Page images
PDF
EPUB

I think I see the present peers of Scotland, whose noble ancestors conquered provinces, over-run countries, reduced and subjected towns and fortified places, exacted tribute through the greatest part of England, now walking in the court of requests, like so many English attornies, laying aside their walking swords when in company with the English peers, lest their self defence should be found murder.

I think I see the honourable estate of barons, the bold assertors of the nation's rights and liberties in the worst of times, now setting a watch upon their lips, and a guard upon their tongues, lest they may be found guilty of scandalum magnatum.

I think I see the royal state of burghers walking their desolate streets, hanging down their heads under disappointments, wormed out of all the branches of their old trade, uncertain what hand to turn to, necessitated to become 'prentices to their unkind neighbours, and yet, after all, finding their trade so fortified by companies, and secured by prescriptions, that they despair of any success therein.

I think I see our learned judges laying aside their pratiques and decisions, studying the common law of England, gravelled with certioraris, nisi priuses, writs of errour, verdicts, injunctians, demurs, &c. and frighted with appeals and avocations, because of the new regulations and rectifications they may meet with.

I think I see the valiant and gallant soldiery either sent to learn the plantation trade abroad, or at home petitioning for a small subsistence, as a reward of their honourable exploits; while their old corps are broken, the common soldiers left to beg, and the youngest English corps kept standing.

I think I see the honest industrious tradesman load. ed with new taxes and impositions, disappointed of the equivalents, drinking water in place of ale, eating his saltless pottage, petitioning for encouragement to his manufactures, and answered by counter petitions.

In short, I think I see the laborious ploughman, with his corn spoiling upon his hands, for want of sale, cursing the day of his birth, dreading the ex. pense of his burial, and uncertain whether to marry or do worse.

I think I see the incurable difficulties of the landed men, fettered under the golden chain of equivalents, their pretty daughters petitioning for want of hus. bands, and their sons for want of employment.

I think I see our mariners delivering up their ships to their Dutch partners, and what through presses and necessity, earning their bread as underlings in the royal English navy.

But above all, my lord, I think I see our ancient mother Caledonia, like Cesar, sitting in the midst of our senate, ruefully looking round about her, covering herself with her royal garment, attending the fatal blow, and breathing out her last with an Et tu

quoque mi fili !

Are not these, my lord, very afflicting thoughts ? And yet they are but the least part suggested to me by these dishonourable articles. Should not the consideration of these things vivify these dry bones of ours? Should not the memory of our noble predecessors' valour and constancy rouse up our drooping spirits ? Are our noble predecessors: souls got so far into the English cabbage stalk, and cauliflowers, that we should show the least inclination that way? Are our eyes so blinded, are our ears so deafened, are our hearts so hardened, are our tongues so faltered, are our hands so fettered, that in this our day, I say, my lord, in this our day, we should not mind the things that concern the very being, and well being of our ancient kingdom, before the day be hid from our eyes?

I design not at this time to enter into the merits of any one particular article. I intend this discourse as an introduction to what I may afterwards say upon the whole debate, as it falls in before this honourable house ; and therefore, in the further prosecution of what I have to say, I shall insist upon a few particu

lars, very necessary to be understood before we enter into the detail of so important a matter.

I shall therefore, in the first place, endeavour to. encourage a free and full deliberation, without animo. sities and heats. In the next place, I shall endeavour to make an inquiry into the nature and source of the unnatural and dangerous divisions that are now on foot within this isle, with some motives showing that it is our interest to lay them aside at this time. Then I shall inquire into the reasons which have induced the two nations to enter into a treaty of union at this time, with some considerations and meditations with relation to the behaviour of the lords commissioners of the two kingdoms in the management of this great concern. And lastly, I shall propose a method, by which we shall most distinctly, and without confusion go through the several articles of this treaty, without unnecessary repetitions or loss of time. And all this with all deference, and under the correction of this honourable house.

