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derness. “These excesses," he said, “ are the mere eruptions of liberty, which break out upon the skin, and are a sign, if not of perfect health, at least of a vigorous constitution, and must not be repelled too suddenly, lest they should strike to the heart."
He then passed to the case of Mr. Wilkes, and the prevailing discontent throughout the kingdom, in consequence of his expulsion from the House of Commons. The privileges of the House of Peers, he said, however transcendent, stood on the same broad bottom as the rights of the people. It was, therefore, their highest interest, as well as their duty, to watch over and protect the people; for when the people had lost their rights, the peerage would soon become insignificant. He referred, as an illustration, to the case of Spain, where the grandees, from neglecting and slighting the rights of the people, had been enslaved themselves. He concluded with the following remarkable passage: "My Lords, let this example be a lesson to us all. Let us be cautious bow we admit an idea, that our rights stand on a footing different from those of the people. Let as be cautious how we invade the liberties of our fellow-subjects, however mean, however remote. For be assured, my Lords, in whatever part of the empire you suffer slavery to be established, whether it be in America, or in Ireland, or here at home, you will find it a disease which spreads by contact, and soon reaches from the extremities to the heart. The man wbo has lost his own freedom, becomes, from that moment, an instrument in the hands of an ambitious prince to destroy the freedom of others. These reflections, my Lords, are but too applicable to our present situation. The liberty of the subject is invaded, not only in the provinces, but here at home! The English people are loud in their complaints; they demand redress; and, depend upon it, my Lords, that, one way or another, they will have redress. They will never return to a state of tranquillity till they are redressed. Nor ought they. For in my judgment, my Lords, and I speak it boldly, it were better for them to perish in a glorious contention for their rights, than to purchase a slavish tranquillity at the expense of a single iota of the Constitution. Let me entreat your Lordships, then, by all the duties which you owe to your sovereign, to the country, and to yourselves, to perform the office to which you are called by the Constitution, by informing his Maj. esty truly of the condition of his subjects, and the real cause of their dissatisfaction."
With this view, Lord Chatham concladed his speech by moving an amendment to the address, " That we will, with all convenient speed, take into our most serious consideration the causes of the discontents which prevail in so many parts of your Majesty's dominions, and particularly the late proceedings of the House of Commons touching the incapacity of John Wilkes, Esq., expelled by that House, to be re-elected a member to serve in the present Parliament, thereby refusing, by a resolution of one branch of the Leg. islature only, to the subject his common right, and depriving the electors of Middlesex of their free choice of a representative."
This amendment was powerfully resisted by Lord Mansfield. Nothing remains, however, of his speech, except a meager account of the general course of his argument. He contended " that the amendment violated every form and usage of Parliament, and was a gross attack on the privileges of the House of Commons. That there never was an instance of the Lords inquiring into the proceedings of that House with respect to their own members, much less of their taking upon themselves to censure such proceedings, or of their advising the Crown to take notice of them. 'If, indeed, it be the purpose of the amendment to provoke a quarrel with the House of Commons, I confess,' said his Lordship,' it will have that effect certainly and immediately. The Lower House will andoubtedly assert their privileges, and give you vote for vote. I leave it, therefore, to your Lordships, to consider the fatal effects which, in such a conjuncture as the present, may arise from an open breach between the two houses of Parliament." Lord Chatham immediately arose and delivered the following speech in reply.
