Front Page Titles (by Subject) CHAP. IV.: Of a limited Monarchy, and mixt Government. Its component Parts, Monarchy, Aristocracy, and Democracy. Of the comparative Influence of each:—On which Side the greatest Danger is now to be apprehended.—The Remedy proposed, and proper Regulations - A Treatise Concerning Civil Government in Three Parts
The Online Library of Liberty
A project of Liberty Fund, Inc.
Search this Title:
Also in the Library:
CHAP. IV.: Of a limited Monarchy, and mixt Government. Its component Parts, Monarchy, Aristocracy, and Democracy. Of the comparative Influence of each:—On which Side the greatest Danger is now to be apprehended.—The Remedy proposed, and proper Regulations - Josiah Tucker, A Treatise Concerning Civil Government in Three Parts 
A Treatise Concerning Civil Government in Three Parts (London: T. Cadell, 1781).
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.
Of a limited Monarchy, and mixt Government. Its component Parts, Monarchy, Aristocracy, and Democracy. Of the comparative Influence of each:—On which Side the greatest Danger is now to be apprehended.—The Remedy proposed, and proper Regulations.
HAVING at last, it is to be hoped, got over every material Difficulty, let us return to the main Point, from which we have been detained so long.—Deputies from, or Representatives of the People, though not absolutely necessary to the very Being and Existence of every legitimate Government, might nevertheless be of great Use and Benefit to them all. For though we dare not join with that unhappy Principle which denounces open War, or meditates Conspiracies and Assassinations against all who should presume to govern without an actual Election, Nomination, or Consent of the People;—yet we would by no means derogate from the singular Advantage, which might arise from a proper Choice of Representatives, to act as their Trustees and Guardians. But above all, be it ever acknowledged, and for ever gloried in, that the Election of Persons to represent the People of Great-Britain in Parliament, is a fundamental Part of the British Constitution. Here in Britain, the important Distinctions, so oftenmentioned, of actual Contracts and of Quasi-Contracts, enter into the very Essence of our Government. For every Voter or Elector, by giving his Vote, makes himself an actual Contractor: And every Non-Voter, whether Male or Female, young or old, by living peaceably and securely amongst us, and enjoying the Protection of the State, is a Quasi-Contractor. By means of that actual Contract, which is made between the Representatives in Parliament, and a certain Number of Electors or Voters in every District, the Abuse of delegated Power may be in a great Measure guarded against;—perhaps as effectually as can be expected in the present imperfect State of Things. And by means of that Quasi-Contract, which always subsists between the Governing Powers of a State, and the whole Body of the People, and every Individual thereof; the Evils of democratical Anarchy and Confusion are prevented, and Government itself is rendered an useful, practicable Thing, instead of being either a visionary Scheme, or an Engine of the blind Fury of a mad Populace.
Towards the Beginning of the former Chapter, we set out with the following Enquiry, “How shall the People receive a reasonable Security, that the Powers wherewith their Governors are entrusted, both in making Laws, and in executing them, shall not be misapplied?” And in the Progress of the Work, we examined into those constitutional Principles [Wisdom, Power, and Goodness] on the Exexercise of which, in one Degree or other, all moral and civil Governments must depend.—In the next Place, we took a View of those several Forms, or exterior Modes of Administration, which give distinct Denominations to different Governments, the Monarchical, the Aristocratical, and the Democratical. The chief Defects and Imperfections of each of which were then endeavoured to be pointed out. [And besides this, particular Exceptions were made to the Governments of Sparta, Athens, and Rome, as being altogether improper for our Case and Circumstances, and indeed very repugnant to that Provision for general Safety, and social Happiness, which ought to be the End and Aim of every political Institution.]
From this Survey of Things, it evidently follows, That as neither of the above Forms is desirable in itself, a Government compounded of all three, and partaking of so much of the Nature of each, as shall make every Part be a Check and Counter-balance to the others, [without impeding the Motion of the whole] seems to be the best: It is indeed the fittest to give a reasonable Security to the People, that they shall be well governed. And such a Constitution, Thanks to kind Providence, is that under which we now live;—did we but attend properly to it, by correcting those few Errors, which Time has introduced; and did we but improve every Circumstance belonging to it to the most Advantage.
Now, as the British Government is compounded of three distinct Parts, the Regal, Aristocratical, and Popular; the first Inquiry should be, which of these wants rectifying the most? Or, in other Words, Which of them seems to preponderate so much at present, as to threaten Destruction to the other two?
It hath been a Practice of many Years standing with those Gentlemen who chuse the Road of Opposition, (instead of pursuing other Methods) for obtaining Honours, Places, and Preferments, to alarm and terrify well-meaning People with incessant Cries, that the Constitution is in Danger, through the corrupt Influence of the Crown:—And that they are the only Persons who can save a sinking State.—This was the Watch-Word always made use of during a very long Contest against Sir Robert Walpole. But no sooner were these uncorrupt Patriots got into Power, and had gratified their Ambition and Revenge, than they changed their Note. They then happily discovered, what was hid from their Eyes before, that each of the component Parts of a mixt Government, ought to have a certain Influence on the others;—and that the Influence of the Regal on the Aristocratical and Democratical Branches, was neither more, nor greater than it ought to be. Nay, these new-enlighted quondam Demagogues then deigned to instruct us in their celebrated Treatise, Faction detected by the Evidence of Facts, in how many several Respects the ancient feudal Prerogative had been abridged and curtailed, and how much greater Security we enjoy for the Preservation of our Liberties, than our Fore-Fathers had before us. There is no Doubt to be made, were our present Race of Patriots ever to become victorious, either by the Subversion of the Ministry, or the Subversion of the State, and the Erection of a Common-Wealth, but that they too would wish to mimic their Predecessors in displaying the vast Advantage which their Country have reaped from their Labours for the public Good.—The plain English of which is, That they ought to be well paid. In the mean Time, as this Event is perhaps not so near its Accomplishment as they could wish;—and as neither the Inns nor the Outs are to be relied upon for giving a fair and impartial State of the present Influence of the Crown [neither Side being willing to discover the real Truth:] It is not impossible but that a Person of infinitely less Abilities than those who have undertaken to give an Account of this Matter, may succeed better; because he is enlisted under no Man’s Banners, has no Party to serve, has nothing but the Truth in View, none to fear, and none to flatter.
What is generally understood by the Influence of the Crown, must arise either from an open and avowed Exertion of some undoubted Prerogative of the Crown;—or from some secret Artifice, not authorised by Law, and therefore not to be justified, which the Crown is supposed to make use of, in order to obtain some certain End.
