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to the Prince upon the throne, because it prevents his being led on in a track of unpopular measures, till both he and his ministers are overwhelmed in the torrent of popular resentment, which often happens in arbitrary countries, where the Prince is tumbled headlong from his throne, before he knows any thing of his having pursued unpopular or wrong measures : whereas, had he had timely information, he might have restored himself to the love, and affection of his subjects, by making a just sacrifice of his wicked counsellors to the resentment of his oppressed people. As the Prince can have no interest separate from his people, his interest, if he rightly considers it, must lead him to gain the love and esteem of his people ; and to avoid every thing that may give them discontent: it is therefore his interest to have always an House of Commons that knows, and will faithfully and speedily represent to him the complaints and grievances of his people: but this is directly opposite to the interest of his ministers. In all countries, and in this as much as any other, ministers have an interest separate from that of the people: they are for enriching themselves, their families, tools, and sycophants, at the expense of the people : and it is their business to keep all the avenues to the throne shut up against the complaints of the people, lest the Prince should, as every wise one will, sacrifice them to his own security: ministers must therefore be for having always an House of Commons, that either does not know, or will not faithfully represent to their Sovereign the complaints and grievances of the people, and as we are much more affected with what we see, than what we only hear of, it is the business of a minister to prevent the members of this House, if possible, from ever seeing their constituents, because the less we are affected with, the more easily we may be prevailed on, to conceal from our Sovereign, or even to misrepresent to him, the complaints of the people. Thus, Sir, it is apparently the interest of
the King, it is apparently the interest of the country, to have short Parliaments, and frequent general electionsbut it is apparently the interest of ministers, especially wicked ministers, to have Parliaments as long, and general elections as seldom as possible ; therefore I hope it will be granted, that annual Parliaments are more agreeable to the reason of things, and the nature of our constitution than Parliaments of any longer duration ; and of this we must be convinced even to demonstration, if we will but consider, that we are, properly speaking, the attorneys of the people. Is it prudent, is it reasonable, that any man should have a power of attorney irrevocable for a long term of years ? shall a whole people do what woutd be the height of foolishness in every individual ? The people, or at least such of them as have any knowledge of public affairs, and by such the rest are generally governed; I say the people may guess at what sort of business is to come before the next ensuing session of Parliament, and they may choose an attorney, who they think has capacity and integrity enough for transacting that sort of business for them : but they cannot so much as guess at what may come before Parliament in a course of seven years, nor can they depend upon the continuance of any man's integrity for such a number of years. It is therefore most unnatural and unreasonable to force the people to give an irrevocable power of attorney for such a long term. The practice was first introduced under the reign of RICHARD II., and was approved of by a Parliament, that in every instance betrayed the liberties of the people they represented, and sacrificed the interest of their country to the violent passions of their Sovereign, and the insatiable avarice of his ministers.—They concealed from him, or misrepresented the discontents and murmurings of his people ; and thereby led him into a deceitful security, which soon ended in his ruin, and the advancement of the Duke of HEREFORD, or rather LANCASTER to the
throne, without any other title than that of having rescued the people from slavery.
“ This, Sir, was the fate of the Prince who first introduced long parliaments; and therefore from experience, as well as reason, we may be convinced, that short Parliaments and frequent general elections, are most for the interest of the King: but unluckily the interest of ministers lies, as I have said, upon the other side of the question, not only for the sake of preventing the members of this House from being affected with the cries, and groans of the people, but for another reason, which is still more effectual for their wicked purposes : I mean that of corruption. From the very principle adopted by all wicked ministers, that every man has his price, it is evident to a demonstration that ministerial corruption may be more successful at elections when they are but rarely to happen, than when they occur annually ; and that a minister may more probably obtain a corrupt majority in a long Parliament, than a short one. To draw the com
, parison between annual, and septennial Parliaments; and first with regard to elections, in every county, in every little borough of the kingdom it must be granted, that • there are some gentlemen who have a natural interest they are acquainted with and esteemed by the leading men in the county, or borough ; and many of the lower class perhaps support their families by the employment they have from such gentlemen, and their friends—If elections were allowed to go in their natural course, such men only would be chosen, who had the greatest natural interest, but against such an one a Court-candidate, with the Treasury at his back, comes to set up, and to set up upon the ministerial principle, that every man has his price ;
-which for argument's sake, I shall allow to be a true one ; and I am sorry it has of late years been so much confirmed by experience. Suppose then, that every one of the electors in this county or borough has hi
price: yet surely it will not be pretended that all have an equal price, or that a man in tolerable circumstances will sacrifice his Country, his friend, and his character, or a tradesman his employment, for what appears to him to be a trifle. We must therefore suppose, that a man, whose price is seven guineas, will not sell his vote for one, nor will a man, whose price is seven hundred, sell his vote for one hundred. Now suppose the Treasury could secure a majority in this borough for seven guineas a man ; this they may spare to give for a seven year's Parliament, but cannot spare to give so much every year : therefore, in annual Parliaments, this borough will return to, and be governed in its election by what we call the natural interest, whereas in septennial Parliaments it will always be governed by corruption.
" I know it may be said, Sir, that a man who sells his vote for seven guineas to a septennial Parliament candidate, will sell it for one to an annual Parliament candidate ; because he knows he may sell it for the same price yearly; and an annuity of one guinea yearly is better than seven guineas every seven years : but this I am convinced will by experience be found to be false. It is the largeness of the sum that dazzles both the avaricious and luxurious, who seldom think of futurity; if they did, they would never sell their vote at any price; because they know that they who purchase must sell: and that by selling their votes they render not only their liberties, but their properties precarious.-Besides, no man can be sure of having an opportunity to sell his vote the next ensuing year; and much less can he be sure of selling it yearly for seven years to come: he may die before the next election: the Administration may be changed; and a new one set up that does not stand in need of corruption : a spirit may arise in this borough that may render it impossible for any man to hope for success by corruption : and without hope of success no man will be at the expense of corrupting: many other accidents may happen for disappointing him of ever having another opportunity to sell his vote at an election : and if so for the sake of one guinea, or some such paltry sum, he stands branded as long as he lives with the character of an infamous venal betrayer of his country -I therefore think we may with great certainty conclude, that though a man may be tempted to sell his vote for seven guineas to a septennial Parliament candidate, he will disdain to sell his vote for one guinea to an annual parliament candidate, and consequently that it is much easier for a minister to get the command of a majority of our elections, when they recur but once in seven years, then it would be, if they were made to recur annually.
Now, Sir, with regard to Parliaments, by the same way of arguing, we must be convinced, that it is easier for a minister to gain a corrupt majority in a septennial, than in an annual Parliament. Here again it must be allowed, that different men have different prices; and that a man who sells his vote in Parliament for 7000 l, or even for 3500 l. would disdain to sell his vote for 1000 1. Suppose then a minister should not trouble his head with elections, but trust as a late minister wantonly said, to the buying of the members after they were brought up to market; and that by this means a majority had been chosen upon the country interest: in these circumstances the minister must presently apply himself towards buying off such a number of that majority, as may be necessary to throw the majority upon his side of the question : and is it not evident, that in this attempt he may more probably succeed in a septennial, than in an annual Parliament? In the former if he offers a pension of 1000l, or 500 l. a year as long as the gentleman continues a member, it is immediately considered as a sum of 7000 l. or 3500 1. to be paid in seven years : but in the latter it can be considered only as a single 1000 l. or 500l., because the VOL. I.