SPEECH, &c. My LORDS,—There is one plain maxim, to so small a number of men, were sufficient to diwhich I have invariably adhered through life : rect our judgment and our conduct. But Provthat in every question in which my liberty or my idence has taken better care of our happiness, property were concerned, I should consult and and given us, in the simplicity of common sense, be determined by the dictates of common sense. a rule for our direction, by which we can never I confess, my Lords, that I am apt to distrust be misled. I confess, my Lords, I had no other the refinements of learning, because I have seen guide in drawing up the amendment which I the ablest and the most learned men equally lia- submitted to your consideration; and, before I ble to deceive themselves and to mislead others. heard the opinion of the noble Lord who spoke The condition of human nature would be lam- last, I did not conceive that it was even within entable indeed, if nothing less than the greatest the limits of possibility for the greatest human learning and talents, which fall to the share of genius, the most subtle understanding, or the · This is the best reported and most eloquent meaning, and to give it an interpretation so en
acutest wit, so strangely to misrepresent my speech of Lord Chatham, except that of November 18th, 1777. It was published at the time from man- tirely foreign from what I intended to express, uscript notes taken by an unknown individual, who and from that sense which the very terms of the is now ascertained with almost absolute certainty amendment plainly and distinctly carry with to have been the celebrated Sir Philip Francis, con- them. If there be the smallest foundation for sidered by so many as the author of Junius's Letters. the censure thrown upon me by that noble Lord: if, either expressly, or by the most distant im- | ing in that Parliament? And is it not their res. plication, I have said or insinuated any part of olution alone which refuses to the subject his what the noble Lord has charged me with, dis- common right? The amendment says farther, card my opinions forever, discard the motion that the electors of Middlesex are deprived of with contempt.
their free choice of a representative. Is this a My Lords, I must beg the indulgence of the false fact, my Lords? Or have I given an unHoase. Neither will my health permit me, nor fair representation of it? Will any man predo I pretend to be qualified to follow that learn- sume to affirm that Colonel Luttrell is the free ed Lord minutely through the whole of his argu- choice of the electors of Middlesex ? We all ment. No man is better acquainted with his know the contrary. We all know that Mr. abilities and learning, nor has a greater respect Wilkes (whom I mention without either praise for them than I have. I have had the pleasure or censure) was the favorite of the county, and of sitting with him in the other House, and al. chosen by a very great and acknowledged maways listened to him with attention. I have not jority to represent them in Parliament. If the now lost a word of what he said, nor did I ever. noble Lord dislikes the manner in which these Upon the present question I meet him without facts are stated, I shall think myself happy in fear. The evidence which truth carries with it being advised by him how to alter it. I am very is superior to all argument; it neither wants the little anxious about terms, provided the subsupport, nor dreads the opposition of the great stance be preserved ; and these are facts, my est abilities. If there be a single word in the Lords, which I am sure will always retain their amendment to justify the interpretation which weight and importance, in whatever form of lanthe noble Lord has been pleased to give it, I am guage they are described. ready to renounce the whole. Let it be read, Now, my Lords, since I have been forced to my Lords ; let it speak for itself. [It was read.] enter into the explanation of an amendment, in In what instance does it interfere with the priv- which nothing less than the genius of penetraileges of the House of Commons ? In what re- tion could have discovered an obscurity, and havspect does it question their jurisdiction, or sup- ing, as I hope, redeemed myself in the opinion pose an authority in this House to arraign the of the House, having redeemed my motion from justice of their sentence? I am sure that every the severe representation given of it by the noble Lord who hears me will bear me witness, that Lord, I must a little longer entreat your LordI said not one word touching the merits of the ships' indulgence. The Constitution of this counMiddlesex election. So far from conveying any try has been openly invaded in fact; and I have opinion upon that matter in the amendment, I heard, with horror and astonishment, that very did not even in discourse deliver my own senti-invasion defended upon principle. What is this ments upon it. I did not say that the House of mysterious power, undefined by law, unknown Commons had done either right or wrong; but, to the subject, which we must not approach when his Majesty was pleased to recommend it without awe, nor speak of without reverenceto us to cultivate unanimity among