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The cause of

suffered by the remedies

of the soundness or sincerity of their designs ? | the situation of the other members, and the acThe local character of Manchester, the local tion of the Constitution itself. character of Birmingham, was not pledged to any I have, on former occasions, stated here, and of the proceedings to which their names were I have stated elsewhere, questions on this subappended. A certain number of ambulatory ject, to which, as yet, I have never received an tribunes of the people, self-elected to that high answer. “You who propose to reform the House function, assumed the name and authority of of Commons, do you mean to restore that branch whatever place they thought proper select for of the Legislature to the same state in which it a place of meeting; the rostrum was pitched, stood at some former period ? or do you mean to sometimes here, sometimes there, according to reconstruct it on new principles ?” the fancy of the mob or the patience of the mag- Perhaps a moderate Reformer or Whig will anistrates; but the proposition and the proposer swer, that he means only to restore the House of were in all places nearly alike; and when, by a Commons to what it was at some former period. sort of political ventriloquism, the same voice had I then beg to ask him—and to that question, also, been made to issue from half a dozen different I have never yet received an answer—"At what corners of the country, it was impudently as- period of our history was the House of Commons sumed to be a concord of sweet sounds, compos- in the state to which you wish to restore it ?” ing the united voice of the people of England !

The House of Commons must, for the purpose Now, gentlemen, let us estimate the mighty of clear argument, be considered in The Commons

mischief that has been done to liberty two views. First, with respect to its nepermart liberty has not by putting down meetings such as I agency as a third part in the Consti- at present.

have described. Let us ask what tution ; secondly, with respect to its composition, adopted lawful authority has been curtailed; in relation to its constituents.

As to its agency let us ask what respectable community has been as a part of the Constitution, I venture to say, defrauded of its franchise ; let us ask what mu- without hazárd, as I believe, of contradiction, that nicipal institutions have been violated by a law there is no period in the history of this country which fixes the migratory complaint to the spot in which the House of Commons will be found to whence it professes to originate, and desires to have occupied so large a share of the functions hear of the grievance from those by whom that of government as at present. Whatever else may grievance is felt—which leaves to Manchester, be said of the House of Commons, this one point, as Manchester, to Birmingham, as Birmingham, at least, is indisputable, that from the earliest into London, as London, all the free scope of ut- fancy of the Constitution, the power of the House terance which they have at any time enjoyed for of Commons has been growing, till it has almost, making known their wants, their feelings, their like the rod of Aaron, absorbed its fellows. I wishes, their remonstrances; which leaves to am not saying whether this is or is not as it ought each of these divisions its separate authority—to to be. I am merely saying why I think that it the union of all, or of many of them, the aggre- can not be intended to complain of the want of gate authority of such a consent and co-opera- power, and of a due share in the government, as tion; but which denies to any itinerant hawker the defect of the modern House of Commons. of grievances the power of stamping their names I admit, however, very willingly, that the upon his wares; of pretending, because he may greater share of power the House of Commons raise an outcry at Manchester or at Birmingham, exercises, the more jealous we ought to be of its that he therefore speaks the sense of the town composition ; and I presume, therefore, that it is which he disquiets and endangers; or, still more in this respect, and in relation to its constituents, preposterously, that because he has disquieted that the state of that House is contended to want and endangered half a dozen neighborhoods in revision. Well, then, at what period of our histheir turn, he is, therefore, the organ of them all, tory was the composition of the history of the and through them, of the whole British people. House of Commons materially different from

Such are the stupid fallacies which the law of what it is at present ? Is there any period of the last session has extinguished ! and such are our history in which the rights of election were the object and effect of the measures which Brit- not as various, in which the influence of properish liberty is not to survive !

ty was not as direct, in which recommendations To remedy the dreadful wound thus inflicted of candidates were not as efficient, and some borParliamentary upon British liberty—to restore to the oughs as close as they are now? I ask for in

people what the people have not lost formation ; but that information, plain and simple -to give a new impulse to that spirit of freedom as it is, and necessary, one should think, to a clear which nothing has been done to embarrass or re- understanding, much more to a grave decision of strain, we are invited to alter the constitution of the point at issue, I never, though soliciting it that assembly through which the people share in with all humility, have ever yet been able to obthe Legislature; in short, to make a radical re- tain from any reformer, Radical or Whig. form in the House of Commons.