My lord chancellor, the greatest honour that was done unto a Roman, was to allow him the glory of a triumph; the greatest and most dishonourable punishment was that of parricide. He that was guilty of parricide was beaten with rods upon his naked body, till the blood gushed out of all the veins of his body; then he was sewed up in a leathern sack called a culeus, with a cock, a viper, and an ape, and thrown headlong into the sea.

My lord, patricide is a greater crime than parricide, all the world over.

In a triumph, my lord, when the conqueror was riding in his triumphal chariot, crowned with laurels, adorned with trophies, and applauded with huzzas ! there was a monitor appointed to stand behind him, to warn him not to be high minded, nor puffed up with overweening thoughts of himself; and to his chariot were tied a whip and a bell, to remind him that for all his glory and grandeur, he was accountable to the people for his administration, and would be punished, as other men, if found guilty.

VOL. I.

SS

The greatest honour amongst us, my lord, is to represent the sovereign's sacred person in parliament; and in one particular it appears to be greater than that of a triumph, because the whole legislative power seems to be wholly entrusted with him. If he give the royal assent to an act of the estates, it becomes a law obligatory upon the subject, though contrary or without any instructions from the sovereign. If he refuse the royal assent to a vote in parliament, it cannot be a law, though he has the sovereign's particular and positive instructions for it.

His grace the duke of Queensbury, who now re. presents her majesty in this session of parliament, hath had the honour of that great trust as often, if not more, than any Scotchman ever had. He hath been the favourite of two successive sovereigns, and I cannot but commend his constancy and perseverance, that notwithstanding his former difficulties and unsuccessful attempts, and maugre some other specialities not yet determined, that his grace has yet had the resolution to undertake the most unpopular measures last. If his grace succeed in this affair of a union, and that it prove for the happiness and welfare of the nation, then he justly merits to have a statue of gold erected for himself; but if it shall tend to the entire destruction and abolition of our nation, and that we, the nation's trustees, will go into it, then I must say, that a whip and a bell, a cock, and a viper, and an ape, are but too small punishments for any such bold, unnatural undertaking and complaisance.

That I may pave a way, my lord, to a full, calm, and free reasoning upon this affair, which is of the last consequence unto this nation, I shall mind this honourable house, that we are the successours of our noble predecessors who founded our monarchy, framed our laws, amended, altered, and corrected them from time to time, as the affairs and circumstances of the nation did require, without the assistance or advice of any foreign power or potentate; and who, during the time of two thousand years, have handed them down to us a free, independent nation, with the

hazard of their lives and fortunes. Shall not we then argue for that which our progenitors have purchased for us at so dear a rate, and with so much immortal honour and glory? God forbid. Shall the hazard of a father unbind the ligaments of a dumb son's tongue, and shall we hold our peace when our patria is in danger? I speak this, my lord, that I may encourage every individual member of this house to speak his mind freely; there are many wise and prudent men amongst us, who think it not worth their while to open their mouths; there are others, who can speak very well, and to good purpose, who shelter themselves under the shameful cloak of silence from a fear of the frowns of great men and parties. I have ob. served, my lord, by my experience, the greatest number of speakers in the most trivial affairs; and it will always prove so, while we come not to the right understanding of the oath de fideli, whereby we are bound not only to give our vote but our faithful ad. vice in parliament, as we should answer to God. And in our ancient laws, the representatives of the honourable barons and the royal boroughs are termed spokesmen. It lies upon your lordships, therefore, particularly to take notice of such, whose modesty makes them bashful to speak. Therefore, I shall leave it upon you, and conclude this point with a very memorable saying of an honest private gentleman to a great queen, upon occasion of a state project, contrived by an able statesman and the favourite to a great king, against a peaceful obedient people, because of the deversity of their laws and constitutions: “ If at this time thou hold thy peace, salvation shall come to the people from another place; but thou and thy house shall perish.' I leave the application to each particular member of this house.

My lord, I come now to consider our divisions. We are under the happy reign, blessed be God, of the best of queens, who has no evil design against the meanest of her subjects; who loves all her people, and is equally beloved by them again; and yet, that under the happy influence of our most excellent queen,

« PreviousContinue »