If the former is here meant by the Assertion, that the Influence of the Crown has rapidly encreased of late Years;—it is saying in other Words, that the legal or constitutional Prerogative of the Crown has been extended, instead of being curtailed,—has been enlarged instead of being abridged;—and that the Power of the Prince is more absolute and unrestrained, and less confined by Law since the Revolution, than it was before. Will any Man in his sober Senses dare to maintain such a Paradox?—
But if the Term Influence is to be taken in the latter Sense; that is, if by it is meant such clandestine Practices as the Law condemns, and therefore would punish, if legally detected;—this is an Accusation, which must first be proved before Sentence can be past on the Offenders. For tho’ it is very probable, that the best of human Governors have, in all Ages, shewn themselves not much averse to the Use of bad Means for the attaining such Ends as they wish to accomplish, and not otherways attainable;—yet it is much to be questioned, whether the particular Vices of Bribery and Corruption, [I mean in the gross Sense of the Word] have been practiced by the Agents of the Crown, to a greater Extent of late Years than they used to be.—Far therefore from suggesting a Thought, that our present Ministers, any more than their Predecessors, are perfectly immaculate;—I only say, that it has not yet appeared, that they are worse in this Respect than former Ministers;—much less has it been proved, that Bribery and Corruption have of late Years made such a rapid and alarming Progress, as to deserve a peculiar Stigma. My Reasons are the following: First, in the greatest Electioneering Contests, which perhaps this Country ever saw, when every Species of undue Influence was put in Practice, with shameful Notoriety:—Yet it was not so much as attempted to be proved, that the public Treasury had been opened to bribe the Electors in any of those Disputes.—For the Truth of this, I appeal to those, who remember all, or any of the most violent Contests which have been raised within the last 30 Years;—particularly the three great ones at Bristol within that Period,—the great Contest in Oxfordshire, at Northampton,—in Cumberland,—and lately in Glocestershire. In all which there can hardly be a Suspicion, much less a direct Proof, that the Bribery and Corruption, (but too much practiced) whether in Money, or by other Means, were owing to the Sums issued from the Treasury. My second Reason is, That by means of that quick Vicissitude of Things, to which perhaps this Country is more subject than any other, it has often happened, that many of the Outs have come in, and many of the Ins have gone out;—yet no Side, notwithstanding their mutual Rancour, hath impeached the other, when they had the Books of the Treasury in their own Hands, of having been guilty of those Mal-Practices, and of that Bribery and Corruption which are here surmised.—Now this they most probably would have done, had any such Proofs been upon Record;—or even could they have brought any Thing suspicious from the Minutes in the Treasury-Books, of such a Misapplication of public Money.—Thirdly, the Sums generally spent at such contested Elections, is another strong Evidence, that Place-Men and Pensioners are not the principal Actors in these modern Tragedies. A Place-Man [or, if you please, a Pensioner] has perhaps 1000l. or 1500l. or even 2000l. a Year: This is accounted to be his Summum Bonum, his Conscience, his Country, and his God. Now, can it be imagined, that such a Man, who is thus characterized to have no Regard to any Thing but his own Interest, would spend, if he could, 10,000l.—perhaps 20,000l.—nay, 30,000l.—or even more, for obtaining a Seat in Parliament to secure his Place, or his Pension? No: The Supposition is foolish and absurd: It consutes itself. Any Book of Calculations may suffice to inform us, that such precarious Things as Places or Pensions, are not worth a tenth Part of such Purchase-Money.—Lastly, in almost all vehement Electioneering Struggles, where vast Sums are expended, the Ground of the Contest is seldom or never about any national Affair:—But about the important Question,—Who shall be uppermost?—Whether this great Family, or that, in such a County, or such a Borough?—What Party Connection, or Party Colour shall have the Ascendent? And whether this Leader, or that Leader, this Club, or that, in such a County, City, or Borough, shall poll the most Votes?—Points, which concern the Public, or even the Minister for the Time being, just as much as the Big-endians, or Little-endians of the facetious Dean Swift.
Well then; if the great Influence of the Crown, that dangerous Influence, which is every Day encreasing, and ought to be diminished, doth not arise from such Causes as these, at least in any considerable Degree;—from what doth it arise? and how is the Growth of it to be prevented?—The Causes of this encreasing Influence, are the vast Territories abroad, and those ruinous Wars, and immense Expences which they occasion; and ever will occasion whilst we are connected with them, under one Pretence or other. Can any Man make a Doubt of this?—If he doth, let him try, even in Thought and Imagination, to substitute a System for the Government, or Reduction of such remote Countries, which would stand clear of those Evils, which we now feel, and continually deplore. Suppose, for Example, a certain Event, which most probably is approaching with hasty Strides; viz. That the English settled in Bengal, and in the other Provinces of the Indian Empire, should take it into their Heads, that they too have unalienable Rights as well as the Americans;—and that, like them, now they are freed from the Apprehensions of a French Domination, they will no longer receive Laws from a little, paultry Spot in Europe, distant by Sea almost 10,000 Miles. Fired therefore with the glorious Thought of native Freedom, the Birth-right of every Englishman [though not of other Men; for by the by, the most zealous of our English Independents, are the least inclined to make other Men independent: And therefore I say] sired with the glorious Thought of their own Independence, and of Self-Government, they bravely desy not only the Gentlemen and *Ladies of Leaden-Hall Assembly, but also the King, Lords, and Commons of Great-Britain in Parliament assembled. Now here I ask, How is this Rebellion to be suppressed? And who is to have the Appointment, and the Payment of all the Troops, and of all the Squadrons, Transports, &c.; also of the several Officers, Commanders, Contractors, Purveyors, Surveyors, Examiners, Store-keepers, Deputies, Clerks, and of numberless other Beings to be employed for the Suppression of it? The Crown undoubtedly,—for it is the undoubted Prerogative of the Crown,—as the supreme executive Power: Otherwise there will be two Supremes within the same State;—a Solecism this, which even our modern political Refiners have not yet attempted to propose. This being the Case, how will you prevent the Crown from gaining a prodigious Influence by the Creation of such a Multitude of new Appointments, and by the annual Expenditure of of the many Millions which will be wanted for the Payment of them? How will you prevent it, I say, whilst it has such gainful Things to give;—even supposing (which no Man in his Senses can suppose) that not a single Place would be created, nor a Farthing expended, beyond what the Nature of the Case required? Yet, even on this Supposition, and without Jobs or Embezzlements of any Kind, so many lucrative Places and Employments, [all necessarily in the Disposal of the Crown] must create a Dependence, call it by what Name you please, as long as human Nature shall continue to be what it has ever been since Government began. And this is the very Influence which now too much preponderates in our public Councils. Here then the Secret is out at last. The legal and constitutional Prerogative of the Crown is not to be blamed: But our distant, unwieldly Colonies, and our ruinous Wars for their Sakes are the real Causes of all our Complaints.—It is these which involve us in thousands of Distresses, of which we should have been happily ignorant, had it not been for such Connections. They therefore, and they only, are the Authors of our present Misfortunes; and will involve us in still greater, if we shall obstinately persist in retaining these remote, unmanageable Possessions:—☞ For the Governing of which, I will be bold to say, the English Constitution was not calculated, and is not fit. This is so plain a Case, that no Man of Reason will pretend to deny it, or undertake to prove the contrary. How then comes it to pass, that neither Ministers, nor Anti-Ministers have ever assigned the true Cause of those Evils, which we daily feel, and of which we are perpetually complaining?—The Reason is this, Neither Ministers, nor their Opponents ever meant to serve the Public, at the Risque of their own Interest.—The uttering of disagreeable, unpopular Truths might be attended with certain Consequences to themselves which they wish to avoid: And therefore they desire to be excused.
Should, for Example, the Minister for the Time being, have the Honesty and Sincerity openly to declare, that extended Commerce, and extended Territorial Acquisitions are repugnant to each other: That Industry, Probity, and Frugality are much more serviceable to the Promotion of Agriculture and Manufactures than all the Glare of War and military Glory;—and that the Boast of conquering America in Germany, or any where else, was, an improper, idle, Bravado, fitter to raise the Resentment of other Nations, than to serve ourselves. Should, I say, a Minister have the Honesty and Sincerity openly to avow these unpopular Truths, and venture to declare, that the proper Way of diminishing that Influence of the Crown which is really dangerous, would be to diminish our Expences,—by renouncing all foreign Possessions, and cultivating the Arts of Peace in the two fruitful Islands of Great-Britain and Ireland: Should any oftensible Minister have the Courage to utter these honest, unwelcome Truths;—Who would support him?—Who would thank him?—Who would not persecute him.
