Page images
PDF
EPUB

Halsey, Joseph
Hamilton, Lord Archibald
Hibbert, George
Honywood, William
Horner, Francis

Howard, Henry

Howorth, Humphry-
Hughes, William Lewis

Hutchinson, Hon. C. H.

= Hussey, William
Jekyll, Joseph
Johnes, Thomas

King, Sir John Dashwood
Knapp, George
Lambe, Hon. William
Lambton, Ralph John
Langton, William Gore
Lemon, Sir William
Lemon, John
Lloyd, Sir Edw. Pryce
Lyttleton, Hon. Wm. H.
M'Donald, James
Markham, John
Martin, Henry

Maule, Hon. William
Mildmay, Sir Harry
Miller, Sir Thomas
Milner, Sir W. Mordaunt
Milton, Lord Viscount
Moore, Peter

ΤΟ

Mosley, Sir Oswald
Mostyn, Sir Thomas
North, Dudley
Northey, William
Ossulston, Lord

Parnell, Henry

channel in which my Letters will circulate, circulation to the opinions of those, who may differ from me. This has been the invariable practice of my political life. But, in order to confine the discussion

Pelham, Hon. Ch. And. within reasonable bounds, I must notify,

Percy, Earl
Porchester, Lord
Pym, Francis
Romilly, Sir Samuel
Savage, Francis

Scudamore, Rich. Philip

Sharp, Richard
Shepley, William
Smith, William
St. Aubyn, Sir John
Symonds, Thomas Powel
Talbot, Richard Wogan
Thornton, Henry
Tracey, Cha. Hanbury
Walpole, Hon. George
Western, Charles Callis
Wharton, John
Whitbread, Samuel
Wilberforce, William

Wardle, Gwyllym Lloyd

TELLERS.

Madocks, Wm. Alex.
Folkestone, Viscount

THE INDEPENDENT PEOPLE OF Hampshire.

LETTER II.

PARLIAMENTARY REFORM.
Introductory Address.

GENTLEMEN,

AT our last County-Meeting, we resolved, with only eight or ten dissenting voices out of about two thousand of the most respectable men in this county, that it would be expedient for us to meet on a future day to consider of the propriety of a Petition to the King, praying His Majesty to be graciously pleased to afford us his royal countenance and support in obtaining a reformation in the Commons' House of Parliament; and, as I look forward with confident hope, that that Meeting will take the matter seriously in hand, I think it may be useful, in the meanwhile, for me to submit to you my opinions upon that interesting and important subject.

that those who may be disposed to answer me must confine themselves to the subject; must state in the head of their performances, which of my letters they are answering, and must take the paragraphs regularly, one after another, as I shall arrange and number them; and must confine themselves, as to space, so as not to exceed, in any instance, double the length of that which they profess to answer. Those who may chose to enter this field of controversy, will, of course, keep_copies of what they send to me; and, if I find any thing not connected with the subject, I will state it, whereupon they may make the necessary curtailments. I take these precautions, because I would not involve this interesting subject in confusion, which, to truth, is not much less an enemy than is falshood itself.

We should enter upon this discussion with minds unheated by any thing that has recently transpired; and, above all things, we should subdue in us any thing like a spirit of revenge. I am ready, and I have conversed with no man who is not ready, to say: "What is done cannot be "undone let there be no thought of "vengeance for the past: let all that has "been done be forgotten for ever, and let "no one meet with any punishment or

"

reproach on account of it, provided we "now have that which shall effectually "prevent the recurrence of such things "for the future." And, indeed, if you consult history, you will find, that, amongst nations as well as amongst individuals, it is not the original and naked offence so much as a pertinacity in defending, or persevering in, it, that inspires the offend. ed with that thirst for vengeance, which, though it may bring calamity upon the offended as well as the offender, does very seldom fail to prove destructive to the former.

