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real and more independent than that of Scotland. As long as the House of Commons abstained from violently opposing the popular wishes these anomalies were acquiesced in; but the Middlesex election for the first time brought it into open opposition to public opinion.
The year 1769 is very memorable in political history, for it witnessed the birth of English Radicalism, and the first serious attempts to reform and control Parliament by a pressure from without, making its members habitually subservient to their constituents. Small extra-parliamentary meetings of active politicians, usually members of Parliament, for the purpose of supporting or opposing particular measures or statesmen, were already well known in English public life. The famous meeting at the Fountain,' where Pulteney harangued against the policy of Walpole, and the meeting of the followers of Walpole to discuss the propriety of persevering with the Excise Bill, are well-known examples. In the great agitations of 1641 and 1642 there had been many instances of great assemblies for the purpose of subscribing or presenting petitions to the King or to the Parliament, and a movement of the same kind was created in opposition to the Excise Bill of Walpole,3 But it was only in the agitation of 1769 and 1770 that open, popular meetings, for the purpose of giving expression to public opinion on great political questions became a normal and important element in English public life.' The innovation rapidly spread. At one meeting which was held in Westminster Hall in the August of 1769, 7,000 persons are said to have been present ;5 and there were soon few counties in which large bodies of freeholders did not assemble to protest against the conduct of the Parliament, to draw up instructions for their members, or to petition the King for redress of grievances. A multitude of small political societies, under the guidance of local politicians, were accustomed to meet at different taverns in the City; but they were soon
1 On the extraordinary condition of the Scotch representation before the Reform Bill of 1832, see May's Constitutional History, i. 301-304.
2 See Clarendon's History, i. 403, 404, 412, 4.3; iii. 61.
3 Tindal's History, iv. 219.
• Cooke's Hist. of Party, vol. iii. 187. May's Constitutional History, ii. 121. Buckle's Hist. of Civilisation, i. 394, 395.
ś Annual Register, 1769, pp. 125, 126.
absorbed or eclipsed by a great democratic association called the Society of the Supporters of the Bill of Rights, which was founded in 1769 for the purpose of assisting Wilkes in his struggle with the Court, and of advocating political changes of the most drastic character. The man who appears to have contributed most largely to its formation was Horne, the Vicar of Brentford, afterwards better known as Horne Tooke, who had now thrown aside the clerical profession, for which he was utterly unsuited, and flung himself unreservedly into political agitation. The great contributions to grammar and the science of language which have given him a permanent place in English literature belong to a later period of his life, and at this time he was known chiefly as one of the most violent agitators among the City politicians. He possessed some literary and still greater forensic ability, and was a man of undoubted energy, courage, honesty, and independence, but at the same time turbulent, vain, and quarrelsome, and very unscrupulous about the means he employed. In the cause which was raised by the Middlesex election, he once said that he was prepared to dye his black coat red; and he was very active in canvassing, organising public meetings, writing libels, and endeavouring to hunt to death those unfortunate men who were accused of having committed murder in the riots that grew out of the election. Wilkes himself, and also Glynn, Sawbridge, Oliver, and Townshend, who represented the City party in Parliament, were among the original members of the society, and a long series of tests were prepared to be offered to candidates at elections. Every candidate was required to aim at a full and equal representation of the people in Parliament, annual Parliaments, the exclusion from the House of Commons of every member who accepted any place, pension, contract, lottery ticket, or other form of emolument from the Crown; the exaction of an oath against bribery; the impeachment of the ministers who had violated the rights of the Middlesex freeholders, and instigated the massacre' of St. George's Fields; the redress of the grievances of Ireland, and the restoration of the sole right of self-taxation to America. Horne, and a large section of the more respectable members, soon after retired from the society in consequence of the quarrel between Wilkes and Horne ; but the seceders formed a new and very similar club, called the Constitutional Society, ' which was the parent of many later societies, such as the · Whig Club,' the . Friends of the People, and the London Corresponding Society.''
It was a leading doctrine of the new party that a member of Parliament should be simply a delegate, who must regulate his political career entirely according to the wishes of his constituents. In a great meeting which was held in February 1769, Beckford declared that if he received instructions from his constituents directing him to take a course opposed to his convictions, he would consider himself bound to do so, and * would not oppose his judgment to that of 6,000 of his fellowcitizens.' The habit of sending instructions from constituencies to members was warmly encouraged, and in the course of 1769 it had become common. The Radical party, however, was very weak in Parliament and not strong in the country. It included a few speculative republicans, the most prominent of whom were Mrs. Macaulay, the historian, who was sister to Alderman Sawbridge, and a wealthy and very excellent private gentleman named Hollis, whose passion for printing and collecting magnificent editions of English seventeenth century works in defence of liberty made him well known to students, and whose donations may be traced in several foreign libraries.?