Again, Were any of our Demagogues to tell their best Friends, the Mob, that Gibraltar and Portmahon are very expensive, and very useless Things;—that the Ocean is the great Common of Nature, which belongs to no Nation, Language, or People, in any exclusive Sense; but ought to be free, like the Air, for the Use of all; and that the keeping up any Pretensions to the contrary, is as impolitic, as it is unjust; serving no other End, but to irritate all the World against as:—Also should he observe, that Colonies of every Sort or Kind are, and ever were, a Drain to, and an Incumbrance on the Mother-Country, requiring perpetual and expensive Nursing in their Infancy;—and becoming headstrong and ungovernable, in Proportion as they grow up,—and never failing to revolt, as soon as they shall find that they do not want our Assistance:—And that even at the best, those commercial Advantages, which are vulgarly supposed to arise from them, are more imaginary than real;—because it is impossible to compel distant Settlements to trade with the parent State, to any great Degree beyond what their own Interest would prompt them to: [And Self-Interest needs no Compulsion.]—Moreover, should any Orator of this Stamp proceed to shew, that since the Laws for governing the Colonies, have from the Beginning proved nugatory and vain, attended with vast Expence, and no proportionable Profit;—therefore should he propose a total Separation, and recommend the shaking them entirely off;—in Consequence of which Multitudes of Places would be abolished, Jobbs and Contracts effectually prevented, Millions of Money saved, universal Industry encouraged, and the Influence of the Crown reduced to that Mediocrity it ought to have:—Should, I say, any of our modern Demagogues dare to recommend these salutary Truths, what would his Brother-Demagogues say to him?—Would they assist him in this good Work?—No; they would not,—though conscious to themselves, that nothing better, or more seasonable, could be recommended.—On the contrary, they would open in full Cry against such an Apostate from the common Cause,—would persecute him in every Shape, and excite the Populace to pour forth the bitterest Execrations against him;—if not to proceed to still greater Extremities.
What Course is he then to take? And how is he to act, in order that he may seem to aim at a national Reformation, and a Redress of Grievances, without intending any Thing real? The public Good requires one Conduct: But Popularity and Party another. Pressed by this Dilemma, it is but too obvious which his Choice would be. Such a Man would warmly recommend a Reform in the K—g’s Kitchen, in his Cellar, in his Houshold Servants, and his Houshold Furniture;—nay, I had almost said, in his Dog-Kennel.—In short, he would propose to save and to retrench in every Article, except that grand one, a Separation from the Colonies, which is worth a thousand of the rest.—So that in order to gratify the perverse Humours of these unhappy Times, Majesty must be sacrificed to a republican Faction, and the Power of the Prince in the Management of his own private Concerns, be reduced to a Condition much more abject than that of any of his Subjects.
As long as the Temper and Intellects of Mankind shall remain in this wretched and disordered State, nothing truly good is likely to be done. We must therefore wait with Patience for better Times; hoping, that kind Providence will inspire one Part of the Community with sounder Understandings, and the other with better Hearts.
§. The Aristocratical Part of the Constitution.
Respecting this Branch very little need be said. For the present Aristocracy is very far from being formidable. Indeed it can hardly be said to have Weight enough in the political Scale, so as to maintain a proper Balance between the two other great Powers of the Constitution.—’Tis true, the Baronage in former Times was a dreadful Engine of Tyranny and Oppression. A few great Lords combining together, often shook the Throne, often trampled on Law and Justice, and oppressed the common People at their Pleasure. But these Times are no more: A Peer of the Realm has no Jurisdiction annexed to his Barony; he is entitled to no Privilege or Prerogative authorising him to treat his Tenants, as Slaves and Vassals; but is as amenable to the regular Courts of Law, as any private Subject. Moreover as to the landed Estates of Peers, they being as divisible into small Shares as the Estates of Commoners; therefore the Power of the Peerage is so far from encreasing, that it is greatly on the Decline, if compared with what we find on Record in former Times.
§. The Democratical Part of the Constitution;—wherein the Power of electing Deputies to represent the People is particularly considered.
That Government was ordained for the Good of the People; and that this is the great Object which ought always to be attended to in every political Institution, are Points, which I shall take for granted. The only Matter worthy our present Inquiry is, How shall this public Good be most effectually promoted? And, if divers Means should be proposed, which is the best?—Deputies from, and Representatives of the People, not only bid the fairest of any others, for this Purpose; but are likewise made an essential Branch of the British Constitution. Therefore the Benefits and Advantages thence arising, are the Subjects which come next to be considered.
The best of human Institutions cannot be supposed to be so absolutely perfect, as to want no Correction or Amendment. Nay, Time, and an Alteration of Circumstances will introduce some Disorders into the best, and point out Desects, which could not be foreseen at first. This is the Case with Respect to the democratical Part of our Government. Disorders undoubtedly there are, and Defects not a few, which call aloud for a Remedy; if any can be found, which will not increase the Discase, instead of curing it, or will not introduce new, and worse Evils, by attempting to remove the old ones.
The Remedies which have been of late Years most warmly proposed, by those Gentlemen, who glory in the Title of being the Disciples of Mr. Locke, are the following:
1st, That there shall be a more equal Representation of the People, respecting their Numbers:
2ndly, That there shall be a more equal Representation of them, respecting their Property.
And 3dly, That these Representatives shall not continue longer than one Year, or at most than three Years, without a new Election.
Let us begin with the first of the Remedies here proposed for the Cure of our political Disorders. This Notion of the Necessity of an equal Representation, is grounded on that Lockian Idea of the unalienable Right of each Individual to be Self-governed; Notions, which I hope, have been sufficiently confuted. However, as Truth will bear to be seen in various Lights, and what is wrong never can become right, I will now pursue this Deception, through a new Disguise, and endeavour to present the Reader with a second Confutation of it.
Therefore in Conformity to the Lockian Plan of equal Representation, I will state the following Case: [A Case sufficiently exact for our present Purpose] Let us suppose that the Island of Great-Britain contains seventy Millions of Acres, and seven Millions of Inhabitants;—and that it is proposed by the Lockian Politicians, [something similar to which is done almost every Day] That these seven Millions of Inhabitants ought to send nearly seven hundred Deputies to represent them in Parliament: So that each Million shall elect an hundred Representatives. So far the Scheme looks plausible; but mark the Consequences:—One Million out of the seven are crowded together, inhabiting a small Spot, perhaps not more than twenty thousand Acres; whilst the remaining six Millions are scattered over the Face of the Country; also several Millions of Acres lie waste, without any Inhabitants at all. Now this central Million, as it may be called, [alias London, Westminster,Southwark, and their Environs] with an hundred Deputies, all of their own electing, and continually under their Influence, and always ready at Hand, will be an over-match for the Rest of the Kingdom in every Contest, and become every Day more and more predominant.—Can any Man doubt of this?—He cannot, if he either knows, what human Nature is in general, when armed with Power;—or can reflect on the many Monopolies and Exclusions, which London in particular hath already obtained both by Sea and Land. For even at present, when London, Westminster, and Southwark, have but eight Representatives, they have encroached on the Liberties and Trade of their Fellow-Subjects in Hundreds of Instances, have had the Appropriation of vast Sums of the public Money, for building of Bridges, &c. &c. and have engrossed several Advantages, which ought to have been left common to all. Now, if the Metropolis has the Balance of Power already so much in its Favour, would you wish to make it preponderate upwards of twelve Times more than it doth?
Again: All over-grown Cities are formidable in another View, and therefore ought not to be encouraged by new Privileges, to grow still more dangerous; for they are, and ever were, the Seats of Faction and Sedition, and the Nurseries of Anarchy and Confusion. A daring, and desperate Leader, in any great Metropolis, at the Head of a numerous Mob, is terrible to the Peace of Society, even in the most despotic Governments:—But in London, where the People are the most licentious upon Earth,—In London, where the Populace are daily taught, that they have an unalienable Right to be self-governed;—and that their Rulers are no other than their Servants:—In London, where nothing is held sacred, but the Will of the People [blasphemously called, the Voice of God] what are you to expect from an Addition of Privilege and Power, but an Encrease of the most daring Outrages, and the Subversion of Law and Government? The audacious Villanies recently committed in June, 1780, are sufficient, one would think, to give any Man a Surfeit of the very Idea of adding still greater Influence and Power to a London Mob.
