Front Page Titles (by Subject) SECTION XIV.: UNIVERSAL CONSTANCY OF ATTENDANCE—ITS IMPORTANCE. - The Works of Jeremy Bentham, vol. 3
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SECTION XIV.: UNIVERSAL CONSTANCY OF ATTENDANCE—ITS IMPORTANCE. - Jeremy Bentham, The Works of Jeremy Bentham, vol. 3 
The Works of Jeremy Bentham, published under the Superintendence of his Executor, John Bowring (Edinburgh: William Tait, 1838-1843). 11 vols. Vol. 3.
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UNIVERSAL CONSTANCY OF ATTENDANCE—ITS IMPORTANCE.
Plan of this Section.
Actual state of things in respect of attendance:—Mischiefs from non-attendance, viz. 1. In respect of moral aptitude; 2. In respect of intellectual aptitude; 3. Mischief by securing greater attendance on the corrupt side.—Interests, by the play of which, the numbers in attendance are determined.—Inconsistency as between the licentiousness as to this point in this situation, and the comparative strictness in other public situations.—Remedy from any exertions of individuals impossible—but by reform, the disorder incurable; the constitution already subverted by it.—Abdication, whether not more truly predicable of Honourable House than of James the Second.—The incurableness of the disorder, and the consequently incurable corruptness of Honourable House, declared by Hatsel, chief clerk of the House.
Such are the sub-topics, under which the matter of this section will be found.
Mischiefs individually seated—mischiefs collectively seated:—to one or either of the two heads thus distinguished, will be found referable whatsoever mischiefs can be seen flowing from this source.—Mischiefs individually seated—those of which, the seat of them being in the character of the individual individually considered, the nature may be understood from and exemplified in the effect produced by them, in the case of any one such individual:—mischiefs collectively seated—those of which the seat cannot be found in the state and condition of any individual, individually considered; but of which the source, as well as the seat, will be found in the state and condition into which the whole House, taken in the aggregate, will be seen to be put—put by the use made of the habit of individual delinquency in this shape, in the character of an instrument of public mischief in a variety of shapes:—an instrument of packing, employed in the art and mystery of political packing, as applied—to the securing on each particular occasion, out of the mixed mass, a predominant proportion of corrupt matter in the composition of the assembly—and to the use made of corrupt measures—not only of each of them, individually taken, considered as applied to its own particular corrupt purpose,—but of all of them, collectively or separately, considered as employed in serving as instruments of extension, for the keeping out of uncorrupt ones.
Confined to the individually seated part of the aggregate mass of mischief flowing from this source, may be seen to be the slight view of it given in the Plan itself, as well as in the general sketch given of the system of Radical Reform in Section V. In the present section, that more complex part, here styled the collectively-seated part, will, according to the intimation above given, be taken up and laid open to view.
Actual state of things in respect of Attendance.
Instead of being what it is pretended to be—a check upon the power of the monarch, the power of the Commons House an instrument of misrule in his hands—an instrument by which he has been enabled to sacrifice, and accordingly has sacrificed, the universal interest to a cluster of particular interests, of which his own personal interest is at the head. Behold, in this state of things, the mass of abuse, to which it is the object of parliamentary reform to devise and to apply a remedy—an appropriate and adequate remedy. Among the requisites for the accomplishment of this object, is the detecting and holding up to view in its true colours, every particular abuse which shall have been found to enter into the composition of the aggregate mass—every arrangement, every custom, which, in the character of a co-operating cause, may be found contributing to the production of the disastrous effect. In the instance of such of the component abuses as have as yet been brought to view, notorious in general has been not only the existence and the nature of the abuse, but, to a considerable degree, the extent to which it has place. In the instance here in question, the existence: yes; and in some measure the nature of it. Not, however, even this entirely:—not, assuredly, in all their magnitude and variety, the evil consequences: and, as to the extent to which it has place, information on this head—information in any tolerable degree adequate—is a treasure that remains yet to be dived for, in the ocean in which it lies drowned.
For the taking and presenting of a clear, a correct, and complete view of the state of the House in this respect, during a given period—say from the commencement of the present reign—the following present themselves as the heads under which matter should be collected. Sources of information, the journals of the House, the votes of the House, and such accounts as are extant of the debates: accounts, of the incorrectness of which, supposing them in this or that instance incorrect,—any more than of their incompleteness, supposing them incomplete, as, unless by accident, they always are—no member can have any moral right to make complaint, until he has done whatsoever may be in his power towards the removing, in the one only way, the inconvenience in those its two distinguishable shapes:—
1. Number of days on which, in the course of each year, the House was sitting, and, in it and by it, business, in some shape or other, accordingly done.
2. Number of days in which the Speaker took the chair; but, for want of the requisite number of members (viz. forty) business could not be begun upon:—whereupon, the hour being arrived, adjournment took place of course.
3. Number of days in which, business having been begun upon—the requisite number of members present therefore complete—so it was, that by the departure of members, a deficiency in the number present, as compared with the number that should be present, having been produced, and notice publicly taken of it,—the business was stopped, and an adjournment thereupon took place of course.
4. Number of days in which, a deficiency having as above taken place, the business went on notwithstanding; the Speaker sitting all the while and beholding the deficiency, but no other member standing up to notice it.
5. Numbers of the members on both sides, on the occasion of the several divisions which on the several days took place. The list of these divisions, with the numbers, being rendered as complete as may be,—then will come to be made a selection of two contrasted classes of cases:—one, in which, the importance of the question being in a remarkable degree high, the numbers were in a remarkable degree low; the other, in which, the importance of the question being in a remarkable degree low, the numbers were in a remarkable degree high.
6. Calls of the House—numbers of them in each year: with the numbers in the respective divisions, if any, which took place on the days respectively appointed.*
Remain two other topics, in relation to which, any information, supposing it attainable, could not fail to afford additional instruction; but of which, so far at least as regards time past, the attainment presents itself as hopeless, unless possibly in a very small number of instances.
7. On the occasion of each division, numbers absolute and comparative of place-holders and non-place-holders. From a document of this sort, what would be shown with certainty is—the number of the individuals belonging to one species of the genus corruptionist, viz. corruption-eaters: but, under the species corruption-hunters, no precise number of individuals could ever be distinguished; under the influence of the ever-attracting, and scarcely-resistible, cocagne above spoken of,—the difficulty would be, among the whole remainder of the numbers voting on this side, to find so much as the single individual, who did not appertain to this latter species, and thence to the genus in which it is included.
8. Number of members present at the time of the division, compared with the numbers present at different portions of the length of time employed in the debate. In ordinary tribunals, the two operations—oyer and terminer—being expressly included in the same commission, and oyer being regarded as forming a useful, not to say a necessary, preparative to terminer,—he who performs either of them, performs both: in this extraordinary tribunal, not inconsiderable (as everybody knows) is the proportion of those distinguishing more than distinguished Honourables, who, regarding oyer as a useless formality, come to the terminer at once: by which principle of dispatch, a proportionable saving of time is effected. Quere: on the occasion of each division, the number of these economists, and the quantity of the saving effected by each?
Mischiefs from Non-attendance:—Mischief 1. Mischief in respect of Moral Aptitude.
Only by regard for regularity is produced the mention made of this topic in this place. In the Plan itself, may be seen how, in the licence given to dereliction of duty in this shape, is contained a sub-licence,—by which, without danger of shame or reproach in any shape, every man is empowered, within any given space of time, to produce exactly half the effect which, within that same space of time, could have been produced by an uninterrupted series of votes, given by him in support of a series of measures, not only corrupt but scandalous: so scandalous, and that to such a degree, as that,—whatsoever had been his wishes,—had he been present, he could not have prevailed with himself to abstain from voting in opposition to them in every instance.
