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influence upon us at home. Now let us consider what effect they have had, and still naturally have, abroad. And here it must be remembered that we are a nation not separated in interest (as we are in situation) from the rest of Europe. We have enemies at home acting in concert with enemies abroad and friends abroad, without regard to whose interests and alliances we must, sooner or later, become a sacrifice to those enemies. We have a Pretender to guard against; many here are his professed friends; and many more act either blindly or designedly with those who are so; bearing a sensible part in their interests, and ever encouraging, or, at least, not discouraging, them. That which keeps up the views of those abroad, who think it their concern to make us the scene of civil war, if not a province to themselves under that Pretender; that, I say, alone which keeps up their views is, the knowing they have friends here; and the finding that these friends are never in despair, but always representing their cause as promising well. And that which keeps them in this temper is, the constant expectation of new elections, in which they hope for more, but are certain, at least, of this advantage, that our heats, and hatreds, and desire of revenge, are still perpetuated and improved. This is constantly represented abroad; and with such success that they who wish evil to our happy establishment seem really to believe it; and they who wish well to it receive impression enough from it to look upon us with diffidence, as a people always fluctuating and uncertain. It was this great disadvantage, arising from our condition at home, that brought King William to make a peace, even against his own good judgment and his own great views; for which nothing could be urged but that distress to which our wretched and uneasy state here had reduced his affairs. And no wonder now, if after that great unhappiness, and what is still more dreadful, after a late fatal experience, the best friends we have abroad cannot be so confident of us as our interest makes it requisite they should be. In a word, our enemies both abroad and at home cannot be reduced even one step towards a state of despair, in the methods we are in at present; nor our best friends be thoroughly assured of our secure estate: the former must look upon us still with a good degree of contempt; and the latter with a great deal of uneasiness and diffidence, till we have some resting time to settle, not only the tempers, but the affairs
and the interests of this nation; which never will be done, as there is reason to fear, as long as parliaments continue limited to the present term.
This puts me in mind of another very material point, which, though absolutely necessary to procure us the confidence of our friends and to command respect from our enemies, yet seems impossible to be effected without a greater steadiness of counsels, a more uninterrupted application to public business, and a more mature and disinterested deliberation, than the experience we have had of frequent elections gives room to hope for. This is the paying off the debts of the nation, which must otherwise eat out the very vitals of the public, and expose us to the greatest danger from such foreign powers as are using the most violent methods to be beforehand with us in this signal advantage. To work out this inveterate evil there appears but one method consistent with the faith of parliamentary securities, (which ought to be preserved inviolable,) and at the same time free from the odium of imposing new taxes on the country, and in which consequently the landed and the monied interest would be likely to join without either thinking themselves in the least aggrieved. This is to raise and support the public credit to such a height as may enable the government to borrow at a lower interest what may pay off such debts as carry a greater; which was attempted last year, but hindered by the rebellion. Now experience shows that public credit will be subject to perpetual fluctuations and inequalities, or even fall to an ebb from whence it is next to impossible to make it reascend, while the measures of one three years are liable to be unravelled and reversed by the three next succeeding, and those again by the next; and whilst under the shelter of frequent elections, such tumults, commotions, and disorders are introduced, as, however opposite in themselves, conspire in shaking the foundation of all government, keep men's minds in suspense, and make them look on everything as precarious that is any ways involved with the public.