The Radical reformer, indeed, to do him jus. It has always struck me as extraordinary that tice, is not bound to furnish me with an The objects of

there should be persons prepared to en- answer to this question, because with the Radical remeant by it? tertain the question of a change in so his view of the matter, precedents sistent with important a member of the Constitution, without (except one, which I shall mention considering in what way that change must affect presently) have nothing to do. The Radical re


What is


fore us.

former would, probably, give to my first question / pretension could the House of Lords be mainan answer very different from that which I have tained in equal authority and jurisdiction with supposed his moderate brother to give. He will the House of Commons, when once that House tell me fairly, that he means not simply to bring of Commons should become a direct deputation, the House of Commons back, either to the share speaking the people's will, and that will the rule of power which it formerly enjoyed, or to the of the government? In one way or other the modes of election by which it was formerly cho- House of Lords must act, if it be to remain a sen; but to make it what, according to him, it concurrent branch of the Legislature. Either it ought to be — a direct, effectual representative must uniformly affirm the measures which come of the people ; representing them not as a dele- from the House of Commons, or it must oecagate commissioned to take care of their interests, sionally take the liberty to reject them. If it but as a deputy appointed to speak their will. uniformly affirm, it is without the shadow of auNow to this view of the matter I have no other thority. But to presume to reject an act of the objection than this : that the British Constitution deputies of the whole nation !-by what assumpis a limited monarchy; that a limited monarchy tion of right could three or four hundred great is, in the nature of things, a mixed government; proprietors set themselves against the national but that such a House of Commons as the Radi- will? Grant the reformers, then, what they ask, cal reformer requires would, in effect, constitute on the principles on which they ask it, and it is a pure democracy—a power, as it appears to me, utterly impossible that, after such a reform, the inconsistent with any monarchy, and unsuscepti-Constitution should long consist of more than one ble of any limitation.

body, and that one body a popular assembly. I may have great respect for the person who Why, gentlemen, is this theory? or is it a theThe question theoretically prefers a republic to a ory of mine? If there be, among those Proof iros not the one be. monarchy. But even supposing me who hear me, any man who has been past biscors.

to agree with him in his preference, (as in the generous enthusiasm of youth any man I should have a preliminary question to discuss, may blamelessly have been) bitten by the docby which he, perhaps, may not feel himself em- trines of reform, I implore him, before he goes barrassed; which is this, whether 1, born as I am forward in his progress to embrace those doo (and as I think it is my good fortune to be) under trines in their radical extent, to turn to the his. a monarchy, am quite at liberty to consider my- tory of the transactions in this country in the year self as having a clear stage for political experi- 1648, and to examine the bearings of those transments; whether I should be authorized, if I were actions on this very question of radical reform. convinced of the expediency of such a change, to He will find, gentlemen, that the House of Conwithdraw monarchy altogether from the British mons of that day passed the following resoluConstitution, and to substitute an unqualified tion: democracy in its stead; or whether, whatever "Resolved, That the people are, under God, the changes I may be desirous of introducing, I am original of all just power." not bound to consider the Constitution which I Well! can any sentiment be more just and find as at least circumscribing the range, and in reasonable? Is it not the foundation of all the some measure prescribing the nature of the im- liberties of mankind ? Be it so. Let us proprovement.

ceed. The House of Commons followed up this For my own part, I am undoubtedly prepared resolution by a second, which runs in something But the direct to uphold the ancient monarchy of the like these terms : present scheme country, by arguments drawn from Resolved, That the Commons of England, is to destroy what I think the blessings which we assembled in Parliament, being chosen by and

have enjoyed under it; and by argu- representing the people, have the supreme auments of another sort, if arguments of another thority of this nation." sort shall ever be brought against it. But all In this resolution the leap is taken. Do the that I am now contending for is, that whatever Radical reformers deny the premises or the infer. reformation is proposed, should be considered ence? or do they adopt the whole of the tempewith some reference to the established Constitu- ing precedent before them? tion of the country. That point being conceded But the inference did not stop there. The to me, I have no difficulty in saying, that I can House of Commons proceeded to deduce from not conceive a Constitution of which one third these propositions an inference, the apparently part shall be an assembly delegated by the peo- logical dependence of which upon these proposiple—not to consult for the good of the nation, tions I wish I could see logically disproved. but to speak, day by day, the people's will-- " Resolved (without one dissenting voice), That which must not, in a few days' sitting, sweep whatsoever is enacted and declared law by the away every other branch of the Constitution that Commons of England, assembled in Parliament, might attempt to oppose or control it. I can not hath the force of law, and all the people of this conceive how, in fair reasoning, any other branch nation are included thereby, although the consent of the Constitution should pretend to stand against and concurrence of the King and House of Peers it. If government be a matter of will, all that be not had thereunto." we have to do is to collect the will of the nation, . It is hardly necessary to remind the reader, that and, having collected it by an adequate organ, Mr.Canning here goes back to the days of Cromwell that will is paramount and supreme. By what and the deposition of Charles I.

the monarchy.

ent scheme.

