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for bribery. Sir William Musgrave was a wise man, & grave man, an independent man, a man of good fortune and good family, howe ever he carried on while in opposition a traffic, a shameful traffic with the ministry. Bishop Burnet knew of £6,000, which he had received at one payment. I believe the payment of sums in hard money, plain naked bribery, is rare amongst us. It was then far from uncommon.
A triennial was near ruining, a septennial parliament saved, your constitution ; nor perhaps have you ever known a more flourishing period for the union of national prosperity, dignity and liberty, than the sixty years you have passed under that constitution of parliament.
The shortness of time, in which they are to reap the profits of iniquity, is far from checking the avidity of corrupt men, it renders them infinitely more ravenous. They rush violently and precipitately on their object, they lose all regard to decorum. The moments of profit are precious, never are men so wicked as during general mortality. It was so in the great plague at Athens, every symptom of which (and this its worst amongst the rest) is so finely related by a great historian of antiquity. It was so in the plague of London in 1665. It appears in soldiers, sailors, &c. Whoever would contrive to render the life of man much shorter than it is, would, I am satisfied, find the surest receipt for increasing the wickedness of our nature.
Thus, in my opinion, the shortness of a triennial sitting would have the following ill effects :-It would make the member more shamelessly and shockingly corrupt, it would increase his dependence on those who could best support him at his election, it would wrack and tear to pieces the fortunes of those, who stood upon their own fortunes and their private interest; it would make the electors infi. nitely more venal, and it would make the whole body of the people, who are, whether they have votes or not, concerned in elections, more lawless, more idle, more debauched; it would utterly destroy the sobriety, the industry, the integrity, the simplicity of all the people, and undermine, I am much afraid, the deepest and best laid foundations of the commonwealth.
Those who have spoken and written upon this sabject without doors, do not so much deny the probable existence of these inconveniences in their measure, as they trust for the prevention to remodies of various sorts, which they propose. First, a place bill, but if this will not do, as they fear it will not, then they say we will bave a rotation, and a certain number of you shall be rendered incapable
of being elected for ten years. Then for the electors, they shall ballot; the members of parliament also shall decide by ballot, and a fifth project is the change of the present legal representation of the kingdom. On all this I shall observe, that it will be very unsuitable to your wisdom to adopt the project of a bill, to which there are objections, insuperable by anything in the bill itself, upon the hope that those objections may be removed by subsequent projects; every one of which is full of difficulties of its own, and which are all of them very essential alterations in the constitution. This seems very irregular and unusual. If anything should make this a very doubtful measure, what can make it more so than that, in the opinion of its advocates, it would aggravato all our old inconveniences in such a manner as to require a total alteration in the constitution of the kingdom? If the remedies are proper in a triennial, they will not be less so in septennial elections ; let us try them first, see how the house relishes them, see how they will operate in the nation; and then, having felt your way, you will be prepared against these inconveniences.
The honourable gentleman sees, that I respect the principle upon which he goes, as well as his intentions and his abilities. He will believe, that I do not differ from him wantonly, and on trivial grounds. He is very sure, that it was not his embracing one way which determined me to take the other. I have not, in newspapers, to derogate from his fair fame with the nation, printed the first rude sketch of his bill with ungenerous and invidious comments. I have not, in conversations industriously circulated about the town, and talked on the benches of this house, attributed his conduct to motives low and unworthy, and as groundless as they are injurious. I do not affect to be frightened with this proposition, as if some hideous spectre had started from hell, which was to be sent back again by every form of exorcism, and every kind of incantation. I invoke no Acheron to overwhelm him in the whirlpools of his muddy gulf. I do not tell the respectable mover and seconder, by a perversion of their sense and expressions, that their proposition halts between the ridiculous and the dangerous. I am not one of those, who start up three at a time, and fall upon and strike at him with so much eagerness, that our daggers hack one another in his sides. My honourable friend has not brought down a spirited imp of chivalry, to win the first achievement and blazon of arms on his milk-white shield in a field listed against him, nor brought out the generous offspring of lions, and said to them, not against that side of the forest, beware of that-here is the prey where you are to fasten your paws; and seasoning his unpractised jaws with blood, tell him—this is the milk
for which you are to thirst hereafter. We furnish at his expense no holiday, nor suspend hell, that a crafty Ixion may have rest from his wheel ; nor give the common adversary, if he be a common adversary, reason to say, I would have put in my word to oppose, but the eagerness of your allies in your social war was such that I could not break in upon you. I hope he sees and feels, and that every member sees and feels along with him, the difference between amicable dissent and civil discord.
SPEECH ON A BILL FOR REPEALING THE
This Act stands upon two principles; one, that the power of marrying vithout consent of parents should not take place till twenty-one years of age ; the other, that all marriages should be public.
The proposition of the honourable mover goes to the first, and undoubtedly his motives are fair and honourable ; and even in that measure, by which he would take away paternal power, he is influenced to it by filial piety, and he is led into it by a natural, and to him inevitable, but real mistake, that the ordinary race of mankind advance as fast towards maturity of judgment and understanding as he does.