Once more, If a Man has any Sense of Rectitude and good Morals, or has a Spark of Goodness and Humanity remaining, he cannot wish to entice men into great Cities by fresh Allurements. Such Places are already become the Bane of Mankind in every Sense, in their Healths, their Fortunes, their Morals, Religigion, &c. &c. &c. And it is observable of London in particular, that were no fresh Recruits, Male and Female, to come out of the Country, to supply those Devastations which Vice, Intemperance, Brothels, and the Gallows are continually making, the whole human Species in that City would be soon exhausted: For the Number of Deaths exceed the Births by at least 7000 every Year.—So much as to the 1st Remedy proposed by the Lockians for the Cure of our political Disorders.
The 2d is, That there shall be a more equal Representation of the Inhabitants of this Island respecting their Property.
Mr. Locke himself strongly leans towards the Doctrine of representing Property;—and many of his Followers directly maintain it.—Though the Notion itself is little less than a Contradiction to their favourite grand Principle of unalienable Rights belonging to each Individual, whether poor or rich. For if such Rights do belong to any Beings whatever, they must belong to Person, not to Property. Moreover, according to this Doctrine, every Man, who has no Property, ought to have no Vote, notwithstanding the supposed unalienable Rights of his Nature. And a rich Man, with large and extensive Property, ought to have many Votes in Proportion to his Riches. Consequently the Grand Turk, and every other Despot, who is the only rich Man, being the Proprietor and Lord of all, is justly entitled to every Vote within his Dominions:—Or rather, he is the only rightful Voter, and therefore represents all Property in his own Person. What a Revolution is this! For hence it comes to pass, that the Ottoman Empire, the very Quintessence of Tyranny, is all of a sudden transformed into a mild, just, and equitable Government; exhibiting a most perfect Model of fair Representation.
The last Remedy proposed for the Cure of our political Disorders, is the Frequency of general Elections, which it seems ought to be triennial,—if not annual: And then all would be well. Never did Mountebank Doctor puff off his sophisticated Drugs with more rhetorical Flourishes, than our State Doctors have celebrated the Virtues of their insallible Nostrum of annual or triennial Parliaments. Nay, they have assured the Populace in some of their Harangues, that they have an unalienable Right to require us to swallow this Prescription.—But let us enquire a little before we swallow.—The first Benefit, we are told, which is to accrue from annual General Elections, is, “That we shall be restored to our antient Constitution of annual Parliaments.” What? Doth not the Parliament now meet annually? And hath it ever failed to meet annually since the Revolution? “Oh, no: “It meets, ’tis true: But it is not a new Parliament, [a new House of Commons] which meets; but only a Continuation of the old one; whereas there ought to have been a new House of Commons every Time that there is a new Sessions of Parliament. And the People have an unalienable Right to demand a Restoration of their antient Privileges.”—How doth it appear, that annual General Elections ever were an antient Privilege of the People?—And what Authority do you produce in support of this extraordinary Assertion?—“There was a Law made the 4th of Edward III. C. 14.—which enacts, that Parliaments shall be held once a Year, or more often, if need be: This Law was confirmed in the 36th Year of the same Prince, and still remains unrepealed. Therefore”—Therefore what?—“Therefore, the holding of a Parliament once every Year, or more often if need be,—signifies the same Thing, [in patriotic Language] as that there shall be a General Election of the House of Commons once every Year, or oftener.”.—Surely the candid and impartial Reader doth not expect a formal Consutation of so wild an Argument.—Taking therefore for granted, that the holding of a Parliament, and a General Election of the Commons, are not synonymous Terms, I will endeavour to employ the Reader’s Time and my own to better Purposes, by stating the Fact, from which this strange Notion of the constitutional Right of annual General Election seems to have taken its Rise.—When the Commons of England were excessively poor, and when the Members of the House of Representatives were, almost to a Man, either the Tenants of the Crown, or the Vassals, Dependents, and Retainers of the great Barons [there being hardly such a Person then existing, as what we now call an independent Country Gentleman] two Things were deemed great Favours at that Juncture, which would be looked upon in these Times in a very different Light. The one was, The excusing of the poorer Boroughs (especially the Tenants of the Crown) from sending Members to Parliament: And this was so frequent a Practice, that even the Sheriffs would sometimes make Returns, that this or that Borough was in such a pauper State, as not to be able to bear the Expence of sending Representatives. The other was, That the Elected themselves [for small Cities and Towns Corporate] did not consider the Office of a Member of Parliament in that high and honourable Light in which it stands at present. Men, who have not much to give, and no Favours to bestow, and who stand more in need of the Protection of others, than others do of them, are not much courted and caressed at any Time. * Now this was the very Case with the Representatives in Parliament, I mean for small Cities and Borough-Towns, during all the Reigns of the Plantagenets, and the Tudors; (as shall be more fully made to appear in the ensuing Chapter] therefore many, if not most of such Members, thought it a greater Favour to be excused from serving a burthensome Office, than to be elected to it. As to the Wages they received from their Constituents, every one must know, that at any Time, and according to the most frugal Mode of Living, the Sums received could not be sufficient for defraying the Expences incurred. Hence therefore it was natural for them to consider the Dissolution of the House at the End of every Sessions as a Matter of Grace and Favour; in order that they might have a Chance of not being elected a second Time. So that from this Circumstance we may trace the true Cause, how it came to pass, that at the End of every Sessions of Parliament, the House of Commons was generally dissolved:—I say generally: For there were some Exceptions: And most assuredly the Prince was not then under the Obligation of any positive Statute Law [as he now is] for dissolving it at any particular given Time. It was wholely at his own Option, when to do it. The Irish House of Commons, copied from the English Model, puts this Affair beyond Dispute. For in that Kingdom, when an House of Representatives was elected, at the Accession of a new King, it was to remain undissolved [’till the late octennial Act altered the Case] during the Life of the reigning Prince, if he thought proper:—If not, he might dissolve it as often as he pleased, and command new Elections to be made.—So much as to the boasted constitutional Rights of annual Elections.
However, though our Modern-Patriots have failed most egregiously in this Point; yet, if they can make it appear, that annual or triennial Elections would be productive of more Good than Evil, every real Patriot will wish Success to their Endeavours, whatever may have been their Motives.
And 1st. They assure us, “that annual Elections would put an End to all Bribery and Corruption.” Good News indeed! But are you really sure of that? “We are; for when General Elections were annual, there was no “Bribery.”—Probable enough; and if you intend to reduce the Power of the House of Commons to the like insignificant State it was in during the Reigns of the Plantagenets and the Tudors, that very Insignificance would effectually remove all the Evils of which you now complain. As a Proof of this, take the following Example in modern Times.—The Clergy are no longer taxed by their Representatives in Convocation, but by Laymen in the House of Commons.—And what is the Consequence?—The Election of Convocation-Men is now become one of the most peaceable Things in Nature. No Bribery, no Corruption are even suspected, not a Treat, not an Intrigue is heard of, and Calumny herself is dumb. Now do you really wish to have our State-Diseases cured, and our political Complaints removed after the same Manner? and is this one of those insallible Nostrums, of which such Boastings have been lately made?—However, let us hear what you have further to propose.
