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acquiesced in the policy of the Whig leaders, would be a mistake. The bursting of the South Sea Bubble had distracted the nation and diverted attention from the constitutional question. The Pretender's intrigues, which were the strongest reason for a temporary suspension of short Parliaments, had not yet ceased, and may have afforded some members of Parliament a justification in the eyes of their constituents for not taking immediate action in favour of returning to the Triennial Act.
More important than all, in its bearing on the attitude of the next Parliament on this subject, is the undoubted fact that the constituencies were manipulated. Mr. Green tells us how, about this time, "the wealth of the Whig houses was ungrudgingly spent in securing the monopoly of the small and corrupt constituencies which formed the large part of the borough representation," and the same authority has formulated the common charges against Walpole, and accused him of being the first who made Parliamentary corruption a regular part of his system of government. In due time, however, there are to be noticed, even in a corrupt Parliament, signs of the popular dissatisfaction.
Towards the end of the first Parliament of George II., on the 13th of March, 1734, Mr. Bromley, member for Warwick, and a son of the Speaker of that name, moved for leave to bring in a bill to repeal the Septennial Act. Several speakers insisted on the popular approval of the proposal, and Mr. (afterwards Sir) Watkin Williams Wynne said that "the generality of the people so earnestly desired to have triennial Parliaments restored to them that the refusal to comply with their desire could not but increase the number of the disaffected, which might at last throw all things into confusion.” According to the testimony of the same speaker, the "heats and animosities” of elections, though necessarily experienced less
DEBATE IN 1734.
frequently under the Septennial Act, had now become much more intense than they were under the Triennial Act. Bribery and corruption, it is quite clear from this debate, had actually increased rather than decreased in consequence of the abolition of triennial Parliaments. According to the testimony of Pulteney, it had reached an intolerable height. “In many, nay, in most parts of our constitution," he said, “we are sunk to the lowest and vilest dregs of corruption, and, if some extraordinary event do not prevent it, our constitution will be irrecoverably lost.”
In reply to the proposition that in a triennial Parliament ministers would be embarrassed in their treaties with foreign powers, who would wait for the verdicts of new Parliaments on questions sometimes demanding immediate settlement, Lord Noel Somerset (Monmouthshire) happily pointed out that our credit with foreign nations must necessarily be improved by the knowledge of our neighbours that there is union and mutual confidence between Crown and people. The ministers of a new Parliament would doubtless, for their honour and safety, pursue the old measures if they were good. If the old ministers, however, had entered on measures inconsistent with the good of the nation, the change of the ministry would be lucky for the country. Sir J. Hynde Cotton, who then represented Cambridge, in an exposition of the grievances the people suffered from septennial Parliaments, included the Riot Act and South Sea scheme, which he said would never have passed if a triennial Parliament had been in existence in 1720. Sir W. Wyndham, with much eloquence, maintained the right of the people to have frequent Parliaments, a claim asserted in the Bill of Rights, and vindicated in the Triennial Act. Popular ferment he declared to be due to encroachment on popular rights. There was no better way
SIR R. WALPOLE.
of avoiding it than by having more frequent elections. Mr. Henry Pelham was against the ·motion. Pulteney, having voted for the Septennial Act, was ‘now as anxious to have it repealed, the danger which the Act was intended to provide against being in his opinion past. The certain and the only way of preventing sedition and disappointing faction was, in this statesman's opinion, to give the people frequent opportunities of obtaining redress in the legal way prescribed by the constitution.
The great debate was concluded by an able speech from Sir R. Walpole. Descanting upon the perfection of a constitution in which monarchical, aristocratic, and democratic forms of government were interwoven, so as to give the advantages of each without subjecting us to the dangers and inconveniences of any one of them, he objected to triennial elections as running too much into the democratic form. He pointed out that the pepulace were ever