitrary criterion which the parties concerned shall agree upon. In civil liberty which is a natural blessing: as heretofore observed, (§. I. 3.) there must be equality. This is not the case with regard to the freedom of the trading company, which is altogether artificial and depends solely upon property; which may be, and always has been, very unequally distributed. Hence, in a trading society, representation may justly be proportioned to property.* And had the East India Company, by a fair majority without undue influence of any kind, new modelled their government, and changed their line of freedom, there could not have been, on the score of justice, any objection to their proceeding; how much soever it might have been liable to exception in point of prudence. It will, however, scarcely be thought reasonable, or conducing to the good of the public in that company, that a proprietor possessing nine hundred and ninety-nine pounds should be judged unworthy of having a voice in appointing guardians to so much property; who are, at the same time,to be factors for

* Had the truly patriotic author of the Political Disquisitions adverted to these necessary distinctions, he would not have thought the regulation in the East India Company of having votes in proportion to wealth, "worthy of imitation;" (p. 49 vol. I.) except by other trading companies only.

[35] adventuring it in trade to the extreme parts of Asia.

25. The foregoing distinctions between the principles of government in trading and in civil communities should be carefully attended to; in order that we may never be misled by artful reasonings from the former, applied to the latter. That which may be an excellent regulation or system for the increase of wealth, may by no means be proper for the security of freedom. And the laws of a small trading community associated for that particular purpose, making all the while a diminutive part, and being subject to the laws of a great civil community, are not very likely to be of so liberal and comprehensive a nature as to be well calculated for national purposes.

Mr. Burgh concludes his chapter, on, 'What would be adequate parliamentary representation,' thus; "The most adequate plan for forming an assembly of representatives, would be, for every county, including the cities, boroughs, cinque ports, or universities it happens to contain, to send in a proportion of the 513 answering to its contribution to the public expence." But a little consideration will shew us that we cannot possibly come at this proportion. The landholders and other original possessors of taxable property, only advance the respective taxes; they are really paid by the consumers only. The land-tax of Leicestershire, Lincolnshire [36] and Nottinghamshire, is paid by the thousands of manufacturers in Derbyshire, Lancashire and Yorkshire, who eat the beef and mutton, and consume the malt of those counties. And, so it is with all other commodities. After the taxes upon them are advanced by the original possessors, a commercial circulation through a thousand various channels distributes them to all parts of the kingdom; where the taxes are finally and solely paid by the consumers; and it is clear that, where there are the greatest numbers of consumers, there must be the greatest contribution in taxes, to the public expence. But Sir Isaac Newton himself could not calculate these proportions, from tax books, with a thousandth part of the accuracy that our church wardens can give it us, from their parish rolls of the inhabitants.  Thus we see, that an arbitrary and unjust rule of proceeding would bear no degree of comparison, in point of simplicity and facility, with the only rule which is founded on equity and the true principles of our free constitution.

26. Whenever the first principle of any reasoning is false we are navigating without a compass, and can have no criterion of rectitude as we go along, but must for ever be liable to error and abuse. Had we never departed from the true principle, of considering every member of the community as a free-man, we had done right. But when we would once form [37] an arbitrary definition of freedom, who shall say what it ought to be; Ought freedom rather to be annexed to forty pence, or forty shillings, or forty pounds per annum? Or why not to four hundred, or four thousand? But, indeed, so long as money is to be the measure of it, 'twill be impossible to know who ought, and who ought not, to be free. According to my apprehension, we might as well make the possession of forty shillings per annum, the proof of a man's being rational, as of his being free. There is just as much sense in one as in the other.

27. Provided the foregoing reflections be admitted to be just, it must necessarily follow, that the commons of this kingdom have at the present time, nothing better than a mock representation of so dangerous a nature, that nothing short of the constant miraculous interposition of heaven in their favour, can possibly save them from a speedy subjection to arbitrary power; except they will rouze themselves from their lethargy, and form to themselves such a representation as, by the eternal principles of freedom in general, and the express doctrine of their own constitution in particular, they are entitled to. It is to be hoped
that their tables of indulgence and beds of down, and the captivating charms of pleasure, have not so melted down the once glorious spirit of the British nation, and sunk it to such a degree in sloth and effeminacy, that all [38] its powers of self-exertion are past and gone for ever! Surely, what I have taken to be only the lethargy of ease and idleness, is not in reality that stupefying coma, which is the sure presage of approaching death!

28. Is it not notorious that seats in the house of commons are considered as a property and an inheritance? Do they not pass from hand to hand, as appendages to estates in old houses? And are they not bought and sold like stock in Change Alley? Is there no placed or pensioned peer, who hath six, seven or eight members to represent him, and him only, in the house of commons; while one million four hundred and eighty thousand of the commons themselves are not thought worthy of a single vote amongst them? (See Sect. 32.) We know there are such peers. Nay, do we not know also that seats in parliament have been paid away as gaming-debts, from fleeced and needy lords to tavern waiters and common gamblers?* Blush Englishmen, blush, if there be a spark of manhood left in your composition! And, when ridiculed. with the title of free men

*Of a Cheshire gentleman there is this anecdote. His Borough gives him some offence concerning a proposed election. He sends them his black footman, with a peremptory order to elect him their representative. The corporation draw up a petition; in which they humbly ask his honour's pardon, and assure him that, if he will indulge them with a white man, they shall not regard whom or what he may be, but will return him and be thankful.

[39] hide your ignominious heads! — But perhaps all these things are right: — perhaps it is also right for the two or three cottagers of Bramber and Dunwich, and the lord of the borough of Old Sarum, where there is neither house nor inhabitant, to send to parliament as many members as your most opulent cities; while many towns of the first manufacturing consequence have not a representative! Perhaps it would, moreover, be right to lay aside the whole farce of elections, and for the minister to call up such faithful commons as he knew would soonest dispatch his business! — Perhaps, I say all this, and more might be right! Perhaps it might not be thought too much, were we, like the good subjects of Denmark, humbly to intreat the king to take the sole trouble of managing our affairs, and to make use of our lives and fortunes at his discretion and good pleasure! — Could Englishmen in general be brought to think so; and should there be no possibility of convincing them of their error; it surely would be no crime, after shedding a few tears of natural affection ill placed, to renounce an undeserving country for ever; and to seek for liberty amongst any other people who had sense enough to know its value, and courage to defend it at every hazard. May we not, with great reason, conclude that the time is not far off, in which the character of the nation shall be decidedly fixed; either by manifesting that its antient sterling spirit [40] hath not forsaken it; or else, by discovering that it hath indeed, as there is too much reason to apprehend, imported at once the pusillanimity, together with the spoils of India; and the cringing servility, together with the frivolous fopperies and loose principles, of Italy and France? Should even its virtues and its wisdom be no more; one might think that even self-love alone and a desire of ease, might teach it to prefer affluence to indigence, liberty to slavery. But if there be no principle in nature, active enough to put us in motion for our own good; — if nothing but an opera or a masquerade, a horse-race or a pack of cards, be worth our attention; — if we be so venal and abandoned, as to prefer prostitution and loose pleasures, to independency and the public weal; we have not manly sensibility enough left to feel any indignity but shall continue to suffer a nest of court sycophants and public plunderers, impudently to call themselves our representatives; and to, exercise such powers, as will soon enable their employers to throw off the mask, and contemptuously to forbid us even to utter that poor consolatory word, representation, with the mere sound of which we have so long contented ourselves. It would, at the approach of such a period, be time, for every one who had not fortitude enough to follow liberty across the Atlantic, to forget all that belongs to the great character of a [41] free man, and to learn the base and fawning arts of a willing slave; for such a disposition and such sentiments would then suit with his fallen condition. A race so utterly degenerate as to cast away liberty and put on chains at the bidding of their own servants, would merit no better treatment than to be spurned and trampled on by the beastly foot of despotism.

29. Suffering as we do, from a deep parliamentary corruption, it is no time to tamper with silly correctives, and trifle away the life of public freedom; but we must go to the bottom of the wound and cleanse it thoroughly; we must once more infuse into the constitution, the vivifying spirit of liberty, and expel the very last dregs of this poison. Annual parliaments and an equal representation of the commons are the only specifics in this case: and they would effect a radical cure. That a house of commons, formed as ours is, should maintain septennial elections, and laugh at every other idea, is no wonder. The wonder is, that the British nation, which, but the other day, was the greatest nation on earth, should be so easily laughed out of its liberties.