Mischief 2. Intellectual Mischief—Deficiency in respect of appropriate Intellectual Aptitude, and appropriate Active Talent.
Probity being supposed not deficient, principally upon appropriate intellectual aptitude depends the propriety of the direction given, on the several occasions, to a man’s vote: in the case where it is not with himself that the measure has originated, principally upon appropriate active talent the aptness of the matter of which his speeches are composed: in this case, certain it is with himself that, singly or in conjunction with others, the measure has originated, on intellectual aptitude, as evidenced by the choice made of that same measure, and of the more particular measures, if any, including the occasional penning of written instruments—for example, motions, resolutions, and reports of committees—which, as being subservient to it, are included in it: but upon appropriate active talent, in another shape, depends the matter of those several instruments.
That, in respect of these two so intimately connected elements of aptitude, a general and predominant state of inaptitude is among the natural and naturally unavoidable effects of the whole system taken together, is a matter which, in some sort, has already been brought to view. On the one hand, necessity of hard labour, in both these elementary shapes, to aptitude in the aggregate shape in question; on the other hand, exclusion put upon the hard labour, and thence, upon the aptitude, viz. by rank and opulence:—of rank and opulence together, the effect being to put a man already, and even to a greater amount, in possession of that sort of consideration which, but for these unmerited advantages, might, in the character of an adequate reward, have sufficed to extract from him the exertions necessary to furnish his mind, and in sufficient quantity, with those same endowments. By rank, opulence, or connexion, is a man put in possession of this office: by the pride, joined to the indolence derived from the same sources,—is he, in respect of the endowments here in question, more or less disqualified from the exercising, with any benefit to the universal interest, the power attached to this most important of all offices.
Of these three modes of entrance into a seat, connexion is that by which the greatest chance for any tolerable stock of these endowments is left. Why? Because, in the instance of a patron, rendered such by proprietorship, or by terrorism,—what here and there will happen is—that, on failure of all persons connected with him by natural relationship, some person or other shall, by the possession, or reputed possession, of the endowments in question, in a degree more or less distinguished, have been recommended to his choice.
In this state of things,—to men seated by connexion, with the addition of men seated by profession, but in a more particular degree to the latter,—of these two intellectual endowments will such stock as is to be found in Honourable House be, generally speaking, almost confined: at any rate, small indeed, in proportion to the whole number (658,) will be the number of those in whose instance, otherwise than in company with the one or the other of these two marks of distinction, any tolerable stock of these endowments is found discernible. In that House, the term conntry gentleman, is it not a sort of by-word?—is it not commonly regarded as presenting, in one word, the idea of a sort of character, compounded of mental indolence, mental vacuity, and mental weakness?
In those two quarters, then—connexion and profession—in these two quarters are the two intellectual endowments in question almost exclusively looked for.
Well: and in those same quarters suppose them found,—what is the consequence? The universal interest, is it by this means benefited? On the contrary, much more probably is it injured. Only in so far as these two intellectual endowments are in the same breast united to the one moral one—only in so far as they are united to appropriate probity—will the universal interest receive from them any net benefit:—only on the terms of this auspicious union, will it so much as escape the being sacrificed. But, the higher the degree in which, by the individual in question, they are possessed, the higher will be the price which, at the constantly overt market, of which C—r-General is clerk, they will fetch: the higher the price, the higher the temptation, and the less the probability of resistance.
In this state of things—the promiscuous multitude being by intellectual weakness prepared for the reception of mental poison—the select few, by sinistrously-derived strength, for the injecting of it—observe what will be the effect of the cluster of arguments, comprehendible under the common appellation of the argumentum à superficie ad superficiem—arguments from surface to surface—appositely employed. Gorged with public money obtained on false pretences out of the taxes—behold a man, whose whole political life has been employed in helping to give increase to waste, corruption, and the consequent oppressions,—summoning up, when the time comes, all his powers, to the duty of guarding this complication of disorders against the only remedy: and the history of any one such individual is the history of a class. Quicquid recipitur, recipitur ad modum recipientis—says a maxim of the old-school logic:—a maxim in which more instruction is contained than can often be obtained from any such musty source. Of whatsoever is received, correspondent to the constitution of that by which, or him by whom, it is received, will be the effect. On a mind prepared by sound and manly instruction for the resisting of it, poison such as that would have no effect: but those with which it has to deal, are minds that, by want of instruction, or by such instruction as is worse than none, have been prepared for yielding to it: instruction, by which the whole duty of man is summed up in the “prostration of understanding and will” at the feet of a set of men, tied by every bond that corruption can devise, to those habits of self-blinded partiality, with which all prudence and all justice are equally and utterly incompatible.
The more attentively the stock of evidence, which the nature of the case, and the existing state of things, affords, is looked into,—the more clearly will the operation of the above causes of inaptitude be seen exemplified, and their efficiency demonstrated.
Look at the debates: yes, and if to such a degree your patience will suffer you to draw upon it, look into these same debates.
To so prodigious an extent, not only no mark of active talent, no mark of intellectual aptitude—but, on the contrary, proofs, and, how deplorably abundant!—and that on the most important occasions—that of no such part of man’s frame as the intellectual, has any use been so much as attempted or endeavoured to be made. In the volitional, with the passions and affections by which it is put in motion, in the volitional and sensitive parts alone, are any marks of exercise discernible. Vituperation—in the strongest as well as most unqualified terms that passion can supply,—vituperation, altogether unaccompanied by indication made of any specific grounds for the opinion, or pretended opinion, thus involved in, and indirectly expressed by it—such, with the addition of more or less of the matter of trivial fallacy, in its several shapes, of which a list might be made out,* —is the matter, of which in general—and in a more particular degree on the occasion of the great topic here in question—speeches, honourable and right honourable, may be seen to be composed. With a degree of energy, proportioned to the dangerousness of the disease, and the salutary efficiency of the proposed remedy wild, visionary, impracticable, mischievous, and so forth,—are the imputations cast upon it,—gross ignorance, conjoined with mischievous madness, the attributes ascribed to the authors and supporters of it.
By the barking of a dog—by the screaming of a parrot—might as much light be seen thrown upon the question, as by this or that speech (and by how sad a proportion of the whole number of speeches!) reported—and for the most part to no small advantage—as having issued from the lips of honourable gentlemen, right honourable gentlemen, noble lords—not to speak of noble and learned ones. By the votes of those and other inferior animals, is indication given of the state of the will and the affections: by the speeches of so many unfeathered bipeds, by whom such large draughts are drawn upon us for our respect, and so much sufferance brandished over our heads in the character of punishment, for the purpose of extorting from us that sentiment, or at any rate the outward show of it,—by these speeches, is the state of that same faculty, and of those same affections, expressed and indicated: affections as pure from all admixture of reason, in this case as in those others.
Let not what is thus said be misconceived. Not to any such effect as that of weakness in argument does the indication here afforded mean to point. No: it is merely to the utter absence of all argument—of everything which, on the individual by whom it is uttered, could have passed for argument. Opinion, ungrounded opinion—this is what we have from them: nor even that in its own shape, but disguised in the garb of a mere expression of will, mixed with that of the passion which produced it. And this passion,—with what sort of expectation is it manifested? Even with this, and this only:—such is the height and weight of the authority of the orator, that by the mere perception of his supposed self-formed judgment, will the desired direction be given to the derivative judgments, of all those by whom that perception has been obtained.
From what cause, then, this expectation? Oh, from this cause: not only probity but wisdom are among the appendages of rank and opulence:—to him are known to belong these primary and only essential requisites—therefore so of course do those derivative appendages: from the very causes of his inaptitude does he derive the assurance of his aptitude. Idiosyncrasies apart, a man of twenty thousand a-year will accordingly speak with twice the persuasive force of a man of but ten thousand a-year: a man who is everlastingly noble, with some number of times the force of one who is but honourable. Such is the expectation of the man himself: and unhappily—such is the force of inveterate prejudice—neither is that expectation by any means so groundless as it is to be wished it were.