The question is not now, whether the law ought to acknowledge and protect such a state of life as minority; nor whether the continuance, which is fixed for that state, be not improperly prolonged in the law of England. Neither of these in general is questioned. The only question is, whether matrimony is to be taken out of the general rule, and whether the minors of both sexes, without the consent of their parents, ought to have a capacity of contracting the matrimonial, whilst they have not the capacity of contracting any other engagement. Now it appears to me very clear, that they ought not. It is a great mistake to think, that mere animal propagation is the sole end of matrimony. Matrimony is instituted not only for the propagation of men, but for their nutrition, their education, their establishment, and for the answering all the purposes of a rational and moral being; and it is not the duty of the community to
NOTB.—This bill was brought into the House of Commons by Mr. Fox, June 1, 1781, and rejected on the second reading without a division.
consider alone of how many, but of how useful, citizens it shall be composed.
It is most certain, that men are well qualified for marriage long before they are sufficiently qualified even by bodily strength, much less by mental prudence, and by acquired skill in trades and professions, for the maintenance of a family. Therefore to enable and authorize any man to introduce citizens into the commonwealth, before a rational security can be given that he may provide for them, and educate them as citizens ought to be provided for and educated, is totally incongruous with the whole order of society. Nay it is fundamentally unjust, for a man, that breeds a family without competent means of maintenance, encumbers other men with his children, and disables them so far from maintaining their own. The improvident marriage of one man becomes a tax upon the orderly and regular marriage of all the rest. Therefore those laws are wisely constituted, that give a man the use of all his faculties at one time; that they may be mutually subservient, aiding and assisting to each other, that the time of his completing his bodily strength, the time of mental discretion, the time of his having learned his trade, and the time at which he has the disposition of his fortune, should be likewise the time, in which he is permitted to introduce citizens into the state, and to charge the community with their maintenance. To give a man a family during his apprenticeship, whilst his very labour belongs to another; to give him a family when you do not give him a fortune to maintain it, to give him a family before he can contract any one of those engagements, without which no business can be carried on, would be to burthen the state with families without any security for their maintenance. When parents themselves marry their children, they become in some sort security to prevent the ill consequences.. You have this security in parental consent, the state takes its security in the knowledge of human nature. Parents ordinarily consider little the passion of their children, and their present gratification. Do not fear the power of a father, it is kind to passion to give it time to cool. But their censures sometimes make me smile; sometimes, for I am infirm, make me angry; sæpe bilem, sæpe jocum movent.
It gives me pain to differ on this occasion from many, if not most of those, whom I honour and esteem. To suffer the grave animadversion and censorial rebuke of the honourable gentleman who made the motion ; of him, whose good nature and good sense the house look upon with a particular partiality ; whose approbation would have been one of the highest objects of my ambition ; this hurts me. It is said the marriage act is aristocratic. I am accused, I am told abroad, of
being a man of aristocratic principles. If by aristocracy they mean the peers, I have no valgar admiration, nor any vulgar antipathy, towards them; I hold their order in cold and decent respect. I hold them to be of an absolute necessity in the constitution; but I think they are only good when kept within their proper bounds. I trust, whenever there has been a dispute between these houses, the part I have taken has not been equivocal. If by the aristocracy, which indeed comes nearer to the point, they mean an adherence to the rich and powerful against the poor and weak, this would indeed be a very extraordinary part. I have incurred the odium of gentlemen in this house for not paying sufficient regard to men of ample property. When, indeed, the smallest rights of the poorest people in the kingdom are in question, I would set my face against any act of pride and power countenanced by the highest that are in it; and if it should come to the last extremity, and to a contest of blood, (which may God forbid)-my part is taken; I would take my fate with the poor, and low, and feeble. But if these people came to turn their liberty into a cloak for maliciousness, and to seek a privilege of exemption, not from power, but from the rules of morality and virtuous discipline, then I would join my hand to make them feel the force, which a few, united in a good cause, have over a multitude of the profligate and ferocious.
I wish the nature of the ground of repeal were considered with a little attention. It is said the act tends to accumulate, to keep up the power of great families; and to add wealth to wealth. It may be that it does so, It is impossible that any principle of law or government useful to the community should be established without an advantage to those who have the greatest stake in the country. Even some vices arise from it. The same laws, which secure property, encourage avarice; and the fences made about honest acquisition are the strong bars which secure the hoards of the miser. The dignities of magistracy are encouragements to ambition, with all the black train of villanies which attend that wicked passion. But still we must have laws to secure property; and still we must have ranks and distinctions and magistracy in the state, notwithstanding their manifest tendency to encourage avarice and ambition.
By affirming the parental authority throughout the state, parents in high rank will generally aim at, and will sometimes have, the means too of preserving their minor children from any but wealthy or splendid matches. But this authority preserves from a thousand misfortnnes which embitter every part of every man's domestic lite. and tear to pieces the dearest ties in human society.