All

Nor, if our deliberations should conThis I propose to do in the present and clude with an unanimous decision in fa future Letters; and, here, at the outset, Ivour of Reform, should we, in my opinion, think it due to you and to this great cause be too hasty in our expectations. of the country to declare, that I shall, at changes of great national importance reall times, be ready to insert whatever may quire time. That which is done in great be sent to me, in the way of answer to haste, is seldom well done. Improvement what I shall address to you; thus secur- in all things generally proceeds by deing to truth the fairest possible chance of grees; and, though we have here the success, by giving, through the same book of the constitution for our guide,

[ocr errors]

think, it will be very difficult for the friends of corruption to cause their return; but, still they harp upon the dangers of change, though they cannot deny, that the change would be for the better; and still, though we ask only for the restora tion of a part of the well-known and longtried constitution of England, as relating to the House of Commons; still they ac cuse us of a wish to introduce confusior, uproar and bloodshed. But, who ar these accusers? Those who accused Mr.

complete restoration, any more than creation, cannot be expected to be the work of a single effort. When we confront the practice with the theory of our government, which we have, at all times, a right to do, we must, of course, make a lumping appeal from the one to the other; but, when we set about the work of restoration, we must, if we mean to succeed, first remove that which we find to be most injurious and most hostile to the principles of the constitution; and thus pursue our course, till all the essential evils be re-Wardle; those who denounced him to the moved..

A remark or two seems necessary here, in answer to the insinuation, and, indeed the open accusation, against all those, who stand prominently forward in the cause of Reform: it is this, that they wish for confusion; for the annihilation of property; and for uproar and bloodshed.This, Gentlemen, has always been the charge against all those, who have had the courage to take the lead in endeavouring to root out corruption. From the nature of things, it is a charge that must be preferred against such men; because the corrupt will. naturally seek to disarm those who attack them, and, it being impossible (or, at least, it has always appeared so till now) to say that corruption is right, there is no mode of attacking its assailants, other than that of representing them as wishing for confusion and uproar, by which representations, the uninformed are misled and the timid are frighted. By this mode, this nation has long been deceived, and alarmed. Posterity will, I hope, hardly believe; I hope, that our children will hardly credit the true history of the delusions and alarms of the last fifteen years, during several of which the Act of Habeas Corpus, or Personal Safety Act, stood repealed, and any man was liable to be sent to prison, and there to be kept for years, without a trial and without a hearing; nay, many men were so imprisoned. And what was all this for? Why was this suspension of that great law, without which, in fact, the English government is no better than the old government of France? Why, because the nation was "alarmed; because it was persuaded that certain Clubs and Societies would destroy all property, when what those Clubs demanded, though they might do it indiscreetly, was, in truth, no more than what Mr. Pitt and the Duke of Richmond, had themselves demanded, and had represented as necessary to the safety of the nation, many years before. The disgraceful days of alarm are, indeed, now passed; and, I

nation as the tool of a Jacobin Conspiracy; those who have been detected in the mis application of the public money, and in the worst sorts of corruption; these are the persons, who attribute to us a wish to destroy all property, and to introduce uproar and bloodshed. In short, if wa would form a correct opinion of thes efforts to excite new alarm; if we would form a correct opinion of the views of those, who raise these impudent calumnes against our cause, we have only to bear in mind, that JOHN BOWLES was the first who accused Englishmen of Jacobinism; that the REV. DR. O'MEARA, from under the wing of Mrs. Clarke, preached before the king against Democracy; and that the REV. MR. BEAZLEY, who tendered a bribe to the Duke of Portland to make him Dean of Salisbury, wrote a pamphlet upon the approaching dangers of Popery.Spel are the alarmists; and, if you bear this fact in mind, you will have very little difficulty in deciding as to what are now the real grounds of alarm.

Besides, who and what are the persons, who stand most prominently exposed to this accusation? SIR FRANCIS BURDETT, MR. MADOCKS, MR. WARDLE, and LORD COCHRANE. These are the only members of the House of Commons, who, as yet, have taken a decided and active part in the cause. And, are you to be made to believe, that these four gentlemen, or either of them, can wish ill to their country? That they, who have, all of them, such large portions of property, wish to see all property destroyed? Or, are you to be made to believe, that they, who have so much talent; so much knowledge and so much of mind in every other respect, are, upon this subject, fools? The thing is not to be believed by any man in his senses.