Mischief 3. Mischief by securing greater Attendance on the corrupt side.
A matter, which henceforward should be never out of mind, is—it is only on the supposition of the existence of a number of members, in whom,—in a degree adequate to the placing of their votes on the several occasions on the proper side,—the several elements of appropriate aptitude are combined,—and these on each occasion in a number sufficient to the outnumbering of such of the members as, by sinister interest, by interest-begotten prejudice, by indigenous weakness, or by adoptive prejudice, are stationed under the dominion of C—r-General and Co.—only on this supposition can any such copious attendance be anything better than an object of comparative indifference.
On this supposition, here once for all brought to view—on this supposition, as in the character of a necessary basis, must be considered as grounded everything which in the course of the present section remains to be said.
In the present state of things—and, in a word, under any other than what is looked for from the proposed radical reform—the existence of any such majority on the side of uncorruption (unless it be on this or that extraordinary occasion, on which,—in the minds of the several corruptionists, in sufficient numbers—whether corruption-eaters, or but corruption-hunters,—it happens either to some particular interests of their own, or to their share in the universal interest, to operate with such a force as for the moment to overbalance the force of their partnership share in the corruption concern)—any such superiority of numbers on the side of uncorruption, presents itself as being,—even on the supposition of the most perfect and universal constancy of attendance,—altogether hopeless. Thence the demand for the other proposed articles in the system of reform;—for, supposing this single one adequate to the purpose of securing the effect desired, the advantages expectable from reform would, in so far as concerns virtual universality of suffrage, be reduced to those above distinguished by the appellation of collateral: and these and all the others put together might, upon a fair account taken, be found scarcely sufficient to compensate for the evils of change.
But, when the state of interests comes to have been fully seen into, what amongst other things will be seen is—that scarcely would the repugnance produced by all the other articles put together, exceed that which this single one would of itself be sufficient to produce: and that, by no instrument of less cogency than that composed of the system of radical reform taken in all its parts, could abuse in the one shape here in question be excluded.
Another memento, which in this place it may be of use to give, is—that the state of things, the existence of which is, on the occasion, and in the course of the ensuing observations all along assumed, is—that the course of action, to which, on the part of the servants of the crown, the particular mischief here in question—the established course of transgression—is rendered subservient, is more or less mischievous. Why? Because the effect of it is—to secure to their measures, be they what they may, an undue advantage: an advantage, the property of which, on each occasion, is to be of no use but to the wrong side as such; and not to be capable of being reaped, but through the instrumentality of that mass of seductive influence, which has been shown to be in their hands.
Follows now an indication of the collectively-seated portion, of the mischief produced by the habit of non-attendance in its present shape; and an indication of the sinister interest by which that habit is put to use and fostered.
Too manifest to need explanation or comment is the sinister interest which the ministerial leaders have, in the absence of members whose votes,—together with their speeches, if any,—would have operated on the opposite side.
Sinister interest of the day—sinister interest of the session:—in the sinister interest here in question, these two branches may be distinguished.
The sinister interest of the day is that which regards the business of the day: the fewer the adversaries present, not only is the victory the more assured beforehand, and the more signal afterwards, but the time consumed in making, hearing, and answering speeches, and the labour in making and prompting speeches, is by so much the less.
In respect of neither of these sinister interests would the habit of absentation be of use to C—r-General and Co. if the number of absentees were as great in proportion on his side as on the opposite side. But of this there is never any fear: the means, viz. the sinister influence which they have in their hands, being adequate—not only to the purpose of securing conformity in case of attendance,—but, for the purpose of such conformity, adequate moreover to the more difficult purpose of securing attendance.
True it is, that in this instance as in most others, whatsoever the ministerial side for the time being has in possession, the opposition side has in prospect. But in this case, between possession and prospect so mighty is the difference,—that, compared with so substantial an instrument of compulsion as that which the ministry have in their hands, that which the opposition leaders have in theirs is but little better than a phantasmagoric image of it.
In the sinister interest of the session, note moreover two distinguishable branches: the efficient or effective; and the preventive or defensive.
First, as to the efficient or effective sinister interest: it consists in the increased facility, as well as certainty, given to the adoption of all such measures as it may be the wish of the administration to see carried into effect. As the session, and along with it the season, advances, the attractions of the town diminish; those of the country increase. The motives or inducements, by the force of which absentation is produced, gain in strength; and the number of the individuals, in whose instance they are preponderant, receives continual increase.
If the diminution of numerical strength produced by the operation of this cause were the same on both sides, no such sinister interest as that in question, would have place on the ministerial, any more than on the opposition side. But, for a counterpoise to the force of this cause of absentation, the ministerial side has a power, of which their adversaries are destitute. With the highest degree of efficiency, as above shown, the cabinet ministers command the attendance of the removable corruption-eaters of the inferior classes, as also the corruption-hunters; and this with a degree of efficiency proportioned to the estimated value of their respective possessions and prospects.
Of the nature of the defensive or preventive interest, some intimation is already given by the name thus employed for the designation of it: by the same cause by which certainty and facility are given to their own enterprises, certainty is given to the defeat of all adverse measures on the other side. Of all adverse measures? “Good,” says somebody; “but what are they, these measures, which, with reference to the side in question, come under the denomination of adverse measures?” Answer: All measures whatsoever: measures directly, or specially adverse—measures indirectly, in a general way adverse;—by these two adjuncts stands expressed the only difference.—By every measure carried into effect by the adversary,—by every such measure,—be it what it may, if popular, reputation is gained; and whether popular or not, power displayed. “There must not be two Chancellors of the Exchequer,”—is one of the few sayings remembered of Pitt the second.
But, whatsoever assurance of ultimate frustration may, in this way, be afforded,—the same periodical cause of flight adds a further assurance from a still more advantageous source, viz. preventive anticipation, or preoccupation of the House. Partly in virtue of the established rules of proceeding, partly in virtue of the majorities, on the habitual existence of which their continuance in their situation depends,—the members of the cabinet possessing at all times an all-comprehensive command of the aggregate mass of the business of the House—a command by which are determined, not only the choice of the elementary parts to be admitted into that mass, but the order in which they shall respectively be admitted,—admittance for the whole mass of their own measures is at all times of course secured: admittance to the measures, and therefore command of the quantity of time necessary for that purpose. This portion being thus sure to them, whatever portion might otherwise be occupied by business not originating in themselves, it is therefore their interest to minimize.
For this purpose three expedients present themselves to their hands:—1. One (which belongs not to this head) is the deferring the commencement of the session to as late a point of time as possible; in which way, moreover, the interest of the pillow is served at the same time with the general interest of corruption; say, staving off sessions: 2. Another is—the inserting into the whole length of the allotted period, on as many pretences as can be found, times of recess as many, and each of them as long as possible; say, maximizing recess: 3. A third is—the rendering as large as possible the number of the days in which, by the original or incidental failure of the numbers made requisite to give validity to the proceedings, the carrying on of the business is prevented; say, maximizing barren days.
Now then, on every day on which it suits their purpose that the number of members necessary to give validity should be present,—by means of their official whippers-in, it is evidently in the power of the treasury to secure, and by circular letters and word of mouth applications they accordingly do secure, the presence of that necessary number: this object thus secured, in the same hands being likewise the legal powers of giving to the whole session whatsoever length it may happen to their purposes to require,—on every other day it is therefore their interest, as above, that this condition to validity should remain unfulfilled, in such sort that nothing should be done. From no barren day, nor from any number of barren days, can the sinister interest of C—r-General be subjected to any loss: because, for any day or number of days thus lost at an anterior part of the session, it is in his power to add at the posterior part as many as he pleases: at this posterior part; that is, at the part at which the ratio of the number on the opposite side to the number on his own side will be less and less.