30. As to the hope of removing the evils of a septennial, by changing it for a triennial, parliament, I confess it appears to me altogether illusive. On a superficial view, such a measure promises some beneficial consequences; and it is not uncommon to, [42]suppose, that it would at least lessen our parliamentary evils in the same proportion as there is between the respective numbers of years of their durations. But now, that corruption is reduced to a science, and this science is so thoroughly understood by ministers, I should fear that, if it made any difference at all; it must be for the worse. The whole question may be reduced to this; — would it be possible to corrupt a triennial parliament? If it would be possible, as, indeed, who doubts but it would, then the evil would in fact be augmented, instead of being abated; because the additional difficulty and trouble, would necessarily cause an increase of expence. Corruption must be made absolutely impracticable, by means of annual elections and an equal representation. There seems to be, in my poor opinion, no sense nor safety in any other measure.

31. That man, amongst the opposition to the present ruinous men and measures of the court, who shall not immediately pledge himself to the public, by the most explicit declarations and the most sacred assurances, to exert himself to the utmost of his power and abilities, and perpetually, so long as he shall live, in attempting to bring about a thorough and compleat parliamentary reformation; and shall not instantly set about it, in preference to every other consideration; is, in my [43] humble opinion, nothing better than a factious demagogue; who cares not that his country be sunk in the pit of perdition, so long as he can but hope to come in for a share of power and plunder. On the other hand; such declarations; assurances and actions, would make him appear, in the eyes of the nation, as a guardian angel: and they would be ready to kiss the very ground on which he trod, in reverence of his virtue and patriotism. A handful of such honest men, acting in concert, might save their country; in spight of a tyrannical administration, and a venal parliament. But if the members of opposition have such separate views and designs, when only one view and one plan ought to actuate them, that they will not form this union, and act in concert for the salvation of their country, let them not tell us, any longer, of their love of liberty and of their public spirit. The loss of America, followed by an unequal war, together with all the fatal consequences they threaten, great and dreadful as such evils may justly be considered, are as a mere nothing, a very dust in the balance, compared with the total loss of our liberties, which must ensue, and soon too, unless a parliamentary reformation take place: and I will add, that immediate reformation, in that particular, might, — it would — but nothing else can, reunite us with our American colonies; as their kindred, their allies, and monopolizers of [44] their commerce; on terms more mutually and permanently beneficial, than could have submitted while we stood in the relation to each other of sovereign and dependent states. But, to amuse us with, any other measures, than those of a thorough parliamentary reformation, for alleviating our national misfortunes, would be nothing better than to prune away some of the leaves and luxuriant shoots of corruption, instead of hewing down the accursed trunk, and tearing up the roots. It must be exterminated root and branch, or we perish.

32. Those who now claim the exclusive right, of sending to parliament the 513 representatives for about six millions, consist of less than twenty thousand persons* and 254 of these representatives are elected by 5723.† Nothing but a delegation of this trust from the said six millions, or at least a majority of them, could possibly have given them this right. They never were  delegated. Had even the ancestors of these less than twenty thousand citizens, been so delegated by the ancestors of the six millions, yet even that could not, in the least, have bettered their title. Their pretended rights are, many of

* This number was taken through inadvertency. There is some difficulty in ascertaining the true number; but the reader is requested to make it 200,000. The main conclusions will still remain in full force.
† Pol. Disq, chap. 4.

[45]them, derived from royal favour; some, from antient usage and prescription; and some indeed from act of parliament: but neither the most authentic acts of royalty, nor precedent, nor prescription, nor even parliament, can establish any flagrant injustice;— much less can they strip one million four hundred and eighty thousand people of an unalienable right, to vest it in one seventy-fifth part of their number.* The true, and indeed the only, operation of these several authorities hath been, in the case before us, not to confer, but to take away a right. The selected persons had originally this right in the most ample and absolute degree inherent in themselves, in common with their fellow citizens: so that no exercise of legislative power nor of regal authority† could possibly confer it, or

* 4)



males competent


Voters at present


Competent men who are deprived of the right of voting
20,000) 1,500,000

And it is probable that the 1,480,000 consumers contribute towards the public expence in about the same proportion as they bear in numbers to the 20,000: that is about three guineas and a half to a shilling. —

† 'Kings may make lords, and corporations, which corporations may send their burgesses to parliament,' says N: Bacon. The annotator observes, on this, 'Though the king can make corporations, yet he cannot give them a right to be represented in parliament without the commons consent! Pol. Dis. Vol. I. p. 66.

[46] even improve it. They have however deprived the rest of the community of this their inherent right.

33. The very idea of the right we are treating of, originating from, or being dependent upon, the pleasure of the crown, is
glaringly absurd. In the times, however, during which so illegal an use was made of the prerogative,* the inconveniences were not felt as they are by us, nor were those frightful consequences which now threaten with a speedy dissolution the whole frame of our constitution, much foreseen by the commons; or we may presume they would have been guarded against. But, indeed, we must allow that there were but very few periods within those times, in which the commons were in any condition to have held such a contest with the crown; or when the most dutiful petitions or remonstrances, on such a subject, would have obtained them any redress. More wise and more virtuous than other men must be that prince (a very rare case indeed!) who will yield up one particle of power, however unjust, except from necessity

*We now a days think it a tolerable stretch of the prerogative when a king pours into the house of peers a dozen members at a time: but if the title of our boroughs to send their two members each to parliament be a good one, then his present majesty may add to the house of commons as many members as he pleases. James the Ist. privileged 54 boroughs which sent into the house 27 members.

[47] or compulsion. — Although we have reason to believe that the commons were not sufficiently foresighted, yet we may safely conclude that our princes knew in general what they were doing, when they called upon so many of the petty boroughs within their own hereditary private domain, to send up members to the great council of the nation. But they not only called up whom they pleased; for they discontinued, as occasion served, the calling up of others: thus "removing, at their pleasure, the landmarks of the constitution, and wounding it in its most vital part."* The two and twenty towns which had their representatives in the parliament of Edward I. but which were afterwards deprived, by the mere will of the crown, did not many of them, we may safely take for granted, lie within the Duchy of Cornwall.

34. How parliamentary representation became so inadequate as it is, we may see in the 5th chap. of Political Disquisitions: but the author does not shew us how our kings came by the right of calling up to parliament only whom they pleased; sometimes allowing towns, and even counties, a representation in parliament, and sometimes not, as suited with their own purposes. Nor has he, nor any other author, shewn us by what virtue a royal charter can authorize half a dozen of

*Mr. Wilkes's speech in the House of Commons, 21 March, 1776,

[48] the commons, exclusive to elect legislators for many hundred times their own numbers.* How far soever such charters may confer other exclusive privileges, let lawyers determine; but that they can give any exclusive right to the people in our boroughs, of exclusively voting for members of parliament, I positively deny. The very idea, I must repeat, is absurd. The king has no right, by his prerogative, to summon any parliament which shall not be with regard to the lower house, an actual representation† of all the commons: so, it is evident that the customary writs, directed to about twenty thousand electors, who compose only a 75th part of the commons, notwithstanding their antiquity, are unconstitutional and unobligatory; being vitiated ab initio by

*A corporation of 15 members, as Bramber for instance, elects as many members of parliament as fall to the proportion of 5848 persons, who make 390 times their number. And Bramber is not the smallest of our boroughs.
†Since a virtual representation in the house of commons was so learnedly argued to extend to three millions of people beyond the Atlantic; we may expect that it will be most unmercifully crammed down the throats of poor Englishmen, (provided they do not spit it out,) as being every whit as good, as wholesome and nourishing, as a real representation. But, to those authors who shall endeavour to palm it upon us, we may say to the same purpose as the managers in Hogarth write to the prodigal author, who, in hopes of relieving his own beggary and supplying his extravagancies, had troubled them with a dramatic piece, made up of the crude conceptions of a vicious brain : 'We have tried your farce, and find it will not do.'