It endangers

of England.


which it is made.

Such was the theory: the practical inferences | chisement of Grampound is to be the beginning were not tardy in their arrival after the theory of a system of reform: while they know, But not on In a few weeks the House of Peers was voted and I hope mean as well as I do, not the principle useless. We all know what became of the to reform (in the sense of change) but the repreCrown.

to preserve the Constitution. I would sentation Such, I say, were the radical doctrines of not delude the reformers, if I could; and it is Such the result 1648, and such the consequences to quite useless to attempt a delusion upon perof radical reforın which they naturally led. If we sons quite as sagacious in their generation as are induced to admit the same premises now, any moderate reformers or anti-reformers of us who is it, I should be glad to know, that is to all. They know full well that the Whigs have guarantee us against similar conclusions ? no more notion than I have of parting with the

These, then, are the reasons why I look with close boroughs. Not they, indeed! A large, And this the

jealousy at schemes of parliamentary and perhaps the larger, part of them are in their only consist reform. I look at them with still more hands. Why, in the assembly to which you send

jealousy, because, in one of the two me, gentlemen, some of those who sit on the classes of men who co-operate in support of that same side with me represent, to be sure, less question, I never yet found any two individuals popular places than Liverpool--but on the bench who held the same doctrines : I never yet heard immediately over against me, I descry, among any intelligible theory of reform, except that of the most eminent of our rivals for power, scarce the Radical reformers. Theirs, indeed, it is easy any other sort of representatives than members enough to understand. But as for theirs, I cer for close, or, if you will, for rotten boroughs. To tainly am not yet fully prepared. I, for my part, suppose, therefore, that our political opponents will not consent to take one step, without know- have any thoughts of getting rid of the close ing on what principle I am invited to take it, boroughs, would be a gross delusion; and, I have and (which is, perhaps, of more consequence) no doubt, they will be quite as fair and open without declaring on what principle, I will not with the reformers on this point as I am. consent that any step, however harmless, shall And why, gentlemen, is it that I am satisfied be taken.

with a system which, it is said, no man What more harmless than to disfranchise a can support who is not in love with the monarchy No change to be corrupt borough in Cornwall, which corruption? Is it that I, more than attempted with has exercised its franchise amiss, any other man, am afraid to face a popular elecprinciple on and brought shame on itself, and on tion? To the last question you can give the

the system of which it is a part ? answer. To the former I will answer for myNothing. I have no sort of objection to doing, self. I do verily believe, as I have already said, as Parliament has often done in such cases (sup- that a complete and perfect democratical repreposing always the case to be proved), to disfran- sentation, such as the reformers aim at, can not chising the borough, and rendering it incapable exist as part of a mixed government. of abusing its franchise in future. But though exist, and, for aught I know or care, may exist I have no objection to doing this, I will not do it beneficially as a whole. But I am not sent to on the principle of speculative improvement. I Parliament to inquire into the question whether do it on the principle of specific punishment for a democracy or a monarchy be the best. My an offense. And I will take good care that no lot is cast under the British monarchy. Under inference shall be drawn from my consent in this that I have lived—under that I have seen my specific case, as to any sweeping concurrence in country flourish-—under that I have seen it enjoy a scheme of general alteration.

as great a share of prosperity, of happiness, and Nay, I should think it highly disingenuous to of glory, as I believe any modification of human Boroughs suffer the Radical resormers to imagine society to be capable of bestowing ; and I am Franchised for that they had gained a single step to. not prepared to sacrifice or to hazard the fruit

ward the admission of their theory, by of centuries of experience, of centuries of strug. any such instance of particular animadversion on gles, and of more than one century of liberty, as proved misconduct. I consent to such disfran- perfect as ever blessed any country upon the chisement; but I do so, not with a view of fur- earth, for visionary schemes of ideal perfectibilithering the Radical system-rather of thwarting ty, or for doubtful experiments even of possible it. I am willing to wipe out any blot on the improvement. present system, because I mean the present sys- I am, therefore, for the House of Commons as tem to stand. I will take away a franchise, be a part, and not as the whole, of the cause it has been practically abused; not because government. And as a part of the gov- ment to be I am at all disposed to inquire into the origin or ernment, I hold it to be frantic to supto discuss the utility of all such franchises, any pose, that from the election of members of Parmore than I mean to inquire, gentlemen, into liament you can altogether exclude, by any conyour titles to your estates. Disfranchising Gram- trivance, even if it were desirable to do so, the pound (if that is to be so), I mean to save Old influence of property, rank, talents, family conSarum.

nection, and whatever else, in the radical lanNow, sir, I think I deal fairly with the Radical guage of the day, is considered as intimidation reformers; more fairly than those who would or corruption. I believe that if a reform, to the suffer it to be supposed by them that the disfran- extent of that demanded by the Radical reform

It may

their crimes.

