Page images

nature. Parents ordinarily consider little the passion of their children, and their present gratifica, tion. Don't fear the power of a father; it is kind to passion to give it time to cool. But their cenšures sometimes make me smile; sometimes, for I am very infirm, make me angry; sæpe bilem, sæpe jocum movent.

It gives me pain to differ on this occasion from many, if not most of those, whom I honour and esteem. To suffer the grave animadversion and censorial rebuke of the honourable gentleman, who made the Motion; of him, whose good nature and good sense the House look upon with a particular partiality; whose approbation would have been one of the highest objects of my ambition; this hurts me. It is said, the Marriage Act is aristocratick. I am accused, I am told abroad, of being a man of aristocratick principles. If by aristocracy they mean the Peers, I have no vulgar admiration, nor any vulgar antipathy, towards them; I hold their order in cold and decent respect. I hold them to be of an absolute necessity in the Constitution; but I think they are only good when kept within their proper bounds. I trust, whenever there has been a dispute between these Houses, the part I have taken has not been equivocal. If by the aristocracy, which indeed comes nearer to the point, they mean an adherence to the rich and powerful against the poor and weak, this would

indeed be a very extraordinary part. I have incurred the odium of gentlemen in this House for not paying sufficient regard to men of ample property. When, indeed, the smallest rights of the poorest people in the kingdom are in question, I would set my face against any act of pride and power countenanced by the highest, that are in it; and if it should come to the last extremity, and to a contest of blood, God forbid! God forbid!--my part is taken; I would take my fate with the poor, and low, and feeble. But if these people came to turn their liberty into a cloak for maliciousness, and to seek a privilege of exemption, not from power, but from the rules of morality and virtuous discipline, then I would join my hand to make them feel the force, which a few, united in a good cause, have over a multitude of the profligate and ferocious.

I wish the nature of the ground of repeal were considered with a little attention. It is said the Act tends to accumulate, to keep up the power of great families, and to add wealth to wealth. It may be, that it does so. It is impossible, that any principle of law or government useful to the community should be established without an advantage to those, who have the greatest stake in the country. Even some vices arise from it. The same laws, which secure property, encourage avarice; and the fences made about honest acquisition are the strong bars, which secure the hoards


of the miser. The dignities of magistracy are encouragements to ambition, with all the black train of villainies, which attend that wicked passion. But still we must have laws to secure property; and still we must have, ranks and distinctions and magistracy in the State, notwithstanding their manifest tendency to encourage avarice and ambition.

By affirming the parental authority throughout the State, parents in high rank will generally aim at, and will sometimes have, the means too of preserving their minor children from any but wealthy or splendid matches. But this authority preserves from a thousand misfortunes, which embitter every part of every man's domestick life, and tear to pieces the dearest ties in human society.

I am no Peer, nor like to be-but am in middle life, in the mass of citizens; yet I should feel for a son, who married a prostituted woman, or a daughter, who married a dishonourable and prostituted man, as much as any Peer in the realm.

You are afraid of the avaricious principle of fathers. But observe, that the avaricious principle is here mitigated very considerably. It is avarice by proxy; it is avarice, not working by itself, or for itself, but through the medium of parental affection, meaning to procure good to its offspring. But the contest is not between love and avarice,

While you would guard against the possible operation of this species of benevolent avarice, the avarice of the father, you let loose another species of avarice; that of the fortune-hunter, unmitigated, unqualified. To show the motives, who has heard of a man running away with a woman not worth sixpence ? Do not call this by the name of the sweet and best passion-love. It is robbery; not a jot better than any other.

Would you suffer the sworn enemy of his family, his life, and his honour, possibly the shame and scandal, and blot of human society, to debauch from his care and protection the dearest pledge, that he has on earth, the sole comfort of his declining years, almost in infantine imbecility; and with it to carry into the hands of his enemy, and the disgrace of Nature, the dear-earned substance of a careful and laborious life? Think of the daughter of an honest virtuous parent allied to vice and infamy. Think of the hopeful son tied for life by the meretricious arts of the refuse of mercenary and promiscuous lewdness. Have mercy on the youth of both sexes; protect them from their ignorance and inexperience; protect one part of life by the wisdom of another; protect them by the wisdom of Laws, and the care of Nature.



On a Motion for leave to bring in a Bill to quiet the Possessions of the Subject against dormant Claims of the Church*.


F I considered this Bill as an attack upon the Church, brought in for the purpose of impoverishing and weakening the Clergy, I should be one of the foremost in an early and vigorous opposition to it.

I admit, the same reasons do not press for limiting the claims of the Church, that existed for limiting the Crown by that wisest of all Laws, which has secured the property, the peace, and the freedom of this country from the most dangerous mode of attack, which could be made upon them all.

I am very sensible of the propriety of maintaining that venerable body with decency (and with more than mere decency). I would maintain it according to the ranks wisely established in it with that sober and temperate splendour, that is suitable to a sacred character invested with high dignity.

* This Motion was made the 17th February 1772, and rejected on a Division; the numbers being, Ayes 117, Noes



« PreviousContinue »