With respect to myself, I should certainly not trouble you, were it not my opinion that it may be useful, in this Introductory Address, to give you an instance of the behaviour of my opponent writers.

་་

Some of you will have heard, perhaps, that while I was in America, I wrote several pamphlets, some under a feigned name, and some under no name at all.-From one of these pamphlets, the London ministerial newspapers have extracted these words: "For my part, I am no friend of the English; I "wish their island was sunk to the bottom of "the sea." Having taken this sentence, they tell their readers, that it is quite natural such a person" should wish for a Reform that would lead to revolution.————Gentlemen, I do not recollect any thing so bad as this, ever done, or attempted to be done, by any writer in the world. The pamphlet, from which the extract is made, was written for the purpose, and the sole purpose, of serving my king and country, and that, too, at a time and in a place, when and where no man but myself had the zeal to write a line for such a purpose. In order to give effect to what I was writing, it was necessary for me to say something to disguise the fact, that it proceeded from an Englishman's pen; and, that this was the case, there needs no proof but this, that the government at home caused this pamphlet to be republished in England. Further, for having written this and other pamphlets in America, the government here made me offers of their support, which I never accepted of. Upon my return from America those offers were renewed, but again rejected. I received marks of approbation, for these writings, from all the men then in power. I dined at Mr. Windham's with Pitt, which I then thought a very great honour; and, really, when Mr. Canning looks back to the time, when I dined at his house at Putney, and when he paid me so many just compliments for my exertions in my country's cause, I can hardly think, that he must not view with some degree of shame these attempts on the part of persons, who are publickly said to write under his particular patronage. As to Mr. Windham, he has declared, in open parliament, that, for my writings in America, I deserved a statue of gold. -Judge you, then, of the candour, the truth, the honesty, of the writers, who oppose Parliamentary Reform; and, as yet, I have seen it opposed by no writer, who is not of this description. Judge you of the motives of such men; judge you the nature of that cause, in support of which such means are resorted to; judge you how strong my adversaries must think me in fact, in argument, and in character, when they are driven to the employment of means like these.I have not trou

bled you with this statement by the way of complaint; for, indeed, such things cannot fail to have a good effect, with all sensible men, and to such only do I address myself. myself. The man, who takes upon him to write on politics, necessarily exposes himself to misrepresentations and calumnies of all sorts; especially if his object be to spoil the trade of the corrupt and the venal. It is his inevitable lot; but, he has always this consoling and encouraging reflection; that his adversaries, with a strict regard to the rules of proportion, are sure to adapt the measure of their anger to the magnitude of his success, and of their consequent dread of his future exertions. The greatest compliment that can possibly be paid to any writer, is, to answer his argument by an attack upon his person; and, the next is, that of appealing to his opinions, formerly expressed, especially under a total change of circumstances, whether as to the things themselves or the information relating to them. This last species of attack has been made most liberal use of against me. Just as if opinions formed and expressed, when I was not much more than half as old as I now am, and when I had, in fact, had no experience at all, were to invalidate, or have any weight, against the arguments that I now have to offer. Because I praised Mr. Pitt, when I was in America, or upon my return, does it follow that I was to continue to praise him after being some years a near witness of his conduct, and after having seen it proved, that he lent, without interest, 40,000l. of the public money, to two members of the House of Commons, without any authority for so doing, and even without communicating the fact to his colleagues. When I saw this come to light, and when I saw him take a bill of indemnity, (that is, a law to screen him from punishment) for this, as well as for other acts of his administration: when I saw this, was I still to praise him? Or, if I did it not,, was I to be accused of inconsistency?—This was the drift of MR. POULTER'S personalities at Winchester, and of the hand-bills, which, on that morning had been posted up in the Inns and other places of the city, and all which you treated with that contempt, which they so well merited. of- -Such attempts, when made upon men of sense, always fail of their intended effect, and are sure to recoil, with tenfold force, upon those who make use of them. Any attack upon me, if it come in a creditable shape, I am at all times ready to answer, and am certain that I shall beat my