By a conspiracy on the part of the opposition members, to flock into the scene of action in numbers greater than usual, on this or that particular day, what might now and then happen is—the cabinet junto’s being taken by surprise: and in this way it is, that this or that thing might happen to be done, which could not by any succeeding majority be undone: evidence, for example, procured, and admission thus given to lights, which could not afterwards be extinguished. To obviate any such inconvenience, a sort of rule of courtesy has, with the concurrence of both parties, been established; viz. that no motion of considerable importance shall be made without previous notice. In this rule, however, it does not appear that motions having for their object the procurement of official evidence have in general been considered as included: hence an accident which is said to have now and then happened is—that evidence, which, in case of an attendance sufficiently full, would with the most inexorable effrontery have been refused, has by surprise been extorted. One mode of denying justice, and by far the most effectual, is the denial of the evidence necessary to the obtaining of it: the most effectual,—because by the mere production of the evidence, justice, in so far as depends upon the tribunal of public opinion, will frequently be done. Rule—general, not to say universal; whenever, to a motion for special evidence, denial is opposed,—that denial has self-confessed delinquency at the bottom of it. By the tribunal of public opinion it ought to be taken as and for confessional evidence, and that evidence conclusive: taken as conclusive evidence, and judgment as for the utmost possible amount of the thus concealed guilt pronounced accordingly.
In this way,—of the useful measures which otherwise might have been brought to maturity, some are prevented from being brought forward so much as in the way of motion: and thus far even conception is prevented: others, in the instance of which conception has not been prevented, are prevented from being productive of the desirable and desired effect; and in this case, and in this way, abortion is procured.
To the quantity of effect produced by those means of barrenness and abortion, of which, as above, with more or less facility the manufacturing is in the hands of the minister,—is added that of another set of means, neither the existence nor the efficiency of which depend, in any considerable degree, in any direct way, upon any exertion of his, but the existence of which, together with that of the system under which they are bred, will of course find on his part a degree of protection proportioned to the service derived from them by his own sinister interest. To this head may be referred—
I. The avocations produced by the separate, and consequently, with reference to the public service, the sinister interests appertaining to the several professions: viz. those of—1. Lawyers—practising lawyers; 2. Army officers; 3. Navy officers; 4. Diplomatists; 5. Governors and other persons in office, in any of the several distant dependencies.
II. The avocations specially incident to the situation of the members for Ireland, taken in the aggregate.
Thus, to each particular interest is the universal interest made to give way: and, by these particular interests, not only is absentation produced on the part of the individuals, but, in many instances, and to a no inconsiderable extent, not only for the accommodation of individuals, but for the accommodation of a whole professional class, is this or that particular business, or class of business, put off. Thus, by means of terms and arrests, it having been originally contrived, by and for the particular interest of the lawyer-class, that during certain periodically-recurring portions of every year, denial of justice should have place,—so it is, that for the incidental accommodation of this or that individual partner in that separate and sinister interest, the whole business of the nation is moreover incidentally put off. And, forasmuch as in their situation of corruption-eaters, among lawyers, the crown lawyers—essentially acting partners in the firm of C—r-General and Co.—are constantly in the number of the members,—while corruption-hunters are naturally more numerous on the prosperous than on the unprosperous side of the House,—here may be seen another advantage, which the great sinister interest of C—r-General and Co. draws to itself from the cluster of lesser interests with which it is surrounded.
Interests, by the play of which the numbers of Members present are determined.
As in the physical, so in this part of the political world, by the conflict and compressure between the centripetal and centrifugal forces, is, at each instant, the locus of the several objects in question determined.
In the physical world have been observed physical attraction and repulsion; to which, by inference and supposition, have been added primæval impulse.
In this part of the political world, behold as analogous counterparts, analogous to those of the physical world, moral attraction and repulsion: instrument of moral attraction and desire, pleasure;* productive of a corresponding interest, and operating in the character of a motive: instrument of moral repulsion, pain;† productive also of a corresponding interest and desire; and, though in a direction opposite to that just mentioned, operating also in the character of a motive, and capable of operating with much greater force.
First, as to centrifugal interests: for, as above, such for shortness may be the term employed for the designation of that class of interests, the force of which, as applied to this part of the political world, operates in a centrifugal direction, as above explained: interests, the tendency of which is constantly, and the effect but too frequently, to reduce to the state of an exhausted receiver the condition of Honourable House: to produce a vacuum, of which, in the case of any receptacle of the physical kind, it might not be altogether easy to produce so perfect an example. On the one hand, miscellaneous interests—on the other hand, ministerial interest—interest peculiar to the ministerial side of the House, but more particularly to the case of such of the leading members whose station is on that side. Of the first operation by which the class of centrifugal interests requires to be divided, behold, in the sub-classes thus distinguished, the two results.
Among miscellaneous interests may be distinguished—on the one hand, interests of universal operation—interests incident to all men as men—say, for shortness, universally-operating interests—on the other hand, interests peculiar to profession or office—say professional interests—interests of the professional purse; in some cases, interests of the counting-house: and so, in the case of office, official interests or interests of the office.
For the designation of all or any of these particular interests, in so far as with reference to that portion of the visible business of which the House is the seat, it happens to them to operate in the character of avocations, may be employed the appellation of centrifugal or house-clearing interests.
To the head of interests common to all men as men may be referred—1. Interest created by the aversion to labour—say interest of the pillow; 2. Interest incidentally created by miscellaneous private business—say interest of the closet;‡ 3. Interest created by the love of pleasure taken in the aggregate:—the tendency of the sort of interest in question being in this case sinister, say accordingly, interest of the cup of Circe.
Next and lastly, as to centripetal interests:—house-filling interests they cannot be styled; for so it is, that on no one day was the House ever filled by them.
But for this or that particular interest, operating in the character of a centripetal force—operating in a direction counter to that of the above-indicated centrifugal force—operating in a direction opposite to that in which the force of the above-mentioned confederacy of sinister interests acts, as above—operating in a word, in so far as they are effective, in such sort as to produce attendance,—the House would of course constantly, as in fact and experience it is so frequently, be a desert.
Miscellaneous interests,—ministerial interest:—in this may be seen a division, which, as it has served for the cause of absentation, may with like propriety and convenience be employed for the marshalling of those counter-causes by which a limit is set to the operation of the above repulsive cause.
To the head of miscellaneous house-peopling causes may be referred—1. The hope of strengthening a man’s own interest; i. e. preserving or raising the man’s station in the scale of public repute: of public repute, whether on the ground of appropriate aptitude, with reference to the situation, or on the mere ground of the power and reputation dependent on it;—2. Hope of serving a friend, i. e. rendering good offices to the individual, or class of men in question; whether through sympathy, or in hope of return in the like shape;—3. Hope of serving the party, viz. to which, if to any, for the time being it happens to the individual in question to have attached himself;—4. Hope of witnessing an interesting debate: say, in this case, interest of the amphitheatre.
“Well:—and in the whole list of the official causes of attendance—in the whole of the entire list thus professed to be made out—is no place to be found for that cause which consists in a sense of duty? Candour! what is become of candour? Charity! what is become of Christian charity?” Answer: By neither of these virtues is misrepresentation in any degree or shape prescribed.
If, in any degree capable of being taken into account, any such virtuous motive had place,—658 being the number of the members, in whose instance the right in effect, and in name the duty of attendance has place,—no such phenomenon as that of the House in the state of a desert would on any day have place. Unhappily, in fact and experience, not a session, perhaps, was ever seen, in which a number of such universally-assumed holidays were not seen to have had place, in that high school of self-licensed truantism and indiscipline.
