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concurrence of this house, the ministers would always be obliged to comply, and consequently would be obliged to change their measures as often as the people changed their minds.
With septennial parliaments we are not exposed to either of these misfortunes, because, if the ministers after having felt the pulse of the parliament, which they can always soon do, resolve upon any measures, they have generally time enough before the new election comes on, to give the people a proper information, in order to show them the justice and the wisdom of the measures they have pursued. And if the people should at any time be too much elated, or too much dejected; or should without a cause change their minds, those at the helm of affairs have time to set them right, before a new election comes on.
As to faction and sedition, I will grant, that in mo. narchical and aristocratical governments, it generally arises from violence and oppression ; but in democratical governments, it always arises from the people's having too great a share in the government. For in all countries, and in all governments, there always will be many factious and unquiet spirits, who can never be at rest, either in power or out of power. When in power they are never easy, unless every man submits entirely to their direction; and when out of power, they are always working and intriguing against those that are in, without any regard to jus. tice, or to the interest of their country. In popular governments such men have too much game; they have too many opportunities for working upon corrupting the minds of the people, in order to give them a bad impression of, and to raise discontents against those that have the management of the publick affairs for the time; and these discontents often break out into seditions and insurrections. This would, in my opinion, be our misfortune, if our parliaments were either annual or triennial. By such frequent elections, there would be so much power thrown into the hands of the people, as would destroy that equal mixture, which is the beauty of our constitution. In short,
ther; but if the court were making any encroach 342 SIR ROBERT WALPOLE'S SPEECH. our government would really become a democratical government, and might from thence very probably diverge into a tyrannical. Therefore, in order to preserve our constitution, in order to prevent our falling under tyranny and arbitrary power, we ought to preserve that law, which I really think has brought our constitution to a more equal mixture, and consequently to a greater perfection than it was ever in before that law took place.
As to bribery and corruption, if it were possible to influence, by such base means, the majority of the electors of Great Britain, to choose such men as would probably give up their liberties; if it were possible to influence, by such means, a majority of the members of this house to consent to the establishment of arbitrary power, I should readily allow, that the calculations made by the gentlemen of the other side were just, and their inference true. But I am persuaded that neither of these is possible. As the members of this house generally are, and must always be, gentle
. men of fortune and figure in their country, is it possible to suppose, that any of them could by a pension or a post be influenced to consent to the overthrow of our constitution, by which the enjoyment, not only of what he got, but of what he before had, would be rendered altogether precarious ? I will allow, that with respect to bribery, the price must be higher or lower, generally in proportion to the virtue of the man who is to be bribed; but it must likewise be granted that the humour he happens to be in at the time, and the spirit he happens to be endowed with, adds a great deal to his virtue. When no encroachments are made upon the rights of the people, when the people do not think themselves in any danger, there may be many of the electors, who, by a bribe of ten guineas, might be induced to vote for one candidate rather than ano
ments upon the rights of the people, a proper spirit would, without doubt, arise in the nation, and in such a case I am persuaded that none, or very few,
even of such electors, could be induced to vote for a court candidate : no not for ten times the sum.
There may be some bribery and corruption in the nation, I am afraid there will always be some. But it is no proof of it that strangers are sometimes chosen; for a gentleman may have so much natural influence over a borough in his neighbourhood, as to be able to prevail with them to choose any person he pleases to recommend. And if upon such recommendation they choose one or two of his friends, who are perhaps strangers to them, it is not from thence to be inferred, that the two strangers were chosen their representatives by the means of bribery and corruption.
To insinuate that money may be issued from the publick treasury for bribing elections, is really something very extraordinary, especially in those gentlemen who know how many checks are upon every shilling that can be issued from thence; and how re. gularly the money granted in one year for the service of the nation, must always be accounted for the very next sessions in this house, and likewise in the other, if they have a mind to call for any such account. And as to gentlemen in offices, if they have any advantage over country gentlemen, in having something else to depend on besides their own private fortunes, they have likewise many disadvantages: they are obliged to live here at London with their families, by which they are put to a much greater expense, than gentlemen of equal fortune who live in the country. This
ays them under a very great disadvantage in supporting their interest in the country. The country gentleman, by living among the electors, and purchasing the necessaries for his family from them, keeps up an acquaintance and correspondence with them, without putting himself to any extraordinary charge; whereas a gentleman who lives in London, has no other way of keeping up an acquaintance and correspondence among his friends in the country, but by going down once or twice a year, at a very extraordinary expense, and often without any other business; so that we may
conclude, a gentleman in office cannot, even in seven years, save much for distributing in ready money at the time of an election. And I really believe, if the fact were narrowly inquired into, it would appear, that the gentlemen in office are as little guilty of bribing their electors with ready money, as any other set of gentlemen in the kingdom.
That there are ferments often raised among the people without any just cause, is what I am surprised to hear controverted, since very late experience may convince us of the contrary. Do not we know what a ferment was raised in the nation towards the latter end of the late queen's reign? And it is well known what a fatal change in the affairs of this nation was introduced, or at least confirmed, by an election coming on while the nation was in that ferment. Do not we know what a ferment was raised in the nation soon after his late majesty's accession? And if an election had then been allowed to come on while the nation was in that ferment, it might perhaps have had as fatal effects as the former; but, thank God, this was wisely provided against by the very law which is now wanted to be repealed.
It has, indeed, been said, that the chief motive for enacting that law, now no longer exists. I cannot admit that the motive they mean was the chief motive; but even that motive is very far from having entirely ceased. Can gentlemen imagine, that in the spirit raised in the nation not above a twelvemonth since, Jacobitism and disaffection to the present government had no share ? Perhaps some who might wish well to the present establishment did cooperate; nay, I do not know but they were the first movers of that spirit; but it cannot be supposed that the spirit then raised should have grown up to such a ferment, merely from a proposition which was honestly and fairly laid before the parliament, and left entirely to their determination! No, the spirit was perhaps, begun by those who are truly friends to the illustrious family we have now. upon the throne; but it was raised to a much greater height than, I believe, even they designed, by
Jacobites, and such as are enemies to our present esta. blishment, who thought they never had a fairer opportunity of bringing about what they have so long and so unsuccessfully wished for, than that which had been furnished them by those who first raised that spirit. I hope the people have now in a great measure come to themselves, and therefore I doubt not but the next elections will show, that when they are left to judge coolly, they can distinguish between the real and the pretended friends to the government. But I must say, if the ferment then raised in the nation had not already greatly subsided, I should have thought a new election a very dangerous experiment. And as such ferments may hereafter often happen, I must think that frequent elections will always be dan. gerous; for which reason, in so far as I can see at present, I shall, I believe, at all times think it a very dangerous experiment to repeal the septennial bill.