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all those, who, attending only to the shell and husk of history, think they are waging war with intolerance, pride, and cruelty, whilst, under colour of abhorring the ill principles of antiquated parties, they are adthorizing and feeding the same odious vices in different factions, and perhaps in worse.
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Among the ornaments of their place which emihently distinguish them, few people are better acquainted with the history of their own country than the illustrious princes now in exile: but I caution them not to be led into error by that which has been supposed to be the guide of life. I would give the same caution to all princes. Not that I derogate from the use of history. It is a great improver of the understanding, by shewing both men and affairs in a great variety of views. From this source much political wisdom may be learned ; that is, may be learned as habit, not as precept; and as an exercise to strengthen the mind, as furnishing materials to enlarge and enrich it, not as a repertory of cases and precedents for a lawyer : if it were, a thousand times better would it be that a statesman had never learned to read—vellem nescirent literas. This method turns their understanding from the object before them, and from the present exigencies of the world, to comparisons with former times, of which after all, we can know very little and very imperfectly ; and our guides, the historians, who are to give us their true interpretation, are often prejudiced, often ignorant, often fonder of system than of truth. Whereas if a man with reasonable good parts and natural sagacity, and not in the leading-strings of any master, will look steadily on the business before him, without being diverted by retrospect and comparison, he may be capable of forming a reasonable good judgment of what is to be done. There are some fundamental points in which nature never changes—but they are few and obvious, and belong rather to morals than to politics. But so far as regards political matter, the human mind and human affairs are susceptible of infinite modifications, and of combinations wholly new and unlooked for.
HONESTY IN INDIVIDUALS,
HONESTY and justice, reason and equity, go a very great way in securing prosperity to those who use them; and in case of failure, secure the best retreat, and the most honourable consolations.
HONESTY IN STATES.
If honesty be true policy with regard to the transient interest of individuals, it is much more certainly so with regard to the permanent interests of communities.
THE HOUSE OF COMMONS. The house of commons was supposed originally to be no part of the standing government of this country. It was considered as a controul, issuing immediately froin the people, and speedily to be resolved into the mass from whence it arose. In this respect it was in the higher part of government what juries are in the lower: The capacity of a magistrate being transitory, and that of a citizen permanent, the latter capacity it was hoped would of course preponderate in all discussions, not only between the people and the standing authority of the crown, but between the people and the fleeting authority of the house of commons itself. It was hoped that, being of a middle nature between subject and government, they would feel with a more tender and a nearer interest every thing that concerned the people, than the other remoter and more permanent parts of legislature.
Whatever alterations time and the necessary accommodation of business may have introduced, this character can never be sustained, unless the house of commons shall be made to bear some stamp of the actual disposition of the people at large. It would (among public misfortunes) be an evil more natural and tolerable, that the house of commons should be infected with every epidemical phrensy of the people, as this would indicate some consanguinity, some sympathy of nature with their constituents, thanthat they should in all cases be wholly untouched by the opinions and feelings of the people out of doors. By this want of sympathy they would cease to be a house of commons. For it is not the derivation of the power of that house from the people, which makes it in a distinct sense their representative. The king is the representative of the people; so are the lords ; so are the judges. They all are trustees for the people, as well as the commons; because no power is given for the sole sake of the holder; and although government certainly is an institution of divine authority, yet its forms, and the persons who administer it, all originate from the people.
A popular origin cannot therefore be the characteristical distinction of a popular representative. This belongs equally to all parts of government, and in all forms. The virtue, spirit, and essence of a house of commons consists in its being the express image of the feelings of the nation. It was not instituted to be a controul upon the people, as of late it has been taught, by a doctrine of the most pernicious tendency. It was designed as a controul for the people. Other institutions have been formed for the purpose of checking popular excesses; and they are, I apprehend, fully adequate to their object. If not, they ought to be made so. The house of commons, as it was never intended for the support of peace and subordination, is miserably appointed for that service; having no stronger weapon than its inace, and no better officer than its serjeant at arms, which it can command of its own proper authority. A vigilant and jealous eye over executory and judicial magistracy; an anxious care of public money, an openness, approaching towards facility, to public complaint: these seem to be the true characteristics of a house of commons.
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That house is, within itself, a much more subtle and artificial combination of parts and powers, than people are generally aware of. What knits it to the other members of the constitution ; what fits it to be at once the great support, and the great controul of government; what makes it of such admirable service to that monarchy which, if it limits, it secures and strengthens, would require a long discourse, belonging to the leisure of a contemplative man, not to one whose duty it is to join in communicating practically to the people the blessings of such a constitution.
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His majesty may receive the opinions and wishes of individuals under their signatures, and of bodies corporate under their seals, as expressing their own particular sense : and he may grant such redress as the legal powers of the crown enable the crown to afford, This, and the other house of parliament, may also receive the wishes of such corporations and individuals by petition. The collective sense of his people his majesty is to receive from his commons in parliament assembled. It would destroy the whole spirit of the constitution, if his commons were to receive that sense from the ministers of the crown, or to admit them to be a proper or a regular channel for conveying it.
Whenever we shall see it expedient to offer our advice concerning his majesty's servants, who are those of the public, we confidently hope, that the personal favour of any minister, or any set of ministers, will not be more dear to his majesty, than the credit and character of a house of commons.
It is an experiment full of peril to put the representative wisdom and justice of his majesty's people in the wrong; it is a crooked and desperate design, leading to mischief, the extent of which no human wisdom can foresee, to attempt to form a prerogative party in the nation, to be resorted to as occasion shall require, in derogation from the authority of the commons of Great Britain in parliament assembled: it is a contrivance fullof danger, for ministers to set up there presentative and constituent bodies of the commons of this kingdom as two separate and distinct powers, formed to counterpoise each other, leaving the preference in the hands of secret advisers of the crown. In such a situation of things, these advisers, taking advantage of the differences which may accidentally arise, or may purposely be fomented between them, will have it in their choice to resort to the one or the other, as may best suit the purposes of their sinister ambition. By exciting an emulation and contest between the representative and the constituent bodies, as parties contending for credit and influence at the throne, sacrifices will be made by both ; and the whole can end in nothing else than the destruction of the dearest rights and liberties of the nation. If there must be another mode of con