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employment in bribing corporations. This was one of the noblemen who had objected to the constitution being subject to the caprice of the multitude, and he had added the frank objection to triennial elections that they destroyed all family interests. His own speech, however, entitles the reader to divide the blame of election scandals with others besides "the capricious multitude,” for he follows up his references to corrupt practices by this grave reflection : “We have lately made a sad experience of it, since by those methods a Parliament was procured by the last ministry which gave sanction to most of their ill measures, and went near to give up the trade and liberties of the nation.” The Earl of Ilay, in his picture of election evils, told how when “Party-Healths went round, the naming of one general before another often produced a bloody quarrel." By way of rejoinder the opponents of the bill urged that the spending of money at elections was voluntary, that those who spent that money probably did so in the hope of obtaining places or pensions, and that a measure which would lengthen their time in Parliament would naturally tend to increase corruption. As to the rebellion, it was completely subdued ; and even if it had not been suppressed, there might still be two sessions before the legal expiration of the Parliament. The Bishop of Rochester, in one of the last debates on the bill, summed up his objections to it thus : “But if this bill was never so good in itself, it is very unseasonable because very unpopular and altogether useless, the rebellion being crushed and the power of France not to be feared, now especially when we have a glorious standing army, and a ministry that knows how effectually to engage the affections of the people.” Opposition was, however, hopeless ; the bill was committed by ninety-six votes to sixty-one, and subsequently passed by sixty-nine to thirty-six. But on both occasions
protests were made by many peers.
An eloquent protest on the decision to commit the bill was signed by no fewer than thirty.
It is a memorable document, for the full text of which the reader is referred to the end of this volume.*
The first reception of the bill in the House of Commons was a little doubtful, Lord Guernsey moving to reject it without even giving it a reading. The House, however, did not concur in such a summary proceeding, but read it a first time, and on its second reading debated for two hours principally upon the right of the Lords to initiate a bill so closely concerning the Commons. The division showed 276 in favour of the bill being read a second time, while 156 opposed the second reading. According to the then practice of the House, the second reading so resolved upon took place on a future day. The main debate, equivalent to our second read
* See Appendix C.
ing debates at the present day, took place immediately after the second reading on the motion for commitment of the bill. Then “ warm debate that lasted from two in the afternoon till near eleven at night.” There was an equal number of speakers for and against the bill. In the opening of the debate, the bill was commended very cautiously to the House by Mr. Lyddell, member for Lostwithiel, who assured the House that nothing would have induced him to propose this alteration in the law if he had not been convinced that the maintenance of the law would be more liable to inconvenience and danger than its repeal. The experiment might at first disquiet the minds of the people, but would ultimately secure the tranquillity of the kingdom. For several years past the people had been both bribed and preached into the Pretender's interest and dislike of the Protestant succession, and therefore it became rather necessity than choice to apply an extraordinary
A JACOBITE'S ARGUMENT.
remedy to an extraordinary disease. That sturdy Jacobite, Shippen, opened the case against the bill with great vigour. He condemned the arguments for the bill as based on surmise and imagination. Even if the danger were not exaggerated, the hands of the Government had been strengthened by the suspension of the Habeas Corpus Act. To give the people the opportunity of declaring, at the end of three years, that they were unrepresented in Parliament would be to increase the sphere of factions. The trust of members was triennial. Continued beyond its legal duration, they became their own electors, they acted by an assumed power and directed a new constitution. He scouted the notion that the people who had so much difficulty to obtain short Parliaments could be held, through this legislation, to have by their representatives condemned short and frequent Parliaments and established long and pensioned
such as never had before been acknow