[49] their total want of reason and equity. 'Tis a precedent to be quoted only to be over-ruled. It was originally an usurpation on an inherent and unalienable right, and no prescription can make it law. "It is," says an excellent writer, "a fundamental principle in our constitution, and was, until the reign of Henry VI. the invariable practice of it, that the property of the people, not one man excepted, could not be granted but by his own consent, given by himself or his representative chosen by himself. It was upon this principle that, until that reign, every man in the kingdom gave his vote, or had a right to give his vote, for the election of representative, on whom that power was devolved. The 7th of Henry IV. made upon complaint of this right having been disturbed, ordains, that all the people shall elect indifferently. Their being residents in the county is the only qualification required. It was not until the 8th year of Henry VI. that the possession of forty shillings per annum, &c.*

35. Judge Blackstone informs us that "parliament is coeval with the kingdom itself"† that "we have instances of its meeting in the reigns of Ina, Offa and Ethelbert:"‡ that "upon the true theory

*Appeal to the justice and interests of the people of Great Britain, in the present disputes with America, p.5.
† Vo1. I. p. 149.
‡ Ibid. 148.

[50] and genuine principles of liberty every member of the community, however poor, should have a vote";* and that "every man, who is supposed a free-agent, ought to be, in some measure, his own governor; and therefore a branch at least of the legislative power should reside in the whole body of the people," meaning commons.†

36. Where then is the foundation for that monopoly of representation now enjoyed by the voters of our despicable boroughs, and of forty shilling freeholders, to the injury and disgrace of the nation at large? — It hath no foundation. It ought instantly to be abolished. Every day it is suffered to continue, the nation is sacrificed to a handful of venal wretches, who constantly sell its liberties, at every election, for the term of the ensuing parliament. The deprived persons, who in fact make the body of the nation, are in duty bound to do themselves and their posterity right, by resuming this inestimable franchise into their own hands.

37. But, we are told of difficulties in making our representation equal; and of inconveniences in parliaments wherein there should be no court influence. Since we have got over the difficulties of electing our thirty two thousand military representatives, the

* Vo1.1. p. 171
† Ibid. 158.

[51] militia; and that, by balloting a due proportion of serviceable men throughout the kingdom;* we need not, I think, despair of being able to choose five hundred and thirteen civil representatives, whenever we may have the will to set about it. As to the other objection to our plan of reforming, I own it puzzles me. It comes from Mr. Hume, who is so respectable as an historian, a philosopher and moralist; and, therefore, it is a serious one:

* The plan for defending this country by a militia, was called by the late Earl of Chesterfield "a silly scheme which must be dropped." See his letter to his son, Sept. 23, 1757. We have nevertheless experienced it to be a wise scheme, and seen it brought to great perfection; in opposition to very bitter and indefatigable parliamentary enemies, and even to ministers. In addition to a prostitute parliament, they want nothing more than a standing army, in order to subvert the last remains of liberty. And his lordship expresses himself no less contemptuously of annual parliaments. ' In letter 106 vol. 2. he says — "The house of commons is still very unanimous: there was a little popular squib let off this week, in a motion of Sir John Glyn's, seconded by Sir John Philips, for annual parliaments. It was a very cold scent, and put an end to by a division of 190 to 70." But we must not be surprised at such sentiments , from a man who could write to his son as follows : "Yesterday morning Mr. ** came to me, from lord Halifax, to ask me whether I thought you would approve of vacating your seat in parliament, during the remainder of it, upon a valuable consideration, meaning money. My answer was, that I really did not know your disposition upon that subject; but that I knew you would be very willing, in general, to accommodate them, as far as lay in your power. That your election, to my knowledge, had cost you two thousand pounds; that this parliament had not sat [52] above half its time; and that, for my part, I approved of the measure well enough" (well done, old bawd!) provided you had an equivalent," &c. vol. 2. Lett: 161. In one of our conversations here, this time twelve-month, I desired him to secure you a seat in the new parliament; &c. since that, I have heard no more of it; which made me look out for some venal borough; and I spoke to a borough jobber, and offered five-and­twenty hundred pounds for a secure seat in parliament; but he laughed at my offer, and said, that there was not such thing as a borough to be had now; for that the " rich East and West-Indians had secured them all, at the rate of three thousand pounds at least; but many at four thousand; and two or three, that he knew, at five thousand." Vol. 2d. Lett. 193.

[52] so serious, indeed., that I am at a loss for any other answer to it, but — to burst out a laughing in Mr. Hume's face. It would do no great harm; however, methinks, just to try the experiment. The inconvenience of too rigid a virtue, might possibly be remedied in this indulgent age, if it should be experienced. Mr. Hume will, I dare say, allow me a little scepticism as to the justness and weight of his objection; which I must tell him, in plain terms, I never can believe until I shall know by

What is a house of commons, if it be not a check upon the crown, in which reside all the executive powers of government? These executive powers would be more fatal to society than plague, pestilence and famine, except a sufficient check upon them should be provided. This is a truth we find written

*Mr. Hume was living when this was written.

[53] in the tears and the blood of mankind in every age and country. Is this check, then, to be appointed by him whom it is to curb? Or, when appointed by others, is he, by court influence, to convert this curb into an impetus of that very power it was intended to counterbalance and restrain? — Nonsense! — And to put up with such a mock representation as cannot be proof against court influence, is just as rational. as to tether a bull with a hay-band.

38. The objections to an equality of representation have not been wholly confined to ministerial writers, nor, indeed, have any of them urged them with so much ability as a very popular writer. I mean Junius.

"I am convinced," says he, " that, in shortening the duration of parliaments (which in effect is keeping the representative under the rod of the constituent) be not  made the basis of our new parliamentary  jurisprudence, other checks or improvements signify nothing. On the contrary, if this be made the foundation, other measures may come in aid, and, as auxiliaries, be of considerable advantage. Lord Chatham's project, for instance, of increasing the number of knights of shires, appears to me admirable. — As to cutting away the rotten boroughs, I am as much offended as any man at seeing so many of them under the direct influence of the crown; or at [54] the disposal of private persons. Yet, I own, I have both doubts and apprehensions, in
regard to the remedy you propose. I shall  be charged perhaps with an unusual want of political intrepidity, when I honestly confess to you, that I am startled at the idea of so extensive an amputation.— In the first place, I question the power, de jure, of the legislature to disfranchise a number of boroughs, upon the general ground of improving the constitution. There cannot
be a doctrine more fatal to the liberty and property we are contending for, than that, which confounds the idea of a supreme and an arbitrary legislature; I need not point out to you the fatal purposes, to which: it has been, and may be applied. If we are sincere in the political creed we profess, there are many things, which we ought to affirm, cannot be done by king, lords and commons. Among these I reckon the disfranchising of boroughs with a general view of improvement. I consider it as equivalent to robbing the parties concerned of their freehold, of their birth-right. I say that, although this birth-right may be forfeited, or the exercise of it suspended in particular cases, it cannot betaken away by a general law, for any real or pretended purpose of improving the constitution. Supposing the attempt made, I am persuaded you cannot mean that either King, or Lords should [55] take an active part in it. A bill which only touches the representation of the people, must originate in the house of commons. In the formation and mode of passing it, the exclusive right of the commons must be asserted as scrupulously, as in the case of a money-bill. Now sir, I should be glad to know by what kind of reasoning it can be proved, that there is a power vested in the representative to destroy his immediate constituent: from whence could he possibly derive it? A courtier, I know, will be ready to maintain the affirmative. The doctrine suits him exactly, because it gives an unlimited operation to the influence of the crown. But we, Mr. Wilkes, ought to hold a different language. It is no answer to me to say, that the bill, when it passes the house of commons, is the act of the majority, and not the representatives of the particular boroughs concerned. If the majority can disfranchise ten boroughs, why not twenty, why not the whole kingdom? Why should not they make their own seats in parliament for life? — When the septennial act passed, the legislature did what, apparently and palpably, they had no power to do; but they did more than people in general were aware of: they, in effect, disfranchised the whole kingdom for four years. [56]

For argument's sake, I will now suppose that the expediency of the measure, and the power of parliament are unquestionable. Still you will find an insurmountable difficulty in the execution. When all your instruments of amputation are prepared, when the unhappy patient lies bound at your feet, without the possibility of resistance, by what infallible rule will you direct the operation? — When you propose to cut away the rotten parts, who can tell us what parts are perfectly sound ?— Are there any certain limits, in fact or theory, to inform you at what point you must stop, at what point the mortification ends? To a man so capable of observation and reflection as you are, it is unnecessary to say all that might be said upon the subject. Besides that I approved highly of Lord Chatham's idea of infusing a portion of new health into the constitution to enable it to bear its infirmities; (a brilliant expression, and full of intrinsic wisdom) other reasons concur in persuading me to adopt it.*

39. In quoting the foregoing passage himself, he adds, with a genuine magnanimity; "The man who fairly and compleatly answers this argument, shall have my thanks, and applause. My heart is already with him. — I am ready to be converted. — I

*Letter to Mr. Wilkes.

