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it. But the excess of this ministerial influence endangers, instead of securing the Monarchy. The only danger to which that form of government can ever be exposed among us, is its becoming unpopular, and being thought inconsistent with liberty.
The House of Commons itself has also need of being strengthened by popularity. The ascendant which that assembly has acquired since the Revolution, has been attended with one change, which may ultimately prove fatal to its power. In becoming a governing senate, it necessarily lost much of the character of a popular representative. That national support which rendered it irresistible in all the struggles of the last century, was gradually withdrawn, and at length converted into a jealousy; of which, power, wherever it is seated, is the proper object. To be a part of a government, and a check on it, are things which it is very difficult to reconcile. That assembly, as exercising their power, and as a political council, early and often forgot their old province as a House of Commons. Fifty years ago it was said by Mr Burke, that it could not then, to any
popular purpose, be called a House of Commons. '* In succeeding times, the deviations from their original character became greater and more frequent; and of late years, whether from their own fault, or from the skill and malice of their enemies, it can no longer be asserted that their power is founded on the confidence and attachment of the people. If this state of things should continue, their apparent strength will not long conceal their real weakness. The decay of their power will soon become yisible, and it will perish in the first struggle. It will prove alike incapable of controlling the Crown, or of protecting it against the violence of the multitude. A House of Commons from which the people is long detached, cannot ultimately preserve even its existence. Against these dangers, the House of Commons can have no safety but from a new infusion of that popular spirit which once enabled them to resist and depose kings, and call new royal families to the Throne. In losing popular attachment, they have lost the only solid foundation of their power: They can recover their strength only by renewing their alliance with the nation, and multiplying the ties that connect then with the people at large.
Many of the zealous reformers will doubtless consider this addition to the popular representation as inconsiderable, and inadequate to the correction of the evils which they discover in our government. In point of mere numbers, it is certainly not very considerable; but other circumstances are, in these cases,
* Burke's Works, vol. i. p. 464, quarto Ed.
more important than numbers. Twenty members, of popular talents and character, representing the most populous districts in England, and depending for their seats on popular favour, would greatly strengthen the democratical principles in the House of Commons. It would be a substantial addition to the power of the people. Whoever considers the talent, zeal and activity, which must belong to these new members, will soon discover that their number would form a most inadequate measure of their strength.
Those who would undervalue this concession, would do well to consider how much more they are likely to gain, without paying too high a price for it. Do they expect that much more will be granted, under the auspices of a constitutional administration,--with the acquiescence of the proprietory classes, and by the lawful authority of Parliament? Can they hope to obtain more at the present time, consistently with public quiet, the maintenance of the Constitution, the execution of the Laws, and the security of Property and Life?
The Second part of our Plan, would be the adoption of more effectual means for the disfranchisement of delinquent boroughs. This is a part of the subject, on which the principles are very evident; but the means of carrying them into effect are not so clear. The elective franchise is a political right, conferred on individuals for the public advantage : As such, it may be withdrawn for adequate reasons of general interest.. But it is also a privilege and advantage to the holder; of which, without strong reasons, he is not to be deprived. It holds a middle station between office and property:- like the former, it is a trust; but it is one which ought not easily or often to be withdrawn. On the other hand, as the advantage of the holder is only one of its secondary objects, it has not the sacred and inviolable nature of Property. The supreme power which gave it, may withdraw it-not indeed on light grounds, but without either that degree of delinquency, or that sort of evidence, which might be required in the forfeiture of a purely private right. It is not, either in principle or prudence, variable at will; nor is the Legislature bound, in its abrogation, to observe the rules of courts of judicature.
The disfranchisement of those boroughs which have been proved to abuse their franchise, is therefore founded on constitutional principles, as well as warranted by modern practice. Where corruption has prevailed to such an extent, and under such circumstances, as to render it possible that its prevalence would be permanent, Parliament has in recent times adopted measures, which produced practical effects nearly similar to
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11rsent ne picie Conttito, is conued in se vien **; a se rnctie Se cz tisicany wies is sx, sier hun ti aorta. CassCasera de representaca a orca org nos, ad necessanti Recz insersized in the enite of time, ettersiz rier, aider a ICT of dele ut eri puericeczasie ci seize recret 16, mag het. Tietos bet, 1 out of tre sex paradas, cice taze zisen a body oć 214, with me ant jdziert is eaca pariccæ case: ad w.ch, na bezd the lecer of the 2*, are better dette al, era FXe Tear the uTE i business, ban general 10tunc eu suce. They are often digegarded. aad meru rzug deres. Tres ITE DO support bat age Iasi Ur Ticioni, qorton with experience, a their fitness and vaine. The mere poca.ana diarizins them as bezgaris detais the mere langar a=kt for the state of case on which they rest -the mute rucicapot.cian scts them as airy visions. But these intermediate sazinis anstate the principles of the Bria tish constitution, a datinguished, on the one hand, from ab krut notice of gorgernment, and, on the other, from the provisions of law, or the course of practice. • Cisil knowledge,' sage Lurd Baan, 'js, of all others, the most immersed in nat«ter, and the hardhest reduced to axioms.' Politics, therefore, if it should ever be reduced io a science, will require the greatest number of intermediate laws, to connect its most general principles with the variety and intricacy of the public concana; but in every branch of knowledge, we are told by the same great master, * that while generalities are barren, and • the multiplicity of single facts present nothing but confusion, " the middle principles alone are solid, orderly, and fruitful.'
