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would lead the mind to believe, that we are in a state of peace and tranquillity; and that our circumstances are flourishing and glorious; that we enjoy the happiness of internal concord, order, and prosperity ; which again convey for our foreign relations, strength, security, and respect; and that we have no provocation to any steps to improve the benefits we enjoy, or to retrieve any misfortune that we have incurred. To persons who feel this to be our situation, every proposition tending to meliorate the condition of the country must be subject of jealousy and alarm ; and if we really differ so widely in sentiment as to the state of the country, I see no probability of an agreement in any measure that is proposed. For myself, and according to my view of our circumstances, all that part of the argument against reform, which relates to the danger of innovation, is strongly misplaced by those who think with me, that, so far from procuring the mere chance of practical benefits by a reform, it is only by a reform that we can have a chance of rescuing ourselves from a state of extreme peril and distress. Such is my view of our situation. I think it so perilous, so imminent, that though I do not feel conscious of despair, an emotion which the heart ought not to admit, yet it comes nearer to that state of hazard, when the sentiment of despair, rather than of hope, may be supposed to take possession of the mind. I feel myself to be the member of a community in which the boldest man, without any imputation of cowardice, may dread that we are not merely approaching to a state of mere peril, but of absolute dissolution ; and with this conviction, impressed indelibly on my heart, gentlemen will not believe, that I disregard all the general arguments that have been used against the motion on the score of innovation, from any disrespect to the honorable members who have urged them, or to the ingenuity with which they have been pressed, but because I am firmly persuaded that they are totally inapplicablo
to the circumstances under which we come to the discussion. With the ideas that I entertain, I cannot listen for a moment to suggestions that are applicable only to other situations and to other times; for unless we are resolved, in helpless pusillanimity, or in a stupid torpor, to succumb, and to wait with resignation the approach of our doom to lie down and die, we must take bold and decisive measures for our deliverance. We must not be deterred by meaner apprehensions. We must combine all our strength, fortify one another by the communion of our courage ; and by a seasonable exertion of national wisdom, patriotism, and vigor, take measures for the chance of salvation, and encounter with unappalled hearts all the enemies fo- , reign and internal, all the dangers and calamities of every kind, which press so heavily upon us. Such is my view of the present emergency of England ; and under this impression, I cannot for a moment listen to the argument of danger arising from innovation, since our ruin is inevitable, if we pursue the course which has brought us to the brink of the precipice.
“ But before I enter on the subject of the proposition that has been made to us, I must take notice of an insinuation, that has again and again been flung out by gentlemen on the other side of the house on party feelings, in which they affect to deplore the existence of a spirit injurious to the welfare of the public. I suspect, by the frequent repetition of this insinuation, that they are desirous of making it be believed, or that they uuderstand themselves by the word party feelings, an unprincipled combination of men for the pursuit of office and its emoluments, the eagerness or zeal of which leads them to entertain and to act upon feelings of personal enmity, ill will, and opposition to his Majesty's ministers. If such be their interpretation of party feelings, or if the term be so understood by the house, I must say, that I am utterly unconscious of any such feelings, and I am sure I can
speak with confidence for my friends, that they are actuated by no motives of so debasing a nature.
But if they understand by party feelings, that men of honor, who entertain similar opinions, conceive that those principles may be more beneficially and successfully pursued by the force of mutual support, harmony, and confidential connexion, then I adopt the interpretation, and have no scruple in saying, that it is for the advantage of the country; an advantage to the cause of truth and the constitution; an advantage to freedom and humanity; an advantage to
; whatever honorable object they may be engaged in, that men pursue it with the united force of party feelings, that is to say, pursue it with steadiness, zeal, and spirit, which the communion of just confidence is likely to inspire ; and if the honorable gentlemen apply this description of party feelings to the pursuit in which we are engaged, I am equally ready to say, that the disastrous condition of the empire ought to animate and invigorate the union of all those who feel it to be their duty to check and arrest a career that threatens us with such inevitable ruin. For surely those who think that party is a good thing for ordinary occasions, must admit that it is peculiarly so on emergencies like the present; it is peculiarly incumbent on men, who feel the value of their united exertion, to combine all their strength to extricate the vessel when in danger of being stranded. But gentlemen seem to insinuate, that this union of action is directed more against persons than measures ; and that allusions ought not to be made to the conduct of particular men. analyse this sort of imputation, for it is not easy to disjoin the measure from its author nor to examine the origin and progress of any evil, without also enquiring into and scrutinizing the motives and the conduct of the persons who gave it rise. How, for instance, is it possible for us to enter into the discussion of the particular question now before the house, without a certain mixture of personal
It is not easy to
allusion? We complain, that the representation of the people in Parliament is defective. How does this complaint originate ? From the conduct in the majorities in Parliament. Does not this naturally lead us to enquire, whether there is not something fundamentally erroneous in election, or something incidentally vicious in the treatment of those majorities? We surely must be permitted to enquire, whether the fault and calamity, of which we complain, is inherent in the nature of the institution, in which nothing personal is to be ascribed to ministers, as it will operate in a more or less degree in all the circumstances in which we may find ourselves; or whether it is not an occasional abuse of the original institution, applicable only to these times, and these men, in which they are peculiarly guilty, but from which system representation itself ought to stand absolved.
“ I put the question in this way, in order to shew that a certain degree of personality is inseparable from discussion, and that gentlemen cannot with justice ascribe to the bitterness of party feelings, what flows out of the principle of free enquiry. Indeed, this is a pregnant example of there being nothing peculiarly hostile to persons in this subject; it is not a thing now taken up for the first time, meditated and conceived in particular hostility to the right honorable gentleman. Be it remembered, that he himself has again and again introduced and patronized the same subject, and that on all occasions, on which he has brought it forward, it has invariably received my approbation and support. When he brought it forward
. first in the year 1782, that is, by the bye, in a time of war, and in a time of severe pressure of public calamity, I gave to the proposition of the right honorable gentleman my feeble support. Again, when he brought it forward in the year 1783, at a time when I was in an office high in his Majesty's service, I gave it my support. Again in the year 1785, when the right honorable gentleman was
himself in place, and renewed his proposition, it had my countenance and support. I have invariably declared myself a friend to parliamentary reform by whomsoever proposed ; and though in all the discussions that have heretofore taken place, I have had occasion to express my doubt as to the efficacy of the particular mode, I have never hesitated to say, that the principle itself was beneficial; and that, though not called for with the urgency, which some folks, and among others the right honorable gentleman declared to exist, I constantly was of opinion that it ought not to be discouraged. Now, however, that all doubt upon the subject is removed by the pressure of our calamities, and that no spark of hope remains for the country, and the dreadful alternative seems to be, whether we shall sink into the most abject thraldom on the one side, or continue in the same course until we are driven into the horrors of anarchy on the other, I can have no hesitation in saying, that the plan of recurring to the principle of melioration which the constitution points out, is become a desideratum to the people of Great Britain. Between the alternatives of base and degraded slavery on the one side, or of tumultuous though probably short lived anarchy on the other, though no man would hesitate to make his choice, yet if there be a course obvious and practicable, which, without either violence or innovation, may lead us back to the vigor we have lost, to the energy that has been stifled, to the dependence that has been undermined, and yet preserve every thing in its place, a moment ought not to be lost in embracing the chance which this fortunate provision of the British system has made for British safety.
“ This is my opinion, and it is not an opinion merely founded on theory, but upon actual observation of what is passing in the world. I conceive, that if we are not resolved to shut our eyes to the instructive lessons of the times, we must be convinced of the propriety of season.