[57] admire his morality, and would gladly subscribe to the articles of his faith. —Gratefull, as I am, to the Good Being, whose bounty has imparted to me this reasoning  intellect, whatever it is, I hold myself proportionately indebted to him, from whose inlightened understanding another ray of knowledge communicates to mine. But neither should I think the most exalted faculties of the human mind, a gift worthy of the divinity; nor any assistance, in the improvement of them, a subject of gratitude to my fellow creature, if I were not satisfied, that really to inform the understanding corrects and enlarges the heart."*

40. I hope the reader thinks that his argument is already answered: but I will make some remarks upon his particular words. First, then, in answer to his query, concerning which are the rotten parts of the unhappy patient proposed to be amputated; I would, with much deference, take leave to remark, that this allusion, which is suggested from the practice of bribing, commonly called corrupting, does not furnish us (as is too common with the language of allusion) with a correct idea of the nature of the case. But I make no scruple to assert, that just so much of our mode of electing, as operates to the exclusion of any individual man from

*Letter to Mr. Wilkes.

[58] giving his vote, is defective and unfair; and therefore ought to be altered. The numbers who now elect, with respect to those who are excluded, (admitting the first to be 20,000, and the whole number intitled, to be 1,500,000) are in the proportion of 1 to 75: so that we say, with some precision, that the rottenness extends to 74 parts in 75. Dividing 1,500,000 by 513, the number of the members, we find that every member ought to be the representative of 2924 persons, and ought at least to have the votes of a majority of that number, or 1463, in order to entitle him to a seat in the house of commons. Can Junius, then, call it the birthright of the lord of the borough of Old Sarum, to be the exclusive elector of two members of parliament, who ought to represent 5848 of the commons? or of the nine electors of Grampound to send as many members as make the due proportion for 650 times their number? If no free man be disfranchised by admitting everyman to vote, I hope we cannot, with propriety, say that any borough is disfranchised. I mean not to abridge, but to extend, the limits of. freedom. I have already proved (§ 32, 33, 34.) that no individuals, nor bodies corporate, can possibly have any right to elect a parliament to the exclusion of their fellow citizens. If the right of voting be, restored to all the rest, and still retained by the lord of Old Sarum, by the voters of [59] Grampound, and every other petty borough, how can they be robbed " of their freehold," of "their birth-right." The birth-right of a borough is a phrase I cannot understand; but it is because I hold sacred the birth-rights of men, that I would have every man vote; and deny, that a few can have a birth-right to appoint legislators for the many. Were indeed our general monopolizing system to be continued; and yet, some boroughs lopped off, as rotten branches, while others continued on their present foot, I grant this would be an arbitrary proceeding, as being without any fixed rule of justice: but I talk not of boroughs —I talk of men.

41. I think him perfectly right with regard to that tenaciousness touching any bill for new modelling representation, which he says the commons ought to shew: but I flatter myself I have made it evident, that no member who should vote for an equal representation, could be said to "destroy his immediate constituent;" and nothing, to my mind, could be so far from giving "an unlimited operation to the influence of the crown," as the making ministerial bribery in parliament, impossible.

42. According to Junius's doctrine, I do not see that the legislature could, de jure, make any alteration in the present mode of electing representatives: for, if the persons and boroughs, now enjoying that exclusive [60] power power of choosing the house of commons, be justly intitled to this exclusive power; and should have any part of it taken out of their hands, by "increasing the number of knights of shires," or by any other similar means, such a proceeding must be a violation of their exclusive right; and must, in a certain degree, "rob them of their freehold, their, birth-right." This doctrine, therefore, overturns itself.

43. I am truly sorry that so argumentative and eloquent a writer should have formed, what appears to me, an erroneous opinion, on a point of so much importance: nor do I think myself fortunate, in being obliged to take the contrary side of an argument which he has once handled. Nevertheless, having a full conviction of being on the side of truth, and knowing that I am writing, not speaking, to the public, I have ventured to oppose plain homely reasoning to all the powers of argument and eloquence. My principles I trust, are perfectly constitutional. I may therefore leave them to their unassisted operation on the good sense and spirit of my countrymen.

44. I know, full well, how much the vicious part of every community affect to treat plans of reformation as chimerical, — as romantic, and utterly impracticable. And I know, too, that the reforming of our parliamentary jurisprudence hath been particularly scoffed at, as the visionary scheme of refining [61] system-makers and ignorant enthusiasts. It is not difficult to account for these insolences. The vultures will hover, and flap, and scream, about the putrid carcass on which they feed. The Cornish barbarians, notwithstanding Mr. Burke's late humane act, will cast a longing eye upon a wreck, and persist in calling their diabolical plunder a right, a prescriptive right of many ages. But I regard not the clamours of the harpies; and I despise their nonsense, as sincerely as I abhor their principles.

45. The reader, if he will have the patience to peruse a few dry pages of proposed regulations, shall be convinced, that to elect an annual parliament, and to establish an equal representation, are things the most simple and easy, in nature. If he ever thought otherwise, he will be surprized that he could have over-looked what will now appear to him so obvious. He must have patience, I say, with this part of our work; except he can delight in utility for its own sake alone. No man looks for entertainment into an act of parliament, or a body of civil regulations. Sufficient, if they inform; and better clear than elegant. For the sake of perspicuity, and in order to stop the mouth of disingenuous cavil, I must descend to some minutia. He who attacks national establishments, sanctified by time and custom, and interwoven with the selfish interests of the most powerful men in the community; had need, even in the [62] most enlightened and liberal age, to move with circumspection; and to omit nothing, however trivial, which may serve to secure the ground he gains, step by step, in making his approaches. After all, we cannot alas! do more than prove our propositions; and lay down a plan for the undertaking in theory. My fellow citizens must assist in carrying it into practice. And to the few advocates for their rights and liberties in parliament, it belongs to take the lead. Should our proof be clearly made out, it will afford those gentlemen the best of all opportunities of proving their public integrity beyond a doubt. This, I surely need not tell them, is the only thing wanting, towards obtaining them the entire confidence and support of the people, in effecting this, or any other necessary reformation in our government.

46. The whole island sends to parliament 558 members. Of which number Scotland sends 45; England and Wales jointly, the remaining 513. Let us, then, divide the said 513 amongst the counties of England and Wales, in exact proportion to the respective number of males in each county, who shall be of a proper age to vote for representative sin parliament. I should propose the age of 18 years, for two reasons. 1. Because, at that age, a man is liable to serve himself, as a military representative of his country, in the militia. And thus, the same parish rolls (of [62] which more hereafter) will shew at once, who are of an age to be military representatives and civil electors. 2. Because, I think at that age, a man is a sufficient judge between palpable right and wrong; and every way capable of nominating for himself a proper representative: and the law of England thinks so too, for "at twelve years old, he may take the oath of allegiance; at 14, is at years of discretion,, and therefore may consent or disagree to marriage, and may choose his  guardian".* To the end of making this proportional division, throughout the kingdom, nothing is necessary but correct county rolls, taken from the respective roll of each parish in every county. In like manner, let the 45 Scotch members be proportionably divided amongst the counties of Scotland: and in other respects let their elections be regulated by the same rules as are hereafter laid down for England and Wales.

N. B. The several counties, for all times to come, might continue to send up to parliament the same number of members, as should appear to be their proportion on this first enrolment of their men competent to vote in elections; notwithstanding any future alteration in their respective numbers. No alteration, in point of numbers, could possibly be so considerable, as ever to give them either

* Blackstone's Commentaries. Vol. I. p. 463.

[63] cause or inclination to demand a new proportional division of the members to be made throughout the kingdom.

47. The city of London might be considered as a county to all intents and purposes; having, in matters of election, no connexion whatever with the rest of Middlesex.