Among the efficient causes of attendance, remain those interests, the operation of which is confined to the ministerial side of the House: those interests, of the operation of which one part of the effect has already been seen under the head of Mischief 3—mischief, by securing greater attendance on, and greater effect to, the corrupt side.
By the subordinate, as well as the superior official situations, may be seen shared the interest of the sceptre in its three distinguishable forms: viz. 1. Interest corresponding to the present pleasure of power—pleasure derived from the present possession and exercise of power; 2. Fear of losing it, or seeing it decrease; 3. Hope of giving increase, or at least stability, to it.
In the instance of those by which the superior situations—say, for greater distinctness, the cabinet situations—are occupied, this interest of the sceptre suffices, for the most part—suffices, without any such fear as that of eventual punishment in the shape of dismission—to secure, in a state of tolerably habitual constancy, the fulfilment of the duty of attendance.
In the inferior situations,—but for the wholesome fear last mentioned, insufficient to secure the bearing of this burthen with any tolerable degree of constancy, would be all the sweets of office. Therefore it is, that, for securing the production of so indispensably necessary an effect,—to the general fear of being deprived of these sweets by casualties applying to the whole party, is, and cannot but be, added the special fear of being eventually deprived of them: deprived of them, even by the superior and regularly-protecting hands, should any inexcusable degree of weakness be manifested, in respect of those exertions of self-denial which are necessary to the opposing an effectual resistance to the attractions presented by the interest of Circe’s cup,—with or without those other interests which have been stated as operating in conjunction with it.
But if, even in the case of actual corruption-eaters—of those in whose instance those sweets are already in possession, thus faint and unsteady is the operation of those causes, by which a tendency to attendance is produced,—judge how much fainter and fainter it cannot but be, in the several more and more remote situations—of corruption-hunters attached to corruption-eaters in possession, and corruptionists who are such but in expectancy—considered in their several continually receding situations, viz. of those imaginary corruption-eaters in chief—of imaginary corruption-eaters in subordinate situations—and of those imaginary corruption-hunters, whose melancholy station is at the furthest point of distance.
In the plan in question, as in every other, to the particular cluster of interests which spring out of his own particular situation, in the instance of every man is added the share he has in the universal interest. But, by this interest alone, unaided by any of these others, would the House, with any tolerable degree of regularity, be supplied with a number sufficient for the carrying on of the business?—for the carrying it on in any manner whatever, good or bad? The answer is already given. Not even with the aid of all these separate particular interests is the effect produced, much less by the single power of the share thus possessed in the universal interest.
Not that, in default of all these other interests, produced as they are by the existing causes,—the machine of state would be in any great danger of falling to pieces: kept together in some way or other, no fear but that in that case it would be. Kept together; but how? For its immediately operating cause or causes, the effect would have an interest, or cluster of interests, created for the purpose.
Of such factitious interest, or cluster of interests, would you see an example? Look to the House of Lords. For the giving exercise to that branch of the supreme power,—which is so useful, not only to the high branch by which it is exercised, but to one still higher,—three is the number of persons that has been made necessary;—three, and no more, the number that has been made sufficient. Now, of what persons this triad, is it composed? Answer: Of the Lord Chancellor, of the noble chairman of committees, and of a prelate—out of the thirty prelates, right reverend and most reverend, some one by whom the blessed comforts of religion have just been administered to the congregation so composed. And of the care thus taken by each of his own share in the universal interest, what in these several cases is the immediate cause? In the instance of the Lord Chancellor, his office of speaker, with the mass of emolument in the shape of salary, fees, and patronage, attached to it:—in the instance of the noble chairman of committees, his salary, with its et cæteras. Remains the prelate—the only person of the three, for whose benefit, to pay him for the care thus taken by himself of himself, no special immediate interest is created—created in manner as above at the expense of swinish multitude. Obvious is here the contrast, with the sort of injustice which it involves. In excuse for such an irregularity, all that can be pleaded is, that the number of the right reverend and most reverend persons thus loaded—English and Irish together—being thirty, a thirtieth part of the time of the whole session measures the quantity of the load thus imposed upon any one of them, without special recompence.
From the example thus exhibited in a sphere of superior dignity,—learn, as above, the mode in which in the similar, howsoever inferior, sphere in question, the immediate interest necessary to the preserving the machine from falling to pieces, would, in the hypothetical case in question, be created. Power without obligation in the regions above—obligation without power in the regions below—such is the scheme of division and distribution appointed and carried into effect. To the Diveses the good things; to the Lazaruses the evil things. Propose that, in any such his high situation, noble lord or honourable gentleman should stand engaged thus to take care of his own interest without being paid for it,—noble lord or honourable gentleman would stand aghast at the injustice.
Inconsistency of the Non-attendance ad libitum in this, in comparison with the indispensable Attendance in other offices.
This, unless that of the Monarch be excepted, beyond comparison the most important of all offices—the very office, under the eye of which the business of every other office, without exception, is liable to be brought for censure: this—of all offices in virtue of which any business at all is done—(for sinecures, acknowledged in that character—sinecures, whether profane or sacred, are not here in question)—this, of all offices of business, the office in which neglect of duty is at the same time more extensive—more habitual—more constant—more manifest—more manifestly mischievous—more scandalous than in any other. A sort of riddle this: but the solution comes along with it. Power supreme: power unincumbered with obligation:—situation irresponsible:—in these few words and phrases, behold the solution of it.
Look at the situation of the twelve Judges: look at the situation of the eleven Masters in Chancery:—look at the situation of the Commissioners of the Customs:—look at the situation of the Commissioners of the Excise:—look at the situation of Commissioners of the Navy:—in all those offices, so comparatively narrow in respect of their field of action—so inferior in respect of the extent and importance of their business—where will you see anything like it?
In the situation of Member of the House of Commons may a man remain for a whole parliament: no efficient obligation for so much as a single day’s attendance—sees M.P. written after his name,—swaggers, and franks letters—throws upon the shoulders of the swinish multitude the burthen of payment for his private correspondence. This, and more, is what in that public situation a man may do for his private benefit, without rendering to the public, in any shape whatever, an atom of service.*Call of the House:—yes: if so it be that he is within call, and grudges the trouble of sending a false excuse. But more on this head a little further on.
In one point of view, more flagrant is this abuse even than sinecurism. By sinecurist, as such, nothing at all is done: nothing is there that, so long as that title belongs to him, can be done by him. But if not anything at all, so neither can any mischief be done by him. Thus as with sinecurist. How is it with Honourable Gentleman? For no one good purpose is he under any obligation whatever to bestow a single moment of attendance: while, for all bad purposes, he may attend as often as he pleases.
Sinecures professed being thus disposed of, look through the whole scale of office:—begin at the bottom, end at the top; see whether, at any one point in it, any such monstrosity is to be found.
Look at the exciseman. Were but a small part of that truantism which is committed by Honourable Gentleman manifested by the exciseman, dismission—(unless he had good borough-interest)—dismission would be his portion, nor that portion undeserved.
“Speak of me in the same breath with a fellow such as that!” cries Honourable Gentleman, swelling, strutting, and making up to the glass, to view himself—“compare me to an exciseman!—a man of my property!—a man of my ‘influence,’ and that ‘influence,’ all of it, so legitimate! Chair! chair! Look to the chair, sir! is it not legitimate? have you not told us so?”
“Oh yes, sir—all of it legitimate—the influence of your property, if so it be that you have any, and that property of the right sort. But this property of yours, is it of the right sort?—is it of any sort? Was it really by property that you forced your way in?—was it not by connexion that you crept your way in?—and whatsoever it was that brought you in, are you now really worth a groat? No: nor yet half a groat, if your name be Sheridan, or . . . . But for proving the species here, one name is enough.
