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form (and I know not how such a wish has been expressed at all) must remain confounded with those whom no reform will satisfy, unless some measure like the present is adopted? Where has such a wish for a moderate reform been expressed? If those who are even thought to entertain sentiments favorable to that cause, had cherished them in silence, if they have abstained from pressing them at a moment when they would have served only to promote the views of those who wished to annihilate, not to reform, is it to be apprehended that any ill effects will ensue, unless you adopt some expedient to distinguish the moderate reformer from the desperate foe? Yet this is the main argument of the learned gentleman which he has put in a thousand different shapes. I do not believe however that the temper of moderate reformers will lead them to make common cause with the irreconcileable enemies of the constitution. If there are really many, who may be ranked as moderate reformers, it is at least probable, that they feel the force of the danger which I have stated : that they think it wiser to check their wishes than to risk the inlet of jacobin principles, and the imprudence of affording to the enemies of the constitution, the means of accomplishing its destruction. Has there been however any decisive manifestation of their desires, or is there reason to believe, that disappointed in their wishes, they will be immediately driven beyond the bounds of duty to the constitution? If there is no security that those whose views have already pointed beyond reform, will be recalled to better sentiments,--if there are even certain grounds to believe that they will merely employ any reform that may be introduced, as a step towards realizing their own system, upon what pretence can the present measure be held out as calculated to reconcile those men to the constitution? From the conduct of gentlemen on the other side, it is obvious that they do not conceive any decisive manifestation of the wishes of the people for a moderate rrform being now introduced, to have taken place? My reason for such an opinion is this: we have seen that the gentlemen in opposition have not been deficient in their efforts to procure every expression of the public concurrence in the objects for which they have contended. From their own account, these efforts have not been unsuccessful; but supposing that no efforts of theirs had heen employed, and that to the spontaneous impulse of the people themselves are to be ascribed the petitions which have been voted in different quarters, to a degree, indeed, in their opinion, to decide the sense of the country to be in favor of an immediate peace, and the removal of ministers, it follows that those who have presented such petitions have not felt, or the exertions of opposition have not been able to excite, any expression of that opinion they have so often urged, that no change of men, without a change of system, would lead to any permanent good.
“ It does not appear, then that there is any call upon the house to adopt the measure, which so far from being necessary to satisfy men friendly to moderate reform, they have not in any shape expressed a wish to obtain. Before the practical expediency of this measure, then, comes to be discussed, the practical necessity of such a measure must be established. In this proof, however, the honorable and learned gentlemen have failed. I need not therefore go into the state of the country to refute the statements of the honorable gentlemen. Indeed I must observe, that every thing urged upon this topic was nothing more than assertion. The calamities and difficulties under which the country labors, the war with France, and inroads upon the constitution, the profusion of public expenditure, were the topics upon which they insisted, and which they said would have been avoided if parliamentary reform had formerly been adopted. I boldly contend, however, that in the origin of the war, in the efforts to an unparalleled extent which the novelty of the contest and the nature of the
enemy forced us to exert; that in what they call inroads and which we contend were necessary bulwarks for the defence of the constitution, the feelings of the people went uniformly along with the proceedings of Parliament. I will venture to assert, without the fear of contradiction, that in no time when the tide of prosperity began to turn in favor of this country, when the nation began to recover from the struggles, and from the burdens of the American war, when year after year the sources of public wealth and individual happiness were increasing and extending, had the functions of parliament been more congenial to the feelings of the people, than in the painful yet necessary struggles to which we were obliged to submit in the present contest. That the nation suffered during the progress of the war many and serious calamities, I do not dispute ; calamities however much less severe in their effects than those which have been undergone by countries acting upon a different system.
“ It has indeed been urged, and with no ordinary degree of perseverance, that the voice of the nation is against the proceedings of government: that, however, is more a matter of opinion than of fact; and every man will naturally judge of the credit that ought to attach to such an assertion, from the sentiments which are expressed in the circle of his own acquaintance, and from his personal inquiries on the subject. But I will undertake to say, that, at the present moment, amidst all the difficulties and embarrassments unavoidably created by the vigorous prosecution of hostilities, the system pursued by Parliament in support of the measures of government is the system of the people ; and Parliament at no period possessed in a more ample degree the confidence of the country, than it does now.” [Here Mr. Fox shewed some signs of dissent.] “ The honorable gentleman may be disposed to controvert this opinion, but I am sure he cannot maintain the contrary with more sincerity or more perfect convicVOL. I.
tion, than I advance what I now assert. The right honorable gentleman, the house will recollect, was accustomed to assert last session of Parliament, with equal boldness and vehemence as now, that the sense of the country was against the system of ministers. Good God! Where can the honorable gentleman have lived? In what remote corner of the country can he have passed his time? What great public question can he state, upon which the public have not evinced a great degree of interest, as great as that shewn upon any former occasion? On the contrary, if ever there was a period which we should select, as the one in which the attention of the public was most turned to public affairs, it was precisely that period in which the learned gentleman has described the public to have lost all interest in the deliberations of Parliament.
“ I know it is maintained, that Parliament does not represent the great body of the nation, and that the result of general elections gives no striking character or impressive feature of the sentiments of the people; but I desire it may also be recollected, whether there are not many leading instances and particular circumstances attendant on general elections, that go strongly to express the opinion entertained by the constituent body? And taking up the consideration in that point of view, I do insist, and am convinced the position cannot be objected to, that the approbation given by those who had been members of the last Parliament to the commencement and prosecution of the war were strong and powerful recommendations in their favor at the late general elections. I will for a moment, pursuing this argument, request the house to take the parliamentary representation as it had been stated, and recommended by the honorable gentleman (Mr. Grey). I will desire the honorable gentleman himself to look for an instant to his own statement of the proposed additional representation of the counties, and then candidly decide whether he can argue that the sense of the people was not
in a great degree to be collected at general elections? It is submitted in that statement to extend the number of county members from ninety-two to one hundred and thirteen: the augmentation therefore did not consist of many; and does the honorable gentleman intend to except the ninety-two members by a general proscription ? or will he pretend to say, that the system of counties, as it stands at present in point of representation, goes for nothing? Certainly he cannot undertake to advance such an argument, and so evidently inconsistent with his own plan of reform. If, therefore, the one hundred and thirteen members, proposed by the honorable gentleman to represent the counties, would express the true sense of the people, it cannot be denied, on the same grounds, that the ninety-two who were elected by their constituents, were in a very considerable proportion the organs of the public opinion. The arguments, therefore, adduced by the honorable gentleman go against his own declaration, that the sense of the people was not the sense of Parliament; and that sense had been fully manifested in favor of the war at the general elections. Since, therefore, I recollect the former declaration of the honorable gentleman at the end of the last session of Parliament, that Parliament did not possess the confidence of the people, am I to be discouraged now after the general election from saying, that they actually did enjoy that confidence? But that is not the only statement which I can make in justification of this assertion. I will appeal to the proceedings in great and populous cities, as well as in the city of London, in which the opinions of gentlemen on the other side of the house, with respect to Parliament not possessing the confidence of the people, were as strongly refuted on a fair poll, by a vast majority of the electors, as by the elections for the counties to which he has referred. It consequently appears, that the honorable gentleman has not specific ground to proceed on; and that he has totally failed in the foun