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a number of men, were sufficient to direct our judg ment 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 shall never 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 to 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 my 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 and 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 superiour 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.* In what instance does it interfere with the privileges
*It was read.
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. So 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 amongst 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 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 dominions? or that those discontents arise from the proceedings of the house of commons touching the declared incapacity of Mr. Wilkes? 'Tis impossible. No man can deny a truth so notorious. Or 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 further, 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 county, 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 entreat your lordships' indulgence. The constitution of this country has been openly invaded in fact; and I have heard, with horrour 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 to 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 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 legislator and of judge.
I shall endeavour to adhere strictly to the noble lord's doctrine, which is, indeed, impossible to mistake, so far as my memory will permit me to preserve his expressions. 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 in our schools when we were schoolboys. My lords, we knew that jurisdiction was nothing more than Jus dicere; we knew that Legem facere and Legem dicere were powers clearly distinguished from each other in the nature of things, and wisely seperated by the wisdom of the English constitution; but now, it seems, we must adopt a new system of thinking. The house of commons, we are told, have a
* Lord Lyttleton.
supreme jurisdiction; and there is no appeal from their sentence; and that wherever 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 masterpiece 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 meant to secure to themselves, and to transmit to their posterity a known law, a certain rule of living, reduced to this conclusion, that instead of the arbitrary power of a king, we must submit to the arbitrary power of a house of commons? If this be true, what benefit do we derive from the exchange? Tyranny, my lords, is detestable in every shape; but in none so formidable as when it is assumed and exercised by a number of tyrants. But, my lords, this is not the fact; this is not the constitution. We have a law of parliament. We have a code in which every honest man may find it. We have Magna Charta, we have the Statute Book, and the Bill of Rights.
If a case should arise unknown to these great authorities, we have still that plain English reason left, which is the foundation of all our English jurisprudence. That reason tells us, that every judicial court, and every political society, must be vested with those powers and privileges which are necessary for per