ourselves, I which no man may question, and to which all thought it the duty of this House, as the great men must submit? My Lords, I thought the hereditary council of the Crown, to state to his slavish doctrine of passive obedience had long Majesty the distracted condition of his dominions, since been exploded ; and, when our Kings were together with the events which had destroyed obliged to confess that their title to the Crown, unanimity among his subjects. But, my Lords, and the rule of their government, had no other I stated events merely as facts, without the foundation than the known laws of the land, I smallest addition either of censure or of opinion. never expected to hear a divine right, or a diThey are facts, my Lords, which I am not only vine infallibility, attributed to any other branch convinced are true, but which I know are indis- of the Legislature. My Lords, I beg to be unputably true. For example, my Lords : will any derstood. No man respects the House of Comman deny that discontents prevail in many paris mons more than I do, or would contend more of bis Majesty's dominions? or that those dis- strenuously than I would to preserve to them contents arise from the proceedings of the House their just and legal authority. Within the bounds of Commons touching the declared incapacity of prescribed by the Constitution, that authority is Mr. Wilkes? It is impossible. No man can necessary to the well-being of the people. Bedeny a truth so notorious. Or will any man yond that line, every exertion of power is arbideny that those proceedings refused, by a reso- trary, is illegal; it threatens tyranny to the peolution of one branch of the Legislature only, to ple, and destruction to the state. Power withthe subject his common right ? Is it not indis- out right is the most odious and detestable object putably true, my Lords, that Mr. Wilkes had a that can be offered to the human imagination. common right, and that he lost it no other way It is not only pernicious to those who are subbut by a resolution of the House of Commons ?ject to it, but tends to its own destruction. It My Lords, I have been tender of misrepresent- is what my noble friend (Lord Lyttleton) has ing the House of Commons. I have consulted truly described it, “Res detestabilis et caduca."** their journals, and have taken the very words of My Lords, I acknowledge the just power, and their own resolution. Do they not tell us in so reverence the constitution of the House of Com. many words, that Mr. Wilkes having been expelled, was thereby rendered incapable of serv- ? A thing hateful, and destined to destruction,
mons. It is for their own sakes that I would | Parliament. We have a code in which every honprevent their assuming a power which the Con- est man may find it. We have Magna Charta. stitution has denied them, lest, by grasping at We have the Statute Book, and the Bill of Rights. an authority they have no right to, they should If a case should arise unknown to these great forfeit that which they legally possess. My authorities, we have still that plain English reaLords, I affirm that they have betrayed their son left, which is the foundation of all our Enconstituents, and violated the Constitution. Un- glish jurisprudence. That reason tells us, that der pretense of declaring the law, they have every judicial court, and every political society, made a law, and united in the same persons the must be vested with those powers and privileges office of legislator and of judge!
which are necessary for performing the office to I shall endeavor to adhere strictly to the no- which they are appointed. It tells us, also, that ble Lord's doctrine, which is, indeed, impossible no court of justice can have a power inconsistent to mistake, so far as my memory will permit me with, or paramount to the known laws of the to preserve his expressions. He seems fond of land; that the people, when they choose their the word jurisdiction; and I confess, with the representatives, never mean to convey to them force and effect which he has given it, it is a a power of invading the rights, or trampling on word of copious meaning and wonderful extent. the liberties of those whom they represent. If his Lordship's doctrine be well founded, we What security would they have for their rights, must renounce all those political maxims by if once they admitted that a court of judicature which our understandings have hitherto been might determine every question that came bedirected, and even the first elements of learning fore it, not by any known positive law, but by taught in our schools when we were schoolboys. the vague, indeterminate, arbitrary rule of what My Lords, we knew that jurisdiction was noth- the noble Lord is pleased to call the wisdom of ing more than "jus dicere." We knew that “ le- the court ? With respect to the decision of the gem facere" and "legem dicere" [to make law courts of justice, I am far from denying them and to declare it) were powers clearly distin- their due weight and authority; yet, placing them guished from each other in the nature of things, in the most respectable view, still consider and wisely separated by the wisdom of the En-them, not as law, but as an evidence of the