2dly.You say “Were Elections to become annual, Bribery would cease; because it would be worth no Man’s while to bribe so often, as every Year.” To this I answer, that there is an Ambiguity in the Phrase worth no Man’s while, which must be first explained: And then the Merits of the Cause will soon appear. Among the many Motives which induce Men to stand Candidates for a Seat in Parliament, some good, and some bad, two of the most predominant are, Avarice, and Ambition. Now, as far as mere Avarice or the Thirst of Gain is concerned, no Man in his sober Senses would think it worth his while to give 20,000l.—or 10,000l.—or 5000l.—or 2000l.—or even 1000l. annually, in Bribes, in order to procure a Place, or a Pension of 1000l.—2000l.—or at the most 3000l.—without any Security of holding it a Day:—I say, no Man in his Senses would think it worth his while to risque such a certain Sum on such an Uncertainty. And so far I agree most cordially with you. But remember that I have already proved [Page 247.] that no Man doth act after this senseless Manner, even at present. But as to Ambition, and Vain-Glory, and the Lust of Power, the Stings of Envy, Hopes of Revenge, Religious Bigotry, and Party-Rage, &c. &c. &c.—are these Evils to be cured by having Recourse to annual Elections? No, no: You cannot suppose any Thing so foolish and absurd. As soon might you undertake to quench Fire with Oil, as to cool and moderate the Passions of Mankind, by keeping them in a perpetual State of Strise, Jealousy, and Rancour. It has ever been the Advice of medical People, to keep sore Places from being fretted;—but it seems, our modern State-Doctors prescribe the Use of continual fretting, as an infallible Means of Cure.
Besides, if Experience is to be our Guide, let the Experience of former Times decide the Question. During the long Contest between the Houses of Lancaster and York, annual Elections were according to this Hypothesis, the constant Practice. Whether that was the Case, or not, is immaterial. If it was, what Good did these annual Elections then produce? And how much of the Fury and Madness of the Combatants did they restrain?—If annual Elections were then set aside, what was their Efficacy, if not used, when most wanted?—That Parliament upon Parliaments were held during those troublesome Times, is an undoubted Fact:—And therefore if annual Elections are such a sovereign Remedy, as here supposed, this was the Time for them to have produced their salutary Effects. Yet alas! the only Effect which we can learn from History, was, That the victorious Side always reversed what the vanquished had enacted, and added new Confiscations, and Attainders of their own.—Could any Thing better have been expected from the annual Revivals of civil Discords?
But above all, if you will view the Matter in a commercial Light, you must acknowledge, that annual, or even triennial Appeals to the whole Mass of the People, [each of whom, it seems, hath an equal and an indefeasible Right to be represented, and to be self-governed, &c.] would bring swift Ruin and Destruction on all our Trade and Manufactures. The Clubs and Combinations of Tradesmen to raise the Price of Goods, and of Journeymen to raise their Wages, have a bad Effect on national Commerce even at present;—judge therefore what would be the Consequences, were every Tradesman, and every Journeyman, to be annually authorised [as he would be in effect] to make his own Terms with the Candidate, before he would promise him his Vote! Most undoubtedly Birmingham and Manchester, Leeds, and Halifax, and many other populous Towns and manufacturing Places would soon be reduced to mere Villages, when blessed with equal Representations, and frequent Elections: And the Trade and Manufactures, the Shipping and Navigation of England would soon migrate into Scotland:—Into Scotland, I say, where the common People have no Concern in County Elections, and not much in most of their Cities and Boroughs; and therefore they suffer but very little from the Drunkenness and Intemperance, the Idleness and Dissipation, and other Vices, which generally prevail in Consequence of contested Elections.
But be that as it may, enough hath surely now been said to prove the Inefficacy of the Remedies hitherto proposed. And if what I have to offer in their Room should be found on Examination to be equally defective, I can only say that these Defects must be charged either on the Nature of the Disease, which will not admit of a Cure,—or on the Incapacity of the Author, who cannot discover one. [For as to Care and Attention in considering, and reconsidering the Subject, nothing has been wanting in that Respect] If therefore the Disease is really incurable, Patience and Resignation is the only Prescription. But if a great Part of the Evils now complained of, might be rectified, and others so far redressed as to be of small Importance,—it is to be hoped that some happy Genius may yet arise, who will propose a Plan more efficacious in itself, and free from those Difficulties, which perhaps may be objected to what I have now to offer.
Having premised thus much. I would now beg Leave to observe, that the following Points appear to me of such Consequence, that every Man, who would propose any Remedy either for removing, or palliating the present Evils, ought to have them constantly in View, as the Scope and End of all his Endeavours.
1st.True Policy requires, that every Part of a compact [middle-sized] State, such as Great-Britain, ought to be well cultivated, and fully settled;—Therefore every Scheme, Plan, or System, which has a contrary Tendency, ought to be discouraged and opposed, as much as possible.
2dly.True Policy requires, that in the well peopling of a Country, Abundance of single Farm-Houses and Cottages, numerous Country Seats, Villages, and Towns, and not a few Cities of a moderate Size are much preserable to large, unwieldy Capitals in, or near the Centre, with Wastes and Deserts, or Districts thinly inhabited, at or near the Extremities:—Consequently every good and really patriotic Scheme should have an Eye towards promoting the former, and checking the Encrease of the latter, as much as the Nature of the Case will permit.
3dly.Though it would be highly absurd, to admit indiscriminately every individual Moral-Agent to be a Voter, yet true Policy requires that the Voters should be so numerous, and their Qualifications respecting Property be so circumstanced, that the actual Voters could not combine against the Non-Voters, without combining against themselves, against their nearest Friends, Acquaintance, and Relations.
4thly.Good Policy also requires, that in the Matter of electing Representatives, or sending Deputies to the great Council of the Nation, the general and particular, the national and personal Interests both of the Electors, and of the Elected, should be made to harmonize as much as possible.
Lastly, it also requires, that the proposed Alterations from the present System, should deviate as little as may be, from the present Forms of Government, and cause no remarkable Changes in the external Police, and long established Customs of the English Nation.
On these Positions, which I hope the candid, and judicious Reader will readily allow, I will venture to proceed in my intended Scheme of Amendment or Improvement.
The QUALIFICATIONS of VOTERS.
Let me therefore previously remark, that the Qualification for voting both as Freemen, and as Freeholders, ought to be raised a little. The public Good, as well as private Happiness, calls aloud for a Reformation in this Point; and none can reasonably object to such a Measure, but those who maintain the absurd, and often confuted Notion of the unalienable Rights of each Individual to be his own Legislator, and his own Director. But, I would beg Leave to observe, that this Qualification ought to be placed in such a Mediocrity of Condition, between the two Extremes of great Riches, and of wretched Poverty, that no sober, diligent, and frugal Man could well fail of raising himself by his Industry, in a Course of Years to the honourable Distinction of a Voter;—and that almost every idle, vicious, and abandoned Spendthrist would be in Danger of sinking beneath, and of being degraded from the Privilege of voting. How different from this is the Case at present!
1st.Then, the Qualification for voting as a Freeholder for the County should still be no more nominally than that of Forty Shillings a Year above all Reprisals. But in order that this Qualification might not be subject to any Fraud or Collusion, it would be necessary to insist that the Voter, or intended Voter should be assessed to the Taxes both of King and Poor, for no less a Valuation of the Premises, than the whole Sum of forty Shillings;—and that he himself ought to be in full Possession of them, and to have paid the Tax or Taxes arising from such Assessments, [Reference being had to the Books of the Collectors] a full Year before he could be entitled to give his Vote. This single Regulation would cut off three-fourths of the bad Votes usually obtruded on Sheriffs at contested Elections;—nay, it would put an End to the whole Trade of splitting Freeholds on such Occasions.
