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trary, incapacity is arbitrary also. I have therefore shown, that the power of incapacitation is a legislative power; I have shown, that legislative power does not belong to the House of Commons; and therefore it follows, that the House of Commons has not a power of incapacitation.

I know not the origin of the House of Commons, but am very sure, that it did not create itself; the Electors were prior to the elected: whose rights originated either from the people at large, or from some other form of Legislature, which never could intend for the chosen a power of superseding the choosers.

If you have not a power of declaring an incapacity simply by the mere act of declaring it, it is evident to the most ordinary reason you cannot have a right of expulsion, inferring, or rather including, an incapacity. For as the Law, when it gives any direct right, gives also as necessary incidents all the means of acquiring the possession of that right, so where it does not give a right directly, it refuses all the means, by which such a right may by any mediums be exercised, or in effect be indirectly acquired. Else it is very obvious, that the intention of the Law in refusing that right might be entirely frustrated, and the whole power of the Legislature baffled. If there be no certain invariable rule of eligibility, it were better to get simplicity, if certainty is not to be had;

and

and to resolve all the franchises of the subject into this one short proposition-the will and pleasure of the House of Commons.

The argument, drawn from the Courts of Law applying the principles of Law to new cases as they emerge, is altogether frivolous, inapplicable, and arises from a total ignorance of the bounds between civil and criminal jurisdiction, and of the separate maxims, that govern these two provinces of Law, that are eternally separate. Undoubtedly the Courts of Law, where a new case comes before them, as they do every hour, then, that there may be no defect in justice, call in similar principles, and the example of the nearest determination, and do every thing to draw the Law to as near a conformity to general equity and right reason, as they can bring it with its being a fixed principle. Boni judicis est ampliare justitiam—that is, to make open and liberal justice. But in criminal matters this parity of reason, and these analogies, ever have been, and ever ought to be, shunned.

Whatever is incident to a Court of Judicature is necessary to the House of Commons, as judging in Elections. But a power of making incapacities is not necessary to a Court of Judicature-therefore a power of making incapacities is not necessary to the House of Commons.

Incapacity, declared by whatever authority, stands upon two principles. First, an incapacity arising

from

from the supposed incongruity of two duties in the Commonwealth. Secondly, an incapacity arising from unfitness by infirmity of nature, or the criminality of conduct. As to the first class of incapacities, they have no hardship annexed to them. The persons so incapacitated are paid by one dignity for what they abandon in another, and for the most part, the situation arises from their own choice. But as to the second, arising from an unfitness not fixed by Nature, but superinduced by some positive acts, or arising from honourable motives, such as an occasional personal disability, of all things it ought to be defined by the fixed rule of Law-what Lord Coke calls, the Golden Metwand of the Law, and not by the crooked cord of discretion. Whatever is general is better born. We take our common lot with men of the same description. But to be selected and marked out by a particular brand of unworthiness among our fellow-citizens, is a lot of all others the hardest to be born; and consequently is of all others that act, which ought only to be trusted to the Legislature, as not only legislative in its nature, but of all parts of Legislature the most odious. The question is over, if this is shown not to be a legislative act. But what is very usual and natural, is to corrupt Judicature into Legislature. On this point it is proper to inquire whether a Court of Judicature, which decides without appeal, has it

as

as a necessary incident of such Judicature, that whatever it decides is de jure Law. Nobody will, I hope, assert this, because the direct consequence would be the entire extinction of the difference between true and false judgments. judgments. For if the judgment makes the Law, and not the Law directs the judgment, it is impossible there should be such a thing as an illegal judgment given.

But instead of standing upon this ground, they introduce another question, wholly foreign to it, whether it ought not to be submitted to as if it were Law. And then the question is, by the Constitution of this Country what degree of submission is due to the authoritative acts of a limited power? This question of submission, determine it how you please, has nothing to do in this discussion, and in this House. Here it is not, how Here it is not, how long the people are bound to tolerate the illegality of our judgments, but whether we have a right to substitute our occasional opinion in the place of Law; so as to deprive the Citizen of his franchise.

*

72 ]

SPEECH

ON A BILL

For shortening the Duration of Parliaments*.

T is always to be lamented, when men are driven

IT

to search into the foundations of the Commonwealth. It is certainly necessary to resort to the theory of your Government, whenever you propose any alteration in the frame of it, whether that alteration means the revival of some former antiquated and forsaken Constitution of State, or the introduction of some new improvement in the Commonwealth. The object of our deliberation is, to promote the good purposes, for which Elections have been instituted, and to prevent their inconveniences. If we thought frequent Elections attended with no inconvenience, or with but a trifling inconvenience, the strong overruling principle of the Constitution would sweep us like a torrent towards them. But your remedy is to be suited to your disease your present disease, and to your whole disease. That man thinks much too highly, and therefore he thinks weakly and delusively, of any contrivance of human wisdom, who

*This Speech was delivered upon one of those Motions, which for many successive years were made by Mr. Sawbridge for shortening the duration of Parliaments; but the precise date cannot be ascertained.

believes

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