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EARL OF CHATHAM.

My Lords,

THERE is one plain maxim, to which I have invariably adhered through life; that in every question, in which my liberty or my property were concerned, I should consult and be determined by the dictates of common sense. I confess, my lords, that I am apt to distrust the refinements of learning, because I have seen the ablest and the most learned men equally liable to deceive them. selves and to mislead others. The condition of human nature would be lamentable indeed, if nothing less than the greatest learning and talents, which fall to the share of so small a number of men, were sufficient to direct our judgment and our conduct. But providence has taken better care of our happiness, and given us, in the simplicity of common sense, a rule for our direction, by which we never shall be misled. I confess, my lords, I had no other guide in drawing up the amendment which I submitted to your consideration: and before I heard the opinion of the noble lord who spoke last, I did not conceive, that it was even within the limits of possibility for the greatest human genius, the most subtle understanding, or the acutest wit, so strangely to misrepresent my meaning, and give it an interpretation so entirely foreign from what I intended to express, and from that sense which the very terms of the amendment plainly and distinctly carry with them. If there be the smallest foundation for the censure thrown upon me by that noble lord; if, either expressly or by the most distant implication, I have said or insinuated any part of what the noble lord has charged me with, discard the opinions for ever, discard the motion with contempt.

My lords, I must beg the indulgence of the house. Neither will my health permit me, nor do I pretend to be qualified to follow that learned lord minutely through the whole of his argument. No man is better acquainted with his abilities or his learning, nor has a greater respect for them, than I have. I have had the pleasure of sitting with him in the other house, and always listened to him with attention. I have not now lost a word of what he said, nor did I ever. Upon the present question, I meet him without fear. The evidence which truth carries with it, is superior to all argument; it neither wants the support, nor dreads the opposition of the greatest abilities. If there be a single word in the amendment to justify the interpretation which the noble lord has been pleased to give it, I am ready to renounce the whole let it be read, my lords: let it speak for itself. (It was read.)-In what instance does it interfere with the privileges of the house of commons? In what respect does it question their jurisdiction, or suppose an authority in this house to arraign the justice of their sentence? I am sure that every lord who hears me, will bear me witness that I said not one word touching the merits of the Middlesex election: far from conveying any opinion upon that matter in the amendment, I did not even in discourse deliver my own sentiments upon it. I did not say that the house of commons had done either right or wrong: but, when his majesty was pleased to recommend it to us to cultivate unanimity among ourselves, I thought it the duty of this house, as the great hereditary council of the crown, to state to his majesty the distracted condition of his dominions, together with the events which had destroyed unanimity among his subjects. But, my lords, I stated those events merely as facts, without the smallest addition either of censure or of opinion. They are facts, my lords, which I am not only convinced are true, but which I know are indisputably true. For example, my lords; will any man deny that discontents prevail in many parts of his majesty's do

minions? or that those discontents arise from the proceedings of the house of commons, touching the declared incapacity of Mr. Wilkes? It is impossible: no man can deny a truth so notorious, nor will any man deny that those proceedings refused, by a resolution of one branch of the legislature only, to the subject, his common right. Is it not indisputably true, my lords, that Mr. Wilkes had a common right, and that he lost it no other way but by a resolution of the house of commons? My lords, I have been tender of misrepresenting the house of commons; I have consulted their journals, and have taken the very words of their own resolution. Do they not tell us, in so many words, that Mr. Wilkes having been expelled, was thereby rendered incapable of serving in that parliament? And is it not their resolution alone, which refuses to the subject his common right? The amendment says farther, that the electors of Middlesex are deprived of their free choice of a representative. Is this a false fact, my lords? or have I given an unfair representation of it? Will any man presume to affirm that colonel Luttrell is the free choice of the electors of Middlesex? We all know the contrary. We all know that Mr. Wilkes (whom I mention without either praise or censure) was the favourite of the country, and chosen, by a very great and acknowledged majority, to represent them in parliament. If the noble lord dislikes the manner in which these facts are stated, I shall think myself happy in being advised by him how to alter it. I am very little anxious about terms, provided the substances be preserved; and these are facts, my lords, which I am sure will always retain their weight and importance, in whatever form of language they are described.

Now, my lords, since I have been forced to enter into the explanation of an amendment, in which nothing less than the genius of penetration could have discovered an obscurity; and having, as I hope, redeemed myself in the opinion of the house; having redeemed my

motion from the severe representation given of it by the noble lord, I must a little longer intreat your lordships' indulgence. The constitution of this country has been openly invaded in fact; and I have heard with horror and astonishment, that very invasion defended upon principle. What is this mysterious power, undefined by law, unknown to the subject, which we must not approach without awe, nor speak of without reverence; which no man may question, and to which all men must submit? My lords, I thought the slavish doctrine of passive obedience had long since been exploded: and, when our kings were obliged to confess that their title to the crown, and the rule of their government, had no other foundation than the known laws of the land, I never expected to hear a divine right, or a divine infallibility, attributed to any other branch of the legislature. My lords, I beg to be understood: no man respects the house of commons more than I do, or would contend more strenuously than I would to preserve them their just and legal authority. Within the bounds prescribed by the constitution, that authority is necessary to the well being of the people; beyond that line every exertion of power is arbitrary, is illegal; it threatens tyranny to the people, and destruction to the state. Power, without right, is the most odious and detestable object that can be offered to the human imagination; it is not only pernicious to those who are subject to it, but tends to its own destruction. It is what my noble friend (lord Lyttleton) has truly described it, res detestabilis et caduca. My lords, I acknowledge the just power, and reverence the constitution of the house of commons. It is for their own sakes that I would prevent their assuming a power which the constitution has denied them, lest, by grasping at an authority they have no right to, they should forfeit that which they legally possess. My lords, I affirm that they have betrayed their constituents, and violated the constitution. Under pretence of declaring the law, they have made a law, and united in the same persons the office of legisla

tor and of judge. I shall endeavour to adhere strictly to the noble lord's doctrine, which it is indeed impossible to mistake, as far as my memory will permit me to preserve his expression. He seems fond of the word jurisdiction; and I confess, with the force and effect which he has given it, it is a word of copious meaning and wonderful extent. If his lordship's doctrine be well founded, we must renounce all those political maxims by which our understandings have hitherto been directed; and even the first elements of learning taught us when we were school-boys. My lords, we know that jurisdiction was nothing more than Jus dicere; we know that Legem facere and Legem dicere were powers clearly distinguished from each other in the nature of things, and wisely separated by the wisdom of the English con. stitution but now, it seems, we must adopt a new system of thinking. The house of commons, we are told, have a supreme jurisdiction; that there is no appeal from their sentence; and that whenever they are competent judges, their decision must be received and submitted to, as, ipso facto, the law of the land. My lords, I am a plain man, and have been brought up in a religious reverence for the original simplicity of the laws of England. By what sophistry they have been perverted, by what artifices they have been involved in obscurity, is not for me to explain; the principles, however, of the English laws are still sufficiently clear; they are founded in reason, and are the master-piece of the human understanding; but it is in the text that I would look for a direction to my judgment, not in the commentaries of modern professors. The noble lord assures us, that he knows not in what code the law of parliament is to be found that the house of commons, when they act as judges, have no law to direct them but their own wisdom; that their decision is law; and if they determine wrong, the subject has no appeal but to heaven. What then, my lords, are all the generous efforts of our ancestors, are all those glorious contentions, by which they

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