48. Every other city and town might be allowed, out of the number of members returnable by the whole county of which it made a part, to elect its own proportion separately; and all the rest should be chosen at the county election. But all fractions in the number of competent men, proportioned to one representative, to be in favour of the county. Estimating the whole number of souls at 6,000,000; the competent men will be 1,500,000; and the number of those answering to one representative will be 2924. A town containing that number would be intitled to send one member; twice that number, or 5848, two members; and so on. But if it should enrol only 5800, the fraction should be in favour of the county, and the town send up but one member. In like manner, if it enrolled but 2923, it should not elect separately, but jointly with the county.

N. B. While no smaller number than 2924 competent inhabitants could possibly have the election of a representative, to themselves, I should hope Harrington's and Burgh's proposed rule for 'an exclusion by rotation' of [64] the members of the house of commons would be found wholly unnecessary; at least I would have it by all means confined to the representatives of cities and towns. There can be no supposing that county elections, such as I propose, could be influenced by any man or men however great; and without very sufficient cause the commons should not be deprived of their right to elect any men, and especially those of whose integrity and abilities they had had proof. Nor; in my opinion, should men of worth, who had a laudable ambition of being distinguished for public services, have any unnecessary obstacles thrown in their way. 'A rotation, it is true, might give all persons of consequence their turns in the government;' and to this Mr. Burgh seems to think gentlemen of property have a right. But the idea, of such a right is totally inconsistent with the inherent right of the commons to have those for representatives whom they prefer to all others. Such an idea of right, on the part of gentlemen, would tend also to abate their emulation; and consequently they would become less anxious to merit the distinction, by a due application to the study of public affairs, and by the practice of private virtues; which, then would be stronger recommendations to the people's favour, than a nabob's fortune or a minister's letter. I own that too much attention cannot be given to Burgh's argument in favour of [65] a rotation; which is, the certainty with which it would operate in exterminating corruption; and therefore, rather than have an apprehension of that kind,'it would doubtless be better to have no separate town or city elections at all, but for the counties, by their parishes, to choose the whole number of members collectively. By the separate elections, I only meant to provide more effectually for the particular patronage of the capital trading and manufacturing towns.

49. Any city or town should, on the same principle, either attain or lose its privilege of electing separately, by an increase or diminution of its inhabitants.

N. B. These questions, as matters now stand, must be tried by the House of Commons themselves, as they claim the right and exercise the power of being the only judges of their own privileges. But perhaps it might, nevertheless, be an improvement, and no way injurious to their privileges, to erect a new Court of Record for the trying of them, as well as those of the House of Lords: the judges to be on the same foot as in the other courts, their jurisdiction marked out, and the forms of trial settled. The king himself is not the sole judge of his own privileges and prerogative: why then should either of the inferior branches of the legislature have such a power? A court of parliamentary privileges might prevent the waste of much precious [66] time lost to legislation; and its proceedings would probably be more efficient than those of election committees.

50. In every parish, throughout each county, there should be kept, by proper parish officers, under the checque of the minister, a correct roll of the names of all the competent men within the same. This roll should be compleated afresh, before the 1st day of May in every year; taking in the names of all those persons who might arrive at the age of competency on or before the 1st day of June.

51. From these rolls, the Sheriff of the County, (to whom copies of them should be immediately transmitted) should make out a county roll; correcting it and to compleating it annually before the 1st day of June.

52. The whole House of Commons should be chosen on the 1st day of June in every year, except it fell on a Saturday or a Sunday, In either of those cases, on the Monday next after.

53. Both in county, and town elections, the commons should all vote by parishes; and the elections should in all places begin in the morning, between 6 and 8 o'clock. The minister (if one in the parish) assisted by the other parish officers to take the poll, and to make his report of the same, signed by himself and his assistants, to the sheriff.

[67] N. B. This regulation would keep the people all peaceably at their own homes, save them expences, and prevent the shocking debaucheries so common at our present elections. It would also put a sure period to all riots and disorderly proceedings: because the success of a riotous party in one parish, would contribute little or nothing to the general success of the candidate they should espouse. But these effects are all obvious.

54. The parish reports should, by the respective constables, be all delivered to the Sheriff of the County, assisted by a Bench of Justices of the Peace (not fewer than five) on such day, and at such place, within the county, as the sheriff should appoint, not being later than the last day of June.* The constable to attest upon oath, if required, the signing of the minister and other parish officers; which, for that reason should be done in his presence.

55. From the whole collection of parish reports the Sheriff, assisted as aforesaid, should make out his general county report: not only distinguishing those candidates who appeared to be duly elected members of the parliament; but setting down alto the name of every other,

* The three ridings of Yorkshire might elect their members separately; and other large counties might be sub­divided. The senior justice on the bench might, in those cases, officiate for the Sheriff, where he could not be present in person.

[69] and over against them respectively, the number of lawful suffrages in favour of each.

56. In all cities and towns, the chief magistrate to officiate as sheriff; and be properly assisted by inferior magistrates.

57. All the general reports should be transmitted by the several Sheriffs and chief magistrates, to the clerk of the crown, on or before the 14th day of July.

58. Every candidate should be obliged to signify in writing, to the Sheriff or chief magistrate of the county or place to which he offered his services, such his intention and offer, after a prescribed form, and never later than the 1st day of May, being a month before the election. At the same time he should transmit an affidavit of his qualification, after a prescribed form also. For a county member the qualification should be a landed estate; and 4001. per ann. might be sufficient: for London it might be the same; or a property in the kingdom of 12000l. ; for other cities and towns 3001, per ann. in land, or 90001. in other property; clear of all debts and demands.

59. The names of all these candidates should be immediately published by the several sheriffs and chief magistrates throughout their districts; and a list of them also should be delivered to the constable of every parish, on or before the 20th day of May.[70]

60. It should be made unlawful for any poll to be taken otherwise than by ballot. This would prevent undue influence, personal offence, and self reproach. But it would not prevent that influence which ought to follow worth, wisdom and a right use of wealth. Gentlemen so distinguished, would always be sure of being elected when they should offer themselves; and their recommendations of others would also have due weight. A seat in the house of commons would then be an honour: and an honour not to be obtained for merit at Newmarket, the gaming table, or in a cotillon. The following mode of balloting, being very simple, might answer the purpose. Before the minister and other parish officers taking the poll, place three jars or other vessels, one of them being white, one red and one black; and give to every voter, the names of all the candidates, each on a separate paper. Let the voter put in the white vessel as many of these candidates names, as there are representatives to be chosen; and into the red vessel let him put the names of the remaining candidates. But if there should be any one or more candidates for whom he should not choose to give any favourable vote at all, he should put their names into the black vessel. Let the names deposited within the white and red vessels be made into two separate lists; with the number of the suffrages for each [71] candidate over against his name: and let both the lists be audibly and distinctly read over to all the people present. The names in the black vessel should be burnt, in the presence of the people, unopened.

61. The several Sheriffs and chief magistrates should also make their general reports of the non-elected candidates, as well as of the members chosen; together with the number of suffrages in favour of each.

62. Let there be no re-elections within the year: but, in case of a member's dying or vacating his seat in the house, let the speaker summon to parliament in his stead, him, amongst the non-elected candidates for the same county or town, who shall have the greatest number of suffrages in his favour. But, in case of that list being exhausted, and a vacancy in the house Rill remaining, leave it unfilled till the next election.

N. B. Should this happen, though it is not likely, the shortness of the parliament will prevent any ill consequences ensuing. The electors will still have several representatives in the house. Besides, in such a parliament as we here propose, there will be a different kind of attendance on their duty from what we now experience, and we may be certain that neither the common business nor essential interests of their constituents will be neglected, on account of the absence of a few members. [72]

63. Provided there should ever be a deficiency of candidates by the time prescribed, viz. 1st May; for giving any county or town its proportion of members, and providing also for the successions mentioned in the foregoing article, to the amount of one non-elected candidate to every three members, I would propose to remedy that defect thus:— Let every voter be allowed to give in as many additional names of his own choosing as may be wanting, and put them into the white or the red vessel, as he should prefer one to the other in his own mind.* But it should be necessary that these involuntary candidates (if I may use that liberty of expression) should reside within the county or town of the electors, and be qualified for the representation; or else their nomination to be set aside by the sheriff and his assistant magistrates. Such involuntary persons, being either originally elected members, or called up afterwards to fill a vacancy, should be obliged to do parliamentary duty, on condition of being paid two guineas per diem during parliamentary attendance, and one shilling a mile travelling expences by their

*As, in such a case, the people of different parishes, throughout a county would doubtless nominate a considerable variety of gentlemen, this provision would effectually secure both the requisite number of members, and amply provide a succession, ready to fill such vacancies as might happen within the year.

