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one representative : the right of elective franchise to be extended to copyholders and leaseholders : The remaining 400 members to be returned by one description of perfons, viz. HOUSEHOLDERS : The poll to be taken throughout the kingdom at one time ; and the same person not to be permitted to vote for more than one member : The duration of parliament to be limited to three years. Upon this plan,” Mr. Grey said, “ the members would hold their seats, not indeed on the basis of universal suffrage, but of universal representation. The qualification would be so fixed, that no man, however mean, might not hope, by honest industry and fair exertions, to raise himself to this distinction.” The motion of Mr. Grey was seconded in an elaborate and eloquent speech by Mr. Erskine, who reverted to those better days when the liberties of the country were established by the exercise of the constitutional powers of that house. “ We could recollect with pride and triumph the glorious exertions of our forefathers within those walls, when tyranny, century after century, was combated and defeated, and the freedom of Englishmen was afferted and confirmed. The only cure for the evils of government was to make the house of commons what it had been in the days of our ancestors, when it preserved the liberties of the people, and was crowned with their love and veneration.”
Mr. Pitt opposed the motion upon precisely the same grounds on which his own propositions on the same subject had been formerly contested. « Was it not better," he asked, “ to endure some inconvenience, rather than hazard the annihilation of a system under which this country had flourished in prosperity, had been supported in adversity, and acquired energy and vigor to recover from the diftreffes which it had endured ? It had never,” he said, « been contended, that the inequality of the representation had been attended with any practical disadvantage ; that the interest of Yorkshire had been neglected because it fent only two members to parliament; or that Birmingham or
Manchester experienced any ill consequences from having no representatives. The proposition now stated was news extensive,---overturning all the antient system without substituting any real benefit. On what experience, on what practice, was it to be introduced? Were we to renounce the benefits of a tried system for a theory which had no example in its favor ? After all, this plan would be far from satisfying the speculative and democratic partizans of reform without doors. Men who could treat parliament as usurpation, and monarchy as an invasion, of the rights of man, would reject with scorn any propositions which did not include a recognition of their rights; and which they would regard as vitiated, if conveyed in any other shape.” Mr. Pitt, in conclufion, avowed his total disapprobation of the plan proposed, and gave his decided negative to the motion.
Mr. Fox, at the close of the debate, rose in defence of the motion; and recalled to Mr. Pitt's recollection the words used by him on bringing forward his own original motion of reform in 1782.-" Without a reform in parliament the nation cannot be fafe. This war may be ended, but what will protect us against another ? As certainly as the spirit which engendered the present actuates the secret councils of the crown, we shall, under the influence of a defective representation, be involved in new wars and similar calamities.' This was the right honorable gentleman's prophesy, and it has been fully accomplished. Another war did take place, equal in disaster, and at least equal in disgrace! It seems as if his whole life from that period had been destined for the illustration of the warning. It was remarkable,” Mr. Fox observed, “ that every prediction hazarded by Mr. Pitt, during the course of the present war, had failed ; every hope, every expectation, every promise, had proved fallacious; yet parliament continued to confide in him: and the only one of his predictions which was entitled to regard, the only one which had been verified in
the result, was that which had been unfortunately slighted and neglected.-Mr. Fox appealed to the house, whether they were the faithful organs of the public will? Can we,” said he, “ review the adminiftration of the right honorable gentleman without being convinced that the present representation is a shadow and a mockery ? Ministers had affirmed the popularity of the present war; the same had been said of the war with America ; nor would he deny that, through the artful machinations of ministers, a clamor had been raised, which they called the voice of the nation : but whatever had been the case in the outset of both, the progress in the public opinion had been the same in each. It had indisputably changed, though the voice of the people had not been heard in the choice of representatives. Had the representative system been perfect, or its practice pure, the new parliament would decidedly have voted against the continuance of the war. With respect to the specific proposition before the house, Mr. Fox thought the best and most advisable plan of reform was to extend the right of election to householders : it was the most perfect recurrence to the first-known and recorded principles in our constitution, according to the celebrated Glanville, in all cases where no particular right intervened ; and he wished it to be discussed in a committee, in hopes that the united wifdom of the house might improve the present outline into a system generally beneficial and acceptable.--In conclusion, Mr. Fox expressed his assurance that the nation, by adopting wise and temperate measures of reform, that the monarchy and the people, might yet be saved. Let those ministers who have plunged us into our present state retire from the post to which they are unequal. A new administration, composed of men who possessed the talents of conciliation must be formed; but of this new administration Mr. Fox folemnly protested that he had no wish to make a part. Ambition was dead within him. He fought only the salvation of the country, and his desire, as to himself,
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was henceforth RETIREMENT.”—The question being put, after long debate, the house divided; for the motion 63, against it 258 voices.
