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ledged by the Commons of Great Britain. It would be tedious, after learning the drift of the argument for and against the bill from the debate in the Upper House, to go in detail over all the speeches in the Commons upon this question, but as the constitutional aspect of it is debated to this day, it will be interesting to note that in answer to Sir Richard Steele, Mr. Snell, the member for Gloucester, said, “It may be objected that, when the people have once constituted the Legislature, the Legislature is invested with the whole power of their electors, and we are empowered not only to make laws, but to alter or repeal any law in being as we should think fit for their benefit and security, and they will undoubtedly be bound thereby; but this is to be understood where the subject-matter of the laws we make is within compass of the trust which the people have, or may at least be supposed to delegate to us, and it is an ill way of reasoning to assert that we



have a power to do what we cannot do without prejudice to those we represent. The right of electing representatives in Parliament is inseparably inherent in the people of Great Britain, and can never be thought to be delegated to the representatives unless you'll make the elected to be the elector, and at the same time suppose it the will of the people that their representatives should have it in their power to destroy those that made them whenever a ministry should think it necessary to screen themselves from their just resentments. This would be to destroy the fence to all their freedom, for if we have a right to continue ourselves one year, one month, or day, beyond our triennial term, 'twill unavoidably follow we have it in our power to make ourselves perpetual.” Mr. Bromley, one of the members for Oxford University, and a late secretary of State, doubted whether the bill, if passed, could carry the obligation of law, and expressed surprise that the Lords should

think them so unfaithful to the people as to accept a renewal of their right to sit from the Crown and the Peers, or should not allow to them some sense of shame at the prospect of returning to their counties and looking those in the face whom they had so greatly injured. This was the orator with whom originated a metaphor not unfamiliar since. “Does the power,” he asked, “put into our hands by the people justify our turning the dagger into the bowels of the constitution ?" Sir Robert Raymond, afterwards Attorney-General and Lord Chief Justice, gave his legal opinion that King, Lords, and Commons could no more continue a Parliament beyond its natural duration than they could make a Parliament. The scandalous expenses of elections, he said, had not increased from the contests of neighbouring gentlemen with one another, but “from strangers—by what influence or direction he could not tell—coming to their boroughs, who had no natural interest SEPTENNIAL BILL PASSED.


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to recommend them, nothing but bribery and corruption. Nothing,” this authority added, "will so effectually prevent expenses as annual Parliaments. That was our ancient constitution, and every departing from it is usually attended with great inconveniences.” This great debate resulted in the commitment of the bill by 284 votes against 162. Discussion was renewed for two hours on the third reading, but the bill passed the House by 264 to 121 votes, and before the month of April had expired the King had given it his assent. Thus on an argument of expediency the law was again altered, while the Tories of that day bore their testimony in favour of that constitutional right of the people which it has been the object of these chapters to






SINCE the passing of the Septennial Act the claim to shorten Parliaments has never been absolutely surrendered. The struggle to cover short Parliaments began before the close of Walpole's administration, and was vigorously continued during the remainder of the eighteenth


There is no record of a serious attempt to upset the Act of 1716 until 1734. To infer from this, however, that the people had condoned the invasion of their constitutional right, and

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