adversary; but, having thus exposed to your view the means by which the enemies of Parliamentary Reform have hitherto endeavoured to excite a prejudice against one of its principal literary advocates, I shall not, hereafter, suffer the discussion to be encumbered with any thing not immediately belonging to the subject; I shall not suffer myself to be lured from the important points at issue by any thing whatever relating personally to me.

There is one more topic, upon which I think it may be necessary to say a few words in this introductory address, and even before I come to lay down the heads and the order of the discussion. I allude to the cry, with which every attempt to obtain a Reform of the Parliament is, upon all occasions, met by those who have so manifest an interest in preventing such Reform. The cry is this: "What, you "want a REVOLUTION, do you ;" and, then they fall to a description of the horrors of the FRENCH REVOLUTION.

Gentlemen, I do not think that you, or that any part, or any one, of my readers can be so weak as to be swayed by a fallacy so palpable as this; but, it may not, upon this occasion, be amiss to give it an exposure in detail, in order to see whether those, who make use of it, have in them any remains of shame.

There was a revolution in France, which produced great calamities and horrors, and, therefore, we are desired to believe, that all revolutions must produce calamities and horrors; and this doctrine, too, is preached to us from the very same lips whence proceed endless praises of the revolution in England, which placed the House of Brunswick upon the throne.

Supposing, however, all political revolutions to be very mischievous; supposing all changes in the succession to thrones, in the forms of governments, in the distribution of the powers in a nation; supposing all these to be, at all times, mischievous, the supposition, though a very wild one, would not bear against the cause of Reform in Parliament, because we, who wish for that Reform, neither propose, nor wish for, any thing new. We want nothing but the sincere profession and the faithful observance of what is already the constitution of England, as laid down, and clearly laid down, in the books of our laws. To set up against us, therefore, the cry of revolution, can, I am confident, have, with men of sense, no other effect than that of adding one more to the numerous proofs, which we already possess,

[ocr errors]

of the insincerity of the enemies of Re

form.

But, let us patiently, if possible, inquire a little into the grounds of the monstrous supposition, that, because confusion and bloodshed took place in France some years ago, in consequence of the changes there made, the same must take place here if a reform in the House of Commons be adopted.—What similarity, let me first ask, is there in the two cases? In France the government was despotic; any man could, at any time, be sent to prison, and there kept for life, without trial and without hearing; the laws were in fact made by the king's sole will, there were no juries to try causes of any sort; the feudal system was still in such vigour as to make it a crime, in many places, for peo ple to grind their own corn or bake their own bread, being compelled to carry the materials to the mill and to the oven of the Lord of the Manor, paying him a heavy tax for the grinding or the baking. Endless would be the points of contrast; but, for our present purpose, it is quite sufficient to state merely this, that the French had no legislative assembly; no body of persons, who, as to the making of laws, had any share of authority. In France, what was proposed to be effected, was a total change in the very nature of the government; the thing set about was the making of a government of a net sort, and, of course, taking the old one to pieces, from top to bottom. It was not, therefore, very wonderful, that, from the resistance of the feudal Lords as from the crown, great anger should be engendered, and deadly strife arise; and, especially when the numerous noblesse, instead of yielding their oppressive privileges, and endeavouring to assist the people with their advice, flew with eagerness to join an army of foreigners, called by them for the purpose of compelling the people to submit to their authority, and to prevent the redress of what all the world acknowledged to be grievances that no human beings ought to support, and the refusal, the obstinate refusal, to consent to any measure, which should prevent the return of which, was the cause, and the sole cause, of that sway which bloody and impious men afterwards obtained, and by the means of which sway so many foolish and wicked and cruel acts were commit ted. But what has all this, or any part of it, to do with our question of Reform in Parliament? Does that measure contemplate any one of those objects that were in the contemplation of the French? Have

