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to be done, its unpopularity ought not to be considered. Petitions against the bill were read in Parliament. One from Horsham was rejected by the House on account of the bold assertion of the petitioners, that they looked upon the bill as an overturning of the constitution and an infringement of their liberties.

The proposal to repeal the Triennial Act was stoutly resisted in both Houses of Parliament, though in the long run a measure recommended by reasons which, while affording a patriotic pretext, so strongly appealed to personal interests, was naturally carried by a sweeping majority. The bill was first presented to the House of Lords by the Duke of Devonshire, Lord Steward of the King's household. It is to be noticed that there was no pretence then, as there had been in the country, that the measure was to be temporary in its operation. In subsequent agitations for its repeal, and in some histories, the bill has been referred to as only a tem

SEPTENNIAL BILL RESISTED.

89

porary enactment; but, as may be seen from, the preamble already quoted, the measure from the first bound future Parliaments as far as any Parliament can bind its successors—that is, until another statute should be passed for its repeal. Complaints were immediately made of the extraordinary character of the bill. King William, it was urged, had gained the hearts of his subjects by the Triennial Act, and it would be strange that the most popular of our laws, regarded as the great security of our rights and liberties, should be repealed in the earliest years of the Protestant succession. It was contended that, while by the Triennial Act the country had an opportunity to remedy abuses, the bill would establish a grievance and take away their remedy. The bill, it was further said, showed a distrust of the people, and an intention of governing by fear, and it was calculated to exasperate rather than to settle the people. But the stoutest opposition was offered to it on the ground of its subversion of the constitution. The power of the Parliament legally to pass such a measure was vehemently contested. For the House of Commons to continue in existence for a longer time than was contemplated by the electors when it was chosen, would be in violation of the people's rights and a breach of trust. It was wittily observed by the Earl of Peterborough, in language for which he apologized to the bishops, that he knew not how to describe the manner of existence of such a Parliament except by the use of words in the Athanasian Creed, since it would neither be made nor created, but “proceeding.” Lord Trevor looked upon the Triennial Act as essential part of our constitution, according to which frequent and annual elections were to be held; and the Duke of Buckingham represented that the Triennial Act, whatever its inconveniences, was a good law, which could not be repealed without altering the constitution. If

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A BISHOP'S DILEMMA.

91

a Parliament might prolong its existence for seven years, it was argued by the Earl of Nottingham that before the septennial period had elapsed stronger reasons might be alleged for continuing it still longer, or even perpetuating it in absolute subversion of the third estate of the realm. As for the Bishop of London, he was so "confounded between dangers and inconvenience on one side, and destruction on the other," that he could not make up his mind how to vote. To these arguments on constitutional grounds were opposed, by the promoters of the bill, the declarations that a supreme power was vested in the Legislature to rectify any inconvenience experienced from a former law; that the Triennial Act was itself an alteration of the old constitution ; that their lordships must now strengthen themselves and disarm their enemies, otherwise the rebellion might be renewed; and that frequent election rendered the government "dependent on the

caprice of the multitude, and very precarious.” Lord Carteret found an excuse for the bill, that it was not against frequent sessions, but only against frequent elections. The Duke of Newcastle, reminding the House of the “restless popish faction” which figured in the preamble, warned their lordships "that emissaries were busy everywhere to keep up the spirits of the people for a year longer, and then they hoped to retrieve all by a new election." But, above all, the supporters of the measure dwelt upon the scandals of recent elections. According to the Duke of Devonshire, triennial elections had served only to keep up party divisions, and “to raise and foment feuds and animosities in private families;” they had

they had “occasioned ruinous expenses," and given "a handle to the cabals and intrigues of foreign princes.” It was the assertion of the Earl of Dorset, that this law had sown the seeds of corruption, and great numbers of persons, he said, had no other livelihood than their

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