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mand an influence in a decayed and depopulated borough, and to have the power of returning two members to parliament, sold for more money than they would have done if situated in any other place, however luxuriant the soil might be, however productive its harvests ? Unless, indeed its harvests could occasionally produce a couple of members, its intrinsic value was less. There were many reasons why men might be induced to surrender this franchise. In some instances, where the right of returning members was attached to the possession of an estate, and where it might be considered as an inheritance, giving to the possessor the power of doing so much good to his country, he might warrantably and honorably accept of a valuable consideration, since, by the use of the equivalent, he might be equally serviceable to the community. In some instances, persons enjoyed the franchise in consequence of a life right; and enjoying it only for their lives, interest would naturally induce them to accept of a consideration : others enjoyed it by a still more temporary tenure, merely by the circumstance of local residence; and to them, therefore, it must be an opportunity which they would covet to embrace. Seeing the matter therefore in these points of view, he had no doubt in his own mind but that the boroughs to which he alluded would voluntarily surrender their franchise to Parliament on such consideration being given. He should propose that the fund to be established should be divided into two parts ; and that it should be stipulated, that a larger sum should be given for perpetuities than for temporary rights. He had stated before, that this operation would not be immediate, at least to the full extent; but he had reason to believe that it would neither be slow or distant.
The second part of his plan was to provide, that after the full and final operation of the first proposition, that is, after the extinction of thirty-six boroughs, and the transfer of their members to the county representation, if there
still should remain any borough so small and so decayed as to fall within the size to be fixed on by Parliament, such borough should have it in its power to surrender its franchise on an adequate consideration ; and that the right of sending members to Parliament should be transferred to such populous and flourishing towns as might desire to enjoy the right; and that this rule should remain good and operate in all future time, be applied to such boroughs as in the fluctuating state of a manufacturing and commercial kingdom might fall into decay in one part of the country, and rise into condition in another. These propositions, taken together, comprehended what he conceived to be a final and complete system, and which would ease the minds of gentlemen with respect to any future scheme of reform being attempted, or being necessary. This was not a plan of reform either fluctuating or changeable. It was not subject to the argument that the stirring of this question would lead to endless innovations, and that when once involved in a change there was no foreseeing where we might stop ; nor was it subject to the objection, that it was an innovation ; for he had very much failed in making his own ideas intelligible to the house, if he had not shewn them, that it was a plan in every respect congenial not only with the first principle, but with the uniform practice of the constitution. These arguments, therefore, he trusted, would not be brought against his plan. The argument whether his propositions were practicable, whether they were susceptible of an easy and early execution, he should be happy to hear and discuss. But all the arguments that had been brought from time to time against general and unexplained notions, as they were not applicable he trusted they would not be adduced.
He anticipated several objections, which, when the propositions came to be discussed in the detail, he should be happy to meet and to combat. The first he supposed would be the argument of the expense. Certainly it would
always be wise and proper for that house to guard against wild and chimerical schemes and speculations, which might involve their constituents in additional burthens ; but he did not believe, that in a matter so dear and important to Englishmen, they would be intimidated from embracing it by the circumstance of the cost. ceived it to be above price: it was a thing which the people of England could not purchase too highly. Let gentlemen set the question in its proper point of view; let them oppose to the expense however great, the probable, and indeed the almost certain advantages to accrue from it; and then they would see how little the argument of economy ought to weigh against the purification of the popular branch of the legislature. If there always had been an house of commons who were the faithful stewards of the interests of their country, the diligent checks on the administration of the finances, the constitutional advisers of the executive branch of the legislature, the steady and uninfluenced friends of the people, he asked, if the burthens which the constituents of that house were now doomed to endure, would have been incurred? Would the people of England have suffered the calamities to which they had lately been made subject? And feeling this great and melancholy truth, would they consider the divestment of any sum as an object, when by doing so, such a house of commons might be ascertained ? He did not therefore think that the argument of the expense would be so much insisted on, nor indeed would the expense be so great, as on the first blush of the matter, gentlemen might be apt to imagine.
Another objection that he foresaw was, that the operation would be but gradual, and its full and final accomplishment at least be distant. This however was not an objection that could have much weight. He did not believe that the operation would either be slow or very distant. He had stated to the house several reasons to shew that
the different descriptions of men would have an interest in accepting the conditions to be offered by Parliament; and in the fluctuating state of property, and in the almost constant necessities of men, he argued that the offer of the consideration would from time to time be irresistible. He was sanguine perhaps in saying, that before next Parliament, the benefit of this plan might be felt; and, in the mean time, this objection to the plan being gradual would be less regarded from the confidence which the people of England had in their present representatives. They would wait with patience for the operation of this arrangement from the confidence which they had in the truth and character of the present Parliament. It was elected under circumstances which made it dear to Englishmen: it had not yet forfeited the confidence of the country; and he was warranted in presuming, that, with such a house of commons, the constituent body would not be eager for the immediate accomplishment of this reform.
He said, that in the proposed change of representation, and in adding seventy-two members to the counties, he forgot in the proper place to mention, that it was his wish to add to the number of electors in those counties. There was no good reason why copyholders should not be admitted to the exercise of the franchise
freeholders. Their property was as secure; and indeed in some instances more so, than that of the freeholders ; and such an accession to the body of electors would give an additional energy to representation. He conceived that the addition of seventy-two members would be as much as it would be proper to give to the proportion between county and borough. These seventy-two members would be divided between the counties and the metropolis, as nothing could be more evident than that the cities of London and Westminster, as well as the counties, had a very inadequate share in the representation of the kingdom. To give to the counties and the metropolis a greater addi
tion than seventy-two members, or thereabouts, would be the means of introducing disorders into the election more injurious than its present inadequacy.
He needed not, he believe, enumerate the arguments that presented themselves to his mind in favor of a reform. Every gentleman, who had taken pains to investigate the subject, must see that it was most materially wanted. To conquer the corruption that existed in those decayed boroughs would be acknowledged an impossible attempt. The temptations were too great for poverty to resist; and the consequence of this corruption was so visible, that some plan of reforming the boroughs had clearly become absolutely necessary. In times of calamity and distress, how truly important was it to the people of this country, that the house of commons should sympathise with themselves, and that their interests should be indissoluble? It was most material that the people should have confidence in their own branch of the legislature: the force of the constitution as well as its beauty depended on that confidence, and on the union and sympathy which existed between the constituent and representative. The source of our glory and the muscles of our strength were the pure character of freedom which our constitution bore. To lessen that character, to taint it, was to take from our vitals a part of their vigor, and to lessen not only our importance but our energy with our neighbours.
If we looked back to our history, we should find that the brightest periods of its glory and triumph were those in which the house of commons had the most complete confidence in their ministers, and the people of England the most complete confidence in the house of commons. The purity of representation was the only true and permanent source of such confidence ; for though occasionally bright characters had arisen, who, in spite of the general corruption and depravity of the day in which they lived, had manifested the superior influence of integrity