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and places, which ought never to be given to any but for the good of the publick. Upon this scandalous victory, let us suppose this chief minister pluming himself in defiances, because he finds he has got a parliament, like a packed jury, ready to acquit him at all adventures. Let us further suppose him arrived to that degree of insolence and arrogance, as to do. mineer over all the men of ancient families, all the men of sense, figure, or fortune in the nation, and as he has no virtue of his own, ridiculing it in others, and endeavouring to destroy or corrupt it in all.
I am still not prophesying, sir ; I am only supposing; and the case I am going to suppose I hope never will happen ; but with such a minister and such a parliament, let us suppose a prince upon the throne, either for want of true information, or for some other rea. son, ignorant and unacquainted with the inclinations and the interest of his people, weak, and hurried away by unbounded ambition and insatiable avarice. This case, sir, has never yet happened in this nation; I hope, I say, it will never exist ; but as it is possible it may,
could there any greater curse happen to a nation, than such a prince on the throne, advised, and solely advised, by such a minister, and that minister supported by such a parliament? The nature of mankind cannot be altered by human laws, the existence of such a prince or such a minister, we cannot prevent by act of parliament, but the existence of such a parliament I think we may; and as such a parliament is much more likely to exist, and may do more mischief while the septennial law remains in force, than if it were repealed, therefore I am most heartily for the repeal of it.
SPEECH OF SIR ROBERT WALPOLE,
ON A MOTION TO REPEAL THE SEPTENNIAL BILL, DELIVERED
IN THE HOUSE OF COMMONS 1734, IN REPLY TO SIR WILLIAM WYNDHAM.
I DO assure you, I did not intend to have troubled you in this debate ; but such incidents now generally happen towards the end of our debates, nothing at all relating to the subject, and gentlemen make such suppositions, meaning some person, or perhaps, as they say, no person now in being, and talk so much of wicked ministers, domineering ministers, ministers pluming themselves in defiances, which terms, and such like, have been of late so much made use of in this house, that if they really mean nobody either in the house or out of it, yet it must be supposed they at least mean to call upon some gentleman in this house to make them a reply; and therefore I hope I may be allowed to draw a picture in my turn; and I may likewise say, that I do not mean to give a description of any particular person now in being. When gentlemen talk of ministers abandoned to all sense of virtue or honour, other gentlemen may, I am sure, with equal justice, and, I think, more justly, speak of anti-ministers and mock-patriots, who never had either virtue or honour, but in the whole course of their opposition are actuated only by motives of envy, and of resentment against those who have disappointed them in their views, or may not perhaps have complied with all their desires.
But now, sir, let me too suppose, and the house being cleared, I am sure no person that hears me can come within the description of the person I am to
* Vide Preface to the preceding speech. VOL. I.
suppose. Let us suppose in this, or in some other unfortunate country, an anti-minister, who thinks himself a person of so great and extensive parts, and of so many eminent qualifications, that he looks upon himself as the only person in the kingdom capable to conduct the publick affairs of the nation, and therefore christening every other gentleman who has the honour to be employed in the administration, by the name of Blunderer. Suppose this fine gentleman lucky enough to have gained over to his party some persons really of fine parts, of ancient families, and of great fortunes, and others of desperate views, arising from disappointed and malicious hearts; all these gentlemen, with respect to their political behaviour, moved by him, and by him solely; all they say, either in private or publick, being only a repetition of the words he has put into their mouths, and a spitting out of that venom which he has infused into them; and yet we may suppose this leader not really liked by any, even of those who so blindly follow him, and hated by all the rest of mankind. We will suppose this anti-minister to be in a country where he really ought not to be, and where he could not have been but by an effect of too much goodness and mercy, yet endeavouring, with all his might and with all his art, to destroy the fountain from whence that mercy flowed. In that country suppose him continually contracting friendships and familiarities with the ambassadours of those princes who at the time happen to be most at enmity with his own; and if at any time it should happen to be for the interest of any of those foreign ministers to have a secret divulged to them, which might be highly prejudicial to his native country, as well as to all its friends; suppose this foreign minister applying to him, and he answering, I will get it you, tell me but what you want, I will endeavour to procure it for you : upon this he puts a speech or two in the mouths of some of his creatures, or some of his new converts; what he wants is moved for in parliament, and when so very reasonable a request as this is refused, suppose him and his creatures
and tools, by his advice, spreading the alarm over the whole nation, and crying out, gentlemen, our country is at present involved in many dangerous difficulties, all which we would have extricated you from, but a wicked minister and a corrupt majority refused us the proper materials; and upon this scandalous victory, this minister became so insolent as to plume himself in defiances. Let us further suppose this antiminister to have travelled, and at every court where he was, thinking himself the greatest minister, and making it his trade to betray the secrets of every court where he had before been; void of all faith or honour, and betraying every master he ever served. I could carry my suppositions a great deal further, and I may say I mean no person now in being; but if we can suppose such a one, can there be imagined a greater disgrace to human nature than such a wretch as this?
Now, to be serious, and to talk really to the subject in hand. Though the question has been already so fully and so handsomely opposed by my worthy friend under the gallery, by the learned gentleman near me, and by several others, that there is no great occasion to say any thing further against it; yet as some new matter has been stated by some of the gentlemen who have since that time spoke upon the other side of the question, I hope the house will indulge me the liberty of giving some of those reasons which induce me to be against the motion. In general I must take notice, that the nature of our constitution seems to be very much mistaken by the gentlemen who have spoken in favour of this motion. It is certain, that ours is a mixed government, and the perfection of our constitution consists in this, that the monarchical, aristocratical, and democratical forms of government are mixed and interwoven in ours, so as to give us all the advantages of each, without subjecting us to the dangers and inconveniences of either. The democratical form of government, which is the only one I have now occasion to take notice of, is liable to these inconveniences, that they are generally too tedious in
their coming to any resolution, and seldom brisk and expeditious enough in carrying their resolutions into execution. That they are always wavering in their resolutions, and never steady in any of the measures they resolve to pursue ; and that they are often involved in factions, seditions, and insurrections, which exposes them to be made the tools, if not the
, prey of their neighbours. Therefore in all the regulations we make, with respect to our constitution, we are to guard against running too much into that form of government which is properly called democratical : this was, in my opinion, the effect of the triennial law, and will again be the effect, if ever it should be restored.
That triennial elections would make our govern. ment too tedious in all their resolves is evident; be. cause in such case, no prudent administration would ever resolve upon any measure of consequence, till they had felt not only the pulse of the parliament, but the pulse of the people; and the ministers of state would always labour under this disadvantage, that as secrets of state must not be immediately divulged, their enemies (and enemies they will always have) would have a handle for exposing their measures, and rendering them disagreeable to the people, and there. by carrying perhaps a new election against them, be. fore they could have an opportunity of justifying their measures, by divulging those facts and circumstances from whence the justice and the wisdom of their mea. sures would clearly appear.
Then it is by experience well known, that what is called the populace of every country, are apt to be too much elated with success, and too much dejected with every misfortune. This makes them wavering in their opinions about affairs of state, and never long of the same mind. And as this house is chosen by the free and unbiassed voice of the people in general, if this choice were so often renewed, we might expect, that this house would be as wavering and as unsteady as the people usually are. And it being impossible to carry on the publick affairs of the nation without the