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gentleman who accepted it, and upon that account deserted the interest on which he was chosen, would certainly be thrown out upon the next general election. The minister's success would therefore be evidently more precarious in the latter than in the former case ; and the precariousness of his success would add to the difficulty of his attempt; because it would make gentlemen more shy than they otherwise would be to accept of any offers he could make.
“ Thus I think, Sir, it is evident, that ministerial corruption may be more prevalent in a septennial Parliament than it could be, were our parliaments annually chosen ; and the mischief is, besides many others, that corruption within doors spreads corruption without. When a gentleman finds he can get 500 l. or 1000 l. a year for his vote in Parliament, he thinks no more of improving or preserving his natural interest in his borough: he trusts to corruption alone for his next election ; and the pension, or salary he has from the public, enables him to outbid any gentleman who sets up upon the country interest, and has nothing but his own private fortune for supporting his expense. To this I shall add, Sir, that corruption within doors contributes not a little towards the success of ministerial corruption without. When a gentleman of
a family and fortune gets into Parliament, let him vote there in never so abandoned a manner, he will still preserve some natural interest in that part of the country where his family has, perhaps for ages, lived in great esteem; this natural interest is of course brought in aid of ministerial corruption, at all the elections in that country : and against these two joined together it requires a very extraordinary and unusual spirit of liberty to carry any election.
“ For this reason, Sir, if our septennial Parliaments be any longer continued, I shall not wonder to see the minister's letters of recommendation, with respect to the choice
of any candidate as implicitly obeyed in all our counties, cities, boroughs, as the King's Conge d'Elire is now in the chapters of our episcopal Cathedrals ; and if this should ever come to be our case, I shall look with indignation upon every man who pretends to be a free Briton. The very pretence would be an insult upon the understanding of him it was addressed to. We should be all slaves: God knows to whom; but I hope it will never be to any minister from Hanover. I say, I hope it will never be to any minister from Hanover : though it is hard to tell what a corrupt parliament may not do; what a corrupt nation may not submit to. Happen what will, I am resolved, while I live, to endeavour to prevent such a dismal catastrophe: and therefore I shall conclude with moving, for leave to bring a bill to enforce the calling of a new Parliament every year, after the expiration of this present Parliament.”
The motion was thus seconded by HUMPHREY SYDENHAM, Esq.
“ The danger our constitution is in from corruption has by late experience been made so evident, that if there be a gentleman amongst us, who is void of any apprehensions of that kind, I shall very freely pronounce him void of all concern for the liberties of his country. I must therefore take it for granted that every gentleman in this House is of opinion, that something ought to be done for preventing, or, at least lessening the effect of ministerial corruption, both at elections and in Parliament: and my honourable friend who make you this motion, has so clearly shewn, that annual Parliaments will be the most effectual for this purpose, that I think I need not add any thing to what he has said on that head. Indeed the proposition is so self evident, that it stands in no need of any illustration; and therefore I shall confine what I have t
say to the character, and morals of the people. Sir, the better sort of People in this country have always, till of late years, been remarkable for their bravery, generosity, and hospitality, and those of inferior rank for their honesty, frugality, and industry.--These are the virtues which raised this nation to that height of glory, riches, and power, it had once arrived at: but these virtues are every one of them in danger of being utterly extinguished by ministerial corruption at elections, and in Parliament. For proving this, I have no occasion to appeal to any thing but experience. Under the late administration the decay of every one of these virtues, and the causes of that decay became so visible to every thinking man in the kingdom, that the whole nation, except the very tools of the minister, joined in putting an end to his power; and thank God! with the help of a very extraordinary conjuncture at Court, we at last, in some degree, succeeded in our endeavours. For this reason I say, I need not appeal to any thing but experience, for shewing what an effect public corruption has upon private as well as public virtue: but as it may be proved by reason, as well as experience, and as I think it necessary to take advantage o every argument that can be thought of for establishing the truth of this proposition, I shall beg leave to consider separately every one of the virtues I have mentioned, in order to shew from the reason of things, how necessarily it must decay in proportion as public corruption is introdnced ; and first, with regard to courage, or bravery.
“ Though courage, or resolution, Sir, depends in some measure upon
nature, or constitution of the man, yet it may be very much encreased, or diminished by custom, and education ; and especially by public rewards bestowed upon, or refused to, those who have shewn any remarkable degree of it in the service of their country. In former times, and when we had an honest and wise Administration, the chief method by which our nobility and gentry
could recommend themselves to the esteem of their country, or the favor of their sovereign, was by their courage, and military capacity : and the same consideration, made them take notice of those who were in any station below them, which propagated a brave, and military spirit among all ranks of men in the kingdom. In those days our ministers did not desire any man in Parliament to vote as they directed: they desired no man to vote but according to the dictates of his own conscience ; and therefore, they never thought of rewarding those who approved, much less of punishing those who disapproved of their measures in Parliament. At elections again, though a seat in Parliament was always reckoned honorable, yet as it was in ancient times reckoned rather berthensome, than profitable, there was never any violent competition at the election, and consequently the person chosen never thought himself much obliged to those who voted for him, nor did they so much as expect any favors from him upon that account alone. But no sooner did ministers begin to solicit the votes, instead of convincing the reason of members of Parliament than they began to think themselves obliged to reward those who complied with their solicitation ; and soon after this practice was introduced, a seat in Parliament became profitable, as well as honorable, which of course begot violent competitions at elections; and this made voters again claim a merit with those, in favor of whom they gave their vote at any election.
Hinc prima mali labes “ From thenceforth, Sir, the natural channel through which all public honors and preferments flowed, began to be disused ; and betraying our country to the will of a Minister in Parliament, or at elections, began to be the only channel through which a man could expect any honor, or preferment. When this began, or whether it has not met with some interruptions since it first began, I shall not determine : but this I will say, that it never became so apparent, as it did under the late Administration : and, I wish we may not fatally feel the consequences of it in the war we are now engaged in. The natural courage of Englishmen is not by any discouragements to be absolutely extinguished; but I wish it may not have taken a wrong turn: I wish we may not find that the courage of our men is become rather an avaricious, than an ambitious courage ; and that men now seek to raise by their courage their private fortunes, rather than their own, or their country's glory: for if that be the case, we may make good pirates, or marauders; but we shall never, while this spirit remains, make good soldiers, or seamen ; and no man, I believe, can expect, that we should be able to put a glorioas end to the war, either by piracy, or marauding. Courage, Sir, like many other good qualities, becomes laudable only according to the use that is made of it; and the motives upon which it is founded ; for a man who ventures his life with no other view but that of raising his own private fortune, differs from a common highwayman in nothing but this, that the one plunders according to law, the other against it. When I say this, Sir, I hope it will not be thought that I intend to reflect upon any of those brave men who have ventured their lives in taking prizes from the enemies of their country ; for as they thereby weaken the enemy, it is a public service as well as a private advantage ; and when the first of these motives is their chief inducement, which I hope it always is, with the officers at least, they deserve the esteem and applause of their country.–From such gentlemen we may expect an equal behaviour, where nothing but blows and triumphs are to be got from the enemy ; but this is not to be expected from those who have nothing but the prize in view.