Front Page Titles (by Subject) XVI - Selected Discourses and Speeches
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
XVI - Andrew Fletcher, Selected Discourses and Speeches 
Selected Discourses and Speeches: A Discourse of Government with Relation to Militias (Edinburgh, 1698); Two Discourses concerning the Affairs of Scotland (Edinburgh, 1698); Speeches by a Member of the Parlaiment (Edinburgh, 1703); A Conversation concerning a Right Regulation of Government (Edinburgh, 1704).
About Liberty Fund:
Liberty Fund, Inc. is a private, educational foundation established to encourage the study of the ideal of a society of free and responsible individuals.
The text is in the public domain.
Fair use statement:
This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.
My Lord Chancellor
One would think that of all men law-givers should be of the most undoubted probity, and that selfish ends and disingenuity should have no place in their assemblies. For if those who give laws to other men have not the good of the nations they govern in view, but are ready to sacrifice everything to their own private interest, such a scandalous conduct must be of the last consequence to a government, by alienating the affections of the people from those who shall be found guilty of such practices. My Lord, no man in this house can be ignorant that this act will not only open a trade and correspondence with France, contrary to the declaration of war, and our own standing laws; but that the design of those who promote the passing of this act is to have a trade directly with France. It is known that Scots ships are already loading wines at Bourdeaux for this kingdom; and that a French factor is already arrived in this city. Besides, it is notorious, that a ship belonging to this port, and freighted with wines from France, is now lying in Queensferry-road, not eight miles from this place. She pretends indeed to be a Dane, because she came last from Norway; whither she was sent for no other reason than that she came too soon upon this coast. This ship has an officer and divers seamen on board, sent from one of our frigates for her guard, who have absolutely refused to permit the persons that were empowered by the admiralty to examine her, unless they should produce an order from the captain of the frigate, or from your lordship. And as if our act for the prohibition of French wines were already repealed, and our collectors, no less than our former kings, might dispense with the laws, another ship laden with the wines of that country has been brought into the Clyde, and her lading into the city of Glasgow, during this session, in contempt of the law and the authority of the parliament. All this, and much more of the same kind, is well known to those who are in the administration, and seem not to think it their business to take notice of such practices. But I hope this house will not overlook these gross mis-managements; and since the executive part of the government is arrived to that state, that hardly any law is put in execution, the parliament, according to the many precedents we have in our acts, will give order for a better administration in time to come, and take effectual care that those who are placed in the highest trusts shall see the laws duly executed; especially your lordship, who during the intervals of parliament, as the principal person in the government, ought to be answerable to the nation for their due execution. Now the great argument which is used for allowing the importation of French wines is, that we shall certainly have the wines of that country, though very bad and very dear, if the prohibition be continued. Which is only to say, we have no government among us. Two good laws were made in the year 1700. One against the exportation of our wool, the other against the importation of French wines; the first to give a being to a woolen manufacture in this kingdom, the latter to vindicate our trade against the impositions of France. We have already rendered the one ineffectual, to the ruin of our woolen manufacture; shall we now repeal the other? Shall we send them our wool, and buy their wines, and oblige them doubly for burdening and oppressing us in our trade? It is pretended that the customs arising from the importation of French wines must serve to pay the civil list, because the former duties are fallen one half of the usual value. A very cogent argument indeed! When we know that the customs have been taken from the farmers, only in order to bestow the collectors’ places upon parliament-men. Shall we make good such funds as are exhausted by bribing men to betray our liberty? If any justice were to be found in this nation, the advisers of these things had long since been brought to a scaffold. But as there is no crime under heaven more enormous, more treacherous, and more destructive to the very nature of our government, than that of bribing parliaments; so there is nothing more common and barefaced: and I think this session should have been opened by purging the house from such corrupted members; which if we had done, we had not met with so many difficulties and obstructions of the public service. But I hope we shall not be so remiss for the future. And for the present, my Lord Chancellor, I move, that his act for taking off the prohibition of French wines, as a design of the blackest nature, hurtful and ignominious to the nation, and highly reflecting on our ministers and administration, may be thrown out.