2dly.Though all Persons ought to be free as to the Exercise of any handycraft Trade, or Calling, both in Town and Country [and all Laws, and Bye-Laws to the contrary ought to be repealed] yet none but Residents in Cities and Borough Towns ought to be allowed to vote at Elections as Freemen. And the legal Qualification of a Resident, to entitle him to be considered as a voting Freeman, ought to be the having paid Scot and Lot in such Town or City in his own Person, and for his own Property, [Reference being had to the Collectors Book] for one clear Year, preceding the Time on which he tenders his Vote. Nevertheless all Men, free or not free, resident, or Absentees, who have Freeholds within the Precincts, Liberties, or Boundaries of such Cities, or Borough Towns, ought likewise to be entitled to the Privilege of voting for Representatives in Parliament;—provided that their Freeholds come within the Description of the full Sum of forty Shillings above-mentioned:—It being very evident that the Interest of such Freeholder, generally speaking, is more permanent, and local, than that of a mere Freeman paying Scot and Lot. Now here again, the whole System of electioneering Bribes, and of Borough-Brokage, would in a Manner be annihilated by this single Regulation;—and the remaining Evils be so very few in Comparison, as hardly to deserve our Notice.—So much as to the Qualification of Voters.
The QUALIFICATION of CANDIDATES.
Respecting the Gentlemen to be elected Representatives, their Interest, it is presumed, would best be connected with that of the Public in general, and of their Constituents in particular, by the following Arrangement.
1st.Let the Person offering himself a Candidate for a County, cause to be delivered to the Sheriff, or returning Officer, ten Days at least before the Commencement of the Poll, a List, or Schedule of his landed Qualification:—Shewing, that he has not less than 1,000 Acres of Land in such a Parish, or Parishes, according as the Lands may lie contiguous, or dispersed, within the said County; on which are erected ten Dwelling Houses at least, which are, and which have been for 12 Months last past inhabited by ten distinct Families; and that he himself hath enjoyed the said Estate in his own full Right, and hath been the Landlord of the said Tenants for at least twelve Months preceding, having paid, either by himself, or by them, every Kind of Tax, which hath been legally charged upon the same. Moreover, he should be obliged to cause a printed Copy of the said List or Schedule to be affixed on the Market-House, Sessions-House, Town-Hall, Church Doors, and every other public Building of, and in every Market-Town within the said County:—And should also cause Duplicates of the same to be inserted twice, or oftener, in the Journals or News-Papers of the said County, if any such shall be published;—if not, of some neighbouring County or City, the most read by, and circulated among the Electors.
2dly.The Candidates for Cities, or Boroughs, should be obliged to deliver similar Lists, or Schedules, and to give equally long Notice to their respective returning Officers, and indeed to all the Inhabitants of such Cities, or Boroughs, by causing printed Copies to be affixed on the Market-Houses, and on every public Building whatsoever, ten Days at least before the Poll begins: Nor should the Insertion of such List or Schedules in the public Papers (as related in the former Article) ever be omitted; in order that Freeholders at a Distance, as well as Freemen on the Spot, may be made perfectly well acquainted with the Pretensions, and landed Qualifications of each intended Candidate:—Only respecting the Quantum of the Qualification, it may be necessary, [in order to approach nearer to the present Law] that no more Acres should be required than 500,—and five Dwelling Houses, occupied or inhabited by five distinct Families. But nevertheless, that this Qualification may be a real one, and not pretended, or a borrowed, [which alas! is too often the Case at present] it may be necessary to insist, that no Part of this landed Estate should be thirty Miles distant from the City, or Borough, for which he offers himself a Candidate, so that many of the Inhabitants might be able to detect the Cheats if any should be attempted:—The Miles to be measured along the King’s Highway, and public Roads, and not as the Crow flies. But it is immaterial in what County or Counties the Estate itself should happen to be situated, the Vicinity being the main Point to be regarded.
3dly.The Penalties or Forfeitures for contravening, or not duly performing any of the above Rules and Conditions, should be the following.
[1st.] Thouch it would not be right to debar the accused, before his Guilt is legally proved, the Liberty of standing a Candidate;—yet as soon as the Election was ended, and for nine Months afterwards, it might be lawful for any Person whatever to prosecute him in the King’s-Bench for the [supposed] Breach of this intended Law;—provided, that the Plaintiff previously gave Security for paying 1000l. Damages in the Case of a County Election, and 500l. in that of a City or Borough, to the Defendant, if he did not, according to the Verdict of a Jury, make good his Charge:—But in Case he did, then the Defendant should forfeit the Sum of 1000l. for a County, and 500l. for a City or Borough, with treble Costs to the Plaintiff; and the Onus probandi, that he was actually and bone Fide possessed of such an Estate, and that he had performed all the Conditions required by this intended Law, should rest on the Defendant, because it would always be in his Power to prove his Innocence, if he was falsely accused.
[2dly.] In Case the Defendant should be cast, then, if he was returned Member, his Seat should be declared vacant, ipso facto, and a Writ be made out for a new Election:—But he himself should be rendered incapable of standing a Candidate for that, or for any other County, or Place, for at least three Years to come.
[3dly.] If any Thing else can be supposed yet to be wanting towards putting a total End to the numerous Frauds and Forgeries of unqualified Candidates, [now, alas! so very common] and of their Adherents, Co-adjutors, or Abettors,—It may be thus supplied:—Let every Person who can be proved to have been an Accomplice, or Assistant in making up false Accounts, or publishing the same, (knowing them to be false) respecting the Property of, or Title to the Lands,—the Quantity of Acres which they contain,—the Number of Dwelling Houses erected on them,—the Families actually inhabiting them,—the Length of Time, in which the Candidate may have been in the Possession of them in his own Right;—I say, let every such convicted Accomplice, Agent, or Assistant, be judged by this intended Law to have incurred the same Guilt as a Principal, and be subject to the like Penalties, and Disqualifications in every Respect whatever.
Having laid down these several Regulations for ascertaining the Qualifications both of those, who are to elect, and of the Candidates to be elected; it is humbly conceived, that, were they duly executed, they would prove such a sufficient Guard to the Freedom of Elections, and such a preventive Remedy against almost every Kind of Fraud and Imposition, that more, or greater need not be required. Indeed, it may be questioned, whether in the present State of Things, more or greater would not embarrass the main Design, instead of promoting it. Let us therefore take a View of the whole Plan, as it lies before us.—Supposing, that it was fairly set in Motion, and when all the Parts are co-operating with each other.
But in order to do this, I must premise, that such an important Bill ought not to be attempted to be introduced into Parliament, at or near the Dissolution of an old one, but about the beginning of a new one. Those, who know any Thing of the Spirit of Electioneering, which is ready to burst forth, as a Flood, when a Parliament is drawing near the Time of its Dissolution, and of the vile Arts and Stratagems usually practised on such Occasions, to inflame the Populace with Names, and Noise, and Nonsense, can easily comprehend my Meaning.
This being premised, I am therefore to observe,
First of all, That when such a regulating Bill shall have passed into a Law,—even the lowest of the People, and those, who perhaps might be deprived thereby of their present Privilege of voting [a Privilege alas! which is now their greatest Misfortune] would soon find, that they would be Gainers by it in Reality, instead of Losers;—Gainers, I say, unless the Removal of the Power of doing Mischief to others, and of ruining themselves, can be called a Loss. In fact, all the great Blessings of Society, Life, Liberty, and Property, would be as much ensured to them under this Circumstance, as to any Set of Men whatever.
Nay 2dly, They would also soon find, that the Honor or Privilege of becoming a Britih Voter [it would then indeed be a real Honour, and a great Privilege] lay within their own Reach to obtain;—provided they were so much their own Friends, as to live a Life of Industry, Sobriety, and Frugality for a few Years;—I say, for a few Years; it being almost demonstrable that any common Day-Labourer, or common Mechanic, acting uniformly on a Plan of Industry, and Œconomy, might raise himself [unless particularly unfortunate] to the Degree of a Voter, before he arrived at the middle Stage of Life;—Yes, he might raise himself to it by his own good Conduct, without applying to any one for Interest, or using any Sort of Solicitations.—Now, when the Road to public Prosperity, and to private Happiness, to external Honours, and to internal Virtue, is thus made straight and easy, without any Turnings or Labyrinths whatsoever.—What can any People upon Earth reasonably desire more?