The govern

taken as it is Varied modes

for the House.

ers, were granted, you would, before an annual | It is true, that if they found their way there, they election came round, find that there were new might endeavor to bring us to a sense of our connections grown up which you must again de- misdeeds, and to urge us to redeem our characstroy, new influence acquired which you must ter by some self-condemning ordinance; but dispossess of its authority; and that in these would not the authority of their names, as our fruitless attempts at unattainable purity, you associates, have more than counterbalanced the were working against the natural current of hu- force of their eloquence as our reformers ? man nature.

But, gentlemen, I am for the whole ConstituI believe, therefore, that, contrive how you tion. The liberty of the subject as much dewill, some such human motives of action will / pends on the maintenance of the constitutional find room to operate in the election of members prerogatives of the Crown—on the acknowledgof Parliament. I think that this must and ought ment of the legitimate power of the other House to be so, unless you mean to exclude from the of Parliament, as it does in upholding that suconcerns of the nation all inert wealth, all inact- preme power (for such is the power of the purse ive talent, the retired, the aged, and the infirm, in one sense of the word, though not in the sense all who can not face popular assemblies or en- of the resolution of 1648) which resides in the gage in busy lise; in short, unless you have democratical branch of the Constitution. Whatfound some expedient for disarming property of ever beyond its just proportion was gained by influence, without (what I hope we are not yet one part, would be gained at the expense of the ripe for) the abolition of property itself. whole; and the balance is now, perhaps, as nearI would have by choice if the choice were ly poised as human wisdom can adjust it. I fear

yet to be made-I would have in the to touch that balance, the disturbance of which of election best House of Commons great variety of must bring confusion on the nation.

interests, and I would have them find Gentlemen, I trust there are few, very few, their way there by a great variety of rights of reasonable and enlightened men ready such a subject election ; satisfied that uniformity of election to lend themselves to projects of con- en ta would produce any thing but a just representa- fusion. But I confess I very much with tion of various interests. As to the close bor- wish that all who are not ready to do so would oughs, I know that through them have found consider the ill effect of any countenance given their way into the House of Commons men whose publicly or by apparent implication, to those talents have been an honor to their kind, and whom in their hearts and judgments they dewhose names are interwoven with the brightest spise. I remember that most excellent and able periods in the history of their country. I can man, Mr. Wilberforce, once saying in the House not think that system altogether vicious which of Commons that he never believed an opposihas produced such fruits. Nor can I think that tion really to wish mischief to the country, that there should be but one road into that assembly, they only wished just so much mischief as might or that no man should be presumed fit for the drive their opponents out, and place themselves deliberations of a Senate, who has not had the in their room.” Now, gentlemen, I can not help nerves previously to face the storms of the hust- thinking that there are some persons tampering ings.

with the question of reform something in the I need not say, gentlemen, that I am one of same spirit

. They do not go so far as the rethe last men to disparage the utility and dignity formers; they even state irreconcilable differenof popular elections. I have good cause to speak ces of opinion; but to a certain extent they agree, of them in far different language. But, among and even co-operate with them. They co-opernumberless other considerations which endear ate with them in inflaming the public feeling not to me the favors which I have received at your only against the government, but against the suphands, I confess it is one that, as your represent- port given by Parliament to that government, in ative, I am enabled to speak my genuine senti- the hope, no doubt, of attracting to themselves ments on this (as I think it) vital question of the popularity which is lost to their opponents, parliamentary reform, without the imputation of and thus being enabled to correct and retrieve shrinking from popular canvass, or of seeking the errors of a displaced administration. Vain shelter for myself in that species of representa- and hopeless task to raise such a spirit and then tion which, as an element in the composition of to govern it! They may stimulate the steeds Parliament, I never shall cease to defend. into fury, till the chariot is hurried to the brink In truth, gentlemen, though the question of of a precipice; but do they flatter themselves that

reform is made the pretext of those they can then leap in, and, hurling the incompe

persons who have vexed the country tent driver from his seat, check the reins just in sit for boroughs. for some months, I verily believe time to turn from the precipice and avoid the fall! that there are very few even of them who either I fear they would attempt it in vain. The imgive credit to their own exaggerations, or care pulse once given may be too impetuous to be conmuch about the improvements which they rec- trolled ; and intending only to change the guidommend. Why, do we not see that the most vio- ance of the machine, they may hurry it and them lent of the reformers of the day are aiming at seats selves to irretrievable destruction. in that assembly, which, according to their own May every man who has a stake in the countheories, they should have left to wallow in its try, whether from situation, from character, from own pollution, discountenanced and unredeemed ? | wealth, from his family, and from the hopes of