“An exciseman!—compare you to an exciseman! Sir, if your title to respect were as sure as that of an exciseman, much surer would it be than it is. Of an exciseman, two things are sure to be true: 1. That in a shape appropriate with reference to the situation into which he has procured himself to be placed, he possesses in some degree the connected qualifications of appropriate intellectual aptitude, and appropriate active talent; for without them he could not be what he is; 2. That by means of these same endowments, service to the public is—in a certain shape, and a certain quantity, actually rendered by him. In his instance, both these good things are sure to be true—in yours, which of them? Sir, neither the one nor the other: no, nor any other whatsoever.”
Up now to the opposite end of the scale. Lift up your eyes to the throne:—behold the man that sits on it. In principle or practice, even in that situation, is any such monstrosity to be found? In that situation, few, assuredly, if any, who, if asked, would deny that, in their ever-legitimate situation, the power belonging to it is a trust. Here, in this country, by our own monarch, by our Prince Regent, in so many words—while Fox was the word of words—was it not declared so to be?
So much for principle. But here, in this case—what unhappily is not true in every case—we have not only acknowledged principle, but, in some degree, even accordant practice. To papers upon papers does the monarch give his signature: to papers, not for his own benefit merely, but for the people’s likewise:—to papers to which his signature must be given, and is given, or the machine of the state would fall to pieces: to papers for everybody’s use: not like honourable gentleman’s signature, for his own use, or that of his own connexions merely, and to save them the expense of postage.
Let there be no misconception. Mark well the point that is here in question. Not the quality, not the goodness, not the value, of the service performed—but the fact—the mere fact—that service is performed: not the propriety of that which, in cases of attendance, is done,—but the fact—the mere fact—of the attendance.
Individual Delinquents blameless—who blameable.
Of the view thus given of the state—not of the representation—not even of the misrepresentation, but of the non-representation—the habitual and established non-representation—together with the causes by which it is produced, what is the practical object? That on individuals,—considered in the character of persons in whose breasts, on each or any one of the particular days appointed for business, by sermons as from a pulpit,—to any such effect as that of producing a strict fulfilment of the duty here in question,—any such sense as what is called a sense of duty, may, on any reasonable ground, be expected to operate? No—no, indeed: as well to the deaf adder, or to the congregation to which no minister but St. Anthony ever preached, might any such sermon be addressed. By any individual, to whom anything in the way of reproach or so much as of exhortation, having for its object the increasing the frequency of his attendance, were addressed,—the answer that would be given—nor that commonly an insufficient one—is altogether obvious. “By no vote of mine,” would he say—“by no vote of mine, unless accompanied by an adequate number of other votes on the same side, would any adequate effect be produced. But, with the exception of the ministry, of no such requisite number can any sufficiently grounded assurance be ever entertained. In their hands is seen and felt a mass of power, of which, to a certain extent, and that a sufficient extent, the efficiency stands assured—power exercisable at all times:—to the pack which they keep belongs an establishment of whippers-in, to whose voice all such dogs as have a certain collar about their necks are instinctively obedient: to them it does belong to compel them to come in. To them? Yes, but to no one else: in their hands is the already sensible and tangible whip: to the opposition leaders, nothing but the phantasmagoric image of it: to no others, so much as that image!”
Under circumstances such as these, where is the individual ever to be found, on whom reproach can ever find room to attach itself with any decided force? “Everybody’s business is nobody’s business:” not less true than trivial is that familiar adage.
One case indeed may be assigned,—in which, on some better ground than as above, blame might find spots to fix upon. Suppose an adequate remedy brought to view, and endeavours used for the giving effect to it: on that supposition, what it would be difficult to find, would be—not the person on whom blame—just blame—would attach, but the person on whom it would not attach, in the event of his omitting to use any endeavour in his power towards the accomplishment of that end. Just blame?—just reproach? Yes: but to what effect any such reproach, whatsoever were its justice? Answer: To no effect at all, supposing the stream of general and preponderant interest to run in opposition to it. But of this further, when the interests, which occur in shutting the door against every efficient system of reform, come to be brought to view.
Honourable House incorrigible: this Disorder incurable: the Constitution subverted by it.
Well now, note what has been seen:—1. The nature of the species of delinquency in question; 2. The vast—the undeniable mischievousness of it; 3. The impossibility of the mischief’s ever finding a remedy in the exertions of individuals on individual occasions; 4. The sinfulness of the sin, in the breast of every individual who, after proof seen of its sinfulness, shall forbear to contribute his best endeavours, by whatsoever sweeping measure may be most surely effectual, to purge the House of it: to cleanse the House from it; and if so it be that he himself is of the number of the sinners, thus to bring forth the only fruits meet for repentance. All these things seen, exists there that man, in whose eyes the wish, to behold the concurrence of the votes necessary to the substitution of appropriate probity in this shape to the opposite improbity, brings with it any so much as the minutest chance for its accomplishment? If so, too plain indeed will be, if it be not already, his mistake.
On this occasion, as on all others, before you put yourself to any expense in the article of argument, look first to the state of interests:—think to overcome the force of interest by the force of argument? Think as well to take Lisle or Mantua, by peas blown out of a peashooter. The man who hastened to Rome, to convert the Pope to Protestantism—never let him be out of mind. When the Pope has put on Protestantism, look then to Honourable House:—then it is that your eyes shall behold Honourable House putting on uncorruption in the room of that corruption which sits now so easy on it. Think then whether there be that imaginable shape in which uncorruption would sit upon Honourable House more gallingly than in that of universal constancy of attendance!—a shape, under the pressure of which—unless they respectively gave up their seats—the land-officer, the sea-officer, the diplomatist, would have to give up their commissions,—the governor or other office-bearer in the distant dependencies, his office,—the lawyer his practice,—the official lawyer his office and his practice,—the fox-hunter, for months together, his dogs and horses,—the opera-fancier, his operas,—the Bond-street lounger, his lounges.
Address yourself to the man who sits by proprietorship—address yourself to the man who has come in by terrorism—address yourself to the man who has come in by bribery—address yourself to the man who, through proprietor, terrorist, or bribe-giver, has come in by purchase:—with the exception of some half-hundred or thereabouts, address yourself to any one of the 658:—tell him that his situation is a trust, that to fulfil that trust is a duty—tell him that the situation of monarch is a trust—that the Prince Regent has declared it so to be—and that in the hands even of the Prince Regent it never has been, nor ever can be, a perfect sinecure;—talk to him in any such strain:—so you may if you please, but first prepare yourself for a horse-laugh in your face. “The Prince Regent indeed! Yes: to him it is indeed a trust, it is not for him to do nothing but what he pleases. O yes; duty, and duty enough, has he to do: papers upon papers must he sign, when the time comes; it is for that that he is where he is. Sir, my case—be pleased to understand—is quite a different one. At this time, and at all times, I can do, sir, and I will do, sir, as I please. When it is more pleasant to me to go in than to stay out, I go in: when it is more pleasant to me to stay out than to go in, I stay out. This, sir, it is to be independent: this, sir, is the duty of an independent Member of Parliament: this, sir, is the use of a man’s being a Member of Parliament.”
Well now, honest reader, what you are supposing all the while is—that principles such as these are but the principles of individuals:—principles which, in so far as they are really harboured and acted upon, are but the accidental result of individual profligacy and insolence: principles too, which, in the representation thus given of them, are in the beat of argument more or less exaggerated. Alas! if such be really your thoughts, in sad truth you are in an error:—an error which you will be but too deplorably liable to fall into, should any such expectation be entertained by you, as that on that seat of self-proclaimed honour, any real regard for duty—even for acknowledged duty—is to be found. Duty as to constituents?—duty as towards swinish multitude? “Oh no!” cries Honourable House, “leave that duty to the swine.” Duty to Honourable House? Yes: on this occasion, at any rate, that duty, and no other, is the duty Honourable House knows of. Now in all this is there anything of misrepresentation?—anything of exaggeration? Read now, and judge.
