« السابقةمتابعة »
ELOQUENCE OF THE SENATE.
1.-Speech of the Earl of Chesterfield, in the House of Lords,
February 22, 1740, on the Pension Bill. My LORDS,
IT is now so late, and so much has been said in fayour of the motion for the second reading of the Pension Bill, by Lords much abler than I am, that I shall detain you but a very short while with what I have to say upon the subject. It has been said, by a noble Duke, that this bill cau be looked ou ouly as a bill for preventing a grievance that is foreseen, and not as a bill for remedying a grievance that is already felt; because it is not asserted, nor so much as insinuated, in the preamble of the bill, that any corrupt practices are now made use of, for gaining an undue iufluence over the other House. My Lords, this was the very reason for bringing in the bill. They could not assert, that any such practices are now made use of, without a proof; and the means for coming at this proof is what they want, and what they propose to get by this bill. They suspect there are such practices, but they cannot prove it.
The crime is of such a secret nature, that it can very seldom be proved by witnesses; and therefore they want to put it to the trial, at least, of being proved by the oath of one of the parties; which is a method often taken, in cases that can admit of no other proof. This is, therefore, no argument of the grievance not being felt; for a man may, very sensibly, feel a grievance, and yet inay not be able to prove it.
That there is a suspicion of some suob practices being now nade use of, or that they will soon be inade use of, the many remonstrances from all parts of the united kingdoms are a sufficient proof. That this suspicion has crept into the other House, their having so frequently sent up this bill, is a manifest demonstration, and a strong argument for its being necessary to bave some such bill passed into a taw. The other House must be allowed to be þet
ter judges of what passes, or must pass, within their own walls, than we can pretend to be. It is evident, they suspéct that corrupt practices have been, or soon may be, made use of, for gaining an undue influence over some of their measures; and they have calculated this bill for curing the evil, if it is felt, for preventing it, if it is only foreseen. That any such practices have been actually made use of, or are now niade use of, is what I shall not pretend to affirm; but I am sure I shall not affirm the contrary. If any such are made use of, I will, with confidence, vindicate his Majesty. I am sure he knows nothing of thein. I am sure he will disdain to suffer them ; but I cannot pass such a compliment upon his ministers, nor upon any set of ministers that ever was, or ever will be, in this nation; and therefore, I think I cannot more faithfully, more effectually, serve his present Majesty, as well as his success. ors, than by putting it out of the power of ministers to gain any corrupt influence over either House of Parliament. Such an attempt may be necessary for the security of the minister ; but never can be necessary for, must always be inconsistent with, the security of his master, and the more necessary it is for the minister's security, the more inconsistent it will always be with the king's, and the more dangerous to the liberties of the nation.
To pretend, my Lords, that this bill dininishes, or any way encroaches upon the prerogative, is something very strange. What prerogative, my Lords? Has the crown a prerogative to bribe, to infringe the law, by sending its pensioners into the other House? To say so, is destroying the credit, the authority of the crown, under the pretence of supporting its prerogative. If his Majesty knew that any man received a pension from him, or any thing like a pension, and yet kept his seat in the other house, he would himself declare it, or withdraw his pension, beeause he knows it is against the law. This bill, therefore, no way diminishes or encroaches upon the prerogative of the crown, which can never be exercised but for the public good. It diminishes only the prerogative usurped by ministers, which is never exercised but for its destruction: The crown may still reward merit in the proper way, that is, openly. The bill is intended, and can operate only agaiņst clandestine rewards, or gratuities given by miniş..
use of this bo!
ters. These are scandalous, and never were, nor will be, en given but for scandalous services.
It is very remarkable, my Lords, it is even diverting, see such a squeamishness about perjury upon this occasion, amongst those, who, upon other occasions, have in
sho vented and enacted multitudes of oaths, to be taken by men, who are under great temptations, from their private
bis interests, to be guilty of perjury. Is not this the case of almost every oath that relates to the collection of the public revenue, or to the exercise of any office? Is not this perjury one of the chief objections made by the Dissen-) bar ters against the Test and Corporation Act? And shal we show a less concern for the preservation of our con stitution than for the preservation of our church ? The be reverend bench should be cautious of making argun.ent; for, if they will not allow us an oath for the preservation of the former, it will induce many people to think, they ought not to be allowed an oath for the preselvation of the latter.
lon By this time, I hope, my Lords, all the inconveniences pretended to arise from this bin, have vanished; and therefore, I shall consider some of the arguments brought to show that it is not necessary.
