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objected to the motion, as it would fix a crime upon themselves, to assure his Majesty that by an abuse of power, they had been the cause of all the prevailing discontents, and would be joining in a prayer for their own diffolution. The majority upon this fide pursued another method of argument; they allowed the difcontents, but charged them and the petitions, to the gentlemen in the oppofition, through whose influence the people were persuaded to imagine the one and subscribe the other.
And it was boldly affirmed that the only cause of both, was the hatred of their leaders to thofe in administration. It was insisted that the majority of gentlemen of large fortunes, and the magistrates throughout the nation, together with the clergy in several counties, had not joined in the petitions, and that a majority of counties had not petitioned at all: that the inferior class of freeholders were not capable of understanding what they subscribed; that the farmers and manufacturers throughout the nation could neither know nor take any interest in the present disputes, provided tlicy had not been stirred up by factious and feditious persons, who were hunting after grieyances, and continually fabricating petitions.—That by men of that character, meetings had been advertised, where the people were harangued with inflammatory fpeeches, and writings published and scattered through the kingdom, in which government had been reproached and vilified, the parliament abused, and the îninds of the people inflamed. All this was done, it was alledged, to distress government; but it was added, that although the majority of such freeholders had figned the petitions without any influence or solicita · tion, they were only to be considered as the acts of a rabble, and of an ignorant multitude, incapable of
judging. This kind of stile, as it was in its own naiure opprobrious, so it was also not true in fact, be. cause those whom the court party called a rabble, behaved with as much wisdom and discretion, as even the best of the friends of the ministry. It is a fort of lunacy which often prevails among selfish politicians, to imagine that the people in the lower walks of life äre destitute of all penetration and discernment; and that they are not qualified to judge concerning their own affairs. Nothing but mere ignorance of their characters, or a wilful intention to misrepresent them, could dispose men of sense and understanding to judge in such a manner. Among those whom vain and high minded courtiers denominate the rabble, and the scum of the earth, are to be found as much common sense, and prudence, as among those of the highest ranks in the nation, if take them in equal proportion. By taking a survey of the history of bankruptcies, failures, and delinquencies, it will appear that there is a good proportion of these to be found among those who are not accounted the fcum of the nation. The abuse which many in government at this time received from the people, proceeded from leffons they had learned from courtiers themselves, whose absurd and ridiculous stile the vulgar turned against them, and paid back with confiderable interest.
The charge which those in administration brought against the minority, or those in opposition, namely that they had been active in promoting the petitions, was openly acknowledged and defended by them. They said they accounted themselves bound in duty to render an account of their conduct in parliament to their constituents, and also to give them their best advice, and opinion, when required, in any thing that related to their interests, and to give them the most
earlynotice of all measures that tended to fubvert their rights, or were dangerous to the constitution. The charges of meeting, and writing, and speaking, which had been brought against them, were ridiculous, and it was alked by what other methods people could communicate tlieir fentiments. It was also ob. ferved that it had been infinuated that our grievances were imaginary, because the peasants or manufacturers in Devonshire and Yorkshire would not immediately feel them, nor perhaps discover them till they felt them. But it was urged that though those who were busily employed, might not find time to consider these matters immediately, till they began to feel their effects, yet this was no reason why those who faw their diftant approach, should keep filent, and not warn them. Those who perceive the subyersion of liberty in the cause thereof, máy be few, which is generally the case ; but this will not prove that there are never approaches to oppression, or reinote causes of the subversion of freedom. If the few who perceive effects in their caufes can open the eyes of others, they do no more than what is their duty, and perform a piece of real service to the community. .. It was added on this side of the question, that though many gentlemen of large fortunes, and the clergy, had not signed the petitions, yet a great number had done it, and these of the most independent rank and character; and of those who had refuted to sign many of them were under a particular influence. That the ju tices of the peace were officers of the crown, and that no body of men were under greater influence than the clergy, yet that some of these had even figned the petitions. It was asked likewise if the generality of the freeholders were of no signification? if their opinion was of no weight? and it was
afferred that they were that respectable body of men who were alone fuperior to all threatenings, fear, and influence. It was further urged, that the petitioning counties, cities, and towns were in respect to opulence and number of inhabitants, far superior to those that had not petitioned; and that they contributed more to the land-tax, which was now a test of freehold property in this country, than the rest of the united kingdom. Thefe, with some other similar ar guments were ufed on this occasion on the side of the opposition.
Soon after the meeting of the parliament, a long train of resignations took place. Lord Camden resigned the seals: the Marquis of Granby, all his places except the regiment of Blues; the Duke of Beau. fort his place of Master of the Horse to the Queen; the Duke of Manchester and Earl of Coventry of Lords of the Bedchamber; the Earl of Huntington his place of groom of the stable, and Mr James Grenville his office of one of the Vice-treasurers of Ireland, Mr Dunning, the Solicitor general, also resigned that employment. The whole of administration feemed in a thartered condition, and such convulsions prevailed, as struck a panic in the body politic; the court was, however, resolved to pursue the plan it had set out upon, and was determined to govern by men who had no popular views or connections, and to maintain its ground, notwithstanding so many of its principal "managers had deferred its caufe. There are certain periods of fatality in the history of na'ions, when men employed in the management of public affairs proceed upon the most absurd principles, contrary to all ream fon, and conviction, and rush headlong over the precipice of their own despotism into the gulf of anihilation. What prudence and moderation might have
preserved for ages, they frequently destroy in one day, and by the rapidity of the most jarring and discordant measures, grind to pieces those springs and wheels of government, which, by the course of regular motion would have endured as long as time. The English constitution is a contrivance of wisdom, formed to last forever, when pursued upon its own principles ; when the several balances are kept in equilibrio, and every power acts in its own sphere; but if any of its powers are permitted to encroach upon the sphere of another, the frame will foon fall to pieces, and become a perfect ruin. This was the case before the revolution, when the executive power overbalanced the legislative, and reduced the community to a state of nature. In the time of the long parliament, one part of the legislature overbalanced the other, and overturned the constitution, and introduced anarchy. All this shews that the greatest care should be observed by those employed in public matters, to preserve an equilibruim in all parts of the constitution. But this can never be done, when the crown has it in its power to corrupt the legislature. Riches committed into the hands of the sovereign to oil the wheels of government, will soon inake a prime minister, unless he is both wife and virtuous, like the fan of Phæbus, drive so furiously till he set the nation in a flame. Anarchy is an evil and dangerous thing, but it is not equally so bad as tyranny. The jarring parts of a broken constitution, that through popular convulsions, are thrown into confuo fion, may, by wisdom, be arranged and put
into order, and reared up like a new création; but when there is no power but one existing, into which all the rest are abforbed, it will be next to impossible to reitore the fabric.