Honourable House has its rules and customs: behold now one of them. Unless forty members or more are present, business cannot be begun upon:—here you have a rule. But when Honourable House so pleases, motion having been made and seconded for that purpose, what is called a call of the House is made. A day is named—always a more or less distant one—and, on that one day, attendance on the part of all and singular the members is commanded. Look once more at this rule—at this custom:—whatsoever be its name, constituted by this rule or custom, here you have a duty—an obligation established. Established? Aye: and, as often as Honourable House shall so please, enforced: for, not a member is there who, should he fail of paying duty and homage to Honourable House, either by attendance or excuse, may not—would not peradventure—by order of Honourable House, be imprisoned: imprisoned and squeezed for patronage-swelling fees. Well then—in the obligation either to attend or send excuse—here you have not only an obligation, but an obligation, as often as it shall please the Honourable House, made perfect: here you have indeed a duty. A duty? but towards whom? Even towards Honourable House, by whom, and by whom alone, it has been created,—by whom, and by whom alone, when enforced, it is enforced. But in this very duty—a duty thus created, and no otherwise enforced—in this very duty you have the abrogation of all duty as respecting the service at large—of all duty as towards the people in the character of constituents. Obligation, confined to one particular occasion—what is it but licence as applied to all other occasions? Thus it is that of Honourable House it is the law—the will—the pleasure—the constantly-entertained and frequently-declared pleasure—that, in regard to attendance—except in obedience to command issued by Honourable House,—Honourable Members shall at all times do as they please. And this is what was to be proved. Now in this, is there anything misrepresented? anything exaggerated? As towards constituents—as towards swinish multitude, of obligation not so much as the weight of a feather: not so much as that sort of obligation, the levity of which is recognised by moralists, distinguishing it as they do by the name of an imperfect one.
Proposing at the same time that all other things shall remain as they are, and therefore as “they should be,” in or out of the House,—suppose then a man to stand up and propose, that on the part of honourable gentlemen who risk nothing by it, attendance—a duty not occupying half the year—should, for and during so moderate a portion of each man’s time, be rendered as constant and universal, as on the part of soldiers, who, the whole year, and on every day in the year, risk their lives by it:—To any such effect, any such proposal would it be endured? The whole House, would it not be in an uproar? A voice crying, make a stand! make a stand! aye, and with echoes too—echoes from both sides,—would it not once more be heard, and from the reforming side of the House? To the pious among honourable gentlemen, would not the preacher of this part of the whole duty of man be as surely an atheist—to the political, a jacobin—as if his motion had been for universal suffrage? Say, how should it be otherwise—when, by the one measure as by the other, the best interests (as the phrase is)—the best interests on both sides—would alike be elbowed out, and made to give place (oh intolerable thought!) to the universal interest?
No: assuredly not to Honourable House are these arguments, or any part of them, addressed: their interest is to remain as they are and what they are, so long as the injured people and their brave defenders shall behold them sitting there. No: not to the deaf adder—not to that deaf adder, whose deafness has been produced by the charms of sinister interest, will any such charms as can be contained in argument be addressed. The ears which by the voice of honest interest—of that interest, the voice of which is in unison with universal interest—are prepared to listen to arguments, pleading the cause of that interest—these, and these alone, are the ears, to which, with any the slightest expectation of their being listened to, these arguments, howsoever in form and by compulsion addressed to any other quarter, are, or in sincerity and reality can be, addressed.
Abdication—more truly predicable of Honourable House, than of James II.—Quere, as to Forfeiture.
Think now of James the Second. How he governed, every body knows. Think how he fled from his trust, and how by Honourable House he was declared to have abdicated it. Well then—this trust of his—by what sort of conduct on his part was it that he abdicated it? Till the moment when, for the purpose of the moment, it pleased Honourable House to change the sense of it, did not—in every other instance in which an office of any kind is mentioned, does not—the word abdicate mean giving up intentionally and from choice? And that tyrant—one of the most tenacious of all tyrants—would anything short of the most unsurmountable necessity have ever forced him to give up either the office, or so much as a single atom of the power belonging to it? So much for him whose name was king: turn now to him or them whose name is legion. See whether, from that time to the present—or say for shortness since the Irish Union—by the vast majority among the members of the House—the exercise of the whole trust belonging to the House, has it not been deserted:—deserted, and if desertion be abdication, abdicated? If, spite of all his endeavours to continue in the exercise of the functions belonging to a trust, a man may thus legally be said to have abdicated it—and be dealt with as if he had abdicated it,—how much more truly—how much more justly—where the forbearance to exercise them is most notoriously his own free—his own even licentiously free act?—and of any one man, to any number of men?
If, for grounding a practical consequence in other places, the word abdicated—the great parliamentary word, which, by the hand of lawyer-craft, by which this sense was forced into it, Honourable House forced upon the other House,—if this word be not of itself yet strong enough, take in hand the word forfeiture:—take along with it the word non-user:—consult Mr. Justice Blackstone: see whether—be the office what it may—private or public—and if public, “whether it concerns the administration of justice or the commonwealth,”—of two causes of forfeiture, non-user be not one:—a cause, yea, and “of itself a direct and immediate cause.” In all this, is there anything of subversion? anything of sedition? Be it so: but on whom shall fall the punishment? On me? It is not I that have made the sedition: all that I have done is to find it:—to find it, even where myriads upon myriads have found it before me. I am not the delinquent—the seditionist—the enemy of government. I am the informer—the servant of government—the unpaid as well as spontaneous informer—which is more than all informers are.—Judge Blackstone—if you want the seditionist—in him you have the seditionist: his body let Lord Sidmouth take up, and set to rot along with the living ones—unseen and unseenable—in one of his bastilles.
Yes: if parliamentary doctrine is to be taken for authority, and that authority decisive, who is there—what lawyer at least is there—that does not see, on how much better and truer ground, than the power of the monarch in that day, may the power of Honourable House in these our days be deemed and taken to have been forfeited—forfeited to and for the use and benefit of the people?
Let me not be mistaken. What I mean here to say is—not that the Honourable House is, exactly speaking, a corporation:—not that to the King’s Bench—the judicatory by which corporations are purged, and persons wrongfully acting as members of them ousted,—it belongs to purge Honourable House. No: if to the lot of Honourable House it should ever fall to be purged, the judicatory by which the purge is administered must be of a constitution, and above all, of a complexion, somewhat different from that of the Court of King’s Bench. At present, all I mean is—to point the attention of the proper judicatory, whatever it be, to the description, as above, of the case by which, according to Mr. Justice Blackstone, the demand for a purge of this sort is created.
The Incurableness of the Disorder—and the consequently incurable Corruptness of Honourable House—declared by Hatsell, Chief Clerk of the House.
Is not this yet enough? Of misrepresentation—of exaggeration—of rash and ungrounded, or insufficiently grounded inference—of any such imputed result of audacious hostility,—after what has already been seen, can any charge—any suspicion—still remain? Well then: call in John Hatsell—call in the man, who, while in his place the chief servant, has long by his works, descriptive of the practice of the House, and published for the use of the members, been looked up to as the oracle of Honourable House: to a man in his situation—will anything of hostility—and if of partiality, partiality on the adverse side—be imputed?
Hear, then, what is said by him of the non-attendance and its consequences.