law. glish Constitution. But now, it seems, we must And before they can arrive even at that degree adopt a new system of thinking! The House of authority, it must appear that they are foundof Commons, we are told, have a supreme juris- ed in and confirmed by reason; that they are diction, and there is no appeal from their sen- supported by precedents taken from good and tence; and that wherever they are competent moderate times; that they do not contradict any judges, their decision must be received and sub-positive law; that they are submitted to withmitted to, as ipso facto, the law of the land. My out reluctance by the people; that they are unLords, I am a plain man, and have been brought questioned by the Legislature (which is equivaup in a religious reverence for the original sim- lent to a tacit confirmation); and what, in my plicity of the laws of England. By what soph-judgment, is by far the most important, that they istry they have been perverted, by what artifices do not violate the spirit of the Constitution. My they have been involved in obscurity, is not for Lords, this is not a vague or loose expression. me to explain. The principles, however, of the We all know what the Constitution is. We all English laws are still sufficiently clear; they know that the first principle of it is, that the are founded in reason, and are the masterpiece subject shall not be governed by the arbitrium of the human understanding; but it is in the text of any one man or body of men (less than the that I would look for a direction to my judgment, whole Legislature), but by certain laws, to which not in the commentaries of modern professors. he has virtually given his consent, which are The noble Lord assures us that he knows not in open to him to examine, and not beyond his abilwhat code the law of Parliament is to be found ; ity to understand. Now, my Lords, I affirm, and that the House of Commons, when they act as am ready to maintain, that the late decision of judges, have no law to direct them but their own the House of Commons upon the Middlesex elecwisdom; that their decision is law; and if they tion is destitute of every one of those properties determine wrong, the subject has no appeal but and conditions which I hold to be essential to to Heaven. What then, my Lords ? Are all the legality of such a decision. (1.) It is not the generous efforts of our ancestors, are all founded in reason; for it carries with it a conthose glorious contentions, by which they meant tradiction, that the representative should perto secure to themselves, and to transmit to their form the office of the constituent body.
(2.) It posterity, a known law, a certain rule of living, is not supported by a single precedent; for the reduced to this conclusion, that instead of the case of Sir Robert Walpole is but a half precearbitrary power of a King, we must submit to dent, and even that hall is imperfect. Incapacthe arbitrary power of a House of Commons ? ity was indeed declared, but his crimes are stated If this be true, what benefit do we derive from as the ground of the resolution, and his opponent the exchange? Tyranny, my Lords, is detest was declared to be not duly elected, even after able in every shape, but in none so formidable as his incapacity was established. (3.) It contra. when it is assumed and exercised by a number dicts Magna Charta and the Bill of Rights, by of tyrants. But, my Lords, this is not the fact ; which it is provided, that no subject shall be dethis is not the Constitution. We have a law of prived of his freehold, unless by the judgment of his peers, or the law of the land ; and that elec- give us for attempting to save the state. My tions of members to serve in Parliament shall be Lords, I am sensible of the importance and diffifree. (4.) So far is this decision from being culty of this great crisis : at a moment such as submitted to by the people, that they have taken this, we are called upon to do our duty, without the strongest measures, and adopted the most dreading the resentment of any man. But if appositive language, to express their discontent. prehensions of this kind are to affect us, let us Whether it will be questioned by the Legisla- consider which we ought to respect most, the ture, will depend upon your Lordships' resolu- representative or the collective body of the peotion ;
but that it violates the spirit of the Con-ple. My Lords, five hundred gentlemen are not stitution, will, I think, be disputed by no man ten millions; and if we must have a contention, who has heard this day's debate, and who wishes let us take care to have the English nation on well to the freedom of his country. Yet, if we our side. If this question be given up, the freeare to believe the noble Lord, this great griev- holders of England are reduced to a condition ance, this manifest violation of the first princi- baser than the peasantry of Poland. If they deples of the Constitution, will not admit of a rem- sert their own cause, they deserve to be slaves ! edy. It is not even capable of redress, unless My Lords, this is not merely the cold opinion of we appeal at once to Heaven! My Lords, I my understanding, but the glowing expression have better hopes of the