The most vio lent reformers are willing to

his children-may every man who has a sense is but that line of demarkation. On which side of the blessings for which he is indebted to the of that line we, gentlemen, shall range ourselves, form of government under which he lives, see our choice has long ago been made. In acting that the time is come at which his decision must upon that our common choice, with my best efbe taken, and, when once taken, steadfastly acted forts and exertions, I shall at once faithfully repupon—for or against the institutions of the Brit- resent your sentiments, and satisfy my own judgish monarchy! The time is come at which there ment and conscience.



fined to the inter enty of Great


This involves

INTRODUCTION. Mr. Canning having visited Plymouth and inspected the Dock-yards in 1823, the freedom of the town was presented him through the Mayor and other public officers. He returned thanks in the following speech, which was much admired at the time not only for the political views which it expressed, but es. pecially for his beautiful allusion to the ships in ordinary as an emblem of England while reposing in the quietude of peace.

SPEECH, &c. MR. MAYOR AND GENTLEMEN, -I accept with Gentlemen, the end which I confess I have althankfulness, and with greater satisfaction than I ways had in view, and which ap- The views of a can express, this flattering testimony of your pears to me the legitimate object of should be congood opinion and good will. I must add that the pursuit to a British statesman, I can value of the gift itself has been greatly enhanced describe in one word. The lan- Britain. by the manner in which your worthy and honor- guage of modern philosophy is wisely and difable Recorder has developed the motives which fusely benevolent; it professes the perfection of suggested it, and the sentiments which it is in- our species, and the amelioration of the lot of all tended to convey.

mankind. Gentlemen, I hope that my heart beats Gentlemen, your recorder has said very truly, as high for the general interest of humanity-I The life of ev. that whoever in this free and enlight- hope that I have as friendly a disposition toward er; public man ened state, aims at political eminence, other nations of the earth, as any one who vaunts

and discharges political duties, must his philanthropy most highly; but I am contentexpect to have his conduct scrutinized, and ev-ed to confess that, in the conduct of political afery action of his public life sifted with no ordi- fairs, the grand object of my contemplation is the nary jealousy, and with no sparing criticism ; and interest of England. such may have been my lot as much as that of Not, gentlemen, that the interest of England other public men. But, gentlemen, unmerited is an interest which stands isolated and obloquy seldom fails of an adequate, though alone. The situation which she holds no principle of perhaps tardy, compensation. I must think my- forbids an exclusive selfishness; her self

, as my honorable friend has said, eminently prosperity must contribute to the prosperity of fortunate, if such compensation as he describes other nations, and her stability to the safety of the has fallen to me at an earlier period than to many world. But intimately connected as we are with others; if I dare flatter myself (as his partiality the system of Europe, it does not follow that we has flattered me), that the sentiments that you are are, iherefore, called upon to mix ourselves on kind enough to entertain for me, are in unison every occasion, with a restless and meddling actwith those of the country; if, in addition to the ivity, in the concerns of the nations which surjustice done me by my friends, I may, as he has round us. It is upon a just balance of conflicting assured me, rely upon a candid construction, even duties, and of rival, but sometimes incompatible from political opponents.

advantages, that a government must judge when But, gentlemen, the secret of such a result to put forth its strength, and when to husband it

does not lie deep. It consists only in for occasions yet to come. Succees depends

an honest and undeviating pursuit Our ultimate object must be the peace of the

of what one conscientiously believes world. That object may sometimes The peace of to be one's public duty—a pursuit which, stead. be best attained by prompt exertions telle at our inte ily continued, will, however detached and sepa- -sometimes by abstinence from in- object. rate parts of a man's conduct may be viewed terposition in contests which we can not prevent. under the influence of partialities or prejudices, It is upon these principles that, as has been most obtain for it, when considered as a whole, the truly observed by my worthy friend, it did not approbation of all honest and honorable minds. appear to the government of this country to be Any man may occasionally be mistaken as to the necessary that Great Britain should mingle in the mcans most conducive to the end which he has in recent contest between France and Spain. view; but if the end be just and praiseworthy, Your worthy recorder has accurately classed it is by that he will be ultimately judged, either the persons who would have driven us into that by his contemporaries or by posterity.

There were undoubtedly among them


on very simple principles.


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