[73] constituents; the same to be raised by a rate for that purpose.*

N. B. Practising physicians, surgeons, apothecaries, and attorneys at law; shop-keepers, and sick persons should be exempted.

64. Whenever the numbers of the suffrages in any election should be equal, the decision should be made by lot; the justices preparing, and the sheriff drawing, the same.

65. Every man being intitled to vote somewhere, none should vote in more places than one: (See § 17) nor should any one inrol himself in a new place, without producing a certificate, in due form, of his name having been erased from the former roll.

66. For the cities of London and Westminster and for the borough of Southwark, no man ought to be competent to vote or to be inrolled as a voting inhabitant, who had a home, or occupied any house or lodging whatsoever in the country; excepting merchants, dealers and chapmen, and shop-keepers.

N. B. These places constantly overflow with people who are from their own homes and parishes. It is therefore fit some restraint of this kind should be practised. Not, however, that any breach of this rule could ever

* They would be all known to the Sheriff, though their names should not be sent to him on a separate list because of their not having been in his own original list of candidates sent to the parishes before the election.

[74] be of any ill consequence; so long as all the elections throughout the kingdom were carrying on at the same instant.

67. In London, and all other populous cities or towns, the parishes, if too large, should be so subdivided, as to have the elections always over in one day.

68. Let it be made part of the very constitution of parliament always to meet without any summons at Westminster (except the king in a case of necessity should appoint any other place) upon a fixed day within one certain week of November, provided his majesty had not assembled them sooner; and again, upon one fixed day in January; and to sit each time for a certain limited term, and so much longer, as his majesty should have occasion for their attendance: not, however, later than till the 20th day of May.

N. B. In order to the securing of these points, every form and engagement the most sacred that could be devised should be made use of by the respective parties. In the first place, every candidate should, together with the affidavit of his qualification, (§ 58) transmit also (and every time he became a candidate) to the sheriff, another oath; in which he should have sworn that, provided he should become a member of parliament in consequence of the ensuing election; he neither would sit nor act himself as a member of the same, nor give his consent for any other [75] so to do, longer than the 20th day of May next following. Secondly, it should be an indispensable requisite, in order to constitute a legal election, that he who presided at the poll should make proclamation; that 'the competent men then and there assembled were to proceed to give their votes towards an election of fit persons to represent themselves and all the competent men in the county (or otherwise as the case might be) to which they belonged, in a parliament which was to cease, determine and expire on the 20th day of May next following.' And an attestation of this proclamation having been made should be part of the constable's oath (§ 54) before the sheriff and his assistant magistrates; and in their general report of the election, the term for which the representatives were chosen should be particularly specified. I call it report, and not return, because then, the parliament would not be chosen in consequence of the king's writs to the sheriffs, &c. but in consequence of the general law and constitution of parliaments, arising from the right of the commons spontaneously to appoint, and send up, their representatives "twice in the year, or oftener, if need should  be, to treat of the government of God's people; how they should keep themselves from sin, should live in quiet, and should receive right;" according to that "which was ordained" by Alfred the best of all [76] our kings except his present majesty "for a perpetual usage." Nor would it, in my opinion, be too much were the king required, not only at his coronation, but annually, on the first day of meeting his parliament, and before he entered the house of lords, to take an oath, in presence of some of the members of the lower house, that he never would attempt to prevent the appointed sittings of parliament, nor give his assent to any law for prolonging either the then present, or any other future, parliament beyond its proper and limited term of a year wanting eleven days, But, to return;

69. Let all parish rolls be truly and carefully kept, on pain of some considerable penalty. The names to be regularly numbered, and no alteration to be made of their numerical order, on account of names legally erased, until the expiration of seven years. At the commencement of every eighth year, a new roll to be made out; omitting the erased names on the former roll, and numbering the new roll as at first. The general county roll to be renewed and freshly numbered in like manner, and at the same time.

70. All rolls should be kept on paper of a fixed size, printed in a form prescribed by law. And the same should be regulated with regard to the paper to be made use of at elections, for setting down the names of the candidates.[77]

71 . All place men and all military men (except of the militia) as being representatives of, and subject to influence from, the crown, should be totally ineligible to sit as representatives of the commons: but a certain number from the civil department, as well as from. the army and navy, should be intitled to a place in the house, and allowed the same freedom of speech as the members; though by no means permitted to vote.

No pensioner of the crown (except such as had obtained their pensions for life, and to whom they were given with the express consent or approbation of a house of commons;) no person enjoying any eleemosynary stipend at the will of another, (a very near relation excepted) should be eligible. Nor, any clergyman in holy orders; nor Irish peers; they both having duties elsewhere which they ought not to neglect. Quitting such duties, is no recommendation of them to the important trust of being our legislators. Nor, perhaps, would it be improper to exclude the heirs apparent to peerages: but of that, I am not fixed in my opinion.

72. Thus, then, have I done my best to sketch out a new parliamentary plan: let others alter it at their pleasure; provided only that they mend it. Where, now, is the impracticability of making our representation equal; where the difficulty, the expence, or
trouble of annual elections! For my own part [78] I think none but old women can suppose them; and none but men of very bad principles and the very worst designs, can still urge their existence. I am sure that a village constable would be ashamed to acknowledge himself incapable of conducing the whole of it: and I know that the laws by which we now raise our militia, are attended with more difficulties and more trouble ten times over. But that the execution of such a plan will be opposed by the court and its tools, I likewise have no doubt. And I can easily foresee, that, for want of an honest and direct objection to it, they will indirectly attack it, by an artful vindication, as they will pretend, of the royal prerogative, upon which, according to their doctrines, it incroaches. I think; it, therefore, necessary, before I dismiss the subject, to speak a little to that point.

73. As I wish to give every honest doubter all reasonable satisfaction, at the same time that I would shew a proper attention to all that the court can object to my proposed abridgment of the prerogative, I will begin with taking Judge Blackstone's opinion on the point in question. "As to the manner and time of assembling;" says he, "the parliament is regularly to be summoned by the king's writ or letter, issued out of chancery by advice of the privy council, at least forty days before it begins to sit. It is a branch of the royal prerogative that no parliament [79] can be convened by its own authority, or by the authority of any, except the king alone. And this prerogative is founded upon very good reason. For, supposing it had a right to meet spontaneously, without being called together; it, is impossible to conceive that all the members, and each of the houses, would agree unanimously upon  the proper time and place of meeting: and if half of the members met, and half absented themselves, who shall determine which is really the legislative body, the part assembled, or that which stays away? It is therefore necessary that the parliament should be called together at a determinate  time and place: and highly becoming its dignity and independence, that it should be called together by none but one of its own constituent parts: and, of the three constituent parts, this office can only appertain to the king: as he is a single person, whose will may be uniform and steady; the first person in the nation, being superior to  both houses in dignity; and the only branch of the legislature that has a separate existence, and is capable of performing any act at a time when no parliament is in being." But what does all this amount to, which can any way shew the impropriety of the parliament's meeting at a determinate time and place". previously agreed on, by all [80] the branches of the legislature ? If "it be highly becoming its dignity and independence, that it should be called together by none but one of its constituent parts," surely its dignity will be still better provided for, when it shall come together by the unanimous agreement of all the three. So much of the prerogative as can be of any use, will fill be left to the crown, should the regulation I propose become part of the constitution of parliament: the king may still summon his parliament, at any time before its appointed meeting; he may keep it assembled beyond the fixed period for its sitting; and, after its dismission, he may call it again, if occasion require, and keep it in attendance the full period of its existence.