Constitution, and a of what I feel. It is my heart that speaks. I firmer confidence in the wisdom and constitu- know I speak warmly, my Lords ; but this tional authority of this House. It is to your an- warmth shall neither betray my argument nor cestors, my Lords, it is to the English barons, my temper. The kingdom is in a flame. As that we are indebted for the laws and Constitu- mediators between the King and people, it is our tion we possess. Their virtues were rude and duty to represent to him the true condition and uncultivated, but they were great and sincere. temper of his subjects. It is a duty which no Their understandings were as little polished as particular respects should hinder us from pertheir manners, but they had hearts to distinguish forming; and whenever his Majesty shall deright from wrong; they had heads to distinguish mand our advice, it will then be our duty to intruth from falsehood; they understood the rights quire more minutely into the causes of the presof humanity, and they had spirit to maintain them. ent discontents. Whenever that inquiry shall
My Lords, I think that history has not done come on, I pledge myself to the House to prove justice to their conduct, when they obtained from that, since the first institution of the House of their sovereign that great acknowledgment of na- Commons, not a single precedent can be protional rights contained in Magna Charta : they duced to justify their late proceedings. My nodid not confine it to themselves alone, but deliv- ble and learned friend (the Lord Chancellor ered it as a common blessing to the whole people. Camden) has pledged himself to the House that They did not say, these are the rights of the he will support that assertion. great barons, or these are the rights of the great My Lords, the character and circumstances prelates. No, my Lords, they said, in the simple of Mr. Wilkes have been very improperly introLatin of the times, “nullus liber homo” (no free duced into this question, not only here, but in man), and provided as carefully for the meanest that court of judicature where his cause was subject as for the greatest. These are uncouth tried—I mean the House of Commons. With words, and sound but poorly in the ears of schol- one party he was a patriot of the first magniars; neither are they addressed to the criticism tude; with the other, the vilest incendiary. For of scholars, but to the hearts of free men. These my own part, I consider him merely and indifthree words, “ nullus liber homo," have a mean- ferently as an English subject, possessed of cer. ing which interests us all. They deserve to be tain rights which the laws have given him, and remembered—they deserve to be inculcated in which the laws alone can take from him. I am our minds—they are worth all the classics. Let neither moved by his private vices nor by his us not, then, degenerate from the glorious exam public merits. In his person, though he were ple of our ancestors. Those iron barons (for so the worst of men, I contend for the safety and seI may call them when compared with the silken curity of the best. God forbid, my Lords, that barons of modern days) were the guardians of there should be a power in this country of meas. the people; yet their virtues, my Lords, were uring the civil rights of the subject by his moral never engaged in a question of such importance character, or by any other rule but the fixed as the present. A breach has been made in the laws of the land! I believe, my Lords, I shall Constitution--the battlements are dismantled — not be suspected of any personal partiality to the citadel is open to the first invader—the walls this unhappy man. I am not very conversant totter—the Constitution is not tenable. What in pamphlets or newspapers ; but, from what I remains, then, but for us to stand foremost in the have heard, and from the little I have read, I breach, and repair it, or perish in it?
may venture to affirm, that I have had my share Great pains have been taken to alarm us with in the compliments which have come from that the consequences of a difference between the quarter.3 As for motives of ambition (for I must two houses of Parliament; that the House of Commons will resent our presuming to take no- 3 Lord Chatham here refers, among others, to Jutice of their proceedings; that they will resent nius, who had attacked him about a year before in our daring to advise the Crown, and never for his first letter. At a later period Jupias changed take to myself a part of the noble Duke's insin- I beg pardon, by his ninisters—but I have sufaation), I believe, my Lords, there have been fered myself to be so too long. For some time times in which I have had the honor of standing I have beheld with silent indignation the arbiin such favor in the closet, that there must have trary measures of the minister. I have often been something extravagantly unreasonable in drooped and hung down my head in council, and my wishes if they might not all have been grat- disapproved by my looks those steps which I ified. After neglecting those opportunities, I am knew my avowed opposition could not prevent. now suspected of coming forward, in the decline I will do so no longer, but openly and boldly of