“It not being customary of late years,” says he, vol. ii. p. 68 to 72, “to enforce the calls of the House by taking Members who do not attend into the castody of the Serjeant, in the twenty years that I have attended at the Table,” (date of this second edition, 1785,) “there has not occurred a single instance: although at the time of ordering the call, there is always a resolution come to, ‘that such Members as shall not attend at the time appointed, be taken into custody.’ It does not become me to determine, how far this lenity of the House, in admitting every trifling excuse that is offered, conduces to the end proposed—or whether it would not be better not to order a call, than to make it nugatory by not enforcing it.” Such, then, in the thus honestly published as well as declared opinion of the most competent of all judges, was at that time the state of the disorder itself. Behold now what in the same opinion are among the effects of it.
“The controul which theindependentMembers of the House ought to have over the conduct of theMinistersis,” says he, “entirely lost.”
Well:—if this be not a subversion of the constitution, what else can be? If it be not by this, that what was best in the constitution of this country was distinguished from what was worst in the worst of other governments—by this, viz. that a body of men chosen by the people,—so chosen and so circumstanced, as not to be in any state of dependence as towards the servants of the monarch chosen by the monarch,—that this body of men, so chosen and so circumstanced, possessed “a controul over” those same servants of the monarch,—by what else was it that this same constitution was ever thus distinguished? Well then:—in the thus declared opinion of this official and intelligent, as well as assiduous, observer of the conduct of the House,—already, at the time when this was written by him—already, in the year 1785—was this “controul . . . entirely lost.” This said—this disastrous truth proclaimed—and this said—by whom? by an adversary—a hostilely partial adversary? No: but by a most faithful, zealously attached, universally respected, and not too sparingly rewarded, howsoever richly deserving—servant.—In what way, too?—in the way of speech spoken—spoken in the heat of debate, and without time for reflection? No: but in a cool didactic and written treatise, the result of the viginti annorum lucubrationes—the twenty years’ lucubrations he had just been speaking of—and this republished without alteration, in a second edition, after the opportunity taken of receiving any objections, could any objections have been made, to what he had thus been saying in the first.
If then, even at that time—even in 1785—even before the Pandora’s box was opened upon it, which was opened by Pitt the second, and now again and with additions re-opened upon it—if even then the constitution was “subverted,” in what sort of plight is it now? But, if the subversion—so full of horror in the eyes of Mr. Speaker,* had, at the very time when he was thus giving expression to these horrors, already taken place,—the subversion of such a subversion—is it not restitution? is it not among the objects which, by every safe and legal means, every true lover of his country ought to contribute his utmost endeavours to the accomplishment of? When subversion is the calamity that has taken place, what better can happen to it than to be subverted?—when captivity was the calamity that had taken place, what better could have happened to it than to be led captive? By a stronger, suppose a weaker man set with his feet where his head should be: what better could happen to him than to find himself set on his legs again?
Of the declaration made by Honourable House of the forced abdication of James the Second, the day is no secret. Of the declaration voluntarily made by the same Honourable House of its own voluntary abdication, as above, the day is not more dubious: Thursday, the 10th of May 1744—there it is.—Commons’ Journals—Report that day from “Committee appointed to consider of the most proper methods to enforce a more early and constant attendance of the Members upon the service of the House.”. . . . Resolutions, five in number: whereof three, and three alone, on the subject of constancy—meaning, of course, on the part of every one, as well as of every other of the Members. Of these three—all of them together, had they been carried into effect, inadequate—the first and third put aside, the only one agreed to never acted upon—never from that time till the present: viz. “That no Member do absent himself from the service of the House, without special leave of the House.”†
Thus, in the opinion of this faithful servant, but not less intrepid and still unquestioned censor of the House,—the constitution had even then been subverted,—and in the disorder mentioned by him—viz. non-attendance—in this free and generally prevailing abdication—the subversion had its cause. Well then: in this same opinion, this cause—was it of the number of those which are capable of being removed? Not it indeed; for with the following note do these Observations of his conclude:—“It appears, from the Report of May 1744, how inadequate every measure has been, that has been hitherto proposed, to prevent the evil: nothing can correct it entirely, but a sincere desire in the Members themselves to attend to that duty for which they were elected and sent to parliament.” Nothing, says he, can correct it, but—what? A sort of desire, the existence of which, to any such extent as would be necessary, would be an effect without a cause: for, in the situation in question, of any such desire, so long as man is man, the existence has been shown to be impossible.
Now of this dereliction of duty—this most deliberately determined—most perseveringly maintained, and still maintained—dereliction of duty—of acknowledged duty,—is either the existence or the cause, or the intended perpetuity, open to dispute? The existence, you see it in the journals:—the cause of it, is it not in the non-existence of due dependence, coupled with the existence of that undue dependence which is the effect of it?—the perpetuity, is it not secured to the disorder, by the nature of its cause? This so determinately perpetual dereliction of acknowledged duty,—does it not, of itself, afford an indisputable demand for a remedy from without, by which the determination shall be put an end to?—for a remedy by which the cause will be removed?—for the only remedy by which, in the very nature of the case, it ever can be removed?
[* ]Of this body of evidence, taken in the aggregate, the importance will, it is believed, be seen in a light continually clearer and stronger, in proportion as this inquiry advances. To complete any such task as that of collecting it, would require abundantly more time, not only than at the present conjuncture, but moreover than at any future time, out of the small expectable remnant of my life, it would be possible for me to spare. If, to any person who has sufficient leisure, it should appear, that, in regard to the whole, or any part of this mass of information, the search would afford a sufficient promise of being productive of adequate use,—the consciousness of rendering to the public that service will be his reward: and if, for the purpose of enabling me to give to the stock so collected, such useful application as may be in my power, he will have the goodness to communicate it to me by letter,—he will be the object of an inward sentiment of esteem and gratitude, in the breast of a man, from whom no exterior demonstrations of it can, in the vulgar signification of the word, be of use to any one.
[* ]By an ingenious cultivator of the physical branch of art and science, the clouds have been endeavoured to be brought under the dominion of the tactical branch of logic. With somewhat better profit, it is supposed, in the shape of practical use, might the like useful operation be applied to the congeries of political fallacies—those clouds of the mental atmosphere. Take for an example of the genera, or some of them, suppose the following:—argumentum ad verecundiam—ad quietem—ad socordiam, sive ignaviam—ad superstitionem—ad superbiam—ad metum, sivc timorem—ad odium—ad amicitiam—ad invidentiam. Of the classes, under which these genera might be arranged:—argumenta ad affectus, to the affections and passions as above—ad imaginationem, to the imagination—ad judicium, to the judicial faculty. Example of a set of species under the genus ad odium:—I. Bad-design-imputer’s argument; 2. Bad-motive-imputer’s ditto; 3. Bad-character-imputer’s ditto—Varieties under the bad-character-imputer’s argument:—Imputation à seipso—à socio—à consentaneìs—à cognominibus.
[* ]For correctness, include in the import of the word pleasure, or rather add thereto, its equivalent in a negative shape, viz. exemption from pain.
[† ]Include in like manner, or add, its equivalent in a negative shape, viz. loss of pleasure. See Table of Springs of Action, Vol. I. p. 195.
[‡ ]Morning Chronicle, 14th March 1818.—House of Commons’ Debate on the Indemnity Bill.—Mr. Lyttelton. “The bill had been pressed through its various stages with extreme and indecent haste. For his own part, business of great importance had detained him for some days in the country from his parliamentary duties. Other members were probably in the same predicament.”—(MS. note in Bentham’s copy.)
[* ]Some fifty or sixty years ago, sat for Essex a Mr. Luther. Report of the time, £20,000 the expense: staid out his six or seven years, and but once in the whole time took his seat. All this cannot but be more particularly known to Mr. Conyers.
[* ]Speaker’s Speech. Cobbett’s Debates, 1st June 1809, p. 839.
[† ]Commons’ Journals, anno 1744, 10th May, p. 685.