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PART THE SECOND.
SPECIMENS OF PARLIAMENTARY ELOQUENCE.
It may seem unnecessary to enlarge on the advantages which young students in oratory must derive from selections of the most admired speeches in parliament. The annals of the world do not afford more brilliant proofs of the powers of human genius, and of the extent of the human understanding, than are to be found in the debates of the British senate. While flashes of wit, and bursts of eloquence warm, elevate, and transport the soul ;while we dwell with satisfied conviction on the ingenuity and evidence of irresistible reasoning ;-we feel our minds expanded and enlightened by a display of learning, of knowledge, and wisdom, which render us independent of the boasted treasures of antiquity.
As a fund of valuable information, those debates embrace every subject of importance to civilized society, the means of internal happiness and external security, the navy, the army,- foreign and domestic trade,--the
-various resources of the state, distant settlements,-treaties,--subsidies ---constitutional questions, religion,
224 SPECIMENS OF PARLIAMENTARY ELOQUENCE.
morals, -and all the other cares and concerns of good government.
At the same time that the parliamentary debates afford so complete a system of the most liberal and enlightened policy, as well as a clear view of the rise and fall of empires, and of the steps by which men ascend to power or sink into insignificance, do they not also furnish ingenious youth with the finest models of eloquence, and a fixed standard of the purity of the English language? Are so many months and years in the early part of life to be spent in studying the artificial harangues of THUCYDIDES and XENOPHON, of Livy, Tacitus, and SALLUST, while the genuine speeches of BRITISH SENATORS, unrivalled in the sphere of oratory, are disregarded? Were the present work to be attended with no other good effect than that of contributing to reform so gross an error in the fashionable systems of public and private education, we should think our humble labours very amply rewarded. How delightful would it be to fan the flame of rising genius, by putting the master pieces of English composition into the hands of our young countrymen,
“ To whom the Wits of Greece and Rome are known,
In our Universities, distinct schools are very properly appointed for teaching the several arts and sciences, one for Grammar, another for Rhetoric, a third for Logic, and so on.
But in our great parliamentary school, all those are admirably united ; and youth may here be instructed without the least confusion, in every thing that can benefit or adorn human nature. As to Grammar and Rhetoric, where can they be better studied than in the most impressive examples of propriety, elegance, copiousness, and energy ; and with regard to the art of reasoning, the very forms observed in carrying a bill through both houses, give rise to more striking illustrations of
practical Logic than any writer on the subject was ever capable even of conceiving. Every bill must be read, and is of course liable to be debated, at least three different times in each house, to prevent the legislative body from being taken by surprise, and to give time for viewing the question in every possible light. As the same arguments : either for or against the bill are never repeated, we see in its progress the powers of ingenuity put to the fullest stretch, and the resources of fertile invention exhausted, to rise one above the other, like a majestic pile, whose towering summit seems to pierce the skies.
In the selection and arrangement of our materials, some pains have been taken to bring under the same general heads of national importance the various and even the contradictory opinions of the ablest orators and statesmen, as the light of truth is frequently struck out by the clash or collision of such opposite sentiments. Even where politicians, under the influence of passions, of prejudices, or mistake, have evidently differed in their anticipations of what would follow, it is easy now to see whether Time has put his seal or not to the accuracy of their prognostics.
In order to bring within the space of one volume as great a number of those oratorical beauties as possible, our constant endeavour has been to compress, but not to mutilate ;--to preserve the spirit, while we retrench the dead letter ;--and, by a just discrimination of style, to hit off the characteristical excellencies of the different speakers. We even hope, in some happy moments, to transport the reader into the scene of debate ;-to make him see the lightning and hear the thunder of British eloquence ;-to direct his eye to the brightest orbs in the political heavens, and to charm his ear with the music of our parliamentary spheres.
The purity and equality of the national representation are objects of such primary importance, that it is no wonder they should at all times have engaged the attention and exercised the talents of our greatest statesmen and patriots. Some have been of opinion that the best purposes of reform might be promoted by extending the right of suffrage, and others by abridging the duration of parliaments. The latter expedient appears to have been a very popular one ever since the Revolution. In the session of 1692, a bill was brought into the House of Lords by the EARL of ShrewSBURY for the frequent calling and meeting of parliaments ; by which it was enacted, that a session of parliament should be held every year; and a new parliament summoned every third year ; whence the bill
; was called the Triennial Bill. It passed the Lords by a great majority, and was well received by the commons, notwithstanding the opposition of the Courtiers. But King WILLIAM regarding it as a dangerous novelty, and a serious invasion of his prerogative, refused his assent. A few years after, he was better advised ; and, on the 22d of December 1694, a similar bill received the royal sanction, to the great joy of the people, who regarded it as the most satisfactory security which had ever been obtained for the perpetuation of their rights and liberties.
In the year 1716, the ministry being apprehensive of the danger or inconvenience of a general election for some time after the suppression of a rebellion, the parliament then sitting assumed the power of prolonging not only the duration of future parliaments, but even its own ; and
having been elected by the nation for three years, they elected themselves for four years more.
This extraordinary measure is known by the name of the Septennial Act, which originated in the Lords, and was strenuously opposed there, but encountered a still more vehement and formidable opposition in the Commons, where the debate was closed by Sir Robert RAYMOND, (afterwards Lord Chief Justice RAYMOND) with the following reply to the most ingenious advocates for such a stretch of parliamentary authority :
“ The arguments for the bill are, 1. The expenses attending frequent elections: 2. The divisions and animosities excited by them : 3. The advantages to be derived by our enemies from these domestic feuds : 4. The encouragement which this bill holds out to our allies to form with us more strict and permanent connections.
“ As to the expenses of election, they have, I acknowledge, of late years, most alarmingly increased, and have become very grievous and burdensome. They have increased, however, not from the contests of neighbouring gentlemen with each other, but from the intrusion of strangers, who having no natural interest to support them, and coming no one could tell whence, had recourse to the scandalous arts of bribery and corruption, which imposed a necessity upon gentlemen to enlarge their expenses, in order to preserve their ancient and established interests in their respective counties; and the impunity, which the practice of bribery and corruption has too often met with in this house, I am compelled to add, has greatly enhanced the evil. But will any one assert, that septennial parliaments are competent to remedy this evil? Will they not rather increase it? For those that will give money to obtain a seat in parliament for three years, will give proportionably more for seven. No-not septennial but annual parliaments are the true constitutional remedy for this grievance: this was our ancient constitution; and