The nature of virtual representation may be illustrated by the original controversy between Great Britain and America. "The Americans alleged, perhaps untruly, that being unrepresented, they could not legally be taxed. They added, with truth, that being unrepresented, they ought not constitutionally to be taxe ed: But they defended this true position, on a ground untenable in argument. They sought for the Constitution in the works of abstract reasoners, instead of searching for it in its own ancient and uniform practice. They were told, that virtual, not
• Novum Organum.
actual representation, was the principle of the constitution; and that they were as much' virtually represented as the majority of the people of England: And in answer to this, they denied that virtual representation was a constitutional principle, instead of denying the fact, that they were virtually represented. Had they chosen the latter ground, their case would have been onanswerable. The unrepresented part of England could not be taxed, without taxing the represented. The laws affected alike the Members who passed them, their constituents, and the rest of the people. On the contrary, separate laws might be, and were made for America; separate taxes might be, and were laid on her.
The case of that country, therefore, was the very reverse of virtual representation. Instead of identity, there was a contrariety of apparent interest. The English landbolder was to be relieved by an American revenue. The prosperity of the English manufacturer was supposed to depend on a monopoly of the American market. Such a system of governing a great nation, was repugnant to the principles of a constitution which had solemnly pronounced, that the people of the small territories of Chester and Durham, could not be virtually represented without some share of actual representation.
It may be doubted, whether the common opinion that the Treaty of Union took away the ancient prerogative of granting the elective franchise, can be maintained on grounds of law. The letter of the Treaty is silent. The Crown could hardly be deprived of such a prerogative by mere implication; and it might as well perhaps be inferred, from its provisions, that it restrained the King from adding to the number of British Peers, as that it disabled him from adding new members to the House. of Commons. It may be doubted, whether the power is legally abolished : But the attempt to resume the exercise of so great and dangerous a power, otherwise than by consent of Parliament, would undoubtedly be unconstitutional; and the minister who advised it would deserve to be impeached. Since its disuse, the Constitution has in other modes shown its tendency, on fit occasions, to promote the ascendant of the more important interests in the House of Commons. When it became necessary, at the treaty of Union, to reduce the number of Scotch menibers in the Parliament of Great Britain, the representatives of the boroughs were reduced from sixty-six to fifteen. The principal towns were unfortunately not selected (as afterwards in Ireland); but the whole were divided into districts, according to the example of Cromwell's parliaments. When the like necessity arose in the case of Ireland, a similar regard was shown to the representation, both of property and numbers.
Sats-carkigis of the site rersized as before. The cities of Dobin and Cork connued to elect two citizens for each. Thir. 19-62€ Lists Dext in importance, and the University of Dub1s, were each reduced from to Lembers to one; and the re isainir.g one hundred boroughs were entirely deprived of their paritentary franchise. This measure, combined with the Tant of the elective franchise to Catholics in 1793, introduced à Pariz sentary Reform into Ireland which wants little to be compete, except the admissiblity of Catholics to Parliament, and to the higher offices of the State.
This rare exercise of the power of reformation, was, however, more valuable as a declaration of constitutional principle, than as a substitute for the ancient prerogative. The period of the disuse of that prerogative was in one respect singularly remarkable. The want of it would have been little felt in ancient umes: for few changes then occurred which called for its exercise. The progress of the nation in numbers and wealth was then extremely slow; the establishment of industry in new seats was a rare occurrence; the change in the condition and importance of various classes of men was so gradual as scarcely to be remarked by contemporary observers. Had no such prerogative existed, the only consequence, as far as relates to the present view of the subject, would have been, that five or six considerable towns, not of the first class, would have been without representatives. Since the disuse of the prerogative, on the contrary, the progress of population and riches has been more rapid, and the change in the relative importance of different classes of society greater than during any equal period in the history of the world. Villages have since sprung up into immense cities; great manufactures have spread over wastes and mountains; ease, comfort and leisure, have introduced, among the middling classes of society, their natural companions, curiosity, intelligence, boldness, and activity of mind. A much greater proportion of the collective knowledge and wealth of the nation has thus fallen to their lot. But the power of establishing some proportion between political rights and social importance, was no longer exercised. Their constitutional privileges were not increased with their consequence in the community. The Constitution no longer opened her arms to receive rising classes and communities into her bosom, as she might have done in preceding ages. The regulator dropt from the representative system, at the very
moment when its action was most necessary to make the frame of the government conform to the changes in society.
The struggles of the Commons of England to possess a share of political power, proportioned to their share of property and