74. Let any man but consider our very multifarious national business, and reflect upon the prodigious number of bills which are
passed in every session of parliament; and then say, whether or not some certain parliamentary attendance be not absolutely necessary. Let him also consider of what utility and convenience it would be to the public, always to know the times of its meetings; in order that all persons, being interested in any bills which were to come before the houses, might prepare themselves accordingly: let him, moreover, call to mind that, as kings [81] have heretofore governed without parliaments for a long time, they may possibly attempt to do so again; if we do not take care to prevent them; and I think he will hold it ridiculous, to talk of its being a prerogative of the king, to have the fittings of parliaments entirely at his mercy. Prerogative is "a power of doing public good without a rule." This evidently implies that its only sphere of action, is in those cases alone, where the law cannot provide a proper rule; for, to suppose that prerogative could in any case be allowed, where such a rule could be provided, would be to admit that prerogative is as good as law. This, however, is no doctrine of the English constitution. The aula regia, erected by William the conqueror, followed the king's person in all his progresses and expeditions;* and consequently, sat at his pleasure; till magna charta removed the grievance, by confining it to a determinate place, in Westminster Hall; where of course it became not only a stationary, but a regular judicature. And we are informed that it was through " fear of the annual parliaments" of those days, that this aula regia was erected in the royal palace, and vested with a portion of that power which, -till then, the wittena gemote, or parliament,

*Blackstone's Com. vol. 3, p. 38.

[82] had been possessed of. It must be in the nature of every tyrant, however successful, to dread an annual parliament truly representing the whole body of commons: while, on the other hand, such a council will always be most acceptable, to a prince of genuine virtue and magnanimity; who, like his present majesty, wishes to be the father of a free people; and therefore will rather desire to know their real sentiments and interests, than to be deceived by the lying flatteries and misrepresentations of sycophants and public robbers. Conceiving, as I do, that some of the meetings of parliament ought to be regular and certain, and by no means to depend on the will of the king; it is natural that I should deny it to be the, prerogative of the crown, to dissolve a parliament, meaning only an annual parliament, before it should have sat a sufficient time for ordering the public
affairs. We very well know how the power of dissolving has heretofore been practised. If the king is to have a power to prevent a parliament from assembling; and likewise, when assembled, a power to dissolve. it again; is not this sufficient for rendering a parliament a mere cypher in government? A power that should never be made use of, ought not to exist.No matter, as to the probabilities of such an abuse. But we know that it is possible; because it has happened. The commons have [83] a right to consult with the other two branches of the legislature, every year, or oftner, if need be, on public affairs; and they have a right also to counsel the king on all matters of state; to enquire into abuses, and to call ministers to account: hence, it ought not to be in the power of the sovereign to prevent them. For them to have a right to do all these things; and for him to have a power to deprive them of the means of exercising this right, is a contradiction.— But the very idea of a power in the crown to dissolve at pleasure an annual parliament, is particularly irreconcileable with reason.* By its negative, it can effectually prevent any house of commons from doing any legislative injury to the constitution, should it at any time manifest such a disposition; and the commons at large, to whom alone it belongs to dismiss their own servants, would very soon have an opportunity of discarding them, and appointing more trusty ones in their room. So, though in the judge's opinion, the prerogative of convening the parliament at the pleasure of the king, be " founded upon very good

* One abuse begets another. While under the imposition of long parliaments, we feel some consolation in vesting the crown with the power of dissolution. But what a wretched condition are the commons in, when they have no way of getting rid of servants who wrong and insult them, but by petitioning the crown!

[84] reasons;" there are still much better reasons to be given, why it ought to have its fixed, as well as its precarious, sittings.

75. The more we contemplate an annual parliament, and those other barriers of liberty I propose to have erected, the more I am persuaded we shall become attached to them. I am sorry to find Junius no friend to such parliaments. "Whenever," says he, "the question of annual parliaments shall be seriously agitated, I will endeavour (and if I live will assuredly attempt it) to convince the English nation; by arguments to my " understanding unanswerable, that they ought to insist upon a triennial, and banish the idea of an annual parliament." I have been often, and much at a loss, to discover what could have been his reasons for this declaration. The more I have myself contemplated the subject, and drawn comparisons between parliaments of different durations, the more confirmed have I always been in giving the preference to an annual one, provided it were properly chosen. Indeed I never could arrive at any other, satisfactory conclusion; but here my mind rests in security, and I find every satisfaction which the case requires or admits of. I hope the able writer abovementioned is still alive, and will no longer delay to favour the public with his sentiments at large on this great question. [85] Is it it be not full time that it were "seriously agitated," I have formed a wrong opinion; having very seriously discussed it to the best of my poor abilities. Satisfied as I am at present of the wisdom of recurring to annual parliament, I shall very readily change that sentiment in favour of triennial, or even septennial ones, provided any one will convince me by unanswerable arguments that either of them are entitled to a preference. After all our differences in opinion, 'tis truth alone that can do us essential service. He who has any other controversial pursuit, which causes him wilfully to deviate from that, is, in my estimation, a pest to society. Should I presume to guess at the objections of Junius to annual parliaments, I should suppose they probably arose from his previous ideas concerning the impracticability of restoring an equal representation. On that point, perhaps, the reader now agrees with me in thinking, that he had formed but a defective judgment. His error, in that particular, I conceive to be full sufficient for giving birth to others of no small moment, with regard to the most eligible length of parliaments. Were, indeed, no other alteration to be made in our representation, than that which he speaks of with approbation, of " increasing the number of knights of shires;" I confess that an annual parliament, such as we [86] should then have, and so chosen as it would still be, would be little better than the present. Probably not at all: possibly it might make things worse. Such a parliament, being still within the reach of corruption, would doubtless be corrupted. A very large proportion would still be founded upon corruption: the rotten boroughs would still contaminate the house of commons. Without a much deeper reformation, there would continue to be just as many saleable seats to dispose of in such a parliament, as in any former one. They would most likely, in such a case, be contracted for by a kind of conditional lease, for three, five, seven or more successive years, at a stipulated annual rent, according to the inclinations or views of the lessees. The borough brokers and masters of calculation would soon fix their market price for every supposeable term of years. Should it be in the power of a majority, or even of a considerable number of the members, thus to secure their places in parliament for any proposed time, what would it avail the nation that it were called an annual parliament ? In order to render so great a portion of corruption of no effect in the house, the knights of shires must be increased to a number that would preclude all possibility of sober counsel and debate. But in what conceivable of assembly would it be possible to admit such a degree [87] of corruption, without a certainty of its producing very ill effects! An annual parliament without an equal representation would be of no use; as, on the other hand, an equal representation without an annual parliament would afford us no security. Together, they would form a palladium of liberty. Venality would be banished, and tyranny bound. Why, in God's name, should we suffer any known and palpable corruption to contaminate the source of legislation!

76. I only agree with a very great number of the best and wisest men of the age; when I say that except parliamentary prostitution be done clean away, the liberties of this country have not long to exist. I have endeavoured to do the duty of a citizen, by attempting to point out the ready means of effecting this great purpose. My fellow citizens must judge how far I have succeeded; and determine for themselves whether they will neglect them and sink into slavery, or adopt them and be free. May that Being who gave us our freedom inspire us with a due sense of so transcendent a blessing, and enable us to transmit it unimpaired to our posterity! [88]


I CANNOT but feel the strongest persuasion that the facility of annually electing our lower house of parliament, and of restoring a full, equal and perfect representation to the commons, is in the foregoing pages demonstrated: and I hope my reader agrees with me, in the idea of its being absolutely necessary to make these reforms immediately. Now it only remains to inspire him with a confidence that they may be effected, even against the whole force and fraud of ministerial opposition; and to adjure him, as he shall answer it hereafter, not to be wanting to his country on this great occasion: but to do his duty to that, I had almost said divine constitution, under which he lives, and under which he looks for peace and protection. No man can plead impotency without confessing disinclination. The poorest peasant of our state, I have shewn to be an important member of it; and that he hath as high a title to liberty as the most illustrious nobleman. I have shewn likewise that, in justice, the voice of the peasant goes as far as that of the richest commoner towards the nomination of a member of a parliament. The name of a peasant will consequently, be of as much value in a petition to [89] the throne, or any public act of the commons in their social capacity, as that of any freeholder or borough voter whatever, It will be the signature of a freeman: of a man every way intitled to the protection of the laws, and competent to a share in the framing of them. To vindicate this right is doubtless of the last importance; for liberty, like learning, is best preserved by its being widely diffused through society. Numbers are its health, strength and life. But, to return, let my reader, if he have a wish for reformation, either recollect or read what is proposed in the conclusion of the political disquisitions, concerning a grand national association for restoring the constitution.

