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are found to pay a certain annual rent a certain number of years. These are all the alterations which he had to propose in the county representation. The reform which he had to propose in the other branch of representation, was of a much more extensive nature. He should propose, that the remaining four hundred members should be returned by one description of persons, which were householders. He did not conceive that it would be difficult in the present, as it had been found easy in other instances, to ascertain the various proportions of population in the different counties. He did not propose, however, that these propositions should be accurately observed, but that they should be regulated by local circumstances ; for instance, that great towns, such as the metropolis, should require a greater number of electors to return a representative, than in places where the population was more scattered, otherwise the populous towns would obtain a too great local ascendency. It was a part of his plan, that the country should be divided into different di. visions, and that, if possible, one person should not be permitted to vote for more than one member of Parliament, this scheme necessarily involved a great number of subordinary details, into which it was impossible for him to enter. In order to prevent expense, the poll ought to be taken through the whole kingdom at one time. This was the general outline of the plan which he had to propose. To state, that it could obtain any thing like exactness at once, or that it was not liable to great difficulties in the execution, would be presumptuous and foolish in the extreme. But he flattered himself it was not liable to any insuperable or fundamental objections. Upon this plan the land-owner would find his property suitably represented. A merchant would find support in the householders, and men of respectability and talents in the different professions would find a fair door open for getting into Parliament. The only persons, whom he could wish
to exclude from that house, were men who were neither possessed of landed property, nor engaged in commercial enterprise, nor professors of any particular science ; but men, who, without property, without industry, and without talents, obtained seats in the house of commons, by the influence of great men, for the purpose, as he had said before, not of consulting for the good of the people, but of promoting their own interests. If such as he had described were the situation of the electors, what would be the situation of the elected? They would hold their seats, not on the basis of universal suffrage, but of universal representation. The qualification would be so fixed, that no man, however mean, might not hope by honest industry and fair exertions to obtain a seat in the house of commons. And he begged to say, that a man arrived at the respectable situation of being father, and consequently master of a family, having given hostages as it were to society as an assurance of his interest in its welfare, was not unworthy of a share in the legislation of his country. In order to carry this plan into effect, he should move for leave to bring in a bill, which he should not propose to pass this session, but which should be brought in, lie over for discussion during the summer, and be decided upon in the course of the next session. There was still another topic upon which he had not touched; namely the duration of Parliament. If the reform in the representation was adopted, but not otherwise, it occurred to him, that the duration of Parliament should be limited to three years. Having thus stated the outline of the plan, there remained little more for him to trouble the house with. The objection had always been made to a motion for reform, when he brought it forward, viz. “ that it was an improper time to agitate the question.” So far from this appearing to him to be an objection on the present occasion, that the time is one of the greatest inducements he had for bringing it forward. If he had had any doubts on the point, they would have been removed by the change which had taken place in the sentiments of many persons of respectability, who formerly disapproved of the substance of the measure, and doubted much its propriety, and whose support he looked for on this evening. But there were considerations of much greater weight. In what situation were we placed ? In prosperity we were told that there was no need for reform; and though the Right Honorable Gentleman Mr. Pitt) at one time contended for the necessity of reform, if we would shun the recurrence of the evils of the American war, he forgot his promise when he got into power. At present, we are in a state, which, God knows was far, very far removed from prosperity. He would ask then, whether, in the present state of unexampled calamity, the country could go on in its present scale of expense, without a check being given to those who had the direction of public affairs? If the present house of commons had brought us near the end of our resources, what could prevent our ruin, but a change in the constitution of that house? When he looked abroad and surveyed the face of Europe, there was no object which to him appeared so desirable to an Englishman attached to the constitution of his country as a respectable and independent house of commons, speaking the sentiments, and consulting for the interest of the nation at large. In France a revolution has taken place ; the principles at least in which it originated, whatever others might think of them, he should always defend, Stained it cer
. tainly had been with enormities, but ministers themselves had confessed, that order was restored, and that they had asked pardon both of God and man. For his own part he entertained a sanguine hope, that in the end it would tend to the diffusion of liberty and rational knowledge all over the world. With this revolution then, how ought the people of this country to be governed ? The constitution ought to be restored to them; and when every abuse was reformed, the system would leave them nothing to regret. If you look to Ireland, you find the affairs in that country every day becoming more alarming. God grant, said he, that a convulsion may not happen ; but it can only be prevented by measures of reform and conciliation. If such an event should unfortunately take place in that country, would it not, he asked, be wise to prevent all ground of discontent in this, by removing in time every just cause of complaint? How is it possible that the house could possess the confidence of the people, after having brought the country to suffer disgrace after disgrace; after being brought to the verge, if not into the gulph of bankruptcy, without witnessing one effort on the part of its representatives to wipe off the stains it has received, or to save it from approaching ruin? Was it believed, that their debates in that house were conducted with a view to the public good ? He admitted, for the sake of argument, that the side of the house, with which he had the honor to act, were no more actuated than the other by motives of a pure disinterested nature ; though, while he made the admission, his conscience acquitted him of the crime. Was it not in every one's mouth, that the object of the one party was to keep their places, and of the other to supplant them? And, if such an opinion was entertained, how is it compatible with respect? These were the motives which induced him to submit to the house the motion which he should have the honor to propose. There was one other point, which was personal to himself, and upon which he ought not perhaps at all to trouble house. As long as he held a seat in that house, he should think himself bound to perform the duty he owed to his constituents ; but he considered it as unnecessary any longer to expose himself to that obloquy, which he had sustained in acting the part which he found himself called upon to take in the discussions of that house. Seeing caamity succeed calamity, and that every effort of his had
hitherto been ineffectual in stemming the tide of misfortune, he despaired of a continuance of his efforts being more successful. Though he should always be present therefore in future, to vote for or against any measures by which the interests of his constituents might be affected, after this night, he should not think proper to trouble the house with any observations. He concluded with moving for leave to bring in a bill to amend the representation of the people in the house of commons.
Mr. Grey was immediately followed by Mr. ERSKINE, who spoke thus :
“ I rise to second the motion of my honorable friend; and though I might content myself with saying, that I do so, resting upon the reasons and principles which he has so ably detailed, and which have always been mine also: yet I cannot, at this awful and momentous crisis, with propriety pursue that course. The principles upon which we maintain the cause of the people of England, and indeed the universal liberties of mankind, have been so frequently and scandalously misrepresented, that I owe it to my country, and to myself, to state distinctly the motives of my conduct. I will do it with firmness, and with a most fixed determination to follow up by my actions all that I shall profess. I desire with my honorable friend, to remove from the consideration of this momentous question all vain speculations on theories of government. I recommend a reform in Parliament simply upon the footing of the practical advantages which it is obviously calculated to produce, and its consistency with the genuine principles and practice of the British constitution.
“ There are three questions for consideration, arising out of the motion which has been made : First, whether the house of commons in its present frame and constitution fulfils the ends of its office in the British government, so as to render any change in it inexpedient? By the house of commons I desire not to be supposed to speak of this,