One of the results of this movement was, that the Whigs were compelled, though slowly and timidly, to identify themselves with the question of parliamentary reform. Hitherto the question had not been fully appropriated by either party, and it was by no means clear to which party its advocacy would ultimately fall. The Whigs represented especially the mobile and progressive classes in the community; and as they owed their origin to a great struggle for political liberty, they were the natural guardians of the popular element in the Constitution. But, on the other hand, for half a century after the accession of the House of Brunswick, they kept the Revolution Settlement intact mainly by a parliamentary majority derived
· Stephen's Life of Horne Tooke, i. * the supporters of the Bill of Rights.' 163-176. See too a remarkable letter - Woodfall's Junius, i. 275-296. of Junius to Wilkes severely criticis. 2 Annual Register, 1769, p. 73. ing the resolutions of the society of Walpole's George 111. iii. 331.
from Whig nomination boroughs at a time when the popular sentiment was usually sullen, hostile, or indifferent. During all that time they were the party of the Government, and had therefore the conservative instincts which power naturally produces, and they included the commercial classes, who were much more disposed and tempted to bribe than the country gentry. The Tories, as we have seen, were long the habitual advocates of short parliaments, place Bills, and pension Bills; and one of the strongest sentiments of the country gentry was dislike to that corruption by which merchants, and at a later period Indian nabobs, so often succeeded in defeating them among their tenants. This appears very clearly in the writings of Bolingbroke. • As to Parliaments,' wrote Swift to Pope in 1721, 'I adored the wisdom of that Gothic institution which made them annual; and I was confident our liberty could never be placed upon a firm foundation until that ancient law were restored among us.
For who sees not that while such assemblies are permitted to have a longer duration, there groweth up a commerce of corruption between the ministry and the deputies ... which traffic would neither answer the design nor expense if Parliaments met once a year. Among the posthumous works of Swift, there is a short but very remarkable · Essay on Public Absurdities,' in which that great Tory writer enumerated what he deemed the chief political evils of his time. It is imbued with the strongest prejudices of his party. He speaks of the folly of giving votes to any who did not belong to the established religion of the country. He condemns absolutely standing armies. He deplores that persons without landed property could by means of the boroughs obtain an entrance into Parliament. But side by side with these views we find him blaming the custom of throwing the expense of an election upon a candidate, the custom of making forty-shilling freeholders in order to give votes to landlords, and the immunity of members and their servants from civil suits. It is likewise,' he adds, 'absurd that boroughs decayed are not absolutely extinguished because the returned members do in reality represent nobody at all; and that several large towns are not represented though full of industrious townsmen.'' But the
1 Scott's Swift, x. 362-366. VOL. III.
hopes of reform which had been raised on the accession of George III. soon proved vain; corruption under a Tory ministry advanced in new forms and with an accelerated rapidity, and it was no longer the Court but the people who looked with jealousy on the House of Commons, and desired to limit its authority. The changed attitude of parties was remarkably shown when Chatham, in 1770, brought the Middlesex election before the House of Lords. A motion was introduced by Lord Marchmont, and warmly supported by Lord Mansfield, and by the whole party which was the especial exponent of the views of the Court, deprecating any interference of the House of Lords with that great constitutional question, on the ground that a resolution directly or indirectly impeaching a judgment of the House of Commons in a matter wherein their jurisdiction is competent, final, and conclusive, would be a violation of the constitutional rights of the Commons, tends to make a breach between the two Houses of Parliament, and leads to a general confusion. It was left for the Whigs to maintain the limitations which the Constitution imposed upon the Commons, and above all, to vindicate the rights of the people to a fuller representation within it.
The attitude of the Whigs towards the question of parliamentary reform differed widely from that of the new Radical party. In order to understand it, we must discriminate carefully between the policy of Chatham and that of the followers of Rockingham. The great service of Chatham to the cause is that he was the first statesman who openly maintained the necessity of an extended system of reform, and who brought in a definite plan for accomplishing this end. He never proposed any lowering of the parliamentary suffrage, and he had no sympathy with the doctrine of personal representation which was implied in the resolutions of the Society of the Supporters of the Bill of Rights, and which, a few years later, was clearly formulated by Stanhope, Cartwright, and Jebb. "The share of the national burdens,' he once said, which any part of the kingdom bears, is the only rule by which we can judge of the weight that it ought to have in the political balance.''
| Chatham Correspondence, iv. 169. According to Lord Charlemont, Chat
ham, in one of his speeches on the Stamp Act in 1766, said, 'If England