3dly.Those, who should feel themselves either elevated to, or confirmed in the Rank of Voters, by Means of these new Regulations, would prize this Privilege so much the more, and contend for it with the greater Zeal, in Proportion, as they found that it would be an honourable Distinction, not conferred indiseriminately, as at present, on the very Dregs of the People, or the most worthless of Mankind; but bestowed on the more deserving, both as a Reward for their own exemplary Conduct, and also as an Incitement held forth to others to copy after. Men in such a Situation will value that Constitution, which distinguishes them from others, so much to their Credit and Reputation, for the same Reason that they love and value themselves. And the Lockian Doctrine of unalienable Rights will necessarily fall to the Ground.
4thly.When the Time of electing Representatives shall draw near, the Electors for Cities and Towns, as well as for Counties, will be tolerably well secured by these new Regulations from the Solicitations of those bribing Mushroom Candidates, who always mean to sell, having no Chance to succeed, unless they buy. Therefore, generally speaking, neither the Plunderers of the East, nor the Slave-Drivers of the West, nor the Privateering, trading Buccancers of the American Continent, nor our English Newmarket Jockeys, nor London Gamblers, nor Change-Alley Bulls and Bears, &c. &c. will be able to shew their Heads, when such terra firma Qualifications shall be required, before they offer themselves as Candidates. Yet these landed Qualifications are so low and moderate in themselves, and the Time required to be in Possession of them so very reasonable, that no Man in the Neighbourhood, who has any Title to the Character of a Gentleman, would be excluded from being a Candidate, if he pleased.
Hence therefore 5thly, it is very apparent that all Candidates for Boroughs, answering to this Description, would have a real Interest in the Welfare of the Neighbourhood of the Place they intended to represent. A Circumstance this, in which our present System is too often very defective: For when an Adventurer of the former Stamp, (as mentioned in the 3d. Article) whose Wealth lies in far distant Countries, or in the Funds (if indeed it is any where) happens to be elected, he has no personal Motive to concern himself at all in the Prosperity of the Borough, or in the Improvement of the Estates, situated in its Neighbourhood. Nay, indeed it may so happen, that his own private Interest as a Planter, a Monopolizer, a Jobber, or Contractor, &c. &c. may be directly opposite to the true Interest of that Place, or District, which he represents in Parliament: And therefore, if he can attach to his electioneering Views two, or three leading Men of the Borough, either by pecuniary Bribes, or by the Promise of Places to them, their Relations, or Dependents,—his End is answered, and he looks no farther;—unless it be to assist these dirty Tools to oppress and harrass those, their fellow Burgesses, who should dare to oppose them.
5thly. When the general and particular Interest both of the Electors, and Elected, of the Constituents, and of their Representatives, are thus made to con-center, Parliament-Men become in fact, what they are always supposed to be in Theory, and Speculation, both Guardians, and Guarantees: Guardians of the Rights of the People, and of their own Property against the Encroachments or Innovations either of the Crown, or of the Aristocracy—if any should be attempted;—and Guarantees to both the Crown and the Nobility, that the People shall not abuse the Liberty they enjoy, by aiming at too much, so as to overturn the Constitutional Balance; which indeed would sooner or later prove their own Ruin:—For a turbulent, factious Democracy is quickly, and easily converted into the Tyranny of a single Despot.
It has been often said by certain Writers on Politics, that Wealth and Power naturally, and even necessarily infer each other. In a qualified Sense this may prove true, but not universally. It would be true, were none but Persons of some Property in Counties, Cities, and in Borough-Towns, [that is, were substantial Freeholders, and all Persons paying Scot and Lot, and not the lowest of Mankind, though frequently a Majority as to Numbers] were those, I say, and none but these to elect their own Representatives, and to empower them to act in their Stead. In such a Case the Wealth of Individuals thus consederated together under proper Heads to direct and govern the whole, would become its Strength;—And Strength so circumstanced would be only another Name for Wealth.—Suppose, therefore, that in the Vicissitudes of human Affairs, our Body Politic should be threatened with such a violent Shock as would greatly disorder it:—As soon as the Danger was perceived, every Voter or Elector, every Freeman and Freeholder, would immediately unite with their respective Representatives to guard against the approaching Evils, and repel the Blow. All little Divisions and Animosities would then be forgot: The general Solicitude would swallow up every inferior Consideration, and unite all Parties in the common Cause. Suppose again, that thro’ Want of Attention in some, and from a much worse Cause in others, the Blow was actually given; and that the Wound was almost mortal;—yet even then, as long as Life remained, and any Hopes were left, the whole Mass of the [voting] People, as well as their Representatives, would struggle hard to get the better of this dangerous Convulsion, and to restore the Body-Politic to its antient Vigour. These Efforts they would certainly make, because they would then directly feel, that the Loss of such a Constitution as ours, would be their own Loss, and that they themselves could never be of so much Importance, either in their private, or their public Capacity, under any other Form of Government, as they are under the present.
Here therefore, it may be highly necessary to observe, that the democratical Branch of our Constitution has more to fear from its own internal Tendency, than from any external Cause whatever.—I have, I hope, already proved, that neither the Crown nor the Peerage, according to the present State of Things, could either attack or undermine the Liberties of the People, with any Prospect of Success. We may therefore consider ourselves as safe on that Side. But I own, I am not without Apprehensions, that the People themselves are strongly inclined to do those Things, which would in the Event prove a Felo de se. Too many among them are always disposed to think, that because Liberty is a good Thing, therefore they can never have too much of that good Thing.—This fatal Mistake has been the Ruin of every free Government, both in antient, and modern Times; and will, if persisted in, prove the Ruin of ours. The new Regulations here proposed, bid the fairest of any that I know of [consistently I mean, with the Spirit of our Constitution, and a due Regard to real Liberty] to check that strange Propensity so observable in our common People towards Levelling, and Licentiousness, and to give their Minds a better and more reasonable Turn. It is indeed a melancholy Reflection, that in most Cities, and Borough-Towns, and perhaps in Counties, the far greater Number of Voters are such, whose Circumstances lead them to wish for a new Division of Property, because they have little, or nothing to lose, but may have much to get in Times of Confusion, and by a general Scramble. Therefore every Rule of sound Policy, not to say Religion and Morality, suggests the Necessity of raising the Qualification of voting to such a Mediocrity of Condition, as would make it the Interest of the Majority of Electors, to assist in the Support and Preservation of Order and good Government, and not to wish their Overthrow.
7thly and lastly.The new Regulations here proposed, if carried into Execution, would cause every Part of the Kingdom, the Extremities, and intermediate Places. [as well as the Centre, or Seat of Government] to be better represented than they are at present. The Complaint usually brought against Cornwall and Wiltshire, is, that they return too many Members in Proportion to the rest of the Kingdom: Whereas these Counties might justly retort the Accusation, by saying, that though they have nominally more Members than London, Westminster, and Southwark, yet in Reality they have fewer. For most of the Members for the Cornish and Wiltshire Boroughs have their chief Residence in the Metropolis, with Country-Seats perhaps in its Environs:—None of which Villas, generally speaking, are at a greater Distance than 20 or 30 Miles from it:—And what is still worse, most of such Members have not a Foot of Land in, or any where near the Places for which they were elected: So that having no personal Interest in the Premises, they might with much greater Propriety, be stiled the Representatives of London, Westminster, and Southwark, and of the several Districts in that Neighbourhood [where their Estates and Fortunes are supposed to be] than the Representatives of the Boroughs in Wiltshire and Cornwall, where they have no Property at all.