we any feudal Lords to whose mills and ovens we are compelled to carry our corn and our flour? Have we not juries already? Have we not laws (while we keep them unsuspended) which prevent arbitrary imprisonment? And, have we not Houses of Legislators, without whose consent no laws can be passed? Do we, like the French, stand in need of a change in the nature of the government; of the abolition of the old powers and the erection of new ones; and, in short, of a new sort of government, from top to bottom? You know, Gentlemen; all the world must know, that we stand in need of no such thing; and that there is not, in the whole nation, one single man, capable of obtaining half a score of adherents, who entertains so mad a notion. We, as I said before, want nothing new. We have no schemes or projects; all that we want is that share in the government, which the constitution gives us, and of which we think ourselves not at present in possession, owing to the abuses, which have, by degrees, crept into the Representation in Parliament. This is all we want; and, because we want this, we are accused of wishing for Revolution, and our adversaries, the friends of corruption, having neither fact nor argument wherewith to oppose to us, hold out to those whom they think themselves able to deceive and terrify, the "dreadful consequences of the Revolution "in France," than which a more gross at tempt at imposition, surely,never was made. That this attempt will not succeed I am perfectly satisfied. I am convinced, that, sooner or later, and the sooner from the absence of every thing like violence or haste, the measure of Reform will and must be adopted. Nay, the Bill of Mr. Curwen, now before the House of Commons, (and which Bill will, to all appearance, pass in that House) completely recognizes the main principle, upon which we proceed; namely, that Seats in that House ought not to be obtained by corrupt practices, and that votes in it ought not to be paid for, either in money or in money's worth. In the introduction and entertaining of this Bill, the House itself acknowledges, that we have good grounds of complaint on the score of representation; the House itself acknowledges, that, to a certain extent, at least, Parliamentary Reform is necessary; and, therefore, it would be full as just to accuse the House of Revolutionary intentions, as to prefer that accusation against us, who, out of the House, wish for that Reform.

Having endeavoured to place in a clear light the fallacy, not to give it any worse name, of the general objections, or, rather, the out-cries, which have been raised against a Reform in the Representation of the People, in the House of Commons, I propose, in my succeeding letters, to discuss the following questions: I. Whether the present state of the Representation be consonant with that constitution, which has so long been the boast of Englishmen. II. What sort of Reform ought to be made. III. Whether the nation would be benefitted, and, if so, in what way, by such Reform. IV. Whether the present be a proper time for making such Reform.

These, gentlemen, it appears to me, are the only questions that we have to discuss and to decide upon; and, if we discuss and decide upon them without passion, I have no hesitation to say, that your decision will be the decision of the nation, and that, at no distant day, if your acts correspond with your opinions, if you steadily and ardently, but, above all things, steadily, persevere, in your constitutional efforts to obtain your object, that object will be obtained. I am, Your friend,

WM. COBBETT.

Botley, 16th May, 1809.

WILTSHIRE MEETING.

I am sorry, that it is out of my power to give a full account of this Meeting, which was held at the city of SALISBURY, on the 17th instant, and at which a Resolution was passed, in substance, as to most parts, like that passed in Hampshire, but, substituting for the interesting declaration of Mr. CREEVEY, the still more interesting and more authentic record of the motion of Mr. MADOCKS, and the decision of the House thereon. For this Resolution I have not, in the present number, room to insert. It will, of course, have its place with those passed in other counties.The Meeting was very numerous and respectable, there being certainly above 1,500 persons present.- -The 1st Resolution was moved by MR. HUNT of Enford, at the close of a very able, an argumentative and an eloquent speech. It was seconded by MR. COLLINS, one of the corporation of Salisbury, in a manner to be naturally expected from a gentleman, who, I understand, has long been universally looked up to for talent, as well as for public spirit. A second Resolution, passing censure upon the two county members, was moved by Mr. BLEEKE of Warminster, who, in this

« PreviousContinue »