On the 30th of May the duke of Bedford rose, in pursuance of notice given, to move an address to the throne, humbly beseeching his majesty to dismiss his present ministers from his presence and councils for ever. This address was supported by the noble mover in a very able and comprehensive speech. Recapitulating the errors of the present administration in all its relations, foreign and domestic, and stating the evils actually produced, and the still greater to be apprehended from them, his grace folemnly appealed to the house, “ whether they would suffer the country to be devoted to utter destruction ? Will you," he exclaimed, « leave its affairs to men who have already involved you in complicated calamities ? I intreat your lordships to reflect upon our situation as a nation, and that you would devise some means of avoiding the complete ruin with which we are threatened.”—The motion was powerfully feconded by the duke of Grafton. This nobleman, whose age, character, and long experience in affairs, commanded the respect and attention of the house, observed « that there were not wanting those who attributed to chance, the chance of war, all the misfortunes which had befallen us; but he ascribed them to the uniform folly and rashness of ministers, as their real, fole, and obvious cause. « This chain of disasters," said his grace, “ could no more have fallen out by chance than the globe we walk on could have been produced by a fortuitous concourse of atoms. For himiölf, he protested before God and his country, that so far from abetting the pernicious counfils which were bringing on the downfall of the empire, he had endeavoured to the utmost, by every constitutional means, to avert them. If. the present motion were received with the same cold indifference which had been hitherto thewn, and if the same confidence was continued to the fame miniftcrs, he should
not think it necessary to trouble the house with his remarķs again. But before he retired, to fortify his own mind against the calamities he saw approaching, he conceived it to be a duty incumbent upon him to lay before his sovereign, in person, the reasons of his conduct, flattering himself that he should experience the same gracious and attentive hearing which his majesty had ever vouchsafed to one who had always fpoken the unbiassed and genuine dictates of his heart.”
The earls of Guildford and Suffolk, the marquis of Lansdown, and the earl of Moira, all successively spoke with vigor and ability in favor of the motion, and made every effort to impress the house with the conviction, that to give any further countenance to the present system, a fyftem fraught with mischief and ruin, would be involving themselves in the guilt of it. The duke of Athol, lord Romney, lord Spencer, &c. defended the measures of administration : and lord Grenville, finding all other arguments fail, touched again the master-chord, which never failed, even in the most unskilful hands, to awaken the passions of the house. He claimed for the present minifters, whatever might be their faults or failings, the transcendent merit of having preserved the country from that anarchy to which he affirmed the language and general conduct of the opposition tended. A reform of parliament was their grand specific for all grievances ; but to this measure he had invariably objected, as conceiving it to amount to a complete alteration of the conftitution. « The plan lately proposed,” his lordship said, “ went to pluck up by the roots every right planted by the constitution ; and if the flood-gates were once opened to innovation, the torrent of anarchy would spread so forcibly and so wide, that it would not be in the power of their lordships, by opposing their feeble hands as a barrier to destruction, to prevent the constitution from being overwhelmed in ruin. And he declared his belief, that the object of the motion was to pro