life, in the anxious pursuit of wealth and pow. speak my sentiments. I now proclaim to the er which it is impossible for me to enjoy. Be it world that I entirely coincide in the opinion exso! There is one ambition, at least, which I ever pressed by my noble friend—whose presence will acknowledge, which I will not renounce but again reanimates us—respecting this unconstiwith my life. It is the ambition of delivering to tutional vote of the House of Commons. If, in my posterity those rights of freedom which I giving my opinion as a judge, I were to pay any have received from my ancestors. I am not now respect to that vote, I should look upon myself pleading the cause of an individual, but of every as a traitor to my trust, and an enemy to my freeholder in England. In what manner this country. By their violent and tyrannical conHouse may constitutionally interpose in their de- duct, ministers have alienated the minds of the fense, and what kind of redress this case will re- people from his Majesty's government—I had quire and admit of, is not at present the subject almost said from his Majesty's person-insoof our consideration. The amendment, if agreed much, that if some measures are not devised to to, will naturally lead us to such an inquiry. appease the clamors so universally prevalent, I That inquiry may, perhaps, point out the neces- know not, my Lords, whether the people, in desity of an act of the Legislature, or it may lead spair, may not become their own avengers, and us, perhaps, to desire a conference with the other take the redress of grievances into their own House ; which one noble Lord affirms is the only hands.” After such a speech, Lord Camden parliamentary way of proceeding, and which an- could not, of course, expect to hold office. He other noble Lord assures us the House of Com- was instantly dismissed. It was a moment of mons would either not come to, or would break extreme excitement. Lord Shelburne went so off with indignation. Leaving their Lordships far as to say in the House, “ After the dismisto reconcile that matter between themselves, I sion of the present worthy Lord Chancellor, the shall only say, that before we have inquired, we seals will go begging; but I hope there will not can not be provided with materials ; consequent be found in this kingdom a wretch so base and ly, we are not at present prepared for a confer- mean-spirited as to accept them on the condience.
tions on which they must be offered." This It is not impossible, my Lords, that the in- speech of Lord Chaiham decided the fate of the quiry I speak of may lead us to advise his Maj. Duke of Graston. The moment a leader was esty to dissolve the present Parliament; nor have found to unite the different sections of the OppoI any doubt of our right to give that advice, il sition, the attack was too severe for him to rewe should think it necessary. His Majesty will sist. The next speech will show the manner in then determine whether he will yield to the unit- which he was driven from power. ed petitions of the people of England, or main- Lord Mansfield had a difficult part to act on tain the House of Commons in the exercise of a this occasion. He could not but have known legislative power, which heretofore abolished the that the expulsion of Wilkes was illegal; and House of Lords, and overturned the monarchy. this is obvious from the fact that he did not atI willingly acquit the present House of Com- tempt to defend it. He declared that, on this mons of having actually formed so detestable a point," he had never given his opinion, he would design; but they can not themselves foresee to not now give it, and he did not know but he what excesses they may be carried hereafter; might carry it to the grave with him.” All he and, for my own part, I should be sorry to trust contended was, that "if the Commons had passto their future moderation. Unlimited power is ed an unjustifiable vote, it was a matter between apt to corrupt the minds of those who possess it; God and their own consciences, and that nobody and this I know, my Lords, that where law ends, else had any thing to do with it.” Lord Chattyranny begins !
ham rose a second time, and replied, " It plain
ly appears, from what the noble Lord has said, Lord Chatham's motion was rejected; but he that he concurs in sentiment with the Opposiwas sustained in his views by Lord Camden, tion; for, if he had concurred with the ministry, who was still Lord Chancellor, and of course a he would no doubt have avowed his opinionleading member of the Grafton ministry. He that it now equally behooves him to avow it in came down from the woolsack, and broke forth behalf of the people. He ought to do so as an in the following indignant terms: “I accepted honest man, an independent man, as a man of the great seal without conditions; I meant not, been more fully known, that the King dictated the therefore, to be trammeled by his Majesty -I
measures against Wilkes. He entered with all the his ground, and published his celebrated eulogium feelings of a personal enemy into the plan of expel. on Lord Chatham.
ling him from the House, and was at last beaten by * This hasty expression shows, what has since the determination of his own subjects.