Here I must observe, that most of the arguments made use of for this are equally strong for a repeal of the laws we have alias ready in being against admitting pensiouers to sit and vote in the other House. If it be impossible to suppose,
Pa that a gentleman of great estate and ancient family, cam, by a pension, be influenced to do what he ought not 10 do; and if we must suppose, that none but such gentlemen can ever get into the other House, I am sure the laws for pres venting pensioners from having seats in that House are quite unnecessary, ard ought to be repealed. Therefore
, if these arguments prevail with your lordships to put & negative upon the present question, I shall expect to see that negative followed by a motion for the repeal of those laws; nay, in a few
sessions, I shall expect to see a bill)? brought in, for preventing any man's being a member of it the other House, but such as have some place ander the crown. might be said, that his Majesty's most faithful subjects
As an argument for such a bill, it F
gentlemen will always be most faithful to the King, that receive the King's money. I shall grant, my Lords, that such gentlemen will be always the most faithful, and the most obedient to the minister ; but for this very reason I should be for excluding them from Parliament. The King's real interest, however much he may be made by his ministers to mistake it, must always be the same with the people's; but the minister's interest is generally distinct from, and often contrary to both : therefore, I shall always be for excluding, as much as possible, from Parliament, every man who is under the least iuducement to prefer the interest of the minister, to that of both king and people ; and this I take to be the case of every gentleman, let his estate and family be what they will, that holds a pension at the will of the minister.
Those who say, they depend so much upon the honour, integrity and impartiality of men of family and fortune, seem to think our constitution can never be dissolved, as long as we have a shadow of a Parliament. My opinion my lords, is so very different, that if ever our constitution be dissolved, if ever an absolute monarchy be established in this kingkom, I am convinced it will be under that shad
Our constitution consists in the Houses of Parliament being a check upon the crown, as well as upon one another. If that check should ever be removed, if the crown should, by corrupt means, by places, pensions and bribes, get the absolute direction of our two Houses of Parliament, our constitution will from that moment be destroyed. There would be no occasion for the crown to proceed any farthier. It would be ridiculous to lay aside ihe forms of Parliament; for, under that shadow, our king would be more absolute, and might govern more absolutely, than he could do without it.
A gentleman of family and fortune, would not, perhaps, for the sake of a pension, agree to lay aside the forms of government; because, by his venal service there, he earns his infamous pension, and could not expect the continuence of it, if those forms were laid aside; but a gentleman of family and fortune may, for the sake of a pension, whilst he is in Parliament, approve of the most blundering measures, consent to the most excessive and useless grants, enact the most oppressive laws, pass the most villanous ac.
counts, acquit the most henious criminals, and condemntthe most innocent persons, at the desire of that minister who pays him his pension. And if a majority of such House of Parliament consisted of such men, would it not be ridiculous in us to talk of our constitution, or to say we had any liberty left.-- This misfortune, this terrible condition we may be reduced to by corruption; as brave, as free people as we; the Romans, were reduced to it by the same means; and to prevent sueh a horrid catastrophe, is the design of this bill.
If people would at all think, if they would consider the consequences of corruption, there would be no occasion, my Lords, for making laws against it. It would appear so horrible, that no man would allow it to approach him.The corrupted ought to consider, that they do not sell their vote, or their country only; these, perhaps, they may disregard; but they sell likewise themselves; theç become the bond slaves of the corrupter, who corrupts them, not for their sakes, but for his own. No man ever corrupted another, for the sake of doing him a service. And therefore, if people would but consider, they would always reject the offer with disdain. But this is not to be expected. The histories of all countries, the history even of our own country, shows it is not to be depended on.The proffered bribe, people think, will satisfy the immediate craving of some infamous appetite ; and this makes them swallow the alluring bait, though the liberties of their country, the happiness of their posterity, and even their own liberty, evidently depend upon their refusing it.This makes it necessary, in every free state, to contrive if possible, effectual laws against corruption; and as the laws we now have for excluding pensioners from the other house, are allowed to be ineffectual, we ought to make a trial, at least, of the reinedy now proposed; for, though it should prove ineffectual, it will he attended with this advantage, that it will put us upon contriving some other remedy that may be effectual; and the sooner such a remedy is contrived and applied, the less danger we shall be exposed to of falling into that fatal distemper, from which no free slate, where it has once become general, has ever yet recovered.