When Men are determined to support a favourite Hypothesis, it is curious to observe, what Pains they take, to make every Thing, however discordant in its Nature, to bend and ply towards their beloved System. The Boroughs of the two Counties just mentioned return more Members to Parliament than any others: This is a Fact which cannot be denied. But how is it to be accounted for?—The Disciples of Mr. Locke, who maintain, that all Persons have an unalienable Right to choose their own Legislators, Governors, and Directors, gravely tell us, that these Boroughs, now fallen into Decay, were once very large, and extremely populous, and the Seats of various extensive Manufactures:—And then the short Inference is, that as the Trade is gone, and the Inhabitants become very few, the Right of sending Members to Parliament ought to be transferred to more populous and flourishing Towns. [Birmingham, Manchester, Leeds, Halifax, Stroud, Bradford, Trowbridge, and many such like Places, would not think themselves at all obliged to the Author of such a Proposal, and would certainly remonstrate strongly against it] But waving the Matter, let us, if we can, trace the real Origin of this Difference between the State of Representation of the Boroughs in the two Counties of Wilts and Cornwall, if compared with those of other Counties. *Wiltshire was long the Residence of the Kings of the West-Saxons, who in Process of Time conquered all the rest. Now where the Royal Residence was, there of Course would be the chief Domain: For the stated Revenue of our antient Princes, both Saxon and Norman, consisted chiefly in Landed Estates, that is, in Castles, with their Territories, Manors and Honours, and Towns and Villages, held by various Services, some of them military or noble, and others base and servile. Cornwall was in like Manner, and for the same Ends and Purposes the Domains of the Earls and Dukes of Cornwall. Hence therefore it naturally followed, that as the great Tenants of the Crown were obliged to attend in Person at the Courts of their Sovereign [thereby constituting an House of Peers] so the smaller Tenants, and inferior Vassals, were to do the same by, Deputation; which Circumstance gave the first Idea of an House of Commons. Indeed there was a stronger Reason for the Attendance of the Deputies from those Towns and Villages, which belonged to the Crown, if their Poverty did not prevent them;—I say, there was a stronger Reason for their Attendance in some Respects, than for that of others;—because the Quantum of those Acknowments, Services, and Quit-Rents, which they were to pay to their great Landlord, the Crown, as well as their Free-Gifts and Benevolences, if they are disposed to make any, were to be fixed and apportioned at such Meeting. Moreover, when the Duchy of Cornwall escheated to the King, the Tenants, and Borough-Towns, and Villages of the Duke became a Part of the Royal Patrimony; in consequence of which, they were obliged to do the same Suits and Services at the King’s Courts, which they had done before to their ducal Masters, or great feudal Lords. I own indeed, that several of the Cornish Boroughs were not chartered to send Members to the General Parliament of the Realm ’till the Reign of King James I.—But nevertheless they were such Places as were supposed to have sent Deputies to the Courts of the Earls, or Dukes of Cornwall, and therefore were considered as having a Kind of equitable Right to send Members to the General Council of the Nation, now that their own particular Courts were suppressed, or rather swallowed up. Therefore, to return:—
Surely there is nothing forced, or unnatural in this Account of the Matter;—nothing, but what is perfectly analogous to the Customs and Manners of antient Times, and correspondent to the Genius of the Gothic System. Why therefore should we have Recourse to an imaginary Hypothesis of the great Commerce, great Population, and extensive Manufactures of these two single Counties of Wilts and Cornwall, to the Prejudice of all the rest of England, without any Foundation in History for such a Supposition?—Why indeed, when it is farther considered, that such an Hypothesis can answer no other End, than to confirm, by forged Accounts, that false Notion of every Man having an unalienable Right to be self-governed;—a Notion which was not so much as dreamed of in those Times?
There is but one Objection, as far as I can perceive, which can be made to the Account here given of the Reason, why a greater Number of Members are sent by the Wiltshire and Cornish Boroughs, than by the Towns and Villages of other Counties:—And that is this; “Were the Case as here stated, it would be natural to expect from the Analogy of the Thing, that the Dutchy of Lancaster, now united to the Crown, would have furnished Examples similar to those of the Dutchy of Cornwall:—But it doth not.”—This Objection, it must be owned, looks plausible at first Sight:—But the whole Force of it is built on a Mistake.—The Dutchy of Lancaster is, and ever was a scattered Thing, composed out of the forfeited Estates of four great Barons, besides other Accessions, which lay dispersed in almost every County both of England and of Wales. It was therefore impossible, that the same Phœnomenon could have occurred in the one Case, as in the other. Had indeed those forfeited Estates been situated altogether in Lancashire, or in any one single County, there is hardly a Doubt to be made, but that the same, or nearly the same Circumstance would have taken Place, on the Union of that Dutchy with the Crown.—And if it had, what ill Consequences would have ensued,—supposing, I mean, that the Regulations here proposed, had been adopted, as a Part of the System?—For my Part, I can see none:—Nay, I will not scruple to declare, that it would be a much more rational Plan, that the Deputies from Cornwall, or Westmoreland, Cumberland, or Northumberland,—or, if you please, from Sutherland and Caithness, (now these Kingdoms are united) should out-number those of London, Westminster, Southwark, and the adjacent Parts, than that these latter should be more numerous than the former:—Because the Centre and the Residence of the Legislative, and executive Powers;—or in one Word, the Metropolis will never fail to take Care of itself:—Not so, vice versa.
Divers Collateral Circumstances CORROBORATING THE FOREGOING SYSTEM, AND CONFUTING THE LOCKIAN
[* ]The Ladies have Votes at the East-India House.—Let the Lockians give a Reason consistently with their Principles, if they can,—Why Women are debarred from voting for Directors in Parliament, and yet allowed to vote for Directors at the India House.
[* ]An Observation of the very learned and Hon. Daines Barrington, Esq; corroborates what is here advanced. In his useful Annotations on ancient Statutes, Page 417, of 3d. Edition, he remarks, That “Henry [the VII.] had the Merit either from Reasons of Policy, or perhaps more humane Motives, to render the lower Class of People less dependent upon the rich and powerful.” And adds at Page 419, “This Protection of the inferior Classes of his Subjects, produced, as a natural Consequence, a greater Freedom and Independency in the lower House of Parliament. Sir Thomas More opposed a Subsidy with Success, in the last Year of this King’s Reign; which is, perhaps, ☞ the first Instance of Opposition to a Measure of the Crown by a Member of the House of Commons.”
[* ]Somersetshire was originally much under the same Predicament with Wiltshire, being a Western County, where the Kings of the West Saxons had great Demesnes. William the Conqueror gave large Possessions in this County to some of his Favourites, and Followers, and particularly to William Malet, to whom he granted several Towns, which were called after the Name of Malet, such as Shipton-Malet, Curry-Malet, &c. The other Towns and Villages in Demesne, namely, Axbridge, Charde, Dunster, Langport, Monterate, Stoke-Curry, Watchet, and Were, sent their Deputies to Parliament in very early Times: But in Proportion, as these Estates were aliened from the Crown, or as the Inhabitants could get themselves excused from that heavy Burden and Expence, they sent no longer. The same Observation will extend to several Towns and Villages in Devonshire [and to some Places in other Counties] such as Lidford, Bradnick, Crediton, Fremington, Modbury, South-Moulton, and Torrington;—all which returned Members during the Reigns of one or more of the three first Edwards;—but not afterwards. Dr. Brady’s Rule for distinguishing Towns of antient Demesne from those which were not, is here worth inserting, “That wherever the Mayor, Bailiffs, or Burgesses are chosen by a Jury in a Court-Baron, or at the Leet; or what the Return of Parliament Members have been, or are now made, by the Lord or Lady of the Manor, or their Steward, such Towns are Towns in antient Demesne.”—For a further Confirmation of these Points, see Squire’sEnquiry into the Foundation of the English Constitution, &c. Dedicated to the Duke of Newcastle,London, 1753.