It would be impertinent to repeat what is there written. I will only endeavour to throw in my small contribution towards removing the difficulties of carrying such a noble scheme into practice. As soon as leaders worthy of such a cause shall have made themselves known to the public (and such I have reason to believe will soon appear) it may be presumed that they will be provided with a concise and clear state, of the evils flowing from long parliaments; of the injustice and absurdity of such parliaments themselves; of the infinite advantages from their removal; and of the method proposed for this salutary work. They will doubtless lay a representation on [90] these matters before the king himself, and shew him how fatally he has been misadvised by his ministers. If his majesty's wisdom be in any degree proportioned to his known goodness of heart, he will be awakened as from a dream, and all will go well. He can at his pleasure make any parliaments annual by dissolutions; and, patronized by him, the whole plan for repairing the foundation and the fortifications of liberty will be executed with infinitely less trouble than it cost to pass the act for establishing popery in a British province, or to enact any one of those laws by which we weakly attempted to enslave the colonies. Such an act of wisdom and goodness would place the name of George the Third the foremost on the roll of patriot kings: and the gratitude of his people would give him every thing in return short of adoration. He would then be great and powerfull [sic]indeed! But, should it be the misfortune of this country, that its sovereign should have been o effectually blinded to the only causes from which national prosperity, regal dignity and splendour can be derived; should the royal mind be warped by prejudice and unalterably fixed in a preference to certain men and their false principles of government; and should ever so expressly condemn the proposed reformation; yet, it must not be despaired of. If a king will not be a father to his people, they must take [91] care of themselves. For the sake of more formality, I will suppose our patriot leaders to make their next attempt in the house of commons. But we should be weak indeed to expect any better success in that quarter. Nevertheless such a proceeding would be highly proper: and it would be right to have a compleat bill for the purpose ready to lay upon the table, if permitted. The jocular Lord North, after once more diverting himself and his play-fellows with this 'popular squib,' gives the usual signal, and, it is no no no'd out of the house in an instant, and honour'd at its exit with a horse laugh.* An immediate publication, of it would however enable the people to judge, whether such a bill or such a house were most for their service. And it would then be high time that a national association were forthwith set on foot. But the principles upon which I have proceeded in this essay direct, that it should have a wider basis than that proposed by the author abovementioned. Instead of being confined to 'men of property, and to be subscribed by those only whose names are in any tax­book,'  it must take in every man who shall prefer liberty to slavery. A slight reflection on the temper and disposition of the times will teach us, that it ought to be so concerted as not, by any means, to depend upon a

*Good God in heaven, how do some men trifle with the fate of this nation ! Further Examination, p. 230.

[92] coup de main for its success: but so, as to grow into the approbation of the public more and more, as it should be more and more examined. Its intrinsic worth ought to be such, that it might at all times hereafter, though it failed at first, be appealed to as a model for a perfect parliament. Time, and circumstances, and sufferings from misgovernment, would one day or other bring it into use: but any great and sudden national calamity would instantly make all men come into it as into the ark of their preservation.. Our sufferings, if not our reason, are likely enough to drive us into it within a very short period of time; but, should we even allow that every servant of the crown and every member of parliament were an undoubted patriot, yet we could have no excuse whatever for delaying it; because the measure is right in itself, and a duty we owe to posterity; who might behold senators and courtiers of another cast. If we be in earnest to serve our country, we must have patience and perseverance as well as zeal. The patriot does not say to himself, 'I will labour in my country's cause for two or three, or for six or seven years;' and then, if disappointed, ' I will abandon it in vexation or despair:' no — the love of his country he finds .the ruling passion of his soul; and he knows that the duties of patriotism, the aggregate of all the minor social duties, cannot cease but with his vital, breath. It is to be hoped, therefore, [93] that amongst our leaders no unworthy ambition shall mix with this sacred business, no rashness dictate their counsels: but that wisdom, magnanimity, and an unconquerable spirit of perseverance shall regulate and distinguish their whole conduct. Besides the universality which seems to be essential to the scheme of an association, it must be framed with the utmost simplicity. The motives to it should be set forth as clearly and concisely as possible; the contrast between the evils to be removed and the advantages to be gained should be short and striking; the peasant should be taught to know his own importance; that a majority of the people have at all times a right to correct the government at their own discretion; should be inculcated and proved; and it should likewise be shewn, that a majority will always succeed in any thing they shall seriously and steadily attempt. A hand bill would be sufficient for this purpose. They should be circulated, together with the forms of the association, throughout every parish, and in the greatest abundance. And at the same time draughts of a petition to the throne, for his majesty's concurrence and aid towards procuring the object of the association, should likewise be circulated for subscriptions. But yet there is one measure which, above all others, would be necessary towards the prospering of our undertaking. The people must be [94] convinced that there is no trick in the business: that the leaders in it will not turn out Pulteneys or F---ds. In order hereto, it will be requisite, that these leaders should jointly subscribe and publish the most explicit declaration of their intentions; and the most sacred engagements that they will before all things persevere till death, both in and out of parliament, towards obtaining the great object of the proposed association, a parliamentary reformation. It were to be wished too they would confine themselves to this one article. It includes all the rest. Without this, nothing else can be obtained; and if they could, would not be worth contending for. But let them not amuse us with general terms and indefinite expressions. Let them say what this reformation shall be:—let them tell it us exactly, in all its particulars. Let us be thoroughly satisfied that we are not to be made the bubbles of their ambition; and when we shall have raised them to the high seats of power, that we shall not find our liberties in as low a condition as before.

An association thus planned, thus patronized, thus conducted, would unite all parties; and soon take in almost the whole of the kingdom: — but why should I say almost, why should I suppose any man base enough, not to be of it? Neither the farmer, nor the mechanic [95] may perhaps know whether the Americans are right or wrong in opposing government; but every man knows that an assembly of honest men is to be preferred to an assembly of knaves. Hence we should soon see the wide difference between a party struggle, for petitions against addressess, and addresses against petitions; and a national invitation to all men of all parties to take care of their lives, liberties and properties. No man's party will suffer by an annual parliament; because no minister of what party soever can have an influence over it. By annual elections every man will be at liberty to vote for gentlemen of his own party once a year: and he will then find, by the help of very little experience, that men of sense, probity and religion, notwithstanding some immaterial differences of sentiment, are all of one party in politics; and will all agree in serving their country, and in keeping the power of kings and ministers within bounds. "A designing ministry desires no better than that the people's attention be engaged about trifling grievances, such as have employed us since the late peace. This gives them an opportunity of wreathing the yoke around our necks, because it gives them a pretence for increasing the military force. Instructing, petitioning, remonstrating, and the like, are good diversion for a court; because they know, that, in such ways, nothing will be done against their power. A grand national association for obtaining an independent pendent parliament would make them [96] tremble. For they know, that the nation, if in earnest, would have it, and that with the cessation of their influence in parliament, their power must end."* It will perhaps be said that 'the members of an association can only petition the throne; that 60,000 of the subjects petitioned in the year 1769 for a dissolution of the then parliament,† and were answered only by a royal nod, and that, no nod of approbation; whereupon the said 60,000 persons were obliged to put up quietly with the contempt they met with.' I answer, that an associated nation may do more than petition, or remonstrate either. There is nothing it cannot do but what is naturally impossible. It can level a throne with the earth, and trample authority in the dust. And it can do these things of right. Nothing but its own belief of their expediency to do it service, can preserve them from its destroying hand. But this nation knows too well the excellency of

* Pol. Disq. v. 3, p: 455.
Ibid. p. 35. where you will likewise find these words; "It was moved in the house of commons, that, in their address, in answer to the above profound speech" (the king's upon the horned cattle) "the house should declare their intention of enquiring into the causes of the present discontents. Several of the courtly members gravely denied that there was any discontent in the kingdom, though they knew that 60000 had subscribed petitions for dissolution of parliament. They might have argued more plausibly, that there was no parliament then existing. For it will appear presently, that a tenth part of the above number sends in the majority of the house. And is the voluntary petition of 60,000 deserves no regard, surely the bought votes of 5000 ought to go for nothing.

[97] its constitution of government, to think of doing the smallest injury to any branch of it. Associated to a man, the throne, the peerage, the house of representatives would be so far from being in danger, that, to rescue them from abuse, to repair them, to strengthen them, to re-edify and adorn them, could be its sole object.

That such an association may take place, if need be, is my ardent prayer; and I hope there lives not that man upon our isle so unworthy of the society of men, who, if need were, would not subscribe it with his blood.


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