After many inquiries, I can meet with but one good event in favour of the triennial term for elections, which a long experience hath furnished us with: and that is, that it is supposed to have been the occasion of throwing out the destructive bill of commerce; some gentlemen not daring to vote for it out of fear of their next elections. But this you
will see cuts both ways. For as gentlemen may by accident not do a bad thing for fear of their next election; so it is plain, that they may as often not do the most necessary good thing, if it happens to be unpopular, for the same fear. So that this holds at least equally against that bill, as for it. But then many who knew those times will deny the fact, and affirm, that a multitude of little piques and great passions concurred in that affair; and that the awe of electors happened at that time to have but little share in it. Private history would be useful to us upon this occasion. But this we all saw in public, that however that fear might then be supposed to work so far, as to hinder those few gentlemen from openly espousing that fatal bill; it did not work so far as to keep them immediately from entering into an address, and voting for such methods, as must have been as fatal as that bill itself, if Providence had not interposed. What would it have availed us that the bill had not passed then, if these designs, at the same time on foot, had prevailed? and what doth it avail to say, that the triennial term did us that good, (supposing it so,) when it is plain it had not the power to preserve that good; and that the same persons who seemed to fear it yet were induced to undo their own work, and to enter into measures which must have ended in the same evils, and indeed in universal destruction? It signifies little, therefore, whether this was the great occasion of that lucky incident or not; because it is plain it had not power enough to hinder the ill effects of that bill, in another method: nor would have hindered them, had not something else intervened. But supposing it had; certainly that one particular, so purely accidental, cannot be set against a train of constant, and too certain, evil consequences, which we feel every day we live. These evil consequences are so many undeniable arguments for an alteration of it; and weigh exceedingly and particularly at this juncture, when all our happiness depends upon the firm establishment of our excellent king upon his throne; when all our enemies at home and abroad visibly place their hopes in our disturbances, owing to nothing so much as to the constant expectation of trienniel elections; when all our true friends, both here and elsewhere, wait with impatience to see our security firmly and thoroughly established: when the going on with proper measures for such establishment has been unavoidably put
off, by the attention given to the rebellion, and so the longer continuance of this parliament is become particularly necessary; and when we all may observe, if we please, that though the rebellion be in great measure quelled, yet the spirit of it is so far from being laid asleep, that it walks about still, even at noon day, in defiance of all authority; and with a stubbornness never to be reduced to a settled despair, without some such method as is now talked of.
These particulars, I say, are so many undeniable arguments for an alteration of the term of years fixed in the act, unless it shall appear that the objections against doing it are of more weight and importance. Those which I have been able to hear of, together with such as you tell me are most talked of in the country, we will now just run over.
The most general objection (and that which seems in reality to lie at the bottom of the rest) is, that this step will be so unpopular among the electors, and raise such a clamour all over the nation, as must for ever sink the interest of those who have any share in promoting it. To this I answer, that it will wholly depend on the parliament itself, to render this proceeding popular, or unpopular, by the right or wrong use they shall make of the prolongation thereby accruing to themselves. If their after behaviour should be such, as to show they had no wiser nor more generous view in making this alteration, than merely to save themselves the hazard, trouble, and expense of a new election, they must, no doubt, be content to reap the rewards of their selfishness, by forfeiting all title to the future good-will of their electors. But if their zeal and industry for promoting the ease and safety of the nation shall appear to rise in proportion to the time allowed them for accomplishing the great work they have begun, the end will sufficiently commend the means; and the advantages arising to the whole kingdom from this change will easily reconcile it to all such, with whom a good man ought ever to wish to maintain the character of popularity. It will certainly be in the power of those who most apprehend the odium and unpopularity of this action, to secure it from all possible misrepresentations, by making use of the power it will bring with it, to just and wise purposes; to ease the debts, to perfect the tranquillity, and to perpetuate the peace of the nation. Raising money by taxes upon land, windows, soap, or anything else, is always unpopular, and always raises clamours
when it is first resolved upon. Everything that hath been done for the security of his present Majesty; the suspending the Habeas Corpus act, without which we must have been destroyed; the granting him a power to raise and hire forces for his own and the nation's defence; the putting his friends into any possibility of consulting his safety and honour; every particular of this sort hath been represented all over the nation, in such colours, that it hath been highly unpopu lar, and been attended with great clamours: but necessity and experience are the things to be considered in all such points. These will always make things pleasing to the true friends of the nation. But in order to be popular with the king's enemies, the first step he must take must be, to lay down his crown; and if his ministers be resolved to be moved by clamours, they must resign their posts, and yield up all power to those who wish to destroy them. The only consideration is, whether the nation's affairs require a thing to be done: when that is fixed, popular or unpopular, clamours or no clamours, ought not to affect any further than about the manner of doing it. Everything that touches particular men's purses, or retrenches from their luxury, will generally be unpopular with those men; but a little time makes such things easy, when the public finds its advantage in it, and men's passions have had time to cool.
Another thing which I find generally shows itself, at first hearing of the design, is an uneasiness, as if this were repealing the act: when, in truth, I will venture to affirm, that it is so far from that, that it is indeed restoring it to its best design, and making it effectual to all that good which was originally purposed and intended by any of those honest patriots who joined in the first framing of it. The designs were, that a king of England should not be without a parliament; and that one and the same parliament should have a term fixed, beyond which it should not be in the power of the prince to continue it; and in both these respects the act will be left as it was. All the difference is, that the parliament then in being thought three years the proper term. Experience hath assured us of a multitude of evils proceeding from so quick a return of elections. And therefore, in that part of the act, and in that only, is the alteration intended, in order to remedy or abate those evils, without bringing in greater.
Another reason against it is taken from a suspicion of